Title: Kiss the Darkness
Author: Suzanna
Written: 1999
Rating: R (mild R)
Classification: X, R, A
Keywords: MSR
Spoilers: Everything up to and including Two Fathers/One Son

Summary: Mulder and Scully are tipped, but what is the purpose? Major speculation on the myth arc, with lots of ensemble cast appearances.

Part of this series:

Notes: This is for K and F.

Part One

I kiss the darkness living inside me It feels like a knife between my lips I'm alive --old Finnish poem

The gray-haired man blew out a thin white trail of smoke, tapping the cigarette on the ashtray with the precision of a long-time smoker. He leaned back in the leather chair, taking another deep drag, savoring the taste of smoke in his mouth. "Now then," he said to the black suited man standing before him, "what do you have to report?"

"Nothing new, sir. The agents haven't done anything outside normal job activities for the past three days."

The smoking man considered this. Things were definitely not proceeding as quickly as he had hoped. It was true that Mulder and Scully were finally back on the X-Files, after months of scut-work and boredom. They knew more than ever before. But they weren't getting any closer to the goal.

"The time is near," the suited man said. "Perhaps they need some encouragement."

"Perhaps," he answered thoughtfully. "Perhaps..."

It was 11pm Friday night. Mulder was lounging on his couch and flipping through channels, as usual. The call, when it came, was not really a surprise. After all, things had been slow for weeks, ever since that last tip from the informant proved utterly useless. The voice on the end of the line was familiar. He was given terse directions to a bar, with instructions to meet there in two hours with Scully.

As soon as the caller clicked off, Mulder was stumbling around the dark apartment, trying to pull on a pair of jeans while simultaneously dialing Scully's number. Just as she picked up, he slammed his knee into the chest of drawers and his greeting came out as a strangled "Schhuuuulee..." He still wasn't used to having a bedroom, much less having to navigate it in the dark.

"Mulder? What's wrong?" Her voice was husky with sleep, but very much alarmed.

"I just got a call. I'm picking you up as soon as I can get to your place. I'll explain on the way." He hung up immediately, not trusting the lines enough to explain over the phone.

Scully felt Mulder's hand in it's familiar place, guiding her through the door and into the dimly lit bar. The cool night-time air swirled for a moment on the threshold, grudgingly giving up it's freshness to the interior of the smoky establishment. Her eyes methodically swept the area. Nothing looked out of place. Just locals, sitting in booths and barstools, shooting darts and drinking beers with typical Friday- night fervor.

There was an empty booth in the corner. The pressure on her lower back increased slightly, and they maneuvered through the people towards the corner, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.

When they got to the booth, Scully was surprised to find that it wasn't entirely empty. A familiar gray-haired man sat calmly smoking a cigarette. He glanced at them briefly before lowering his eyes to the ashtray at his elbow. Flicking a bit of ash into the tray, he motioned for them to sit.

Scully slid into the booth first, and Mulder wiggled in beside her. She felt his warm and somewhat reassuring presence squishing against her elbow and hip in the tight quarters of the booth. But not even Mulder could quell the invisible darkness she felt. Its presence curled around them so that she could taste it.

There was silence for a few moments, as both agents focused their full attention on the man before them. He sat in false serenity, like some ancient, empty idol. Scully wondered what would happen if she poked her finger into his chest. Would he be filled only with emptiness, and maybe a little bit of smoke?

"What do you want?" Mulder asked quietly.

"It's not a matter of what I want," the smoking man replied, "but rather what you want." He reached into his coat and pulled out a packet, which he pushed across the table. The brown parcel came to rest between Mulder and Scully, but neither moved to retrieve it.

"What is it?" Mulder asked.

The smoking man's eyes flicked to Scully and then back to Mulder. Scully felt her stomach dance and curled her toes to fight the sensation. She despised the control that this vacant man exercised over her life. Over everyone's life. The time is near...

"Just tell us what you want in exchange for the information," she said evenly. She felt rather than saw, Mulder gazing at her in surprise. Her intuition was telling her what was in the packet, and she dreaded it.

"We can negotiate later," he said, blowing smoke deliberately in Scully's direction. Without another word, he crushed out the cigarette, left the booth, and walked away.

Scully felt Mulder jerk in response. She put her hand over his and he settled back, impatience curling around him like invisible fingers. She just shook her head and said, "Wait."

After a minute, she released his hand. She grabbed the brown packet and stuck it inside her jacket. "OK, let's go."

They scrambled out of the tiny booth, and headed for the door. Mulder didn't say a word as she waited for him to unlock her car door. For a moment, he just stood quietly beside the door, not moving to unlock it. He was looking down at her in puzzlement, features soft and boyish in the badly lit parking lot. She could feel his warmth, seeping through his open jacket. She blanked her expression, carefully containing the emotions she felt inside. Mulder picked up her cue, and in a moment had her door unlocked. As he unlocked his own door, Scully mentally prepared herself for a rough ride home.

"They're just playing with us, Scully!" Mulder burst out.

"Just drive," she replied calmly, rifling through the odd assortment of materials in the package: labeled RFLP films, DNA fingerprints, manufacturing company records, a recent scientific journal article, and a single map marked with a red dot. There were also two security passes and a some sort of gate pass marked with a six.

Mulder ached to stop the car and look through the material. Scully wouldn't let him, though she described it in meticulous detail. He tapped his thumbs on the steering-wheel and pressed the accelerator closer to the floor. How could she be so calm? This was all about her. The chip in her neck, the stolen ova, the medical rape. He didn't know why the smoking-man was helping them now, but he had a distinct feeling that this was genuine information, and not a false lead. What was really going on?

He felt guilty, impatient, angry, and used. And she just sat there serenely, going through the evidence like they were out on some average case that had no bearing on their lives. He chanced another glance in her direction. No, she wasn't as calm as he first thought. There were dark circles under her eyes, and tiny tension lines around her mouth.

She caught him peeking and raised an eyebrow just a little. "Mulder, we can't do anything about this tonight. Let's just get some sleep and talk about it in the morning, OK?"

He took a deep breath and released it slowly. Good Scully, good common- sense Scully. She was always right. "OK," he said, pretending to focus on the road.

Scully was surprised when Mulder headed for his apartment instead of hers, but she decided she was too tired to ask questions. Mulder gave her some excuse about being too tired to drive anymore. Since it was already 3am and a long drive to her apartment, she accepted it, noting the black circles around his eyes that were visible even under flickering street lights.

Back at the apartment, Mulder tossed off his jacket and walked into the still new-looking bedroom. His voice floated back to her. "Lemme get some clothes out of here, so you can take the bed." He returned a moment later, carrying sweats and a t-shirt in his hands. "All yours," he said without looking at her, and headed straight to the bathroom.

