Betrayal In The Garden II

By Jeannine Ackerson


Rating: PG for mild swearing.

Disclaimer: The X-Files and it's characters are property of C.C., FOX & 1013 Prod., etc.

Spoilers: Late 4th season - "Demons" & "Gethsemane".

Relationship: No MSR. (sorry fellow believers) Just some Mulder & Scully angst.

Summary: As Mulder leaves again to search for answers, Scully learns the half-truth.

Ok, I've had some requests for more of this story, and I know that if I don't comply, I'll be hounded some more until I do. (See, I've learned how it works around here. <g>) Anyway, I'm picking up where I left off. Sort of. <bg> So now, on to the show. . .


As the clock ticked the seconds away, Fox Mulder realized that time never had been on his side. If it was, he wouldn't be facing one of the hardest tasks he'd ever had to face.

Abandoning his partner for who knew how long while she thought he was dead.

Great testimonial for your partnership, Mulder reviled himself mentally.

Mulder hated leaving. It just wasn't fair, but he knew he had to. Scully had stirred a couple of times in the last 20 minutes, and he knew that his time had run out.

The thought of leaving her and going back into his 'semi-hiding' tore at him. He ditched her so often, and now he'd perpetuated the ultimate ditch by engineering his 'death' so she couldn't follow him. So he could gain life for her, and so he might be able to covertly find the truth.

And a little part of him was concerned that there really wasn't a truth out there for him to discover.

After the Department of Defense guy Scully had encountered had stopped by to tell him the *Truth*, he'd been more determined than ever to find out what the truth really was. So he'd gone to great lengths to 'disappear' so he could find those answers without being watched.

Plus there was the fact that through his 'death' Skinner had been able to make a deal for the cure to Scully's cancer.

All in all, it wasn't a half bad deal. Unless you counted the fact that she thought she'd killed him. Which wasn't supposed to have happened.

God *damn* them all, he mentally swore. They hadn't been content with his 'death'. No, they had to put Scully through a living hell as well.

His train of thought was thrown when Scully shifted again, her hand brushing against his leg. The action froze him, and he hoped that she wouldn't open her eyes and see him. The first time had been bad enough. He knew her well enough that she would question Skinner about her 'vision', but he hoped Skinner would be able to convince her that she'd been dreaming.

But whatever happened, he knew that it would be once he was gone. Which had to be now.

He gave his partner a light kiss on her forehead and then carefully got up from the bed. It shifted a little at the loss of his weight, but she didn't seem to notice. Mulder turned for her bedroom door and started to leave. At the doorway, he turned and gave his partner one last look, and offered up a silent request that she would be alright. *Really* alright. He'd put her through enough already. Then he started for the front door again.

Only when he'd gotten as far as the living room, where Walter Skinner sat on the couch did Mulder think about reconsidering his actions. He wasn't sure if he really trusted Skinner, especially after learning that he'd made the deal to give his services to the Consortium for a cure for Scully. He was definitely not sure he believed that whatever Scully had been given was a cure for her cancer. But at this point in time, he'd knew that he didn't have much of a choice *but* to believe.

Because the only person he fully trusted was laying on her bed, recovering from the after effects of what he needed to believe was the chemical cure for her cancer.

As Skinner got up and moved to him, Mulder regarded him with investigative skills honed by chasing demons and psychopaths. Their eyes met, and Mulder couldn't help but see something within his boss' gaze that spoke to him of his deep regret that this whole deception was necessary. But it still wasn't enough to alleviate his own discomfort at having to lie to her.

"You *promise* you'll tell her," Mulder insisted with an almost pleading tone. He needed to know that the guilt she was feeling would be removed from her shoulders. God knew he *knew* what that felt like. . .

"I said I would. I don't want her thinking she murdered you any more than you do," Skinner assured him, hoping that the words would be enough comfort for Mulder while he walked into the darkness again. "I'll get word to you somehow so you know that she's alright."

Mulder simply nodded his head and took up the heavy brown bomber jacket and settled into it, then shrugged on a battered baseball cap and some shades. They wouldn't be looking for this Fox Mulder, and the semi-disguise had gotten him into Scully's building without anyone recognizing him. Of course, since he'd yet to shave in the last couple of days, he was beginning to look more scruffy looking with each day.

Scully would be shocked to see me this way, he thought suddenly. That thought brought Mulder back to the situation at hand and he stared at the door to the back bedroom with a pang of guilt and wishful thinking.

