Summary: Similar to 'Ice', I guess. A bunch of agents stuck in a mountain cabin with a whole lot of creepy spiders. And the spiders aren't normal.
Author's Note: About the character death, I really did not want to include this. The reason that it is in fact in here is that I think it loses reader interest if you create new characters. So I used already existing ones, and as a consequence and to advance the plot, they had to die. And don't worry, it is none of Mulder, Scully, Doggett or Reyes. Please read, anyway! This story means a lot to me.
Kimberly gracefully skated up to Chris. When she reached him, he pulled her toward him, and together they stood on the middle of the frozen lake in the rising moonlight.
She shivered a little, and temporarily removed a hand from him to zip her coat up further.
Sighing, he looked down at her. For a while, he had been wondering if they would ever manage to get away. They had been planning the getaway for a few months, and each time something had managed to delay them. First it was a broken down car, and then Kimberly's parents had been sick and she insisted she stay in case they needed her... and it went on. But now, nothing could stop them from enjoying the break. Nothing could ruin their romantic weekend.
"Beautiful." He said, when she finished doing up the zip.
"What is?" she said, trying to keep a straight face.
He pulled her closer to him, and she put her arms around his waist, leaning her head on his shoulder.
"Everything. The trees, the night, the lake... and you." The last word was whispered quietly in to her hair.
She laughed against his shoulder.
"What?" he said, pulling away a little to look her in the eye.
She frantically tried to wipe the grin off her face. "It's nothing." She paused as he continued to look worried. "I guess I'm just happy. We finally got here. And I *know* that it's going to be a great weekend."
He seemed satisfied with her explanation, and smiled himself. "I hope so."
His smile faded a little and she gazed up at him in the dim light. In silence, they stared at each other, and she carefully shifted her skates a little to move closer to him again. As much as she could, she leaned up toward him, and their lips met. A sweet kiss, the type she'd always dreamed of. It was straight out of a fairy tale. The moonlight, the ice and the handsome prince. She tried to hold back another grin as she broke away.
She took his hand and slowly turned. "Let's get back. It's so cold out here."
He nodded and side by side, they started skating back towards the mountain cabin. It stood sweetly on the edge of the lake, surrounded by forest. Perfect. Kimberly's parents owned it, but they had given it to her for the weekend, enthusiastic about her having a break from work. Maybe a little too enthusiastic. She hoped they hadn't started planning their wedding.
And how long had it been since she went ice skating? Years. Too many to count. She smiled over her shoulder at her boyfriend before taking off, laughing like a child as she remembered why she had liked it so much. Gliding. So restful.
As she neared the shore, she shut her eyes for a brief second, breathing in the chilly air.
A horrible scream broke her out of her dream-like state and she immediately skidded to a stop, turning around. Where was Chris?
"Chris!" she yelled.
An arm flew out of the ice and waved madly at her, before falling back under just as quick.
"I'm coming!" she yelled, and skated as fast as she could toward where he'd fallen through. She slowed when she got near him, and carefully lowered herself on to the ice.
She leaned over the edge, looking down in to the freezing water. She felt her hair was wet, and realised it was floating on the surface. But Chris. Where was he?
The waves caused by his fall through the ice started to smooth, and she stared at them, feeling lost. "Chris!"
More nervous than she thought would be possible, she took a deep breath, ready to put her head under.
A sudden splash and he rose out of the water, his fingers trying to grip the edge of the ice. All over him were spiders. They extremely hairy, but of all different sizes. Hundreds of them swam around him and crawled over him. One moved down from his hair to completely cover his face, its thin, ugly legs gripping his skin fiercely.
She screamed. She screamed and screamed, until she had to force herself to pause for air. He tried to grab on to her, but she shook him off, and clumsily tried to get to her feet.
She stared down at him as the spider on his face seemed to look back up at her. Were spiders capable of body language? If they were, she knew this one was teasing her. Satisfied with her reaction, it swiftly slid a leg in to Chris' mouth. The other spiders backed off, most of them swimming deep under water. Another leg moved in. She watched in horror as the spider carefully put its whole self in to his mouth.
Chris squirmed and gurgled for air. His arms were still thrashing around, and she moved back further, terrified that he would throw a spider near her. But as much as she wanted to, she couldn't break her eyes away.
The spider disappeared from sight, and she saw Chris' eyes bulge as he struggled for air. She closed her eyes, then. And when she opened them again, all that remained was his body, floating lifelessly. And his eyes, staring up at her, still begging her for help.
Leaning on the desk, Monica Reyes looked around the X-Files office. Next to her was John Doggett, who was politely making conversation with Scully. It was mostly about her week, and how things were at Quantico. Nothing interesting. Scully wasn't even concentrating on what she was saying, as she tried to keep her eyes on Mulder, who was walking around the X-Files office, looking at all the changes since he had worked there.
They had come to visit, claiming that Scully was in the building anyway to drop off an autopsy report to violent crimes. But there was something about the way she had sailed in with a smile, and was making no move to leave anytime soon, that made Monica realise that she was actually visiting as a friend.
It shouldn't have been an odd feeling, but it was. When were they ever together as friends? They saw each other nearly every day, but it was always about a case. Yet here they were, on a Friday night, taking the time to chat like normal people.
Odd as it was, it was a good thing. And since none of them seemed to be in a hurry to go home, she tried suggesting something that she had never done before. "Why don't we all go out for a drink?"
Both John and Scully turned to look at her as though she'd spoken a foreign language. When they realised she was serious, they looked at each other, blankly.
"Uh... yeah. Sounds good to me." Doggett said.
Scully looked over to Mulder, who was playing with the new slide projector, and he stopped and walked over to her. Seeing the hopeful look on her face and shrugging, he said, "sure."
Scully smiled at Reyes and they all put on their coats.
They were about to walk out the door when the phone rang. Doggett and Reyes stopped, and turned to look at it, though neither of them moved. They somehow hoped it would stop ringing by itself. The chances that the phone call was good news were minimal, so they just blankly stared at it.
It didn't stop ringing.
"You'd better pick it up." Scully said, in a quiet voice.
Doggett gave a defeated look to her before crossing the floor. He put his hand on it, and hesitated for a moment before picking it up. "Doggett."
He listened for a few seconds before sighing and getting a pen and piece of paper with his free hand. "Where? Okay. Yeah, we'll be there."
He put down the receiver and looked to Reyes.
"What is it?" she said.
He took a breath. "That was Skinner. Kimberly's boyfriend is dead. Something about an accident at a mountain cabin. Claims it's an X-File." He looked down at the paper in his hand. "Won't say any more until we get there."
He put the paper in his pocket and was about to apologise to Scully, but Mulder grabbed her elbow. "Come on, Scully. We better get packing."
She turned to look at him, confused. "It's an X-File, Mulder. He didn't ask for us."
"I know. But she's your friend, isn't she? Her boyfriend's dead. I figure she might need you about now."
He turned around and walked out, knowing that she would follow.
Seeing Scully sigh and push her hair back, Monica grinned. "See you at the airport."
It was nearly midnight when they arrived at the lake in the four wheel drive. It was starting to snow and they had counted themselves lucky that they had been able to get there at all. Doggett parked the car and he and Reyes got out, breathing in the freezing air.
"Agents." Skinner said, approaching them. He paused as he saw Mulder and Scully get out the car behind them.
Mulder smiled and looked out toward the lake. "What happened?"
"May I ask what you're doing here?" he said, glaring at Mulder.