Scully tentatively entered the mysterious bedroom. She remembered with some amusement the panic in his voice when he had called her and told her to come to the apartment immediately. He wanted her to try out her key, to see if it was really his apartment. It was. And though they never figured out what happened, Mulder kept the bedroom. Only now there was no mirror, no canopy. The hideous bedspread had been replaced with something much simpler, and mostly blue.

She pushed down on the top of the bed. So, he had replaced the waterbed. Not surprising, since the man experienced motion sickness just thinking about microfilm machines. She wondered why he had even bothered to buy another bed. She could tell he never used it.

Scully surprised herself by picking out a large t-shirt and grabbing a pair of boxers out of his drawers. Jeans do not make comfortable pajamas, she reminded herself as she wiggled out of her bra and denim and into his clothes. She liked the way his t-shirt surrounded her, and smelled like him. Slipping under the cool sheets, she pressed them around her neck with balled fists and tried not to think about the evidence she had examined earlier. It was too much to process right now. She was too tired to think about it.

A few minutes later she heard a knock. "Scully, you decent?" Mulder asked, his voiced muffled by the door.

"Yes," she replied, sitting up.

"I thought you might like a toothbrush," he said, holding out an unopened package for her. He swallowed heavily. She belatedly remembered that she wasn't wearing a bra, and the room was cool.

"Thanks," she said. Taking the toothbrush, she padded to the door in bare feet.

"You'll have to borrow my toothpaste," Mulder said in a somewhat strangled voice, behind her.

She knew that tone of voice. She wouldn't turn around; it would be too dangerous. And she was exhausted. Instead, she walked straight for the bathroom and brushed her teeth. And anyway, it took all her concentration just to squeeze the toothpaste from the end, since Mulder had the very annoying habit of always pushing the tube from the middle.

Scully. Walking around his apartment with nothing on but a billowing t- shirt and boxers. Mulder gulped for air as she closed the bathroom door. All thoughts of conspiracies were temporarily banished. He was so stupid not to think of this. After all, he couldn't expect her to turn off her beauty like a light switch. He would just lie down on the couch and pull a blanket over himself and act like everything was fine. Just like it was always fine.

By the time she emerged from the bathroom, he was curled up on the couch under a blanket with his eyes closed. He heard a soft padding that stopped somewhere in front of him, and opened his eyes.

Worse and worse. It was dark in the apartment, but not dark enough. The first thing he saw was a pair of very fine white legs in front of his face. He hoped that it was too dark for Scully to see the way his cheeks were turning red. He was getting turned on by his partner on the eve of what could be one of the most important days of their lives. Now was not the time.

She hunkered down by the couch. "You okay, Mulder?" she asked softly.

Oh yeah, Scully. I'm just fine. Just go away so I don't have to want you any more. "Yeah," he managed.

Her brow was furrowed in worry. "I know you're upset about all this, and that we're not sure if we're just being set up again." She paused. "But we'll deal with this in the morning, okay?"

He didn't think now was the time to tell Scully that he wasn't thinking about that at all. Her fingers lightly brushed some stray hair away from his forehead. "Are you sure you're okay?" she persisted.

He reached up from under the covers and caught her hand. Her breath came out in a sudden exhalation, but her hand was cool against the heat raging through him. "I'm fine, really, Scully. Just go to bed." He released her hand.

"Goodnight Mulder. Thanks for letting me stay here." The warmth in her voice was genuine.

"Goodnight, Scully." He almost added I love you, but stopped himself. When would it be time for those words?

She paced back to his bedroom, white and angel-like in the darkness, bare feet making soft noises on the hardwood floor. He scrunched his legs up and tried not to think. He tried not to think about anything.

Scully woke to the smell of coffee. She sat up suddenly, feeling disoriented. Then she remembered the previous night. She was in Mulder's apartment. Tumbling out of the tall bed, she stripped off the boxers. Her jeans smelled like stale bar-smoke but she pulled them on anyway. She left the t-shirt on.

She opened the bedroom door sniffed appreciatively. When she got to the kitchen, she almost fell over in surprise. Mulder was frying eggs and bacon in a pan, and coffee was perking at his left elbow.

"Good morning, sunshine," he said cheerfully.

The man was far too perky first thing in the morning for his own good. Instead of answering, she blew out air over her lips in a half-laugh, and headed for the bathroom.

Sleepily, she brushed her teeth and splashed water on her face. Time for the real work, she thought ruefully.

Emerging from the bathroom, she picked up a coffee cup and sipped the scalding liquid. She turned to see Mulder observing her, his mouth turned up at one corner in a half-smile. "What?" she asked warily.

"Good eggs," he answered, deftly shoving a large fork-full into his mouth.

Practically drooling with hunger, she picked up what she assumed was her plate, and followed his example. Eggs, bacon, and toast with strawberry jelly. Definitely more heavy than her usual bagel with coffee, but she was starving. She plunked down on the couch opposite Mulder and dug into the food.

She grabbed the journal article she had been too tired to read the previous night, and worked steadily though her breakfast, one item at a time. After a few minutes of eating, she was surprised to find Mulder balancing a book on his knees, simultaneously shoveling breakfast into his mouth at an alarming rate.

"That good?" she questioned, waving her utensils in the direction of the book. What was he doing, reading a book, when he had been so keen on seeing the packet of information last night?

"Mmmm-hmmm," he agreed, glancing up at her as he swallowed the remnants of the last piece of toast. "I thought I knew something about grail mysticism, but this is really eye-opening."

Grail myth? Hello, where did that come from? "What is so eye-opening?" she asked, crunching down on the bacon. Mulder really knew how to cook.

"Heroes in the grail myths never finish their quest." Mulder looked at her meaningfully, but she didn't grasp the thing he left unspoken. She raised one eyebrow in question.

"I never thought about it before," Mulder continued, "but it's true. Something always stands in the way of fulfilling the quest. The hero isn't pure, or he asks the wrong question. Even though the story ends, it isn't finished."

Scully's brain whirred into early-morning action, and suddenly the words clicked. Her mouth opened in a silent O of revelation. She remembered what Mulder had said in a hospital many months ago, after the incident on the bridge. "You think we've been asking the wrong question all along, don't you?"

He nodded slightly. She gazed at him thoughtfully for a moment, then returned to her scrambled eggs.

"The questions we've been asking are essentially two," he said. "Who took Samantha, and who took you."

His breath hitched a little. She could make a good guess at what he was going to say, but prodded him verbally, anyway. "And what is the correct question?"

"Who put that chip in your neck?" he said softly, eyes down and on the couch.

