Title: The Messenger
Author: Windsinger
Written: November 2000
Rating: PG
Classification: XA, Story, MSR
Spoilers: REQUIEM, 7th season.
Keywords: Mulderangst, Scullyangst
Archiving: Gossamer, Emphereal, ATXC, and anywhere with permission and as long as the author's name is retained.
Disclaimer: Where do I start? No, the X-Files and the characters of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully do not belong to me. Chris and David, thank you for giving us a great Seventh Season finale. As far as Season Eight goes, I guess a Mulder-light Eighth Season it getter than no Mulder at all.

Summary: In the midst of his unbearable suffering aboard the alien ship, Mulder reaches out and makes unexpected contact with an amazing ally. With the help of another old friend, the messenger sets forth. It's All Hallow's Eve and anything can happen.

Author's Notes: This is one weird story. I'm posting it as a stand- alone because I can't figure out what series to put it under. It's especially for the fans of my 'All Hallow's Eve' series which I 'finished' over two years ago. Consider this an epilogue. In fact it will probably make much more sense to them then to anyone. I'm also placing it as Chapter V of 'My Travels with Charley' series (a little something for Dana.) To make things even more confusing, Jake of my two-novel Jake series (Jake of Red Shoes Diaries) also makes an important appearance. To help out everyone - even for those who have read everything but who need a refresher - a synopsis of what you need to know about All Hallow's Eve, My Travels with Charley AND Jake are included at the end of this story, so read those first if you are unfamilar with either or both stories. Just for fun - try to figure it out by yourself first. I dare you....

All four parts of 'All Hallow's Eve', 'Jake's Luck', and all my early work can be found on at The Nursery Files and on Gossamer. The first four chapters of 'My Travels with Charley', 'Jake and Fox Join the Club' (Warning NC-17) are also at Gossamer.

Woods at night. The cool breeze slips between the trees. All is silent except for the rustle of new-fallen leaves and the nearly imperceptible movements of the wary night animals. The slight form of a woman moves alone through the moon's blood-red light, at least what patches of it has made its way to earth under the black limbs of the winter-naked trees. She can hear it now, the sound of music and many distant voices, but she does not move as if she is very eager to reach the gathering. Her heaviness speaks of a weariness far beyond the early second trimester burden she carries. Hers is a burden of the spirit, of a soul worn out with worry and care.

So why come here on this night of all nights where, as the old stories say, only the evil and the dead ride the wind? Why indeed. She has not come for the warmth of the bonfire or the company of the energetic young dancers, both of which she can now see across the field before her. She has come to find again something which she feels closer to losing at the end of every endless day. All she wants is a memory. One true memory. She can feel the stirring of the air at his passage even now. If she tries very hard, she can actually hear the intake of his breath, the rustle of leaves he disturbs as he shifts his feet beside her.

"Be here," she whispers, softly but out loud. "Be here," as if the speaking makes the spell more potent. She can stay where she is, but then realizes that had been her inclination on that first night as well. She had wanted to stay behind and he had been eager to go forward, the mischievously adventurous spark in his soul much more than just the little word games they played. So he had gone and she had followed. She follows again tonight, follows the wisp of a ghost of his memory across the damp, thick grasses of the field.

The bonfire is a large one, the music loud and harsh from over-driven speakers. The beat is the product of some satanic rock group from her youth, not theirs. Better were the drums and pipes that had played the night when she and he had danced shamelessly around the fire with the other party-goers. At least the teens still danced, though in groups, not in a ring. She could join. Maybe she would catch the eye of some handsome face made unworldly by the fire light, a young man whose countenance would be enough alike to his to stir her faltering memories. Maybe she'd even let the stranger lead her by the hand to the deep grass and they'd make use of the blanket she carried. All she wanted was to lie with someone. What a wondrous thing it would be to be held again in this dark and in this place where he had been and imagine she was in his arms one more time.

Wake up, Dana. Such things never happened in real life. In fantasies maybe. Even if she truly wanted it - which in her heart she knew she didn't - which of these healthy, young males would be attracted to her tired body and tired face even if they happened to be too drunk to miss the pregnancy she hid beneath the loose coat she wore. Suddenly more weary than she could bear, she found an old wooden fence just beyond the light and straddled the top rail. Perched there like some sorrowing bird, she sat as the night cooled and watched the comings and goings between the bonfire and the shadows. Who was she kidding? These were children, talking too loud and drinking too much. The magic had never been the same since that first night. She should leave.

And she would have done just that, only two fists suddenly clasped in the pit of her stomach. This wasn't the baby's doing despite the fact that he/she seemed to sleep as little as its sire ever did. Something had registered in Dana's brain without her conscious knowledge. Hastily, she studied all the figures who had recently passed her peasant throne.

She only saw the shape of his head, his height, the set of his wide shoulders and narrow hips, the slight slouch, the easy panther-like step.

Couldn't be he and couldn't be anyone else.

A few days earlier
A metaphysical universe away.

When he did not return to their rooms before the supper hour so that they could all go down to the commissary together as a family, Sara felt a twinge of concern. That her husband would work on his translations through the midday meal without noticing the time was not that unusual. That his team of eager young resistance fighters would allow him to, was. The scruffy lot of fresh-faced idealists watched over her easily distractible lover with the care of a gaggle of self-appointed godmothers and godfathers. "Go home to your wife, go home to your children, you imbecile!" they would shout at him, usually in badly-accented Reticulan, as they pushed him out the door of the data center, sometimes with earphones still dangling from his head. And Joe would come home and take his son and his daughter and his wife in his arms and like normal people they would walk hand-in-hand down to the cafeteria where all the inhabitants of URSULA, the hidden resistance base, took their meals.