Mulder shrugged. "Thought you might need some help."
Skinner glared and Scully looked around at the emptiness. Other than a few policemen at the edge of the frozen lake, it was deserted. "Where's Kim?"
He glanced over his shoulder. "She's inside."
Scully moved to head for the cabin, but Skinner stopped her. "It might be best if you know what happened, first."
She tried to read his eyes, but they weren't offering anything.
Doggett looked at Skinner. "So what happened?"
"She was skating with her boyfriend. His name was Chris. He fell through the ice."
Reyes put her head forward a little. "She couldn't get him out?"
She watched as he opened his mouth, and quickly closed it again. "She uh... couldn't try."
Doggett shook his head. "I'm sorry, I'm not following."
Skinner took a deep breath. "She says... that there were spiders. She said there were hundreds of them, and that they killed him."
Scully looked at him, doubtfully. "She says spiders killed him?"
"In the middle of a frozen lake?" she said, looking at him as though he was crazy.
"That's what she said."
Doggett looked to Reyes, who was trying to figure it out, but obviously wasn't getting any further than him.
"Has anyone else seen one of these spiders?" Reyes said.
"We looked, but couldn't find anything."
"And exactly what are we supposed to investigate?" Doggett said, hating the situation more by the second.
"I don't know, Agent Doggett. But she wants to talk to you."
Doggett held in a frustrated breath and looked down at the snow. "Then lets get on with it." He led the way to the cabin.
Scully opened the door of the cabin, and immediately felt welcomed by the warmth that hit her. She stepped inside and took off her coat. It was small and cosy, and she fully understood why Kimberly and Chris had come there for the weekend. It would make a great romantic weekend, and she stopped to wonder if her and Mulder would ever do something like that. Maybe they should. Time, of course, was always a problem.
She spotted Kimberly on the couch, staring in to the open fire. The light from the flames danced across her face. In her hands was a man's shirt, which she guessed belonged to Chris.
She slowly turned her head to look at Scully, but didn't say anything. After a moment, she looked back in to the fire.
Scully exchanged a look with Reyes before they both walked to the couch and sat down either side of her. Mulder stood off to the side, and Doggett hovered near an armchair.
She didn't look at them, though. She didn't seem surprised by the fact that they had appeared.
Scully gently reached across and put her fingers around her wrist, checking her pulse. It was fine, but her skin was a little cold, even in front of the fire. She reached behind her to the back of the couch and took the blanket there, wrapping it around Kim.
Reyes looked to Doggett, who had gone strangely quiet, and she realised that she was going to have to lead. "Kimberly, I'm sorry about what happened."
She didn't answer.
Reyes folded her hands and glanced at Doggett again before going on. "You said you wanted to talk with us."
This time she nodded her head slightly. "I just..." she trailed off as she tried to find the right words. Her voice was quiet and shaky. "I just think that this... would have to be an X-File."
"Can you tell us what you saw?"
Kimberly swallowed and tightened her arms around herself. She started slowly. "Chris and I were... out skating."
She paused for a bit, and Scully decided to help her out. "And he fell through. And then what?"
She made a little choking noise as she started crying. "I don't know! I... I turned around and went to him. But... he was... all covered in spiders."
"Can you tell us about the spiders?" Mulder said, starting to get interested.
"There were all different sizes. But they were all hairy. There was one... as big as a dinner plate... and it..." she broke off and started crying harder. Reyes put an arm around her.
"It what?" she gently said.
"It crawled in his mouth. And he... choked on it."
Mulder nodded, pondering her response. Doggett took the initiative of going to find some tissues, which he passed to her.
Once she'd wiped her eyes, Scully took her hand. "You can come home with us, okay?"
Kim nodded and tried to stop crying, but she still gripped the shirt in her hands.
Skinner came in. He was completely wet, and took off his coat, hanging it near the door. "It's snowing heavily out there and the temperature's dropping fast. It's going to be a while before we can leave."
"What about the police?" Mulder said.
"They're gone. They left a while ago."
Doggett walked to the window and looked out. Shaking his head, he said, "That's definitely thick. I think we're here for the night."
There were three bedrooms. Mulder was sharing with Scully, Skinner with Doggett, and Reyes with Kimberly. But most of them weren't sleeping.
Scully and Mulder could be heard through the door. They were talking quietly. They heard a mention of the spiders, but other than that, they didn't know what the conversation was about.
Skinner and Doggett had found themselves some coffee, and were drinking it in front of the fire. It didn't make all that much sense to Reyes, to be drinking it so late at night, but she kept her mouth shut.
Kimberly was the only one in bed. Scully had insisted she get some sleep, and Reyes had sat with her for two hours before she actually fell asleep. Then she had quietly crept out of the room and collapsed in front of the fire on the floor.
"How is she?" Skinner said.
"She's asleep. But I wouldn't be surprised if she has nightmares, with what she told us."
She saw Doggett's face twist in thought. "John? What is it?"
He sighed and looked down at Monica's sleepy face. "Do you believe it? About the spiders?"
"I don't know. But I don't think she's lying."
Skinner got up and moved to the window, staring out at the frozen, picturesque lake. "It's hard to believe. But I've heard of stranger things."
"How could they even survive, anyway? Under the water, I mean. The freezing water." Doggett said.
Skinner shrugged. "Ask Scully." He put his coffee mug back in the kitchen and headed for the hall, disappearing down it.
"It's been a long day." Doggett said, getting to his feet and stretching.
Reyes nodded tiredly, though her eyes were lost in the flames.
He looked down at her and smiled. Leaning over, he took her arm and pulled her up. "We should get some sleep."
She gave another sleepy smile. "I don't think I'll sleep."
He smiled and watched as she tried to hold back a yawn.
She started to walk off, but he grabbed her arm again and turned her around to face him. It wasn't forceful, but gentle, and she found herself wishing that he would put his other arm around her as well. So comfortable...
Noticing what he had done, he suddenly realised that he didn't know why he did it. He wanted to say something, but he didn't know what it was. So he searched for something that would pass. "Goodnight." He said, with a low, sweet voice.
She grinned and moved her arm so that she squeezed his hand. "Goodnight, John."
He gazed after her as she slowly wandered down the hall to her room.
She woke around five o'clock, and dreamily opened her eyes. What was that noise? Rolling over, she saw Kimberly pulling on her coat.
"Kim?" she said, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. "What are you doing?"
In the darkness, she managed to see Kim give a weak smile. "I can't sleep."
Reyes pulled herself fully upright, but kept the blankets drawn up around herself. It was so cold. She turned her head to look out the window, and saw it was frosted over. Snowing. It must be still snowing.
Kimberly smoothed the blankets back down and hurriedly headed for the door. "I'll turn the heater on." Then, she quietly walked out.
She was lying awake, listening to the sounds of Kimberly moving around the cabin, when she heard something that didn't add up. A door slam.
Reyes strained her ears, but there was nothing following it. It had to be a cupboard door. Yes, it was a cupboard door. She was just making herself a drink, or something. She thought about getting up to join her, but then she realised that with so many people around her, Kimberly probably wanted to have some time to herself to try and deal with what happened. So she stayed in bed.
Ten minutes later, and she still hadn't heard any other noises. Her heart started pounding with fear. Why did she have that feeling that something was wrong? Maybe she should check on her. Just quickly. Then, she could get back to bed.
She threw back the blankets and her bare feet hit the cold, wooden floorboards. She got to her feet, and made it her fast task to find some warm socks. Slippers would've been better, but she didn't have any with her. She pulled them on, and walked out to the kitchen.
