Title: Eyes of Texas
Authors: Laurie D. Haynes and Katvictory
Written: 2000
Archive: Sure, just let us know where.
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully and the X- Files belong to 1013, Chris Carter and FOX TV. No copyright infringement intended. Yadda, yadda, yadda. All other characters are ours.
Spoiler Warning: "Triangle," "all things"
Rating: R
Content: Case File, MSR
Classification: X, MSR

Summary: Mulder and Scully go to Galveston, Texas during Mardi Gras to investigate sightings of a Civil War ghost ship. They take the time to enjoy the festivities and Mulder takes the opportunity to try to get closer to Scully.

Comments: Written for the I Made This Productions Virtual 8th season. Author's notes at end. Special thanks to our beta readers, Vickie and Michelle, and to Suzanne for her expert advice in her field. And to Jan, who gave me the idea to use spooky Fort Travis.

 


It is said a ghost is a memory of a promise left unfulfilled. Of words left unspoken or a love that refuses to die.

March 1862 Galveston docks

Jamie Simmons set down his sea bag on the dock in front of the gunboat Denbigh, a side-wheeler. Straightening his brand new Confederate Navy uniform and finger-combing his sun-bleached hair he searched the crowd for his Anne. There she was, climbing out of a carriage. With a wave of his hand, the young sailor called out to her, finally catching her eye. His heart skipped a beat when her dark eyes flashed in notice. She beamed a greeting, then gathering her skirts in hand, she picked her way through the mud over to him. With her shining black hair and dancing brown eyes, surely Anne Landry was the prettiest girl in Texas, if not the whole South.

He'd known her all his life, having grown up on Bolivar Peninsula, the son of a fisherman. Being neighbors, they'd played together as children. Caswell Landry was the lighthouse keeper, a fine man and highly respected by all who made their living from the sea. Jamie had been courting Anne the last year and had even asked for her hand, but she had continually turned him down, though she encouraged no other suitors.

"You look very handsome in your uniform, Jamie, but I wish I could talk you out of this foolishness." The young woman sighed as she smoothed down the soft broadcloth of his collar. Jamie smiled. She was always doing little caring acts like that. By habit, her hand went to brush at his unruly bangs and he was surprised to note her eyes glistened with frightened tears.

"Oh, Anne, I won't be away that long." he soothed, stroking her gingham-covered arm. "Just a few more months, I hear, and we'll have those Yankees licked and I'll be back home."

"I hope so." The choked reply sounded strange coming from the normally strong-willed, self-assured Anne.

Jamie took her hand gently. "Anne, I love you. Please say you'll marry me the next time I'm in port."

She squeezed his larger hand, but shook her head. "I'm not ready for that, yet. And I've told you before, I'm not sure I want to be the wife of a soldier."

Her reply stung and his eyes narrowed in indignation, "I'm a Navy man, not a soldier."

"You know what I mean. When the time comes for me to marry, I want a husband who will be around for his family. You come back safely -- for good -- and we'll talk further about it," Anne said, refusing to meet Jamie's eyes.

He took her chin and tilted her head up to meet his gaze.

"Can you honestly tell me you don't love me?" Jamie asked.

"I'm not sure."

The Denbigh's first mate shouted to Jamie to come aboard.

"Will you at least give me a kiss to hold me until I see you again?" he whispered, suddenly frightened that the time for departure was now at hand.

She put her hand on his cheek, but shook her head. "It wouldn't be seemly -- out in public and all."

Jamie took her hand in his and kissed it. He smiled brightly at her, but she could see the disappointment in his eyes.

He sighed, letting her go, then picked up his bag and walked the boarding plank to the steamer without another word. He turned around to see Anne waving at him and glumly returned the gesture. Anne turned and walked away from the docks in search of a carriage to take her back to the ferry, then home.

Anne stood out on the deck of the ferry, noticing the wind was picking up and the bay water growing choppy. Looked like a storm brewing. Her father would be up all night making sure the beacon light stayed lit to warn ships in the area of the shallow shoals of Bird Key.

She turned out to be right. It was a terrible gale that night with gusts blowing fiercely, rattling the shingles on their house. Anne took dinner up to her father, hard at work in the lighthouse, then stayed to help him keep the lanterns filled with oil. By dawn, the wind had died down, and exhausted, Anne lay down on a cot. She woke to feel her father shaking her. Bright sunlight was streaming in the windows and her father had his spyglass in hand.

"Anne, wake up, it looks like some ship wrecked during the night. Tell your mother to gather some blankets and make bandages, then take one of the horses and gather some men to come help. We'll need boats to rescue any survivors."

The young woman did as she was told. As she saddled her favorite horse, she thought of Jamie and hoped the Denbigh had been safely at sea when the storm hit.

Two hours later, Anne rode the horse down to the beach near Fort Travis, across the dirt highway from the lighthouse.

She saw fishermen and fort soldiers in boats hauling aboard unmoving sailors -- dressed in gray. Anne's heart clenched tightly in her chest as she made her way to the water's edge. Dismounting, she walked along the row of bodies lying on the beach until she came to one -- a blond, burly young man.

Falling to her knees, she confirmed it was indeed Jamie -- his eyes now open and unseeing and his beautiful face slack in death. Anne threw herself on his chest and sobbed.

"Nooooo, you were supposed to come home. You promised you'd come back to me. I love you, Jamie, you can't die."

Anne's mother, seeing her heartbroken daughter, walked over to her and pulled her up, intending to draw her into her arms, but Anne pulled away and ran far down the beach, out of sight. She tore off her dress and plunged into the now gentle surf. She swum as hard as she could, as far as she could until at last, exhausted, she could no longer swim or stay afloat -- even if she had wanted to. She sunk beneath the waves, the victim of a broken heart.


ACT I

3:25 a.m. January 2001 Just offshore Fort Travis, Bolivar Peninsula, east of Galveston Island

The Coast Guard cutter was gaining on the cabin cruiser which had ignored all commands to stop, and continued to speed out to sea. The water was calm, but fog was rising off the ocean, making it increasingly difficult to see the boat they were sure was operated by drug smugglers. The ghostly tendrils left damp dew-like prints upon the glass, further obscuring the cutter captain's vision. But the slower outlaw runner was losing this race, thanks to the military vessel's radar advantage.

Suddenly, a paddle-wheeler appeared out of the dense fog and the young helmsman quickly spun the wheel to avoid a collision. The cabin cruiser escaped into the mist as the commander ordered the helmsman to put the cutter in neutral. The cruiser was quickly vanishing off the radar screens, while the cutter's crew puzzled over what the devil The Colonel was doing operating long after dark. They all knew the paddle-wheeler's home base at Moody Gardens had long since closed down for the day to the tourists. The search continued until morning as the men shined their big spotlight out over the calm, dark, fog-enshrouded waters, but it was in vain. The ancient craft had disappeared once more into history.

February 2001 Hoover Building, Washington, D.C.

Scully walked in the office and smiled at the sight of her partner loading the slide projector. She set down the Starbucks sack on the desk and pulled out two coffees and a couple of pastries.

"Oh, Scully, you take such good care of me," joked Mulder as he reached for a cup of coffee and an apple Danish.

She wiped some frosting off her mouth from her own Danish, then swallowed and asked, "So what have we got?"

"New case," Mulder mumbled around a mouthful of pastry. "Hit the lights."

A color photo of an old military bunker appeared on the portable screen.

"This is Fort Travis Seashore Park," Mulder explained.

"Hardly looks like a beach park to me," Scully commented.

Another photo, apparently the view of the ocean as seen from the bunker, came up on the screen.

"It's an old World War II artillery battery," Mulder told her. "Fort Travis' history stretches back to the days when Texas was a nation of its own. It's said to be haunted by all the soldiers and other people who have died there, either of sickness, starvation or drowning in the hurricanes that frequently plague the Gulf Coast. In 1900, the worst hurricane, in terms of loss of U.S. lives, hit Galveston and completely destroyed it, killing thousands."

"Not another ghost hunt, Mulder! Is that all you have to go on?"

"It gets better." Mulder put up a slide of some sort of debris sticking out of the ocean. "This is the wreck of the Confederate gunboat Denbigh. It went down in a storm in 1862 just offshore Fort Travis. All hands were lost. Legends persist that from time to time, the Denbigh makes an appearance -- as a ghost ship, still patrolling the Texas coastal waters. Last month, a Coast Guard cutter chasing suspected drug smugglers saw the ghost ship -- almost ran into it. They thought it was the tourist paddle- wheeler The Colonel, which operates out of Galveston. But it wasn't. The ship disappeared without a trace -- and paddle-wheelers are hardly as fast as a Coast Guard vessel. And The Colonel never left port after it returned from its evening dinner cruise."

Scully sighed. "Well, I know better than to let you go alone on something like this. Last time you went hunting ghost ships, we had to fish you out of the ocean. I'll go on one condition -- no ditching!"

"Aww, Scully, I promise. I'll be good."

"In that case, when do we leave?"

"Well, our appointments with local law enforcement aren't until Monday, but I thought we'd fly down this afternoon. See, Mardi Gras is going on down there, and I cleared a little free time for us..."

Scully paused to study his face, finally offering a smile. "I think my budget can afford a little R&R."

"Good, cause I used your Visa number to make the reservations at the motel," Mulder replied, pretending to disassemble the projector.

Scully knew he was trying to keep from grinning and she fought to contain her own smile, pretending instead to give him a stern glare. Though she wasn't eager to go chasing ghosts, she knew Mulder could use a little relaxation time after some tough cases recently. As could she. She was looking forward to it and knew Galveston to be a charming city.

"OK, you win," he said. "It'll go on my card. This place is a little upscale to get away with putting it on the Bureau's tab."


ACT II

Pulling into the parking lot at Pier 21, Mulder parked the rental car they had driven from Houston's Hobby Airport.