You did this for her. And for yourself, he reminded himself.

Shaking his head, he put himself back into the mind set of his 'cover' and looked back at Skinner. Giving Skinner one last look of pleading, as well as a glance towards the back bedroom, Mulder reluctantly opened the door and left, heading back to his 'mission'.

Skinner locked and bolted the door behind his rogue agent and went back towards the bedroom to check on his other one. As soon as she was lucid enough to understand him, he was going to have to tell her about the memories that the Consortium had implanted in her mind.

It hadn't taken him long to figure out the sadistic scenario. After Mulder had left the warehouse, she had to have left. As soon as They knew about Mulder's 'suicide', they must have abducted Scully. Once the memory of the argument and shooting had been implanted, they'd taken her to Mulder's apartment, where they'd placed her beside the 'body', planning on killing two birds with one stone.

Except that Scully had left before the police had arrived.

The bastards had really done a job on them all, Skinner thought angrily. One agent dying and wracked with guilt, one 'dead' and disgraced and himself, sold to the devil. Over all he'd have to say that they'd racked up a nice little deal out of this lie.

Except that now things were swinging back in their favor.

Scully shifted on the bed, and her eyes blinked a few times. It wasn't until she brought her eyes to bear on him that he could see that she was really awake this time.

Just in time Mulder, Skinner thought as she glanced at his form at the end of the bed. But then that shouldn't really surprise you, should it now Walter? You know these two are a real team. More so than any other partnership that you've ever seen in the Bureau.

"Mulder?" she murmured as she tried to sit up. The fuzzy memory of him sitting at her bedside was still with her. Yet she wasn't sure what she'd seen or heard - a spirit or the real thing.

"No Scully, it's Walter Skinner," he said, moving over to crouch next to the side of the bed so she could simply turn her head to look at him.

She stared at him with confusion and then a bit of concern as recognition finally came. What was he doing there? There was no way that she had been in any condition to let him into her apartment the last time she'd been coherent. As it was, she didn't even know what day it was, let alone how he'd gotten in. Her agitation was visible, and Skinner knew he had to address it quickly.

"I stopped by to see how you were, and you didn't answer your door. I had the super let me in and found you in here, unconscious. Are you feeling better?" he answered her unspoken question, then put a hand over one of hers.

Taking mental inventory, she had to say that she felt better than she had since this whole thing had begun. Sure, she felt wiped out, but there was something more to it than that. Just as she was beginning to think things were going to be okay, she remembered. The fight, the anger, the sound of the gun going off. . .

Her eyes shot up to meet her boss', her pain and guilt there for him to see. The depth of it shocked and scared him. It was almost painfully palatable. Shit, no wonder Mulder had demanded he tell Scully part of the truth. She *truly* believed she'd murdered her partner and it

was eating her alive.

"Sir, I shot Mulder," she said in a sad, quiet voice, one that bordered on tears.

"No Agent Scully, you did not," he insisted, a shocked look appeared in her face at his words. "From what I learned from the man you refer to as the Cancerman, you were brainwashed into believing you had, and left at the scene of Mulder's suicide. You were supposed to be another casualty in this sick game."

She stared at him as if he'd been speaking in a foreign language. The words slowly penetrated her mind, the meaning of them taking hold gradually.

It had all been a lie.

Her eyes slipped shut as her arms wrapped around her and she shuddered at the thought. She hadn't killed him. She hadn't fought with him. There were no regrets as to the last words that he'd spoken to her being angry ones. She still knew that the last ones she had uttered to him had been hurtful, but they were the truth. Or at least she believed them to be.

Glancing over at her boss again, she wondered how involved he had gotten in all this. It seemed that he was awfully knowledgeable about what the Consortium had done to her. Part of her wanted to be suspicious of him, but she couldn't gather the strength to do it.

Then the full impact of his words finally struck her.

//"Left at the scene of Mulder's suicide."//

He was *dead*. She had thought. . . there had been a moment when she had been sure that she'd seen, that she'd heard... But she was wrong. He was gone. She'd imagined it.

He really was dead. If not by her hand, by his own. Her head, heart and soul wanted to scream. Instead she numbly nodded her head in acknowledgment and Skinner got back up and headed for the door, leaving Scully to absorb the partial truth he'd just told her.

As he walked out of the room, he looked back to see her curled into the bed, slightly shaking with the relief his words had given her. And with the painful reality of the unreal.