Silence. The light was on, and she had lit the fire, but there was no one there.
"Kim?" she whispered, as though she was going to burst out from behind the sofa.
There was no reply, and taking a deep breath, she started to head towards the door. She quickly pulled on her shoes, grabbed her coat, and then walked outside.
The coat didn't save her from the harshness of the early morning. The second she stepped out the door, a freezing wind slapped her across the face, and she squinted against it. Even then, she felt her eyes watering.
Thankfully, though, the snow was getting thinner, and it allowed her to be able to see a little, though it was still difficult in the low level of light.
"Kimberly?" she shouted, careful that it wasn't loud enough to wake the other agents.
She glanced behind her at the warm cabin one last time before stepping out in to the snow. She stopped when she got to the edge of the lake. Swinging her head around in all directions, she tried to see. First she looked around the sides of the cabin, and then out at the edges of the lake, and the forest. But there was nothing.
Starting to panic, her eyes set out across the lake itself, and she froze.
Skating out towards the middle of the lake was Kimberly.
Glad as she was to see her, there was another problem which she hadn't thought about. Deciding in a flash, she turned and hurried back to the cabin. She came out again a few minutes later with a pair of ice skates.
She threw off her shoes and started to put them on. She stood up, and carefully put one foot out on the ice. It was harder than she thought. The ice was a lot more slippery than she had expected, and she almost went sliding out. She had only been ice skating once in her life, and even that time she had spent the whole time falling over.
She stepped back on to the snow and closed her eyes. She had to do this. Kimberly wasn't herself. She needed to help. For a split second, she thought of going back and waking the others. But she shot the idea down just as fast. What good would it do? It'd only be wasting time.
Opening her eyes and taking another deep breath, she tried again, and clumsily went skating out on the ice.
If her eyes weren't watering, and if there was no wind and a little more light, she might have enjoyed it. But with every passing second, she found herself craving the time when she could put herself back on solid land.
"Kimberly!" she shouted, skating faster than she knew how.
Through the wind, Kimberly didn't hear her, and continued to slowly skate around.
She tried not to think about what Kimberly had said. About the spiders, and Chris. Were they swimming beneath the ice, waiting for her to fall through? Would they kill her, too? And would the others ever find out what happened to her? What about John? Maybe she should have woken them. But it was too late now.
Nearing the centre of the lake, she started to get closer to Kimberly. "Kimberly!"
This time she heard her, and turned around to look at her. Her face registered confusion, and mild irritation at being discovered.
She lowered her head and stood still.
Monica skated up to her, but suddenly realised that she didn't know how to stop. Kimberly realised at the last second what was happening, and caught on to Reyes' arm as she was about to go by, but the force propelled them both down, and they fell together on the ice.
Breathing hard, Kimberly sat up and rubbed her head. Why was her hand moving? She looked down at it, and saw that the ice had cracked. Frantically, she looked around, seeing that it was slowly breaking under their weight. She started to hyperventilate, and reached out to Reyes, who was lying silently.
She shook her shoulder. "Agent Reyes! Monica!"
She heard a moan. Oh my God, she thought. She's hurt. Not now. Really not now. She carefully moved herself to a more stable piece of ice. "Monica, get up! It's going to break. Get up!"
She saw Monica struggle to sit up and wince. "I can't. My wrist."
Kimberly looked at the pain on her face and her mind flashed to Chris as he drowned. Not again. She couldn't let it happen again. She got to her feet and leant over, trying to help her up. But the ice was faster than she was, and they both fell through.
Monica's first thought was a realisation of how cold the water really was. She instantly felt both numb and in extreme pain. She started kicking her legs in a pathetic effort to stay afloat. She heard shouts next to her, and water was being splashed on her face. Kimberly was in the water too.
"Help!" Reyes shouted, but all she got was a mouth full of water. Her head started going under, and she felt her hair get heavy with water. So cold. "Help!"
She saw Kimberly swim to the edge of the ice and try to pull herself up, but her hands kept slipping and she couldn't get a grip.
What she saw next made her heart freeze. Calmly swimming toward her was a spider. She took a quick breath and tried to follow after Kimberly, but she only had the use of one hand, and it slowed her progress. Her shouts faded to gurgles in the water.
Holding on to the edge of the ice, the spiders were the least of Kim's worries. The freezing water was of a much higher concern. She had started to shiver, and wasn't sure how much longer she could hold on. Glancing across to Monica, she saw she was struggling to stay up.
Then, she heard a noise of hope.
She opened her eyes and her shaky vision made out a fuzzy Skinner and Doggett, speeding toward them.
She tried to shout to them, but found herself unable to talk. Her voice just wouldn't work. She used all her strength to hang on until they came near, and carefully approached her on their hands and knees.
They took an arm of hers each, with a grip she was sure would end in bruises, and hauled her out of the water and on to the ice. They moved her partly away to a more stable area, and lying on her back, she looked up at the dark clouds as she tried to get her breath back. She shivered again. So cold.
She managed to move her head so that she could see Doggett trying to reach Reyes. But they weren't having any luck. He was shouting at her, screaming her name.
Looking horrified by the spiders, Doggett shot a terrified look to Skinner before taking his skates off as quick as he could, and jumping in to the water.
He tried not to think about the temperature as he swam to Reyes. He looped an arm around her waist, holding her head above the water, and struggled to get back to Skinner.
He stopped when he saw a spider surface in his way. All of a sudden, he felt Monica get heavier, and looked to see her head had fallen. She was unconscious.
Seeing the problem, too, Skinner slowly reached toward it, his hand skaking. His fingers hovered above it, not quite touching, and then, in a flash, he gripped a slimey wet leg, and flung it away across the ice.
Doggett struggled to keep his grip on Reyes and managed to pull her to the ice. Skinner took her, and by himself, lifted her out of the water. He helped Doggett out too, and then they turned their attention to Reyes.
"Agent Reyes." Skinner said, shaking her shoulder. "Monica."
She didn't wake up, and his freezing fingers went to her neck to try and find a pulse. He found it. It was incredibly weak, but it was there. He saw Doggett crawl toward them.
"She's not breathing." He said.
Before Skinner could act, Doggett tilted her head back and started performing EAR. Skinner watched, feeling frustrated that he couldn't do anything to help. He looked across to Kimberly, and saw her shivering. He left Doggett to cross to her, and made her take off her coat and replace it with his, which was still dry.
It was a few minutes before Reyes came back. She opened her eyes, and made little noises as she struggled to clear her throat.
"Monica. Can you breathe?" Doggett said, tenderly holding a hand to the edge of her face.
She rolled on to her side, and a stream of water came out of her mouth. She coughed a few times, and then drew in air. "John..." she whispered.
He sighed with relief.
Skinner looked across to Doggett, and nodded at the cabin. "Let's get back."
With an arm around Kimberly, Skinner opened the door. He left her sitting in front of the fire which Kim had lit earlier.
"I'll get Scully." He said, and walked off towards their room.
A minute later, Scully emerged, yawning and looking accusingly at Skinner. "What is it?" She stopped when she saw them all. She took in the scene, and then looked back to Skinner. "What happened?"
He briefly filled her in on the details and she looked to the three wet agents with a worried look on her face. "Okay. First, you all need to dry yourselves off."
John hesitated as he looked at Reyes, who was leaning against him, and seemed to be drifting in and out.
