========================================================================== NOTICE: - Deslea's URL is now http://www.deslea.com or http://fiction.deslea.com. - Email address is now email@example.com. - May be archived by Scully/Skinner specialty archives only. This information supercedes all other information found in this file. ========================================================================== Eden's Reprise *NC17* 1/1 Deslea R. Judd firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Copyright 1999 DISCLAIMER This work is based on The X Files, a creation of Chris Carter owned by him, Twentieth Century Fox, and Ten-Thirteen Productions. Samantha Waters is the property of the owners of the show Profiler. Eden is the property of the author. All other characters mentioned remain the intellectual property of Chris Carter et all and are used without their consent and without commercial gain. While this work refers to real dates and places, particularly concerning the Persian Gulf War, the content is fictional. The U.S.S. Kennedy is completely fictitious. Archive: OK to archive/forward, credited and without alteration (html formatting permitted). Spoilers/Timeframe: After 5x20: The End. Categories: Story, Crossover (Profiler), Romance (Skinner/Scully), Mytharc/X-File, Angst. Author's notes: No knowledge of Profiler is needed to read the story. I've exercised literary licence and had Sharon and Skinner separate in May 1994 instead of July 1995. Regarding other dates, Mulder said in Emily that Scully was abducted for four weeks; earlier canon (eg datestamp in Duane Barry, 3, One Breath) had her missing from August to November. Also, Christmas Carol implied Scully joined the FBI in 1992, while earlier canon (Pilot; also see Brian Lowry) had her join in 1990. I've followed the early canon in both cases. I've also assumed as a point of reference that Skinner served in Vietnam in 1969, after changes to the Military Service Act allowing for conscription by lottery (he stated he wasn't drafted but this implies drafting was still occurring) but before Nixon began to withdraw troops from Vietnam. Rating: NC17 for sex and heavy use of language. A PG13 version with no explicit sexual activity will also be made available when the story is complete. Summary: An outraged Mulder confronts Scully and Skinner on their complicity in the shutting down of the X Files. Why did they betray him? It's a story that goes all the way back to 1991... More stories at: http://home.primus.com.au/drjudd/fun.html NEW! To receive my stories automatically, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org PROLOGUE 14 October 1998 (12.01am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland The door slammed shut. Two people, breathlessly entwined, fell apart from one another in a heap. Each dove for discarded garments in the firelight, going for their weapons. Mulder noted their disheveled appearance with some amusement. "It's only me," he said smugly. "Did I interrupt?" Scully came up from behind the couch, sweeping back a mass of copper hair from her face. She dropped her gun in disgust. "Mulder, what the hell are you doing here?" Her blouse was loose from her skirt, and she smoothed it out, fastening an errant button. Skinner remained tense. His shirt was half- undone, but he made no attempt to remedy his appearance. "What is it, Agent Mulder?" His tone was even, but Mulder noticed with a frown that he hadn't put down his gun. It was trained on some area of the floor between them. His fears grew, and he held his own weapon likewise. "What is it, Agent Mulder?" the older man repeated firmly. He edged his way around Scully, getting between her and Mulder. "Any word on our perpetrator?" he added. Mulder shook his head. "Nothing on the case, but I did find out some interesting information." Scully moved back into view. "What is it, Mulder?" He advanced on her, suddenly angry. "For one thing, I found out about your links to the military. I had to find that one out from Waters a woman who has known you less than a year. Telling her was a bad slip on your part, Scully. I think you've been with //them// all along." Scully was not so much intimidated as annoyed. "Mulder, I was a Lieutenant Junior Grade. I served for less than a year. That hardly constitutes having military links, let alone military allegiance," she snapped irritably. "Six years and we're still going through the you're- with-them stuff? I thought we'd gotten through that." "Yes, but you were screwing the Brigadier General here, Scully," Mulder pointed out, gesturing to Skinner. She flinched slightly. "One of the Deputy Chiefs Of Staff For Counter- Biowarfare." She made no attempt to refute his information. She protested, "We knew each other, but for God's sake, Mulder, he was in operations, not intelligence!" He ignored this. "The same man who was later made our boss. The same man who testified at your side at a top-secret Congressional hearing, of which I knew nothing, to keep the X Files closed six months ago. The same man who made you his right hand once I was safely back in profiling." Skinner stepped neatly between them. "I think that's enough, Mulder. Why don't you give me your gun and we'll discuss this reasonably?" "So you can kill me like you killed my father? I don't think so." Mulder trained his gun on Skinner's chest, point blank. Scully threw herself between the men. She was shouting. "Mulder, no, you've got it all wrong. We //did// have the X Files shut down, but we're not with them. They have our-" Skinner cut her off, pushed her clear of the younger man's gun. "No, Scully, it's too late. Better that he knows." Scully gave him a look of bewilderment. "You're right, Mulder. Everything. It's been us all along. She was always against you, and so was I." Scully turned on him. "What?" she demanded. She turned to Mulder. "No, Mulder, no, it isn't true. I don't know why he's lying. It's not like that at all. They have-" Skinner interrupted her, said gently, "I know you want to protect him, but he won't buy it, Dana. There's no use." "Walter, don't do this," she said in bewilderment. "It's too late, we have to tell him-" The door burst open a second time. Agent Waters. "What is this, Grand Central Station?" Scully demanded. "Go away, Samantha. You don't want to hear this. Mulder, they have our-" Skinner broke in urgently, "Scully, NO!" Mulder seemed oblivious to this exchange. He grabbed her arm, yelled, "Shut up, you lying bitch!" Skinner pushed him. "Get your hands off her, you filthy bastard!" "Like you can talk. You've been fucking her for years, and meanwhile I got screwed!" The door closed gently as Waters came in, Scully's dismissal notwithstanding. She regarded the bickering trio indulgently. She looked mildly amused. Skinner. "Mulder, face it. We were playing you for a fool." "You traitorous little bastard." Mulder turned on his partner. "Samantha, go away. Scully and I have business to settle." Samantha had had enough. She said, loudly but calmly, "Will you all be quiet and hear what I have to say?" Scully turned on her with temper, which she knew was disproportionate. "This is my apartment! Don't tell my guests to shut up, damn it, that's my job!" Skinner threw a glass into the fireplace. As it shattered, all three of them turned to face him, their expressions innocent. There was a moment of dead silence, and then Skinner said in a murderous voice, "Two of the people in this apartment are on duty, and so those two people are going to explain exactly why they have broken in on a quiet night between the two that are not." As Mulder and Waters both opened their mouths to speak, he went on, "Mulder can go first, because I bet I'm going to like his story the least." Mulder was livid. "I saw the Smoking Man. He gave me a nice little rundown on the clandestine activities of a certain Dana Scully and Walter Skinner." Scully was annoyed. "They're hardly clandestine, Mulder. We're dating, not plotting a coup." Skinner rolled his eyes. "All right, all right, don't start. Waters, what's your excuse?" Samantha shot Mulder a baleful glare. "My partner here toddled off to Richmond to mix it up with the Morley Man, ditching me in the process-" at this, Scully groaned fervently "- so I did some investigating into what we're //meant// to be investigating, and found out that our stalker was in Boston this evening, planting a chrysanthemum in the hotel room you booked for tomorrow's case conference, Dana." She shot Mulder a look. "Which means that you're off the hook, Mulder." Scully protested angrily, "Mulder was never a suspect!" Samantha snorted. "Maybe not for you or I, but why do you think loverboy here has spent the last five minutes standing between you and Mulder?" She shrugged. "I went to his apartment to tell him, but he was gone. The Smoking Man was just leaving. I collared him and made him tell me what he'd told Mulder. I just knew he'd be here, acting threatening, and that the AD would be frightened for you. It could have gotten explosive. So I figured I'd better come over and tell you that, insane as my partner may be, he's not the killer." Both Mulder and Scully turned to stare at Skinner. He looked shame-faced, but faced Mulder's accusatory glare first. "You fit the profile, Mulder. Of everyone close to her, you're the most obsessive. The murders started in 1994, while she was missing. You can't blame me for wondering." "Damn it, Skinner; I knew I fit the profile, but I thought you knew me better," Mulder said in fury. The older man was unrepentant. "Mulder, I protect my family first and ask questions later." He took Scully's hand protectively. The pieces were falling into place for Mulder. "That was why you were talking over the top of her. You thought I busted in because I'd found out you were together and I was jealous. You thought if you could disillusion me about her I might not kill her." Samantha nodded. "Precisely." Scully made a sound of exasperation. "Fine. Mulder is pissed off but he's not the killer. Samantha got ditched welcome to the club. I have a stalker's memento waiting for me tomorrow in Boston. Everything's explained. Now, would you both please go away? In case you hadn't noticed, I'm trying to make out with my date here." Samantha and Skinner snickered, but Mulder shook his head. "No, Scully. Nothing's explained. I still don't know why you betrayed me. Now, it seems to me that you're stuck with me for a while, so why don't you tell me the truth?" he demanded. He stared at those linked hands uncomprehendingly. "No more lies. I want to know it all. And I want to know...why." ONE: EIGHT YEARS PREVIOUSLY U.S.S. Kennedy Off Al Ahmadi, Kuwait April 5, 1991 They were entrancing. A woman, young. Twenty five, maybe. Naval blues. Lieutenant Junior Grade. She'd spent the last three months in fatigues and combat gear, probably; but tonight, she was dressed for honour, and maybe for love. The man was older. Forty, perhaps. Two