it's gonna get better

Title: It's Gonna Get Better
Author: Virtie
E-mail: virtuesandvices@aol.com
Web Site: http://www.reocities.com/fanficcorner/
Rating: NC-17
Category: TRA
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not yours. Not anybody's anymore. They're legends now
Classification: Mythology, M&S Married
Spoilers: Up through Season 8...and *my* Season 9 Archive: Of course you can...but let me know where, please.

Summary: The sequel to 'Let's Face the Music and Dance' Invasion is near, and the children that Mulder has been protecting are in danger. . Warning: This one gets complicated. If you haven't read Let's Face the Music and Dance. and it's companion Do You Dream of Me? , you are going to get very lost.

Author's Notes: Please stay tuned for my dedications and observances at the end of the story. Thanks!


Genesis

Reach out, hands in the air, don't care just what they're saying Hold out, just keep on hoping against hope that it's gonna get better Don't worry, there's no hurry for you, for me everything's gonna come around Shout out, someone will listen to you, to me, someone's gonna see

He calls me over, calls me brother and I know always fighting and moonlighting, well it never ends in the city, if you're all alone there's a sister and she's standing next to her man in the darkness you feel the sharpness of steel and it's always there, in the city, if you're all alone

So reach out, hands in the air, don't care just what they're saying Hold out, just keep on hoping against hope that it's gonna get better Don't worry, there's no hurry for you, for me everything's gonna come around Shout out, someone will listen to you, to me, someone's gonna see

If it's gonna get better, it starts with a feeling if it's gonna get better, it's gonna take time if it's gonna get better, we've got to start now 'cause I know everybody can feel it and I know everybody will see it 'cause it shows, and that shows I'm not dreaming 'cause you know, and I know, it's time for a change


The Sonora Desert
20 Miles Southwest of Tucson, Arizona

The stars were bright tonight.

Of course, they were always bright here in the desert, but tonight they seemed even more so. Closer. Warmer. Sharper than usual.

A man stood out in the dark of the desert, watching them carefully, as if he was trying to read them. They told a story, he knew. A story older than time itself. They were magical, yet they were an accepted part of everyone's average existence. They were a miracle, yet few thought of them as such. There were thousands of stars. Millions. Billions and billions. He smiled to himself, allowing his thoughts to continue on that theme: If there was no other life out there, then it was a whole lot of wasted space.

A grimace overtook the smile. It was a good thing that Carl Sagan wasn't still alive today to see what those visitors he had only imagined and wrote about were really like. And it was fortunate many of the men he had grown up idolizing weren't alive to see him so deeply buried in the lies and conspiracies he had once fought so hard to uncover.

The man took a deep breath of the dry night air and closed his eyes against the glare of the billions of suns shining above him. Even the starlight that used to calm him, especially after learning the truth about his long lost sister, could not ease his suffering tonight. Not after what he had learned at the base earlier in the day.

They were almost ready. The Grays were preparing to release the virus. A virus so swift and deadly that even the most dedicated and brilliant doctors would never be able to find a cure in time. The country would be decimated in weeks. The continent in a few short months. The world within the year.

Only those immune, either by nature or by scientific dabbling, would survive.

He would be one of those survivors. As would his wife. And his son. Yet he would give anything to be one of the majority, a person unaware of the threat, facing a quick demise, so as to not have to witness the destruction of the earth as he knew it.

He had been working for months to find out the Grays' plans. Slowly, after more than a year in their company, he had gained a modicum of trust. He was the leader of the human allies, therefore very powerful, but he was still only a human. He was the caretaker of the Children of Eden, the name given to the special children the Grays believed to be sent by God. He was the natural father of the most powerful of these children, thirteen of them at last count, all but one kept in a commune at El Creyente. The replicants, the protectors of the children, listened to his orders and obeyed his commands. The children themselves looked up to him, the only real father most of them had ever known.

But he was still a human, not to be trusted or allowed to have too much power. Nevertheless, he had managed to weasel into the good graces of many of their leaders. The things he had learned, he passed on...carefully...quietly.

A vaccine to the virus was possible, this he knew; it was how he had become immune in the first place. The problem was that it could never be replicated in the quantities necessary, not in time, anyway. He shivered, despite the heat in the late August night. This meant he needed to stop this viral apocalypse before it started. He couldn't do that alone.

It was time to go home.


Dana Scully's Apartment
Georgetown, Washington D.C.

William Mulder sat in the middle of the living room floor and watched his mother with anxious eyes. It had been another stressful day for her, he knew. She had come to pick him up from his daycare later than usual, and the shadows under her eyes had been darker than they had been that morning. She almost always had those shadows now, shadows that were invisible to most in her acquaintance thanks to make-up, but that he could see clearly. Though he had long ago been taught not to invade his mother's mind without invitation, he didn't need to use any telepathic powers to know why she was so stressed: She missed his father. She had had no communication with him in months.

And neither had he.

'Aye, there's the rub,' he thought, not knowing where he had heard that phrase before but liking it anyway. His father had physically left his life more than a year ago, but until the latter part of May he had kept close contact with Will via telepathy. It had been rare indeed to not have some sort of contact with Fox Mulder at least once a day, and many of those times had included some sort of lesson in the use of his talents.

Then one day he had awakened to a hole in his mind. Not a real hole, of course, but a deep, dark emptiness that frightened him. He had begun screaming, wildly kicking his legs and throwing his arms around, terrified by the unfamiliar emptiness. His mother had come running, scared and confused, and it had taken several minutes before, trembling in her arms, he had been able to tell her what was wrong.

"Daddy's gone!"

Though only a year and seven months old, William had known what the loss in contact must mean: his father was dead. The panic and sense of loss emanating from his mother at his words only seemed to confirm his feelings. Then, sitting on his bed wrapped up in each other, they had both felt him. Alive. Alone. And angry.

He had been alive and well, but due to some unknown reason he had ended all mental contact with his wife and son. No more dreams. No more lessons. No more support.

Despite the loss, it had affected his mother more than it had William. She had become withdrawn, uncommunicative. She rarely smiled, slept poorly, and worked her ass off. Will winced and reminded himself not to use that word; his father had been fond of it, but had made Will promise not to use it. Will wondered why he should even bother obeying his father's rules when the man obviously didn't care about him or his mother anymore.

Often at night, he would try to ease his mother to sleep, trying to provide her with the sweet dreams she always wished on him at bedtime, and sometimes he succeeded. However, more than once during one of these lighthearted, candy-coated dreams, her consciousness would rip away from his and go to a place he couldn't follow. She was able to block him from her mind at these times, protecting him, he guessed, and no matter how hard he tried, he could not break in.

She never spoke of these nightmares, but he knew they troubled her almost as much as the loss of contact with his father. At times during the day, he was able to catch flashes of what he assumed was the nightmare enter her mind before she quickly and efficiently pushed him out. Flames. Heat. The smell of burning flesh. A man with the strong, willful presence of his father but who looked nothing like the man of his memory. He was frightened by these images yet curious about them as well.

She had had the nightmare last night, and this morning for the first time he had asked her about it. He remembered how her eyes had widened in surprise and how the corner of her mouth had quirked up in a small smile, the first he had seen from her since Uncle Frohike's last visit. "You're a baby," she had told him. "You aren't supposed to care about such things."

Will had only looked at her, using the gaze he knew instinctively reminded her of his father to cajole her into answering him. It had worked...to a point. "You don't need to know about it, Will. Not yet." Subject closed.

Now, William stared at her as she sat down at the computer, worry combining with annoyance at her dismissal earlier this morning. He knew he was far smarter than other children his age, and she usually treated him appropriately. But some days she treated him as if he was a normal twenty-month-old. A baby.

"Hmmmm..."

Her curious humming had his anger dissipating and his own curiosity rising. He stood up from his place on the floor and made his way toward the computer. "Mama?"

She glanced back at him, quickly clicking the mouse as she did so, the e-mail she had been reading disappearing off the screen in front of her. "Yes, Will?"

"Who was that from?" He stopped by her chair, his eyes going back and forth from her to the monitor.

She sighed. "I don't know, Will." She began to shut down the computer, and he knew she was relieved that he had yet to master the smart little machine on his own. "Nobody important."

William Mulder loved his mother. And he trusted her. But at that moment, he didn't believe her one bit.


The Lone Gunmen's Lair

Scully sat quietly, patiently waiting for the men around her to stop their bickering and settle down to a sensible discussion. Glancing across the room at Monica, who was also watching the 'show' with a bemused look on her face, she wondered if she would be waiting the rest of the night. The younger female agent caught her eye and winked. Scully felt the corners of her mouth lift in response. Men. You couldn't live with them. You couldn't live without them. You couldn't shoot them, either. Well, not without feeling very guilty afterwards.

Finally, there was a break in the 'discussion'.

"Are you guys done?" Scully asked softly.

Four pairs of male eyes focused on her, all a tad bit wary, she thought. Scully concentrated on the intense blue pair closest to her. "I have to do this, John. He wouldn't be asking me if it wasn't important."

"'He' who?" Special Agent John Doggett demanded. "Dana, you don't even know who this guy you're supposed to meet is!"

"You're right, I don't know who the contact is," Scully agreed, her voice calm. "But he or she is someone Mulder trusts. That's all I need to know."

She watched as John's eyes clouded over with anger. "I still don't get how you can believe that! Where's your proof? What evidence do you have that this person is one of Mulder's people?"

Scully understood his disbelief. He had only learned that Mulder was still alive a few short months ago, and he had yet to actually believe it. After all, he needed more proof than just Scully's say so. Her story of telepathic communication with her husband via dreams was not something just anybody would accept. Scully herself had a hard time reconciling what she had always known to be fact with what she now knew in her heart was true: she and Mulder shared a connection that went well beyond the physical.

Six months ago, Mulder had contacted her and Frohike by way of a very elaborate and intriguing dream. In this dream, he had told them that the blood of the Gray aliens, which was deadly to humans, was the only thing that could kill the Grays' unnatural creations, called Replicants by those in the know. He had promised to send information on how to produce a substance almost identical to the blood to Frohike, and he had, sending the formula via an e-mail that could not be traced. Even the Gunmen had been impressed by the covert message.

Within that message, written in Navajo, was a list of post office boxes and other storage facilities. Since that time, Scully had received more open e-mails that contained only one phrase: Present For You. She had learned that, upon receiving these e-mails, she simply had to go to the next place on her list to find some useful tidbit of information that Mulder felt they needed to know. Scully did not know who dropped off these 'presents,' but she knew it had to be someone Mulder trusted with her and William's life. It was during one of these jaunts to a locker at a bus station in Manassas that Doggett had discovered her secret; suspicious about her trips out of town alone, he had followed her, cornered her, and demanded she tell him the truth.

Walter Skinner and Monica Reyes had learned about Mulder's whereabouts soon after that, though Skinner hadn't seemed at all shocked by the revelation. Monica had supported Scully's quiet plan of defense, believing in the possible future invasion of an alien species. Skinner had also stood at her side, solid and stoic as always. Doggett, on the other hand...

Last night, Scully had received another e-mail from her 'source,' but this one had been different. Instead of "Present For You," it had read, "Meet Me." On her list of Navajo names, only one wasn't a place to store or mail something. It was a techno bar in downtown Richmond called Wonderland. Apparently, Scully was finally going to meet her 'contact.' If Doggett let her go, of course.

"I've told you how I know, John," she said, trying hard to keep her voice steady. "Mulder has been sending us information through this person for months. If he or she is calling for a meeting, then it's got to be something very important." She sighed. "It's a very crowded bar, John. What could happen to me there?"

Scully refused to answer her own question in her head. She knew that, despite her reassuring words to her former partner, there was a great deal of risk in this undertaking.

Fortunately, John refused to answer it as well. He simply glared at her. "Okay," he finally said with a sharp nod of his head. "But I'm going with you."


The Lone Gunmen's Lair

Doggett wasn't sure what exactly he'd gotten himself into this time. All he knew was that Dana was about to do something dangerous, perhaps deadly, and he wasn't about to let her go alone. He didn't know where this protectiveness of her had come from. Perhaps it was simply left over from when they had been partners on the X-Files. Or perhaps his automatic devotion to baby William, an adoration that had begun before the child's birth, caused him to still feel responsible for the safety of his mother.

'Or maybe you should just admit you have feelings for the woman and deal with it,' he chastised himself.

Feelings. That was putting it mildly. Special Agent Dana Mulder had stirred up emotions in him that were as strong as the ones he'd once had for Barbara, his ex-wife and Luke's mother. Love, lust, friendship. She inspired all these feelings and more, and the fact that they no longer worked together - the fact that his current partner saw more of Dana than he did - didn't diminish these feelings one iota. If anything, his physical separation from her had made those feelings stronger.

Dana could take care of herself, he had never doubted that. Her reputation, as well as that of her partner, Fox Mulder, had been well known all throughout the Bureau. Known by unflattering nicknames such as 'The Ice Queen' and 'Mrs. Spooky,' Dana Scully had also been known for her quick mind, astounding patience, incredible loyalty, and the ability to handle men three times her size, both mentally and physically. She was independent and, at times, so unemotional one might think she had no feelings whatsoever. Yet, Doggett had seen her at her best and at her worst. He knew she had feelings, powerful feelings. He knew she would gladly die for her son...but that she would rather live for him. He also knew she loved Fox Mulder with all her heart and soul; she would not only live for him, she would never be happy living without him.

Doggett had known about her feelings for Mulder almost from day one. Everyone did. She may have hidden them from view, but the fact that she had remained his partner, despite all the trouble he had brought to her life, both professionally and personally, had said it all. They had been magic together on the X-Files, and when Doggett had learned about Dana's pregnancy, he realized they had been magic off the X-Files as well.

It had been quite a shock to find himself jealous when the fact of her pregnancy had come out. He had hidden his feelings, from her and from himself, for the next few months. Until that time when Skinner had asked for his help in digging up Mulder's grave. It had been insane, and he had made sure Skinner knew his feelings on the matter, but it had been the right thing to do. The hope and the love in Scully's eyes as she waited patiently at Mulder's bedside told him so. Then Mulder had awakened. Doggett clearly remembered watching the joy pour from Dana as she welcomed her lover back to the living. He clearly remembered his own heart breaking.

Dana had seen him that day, watching them from the doorway of Mulder's hospital room. She hadn't spoken to him, but he could tell from the look in her eye that she had known. His face must have been as easy to read as a book.

Dana Scully knew he loved her.

It hadn't changed the way she treated him. She still had the same respect and trust in him as before. She had even, on occasion, defended him to Mulder, who had been worse than a horse's ass to her upon his return from the dead. For one brief shining moment, he had thought there might be hope. However, Mulder's own protective side eventually emerged, and by the time the baby had been born, Doggett knew his chances with Dana were sunk.

Then Mulder and Scully had married, and Mulder had died. Only he hadn't.

Doggett shouldn't have been surprised when Dana had confessed to him that Mulder had faked his death and that she was still communicating with him through secret messages. The one she had picked up that day in Manassas when he had followed her was the formula to an additive that could be mixed with some kind of 'alien blood' (what Dana had jokingly called 'Snake Oil') that kept it from weakening. Dana hadn't wanted to tell him any more than that, sure he wouldn't believe her anyway, but at his constant pushing (he hadn't been called 'Doggett the Dogged' in the Marines for nothing) she had finally told him everything.

She had been right; he hadn't believed her.

Whatever she and the Three Stooges were involved with was still dangerous, he was sure of it. Planning to meet a contact she knew nothing about wasn't the first stupid thing she had done since he had become acquainted with her, but he was going to make sure it wasn't the last, either.

So now he was at the Gunmen's place, packed and ready for the two hour drive to Richmond. It was late in the afternoon, and Dana wanted to get there as soon as the doors to Wonderland opened. They were driving down prepared to go straight to the club, then they would find a motel in Richmond afterwards.

Provided they got out of this alive, of course.

Doggett paced the main room of the Gunmen's lair, waiting impatiently for Dana to finish getting ready in the bathroom. He was wearing blue jeans, a tight white T-shirt, boots, and a denim jacket. It was his usual day off attire, and he figured it would suffice for an evening out at a club. Of course, he had never been to one of these so-called Techno joints before.

He stopped pacing when he noticed Frohike watching him from his seat at one of the many computers in the room. The other two Gunmen had gone out to get something to eat. The little man was glaring at him, but there was no real malice in his expression. Doggett and the little hacker had never really gotten along, but they still managed to respect each other.

"What?"

"She can do this, you know."

Doggett nodded. "And I suppose you would let her go alone if I wasn't going with her, right?"

Frohike's lips thinned and he didn't answer. Which was answer enough.

A sound from behind him caused him to turn, but not before he saw the stunned look on Frohike's face.

Special Agent Dana Mulder stepped out of the bathroom, her overnight bag over her shoulder, her heels clacking on the hard floor, but Doggett didn't notice the bag. Or the heels.

Tight, dark blue, lots of skin. That's what he did notice. He didn't know if you could call the little piece of material she was wearing a dress. The skirt only came down to about mid thigh, and Doggett had to admit that he had never seen that much leg on this particular woman before. The spaghetti straps on the velvet sheath barely seemed to hold up the dress, which scooped down dangerously low, showing off more than a little cleavage. She had piled her hair up on top of her head, but little wisps of it floated down around her face, which exhibited more make up than usual. He finally noticed the shoes. Navy sandals that matched the dress, with heels so high he couldn't understand how she could walk.

She eyed him a little nervously, then looked behind him at Frohike. "Too much?"

"Hell, no!" Frohike crowed. "You'll fit in perfectly."

Dana nodded, then looked Doggett up and down. "Is that what you're wearing?"

For a moment, Doggett couldn't say a word. He was still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that Dana Mulder was a whole hell of a lot sexier than even he had imagined... and he had imagined a lot. "Uh, yeah." He looked back at Frohike who was glaring at him again. "Not good enough?"

Dana sighed and reached for her leather jacket, dropping the overnight bag at her feet in order to put it on. The movement caused Doggett to drop his eyes to her breasts. When he felt a sudden tightening in his crotch, he immediately focused on her face. It didn't help.

"It'll do," Dana said, reaching down to pick up the bag again.

Doggett closed his eyes to avoid looking directly down her dress. Frohike groaned behind him, and Doggett knew the little hacker had seen what he had. When he opened his eyes, Dana was blushing, her eyes downcast.

"Sorry," she murmured. "I'm not used to..."

"Are you armed?" Doggett asked, changing the subject as quickly as possible.

"She doesn't need a gun," Frohike rumbled. "She's a dangerous weapon just as she is."

Doggett turned and glared at Frohike, then faced Dana, who had bitten her lower lip to keep from laughing at Frohike's half-assed compliment. The sight only caused Doggett more discomfort.

"Yes," Dana finally said. "I'm armed."

"Wh--" Doggett started. "Never mind. I don't want to know." He turned for the door. "Let's get this over with."

How in the hell was he going to be able to stand being in the same car with her for two hours?


Wonderland Richmond, Virginia

Scully sat alone at a table amidst the activity and music of Wonderland, Richmond's most popular downtown club. She had never been to a place like this before, not even on an investigation. It wasn't your regular bar, that was for sure. Not even the high class bars in D.C. could hold a candle to this elegant yet slightly raunchy club. Not stripper kind of raunchy, of course; it would take more than a vague 'meet me' to get her to go to one of those places without knowing exactly who she was meeting and why. Yet, it was raunchy due to the clientele, most of whom wore less than she did.

Completely comfortable in their skimpy clothing, the women in Wonderland weren't at all afraid to show off their attributes. And the men, though they were much more conservatively dressed, were more than happy to help. The dance floor was packed elbow to elbow with writhing bodies. It was arousing just to watch, and it made Scully very uncomfortable. She had been asked more than once to dance, but she had only accepted two offers from the most persistent of her 'suitors', hoping they might be the contact she was meeting, but neither had done anything other than hit on her. Pretending to enjoy dancing close to them, especially when she had never thought of herself as a good dancer, had been hard. The sight of so many young, seductive bodies may have aroused her, but being among them had been embarrassing and slightly revolting.

Doggett had not asked her to dance, and for that she was grateful. While she knew she would be more comfortable with him out there than with a stranger, she refused to tease him, however inadvertently, any more than she had to. She knew how much her appearance had affected him, and it made her feel guilty. Guilty. She shook her head slightly at the thought. She cared for John, but not in the same way he cared for her.

She looked up when she saw him approach the table from the direction of the restrooms. He eyed her curiously, and she shook her head again, much more firmly this time, indicating that no one had approached her while he was away. She also noticed the looks he was getting from some of the women as he walked by. Scully had to admit that he looked damn good in those jeans. She wished he had accepted at least one of the offers he had had from several cute women to dance; his social life was worse than hers. At least she now had the excuse of single motherhood.

He sat down across from her, glancing at his watch. With a glare, he leaned across the table toward her so she could hear him speak over the loud music. "We've been here for three hours now, Dana," he told her. "Maybe he's not gonna show tonight."

She shook her head in reply. "I'm sure it's supposed to be tonight. I got the message last night. Mulder knows I check my e-mail every day."

Doggett sighed and leaned back in his chair. "I don't know how much longer I can stand this," he yelled to her. Scully smirked. It was obvious he wasn't fond of the music; give him a choice, and he would stick with his country music, a taste he had developed when he had been partnered with a former country boy turned New York cop. She, however, liked the music. It was addicting. Alluring. She looked back at the dance floor. Seductive.

A man stepped in front of her, blocking her view. She looked up...and up. He had to be nearly six and a half feet tall. He had close cropped blonde hair and pale blue eyes with laugh lines that were clearly visible even in the dim light of the club. He wasn't handsome, but he certainly wasn't ugly, either. "Wanna dance?"

He looked nice enough, but as tired as she was, she really didn't want to go out and fight the mass of people on the dance floor, especially with a man more than a foot taller than her, even in heels. "No, thanks," she said as politely as she could.

"Please?" he persisted. "I might surprise you."

Scully's eyes narrowed and she looked at Doggett. The man noticed her action and turned toward Doggett. "If you don't mind?" He tilted his head curiously, obviously wondering if he stood a chance.

Doggett shrugged. "Hey, it's her choice." He seemed casual, but Scully saw the intense wariness in his ice blue eyes.

The man looked at her again, hopeful and earnest. Scully sighed and reached up for the man's outstretched hand, allowing him to help her stand. She braced herself for a return to the undulating mob in front of her, allowing herself to take comfort in the feel of the small pistol strapped to the inside of her left thigh. Uncomfortable as it was physically, its psychological comfort was powerful.

She tried to relax as her partner lead her through the crowd, but she instantly tensed when he didn't stop right away. Instead, he continued to move her deeper into the mob. As tall as he was, she was sure Doggett could still pick him out if he wanted to, but the farther this man took her from her table, the more she became convinced this was the man she was supposed to meet.

He finally stopped and turned his laughing eyes toward her. He moved in carefully and began swaying to the music. Scully cast a glance in the direction of her table but wasn't surprised when she couldn't see it or Doggett. With a tentative smile, she looked up at the man in front of her. "I'm not very good at this," she told him, speaking loudly so he could hear her.

He shook his head. "It's not hard," he said, grasping her hips lightly. "Just move with the music. Let your body take over."