Skinner helped Kim to her room, and then Scully crossed to Doggett and Reyes.
"Are you all right, Monica?"
Monica nodded, so Doggett filled her in on Monica's injuries.
Another worried look set in on Scully's face, and she checked Monica's pulse and breathing, before putting a hand to her forehead.
"Okay, well I'll deal with the wrist later. At the moment, you need to get warm."
He hadn't wanted to leave Reyes, but as Scully had firmly said, he needed to change. So it was the fastest change of clothes he had ever done, and then he had hurried back to Monica's room.
He found her lying in bed, staring across at Kimberly, who was the same.
Scully and Skinner were near the door, and Mulder was looking out the window.
He crossed to Monica's bed, and she smiled at him, making room for him to sit. He sat down and she slid her good hand out from underneath the covers to reach for his. He took it, feeling how cold her skin was, and moved so both his hands could hold it, rubbing it gently.
"So these spiders do exist, then?" Scully asked, looking at John.
He nodded. "They're horrible looking things."
Mulder turned around, looking thoughtful. "Did they get to you? To any of you?"
The question hung in the air as they all considered it.
"I touched one, but it didn't bite me." Skinner said.
Mulder nodded and then their eyes turned to Doggett.
"I uh... didn't notice any on me. But I wasn't focusing on them too much to know. I don't think so."
Mulder then looked down at Reyes, but she looked away.
"Agent Reyes?" Scully said.
"I felt them on me." she said, near to a whisper. Her eyes started to fill with tears. "They were swimming around my legs. I don't know how many there were. And then I blacked out."
Mulder bit his lip, and then turned to look at Kimberly.
"I got some on me, but when I got out of the water, I got them off. But they didn't hurt me. There weren't that many near me. I think most of them were with Monica."
Scully looked across at Mulder, who she recognised was wearing his "panic face" that they had joked about so many years ago.
"Mulder?" she said.
He looked up at her.
"Why does it matter so much? What aren't you saying?" she said.
He breathed in and walked toward her. "Come with me."
He led her to their bedroom and sat down on the bed with her. Her passed her a few articles that had been torn out of magazines.
"Mulder?" she said. "What is this?"
"I picked these up for some light reading the other week. UFO sightings." He said. He pointed to the picture on the first article. "That's this mountain."
She stared at the picture of the dark forest with a few bright lights hovering above. After a minute, she took a breath and looked back to Mulder.
"And what are you thinking? That there's a connection between this and the spiders?"
He shrugged. "Admit it, Scully. Those spiders are showing some highly abnormal behaviour."
"How, Mulder? There are species that are adapted to freshwater living. And Chris... there's no proof that the spider killed him. It's more likely that he died from the water temperature."
He lowered his voice. "They attacked him, Scully. How many spiders do you know of that prey on humans?"
She gave him a look. "So automatically, you assume that they're from outer space?"
He looked away, sighing.
"Mulder, it is unusual. But I think, I believe, that this is nothing more than a previously undiscovered species. And as soon as Agent Reyes and Kimberly are better, and the weather eases, we can leave, and it leave it for the experts."
She handed the articles back to him, and stood up, having had her final say.
She turned around and he got up. "Even if you are right, we still know nothing about these spiders. Isn't it possible that they'll surprise us with some more odd behaviour?"
She looked down at the floor.
"And following that," he said, "it'd be wise for us to be careful."
Hours later, when the sun had risen, it was still snowing. They had nothing to do except lie around and wait, which wasn't something any of them were used to. It was ironic, thought Kimberly, as she was now getting the break that she had came for. Although it turned out nowhere near as much fun as she had expected.
She finished washing the dishes and put the last one on the tray to dry. How long would it be before they could get out of there? Surely it wouldn't be too long. All they needed was a short break and they could slowly head back to civilisation.
She ran her tongue over her teeth. They felt dirty. Surprised, she couldn't remember the last time she had cleaned them. With this realisation, and an abundance of free time, she headed for the bathroom.
Her eyes fell on the clothes everywhere. Most of them belonged to her and Reyes, and they had hung them around the bathroom to dry. She felt slightly guilty about the events of earlier that morning. Especially about Reyes' injury. She didn't even dare to think about what would have happened if Doggett hadn't been able to revive her.
Reyes had asked her why she had gone out, but she had found herself unable to answer. It wasn't that she had planned it. She was sitting in the lounge, bored, and her thoughts had naturally drifted to Chris. She had felt as if the lake was calling her. So she answered. Later, she had realised how stupid it was.
She opened the cupboard, and dug out her toothbrush and toothpaste. Unseen, a tiny spider disappeared in between the bristles on the toothbrush.
"Calm down, Kim. Just hang on until you get out of here." She whispered to herself.
She squeezed some toothpaste on to the brush, and then put it in her mouth.
Doggett looked across at Monica, who was gazing out the window at the snow. Her arm was in a sling, and with her free hand, she ran her fingers down the glass, feeling the cold outside.
"Monica?" he said.
She turned around and sighed. Was it just him, or did she look pale?
She leaned against he wall and attempted a smile. "I've always wanted to see the snow, but not quite like this."
He walked across to her and looked out the window with her. "I hate it. I just wish it would stop."
She smiled wider. "Well if I ever go on a skiing holiday, I guess it won't be with you."
He smiled back and then continued glaring out at the snow.
"John," she said, "how did you and Skinner know to come outside this morning?"
He shrugged. "I couldn't sleep. I was lookin' out the window and saw you go."
She nodded, accepting his answer.
She moved her hand from the window sill to her stomach and he looked at her, concerned.
She started to sway a little and he put an arm around her waist.
She started to move and he helped her to the sofa, lying her down. She closed her eyes, and for the first time he noticed the sweat on her forehead.
"What's wrong?" he said, kneeling beside the couch and putting a hand on her shoulder.
"I don't know." She whispered. "I feel sick."
"Do you want me to get Scully?" he said.
Before she could reply, Scully came hurrying out to the kitchen, Mulder close behind her. "Kimberly's sick." She announced, filling a glass with water.
"Scully?" Mulder said, gently touching her arm.
"What?" she said, without looking up.
His failure to answer made her look up and she saw Reyes stretched out on the couch. She stopped what she was doing and stared. "She's sick, too?" she said to Doggett.
He nodded and she turned to look at Mulder, remembering their conversation earlier. They stared at each other.
After quickly giving some instructions to Doggett, Scully headed back down the passage to the bathroom. She quietly knocked on the door, before twisting the handle and letting herself in.
Kimberly was on the floor, leaning against the cupboards, struggling to control her breathing. Skinner was sitting beside her, a hand on her shoulder.
"Take this." Scully said, handing her the glass of water and a tablet.
She shut her eyes, too weak to obey. Scully handed the water to Skinner, before checking her pulse again. It was still strong.
"Kimberly?" Scully said.
She opened her eyes again. Scully gently pushed the tablet in to her mouth, and sat back as Skinner supported her and moved to help her drink the water.
Before she took a sip, her head jerked as she started coughing. Horrible, loud coughing. She leant forward, her hands going to her throat.
Skinner sat back, setting the glass on the floor.
"She's choking." Scully reported, and started hitting her on the back.
All of a sudden, she stopped coughing, and sat back, wheezing.
Scully watched as a small spider emerged from her mouth. She couldn't help herself from moving back a little.
"Kimberly?" she said, watching in horror.
"Scully!" Skinner jumped to his feet and over Kim's legs. He grabbed Scully and pulled her back to the door.
