Blood Ties V: Legacies(3/3)
By Dawn


Room 326
Wednesday
9:43 a.m.

"That's about it," Grey concluded quietly. "The things they did to
me, the tests they ran, remain a blur. I know they drugged me with
something each time, and I can remember pain..." He shuddered,
an involuntary twitch of muscles. "But the conversation with
Krycek is crystal clear. It didn't make sense at the time, but
now..."

Scully searched Mulder's face, his eyes flat, mouth compressed to
a thin line. He let his eyelids slip closed to shutter himself from her
compassionate gaze.

"Yet another piece of my father's legacy," he said bitterly. "It's the
gift that keeps on giving."

"He did try to shield your family from this," Scully pointed out,
looking at Grey. "We just have no way of knowing if he
succeeded."

"If they... If I do have this genetic factor like Fox, could it save
him?" Grey asked, hope sparking in his eyes.

"We don't know what this alleged genetic factor looks like, or its
location," she said. "Add to that the very real possibility that you
don't possess it, and the chances of success are very slim." She
sucked in her bottom lip, fingers smoothing the wrinkles from
Mulder's sheet. "I actually sent a sample of my own blood for
analysis, hoping the lab could isolate antibodies from when I was
infected with the virus. So far they've come up empty."

Mulder's expression softened. "I appreciate the effort. But how do
we even know this is the same? Sacks became comatose, my
immune system is being destroyed, and you were apparently
designated to serve as a human incubator. Those are three very
different reactions. How does it all fit together?"

"I'm not certain, but I have some ideas. Sacks could very well
have been on his way to gestating one of the creatures you saw, we
never had the time to determine the complete effects of the
growth." She wrinkled her nose. "If you remember, I dropped into
a comatose state myself."

"Remember? I still have nightmares about it," Mulder muttered.
"But *I* am not in a coma."

"Perhaps due to this resistance that Krycek spoke of," Scully
countered. "It could be weakened, but still partially functional.”

"Why would the growth destroy my immune system?"

"Think about it, Mulder. What's the body's natural response to an
invader?"

Mulder grimaced. "You mean the virus knocks out the host's
immune system so that the organism can gestate."

"Exactly. But in your case the organism stalled -- from vestiges of
the Russian vaccine, genetic resistance, or some combination of
the two." Scully shook her head. "I just wish I understood what
triggered the relapse. Why now?"

"Krycek said they were 'monitoring their investment,'" Grey said.
"That would imply that even the creators don't completely
understand what they've created."

Mulder seemed to sink more deeply into the pillows, face pale and
drawn. Seeing his brother's pained expression, Grey immediately
regretted his choice of words.

"Fox, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that the way it sounded."

"Don't apologize for the truth," Mulder replied wearily. "Isn't that
what I am? They've manipulated me my entire life, and now I find
they engineered my conception. I can almost appreciate the humor
in some unknown factor screwing up their little genetics
experiment. Ole Smokey must be royally pissed."

He coughed, then winced, pressing his knuckles hard against his
forehead. "So what's next, Scully?" he asked, the words beginning
to slur and his eyes drooping. "I can feel that I'm not getting better.
Brewer must have some plan of attack. Is it time for that lobotomy
you're always threatening?"

Scully couldn't muster a smile. "The growth is inoperable, Mulder.
Brewer wants to try chemotherapy."

Mulder's face betrayed nothing. "When?"

"As soon as possible. The oncologist will stop by today to talk with
us."

Mulder swallowed thickly. "Do you trust him?"

"Brewer?" At Mulder's nod Scully continued. "Yes. I like him,
Mulder, but I must admit your overdeveloped sense of paranoia
has rubbed off on me. I called the Gunmen yesterday and had them
check him out. He came up clean."

"Wanted to know what you were feeling, Scully. Guess now I'll
find out first hand," Mulder mumbled, shifting restlessly in search
of a comfortable position.

Scully's heart twisted at the mention of her cancer. "I never wanted
you to know, love," she replied, running the pads of her gloved
fingers gently up and down the soft skin on the underside of his
arm.

"Headache," Mulder sighed fretfully, but his eyelids fluttered.

"Do you want me to get you something?" Scully asked, but she
kept her voice low and her fingers continued their movement.

"Mmm. 'S aspirin in the bathroom, behind the..."

The words fell off into an unintelligible murmur, then ceased.
Scully's lips turned up even as she blinked back tears. She slipped
off the bed and tucked Mulder's arm beneath the sheet, stroking the
spot on his cheek she could not kiss. When she turned to look for
Grey, she was surprised to find he had left.

Once outside Mulder's room she efficiently stripped off gown and
gloves and stepped into the hallway. Her eyes swept the length of
the corridor without locating him, increasing her bewilderment. A
tap on her shoulder caused her to release the breath she'd
unconsciously been holding, a wry smile on her face.

"I wondered where you... Oh, Elena! Sorry, I thought you were
someone else."

"How's our patient? I just came on shift and I haven't been in to see
him yet." Elena's intent expression attested to genuine concern.

"He's hanging in there. The new antibiotic has kept the fever down,
but his white count keeps dropping." Scully chewed her lip. "Dr.
Brewer is recommending chemotherapy for the tumor."

Elena tugged on the ends of her stethoscope. "How did Mulder
take the news?"

Scully shrugged. "He took it. Mulder has been through a lot in his
life. He's mastered the art of rolling with the punches."

"And how about you? Are you rolling too?"

Scully released a short puff of air. "I'm trying. I nearly died of
cancer a couple of years ago. This brings it all back as if it were
yesterday."

Elena lay a sympathetic hand on her arm. "I'm sorry, this must be
very difficult for you. I guess that also explains why Mr.
McKenzie looked so upset."

"Grey? You saw him?"

Elena raised her eyebrows. "Well, yes. He came out of Mulder's
room about two minutes before you did, looking pretty raw. He
wanted to know if there was someplace he could get some fresh
air, so I sent him to the terrace on the fourth floor."

Scully nodded, giving Elena's hand a quick squeeze before pulling
away. "Thanks. I'd better go check on him. Mulder's out like a light
right now, but he's overdue for pain meds and might not last."

"I'll keep an eye on him," Elena assured her.

Weaving down corridors now bustling with nurses, patients, and
equipment, Scully's body functioned on autopilot while her mind
seethed with conflicting thoughts and emotions. She felt stretched
to the breaking point, caught between the purely emotional desire
to remain at Mulder's side, the intellectual drive to be part of the
efforts to find a cure, and her craving for revenge against the
cigarette smoking devil at the center of this nightmare. At the
center of every nightmare.

Scully slowed as she stepped out onto the terrace, belatedly
realizing that her coat still hung on the hooks outside Mulder's
room. She burrowed her hands into the pockets of her jacket,
hunching her shoulders a bit against the chill wind. The solitary
figure leaning over the brick wall reminded her so strongly of
Mulder she felt a physical ache somewhere between her head and
her heart.

"Hey," she said quietly, propping her elbows on the concrete and
mirroring his posture.

"Tracked me down, huh, Agent Scully?" Grey said with forced
levity.

"I'm sure Mulder's told you that he never ditches me for long,"
Scully replied.

Grey feigned a grimace. "Ouch. The infamous ditch. Never
thought I'd be guilty of that."

Scully eyed him appraisingly. "It's your first offense. I suppose I
can let it slide if you come clean with what's bothering you. Aside
from the obvious, of course."

Grey scrubbed his face with his hands. "Dana..."

"It's Kate, isn't it?"

He abruptly dropped his hands and pinned her with a sharp stare.
"What?"

"Look, ever since Brewer showed me that CAT scan I've been
plagued with flashbacks of my own cancer, and hearing the word
chemotherapy this morning only made things worse. It's only
natural all of this would remind you of Kate's illness."

Grey flinched and spun so that she was left with a view of his rigid
back, one hand clamped on the wall in a white knuckled grip and
the other fisted at his side. Scully reached out tentatively to lay her
hand on his back, feeling the muscles spasm under her palm.
Moving cautiously around him, her fingers trailing across his
shoulders, she was startled to see his face screwed up in anguish,
tears flowing freely down his cheeks.

Her reaction instinctual, she reached up to cup her hand behind his
neck and tugged. After token resistance, Grey allowed her to draw
his head down to her shoulder, mutely accepting the comfort.
Scully rubbed soothing circles at the nape of his neck, the surreal
feeling of holding Mulder's brother in her arms eclipsed by the
shock of his broken sobs. She abruptly recognized that in all the
time she'd known Grey, though she'd witnessed him on the brink of
tears, she'd never actually seen him cry. That epiphany made his
current breakdown all the more significant -and heart rending.

He recovered swiftly, pulling back from Scully's embrace and
swiping the moisture from his face with the sleeve of his shirt.
Scully let him go, allowing him the space to reapply a veneer of
calm. They were both shivering by this point, so she steered Grey
back inside and around the corner to a small waiting area. He
watched her settle into one of the chairs, but chose to pace instead.

"I'm sorry, Dana," he said gruffly. "You've got enough of your own
burdens right now without me going to pieces on you."

"Don't apologize," she replied softly. "I'd hope you would do the
same for me. I don't doubt I'll be losing a few pieces mysef over
the next few days."

One corner of Grey's mouth struggled to curve, then gave up.
When Scully silently continued to watch his frenetic movements,
he threw himself into a chair and clasped his hands tightly between
his knees.

"I don't think I can do this again."

Scully said nothing, merely gazed at his stricken face with
compassion. The fact that she didn't respond, either by berating or
persuading, seemed to frustrate Grey.

"Did you hear what I said? I don't think I can go through this again,
that I can face what's coming! I love him. God, Dana, you can't
imagine how much I love him, but I don't think I can be there for
him this time. Not the way I want to be. Not the way he needs me
to be."

"Because of Kate."

"YES! Don't you see? I look at him in that hospital bed, how weak
and pale and sick he is, and I know it's going to get so much worse.
They'll give him the chemo to make him better, but it will eat him
alive until there's nothing left -- no trace of Fox." Grey's voice
cracked. "Instead of the brother who whips my sorry butt at
basketball, writes maudlin poetry when he's had too many beers,
and reverts to a 10-year-old every time he steps into an arcade,
there'll be this...this shell that pukes its guts out, loses its hair, and
can't remember her own name let alone what happened an hour
ago."

Grey slammed his eyes shut against a fresh deluge of tears, jerking
when Scully placed her hand atop his. His use of the feminine
pronoun had not been lost on her, and she fumbled for a response.

"You can do this, Grey, if you do it for the right person."

He yanked his hands from her touch. "What do you mean?"

"You may be looking at Mulder, but you're seeing Kate. Unless
you can accept that it's your brother in that bed and not some
reincarnation of your dead wife, you're better off walking out of
this hospital right now." Scully tempered her tone, removing the
edge that had crept into her voice. "Mulder needs your hope. If you
can't give it, I'll understand, but I sure as hell won't let you give
him your defeat."

Grey searched her face, then nodded. "I'm sorry."

Scully stood up, rolling her shoulders to loosen the coiled muscles.
"I'm going back. I want to be there when the oncologist shows up.
Are you coming?"

He ducked his head. "Yeah. You go ahead, I just need a minute."

Scully took two steps, then paused. "Make no mistake about it,
Grey. I don't intend to lose him, not now. He's pulled off more than
one miracle to save me, and I figure I owe him that much. And just
for the record? I don't have to imagine how much. I know."

Grey was still mentally backtracking their conversation, attempting
to pinpoint the trigger for her last statement, when she stepped into
the elevator. Scully slumped against the wall, staring blankly at the
floor indicator, wondering if Mulder was still sleeping, and
wishing desperately for a decent cup of coffee. Her mind thus
occupied, she exited the elevator and rounded the corner,
progressing several feet before the acrid odor of cigarette smoke
pulled her up short.