The question bounced off the walls of the room and came to uneasily rest somewhere between them. Scully remembered those exact words, spoken in the hospital. He had been so earnest, his face beautiful and serious in the light of a half-covered window. He had been true to his word, trying desperately to find out more information. He had tried for months. But every lead ended where it began, in nothingness. Eventually he had given up, leaving the mystery alone as they struggled with an already heavy load of scut work. But then they got back the X- Files. And apparently recent events, including last night, had brought it to the front of his mind.

"But we have been asking that question, and it led to no substantial evidence," she reminded him.

He made a frustrated noise. The book tumbled from his knee as he stood up, but he didn't notice. Walking to the sink, he plunked down his plate and gave it a perfunctory rinse.

"We have evidence, now," he said from the kitchen.

Scully glanced at the packet that was spread on the coffee table. How long had he been awake, looking through the material and thinking?

She finished the last bite of eggs and took her own plate into the kitchen. "It might not be real evidence," she said to Mulder's back. "We've seen this happen before."

He turned around and she suddenly found herself confronted by Mulder wearing a very grouchy expression. "Not this time. This time we have the real deal."

"But why now?" she asked, side-stepping so that she could drop her plate in the sink. The silverware jingled with a louder than necessary clank.

"What do you want me to say, Scully?" He always seemed so much taller when he was theorizing. She had to crane her neck to look up at him. He seemed to notice, and slouched suddenly, leaning back on the counter- top and resting his hands on the front of the sink.

"I just want you to think about all the possibilities," she said flatly. Their hopes had been shattered before, broken in a cruel game in which they had no control. Emily, stolen ova, re-implanted microchips...it all made no sense. She hated this horrible game, where the stakes were the lives of the innocent, and the reputations of those who would search for the truth. An almost palatable darkness filled the space between them; she could taste it like a knife between her lips, or at the base of her neck.

His eyes glinted strangely, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. "We need to go to the place on the map," he stated.

They locked gazes for many moments, but at last Mulder looked away. The darkness receded a little bit, but it was always present, always inside both of them. "OK," said Scully. "When do we leave?"

"Not right away. I want to talk to the Gunmen, first."

Byers skimmed through the journal article and looked up at Scully. It was a recent publication on E-boxes and gene regulation. Langly grabbed the papers from him before he could object, and Frohike was already flipping through the manufacturing records. "I read the article earlier this week. I'm just surprised it was published in 'Science.'" He wrinkled his nose in unconscious disgust. "Too much of that journal is fluff-science, but from what I can tell, this article seems reliable and valid."

"I'm guessing the research isn't top secret," Mulder said, frowning a little.

Frohike spoke. "No, we've known about E-boxes for years. And from what I can see, the funding is legitimate." He flipped pages and pointed to the end of the article, reading out loud, "This study was supported by the University of Missouri-Columbia Research Foundation, Grant 10- 24834." He plunked the papers back onto the table. "It looks like this is just the usual University research, done by professors trying to raise funds and publish results so they can get tenured."

"Then why give us this information, if it's so well known?" Scully asked.

Mulder was thinking the same thing. Maybe it wasn't a matter of new information, but a specific kind of information. It was supposed to be leading them somewhere, but where?

Mulder asked another question. "Scully, explain to me one more time what the article says. I know you science types understand the jargon, but I need to hear it again."

Scully rolled her eyes at the jargon comment, but plunged into the lecture patiently. "Just remember, I'm a doctor, not a geneticist. Basically, the E-box is a specific sequence of DNA that certain factors can bind. When the factors bind, then transcription is turned on. DNA is transcribed into RNA, then RNA is translated into proteins that transmit cellular signals. This is how the body regulates growth processes during development, and also during any type of post-natal growth. This article is simply talking about how manipulation of a specific gene can change E-box regulation during prenatal development."

Scully and the Gunmen were looking at him as if this were all completely obvious, just by looking at the graphs and figures on the page. Despite his brilliant intellect, he simply didn't have enough basic grounding in molecular biology to quite understand how they could get that conclusion from all the technical garbage. But he suddenly had an idea.

"Couldn't manipulation of this E-box have something to do with how the alien organism develops?

"Mulder..." Scully's voice was low, warning. He ignored it.

"What if the virus could somehow cause a mutation in the E-box so that instead of normal growth occurring, the host body makes an alien? And maybe the hybrids are some mutation of this same gene, a mutation that is alien in origin and can resist viral infection."

Scully interrupted. "Mulder, this research is very recent. You can't possibly think the technology exists to successfully manipulate a gene about which there is very little basic knowledge."

"Scully, we've seen this before," he said forcefully. "Research that appeared to be new had been used by the government for years!"

"You saw it," Scully said pointedly.

"They saw it, too." Mulder motioned towards the Gunmen. "When you were returned, they found that your DNA had been tagged. That was technology 20 years into the future, but you had it in your blood!"

Mulder noticed the gunman had stepped away from Scully, leaving a safe distance between her and themselves.

When Scully spoke, her voice was low and controlled. "We never did find out exactly what was wrong with my DNA. It *could* have been a tag, but then again, it could have been random damage due to some kind of radiation exposure. That would at least explain the cancer."

"But it wouldn't explain it's remission," Mulder shot back. Byers' eyes were wide, and Frohike was backing towards the kitchen. He should have taken their hint, but he didn't.

Scully stepped up close to him, her fists balled tightly. "Everything you have seen," she enunciated every word crisply, "regarding my cancer can be explained. Just because the technology exists, doesn't mean that it is alien in origin."

Mulder was surprised the front of his shirt wasn't singed from the heat of her wrath. He recalled words spoken to her earlier, words that he regretted but never took back . *What does it take, for this thing to come up and bite you on the ass?* He fought to keep his rising irritation in check, and held out his hands as if in supplication. There was no way he was going to win this argument.

"Look, Scully. All I'm saying now is that we should check out the facility marked on the map. Maybe we'll find the proof we need."

Scully dropped her hands back to her sides, and Mulder suddenly noticed she looked pale and tired. Irrelevantly, his mind wondered what would happen if they did really find proof.

Mulder glanced at the Gunmen. They were huddled close to the door, ready to make a hasty exit. "I know you guys can help us with this," he said, his words like rocks thrown into fragile ice, shattering the tension in the room.

Byers smiled tentatively, and Frohike scuttled to the nearest computer. Mulder rubbed his hands together in almost gleeful anticipation.

Scully kneaded her neck, feeling as if every muscle in her upper body was tense and knotted. Her fingers lightly brushed over the tiny scar at the base of her neck. She shuddered.

Noon Sunday, somewhere near St. Louis, Missouri...