But not today. Sara buzzed down to the bunker but he wasn't there, had left hours before. He'd told them that he wasn't feeling well and, in fact, he had been sweating and his skin had appeared more blotched than usual. They had assumed he would go home and then head for the infirmary. Anna who took the call was alarmed and produced a rambling string of apologies. "He didn't seem exactly what you call ill. Just a little off-color. If he had looked very bad, we would have called you or marched him down to the infirmary ourselves."

And they would have. Kid gloves for Joe. In their manner, there was both pity and pride. If he only knew how much they all cared. But Sara knew that on one level he was aware. To be loved and cared for was just a state he had a hard time accepting.

"Do you want us to activate the phonetree?" Anna asked.

Sara had felt some dizziness herself that morning. This explained it. "No, I think I know where he's gone. If he's not there, I'll ring and then you can call out the militia."

Bundling up two-year-old Mags, Sara took her down to URSULA's preschool. With her budding intelligence, Mags was easily able to keep up with the other children even though she was at least a year younger. Then she called Skinner's apartment and was surprised to find he and his wife both in. "Just a little afternoon delight," Dr. J said contentedly. "Ah, the advantages of a five minute commute." Then with sudden insight, the older woman asked," What's wrong?"

Of course something was wrong. "Joe's missing. He didn't feel well. He left the bunker but didn't turn up at home."

"Did he go to the Park?"

"That's my guess. I'm on my way there. Will you intercept Adam for me?"

"You know that he and our own little terror are inseparable. They always come by for a snack after classes. I'll keep him here when he shows."

Next Sara heard Skinner's voice, sounding a little husky. His wife had put the com unit on speaker so he had heard all. His tone was full of concern. Alarm would come later. "Let us know if you need anything, anything at all."

Getting to the Park was not a simple operation. The journey required going down many levels in multiple elevators and then traveling west at least half a mile. Sara hailed one of the electronic carts that criss-crossed that underground road. At the Parkland entrance she found what she had expected: Joe's ID code in the security log as having gone outside three hours before and not having returned yet.

The Park was the only spot of green under the open sky where it was secure for Center inhabitants to go and then it was cautioned that they must not visit too often or too many at a time and that they must stay under the trees. This is where she found him, his lean, fit body curled as if in sleep under what she knew was his favorite tree, the oak with the strongest, widest branches. He would have built a treehouse for his son and his son's friends here if it had been allowed. She didn't tiptoe but made, if anything, more noise than needed to give him warning. But he didn't stir, not even when she touched his shoulder. He wasn't simply asleep either, not from the stone-like rigor of his muscles.

Gently, she touched his face. It was wet with sweat and yet pale and white or pale and green depending on where the skin grafts had taken and where they had not. "Joe...?" Her voice was soft and careful as her slender fingers parted his hair. "Joe...?" Nothing. She turned him over so that his head lay in her lap. So rigid and hard was he that she was able to move his body only with difficulty. His eyes were so tightly shut that hundreds of pain lines radiated from the closed lids. As always, it was a wrench to her heart to see him this way and this was far worse than normal. It reminded her of that bad week nearly eight months before.

"What's he done this time? That's it, isn't it, Love? Joe! Fox William!"

Groaning, Joseph wrapped his arms more tightly around his head as if that could somehow block out whatever was tormenting him. When she received no other response, Sara shouted louder, "Mulder!"

This time his head turned blindly towards the sound of her voice. A little gleam peeked out from under his long lashes and the furrow across this brow eased ever so little. "Scully? Oh, Scully, is it you?"

Soft as the words were, it took a while for Sara to recognize the old name he had said. True, she hadn't heard it more than half a dozen times in the past three years. The back of her fingers caressed the soft skin of this temple. "Hardly, you silly goose. Does this mean that Mulder is giving you trouble again?"

A sigh whistled faintly through tightly clenched teeth. "Shhhhhiittt...' came the response on a straw-thin trickle of breath.

"Let it go, Joe," she whispered. She tried to keep her tone light, as if that would help to ease what was a very painful subject.

"What mess has he stumbled into now?" he grumbled though so weakly she could scarcely hear him.

"Don't you know?"

His head, still unbelievably handsome in his askewed sort of way, lulled listlessly back and forth. "C-Can't think."

Sara fished in the large pockets of the comfortable jumper she wore and came up with a small ampoule and tiny syringe. Its contents seemed to help. After a few minutes the beloved face relaxed a little. Even the eyes managed to crack open far enough for her to see down into their glassy orbs. She didn't like how unfocused they still appeared.

"Need more alpha blockers?"

He answered with a curt nod, cut short as if even that small movement hurt.

"Sorry, lover, I'm fresh out. Can you walk?" Hesitation and then a weak nod of the head. With effort and help he made it to his feet and slowly, very slowly, they made their way back to the entrance. All the way he leaned heavily on her strong, slender frame.

Night. Joseph slept on as he had all that afternoon and evening. He was tucked into a bed in URSULA's infirmary. An IV snaked down into a soft needle on the side of his wrist. Beside him Sara sat watching. She had sat just so when the pain lines smoothed away and the scribbling EEG showed that his agitation was subsiding. She had caught the last apologetic gleam from under a drooping eyelid. Knowing the pattern, she had left him with Dr. Janus and the rest of the medical staff to sleep so that she could go and see to their children and arrange to be back when he woke. She'd managed it all and here she was, if anything a little earlier than she expected. His heart rate was just beginning to rise and the restless movement of his eyes under their lids had just begun to increase. Finally, his eyes fluttered open and after focusing they roamed, taking in the few furnishings in the tiny room. His gaze even strayed to the 'window'. It wasn't a real window - they were a hundred feet underground - but a projection of the area from the Parkland entrance. At the moment the scene depicted was of velvet night illuminated by an unnaturally large harvest moon. The great glowing globe hung just over the horizon to the right of the black boughs of the oak. Finally, his eyes drifted to the blank spaces beside and above the door.

"Looking for something?" she inquired, her voice reflecting her relief to find him so aware.