Scully eyed their hotel, a stately-looking inn overlooking the Galveston harbor. Handsome sailboats and cabin cruisers filled the slips in the marina out front. "You were serious! Mulder! What's gotten into you? This is a NICE place. It's old, isn't it? A historical building?"

"Actually, yes, although the Harbor House didn't begin its life as a hotel. In Galveston's heyday as a seaport, this was a steamship terminal. Like a lot of old buildings here in the historical district, it's been converted. The conversion on the Harbor House was only completed about two years ago."

They got out of the car and as Mulder took their bags from the trunk, Scully looked around the area. The first thing she spied were the masts of a tall sailing ship.

She grabbed Mulder's arm and pointed out the ship to him.

"Oh, look at the Elissa! My dad would have loved it."

"I see you know your tall ships. It docks over at the Texas Seaport Museum. We can go over there later and then grab some dinner at Fisherman's Wharf."

Scully took her own bag from Mulder and the two walked into the lobby and checked in.

"Just one thing, Scully... I hope you don't mind, but I got us a suite instead of separate rooms. The ...uh... price was better. I'll take the sofa bed and you can have the bedroom. OK?"

The hopeful look on his face was so appealing, Scully couldn't bring herself to say no.

The bellman led them to their room, opening the door to reveal pickled wood floors and Berber carpets. He set their bags down, then walked over to the table in the center of the living area. A bottle of champagne was chilling in a bucket, beside which sat a bowl of chocolate-covered strawberries.

"Shall I open the champagne for you?" asked the bellman.

Avoiding Scully's incredulous gaze, Mulder answered, "No, that's all right, I'll do it." He handed the man 50 cents and urged him out of the room.

"Thanks for nothing, big spender," mumbled the bellhop as Mulder all but pushed him out the door.

"Well, what do you think?" he asked, grinning at Scully, whose jaw was still hanging open.

The dazzling smile with which she favored him definitely made the dent in his credit card worthwhile.

"I think you'd better open the champagne and pour us some," she replied, and crossed over and kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks, Mulder, this is wonderful!"

He popped open the champagne and poured as she held the two flutes. Taking their glasses, they walked over to the big picture window and looked out at the harbor.

"Look at all the oil rigs! I didn't know they drilled for oil right in the harbor," said Mulder.

"Actually, those are offshore rigs that are in between jobs or are in for repairs or refurbishing. That one over there is really an offshore oil museum."

"How do you know so much about Galveston, Scully?"

"I did my residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch -- right here in Galveston. After I broke it off with Daniel, I wanted to do my residency as far from Baltimore as I could."

"Eight years together, almost, and I never knew you did your residency here. I can't believe I don't remember that from your personnel file," Mulder said in wonder.

A horse-drawn carriage pulled into the parking lot below their window and a young couple stepped out.

Scully lightly touched Mulder's arm. "I want to do that! Let's go. Bring the champagne!"

"Whoa, Scully, don't you think we should change clothes, first?"

"Oh, just take off your jacket and tie and come on."

Mulder gave her a lopsided smile and pulled off his suit coat and tie, tossing them onto a chair, then rolled up his sleeves. Scully had already divested herself of her own jacket and was waiting at the door with the ice bucket, champagne bottle and glasses.

"I've got the champagne, grab the bowl of strawberries."

Mulder chuckled at Scully's lighthearted enthusiasm. It was very refreshing. The profiling case last month in Newark had been a rough one and they both were very much in need of a vacation.

They managed to catch the carriage before it left -- Mulder had run after it and made the driver stop -- and they climbed in, laughing.

"Is it OK for us to have our champagne in here?" Mulder asked the driver.

"Sure. It's Mardi Gras, it's allowed." The driver clucked to the Clydesdale and it started walking and soon sped up into a trot.

They rode through the streets of the historical Strand district, admiring the old buildings and the sights of old Galveston. Workers were setting up a stage on Old Galveston Square in preparation for tomorrow's round of bands while children played with the giant chess game set up on the Square in front of the Strand Brewery.

Mulder plucked a chocolate-covered strawberry from the bowl and held it to Scully's lips. She smiled then delicately bit off a piece. She took a sip of champagne and moaned in contentment, reaching for the rest of the strawberry.

"Uh, uh, uh, you wouldn't want to get your fingers all messy with chocolate, would you?" Mulder teased. Scully smiled and opened her mouth wide and her partner plopped the remaining berry into her mouth. He started to withdraw his hand, but she grabbed it and deftly sucked the smears of chocolate off each of his fingers.

The mild springlike day suddenly seemed much warmer. Mulder bent over, leaning toward Scully, his intent obvious, but she halted his advance by grabbing another strawberry and thrusting it at his mouth. When he opened his mouth to laugh, she stuck the whole thing inside. He could only respond with a boyish grin of resignation. Mulder sighed, understanding perfectly what she was doing. He squirmed a bit and tried to adjust his trousers without being obvious they had grown tight very quickly.

The moment had passed. They sipped at the sparkling wine slowly, neither partner speaking as they took in the passing sights, until Scully broke the ice, deciding she'd would set things on a slower track.

"So was our presence requested here to investigate the ghost ship sighting?"

"Well, no, not officially," he replied.

"Were we asked on this case at all?

"Oh, sure, a member of the Galveston Historical Society wrote me about it. He's also a reserve Coast Guardsman and was there when the patrol boat spotted the ghost ship."

Scully brought the long-stemmed glass to her lips as she gave a slight nod to her partner's answer, her eyes never leaving his face. The steady clip-clop of the horse's hooves seemed terribly loud in the silence and Mulder shifted his attention to the passing scenery, not quite liking where the conversation was heading. He did have plans for this weekend. Plans that involved some in-depth, serious communication with his partner, but the time wasn't right. And he wasn't quite ready. Maybe after a few more bottles of champagne, he mused to himself, finishing off the contents of his glass in one quick gulp.

To his surprise, Scully leaned forward and tapped their driver, "Let us off here, okay?" she asked handing the man a twenty and bounding from the carriage, leaving the half- empty champagne bottle and ice bucket behind. With a shrug and a puzzled grin, Mulder followed.

They entered a small Mexican restaurant, Mamacita's, a few blocks off the Strand. The place was full, the small room was awash with the lively noise of conversation. Most of the customers appeared to be locals, a lot of them Latinos, but there were also a couple of tables of what were either hospital workers or medical students, by the looks of the scrubs they wore. Mulder and Scully took the only seats available -- near the back, to the side of the brown- lacquered swinging kitchen doors. Not a prime table, but the rich aromas of onions, spices, meat and seafood that wafted though to tease their senses each time a brightly- attired waitress exited the warm back room, was a plus.

Mulder stared at the menu, his appetite aflame, "Well, what should we start with?" he asked, licking his lips, hoping the service was speedy.

Scully hadn't even bothered to pick up her brightly- painted bill of fare. With a tilt of her hand she signaled the young senorita who was their waitress who after introducing herself, stood poised to take their order.


Part 2

"Well, Maria, we'll start with your chili con queso dip and large top shelf margaritas on the rocks. For dinner we both want the Number 5."

She turned to meet her companion's stunned gaze and after a hasty study of the plastic-covered placard, Mulder nodded his approval.

"The seafood chimichanga is to die for, but we'll probably need a doggie bag 'cause the queso and chips tend to fill a person up. Not to mention Mamacita's margaritas. If you can down two and still walk out of here, you'll get to wear the macho hombre sombrero." Her eyes danced in the soft light of the red tinted candle light, glinting almost violet.

"I'm game," Mulder grinned, enjoying the view.

The dark haired girl quickly brought a huge bowl of thick, peppered cheese and a heaping basket of blue and white tortilla chips, then returned with their drinks.

"Okay, I see the scam," Mulder laughed, surveying the monstrous 20-ounce glass that was filled to its salt-dusted brim. "Scully, I have a confession here. I'm a really cheap drunk. So, be gentle."

Her warm, rich laughter floated into the humid air and she slid her hand across the checkered table cloth to rest atop his own. "I promise."

The two agents dug into the hot spicy food, sipping at the strong, tart drinks, relishing the odd dichotomy that something that cooled the throat so well could warm the blood so fully. Soon, their meals were set before them and though the spicy mixture of crab, cheese, onions and chilies was a treat, Scully's warning was all too true; their bellies were practically full from the first course, so they could only finish about half of the chimichangas. Still, they sat in their spot, enjoying the company and the atmosphere too much to leave. An hour passed as the next round of Mamacita's special elixir was ordered. The crowd had changed, the room now filled more with younger, more gregarious patrons, but the only notice the partners gave the louder patrons was to ease their chairs closer in order to hear each other.

"...so, I'd eat here almost every evening...breakfast too. They have great huevos rancheros. The owner's husband used to seat me. He was such a sweet man. He called me his little red child. 'Mi hija roja.' I haven't seen him tonight, though." Scully paused to sip from her glass, by habit, her tongue dancing across to gather the salt crystals. She sighed, then smiled at feeling the quick squeeze her partner offered her, urging her to continue. "I haven't had the nerve to ask if something happened to him." Her eyes glittered and she absently brushed at the wetness that had suddenly dampened her cheeks, surprising her.

"Could they have switched management? Just kept the name?" Mulder murmured softly.

"I dunno. Maybe." She quickly covered her mouth, her tears ending in a soft burp which immediately brought on a rush of giggles. The muted lighting almost, but not quite covered her blush." I think I've reached my limit."

Mulder smiled and caught the waitress' eye.

"Would you care for some sopapillas for desert?" the girl asked reaching for their plates.

"No, thank you. Could we get you to bring us a container so we can finish these later?" Mulder asked, stilling her hand. The young woman gave a smile and a quick nod in answer and turned, but the agent stopped her." Say, my friend hasn't been here in a while and she was wondering about an older man who used to seat the customers. The owner."

The senorita's smile grew broad," Gray hair and mustache?" she asked.

