Title: Where Day is Dark as Sleep
Author: The X-Woman
Disclaimer: They are not mine. What more is there to say? Also, the excerpts of the children's story are from the book "Off We Go", by Jane Yolden. That does not belong to me, either.
Archive: Anywhere, just tell me and keep my name and disclaimer attached.
Feedback: Yes! But please be kind... ;-) XWoman1121@aol.com
Type: UST/Angst/XF/Post-Requiem
Spoilers: Duane Barry/Ascension, One Breath, Christmas Carol/Emily, All Things, En Ami, Requiem
Rating: PG-13

Summary: Mulder returns, his memory wiped from his abduction, to discover that seven years have passed, and Scully now has a daughter. But, over time, the pieces begin to fall together and Mulder and Scully start to suspect that there is more happening that what meets the eye, and possibly the conspiracy is not over.

Author's Note: As most die-hard 'Philes know well, the "X-Files" is littered with tons of in-jokes. I took it to my artistic license in writing this story to use those in-jokes that one often sees hidden in times, dates, etc. See if you can find them! ;-) Also, a note on how long Mulder and Scully have worked together.

Keep in mind that, even though "Squeeze" (the third "X-Files" episode) took place in 1993 (when the "X-Files" originally aired), Scully was originally assigned to the X-Files Section March 6, 1992. Thus, I assume that Mulder and Scully actually worked together in that missing year, so by Mulder's, er, "disappearance", they had worked together eight years, though it was only the seventh season. Sorry, this is a habit I have. I can't stand it when they "forget" that year... the anal-retentive nitpicker in me. :)


11:22am
April 23, 2007
Washington, DC

She looked down the framed picture, pausing momentarily as she looked at the familiar face framed within. It was a Polaroid picture, taken in a moment of glee, or maybe even insanity, when he had a smile on his face and she had a camera and for some reason it had clicked, that there was only that moment and, if not captured, it would be lost forever. Somehow, the context of the picture, where they had been and what had been so funny had been lost in the years, but the smile was still there, his smile, the laugh lines around his captivating hazel eyes, the happiness that seemed to radiate from him, even if only for a second, through a sea of broken dreams and the ruins of promises. She had taken the picture because of that, because of the realization that, somehow, that moment would come and go and she may never see him smile again. Almost as if she knew the future, and would fight to keep that single moment of perfection alive.

Sighing deeply, but wishing nothing, Dana Scully picked up a piece of newspaper, wrapping the picture gently within the folds of the comic strip section. She placed the picture into the box of fragile items collected from her living room, then closed the flaps of the box, taping them shut tightly with the masking tape in her hand.

Dana stood up, pushing a strand of auburn hair from her face, and surveying her progress. She had finished packing the bedrooms the day before, the kitchen was halfway done, and the living room was close to being cleared out. The movers where coming the next day, to help load the furniture and boxes into the U-haul Dana had rented.

She adjusted the handkerchief that she had tied around her head, and settled herself into a chair to relax. The television had been unhooked already, as well as the phone and some other appliances, so she didn't have much to do but sit a little and think a lot. A cheap radio had been plugged into the corner of the room, since her stereo system had been packed away as well, and somehow, in her scrambling about, the thing had been tuned to a country station. Dana was familiar with older country songs, but it had been almost a decade since she had traveled anywhere... She could still remember times when trips to the west had trapped her in a car with nothing but country, a subject that had drove her partner insane. She assumed it may have been because too many of the songs had gotten to him, reminding him of relationships and events that he had experienced himself, and didn't need some twangy singer with an accent telling him how it feels.

Dana looked down at her dusty hands, a little pained at the memory of her partner. She had felt uncomfortable putting the picture away in a box, even if she knew that she would be taking it out very soon, as soon as she had transported her family to the new house. But, it still tugged at her heartstrings, making her a little sad. That was the reason that, of all the pictures, she had not taken one where he looked the way she saw him everyday.

She chose the one that he was smiling in, because it gave her hope. If he could smile, then hell, she could too.

I can still feel you
Just as close as skin
now and then

The petite woman's head shot up in surprise as the lyrics to the song bellowing from the radio tugged her from her thinking. That was why he hated country.

Not only because it could be so corny, but also it could be so true. Scully got up and snapped the radio off, sighing soundly as she turned to return to her work.

She missed him, hell she missed him. When Walter Skinner broke the news that he had disappeared, been "abducted" as it had registered to her, she hadn't known how to feel. But, for some reason many people created feelings for her.

Either, she was too sad, and needed to pull herself out of it to take care of herself and her future child. Or, she needed to understand he was gone and begin to grieve. But, somehow, Fox Mulder had never left her. He was there, by her side, when she wept for him at night. He was there when she gave birth to her daughter. He was there when she fought for the X-Files, and he wept with her when it was closed. He was there when the doctor broke the news of Veronica's illness, and he was there when Dana needed someone to talk to.

Nobody understood why she was not grieving or why she was. But, she was doing both. She was not grieving because she could still feel him. And she was grieving, because she feared he could not feel her.

And that was what kept her hope going. Was that she felt him there. And that smile.

Dana had just finished the living room when the ringing phone finally registered to her. At first, she had assumed it was the radio, so it took her a minute to realize that the radio wasn't even on. She knew she had disconnected her home phone, and she finally remembered, around the 12th ring, that she had her cellular phone lying on the bed in her daughter's room. It was her "work"

phone, and only the people at the Bureau, her daughter's doctor, and her mother knew the line. The urgency of the ringing, the fact that it kept going and going brought a sudden fear to Dana. Veronica had been feeling better the last few days, and so she had went to spend the day with Maggie Scully while Dana finished packing. She hadn't worked on a case in a while, so unless it was Walter calling to check on her, it was her doctor or her mom. And, in either case, the urgency of the ringing could mean one of many things. All of them very bad.

Scully rushed through the apartment, flinging aside loose belongings and narrowly avoiding possible fatal collisions with suitcases and boxes, and finally, after what could have easily been an eternity, she reached the room, her hand flying out, grabbing the phone and pushing the button.

"Scully," she shot breathlessly into the phone. It had been subconscious; ever since her partner's disappearance, no one had been graced with more than a simple "Hello" when she answered her phones, so the word seemed to cause her to stumble back for a moment, surprising herself immensely. No one, especially herself, had called her "Scully" since Mulder's disappearance. She hadn't heard her own voice say it in a while, so the word almost seemed foreign on her lips.

For a second, she felt she wasn't even sure she had pronounced it correctly. It took her a while to get her footing, and she backed up the name with, "Hello?"

There was silence on the other line. Dana felt her heart rise into her throat, the silence seeming so alien yet familiar at the same time, a feeling that she had felt so often over the years. It reminded her of when her mother had called, that fateful Christmas, to tell her that her father had passed away suddenly. But, the only thing that gave her a little hope, was the slightly different air that let her know, for some reason, that it was not her mother on the other end.

"Hello?" She repeated. She might have, long ago, shrugged it off as a crank call, but no bored teenager would track down a cellular phone and let it ring 14 times just to get some kicks, and she knew that. Whoever was on the other end had a reason for calling, and though Dana wanted to know what it was, she was afraid to say anything.

Breathing sounds began to emit from the other side of the phone, and Dana pushed the phone closer to her ear. Whoever had called was trying to say something, she knew it, and she wanted to know what it was. The breathing deepened and grunts began to follow, as if the person where weak and was having a hard time speaking, and was struggling to form the words. It took Scully a minute to realize that the person was speaking, that the grunts were words, or a word.

"Scully."

She didn't know if it was the tone, or if she recognized the voice, or if, somehow, she just knew, but suddenly she was speaking back, to this person she knew. This person she know so very well.

"Mulder? Mulder, where are you?"

The man, Mulder, she was sure, struggled painfully to speak. After what seemed like years he began to speak louder, his voice clearer, his words making more sense. "I'm in a forest, Scully. Somewhere, I'm not sure. It looks like where... I think I'm still in Oregon. Scully, Skinner's gone."

"Mulder, do you remember where you were? Do you remember what happened?"

Mulder was still struggling to form the words. Scully hoped he was okay. If he wasn't, there was no way she could get to Oregon in time to help him.

"I don't think they wanted me, Scully. They spit me out, just like They did you."

Oh, God. He doesn't remember. He doesn't know that happened seven years ago. "Mulder, are you hurt?" Scully suddenly felt very helpless. Who knows if he even still was in Oregon? Who knows what They did to him, he doesn't remember anything.

"No, Scully, I think I'm okay. I still had my cell phone. I didn't know who else to call."

"Mulder, you need to call 911. Tell them that you need help. Tell them where you are!"

"Scully! I need you," he was whispering now. "I need you here."

"I'll be there Mulder. Please, just call the police."

There was a click on the other side of the line, and Scully lowered the phone from her ear letting it clatter almost noiselessly to the carpet.

Back. He was back. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry.


8:03pm

"How's he doing?"

Scully leaned her weight against the payphone, twisting her fingers into the phone cord. "The doctor says he seems to have a few minor bumps and such, but all in all he looks good." She sighed noisily. "He told me on the phone that They had spit him out just like They did me. He doesn't know... the doctor is checking him out for how advanced the amnesia is."

"Have you seen him yet?"

"No, and when I do I don't know what I'd say to him, Walter."

"Dana," Walter Skinner sighed, a habit that he had seemed to pick up from the woman he was speaking with over the years. "You haven't seen him in seven years. A lot has changed. It's understandable."

"How am I supposed to tell him that he has been robbed of seven years of his life, Walter?" She shook her head. "This is why I pulled away from being a doctor. Giving the good new is a wonderful feeling, but it never seems to outweigh the feelings of the bad news."

"He's strong. He'll take it. If he really doesn't remember, there is no way that he could have changed." Suddenly the phone was muffled, and Scully waited a moment while quiet speaking was heard through his hand. Skinner's voice came back moments later. "Dana, I have to go. There are a lot of people that want to know what is going on."

Scully suddenly felt very uncomfortable. "Walter, is there any way that we can keep this a little, well, quiet? I'm afraid..."

"Scully, it was Them that took him. They know that he is back." Walter paused, and Scully felt his sudden emotions. She knew, after the years, he wasn't sure how to feel from the news of Mulder's return. Though the disappearance had caused much pain, much had come of it, including Skinner and Scully's short, though deep and close relationship. Though the words "I love you" no longer passed between them, as they had for almost two years, their relationship was a strong foundation that lasted still, and may have never existed if Mulder had not disappeared.

Now that he was safe, back with her and safe, she had to wonder if it had been a blessing in disguise. But, part of her did have to wonder if the blessing was the disguise.

"I'll talk to him and call you later, Walter."

"Take care, Dana," he hung up first, and Scully lingered for a moment, not sure of what her next move would be. The doctor had told her that she could come in and see Mulder whenever she felt fit to, but in the long run that did little to help her decide when to see him. Somehow, she wished he had added on a few restrictions.


Scully's hand paused on the doorknob, and she glanced at the number, 884. She seemed to stare at the number on the door for hours, until she finally, in a moment of insanity, she just gave up and swung open the door.

He was sitting up in bed, watching the television mounted on the wall. He had aged, gray hair beginning to spring up around him. Scully half smiled to herself, remembering a few times when she had teased him about the fact that if either would grow old enough to gray, she would be the first. And here they were, her in her mid-forties, he pushing fifty, and her hair was still fiery red. But, she had to take into account anything that he had experienced over the last seven years.

He looked over at her, as if he had suddenly realized she had been standing there, and a small smile overtook his face. "So, I guess I get an X-file with my name on it now, eh?"

Scully didn't know if she should laugh or slap him. Seven years and that was the only thing he could think to say to her.

Skinner was right. Mulder hadn't changed a bit.

"How are you feeling?" She moved forward, settling herself beside his bed on a chair. He nodded at her.

"Like a bunch of frat boys decided my head would be a nice place to throw a party."

Scully cracked a tiny smile, shaking her head. "The doctor said that you have a minor concussion. Other than that and a few scrapes and bruises-"

"Don't forget the amnesia."

Scully winced slightly, her smile leaving her face. "I asked the doctor not to tell you."

"Scully, one look in the mirror, and it didn't take me long to figure out on my own. He didn't have much of a choice." Mulder reached to his bedside and picked up the remote control, switching the television off. "How long?"

"Too long. Almost seven years."

"God." Mulder didn't even look at her, his eyes turned down. "I bet a lot has changed."

"The more things change, the more they stay the same."

"The X-Files?"

"Closed. I couldn't even dream of doing them on my own, and They didn't give me much of a choice."

Mulder nodded. "I wouldn't have wanted you to go on, putting your life in danger and not even having me there to fight with you."

"That wasn't the only reason."

"What about you?"

"I have been okay. I've been busy..."

Mulder didn't push it. Scully could tell he cared and wanted to hear about "everything", but finding out that seven years just disappeared from one's life as well as learning the aches and grief of another's life is a hard thing to digest in one sitting. Thus, he didn't push to hear, and she didn't push to tell.

"The doctor suspects that the amnesia might be temporary," Mulder said, giving Scully a sideways glance. "I suppose with that and a little thera-"

"I missed you so." Scully reached out suddenly, her hand lacing with his. He looked over at her, not surprised by the sudden change in subject, almost as if he had been waiting for her to speak. He squeezed her hand tightly, but gently, and nodded.

"I'm sure that, wherever I was, I missed you too."

They said nothing more, but sat in the silence of each other and just felt together. Felt the gift of being alive, the air of being with each other again, after so long. And for a moment in the violence, death and suffering that, fifteen years ago, had become their lives, there was a single moment where the two kindred spirits were completely content. One might even go as far to say, that they were happy.


8:46pm

The car pulled up into the driveway, and a man stepped out. He adjusted his tie and his overcoat, breathing in deeply. This was important, oh so incredibly important. Of course They all knew that He was back, but there were still things that had to be accomplished, procedure to be followed. And, of course, the "situation" with the Scullys.

The man headed up to the front door, pulling the door open and entering the house. It was on the outskirts of the city. The man who lived there had bought it, years ago, after the death of his estranged wife. The man walked through the house as if it were his own, knowing every turn and every room. He entered the living room, seeing another man sitting there on the couch. He paused in the doorway, no emotion showing on his face, and he wasn't in a rush to do anything. He waited for the other man to speak. Minutes passed before the sitting man noticed the other man in the doorway. Or maybe he had noticed him, but didn't want to acknowledge his presence. The latter would make sense, of course.

"Krycek, what the hell do you want?"

Alex Krycek walked into the room, looking at the other man. "You know perfectly well, Assistant Director."

Walter Skinner stood up from the couch, but not as a sign of respect. More as an effort to get away from the evil man that stood before him.

"Scully doesn't know anything," Skinner said bluntly. Krycek laughed.

"Scully's knowledge of the situation does not concern me. It's Mulder's that does." Krycek gestured to the couch. "Sit down."

When it came to Alex Krycek, Skinner had little choice in the situation. The man was a traitor, a lair, and a thief. A traitor to those whom would be fool enough to trust him, a lair to those who would be fool enough to believe him, and a thief of the dreams of those who would be fool enough to share them with him. He had presented all three traits bluntly when he turned foot and ran after Mulder's disappearance. He was a coward, too.

"He doesn't know anything," Skinner said, sitting down. Krycek settled himself in a chair across the room. "His memory was totally wiped. Not that it is surprising."

"Walter, I wanted to help." Krycek leaned back in the chair, no remorse showing on his face. No emotion whatsoever. "Marita and I had little choice. We could stay, and let the Syndicate take us out as they had so many others before us, or we could keep ourselves hidden, so that we could continue on and fight."

Skinner shook his head. "Bull-shit, Alex. The Syndicate is dead. They died years ago. At that point we could have fought them, but you, our only hope, turned tail and ran before we even had a chance."

Suddenly, Krycek began to laugh. It was not a laugh of humor, but more of mockery. It annoyed Skinner immensely.

"You don't understand, Walter." Alex leaned forward, looking Skinner in the eyes from across the room. "This goes much deeper than what you have seen.

Deeper than Mulder, Scully, the X-Files, and even the Syndicate." He stood from the chair, in an attempt to put Walter Skinner in his proper place. "Purity Control doesn't just 'die' with the Syndicate, or the Cigarette Smoking Man.

There are more people out there that want this invasion to happen," he paused for effect. "And it will."

He turned to leave, and Skinner stood. "What about Scully? And her daughter?"

