Without A Trace

by Spangle

Title: Without a Trace
Author: Spangle
Category: MSR Angst ST MT
Rating: NC17
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully belong to each other. I make no money doing this, my name isn't Carter.
Summary: When you finally have everything you ever wanted, that's when you have the most to lose. Spoilers: Through S8
Archive: Just drop me line so I can brag. Dedications: As always, for Rae, Clair, Sloan and the world's best beta - Sallie, and for my hubby, and my sons. I learned a lot about love from the three of you!
Feedback: Oh hell yeah, tell me at:
spangle1013@msn.com
Authors Notes: Just pretend that awful mess masquerading as S9 never happened. For the purposes of story telling, take "Existence" and go from there. I warn you now that this is basically your 'Scully in peril, frantic Mulder' kinda story. However I always hated the whole 'brain disease' thing, and the complete lack of exploration of Mulder's illness in "Biogenesis". So this is therefore my attempt to reconcile these issues for myself, and I really hope you find something enjoyable within (There is some smut that induces you to take the journey with me.) Believe it or not, I started this story before S9 ever started (yes it's taken me that long), and I never could have believed they would have used Mulder seeing dead people as a story telling device in the series finale - so when that happens in this story (and it's only one dead person), please be advised that I honestly came up with it before they did...I pinky swear!


"Nothing disappears without a trace..." Albert Hosteen - Anasazi

Prologue: Vanished

A.D Skinner's office
J E Hoover Building
Washington D.C
October 1st 2001
2100 hrs

Skinner paces in circles with his fists clenched tightly. His anguish is eating away at him, it feels like someone is tearing his heart out. He can't even begin to imagine what is going on inside Mulder. Glancing in his direction, he sees that his former agent is standing by the window cradling his son tightly to his chest. Skinner can hear him telling the infant softly, over and over...

"I'll find Mommy, I promise. Daddy will find her Will. I swear it."

Skinner's never seen Mulder looking quite so vulnerable. In his casual clothes, clutching his child like a life preserver, the new gold band on his left hand glinting in the light. He looks every inch the family man he has now become.

Yet inside that man is the mind of the
greatest criminal profiler the FBI ever had. A mind astonishing in it's intuitive brilliance.

This is a man Skinner has known and admired for over nine years. A man who has faced foes far worse than most people could even begin to imagine. Who has faced death, and even beaten it. A man who is one half of the most extraordinary
partnership Skinner has ever seen.

He may not be FBI any longer, but Skinner knows he has to call on this man's unique talents if they are to have any chance of solving this case. He believes there is only one way they will find Scully, only one person who can find her...her husband.


Chapter I : Domestic Bliss

48 hrs earlier
Home of Fox & Dana Mulder
Alexandria
Virginia

Mulder watches her silently; she is a vision he thinks. Her hair is tousled, her face bare of makeup. The dusting of freckles across her nose stands out in stark relief against the alabaster of her skin.

She is wearing her favourite pale blue brushed cotton robe, and he knows she is naked beneath it. He could tug the sash loose and expose every inch of her to his hungry gaze if he wished, which he does. He always does. He never tires of gazing at her naked form. He delights in it, rejoices every time he does it, in the sheer knowledge that he can do it.

After all, it took them seven years to get there. To the point in time when they crossed the line between friends and lovers; between emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. He isn't sorry it took them that long. He knows it happened when they were both ready for it, and not before.

Besides, now he has everything he has ever dreamed of, or wished for -- closure with his sister; knowledge of the truth, and of how to prepare for what lies ahead. He has a child of his own to love, nurture and protect, and a partner in life who loves him as passionately and as fully as he loves her -- Dana Katherine Mulder.

He thanks her God every day of his life for the gift that she is to him. She is his fierce and loyal protector, his saviour, his wife.

The day he married her is the happiest day Mulder recall. His wife has always been the most beautiful woman he's ever known, but on their wedding day she simply glowed from within, like an angel from heaven. The light of the Hawaiian sunset had sparkled in her hair, and as she promised him her heart for all eternity she had wept with him.

Mulder is so lost in his happy thoughts he doesn't hear her calling his name. He is pulled fully back into the present though, as her warm mouth slants over his, and her tongue licks his lower lip demanding entrance.

The first brush of her tongue against his causes him to harden. It is always this way with them. The desire that exists between them always flares the instant their open mouths join. Mulder has never known anything as powerful as the pull she exerts over him. He wondered initially when his constant need to possess her would begin to wear off. As time wore on he came to understand that it wouldn't, that he will always be hungry for her.

Reaching out and pulling the sash loose from her robe, he reaches greedy fingers between her thighs and smiles against her mouth as they meet the wetness already leaking from her. The hunger is mutual it seems.

"Mulderrrrrrr" she purrs as he pushes a finger inside of her and brushes his thumb over her clit.

"Is Will down for the night?" His voice is already coated with lust, he notes.

"Yes. Please Mulder, I've been thinking about this all day."

They spent the day with her mother, each loving the sight of Maggie Scully doting on her youngest grandson. Maggie only left half an hour ago in fact because she stayed for dinner.

"Oh really...so tell me Scully, what exactly were you thinking?" 'Talk to me baby', he thinks. Nothing gets me hotter than when you tell me what you want.

Pulling back slightly so that she can look up into his face, she smiles the smile reserved only for him. The one that always threatens to take his knees out, such is its affect on him.

"I was thinking about you, me, and your old couch."

"Again! You really like that one don't you Scully?"

"Mulder, for years I sat on that couch, knowing you slept there all the time; knowing that if I buried my nose in those ratty cushions you called pillows I would smell you. Mulder I spent seven years being jealous of that couch, now I just like to remind it 'you' sleep with 'me'."

He laughs softly at her. He had intended to throw the couch away when they bought the house, but she had almost thrown a fit when he mentioned that idea. So instead they stuck it in his home office, with his old desk and computer-- recreating his old living room until she was happy with it. She loves to make love to him on that couch, and he is always happy to indulge her.

Scooping her up into his arms he kisses the tip of her nose and heads for the stairs. "You know Scully...it's a shame you never let me make love to you in our old office."

"Well I thought about it Mulder...but your desk was always too messy."

They reach the door to the study and he deposits her gently on her feet. Pulling the cotton robe from her shoulders and watching with a racing heart as she lays herself out on the soft dark green leather in front of him.

He understands her fascination with this particular piece of his history. Over the course of their partnership it figured prominently in their lives. Work sessions over take out, the occasional movie, thousands of conversations between the two of them, the couch had borne witness to it all. And he had dreamed of her whilst sleeping on it, too many times to count. Yes, he decides, he likes to make love on it too.

He kneels on the rug in front of the couch and spreading her open in front of him, he leans over her and begins to place kisses down the length of her body. She sighs softly as his mouth kisses her abdomen reverently. He seems to start there a lot these days. She thinks it has a connection to Will. This part of her that housed their son, and that has, quickly, become as flat as it was before she was pregnant.

He thinks she may be right about his motivation. But she is a buffet to him, and it's hard to decide which part of her to taste first, the middle just seems like a good place to start.

"So now that you have me here Mrs Mulder...what would you like me to do to you?"

She actually shudders at his words and he knows the smile that instantly creeps its way across his face is smug. It makes him feel ten feet tall that she responds to him the way she does. If only all those who have ever called her "the Ice Queen," were here to witness this. His flame haired beauty would leave them all speechless with her passion and her fire. She'd fry them to a crisp and then blow them away. "Ice Queen," my ass.

"God Mulder...touch me."

Still smiling he traces one nipple with his tongue, a slow, torturous circle until he swears the swollen bud is begging him silently to take it into the heat of his mouth.

So he does, suckling on it insistently until she is panting beneath him and grabbing his hair to lead him to her other breast, not wanting it to be left out.

He lovingly bestows the same amount of time and attention onto the first breast's twin, before he kisses his way once more down her body and settles his mouth over the centre of her desire. Her breathing is rapid and shallow already, and she is glistening, so wet for him. His erection is tenting his sweat pants, and it wants out. He wants to bury himself in her and never emerge again. But he wants to taste her, to make her scream his name, and beg him to take her even more, so he parts her folds with graceful fingers and traces her opening with the flat of his tongue. She shudders again, more forcefully and tangles her dainty hands in his dark shiny hair.

He slides one long finger inside of her body, then follows it with a second as he takes her clit into his mouth and sucks hard. Her hips buck up from the couch and he moves one arm to pin her down. He releases her clit and begins to circle it with his tongue. His fingers pump into her and he teases her, bringing her closer and closer to release but not allowing her to fall over the edge.

He knows if he keeps this up for just a while longer she will start to beg...and he wants to hear her. "Tell me. I want to hear it Scully. I want to hear you ask me for it."

Through her panting she plays the game with him. "But I don't want anything...Jesus, Mulder. Nothing at all."

He stops his sweet torture and stands up before her. He has every intention of finishing what he started between her thighs, but first things first. He pulls his white T-shirt up and over his head, allowing it to fall to the floor. Watching her eyes rake over his torso before she arches one eyebrow and pins him with a stare that instructs him to lose the rest of his clothing. An instruction he hastily complies with.

Now naked, he stands before her reclining form and just as he is about to drop to his knees once more, she sits up. She takes his shaft into her hand and before he can even form a coherent thought, she has enveloped the head of his cock in her mouth. He feels his head roll back on his shoulders, and her name rolls off his tongue coated thickly with desire.

"Scuh-lee."

She hums around his shaft, the vibrations sending tingles the length of his body. He can actually feel himself swell further. Before her, he would never have believed it was possible to be this hard. She sucks him within her mouth slowly, torturing him with pleasure as he did to her.

Regaining control over the muscles in his neck, he moves his head so that he can stare down at her and watch. The sight of her mouth on him, her beautiful face wearing a blissfully contented, and yet totally aroused expression, is almost too much for him. He could easily come in her mouth right now, and is forced to ruthlessly hold onto his control, as she swirls her tongue around him, and then takes him down her throat. She does this slowly at first, and then faster, over and over, humming softly to herself.

Her cheeks are hollowing with the suction and it feels beyond incredible to him. Her hands play over his buttocks and then she cups his sack with one hand, and lets the other caress his stomach. His hips thrust forward, beyond his conscious control, and at this sign that he is getting close, she releases him with an audible pop and a mischievous smile.

His knees give out under him. Dropping to her level he takes her face between his hands and kisses her fiercely. His tongue engages hers and strokes over her palate. He maps her mouth, this is 'his' territory he thinks. All of her is his, and as the wave of possessiveness thunders through him, he pushes her back down on the couch and slides himself inside of her. She breaks the kiss to utter "God Mulder."

Realizing he gave her no warning he kisses her softly by way of apology. Then pulls almost completely out, before thrusting purposefully back in. She moans in pleasure this time, and then fixing him with an amused stare, she says; "You never made me beg Mulder."

His burst of laughter is short and finished with another thrust of his hips. "Oh you'll still be begging Scully, I promise you that."

Her body arches beneath him, she grasps his butt with both of her small hands and pulls him even deeper within her. He gasps aloud, and without his volition his body speeds its movement. It only takes him a minute to realize what she has made him do, and he pulls himself reluctantly from her body. Her mouth opens to protest his withdrawal, but only a moan escapes her lips as his mouth descends once more upon her sex.

With precision borne of familiarity, he finds her G-spot with his fingers. He works her unrelentingly; brings her to the precipice three times, backing off each time until he can feel her pulse pounding in her clit. She is covered in a fine sheen of sweat and his name has become a litany on her lips. Finally, she capitulates and gives him what he's been waiting for. Just as he knew she would.

"Mulder please...let me come, please Mulder."

He lifts his mouth from her only to mutter, "Beg me."

"Mulder pleeaaasssee."

"Beg. Say it Scully."

"I...I beg you. Mulder, please...please."

His tongue resumes it's work and within seconds she shatters, she comes completely apart beneath him. The waves of her orgasm hitting her with such force she almost levitates off of the couch, and he has to hold her down until her body stills.

Once her eyes focus on him, he positions himself, and slides back inside her warmth. He bends to kiss her and she devours him. He knows she gets a kick out of tasting herself upon him. His body is screaming for its own release now, and he wants to hold out and make her come again, but he can't. His need takes over and he seeks his release, allowing the hunger to consume him. He is dimly aware, on the boundaries of his mind, that as he explodes within her, she calls out his name once more even as he is calling hers.


The stranger cannot hear them, but he can see their silhouettes. He knows what is happening behind the curtains as he sits huddled in the dark watching. He knows she is allowing the man to take her, to take pleasure from her. She is not meant for that. The stranger believes what she is doing is a sin.

A terrible sin, such wanton behaviour. The man has corrupted her, with the carnal pleasures. But her soul can still be saved, and the stranger will save her. He will make her pure again, as she is meant to be. Together they will devote their lives to a greater purpose. She will join him in his calling, and they will both be rewarded by God for their deeds. It is her destiny. The stranger will ensure she fulfills her destiny, just as God has instructed.

He will leave her bastard child with it's father. Spawn of such a sinner as he has no place with her. The stranger knows it will be difficult to persuade her. But God gives the hardest challenges to the most deserving, and the stranger takes this as a compliment indeed. The planning is finished, the time is almost here. Her nights of sinning are almost at an end, and her purification is coming. She has forgotten who she was, but soon, she will remember.

The stranger sits in the dark and continues to watch. He knows the wait is almost over.


Chapter II: Special Agent Dana Mulder!

The following morning
Home of Fox and Dana Mulder
Alexandria
Virginia
0700 hrs

Scully is starring at her ID when she feels her husband wrap his arms around her waist, nuzzling her hair. Her six months of maternity leave are finally up, and today she resumes life back at the Hoover Building; back in the basement, back on the X-Files, although for the time being she has decided not to resume Field Agent status.

With Agents Doggett and Reyes assigned to the X-Files full time, Scully intends to simply aid them in their investigations. There will undoubtedly be autopsies, background checks and a million other things for her to do. Life is different now, she thinks, and the changes are good ones. She is a mother now, a wife, and nothing is more important to her. She will stay with the X-Files only because she knows it is important to Mulder to have her there. That way he remains 'in the loop', and she cannot deny him this. He sacrificed his career to keep the X-Files open. To allow the work he had devoted his life to, to continue. She will do her part as well.

The sight of her new ID makes her smile though. In fact, she is actually relishing the thought of bumping into Deputy Director Kersh - the son of a bitch -, and correcting his ass when he calls her "Agent Scully." She can hardly wait to see the look on his arrogant face when she tells him her correct title now is "Agent Mulder!" He will look completely confused, and then she will gleefully inform him that due to her recent marriage, she has changed her name. She will pin him with her raised eyebrow, and he will know that 'Agent Mulder' will still be a thorn in his side.

In fact, she can hardly wait to start correcting everyone who doesn't yet know she married her former partner. She knows everyone always suspected Mulder was the father of her baby, but it will still bug the shit out all his female admirers to know she is now his wife. After eight years of enduring one woman after another drooling all over him, she allows herself to enjoy the prospect of rubbing their noses in it, just a little bit.

Mulder lifts his lips from her hair and she can feel him smiling. "Special Agent Dana Mulder. Do you know how good that sounds to me Scully?"

She turns within the circle of his arms and returns his smile with a full wattage one of her own. "I have some idea Mulder. If you must know I was just ruminating on how much I am going to enjoy correcting people today."

He drops a wet kiss on her nose, followed by one on her forehead. "Oh really, can't wait to tell the secretarial pool I'm officially off the market huh?"

"I was thinking more of the Barbie airheads at requisitions, and Kersh, but I guess your idea has possibilities too." She laughs softly as his grin widens.

"You really think Kersh fancies me Scully?" He pretends to look intrigued by that thought and she dissolves into giggles. It feels good to laugh, and she does it so often these days. He has made her so happy. She loves him so very much.

"You driving me to work Mulder?"

"Of course Mrs Mulder. Will and I thought we might spend the day at the Air and Space museum at the Smithsonian. You want to meet us for lunch?"