Scully nodded, the fear that had twisted her stomach at Mulder's query lessening at the waitress' expression."Oh yes, that's Abuelo. My grandfather. He still works here during the week, but...well weekends tend to be a bit too much for him. Will you be here Monday?"

Scully nodded and the woman offered another brilliant grin. "Well, make sure you stop by. He'll probably remember you. I think Abuelo remembers everyone he's ever served."

"We'll do that." Scully murmured gratefully.

"See, a happy ending," Mulder teased,

Dabbing at her eyes, his partner began to laugh. "Great, you just might get me on a crying jag."

Mulder's chuckle was cut off mid-chortle by the jostling shove of a drunk who almost landed in his lap. The faux pas might have ended there, with the agent solemnly helping the inebriated offender to his feet, but it wasn't the night for it. The young man, who looked to be in his mid-20s, cast a bloodshot eye upon the stunned Scully and apparently liked what he saw.

"Hey, babe," he drawled. "Ditch the old dude and let's go party!"

Mulder stood up. He had a couple of inches on the younger man, though the guy was muscular -- but with a beer gut -- and probably outweighed him by 30 pounds. He tapped Drunk Kid on the shoulder and took him by the arm, leading him away from Scully, and pointing him toward the door.

"C'mon, sonny boy, time to call a cab and go home. Gotta save some party for Mardi Gras, huh?" he said, in a not unfriendly tone, but Scully noted the glare in his eyes.

"Mulder..." Scully murmured, and her partner half-turned in answer to her call.

This was, of course, not the best of tactical maneuvers when disposing of something as potentially volatile as a belligerent and inebriated pest. It was not a mistake the agent would have committed had he been in his usual top form. But of course, almost 40 ounces of Mamacita's toxic blend of Jose Cuervo and Cointreau rarely left many at their best. Drunk Kid picked that moment to gather enough wits about himself to see an opportunity to break free. He immediately jerked his arm away from Mulder's grasp. Naturally, the partying lad was more than outraged that this 'old dude' had stepped in and messed up his patented pickup routine, so a wild, roundhouse punch instantly followed his emancipation.

The blow caught the agent squarely on the jaw, not solidly, but with enough force to knock him into the next table, which luckily was unoccupied. The bad news was the table was waiting to be bussed, and leftover food, dishes and glasses went flying onto the floor with a crash as Mulder sprawled on the none-too-solid piece of furniture. He got up, shaking his head, and advanced on the drunk, who was reaching out to grab Scully. But Scully took care of herself. A sharp blow with the heel of her hand to the drunk's chin knocked him into the arms of his more sober pals, who had come to try to break things up.

The waitress walked up with the boxes of food for Mulder and Scully.

"Look, sir, we don't want any trouble here. Please take your food and go," she asked Mulder. "And as for you, Craig," she said, rounding on Drunk Kid, "Get out before I call the police. And don't you ever darken this door again!"

Drunk Kid lunged at Mulder again, who simply sidestepped and let him crash into the previously-mauled table.

"That does it!" announced Maria, the waitress. "I'm calling the police!"

"C'mon, Mulder, let's get out of here," urged Scully, tugging on Mulder's arm, and finding it hard not to giggle at the sight of their harasser sprawled out on the terrazzo floor, smearing huge globs of guacamole across his face as he cringed from the young waitress' bilingual tongue- lashing.

Mulder picked up the sack with their boxes of food, after handing Maria a $50 bill to cover their dinner and the damages, and they left out the back.

They ran the four blocks to the hotel, their laughter bouncing off the weatherbeaten brick buildings to follow them the entire way.

Slipping the magnetic card in the lock, they opened up the room and went in. Mulder set the sack down on the table and strolled over to gaze out the window, absently rubbing his jaw where the drunk had punched him, as he silently took in the dazzling view of the harbor at night. Scully followed, grin fading, changing instantly to a frown when she spotted his wince. She took Mulder's chin in hand and turned his head to examine the slight swelling and darkening bruise on his jaw.

Without uttering a word, she retrieved a hand towel from the bathroom and wrapped some ice cubes from the small refrigerator freezer. Returning to Mulder, she made him sit down and then gently placed the ice pack against his jaw.

Mulder covered Scully's hand with his own. She allowed it to stay a moment, then withdrew her hand, leaving his own to cup the cold pack to his injury. He watched in silence as she moved away, refusing to meet his gaze. Her stroll across the richly-furnished room seemed aimless at first, though she tried to feign interest in the already studied room decor. Finally, her eyes came to rest on her bag, sitting where she'd dropped it outside the bedroom door upon their arrival. Quickly, with newfound purpose, she strode over to the unpacked luggage.

Her yawn was huge, a little too forced, Mulder thought ruefully to himself, when she turned and attempted a grin to announce, "Wow, I'm worn out. We've got a long day tomorrow, guess I'd better get to bed."

"Want some company?" Mulder asked, only half-joking.

Scully rolled her eyes and shook her head, but a grin tugged at her lips. The risque, teasing remark was something familiar. This type of teasing banter, filled with droll, sexual innuendo had become, over the years, second nature to her. She was comfortable with it, after all, this was how it had been between them forever. Mulder would feed her a come-on from his 'Little Black Book of Pick-up Lines' and she'd either make a disgusted face, roll her eyes or zing one of her million and one ego-deflating jibes right back at him. At last, things were back to normal. Hallelujah!

She was much more at ease when dealing with this Mulder, her Mulder, and not the oh-so-serious, shockingly romantic, maddeningly sexy impostor who had arranged this weekend and who expected something from her which she was terrified to give. Her sigh of relief just might have been audible, but it caught in her throat when she met his eyes and she knew there was no way to stop what was coming. The combination of champagne and margaritas they had indulged in earlier was one that tended to loosen tongues and lower inhibitions.

"Scully, why won't you allow yourself to love me? I've told you my feelings. I've told you I love you." Mulder murmured softly, his face a blend of hurt and sadness that brought tears to her eyes. She couldn't continue to meet that deep, soul-searching stare, not and say what she had to, so she turned to gaze out at the moonlit harbor. The soothing hum of the air conditioner gave her the courage to continue.

"When you give yourself to a man, they say I love you, then they're finished. They roll over, go to sleep and the next morning you're alone again."

His hand stretched out and though it was not at all cold in the room, she shivered when his fingertips caressed her tear-stained cheek. "That's why you leave first," he whispered. Her answer was a barely perceptible nod.

"It's time to start moving toward that next step, but it doesn't matter how long it takes us to get there. I just need to know that you're looking at the same future I am and that's where we both want to head."

"I see it," her reply was a barely audible whisper. The shaking sigh that came before she continued was just this side of a sob. "I want to go there with you, but..."

"You won't be alone. I'll be here every inch of the way. So, just relax. Try to enjoy the trip. OK?"

His hand lingered to smooth her cheek. With another slight bob of her head, she agreed to his plan, melting into the strong warmth of his arms that pulled her to his chest.

Kissing the top of her head, he gave her a hug. "OK, then, if you're gonna make me sleep alone, help me unfold this sofa bed." The tease came with a rueful grin.

Scully smiled and together they removed the cushions from the couch and opened it up into a bed. She fetched a couple of extra pillows from the closet shelf and tossed them on the bed before bidding Mulder goodnight and retiring to the bedroom, shutting the door.


Mulder slept poorly and rose at dawn. Donning running shoes and shorts, with no shirt, he started out jogging toward the seawall, about a mile and a half away. Reaching the seawall he ran west along it, relishing in the cool morning sea air and the waves rolling in gently with the incoming tide.

He was not entirely surprised to find other runners out for their morning jog. Thoroughly warmed up, he pushed himself to run faster and kept up the pace for the next three miles before slowing down to a jog, then a walk to cool down gradually. By now, the sun was up and the ocean looked very inviting to his sweat-covered body. He walked down the steps and pulled off his shoes and socks, then plunged into the water -- colder than he'd expected, despite the warm weather for this time of year. Because of the water temperature, he didn't stay long. He swam out a short distance then turned around, catching a little wave and body surfing back the rest of the way.

Emerging from the water, he wished he had a towel. Stuffing his socks in his pocket, he washed the sand off his feet and stuck them in his shoes. Climbing the stairs, the agent resigned himself to what he reasoned was going to be a much slower, decidedly chillier jog to the hotel, only to be pleasantly surprised by the welcome sight of Scully parked in the rental car beside the seawall .

"Have a good swim?" she asked with a grin, stepping out of the car and throwing him a towel.

"Yeah," Mulder replied, rubbing himself down with the terrycloth and shivering. "But how'd you know where to find me? And to bring a towel?"

"I know you like to run in the mornings. Everyone goes running along the seawall, here, and it made more sense you'd run away from the main part of town, so I just drove along the seawall until I saw you as you headed down to the beach. As for the towel, I just came prepared."

Scully noticed him shivering then. "That water stays cold until at least April or May. What were you thinking?"

"I was hot. Wanted to cool off."

She reached in the car and pulled out a sweatshirt. "Here, put this on. I bought it from the hotel gift shop."

He looked at the Harbor House logo on it then thankfully pulled it over his head.

She spread the towel on the passenger side of the car seat and Mulder climbed in.

"I'm starved! What say I get cleaned up then we go grab some breakfast? Maybe some huevos rancheros from Mamacita's?"

"I rather think we wore out our welcome last night, with all that testosterone running so high," Scully commented with a chuckle.

"Hey! You're the one that punched out that drunk, not me! I was the injured party," Mulder responded indignantly.

"Speaking of which, how's your jaw this morning? Did you leave the ice pack on all night like I told you?"

"Yes, dear," Mulder joked. "Really, though, it was nothing. I've had far worse. Hell, you walloped me harder than that drunk kid."

"I did not!"

"Well, your 1930s self did, anyway."

Scully snorted in disbelief. "In your dreams, Mulder."