"I've been in this room so often, I was just checking to see if they'd put my name on it yet."

"I hear that comes up for a committee vote next week."

He rolled his eyes at her.

"Feeling better?" she asked.

A single nod. Not that much better then, but just enough to function. Sara and the staff knew that this was the way he preferred it.

"It was bad this time," Sara said. It was a statement. "Do you have any better idea of the cause?"

Joseph considered that question, his sight seeming to turn inward as he tried to find the words. "Fear. Overwhelming fear, but not the suddenly coming and going kind, like so many times before. This time it just kept coming, on and on, waves and waves of it." Not a thing of the moment then, like twisting an ankle, which Sara knew Joseph would have felt as a brief sharp pain.

"Drowning," Joseph added all at once, as if he had suddenly found a word that fit. "Drowning. Way too many thoughts." He was sitting on the side of the bed and now he bent over, heels of his hands pressed into his eyes as if they pained him.

"Like it was - when was that? - just after Mag's birthday. Eight months?"

Joe remembered. How he remembered. A week flat on his back drugged out of mind on alpha blockers and tranquilizers just to keep from going mad from the pain. Reluctantly, he searched the memories to try to determine how similar or different the two attacks had been.

"Actually, not the same. That was like being smothered by a thousand strangers' hands all reaching out to demand your attention. Strange voices, strange visions, incomprehensible emotions. This was more like it was all flowing out of me, just me... I mean... him. No, not flowing. Far faster than that, gushing. And he's terrified that he'll be empty when it's all gone, for though it's all coming out of his own head, he can't control it and he... can't... stop... it! That's what so terrifying." Joe bowed his head, rubbing his aching eyes with the heels of his hands again, even with the stiff hand which, even after all the surgery still felt 'wrong' somehow. "I'm sorry, I'm not explaining it very well."

"You're doing fine. Is it still going on?"

He didn't even have to think more than a millisecond about that. "Oh, yes."

"This isn't good, Joe. Do you get anything else? Place, time?" A weary shake of the head. "Where's Scully? Why isn't she there helping him?"


"You were channeling for a second earlier and you looked at me with his eyes, with this hunger, as if you thought you would never see me again. And you called me 'Scully'. You never call me that any more."

"You called me 'Mulder'."

"To get your attention. Nothing else worked."

Sara sat and studied this husband of hers, this best of friends. As if knowing what was on her mind he didn't meet her eyes but laid his head down into his folded arms as if it were too heavy to hold. Sara didn't know where to start. The whole subject of Mulder had to be approached with caution for despite the endless delicate surgeries and skin graphs that had so largely smoothed away the damage to face and hand and body, she knew that the majority of the scars were still within.

"Maybe you should go back to find out more about what's going on." In response to the sudden flare of anger in his eyes, she replied, "Well, something certainly is wrong, something pretty terrible."

"Give me one reason why I should?" Joe snapped, temper on a thread because of the ache in his head. "He should be more careful; let him take care of it. Besides, he's the main event, I'm just a side show."

"Am I also a side show, and Adam and Mag?"

"Of course not." The lines stood out harsh and deep on his face. "You don't understand," he sulked.

"Don't I? You've got it into your head that we've not living parallel lives but alternate ones and that he's somehow the trunk and you're just a little branch. You blame him for that... for going back to that party, for interfering with that demon and getting himself cursed. You think that that caused the split in the time line, like you somehow became multiple personalities."

"I can't help it, if that's the way it seems to me. Remember we shared memories in passing that night we got you back and the Compound went POOF! Our lives were identical as far as I can tell until that Halloween night. That's when the tumors started growing - that night - the cancer that led us to where we are now." His eyes were hard now, like she didn't like to see them. "He went on with his life, he had choices."

What Sara knew Joe meant was that Mulder didn't have to feel IT moving in him, growing stronger and stronger every day. Didn't have to face the helplessness as the beast ate away at his fine, young body. And when there was no pride left, then, only then, had it begun to feed on his mind. It had been like being eaten alive. Now he lived, but it was only by the grace of alien grafts and alien technology and that made him, in his own eyes, very much a monster.

But pity was not want Joe needed. Understanding was, and good swift kick in the butt from time to time.

"Joe, you have to go, you know you do. There's been too much of this lately. He clearly needs help." She leaned over his bowed head. "Maybe you can even stop what's going on." She lifted his head until his face was between her hands. "Joe, I love you. I can't go on watching you like this. I need this to cease as much as you do."

He raised his head from his arms but there was no softness anywhere. In the dim light of the room the orange light from the Holographic moon showed only the shadows in his eyes.

"Joe, they came when we needed them."

"Only because Scully wanted her Mulder back." The unspoken emphasis was on 'her' Mulder. Not him.

"Without Scully they never would have found me. I was at the point of suicide. You know that."

The furrow between his eyes deepened. "Right, I was well informed - after everything was over. During most of it, I lay like some catatonic corpse while the rest of you risked everything. Real helpful."

"Is that the problem? Joe, you've done your bit in this soap opera. Before and after, you've had the hardest road."

He suddenly winced, his hand going to his head again. "Maybe not any more. This is really bad and I'm just getting the backlash."

"Do I sense some yielding here, my stiff-necked one?"

He sighed, his face going a brighter shade of green than before. "Let just say that I'll try."

Sara smiled but knew she had won no battle. Carefully, she took his hands between hers. "I know it hurts, I know it's not that easy, but remember that I'll be here. You'll never be alone."

And so it was done. Joe let the drugs fade away gradually. It was easier than the full unexpected attack, like adjusting your night vision slowly instead of plunging full into darkness. There was nothing peaceful about what he found, however, though dark it had certainly become. After slugging through virtual sheets of icy rain and screaming winds, he came to a place of the blackest dread where a mind slowly sobbed itself from one nightmare to another. Hours and hours later, long after concern had turned to alarm, Sara watched her lover's spirit come back, like dawn coming slowly to fill a dark glass.