Krycek paused at the doorway. "The Scully situation is out of my hands."

"You're full of crap. You started it. Why don't you finish it?"

Krycek turned to Skinner, his eyes shining. With a look, one could understand this man was not to be trusted. He was evil.

"Walter, your feelings for Dana are obvious to me. You might want to keep them hidden from anyone else you come in contact with until the situation is resolved. That includes Mulder." Krycek sighed. "As for Veronica, her current situation with Scully was a mistake, made by the Syndicate. No one was out to cause Dana Scully a lot of pain, Assistant Director. They were just trying to get their job done."

Skinner snorted. "Interesting comment coming from the man that murdered her sister."

Krycek stood his ground. "Just doing my job."

He left then, without another word or a goodbye. Skinner stood still until he heard the front door slam, and the car in the drive start up and roar away.

Then he collapsed onto the couch, hating himself, and hating Krycek. He let his head fall back against the couch, wishing that, somehow, he had not fallen victim to Krycek's control. He loved Dana, he cared about her daughter, and he wanted to look out for Mulder. But, there was no way. Not now, not ever. He had become a traitor, a victim, and a liar. He had become Krycek.

"Son of a bitch," he stated quietly.


10:31am
April 25
Residence of Margaret Scully

"How is the Scully family, anyway?"

Dana Scully pressed the off button on the air conditioner and smiled subtly.

"Well. It's been tough the last few years. Tara and Bill have been having their problems. My other sister in law, Marie, had a miscarriage a few years ago, and it has caused a little friction between her and Charles. And my mother has had her own bought of problems." Scully unbuckled her seatbelt, reaching for the door handle.

"Hey, you're still a member of the Scully family, aren't you?"

This comment startled Scully, and it took her a minute to regain her footing and register what his comment had meant. "Oh. Well, there have been some, advances in my life." She paused for a second, not sure of what to say. She knew he needed to know at some point. And in a about five minutes he was going to find out on his own, so she might as well just-"Dana!" Maggie Scully stood on the front porch, waving her hand wildly. "Dana!

Fox!"

Mulder pushed the car door open and got out, walking toward the woman on the front porch. "Mrs. Scully, it's wonderful to see you!"

"Oh, Fox, you look wonderful!" She reached out and gathered him into a hug.

"Dana called me on the phone, wild with excitement when she found out you were back. How are you feeling?"

Mulder nodded. "Better. Your daughter was right, a few days in the hospital wouldn't kill me."

Maggie laughed, taking Mulder into another hug. She looked toward the car.

Scully was still in the car, sitting silently, as she watched her mother and Mulder talk. Maggie called out to her daughter, smiling and waving. "Dana, dear! Come on up! Someone is excited to see you!"

Scully grimaced at Mulder's confused glance. But, she was excited as well, and so she pushed the door open and clamored out of the car, joining her mother and her partner up on the steps.

"Come on in. I just finished making lunch, so you two can join us for a little, right?"

"We would love to, Mrs. Scully." Mulder answered, nodding a Dana. She nodded back in agreement. The three traveled down the hall, and Maggie moved closer to her daughter, taking hold of her hand. "I hope you didn't worry too much, Dana.

She is doing just fine. She wanted to play outside constantly, but I made sure she got a lot of rest."

Scully nodded, not really listening. Since she had received the call from Mulder, she had worried little about Veronica, and more about her partner. Dana trusted her mother with all her heart, and knew that her daughter was in good hands.

Meanwhile, Scully felt Mulder's piercing stare on her, and she looked up at him, his confused stare making her feel uncomfortable. Maggie must have noticed it too, for she had stopped talking and, instead, took lead of the group, heading them to the dining room. Scully refused to register Mulder's questioning looks, and instead decided that she should wait to tell him.

The three entered the dining room, and Maggie smiled. "Sit down. I'll go get the sandwiches."

Mrs. Scully disappeared into the kitchen, and Mulder sat, while Scully remained standing. He was shooting daggers with his eyes.

"I guess it is hard to loose track of what's going on over seven years."

Scully turned behind her, toward the hallway leading to the bedrooms. She saw what Mulder had been able to see, but even his melancholy attitude could not stop a smile from spreading over her face.

"I told you I had experienced some advances."

"Hi, mommy." The little girl ran down the hall to Scully, who scooped her small form up into her arms and showered her with kisses. "I thought you were never coming back!" The little girl exclaimed. Scully laughed.

"I'll bet that prospect excited you."

The girl grinned. "Gramma let me have ice cream."

Scully raised her eyebrow. "Oh did she!"

Mulder sat silently as he watched the exchange. He studied the little girl, surprised at how much she resembled her mother. She had the same green-gray eyes, the same tiny beauty mark above her top lip. But, she was skinny, her tiny form lost beneath the mounds of clothes that seemed to devour her. A floppy hat was on her head, and Mulder deducted that her hair, probably red like her mother's, was hidden beneath. But as the little girl wiggled around in her mother's arms, he caught glimpses of the parts of her head that the hat didn't hide. She was bald. As he studied her he realized that she was not skinny naturally, but that she was sickly, and suddenly, Fox Mulder's heart broke for a little girl that he hardly even knew. It didn't take a genius to figure out that this child was dying of cancer.

He looked down at his hands. Only days before, it had seemed to him, he had held Scully and told her that she had given up too much, that her never having children was too unfair a punishment. And, now, here he sat, watching his partner, the woman for whom he cared so much about, hold a little girl whom made her radiate and smile the way he had never seen before. A little girl, that held so many of Scully's most precious memories in her tiny hands, who was dying of a horrible disease. Mulder didn't want to blame himself, but somehow he did.

Scully had been through so much. She had almost lost her own life, and had lost her first daughter. Mulder felt himself curse whatever god felt it necessary to make Dana Scully suffer so. Dana Scully, a gentle woman. A wonderful, caring, sweet, innocent woman who had been dragged into the crusade because she was intelligent, smart, a scientist. She was so wonderful, so perfect, and thus had to pay for it painfully, while the evil of the world ran wildly free, without suffer or consequence.

Scully turned back to Mulder, the girl in her arms, as if she just realized that he was there. She looked at her little girl with glowing eyes, and smiled again.

"Mulder, this is Veronica. Veronica Scully."

Mulder stayed silent, not sure of what to say. He had watched the two, as if they were celebrities far from his reach, only for him to look at but never to speak to. Suddenly, she was speaking to him. Smiling, and speaking. It took him moments to realize that this smiling, happy angel was not beyond his reach, but she was Scully. Simply Scully. And she was introducing her little girl to him, Scully's little girl.

"Uncle Mulder!" The little girl's voice drew him from his thoughts, and the warmth of a smile spread over his face. She knew him. She had never met him, but somehow she knew him. He felt blessed.

"Veronica. It's nice to finally meet you," he used the word "finally" because, somewhere, he always knew that Scully would beat the odds, like she had dozens of times before, and have a child.

Mulder stood, walking over to where Scully stood with Veronica in her arms. He reached out hesitantly, wanting to touch her, to see if she really was real, but somewhere he feared that he would break her. She was precious, a miracle, Mulder knew. He laid the back if his hand gently on her cheek, and she smiled.

She looked so much like Scully, especially when she smiled.

"Mommy said that one day I would get to meet you." Veronica said. "She said that you had to go away for a while but that one day you would come back and spend some time with me." Veronica waved her hands about as she talked, vivid with excitement and beauty. If it had not been for the obvious, one would not be able to guess, at this moment, that she was sick. That thought gave Mulder hope.

"Well, like usual, mommy was right," Mulder said, giving a half smile in Scully's direction.

"She told me all about you and what happened in the FBI!" Veronica's eyes glowed with excitement. "Mommy taught me to spell 'federal.' I can do it really good!" She clapped her hands together, and Mulder laughed a little.

For once he looked over to Scully, who he saw was enveloped in her daughter's talking. Her eyes lit up with a wonderful light that made her so beautiful, and Mulder realized that he was seeing "the love light," he had heard of it, long ago, in romance stories and fairy tales but never, ever, had he thought that one-day he might see it, first hand, through the eyes of a mother. For a minute he strove to bask in that light, for he knew that even with a photographic memory, he would never capture what he was seeing right now. Somewhere, deep in his heart, he wondered if his mother had ever looked at him like that. He wondered if anyone ever had.

"Everything she tells you about me is a fib!" Maggie Scully laughed, entering the dining room with a plate full of sandwiches. She looked over at Mulder, who seemed to hover protectively over the woman and her child before him. Maggie smiled. "I see that you have been acquainted with the newest member of the Scully family?"

"Graced with her majesty's presence, is a better way to say it," Mulder kidded, giving an extravagant mock bow to Veronica. Veronica laughed and clapped, and Scully groaned.

"Well, raising her humble is now out of the question." Scully smiled at Mulder, and he reached out, touching her arm gently.

"I'll be careful about letting her majesty's extravagance get to her head."

"Oh, goodie."

Mulder sat down and the table, watching Scully set her daughter to the floor and Veronica scrambled into a seat beside Mulder. Mulder paused, glancing at Scully as she sat. "Scully, did you just say 'Oh goodie'?"

"I told you I had experienced some advances."


7:26pm

"He has been returned."

"Yes. Scully has had him released from the hospital." Alex Krycek sat in the chair, waving away a hovering servant offering coffee. He looked around the group before him. "Mulder remembers nothing. He is no danger at this point."

"The X-Files is beyond his reach." A man with a gruff voice said. "He can yell and scream all he wants, but he will never open the X-Files again. His role as a threat has been eliminated."

"What of his partner?" A young man spoke. Krycek glanced over, as if remembering a time when he was so young, so naïve and worried over trivial matters.

"She is not a threat," Krycek responded. "It is amazing how priorities change when one becomes a parent."

"But Mulder. He may have nothing better to do than be a threat. The last Syndicate learned well that he did not need the X-Files to be a one," the young man said suddenly.

"The last Syndicate were fools!" Krycek snapped. The young man backed down, nodding. "We will not make the same mistakes they did. Their foolishness put the Project on the line. But, we can fix their mistakes."

The gruff-voiced man spoke. "How are you sure that this new plan is any less foolish? We can't be sure."

Krycek glanced at the gruff-voiced man. "We have little evidence to go on that it is. But, the evidence we do have, more specifically the fact that we are doing what the last Syndicate did not, is enough evidence to warrant that we may be on the right track."

"What about the Project?" A tall man spoke from the back.

Krycek nodded. "We were just about to cover that subject." Krycek nodded to a stout man sitting across the room. "Doctor Müller, do you wish to fill us in on the specifics of how the Project is going?"

"Certainly, Alex." The doctor stood up, straightening his overcoat clearing his throat. "It seems that the new test subjects, Group Three, are faring well. Let me pull up some slides."

After some shuffling and moving about, the slide machine was set up in the room.

Müller lit a cigarette and flipped on the slide machine. The first picture was of a little boy, and he couldn't be older than twelve, clad only in white cotton boxers. He was thin and wasted away, and his eyes stared blankly at the camera, empty eyes leading to an empty soul.

"This is a member of Test Group One, number 564a. This picture was taken two weeks ago. This specific subject died last Saturday of advanced cancerous brain tumors. This subject was diagnosed with the first tumor at age three years and four months. At the time the picture was taken, the subject was six years and ten months."

Müller let his eyes skim over the audience. "As most of you know, Group One is the group that is used for the studying of the cancers and testing as well as how the sickness effects the member of the Project. Thus, this group is not treated. This specific subject was also being used as a test subject for the accelerated aging process. Thus, while the child is six he appears to be almost twelve."

"What is so odd about that?" the young man asked. Müller waved his hand.

"The point is, 98% of the subjects diagnosed with this cancer die close to four years old. Thus, this subject suggests that, with the accelerated aging process, a subject's life can be expanded for two years." A ripple of sound cascaded through the group, and Müller continued, "Though it may not seem like much, at this point in our research it is a major breakthrough for the Project."

Müller changed the picture to another, this time a girl, dressed sparingly.

She, though sickly, seemed somewhat healthier than the previous boy did. She was also bald. "This is a member of Test Group Two. These are the treated subjects that we keep under direct scrutiny, study and raise ourselves. This specific subject is 183a. As you know, this specific group are test-tube babies. All of them are lab-grown, so to speak, and raised by the scientists and doctors they spend the day with. This girl is suffering from an advanced form of leukemia. The treated subjects do well, with this group there is a 75% survival rate among the children. But, these subjects have been rivaled by our group three," he switched the slide to a second girl. She was dressed in standard hospital patient wear, bald, but had bright eyes and a weak smile.

"This is our first member of Test Group Three. Her number is 1a, and she is the first success in her group. She was diagnosed with cancer at three years and four months, and she is suffering from cancerous brain tumors, the same as the first subject we viewed. This group is a special test group, because they are injected as fetuses into the mothers and given birth to, as well as raised by civilian parents and treated by civilian doctors who have no clue of what they really are. At this point we have four subjects of Test Group Three in circulation. The goal of this group is to incorporate the subjects into the national public. We are very excited about this specific subject's maturing. We plan to study her and use the knowledge we gain from her to create the perfect group the succeed in the Project."

"Thank you, doctor." Müller nodded and seated himself. "Doctor Müller will keep us updated on the progress of the studies. Until then, thank you all for coming, and we will meet again shortly."

There was a loud hustle and bustle as everyone in the room rose, and there were greetings and good-byes until, finally, everyone had departed. The young man had not left his seat, and Krycek stared at him from across the room, where he had escorted the last of the new Syndicate out. The servant was still hovering about, collecting discarded teacups and wiping up minor spills. Krycek walked forward, settling back into his chair.

"You have a question, Barret?"

The young man, Barret, shook his head. "No, sir. Just waiting for the crowd to clear out." He stood heading to the door. Just as he was passing Krycek, he turned back to see the servant. He turned to Krycek.

"Why do you keep that servant in here? Aren't you afraid that he will talk to someone, give us away?"

Though Barret had spoken loud enough, the servant acted as if he did not hear him. Krycek gave a small laugh. "It is amazing what people will do, or in this case not do, when it just may put the well being of their family on the line."

Barret nodded, and made his way out of the door. But, for some reason, as he headed home, he couldn't shake the feeling that, somehow, Krycek wasn't talking so much to the servant as he was to him.

He felt a shiver travel up his spine.


1:23pm
April 28
The Apartment of Dana Scully
Washington, DC

"Go fish." Mulder pulled a card from the card deck, shooting Scully a somewhat suspicious look from the table. He had a feeling that the girls were cheating; Scully had never been good at being truthful during card games. Mulder had a feeling that if she ever played poker, she would grease him.

Veronica had suckered the two into playing a round of 'Go Fish.' Mulder was in bad mood on discovering his apartment had been sold, and his mood certainly didn't improve when he discovered Scully was moving to a smaller apartment closer to the hospital. Her mother had overlooked the moving while Scully was on Oregon, so now here they were, in a somewhat barren apartment, sleeping on sleeping blankets on the floor. Scully had ordered the furniture, but it wasn't going to come in for another three days. Maggie had insisted that he stayed at her place, but she conveniently mentioned that Bill Jr. was planning a visit, so he smiled and gently turned down the offer. Besides, he felt safer around Dr. Scully, and he knew that, even if it didn't seem like it to him, seven years had passed, and he had some catching up to do.

On the other hand, right now he had a therapy appointment in less than thirty minutes, and he needed to get a move-on.

"Okay, you win. I have to leave." He stood up from where they were playing on some empty packing boxes, and Veronica jumped up from her mother's lap after him.

"Bye." She announced. He leaned down and landed a soft kiss on her cheek, and she kissed him back.

Mulder laughed gently, and he glanced over at Scully, who was staring at the two, smiling. Scully stood up and picked up her daughter.

"As for you, Miss Veronica, you have a doctor's appointment this evening, so we are going to go take a nap."

Veronica groaned loudly, and Mulder reached over to pat her head. "Mother knows best," he told her, and she rolled her eyes.

Scully led her daughter down the hall to one of the rooms, and Veronica buried herself under a sleeping bag. Mulder followed them back, leaning against the doorway. It always amazed him how fast Veronica went out during naptime, but it made sense. The last few days, the smallest activities would knock her out cold.

"Mommy, read to me?" Veronica asked as Scully tucked her in.

"What book?"