"Hey, my dreams about you are a lot more pleasant than that," Mulder retorted with a leer.

Scully shook her head and started the car. They drove back to the hotel and she picked up a morning paper while Mulder showered.

Mulder chowed down on a Denny's Grand Slam as Scully nibbled on a dish of fresh fruit and unfolded the morning Daily News. She read the headlines, "Park caretaker says corpse appears on beach." Continuing into the body of the story, she noted the location. Scully handed the paper to Mulder and showed him the story.

"So, now we have a front page story of the caretaker at Fort Travis Park finding a body on the beach, which he maintains disappeared before he'd gone 10 feet when he took off to call the cops. Who, of course, find nothing to validate his claims. Sounds like your ghost ship isn't the only mysterious thing that happens around there. Just hope there's a little more for us to go on for our case or we're going to have a lot of time to kill until we're due back in Washington. "

Mulder ignored his partner's teasing jibes, poring over the story with great interest. "Says here, the caretaker described the body as being dressed completely in gray clothes. A Confederate uniform, I wonder? A ghost of one of the Denbigh sailors?"

"You're reaching, Mulder. It was probably just some local kid who partied a little too heavy, then went swimming in his clothes."

"If that was the case, why didn't the caretaker see the kid running off?"

"Maybe he was seeing things, maybe he'd been nipping the bottle on the job, maybe he didn't really turn around to look back at the corpse as quickly as he thought he had. He could have a medical condition that has left him prone to dementia or hallucinations. Maybe it was just some trash on the beach and he needs glasses," Scully postulated.

"Sounds like this poor guy needs medical help. How 'bout we go visit him and you can check him out while I ask him a few questions?"

Scully heaved a sigh and protested. "I thought we were going to Mardi Gras, Mulder."

"We will." He looked at the Mardi Gras schedule in the paper. "The big parades aren't until later this afternoon, then the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Boz Scaggs will be playing in the evening. We have time to go check out the beach at Fort Travis and then be back for the main attractions. OK?"

Scully nodded in reluctant agreement to the day's itinerary.

She had to admit the ferry trip across the bay was pleasant enough in itself. The two of them stood at the back of the ferry, tossing bread to the seagulls (Scully had insisted on stopping at a convenience store and picking up a loaf). They laughed as the gulls acrobatically grabbed the pieces of bread thrown into the air, excitedly shrieking to one another in the process.

The entrance to Fort Travis was a short distance from the ferry landing and they quickly spied the park caretaker's house, an American flag waving out front.

They showed their IDs to the fiftyish man, who introduced himself as Jimmy Duhon. Mulder questioned him about the strange sight the man reported.

"Is this the first time you've seen something like this? Or does it happen a lot?"

"Well, I've been here over two years, and I've seen some strange stuff, but never this. I mean I never saw no body before, leastwise none that didn't stay put."

"What kind of stuff?" queried Mulder.

"Some nights, there are strange lights and moans out on the beach and sometimes from the fort itself."

"Sir, are you sure it's not just kids making out by the water?" asked Scully.

"That was my first thought," replied Duhon, "but when I go down there with my big flashlight, there's never anybody there."

"Excuse my asking this, sir, I'm not passing judgment," said Scully, "but do you drink in the evenings?"

"No, ma'am! I don't hold with drinkin'. Never took a drop in my life. I'm a God-fearin' Christian man," the caretaker snapped in reply.

"I apologize. I wasn't trying to insult you, I was just trying to rule that out," said Scully, trying to smooth Duhon's ruffled feathers.

"Mr. Duhon," asked Mulder, "could you describe the clothes the body was wearing? You said they were gray."

"That's right. I didn't pay that close attention, you understand, I didn't want to mess with the body and screw up a possible crime scene -- I watch Law and Order on TV, so I know cops are sensitive about that stuff. But I did catch the color."

"Can you remember any more details about the clothes or the person?"

"It was a man, and he had dirty blond hair. Definitely looked dead to me. He was completely wet and he wasn't movin' and didn't seem to be breathin' -- but I didn't touch him. As for the clothes, now you mention it, I recall a wide leather belt with a brass buckle like rodeo cowboys and country singers wear, though maybe not as big."

"You've seen pictures of Confederate soldiers, haven't you?" asked Mulder. "You think that man might have been wearing a uniform?"

"I guess he could have been. You reckon he was one of them fellas that does whatchamacallit... re-enactments?"


Part 3

"No, I think you may have seen a ghost of a Confederate sailor," Mulder told him, ignoring Scully's sigh.

"Well, there is that old Rebel ship that's sunk out there. Sometimes I see the paddlewheel stickin' up out of the water at real low tide. I reckon that might be it. They said a bunch of young Johnny Rebs drowned when it went down in a storm."

"Yes, in 1862," Mulder confirmed. "Could you show us on the beach where you saw the body?"

Duhon took them out a little east of his house, which itself was on the eastern edge of the park, and pointed out the area where the body had turned up. Looking back at his office, he saw a camper trailer had pulled up.

"Looks like I got some tourists to take care of," the caretaker said. "You folks need anything else, you just holler." He left them to their investigation and returned to his office/house.

Mulder and Scully scanned the beach sand, looking for some clue. Scully spotted the remains of a hand-rolled cigarette, and a bit further down, a blackened area on the sand, along with some charred driftwood.

"OK, Mulder, seems pretty obvious to me what was going on. Some kids were out here having a party, smoking a little 'weed' around the campfire. I'm sure that's what the caretaker heard. And it was probably just one of the kids playing tricks or sleeping, instead of a real body. They probably jumped up and ran off as soon as he left to call the police."

"Scully, you have no romance in your heart," teased Mulder. "Even though you've seen ghosts yourself, you dismiss the notion that Mr. Duhon might have seen one. Don't be so stuffy. Look, here we are, just you and me and a long stretch of beach." He took her hand. "Nice day for a walk."

"Mulder..."

"Hey, I'm just asking you to go for a walk, that's it."

"I really don't know what to make of this 'mood' you've been in these last few days," Scully murmured, a puzzled frown wrinkling her forehead, but with a shake of her head she began to stroll down the beach with him.

"Scully," Mulder said in exasperation. "I'm not pushing you, but you did promise you'd relax. Why can't you open up and let me in?"

She looked away from him and withdrew her hand.

"Aren't we on a case, right now? It's dangerous work that we do, Mulder. We have the perfect working relationship. Other relationships, a different kind of relationship could be distracting. Plus, if we were to become involved and something was to happen, it would be so much worse, don't you think?"

"No. Scully, I would be devastated if I lost you, but to lose you without ever getting to truly love you like I want would be the worst thing I can imagine."

As they reached a certain spot on the beach, they felt a sudden chill, which vanished as they moved on.

"Scully, did you feel that?"

"That chill? Probably just a localized temperature inversion."

"Or something else entirely, maybe," Mulder said, and walked back to the spot.

He stood there for a minute, Scully watching him from where she had stayed, and he seemed to hear a woman's voice, as from a distance, calling for someone, but he couldn't quite make out what was said.

"Did you hear that?" he asked Scully excitedly. "There was a voice!"

"No, Mulder, I didn't hear anything. It was probably the wind. Now, are we finished here? I want to go back to Galveston and catch the rest of today's Mardi Gras activities."

"OK," he agreed, "But we're coming back tomorrow night to watch for that ghost ship? Deal?"

"Deal," she agreed, grinning, and offered her hand.

Mulder smiled, pleased to see she was showing some enthusiasm again. They walked back to the car to return to Galveston.

On the journey back across the ferry, they were escorted part way by a pod of dolphins, which promptly took off in pursuit of a shrimp boat when it passed by.


ACT III

They parked at the hotel and walked over to the Strand. Purchasing a couple of large margaritas from a street vendor, they got into position just in time to catch the beginning of the Krewe of Gambrinus (named for the mythical god of beer) parade. Row after row of colorfully-attired marching bands played rousing jazz tunes. Scully elbowed Mulder, who was openly admiring the scantily-clad coeds in a drill team from the University of Houston. He grinned at Scully and put his free arm around her, drawing her close. She smiled back and pointed out a huge float coming into view.

As the float passed by, Krewe members threw out strings of beads and foil doubloons. Mulder set his drink down by Scully and concentrated on catching the little treasures tossed into the crowd. Scully even caught a couple of beaded necklaces that were tossed to her by a young man on the float, who smiled and winked at her.

Mulder moved back to Scully, placing several strands of Mardi Gras beads over her head.

"There! Your next birthday present," Mulder joked.

Scully laughed, took a few of the beads and hung them around Mulder's neck, and handed him several doubloons. "And yours!"

"Wow, you're early," he chuckled, pulling her close to give her a chaste forehead peck in thanks.

Her giggling reply floated over the din of the crowd, "You know me, always planning ahead."

He grinned as she turned back to watch the celebration and was happily surprised when he felt her lean back against his chest. Wrapping his arms about her to pull her closer, he was beaming as he rested his chin lightly atop her head to finish watching the festivities.

Then came the big Saturday spectacle -- the Momus Grand Night Parade -- a colossal display of 20 spectacular floats depicting dazzling circus themes. Again there were showers of beads, trinkets, specially-minted doubloons and also, 25 free round-trip airline giveaways. Scully grabbed one ticket and Mulder gave a Michael Jordanesque leap to intercept another that was headed for further back into the crowd.

"I believe our next vacation is taken care of," Mulder said, sharing a grin with Scully as they each showed their prizes.

Parades over, they made their way over to Old Galveston Square to hear the Fabulous Thunderbirds and then Boz Scaggs. Mulder left to buy them another round of margaritas. Millions of twinkling lights decorated the concert area as Scully searched the milling crowd for her partner, finally spotting him as he broke through a huge group of fervently-partying revelers on the far side of the quad. He gingerly picked his way through the maze of bodies, two plastic glasses of Jimmy Buffet's favorite held carefully out front as though this prize deserved to lead the way.

"Wow, what took so long? The Thunderbirds should be starting any minute," Scully asked when at last he made it to her side. She offered a quick smile of thanks as her partner handed her a frozen margarita.

"Well, the sidewalk's drinking the first round I bought," Mulder explained with a sheepish grin.

Her chuckles were cut short when the excited murmurs of the audience announced the band members were taking their places on the darkened stage.

"You know, I got to see Jimmy and Stevie Ray Vaughn back in '90. It was one of their last concerts before Stevie Ray died. I wish Jimmy was still with the Thunderbirds, but, I hear they're still a great act, even without him," Scully whispered quickly as a hush of anticipation fell over the crowd.

"I'm impressed, Scully," Mulder remarked just before a rousing cheer split through the quiet as the first riffs of a slide guitar came from the stage. Soon, the night was filled with the exciting, rollicking sounds of the fabulous, rocking roadhouse blues band. Mulder couldn't help the grin that lit his face as he watched his normally reserved partner "get down" to the raunchy soulful music of these native Texan performers. He couldn't still his laughter when her inhibitions were totally cast aside during the bands rousing finale encore of "Tuff Enuff" and she jumped to her feet to dance to the gritty rock tune.

"God, that was great," she yelled breathlessly, trying to be heard over the din of the standing ovation. Her face was flushed with excitement and she surprised her partner further with a crushing hug.

Left momentarily speechless by the gesture, Mulder enjoyed the warmth of the small arms that circled his waist so tightly. It wasn't until the embrace ended that he finally found his voice. "I never knew the blues affected you so deeply, Agent Scully."

She grinned up at him, her eyes sparkling as she teased, "Hey, you ought to see what happens when I hear Clapton. I really melt to 'Slowhands.'"

"I'm really glad to know that, Scully," Mulder replied with a wry smile, "I mean, so I know what to give you for your next birthday and all."

She cut him a glance, assuring herself of the humor that lay behind his double entendre, then chuckled to concede that he'd won this battle of risqu wit.

The refreshment run went smoother this attempt and Mulder made it back to their spot with time to spare before the next concert started. The silver light of the late winter moon set the mood for Boz Scaggs' set of smooth, slow rock tunes and ballads, and it wasn't long before the agents joined the crowd that was dancing to the romantic rhythms in the center area of the moon and star lit square.

A hush seemed to fall across the audience when the familiar soaring strings and haunting keyboards announced the beginnings of the artist's most popular hit.

"Hope they never end this song. This could take us all night long. I looked at the moon and I felt blue, then I looked again and I saw you."

Mulder glanced down at his partner's face and grinned at the sight of her face -- so breathtakingly beautiful in the silvery light. Her eyes were closed and a slight smile tilted her small, lush, lightly-parted lips. Suddenly the lids slid open and he was caught in the spellbinding light of those two sparkling gems that had always so captivated him.

"Eyes like fire in the night, bridges burning with their light. Now, I want to spend the whole night through, and honey, yes, I'd like to spend it all on you.

"Love, look what you've done to me, never thought I'd fall again so easily. Oh, love, you wouldn't lie to me, leading me to feel this way."

A smile teased Mulder's wide, full mouth, making his eyes glow with lights that flickered and danced in their always-compelling hazel depths. He leaned into Scully's touch as she caressed the warm, slightly stubbly skin of his jaw. He felt a sense of rightness as she sighed and rested her head against his chest, swaying to the music and the muted rhythm of his heart.

"They might fade and turn to stone. Let's get crazy all alone. Hold me closer than you'd ever dare, close your eyes and I'll be there. After all is said and done, after all you are the one. Take me up your stairs and through the door. Take me where we don't care anymore."

Mulder felt her soft sigh of contentment though his shirt and smiling, he slipped a finger beneath her chin, forcing her to lift her head and meet his gaze. Slowly, as if drawn together by some unstoppable force, their lips moved to touch. Feather soft at first, then feeding on the emotions stirred as cautious tongues began to probe deeper, bodies melded, souls meshed.

"Love, look what you've done to me, never thought I'd fall again so easily. Oh, love, you wouldn't lie to me ... would you, leading me to feel this way?"

"I love you, Scully," Mulder murmured, over and over, tasting the smooth soft flesh of her neck. "Tell me you want me, please, say this is what you want."

He felt the warm, pliant body he was holding, instantly grow rigid, then stumbled backwards as she pushed away. The separation was painful, and a jolting agony came as a result of its unexpected suddenness.

"Love, look what you've done to me, never thought I'd fall again so easily."

"Scully?" his tone was part question, part knowing plea.

"I can't..." she cried, then whirling, she slipped away, disappearing into the crowd.

"Oh, love, you wouldn't lie to me, leading me to feel this way."


Mulder cursed himself for pushing her. *I always manage to screw everything up. She's the best thing that ever happened in my sorry life, and now I've scared her off. But... I love her. I thought she loved me. Guess I was just fooling myself, as usual.*

Morose, Mulder made his way off the Strand and to the nearest liquor store he could find. He bought a fifth of cheap tequila and wandered off down to the harbor where he plopped himself down on the dock, legs hanging over the edge, and opened the bottle. He took a long swig and coughed as the liquor burned its way down.

"Drinkin' alone? Why ain't you at Mardi Gras, the big party?" said a deep, resonant voice from nearby.

Mulder whirled around to see a middle-aged black man cleaning fish on the dock beside a charter fishing boat. The clientele had apparently all left, and the crew was busy washing down the boat.

"Parties are highly overrated," replied Mulder. "So why are you standing there cleaning fish instead of being at Mardi Gras?"

"I'm workin'. Just cleaned a bunch of fish for some folks who came off that party boat. They gave me these as a tip. Gonna take 'em home to the family."

Mulder stood and walked over to the man and offered him the bottle.

"Here, have a drink on me. Then I won't be drinkin' alone."

The older man chuckled and took a sip of the tequila to be companionable, then handed it back to Mulder.

"Thanks, but I can't have too much. Wife'll shoot me if I come home plastered."

"How long you been married, Mr. ...?" asked Mulder.

"Henry Feathers. It'll be 37 years this April," the man replied with a grin. "And you are?"

"Fox Mulder -- but just call me Mulder. Tell me, in 37 years of marriage, have you been able to figure out women?"

"Not completely, guess I never will. You got woman trouble?"

Mulder took another swig and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "You could say that. I've known her almost nine years and been in love with her most of that time. The last year, we've been getting closer and I thought she was finally ready to let me in. I guess I pressed her too hard and scared her off. Now, I'm wondering whether I was kidding myself all along that she cared more for me than just as a friend."

"Nine years?" Henry whistled. "I thought my Amelia took a long time to warm up to me. I courted her for a year before she'd let me kiss her and it took three years to get her to accept my proposal."

"Well, it's complicated between Scully and me," Mulder told him, easing himself down on the dock and handing the bottle back to Henry.

Henry took another drink, returned the bottle, then started putting his fresh fish fillets in plastic bags, then in the cooler at his feet.

"You see, we work together, we're partners."

"You own a business?"

"No, we're FBI partners -- out of Washington."

"You down here on vacation or business?"

"A little of both."

Henry nodded and asked, "You checkin' into that drug smugglin' I've been hearing rumors about?"

"No, we're FBI, not DEA. We're in a special department that investigates unsolved cases -- often with a paranormal bent."

"Like ghosts and stuff?"

"Yeah, like that. Coast Guardsman told me about this ghost ship that appears off Fort Travis. We came down to check it out. Since it's Mardi Gras, I thought Scully and I could have a little fun, too."

"Galveston and Bolivar are full of ghosts, that ain't nothin' new," said Henry. "So what's the problem with you and your woman?"

He sat down on the dock beside Mulder, who passed him the bottle of tequila.

"We were dancing, having a great time. Then we kissed. She seemed to be enjoying it, then I told her I loved her and... well, anyway, she spooked and ran off."

"I get the picture. Women are funny, that way. They say we men have a tough time committing, but they're just as bad, I'd say," Henry mused.

"So how did you get Amelia to break down and let you in her heart?"

"I just waited her out and let her come to me when she was ready. Didn't give up, though. I kept courtin' her. And I made it a point to let her know how special she was to me."

Henry stood up and gave Mulder back his bottle.

"Well, I reckon I've had enough. Wouldn't do for me to go stumblin' home to the missus, drunk as a skunk. And I gotta get these fish home and put in the icebox. Gonna have a fish fry tomorrow for the family."

"How many kids you got?"

"Five -- three boys and two girls. All of 'em are married and I got seven grandkids and one on the way."

"Sounds like a fine family."

"I'm sure you and your woman will patch things up and have a family of your own someday."

"No, Scully can't have children, I'm afraid," Mulder said wistfully.

Henry laughed. "That's what they told my wife before she got pregnant with our first. I wouldn't be too sure about all that."

Mulder shrugged, knowing it was all too complicated to explain to a stranger.

"Well, nice talking to you, Henry. Thanks for the companionship -- and the advice."

"It'll be OK," Henry told him. "If she loves you, and I bet she does or she wouldn't have stayed with you all these years, she'll come around. Just don't give up on her."

Henry loaded his ice chest in the back of his pickup, then with a wave to Mulder, climbed in and drove off.

Mulder downed the rest of the bottle in silence, accompanied by only his self-condemning thoughts. Much later, though the sounds of Mardi Gras were still going strong, he weaved his way back to the Harbor House and to their room.

After several attempts, Mulder managed to get the door open and stumbled into the room. The door to the bedroom was shut, but the sofa bed was already pulled out and the covers turned back. Mulder clumsily stripped to his boxers and collapsed on the bed, out before he could even climb under the sheets.