ten- year pips on the marine uniform; the second one very shiny and new. His rank was unclear from a distance, but he had an air of command. "What will you do now?" the man was saying. Copper shimmering as she flung back her head. "We leave at 0600 hours. I'm still on secondment to Quantico. The arrangement was, I would be released for combat during active conflict. With the final ceasefire, the conflict is over, so the Bureau owns me again. I'm expecting Willis will give me, maybe, a week off before I have to start teaching classes again." Strong arms encircling her protectively. "That's the boyfriend." A slight shrug. Shifting shadows in the dark. "He was, but I don't know if he still will be when I get home. I've changed a lot these last few months." The man was nodding slowly. "I know the feeling." The woman looked up, disquiet betrayed for the first time. "What about you?" "My unit will be around managing peacekeeping for another couple of weeks. Then we go home, and then I'm on assignment to the Pentagon again. I've heard rumblings that someone in the State Department wants me, but I won't know the outcome of those negotiations until the deal is done. Unlike you, I don't get consulted. I just get bought and sold. Slavery plus prestige." "God bless America," the woman said drily. "You wouldn't just leave? I mean you've served well beyond your minimum. You don't need to still be in the Service." A deep sigh. "No, but I don't really want to cut ties, either. The Service is like a father to me. It's kind of a Marine thing. That doesn't seem to concern you." His voice was curious, but not reproachful. The woman leaned against him, arms sliding around his waist. "I wanted med school; but doing it at Naval Academy was my father's dream, not mine. When the FBI asked to take me on secondment, I felt like there was something just for me out there. No, I won't be sorry to go." She smiled faintly. "But my father was so disappointed when I took the FBI position. He envisaged a life at sea for me, serving God and country. I'm glad I've had this stint on active service it's something that's made him very proud, very happy." The man nodded with some understanding. "Besides," she added shyly, "I found you." They stayed that way on the dance floor, drifting among all the others for a long time. Finally, the man spoke. "I love you. You'll never know how much." "And I, you," the woman said earnestly. "We gave each other back our lives. That's not something that just disappears when the war is over." "No," the man admitted sadly. "But neither does your boyfriend. Neither does my wife." "A wife you admit you do not love." Her voice was gentle. "No, I don't. But you and I and she are all Catholic. Divorce is out of the question. I could never marry you. And with you it could never be anything else. I don't need to make love to you to know that." Hand cradling her cheek. "And you're still so very young." The woman held herself with great dignity, but she was close to tears. "I know you're right of course I do. And yet here we both are, and I want you so damn bad." He touched her face with big, oddly tender fingers. He was a big man, and his tenderness was that solid, comforting sweetness that can only be given by the strong to the strong. "Do you realise that after tonight, we will never see each other again?" he said softly, painfully. "Yes," the woman said harshly, the sound tearing from her throat. She drew him down roughly and kissed him, a first kiss, kissed him hard with love and pain and need. She pulled away with a gasp. "And I will love you for as long as I live." She broke free, and hurried from him, and then she wept. 14 October 1998 (12.14am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland Scully spoke first. "You knew I did my MD at the Naval Academy here in Maryland, Mulder?" Mulder nodded. "You did your internship at Quantico some kind of exchange arrangement between us and the Academy at the time and Jack Willis liked you so much he wanted you to teach there. The FBI paid the Navy some kind of monetary compensation to get you on a seven year contract, after which time you would have to return to the Navy to do your compulsory service." Scully nodded. "As you might know, I was given a medical discharge from my obligations after I got cancer; which meant the FBI had me for good. But until then, I could still be called up for service in the event of an armed conflict; and that was what happened at the beginning of my second year at Quantico, when we issued the January 15 deadline against Saddam Hussein. My contract did allow for the possibility of the FBI paying the Navy more compensation to keep me home, but by then Jack and I were seeing one another, and we felt it would look bad like I'd taken advantage of our relationship. And I wanted to go it was something that I knew would mend the rift between my father and I." Mulder was nodding. "That explains why I didn't see it when I read your file it was military leave while you were with the Bureau. I'd no more have looked at that than I'd have looked at your annual leave record." He met her gaze. "So you went to Kuwait." "She was in ICU on the Kennedy," Skinner supplied. "She did experimental surgery right there in the ward sometimes. She saved my life, and a lot of my men that Triage gave up on." His voice was proud. Scully looked away, her expression reflective. Samantha, who knew some of this, put a hand on her shoulder. "Samantha said Scully got a Purple Heart that you both did," Mulder said curiously. At this, the two exchanged glances, remembering. U.S.S. Kennedy Off Al Ahmadi, Kuwait January 17, 1991 The man was beginning to come around. He opened his eyes, managed to fix them on the epaulettes of the woman who leaned over him. "Lieutenant," he mumbled. "What's your name, Soldier?" the woman asked gently, two fingers touched firmly to his throat, looking at her watch. Titian hair, he thought dimly. Far too young to be a doctor. But he knew from her manner and confidence that that was what she was. And why the hell couldn't he breathe? "Skinner," the man managed. "Walter Skinner. Brigadier General. Marine corps. Where am I?" She listened to his chest with a frown. "The U.S.S. Kennedy. You were ambushed from what we can tell along with a couple of dozen of your company. I'm Lieutenant J.G. Scully." She pulled the bloodied remains of his fatigues down to cover him. "Well, I have good news and bad news." At his weakly querying look, she said with a small smile, "The good news is that you're up for a purple heart." "Damn, already got one," he bantered weakly. "What's the bad news?" She smiled faintly, but her voice was firm. "The bad news is you'll only live to get it if you'll consent to me operating right here and now with a local anaesthetic and a lot of morphia." He winced. "Triage have given up on me?" he said softly. The woman nodded reluctantly. "There's no way I could get an operating room right now. And we can't wait." He nodded at this, unsurprised. "What's the problem?" "You have four broken ribs, at the least, two of which have perforated your lungs. Classic pneumothorasis. You have a good prognosis if we can get in there and seal off those lungs." "Then why won't triage allocate an O.R.?" he demanded. The woman spoke confidently. He had no reason to doubt her. "Sir, you have lost a lot of blood, and we don't have enough to transfuse you. My superiors don't believe you can survive, which is why they're refusing to give me an O.R. However, I believe I can get you through with a technique from bloodless surgery a large infusion of saline into your bloodstream. You have enough blood products to keep your body going, but not the volume to transport them to where they're needed. The saline would solve that problem. I've operated this way on two of your men already, and both men are going to live. My commanding officer has given me permission to try it in the ward on any patient able to consent, but it's at your own risk." "You believe you can do it?" he said dubiously. "I won't lie to you. The associated risks are enormous. I have no anesthetist, no surgeon, no wardsmen, and exactly one nurse. But in terms of the techniques, yes, I do," she said softly. "And you don't have any alternatives other than to wait to die." "You've got a shithouse bedside manner, Lieutenant," the man said with a grin. "All right, let's do it." Woozy. That was how his mother always said it whenever she was pregnant. Woozy. He gulped at the oxygen, the morphia in his body metabolising rapidly in response. He felt the last of the delirium lift. His chest ached, but the ache was not the desperate, gasping ache it had been before. Woman's voice, gentle. Lieutenant Scully. "Hi there, Soldier," she said sweetly. Tender touch on his cheek. He leaned into her palm for a long, heady moment. "How am I?" She drew away, businesslike once more, but she was beaming. "You're doing great. Your bloodwork is lousy, as we expected; but your vital signs are gradually improving. It will be some days before your blood supply is replenished, but you're going to make it." There was wonder in his voice. "I didn't think you'd be able to do it." "And yet you let me operate?" she asked, surprised. He shrugged slightly. "Lieutenant, I'd rather die from someone trying to help me than from someone's neglect. I know this is war and I know there are realities to do with lack of resources, but when it came down to it, you were prepared to fight for me when the Service would have let me die. That wasn't something I could refuse to accept." He met her gaze with respect. The woman had a shamefaced little grin on her face. "Not very strategic in battle, huh?" She shook her head, suddenly reflective. "I'm not here to serve my country. I'm here serving the good men who serve my country. That doesn't stop just because they become inexpedient." He shook his head silently with a faint smile. "You're not going to last in the Service with an attitude like that, Lieutenant." His voice was kind. "I'm aware of that," she agreed evenly. "But you showed integrity and commitment and resourcefulness and a willingness to put yourself on the line. So don't you ever let anyone tell you you aren't a good soldier, because you're one of the best." "That means a lot to me, Sir," she said softly, "thank you." "You're welcome," he grinned goodnaturedly. "Now, Lieutenant, what would you say if I-" He was interrupted by a sharp tremor, followed immediately by a siren. "What the hell-" "Attention all personnel. Condition red. No drill. Repeat, no drill. Contamination alert A- one-A. General protection procedures to begin immediately." There was a thudding sound as the only visible door, a heavy firedoor, slid shut. He turned to Scully. "Care to translate, Lieutenant?" She was very pale. "We've been hit by a biowarfare agent. Each sector is sealed off while the air purification and containment program runs