Just at that moment, the music changed from a rather fast, almost violent beat to a slower, much more sensual one. 'Let my body take over. Right,' Scully thought sarcastically. She moved her hips carefully, trying to ignore the press of bodies around her. She prayed that if this was indeed her contact, he would hurry up and let her know.

His hands left her hips suddenly and she looked up at him with surprise. He smiled, glanced behind her, and started to back away from her. "Thanks for the dance," he told her.

Scully frowned and took a step forward. "Wait a min--"

Another pair of hands grabbed her hips from behind. She tensed, not wanting to defend herself until she knew exactly what the situation entailed. As she ran over the various maneuvers she could use to get away from whoever was holding her, the owner of the hands on her hips stepped into her, bringing his entire body up against her. Male. Definitely male. And large. And...

Her whole body seemed to sag back into the man behind her as his familiar scent washed over her. Just as suddenly, she tensed again. How? How had he snuck up on her? How had she not sensed him? Read him? Felt him in her head?

His leather clad arms wrapped themselves around her and he began to sway to the seductive beat of the music, which she could barely hear over the pounding of her pulse in her ears. She tried to turn her head, but he tightened his arms, squeezing her lightly, telling her 'no.' She obeyed, a shiver running up her spine. One of his hands began to stray up her body, petting her, rewarding her. She closed her eyes and moved her body with his, feeling his growing erection against the crease of her buttocks. How amazing that he had seduced her so easily, but she knew she wasn't the only one seduced. She rubbed herself against his hardness and was rewarded when he moaned softly in her ear.

His roaming hand found and cupped her breast through the velvet of her dress. She wasn't embarrassed; she had been witness to many intimate touches between partners on this dance floor all night. She did however tilt her head back and to the side, inviting him to touch her even more. He obliged, his hot breath preceding his moist tongue and lips on her bare neck. He squeezed her breast at the same time, and Scully felt a wave of moisture saturate the skimpy, uncomfortable thong she was wearing.

Then she felt his other hand move downward. Toward that very place that was longing for him.

'Not here. Not here. Not here.' She was chanting it in her head, but the words never made it past her lips. How far would he go, she wondered? He wouldn't--

Slowly, carefully, he reached down and pulled up her skirt, his hand inching along from the outside of her thigh to the inside. She dropped her head, noticing in the dim light of the dance floor that not even she could see what he was doing, so she should stop worrying about anyone else seeing it. But she could feel it.

She could feel his fingers tease the elastic garter of her thigh-highs. She felt his knuckles scrape against the gun strapped to her other thigh. She felt the size of his own 'weapon' increase with his realization that she was armed. She felt his hand disappear from her leg, only to return a moment later, and she knew he had retrieved something from his jacket pocket. Her senses became even more alert as he carefully slid that something inside the garter of her right leg.

With one last gentle touch of her bare thigh above the stocking, he straightened her skirt and pulled back a bit. Scully used that opportunity to spin around and face him.

He didn't look much different than he had the last time she had seen him...in her dreams. His dark hair was slightly long, past his collar. A goatee adorned his face and a diamond stud earring pierced his left ear. His eyes were dearly familiar to her and full of emotion. Lust. Love. Yearning. Fear. Hope. Despair.

She reached up her hands and smoothed them over his face. He closed his eyes, reveling in her touch. She carefully shaped his face, skimming her hands down over his cheeks, letting her thumbs brush his lower lip, over the soft hair on his chin, down his throat, and past his collarbone.

Her fingers tangled with the chain around his neck and found the tiny cross hanging from it. She smiled and tears began to track down her own cheeks. She looked back up at him, taking a deep breath, trying to control her wayward emotions.

His eyes were intent on her face, and upon sight of her tears he brought his hand up to touch her wet cheek. He leaned down and kissed her, his tongue delving deep into her mouth. She responded without hesitation, not caring who saw them, wrapping her arms tight around his neck and bringing her body flush against his. She felt his hand sweep down her back to cup her butt, and for a moment she wished he would lift her skirt up and touch her bare skin again. Another wave of moisture accompanied that thought.

Logic returned to her in a heartbeat when he pulled away from her with a look of fear. For a moment, she thought he had sensed danger, but when he didn't take his eyes off her she realized he was afraid of leaving her. Of being alone once again.

She reached out to touch the cross around his neck, telling him with her eyes that he would never be alone as long as he wore it. She tried telling him the same thing with her mind, but she knew she wasn't getting through. Again, she felt anxiety fill her. Had he lost his ability? Had the aliens found a way to block him from using it? Why couldn't he 'talk' to her?

He looked up suddenly, glancing behind her. His mouth thinned and his eyes narrowed. She knew what he saw. Doggett had come looking for her. She had been on the dance floor with a 'stranger' for too long.

Mulder looked at her once last time, regret filling his expression. 'Not yet,' he mouthed, not speaking aloud. She nodded in understanding, her heart breaking. Then he let her go and disappeared into the crowd.

Doggett found her standing stock still in the middle of the dance floor. When he touched her bare arm, she jumped and turned to face him.

"Dana, are you okay?"

She nodded. "We've..." She cleared her throat and tried again. "We've got to get back to the Gunmen's tonight. I have something for them."


End of Part 1/9

Part 2/9


The Lone Gunmen's Lair 2:30 A.M.

The guys were still up when Doggett knocked on their door, Dana close behind him. No surprise there, he thought. He wondered if the hackers ever slept.

Frohike answered the door, his fingers flipping through the various locks and bolts quickly in order to let his favorite agent and her former partner in. "I thought you guys weren't coming back until tomorrow," he said when the door finally opened.

Dana shoved her way past Doggett and stalked into the room on her fuck-me heels, totally unaware of how her posture and movements caught the eye of every man in the room, Langly and Byers included. Then she did something that made all four pairs of male eyes widen. Doggett would have thought it funny if he hadn't been one of those stunned.

Right there, in the middle of the room, Agent Dana Mulder started to lift her already too short skirt even higher up her leg, exposing the top of her thigh-high stockings to them all. 'Jesus,' Doggett thought to himself. 'Did I bring back the right woman?'

As quickly as she pulled her skirt up, she dropped it back down, holding in her hand a computer disk. With a shake of his head, Doggett realized she had had the disk tucked in her garter. He watched as she handed it to Langly. The blonde man took it carefully, as if he fully expected it to jump out and bite him.

"Find out what this is," Dana told him. When he didn't move, she included a sharp, "Quick!" He spun toward the computer and popped it in. Dana folded her arms under her breasts, only then seeming to realize everyone else in the room was moving as slow as Langly had been. Byers and Frohike were still staring at her in awe. Doggett coughed softly, trying to grab their attention, but it didn't work. "What?!" Dana demanded. "Do I have parsley in my teeth?"

"No!" "Of course not!" "You look great!" "Yeah, great!"

"Holy shit!"

Langly's curse caused everyone to turn their attention toward him. Byers rushed forward, Frohike close behind. "What is it?"

"Look at this! Look at this!" Langly was excited now, practically jumping up and down in his seat.

Doggett sidled over, casting Scully a curious glance. She still stood with her arms folded, her face flushed, showing no interest in what Langly was crowing about. He looked over Langly's head at the computer screen. "Looks like a blueprint or something."

"Or something," Langly murmured.

"This is a diagram of El Creyente!" Frohike called out excitedly.

"El What-e?" Doggett asked, earning a glare from Frohike.

"El Creyente, the base Mulder works out of now." The little man looked back at the screen. "We knew it was in Arizona, but not exactly where. This not only tells us how to find it, but it also tells us how to get around in it once we get there."

Langly flipped to another screen and Byers pointed at it. "Look! It even has a detailed blueprint of the air vents. We could get in and out and nobody would be the wiser."

"And why would we want to do that?" Doggett asked, leaning back. He folded his arms and raised his eyebrows in question when all three of the men before him looked back with bewildered expressions. "And even if we had a reason to go into that base, how do we know we can trust this information?"

"We can trust it," said a soft voice behind him.

Doggett turned to look at Dana, who still hadn't moved. She met their eyes with her own one by one.

"You trust blondie that much?" he asked.

"Blondie?" Byers echoed. He looked at Dana. "Your contact?"

"He wasn't the contact," Scully said, dropping her arms and her gaze. She nervously smoothed her skirt without looking up. "He led me to the contact."

Doggett felt the hairs on the back of his neck raise. He remembered finding her alone on the dance floor, looking dazed and speechless. He remembered how quiet and tense she seemed on the long drive back to D.C. He remembered the subtle change in her scent; how he had tried to ignore it, to pass it off as either his imagination or the result of being in a club filled with dozens of lust-filled people.

Now he knew better.

"Mulder." He whispered the name, but it caused Dana's head to snap up and her eyes to meet his. "It was Mulder who gave you that disk."

She nodded slowly. "And if he risked himself like that to give it to me personally, you know it's real." She looked over at the Gunmen, who were once again speechless. "He gave it to us for a reason, and I'm sure we'll find out that reason very soon. In the meantime, we all need to memorize those plans, then destroy that disk."

When she didn't continue, Langly took a deep breath and spoke the question they were all thinking. "Then what?"

Dana sighed deeply and shrugged. "Then, I guess, we wait."


The Johnny Reb Motel Richmond, Virginia

Fox Mulder lay sprawled on a lumpy bed in a rundown motel room, mindlessly flipping through the channels on an equally rundown TV set, trying to keep his mind occupied so he didn't start thinking too much. It wasn't just difficult; it was impossible. Mulder's mind was never still, and even facing exhaustion, both physical and emotional, his thoughts were continuous.

He needed sleep, but he was afraid to relax enough to do so. In sleep, he was more vulnerable, more apt to slip and let his mind flow into places he should not go. Not anymore. Not since...

He sighed heavily, flipping to another channel. His mood brightening somewhat when he recognized 'Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind' on the screen. He would never admit it to anybody, but this had always been his favorite movie. Still was, even after all that had happened to him in the last several years. At least the visitors in this fictional fantasy were friendly, and the end always held an incredible amount of hope.

A knock sounded on his door and without looking away from the screen, he mumbled, "Come in," knowing the 'person' on the other side could hear him no matter how soft he talked. The door opened, and Ken stepped inside. The tall blonde stood still for a second, watching him carefully, then he closed the door behind him and stepped closer to the bed.

Though Mulder wasn't looking at him, he could tell the man was watching the TV screen with interest. He tensed and waited for the expected questions. Finally, the first one came. "How can you watch this lie?"

Mulder smiled. "It's not a lie. It's fiction. There's a difference."

"What is the difference?"

"One is meant to hurt. The other to entertain."

Ken's silence was complete, but Mulder could swear he heard wheels turning from somewhere. Finally, the man continued.

"And this is entertaining?"

Mulder nodded. "Yes. It is. And better than that, it has a happy ending."

"Ahhh..." Ken said, nodding his head. "A happy ending. The same thing you are looking for here."

Since it wasn't a question, Mulder didn't bother to answer. He felt the bed move as the tall man sat down on the edge of it.

"Did you get what you needed from the red-headed woman?"

What I needed? Mulder thought wryly. Not nearly. "I didn't meet with her to get anything from her. I met her to give her something."

"Isn't that dangerous?"

Mulder finally faced the man, meeting the flashing blue eyes with his own. "You're asking that now?"

Ken cocked his head to the left, thinking. Then he smiled. "I guess it doesn't matter now, does it?"

Mulder quirked the corner of his mouth. "No, it doesn't." He faced the TV again, watching as Richard Dreyfuss beat the crap out of a station wagon by driving it through barbed wire fences and across rough Wyoming prairie. "Thank you for helping me, Kenny. Why don't you go get some sleep?" There it was. Devil's Tower.

When the man didn't move, Mulder looked at him again. Ken was watching him, his eyes curious. "What?"

"Why do you call me that?"

"What? Kenny?"

The man nodded.

"It's a nickname," Mulder told him.

"So I can call you Foxy?"

"Absolutely not."

"Why?"

"Ken, just go to bed."

"Why?"

"Would you quit it? You sound like a three year old."

"A three year old what?"

Mulder bit his bottom lip to keep from smiling, knowing the man was completely serious, not trying to be facetious. "Ken, who is in charge here?"

The man's curious expression immediately disappeared, and a serious one took it's place. "You are, sir."

"Very good," Mulder continued, striving for patience. "Now, I'm tired. I'm going to finish watching this movie, then I'm going to get some sleep. Therefore, I don't want you in here. Go to bed."

The man sighed, then stood. "Yes, sir." He walked toward the door and opened it, but before he left, he turned to face Mulder once more. "Sir?"

"Yes?"

"Are we going back home tomorrow?"

Mulder paused before answering. Home? He was closer to home right here in Virginia than he had been in almost two years. He had held home in his arms just a few short hours ago. "Yes," he said softly. "We're going back to Creyente in the morning."

Ken nodded, but his eyes became downcast. "Thank you for bringing me on this trip, sir," he said, and Mulder suddenly realized that Ken didn't want to go back to Arizona any more than he did.

"You're welcome," he muttered, and he watched as the tall man left the room, the knobs on his upper spine clearly visible now that he had taken off the jacket Mulder had made him wear to the club.

Mulder turned his attention back to the movie, but despite the dramatic events on the screen he felt his mind drift once more to events earlier in the evening.

Flashing lights. Heady music. The soft, sultry body of a sexy woman pressed against him. Not just a sexy woman, but the sexiest of women. Her scent. Her taste. Her touch. For one brief moment he had been whole once more. He reached up to fondle the cross hanging from his neck, a reminder that he wasn't alone.

A reminder that he had just put the most important person in his life in even more danger, but also a reminder that he still had hope in his own life.

That there was still a chance for his own happy ending.


Dana Mulder's Apartment

*William?*

Will jerked awake from sleep, startled by the voice in his head. It was a voice that had brought both comfort and discipline to his life since the day he was born, yet one he hadn't heard in months. He lay still for a moment, wondering if it hadn't been his imagination. 'Wishful thinking' his mother would call it.

*William?*

There is was again. It wasn't his imagination. He felt a surge of happiness flow through him and he wanted to start shouting his joy, but then he remembered that he was supposed to be angry at his father. Suddenly, he didn't know what to do. Did he ignore the call in his head? If he did, would it work? He had learned a lot from his father about how to use his special talent, but he had yet to figure out how to keep the man out of his head like his mother could; his father had never taught him that, and he had never wanted to learn before.

*William, I know you can hear me,* his father's voice continued. *Answer me. Please?*

It was the 'please' that decided Will. He would answer, but he wasn't going to be pleasant. *What?* he 'said' petulantly.

Though he couldn't see his father, he still sensed that the man was smiling. As he concentrated, he could also sense the tension in his father's mind. The fear.

*I want you to give your mother a message for me.*

Will frowned. Why was his father scared? Suddenly any anger he had been harboring for the man disappeared. *Why can't you 'talk' to her yourself?* he asked.

*Our connection is strong,* his father told him. *But not as strong as yours and mine. I need to concentrate on too many other things to insure our conversation stays private.*

*I thought you could block out the others,* Will said. He had never seen the gray aliens face to face, but he had seen them through his father's eyes. They were the bad guys, even if his father was working with them. It was confusing, but Will had never questioned why his father did what he did.

*I used to be able to,* his father continued. *But there is someone here now that can interrupt my thoughts. If my shields go down even the slightest bit, he can read me. I can't let that happen.*

Will knew it would indeed be bad if the Grays or their minions knew what Fox Mulder was really up to. Though Will himself didn't know his father's plans, he knew they were supposed to be a secret. *Is that why we haven't 'talked' in so long?*

*Yes.* His father hesitated. *I want you to tell your mother that there is someone here who we all need to fear. Someone who could ruin all our plans. Someone she knows.*

Will was nervous now. *Is it someone who will try to hurt her?* He would never let that happen.

He felt his father smile again. *Good boy, wanting to protect your mother, but right now you need to let her protect you, okay?*

*But this person--*

*Is dangerous, but your mother will know how to handle him. She's very good at blocking mind probes.* There was a tinge of humor in his thoughts, and once again Will wished his father had taught him how to block his thoughts. *She'll show you how someday, kiddo,* his father said in a comforting tone. *I have to go. I'm already getting too tired to block him for much longer. Go tell your mother what I told you right away.*

*But it's the middle of the night,* Will argued half-heartedly.

*If I know your mother, she's probably not sleeping anyway,* his father argued back. *Tell her now who she should be careful of.*

*Who?*


Scully sat on her bed, her son in her arms quickly dozing off with his head upon her breast, a fine layer of sweat on her body. Only minutes ago, Will had awakened her from a light doze, telling her that Mulder had just 'talked' to him and wanted to pass on a message. He wanted her to know why he had stopped communicating with them. He wanted her to know that someone had come close to entering Mulder's mind, finding the dangerous secrets buried there. He wanted her to know that she should be very careful around somebody he knew would enter her life again in the future. Mulder had wanted her to know that she should fear a child.

A child known as Gibson Praise.


El Creyente Base Arizona

Mulder walked along the cool hallway toward his office, breathing deep the still, slightly stale air that permeated the base. The ventilation system worked hard at keeping out the hot, desert air, but it also had to work hard at keeping away the humid heat from the underground levels that was constantly trying to work its way upward.

He grimaced as he remembered he would have need to visit the basement later today, a chore he despised but one he could give to no other. He was one of only three humans allowed to enter the private laboratories the Grays operated nearly 300 feet beneath him. Marita was also one of those 'honored.' As was Gibson Praise.

Gibson. The boy wasn't a child anymore. Of course, he never really had been, had he? Mulder knew how hard it was to control the 'gift' of telepathy. Gibson was only now starting to truly understand and use his power. And what a power it was. He was much stronger than Mulder, and much more adept than any of the children who lived here in seclusion. Gibson thought that this power had strengthened him, but Mulder knew that it had, in fact, weakened him. Just as wealth could corrupt the most humble of souls, Gibson's talents had led to his belief that he was far better than any of his human counterparts, and that he should act appropriately.

The Grays had found him only six months ago, living quietly in a Children's Home just outside of Arlington. Scully had helped place him shortly after Mulder's own abduction. He said he had been waiting, but he did not know what for. Then one of the Bounty Hunters had found him and brought him to Arizona. At first, Mulder had been excited to see the boy, anxious for any help with the children, sure that Gibson would not want to be a part of the Grays' true plan any more than he did. He had been wrong.

Gibson had been seduced by the promises of leadership and long life after the coming apocalypse. He had begun to draw the children's attention away from Mulder and the women and toward himself, becoming their new hero and mentor. He became as close to the Grays as any human ever could, seeming to understand their ways better than Mulder. He even, one stormy night, entered Mulder's dreams.

Terrified, Mulder had pushed Gibson out of his mind, but not before the child had caught a glimpse of the secrets Mulder was hiding. Nothing concrete, but enough to raise suspicion. The Grays' went on guard. For a few weeks, Mulder thought he was in danger of being 'arrested' and executed. However, the aliens soon calmed, not believing Mulder could endanger them, even if he wanted to. And life had gone on like normal... except for the fact that Mulder could no longer 'talk' to his son. Could no longer dream with his wife. Could no longer 'teach' the children that what the Grays taught was not the whole truth. Could do nothing with his mind that might tell Gibson what Mulder really had planned for the future of the human race.

Reaching his office, Mulder entered and sat wearily down at his desk. When he had come here over a year ago, he had hoped to keep the children from the brainwashing the Grays were attempting. With Gibson here, that was no longer an option. How could he compete, an older man who had only been a telepath for the last two years of his life, with a much younger boy who had been, like the children he played with, a telepath his entire life? Mulder's plan of destroying the Conspiracy from the inside had died. But more than that, he missed the kids.

Babies, really. All of them between the ages of five months and three years, but all acting much older than they really were. The twelve of them had bonded already, and together they presented a grand display of power. What would it be like in five years? Ten? How about when they were all grown? That thought used to thrill him. Now, it terrified him.

A knock on the office door caused him to break off his doomsday reflections and look up. "Yes?"

The door opened, admitting Susan Donahue and Ken. The tall brunette had been the first person from this base that Mulder had really gotten to know well. A pediatrician, Susan was not only in charge of the children's medical care, but was the mother of the oldest of the twelve, Wesley Miles. The boy's father was also on base... or what was left of him. Billy Miles had long since died, but his body remained, the Grays having taken it and converted it into a replicant. Mulder rarely went a day without remembering how close he had come to ending up like Billy.

Or like Ken. "What's up?" he asked his visitors. These two were about as close as he would ever come to having friends in this hellhole.

Ken closed the office door and moved to stand behind Susan, who had sat down heavily in the chair in front of Mulder's desk. She looked as tired as Mulder felt. "I hear your trip was successful." Her statement was not a question, but Mulder heard the inquiry in her voice.

"Quit fishing, Susan," he said softly. "I won't bite."

A small smile appeared on her face, but her eyes darkened. "Did you see her?"

Mulder didn't twitch.

"I hope not," she continued. "I would hate to think of the danger you put her, your son, and us in if you did."

Mulder still didn't move. He knew the risks. He had weighed them in his mind over and over. He had decided they were worth it.

Susan sighed. "I don't know why I bother," she said softly. "Just promise me that when things start getting dicey, you'll let me know."

Mulder shook his head in frustration. "Susan, what makes you think I wouldn't?" He stood suddenly and began pacing the floor behind his desk. "Haven't we always been on the same side, here?"

"Then why will you never tell me what you're doing?" She whispered the question, but her fear and anger came through loud and clear.

"There are telepaths here that are much stronger than you, Susan. Especially now." He paused. "You have no secrets from them."

The woman sat back in her chair. "Gibson?" Her eyes flashed. "Is that why the children have started acting different? Is he why...?"

Mulder stopped his pacing and looked at her. "Why what?"

"Why my son won't 'talk' to me anymore."

"Yes." Mulder was silent for a while. "They like him. They trust him. They listen to him."

"And he tells them lies."

"Yes."

They were silent for a moment. Then Ken, who had not spoken a word since their arrival, moved.

"Can we not change those lies into fiction?"

Mulder looked at the replicant sharply. Susan turned and gave him a confused look. "What?"

"If we tell them these lies they are hearing are simply fiction, they will not hurt anyone." He grinned at Mulder. "They will entertain, instead."

Susan looked back at Mulder. "What the hell is he talking about?"

Mulder looked intently at the blonde man smiling at him. "Kenny, you might be on to something here." He took a deep breath. "But it ain't gonna be easy."


End of Part 2/9

Part 3/9


The Lone Gunmen's Residence

"What d'ya suppose they have in that big, hanger-like room?"

"I'm not sure I want to know."

"You mean you'd rather get an unpleasant surprise when we have to go in there?"

"Yeah, it could hold something nasty. Like a rancor."

Doggett lifted his head at these words, staring at Langly with raised eyebrows. Both Frohike and Byers were doing the same.

"You do realize Star Wars went out with the Rubicks Cube, don't you?" Frohike said sarcastically.

"Are you kidding?!" Langly argued. "Star Wars will always be cool!"

Doggett shook his head, sighed, and turned his attention back to the newspaper in his hands. He would never understand these men or the often childish way they acted, but he had learned to respect their opinions and knowledge in the last few years. However, sometimes it took more than the little bit of patience he had to deal with them, especially when they got to arguing.

Instead of interrupting their 'discussion' of the recently destroyed plans for the El Creyente base, Doggett decided to wait it out. It wasn't like he had anything to go home to. A frozen dinner in the microwave. A bottle of cold beer. Repeats on the television...