"You were gone a long time," she said, gently, when one of his small smiles confirmed that he had returned to his proper time and place.

"Not what I expected," he admitted, his voice a little hoarse and very weary. In stumbling tones as if he were slowly uncovering the story from a jigsaw puzzle of fractured images, Joseph told what he had been able to discern about Mulder's abduction. He spoke of the ship, the tests - especially the current one where Mulder was helplessly entangled in a forced outpouring of his own mind of which only one thought in a thousand was moving at his will, and yet all were his own. "And the worst part is, he's going to wake at some point realize that a snowball has a better chance of surviving Hell then he'll have of ever seeing home again." Joe looked up into his Sara's eyes. "And worst of all, in that place without hope, no one will be waiting for him when he wakes the way you are always there for me."

Sara came and wrapped herself around him. He had least was not alone, would never be alone as long as his Sara lived.

"This time," he continued now with the woman entwined about him, "there was dark, a hell of a lot of dark." He paused as if shocked by the unsteadiness of his own voice.

"You didn't mention dark before," Sara said as she did her best to warm her husband's body for he was cold.

Gratefully, Joe snuggled into her warmth. "He has this power - - HAD this power. We had it. In was in his head. It became active suddenly. Last year, around the time of Mag's birthday. When I was so sick."

"So that's what it was," Sara whispered. "Joe, this view into each other's thoughts we sometimes share...

"In comparison, like a drop in the bucket to what Mulder was assaulted with. Maybe the cancer ate away mine. What paranormal communication I have," he took her hand, "what we both have, comes from a different source entirely." Or has my copy of the lobe yet to be activated, he silently feared and realized too late that she heard anyway through their on-again, off-again link.

"But your recovered," Dana said, "so they must have cured him somehow."

"They performed surgery, but hardly what most people would call surgery. Smokey had his paid butchers rip it out, left a large and nasty hole in there. Fortunately, it wasn't a part he needed for function what we would call normally, but, unfortunately, the Reticulans who have him under their control now tried to perform an inventory of his brain. The scan ran into this black hole. It was like running into a brick wall and then falling down a mile-deep mine shaft. Too many memories dead ended there. That's where I found him when I went back in. He was lost and seriously going down for the third time."

Sara leaned over and gave him a kiss on his cool, damp forehead. "So that's why you stayed so long, you couldn't just leave him there all alone. Held his hand, did you, you old softy."

"Just don't let the guys in the gym know."

"Not a word. So how is he now?" she asked, becoming serious again.

"It was still bad but he seemed to have a handle on things. I would have stayed longer but he sent me away." He gave her a slight lop-sided smile. "Said it was time I got back to you."

Sara noticed that the expression in his eyes was still solemn. "There's more."

"Knew you'd figure it out. He did ask for something. A favor."

"Not an easy one, I gather."

"No, not easy."

Sara didn't ask but waited expectantly. She thought she knew what it would be. It was what her Joe would have asked for under similar circumstances.

"I'm going to need some help. I guess I'm going to need a witch."

Sara's nodded. It was as she had expected. "You've never crossed over by yourself before."

"That's why I need a witch. That's how Dana managed to come before."

Sara signed. "Ellie could probably still be reached, she still has her security clearance. I sent her an anonymous Christmas card last year. Since it had foxes on it, I imagine she was able to figure it out so she knows we're not dead. It is dangerous, however, contacting the outside directly."

He gave her a hug, even pulling her slight form down more snuggly into his lap. "Danger's our middle name."

"Not any more, Buster. People depend on us. Though you have to admit that you miss the excitement."

"So do you. At least this time I won't even have to leave home, not physically at least. Ellie can come here and you can hover, you do it so well. That should be safe enough." He looked up into her face and saw that she wasn't convinced yet. "Sara, he asked me to do this one thing for him, just this one. He's so unhappy. I think that's a good enough reason."

Sara looked down into his face with love. "That's good enough for me."

Time: Dana's time though a few days earlier.
Place: An alien world (i.e., California)

Jake Simmons pushed his chair back from the drafting table and raised his arms high over his head so all the long muscles from his back to the tips of his fingers stretched. Bones cracked softly. Sighing with relief, he stared over at the antique grandfather's clock. Six hours and he'd hardly moved. Looking down at the lines of the new building he'd just designed though made all the tedious work worthwhile. The structure seemed almost to be bursting from the paper. What he had created was something special, very special. He could hardly wait to have it copied. Then he could begin adding color. He knew what it would look like already though. He could see it in his mind. He also knew that ninety-eight architects out of a hundred would have used the new drafting software tools. Well, he had a twenty-one inch monitor and a dozen gigabytes of his own, but there were times when he found such tools restricting. No one could have made this with a software package, no matter how sophisticated.

Now he needed a break. It was a beautiful day for northern California, in other words, no fog. Perhaps he'd toss the Frisbee around a little. Only there was no one to toss it to. His faithful, four-footed companion was already out. The leash was missing from the hook in the hall. The neighbor boy must have come and taken the poor thing out. Jake had a way of being too wrapped up to notice the time. Only when he was dressed in gym shorts, his basketball under his arm, did he become aware that his stomach was rumbling. When had he eaten last? It was while munching a graham cracker, his passion since grade school, that his doorbell's mellow six-tone chime sounded. It was unusual to hear it chittering among the rich, airy spaces of his loft.

As he stepped across his great room, a Spartan expanse of light color and shadow, Jake wondered who the caller could be. Friends come to visit? Jake Simmons had friends, quite a few since he had reentered the mainstream, but they knew better than to just drop in. When inspiration hit, Jake would run with it no matter how many days and nights it took. Good friends E-mailed their invitations. The presence at the door wasn't likely to be just someone lost and looking for directions either, not three stories up and above the offices of the construction company of which Jake was part owner.