"The book with all the animal's going to Gramma's..." Veronica paused, her fingers skipping along the blanket as if acting out the story, and her tongue stuck out as if trying to remember the title. Scully walked over to the other end of the room where the boxes of children's books were shoved against the wall. She shoveled around, pulled a book out and settled back beside her daughter.

"Tip-toe, tippty-toe, over the leaves and down below. 'Off to Grandma's house we go!' Sings Little Mouse," she began to read.

Veronica smiled, pointing at the book. "Can I go to Gramma's house?"

Scully laughed, shaking her head. "Vee, you just got back from Gramma's house!"

Veronica shrugged, her grin covering her face. "I want to go again!"

"Maybe after your nap."

Veronica slid back down under the sleeping bag, pulled a tattered, white stuffed rabbit close to her chest, smiling. Scully turned back to the book, her smile not leaving her face.

"Slither-slee, slithery-slee, Down the branch and round the tree. 'Off to Grandma's house goes me!' Sings Little Snake," Scully continued to read, her soft voice already lulling her daughter into slumber. Mulder was afraid that if he stood there for too long he would be lost in sleep as well, so he slipped from the apartment quietly, making his way down to the parking lot.

There had been too much going on with him since the return, and taking a small break, even if only to see a therapist, somehow appealed to him, though he would rather spend the day with Scully and Veronica. But, he had little choice; the FBI was requiring he be in six weeks of therapy before he was allowed to rejoin the ranks of the Feds. On top of that, after this disappearance his apartment and car had been sold, though Scully had managed to salvage and save most of his personal belongings, and invest, somehow, in keeping them in storage.

Scully had been granted her maternal leave from the FBI, and after her daughter was born had returned to find out that the X-Files were being closed. She spent the next two years trying to get them re-opened while she was transferred back to teaching at the Academy. When Veronica was three she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and Scully spent the next three years balancing work with Veronica's illness, and she certainly was sure to mention what a savior her mother was during these times, when she took in Veronica while Scully worked.

She had taken leave again to prepare for her move when Mulder re-appeared, only making things more complicated. Being a single mother in the FBI wasn't as glamorous as it may sound.

That had been the little history Mulder had caught up on over the last few days.

As he headed down catch a taxi, he began to realize the little things she hadn't mentioned; people she had met, cases she worked on. Somehow, the question of Veronica's father didn't seem to come up in any conversation, and for some reason Mulder did not have the drive to ask his partner. Maybe he didn't want to know; whoever he was, he was obviously out of the picture and had nothing to do with Veronica. If she needed a father figure, he was planning on being there.

This idea made him laugh. Somehow, Veronica had brought he and Scully closer in many ways. If it hadn't been for her, the last seven years might have taken a much larger toll on Scully's spirit, and his relationship with her might have not been salvageable. Before her was abducted, before the X-Files had been lost, Mulder knew that his only hold on life was Scully; she kept him down to earth, sane, and showed him that there was always something to live for. Mulder had a small feeling that Veronica had somehow kept Scully sane over the years, while she fought against all the horrible luck that seemed to be slapping her in the face.

But, maybe things were changing. He had been returned; Veronica seemed to be getting better, according to Scully. His goal after he was back on his feet was to look into getting the X-Files re-opened, and to hopefully, somehow, fill in the missing pieces of the last seven years. He knew it would be hard, but with Scully at his side and the X-Files to give him something to do, he knew that he could build his life back up, and maybe uncover what he was missing in his life.

Outside, he paused for a minute and glanced up at the window on Scully's apartment. For some reason, he knew he was going to be very sad when he moved out. Scully was a mother, something he knew that she could pull off well. And she was raising a wonderful little girl. And, Mulder knew, he wanted to be part of that. Part of that family.

He flagged down a taxi and, turning, gave a little wave to that window on the fourth floor. If he didn't know any better, he could have sworn he saw some movement, maybe someone waving back. He climbed into the taxi, and settled back in the chair.

Things had to get better. They had to.


"What happened?" The doctor stood outside the room, trying to calm the woman before her. She was pretty bad, but certainly not the worse he had ever seen.

"She... she was napping. And, she stopped breathing." Dana Scully peered over his shoulder, as if trying to see something through the almost microscopic window on the door. She gave an exasperated sigh. "I called 911 and administer CPR. Her heart was beating, but she still wasn't breath..." Scully words led off, and she stood, helpless, before the doctor. "Would the cancer cause this?" she asked, her voice weak with worry. "She was doing better..." Her face feel, and the doctor reached out gently, putting a hand on her shoulder.

"Ms. Scully, you are a doctor and you did the best you could in this situation.

Let me take over from here. We will do some tests, some X-rays, and find out exactly what is going on," he leaned closer to him. "I promise that we will do the best we can for your little girl."

Scully, somehow, forced a weak smile. "Thank you, doctor Müller."

"No thanks needed." He smiled kindly. "Just doing my job."


7:21am
May 2
DC Presbyterian Hospital
Washington, DC

Mulder walked up behind Scully, setting a timid hand on her shoulder. She didn't move, or say anything to acknowledge his presence. As the minutes passed her hand snaked up, past her shoulder, and lay on his hand.

"She's dying, Mulder."

Mulder body was suddenly wracked with shivers, and he shook his heard fiercely.

"Scully, there is still hope. You know that. She's young, strong," he stepped forward, and gently turned Scully to face him. "Most of all, she is your daughter. She has your strength. Your love of life. She's sick, but she'll get better." His eyes fluttered up, past Scully to look through the glass window, to the bed where Veronica lay. "I know she will."

The girl was in and out of consciousness, hooked up to a frightening amount of machines and under constant scrutiny of the doctors. It scared Mulder, to watch her. It reminded him of when Scully was dying, and of Emily.

He reached out and wrapped Scully into a tight hug, squeezing shut his eyelids to force back the tears. He had known Veronica for only a few days, but he had known Scully for more than a few years. He couldn't stand to watch her suffer, not after all they had been to. Somewhere, the selfish part of him was glad for the disappearance. At least he hadn't been forced to watch Scully suffer through all of her daughter illness.

"The doctor isn't sure she will last much longer," Scully's muffled voice spoke. "I thought she was getting better..." she paused. "I should stop getting my hopes up."

Mulder's heart broke in two, then and there, and he knew that, if anything could ever kill Scully, then this was it. It made him very sad.

They went to sit down, and sat for hours, saying nothing. They were trying to accept what fate had given them; that with every good thing, a bad thing followed close behind. At that moment, Mulder would give his life to bring back Veronica from wherever she was. To bring her back from the abyss of certain death. And, thus, bring back Scully. After all she had been through, he wasn't sure if she would recover from the loss of her second daughter. He remembered, years ago, a decade ago to Scully, a case that Scully had outright told him was about letting go. Letting go of Emily. Mulder was sure, at this point, letting go was no longer an option.

Walter Skinner joined them later on, settling himself beside Scully and clinging to her accepting hand. As Mulder watched the two, he began to sense a feeling there, the same feeling he used to feel at times when he and Scully got so close, physically and spiritually, at times when they realized that their relationship spanned far beyond love, to a place that no one had even been able to find a word that would do it justice. It made him happy and sad, happy because she had found a way, somehow, not to be alone during his abduction. And sad, because he was replaceable. He never thought it possible, but Scully could move on without him. And something selfish and horrible made him feel sad about that simple fact. Maybe because of that fact that he would never be able to move on without her.

The hours continued to pass without words, and finally Mulder stood. "I have to go, Scully," he said to her. She looked up at him, her hand tightening the grip she had around Skinner's hand. She didn't want him to leave, but he had to. Not only because of his therapy appointment, but because he knew, if he stayed there much longer, he would go insane.

He reached out and placed his hand on her head, letting it slide down to caress her cheek. She reached up and placed her free hand over his, and squeezed it tightly. "I'll be okay" her eyes told him. He turned and left, forcing himself not to glance back. He didn't know why he didn't want to look back; maybe he was afraid of what he would see.


"How is she?" the man asked.

Doctor Müller smiled menacingly. "She is doing well, but her mother seems to buy that the girl is dying. She is pulling out better than many of the subjects in Test Group Two. She will be the perfect success for the Project."

The man nodded. "Of course. That was why she was chosen."

"You are always right, Alex," Müller said. "The last Syndicate were fools."

He sat. "But, what of carrying out the remainder of the Project. If we take Group Three from their 'parents'-"

Alex Krycek laughed. "Müller, you are moving to fast for your own good. We are only taking her because of the foolishness of the last Syndicate. If it hadn't been for." Krycek grimaced. "Mr. Spender, we wouldn't have to. But infuse Dana Scully with this test subject..."

Müller nodded. "I believe I understand. But what will we do with her?"

"Terminate her. We can't use her, she will remember too much. And we may run the risk of exposing the Project. We will simply have another woman carry a clone of the fetus. Simple."

Müller nodded. "I will bring the girl to the lab as soon as her transition is complete."


"When they said you were a workaholic, I didn't think they meant in the literal way." Melvin Frohike gave a grin. "What gives, Mulder?"

Mulder glanced at his watch, wondering if his therapist was ready to call out a missing persons report. Mulder hadn't even called to cancel.

"I need some files. The hospital won't give them to me, because I am an inactive agent. So, I need your expertise to get me into it."

Langly raised his eyebrows. "Well, Mulder, seven years hasn't changed you a bit. You knew exactly where to come."

Langly and Frohike worked on the computers, while Byers and Mulder hung over their shoulders, watching intently. Mulder was on his way to the therapist when it occurred to him that, even though he couldn't get the files on Veronica released to him, that didn't mean that they were out of his reach. Besides, he owed the Lone Gunmen a visit, anyway. He had only seen them once since his return.

"Gotcha," Langly announced, punching a button on the keyboard and leaned back his chair to glance at Mulder. "Just tell me what you need."

"The medical on Veronica Mari Scully."

Frohike looked over at Mulder. "Scully's daughter?"

"That's right. Handsome and intelligent. I'm not the only one that hasn't changed." He shot a smile to Frohike, who just shook his head.

Langly was working away on the computer, looking somewhat confused and annoyed.

"Mulder, there are not medical files on Veronica Scully in any hospital records in DC."

Mulder shook his head. "What? No, there has to be. Veronica's been treated at the same hospital for the last three years."

"Sorry, Mulder, it's a no-go. The database isn't pulling up any files," he typed in a few more things, continuing to shake his head. Frohike broke in and leaned over his shoulder, pushing a few buttons. As the two worked at the computer, Byers turned to Mulder.

"How is she?" Byers asked. Mulder stared down at the floor.

"According to Scully, not good. She was supposed to be getting better, but that seems to have been a little misleading." Mulder sighed. "Have you gotten to meet her?"

Byers shook his head. "I haven't been allowed the pleasure. Scully stopped by with her a while back when Frohike and Langly where here, but since the cancer... we've seen little of her."

Mulder nodded. "You need to meet her. She's amazing. She's her mother all over again."

"I'm not surprised."

Suddenly, Langly spoke up. "Hey, Mulder! I just got something." Mulder moved closer. "There aren't any current files on Veronica, so I looked for some under her mother's name. It pulled up some information on transfers of files to another hospital. It's funny; the files are under 'Dana Scully.' I don't think these are transfers from Veronica's files."

All of the sudden, something began to really bother Mulder. He couldn't put his finger on it, but he knew he had that feeling before, and he knew he needed to act on it.

"What hospital were they transferred to, Langly?"

Frohike answered for him. "St. Peter's Hospital in Carson City, Nevada."

Mulder nodded. "Print out the information for me."

Byers headed to the printer to assist in printing the information out, and Langly started on the computer. Frohike looked over at Mulder.

"What your next move?"

"I'm off to Nevada," he pulled open his topcoat, searching the inside pockets for his cell phone. It took him a moment to remember where he was, or more exact when he was. "Frohike, I need a phone."

Frohike smiled. "I'll trade you for Scully's number."

Mulder nodded. "Just make sure to tell her that I'm sorry, but it was in her best interests." Frohike nodded. He knew that message had double meaning, and he'd be sure to tell her.


4:28pm
May 3
St. Peter's Hospital
Carson City, Nevada

Fox Mulder pushed open the door of the hospital, holding the door for a young woman, crying viciously. Four children and an older man, all trying to comfort the crying woman surrounded her. Mulder headed in through the door, his heart sinking at the unfortunate sight, that he prayed was not an omen of what was to come. An omen of hopelessness.

He made his way to the desk, where a squat old woman sat, her glasses down on her nose. He smiled at her, pulling out his badge. Scully had saved it among his other belongings, and it had taken him almost three hours to dig it out.

Though at this point it was not valid, there was no way the nurse could know that.

"Fox Mulder, FBI," he told her. "I need access to some important files that I believe were transferred here from Washington, DC."

The nurse peered up at him over her glasses, and nodded. She turned the chair to face the computer. "What files?"

"Dana Scully," he said. She typed in the name, and then gave a slightly annoyed sigh. "I am sorry, Agent Mulder, but those files are off limits to anyone without proper access."

"'Proper access'?" Mulder frowned.

"Yes. You must have a special Level Three access. It is only awarded to certain doctors."

Mulder nodded, leaning against the counter. He wasn't expecting this, though he was realizing that he should have. The nurse looked up at him helplessly. "Is there any other way I can help you, sir?"

Mulder was quiet for a while, and then he nodded in response, turning to face her. "Actually, yeah, you can. Give me the name of a doctor that has Level Three access."

The nurse paused for a moment, as if debating whether such information should be handed out so freely. She glanced back up at Mulder, and nodded. "There is only one doctor with that access level at this hospital. Doctor Hans Müller."

Mulder paused, frowning. Doctor Müller, Veronica's current doctor at the DC hospital.

"I will tell you now, though, Agent Mulder, He won't be much help, since he is in Washington, DC watching over a patient."

"Really? But, he is stationed here primarily?"

The nurse nodded. "Oh, yes. But, every once in a while he heads out to other hospitals to look over patients."

"Do you know why?"

The woman laughed. "No, it doesn't interest me. Why are you asking all these questions? Is he in some kind of trouble?"

"No," Mulder said, too quickly. "No, I'm just closing up on a few cases that he happened to be involved with. Nothing big."

"Well, Agent Mulder, I believe that this is all I can help you with. I have some other things I have to do, so if you please..."

Mulder nodded, backing away. "Thank you for your help."

"Of course."

Mulder turned to walk away, catching out of the corner of his eye the nurse picking up the phone beside her. He sped up and made his way out of the door.

"Way to go, Mulder," he muttered to himself. "Less than two weeks back on earth and you are already involved in a conspiracy."


"You want us to what?" Byers' eyes widened with surprise.

"You heard me, John-boy," Mulder said. "I need those files."

Langly balanced his phone on his shoulder, typing away at the computer. "I'm having some problems here, Mulder. I don't know if I can pull the St. Peter's Hospital files up on this computer."

Frohike, on a third phone, the handless headset, nodded in agreement. "If there is nothing connecting the database to the web, which is a possibility, the only way we can hack into the database is directly from the computer at the hospital."

"Yeah, that would work, Frohike," Langly remarked. "Forgetting the fact that we are in DC and he is in Nevada."

"Good point, Einstein," Frohike shot back, annoyed.

"Hey, gentlemen, can we stay on topic here?" Mulder remarked. "I need those files, guys. Scully needs those files. This might be our one shot at saving Veronica."

Byers glanced over at the two other men. "Mulder, we'll do all we can. You know that."

Frohike began typing on his computer. "I'll get us a flight out there ASAP."

"Don't worry about meeting me," Mulder said. "I need to get back to DC.

There's some unfinished business out there that I need to deal with."

"Good luck, Mulder," Byers said, resting his phone into the cradle.

"We'll be in touch." Langly pressed the 'off' button on his cordless phone and tossed it on the counter.

"Hey, Frohike," Mulder said quickly. "How are they doing?"

Frohike sighed. "I think it's best for you to get back here, Mulder. I dropped by the hospital yesterday. Scully's in shambles."

Mulder was silent on the other end for a minute. "And Veronica?"

"She lost complete consciousness this morning. Things aren't looking good, Mulder."

"I'll talk to you later, Frohike," Mulder said.

"Take care, Mulder."

Mulder hung up first on the other side, and Frohike pulled the headset off his head, sighing a little. It was times like this when he realized that the three of them would do anything for Mulder and Scully's best interests. He only wished that they could be more efficient in helping. Ever since the Lone Gunmen became involved with the X-Files, Frohike had a hard time shaking this constant feeling of helplessness. So, he just did all he could to keep it down.


She stood before the group, her mouth set in a frown, her blonde hair pulled back behind her head in a proper bun.

"We have a situation," she spoke clearly, her voice unwavering. It was important that she have that air about her, important that she command. "The new Syndicate has chosen to continue the Project. To add on, Mulder and Scully have uncovered it. This puts it on the line."

"The child," a man spoke from the audience. "The Scully child. They will kill her."

The woman nodded. "They will, so we must be sure to get the child from them. If we do not, the Project will continue."

"They will destroy the evidence," another man spoke. "Saving the child is not an option. We must save the evidence, the research."

"The child is the research," the first man stated. "There is only one way to get her." All eyes turned to the woman, who sat down.

"I can do it," she said. "He will give in to me."

"How do you know?" the second man questioned. "Just because it has worked before does not mean-"

"He will," she repeated. The room was silent for a while, until the first man spoke.

"If I didn't know any better, I would think we are leaning toward fighting for Mulder and Scully."

Though the rest of the room erupted with nervous laughter at the comment, the woman did not smile, laugh, show any physical emotion. She simply said, "We are not fighting for them. But we are fighting against the Syndicate."

"Isn't it the same thing?" the second man asked.

This time she did laugh. "Once you understand what we do, you will understand that the not the only colors are black and white." She stood again, gathering up her papers scattered around her. "We, as a group, are the shade of gray."


12:22am
May 4
DC Presbyterian Hospital
Washington, DC

Mulder's heels echoed gently on the walls of the hospital hallway as he headed down it, his eyes trained steadily on the goal before him. He wasn't sure what he was going to say to Scully when he finally met up with her, but he didn't let it worry him. If he was right, if the Gunmen could get those files for him, then Scully would understand. She had to.

When he finally approached the waiting area outside Veronica's room, his heart jumped into his throat; Scully was gone. His step sped up and before he completely panicked he approached the window leading into Veronica's room. He saw Scully, there, sitting quietly beside Veronica's bed. She was holding a book. As Mulder got closer, he recognized it as the book that Scully had been reading to Veronica they day that they had come to the hospital. As he neared to the door, he could hear Scully lulling, soft voice carry gently from the room and through the hallway. He stood in the doorway and watched, as he had the day this all began, as Scully read to her daughter.

"Dig-deep, diggity deep, down where day is dark as sleep, 'Off to Grandma's house I creep!' Sings Little Mole." Scully paused, and closed the far from finished book quietly, and hugged it to her chest.

"It was her favorite book, but she always made me skip the mole page." Scully shuttered a painful sigh. "The moles always scared her."

Mulder leaned his weight against the doorway as Scully stood, her hand wrapping tightly around Veronica's limp hand, and squeezing, as if hanging on for dear life. His head dropped down, not wanting to look at the girl. Not wanting "it" to be true; her almost lifeless form buried beneath hospital blankets and she lay dying in this house of pain. He wanted to remember her the way he had met her, full of life, somewhat happy, cheating at "Go Fish". He knew her, he could hear in his mind her first word, see her first step, feel her first smile. He knew, somehow, he had been at Dana's side the day she was born. And now, he knew, he would hear her last word, see her last step, bask in her last smile.

He would be by Dana's side they day that Veronica would die.

He knew, in his heart, that somewhere he had loved her. In some cosmic way he had become her father, and knew that he loved her to no bounds; that, like Scully, he would go to the ends of the earth and back to just see her smile. He had regained a family since his return, and now, like his first family, all he could do now was sit and watch it die. He would lose it, like he had so many other things through his life. He would lose everything he had left.

Scully enveloped him in a hug, and he gathered her to him as well, thankful for her understanding. Thankful that after all she had been through she still did not have the heart to hate him. Hate him for leaving her alone, giving up, losing hope.

"I need to tell you something," he heard himself say. He wasn't planning to tell her, at least until he had the files and some proof. If that was even what the files held. But, he knew that he had been hiding from her, from the Truth, for too long. He remembered his excuse when Emily was dying; "I thought I was protecting you," he knew at this point the only way to save her was to tell her the truth.

"What?" Scully asked, but she didn't move from his embrace.

"I..." and suddenly, he couldn't. He just couldn't find the words to tell her.

He was helpless, with no proof, no witnesses, not even a theory. So Veronica was possibly a test subject for the government. How? Why? There were more questions than there were answers, and Mulder was confused. He couldn't give Scully a theory with no basis, no meaning. So, he simply hugged her tighter and whispered, "I am so sorry."

He felt her arms tighten around him. She didn't need to say anything. He knew what she meant. She was accepting the apology, telling him that she didn't blame him. Not anymore.

But, Mulder knew, that the only way for him to accept her forgiveness, was if he first forgave himself.

And that was impossible.


2:22am
St. Peter's Hospital
Carson City, Nevada

"Check."

"All clear here," Langly moseyed down the hall, whispering.

"I have you," Byers answered as well, leaning against the wall in another hallway.

"How many staffers do we have, Frohike?" Langly glanced from side to side, keeping an eye out for any other people.

"Well, hooking into the camera system was a synch," Frohike offered. "I got on the cameras, one nurse at the desk, female, and two male nurses just hustling about. Just don't let them catch you talking to me, or they'll ship you back to the psyche ward."

Byers gave a snort for a laugh, and headed down the hall to look for a deserted computer. Frohike had, through some fellow hackers that made their home in Nevada, gotten a hold of a large van with all the equipment needed to hack into the camera system, so while the real images were fed to Frohike, a copy of the empty hallways from the last few hours were fed the main camera system. Classic and used idea, but it always seemed to work. The van also had the equipment that they needed to hack into the central computer system. The only key was, they needed to find a free hospital computer to hook up the broadcaster to, so that Frohike could, by remote, hack into the system and pull up the required files. The plan was foolproof; if anyone happened to scan for hackers, this would simply look like someone with proper access was looking at files. The best thing was if any night guards or nurses happened to pass by, the three would not be caught huddled over a computer printing up the files. They would be safe in the van, downloading the files from afar.

"Okay, let's get it on," Langly announced, and he and Byers started off, looking through windows and peeking into offices.

Byers stalked down the hall, looking to the left and right, and he came to an odd looking door. He glanced back, looking over the other doors. They were all made of a dark wood and a little old and weathered. This door was a lighter wood, and didn't seem as old. "Hey, Frohike, what kind of history does this hospital have, anyway?"

"Well, it was built in 1965. Half of it burned down in a freak accident about twenty years later."

"What half?"

Frohike studied the history, and then moved his gaze to the televisions, which was broadcasting what the camera was seeing, where he saw Byers. "Yeah, Byers, you're in that area."

Byers nodded and walked closer to the door. He tried the knob, and, of course, it was locked. He pulled open his coat and withdrew a lock-pick. It was funny, everyone, including the other two Gunmen, always saw him as the reserved type never to do anything wrong. But, almost two decades with Frohike and Langly had taken its toll, and, though he usually was reserved, he knew when breaking the law was appropriate. All he had to do was recall the image of Veronica Scully laying in the hospital bed, or the image of Dana Scully as she talked to the Gunmen in the hospital, trying not to let herself fall to pieces, and he was clear on what needed to be done.

The lock popped open, and Byers looked to his left and right down the hall before gently pushing the door open. He entered the office cautiously, quietly closing the door behind him as not to upset suspicion. He reached out, flipping on the light, revealing a simple, ordinary office. Byers sighed, not sure what he had been expecting to find when he opened the door, anyway. A little afraid of being caught in the act, he turned to leave... but then a picture on the desk caught his eye. He moved closer to the desk, peering closely at the picture. It was a man and a woman, posing with two young children. He recognized the man from somewhere, and it took him what seemed like a lifetime to place him. But, when he did, it was worth it.

"Hey, Frohike, I got something."

"What?"

"I just found Doctor Müller's office. Lady luck is with us, tonight."

"We're not gambling." Byers heard Langly remark somewhere. He laughed.

"Want to bet?"

Byers slid behind the desk, trying to open drawers and cabinets to see if he could find anything. He was presented with massive amounts of files and information, but everything looked harmless enough. And none of it had anything to do with Dana Scully, or her daughter.

"Well?" Frohike asked. "Did you find anything?"

Byers gave an exasperated sigh. "No. Everything here looks totally legal, and there is not a word about the Scullys."

"Well, forget it then. Hook the transmitter to Müller's computer so we can get out of here."

It took Byers about five minutes to hook up the transmitter, and Frohike was immediately on it, hacking into the hospital's system. Byers, meanwhile, was far from discouraged and continued his search through the office.

His eyes searched over the desk, and it was clean and organized. There was one paper out of place, and it stuck out like a sore thumb. It was a red flag, and Byers knew that it would be crazy to ignore anything that might be suspicious in this situation. And, out here in Nevada, the information on that paper was suspicious.

He picked up the paper. There was a phone number on it, and he reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a small notebook. He copied the phone number perfectly, and placed the piece of paper back where he had found it.

He was sliding the notebook back in his pocket when Frohike announced to him, "I got it," he headed over to the computer and pulled the transmitter off, pocketing it. He did a last run-over to make sure everything was in it's proper place, and began to head out the door.

That was when it caught his eye.

"Hold up," Byers said, pausing. He headed back toward the left wall of the office, inspecting the wall behind a file cabinet. If it was what he thought...

"Byers, what gives?" Langly said. "We need to get out of here."

"Hold on, I may have just found something very important." He reached out, preparing to yank the heavy file cabinet away from the wall. His hands grasped it and he pulled hard... and the entire unit slid quietly and gently back, mounted on wheels. As he slid it forward, it revealed a door handle, attached to a door that almost flawlessly looked like part of the wall. Almost. Byers had been lucky to have caught it, by standing the right spot and looking in the right direction, noticing a slight difference in the paint.

He pulled his lock-pick out, expecting for the door to be locked. But, when he tried the handle, the door simply slipped open, and he followed it inside, looking around him.

"Oh my God," he uttered.

"What, Byers?" Frohike and Langly asked at the same time. Byers didn't register the questions, and stood very still, looking ahead of him.

He was in a lab. A huge lab, somehow hidden within the walls of the hospital.

It was littered with desks, computers, and file cabinets. He noticed a door across the way; a door that looked it led to a cold storage unit. Wherever he was, he knew that he had most likely just stumbled upon what he was looking for.

He stepped forward, looking over the desks, covered elbow-deep with loose files and photos. He recognized the photos as children, all suffering from some degenerating disease. "Cancer," he whispered to himself. He ran his eyes over to file cabinets; it didn't take him long to locate the "S" files. He yanked the cabinet open, and dug through, going back... back...

And he found it. The file was labeled "Scully, Dana." He searched deeper to find the file on Veronica, but came up empty handed. Still, it bothered him that, buried deep in a hospital in Nevada, there was a small file on Dana Scully.

He sat at the first computer, booting it up and pulling up the main screen.

"Frohike, you need to re-download those files," he said finally. "I think I may have just found what we are looking for."

He attached the transmitter quickly, and Frohike had the files downloaded soon after. "Look up any files on Scully." Byers directed him. Meanwhile, he leafed through the thin file in his hand. It held no information important to the search; simply information about Scully's life, her job, and some personal information that looked somewhat suspicious.

"I got something," Frohike said. "They are coded, but give me a few hours and we'll be on a roll. They look like medical files, DNA tests, the whole schabang. Now, you get out of there before someone finds you."

Byers quickly re-filed the file on Scully, but paused for a minute, looking over at the door on the other side of the room. He knew he couldn't leave without looking.

He headed over there, grabbing the handle tightly in his hands and pulling the door open. The suction from the door roared loudly, and he was blasted with below freezing air. He flung the door open and stepped in.

He was surrounded again with small drawers, all with labels on them. Every label had a number and then a name. He searched through them, slowly, as to not miss anything important. And he didn't. He came across a small drawer labeled "1a: Scully, Dana K," he drew the drawer open carefully, revealing vials.

Hundreds and hundreds of tiny vials. Every vial was labeled "1a", and he gently reached down, removing one from its small compartment. The drawer was not completely filled; there were missing spaced here and there were a vial might have gone. Byers held the vial up to look into it; it was filled with a tissue sample. He paused for a minute, glancing back over the vials. Now, what was a hospital in Nevada doing with over a hundred tissue samples of Dana Scully?

"Frohike, I think we have a problem."


Frohike stared at the small TV screen, watching intently as the camera swept back and forth. Where is Byers? It wasn't like John Byers to dick around when a job needed to be done.

"Frohike, I think we have a problem."

"Aw, crap." Frohike swung around in his chair, worried. "What is going on?"

"Well, it's hard to explain. I just came across about three hundred vials that are holding tissue samples from Dana Scully."

It took Frohike a minute to register what Byers had said. "Okay, Byers, time to get out of there. I think that we..." his voice led off as he glanced back at the TV screens.

"What?" Byers asked. "Frohike, what's wrong?"

"We are about to have a bigger problem. You need to get out of there now Byers. We have some curious nurses getting ready to enter that office."


Byers' head shot toward the main door, and he felt his hand tighten around the tiny vial. He pushed the drawer shut and pocked the vial, slipping out of the cold storage and slamming the door behind him. But, as he slammed the door, he caught a good look at another drawer, a familiar name that he had seemed to miss. He didn't have time to be shocked, and the force of his weight on the door slammed it shut before he had time to register if what he saw was real.

But, at this point, he was sure it was. He ran through the office, shutting down the computer with a push of a button, and running for the door. He slipped out the door, pushing it shut and pushing the file cabinets up against it.

He saw the doorknob begin to turn, and he knew he was at a loss. He glanced around the room, not sure of what to do. His glance landed on the desk, and by then the door was already beginning to open.


5:07am
DC Presbyterian Hospital
Washington, DC

Mulder sat down quietly, trying to awake the woman sleeping beside him. She stirred, though, and drew her head up to look at him. He reached out and grasped her hand gently. She didn't hesitate to rest her head on his shoulder, and he allowed her to.

They sat in silence for too long, silence that annoyed Mulder. When would they ever learn? When would they learn that life is too short to sit around ignore someone, or to not have a conversation. Humans were stupid, he came to the realization. Here he was, blessed with an adult life, a wonderful and beautiful best friend, and what had he done with it? Thrown his life to the vicious wolves in the forest, the government that hid in the dark and planned their conspiracies, made their plans to hurt and maim and kill, and there he was, throwing himself into their horrendous fangs, and dragging the only person he ever cared about with him.

"Who is her father?" Mulder didn't know why he asked it. He didn't want to hurt her, or antagonize her, or bring back painful memories. But, he knew there was to be a time to ask, and this time was now. There would be no other time.

Scully brought up her head, looking away from him. He was afraid of the fact that he couldn't see her expression, see what she was thinking.

"I don't know, Mulder."

"How can you not know?"

Scully gave an exasperated laugh, but it wasn't in response to anything funny.

"I had a boyfriend, a while back. Not a heavy boyfriend, very casual and I didn't see him much. Two weeks before you disappeared he moved, to Canada. I guess I always assumed it was he. Because of that, I never gave it a second thought. I haven't heard from him in years, I don't have any clue where he may be." Scully shrugged. "I guess... it was never important. Veronica and I did fine on our own."

Mulder didn't say anything. It made sense; she might not have used protection since she knew she was sterile. Not something that was in character of Scully, but he didn't know what the situation was, or even how well she knew this guy.

But, that didn't solve the question about the fact that she was sterile...

Wasn't she?

They sat in another agonizing silence, until, finally, Scully spoke.

"You don't know how badly I wanted you to be there, Mulder." She sighed.

"There was so much going on, all of this excitement over my being pregnant and you disappearing and... I wanted that second part to be gone. I wanted to see the look on your face when I told you. I wanted you to be happy for me and, instead, there was just this void. And I spent so much time trying to blame you when, in reality, I wanted you back so badly." She looked over at him.

"Throughout everything, Veronica was what kept me holding on. Before, I hadn't let go because you needed me. And then, when you disappeared, I was blessed with her, and I knew I couldn't let go because she needed me... and now, here I am again, having to hold on because, even though she soon will not need me anymore, you will."

Mulder turned away, somehow shocked by her words. Almost as if she was bitter that life had to continue, because of him. Because without her, he would wither and suffer and die, and she would never allow that to happen. Melissa had called it, after Scully was returned. "You are in a darker place than she is."