He turned the page and was immediately drawn to a headline. Carefully, he read through the brief article. "Fourth page, only three paragraphs," he mumbled.

"What was that, Agent Dogbert?"

For once, Langly's nickname for him didn't make Doggett grimace. "You guys ever hear of the Hanta Virus?"

The three men looked at each other warily. "Yeah," Byers said carefully.

Doggett pointed to the newspaper. "Says here there was an outbreak recently. FEMA moved in quick, but three people still died."

"So?" Frohike asked.

"So the outbreak was just south of Tucson, Arizona. A mile or so away from the Mexican border."

"And?" Langly this time.

Doggett sighed. "Isn't that where El Creyente is? And isn't the Hanta Virus what was used as a supposed cover story when Mulder's 'black oil' infected someone in Texas a few years back?" He had read all the X-Files. Some had been forgetful. But some were hard to forget.

"You think there's a connection?" Byers asked.

"Don't you?"

Again, the three men traded looks. "You know, Agent Doggett," Frohike said. "You're beginning to resemble Mulder, and it's scary."

Doggett frowned. "What d'ya mean?"

"Taking these giant leaps in logic," Byers elaborated.

"I don't think this is that giant a leap," Doggett argued.

"The Hanta Virus is most common in the southwest. A few small outbreaks are still seen on a regular basis. The fact that this one is so close to El Creyente could just be coincidence."

Doggett couldn't argue with Byers' logic, but something about the story was making him nervous. Or maybe he was just bored and making mountains out of molehills to keep himself entertained.

A knock sounded on the door, and Doggett breathed a sigh of relief. He was only here at the Gunmen's place to meet Dana and Monica, and it appeared they had finally arrived. Frohike admitted the two women...and one little toddler.

"Hey, kiddo!" Frohike's greeting was enthusiastic. It was very obvious he cared about the kid, and the feeling was apparently mutual.

"Uncle Fro!" William threw himself into Frohike's arms, laughing joyously. "Did you know my mom saw my dad the other day?"

Frohike's eyes widened and he looked at Dana. Doggett also turned to look at her. Blushing slightly, she said softly, "I slipped. He read me like a book."

"I don't know why she didn't want me to know," the boy said with his lower lip sticking out in a pout.

Doggett stared at the child, amazed at how eloquent William was. He wasn't even two years old yet; he shouldn't even be able to speak in complete sentences. It had been several months since Doggett had seen the youngest Mulder face to face, so though he had heard of the child's rapid mental growth, he had yet to see him in action.

William suddenly turned his head to look at Doggett. "John?"

Doggett started. Out of this bunch, only Monica called him by his first name on a regular basis, though Dana was getting better at it. "Hi, Will."

The boy frowned. "You don't want me to call you John anymore?"

Abashed, Doggett glanced at Dana, then back at William. "Anymore?"

"You told me I could call you that. Remember?"

Doggett remembered. After the baby had tried spelling the name Doggett with his wooden blocks one evening visit, Doggett had told him to just call him John. It was shorter and easier to spell. William had been all of ten months old at the time. "Yeah, I remember," he whispered.

The boy smiled and reached his arms out to him. Casting another nervous glance at Dana, whose face was serious but whose eyes were laughing, Doggett reached back, taking the boy in his arms. "Man, you're getting big," he said as he hefted William onto his hip.

"Yep," William responded. "Mom says I'll be taller than her in a few years."

Everyone laughed softly at the boy's words.

"Why'd you bring the tyke?" Byers asked. At William's sharp look, he added, "Not that we mind!"

"He wanted to come," Dana said with a shrug. She walked over to stand next to Doggett. "He told me that it's been too long since he's been here, and he barely remembered what it looked like."

"Dana," Langly said. "The last time he was here, Mulder was with him." Mulder had left when William was only six months old.

Dana nodded. "I know."

Everyone looked at William with something akin to awe. Doggett was the first to break the silence. "So, what's up?" he asked Dana. "Why did you want me to meet you here?"

"I received another e-mail last night," she said, casting a nervous look at her son, who sat silent on Doggett's hip. "Another pick up."

"And?" Doggett asked when she didn't continue.

"It wasn't from Daddy," William said.

Doggett looked at the boy. "How do you know?"

The boy shrugged, then looked at his mother. A silent discussion went on between the two of them; Doggett wondered if they were actually trading words in their mind, or just thoughts. Dana nodded, and the boy sighed deeply. "He told me."

A tense silence filled the room.

Byers broke it. "He's 'talking' to you again?"

"Only sometimes," William answered. "In my dreams." He looked at his mother again, worry in his eyes. "Someone is listening to him most of the time, so he can't 'talk' to us like he used to. But he found me in my dreams. Twice."

Doggett looked at Dana. She nodded. "The first time was the night before last. He warned us that there was a new player. Someone we all had to avoid."

"Who?" Frohike asked.

"Gibson Praise."

"The chess kid?" Langly asked.

Dana nodded. "You guys need to stay away from him, or at least block him from your thoughts."

Byers looked around anxiously. "And how do we do that?"

Dana smiled. "It's really not all that hard. Will and I will teach you tonight."

William's face brightened. "We will? That means I get to learn it, too?"

Dana smiled. "Yep."

"Finally!"

There was more laughter, though it was nervous this time. Doggett waited for it to subside. "What about the second time, Will?"

The child looked at him carefully. "He told me he was not sending anymore messages for Mom, so we should ignore any we get. Gibson found out he was talking to her with the computer." The light in his eyes dimmed somewhat. "And he told me they were starting with the tests."

"Tests?"

Dana nodded. "They released the virus in a small town south of Tucson."

Doggett glanced down at the paper he had set on the table at Dana's arrival and felt a chill sweep up his spine. He looked at the boy in his arms. William's expression mirrored his own, serious and fearful.

It had begun.


Post Office Opal, Virginia

Scully entered the little building that housed the post office for the small town of Opal, glancing around her warily. Doggett followed close behind. She hadn't wanted him to come, but she also knew she needed visible backup, and the people that were watching her would expect that backup to be him. While she and Monica Reyes were good friends, they hadn't worked together like she and Doggett had. The trust and security that she and John had established during those tense months looking for Mulder over two years ago wasn't something that could be faked.

She trusted him, but she was worried that he might not be up to the coming challenge. It was hard enough teaching a natural telepath like her son how to block someone from reading your thoughts. Trying to teach a man unconvinced about the possibility of telepathic power was almost impossible. William's ability to read Doggett's mind yesterday had helped to convince the man it was possible... somewhat. He still didn't want to believe.

Scully remembered a time when she had been that stubborn.

Still eyeing her surroundings carefully, Scully went up to the main desk and told the lone woman behind it that she was there to pick up a package sent in from out of town. She gave her name and social security number and the woman went to retrieve the package. Scully waited patiently, and she wasn't surprised when the woman came back empty handed. "I'm sorry," the gray-haired woman told her. "We must not have received it yet. Are you sure you were supposed to pick it up today?"

"Maybe I was mistaken," Scully told her, though she knew she was not. "I'll try back later." She turned away from the desk and started walking toward the door. Slowly.

"Agent Scully."

The voice was deeper than she remembered. Older. She stopped and looked toward the young man walking toward her. She felt Doggett move up to stand close behind her right shoulder.

"Gibson." Her greeting was quiet but steady.

The bespectacled young man stopped in front of her, his eyes wide. "You're not surprised to see me."

"Should I be?" Scully asked him.

The boy's eyes narrowed in concentration. "You're good. Very good." He turned his attention to Doggett. "But is he?"

Doggett remained silent, and Scully knew he was practicing one of the rules she had taught last night: it's easier to shut off your mind if your voice is shut off as well.

Gibson looked back at Scully, surprise evident in his eyes. "How do you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Talk to him."

"Who?"

The boy's brow furrowed. "Stop talking in circles, Agent Scully. You know who. Mulder."

"I haven't talked to Mulder in months." She wasn't lying.

"We know you communicate with him. Why else would you be here? And how else would you have known to teach Agent Doggett to block his thoughts?" The boy cocked his head. "I just can't figure out how. You're not like us. You aren't a telepath."

No, she wasn't. Not like Mulder and her son, anyway. However, the connection she and Mulder shared, a connection that had been established almost on the day they first met, was unique. Magical. Maybe even spiritual. She wasn't going to try and explain that to Gibson, though.

Scully stood silent for a moment. Then she tilted her head in imitation of Gibson. "Is there something we can help you with, Gibson?"

Nervously, the boy glanced behind him. Scully looked at what he was observing, and for the first time noticed the man standing in the corner by the front window, newspaper in hand. Gene Crane. Former FBI agent and friend of John Doggett's. Believed to be deceased since the night of William's birth.

Scully felt a chill run up her spine at the same time she felt John tense behind her. Gibson looked back at her. "I wish there was something you could do for me, Agent Scully, but I don't think that's possible." With that, he turned and headed for Crane. The diminutive man put down his paper and watched the boy walk toward him, his brow furrowed. He said something to Gibson that Scully couldn't hear, and the boy shook his head 'no.' Crane's eyes narrowed even more and he turned his glare toward Scully. Placing his hand on Gibson's back, he led the boy out of the building.

"That was weird."

Scully turned her head to look at Doggett. "Which part? The part where big, bad Gibson barely interrogated us, or the part where one of your former agents returned from the dead?"

The corners of Doggett's mouth rose slightly. "Surprisingly enough, I wasn't too shocked to see Gene standing there. But I was a bit confused by the lack of force on the kid's part. I was sure he would be able to break through my barriers." He shook his head. "Hell, if Mulder has a hard time keeping him out, how could I succeed?"

Scully was only slightly surprised that Doggett understood what had just happened. "You're right. I don't think he was trying very hard." She turned to look toward the door Gibson and Crane had disappeared through. "It was almost like he was simply putting on an act for Crane."

"But wouldn't Gene know?"

She shook her head. "Replicants can't read minds. And their minds can't be read, either."

She felt Doggett's intense gaze on her and met his eyes with her own. "Then what the hell is going on? Why is Mulder so afraid of that kid?"

Scully shrugged. "I don't know. And there's only one way to find out."

A frown formed on Doggett's already serious visage. "How?"

"I need to talk to Mulder," she said softly. "Face to face."


El Creyente Base

Mulder stood still, arms behind his back, eyes facing forward, before his 'superior's' desk. He had never had any inclination to join the military, even as a small boy when all his friends wanted to play with toy soldiers, but he felt as if he was there now.

Ever since he had arrived at this base, beginning his tenure as the leader of the human conspirators, he had felt as if he had joined the army. People, both human and otherwise, called him 'sir,' and the real soldiers saluted him when he passed by. He never saluted back, just nodded, but when he was asked down to meet with 'the boss,' he could do nothing but stand at attention in front of the - creature's - desk.

Mulder didn't know its name. Nor would he be able to recognize the man off base. Like all the Grays, he was able to shape-shift at will, taking whatever form was convenient for him. In most instances, the persona he took was of an older, silver haired General, a form that demanded respect and discipline. Yet, this General never left the base. Whenever the Gray ventured from the compound, he took on the appearance of whoever he wanted to imitate that day. Like the Bounty Hunters under his command, he was physically stronger than the average human being in any form, and he wasn't afraid to use that strength.

The General had come to the base only a few weeks after CGB Spender's death. Fortunately, Spender had warned Mulder of the dominant alien before his demise, or else Mulder would have been unprepared; he had always assumed that there was no real leader with the Grays, that they all thought so much alike there was no need for one being to take charge. But the General was in charge, and not one of the Grays, Bounty Hunters or replicants argued.

In his fantasy/dream created for Scully and Frohike several months ago, Mulder had made himself the General. At that time, he almost had as much power as the Gray's leader, but since Gibson's arrival, things had changed. The real General had taken on more responsibility. He made more requests and demands, and Mulder could do nothing but obey.

Which is what he was doing here in the General's presence now, waiting for orders. He hated coming down to the lower levels on any day, but today he really didn't want to be here. Gibson had left the compound in the company of three replicants only yesterday, and while Mulder was extraordinarily curious about where the boy had gone, he was also anxious to take advantage of his absence. Though Gibson would be able to stay in mental contact with the children no matter where he was, the greater the physical distance between them, the weaker that connection was and the more tiring it was to keep ahold of. Mulder suspected Gibson had headed east, to D.C., and while this made him nervous, he also knew the extensive distance between here and there was what he needed to reestablish a connection with the children.

But first, he had to wait for his orders.

"Mulder," the man in front of him said with a nod of the head. While the General usually met with him in his human form, there had been occasions in the past where he had remained a Gray. Mulder hated staring into the blank, empty gaze of a Gray, and was therefore relieved when he saw the human shape in front of him.

He responded to the General's greeting with a nod of his own. He refused to say 'sir.' Only people he respected deserved that title.

The General didn't know this, and if he did, probably wouldn't care. "Rumor has it you've been meeting with your wife."

Mulder didn't let his expression change. As adverse as the Gray's were to everything human, they had learned to read human body language and facial expressions. "You know what I think about rumors."

The man in front of him smirked. "So you deny it?"

Mulder cocked his head, meeting the man's steady blue gaze. It was almost as lifeless as the Gray's natural stare. "Of course. There is no reason for me to meet with her until it's time to take William away from her." He was surprised the Grays were confronting him with their suspicions.

The man looked at him intently, and Mulder felt the familiar tug on his mind. It was no effort at all to push back. For a moment the General looked angry, something that Mulder knew was an extension of the Gray's human behavior programming, rather than real anger.

"Gibson tells us you have been contacting her... and the child."

Mulder easily fell into the lie he had trained himself to live so long ago. "I won't deny I've made contact with my son; I won't let him grow thinking I'm dead or that I abandoned him." That much was the truth, at least. "But I don't know why Gibson thinks I've been in contact with the mother. I have no interest in her anymore."

"Not even as a... lover?"

Mulder wanted to laugh at the Gray's hesitation on what it saw as an abhorrent word, but he didn't. "I have enough women here to keep me busy." It was commonly believed by most of the base staff that Mulder often brought both Marita Covarrubias and Susan Donahue to his bed. Sometimes both of them at the same. Mulder didn't mind the speculation. The two women were the only ones who knew Mulder hadn't had sex since he left Scully; all those late night meetings in his bedroom were just that: meetings.

The General sighed heavily, another human trait that he had trained himself to learn. "Why would Gibson lie?"

"Why would I?" Mulder knew he had never had the alien's full trust. Neither had Spender. But they feared him for some reason that Mulder was still unsure about. Maybe that fear was diminishing.

The General nodded, and for the first time Mulder began to believe that they didn't truly trust Gibson either. Maybe he still had hope of recovering his dwindling power. Among the Grays, anyway. "That will be all," the General said.

Mulder turned to go, anxious to get out of the hot, steamy basement and back to the children.

"Remember," the General said suddenly, causing Mulder to turn toward him once more. "We're watching you."

Mulder just smiled coldly. As if he could ever forget.

It took a full ten minutes to make his way through the maze of the Gray's underground network, and he took a deep breath of the cooler, drier air of the main compound when he reached the upper floors. Without hesitating, he made his way to the north wing of the huge building. Where the children lived.

It was time to start taking full control, even if it meant one child at a time.


Tucson International Airport Tucson, Arizona

"Damn, it's hot."

Scully didn't acknowledge the statement uttered by her companion, though she was thinking the exact same thing in her mind. She continued to make her way down the sidewalk toward the car rental lot, which was in a distant location due to construction near the airport.

"How do people live in this?"

Unlike his first statement, this comment was a question, and Scully felt obliged to answer. She turned to Frohike with a smirk. "Genetics."

"Huh?" the little hacker asked with his brow furrowed.

"Most of the people that live here were born here. They're used to it. Doesn't mean they all like it, and central air plays a big part on surviving it, but that's the way it is." When the plane had begun its descent into Tucson, the pilot had mentioned that the temperature was a 'balmy' 103 degrees, which wasn't bad for late summer. It was a drastic change, however, from the cool, sunny 76 they had left behind in D.C. Autumn was just around the corner up north, but it never really arrived down here.

They reached the rental car lot and were pointed toward their car by a helpful attendant. The lot was covered, providing shade, but the temperature didn't feel any cooler. "Hope the air conditioning is working," Frohike mumbled grumpily.

Ten minutes later, they were on the road, the interior of their car nice and cool, sunglasses providing necessary protection against the glare of the sun on the pavement in front of them. Scully sat at the wheel, occasionally glancing at her 'partner,' who was trying to read a map. When Scully had determined to come to Arizona to try and contact Mulder in person, she had had to sit through the ranting of five men and one woman on why she shouldn't do it. She knew all the reasons why, but she had decided to come anyway. She knew the risks, and it wasn't as if she had come unprepared.

When Mulder had left her on the dance floor at Wonderland less than two weeks ago, he had told her 'not yet.' For a while, she felt as if she needed to wait for a signal from him, but sitting still had never been her strong suit. She knew Mulder knew this. Something deep inside, something she had yet to put a name to, had told her to make the first move. She hoped that Mulder was prepared and that he would be ready when he discovered she was on the go. Ready for what, she wasn't yet certain.

William had come as well, though he was now in the trusted care of Walter Skinner and Monica Reyes. Their plane had arrived earlier today, and Skinner had contacted Scully by cell phone while she and Frohike were still in flight letting her know they had arrived safely and were settled in a motel. The decision to bring William to Arizona had been hers, and it had been much more of a battle convincing everyone that it was necessary than it had been to talk them into letting *her* come. She had prevailed in the end, managing to get both Skinner and Monica on her side. After all, they agreed that with the long reach the Grays had, the toddler wasn't any safer in D.C. than he would be in the Grays' backyard. They also trusted Scully's slowly developing 'gut feeling.' She couldn't explain why, but she knew William needed to be here.

The Gunmen had grudgingly gone along with the decision, but Doggett had hated it. Ever since meeting William again at the Gunmen's the other night, he and the boy had been almost inseparable. Anytime they were in the same room together, William was in John's arms. At home, the little boy talked about Doggett constantly, and Scully knew John's protective instincts for the child, which had always existed, had been turned on high. He hadn't liked giving the child up to the care of Skinner and Monica, though he trusted them both. William, too, had pouted at the separation, but had not complained. Not verbally, anyway. Doggett, Byers and Langly would be arriving on another flight later that day, and they would all stay in their respective groupings, keeping in contact via cell-phone. For now.

Using the plans for El Creyente in their head, Scully and Frohike were planning on 'wandering' out into the desert in the direction of the base. If they were stopped, as they hoped they would be, Scully would tell the truth. She was looking for Mulder. Then the story would begin. The lies:

Gibson Praise had hinted that Mulder was here somewhere. Scully, upset that he had apparently abandoned his son, was wanting to confront him. She was not happy with him. She was worried her son was not listening to her anymore. She needed help. Badly.

If she could put up the front of being helpless and fearing her son's gift, maybe she could put them more at ease. Catch them off guard. Get inside the base and meet with Mulder. Try to understand why he feared Gibson so much...and if he really needed to.

Frohike was chosen as her companion because William had told her he was the best at blocking his thoughts. Scully had been surprised to hear this, as had Frohike, but she trusted that her son was right.

She looked over at her partner once more and recognized the same nervousness she felt in his expression. "Hey," she said softly.

He looked at her, his eyes wide. "Yeah?"

"We'll be fine." She kept her voice steady, reassuring.

"Of course we will," Frohike said with a little nod. "It's not like we're jumping into a viper's nest or something. We're just trying to get into a secret, alien base in the middle of nowhere."

Scully lifted the corner of her mouth slightly. "We've done this before, you and I. We got out that time okay."

Frohike glared at her. "Cute." He knew she was referring to the dream they had shared under Mulder's direction not so long ago. "Somehow, I don't think the simple act of waking up is going to help us here."

"Mulder will be there," she told him, finding comfort in that thought alone.

Frohike obviously didn't share her faith in his old friend. "Why does that not make me any more happy with this?"

Scully frowned, taking her eyes off the road briefly to glance at him once more. "What do you mean?"

The hacker sighed. "Scully, he's on the edge. He was there when he controlled that dream, and I'm sure he hasn't gotten away from it yet. Who knows? Maybe he's already fallen off."

Scully didn't respond. She couldn't. Not when her own subconscious had been worrying about the same thing Frohike had voiced. She loved Mulder. She trusted him. But a small part of her couldn't help wondering how he had managed to make these creatures intent on taking over the world believe that he was on their side for all these months.

Silently, she began to pray. Pray that her faith, in both her husband and in God, was not misplaced.


End of Part 3/9

Part 4/9


El Creyente Base

Mulder leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes briefly, trying to ease the headache that was steadily getting worse. It didn't seem to help. In fact, closing his eyes made the faint buzzing in his head worse. He opened them again and tried to concentrate on the two small children in front of him.

The buzzing continued. It wasn't actually noise, really, but more a feeling. He had first felt it in Virginia, when he and Ken had gone to meet Scully. At the time, he thought it was probably due to a combination of nerves and the fact that he hadn't used his gift of telepathy for a while. The irritant had disappeared when he had arrived back at the base, but now it was back, and he couldn't blame it on any lack of telepathic exercise. He had been 'speaking' to the children for days now, carefully keeping his mind in check for fear that Gibson would 'hear' him even at a distance.

Gibson had arrived back at the base yesterday and Mulder had resumed his silence... but his job had already been done. Now he just needed to sit back and see if what he had started would work. He had entered the training room (Mulder preferred to call it the play room, but not in front of the Grays) bright and early this morning, before Gibson had arrived, and the children had greeted him with grins full of mischief. Gibson had arrived, surprised to see Mulder there, and then his surprise turned to confusion and worry as he looked at the children. Mulder knew he was 'talking' to them. Or trying to. They obviously weren't talking back.

Giving Mulder a glare, the young man had stormed out of the room, more upset than Mulder would have expected. A couple of the youngest children had looked at Mulder with fear on their faces and on their conscience, too young yet to really communicate with words, either verbally or mentally. Mulder sent reassuring thoughts to them, using his short experience as a father to comfort them. Though still worried, their fear subsided.

Then the buzzing in Mulder's head had begun.

It was afternoon now, and Mulder had spent the entire day with one or more of the children. Gibson had not returned, and while that was unusual, the children decided it was better than having him come back angry. Nap time had arrived for all but the oldest, and Mulder sat watching them play with an intricate puzzle-like toy, trying to understand what his mind was trying to tell him.

*Mulder?*

Mulder pulled his thoughts back outward as he heard R.J. 'say' his name.

*Yeah?*

*When will your little boy be able to come live with us?*

Mulder narrowed his eyes. He had never, even in the beginning, talked to these children about Will. *Why do you ask?*

R.J. glanced at Wes, and the younger boy nodded. They were talking to each other, Mulder knew, though he could not 'hear' them. Wes finally spoke, his demeanor like that of an eight year old child, not a toddler. *He's the one that's supposed to lead us, isn't he?*

Mulder felt a cold chill shoot up his spine. *Who told you that?*

*Gibson,* the boys said simultaneously.

Just then, Gibson himself walked in the door, looking nervous and slightly upset. The two boys smiled, clearly happy to see him, but then they looked at each other, their grins turning wolfish, and they faced away from him. Gibson seemed to turn paler than he already was.

"Boys, why don't you go check on the others?" Mulder said out loud.