She stands on tiptoe and kisses his mouth. She knows he plans to be close to the office so that she can see Will part way through her day. "I would love to Mulder. Let's have some breakfast and get going. I don't want to be late my first day back."

"Whatever you say FBI woman." he replies and they head for the kitchen together.


Lobby J E Hoover Building
Washington DC
0845 hrs

She decides that on her first day back she will use the main Entrance and say "Hi" to a few folks on her way in. It also allows Mulder to accompany her into the building, with Will strapped in a snugli on his broad chest. Okay, so she admits it, she has an ulterior motive. She knows that apart from Special Agents, and the various branches of the hierarchy up, all other employees must use this entrance. And that includes all the secretaries and other former 'Mulder-groupies' she wishes to...piss off!

How can she resist this opportunity to have him, now her husband, in the lobby with her, in his well loved Levi's and black turtleneck, black leather jacket with their impossibly adorable baby strapped to his lean frame? She can't, so she doesn't even try. He walks her to the metal detector and then pulls her to him, heedless of the on-looking throng of Federal employees making their way to work. Scully tips her face up to meet his kiss, and then unselfconsciously places her hand on the back of his head, deepening the contact and kissing him soundly. She is aware of a couple of startled gasps behind her, and she breaks the kiss, smiling mischievously up into Mulder's knowing stare.

He leans in and whispers in her ear, "I think they got your little message Scully. I wish I could be a fly on the wall at the water coolers today."

"I'll be sure to fill you in about any little titbits I hear when I see you later Mulder." She kisses William on his soft strawberry blond head, and then nodding politely at a couple of gawking women from the fourth floor, she continues on to work.

Mulder watches her go with mixed feelings. He is happy to have her back on the X-Files, and able to keep him informed about them. But he's grown very used to having her around since his 'resurrection'.

The last six months have flown by really. He came back, Scully gave birth, they got married. He's aware he is possessive of her time. He smiles ruefully at that thought. That's nothing new he realizes suddenly, where she is concerned, he was always possessive, and not just about her time either.

Still, it's going to feel odd for a while he guesses. Until they establish some kind of new routine. He is actually quite content to continue his work from home now. There are many topics he is interested in exploring. He has no financial need to work, his parents may not have given him much love, but they certainly left him well off. He is free to pursue whatever he wants, to raise his son and love his wife, and when those bastards come to colonize, he will be ready for them. More than ready for them, but he tries not to dwell on this topic, not until he's forced to.

He watches her until she is beyond his sight, smiles his most disarming smile at the group of women blatantly watching him, and with a happy heart, he turns to leave. "Come on Will," he says to his cooing child, "Daddy has some cool things to show you today."

As he steps out into the beautiful, sunny, autumn morning, he is completely unaware of the hatred being stared his way from across the street. The stranger watches Mulder and Will head off down the sidewalk until they disappear from his line of sight. Then the stranger takes a last, long look up at the Federal building, before he turns on his heel and makes his way back to where he came from.


X-Files basement office
J E Hoover building
0859 hrs

As she walks the length of the corridor to her office, Scully is hit by a wave of nostalgia, and a pang of anxiety. It finally sinks in that Mulder will no longer be found behind that door. Of course she will find him at home instead, but she is going to seriously miss working with him. She loved working with him, watching his beautiful mind in action. She loved the way he challenged her each and every day of their professional partnership. She'll miss her G-man mode Mulder, she'll miss him a lot.

Squaring her shoulders as she reaches the office door, she can hear that her co-workers are already inside, and she stops to listen to them without betraying her presence.

She hears Agent Doggett's lazy southern drawl first. He appears to be debating with Reyes. Scully listens carefully to the conversation being held...

"...so what you're saying is that I have to call her Agent Mulder now? Monica that's daft and you know it. I don't figure her for the kind of woman to change her professional name, just because she happens to get hitched. Besides it would hardly do her career any good to be saddled with his name here, now would it?"

"John I can't believe you worked with Dana for as long as you did, and yet you still manage to know so little about her. Firstly, Dana is going to go under her married name at work precisely because it will constantly remind everyone of Mulder. Secondly, she'll do it for him; because you can bet Mulder is getting a kick out of it too. And thirdly, you've seen Mulder. The man is eye candy John, we're talking jaw-droppingly handsome here. Dana's probably had to put up with women constantly flirting with him in front of her all the years they worked together, so you can virtually guarantee she will use her married name here now. Put all those drooling women in their place."

"And you know this how?"

"Because I would!"

Scully can feel the smile cracking her professional face. Reyes is a strange lady, with her 'feelings' about things, but she sure seems to read people well. Opening the door to the office, she strides confidently inside and bestows warm smiles on both Agents.

"Good morning Agent Doggett, Agent Reyes, it's good to see you both."

Monica Reyes returns the smile full force, and with a knowing glance at Doggett she says, "Agent Mulder, it's good to have you back. How are Will and Mulder doing?"

"Mulder is well, keeping himself busy, and Will is growing like the proverbial weed."

Noticing that Scully didn't correct Reyes over her name, Doggett stares at her with his mouth slightly open and appears at a loss for words.

Scully feels laughter bubbling up inside her again, and for once allows it to come. Why shouldn't she laugh? She's happier than she's ever been. She can see the new name thing is going to be strange for all of them though, and she has an idea she hopes will work. After her giggles subside, she sits on the edge of Mulder's old desk and grinning happily at John Doggett she tells him her idea.

"Listen, I know this is going to be strange, the new name thing. Here's what I propose. Most of the time, please feel free to call me 'Scully.' It feels more like my name than 'Dana' does these days anyway. If we are out of the basement, or other people are present with the exception of Skinner - please address me as 'Agent Mulder.' Can you work with that John?"

Doggett finally closes his mouth and grins back at her. "Of course... Scully..." he experiments. Then he says, "Special Agent Dana Mulder, I guess it does have a kinda ring to it."


Chapter III: Execution of a plan.

24 hours later
Home of Fox and Dana Mulder

Alexandria
Virginia
0915 hrs

Seating himself in front of his computer, with his second cup of coffee, Mulder smiles at Will playing with his baby gym on the floor next to him. For a four and a half month old child, Will is pretty advanced physically. He rolls over, and is beginning to push himself up when placed on his stomach. Mulder is convinced the kid will be crawling in no time, although Scully tells him not to get ahead of himself there.

"You have Mulder genes son." he tells the infant. "You'll be good at sports just like your old man won't you? As long as you remember that the most important ones are basketball and baseball...okay?"

William smiles at the sound of his father's voice, and launches into baby talk as if he is agreeing with every word Mulder says.

"Yeah...well you just tell your mom that too." Mulder replies, playing along, before turning back to the computer and booting it up. He checks his e-mail, returns a few and then pulls up the folder for the articles he is working on for OMNI and a few European publications.

He is about to chose which one to finish when Will starts to cry and Mulder checks his watch. "Feeding time already eh buddy?" Mulder can see he isn't going to get a lot done until William is a little older and feeding times aren't quite so frequent. He finds himself smiling at how little it bothers him. William is such a precious gift to them, such a miracle, and Mulder could never have foreseen how much he would enjoy being a father. He believed he had finally felt complete when he and Scully came together as lovers. Now he knows a feeling of fulfillment he could not have imagined possible. He shakes his head as he bends to pick up his crying child. "Spooky" Mulder, husband and stay-at-home father...now that has to be an X-File all by itself.


His day passes quickly. By the time 3.00 PM rolls around, he has actually managed to finish one article and e-mail it, and he has spoken to Scully four times on the phone already. She only called him once, but he missed her and he isn't the least bit shy about admitting it. He can see himself and the FBI phone center operators becoming very familiar with each other. Plus he's still getting a thrill asking for "Special Agent Dana Mulder please," and then when they ask him who's calling, replying, "it's her husband."

He knows the operators probably remember him, and that just makes it even more fun. William has flaked out for his afternoon nap, and Mulder yawns, debating whether to join him. He decides a nap sounds great, and he stretches out on his old leather couch, just as he has thousands of times before, and lets dreamland claim him.


"Greetings my friend...it has been too long."

Mulder smiles warmly and grabs his old friend in a tight bear hug. "Albert...I can't tell you how good it is to see you again. I have stuff you won't believe to tell you...well actually, considering it's you, I expect you will believe."

"I already know Ma-e, you are fulfilling your destiny. The path you walk now has always been the one intended for you to follow." The old Navajo turns and Mulder sees a small fire burning behind him. Albert seats himself close to the flames and indicates that Mulder should join him.

"I'm dreaming, aren't I Albert?"

The old man nods slowly, "It is the only way for me to speak to you now Ma-e. My body grew weak, and finally it became time for me to take my place in the spirit world. Now my job is to watch over you, and the FBI woman. You were lost to me for a long while Ma-e, and although I searched many places I could not locate you. It was she who brought you back."

Mulder looks around him, the scene is familiar, almost as if was sitting by a campfire outside the hogan in New Mexico. This is the place Albert helped him once before, the place where Mulder went through the ritual of The Blessing Way.

Returning his gaze to Albert, he says "I was far away. I don't remember much of my abduction, but I know I was thought dead, and it was Scully who brought me back."

"The bond between you and your mate Ma-e, has been forged through time. That bond exists now on more than the physical plane. You are connected. You are a part of her, just as she is a part of you, and you are both a part of your child. I came to warn you Ma-e, to tell you to remember something I first told you long ago."

"What?"

"You must use this connection that exists Ma-e, and you must remember the Anasazi...the lesson of the Anasazi."

Mulder frowns in confusion, and begins to search through his memories. Although he can recall virtually nothing about his abduction, events since and events before are all still stored in his photographic memory. It takes him a minute or two, but he recalls that long ago conversation with perfect clarity. He meets the Navajo's gaze. Nothing disappears without a trace..."

Albert nods once more and then Mulder awakens with a start, covered in sweat. He runs his hands through his hair and looks at his watch, it's 4.00 PM. He gets up from the couch and makes his way into the nursery. One glance in the crib tells him William is still sleeping. He makes his way downstairs to the kitchen and pours himself a glass of ice water, gulping it furiously, suddenly parched. A feeling of dread has begun to lodge in the pit of his stomach; the message from his dream is repeating itself over and over in his mind. What is Albert trying to warn him about? What does it mean? In his mind he hears himself say again..."nothing disappears without a trace..."

Shaking himself mentally, he imagines Scully telling him it was just a dream. Just a dream, nothing to worry about. Suddenly he hears soft crying coming from upstairs. He deposits his glass in the kitchen sink and heads for the nursery at a run. His dream for the moment forgotten, and his fatherly duties foremost in his mind.


1830 hrs

Something is terribly wrong, he can feel it. There's a slow trickle of fear creeping up his spine, vertebra by vertebra. The hair on his scalp feels like it wants to stand on end, he can almost sense each individual hair. But mostly it's as if a sheet of ice is forming around his heart...and that's how he knows the feeling connects to her.

He tries her cell phone for the fortieth time, and again gets that aggravating message, "The user you are dialling is unavailable at present, please try again later." He clears the call and once more dials the FBI switchboard. Instead of asking for Scully, he tries a different tack. "Assistant Director Skinner please... tell him it's Fox Mulder, and please tell him it's important. Thank you." He paces impatiently while he waits to be connected.

"Assistant Director Skinner's office, Kimberly speaking, may I help you?"

"Kim...working late I see, it's Fox Mulder."

"Hi Agent, sorry, Mulder...what can I do for you?"

"Is he in? I wouldn't interrupt unless it was important, but I really need to speak to him."

"Yeah he's in, hang on and I'll let him know you're on the line."

"Thanks Kim." Mulder waits for only a second or two and then the gruff voice of his old superior sounds on the line.

"Mulder...Kimberly says you sound worried, what's wrong?"

"Skinner have you seen or talked to Scully in the last couple of hours? I can't reach her on her cell and there's no reply from the basement."

"No I haven't seen her since this morning. Don't you think you're

over-reacting? She's most likely on her way home and the battery in her phone died."

"Scully always carries two spare batteries in her car. She said she would be home by 5.30 PM, and I know if she was running late she would have called me. I have a bad feeling about this, I can't explain it, you'll have to trust me. I need you to start looking for her. I'm talking a full manhunt, right now."

"Mulder that's ridiculous. She's only an hour late for God's sake, and you expect me to launch a full scale hunt for a missing agent on a hunch?"

"Yes."

"Mulder..." Skinner rubs his hand over his face, removing his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose. He can already feel a full blown "Mulder-headache" starting; something he thought would happen a lot less often with Mulder out of the Bureau. And yet there is something in the tone of Mulder's voice that reaches him. He recognizes the panic that has crept into it, he doubts many people would hear it, but he can. Mulder's voice only takes on that edge for one reason, fear for Scully. Mulder is truly fearful that something has happened to his wife, Skinner realizes. And there's something else he has learned over his years of knowing Mulder. When the man gets a hunch, it's rarely wrong.

"Mulder why don't you get over here now. I'll start making inquires about when she was last seen, and I'll check with the parking garage staff, see if her car is still here. If I come up with anything while you are en-route, I'll call you. If not, you'll find a pass for you at the main entrance."

"I'm on my way." Mulder hangs up the phone and snatches his car keys up from the kitchen table. He grabs the infant carrier he already has Will strapped into, and heads for his car. He makes sure Will is securely fastened in, and then walks around to the driver's door which he unlocks. He looks up and down the darkened street. The suburban neighbourhood is quiet and peaceful as always. Mulder feels however like he is being watched, and the fear in his stomach grows exponentially. Someone, or something, has Scully. He doesn't understand how he knows this, he only knows he's sure of it.

He turns the key in the ignition and the car hums to life. Mulder pulls away from the curb and drives into Washington as quickly as he dares. Foregoing his usual daredevil driving tactics, for safer practices in light of William's presence in the car he feels like vomiting. His world, which only two days ago was perfect in every way, has been turned on its end; his happiness in deadly danger from an unseen foe.

Mulder silently makes a pact with God. He'll do anything, anything at all, but he needs Scully back alive. Glancing in the rear view mirror, he sees his son's wide, innocent eyes quietly watching the traffic. He feels tears begin to blur his vision, and he blinks them back angrily. They've been through so much to get here, he and Scully. He vows that nothing will take his hard-won happiness away from him now. Whoever has her is going to pay a terrible price, of that he is sure.


The stranger is pleased. His plan has been flawlessly executed, and now, his time has come. He understands the real challenge has just begun, and he relishes this chance to finally do God's work. He will bring her back into the fold, he will save her soul, and God will finally be pleased with him.

The stranger looks down at her unconscious and bound body. He feels no pang about the restraints. While she is still under the Devil's influence they are necessary. He checks the knots, good and tight. He smiles in pleasure and feels pain.

He rubs the side of his face which is turning purple. She only managed to get in one punch before the drugs kicked in, but it was still quite a shot. He will have to come up with an explanation for it, and he frowns. Maybe the execution of his plan wasn't completely flawless, but he is confident there is no way to trace him. No way to trace her either. From her former life she is simply gone. Let them search for her, he left no clues. They will find nothing they can use. Let the man try. That sinner could hunt for her forever...and he would still be no closer to the truth!


Chapter IV : Gathering help.

1859 hrs
J E Hoover Building
Office of AD Skinner

Mulder bursts through the door like a tornado, anger and fear pouring off of him in waves Skinner swears he can actually feel. Skinner replaces the phone in its cradle and opens his mouth to speak, when Mulder beats him to it. "What did you find out?"

"Sit down Mulder."

"Tell me," Mulder holds up his hand to stop any protest, "for God's sake Skinner, just 'tell' me."

"Her car is gone. The parking garage has her on video, leaving the underground lot at 1638. I spoke to the attendants myself. They say she was alone and that she turned right leaving the building. From that I assume she was heading for home. I have issued an APB, and although I had to field some questions about it, I have made it official that she is 'Missing.' I've flagged her credit cards for tracking, and I'm pulling together a task force to start a manhunt. Mulder I've put Agent Doggett in charge, he's on his way back in now. He knows he's heading up a search, but he doesn't know yet that it's Scully. I wanted to tell him face to face...I think you know he cares about her, that he is the right man for this."