its course." He said slowly, "And I suppose there's some reason that you're sitting there instead of getting out the pyrido-stigmide bromide?" She shot him a resigned look. "There isn't any. Not for ICU. Limited resources, all that. There's one cannister in this sector, for the doctor me." He snapped, "Then for God's sake, Lieutenant, go and get it. You're needed you proved that with what you did today. Save yourself. Don't just sit here and die because we will and you think you should too." Relectantly, she rose, and did as he said. He watched her go, his heart heavy. There was a sound a few moments later. It was the Lieutenant, and she was carrying a canister with a mask attached by a tube. She took a gulp from the mask and thrust it at him. "Sir. Have some." He pushed the mask away. "Damn it, Lieutenant, these things only have enough for one person. Get it away from me." She took another gulp and said through the mask, "Sir, have the damn gas, will you?" She held her breath, dangling the mask out once more. "No! You're younger than me, and more well," he insisted. "If you want to give it to someone, give it to one of my men. Mallard over there he has a young child. Now take it away." Another gulp. "Mallard and everyone else here is terminal. You aren't. Now have some of the fucking gas." Her voice was muffled through the thin plastic. "You're swearing at a superior officer, Lieutenant." Threads of copper flying as she leaned down towards him in fury. "I'm swearing at a //dead// officer if you don't have the gas. You told me someone being prepared to fight for you was not something you could refuse to accept. There is anthrax and God knows what else coming through the air vents even as we speak. Now prove you weren't lying and have the gas." She held it out once more, and this time, she didn't take it back when she needed to breathe. He stared at her for a long moment, but finally, he took it, if only to make her start using it again herself. He took a deep gulp of the gas and handed the mask back to her. She took it, breathing deeply, then passed it to him, holding her breath. She sat down on the bed at his side. They took it in turns that way for some time, the air purifiers working furiously. They tried hard not to listen to the sounds of the dying the ill-fated Mallard, and others gasping for breath. "Pulmonary anthrax," she said softly through the mask at one point. Her voice was a little strained, but it betrayed nothing certainly not to Skinner, who didn't know her. "Highly virulent. The Iraqis did their job well." He nodded slowly. During his turn, he said gravely, "They're trying to kill people. Why fuck around? Besides, it's not like our lot aren't doing the same." "We signed the Geneva Convention," she said noncommittally. "I know we did. But I know what I know. And I've said too much." They fell silent again, and at some point the disembodied speaker informed them that the condition had been downgraded. A little after that, the fire doors slid open once more. Just then, though, the gas stopped flowing, and Scully threw the empty cannister down in disgust. "What do we do now?" he asked softly. "We wait. If we've each gotten enough of the gas to neutralise whatever pathogens we breathed in during the initial explosion, then we live. If not-" she stopped. He nodded. "I know." He touched her hand. "There's nothing more you can do here, Lieutenant. The others are dead. I feel fine. Go to pathology and have whatever tests they'll give you." She was still for a long moment, but then she nodded. "All right. I'll be back." But she wasn't. Operation Desert Storm - #47 Al Ahmadi, Kuwait 23 January 1991 Her chest hurt. "Hi there, Soldier," a man said, his voice kind. "How are you feeling?" Skinner. Walter Skinner. Scully blinked. "Sir? Where am I?" "You're at my base, Lieutenant. Forty-Seven, over the other side of Al Ahmadi." "I'm not on the Kennedy? How-" she stopped. "I was tested, then discharged on the day of the explosion," he said quietly. "I called up your file when I got back to my base I wanted to write a commendation for you. When I realised you hadn't been innoculated for anthrax God, woman, what were you thinking, sharing your gas with me?" "Anthrax?" she managed. "I was right, then?" The older man nodded. "That's not public knowledge, but yes. An extremely virulent strain." She considered. "Am I going to die?" Skinner shook his head. "No. I pulled some strings; brought you here for treatment. I had you vaccinated and dosed you up on antiserum," he revealed. "A little after the fact, but the antibodies seem to be doing their job. It was close, though. Apparently you went into cardiac arrest in Pathology. By the time I realised you must be ill and made it back to the Kennedy, you were in ICU. You only came off life support yesterday." "You got me anthrax shots?" she said, bewildered. "But there's none to be had in all Kuwait!" He gave a wry little grin. "You don't know who I am, do you?" She shook her head sluggishly. "Should I?" "I'm in Counter-Biowarfare. I'm the Deputy Chief Of Staff for Operations." He waited, wondering if she would become girlish and shy at the revelation of his position. Somehow he didn't think so, though. This one was on the ball, and he knew she was on military leave from the FBI. No, she'd ask him the right questions, he was sure of it. She didn't disappoint, and his respect for her grew. "Did you know this was coming?" He spoke frankly, without concealment. "No. I'm not on the intelligence side of things. I knew what to expect in the case of a bioattack, though." He grinned suddenly. "I guess we're both up for purple hearts now." "I guess so." She sounded tired. "Thank you for bringing me here, Sir." He nodded in acknowledgement, and touched her hand fleetingly. "Just returning the favour, Lieutenant." He gave her an indulgent smile. "Get some sleep." 14 October 1998 (12.23am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland Skinner spoke. "I pulled some strings and I kept her at my base until the ceasefire. I wanted her to teach my doctors her bloodless surgery techniques. They weren't unheard of, but they weren't something doctors in mainstream medicine were using efficiently still aren't. Silly, because it's a wonderful thing to have under your belt when blood supplies are scarce and //everything// was scarce in Al Ahmadi in 1991." He frowned. "Among the scarcities were condoms and the Pill. By the end of the conflict we had a few women who were pregnant to fellow soldiers we called it Friendly Fire. There was a lot of pressure on the women to abort. I was heavily involved in advocating for these women to receive appropriate medical care and be sent home on medical leave without recrimination. Dana was the only one backing me up. We were perceived to be bringing our religion into State affairs, although I think in Dana's case it was probably more to do with women's rights at that time. We were successful at least in my unit and those below me in the chain of command but we made a lot of enemies doing it. It drew us together." Scully was laughing. "I forgot about that. They called us the Catholic Club." "Did they?" Skinner was surprised. "You didn't know?" He shook his head. Mulder smiled faintly. "Was that when you-" They both shook their heads vehemently. At his look of surprise, Skinner said with unusual candour, "We fell in love out there. But there was Sharon we just couldn't." "But you never forgot either of you," Samantha said gently. Skinner nodded. "And then I was seconded to the FBI." TWO: FIVE YEARS PREVIOUSLY 30 December, 1993 Office Of The Assistant Director Federal Bureau Of Investigation Washington, D.C. Three months. Three months, he'd been here; and he had valiantly struggled against the urge to identify the whereabouts of a Dr Dana Scully. He had blocked her studiously from his mind. He even had Kimberley make his calls for him so that he would never need to see an internal telephone listing. She must think he was an arrogant prick. And now, his least favourite subordinate Blevins was in here, bitching about some crazy case in which his star agent, Jack Willis, had gone crazy and kidnapped his ex-girlfriend who just happened to be another of his agents, nearly killing her before killing himself. Some crazy report about body switching...a decidedly unstable agent that no-one could get rid of because he had friends in Congress, but trust me, the guy's a psycho (at this point in the tale, Mulder said delightedly, "Blevins thought I was psycho?"), the woman they'd brought in to discredit him and all she'd managed to do so far was damn near get herself killed- Nearly killed? Dana? Could it be? At this, Skinner held up a hand. "Blevins, look, if they're that much trouble, I'll take them off your hands. I can live with you owing me a favour or two." Insane! Stupid, stupid thing to do. Blevins seemed to confirm it with his look. "With all due respect, Sir, you're still pretty new to the Bureau. You've never been a field agent and you've never supervised field agents here, marine commander or not. You don't know what you're letting yourself in for. These two aren't part of Violent Crimes. Mulder and Scully are their own crazy little section, and sitting on them is a full-time job." Scully! It was her. Titian hair sapphire eyes and damn-it-but-when-had-he-become-a-romance- writer? Whatever had he done? But the offer was made, so he said evenly, "I'll take my chances. But if they're as bad as you say, Blevins, you're gonna be crawling up my ass for the rest of your life." Blevin laughed. "You better believe it." And as it happened, that was just how it turned out. 14 October 1998 (12.37am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland Mulder spoke. "So when did you find out what you'd let yourself in for?" Skinner made a face. "Almost immediately. Senator Richard Matheson contacted me. He said he wanted you looked out for. He also told me that there were certain people who would want to make sure I reported back to them about your work. Matheson warned me for my own safety to do as I was told, but to only give them the barest minimum of information that I could. He also advised me to take your overall work seriously, even if I couldn't manage it for individual cases." He frowned. "There was another call immediately after from your man in the State Department the one you called Deep Throat. Much of what he had to say echoed Matheson, and he also advised me to treat any approaches from the Department of Defense with great caution. By this point I was beginning to get an idea of how big this thing was, even though I had no idea //what// it was. Then, of course, I was contacted by the Smoking Man himself. I approached Blevins, then the Director, both of whom told me that I should do as he told me. The Director was a little concerned - he told me to watch my back." "You must have been shitting nickels," Samantha laughed. Skinner