Lifting her head with exaggerated care, Scully looked over her
shoulder to see her version of the devil incarnate standing on the
other side of the hallway. When she made eye contact he inclined
his head, pulling out a pack of Morleys and tapping it to extract
one.

"Agent Scully."

If she had been a cartoon character, Scully's face would have
turned fire engine red while twin jets of steam erupted from her
ears. Instead, every muscle in her body tightened like a bow string
and she grit her teeth so hard her jaw ached. Dodging an orderly
pushing an empty gurney, she stalked across the open space and
boldly removed the cigarette from his nicotine stained fingers.

"Smoking is prohibited in this area," she hissed, breaking the stick
in half and stuffing it into his pocket. "Why don't you find
someplace else to indulge in your nasty little habit?"

Ever unflappable, he smiled serenely. "Really, Agent Scully, I
should think you'd be happy to see me. After all, I just may have
the answers you're seeking."

"You don't have anything I want or need, you bastard! Grey
remembered!"

She felt a sliver of satisfaction when the reptilian eyes betrayed
their owner for an instant, revealing surprise and chagrin. Hooded
once more, they regarded Scully with cool appreciation as CSM
calmly removed another cigarette from the pack.

"Then you must realize the gravity of Agent Mulder's situation and
appreciate the assistance I can provide."

"He's had more than enough assistance from you," Scully growled.
"You've misled and betrayed him at every opportunity. Do you
honestly think I could ever trust you for a cure? There is no truth in
you!"

Cancerman deliberately paused to light the cigarette and suck in a
long draught. He expelled the smoke and pursed his lips.

"You misunderstand me. I only claim to have the answers, not the
cure. Don't underestimate your own importance in the grand
scheme of things. The truth, Agent Scully, lies within *you*."


GUMC
Wednesday
10:28 a.m.

"What exactly are you trying to say?" Scully demanded.

Spender's reply was cut short as a hand wrapped around his lapel
and slammed him up against the wall with an audible thump.

"How about we try a little role reversal, you son of a bitch," Grey
snarled, thrusting his face into Spender's and pressing his gun
under the man's chin. "How's the view from that side of the
barrel?"

"I've already played this game with your brother," Spender said
calmly. "We both know you aren't going to shoot, so you might as
well take your hands off me."

The metallic snick of Grey's finger cocking the gun removed the
complacency from CSM's face and added a wolfish grin to Grey's.

"How sure are you about that?"

"Grey. Back off." Scully's steely command pierced the red haze of
anger and Grey reluctantly relaxed his grip and retreated, his finger
still loosely curled around the trigger. Scully nodded reassuringly
to several wide-eyed nurses, then turned her cool gaze back on
Spender.

"Answer the question."

"I believe you already know the answer," he replied, taking another
puff of the cigarette he'd miraculously retained during the scuffle
with Grey. "You've had your people working on a sample of your
own blood, have you not?"

Scully pressed her lips so tightly together they appeared bloodless.
"How did you know that?"

Spender flicked his hand impatiently at her as if dispelling a
particularly bothersome insect. "Must you persist in pursuing the
wrong answers? I know it the same way I know everything about
you and Mulder. I'd venture to say I knew about the evolution in
your relationship before you did."

Scully clenched her fists, the nails leaving bloody crescents
inscribed in her palm. "Get to the point."

"The point, Agent Scully, is that *you* are the only one who can
save Mulder. Without a serum made from the antibodies found in
your blood, Mulder's health will continue to decline at an
increasing rate."

Scully folder her arms. "The chemotherapy..."

"The chemotherapy will kill him. You cannot allow it!" Spender
snapped. He quickly masked his agitation with another puff of
smoke. "Exposure to a toxic chemical damaged his genetic
immunity and triggered his illness. There's no telling what harm a
similar exposure might cause."

"What toxic chemicals?" Grey demanded skeptically, but Scully
paled.

"The mushroom," she murmured. "The trouble began right after we
came in contact with that goo. Mulder had barely recovered from
the injuries Cole inflicted when we took that crazy case. We
wound up in quarantine, and Mulder got sick right after that. It was
just the flu, but..."

"We've yet to determine just how the chemicals impaired
Mulder's resistance to the virus," Spender said. "At present, that
knowledge is subordinate to restoring his health."

"What would *you* care about Fox's health?" Grey sneered.

"I think I already answered that question," Cancerman replied
calmly. "We have 38 years invested in this project."

In the blink of an eye Grey had him slammed up against the wall
again. "That *project* is my brother."

Spender brushed off the offending hands. "Obviously," he said
dryly.

Scully nudged Grey aside, glaring at Spender. "Are you saying you
know how to formulate the serum?"

"We possess the knowledge and the equipment." Spender's lip
curled. "All we lack are the raw materials."

Scully stared at him, her mind working furiously. "So if I give you
a blood sample..."

Spender shook his head, a deceptively benign smile still on his
face. "Oh no, Agent Scully. A single sample of blood would never
be enough. We could require additional blood or tissue samples at
a moment's notice, and time is of the essence."

Scully's face drained of animation. "What are you saying?"

He dropped his cigarette and crushed it into the pristine tile,
leaving an ugly streak of ash. "Once again, I think you know the
answer."

Scully struggled to convey outrage, to utter her words with
revulsion and contempt. What emerged, however, was tremulous
disbelief.

"You expect me to just go with you, to willingly place myself into
your hands and at your mercy? How do I know you won't seize the
opportunity to do other tests?"

Spender looked at her steadily, with pity. "The very nature of a
bargain dictates that both parties must obtain something of value.
Surely you didn't think I'd extend this offer out of some misguided
affection for Mulder?"

"NO!" Grey snapped. "Dana, you can't!" He turned to Spender.
"Let me."

Spender silenced Scully's protest. "Even if I hadn't already
obtained what I needed from you, it wouldn't be an option.
Evidently Bill's ploy to shield you from the project was successful.
You don't possess the required genotype."

He capitalized on the impact of the revelation, moving past both
Grey and Scully while they scrambled to process the news. Several
paces down the hallway he paused, glancing casually over his
shoulder.

"You have until this afternoon to think it over, Agent Scully. I'll be
in touch."

Scully arrested Grey's pursuit with an iron grip on his sleeve.
"Where do you think you're going?"

"I'm going to tail him, find out exactly where he's going and what
he's up to," Grey snapped impatiently.

"No."

Both eyebrows disappeared in his hair and he tilted his head
forward. "What?"

"I said, NO. You've nothing to gain at this point and everything to
lose. I can't waste energy worrying whether you've rushed
headlong into trouble." Scully released his sleeve and resumed
walking toward Mulder's room, doing an amazing impression of a
woman who had not just been offered a pact with the devil.

Grey stared after her, his mouth agape, before jogging to catch up.
"You can't possibly be considering this! Do you think I haven't
been paying attention? That man is responsible for your abduction,
your cancer..."

"And quite possibly my cure," Scully said stiffly.

"He has *no* conscience, Dana! His only objective is to further his
own agenda! Do you honestly think he's just going to hand you a
magic cure for Fox? Are you actually that na´ve?"

"No. Just that desperate."

The quiet suffering in her tone constricted his throat, but Grey
refused to give in. Darting in front of her to block her path, he
planted his hands on his hips and groped for something, anything,
to make her see reason.

"You can't deal with the devil. That bastard represents everything
you've sworn to oppose. Do you know what this will do to Fox?"

Scully's expression transformed from resigned to ferocious before
the words left his lips. "He's to know NOTHING of this, do you
hear me? If you breathe one word of what just occurred, you'll find
out first hand how Mulder got that scar on his shoulder! Swear to
me, Grey. Promise that you won't tell him, no matter what
happens."

Grey's brow contracted and he stubbornly thrust out his lower lip.
"You presume to make this decision for him," he said. "A decision
that affects him just as deeply as it affects you. You know what
he'd say, Dana. He'd never allow you to risk your life for his."

"MY life. MY choice," Scully said softly, firmly.

"And if that choice results in him living to a ripe old age -- alone?
You were raised Catholic. 'What does a man profit if he gains the
whole world, but loses his soul?' You *are* his soul, Dana. You
*know* that."

Scully smiled at the tremor in his voice, laying her hand on his
cheek. "How about 'Greater love has no one than this, that he lay
down his life for his friend.' Her partner. His brother -- or did I
misunderstand your counteroffer to Spender?"

Tears glistened in Grey's eyes, but he didn't pull away. "No. You
didn't. You're really going to go through with this, aren't you?"

Scully dropped her hand, nodding. "I've been given the rare and
unenviable opportunity to experience this from both sides. I
thought I understood Mulder's pain during my illness, but I only
scratched the surface. For the loved ones, the true horror of the
disease is the helplessness. You've been here before, Grey. You of
all people must understand that I have to do this."

Grey wove his fingers into his hair and tugged in frustration, but
Scully could see he was weakening. "There *must* be another
way."

"There isn't. Brewer said that the chemo was Mulder's only option,
and now that's out of the question."

"How do you know that Cancerman isn't lying about the chemo
just to get you to go along with this insane plan?"

"Do you really want to take the chance?" Scully slowly shook her
head. "I've had a bad feeling about the chemo ever since Brewer
mentioned it. I don't trust Spender, but what he said about the
chemicals makes sense."

Grey cocked an eyebrow. "You've had a bad feeling? If only Fox
were able to hear that!"

Scully's tension eased and she managed a slight smile. "And ruin
my reputation as upholder of strict logic?" She sobered. "I need to
know you support me, Grey. I want your word that you won't tell
Mulder about this."

Grey hesitated, then held out both hands, palms up, in a gesture of
defeat. "I promise."

Scully closed her eyes and blew out a long gust of air. "Thanks."

"Don't thank me. Just make sure you come back in one piece, or
Fox will never forgive me."

Grey's tone was light, but Scully recognized the truth in his words.
A small line of determination appeared between her brows. "I will.
I promise."

GUMC
Wednesday
11:26 a.m.

Fortified by a cup of coffee, Scully put on her game face and
prepared to confront Mulder and the oncologist. Grey had
appropriated her cell phone and stepped outside the hospital, to call
Kristen and to regain some equilibrium. Scully buried her own
churning emotions deeply beneath several layers of her legendary
reserve. Mulder, sick as he was, possessed incredibly sensitive
radar when it came to something troubling her. In order to conceal
her true reasons for him not to undergo the chemotherapy, she
couldn't allow him to detect her sorrow and fear.

She shook free of her contemplation, attention captured by the
buzz of activity around a room near the nurses' station. The
realization that the room belonged to Mulder caused her stomach
to lurch and her footsteps to quicken.

Scully snatched a gown, peering into Mulder's room through the
window. Brewer and two nurses were clustered around the bed,
obliterating Mulder from view. In her haste, her arm tangled in the
sleeve, ripping the flimsy material and provoking a string of
colorful expletives. A strong hand gripped her elbow and propelled
her to the side, struggling until she recognized Elena's warm brown
eyes.

"Dana, take it easy. He's stable," she said, tugging off the mask and
depositing it into the trash can.

"What happened? What do you mean, 'he's stable?'" Scully said,
craning her neck to see into the room. "I've only been gone a little
over an hour!"

"I went to perform his respiratory therapy a little while after I saw
you, and I couldn't wake him," Elena explained.

"Couldn't wake him? Are you sure he wasn't just sleeping soundly?
We'd had a pretty emotional discussion and he was worn out."

"Dana, he was completely unresponsive," Elena said patiently. "It
wasn't hard to figure out why -- he was burning up."

Scully licked her lips, forcing down the panic that tried to rise and
burst open like bubbles from a shaken soda. "The fever is back?"

Elena nodded. "It must have spiked very suddenly, because it had
already reached 104.9 when I took it. Fortunately, Dr. Brewer was
nearby and we got Mulder under a cooling blanket before he could
seize on us."

Scully swallowed, her throat emitting a dry click. "Thank God."

Dr. Brewer exited Mulder's room, followed by the two nurses. He
pulled down the mask and reached back to massage tight muscles
at the base of his neck.

"How is he?" Scully asked.

Brewer yanked off the gown and balled it up, revealing a riotous
mass of color that served as his tie. "We've knocked the fever
down a degree and its holding steady. I'm leaving him under the
cooling blanket for now. He's semi- conscious and pretty
delusional, but that's no surprise." He ran his thumb back and forth
over his lower lip before speaking. "I'm calling off the chemo. We
can't initiate any kind of offensive action until we're certain he's
stabilized."

Scully's eyes left Brewer's to study the frail figure behind the glass.
"Can I go in?"

"Don't see why not. We'll be keeping a close eye on him. I'll
change antibiotics if I have to, but I'd rather wait until he's had at
least twenty-four hours on this one. I won't pretend this isn't a
serious setback, Dr. Scully, but we'll do what we can for the fever
and hope for an eventual chance with the chemo. I'll stop back in a
bit to see how he's coming along."

Scully picked up a mask and busied herself with fastening it
around her head, unwilling to meet his compassionate gaze.
"Thank you. I appreciate your honesty."

Mulder lay curled on his right side, shivering in spite of the heat
that seared through Scully's glove when her fingers brushed his
cheek. Her touch roused him enough to open glassy eyes.

"Hey," she said softly. "How are you doing?"

"'S cold," he mumbled, trying to burrow further into the mattress.
"Gotta save Scully. Haveta get to the snowcat or we'll freeze."

Scully sucked in a sharp breath. For a moment she was surrounded
by a glittering white expanse, the bite of ice beneath her legs and
Mulder's warmth cradled to her chest. Considering the cooling
blanket and his sterile surroundings, it was little wonder Mulder
hallucinated that they were back in Antarctica.

Scully smoothed a damp lock of hair from his brow. "Mulder, it's
Scully. You're in the hospital, remember?"

"Head hurts an' I'm so cold but I can't stop, can't stop," Mulder
muttered as if she'd never spoken. "Gotta save Scully 'cause it's my
fault, all my fault those bastards took her. Took my beautiful
Scully an' tried to put one of those...those things inside of her.
Didn't want to look, to see that tube down her throat an' green
gooey stuff an' what if that shot didn't work an' it's still inside of
her. Whaddo I do then? Haveta find help soon, haveta get out of
here..."

Scully bit her lip, willing back tears as the litany of barely coherent
words continued. "You did get me out of there, love," she soothed,
caressing his cheek. "You saved me and brought me home. I would
have died, but for you."

No wonder Brewer had commented on Mulder's mental state. To
others, his ramblings must sound incredibly bizarre and lacking
any tether to reality. She continued to speak softly, repeating that
they were safe and in a hospital. That he was very sick, but would
be better soon. That she loved him and would take care of him.
Mulder quieted at the sound of her voice and after a little while
seemed to come back to himself.

"Scully?" he asked as if seeing her for the first time.

"I'm here, love."

"Dreamed about when they took you away from me," he replied
sleepily, his fingers threading with hers as his eyelids drifted to
half-mast. "Took you away to the big ship and I almost lost you."

"Just a dream, Mulder. I'm right here," Scully replied, her voice
thick with impotent tears. "You sleep now, okay?"

Mulder sighed and allowed his eyes to close, voice barely audible
as he slid into slumber. "Can't let that ever happen again, babe.
Couldn't take it."

Scully laid down her head and wept bitterly.

Room 326
Wednesday
4:25 p.m.

The antibiotic wasn't working. Mulder's temperature hovered at
104.2 degrees, not rising but not dropping either. He'd barely
noticed when Elena performed his afternoon therapy, only
moaning weakly through the worst discomfort, and despite her best
efforts, his breathing had deteriorated to a laborious rattling.
Brewer didn't attempt to disguise his concern, prescribing a change
in antibiotic and swapping the nasal cannula for a full oxygen
mask.

Scully held his hand, soothing him with gentle words and touches
when he became restless and lapsed into delirium. She strove to
maintain an outward appearance of calm as she felt herself
inwardly splintering. Her emotions swung wildly back and forth,
as one minute she dreaded the smoker's call and the next she
awaited it with impatience. As Mulder's condition continued its
downward slide, the latter took hold and she could barely restrain
herself from pacing.

Grey lingered at the edges of Mulder's room, deferring to Scully
when Mulder thrashed and cried out in his sleep, watching with
haunted eyes. His difficulty coping with Mulder's sickness both
touched and irritated her. She ached for him, for unavoidable
memories of his dying wife. But his passivity only added to her
own burden, and she found herself fretting over Grey's ability to
step into her shoes when she was gone.

Elena opened Mulder's door a crack to pop her head into the room.
"Dana? You have a call. You can take it at the nurses' station."

She knew it was him. The knowledge thrummed through her entire
body and she could feel every hair stand on end. Suddenly, her
fingers fused with Mulder's and she couldn't seem to make them let
go. She stood slowly, and after an instant's hesitation threw
procedure to the wind and yanked down her mask. The heat from
his brow singed her lips, but it was the sweetness of feeling his
skin against her own that brought tears to her eyes.

"You hang in there, love," she murmured, pressing a second kiss to
his cheek. "I'll be extremely pissed off if I put my neck on the
block for nothing."

Scully pulled away -- a simple manipulation of muscles and bones,
but deep inside she felt a bright agony, as something ripped
asunder. Pausing with one palm pressed to the door she
purposefully met Grey's bleak stare, then quickly pushed through
the barrier without looking back.

Her hands trembled as she rid herself of gown, gloves, and mask
and then walked briskly to the indicated phone.

"Scully."

"Agent Scully. Have you decided to accept my offer?"

Scully's lips twisted. "I think you already know the answer to that
question," she parroted sarcastically.

Dark amusement in puffs of air -- antithesis of a laugh. "Good.
Take the elevator all the way down to the parking garage. Someone
will meet you there."

The line clicked before she could formulate a reply. Scully
replaced the receiver in its cradle and turned, the large bulk
looming behind her wrenching a gasp from her throat before she
identified Grey.

"Don't *do* that! You nearly gave me a heart attack!" she snapped,
eyebrows plunging in annoyance.

Grey stepped back, holding up his hands. "Sorry. Thought you
heard me follow you out. Can I assume that was him?"

Scully nodded, started to elaborate, then thought better of it. "I
have to go," she said, brushing past him to head for the elevators.

Grey caught her arm, arresting her forward motion. "Dana, wait.
Just... just hold on a minute."

Her own nervousness, combined with Grey's interference and
being physically restrained, ignited her anger and she shook off his
grip a little more forcefully than necessary.

"Why? For what purpose? We've said all that needs to be said,
Grey. I've made up my mind, and I have to go. You gave me your
word."

Grey paced in a tight circle, rubbing his hands together. "That was
before I watched you kiss my brother goodbye as if you were never
going to see him again."

Scully averted her eyes, unable to refute his observation. "I will
*not* let him go without a fight. Please don't make this any harder
than it already is."

"I don't want... I just..." Grey swore softly under his breath and
grasped her again, this time enfolding her in a tight embrace.

Scully indulged herself, drawing in his warmth and security to
dispel the icy vacuum created by Spender's voice. All too soon, she
disentangled herself from his arms, blinking rapidly.

"Take care of him. He needs to know you're with him, not hiding
somewhere across the room. You have to keep him fighting until I
can get back."

"I will." Voice firm, but rich with emotion.

Scully walked to the elevators and punched the button. She could
sense Grey watching her, his solitary figure imprinted in the
periphery of her vision, but she resolutely stared straight ahead
until the doors parted and allowed her admittance. She stood stiffly
in the back of the car, avoiding eye contact with the elderly couple
bickering good-naturedly and an executive type fiddling with his
pager. By the time the car reached the basement she remained its
sole occupant, her footsteps echoing hollowly as she disembarked.

"Need a lift?"

She froze, not really surprised to recognize the voice. Turning
slowly, she spotted a leather-clad figure lounging against a cement
pillar painted in shadows due to a broken light fixture. As always,
Scully was struck by the dichotomy of the man -- the face of
innocence camouflaging the soul of a killer. She moved closer,
allowing the darkness to embrace her as well.

"I guess this answers the question of who's currently holding your
leash, huh, Krycek?"

If her barb rankled, Krycek didn't show it. "Yeah, well, you know
what they say about appearances," he replied breezily. He shoved
himself upright and stepped into her personal space. "You armed?"

"No. I knew he'd never let me hang on to it, and there's a mountain
of paperwork for a lost weapon. Besides, Mulder loses enough
guns for both of us."

Krycek smirked but his eyes were cold. "You realize I'm going to
have to verify that."

Scully grit her teeth and extended her arms, staring at a crack in the
pillar that resembled a seagull while Krycek frisked her. To his
credit and her relief, he kept the act businesslike. When satisfied,
he inclined his head toward the south end of the garage.

"That way."

Scully strode in the direction indicated, head high, back ramrod
straight, and mouth as dry as week-old bread. She felt vulnerable,
exposed, the back of her neck prickling and her senses hyper-
attuned. The acrid odor of exhaust fumes. The distant screech of
rubber on concrete. The cool, damp air clinging to her like a
second skin. And Krycek, trailing cat-like behind her on
assassin's feet.

"Right here."

Scully stopped beside a charcoal panel van, waiting until Krycek
unlocked the sliding door and waved her inside. The blood
pounded in her ears as she crawled into the murky interior,
scooting over as Krycek followed. As she pressed tightly against
the cool steel wall, Krycek shut the door and flicked on the dome
light. The interior transformed into the eerie bright and dark of a
haunted house, his face the mask of a phantom. He fumbled in the
pocket of his jacket and extracted a capped syringe of clear fluid.
Scully's stomach plunged to her toes.

"What's that?" She hated the sound of her own voice, high and
reedy with panic.

"I thought you were a doctor," Krycek replied snidely. "What do
you think? You didn't really expect me to drive there with you
enjoying the scenery, did you?"

"No drugs. Tie me up, blindfold me -- I don't care."

Krycek actually seemed to take pity on her, his poker face
softening. "Scully, this is non-negotiable. He made it very clear to
me that I should take no chances, as well as the repercussions if I
screw this up. Even tied you can get a feel for how far we've
driven. You have to be knocked out, or the deal's off."

Scully worried her lip between her teeth. "Okay. Just...give me a
minute."

She closed her eyes, slowing rapid breathing and centering herself.
She conjured up images of Mulder -- flushed and sweaty after a
long run, face animated and hands gesticulating wildly over a new
case, eyes dark and heavy lidded with desire. Before the warmth in
her breast could cool, she brutally superimposed the memory of
just ten minutes earlier --ashen, thin, and burning with fever.
Opening her eyes, she regarded Krycek calmly and held out her
hand.

"Here, let me do it. At least I won't leave a bruise."

Room 326
Wednesday
6:33 p.m.

When Grey noticed Skinner hovering at the window, he caught his
eyes and held up one finger. Fox, cycling back and forth between
extreme delirium and quiescence, currently exhibited the latter.
Grey wasn't certain which was worse -- the piteous sight of his
brother reenacting traumas in his dreams, or sleeping so deeply
that only his arduous gasps for air indicated life. He slipped his
brother's hand from his and tucked it under the sheet, then stood
and reached both hands high above his head in an attempt to loosen
stiff muscles.

Skinner held the door for him as he stepped out and solemnly
watched him shed the sterile gear before pouncing.

"What's going on? Where's Scully?"

Grey finger combed hair damp and curly with sweat. "Hello to you
too, Walt." When Skinner remained unamused, he sighed. "What
makes you think something is wrong?"