When he finally left Scully's apartment, he said a silent prayer for the two agents that were now totally on their own. And he hoped that they could survive that way until they could find one another again.

And somewhere on the highway leaving Maryland, Mulder was wondering the same thing.


The drive to New York City had been uneventful at best. Which, being that he was a ghost and all, was probably a good thing.

Mulder had disappeared as well as he could, what with him looking like a dead man and all. He'd had fake ID the Lone Gunmen had made for him a while back, that he now had a reason to actually use, a very serious reason, but he hoped he wouldn't have cause to have to show it.

Now, driving up to the UN building with the express purposes of breaking into the office of Special Representative to the Secretary General, he wondered again why he was doing this. What had led him to fake his own death and covertly search for answers that he'd always looked for openly before.

And the answer came back to him in a heartbeat.


With an internal sigh, he realized with a clarity he hadn't ever had before how much he relied on her. There was a bond and trust that made him so much better at everything he did. One that even now he could feel.

And he knew that he had done so much of this to make sure that he wouldn't loose that bond to a slow death at the hands of a man made cancer.

Not when he could do something to save her. . .

But truthfully, he had to admit that not having his partner next to him was a bit disturbing. Not like he'd never ditched her before, but this was different. Being 'dead' was hard enough, as well as his being so far over the line. He wasn't sure that he was going to be able to find his way back, by himself. But without Scully. . . it just made it all that much harder.

Then he remembered the rewards for his efforts. He'd gained her a cure for her cancer. And he thought that he might actually have a chance to find the truth and dispel the lies.

Like the ones everyone had told him. Since day one.

He realized now how the game worked in regards to him. It made more sense to pretend to give him the 'truth' than to kill him. Breaking him in spirit was better than dead. Martyrs had followers. Fools did not.

And ultimately Mulder had decided to be both.

At least for now.

As the building he was looking for came into view, Mulder pried his mind from those thoughts and onto the business at hand. It didn't take him long before he was inside the building and up the emergency stairs and standing before the door that he'd seen only once before in his life. One that was now synonymous with previous belief that not everyone was his enemy.

But he had been wrong about that too, he realized. Even if they claimed to be on your side, the only side that they were really on was their own.

Trust no one, he reminded himself again. That rule applied to everyone except for Scully. Hell, he didn't even fully trust Skinner and the Gunmen.

He slid the lock picks into place and fiddled with the lock until it popped open. Find something black and sexy for some funky poaching, he'd said recently. It seemed like he was living those words every day now. Yet he had to admit that his burglary skills were getting better.

You've been getting lots of practice, he reminded himself.

Then he slipped inside, and shut the door to the office of Special Representative to the Secretary General of the United Nations and got to work.

After searching for what felt like an hour through the files, the safe, her computer, he had now resigned himself to the fact that there wasn't anything there. He nearly slammed his fist into the desktop in frustration.

No photos of UFO's. No reports of psychic phenomena. No pieces of evidence to prove that They were cataloging people.


The Truth wasn't *here*.

Hell, he was starting to think that there wasn't any. And if that was the case, what had he spent all his life looking for?

He shook his head violently. He wasn't going to give in to thinking like that again. No matter what that Department of Defense guy that Scully had brought to him had said, he knew what he'd seen. Physical evidence like what he'd experienced, seen could *not* be faked.

But one truth he was willing to accept openly mocked him. He'd chosen the wrong place to search for the answers. Because the investigation of the files of Marita Covarrubias had turned up a big fat zero.

Either she had been informed of his 'possible' intrusion, or she didn't know anything. If he had to make a guess, it was that the latter was the truth. She never seemed to be as forthcoming as X or Deep Throat. It might be more likely that she was a messenger, passing along information that They wanted him to have.

That would be just like them, wouldn't it? Mess with his head in the hope of his finding the truth for them.

Maybe They didn't know what the truth was?

But did he?

At that, images of the last four years came back to Mulder before he slipped out the door: Watching Max Fenig hang in mid-air in a warehouse. Staring at the bodies of what might have been aliens or humans in that boxcar in New Mexico. The look on Scully's face when she said that she'd heard the truth, and now she wanted the answers. . .

It all came back to him in a jumble of pictures, like one of his slide shows. And with it he counted the cost to his search. The lives lost in his pursuit. It was too high. Too many innocents had been caught in this web of lies.

Except that not 'all' the people helping him were innocent.