"I have to work this case Skinner, FBI or no FBI, this is my wife. If anyone can find her, you know it's me...it always has been. I want to know everything that's being done, and I need nothing kept from me...we are clear on this, right?"

Skinner looks Mulder square in the face. He knows there is no point even trying to keep Mulder side-lined like a regular civilian. Besides, he never agreed with Mulder's firing to start off with. He's going to have an impossible time justifying this, but Mulder's right, he's the best resource they have.

"Just stay out of Kersh's way Mulder...and leave the explanations to me."

Mulder holds his old bosses gaze, he knows how awkward this must be -- and he's grateful Skinner is backing him. The two friends nod silently at each other and then Skinner opens his desk drawer. He pulls out a small white envelope and hands it to Mulder. "You'll need this," he says.

"What is it?"

Skinner smiles grimly, "It's your concealed weapons permit. Scully had me sign off on it. She said she would be happier if you were packing heat legally."

Mulder takes the envelope and puts it in the inside pocket of his leather jacket. His other hand is still holding William's baby carrier, and he lowers the child seat onto the AD's desk. William is sleeping Skinner notes, and he reaches out to touch the baby's soft hair. The child looks so much like Scully, and as he thinks this, he feels his determination kick in. 'I'm putting this family back together,' he thinks. 'Whatever it takes.'

He chances a look at Mulder, only to find his friend is staring at his son. Mulder seems lost in thought and miles away, oblivious to the silent tears streaming down his face.


She is hot, and her head hurts like a son-of-a-bitch. She goes to rub the bridge of her nose, only to discover that she can't move her arms at all. What the...? It begins to come back to her as her eyes adjust to the dark, and awareness of her surroundings comes back. She is bound and gagged and in the trunk of a moving car. For one brief second she is transported back seven years, and Duane Barry's face fills her vision. She would scream right now if she could. It takes her a few seconds to remember Barry is dead, and that although her current circumstances seem identical, she has a different captor this time.

Scully swallows her feeling of terror, she knows this man. She had no idea he was dangerous, or delusional, but at least her knowledge will help her talk to him; discover why he has taken her. Maybe she can talk her way out of this; she has to get home.

Mulder

God, he must have figured out by now that something is wrong. Her heart begins to ache. Why does this keep happening to them? All they have ever wanted is to be together. Separation is something they could never endure for long.

William

Her baby, her beautiful, cherished, miracle child. He needs her, he needs his mommy. She's never been away from him this long. She wants to hold him in her arms so badly she is shaking.

Mulder will find her. He always has. He's never let her down, never. He must be frantic, just as she was when he disappeared in Oregon. They lost half a year that time; precious months they can never get back. She can't let that happen again. Scully knows she has to remain calm. First things first, can she get free of these bindings? Forcing herself to focus only on the task at hand, she begins to wriggle and test the ties that bind her. Maybe she can work a knot loose. The car drives onwards into the night, as she concentrates as hard as she can, keeping her fear at bay by the sheer force of her will.


J E Hoover Building
1929 hrs.

John Doggett makes his way along the familiar corridor towards the office of A.D. Skinner. He has a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach and it's making him squirm. There was something in Skinner's voice on the phone...something that sounded to Doggett almost like panic. Walter Skinner is not a person who panics. Whatever is going on it must be bad. Why does he think this relates to Fox Mulder somehow?

What is it about that man that inspires either devotion or antagonism in people? Doggett admits to himself that he finds Mulder fascinating. From the moment he was put in charge of the manhunt to find Mulder over a year ago, Doggett's life has been on a rollercoaster. He's seen some scary shit, and for the first time in his life finds himself with a million questions he wants answers to. He is still loathe to believe in all this "alien-takeover-ofthe -world" crap, and yet with what he's seen and Mulder's extraordinary resurrection from beyond the grave...Doggett's finding it harder and harder to be dismissive.

He understands now why Dana Scully stayed with Mulder and the X-Files. He would have thought himself the last person to be sucked into them, but here he is, self-exiled to the basement, continuing Fox Mulder's life's work. Once he had figured out Dana Scully was in love with her missing partner-- the glass of water in his face, catching her sleeping in the man's bed with his shirt, her total faith in the fact that she would find Mulder, not to mention the pregnancy-it all made sense. He had assumed that's what kept her on the X-Files, and maybe that was a large part of it...but hell, these cases were unreal! After being a part of them, anything else was going to seem far too mundane.

Doggett reaches the door to Skinner's office and knocks. He doesn't wait for a reply, but instead opens the door and enters. He sees Skinner immediately, and notes that his boss looks anxious yet relieved to see him. Then his gaze falls on the other occupants of the room...an infant, and his father. He was right about this case, for the other man in the room is indeed one Fox Mulder.

"Evening sir, I came as soon as I could. Now you wanna tell me what's going on?"

"Sit down Agent Doggett, I have disturbing news."

"Then I think I'd rather stand if it's all the same to you. You said on the phone that you wanted me to head up another manhunt, so who the hell is missing this time, and why is Mulder here?"

Skinner meets Doggett's ice blue gaze with the fear that he is feeling showing clearly on his face. "It's Scully who's missing... we're looking for Mulder's wife."

Doggett's gaze immediately shifts to Mulder. He can see the younger man has been weeping. Mulder's eyes are rimmed with red, he looks tired and angry and frankly scared to death. Not surprising. Doggett is aware of how much this man adores Scully. Doggett cares for her himself; he doubts anyone who knows her doesn't. Out loud, he says, "We'll find her Mulder. Now tell me exactly what's happened so far."


A.D Skinner's office
1956 hrs.

"I have to call Maggie Scully...I have to tell her...," Mulder leaves the sentence unfinished. There has been no news yet. All he can tell her is that her daughter is missing...again. How can he tell her that? But he has to, just as he has to hand over the care of his son to her right now. He must first get William to safety and then he can concentrate on finding Scully. It's what Scully would do.

Skinner places his hand on Mulder's shoulder, "I'll call her. I assume you need her to take William until this is resolved?"

Mulder can't reply. His voice has left him, and so he only nods. He feels guilty handing this task to Skinner, and yet he is immeasurably relieved that Skinner is willing to do it. He just can't bear to be the bringer of such tidings to Maggie once more ...he's been the one to do it far too often in the past. He has always been secretly amazed that Maggie doesn't blame him for all the bad things that have happened to Scully since she hooked up with him. He blames himself, despite knowing that Scully has stayed with him of her own free will. Yet Maggie has always welcomed him with open arms, embracing him as if he was her own child. He knows his mother-in-law loves him as if he was her own, and in return he cherishes Maggie. She is so very dear to him.

Almost as if he knows how the thought of calling Maggie with this news is haunting Mulder, Skinner leaves his office to make the call from his secretary's desk. Mulder is left alone with his son, and Agent Doggett. He can feel Doggett's eyes on him, watching him, assessing him and he doesn't like it. He has come to respect John Doggett, and to trust him up to a point, but just knowing this man was Scully's 'partner', during the months he was missing...it rankles him, gets under his skin. This man got to witness Scully's pregnancy, to see her body change. He knew about Mulder's baby, when Mulder himself did not, and Mulder resents him because of it. It isn't rational. Scully needed him watching her back during the whole ordeal, but it's nevertheless how he feels. He wonders if Doggett can sense it.

He also knows the question Doggett wants to ask, but is hesitating to. "Scully is alive. I 'know' she is. I know she's in trouble, but I can still 'feel' her."

Doggett simply nods, as if Mulder's assertion is not the least bit unusual. "Do you have an idea who has her, or why?"

"If I did, do you think for one minute I would be sitting here doing nothing, and not out there getting her back?" Mulder fairly spits the words at Doggett, each one of them laced with every bit of anger, pain and frustration he is feeling. There is an oppressive silence in the wake of his declaration.

"I'm sorry, I should have known better than to ask. It's just that until we find her car, we have absolutely nothing to go on at this point. I was just hoping you might have some insight... hell I'm willing to listen to your 'feelings' about her disappearance if it will help us find her faster. I'm learning to be more open to the implausible these days Mulder...and that's thanks to her...and to you."

When Mulder finally looks at him, he sees a calm sincerity in Doggett's steady gaze, and finds himself glad the man is here to help. Thinking of help...Mulder grabs for Skinner's phone, why the hell didn't he think of it before? He must be going soft.

"Who you calling?" Doggett asks.

"1-800-dial-a-geek."

Doggett looks bemused.

"Hello Langly, it's Mulder. Grab Cowardly Lion and Toto and get down to nark headquarters as fast as that van of yours will travel. Don't argue, I need your help. Someone's taken Scully! Yes I'm serious, why the fuck would I joke about that? Grab anything useful you can think of...yeah that's a good idea, bring that too. Thanks... consider it done." Mulder hangs up and turns his attention back to Doggett, "I need visitor passes for the Gunmen, G-man."

Doggett rolls his eyes. Dollars to donuts this gets him into trouble. "Three passes for Dorothy's friends coming right up." he says.

Mulder glances at his watch, at the most Scully has been missing for two and a half hours now. Mulder knows he's reacted quickly, and that he's gotten help rallied as fast as he could, why does he feel then that there is something he could be doing that he isn't? What is it he is missing? He paces the room as he waits to take further action, hearing once again Albert's words in his mind..."Nothing disappears without a trace." Jesus, Mulder hopes he's right.


She hasn't managed to work a knot free. Her captor is obviously thorough and capable, two things Scully would never have surmised about him. She had considered him shy, harmless and inept. She is quite obviously wrong about him, and obviously hasn't lost her gift for attracting weirdos. She feels the fear she had tamped down inside herself escalate as she senses the car slowing down. It stops and she hears him exit the vehicle. His footfalls grow distant as

he walks away. She waits for a few minutes and there is no further sound from outside.

He could return anytime. Scully doubts she can free herself, although she knows she must give it her best shot. In the dark and now cold trunk, she carries on trying to work herself loose, all the while sending Mulder her thoughts...wishing he would somehow hear her. 'I love you' she thinks to him. 'I love Will. I'm alive. I know you'll find me. I trust you to find me Mulder.'


Skinner's office
2100 hrs.

The room is filling up, Skinner notes. Agent Reyes has arrived along with the lone gungeeks. Maggie Scully is on her way to collect William, although it will probably be at least another hour before she arrives. Skinner paces in circles, his fists clenched tightly.

Mulder is staring out into the night, his son against his chest, and Skinner can hear him promising the infant that he will find his mother. God, Mulder looks more vulnerable right now than Skinner has ever seen him. This is a side to Mulder that Skinner would not have believed existed. For as long as he's known the man, Mulder has been a workaholic, devoted to his quest, no room for any distractions in his life. Mulder is such an enigma, for the core of who he is has not changed at all, but he's blossomed and grown so much in the last few months. Skinner likes to think that Mulder has finally become the man he always should have been. He's a properly rounded out human being these days. Skinner always knew Scully would bring him out of himself eventually.

Scully. They have to find her. So far they have come up with zero. The D.C police have not located her car. Her cell phone is off or has been destroyed, thus preventing the Gunmen from triangulating it's location. There has been no action on her credit cards. No ransom demands, no sightings of women matching her description have come in.

Nothing. No satellite images, or radar anomalies that would point to alien interference, and Mulder voiced his loud conviction that they're not involved in this. Skinner doesn't know how Mulder can be so sure of that, but after all, Mulder is the expert there and Skinner knows to trust his judgement. Mulder would leave no avenue un-investigated that he didn't know wasn't fruitful. Besides, nothing has been seen or heard from the likes of Billy Miles in months now, and Skinner believes that if they were involved, Mulder would somehow sense it. Mulder has a gift when it comes down to investigation. He doesn't understand how Mulder makes the non-logical leaps he does, he's usually just grateful Mulder can.

Mulder suddenly bows his head, he looks like he's in pain. Skinner rushes over to him and retrieves William, whom he then hands to Byers, while he guides Mulder to a chair.

"What is it? What's wrong?"

Mulder's eyes have lost their focus, he appears to be staring straight through Skinner and seeing something that is visible to no one else. His lips are moving and Skinner leans close to hear what is being said.

"Albert...yes, I see her. Wait, do you know where she is? I remember...but what does it mean? Wait...Albert...come back..."


Chapter V: A vision to guide him.

The room suddenly spins away and all Mulder can see is a white fog, and the shadow of a figure who steps forward and becomes visible. It is Albert Hosteen. "Albert..."

"Ma-e, look...see with your mind."

Mulder looks beyond Albert's form and he can see Scully. He sees her car, and he can see straight through it. The bodywork of the vehicle is no obstruction to his mind's sight. Scully is bound and gagged in the trunk. The sight floods him with unpleasant memories, and yet he can tell she is physically unharmed. She is wriggling about, obviously testing her bindings and trying to work herself free.

"Can you see your mate Ma-e?" Albert's voice asks him.

"Yes, I see her..." the fog swells and suddenly he can see her no longer. Albert turns and begins to walk into the mist.

"Wait," Mulder calls, "do you know where she is?"

"Albert shakes his head and continues to walk away. His reply floats back to Mulder's straining ears, "Ma-e, hold on to what I told you."

"I remember...but what does it mean? Wait...Albert...come back..." The fog turns black and then his sight returns to normal as the familiar surrounding of Skinner's office appear once more. There is someone talking to him. He can hear his name.

"Mulder...Mulder can you hear me? Are you okay Mulder?"

Mulder lifts his head, and with it his gaze, and meets the concerned frown of his former boss. "I saw her, she's in the trunk of her car."

"What? What are you talking about? You were speaking. You mentioned the name 'Albert.'"

"I saw her Skinner...I saw Scully. She's unharmed, but she was bound and gagged. She was in the trunk of her car. He took her away in her car."

Mulder looks around to see everyone staring at him. Agent Reyes is nodding for some reason, Doggett's looking at him like he's grown another head. Skinner and the Gunmen look amazed and confused. Mulder returns his attention to Skinner, "I saw Albert Hosteen...he showed me Scully."

Skinner's frown deepens, "Albert Hosteen is dead..."

"I know, but I saw him...I'm not making this up, I'm not crazy Skinner. I can't explain it, but somehow he gave me this vision of Scully. He showed me she is unharmed and how she was taken. He reminded me again of something he once told me."

"Which was?" Skinner replies.

"That nothing disappears without a trace. I know how this sounds, believe me I know, but I had a dream just a couple of hours before this all started. In the dream Albert came to warn me, he didn't tell me what was going to happen, all he told me was to recall a conversation I had with him almost seven years ago. His message was just 'Nothing disappears without a trace.' He was trying to tell me that no matter what we believe, there is a clue, some way to locate Scully...I'm sure of it."

"And just now, you saw him again?"

"Yes, everything went white, then I saw him, and I saw Scully."

"You're serious aren't you?"

Mulder spins around to find John Doggett, hands on hips, with an incredulous look on his face. He's about to reply when Monica Reyes steps forward and places her hand on his arm. "I believe you," she says.

Doggett shoots Reyes a look and continues. "A vision...you had a vision...and a dream, and this is a clue? That's what you're asking me to believe?"

Mulder's eye's harden, going deep olive. His fists clench and he meets Doggett's amazed gaze as calmly as he can manage. "I don't care what you believe. We know Scully was taken. Now we know how, even if we don't know where." The set of Mulder's jaw is grim and determined, he stares down the room, waiting for dissent.

Doggett shrugs, but remains silent. Mulder turns back to Skinner.

"You said the parking garage staff said Scully turned right out of the lot."

"Yes...why?"

"So let's assume for a minute that Scully was headed home at that point. I need a map, I need to see which routes she could have taken, and see If I can spot any place along these routes that she may have stopped. If she was taken away in her own car, but she left here driving it alone, she must have stopped somewhere. I may be able to narrow down some locations to canvas for witnesses."