"She isn't at her place, Mulder's or the bureau, and although her car
is in the lot no one here seems to be able to locate her either," he
growled. "Now, there could be a reasonable enough explanation,
except she isn't answering her cell phone -- a fact I find highly
disturbing, considering the gravity of Mulder's condition. Have
you seen her?"

Grey mentally cursed Dana Scully for leaving him hanging in the
wind. "I saw her a couple hours ago. She said she had business to
take care of."

"She didn't offer any specifics?"

Grey hedged. "She said it was something she had to handle alone."

His half-truth didn't assuage Skinner's concern. "I don't like it. I
don't like it at all. Scully would never willingly cut herself off from
all communication like this, especially now." He reached for his
cell phone, plunging it back into his pocket after a disapproving
glare from a nurse. "I've got to find a phone," he said, more to
himself than to Grey. "Maybe the three stooges know where she
is."

"Walt. Wait."

Grey's quiet command pulled Skinner up short. Grey folded his
arms and studied the toe of his left shoe, aware that his posture
communicated defensiveness but unable to repress it.

"I know where she is."

Skinner's brows angled downward, the corners of his mouth
following suit. "Then why in the hell did you just let me stand here
and spout off about how worried I am?"

Grey looked up, resolutely absorbing the fury in Skinner's gaze.
"Because you aren't going to like it."

"Talk."

"Cancerman -- Spender -- whatever you want to call that slimy
subhuman lifeform, offered her a deal."

Skinner laughed, a bitter, mirthless, despairing sound. Of all the
diverse reactions for which he'd braced himself, laughter never
made it on the list. Grey's jaw dropped.

Skinner slowly shook his head. "Did you ever have the feeling that
our entire lives are just a single series of events, endlessly
repeated? That we move in some kind of cosmic circle, doomed to
wind up right back where we started?"

Baffled and extremely disconcerted by Skinner's uncharacteristic
behavior, Grey groped for a response. "Walt, I..."

Skinner cut him off. "Am I safe in assuming that this *deal*
involves a cure for Mulder?"

"He told her he can make a serum with the antibodies in her
blood."

"And she *believed* him?"

Grey shrugged helplessly. "Did Dana fill you in on what I
remembered earlier today?"

Skinner nodded impatiently, a slight jerk of his head.

"He told her the chemo would kill Fox. Said the run-in they had
with that giant fungus a couple months ago damaged his
genetically enhanced immunity and another exposure to a toxic
chemical could finish him off. Dana said it fit, that it all made
sense. And without the chemo... It's his only chance, Walt."

Skinner's eyes narrowed. "You *condoned* it? Do you have any
idea what they could do to her while they have this golden
opportunity that she handed them on a damn silver platter?"

"YES! And so did she! You think it makes a bit of difference when
Fox is dying on the other side of that door? Do you honestly think I
could have stopped her? I'd have done it myself if they'd given me
the chance!"

Grey drew back his fist and swung at the wall, aborting the
movement at the last moment. Instead, his palm caressed the
plaster and he tipped his forehead against the smooth window,
shutting his eyes to the view. Lost in misery, the hand clamped on
his shoulder barely registered.

"I was out of line."

Not hesitant or grudging -- a simple statement of fact.

Grey acknowledged the apology by cracking open one eye. "She
doesn't want him to know, Walt. She made me promise not to tell
him anything."

Skinner snorted. "Good luck. Once he realizes she's missing..."

The eye slammed shut. "Right now I can hold his hand and he
doesn't even know I'm there."

Skinner gazed through the glass at Mulder's wan face. "I'm sorry,
Grey. Is there anything I can do?"

"Pray," Grey said tonelessly. "The rest is in Dana's hands."

Location Unknown
Thursday
5:26 p.m.

*Brilliant. Blinding. Piercing. Endless. Relentless. Helpless.*

Scully violently reconnected with her surroundings, lurching
upright and scrambling backward until her spine hit the wall with a
painful crack. She wrapped her arms tightly around her knees and
rocked, sobbing brokenly. Her entire body ached with the steady
throb of a sore tooth. But far worse than the physical suffering was
the aggregation of chaotic and extremely disturbing images that
lurked at the fringe of her consciousness.

"Mulder, Mulder, Mulder," she chanted softly, wishing she could
feel him pressed behind her, that he could encircle her in the safety
and security of his embrace.

Eventually, though her eyes grew puffy and her mouth parched,
her innate strength of spirit reasserted itself and she began to assess
her situation. A small room, blank, sterile and uninspiring,
containing a bed, chair, sink, and toilet. A medium-sized mirror
built into the wall opposite the bed and a video camera in the
corner screamed that even if not currently under observation, she
could be at any given moment. Naked except for a skimpy hospital
gown, Scully spied her clothing folded in a neat pile on the chair,
shoes lined up like soldiers beneath. She clutched the sheet tightly
to her chest as the sensation of complete vulnerability resurfaced
with a vengeance.

Scully closed her eyes, sucked in slow, deep breaths, and
concentrated on slowing the erratic beat of her heart. With the
return of her poise, however, came the uncomfortable awareness
that she desperately needed to relieve herself. She could hardly be
called a prude -- many facilities for pathologists still catered to
men, the showers distinctly lacking in privacy. But while she might
forsake strict adherence to modesty in her everyday professional
life, the idea of using the toilet under surveillance left her
faintly nauseous.

Oddly enough, the indignity sparked her anger and relegated the
numbing fear to a back corner of her mind. She stoically
surrendered to the necessary bodily function, glaring at the mirror
and muttering about twisted, pathetic voyeurs. She experienced a
fleeting impulse to test the door to determine if it was locked, but
quashed it. She might be treated like a prisoner, and her room
certainly possessed all the charm of a cell, but the bottom line was
that she'd willingly placed herself into their hands for the chance to
save Mulder. She wouldn't escape, even if she could.

Scully returned to the bed, moving carefully to avoid overtaxing
her abused muscles. She paused to longingly consider the pile of
clothes, but the rattle of the doorknob settled her dilemma, and she
slid quickly back under the shelter of the sheet.

Her nose identified the visitor an instant before her eyes. She
watched him silently, coldly as he crossed the room to the chair,
unceremoniously dumped her clothing to the floor and sat down.
The ferocity of her revulsion startled Scully. From the
smug, soulless eyes housed in a craggy face to the careless ease of
his posture, she loathed him with murderous abandon. Yes,
murderous, Scully mused uncomfortably. Though she'd always
placed an inestimable value on human life, she could cheerfully
put a bullet in this monster's head without remorse. He'd reduced
her to this. And it only served to fuel her hatred.

A cliched puff of smoke and bland smile. "Agent Scully, I trust
you've found the accommodations to be adequate for your needs."

As if he were putting her up for a long weekend rather than
exploiting her dire need for his own purposes. Scully's lip curled.
"A regular home away from home."

"Good, good. Work is proceeding on the serum as planned. With
your continued cooperation, I'd venture to say that a working
solution will be completed in another twenty-four hours -- forty-
eight at the outside."

Continued cooperation. So they weren't finished with her yet.
Scully's dry tongue vainly attempted to moisten equally arid lips.
"Is that the extent of this little social call? To not so subtly let me
know that I'm not finished playing guinea pig?"

Spender lifted an eyebrow, unperturbed by her venom.
"In part. I actually thought you might like an update on Mulder's
condition. Was I overstepping my bounds?"

Scully ground her teeth, the grating of bone on bone reverberating
through her skull. "How. Is. He?"

"Exercising the Mulder tenacity," Spender replied, a glint of
something that could only be labeled admiration in his eye. "Fever
is down enough that he's coherent, or so I'm told. Of course, that
creates a whole new set of difficulties, doesn't it?"

Scully's eyes narrowed as she tried to reconcile the Smoker's deeds
with the respect evident in his gaze. "Why are you doing this --
really? And don't give me that bullshit about your investment.
You've certainly tried to kill Mulder in the past -- your hands are
red with his father's blood. He's thrown a monkey wrench in your
plans more often than not. Why not let him die and be rid of him?"

Instead of the supercilious smile, a look of fond reminiscence
crossed his features. "A favor for an old friend?"

"You? You'll have to forgive me when I say I find that impossible
to envision."

Spender looked amused. "Perhaps, but true nonetheless. There was
a time when Bill and Teena welcomed me as an extension of the
family. It was part of my job, you see, to keep an eye on Bill and
ensure his complete...devotion to the Project. He trusted me, with
his wife and his children."

Scully's mouth curved. "But not all of them."

A flare of irritation and then the resurgence of respect. "No.
Evidently not. But I learned early on not to underestimate Bill and
Teena. Or their son. The success of our genetic enhancements
became obvious while Fox was still very young. Pity that Bill
could never seem to reconcile his fatherly pride with the guilt over
his capitulation."

Scully reeled back, as if Spender had slapped her face. "You're
saying Mulder's father... He *allowed* the experiment?"

Spender eyed her coolly. "I'm flattered by your faith in me, but
even *I* can't orchestrate an Immaculate Conception, Agent
Scully. Bill and Teena made the decision not to have children.
Eventually, with the right persuasion, he changed his mind."

Spender crushed the cigarette under his heel and rose smoothly to
his feet while Scully still struggled to understand what she'd heard.
"I'll keep you updated on the serum, Agent Scully. Meanwhile,
someone will be in with some food and water. We want you to
keep up your strength, after all."

Incapable of more, Scully stared mutely at the door long after
Spender had left the room. She felt sickened by the revelation that
Bill Mulder knowingly participated in the experimentation on his
son - and most likely his daughter, as well. How could she add this
straw to Mulder's already overburdened back? How could she do
otherwise?

Preoccupied by her existing worry over Mulder's failing health
coupled with Spender's disclosure of his father's complicity, more
than an hour and a tasteless meal passed before another of the
smoker's statements clicked into place and stole the breath from
her lungs.

*The success of our genetic enhancements became obvious while
Fox was still very young.*

*Enhancements.*

*Plural.*

*My God. What else have they done?*

Room 326
Thursday
7:18 p.m.

*He was in a dark place, the darkness so pervasive and complete
that he was unable to catch even a glimpse of his own hand held in
front of his face. Where he was and how he'd come to be there
were a complete mystery, but the gnawing need for food and drink
eclipsed his normally overactive curiosity.*

*"Hello? Is anyone there?"*

*The barren echo of a tomb converted his vocalization into that of
a stranger. He shivered, the sensations of fear and cold breaking
thorough his intense thirst and hunger.*

*"Please, is anyone there? I'm freezing!" he called pitifully.*

*"There's a blanket near your right hand. Help yourself."*

*Scully's voice, warm and familiar, but the location
indistinguishable in the void.*

*"Scully? Scully, where are you?" His teeth clacked together as
involuntary shudders wracked his body in an attempt to warm it.*

*"Put on the blanket, Mulder, or you're going to freeze to death."*

*Comforted by the familiarity of her wry command, he stretched
out his right hand and groped along the frigid surface. Though he
fumbled in all directions his questing fingers came up empty and
numb.*

*"It's not here, Scully. Scully, where are you?"*

*"I'm here, Mulder, and so is that blanket. There's a mug of hot
soup, too, if you're interested."*

*At the mention of soup his stomach rumbled fiercely. Mulder
flung out both arms, scrabbling in all directions and even crawling
a short distance on hands and knees. Nothing. Only cold, polished
ebony in all directions. By now his entire body had begun to lose
feeling, even his tears of misery and frustration like ice on his
cheeks. What was happening to him? Where was Scully, and why
wouldn't she help him?*

*"I can't find it, Scully! I need your help. I need you," he moaned.*

*"I've been with you the whole time, Mulder. You just have to
reach out and touch me."*

*This time he recognized deep sorrow in Scully's warm tones. In a
surge of desperation he stood and staggered in a circle, arms
flailing wildly but meeting only air. Spent, he dropped to his knees
and buried his face in his hands, weeping brokenly.*

*"I can't," he sobbed. "Ican'tIcan'tIcan't..."*

*A soft click and the subsequent flood of bright light terminated
his mantra, and he slowly raised his tear-filled eyes. Directly in
front of where he knelt, so close he would surely have tripped over
them in his frantic searching, lay a thick warm blanket and a large
ceramic mug of steaming soup. And right beside them sat Scully,
her expression grief-stricken and her cheeks tear-streaked.*

*"It was a test, Mulder. You had it all right in front of you, but you
just wouldn't see it."*

*To his horror, Scully's form wavered and became transparent,
seeping away like fog in brilliant sunshine.*

*"NOOO!" he screamed, clutching ineffectively at her no longer
corporeal form. "Sculleee! I'm sorry! Sculleeee!"*

*The lights winked out and he found himself plunged once more
into the depthless void.*

"Sculleee! Sculleee!"

"Fox, take it easy! It was just a dream."

Grey mimicked the motions he'd seen Dana perform to comfort his
brother, stroking a lock of sweaty hair back from his brow and
maintaining a steady patter of reassuring words. Fox gradually
quieted, his twitching body limp against the mattress. His eyes,
dark and sunken, revealed both pain and lucidity.

"Where's Scully? I need to see her."

Grey stood up and occupied his hands with the task of pouring his
brother some water. How many times had he danced around this
question today? Each query left him feeling guiltier and Fox more
frustrated. Dana had now been absent over twenty-four hours, and
the excuse that she was working on a cure was wearing thin.

He silently offered the water, jockeying the straw into position
near Fox's lips and studiously ignoring the irate gaze directed at
him over the rim of the cup.

"More?" he asked solicitously when the cup ran dry.

"Yeah. More answers," Fox croaked, scrutinizing Grey's every
move.

Grey sighed, keeping his face carefully bland. "Fox, I already told
you. Dana is trying to create a serum from the antibodies in her
blood."

"Yeah, you told me. But it doesn't explain why she hasn't even
called to see how I am," Fox grumbled, shifting his head irritably
on the pillow.

"Did it ever occur to you that she could've called while you were
sleeping?" Grey retorted, skirting the edge of the lie and hoping to
avoid jumping in. So far he'd avoided any out and out falsehoods,
the thought of jeopardizing his brother's trust abhorrent. That
tactic, however, had rapidly become ineffective.

"She did? When?"

Grey could have kissed Dr. Brewer, who burst into the room at
exactly that moment. He moved away from Fox's bed, ostensibly
to allow Brewer access to his patient, his heart pounding and
perspiration trickling down his back.

*Don't tell him anything, huh, Dana? Sure. Fine. Whatever.*

"You're looking a little better, Mulder," Brewer said cheerfully,
flipping through the chart before crinkling his eyes in an above-
the-mask smile. "Seems like that new antibiotic is agreeing with
you."

"Yeah. Now instead of three-quarters dead, I only feel half dead,"
Mulder rasped.

Brewer chuckled appreciatively. "I didn't say you were ready for a
marathon. But I would like to consider picking up where we left
off with the chemo. We could start first thing in the morning if you
have a good night."

"Fine."

"NO!"

The words launched spontaneously, crashing and burning in
midair. Mulder squinted suspiciously at his brother.

"What do you mean -- no? We already discussed this, Scully
said..."

"She changed her mind," Grey blurted, flushing under Brewer and
Mulder's puzzled stares. "She told me absolutely no chemo."

Mulder quirked an eyebrow. "She did. And while you two were
having this in depth discussion of my medical status, did she
happen to share the reason for this sudden change of heart?"

Still trying for as much truth as possible, Grey nodded. "She had a
theory about why you got sick. She said she thought the chemicals
from that giant mushroom you two stumbled on might have
damaged your immunity. She's afraid that exposure to chemo,
essentially another toxic chemical, might make you sicker."

His brother's sarcasm faded as he analyzed the concept. Brewer
just gaped at both of them, obviously still stuck on the part about
the giant mushroom. Fox propped himself up on his elbows and
nailed Grey with his eyes.

"You're *sure* about this? Scully said no chemo?"

"I'm positive. She made me promise not to allow it if she wasn't
here."

Satisfied, Fox slumped back onto the pillows, coughing weakly.
"You heard him," he said to Brewer. "No chemo."

Brewer shook his head disapprovingly. "You realize what you're
saying? That chemo is your only chance."

Mulder thrust out his lip stubbornly. "Scully will figure something
out. She'll find a way."

Brewer sighed. "Fine. If you change your mind -- again -- let me
know. I'll stop by to see how you're doing in the morning."

Mulder remained silent until his doctor exited the room, then
glared at Grey. "I want to know what's going on. Right now."

Grey swallowed hard, his mind racing.

*Someone please shoot me now and put me out of my misery.*

"What do you mean?" When in doubt, play dumb.

"Dammit, don't do this to me! Scully did *not* just have some sort
of divinely inspired epiphany about that mushroom, and she's not
in the lab working on a serum. There's more that you're not telling
me -- something big -- and I want to know what it is!"

Too much emotion, too much strain on irritated and overtaxed
lungs and airways. The coughing fit was by far the
worst Grey had witnessed. His brother doubled over, clutching his
ribs in an attempt to protect them from the violent spasms, and
flecks of blood spattered his gown and the sheet. Elena raced into
the room an instant later, alerted to his soaring heartrate by the
monitor. Grey stood back helplessly while she replaced the oxygen
mask with the nebulizer to deliver the necessary aerosol
medication. By the time she'd cleaned him up with a fresh gown
and bedding, Fox had slipped into a gray state -- neither conscious
nor asleep, but wavering somewhere in between.

Elena gently wiped his face with a cool cloth. "That's it, Mulder,
you're fine now," she said soothingly. "Just rest for a bit."

Turning, she grasped Grey firmly by the arm and steered him over
to the corner farthest from the bed. "What brought *that* on?" she
asked pointedly. "I thought I heard raised voices and then the
monitor went nuts. I'm sure I don't have to remind you that he can't
afford to become agitated right now."

Grey ducked his head, properly chastised. "I'm sorry. He's asking
questions about Dana, and she was adamant that he not find out
where she is right now."

Elena frowned. "Why not? Two days ago I thought I'd never get
her to go home and sleep. Now she's evading him?"

"She's pursuing a cure for this disease," Grey explained, glancing
uneasily over his shoulder and keeping his voice low. "It's very
risky and her life is on the line. She knew he'd eat himself up with
worry."

Elena rolled her eyes in exasperation. "And he isn't now? This is
none of my business, Grey, but take my advice. The devil you do
know is always less frightening than the one you don't. He can't
weather another episode like this, he risks permanent respiratory
damage." She lay a gentle hand on his arm. "I'd tell him."

She didn't wait for him to acknowledge her words, just gave his
arm a squeeze and slipped out the door. Grey wandered slowly
back to the bed, rubbing his fingers against the pain that had settled
just over his left eye. Fox slept, looking brittle and wrung out.
Rarely moved to tears, Grey felt the treacherous moisture building
behind his eyes for the second time in as many days. Sinking into
the chair, wrapped in the privacy of the still room, he surrendered.

Room 326
Friday
7:12 a.m.

When Mulder finally surfaced again, Skinner had replaced Grey,
his bulk dwarfing the institutional plastic chair. He was immersed
in a copy of the Washington Post, unaware that his charge had
awakened, so Mulder took the opportunity to clear the cobwebs
from his fuzzed brain. He tried to reconcile the man currently
enduring the discomfort of gown, gloves, and mask with the hard-
nosed A.D. who shot down fifty percent of his 302s. His
relationship with Skinner had shifted and evolved over the years --
sometimes colleague, sometimes adversary, sometimes friend, but
always respected. That he occupied that chair, rather than his office
at the bureau, only elevated Mulder's already simmering anxiety over
Scully's absence.

He must have unconsciously sighed, because Skinner's eyes
snapped up from the paper to regard him with honest pleasure.

"Mulder. Welcome back to the land of the living."

Mulder forced words past a raw, abraded throat. "You sure about
that, sir?" he whispered.

Skinner just grinned and performed the water ritual. Though
swallowing further aggravated chafed tissues, the cool liquid took
the edge off Mulder's discomfort. Skinner sat back in the chair and
regarded him shrewdly.

"Heard things got a little out of hand last night."

"I notice he's conveniently absent from questioning," Mulder
retorted bitterly, referring to Grey.

"He'd been here nearly twenty-four hours straight, Mulder,"
Skinner replied neutrally. "He was ready to keel over with
exhaustion. I insisted he go get some sleep."

Shamed by his selfishness, Mulder averted his eyes. "Sorry. I know
he's been pushing himself too hard, especially after all he's been
through. I just want a straight answer about Scully."

Weak, tired, and feeling miserable, he couldn't quite hide the
tremor in his voice. Skinner clenched his jaw and regarded him
cautiously. He knew about the confrontation that triggered
Mulder's coughing spell -- Grey had brokenly related the entire
incident, including the inner conflict between his loyalty to his
brother and his promise to Scully. Skinner studied Mulder's
anguished face and made a decision.

"Mulder, Grey promised Scully that he wouldn't tell you where
she's gone." Skinner quickly held up his hand to still Mulder's
protest. "*I* made no such promise."

Mulder's eyes glittered and his fists clutched the bedclothes. "Tell
me."

"First, you give me your word," Skinner said tersely. "Scully kept
this from you because Scully *knows* you. This is out of your
hands now, Mulder, and beyond your control. You will not attempt
to leave the hospital after I tell you this, in fact, you will not *do*
anything. I'm not about to let you put me in the position of
explaining to Scully why I contributed to your illness. Is that
clear?"

Mulder grit his teeth. "It's clear. Where is she?"

"Cancerman offered her a deal. He supplies the equipment and
personnel, Scully supplies the blood, and you get your cure --
provided that she places herself in his custody."

Mulder sucked in a sharp breath of air, face contorted in a grimace,
head seesawing wildly back and forth in denial. "No," he moaned.
"No, she wouldn't do that, how could she do that?"

"Can you really ask that question? Or have you forgotten the
conversation we had in my office a couple years ago?" Skinner
gently reminded him.

"But you know that bastard can't be trusted!" Mulder growled,
breaking off into several hacking coughs. At Skinner's warning
glare he wrestled his agitation into submission. "There's no telling
what he'll do now that he has her," he muttered, voice cracking.
"He won't give Scully what she wants without exacting a price."

"A price she was willing to pay," Skinner said. "She felt the
potential benefit was worthy of the risk."

Mulder flung his arm over his eyes. "She's crazy."

Skinner lifted an eyebrow. "She loves you."

Mulder didn't move. "Same thing."

Unknown location
Friday
4:43 p.m.

Scully prowled the room restlessly, unable to smother the constant,
low-level buzz of dread that resonated through her body. She'd
awakened in her room nearly two hours earlier, after spending
another indeterminate segment of time playing test subject. This time
she'd regained consciousness rapidly, and everything, from her
memory to her level of pain, was clearer and more intense. She
could perfectly picture the detached brown gaze of the doctor as he
recorded her responses to various excruciating stimuli. Stimuli
that, she was frighteningly certain, emanated directly from the chip
embedded in the back of her neck. Coupled with that realization
came another vivid recollection of paralysis, her limbs restrained
and unresponsive, as a hot poker pierced the tender flesh above the
apex of her spine. Scully's hand had flown to her neck, fingers
aggravating blistered skin but locating the tiny subcutaneous
bump. The chip was still there -- or *a* chip, anyway. Impossible
to know if her tormentors had replaced it with a new model.

She'd used the toilet and slurped some water from the sink, barely
granting the invisible eyes a passing thought. A small part of her
was disturbed by the resigned adaptation to her imprisonment, but
she was too weary and uncomfortable to allow it much
consideration. She'd been halfway through consuming a turkey
sandwich, discovered on a tray by the bed, when the first tendrils
of unease had wormed their way into Scully's mind. Her Mulder
alarm -- the vague, distressed whisper that inevitably signaled
impending disaster for the man. Alaska. New Mexico. Bermuda.
As illogical, irrational, and un-Scullylike as it might be, the feeling
proved to be eerily accurate time after time.

Scully tried to pass off the sensation at first. Spender had assured
her Mulder had rallied, his condition taking a distinct upswing
after she'd left. But the bread and meat stuck in her throat, settling
like wet sand in her belly, and she left the second half of the
sandwich untouched. By the time the doorknob rattled, signifying
company, she'd nearly worked herself into a frenzy of
apprehension. She retained the presence of mind to retreat to the
bed, not climbing in but bracing herself against it. She expected
more smoke and deception, her defenses rattled when the
interloper turned out to be Krycek instead.

"Hey, Scully," he said matter-of-factly, as if he'd just bumped into
her at the deli.

"Krycek," Scully said coldly, the name an insult on her lips. "What
are you doing here? I'd think someone with your talents would be
busy. Surely there's a murder or kidnapping that requires your
attention?"

Krycek grinned. "Be nice. I'm here to take you back."

Scully's battered spirit soared at his nonchalant declaration, but she
schooled her features to reveal nothing. "Just like that."

Krycek shrugged. "Don't look at me, I'm just following directions.
Smokey evidently got what he needed from you."

"And what about what *I* need? Where's the serum for Mulder?"

Krycek extracted a leather case from his pocket and snapped it
open. Inside lay a small glass vial of amber fluid and a capped
syringe identical to the one he'd produced in the van.

"The vial is for him, the needle is for you. You know the drill. Get
dressed and we can get this over with."

Scully's eyes caressed the precious liquid as she reached for her
clothing. "How do I know that's the real thing? That I won't get it
to the lab and find it's colored water - - or worse, poison?"

"You don't." Krycek shook his head. "Did you think it was going
to come with a certificate of authenticity and a money-back
guarantee? Just put on the clothes, Scully."

Scully unfolded her slacks, then hesitated, looking pointedly at
Krycek. "Do you mind?"

"Actually, I do." Krycek delivered a leer worthy of Mulder, but
showed her his back. "You know, you're a beautiful woman,
Scully. Mulder's a lucky son of a bitch."

Scully chose not to reply as she hastily pulled, zipped, and
buttoned.

"'Course I knew Mulder had it bad for you -- anyone with eyes
could have seen that. I just never thought he'd scrape up the
courage to tell you and end that 'worship from afar' routine."

Scully refused to be baited, holding her tongue. Krycek continued
after a brief pause, unperturbed.

"I've got to admit, when I heard you two were together my first
thought was 'what a waste.' You could do better, Scully."

Scully donned her shoes just as he finished speaking and turned
around with a smirk. She folded her arms and considered him with
raised eyebrow.

"Jealous, Krycek?"

Green eyes smoldered through long dark lashes. "Would you like
me to be?"

Scully's lip curled. "I meant jealous of me. The way I hear it,
*you* actually kissed Mulder before *I* did."

Krycek's face darkened, seducer exchanged for cold-blooded killer.
He negligently chucked the leather case at Scully, who barely
snagged a corner before it could strike the linoleum.

"Do it. Or I will."

*Brilliant, Dana. Question a man's sexual preference right before
you place yourself completely at his mercy.*

Scully removed the syringe and set it aside before tenderly
wrapping the vial in the case and tucking it into the pocket of her
blazer. Licking her lips, she unzipped her pants enough to expose
her hip and removed the plastic cap from the needle. Krycek
watched her dispassionately while she deftly administered the
drug, refastened her slacks, and inched up onto the bed.

The effects hit swiftly, her eyelids gaining fifty pounds and her
thoughts slipping sideways when she tried to focus. Krycek
sauntered slowly over to her side and removed the spent syringe
from her weakening grasp. Scully internally cringed with fear at
his proximity, but the pull of the narcotic negated any physical
response. Krycek lifted his hand and gently tucked a wayward
strand of hair behind her ear, astonishing the small portion of her
brain that could still comprehend the incongruity of his action. His
fingers brushed soothingly against her forehead until her eyes slid
shut, but the words he murmured no longer carried any meaning.

"You're something else, Scully. Hope Mulder recognizes what he's
got."

GUMC
Friday
8:12 p.m.

"...suffering from an undetermined narcotic, some form of
depressant."

Fingers tugging at her right eyelid, then blinding white light shot
straight through her skull. Scully moaned, reflexively jerking her
head to the left but the same procedure was relentlessly repeated
on her other eye.

"Pupils equal and responsive. She's coming around. She doesn't
seem to have incurred any physical trauma." A nurse's voice, brisk
and efficient.

"Do we have some I.D.?" Another female voice, authoritative.
Probably the doctor.

"Yes. Special Agent Dana Scully. She's with the FBI."

"What's a fed doing parked on a gurney in the ER, stoned?"

Scully wrestled her eyes open, flinching back from the blurred face
scant inches from her own, penlight in hand. It retreated to a more
respectable distance, and Scully squinted to focus her still fuzzy
vision.

"Agent Scully? I'm Doctor Chin, I've been taking care of you. Do
you know where you are?"

The speaker was Asian, a bit older than Scully and very pretty, her
glossy black hair drawn back from her face in a ponytail. Scully
scrambled to marshal her muzzy and disjointed thoughts, eyes
scanning the large room and the small curtained section she
currently occupied.

"Um." She cleared her dry throat, grimacing at the nasty taste in
her mouth. "Am I back at Georgetown Medical?"

Dr. Chin's eyebrows skyrocketed. "Back? You were here before?"

Scully floundered to a sitting position and swung her legs over the
edge of the gurney, ignoring the fervent protests from both doctor
and nurse. Her eyes sought the clock on the wall, widening at the
time.

"What day is this?" she asked anxiously.

Dr. Chin exchanged a long look with the nurse before answering.
"Friday. November 12. But I'm supposed to ask *you* that
question. Agent Scully, you need to lie down. You're still suffering
from the lingering effects of an unknown narcotic and..."

"My jacket! What happened to the jacket I was wearing? What did
you do with it?" Scully knew she sounded hysterical -- couldn't
stop the panic racing through her veins with every beat of her
heart.

"Calm down, Agent Scully, it's right here." The nurse lifted the
navy blazer from a hook on the wall, a bit put out when Scully
snatched it from her grasp.

Scully's hands trembled as she dug her hand into the pocket, weak
kneed with relief when she felt the smooth surface of the small
container. Dr. Chin frowned at the odd display of behavior and
tried again, keeping her voice deliberately patient and conciliatory.

"Dr. Scully. An orderly found you unconscious, lying on a gurney
in a hallway off the emergency room. Despite extensive
questioning of the staff, nobody seems to know how you got there,
and you've obviously been drugged. Now I suggest you lay down
and let us finish examining you."

Scully pulled on the blazer and meticulously adjusted the collar,
though she knew in her presently rumpled and misused state it
hardly mattered. Taking a cleansing breath, she donned her
professionalism as well, regarding Dr. Chin calmly.

"Dr. Chin, I appreciate what you're trying to do, as well as what
you've already done, but I'm fine. I'm caught up in a life and death
case, and time is of the essence. Please get the appropriate
paperwork for me to sign so I can leave -- AMA, if that's my only
option."

Dr. Chin's jaw dropped, then she threw up both hands in defeat.
"Fine. Never let it be said that I impeded the dispersal of justice.
Janet, get the paperwork for Agent Scully."

Five minutes later Scully exited the elevator to the third floor,
tired, sore, disheveled, but bearing the priceless serum safely in her
pocket. Her pulse sped up and she broke into a jog as she neared
Mulder's room, excitement and apprehension fighting for the upper
hand. Snatching a gown off the rack she darted to the window,
hungry for a glimpse of his face. Instead her eager eyes found an
empty bed, stripped of linens and its inhabitant.

Shock slammed into her -- a runaway freight train that knocked her
completely out of her body, leaving an empty shell. Scully
staggered, nearly went to her knees but for the reflexive clasp of
fingers to the window sill. The desolate, keening wail started
somewhere around her toes and shredded most of her insides on
the way out. She ground her forehead into the cool, unyielding
glass, her tears streaking the surface like bitter raindrops.

"Too late," she whispered, the words' serrated edges severing her
heart from her chest. "I'm sorry, Mulder, so sorry."

She breathed the refrain over and over, like a prayer. But no one
heard.

Intensive Care
Friday
8:47 p.m.

It was all caving in, the substance of his day to day existence
crumbling to rain down around him in large chunks and pieces.
And Skinner could only stand to the side and mutely view the
destruction.

Intensive care again, Mulder as white and still as death amidst the
tubes and wires reminding his body to function. Grey, his brother's
pliant hand clasped between his own and pressed against his
bowed head. No masks and gloves, the unspoken meaning clear.
Not long now...

Skinner leaned against the wall, something solid and steady among
the chaos. Mulder treading the thin line between life and death, the
growth now exerting more pressure than his fragile brain tissue
could withstand. Scully missing, in the hands of a monster devoid
of even the most basic components of human conscience and
emotion. And Grey gradually imploding, collapsing inward under
the weight of his own grief and helplessness. Not long now...

Brewer's fingers brushing his sleeve startled Skinner from his dark
reverie. Brewer himself looked a shadow of his normally free-
spirited persona, his tie a subdued stripe, rigid shoulders replacing
the casual slouch, and eyes...resigned. Skinner's lungs went on
strike, the oxygen catching and sticking in a suddenly constricted
throat.

"Mr. Skinner, this is the last conversation I wanted to have, but..."

"DON'T."

Seeing in Brewer's wide eyes and defensive step backward that
he'd inadvertently used the drill sergeant voice, Skinner sighed.
"You don't have to say it, Dr. Brewer. It's right in front of me. How
long?"

Brewer stroked his jaw, fingers rasping on stubble, and Skinner felt
gratified to see honest compassion cloud his face. "Hard to say
with any accuracy." A flash of respect. "He's a fighter. But in spite
of our best efforts the intracranial pressure keeps rising. We'll keep
giving him mannitol for the inflammation, and the dilantin seems
to have arrested the seizures. But these are stopgap measures to
manage the symptoms. Eventually the pressure will rise to an
unmanageable level and..."

Skinner pinched the bridge of his nose. "I understand."

Dr. Brewer turned, then paused. "Dr. Scully?"

"We are currently unable to communicate with Agent Scully,"
Skinner replied curtly, thinking what an understatement *that*
was.

"I see. Well, if she does contact you..." He faltered, clearly
uncomfortable. "I suggest you tell her to get back here. Soon."

Skinner watched Brewer approach Mulder's bedside, conversing
quietly with Grey as he gently but thoroughly checked his patient.
He recognized the instant Brewer delivered his prognosis -- Grey's
body folded, his forehead dropping to the bedrail and his shoulders
shaking. Skinner spun on his heel, teeth clamped together, fists
curled.

"Mr. Skinner?"

The nurse was young, blonde, and generic, and Skinner wished for
Elena's unique and feisty brand of caregiving.

"Yes?"

"There's a call for you, sir. You can take it right here."

He pressed the receiver to his ear, curbing the impulse to jump
down Kim's throat for disturbing him, then catching sight of the
hour.

"Skinner."

"Is this Assistant Director Walter Skinner? Of the FBI?"

Impatience provoked his growl. "Yes. Who is this?"

"Sir, my name is Dr. Amy Chin. I'm a physician downstairs in the
ER. I'm calling in regards to one of your agents -- a Dana Scully?
I was unable to reach either her mother or Fox Mulder, both listed
as emergency contacts in her wallet. I spoke to your assistant at
home and she gave me this number. Needless to say, I didn't
expect to find you just two floors up."

Skinner's brain locked onto the name Dana Scully, the rest of the
doctor's speech fading to meaningless drivel.

"Agent Scully is there?" he demanded eagerly.

"No. That is, she *was* here, but signed herself out against
medical advice. I'm calling because Agent Scully left her keys
here, and also out of concern for her present condition."

"What's wrong with her? Was she injured?"

Dr. Chin evidently was accustomed to interrogations by worried
friends and didn't flinch at his tone. "No. But she'd been injected
with a very potent narcotic, and her manner upon waking
was...odd."

"In what way?"

"She was quite disoriented at first, but that's to be expected. One of
the reasons I tried to persuade her to stay is that the drug will take
several hours to clear her system. She's apt to be a little confused
and unsteady until then."

"I don't understand -- you just said that's normal. What did you
find disturbing?"

Dr. Chin hesitated before proceeding cautiously, obviously not
wishing to put Scully in an awkward position with her boss. "She
became almost hysterical at one point just because she couldn't
locate the blazer she'd been wearing. Once we returned it to her she
regained her composure -- to the extreme. She insisted that she was
in the middle of an important case and couldn't remain under
observation. I'm uncomfortable with the wild mood swings, and
concerned about a possible undetected head trauma."

Skinner absorbed the doctor's description, his mind working
furiously. Scully's panic over the jacket -- could it have contained
Mulder's cure? It would certainly explain her undue agitation, and
the subsequent reassertion of control. He suddenly registered the
pregnant pause as Dr. Chin awaited his response.

"How long ago did she sign herself out?"

"Only ten minutes -- fifteen at most. But she didn't reveal where
she was going."

"I know where she's going," Skinner replied grimly. "Thank you
for your concern, Dr. Chin. Someone will be by to pick up the
keys. I'll take care of Agent Scully."

He hung up the phone, eyes searching for a nurse and locating
Blondie.

"If Mr. McKenzie asks for me, please tell him I had to pick up
something important and I'll be right back," he advised tersely.

The elevator trundled up to the third floor with maddening lack of
urgency. Skinner drummed his fingers against his wool clad leg,
staring at the floor indicator as if he could prod it to move faster by
sheer force of will. He darted into the hallway, headed in the
direction of Mulder's old room, his steps slowing as his eyes
zeroed in on the bright copper of Scully's tangled hair. She stood
pressed against the glass outside the vacant room, hand clutching
the window frame to assist trembling legs in bearing her weight.
Even from a distance, Skinner could hear her heartbroken sobs. A
nurse carefully approached, hand outstretched to offer comfort, but
Skinner broke into a trot and waved her off. Swallowing hard, he
let his own hand drift to Scully's shoulder.

"Scully."

So grief stricken, her defenses completely stripped away, Scully
didn't even attempt to disguise her tears. "It's all for nothing. I'm
too late, and I wasn't even with him when he needed me the most."

Skinner's fingers tightened as he turned her to face him, shaking
his head. "Scully, no."

"It's true!" She wrenched away from his grasp, eyes inexorably
drawn back to the empty bed. "I failed him! What good is this
now?"

She scrabbled in her pocket, yanking out a small black case and
wrenching it open. Skinner's eyes widened at the sight of the
fragile glass tube. Scully scooped it into her palm recklessly,
brushing away tears with the back of her hand.

"This is the reason I couldn't touch him, couldn't hold him in my
arms one more time. It hardly seems worth it, does it sir?"

Her fingers clamped roughly over the little vial and her arm
twitched.

"Scully, NO!" Skinner lunged for her wrist, terrified that in her
distress she would dash the precious bottle to the floor. "He's alive,
Scully! He's in pretty bad shape, but he's holding on."

Scully's face went slack and she tottered, gripping Skinner's sleeve
when he steadied her. "H...He's alive?" she whispered, the voice of
a little girl afraid to believe. "But the empty room, I thought..."

"He's down in the ICU again. The headache suddenly became
excruciating this afternoon and he began having seizures. Brewer
did another CAT scan -- the mass has nearly doubled in size."

They were walking briskly toward the elevators now, and Skinner
surreptitiously looked Scully over, taking in the rumpled clothing,
pale skin and shadowed eyes. Despite Dr. Chin's fears, however,
Scully appeared to be clear-headed. She caught him looking, and
actually mustered a weary smile.

"I'm fine, sir. Really."

Standing silently in the elevator, he wanted to pump her for
information, to ask exactly how she had been treated and what
she'd endured, but his lips couldn't form the words and Scully's
body language clearly indicated that she didn't want to discuss it.
The moment the doors began to open she squeezed through and
flew down the hall, leaving Skinner scrambling to catch up. When
he reached Mulder's cubicle, she and Grey were locked in a tight
embrace. Skinner stuffed his hands into his pockets and hung back,
allowing them the moment.

"We were starting to think you weren't coming," Grey said,
releasing her to swipe at his eyes.

"I'm here. And I have what we were looking for," Scully answered,
bending over to place a kiss on Mulder's lips and running her
fingers through his hair. "Hey, Mulder. Didja miss me?"

The words quavered, unable to hold all the love poured into them.
Scully pressed another kiss to his cheek, murmuring into his ear. "I
have it, Mulder. Don't you let go now, not when we're so close."

"Dr. Brewer said it's unlikely he'll regain consciousness,
Dana," Grey said softly. "They've got him on morphine, not to
mention a heavy dose of something called dilantin."

"It's for the seizures," Scully replied, voice choked with emotion.

Despite Grey's words, Mulder's right hand twitched, followed by a
slight tilt of his head. His breathing sped up and he moaned, a low,
tortured cry. Scully shushed him, gently stroking his brow as his
eyelids fluttered and struggled to rise.

"Shhh. It's okay, love, you don't have to wake up," she crooned.
"I'm here now, and I've got medicine to make you well."

Heedless of her advice, as always, he pried his eyes open to half-
mast and fixed them on her face. "Scully."

She constantly marveled at his ability to say so much by simply
uttering her name. Tonight she heard pain, sorrow, fear, and, most
of all, overwhelming relief. Scully smiled, the complete,
unrestricted display of teeth that she knew he prized, and cupped
his chin.

"Hey there. It's about time you welcomed me back."

Mulder's hand fumbled for her sleeve, latching on with a
surprisingly firm grip. "Shouldn'ta done it. All right?"

Her thumb caressed his cheek. "I'm fine, now that I'm here with
you."

He tried to lean into her touch, but gasped, his face screwing up
into a grimace. A tear slipped down the side of his face and
disappeared into the pillow. "Make it stop, Sculleee," he groaned.
"Make it stop. I can't..."

A shudder ran the entire length of his body and his eyes rolled
back in his head. Scully sprang up, frightened that he was
experiencing another seizure, but he only slumped limply onto the
bed.

"Give it to him now, Dana," Grey pleaded. "He can't take much
more of this."

Scully removed the vial and stared at the golden liquid nervously.
"I was planning on taking it to the lab first, for analysis. I have no
idea what's in here, or what it might do to him."

"He's in unbearable pain, Dana, and he's *going to die*. I don't
really give a damn what's in it at this point, it's the only chance he's
got left!" Grey snarled.

"So you'd rather I risk that he die by my own hand?" Scully
snapped. "Whatever happened to your admonishments about
dealing with the devil? Now you're ready to just trust that
Cancerman's upheld his part of the bargain?"

"We're past that now! We. Have. No. Choice. Brewer said an
aneurysm could drop him at any time, provided the pressure
doesn't do it first. If you don't want the responsibility, give it to me
and show me what to do."

"You don't understand, he could..."

"He's right, Scully."

Skinner surprised them, both caught up in the heat of the argument
and oblivious to his silent presence. He stepped over and placed
himself between them.

"You both care about him and have his best interest at heart.
Brawling like a couple of two-year-olds isn't going to help him."

Scully and Grey looked ruefully at each other, chastised by the
truth.

"I'm sorry, Dana," Grey said. "I realize I'm not a doctor. I just can't
stand to see him like this." His voice dropped to a whisper. "I can't
face losing him."

Scully wove her fingers with his. "I'm sorry too. I'm just scared,
Grey. This is all or nothing."

"Scully, short of the lab telling you it's poison, would it really
make a difference what the analysis turned up?" Skinner asked.
"Seems to me it's going to come down to a leap of faith." He shook
his head. "I can't believe I just said that."

"Must be an X-File," Grey muttered.

All three involuntarily turned to regard the man in the bed. Scully
expelled a shaky puff of air and headed for the nurses' station.

"Where are you going?" Grey called, frowning.

"Preparing to jump," Scully said dryly. "I'll be right back."

Skinner answered Grey's puzzled glance with a shrug, and the two
men waited in silence until Scully returned a moment later,
stripping the plastic covering from a syringe. She popped off the
cap and plunged the sharp tip of the needle into the inverted vial,
her hands quivering as she slowly pulled back on the plunger to fill
the barrel. Placing the empty vial in her pocket, she extracted an
antiseptic pad and tossed it to Grey.

"Wipe down the skin on his neck, right over the carotid artery," she
instructed firmly.

"His neck?" Grey asked doubtfully.

"Just do it."

Grey tore open the pad and was in the process of smoothing it over
his brother's skin when nurse Blondie stuck her head in the cubicle.

"What exactly do you think you're doing? This is Dr. Brewer's
patient, you can't just administer meds without his approval!"

Scully spared her one cool look, then dismissed her. "Actually, *I*
am Mr. Mulder's primary physician. Now back off."

Blondie spluttered angrily. "You aren't listed on the chart. Dr.
Brewer..."

Skinner stepped forward, taking her by the arm and firmly rotating
her toward the nurses' station. "Why don't you just contact Dr.
Brewer? We'll wait right here."

The authoritative A.D. voice worked its usual magic and the
disgruntled nurse retreated, making a beeline for the phone and
muttering under her breath. Scully raised an eyebrow at Skinner
before turning back to lean over Mulder. Some of the alcohol from
the prep pad still glistened on his skin, and she tipped his chin
gingerly to the right to better expose the artery. She placed one
hand over his heart and paused, eyes shut and lips moving silently.
It took Skinner a moment to realize she was praying.

Scully opened her eyes and bit her lip. "I'm not sure what's going
to happen," she confessed. "But here we go."

Skinner watched with equal parts fascination and revulsion as she
inserted the needle into Mulder's neck and slowly depressed the
plunger. When all of the fluid had passed out of the syringe, she
extracted it, replaced the cap, and slipped it back into her pocket.

The whole procedure lasted about ten seconds, but the reaction was
nearly instantaneous. Something black and viscous oozed from
beneath Mulder's closed lids and from his nostrils. Rather than
pouring out in a continuous stream, it wriggled out in segments
that squirmed down the sides of his face as if he were shedding
ebony tears. Scully drew in a harsh breath of air and unconsciously
shrank back before reasserting control and leaning cautiously
closer to scrutinize the now motionless oily residue.

"Don't touch him," she ordered, disappearing into the hall once
again returning this time with a sterile specimen cup and a tongue
depressor. Upper lip wrinkling, she warily used the wooden stick
to scrape the oil into the cup. The surface tension was such that it
transferred intact, leaving no traces on Mulder's skin. Scully sealed
the cup and turned to Skinner.

"Sir, we need this sent to the lab for analysis, and it should be
handled under biocontainment procedures."

"I'll get a courier to pick it up right away," Skinner said grimly. He
collected the cup and left to use the phone, passing an agitated Dr.
Brewer on his way out.

Brewer burst into the cubicle, blinking when he saw Scully, who
was once again seated beside the bed and holding Mulder's hand.
His eyes roved around the area, checking out the equipment and
Mulder's motionless form.

"Welcome back, Dr. Scully," he finally greeted, the smile on his
face failing to hide the reserve in his eyes. "I just got a very strange
call from Brenna Martin, the ICU nurse. She had the impression
that you were injecting Mulder with an unknown substance. Where
would she get a strange idea like that?"

