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Chapter 21

11:47 AM

Daytime television sucked.

Mulder tossed the remote on the coffee table, hissing when the movement pulled at his stitches. Tugging on the pillows at his back, he searched vainly for a comfortable position. No matter what he tried, something ached, throbbed, twinged, or spasmed. Besides the gunshot wound, he'd racked up a pretty impressive collection of cuts, scrapes, and bruises on his little jaunt through the forest.

Come to think of it, trees sucked, too.

Grey emerged from the kitchen, juggling two prescription bottles and a sandwich. "Time for your meds. Dana said to make sure you eat first." He wrinkled his nose. "She gave me a graphic description of what might happen if you don't."

"One of the perks to having a doctor in the family." Mulder scooted upright, grimacing.

"Here." Grey handed him the plate and adjusted his pillows.

Mulder peeked under the top slice of bread. "Roast beef and cheddar--hey! This looks like it's from Scooby's!"

"It is. I stopped by on my way over. Dana sounded so desperate to get to the grocery store, I figured the cupboards must be bare."

Mulder bit into the sandwich and hummed his approval. "God, I love Scooby's."

"I know." Grey watched him eat. "What do you want to drink?"

"Should be a pitcher of tea in the fridge."

Grey disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a large glass. He placed it on the coffee table within easy reach and sat down in an armchair.

"Thanks." Mulder took a sip and made a face. "Damn caffeine-free tea."

Grey popped up. "Hang on." Another trip to the kitchen and now he held a slice of fresh lemon in his hand. "Maybe this will ease the pain."

Mulder swallowed and raised an eyebrow. "Uh...thanks."

Grey perched on the edge of his chair for a few minutes, then stood, rubbing his arms. "Seems a little chilly in here. Should I bump up the heat? Or I could get you a blanket."

His brother was halfway across the room before Mulder found his voice. "Grey?"

"Hmm?" He squinted at the thermostat, fiddling with the dial.

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

Grey gaped at him for a moment, then scowled. "Wrong with me? What's that supposed to mean?"

"You're acting strange."


"Yeah, you know. All this." Mulder gestured around him. "The sandwich, the pillows, the lemon. What's up with that?"

Grey folded his arms. "What's...? Nothing is up. I'm just trying to help. Heck, it's not like I've never waited on you before."

"Yeah, but this is different. I mean, you're practically hovering. It reminds me of when Samantha broke my bat and she..." He broke off and narrowed his eyes.

"Look, if you don't want my help, that's fine. I'll just go eat my own lunch." Grey stalked toward the kitchen.

"You're beating yourself up because you had to shoot me."

Grey froze; his back and shoulders went rigid under his denim shirt. Mulder shoved aside his plate and sat up straighter, ignoring the pain. "That's bullshit, Grey."

His brother came back and sank into the chair. "You don't get it."

Mulder laughed. "You've got to be kidding. Guilt is my middle name."

"It's not guilt." When Mulder just looked at him, Grey amended, "Not exactly. Deep down I know there wasn't anything else I could have done."


"It's not that simple."

"Sure it is. I was hurting Scully. And my debut as alien abductee was about to become a recurring role. You stopped it the only way you could."

"You're not hearing me. I know I did the right thing. I'm just having some trouble living with it." Grey pressed his clasped hands to his forehead and shut his eyes. "I can't shake it. The bullet spraying blood as it hits your shoulder. Your eyes opening wide, then squeezing shut when the pain kicks in. Dana's scream. You drop--" He pressed his lips tightly together.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't." Grey lowered his hands and looked at Mulder. "I don't mean for you to be sorry, Fox."

"You know, this isn't the first time I've been shot." Mulder smirked. "It isn't even the first time I've been shot by a family member--though technically Scully was just a good friend at the time."

Grey stared at him. "Is this the part where I'm supposed to feel better?"

"My shoulder hurts like hell. But it will heal. I'll heal. If they'd taken me...God, Grey. I couldn't do that again. I'm so damn grateful you were there."

They sat in awkward silence. Mulder picked up the rest of his sandwich, then cleared his throat.

"So if it helps you to, you know, hover, go right ahead."

Grey snorted. "That's big of you." He poked the remote with his toe. "Anything good on TV?"

"Nothing. If I see another talk show I might lose what's left of my mind. I was going to put on a movie."

"Yeah? Which one?"

"Plan 9 From Outer Space."