"'k, Mulder," R.J. said.

Wes just nodded and followed his younger friend out of the room. Before he left, Mulder heard him in his head. *Don't give away the surprise, Mulder!*

*I won't,* Mulder promised. He glanced at Gibson, clearly expecting the boy to interrupt his thoughts, as he had done in the past, but he didn't.

Mulder sat looking at the kid for a while. "What's wrong, Gibson? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Gibson met his eyes. "I can't hear them," he whispered. "They're blocking me."

Mulder couldn't help the smug smile that inched its way onto his face. "I know."

"You told them to do that?" Gibson asked, anger building.

"Yep."

"Why?!" the boy demanded. "What did you tell them about me?!"

"Certainly not the same lies you've been telling them about me," Mulder said, his humor gone. "That I hate my wife and son. That I'm here to find a way to destroy the Children of Eden, including my own son. That I've been poisoning their minds with lies about what could be." It had taken a lot of patience and persistence, but Mulder had finally been able to get Wes to talk to him about why they no longer trusted him. Once the boy had opened up, the others followed. Mulder had done his best to disprove the lies, but he knew the children still didn't trust him completely.

Gibson had started blushing as Mulder listed off the lies he had told, and this surprised him. Gibson, embarrassed? Or just really, really angry?

In a soft voice, Gibson asked, "What did you tell them?"

Mulder sighed. "I told them that your birthday was coming up and that I was planning a surprise birthday party for you." He cocked his head. "Which is true, by the way." Gibson refused to look up. "I told them that because you were so powerful, the best way to make sure the party stayed a secret was to keep their minds closed off to you so you wouldn't read them."

"You tricked them," Gibson said, finally looking up.

"No, I didn't. There's really going to be a party. You better act surprised, or they'll feel real bad."

Gibson knew the story, and the party, had been set up to insure Mulder had the children's complete attention for the next few days. "Why?"

"You took them away from me, Gibson," Mulder said, his voice dark. "They were mine, and you took them away."

"They didn't trust you!" the boy exclaimed, and Mulder knew he meant the Grays, not the children. "They thought you may be trying to brainwash them."

"Me? Brainwash them?" Mulder started laughing. "Damn, Gibson. Don't you see what's really going on here? Don't you care? Or are you so fond of them that they are your family now?"

The boy looked at him, his jaw locked and his eyes bright. Mulder wondered briefly if the kid was holding back tears. "I'm not one of them," he finally ground out.

"Could have fooled me," Mulder said softly. "Slipping in and out of my mind. Telling them everything you see."

"I haven't told them you plan on destroying the underground chambers of the base," Gibson whispered. "Of how you plan to use the children to mentally distract the Grays so you can destroy the reproduction chambers. Kill the virus that they're keeping there. I haven't told them any of that." Gibson paused. "But I could."

Mulder had frozen in his seat, ice forming in his veins, as he heard Gibson lay his plans on the floor in front of them. Knowing the boy had gotten deeper into Mulder's mind than he had first believed was no real surprise. The fact that the boy had kept his secrets was.

Suddenly, the buzzing in the back of his brain increased tenfold, and Mulder suddenly realized what it meant.

"Scully," he whispered, ignoring Gibson's look of confusion. "She's here."


TIA Tucson, Arizona

John Doggett picked up his bag off the luggage carousel, eyeing the people around him warily. Gripping the handle of the suitcase tightly in his left hand, he hefted his carry-on higher onto his right shoulder and headed for the door. Byers and Langly, having already retrieved their bags, were a few steps ahead of him, and he noticed with grim humor that they looked as nervous as he felt. As if they were all waiting for some uniformed guards to jump out of the woodwork and arrest them. After all, all three of them were carrying contraband.

Well, maybe he couldn't label it contraband. It wasn't illegal. It wasn't even a substance that was known to 99.9% of the human population. And even though security at airports around the country had tightened significantly since September 11, officials would have no reason to suspect them of carrying anything dangerous.

If only they knew.

Tucked away in Doggett's carry-on were three thermoses full of homemade apple juice. Before being allowed to board the plane in D.C., one of the guards had opened one of these small jugs and smelled the contents; he hadn't really been too suspicious. After all, Doggett had already shown his credentials, and the other guard was calling in for permission to allow Doggett on the plane armed. The guards had let him through, telling him that if he had any of the juice left over after sharing with his sister back in Tucson that they would like some. Doggett had to admit it smelled delicious. However, he wouldn't dare take a sip. Not when he knew that four vials of Dana's 'Snake oil' were taped to the inside bottom of the thermos.

The whole 'team' heading to Tucson had managed to store vials of the stuff in similar containers. Doggett still wasn't sure what they were planning to do with the faux 'alien blood,' but Dana and Frohike had been adamant about taking as much as possible with them to Arizona.

Now they had finally arrived, the last of the team to do so. He left the air conditioned terminal and entered the supposed 'dry heat' of the desert. He knew right away that he preferred the humidity of D.C. and New York. This atmosphere was too similar to that of Mexico, and Mexico had a few too many bad memories.

He trudged along behind the two Gunmen as they headed for the car rental area, wondering once again why he was following this bunch of lunatics, risking his career and maybe even his life in the process.

'Because you're thinking that maybe they aren't crazy,' he answered himself. The things he'd seen since joining the X-Files more than two years ago had been astounding, and he had even come to believe in some of the more bazaar theories and ideas that both Agents Mulder and Reyes had come up with. However, the idea of aliens from outer space taking up residence on earth, disguising themselves as human, and planning to invade and take over the planet... he just couldn't believe it. Not yet. Not without a little more proof.

He did know that whoever Mulder was now working for was dangerous. And thanks to Mulder's son, he was beginning to believe that telepathy wasn't something only characters from Star Trek could do. The fact that Mulder's employers were somehow connected to William only made Doggett that much more determined to keep the boy safe. Even if that meant secretly transporting a deadly substance across the country in his carry-on.

God, it was nuts! Freakin' nuts!

He stood idly by as Byers acquired their car, noticing with some appreciation that the sun was setting quite spectacularly in the west. When Byers was done, Doggett silently followed them to their car. He realized the bearded man was talking to someone on his cell phone. Monica, he figured as he listened in. Byers slid into the drivers seat and Langly took the passenger seat. Not saying anything, Doggett tossed his suitcase in the open trunk, closed it, then slid into the back seat behind Byers. They knew he hadn't wanted to come, and he supposed they were wishing they could dump him off somewhere and be away with his scowling face, but the fact that he was carrying twelve vials of 'snake oil' told him they wouldn't dare leave him behind.

Byers turned off his phone and started the engine.

"Everyone else make it okay?" Doggett asked softly.

"Yeah," Byers told him with forced cheer. "We're supposed to meet Skinner, Reyes and Will at the motel and get things ready."

"What things?" Doggett growled. He hated that he had been left out of most of the planning. He may not believe in the alien crap, but he knew he needed to be prepared for what came next.

"Uh..." Byers started to say. "I'm not sure, exactly." He looked nervously at Langly, who returned his glance with an anxious one of his own.

Doggett felt a glimmer of triumph as he realized these two had been kept out of the loop, too.

"Apparently, Agent Reyes is supposed to update us when we get there," Byers continued.

"Oh," Doggett said softly. "Of course." It shouldn't surprise him that Dana had confided her plan to Monica; the two had become close friends and confidants ever since Monica midwifed William's birth. He couldn't help but feel a tad bit jealous, however, at being left out.

Well, he was here now, and about to discover what Ms. Mulder had planned. Speaking of...

"What about Dana and Frohike?"

Byers paused again before answering. "They called in to let Skinner know they had made it okay, then they headed out into the desert."

"They what!?"

"Scully went to find Mulder."

Doggett didn't even comment on Byers use of the name Scully, something Dana had put a stop to after her marriage to Mulder. "You have got to be kidding me?!"

Doggett didn't expect a response, and he didn't get one. With an exasperated sigh, he sat back heavily. "Damnit," he whispered, knowing all he could do was wait until he knew more.

And hope Dana's plan was working.


El Creyente Base

"De-ja vu, man."

Scully's lips turned up at a corner in a wry smile at Frohike's words, knowing exactly what he meant. Here they were at El Creyente, and their journey here had been very similar to the dream Mulder had instigated several months ago. They had not been picked up by men in black armor on dark horses, but the black Jeeps and desert fatigues had been close enough. The base wasn't a big, misshapen rock fort with hidden doorways and a central courtyard. Instead, it was a large official looking building made of some kind of material that matched the desert landscape surrounding it. Though only three stories in height, Scully suspected there was much more beneath the surface.

Despite the differences, the inside of the Base held the same feeling of dark intent as the dream fort had.

Knowle Roahr led them through cool, sterile hallways, his frown apparently a permanent expression. They entered a room with several desks set about, and the people sitting at those desks raised their eyes in curiosity upon their arrival. Scully looked at their faces, searching for someone familiar, but the men and women were all strangers to her. And they were all human, of that she was certain. Military personnel. Probably unaware of the real purpose of this base.

How had the Grays managed to establish a legitimate, though classified, base here in the U.S.? 'Easy, if you have enough of your own "people" in the upper levels of the U.S. government,' she thought, answering her own question. She wondered just how many replicants were working directly for the President.

A door off to her right opened, and two familiar faces walked through it. Tall and coolly beautiful, Marita Covarrubias stepped toward them, her blue eyes intent and wary. Billy Miles followed closely behind her.

"Agent Scully," the blonde said in a controlled voice.

"Mulder," Scully automatically corrected.

Marita frowned in confusion for a moment, then her face relaxed. "Of course. I'm sorry, Agent Mulder." She took a deep breath and folded her hands behind her back. "I guess I don't have to ask what you're doing here." She smiled slightly. "I am wondering how you found us."

"I was told my husband was at a base somewhere south of Tucson." Stick to the story. "Frohike and I took a chance that you would find us if we got close enough."

"And who gave you this information?"

Scully only hesitated a second. "Gibson."

"I did not!"

Scully swung around to find Gibson himself standing in the doorway behind her. His eyes were wide behind his glasses, and his face was red with anger.

Behind him, his face expressionless, stood Mulder.

"Mulder!" Frohike's joy at seeing his friend in person once more was obvious.

Mulder moved into the room. Like Marita, he carried his hands folded behind his back, and he walked with an almost military bearing. Scully noticed immediately how the enlisted men and women seemed to sit straighter at their desks as he came forward.

"Welcome to El Creyente."

His voice was deep, dark, and firm. It sent a chill up Scully's spine, and she wasn't sure if it was brought about by fear or desire. Probably both. She remembered Frohike's concerns about Mulder's mental state, and she thought back to Mulder's own worries, which he had expressed to her privately in their shared dream. The man in front of her was far different from the man she married. Was it an act, this darkness? Or had he truly sacrificed himself to insure the safety of the children, and thereby protecting the earth itself?

He stopped next to Marita and gave the woman a fond look. "I'll take care of this."

With an expression that had gone amazingly soft, Marita nodded her head and stepped back. Suddenly, a brand new fear swept through Scully, one she had never even contemplated before. Shortly after their wedding, Mulder had left for Arizona with Marita, causing more than a little talk among those who watched them leave. Of course, the mumbling had stopped after their supposed death only minutes later, but it hadn't been forgotten. Scully had, of course, known the truth and had never felt jealous or fearful of Mulder's feelings for her. But at the time, she had been in almost constant mental contact with him. It had given her comfort. It had supported her faith.

She didn't have that now. What if...?

"Come with me." Mulder's quiet demand jerked her back to the present. He had turned toward the doorway Marita and Billy had appeared from, obviously expecting her and Frohike to follow. She glanced at her companion. Frohike looked as worried as she felt. Taking a deep breath, she followed the man she had once known better than herself into the hallway beyond the door, Frohike close at her heels.

Mulder's stiff back never relaxed as he led them down the corridor to an office. An office with his name on the door. He stopped at the door and waited as they stepped through, then closed it behind them. He moved past them and walked toward his desk, and Scully literally felt the nervous energy radiating off of him. He appeared calm, but she knew better.

He stopped in front of his desk and turned to face them. For the first time, his eyes met hers. She couldn't read him. He wouldn't let her.

"Surprised to see us?" Scully's voice was rough.

"To say the least," Mulder commented darkly. "I thought I told you to wait."

"I waited." She would not take her eyes off his, and her steady gaze finally seemed to affect him; he swallowed hard. "I'm ready. Are you?"

He glanced at Frohike. "I don't know if I'll ever be ready," he said quietly, and Scully breathed a sigh of relief as she heard the human emotion in his statement. Even if it did sound like defeat.

"It's now or never, buddy," Frohike said.

Mulder nodded. "The tests," he started. He folded his arms in front of him and leaned back against the desk behind him. Clearing his throat, he began again. "The tests will be getting bigger. Come Christmas, the virus will be released everywhere. Invasion will follow immediately."

Scully's heart started racing. Christmas? That was less than four months away. "How do you know this?" she whispered. She knew he was an important man at this base, but to know the exact date of the invasion...

"Ken."

"Who?" Frohike asked.

"His human name was Seth Gordon. He was one of my fellow abductees." Mulder smiled without humor. "Marita and I played with him a bit. Reprogrammed him, if you will." Real humor glinted in his eyes. "I called Marita 'Barbie' one day, hence he became Ken."

At mention of Marita, Scully felt that sudden surge of jealousy again. It scared her. "Is he the one I met in Richmond?"

Mulder nodded. He brought his hand up to his forehead and began to rub his temples as if he had a headache. Instinctively, Scully stepped forward. "Are you okay?"

Mulder jerked upright, his body language clearly saying, 'don't touch me.' Scully stopped. "Yeah. I'm fine." He glared at Scully, and she stepped back in surprise. "You have to leave. You're distracting me."

"Mulder?" The hurt and confusion that swept through her was powerful. She blinked and bit her lower lip. "We're ready to go." This was wrong. She shouldn't have come. Why did she think he was ready? She should have waited.

He nodded. "Then I will be, too." But he seemed distracted. Worried.

"You want us to stay in Tucson, then?" She wanted to say more, but she had no idea if the room was bugged or not. She supposed it wasn't, or he wouldn't have told them about Ken, his own, personal spy.

Mulder nodded, a grimace of pain on his face.

"Mulder?" Scully felt fear course through her.

"I'm all right, Scully." It was the first time he had used her name. "But you have to leave." He met her eyes with his own, and she recognized fear. "I block them. But somehow, your presence makes it harder. I don't know why or how. They're trying to read us right now. They want proof that I don't care about you anymore."

Pain stabbed through her heart. "Proof?"

"They think I left you because I wanted to. That I married you to give Will my name." He winced again. "They think Marita is my lover. And Susan." He smirked through the apparent pain. "I'm a popular guy."

He looked at Frohike, who seemed to be trying to decide whether he should be afraid, angry, or worried. "Get whatever plan you've got ready," he told his friend, not doubting that there was a plan. "Wait for a signal from me. I'll find a way to let you know when I need you."

"Okay," Frohike mumbled.

"Guard!"

The door behind them opened, and two soldiers stepped into the room.

"Please escort these two off base." His expression became stern once again. "They won't be back."

Scully looked at Mulder, trying desperately to read his expression. But other than the lingering pain in his eyes, she could make out nothing. She turned to follow Frohike out the door, her heart screaming in pain, when a soft voice sounded in her head.

*I love you, Scully. So much.*

Scully swung around to face her husband. His face was still expressionless, but his eyes now held the jumble of emotions she had seen in them at Wonderland. Pain overshadowed them all, and she knew how much it had cost him to send her that little bit of reassurance without letting anyone, or anything, else read him.

Knowing she could not answer back either mentally or verbally, Scully put as much emotion as she could into her expression. His ever so slight nod told her he understood.

Fighting tears, Scully turned away and followed Frohike out of the Base and away from the man she loved.

 


Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Tucson, AZ

'Tu has venido a la orilla, no has buscado ni a sabios, ni a ricos, tan solo quieres que yo te siga. Senor, me has mirado a los ojos, sonriendo has dicho mi nombre, en la arena he dejado mi barca, junto a Ti buscare otro mar.'

William listened carefully to the voices emanating from the congregation that filled the old mission church. Monica was teaching him Spanish, and while he still had trouble speaking it, he understood it well enough:

'Lord, you have come to the seashore, neither searching for the rich nor the wise, desiring only that I should follow. Oh, Lord, with your eyes set upon me, gently smiling, you have spoken my name, all I longed for I have found by the water, at your side, I will seek other shores.'

He looked at his mother, who stood quietly at the back of the church, reverently listening to the words he knew she didn't understand. Even if she could decipher the language, would she comprehend what the words meant?

Of course she would, William chastised himself. She would understand. But would she allow herself that belief? He had never known the Scully that his father had fallen in love with, the skeptical, logical half of the infamous X-Files of old, but he did know the resolute, scientific Scully, the one who still questioned before she believed. The one who wanted to believe, but who was still so very afraid to.

It wasn't that she didn't believe in aliens or in their eminent invasion. It was that she didn't believe she or his father could prevent it. Or that William himself might be the very key to surviving it.

William himself wasn't so sure he believed that.

He looked away from his mother, who had set him on the floor to stand on his own two feet but refused to let go of his hand, and toward the altar, where the priest and his attendants had just arrived. William and his mother had entered the church, leaving their 'bodyguard' John outside, just as the processional had reached the half-way point up the aisle of the church. Mass had just begun.

'Tu, pescador de otros lagos, ansia eterna de almas que esperan, amigo bueno, que asi me llamas.'

*Lord, as I drift on the waters, be the resting place of my restless heart, my life's companion, my friend and refuge.*

'Senor, me has mirado a los ojos, sonriendo has dicho mi nombre, en la arena he dejado mi barca, junto a Ti buscare otro mar.'

*O, Lord, with your eyes set upon me, gently smiling, you have spoken my name, all I longed for I have found by the water, at your side, I will seek other shores.*

The music stopped and William felt his mother's eyes on him. He looked up at her. She was watching him with a bit of surprise and wonder, but pride as well. "I didn't know you knew Spanish," she whispered, respecting the quiet that had enveloped the church. William realized he must have been sending her his translation in his head.

He shrugged. "Why are we here, Mama?" he whispered back. "You don't know Spanish."

She smiled and lead him toward an empty section in the pew in the back. It was very crowded in this church on this Sunday morning, not a surprise in a city overflowing with Catholics, most of Mexican decent. "That's the beauty of a Catholic Mass," she whispered as they sat. "It doesn't really matter what language is being spoken, the order of Mass is still pretty much the same everywhere, so you can't get lost."

She turned her attention toward the priest, her hand never letting go of his. William watched her for a moment, then smiled. She had never tried shoving religion down his throat as many devout parents tried to do to their children, but she had convinced him long ago how beautiful and magical Mass could be, so he had always joined her without qualms. It was beautiful. The simple joy of finding so many people who shared your faith was a boost to the psyche, and the act of Communion, where all the faithful joined together to participate in the Eucharist, was magical. Will didn't know for certain if Jesus truly transfigured himself into the bread and wine on the altar, but there was a certain comfort in the idea that He was indeed present during these celebrations.

William turned his own attention to the priest, but his mind wandered. He may be much more mature than his age indicated, but he was still a child, and his child's mind sometimes found it hard to concentrate on any one thing for too long. His mother had never minded if he didn't pay attention in church, as long as he didn't disrupt the Mass, and they both knew that his overactive mind was often 'recording' what was being said, though he was thinking of other things, and they would come back to his conscious mind at a later date. His mother had long ago gotten used to her son asking her questions that had, to her way of thinking, come out of nowhere.

Bible passages were recited, and William began to stare down at his hand, which was still enveloped in his mother's soft but firm grip. He didn't know why she kept holding his hand; it wasn't something she usually did during Mass. Comfort, maybe. Or perhaps she felt the not so holy intent among some of the parishioners. The Mission was not in the safest part of town, and many of the young men sitting about the church belonged to a gang and were armed. Or so he and his mother had been told when they had stopped to ask for directions here.

William suddenly sent his mind outward, knowing that he was tempting his mother's wrath if she found out. But he had to know if anyone meant her ill will. He had to protect her, didn't he?

'...right now you need her to protect you, okay?'

His father's dream-words echoed in his head, and he pulled his thoughts back into himself. Everything his father had taught him in the months before Mulder went silent came to the fore, especially the part about how wrong it was to 'eavesdrop' on other people's thoughts. And about how self-sufficient and strong his mother was.

He cast her a glance, hoping she hadn't somehow sensed his straying mind. She was still intent on the speaker. He tried to pay attention as well... but it wasn't easy.

Soon, people were standing and filing down the aisle to participate in Communion. His mother stood to allow others to pass her in the pew, but she did not pick him up and participate. He looked at her, questioning her with his eyes.

"Not today," she told him.

"Why?"

"Not until my thoughts are more..." she struggled with a meaning. "Gentle," she finally decided.

"But it will give you strength, Mama." Of this he was certain.

She simply smiled down at him, shaking her head 'no.' He felt the guilt emanate from her, and though it confused him, he tried to convince her to go. "I wish I could go." He was still too young. Most children didn't participate in their First Communion until they were seven or eight. It didn't matter if they already thought that old.

She frowned. "Your spirit has to be pure before you can accept the Lord, William," she told him. "I'm full of too much anger and fear right now."

William nodded as if he understood, but he really didn't.

When Mass was over and most of the people had filed out following the priest, Scully stayed kneeling. She had finally let go of his hand midway through the final prayer, but he had no desire to leave her side. Instead, he looked up at the huge icon of Jesus that hung over the back of the altar. His mother was praying to this man, this man that had supposedly died for mankind's sins. This man who was supposed to come back someday, to choose the living and the dead, to determine who would go to heaven and who wouldn't.

Would the Gray aliens be included in His method of justice? Or would they try and prevent His return?

Or had they already destroyed Him, ensuring mankind's long fall into hell?

For the first time in his short life, William began to pray.

***** Robin Hood Motel Tucson, Arizona

John Doggett watched from the curbside as Dana Mulder and her son entered their hotel room. He sighed heavily and followed, not really looking forward to going inside. The others had been hard at work with whatever plan Dana had cooked up ever since she and Frohike had returned from El Creyente yesterday evening. She had set everyone out to do or find something, including him. He had been assigned to contact all the MUFON groups in the area, getting names and information of recent UFO sightings. It had been boring and tiring, and he had collapsed into bed at 4 AM this morning, not even caring that his roommate, Skinner, wasn't in the other bed.

Shortly after he woke this morning, he had followed Dana and Will to the church, determined to keep them both safe, but he hadn't gone in to sit with them through the Spanish Mass. Not only did he not know Spanish all that well, but he wasn't a church goer. In fact, he hadn't been inside of a church since Luke's funeral years ago, and he had no real desire to enter one again. So he had stood outside, listening to the unrecognizable words of the priest and the responses of the congregation, wondering what Dana hoped to get out of the service.

She had known he was following them, of course; she had turned to watch him as he left the motel behind them. Her expression had been exasperated yet resigned, and Will had grinned at him. Since then, they had simply ignored him. He had stayed far enough back to be unobtrusive, but he hadn't tried to hide his presence. Now they had returned to the motel, safe and sound, and Doggett began to wonder what exactly would happen next.