Suddenly, Mulder's pocket began to ring, causing Scully to jump, started. He yanked out his phone, and pressed it to his ear.

"Mulder."

"You will not believe what we just went through."

"Byers!" Mulder hopped from his seat, heading over across the hallway. He glanced back at Scully, but she was already lost in her own world, staring through the window at her dying daughter. "What happened?"

"Well, after breaking the law at least ten times and then spending a good hour under the desk of Doctor Hans Müller, we got what you were looking for. A lot more, in fact."

"Where are you?"

"A layover in Tennessee. We didn't want to call you until we were out of the state."

"Meet me at the Lincoln Memorial at noon. You can show me what you have."

"You might want to bring Scully," Byers said. "This involves her much more than it does any of us."

Mulder shook his head in response. "No, she won't leave Veronica's side.

Besides, I want to have a look over what you have first..."

"Mulder, I don't want to be brutally blunt, but there is nothing in these files that you can safely hide from Scully. Everything is here, Mulder, and it all falls into place. Her abduction, your abduction, and why Veronica is dying."

Mulder glanced back at Scully. He would review the files first, and hide from her what he could. This was too much, all she had been through over the years, and she did not deserve it. He didn't want to watch her suffer anymore.

"I have to go, Mulder. We'll be there."

Byers hung up, and Mulder pocketed his phone, his shoulders slumping. He didn't want to drag Scully from the hospital, but Bill Jr. was flying in later, and he couldn't risk showing those files around anybody, be they family or friends. At this point a single mistake could mean Veronica's life. Plain and simple.


7:22pm
Rudy's Bar and Grill
DC

Scully pushed past a man blocking the doorway and made her way over to the bar, where Mulder said that he would meet her. He was there, of course, a soft drink before him. As she neared to him she saw the files placed before him. She should have known that he was planning more than "a drink and some conversation."

Her mother had been the final word. After almost a week without leaving the side of her daughter, her mother had told her she needed to get out. According to the doctor, she was doing a little better, and the hopes of the family were rising. Mulder had surprised everyone when he had left quickly that afternoon, and then called Scully, offering an alternative to a night of hospital food. If it hadn't been for her mother, Scully would have said no.

She sat on a stood beside him, and he turned to her. "Come with me." He took her hand and led her to the far back of the bar, to a dark table. She sat down, and he seated himself across from her.

It was then when she finally saw the look on his face, and she realized that something big was going on. Something that he had been working so hard to protect her from, but it was going to blow up in their face at any moment, and he had no choice but to tell her.

"When it rains it pours, eh Mulder?" she heard herself say, immediately regretting the accusing tone that had come with it.

Mulder place the file gently on the table before her, his face sullen. "I don't know how I am supposed to tell you this, Scully. I think it's best if you read it, and put the pieces together yourself."

She opened the file, and slowly began to skim over the information. They sat in silence, maybe a half an hour had passed, until she raised her head to look at him. Her eyes brimmed with tears, she whispered.

"All this information about me. Tests. Things They did to me during my abduction..." She sucked in her breath, turning her head from Mulder in an attempt to keep her composure. "Is this what you were hiding from me?"

"I wasn't hiding it, Scully," he whispered. "I didn't even know it existed. It was the fact that I couldn't get a hold of Veronica's medical files that set it off, Scully."

Scully's face fell, and she looked back at him. "Mulder, what does this have to do with Veronica."

Mulder leaned back in the chair, the words a blow to his chest. He didn't know how he was going to tell her. There was no kind or gentle way to tell her.

This information wasn't made to be told.

He slipped the vile from his coat pocket, and set it on the table, sliding it to her. "Byers found this. In Nevada, hidden away in a secret office in the walls of the hospital. In a cold storage unit in a drawer with your name on it."

"A tissue sample." Scully muttered, examining the vile. Somehow, the pieces of what Mulder was telling her were falling together, but she didn't want to know them. Her subconscious was denying was her conscience needed.

"Scully, here are DNA samples that we got from the file," he placed a transparency on the table, littered with the DNA fingerprinting of somebody. He pushed it toward her and she looked at it, frowning.

"Scully, that is the DNA we pulled up in the files. This is your DNA coding."

Scully studied it for a second, and nodded. "And?"

He pulled out another. "This is another we got from the files. It is Veronica's DNA coding," he took the first transparency from Scully, and placed the second one on top of it. He handed it back to her.

"They match." The two DNA codings exactly overlapped, exactly alike.

"What does this mean, Mulder?" Scully somehow made herself talk.

"You know as well as me, Scully. This isn't a parental test; this is the exact DNA. You and Veronica have the exact same DNA," he sighed. "Have you ever noticed the uncanny alikeness you two share?"

"She is a clone of me."

The two sat in silence, Scully staring down at the two transparencies. Scully picked up the vile in her hand, holding it up. "And this is what they got it from?"

"Your abduction, Scully. Emily was your child, your ova was used to produce her. The ova They stole from you when you were abducted." He pointed to the vile. "This is from a tissue sample They took and cloned. They used that tissue sample to produce Veronica, and somehow They injected you with it, so you carried a clone of yourself to full term."

Scully shook her head. "Why, Mulder? What would be the point of having me carry a clone of myself? What does that do for Them?"

Mulder sighed. "That's what we don't yet know. The Gunmen were able to download the files, but they only were able to decode these files at this point.

They are working on the rest of them. The other files should hold the final answers."

Scully nodded, setting the transparencies on the table. "And, we still need to find out what her cancer has to do with all of this?"

Mulder nodded. "I didn't say I had any answers Scully. Just information that I couldn't hide from you any longer," he sighed, remembering a detail that he must tell Scully. "There is something else."

"Your abduction." Scully nodded. "Somehow your abduction fits into this."

"Byers said that as he was leaving the cold storage unit, he saw another drawer," he sighed, looking down. "The drawer had my name on it, Scully."

Scully was silent for a moment, and then her hand snaked across the table to grasp his. Somewhere, now, there was a clone of Fox Mulder. She knew it. And, she wanted to know why. Why they were cloning people, why she was being tortured by watching herself die. They sat in silence, wondering what was to come of such horrible matters.

Suddenly, his phone rang. Scully's heart rose at the sound, part of her hoping it was the Gunmen with the answers. The answers that might save Veronica's life. Clone or not, Scully had carried her, given birth to her, and watched her grow. She wasn't giving up yet.

"Mulder."

"You are making a mistake, Mulder."

Mulder's eyes widened, his face reddening. "Who is this?"

"We found the transmitter, Mulder. Don't think that we don't know what is going on. We know now that you know what we are hiding. But, documents are easily faked. It's the real live proof that you needed to watch."

"Veronica."

"Leave your nose where it belongs, Agent Mulder, and let us do our job."

Mulder stood up, outraged. "I swear if you touch-"

But before he could even finish his threat, the line went dead. Mulder turned back to where Scully had been sitting, but she was already gone. Gone back to the hospital.

But, somehow, Mulder knew it was too late.


Krycek hung up the phone, settling back into his chair, a tiny smile playing on his lips. He didn't know why he did that; it wasn't like hurting people made him feel good. It just didn't effect him. He had been human at one point, he knew it, but somehow, through the generations of the Syndicate, his evolvement with the Project, he had lost all feeling. He was not longer happy, sad, disappointed impressed. He just was. He remembered when he had tried to look out for Mulder. Tried to be his friend. It had been the right thing to do...

Krycek sighed, glancing out the window. Skinner was right, he was a traitor.

He was even a traitor to himself.

"She has been transferred from the hospital." Barret stood before him, handing Krycek a stack of papers. "She is presently being transported to the lab."

"Tell Müller to get the tests done immediately, and then exterminate the girl."

Krycek took a glass of brandy from the table beside him and took a sip. "Also, destroy the testing wing of St. Peter's Hospital. I don't want to risk this being leaked. The last thing we need is to be destroyed in a way that the last Syndicate wasn't even foolish enough to cause." Krycek stood. "The Project will succeed," he told Barret. "Scully has proved it."


"Okay, what do you have?" Mulder pulled a chair over and sat down. He was impatient, and mad. Mad because Veronica had been taken. Mad because he couldn't run after Scully, comfort her, make sure that she would make it through this.

Most of all, he was mad because he didn't know why. Why Scully had to suffer like this, why her daughter had been taken from her, why everyone she loved had to be ripped from her just when things were getting good.

He knew this from experience.

The Gunmen were stressed, tired, and woozy. Somehow, it began to occur to Mulder that Scully had been the only one around him that had slept in the last three days. And, she was always woken by nightmares, taunted by the wasting away of the only person that she loved with all her heart and soul. The only person that she had left.

No, she had him. She had Mulder.

"We've cracked the code," Langly explained. "Right now the computer is doing all the work."

"But, we have bumped into some security measures on the way," Byers noted.

"It's taking longer than we suspected. We have very little of the files decoded."

"Well, at this point, we don't have anymore time," Mulder said bluntly. "If we don't find out exactly what is going on here, soon, we might lose Veronica." He shook his head. "And I can't do that to Scully. I won't let it happen, not again."

Frohike and Langly glanced helplessly at the computer screen that was working away at decoding the files. Byers slipped a hand in his pocket, pulling out a piece of paper. "Mulder, we do have one thing."

Mulder took the paper and glanced at it. "A phone number?"

"It's a local DC number."

Mulder nodded. "Yeah, but what does it have to do with anything?"

Byers opened his mouth as if to respond, but he was cut off by Langly.

"Hey, Mulder, we're on a roll."

Mulder rushed to the computer, peering over the Gunmens' shoulders to take a look at the computer. Mulder's heart sank when he saw, really, how little had been decoded. Though a few files had been completely decoded, there were missing ones that made Mulder fear that the decoded files would make as much sense as the coded ones. But the Gunmen were convinced that they could crack it. And, Mulder believed in them.

It was Frohike, who had cut front of the group and was staring at the computer screen intently, that spoke first.

"Will somebody find out where in the hell Scully's abduction files are?"

It took them too long to find them, an eternity to Mulder who could only stand by and watch the Gunmen fly through the collection of "junk" in their office that only they could understand the organization of. Byers was the one that found Scully's files, next to a pile of files that had been built up over cases they had been "involved" with relating to the X-Files. Byers took a moment to recognize the file on top, the one of Gibson Praise that had been handed to them a decade ago. They really needed to toss some of this junk in the garbage, he noted.

Meanwhile, Mulder had been trying to read the files over Frohike's shoulder.

"This mentions Scully's name a few times," Frohike said, eyes glued to the screen. "It refers to her as test subject 1a."

"It's referring to Veronica, Frohike. It also says something about groups."

Mulder studied the computer screen. The computer next to it was working away at what was left of the remaining files, transferring them to the computer the two men were reading when is was done. It was going very slowly, and Mulder feared the worst. "Test groups, with children."

"Got it." Byers plopped the file down on the desk before Frohike, who began to leaf through it.

"It also mentions something about the activation of DNA... but..." Mulder sighed, shaking his head. "These files were written for the people who started the Project. Not people trying to learn about what it is. It makes so little sense."

"Don't lose hope, G-man," Frohike muttered. "If you lose it, we all will. And that is the last thing Scully or Veronica need right now."

Byers was leaning over Frohike's shoulder at Scully's tattered file, and suddenly his eyebrows rose.

Mulder had known the Gunmen for too long, and he knew that look. "What, Byers?"

Byers didn't respond, and instead rushed over to the area where he had first found Scully's file. He picked up two other files and rushed back over, squeezing in beside Frohike and tossing the file on the desk. "Look at Scully's DNA chart, and it shows massive mutations throughout the DNA. Only, it looks a little familiar..." he flipped through the new file, Mulder's heart rising with every page turn. Suddenly, Byers let the pages flop to the table and removed another DNA chart. He set it beside Scully's.

"What is that, Byers?"

"It's another DNA chart, from Gibson Praise," he glanced over at Mulder. "It shows the same massive mutations in the same areas as Scully's..." he removed the second file and flipped through again, removing another DNA chart. "This one does too."

"And what the hell is that?"

"A third DNA chart, Mulder. From eight years ago." He looked up Mulder, shaking his head. "It's your DNA chart."

Mulder sat in silence, reviewing those last years of his life, everything that had happened... "The Junk DNA." Mulder leaned closer to the files. "This shows activation of the Junk DNA."

"But why would they activate the Junk DNA, Mulder?"

"To talk to the aliens..."

Suddenly, things began to fall in place for Mulder. Somehow, things began to make sense. Scully's abduction, her cancer when the chip was removed.

Veronica's cancer now, the fact that Cancerman had been dying when she had last seen him. And, his abduction. Somehow, in some way, he solved the puzzle.

"The activation of the Junk DNA makes it possible to talk to aliens because you become one. Or, an alien human hybrid."

Frohike stared at the three charts, understanding what Mulder was getting at.

"Yeah, I see. But, why was it killing Scully and you, but not Gibson?"

"They were too old," Langly said. "It has to be put in the children when they are young enough for their body to grow to accept the new DNA, or it will kill them. When they are babies..."

"The new, foreign DNA can be accepted." Byers finished. "But, this doesn't explain why these kids are dying of cancer. And it doesn't explain Scully's cancer."

"Maybe the cancer is just a fence they have to get over, once the DNA is activated." Langly mused aloud. "What if the DNA was activated, but because of the interference of the human DNA, it would cause cancer. Then, somehow, it overcomes it."

"So, Veronica wouldn't have been dying," Mulder said. "But, what about Scully's cancer? And why, if my Junk DNA was activated, didn't I start to die of cancer?"

"Scully's cancer wasn't activated until she had removed the chip from her neck," Byers said.

The room was still for a moment, but the silence was rippled when, somehow, Mulder found the strength and the courage to raise his hand, sliding his hand up his chest and behind his neck, where is rested for a moment. He grimaced slowly.

"The chip. Somehow, the chip must stop the activation of the Junk DNA. It saves the person..."

Mulder stood then, realizing the meaning of the chip. "Byers, can I have that phone number?" Byers nodded, handing Mulder the paper. He grabbed a phone, dialing a number.

"Hello, I need an address for a local number."

He scribbled on the paper, nodding to the phone. After he hung up, he met the gazes of the Gunmen.

"We still don't understand a lot. An awful lot. But you three need to get down to the hospital and give this to Scully," he handed the paper to them. "She will understand it, trust me. And, if I am right, this will lead us to Veronica... and hopefully, exactly what we are looking for."

He got up, walking from the room. He turned for a moment, just a moment, and looked at the Gunmen. "Hey, guys, thanks for all your help. Please, take care of Scully."

He had already disappeared from sight when the Gunmen began to realize how dangerous this was becoming.

Two decades of searching was coming to a head. And, it never occurred to the three that once they reached it, they might want to pull out.


"This is crazy!" Scully yelled, surprising even her mother. "This place is croweded with people, and no one saw an unconscious dying girl being carried out of the hospital?" She turned, panicked, wondering where the hell Mulder was. He wasn't far behind her, she knew that. But where was he "Ms. Scully, please-"

"Don't 'Ms. Scully' me! My daughter has disappeared, her doctor is nowhere to be found, and no one is raising a finger to help me find my little girl!" Scully felt the tears rising up in her throat, and her mother was suddenly behind her, taking her by the shoulders and leading her to a seat. Scully collapsed on the couch, and the police officer that was trying to calm her followed close behind.

"Ms. Scully, we are going to do everything we can..."

"Then please, just do it," Maggie Scully said sharply. "We don't want pity or hollow promises. I just want my grand-daughter to be found."

The officer shook his head and turned away, heading into the group of officers that already surrounded the hospital room.

"Mom, I don't know what to do..." Scully whispered, hugging her mother tightly.

"How did you know?" Maggie asked, holding her daughter tightly back. "How did you know Veronica had been taken?"

Scully had debated telling her mother. About the clones, the tests. What Veronica really was. But it was at that moment that she decided not to, not to drag her family into this insane crusade. She had already lost her sister to Them, and both of her daughters now. She wasn't ready to sacrifice the only people she had left. She refused to.

"I just knew," she whispered.

Maggie nodded, accepting. She knew that Dana was hiding something, but if it had been too important she would have said something, she would have shared it.

But, Maggie trusted her daughter with all her heart, and knew that, in the long run, she would do what was right. She knew that Dana and Fox had been involved in some deadly and dangerous situations, and that there was more in their job that Dana had ever shared with her. But Maggie also knew that Dana did what was safest, and whatever she was hiding was probably best if it stayed hidden.