laughed softly. "I was, but more than anything I wanted to know what the hell I was up against. It was the only way I knew to watch Dana's back." Scully spoke, very quietly. "I'll never forget the day Blevins told us we would be reporting to you. We were called to your office, Walter; but the name Skinner suggested nothing to me it's a common name. Then when Blevins met us at the door and showed us in, and I saw you, I thought I'd suddenly, very quietly lost my mind." Mulder gave a sudden grin. "Hey, I remember that, Scully. You and I stood next to one another, and we were facing Skinner and Blevins. Blevins and I got to arguing, and neither of you said a word; just stood there sizing one another up. I just figured you were embarrassed by me." "You were fighting?" Scully said blankly. Mulder gave a pointed laugh, and she flushed. Skinner groaned. "That was awful. I knew we weren't going to have some sentimental reconciliation, not in that setting; but it was like we were both made of stone." Mulder turned to Scully. "I remember you left your scarf, and you had to go back and get it. Was that on purpose?" She shook her head. "It was an accident shock probably had a lot to do with it. But I realised as soon as we left. I decided to wait a few minutes before I went back, though, so that Blevins would be gone." Mulder laughed. "Oh, to be a fly on //that// wall..." 18 January, 1994 Office Of The Assistant Director Federal Bureau Of Investigation Washington, D.C. "Send her in." Skinner hung up the phone. Morosely, he held Dana's scarf to his cheek, turned his face into it. How much could a man hurt and still live? She came in, but he didn't look up. She sat down unbidden, and they sat in silence for some time. At last, he spoke. "I heard about your father, Dana. I'm sorry." She nodded slowly. "Thank you, Walter. I'm okay we patched things up after the war." "It was recent, Blevins said?" "A couple of weeks ago. She met his gaze. "You heard about Jack, too, I suppose?" He nodded. "We broke up when I came back from the Gulf. I'd changed so much, and he couldn't understand. His death wasn't something that hit me hard. But him trying to hurt me " She stopped suddenly. He leaned across the desk and took her hands in his, and she held him tightly. They sat there a long moment, their hands still locked, sharing the silence. At last, though, she asked softly, "How are things with Sharon?" He shrugged. "I want to leave, she wants to leave, and we both stay. Situation normal all fucked up." He gave a wry little grin. They stayed that way a long moment; and then they broke into laughter. It wasn't an amused laughter or a happy laughter; it was the dismayed laughter of those who look at the world and, faced with the choice to laugh or weep, choose to laugh. But it was laughter just the same, and when it ended, both began to heal. "I've missed you," Scully said softly. "So much." He nodded slowly. "I've thought of you a lot the last three years. There were times when I thought it would send me insane," he revealed starkly. She said nothing, but her look spoke volumes. "Are we going to be able to work together?" she asked finally. Skinner, who had no idea whether or not they could, said carefully, "I can if you can." At this, she favoured him with a sweet smile. "You've got yourself a deal." 24 April, 1994 Home of Walter and Sharon Skinner Georgetown, Washington DC "I want to know who she is." Walter rubbed his temples wearily. "I've told you a dozen times, Sharon, there is no other woman. You're the only woman I've ever been with." She spoke quietly, sadly. "I know that, Walter. But there's another woman, just the same, isn't there?" At his silence, she asked tentatively, "Is it the woman you fell in love with in Kuwait?" He nodded slowly. "Our paths have crossed again. She works with me has done for a few months now." He bowed his head. "I've never said or done anything with her that you couldn't have heard, Sharon." Sharon lifted her overnight bag, shifting its weight onto her shoulder. "No. But somewhere along the line you gave her your love. And Walter, far more than your body or your intimacy or your children or your secrets, that was the one thing you were supposed to keep for me." He nodded solemnly, acknowledged his guilt, and listened as she left. THREE: FOUR YEARS PREVIOUSLY 14 October 1998 (12.43am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland Skinner took up the story. "In May of that year, Deep Throat died. I was told to shut the X Files down, and that was what I did with some relief, I might add. I sent Dana back to Quantico to teach. Stupidly, I believed that would be the end of it that she would be safe. I didn't really realise that we were all in it beyond the point of no return." Scully gave a resigned sigh. "I was furious with you, and you knew it," she said softly. Skinner nodded. "I went to see her at home," he told Mulder. "I wanted her to know that it hadn't been my doing." Mulder looked at him, openly disbelieving. "That's the only reason?" he challenged quietly. He had deduced this part of the story. "Well, no," Skinner admitted. "There was something else I needed to tell her, too." Home of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland 21 May, 1994 The fire flickered. Damn him for coming over as she stretched out in the quiet, the fire blazing, her music playing softly. Damn him for coming over and seeing her, not as his agent, but as the woman who loved him; and for staring at her in the golden light, his face telling a thousand secrets, loving her back as deeply as ever. Damn him for making her ache for him to hold her, to love her, just this once! "I still don't understand why you're here, Sir," she said coolly, pouring herself some more wine. She poured him one, too, and set it down before him before she stopped to give the idea any thought. Bad move, that it blurred the boundaries, made him her houseguest, rather than her boss. "Dana, don't call me that. We're off duty." He leaned back on the couch, taking up his glass and drinking from it. "As for why I'm here, it's not really that hard to understand. I'm telling you to watch your back. It wasn't my idea to close down the X Files. That order came from a lot higher than me." She drained her glass off and set it down sharply, shaking her head a little to clear it. "Yeah, I got that part; I just don't know why you bothered warning me." She sounded bitter, morose. His tone was annoyed. "Dana, when are you going to get it through your skull that I am not on their side? I'm just a working stiff between a rock and a hard place. I cannot help you. What I can do is help you to help yourself. That's what I'm trying to do here." Scully looked away, ashamed. "All right. Sorry," she added endearingly. She brought her legs up and crossed them beneath her, facing him on the couch. She said tentatively, "So how are you, Walt?" He met her glance with a wry little smile. "I'm okay, Dana. Kind of wishing I'd never taken this particular position, but I'll get there." "Because of me, you mean?" she asked softly. He shook his head sharply. "No. No! Because I know now that I'm in a much deeper mess than I was bargaining for. I'd have quit by now, except that I want to be there to watch your back." She nodded slowly in the fading light. At last, she said quietly, "Level with me. What did you really come here to tell me, Walter?" He made no effort to mislead her. He said starkly, "Sharon and I have separated. We'll be divorced soon. We're also trying for a Church annulment. Impaired consent I was pretty heavily affected by Vietnam when we married. The diocesan tribunal advocate seems to think we'll get it." Dana bowed her head. "I'm sorry." Walter's face was wistful, but not sad. "I'm not." "Really?" she said shyly, looking up. His voice was reflective. "I stayed a lot longer than I should have for everyone's sake." Something in his tone made her frown. "Regrets?" "Only for what I should have had for what //we// should have had." He met her gaze, concealing nothing. Tentatively, she said carefully, "What are you telling me, Walter?" "That I never stopped." She didn't ask what he meant. She watched him steadily, waiting. The silence was unbearable. "Dana, please say something. I know it's been a long time, and I know you've probably moved on. There's Mulder-" She cut him off. "No, not Mulder. There's only ever been you." She bowed her head. He touched her shoulder. "Dana, look at me, please." Reluctantly, she complied. "Is it too late for us?" Slowly, she shook her head. "I hope not." "I still want to marry you, even now," he told her with certainty. She smiled. "And I still want to be your wife." He reached for her then, and she met him, drew him to her, kissed him. It was a raw kiss, the kiss of those who have loved deeply and long and never touched, a furious kiss of desire and pent-up need. He cradled her face between his hands, breathed her scent. She flung her head back with a low moan, pulling her to him by his shirt, and met his lips once more. This time, he kissed her tenderly, sweetly, softly; his mouth caressing her, cherishing her. She returned the kisses adoringly; small, feverish sounds of need escaping her. His bulk was on top of her, not trapping her, but possessing her, his closeness making her ache. She could feel her breasts swell, her sex becoming dank and moist, her whole body screaming for him, seeking to be joined one with another. His hands touched her for the first time, smoothing idly over the fabric between them, his palms capturing her and releasing her by the merest subtleties of touch. They kissed once more, mouths searching, fingers busy, finding buttons and freeing them from their bounds. A chest seen but once before, the scar she had put there with her own hands. Skin bronze in the firelight, a thin smattering of golden hair. And his hands, hands which had saved her life, hands which had protected her. How she loved his hands. She was bathed in light. Copper hair, golden skin, sapphire eyes. A feast of that which was precious. Long, slender fingers, fingers which had been within him, holding his heart, seeking to save. And somehow she'd never really let go. Her torso, golden swell of her breasts, the slight curve of her belly, the dip of her hips. And those eyes. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "I could kiss you forever," he breathed. "And I, you," she said sweetly. "But make love to me, Walter. Now." There were no more words after that. They were neither two spirits as one, nor two bodies rising and falling against one another in the dim golden light; but rather, some mixture of both; man and woman, joining in the sight of God as it had been since the dawn of time. She gave herself over to him, but did not surrender; he entered, but did not invade. And as his gift found its way within her, that blessing of creation, a new life was begun. 