The person at his door was a young woman with striking, raven- black hair, which had been worked into an elaborate coiffeur consisting of many intricate braids. Her make up was heavy but well done, and her clothing had that unmistakable theatrical twist. A pendent in the shape of a pentagram hung between her breasts. She smiled into the security hole in a gentle, unassuming way. If she had grinned with one of those pasted on smiles, he would have just told her to go away and peddle her incense and whatever else she was selling somewhere else. There was something about this one, however. Cautiously, he opened the door though not without some misgivings. Exotic, dark-haired young women made him nervous, even after all these years.

"Jake!" she announced with pleasure as if she were an old friend and they were meeting after a long separation.

"I'm sorry, have we met?"

"We haven't exactly," she admitted, her voice subtly changing, "but I have a friend of yours here with me who is very happy to see you again. He needs your help."

A little anxious, Jake looked up and down the little hallway. No friend. Gracefully, she raised a hand and tapped her temple with a long, red-polished nail. "Let me explain."

- Midnight under the Moon All Hallow's Eve

Dana kept her eyes on the back of agonizingly familiar figure even as she slid hastily from the fence. She followed the man into the shadows, her eyes taking time to convert to moonlight. She didn't have to go far, though she heard him before she saw him. Her ears picked up a murmuring, barely a vibration, but she knew the pitch and the frequency, the cadence of his speech. The fists closed tighter in her stomach. Even though she had been unable to capture his voice in her dreams, she had listened to his recorded field notes every night for a month until she got tired of having to dry out her pillows. It had to be, and yet it couldn't be.

Closer now, she could hear the words, and odd words they were. A mad conversation was going on, back and forth, and it seemed that she heard two subtly different though distinct voices where there could only be one for the man she had followed was alone.

"She IS here. You said she would be, and I tried to believe, but I guess I never really did."

"So talk to her!"

"And say what?"

"You knew her better than I did."

"Now there you're wrong if what Miss Aquarius told me was true."

"I've put that all behind me. It's like a story I read once, that's all. Not real."

"I have periods in my life that seem like that."

"If that dinner you took me to last night with that couple from Seattle was any indication of how weird your life can be... Did you know you were going to be dessert?"

"You told me to go ahead with whatever I had planned -" "Californians! And artistic Californians are even worse!"

"Please, we have a mission here and we have to do this right. Remember who we've come to see. She's nobody's fool and certainly not anyone to believe what we've got to say."

"You would be surprised what this woman is capable of believing."

Dana stood and listened in wonder and growing alarm to this totally surreal conversation. Her FBI instincts had clicked in from nearly the first mad words and she wished desperately that she had brought her weapon. Anyone this crazed could be dangerous and certainly wasn't Mulder. Couldn't possibly be. It had to be that changeling she had wished for under the full moon, only she should have wished for one less physically perfect and a good deal more sane.

But what if this is Mulder? she whispered to herself. But if so why didn't those clenched fists relax in the pit of her stomach? Because even Mulder had never been as strange as this schizo. And yet if he really had been taken up into one of the alien ships as Skinner believed and they had tortured his body and played with his mind, anything was possible. There was no question that she'd take him back any way he was offered, even if the package did come with a whole new set of problems. Even Mad as a Hatter, she would love him. Anything to have him safe and with her again. Anything to even know he lived. How she wanted to believe in miracles. The problem was she had been fooled before, had even seen an alien in his form.

More likely, this was just some other man with his height and manner, a resemblance that her heart had fashioned out of all those sleepless nights.

As the conversation took another mad twist, the figure on the rock turned his head in her direction so that the red-orange from the bonfire and the harvest moon dramatically illuminated his face. Unconsciously, her soul let out a tiny sob of praise and welcome. Although she immediately stifled any additional sound, that one had already betrayed her presence.

Hearing, the figure whipped around, lost his balance on the sharp peak of the tall rock he sat upon and racked his legs coming down. The oaths that burst forth told her a lot. They were an inventive collection of colorful multilingual expletives. The kind one picks up from construction sites and not on the streets of Oxford or Martha's Vineyard. The way his body fell also told Dana all she needed to know to confirm the man's identity. Mulder had a way of shielding parts of his body, like his shoulder, that had been injured too many times before. This man didn't.

It was with a dizzying mixture of terrible regret and relief that she stumbled forward with a greeting. "Jake!"

"Doctor Dana!" His face lighted, not only with pleasure but also with relief of his own that she had recognized him so easily.

"What are you doing here?"

"It's a long story." His expression became quickly grave. "I'd glad that you didn't think I was..." He stumbled on the name.

"Mistake you for Mulder? I did for a bit. How did you find out, for you don't seem surprised to find me here without him. In fact, you don't seem surprised to find me here at all."

"Part of the same story." He seemed unsure about where to go from there and in that pause she got a better look at his face. She was one of the few people in the world who could tell Jake and Mulder apart unless they were standing side by side. He looked well. Not as pale and haunted-looking as he had seemed when they last met.

"Dana, there's someone here who needs to talk to you."

Dana didn't even look around to find this 'other' person. She'd heard Jake talking to himself and with his history wasn't entirely surprised. From her studies on the subject (which she would never tell Mulder she'd looked into) she had learned that possession tended to be more of a chronic state than an acute one. Once you've opened that door, it's not always possible to keep it closed.

"Alex troubling you again?"

He was totally taken aback by her question. "Alex? No, nothing like that, but maybe something even more strange. Joseph's here." He gave her time to absorb that. Dana only blinked. "Joseph... You mean like... Joseph? Mulder's Joseph, Sara's Joseph. THAT Joseph?"

Uncomfortably, Jake replied, "He tells me that the answer to that is 'Yes'."

Dana tried to swallow but her throat had gone entirely dry.

"He said you'd understand," Jake continued, becoming alarmed by her continuing silence. "That you'd gone through this sort of thing yourself with a witch named Ellie once -"

"Yes, yes, I know. So he's there with you? Inside you? His spirit? His essence?"