"Dana." Bill Jr. looked down from where he stood at his sister's side, collapsed in her mother's arms. He reached down and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. The police who had endless questions for him had distracted him, since he was the only one around Veronica before the disappearance. It scared him, what was happening to his sister. First, that little girl that Dana had believed had been her daughter. And now, Veronica, who was her daughter.

"Agent Scully!" A voice echoed down the hall. Everyone's head moved toward the voice, where three shaggy and tired looking men stood.

Scully raised her head and turned, and saw them. "Oh God," she said simply.

She landed a kiss on her mother's cheek and stood up, walking passed Bill to where they stood.

"What is going on?" she demanded. "Where is Mulder?"

"We know where he is, Scully," Langly said, pulling out a sheet of paper.

"But, there is something we need to tell you before you go chasing after him."

Scully raised her eyebrow and accepted the paper. "What is it?"

"It's what these men are doing. All of it," Frohike said. "These bastards are producing children and testing them. Using them for their own sick purposes."

Byers sighed. "We haven't been able to decode all of the files, but we have gathered enough evidence to understand what may be going on here. The government is using the activation of Junk DNA, like in Gibson and Mulder and also in you, to create the alien human hybrids."

"What does this have to do with me? And Veronica?"

"Well, from what we decoded, we understood that you, er, she was referred to as '1a.'" Byers glanced at the others. "From what we can understand, she is the first of whatever they are testing. Thus, at some point, we believe they had to take her back."

Scully's heart exploded with fear. She wanted her daughter back and she wanted her now. What little memories she had of her abduction came flowing back, full speed, and she clutched the paper in her hand tighter, holding her breath.

"But why me? That doesn't explain why I would be injected with my own clone?"

"Well." Byers looked uncomfortable. "At first, we assumed easy access. But, before we left, we caught a little more of the decoded files."

"It mentioned something about the 'last Syndicate.' Also, someone by the name of 'Spender.' It was in an unclear context concerning the conception of Veronica." Langly added.

Scully shuttered, realizing why the conception of Veronica had been so unclear.

"He injected me with her fetus. He made me think that he was trying to help me, trying to give me something that I needed, that the world needed. In reality, he was taking advantage of me."

"Who?" Byers frowned. Scully looked up at him.

"The Cigarette Smoking Man. C.G.B. Spender."

The four stood in silence for a painful eternity, somehow soaking in what they had most recently learned. Finally, Scully, lost as to what she should do next, raised that hand that she held the piece of paper in and looked at it. First, a phone number in Byers' writing. Under that was an address that was jotted quickly, in Mulder's hand writing. Somewhere in the back of her mind she felt as if she recognized the phone number. She stared at the numbers intently, knowing that these numbers, and her memory, held the key to something important.

(202) 555-1030.

It took a while for the realization to sink in, but once she realized she recognized the number, she knew exactly what was going on.

"Oh my God," she whispered. The Gunmen exchanged looks, and Frohike gave her an odd look.

"This number... seven years ago..." She raised the paper. "The Cancerman gave me this number seven years ago. He took me, he told me that he could give me the cure for every disease known to man..."

Suddenly, the memories returned. The pieces fell together, and she knew. She knew why he had taken her. She knew why he had needed her.

"This is it," she muttered, looking up at the Gunmen. "This is why. This is where it started." Her hand dropped to her side, and she breathed deeply. "And this is where it must end."

Scully turned and marched back to her mother. The Gunmen watched as she told her something quietly, and then turned. Before she could head back, though, her brother grabbed her arm and turned her toward him. The Gunmen could hear him clear down the hall.

"Dana, you daughter is missing. If this is because of that Mulder-"

The slap, the sound of Scully's hand hitting her brother's cheek, echoed through the hospital. The world seemed to stand still for a moment, as if Scully had hit the whole world, and not just her brother. Scully spoke.

"Bill, this is because of me."

She turned from him then, rushing down the hall to the Gunmen, where they turned and had to speed-walk to keep up with her pace.

The paper was clutched in a death grip in Scully's hand, as if it was the only thing that could keep her alive, the only thing that could keep her sane. And in a way, it was. She asked, "Does Mulder know about this number?"

Byers nodded. "That's where he is, Scully. He's the one that found the address."

"I have to get him."

"Wait, hold up a minute, G-woman," Frohike cut in. "We're still in the dark here. I don't know about these two, but I'm letting the both of you go off without having any Idea of what's going on!"

Scully froze, sighing. Frohike was right. Mulder and she had worked with them though their time on the X-Files. She had struggled to keep in touch with them after his abduction, as if knowing them would keep what had happened over the last eight years alive, as if her never losing them would prove that all they had done had not been in vain.

They deserved to know.

"Cancerman." She sighed. "When he gave me that disk, the one that was supposed to have the 'recipe' to cure all the illnesses of mankind. In reality, he did need me, to a point, so that he could destroy whatever was on that disk. But, he also needed me to carry on his experiment." She looked over the faces of the men before her, hoping that they understood what she was saying. This was hard for her. Very hard. "He told me that he had an 'affection' for Mulder and me. He said that was the only reason we were alive. He said he wanted to help me...and somehow, I think he did. When he told me that, I tried to block it out, tried to pretend that he was lying to me but he wasn't."

She turned away this time, not sure of how she was to say this. It didn't bother her so much about breaking the news to them more than it did breaking it to herself. As if saying it in words would make it materialize, make it true, and she knew that she could only say it once. Once, and it would be said. And after that, it was true, and there was not taking it back. Somehow, she hoped saying it would cure it. Cure Veronica's cancer, bring her back, in some magical way. Maybe if she said it aloud it would be true, but also make it better.

"He was telling the truth because, as I looked in his eyes, I saw that he was. He did care about me... in his way. And so he put Veronica in me." She closed her eyes. "To carry on his experiment because he knew he was dying and this was his only chance to keep his Project going the way he wanted it. And because, in his twisted mind, he thought he was giving me what I wanted." She blinked hard, knowing that soon she may cry. Not for herself, and not so much for Veronica, but for him, that sorry son of a bitch that did this to her, to Mulder, to himself. In a way, she felt sorry for him. "He was giving me my only chance of ever being a mother. My chance for immortality."

They stood in a dark and eerie silence, and somehow, to Scully's discomfort, saying it aloud had not made it better. Only true. Only alone, sad and true.

She held up the paper. "I need to go."

She started to walk quickly, followed by the Gunmen who didn't even hesitate to follow. As soon as she sensed them following her, she froze, throwing them off track as they stumbled to stop.

"I'm going. You need to stay here."

Byers shook his head and Langly said, "No way are you going alone!"

Scully looked them each in the eye, one by one. "I won't be alone. Mulder will be there. And, I refuse to put three more lives in danger because of this. I have already lost four people I love so much to this charade, and I refuse to let Them have you." She shoved the paper back in Langly's hand. "I'll be back. Until then, hang onto this."

Scully began to walk again, her tennis shoes silent, moving her along flawlessly and noiselessly as if she were only a ghost, wondering the lost halls of the hospital, searching for something she had lost. Or maybe, searching for the meaning of something she had found. Alone.

No, she was not alone. She had Mulder. And she had herself.


10:13pm

Scully looked out the window of the taxi, her heart beating uncontrollably. She knew she had her hopes too high; after almost two decades of being let down she knew that she needed to watch that. But, in this case, the case of her daughter, she knew she had to keep hope. Because if she lost hope, fell into a dark abyss of despair, Veronica would be lost forever.

Scully passed the time and lighted her spirits as she tried to recall the best memories of her time with her daughter. Veronica's second birthday, the first time in years that the entire Scully family was together. Tara and Bill had flown out there with young Matthew, Charles and Marie had driven from Arkansas with Michael and Marjorie, their two children. Maggie was there, of course, and so was Walter.

But thinking about that event somehow made her sad, too. Sad that, even though she felt she was with everyone, Mulder had not been there. She tried to think of other memories, when she and Veronica were the closest and the happiest. But, somehow, in every memory, she could never clearly see Veronica's face. Somehow, Veronica always looked like Emily.

And that was what made Scully fear that she would lose Veronica forever, like she had Emily.

"Okay, Lady, here it is." The taxi stopped before the large building.

Scully was frozen for a moment. Here it was, the building that held may hold her daughter. And certainly held her and Veronica's fate. Suddenly, Scully was very frightened.

She opened the door, handing the driver a wad of money, and standing there, watching the building closely. She could see some lights, but most of it was dark. Somewhere, in that mess of lights and life, Mulder was searching away.

Somewhere, her daughter was cold and alone, waiting for someone to save her. It scared Scully, that Veronica was, at this moment, wondering why mommy let this happen. Why mommy had left her side. If she was even still alive.

The taxi pulled away, its tires screeching into the night, its taillight's disappearing like the UFO's Mulder had spent his life searching for.

Disappearing like Scully's dreams. She shivered, even though the night air was warm, knowing that everything she had been though would never prepare her for what she knew she was about to go through. Some voice, the same stupid voice that brought up how dangerous her job would be the day she chose to join the FBI, tried to explain to her that she might die here. But she ignored it, that stupid voice, since she no longer feared death. After all that she had seen in her life with the FBI, all of the suffering and pain that she had seen, death was nothing to fear.

She made it, somehow, to the front steps, climbing up to the door. A form of deja vu overtook her mind, but she knew where it was from, that she had been there before. This is where it started, and this is where it will end. She tried the door, it accepting to her advances and opening quietly, letting her know the secrets that lay behind it. She walked in, surveying the room, not knowing what to expect.

She recalled guards the time when she had come here, but there were none, now.

The desk was empty, and Scully didn't think twice about quickly crossing the threshold to the elevator. What floor? What floor?

She paused for a minute, her ears listening to hear any movement. She heard nothing, and sneaked carefully to the main entrance desk. She pulled open the first drawer, being presented with a white binder. She had pulled it out and opened it, already searching for the name before her common sense got the better of her. Then, she found it.

She didn't know how she knew to look for that name... she just had. Instinct, maybe. Maybe the fact that it made too much sense.

Krycek, Alex - Office 924

She went there, now on autopilot, riding the elevator up without incident.

When the door slid open, she had her breath held, half expecting someone to pop out and discover who she was, and take her out. But, the hall was empty.

She moved down the hall slowly, searching each office door for the number. As she walked she began to wonder how this place could be so empty. Yes, it was late, but within these walls held secrets that, if were ever spoken, my hold the end of life as we knew it. And, no one would leave those secrets unguarded.

But, there was no guard. No movement about, as if this building was as vacant as it had been the day she had brought Mulder here to see, and had found only an empty room.

But it couldn't be empty, it simply couldn't. For if it was, they were back at square one, and Veronica was lost forever. And that was simply not an option.

She found the room, his name plate proclaiming, almost proudly, "A. L. Krycek," as if it was an honor to be called by such a name.

And, all of the sudden, an urge came over Scully, an urge to rip that name plate off the wall, to take it in her bear hands and crack it in half, to tear it pieces, to throw it to the ground and stamp it with her feet and spit upon it, as if doing so would undo all the wrong that he had given so cruelly to the people she loved. But, she knew the juvenile trick would only raise suspicion, make her feel and look silly, and do nothing from then on, except leave behind a tattered, dirty, saliva covered nameplate above the crimson carpet. And, she would be back at the beginning, as hopeless as ever.

Her hand rested on the doorknob, feeling its smooth surface and cold metal beneath her trembling hand, as if telling her this is what lies ahead; the cold, hard truth.

The door was not locked, which frightened her, but at the same time, she felt more frightened by what Veronica may be going through. She did not hesitate to open the door.

The office was dark, and she stepped in, turning to run her hand over the wall to find a light so that she may search for what she was looking for. But, just as her hand found that blessed switch, she felt two strong hand grasp her shoulders harshly and pull her away from the wall, her arms flying wildly through the cool air of the room, in search of anything to help her. She opened her mouth, but before a scream could erupt from her tightened throat she was pulled into the embrace of the strong arms and broad chest. Somehow, her arms wrapped around his body, as if pleading with him to let her live. Or pleading to let her die.

It took her a horrified moment to recognize the strong hug, the arms that had embraced her so many times when she was in pain, in need, or she just needed to be held. She knew him, but his presence scared her.

"Don't speak, Dana," Walter Skinner whispered in her ear softly, his gentle lips brushing her cheek. "Not a word."

It took her another moment still to see why, why he had quieted her. From the corner of the pitch-black room, she saw a small sliver of light shining. A door.

They stood silent, and Scully could hear the quiet voices traveling through the wall. She hadn't noticed them before, in her rush to find the light, but it was then that she realized if she had turned on the light, she may have sentenced her and Walter to certain death. Or something even worse.

The voices seemed to get louder. Scully wasn't sure if they were raising their voices, or if the sound of her heartbeat banging through her ears had softened, but she could hear them better.

"There is nothing we can do, he made the deal already," a gruff voice spoke.

"There must be a way to call it off, to make sure that he doesn't give away the girl. If he does, we will lose the research."

"He had ordered her death anyway." The voice was distinct, a young man's voice.

It tugged at Scully heart, reminding her of the youth of Krycek. How he had been so young, seemingly innocent. And, somehow, the robbing of the innocence had continued through him. She had known, somewhere inside, that she had once had more hope for him than that.

"That is irrelevant," the gruff voice shot. "She will not kill the girl, and Krycek knows that."

"The exchange is taking place as we speak," the young man said. "There is not stopping it."

"Yes," the voice said. "But there is a way to retract the situation."

"Kill Alex?"

The young boy's voice sounded uncomfortable. "I'm not sure how good an idea that is. Spender wanted him to carry..."

"Spender was the one that made this mistake from the beginning. He was to soft as the years wore on. Cared too much for Mulder. And look were it brought him."

"Besides," the second man added on. "Alex's past with Marita is too dangerous. She is working against us, and it can only bring trouble. He will give in to her."

Scully's eyes widened against Skinner's embrace, and she tried to pull away.

She couldn't listen to this anymore; she needed to find Mulder.

She wiggled her way from him, almost running from his as she lunged for the door, yanking it open, letting the light from the hallway spill in, squinting in the alien light as she lunged from the sleep-like darkness, into the light of life. She felt Skinner close behind, and she heard the door slip shut quietly.

She didn't wait for him, but kept up her pace as she stumbled through the hallway. He caught up to her, however, and she knew that she would have to meet his gaze, accept the fact that he was becoming part of this. Or, maybe he already was.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"Dammit, Dana." He struggled to keep up to her fluctuating pace. "I'm trying to help."

"Did Mulder tell you that he was coming here?"

He didn't answer. She feared his answer, if he was to ever present one. She had never wanted to see him lie. But she knew that if he was involved, he would have to.

"Scully, I saved your life."

"You saved your own."

"Then, I was obviously not supposed to be there," he grabbed her arm suddenly and harshly, and she pitched forward, regaining her balance and spinning to face him. She wrenched her arm from his grasp, looking him in the eyes.

"Where is Agent Mulder, sir?"

His face fell with the use of the word "sir," as if their closeness of the years had evaporated in such a short, random moment. She was no longer viewing him as a friend, but as an advisor, someone that may be able to help her. But he had lost her trust.

"You won't get to him, Scully," he said. "It's too late. He followed Krycek to the meeting place, were the exchange will be made."

"What 'exchange'?"

"The exchange of Veronica for information Marita has about the aliens. About the invasion."

She slapped him, so hard that her hand stung after the contact. She drew her hand back, and his face did not regain its composure. He did not look her in the eyes.

"I had no choice, Dana."

"You told me once you'd give your life for me. For my daughter."

"I would-"

She slapped him again. This time her regained his footing and looked at her face.

"I have been lied to ever since I started on the X-Files. Mulder and you were the only people I felt I could ever trust in my field." Her eyes flowing over with tears, he knew that he had blown it. He knew that she would never forgive him. "I can accept when someone lies to me." Her glare was like a dagger, piercing his soul. "But I can not accept lies to my child."

She turned from him then, even though she had nowhere to go and no way to get there. He knew that she was beyond the point of understanding, beyond the point of empathy. She would never forgive him.

And he stood, as he watched her confused and frightened, as she left his side.

Suddenly, as if she still had a small glimmer of hope that maybe, somehow, he would have pity on her, she turned back to face him, her face stained with the tears of a thousand heartbreaks.

He knew he had a choice, knew that it was his life or Veronica's. He had loved them both dearly, even passed that day when Dana told him, quietly, that "it" wasn't working. Through thick in thin, for better or worse, he had held her hand through cancer and gunshots and pain and torture... and now he was turning his back on her? He had a decision to make. Veronica, or him.

He made the decision, and after hearing him speak, Scully turned her back from him.


Marita Covarrubias had not changed out of her suit. Her hair was still up in a bun, and she was tired from the plane ride from Nevada. She stood in the warehouse, clutching her purse, with only her mind and her memory to help her, only her heart and her soul to protect her. She had come prepared, only because she knew there was no way to prepare for this event. So, she didn't.

Mulder watched her from far above, in the rafters, as helpless as she. Her presence had surprised him when she entered the warehouse calmly, but somehow he was comforted. Maybe by the fact that there was still hope. Maybe by the fact that Skinner had, indeed, not lied to him. He just prayed that Scully did not know where he was, that she was somehow still in that office building alone, unknowing to what was about to happen. That the life of her daughter was going to be used as a gambling chip, that there was a person that had so much power over her daughters life that Veronica was only to him a lab rat, a life that, if lost, meant almost nothing.

And Mulder knew that if Scully found this out, she would have the power to kill Alex Krycek with her bare hands. He knew that she would, and she would lose her daughter if she did. And he could never wish such a fate on someone he loved.

The only thing he feared was that his own instinct would take over, and during the exchange, he would kill both Krycek and Marita. And, in the long run, that could put the stake of Veronica, the stake of the world, in definite danger.

And he had no right to do that.

It had taken what seemed like a lifetime to get the information out of Skinner.

Lately, a lot of events seemed to take a lifetime. Mulder had found him in the office building, shuffling around the files in Krycek's office like a rat, and Mulder almost killed him there. It had taken about a half an hour of threats and names to get Skinner to talk at all; what had done it was bringing up Skinner's past with Scully. Mulder knew that, somehow, Skinner had loved Scully and Veronica dearly, though he had a feeling that the relationship had been encouraged by Krycek, in some way to keep track of Scully. Or maybe to make her forget about Mulder.

Mulder knew the government feared him. Feared his involvement with the X-Files, his loyalty to Scully, and to his Quest. Skinner feared him, he had sensed.

But, Mulder believed that Skinner did not fear his lack of sanity, or his need for justice. Instead, Skinner feared what little sanity Mulder had left; for that was how Mulder judged. Skinner had told him then, where the exchange was to happen. He told him that Veronica would not be killed, if the exchange were completed. She would be tested, used, experimented on. Mulder realized that Veronica's fate before the exchange was less fearful, more humane.

"If I do not get Veronica back, I will kill you," he told Skinner. It was not a threat, but a promise. A promise that Skinner's partnership with the enemy would not go unpunished. That his betrayal would not be forgotten.

Mulder was lost in thought when he heard the door of the warehouse open, and he noticed Marita stir uncomfortably. He feared Marita, her and Krycek's power over his future. Over Scully's. He knew that the next ten minutes would make or break him, and that in the next few minutes, he might discover the Truth. Or lose his mind.

"You have the child?" Marita stepped forward, trying to look strong, prepared for what was to come.

Krycek came into Mulder's view slowly. He was alone. "I have the child. She is being kept somewhere else. You actually think I would bring her with me?"

Mulder's hands turned to fists, his knuckles turning white. He was screwed.

Veronica wasn't even here.

"That wasn't the deal, Alex. The deal was, you bring the child, and I would bring the information that you wanted."

"I am putting an awful lot at stake here, Marita. A lot more than the life of a six-year-old clone. A lot more than my life or yours. The Project is at stake. More so now that Mulder has been returned."

Marita laughed. "We do not fear Mulder as the Syndicate does. The only thing at stake for us is our immortality." She leaned closer, looking Krycek in the eye. "But we understand, Alex, that everything dies. Sooner or later."

They stood in silence, and then Krycek turned. He disappeared from Mulder's sight for a while, Mulder almost fearing that he had called off the exchange.

That there was no longer anything to hope for. But soon he returned again.

This time, he was guiding a little girl, blindfolded, gagged, and handcuffed.

Veronica.

"Give me the information about the aliens, and you can have the girl."

Marita stepped forward, toward Veronica, and squatted down in front of the girl.

She removed the blindfold, and Veronica stared at her with terrified, groggy eyes.

"Müller kept her unconscious in the hospital. She just woke up about an hour ago."

"Did you do anything to her?"

"A deal is a deal, Marita. We haven't touched her."

Suddenly, Marita produced, from the purse over her arm, a large manila folder. She stood, handing the folder to him. "Everything you want to know about the invasion."

"Mulder's return?"

"Everything, Alex. Everything you wanted to know."

Suddenly, it dawned on Mulder what was going on. That was the exchange, and it was almost over. It wasn't going to be a big deal, a bunch of government officials signing contracts and exchanging information. This was it. He knew he had to move now, or he would lose Veronica.

He made his way down the stairs, quietly, until he was on the bottom floor.

Marita and Krycek were at the other end of the room, but Mulder knew with a little luck and good aim he could at least take out Krycek, and have enough time to grab Veronica and take down Marita without a second thought.

He pulled his glock from its holster and crept behind a pile of boxes, taking aim at Krycek. Veronica was a good distance away, but Mulder was not sure of his shot. If he fired, but it was too low, he could have a chance of hitting Veronica. He didn't want to take any chances, but he was running out of time.

Mulder decided to wait until Krycek had moved a safe distance from Veronica.

Mulder, under any other circumstances, might have let him get away just for Veronica's safety... but this was Krycek. And there was no way he was getting out of this alive.

In the Academy, during shooting training, the agents-in-training always aimed at the 'target'. They didn't shoot a man in the chest, they 'took out the center mass'. They didn't kill a human being, they 'disposed of the target.' Mulder always feared that the first time he ever killed anyone, he would be overcome with grief by his taking of a human life. But, that was not how it worked. He realized, over time, rights and morals are relative. If one man believes it is within his rights to murder and mutilate, to rape and conquer, then it should be within another's rights to do so to him. It may not be right, but in a way, it was still fair.

After all Mulder had seen, he believed that. And, the fears he had as a rookie agent-in-training dissipated, and he no longer had a problem seeing the 'target' as a person with a name. He saw 'the center mass' as the flesh and blood that held that person's life. But, he saw Veronica that way, too. Mulder's carefully looked over Krycek.. He was not the 'target', he was Alex L. Krycek, murderer, traitor, coward, liar. He was Alex L. Krycek, human being, who believed it in his power to hurt and kill. Mulder took steady aim.

Krycek turned and walked away. He was walking a quickly, and Mulder was a little afraid that his shot wouldn't meet up with the criminal. But, then, an amazing thing happened.

"Alex..." Marita called, and he paused, turning to look at her.

Mulder fired the gun.

The shot exploded through the space in the warehouse, and suddenly Krycek careened through the air onto his back.

Mulder, in a lightening flash, stood and ran, faster than he had ever run before, across the warehouse door to where Veronica and Marita stood.

Veronica had not been re-blindfolded, and she recognized him as he came toward her. She tried to call out his name, but all that came out was a muffled scream, her lips still sealed with the strong tape. She tried to run, but Marita reached out suddenly, grabbing the girls hospital gown and pulling her harshly, sending her flying behind her, smacking down to the concrete below. The girl screamed, her cries mixed with pain and fear, muffled by the binding of her tiny mouth. The disrupted scream went straight through Mulder's bones and into his soul, and he knew that she was hurt, she needed his help, he had to get to her.

Marita glanced behind her, as if to make sure her precious ticket to immortality was still alive and well, and not beyond repair. Veronica stared past her, at Mulder, her eyes widened, and Mulder couldn't help recalling Scully, looking up at him in despair, knowing that he was the only one who could save her. And looking at him with the total faith that he would save her.

But, her knew that she was, in a way, Scully. But even if their DNA was almost exact, their souls were different, she was still Scully's daughter, and in a way his, and he needed to save her.

Marita stood her ground between the two, not moving an inch. He stood before her, tearing his eyes away from Veronica to look Marita in the eye, as if to challenge her. Which, he was.

"Mulder, you are making a mistake."

Mulder glared through her, as if attacking her with his eyes. He wanted to kill her then, even if the only thing she had done to hurt Veronica so far was throwing her to the side. But, Mulder knew that, indirectly, she had hurt Veronica much more than that. And, if she had the chance, she would continue to hurt her. He looked back to Veronica, her once clean face, her olive skin, stained with her tears and smudged with dirt, her whimpers barely audible through the masking tape. Yes, he wanted to kill Marita.

He turned from her, for a second, to see where Krycek had lain after being shot.

He was gone. Mulder, somehow, had known that he would be. The only thing that remained was his lone prosthetic arm, lying, in pieces, almost alone, on the cold concrete. Like Veronica. Krycek had gotten what he wanted, and left, leaving Marita to fight, and die, if necessary. Mulder knew that when he had fired he had hit Krycek, but the splintered pieces of arm didn't lighten his spirits, but only told him where the bullet had contacted.

He turned away, back to Marita, his heart sinking at her cold stare.

"What did you give him?"

"The answers he wanted."

Mulder grew angry, but he didn't dare strike Marita. Even though he knew of the evil she hid within, he still could not bring up the silly courage to hit a "girl." "What answers? About the aliens?"

"The invasion. The aliens. Your abduction."

"What the hell do I have to do with this?"

"The Smoking Man betrayed the aliens," Marita said. "You know that. At least, you should."

"I don't remember my abduction."

"Of course you don't. It was I that repaired what the Smoking Man had done. That is why you were returned, because the aliens chose to comply, and continue the Project. Only, we are continuing it in the way they didn't plan."

"The Junk DNA, right? I could talk to the aliens... if I had to. That is why they took me, to cut off contact with you."

Marita smiled, almost as if she were amused. "You are catching on, Mulder. Maybe you could become one of us, soon."

Mulder turned away, and didn't reply to her comment. "How did you make the deal? If you couldn't talk to the aliens?"

"Who said I couldn't talk, Mulder? I was infected with the black oil, you know. Much more primitive than the method we use now, but..." She smiled. "It works."

It bothered Mulder that Marita seemed to be handing the answers to him, without a second thought. But, she may be truthful in her explanations. He had been tested on with the black oil... what if that was how his Junk DNA had been activated? Delayed reaction, maybe? And, God, they were doing these tests on people. Children.

"Give me Veronica."

"Mulder, you may have the power to take this girl now, take her back." Marita sighed. "But, by bringing her with you, you will forfeit the survival of the human race to this little girl. You will kill Scully, in a way, Mulder.

Through the information we get from this subject is the only way that Scully will ever survive. We will use that information for you to live on through the invasion, as well as so many other people that can save the human race, Mulder." She looked him in the eyes. "Even Samantha will continue on."

Mulder was shocked. Sickened, and shocked. He was finally realizing what they were doing, why they were using clones. He had learned about Artificial Selection in Biology, in high school. The new Syndicate, or whomever the hell ran these tests, chose people they believed "worthy" of continuing on after the invasion, and cloned them. People that had the power to fight back, that were strong enough to live on. He shook his head.

"You think that just because Scully and I had the power to fight against you, that if you clone us, the clones will fight against the aliens the same way."

She stayed silent, and he turned slightly from her, letting his head fall back.

"Crap. You believe that? Marita, they may have our exact DNA, maybe our exact memories if you can engineer them right but... God, Marita, they won't have our soul. They won't be us, they'll just look like us."

"I didn't say I believed it, Mulder, but my superiors do, and they are the ones calling the shots here." She sighed. "Right or not, they will save the world. And, if you take Veronica, you will set back years of research, Mulder. She is the first successful alien-human clone." She shook her head. "We had another, long ago, but she escaped. Her death set us years back..." Marita pointed to the small, helpless six year-old girl, frightened out of her mind, probably in pain. "If we lose her, we run the risk of the invasion occurring when we are not prepared. If it does, Mulder, the existence of the human race is at stake."

Mulder looked at Veronica, his heart pounding in his ears. He had never been so afraid. If she was telling the truth, the world was at stake, and would he be so selfish as to wipe out the human race for the life of one single child in a world of millions? A clone, that could be easily replaced and reformed.

Then, he looked her in the eyes, and he saw who she was. She wasn't a clone, replaceable and worthless. She wasn't a cheap repeat of Scully, overlooked and unwanted. She was Veronica Mari Scully, maybe with the same DNA structure, but she had different memories, a different soul. Veronica Scully, the little girl that laughed and cheated at "Go Fish"; Veronica Scully, who feared the moles in her favorite book, and begged her mother to skip that page; Veronica Scully, who had showed Dana Scully not to fear laughter, but to bask in it; who had showed Fox Mulder not to fear love, but give it freely. For when the world was at its end, when all hope was lost, laughter and love were the only things that would keep the human race alive.

And that was when he finally understood.

"Give me Veronica." He stepped forward, reaching out the push Marita aside so he could reach his little girl. Marita stepped aside at his contact, backing away from where the two stood, and watched him.

"You are making a mistake, Mulder."

"No, I'm not."

He squatted next to Veronica, taking out a tiny lock-pick that he never failed to have in his pocket, and removed the handcuffs from her hands. Then he reached out and gently pulled the masking tape from her lips, casting it away toward Marita.

"You okay, sweetheart?"

Veronica looked at him, and nodded slightly. "My side hurts. I want mommy."

"It's okay, baby." He reached out to take Veronica into his arms. But, as his hands touched her little shoulders, her eyes widened with fear and she pulled away from him.

"I can't go."

Mulder's face exploded with alarm. "What, Vee? What are you talking about?"

"I love you. Tell mommy I love her, too."

Mulder's blood ran cold, and he spoke urgently. "Veronica, what are you talking about?"

"They need me, Uncle Fox."

"Who needs you?"

She leaned forward and little, and waved her hand, beckoning him forward. He came forward as well, close to her face, until their noses almost touched.

Then, she stretched out her arm, pointing with one little finger to the sky.

"Them."

The light that suddenly exploded through the room sent Mulder sprawling through the air, landing on his butt roughly on the floor. The white light enveloped the room, as if trying to swallow the entire warehouse in a single gulp.

Mulder's heart cried out, and he remembered this, he remember this happening years ago, when he was only a child.

He groped blindly, in search of Veronica. She was probably very frightened, and he knew that she needed him, the he needed her. Needed to save her.

Suddenly, the doors of the warehouse began to slide open, letting in a muddier light, but still bright. He saw the figure there, the same figure he had seen fourteen years ago, somewhere in Puerto Rico, a shadowy figure outside the door, that he had believe to be his proof. He watched this figure closely, his hand trying desperately to soften the almost painful light. Minutes seemed to pass when suddenly, he saw another figure, that of a young girl. She reached out, her small hand grasping the shadowy figure's. Somewhere, deep inside, he found his voice, the strength the cry out.

"Veronica!"

The girl turned then, her face clear and undistorted. He saw her, his body frozen in fear and confusion and pain. Veronica no longer stood there, there was no longer the six-year-old duplicate of Dana Scully. Instead, there was nine-year-old Samantha, looking just as the last time he had seen her. The day she, like Veronica, had been taken from him.

She lifted her free hand and kissed her palm, then gathered it into a fist and threw it gently, like a baseball, toward Mulder, the invisible kiss flying toward him through the air. He had remember Samantha's habit of doing that, how she used to throw her kissballs, as she called them, to certain family members.

But, never to Mulder. When he had asked her why she simply told him, "You don't deserve it. Besides, you're my brother."

He felt his right hand rise into the air and catch the imaginary kiss into his palm, squeezing his hand tight into a fist, knowing that he would never let go.

"I love you, Fox" was all she said to him.

Suddenly, the light drew back quickly and painfully, swallowing the entire warehouse into darkness. Mulder fell onto his back, hitting the concrete hard, his breath escaping from his mouth in a single puff. He hadn't realized that he had been holding his breath the whole time. He looked out the window above him, and through the warehouse window he saw it, flying high and free into the sky.

He watched it until it disappeared high above, into a tiny little pinpoint dot of light that could have been mistaken for a star. He watched it until it was gone.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed before he regained his composure, or remembered where he was. By then, he heard the calling.

"Mulder? Mulder! Are you here? Mulder!"

He opened his mouth, first his voice just a whisper, but it built up, until he could yell as she had.

"Here, Scully! I'm over here!"