He couldn't stomach the idea that these informants of his didn't know what their 'organization' was doing. And that they let it go on. No amount of good intentions and smuggled files could make up for the blind eye that was being turned.

Covarrubias was a good example.

She was still helping him, but was that help just more of a covert way to get him to go where they wanted him? Or to keep him away from the areas that mattered?

He stumbled out of the office, checking haphazardly around to assure himself that he wasn't being watched. Confident that no one was around, Mulder slipped out the door and walked down the corridor, exiting though the fire stairs and making his way down the dozen or so flights of stairs.

Once he was outside, he checked again that he hadn't been seen and headed for his rental car.

Thankfully his photographic memory supplied him with the route and address for his sometimes informant, and he made his way there without incident. Discreetly he found a place to park along the dark street. Climbing out of the car, he approached the townhouse, and then slipped inside. Minutes later he was knocking on her door.

Funny, the last time you showed up at her door in the middle of the night she was almost instantly at the door, Mulder thought as he knocked again.

Then he noticed a quick break in the light spilling from under the door frame. Years of training kicked in and he pushed the door with his fingertips. It swung open, revealing the tasteful apartment. And the robed body of its owner.

Marita Covarrubias lay sprawled on the floor, a gunshot wound to her head. Still clutched in her grasp was a shiny nickel plated pistol. Without thinking, Mulder pried the gun from her hand, and popped open the clip. It was full. There wasn't even one round in the chamber. . .

Oh shit, Mulder thought as he placed the weapon back in her hand, it looked like his suicide. Or the suicide of the man who had been substituted for him. But this was murder. No question about it. Someone must have broken in, or she'd come to answer the door. . .

Suddenly a shadow crossed the far room, and Mulder reverted into FBI mode. He automatically reached for a gun at his back that wasn't there, and then dug through the right pocket of the jacket he was wearing to come up with his second sidearm.

Slowly he pursued the shadowy figure, then caught up with them at the window as the man turned his back as he prepared to climb out. Mulder's hand swiftly caught him by the collar and spun him around and back into the apartment.

When he saw the man's face, he was both pissed and relieved. It all made sense now. Why he was now finally being told the "truth". Because the lie was coming from 'reliable' sources.

The Department of Defense's Michael Kritschgau.

"It's a pleasure to see you again Mr. Kritschgau," Mulder said harshly while the captured DoD agent said nothing.

Then Mulder pushed him against the wall and then proceeded to search him roughly, keeping him pinned with the barrel of his gun. He rummaged through Kritschgau's jacket and shirt pockets, looking for anything: film, identification, weapons, anything.

"Looks like you've been busy," Mulder said with dark sarcasm dripping from his words as he drew out the pistol that had undoubtedly killed Marita and tossed it to the floor. "Guess you're a real 'lady killer', huh?"

Mulder continued his search as Kritschgau continued in his silence. He was just about to give up when he felt something in the man's back pants pockets that he'd nearly missed.

It was a piece of what seemed to be simple stationary, folded into a tight square. He pulled it out and with a few shakes, he had the paper unfolded and ready to read. At that, he backed up, finding a little patch of light from the window with which to see what was written there.

Mulder held it up next to his gun so he could keep an eye on Kritschgau and read the paper simultaneously.

It was a list of names and addresses.

Some of them were in D.C., some in New York, while some had no addresses at all. But all of them were scheduled for 'elimination'. The Lone Gunmen, Marita Covarrubias, Alex Krycek, and several other names that he didn't recognize were on the list. Then at the bottom of the paper were two names that he knew as well as his own.

Walter Skinner.

And Dana Scully.

No... oh dear God no!

"What *is* this?!?" Mulder furiously demanded, shoving the list into Kritschgau's face, his gun doing nearly the same thing in the man's stomach.

"What does it look like to you Mr. Mulder?" Kritschgau replied smoothly, keeping calm even though Mulder could read the fear in the man's eyes.

"Why?!? Tell me *why* these people have to die?" Mulder raged, angry now beyond caring if anyone heard him or not.

Silence greeted him again, but this time Mulder understood that the answer was so obvious that his opponent felt no need to even bother voicing it.

They were 'dead' because of *him*.

They all had one connection: they all were associated to *him* in some way. And with his 'death', They had decided to clean house of all the *tainted* people. Anyone who had come in contact with Mulder and might have leanings towards his crusade.

Get rid of any possible disciples.

Stop a martyr's death from creating a religion.