"But how and why now?"

Jake whispered the only answer she needed. "Mulder sent him."

Dana didn't remember falling. She didn't remember being caught either, but she found herself on the ground with Jake's extremely expensive sports coat between her and the dewy grass. Kneeling over her was Jake, a trembling hand protectively and expertly resting on the slight bulge of her gravis, his eyes... his eyes... Not Jake any more but the third member of this very strange trio. Joseph.

"Scully..." Her name just breathed out of him like a soul all its own, full of wonder and sorrow. "He doesn't know. He would have told me if he knew. And if he had known I would have felt the news from him months ago in such a burst of happiness..." The words tumbled out of him with so much heart and with such certainty that Dana knew they were true.

"Oh, Joe... You've talked to Mulder?"

Solemnly, "Communicated rather, but that in a moment. Are you all right? Do you need a doctor, a hospital?"

"I need to know what Mulder told you! Where is he, oh God, how is he?" She sat up edging a little away from him in the process so he couldn't see how much she was shaking. "Just tell me. Tell me everything."

And he did. About his continuing - and unwelcome - link with Mulder over the years, though the years in his universe and hers never quite coincided. He told reluctantly of his history of 'attacks' when Mulder was in distress, especially about the latest one and Sara's insistence that they needed to know more. He spoke quietly of his recent communion with Mulder's desperate and terrified consciousness and the snatches of sane facts he'd been able to gather between the storms of madness and the plunges into blackest despair.

"He's sorry, he's so sorry, that's what I got over and over."

There were tears on her cheeks now but she seemed unaware of them. "Oh, Mulder, that's so you. What could he possibly be sorry for?"

"For everything. A lot about a last night and his not spending it with you. Does that make sense?"

Dana's hands went to her mouth to sniffle a sob. "Yes," barely made it out.

"And for leaving you. He's sorry for that. Like the hapless fly, he feels that he could have evaded the web if he'd been very, very careful. He's sorry for not being careful. He MISSES you. He is so..." Joseph had trouble with the word himself, Joseph who knew better than anyone what it meant. "He is so - alone."

Dana huddled in a ball on Jake's coats and hugged her knees. Alone. That seemed to be the word of the night. Jake/Joseph sat nearby so close that she could feel his heat, but he didn't touch her again, which was how it should be. There was no one for Mulder to touch. From what Joe said, he wasn't even aware his own body nor did he have all but the merest control over his own thoughts. Instead he was trapped within a tornado of old pain and new pain, old horrors and new horrors. How she longed to stretch out her arms to gather in his sorrow, to relieve his grief and her own. Only he was so far away. Far, far away. There wasn't anything she could do but huddle around her center, rocking the miracle he had given her.

After what must have been several minutes out of time and space, Dana became aware of Joe again, waiting so quietly and so patiently. Her eyes lowered reverently to her lap and she began to speak though more to the child within that to her unexpected visitor.

"Hey, you in there," she called softly. "News, real news, this time. Both the best and the worst that I could have expected. Your Daddy's alive... but in such a hell. I made you a lot of promises - - walks in the park and baseball games - but in truth I didn't know if you would ever see your father, not even once. They could have brought him down the moment he was taken up into the ship. I wasn't even certain he was ON the ship. I've tortured myself over this so much. Is he dead? If so how and when and by whom? Would I ever know? If alive, then where and how? Held by whom? What are his chances of escape? I expected him every hour those first few days. He'd gone missing for short periods before. Underground. But when time passed, weeks and then months and no word..." Dana rubbed her nose, surprised to find tears on her face. "Then it was where should I look for his body where Skinner hadn't already looked? With both of us and the Gunmen trekking back and forth there's not much grass left in that part of Oregon. Would I even be given a body? Then there were the times when I tore up his apartment looking for ransom notes that I must have overlooked. At least it's clean. Clean and sterile like the packed ground of the den where the female paces the same earth again and again, unable to rest, endlessly waiting for her mate to return. But so much of the time he doesn't, does he? He's either dead or been caught in the jaws of a trap. Injured and alone, they've hauled him off in a cage but to where no one can tell her."

Dana heard a sob, felt the tightness in her chest. So there was that left as well as the tears. "I tried to tell myself that I wasn't special. Women since the beginning of time have stayed behind to keep the home and the children safe while their men went off to hunt, to sea, to war. Days, weeks, months without a word. That was the norm. How did they bear it? Probably, because they had no choice. They also had widow's walks. My widow's walk is every hilltop under the stars. My neck and eyes ache constantly." A question came into Joe's attentive eyes. "From looking up," she explained, "looking for a dark mass moving across the sky, or a spot of light. Looking for my M.I.A., for that's what he is." "Not M.I.A., not any more," Joe corrected, his voice very soft so not to break the grieving spell of her words.

"P.O.W. then. That is better, though where are the diplomats to negotiate his return? Where are the prisoners on our side for the prisoner exchange? All dead! Specimens in a morgue. Bodies in bottles won't buy anything! And I still don't know where he is. Joe, tell me where I can find him."

"In truth, Dana? I don't know, not on this planet. Far from here. What I do know is that he loves you, every minute, every second." His eyes went to her abdomen. "It would mean so much to him if he knew."

"No, no, you must promise not to tell him!"

Joseph's expression on Jake's face clearly showed the hurt Mulder would have felt.

"Joe, if he knew he would try something even more stupid and dangerous than he's thought of already to get back to me. Yes, I want him back, but not dead."

There was something in his eyes. The wicked hint of the light Mulder's shone with sometimes. "I guess I can think of a stupid and dangerous thing or two that he and I have done ."

"Don't I know. Even what you're doing now is not without risk."

"Somethings are so important that they are worth the risk. On the other hand, sometimes even when you win you lose."