Scully was nervous. This was the most nervous she had felt since that day she went to the Fort Marlene High Containment Facility, looking for evidence she could trade for Mulder's life. Only this time, they were going straight to the place where her chip was manufactured. She didn't understand why it was manufactured in a high containment facility, or why they had been given genetic evidence, but she hoped things would be explained. They pulled up to the security gate, where a guard with a large sidearm stepped out.

"ID and section you're visiting," the guard said.

Mulder and Scully handed over their security passes and flashed their badges. "Section six," Mulder said.

Scully cringed inwardly. They'd run into trouble at so many government facilities over the year that she was sure their faces and names were plastered on every security booth, like the FBI's most wanted pictures at the post-office. But everything proceeded smoothly, and the guard directed them to go left, right, and then left, to Section Six.

Somehow, Scully managed to get out of the car and walk beside Mulder to the glass front doors of the building. Thanks to some Gunmen magic, they gave the correct project name and password to the guard on the inside, and walked through another set of sliding glass doors into a seemingly endless white hallway. Even a cursory glance at the ceiling told her there were security cameras everywhere. The air felt thin and sticky, like cobwebs, and she imagined she could feel the chip in her neck sending electric pulses up and down her spine.

"Room 212," Mulder whispered in her ear. Scully took courage from his voice, and the brush of his hand over her elbow.

After more twists and turns, they came to room 212. Scully clutched the pass card in her hand. She ran it through the card reader and it a little light at the top of the reader blinked green. She pushed the door open.

They walked into a room that was obviously meant for record keeping. Drawers that were built into the wall were stacked from the floor to the ceiling...hundreds of drawers making the room seem small. Mulder walked immediately to one side. Scully followed him. The drawer he pulled out was labeled "S." He flipped through several folders, and handed them to her. Attached to the folder was a little pocket of paper containing a flat glass box the size of her thumb nail. It contained a tiny microchip which resembled hers. She looked at the first page of the folder's contents and felt an instant adrenaline rush, the kind that makes the fingers and toes tingle. "Donor: Scully, Dana Katherine." It was a record of live birth. After that, a tissue sample packet, like she had seen at the Strughold mining company vaults. After that, an RFLP film with it's familiar black bands, and another form filled with abbreviations and dates that were completely unfamiliar. From what she could tell, these papers were all simply a record of an experiment. Did it even have anything to do with the chip?

But now she understood why her own RFLP's had been included with the information. Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism. It was the decisive paternity test. Essentially, a geneticist picked out a decisive region of DNA to use as a standard of comparison. As long as the same sequence was examined in other samples, it was an extremely accurate test of relationships. This particular RFLP was looking at unique regions of the X-chromosome. She pulled her own RFLP out of her briefcase with shaking hands, and superimposed it over the child's RFLP film. Some of the dark bands were missing from the child's film. That was where DNA differed. She pulled out the DNA fingerprints and compared them as well. There were many missing pieces, and though she was no genetic expert, she guessed this was hard evidence that this child was spawned from her ova.

She turned to the next file. Same thing, but different number on the tab of the folder. Her children. These were the children she was not allowed to have. She fought to stay focused. This would probably be the last time they would have access to this information. She needed to stay calm so that she could recall with perfect memory each piece of evidence.

Scully examined file after file with mechanical precision. It was the same way every time. RFLP, DNA fingerprints, medical records. A complex experiment was being run, and from what she could tell, was being run successfully. After about half an hour, they determined that most of the women from the MUFON group in Allentown, Pennsylvania had records of nameless children in the vault. Scully stuffed several of the files into her briefcase. There were no cameras in this room that she could see, and no tracking device on the folders that would alert anyone to their disappearance. Mulder finally broke off the search and moved to the door at the end of the room.

The area they entered was lit with an eerie greenish light. Carefully monitored tanks, each containing a single body, filled the entire room. Mulder had an instant flashback to another room, filled with Kurt Crawford clones. Only this time they weren't clones of boys. These were all girls.

He looked down at Scully. She seemed rooted in place, staring through the glass of the tank closest to the door. He had told her about the room full of Kurt Crawford clones. He had no doubt that she knew this was the exact same set-up.

Mulder fairly staggered from tank to tank. All were girls at various stages of pre-natal development, but none over nine months post- conception. Which ones belonged to Scully? The feeling of perversion throbbed in the room like the heartbeat of some invisible, evil creature.

He looked into every tank. Then checked the surrounding walls. There was nothing more to be seen. No other doors led from this room, and they didn't have a keycard for any room but 212. Somehow, he didn't quite remember how, they made it back out into the hallway, past the guard, and out the doors to their rental car. Scully hadn't said a word since they'd discovered the babies.

His hands trembled as he opened her door, and then his. But they drove out of the facility without anyone stopping them. It seemed almost too easy. He wasn't going to feel more relaxed until he put some distance between themselves and the facility. They had already decided to drive all the way back; plane tickets would be too easy to track. And at that moment, he didn't think he could handle anything beyond quiet driving.

They drove in silence for many hours. Scully's stomach still rolled around uncomfortably, but she had somehow managed to swallow down the nausea and concentrate. She was thinking harder than she had ever thought before, thinking about the Trojan horse theory and everything she had seen relating to the virus and the hybrids and Emily. She pulled out the files and was able to read without feeling sick, puzzling over the abbreviations and records.

Before she knew it, the sun was lowering in the horizon. Had they spent that long at the facility? Or had they just been driving forever without a single stop? Maybe it was both. She glanced at her watch. At this rate they might make it back to DC well before midnight, if they didn't stop somewhere overnight.

She turned to Mulder. He was driving with his shoulders hunched up, clutching the steering wheel and staring off into the distance as if he didn't even see the road. "Hey," she said.

He grunted.

She cleared her throat. "Maybe we should get a hotel tonight, instead of driving all the way back to DC. We could just lay low for a day or so, before we go back..."

His eyes flitted to her, and then back to the road. "Sounds like a plan, partner."

The sun was beginning to set, fantastically orange against a pink and golden sky. Scully pointed to a not-too-smarmy looking billboard that whizzed by at about 70 miles per hour. "That Budget Inn doesn't look so bad, why don't we stop there?"

Seven hotels later, Scully was tired. Very tired. Apparently the tri- state softball championships were this weekend, and every hotel for the last 90 miles had been booked solid. So much for being inconspicuous. They had hassled at least seven managers in the last two hours and if someone was really after them, there would be no problem following the trail. But Scully was beyond caring. This Motel Six was her last hope. The lobby smelled like smoke, and was none too clean, but all she wanted was a shower and a bed. And a bug-swatter, if her suspicions were correct.

She was relieved to overhear the hostess saying that there was a cancellation and that a room was available.

Mulder turned to her. "One room left. She called two hotels in the next town. No openings anywhere else." He paused. "I'm willing to take it."

