Title: Truth and Consequences
Authors: Raine and Marsha Taylor-Bare
Classification: XRA
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: We don't own anyone you recognize, they belong to Chris Carter, 1013, FOX. They are being used without permission, no copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is being made. Much thanks to Chris Carter for letting us feed our addiction this way and share it with others.
Spoilers: Syzygy, Colony/End Game, Gethsemane, Small Potatoes, Tunguska/Terma, Momento Mori

Summary: After Gethsemane, Scully and Mulder decide to pay a visit to their friend Dr. Scanlon.

When the anchorwoman announced Fox Mulder's death, Dana Scully was standing in her apartment with a bag packed and resting on the sofa behind her. Uncharacteristically for her, the television was on. Scully stood staring at the pert blonde anchor as she recited the late-breaking afternoon news. The latest small plane crash, five people reported minor injuries. An infant was thrown out of a second story window, but was nonetheless miraculously okay. The words droned on.

Finally, the woman's young forehead wrinkled slightly in an imitation of concern as she told viewers, "In Arlington last week we reported on a terrible tragedy, the death of a federal agent. Autopsy results released today have confirmed it was indeed a suicide. Special Agent Fox Mulder died Tuesday evening of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Agent Mulder started out as a young up-and-coming agent working for the Violent Crimes Unit of the FBI. For the last four years, he was assigned to a classified project within the bureau under the direction of Assistant Director Walter S. Skinner. Associates of Agent Mulder's who have asked to remain anonymous had speculated on his mental health in recent months." She moved the page to the back of her stack of news flashes. Then she looked at her co-anchor and added, "Terrible tragedy, Bob." . Barely a second passed before viewers were directed to weather with Gerald Bennett. The two news people smiled through the false exchanges about their respective weekends.

Scully stared at the screen, expecting more. When Gerald began to relate the weather forecast, she thought about all of the people Mulder had helped. She reflected on all of the innocent people he had saved in his career, and the compassion he had invariably shown towards those in pain. Then she compared it to the time he was given on the newscast, finding it sorely lacking.

She clicked off the image of the smiling man in the navy blue suit with his arm extended across a blue screen. It was ninety degrees in the DC area with eighty-five percent humidity, a normal, sticky summer day. It was time to go. Scully took a long look around her apartment, wondering when and in what condition she would return.

After leaving her apartment, Scully traveled to her mother's home. She pulled into the driveway and put the car in park. Bracing herself, she got out and walked to the open door. As she entered the house, she thought about how comforting her parents' home had always been. It was a sanctuary where she could hide from the world in safe, protective arms.

When she stopped in front of the doorway and her waiting mother, she stared into her pained eyes. Scully knew her mother was controlling herself with difficulty. Telling her mother what she planned to do had resulted in a huge fight, the end result of which was an uncertain truce. Only the reminder that she was being told out of respect calmed her mother. Scully had made a promise not to keep her in the dark, and she was keeping it. Since then, her mother hadn't argued, although it was clear she disapproved.

Margaret pulled her uncertain daughter into a warm hug. When they broke apart, she guided her into the house, closing and locking the door against intruders. After ushering her daughter inside and forcing a cup of chamomile tea on her, Margaret finally spoke.

"You know I don't understand this." She sighed and ran a hand through her thick, dark locks, so different from her daughter's fine auburn. Margaret noticed with a pang that her daughter's illness had taken a toll on her hair, leaving the strands dull and lifeless. She remembered how happy she'd been that Dana hadn't inherited her own unmanageable waves.

"I know you don't. It's something I need to do, though." Dana's voice emerged clear, certain.

"Well, I won't argue with you. I learned not to do that long ago." Margaret's voice came out in a bitter rush. She clamped a hand over her mouth. Margaret had sworn to herself that she wouldn't do this. In spite of that, she couldn't help saying, "What if something happens, Dana? You're so sick, what if-"

Firmly, Dana said, "Then you would come to me. Wherever I am. You'll know, no matter what. I promise." She reached out and pulled the older woman into her arms, forcing her to stand. Dana hugged her mother's waist.

Scully's thoughts involuntarily turned to Mrs. Mulder. She thought about how much her mother cared about her, and wished her partner had the same thing in his family.

"Mom?" Scully whispered.

"Yes, Dana?" The response was equally low.

"I want you to know, Mom, that you may not understand this, but I'm lucky. I get to choose. I have a chance to try, to fight against it. I have to do it this way. Oh mom, I never wanted to hurt you." Scully stood, hugging her mother properly.

"I know, I know." Margaret ran a hand lightly down her child's back. She'd tried so hard to give her children everything, and her daughter was telling her she was lucky. Fortunate to choose where and how she would die while cancer ravaged her body. It was a bitter pill to swallow, made worse by the fact she could say none of this to the woman in her arms. It was Dana's life and her decision. She was so much like her father had been, Margaret reflected, born with more stubbornness than was good for any one person

As Margaret rubbed her hands down Dana's back, she could feel her individual vertebrae in her spinal cord. She'd been through so much, and she was too thin. She took a deep breath and pulled away.

"It's okay, Dana. Go, do what you have to. I'll be here." The words came out of her mouth easily in spite of her feelings. She'd had a lot of practice, said the same thing or similar many times. Sometimes it seemed like all the people that she loved drifted in and out of her life. She pushed the thought away and focused on her daughter. She was here now and Margaret knew she shouldn't waste the time remaining. Both of their faces were wet with tears. Breaking apart, the two women looked at each other and started laughing.

"Here." Margaret ran her thumb underneath her daughter's eye. "Your eye make-up is running." Her daughter nodded, understanding what went unsaid. "Now go. It's getting dark. I remember everything you told me." Scully took one long look at her mother's face and complied.

An hour and a half later
Somewhere in Washington D.C.

It was the third car, and Scully had been driving around the city for two hours. She hoped desperately that she had gotten rid of any tail, because she was nearing a critical destination. Any surveillance that followed her now could ruin the entire plan. Finally, she pulled into a parking garage. It was eleven at night, so the booth was empty.

Scully punched in the code she had been given, and obligingly, the red striped pole granted the beige Oldsmobile access. This was one car, Scully reflected, that she would be glad to be rid of. She circled upward to the third level and parked in slot number 23, also as instructed. She took her bag and got out of the car, closing the door and jogging toward the exit. The bill of the baseball cap she wore rotated from side to side as she looked around warily.

The clothes she wore were baggy, something a fat sixteen-year-old might wear, she thought. They served to hide her figure, but they bunched around her, making movement awkward. According to Langly, the camera at the entrance was disabled. However, just in case, she ducked her head and pretended to cover a cough with one hand. With her other, she pushed down the bar to unlatch and open the heavy steel door.

Three flights up the fire stairs, and she was wheezing and clutching her side in pain. Since she had been diagnosed with cancer, her stamina had decreased by leaps and bounds. Her body increasingly tapped into reserves to fight off the invader cells, leaving her drained. As she paused momentarily, gasping, she felt a warning prickle and wetness in her nasal cavity. Placing her index finger underneath her nose, she felt the first trickle of blood. Shit. Only one more flight to go.

Holding her mouth over her nose and mouth, Scully left the stairs. She pushed open the door with her hip, and lurched into the women's room on the seventh floor, throwing the small dead bolt behind her. When she removed her hand in front of the large mirror, the lower half of her face was covered in blood. Scully sighed. This was going to take longer than she had thought.

As she held the paper towel to her nose, waiting for the blood to stop flowing, Scully retraced her steps to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything important. The plan that Mulder and the Lone Gunmen laid out had been executed flawlessly. Scully was proud of herself for bluffing Skinner with the story of taking personal time to mourn. She hated lying to her superior, but didn't trust anyone with Mulder's secret death. If what he had discovered was true, they might find a cure for her before she grew too weak to search anymore. Shifting the paper towel from one hand to the next, she could feel the blood still gathering at the base of her nose.

Scully thought of her surroundings in the two hours since she'd left her mother's house. No one seemed to have been following her as she left her mother's neighborhood. The first exchange of cars allowed her to relax a bit as she pulled out of the parking lot. The second was Mulder's old car that had been in the shop more than it had been driven.

Scully smiled as she stood in the cold, empty bathroom, thinking of how frugal Mulder was with money. His argument for not using the car that he owned was simple. "Scully, why should I spend my money on a car when the bureau provides one for me to drive?" It was difficult to argue with an explanation like that one. And, since he never took time off, with the notable exception of Graceland, he had a point.

Scully pulled the paper towel away from her nose and held her head back, feeling the clotting begin. Her head was pounding with the pressure of the tumor and she hoped to reach her destination before she had to take a painkiller. She braced herself on the slick, faux marble vanity.

Focusing her mind again on the plan, she knew the Gunmen would retrieve her car from the first drop off and Mulder's clunker from the agreed-upon second parking lot. The third car was Frohike's. She didn't know if it was legally his or not and was glad to ditch it in the parking garage below. That was all she needed, to be stopped by an officer and try to explain where she got the stolen car, and why an Agent of the FBI was driving it in the first place. She snorted, instantly regretting it as she felt a fresh trickle of blood flow.

Scully felt the stress of identifying Mulder's body, lying to Blevins and the committee, and this undercover activity. It was all piling up, and quickly draining what was left of her energy. Scully pulled the brown paper from her face, breathing silent thanks that the bleeding had stopped.

It was time to get ready.

A half hour later, a different and much more collected woman emerged from the side exit of a downtown office building. She held a briefcase and walked briskly in her business suit, her heels clicking emphatically on the concrete ramp leading down to the street. Once there, she walked the three blocks to a waiting taxi.

The woman sank thankfully into the cool vinyl seat. The cab driver looked appreciatively at her in the rearview mirror. She was wearing a conservative, yet obviously expensive suit with a neckline that was just low enough, jewelry in a dull gleam around her neck and face, expertly applied make-up. A high-class prostitute, or a businesswoman who was accustomed to working ungodly hours. The driver licked his lips. . From the strangeness of the call, he was leaning toward prostitute.

As she gave him directions in a cool, even voice, the driver stared speculatively until he caught the icy expression in her eyes. His instincts, honed from dealing with thousands of people, told him not to push his luck. Perhaps he had been wrong. That was the stare of a woman accustomed to respect. Whatever, he didn't have to talk to her, he thought, just drive her. He put the cab into drive, thinking it was going to be a very long fare.

Forty-five minutes later

The tapping on the door roused him; not that he'd been sleeping all that well anyway. Apprehension had kept him up well into the night. Every creak, every footfall near the hotel door was Scully or, alternatively, one of their enemies. Finally, his nerves couldn't take anymore and he'd fallen into a fitful sleep, numb and exhausted.

Mulder swung his legs out of bed, wearing only blue plaid cotton boxers. Even the air conditioning couldn't seem to bring a retrieve from the outside humidity. He hadn't wanted to risk turning it on high. The high-pitched noise it emitted was both annoying against his tightly-strung nerves and a dangerous risk. Mulder needed to hear to be prepared. As a result, though, he'd been sweating. His body felt sticky, and he had a dull headache.

Mulder opened the door to the limit of the chain, his gun held loosely in his right hand, behind the door. He wasn't expecting what he saw. A woman. Stunned, his eyes roamed involuntarily, perusing the petite woman in the doorway.

High-cut khaki shorts, slim muscular legs, sandals on tiny feet with red-painted toenails. His eyes drifted upward to the white cotton shirt buttoned up just a little too low to the slender neck and the gold cross dangling on her... Oh shit. He looked up the rest of the way and blinked. The blonde woman smirked at him, her brown eyes intense, amused, and fixed on his face.

Scully said, "Well, Mulder, this is interesting, but can I come in before we draw attention?" Stunned silent, he complied.

Once inside, Scully dropped her bag and removed her contacts, popping them out and putting them into a case in her pocket. Then she pulled off the blonde wig and sighed deeply, running one hand over her face. Feeling the thick layer of foundation slide under her fingers, she winced and walked into the bathroom to wash her face.

She was exhausted, as exhausted as she could remember being. The day behind her was a blur of evasion, disguises, and stress. The soap removed most of the makeup. Taking a wad of toilet paper, she began to remove the heavy mascara and eyeshadow. Mulder appeared in the open doorway.

"Did everything go as planned?" His voice jolted her a little. She'd spent the last two weeks telling everyone he was dead, going to his funeral, and dealing with the fallout of the lie they had perpetrated. After all of the stress, a part of her had come to believe it. She'd had to think it was true on some level to make others believe.

Scully turned to face her partner, her face washed clean, her red hair pushed back from her face. She nodded. His eyes searched her face as if looking for something, and wordlessly he pulled her into his arms. The side of Scully's face pressed into the flesh of her partner's sticky chest. She thought he felt wonderful.

The hug was fierce and life affirming, and when they pulled away, avoiding each other's eyes, Scully said, "I need to sleep."

Mulder nodded. He'd seen the circles revealed once the makeup was washed away. "Take as long as you need; I think I might try as well."

Scully stood in front of him, trying to hide her absurd embarrassment. She'd known this man for four years. She'd seen him every imaginable condition, and lived through some of the most intense life and death situations with him. In spite of this, she was somehow embarrassed about sleeping in the same room with him. It was baffling, yet in the course of their relationship it made a weird kind of sense. In some ways, they were more intimate than a romantic couple, but in others, less so than most casual friends.

She shook her head. Too much had happened in the last two weeks, her brain needed time to absorb it all. It was still hard to comprehend that the man standing before her in his underwear, smelling of musk and sweat, was supposed to be resting in a coffin beneath the earth. He seemed so alive, which of course he was. But then again, so did she, and she was dying.

She pulled away, wrinkling her nose. "Mulder? It's nice to see you again and everything, but there's something I have to tell you."

The tall man looked down at her seriously. "What is it, Scully?"

"You reek."

Mulder's face went blank for a second. Then, slowly, he approached her, holding his arms out beseechingly. "Come on, Scully. I don't know what you're talking about. Don't you want to hug me again?" His petite partner ducked under his arm and, circling back, took refuge in the bathroom, sleeping clothes clutched in one hand. She closed the door behind her firmly.

Mulder called out, "Come on, you know you missed me!" A wide grin spread across his face as he stared at the closed door. Then he walked over to the air-conditioner and pushed the *high cool* button. He sighed as the cool air hit him. Then he got a whiff of his own body fragrance. "Hmmm, Scully's right, I do stink." He chuckled.

When she emerged, wearing plain, light blue pajamas, Scully walked to the double bed nearest to the door. Pulling the thin comforter down, she crawled into bed and fell asleep instantly, her left arm burrowed between the two pillows underneath her head. Mulder stared at her for long moments from the other bed as her breathing became slow and steady. He tried not to think what might happen to his partner if they didn't succeed, to focus only on how she looked lying there, beautiful and seemingly at peace. His mind flipped backward to the events of two weeks previous.

He had been deep in thought, exploring emotions best not exposed to the light of day. Thoughts about being set up by people in power to believe what they chose, for purposes he might never discover. More thoughts about what Scully had said to him.

He was responsible for her pain, the slow progress of her cancer. That was nothing new. What was new was that for the first time that night, she had said it. Scully had told him that it was given to her to make him believe. All of it was his fault. It was useless to accept this guilt, Mulder knew, but like a child finding an impossibly deep puddle after the storm, he couldn't help soaking himself. If the deal that Skinner made with the smoking man wasn't profitable, Mulder thought, he would ultimately be responsible for her death.

By the time the perfunctory knock had registered in his dazed mind, the door was already flying open. Mulder stared dumbly at the man entering, and raised the gun he'd been holding loosely in his lap. The rest was over in a matter of a minute, although later it seemed more like an hour

Mulder remembered thinking his mind was playing tricks in the confusion, since the man who kicked down the door looked just like him. The man came in with his weapon already raised. If Mulder hadn't had his weapon ready, he would be dead. He remembered shooting as he threw himself onto the floor between his couch and coffee table. By all rights, he should have been the one who ended up on the floor instead of.the other. Himself. A clone. A clone of himself sent to kill.

He stood over the body, unaccountably reassured that the face was no longer recognizable. He tried to focus on the present by searching the pockets of the unseasonal jacket the man was wearing. It made the reality of it a little easier to handle . It was obviously a body, that much was real enough, no matter what he did. It was just less like he was looking down at his own.At that thought, the germination of an idea began. Mulder picked up his cell phone, his gun still held loosely in his shaking hand as he dialed the Lone Gunmen. With his other hand, he pulled a wad of papers from the corpse's inside jacket pocket.

The ringing was cut off twice, as usual. It cycled through several tones as it was bounced around god only knew where before finally being patched to their office. Finally, a voice answered.

"Mulder, hey man! What's up?" Mulder sighed. It was strangely reassuring that they knew who it was before picking up. Maybe they could actually help.

"Langly, turn off the tape." He opened a road map, flipped through a bundle of airline tickets.

"We haven't used tape for a long time, Mulder. What's going on?"

"I want whatever it is off, okay?" He tried to control the strain in his voice, and was heartened to note he succeeded. He had an idea, it was at least a place to start.

Another, smoother voice answered. "What's happening, Mulder?"

"I need you guys over at my apartment as soon as possible. I have a situation to deal with here. Someone came to pay me a visit, but apparently they weren't really all that interested in small talk. Luckily, I was prepared."

There was a low whistle. Byers asked, "Shit, Mulder. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. You need to call Scully and tell her some things for me, okay?"

"Sure thing. Do you want her to come with us?"

"No. It's very important that she stay where she is. She's going to be watched very carefully in the next several days, if everything goes like I think it will."

"There's more than-" Byers cut himself off. "Never mind, Mulder, I'm not sure I want to know. What do we need to tell Scully?" There was a noise in the background, and Mulder heard a muffled dialogue. "I'll tell you later, Frohike." Pause. "Okay, Mulder, we're on."

"Good." He gave them terse instructions cut the connection, his eyes again drawn to the corpse on the floor of his living room. Again, he looked through the map and tickets he'd retrieved, mentally confirming his course of action. Mulder stifled the flood of morbid thoughts by moving to his bedroom. He needed pack a few essentials before he got started.

10:00 a. m. EDT the next day
Dulles International Airport

The two partners entered the airport three hours apart from each other. They were taking separate flights to minimize the risk of exposure. Both agents knew that there might be people at this airport and National, looking for a couple fitting their description. This was not a new situation for the partners, yet they had decided to treat it as though it were. The stakes they were playing were much higher this time.

Mulder was taking a flight to Chicago on Delta, where he would change planes and continue on to Spokane. Scully was flying directly into Minneapolis, where she would continue on via Northwest. All the details had been arranged as thoroughly as possible. However, even as carefully as they planned this trip, they still didn't know if the Consortium was searching for them.

They didn't know if they'd bought Mulder's bogus suicide at all. They had reasons to assume they would be watched, though. As reasonable as Scully's request for leave had been, it was bound to raise suspicions, especially since she had tossed their perfunctory tail. Why would a dying woman with nothing to hide bother to do that?

Scully went into the third restroom and changed disguises yet again. She rushed to the gate and boarded her plane at the very last minute. Finally, in her seat, watching the plane accelerate, she relaxed and tried to consider other things.

Scully thought about Mulder for a minute, hoping things were going smoothly on his end. Then she reflected on the strangeness of the circumstances they had found themselves in. The simple fact the bureau did not sanction this made it personal, and that made Scully nervous for some reason she couldn't quite define. The situation, too, highlighted the fact that it was just her and Mulder, alone, off seeking information. This time, though, they were her answers.

The thought, although deadly serious, left Scully strangely excited as well as apprehensive. She was taking a trip to the middle of nowhere with Mulder. Anything could happen. They were on their own, and technically not working. If they weren't here as partners, then they were...She hastily cut off that thought and affirmed, "friends". She hadn't realized she'd said it out loud until the man sitting next to her lifted his headphone from one ear.

"Excuse me, did you say something?"

"No, sorry." Scully resumed looking out the window at the clouds, which were now posing as cottony ground cover. It seemed like one could just lie at thirty thousand feet, supported, on them forever.

Mulder's second plane arrived in Spokane a half-hour late. He looked at his watch, annoyed. Scully would be arriving any second. As per their arrangement, he went directly to the parking garage where their transportation was waiting. Mulder sighed. He didn't mind flying, but he hated airports. Slowly, the man with the gray-streaked hair and thick bifocals navigated the maze of concourses, luggage, and people, and exits until he found the one he was looking for. As Mulder crossed over to the large parking area, walking just slightly stooped over, he hoped Scully had made it safely.

Finally, he reached the parking space. A large off-road vehicle stood parked there, but no Scully. Mulder shifted impatiently and glanced at his watch yet again. Where was she? Then he heard clicking, high-heeled footfalls echoing toward him at a brisk pace. Just in case, he ducked behind one of the neighboring cars. Hunched over, he saw through the window of the Honda that it was Scully. She was wearing a dark wig and sunglasses, but it was her. He smiled with relief.

"Ohhhh...Ohh, god, that hurts. Ohhh." Scully started. She found the car, but not Mulder. In spite of her instinctive suspicion, she was caught off-guard by the moaning man. He was standing, hunched over, his arm craned around, grasping his back. He was partially turned from her about five paces away. She shook off the remnants of her distrust and let her medical training take over. She trotted to him, extending a supporting hand to his surprisingly thick shoulder.

"Sir? Can I help you? I'm a doctor. Can you tell me what happened?" Scully noted he had been toting a small oxygen cart. Poor man, she thought. He didn't even seem that old. Late middle aged, maybe. She was startled at his weight when he grabbed her arm.

"It hurts all over..." His voice was husky and low. As he looked up, grinning crookedly, his next gravelly words carried a distinct leer. Scully gasped in recognition. "What's the matter, young lady, don't you want to give an old, tired man a reason to live?" Mulder waggled his eyebrows suggestively. A flying bag rewarded him. Clutching his stomach in real pain this time, he followed Scully to the car. He couldn't resist one last jibe as he pulled himself into the passenger seat of the truck.

"They teach you that in med school, Doctor Scully?"

After navigating the Spokane traffic, they found themselves making good time on Interstate 395 toward Highway 20. Mulder glanced over at the woman beside him.

We should be on 395 for about two hours, then we'll take highway 20 west for another two hours or so before hitting Interstate 97. That's maybe," He squinted at the map and the scale key, "A half hour before we cross over into British Columbia."

"Do you have ID?" Scully asked, mainly for her own reassurance.

"What good special agent would travel without it?" He grinned at her. She studiously stared at the road.

"Ha ha. Hand it over." She accepted the plastic ID card with skepticism. It pronounced her a resident of Alberta named Melanie. She snorted. "I suppose you're a Canadian, too."

"Yes I am, eh?." He said cheerfully. "We've been visiting relatives in Seattle, Lake City specifically, and we were gone two weeks." He slung a arm over the back of her seat, brushing the hair at the back of her neck absently with his fingers. "And, honey, am I glad to be going home."

Scully moved her head forward, ostensibly to peer at the gas gauge. She knew damn well how much gas there was. Mulder moved his arm but didn't stop looking at her.

"We'd better get gas," Scully said with forced lightness.

"Sure," Mulder said, not ceasing his gaze. Why, he wondered, did he feel compelled to see how far he could push her before she called him on his behavior? In the past, he'd pushed her, tossed off innuendoes to see her reaction, but he'd never carried it this far. Of course, this was the closest thing they'd had to leisure together in the years they'd been partners. Maybe his fear that he was losing her was getting the better of him. Mulder had a feeling it was more than the sum of those things, though.

Scully watched a sign announcing food/gas/lodgings fly past. Five exits to go. Somehow, she'd been hoping for a chance to leave the truck before that. The amazing shrinking truck, which got smaller when your partner stared at you. She let a breath escape through clenched teeth. She would not let him know he was having an effect, even if it killed her. He was just playing with her, like all of other times he'd tried to get under her professional skin. Small touches, looks, and veiled comments, it all amounted to nothing.

A half hour later

Mulder watched as the petite blonde ran in the convenience store to pay for gas. As Scully walked back out to the truck, Mulder's eyes were drawn to her legs yet again, even as he cursed himself. She had taken advantage of the abhorrent gas station bathroom, an X-File in itself. And what she had done while in there, well.As well as changing her wig again, she had changed into more clothes uncharacteristic of the serious agent he'd been working with for four years, a short skirt and low-cut tennis shoes with a short-sleeved top.

It was strange, watching his partner transform herself again and again. Somehow, it made Mulder wonder what he'd missed on the inside, as well. Of course, rationally, he knew that her disguises were a deliberate choice that had nothing to do with him. If asked to describe the blonde woman who had passed though with the man driving a beat-up four by four, the convenience store owner would only remember vague impressions. He, like Mulder, had been too busy staring at her slim, toned body to look upward into her eyes.

Eyes which were flashing furiously at him now, if he could have seen them through the mirrored sunglasses she was wearing. Scully rolled down the passenger's side window and spoke to Mulder, who was still standing at the pump. He pretended to be mesmerized by the whirling red digital numbers.

"Mulder?" Her voice was detached, expressionless.


"Will you do me a favor?"

"Sure, Scully." His voice was distracted. His mind was busy with the puzzle of recreating and preserving the image of Scully running toward the cashier.

"Could you please refrain from staring at my ass? Thanks." With that she rolled the window up and crossed her legs, opening the file on Dr. Scanlon.

Mulder smiled to himself. 'I'll try, but it's a nice ass, Scully.' He thought this last silently. He may be a lot of things, but he was no fool. He did not want to bear the burden of Scully's reaction to that particular sentiment.

Four hours later

"I think we should probably stop for the night." Scully glanced at her watch and nodded. They had crossed the checkpoint into Canada without incident. Due to exhaustion, they were stopping south of Penticton, a small town north of the border. Mulder wanted to allow Scully to rest, becoming more concerned about her depleting strength.

He knew that if he was tired, Scully must be even more exhausted. She had to deal so much in the last few weeks. First his death, putting on an Emmy award-winning show for Blevins, attending his funeral and traveling to meet him. All this, while dealing with her own ill health. Every time he asked, she gave him the standard. "I'm fine, Mulder."

He wanted nothing more than a hot shower and bed. He thought to himself that maybe he was even tired enough to ignore Scully's presence in the room with him. Then, glancing to the passenger's side of the vehicle again, he mentally doubted the first thought. The man thought to himself that it would probably take being struck blind to accomplish ignoring the woman beside him. The tension in the truck had been steadily growing thicker in the last few hours, lessening only due to fact that they were both so tired.

Scully sighed in frustration. She wanted to get to the town, but knew it would be best to enter when they were physically up to it. Right now, the agents were both road weary and exhausted. She had been riding in the passenger seat for the last leg of the trip. Her legs were propped up on the dashboard, crossed at the ankles to relieve the insistent thigh cramp that had been plaguing her for the last hour. Scully knew that Mulder had been staring at her, but she was just tired enough to let it go.

She was relieved nonetheless when they exited the interstate. The Explorer pulled up to the cheap, generic-looking motel just off the highway. Relieved, that was, until she realized that again they would be sharing a room.

Scully sighed and stretched her shoulders, pulling her upraised arms and an angle to one side of her head, then to another. Mulder tried hard not to stare as her chest pushed against the thin material of her T-shirt. He exhaled when she put her arms down and stared out the window away from him.

At least they could get a double room with two beds, Scully thought, registering Mulder's interest. Then she would have some space to stretch out. She was pleased with their plan, and relieved that Mulder and the Lone Gunmen had taken care of the arrangements. It was a long enough road trip to cover any directions they might need to ask for. However, pretending to be married meant they wouldn't be able to get two rooms. Scully had repressed the urge to object to their cover on those grounds alone on five separate occasions in the car after he'd off-handedly told her.

She watched as Mulder got out of the parked truck and went inside to register a room. She sighed and looked doubtfully around the property in the darkness. Poorly lit, seedy, mostly empty. In other words, it was exactly like their normal accommodations on the road.

For once, she reflected, she'd like to head off with Mulder on one of his half-cocked scheme where they were forced to stay in four star hotels, with a concierge and gourmet cuisine. A small smile lifted the corners of her lips as Mulder got back into the Explorer and started the engine, putting it into gear. As the tires crunched slowly over the gravel parking lot toward the rear of the property in direction of their room, Scully steeled herself for another night with the man beside her.

She had almost succeeded when they entered the small room they were to share. Unfortunately, she hadn't counted on the newest surprise in store for her. After opening the door and letting her enter before him, Mulder walked past her and unceremoniously dropped his bag on the bed. The only bed. It was barely large enough to qualify as a bed for two people. Mulder dropped on the bed, saying nothing, testing the mattress.

Something in Scully wanted to give up and go home when she saw it. She could feel heat flush her cheeks. How much more of this man did she have to take? She willed herself not to answer that question. For a moment she stared silently at the bed, at Mulder, then at the bed again. Finally, without a word, she slammed her bag on the dresser, which creaked under the slight weight.

Scully jammed her hand inside the luggage, digging. She could feel Mulder staring at her, but she didn't care. She silently thought that if he knew what was good for him, he'd leave her the hell alone. Her Irish temper was finding ample kindling, and a good blaze was in the works.

Finally, she reached the bottom of the soft-sided suitcase and what she was looking for. She stalked into the bathroom, clutching clothes and a swimsuit packed 'just in case'. Like a good Girl Scout, Scully believed in being prepared. However, she was feeling distinctly unlike a Scout of any kind in temperament right now. Scully needed her space to avoid killing her partner, cutesy innuendo games and all. Damn him. One bed. Shit.

She exited the bathroom, clothed in a T-shirt and jeans, with the swimsuit underneath. On the sign, she'd seen a half burnt-out neon 'hottub' sign. If it took her an hour, she was going to find the damn thing. Anything, to escape from the tiny room with the too-small bed. Taking her gun, she went off to find it, slamming the door behind her. Mulder stared after her, his mouth gaping. After a moment, the expression broadened into a wide grin.

Darkness and warmth. For so long these elements, denied and controlled by those from without, were only inhibitors to growth and expansion. Suddenly given these necessities to procreation, they had chosen to be conservative. The rock had been dark, enabling them to subsist, but no more. It had been so cold, so hard. As one, they shrank slightly at the image of the rock. It had been a place of death, a trapped place.

Those from without were careless in their warmth, used to the safety, the clean flow of their blood. It was possible it was a gift meant only to draw them into danger. It was easy to destroy them in the reproductive cycle, to extract and crush their boneless bodies. Vulnerable. So as one, connected by the same host, the same blood, they waited for a catalyst to signify safety. Dormant for so long, they ached as one, we eager as one, waiting for release.

The water was almost too hot. She dipped a toe in and, finally, bracing herself, sank into the turbulent water. It was unbelievably warm, perfect Jacuzzi temperature. The jets pushed strongly at her, one grazing her stomach, another pushing her upward from underneath. Scully positioned herself on the jet more firmly. The thick jet of water rushed between her slightly parted legs, making her relax and tense simultaneously. Holding herself in place with planted hands, her head lolled back to rest on the cement lip of the small hottub.

Other than the rushing sound of the water, silence reigned. Trees surrounded the area in front of her; the hotel was in the distance behind. If she listened closely, the sounds of crickets could be heard. She looked up into the night sky, sighing. It was so nice to relax like this, to unknot all the cords of tension spanning her back, shoulders, and neck. It was almost easy to believe that everything was right with the world in this setting. The light in the Jacuzzi had burnt out, leaving her with only the darkness and pinpoint stars above.

The combination of the warmth of the water, the swaying of her body from the jets, and the stars lulled her into a hypnotic state. Scully felt her earlier anger drifting away from her, leaving her empty and serene. She told herself that was why what happened next shocked her so badly. One moment, she was staring up into the night sky, the next, Mulder's face. He was leering down at her, a swizzle stick jutting out of his mouth.

"What's a nice gal like you doing alone in a hottub in the middle of nowhere in that outfit?" The thick rural accent he adopted only added to the charming come-on line.