Suddenly he realized just how much They feared him. How much he'd kept them in check. His life had a greater purpose than he'd ever considered.

He was the one who could bring them down. Except that he had to do it in the light, in plain view of the world. Even if it took him the rest of his life, he had to reveal them that way. He couldn't play the game by their rules. Only by his own.

Except right now *he* wasn't the one in jeopardy. And he knew that it was time for him to make some hard decisions.

He could contact the Gunmen by phone, alert them to the danger to them. Once they were informed of the potential dangers, they would go into full covert mode. As soon as they did that, he knew he wouldn't have to be concerned about their welfare.

Skinner was another one that he was pretty sure could take care of himself. If he knew he'd been targeted, he was sure that the ex-Marine would be a deadly opponent for any potential assassin. Again, he'd have to call and risk being discovered, but he owed his boss that much at least.

But Scully. . .

The last time he'd seen her, she was laying unconscious in her bed. If that was still the case, she'd never know what hit her. They could just walk in and blow her brains out. Drop her gun in her hand and leave a note about how she couldn't live with the guilt of betraying her partner. . .


He'd die for real before he let them kill her in cold blood.

He had to get back to D.C. He had to warn her. Stop them. There was no way in hell that he was going to lose his partner because of his own need to learn the truth. Not when he could prevent it.

Then without a second thought, he slammed the butt of his gun into Kritschgau's head, sending him to the floor. He grumbled under his breath as he realized that he couldn't just tie the man up without announcing his presence. He would have to just leave him behind and concentrate on getting back to D.C.With that, he rushed for the door, his mind focused solely on the need to stop whatever agenda his 'death' had set into motion.

Before it was too late.


After waking for what seemed to her the tenth time that day, Scully stubbornly decided to get up and start the process of living again.

It was a struggle to get out of bed, but she was too stubborn to just concede and fall back onto the mattress in defeat. With careful movements, she got her feet under her and with a hand on her night table, she pushed herself up fully. After that, it was just a matter of putting one foot after another until she began to regain her strength. By the time she reached the bathroom, she was feeling almost like herself again.

As she looked in the mirror, she saw her face for the first time in days. It still looked pale, but not as bad as before. But when she caught her own eyes in the reflection, she saw where the true tiredness lay.

For there she saw the haunting pain of her partner's death and her role in it.

Her memory of the night of Mulder's death still plagued her. They were so thorough, leaving nothing to question except the outcome of their struggle. It had been perfect, she had to admit. She had the memories of the argument, the physical fight, the sound of the gunshot in her mind but not the actual shooting. They'd left it up to her logical mind to fit the pieces together. God, she'd done a bang-up job of jumping to conclusions. But the evidence had all been there, and she had just put it together exactly like they'd expected her to.

Damn but they'd set it up good.

She sighed and started to strip off the skirt and blouse that she'd remembered putting on the day of the hearing, now three days ago by the date on her clock. She'd never gotten the chance to take them off. They looked like a lost cause, crumpled and sweat stained. With a mental note to try and take them to the cleaners later, she tossed them in the hamper along with the rest of her clothes.

Once she got into the shower, she turned on the water and decided that she felt 100% better now that she was getting herself clean. It was just then, as she started to shampoo her hair that it actually hit her.

She felt good. Better than she had in a long time. She wished she could attribute it to the sleep she had to have gotten, restless or not, but for some reason couldn't. Somehow she knew it was something else.

She knew that it was late for her to be waking up - almost noon. And these days, usually by this time of day her head was pounding. But today it wasn't.

With shock she wondered just what had happened in the last few days that had left her feeling... whole again.

What did they do to me? What the hell is going on?

And when all was said and done, she knew that something had happened to her. Beyond her testimony that had shut down the X-Files. After she'd remembered her implanted memories. Following her attempt to confess to Skinner.

Suddenly the memory of the fuzzy image at her side came back to her. The voice she'd thought was Mulder's. Then Skinner at her bedside informing her that the Consortium had done something to her memories.

Then she understood that something *had* happened to her that would explain those sudden increases of fatigue, dizzy spells and nosebleeds that were now conspicuously absent.

It was almost as if the reason for them wasn't there anymore.

Could that be it? Could she. . .

With a sudden need to know, she jumped out of the shower and hurriedly dressed. Her anxiety grew as she considered the possibilities and she found her keys and purse and headed for the door. She was going to *get* the answers. No matter where she had to go to find them.

And the best place to start, she felt was within herself.