Skinner nods his head, they have nothing else to go on at this point. "Okay. Even without your 'vision,'it seems like a good place to start."

The room springs to life, and Mulder begins to feel he might be onto something. Hang on Scully, he thinks. *Please just stay alive, I'm working on it, I will find you."


2120 hrs
Trunk of Car...middle of nowhere.

Please just stay alive...I 'will' find you. The words sound within her mind. So loudly, so clearly, it's almost as if Mulder is right next to her, and speaking them in to her ear. She knows with a certainty that these are his thoughts, sent to her. How this is possible she can't begin to explain. Maybe it's a remnant of his brain illness. That mysterious affliction for which there has never been a satisfactory explanation. Hell, she can't explain his miraculous resurrection, even though she treated him through it. Mulder is a walking, talking, testament to Alien interference with life on this planet. She believes at one point he could indeed read minds, hear the thoughts of others. Maybe a part of that ability still remains.

Nope, she cannot explain it. But somehow Mulder just spoke to her mind with his. This, she believes. She feels calmer now. She already knew he would be looking for her. She already trusted that somehow he would find her. But hearing his voice in her mind like that, it calms her. Just as his physical presence always has. She feels comforted, supported...connected.

Her calm feeling remains, despite the fact that she can now hear footfalls approaching the car. She scoots as far back in to the trunk as she can. There is no place for her to go, but the move is instinctive.

The sound of a key in the trunk's lock is followed by the dazzling brightness of a flashlight's beam. Scully is blinded by it. Too late she feels the sting of an injection in her thigh. Fuck! More drugs in her system. She can feel the rapid onset of unconsciousness. Her final thought as the darkness claims her mind she sends out to Mulder, We know him!.


J E Hoover FBI Building
A.D Skinner's office
2125hrs

With crude yellow hi-lighter marker, Mulder maps out each of the possible routes Scully could have chosen for her drive home. There are five. With a pink marker he marks the slight detours she may also have made-- allowing for example a stop at garages in the area to re-fuel. He had meant to put gas in the car for her the day before. She should still have had plenty, but he's got to cover the bases here.

Mulder scans the map. Going over each possible route in minute detail. He marks her favourite market which is close to home. He marks the bank machine she prefers to use. Her cards are not showing up anything, but maybe she stopped there and just didn't get the chance to use them. Every garage, video store, take-out place they frequent. Every tiny piece of information that might have the slightest chance to be relevant, he marks. He does this all within fifteen minutes of being handed the map. Though he has cursed his eidetic memory in the past, sometimes it does have its uses.

Meanwhile the Gunmen are basically tearing the hardrive of Scully's laptop apart. They grabbed it from Mulder's study on their way in. Since the incident with CGB Spender, involving the capture of Scully's e-mail, Mulder has had them do it more than once. It is unlikely that something similar is occurring again, but the possibility remains that her abductor has been in contact with her. And if there are any clues to be found, in any existing or deleted file on that computer Langly will find it. Mulder is confident about that.

Skinner is on the phone checking in with the D.C police. As Mulder looks up from his completed map, he locks his gaze with Skinner's and lets out a sigh as he sees the small shake of his head Skinner gives; indicating that the police still have nothing new.

Monica Reyes is out pacing the hallway, with a grumpy William over her shoulder, and Doggett...Mulder is about to ask when...

"So what have you got?" Doggett's voice behind him pulls Mulder's attention back to the map on the table.

"Let's make a list of every possible place we need to start canvassing for witnesses...you got a pen?"

Doggett pulls a ballpoint from his jacket pocket, and snatches up a pad of paper from the conference desk. "Fire away. We're gonna need a few places for the teams to start looking."

Mulder is about to respond, when his vision again goes wonky. It tunnels this time, going dark instead of white. He doesn't see anything, he just hears her voice. In fact he isn't even sure he hears it, it sounds inside his mind. "We know him!"

"Mulder...Mulder...hey, can you hear me?"

"What?" Mulder's eyes focus once more and he finds himself gripping the edge of the table fiercely. He looks up to find everyone in the room staring at him expectantly. Mulder has a feeling Doggett is going to love this. "She knows him."

Skinner is the first to speak. "You're talking about Scully, right?"

Mulder nods, then re-phrases. "Actually she said "we know him." In fact said isn't right either. She thought, "we know him." That was all I got.

"Scully thought that...and you heard it? I didn't think you could do that anymore?" Skinner folds his arms across his torso and watches as Doggett opens and closes his mouth, obviously unsure what to say first.

Mulder continues, "I can't. At least I haven't been able to until right now. And it's not like it was before. There aren't hundreds of voices in my mind, I can't even hear her now. I think somehow she reached me...maybe in a moment of heightened stress, or fear. I don't know what to tell you, but it was definitely her thought."

A few seconds pass and then Doggett says finally, "Now this I gotta hear. Which one of you wants to fill me in?"

Mulder gestures to Skinner. "Go ahead Walter. Coming from you he might even believe it."


Meanwhile...

She is dreaming. Warm pleasant dreams. She is wrapped in a blanket consisting entirely of Mulder. He is naked and wrapped all around her, his skin warm and smooth against her. He shelters her tiny form. She feels so loved, so adored and protected. His warm breath tickles her ear and she sighs contentedly as he tells her softly, "I love you Scully. I always have. I will forever."

"Me too Mulder." she replies. "Me too."

Her captor watches as she shifts slightly on the bed. The shot he gave her was very mild, only enough to knock her out while he moved her inside. Instead of coming around though, she appears to be dreaming now. Her lips move slightly and he swears he hears her say the man's name. This makes him angry...by the time he is finished with her, she won't even remember it.

Kneeling by the foot of the bed he bows his head in prayer. "Heavenly father grant me the strength to do your biding. To complete this task you have set before me, the redemption of my niece's soul. I ask for patience and understanding. Help me to guide her back on to the path you wish for her. Let her remember who she once was, and who she can be again. Help her to see that your purpose is true, and that I am merely the implement of your divine plan."


Several minutes later...

Doggett had never heard anything like it. Man it doesn't get much weirder than this. Alien artefacts? Spaceships in Africa? He had known Mulder had been afflicted with some kind of brain illness. It had been killing him, he'd found that out right at the start of his search for Mulder. But this, this ability to read minds, this had mysteriously been left out of the files he had read. Looking back, he can see now that those reports fudged over many details. This is incredible!

"So this supposed Alien artefact...just by being around it you got sick...but it didn't have that effect on anyone else?"

"Nope...just me."

"And why do you suppose that was?"

"I truthfully have no idea. Possibly something in my genetic makeup, but that's a question for which we never found an answer. I was still dying, even after whatever experimental surgery they performed on me...it's only now, after my 'return,' that I'm well. And we can't explain that either. I have only questions too Agent Doggett, I can't give you answers. The illness is gone, the ability that came with it was gone right after the surgery. I don't know what is causing me to see and hear Albert Hosteen, or Scully. But I do believe it is actually them, and I do believe that these impressions, visions, call them what you like, will help us find her."

"But you know how this sounds right?"

"Like a bad science fiction plot...or an X-File."

Doggett looks from Mulder to Skinner. "And you witnessed this... phenomena, this ability of his?"

"With my very own eyes Agent. It was incredible, but it was very real. We have no hard evidence of course. It was all covered up. But he could do it, I'm sure of that."

Doggett shakes his head. He doesn't want to believe any of this, but as he told Mulder earlier this very night, he's finding himself opening up to possibilities he would once have deemed outrageous. And right now, they have nothing to lose by going with Mulder's assertions. It's not like they have any other avenue open to them.

"Okay. Assuming this information is accurate. What do you suggest we do now with it?"

Mulder looks at Skinner with a small wan smile. "What do you know Walter, I think I might be rubbing off on him!"


5 miles east of
Tappahannock, Virginia
2200 hrs

She awakens to a darkened room, aching shoulders, and slightly numb legs. With awareness, fear returns, and she swallows hard and blinks back her tears. She can handle this, she has to. Taking a deep breath she scans the dimly-lit room looking for her captor. He is sleeping in a chair by the foot of the double bed she is lying on. She is still bound but no longer gagged. She could scream, but it would certainly wake him. Her ankles are tied together, her arms bound to the headposts of the bed. She can wriggle, but nothing more.

Scully takes this opportunity to remember what she knows about him. It isn't very much. As far as she can recall she has only spoken to him twice, and he barely said anything. He was always too busy staring at her when he thought she wouldn't notice. Frankly she hardly acknowledged him at all, just a polite smile and a nod of her head.

She thinks she might remember his name, what was it Father McCue called him? Joe...Jacob...no, Joseph...that was it. No last name, just Joseph. Joseph is fifty-ish, tall like Mulder, and has a full head of grey hair. He stutters a little when he talks, and twists his hands nervously. Father McCue said he was "a bit slow" and that he hung around the church often and liked to help out.

He seems to possess some knowledge of pharmaceuticals. She can't be sure exactly what drug he pumped into her system beyond the fact that it knocked her out, but he obtained drugs, and injected them. He knew her movements, he picked his perfect time, he used her car. All this speaks to careful planning and intelligence. Using her own car to abduct her means he most likely left no forensic evidence behind. Joseph is a lot smarter than he likes to appear. But why? Why has he chosen her? What does he want from her? Scully is anxious for answers to these questions.

She takes another look around the room. There is not much to see. The room contains a bed, a small kitchenette and a couple of chairs. There is an ancient TV on a shabby desk, and a couple of lamps on either side of the bed. Scully thinks it could be a motel room. It has nothing distinguishing about it.

She checks her person. Her watch is missing, as are her holster and weapon. Joseph is now armed. There is no clock to tell her what time it is, and she can't be sure how long they drove for. She has absolutely no way to gauge what direction they travelled. It is dark outside still, presumably it is the same night.

The bottom line is that she could be anywhere within several hours drive of D.C. Unless someone witnessed her abduction, or he left some clue behind, she is a needle in a haystack right about now. Mulder may have nothing to go on. They've been here before. They've both spent time fruitlessly searching for one another with no place to start. She lost three months of her life, he lost six, and it's happening again.

Then Scully notices something else, something that sends a wave of loss sweeping through her. Her left hand is bare. Her diamond engagement ring, and her wedding band have been removed, her promise to Mulder broken, for she vowed solemnly never to take them off. That Joseph has done this tells her volumes. He's trying to erase her previous life. Removing what he must perceive as a symbol of ownership by another man. Trying to erase the memory of Mulder from her body. The thought chills her. She tries valiantly to hold in the tears, but they come. She sobs quietly, in desperation, sick with a longing to be the only place she ever feels totally safe...Mulder's arms.


J E Hoover Building
Office of A.D Skinner
2200hrs

When Maggie enters the room everyone else takes their leave. On his way out Skinner stops, and taking Maggie's hand he squeezes it tightly. "We're all over this." He tells her. "I promise you we will find her Mrs Scully."

Maggie nods her head slightly, eyes shining with unshed tears. She closes the door to Skinner's office behind him, and turns to take in the dejected form of her beloved son-in-law. Mulder is sitting on Skinner's desk, unable to meet her eyes.

As scared as she is for her daughter, she is equally scared for Fox. This incredible man has endured so much in his thirty nine years. He is the bravest, most compassionate person she has ever met. She knows nobody like him. He carries the weight of the world on his broad shoulders; takes responsibility for things he has no control over. She knows he is blaming himself for this situation right now. She knows he is quietly falling apart without the woman he idolizes safe by his side.

Even with her faith to comfort her, Maggie can't help but feel anger at the injustice of it all. So many years, so many dangers overcome. So much heartache and yearning. Finally he reaches a place where he is happy and content, and now this. It's beyond unfair. He deserves to be happy. So does Dana.

Mulder's love for her daughter has always been so obvious to Maggie. Its depth and complexity, the unconditional, endless nature of it. It always spoke to her from his eyes. She knew it for what it was, she thinks, maybe even before he himself had figured it out. Just as she saw it mirrored in her daughter, for him.

Maggie moves in quick strides across the short distance separating them, and takes him into her arms. She embraces him tightly, feeling him hug her to him. He shudders within the circle of her arms, buries his face against her and sobs. "It's okay," she says, "I'm here. It's okay Fox, you can let go."

For several long minutes they remain that way. The only sound in the room is muted crying amid gasps for breath. She strokes his dark hair gently, and finally, knowing he needs to hear it, she tells him, "stop blaming yourself, this is not your fault Fox. Don't think it for a minute...do you hear me? This is not your doing. She's going to be okay, I know she is. I know you will find her. It's going to be alright darling, I promise you it is."

"I'm sorry Maggie, I'm so, so, sorry. I didn't protect her again, I'm so sorry." Mulder raises his head and is finally able to meet his mother-in-law's blue eyes, so like his wife's. His face is wet with tears, his eyes are dark and haunted.

The sight breaks her heart. Raising her hands to cup his face, she borrows a gesture from her daughter and kisses his forehead. "Stop blaming yourself," she tells him again. "We'll get through this. We'll all be together again before you know it. We have to be strong Fox. For William, for Dana, and for each other. William will be safe with me; I want you to focus on finding Dana. You have to let go of the guilt Fox, let nothing be clouding your judgement now."

Mulder nods his head. He feels better, drawing strength from Maggie's faith in him.

"We're a family Fox, we are in this together. You are not alone anymore, remember that." Maggie hugs him close again and Mulder returns it warmly.

"Thank you," he says, "Thank you Maggie...for everything."


Chapter VI : Bonding.

J E Hoover Building
Office of A.D Skinner
02 October 2001
0600 hrs

The teams have been briefed and sent out to canvas every location Mulder came up with. William has been settled with Margaret Scully, and Skinner himself has driven them back to Mulder's house. The Gunmen and Agent Reyes have gone to the cafeteria for a caffeine fix, and Doggett finds himself keeping Mulder company.

Mulder is silent, pensive. He looks drawn and tired, but it is the fear so evident in his eyes that speaks loudest to Doggett. The same fear he saw in Scully's eyes everyday he worked alongside her while Mulder was missing. The same fear he felt when Luke was taken.

Fear that eats through your soul, hour by hour. Flows through your veins poisoning your hope, killing your optimism. Fear that threatens to rip your sanity from you any second. Fear you fight with every ounce of your courage and your strength. Fear that if realized will destroy you, leaving you broken, never to be whole again.

He wants to reach out to Mulder. To help him in his fight against the fear. But he knows from personal experience that this battle must be waged alone. All he can offer Mulder is companionship right now, so Doggett reaches out...

"Tell me a story about her."

Mulder is startled by the question. Pulled from his musings and back to the present. "About Scully?"

Doggett musters a smile. "I know so little about her really. She doesn't let people get close to her."

"No. She doesn't..."

"So tell me a story about her. You two are legendary here Mulder. I've heard rumour upon rumour."

Mulder's mouth quirks up at the corners.

"You want to know how much is true? Well Agent Doggett, there is a grain of truth in probably everything you've heard. But I'd bet it's only a grain." Mulder sinks down into one of the two chairs facing Skinner's desk. He wipes a hand across his tired eyes and wonders idly how many times he has sat right here. How many times Scully has sat next to him, in the chair that Doggett has just now decided to occupy.

Doggett waits for Mulder to speak again, but as the silence lengthens he takes it upon himself to continue. "Did she ever tell you about our first meeting?"

Mulder looks up, holding Doggett's gaze he shakes his head.

"I baited her. I was trying to get a handle on the nature of the relationship between the two of you. Opinion was mixed. Some said you two were lovers, some said friends, some said you barely tolerated her. I picked that to bait her with."

Mulder's eyes widen. He'd thought he had heard every rumour there was about himself and Scully. Funny then, that this one should be something he hadn't heard. "You told Scully that you'd heard I only tolerated her?"

"Actually I think I questioned whether you had ever trusted her."

"And what did she say?" Mulder looks intrigued.

"Well after that I jabbered on. I think I implied you slept around, and she threw a glass of water in my face and stormed off."

Mulder finds himself smiling at the mental picture Doggett is painting. Oh to have been there to see that confrontation.

"I gathered then, that it was true the two of you were very close. But it wasn't until later on that I realized she was in love with you."

"What made you come to that conclusion?" In his heart, Mulder admits he has always wanted to know how long it took Doggett to see what he and Scully really mean to each other.

Doggett thinks back, sees the scene unfold in his mind, and articulates it. "I wanted to get a better feel for you. Who you really were. Whether you really believed in all the things people said you did. I went to your apartment, figured I could begin to get a handle on 'Fox Mulder', by being in his habitat so to speak. I found her sleeping there. She was curled up in your bed, she was clutching this shirt of yours to her chest. And I knew. I knew in that instant what you meant to her. Her need to be there, in your place, to surround herself with you. It was a lover's act. She looked so small and vulnerable, which struck me, because although she is so petite, I hadn't gotten that impression of her at all until that moment. Before then, she seemed tough, iron-willed, in control. Yet in that moment, she looked...lost, and I knew I had to find you. Because I'd been there, where she was, searching for the person who means more to you than anything else."

Mulder nods slowly. "You wanted her to have a happier ending to her search than you did. I never thanked you Agent Doggett, and I should have. Before now I mean. Thank you for protecting her, for being a good partner to her. I'm sorry I never said that before."

"I was just doing my job."

Mulder holds Doggett's gaze with his own. Hazel meets blue, and both men see respect in the other's eyes.

"We both know you've gone farther than that Agent Doggett. You've put your career in jeopardy to keep the X-Files open, you took on the cause. Instead of dismissing them as so many others have, you saw how important this work is. I just want you to know I'm grateful."

Doggett nods and smiles at Mulder. The gift of this man's trust suddenly seeming like a tangible thing to him. Something to be treasured, rare as it is. "So are you going to tell me a Scully-story or not?" he asks, changing the subject.

Mulder sits back in the chair. He knows Doggett is trying to distract him, keep his mind from focusing on what could be happening to Scully right now. And while nothing can dull the fear he is feeling, not even for a second, he appreciates the gesture. "Well..." he says, searching through the vast archive of his mind for an amusing tale about the woman who is his life. "Lets see, there was this case..."

The shrill ringing of the phone on Skinner's desk halts the conversation dead in its tracks. Mulder makes a move to answer the phone, but Doggett stops him with a look, and Mulder yields to the Federal Agent.

"A.D Skinner's office. John Doggett."

Mulder studies Doggett's face, the profiler in him reading expressions, nuances in the man's tone of voice, stance, subconsciously trying to ascertain the contents of the call. Doggett isn't saying very much, but from his upright stance and the way the man has squared his shoulders, Mulder surmises there is news at last. The upturn of Doggett's mouth tells him it isn't bad news, but he already knew that. He can still feel her. After what seems like hours, Doggett hangs up with the phrase, "We'll be right there."

Replacing the phone, Doggett turns and answers the silent question Mulder is firing at him.

"We've got a lead. You were right, she did make a stop. Devon's 24 hour Market, only five blocks from your house. Time stamp is 5.15 PM yesterday. The clerk who dealt with her is working the early shift this morning, he's waiting to speak to us...I assumed you'd want to talk to him?"

Mulder turns immediately to leave, striding out of the office and into the hallway, John Doggett on his heels. As they reach the elevator and he punches the down button, Mulder meets Doggett's gaze and answers the question he senses coming, "We'll take your car Agent Doggett," he says, "I just need to grab my gun."


Devon's 24 hour Market
Graves Street
Alexandria
Virginia
0658 hrs

Apart from the two police vehicles parked out front, Devon's market appears as it always does, old fashioned, charming, like something from a bygone age. Scully loves this place. It costs more to shop here than at the large supermarkets, but they do. Scully swears the produce is always fresher here, not that he cares. Whatever Scully wants is fine with him. They've had many a happy, domestic "shopping-together" outing here since they first got romantically involved. It makes his stomach turn over to associate this place with anything but happy memories.

He exits Doggett's fleet sedan, and waits for the Federal Agent to catch up with him. It's hard to take a back seat and let someone else ask the questions. He did the job well and for a long time, he feels awkward. Mulder allows Doggett to enter the market ahead of him and taking a deep breath, he follows.

Doggett pulls his ID, and introduces himself to the police officer waiting for them. "I'm Special Agent John Doggett. I'm in charge of the search for Agent Mulder. What have you got?"

"Officer Keats. We're in the process of pulling up the security camera recording from yesterday afternoon. Just to verify that the woman the clerk says he saw, is in fact your missing Agent. The clerks name is..." the police officer scans his notepad, "Jamie."

Mulder interrupts, "Jamie Legg...where is he?"

Officer Keats turns a slightly annoyed gaze on Mulder, "and you would be?"

"Fox Mulder...Special Agent Dana Mulder is my wife...Jamie wouldn't get her confused with someone else. My wife and I shop here all the time. Where is he?"

Doggett decides to head off any confrontation. "Officer Keats, Mr Mulder is a former Special Agent with the Bureau also. He was a fine agent, a criminal profiler; hence his presence here during the investigation into his wife's abduction. If Jamie is known to him, we can assume this is a positive ID on Agent Mulder. I still want that tape, but in the interests of time, I would be grateful if you could arrange for us to speak to Jamie as soon as possible."

Officer Keats expression changes from annoyance to understanding. He shoots an acknowledging glance at Mulder, and indicates that they should follow him. "We have him in the office. My partner was taking his statement. Follow me please."

Doggett moves with Officer Keats to the back of the store, until he notices that Mulder isn't behind him. Turning he sees Mulder rooted to the same spot he left him in. Once again Mulder's eyes are unfocused, his lips moving. Doggett sighs inwardly, still not comfortable with what Mulder appears to be experiencing, and even more uncomfortable that this time it's occurring in a public venue.

"What's 'he' doing?" Officer Keats points a finger in Mulder's direction, and quirks both eyebrows north. Doggett is reluctant to say. Hell, that's an understatement. He opts for distraction instead and simply says...

"He's under enormous stress. He and his wife, they're...umm... very much in love. They have a new baby to top it all off, and well, I'm sure you can imagine what this is doing to him. I'll get him, could you see about that tape for me?"

The police officer shoots another quick glance in Mulder's direction, and then nods with a sympathetic smile, and continues on to the back office of the market.

Doggett approaches Mulder slowly, unwilling to startle him. He listens hard to see if he can catch anything Mulder is saying, but all he hears is a jumble of words that make no sense to him. He has almost reached Mulder, when suddenly Mulder turns and heads back towards the main entrance. Doggett follows, no way Mulder is "ditching" him. He calls Mulder's name, but either he's being ignored, or Mulder simply doesn't hear him.

Mulder turns left out of the main entrance, and starts to run around the corner of the store. Doggett sprints after him and catches up with him, just as Mulder reaches the small patrons' parking lot in the rear of the building. He watches as Mulder stops, and then walks slowly forward, dropping to his knees in the sandy gravel, hands scrabbling in the dirt looking for something.

Doggett approaches him, calling out to him in a low voice, "Mulder, what is it? What's going on?"

To Doggett's horror, Mulder lets out a keening cry and curls up in to a ball, right where he is. Dropping to his knees alongside him, Doggett reaches out a hand and places it on Mulder's shoulder. Doggett doubts that Mulder has any awareness of his presence, so he decides to wait it out. On the previous occasions that Mulder experienced some kind of vision, he came back to himself fairly quickly, and without interference. After a few heart-wrenching moments, Doggett's patience is rewarded. Mulder's form straightens itself out, and his face becomes visible. The fear in his eyes more noticeable by the moment.

"Mulder...can you tell me what the hell just happened?"

Mulder swallows, and stretching out his arm, with his palm face up, he allows Doggett to see what he found hiding in the gravel and dirt of the market's small lot. Doggett stares at Mulder's discovery with a terrible sinking feeling. This is not a good sign, for there, in Mulder's palm are two small shiny items. Items Doggett has seen before. Lying there, in her husband's hand... are Scully's rings.


One minute he's about to follow Doggett to the back of the store, the next he can't move, and the store itself has disappeared. In front of him he sees a dark red rock. Squinting hard, and trying desperately not to panic, he breathes as evenly as he can, and his surroundings become clear. This can't be real. He knows it can't. This canyon is in New Mexico, and he was in Alexandria only seconds before.

Looking all around him he sees nothing has changed here. This has to be an illusion, a trick of some sort. What the fuck is happening to him? Mulder is seized with a tremendous desire to establish that he is where he seems to be. He starts to run down the rocky path, tripping over stones and small boulders, scrabbling for a secure footing, and scanning the canyon floor for signs of the boxcar he almost lost his life in seven years ago. He can't see it, not a single sign of it. Of course it was partially buried before, and it's been a long time. It could easily be completely buried by now. It could easily have been removed all together.

That cigarette-smoking-bastard always was thorough.

But he has the right spot. Unless his memory is failing him, this is exactly where he found it before.

"Ma-e."

Mulder spins around, "Albert. Albert what's happening to me...how did I get here?"

The Navajo smiles kindly. "Ma-e, your mind is choosing places it associates with me. I am here to show you something, to help you find something that must not remain lost. Do not be afraid my friend, you are only using your gift. You are perfectly sane Ma-e."

"I don't understand Albert..."

"Your mind is waking up Ma-e, allowing you to use it in ways you have only touched on before. It is the key to finding your mate Ma-e, it is something of hers you will find here."

"What? Where is she Albert?"

"You are the one connected to her Ma-e, not I. You are the only one who can know where she is. Look in the sand Ma-e, find what you must return to her."

As he has before, Albert Hosteen's figure turns, and walks away, vanishing after a few paces and leaving Mulder alone once more. He walks slowly to the spot where Albert appeared to be standing, and crouching down, Mulder pushes the dust and gravel aside.

Something gold and shiny catches his attention. He digs further and when he sees what he has found, the cry that bursts forth from his throat is not even known to him. The searing burst of pain that starts in his heart, and travels directly to his gut, causes him to curl up, curl inwards on himself, trying to escape it. He knows he is lying there in the fetal position, unwilling to move, until he feels a recognizable presence kneeling next to him. Forcing himself to uncurl, to get up and deal with this, Mulder lifts his head and opens his eyes.

"Mulder...can you tell me what the hell just happened?" Doggett's weathered face is lined with concern. Mulder knows his voice will fail him right now, so instead he stretches out his hand, and lets Doggett see for himself what was buried in the dirt.


5 miles east of
Tappahannock, Virginia
0701 hrs

She is awakened by the smell of coffee brewing. With her eyes still closed, for a single, brief but blissful moment, she is at home in her own bed, and Mulder is making her coffee. He makes a mean cup of coffee. Like anything else he does, if he's going to do it, he does it well, or he doesn't do it at all.

It is when she opens her eyes that her moment of peace is shattered, as reality comes crashing down upon her with brutal force. Joseph is the man brewing coffee, and she is his prisoner. Scully wants to close her eyes again, and keep them closed until Mulder comes for her. It is the knowledge that Mulder will find her, that Mulder would never give up, that gives her the strength she needs.

Just stay alive...just stay alive. I will Mulder, I swear I will.

Joseph notices that she is awake and surprises her by smiling and bringing a cup of coffee over to the bed.

"I'm going to untie one hand for you. You should drink this, your head will clear if you get some caffeine into your system Mary."

The use of a strange name for her startles Scully. Before she can weigh the consequences of questioning him she blurts out, "My name isn't Mary!"

SMACK

Joseph's hand makes a solid contact with the side of her face. She feels the impact in her ear, her eye and all down her neck. He hit her hard, very hard. "It is your name." He bellows at her. "You may have forsaken who you are. But it is your name. Do not ever deny it again, know that the consequences will be harsh, Mary. I will do whatever I have to, to drive the devil from you. Satan shall not win this battle Mary, for God himself has charged me with this task."

Scully is chilled to the bone by his words. Religious fervour isn't unusual for sociopathic and delusional personalities. It gives them a justification for just about any atrocity they feel like committing. She instinctively knows she has to tread lightly here; unless she wants to be badly beaten, further denial that she isn't who he believes her to be, will at this point gain her nothing.

Scully learned many things about psychology in the eight years she worked alongside Mulder. She knows he would tell her to play along, not to anger Joseph. He would tell her it is dangerous to push this man beyond his delusion. Better to lull him into a false sense of security instead. Feeling the whole of the side of her face burning, and knowing she will have one hell of a black eye, Scully decides against further denial. She also really needs to pee, and if she can just get off this bed for a moment she can check out her surroundings far better. "I have to use the bathroom."

"I'll bring you something Mary, I can't risk untying you now."

"Please...please, I won't try anything, please let me use the bathroom. I would like to wash."

Joseph shakes his head, but then looks thoughtful. "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," he says. "Alright, but you'll have to leave the bathroom door open Mary."

"But I won't try anything. Please, please Joseph, a little privacy."

Too late she realizes she made another mistake. Joseph obviously wasn't prepared to be recognized, she tries to duck the blow, but she's restrained too thoroughly, and there is nowhere for her to go. Instead of an open faced slap across the face, this time Joseph hits her with his fist balled. Scully registers the blinding pain for only a split second, and then her world once more fades to black.

Joseph stares at her limp body coldly. So Mary does remember. She knows who he is; and if she remembers, then she may have told that son of bitch who corrupted her. She is such a lying sinner, he will have to punish her severely. And he will have to move on from here. Mary must know where she is, and Joseph can't have that.

He leaves her unconscious and bound, heading out of the room and leaving silence behind him. If Scully had been awake, she would have heard only the sound of the lock turning on the door.


Doggett swallows hard, but says nothing. He extends his hand to Mulder and pulls him to his feet. What the hell is happening here? There shouldn't have been any way for Mulder to know where to look for the items he's discovered. It isn't logically possible. So what ever is happening to Mulder right now, much as Doggett doesn't understand it, some how Mulder is being guided.

Doggett's internal revue is interrupted as Mulder speaks.

"I'm missing something. Either he's talking in riddles or I'm missing something."

"Who's talking in riddles? Mulder what the hell is going on here?"

"Albert Hosteen, Agent Doggett. That's what is going on here. I'm getting information from a ghost, the ghost of an old friend. And I've got to figure out what he's trying to tell me Doggett... before Scully runs out of time."

Mulder looks down at his wife's rings, clasped tightly within his grasp, and turns back towards the market. He strides back through the parking lot, his head up, eyes scanning the sky. Doggett gives himself a mental shake, and quickly follows him.


Chapter VII : The Gathering Storm.

Doggett has been in some dark places in his life. The first few months following Luke's death, the aftermath of his divorce, first time he took a life in the line of duty. You make your way out the darkness slowly, hoping it won't swallow you this time, and eventually things get better, get lighter again. But the darkness, once it's touched you, leaves a mark. A shadow upon your soul that proclaims its presence once surrounded you. Doggett can almost see the shadows Mulder carries with him. The man has overcome the darkness, fought against it more often than anyone should have to. As he follows Mulder back inside the store, Doggett can feel the storm clouds gathering, as darkness threatens to consume this man again. Like every officer in law enforcement, he knows the longer Scully is missing, the worse the chance that they recover her unharmed; Doggett hopes they get something more to go on soon.

Doggett can only use police work here. If Mulder has a breakthrough, and it moves the investigation forward, fabulous. In the meantime, Doggett will concentrate on what he's good at-- facts... and evidence. So far they've had precious little to go on, but maybe, just maybe Mulder has already given them a break. Hurrying to catch Mulder up, Doggett finds him talking to a young store clerk. Jamie, if Doggett's guess is correct. He sees the clerk shake Mulder's hand, looking extremely upset. Mulder however manages a small smile, and whatever he says, the young clerk seems cheered by it. Doggett is impressed. Even as out of his mind with worry as Mulder undoubtedly is, he's still got enough empathy left for others.

"Mulder."

At Doggett's voice, Mulder excuses himself, and heads over to him.

"What?"