Ensconced in her room, Scully heard Mulder come in and she feigned sleep just in case he opened her bedroom door. Hearing his sigh as he hit the bed, Scully finally drifted off herself. She woke two hours later and noticed the light was still shining under the door. Quietly, she arose and carefully opened the door.

She saw Mulder sprawled face down on the bed, snoring softly and mumbling in his sleep. "Scully..."

She approached and caught the strong odor of tequila. Tears sprung into her eyes as she picked up a blanket and covered Mulder, then lightly kissed him on the cheek before turning off the lights and returning to her room -- to a fitful night of tossing and turning, finally falling asleep just before dawn.


PART 4

Mulder awoke early as the morning sun's rays brightened the room. His head was pounding unmercifully and his mouth tasted like something vile. He tried covering his head with the other pillow, but it was no use. He gave up on sleep, rummaged through his bag and found a bottle of aspirin, shaking out four and downing them with a glass of water. He showered, letting the warm water stream over his aching head, then got out and dressed, preparing to go in search of food.

Not trusting himself to drive just yet, he wandered around the Strand on foot. Street crews were busy cleaning up the mess from the night before and cops were rousting a youth who had passed out in front of a shop on the square.

Finally, he found a caf open for breakfast and downed several cups of coffee and a huge stack of pancakes. By the time he finished, it was almost 9 a.m., so he ordered a large cup of coffee and an order of Eggs Benedict to take back for Scully.

Mulder arrived back at the hotel room around 9:45, to hear Scully showering. He tried not to think about what it would be like to join her. Those kind of thoughts had brought him nothing but trouble, so far.

She emerged, wrapped in a thick terrycloth robe.

"I brought you breakfast," Mulder told her, acting as if everything was normal. "It's on the table, there. When you get ready, let's go to Moody Gardens, OK? I've heard it's pretty spectacular." He looked at the brochure he'd picked up in the hotel lobby. "They have a Rainforest Pyramid, an aquarium, a 3D IMAX and a Ridefilm Theater. And then there's the paddle-wheeler, The Colonel, and lots more."

Scully nodded and sat down at the table. She took a sip of coffee, then opened her box of food.

"Mmmmm. Eggs Benedict! How did you know I loved this dish?"

"You mentioned it once to me when I commented on one of your low-cal breakfasts," Mulder replied with a grin. "You said you wished you could order Eggs Benedict, but if you ate like that on the road all the time, you wouldn't be able to walk, let alone run."

Scully finished her breakfast while Mulder read the brochure to her aloud. It took her another half-hour to dress and put on her makeup and when she came out of her room, Mulder was sound asleep on the sofa bed, the television turned to some old movie.

She chuckled and lightly patted his face, calling to him.

Mulder's eyes flew open and he sat up, suppressing a groan.

"Ready to go?"

He nodded and stood up, stretching.

"I think I'd better drive," she said, and he gave her no argument.

As they drove out Seawall, Scully commented, "I've never been to Moody Gardens. Back when I was doing my residency, the gardens were all they had. All these other attractions came later."

The two of them spent the day touring Moody Gardens, laughing at the antics of the penguins at the aquarium, and marveling at all the exotic colorful butterflies and birds in the Rainforest Pyramid. Mulder couldn't talk Scully into the Ridefilm Theater, but they did go for a cruise on The Colonel, then caught "Alien Adventure" at the 3D IMAX.

The sun was starting to go down as they made their way back to the rental in the parking lot, still chuckling over the movie and discussing how real the 3D effects made things seem.

Fastening his seat belt on the passenger side, Mulder said, "OK, on to Fort Travis. It's getting dark, now, so maybe we won't have long to wait until the ghost ship shows up."

Scully sighed, but complied, driving them back to Bolivar and the old fort.

They decided to wait in the car until it was completely dark, talking a bit about nothing in particular -- and most certainly not the events between them of the previous day -- and fell silent, finally falling asleep, both tired from too little sleep.

Mulder awoke when he heard an engine in the distance. Looking out the windshield, he saw a light out on the water.

He shook Scully. "Wake up. Looks like our ghost ship is making its appearance."

Scully sat up and they pulled their flashlights and guns from the glove compartment and got out to go investigate. Both of them had decided to bring their weapons, though they had left them in the car while at Moody Gardens.

As they walked by the fort, they heard voices and saw a light waving around through the battlements.

Mulder motioned to Scully and they quietly made their way over to the fort to see, not ghosts, but three very live men bringing boxes out of one of the previously-padlocked storerooms. The room beside it was also open.

"I don't think this is on the up and up," Mulder whispered to Scully, and reached for his gun. She followed suit and they crept up closer.

"That will be far enough," came a voice from behind them.

Mulder started to turn around.

"Uh, uh, don't do that. I've got a gun. Now, both of you, nice and easy, pitch your guns behind you."

Mulder exchanged a glance with Scully. He tossed his back a few feet behind the man. He had hoped that would distract the guy, but it seemed the man knew what he was doing.

"Now, you, little lady."

Scully reluctantly did as he commanded.

He picked up her gun, then backed up a few paces and scooped up Mulder's revolver.

"OK, hands on heads and march," ordered their captor.

They made their way to the fort and the three men there looked up, drawing their guns as their friend approached, herding Mulder and Scully in front of him.

"Looky what I found, guys!"

"Coupla nosy tourists, Mike?" asked one of the others.

"No, Gary, I think they might be cops. They were both packing."

Mulder got a glimpse of the inside of one of the boxes, which had plastic bags full of tan-colored enamel-like cookies. The boxes were marked "U.S. Army MRE" but these were not containers of food.

"Crack, Scully," Mulder told her, nodding toward the container.

"They got ID on them?" asked Gary, ignoring Mulder. "They sheriff's department? DEA? Take a look, Bobby," he instructed one of the men who had been helping him.

Bobby was not a particularly good-looking fellow, with his burr haircut and the scar stretching from the corner of his mouth to his ear.

He patted Mulder down, first searching for extra weapons, and quickly found the gun around the agent's ankle. Pulling out Mulder's wallet from his hip pocket, Bobby grinned at the hundred dollar bills in there and pocketed them for himself. He found Mulder's badge case and opened it.

"This one's a fed, all right, but FBI." He tossed the badge to Gary, then moved over to Scully. Looking her up and down, he grinned and proceeded to paw her, ostensibly looking for her ID and any other possible weapons.

She looked over at Mulder and saw the fury building in his face at her treatment. Scully groaned, reached out, took Bobby by the shoulders as if she was going to draw him to her for a kiss. Instead, she thrust her knee between his legs -- hard -- and he collapsed to the ground.

While the others' attention was on Bobby and Scully, Mulder tackled Mike and started wrestling him for the gun.

"Run, Scully! Go get help!"

Instead, Scully kicked Bobby in the head and quickly looked for a gun as the other two moved in.

Gary ran up to Mulder and Mike, pulling a knife as he went. He grabbed Mulder around the neck and stuck the knife into the agent's back. Mulder cried out in surprise and pain, and Mike easily broke free. Mulder collapsed to the ground as Scully struggled with the fourth man.

"That'll be enough of that, lady," ordered Mike. "Unless you want me to finish off your boyfriend, here."

Scully looked over her shoulder to see Mulder writhing in pain and Mike standing over him, his gun trained on the agent's head. She immediately stopped struggling and ran over to Mulder. Dropping to her knees, she asked worriedly, "Where are you hurt?"

"My back..." Mulder managed to say.

She noted the blood on his shirt, then pushing it up, saw the wound -- in the area of the kidney. Scully pulled off her sweatshirt, wadded it up and pressed it to the wound as their captors stood around watching.

Gary glanced at his watch. "Shit, we've got to hurry up. We've got to meet Salinas with this shipment in 15 minutes! We don't have time to deal with these two. Lock them in the storage rooms."

Bobby was standing by then, if a little awkwardly. "I want this one for myself," he said, indicating Scully.

"Later. And you can share," replied Gary with a laugh. "Put them in separate rooms. We don't want any trouble from him when we come back later to get some tail. When we get finished, we can haul the bodies offshore and feed 'em to the sharks."

Hearing they were going to be separated, Scully tied the sweatshirt around Mulder, to try to keep pressure on the wound.

They dragged a groaning Mulder into one room and chained the door back, then pushed Scully into the room beside it, locking the door after them.

Scully heard their voices move away from the fort. She walked over to the dividing wall between the two rooms and called out to her partner.

"Mulder! Can you hear me?"

Lying alone in his dark cell, Scully's voice was like a light penetrating the gloom surrounding Mulder.

"I hear you," he called back weakly.

"Are you having trouble breathing? Any blood in your mouth?"

"Breathing is OK, not great. I don't think ... they got my lung, though," Mulder told her.

"How's the bleeding?"

"Dunno." His voice definitely sounded weary.

"Reach behind you and see if it's coming through the sweatshirt I tied around you."

She heard Mulder grunt in pain as he reached around and put his hand to his back. He could feel the wetness on the back of his hand, though it was too dark to see.

"Mulder?"

"Yeah, Scully."

"Are you still bleeding?"

"Yeah."

"Lay on your back. That will help put pressure on the wound."

He did as she instructed, then cried out lightly at the pain.

"I know it hurts, but you've got to do this."

"'K, Scully. I know. You all right?"

"I'm fine."

"Truth, Scully."

"I'm a little bruised from the manhandling, but I'm not hurt. Mulder, I'm going to get you out of here. It's going to be all right."

"Ummm," Mulder mumbled. He was feeling more tired by the second.

"Stay with me, Mulder. It's lonesome over here."

"Tired."

"OK, rest a bit, then, but don't give up, you hear me?"

"OK."

Mulder closed his eyes and tried not to think about the possibility he might not make it out this hellhole. He never did like total darkness. It was so oppressive. Instead, he replayed the events of the weekend -- at least until Scully had run away. Hopefully, he'd have another chance to show her how important she was to him.

"I thought Anne and I would have plenty of time, too," said a man's voice from the darkness.