14 October 1998 (12.47am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland Mulder looked uncomfortable. "I don't mean to be any more intimate than I need to be, but-" Skinner cut him off. "We decided later that we would wait until we married, but we were together that night, yes." He didn't seem surprised by the unspoken question. Scully flushed. Samantha said gently, "When did you first suspect, Scully?" "Not until the beginning of August," she said softly. "My cycle had never been what you'd call regular, and I wasn't ill. But when I missed a third cycle, it seemed pretty certain." Skinner took up the thread. "I knew of her suspicions, of course. We talked about it the morning she was abducted. We weren't really that perturbed by it. We were...pleased." Scully looked suddenly very forlorn. "We didn't count on Duane Barry." 8 August 1994 Home of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland "Mulder!" Mulder turned. "Sir what are you doing here?" "Same as you, Agent. Do you have some gloves on you?" Skinner held out a hand. Mutely, Mulder handed him a latex pair. "The crime scene boys are gonna love another person traipsing through. They almost bit my head off." "Well, Mulder, I have a slightly better way with people than you, not that that says much. I also have a higher rank, which says a lot." Mulder managed a weak smile. "Are you all right?" he said more kindly. Mulder's voice was bitter. He lashed out, "My partner has been abducted by a guy whose moral center of his brain has been blown apart, who wants to go back to where he claims to have been routinely abducted by aliens in which I believe, even if you dont - to swap a hostage for his freedom. What do you think?" Skinner said harshly, "We're all feeling it, Mulder. Agent Scully is one of the best people I have ever known. There's no need to be rude." Mulder flushed. "I'm sorry, Sir." Skinner nodded his acceptance of this. "I'll be out in a few minutes wait for me." He went in. He bypassed the living room, a cold shudder working its way into his stomach. He didn't need to look at the shards of glass or the blood the crime scene people would send him 8x4 glossies in due course. They knew what they were doing. Instead, he stopped in the kitchen and quickly inspected the grocery bags there. There was no sign of what he was looking for, but there was a register receipt. //bread bakery white sliced// //toilet tissue kleenex 4// //ice cream generic rocky road 4lb// //pickles by weight// (he wondered momentarily if this was part of some breaking-the-news routine she had cooked up) //pregnancy test (kit)// All right; it was here somewhere, then. Right now, he wasn't sure which result he wanted. The thought of losing a child, too- He shook himself. Dana wasn't dead. He'd know. He went to the bedroom. He took up a Polaroid of her from the dresser one that he had taken. She wore a men's shirt his and a sweet smile, her hair wispy and unkempt. He felt his body begin to tremble. The idea of her being dragged out by that lunatic Duane Barry, being stuffed into the back of a car (more likely, the boot, he realised miserably), and being taken God knew where to God knew what fate it was enough to eat away at his self-control and his strength like battery acid. It left him weak and unfocused. And if he didn't focus, he would break. He set down the picture once more, and went to the ensuite. He glanced at all the obvious places on top of the cistern, the shelf, the window sill- The basin. "Still on the basin," he said in wonder. "She must have been waiting for the result when-" He sat down on the closed lavatory with a thud. "Oh, God," he gasped as the full force of what had happened hit him. He picked up the little white canister, looked at the small result window. He breathed out heavily. "Oh, God, Dana, please hang on." 14 October 1998 (12.52am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland Mulder's tone was reflective. "I remember that. You arrived at the scene not long after I did. You didn't even stop to talk to the crime scene guys you went straight to the bathroom. I never knew what that was about." He turned to Scully. "Did you ever know?" he asked curiously. Scully gave a little shrug. "I never saw the test result, if that's what you mean. But I didn't need to. Walter told me, much later, when I was found." Samantha said compassionately, "That must have been awful for both of you." Skinner's voice was very strained. "It's not a time of my life that I like to think about. Dana and the baby were gone, and I was still dealing with the annulment process. And you, Mulder you were slowly losing your mind." Mulder nodded. "We all were." 12 November 1994 Georgetown Medical Center (ICU) Washington, D.C. "Doctor, I need to speak with you." The older man looked up from his papers. "Who are you?" "I'm Walter Skinner. Dana Scully's partner." The man looked puzzled. "I thought that was that Mulder." Skinner shook his head urgently. "No he's her work partner, her law enforcement partner. I'm her we're in a relationship, that's what I mean." The doctor shifted, visibly attempting to mentally accommodate this new twist in the Scully/Mulder/FBI menage. "I see. Well, take a seat." Skinner complied with a nod of thanks. "What is that you need to speak with me about?" Skinner leaned forward. "Dr Daly, Dana was pregnant when she went missing. Her family didn't know. She was almost three months gone. That would make her six months now, give or take." He looked at the older man with fading hope. He'd seen her she wasn't big enough to be pregnant but, oh, God, please- The doctor met his gaze with some sympathy. "I'm sorry, Mr Skinner, but she's not pregnant now, certainly not in the second trimester." Skinner bowed his head, sighing deeply. The doctor frowned, "I did wonder whether Dana might have been pregnant recently. She seems to be suffering from mastitis an infection of the mammary glands. It happens when there's a buildup of milk in the breast which is not relieved by nursing. That's not uncommon after miscarriage. It's true she's bleeding now, but there are no abnormal blood clots. It seems to be a normal menstrual period." He went on gently, "My guess is she miscarried when she first went missing. Mr Mulder indicated to me that she is known to have suffered some violence at that time." "Yes yes, she did. There's no way of being sure?" The doctor made a helpless gesture. "Well, I am sure that she isn't pregnant. If you're asking if there's any way of being sure whether she miscarried, we could do a D&C; but I would need the family's consent for that. I will run a sonogram to make sure one isn't medically indicated, of course. But frankly, Mr Skinner, if you're sure she was pregnant then, and I'm sure she isn't now, there's your answer." Skinner nodded slowly. "I see. You haven't voiced your suspicions to the family, then?" Dr Daly made a negating gesture. "I didn't see much point. It was after the fact. Is there any reason to conceal Dana's pregnancy from them?" Skinner shrugged. "It's no great secret, if that's what you mean. But the family is Catholic, and I'm still going through a divorce. They wouldn't have been happy. It's something I'd rather Dana told them herself, if she's ever ready and capable of doing so just as a matter of respect to her." The doctor nodded. "There's no real reason for them to know. If she were still pregnant now, of course-" he stopped. "Well, it's a moot point." Skinner nodded, rising from his chair. He put out a hand. "All right. Thank you, Dr Daly. I appreciate your time." The older man took it with a small smile. "You're welcome. I'm sorry about your child, Mr Skinner." He nodded somberly, and then he left. 14 October 1998 (12.58am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland "It's funny, you know," Scully said reflectively. "All that time I was in the coma, I could hear you, Mulder, and Missy, and my mom. But I never heard you, Walter. I knew you were there and I could feel your hands holding mine and all that, and that was enough - but I couldn't hear you." Skinner's voice was painfully quiet. "You couldn't hear me because I couldn't speak. I would sit there and look at you and hold you, and there was not a damn thing I could say." Samantha said gently, "You came out of the coma, Scully, and Skinner told you what had happened?" She nodded. "Yes. For a long time we were in shock." Skinner concurred, "My annulment came through, but I was too screwed up to pursue the civil divorce. Then your father was killed, Mulder, and Dana-" he stopped. "I didn't know who to trust," she said softly. "I suspected him, as you know, Mulder. It came between us. We didn't really start to move on from that until Walter was shot." The two shared a small smile at that. Mulder nodded. "Meanwhile, Sharon got angry and pushed the divorce through?" he surmised. "Got it in one." Skinner admitted, "And on the day that the divorce came through, I slept with Corrina Sayles." He glanced shamefacedly at Samantha, who wasn't familiar with this part of the tale, but the agent remained wisely silent. "I was set up, and I was hurt and angry, but for all that, I don't have any excuses. I was weak," he reflected. Scully took his hand in hers. "Things just got out of hand for us for a while. We worked together closely on the Jeremiah Smith case after //you// ditched me, though-" at that, she nudged Mulder irritably "- and that was a turning point. Things started to settle down again. We didn't set a wedding date, though we still had to work things out." Mulder nodded slowly. "And then you got cancer." She shifted uncomfortably. Addressing Skinner, she said quietly, "And I suspected you all over again. I rejected you when you wanted to support me. I shut you out." She met his gaze sadly. "I didn't trust enough." He kissed her forehead tenderly. "It doesn't matter. Those days are gone." Mulder smiled faintly, but he was not deterred. "And then there was Emily," he said quietly. Scully nodded. "Then there was Emily." FOUR: TEN MONTHS PREVIOUSLY 27 December, 1997 (12.04am) Skinner Residence/Mercy Hospital Crystal City, VA/San Diego, CA The phone rang. "Skinner," he bleated sleepily. A woman's voice. Desperate, raw. Incredibly, it took him seconds to recognise it as Dana's. "Walter?" He sat up, instantly awake. "Dana," he said soothingly, instinctively. "What is it?" He had underestimated her distress, he realised. The pitch of her voice wavered all over the spectrum. "Walter, the baby, our baby she didn't die. She didn't die!" He felt very cold. "Tell me." She spoke very fast. "I found a little girl here in San Diego. She looks just like my sister I thought she was Melissa's. Then, on Christmas, the RFLPs came through, and I found out she was mine." Her voice was climbing, hysterical. "I didn't understand how that could be, and I called Mulder. He said he found ova mine last year. He said they had been taken while I was abducted. We thought we thought that was how she came to be. It all happened so fast. And and then, there was this custody hearing about her yesterday, and I tried to get her back, and we tried to explain it all to the judge, and Mulder said that if I were examined it would be discovered that I had never given birth and then I realised, I //had// given birth, when I lost the baby, and so so I got your samples from the Corrina Sayles case, and I put through another set of RFLPs, and Walter, she's ours. She's our daughter. Please come, Walter; we need you so much." He sat there for a long moment. At last, he said, "All right, Dana. I'm coming. Can you can you answer some questions for me?" She gulped audibly. "Yes yes, I can." "You said there was a custody hearing. What do I need to know about that?" "The adopted parents were murdered just recently. The recorded natural mother is a false name. Children born of donated ova are legally not the children of the biological mothers, and there are no precedents for stolen ova, as we believed the case to be at the time. Judge Maibaum wasn't exactly impressed by the sci-fi aspects of the case, and he reserved his decision. In the meantime, I've had to make some decisions about her medical care, and that has made it look pretty bad for me they haven't been easy decisions, and they have had consequences for Emily." "Medical care?" he said with foreboding. "You mean she's ill?" Scully's voice was a whisper. "She's dying, Walter." "I'll be there on the first flight." 14 October 1998 (12.58am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland "After I hung up from Walter, I called my lawyer, then Susan Chambliss the social worker who was advocating on Emily's behalf," Scully said painfully. "All this was after I'd sent you away, Mulder, when Emily was in the coma." She bowed her head. "I know I should have called you and told you, Mulder. But you see, I knew she was dying. It didn't seem to matter anymore. It seemed like this time with her was something special for Walter and I not for explanations or investigations." Mulder said softly, "It was probably just as well. I had a treatment or I thought I did. I stole it from the nursing home where the surrogate mothers were. But that was for the children made by these people. If Emily was your child if they'd simply experimented on her that means she was in a different category. It probably would have killed her sooner." Skinner bowed his head. "Susan Chambliss knew the urgency better than either of us did. She knew if we didn't get custody of Emily straight away, we wouldn't be entitled to make decisions about her life support...or her burial. She arranged a special hearing in the early hours of that morning, right there in the hospital. I got there just in time I didn't even get to see her before the hearing. Dana was a mess, and so was I." Samantha's voice was kind. "What happened?" "My lawyer and Susan Chambliss did most of the talking. Neither of us could say very much at that point. Walter was in shock, and I hadn't slept in days," she explained. "My lawyer argued that there now existed a reasonable level of proof that Emily was the child I was carrying at the time of my abduction, and that I apparently gave birth during my coma, assisted by a person or persons unknown, who had apparently then surrendered the child for adoption under a false name before returning me to Georgetown for medical treatment. This made it a straightforward case of kidnapping. Judge Maibaum liked that theory a lot more than yours," she added, flashing Mulder a weak smile, "and he restored our parental rights. Her name was changed to Emily Scully at the same time." Nodding, Mulder said, "I always wondered how you managed to bury her under your name, but I didn't like to ask." Skinner explained, "They asked us on the spot what name we wanted. We hadn't talked about it, so we debated it a few moments. Originally we said Skinner because that would be our family name when we married but then I said that Dana had been the one at her side through all this, so we should name her Scully." Mulder looked at her curiously. "Did your family ever know?" "We told them the next day. We were going to turn off Emily's life support, and we wanted to give them a chance to visit her first. Bill was furious when I first said we'd found out I'd given birth to her," Scully added with a laugh. "He thought she was yours, Mulder. When he found out the father was another military man, he simmered down, though." Skinner snorted. "Only because I outranked him." Her tone became reflective. "They hadn't seen her at this point. You see, up until then they saw Emily as something that had been done to me. They didn't blame her, of course; but they were furious that she existed. They backed me at the original adoption hearing because I insisted, but they wouldn't see her. But when they found out she was mine in every sense they came. Tara talked them around." She frowned. "I've never really forgiven them for that. For me, she was mine from the beginning even when I thought she was Melissa's. I thought that should have been enough for them to accept her, but they wouldnt. It was like she had to pass //their// test of what made her mine. They were wrong to do that to her." Samantha nodded slowly. "Yes, they were." 27 December, 1997 Mercy Hospital San Diego, California Surely, her heart would break. She watched them from the doorway, a bittersweet smile flitting across her features. The father sitting at the child's side, holding her tiny hands in his, brushing her forehead with his lips. It looked so very right. Except the child was so white and still. He saw her standing there. "She's so beautiful," he whispered wretchedly. Scully's voice was quietly indulgent. "You're biased." Skinner smiled sadly. "I wish I'd seen her...you know, awake." She went to him, rested a hand on his shoulder. He took it, kissed it. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, Walter. It all happened so fast. Before last night, I thought it was something happening to me not to us. And I don't share things easily not even with you. I keep them inside." Her voice was thick with unshed tears. "I've really got to stop doing that." He shook his head. "It doesn't matter. She's our daughter. She doesn't have to do anything to earn that she just is." His face was wet with silent tears, and he made no effort to hide them from her. She wiped them away, her voice gentle. "Walter, I know it isn't the same, but Susan Chambliss took photos of her...and some videotapes, earlier on, while she was conscious. She said it was so the court had to see her as a human being, not a case. She told me this morning it was really so we'd have something of her...you know, after." "After she dies." "Yes." They went into one another's arms then, and they stayed that way for a long time. 14 October 1998 (1:09am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland Mulder looked at Skinner curiously. "You were at the funeral. It surprised me at the time but I didn't ask. It would have been intrusive. I just assumed Scully told you." Scully took up the tale. "We looked over my X File afterwards. We wanted to see what we could find out about my abduction. We wanted answers about Emily when she had been born, and where. We found-" Skinner cut her off. "We found out very little nothing that shed any light on things, at any rate." Scully shot him a look. "It was about this time that we were contacted by the Smoking Man. He told us that the implant in her neck didn't suppress her cancer, as such; but that it was the means by which he had suppressed it. He told us that you were playing your Congress cards to get the X Files opened again, and he intended to stop it. He convened the Congressional panel of which, as you say, you knew nothing with a view to keeping them closed. He blackmailed us into testifying by threatening to activate her cancer again. Dana refused, but I agreed he expected that. Then he got her testimony by threatening to get me on perjury. You weren't supposed to know that was a condition of our testimony." Skinner shrugged. "I'm sorry, Mulder." Samantha spoke. "That was when you recruited me," she said in realisation. Scully nodded. "That's right, Samantha. We knew you'd put Jack away not too long ago." Jack had been Samantha's own stalker for the better part of a decade. "We thought you would be a nice match for Mulder. You're both brilliant profilers, and you're very intuitive, like him. I thought you'd work well with him. And I couldn't work with him any longer. Not after what I'd had to do. I couldn't face him day after day." She frowned. "I wanted Mulder to have someone he could trust...now that he couldn't trust me. We were still in contact, of course; but there was no real reason that we should have crossed paths day-to-day." Mulder made a sound of irony. "Until the Chrysanthemum Killer came along." FIVE: TWO MONTHS PREVIOUSLY 21 August 1998 Office Of The Assistant Director Federal Bureau of Investigation Washington, D.C. "Kimberley?" Kim Cooke looked up from her computer with a start. "Agent Scully, I'm sorry," she said hastily. "He's free - go on through." Scully smiled her thanks and passed through with a stifled grin. After so many years as the Bureau's outcast, the respect that came with being the AD's Special Aide was still a bit heady. When Dana Scully comes knocking, she reflected, you know the AD is sick of the buck passing and wants the situation taken in hand by his personal troubleshooter, preferably before sundown. And it always was. Skinner didn't look up when she entered. "Dana," he said absently. "How was Maine?" Scully fell into the chair opposite. "Strangely reminiscent of a Stephen King novel which one was it? oh, yeah, all of them." He laughed at that and put his files aside, meeting her gaze with mirth. "The Portland hacks are back in line," she added. "There's a report on your e- mail." He dismissed this. "I'm sure you did fine. Are you up to dinner at Crystal City? I need to run some things by you." Her voice was lightly mocking, but good- natured. "Do you mean by that 'dinner' or 'Walter dumps a packet of noodles on the stove'?" Skinner said expansively, "I think we can go a bit better than noodles." His demeanour was without effect on her humour. "In other words, Mulder and Waters are coming, and they're bringing pizza?" He gave up. "Very smart work there, Chief Inspector Scully. You'll make Detective yet." Even in his mirth, Skinner was frowning. "Yes, Mulder and Waters are coming. I need to bounce some ideas off Mulder in particular." She sensed the change in him, and queried seriously, "Another distraction job?" Skinner rose from his chair and took a position by the window, his hands in his pockets. He looked oddly defeated. "Dana, do you have any idea how difficult it is to keep Mulder happy and occupied without giving him any X Files? The Congressional panel are sitting so far up my ass