"I think this is where he grabbed her...in the parking lot."

"I agree. We should treat the lot as a crime scene. We've found Scully's rings-- let's see if we can find something, anything else that might help us work out who's taken her. Call Skinner... I'm gonna check in with the Gunmen.

Mulder leaves Doggett to make the call to Skinner, and heads back out to the market's parking lot. Standing in the nondescript space, he shivers involuntarily. This is where things went horribly wrong.

It would have still been light when Scully was taken. That has to be important. Obviously, whoever is responsible for her abduction was comfortable here. Mulder believes he may have been following Scully for sometime, was familiar with her haunts, and has probably been watching their home too. Mulder fights to stay calm. He has to keep a clear head, stay in his 'Agent' mode. It's been a while, but he had the habit for a long time. He can feel the investigator inside himself, the profiler waking up. He slows his breathing, closes his eyes, and tries to picture what happened here last night.

How did this man get the drop on Scully? It has to have been a blitz attack, something that rendered her immobile almost immediately. Scully was armed, and trained in unarmed combat. She might be a petite woman, but that perception is dangerous. Scully is well able to defend herself. So it has to have been something fast; Mulder would guess she was drugged.

He would have waited until she had unlocked her car, she was probably loading groceries. He would have walked up to her confidently, probably offered to help her with her bags. Scully "knows" this man. She thought that-- 'I 'know' him.' Actually she thought 'We 'know' him.' But what does he look like Scully? What is his name? If I know him too, where do I know him from? "Help me Scully," he thinks. He prays, 'Help me Scully. Give me something to go on.' But there is no reply in his mind from his wife. The link he's shared with Scully, at the moment, is silent.

Mulder reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out his cell phone. 'Mulder if you had to do without your cell phone for two minutes you'd lapse into catatonic schizophrenia.' He smiles briefly at her remembered comment, and speed-dials four. The phone doesn't even ring, and Frohike's voice comes on the line.

"Did you find anything Mulder?"

"Yeah. I found something. I know where he took her from, and Doggett is getting some people down here to process the scene. Question is...did you find anything?"

"We've been all over Scully's computer. There's nothing here Mulder. No one's gotten past the firewalls Langly installed. What do you want us to do next?"

"This guy knows us Frohike. He's been watching us, and he knows our routines. I want you and the guys to start checking the cameras you installed on my house. It's possible he might show up on one of them. It's a long shot, but I want every base covered. I also want you to find out if any of the houses that have an 'eyes on' view of mine have been rented out in the last couple of months."

"We're on it Mulder. I'll call the second we find anything...hang in there man, we're gonna find her."

"I know Frohike...I have to."

Mulder hangs up and looks at his watch, 7:38 AM. He last spoke to Scully after lunch yesterday at 1:30 PM, eighteen hours ago. Eighteen hours without the sound of her voice, her sweet kiss and the glow of her presence surrounding him. The ache within him for her is slowly draining him. He can feel his heart breaking, cracking into pieces, just like it has a thousand times before, every time that she was in danger, or sick, or missing. And just like every previous occasion, he won't fail her. This time failure... failure means the end of "everything!" End of the world.

Mulder hears footsteps behind him, and turns. It's Doggett.

"Skinner has a team of Bureau CSI's on their way down here, should be here in about half an hour. Do you want to stay and see if they find anything?"

Mulder can see that while Doggett is officially in charge of the manhunt for Scully, he's actually deferring to him somewhat, and trusting that Mulder is onto something. Mulder is touched. Doggett's come a long way in a short amount of time, at least in Mulder's estimation.

"Actually I think we should get back to the Bureau. I've got the Gunmen chasing a lead, and you'll be informed immediately if they find anything helpful here." Mulder looks down at Scully's rings again. "I've already found what I came for."

Doggett nods thoughtfully for a moment before he agrees.

"Then let's get the hell out of here Mulder."


1800 hrs
A.D Skinner's Office

It's been an interminably long, and so far unproductive day. They've chased down every lead they've come up with, and they still don't have anything much to go on. Still no trace of Scully has been found, beyond the site of her abduction; and this is just to too familiar to Skinner. The longer they come up with nothing, the more convinced he becomes in his own mind that there must be some alien involvement here. He knows Mulder doesn't believe that, but Skinner is worried now that maybe Mulder can't face that possibility. After what Mulder went through at their hands, Skinner doesn't really blame him. He can completely understand why Mulder would react that way.

Skinner doesn't have that excuse. He has to confront the fact that the aliens may very well have taken her. The complete lack of evidence is certainly consistent with their involvement. But the fact is, that if they are responsible for this, there is nothing to be done about it. Just as with Mulder's abduction. They can track UFO reports all they like, if they have her, they will return her when they are finished with her, or they won't return her at all.

So, at this point, Skinner decides there isn't anything to be gained from broaching the subject with Mulder. They are doing everything they can, alien involvement or not. Their best is all they can do. Skinner closes his eyes for a moment, suddenly exhausted, 'Please' he thinks, 'Please God, if you are listening, just give us a clue...please.'

At the conference table in the corner of the office, Mulder sits with his shoulders slumped in misery. He's exhausted, apart from his short nap yesterday afternoon, he's been up for about thirty six hours. Not that he hasn't gone longer, far longer than that before, but the constant adrenaline pumping through his system is taking its toll. He feels every one of his thirty nine years.

He has to be missing something, he has to. So far every single idea he has had, has lead them nowhere. The cameras on his house yielded nothing. No one has rented the properties that overlook it. The Bureau CSI's turned up nothing at the abduction site. The only tangible thing they have are Scully's rings...and he knows how he found those. He can feel the expectations of the others in the room. They are fresh out of ideas too, and are all looking to him for what to do next. God he wishes he knew what to tell them. He lays his head down on his arm, intending to momentarily shut his eyes, but exhaustion wins out and he succumbs to sleep.


Chapter VIII: Connection

1907 hrs
Cordova Mobile Park
Tappahannock Virginia

When Scully comes to her head is throbbing painfully, and she swallows back the wave of nausea that rises from her stomach. She hasn't felt this unwell in a long, long time. The pain on the side of her face is excruciating, and she's really thirsty.

Letting her eyes adjust to the dim surroundings, Scully can see Joseph standing at the window across from the bed. He has the curtain pulled back slightly and she can see it's still somewhat light outside, early evening she'd estimate. She doesn't think she's been unconscious all that long, but in all honesty she's losing track of time. If he had wanted to keep her out for a day or two he could have done it, but she doesn't think he did. If he had her dehydration would be worse than it is.

Still, she really does feel awful, and she feels weak, which scares her even more. The chance that she can get herself out of this, and back home to Mulder without outside aid is looking slimmer by the minute. Rescue is the only way out she can see, and she knows that depends on Mulder, on his unique talents. She finds a measure of comfort in this, if anyone can find her, he can. Closing her eyes again, she quiets her thoughts, forgets her surroundings, lets herself drift to a safe place inside her mind. Picturing only his beloved face, she concentrates on his image and wills his mind to reach out for her.


1908 hrs
Skinner's Office

Mulder has been sleeping for a little over an hour and nobody has the heart to wake him. It's not like they have any news for him anyway, and his complete exhaustion is easy to understand. Slumped forward in chair, head resting on his arms as they in turn rest on the conference table, he doesn't look the least bit comfortable, but at least he's getting some rest.

Frohike has been designated to keep him company, and everyone else has retired to the cafeteria for nourishment. From his seat in Skinner's chair, indulging himself, Frohike guards his friend's slumber, and even when Mulder starts muttering, he is reluctant to pull him from sleep.


It's her voice which attracts Mulder's attention, and like a drowning man he reaches out for the sound.

"Can you hear me?" she asks him.

"I hear you." he replies. "God I miss you. I'm trying Scully, I'm trying so hard to find you."

"Mulder can you see me?"

At her question, the picture she has of herself, and her current situation forms within his mind.

"Yes. Oh God Scully, what is he doing to you?"

"I'm alright Mulder. You're here, you're with me, and as long as you are, I promise you I'm okay."

"Where are you Scully, do you know?"

"No. He called me 'Mary' Mulder, and he's very angry at me. Can you see the room?"

Again a picture forms for him. He can see it clearly, all the details she's noted, such as they are; the colour of the carpet, the design on the bedspread, he sees it all, just as she does.

"I see it Scully. I don't see anything that helps us though, this room could be anywhere. Show him to me Scully, that's what I need."

When Joseph's face forms he instantly wants to kill. She's right, they do know this man. In fact Mulder has seen him numerous times these last few months. It makes him sick to think this person has been so close to him, to his son, and all that time he's been plotting, scheming, planning to take her away.

"Mulder? Mulder do you see him? Are you still there?"

"I'm here. I see him, and I'm coming Scully, I'm coming to get you. Hold on, OK?"

"How is this possible Mulder? How is it that I hear you, can talk to you? How are you doing this?"

"I can't quite explain it Scully. I have a theory though."

He can almost feel the eye roll and the sound of soft laughter. "Some things never change thank goodness. Hurry Mulder, I'm...I..."

He hears her, but it's the sudden arrival of a wave of fear that stuns him. And it's her fear, as opposed to his, he's unsure how he can distinguish this, but his gut tells him the truth of it.

"I'll find you. Don't be afraid Scully, I won't let you down."

"You never have Mulder. Ever."

"I love you."

"I know."

"I'm coming."

"I know that too."

He can't bear to tell her goodbye. It's something he just never does. Not in person, not on the phone, in fact it's something neither of them does. Over the years it somehow became a rule for them both. You can end a conversation, you can leave your partner's presence, but you don't say 'goodbye,' it's a superstition they live by all the time. They don't discuss it, or acknowledge it, but they both know it.

So he allows himself to let go of the connection, to drift back through the layers of his own consciousness until he becomes aware of his body once more, aware of it's various aches and pains, aware of his eyelids which he now allows to open.

Sitting up so suddenly he hears an expletive from a jumpy Frohike somewhere behind him, "Get everyone together," He hears himself say. "Get them here now Frohike, we've got work to do."


1921 hrs
Cordova Mobile Park
Tappahannock, Virginia.

Joseph has been staring out the window for the last half an hour, trying to decide on his next move. He had planned to stay here, certain that Mary wouldn't recognize the place, but now he's not so sure. She recognizes him. He'd assumed for months before he took her that she didn't.

When he'd seen her at the church, there was no recognition in her gaze, but she's used his name and that's thrown him for a loop somewhat. Of course, Father McCue may simply have mentioned him, and he had been about to tell her who he is. It's not a problem, unless she remembers this place, because if she does, she might have told other people about it, leaving a way for them to trace her here. He has to find out.

Finally turning back from the window to look at her, he sees she appears to be still sleeping. She looks very pale, and her face is swollen and blackening on one side. He's not sorry about that really, if he'd been around longer when she was a child he would have made sure she understood discipline. He wouldn't have allowed her to grow up so wild, having pre-marital sex, giving birth to a bastard child, then marrying outside her religion. He wouldn't have permitted any of it. She would have stayed pure, chaste, but he can make her that way again. That's the purpose of all this, to make her pure again, just as he had intended for her mother to be.

He decides to wake her, and find out what he needs to know. He's dumped her car, but he has other transportation, he can take her someplace else if he has too. Because he must have time to perform the ritual, everything hinges on it. Time that he didn't have with her mother, time he has every intention of not losing this time around.

Joseph walks across the room towards her, and leaning over her he begins to roughly shake her awake.


She hadn't really believed it would work, but she is sure now it did. Somehow, some way, when she reached out for him, his mind reached back. He knows now, he knows who has her. She prays that's all the information he needs.

When rough hands grasp her and start shaking, she keeps her eyes closed, and prays harder.


1921 hrs
Skinner's Office

Everyone arrives within minutes, expectation on all of their faces.

"Mulder?" Skinner asks, "What is it?"

"Scully. I know who has her."

Doggett and Reyes exchange a look. The Gunmen smile at each other, Skinner however just presses on.

"How...did someone call, what did you find out?"

Mulder takes a breath, God knows they've all followed him this far, they've all stood behind him, all been willing to believe he's actually onto something, will they believe this?

"Scully showed me. She reached me while I was sleeping, and she showed me the place he has her, she showed me his face."

Keeping his attention focused on his old boss, he waits for the reaction.

"Well come on then Mulder, tell us and let's figure out where the hell this asshole is."

Mulder shifts his gaze over to Doggett, and is surprised to find him nodding in agreement. The man looks relieved to be able to start working again. When nobody else says anything, negative or otherwise, Mulder snaps into full profiler mode.

"Her abductor's name is 'Joseph,' he's a handyman at Scully's mother's church in Baltimore. He believes Scully to be someone else. He keeps calling her 'Mary,' and he's angry at her, very angry. The first thing we have to do is contact her mother's priest - Father McCue - and get some background on this guy. His full name, address, work history, DOB, family history, friends, relatives etc, you all know the drill."

Mulder lets the hope flow through him. "I'd say finally having a place to really start, let's get to work."

~|~ ~

Chapter IX : The Mate Bond

2321 hrs
Skinner's Office

Within three hours the information they've collated is impressive. In fact it took relatively few phone calls in the end. Once they obtained Joseph's last name - Genge - and the fact that the man was a convicted felon, many things began to fall into place.

It's not a pretty story by any means, and it's difficult to imagine this clearly-unbalanced man convincing any parole board to release him in the first place. More than one person wonders out loud "What were they thinking?" As in the case with so many law enforcement professionals whose job it is to catch the bad guys, to find the evidence, to ensure that people like this go to prison in the first place; seeing dangerous offenders paroled back into society, especially noting their tendency towards recidivism, they feel disheartened to say the least.

It's a wonderful thing to believe that people can change. It's even true to a certain extent, but the true sociopath is so fundamentally flawed that rehabilitation isn't possible. Killers like this don't change, they just learn how to blend in better, how to hide their deviant thinking from others. Like chameleons, they adapt their behaviour to fit in, to remain undetected, but their true nature is there. They WILL let it out, they WILL act upon it, they'll just learn the best ways to avoid getting caught.

It is with such a person they are now faced. Joseph Patrick Genge, age 59. Height 6'1", weight 190 lbs, convicted in 1970 of the murder of four women, including his sister Catherine. All the victims where drowned in bathtubs, all the victims were Catholic. At his trial Genge claimed to be a 'messenger,' charged with rescuing the souls of 'fallen' women. He claimed to have been 're-baptising' each victim, on the command of God himself. It was his assertion after performing what he termed a 'two day ritual,' he drowned the victims to cleanse their minds completely, and that he then attempted resuscitate them. If they revived, it was a sign that they had been purified by God. At this point, he said, they would have been instructed to become nuns, brides to Christ, remaining chaste and cloistered for the remainder of their natural lives in payment for having their life restored.

When it was pointed out to him that all four of his initiates had died, Joseph simply replied that he'd done as he was instructed, and that it had been God's determination not to restore the women to life.

The most chilling fact in the trial transcript, and in the original police file, was that Genge had murdered his sister in front of his then five-year-old niece Mary. In fact it was Mary herself who had led the police to her uncle, after confessing her uncle's gruesome act to her maternal grandmother.

In her uncle's eyes, Mary had thus become an instrument of the Devil. She'd interfered with his holy duty, and Joseph had said exactly that to anyone who would listen throughout his trial.

He'd been given four life sentences. He should never have been eligible for parole. Nevertheless, they'd let him out. Five months ago, Joseph Patrick Genge had been allowed back into society. Only he hadn't changed. Not one iota.

As Mulder stared down at the photo of Catherine Genge, a beautiful portrait photo taken of her and her daughter only three months before her death, Genge's reason for abducting Scully became blatantly clear. Catherine Genge was a tiny woman, strikingly beautiful. Long strawberry blonde hair framed a delicate face. She had clear, bright blue eyes, a full rosebud mouth, and a smile that took your breath away. Although her hair was longer and much lighter, as her face stared back at him from the photo it could almost have been Scully herself he saw. The resemblance was uncanny. It wasn't exact, but she could so easily have been mistaken for Scully's mother. And that's what Mulder now understood, looking at this photo. Genge somehow believed Scully was his niece Mary, and he'd taken her in order to finish what he'd started over thirty years ago.

Mulder looks at Skinner. No words are exchanged, but both men agree on the decision.

"Agent Doggett," Skinner says, "Get all this stuff together, and get the Press in on this. We don't have to tell them 'how' we came to know this man is the one responsible for Scully's disappearance, but we can tell them we know. Let's get some public assistance on this shall we? I want you ready to give a press conference by 7am."

Doggett smiles grimly. "Yes sir."


2336 hrs
Cordova Mobile Park
Tappahannock, Virginia

He can't wake her, so he decides to eat before he takes her and moves on from here. Even if she does remember this place, and even allowing for the fact that she may have mentioned it to people, they still have to make the connection to him, and no one knows he's responsible for her disappearance. She goes by a different name now, she's obviously hidden her identity from the people around her. He thinks he may actually be the only one who knows who she really is.

Either way, he's got time to eat before he leaves, then he'll take her and go, whether she's awake or not. He'll find another place, perform the ritual, and re-baptise her. Once she's fixed, he can get back to his life's work, the work she interrupted all those years ago. After all, he's got a lot of time to make up for.

Joseph occupies himself in the small kitchenette. Humming hymns under his breath, he doesn't notice the woman on the bed open her eyes briefly.

Having risked him seeing her, Scully closes her eyes again as quickly as she opened them. He must have bought it when she pretended to still be unconscious. She intends to play it out as long as she can, figuring she's probably safer that way, fully aware that she's buying Mulder time to find her.

'Hurry Mulder...hurry...'

Joseph works on, unaware of Scully's plan. He'll eat, he's decided, and then check the news on the television. If he can't find out anything from Mary right now, he can at least see what the cops are saying about her abduction on the news. She's a federal agent now after all; her disappearance must be all over the news, and he knows about the cops. If they know he is the one who has her, they'll broadcast it. Yes, he thinks, he can find out what he needs to know easily enough.


0024 hrs
Skinner's Office

Knowing he's going to be the one telling the public about both Scully's abduction, and the person Mulder believes is responsible, Doggett decides to push the issues that are bothering him.

"What I don't understand is why this man believes Dana is his niece?" Doggett stands hands on hips, shaking his head slightly.

"Agent Doggett, the resemblance between Catherine Genge and Scully is probably all the justification this man needs. Take into consideration the fact that this wacko hasn't seen his niece in thirty years, combine that with the fact that his own mother took her granddaughter and quietly disappeared right after his trial, and I don't think it's much of a leap at all. Scully is the right age, she's catholic, and I think he just came upon her and decided what he wanted to believe."

"Purely based on a physical resemblance."

"Agent Doggett, Scully told me her called her 'Mary.'"

Doggett sighs heavily. On the one hand it's his natural instinct to think this kind of thing is horse-shit. 'Psychic connections.' Even with all he's personally witnessed of late, he still has a hard time with this. Then on the other hand, how else is Mulder getting his information? How did he find Scully's rings? If it were anyone other than Mulder, Doggett would suspect him of being an accomplice, but it IS Mulder, and the one thing Doggett knows unequivocally about Mulder and Scully, is that they love each other. He's never seen any two people who love each other more than these two, so Mulder's not a suspect. Whatever he WANTS to believe, in this case he's forced to accept what Mulder is telling him, as well as the source of his information.

"Alright. Supposing what you say is true. Suppose this is the guy who's got Dana, and he believes she's his niece. What's his next move? What's he gonna do Mulder? And where do you think he's gonna do it? You're the profiler here. Beyond letting the press in on this, what's our next move?"

Mulder hangs his head for moment, he's already read enough to know what Joseph's plan is. And he also knows this guy is on a schedule. He didn't keep any of his victims alive more than 72 hours after he snatched them. Scully will be no different, Mulder knows she has less than 48 hours left to live if he can't find her.

Raising his gaze to meet Doggett's questioning one, Mulder tries to keep his voice steady as he answers him. "He intends to do to Scully exactly what he did to his sister. We've got less than two days to figure out where he has her Agent Doggett, and if we can't do that...Scully dies."

Everyone in the room remains silent, the terrible weight of Mulder's words hanging solemnly in the air.

Two hours later, silence reigns again, because nobody wants to disturb Mulder as he pours over the mountain of information on the table before him. If Mulder wants to talk, bounce an idea around, they know he will. Meanwhile, everyone else does what they're good at. The Gunmen quietly check on some recent UFO activity for Skinner; Doggett and Reyes have gone to the basement to prepare for the morning.

Mulder is engrossed in what he's doing, and as he moves Joseph's rap-sheet, the framed map on Skinner's office wall calls to him from the edge of his peripheral vision. Getting up and walking over to it, Mulder realizes he's noticed it before, but never paid it any mind. On close inspection he sees it's actually quite beautiful and extremely detailed, covering the DC area, Maryland and Virginia. His eyes scan over it slowly. He's not sure what he's looking for, but he's always been a person who follows his instincts; the state of Virginia, draws his attention the most strongly.

Mulder listens intently to a voice speaking only in his mind. "You need to find her quickly Ma-e, I fear for her." The gentle and familiar voice no longer surprises him. He turns slightly to his right and once again sees Albert Hosteen. The Navajo appears to shimmer in place--Mulder can see straight through him.

"Where is she Albert?"

"I told you before Ma-e, you are the only one who can know where she is. Let go of your fear Ma-e, you do not need to fear your ability."

Mulder sighs heavily.

"Albert please, no more riddles. If I'm afraid, it's fear for Scully, fear of losing her."

"No Ma-e. It is true you fear for your mate, and that fear is very strong. But that is not the fear that paralyses you and prevents you from locating her."

"Locating her how?"

"Through the mate-bond. It is a rare person, one in tens of millions, who can ever even form such a bond. It is your fear of the power of your own mind that is blocking it Ma-e. It still functions, just not enough for you to follow it to her."

"I don't understand what you're telling me."

"You've sensed her with your mind. You can locate her the same way."

"I've felt her, we've reached each other yes. You're telling me I possess the ability to find out where she is, to track her somehow using this link we share?"

"You are not sick Ma-e. I know you fear losing yourself to the voices, as you did once before. I know the doctors told you it was not normal, told you that you would die. It is lie Ma-e. Left alone you would have recovered on your own, you would have mastered the ability to choose who you wanted to listen to. It is said the ancient Anasazi also possessed this ability. It was a gift, bestowed on certain members of the tribe upon exposure to the most ancient texts. It is this way for you as well."

"The rubbing from the craft, from the UFO."

"Yes. You already know how it affected you. You have just been misled as to what it meant."

"But what about the surgery Albert? After the surgery the ability was gone. There was no trace of it."

"Not so. They did not steal the ability Ma-e, they only hid it. When it tried to resurface they told you that you were dying."

"Why didn't you tell me this before? Why didn't you tell me this then?"

"You were not ready to listen."

"How can you know that?"

"I could not even reach you to tell you. You did not even tell your mate you were sick. You shut yourself off Ma-e, even from yourself."

"But I hear you now."

"You are fully healed now. Your bond with your mate is fully realized now. If you will let go of your fear of what your mind is capable of, if you can believe in it, you will always know where she is. You will always feel her, hear her, every moment."

"And the voices?"

"You will only hear what you chose. This ability will help you Ma-e, it will help you fight them."

"Them? The aliens?"

"We are here because of them Ma-e. They are a part of us all. They have these abilities themselves. It is the part of us that is them that allows you to do what you do."

"Junk DNA."

"That is what your mate calls it, yes."

"So how do I find her, what am I doing that's stopping me?"

"You have to let go. I know you can feel them, the voices, on the edges of your mind. Let them in Ma-e, let it happen, and then you will fully feel the bond you share with her. You will know where she is, and how to get her back."

With these final words the image of the elderly Indian fades to nothing, and Mulder finds himself staring around the room. When he sees that nobody is asking him who the hell he was talking to, he understands that he wasn't conversing with Albert aloud at all. And Albert is right, Mulder can feel something on the edges of his awareness, and he is afraid. He has only unpleasant memories of the last time this happened to him. It was the start of a long journey, which ultimately ended in his abduction and 'death.' He doesn't want to lose himself again. Under the avalanche of stimului, he is afraid. The experience from his past still haunts him.

Mulder moves to the window. It's raining outside. The night is dark and quiet, only the sound of the occasional car moving through the city streets. Taking a deep breath, Mulder tries to calm himself. He is not ashamed to admit that he is afraid of what his mind can apparently do. He remembers the long months after his doctors told him the brutal surgery had damaged his brain, the headaches he medicated and never shared with her, the trips he made seeking other opinions, only to be told again and again that the diagnosis he'd been given was correct. He was dying. The blood flow to his brain was abnormal, they didn't understand why, and they couldn't correct it. It was only a matter of time before an aneurysm formed and ended his life.

It wasn't that he was afraid to die. He wasn't. His greatest fear, for more years than he liked to admit to, was simple--, separation from Scully. Existence--here or in an afterlife-- meant nothing to him without her companionship. Death meant separation, and at that point in his life he had never feared it more. She was finally in his life all the way. She had finally realized she wanted the same things from him, that he had coveted from her. She was his lover as well as his partner, and for the first time since he was twelve--years --old, he was completely happy.

Yes, Mulder remembers all of it. All the agony of hiding his illness from her, when he wanted to share everything. He had to keep this secret. He wanted to protect her, to preserve her peace of mind as long as he could. He needed her to look at him and see a whole man, a strong man, a capable partner. To have told her would have meant seeing sadness in her eyes, and he couldn't do that. Much as it ate at him, he kept his silence, kept the truth to himself, and tried to enjoy what he had, for as long as he was given.

How strange it is, to now be told he wasn't dying after all. That yes, the rubbing from the alien craft affected him, changed him in some way, but that it wasn't the way he had been told. How ironic. He's the great 'believer' and he's finding it hard to believe this. If he was investigating this as an X-File, what would he believe then?

Turning back into the room with a small smile on his face, Mulder knows exactly what he'd be telling Scully: "This explanation fits all the facts Scully. I believe Albert is telling me the truth." And he knows what she'd tell him. "Okay. Supposing you're right, just supposing, what do we do now Mulder?"

He takes a deep breath and speaks the words softly, even as he closes his eyes and squares his shoulders. "I am not afraid."

Centering himself, he focuses his formidable attention on the other people in the room. At first nothing happens, but Mulder keeps reaching, and gradually, like turning up the volume on the radio, their internal thoughts come to him, followed swiftly by their emotions.

Skinner, while outwardly the most stoic, is internally the most panicked. Mulder is surprised by the strength of Skinner's emotions, the fierce determination he has to get Scully back. He can feel the passion his friend has for his job. The dedication and loyalty he feels to Mulder and HIS work. Mulder is amazed. He has, for the most part always trusted Skinner, but now he actually feels humbled by the faith he detects Skinner has in him. He has felt it before, but last time he was able to do this, his mind was being assaulted by so much information he couldn't sort it all out. He has control over it now. 'My God,' he thinks, 'this is unreal.'

Frohike is the next person Mulder 'reads.' No surprises here. He's always known Melvin Frohike loves Scully himself, but it's an unselfish love. He's glad Scully and Mulder are together; he knows it's right. Mulder smiles inwardly. Frohike sees him as a 'little brother,' and his emotions are charmingly over protective.

Quickly scanning over Byers and Langly, Mulder is encouraged by the faith everyone actually feels in him. They don't appear to have many doubts about him finding Scully, but they are all wishing for a resolution soon, and they are all exhausted.

Satisfied with what he's been able to prove to himself, Mulder turns his attention within, shutting off the outside stimului of the others thoughts and emotions. And just as Albert had predicted, he can do that, shut off what he doesn't want to experience, pushing it into the background of his awareness, until it no longer has any focus for him. He turns his thoughts to Scully, and lets emotion take him over. The key to finding her is here within him. He can do it, he's sure of it. Picturing her face and how he feels when he's with her, the sense of completeness that she's always brought him, he begins to find his way. Like everything bright and shiny new in the world, their love for each other glows within his heart, and suddenly Mulder is aware of her in a way he's never been before. She isn't here with him, and yet she is.

The connection becomes tangible, and his mind takes hold of it, like a golden thread joining the two of them. Her thoughts surround him. The power of her love for him astounds and amazes him as he experiences it from her perspective. She is afraid, but determined to survive, lonely and yet she feels he is with her. Hurting and sick, she's ready to fight if she has too; her iron will is evident in everything she thinks and feels. Opening his eyes and walking back over to stare at the map Skinner keeps on his wall, Mulder looks at it again, and is able to see more clearly than he could before. What he sees isn't just on the map in front of his eyes, but also what his mind can sense through his bond with Scully. The place she is appears to him, as if illuminated by a narrow flashlight beam. The small, almost pin-prick shaft of light focusing solely on one small area.

He leans closer to the map, and reads the information he needs, 'Tappahannock,' a small place in south Virginia. Mulder knows without any doubt, that he's just found her...and a part of himself he hadn't known existed.


Chapter X : Liberty

0116 hrs
Washington, DC

Within the hour Mulder finds himself shielding his eyes from the backwash of the helicopter's blades, as it hovers above the roof of the Hoover building. Skillfully the pilot sets the bird down, and motions Mulder and his companions forward.

Mulder doesn't look back as he runs for the chopper, missing the squeeze of hands Monica Reyes bestows upon John Doggett. She isn't happy about her partner leaving her behind, but the helicopter can only hold four, including the pilot, and Skinner insists on going along.

It takes two minutes to get everyone strapped in and the copter airborne. Heading off into the dark rain, its destination will be determined by the strength of one man's love, and the power of his mind.

The occupants are silent for the first five minutes, Mulder focusing only on the link he can feel to Scully. Eventually however, the question both Doggett and Skinner haven't asked gets posed.

"Is this how you found her last time?" Doggett yells over the roar of the whirling blades, leaning close to Mulder in the process.

"Last time?"

"When William was born. When I couldn't reach you to tell you exactly where she was, and you managed to find her anyway."

'There was a light. I followed it.' The simplistic explanation he had given the gunmen, was truthful as he understood it then. Now Mulder is realizing there was more to it than that.

"Maybe. At the time I didn't know it; there was a light in the sky I followed to her. Sounds crazy I know, but I knew that it would lead me to her, somehow I knew it. I think that's just how it manifests. When I looked at the map in Skinner's office, this place, 'Tappahannock', it had a kind of light over it."

Neither Doggett or Skinner questions him further, and Mulder offers no additional explanation, because he honestly doesn't have one. He knows what he knows, and soon...so will they.


0121 hrs
Cordova Mobile Park
Tappahannock, Virginia

There is nothing on the news regarding Mary and her disappearance, and Joseph is somewhat puzzled by it. On the one hand this could be good news, because if they knew he had her, they would surely announce it. "America's Most Wanted" has become a proven crime fighting tool to law enforcement agencies the country over. The more sets of eyes looking for a person, the higher the likelihood of catching them; it isn't rocket science. So he's as sure as he can be that if they knew, his face would be broadcast nationally.

However, the local DC news doesn't even mention that a federal agent is missing, and for some reason that leaves Joseph feeling decidedly uneasy. Of course he doesn't know what their procedure is exactly. Despite everything he studied in prison, and all he learned, the Feds still remain somewhat of a mystery to him. There is an element of the unpredictable about the whole damn lot of them. Shit. He would like to stay here until he's done with her, but he just can't be sure it's safe.

Huffing out a sigh of annoyance, he guesses he's safe enough for tonight. It's getting really late, and he's too tired think anymore. Glancing over at the bed, Mary lies prone and bound, either unconscious or sleeping, he's not sure which. She's been out for hours now, but her breathing is deep and regular, and her pulse steady. He's unconcerned. Between the blows to her head, and the drugs he gave her over the last 36 hours, it's no real surprise that she isn't awake.