From his shout, Mulder and Doggett came running and they both appeared in the doorway.
They all watched as spider after spider exited from Kimberly's mouth. A long line of them. They were all small, but some were smaller than others. Kimberly shut her eyes. They crawled all over her. Some went in to her hair, while others were crawling over her nose and eyes. Some even disappeared down in to her clothes.
Kimberly squeezed her eyes shut, but they all saw tears falling.
"Shit." Doggett said, but he was the only one to speak.
Unable to breathe, she took one last breath. But the spider exodus continued.
Mulder was the first to move. They heard his thundering footsteps as he ran down the kitchen and emerged a minute later with a can of spray.
Stepping past everyone else, he walked up to Kimberly's body. He targeted the ones on that had reached the floor first. As he drowned them in insect spray, the smell became unbearable, and he clamped his free hand over his nose. He continued until her whole body was covered. Within minutes, every visible spider had curled up and died.
Doggett saw one approaching his feet and after hesitating for a moment, he lowered his shoe down hard on top of it. When he lifted his foot again, there was only a stain with a few loose legs.
Once Mulder had finished, he opened the window to allow some fresh air. They all continued to stare at the body. It was ages before anyone spoke.
"Mystery solved." Mulder said, though he wasn't at all pleased at the result.
Scully nodded sadly. "They mustn't be able to reproduce in conditions this cold. They used a warm body to help."
"Parasites." Mulder said.
"We have to get out of here." Doggett said.
Mulder looked to him. "We can't do that."
"What do you mean 'we can't do that'? You want to stick around until this happens again?" he shouted.
Scully looked at Doggett. "Monica."
As he started to understand, his face went from frustration to fear. "Oh no. Oh, hell no. Her, too? That's what you're saying, isn't it? You think this'll happen to her?"
"Lower your voice." Skinner said, hoping Reyes wouldn't hear.
"Well, even if she is infected, we still have to go. We have to get her to a hospital."
Mulder shook his head. "And risk releasing these spiders on to the whole population? It only take for one to get free."
"So what are you saying? You just want to wait for her to die?" Doggett said, looking as though he was struggling to not cross the floor and punch Mulder.
He didn't answer.
"We have to figure out a way to beat them." Scully said, still looking at Kimberly.
"Yeah? And how the hell are we going to do that, Agent Scully?"
She opened her mouth to answer, but Monica appeared in the doorway, leaning heavily against the frame. She tried to look through them to see what the attraction was. "Kim?"
Scully turned around. "She's dead."
Doggett sat beside Reyes, smoothing her hair back as he put a wet cloth on her forehead. She had spent most of the afternoon vomiting. Each time she started coughing, they all sat in fear, holding their breaths, but each time she had got through it with no change.
"How do you feel?" he said, letting his fingers trail down the side of her face.
She opened her eyes and gazed at him. "A little better."
He gave her a sad smile. "That's good."
"John?" she said.
"I want to talk to you."
He nodded and took a breath, having a feeling it was going to be a "in case I die" talk. Unfortunately, he found himself to be right.
"It's uh... it's been good." She said. "Us, that is. I know it's been a long journey since we met. But I want you to know that I'm glad we did. You're a good part of my life, John."
He smiled. "It has been good. But there's plenty more to come."
The fact that she didn't smile back made him nervous. She looked away sadly.
"Hey." He said, putting his fingers back in her hair. "I promise."
She met his eyes for a second before giving him the smile and then shaking her head. She appreciated it, but she didn't believe it. "I love you."
"I ain't sayin' goodbye." He said.
Hidden away in their room, Scully sat on the bed, looking at her hands which were folded together. Sitting next to her was Mulder.
"Scully, we have to go."
She looked across at him, disbelieving. "You said it yourself, Mulder. We can't."
He nodded. "We can't all go. But if you and I go now, the world will be safe and we can come back with some help."
"I'm a doctor, Mulder. I can't leave Monica."
Even if they had agreed, they wouldn't have been able to leave, anyway. The snow had picked up again at sunset, leaving them to wait longer.
They all sat together in front of the fire. Monica was next to Doggett, leaning her head on his shoulder. He had spent the whole evening debating whether to put an arm around her, but in the end had just taken her hand.
There was a bowl on the table filled with chips. It wasn't Scully's favourite diet, but the lack of range in food had forced her to eat some.
"So, Monica. How do you feel?" Scully said, smiling across at her.
Monica smiled back. "Much better."
Mulder narrowed his eyes. "You sure?"
She tried to not roll her eyes. "Yes."
Ignoring Mulder, Doggett changed the subject. "Did you get the autopsy done?"
Scully finished eating a chip before responding. "I couldn't do a full autopsy, but I did examine her."
"And?" Reyes said.
"Well, I actually found something."
They all looked up at her, waiting for her to continue.
Scully took a breath. "Well, her body seems to have had a reaction to something. The spider inside her clearly affected her. She had a nasty rash all over her back. If a full autopsy was done, I think you'd find that she'd have traces of whatever poison the spiders carried in her."
"So this spider," Skinner said, "got inside her somehow, laid it's eggs, she fell sick, and then they... exited?"
Scully nodded. "That'd be my guess."
"Scully, wouldn't that mean that Agent Reyes would have the same rash?" Mulder said.
They all stopped eating and looked at Scully. "It's possible. But it would probably affect each person differently."
Doggett felt Monica's grip on his hand tighten, and when he looked across, he noticed the colour drain from her face.
"Monica?" he said.
"John, could you look?" she said, her voice shaking a little.
Seeing the scared look in her eyes, he had no choice but to agree.
He squeezed her hand and she stood up, removing her jacket.
"Do you want us to go?" Skinner said.
She didn't seem to hear his question, buried too deep in her fear. In the end, Skinner and Mulder backed away a little, and Scully joined Doggett.
Monica hesitated with her good hand on the bottom of her shirt. Doggett reached forward and squeezed her arm, and then she tried to lift it. Having some difficulty with one hand, they both helped her, and pulled it all the way up at the back, holding it near her neck.
John looked at Monica's back, and then straight back to Scully. She met his eyes, and they registered the same shock as his.
Hearing nothing behind her, Monica quietly said, "Is there anything there?"
They both walked around to the front of her, Doggett resting a hand on her shoulder.
"Nothing." He said. "You're fine."
Comforted by the knowledge that none of them were infected, they all slept well that night. They had agreed that in the morning, they would leave. That was, of course, if the weather allowed. But the large amounts of snow left a promise that there would soon be a break. It couldn't go on forever.
Skinner closed his eyes and allowed himself to participate in a good, restful sleep. The first restful sleep he had had since he'd been there. Exhausted, it wasn't long before he was snoring.
On the floor, a young spider felt its legs ache. It had spent most of the day exploring the cabin. It longed to rest, but it had a plan that was not to be broken. It carefully climbed the bed post, and over the pillow to Skinner's head.
Very slowly, its legs travelled over to his lips, and when he snored again, it disappeared inside.
In front of the dying fire, Monica smiled at John.
"I had you worried, didn't I?" she said.
He stepped forward and took her good hand with his. "Thanks for proving us all wrong."
She smiled again. "Looks like you'll have to put up with me for a little longer."
"You make it sound like it's going to be hard."
She tilted her head a little. "John, admit it. I drive you crazy with my theories."
He gave a small smile and let go of her hand to put his on her waist. He pulled her a little closer. "You're right and wrong, there."
She confidently moved her hand to his chest and waited for him to say more.