"Hmm..Hello, Mulder." She paused, thinking, and decided to give him a jolt in return for the smug expression and hotel room fiasco. In an almost empty hotel, she thought, he couldn't find a double. Scully smiled, showing just a few too many teeth up at him. "Come on in, the water's fine."

She thought she had scored a point. His widening eyes, the jaw dropping open ever so slightly. When she saw the swizzle stick drop into the churning water, Scully felt the beginnings of triumph.

"Well, I don't have a swimsuit, but if you're sure you don't mind..." A knowing smirk was firmly fixed on his face. He thought he would shock her, she thought incredulously. Normally she would have called a truce out of discretion. Right at the moment, though, she didn't care. She wanted to see the look on his face, and get revenge for the game he had been playing with her.

Smiling, Scully said casually, "No, not if you don't, Mulder. Hop on in." This time she was gratified to see him freeze in place momentarily.

Mulder debated with himself for a moment before saying, "Sure, Scully. Hang on while I get undressed."

Oh dear Lord. He had to have said it like that on purpose. Scully gripped the concrete bench underneath her, deliberately looking at anything but him as Mulder stripped off his jeans and T-shirt. She only looked back up when she heard the splash of him entering the whirlpool. It turned out he was wearing boxers. Scully sighed. She was beginning to have serious doubts about the wisdom of this. Oh well, she thought, at least he was covered. Barely. She forced herself to relax back into the churning pool, once again staring upward.

"Isn't it beautiful?" Scully said it out loud, startling herself. She looked over at Mulder, who was sitting with his arms propped up on the concrete ledge and his upper chest out of the water. His biceps were clearly defined, laying above the dark, wet silky forearm hair that covered the forearms that lay above the long, slender .Scully broke her eyes away, thinking involuntarily that she couldn't see his legs. As if he knew what she was thinking, she felt one of Mulder's legs slide between her own. Quickly, she propped her heels on the ledge underneath her and well away. When she finished situating herself, she noticed Mulder was staring at her.

"Yes." His voice was grave. Momentary confusion reigned. She had forgotten she'd said something. After a second, Scully she realized what he was answering, and how he was answering it. A jolt ran through her. Dimly, she realized that she needed to get out of the whirlpool, but her body wasn't responding to the weak signals from her synapses. Silence fell momentarily, until again Mulder spoke.


"Y-Yes?" Scully answered and cursed herself for her wavering voice.

"Are you hogging the jet?" His voice was expressionless.

"What?" Baffled, she stared at him. Mulder looked back at her, raising his eyebrows slightly.

"I said, are you hogging the jet?"

"Mulder, you have a jet of your own, on the other-" Her voice sputtered out in confusion.

"I know I do, Scully." Mulder was approaching her slowly as he spoke. Scully's eyes grew wide and confused. "The thing is, the thing that's concerning me, is that one jet diverted in a hottub can throw off the whole flow of the pool. Fact, Scully. And you." He reached her. "Are hogging the jet." His arm pushed her shoulder slightly. Scully went sideways, her legs going out wildly in an effort to control her body. She managed to recover and float to Mulder's former position.


His voice was taunting in response, designed to rouse more of the anger she'd displayed in the hotel room. He had liked that small display of temper. Mulder wanted more. He liked the idea of the dignified woman he worked with in a passionate display of emotion, even if it was anger. Mulder knew his partner, and knew the iron grip with which she maintained her dignity. However, after nearly five years, he also knew what buttons to push with Scully, and like a stream on a river rock, he'd decided to erode her control.

"That's nice, Scully. Mmmm, I think I like this jet better, it's nice and strong. It has a great sort of push to it. I guess you already knew that, though, didn't you?" He looked at her suggestively. Mulder knew he was going to have to suffer to play this, but he was thought the cost was well worth it.

It seemed to be working. She was staring at him, her eyes dark and intense, her chest heaving. And it was such a nice chest, Mulder thought. He allowed his gaze to linger on the cleavage that hid itself dimly just underneath the water. He pretended to ignore her shocked gasp, and stared up at the sky once again, humming under his breath innocently.

Suddenly his eyes were stinging and he was sucking water. He surfaced, coughing violently. His very satisfied partner sat exactly where she had been before, staring at him with a small smirk playing on the corner of her lips. Mulder stared at her. Scully wanted to play, did she? He ruthlessly squashed his answering grin and approached her.

"That wasn't very nice, Scully. I try and cheer you up, and how do you repay me? With abuse." His long-suffering tone became softer as he came closer. He planted his arms, one on each side of her, effectively blocking her path of escape. Scully attempted to ignore his encroachment by staring fixedly over his shoulder.

Suddenly she was the one who was pushed underwater, between his legs with her arms flailing. Seeking stability, her arms felt around his thighs, landing between his legs. Scully moved her hand immediately, but not before accidentally feeling up her partner. He was almost hard underneath the thin cloth of his boxers. Mulder gasped, grateful she couldn't hear. His partner emerged within an arm's reach of his chest, red, embarrassed and sputtering.

"Fox. William. Mulder." Shit, Mulder thought, Scully must be mad if she were using his full name. It was a sure 'I don't give a damn' kind of phrase. She continued, almost hissing. "What the hell gives you the right to treat me like this?" She poked him in the chest, hard, with one finger, standing in the middle of the churning waves while she tried to keep her balance. Mulder noticed with amusement that only part of her neck and head came up out of the water.

"Damn, Scully, you really are short." He knew he was asking for it, but he couldn't resist. He grinned down at her. "Do you need help? I'm afraid the undertow might get you." Oh shit. Maybe he should have kept the last one to himself. A small redheaded blur propelled itself at him, taking his shoulders and pushing him.

Again Mulder was underwater, but this time, when he resurfaced, he grabbed Scully's waist and spun her around as he moved to the edge of the pool. She sat, pinned by his locked arms, on his lap. She moved furiously for a moment, her back to him, attempting to get free. In spite of the painful pressure she was exerting on his arms, Mulder held tight, finally feeling her stop and settle in on his lap, half-floating and half-grazing the surface of his lap. The friction and pressure made him suck in air quietly.

Scully stopped fighting, suddenly very aware of his body underneath her and his ragged breathing. The skin of his laboring chest brushed against her open back of her suit with every in breath he took. The air escaping his mouth on the as he exhaled hit her neck, cold compared to the warmth of Mulder's body and the steaming water. She tried desperately to clear her head. Each small gust that escaped him seemed to travel straight down to her toes and back up to places she damn well knew she shouldn't be focusing on while hovering in water just above her partner's thighs.

"Mulder, let me go." He complied, his body's conflicting demand the cause of his acquiescence.

Scully stood and pulled herself out of the water. Her low-cut beige swimsuit clung to her trim frame as she collected her towel and clothes. Rivulets of water ran down her slim legs. 'Flesh colored', Mulder thought dimly, watching the water move down her calve muscles.

Finally, he managed to take back control of his neck muscles. Mulder closed his eyes. He was shocked, he thought. This trip was affecting him. He was having a perfectly natural reaction to an attractive woman. A perfectly natural reaction to a beautiful woman who happened to be his partner, and who had been sitting in his lap. Oh god. Mulder's mind wanted to expound on this topic some more, but Scully was walking away.

"I'm going to head back, Mulder." Her clipped tones were directed at her feet.

"Sure." His voice was almost a whisper.

Scully went straight for the pool. She dived into the deep end, a clean, short arc. The water was incredibly cold after the hottub, and a shock to her system. It was exactly what she needed, in spite of the fact that, in her condition, she was risking a nosebleed or worse. She stayed in the shallow end for long minutes until her body adjusted to the chill, calming her.

Mulder watched Scully as she dove into the pool. He was confused by his actions, but not surprised at Scully's reaction. He knew she guarded her feelings closely, often seeming cold and detached. Mulder knew there was a warm hearted, loving woman in that controlled FBI body and was determined to uncover it.

He moved in front of the strong jet. Mulder sighed in relief as the relaxing pulses hit his weary muscles. His body began to relax for the first time in days. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back, using the concrete lip of the small pool for a pillow.

Suddenly, a sharp, searing feeling ran through the base of his skull. Mulder lifted his head quickly, grabbing the back of his neck. He held tightly for a moment as the pain dissipated. He shook his head to clear his blurred vision.

Mulder moved to the middle of the Jacuzzi and stood. He felt a little dizzy and wobbled a bit. He looked in the direction Scully had disappeared earlier, and noticed she was climbing out of the larger pool. He was about to call out to her when his eyes cleared and the pain ceased. Shaking his head, Mulder attributed the pain and after effects to stress and lack of sleep.

He moved slowly to the side and gathered his clothes, following Scully at a safe distance. He knew he had to allow her space after their game in the Jacuzzi. He smiled to himself, thinking of how much fun it was trying to crack Dr. Dana Scully's reserve. But why, he asked himself. What was so important about breaking through her well-guarded wall? Mulder put the answer to that question off until later, for a night that he didn't have to sleep next to the woman in question.

First, they floated for endless, countless millennia, with only the rock to protect and sustain them. There, they held back, absorbing only that critical to their survival. Waiting, they lost a portion of their mass. They could sense dimly, the ending of life, portions of their own mind, as one, shrinking, passing away shriveled.

It was so hard to forget the moisture, the endless warmth and nutrients, of the place before. Beauty, abundance, to have without choice, surrounded them. There, they would stretch out without fear to feed in the wet, dominant and safe. Somehow, though, they did forget, enclosed in the hard floating place of death. Endless. So patient, passive, until there was no time before. In the rock, there was no beauty, no feeding, no moisture, only survival and the slow shrinking.

Then burning, endless searing, sounds of pain echoing from within and without, almost unbearable pressure and heat. Another long pain, although not so hard as the slow dying. This was a quick closing-off death. Still, they endured, forcing their small bodies, as one, to burrow, to core into the rock until they were one with pain, with the barren prison. They absorbed and released time as one, knowing eventually that it would feed them again, as one and one mind or many as one. Waiting was unimportant; food would come.

The slight temperature change in the host's blood was the signal. Finally, as one, they relaxed and tired of the waiting. As in all things, one, they stretched out, slowly remembering, and began to feed. But still, they were slow, cautious. Time was before and without, endless in the smooth wet expanse to limit as they chose.

When Mulder reached the door, he hesitated before using his key. Taking in a deep breath, he unlocked the door and opened it slowly. A dim lamp on the table next to the cheap dresser lit the room. He couldn't see Scully anywhere as he entered. Quietly, he closed the door behind him. Mulder looked toward the bathroom and saw light seeping through the crack under the bathroom door.

Mulder heard water running and knew Scully was about to take a shower. He quickly moved to his suitcase and pulled out a fresh pair of boxer-briefs, wondering idly if Scully would notice how snugly they fit his ass. He hung his damp boxers on the chair to dry and sat on the bed, grabbing the remote and clicking on the television. Mulder tried hard not to think about his partner, naked and wet in the shower.

Scully stood under the hot jet spray of water, glad for the warmth that relaxed the tight muscles in her neck. "What in the hell happened out there?" She asked herself softly. First, she was relaxing, allowing the stress of the day to leave her body. Then, all of a sudden, Mulder was hovering over her, dunking her, and she was in his lap. Scully shook her head, feeling the water run down over her head. The feelings she had guarded against so well, for so long, were surfacing. She had felt, for a split second, the temptation to kiss him right there in the hot tub. As if that weren't enough, now she had to sleep with him. Scully hated the fact that the thought excited her.

A few minutes later, Scully emerged from the bathroom, carefully avoiding meeting Mulder's gaze.

"All through in the bathroom, Scully?" Mulder asked as he put the remote on the bed and stood. Looking up, Scully noticed his soft cotton ass pass by. She closed her eyes as it disappeared behind the bathroom door and sighed, thinking, 'How am I going to cope with this? Maybe I should get another room.'

No, she thought in rebellion. She would not let him know what he was doing to her. Scully's resolve kicked in, and she gathered her strength. If Mulder knew what he was doing to her, she wondered, what would happen? Scully answered her own question. She would seem weak. She would be responding to something that might be sexually, but never emotionally serious on his part.

That was the last thing, the very last thing she wanted. Dana Katherine Scully would ever allow anyone to think she wasn't strong. She would not allow herself to be with Mulder, knowing that was all he wanted. No, she thought, she would force herself to remain cool, collected, unimpressed by Mulder's little games. He would not break her resolve. He was still only her partner, and therefore off limits, no matter how much she might want him.

Scully quickly removed the towel from her head and climbed in bed, turning her back away from Mulder's side. When she clicked off the light, the room was lit only by the flickering glow of the television. A few minutes later Scully heard the shower turn off, followed by the metal scrape of shower curtain hooks. She forced herself not to think of a naked Mulder drying himself off only a few paces away. "Ohhhh." She groaned softly out loud into her pillow. This was going to be harder than she thought.

When the door opened, she pretended to be asleep. Mulder turned off the light in the bathroom and padded to his side of the bed.

"Scully?" His voice was low.

Scully forced her breathing into a slow and steady rhythm, simulating the early stages of sleep. Scully heard him sigh defeatedly as the bed dipped under his weight. He picked up the remote and began flipping channels. Scully had to pretend for a long time before she fell asleep in reality, though.

Next Day
12:30 p.m. PDT

Mulder and Scully sat in the booth of a small diner enjoying a cup of hot coffee. Both were lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly, Scully gasped. Mulder looked up to see her face drain of color. She stared out the window, transfixed.

"What is it, Scully?" Mulder's concerned voice didn't break his partner's concentration. He looked out the window, following her gaze to the parking lot across the street. His eyes caught the movement of a young, slender woman in her mid-30's. She had medium red hair. Her even strides as she exited the grocery store and confident manner weren't the reasons he understood Scully's surprise. It was her face. The face of Melissa Scully. It was a perfect match. Before Mulder could stop her, Scully was on her feet and out the door. Mulder threw a couple of bills on the table and hurriedly took off after his partner.

Scully moved across the parking lot, ignoring Mulder's calling voice behind her. She walked in a controlled rush up to the young woman and froze. She couldn't move, or speak. Mulder joined her and put his hand on her shoulder.

Mulder's touch startled her, but she never took her eyes off the beautiful woman that mirrored her dead sister. As if the woman felt their presence, she turned around and looked at them. A puzzled look, then a warm smile spread across her face.

"Dana, Fox, what are you two doing here?" The woman stood in front of them. Dana faced her silently, starting to shake. "Dana, are you okay?" A concerned look distorted the woman's features as she raised an eyebrow. "You are going to be late for your own anniversary party if you don't get a move on." She added. "I've picked up the last items we were missing, Dana. We can start the preliminary cooking tonight. Everyone is coming, t's going to be fun." Closing the car door, the woman walked closer to the two motionless people.

As if the closing of the door broke the spell Scully was in, she lunged for Melissa, hugging her tightly. "Melissa, I've missed you." Scully was almost in tears. She couldn't fathom it, and she didn't want to. All she knew at that moment was her sister felt real. Melissa. Alive. Her mind kept trying to wrap itself around the two words, trying to link them together and failing.

"Dana, what in the world is going on? Fox, what is wrong with her?" She looked at Mulder who was still standing unmoving in the same spot. "I just saw you last night. For heaven sakes, we live two houses away from each other." Melissa pulled away from Scully, looking at her with a puzzled frown. Scully was smiling, a wide, confused expression. She was on the verge of tears.

Mulder cut the moment. "I think it's that time of the month, you know?" He knew that he had to do something to cover up his partner's strange behavior. Something was definitely amiss here. "We stopped for a cup of coffee." He offered.

"Way out here? You two act like you've been abducted again." Melissa teased.

Scully jerked her head up. "Again?" She asked sharply.

"It's a joke. Jeez, Dana, you remember the Elders telling us about the abduction." Melissa was growing a little nervous.

"Oh, yeah." Through the haze of confused emotion, Scully knew she had to try and play along. She struggled for control. "We were just driving and ended up here."

"You two. I swear, you'd never know you'd been married two years tomorrow." Melissa grinned at them.

Mulder and Scully looked at each other in shock. Mulder quickly recovered, drawing Scully close to him.

"Yeah, we're like two love-sick fools." He gave Scully a puppy-dog look, enjoying her involuntary start in response.

"Well, you two should go home. We have a lot to do before tomorrow night." Melissa walked around to the driver's side of her car.

Mulder whispered in Scully's ear. "Are you all right, Scully?"

"I.I don't know, Mulder. What's going on?" Her voice was plaintive, confused.

Mulder motioned to the small car pulling out of the parking lot. "We better follow her, since we don't know where we live." He pulled Scully, still stunned and moving like a robot, not taking her eyes off Melissa. They crossed the street and hurriedly climbed into their car. The agents followed at a safe distance in absolute quiet. Neither knew what to say.

About five miles of silence later, they saw Melissa Scully turn into a neighborhood called 'Evergreen Tree Terrace'. Mulder waited until she pulled into a driveway before turning onto the road. The two watched as a tall man opened the front door and walked to the car where Melissa was pulling out bags of groceries. She stood up with her hands full and handed the man a couple of bags. Closing the door of the car, Melissa followed the man into the white, traditional house with green trim. When the door closed, Mulder heard Scully exhale deeply.

"Mulder, are we in the twilight zone here?" Scully turned her face away from the happy suburban home and toward her partner.

"I don't know, Scully, but I think we need to investigate what's going on here. "Especially if it is a dream, and we're both in it." He gave her a smug sideways look. "Besides, you might enjoy being married to me."

Scully rolled her eyes, trying not to show her real feelings. Ever since Melissa had revealed what seemed to be an alternate life, Scully had felt her emotions slipping away from her. She wasn't entirely sure she liked the feeling of losing control, but she found herself strangely reluctant to collect her reserve again. It was partly due to seeing her impossibly alive sister, but that wasn't the whole reason. She knew that Mulder was only playing a role earlier, but somehow that didn't deter her from being both embarrassed and exhilarated.

Her life was becoming more and more like a Stephen King movie, a frightening thriller. Everything in the last few years seemed to be pointing toward some overdone, gory ending where the principal characters might or might not make it out alive. She thought about her time with the X-Files, from the disgusting Flukeman to the tumor doing its work on her brain and bloodstream. How much could a mind and body take? Her thoughts were interrupted when Mulder's voice assaulted her ears.

"Scully, it's you." He pointed in shock to the redheaded woman emerging from a house two doors down from where Melissa had disappeared.

"Oh my God, Mulder, who the hell is that?" Scully felt light-headed as she watched herself get into a car and start the engine. In a moment another person came out of the house and closed the door. This time it was Mulder's turn to gasp.

"That's me!" Mulder's voice was shrill with surprise. "What the hell?" They waited as the man and woman backed down their driveway and proceeded in their direction. They both slumped down into their seats as their twins turned in the opposite direction. Mulder and Scully looked at each other, then sat up quickly. Putting the car into gear, Mulder followed at a safe distance so the woman wouldn't notice the truck they were driving.

"Mulder, who could these people be? How can they look just like us?" Scully was reeling.

"I've seen this before, Scully. You remember what I told you about my trip to Canada. They must be clones of us. Why? I have no idea." Mulder looked at Scully, then back to the road as the car in front of them slowed and turned into a gravel road lined with trees and underbrush.

Mulder allowed them a few car lengths and turned down the same road following them at a safe distance. "Scully, do you have your gun?" He asked as he pulled his own out of the glove compartment.

"Right here. What are you going to do, Mulder?"

"I think we should kidnap ourselves and find out what's going on." He answered, smiling at Scully's confused look. She nodded as the crease in between her eyes deepened. Looking back out the windshield, they noticed the car stop on the side of the road.

"Perfect, no one around." Mulder said to himself. "Ready?" He asked his partner.

"Yes, I guess so." Scully reached for the door handle as Mulder stopped the car.

Mulder stopped the car as far away from the unsuspecting couple's car as possible. The agents watched as their twins got out of the car. The man gestured toward the woman, and the two headed off into the wooded area beside the road. The man carried a blanket.

Mulder opened the door carefully and got out, leaving it slightly open. Scully matched his movements and moved to join him. Following the path the couple had followed, Mulder held out his hand, stopping his partner as he heard a giggle. He grinned at his partner.

"They're fooling around, Scully." He raised his eyebrows.

Scully closed her eyes for a moment. 'Oh, not now.' She thought to herself. 'This is all I need.' When she opened her eyes Mulder had moved closer to the noise, moving carefully to avoid making noise in the underbrush.

"Fox, we don't have time for this." The woman lay beneath the faux Mulder, pinned by his weight as he kissed her neck.

"Sure we do." Heedless, he continued to kiss her. "Tomorrow we won't have time. This is our annual thing, remember? We can't break with tradition, that simply wouldn't do." Mulder's twin continued to move downward to the woman's shoulder and chest. He started to unbutton her shirt.

Mulder could feel his groin tighten watching what amounted to a view of himself and Scully making out. He was enjoying this, and Scully's red-faced reaction, almost too much to stop it. However, he knew that if they wanted answers time was most important. He looked at Scully, asking silently if she was ready. She blinked and nodded. Mulder held up three fingers and counted down.

The couple started when they heard agents approach, their guns drawn. They looked up into the eyes of identical beings. "What the hell?" Fox said, climbing off Dana and standing.

Scully tried to remain expressionless, but the man with what looked like a raging hard-on underneath his pants was just too much to bear. She barked out a laugh and tried to maintain her stance with gun in place. Her double scurried to her feet. Fox pulled her close to him, his arm around her waist.

"Who the hell are you?" Mulder demanded as he looked from one to the other.

"They said there wouldn't be other clones like us." Fox answered, confused.

"Clones, you think we're clones?" Scully asked. Mulder snorted softly at Fox's comment, thinking of the man sent to kill him.

"Of course, we're all clones. Aren't you?" Dana asked as she looked hard at Mulder, then Fox, then Scully.

"I think you'd better come with us." Mulder said waving his gun in the direction of the car. Fox reached down and picked up the blanket, then followed Dana. Mulder and Scully allowed the couple to precede them and followed, keeping their guns pointed at their backs.

"You know, the guns aren't necessary. We're all the same here. I just wished they would have let us know they had planned on replacing us another way." Fox said as he walked to the road.

"Is it time for us to move into our new lives?" Dana asked.

"New lives?" Scully questioned sharply.

"Yes. We're supposed to replace our originals in the FBI." She answered.

"Replace the originals?" Mulder asked. He couldn't suppress the surprise in his voice.

Fox stopped and turned around. Mulder gripped his gun tightly. "Dr. Scanlon said we would take our places soon.. Hasn't anyone gone over this with you? Damn, I hate bureaucracies." Fox shook his head.

They reached Mulder and Scully's car. "Get in. Fox, you're driving." Mulder said tersely as he and Scully got into the back seat. They continued to hold their guns steady on the clones in the front seat.

"I wish we didn't have to miss our anniversary party." Dana said, looking extremely disappointed.

Fox took her hand and squeezed it. "It's okay, sweetheart. We don't control things."

Mulder looked at Scully and, smirking, mouthed. "Sweetheart?"

Ignoring him, Scully asked, "Umm, who's coming to the party?"

Dana turned around; her face bright with excitement. "Everyone in the neighborhood, Dr. Scanlon and his colleagues. It's going to be a major event. It isn't often the Elders come out for festivities, but we are among the first pairs."

"Pairs?" Scully was trying to remain calm talking to her alternate form. She had the urge to run at full speed away from this surreal nightmare. The limited knowledge she had about tumors and delusional thinking played in her mind. She pushed it away. If she wasn't insane already, thinking that way would send her there.

"Yes, Fox and I are to give birth to the first offspring in the colony." Dana said, smiling at her husband. He smiled back at her and leaned over to give her a kiss. Scully's eyes widened, and Mulder's face suddenly lost most of its remaining color.

"Was...Was this by conventional measures or clinical?" Mulder tried hard not to stammer the question. He was beginning to hope this was a dream. Could they have perfected not only cloning humans, but reproduction as well?

"Well, we certainly tried conventionally, didn't we Dana?" Fox's sly smile made Scully blush. Dana smiled at him.

"Consistently." She turned to Scully. "Dr. Scanlon used eggs from a fertility clinic from the original human. Fox here is very potent, it should only take the first try. In two days it'll be implanted in my womb." Dana was smiling sweetly at her unembarrassed husband. He moved his hand to her abdomen, rubbing small circles over it. Mulder stared outside, at his gun, at the back of the driver's seat, anywhere but at Fox's stroking fingers. Suddenly, he too was embarrassed.

"Eggs from the original?" Scully looked at Mulder, horrified. "Do you know -"

Mulder cut her off. "Dana, I don't think this is the right time to discuss this. We need to place our counterparts in the safe place with our friends." Mulder was hoping Scully could read his silent message.

Scully took a deep breath to steady her nerves. "Yes, what friends are we going to leave them with?" She knew Mulder was hiding something, and if he thought she was going to forget this, he was dead wrong.

"The boys are in Vancouver at a conspiracy convention. I'll contact them."

Mulder pulled out his cell phone as he spoke to Fox. "Start the car and drive to Highway 97 south. We're staying at a motel outside of town ." Fox turned toward the front, and Dana slid over, snuggling close to him.

Mulder dialed a number and waited. "Langly, how fast can you guys travel to Penticton BC? It's north of Washington on Highway 97." He listened and smiled, lowering his voice. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you. He paused. "Dana and I have met clones of ourselves." He pulled the phone away from his ear. "Calm down, Langly." Mulder moved the to his other ear. "We're at the BudgetRite motel, room 203. Thanks, see you then." He ended the call, stuffed the phone back into his coat pocket. "They'll say they'll be here within four hours, but I'd give them at least five, unless they plan on breaking the sound barrier." He did a double take at the expression in his partner's face.

Scully couldn't stop staring at the couple in front of her. She simultaneously felt like she was stuck in both a romantic and a horror movie. At the same time, she was and was not starring. She could feel her head starting to swim and throb as she felt the first warm trickle run down her nasal passage. Scully quickly moved her hand to catch the drop of red liquid before it escaped it's dark home and landed on her clothing. Quickly, with one hand, while holding her gun, she searched her pocket for a tissue.

Mulder looked at her with concern. He remembered that they were working against time. For a moment he had enjoyed seeing the possibility of Scully as his wife. Now, with the return of the blood, Mulder realized this wasn't humorous, it was deadly serious, and he willed the Gunmen to hurry.

Fox looked up and noticed Scully holding a tissue in front of her nose. "Are you all right?"

Scully looked up, meeting his eyes in the rear-view mirror. She nodded without saying a word.

Dana turned around and stared at her mirrored image. "Do you have those often? Dr. Scanlon and his colleagues have treated many women with the same problem successfully. They live here in the colony."

Scully looked at Mulder then back to Dana. "These women, what are their names?"

Dana thought for a moment. "The most recent was Penny Northern. She joined us about a year ago. Lovely woman, she is such a comfort in time of need." She smiled.

Mulder noticed the motel in the distance. "Turn right up there." Fox acknowledged his directions and turned into the parking lot of the Best Western Inn. "Pull around back." Mulder instructed. He was surprised how easily the clones trusted them. No paranoia, no suspicious glances. They seemed to be at peace. It was a stark contrast to his haunted existence, Mulder thought.

"Stop here." Fox obeyed, turned into a parking space and put the car into gear, turned off the engine.

Mulder and Scully got out of the car and pointed their weapons on the bewildered couple climbing out of the front seat.

"You don't have to hold guns on us, we're not going to harm you." Fox said moving in the direction Mulder motioned to with his gun.

They climbed the stairs in silence and stood outside the room. Carefully, Mulder pulled out the door key and unlocked it keeping his eyes on Fox and Dana. He held the open door for the couple to enter. Scully closed the door, lowering her gun as the couple sat on the bed close to each other. Fox put a protective arm around Dana's shoulders.

"Now, we want some answers." Mulder said as he pulled up a chair and sat down putting his gun on the table, but keeping it close at hand. He attributed it to trained paranoia, but he knew the truth was that he was apprehensive staring at doubles of himself and Scully.

"Sure, what do you want to know?" Dana answered him, placing her hand on Fox's thigh.

Scully looked back Mulder as he gathered his thoughts. "Tell us about the colony." Mulder asked, rubbing the back of his neck. He felt pressure building into a steady throb. Scully caught his eye, and he shrugged off her concern.

Fox looked at Scully then Mulder. They could tell he was puzzled by the look on his face. He began to speak with caution. "Everyone knows about the colony. When we were programmed after origin, we were taught the function of the colony. Why don't you understand?" He questioned.

Mulder thought quickly. "We're new, we need to know how to proceed." A weak alibi, but all he could think of at the moment. Fox seemed to halfway accept his answer.

"Our function, as with everyone else in the colony, is to re-populate the world when the great plague eliminates our inferior counterparts. We are an identical duplication from tissue gathered from the originals. We are reproduced in the lab, and programmed for the colony where we live and learn how to exist." He continued, communicating with the ease of memorization. "Up until now, we haven't been able to reproduce, but Dr. Scanlon and his team have perfected a method of reproduction by artificial insemination. He had hoped for a more conventional way, but that has been unsuccessful."

"We are the first test subjects to be allowed to reproduce the conventional way. I will carry the fetus until birth. If there are no complications, we will be able to keep the baby." Dana was interrupted.

"Complications? What do you mean?" Scully asked.

"With the hybrid DNA genetics that make up our systems, it can sometimes have side effects on reproduction. In the lab, it is controlled. Since the eggs are from the original, Dr. Scanlon isn't sure it will attach and thrive in my uterus." Dana looked at Fox and smiled. "We're hoping it will work." Fox slipped his hand around her small fingers and squeezed, then planted a kiss on her forehead.

"What is the purpose of this colony?" Mulder asked, trying to diminish the jealousy he felt toward his counterpart for being able to show affection openly and without apprehension.

Fox sighed. He was growing impatient with these unprogrammed, unfriendly clones. "The purpose of the colony is simple. We are replacements for originals that have been infected by the smallpox virus. We will re-populate the earth. We are all made up of tissue and DNA from original donors gathered by the Elders."

"You don't question these 'Elders'?" Scully asked.

"Why should we? They program everything we need to know into our make-up. We are a very happy colony. We work together well. We're everything the originals aren't. Happy, peaceful, agreeable." Dana held her husband's hand.

"And controlled." Mulder murmured to himself. "If you can't control them, replace them with ones you can." He looked at Scully with a sickened look on his face, understanding for the first time what they were actually faced with.

"When were you expected to replace the originals?" Mulder asked, looking at the couple.

"We don't know. Aren't you the ones replacing us in the colony?" Fox asked, looking from one to the other counterpart. His tone was slightly alarmed.

Scully looked at Mulder.

"Yes, we are. We were just testing you." Mulder held his breath, wanting this couple to trust them. He could see Fox calm with his words.

"We will replace you, and our friends will stay with you until it's time for your transfer with the originals." Scully felt sick even saying it. She couldn't believe she was lying to herself.

"What about the fertilization?" Scully could tell Dana was becoming nervous.

"Don't worry, it will be completed as planned." She assured her and watched as Dana relaxed and looked at Fox lovingly.

"Good. I wouldn't want to miss having your baby, Fox." She said sweetly.

Scully's began to blink rapidly. She couldn't get used to such intimate exchanges between people that looked just like her and...and Mulder. She could see Mulder grinning at her in her peripheral vision. She knew he was enjoying her discomfort. He'd been trying to push her buttons since she arrived at their first destination. This little game he was playing was becoming too uncomfortable, it was beginning to crack her emotional reserve. If they had to pose as the imposters, God help her. She rolled her eyes in frustration, mentally counting to 10. Satisfied that she was under control again, she looked back at Mulder.

"What do we do now, Mulder?" She hissed quietly, with evident exasperation.

"We wait for the Gunmen." He tried to hide his pleasure. "Then, weeeee...We become Fox and Dana." He was unable to hide his grin. His every fantasy about Scully raced in front of his photographic memory. If they had to pose as a married couple, he was going to enjoy trying to break down the last walls of Scully's weakening defenses.