With another sigh, he made his way up to the motel door. Though they had taken three different rooms at the worn out motor court, they had spent the majority of their time in the room the Lone Gunmen shared. It had become a lab of sorts, though it looked more like a teenagers bedroom, with unpacked luggage and discarded tennis shoes lying about the floor. Doggett gave two sharp raps to the door, then entered, immediately stepping over Will's sneakers, which he had apparently pulled off himself just a few short minutes ago. Dana saw him avoid the hazard.

"William, will you please pick up your shoes?"

"Why?" the little boy asked. He was standing at the table by the bathroom, intently watching Monica and Skinner, who were working on their assigned project. The two FBI agents smiled at each other at Will's words, and Doggett felt a small ache start in his chest.

"Because someone might trip over them and get hurt, that's why." Dana said the words calmly, with no impatience or anger, and Will responded by skipping away from the table, past Doggett, and over to his shoes. He clumsily grabbed them up in one hand, then stood next to Doggett, reaching up to take his hand. Doggett gripped the boy's pudgy fingers gently in his own, then moved forward when Will tugged on his hand. "Come see," he said, excitement flashing in his hazel eyes.

Doggett didn't really want to go over to the table where his partner and his boss were working together, but he couldn't refuse Will. He glanced at Dana, who was sitting cockeyed on one of the beds, a phone book in front of her on the bed and her cell-phone at her ear. He heard noises coming from the open door of the bathroom and knew the Gunmen where in there doing something with Dana's 'snake oil.' He hoped they weren't about to blow up the motel room.

Will stopped him in front of the table, and Monica grinned up at him. "Welcome back," she said. "Thanks for getting that info for us."

Doggett grunted in response, not sure what he was supposed to say, and Monica frowned. "Something wrong?"

"Something right?" he responded.

She grinned again. "I see your point."

"You sure that's not the top of his head?" Skinner said quietly, not looking up from the map spread out in the table in front of him.

Monica giggled. "Walter!" she exclaimed. "Be nice."

Walter?! Since when did she call their boss 'Walter'?

Feeling unreasonably angry all of a sudden, Doggett clenched the fist not holding Will's hand. "Is there some other meaningful chore you need me to do, or do you just want me to stand guard outside the door?" He didn't know why he was angry. It wasn't like he really wanted to be involved in this mess. It wasn't like these people were his friends, or that he owed them anything.

He felt a tug on his right hand, and he looked down to see Will frowning up at him. He closed his eyes for a moment and felt his anger fade. Looking back at Will, he smiled. "I'm okay."

The boy didn't seem convinced, but Doggett had no way of proving his words. The kid knew exactly what was going on with Doggett's emotions anyway, so if Will was still worried, maybe he had good reason. Doggett looked back at Monica. Her expression had also become serious, as if she too could read his feelings. Panic flowed through him. No! He didn't mind that William knew what he was thinking, but he did not want Monica to see inside his soul as well.

He met his partner's eyes with his own and felt his heart rate increase even more. No, she couldn't read his mind. But he could read her expression, and as soon as she realized it, she looked away, back down at the map. Hiding her sudden fear. Fear that he now knew what *she* was thinking.

She didn't hide it very well. "Monica?" Skinner was watching her with concern, then he flashed his brown eyes toward Doggett. "Did I miss something?"

"No," Doggett immediately said, and Monica cast him a grateful glance before returning back to concentrate on the map. "What do you need me to do?"

"Get us some food," Dana said from the bed. "I'm hungry."

Doggett looked at her. It was obvious by the way she was sitting that she had observed the entire scene by the table, having finished her phone call to whoever. He watched her for a while, then nodded. "Sure, I can do that. Errand slash delivery boy, at your service." He couldn't help the sarcasm in his voice.

"I'll go with you," Dana said. "Will can help Monica and Skinner."

"Can't I help Frohike?"

"No," Dana said firmly. "You are to stay out of the bathroom."

Doggett looked down to see William pouting, then glanced back up at Dana. "What are they doing in there?"

"Getting our ammo ready," Dana said.

"Huh?"

"There putting the 'snake oil' into the darts," Skinner said without looking up from the map.

"Huh?" Doggett repeated, causing William to giggle. He grinned down at the boy.

Smiling, Dana stood up from her seat on the bed. "I'll explain on the way to getting some sustenance."

"Everything?" Doggett asked, serious once again.

Dana cocked her head. "Everything."

Doggett nodded. Giving Will's hand one last gentle squeeze, he followed Dana out of the room.


"Why do I have the sneaky suspicion you feel left out?" Scully looked at Doggett with her eyebrow raised, waiting for him to deny her observation.

Surprisingly, he didn't. "Am I that obvious or are you just reading my mind?

His voice was rough, full of defeat. She didn't like the sound of it at all. "John, you know I can't do that. I'm not a telepath. Not everybody but you can read minds."

"You can read Mulder's." He turned his startling blue eyes on her as they walked along the sidewalk, heading for the fast food restaurant down the street from the motel.

Scully nodded. "Yeah, but that's..." How did she explain it? "That wasn't expected. I can read his mind, and Will's to an extent. And I can sense when I'm in the presence of a telepath." She stopped walking and looked him directly in the eye. "But I cannot read *your* mind, anymore than you can read mine."

She watched as he took a deep breath. "Then I'm just obvious."

"You're obviously ticked, yes," Scully said with a wry twist to her mouth. "You say you don't believe, and yet you get angry when you aren't allowed to be a part of the plan. What do you expect?"

"I expect you to trust me to help you in any way I can." The sincerity in his voice was uncompromising.

She sighed heavily. "What do you think is going on here, Agent Doggett? Are you going to help us take over and destroy a secret military base? Just like that?"

"I may not want to believe there are aliens in this base you speak of," Doggett said, his brow furrowed in frustration. "But I know that whatever is going on there is dangerous to the general public and needs to be stopped. Even if it means doing something as drastic as this." He looked up at the pale blue sky above them for a second, as if looking for answers, then he turned back to Scully. "These 'replicants,' as you call them, have to be stopped. That I know. And I will help you with whatever crazy scheme you've cooked up to do that."

"Crazy scheme, huh?" Scully nodded and started walking again. Doggett continued on at her side. "Byers and Monica managed to acquire several shotguns after arriving here yesterday," she said softly. "I have no desire to ask how."

"Shotguns?"

"Special shotguns," she clarified. "Shotguns that fire darts."

Doggett stopped once again, and Scully turned to see the shock on his face. "Dart guns? Like veterinarians and biologists use to sedate wild animals?"

She nodded. "Only we aren't putting sedative in the darts," she continued. "We're putting in--"

"Your snake oil," Doggett finished. "To use on the replicants."

"Yeah," Scully said softly, watching as her old partner glanced back at the motel. Now he knew what the guys had been doing in the bathroom and why she hadn't wanted Will in there. The snake oil, like the real blood from the Grays and their hybrids, was like acid to a human. Though Byers, Frohike and Langly were wearing rubber gloves, Scully knew the acid could eat through the material. However, it would do so slowly, giving them enough time to rid themselves of the glove before it ate all the way through to the skin.

"You know how to handle a shotgun, Agent Doggett?" she asked with a smirk.

"Can fish swim?" Doggett responded with a small smile of his own.

"Good," Scully said with a sharp nod of her head. "Then we'll let you come with us."

"To go in and shoot up a bunch of replicants?" Doggett asked, his frown returning. "That will save the world?"

"Oh, no," Scully said, heading off toward the restaurant again. "That's just the distraction. Langly and Skinner did their own treasure hunt yesterday."

"Explosives."

She turned to look at him as he walked stiffly beside her. "Yes. How did you know?"

"The goal is to destroy the base, correct?" He didn't look at her.

"The labs underneath more than the base itself," Scully corrected.

"Doesn't matter. Same diff."

Scully watched him for a while. "You still with us?"

He finally looked at her. "Of course."

"You still think it's crazy?"

"Yep."

She couldn't help it; she laughed. Doggett chuckled in response.

They were silent for a while, walking quietly along. But Scully had one more question to pose her friend. "What's up with you and your partner?"

Eyes wide, Doggett turned his head sharply to look at her. "What?!"

"I saw the looks you gave each other back there," she said, nodding her head toward the motel behind them.

"What kind of looks?" Doggett asked, his demeanor tense again.

"I don't know that I can explain them," Scully told him. "But I recognized them, nonetheless."

"How?"

"Seven years of being on the receiving end of several of those looks, for one. And not recognizing them at the time." She sighed and gave him a rueful smile. "And not realizing until it was too late that I was sending a few of them out, too. Like Monica was today, only she recognized it for what it was."

"Which was?" Doggett's voice had gone dark.

"John, when two people share as much as FBI partners do, they are bound to become close. Sometimes too close. That's why the Bureau never lets their agents keep the same partner for too long; they transfer agents often, to keep things in perspective. But the X-Files have always been special. Nobody wants to work there, so if the Bureau gets two people who work well together on that project, they tend to leave them there. Together."

"They separated you and Mulder after your first year, didn't they?"

"Yeah, but not to keep us from becoming too close to each other. They separated us because we were becoming too close to the truth." She smiled a secret smile. "They still couldn't keep us apart. Even then."

"So what you're saying is...?"

"What I'm saying is your partner becomes someone you respect. Then someone you trust. Then someone you call a friend. When you have that respect, trust and friendship, love is the inevitable result. And in the case of two attractive, moderately young agents, love can quickly turn to romantic love. Passion." Shaking her head softly, Scully continued. "Even obsession."

Doggett was silent for a long moment. "You lecturing me on romance, Agent Mulder?"

Scully smiled. "Yeah, I guess I am. Granted, it took me long enough to recognize it in my life, but the point is that I did recognize it." She looked up at him. "Don't ignore it. If it's there, take care of it. It may be the best thing in your life."

"I'm not in love with Agent Reyes, Dana." His voice was firm, but he refused to look her in the eye.

"But you love her, don't you? Consider her a friend?"

He nodded stiffly. "Yeah, I guess."

"Then you could fall in love with her. As she has already fallen in love with you." He didn't seem at all surprised by her statement. "You know that she's in love with you, don't you?"

"Yeah." He sounded mournful.

"But you won't let yourself love her back."

He didn't respond to that. Scully knew why. What could he say?

"John?" She waited until he looked at her, and the pain in his eyes caused a sympathetic jerk in her heart. "You've got to let me go."

"It's not that easy," he said with a whisper.

"No, it's not. Nothing worthwhile is."

She watched as he swallowed heavily, then turned to cross the parking lot of the restaurant. "Come on. Let's get something to eat."

It was a few moments before she heard his steady footsteps behind her.


End of Part 5/9

Part 6/9


El Creyente Base

Mulder lay stiffly on top of the sheets of his bed, staring sightlessly at the ceiling. After Scully's departure yesterday afternoon, he had gone in search of Gibson, intent on demanding answers from the boy about why he hadn't told the Grays of Mulder's plans. Gibson, however, was no where to be found. Last night, instead of sleeping, Mulder had searched for the young man with his mind. He had felt Gibson's presence, but could not place where the boy was or what he was doing. He had given up trying around four in the morning and had slept a restless sleep.

All day today, he had kept up his work with the children. They had been tense because he had been tense, and he had finally released them from any kind of training to simply play, something they had rarely been allowed to do after Gibson had taken over their training. Susan had come in during the late afternoon, and a smiling Wesley had met her at the door, anxious to show her the drawing he had just completed. Susan had looked at Mulder with wonder on her face; it had been a long time indeed since her son had greeted her with such happiness and enthusiasm.

As wonderful as it was to see the children almost back to 'normal,' Mulder still worried. What was Gibson up to?

By bedtime that evening, Mulder knew what he had to do. Just as Frohike had said, it was now or never.

Taking a deep breath, Mulder closed his eyes and concentrated. He had to keep the Grays out, but he didn't care now if Gibson entered. Yet it wasn't Gibson Mulder wanted to talk to tonight.

Carefully, he let his mind search, reaching for the familiar 'touch' of a certain mind. The slight buzzing that started in his head told him he was on the right track. Instead of fighting it as he had done before, Mulder let his mind absorb the feeling, almost immediately finding that the irritant in his head eased the less he tried to subdue it.

Then he was there.

Gently he coaxed himself inside the familiar recesses of Scully's mind. She was sleeping, which made entry easier, but he felt it was almost a violation if he simply forced his way in. Instead, he asked, carefully invading her dreams.

They were dark, these dreams, and Mulder felt fear coarse through him as he recognized Scully's recurring nightmare. He had never shared it with her before; she had never let him. But he had seen enough bits and pieces of it to know what it was he was witnessing now.

Fire. Smoke. The smell of death and decay. A valley which had once been beautiful now totally destroyed. Ships of various sizes and shapes, some he recognized, some new and horribly frightening, flew about the red sky above.

A man stood on the hilltop overlooking the valley. He was young, not much more than twenty years old, Mulder suspected, but his eyes were much older than the taut, well-muscled body. He was tall, lean, and had so much of the Scully family in him Mulder recognized him in an instant. When the man angled his head toward him, Mulder recognized his own eyes.

William.

"We have to go," he was saying. "Now."

"Scully, stop."

Mulder felt the consciousness of the woman he was literally a part of jerk suddenly, almost waking. The fiery expanse beneath him disappeared, as did the man next to him. A blinding white light took the nightmare's place, a light that slowly faded to the main bedroom of their shared apartment in Georgetown. Mulder allowed his own consciousness to place himself in the room, and he looked around curiously. Not much had changed since he had last seen the room over a year ago. It was comforting.

He heard a noise behind him and turned. She was standing there in the doorway, her eyes wide, frightened. She was wearing a silky blue negligee that swept the floor and barely hid her beautiful breasts. He wondered briefly if he had put her in that, or if she had. Judging by the look in her eyes, he had; she didn't seem quite sure of what was going on yet.

"What are you doing here?"

Mulder smiled. "I live here."

Frowning, Scully shook her head. "Not here!" She reached up to touch her forehead. "Here!"

"Gibson knows everything. I can afford a visit tonight." He felt his smile fade. "If you want me here, that is."

"Gibson knows?" Her voice was soft, terrified.

Mulder nodded. "But he hasn't done anything about it. Yet."

Her fear faded as she thought about the implications of what he said. "He was acting very unusual when I met him in Virginia," she said, her voice steady now. "Almost as if he was looking for help." She looked at him intently. "What if..."

"What if he's on our side?" Mulder finished. "Don't you think I've wondered that myself?" He felt anger slowly pulse through him. "We can't afford to trust him, but if he is going to tell them of our plans, then we have nothing to lose, do we?"

"So you're here to tell me we need to act?"

"In part," Mulder said softly. "It's always been planned for tomorrow. Gibson's birthday." He looked her up and down. "But I don't think you're dressed like that just to hear my call to arms."

Scully looked down at herself, suddenly realizing just what she was wearing. "Oh, my," she said, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. When she looked up, the fear was gone completely. "Why blue?"

"Brings out your eyes like nothing else does. And the red of your hair. Always has."

She smiled slightly, then gave him the same once over he had given her. Mulder looked down to find he was wearing nothing but a pair of black silk boxers. He was almost positive he had had more clothing on when this dream had started. He looked up at her, giving her a wry grin. "I don't have a pair like this anymore."

"I know," she sighed. "It's a shame." Suddenly, she looked uncertain. "How can we do this?" she wondered aloud. "We never had dreams like this after you were gone."

"You're closer, now," he told her. "And I'm stronger as well."

"And what about my proximity distracting you?"

"It's not as if you're truly right next door," he told her. "There are still miles separating us." He remembered how the faint buzzing he had felt during his search for her had faded when he had opened himself to her. "Besides, I think I know what was causing the pain. It was because I had to stay closed off from you." He shook his head. "I can't do that. I don't think I'm supposed to do that. Ever."

Scully blinked at him. "Supposed to?"

He took a step closer to her. "Haven't you ever thought that all that has been done to us, all the pain and anger and frustration, all the torture and sickness and even death, only happened to make sure the bond between us would grow stronger? That we were meant to become joined together, as close as two people possibly can and still remain individuals?"

Scully looked at him intently for a moment. "If I didn't know better, Mulder, I would say you're coming on to me."

Mulder smiled at her words, then raised his hand toward her. "Tomorrow, all Hell is going to break lose, and I truly don't know if anybody is going to live through it." His smile had faded as he spoke, as had the light in her eyes. "So let's forget about tomorrow. Just for tonight."

Her eyes never left his as she reached out and took his hand in hers. Though the contact was only in their minds, it felt real enough to send a chill up Mulder's spine. He backed toward the bed behind him, gently pulling her forward. When he felt the bed hit the back of his legs, he sat down heavily, spreading his legs and directing Scully to stand between them.

He reached up to cup her face between his hands, then drew her down to meet his lips. Gently, reverently, he kissed her. If this was the last time he was going to make love to her, he was going to make it last. He could do that. It was a dream, after all.

Scully smiled, and he realized he had directed the thought outward enough that she had picked it up. Her grin turning wicked, she stood straight and backed out of his embrace. Slowly, she reached up to pull the straps of her silky night dress off her shoulders. The rest of the negligee followed easily, sliding down her body to land in a royal blue puddle at her feet. She stepped out of it, gracefully moving toward him once more. He reached for her now naked body, but she avoided his grasp.

"You want slow, Mulder?" she said softly, in a voice that was guaranteed to drive him wild.

He nodded, not trusting his own voice at that moment.

"What if I want it fast?" Scully asked. "What if I want it hard?"

Okay, Mulder had definitely lost control of this dream. Not that he minded one iota. "Your wish is my command."

He lunged at her, grabbed her up by the waist and swung her toward the bed. She landed with a squeal and a laugh. He was on top of her in no time, his boxers gone with just a thought. His or hers or both, he didn't know or care. All he cared about was the fact that her legs were now wrapped tightly about his waist. She was wet and ready, and so was he.

She squealed again as he slid home, and he realized that he had never heard her sound like that before. "I was too afraid of who would hear me," she whispered in his ear. Here, in this dreamscape that looked like their bedroom, they were truly alone.

They lay like that for a moment, knowing the feelings they were feeling were partially from their memory of past couplings, and partially from their combined imagination. She reached up and ran her fingers through his longish hair, then brought her hand forward to fondle the hair on his chin. He caught her thoughts before she could stop them.

"We'll find out how it feels later," he told her, watching in amusement as she blushed. "Wild horses couldn't drag me away from being inside you at the moment."

"Wild horses, huh?" she said softly. "Ride 'em, Cowboy."

He grinned and responded with a thrust of his hips. "Yes, ma'am."

"Oh!" She closed her eyes and licked her bottom lip. "Again."

Another thrust, this one harder. Faster.

"Again!"

He obeyed. Again. And again. "More?"

"Yes! More!" She began to move her hips up to meet his thrusts. "Harder, Mulder. Take me hard!"

Damn, he loved it when she gave orders. He lowered his head and started sucking on her neck, glad that for once he didn't have to worry about the placement of his lovers brand.

"God, Mulder!" Scully shouted. "Harder, please! Fuck me harder!"

Scully's use of that word, one he had rarely heard come from her mouth, drove him crazy. Bracing his knees on the bed beneath him, he began to drive into her hard. "Like this?!" he demanded.

"Yes!" she yelled. "Yes! Oh, God! Awwwwwmuuuuuulder!"

He felt her muscles contract spasmodically around him, and without any more encouragement, he emptied himself into her.

He let himself fall into a deep slumber, his body sated, his mind relaxed. Her familiar scent combined in his nostrils along with the smell of sex. Her warmth entered deep into his soul. He never wanted to leave this place. He never wanted to leave her.

"Mulder?"

It wasn't Scully's voice. He ignored it. It refused to be ignored.

"Mulder?"

His heart aching, he squeezed the woman in his arms. "I don't want to go."

"It's Gibson," she told him.

"You can hear him?"

"Yes," she told him. They were still firmly connected, both physically in the dreamscape and mentally. Of course she could hear what he could. "It's real, not in your head."

"Meaning he's standing in my bedroom looking at me sleeping in my bed right after I've had the best wet dream of my life."

She giggled, and he smiled at the sound of it. "You need to talk to him, Mulder. You need answers."

He knew she was right. But he did not want to leave.

"Mulder, if we get through tomorrow, every night from here on out will be like this."

"That's a pretty big 'if'."

"Don't be so positive," she told him sarcastically. "Go."

"Scully..."

She reached up and placed a hand over his mouth. "I know. Let's save the rest of the sappy stuff for tomorrow, when we're together for real."

"For real."

She smiled suddenly and arched her hips upward. He groaned in response, then felt a sharp pinch on his arm. "Damn!"

Opening his eyes, he saw Gibson standing above him. "What the hell did you do to me?"

The boy stood back. "You weren't waking up. I was worried."

"So you pinched me?!"

Gibson bit his lower lip and looked down. "It was either that or throw some water on you."

"Why didn't you just pick my brain, like you've done in the past?" Mulder was, of course, very glad the kid hadn't done just that, but he wasn't sure why he hadn't.

"I couldn't," Gibson whispered. "You were blocked somehow."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I couldn't get in your head. The walls were too strong."

Mulder hadn't put up many walls. He had never had an easy time of putting up walls; he needed to concentrate hard to keep those barriers up...and his concentration a short while ago had been nil. He hadn't had *any* walls up.

Scully.

He remembered how long it had taken for her to lower her barriers enough to let him in during love-making. It had been harder to take the wall down than to keep it up. She had protected them. She had kept their mental tryst safe from Gibson...and anyone else who wanted to interrupt.

He smiled as he sat up, pulling down his pillow to set it on his lap. If the kid hadn't been able to enter his mind, then he had no idea what had just taken place. He wasn't about to let Gibson see the wet spot on the front of his boxers. No way.

"What do you want, kid?" he said, hardening his voice.

"To help you."

"Help me what?" Mulder asked suspiciously.

"Destroy this place. Destroy them. All of them."


Robin Hood Motel Tucson, Arizona

Scully opened her eyes and stared at the bare white ceiling above her. Taking a deep breath, she glanced to her right, relieved when she saw Monica still sound asleep in the other bed. Knowing the other agent was a light sleeper, Scully was confident she hadn't made too much noise during her 'dream,' else Monica would be awake.

Scully took in another deep breath, trying to relax. Though sated from her mental lovemaking with Mulder, Gibson's calls had created a tension in her. She was curious about what the boy wanted. And frightened.

Her fear couldn't diminish the afterglow, however. Her breasts still felt heavy and the moisture that had pooled between her legs was starting to get uncomfortable. Even though there were obvious signs of her recent orgasm, Scully felt empty. There was no glorious ache between her thighs, no indication that she had taken her husband into her body. She was a small woman, and Mulder was no slouch when it came to the size of his...attributes; she always ached a bit after intercourse. She had reveled in it.

She closed her eyes, wondering how he had managed to enter her mind during her fiery dream. Always in the past, she had shut herself in tightly while having the dream, determined to keep her son, who liked to 'wander' when he slept, out. Yet Mulder had managed to slip past her defenses, bringing her away from the horror and into bliss. Had she dropped her shields? Or was he simply that much stronger now? Or was it something else?

"Mama?"

Startled, Scully looked to her left. Will lay on his side in the bed next to her, watching her with sleep-filled but curious eyes, his short red hair sticking up at odd angles. "Where were you?"

"What?" Scully asked. She had read the boy a story before she prepared for bed herself, and he had been fast asleep when she had climbed in next to him, almost positive she would get no sleep herself. But she had fallen asleep. And she had dreamed.

"I looked for you," Will continued. "In my dreams. But I couldn't find you."

Well, that answered the question she had had about whether or not she had dropped her shields. If Will hadn't been able to enter her dreams, then the wall had been intact. Which meant...

"Did you have that dream again?" Will's eyes were huge pools of worry.

"Yes, I did," Scully whispered, refusing to lie to her son. "But it's all right. Your daddy made sure of it."

Will shot up from his pillow. "You talked to Daddy?!"

"Shhhh!" Scully warned, but it was too late. One glance at Monica told Scully the other woman was awake and aware.

"Daddy?" the brunette said softly. "Did one of you talk to Mulder?"

"Mama did!" Will was smiling. If Daddy was 'talking' to Mama again, then things were getting better.

Scully sighed and sat up, looking at Monica. "Yes, I did."

"And?" Monica sat up as well.

"He said it's time to move."

"Today?"

Scully looked at the clock, only a little surprised to see it was a few minutes past five AM. "Today," she confirmed with a nod.

"I'll go wake the boys," Monica said as she slid out of bed, grabbing a pair of jeans to cover the boxers she had worn to bed along with an oversized T-shirt.

In less than thirty minutes, everyone was dressed and ready. Byers, Frohike and Doggett each carried a shoulder bag containing darts filled with snake oil, and Langly carried a bag full of explosives. Scully prepared her own bag and ammo, as well as several shotguns, all wrapped together in a tarp for the moment; it wouldn't do for the other motel guests to see them leaving the room armed to the teeth. Tucked at the small of her back, in its usual place, was her gun (in case any humans got in the way) and in the right hip pocket of her khaki-colored jeans she carried another gift from one of Mulder's secret drops from a month ago, a small cylindrical object with a hidden stiletto-like blade.

Skinner and Monica were to stay with Will, but they wouldn't be excluded from the events of the day, Scully was sure. She hated the idea of including her son in what was to come, and the others weren't happy with it either, but she had a strong feeling Will's participation was necessary if victory was to be theirs.

The sun was just beginning to clear the horizon when the five 'commandos' climbed into two cars and headed out into the Arizona desert.


The Sonora Desert Southwest of Tucson, Arizona

'You would think that after more than a little time with the X-Files you would get used to stuff like this,' John Doggett told himself silently. However, how did one get used to setting off into the unknown with three computer geeks and one very determined mother, all of them loaded to the gills with weapons and remote controlled bombs? Simple. You didn't.

You grit your teeth, obeyed orders, and prayed you would all see another sunset.

They had followed a dirt road through rocks and huge Saguaro cacti to a desolate location just two miles north of El Creyente, their matching khaki clothing blending in with the surrounding desert. It was hot... again... and the heat was the reason they were able to do this during the day instead of waiting for nightfall; nobody with any brains would be out in the middle of the desert at midday in 100 plus temperatures without a very good reason.

Doggett had followed Dana and the others away from their vehicles and into the Saguaro forest, understanding immediately why Dana had insisted on bringing plenty of water. The mile and one-half hike across the rugged, deadly terrain would have been demanding on a cool day. Today, it had been hell.

They had made it, however. Sweaty and nervous, they had found the bunker hidden in a small mountain of rocks that their memorized plans of the base had told them existed. It was never used, but most of the inhabitants of the base, including the children, knew of its existence. It was here for emergencies, for quick escapes into the desert where ships would find them later.

Glancing nervously at his companions, Byers knelt down next to the door in the bunker and pulled out his laptop. He hooked the small computer up to a panel next to the door and prepared to hack into the base's computer in order to convince it to open the door for them.

Doggett began to pace. And sweat. What little shade there was Byers was sitting in and the sun was getting hotter by the moment. He climbed up the incline next to the bunker and raised his hand to shield his eyes, looking around anxiously for signs of life. Dana joined him a moment later.

"You should rest. It's not going to be much cooler in there, you know." Her voice was quiet. Calm. If he didn't know any better, he would think she was giving him directions to the local mall.

He looked down at her. She had plaited her sunset hair tightly to her scalp in a French braid, but a few strands had escaped during the hike out here. Her face was slightly flushed and he suddenly realized how much the sun must affect her skin. "Are you wearing sunblock?" he demanded.

She grinned. "That's all you're worried about?" she asked with a short laugh. "Yes, Agent Doggett, I'm wearing sunblock. Are you?"

He shook his head. He hadn't even considered it. "I don't burn," he told her as an excuse.

"Okay," she told him, her smile softening. "Sure." She looked off toward the horizon, squinting to protect her eyes from the glare. They had all been wearing sunglasses, but both she and Byers had taken theirs off after arriving at the bunker. "Are you ready for this, John?"

"I'm always ready, Agent Mulder," he told her with a smirk. "Are you?"

"I'm ready for this to be over," Dana said softly. "I'm ready for my husband to come home." She smiled humorlessly. "I'm ready for things to get back to normal."

"Normal?" Doggett asked. "Since when has your life ever been normal since you've known Fox Mulder?"

She grinned again. "Point." She looked at him, her gaze intense. "You know what I mean, though. We aren't meant to be apart. Together we were strong. Together we were unstoppable. Together we were..."

He waited, but when she didn't continued, he pressed her. "Together you were...?"

"Whole."

Doggett stilled at her word, suddenly overwhelmed at the meaning of it. He had never known anyone or loved anyone so much so as to feel incomplete without them. How it must hurt to not be together with that person. And yet, how empty it was to not even have a chance to know someone like that. The closest he had ever come to that kind of love was with Luke, and he knew a part of his heart had died along with his son, but he carried on. Like a man without a limb, it hurt and he felt the missing part of himself immensely, but he still lived.

He wondered if Mulder and Scully could continue on without at least the hope of being together again. He wondered if it would even matter after today, if they would even be alive at the end of it.

"Hey! I got it!" Byers' voice floated up from the door of the bunker, and both Doggett and Dana turned to look down the hill.

Doggett glanced at his companion and realized for the first time that she was trembling, but the look in her eye when she turned to him was breathtaking. "Ready?"

He remembered the moment yesterday when he had convinced himself that he didn't owe these people anything. Oh, how wrong he had been.

"Ready," he said with a nod, and together they joined the Gunmen and entered El Creyente through its back door.


El Creyente Base - Subterranean Level Four

Mulder walked quietly through the hallway of the underground complex, trying his best to look calm and unruffled, knowing if he was caught, suspicions would be aroused no matter what his position in the chain of command here. He never entered the Grays' territory without being invited first, and because of the strength of their telepathic connection a lie telling them he was heading for a meeting with one of them would quickly be exposed.

He had his mind open just enough that he could sense the presence of a Gray or a human coming near him, and was able to duck into side corridors to avoid them. However, he couldn't sense the Replicants, and unlike any human occupants of the base, they moved throughout the subterranean levels whenever they pleased. His nerves were shot, and Gibson's pronouncement that morning hadn't helped at all.

Should he trust the kid? Could he? It was natural to want to trust him; most people inherently trusted the goodness of mankind, though that trust was often diminished or destroyed by life's struggles and disappointments. Mulder's ability to trust hadn't been destroyed entirely, but it was still very hard for him to overcome his paranoia and doubts. Who could blame him?

Gibson didn't. Which is why the boy hadn't asked anything more than that Mulder believe him. He hadn't asked what Mulder and his friends had planned and he hadn't tried delving into Mulder's mind to find out himself. He simply wanted to help in any way he could, even if it meant staying out of the way.

Mulder wanted to believe the boy badly. He wanted to believe Gibson was a good kid at heart who had faced fear and mistrust his whole life from not only his human contacts but alien ones as well. He had been abused, both mentally and physically by the Consortium, but he had bounced back remarkably well. Or had he?

Mulder couldn't dwell on these questions. At that moment, Gibson was acting surprised and delighted by the party all the children had put together in honor of his birthday. And that's where he had told Mulder he would stay until he was needed: with the children. It was the best place for him, Mulder knew. If there was one sure thing about Gibson, it was that he loved the children and would never intentionally harm them.

Mulder felt the impressions of a human mind in the corridor in front of him. He backtracked quickly to a side hallway and ducked into it. He frowned as he sensed the nervousness and excitement coming from the person he was hiding from. Not to mention the subversive feelings. Scully? No, he would know without a doubt when Scully came into his presence. Yet, it had to be someone...

Without another thought, he stepped out of hiding and placed himself directly in Special Agent John Doggett's path.

"Jesus, Mulder!" the man said with a grimace, stopping abruptly and breathing hard. He narrowed his eyes and cocked his head, staring at Mulder intently. "It is you? Right?"

"None other," Mulder said with a smirk. "I'm surprised you guys made it this early," he said, though he really wasn't. Organization had never been a problem for Scully. "In fact, you're right on time." He glanced behind the agent. "Where are Scully and the others?"

"We split up after we got in. We tried to keep radio contact," he continued, tapping the headset he was wearing. "But they must not work down here."

"Even if they had, any communications you guys shared would have been monitored." Mulder turned and headed up the hallway where Doggett had come from, intent on his destination.

"Byers said--"

"Byers was wrong," Mulder interrupted Doggett. "I never did get them all the info on the communications systems in this place. Nothing the Gunmen have can pass under their radar."

"Nice of you to tell us this beforehand," Doggett said, sarcasm heavy in his voice. He was following Mulder without question, but he wasn't going to make any partnership between them easy. He never had.

"Wouldn't have mattered," Mulder murmured, knowing Doggett could still hear him in the quiet corridor. "It isn't as if they don't already know you're here."

Doggett stopped in his tracks and Mulder felt the anger of the man's mind seep into his own. He stopped as well and turned to look at the agent.

"You bastard," Doggett said softly, venom in his voice. "You set us up."

Mulder felt the corners of his mouth tilt up. "Now this is interesting. I thought *I* was the paranoid one."

"You just said..."

"That the Grays know you're here," Mulder finished. "They can sense you, Agent Doggett. A handful of them are so attuned to the human mind, they can sniff one out from miles away if necessary. They don't know who you are, I'm sure," he continued. "But they know you don't belong here."

Real panic flashed in Doggett's eyes. "The others!" he exclaimed. "Scully!"

"They're not in any more danger than we are, Agent Doggett," Mulder said stiffly. "I'm assuming you all knew the risks involved in this venture."

Doggett calmed and took a deep breath. "What do we do?"

Mulder glanced at the bag slung over Doggett's shoulder and the shotgun strapped to his back. "Start planting those," he said, nodding toward the bag, which he knew must carry explosives. "The Grays can only sense living beings. They have no way of finding those outside of physically searching for them, and they have to know they exist to do that."

"No bomb sniffing dogs?" Doggett asked, and Mulder was actually relieved to hear the sarcasm back in the man's voice.

"They hate dogs."

"Why?"

"Because dogs hate them."

"Always knew I liked dogs," Doggett mumbled.

"You ready to continue on, Agent?" Mulder asked in the same tone he used on the soldiers in the base above.

"Yeah," Doggett responded. "But don't even think I'm gonna start calling you 'sir'."

"Wouldn't dream of it," Mulder said with a smile. Then he turned back up the corridor, where he knew the only route to the viral storage chambers lay. "Let's go."


End of Part 6/9

Part 7/9


El Creyente Base - Subterranean Level Two

Dana Mulder inched her way further into the tight space between the wall and the set of storage containers lined up along the back part of the room she was hiding in. Minutes before, she had rounded a corner and nearly run straight in the path of what remained of Gene Crane and Knowle Rohrer. She had ducked back around the corner quickly, but she guessed they had seen some movement from her escape because they had followed her into the room she had chosen to hide in.

She could hear them moving about in front of the huge, barrel-like storage bins and held her breath, not daring to move a muscle. The 'men' moved cautiously about the room, obviously not sure about what they were looking for, and for that, Scully was glad, but she wasn't safe yet.

Finally, they left. Scully waited another minute before sliding her body back out into the open. She knew that their superior hearing and eyesight could have been her downfall, but this was the third time since she had entered the base that she had narrowly avoided getting caught. 'Somebody must be on my side,' she thought ruefully as she cautiously left the room and continued on her journey toward the upper levels. She glanced upward as she thought this, smiling slightly. Suddenly, she had a thought. Turning back the way she had come, she swung the bag of explosives off her shoulder and took one of the deadly little objects out. She squeezed her way back into her former hiding place, bared the adhesive from the back of the unit, and placed it firmly against the wall. When she was sure it would stay, she flicked the 'arm' switch, causing a red light to blink steadily on the surface of the unit. It was ready. The push of one button on the remote would set the little bomb off, causing one hell of a big explosion. 'Proof that size doesn't matter,' Scully thought with a grin.

Then she was on her way again. She found a stairwell and made her way upward, stopping every now and then to place and arm another explosive. Another flight of metal stairs and she was there. Using the code Mulder had sent them weeks ago, she opened the door that lead from the lower levels to the main base.

The change in scenery was dramatic to say the least. She left the hot and humid alien environment with its dim lighting and entered the bright, cool and almost too dry corridors of the base. The sterile white-tiled floors were far different than the rough, grey concrete and metal down below. It also meant more people, therefore more chances to get caught.

She walked along the hallway, her soft-soled tennis shoes barely making a sound, until she came to a doorway with a window in it. Glancing through the window, she confirmed that the room was unoccupied and opened the door. She didn't enter; she simple threw her now empty shoulder bag inside and closed it behind her. She then continued forward.

Carefully rounding a corner, Scully found herself exactly where the memorized plans of the base told her she'd be. The hallway ahead of her was wider than the one she had come from. Chairs sat along one wall, in between two doors, and a table with a few magazines, all either military or automobile related, were scattered over its top. Along the opposite wall were a water fountain and two vending machines, one for soda and one for snacks. Scully had reached the waiting area for the infirmary, which lay behind the two doors.

Slowly, she moved past the doors, knowing that she was more likely to run into somebody here than almost any place else on the base at this time of the day with a birthday bash going on elsewhere. She eased the two shotguns she was carrying off her shoulder and set them behind the pop machine, stock down, praying they wouldn't be discovered. Who ever looked behind vending machines?

Taking a deep breath, Scully headed for the opposite side of the compound, not at all concerned with getting caught anymore. She felt almost naked without the pack or the shotguns, but she still had her service revolver.

And the stiletto.

Now, it was time to go crash the party.


El Creyente Base - Main Gate

William had lied.

Since the time he was old enough to understand what a lie was, William had learned that it was wrong to do it. Both his parents, his Godparents and others in his acquaintance had told him so. He had always abided by the rules and been unwaveringly honest. If he felt ill, he said so. If he was hungry, he told whoever was in charge of feeding him. If he was scared, he didn't lie to his mother and say he wasn't, nor did he lie to himself about the feeling. To the best of his knowledge, he had never knowingly lied.

Until today.

It wasn't a tiny white lie, either, but a big one. One that could get himself and the two people he had lied to in very big trouble. Yet, he couldn't really regret it. After all, one of the many things his father had taught him in those mental lessons from months ago was that he was to trust his instincts. After finding out what 'instincts' were, William had agreed. Now he was putting that lesson into practice, but in order to do so, he had been forced to lie.

He sat quietly in his car seat, watching the two people in front of him cast worried glances back toward him and at each other. He hoped he wasn't about to get these two people hurt. Not only did he care about them too much to want to hurt them, but they were the people that had long ago been charged with the responsibility of raising him should something happen to his real parents. If front of God and several earthly witnesses, they had promised to do this. So what would happen if they were hurt and couldn't take care of him and his parents never came home?

'That isn't going to happen,' a voice said in his head. His conscious, he guessed, though he had never really understood what that was. An inner person of some sort? A dead person communicating with him from beyond the grave? God?

He sighed heavily and blinked back tears. Nothing was going to happen to either his parents or his Godparents. He knew this just as surely as he knew he had to be at El Creyente. He didn't know how, but he didn't ask, either. He just obeyed his instincts. Which was why Aunt Monica and Uncle Walter were now driving him directly to the front gate of the alien controlled military base.

Will had told them Mulder had contacted him telepathically and that he wanted them to bring William to the base. They had not wanted to bring him, but Dana had told them earlier that he might be needed to talk to the children, so they hadn't questioned William's 'order.' The fact was, William had received no such directions from his father or anyone. He had simply known he had to go, and the only way Monica and Walter would take him was if he lied.

The guard at the gate was human, of that Will was sure, but the man behind him, his soulless eyes watching them with suspicion, was not. Nor was he alien. He was one of the zombies - replicants, his father called them. One of the beings whose sole purpose was to insure he and the other children survived unharmed. He had heard that a group of these - things - had witnessed his birth. It was a good thing he couldn't remember back that far.

The human guard came up to the diver's side window of the car, his angry glare a standard for military men on guard duty. "Are you folks lost?" he asked, his polite inquiry at odds with his expression.

"No," Walter said, his voice solid and commanding. "We're hear to see the General."

The soldier's eyes narrowed. "I'm sorry, the General does not have any appointments today, and no one is allowed on base without an appointment."

"Listen, corporal," Walter continued. "You call him and tell him William Mulder is here to see him. He'll let us through."

The man shook his head. "No can do, sir. I can't --"

"Corporal," the 'man' still at the guard station said. "Let them through. I'll notify the General." He already had his hand on the telephone.

The young soldier looked back at his fellow guard, who obviously outranked him. "Sir?"

"The General had been expecting William Mulder... for a very long time."

Still wearing a look of confusion, the corporal stepped back from the car. Nervously, he nodded his head. "Go straight. The main doors are clearly marked." The other man pressed a button to allow the gate to swing upward and Walter accelerated slowly, leaving the guards behind.

Monica took a deep breath and looked back at William. "You weren't using some Jedi mind trick on that other guard, were you?" Her voice was teasing, but William sensed the fear behind it.

"Not even a Jedi could read that man's mind," Will told her seriously. "Nobody can."

"The other guard was a replicant?" Monica asked, her eyes wide.

William nodded.

Monica swallowed nervously and looked straight ahead. "Well, keeping with the theme, why do I have a bad feeling about this?"

Walter just grunted in response, and Will knew his mind was focused on what was ahead, not on humor. A former soldier himself, Walter Skinner was preparing for battle.

Will could just barely see the main building as they drove closer to it, and he began to concentrate on it as Monica continued to talk. "Why are there no soldiers out here?"

"Maybe it's too hot," Walter said in response. "It is almost noon."

"Maybe," Monica replied, but she didn't sound convinced.

"Most of them are at a party of some kind," Will said. "That's the distraction daddy set up."

Monica glanced back at him. "Can you sense them?"

William nodded. "Uh-huh. And --" William froze as he felt the distinct impressions of other telepaths. Including one in particular. "Whoa."

*Welcome, William,* the voice in his head told him. *It's a pleasure to finally meet you.*

*Are you Gibson?*

*Yes. The children and I have been waiting a long time to see you, William. What a wonderful birthday surprise.*

The children? Yes. There they were. Twelve other telepaths, all of varying strengths and abilities. All excited by his eminent arrival.

And on the outer edges of his consciousness, quietly trying to hide, were other minds. Minds full of wonder. Of anxiousness.

Minds full of fear.


Subterranean Lab Number 4

"So this is the alien virus," John Doggett said softly.

Mulder heard him and glanced back down toward the other man as he continued up the ladder to the top of the viral chamber, which stood at least ten feet high. This was the fourth and final lab they had entered, but the huge vats containing the virus were encased with metal, so Doggett had yet to see the black oil the viral entity used to transport itself. He found what Doggett was looking at and realized the agent was far too close to the oil, sitting stagnant in a Petri dish, for comfort.

"Doggett!" he called, keeping his voice soft, but ensuring the seriousness of the situation was audible. "I wouldn't get any closer to that, if I were you."

Without looking at him, the other man slowly backed away from the table. "It's not moving or anything," he said cautiously.

"Doesn't matter," Mulder responded. "You get close enough, it'll move. Fast."

Doggett nodded his head and headed for the vat next to the one Mulder was climbing. "So tell me again why we're putting the explosives at the top and not the bottom."

"We put them at the bottom, and we'll create a huge hole for the virus to escape from. Exploding the top ensures that the oil is set on fire and burns steadily, without it having a chance to escape."

"And the fire will kill it?" Doggett had reached the top of his vat and was setting the explosive.

"Not the virus itself, but its medium, its oil, will be eaten away. And without that to protect it, the virus will die." Mulder set his bomb and began climbing down the ladder. "Unless it finds another host, like a human or other animal, of course."

"Oh, of course," Doggett responded sarcastically, descending his own ladder. "But anything living that might become a host will be killed by the explosions from above. Right?"

"Bingo."

Without any more words, Doggett and Mulder continued with their job, making sure every vat was sabotaged. Then Mulder carefully placed and set his last explosive next to the Petri dish with the oil that Doggett had been observing earlier.

"Is this all of it?" Doggett asked quietly. "I mean, there aren't some secret labs elsewhere in the world, are there?"

"God, I hope not," Mulder said vehemently. He shook his head. "I would have heard something by now if there was."

"I hope you're right," Doggett said, his ice blue eyes boring into Mulder's.

"Let's go," Mulder said in response. "Scully is probably with the children by now. We need to make sure everybody important is up top before we blow this thing."

"Everybody important?" Doggett repeated with a wry twist to his lips. "I hope that includes me."

"Of course it does," Mulder said with a grin. "Scully would kill me if I ever let anything happen to you."

"Ditto," Doggett said with a grin of his own.

The two men headed for the door and carefully eased into the dark hallway beyond, Mulder in the lead. He was halfway up the corridor toward the metal staircase that lead upward when he felt it.

He stopped short, so completely unnerved by what he felt that he didn't even feel Doggett narrowly avoid running into his back. He stared at the floor, concentrating.

"Mulder, what's wrong?" Doggett's voice was as worried as Mulder had ever heard it.

He looked up at the agent. "We've got to get up there ASAP."

"Is Dana in trouble?"

Mulder shook his head. "Not any more trouble than we all are. It looks like things are moving a bit faster than anticipated."

"What do you mean?"

"William's here."


El Creyente - Interrogation Room One

Scully sat quietly in her chair in the bare, grey room, her hands folded carefully in her lap, her eyes never leaving the soldiers who stood guard at the door. She and her companions hadn't been handcuffed, nor had they been searched. When asked, she had willingly handed over her gun, but she had kept mute about the little weapon in her pocket. Not even the guys knew she had that little surprise.

She had been stopped by four armed men about twenty minutes ago just outside the main cafeteria, where she knew Gibson's party was taking place. The men had brought her here, no questions asked, where she had proceeded to wait for her companions. One by one, starting with Frohike, then Byers, and then Langly, they had arrived. The three men had also dumped their shoulder bags and hidden their shotguns and had given themselves up without argument to the soldiers. All four of them had been 'captured' within ten minutes of each other.

So where was Doggett? Scully tried not to let herself worry about the fact that one of their team members was missing. He should have been finished with his own sabotage by now and have allowed himself to be taken prisoner as they had. Unless...

Her eyes shifted to the door. What if Doggett had found Mulder? What if Mulder had led him to the viral chambers, deep beneath them, and gotten him to help set up explosives down there? Mulder had not wanted any of them to go down there alone; he had been adamant about that in most of the covert information he had sent. However, if he had run into Doggett on his way down, it was quite possible Mulder had brought the agent down into the depths with him. It was a likely excuse for Doggett's absence and a much better one than any alternative Scully could come up with, all of which ending with Doggett wounded or dead.

Suddenly the door opened, and a tall, grey haired general walked through. The General himself, Scully knew, and her whole body tensed. The man walked slowly past the four of them, hands behind his back, observing them as if he was observing his troops. He finally stopped in front of Scully.

"Dana Scully, I presume?" he asked in a gravely voice.

"Mulder," Scully corrected automatically.

The General's eyebrows rose, and a quirk appeared in the corner of his mouth. "Please accept my apology," he said in response. "I forget how arcane you all are, what with your marriages and name changes and bonding. It's all quite sickening, really." He turned away from her and strolled to the other side of the room.

So, he wasn't going to pretend he was human. Scully was at once relieved and dismayed by this fact. She in no way wanted to treat this thing as a human being, but she didn't like the fact that the General either knew she knew the truth or didn't care if she knew. Both choices didn't bode well for her future well being.

"Where's Mulder?" she asked, determined to continue with the plan.

"That, my dear Dana, is a very good question." The General faced her once more, his eyes wide in mock confusion. Boy, did he have human mannerisms down pat. "I'll find him for you if you tell me where the others are."

"Others?" Scully asked. "What others?"

The General frowned, his face becoming angry, though she knew he really felt no such emotion. "You didn't come to Arizona alone, the four of you. There were others. Where are they?" He took a menacing step closer. "Are they here as well?"

Scully shrugged. "I couldn't tell you," she said almost wistfully. "They didn't tell me their plans."

"You're lying."

"Prove it."

The silence that followed Scully's dare was as taut as piano wire, and it even seemed to make the General nervous. He shuffled his feet, and Scully realized with some surprise that he had been trying to read her mind. She didn't even feel the probe of his thoughts, so strong were her walls, and it was making him really and truly scared. She smiled, hoping he didn't give up on her and try one of the Gunmen next. Their walls were strong, but she didn't know if they could hold up against this...thing.

The door opened once more, and a young female soldier entered. "Sir, the guard station just called in. They are sending some visitors your way, they didn't tell me who. I--"

The woman quieted and stared wide-eyed at the General. Scully brought her attention back to the man, whose face had gone pasty white. His eyes flashed toward her, and for the first time she recognized real emotion in them. She read surprise, awe, and fear.

She turned to her companions, and they looked back at her, curiosity written all over their faces. What in the world could be causing this alien General to look this way? Then suddenly, Scully knew. Nearby, not more than two hundred feet beyond the bare grey walls of this room, she felt her son.

She shot another look at the General. It was William's presence that was making this creature so fearful. William. Who should have been safe in Tucson with Skinner and Monica. However, the General didn't know this, and Scully decided then and there that he didn't need to know. If there was one thing that Scully had learned from her years working with Fox Mulder on the X-Files, it was how to improvise.

"Surprise," she said with another smile.


El Creyente - Main Cafeteria

William was overwhelmed with emotions, and most of them weren't even his.

Uncle Walter was carrying him on his hip, and Aunt Monica was walking closely beside them, her hand on Will's back. He was grateful for the contact from both of them, but his grip on Walter's shirt never relaxed as they were led by a handful of guards into the large room where Gibson's party was being held.

Twelve children, babies really, awaited him there, their eyes wide, their faces smiling. Some were older than him, but most were younger. Three of them couldn't even walk yet, but they sat on the floor watching him with joy. Gibson was kneeling on the floor next to the group, his face unsmiling, but his mind just as joyful as the others. At least, Will thought that was his mind. They were all 'talking' at once, and he couldn't sort it all out in his head. He wasn't sure who was 'saying' or feeling what, and it scared him.

He felt the fear grow. Tears demanded to be released, so he bit his bottom lip in an effort to stop them. He took a deep breath and shouted out in his head, *Daddy!* All noise, both audible and mental, stopped. Will realized he had yelled out loud, not just in his head. He was too confused. Everyone in the room was startled, and even the soldiers and staff who had been attending the party stopped still.

*William.*

Will relaxed, the familiar, comforting presence of his father entering his mind.

*Remember what I taught you, about crowds and how to block out what you don't need to hear?* His father's mind nudged a memory, and William closed his eyes and concentrated on that memory.

*William?* It wasn't his father's voice this time. It was Gibson. He was concerned.

Will opened his eyes and looked across the room toward the young man who had been the first 'miracle child.' Like all these children, he was special, but he wasn't one of them. Not really. He hadn't been 'created,' even if by accident. He had simply been born abnormal, without any alien influence. How? Why?

*I'm okay,* he told the boy, then he looked at Walter and Monica, who were watching him with fear in their eyes. "I'm okay," he repeated out loud. "Down," he told the man holding him, and Walter obligingly set the boy on his own two feet. William was about to walk toward the others when more people entered the room. Only they weren't people. He turned to face the General and his guard.

"You're really here," the General said, his voice rough. "You're finally here."

William felt the power he had over this creature almost immediately, just as he now felt the power he had over the children behind him. It was akin to worship. His heart beat faster, and his breathing quickened as well. 'So this is what it's like,' he thought, working hard at blocking himself from those around him. 'This is what He felt like.'

*Watch it there, Buddy.*

William jerked. His father. He couldn't block his father.

*And with a little luck, you never will be able to.*

*Daddy, what do I do?*

*You do what they want you to do,* he said, his mind calm. *You lead them.*

*But--*

*You lead them by following your heart and soul, not your ego.*

*I don't know if I can.*

*Believe me, I know the feeling.* His father's words echoed his wry thoughts. *You can, Will. Just don't be afraid to ask for some help.* He paused. *And don't you dare get a God complex.*

William didn't know what that was, but he suspected it was sort of what he had been feeling earlier when his father had interrupted his thoughts. Thoughts that had been against everything his parents had taught him.

*Help me, Daddy,* he said. *Help me get them out of here.* That was what he was here to do, he now knew. That was his job. His parents and the others would do the rest.

*Deal,* his father told him. *Wait a few minutes, and you'll get your chance. In the meantime, get to know these kids. I have a feeling you all will be very important to each other for the rest of your lives.*

William cast a glance at the General, then ignored him and walked toward the children.


End of Part 7/9

Part 8/9


El Creyente - Interrogation Room One

Doggett was lead into a small room by two of the guards and felt his body nearly wilt with relief when he saw his fellow 'commandos' already there. The Gunmen were all seated; Frohike had his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, Langly sat with one ankle on his opposite knee and his foot bobbing restlessly, while Byers sat stiffly with both feet planted firmly on the floor and his arms crossed over his chest. They all looked up at his entrance, including the fiery red-head pacing in the back of the room.

His escort left, but two guards stood stoically at the door, watching him with wary eyes. Dana rushed over to him, oblivious to the guards. "Where have you been?"

"I ran into an old friend," he told her, lowering both his head and his voice.

She blinked once, then asked, "Where is this 'old friend' now?"

"We parted company when we left the 'basement'." He had no idea if all these metaphors where necessary, but better to be safe than sorry.

Dana took a deep breath and stepped back. "He probably went after Will and the children."

"I guess," Doggett said with a shrug. He didn't ask where Mulder was going after they left the lower levels. The man had simply told him to go ahead with the plan, which Doggett had done. He had hidden his shot-gun, dumped his shoulder bag, and had wandered around until two MPs had picked him up and brought him here. For a secret base, it sure wasn't heavily manned. "Has anyone spoken to you guys yet?"

"Yeah," Dana told him. "The General himself was just here."

"General?"

"The Big Kahuna," Langly interjected. "The head alien honcho."

Doggett gave him a smirk. "You mean to tell me you all met an alien?"

"Well, he didn't look like an alien," Langly told him. "But we could tell he wasn't human just by the look in his eye."

Doggett snorted his disbelief. "What did he say?"

"Not much, really," Frohike said. "He kinda got interrupted."

"What do you mean?"

"He left kind of suddenly," Frohike continued.

"We figure he realized William was here," Byers added.

"Hmmm..." Doggett nodded, glancing at the guards once more. They were obviously listening, but they were not reacting. "So now what? Do we just wait around here?" He looked at Dana.

She was about to shrug in response when she suddenly stopped, her eyes becoming unfocused. A small smile appeared on her face. "Kaboom," she whispered.

"What?" Doggett asked, suddenly fearing for his former partners sanity.

"Kaboom," Dana repeated.

"What the hell does that mean?" Doggett asked.

"It means the word has been given," she told him, smiling broadly now.

"By whom?"

"Mulder."

"Mulder just talked to you?"

Dana nodded, then turned to the guys. "It's now or never."

Frohike grinned back at her. "We're ready, Cutie Pie."

Dana stiffened, then she began to advance menacingly on Frohike. "If you call me Cutie Pie one more time, Short Stuff--"

"Hey!" the hacker cried, standing from his seated position. "Who are *you* calling *short*, Tinker Bell?!"

"You little twirp!" Dana yelled back, shoving him back into his chair. "Who do you think you are?"

"Hey!" One of the guards finally reacted to the commotion and moved forward to stand next to Doggett, who stood in shock as he watched the proceedings in front of him.

"What?!" both Dana and Frohike shouted, turning to face the guard.

"Chill out," the guard said with a smirk, proving he was human inside and out.

Doggett's brain finally caught up with the action surrounding him. Without another thought, he reached for the guard's rifle, pulling it out of the shocked man's hands and tossing it to Dana. He then grabbed the pistol, which the guard had just pulled from his holster, as well. He pointed it at the soldier. "Sorry, pal."

"Not as sorry as you'll be," said the other guard, his rifle up and pointed at Dana, who was aiming her newly acquired weapon back at him.

Dana lowered her rifle, narrowing her eyes at the other MP. "Where are you from, soldier?"

The guard just smirked.

"That's what I thought," Dana said with a smile. Her right hand, which was blocked from the guard's view by her lowered weapon, was slowly reaching into her hip pocket. "I think it's time you go home, don't you?"

The man inched forward, never taking his eyes off Dana. She never took her eyes off him. He was so intent on her, he didn't see her pull the cylindrical object out of her pocket. But he heard the hiss as she pressed the button to release the stiletto. He smiled. "That can't kill me."

"I know," she said calmly. "But what I put on the blade can." Before she had even finished uttering the words, she shoved the blade forward, ducking under the man's raised rifle, and impaled it in the man's thigh. The guard fell back, and his companion rushed forward to help him. Doggett cocked the pistol in his hands and the young man stopped in his tracks, watching helplessly as his fellow soldier dropped his rifle in pain and fell back against the wall by the door.

Dana immediately grabbed up the other rifle, then backed away from the man flailing in front of her, obviously in more pain than a stab wound to the thigh would cause. His skin turned pale. Moisture appeared on his upper lip. His body began to convulse. His flesh turned silver, then black, and right there, before their eyes, he disintegrated.

Even the remaining soldier stood in shocked silence.

"Well, I guess we know it works," Dana said quietly.

"You put snake oil on the stiletto," Doggett said.

She sighed. "Yep."

"Whoa," Langly whispered.

Dana turned to Frohike. "Well?"

The little man propped a booted foot on one of the chairs, pulled up his pant leg, and pulled out a remote. He showed it to Dana. "Well?" he repeated.

"Do it."

Frohike nodded, flipped a switch on the remote, then took a deep breath and pressed three buttons, one after the other.

He looked at Dana once more, an evil glint in his eye. "Kaboom!"


El Creyente Base - Main Cafeteria

Mulder had just entered the cafeteria when he felt the first explosion. The bombs had all been set to go off at different intervals, some only seconds after the remote was activated, some with a delayed time of up to ten minutes. It had taken longer than he had expected after he had 'told' Scully to start, but he figured she, Frohike and the others had had to work around their guards. Mulder hadn't asked how they planned to do this; he long ago learned to trust Scully's judgment when it came situations like this.

'As if we've ever been in a situation like this,' he thought to himself, then continued through the door to the cafeteria. The floor shook slightly and the glass that enclosed the coolers off to the side of the dining area rattled. The few soldiers that hadn't gone back to their posts after William's arrival and the General's departure jumped to attention immediately, their faces full of worry and confusion.

"What is that?" Mulder heard one of them ask. "An earthquake?"

"Daddy!"

William's shout drew everyone's attention to the boy. He stood from where he had been sitting on the floor with the other children and ran toward him. Mulder felt his heart leap in glorious anticipation; he was about to hold his son for the first time in more than a year.

Suddenly, the lights dimmed and alarms began sounding. The replicants that had been guarding the children rushed toward them, and the human soldiers raced past Mulder and out the door. William stopped in his tracks as Billy Miles stepped in front of him, preventing him from reaching his father.

"What's going on?" Gibson shouted above the noise.

"The base in under attack," Billy told him. The floor shook again as another explosion occurred beneath them. Billy cast an angry look at Mulder. "We must protect the children."

"I agree," Mulder told him vehemently. He looked over toward a table set towards the back of the room. Monica and Skinner sat there, guarded by three heavily armed MPs, trying desperately to appear as if they weren't afraid. Skinner frowned at him, and Mulder realized his old boss and friend wasn't sure if he could be trusted. Mulder couldn't blame the man for feeling that way, but it still hurt. "I want you to take the children out of here," he told Billy, still looking at Skinner.

"We'll use the old bunker door," Billy told him.

"No!" Mulder turned toward the replicant. Leaving via the bunker door, the same door Scully and the others had used to get in, would take them right into the inferno he knew was now burning beneath them. "You'll get them out through the main entrance." To get to the main entrance they would need to pass through the main lobby... exactly where Mulder wanted them to be. "Take them with you," he said, pointing at Skinner and Reyes.

Billy looked as if he wanted to object, but then he nodded. He and the three replicants with him gathered the children, Monica and Skinner and headed for the door.

"Daddy?" William obviously didn't want to go with them.

"Go on, Will," Mulder said. "I'll be right behind you."

Mulder could tell his son knew he was lying. "You're going to find mom?" he asked.

Mulder simply nodded, not trusting his emotions enough to lie to his son again.

Marita suddenly rushed into the room. She cast a panicked look at Mulder, then hurried over to take her daughter from the arms of one of the replicants. She looked at Mulder again, her eyes questioning.

"Go with them," he told her.

"Susan?" she asked.

"I'll find her," Mulder said. While he had not told his comrades what the plan was, he had promised them he would get them out with their children.

Monica suddenly shoved herself away from her guard. "I'll go with you." She moved toward Mulder.

"No." Billy said firmly.

"I can help Mulder," Monica argued.

"You are a prisoner, and you'll start acting like one."

"I am not a prisoner!" Monica argued. "I brought Mulder, and you, William. I came here to help." Though she was telling the absolute truth, she somehow made it sound as if she was on the side of the Grays.

"Monica!" Skinner said in a hard voice. She ignored him, her eyes pleading with Mulder's.

Mulder had no idea why she wanted to come with him; it wasn't a part of the original plan. She was supposed to stay with the children. But with Marita here, Skinner had help, and Mulder was almost positive Gibson was truly on their side as well.

"She can come," Mulder said softly. Billy still heard him over the sound of the alarms. Though the replicant frowned, he didn't argue. Monica walked forward to stand next to Mulder. "Go," Mulder told the group of children, replicants and humans. "Get the hell out of here."


Scully sat as still as possible, watching from her hiding place on the balcony as soldiers ran about in the courtyard of the lobby beneath her. Some were evacuating, some where trying to figure out what they were supposed to be doing. They were disorganized and frightened, and there was nothing the General could do to calm them.

The grey haired man had appeared only a short time ago, slightly distraught and confused looking. She knew that William's arrival had done that to him, and she was pleased that it would benefit them, even if it hadn't been a part of the plan. One of the soldiers said something to him, and he began to panic. Scully wouldn't have believed it if she hadn't seen it for herself.

He turned suddenly as a large group of people entered the lobby: the children and their escorts. "Where are you going?!" he demanded.

Gibson stepped forward. "Mulder told us to evacuate the children. The base is under attack."

"I know that!" the General yelled. Many of the soldiers and even a few of the replicants looked shocked, never having seen their commander out of control like this. "Where is Mulder?" he demanded.

"He went to look for Dr. Donahue," Billy told him, giving no indication that the woman he was speaking of so formally used to be his wife...in another life.

A large explosion caused the room to shake wildly, and Scully looked across the way to where Doggett was hiding; the balcony made a half circle around the courtyard, and she, Doggett and the Gunmen where all re-armed and ready to cover the entire lobby. His ice blue eyes met hers. That explosion had been too close.

Apparently, the General thought so too. "Go! Get them out of here." He turned on his heel and headed for the hall that lead back to the cafeteria.

Still holding Doggett's gaze, Scully stood from her hiding place on the balcony and aimed her shotgun down.


William sensed his mother's presence only moments before the shooting started. He had no idea what the 'plan' was, but he knew from her thought patterns what he needed to do. *Everyone! Get down!* he shouted. Gibson and the children immediately dropped down to lay flat on the floor. Little Rebecca even managed to pull her mother down with her as she dived out of Marita's arms toward the floor. William saw R.J. grab Uncle Walter's hand and drag him down. Both adults were confused but obeyed the children's unspoken demands.

The replicants, still standing, watched them in bafflement.

Five shooters. Four replicants. It was over in seconds. William stood first, then Walter. Both stood in astonishment, staring down at the quickly disintegrating bodies of their former guards.

A half dozen soldiers standing near the front doors raised their rifles toward the assassins on the balcony. William knew the men were going to shoot his mother and the others. He couldn't let that happen. "No!" he shouted. He envisioned himself pulling the weapons out of the hands of the soldiers, but he was not nearly that strong.

Not alone, anyway.

The other children had sensed his vision, and they understood it. The armed men shouted out in startled voices as their weapons were pulled violently from their hands, all six rifles sailing through the air, landing at Uncle Walter's and Marita's feet. Neither of the adults hesitated, grabbing up a weapon and pointing it at the guards. When they were assured the shocked men had surrendered, Walter turned startled brown eyes on William.

"Did you do that?"

"We all did," William said softly. He looked up at the balcony where his mother stood. He felt her awe, her fear, and her pride.

She turned toward the balcony stairs. "Langly, Frohike, Byers. Go with the children. Get them away from here."

"What about the guards?" Byers asked.

"Take their pistols away and let them go," she told him. It was what they had done with the human guard after Scully made her first 'kill.' She reached the bottom of the stairs, grabbing the rail once as the building gave another violent shudder.

"I though we were supposed to be safe from the explosions up here," Langly said nervously.

"So did I," Scully told him. She walked toward the children. "William, where's your father?"

"He went to find Wes' mom." Even though he had just met the boy, William felt he knew him and the others as if they had been friends for all their lives.

Scully reached her son and kneeled down to hug him. "Why are you here?" She looked at Walter as she asked this.

"I told them Daddy told me to come." Will's voice was subdued and his eyes were downcast.

"You mean he didn't?" Walter asked, his eyes narrowing.

Will shook his head.

Scully sighed. "What you did here, with the children," she paused, and William looked at her intently. "You promise you won't..."

"Don't worry, Mama," he whispered. "We'll be careful."

Tears formed in her eyes, and she smiled slightly. "I have to find your father."

"I know."

She hugged him again, then picked up her shotgun off the floor where she had set it and stood. Taking a deep breath, she turned and trotted out of the lobby, shotgun in hand, another one strapped across her back.

Will turned pleading eyes to John. The agent didn't have to be psychic to know what the boy was asking. With a nod, he turned and followed Scully out of the lobby.

William looked at Walter. "Let's go away from here. I don't want to be here anymore."


Mulder had made it to the medical wing when he started to realize his plan wasn't going exactly as it should, and it had nothing to do with William's presence. It had to do with the force of the explosions underneath him; explosions that should have been confined to the underground network of the base and should not affect the upper levels. However, the last huge ground tremor had caused part of the ceiling to fall into his and Monica's path and the emergency lights to dim.

He tried to ignore the hint of anxious fear that swept through him and continued on towards Susan's office. The woman had been his only real, trusted friend since this whole El Creyente thing began, and he wasn't about to leave her behind.

Mulder reached her office door and pulled it open, only to cast startled eyes on the sight of the General leaning over Susan who lay on her back on her desk, his hand tight about her throat. Her bulging eyes turned toward him, pleading for help. Without hesitation, Mulder pulled the stiletto he always carried out of the back pocket of his jeans. The General saw him coming and straightened, but he was too late. After a quick jab to the back of the alien's neck, Mulder pulled it away from Susan and shoved the screaming creature back towards the wall. Ignoring the sounds of death coming from his former 'boss,' Mulder turned his attention toward his friend.

"Wes?" Susan whispered in a broken voice. Mulder knew instantly that her trachea had been damaged. She couldn't breath in enough oxygen.

"He's with the children. Skinner and Marita are getting them out of here."

"Skin--," she tried to say his name. "Here?" Her eyes were drawn to Monica, who had moved up behind him, keeping a wary eye on the bubbling green pool of goo next to the wall.

"Yeah," Mulder said with a nod. "They're all here." He frowned. "Why was he--?"

Susan coughed. "He thought it was me." Her voice was strong for a moment, but then she started coughing again. Mulder knew that the General had been suspicious of all the human players in this game. It appeared he had decided Susan was the real traitor. "He still wanted to believe in you." Her voice was weak again.

"Mulder?" Monica's voice was full of fear behind him. "We gotta go."

He nodded without looking at her, then reached down to pick up Susan. She met his eyes with her own. "No."

"Yeah, right," he responded sarcastically. As if he was going to leave her here to die. He turned and headed out the door, Monica close behind him. The floor shook once more, and some more tiles fell from the ceiling, nearly knocking him in the head. "Hey, Reyes?"

"Yeah?"

"Why the hell did you want to come with me?"

She hesitated for a moment. "I thought you might need help."

"Right," Mulder said with a grimace. "You do know Doggett was going to be a part of the ambush, right? That he wasn't going to be back here?"

She was silent for a moment. "I didn't come with you to find him. He can take care of himself."

Mulder knew she was lying. He may not be able to clearly read her mind, but he knew she was lying. He had been thinking long and hard about why she had demanded to come with him, and the only thing he could think of was Doggett. When he had told Will he was going to find Scully, Monica had obviously thought Doggett would be with her and they were in trouble, completely forgetting about the planned ambush in the lobby. "You know, you're about as subtle as Scully used to be."

"What's that supposed to mean?" she demanded.

But Mulder didn't hear her. He stopped suddenly as he looked at the dark corridor in front of him. Something was wrong.

"Mulder?"

He felt the heat a split second before the flames came roaring around the corner.

"Shit!" he yelled. "Guess we can't get out that way." Shifting the load in his arms, he turned back the way they had come, his back aching but his mind determined.

"What now?" Monica asked.

"There's more than one way out," he told her, his mind quickly searching through his options. Obviously, he had miscalculated the power of the explosives he had asked the Gunmen to acquire. The fire was hotter and larger than expected, and it would take the whole base, not just the lower levels. Which would have been fine with him... if he, Monica and Susan hadn't still been inside. "The hangars," he said out loud. There was nothing but solid ground underneath the hangars, which were attached to the main base by a tunnel that ran just slightly below ground level. If they could make it to the tunnel...

He looked at Susan. "What do you think?"

She didn't respond.

Casting a harried glance at the encroaching fire behind him, Mulder set the woman down. Monica kneeled beside her, carefully feeling for a pulse. After several long seconds, she shook her head.

Mulder bowed his head, not even trying to stop the tears. "I promised her I'd get her out of this."

"You got her son out," Monica said softly. "I think that that is all she really cared about."

Mulder nodded, then felt the heat increasing at his back. The fire was coming. The last of the bombs had exploded, but they were a long way from safe.


"I don't believe this!"

Scully ignored her complaining companion as she ran through the halls, desperately trying to find not only her husband, but a way out. The fire behind them would soon either catch them as they ran, or would cause the whole building to collapse around them. Now was not the time to start bemoaning the fact that the plan had gone awry.

But that's all Doggett wanted to do. That and run. "If I get my hands on him--!"

"It's not as if he expected us to still be in here," she yelled over her shoulder, trying to reason with him. "Going back in for him wasn't part of the plan either."

"Nor was Monica being with him, dammit," Doggett groused.

Despite their circumstances, Scully had to smile. "You have to admit, everything up to this point worked as it was supposed to. Even William's arrival turned out to be a good thing." Scully would never forget the awe she had felt watching six rifles fly though the air as if of their own volition because thirteen little children had wanted them to. "Something had to go wrong at some point."

"Yeah, well if this whole building collapses around us and it turns out that the fucking virus wasn't even touched, it won't matter that everything else worked as it was supposed to."

Scully turned to glare at him. "Let's show a little optimism here, okay?"

Doggett's eyes flashed to something beyond her and he reached up to grab Scully's arm, halting her. She turned around to see what he was looking at. Four MP's stood in their path, eyes unafraid, weapons ready. Replicants.

"Run," Scully whispered.

"Where?" Doggett whispered back.

"At this point, I don't think that really matters."

They both turned and rushed back toward the fire, turning sharply when they reached another corridor. They could hear the footfalls of the four 'men' behind them.

"If Monica and Mulder were trapped in here like we are, where would they go?" Doggett asked as they rounded another corridor.

Scully thought quickly. "They can't go down," she said. "They would try to stay... the hangars!"

Doggett nodded in agreement, and he picked up the pace. Scully knew his mind was running through the memory of the blue prints Mulder had sent them. He stopped at a bisection. "Which way?"

Scully thought a moment. Left was east. Wasn't it? "That way," she said, nodding toward the right.

"You sure?"

"No."

"Okay. We go right."

Doggett turned and started jogging down the hallway. Glancing behind her, Scully started to follow, but something in the hall behind her made her stop short. "John!" No answer. He had already run too far ahead. Nervously, she turned and ran down to the body she saw lying in the hall, only feet from the encroaching fire.

Susan Donahue, her throat bruised, lay still on the floor. Scully kneeled and checked for a pulse, already knowing there would be none. Swallowing tightly, she rose and ran back up the hall after Doggett. She heard the sounds of her pursuers echoing behind her and she had no idea how close they were. She began to panic and picked up speed. Suddenly, an arm grabbed her around the waist and pulled her into a doorway. She opened her mouth to scream, but a hand instantly covered it.

She began to struggle, but then she noticed the replicants appearing from around the corner. She stilled and allowed her captor to pull her further into the dark doorway.

*Geez, you'd think that after all we've been through, you'd recognize your own husband.*

Scully felt herself wilt against Mulder, ignoring the press of the extra shotgun strapped to her back, and he let his hand drop from her mouth, even as the replicants passed them at a steady trot. When they were gone, she tried to pull away. He refused to let go of her. "Deja vu," he whispered in her ear, and Scully was once again back in the Wonderland, dancing sensuously with her partner of so many years and so many ways. "What the hell are you doing here, Scully?" Though his voice was still soft and seductive, the words were filled with anger.

"Looking for you," she told him.

"Was that John that ran by before you?"

Startled, Scully pulled out of Mulder's embrace and turned to face Monica. "Yes, it was. He'll probably double back when he realizes I'm not right behind him. They'll catch him."

"Not if we catch them first," Mulder said, he voice deadly.

Scully swung the extra shotgun off her back and handed it to him. She saw the anger he felt in his eyes as he moved closer to the door and the dim light of the hall, and she remembered the body she had found. "Susan?"

"The General decided to blame the attack on her. We got there too late." He didn't have to tell her that the General no longer existed.

"Come on, let's go." Monica had no interest in their discussion; she wanted to find John.

Scully nodded. "Let's go."


End of part 8/9

Part 9/9


Doggett knew it was no use, but he continued to struggle against his captors as they dragged him toward the wall of flame in front of him. They had caught him only seconds after he realized Scully wasn't behind him; though he had tried to convince himself not to worry, that she could take care of herself, he had turned to search for her nonetheless. The replicants had been waiting.

He had managed to fire his shotgun once, but the three guards left had ignored the destruction of their comrade and continued on toward Doggett. Now, they seemed intent on literally throwing him into the fire. He could feel the intense heat on his face and could swear he felt his nose hairs burning when the replicant on his right suddenly let go of him with a scream.

The other two guards turned on their attackers, a man and a woman, shotguns braced against their shoulders, eyes glowing as they faced the fire. Doggett barely heard the weapons as they both let loose with another round. The last two replicants fell at his feet. He rushed toward his rescuers, not at all surprised, and yet greatly relieved, to see Monica standing weaponless behind them.

"What took you guys so long?" he asked with a smirk.

Mulder raised his shotgun again. "Watch it, buddy."

Doggett raised his hands in mock surrender. "Just kidding."

"Are you okay?" Monica asked him.

"Sure," he responded. "A little warm, but hell, we are in the desert."

"Speaking of desert," Dana replied. "Let's do our best to get to it."

The four of them, with Mulder leading the way, headed away from the fire.

The hall seemed to cool a bit and Doggett was about to shout his relief, when the floor beneath them began to crumble. "Mulder, when you said you wanted to destroy this base, couldn't you have been a little more thorough?" He couldn't stop the sarcasm; it hid his fear.

Mulder didn't even stop to respond...until the very floor in front of him disappeared. About six feet of floor was gone. "Damn," he said softly.

Doggett saw Dana look at him, and the former agent looked back at her. Though their lips never moved and he never heard their voices, Doggett knew they were talking to each other.

Mulder gave a sharp nod and jumped, landing heavily on the other side of the gap in the floor. He turned to face them just as Dana took a leap of her own. "Come on!" he shouted at them, reaching out to catch Dana as she landed. "It's not gonna get any smaller!"

They were nuts! But Mulder was also right. He took a deep breath and looked over at Monica. She responded by grabbing his hand in her own, then nodding. "On three," he told her softly.

"One."

"Two," Monica said softly.

Three was never uttered as they took the impossible leap together. They hit the floor running, Mulder and Dana right in front of them. Mulder took a sharp right, and they followed him down three shallow steps. A long dark hall stood in front of them, but the pale light of the hangar bay sat at the end. Without letting go of Monica's hand, Doggett ran like he had never run before, the roar of the collapsing building echoing behind him.


William sat in the circle of Uncle Walter's arms, watching as the building in front of him burned and collapsed in on itself. There were still people inside, he could feel them dying, but there was nothing he could do for them. Their fate had been sealed when the Grays had brought them here. He sensed no replicants, and the few Grays he felt were far away, their fear and anger palpable.

The attack had been successful; the virus had been destroyed. But at what cost?

He looked over at Wesley, the oldest of their little army of babies. He stood staring at the inferno, tears running down his face. His mother was dead and they had all felt her go. Now, like all but Rebecca and himself, Wes was an orphan.

William looked back at the building. Where were his parents? He knew they were okay. Like Wes, he would have felt it if something had happened to them. Wouldn't he? Or would they, in an attempt to spare him any pain, somehow block him from the suffering they had felt? William looked up at the pale blue sky above him, devoid of any clouds. *You can't let them die,* he said, not caring if the other children heard his plea to God. *We need them. We all need them.*

"Look!" Marita's voice broke through his thoughts and he turned his head toward the west side of the burning base. Four weary figures were walking toward them, covered in soot and sand and sweat.

William pulled himself out of Walter's arms and ran toward them, his heart pounding wildly, his little legs carrying him over the hard packed sand as fast as he could go.

He didn't stop until he was in his parent's arms.


Here I am - this is me There's no where else on earth I'd rather be Here I am - it's just me and you And tonight we make our dream come true

It's a new world - it's a new start It's alive with the beating of young hearts It's a new day - it's a new plan I've been waiting for you Here I am

Here we are - we've just begun And after all this time our time had come Yeah here we are - still goin' strong Right here in the place where we belong

It's a new world - it's a new start It's alive with the beating of young hearts It's a new day - it's a new plan I've been waiting for you Here I am

Here I am - next to you And suddenly the world is all brand new Here I am - where I'm gonna stay Now there's nothin standing in our way Here I am - this is me

It's a new world - it's a new start It's alive with the beating of young hearts It's a new day - it's a new plan I've been waiting for you Here I am


Mulder Residence - Two Weeks Later

Scully said goodnight to Skinner, replaced the receiver of the phone, and took a deep breath. That was it. It was over.

For now.

A combined task force made up of military personnel, FBI, CIA and local agencies had finished their investigation of the destruction of El Creyente, a base most of them had not even known about. They had determined that the ultra-secret testing going on in the underground labs had gone awry, causing a dramatic chain reaction that had destroyed the entire base and had killed approximately twenty of its enlisted personnel. Many of the surviving soldiers had claimed that there were many more people, people who had not officially been assigned to the base, that were unaccounted for, but due to the intensity of the fire, no bodies were recovered. Nothing lived in the ashes of El Creyente.

There had been survivors, though. Scully knew this. Grays and a handful of replicants; the unofficial personnel. Their work may have been destroyed, but they wouldn't quit. They would build anew. Of that she was certain. With a little luck, it would be years before they had anything to fear. A little luck, and a lot of praying.

The military and government personnel that had known what El Creyente really was were keeping quiet. Some in fear, others in anger. There had been a handful of lightly publicized suicides in D.C. in the last few days; many were blaming bad dealings with the Stock Market.

It had taken the last two weeks, and several phone calls to people in high places that owed Skinner a debt or two, to find safe homes for the children, all in or about the D.C. area. These foster homes had not been easy to find, but thanks to some extra work on Mulder's part, all the children were placed with families who understood the 'gifts' they had been born with; Mulder and Scully's years with the X-Files had led them to several people who accepted psychic ability as fact.

Little Rebecca had settled with her mother in an apartment not far from here, and the newly orphaned Wesley was staying with them. All the children were still mentally connected to Mulder and each other, their close proximity a comfort. All would still meet more than once a week for training with Mulder. Though they may have just helped save the world they were still just babies and a long way from becoming independent.

Scully looked at the clock on her desk. It was a little after 10 PM. Mulder had taken the boys away for a bath and bed over an hour ago while Scully finished her calls, ensuring all the children were safe and settled. Knowing none of her 'commando' group would ever be connected to the destruction of El Creyente was icing on the cake. Mulder's second 'resurrection' was already making waves at the Bureau, but both John and Monica were handling the rumors with a small smile and a shrug. The busiest rumor was that Mulder had had a contract put out on him by a large gang of South American drug runners and he had faked his own death to protect his family; the DEA had caught the gang when they arrived in the U.S. last month, so Mulder was able to come back home.

Scully kind of liked that one.

The sound of running water coming from the bathroom snagged Scully's attention. She stood, flicking lights off as she moved across the room, eyeballing the door to make sure it was locked, then moved toward her - scratch that - their bedroom. The lights were off, but the light in the bathroom was on. Barefoot, Scully moved across the room to the bathroom door and looked inside.

Mulder stood at the sink, his bare back to her, wearing nothing but a worn pair of jeans that he had not been able to wear since he 'died' all those months ago. She smiled softly when she recognized her cross, reflected in the mirror, still hanging from his neck. She wondered if she would ever get it back.

"The boys asleep?" she asked him, leaning on the frame of the door. She frowned when she realized she could see his ribs far too easily, but relaxed when his bright hazel eyes met hers in the mirror, the darkness that had haunted them during his reign at El Creyente gone.

"Yeah," he told her softly. "Wes seems to fall asleep easier since we got that night light in there." Will had never needed a night light, but Wesley had been prone to nightmares since his arrival over a week ago, and Scully had suggested the tiny blue light, it's glow casting a comforting warmth on the boys. Scully had had one just like it when she was a child. She found it hard to believe she had ever been afraid of the dark.

She stood watching her husband as he opened the drug cabinet behind the mirror, then straightened as she realized what he was getting out. "What are you doing?"

"Getting rid of this thing," he mumbled, his hand running over the hair on his chin. With the activity and excitement of the past several days, he had not bothered to shave at all, and the growth that had appeared on his cheeks was almost as heavy as the goatee he had worn for the last year. "I've got an appointment for a haircut tomorrow, too," he told her. "I don't think I'm all that fond of this style." He ran his fingers through the thick waves that were almost long enough to pull back into a ponytail.

Scully smiled slightly. The rogue that had been living inside Mulder's body was ready to leave, and she couldn't say that she was sorry to see him go. Though he looked damn good with the earring, the longish hair and the goatee, it wasn't Mulder.

However...

"Do you have to shave it off tonight?" she asked as he prepared to squirt shaving cream into his palm. "I mean, can't you do it in the morning?"

His eyes grew suspicious as they met hers once more in the mirror. "Why?" he asked, drawing out the word.

Scully shrugged and moved toward him. "I don't know. I guess I'm still a bit curious." She reached him and placed her hands on his shoulders, slowly sliding them down his bare back. "It's not that I don't want Mulder back," she told him. "It's just that I've always had a fantasy of being ravished by a pirate."

Peeking around his shoulder, she saw him quirk an eyebrow at her. "Ravished?"

She nodded.

Setting the can of shaving cream down, Mulder looked toward the closed door that lead to the hallway, and to the bedroom beyond where Will and Wes were sleeping.

"We can lock the doors," Scully told him, knowing what he was thinking just by the look in his eye. "We'll know if they need us." Her mental connection to her son worked far better than any baby monitor.

"Yeah, but can you block Wes as well as you block Will?"

Silly question, she thought. "Better."

He spun around suddenly and swept her up into his arms. Scully let out a sharp shriek in surprise, then laughed as he stumbled on his way out of the bathroom. "Damn," he said as he made his way toward the bed. "You're a lot lighter when we're dreaming."

She smacked him lightly on the shoulder just before he dropped her on the bed with a groan, falling across her legs as if exhausted.

Grinning, she used both hands to push him off of her and drew her legs up under her. "Come on, Blackbeard," she whispered, pulling her t-shirt up over her head and throwing it across the room. "You're tougher than that."

With a matching grin, Mulder pulled himself onto the bed and lay on his side watching her, propping himself up with his elbow. "Why don't you just keep doing what you're doing while I rest up?" he told her. "By the time you're naked, I should be ready to ravish."

"Oh, I think it'll be sooner than that," she purred, reaching behind her to undo her bra. She smiled in triumph as his eyes were drawn to her bared breasts, his pupils dilating despite the light coming in from the bathroom. Scully continued with her strip tease, undoing her jeans and shimmying out of them and her panties without leaving the bed. Kneeling, she reached up and pulled out the hair band which had been holding her hair up in a ponytail. She shook her head and felt the silky strands brush her shoulders and upper back. Placing her hands on her thighs, she sat still. "Well?"

Even with the tight jeans, Mulder's erection was obvious, but he didn't move. He just stared at her intently, his eyes roving up and down her body, pausing every once in a while, then moving on. "Mulder?" Scully whispered.

His eyes met hers, and Scully was shocked to see that his were wet.

"Mulder?" she asked again, her voice sharper. Worried.

"Do you realize that this is the first time we'll make love as husband and wife?"

His voice was steady, but Scully heard the emotion behind the words. "My God," she whispered. "You're right." Their dream interlude had been just that... a dream. This was real. Biting her lip, Scully managed to keep her own eyes from flooding at this simple realization. Taking a deep breath, she rose from her kneeling position and moved to lay on her back, stretching her legs out toward him, her toes touching his taut belly. "So let's do it, partner."

He lay still for a moment longer, his eyes fused with hers, his breathing quickening. Almost casually, he undid the snaps of his jeans and slithered out of them. Then he pulled his lithe body up on his hands and knees and crawled over to her. She stretched her arms up toward the headboard, expecting him to crawl up her body and kiss her, but he never made it that far. Instead, he placed his hands between her legs and gently pressed her thighs apart. She spread her legs willingly, her whole body suddenly tight with anticipation as he sank down to his elbows, wrapped his arms under her thighs and pulled her legs up onto his shoulders. He stopped with his mouth directly over her center and she shuddered as she felt his hot breath on her aroused flesh. His eyes had never once left hers. "Still curious?"

Swallowing excitedly, Scully nodded.

With a wicked smile, Mulder began to gently rub his face against the tender skin of her inner thighs. Scully was familiar with the feel of one or two days growth of beard, had, in fact, 'suffered' from beard burn more than once since she and Mulder had become lovers, but this was different. It wasn't rough and prickly. It was soft and - "Oh!" - ticklish. Mulder began to blow warm air onto her clit, which she knew must be exposed to his sight as aroused as she was, and he continued to gently and insistently brush his beard against her thighs. She started giggling, the combined tortures leaving her no other option. "Mulder!"

"What?" he asked, his voice casual.

"Stop!"

"Really?"

"No!"

She felt him laugh, and the breath he exhaled against her caused her to moan. "Oh, God, Mulder!"

"I may have some power, Scully," Mulder said with a smile in his voice. "But I'm far from being God." Scully was saved from replying as she felt his tongue, hot, wet and demanding, sweep upwards from her anus to her clit.

She came. Hard.

When she was able to breathe again, she loosened her death-grip on the headboard and lifted her head to look at him. He lay quietly between her legs, watching her, his dark eyes filled with awe. "Though you make me feel like one," he said softly.

Still trembling in reaction, Scully let go of the headboard and reached down for him. He eased out from underneath her thighs and rose onto his knees. He grasped her hands in his own, then pulled her toward him, at the same time shuffling forward on his knees. When her shoulders were off the bed and his knees were pressed against her inner thighs, he let go of one of her hands and leaned forward to wrap that arm around her waist, pulling her toward him. Before she really knew what he was doing, she found herself straddling his thighs, her belly and chest pressed against his. He spread his legs slightly, balancing them both better, then he grasped her under her arms and lifted. She grabbed his shoulders and helped lift herself up, understanding now what he was doing. Slowly, he lowered her back down, easing himself into her, impaling her.

She gasped as she felt him slide inside. She was ready for him - oh, was she ready for him - but it had been months since she had felt anything other than her own fingers inside her warm depths. It was a tight fit, and a tad uncomfortable.

"Scully?" Mulder whispered harshly, holding both of them still.

"It's okay," she told him, taking a deep breath. "Keep going."

He continued to slowly lower her, his arms starting to shake with the effort, until he was completely sheathed. She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his neck, absorbing the feeling of completeness that had always accompanied sex with this man. The discomfort subsided, leaving behind only a pleasant fullness, and she began to rock her hips against him.

He banded his arms around her when he felt her move, knowing she was no longer in any pain, and began to rock his own body to her rhythm. "Scully?"

She pulled back slightly to look at his face. "Hmmmm?"

He kissed her, softly at first, then with more force. His tongue began a thrusting that his body began to imitate, and soon they were moaning into each others mouths. He pulled away. "Scully?"

"Yeah?" she responded, her breathing coming in gulps, her sweaty arms slipping slightly on his shoulders.

*I love you.*

She smiled, 'hearing' his words in her head and in her heart. *I love you,* she responded, and she felt the answering leap from his own heart. Closing her eyes, she reached for his mouth once again, intent on the feelings suddenly swamping her. The feel of his cock, smooth and hard, gliding in and out of her. The feel of her breasts pressed up against his chest, the wiry hair rubbing erotically against her nipples as they rocked together. The hot, wet warmth of her vagina as it surrounded-- "Oh, God," she whispered huskily.

"There you go again," Mulder murmured, a smile in his voice.

"Mulder," she said against his mouth. "Do you...?"

"Feel what you feel?" Mulder finished. "Yeah."

Unlike the first time this had happened, neither were startled by the shared feelings. This didn't reduce the powerful effect it had on either of them, however. "Mulder! Oh, dear God!" Scully couldn't believe the pleasure soaring through her. The intensity of making love to Mulder was doubled by her sharing in his pleasure. She began to thrust harder, absorbed in the incredible feelings he created in her and the astounding pleasure she created in him. When her climax erupted, his scream echoed hers, and her tremors were far from over when his own explosion caused another climax, this one only a little less powerful than her first, to consume them both.

When she came to her senses, Mulder was lying on his back with her sprawled on his chest. Scully recalled having ending up in this same position the night they had discovered this unusual connection. She started giggling.

"If it's gonna be like this all the time," Mulder said in a rough voice beneath her. "We're gonna kill each other."

"Oh, I don't know," Scully said. "I think I could get used to it."

Mulder snorted. "Women were made to have multiple orgasms. Men weren't. We can't take it. It's why men don't have babies. Too much damn oxytocin."

Scully started laughing outright now, lifting her head to look at him. He was staring at the ceiling, the corner of his mouth curled up in a smile he was trying to hide.

"Mulder?"

He lifted his head to look at her, his eyebrows raised in question.

"Welcome home."

THE END


Author's Note: Well, if you made it this far, then you can keep going. This isn't the longest fic I've ever written, but it was by far the hardest. Time has been my enemy, and because of that, this may be the last fanfic I ever write. I'm not going to put that in stone, because I sure as heck have plenty more stories in my head. It is simply going to be hard to find the time to put those ideas down where everyone can see them. If I have a few hours to myself, or a day off here or there, maybe I'll get one written again. Just don't hold your breath waiting for one.

Since this may by my last, I thought I better thank a few people:

First of all, God bless Tex! My official beta, she was the first to get every new chapter of this story, and despite the 'stresses' of her first year of college, managed to find the time to read them and send back her edits, opinions, and encouragement. Thanks, babe!

Special thanks to Shads, who became a back-up beta, and all the other readers at Chatterbox and the XF Forum, as well as KissMe and Yoda: Your support means more to me than you will ever know.

Thank you Mortis, for continuing to make the Fanfic Corner such a wonderful place to visit... and for showing off my stories with her wonderful collages! Go see them at: http://www.geocities.com/fanficcorner/

This story is dedicated to the authors of fanfiction who have supported my work AND whose work I love to read: Abracadabra, Storm, Spooky's Girl, Mortis, Lovesfox, Foxie Meg, Donnilee, Laura Means, SASpooky, and many, many others. Those of you that are still writing, have no fear that I will ever quit reading. Viva la fanfic!

And one last bit of thanks to the Lushes. Though our connection has decreased since the end of the series, I still consider you all friends and think of you each and every day. I met you all through fanfic, which means that this unique and special form of 'entertainment' is so much more than just a way to pass the time. Al, Nik, Lady, Meg, Pravda, Yoda, Ashley, XP, KMM, O&M, and SAS (the originals), as well as Storm, Ship, Tex, and A2X: I lurve you guys!

Time to shut up before I start crying. Now give me that feedback, and I might consider trying to write another one!

Virtues and Vices December 4, 2002

How do you define normal?

 

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