Scully shrugged. "Strange ideas are my job, Dr. Brewer. That's
what the X-Files are all about -- extreme possibilities."

"Scully, I just got very turned on."

The voice was as thin as tissue paper, consonants hopelessly
slurred, but the most beautiful thing Scully had ever heard. Her
eyes jumped from Brewer's face to the twin hazel orbs that peeked
through heavy lids.

"'S gone," Mulder mumbled, his attempt to squeeze her hand little
more than the twitch of a few fingers.

Scully's heart hammered wildly. "The pain?" Mulder's eyes started
to drift shut and she insistently brushed her knuckles across his
cheek, her tried and true method of keeping him with her. "Mulder,
the pain is gone?"

Mulder scowled, trying to swat at her with a limb too leaden to
move. "Yeah. 'S all gone. 'M tired, babe, lemme sleep."

Scully stared at him as he slipped peacefully into sleep, his breath
still rattling in his lungs but leveling out to a regular rhythm. She
lifted her eyes to Grey's and saw her own fledgling hope reflected.
Brewer just gazed at them both as if they were about to start
gibbering and drooling any moment.

"Could somebody please bring me up to speed?"

"We need one more CAT scan, Dr. Brewer," Scully said, barely
restrained joy in her voice. "I think the results are going to surprise
you."

Room 342
Sunday
9:38 a.m.

It felt like a party -- or maybe the first warm, sunny spring day
after a long and bitter winter. Scully's eyes slowly swept the room.
Dr. Brewer, back to his "rebel with a cause" image, sported a
Simpsons tie and listened slack-jawed as Mulder regaled him with
the Tooms case. Skinner, transformed from A.D. to mere mortal by
worn jeans and a green Henley, chuckled softly as Elena described
her latest run-in with a patient from hell. Grey, sitting in a chair,
sock feet propped up on the end of the bed, just...watched his
brother with a look on his face that made Scully's throat tighten
and her eyes prickle. And the guest of honor, still too pale and thin
but showered and shaved, looked far better than any man so fresh
from the brink of death had the right to. In fact, he looked amazing.

Elena must have sensed her thoughts, or at least read her
expression, because she winked at Scully and then turned to
Mulder with an impish grin.

"You know, you clean up pretty nice, Mulder. Who'd a thought?"

Mulder inclined his head. "Thanks. I think."

"Yeah, well, that's nothing," Brewer said. "Your insides look
incredible. We've got the pneumonia on the run, your white count
has already risen significantly, and..." He swung a piercing gaze
onto Scully. "I don't suppose you'd like to share just what you gave
him that managed to completely obliterate a tumor in the space of
six hours?"

Scully pursed her lips and looked enigmatic. Mulder had a mild
coughing spell when Brewer folded his arms and muttered, "I
know, I know -- must be an X-File."

When he ceased sputtering, Mulder swallowed some water and
looked shrewdly at Brewer. "How long before I can work?"

Scully, Skinner, and Grey all groaned in perfect unison. Mulder
crossed his arms and stuck out his lower lip, glaring at them.
Scully dropped her head to hide the smile that tugged at her lips.

*Thank God.*

"I take it from their reactions that you tend to push the envelope on
recovery, Mulder," Brewer said dryly. "I have one piece of advice
for you. DON'T. Your body has taken an incredible beating and
you're going to feel like shit off and on for weeks. Don't fight it.
You need sleep, and plenty of it. If I see you back here with a
secondary infection, I'll be pissed."

Mulder made a face. "I don't do sleep very well."

Brewer just grinned. "Trust me -- you will." He dropped Mulder's
chart into the pocket at the end of the bed. "I'll stop by later. If we
can lose the residual fever and clear up your lungs a bit more, you
should be able to go home in a couple of days." He nodded to
Scully. "In the custody of your personal physician, of course."

Elena followed him out, flashing Skinner a smile and touching his
arm as she passed. "Be back in a bit with your meds, Mulder," she
called cheerfully.

Scully recorded the smile, as well as the way Skinner's head
rotated on its axis to watch Elena walk out the door. Mulder, as
usual, was oblivious, but she noticed Grey observing Skinner and
smothering a smirk.

*Hmmm. Extreme possibilities popping up all over the place.*

Skinner turned back, caught them looking, and flushed. Scully was
still trying to wrap her mind around *that* when Grey put Skinner
out of his misery.

"How 'bout it, Walt? Is that offer of a ride still good?"

Skinner appeared comically relieved. "Yeah. I'll pull the car up
front so you don't have to walk -- I'm parked way out." He glanced
at Mulder, eyebrows drawing together. "*Rest*, Mulder. Believe
me, you aren't even touching those files for at least two weeks."

Mulder's pout deepened, then he leaned toward Grey, who was
lacing up his shoes.

"You all right? What's this about not walking?"

Grey waved his hand dismissively. "It's nothing. My back is still a
little sore, no big deal. It's getting better." He reached over to place
his hand on Mulder's wrist. "You know, I never really got to thank
you for getting me out of there, Fox. I hope you know..."

Mulder flipped his wrist and clasped his brother's hand. "I do. And
it was nothing you haven't done for me. I'm just sorry you've been
sucked into that part of my life, I never meant it to happen. It was
selfish of me to ever contact you in the first place."

"Shut up." Grey's tone was affectionate. "You're part of my family,
Fox, and I want you in my life. Cancerman, Krycek, global
conspiracies -- the rest doesn't matter. But you..." He closed his
eyes and dropped his chin. "This one was way too close, little
brother. I thought I was going to lose you."

Mulder sucked in his lower lip, blinking hard. "I know the feeling."

One corner of Grey's mouth turned up and he stood, giving
Mulder's hand a gentle squeeze before releasing it.

"Gotta go. I'm finally going to make things up to Kristen today.
Walt's dropping me off at her place."

"Don't put any unnecessary strain on that sore back," Mulder said,
wriggling both eyebrows.

"That all depends on your definition of unnecessary, doesn't it?"
Grey replied, lifting his arms over his head in a stretch and wincing
a little. He leaned over to give Scully a peck on the cheek, their
eyes sharing a wealth of joy during the brief connection. "He's all
yours, darlin'. Hope you're up to the challenge."

"Why does everyone act like I'm going to cause trouble?" Mulder
whined.

Scully gave him "The Look." "Two words, Mulder. Past
experience."

Mulder put on an aggrieved face. "Scully, you wound me." He then
emitted an enormous yawn.

"Get some sleep, G-man," she said, undermining the order by
smiling.

Mulder shook his head stubbornly, though his eyes were drowsy.
"Uhn uh. Do you realize this is the first time we've really been
alone in over a week? I don't want to talk about going to bed,
unless you'd like to..." He pulled back the covers and offered her
his most lascivious look.

Scully rolled her eyes. "Here? Not in your most triple X dreams,
Mulder, even if you were up to it -- which you're not," she added
hastily before he could pounce on the obvious double entendre.

Mulder released the sigh of the terribly oppressed. "Fine. Then just
get up here and let me hold you. Does that fall within your
standards for hospital etiquette?"

Scully gazed at him, drinking in the sight like a cup of cool water.
A long and undoubtedly bumpy road to full recovery, but alive.
ALIVE.

She kicked off her loafers and crawled up on the mattress, letting
Mulder gather her in like a lost chick until her head rested on his
chest.

"You sure this is all right, love?" she asked worriedly, hearing the
crackling of his breath as his lungs expanded and contracted.

"Mmm. Better than all right, babe. Perfect." She felt his lips press
the crown of her head and tightened her arm around his too slim
waist.

"Have to fatten you up, Mulder," she observed, the soft hospital
gown tickling her cheek. "Time to break out the secret weapon."

"Gonna call your mom, huh?"

"Yep. And just so there's no mistake -- you're coming home to my
place. I can take care of you better there."

Scully felt him shift, heard his heartbeat speed up a bit, and
frowned. She lifted her head to regard him solemnly. "Out with it,
Mulder. You don't want to come to my place?"

Scully half-expected to encounter the blank, guarded expression
that signaled Mulder's defenses in high gear. Instead, a variety of
strong emotions flitted across his face.

"No. No, Scully, it isn't that at all, I..."

Scully deliberately lay her head back down, knowing he could
more readily find the words he sought without enduring her
scrutiny. "Take your time, love. I'm listening."

Mulder's hand crept up and buried itself in her hair, his fingers
weaving slowly through the individual strands. "I... I had a dream
while you were gone. A very vivid dream."

"Not surprising," Scully murmured. "Between the high fever and
the morphine."

"This was different, Scully. I think... I think my subconscious was
trying to tell me something. Or maybe it was just my heart," he
added softly.

Scully listened while quietly, painfully, he recounted the dream,
his voice breaking when he got to the part where she'd faded away.
She could sense the power of the images in the rigid feel of his
body. To her, the meaning behind the dream shone clear as crystal
-- but could Mulder see?

When he finished, Mulder paused and pulled in a gulp of air.
"What do you think it meant, Scully?"

*Ah, ah, ah. You don't get off that easy. This is your journey, my
love.*

Aloud, Scully kept her response neutral. "It doesn't matter what I
think, Mulder. What do *you* think it means?"

Mulder actually chuffed subdued laughter. "You been studying
psychology behind my back, babe?"

Unable to resist, Scully tipped her chin up onto his breast and
cocked an eyebrow. "You know me, Mulder. I always read the
owner's manual."

They chuckled quietly together for a moment before the returning
tension in Mulder's limbs told her he was about to speak. "I think it
means I've been so screwed over by what people told me was love,
that it's been hard to believe the real thing finally came along."

Scully immersed her face in the gown, the words blazing a trail of
warmth to the bottom of her soul. Did he finally understand?

"I've wanted to believe it, Scully," he continued, the words hushed.
"But I'm a coward. Every time I tried to let go, to accept that you
could really love me as much as I love you, I'd think that sooner or
later you'd realize you were making a big mistake. And how
much it would hurt when you left."

Hot tears burned her cheeks. "How could you think that, Mulder?
We've been together over six years, I know exactly who you are,
and I love that man. Why would you expect me to leave you?"

Mulder's voice was rough. "It's all I know."

Scully turned, inched up his body, and took his face between her
hands, caressing his lips with her own even as the tears continued
to slip down her face. When she'd rendered him sufficiently
breathless, she pulled back and leaned her forehead against his.

"Listen to me carefully, Mulder, because I'm not going to say this
again. I. Will. Not. Leave. Are you reading me?"

He caught her lips and gave as good as he'd received. "Loud and
clear, babe. And I'll be glad to recuperate at your place on one
condition."

She kissed him again and snuggled back down. "Name it, Mulder.
I'm feeling generous."

His fingers found her hair again. "That as soon as I'm strong
enough we look for a place together."

Scully nuzzled his chest with her nose. "I think that's a great idea,
G-man. Wish I'd thought of it."

"Ha, ha," he returned, punctuating his sarcasm with another yawn.

Scully could feel the anxiety drain out of his body and his
breathing settle into a more regular pattern. She thought of
Spender, of the disturbing revelations regarding Mulder's father
and his secret legacy. She needed to share what she'd learned with
Mulder, as devastating as the truth was likely to be.

"Mulder?"

"Hmm?"

His response was heavy with fatigue, but urgency pressed her
forward.

"When I was with Spender, he revealed some things. Things you
need to know."

"Mmm hmm. Later, 'kay, babe? 'M kinda tired."

She knew he was asleep before the last syllable, the hand in her
hair settling lax on her shoulder. She burrowed a little more deeply
into his side, relishing the warmth that denoted life. Now was
probably not the time to hit him with the news of his father's
betrayal. Better to tackle the whole mess when he was better,
stronger. The truth would keep until then.

Right?

End