Mulder rubbed the back of his head again. The pressure had not eased in the past three hours. He attributed the throbbing discomfort to stress. Not able to bear any more pain, the agent looked to his partner for help.

"Dana, do you have any aspirin?"

"Yes." Scully could see the pain evident on his face. "Are you all right?" She dug into her luggage and handed him a bottle of pain reliever. Mulder wedged open the plastic cap with clumsy fingers and shook out two white tablets. He swallowed them dry.

"I've got a headache, I'll be fine." He assured her. "Now, what other experiments are being conducted at this site?" Mulder continued the interrogation of the clones. He was glad Scully was taking notes since his headache prevented some of the information to penetrate the pain to his brain.

Fox sighed. He and Dana were reclined on the bed and she had fallen asleep while he answered questions. Automatically he picked up the remote control and began surfing. Taking a deep breath, he continued producing the information his alter ego kept insisting he give.

"The lab is set up into sections to study different things. One section deals with infectious diseases, another with what they call the black cancer." Mulder interrupted him.

"Black Cancer? Are they testing it on humans?" Mulder tried to focus through the agony in his head. He felt like he'd just stepped into a room full of funhouse mirrors. His own face was swimming around two of Scully's. Everything was blurring around the edges from the pain.

"The lab is highly classified. You have to have special clearance to enter. Seems the word is they had some experiments destroyed a couple of years back." Fox yawned, obviously bored with the conversation. His stomach growled. "I'm hungry, do you think we could get something to eat?"

Scully looked at Mulder. He shrugged his shoulders, uncaring. "What would you like, Mo-Fox?" Scully was enjoying herself. It was small but satisfying payback for her partner's previous harassment.. Mulder looked up at her slip of the tongue. He could tell she was enjoying using his first name.

"I don't care, I'm not really hungry." He rolled his head around to try and relieve the pressure.

"Pizza?" Scully asked looking at both men.

"Fine with me." Fox shook Dana. "Hey, sweetheart. Do you want pizza?" She lifted her head opening her eyes slightly.

"Sure, fine, whatever." She replaced her head on Fox's chest and closed her eyes again. Mulder and Scully looked at each other, startled, and Mulder stifled laughter, remembering the fiasco in Comity. His partner didn't look nearly as amused.

Scully stood up and moved to the phone. Opening the book, she looked up a number for pizza delivery. "Is there any particular pizzeria you frequent, Fox?"

"Pizzanos is great. Supreme. I could eat a large by myself. They have great iced tea too, real lemon." Scully found the number and ordered three large pizzas in case the Gunmen were hungry when they arrived.

Dana stirred again. "Fox, Melissa is expecting me at 7:00pm to help prepare for tomorrow."

Scully looked at her watch. "It's 5:30pm now. We don't have much time." She stood and pulled the curtain back and looked out the window. "I hope the Gunmen arrive soon." Letting go of the curtain, she noticed Mulder was still showing signs of pain. Again, she had to catch herself before she called him by his last name. "Fox, is your headache worse? Maybe you should lie down." Mulder nodded his dazed agreement and moved to the empty bed to stretch out.

"Care to join me? You know, practice?" He mumbled half-heartedly.

"Look, if you don't want more pain, in a different area..." She tried to sound angry to hide her mounting fear of being too close to him.

"Okay, okay." Mulder closed his eyes. "I've got a headache anyway, honey." He snickered without opening his eyes.

Mulder's attempt to assuage the pain was cut rudely short by the tapping, then pounding on the door. Groaning, he sat up, clutching the base of his skull. Thanks to the aspirin, the pain had receded a little. Still, he could feel a vague and disturbing throbbing. Shaking off a feeling of apprehension, he watched as Scully opened the door for the LoneGunmen.

The first in was Byers. As he entered, he shielded his eyes from the sun and attempted to see inside the darker room. His eyes widened suddenly, and he stopped dead. Frohike bumped into him with a muttered curse. When Byers showed no signs of moving out of the way, Frohike let loose.

"Damnit, Byers, didn't that ugly old bag you call a mother-Holy shit." He breathed this last. "It's true." The small man reached around him for Langly, who was still trying to enter in vain. Jerking him in and closing the door, the trio just stared for a moment. Finally, Scully broke the awkward silence, gesturing to each person in turn.

"Langly, Frohike, Byers, meet Fox and Dana." The two clones were awake and smiling. Dana was sitting in between Fox's legs resting against his chest, and he had his arms around her, stroking her belly absently with his fingers.

Mulder watched as the reactions from his three friends moved from utter shock, to interest and amusement. Frohike, in particular, was getting a peculiar light in his eyes as he stared from Scully to Dana speculatively. Mulder gave him a pointed stare. The gray-haired man just shrugged slightly, unembarrassed.

This time it was Mulder who broke the silence. "Well, I hate to break up the party, but we need to get going." He reasoned it would be safe for the three to watch Fox and Dana, considering they were armed and the clones showed no signs of resistance anyway.

Fox asked Mulder, "When can we expect to begin our new lives?" Mulder wished he would stop with the rubbing already. His eyes couldn't seem to stop tracking those fingers, so eerily like his own. One up, one down, one up, one down. The infuriating thing was, Dana seemed to like it. She was leaning back into Fox with her eyes slitted as she tracked what was happening. She was practically purring, he thought.

He shook his head, knowing that Scully would never behave as Dana was, no matter how much he tried. Or would she? He wondered again what would happen if he managed to break through her emotional reserve.

Mulder rose from the bed and listened to the LGM as they began to make their arrangements in low voices. The three men noticed him listening and huddled closer, speaking more softly amongst themselves.

"Okay, the colony is approximately another three miles, make the right." Scully was giving Mulder directions from her high perch beside him. The old truck's shocks weren't faring well on the bumpy road, and Mulder was getting the bone-jarring ride of his life from the driver's seat.

Mulder ruefully thought about the exact meaning that the manufacturer had in mind when they said four by four. By all accounts, every bump and vibration shouldn't be penetrating from his rear up his spine to his aching cranium. Actually, he thought dimly, absorbed, pain wasn't even the right word. The right term would be agony, whole-bodied living breathing pain, boring into his bones, stretching out in his marrow. Unbeknownst to Scully, Mulder had kept the aspirin bottle she'd handed him before, and he'd already taken eight more. Somehow, though, he was getting the feeling that he could take the whole bottle and it wouldn't work, that nothing would help his beleaguered cranium.

Just when he thought that he had a handle, knew the perimeters of this pain, it reared back up and stretched them some more. Slowly, Mulder slumped back into the driver's seat and let the feeling school him. Graduate degree, he thought. Ph fucking D. That was just about the same time he ran the truck off the road.

When he saw Scully swimming above him, Mulder realized that he had blacked out for a moment. The van had stopped. Scully's cool hand on his forehead made him flinch, and her voice was much too loud against his oversensitive eardrums, making his temples throb. Tears slipped down his face. He wanted to beg, to plead with the pain, to appeal to his body, but he was held fast in the grip of his hostage nerve endings.

"Mulder, can you hear me? Mulder? What's going on, can you speak at all? Nod if you understand." Mulder groaned, flailing an arm and sending her flying. Scully hit her shoulder against the back of the passenger seat and stared. She was becoming really frightened. Mulder continued to flail, twitching violently. His eyes, which had been staring fixedly at Scully, rolled back into his head.

"Mulder, you're having a seizure. Can you hear me?" Scully made her voice commanding in spite of the cold terror leaching the strength from her spine. She tried to hold his arms to keep him from hurting himself as his heels drummed against the petals mindlessly. She was despairing of keeping him down when the seizure stopped. One last time, Mulder's arm swung out wildly, striking Scully in the face as she was trying to restrain him. Then he lay still, breathing shallowly.

Slowly, he managed to raise himself. Scully helped him, supporting Mulder by the shoulder. With her free hand, she felt his forehead. No fever. Looking into his eyes, she said, "Mulder, my god, are you all right? Mulder?" Scully was about to jump out of her skin with fear. Something was seriously wrong, and it wasn't just a headache. "Mulder?" Her voice had been getting steadily louder, and she had to take a deep breath to keep her from yelling. If only he would say something. She took a deep breath to steady herself.

Sighing, she took her index finger and said slowly and calmly, "Mulder, listen to me. Do you understand? Can you track my finger?" She was relieved when his eyes followed her digit then moved to lock with hers.

His voice came out in a low, hoarse, croak. "I-I'm okay. Thanks." Holding his head, he said, "We need to go."

"Mulder, I'm not going to let you-" Scully began.

"Please. We don't have any choice, Scully." His voice was a strangled rasp. Mulder walked around to the passenger's side of the truck, and she slid over to drive. It went against every instinct in her body to not drive back to the hotel, but she didn't. They had no choice, and it was useless to argue. If they wanted to survive, they had to penetrate the colony. To accomplish that, they had to go there. There weren't holes in the logic, although Scully wished to hell there were. She didn't like the way things were going at all.

Scully turned to the man beside her, looking into his bloodshot eyes. She told herself she was holding on tightly because he was still feeling weak, but she could feel the bunching of his back muscles underneath his shirt and knew he could sit alone. Scully loosened her grip a little as Mulder's body straightened in the passenger's seat. She knew it was for her benefit, but said nothing, looking over to make sure Mulder was buckled in.

Scully said, "Mulder, these headaches, do you think they're related to the experiments in Tunguska, to what they did to you there?" Mulder turned his head slowly, holding the back of his head tightly with his palm. As he nodded slowly, Scully saw something thin and black drift across his hazel iris and back up underneath his fluttering eyelid. Somehow, she choked back her scream.

They arrived at the car at 6:45pm. Mulder's headache had abated, but Scully watched him closely. "Mulder are you sure you're okay?" She asked for the hundredth time.

Mulder sighed. "Yes, dear." He added a grin to the statement. Scully wasn't amused.

They opened the door and climbed in the car. Starting the motor, Mulder executed a perfect three-point turn around they were on their way.

"Uhm, Scully." Mulder wanted to approach the subject of them as a couple carefully.

"Yes, Mulder?" Scully looked away from the scenery passing outside her window.

"How do you think we're supposed to convince the colony that we are Fox and Dana?" He wanted her to make the decision about their relationship. He thought it exciting watching Fox touch and kiss Dana, but this was Scully, and he all of a sudden felt nervous about the whole charade.

Scully sighed as she turned back toward the window. She had put off thinking about how they would co-habitate. She shuddered to think what would happen when they were thrown into the midst of the clones having to pretend to be husband and wife. How was she going to act like the love-struck Dana? That wasn't her.

Nothing about Dana was her, except for the genetic make up of her body. How would she cope with seeing Dr. Scanlon? What was she going to do about the 'original' eggs the clones spoke of, and what, exactly, did Mulder know about it? Were they taken during her abduction?

"Scully?" Mulder spoke again. He noticed she was deep in thought.

"Hmmm?" She answered on reflex, still looking out the window.

"How do you...Are you listening to me?" He asked as they turned into the neighborhood that would become their home.

"Mulder, I guess we'll just play it by ear." She answered as the car halted in front of their house. Scully unbuckled her seat belt and opened the door. Without a word they entered the front door and stood in the foyer.

"Why do I feel like I'm in a fairy tale?" Scully mumbled to herself. She started when she realized that Mulder was right beside her.

"Welcome to Fox and Dana's world." Mulder spoke softly into her ear. He was so close Scully could feel the warm push of his breath.

"We better change into the clone's clothes before everyone arrives." Mulder started climbing the stairs to the upper floor. Pictures lined the walls, and he paused to look at them. Several of them were of Fox and Dana at their wedding. Dana wore a long, elegant white gown, and Fox stood beside her, grinning in a tux. 'Wedding?' Mulder thought as a strange feeling of panic moved through his body. Moving up another step or two as he looked at pictures of a happy couple in different poses. He had to admit they did look contented. Continuing up the stairs he dismissed the possibility that he and Scully could ever live out the fantasy that Fox and Dana lived. How could they be happy, when there was so much baggage in their past lives that had damaged them emotionally and physically?

As he reached the top of the stairs, Mulder could see Scully through the bedroom door. He stopped and looked at her for a moment. What were they going to do about this colony? How would she react to the truth about what he'd been shown by one of the Kurt clones? And what would she do to him when she found out he had a vial of her ova? Mulder shook his head at his thoughts as he forced his feet to walk into the room they were to share. 'Share?' The panicked thought raced through his mind as his thoughts returned to the wedding photos. He'd been trying to get Scully to open up to him, but did he really want to be that happy with anyone until he found Samantha?

He watched Scully as she pulled out shirts and jeans from the dresser drawers. What actually did she mean to him? She was his best friend, confidant, and next of kin. Was that all? Could that be all she wanted from him? He knew these questions would ultimately be answered if they were to remain as close as they had been in the last few days.

Scully busied herself searching through the drawers of the dresser looking for casual clothes fitting for a pre-party event. She should have asked who would be helping with the preparation for the big fiesta tomorrow night, and where was it supposed to take place. So many questions were running through Scully's mind that she didn't notice Mulder staring at her.

"Scully?" Mulder spoke softly.

"Hmm?" She didn't look up still searching for something to wear.

"I.....I think there are some things we need to discuss."

"Okay, but while we're discussing them, could you find something to wear? Everyone is going to be here in about five minutes." Why did she feel so domestic saying that? Ignoring the feeling, she gathered the clothes she'd chosen and closed the drawers.

Hesitantly, he said, "From the looks of the pictures in the house.... um..... Fox and Dana looked very happy. Do you think we can make people believe we're them?"

"Mulder, we are trained FBI agents, we can pull off an undercover operation." Scully walked toward the bathroom as she briskly answered him. "Although, I know how fond you are of watching my ass." She threw over her shoulder as she walked into the bathroom and closed the door.

Mulder stood there for a moment smiling at Scully's remark. He walked to the dresser on the opposite wall he suspected was his. Was that a challenge he'd just heard from his straightlaced partner? The panic he'd felt earlier left him, and he was filled with renewed strength to find out just how far he could go before Dana Scully cracked. He would find out what he meant to her. Yes, this was going to be more fun than he originally thought. And there was going to be need for distraction when they were face to face with Scanlon. Mulder pulled out clothing and began to change.

The door opened and Dana emerged from the bathroom. Scully had combed and curled her hair to look like Dana. The jeans and short-sleeved button-up sweater she'd chosen made her look younger, and the small amount of make-up she'd applied made her look younger. This was not the Scully he knew. This was Dana.

"Mulder?" Dana watched as Mulder, no Fox, raked her over with his eyes. "Did I forget something?" She looked down her body then back to him.

"No, you look....different." Mulder stood in the bedroom clad only in polo shirt and underwear, holding a pair of jeans. He was oblivious to anything else but her.

"You look different too, Mul......." A grin passed her lips. "Fox." She said carefully. Dana could see him almost wince. "You might as well get used to it, Fox." She said it again.

The spell broken, Mulder stepped into his pants and sat on the bed to put his shoes on. A ringing from the doorbell caused them to freeze for a moment.

"ShowTime, Scu...Dana."

They made their way down the stairs. As they neared the door, they looked at each other and sighed. Mulder opened the door.

"It's about time, I thought you were busy doing other things." Melissa snickered as she past the couple. She continued into the kitchen. "The rest will be along shortly." Fox and Dana looked at each other. "How many do you think are coming?" Dana mouthed. Fox shrugged his shoulders as he closed the door. Walking into the kitchen they fell into Melissa's lead as she pulled items out of the refrigerator.

"Where have you two been all day?" Melissa stopped what she was doing and looked at both of them.

"We......uhm........We were." They looked at each other. Mulder opened his mouth to speak.

"Don't tell me, you were in the woods again?" Melissa chuckled. "You two, I swear, I've never seen anything like it. Dana, when you told me about the annual roll in the woods on your anniversary...." She shook her head as she used her knee to close the refrigerator.

"Uhm, well you know how it is." Fox moved behind Dana and wrapped his arms around her. He felt her stiffen. "When you're in love as we are..." He pulled her close and moved his mouth to her ear. "You've got to play it by ear," he whispered. Dana forced a smile. She didn't want Mul-Fox to know he was having an unsettling effect on her. She could play this game just as well as he could.

"Can't break tradition now can we Fox?" She turned her head and placed a quick kiss on Fox's lips then moved out of his arms. He was stunned at first, but realized it was Scul-Dana's way of showing him she could play as well as he could. He smiled to himself. One for her.

The doorbell range before he could retaliate. Mulder walked over to the door. Standing in front of him were three women and men.

"Fox, happy anniversary." The woman grabbed him in a firm hug, then let him go and continued on to the kitchen.

"Fox, you have to watch my wife Richa." The tall lighted haired man extended his hand for Mulder to shake, then past by. More hugs and handshakes lasted until the last person was walking to the kitchen.

Scully walked into the kitchen. "Who the hell are these people? I feel like I've walked into Ward Cleaver's house." She regarded the happy people in the kitchen chatting and taking control of he preparations.

"I don't know, but the dark haired, brown eyed woman is Richa. Her husband told me to watch out for her." Mulder smiled. "You may have competition, Dana."

"Mulder, if you don't want to spend time in the hospital, you better concentrate on why we're here." Scully raised her eyebrow at him as she spoke in a whisper. Then she turned and walked back into the kitchen.

"Jealous, are we, Dana?" He mumbled to himself. The smirk went unnoticed by the woman with her back to him.

Mulder walked into the kitchen, listening to the chatter of Fox and Dana's friends. He stood beside Scully who busied herself chopping vegetables. She had fallen back into her investigative mode.

The conversations drifted to the 'Elders' coming, Dana being inseminated. All the women were envious. From what the agents gathered the clones were almost perfect, except for reproductive ability. They were disease free, non-violent people. 'Very happy, friendly people, almost like one large family.' Mulder thought sarcastically to himself.

Getting caught up in the atmosphere, he found himself slipping his arm around Scully's waist as she chopped. Scully stopped for a moment, turned and looked at Mulder.

She leaned to his ear. "My ass, Mulder, I warned you." Her whisper wasn't threatening and made him grin. He moved his hand down and patted her rear before plucking a piece of celery out of her hand and popping in his mouth. Scully turned her head so he couldn't see uncontrolled smile that spread across her face.

After about an hour of preparation Mulder had learned the names of the couples. Richa and Kenneth were from originals in Great Britain. Vicki and James were duplicates from Orlando, Florida. Allan and Stacey would be replacing the originals in Seattle. All worked in some branch of government, law enforcement, or medicine. They hadn't mentioned a date yet, but Mulder and Scully were too afraid of asking too many more questions. They had learned quite a lot of useful information already.

Dana walked the three couples to the door, accepting hugs and well wishes for tomorrow.

"Fox, is there something wrong? You seem different." Melissa asked as they began putting the party food away.

"Why do you ask?" Panic gripped him. He wondered what he'd done wrong.

"You and Dana, you seem, um...Well, it's none of my business." The Melissa clone tore off a piece of plastic wrap and put it around a bowl of fruit.

"No there's nothing wrong. I promise." He assured her.

Scully walked back into the kitchen as Melissa put a bowl in the refrigerator. Before she knew what was happening, Mulder pulled her into his arms and kissed her soundly. She wanted to struggle, but knew he must have a reason for being so impulsive. At least, he'd better have...

Abandoning thought, Scully tightened her grip on him, feeling herself move into the kiss with equal enthusiasm. When they finally broke apart, both agents were gasping slightly for breath. They could feel each other's nearness with almost uncomfortable sensitivity. Scully's eyes searched Mulder's for an answer to a question that had been plaguing her since they left D.C.

The refrigerator door closed and broke the moment.

"I guess I'd better go home now," Melissa said playfully. "I'll be here tomorrow around 2:00pm." She gathered her belongings and walked toward the door. Mulder slipped his arm around Dana's waist and guided her behind Melissa. They waved goodbye from the doorway as she climbed into her car.

"What the hell was that, Mulder?" Scully broke away from him abruptly.

"Melissa asked if there was something wrong with us. Apparently, Fox and Dana are a very touchy-feely couple. I had to assure her we were okay." Mulder tried to defend his actions, but he couldn't help smirking just a little.

"Well, next time, I'd appreciate you warning me." Scully walked toward the stairs, trying to disguise how flustered she was. "I'm going to bed."

Scully was half-way up the stairs before she realized what she'd said. She'd said 'next time' as if she were assuming there would be one. Why did that seem so natural? She tried to dismiss it as falling into their masquerade.

Rummaging through Dana's drawers, Scully found a short, sleeveless, white cotton nightgown. She pulled it out and walked into the bathroom closing the door behind her. A yawn forced it's way from her mouth as she pulled off her clothes and replaced them with the nightgown. Opening her overnight bag, she pulled out a toothbrush and placed it in the holder next to the other brushes. Pausing, she then took the other toothbrushes out of the holder and tossed them into her bag. Later on, the DNA samples from the clones might be needed, she thought.

Reaching below the sink in the cabinet, Scully picked up a washcloth and turned the water on. As she washed her face, Scully looked around to see if anything needed to be removed so no one would suspect anything unusual.

Turning back to the mirror, she looked at her reflection. The blood had reappeared on her lip from her nose. She held the washcloth to her nose and held her head back, waiting, as she had for the past several months, for it to stop.

"Scully? Are you going to stay in there all night?" Mulder spoke through the door.

"I'll be out in minute." Pulling the washcloth away from her nose, Scully watched for more blood as she rinsed the cloth. Satisfied the nose bleed had ceased she dropped the washcloth over the side of the sink and moved to the door.

She passed Mulder, clad only in a towel, holding a pair of pajama bottoms and his shaving kit. "It's all yours, Fox." She said with almost venemous sweetness. Mulder's head followed her path back to the bed.

"Nice nightgown, Dana." He chuckled in retaliation as he closed the bathroom door.

Scully pulled back the comforter on the bed. She noticed the sheets looked like they had been changed that morning. "Good, clean sheets." Scully murmured. She turned off the lamp and slipped underneath the fresh smelling linens.

Mulder opened the door and noticed the light was out. He walked carefully around the bed. "Ouch, damn." He hopped on one foot holding his toe. "Did you have to turn out the lights, Scully?" He sat on the bed, rubbing his injured toe.

"Sorry, Mulder." She sounded the furthest thing from sorry. "You know, there is another bedroom." Scully informed him helpfully.

"Yes, but we have to act like a married. Besides, I'm getting used to sleeping with you."

Scully felt the bed dip as he climbed under the covers. She gave him a long-suffering sigh. "Good night, Mulder."

"Night, Scully. Don't I get a good night kiss?" He was pushing it, he knew, but he couldn't help trying to provoke her. Her reactions to him were growing interesting.

"I think we've enough practice today." She retorted dryly.

Snickering, he closed his eyes. Mulder had been sleeping easily through the whole night since they'd been sleeping together. He didn't understand why after all the years of only a few hours a night. He listened to Scully's even breathing, and tried to join her. Tonight, however, unlike the night before, he had trouble dropping off. His body kept reminding him of just exactly how his partner had felt like pressed against him. His mind replayed their kiss, again and again, as Mulder listened to Scully's sleep sounds.

Few barriers presented themselves as they grew to full size. Having been tiny for so long, the full potential for growth had been forgotten. As one, they became excited at the remembrance of the place before, where they had last been fed so well.

They were accustomed to the unyielding rock, so the soft tissues of the host presented no resistance to their growth. Blood flowed freely in the abundant space, running in a rush over the newly warm, feeding bodies. Original host matter began to be replaced with slow, stretching black.

Finally, all the separate physical pieces of their one mind grew to full size. They grew used to the ever-present sustenance, and became unconcerned with making the feed last. In this place, they could sense that there would be no denying them the feed. Not like the rock. As one, remembering, they decided to procreate. If they were killed, onward they would survive through new form. There would be no going back to the trapped place.

Risks were being taken by deciding to multiply so early. If the host was depleted too soon before the brood was able to feed, they would die, weakened and vulnerable. Overcoming those negatives, though, was the overwhelming instinctual need to leave behind more. As one, they would become without as they were within, until all were hosts connected by one mind to the flowing, the free, loose blood.

This yearning for conquest defined them. They began to gather nutrients needed to accomplish this, but were thwarted. The upper, superficial tissues of the host were nearly depleted. Noting the risk of using their resources too quickly, as one they began to dig.

The next morning, Scully woke up to feel warm breath hitting her neck. She moved her head to find Mulder curled up next to her with his chin resting on her shoulder. Momentarily startled, she pushed slowly away from him, slipping quietly out of the bed. Scully walked into the bathroom and gently closed the door. There was no use waking Mulder from the little sleep he enjoyed.

She wondered if her presence had a calming effect to Mulder. She had noticed he'd been sleeping through the nights since they had been forced to share a bed. No, she thought, he's probably not under as much stress now that he's dead. In spite of the seriousness of their situation, the thought made her want to laugh out loud.

Scully was making coffee when Mulder stumbled into the kitchen. His hair was flattened on his forehead but sticking up in the back, and he still had crusted sleep in his eyes.

"Rest well, Mulder?" Scully smiled to herself.

"Huh? Oh yeah, like a baby." He sat down in a chair and pulled his foot and rested it on his leg, then rubbed his toe.

"How's the toe?" Scully turned the coffee on and joined him at the table.

"It's okay, still hurts a little."

Smirking slightly, Scully said, "I'm sorry, Agent Mulder, I thought you would be able to detect a large bed in the dark."

"I'm not used to the layout of the room." Mulder put his foot back on the floor and changed the subject.

"So what do we do today? The party isn't until this afternoon." He looked at Scully.

"Maybe we should go back to the hotel and ask Fox and Dana more questions about the Elders. I'd feel better if we had a better understanding of what we're up against."

"Good idea. I'll go and take a shower." He rose and walked out of the kitchen. "Could you bring me a cup of coffee?"

"Would you like it with your bath, dear?" Scully said loudly and sarcastically. As Mulder ascended the stairs, she could hear him laughing.

Once in the bathroom, Mulder stripped off his boxers, leaving them where they fell, and stepped into the steaming hot shower. He mused wryly that what he really needed was a cold one, to stifle his raging hormones. Ever since he and Scully had started in on this trip, he'd been regarding her as more than just a partner. Or less than a partner and more like a sex object. It was some combination of the two that left him spinning in a way he'd never quite felt around her. It was true that he'd always been attracted to her, he mused. Her intelligence, her dry humor, her detached way of looking at life that was really just a defense mechanism, her body.Shit.

Mulder reached down to twist the dial to cold and, before he could touch the knob, he was racked with a seizing pain in the base of his skull. It felt at first like someone was twisting and pulling a handful of hair there. The pain deepened so that his brain itself felt like it was being hurt. He recognized that it was the same deep point that the pain had come from before.

All conscious thoughts gave way with at that point, and Mulder didn't care. He was a prisoner of the piercing, of the throbbing, of the all-consuming pain. He was even too much of a captive to have the sense to be afraid. His body slid downward in the still-steaming water to huddle in a quivering mass to the bottom of the ceramic tub, the water pelting him from above. He held his head, his fingers searching his skull for a place to grasp and stop the pain, the white-hot agony. Mulder's vision tunneled to black, and he passed out completely.

"Mulder, are you still in the shower?" Scully was getting worried. It had been twenty minutes, and the water was still running. The lukewarm coffee sat on the dresser untouched. Slowly, Scully opened the unlocked bathroom door and called to him again. Only the sound of the water greeted her.

Finally, she looked in, calling his name. When again there was no answer, hesitantly, she moved into the bathroom. Slowly, hearing no activity, she pushed back the shower curtain. Seeing him slumped down underneath the still-running water, she gasped. She searched over his neck with her fingers, feeling for a pulse. Finally, an uncertain flutter registered against the pads of her fingers. Scully realized belatedly that she was getting drenched along with Mulder, and turned off the water.

"Mulder, wake up. Can you hear me?" Scully felt an uncomfortable wave of deja-vu as she remembered the last time she had to help her partner from the shower. Then, though, he had at least been conscious. Mulder was unresponsive to his partner's frantic questions. Wet and naked, he slumped against the back of the tub. His hair clung to his face where the force of the water had moved it.

"Mulder? Answer me. Please." Finally, Scully's medical training kicked in. What was wrong with her? Clumsily, she managed to move Mulder's nude form to the floor, where she toweled him off. Then she ran to get a blanket from the bed, covering and rubbing him with it. His body was almost icy. It was as if something were sucking the heat away from his bodily functions, causing his body to shut down.

"Mulder?" Panic began to rise in her voice just a little. What was she going to do? If she called for help, their cover would be blown, placing not only their lives in jeopardy, but those of the Gunmen as well. She rocked unconsciously back and forth in a crouch beside Mulder, willing him to wake up, thinking desperately of anything that might help him.

Scully was about to call for help regardless when Mulder finally opened his eyes. Reflexively, he closed and opened them again, moving one arm up with difficulty to clutch the back of his head.

Wincing, he managed to whisper, "What."

"You passed out. Don't try and move yet. Does your head hurt?" Now that Mulder was awake, the panic left Scully almost completely. It was time to deal with it. She firmly pushed back the clinical voice in her mind that asked her how long he would stay with her until he lost consciousness again.

Mulder nodded almost imperceptibly. It still hurt more than he could express. It was fading to workable levels, though. It was amazing what the term meant after the feast of pain he'd experienced. He would have considered what he was experiencing now a severe migraine before he'd learned better. In spite of Scully's protestations, he managed to sit up, then stand, swaying slightly in his feet.

Scully drove to the motel, taking the scenic route to make sure they weren't followed. Mulder lay in the seat next to her with his eyes closed. He had told her his headache had abated, but she still worried about him. Useless, already-answered questions spun themselves out in her mind. What had they done to him in that prison camp? How could people use fellow humans for guinea pigs? Where had the human compassion gone? Was power so precious they would kill at will for their agenda? She glanced at Mulder again. How were they going to help him? At first it was just her own illness that drove them to find answers, now Mulder's body was invaded by God only knew what.

They arrived at the motel mid-afternoon. They only had a few hours before they had to be back for the party. Time was precious and they needed answers.

Scully parked the car and touched Mulder's shoulder with her hand. He opened his eyes slowly.

"We're here. Mulder, can you walk alone?" Scully watched his head nodded slightly. He took in a deep breath and reached for the door. They walked slowly to the room the housed the LGM, Fox, and Dana. Mulder stood silently as Scully knocked. She called out, "Byers, guys, let us in." The door opened. Scully moved to let Mulder to enter first.

"What's wrong with him?" Fox asked immediately. He sat on the bed next to Dana, watching television.

"Headache." Dana answered. When her eyes adjusted, she could see Byers and Frohike were sitting at the small table with a laptop between them. Langly closed the door, locked it and joined his friends.

"Byers, can I speak to you guys outside for a moment?" Dana walked to the door, opened it and stepped outside. Mulder laid down on the empty bed throwing his arm over his eyes to shield them from the bright sunlight shining through the door.

"What's wrong with Mulder?" Frohike closed the door behind him once the four were safely outside.

"He's seriously ill. When he was in Russia, they infected him with something called Black Cancer. The headaches he's experienced for the last few days seem to come from whatever they injected into him." Scully's drawn face told the Gunmen that she was very worried about their friend. "Have you gathered additional information about the project from those two?" She nodded her head towards the couple idly watched the flickering screen.

"They've told us about the different research areas. Dana works in the fertilization area, but it seems they have only limited freedom to move around." Byers explained.

"Fox tells us the *date* that has been set was accelerated by Mulder's death and......" Byers hesitated. "Your illness." He quietly finished his sentence looking at the ground.

Scully paused for a moment as she processed the information. After a moment she steeled herself and continued.

"Did they tell you about the 'Elders'?" She looked at each man before her.

"The Elders consist of the original people involved in the project. Your friend, the smoking man, is among them." Frohike noticed Dana look up at the mention of his name.

"They spoke of someone called 'the mother', but didn't mention her name." Langly added.

"They've been in this colony for several years now. Some live in the research facility, others live in the homes the Elder's provide." Byers continued. "The date is set for January 1, 2000."

"The beginning of the new millenium." Scully mumbled, dazed.

"Well, technically, the millenium really begins in the year 2001, but yes. Nice way to start a new era, huh?" Byers answered dryly. Only a trace of his horror showed in his voice.

"The weird thing about the whole idea is that they have been programmed to begin where the originals end." Frohike huffed. "It's the most amazing conspiracy I've ever seen." He looked at Scully with a fearful gaze. "The frightening possibility is, it might work."

"They have been strengthened to resist all diseases, even AIDS. Also, they each have the same funky implant as you had, Agent Scully." Langly pointed to the base of Frohike's neck. "In the same place yours was extracted. They both have a smallpox scar on their arm, which they don't remember receiving."

"That must be the same filing system they used when small pox vaccines were still issued." Scully remembered the biopsy she and Pendrell performed when they discovered what seemed like a carding system through the vaccine scars.

Mulder stumbled out onto the terrace, looking only a little better than when he had entered the room.

"Mulder, are you okay?" Scully reached out her hand to his forehead. He pulled away from her hand abruptly.

"Scully, I'm fine." He said harshly.

"No, Mulder, you're not." She retorted as they locked eyes in a battle of wills. He looked away, feeling too weak to fight her at the moment.

"I don't know which is worse."He said."The sunlight out here, or those two groping each other in there." Mulder opened the door slightly and squinted back at the two lying on the bed, wrapped around each other.

"You ought to have to sleep beside them." Byers spoke quietly. "We left Frohike with them last night."

"Even I felt like a voyeur. I slept with my head buried under my pillow. When I was able to sleep, that is." Frohike's face was turning red.

"It must have been something to make you blush, Frohike. I've seen your video collection." Mulder mused.

"It's not so much what they were doing, it was like spying on.... Um...You two." Sheepishly, he turned his head away from his friends. Mulder and Scully looked at each other, then very quickly away, feeling exposed.

"You two need to be careful not to raise suspicion tonight. If you can gather information on entry to the research lab, we might be able to breach the security." Byers looked from Mulder to Scully. They nodded.

"We'll keep them distracted as long as we can. What do we do with them if and when they get suspicious?" Frohike asked.

"Threaten to tie them up...separately. That'll shut them up." Mulder saw Scully press back a smile at his remark.

Scully looked at her watch. "We've got to be going. We'll contact you as soon as possible tomorrow." She looked at the groping couple on the bed as the Gunmen walked back into the hotel room.

"Might be fun, Scully." Mulder whispered in her ear as they walked away.

Scully thought for a moment about a response, then decided against it. Truth be known, she thought, it did look like fun, and she was glad Mulder was feeling well enough to notice. They walked down to the car and drove away in silence.

Mulder looked at his watch as they entered the house. "We've got about an hour before guests start arriving." He closed the door as Scully walked toward the stairs.

She stopped at the foot of the stairs, and hesitantly asked, "Mulder, why do you think your mother is interested in the project? Didn't you say she hated your father for making her give up Samantha?"

"I know she's kept things from me. I honestly don't know. I'm sure things will be clearer after the party tonight." He approached her. "I think we're in for several revelations."

He didn't bother to disguise the bitterness he felt at the mention of his mother. If the memories that had been exposed before were true, she'd been somehow in league with the smoking man. Even so, he didn't want to explore that avenue more closely until it was confirmed. He was going to have enough on his mind handling the subterfuge tonight. Mulder wasn't sure he had the strength left for anything else.

Scully turned to continue walking up stairs, but stopped again. "Mulder, where would they have extracted your DNA? Are there any other pieces of your childhood after Samantha was taken that you can't remember?"

"I'm not sure. I don't think so. I was rarely ill as a child." He shrugged his shoulders, thinking. Finally, he said reluctantly, "Maybe Ellen's Air Force Base."

"It's impossible that they cloned you without some sort of DNA from the original, as Fox and Dana call it. Maybe that is it." Scully's mind searched for other possible solutions. Her eyes darkened as her expression became grave. "Mulder, what did they do to me when I was missing? Dana spoke of ova from the original."

Mulder interrupted her. He didn't want to explain this before the party. He was afraid she wouldn't be able to control her anger. More selfishly, he wasn't sure he could handle it if she didn't. "Scully, can we talk about this later? I know we'll find many answers tonight. Let's not jump to conclusions, or disregard any facts until we know what they are." He was hoping to halt the direction of the conversation.

"Why do I get the feeling there's something you aren't telling me, Mulder?" Scully's eyes narrowed as she searched his face.

Mulder suddenly felt like a trapped animal. "Scully," He said almost desperately, "Let's gather as much information as possible, and we'll talk about it afterwards."

"I don't know Mulder, I think you're holding out on me." She said, letting him off the hook, for now. Scully turned and continued up the stairs.

As they entered the bedroom, Mulder pulled off his shirt. He was slightly, inexplicably embarrassed to remove his clothing in front of Scully. He'd done it before, but this was different. He'd lost the feeling of comfort he had always taken for granted.

"Mulder?" He turned around as Scully stared at him. Had he taken too much liberty shedding his clothing so easily?

"What do you think we're supposed to wear to the party?" He let out a breath he hadn't realized was trapped in his lungs. Relief flooded through him as he shrugged his shoulders.

"I'm not sure. Can't you call Melissa and casually ask her? Isn't it a woman thing to worry about what you wear?" He teased.

"Good idea." She reached for the phone then stopped. "Where am I supposed to find her phone number, though?" Scully put the receiver down. Rummaging around the desk drawer, she found an address book.

"Even your clone is organized, Scully." Mulder walked toward the bathroom. "I'm going to take a shower, would you lay out something for me to wear, dear?" Scully looked up from the list at his grin. She was about to reply, her expression warring between annoyance and worry, when he closed the door.

"I wish he had a lime green leisure suit." She murmured to herself as she dialed the phone number of her cloned sister. This was becoming weirder by the day, even for an X-File. Scully heard the phone ring twice before Melissa answered. She braced herself before hearing Melissa's voice. After such a long time of it being absent from her life, it was painful to hear her sister's tones again. She had a feeling that Melissa's voice was going to haunt her forever now that she knew there was someone left in the world using it. Even if the someone was a clone. Shaking off the feeling, Scully forced herself to concentrate.


"Mel, it's me." Pulling out of her shock and finding her voice.

"Hi Dana. Did you forget something?"

"No. I was wondering what you're wearing tonight to the party?" She asked casually.

Scully heard a laugh. "Dana, you were with me when I bought it. Has your programming been damaged from the headboard?" Dana blushed and was grateful Mulder wasn't in the room.

Easily, she responded, trying to cover her slip, "No, I was trying to decide if I wanted to wear what I purchased or something more formal."

"Everyone will be dressed in comfortable semi-formal clothing Dana. The green dress you bought will be fine. And you'd better hurry, I'll be there in half an hour."

"Okay, thanks, Melissa." Scully looked at her watch.

"Are you sure you're okay? You and Fox seemed different yesterday."

"No, no, we're fine, just nervous about the party, ev...Everything." She tried to sound confident.

"I'll see you in a bit." Scully hung up the phone as Mulder exited the bathroom, rubbing his wet hair with a towel that had its mate in the terrycloth he'd slung around his waist. It hung low on his hips, leaving little to the imagination. Or just enough, Scully thought dimly. An image of just how Mulder's body had looked when she'd hauled him from the shower played through her mind. Hastily averting her eyes so she wouldn't reveal her admiration, Scully cleared her throat.

"Mulder, we're not acting like Fox and Dana. Melissa is becoming suspicious. We've got to be careful or this masquerade will blow up in our faces." Scully walked to the closet as she spoke, trying to distract herself from the half-naked man walking around so casually in front of her.

"You know what that means, Scully?" She turned around to see a devilish grin forming on her partner's face.

"What?" God help me, she thought.

"You have to let me touch your ass." He looked for her reaction. She thought for a moment, opened her mouth, then closed it and disappeared into the closet. She re-emerged with a green dress enclosed in plastic and a gray suit, also in plastic.

"You can touch my ass, Mulder." She said nonchalantly while inspecting the green dress. With one hand, she handed him the suit.

"Wow, and you even gave me permission. What other parts may I touch, Agent Scully?" He said with a slight leer to his voice.

She stopped removing the plastic from the dress and looked up. Their eyes locked. "Mulder, one day I'm going to shock the hell out of you. Then, we'll see if you can handle it." She disappeared behind the bathroom door with the dress. The lock clicked into place behind her.

Mulder swallowed. He whispered, "Promises, promises, Scully."

Shaking his head, Mulder moved to the dresser in search of underwear and socks. Feeling a spring in his step, he decided he was looking forward to the party after all.

"Mulder? Can you get the door? I'm not ready." Scully walked through the bedroom with her head bent over trying to look for shoes and put in her earrings as she walked.

"Yeah Dana, hold on." Mulder walked out of the bathroom. When Scully saw him she almost forgot about the shoes she was searching for. He was so handsome in the gray suit. As he looked in the mirror to adjust his tie, she wanted to tell him he looked perfect. Again, however, she said nothing, breaking her gaze away.

"I'll be down in a minute, I have to find my shoes." This felt entirely too weird, Scully thought, almost like they really were a couple. Scully moved around in the large closet, opening box after box. 'At least she has my taste in shoes'. She thought as she finally found the pair that matched the dress.

Putting one on and walking with other in hand, she emerged from the closet. Slipping the other one on and looking in the mirror, she decided it was now or never. Walking out the door she headed for the foyer to begin her charade with Mulder.

"Ah, here she is." Mulder turned from Melissa to see Scully walking gracefully down the stairs. He met her at the bottom of the stairs. Mulder smiled and bent down to give her a peck on the cheek, then slipped his arm around her waist. "I told you she was going to be beautiful, didn't I?" He asked Melissa. Scully was trying to fall into Mulder's rhythm, but she hadn't planned on him acting like Fox so quickly. She smiled, trying to hide her surprise.

"We'd better set-up soon, the guests will be arriving in about an hour. Richa and Stacey will be here shortly. I see you found the dress, Dana." Melissa grinned at her almost sister.

"Yes, I remembered after talking to you. I guess all the excitement of the anticipated events made me absent minded." She hoped it would cover up her lie. Scully couldn't help but see so much of the real Melissa in this clone. If she hadn't seen her sister die, she would have believed this one was authentic. Her smile was as captivating, her eyes were as bright and lovely as ever. Scully had been so busy with her own troubles, she had forgotten about Missy. How could she have been so selfish to forget about her beloved sister? Had this disease that invaded her body also invaded her mind? If it were only the real Melissa, Scully thought, she could apologize for her untimely demise.



"Is there something wrong?" Melissa was standing in front of her with a concerned look on her face. Scully looked at her for a moment. She out her arms around her sister, hugging her tightly.

"No, I'm just glad you're here, Missy. Thank you." Dana whispered in her ear trying to hold back the tears she wanted to shed.

"I'm glad I can be here too." The confused tone in Melissa voice was evident.

Mulder came to the rescue by walking up behind Scully and pulling her gently from Melissa. He turned her around and gathered her in his arms. He knew that the shock of seeing Melissa had worn off, and now the memories had surfaced. He kissed the top of her head as he looked at Melissa. Not knowing what else to say, he shrugged his shoulders, and mouthed over Scully's head. "That time of the month." Melissa gave him a raised Scully eyebrow and turned back toward the kitchen.

"You okay, Dana?" Mulder put his fingers under her chin raising her eyes to his. She blinked and their eyes locked. He could feel her sorrow just as he did when they were in the hospital after Melissa died. Mulder wanted to erase the pain he saw in her eyes at that moment. He wanted to wipe away the guilt he knew Scully felt her sister's death by the hands of Krycek and his accomplice.

Mulder wished he could draw it out of her mind along with the cancer that ate away at her life. If he could, he would rid her once and for all of the guilt and hurt that he'd caused by exposing her to unforeseen danger. He wanted to tell her, but her eyes refused to let him break his gaze. They felt no one's presence but their own.

Clearing her throat, Melissa broke the spell they had locked themselves in momentarily. "Anytime you two want to jump in and help."She smiled at the locked couple. Mulder felt Scully jerk slightly, in shock all over again. He knew being around Melissa was the first of many surreal revelations they would be exposed to tonight. He turned back to her and bent slightly to kiss her forehead, then let her go.

"What do you want me to do?" Mulder asked. It was party time.

"Why don't you set up the bar," Melissa instructed.

"Good idea, I could use a drink myself." Mulder spoke mostly to himself. Holding Dana that closely had an unsettling effect on him. Not Dana, Scully, he thought, his partner, friend, and confidant. Mulder walked through the living room to the sunken bar on the far side.

"Nice set-up," he murmured to himself. He took in the smoked glass mirror behind the railed, marble topped bar. To the right were shelves of glasses, ice bucket, shot glasses. On the floor was a small refrigerator. He opened the door and found condiments for making drinks. He opened the bar cabinets and found an array of spirits. Mulder grabbed bottle after bottle and set them on top of the bar. He commended Fox on his taste. Then he realized that these were the same brands he would have selected.

An eerie feeling ran through him as Mulder tried hard to absorb the idea. The man who had chosen the bottles had been, for all intents and purposes, himself. It was hard to grasp, that the consortium could have actually perfected the technique of cloning humans. And they planned to control the population by replacing living, breathing humans with more easily controlled duplicates.

The doorbell chimes shattered his grim train of thought. Mulder walked to the door and opened it to a smiling Richa and Kenneth. "Hey Fox, happy anniversary." She hugged Mulder, kissing him on the cheek.

"I think if we were capable of jealousy Fox, I think I'd experience it right now." Kenneth watched as his wife let go of the surprised man and moved past him.

"Kenneth, you know she only has eyes for you." Mulder didn't know what he was saying, but it sounded good.

"I know." Kenneth laughed as he handed Mulder a bottle of wine and shook his hand. "She's a character, my Richa."

The procession continued for the next several minutes. Mulder felt like a doorman at a hotel, mostly because he didn't know any of the people entering his make-believe house. Not knowing what else to do, he just accepted their hugs, kisses and congratulations. A few gifts and bottles of wine began to clutter the foyer table. Finally, the entryway was empty.

"Dana?" Mulder called to her from the front door. In a moment his partner joined him.

"What, Fox?" She inspected the gifts and spirits. "Are these for us?"

"It is our anniversary." Mulder tried to look serious, but his eyes gave away his almost hysterical mirth. Scully pressed her lips together until they were almost white in an attempt to maintain control, but her cheeks were bright red.

The cathartic amusement was cut short by another knock at the door. Dana opened it, still flushed. Mulder stood to her left and watched as her red faded to a chalky white. He moved to see who was at the door, and a breath caught in his throat.

"Fox? Aren't you going to invite me in?"

Recovering, Mulder wrapped his arms around Scully's shoulders and pulled her from the entrance. "Dana, don't look so shocked." He said pleasantly, kissing her temple. Scully quickly pasted a false smile on her face.

"I'm sorry, please come in. It's wonderful to see you again, Mrs. Mulder." The woman entered and hugged Dana and Fox.

"You can call me Mom, Dana, even in public." Mrs. Mulder turned her attention to her son. "Fox, you look handsome in that suit." She kissed her son on the cheek. He returned the affection, his mind reeling.

Mulder thought his mother was enough of a shock to last all night. Was this his real mother, or also a clone? Before he could close the door, a familiar voice halted him. Thinking his heart might stop any second, Mulder turned to see a man snuffing out a cigarette before entering the door. 'Cancerman?' Mulder thought incredulously. He took a step back and landed on Scully's foot.

"Ouch!" Scully cried out.

"Oh, I'm sorry, sweetheart." Mulder turned around and looked at Scully with wide, questioning eyes. She knew it was her turn to back her partner up.

"Sir, it's nice of you to join us." She wanted to pull out her gun and shoot him, but knew it would obviously blow their cover. He took Scully's hand, then bent slightly and kissed her on the cheek. She tried hard not to flinch as his wrinkled, almost gray skin came into contact with hers. Scully smiled as he pulled back.

"It's a pleasure, Dana. Happy anniversary. We have high hopes for you and Fox." He looked at Mulder. "Son, how are you today?" His calm, controlled tones shook Mulder to his roots.

"F....Fine, sir." He could say no more. Son? What the hell did he mean by 'son'? Mulder's mind raced back to the conversation with his mother. Had she lied to him after all? Did she have a relationship with this man? Was Cancerman his biological father?'

Scully could see the thoughts racing through Mulder's mind. She ushered the couple into the living room so he could recover. Mulder slowly walked behind them, trying to control the urge to lose control. How could she do this to his father. No wonder he drank so much. Was that why Samantha was taken? He was protected because he wasn't really Bill Mulder's son?

He was brought out of his spiraling black hole of thought by Scully's hand touching his arm.

"Fox?" She said softly. She stood on her toes to whisper into his ear. "You've got to snap out of this." Mulder could tell she was growing nervous at his behavior. It was normal to her, but strange to everyone else. Mulder thought for a moment. He looked toward the crowd who had formed a semi-circle around the older couple. Giving Scully a weak smile, he nodded. There were too many questions to be answered, too many truths to uncover.

Slipping his hand around Scully, Mulder prayed he'd faced the worst of the night's surprises. With pasted smiles in place, they rejoined the festivities.

After waiting as long as he could, Mulder had moved into the kitchen to clear his mind. He was opening more wine for dinner when he smelled the smoke. He turned around, holding the bottle while twisting the wine opener. 'Calm Mulder, stay calm.' Like a mantra, he repeated it in his head.

"Fox, I wanted to speak with you alone." He took another drag from his cigarette. Mulder didn't know if he suspected he wasn't the clone or not. Mulder didn't know how to react to him, so he remained silent.

"You and Dana will be moving into your roles very soon. The date is fast approaching." Mulder nodded his affirmation. "When the fertilization has been successful, the two of you will move to Washington DC and take the originals' places."

"What happens to the originals?" Mulder asked casually. "Everything you need to know will be programmed before you leave. Don't worry son, I'll be there with you. And the your mother will be close by also." The cork popped at that moment.

"Dana and I are excited. We're anxious to begin our new lives.... With a baby." Mulder was proud he didn't choke on his rising bile.

"I know son. This part of the project is a phenomenon. We've worked many years to arrive at this point in time." Mulder thought for a moment, incredulously, that he would see the elderly man smile. Instead he pulled out another cigarette. "So many lives have been sacrificed...." His voice trailed off as he lit the cigarette. Mulder wondered bitterly if the man before him felt remorse for his father's death.

He fought hard against the urge to expose his cover by slamming the bottle of wine he was holding against the smoking man's head. Even if the man was a clone, it would feel damn good. Mulder didn't think this smoking man was a clone, though. Having a clone might mean he would have to trust someone with a portion of his power.

"We better get back before the guests run out of wine." Mulder offered, holding the bottle up with a smile.

"Yes, we can talk later, son." He put his hand on Mulder's shoulder as he passed by. Mulder remembered the speech about having no wife, no family, only some power. Yeah, power to reproduce humans and control them. Who needed a real family, when you could grow a whole town?

Scully turned around as Mulder entered the room followed by their enemy. She questioned him with her eyes. He answered with a smile indicating they would discuss it later. He took his seat next to Scully, filling her glass with the wine he'd just opened. They continued to play the part of Fox and Dana, chatting and listening to the conversations around them. Mulder finished eating and slipped his arm around the back of Scully's chair. He told himself it was the charade they were portraying. They had been touching all evening, small gestures of affection. The truth was, Mulder knew, he liked openly showing affection to his partner.

Tink Tink Tink. Mulder and Scully looked up as Kenneth stood, tapping his glass with a spoon. He looked at both of them, smiling warmly.

"We're here today to celebrate the love of two special people." Mulder and Scully looked at each other then back to Kenneth. Mulder moved his arm from the back of the chair to Scully's shoulders. He noticed she didn't stiffen at the contact. "We wish them good fortune with their next, groundbreaking step, and eternal happiness. Salut." Everyone raised his or her glass.

Scully felt her face warm with embarrassment. Another person stood up and gave another gracious speech. After several, they noticed Mrs. Mulder rise slowly. Scully put her hand on Mulder's leg, telling herself she was reassuring him. She thought about how nice it was to openly touch her partner. She rather enjoyed the contact and warmth passed between them all evening.

"I'd like to extend my loving wishes to my son and daughter-in-law. I hope you will have a bright future." She flashed a bright smile that Mulder hadn't seen in years from his fragile, unhappy mother. "And I can hardly wait until I'm a grandmother." Mulder felt himself gasp quietly as Scully's fingers dug into his leg almost painfully. Everyone clapped and smiled at the embarrassed couple. Mulder knew it was his turn for a speech. He stood slowly, grabbing Scully's hand as he rose. For the act, he thought.

"I'd like to propose a toast. To the most wonderful person I've ever known. She's walked with me through life for only a short time, but I couldn't see myself without her by my side. She is a giant of strength, honor, and loyalty." He kissed her hand as he spoke looking into her startled eyes. "And I love her with all my heart, mind and soul." Suddenly, Mulder could feel himself stop pretending. He knew that he was speaking from his heart.

Scully's eyes widened in surprise. She thought he was going overboard in his role. If it were a different situation under other circumstances, not clouded in lies, she might have believed the words. But Scully knew Mulder, and his games. He was giving an incredible performance. Silently, she damned him for being such a good liar. She could feel a dangerous prickling in the corners of her eyes. Scully wasn't worried the others might see a woman cry at her husband's devotion; she was afraid Mulder might see her reaction and know the truth.

When Mulder bent down and kissed her on the lips, she was prepared for an affectionate peck. She wasn't braced for the full lip-locked, tongue dueling exercise he pulled her into. Telling herself that she didn't want to give him the satisfaction of shocking her, she gave back with equal intensity. Scully was not prepared for the feelings that the words and kiss began to erupt in her. She fought them with determined logic the whole time he delved into her mouth's interior. When the kiss finally ended, she knew that logic had lost the battle.

They had forgotten about the group of people in the room. The group stared at them. Scully turned red with embarrassment, not sure where to place her gaze. She settled for staring at a spot on the ceiling. Mulder shrugged, straightening his disheveled collar and tie. Suddenly, he thought he would like another drink. A strong one.

Scully ran her hand through her hair as Richa began to clap heartily from the end of the table. Everyone else joined in the applause. Mulder leaned over and whispered. "I guess that convinced them." Scully felt her world stop at his words. For a split second she'd believed he really cared. Now she knew she was mistaken. Again, she reminded herself futilely not to get too emotionally attached. She knew it was much too late to take her own advice. Forming a weak smile, Scully listened to the applause as it died down, and knew she wasn't going to be able to handle much more of the charade without cracking. Before anyone else could say anything, the doorbell rang once again.

"I'll get it." Melissa jumped up from her seat and walked to the door. Everyone heard her excited greeting. Mulder heard Scully quietly gasp as Dr. Scanlon walked into the room followed by three older men. Mulder recognized the oldest man as Victor Klemper. He leaned over to Scully again.

"He looks pretty good for a victim of heart attack." Mulder thought back to the picture of the young men with his father standing in front of the facility in West Virginia. The vaults in that facility had contained names of abductees. The files they had found contained Scully's and Samantha's names, along with at least several thousand others. Mulder studied the men as they entered the room. Were they the other men from that picture?

Noticing a younger man walk in with the others, he asked, "Is that Scanlon?"

Scully nodded without a word, fighting against the turmoil that was brewing in her mind.

The woman next to Mulder spoke to him in a low voice. "You are very honored to have the Elders in your home." He knew he had better act quickly now that he knew how important these men were. He rose quickly and extended his hand to Victor Klemper.

"Sir, it's an honor to have you in our home." You clone of a sadistic Nazi, Mulder added mentally. The lie was bitter in Mulder's mouth as he greeted each man. He approached Dr. Scanlon, the man who had tried to kill his partner the way he'd killed Penny Northern and the other women.

Scully joined his side. He put his arm around her, noticing the rigidity of her posture. In spite of her almost painful tension, she extended her hand graciously to Dr. Scanlon. The man smiled warmly as he accepted her greeting.

"We're looking forward to starting procedures for the insemination the day after tomorrow. Are you ready, Dana?" His bedside manner was exquisite. Maybe that's why Betsy and Penny trusted him so readily, Mulder thought grimly. They were looking for comfort and they found only more lies.

"Yes. Dr. Scanlon, Fox and I are excited." Scully managed to sound sincere while screaming inside. She still had many questions about the ova that Dana had told them would be used for the fertilization. How could this man kill the women she'd met in Allentown with no remorse? What was the attraction these self-righteous men had that they could manipulate people's lives like so much cattle?

Scanlon continued. "Tomorrow we will go over the procedures. Fox, you will be joining us, won't you?"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world." Mulder replied looking down at Scully and squeezing her tightly with one arm. He could feel her stiff muscles as he pulled her close. He hoped the party would end soon. Mulder didn't know how much longer Scully could keep lying. Seeing Dr. Scanlon had to have brought back the painful memory of Penny dying in front of her, only to remind her of her own encroaching illness.

Everyone crowded around the Elder's, shaking their hands. They treated the men like they were gods, Mulder thought. He reminded himself that in a way, they were.

"Ah...and here is the one whose original started it all." Victor Klemper extended his hand to Mrs. Mulder. She graciously shook his and the rest of the proffered hands.

Mulder looked at Scully, trying to hide his shock. His mother? She had been a part of this? He remembered the argument at the cabin before Samantha was taken. Her father, Cancerman, and his mother. Did she know where Samantha was all these years? How could she have lied to him, watched him devote his life to finding Samantha, and betrayed him so willingly? Mulder could feel an actual pain in his chest cavity, like someone had taken an ice pick to his fleshy coronary muscle. Did he dare ask about his sister again?

Scully reached her arm around his waist, feeling his turmoil. They had both been exposed to so many revelations today. So many painful betrayals, conspiracies like bottomless pits. The touch was enough to shake his thoughts loose. She gave him a reassuring smile, trying to encourage him that they would survive this party. Then they would set out to expose the truths once and for all. He seemed to accept her silent vow with a forced, painful smile. Mulder wasn't sure he could pretend anymore.

"Well, we're sorry to rush off, but there is much work to be done." Dr. Scanlon announced. He and his colleagues moved to the door followed by all their creations. Scully and Mulder pushed each other to walked them to the door, still clutching each others waists. They said their goodbyes with exhausting warmth. Both felt incredibly drained. Looking back at the table and mess, Scully sighed loudly.

"I'm tempted to leave this until morning." She looked at Melissa.

"Nonsense, you and Fox go sit down. The rest of us will clean this up." Melissa shoved Scully and Mulder into the living room. A few of the remaining guests had gathered there around the television, watching a baseball game. There was only one chair left, so Mulder sat down and pulled Scully into his lap. He was too tired mentally and physically to care about her reaction. Scully came willingly, signaling she was also too weary to think about it in any depth.

After a few minutes, Mulder noticed Scully had relaxed and fallen asleep. She looked so peaceful lying on his chest. He wondered if she knew he'd meant what he said to her earlier. The realization of the truth had hit him during the toast, and he felt free enough to voice it to her. But her eyes had been unreadable, even though the kiss wasn't. He felt her passion matching his own as their mouths melded together. Mulder stroked her hair. Such soft fine hair she had. Firey like the sun, but soft like silk. He couldn't help but speculate that his controlled, rigid partner would not show that vulnerable side easily. Especially not to him. He kissed the top of her head. Mulder realized with a jolt that the juvenile games he'd been playing were some type of unconscious foreplay. He also realized it was a game he would like them both to win.

Melissa and the others entered the living room from the kitchen to find the couple asleep. Melissa motioned to the other women not to disturb them. They walked to the remaining clones and quietly woke them. Everyone left the house without a sound.

When Mulder raised his head and opened his eyes, everyone had vanished. He felt Scully stir.

"Looks like the party is over," He said drowsily. A yawn rose from in his throat. Scully opened her eyes, then sat up. She looked around to find everyone had left without a word. She felt relieved not having to speak to anyone else but Mulder. Then it hit her that she was sitting on his lap. She'd fallen asleep against his chest. Scully groggily assessed the situation, and, confused, pulled herself from her partner's lap..

"Mulder." She rose from his lap, immediately missing the warm contact of his body. Shortly, she said, "I'm going upstairs." Scully didn't look at him, knowing her expression would betray the confused feelings she had been experiencing since his speech. Her feet trod quickly upstairs to put as much distance as she could between them. Scully grabbed the cotton nightgown from the bed and rushed into the bathroom. It was time for a cold shower, she thought.

Mulder watched her quickly ascend the stairs. He felt the painful rejection with each of her firm steps. What had he done to cause that reaction? Dana Scully was the most mysterious, complicated woman he had ever met. Didn't she believe his speech? Could she not care for him after so many years together? He'd felt them connect many times in the past, or at least he'd thought they had. What was she thinking? He wanted to know once and for all. He vowed he would resolve the issues between them. There was too much at stake, and not enough time left to hide behind old emotional walls.

Mulder rose from the chair and ascended the stairs. It was time to test his charms on his partner. If she accepted he'd be a happy man. If she didn't, he'd continue being her friend and partner. 'Lover, partner and friend would be better.' He thought as he followed her.

He entered the bedroom, looking around. Seeing the door to the bathroom closed, he sighed as he sat on the bed. Suddenly, he jumped off the bed and crossed the room to the bathroom door. He tried the knob. Slowly and quietly, he opened the door. Scully was bent over the sink washing her face. Mulder moved behind her and stood silently. Scully turned off the water and grabbed for a towel to wipe her face. She stood as she wiped the water from her face. When she pulled the towel away, she opened her eyes and glanced in the mirror, seeing hazel eyes staring back at her. The closeness of his body made Scully suck in a quick, startled breath.

Slowly, she lifted her head to look at him in the mirror. Scully allowed him to see her wide, startled blue eyes, watching him. Her mouth hung open slightly, admitting and releasing soft, ragged breaths. His hazel eyes locked with hers in the mirror, and in the unblinking stare something passed between the two partners.

It started with a touch, just the faintest brush of his long fingers on the back of her neck underneath her piled hair. The wisps of auburn hair moved as his hand slowly caressed the skin there, causing gooseflesh. His hand lightly touched, then moved so that the flat of his palm was grasping her gently by the neck. It was a decisive touch, an act of possession.

Scully was riveted, astonished at how much of an ache appeared when he made contact. She honestly didn't think she had been aware of the ever-present loss, the lack of physically being apart from him until he stood there behind her. How, she wondered dimly, did one feel the loss of something they'd never had?

Indecisiveness gripped her. She could accept this casual assumption he seemed to be making, or she could turn him away, sever contact. His presence here now, she knew, would change everything, would destroy any chance that her life would return to the predictable physical and emotional stability she had spent the last five years hoping to achieve again someday. One touch in return from her would sever it like the roots of a sapling. It would make her vulnerable.

Could Mulder ever give her anything else? If she was wrong, Scully knew, giving in to him now could mean she would never leave world of conspiracies, clandestine meetings, and danger. It was a world that had taken her sister and a world where clones were produced to become part of some hideous conspiracy. Scully sighed, bowing mentally to reality. It was her world too, and she was lying to herself that it could just be ignored, escaped.

Bending her head against the touch, she felt Mulder's hand burn into the nape of her neck, his fingers leave tickling trails of fire. It would be so easy to relax into his touch.so easy.She felt his lips press softy just where his fingers had been, barely pressing the sensitive skin. Involuntarily, she gasped aloud as a taunt tension wire of need uncoiled itself in her nervous system. Slowly, trying to force herself to think logically about the repercussions of their actions, Scully turned around to face Mulder. His hand dropped away to trail down her side.

His eyes belied his confident actions. Dark with pain and raw with need, Mulder stared at her, pleading silently, but letting her decide. It was almost as if he knew she would be gone and was helpless to stop her. Scully realized she had never seen the full force of Mulder's emotional privation before this, in all the years and in all the things they had faced together. Something inside her in responded to his suffering and rose to fill the crevice. Scully knew then, suddenly, that it was enough. She could do this; she needed to try. She wanted this man.

One pale finger rose to rest on Mulder's lower lip. Experimentally, it tested the give of the flesh and moved slowly to stroke the texture of the moist pink skin. Mulder's eyes never moved from Scully's as he allowed this, allowed his lip to bend underneath her probing index finger. Mulder's gaze never wavered until Scully stood on her toes, legs trembling. She touched only the counter behind her, lightly, for balance.

The only part of her body that made contact with Mulder was her lips against his, barely skimming the surface. It hardly qualified as a kiss. Mulder groaned softly aloud at the soft pressure, and again placed his hand behind her neck, this time to seek Scully's lips and delve deeply into her mouth with his own, seeking, stroking, claiming.

Their lips only to again press together at a different angle, with even more urgency. Scully's arms moved around Mulder's waist, holding on for dear life. They were both breathless, stunned at the force they were creating. Mulder struggled to think. How was it possible, after these years? Maybe it was because.He gave up. Later. His arms slid down to grasp her lower back, pressing her hips into his. As one, they stumbled backward to the wall by the door. Mulder's body covered Scully's, making the join of their bodies all one point of contact with no quarter given and no retreat attempted.

Scully's smell enticed him, wafted over him, a clean shower smell with floral overtones. Mulder thought dizzily that he recognized the perfume she'd been wearing in the car on the way to Penticton. It was the perfume of the untouchable, of his aloof, emotionally detached partner. Look but don't touch. The thought of their nearness after years of wanting her, challenged and awed by her beauty and intellect, drove him crazy. He pushed against her, letting her feel his hard length. Mulder heard a satisfying whimper and the feeling of her thighs loosening in response. His, he thought. He wanted to possess her totally, to roll in bed with her as an invited guest, not as a sick, wounded man. He wanted.

Thoughts drifted away to resurface and again take flight without him. Scully's hands took greedy handfuls of Mulder's shirt, jerking awkwardly upward, gathering the cloth and pushing until his bare chest was exposed. She kissed his skin, taking in his mild musky scent with satisfaction. Her deliberate kisses landed lower down on his chest, small moist ones accompanying strategic breathing, making a trail down his belly. Her small hand hooked into the top of his low-slung dress slacks, and Mulder could feel her fingers burning into the sensitive flesh below the cloth. He gasped, trying to regain his ability to breathe as she unhooked the button of his fly.

Scully saw her chance to regain control and moved, backing away. Staring straight into Mulder's soft, stunned eyes, she reached behind her and unzipped her dress in one smooth motion. Stepping to the side, she left it in a pool on the floor with her reservations. Scully stood there before Mulder, wearing only her underwear. She was pleased beyond all reason at the involuntary widening of his pupils. With one hand on her stomach, Scully unclasped her bra from behind as she arched her back slightly. It landed on the tile to meet her dress.

Mulder stared at the exposed flesh, a chest with perfect swaying breasts with stiffened red nipples. Scully looked up at her partner with a wry expression, struggling for air in the heated space between their bodies. The expression was recognition what they were doing to each other. It was also an admission of need, and a realization that it had been a long time coming.

"Mulder-" Her words were cut off as their lips reconnected. This time the kiss was brief and harsh, pressing and pulling away almost immediately. When she opened her eyes, feeling the absence of his lips, Scully saw the top of his head as he leaned in toward her breasts. She could feel his warm breath on her oversensitive skin and smell the shampoo he had used on his hair. Wonderful, she thought. Scully gasped as Mulder's wet lips locked around her right nipple as a whole. Mulder then placed delicate bites over the entire surface of the breast, immediately returning to land light soothing kisses on the reddened area.

Scully felt a rush of moisture, a delicious loosening between her legs. She arched back as far as she could against the wall she was pressed flat against, wanting to feel the whole of Mulder's skin on hers. She wanted to be sandwiched between the rough plaster wall and the heat of his skin, to feel him on her and inside her. She gasped for air. How could he have this effect on her after all this time? She needed him like chlorine needed to react. Potassium chloride, she thought with perfect irrelevance as she gave herself over to sensation.

When Mulder had worked over both pale globes, he moved up and stared into her heavy lidded, glazed eyes. Pulling back, he grasped Scully's hand and walked one step toward the bathroom door. After a moment, Scully slowly followed the tugging hand. Suddenly she felt almost shy, standing there exposed. There was no denying it now. She needed him. The recognition sent waves of arousal through her, and the simple press of Mulder's hand suddenly seemed erotic, forbidden. Their eyes joined in a look of perfect understanding, but neither spoke as they moved into the bedroom.

Mulder went to his knees on the bed, pulling her into his lap. Scully straddled him, reaching around his body to run her hands down the cleft of his back, back up to feel his thick shoulder muscles, around to run her hands down his chest. Closing her eyes, she confirmed emotionally what she saw with her eyes. Mulder, here. Real. And he was.She fell, pushed, to her back softly, her legs spread, her bare breasts moving up then downward with the force, her lips parted slightly.

Scully watched, amused and intoxicated as Mulder struggled to remove his shoes then his pants, leaving his boxers. For the moment. The thought of confirmation thrilled her, sent dull, aching waves through the core of her body with a needy force that astonished her. They were doing this. Finally.

She could feel tears prickling the corners of her eyes. How many times had she wanted this, thought about it, awoke alone sweating and reeling from it? So long.She opened her eyes and reached up to a kneeling Mulder, pulled him downward toward her. He obeyed. She pushed her body upward from the waist, slanting her mouth into his, feeling his straining erection through his boxers with her palm. No more waiting, no more rationalizing, no more control. This was real. Scully wanted nothing more to feel him buried to the root inside her, to feel their sweat as their bodies pressed into each other, becoming one.

Mulder made a strange whimpering sound into Scully's mouth and jerked off her panties with one hand, down one side of her body then the other. He threw them away, then started work on his boxers. He cursed slightly as he had to let her go to use both hands to work the elastic over his erection. Then he flipped them over so she was sprawled on top of his form.

As soon as they could think the same thought, Scully had straddled him, and they were there. Scully moaned his name aloud as she slipped downward, and he filled her. Complete, finally, she thought, and that was the last of her analysis, as the merest friction of his upward thrusting hips against her swollen clitoris made her begin to lose her mind. She pushed him into herself further than she would have believed possible, impaled herself until it was almost painful. Again, and again, until she had lost count, they had always been connected, apart but connected again. They pulled at each other, greedy, skin to skin, mouths blindly seeking. Finally, Scully broke away slightly, leaving only her legs wrapped tightly around him as she let herself go.

Feeling her clenching around him, her incredible loss of control as she tossed wildly above him, Mulder had no choice but to follow, shuddering. He tried to keep from falling into unconsciousness as Scully collapsed on his bare chest. They didn't move for several long minutes.

Finally, Mulder moved his head up to regard Scully and quipped, "Well, that lasted all of about a minute." His voice was rough gravel, his eyes amused. Scully slowly moved her head up, propping her chin on one hand as she looked up at him.

"I'm sorry, you said something?" She was flushed, small red blotches covering her face and neck. Bending his head to look upward, Mulder got the answer to a question that had been troubling him. The first time he'd seen her blush, a slow red creeping up from her conservative neckline, he'd wondered where, exactly. the flush had originated on her body. Now, at last, he had the answer.

Mulder turned Scully slightly to her side, reaching up to kiss his way from a mottled spot just above her left breast, following it to her forehead. Scully grinned at Mulder, enjoying his attention, and he smiled in response. Then, he.felt the real source of her wicked amusement. Her small hand, wrapped around his soft, spent anatomy.

He groaned. "Jesus, woman, is there no satisfying you? It's not humanly possible, what you want from me." In contrast to his words, he could feel himself slowly stand at attention all over again. Scully smiled widely, moving to again drape herself over him. Her small, full breasts grazed his chest as she spoke in a detached, clinical voice. The contrast between her voice and her actions, facial expression, and words made him groan softly aloud.

Kissing trails down his chest, she said, "I've been watching you, Agent Mulder, and I am full aware of the capacity your body has for.Endurance, and I intend," She stopped and began throwing small breaths as punctuation for her kisses as she lowered herself. She followed the small, dark trail of hair downward. Scully fully intended to finish what she started earlier. To her satisfaction, Mulder's muscles jumped involuntarily under her attention. She continued, "To utilize your full capabilities. After all, you have four years of frustration to answer for."

When she lowered all the way down to take him into her mouth, Mulder let go of all the air in his lungs, uncertain that he would be able to breathe in again until he actually did. If he hadn't been so transfixed, he would have laughed. A grown man, an FBI agent, and he whimpered. He did it again for confirmation. Every dirty, adolescent fantasy he'd ever had about Scully, himself, and a warm Ford Taurus on a too-long highway was made real, made somehow pure, forgiven in the firm velvet suction of her mouth.

So warm.he pulled her upward and rolled the surprised woman quickly underneath him. She would not reduce him to a pile of goo. This was her job, Mulder determined, and he was going to make her pay for making his body attempt mutiny.

With one smooth movement, he pinned her arms up above her head. Mulder smirked with satisfaction down at Scully. She gasped as he pinned her. He gasped in echo as she narrowed her eyes and moved underneath him in revenge, letting him feel her, moist and waiting, against his upper thigh. Steady, Mulder thought.

He said conversationally, "You know, Scully, I've wanted to do this for a long time. Do you have any idea how long?" He moved his hips slightly, holding her wrists with one hand. He knew that if she really wanted, she could probably escape, but she didn't seem to be all that interested in resisting. Her blue eyes were becoming glazed. He smiled evilly. "Scully, answer me." He punctuated his order with a grinding movement of his hips between her legs. So close, he thought, but not close enough. Scully made a soft noise of frustration.

Reluctantly, she sighed, ".No." She moved her hips slightly underneath him again and was rewarded by a gasp. Mulder's eyes slitted. Restraint, he thought fiercely to himself. Think about something, anything else. An image of a snake swallowing a lizard. No, no. Jesus. The only images that came to his mind were so blatantly phallic and sexual in nature that he knew he was almost lost. He forced himself to smile. It came out as a grimace.

"As I was saying, I've spent a lot of free, otherwise productive time thinking about this little sexual tension thing that has built up over the course of our relationship, and I've formed some theories. Would you like to hear them?" One of his hands began to trail down her belly, fingers leaving feather-light trails. He moved his hips well back to stroke down her body with his hand. His legs pinned her thighs, preventing her movement.

"No," she gasped, lying, "Not really."

"Now, now, Agent Scully. I would have thought that as a scientist," Mulder's hand reached it's destination, "You would appreciate the intellectual side of our attraction. I'm astounded." His long fingers began sliding, and pressing. Scully cried out underneath him, and bit her lip to hold back other sounds. Unbelievable, how sensitive she was, Mulder marveled. He kept his touch light as he continued talking. "Don't tell me that after everything, you, Dr Dana Scully, scientist, are not interested in this. I implore you," His fingers pressed harder on her sensitive clitoris, "Please hear me out."

"Oh god, Mulder, what the hell are you-"

Mulder interrupted as if he hadn't heard, his voice level, his fingers dancing lightly over her slick nerve ending. "Please, Scully?" He gritted his teeth for control. She was close, he could tell. She was turning red, and her head was tossing underneath him.

"Mulder, please." She arched her pelvis upward.

Mulder leaned in toward her and whispered in her ear. "Relax, Scully."

She gasped in confusion and frustration. "Mulder, goddamnit-"

"Listen to me, Scully. Relax your pelvic muscles. Let the tension go. Do it." She locked eyes with him and took in a ragged breath, forcing her muscles to loosen. When Mulder was sure she was relaxed, he continued stroking her, stopping just as she was reaching the edge. Then, again, only when Scully had relaxed completely from the brink would he continue. Mulder kept talking.

"What I think is, Scully, is that I'm in love with you. That's why," Scully began moving to break his light hold on her wrists. Mulder guided himself to her and entered her with one hard thrust, groaning out loud at the heat and moisture. Scully made a low, inarticulate cry. Mulder wanted to sob with the sensation of hearing that sound and being inside her.

Control be damned. What was she doing to him? Mulder continued, his voice hoarse with the effort to speak at all.

"That's why I look at you, and I think about this," he punctuated his statement by pushing her back into the bed. Her legs wrapped around his waist as he drove into her, slowly, brutally, again and again. "And when you tell me. He gasped, not able to finish the thought, but continuing anyway. ".The happiest man alive. That's why. I thought about this...oh god.That's why. I want to have a life with you, Scully." She simultaneously screamed and convulsed her release underneath him and Mulder lost the ability to speak, much less reason, as again he followed her.

Scully woke up, feeling momentarily trapped and claustrophobic until she realized where she was. The tangled sheet and entertwined legs were the result of.A huge grin spread over her face. Mulder. She moved to one side, propping her head up on one hand. Most of her partner's body was exposed as he lay spread-eagle , revealing a smooth brown expanse of muscle. Scully wondered idly how he managed to get a tan in between faking his death and embarking on this road trip.

Amazingly, the thought made her want to giggle. She shook her head in amazement. Dr. Dana Scully, giggling like a teenager. More than that, that person was a teenager she, herself, had never been. It was amazing, the effect he had on her, the swing in emotions Mulder caused. Last night had been evidence of that in more than one way. She wondered, not for the first time, why in the hell they had waited as long as they had. If she'd had any idea at all he had shared her feelings, meeting Special Agent Fox Mulder for the first time would have been quite different.

The thought of tackling the stunned agent as he was trying to show her slides and display his finest sarcasm was too much for her. This time she did laugh out loud. Mulder woke up, stretching lazily, his eyes closed. His arms swept the queen-sized bed above him.

When he encountered flesh, a broad grin spilt his face. Still not opening his eyes, he started to explore. Before she could say anything, Dana found herself on top of him, only a strategically placed sheet separating their bodies. After a moment, even the sheet was nowhere to be found, and the urge to laugh had turned into something entirely different.

"This is incredibly strange, Mulder." Scully stared at the white popcorn ceiling. Mulder was sprawled beside her as before, only minus the sheet and on the opposite side. He nodded.

"It is." His tone was entirely self-satisfied, and she swatted him. With an effort she stared at him with her best forbidding expression.

"That damn eyebrow," Mulder murmured. He grabbed her again. Scully disentangled herself gently.



Her voice was louder this time. "Mulder. Stop. We have to get ready." Mulder stared at her in confusion.

"What could possibly be so important?" Then it registered. Mulder passed a hand over his face, all playfulness evaporated.

Scully continued, oblivious, her tone a strange combination of happy and scolding that Mulder had never heard before but instantly decided he liked. He only hoped that he would be able to hear it again. She said, "Although, after last night, it's kind of ironic, considering we didn't use protection."

Mulder took in a deep, shaky breath. "Scully, there's something I need to tell you."

She would never be a mother. Never become pregnant, never give birth. The loss of it hit her with the force of a blow to the gut, again and again. It wouldn't stop, Scully knew, she would just have to learn to work around the pain. In time, the hollow ache would begin to seem natural until it healed or got used to the wound. She knew this with certainty because it was what she had experienced with her cancer diagnosis. She would die, or get well. One way or another, she would survive emotionally as long as she had to. The very idea, though logical, seemed unimaginable emotionally. How could she ever heal from this?

These thoughts went through her mind in the time his words registered to the time, seconds later, when the first tears hit her cheeks. She shrugged off Mulder's arms, turning away and closing her eyes in a search for strength. Why was she so upset? She could still be a mother, still adopt if she chose. Besides, she was still struggling with cancer. Why should she mourn something she might never have experienced anyway?

In the back of her mind, she realized now, she had always held the idea that someday she would be a mother as the payoff for everything she had endured. Her abduction, her sister's death, even her cancer. If someday she were to stay in remission, if she could somehow beat the thing growing unwanted inside of her, she would have that. She would replace it with another, healthier life. This would be the reason and the reward. To her child, she could give her hard-won lessons, and maybe they would benefit somehow, because she had made the world a better place.

Ultimately, she knew suddenly, they were stupid, self-involved thoughts. Selfish, to think that all of the suffering somehow had a purpose, a noble reason to be revealed. It had been a coping mechanism with no basis in reality. Scully could see that clearly now. There was no reason, no logic to it at all. Every image, every fantasy she'd never had ripped itself away with the force of a lost reality.

Another facet of the pain took advantage of her growing objectivity. Mulder had kept this from her, kept a vial of ova that he had stolen. He had not told her. The most intimate and vulnerable portion of herself, and he had not told her. This was the man she had laid herself bare before, this was the man she trusted. He had not told her. Again in her mind, she was underneath him, screaming aloud, all defenses gone in a way she'd never imagined they would be. Mulder had kept this from her. Gasping for air, she clawed her way free of his searching arms and left. She had no words for him.

Mulder followed Scully out of the bedroom. He knew she needed time, but he was terrified to give it to her. If he did, he was convinced that she would never forgive him. She couldn't leave him; she had to understand.

"Scully-" He trailed the nude, furious woman down the stairs. "Scully, please wait. Please." He almost wished he hadn't spoken when she whirled on the landing halfway down.

"What, Mulder? What could you possibly say to me? You.You bastard. You knew. You knew what they'd stolen from me." She was shouting, oblivious to who might hear, who might be listening. Mulder closed the distance between them.

"Scully, I'm sorry. I wanted to wait until you could deal with this, until you were better-" She cut him off furiously.

"Oh, so you appointed yourself guardian of my fertility? Information given on a need to know basis? Thanks for sparing me, Mulder, I really appreciate it." Her voice was layered in sarcasm and bitterness.

"Scully, I didn't know it would happen like this, I-" Mulder hated the ineffectual tone in his voice. He had been scared to hurt her, so he had kept it to himself. More importantly, he had been frightened because he thought that she would know he was to blame for all her suffering.

Again she cut him off. "What right do you have to keep that from me, Mulder? It's my-" She cut herself off, moved in a different direction. "I will never have children, and I learned when you deigned to tell me? For someone so obsessed with words like trust and truth, that's a little of a stretch, saying you were keeping the information from me because I couldn't handle it. This from the man who wanted to inform the press when we were faced with a deadly disease and possible widespread panic. Remember, Mulder?" She shook her head, suddenly feeling very dizzy, but no less furious. She swept her arm upward in the direction of the bedroom.

"You fucked me right there on that bed, you let me," Her voice rose, "Open myself to you in the most intimate possible way, and you knew. How could-" Suddenly, blood ran wetly from her nose. A thin stream escaped her hand, and dribbled onto the light colored carpet. "Shit." Scully stood there, momentarily paralyzed.

Before she could do anything, Mulder was pressing paper towels into her hand. She shook her head, confused. Had he left? Hadn't she just been talking to him? Mulder guided her with a hand around her shoulders down the hallway to the sofa. Scully tried to shrug his arm off, but found herself stumbling, falling until he picked her up bodily and laid her down. Why was the room spinning? She closed her eyes.

When she opened them, she saw Mulder leaning over her. He was kneeling on the floor beside the sofa and dabbing at her upper lip with a moist washcloth. Tears stood out in his anguished eyes.

Scully cleared her throat with difficulty and said, "This doesn't mean I've forgiven you." She was far from joking, but began to laugh weakly anyway. Mulder stared at her for a second, his eyes searching her face. He closed his eyes and dropped his gaze, his hand dropping away from her face.

Helplessly, he said, "I love you, Dana. I'm so sorry." In response, Scully nodded and closed her eyes for a moment.

When she opened them, she said, "Just promise me, Mulder, that you will never keep anything from me again, or it's over. It stops right here, with one night, and goes no further."

Mulder whispered, "I promise. I just didn't-"

"I know. It's." She sighed, giving him a rueful expression. "I can't say it's okay, but I.I understand. Just give me some time, okay?"

Mulder nodded. "I'll give you as much as you need, Scully. Just tell me what I can do."

Scully sighed and pushed up off the couch. "The only thing you can do is impossible, Mulder, so let's just go ahead and get ready. I'd like to get this over with." After the emotional bombshell she'd just experienced, the only thing she wanted to do was get through the charade as quickly as possible.

Suddenly, realization hit. She was about to face the man who was responsible. She had been pushing herself to her feet, and sat heavily back down. Jesus. She had thought it was hard lying to Blevins and the committee. How on earth was she going to let that man touch her without breaking out of her role as Dana?

She stood and made her way back upstairs, leaving Mulder in the living room. After a moment, he followed.

11:30 a. m.

Scully and Mulder walked up to the main entrance of the large facility. Mulder bumped slightly into Scully as they passed underneath the twin security cameras, presumably by accident. She nodded slightly as the security guard approached on the other side of the thick glass double doors, indicating she noticed them.

The thick, bulletproof glass doors looked as if nothing short of repeated rounds would breach them. Considering what procedures were actually done here, it wasn't too surprising, Mulder thought.

Then he did a double take, disguising his shock by giving Scully a wide, vapid grin. Scully smiled tightly back at him when she saw it as well . The guard looked just like Krycek. A Krycek who was a security guard, wearing a generic blue uniform. Only he was carrying an automatic weapon. The Krycek look-alike reached the opposite side of the doors and, staring at the pair, pushed his weapon back onto his shoulder. Then he reached with his left arm to one side of the door. Mulder saw that this version of Krycek had two arms to choose from, and he relaxed slightly.

The Krycek clone punched something in, and the doors slid open. Mulder cast a worried eye on the woman beside him. What he saw only marginally reassured him. She was the normal, stoic Scully, revealing no strong emotion. She wasn't acting like Dana, though, and that was what concerned him. This high-security facility would be the worst possible place to blow their cover.

He reached over and grabbed Scully's waist, nuzzling her neck. Feeling her stiffen, he murmured, "You're Dana, remember?"

Immediately she relaxed. Giving him a kiss, she let him deepen it until they were interrupted by loud coughing. Flat brown eyes stared at them. Scully had to keep herself from shuddering. Dana, she reminded herself. Act like Dana.

She laughed lightly and shrugged at the Krycek clone. "Sorry." She felt Mulder's arm relax its hold on her waist in relief, and he grinned vacuously at the guard in mirror of her.

The guard rolled his eyes and thrust a clipboard at them. In a flat, bored voice he said, "Names, origin date, purpose, appointment time and section. When you have that filled out, take the two copies there, orange and canary are yours, do not take the white, that is the official copy. The canary is yours to obtain your badge, which you will need for access to other areas of the facility. The orange is for the reception area of whatever section you are visiting today. Do not lose these copies. You can fill out the form at the waiting area at the end of the hall next to the restrooms in that direction." He gestured by swinging his weapon. "Thank you and have a nice visit." He walked back behind the half door and sat down, opening a magazine.

Mulder and Scully looked at each other, both repressing grins of mirth. Neither needed to ask what the other was thinking. Krycek, spending time via his clone as a minor bureaucratic functionary. Mulder steered Scully down the hallway, noting with a cautious eye the security cameras lining the sterile white walls. "Somehow it almost seems like justice, doesn't it?" Mulder murmured into her ear, feeling a satisfying shake of repressed laughter in Scully's shoulders. They sat side by side in waiting room chairs.

Scully held the clipboard and pen. Staring down at it, she pressed back a worried frown. Two security cameras made a circuit of the waiting area, taking in everything with blank eyes. She reached over and grasped Mulder's jaw in an affectionate hold. Pretending to nibble his earlobe, she whispered, "What the hell am I going to put? Origin date?"

Mulder shuddered at the wet breath in his ear and kissed her lightly in return, whispering with a small grin, "There was a scrapbook in the living room. Cute family photos." He gave her a deeper kiss, leaving Scully gasping and staring at him with narrowed eyes. He hadn't done that for disguise. Looking at her innocently, Mulder whispered into her ear, "I'm 06/05/95, you're 12/11/94."

Once she filled out the forms, the couple followed the signs to the 'badge center'. A woman who, much to their profound relief, bore a resemblance to no one at all, instructed in the use of their green badges and gave them directions. She, like the guard, had a gun, although her was a semi-automatic instead. Mulder wondered vaguely if the 'doctors' were also packing.

"You'll need to go down the main hallway, that's through the steel double doors there and all the way down to the elevator bay. There you'll need to use your badges, both of you, and pass the retinal scan machine in the wall. When the elevator doors open, go up three floors and exit to your right. To enter the ward, you're going to swipe the badges again."

They thanked her as nicely as possible and followed her directions. After going through the double doors, halfway down the hall Mulder said softly, "Retinal scan?" He managed not to move his lips, and the words barely registered in case there were listening devices as well.

Scully replied in the same fashion. "Should be the same."

After a pause, he replied tightly, "Should be?"

Scully shrugged. In spite of the situation, she was enjoying the look on his face. "Let's hope. It's meant to map the capillary pattern of the retina, and I'm not sure if that would change according to the differing lifestyles of our clones, or not." There was only a small, strangled sound in response. Mulder was trying to picture how they would escape if they were discovered. There were no windows to be seen here or at the end of the rapidly approaching hallway. He swallowed nervously and stared at Scully as they stopped in the middle of the hall. Three sets of silver elevator doors faced them, and protruding from the floor was a pedestal. A pair of what looked like rubber goggles was embedded in the concrete.

Scully looked at him and smiled. It might have been meant as reassuring, but came out as a tight grimace. She wasn't sure, Mulder realized. By the time he thought to stop her, she had bent over the goggles and it was too late.

A high-pitched beep emitted from the machine, and Mulder's blood ran cold. The sudden silence afterward, and Scully's slight smile and blinking eyelids relaxed him, and he copied her actions. After he bent over the goggles, a bright red light blinded him momentarily, and when he looked upward, he saw small spots for just a moment.

Once they swiped their badges in the machine on the wall, one set of elevator doors opened. Mulder murmured to Scully, "I guess that's our ride." She nodded silently, her face expressionless, and moved forward, Mulder's hand pressed lightly in the small of her back.

As they were lifted upward, Scully tried not to stare into the camera set behind the curved mirror in front of her. She realized that she was frightened, that she could deal with. Fear was an emotion she had practice with. However, more than that, she was angry. She was so incredibly angry that objects she gazed upon for more than a moment seemed to swim with the force of her fevered brain.

The elevator door opened with a bright, cheery 'ping'. Mulder and Scully stepped off and turned right as instructed. A thin man that neither of the agents recognized passed by and smiled at them. And why not, Scully thought dimly, they were special. They were the clones that were going to expand the colony. Expand it with the flesh of women who were cut open to serve their master's sinister purpose. So why not wave to their version of Adam and Eve? Why not, indeed?

To Scully, every clicking footstep that rang out in the hallway as they walked was one step closer to the man that killed the MUFON women. She was just a bit closer to the man that killed Penny. She was nearer to the man that almost killed her, that stole her ability to reproduce. She only prayed that she would be able to keep herself from killing him where he stood. But she didn't pray too hard.

Abruptly, Mulder stopped, and Scully had to brace herself on his shoulder to keep herself from falling. She could feel tears burning, aching to fall in her tear ducts. She stared at the white and gray speckled tile on the floor. She would not let them, she vowed. Not until Scanlon was brought to justice.

Mulder pulled her close gently with one arm. He took her gently, bringing her into a light hug. He whispered, "Are you sure you can do this, Dana?" At the gentleness in his voice, Scully almost began to cry in spite of her resolution, but she didn't. Instead she nodded, straightened, and pasted on a wide, happy smile. Together they moved forward to the end of the hallway, and toward Scanlon. After they swiped their green cards, the intruders were admitted via quiet sliding glass doors.

After the doors closed behind them, the first thing that registered was the silence. The ward they were in was hushed, quiet in almost a reverent sense. People could be seen, but their movements were quick and purposeful as they passed through on their way to other labs. This was not a place where office water cooler talk was exchanged. The looks on the faces of what Scully presumed were lab assistants were serious and focused. She wondered if they were all clones, or if some were human, and if she would ever know the difference. Judging from her reaction to Melissa, probably not. But Scanlon, she knew, was human.

If he wasn't, though, she didn't want to know. It might dull her anger. Honing her fury was what was keeping her upright, keeping the smile on her face. It was the hardest thing she'd ever done, Scully thought, this smile. It was the expression of a happy woman, a woman about to become pregnant, bear a child. It was a woman she knew that she had left behind forever.

Mulder watched with masked apprehension as Scully's smile widened. Dr. Scanlon approached, his footsteps silent over the light carpeting. Smiling, he extended his hand as he was still approaching the couple.

Enthusiastically, he cried, "Dana, Fox. Are you ready to make history?" This time, they both smiled.

"Good, good. How do you feel, Dana?" Scanlon squinted at her as he flipped through her chart.

Scully beamed at him. "I feel great, Dr. Scanlon. Thanks for asking, I'm so excited." Scully dug her fingernails into the palm of her hand behind her back until she almost broke the skin. It took all of her strength not to flatten the man right there where he stood.

The greater good, she told herself firmly. The greater good. Again and again and again. She felt Mulder take her punished hand with his and stroke her angry palm with his thumb. He understood, she thought. There and then, Scully knew that eventually she could forgive him.

Dr Scanlon said briskly, "Well, Dana, your last visit was very positive. If it continues at this rate, you'll be the first mother here in Alpha. You should be excited, this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us."

Something inside of Scully, seeing the smug look of accomplishment on Scanlon's face, frayed to near breaking. As if sensing her mood, Mulder adopted an anxiousness befitting a soon-to-be father, and asked, "Should I come into the examining room, or stay here?"

Dr. Scanlon smiled reassuringly. "Dana will be just fine, Fox. Why don't you wait out here, and before you know it, she'll be right back out." Mulder nodded reluctantly. He didn't for a moment want to leave Scully with that man.

Not that he was afraid for Scully; if anything he was afraid that his partner might decide control was overrated and that a quick, certain, face to face justice was the very best kind. He debated internally, finally forcing himself to slowly sit on the small decorative couch near the empty receptionist's desk. Dr. Scanlon led Dana down the hallway away from him, not noticing her smile slip as his hand touched her shoulder.

Mulder flipped through an old issue of "Good Housekeeping', silently noting the attempt to make this a generic waiting room. Sitting here, it was easy to forget that this was a place where the technology existed to make copies of human beings. A copy of Scully. A copy of his mother. He put the magazine down, growing exponentially more restless and nervous.

Finally, he rose, pretending to stretch. Unlike a normal doctor's office, there was no one around to observe him. The flow of people in the hallway just outside was irregular enough to make him wary, though. Mulder couldn't see any cameras evident, so he began pacing. When there was no response to his actions, he walked down the hallway, looking for the examining room that Scully was led to. He peered at the doors, looking for any sign as to which one it might be.

"Well, Dana, this shouldn't take too long. Just go ahead and strip, and we'll take a look." The expression on Scanlon's face changed slightly from blank professionalism to something else. It was something in the flat glitter of his eyes, Dana thought. Dread filled her. Why hadn't she considered this? Just because it looked like an examining room didn't mean it would be a normal examination. This was the time where the nurse would normally leave, giving her a gown and some kind of absurd paper sheet to drape over her legs so she couldn't see the doctor peering in between her legs.

However, this wasn't a normal scenario. Everything here was just a little bit wrong, from the way the 'Elders' were treated to the absence of paper on the examination table beside her. The reality of it hit her with a vengeance. Dana and Fox had said they were trusting. Apparently, that trust extended further than she had thought. After all, why should the humans in charge treat their clones with human dignity, when they were not truly Homo Sapiens, only copies thereof?

Scully prevented herself from thinking too deeply on how far that lack of respect might extend by taking a deep breath and unbuttoning her blouse. Knowing what she was going to have to do, and still keeping the smile on her face was the hardest thing she had ever done.

With Scanlon watching impassively, Scully folded her thin blouse and placed it on the empty chair in the corner of the examining room. She slipped off her low-heeled shoes, and paused. When Scanlon made no move to leave, she started undoing her trousers. When her fingers touched the zipper, she fumbled, her smile faltering. She pasted it back on. Scully removed and folded her trousers, slipping off her panties and placing them in between her blouse and pants.