"You drive me crazy." He said, nervously taking a deep breath. "But not with your theories."
She rewarded him with a grin, and he leaned forward. They shared their first, sweet kiss.
After a moment, he pulled away. "You mean a lot to me, Monica. You know that?"
She kissed him again. "I know."
The next morning, Mulder was stacking bags in the car. He walked back inside and met Scully. "That the last one?"
"Yeah." She said, handing it to him. "We're just waiting on Skinner."
"Go wake him." He said. "I think it's about time we got out of here."
Scully nodded and headed down the hall. She met Doggett and Reyes.
"You seen Skinner?" Doggett said.
Scully shook her head. "You can't find him?"
Mulder appeared back in the house and clapped his hands together. "Ready?"
"In a minute, Mulder."
They all heard a low groan and snapped their heads to its direction.
Reyes went first. She put her hand on the handle to Doggett and Skinner's room and pushed the door open slowly.
"Sir?" she said.
She walked right in to the room and looked around. Nothing.
Scully, Doggett and Mulder followed her in, not understanding how their boss could suddenly disappear.
"Sir?" Scully called.
There was another groan coming from behind them. With a sinking feeling, Mulder pulled the door back, closing it. Behind the door was Skinner, sitting against the wall.
Reyes gasped and stepped back, retreating all the way to the window on the other side of the room. The others did the same, but didn't take their eyes off of Skinner.
Like Kimberly, he was covered in spiders. Hundreds. Like an army, they advanced, crawling over his clothes and on to the floor. A few stray spiders went in other directions, but those who were paying attention knew which way to go.
They marched toward the agents. They had them cornered.
"Shit." Doggett said, his back flat against the wall. "What do we do?"
Mulder shrugged. "Squash them."
Looking at the hundreds of spiders, Scully started to panic. "There's no way you could get them all."
The spiders were closing in when the leaders stopped. As if there were a chalk line drawn across the floor, they stopped. Their front left legs they lifted a little off the ground, lightly tapping the other side, but they didn't dare walk on it.
"What are they doing?" Reyes said, fascinated by the sight. "Why aren't they coming near us?"
"It's as if they're sensing something. That we're no good." Doggett said.
Scully choked back a lump in her throat. "One of us must be already infected."
They all stared at her in horror.
"Who?" Reyes said.
Mulder looked at the spiders. "Never mind that. How are we going to get past these guys? They're not moving, and there's hundreds of them."
"Take off your coat, Mulder." Scully said.
He didn't understand what she was getting at, but he didn't hesitate to obey. He gave his coat to her.
"I'm going to throw it over them. When it's down, Mulder, you go and get the spray. Okay?"
She threw it down, and the spiders on the edge of the crowd scattered. Mulder ran across, and the others waited for a very tense minute before he returned with the insect spray. Careful to avoid encountering any, he sprayed the floor until every last one was dead.
They stood looking at Skinner's body, and a silence fell over the cabin.
"What do we do now?" Reyes said.
Doggett looked at her. "We're the FBI. We figure it all out. Right from the beginning."
They sat down on the couch, the bags forgotten. Scully laced her fingers together and took a breath. "Okay. So Kimberly and Chris came up here on Friday night. They went ice skating, and he fell through. Kim said the spider went in his mouth, and then he died."
They all nodded in agreement, and Mulder took the next step. "Skinner called us at the X-Files office, and we came up here. We heard Kim's story, but the snow prevented us from leaving. Then..." he shrugged at Reyes. "I don't know what happened with you."
Reyes took a moment to recall the information before starting. "I woke around five to see Kim leaving. I heard a door slam, and a few minutes later followed her on to the ice. I got to her, but we both fell through." She paused to take another breath. "I went in the water, hurting my wrist on the way. Skinner and John came and pulled us both out."
Mulder put up a hand to stop John from adding. "I think this is significant."
"Which part?" Scully asked.
"Well, Scully, both Skinner and Kim died from spiders in the cabin. Yet up until we arrived, the spiders were only in the lake. Now we know that because there were no previous incidents. So, somehow, at that point, one of you carried one up."
They stopped to think.
"Kim, Monica and I were all in the water. They could've come up in our clothes." Doggett said.
"That'd make sense." Scully said. "You hung your clothes in the bathroom after I told you to change, and then they were free to move as they liked."
"And then Kimberly was sick in the bathroom." Reyes concluded.
They stopped as they let the first part sink in.
"I don't know that we can know how the spider got in to Kimberly. But I think it goes without saying that she didn't know about it when it happened." Scully said.
"Well what about Monica? She was sick, too." Doggett said.
Mulder cut in before Scully spoke. "And she got better. Why?"
Scully thought about it, and looked at Monica as she did. "We don't know for sure that you were ever infected. Your sickness could've been due to nearly anything. We panicked when Kim got sick, and since the symptoms were the same, we assumed the same cause."
"It's a bit of a big coincidence, though, isn't it?" Mulder said.
Scully shrugged. "She never developed the rash, Mulder. And she never had the uh... spiders."
"Scully, you said yourself that the reaction might affect everyone differently. Maybe she didn't develop the rash, but that doesn't mean she was never infected, does it?"
"Well, if she ever was infected, she recovered." Scully said.
"So you think I was infected?" Reyes asked.
Doggett moved his hand to her knee. "You're forgetting all the water you swallowed. We don't know that there were no spiders in it."
He watched as she sat back in the chair, sighing.
"Lets move on." Doggett said. "What happened next?"
"Skinner." Scully said. "We found him in the bedroom. Given that he wasn't sick when we were with him the night before, I'm assuming that one got to him in the night."
Mulder nodded. "The spiders were going to attack us, but one of us is infected. And we can't leave until we know for sure."
Reyes noticed the way Mulder was studying her, and she knew his thoughts. "You think it's me."
He gave her a small smile, which Monica was surprised to see was almost apologetic. "You're the only one who's been sick."
"What about Skinner? Does he have the rash?"
They all stopped at her words, surprised that none of them had thought of that themselves. Scully and Mulder jumped to their feet, and headed to where they had stored the body.
On the couch, Doggett squeezed Reyes' knee. "If you are infected, it doesn't change anything. I'm not going to leave you."
She leaned toward him and kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks, John."
Scully and Mulder returned, and they sat back down in their places.
"He has the rash." Scully said.
Doggett took in a long breath. "I don't believe this."
Monica felt everyone's eyes land on her again. "You think it's me." she said. "But I know it's one of you."
Scully took a deep breath. "Can I make a suggestion?"
"Of course." Reyes said.
"I think it might be a good idea if you let us look again, Monica. Just to be sure."
She sighed and shook her head. "No."
Mulder looked at her. "No?"
She drew up her courage for her next statement and it was a minute before she replied. "You're all determined that it's me. You haven't given any thought that it might not be. I'm happy to prove that it isn't me. But only if all of you are happy to do the same."
Her eyes were determined, and against her determination, they couldn't argue.
"Fair enough." Doggett said.
Mulder and Scully looked at each other and nodded slightly. It was a question of trust, and they knew from experience that they wouldn't get anywhere unless they could all trust each other.
"All right." Scully said.
"Mulder?" Reyes asked.
He nodded and stood up.
Doggett was the first. Only hesitating because of the cold, he took off his jacket and tie, and then unbuttoned his shirt. He slid it off and threw it down on the couch before standing with his hands on his hips. He turned around once. "Happy?"
Noticing only his tanned skin, they all murmured that they agreed.