Mulder's eyes flew open and he saw a young man sitting across from him. Light surrounded the figure and penetrated the gloom of the cell.

*What the hell?!* Mulder thought. "Who ... you?"

"Name's Jamie Simmons, Mr. Mulder. I sort of ... live around here. Or used to."

Mulder took in the youth's clothing. He was dressed all in gray.

"How ... know me?"

"I saw you and your lady out here yesterday, walking on the beach. Looks like you've bought yourself some trouble. I did that, once. All my friends were joining up, so I did, too. Thought it was the right thing to do. But it didn't turn out so well. Had a beautiful girl waiting for me, but I blew it."

"You're a ..." Mulder said, not sure whether to put a name to what he was seeing.

"Ghost? Yeah, I guess that's right. I seem to be tied to this area. My shipmates, too. Difference is, they don't know they're ghosts and the ship was lost long ago."

"Why?" Mulder asked, completely fascinated.

"I don't know. I know for me, I feel like there's something unfinished. Maybe it's because Anne is tied to here, too. I see her sometimes, but I can't reach her."

Jamie shook his head. "You two remind me of us. I didn't stop to think of the consequences of running off to war. And I never could get Anne to fully open up to me. Here, let me show you what happened to us."

In the far corner, a tableau played before Mulder's eyes. He saw a little girl and boy playing together on the seashore, then the scene changed and he saw them, older, walking hand in hand along the same stretch of beach. Then at last he saw them standing on a dock. The boy looked like he did now and he was talking to his girl.

"I even proposed to her, but she wouldn't have me," said Jamie sadly. "My ship went down that night and that was it. I thought I'd have a lot of years and Anne and I would have a passel of kids and grow old together."

"What happened to Anne?" Mulder asked.

"She found me on the beach, then swam out into the ocean and drowned herself."

Mulder nodded in understanding.

*I don't think I could go on if anything happened to Scully,* he said to himself, too weak to talk much, but it seemed Jamie could hear him anyway.

"She might just feel the same way, you know."

"Doesn't want me."

"She's just scared, Mulder. Afraid to get too close. Afraid to be hurt. Anne was the same way."

In the next cell over, Scully had dozed off, but awoke when she heard Mulder speaking. She listened for a moment. He seemed to be carrying on a conversation -- a one-sided conversation.

"Mulder!" she called out. "How are you doing over there?"

"'Scuse me," Mulder said to Jamie, then answered Scully. "Still here. Not feeling too great, though. Getting cold in here."

Scully was even more worried. She was having a tough time keeping warm in the dank room, herself, and knew it must be even worse for Mulder.

"You must be going into shock, Mulder. Hang in there."

She heard him talking again to someone.

"Mulder, is there someone in there with you?"

"Yeah. Jamie. He's a ghost."

"You're delirious, Mulder. Try to rest."

Mulder chuckled, then groaned as the laughing jarred his wound.

"Doesn't believe in you," he explained to Jamie, who grinned widely.

Scully stood and felt along the wall until she came to the metal door. She pushed at it futilely. It was no use. The lock and chain were quite secure.

"You love him, don't you, Dana?" came a voice from the back of the room.

Scully whirled around to see a young woman standing against the rear wall.

The dark-haired girl was wearing a long gingham dress in a 19th century style.

"Who are you and how did you get in here?" Scully demanded.

"Anne Landry. I'm from around here. I know this place well."

"Is there some sort of secret entrance? Can you show me?"

Anne shook her head.

"Why not? Listen, my partner is next door and he's badly hurt. He needs a hospital."

"He's more than just your partner, isn't he?"

"What are you talking about? How do you know me?"

"I saw the two of you out on the beach yesterday. I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. You know, you really should give him a chance. He loves you a lot. You never know how much time you're going to have, so you should make the most of it."

Scully was completely baffled, now, but it suddenly occurred to her the only light in the room was coming from the woman. It wasn't the first time she'd seen a ghost. And she still didn't like it. At least this ghost didn't seem to mean any harm to her.

She slid to the floor, muttering, "Why me?"

"Jamie wanted me to marry him, but I kept turning him down. That kind of commitment was just too scary. I kept thinking I liked things as they were, but yet there was that longing. But I just couldn't get past my fear. And too, he was going off to war. I remember how handsome he looked that day on the dock. I wouldn't even kiss him. I was worried about what people would think," Anne told Scully, and called up the scene at the docks that fateful day in 1862.

The agent watched, her jaw hanging open, at the glimpse into the past that ended in tragedy for both young people.

"You're both dead, now. Aren't you together?" Scully asked her.

"I thought I could join him if I died, too, but it didn't quite work out that way," Anne replied sadly. "I can feel him near, but I can't approach him. It's like I'm being punished for taking my own life. I'm tied to this area and because of me, Jamie is, too. He won't move on without me."

"I'm sorry things went so badly for you. I do care about Mulder, but it's just so overwhelming."

Talking about Mulder reminded Scully to check on him again. She moved closer to the wall between them.

"Mulder?"

"Here, Scully. Been talkin' to Jamie," he mumbled.

She didn't tell him about her own visitor. She still wasn't entirely sure she wasn't imagining the whole thing.

"Scully? It's cold, really cold. Can't get warm." His voice was definitely growing weaker.

"Gotta ... rest." He tried to take a deep breath, but couldn't -- it hurt too much. "Scully...?"

"Yes, Mulder?"


PART 5

"Love you, Scully. Always."

Tears began to run down her face.

"Oh, Mulder. You know I care, don't you?"

There was no reply.

"Mulder?"

Still nothing.

She turned around, to seek out Anne again, but instead saw Mulder standing before her, his lips moving, but no sound emerging.

"How did you...?" she started to ask, then he disappeared before her eyes.

"No! Mulder!" Fearing the worst, she ran to the door and began banging on it. "Someone, anyone, please help us! Oh, God, please don't let him die."

Mulder was now unconscious and could not hear her, but Jamie did, and walked through the door of Mulder's cell.

Moving over to the one that held Scully, he looked up at the night sky. "Lord, please give me the strength to do this. Let me help these people."

Jamie concentrated and focused intensely on the metal door, then reached out, touched the padlock and it fell off.

"All right!" He pulled the chain through the door and threw it down, then opened it up and saw Scully standing at the entrance.

"I heard you yelling, ma'am. Need some help?"

"Yes, thank God! I'm an FBI agent and my partner is badly wounded and locked in the next cell over. Please unlock it so I can get in there to him."

He nodded and accompanied her to the next door. Scully couldn't quite see what he was doing, but once again, Jamie managed to activate the tumblers in the lock. Scully pulled the chain out herself and flung open the door. She could barely make out the figure lying on the floor next to the wall. Running over to Mulder, she kneeled beside him and immediately felt for a pulse. It was there, but very rapid, as was his breathing, which seemed to be growing weaker.

She called back over her shoulder, "Call 911! We need Life Flight right away!"

Jamie was puzzled at her words. He figured she was asking for outside help, but he didn't quite understand what she was saying. But he knew someone who would. As Scully tended to Mulder, Jamie disappeared.

A moment later he reappeared in Jimmy Duhon's bedroom. "Wake up, Jimmy! There's some folks need your help!"

Duhon woke rather slowly to see Jamie standing beside the bed. With one hand, he reached for his glasses on the bedside table, and with the other, pulled a pistol out of the drawer and trained it on Jamie.

Jamie laughed. "I wouldn't worry about that, Mr. Duhon. But there's a man and woman over at the fort and they need help. Man's been stabbed. She said get help, so that's what I'm doin'."

Duhon's eyes narrowed, but he reached for the phone anyway and dialed 911, requesting police and an ambulance. He hung up the phone and turned on the light. His visitor had vanished.

"I'll be damned!" Duhon mumbled, reaching for his clothes. Once dressed, he quickly looked through the house but saw no one. Grabbing a flashlight, he opened the door to go over to the fort.

As he ran, he suddenly remembered where he had seen the young man before. "Oh, shit! That's the boy I saw dead on the beach!" *Least he's a polite fella, even if he is a ghost.*

The ambulance and sheriff's deputy arrived at the fort right behind Duhon. He saw them coming in the gate and waved his flashlight at them. The deputy was one he knew -- had dealt with before.

The deputy stopped the car beside Duhon and rolled down his window.

"What's up, Mr. Jimmy? Dispatcher said you called for cops and an ambulance."

"Somebody came and woke me up, sayin' a man had been knifed down at the fort. I'm just gettin' here myself. C'mon!"

The deputy got out and was joined by two paramedics, hauling a stretcher, and the four ran quickly to the fort.

Seeing the doors open that were normally locked, it was easy to figure out where the trouble was.

Moving quickly to the nearest room and shining their flashlights in there, they saw Scully bent over Mulder, giving him artificial respiration.

She looked over her shoulder and sighed in relief to see that help had arrived.

"He stopped breathing just now," she told the paramedics as they pulled their equipment out of their case, then resumed breathing for her partner.

One medic quickly placed an ambu bag over Mulder's mouth and nose and started ventilating him, while the other started an I.V. of saline solution. After gathering Mulder's vitals, they radioed them into UTMB in Galveston and put mast pants on him to try to stabilize his blood pressure.

The doctor on the other end quickly diagnosed Mulder's symptoms and instructed the paramedics to start a unit of plasma expander.

The deputy led Scully a little ways off and quizzed her, "What happened here, ma'am? What were you two doing here?"

She showed the officer her ID and briefly explained the X- Files.

"We were here to check out the stories of the ghost ship. We were walking over to the water, when we saw lights and noises coming from the fort. We went up for a closer look and saw some men moving some boxes around. It all seemed pretty strange to be doing that after dark, so we were going in to investigate when we got caught. Turns out they were smuggling crack cocaine. You should check these boxes of MREs in these rooms. I don't think you'll like what you find. Anyway, there was a struggle as we tried to get away and one of them stabbed my partner and then locked us up in these rooms. If it hadn't been for that young man who heard me yelling, and got the doors open, Mulder would probably be dead, now."