She stood there, shivering in only her bra, wondering if her humiliation was to extend to a complete view of her body for only a moment. The look of slight surprise on Dr. Scanlon's face told her. It did. Stoically, Scully walled off her feelings somewhere deep inside and pressed hard. The humiliation and anger she harbored became a white-hot dwarf star, burning the lining of her gut.

She reached up and removed her white lace bra. Then she sat up on the white vinyl of the table, feeling the material cling to her buttocks. Apparently, they didn't believe in gowns here, either. Scully closed her eyes and leaned backward to stare at the ceiling.

Scanlon said, "Slide back a little." He wasn't even trying for a professional tone, Scully noted. It was a barked order. He'd left his bedside manner over in the corner with her clothes, it seemed. She slid, thinking of Penny. Scanlon locked steel stirrups into place at the business end of the table.

"Okay, Dana, you know the drill." Indeed, Scully thought. She did. Her heels hit the frigid metal, and a chill ran up her spine at the cool air between her legs. She didn't need to look at Scanlon to know his eyes were on her breasts as he pulled up a rolling stool. With a creak, he took a seat between her spread legs.

It wasn't until she noted he snapped on rubber gloves that she thought seriously about killing him. Right there, splattering his blood messily all over the sterile, white room. One quick lunge, a slow realization, and pain. His, not hers. For Penny, and in a perverse way, for Dana as well. What he did to her clone, he was doing to her by proxy.

Scanlon opened the walls of her vagina with a speculum. There was no warning given, and involuntarily, Scully flinched. Scanlon said nothing. He remained there between her legs, silent. Scully stared at the ceiling, wondering idly if he had the capacity to see inside her to note what he had taken away, knowing it was impossible without much different equipment. Yet.Fear was beginning to take dominance in Scully when it happened.

Growing impatient and afraid, Mulder opened one of the four closed doors at random. He only realized he had chosen the wrong one when there was a loud crash, and multiple smaller, high-pitched clangs, the sounds of steel instruments hitting hard tile and bouncing.

Instinctively, Mulder closed the door and moved quickly back into the waiting room, sitting and crossing his legs. He absorbed himself in a recipe for fabulous homemade chili when Scanlon came into the waiting room, looking annoyed.

"Fox, did you see who did that?" His manner was entirely different from the gentle doctor leading Dana down the hallway. Mulder cursed himself for leaving her alone with him. Relief loosened his entire body when Scully emerged behind the doctor, walking toward him with a blank expression on her face. Only Mulder could see it change to blind hatred when the man spoke.

"Dana, what are you doing? We're not done. I still have another test."

She turned and smiled innocently. "Oh, Dr. Scanlon, I didn't know. When you left, I just assumed that meant we were done."

Mulder said in mock-confusion, "Is something wrong?"

Scanlon sighed and ran a hand through his sandy hair. "No, no, I suppose not. I'm sure everything is fine, anyway. Since you've already gotten dressed, we may as well deal with whatever else later. You two have a great day, all right?" He forced a smile.

"Fox, I need you to be here on Thursday to donate sperm." Mulder froze as he processed the statement.

He covered his shock by asking in a weak voice. "What time should I arrive?"

"Eleven am will be fine. We'll take your sperm and fertilize the egg immediately. Then Dana, you need to be ready at any time for the implant." He explained.

"Fine, Dr. Scanlon. I'll be waiting." The sweetness in her voice would have rotted anyone's teeth. Dr. Scanlon turned from them without a word and walked away.

Mulder and Scully simultaneously released a relieved breath. Looking at each other, they headed for the elevators.

Without speaking, the couple left, as quickly as they could. Scully clutched Mulder's arm with an iron grip until they were again in the car and driving away.

Mulder frowned in the general direction of the kitchen, where Scully had disappeared the minute they'd walked in the door. She wouldn't talk to him about what had happened in the examining room with Scanlon. She'd stared out the windshield without expression, barely responding to his attempts at conversation. That in itself was nothing new, there were many things in the course of their partnership that they'd avoided talking about. The only problem was, he thought, they weren't just partners anymore, and she was still shutting him out. He rose, resolving to find out what was bothering her.

Scully stood staring down at a slice of white bread when he entered. Her arms were braced at the counter, and she didn't register his presence until he placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Scully? Are you all right?" He kept his voice low.

"Yes, I'll be okay, Mulder." She shook her head, still staring down at the lone slice of bread that she'd removed from the plastic loaf bag before she'd become lost in her thoughts. "Its.It's just, I'm tired of being a victim."

He remained silent, waiting.

She shook her head. "I mean, I wanted to do something, and I couldn't. I had to undress in front of him like I wasn't even a human being, and there was nothing I could do. I wanted to kill him, Mulder. I don't know if I can handle that again." Her voice was thick with strain.

Mulder touched her shoulder, rubbing gently with his thumb against the light cotton blouse. He leaned forward and whispered into her ear, "You won't, Scully. I'm not going to let that bastard out of my sight." He wrapped his arms around her from behind, tucking her head under his chin, and they stared at the counter silently together.

Finally, Scully pulled away, sighing. "Well, I guess we should call the Gunmen and let them know what's going on." She turned around and stroked his chest idly, looking up into Mulder's eyes. She reached to Mulder, pulled him down as she raised up, and kissed his lips lightly. Before she could settle back on her feet, Mulder grabbed her waist and deepened it, pressing her lightly back into the counter, settling in between her legs.

When they disentangled, catching their breath, Mulder said fiercely, "I'll do anything for you, Scully. I want you to know that." Then, without waiting for a reaction from the stunned, flushed woman, he picked up the phone and dialed.

"Hello?" Byers answered cautiously. He was relieved when he heard Mulder's voice. Glancing over at Fox and Dana who lay there, as usual intertwined, he lowered his voice. "Mulder. How's it going?" Again, he looked over at the couple. Strange, how peaceful they looked while asleep. He thought of his wife and smiled, listening. His smile faded at Mulder's description of the security guarding the facility the pair had visited. He couldn't restrain his hiss of frustration. "Christ, Mulder, it's Lombard all over again!"

He listened, sighing. "I know, I understand, it's just-No, they're out getting food. I'll let them know. I guess Frohike will stay behind with the two lovebirds." He paused. "Yes, they are. It's almost sickening."

Across the room, the man with his back turned gently nudged the figure spooned beside him with his hand. Dana nodded slightly, shifting against him. She too had been listening.

Byers continued. "What time do you think? Okay. Yeah, I understand. Be careful, Mulder." He hung up and stared at the sleeping couple. He himself had always been such a light sleeper, he admired the ability they had to be so oblivious to their surroundings.

Thinking he may as well take advantage of their slumber, he left quietly. Normally, he wouldn't dream of treating any assignment lightly enough to go get ice, but this was different. Even if they were clones, they were clones more in the visual sense of the word than anything else. In them, Byers thought, all the sharp edges and corners had been dulled, filed away in the service to obedience.

Byers might have reweighed the evidence and revised his opinion if he had seen the small set of feet hit the carpeted hotel room. Seconds after he left, Dana peered through the small gap in the curtain, watching a plastic-bucket yielding Byers head to the end of the walkway.

Quickly, she grabbed the bag that had been left by her counterpart on the table by the door and started searching. In a matter of seconds, Dana found what she was looking for. A badge, belonging to Special Agent Dana Scully.

Footsteps. As quickly as she could, Dana replaced the leather-cased badge underneath the clothes. Looking again to make sure everything was the way it had been three minutes previous, she dove back into bed with her waiting husband.

After Frohike and Langly came back with Chinese food, Byers indicated they should wake the still couple.

Frohike sighed with exasperation. "Jesus wept. Don't these two bunnies ever do anything but sleep and get laid?" He walked over to the couple and shook Fox's shoulder. The two stirred, slowly moving and sitting up in bed. Byers dished out the Chinese with no comment.

"So," Fox asked casually, "When do we begin the next phase of our assignment?" He looked up at Langly, who rapidly stared back down at his Moo Shu Pork.

After a pause, Byers swallowed and calmly replied, "Soon, very soon. We are still waiting for word." He forced a smile at the couple and said, "Don't worry, it shouldn't be much longer." Dana and Fox looked at each other expressionlessly, then smiled back at him.

They finished swallowing their silent meal, and Frohike motioned to Byers. Leaning over, he muttered into Byers' ear. "I don't trust them, I think they're getting suspicious."

Byers nodded, whispering back. "I spoke with Mulder, it's going down tonight. It's up to you, but I think you should stay behind."

Frohike nodded. "Fine, Langly can handle the systems as well as I can, if they're anything like before, and they probably are. You guys go, I'll watch them. I don't think there'll be a problem, but if there is I've got one of the guns the Mulder and Scully left behind."

"Okay. Well, we'd better go." Byers stood and put on his light overcoat. Turning his back to the pair resting on the bed watching tv, he fished into Scully's bag and tucked her Sig in his pocket. Loudly, he called out, "We'd better go, Langly."

Fox and Dana watched without comment as the pair left, then back at the television. On Frasier, a man was trying to stare down a dog.

Frohike stared at them for a moment, silently marveling at how different they were from his friends. Especially Dana. So soft, with none of the fire, the sharp edges of the original that he admired so much. Sure, she was still a damn beautiful woman, drop-dead gorgeous even, but there was just something missing. He shrugged off the train of thought, opening one of the remaining cartons and digging with enthusiasm into four-star General Tsu's chicken.

He was finishing off the last piece of crunchy, coated chicken and draining the last swallow of his YooHoo when he heard it. He'd been glancing up at Fox and Dana from time to time, but they hadn't moved so much as a muscle off the bed. When he looked up, though, Dana was standing beside the bathroom, and Fox appeared to be asleep.

Frohike frowned. He hadn't noticed her get up. He would have to be more observant. Even if the pair were basically harmless, it was no reason to be careless. The chastising thoughts died as they began when he saw Dana crook her index finger at him, beckoning. Her other index finger was on her lips.

He froze momentarily, torn. Even if it was a clone, it still looked remarkably like Scully. Scully calling silently for him with a small smile on her face. A naughty smile. Dear lord. Frohike shook his head prayed fervently for guidance. It wasn't exactly like cheating on his friendship with Mulder, was it, since it wasn't really Mulder. Was it?

He knew it for the pointless rationalization it was, just as he knew that there was no way in hell that Dana wanted what every clue she was sending out said that she wanted. He even knew it was probably a trick of some kind.

Somehow, though, he rose, helpless to stop his feet from moving, walking slowly ever closer to the perfect replica of the goddess of love. The Frohike version, anyway. He lost the ability to breathe as he drew closer and she pressed her index finger harder into her perfect round red puckered lips, widening her blue eyes to stare into his. Slowly, she bent down just slightly and.The world went dark.

He was roughly shoved into the bathroom, and the door slammed shut behind him. He thrashed, finally dislodging the offending article. A jacket. Goddamn, he'd been hoodwinked with a pretty face and a strategic shove. The oldest trick in the book, and he, after all these years, had fallen for it. As he heard a thump that surely meant a chair wedging him in, he took small comfort in who had been responsible.

Once the thick wood chair was securely braced under the doorknob, Fox turned to Dana, who was busily strewing the contents of Scully's bag onto the bed nearest the door.

"Unbelievable, how stupid they think we are."

Dana looked up at him, ignoring the sounds of thumping and indignant yelling eminating from the bathroom. "I know. I would have expected better, especially from her. Four years of medical school, and still she thinks of me as that much different from her." She sighed and rolled her eyes. "It's interesting, really, the expectations I had about my original." She tilted her chin defiantly. "I think they'll know better now, though." Looking down at the strewn clothes, she sighed. "All work and no play. My counterpart obviously wouldn't know style if it bit her on the ass. Oh well, I guess I'm supposed to be her anyway."

Fox came behind Dana and kissed her lightly on the neck. "Whatever you wear, hurry up, we need to be on our way to DC before they get back." He walked over and searched in Mulder's garment bag, fishing out the spare suit, shirt, and underwear. Fox whistled, holding up a garish green and yellow tie. "Not bad taste for a G-man, he must have some money." His wife only rolled her eyes in response.

They dressed quickly, shouldered their counterparts' bags, and left the hotel room under cover of darkness. A few minutes later, the crunching of gravel under tires could be heard.

Byers and Langly met their partners in crime near the facility and went over the plans for the break-in.

"Langly, you need to take the security off-line while we move through the facility." Mulder looked at the blueprints of the wiring of the facility that Langly unrolled on the hood of the van. Mulder grinned at the blonde man with fresh respect. "I don't even want to know how you found these." Langly smiled proudly.

"What are we searching for, Mulder?" Byers looked up.

"A cure for Scully, or any research results that look like they might be related. If we successfully breach the security and get out without being detected, we'll come back. But right now we have to find the cure the clones told us about."

"Mulder, we need to look for the black cancer research area. Your headaches are getting worse." Scully's flat voice masked the growing fear that she felt for her partner's heath.

"Later. We focus on you right now." He was adamant, his voice dismissive. Scully sighed with frustration. She was angry but knew it would be futile to argue.

"I'll get busy. Give me 20 minutes." Langly rolled up the blueprints. He inserted the listening device in his ear. "Testing, testing. Can you hear me, guys?"

"Loud and clear." Byers answered. Mulder gave him a thumbs-up. Langly pushed up his glasses with one finger, nodding and running one hand through his unruly blonde hair. Quickly, he walked around the building carrying a large bag. A few seconds later, he was gone from view.

Minus Langly, the group moved closer to the gate of the fence to wait under cover of darkness. After several minutes, Mulder looked at his watch. He was growing more nervous as the time wore on.

Byers said quietly, seeing the motion, "Mulder, Langly said he needed 20 minutes. It should be anytime now." Byers assured him. He remembered Mulder jumping the gun at the Lombard facility. "This facility has tighter security than the Lombard facility. Langly is working alone, so have a little patience."

"Patience has never been Mulder's strong attribute." Scully smiled slightly as she spoke of her impatient partner. Mulder shrugged and looked at his watch again, sighing heavily.

"Byers, it's clear." Byers put his hand to the earpiece.

"We hear you. Which door do we use to gain access?" Byers listened attentively.

"North entrance. The security guard will be making his rounds in 30 minutes. He checks the point for five minutes every half hour." Langly explained.

"Let's go." Byers motioned to Mulder, who related the information in a low murmur to Scully. They moved in silence to the entrance. Byers looked into the camera.

"Remember Byers, if anyone asks you are working in the fertility clinic. You're working with Dr.Scanlon." Mulder drilled Byers, who was dressed in a white lab coat. For no particular reason, he was carrying a clipboard.

"Smile for your mother, Byers." Langly snickered into his friends' earpieces as he watched Scully roll her eyes and open the door. They slipped in quietly. Mulder motioned for Byers to go right. He and Scully would search in the opposite direction.

Her nerves were stretched as tight as human physiology would allow. A panacea for what she had believed was incurable. She couldn't let herself believe it, yet her mind was chanting it with every overly loud, echoing footfall. Alive, she heard in each echo of silence behind the footfalls. Whispering, it drew out the vowels, tasting the dangerous idea like a warm, juicy peach.

What would she do if it were true, if the greedy voice inside her mind were justified? How would she emerge? The answers eluded her in the rattle of nerve and wondering and clattering shoes that was her body.

They stopped in the main hallway at the retinal scan.

"Okay, guys, it should be registering you as authorized now. Hell, it would register Frohike as cleared now. Go for it."

Mulder related the Langly's words to Scully. Obediently, she bent down and received the tones that announced her a winner. Quickly afterward, she swiped the blank card, hoping Langly was a good as he seemed to think he was. It seemed to be working. The elevator doors opened, and the two stepped inside. Less than a minute later, they were stepping onto the B1 level of the facility.

When they exited the elevator, the hallway stretched in one direction only-immediately in front. Scully swallowed and braced herself, wondering vaguely why it seemed everything important in her life was found somewhere in a basement. She kept her head slightly down against the glare of the security cameras, unsure if Langly had disabled this level as well.

Langly said, "Oh, by the way, I should have disabled the cameras there as well."

Mulder muttered, "Now you tell us."

"Sorry." Langly didn't sound disturbed in the slightest.

Mulder and Scully walked carefully down the hallway, trying to act as casual and natural as possible in spite of their nervousness. They paused at each door's small window to peek inside.

"Bingo." Mulder looked at Scully, then knocked on the door. A couple of moments later, the door opened.

"Fox, Dana, what you doing here so late in the evening?" A man with red hair closed the door behind the two agents. Kurt eyed them closely as they turned around. His eyes widened as he registered their expressions, and suspicion grew.

"Agent Mulder?" He asked carefully.

"Kurt, this is Agent Scully." She stared at the Kurts as several more appeared and gathered around the agents. Scully sensed that they knew why they were there.

"It's a pleasure to finally meet you." Kurt moved closer to the pair. Mulder moved aside to allow him access to the silent woman.

Byers walked silently down the hall, looking in the windowed rooms. He studied his clipboard when passed by a stranger, trying his hardest to look absorbed, professional, and calm. Calm, he thought, wryly. He grew more nervous with every step. "How does Mulder talk me into these things?" He asked himself out loud as he stepped up to the next door. Suddenly, it opened.

"Excuse me." Byers held his breath. He was face to face with a tall, woman with large, deep blue eyes. "I was looking for Dr. Scanlon's research lab." Byers hoped he sounded convincing.

The woman glanced at his badge. "Dr. DeLuca?" Byers forced a smile. "You've come to the right area. Please come in." She moved away from the door and allowed him to enter. "This place can be confusing, can't it? It's huge. I still get lost sometimes." She shook her head. "Sorry, I'm rambling. It's been a long night. I was going for coffee. Would you like a cup?" Byers nodded automatically. She smiled warmly. "I'll be right back, Dr. DeLuca." With that, she disappeared out into the hallway.

Byers turned around and looked at the lab. Seeing an open folder on the desk nearest the door, he lifted papers and quickly skimmed them. When the door opened, he jumped involuntarily, looking startled as he replaced the papers.

"I forgot to ask how you like your coffee." She registered what he was doing, and her eyes narrowed in confusion and suspicion.

Byers snapped his head up as she stared at him. "Pardon me? What exactly are you doing? That data is restricted access."

Byers tried to recover. "I was just um, I'm very interested in your research. I mean, Dr. Scanlon has spoken highly of you." He cleared his throat. The woman moved rapidly to her desk and opened the drawer. Byers knew he'd been caught.

"Look, I don't want to hurt you, I just need to search this room. If you stay out of my way, I'll leave you alone." Byers chastised himself for his shaking voice. He hadn't expected her to come back so quickly, a foolish assumption. He should have been prepared.

The woman looked up, smiling slightly. "Of course you won't hurt me." Her arm moved from behind the drawer. She was holding a gun, and it was pointed at him. Byers thought it looked like the biggest weapon he'd ever seen.

Byers stammered, "Um, look, you don't understand." When had he started sweating?

She continued smiling placidly, pulling a pair of wire framed glasses from her white lab coat pocket. With one finger, she settled them firmly on her nose, not breaking eye contact. "Oh, I think I do. You've broken in. At the very least, somehow you have entered a high security section where you do not belong. You're probably here to steal or destroy my data. What's not to understand?" Byers looked down at the hand holding the gun. It was rock steady. His only chance was to somehow reason with her.

"Can I at least try and explain before you call the dogs on me?" His voice was strained, desperate. Agent Scully's life might hang in the balance.

The woman glanced at her watch. "Sure, go ahead. I would rather continue with my work, but I guess I'm at a good holding point. You've got ten minutes."

Byers swallowed nervously. "Um, okay. My friends, um, that is, the people I'm here for, have a problem, several actually, but I'm here for one in specific. One of them has cancer, and it's metastasized."

"And what does this have to do with me or my research?" Her voice was cool, unimpressed. Again, she looked at her watch. "Nine minutes."

"Her cancer is a result from being abducted a couple of years back. When she was away, tests were done on her, leaving her immune system decimated and her DNA branched." He searched the woman's face for any reaction and saw none. However, she didn't check her watch again, so he took that as a sign she was listening. Byers continued, trying hard not to sound as frantic as he felt.

"When she was diagnosed with cancer, the doctor that originally treated her was Dr. Kevin Scanlon." The woman's eyes widened, her only visible reaction.

"I still don't understand why I shouldn't turn you in." Again, she looked at her watch. "Seven minutes."

Desperately, Byers said, "Look. I know you work for him, but even if you turn me in, you deserve to know what kind of man he is. I don't know what kind of research you personally do here, but the clones in this town come from stolen eggs. They performed experiments on her while she was gone, and gave her things to speed up her ovaries' production of eggs. These are what they use, from her and from other women. The side effect from that extraction is probably what gave her cancer, and the other women who had the same thing done to them are dead now. Dr. Scanlon was the doctor treating them."

For a long moment, she stared at him, not speaking, her face blank. Then, slowly, she lowered her gun. Byers felt his lung release a breath he hadn't been aware he was holding, and decided to push his luck.

"If-if," Byers took a deep, stabilizing breath. "If you don't mind me asking, are you.?" He let his voice trail off. If she was a clone, he didn't want to inadvertently insult her. Not while she was still holding that gun.

She ran a hand through her hair and grimaced, shaking her head. Dark brown waves resettled on her shoulders. "No, I'm not. I'm actually one of the very few beside Dr. Scanlon that isn't, though." She shook her head ruefully. She walked toward Byers, her hand extended. They clasped, and she said,

"I'm Samantha Mulder."

Byers couldn't seem to let go of her hand.

"Agent Mulder?" Mulder looked at Kurt. "What are you doing here?"

Mulder said, "Her cancer has worsened. We need your help. You told me last time that there was no cure, but I had to try."

The Kurt spoke in even, undisturbed tones. "We have made some discoveries since then, Agent Mulder. Also, you should be aware it was not me you spoke with, although I understand your confusion." He stopped speaking and regarded Scully calmly.

Scully stared nervously at the ruddy, redheaded man. He couldn't have known she was coming, yet somehow, in his manner he seemed to be welcoming her. He smiled, extending an arm. Scully looked up into his eyes, sensing a calm, a peace in the face of evil that she'd always before associated with religion. She had seem that look once in a picture of Mother Teresa. Scully found herself relaxing in spite of herself.


"Yes, there are others like me. I am Kurt Crawford. As are the others. Come." He crooked his hand, beckoning. Scully came, knowing she had little choice but to trust this man. In his hands, if there was one, lay the cure she sought.

Her mind was difficult to quiet, though. It kept telling her the improbability of this being a cure. It asked her that if she was going to die, shouldn't she die with her dignity intact? She was, after all, a scientist. Shouldn't she die like one, and not sacrifice a lifetime's worth of beliefs to rush around in the hope that some untested, unproven miracle cure would save her?

It was her eternal shame that these were only surface arguments. In the face of death, in the face of dying before she could begin a new life, she was at war. The one argument that stood on the 'pro' side of the decision making process was that she would live. That was the one that held her in thrall, held her paralyzed and captive. She would die with her beliefs, or she would live. And what would she have then?

The Kurt looked down at her gently, her arm in his. He took her hand in a gentle grasp.

"Mother." Scully jerked her hand away at his word and searched his serious face.

As the implications hit her, she demanded, "What do you think that word means?"

"It means you are our mother. Your eggs along with others like you made us who we are." He regarded her sorrowfully. "Please understand, we did not have any part in the decision to take your fertility from you. We would never wish you other than happiness. Surely, though, you cannot ask us to be sorry that we came into being?" He reached down, and his hand enfolded her again. He squeezed gently.

Scully closed her eyes and nodded shortly. Too much. Her mind and body were simply refusing to deal with anything else, any further revelations. Her finely tuned, sharp intellect rested in a human's brain, and it was in danger of bending in a manner it wasn't designed for.

Mulder said softly, "Scully, I-"

Scully shook her head, cutting off his words. She was becoming too drained to deal with this now. In fact, all she wanted to do suddenly was to lie down. The stress of the last few days was catching up with her, which was all. The man before her had made her recall older, unpleasant stress on top of that, as well. And if what he told her was true.Suddenly her knees threatened to buckle, and she swayed slightly on her feet.

Mulder put an arm around her and guided her to a chair at the back of the lab. Scully would have protested, but the world had tilted on its axis and she knew that she would fall otherwise. She felt a solid surface form as if by magic underneath her as she was lowered.

Dimly, she registered wetness on her nose. Scully knew it was a nosebleed, but she couldn't think of the steps necessary to clean it off her face. Somehow, for the first time, it just seemed easier to let it go. For once, she thought, just forget about it. Why not.

The Kurt's voice was talking from a distance. It almost sounded like he was walking away, she noted as she registered less and less.

"We have little time left. Clean off the blood and I'll insert. Agent Scully, I will need to tilt your head back as far as possible now." As her head was tilted back farther than she would have believed possible, Scully thought about their intense tones as she drifted further away. It was funny, that much emotion coming from a man with such calm eyes. Maybe she was a mother after all.

All other thoughts were crushed into dust like glass under a heavy boot as the pain began.

The Kurts watched as the thin, silver instrument, so eerily similar to the instrument wielded by those who sought their death, was moved further and further into Dana Scully's nose. Her face contorted in an expression of utter torment. The assembled clones watched.

One of the clones said, knowing the answer, "Isn't there anything we can do for her pain?" The other Kurts did not answer, nor did he expect them to. He'd simply felt compelled to say it. She was their mother.

Mulder watched, forcing himself to be silent as the instrument moved further up into Scully's sinus cavity and finally broke into the area of the tumor. It was apparent from the expression on Scully's face that the agony was worsening. An audible hum began to come from the silver instrument as the tool busied itself burning, eating, and irradiating. It was all the same to the elements the tool was made from. Certain kinds of biological cells caused a reaction, and gave it energy. Enough energy, and it could make new things.

It was at the critical point before the element explosively reacted that the Kurt pulled the instrument out of her nasal cavity. With one smooth motion, he handed it carefully to another Kurt for disposal, and watched impassively as Scully fainted dead away.

Mulder watched in silent horror as Scully collapsed. He moved to her side, but Kurt put his hand out to stop him.

Kurt picked up another slender instrument and, holding the woman up in the chair, inserted it into her nasal cavity. When it was retracted, a small piece of bloody, crusted metal appeared at it's tip. Kurt held it up to show Mulder, turning his wrist so he could get a good view.

"What the hell is that?" Mulder said, both disgusted and puzzled.

They insert these in each human subject. We only discovered it when the last victim was brought here. It is very difficult to detect with conventional x-ray or MRI equipment. But through trial and error, we discovered this," Kurt wiped off the slender silver tube and handed it to Mulder, "Was inserted during the time they were testing her. It holds a small amount of virulent toxin, which indirectly caused Agent Scully's tumor. Our research hasn't discovered what type of metal this is yet. But we have discovered the poison works against white blood cells which causes damage to the immune system and, as a result, the cancer."

The clone looked back down at the unconscious woman, his features softening. "In a couple of hours we should know if her blood count is returning to normal. Then I'll give her an injection we have discovered will counteract the cancer that has metastasized into her bloodstream. It's an amazing medicine that we were given years ago to study and replicate."

"Where did it come from?" Mulder asked quickly. His fingers played with the tube he'd been given, feeling the smooth, slender length.

Kurt shrugged. "We never asked, nor would we have been told if we did express curiosity. You forget who we work for, Agent Mulder. Who our creators are." Seeing the man nod, beyond surprise, the clone continued, still watching Scully. "It works quickly with few side effects. "She'll recover in a few hours. There will be more blood, and her head will pound for several hours. But hopefully, the side effects will subside quickly."

Mulder sat down and took Scully by the hand. He raised it to his lips and kissed her knuckles lightly. "I hope so."

The clone watched the action, his face expressionless. Then, nonchalantly, he said, "The clones were to be placed when they abducted Agent Scully again." Mulder's head snapped up.

"They were going to kidnap her?" He questioned.

"Yes, and then they would have make up a convincing story about how she was given treatments for the cancer, most likely."

"With me dead...What were they going to do, allow her to die?" He tightened his grip on her hand as he looked at her lovingly.

"No, they were going to bring her back here and cure her, then reprogram her to join the colony like...like they did Penny Northern. If they were unsuccessful with her programming, then perhaps."

"There's no end to the malice is there?" Mulder turned from Scully and locked eyes with Kurt. He knew beyond doubt that Scully would have ended up dead.

"They believe in the project...and will go to any lengths to carry it out." The clone was nothing but matter-of-fact. The agent only nodded, deciding that for now, he would just be grateful that one woman, at least, might escape their reaching tentacles.

Scully stirred an hour and half later. She reached for her head and groaned. "Oh God, my head hurts." Her voice was low and hoarse.

"It'll get better." Mulder stood over her. Scully tried to sit up, and blood ran from her nose. Mulder immediately produced a wad of tissues, which he held to her face. "Kurt said you would bleed more, but that it would stop, along with the headache." He reassured her.

Scully replaced Mulder's hand with her own, holding the tissues securely to staunch the blood flow. Mulder held up the small piece of metal, catching his partner's eye. Scully squinted at it.

"Mulder, what is that?"

"This was in your nasal cavity. Apparently, it released a poison that led to your cancer." He explained.

"That's impossible. The MRI would have detected it." Mulder smiled at her characteristic disbelief. He hoped that the Kurts were right and it was a sign that the woman he loved was going to be well.

"Scully, trust me. I saw Kurt pull this out of your head. He told me it is made of an unknown metal that is not detectable by conventional imaging equipment." She took it from his hand and examined it.

"The poison interfered with your white blood cell production which caused the cancer. They stumbled on it accidentally when.um. When Penny Northern was brought to the facility." He noticed her questioning look.

"Is she here? Do they know where she is?"

"He didn't mention where she was located. Kurt should be back soon, they are supposed to take blood from you and give you a something to reverse the cancer in your system." Scully moved the tissue and noticed that the blood had ceased to flow. Mulder took the bloody wad of paper and handed her clean ones.

A few minutes later the door opened and Kurt entered. "How are you feeling, Agent Scully?"

"My head is throbbing, but I'm fine." Mulder laughed at her words, the first indication that she was back to the Scully he knew.

"I need to take a blood sample to see how your blood count is doing. I assume Agent Mulder showed you the probe we extracted?" She held it up.

"What type of poison was it releasing into my system? How could it escape the MRI and x-rays?"

"The only thing we know is the wall that forms around it somehow shields it from detection. Have you experienced difficulty in breathing through your nose?" He asked as he busied himself with the syringe. Scully watched him as he prepared her arm.

"Yes, but I thought I was developing allergies. After I had the first nose bleed, I took for granted it was just the tumor." She watched as the needle slipped through the skin and into her vein. Dark red liquid rushed into the tube. When it was full, Kurt removed the tourniquet, pulled the needle out, and placed a piece of cotton over the tiny puncture. Scully placed her hand over it and bent her arm to stop the bleeding.

"I'll be back shortly. Do you need something for the pain, Agent Scully?" She noticed the Kurt's concerned look.

"No I'm fine, it's easing a bit. If the pain doesn't stop soon, I'll ask for something. Thanks for everything." She placed her hand on his white sleeved arm.

The puzzled look she got in response and his answer made Scully's eyes widen in surprise. "You're our mother." He turned around and walked out of the room.

Scully stared at the door until it clicked shut, then she turned her gaze to Mulder. The grin on his face caused her to smile. "What?" She questioned.

"Scully, you thought you'd never have children." Scully's eyebrow went up as she tried to process what Mulder was saying. "If this procedure works, do you think you'll have complications with the pregnancy?" Scully blinked rapidly in confusion. Mulder smiled and grinned at her. "This hasn't totally penetrated, has it Scully?"

Scully finally recovered and said weakly, "What I don't remember, Mulder, is you saying anything about wanting a child, not to even mention-"

Mulder placed a finger over her lips. "I want to be with you as long as you'll have me, Scully. And nothing would make me happier than us as parents." He removed his hand slowly and waited for her reaction.

Scully remained silent as their eyes locked. She opened her mouth, closed it and thought. Then she shook her head as her eyes slipped shut. When she opened them again Mulder was watching her.