"Never heard of it. Is that some kind of campy Sci Fi flick?"

"You're kidding, right? You've never seen it? Plan 9 is a classic--the standard by which all Science Fiction movies should be measured."


Mulder waved toward the kitchen. "Go get your lunch. You're in for a treat."

"Why do those words strike fear in my heart?"

"Very funny. You know, I liked you better when you were hovering."

"Just start the movie."

Mulder's smiled smugly. "If you insist."

4:36 PM

The light beckons him--bright like the sun, but so cold. He shrinks back from its icy touch, but the voices whispering in his head reassure him and then it's not so bad. He needs it, needs Them, a craving far stronger than his one-time nicotine addiction.

"Mulder, stop! Don't do this!"

Scully's tear-filled eyes are almost as compelling as the light.


He tightens his grip on her hair and shoves the gun under her chin, moving them both into the brilliance. Under the light Scully looks translucent, even her eyes washed of color.

"What are you doing? Mulder, no!" She's screaming now, fighting him despite the weapon.

He smiles. "Don't you get it, Scully? You're coming, too."

Mulder bolted upright, panting. The dull throbbing in his shoulder dissolved the lingering images of his dream. He looked around, surprised to find himself lying on the couch.

"Hey. Are you all right?"

Scully turned on the lamp and moved into the room. Nodding, he shifted his legs so she could sit beside him. She tugged aside his tee shirt, checking his bandage, then brushed sweat-damp hair off his forehead.

"Monday, Mulder. We're getting this cut. There's something inherently wrong about your hair being longer than Grey's."

"Speaking of Grey--where did he go? We were watching a movie."

"That was four hours ago. You dropped off after the first thirty minutes. He said to tell you that you should seriously rethink your definition of a classic."

"He's at Kristen's?"

She nodded, linking her fingers with his. "He promised he'd stop by tomorrow before he leaves." Scully studied his face. "What's wrong?"


"Mulder, every muscle in your body just tensed up. Is it that Grey's going home? You know he doesn't have a choice--he's been on leave from work for nearly two months."

Mulder looked away, his face expressionless. "Of course he has to go home. He's put his life on hold for us...for me. It's not like he can hang around here indefinitely on the off chance I might lose it again."

Scully frowned. "What exactly was this latest nightmare about?"

He shrugged, careful to keep his tone light. "Just your standard post-attempted-alien-abduction trauma."

"Sometimes it helps to talk about it."

"Not this time."

Scully pressed on, despite his curt tone. "The device was destroyed, Mulder. You're not going to 'lose it' again." When he didn't answer, she tightened her fingers. "What are you thinking?"

He gazed at their joined hands. "That the device was just one means to an end. That either of us could be taken again, at any time. That the only way to free ourselves and eliminate the threat of colonization is by finding the proof that will expose Them." He sighed. "I can't run away from this, Scully. I have to go back to work. I have to go back to the Files."

Scully waited a beat before speaking. "Then I suppose it's a good thing Nick thinks you'll be cleared for duty in a few weeks."

Mulder lifted his head, searching her face. "You don't sound particularly surprised."

"Maybe because I'm not." She sat forward, turning to face him.

"But when we talked before I said--"

"Ten years, Mulder. You think I don't know you by now? It doesn't really matter what brought you to this quest for the Truth--the strategies of evil men or your own insatiable curiosity. You won't accept defeat. It's what I saw in you when we first met. It's why I followed you. And a part of why I fell in love with you."

"And look what it's gotten you."

Scully smiled. "I don't know. The view doesn't seem too bad."

"How can you say that? Consider what the years have cost you, Scully. Your abduction, Melissa's death, cancer, your ability to have children...

"And what have they brought you? Not Samantha, not even that concrete proof that extraterrestrial life exists. Nothing you set out to find. But even now, you won't give up." She cupped his cheek. "You've always said you want to believe, Mulder. So what is it you want to believe in?"

Mulder leaned into her touch and closed his eyes. "I want to believe that the dead aren't lost to us. That their sacrifices are part of a plan--one greater than any alien force. But most of all, I want to believe we can find the power to save ourselves."

Scully kissed him and rubbed her thumb lightly across his lower lip. "Then we believe the same thing."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. Haven't you figured it out? I believe in you."

Mulder pulled her into his arms and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Then maybe...maybe there is hope."

Concluded in the Epilogue