Mulder was next, and he did it without hesitation as well. Scully looked at him quickly, before biting back a wave of desire and looking away.
Mulder's eyes moved to her as she reached for the top button of her blouse. Noticing that she might be uncomfortable about taking off her shirt in front of Doggett, Mulder stopped her. "Scully, you don't have to -"
She cut him off. "It's okay, Mulder."
She paused and looked at him reassuringly before he stepped back and let her continue.
She finished undoing the buttons, and let it fall off her shoulders, exposing her white bra. She let out a breath and turned around, showing her back to everyone. After a few seconds, she turned around.
"You're fine." Mulder said.
She gave a sigh of relief and then their eyes went to Monica again.
Monica took a breath and then looked to Doggett. "John, can you help me with my sling?"
He stepped toward her and walked behind, brushing her hair out the way before untying the sling. He disentangled it from her arm and put it on the arm of the couch.
He waited as she unbuttoned her shirt, and then she put her arms back and he helped her take it off.
He knew it was wrong, but he couldn't help noticing her black bra, and how much he wanted to kiss her. But he covered his face and she turned around to show her back to Mulder and Scully.
When Mulder gave a sigh of frustration, she knew she was fine.
"So," Scully said. "We're all fine."
"How can that be?" Reyes said. "The spiders..."
"Maybe we made a mistake." John said.
Something caught Monica's eyes. On the coffee table, the bowl they had put the chips in the night before still sat. Though it was empty now. She walked forward and put her fingers in, and pulled them out again to reveal the cobwebs she was holding.
"Are you sure?" she said.
They all stared at her fingers.
"Oh my God." Scully said, and put a hand to her mouth. "You're saying that one of us ate one."
"It could've been Skinner." Mulder pointed out.
Reyes nodded. "But are you willing to take the risk that it wasn't?"
Out in the cool daylight, Mulder and Scully stood in the snow, looking out at the lake and the melting ice.
"What do we do?" Mulder said.
"We can't leave." Scully answered, looking at a bird that was walking along the ice. "We have to stay a little longer. Until we're sure."
"Sure of what?" he said. "We can't be sure that none of us have a spider inside of us. And we can't be sure that we won't carry one back to DC with us by accident."
"Then we try our best." She said, watching the bird take off and disappear over the treetops. "How about we stay until tomorrow night. If everyone is still fine then, we leave."
Still gazing out at the beautiful morning, he didn't reply.
He turned to look at her and nodded sadly.
There was a long pause as they stood together, and Mulder slid his arm around Scully's waist. She leaned in to him.
"Who do you think it is?" he said, quietly.
He heard her sigh, hearing the question that she wasn't ready for. "I don't know, Mulder. I know it's not me. But beyond that, I can't say."
"What about Reyes?"
"I can't explain what happened to her. I'll admit that it seemed like she had one. But I don't know. If she ever did have one, then it failed."
She shrugged against him. "I don't know. But whatever happens, we have to stick together. Accusing her isn't going to get us anywhere. Okay?"
"Okay." He agreed.
In her room, Monica sat on her bed, looking across at Kimberly's empty one. John entered and looked at her for a second before sitting down beside her and putting an arm around her.
"They're both dead." Monica said.
He didn't reply. There wasn't much to say. She broke her eyes away from the empty bed to share a sad look with him.
"We're going to get out of here." He said. He was telling himself just as much as her.
"I hope so." She whispered, and moved her hand to his leg. "But... just the thought of staying here another night, John. With those spiders crawling around. I don't know how much more of this I can take. Or how much we can take, as a group."
"Would you be okay if we shared a room tonight?" At her surprised look, he continued. "No, I mean, I can sleep in Kim's bed. It just might make things a little easier if we're not alone."
She smiled. "I'd like that."
He smiled back quickly. "How's your arm?"
In the sling, she wiggled her fingers and tried moving her wrist. "It's a little better. I don't think it hurts as much now."
"Must be annoying." He said, looking at the sling.
"You know... not being able to use it. Always having it in the way."
She smiled at the look on his face. "I can manage."
He couldn't stop a smirk from sneaking on to his face. "Nah, I don't know."
Playing along, Monica said, "What do you mean?"
"Well, maybe you can do most things. But... for example, if we wanted to kiss or somethin'-"
She let out a laugh and looked back at him. He gazed at her face, pleased with himself that he could make her smile after the past few days.
She stopped laughing, and determined to prove him wrong, she adjusted her position and leaned in.
With the first kiss out the way, they were no longer nervous and shortly after their lips met, he slid his arms around her waist and tried to pull her as close as he could. The kiss quickly went passionate, and Monica moved her free hand to his shirt, beginning to undo the buttons.
Responding, he broke the kiss to move them both further back on the bed. She stretched out on the bed, and he was next to her, and they continued. His shirt was pulled off, and it fell down to the floor.
His hands went for her shirt, but they both quickly discovered that he had been right. She broke the kiss again.
"Monica..." he said.
She sat up a little. "Get it off."
Together, they managed to remove her sling, and she pulled him to her and moved her bandaged hand around to his back with her other.
Her shirt now undone, John began kissing all the skin he could find. She was about to undo his belt when she thought of something.
"John..." she said, trying to get up.
"What?" he said, not believing that she was getting up.
She smiled. "It's okay. I'm just going to lock the door."
She walked across the floor and flipped the latch, before looking back at him with a smile on her face.
Impatient, he made her hurry up and she started to walk back to the bed when she saw something that made her heart leap.
Seeing the look on her face, and her skin quickly losing its colour, John looked around the bed, trying to spot what she was staring at.
"Monica? What's wrong?"
She couldn't tell him. She couldn't. She put a hand to her stomach and headed for the bed.
"Are you all right?"
She closed her eyes and shook her head. "I don't feel good."
He gently put a hand to her forehead. "Your temperature seems normal."
She shook her head again. "John..." she said, and took in a sharp breath. "It hurts." She paused and took another breath. "Can you get Scully?"
Watching the distressed look on her face, he leapt to his feet and started for the door, but she stopped him.
He looked at her.
"Put on a shirt."
Two minutes later, Scully flew in to the room, Mulder and Doggett close behind her.
She sat down on the bed beside Monica. The first thing she noticed was the fact that Monica's shirt was undone and her sling gone, but she quickly told herself it was none of her business and started checking her pulse and temperature.
"What's wrong?" Scully said.
She watched as Reyes glanced at Mulder and Doggett, and realised she wasn't prepared to talk in front of them.
"Ah, Mulder. Could you..."
"I'll be outside." He said.
Scully looked at Doggett, and he followed Mulder out.
Then, she looked back at Monica, who had a worried look on her face.
"Monica, what's going on?" she said.
She awkwardly sat up and faced Scully. Taking a deep breath, she began to explain. "John and I were..." she waved her hand while she tried to find the word, but Scully smiled and nodded at her shirt.
Reyes smiled, relieved that she didn't have to go in to details. "He's got the rash."
Scully stared at her, alarmed. "Are you sure? I mean, we just checked and there was nothing there."
The smile fell from Monica's face. "I'm sure."
Scully looked away and sighed. "He must have developed it extremely fast."
Monica nodded in agreement.
Scully took a breath. "Okay, well we're going to have to tell them."
"Okay." Monica said.
"But you're fine?"
"I'm fine." She confirmed.
"All right. Then lets get it over with."
He had exploded when Scully told him. Monica sat in the corner, unable to meet his eyes.
"Me? You saying it's me?" he said, pointing a finger at his chest.