Doesn't matter at all really. He'll do what he has to either way.

Scully is fully conscious, as a matter of fact, but she lies motionless and keeps her breathing slow and even. Mulder is coming; she can tell. The sense she has of his presence is growing ever stronger now. He's close, he'll be here soon... She can hardly stand it. Soon, and this nightmare will be over.

And when she gets home, she and Mulder will figure this thing out, because something decidedly paranormal is going on here. She should be worried out of her mind. The last time Mulder's mind displayed extraordinary capabilities, she almost lost him to 'them.' The images of him in a padded cell, or strapped to a hospital bed by his ankles and wrists, have prompted more than their fair share of nightmares for her. During that entire experience she was frantic in a way she had never been before.

'I was so determined to find a cure to save you...that I could deny what it was that I saw.'

And after she believed it was over, it really wasn't. Mulder was dying. Dying, and lying to her about it. She could have killed him herself when she discovered it. So she should be frantic now, shouldn't she? Does the fact that he's again displaying unusual abilities mean that his illness is back? Her mind tells her it might, but her heart tells her differently. Her heart tells her he's fine, that whatever is going on with him, it's okay. He's okay. He's super-human somehow, but not in any danger, at least from this. Eventually they'll discover what's going on, because that's what they do.

Feeling comforted, she concentrates on what she can feel, on the buoying knowledge that he knows where she is, and that within moments now, she'll be free once more.


0203 hrs
In the air...

"There...over there, do you see it?"

Special Agent John Doggett stares in muted disbelief, along the line of Mulder's arm. He was expecting something. He wasn't sure what, something only Mulder could see perhaps, but certainly not this.

Hovering in front of them, in the air at about 300 ft, is a glowing ball of light. Doggett imagines that from the ground it probably looks exactly like a bright star. It's not very big, but it's as bright as hell. It's stationary, just waiting in place, and for the life of him Doggett can't come up with a single, logical, explanation for it.

"Well? Can you see it or not?" Mulder's voice is exasperated.

"I see it." Doggett replies, his tone of voice indicating otherwise. Skinner nods slowly, as if in disbelief, "What the hell is it Mulder?"

Smiling in delight, Mulder says "Scully. She's here."

Almost as if it is hearing him, or knowing that it is no longer necessary, the small ball of light begins to sink downward. Moving fairly slowly, it hovers for an instant over a single mobile home surrounded by several others, and then simply winks out.

"Set us down." Mulder yells to the pilot. "Over in that field. Don't get us too close; we need the element of surprise."

Following these instructions to the letter, the FBI pilot reverses his course, and lands gently about a mile from the mobile home park. Mulder, Doggett and Skinner jump out, and with Mulder in the lead, the agents run off into the darkness.

Thankfully the rest of the journey doesn't take long. All three men are in fine physical shape, and while Mulder is the faster runner, the other two don't have much trouble keeping him in sight. In the end he beats them to entrance of the mobile park by only a few seconds.

"Which one is it?" Skinner asks, breathing hard. Now that they are on the ground, the cover of darkness is disorienting, making it hard for Skinner to translate what he saw from the air into a marker he can recognize down here.

Thankfully Mulder doesn't need markers. He simply walks forward, eyes a bit unfocused, head tipped back slightly. "She's close, really close now. This way."

Following Mulder's sure lead, Doggett and Skinner make their way towards the rear of the park, and a single home set under the cover of an elderly elm tree.

Mulder stares at it hard. It's been over 36 hours since this horrible ordeal began, and behind the flimsy walls of this trailer, lies the woman he loves, and the man who took her from him. Pulling his weapon from the holster at his hip, Mulder feels its comfortable weight in his palm. The murderous urge he's feeling is almost overwhelming at this point. He wants this bastard dead. Dead for daring to even lay a finger on Scully, dead for putting Mulder through endless hours without her, dead, cold, six feet under and preferably burning in hell. He knows he'll settle for putting him back in prison for the rest of his miserable life, so taking a deep breath, Mulder lets go of the urge. Skinner silently climbs the three steps to the door, and gun at the ready, tries the handle. No one is surprised to find it locked. Doggett and Mulder glance once at each other and nod. FBI training takes over, and they circle the perimeter in opposite directions, checking each window in turn. The home is secured, the windows obscured by blinds or curtains; there is no way to see inside. Returning to the front, the trio pull back to the base of the elm, and confer in whispers.

"Okay Mulder, what now?" Skinner, while being the ranking law enforcement officer, is happy to defer to Mulder right now. His gut tells him to shoot out the lock and storm inside, but it isn't his wife in there, and therefore he doesn't feel this is his call.

Mulder closes his eyes for a moment before speaking.

"Scully is awake. She says Joseph is sleeping on the couch. He has possession of her weapon, but she can't tell where it is."

"I take it she's unable to get to the door?" Doggett asks.

There is a pause before Mulder replies. "Yeah, she's tied to the bed. I think if we move quickly we can take him completely unaware. We shoot out the lock and secure the suspect, then we free Scully."

Two heads nod in agreement. Moving back to the door, Skinner takes aim at the lock, while Mulder and Doggett poise to enter. Like a well oiled machine, the former and current FBI agents put their plan into action.


Inside the home Scully braces herself in anticipation. She knows exactly what is about to go down; Mulder's thoughts are clear in her head now that he is so close. It's a strange, yet wonderful feeling. Unspoken communication has been present in their partnership since the day they met, but this whole new level of the same dynamic is thrilling. She suspects it will take him some practice to not broadcast everything to her, and to not eavesdrop on her thoughts all the time as well. Yet she looks forward to the adjustment, the reward, knowing he will be connected to her on some level, literally, at all times. It's incredible.

Her thoughts are interrupted by a gun shot, and as the events unfold in front of her, she screams.


They go on three. Skinner counting down silently on his fingers, before he squeezes the trigger and blasts the crap out of the lock, which flies apart as the 9mm bullet does its job. Doggett kicks the door hard, forcing it to swing open fast, and Mulder launches himself through it immediately. The gunshot that rings out next is unexpected, and Mulder is only aware that he's been hit, when the floor comes up to meet him as he crumples to it.

Doggett is so close on his heels, that he almost trips over Mulder as the man falls in front of him. For a split second he panics, but Doggett's instincts are strongly ingrained, and he recovers in time to return fire on Mulder's behalf. His shot finds its mark perfectly, and the incident is over as quickly as it began. Joseph Genge falls backwards on to the couch, surprise written all over his face, blood blossoming on his chest.

The only sound echoing through the room, is the remnant of a woman's terrified scream.


"Mulder!" Oh God. One minute he's charging into the room, the next she hears the gunshot, and sees him fall. She didn't see Joseph wake up, didn't see him pull her weapon from under his shirt. All she knows, or cares about, is the man on the floor.

"Mulder. Mulder answer me!"

Scully struggles frantically against her bonds, "God dammit, someone get me out of these! Mulder...Mulder talk to me!"

"I'm alright Scully."

To her intense relief Mulder rises slowly to his feet, and limps his way over to her. She wants to look at his face, but her doctor's eyes scan urgently over his body, looking for the injury. When she finds it, she releases the breath she didn't know she was holding, and raises her eyes to his at last. The bullet grazed his thigh, and he's bleeding, but not badly. He's okay...he's okay. Oh thank God, he's okay.

"Are you alright Agent?" Skinner asks her as he comes to stand next to the bed. She nods mutely, unable to look anywhere but at her husband, as he seats himself carefully next to her, and works quickly to set her free. When she can finally sit up, she grabs hold of him, wraps her arms tightly around his neck, buries her face against his chest, and starts to cry.

His strong arms wrap themselves around her in return, his hand stroking slowly over her hair. In her mind she hears him speak, even as her ears hear only his rapid heartbeat.

'It's over Scully...it's all over.'


Chapter XI: Sexual Healing

1515 hrs
Thirty seven hours later
Georgetown Memorial Hospital

Mulder opens the door to Scully's room, to find her dressed and ready to go.

"Impatient are we Mrs Mulder?"

Scully smiles warmly at him, and he's pleased to see the swelling on her face has disappeared, and the bruises are beginning to turn yellow. She looks much better than she did when he found her, and he doesn't really have to ask if she wants to go home, because he only has to concentrate to hear her thoughts himself.

It's strange. The ability which manifested with Scully's disappearance, hasn't gone, but has faded into the background of Mulder's awareness. If he consciously thinks about it, he can still 'sense' her, still communicate with her, even over distance, but it seems that without the 'fight or flight' rush of adrenaline through his body, it requires more work on his part to feel the connection. Other people are much harder to 'read.' It can be done, but Mulder finds it exhausting.

After the rescue, Skinner had both of them flown to the hospital at once. Scully was far more concerned with Mulder's well-being, than with her own weakened condition. She insisted he undergo a battery of tests, 'just to be safe,' she'd said. And while Mulder was certain that nothing was wrong with him, he understood his wife's scientific need to know for sure.

Twenty-four hours later, Scully was finally satisfied that Mulder was in no discernable danger. Yes, he was displaying increased brain function. Yes, on a cellular level, as with Gibson Praise, the 'junk' DNA they'd seen before was now active within him. But the blood flow to Mulder's brain was fine, normal, nothing like it had been after Spender and his team of butchers had been at him. He's perfectly healthy in fact, apart from a nasty laceration on his left thigh. Nothing twenty stitches and some ibuprofen can't handle. It seems Albert was right about everything. Mulder just needs the man to show up again so he can thank him.

"God. I can't wait to get home, Mulder. Please tell me you've sprung me from this joint?"

He limps over to her and pulls her close, depositing a gentle kiss upon her upturned nose. "We can leave now if you're ready. Your doctors are satisfied the concussion is gone, and the drugs are out of your system. I've asked your mother to stay for a couple of nights though. I need some time alone with you, and she's agreed to help out with Wills."

Mulder smiles shyly at her, looking a little sheepish, and she shakes her head wryly. She should be annoyed. She really just wants to be alone with both her husband, and her son, but she understands him so well, that she can't bring herself to be angry with him. Mulder is possessive of her under ordinary circumstances, and recent events cannot be classed as even remotely ordinary. He needs to re-affirm the fact that she's alive, by his side, and not going anywhere. Scully also knows exactly how he plans to do that.

'Oh you do...do you?' he asks her without words.

'Bring it on honey,' she answers back.


1604 hrs
Home of 'The Mulders,'
Alexandria, Virginia

His mother-in-law is an absolute gem, Mulder thinks; she really, really is. Not only has she taken her grandson for an autumn walk in the park, but she's promised to be gone at least a couple of hours. He'll have to think of some way to thank her properly... later.

His wife is delighted to finally be home. She toured the whole house as if she hadn't seen it before, and Mulder was content to watch her, just revelling in having her back safely. He knows something similar can't happen again. He and Scully are connected now, on a level that allows him to always know where she is, and how she is. It's his dream come true he realizes suddenly, his secret wish has actually been answered. How the hell did he get so lucky?

They still haven't answered the question of 'why' Mulder was originally affected by the alien artifact, beyond surmising that it's just something in his not-so-natural genetic make-up. But quite frankly, Mulder doesn't really care, and is content to just accept it for what it is. It's been a long journey from there to here, with a lot of pain and angst along the way. He figures that if the end result is this good, he'll consider himself blessed, and use it to his advantage. In the fight for the future, they'll need all the advantages they can get.

Meanwhile, Mulder's got himself a gorgeous wife to make love to, and that wife is currently looking at him with the same intent. Mulder grabs her hand, and steers her towards their bedroom.

He undresses her slowly, running his hands over each new patch of bare Scully-skin he uncovers. It's been only five days since they last made love, and yet it seems so long ago to him. Mulder never allows that much time to pass without sharing this intimacy with her. He knows it's going to be even deeper now than it was before, deeper because he'll be able to sense it from Scully's point-of-view as well as his own. He wonders how he'll be able to stand such joy.

Lying beside her once they are both naked, he spends time just looking in his wife's eyes, sending her his thoughts, letting her see how she appears to him through his eyes. When her eyes fill with tears, Mulder kisses them softly away, telling her without words that 'Yes...he loves her that much, and yes, she is that beautiful.'

Scully pulls him against her, crushing his mouth beneath hers, desperate to let him feel in return, how he moves her. How right from the moment they met, she felt deep inside that he would change her life forever. And that he has. Mulder has made her life more than she ever dreamed it could be, by the simple act of sharing it with her.

When neither can stand it any longer, Mulder rolls her under him, hard cock seeking her wet warmth, and when he slides in deep, they can both feel the connection from their own perspective and each other's. The power of that feeling is earth-shattering.

With each slide home and each retreat, the passion builds. Mulder can feel the tears behind his eyelids as he stares down at her, drinking her in. He loves her SO much. It's the purest thing he's ever known. With the relief of having her home, safe, naked, and surrounding him, his body seeks the comfort he finds in her, and there is nothing he can do to fight it. He can't slow his passion, or wait for her to catch up. He can't control it in any way. Some primitive part of his soul just has to re-connect, re-possess...has to 'take' her back, and he does.

She doesn't care at all, that he comes before her. She knew it would be fast, that he wouldn't be able to have it any other way, at least not this time. The jumble of thoughts and feelings flowing from Mulder's mind to hers is too much to sort out, but coherent enough to allow her to somehow understand. The look on his beautiful face when his release takes him over the edge, the utter joy he experiences in that moment, is all Scully needs. Mulder is happy again, and his happiness is also hers. Her life's goal is complete.

Mulder's weight on her feels perfect. She holds him tightly, letting him calm and return to her, but the moment she feels his tears dampen her neck, she reacts.

"Shhhhh Mulder. I'm here, it's okay."

He shivers in her arms, and wraps himself even more tightly around her. She waits patiently for a few minutes, and slowly his vice-like grip eases up, and she can see his face.

"Sorry. All these feelings...my emotions and yours too, it was overwhelming."

Scully smiles, and he returns it ten-fold.

"So much love Scully. Just so much."

"I know."

Uncertainty clouds his mind for a brief moment, and whether he means to or not, Mulder broadcasts his thoughts to her. Taking his face in her hands she whispers softly to him.

"It IS perfect. It WILL last. I would NEVER leave you - not voluntarily. NEVER, and you know this Mulder. They can't separate us now, nobody, not ever."

He takes a deep breath, and slowly releases it. He nods, because he knows, he feels the truth of her words. Whatever has happened in the past, the future will be different. His 'gift', makes it different.

"I do know." Mulder smiles again, his feelings coming under control. "I also know I left you hanging Mrs Mulder, and what kind of husband would I be, if I didn't work my butt off right now to rectify that?"

She grins playfully. "Hmmm...a rotten one."

"Damn straight."

Kissing his way down her body, as she relaxes beneath him, he allows himself to just be happy - because God knows he's earned it.


Epilogue.

He dreams. Safe in his bed. Safe in the arms of his wife. His house is dark and peaceful, warm and safe, and full of love.

No nightmares disturb him. No monsters stalk him. There is harmony, there is rest.

His dream is bright. Sitting under a cornflower blue sky, he smiles. He decides he likes New Mexico, in all it's desert beauty.

He isn't alone. His elderly friend sits beside him on the reddish rock, and smiles at him, with the wisdom of the ages glowing in gentle brown eyes.

"You succeeded Ma-e."

"No small thanks to you."

"You are welcome. Are you ready for the next task Ma-e?"

"The next task? Albert what are you talking about?"

The Navajo smiles. "Your next task Ma-e. Are you ready to save the world?"

Mulder swallows hard, looks up at the sky, and gives the only answer he can. "I want to believe...I am."

The End.


Author's Notes:

I can't believe how long this story took me! Or how relieved I am it's done. Now I'm free to write something else (bg).

If you've read this far - I guess you either liked it, or your name is Sallie and you agreed to beta it, and had no choice (vbg). Sallie, honey, thank you from the bottom of my heart, for your skill, your patience, and most of all your time. You make the end result, so much better than it would be if I was doing this alone. I owe you BIG TIME, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Love you.


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