Less than an hour later she was being seen by her oncologist at Georgetown Medical Center. She spent half the day having them run tests. And re-run them. And re-run them again. But when all was said and done, her dreams and her fears were confirmed.

The cancer was gone, as if it had never been there.

It was a medical miracle.

She was alive and Mulder was dead. What rich irony, she thought with silent laughter. Then she considered the coincidence of it all with horror. Had he traded himself for her? Sacrificed his life, his future, his chance to find Samantha? Was it his decision, or had she forced him into it? Guilted him into choosing her?

But she did know one thing. Whatever had happened, her life had been saved and Mulder was dead. Somehow it all make a kind of sick sense now.

It was all starting to fall into place, but she knew the last piece of the puzzle rested with her boss. The man who had taken it upon himself to 'check' in on her at home. Knew about the Consortium's attempts at subverting her mind. Had insisted she slaughter her friend's name for the sake of herself.

He knew more than he was letting on.

It took a little doing, but she finally convinced the medical staff to let her leave. Of course it was with the stipulation that she come back to be poked and prodded. She knew it was in the hopes that they could glean a small fraction of knowledge from her that could save so many others.

As she walked to her car from the front doors, she pondered that idea. Could she provide them with the solutions to the cure for cancer? Was there anything left in her bloodstream that they could identify as a cancer-killing chemical?

Somehow she doubted that.

Whatever sacrifice they had made on her behalf was undoubtedly a one-for-one deal. She couldn't believe that if they truly had the cure for cancer, all cancer that they would have handed it over for the world to find it. No, they weren't charitable enough to do that.

Scully climbed into her car and sat there for a minute before she could even slide the key into the ignition. He mind whirled with the implications of what she'd learned.

God damn you Mulder, she mentally cursed. You just had to be the noble one, sacrifice everything for me. Over-protective to the last.

With a little laugh, she started the car. It would be a while till she reached the J. Edgar Hoover building, and she knew she that once she got there, there would be either answers to her questions, or hell to pay.

It was late by the time she arrived at the Bureau, and she had to take a visitor pass, since she'd left her ID at home. Yet she felt that there wasn't any resistance as she walked through the doors and halls of the Bureau.

As she made her way to Skinner's office, she noted that people glanced at her with the same piteous looks as they had days before. Just like before she shrugged them off as she went, concentrating on her destination. She didn't need their pity. She needed answers. And it seemed like Skinner was the only person around who might have them.

The A.D.'s administrative assistant was at her desk and gave Scully a shocked look as she came in the door. Admittedly she still didn't look her best, but at least she wasn't dying anymore, Scully thought wryly.

"I'd like to see Assistant Director Skinner," Scully said in her most professional tone.

She stood back as the assistant relayed her request to Skinner over the phone, then looked back at her. There was a look of shock and fear that played over her features, and Scully couldn't help but wonder what they were saying about her around the Bureau.

Probably that you're going crazy since your partner blew his brains out *and* that you're also on death's door, she thought with some dismay.

"You can go in now Agent Scully," came the voice of Skinner's assistant, cutting through the fog of her introspection.

Scully knocked first, then she swung open the door. She strode in the room, a little off a straight path to the chairs in front of his desk, and Skinner noted that it was almost as if she was walking next to Mulder. The determination in her gaze and walk was back as if it had never been gone. Taking her regular seat, she stared at Skinner with a thousand questions in her mind all fighting to be asked first.

Silence held the two of them in their staring contest until she broke the stalemate.

"What happened to me, Sir?" she asked point blank.

The question threw him, as she knew it would. Somehow there was something that told her that her boss knew a lot more about the last week than he was saying. Information that she needed.

Answers she *deserved*.

"I don't understand Agent Scully," Skinner said as he tried to get himself out of the increasingly difficult position he was in.

If they had been in a tropical setting, Skinner was certain he would have felt the temperature drop just as much as he did now. The ice that seemed to emanate from her at his words had him taken aback.

"I'm cured. It's a medical miracle," she said in a dark tone he'd never heard her use before. "What I want to know is what was the price paid for that 'miracle'. Someone paid for my life. Was it Mulder? You? Did my own betrayal of Mulder's memory and the X-Files project give them what they wanted? What was the price that we paid?"

He stared at her, his mouth slightly agape as he realized that she knew that someone had sacrificed something or someone for her cure. And knowing Scully like he did, he was certain that she believed it was Mulder. That his death had given her life.