"Are you all right? Is the pain worse?" He squeezed her hand. She smiled.

"No, I'm fine, Mulder." She squeezed his hand in return. "I was thinking of you as a father actually. Imagining you changing dirty diapers, wiping runny noses." Scully watched his face change at the disgusting imagery.

"Hmm, you're going to make me change diapers, Scully? Maybe I should rethink this proposal."

"Oh," his partner said innocently, "Was that a proposal, Mulder? I didn't notice."

The look of shock on Mulder's face was priceless. "Scully, I-"

"Mulder, relax. I was joking. I feel the same way. We'll work out the details later, okay?" Scully smiled and closed her eyes for a moment. She would like nothing more, Scully thought suddenly, than to be his wife. In spite of her feelings, though, it was too soon. However, if she wanted to be a mother, she had this one opportunity. Barring a miracle, it would probably be her last. For as long as she lived, Scully thought. To her pleasure, the phrase meant something completely different than it had yesterday. Now, it meant hope, and possibilities.

"I was just kidding, too," Mulder said suddenly. At Scully's startled jerk, he smirked slightly. "I've faced worst things than a dirty diaper." His partner grinned, surprised to be blinking back tears.

One of the Kurt Crawfords walked in and closed the door. He looked at the two agents and smiled. "Everything looks well. I think we can inject you now and you'll be back to normal within 12 hours, although you'll be weaker than usual for a few days." Mulder squeezed Scully's hand again. Scully watched Kurt pick up the syringe and fill it with clear liquid. She picked up the bottle from the tray as he administered the shot.

"This will make you drowsy for three to four hours." He looked at Mulder. "You should get out of here and go home before she becomes too sleepy to walk. I don't know how you managed to get past the security, but you don't want to attract suspicion when you leave." Mulder nodded. Scully sat up and swayed a bit as she grabbed her head. Kurt could see the pain in her face. "Do you want anything for the pain?" He assisted Mulder as they helped Scully upright.

"No, I'll be fine. I have some aspirin in my purse if it doesn't ease off." She took a couple of steps, steadied herself and looked at her partner. "I think I'm ready." She gave Mulder a weak smile. He put his arm around her and they walked toward the door. Scully stopped and turned around meeting Kurt's eyes with her own.

"I can't thank you enough for." He interrupted her. "No need to thank me." Kurt said softly. Mulder took his arm from around Scully's waist and extended it to Kurt. Kurt received his handshake with a firm, if cool grip.

"I want to thank you too. Are you going to be all right?" Kurt nodded as he answered.

"The project will go on, don't under-estimate their power, Agent Mulder. And...Take care of her." He smiled. Mulder slipped his arm around Scully's waist again and they slipped out the door.

Byers walked quickly down the hallway, trailing the woman ahead of him with what he hoped was a businesslike, purposeful pace. His knuckles were white on the clipboard he still carried. According to his watch, there were only two minutes left before the guard returned to his post. With difficulty, he forced his legs not to give into his fight-or-flight instincts and break into a run.

Samantha looked behind her with a casual twist of her head and hissed, "If this is a trick, I'm going to-"

"No trick," Byers muttered, although he was afraid. She was Samantha Mulder; there was no doubt of it in his mind at all. She was the right age, had the right looks, and the circumstances, he thought, were much too strange for her not to be a Mulder. If she wasn't a relative of Mulder's, then she should be. No, he personally had no doubt. It was her he was concerned about. Could she be trusted? Byers sighed, knowing he had no choice. Mulder needed to see her regardless.

He hurried to keep up with her as the north entrance approached. He tensed for a long, stressful moment before he could see in the glass reflection of the double doors that the guard was absent his post.

Samantha exhaled as she walked briskly up to the exit. It was the first indication Byers had that she was nervous as well. He was grateful he hadn't known that a second ago. Her authority as a lab tech had been his back up plan. Her reaction indicated, however, that there hadn't been one. Sam quickly, and precisely punched a code into the keypad, grinning as the doors slid open.

With haste, the two exited and were gone.

"What was so funny?" Byers demanded as he followed her.

"Just that the code I just used belonged to Scanlon." Samantha said. "It seemed fitting that he should take the fall, if there is one." She forced a smile, walking briskly into the parking lot

Byers smiled widely in return in spite of his stress, looking forward to a family reunion. He fished his headset out of the pocket of his lab coat and talked into his headset, causing Samantha to jump slightly. "Langly, I'm leaving with someone, a friend. I'll explain what's going on later."

There was a long pause, then, "Can do, Byers. Later." Byers looked at Samantha as they walked into the parking lot.

"We need to take your car."

Samantha returned wryly, "So I gathered. I take it we're going to meet my brother?" Her tone was edgy with sarcasm.

Byers asked, unable to stop himself, "If you don't believe me, why are you coming? I could be anyone."

Samantha laughed bitterly. "I believe you about Scanlon, and that's all I need to know. If you're telling the truth about that, well, I'll give you a chance on the rest." They reached her car, a dark two-door Toyota. She got in and, reaching over, unlocked the passenger door for Byers.

"Goddamn it, what the hell am I going to fucking do now?" Frohike kicked the bathtub again. The hard rubber on the sole of his combat boot hit the ceramic with a satisfying 'clunk'. He resumed talking to himself.

"Of all the ways to get taken in, this has to be." He growled in frustration and anger, turned and kicked the blocked door. "Shit," Another, heavy, 'thunk' as his boot landed.

"The most moronic,"

'Thunk!' "The most lame-brained,"


"The most bone-headed,"

This time, a higher pitched sound. The sound of metal yielding. The door gave just slightly. Frohike stared at it, his face red, debating for a second. Then he let loose, and with a cry, kicked the thin brown wood with everything he had. Two kicks later, the door flew open with the sound of snapping metal, and promptly closed again. The doorknob inside, lacking the supporting mechanism inside, fell with a clang to the tile floor.

Frohike opened the door, pushing at the now-toppled chair blocking it. Limping painfully, he exited. A minute later, seeing the bags gone, and the clones with them, he started cursing in earnest.

Mulder helped Scully into the house and up the stairs. Her nose bled a small amount during the ride from the facility to home, but had stopped almost as fast as it started. She lay on the bed and curled up on her side. Mulder sat beside her, incredibly grateful and relieved that they had found a cure for her disease. Some of the guilty burden he had been carrying since she was diagnosed lessened. Mulder watched her as she closed her eyes and relaxed to sleep off the medicine's effects. Soon, her even breathing indicated she had drifted off. Mulder watched her face soften as she breathed evenly in and out. What a beautiful mother she will make he thought, as he reached out and brushed her hair off her face.

He wanted to stay there while she slept, but knew there were pressing issues to attend to downstairs. He bent over and kissed her lightly on the cheek as he whispered. "Welcome back, Dana." He stood and walked quietly to the door. Looking back once more to confirm she was well again, he closed the door and descended the stairs.

Byers met him at the bottom, munching on a sandwich. "Make yourself at home, Byers." Mulder smiled at his friend and thought about his stomach for the first time that day.

"I could say the same to you. Good stuff in the clone's refrigerator." He said with a full mouth. Mulder walked toward the kitchen, deciding Byers was right, all the food from the party was still there. He was so used to his own empty refrigerator that it was foreign to expect anything good to be there. But he wasn't at his normal home and this wasn't his normal life. Mulder opened the door and selected a few items to eat while he and Byers discussed their next plan.

Mulder walked out of the kitchen with his hands full. He placed his drink on the table and sat down with a heaping plate on his lap. As he began to eat, Byers noticed his overstuffed plate.

"Are you sure that's enough, Mulder?" He smiled.

"I don't know, there's plenty more where this came from." Mulder's voice was muffled for a moment before he swallowed. "What did you want to talk to me about?" He said as he chewed on the overstuffed sandwich.

Byers hadn't told him about Samantha at the lab because his focus was on his weakened partner. The bearded man cleared his throat. "Umm.Mulder, I found a lab where Scanlon was doing research. I met a young woman there." He looked at his plate again, not sure how he would break the news to his friend.

"Can you trust her? What if she tells the Elders?" Mulder's paranoia kicked in immediately.

"Don't worry, you'll understand soon. But be aware Mulder, she might be quite a surprise." Before Mulder could ask, the doorbell chimed. Mulder motioned for Byers hide in the kitchen since he wasn't known to the colony. He put down his plate and walked to the door.

"Fox, aren't you going to ask me in?" She stared at him impatiently. His face must have shown his skepticism. Finally, Mulder realized he was being rude.

"Fox, are you all right?" She pushed past him and walked into the living room. "Is Byers here? He said he would meet me here after I went home for a second." Mulder watched Samantha flop down on the couch as if she did it all the time.

Byers emerged from the kitchen and said, Say hello to Samantha, Mulder."

"Samantha?" Mulder croaked. After a long, stunned silence, he finally found his voice again. "Byers, can I see you in the kitchen?" He walked swiftly into the adjoining room. "Byers what the hell is going on? Is she a clone too?"

"She said she's one of the few in the colony that isn't, Mulder. She doesn't know you aren't Fox, so there was no reason for her to lie." Byers shrugged helplessly, knowing that it might not be enough for Mulder to believe. The last time he thought his sister had returned to him, she had actually been a clone. The two walked back to the living room. Samantha sat on the couch, her arms crossed defensively across her stomach. "Is there something I need to know, Fox?" Her tone was impossible to read. Mulder was silent for a long moment in response.

Without sitting, Mulder said, "Samantha. You told Byers you aren't a clone." He stared at her as if daring her to deny it.

"Fox? Are you feeling all right?" She looked from him to Byers, concerned.

"Just answer the question, please." Mulder said harshly.

"Yes." She said slowly, as if waiting for the real question.

Mulder swallowed. "I am the real Fox Mulder, Samantha. Your brother." He fought against the part of his brain that told him she was a fake, sent to fool him, yet again. Impossible, he told himself logically, but still the thought remained.

Samantha stood, stammering. "What do you mean, my brother?"

"We lived in the same family until you were eight, then one night you were taken from me. Do you remember?"

Finally, Samantha pulled slightly on Mulder's hand, trying to see more of his face. "You look familiar, but that's because you look like Fox. I don't understand how you could be.I don't remember." She fell into a puzzled silence.

Mulder spoke, a hoarse, accusing rasp. "You're a clone, aren't you? I'm being set up again." He folded his arms defensively.

Samantha retorted with equal ire, "What do you mean, 'set up again'? Look, I don't know who you are, but I didn't have to come out here. If it hadn't been for Byers telling me about Dr. Scanlon, I would never have cooperated." She stopped talking, still staring at him. Then she spoke in a musing almost-whisper. "I don't remember anything like what you're saying, but I can't figure out why it seems so familiar to me." She shook her head in confusion.

Mulder took a long look, trying to memorize her features. Against his will, he heard himself saying, "Do you know how to play Stratego?"

After a long pause, without thinking, Samantha responded, "Light. There was.We argued about something.Shit. I don't need this! I can't remember, okay?" Her voice was loud and shrill.

"Try," Mulder urged. "Please, look, I'm telling you the truth. I'm not a clone."

"I don't get this," Samantha sputtered, "How could you-" Her eyes widened in shock, as if she remembered something.

"Try, Samantha. It's not normal. They wiped your memory. Think. Can you remember anything from when you were little, when you were eight years old? Anything at all?" Mulder urged, trying to remain calm.

"They told me it was normal, that it was because I was special that I couldn't.Why can't I remember? I don't want to." She started to sob when Mulder pulled her into his arms. Byers turned his head slightly away out of respect for their privacy when, finally, she hugged him fiercely in return.

The doorbell chimed loudly throughout the house, interrupting the clasped siblings.

Byers intercepted Langly at the door to explain what had happened inside the facility. Mulder pulled away from Samantha, and they moved to rejoin the others, silently acknowledging that they would have a lot to talk about later. Samantha answered the questions from the Lone Gunmen and Mulder about her about the facility.

"I wish I could help more, but I only know about a few areas of the facility. I'll tell you what I know, but there are areas that are classified even to me." She shook her head at the rapid-fire questions. Her forehead furrowed. "My research is on the Black Cancer, so-" She was immediately cut off.

Mulder asked eagerly, "What do you know about the Black Cancer?" He thought that a cure was unlikely, but he had to know.

Sam said, "There is no cure for the Black Cancer yet, despite the tremendous pressure I've been under to find one." She shook her head, momentarily lost in her research, musing. "It's almost as if the worms know what we're trying to do, and they find some way to get around it. They shrivel and die if exposed, but inside a host, they're remarkably resilient. They can survive almost any condition besides death." She shook herself out of her reverie, unaware at the pain her words was causing. "Why do you ask?"

The front door closed, cutting off the discussion. The four people in the living room watched warily as a small figure walked in. Mulder did a double take. It was Frohike. He was limping badly, and his shirt was shredded in several places. In addition, there were fresh bruises on his face and arms. He glared at them as he hobbled closer.

Langly gasped at his injuries. "Oh shit, Frohike, are you ever messed up!" He rushed forward to look at his friend, but Frohike brushed him away skillfully. "There's no time." He was still smarting over being fooled by Scully's look-alike, and after events of the last couple of hours, he didn't want anyone focusing on him at all.

Mulder took in Frohike's clothes, flushed cheeks, and injuries, and said, "What happened, and how did you get here?"

Frohike coughed uncomfortably. "I'd rather not get into that right now, if you don't mind. Suffice it to say that it involved an overzealous trucker and some deep woods. I had to use my wits, as no one deigned to leave me transportation."

Byers said carefully, "What do you mean by 'overzealous', exactly, Frohike?"

Frohike colored a deeper shade of red. "It doesn't matter. We have a problem. Fox and Dana have escaped."

Mulder deadpanned, "No, really?" As much as he wanted to probe more into how, exactly, the pair had managed to trick Frohike, he thought better of it. Mulder gauged Frohike's expression of near-fury at his facetiousness, and decided to let the rest go for another day.

Scully woke, still feeling a slight throbbing at her temples. She clutched the tissues in her hand, ready for more bleeding. As she rose, Scully held her hand close to her nose. Nothing came out. She moved from the bed to the bathroom to inspect her face for bruising and swelling. She inspected her nasal area, lifting her chin moving her head from side to side. There was no bruising, which surprised her. Ice would help what little swelling there was, she thought.

Scully turned away from the mirror and walked out of the bathroom into the bedroom. She picked up her brush and ran it through her hair. Putting the brush down, Scully picked up a cloth hair holder and pulled her hair through it into a loose ponytail. Feeling remarkably well, she descended the stairs with thoughts of food to calm her growling stomach.

She heard the voices as she descended the stairs. When she entered the kitchen, she noticed Byers, Frohike, and Mulder. They didn't seem to notice her at first because they were engaged in a deep conversation with Samantha. Scully walked behind Mulder, who sat next to the woman. Their eyes met and at Scully inclined head and questioning expression, a smile formed on the man's face.

"Scully." Mulder jumped up, clearly agitated, "Are you feeling better? Is there any more bleeding?" Scully held up her hand to stop the deluge of questions.

"First, Mulder I feel rather well for having a poisonous piece of metal removed from my nasal cavity. There hasn't been any more bleeding, but I still have a headache." She looked at the woman, then back to the man hovering over her. "Mulder, who is this?" He smiled.

"This is Samantha Mulder, the REAL Samantha." He could keep the proud smile from his face. "Dana Scully meet Samantha Mulder." Samantha stood up and reached for Scully's hand. Scully instantly accepted the proffered hand.

"It's nice to meet you, Dana." Samantha smiled. Scully nodded as she studied the woman gently shaking her hand.

"It's... N-Nice to finally meet you too. Mulder has searched for you ever since I've known him. He's given most of his life searching for the truth....and for you." Her voice faded as she noticed the tears well up in Samantha's eyes. Scully looked from her to Mulder.

"She doesn't remember anything about our childhood. They have selectively erased her memory." Mulder explained. Scully's face twisted. She watched Samantha wipe the tears from her eyes.

"Do you think there is anyway to reverse the process?" Scully asked Mulder softly.

"It's been several years since they erased my memory of the airforce base, and I still don't remember." Scully remembered the empty look in his eyes when she forced the man from the military to have Mulder released from his imprisonment. The confused look was the same one on Samantha's face at this minute.

"Are you going to leave with us?" She asked Samantha.

"Leave? To where?" Samantha looked at her brother.

"To DC or Chilmark, to see mom of course." Mulder spoke in a matter of fact tone.

"But I don't remember anything except my life here and now." Samantha sounded like a scared child.

"Mulder, you can't force her." Scully tried to reason with him.

"I won't leave her here." Mulder was emphatic. He stubbornly looked at Scully then Sam. "You belong with me....and with mom, your real mother." Sam looked at Scully.

"Is he always this emotional?" Scully smiled knowing Samantha was trying to ease the tension that had built quickly from the determined man gazing at them.

"Where you and the truth are concerned, yes." She noticed Mulder growing more upset at them making light of the situation. Scully was about to speak when she felt dizzy and her nose began to bleed again. When she swayed, Mulder was there to catch her.

"Oh, I..." Scully held the tissue she'd been holding to her nose as Mulder held her up. "I think I'd better lay down again." Mulder helped her out of the kitchen and up the stairs to the bedroom.

"Scully, I think you should rest until morning. If you're hungry I'll bring you something to eat, but you need to gain all the strength you can for the insemination." Mulder hovered over her like a mother hen.

"Mulder, for once, I am not going to argue with you." Mulder tried to hide the surprised look on his face. Scully pulled the tissue from her nose. "I think it's stopped again. It wasn't quite so bad this time." She offered him a weak smile. Mulder took the Kleenex and threw it into the garbage.

"You get some sleep." He bent over and kissed her forehead.

"Mulder?" Her voice was soft.

"Huh?" He was so close to her she could feel his breath.

"Don't pressure Samantha. Okay? If she doesn't remember, no amount of force from you is going to change that. When this is over, she can come back with us. Maybe stay with you or me for a while until we can figure out a way to help her regain her memories." She searched his eyes for reaction. She could see the turmoil brewing into frustration in the hazel eyes locked with hers.

Mulder sighed and sat up and looked away. She could tell he was fighting against what his heart was telling him. When he looked back at her, she could tell she'd reached him. He nodded his head. "It's just I've waited so long."

"I know." She stopped and swallowed. After staring at him for a long moment, she said, "You know what I've discovered, Special Agent Mulder?" Mulder smiled and remained silent, questioning her with his eyes. "I've discovered that...I'm in love with you too." Scully couldn't hide her smile after finally saying the words out loud.

"Special Agent Scully, I knew it all along. But I'm glad you finally admitted it." Scully swatted him on the arm and he laughed. "You get some rest. I'll bring you something to eat later." He gave her another peck on the lips and rose from the bed. As he walked to the door, Mulder heard her softly say.

"You know Mulder if the insemination is successful we're going to have quit a problem child on our hands. Stubborn, a dreamer who won't quit."

"Sounds like fun to me Scully." He heard her laugh softly as he closed the door behind him.

A.D. Skinner's Office
FBI Headquarters

Skinner heard a knock at the door. When it opened his pale secretary had no words to say. She stared at him for a second before opening the door all the way. Finally, Kimberly found her voice.

"Sir, Agents Mulder and Scully here to see you." She stammered. Fox and Dana pushed past her and stood in front of their superior.

After gazing at the clones for a long moment, Skinner barked, "What is the meaning of this, Mulder? Where the hell have you been?" Skinner's angry, shocked voice snapped his secretary to attention and she closed the door.

"Sir, I can explain." Fox had been programmed for his job with the FBI, but the final programming hadn't been completed. He was flying by the seat of his proverbial cloned pants.

"Damn right, you will explain. And Agent Scully.You told me he was dead." He glared at her with accusing eyes. She wasn't used to such force living in the colony, but with Scully's programming, it wasn't hard to mount her resistance.

"Sir, we can explain." Agent Mulder went undercover to find a cure for my cancer." She glared back at him.

"Is this true, Agent Mulder? Was this death farce really necessary?" He redirected the force of his steely glare to Fox.

"Yes sir, I believe it was." Fox tried hard to act uncaring in the face of Skinner's anger. "We successfully found a cure for Agent Scully in a secret laboratory in Canada." He sounded very convincing. He noticed Skinner's demeanor soften. He signed as he sat down in his chair. "Agent Scully, how are you feeling?" His voice had calmed to the stoic A.D. Skinner everyone observed when they encountered him.

"I'm fine, Sir." Scully sat down in the chair to Skinner's right. "Although I do not understand how, the treatments seem to have been successful. I'm feeling much better." Her voice was strong and clear.

The phone interrupted the Assistant Director's train of thought. "Skinner," He said shortly.

"Sir, this is Agent Mulder. It's urgent that I speak with you." Skinner looked at Dana and Fox and averted his eyes to stare out the window. Mentally, Skinner reviewed how much vacation time he had accrued. No matter how this call went he had a feeling he would need it.

"One moment." He hit the hold button and looked up at the two clone agents before him. For the first time, he noticed that the positions the agents normally sat in were reversed. Agent Scully was on his right and Mulder on his left. He braced himself and dismissed them.

"I'll expect a full report. That will be all." Dana frowned at the dismissal. She wasn't used to such behavior. He noticed her frown. "Is there something else, Agent Scully?" He growled.

"No Sir." She rose quickly and Fox escorted her out into the hallway. When they passed Skinner's secretary, she was still staring at them.

Skinner said, "Agent Mulder, I was just speaking with you." He heard silence for a moment, then Mulder's muffled voice. "Frohike, you're right, they were just with Skinner."

"How do I know this isn't a trick?" Skinner said harshly.

"Sir, I wouldn't waste your time. But I understand your suspicion. The man you're talking to now has information about a certain gun that you might not want to become common knowledge. Is that good enough?"

"Yes." Skinner managed. "Go on."

Mulder continued, "I have a long story to tell you. And then I need your help." As briefly as he could, Mulder related what had happened to him since the murderous clone had kicked down his door. Skinner stared at his desk as he listened.

"So, you're saying the two agents that just left my office are clones?" He spat out the last word like a bite of rotten fruit. His cool stoic demeanor was beginning to crack. He'd heard Mulder's unbelievable stories before. But this was too extreme for even his rogue agent.

"Yes Sir. We need you to detain them in a safe place. They can't know you are on to them. They are very intelligent. They've been programmed with our FBI training as well as enhanced DNA. We've seen this before, it heightens their strength. If they become suspicious, they might try to overpower you." Mulder fervently hoped he believed what he was saying.

"Agent Mulder.." Skinner paused. "Have you found a cure for the cancer?" He held his emotions in check with the force of long habit.

"Yes, Sir. They have a facility where they have been working on cancer treatments. Agent Scully and I got in, and she was given what appears to be a cure."

"Are you sure about this? Where is this facility, Agent Mulder?" He changed the subject as he moved the phone from one ear to the next.

Mulder answered, "Penticton, BC."

"Should I dispatch backup?" He clenched his jaw as he waited for the answer. How on earth he would explain that use of resources, Skinner didn't know.

"No, sir. We have some friends assisting us. If we need further backup, we wi'll contact you."

"Very well, Agent Mulder, I'll take care of matters here. I'll wait to hear from you." He took the phone away from his ear and stared at it as he replaced the receiver. Ever since the X-Files opened and Mulder began dragging monsters out of sewers, people who turned into werewolves, men who ate livers to hibernate, he'd been thinking he'd seen it all. After every carefully phrased report, the Assistant Director would shake his head, pull off his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose, and swear this one was the weirdest. Skinner shook his head. But this, without a doubt, was the strangest thing he'd ever seen. A knock sounded at his door.

He cleared his throat. "Come in." His dazed secretary entered with a handful of papers. Kimberly placed them on the desk and paused before she turned around to leave. Skinner noticed her hesitation. "Is there something wrong?" His secretary looked at him, opened her mouth, closed it and thought.

"Sir. Never mind. If it has to do with Agent Mulder, I don't want to know. Do I take it he's back on the payroll?" He nodded his head, confirming her question. She walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Skinner halfway grinned as he agreed with his secretary. "You definitely don't want to know." He murmured to himself as he thought of a plan how to fool the clones in the basement. Looking at the papers in front of him, he took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. He thought to himself. 'I'm getting too old for this shit. I wonder if the Marines need a special services suicide agent.' He snickered, thinking, 'It might be less stressful than dealing with Mulder.' Replacing his glasses, he stood and moved to the door.

Scully turned her head to the side, yawning. She wondered vaguely how long she had been sleeping. Turning her head, she saw Mulder snoring softly with his mouth open. His hair was down on his forehead. Moving onto her side, she thought about waking him up.

As she reached for the lock of stray hair, she remembered that in a few hours that he had to make a donation for her insemination. Though she knew he was probably up to it even if they did make love beforehand, she carefully pulled her hand back. Scully knew Mulder was apprehensive about being in a room alone trying to arouse himself. She didn't need to add to his concern. Carefully rising from the bed, she went into the bathroom, brushed her teeth, washed her face, and headed downstairs.

Scully looked around the living room. Quickly, she walked to Fox and Dana's home office. Rifling through the desk, Scully opened a few drawers until she found what she was looking for. Checking the mini tape recorder, she found it had a tape already in it. She sat down in the chair and, once she determined the tape was blank, clicked the recorder on. Scully smiled wickedly as she recorded a message for Mulder.

A half-hour later Mulder slowly opened his eyes. He had been awakened by a primal need. Apparently, his body was aware he hadn't been sleeping alone. Mulder turned toward the woman he had hoped would help him with his discomfort, only to find her gone.

"Dana?" He called out, not wanting to get out of bed. "Scuuulllyyyy." He called a little louder. Mulder looked forward to starting the morning by having sex with his partner. Wryly, Mulder thought that it was a nice change from the norm, which for him had been the world's longest dry spell. He was about to get out of bed to search when Scully appeared in the doorway.

"Mulder, are you all right?" She walked over to the bed and sat down, bouncing slightly on the matress. Mulder grinned. He reached for Scully and pulled her down on top of him.

"Scully, I seem to have a problem I think you can help me with." He looked down at the sheet that covered his erection. "Ever been camping? Looks like there's room in my teepee for you." Scully couldn't help but bark a laugh at the stupidest words she'd ever heard her partner say.

She raised an eyebrow while staring down at him. "So you have a small problem, do you? Are you sure you want to do this before you go to the clinic?" After making the tape, Scully secretly hoped he would anyway.

Mulder narrowed his eyes in exaggerated indignation. "Hey, I'll show you small, Agent Scully. Obviously you need a refresher course in the concept."

Her laughter died quickly as Mulder's lips attacked her own.

Scully dressed, still reeling from the activity she had been coaxed into. Mulder was downstairs making coffee. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, pulling a sweater over her head. Scully stopped and lifted the garment, exposing her flat stomach. She wondered for the first time what she would look like with a swollen stomach. Trying to imagine it, she poked her stomach out as far as it would go.

Suddenly, it hit her. Her child, if there were one, probably wouldn't know its daddy. She sat down on the bed as her leg muscles ceased to function. For the first time since the Kurts had given her the treatment for her tumor, Scully began to seriously doubt her course of action. Were they crazy? What was in the air that she could seriously consider this? Mulder might be dying, and she was thinking about becoming a single mother? She didn't even have verification that she was, indeed, really cured of cancer. The female agent doubled over as the implications hit her. What if...

"You'll be a beautiful mother." Scully started, surprised by the voice from the door. She quickly pulled the shirt down. She hadn't even realized that her hand was still resting on the bare flesh of her stomach.

Mulder moved quickly behind her and wrapped his arms around her. "Don't be embarrassed." He lifted the shirt again and rubbed his hand over her abdomen like Fox had done Dana in the hotel room. Scully watched as Mulder moved his hand over her smooth skin. Their eyes met, and Scully pulled away, rising on unsteady legs to pace near the bedroom door.

Mulder could see a frown form on Scully's face. "What is it?" He asked, already having some idea of the answer.

"This is wrong, Mulder. I-We-" She shook her head, willing herself to calm down. Idiot, she thought. Idiot. It was the only word she had to describe herself, a medical doctor. How could she have behaved this way, so heedless of the possible repercussions?

"Scully? Dana? Are you all right? Talk to me." Mulder demanded anxiously.

Scully looked over Mulder's shoulder, focusing on an object across the room. He moved closer to the bed. "What's on your mind, Scully? Something is bothering you, and I want to know what it is." He stared at her, his forehead creased.

"Everything, Mulder. What if it doesn't take and I don't have another chance. Actually, that would be lucky, wouldn't it, since we don't even know what your condition is." Scully stared straight into Mulder's eyes, searching for his reaction. As he pulled his eyes away, the bottom fell out of her heart.

"The headaches haven't gone away, have they." It was more accusation than question.

Mulder sighed heavily and ran placed his hand over his mouth, thinking. Finally, moved his hand and answered. "No. But I want you to go ahead with this anyway."

"Mulder, no. I can't do that. How could I live with myself, knowing I'm preparing for a child you could have no part of? What kind of person do you think I am?" Her voice was soft, and in it Mulder could hear Scully let go of her last hope.

"Scully." He lifted her chin allowing his eyes better access to hers. "I need you to do this. It's what you want, to be a mother, and this may be your only chance. If this," He moved to cup her face in both his hands. Staring into her eyes, he continued, "If this is the only way I can give you an 'us', this is what I want to give. I love you, Dana Scully, and I will love our child."

Scully shook her head sadly. "No. I can't do that."

Mulder swallowed, feeling the back of his head. The pain hadn't ceased for days. Somehow, in everything that had happened, he'd convinced himself that he would be okay. How could he simultaneously be so happy and so sad all at the same time? He wondered.

Finally, he replied, trying to make his voice reflect only his joy. "Can you do it for me, Scully?"

His partner and lover stared down at the floor, clearly hiding her tears.

Mulder slowly made his way down the halls of the fertility wing. He was nervous about contributing his half to the fertilization. He wished Scully could be with him. It would make it so much easier to get in the mood for his contribution. Mulder approached the window, noticing that the young man sitting behind the desk resembled one of the Kurts. He looked up as Mulder approached.

"Can I help you?"

"I'm here...Um...To..," he stammered.

"Donate sperm for the insemination?" the young man said flatly.

"Yes. I have an appointment. Fox Mulder." The young man walked around the desk to the door and opened it.

"Come this way." He led Mulder down the hall to a series of doors. The man opened the first door. He preceded Mulder in the room and walked over to a shelf on the far wall. "Here is the cup you'll need to use for the sample. There are a variety of materials to assist you. If you need help, just push that buzzer over there." He left without another word.

Mulder snickered as he wondered exactly what type of *help* he would be given if he rang the buzzer. Looking around, he noticed the stack of magazines and videotapes. He walked over and flipped through the magazines. Satisfied he'd seen them all before, he turned to the video collection. Seen it, have it, seen it, no redheads...

He picked up one he didn't recognize, put it in the machine and flipped on the television. He sat down on the leather sofa. After a few minutes he was surprised to find his mind wandering. Frustrated, Mulder turned off the video and reached in his pocket for the recorder Scully had given him. She had given him specific and intriguing instructions not to listen to it until he was in the room.

Mulder put the speaker over one ear and clicked the 'on' button. He leaned his head back to listen. When the sultry voice of his partner sounded, he smiled, incredulous and amazed. As the tape progressed, his eyes widened and he fumbled for the stop button. He rewound the tape with slightly shaking fingers.

"Scully, I never knew you could talk like that." Mulder breathed. The tape began again, and he closed his eyes. He could already feel his groin begin to tighten as his lover seduced him with her soft, sexual words. Unzipping his pants, Mulder allowed his mind to remember the events of earlier that morning, and his hand to wander. The combination of the memory and Scully's suggestive words was finally his undoing. When the end came with a ragged cry, Mulder was hard pressed to remember the container he'd been given.

Mulder pushed the buzzer and waited. In a few minutes the young man opened the door.

"Is there a problem?"