Scully nodded her agreement. "Let's do it."

The room was cleaner than she expected. Two small full-size beds, a shaky looking table and chair, and no visible insects. She threw her overnight bag onto the chair and the briefcase with its precious cargo onto the nearest bed.

When Mulder emerged from the bathroom, Scully was sitting cross-legged on the bed, with the files spread around her. He plunked down on the far end. The entire bed rocked precariously.

She didn't look up from the files. "You knew there were others, didn't you?"

Mulder suddenly lost his voice. He had dreaded that question since finding the fetuses at the surrogate mother facility. He had dreaded that question since the meeting with the smoking man, and every minute since then. "Yes," he said, but his voice sounded small and weak.

Scully looked a little resigned, as if she had expected this answer, or known it all along. "Since when?" she asked quietly.

"Since I was trying to find a way to help Emily." He could hardly say it. The words clawed his throat on the way out. "It was like what we saw today, only there were old women...surrogate mothers. They were all sleeping..."

She nodded, as if his babbling was perfectly comprehensible. She was so strong. How could she be so strong?

"I've been thinking about this," she pushed a folder in his direction. He took deep, gulping breaths, trying to steady himself, to be strong for her.

"I couldn't understand the connection between the hybrids and the virus and the E-box research," she said continued, as if she were giving a lecture at Quantico. "We thought before that the hybrids were created to be immune to the black oil infection." In his mind, Mulder saw a nameless man in a car, and remembered the conversation about his sister. He had told Scully about it before filing the final report on the Dallas bombing. "But now I think I have some idea of what the perfect hybrid means, and how it is different from the vaccination work."

Mulder hazarded a glance at his partner. Her brow was furrowed in deep thought, but she looked otherwise untroubled. "Well?" he asked, puzzled.

"A vaccination is a preventative measure. I think this is a more active cure. Something to do with altering the E-box so that the alien virus will not be able to create the correct mutation and change the developmental processes. In the end, the hybrid cannot serve as a host for a gestating organism."

Mulder knew that his mouth was hanging open in astonishment. Scully had never accepted the fact that his so-called aliens even existed, much less talked about them as if they were mundane scientific fact.

She continued calmly, noting his surprise. "This is what changed my mind," she said, holding up the DNA fingerprint. Four columns of black bands ran down the length of the photographic film. "There are pieces missing in the banding pattern."

"I don't understand," Mulder said, shaking his head.

"Normally, the DNA sequence is unbroken. Each of these four columns represents a base pair, and the entire pattern makes up the DNA sequence of the organism. But there are gaps in this sequence. I've seen this before. More than five years ago...banding patterns with gaps, because they couldn't hybridize with any of the four natural base-pairs in DNA. I can't be completely sure what it means," she looked at Mulder directly for the first time, " but a very plausible theory is that some of this DNA has more than the natural four base pairs. That in fact, some of it is extraterrestrial in origin."

Mulder grabbed the folder and stared as if it were a vision of the holy grail. He still didn't understand exactly what the microchips had to do with the experiments, but... "Then this is the proof we've been looking for?"

"I wouldn't say undeniable proof," Scully said, her typical skepticism reasserting itself. It was a little reassuring to hear her doubts. "I'd like to run the test myself, to make sure it wasn't just a technical error."

Mulder sighed. Here they were again. It was proof, but not quite proof.

Scully continued. "We still don't know how the virus is influencing the developmental genes, or even if that is really the target." She pulled the RFLP from one of the folders. "This is sort of like a fingerprint, but it shows a specific part of the X-chromosome." Her fingers brushed lightly over the surface of the grayish film. "I'm not sure why the RFLPs are being run on the X-chromosome, but it's probably safe to say that it either contains some sort of marker or is target of genetic manipulation."

Mulder began thinking very hard. He was concentrating so much that he was startled when Scully got off the bed. "This is my bed, Mulder. By the time I get back, you had better be off it," she said, marching to the bathroom. "I want to get some sleep."

Mulder resisted a lewd comment, and obediently slid off the bed.

Part 2

"Sometimes my life just don't make sense at all... And I wake up in the night And feel the dark It's so hot inside my soul There must be blisters On my heart." --Rich Mullins

The TV droned softly in the background. Scully lay quietly in bed, listening to the sounds of Mulder sleeping. His breathing was quiet and even, his body sprawled carelessly across the bed, feet hanging a little over the end.

It was 4am, but Scully couldn't sleep. All afternoon and that evening, she had kept her fear at bay by retreating into her work. Science had grounded her, held her steady when she wasn't sure of anything else. But now science was telling her something that she could hardly believe.

She shifted restlessly, legs scissoring under the covers. The sheets were mostly warm from contact with her body, but after rolling over so much, her feet had managed to find a cool place. She wondered if the whole thing was a set-up. There was no way to test any of the fetuses, no way to study the alien virus. All they had were forms and a little bit of data, which could or could not be telling the truth. Who would believe this was evidence of extraterrestrial life? Did she even believe it?

She remembered the feeling of darkness as they walked through the sterile hallways of the facility. It reminded her of a cold white room, where faceless people did bad things to her. She believed.

Scully sat up in the bed, trying to shake the sensation that the darkness was alive and pressing into her like physical danger. Sometimes she could push the feeling down, deep into her blistered soul, where it would rest quietly, far away from her everyday thoughts. But this moment was a time when it gushed out like water from a scalding shower, soaking her in its painful baptism.

She slid out from underneath the cool sheets and walked to the window. There was a little bit of moonlight escaping around the edges of the dingy curtain. She flipped back the fabric just enough so she could look outside. It was a beautiful night, if you ignored the dirty parking lot full of rusty pickup trucks and dilapidated Fords.

Scully leaned her forehead against the cool glass. The ugly parking lot with its old cars reminded her of her own life. Used. Broken. Unwanted. She no longer tried to fight the melancholy of her mood.

Hearing a rustling behind her, she swiveled her head to see Mulder standing a few feet away, his hair sticking up in all directions. He didn't ask if she was okay. Instead, he stepped close behind her, not quite touching, and opened the drapes a little wider with his right hand. His body surrounded her, like a comfortable quilt.

"What are you thinking?" he asked.

She snuggled back into him, giving him permission to touch her. His hand slid up her arm, and he leaned in protectively.

"I'm thinking about the bad things that have happened since...my abduction." Her candor surprised herself, and she felt Mulder twitch slightly. Her bluntness must have caught him off guard.

"I'm sorry." His voice rumbled through his chest and into her back.

"Don't be," she said. "You didn't do this to me." She could almost feel the guilt radiating out from him. His arms came around her shoulders to surround her completely, and he hugged her tightly.

She wiggled out of his embrace and turned to face him, pressing her back into the wall and gripping his forearms tightly.

"What?" he asked, looking down at her with a crinkled brow.

"Did you ever think that they gave us this information...because time is running out?"

Those weren't the words she had planned on saying. But for some reason, she could only think of what Mulder had told her about the conversation in a back alley with Dr. Kurtzweil. *The time-table has been set.* Cassandra. Hybrids. Safe-houses. Why give them the evidence now? Because the time is near...

Suddenly, he was down on his knees, face pressed into her stomach, hands circling her waist. She felt his breath hot through her t-shirt, hitching through his lungs like a dry sob. Tears started to her eyes.

"Yes," he said, the words muffled through her t-shirt.

When had she begun to feel like she was on fire? Maybe forever ago, but now it was like a revelation, flames whisking through her belly, hands and chest. She started to shake, fingers trembling as they brushed over his shoulders, palms coming to rest under his chin. All she wanted was to stop hurting, to stop feeling used, broken, and unwanted.

His hands came up hard under her arms as he stood up, lips eagerly flitting over her neck. She groaned, pulling his mouth to hers, crushing her body against him.

Sometime later, she felt herself being lifted and carried to the bed, his tongue licking the hollow of her throat as he set her down. His hands were warm on her bare back. She didn't want it to stop, not ever. But...

Abruptly she put her fingers on his lips. "Wait."

He groaned, his face collapsing into her neck. She struggled to sit up. "What is it?" he asked. The despair in his voice frightened her.

Scully placed her hands on his face, and forced him to look at her. Even in the darkness, she could see the pain in his face. "I can't tell you I don't want this, because I want it more than anything. But I don't want this to happen just because we think that this could be the end..."

He slumped away from her, and his voice sounded odd in the darkness, as if he wasn't talking in her direction. "That's not why I want it."

"I know," she replied, as gently as she could manage. "But I just don't want it to be for the wrong reasons."

"Then marry me," he said, looking down at her hands as they fell back down to the bed. She felt as if the bed had dropped away from underneath her, leaving her to tumble into the vastness of space.

"When I asked you a long time ago, I wasn't joking," he said, his voice small in the quietness.

"I knew you weren't," she said softly. There was a long silence, during which her thoughts tumbled around in a dozen directions. "I know we may not have much time. We can wait just a few more days. Finish this. And then...get married."

His crushing hug almost made her laugh. She nuzzled his cheek with her own, running her tongue over the corner of his mouth, then sweeping over his lower lip.

"God, Scully, don't do that if you want me to stop," he groaned.

She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, then lay down, tugging his arm. "Just hold me," she said, pulling him down behind her. His arms circled her waist, body nestled against her.

"What about the evidence?" he mumbled into her hair.

"We'll deal with it tomorrow," she answered, already groggy. She was asleep before Mulder could even count to ten.

Ringing. A phone was ringing in his dream, but he couldn't find it. He flailed his arms, reaching for the phone, and came in contact with a warm body. "Hello?" a woman's voice said, gravely with sleep.

Mulder blinked awake. Scully had answered the phone, and was now looking rather sheepish. "Yes," she said. "We're fine." A pause. "We'll be there by this afternoon." She hung up.

Mulder raised his eyebrows questioningly.

"I think I startled Byers," she said with a little smile, snuggling back down under the sheets. "The boys were worried because we didn't call last night."

Mulder wondered how the Gunmen had figured out where they were staying. "What did you tell them?" he asked, wrapping his arms around her warm shoulders and burying his face in her hair.

"That we'd be there by this afternoon," she replied. "What about work?" Scully covered her mouth with one hand as she yawned.

"We'll just have to take one more day off." He gave her shoulders one last squeeze, then rolled out of bed with a smile for the first time in ages. First, he needed a quick shower and then there would be several more hours driving back to DC. Turning back to the bed, he saw Scully watching him with half lidded eyes. He wondered what she was thinking. She was magnificent. It took all his effort to get to the bathroom and turn on the shower.

Scully set down her reading glasses and rubbed her eyes, elbows resting on the files spread all around her. It had been a very long day. When they came back to DC, Mulder wanted to go straight to the Gunmen. She didn't disagree. And so they had been at the Gunmen's all day, going through all the evidence again, making what connections they could. >From what they could tell, experiments were being run successfully, but the purpose wasn't clear. It had something to do with manipulation of major developmental genes (probably E-boxes), and something to do with the X-chromosome. But what exactly? And she still didn't know exactly why they had been tipped now, other than the idea that another attempt at colonization may be imminent.

Meanwhile, the boys contacted their nameless accomplices, and spent most of the day at their computers. She didn't ask what they were doing. It was probably illegal and she didn't want to know.

Sometime during the day, she had eaten a good meal, cooked by Langly. She really shouldn't have been surprised, but apparently they all took turns cooking. And everyone agreed (except for Langly) that he should be installed as the permanent cook.

Her stomach growled. She was exhausted, but not sleepy. Glancing at her watch, she saw it was already 3am. Mulder lay on a non-decrepit couch across the room, snoring softly. He had showered and borrowed some clothes (probably from Byers), a plain white t-shirt and sweatpants that were comically short.

Pushing back the files with one hand, she got up from her chair as quietly as she could manage, and padded into the kitchen. On the way, she passed Frohike, asleep with his head on his arm in front of a big computer. She hadn't noticed him there until that moment.

The kitchen was clean and well stocked (another surprise). Opening the refrigerator door, she got out the milk and poured herself a glass. A few moments later, she was startled by Byers, wrapped in a cotton terry cloth robe.

"Agent Scully, what are you still doing up?" he asked, quietly.

"I don't think I can sleep just yet," she confessed.

"The milk should help," he said. "Are you hungry?"

She nodded.

"Me too," he said smiling. "Oatmeal raisin cookies?" He pulled a plastic container out of the cabinet.

"Sounds perfect." This was so weird. Eating milk and homemade cookies at three in the morning with Byers.

Byers handed her a plate and they both sat down. Scully sipped the milk and stared off into space. She wasn't really thinking about anything, just enjoying the taste of the cookies (Langly was a wonderful cook) and sipping her milk. Revelations usually come to you when you aren't trying.

She swallowed, and stared fixedly at some point in front of her that happened to be Byers chest. Vaguely, she heard him saying, "Agent Scully?"

"Oh my God," she said. "Oh my God."

"What's wrong?" he asked, jumping up from the chair.

"I think I just figured out why the Smoking Man gave us this evidence." She locked gazes with the man sitting across from her. His mouth was hanging open in a silent question.

"They want us to side with the resistance. After all this time, he's having second thoughts. He doesn't think he can join the resistance without alerting the colonists. But we can."

Byers nodded. "Maybe he's getting desperate, now that the time is near."

Scully stood up. "That's exactly what I'm thinking. Give us the manufacturing company's name, link it with the experiments, and then give that evidence to the rebels. It may give us a fighting chance against colonization." But how could they join the rebels?

No longer quiet, she woke up Frohike on the way to get Mulder. Mulder came awake at her light touch. "What?" he asked warily, as if he already knew what she was going to say. She told him.

He sat up. "Why didn't I think of that before," he mumbled. Scully couldn't help smelling him as he moved away, detecting a different scent than usual. The Gunmen must not use the same brand of soap. She felt grimy and jealous that he had gotten a shower.

Byers spoke. "How close do you think we are?" He didn't even need to say the word "colonization." Frohike hovered behind him, and Langly, looking even more scraggly than usual.

Mulder answered. "If you have any unfinished business, I would take care of it now." His eyes locked with Scully's. She had been thinking the same thing.

Out of the corner of her eye, Scully noticed Byers looking at her thoughtfully. She was suddenly convinced that he had guessed her and Mulder's plans.

"We haven't heard anything about this from our contacts," Frohike said. "But I agree. We may have only a few days left."

A few days? Scully felt sick. Suddenly, Mulder was standing beside her, hovering protectively. "I think we need to pack," he said grimly. And then to the Gunmen, "But just in case any of us finds out something, I think we should have an emergency signal."

Scully's stomach flip-flopped again. "Like 911?"

"That will work," Byers replied. "911 means get out. Immediately."

The five of them stood awkwardly for a moment, the unspoken question of where to go hovering between them. Colonization would be a global event. There was no answer, except for "away," away from DC, away from the big cities. Eventually, nothing would be left uncolonized, but if they could stay alive for a while, there was still hope.

Mulder's strong hand wrapped around hers, and he tugged her towards the door. "We'll be in contact," he said over his shoulder.

They went to both apartments and packed one bag each. Necessities only. Scully packed an extra bag of clothes so she wouldn't have to go back to her apartment. After a bit of thought, she also stuffed one photo album, an extra clip of ammunition, and some money into the bag.

Then she called her mother, not caring that it was 6am. She did her best to convince Margaret to get out of town within the next few days, but wouldn't tell her the reason. Her mom must have thought she was crazy, but didn't say so. Instead, she agreed to try and convince Bill and Charles. Mulder apparently wasn't worried about his mother. All he would say was, "I have a feeling she'll be taken care of."

Before long it was 8am. They both took the day off. And with absolutely no disagreement, they both drove to the courthouse, applied for a marriage license, and got married.

After the brief formality in front of the judge, they drove back to Mulder's apartment. He fumbled with the keys. "You okay, Mulder?" Scully asked, her eyebrows pulling together in concern.

He didn't know what look was on his face, but he felt as if he was staring. Actually, he was starting to wonder if he had just dreamed this whole thing, and would wake up just before the really good part. He made a concerted effort to change facial expressions. "I'm fine, wife," he said, planting a kiss on her cheek through a smile, and finished opening the door.

She moved to walk through the door, but Mulder stopped her. Bending down, he picked up her bag and tossed it inside the door. Then he stooped behind her and swept her off her feet as if she weighed nothing at all, and carried her over the threshold. At least she felt real in his arms.

Scully laughed as he kicked the door shut with one foot. "I need a shower," she said after he set her down. She pushed away from him lightly, took up her over-night bag, and headed for the bathroom. Delicious thoughts of wet Scully ran through his head. He was tempted to watch, but he decided to wait in the bedroom.

Scully scrubbed herself vigorously with the bar of soap. This all felt so unreal. She was married. This was her wedding night. Wedding morning. Whatever. But the hot water felt real, as did the excitement quivering in her belly.

She showered as quickly as possible, using his shaving cream and razor to shave her legs. After she towel dried her hair, she slipped into her last pair of clean pajamas. They were really just a long button- down cotton t-shirt; not exactly her normal satiny sleep-wear. But she wasn't likely to be wearing them for long.

She took a deep breath and opened the bedroom door. Mulder was lying barefoot on the bed in t-shirt and jeans. The curtains were shut, but a few shafts of sunlight spilled around the edges of the window and onto the floor. This wasn't exactly how she had dreamed of her wedding night, wearing a cotton, oversized t-shirt and Mulder in jeans. But she'd take it.

He sat up. "Hey," he said.

"Hey," she echoed.

Mulder gnawed his lower lip. Unknowingly, Scully mimicked him. "You look beautiful," he said, softly.

She smiled, crawling up beside him. Her muscles protested as she stretched out on her back, feeling cramped and tired.

Mulder looked hesitant, sitting over her, his expression soft in the dim light. There open adoration in his eyes. How had she not seen it in every glance, felt it in every touch? "Just kiss me," she said, a little smile playing at the corner of her mouth.

"Yes ma'am," he answered.

The first kiss was gentle as a whisper brushing over her lips. She was still for a moment, savoring the taste of him, then teased his mouth open. His arms slipped underneath her, cradling her gently as he pulled her close. He rested his forehead against hers for a moment, eyes closed, warm hands sliding up her arms and coming to rest under her jaw. "Do you know how much I love you?" he said, opening his eyes to look straight at her own. They were wild, molten green. She hung her head a little, feeling almost ashamed that he could need her so much, as if she could never be worthy of it.

"I don't deserve you," he said, planting a kiss on her forehead, then one on her nose and each corner of her mouth. One side quirked up in a half-smile. They had been thinking the same thing.

"Maybe we don't deserve each other, but here we are," she said, and snagged his lips with her own, dragging his body down onto hers. As she has suspected, the pajamas didn't stay on long, disappearing off to the side with Mulder's tongue in her navel and hands on her breasts. Before that, she had been a little afraid, not of him (of course), but of letting anyone know her in this way again. But the shedding of her clothes also tore away something inside her, melting away the last vestiges of fear, leaving only warmth in their wake. This was what she wanted. This was so right. She abandoned herself to the intensity of just being alive.

In the end, she was on top of him, panting in sharp pleasure-pain, feeling as if she had been completely unmade. She collapsed heavily into his body, laughing a little. How could she have waited so long for this? What had she been afraid of?

Glancing down, she saw that the only covers left on the bed were the sheets, and they were about to fall off at any moment. Mulder smiled a particularly dopey smile at her, as her orderly doctor side asserted itself. She disengaged herself from the tangle of arms and legs to reach down and pull the covers back onto the bed.

Mulder's hand came up to caress her leg. "You're naked," he said with that same goofy smile, as she tugged the comforter back onto the bed and up over her waist.