How the hell was he supposed to tell her that she was right, but that she was wrong at the same time? That both he and Mulder had sacrificed something for her to live: he his integrity and Mulder his 'life'?

"Scully. . ." he began, and then stopped. The words just wouldn't come out of his mouth.

But he didn't have to finish. Somehow she'd seen the answer in his eyes.

"Damn you," she said quietly, with just a trace of sorrow.

Then she stormed out, angry at Skinner, angry at Mulder, but most of all angry at herself. Without realizing it, she'd put them all into these positions. Mulder *was* dead because of her, as surely as if she'd pulled the trigger herself. And Skinner was a man owned by the devil.

So that simply meant that she was damned as well.

With that she headed out to her car, busily hefting curses on everyone she could think of, and not noticing the dark sedan several rows over who's driver was watching her every move.


As he sped down the road, Mulder had repeatedly tried calling Scully's cel phone, her home number and had continued to get nothing.

And it scared him.

She was the only person he hadn't been able to reach yet. As it was, the guys at the Lone Gunmen had asked him a dozen questions to verify his identity to their satisfaction before he had been allowed to give them his warning. Immediately they had promised him that they would go into total defensive mode and stay out of sight. Frohike had even promised that they would do as good a job as he did in disappearing for a while.

Skinner he'd reached in his office. It was a brief conversation, he had to admit. But the truth of the matter was that Skinner was less surprised with Mulder's warning than he had been once Skinner informed him of Scully's visit.

She knew, his mind reminded him again. She'd figured out that she was cured. She knew that Skinner had sold himself to the Consortium to be able to cut the deal to get her a cure. And that his own 'death' had paid for it.

God, he couldn't even begin to imagine how she must feel. . .

As he passed the sign for Annapolis, Maryland, he focused again on the fact that his partner and friend still hadn't answered her phone. He'd thought about calling her mother, but knew that he'd have a hell of a time trying to explain his miraculous return from the dead to her if Scully wasn't there. And he didn't have the time to deal with that.

He had to find Scully before the assassin did, or else he'd be identifying her 'suicide'.

He already knew from experience that they could easily make it look like a suicide. Hell, he and Skinner had pulled it off. They would have no problem doing it. What with the fact that she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and had told her boss that she'd murdered her partner, she was a prime candidate for killing herself.

Besides, who would question it?

No one, he realized suddenly with a sick feeling in his stomach.

The answer his mind supplied him bothered him even more than the thought of her believing she'd killed him. If you believed that you'd killed her, wouldn't it put *you* over the edge, he asked himself as he drove along the highway. You've been ready to fall off that cliff long before she walked into your life. Your friendship, the partnership. . . the connection you have with her just gives you a good excuse, doesn't it?

He shook his head to clear away the thought, the acknowledgment of something that was beyond his comprehension right now. At the moment, he had to think of where Scully might be. Because no matter what else happened, he knew that he had to find her before the assassin that had been assigned to her found her.

Damn it, Skinner and he hadn't gone to all the trouble to set up his death and get Scully a cure for them to just kill her outright, he mentally cried.

But now her life and anyone else's who was seen by the Consortium as a threat's hung in the balance. And he knew that by 'coming back' and returning everyone's focus on him and his struggles to find the truth, he could save them.

He was certain the last miles to Scully's apartment had been the longest he'd ever driven. As he pulled into the parking lot like a madman, he saw the light on in her place. She was home! His heart leapt at the realization, then the fear took over.

What if he was too late? If they'd already murdered her? Could he bear to look at her body? Tell her mother that her death was his fault? Could he physically and emotionally stand the thought that she was gone, *really* gone this time?

He refused to accept those options, and he hurriedly made his way towards the door. For some reason he stopped and laid his hand on the hood of her car. It was still warm. That meant she hadn't been home long.

Maybe. . . he thought with growing hope.

He looked and saw the light inside the living room flicker and a rush of adrenaline surged through him. Instinctively he knew that something was wrong.

And he didn't know how right he was until he heard the gunshot rip through the silent air.

Images of her lying dead on the floor, blood oozing from a hole in her head flooded his mind, and he fought for control of his battling emotions.

I'mnotgoingtomakeitintimeI'mnotgoingtomakeit. . .

Then he was there, standing before her door and knowing that on the other side was one of two things: her dead body or an assassin's dead body. And he hoped to God or whatever deity was looking out for Scully that it was the latter.

And then he smashed through the door.

As the door went flying open, