IMTP VS8 Episode 9:
A Burden Shared
Art by Vered
TITLE: "A Burden Shared"
INFO: Written for I Made This Productions Virtual Season
8, as episode 9.
CLASSIFICATION: X, Angst, MT, MSR-ish UST (does that make
sense? I'm following on from what has come before.)
SPOILERS: Mention of the "Biogenesis" trilogy, the "Redux"
trilogy, "Sein Und Zeit", "Closure," "Hungry," "The
Unnatural," "The End," "Elegy," "2Shy" and "Squeeze" and
past Virtual Season 8 cases.
SUMMARY: After the dark events of their Gauley Bridge
case, is Mulder turning to someone else for comfort?
NOTE: This story follows on from Sally Bahnsen and Dawn's
VS8 story "Dark Reflections" (eps 7 & 8). Reading their
story first is advised (and enjoyable!), but here is an
At the invitation of Sheriff Jonas Sullivan, Mulder and
Scully travel to Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. Tim Spencer,
an old friend of Mulder's and an agent in the Roanoke
Bureau, has recommended Sullivan call in the X-Files
division. Six-year-old Rachel Marcussen vanished while in
the woods with her 11-year-old brother, Jacob, who claims
she was abducted by aliens. Mulder comes to believe that
Jacob is responsible for his sister's disappearance and is
poisoned by the boy when he realizes the agent is onto him.
Surviving that, Mulder ditches Scully -- who has been
struggling to accept at first that an 11-year-old boy could
be capable of such acts -- and makes Jacob take him to
where Rachel was left. Jacob comes close to making Mulder
fall down the same mine shaft as his sister, but Scully and
a local girl, Jess, arrive in time to rescue them.
ARCHIVING: IMTP has a two week exclusivity to all Virtual
Season 8 stories from the day each first appears on the
website. After that, please drop me a note if you'd like to
DISCLAIMER: The X-Files, the episodes referred to, Mulder
and Scully and all other characters from the show belong to
Chris Carter and his team of writers, Ten Thirteen
and Fox Broadcasting, and are used without permission. No
copyright infringement is intended, no profit will be
Characters not recognised from the show are either mine, or
Dawn and Sally's.
AUTHOR'S THANKS: At the end FEEDBACK: Yes, please! I like
to know who's out there in the ether.
"A Burden Shared"
2:01 a.m. Monday
Huddled in his jacket, the man walked swiftly and quietly
towards his goal. At the door, he hesitated. Was he out of
his mind? It was the dead of night.
But he had to see her.
He couldn't wait. He felt so...
He knocked on the door.
Immediately he heard a noise. The click of a light.
The door opened, framing her, as the light from behind
captured her in silhouette. He could not see her
expression, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to. Immediately
he looked at his feet and tears stung his eyes. "I'm sorry.
I'm sorry... I shouldn't have come..."
He went to back away. She stepped forward and took his
arm. "It's all right." Her voice was soothing and warm. It
was so many things that he needed to hear. "I knew you
would come tonight. You can come anytime you have the need."
One gentle tug on his arm and he was over the threshold,
unresisting. She shut the door behind them, no longer half
in darkness, the light from the lamp playing with her brown
She took a step so that they were eye to eye. He couldn't
"Any time. I'm here," she repeated. With that vow, she put
her hands to his face and bowed his head.
As her lips pressed against his forehead, Mulder closed
3:15 a.m. Monday
Rolling over onto her side, Scully became conscious enough
for her brain to start bothering her with information. Who
she was and where she was: lying down, a bed, not her own.
A motel bed. On a case. Her mind also reminded her of her
life up until that point.
Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. Jacob. The boy's attempted
murder of his own sister. And of Mulder.
That made her sit up in the darkness, her heart and
breathing catching. But Mulder was all right. Well, as all
right as he could be after all that had happened in the
last few days. She glanced at her portable alarm clock,
wincing away from the too-bright-for-this-hour figures (and
way-too-early-to-be-awake ones at that), and eased back
against the pillow. Friday night had been spent at Mulder's
bedside in the hospital after he had been poisoned. On
Saturday night after getting the absconded Mulder back to
the hospital, trying to give her statement to the sheriff
and waiting around to find out the results of Rachel's
surgery, she had not achieved much rest.
So sleep was her activity of choice for the moment.
Had something woken her though? Fortunately the horrors of
this case had not chosen to visit her under the guise of a
nightmare. It would at some stage or another. That was a
Scully sat up again and looked over at the connecting
door. It was ajar, as she had left it tonight, and no light
Mulder had been discharged into her care early Sunday
evening. His friend Tim had insisted on being their
chauffeur, worried (without actually coming out and saying
it), that she might fall asleep at the wheel. He took them
to the Root Cellar long enough for a quick meal, then
straight to the motel where they got Mulder into bed. He
was asleep before Tim left.
Perhaps Mulder had gotten up to go to the bathroom and she
had awakened just as he was settling back in bed. Most
likely, Scully told her conscience. Can we go back to sleep
She remembered the look on his face when Rachel was lifted
out of the ravine. The 6-year-old had been mostly
incoherent, apart from when she was crying out for her
mother. What if he'd had a nightmare about it? Twice in the
hospital on Sunday he had sunk into the grip of sweat and
tremor-producing dreams that she had to rescue him from.
Even when sitting up and eating, his eyes had taken on a
Always one to prefer evidence, she couldn't help getting
out of bed, her eyes now adjusted enough to the light the
clock gave to navigate safely across the room. Sucker, a
little voice said in her head. Evidence-gatherer, she told
it firmly. Concerned friend. And I'll sleep much better.
She glanced back at the bed. One in a long line of motel
beds. Put those beds end to end and they'd circumnavigate
the globe time after time. Just as well she had long ago
learned the knack of napping at will, no matter what the
location. It had come in handy as a med student and it came
in handy now with Mulder. A quick peek to reassure herself
that he was all right, then straight back into dream land.
Scully gently eased the connecting door fully open. She
padded into the room. Her eye was caught by his suit
jacket. It was lying across the seat of the chair, like the
way Mulder usually tossed it when he took it off at night.
But she had put it neatly over the back of the chair when
Tim was there, hadn't she?
Tim might have moved it. She had been so tired, her mind
was most likely playing tricks. Scully disregarded the
jacket and focused on the bed instead, praying.
The man never failed to surprise her. Instead of the
tight, internalised ball Mulder usually adopted during and
after bouts of bad dreams, he was sprawled out on his
stomach, sound asleep. His breathing was even, face a
picture of serenity. In fact -- and Scully wasn't sure if
this was a trick of the non-light or not -- he seemed to be
At the far more civilised hour of 7:30, Scully got up for
the day. She had allowed herself a mini-sleep in. The
shower beckoned, but first she checked in on Mulder again.
He was in nearly the exact same position, sleeping deeply
and peacefully. He usually crashed after a draining case
like this one, but even then the combination of physical
and mental exhaustion usually did not keep the nightmares
at bay. Since this case had been so close to the bone for
him though, a darker repeat of his past, it may have been
even too much last night for his nightmares to touch. But
what about tomorrow night?
She watched him for a few minutes, wanting to touch his
face -- and not just to check for sign of fever. Her
fingers had an itch that only running them through his hair
would appease. She didn't want to disturb him though.
Scully was sure that he would not mind being awakened by
her in such a manner, but the best thing she could do for
him now was let sleeping foxes lie. Soon enough he would
wake up and find himself back in a reality where an 11-year-
old had tried to kill his own sister by abandoning her down
a mine shaft and then claiming alien abduction to cover it.
But then, Mulder had 'woken up' to the fact right from the
start. She had been the one who didn't -- couldn't --
believe that Jacob had committed the crime.
Time for that shower.
As Scully went back towards the connecting door, she
remembered Mulder's jacket and reached out to pick it up,
smooth it out and put it over the back of the chair. His
shoes were near the chair, and come to think of it, they
seemed to be in a different position from yesterday
He might have gone out to get some ice or bumped against
them while going to the bathroom last night. He had done
enough ditches in the last few days. Breaking out of the
hospital on Saturday after being poisoned by Jacob had been
quite enough for the entire summer season, especially when,
upon tracking him down, she found her partner dangling from
the edge of a mine shaft with Jacob's foot raised to stomp
on his fingers. Then on Sunday morning she had come back to
the hospital from the motel to find an empty bed and the
'little patients' room' unoccupied -- Mulder had pulled an
encore performance. A few seconds of careful thought and
she quickly tracked him down. Mulder was leaning against
the wall outside Rachel's hospital room, staring forlornly
through the viewing window. It was like Mulder was stepping
into the breach as a surrogate brother instead, since Jacob
had forfeited his rights. Even as Scully approached him, a
nurse was zeroing in on him from the other direction, since
he was standing out a little with his hospital gown still
Scully had indicated to the nurse that it was all right.
The nurse recognised them; it was a small town where
everyone knew everyone and everything, especially after the
Scully stood next to Mulder and put her hand on his arm as
she looked through the window. Beth and Sam Marcussen sat
on either side of their daughter's bed, each holding one of
her hands. The little girl's eyes were closed. Their heads
were turned towards Rachel, so Scully couldn't see their
expressions, but it looked like Beth was crying.
She turned to look at her partner. His gaze was still
fixed firmly through the window. She knew he was not
looking on in satisfaction that he had rescued their
daughter. He was seeing the losses, awaiting their
accusations and anger. She touched his arm a little more
firmly. "Hey, Mulder. Not now. Don't do this to yourself.
She's safe and Jacob is...in custody. You can visit Rachel
later, okay? You need to be in bed now."
Mulder looked at her and she knew he wanted to ask how
Rachel was. After the mine shaft rescue and his return to
the hospital, Mulder had giving the sheriff his statement
and fallen asleep. The last he had known was that Rachel
was undergoing surgery. But he couldn't handle the answer
now, so said nothing.
Scully gasped. She had drifted into her thoughts and now
the shower water had turned cold. Hurriedly she turned off
the taps and exited.
Dana dried and dressed automatically. She would see if
Mulder had surfaced. If so, they would phone the hospital
for an update on Rachel, then get breakfast and go see the
sheriff. They should be able to head back to D.C. on
Again her mind posed the question: how could an 11-year-
old have done what Jacob had done? Even with the dark pasts
of his maternal great-grandmother and his father's great-
grandfather and Mulder's gene theory, it was so hard to...
Don't focus on Jacob, Scully told herself. Focus on
helping Mulder pick up the pieces.
She could hear footsteps in his room. She took a deep
breath and knocked on the connecting door.
At his tone, Scully hesitated, then cautiously entered.
Mulder was standing beside the bed in his boxer shorts and
a threadbare t-shirt, arms behind his head, stretching. Not
quite as fully as usual, she noted, knowing that his ribs
were still giving him a few occasional twinges. He smiled at
her, tilting his head back. "Morning."
She blinked, relieved but very surprised. "Sleep seems to
have agreed with you."
"It did. Much better being out of the hospital." He
lowered his arms, his battle-scarred hands bearing imprints
of the sole of Jacob's shoe. That had been more evidence
gathered. The forensic team had also found minute traces of
ground Ergotamine tablets on Jacob's desk and a paperweight
he had used to crush them with. He had clearly wiped them
afterwards, but enough evidence had remained of his misuse
of his mother's migraine tablets.
The smile disappeared. "Have you checked with them about
Rachel's condition yet?"
"Not yet," she replied. "How about you have your shower
while I do that? Then I can translate the med speak for you
over breakfast." He agreed, his good cheer returning, and
he headed into his bathroom. Scully stared at his
retreating back. She heard the water go on, then thought
she could hear something over the top of it. Was that
Her ears must be playing tricks.
As they left via Mulder's motel room an hour later, she
saw movement in the window of a nearby room. The curtains
swayed a little; someone was watching them. She wasn't
surprised or tensed by it; there was more of the same in
the cafe as she sat across from her partner, watching him
tuck into bacon and eggs. He seemed oblivious to the stares
and whispers around them, that would follow (and precede
them) in this town from now on. Everyone had heard about
the outcome of Rachel's disappearance and rescue by now,
and the town was reeling. Had the federal agents made a
mistake in arresting an 11-year-old boy? He had seemed such
a conscientious boy, hardworking... But there was that
incident when Luke had broken his leg when he had won the
lead in the school play over Jacob. And if the Marcussen
boy really had tried to kill his own sister and Agent
Mulder, then was his upbringing to blame? His parents?
Rumour was running riot.
Scully watched Mulder have his coffee. Jacob had poisoned
Mulder by putting the ground migraine tablets in the sugar
bowl, knowing that only Mulder had sugar, not his mother or
Scully. It didn't look like the incident or her own
disapproval was enough to put her partner off. He still
spooned in two sugars.
She explained to Mulder that the hospital had not been
able to tell her much. Rachel was still not very coherent
after her four-day ordeal, and got so distressed when the
doctors or nursing staff tried to do anything that running
tests and giving her treatment was proving to be a problem.
She was definitely not up for any visitors apart from her
That news didn't seem to overly perturb Mulder. Scully
didn't know what to think. She reminded herself that Mulder
had always possessed an amazing way of bouncing back from
adversity. Granted it usually took a bit longer than this
to kick in, but... Or he might be using her coping
mechanisms of choice: deny it and bury it so deep that
hopefully it wouldn't come calling again.
Perhaps he had realized and accepted that he had done the
best job he could: he had recognised the culprit, brought
him to justice despite the odds, and found the victim,
alive, again despite the odds. He couldn't keep beating
himself up over things beyond his control.
That knowledge would bring a certain amount of freedom and
After breakfast the partners went to the police station
and went back over their statements and new evidence and
Jacob's assertions of what had "really happened." The boy
had been cool under pressure on Sunday, but as the forensic
evidence mounted up, his posturing had weakened.
The look on Jacob's face in the interview room today made
Scully's stomach churn. She had seen it on many seasoned
criminals: they knew the game was pretty much up, and not
in their favour. They were going to be charged and do time,
but they would endure.
On an 11-year-old boy it was unthinkable. But there it was.
In the early afternoon, Mulder and Scully went back to the
cafe for lunch. Mulder ate most of his food and picked at
the rest. His good cheer had dimmed substantially. Scully
couldn't get much of a conversation out of him, but didn't
press very hard. He was crashing again: she knew this
Mulder. In a perverse way, it was almost a relief to have
to deal with him like this than when she couldn't figure
"Hey, Ace, how about a nap?"
"Is that an offer?"
"I'll sit with you for a while."
"Not quite what I had in mind."
"I know. Close though." She hoped he would acquiesce.
After all, he wasn't even twenty-four hours clear of the
He agreed to a nap, provided he was woken at a decent time
in order to go visit the hospital. He wanted to talk to
Rachel's doctors and to Beth and Sam, even if he couldn't
see Rachel herself.
"They must be so confused about Jacob... I just want to..."
"Do you think that's wise?" she asked gently. He wasn't
going to try explaining his gene theory, was he?
"We're going back to D.C. tomorrow." They were. There was
little more they could do here now. It was out of their
hands while the legal world fired up its engines. "So I
want to see them before we go."
"All right." She got him into bed and, as promised, sat
beside him for a while. He got twitchy in his sleep, as if
he was chasing something or something was chasing after
him. Scully stroked his forehead and hair, her touch
working its usual magic and he resettled.
Her cellular rang when she was back in her room going over
some files. It was Tim. "How is he?"
"Better than I expected. Better than I'd hoped."
"That's good. Maybe we talked some sense into him Sunday
"Maybe. He's still not up to that sudden death playoff
with you though."
"That's his excuse. He knows who'd win. His only
consolation -- and a big one -- is that he knows who'd end
up with the cheerleader at the end."
Was Tim referring to the past there, or to the present?
Later in the afternoon Mulder and Scully returned to the
hospital. Scully was glad that this time Mulder was on
foot, under his own steam, and not needing to rush in
through Outpatients or the ER. They got the current
location of Rachel's doctor from a nurse, and were heading
down the hallway in that direction when Mulder halted as if
his feet had become rooted to the floor. Scully stopped and
began to ask him what was wrong, then she followed his gaze
down another corridor and her question was no longer needed.
Beth Marcussen was standing outside her daughter's room.
She was staring at the agents. There was a mutual
hesitation, three people deciding whether to make the first
move and in what form or direction it would take. Then
Mulder put his head figuratively out on the chopping block
by stepping forward and saying, "Beth...?"
When they had first met this woman, her daughter was
missing, and the strain had shown plainly in her face, her
voice, her fluttering hands. Now she had Rachel back, and
the cost had almost bent her double. Their daughter. Their
son. Scully could imagine it would be like standing in the
middle of a battlefield, being fired upon by both sides.
Beth's eyes were nearly swallowed up from crying. Her
hands, instead of fluttering, were holding each other
She looked at them, then at the other passers by in the
hallway. Any looks she received seemed to shrink her down
Beth took a step towards them. She stopped. Mulder
completed the distance, Scully racing to keep pace.
"Oh, God, what must they be thinkin' of us? Where did we go
wrong?" she babbled, wringing her right hand so tightly in
her left that Scully was afraid she would hear bones crack
at any second. "Did he think we loved Rachel more?"
"Beth, Jacob's not... It wasn't..."
Scully watched Mulder fumble for the right words.
Tears rolled down Beth's face. "I'm so sorry, Agent
Mulder, for what happened to you. Thank you for finding
Rachel. She's only been conscious a little bit at times,
but she told me what her brother did." She started to cry
Scully looked through the window to Rachel's room, trying
to locate Sam to comfort his wife. "Where's your husband,
"Sam's not here."
"Is he with Jacob? We'll phone him."
"He's at home asleep. We thought Jacob would be okay on
his own for a bit. He's very independent..." That statement
only caused her to cry harder once she realized what she
had said. Then she put a hand to her head, wincing.
"Migraine?" Scully asked.
Beth nodded slightly.
"Do you have any Ergotamine with you?"
"I'm not having any of that stuff in my house or in my
body ever again! I might be tempted to... It might... And I
deserve the pain. I was a bad mother."
Before Mulder or Scully could refute or comment, Rachel
started screaming and Beth raced back in. Mulder went to
follow, but Scully held him back, just in time as several
medical personnel hurried up, wanting a clear path so they
One look at Mulder's face told Scully that whatever
measure of peace Mulder had managed to hold onto since
waking up this morning was now blasted away, scattering the
pieces far and wide.
They had planned to catch a flight on Tuesday morning, but
Scully was able to get them on a flight Monday evening. If
they hadn't been able to, she would have considered
driving. Mulder didn't object. He seemed to want to get out
of the town that he had irrevocably ripped the veneer from,
especially after going and seeing Beth again while Scully
was trying to pin down Rachel's doctor for a talk. Mulder
remained a closed book about how that meeting had gone.
There was little to stay around for now. Mulder was well
enough to travel. His seizures on Friday had been due to
the effects of being poisoned and now that the drug was out
of his system there would be no more seizures or other
symptoms, so his FBI field agent status was not in any
jeopardy. The report could be written and handed in on
Tuesday. Scully had phoned headquarters to okay that with
Skinner, and been told by Kimberley that their boss had
overdone things by coming back to work too early after the
car bombing that had occurred on their previous case. He
was resting at his apartment on doctor's orders until
When the plane was in the air, Mulder commandeered
Scully's laptop and just poured out the case report. Scully
had never seen him type so fast before. She was surprised
he had time to include full stops. He wasn't putting
paragraphs in. Just one big slab of words.
An exorcism of sorts?
Finally his fingers slowed. He chewed on his lip for a
minute, then typed a few more sentences. He scrolled back
to the beginning of the document and read through it,
stopping occasionally to change a few things or to put
Then he saved it. "Done." He sighed with relief and let
his head loll back on the head rest. "When do you want to
add your parts?"
"Tomorrow morning. That's the quickest I've ever seen you
produce a report."
"I'm motivated. And the sooner it's done..."
"The sooner it's over."
Even as Scully said the words, she mused that if only it
could be that simple. She watched Mulder shut down the
laptop and put it away. Dana wanted to distract him and
give him some fun, and thought she might have a way to
achieve that goal. Mulder looked at her curiously as she
reached into her satchel and produced a deck of cards.
"Feel like a game, Ace?" She put playful emphasis on the
nickname, bait to hook him in with.
"Deal." As she was shuffling the cards, he said,
"Actually, there was a game I learned at Oxford... I saw a
movie a few weeks ago that reminded me about it. You ever
heard of 'Snap?'"
"No. But if your down time activities at Oxford were
anything like what Tim was saying about your profiling
days, then I'm afraid to ask."
Mulder affected a dignified look. "Ha ha. Snap is where
you divide a pack of cards between however many people are
playing. Each person takes a turn at putting a card face
a pile in front of everyone. When you get two consecutive
cards the same, like two kings or two fours, the first
to put their hand on the pile and yell 'snap' wins that
cards. When a player loses all their cards, they're
The last person left with all the cards is the winner."
"So it doesn't matter if there's a four of clubs and a
four of hearts? That's a 'snap?' And what about if you have
a two of hearts and a four of hearts -- is that a snap
because they're both hearts? And what about red and black?"
He gave a thoughtful frown. "Good questions... I only
played it once and it was about 3 in the morning, as
"Uh huh. Sounds like a loud game. And a long one." She
looked at his watch. "We're going to be in D.C., soon. Might
have to stick to poker instead."
"Oh, Scully, don't be so defeatist. Let's say that the
numbers have to match. Kings, queens, jokers and aces, too.
Keep it simple. We can have a 'winner' with each snap, not
just when the cards are all in the one set of hands. And we
can keep the noise down."
She nodded. "Then let's go at it. What are the stakes? We
can't play cards without a bet."
"Money's boring." He thought for a moment. "Let's get
A little later:
The seat belt lights went on. Scully buckled up and
gathered all the cards, regretting that the fun had come to
an end. Mulder's bruised fingers had not impeded his
participation. Putting their hands down on the card pile
together had led to a few mock slaps and laughs and on the
last one they had just let their hands rest there, hers on
top of Mulder's, as they looked at each other. In that way,
they had both won the round.
The agents had made the bets in job lots for each snap,
groups of things at once, for even more amusement and
expedience. "So, what's the end tally?" Scully asked.
Mulder consulted his notebook. "Figuratively speaking you
lost your suit jacket, blouse and bra and owe me five home
cooked meals, one declaration of 'you're right, Mulder,
that's definitely an alien' and to wear something to work
next week that is the opposite end of the spectrum to
black." He grinned. "Figuratively I lost my tie, jacket,
shirt and pants. I owe you naming rights on my next batch
of fish, another baseball lesson, ten restaurant meals and
to not get sunflower seed husks in your keyboard for a
"Good thing it was only pretend," he remarked into her
ear, deliberately making his voice deeper.
"Yeah..." Scully was glad that her distractive ploy had
worked, but she had to admit that playing 'strip snap' for
real with him (in private) could be interesting. She had
missed not having their regular nightly swims at the motel
on this case. Hopefully they would start that up again
soon. And another baseball lesson... That would be worth --
well, there wasn't a price she could put on it.
As the plane touched down they were unaware that sitting
an aisle behind and to their right was a brown-haired woman
who had been watching them very closely for most of the
Scully dropped Mulder off out the front of his building.
The first night back in town after a case they usually went
their separate ways to catch up on things like phone calls,
laundry, and so on, instead of having dinner together or
going to the movies. But tonight... She touched his arm.
"Will you be okay?"
He squeezed her fingers gently. "Yeah. It's good to be
home. Thanks, Scully. I'll see you tomorrow." They were
going to go to HQ a bit later than usual tomorrow seeing as
the flight had been a late one. And she would make sure
that it was not a 'heavy' day for Mulder. Or at least hope
it stayed quiet. Some desk duty and catch up time would be
best for now.
"Night." She watched him walk away. She tapped the
steering wheel with her thumbs, then sighed, checked for
traffic, and pulled out onto the road. She kept picturing
the look on his face in the hospital hallway. Should she
give him tonight to regroup on his own, or... Or what? They
were out of Gauley Bridge now, out of the plane. Away from
prying ears. Several blocks later she turned left instead
of going straight ahead and let herself drive back to Hegal
As she was nearing his building again, she was surprised
to see Mulder's car pulling out of the residents' parking
lot. Perhaps he was coming to Georgetown to see her... No,
he was heading in the opposite direction.
There was one car on the road between her and Mulder, but
it looked like he was alone in the car. Unless there was
someone crouched in the back with a gun to his head...
Scully debated phoning him. Where was he going at this hour
of night? The Gunmen's office was a possibility until
Mulder took a turn that eliminated that from the list. He
didn't seem aware that he was being followed. Or didn't
He could be just driving, Scully told herself. Not quite
up for a 'run myself into the ground' jog, so this would be
the next best thing to try to shake Gauley Bridge out of
He needed sleep, though.
Feeling uncomfortable about following him but concerned,
Scully was just about to try phoning him when he pulled
over in a residential street. He had stopped in front of
what was, even in the dark, a lovely-looking old house.
Scully could not place it from any of their cases or
friends or contacts. Langly had been thinking about getting
a house after inheriting some money from his aunt, but she
couldn't really see this as his sort of place. More likely
he'd blow it all on computer hardware anyway.
She pulled up unobtrusively a few doors down. Mulder got
out of his car and didn't look around. He just opened the
gate and headed straight up the path. Scully quietly got
out of her car and moved closer so she could see. The fence
had a waist-high hedge that she could duck down behind if
necessary. The house's security light automatically came on
at Mulder's movements, illuminating the verandah steps and
the front door. There were no screening trees or ivy, so
Scully could see when the door opened in answer to Mulder's
A woman stood in the doorway. She was wearing a green robe
and had brown hair down past her shoulders. Scully couldn't
place her, but the woman clearly knew Mulder, looking at
him with concern and tenderness. "It's all right," she
heard the woman say, though Mulder had said nothing. "It's
going to be all right." She took his arm and he stepped
over the threshold into the house. The door closed behind
End Act I
Scully sat at her desk, unconsciously mimicking her
posture and blank expression of last night, sitting in her
car, staring at the house Mulder had disappeared into. Her
body may have been sitting still, but her mind was doing
laps like a mouse in a treadwheel.
She looked at the UFO poster. "I don't want to believe,"
she told it. "I'd sooner believe in anything but this."
She had tried ringing his cell phone from her car, just
like the time she had seen Diana and Mulder holding hands,
only this time she got a 'the number you have called is
Scully reminded herself that there could be plenty of
innocent explanations for what she had seen -- what she
thought she had seen. The woman could be a friend, a
contact, research help, a relation, a counselor the Gunmen
had put him onto...
The woman had looked to be in her thirties, though Scully
had not been able to get a completely clear look at her.
Definitely nothing like Diana or the 'grown up' Samantha
Was this yet another woman that Mulder had met over the
Internet? Scully eyed her computer. She could do a database
search by using the woman's address. Unethical but very
The door opened. Mulder's smile was so bright that it
seemed to enter the room a few yards before the rest of him
Pain and disbelief and denial and betrayal drummed behind
her eyes. With a massive effort, Scully shoved her feelings
aside and went into subtle investigator mode. She returned
his greeting, then gently started probing for answers. Her
questions were picked with utmost care, just like the right
surgical tool at the right place in an autopsy, without
coming out and saying what she had witnessed.
Mulder did not pick up on the hints. "Gauley Bridge wiped
me right out. Crashed on the couch five minutes after I got
in the door," he informed her.
"Really?" She could not believe this. She tried a
different approach. "I couldn't sleep. Too wound up. Felt
like going for a jog or something to burn it off."
"Looks like I did all the sleeping for the both of us
then. Now, who are we giving this report to if Skinner's
off sick? Or is he still doing paperwork?"
The lie and change of subject stung her with as much
impact as the bee had, but not as much as the indifferent
look on Mulder's face.
Dilemma: confront or not? How much of her business was
this, even after eight years and the feelings she knew they
shared? Had she not given him enough support, or was he
afraid to ask her for support, so turned to someone else?
Though as much as that upset and angered her, was he
really doing anything that she hadn't in that way? Her
counselor, her priest...
She hoped that's all the woman was.
Mulder's buoyancy lasted well into the afternoon. Scully's
own emotions kept swaying and clashing in her like the
executive toy that had the metal balls all lined up on
strings. Confusion, resentment, worry, sadness, fear.
This was hardly what she wanted as a distraction from
Jacob's heinous acts.
About mid-afternoon, Mulder answered the phone. It had
rung a few times during the day, but none of the previous
calls caused a reaction in Mulder like this one.
"Uh...yeah." A furtive glance at Scully, a hooding of his
expression, his body turning away slightly in the chair. He
listened, giving a murmured "uh huh" every so often. "Sure.
Thanks," he said softly, then darted another look at Scully
as he hung up.
Scully's radar was on red alert. She sent him an inquiring
look, hoping it was casual. "Everything all right?"
For a second it was like that executive toy was clacking
away just behind the skin of his face. Emotions back and
forth, bouncing off each other until the motion subdued
itself to a standstill or a draw. He shrugged. "Just some
ongoing legal tangles with Mom's estate."
Was that the truth? The lawyers were still trying to sort
out what to do about Teena's provision in the will for
Samantha since there was no death certificate or body. That
would certainly keep shaking Mulder up, and be dragged on
Or had that woman just rang and he was actually using his
mother's death as a shield to stop his partner from probing
Scully sat in her car. She was parked outside Mulder's
This was ridiculous. The last time she had staked out her
partner, at least it had been because he seemed to be
getting up to something with the New Spartans terrorist
group, not with a woman.
Perhaps he was undercover again.
As in sheets...
Scully mentally told herself off. She was NOT staking him
out. She was merely sitting here debating whether or not to
go up and talk with him or see if he wanted to watch a
movie or something. Anything. His mood had dipped again
today after the phone call, just like the last few days.
Scully made her decision and got out of her car. Even if
the end result was painful to her, she was going to find
out what was going on.
Mulder's apartment was empty. The lights were still on,
which was not unusual. His gun and cell phone lay on the
coffee table. Perhaps he had gone for a jog -- but near the
gun there was a full cup of coffee. That was unusual. Why
make coffee then not drink it? It was tepid.
Some more searching ensued. Mulder's car was still in its
spot and he wasn't in it. Scully hurried through the
resident's parking lot, heading to check the stairs. She
halted, hearing a noise. She moved towards it, around some
support pillars, into the depths where residents would have
no need to go, then froze again. Mulder and the woman were
not far away, in a darkened nook.
Even in the shadows, Scully could make out several things.
The woman was Mulder's height. She had his face in her
hands and his head was bowed slightly. She was kissing his
forehead. Both had their eyes closed.
Upon seeing what she was seeing, Scully closed her eyes
too. The image remained, made more vivid by the volcano of
hurt erupting in her. She opened her eyes. No, she had not
been seeing things. How could he do this?
The woman must have heard or sensed something. Startled,
she pulled away from Mulder and stared at Scully. There was
great pain in her eyes. Then she fled, weaving between
cars, out of the parking lot into the night.
"Hey!" Scully called, then she noticed that Mulder had not
moved. Or even reacted to the interruption. Embarrassment?
She let the woman leave and hurried up to him. He was
staring in the direction where the woman had disappeared.
Actually, he was just staring vacantly at nothing.
"Mulder!" Dana touched his arm. No reaction.
This wasn't embarrassment. This looked like...drugs? But
voluntary or not?
"Mulder, talk to me!" She grabbed his wrist to take his
pulse, her jealousy shoved aside like it had been tackled
out of play.
Mulder let out an explosive gasp and pulled his hand out
of her grasp. He stared around. "What... What's going on?"
He looked at her, bewildered. "Why the hell are we down
"You don't remember?"
"I made some coffee and sat down to watch TV. I guess I
fell asleep." He was in his sweats and a t-shirt. "I must
be dreaming. Or I must have sleepwalked."
"Or the stress of the case gave you a blackout." She
gently tugged him out from the shadows of the nook so she
could get a better look at his face. There was a mark like
a smudge on his forehead. Lipstick. Scully didn't wipe it
off. "Mulder, you met a woman here just now."
"I did not!" He gave an incredulous laugh.
"You were in... She was kissing you. Well, your forehead."
"Who? Well, where is she then? I think that would be
something I'd remember! It doesn't exactly happen to me
"I don't know who she is. She ran away." But they did know
where she lived, and it was time to find out who this woman
was and what on earth she had done or tried to do to
Mulder. "You have a lipstick mark on your forehead."
Mulder half-raised his hand, then dropped it.
"And you've met this woman before. Last night at a house,"
Scully told him reluctantly. She waited for him to ask how
she knew that and for his anger, but she was more alarmed
that he clearly couldn't remember.
"I didn't go anywhere last night. I went to bed. Alone."
He was getting distressed. "Just like I was going to
"Come on." As Scully led him back to his apartment, she
described the woman as best she could. Mulder had a look on
his face that she was sure had been identical to her own
over the years when he had lobbed his theories at her.
In the brighter light of his apartment, she would check
him out for sign of concussion or drugs, anything to
explain his memory blank. She didn't know whether she
preferred a memory blank (and therefore possible indication
of something medically wrong with him) to Mulder outright
lying to her face about the woman.
If there was indication of drugs, then she would get him
to the hospital immediately and dispatch the police to the
In apartment 42, Mulder went to a mirror and stared at the
lipstick imprint. "I...I have no idea how that got
there." he said in bewilderment.
Scully mentally picked up her feelings, wanting to pack
them away tightly. It was like trying to get a sleeping bag
back into its carry cover. "Come over here and sit down."
She guided him to the couch, intending to sit down on the
coffee table in front of him for her examination.
Mulder began to sit, then he leapt upright and whirled
around. Nearly knocked over, Scully stumbled backwards.
"Mulder, what's..." She could practically see his heart
thudding madly in his chest.
He looked around the room wildly and into the entranceway.
"I heard her..."
"Who?" Was it the woman coming back? But no knock came at
the door, nothing.
He shook his head and sank to sit on the couch arm.
"Rachel," he answered and propped his forehead on his hand.
"I... I could have sworn I heard her screaming just now.
Sounded so..." He glanced at Scully briefly and gave a
quirky, self-effacing grin. "Congratulate me, Scully. Looks
like I'm achieving not only sleepwalking, but waking
"It was a difficult case, Mulder. Your body is probably
just telling you that you need some time off." Scully
wondered which one of them she was trying to reassure.
"And that woman you saw? What about her?"
"We're going to find out about her. Now track my finger..."
He didn't. His eyes darted around the room and he stood
up. "Beth?" His voice was hesitant, searching.
"She's not here, is she? But I can hear her. She's
sobbing." He turned around, and around again, his eyes
glazed. "Scully, make her stop, please!" His voice was raw.
"Beth, I'm sorry..."
Scully raced to his side as he sank down to his knees on
the floor, clutching his head.
Scully twisted the cord of the pay phone, trying to channel
her fear and helplessness into it instead of into her
voice. "They're running tests now. MRI. An EEG is
scheduled... He's still conscious and able to move, but he
keeps getting headaches and says he can hear voices. And
it's getting worse."
"Is it..." Skinner hesitated, then plowed on. "From what
you've said, it sounds like when he first came into contact
with the rubbing from that artifact. Could this be a
She thought back to the craft on the beach in Africa, and
to Mulder, his brain more alive than his body could stand.
"I don't know for sure yet, sir. It certainly could be.
After all, we still don't really know for sure what
happened to Mulder the first time to set off such
unprecedented brain activity. When...when I found him in
the DOD..." A wave of nausea reeled up in her as she
remembered him pegged out on the operating table like a bug
in an insect collection. His skull and beautiful mind
violated by a surgeon's saw. How even when Mulder had woken
up in her arms she had not been sure if her partner had
escaped brain damage.
"...whatever they did to him stopped the activity." It
also put an end to his ability to read minds. "But perhaps
it was just temporary. Not so much a cure as a
Oh, God, I don't want to go through this again.
"And this woman whom you saw with Agent Mulder just before
he fell ill?"
"I've got Danny running a background check on her and have
sent agents to her house. A tox screen is being run of
Mulder's blood just in case she somehow poisoned him."
Mulder had fallen asleep during the MRI and was hard to
rouse, as if whatever was going on in his head had its
claws deep in him. He kept drifting back into a stupored
sleep. He flinched and tossed, as if in an internal
struggle. Two hours later in his private room his eyes flew
open, then the panic in them died. He was alert again.
Scully watched him focus on her, then check out his
surroundings. "Snap," he said sheepishly.
For a moment she was confused, then remembered their game.
He had been in not only this situation before, but this
very room. "Big time," she replied and squeezed his hand.
"How are you feeling?"
He raised his other hand to his forehead and encountered
the EEG leads. "They keeping tabs?"
"Deja vu all over again... God, my head hurts. But it
doesn't feel like the other time."
"From the test results we have back so far, apparently it
isn't." Not that it was much consolation. "There is
significant activity in your brain. In your frontal lobe,
not taking up all of your capacity like before, but
definitely more than normal. The activity seems to be
repeating in a pattern." She paused reluctantly.
He looked at her closely. "And..."
She focused on their joined fingers. "And it seems to be
getting more and more intense."
"I can agree with that." He screwed his eyes up as another
round hit. "No... God, I wish I could turn it off!"
"We're going to find out what's going on and stop it, I
promise. Is it still voices? Anything discernible?" Give me
something to go on, she begged silently.
He asked her a question instead. "What about the woman?
Did she do this to me?"
"Your toxicology came back clear -- for the 'usual' toxin
possibilities at least. The lab is still checking for more
exotic poisons. The woman hasn't come back to her house. It
is under surveillance. They're getting a search warrant on
it. Danny dug up some facts. Her name is Chimene Lampert.
Is that in any way familiar to you?"
"No. Not at all. And it's the sort of name I would
remember." Another bout of pain hit him and he rode it out,
holding her hand. "They don't know what to do for me, do
She met his gaze. "We're trying."
His hand came up to touch her cheek. "I know you are."
There was a pause, then Mulder said more lightly, "I gather
they won't let me get up to use the little patients' room
when I want to?"
"It wouldn't be a good idea. Not with all those wires and
leads." Or the attacks he was having.
Mulder sighed. "Scully, as I've told you previously, I am
She blinked, then remembered it in context: a recent case
where an academy dropout had been killing off FBI agents.
Skinner had been badly injured by a car bomb the man had
planted and Tom Colton had been electrocuted in a bathroom
at HQ. At the latter crime scene, trying to piece together
how Colton was killed, Mulder had explained that when it
came to using urinals, men seemed to be either standers or
hunchers, and reflected that it could have something to do
with modesty or size.
Scully shook her head at her partner now as he lay in the
hospital bed. "Sorry."
Mulder looked grumpy. "It's undemocratic. Catheters and
bottle thingies just aren't the same as exercising the
manly right to stand." He let out a more put-upon sigh,
then changed the subject. "What else did you find out about
"Perhaps now isn't -"
"It might jog my memory. And talk is a good distraction.
Never could deny you much, she thought. "She's aged 31,
single, no children, comes from old European money and does
not have a job."
"Apart from somehow enticing strange men to let her suck
their foreheads... Hey, if she had been giving me a serious
hickey further down, I might have said she was a vampire.
You did check my neck, didn't you -- aggggggghhh!" He
abruptly doubled up into a ball, wrapping his arms around
Scully hit the call button, and stayed beside him, bending
over him, stroking his arms and what of his hair she could.
"The doctor's going to give you a pain killer. Just hold on
a little bit longer."
"Won't stop the voices. The memories, Scully. Knock me out
so deep that they have to stop," he pleaded.
"What memories?" And how could they be this strong, this
The pattern in his frontal lobe grew more and more
intense. Twenty minutes later he lost the ability to speak.
Forty minutes after that, he went into a coma.
Scully woke up. Instead of another motel room bed, this
was another hospital chair. She fumbled to focus on her
watch. Mulder's bed was illuminated only by the small light
set just above it on the wall, enough for the nurses to
navigate and read the machines on their checks. Heading on
for five in the morning. Mulder was so motionless he looked
like a CPR mannequin placed there by mistake.
Scully looked at the machines and monitors, then at all
the papers she had scattered over the table and spare chair
and down the side of her own. Mulder's test results -- both
present and from the artifact incident -- the information
on Ms Lampert, medical journals with possible relevant
articles she had asked the Gunmen to bring. Mulder was
locked inside his head and she was helpless. Chimene
Lampert might hold the key to his condition, but there had
been no sign of her.
Chimene was quite a traveler, overseas and on US soil.
Travel records had shown that she had recently come back
from a few days in rural Virginia. Namely Gauley Bridge.
She had arrived there on Sunday afternoon. She had stayed
at the same motel as Mulder and Scully. And left on the
same flight as they did on Monday night.
Scully knew that Mulder had an effect on women that caused
them to follow him to the ends of the earth, being the
president and most frequent flyer of that club herself. But
until now she had thought that the other members had long
given up, or in some cases, died. So who was this woman and
what did she want with Mulder?
The Gunmen had run Chimene's travel records up against
Mulder's but found no other match-ups.
Standing, Scully took a moment to collect her equilibrium.
In a way, poison 'at least' had been something with
recognisable symptoms and a ready cure, providing it was
caught in time. This... She leaned over the bed and kissed
Mulder's cheek. "I'll be back in a few minutes, partner.
And please, wherever you are, come back to me soon."
Exhausted and near breaking point, she went out past the
guards on his room to the quiet waiting room. Since this
was the Neuro Ward, not the ER, it wasn't exactly bustling
with people at this hour. Her goal was the snack dispenser.
She knew that she had to have something, despite the hour;
she was already feeling a little light-headed. She could
not afford to collapse, so she made herself eat a granola
bar and some juice while walking the waiting room floor to
stretch her stiff legs. She hurried, wanting to be back at
Mulder's side. She didn't want him to be smuggled away by
the Consortium again.
She dropped the wrapper and container in the trash can and
turned to go resume her post, only to find someone coming
into the waiting room.
It was Chimene Lampert.
End Act II
The two women looked at each other across the waiting
room. Half of Scully's brain was assessing in terms of a
threat -- visually checking for a weapon while cursing that
she had to hand her own in to the security here -- and
half measuring the female who had apparently bewitched
Mulder so completely that he had no memory of her.
Chimene stood before her, wearing black jeans, a deep
purple shirt and an anxious expression. She turned
slightly, a brooch of silver stars winking in the light,
her hands out from her hips so that Scully could see she
was not holding anything. Her long brown hair was tied in a
braid that hung down over one shoulder. "I'm not here to
hurt anyone." Her gentle but insistent voice sounded like
it bore a faint accent, but Scully could not place it. "I
came to explain and to help. Before you do anything, please
just listen to what I have to say."
She gazed at Scully, who thought that either the poor
lighting in here or her own tiredness gave the woman an
ethereal air. A special bearing. She tried to shake off
that feeling. "What did you do to him?"
Again, those green eyes seemed so... Familiar? Scully
realized with a jolt that it was like looking into Mulder's
eyes. So much feeling inside.
"You know who I am, but you don't know *what* I am."
Thousands of possibilities jostled in Scully's mind, none
that she wanted to be proven a certainty.
"Firstly, let me assure you that Fox Mulder and I are not
lovers." Chimene gave a slight smile, but it had a wry
edge. "As he has probably told you, he does not know me."
Relief soaked Dana's soul, as well as hope that this woman
was telling the truth. "Yet you seem to know him well
"You could call me a special therapist."
"And quite a specialty too."
Chimene gave a slight chuckle and raised her eyes ceiling-
ward. "I'm trying to ease you in here, but I can see we
will get nowhere quickly. All right: in basic terms, I can
be classified as a mutant."
Scully's eyebrows hit her hairline and her anger hit
'boil'. "I don't... I don't have time for this. Neither
"You have encountered mutants before. You have even
been able to study and dissect some. As a scientist, you
that nature produces them occasionally. I was 'produced' a
long time ago."
Even as Scully mentally rolled her eyes at this, a part of
her found it easy to picture Chimene in many different eras
and outfits. She shook the feeling off. It was just the
woman's eyes, she supposed. They looked like they had seen
"But my history can come later. What you need to know is
that I am a vampire of sorts. Daylight holds no dangers for
me though. And instead of feeding on life blood, I feed on
For ten full silent seconds, Dana stared at the woman, who
stared calmly back. Taking a deep breath, Scully said,
"Well, I'm torn between busting a gut laughing or ripping
yours out for going on like this when a man's life is at
"You have encountered a man who preyed on overweight women
on the Internet in order to suck the fat out of their
bodies. A mutant who ate brains, one who ate livers... I
can sense guilt. I just take angst from those who deserve
to have their burden lightened. I absorb the feelings as
sustenance and sometimes the memories remain, though if I
chose, I can store what I take -- the feelings linked in
with the memories -- for digestion at a later time."
"I think you've been watching too much of the Discovery
Chimene would not be dissuaded by her attitude. "Well, I
have no fangs and I do not need to feed daily, though I can
do the latter depending on circumstances. My ability to
remove guilt helps me, it helps my client."
"They are not victims," she replied emphatically. "They
are clients. I may sound like a businesswoman, but I am in
the business of removing guilt. Just like any therapist.
And only with those who do not deserve the guilt."
"And Mulder would be the motherlode, wouldn't he?"
"Exactly. I know you're humouring me here, but I'll keep
going. I have encountered Fox Mulder in the past and
reduced his guilt, just like I have with many others. I
then wipe my clients' memories of this via hypnotism."
And wipe the lipstick off their foreheads, Scully found
"I leave just enough of a subconscious suggestion that my
clients will seek me out when and if required, if we are
within a certain distance of each other. Ulysses and the
siren. Now there was a war that caused..." She realized she
was going off on a tangent and got back on track.
"Sometimes it gets so bad that I can 'hear' a certain
person's pain, and I come to him or her."
"Like to Gauley Bridge?"
Chimene nodded. "Usually with people, I can reduce their
pain in one or a few meetings, and the person gets on with
their life, that burden removed or down to negligible
enough levels. Fox Mulder however... His guilt and pain and
grief can be like a hydra. Cut off the head -"
"And two more grow in its place," Scully said quietly.
"Exactly. Take these last few days. That many visits has
been very unusual, even with him, but his guilt is
skyrocketing. I've had to take so much that his behaviour
has probably seemed very odd to you, instead of reducing it
more subtly. Not that it seems to have made much of a
Scully realized she was hanging onto the woman's every
word, and gave herself a mental shake. "A very interesting
tale. Ten out of ten for creativity, but what does this
have to do with Mulder right at this very minute? Are you
telling me that his guilt is what has sent him into a coma?"
"Guilt can do many things to a person. Whether kept buried
inside or closer to the surface. A deep internal cut is
just as life threatening as one to the outside, if
Scully bristled at the pointed look the woman gave her,
then Chimene continued, "When you discovered Fox Mulder
with me, I was removing some guilt from him. Instead of
going for the jugular like your garden-variety bloodsucker,
I press my lips to a person's forehead. And I 'pull' the
pain out. Unfortunately, you interrupted that transfer at a
key moment. I was taking the pain out of the recesses of
his mind, but now it is 'front and center,' so to speak, in
more technicolour than he can handle. The pain and memories
are just cycling over again and again. You have to let me
finish what I started, otherwise he will continue to
"And you expect me to believe that? To just take you to
his bedside on the basis of that?"
Chimene took several steps towards her, now only a few
yards separating them. Thanks to Scully's heels, they were
almost at eye level with each other. "You want proof. All
right, here it is."
But she did not move further, not even to produce
something from her pocket. Scully pinned her eyes with a
glare, ready to grab her and haul her into the corridor and
get security, but then Scully realized she could not stop
looking into Chimene's eyes. The woman had not blinked, but
her eyes...the green irises, the pupils... Scully could see
her reflection in them, but her reflection wasn't wearing
the same clothes as she was now. Nor did that seem to be
the waiting room in the background...
"What...?" she croaked, trying to recoil from the image of
herself, but unable to.
Chimene's voice drifted to her as the image filled her
senses. "Feature presentation..."
She was in a place -- a warehouse. Somehow familiar. She
had been in as many of them as emergency rooms and motel
beds though... She was walking towards some sort of set up
of equipment in the middle of the warehouse floor. Her
heart was pounding. "Dr. Arlinsky?" she heard herself call.
But in Mulder's voice.
She -- he -- them made a beeline for a metal table. An
autopsy table. It was covered in pieces of ice and sheets
of plastic. Her arms went out, Mulder's hands, and rummaged
through the ice and plastic. She could feel his disbelief,
his anger, his desperation. His thoughts. No, it can't be,
it has to be here, it's THE proof we need, I should never
have left it... "It's gone." And she looked up and saw
*herself* moving around the other side of the table,
She could place this moment in their history. The
discovery and autopsy of the 'ice alien.' Mulder so sure
this was the real thing. The only thing that she had known
for sure at that time was that her cancer had metastasised.
They found Dr. Arlinsky's body and that of the man who
had found the alien in the wilderness. It was so bizarre to
be going through this through Mulder's eyes, his emotions.
A rage was burning in him, holding everything else at bay,
as he argued with her about the authenticity of the now-
missing alien corpse. Hurt was at the edges of the rage as
she watched herself refuting him.
She could see the bruises on her face from where
Kritschgau had thrown her down the stairs when she tried to
stop him stealing the ice core samples. She had thought she
had covered them up enough with make up, not wanting Mulder
finding out about it and going for Kritschgau's throat
instead of hearing him out about the government conspiracy.
Or perhaps since this was Mulder's point of view, he had
picked them up anyway, and in his guilt and fear they were
twice as severe as in reality.
"Mulder, the only lie here is the one that you continue to
Had she really said it that coldly? Had her approaching
death made her blind to his feelings, or had she steeled
herself to make him see sense before it was too late?
It took him several beats to collect himself enough to
speak. "After all I've seen and experienced, I refuse to
believe that it's not true."
"Because it's easier to believe the lie, isn't it?"
"What the hell did that guy say to you that you believe
his story?" To believe the words of a man she had just met,
over her own partner...
"He said that the men behind this hoax, behind these lies,
gave me this disease to make you believe."
She felt him mentally teeter, staring in shock at her
coldly upset face as her words sliced through him like a
scalpel. A machete. The rage vanished, and there was
nothing remaining to keep all his self-blame and guilt from
crippling him. She had excised from him not so much his
belief in extraterrestrials, but the one tiny hope that had
kept him functioning ever since she had been diagnosed with
the cancer: that she did not blame him and that she
believed in him.
He had been the cause of her cancer. Now he had nothing to
save her with or bargain for her cure.
No! Mulder, that's not... Talk to him! Scully yelled at
herself, feeling like she was on the other side of a
mirror, hammering uselessly at the glass.
But the memory kept playing out, just like it had in real
After the police had come to the warehouse and taken
charge of the bodies and taken the agents' statements,
Mulder left, running on automatic pilot, and went to his
apartment. He put on a video of scientists talking about
the possibility of alien existence. He sat there, all
lights off apart from one lamp. Scully was trying to get
out of his head now, to get out of this link with him and
Chimene and run away from his pain. But she was trapped. As
the video churned away, the image went blurry. Was it
Mulder's TV? No. He was crying.
**I've held a torch in the darkness to glance upon a truth
unknown. An act of faith begun with an ineloquent certainty
that my journey promised the chance, not just of
understanding, but of recovery. That the disappearance of
my sister 23 years ago would come to be explained. And that
the pursuit of these greater truths about the existence of
extraterrestrial life might even unite us. A belief which I
now know to be false...and uninformed to the extreme. My
folly revealed by facts which illuminate both my arrogance
and self-deception. If only the tragedy had been mine
alone, might it be more easy tonight to bring this journey
to its end.**
End? Scully could feel his thoughts and desperation, but
she could not bring herself to believe that Mulder would
actually...or had actually...
No, he must have just had a few thoughts. That was all.
After all, he turned up at her apartment a few hours later
that night, very much alive, didn't he?
He got up and turned off the TV and wandered around the
coffee table, wiping his eyes and resting his head in his
hands. Then he looked down at his gun. He picked it up. He
checked the clip.
He thought of her, and how sick she was going to become,
how sick she looked already, and how useless and
destructive he was. Everyone was better off without him.
And Scully knew he was about to put the gun to his head.
Because of her words.
She screamed out at him.
The phone rang. They both jumped.
**It's her.** She felt hope and dread clash in Mulder. He
wanted her to save him, but he didn't think he could save
her. He picked up the phone. It wasn't her. Kritschgau.
Why wasn't it me, she thought. If Kritschgau hadn't phoned
Mulder's voice was more tears than tone. "Did they give
Agent Scully this disease...did they give this to her
because of me?"
Scully pulled in a huge lungful of air. She was back in
the waiting room, herself again.
But after that, she would never be the same again.
She stumbled backwards, away from Chimene, and sank down
on the nearest seat. "Oh, God." She pressed her fist to her
mouth. Her whole body trembled. "No..."
She was vaguely aware of Chimene moving, then a cup of
water was held in front of her. Dana shook her head.
Chimene put the plastic cup on a table and sat next to her,
compassion in her expression, but giving her some space.
"I'm sorry, but it was the only way. I couldn't just
hypnotise you into letting me help Fox Mulder. I can only
properly hypnotise those from whom I have drawn guilt, and
even then that has its limits."
Scully stared at her. How long had Chimene been helping
him? She didn't know if she dared ask. For years or
occasionally or recently? The ice alien incident had
happened years ago now, but perhaps he had suppressed it
all once she was cured and it had bobbed up again recently.
At least Mulder would have had someone helping him, but...
It should have been *her*, not some vampire. And she
thought she was a help to him, holding him when he wept
over Samantha's diary, for example.
Chimene's 'gift' would explain how he seemed to bounce
back so 'well' after all that they'd gone through each
year. His own spirit and drive would have been contributing
factors to his capacity. Though his self-recrimination and
ability to believe that everything was his fault would have
tipped the scales hard on the other side in counterpoint.
No wonder that Chimene's gaze when they had first come
face to face reminded her of Mulder.
Dana felt all her guilt rising up out of its bonds. She
trusted Mulder with her life. Yet all of the things and
feelings she and Mulder had hidden from each other so many
times... And she had nearly caused him to kill himself.
Chimene gently placed a hand on her shoulder. "I could
take some of that from you now, as more proof and to help
you, but we might get interrupted, and time is shortening."
Scully stared at her, still shaken.
Chimene pressed on. "Don't become a hydra as well. He
needs you. You are so important to him and do help him.
Though you both could..." She trailed off and weighed her
next words. "There are two sides to every story -- you've
experienced both, now, and found out things you had no
inkling of. That's something to keep in mind for the
future. If there's one thing I have seen; history does
repeat. Learning from it is what set the greats apart from
Scully shook herself out of her misery and glanced at her
watch. She was surprised at how little time had passed.
Though if Mulder had something like that, only more
intense, playing over and over in his brain...
"Will you let me help him?" Chimene asked.
"Why do you *want* to help him?"
"I may be a mutant, and my heart may be -- in a way --
immortal, but it still feels. I care what happens to
people, even if I am getting their feelings out of them to
sustain myself. I want to fix what went wrong. Plus, if you
two are going to prevent colonisation by aliens, that's
fine with me. I have seen many fields of battle. Some with
spears and shields, others with machine guns and bombs. I
have seen plagues. I have no wish to witness what creatures
from beyond are capable of doing to this world. I have seen
glimpses. Somehow I don't think they have much emotion.
I'd starve. Or be dissected."
There was a pause.
"But the battle that is going on in Fox Mulder's mind is a
battle or plague that can be won." Chimene persisted. "I am
Chimene stood at one side of the bed, Scully on the other.
Chimene gave Scully a reassuring look and bent to press her
lips to Mulder's forehead. She looked like a visiting
relative. Scully kept holding Mulder's hand and praying
that she was doing the right thing.
Minutes seemed to tick by. Scully wanted to ask what was
going on, and how much longer, but after what had happened
in the parking lot, she didn't dare.
Then Chimene raised herself up, her eyes full of worry and
confusion. "It's not working."
"What do you mean?"
"I can't dislodge the memories or the guilt. I can't
reduce it or put it back into the recesses of his mind or
anything." She looked stricken. "This is beyond my
abilities. I don't understand..." The expression of
uncertainty did not sit well on her face and the guilt
vampire did not allow it to remain there very long. She
looked sharply at Scully. "You try."
"You have a unique bond with him. You may be able to reach
him through that."
"Do what I was doing, and try to reach your mind out to
him. You've felt his pain on both the inside and outside.
If you can lock into what he's going through now, you may
be able to reach him."
Scully stared at Mulder, then her, then back to Mulder.
"But... What *good* am I? Look at what you showed me. He
was about to kill himself. I did that to him! I drove him
to that! I haven't been the one to help him with his pain.
You have. So if you can't help him now, how can I?"
It was Chimene's turn to stare. She shook her head
emphatically. "No. Dana, I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong
impression. I haven't been 'in the picture' nearly as long
or as often as you're thinking. Fox Mulder endured and
withstood so much before either of us knew he existed. He
had to carry around so many burdens. Then he met you. The
two of you have expanded each other's lives in so many ways
and are so much to each other. Great love doesn't only have
to bring great pain. I can't show you or tell you about the
happy times, but he can."
She watched Scully take a deep breath. "Dana Scully, you
have to bring him back so he can tell you himself how much
you help him. Then you will believe. And besides, I know
you will try. You don't want to leave him like this without
trying all possibilities, no matter how slim or fanciful. I
may have 'gifts,' but I don't have your gift, your
feelings, when it comes to him."
Scully stared down Mulder's waxen face and fingers.
She was in the clearing in the woods where the mine shaft
was. Waiting for the rescue team to arrive. Jess, Rachel's
6-year-old friend who had led Scully to Mulder's rescue,
was clinging to her -- Mulder's -- leg. Jacob was watching
Jess whispered to Mulder, "Jacob's gonna send me a
picture, isn't he? Just like with Luke. Gonna make
something bad happen. He's going to get me for helpin'
She could hear Mulder raging at himself as he stared
bleakly at Jess. **If I hadn't have done this ditch, if I
had watched where Jacob was leading me more closely, then
Jess wouldn't have had to get involved. Now I've ruined her
life too and she's always going to be looking over her
Rachel lying in the bottom of the mine shaft for four days,
then screaming in her hospital bed.
**I missed her when I searched the woods the first day we
were in Gauley. How could I have missed her? She probably
heard me calling. I should have pushed about Jacob sooner,
Mulder answering the phone in the office -- the phone call
he told Scully was about his mother's estate. But it was
the sheriff at Gauley Bridge. "I know you wanted an update
on Rachel: she's more conscious now. But one of the breaks
was a bad one near the growth plate of the bone. That leg
might not grow at the same pace as the other. Chances
aren't good that she'll walk normal again."
**I've ruined her life, broken up her family, couldn't
save Sam, couldn't save Scully -- God, this hurts but I
Watching Scully staring at the children in the playground
at Jacob and Rachel's school. His angst over her
infertility, that she would not have children...
Those memories and those thoughts and that pain and more
from those days in Gauley played again in his mind, and now
in Scully's too.
For the first few cycles, she struggled to stay afloat, to
stay upright as the tableaus wrapped around her, squeezing
at her, wanting their pound of flesh. These were the true
vampires, not Chimene. Mulder's view of his 'crimes.'
"Mulder!" Scully yelled, to no reply.
Jess whispered in her ear again and she felt so horrible.
"NO! Enough!" Scully yelled. Instead of letting it buffet
her, she grabbed hold, seizing Jess by the shoulders.
"Listen to me," she demanded, unsure if whether she was
addressing Jess or Mulder or both of them. "Jacob has been
locked away. He is going to be closely monitored. Mulder,
Jess may be 6 years old, but she has quite a spirit to her.
Enough to follow you and Jacob into the woods and come get
help for you. That spirit will prevail. I have a feeling
she'll end up in police work and suit it fine. She'll use
her experiences instead of letting them get to her."
Jess stared up at her, wide-eyed and intrigued, then she
Rachel was screaming.
Again Scully didn't flinch away. She went right up to the
bed. "Mulder, Rachel was in shock. She's out of that now. I
spoke to the doctors. Once she knew for sure that she had
been rescued -- thanks to you -- and that her parents were
with her and Jacob was in custody... She's stepping onto
the path to recovery. And yes, I do mean stepping. It will
be hard for the doctors to know for a long time whether or
not Rachel will have a permanent limp and just how bad that
will be, but she WILL be able to walk. Mulder, she'll have
bad days, but we all do. And she's alive. A limp is a small
price to pay considering the alternative. Just like me,
Mulder." Scully looked at the playground.
"I don't want you to look at me and just see what you
think I've lost, what you think I'm devastated about. You
feel so guilty, but you weren't responsible for what
happened to me or to her. Being alive and with you --
that's enough. We did both have some baggage on this case.
I feel guilty because I wouldn't accept that Jacob would do
that to his sister. That was my blind spot. So I'm more
culpable than you that Rachel was down that shaft for so
She heard a "No!" It was Mulder's voice, coming from
"Where are you?" she called. No answer.
Scully looked around. She was still in the clearing in the
woods. No Jess, no Rachel, no Mulder.
"Mulder?" There was no reply, but she headed for the
mine shaft. All she could see was darkness when she looked
down into it. "I'm not going to leave you in there."
She reached in, gritting her teeth at the pain.
Mulder was lying at the bottom. His leg was jutting out
awkwardly, just like Rachel's. Their eyes met.
She held out her hand. "Share it, Mulder. Neither of us
hiding. We can do this together."
There was a long pause, a long unbroken look between them,
into each other's souls.
He raised his hand.
Her eyes felt so heavy. She could smell hospital sheets.
She could also smell Mulder. She could *feel* Mulder, his
fingers entwined with hers. Not limp.
"Hmmm?" she whispered.
"It's okay," a voice said joyfully. Chimene.
Scully tried to open her eyes. "It's okay, relax." Chimene
said. "Both of you. You know, the only way to really stop a
hydra's head from multiplying was to cauterize the stump
with fire." Scully felt a hand briefly pat her head.
"Appropriate. Keep that in mind, huh?"
"What's she talking about?" Mulder mumbled.
Scully raised her head in time to see the door closing.
She turned to look at Mulder. He looked exhausted and
confused, but awake and no longer locked in the grip of the
She smiled in shaky relief, not letting go of his hand.
"Just wanting to make sure that history doesn't repeat
A few days later
Nearing 6 p.m.
Scully knocked on the door, then used her key. As she
expected, Mulder was sprawled out on the couch, asleep. His
abnormal readings had ceased and fortunately there had been
no lasting effects to his mind or body, just the need for a
lot of sleep and rest after being continually subjected to
that show reel in his brain. "Would rather have sat through
Scully put a grocery bag down on the entranceway table as
quietly as she could, watching him. Her partner's face may
not have been a study of angelic serenity like after
visiting Chimene in Gauley Bridge, but he was sleeping
She had done that. She may not have possessed Chimene's
bizarre ability, but she had brought Mulder back.
After her hospital vigil and experiencing the links into
Mulder's brain, Scully had been physically fine apart from
feeling exhausted, and had taken yesterday off work to
catch up on some sleep. That and then returning to work
today had kept her occupied, and she welcomed that as a
diversion from worrying over what she had witnessed. The
Her mind shied away from the warehouse and the image of
Mulder with his gun in one hand and his phone in the other,
and jumped instead to another phone call. The one she had
seen in the latest glimpse into his mind. The one from
Sheriff Sullivan. Why had Mulder lied about it to her in
Maybe the news had put him in denial mode. It had been
news that he hadn't wanted to hear about Rachel, and
repeating it to Scully would make it all the more real at
that time. Scully sighed and kept watching her partner as
Soon she went into to the kitchen to unload the few items
she'd bought him to make sure he started work again in the
morning on a decent breakfast, only to find that he'd
obviously been out shopping himself today.
"Fee fi fo fum, I smell the perfume of a G-wom-an!" came
"Sorry, didn't mean to wake you." She went back into the
living room. Mulder was sitting up. When he saw her, his
"That's okay. I didn't need that much sleep today anyway,
compared to yesterday. Looks like all systems are go for
tomorrow." He raised his arms towards the ceiling, then
towards his toes, testing his ribs out again, to his
satisfaction. Any stray twinges wouldn't stop him. "Good
day at work?"
"Got a lot done, but it was too quiet."
He paused mid-stretch, and his tone went playful. "Hey,
you took a risk just coming in here with your key. I might
have been getting brain-sucked by Chimene again."
"Well, somehow she got past the hospital guards and there
has been no sign of her at her house. Not that we have it
under surveillance anymore since there were really no
charges we could apply or evidence of what she was doing or
what she is. I have a feeling she won't 'darken your
doorstep' again." Chimene would probably start again
somewhere else. A practice she must have perfected over
time, aided by her family's wealth. *She* most likely was
the family, pretending to be each successive generation,
and would have contingency plans for when something like
this happened. Scully paused as something occurred to her.
"Perhaps she met you in the parking lot on Tuesday and at
her place on Monday because she thought the risk of
interruption would be less."
He nodded thoughtfully. "I wonder how old she really is,"
Mulder mused. "What she's seen. Too bad I didn't get to
talk to her." He stood, still going through his stretches.
"I went for a walk earlier. I want to go for one again. You
Very interested indeed, but don't ask me to clarify in
*what*, Scully thought, trying not to let her gaze linger
on his torso as the t-shirt clung tightly with his
movements, accentuating his form. The bout of
hospitalisation had not noticeably whittled down his
physique. "I think fresh air would be a good idea. It's
nice out. Let's go. We can have something to eat when we
It was nice to be getting back into their pattern of
spending more off-time together. As they walked in the park
near Mulder's apartment block, Scully told him that Rachel
was now making good progress. It was still too early to
know for sure about a permanent limp, but there was every
chance that would not eventuate. She had read of a new
surgery where the bones could be lengthened, and she had
told Rachel's doctors about it.
"You were right," Mulder said, and by the look on his
face, he was recalling how she had reined in his chaos.
"I usually am." They laughed. Then her face grew serious.
"And you were right about Jacob and what you said about my
"I wish I wasn't."
They glanced at each other, hesitating, then backing away
from saying more. They kept walking. His left hand and her
right hand were near each other at their sides,
deliberately brushing, then they joined together. Fingers
slid into place. Even though one hand was large and the
other small, they were a perfect match.
The agents had now come to the park's baseball facilities
and were walking past the bleachers. Scully halted and
looked at the field. A few kids had finished packing up
their gear and were leaving, grumbling that their play had
to be interrupted for dinner.
She walked over to the edge of the field, tugging him into
following easily enough. "Time for that baseball lesson you
owe me, Mulder." He stared at her. "I won it fair and
square," she reminded him. "Unless you're going to tell me
that you made Snap up instead of getting it from Oxford."
"But...that was only a pretend wager. And we haven't got a
bat or balls, unless we chase after those kids and
commandeer their gear."
Scully slipped her hand out of his and held both her hands
out in the classic batter's stance. "I have a bat."
Mulder got an 'are you sure that Chimene didn't get to you,
too' look on his face. "Scully, there's nothing there."
"Mulder, I'm holding a bat. If I, the skeptic, can believe
that I am holding a bat, then the least you could do is
humour me. I don't think I'm holding it correctly."
"I'm not surprised..."
"It was a pretend *bet*, so we use a pretend *bat* and
pretend balls. Means I can always hit a home run."
"Is everything pretend?" he asked quietly, staring out
over the field, then at her.
"No. Not everything. Time to get back in the swing of
things." She gazed at him intently. "Get over here, Mulder."
For a time the only noises were their breathing and
laughter and mock 'ball meets wood' noises as Mulder kept
his arms around her and they practiced their swing. Once he
grabbed hold tightly and picked her up and whirled her
right around before setting her down again. Mulder was
showing no signs of getting tired.
It was like hitting their frustrations and barriers away.
"That jerk in the red Porsche who cut me off two weeks
"The pasta in the FBI canteen." Mulder started a big
swing, but Scully dragged back on it. "No," she said, "*I*
like the pasta!"
"Hey, if we're honouring one of your bets, can I get one
of my bets realized?"
"I suppose so... Which one?"
"Hmmmm. That needs careful consideration. Gimme time to
Scully was happy and breathless. This is what they had
needed. She moved back a bit against Mulder, enjoying being
encircled in his arms, readying herself for the next
'pitch'. It would be so easy to just keep this playful and
light, on general terms. And to go home happy tonight,
thinking that all was rosy and fine and would continue to
But she remembered what Chimene had said. And what she had
She took a deep breath and lowered the 'bat.'
"Scully?" came the inquiry, soft in her ear.
She hesitated. He began to take his arms away. She turned
around, putting her arms around his waist. She looked up at
him, unable to hide her fear.
"Scully, you're scaring me here."
Likewise. "Sorry... It's just that... Chimene..."
Disappointment. "Is this what tonight was about?"
"No. I loved doing this. I want to keep doing it. But
first we have to talk. Something that Chimene showed me,
something from the past -- it really scared me. Been making
me think. About how much we keep from each other and the
misunderstandings and...the consequences."
She stared at his t-shirt. "She showed me the night that
the ice alien was autopsied and stolen. From your point of
There was a pause.
She felt a shudder run through him. She looked up at him
and he down at her, and he knew that she knew his secret.
"I..." He floundered helplessly, stunned, and scanning her
face for her reaction. She kept her expression
compassionate. "I need to sit down."
Neither of them let go of their hold as they made it to
the nearest bench, nor when they sank down onto it.
The field may have been deserted, but the partners did
have an audience of one as they sat holding on the seat.
Chimene watched, listening to them talk: the start,
stumble, then perseverance through the potential minefield
about that night, that period of their lives. Eventually,
their words brought them through to the other side,
together, carrying the burdens together instead of alone.
Much lighter ones now too. Some even destroyed.
That field led into a few others. The guilt vampire
watched the relief on Scully's face as Mulder assured her
that she, not Chimene, had helped him after his mother's
suicide, that Scully was the one there for him every day,
and that was the most important gift to him. Just like when
Scully had cancer and confessed to her counselor that
Mulder's passion and drive was a great source of strength
that she drew on. She told him.
Scully raised up to press a kiss to Mulder's forehead,
then to his cheek. Their lips met for a moment, on his
initiative and her acceptance, then they resumed their
hold. Chimene nodded in approval to herself. "Keep it up,"
she whispered, then left to find herself a new client.
My website for my X-Files fanfiction, thanks to the
wonderful Skyfox, is now at: http://tenxffic.tripod.com
THANKS TO: Laurie and the IMTP team for all their hard
work and help. Debbie, Gerry and Suzanne for their speedy
and thorough beta reading, and Suzanne again for the med
details. To Sally and Dawn for answering my questions about
"Dark Reflections" and then giving me an early look,
despite it being a busy time for them, and also for giving
their permission to continue my events on from it. Thanks
Judie and Mac too.
And double thanks to Vered, my illustrator, for putting up
with me and my snail's pace. Upon Laurie introducing us,
Vered said, "So, what does this guilt vampire look like so
I can start work?" Me: "Um... I haven't got that far
yet..." Next day Vered sent me a jpg file, saying that
she'd had a bit of a hunt around and this was what she
pictured. Perfect. I love what you've come up with and hope
to keep working with you.
DEDICATED TO: Laurie. Thanks for all the help and
support you've given me in the past and for this story.
(And for being the voice of logic when I told you that the
draft was under the minimum length. Just extend the MT --