The mirth dimmed from those eyes. He was thinking about his body back in his own universe, scarred, damaged, full of alien poisons. All for life and love of his own copy of this woman. No, not a copy. His own, unique Sara.

"I'm sorry you had to come," Dana said. "I'm sorry that Mulder troubles you."

"Story of my life," he murmured absently with a trace of bitterness.

"I guess none of us really has a choice. We must all play the hand we're dealt." Her sigh was deep and heartfelt. "Though from time to time, it would be helpful to know what the rules are for the game we're required to play."

It was Joseph's turn to look into blue eyes and he saw there the years of fear and struggle and more recently this terrible loss and her aloneness. Then there were the years he and Sara had had which Dana had Mulder had never had and perhaps never would. In a gentle tone he admitted, "I'm a self-pitying sonovabitch. How did you even put up with me all those years."

A sad smile. "It's the tragic-hero syndrome, the fatal flaw. A woman needs to be needed even by the strongest man. If you had been a superman, where would there have been a place for me?" He looked down, embarrassed and momentarily speechless. "Don't worry. I'll never let on to Mulder that I'm an incurable romantic. but you I can tell."

He laughed softly and helped her up until they were standing side by side. Neither spoke but let the sights and sounds of the celebration wash over them. The innocent young had finally abandoned their electronic screech boxes and were using drums alone. The savage pounding was like a second pulse in the watchers' bodies. The moon was high now and had lost most of its pumpkin glow but that meant it was able to illuminate the gyrating bodies all the more.

The familiar brow wrinkled. "Jake says he was in New York two weeks ago and there was a full moon then. That means that there can't be one now."

That was the least of the miracles Dana had been privy to this night. "Earthshine," she replied and then to Joe's quizzical look added, "at least that's what Mulder would say. He wouldn't question the mystery so neither will I."

A few of the couples were beginning to break off from the dancing now and drift into the shadows with blankets over their arms to find places to commune in the thick, tall grass.

Dana felt distinctly uncomfortable. Joe, as Mulder, had been to this party. The cancer in his brain that had split his time line in twain had happened in the year after their first visit here. He was the one who had suggested bringing a blanket the next time, a single blanket. Was he remembering that? What if he did? He was still in so many ways her Mulder. As if he felt her unease, his voice came from above her. "Dana, I have to go soon. I can feel," he struggled for the word, "a loosening. This was only intended to be temporary, to deliver the message."

"And I thank you for that with all my heart. And, as sorry as I am for you to go, I'm glad that you won't be separated from Sara for too long. She'd worry. By the way, do I need to find you a witch or anything to see you on your way."

His laugh was a non-laugh, like Mulder's. "Not at all. We're high tech now. There's a tea-leaf reader in California that's handling it all, probably over the internet. Seriously, I don't understand how it works and I don't think I want to."

They continued to stand uneasily watching the dancing and paying no attention whatsoever. Dana could tell just from his manner that he still had something to say. "What's the problem, Joe?"

"That is the problem. Are you certain that there isn't anything left that you want to know - or want to do - before I shuffle off Jake's mortal coil?"

He had stood back a little so she could look up at him more comfortably. He was so much like Mulder it brought fresh tears to her eyes and started a hunger sweeping through her that she didn't know if she would ever be able to satisfy.

He seemed to sense her indecision. "Dana, this is as close to Mulder as you're going to get for probably a very long time. You haven't... you haven't even touched me." Clearly uncomfortable, his voice faded. "Are you certain you don't want to?"

She patted his arm to comfort his embarrassment and wished she hadn't made even that much contact. It had felt so ... right. It had awakened soul-deep memories that should perhaps have been left sleeping. "Oh, Joe, of course I do and that's my problem. I want to do far more than touch you."

"Then do." He waited for her answer and saw her hesitating.

A cool swirl of wind breathed between them and neither moved.

"It was cruel," she said at last. "Sending Jake was cruel, looking like he does."

"Yes, I can see that, but you must forgive Mulder. It was the only way he could think of in his present state to send a message you would believe without question. We and you have been lied to too many times."

She smiled at that remark and the pronoun. In the early years of the X-Files before the split, he and Mulder had indeed been one if the metaphysics of the situation could be believed. She had learned to love Mulder then, but later she had fallen out of love with him, and then fallen back in. She had walked through hell for him since and he for her. No, Joe and Mulder were not the same, not any more. Too much water over the dam, too much blood. Which only brought them back to what was going to happen between now and when Joe took his leave.

She looked into the eyes that were more brown than they should be and for the first time questioned the identity of who had really asked for this more meaningful farewell. It wasn't like Mulder, and considering how terribly careful he had to be with his own toxic body, not what she would have expected from Joe. That meant that the suggestion must have been made by Jake, gentle, loving Jake who craved physical contact as hungrily as Mulder shied from it.

"Jake, that was you," she said.

"What?" Jake asked, starting guiltily.

"That was your idea. That Joe and I should make... contact before he leaves."

"Oh, you figured that out."

"She's not as dumb as she looks," she told him, crossing her arms and trying to look stern.

"Dana, Joe's not against the idea. Anything you want would be fine with him. He just felt too awkward suggesting it. He really will be gone within a very few minutes and before he leaves he wants to do everything he can for you and for Mulder. This has been as painful for him as it has been for you, but in the end it's what you need that's important. All of us feel that way. Joe does, I do and Mulder does. Mulder most of all."

As if someone had flicked a switch, there was Joseph glowing darkly out of those eyes, nearly bleeding in sympathetic sorrow for both she and Mulder and not knowing what to do. Dana never made a conscious decision. Instead she found herself nearly running into those arms and giving herself over to a kiss the like of which she had opened her heart to only a handful of times before. If it were possible to suck the very sadness out of someone's soul and take it as her own she would have done so. Maybe a little of Mulder remained. God! More than a little! Suddenly, he was with her, beside her, inside her. A piece of him anyway, a spark of his light, which was what she had needed but had not known she had. Under that light the sputtering hope in her own heart blazed into flame again. Worn out with searching and despair, it gave her strength and illuminated her way. Not a path to him, as she had expected, but a way to go on living without him and yet never without him.