Scully nodded and after a few minutes of arguing, managed to get him to take off his shirt. She took him to the mirror in the bathroom, and they all waited in the doorway while he looked at his back in horror.
"Oh no. Oh shit." He said, shaking his head. He looked at them all. "Well what do we do?"
Scully tried to stop the tears from forming in her eyes. "I don't know."
"Well what about Monica? You said she had it but recovered. How'd that happen?"
Scully looked down at the floor.
"You said it." Doggett continued, pointing at Mulder. "Maybe if you figure out your reasoning behind it..."
Reyes went forward and put her hand on his shoulder. "Calm down, John."
He looked at Monica, whose dark eyes were burning in to his. He lowered his arms to his sides in defeat. She stretched her arms around his neck and hugged him tight.
After a few minutes, Monica had managed to calm him down, and they rejoined Mulder and Scully in the lounge. She sat him down on the couch before sitting next to him and holding his hand.
"How long?" Reyes said to Scully.
"An hour or two." She replied.
Mulder took a deep breath and got to his feet. He started pacing in front of the fire. Since Doggett's outburst, he had been thinking.
"Scully, you said that Agent Reyes most likely was infected, but that for reasons unknown, she recovered."
"It was a guess, Mulder. A theory. I have no idea if I'm right or not."
"Okay." He said, folding his arms across his chest. "Then what else could it have been?"
"It could have been anything. It could have easily been the flu. She might have eaten something bad..."
Mulder interrupted. "But she wouldn't recover from the flu that fast, would she? This developed right after she went swimming."
Taking advantage of the break, Doggett put his opinion forward. "But you don't know what was in that lake. She could've easily picked up a bug there. It might have even been a simple spider bite."
Reyes shook her head. "It wasn't a bite, John. I would've known about that."
"Are you sure? Agent Doggett said you were unconscious." Mulder said.
"Oh God." Scully said, and she turned her head to stare at Monica. In an instant she was on her feet and crossed to sit next to her.
"Dana?" Monica said. Doggett and Mulder stared as Scully took a breath and started to explain.
"Monica, you sprained your wrist. But when I checked the sprain it wasn't that bad. And yet you say it still hurts when it should've healed by now."
Monica shook her head. "I don't know what you're getting at."
Scully took her arm and started to take the bandage off. When it was off, Scully tilted her head and looked up at Monica. "You were bitten."
Her wrist was completely red and she moved it in front of her, looking at it. "So I was sick because of the bite. Not because a spider got to me."
"Scully, what if it was both?" Mulder said. She looked up at him, inviting him to explain. "Well, there's some species of spider that aren't immune to their own poison. If she had a spider in her, wouldn't a spider bite have cancelled it out?"
Scully nodded dumbly as she worked it through her mind. "Yeah, that's right. It'd leave you sick, but there'd be a full recovery."
"So what are you going to do? Shove another spider down my throat?" Doggett said.
Scully gave a small smile, but didn't answer.
"The rumours are right." He said, looking from Mulder to Scully. "You are crazy."
It was another hour before Doggett started to feel sick, and at that point, covered in sweat, he was feeling a lot more receptive to Mulder's idea. After all, he thought, if there were hundreds of spiders in him, about to hatch out, then one more wouldn't do all that much harm, right?
And that is how he found himself down by the lake, staring at the melting ice. The others stood around him. Mulder was biting his lip and looking at Scully, who was staring out at the water. Monica was beside John, with a hand on his back.
"Are you sure?" she said.
He nodded. "I got nothin' to lose."
Terrified that they were all wrong, they turned to each other and shared a warm hug.
"I love you." She whispered in his ear.
And this time, he echoed it. "I love you, too."
He squeezed her hand and then turned to look at Mulder and Scully.
"Keep your mouth shut while you're in there." Scully reminded him.
He gave her a grim smile before entering his bare feet in to the edge of the lake. Even with the melting ice, it was still freezing, and he paused as his feet started to numb. He waded out to where it was knee deep, hesitantly looking at the floating pieces of ice.
He glanced over his shoulder at Monica, who he saw had tears in her eyes. But the sight was too much to bear, and without further delay, he took a deep breath and dived underwater.
For the first time, he realised just how large the spiders were. The sight made him want to close his eyes. But he knew he couldn't. If he did, there wasn't that much guarantee that he would surface again.
They swam around him, a lot were large enough to cover his face or hands, and for a moment he felt a shot of sympathy for Chris. Poor bastard, he thought. By the second, hundreds more were joining him. They started to cling to his clothes, his face, his hands and anywhere where they could find a piece of free skin. Those that arrived late swam beside him, waiting for another spider to break away.
The largest ones, which were the hairiest, he began to find a liking for. Not like, but in an odd kind of respectful way. They swam along, and their hair was as like silk, hanging back after them. It was like some kind of exotic marine life. A strange looking creature that was claimed to be worth a fortune. Maybe it would be. One day.
Feeling their slimey legs cling to his hands, he wanted nothing more than to shake them off and surface. And then be dragged out of the water by his friends. But he had to remind himself to stay. That he'd die if went. He thought of Monica's face, her tense posture as she stood above the water, waiting, hoping, that he would surface. And he swam on.
He swam until he could swim no longer, and then he headed for the surface. After finding a spot free of ice, he broke through and felt he water drain off his face as he took in the fresh air.
A wave of dizziness passed over him, and he realised he was far from the shore. The agents were a distant blur of colour, and he took another breath and dived back under to swim back.
He'd never been an arachnophobic. But he sure would be now.
When he opened his eyes, he found he was in a hospital room. Yet even if he didn't open them, the smell would've been enough of a clue.
What had happened? He thought back to the last thing he could remember. He had dived underwater again. He'd approached the edge of the lake. And that was it.
Who was holding his hand? He moved his head a little to see a grinning Monica.
"Hi." She said.
"Hi." His voice was rough, and there was an odd taste in his throat. "What happened?"
She smiled again. "You overdid it, John. You were only meant to be bitten once."
He stared at her face. "But I'm all right?"
"You're fine." She squeezed his hand. "You surfaced near us, and you were losing consciousness fast. We pulled you out and got you hear as fast as we could."
He let his head rest back in to the pillows, and he noticed a peculiar absence of two others. "Mulder and Scully?"
"They went to get something to eat. They'll be back in a minute."
He closed his eyes, and Monica listened to his gentle breathing.
A minute later, Mulder and Scully wandered in to the room. Scully's face brightened when she saw him.
"You're awake!" she said, walking to his side and laying her hand on his arm. "How do you feel?"
"Awful." He said. "But as long as I won the battle, I don't mind."
She smiled. "You definitely won. The government's got everyone up there studying them. They're not quite sure what to think of it, yet. But we've given our statements, and... well it's certainly given them something to think about."
He nodded. "Do you think they'll kill them?"
Scully shrugged and looked across to Monica, who didn't know either.
"How long before I get out of here?"
"A few days, yet." Scully said.
"I want that drink." He said.
"What? You're thirsty?" Reyes said. Scully went to get him some water, but he stopped her.
"No, that drink we were all gunna have." He paused. "I want it."
Their minds floated back to a time that seemed a few weeks ago, but was really only a couple of days, when they were standing in the X-Files office on a Friday night.
Reyes smiled. "I'm *definitely* up for that."
"Totally." Scully said, who smiled at an agreeing Mulder.
He squeezed Monica's hand. "And many more after."
She repeated him. "And many more after."