"I love you," she said, lying her head back on his chest, running her fingers over the tawny hairs.

"I like to hear to say that," he replied, nipping her earlobe.

She climbed back on top of him, elbows resting on either side of his neck, hair falling around his head like an amber curtain. She marveled at they way her body sank into him, how their combined imperfections blended together flawlessly, so that it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. She dipped her head, inhaling his scent, as if she could breath him into herself.

"What are you thinking?" she asked.

"Nothing much," Mulder said absently, running his fingers through her hair, then down her neck and chest. She squirmed underneath his touch. "God, Mulder," she half-groaned. She wanted him again, even more than before.

He didn't say anything, just continued his ministrations with his lips. She wrapped her fingers around his neck, arching her spine so that he had better access. The second coupling was gentle and sweet, bodies sinking into each other like warm honey. When he came again, she wanted to hold him inside of herself endlessly. The thought made her ache. She leaned down and kissed his upraised forehead, tasting him again, memorizing the sensation so that she would be able to remember it forever.

A cell phone was ringing. It rang and rang but the two agents were much too tired to wake up. Then a second cell phone started ringing. Mulder tried to roll over but a very naked Scully was draped over his chest, sleeping soundly. He pushed her over as gently as he could. She mumbled something like "Mmph." He missed the warm of her skin as he fumbled for the cell phone.

"Hello?" he answered blearily.

"911, Mulder," a voice said. It was Byers. Mulder snapped awake.

"Already?" he heard himself saying.

"Just get out now!" The line went dead.

He shook Scully. "Wake up. We have to get out of here now!"

She came fully awake, eyes wide with fear. "So soon?"

"The time is here," he said, stumbling out of bed. He pulled on some boxers and then a pair of jeans.

Scully was still sitting there mutely, covers pooling around her waist. "I have to call my mother," she said, reaching for her phone.

"No!" Mulder grabbed her hands. "No, they could trace it."

She glared at him wildly, ripping her hands away, shoving at his arm. "She's going to DIE if we don't call!"

Mulder couldn't restrain her. She was desperately strong, and managed to whack him in jaw before she got her hands on the phone next to the bed. Somehow, he batted the phone away with his wrist and it smacked the wall.

"Dammit Scully. Listen to me!" He grabbed her roughly by the shoulders. His wrist was already throbbing from its impact with the phone. "We can go get her. But we can't call her."

There was a loud bang, and their front door to the apartment slammed open. Mulder cursed, reaching for his gun. Scully fumbled for hers and had it pointing towards the bedroom door first. They were both breathing hard, waiting. He counted six breaths, then the bedroom door was kicked in.

Scully saw the whole thing with sickening clarity. She counted each breath, in and out six times, waiting for whoever it was. Then the door was kicked inwards, and Krychek stood before them, gun held straight out. It was only extreme will power that kept her from shooting him on the spot.

Krychek lowered the weapon. "You need to get out of here, now," he said calmly.

Scully had two realizations. First, she was naked (though that didn't influence her to move or lower her gun). Second, Krychek was splattered with red blood.

"Why should we trust you?" she heard Mulder asking.

"You shouldn't," was the cryptic reply. "But the Resistance needs you, and you're no good to them dead."

Scully made a quick decision. Lowering her gun, she hopped off the bed and groped for her clothes, completely disregarding her need for modesty. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed that Mulder kept his gun leveled at Krychek. Somehow she managed to find her panties and bra in the overnight bag. "Where are we going?" she asked Krychek, wiggling into her jeans.

"*We* are not going anywhere," he replied, eyes averted. "I suggest you run for the hills. You both already have exposure to the weak vaccine. If you get out of DC alive, the rebels will be contacting you." Then, speaking to Mulder, "You gonna let me go or what?"

Mulder lowered his gun. "Leave," he said.

Krychek backed out. Mulder grabbed a shirt and shoved it over his head. Even in the terribleness of the moment, Scully noticed how magnificent Mulder looked when he was only wearing jeans.

Within two minutes there were running out to the car. The stink of the air hit Scully like a wall. Smoke. Mulder pulled her by one hand across the street and towards the car. She could see the source of the smoke now, pouring out of the windows at the apartments across from them. Oddly, there was no one standing outside the apartments.

"We've got to get to my mother," Scully panted. A tornado siren started to wail.

Mulder didn't answer, just ripped open the car door and tossed his bag in the back. She threw herself into the car, which was pulling away from the curb before she was even buckled in. Scully flipped on the radio. It was just as she expected; the emergency signal was buzzing, followed by an announcer giving official instructions...the city was going to be quarantined due to a massive outbreak of some unknown contagion, possibly being spread by bees. She turned off the radio. She knew what was going to happen next.

They were almost killed at the first intersection. There was already an accident, two cars totaled and one burning hotly. Mulder swerved to avoid a car driving in the wrong direction and almost hit another car that was trying to avoid the accident. They screeched to a halt, then the tires squealed again as he floored the gas petal. Two victims of the accident were bleeding out on the sidewalk. It was perverse to see them just lying there, blood pooling darkly on the ground, with no one stopping to help.

Scully gaped at the scene around her. Looters were already out, breaking down windows and doors, carrying away anything they could carry with two hands. Buildings were burning, but there was an odd absence of police cars and emergency vehicles of any kind. Once, Scully heard sirens. But a minute later they came upon the smashed police car, hopelessly wrecked by a collision with (of all things) an ambulance. And not long after that, they hit the first barricade.

"We're not going to get to her, are we," Scully said quietly. They were stopped at the barricade. Two men in full decontamination gear were talking to the hapless persons in the vehicle immediately in front of them. Quarantine of the city was beginning.

Mulder grimaced and gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. "We can do it."

"No." She turned to him. "There's no way. We have to get out of here now, or all of us will die."

Mulder looked positively sick. But he made a tight U-turn and headed in the opposite direction.

Later, Scully could never remember exactly how they got out of DC. The only thing she remembered was speeding down the strangely empty interstate, guilt clutching in her throat. Smoke rose in great plumes and a red sunset bled through the vapors like blood on a gray shroud. She was alive.

The end.

A big huge enormous thanks goes to JW for sending me copies of her scientific email conversations with Joy, and for answering a million and one questions very patiently. Even though I'm a biologist, I would never come up with even half this stuff on my own!

A big thanks also goes to the group of girls that are the best beta readers around: Claudia, Susan, Obsidian, Lori. This story would have never been finished without all the great suggestions. Thanks to Kia, as always, and everyone who sends me feedback. You all make me want to keep writing. :)

Read More Like This Write One Like This
Pregnant Scully
Alternate Returns
Pregancy/Baby/Kidfic plot Generator
Lamaze Class challenge
Return to The Nursery Files home