In time she felt him go, felt Joseph's spirit dissolve as if indeed worn thin by her desperate need. Not without a word, however, not without a prayer for her to find strength to bear the bearing in her aloneness.

Not alone anymore, Dana realized.

Almost as an afterthought, she became aware that she was still in a man's strong, caring arms though the kiss had long faded away. Gently, she extracted herself, though her attention lingered on his face. She liked the light in his eyes, which, she had to admit, was like Mulder's, too. Mulder in one of his playful moods.

"Better now?" he asked.

"Much better." She suddenly realized how awkward she felt distancing herself from him. "Jake, it's not you..."

"I know. You've just always been able to tell the difference, even when I was brought to you oiled and permed like a Greek slave."

She blushed, remembering his beautiful nakedness, kneeling at her feet. "I was actually too distressed and angry with both of you and Skinner to appreciate the view at the time."

"We could try again?"

Unexpectedly, she laughed. A real laugh such as she had not had in a long, long time.

"Scully, you wound me!"

"Jake, you were kidding!"

"All right, I was kidding. For us to do anything would be like doing it with my sister. I'm depraved, but I'm not that depraved."

"But a brother can ask his sister to dance, can't he?"

Taking her offered hand, he began to lead her towards the fire and the gyrating bodies. "Of course, he can. It's a time-honored custom for hopeless wallflowers, though no way are you a wallflower."

"In this company and in my present condition I am."

"Nonsense, you glow, sis. You positively glow.'


Below is all you need to know about 'My Travels with Charley', 'All Hallow's Eve' and 'Jake' to understand this story. Not that you really need any of it because it can, of course, mean whatever you want it to. If you'd like little help, however, read on. (And, of course, I'd love for you to read the originals if you haven't.)

A. In 'My Travels with Charley' things have gone from worse, to bad, to worse for Mulder after his abduction. His particular devil is the Bounty Hunter or as Mulder calls him, Charley Hunter. At the end of Chap 4 Mulder has just been put in a coma-like state for two weeks by the Hunter in order for his captors to perform an exhaustive brain scan. They want to find out why Mulder is no longer telepathic. Charley doesn't know about the CSM's solution to this little problem of Mulder's. The Messenger is the unofficial Chap 5 of the series. Chap 6 of 'Charley' will be out in November or December and returns to the story from Mulder's POV, or at least as well as Mulder can manage. He's not functioning too well.

B. In 1996 and 1997 I wrote a four story series (well, 1 story, 2 novella and 1 novel) in an alternate universe. The series was called All Hallow's Eve. I've been asked to return to this world but felt the story was over, all except for Joseph's (the alternate Mulder's) lingering anger over all he was made to suffer. I wanted to do a story about that but couldn't think of how to get my Mulders back together. Well, not so much how as I needed a reason. There are three reasons for my merging this with 'Charley'. One: At this point in 'Charley' Mulder is undergoing terrible emotional and physical trauma and needs someone to talk to. Two: Scinut at EMXC had issued a challenge for a Halloween story featuring a full moon. Three: The Travels series needed some Scully. Why Jake? I really like Jake and what better vehicle for Joseph's soul.

In AHE1 (All Hallow's Eve I), Mulder and Scully stumble onto a wild neopagen Halloween party and have an incredible experience there full of angst and romance.

In AHE2, they attend the party the following year. A few weeks later Mulder finds that he is dying of cancer and Scully is able to save his life only by turning him over to the Consortia. The treatment is nearly disastrous but Mulder survives. As a result of Scully's 'deal' they end up as valued but carefully watched prisoners/employees. The only bright spot is Scully becomes pregnant. AHE2 ends when they find out that their experiences were all a far-too-realistic 'nightmare'(?).

AHE3 takes place at Christmas. Scully is having a terrible holiday season. She has ever reason to believe that the shared horror of AHE2 was only a dream but she is still irrationally depressed to have left that other Scully and Mulder, imprisoned, and with a child coming. To make a very long story short they reconnect with the second Mulder and Scully who are not dreams but live and breathe in an alternate universe. Our Mulder and Scully look in as their other selves escape with their newborn to the relative safety of a hidden city of human resistance fighters. Their code names become Joseph and Sandra, which Scully hates and later changes to Sara.

AHE4 is pure hell for them all. Cursed by a devil's malevolence at yet another Hallow's Eve dance, Mulder's soul is switched with that of his counterpart, Joseph, to whom horrible things have happened since Joseph and Sara were left relatively happy and secure at the end of AHE3. Scully gets her Mulder back and everything is set right eventually but not without mega-angst for both couples. At the end of AHE4 Joe and Sara have just discovered the embryonic beginnings of on odd telepathy, caused, they believe, by Joseph's exposure to the alien proteins and Sara's subsequent exposure to him.

C. Jake's Luck is a dark novel. Jake Simmons, barely recovered from the suicide of his fiancee, Alex, comes to D.C. to attend an architect's conference. He is mistaken for Fox Mulder by a couple of the Agent's enemies, kidnapped and tortured. Mulder gets him out by switching places with his unhappy look-alike and Jake and Scully end up having to rescue Mulder. An unhappy consequence of the encounter is that the ghost of Alex, who has been quietly haunting Jake, decides to take a much more active part in his life.

Jake and Fox Join the Club is very NC-17, but is much more than a story of Jake's life at the sex resort where Alex's insatiable appetite has driven him. (She more than haunts him now, it's full blown possession.) It's also about friendship and bad choices and there's plenty of Mulderangst and Muldertorture, and Jakeangst and Scullyangst as Jake tries ineptly to rescue Mulder from the drug- induced slavery where he finds him.


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