I could dump and blow my nose at the same time." She made a sound of wry humour at this particularly revolting image; but her look was sympathetic. She went to his side. "I mean pairing him with Samantha Waters has worked out well they're like soul mates or something, and he's happy on almost anything with her but that won't keep for long." "No. Sooner or later he's going to want to introduce his ladylove to the holy grail." Scully was shaking her head. "I don't know how we got into this mess. Maybe we should just tell him." He turned to meet her gaze. "And risk having him turn this into his new crusade? No, thank you. We can't take the chance. Not with what's at stake." They held one another with their eyes for a long moment, her slight nod a concession. She touched his arm fleetingly and moved away. She said in a casual tone which belied her fears, "Well, as it happens, I might have a distraction for Mulder, but it isn't good news." He wasn't misled. "What is it?" he demanded. "I appear to have my very own personal stalker. Leaves tokens chrysanthemums mostly at my door, on my car. It's been going on for months. I wasn't worried. There's a teenaged boy in my building who has a bit of a crush on me I thought it was him. I thought it was sweet, actually. But there was one in my hotel room in Portland. Following you interstate and getting into your room before you've even checked in isn't a lovesick kid." "You're sure?" Scully nodded silently. Skinner's features smoothed, leaving a carefully bland expression of neutrality on his face. It was an expression which had fooled many down the years. It was not fooling the woman before him now. "How long has it been, Walter? Eight years?" She let the question hang a moment, then went on, "What aren't you telling me?" He let out a long, low sigh. "Dana-" She held up a hand. "Just tell me." He relented. "You're not the first woman in the Maryland-Washington-Virginia triangle to be stalked by a man leaving chrysanthemums as mementos. You're the twelfth since 1994. All Federal agents three of ours, four CIA, and four military police - three army and one marine. And now you. All with red, auburn, or strawberry blonde hair; all blue eyed." "All of them dead?" she said softly. At his look of alarm, she added, "You'd have told me otherwise." He nodded. "Stabbed in all but two cases. Those two were hasty, clumsy. He was probably surprised." Scully considered. "Is it a regular police case?" He nodded, spreading his hands expansively. "It was, but it's been taken over by a small Marine task force. The second-to-last woman was the marine. I'm involved as a matter of personal interest." Scully asked very quietly, "What sort of personal interest, Walter?" At that, he gave a mirthless smile. "You fit the profile of the victims, Dana. When the case first emerged, back in 1994, I thought of you. I've been watching it closely all along." He suddenly looked very unhappy, very old. "Now that you're involved I will be making it a formal FBI matter." "I don't expect that." "I don't care." There was nothing she could say to that, so she rose. "Thank you, Walter. I'm sure we'll speak soon over this." He rose, too. "What are you doing, Dana?" He sounded alarmed. She threw him a look. "Going home what do you think? I need to shower and dump my overnight bag and everything before I come over." Skinner rose and grabbed his briefcase. "I'm coming too." His voice left no room for argument, and Scully didn't try. Rolling her eyes, she made a sound of assent; and they left. 21 August 1998 (7.45pm) Home Of Walter Skinner Crystal City, Virginia Scully sat to the rear of the room, and let Skinner say his piece. It was depressing. Mulder gave a low groan, his tone dismayed. He turned to his partner, Samantha Waters. "So what do you think, Sam?" Samantha rose, paced restlessly. "I think our perpetrator is in his mid thirties, working in a government job of some description, probably some area of law enforcement. He'd be mid-range professionally speaking more than a hack, but he's never going to be head of his division, say. Probably started as a bit of a go-getter and then somewhere along the line his career stalled. He's good at greasing the wheels in other words he is popular in a superficial sense, but not liked. Single, lives alone. Probably fixated specifically on a woman who we'll call woman zero, but we might never know who woman zero was. She might not have been the first murder victim, or even any of them. Woman zero was probably totally ignorant of this guy's fixation. He may have killed her; but it's my sense that she's alive, and this stalking is a result of him being unable for some reason to openly fixate on her. She may well be too close to him for him to risk killing her; or perhaps he just can't bring himself to harm her. Either way, he has used a succession of substitutes for her down the years since 1994, which is when the first known case emerges. It's pretty clear that woman zero was a redhead, blue-eyed law enforcement agent. Seven of the dead were feds. The rest are military police, probably reflecting a shortage of women fitting the profile." Mulder frowned. "Do you think we should try and flush him out? You've got more experience-" he stopped short. "Sorry," he added ruefully. Scully and Skinner exchanged looks. They knew Samantha had come to Washington from the Violent Crimes Unit Task Force in Atlanta after catching her own stalker of seven years, a vicious demented man who had killed her husband. It was a subject not usually discussed among the four of them. She had spent the better part of a decade behind steel in her own home, trying desperately to protect her daughter, Chloe. For that very reason, Sam and Mulder were not usually assigned stalking cases; but on this one, Skinner needed his top profilers both of them. And watching her now, stalking like a cat ready to pounce, he was starting to think he should have had her on cases such as these all along. Sam shook her head absently. "It's fine, Fox. Yes, I think we should. If we don't flush him out, Dana is going to spend the rest of her life however long that may be being controlled by this perp. I say we do it and we do it now. I've been there trust me on this." Mulder nodded slowly. "Scully?" he asked. Scully spoke for the first time. "Yes. How do we do it?" Skinner was frowning. "Jealousy," he said softly. "A pretend lover. Cosy dinners in quiet restaurants. Dances that get raunchy and then suddenly they go home. Walks in the park. Snowfights. Everything he wants with woman zero that he can never have." Mulder was nodding. "Exactly." 22 August 1998 (1:14am) Home of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland The fire was burning low. Scully was laying on the rug on her side, basking in its warmth. Skinner sat beside her, his knees drawn up to his chest. They swapped affectionate glances now and then. He was idly stroking her new kitten, Ebony, who purred loudly. She found this oddly endearing. "So why did you volunteer, Walter? Surely we've got cover agents whose time costs a lot less than yours," she asked with a twinkle. He hesitated. "Dana, you know what I said about jealousy? About everything he wants that he can never have?" Slowly, she nodded, drawing herself up like him. He met her gaze, concealing nothing. "Well, there but for the grace of God go I." She nodded slowly with a sweet smile; touched his hand fleetingly. "Do we need to talk about it?" she asked finally. He gave a rueful smile and shook his head. "There isn't a lot to say, Dana. Nothing we haven't already said." "I know." She was nodding with a touch of sadness. She moved forward and poured a little sand on the fire, smothering the flames. It went out at once. She took his hand in the dim light. "You coming to bed?" Skinner looked at her. "I thought-" he broke off, looking at the couch. Scully was smiling slightly. "There's no earthly reason you should have to suffer sleeping on that thing. We're married in the sight of God, if not man. Sharing a bed isn't going to hurt us or anyone else. Why be coy?" He considered this a moment, then rose. "Because if I touch you, I can't promise I'll ever let go, Dana." He met her gaze. That smile was still there. "I'll take my chances," she said softly. "Come to bed." So he did. 14 October 1998 (1:17am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland Scully shrugged. "There's not a lot you don't know about that, Mulder. I was being stalked, and we didn't trust anyone else on the case. We called in you and Samantha." Skinner explained, "I didn't suspect you, Mulder, until Samantha told us her profile. But it reminded me a lot of you, and the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I was never certain, but I wondered enough to want to keep a close eye on things. That was why I moved in here why I took the cover operation to the extremes I did. I knew Dana would never suspect you, would never be on her guard with you." Scully laughed softly. "To think I thought you couldn't resist my body," she said wryly. He shot her a look, unreadable to the others. Mulder looked piercingly at Samantha. "Did you suspect me, too, Sam?" She shook her head. "No. I knew the AD did I could sense it. And I understood why I would have suspected you myself if I'd been outside the situation. But I never did. It wasn't so much faith in you as pure instinct." Scully bowed her head. "Samantha," she said, apropos of nothing at all, "do you remember the talk we had this morning?" Samantha nodded, her smile sweet. "Yes, Dana, I do." Scully was smiling. "Well, I took your advice." Samantha looked at her expectantly. "We're getting married." SIX: ONE DAY PREVIOUSLY 13 October 1998 (10:13am) Office Of The Special Aide To The Assistant Director Federal Bureau Of Investigation Washington, D.C. "Dana? How are you holding up?" Scully shrugged. "I'm fine," she said distantly, and heard Samantha say it in unison. At her look, she suddenly laughed, a weak, rueful laugh, but a laugh just the same. Sam's voice was gentle. "I'm glad you can still do that, Dana." Scully looked a little startled. "Me too." She relented, motioned for the younger woman to sit. "I don't know, Sam. Sometimes I think I'm doing well. Other times I feel like I'm losing my mind. It's been seven weeks now. Lots of chrysanthemums on the doorstep, but no dice. It's so easy to get lulled into a false sense of security; but then I think of the eleven women he killed...the pictures...and then I get afraid all over again." Her voice was level, but that didn't necessarily indicate, Samantha knew. The continual stress of being this asshole's target had to be taking its toll. "I suppose the AD has been a big help?" she asked finally. She was pretty sure of the lay of the land on that score, at least. Scully nodded. "Yes, he has. As you know, he's staying with me, playing loverboy-come-backup. It's been..." she stopped suddenly. "It's been nice, but-" Samantha supplied softly, "But it's all wrong?" Scully suddenly looked very tired. She gave a slight nod. "He's living with me, and we eat together, and we go out together and we jog together and all that. We're doing all the things that lovers do well, you know, except //that// - and it's like a slap in the face. Everything I've ever wanted partnership, family - is right there, and //I can't have it//." "You could do something about it," Sam suggested with a sweetly mischievous smile. "I've seen him look at you. He wouldn't say no." "I know that. The problem isn't Walter, Samantha, or even love generally. There's so much more to it than that. So much that I've lost." She hung her head wretchedly in her hands then, and Samantha didn't press her. She touched her shoulder, and then she left. 13 October 1998 (10:31pm) Georgie Girl Bistro Georgetown, Washington D.C. The dark engulfed them. A sea of bodies, scents of sweat and sex permeating. The two were on the edge of the dancing throng, moving as one in the shadows. They exuded sex and need and desire and lust, reflecting the atmosphere; but more than anything, they filled the air around them with barely restrained power so strong that it was almost tangible. The woman flung back her head and gave a low moan, exposing her exquisite white neck. She swayed delicately in the dark, her movements drunken yet smooth. The man before her slid large palms sweetly over her buttocks, and down her legs. The thin fabric between palm and flesh moved firmly, confidently; but his hands, should anyone notice, were trembling. His movements were those of a man who knew the woman before him in every way; but his touch was that of a man who had only begun his journey. The woman slid her hands up and around his neck, inviting him to kiss her. He bent to caress her throat, his hands coming up and threading themselves through copper-coloured hair. Thrusting her face upwards, he descended on her, his mouth closing fiercely over hers. He felt her moan into him, felt her rock against him with agonised desire, sensed the dark scent of her need. "Oh oh, God " she gasped desperately against his mouth. He could feel the swell of her breasts thrust against him; could feel her press against his hardness. He wanted her, had always wanted her; but it was her voice - silk and music and thick with need - her voice was what drove him. He moaned raggedly. "I need you," he rasped. "It's been so long-" he broke off, his mouth meeting hers once more. "Oh this why did we " she blurted pointlessly as he blazed a trail of fire down her throat. "We were stupid. Stupid to oh!" "Stupid to let go," he supplied breathlessly. Longingly, she took his face between her slender palms, those who could hear her forgotten, unspoken agreement ignored. She regarded him with sudden, agonising need. "Walter- oh, God, Walter, love me." He felt wretchedly weak against her, barely able to stand, it seemed. Wildly, he gasped, "I do love you. I never stopped-" Sapphire blue eyes blazed at him, wide with disbelief. Copper hair set aflame. Her body pressed him, just as before; but suddenly her lips were tender. "Nor I," she breathed, shocked, "never." She came to rest against him, all lust overshadowed, leaving only love in its wake. Desire flowed between them, but it was a tender, giving desire, a longing for completeness in one another. And in the dark and the sex, it was the two who stood, suddenly chaste, fingers entwined adoringly, who with their own illusion betrayed the illusion of love around them for the cheap copy that it was. 13 October 1998 (10.36pm) Georgie Girl Bistro Georgetown, Washington D.C. In the deejay's cubicle, Mulder was ecstatic. "It's primal," he said reflectively from his vantage point behind one-way glass. "Erotic. Passionate. I never thought they'd do it so well." The woman at his side snorted. "Erotic it may well be, but that's not why it's working. It's far deeper than that. And that's what will lure this perp out." Samantha motioned to the two. "What do you mean, it's deeper, Sam?" Mulder queried. Samantha gave a small knowing smile, but settled for a shrug. Mulder was a good criminal profiler, but when it came to people they knew, Sam left him for dead. Mulder had never had a true partner, someone who journeyed life at his side in every possible way not even the woman they watched, who was the closest to such a thing he had ever had. Sam had, and she knew it when she saw it. "Look at that. That has nothing to do with sex, Mulder." Mulder was puzzled. "You mean the love stuff? Stalkers aren't turned on by that sort of stuff-" Samantha cut him off. "Exactly. Sex will keep this guy stringing along, but we might never flush him out. He could watch this sort of display over and over again and just jerk off and come back another day. But love the idea that she might really love someone other than him man, this guy is going to be walking around in a white-hot rage right now." Mulder shrugged. "Yeah, you've got a point there. Good work for Scully and the AD to come up with it on the spot." "Mulder-" Sam opened her mouth to comment, then changed her mind, shaking her head with a secretive little grin. They were interrupted by a sudden crackle. It was Skinner. Mulder looked over onto the dance floor and saw that he and Scully had straightened themselves slightly. Scully was smoothing a hand over her hair. They stood together, holding hands awkwardly. Skinner was leaning in to her as though speaking tenderly to her, but he was addressing the team. "Look," he said irritably, "short of Agent Scully and myself having sex on the dance floor, there's not a hell of a lot more we can do to flush this guy out. The more we stall, the more suspicious it looks. There have been no flowers all week anyway - I'm convinced he must be out of town or sick or something. I am calling this operation off until we get another definite contact to prove he's around." "So how do you plan to end it?" Mulder said doubtfully. "You and Scully are going to be seen going your separate ways after //that//? If he //is// here, he's never going to buy it. We could blow this for good." Scully retorted, "Of course not. We'll climb over each other for a few moments more, exchange a little smile, and rush out, presumably to go home and screw each other senseless." Skinner choked at that. "But, seriously, he isn't here. Your own profile says that after that this guy should be jumping tall buildings with outrage. Let's just all go home and call it a night, okay?" "You want us to cover you?" Samantha asked evenly. They were probably right, but she had a feeling their desire to get home didn't have a whole lot to do with cover strategy. She sympathised, but her sense of caution prevailed. Scully started to answer in the negative, but Sam pre-empted, "I know you're both trained and capable and everything else, but this guy has killed eleven women. I don't think your professional pride is worth the risk. He probably isn't around, but Mulder and I both suspect that if the perp //is// around he will be slowly going out of his mind even as we speak. The risk is too great." Skinner frowned noticeably; then concurred, "Yes, you're probably right. Okay, we'll play it as if it's for real. Tag along on backup. Just you two. Colton and Caleca can head on home." Another crackle joined the conversation. It was Tom Colton. "Will do, Sir. Glad of the night off, to tell the truth. Linda and I will head off now." He gave a muted goodbye and audibly disconnected. "Let's do it," Sam rejoined. So they did. 13 October 1998 (11.47pm) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland Walter took his steaming cup from her with a small nod of thanks. Scully acknowledged with a nod of her own and sat down at his side without comment. They stayed that way, both hunched forward, elbows on their respective knees. At last, she spoke. "What happened back there, Walter?" Skinner was silent for a long, long moment. "I think we touched infinity," he said in an expressionless voice. The wooden sound of it made her frown. "More poetic turn of phrase than I'd have expected from you, Walter." He turned to her, his temper suddenly flaring. "Didn't you feel it?" he demanded in a low voice. She shook her head slightly, not in denial, but in mild irritation. "Of course I did." He relented, saying quietly, "I need you, Dana. Always. I've never forgotten-" She cut him off painfully. "We made love once, Walter. One single time." He set down his cup with a clatter. "We made love once because we decided to wait for my annulment," he insisted. "You don't really think it was a one night stand." She bowed her head. "Of course not." She looked away in sudden pain. "Walter, you will always be with me. You're Emily's father. But-" "This is not about Emily. It was never about Emily." "Then what is it about, Walter?" she flared. "Us being torn apart as soon as we were joined? Our children being stolen from my body? What room is there for us in all that?" She rose and strode across the room, half-sitting on the window sill, to stare out unseeingly. He rose too, and met her there. "Dana, they took you, and I never thought I'd see you again. They took our children. They took the X Files. Don't let them take what we have." "Walter, every time I look at you I make love to you in my heart. But I also see the life that should have been the life that was taken from us. I just don't know if I can reconcile that with what is." "So you'd rather we had nothing at all?" Scully got to her feet. "Walter, it's not that I'd rather we had nothing. It's that I have nothing to give." He went to her then, and pulled her close to him by the arms. "Dana, I don't want you to give. You spend your whole life giving. I want you to be who you are, pain and all. That's enough. It's all I've ever wanted of you." "So what if we do this? What do we do, Walter? Get married, settle down, and raise Pomeranians? I don't think so." He shook his head; said cryptically, "We find Eden." 14 October 1998 (1:49am) Home Of Dana Scully Annapolis, Maryland She lay in his arms. She could feel the soft cotton of his shirt against her neck, the warmth of his hands through her skirt. She felt safe. "Thank God that's over," he observed quietly, watching through the picture window as Mulder and Samantha parted company. She nodded, but said nothing. "I know you're angry with me, Dana," he said softly after a time. "But I thought it was best they didn't know." She gave a low sigh. "I'm not angry, Walter. But I wish it could be different. I'm sick of carrying this alone." She frowned. "Two people left us a little while ago thinking we told them the truth, when all they got was another lie. I hate it." He cradled her, not unkindly. "You wouldn't be my Soldier if you didn't." She turned to face him. "Do you really think we'll ever find our way out of this?" "I have to believe that we can." COMING SOON: WHERE IS EDEN?