"Keep yelling and I will find you!"

Suddenly she appeared, rushing down the stairs to where he lay crumpled on the ground. She rushed to his side, falling gracefully to the floor to help him sit up. She grasped his hand, guiding him into a sitting position. He looked around the warehouse, trying to regain his senses. He noticed, as his eyes played over the building, that Marita was gone. It didn't surprise him.

"Mulder, are you okay? What happened?"

"I'm fine, Scully." She continued to check him for injuries, as if she didn't believe him. Mulder realized, after a few moments had passed, that she wasn't so much checking him for injuries as she was stalling. Veronica was no where to be seen, he had been lying helpless on the floor. She knew, but didn't want to accept.

Finally, he reached out, taking her shoulders into his hands and making her look him in the eyes. He knew that she must accept to go on, and she must go on if she was to ever find Veronica.

"I lost her."

Scully's face collapsed, and she fell into his arms. He took her into a hug, and she sobbed, uncontrollably, into him, her body shuttered with shivers and gasps. They stayed like that for a long time, until her sobs subsided and she ran out of tears. She pulled away from him then, and stood, helping Mulder weakly to stand as well. When he could hold his own, he reached out and grasped her hand in his gently.

"Scully, They didn't take her. The aliens took her. I don't think they were supposed to, but they did, I saw it. I know. And if they took her, that means that there is still hope, that maybe she will live long enough for us to find her... or for her to find us," he paused, looking into Scully's eyes. "Dana, she knew that they were going to take her. And, she believed that she needed to go. She went Scully..." he struggled, fearing that Scully wouldn't believe him. Maybe fearing that she would hate him for what he had done. "I saw one of them take her, Scully. One of the aliens. And, when she turned to me, she look like Samantha, Scully."

Scully turned her head away then, and Mulder heart sank a little. "She did Scully. I think that she was telling me that she would be okay..." His throat tightened, memories of Veronica, Emily, and Samantha invading his every sense.

He thought he was going crazy. Or, maybe he already was. "She told me to tell you that she loves you, Dana."

Scully stayed silent for a while. Finally, she turned back to him, a stray tear traveling, alone, down her smooth face. "I believe you, Mulder."

He reached up to her face, brushing the tear away with his hand. She reached up and took it, clutching it in her own.

"We will find her," Mulder said, trying to encourage her. "We still have this place, the hospital in Nevada, and the files that the Lone Gunmen had."

"Mulder," Scully looked at him, her eyes widened. "Mulder, God, you don't know."

His heart rose in sudden fear. "What, Scully?"

"Byers called me, before I got here, from the hospital..." She reached out, placing her hand gently on Mulder's arm. "They are all okay, but at the hospital they were watching the news and... The Lone Gunmen office was burned down two hours ago, Mulder," she told him, sighing. "It has already been labeled an accident, maybe the fact that a gas stove was left on, or the fact that the building was very old. But, they lost everything, Mulder. All of the files, the proof, everything. We are back at square one."

Mulder reached out again and hugged Scully, shaking his head. "They may have taken everything from us, Scully. But we can still fight. We still have each other. We are not alone."

Scully nodded in his embrace. He leaned down, kissing the top of her head gently, and resting his chin on her head.

"We are not alone."


Three Months Later

"Agents, the 'theories' that you have presented to the board, while well-spoken and addressed, seem a little... far fetched, for the little evidence that you have presented." Jana Cassidy leaned forward at her panel desk, in the center of the row of Assistant Directors. Skinner sat at her left, staring at Mulder and Scully, who sat almost nervously at a small desk across the room.

"Ma'am," Mulder said. "We have presented files as well as addresses-"

"Yes, agent Mulder." Cassidy nodded. "An address to an office building, that you claim is 'residence' to this 'Syndicate' that does these alleged tests on people. An office building, may I add, that has been deserted for almost ten years. Also, St. Peter's Hospital, where you claim that these files were taken from. A hospital that has suffered severe fire damage to the wing that you claim the files were retrieved from." Cassidy sighed. "Speaking of the files, agents Mulder, the only file you seem to have supplied us with is that of Agent Scully's disappearance almost fifteen years ago, as well as a DNA test that seems to insinuate that Agent Scully's daughter was the result of testing done by this 'Syndicate', and that she is a clone. Files, that seems circumstantial and could have easily been created to mislead or ever faked."

"Excuse me, Assistant Director Cassidy, but our you accusing of Agent Scully and me of fraud?"

"No, Agent Mulder. I am simply saying that, regardless of how these files reached your hands, whoever originally created them could have easily created fiction. Frankly, this seems like something I would read out of a Orson Scott Card novel."

"Actually, I think I read something like this in the last Nebula Awards collection book." Scully sucked in her breath, turning her head from Mulder.

He hadn't said it to be funny; he was being rude. Cassidy seemed to brush it off and continue her speech.

"Due to the 'evidence' presented before us, as well as the three requests, received by Agent Fox Mulder, Agent Dana Scully, and Assistant Director Walter Skinner, the re-opening of the X-Files will be reviewed and considered. Meeting dismissed."

Mulder and Scully stood, and the assistant directors began to filter out.

Cassidy came up to Scully, reaching her hand out to rest on Scully's shoulder.

"On a personal note, Agent Scully, I want to say that my best wishes and prayers are being sent you and your family, in hopes that your daughter will be found safely. As you know, the Bureau has assigned a few agents to the case of your daughter, and I can only hope that they will find her."

Scully nodded. "Thank you, Ma'am." Cassidy turned, and then paused, turning back to Scully.

"From the evidence you presented us, I am sure that you and Agent Mulder believe that there is more to your daughter's kidnapping that meets the eyes." She paused, as if searching for the words. "I want to say that, if it helps any, I hope the needed evidence will be found to help you continue your quest for your daughter."

Cassidy turned then, and when she was out of earshot, Mulder leaned over Scully's shoulder, whispering into her ear. "Did she just say what I think she just said?"

"She gave us her best wishes, Mulder."

The room was emptied out soon after, and only Scully, Mulder, and Skinner remained within the room. Skinner looked at the two, almost sheepishly, and sighed. Mulder could only glare at him. Though, at this point, he had no intention of killing Skinner, he still blamed him somewhat for the abduction of Scully daughter, and he felt uncomfortable around the man. On the other hand, Skinner adding a request of re-opening the X-Files to be submitted along with Mulder and Scully's really confused Mulder. He was somewhat afraid that Skinner was still working along with the Syndicate, under the guise of a friend to the agents.

Scully seemed to be just as suspicious. Mulder realized that after that night in the warehouse, Skinner had lost Scully's trust, as she was realizing that he had not been telling the truth; that it he that had possibly forfeited the life of her daughter.

He stood before them, laden with humility and sadness, and Mulder's heart seemed to soften from the look in his eyes. He almost seemed sorry.

"I want to say, if the X-Files are reopened, I think, in regards of the events that we have witnessed over the last seven years, it would be best if you reported to a new assistant director."

Mulder and Scully stood silent, somehow at a loss for words. A lot had changed over the years, but the idea of reporting to a different assistant director about the X-Files seemed very unappealing. Scully glanced at Mulder nervously, and he looked back at her, unsure of how to react. It was beginning to sink in that, over the years, even though he had always believed that he and Scully had been the X-Files team, that the trust between them was what investigated the X-Files, there was actually more members of the team than Mulder was willing to accept. Skinner was one of them; and all he had seen over the years, all he had been through with the agents, made him an important member to the group, had softened him to Mulder and Scully's decisions and rebellions. And, a new assistant director would take them back closer to the beginning, back with a boss that didn't trust them, didn't believe them.

They had no proof, no witnesses, and no one to believe them. The only thing they had left was their trust for each other, and their lust for the Truth...and that was it.

Skinner turned then, walking away slowly, without purpose, as if he was a lost soul wandering to discover its dark fate.

As Mulder watched him walk away, the one thing he had to wonder was why Skinner was still standing here, why he was still alive. He had possibly destroyed the Project; for all Mulder knew, if he had not been there, Marita would have simply walked away with Veronica. How had Skinner, telling Mulder where the exchange was going to happen, affected the events of that evening? Mulder had to feel that, maybe, Skinner's loyalties where changing. He knew that Skinner was under the control of Krycek, and that sharing this information would have put him in the gravest danger. Mulder realized that this might be the last time he ever saw Skinner alive.

"Walter." Scully called to him, and Mulder turned to his partner. She looked up at him, and he could tell, by the look in her eyes, she had been thinking the same thing.

Skinner turned back, his face fallen in sadness. He was a traitor, in many ways. And he hated himself for it. As he looked across the room at Dana, he felt that he had killed her, killed her daughter, and destroyed any hope she had left. At the same time, he felt as if he had betrayed the Project, destroyed any chance the human race may have had at surviving the invasion. And, above all, he felt he had betrayed himself, for he could never again do what he felt was "right." There was no "right," anymore. And there was no "wrong."

Everything was relative.

"Dana, Fox," he breathed deeply. "There is much more going on here, much more than you know. Maybe much more than you will ever learn before you die," he turned again, trying not to look them in the eyes. "Sometimes, while it may seem be clear where your loyalties lie, it is not. Everything is relative, agents." He reached to open the door, and then turned to look at them once more. "You may believe you understand what is going on, but you don't. I don't. Alex Krycek does not. But, if you keep searching, you will find the Truth," he walked out of the door then, leaving Mulder and Scully in the heavy silence, the suffocating confusion, hopeless.

They stood there for what could have been a lifetime, or seven years, or five minutes. In the last few months, time seemed to no longer apply, every amount of passing time was equal. It made both agents feel very, very alone. And very, very old.

Finally, Mulder reached out and grasped Scully's hand in his own, and turned to her, taking her other hand.

"Scully, are you sure-"

"I don't even want to hear it, Mulder," she told him. She knew what he was thinking. After all they have discovered, and after all they lost, he wanted her to turn away, and leave him alone. But, Scully realized, that at this point there was no turning back. "This is the point of no return," she told him, tightening her grasp on his hands. "Mulder, the quest started with the disappearance of you sister. It wasn't my quest then, but somehow, over the years, it stopped being your quest and somehow became our quest. It started with your sister's abduction, and it ended with yours. And now, Mulder, it is beginning again, with my daughter's abduction." She looked up into his eyes, hoping that he understood why she was not leaving. And hoping that he would not leave, either. "And it will end, Mulder. But, this time, it will end right. It will end with the Truth."

Mulder smiled at her, then, and took her into a hug, stroking her hair. They had, somehow, avoided the subject of the X-Files until Mulder had gotten through his therapy hours and was allowed to be reinstated into the FBI. Even then, the subject was danced around, and their loyalty to the search that the X-Files gave them seemed to be a concern from a totally different lifetime, and they strove not to bother with it.

"I won't quit, Mulder," she spoke into his shirt. "Not anymore. I left the X-Files for Veronica, and now I will go back for her. For her, for myself, and for you."

It was quiet for a moment, until Scully breathed another sigh. "You know, Mulder, it's funny that the moles in that book always scared Veronica."

"Why?"

"Well, she was Their victim. They are like moles, leaving the ground only to get what they need, what they want, and then dig themselves deep back into the ground to hide from the light... 'down where day is dark as sleep.'"

Mulder hugged her closer to him, and rested his head beside hers. "We will find her, Scully," he whispered. "We will." They stood there in a comfortable silence that they had not known in so long. Finally, they pulled apart and joined hands, walking toward the door of the office.

"Scully, did you know that the name 'Veronica' literally means, 'The Truth'?"

The two paused outside the door, and Scully looked up at him, a little surprised.

The last thing Skinner had said to them came back to her mind. Suddenly, a small smile overtook her face, and she nodded at Mulder. "I believe," she told him. He understood what she was saying. She believed that was what Veronica was: The Truth. And she believed that they would find the Truth, she believed that Skinner was correct.

She believed.

He opened the door for her, and she smiled at him, turning to walk out. They made their way out of the building and down the stairs to the darkened city streets, were they paused. Scully looked up into the sky, searching out through the dim stars, barely visible above the city lights. Mulder looked as well, and he couldn't help but wonder if, somewhere, someone was looking back at him. He felt his heart lift, and for just a second, it felt like "old times" to Mulder, the early times when they were still somewhat innocent, somewhat naïve, and still believed in miracles. For just a second, they were free.


"The X-Files are being re-opened." Marita Covarrubias hung up the phone on the nightstand, feeling the bed shift as Alex Krycek sat down beside her.

"Of course they are," he said glumly. Marita shuttered a sigh, somewhat annoyed at his bluntness.

"They will try to find her, Alex. They will uncover the Project and expose it."

"That does not effect us."

"Alex!" She stood up, pushing her long blonde hair from her face and glaring at him. "We have put ourselves in enough danger as it is. Saving the girl was stupid, just stupid."

"We are trying to help Mulder and Scully, Marita."

Marita stooped before him, taking his head into her hands. "Then why don't we help them, Alex? Why do we play games?"

Alex pushed her away, and stood up. Marita stood up behind him, watching him travel away from her. "You know where our loyalties lie, Marita. You know what we must do to help them. And that, sometimes, we must sacrifice to do the right thing."

She turned from him, walking to the coffee table and gathering her belonging.

"You have no loyalties, Alex. You are not even true to yourself." She walked out the front door, slamming it shut. The sound vibrated through the apartment, but Krycek did not stir. He looked out of the window, staring into the city night, up into the sky.

Marita wouldn't understand; she never would. She didn't understand the games, didn't understand that Alex was true to himself. She was too weak, too loyal.

But, he cared for her, and he knew he would look out for her.

What any childhood friend would do, right?

I wonder as I wander out under the sky... the lyrics sang to him softly, and he looked into the sky, wondering. Wondering if Marita would understand, if Mulder and Scully would ever. He was doing the right thing. They may not think so, but he believed he was.

He was just doing his job.


Somewhere in the night, a man sits alone, looking through an album of old, crumbling pictures. He remembers people that he had loved and lost, and friends that he has gained over the years. He looks at two pictures of two little girls that he once held dearly to his heart, two children that once meant the world to him. He sees their memories in his mind, remembering the love that he had felt for him. But, in the eyes of these children he sees not free souls, ones to live in life and happiness, but instead a test subjects, who's fates waits not in fluffy clouds filled with candy that the first once dreamed of, or within the small stuffed animal the second hugged tightly to her chest. Instead, their fate hides in shadow, formless and nameless with only a job to do. In the eyes of one man they are children, while in the eyes of another they are but lab rats.

Somewhere in the night, a woman lies awake, sleepless, her tired, swollen eyes staring into the sparkling stars. They are so beautiful, so mysterious, as if they hold a secret. This woman knows their secret, and she will share it, for it is the only thing that will save her life, her love, her very soul. She knows that somehow, only her dreams will lead to her only child's redemption, that only her hopes will keep the child alive, or at least, the meaning of the child. The child will live on in her heart, become part of her soul, and this rests well in the woman. Somewhere in the night she raises her blanket higher, gently tucking herself in, and her silent tears patter gently down upon the pillow beneath her until blessed sleep comes and envelopes her in his hungry arms, and takes her to a place where dreams to come true.

Somewhere, in the dark of the night, a voice whispers. She speaks quietly, her child-like mumbles can be heard clearly, but only if one listens close enough.

Only if one will listen with all their heart, and believe truly that this child can be saved. That maybe she will not suffer the fate of criminals and murders, but instead the fate of a child. Only with the hope of another will she find hope within herself.

Somewhere in the night a man waits, alone by a deserted building, for his next command. He is a puppet, a player, a user. He is a trader and a killer. He does not shed tears for those that he hurts, those that he robs life from. He sleeps well, in a gentle, dreamless, merciful state, one that he is not worthy of.

He has no feeling, no love, no life. He is an empty shell of a man, broken by empty dreams and worthless promises, left alone to only hurt others as he has hurt himself. He walked the streets by day, has a home, maybe a family, a job.

He walks through his day, as alone as ever, as unfeeling as possible. He wanders these streets, empty of soul, going through the motions of his life where death arrives, evil conquers, and heartbreak reigns. In his word he wanders, in a world where day is dark as sleep.


Whatever your hands find to do
You must do with all your heart.
There are thoughts enough to blow men's minds
And tear great worlds apart.
There's a healing touch to find you
On that broad highway somewhere
To lift you high as music flying
Through the angel's hair.
- John Hiatt, Through Your Hands

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