Duhon nodded knowingly and asked, "This young fella, was he dressed in gray? And had blond hair? He showed up at my place, saying you needed help over here."

"That's him! Do you know him?"

"Not exactly, but I seen him before. He was the body I found on the beach the other day."

"What do you mean?"

"That boy was a ghost, ma'am. He disappeared right after I called 911."

Scully shook her head, but did not dispute what Duhon said.

"I'm ... not sure about all that. Look, they're getting my partner ready to transport. I've got to go. Officer, if you'll look me up at the hospital later, I'll try to ID some mugshots for you."

With that, Scully walked alongside the paramedics as they rolled the stretcher to the ambulance.

"We've called for Life Flight," the senior paramedic told her. "We're gonna meet them at the ferry landing, where it's all lit."

She nodded and insisted on riding with them, but they made her ride up front with the driver. There was a window to the back, though, so she could watch them working on Mulder.

Within just a few minutes, they were at the ferry landing and they could see the chopper coming in to set down. The paramedics rushed Mulder to the air ambulance, turning him over to the others in the helicopter, who had already brought themselves up to date on the patient.

This time, Scully would not let them keep her from accompanying Mulder.

"I'm an FBI agent and a medical doctor. And I know his medical history thoroughly."

The chopper pilot nodded in assent and she climbed in behind Mulder.

The flight over the bay was quite short, but necessary. Though the ferries ran all night, Mulder's condition was too serious to wait the 30 minutes it took to ride across on the ferry.

Thanks to the fluids going in and an oxygen mask, Mulder was again breathing on his own, but his blood pressure was still far too low. Once at the UTMB emergency center -- a complete building of its own -- they quickly unloaded Mulder's stretcher and ran him into the emergency room and the waiting hands of the doctors and nurses.

Scully quickly informed them of Mulder's medication allergies, then allowed herself to be led away to complete the necessary paperwork.

That done, she returned to the emergency room to find them preparing Mulder for surgery.

Mulder's doctor saw Scully and approached her.

"I'm Dr. Doug Wells. You're Agent Mulder's partner?"

"Right. And next of kin. How is he? You should know I'm a medical doctor myself, though a forensic pathologist."

The doctor nodded and proceeded to fill her in on Mulder's condition.

"I'm pretty sure he's bleeding internally. There may be some damage to the kidney and it looks like the renal vein was nicked as well. We're taking him to surgery immediately. If you'll go to the waiting room, I'll come out when it's over and let you know how things went."

Wells started to walk back to Mulder, then turned to Scully.

"You said you were a medical doctor yourself. You look awfully familiar. Did you go to school here?"

"No, but I did do my residency here in pathology. I finished up 10 years ago. Were you here, then?"

"Yes, I was. I must have run into you at some point. My girlfriend then was in pathology -- Brenda Vickers -- you know her?"

"Yes! We roomed together my second year here."

"I thought I knew you from somewhere. Brenda and I are married. She's on staff here, too." He saw Mulder being wheeled into the elevator. "Looks like our ride is here. I'll talk to you later."

Scully rode up in the elevator with them, though, and talked to Mulder, who was still unconscious.

She stroked his hair back from his forehead and whispered to him.

"You're going to be fine, Mulder. I'll be waiting for you. You fight, now, you hear me?"

The elevator came to a halt and they took her partner on to the operating room while she found a restroom to try and clean up.

She looked at Mulder's blood on her hands and suddenly, the grave situation hit her hard and tears began flowing down her cheeks. It wasn't the first time he'd been close to death, but it never got easier.

Scully washed up and went back to the waiting room. Checking her watch, she saw it was nearly 7 a.m. Skinner would probably be getting ready for work. She found a phone and dialed his home number.

The assistant director was very good about the whole thing, promising her any assistance necessary and making her promise to let him know how Mulder's surgery went.

Scully hung up the phone and wrapped her arms around herself. It was a lonely feeling, being by yourself in a hospital waiting room, anxiously awaiting news of a loved one.

*Loved one.*

She turned the words over in her head. *One who is loved.* She sighed greatly and sat down to wait.

*I guess I do love him. It's just so hard to say it -- like if I say it aloud, then it will disappear, and him along with it.*

The thought of Mulder not in her life was a very hollow feeling. He'd told her she made him complete, but the opposite was true, as well. *He makes me complete, too.*

Almost three hours, numerous cups of coffee and several old magazines later, the surgeon finally emerged, his scrubs stained.

Scully almost ran up to him, but maintained her dignity.

"He's a fighter, that one," Wells told her. "It was as I thought. The left kidney had a minor laceration and the renal vein had a tiny hole where the knife just caught it. If the vein had been severed, Agent Mulder would not have made it. He had a rough time in the operating room. We were pretty concerned about his blood pressure -- it plummeted at one point -- but he stuck in there with us."

"How is he?"

"I'd still call him critical, and we'll keep him in ICU for at least a couple of days, but I think he's going to be fine. We got him here in time."

"Thank you, Doctor. When can I see him?"

"He'll be in recovery for the next hour or so and then we'll get him settled in ICU. I'll send a nurse to let you know. He yawned and pulled off his surgical cap.

"Well, I'm going to get cleaned up and make rounds. Brenda should be on duty by now. You ought to drop by and see her later on. I'll tell her you're here, too."

"Thanks, Doug -- for everything. Yes, it would be great to see her again. Right now, though, I'm too worried about Mulder to be very good company," Scully told him.

"Completely understandable. I'll see you later, I'm sure." Wells left for the staff lounge to get ready for the rest of his day.

Scully took the opportunity to call the Gunmen to let them know Mulder's condition.

"We'll hack into their database and make sure they're treating him right," Frohike swore, but Scully made him promise to leave it alone.

"I'll call you if there's any change in his condition." She listened for a moment. "No, you don't need to come down right now. Yes, I'll let you know if I need you to do anything."

The next two calls were to Skinner at FBI headquarters and to her mother.

"Hi, Mom, it's me," she said, calling home. "I'm in Galveston at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Yes, the same place I did my residency." She gave Maggie a chance to speak, then assured her mother, "No, I'm fine. It's Mulder. He was badly wounded by drug smugglers. No, we're not on drug enforcement detail, we stumbled on them while investigating another case."

She heard Maggie sigh and complain.

"Yes, I know it's a dangerous job. But you know I love it, Mom. We make a difference."

Scully let her mother vent her frustrations.

"Well, Mom, I've got to go. They'll be coming soon to take me to Mulder. I love you."

Her mother said something she didn't quite catch.

"What's that, Mom?"

Maggie repeated herself.

Scully shook her head and raised an eyebrow. "No, Mulder and I are NOT going to get married. We're partners, just friends."

Maggie protested, but Scully cut her off.

"Bye, Mom, talk to you soon," she said, practically hanging up on her mother.

She sat down again on the comfortable plaid sofa and leaned her head back. The next thing she was aware of was a nurse shaking her awake.

"Dr. Scully? Agent Mulder is in ICU now, if you'd like to go see him."

Scully stood up quickly. "Did he wake up from the anesthesia all right?"

"Yes, but he's still very groggy and out of it. He did ask for you, though."

Scully would have run, but waited for the nurse to lead her to the room, then thanked her.

She definitely could not say that Mulder looked good, but just the fact that he was no longer lying in a dark, damp concrete cell, bleeding out, made him look so much better.

Scully crossed over, pulled up a chair and took Mulder's hand.

His eyes fluttered open and he focused on her. He gave her a weak grin.

"How do you feel?" she said, asking the same question she always asked when he was in such condition.

"Like... the target in a knife-throwing act," he replied.

She chuckled and brought his hand to her cheek, then kissed it.

"Scully?"

"Yes, Mulder?"

"Love me?"

She took a deep breath, looked down for a moment and replied,"Yes, I do love you, Mulder. Very much." Scully looked up to see his reaction, only to discover he was sound asleep and likely had not heard a word she said. She smiled indulgently and kissed him lightly on the lips, before leaning back in her chair and closing her own eyes.

Epilogue

The beach at Fort Travis Seashore Park was deserted -- save for two figures walking quickly toward each other.

The young man took the woman he loved into his arms and swung her around, then kissed her with a passion that had not wavered for 139 years.

"Oh, Anne, I've waited so long for you to come to me."

"I couldn't before, Jamie. But now we can be together. By helping those two lovers, we helped ourselves."

As daylight broke, a bright stream of sunlight pierced through the overcast sky and shone down upon the two.

Jamie grinned at Anne and gallantly offered his arm. "May I have this dance, ma'am?"

"It would be my pleasure, sir," she replied with a wide smile.

She took his arm and they began dancing to a tune only they could hear. Together they waltzed up the sunbeam, laughing in joy as they went, and then disappeared from view.

The End


Authors' note: The Denbigh really was a Confederate boat and its wreckage really does lie on Bird Key, just offshore Fort Travis Seashore Park. But the real Denbigh, while indeed a sidewheeler, was a blockade runner, not a gunboat. It did not wreck in a storm in 1862. It ran aground in 1865 (about a month after Lee had already surrendered at Appomattox) and the Union, who had been trying for years to catch this boat, caught her stranded on the shoals and shelled her, then boarded and burned her. The crew all escaped and were later rescued by another Confederate vessel. One crew member is listed as having drowned in 1864 when the Denbigh first visited Galveston. To read about the Denbigh archaelogical project and the boat's history go to http://nautarch.tamu.edu/projects/denbigh/denbigh.html . Galveston was an important Texas city in the 19th century. In 1860, it was the largest city in Texas and the primary seaport. For a brief history of Galveston during the Civil War, go to http://nautarch.tamu.edu/projects/denbigh/galv01.htm .

 

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