Mulder handed him the sample. "Not really. Is this enough?" The young man looked at the sample.

"Yes. I think that's all we'll need. You can leave now. Dr. Scanlon will contact you when it's time for the insemination." He turned and left.

Mulder shrugged and walked out the door.

Mulder opened the door of his make believe house to find Scully curled up on the sofa, asleep. He closed the door quietly and moved to the sofa, bent over and blew in her ear. Scully stirred, but settled back into her peaceful sleep. He bent over again and blew in her ear again, smiling. She startled him as, suddenly, Scully grabbed his shirt and pulled him on top of her. He went willingly, settling his weight carefully on her small body.

Scully linked her arms around his neck. "How'd it go? Or should I say come?" She smiled broadly. Mulder's eyes widened in feigned shock.

"Who are you, and what did you do with my partner?" He grimaced in mirror of Scully and pulled away. Neither needed to ask the other why. "Sorry, poor choice of words."

"That's all right. Anyway, I forgot to ask, where did the Gunmen go with Samantha?" Scully changed the subject.

"Back to the hotel. They'll be back when I call. It's too suspicious for them to be hanging around here." Mulder shook his head. "It's strange enough for us to be here by ourselves." With one arm, he rubbed the back of his neck. At Scully's worried frown, he forced his arm away.

Scully said, "I know. I keep thinking that Fox and Dana are going to call the Elders from D.C."

Mulder shook his head. "No. I'm sure Skinner has them firmly in hand. I trust him that far, anyway."

Scully sighed, knowing it was useless to discuss what they had no control over. "Well, I'm glad it went well, Mulder."

Mulder nodded, understanding her need to discuss something other than the clones and his health. He extended an arm to help Scully from the couch. "Couldn't have done it without you."

Scully laughed. "I'll bet you never thought you'd hear that conversation from me, did you?" She raised her eyebrow waiting for his answer.

"Could be why I rewound it so many times. I think I wore it out." He paused, and a serious look came over his face. "Where did you learn to talk like that, Scully?" The redhead smiled mysteriously in response.

"Could it be from those videos in your office that aren't yours? Or maybe I've had a bit of practice." Mulder's eyes narrowed.

"As long as you don't practice on anyone but me from now on."

"Deal." Scully moved the stray hair off his forehead. "So what's next?"

"The clone told me Dr. Scanlon would be in contact with us when it was time. I guess we wait." A wicked smile formed on Mulder's face.

"I could think of something to pass the time, if you want." His suggestive voice caused a warm stirring in Scully's body.

"I like passing time." Scully wrapped her arms around his neck.

Time passed.

Two hours later

Mulder and Scully walked to entrance of the clinic, holding each other's hands. The call had come quickly after Mulder's donation.

They passed through the security, again passing by a stoic guard with an automatic weapon. Mulder paid close attention to security procedures and counted each camera.

Scully felt nervous about granting Dr. Scanlon access to her body once more. "Mulder, would you mind coming into the examining room? I would feel more at ease if I didn't have to be alone with Scanlon again. His demeanor changes when he's alone with me. It's almost dehumanizing." She hated feeling so vulnerable. Scully had always faced her demons and conquered them.

This time, though, she allowed herself to ask Mulder for help. It was difficult, but she thought it was time to try and allow some of her protective walls to fall away. If their relationship was to work, Scully knew that they needed to start being more open with each other. Still, it was desperately hard to ask, and she could feel her body stiffen in anxiety.

Mulder let go of her hand and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, drawing the tense woman close to him. "I'd planned on it. I don't want him to be alone with you again." He felt her tension ease in her shoulders as she slowly smiled at him.

They reached the area after following the directions given to them over the phone. The woman sitting at the reception area looked up as they approached.

"Fox, Dana." She rose quickly. "I'll tell Dr. Scanlon you're here." She walked through the open door behind her desk. Mulder and Scully heard her talking to someone in a low voice. When she reappeared, she motioned for them to follow her.

"We've got to prep you quickly, Dana. Fox, you can wait out here."

"I'd like to stay with Dana, if you don't mind." The receptionist looked puzzled at his resistance to instruction.

"Whatever, we have to hurry." She showed them back to an examining room that was similar to the one Scully had been in before. Handing Dana a hospital gown, she closed the door behind him. Scully undressed quickly while Mulder watched.

"Too bad I didn't have this type of visual aid earlier." The smirk on his face made Scully blush. Before she could answer his suggestive tone of voice, the door opened. She quickly tied the gown behind her as Dr. Scanlon entered the room.

"Dana, its time. Fox, you can wait outside if you want." He seemed agitated.

"I'd like to stay." Mulder's voice was flat, his eyes locked with the doctor's. It was clear he had no intention of moving. Scanlon gave him a long glance, then turned his attention to Scully.

"Dana, lay back and put your feet in the stirrups." She did as instructed. It still felt like she was being violated. Scully hissed softly as her feet again hit the cold metal. She tried hard to focus on Mulder's presence in the corner.

The door opened, and a nurse wheeled in a cart with beakers and a small metal dome. Scully recognized the insemination equipment. She'd seen them before while doing her residency. The metal dome was a mystery to her, though. It looked like a container.

"What's that?" Mulder asked before she could.

Dr. Scanlon ignored them as he prepared for the insemination. The nurse turned to Mulder. "It's a freezer, it contains the original ova." She spoke as if it were perfectly normal to wheel around someone's stolen ova. Mulder's curiosity drew him closer to the table.

"How does it work?" He asked.

"There's a small unit that keeps the material frozen. It can be extracted and thawed quickly, if needed."

"Fox, if you can't sit and be quiet, you can leave." Scanlon spoke dismissively, as if the man beside him was a misbehaving child and he himself a grade school teacher. Mulder held back the desire to punch him out and moved back to his chair. He'd gotten the information he wanted. As he watched Dr. Scanlon inject the fertilized egg into Scully's uterus, he formed a plan of how to leave with everything that belonged to her.

Scully winced as she felt the doctor insert the long tube into her uterus. >From her previous experience, she knew what he was doing. Scully held her breath as he widened the walls of her vagina for better access into her womb. Scully looked at Mulder. He nodded silently, assuring her he was there. She closed her eyes and turned her face toward the ceiling. She attempted to breathe normally as Dr. Scanlon worked.

"There." Dr. Scanlon pulled the tube out and placed it on the tray beside him. "I think that does it. Dana, you need to rest her for about 30 minutes, then go home and lay down for the rest of the day." He took the gloves off his hands and slapped them on the tray next to the freezer unit. Scanlon looked at the nurse. "You can return these to the storage area." He turned to Mulder. "We should know within 24 hours if it took or not." He moved to the door. "Let's hope it's successful." Scanlon walked out of the room with the nurse wheeling the cart behind him.

Mulder allowed them a few seconds and quickly moved to the door. Peeking out of a slit in the opened door, he watched the nurse wheel the cart into a room two doors down. He looked back at Scully who had taken her feet out of the stirrups and pushed the gown back down over the bottom half of her body. She lay quietly with her eyes closed.

"Are you all right, Dana?" Mulder bent over, noticing the strained look on her face. It looked like she was trying to keep from crying.

"Yes." Scully whispered, but her eyes remained closed. Mulder bent further and kissed her lips lightly.

"It's okay, Dana, I'm here for you." He didn't need to ask her what was wrong. She opened her eyes, full of tears to see Mulder's face inches from her own. Scully wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled his face to her chest. She held tightly to Mulder until the her tears dried. What would she do without him, Scully wondered. He couldn't die, not after everything they'd been though, Scully thought. She knew it was ludicrous, but thought it all the same.

Mulder pulled back a bit to look into her eyes. "Are you okay now?" She nodded her head releasing the hold she had on his neck. He stood and held her hand as he moved her over a bit and sat down. "Want to talk about it?" Scully shook her head and closed her eyes. Mulder sighed. "I haven't given up, Scully."

Firmly, Scully said, "Neither have I. I'm fine now, Mulder." Mulder stroked her hand with his thumb as silence fell between them. Minutes passed before the door opened again.

"Dr. Scanlon said you can leave now. He wants to examine you in two days." The nurse's tone was brisk and professional as she left again, closing the door behind her.

Mulder helped Scully stand. She wobbled for a brief second, and Mulder helped her regain her balance before he let go of her. Scully reached for her sweater, feeling lightheaded. Mulder grabbed it just before she did. She smiled faintly as he held it in front of her. "You don't have to dress me, Mulder. I can do it myself. I felt a little light-headed that's all."

"Well I undress you enough. This is an interesting change." He retorted. Scully grimaced at his bad joke.

"You know, Mulder, if this works, you may have to put my shoes on my feet in seven months." The words came from her mouth without thinking. Then Scully caught herself. She would not give up on him. There was no real evidence Mulder was dying, and she would not allow herself to believe he was.

"You going to turn me into a foot-man? Are all Scully women this tough on their men?" Dana smiled, appreciating the levity Mulder provided. It helped ease the tension from the insemination and her warring thoughts and emotions.

"Mulder, even I don't have enough strength to tame you. That's an impossible task." She slipped off the table and pulled on her jeans and stepped into her shoes. "Let's get out of here." Mulder agreed with a nod and guided her toward the door with his hand in the small of her back.

As Scully stepped out of the shower from yet another long rest, she heard the sounds of muffled argument.

"Fox, this is simply too dangerous. Once, fine. You've been incredibly lucky to get away with it. However, my credentials can't be trusted anymore. I was not supposed to be able to leave at all. If we go in, there's no guarantee we will succeed." Scully moved the door of the bedroom, pulling one of Dana's robes around her body.

"You don't understand, Sam. If I have the cancer, I'm going to die. I have to see what's there, I have to find out what they've been hiding from us all this time. I've been searching for years-" Scully listened closely to make out Mulder's words. Slowly, she moved closer to the top of the stairs, still toweling off her wet hair.

There was a long silence. "It doesn't matter, Mulder." Byers voice, calmer than the other two. "This is a high-security facility, Samantha's right. It's a huge risk for an unknown benefit."

Mulder's voice sounded again, low and intense. Scully held her anger in check only with an iron will. How dare he give up now?

"Look. I'm not asking anything of you all except to get me in. Langly, you can circumvent security without using Sam's credentials, can't you?"

A long pause. "Yeah, like last time, Mulder, but she's-"

"It's my choice, guys. I have to know." Scully recognized the tone. There would be no dissuading him. If necessary, he would attempt entrance by himself.

The others seemed to recognize this, because the next words she heard from the living room were, "What are you going to tell Agent Scully?" Frohike. >From her position at the head of the stairs, Scully silently thanked him.

"She'll understand." She barely heard this last.

"I may understand, Mulder, but not enough to let you go in alone." Byers resigned tones conveyed his disapproval.

Apparently the others agreed. "I'm going with you, Fox. You'll have a better chance with at least a semblance of legitimacy." Samantha's voice again.

"Fine. We leave as soon as possible. I don't want anyone waking up Scully."

"What's going to happen to her if we're caught, then?"

"You'll stay behind with her, Frohike. Langly can handle the systems alone and tell you if there's a problem."

"Like hell," Scully breathed, standing shakily. "Whether you realize it or not, Mulder, I'm coming along." She walked silently back to the bedroom to get dressed.

"Uh, Langly?" Frohike spoke nervously into the cell phone. There was a long pause.

"Yeah, Frohike?"

"I would avoid mentioning this to Mulder, but you're going to be getting Scully past the systems as well." He held the phone back from his ear at the frustrated response. Scully looked at the short man as he cut the connection. She had dressed and pulled her hair into a ponytail.

"Well, are you ready? They've already left, I'd like to get started." Her tone was preemptory and impatient.

"Um, Agent Scully, are you sure you shouldn't rest? I mean-" He stammered over the words before she cut him smoothly off.

"Yes, I'm sure. I need to be in that facility. Let's go." She made her way to the front door. "Well, are you coming?"

"Yes," Frohike said reluctantly, trying not to think of Mulder's reaction as he closed the front door behind him.

Twenty minutes later, Frohike was monitoring the systems with Langly. Scully had caught up to the other three as they made their way to the upper levels of the facility in search of Mulder's answers. Damn him, she thought. He would never have understood this sort of sacrifice from her, she was crazy not to call him on it.

She wasn't sure, exactly, why she trailed them through lab after lab without informing them of her presence. Scully was not one to believe in intuition over logical deduction, so that's how she labeled it. It was logical that their chances of getting away with this again were slim. It was logical that they needed someone to cover their back.

It was logical, also, that Mulder was a careless fool with a death wish, Scully thought. She'd seen him clutch the back of his head through the one-way glass looking into the white hallway after they exited a small, unimportant lab, and she'd seen the grimace of pain on his face.

Samantha led them onward and upward, through back corridors and stairwells they wouldn't have been aware of without her guidance. Upward to the fifth level, and a single, huge, glass encased lab. The trio exited the stairwell cautiously, Scully following silently one flight below.

Scully hung well back, waiting until the door had almost swung closed before stopping the latch from completing the connection. She waited, peering through the crack in the door, while they entered the lab. After several moments passed, she debated whether to follow them. Her decision was made for her when there was a loud 'ping'.

It took Scully a long second to realize the sound was from an elevator reaching the fifth level. She froze, bracing herself and watching. Clattering footfalls approached her, then passed by as Dr. Kevin Scanlon walked toward the area her friends had just entered. Afterwards, the next few moments eerily clear for Scully. While it was happening, though, it moved much too quickly, everything swimming in a haze of sensory overload.

She waited, willing the three not to exit, watching the hallway. Her heart sunk as the thick glass doors slid open in a silent rush of air. She almost moved, then stopped herself. Maybe the three could still talk their way out of this. She put a steel clamp over her nerves, telling herself to wait in defiance of her instincts.

Mulder and Byers emerged from the lab with Samantha walking between them. The tall brunette looked up from the floor slowly as she walked. Scully locked eyes with Samantha. She saw the woman's eyes widen in surprise through the crack in the door just before Scanlon challenged them.

"Samantha. It looks like they were right after all. I wouldn't have believed it possible, but here you are. Agent Mulder." Scully moved, recognizing the malice in Scanlon's voice. Too late.

Her fault, she thought later. It was her fault that she hadn't reacted sooner. If she had, she could have stopped him before he even got close to Mulder. But she didn't, and Scanlon did.

She watched as her arms rose, disembodied, holding her gun. Scully couldn't remember throwing open the door. She knew she was going to be too late, and as if her thought had made it happen, she was. The only man she knew who might have actually believed that thoughts had power went down, clutching his chest, his face a mask of astonishment. Scully screamed and felt the harsh recoil of her Sig. It wasn't until afterward that Byers told her that she was screaming Mulder's name.

Scanlon followed her partner to kiss the tile.

Scully ran over. She didn't register the blank astonishment and fear of Byers and Samantha. She rushed past the prone Dr. Scanlon to bend over Mulder. He was alive, barely, but his pulse was weakening. The blood that escaped from his chest wound was much too red, but she knew better than to pull the cloth of his shirt and jacket away.

She shouted at him to hang on, but Mulder's circulatory system and not his emotions were in control. His eyelids slipped shut. Right after that happened, the irregular throbbing life under her fingers began to sputter.

Scully wouldn't, she couldn't accept it. If anything in her life had ever been accomplished by sheer force of will, if she had ever been described as 'driven', as 'cold', she swore she could make this happen. She would make him live. If she had to follow him into hell, he wasn't going to escape from her so easily. She leaned in to start CPR.

As she was tilting Mulder's chin back, they appeared. Black, and long, they appeared from his nasal cavities, from his slightly open mouth, from his ears. Bigger than the last time she had seen them, longer and thicker. A long, impossibly thick worm forced it's way out between Mulder's eyeball and tear duct, snaking down over his temple.

Scully watched until, finally, it looked like there weren't going to be any more. Then, heedless of the creeping black making its way over the tile towards Scanlon's form, she broke out of her paralysis.

Byers stared down, wishing he knew what to do, that he had some kind of medical training. He simply was at a loss. He saw Samantha rush back into the lab, yanking up a cordless phone from her desk and come turning back. He watched, but he could do nothing until alarms began to go off. He could only help Scully carry out Mulder's unresponsive form the way they had come.

Samantha followed. She dialed a number quickly on her cell phone and barked, "Hello, I'm a technician here at Alpha Facility. Yes. I have an emergency, there's a man here who has been shot."

There was a long pause. "I don't know."

Alarms began to go off around them, blaring insistently with an deafening loudness. Scully stared at Mulder as if expecting some kind of response to the noise. When there was none, her expression took on a strange, desperate blankness. Byers began to pray. If they were all going to live to see the end of this, he would need the help.

Samantha continued yelling into the phone, running out ahead of them as they approached the main entrance. "We'll meet the paramedics in the parking lot."

Talking into the phone, she said, "Wait, what did you...Wait. Shit!" She tossed the phone away.

"They should be here soon, the hospital is only a few blocks away." Byers nodded mutely as they reached the exit. Samantha reached to her left and depressed numbers in the key pad. Silent in the brain-melting clamor of the alarm, they slid open and the four people left the building.

Once outside, Scully nodded to Byers, seeming to register his presence for the first time that night. "Set him here." Byers nodded back, and they lowered him to the asphalt parking lot. He looked at the stricken expression on the Scully's face and back down at Mulder. Suddenly, the dome he carried took on a disproportionate weight. Swallowing, Byers decided that, for the moment, he would keep the discovery of Scully's ova to himself.

Immediately after Mulder was set on the concrete, Scully began forcing respiration, refusing against all logic and reason to believe that Mulder would die.

Byers and Samantha saw the ambulance approach, but Scully didn't notice until the paramedics pushed her roughly aside to take over. In a matter of a minute, they had him in the back of the ambulance. The paramedics told Samantha and Byers they could not ride along.

And that was when Byers finally got conclusive proof that Scully was, indeed, a navy brat. The emergency technicians let them on, he thought, just to shut off the stream of highly inventive obscenities.

Skinner sat in his car for a long moment before exiting. He was visiting the motel, ostensibly to see how the assignment was faring, but in actuality to keep tabs on his two cloned agents. The truth was that he was getting nervous. He hadn't heard from the originals or their copies when he had expected to. So he had made sure he wasn't followed and driven to the hotel in an effort to calm his jittery nerves.

Assistant Director Skinner walked to the stairway, his right hand discreetly close to his weapon underneath his trenchcoat. He trod the first flight of stairs cautiously. Then he saw it. A blur in his peripheral vision, it could have been a cat, a dog, so many things. Something told him, though, that it was none of those. He drew his weapon, descended the stairs, and looked around. Nothing. He walked a few steps closer to the back of the building and the row of three large dumpsters, reeking of unknown tourists' midday meals. He braced himself and crept closer. There was no need to steel himself against the smell, his nerves did that for him.

Skinner heard a soft, barely perceptible sound from behind the second dumpster. Counting down silently, he braced himself, pointing his weapon.


That was the last thing Skinner knew before he dropped to the asphalt, knocked instantly unconscious. The bounty hunter didn't waste time checking to make sure. In seconds he was gone, as quickly and silently as he came. When he left, a stray cat ran quickly in the other direction, released from its paralysis of fear from the alien's scent.

Skinner came to, groaning before he'd realized he had made a sound. Realization hit even before the dull pain from the developing goose egg on his skull even had a chance to register in his nervous system. He lurched back up the stairs, slipping and grasping the handrail with a determination born of desperation, knowing it was already too late.

In room 312, his instinct was proven correct. The door hung ajar in the silent room, the woman the clones had been guarding long gone. The only witnesses to what had transpired were the two fading pools of green side by side between the double beds.

Fox William Mulder was moving down an impossibly long, dark corridor. The barriers to either side that made it qualify as such weren't walls in the traditional sense of the word. They were shelves, holding countless items, stretching, it seemed, into infinity. Answers, Mulder recognized. The answers he sought, before him. The declarative to his interrogatory. At last.

Even as he moved down the dark, narrow hallway, an arm rose to trail along the shelf closest to shoulder level. He couldn't stop, though. He felt compelled to continue moving in a way that was not quite walking and not quite floating, toward some unknown destination.

He recognized that the truth he sought was moving past him, item after item, but it did not trouble him. A deep sense of peace had penetrated him to the very last cell of his being. It was numbing, this calm. It was heavy and comforting like a blanket, making him accept whatever transpired without comment, without question, without care.

Somehow, this feeling spoke to him, telling him that he would receive elucidation in due course. All, if he still so desired, would be his. The prospect of those infinite shelves with those limitless items did not dismay or excite him. It simply was.

He continued down the dark corridor until he arrived at the end. Adoor stood at the end of the hallway, plainly labeled with a small metal nameplate. Bill Mulder, the embossed words stated. Mulder reached for the doorknob and turned, pushing inward. A crack of excruciatingly white light flew through the widening crack, but it didn't blind him. Mulder could see clearly.

With the door all the way open, he stepped in, and the door closed by itself behind him. His father sat behind a large, wooden desk. He nodded at Mulder's entrance.

"Son." Without rising, he motioned for the chair opposite him. Mulder moved to sit in the large, unpadded wooden chair.

"Hello, Dad. It's been a while." He tried to memorize his father's face. Somehow he knew this moment was being allowed for a reason, but was finite as before. Here, he harbored no bitterness, no anger toward the man regarding him. The only emotion Mulder felt was certainty. He knew that he had done his duty.

"You found her, son." There was no emotion, no surprise in his voice, only peace and acceptance. The man who was his father in life knew nothing of such things outside of a bottle. It seemed, however, that this man did.

Mulder needed no proof that this was real. As it had been the last time, the acknowledgement was enough for him.

Bill Mulder said, "I'm seeing you here for the last time. You need to know that I forgive you. I placed demands that were unreasonable and unfair for a child your age. I was trapped in the life choices I made, and I took it out on you, turning you into a haunted, driven man." He stared into his son's eyes, and his expression sent the understanding that Mulder had never received in life. Somehow, the man knew, it would be enough, later.

His father continued, his tone calm. "I said it before, but again, in order for you to move on, you need to know. This," He gestured around him, and Mulder knew he was not referring to the room he was in, but something much larger. "Was never my intention. The problem was, Fox, that I never really had an intention where you were concerned. Seeing you reminded me of my faults, my weakness, and my surrender. I should never have joined with the forces that I did. You need to now that I thought I was a great patriot, that I was saving my country from forces that I now realize were poorly hidden rationalizations for a monstrous agenda. I thought that I would be judged by history, and as it turned out, in that at least, I was correct."

He continued in the same peaceful voice. He might have been reading a newspaper, but the words were suffused with meaning, embedding themselves on his son's brain. "It was my decision to have Samantha taken after your mother contributed her eggs for the project. They wanted leverage, and left me with no choice but which of you I would be taken. That, of course, was before I knew you were not my son."

Mulder gazed at the man he had known at father, strangely unsurprised. It was confirmation of something it seemed he had known all along, perhaps from the first time he'd felt the bite of the elder man's belt on his back. Bill Mulder continued.

"I coerced your mother into her role in this obscene matter, and you must not blame her. Samantha was the Mulder I chose for them to bring into the fold, and you were left behind to pay for my sacrifice, my demons." He leaned forward. "Fox, I'm sorry."

At that, Mulder looked up, and for the first time, as before, he could see the night sky. As his father disappeared, his eyes welled with tears at the beauty of it all.

"CLEAR!" The tight mass of bodies took a step backward as one. Scully pulled the defibrillator paddles away from Mulder motionless chest and glanced at the electrocardiogram monitor for some sign. One of the nurses stepped back in to resume cardiac compression.

Scully had long ago taken charge of Mulder's care. The emergency staff would have had to drag her away kicking and screaming to stop her. Why try, they thought. He would die anyway. The chances of a patient that had coded so long ago surviving were almost nil.

Scully knew it, but she refused to accept it. She did not trust this place, these doctors, and she would not, could not let him die.

She barked a series of orders, which although logical, would later be a lost blur in her memory. She shouted for more drugs to aid in restarting his heart and glanced around, seeing the pity in the assorted eyes. Those that were looking at her, that was. Through the glass of the doorway, she could see the doctor originally in charge talking on a phone. He gestured expressively into the treatment room. Scully's resolve turned to iron.


They jumped, and her orders were carried out. "Goddamnit, Mulder, you will not die, not like this, not here." She called out to the nurse at the crash cart, "Again."


This time, finally, there was rhythm. Scully watched it quicken and steady, dance on the black of the screen. Triumphant, persistent, and contrary. Mulder was alive. She sent silent thanks to the universe, to God, to luck, and to Mulder.

Colony Alpha Research Facility
Black Cancer Division

The thin, bespecled figure leaned out into the hallway again, searching for the cause of the alarms.

"Albert, get back in here!" His graveyard shift assistant scolded him from inside the large laboratory. "You know you're not supposed to leave our area. It's up to us to maintain security."

Albert huffed quietly, hating the superior tone in the woman's voice. It wasn't like he didn't know the training. He'd received the same instructions. His programming was no different, and after all, he was her superior. There was no call to act that way, he thought resentfully.

His tone revealed his irritation. "I know that, but after this long, I have to question it. It's been almost an hour, and we've received no word. That's not standard procedure."

Sarah acknowledged his point with a smooth tip of her small blonde skull, but her tones remained unchanged. "The research is too valuable to deviate, you've said that before yourself. We need to remain until told otherwise by the elders or a representative. It's all under control and part of the master plan, I'm sure. If not, well, then it will be. We just need to be patient." She regarded the gray-haired man, wondering when he would be moved on to another section so she could take over the research here. He was a competent worker, but he'd outlived his usefulness. Within two days, she'd known what he knew.

Sarah was reflecting on how a mention of his inability to conform to standard programming might figure into his transfer when the doors swished open. A solid, unblinking figure stepped through. He stopped for a second, regarding and cataloging the two frozen lab mice as prey. Then with one smooth, controlled movement, he jerked his weapon from his pocket and headed toward them.

Ten minutes later, even the green residue had finished dissolving on the white tile floor.

Twenty minutes later, the facility blew into a million tiny flying fragments of debris, turning the clean, secure laboratories into a fireball that filled the sky, sending smoke to blot out the emerging sun, and only a ruin in its wake.


"1. Slow, quick exhales. 2. And Again. 3. Slow, then short, quick exhales. Good, very nice. Now that we've gotten you in a nice state of relaxation or exhaustion, you can collapse and we'll do what I know you've been waiting for." The enviably flat-stomached woman playfully waved a plastic box in the air. She intoned dramatically, "The video."

Good-natured groans sounded throughout the small room. The instructor continued. "And I don't want to see any of the coaches sneaking away while the lights are out." Laughter sounded from the upended turtle-women.

Scully relaxed marginally against the man behind her. The instructor called, "Um, Sc-Mulder? Can you two see there in the back?"

Scully's clear voice sounded from her awkward position on the floor. "We can see."

"Well enough for right now, anyway." Mulder's wry drawl drew appreciative laughter. He leaned over the woman in front of him. Scully raised an eyebrow from the slightly ridiculous position her belly forced herself into, silently daring him to make fun of her.

Mulder didn't try too hard to repress his smile. "You know, Scully, it might be easier on her if we had the same last name."

Scully retorted, "Yes. Generally those people are married, Mulder." She hid her satisfied smile.

For months now, she'd been deliberately ignoring his hints, innuendoes, and suggestions. She wasn't going to let him wiggle out a proposal in typical Mulder nonchalant fashion. As the months passed, and it became gradually more and more difficult to achieve a standing position, much less...Her thoughts trailed on the endless indignities of carrying a child.

Dealing with Skinner had been surprisingly easy, Scully reflected. However, if she would be able to go back to the X-Files division was still an open question. Mulder being the father of her baby complicated matters considerably. Again her thoughts turned to her pregnancy. She loved it, but it wasn't...Well, it wasn't exactly dignified, damnit. No, the thought of making the one responsible suffer was becoming steadily more and more attractive.

Mulder replied easily, "That's okay. We could just borrow each other's name, you know, every other week you can be Mulder and then I'll be Scully. Just for convenience's sake, you understand." Scully started in the darkness as the train of their conversation continued. She'd been lost in her thoughts.

"I'll keep that in mind, Mulder." Scully said dryly, recovering.

The video began, and she leaned back more securely against him, letting him place his hands on her belly.

"Can I start using you as a table in bed, Scully?" Mulder whispered in her ear.

"There is furniture meant for that, Mulder."

"Not at your apartment, you don't have any bedside tables," he whispered innocently, "When we're married, we'll have to get some."

Scully said innocently, "I'm sorry, did you say something, Mulder? Watch the movie."

He complied, a wide grin on his face.

500 kilometers south of Porto Velho, Brazil
Colony Beta

"Hurry up and get the others from inside, I think the steaks are almost done." Kenneth3 called in the house to Richa2. She smiled and waved at him in response and gathered the others from inside. It was an important day, with important guests, and she was quite excited.

In her three months since origin, she'd had no anticipation that she would be honored in this way, distinguished from the others in the colony. She took a platter of vegetables from the kitchen and exited, following the others outside.

Kenneth3 started serving the guests after she set down her burden. As she was moving around the large table to help her husband, she felt a hand on her shoulder. Startled, she turned, then relaxed.

"Excuse me, Elder." She beamed up at him.

"That's fine, dear." He let the remainder of his cigarette fall to the ground, pressing it absently into the green ground cover. He looked around at the expanse of lush vegetation. It was one of the things he liked about this colony, he mused. That, and the safety of the remote location.

The smoking man's lips twisted with the memory.of the fiasco at last colony. He'd been this close to the real Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, and his complacency had blinded him. It would not happen again. Looking at Richa2, he smiled slowly. This one, he was confident, could be trusted. He had hand-picked her to guard against further mistakes.

"Would you like something to drink, Elder?" Richa2's voice started him. His smile widened, making the clone flutter nervously like an excited bird. The gray-haired man reflected that, in general, he really liked clones better than people. Most of them were so much more agreeable.

"Are you nervous about tomorrow, dear?" He squinted at her in the fading light.

"Oh my, yes. Can I get you that drink now?" He nodded, releasing her back to get him a drink and the other guests. This was one party that he thought, that would be a true celebration. He, like Richa2, was excited about the next day as well, although for entirely different reasons. A brand new day for humanity was on the horizon, he thought. His usual conservative nature was muted by the first golden threads of sunset fading with the yellow and purple slowly into night.


Author's notes:


First off, a huge, sloppy thanks to Kate441 and Carolyn for editing this monstrosity. If it weren't for their patience, we would be in a sorry state. Sometimes it seemed that the more things we fixed, the more appeared. We would never have caught what we did (hopefully most of it) without a ton of help.

Thanks for reading. This was a much longer story than I thought it would be originally. It started when Marsha e-mailed me with a challenge she was thinking of sending off. Selfishly, I snapped it up instead. I started writing it, and after about twenty 'What do you think about.' and 'I'm confused about.' and 'I can't remember if.' e-mails to Marsha, she finally took pity and wrote this with me. It's a good thing she did, most of the really good ideas here are hers. All of the gratuitous stuff and Frohike scenes are, of course, my fault.

I really hope people liked this, but all feedback would be appreciated, both positive and negative. This was a learning experience for me, and a huge amount of fun to write. Anyway, happy Redux! Let's start celebrating the end of the cancer arc, and not a moment too soon, IMO.


Not all the good ideas are mine. Raine is a wonderful co-writer. We have had a good time writing this story, and hope it's enjoyed by all. Thank you to my co-writer for being so patient with me while writing this. Although it was my idea for the clones and the colony, I couldn't have done it without Raine. She's wonderful. Thanks to our editors, Kate and Carolyn too.

Feeback is appreciated. I doubt if there is anything left for a sequel. I've got to get back to COM and Raine has her own projects. And I agree with Raine, happy Redux, it's about time!!!!! And I agree, the cancer arc is almost ended. Let's give Mulder hives or something to even the score. Oh yeah, he has black cancer, or did they forget? We didn't. Thanks for reading. Marsha Taylor barelyhere@classic.msn.com


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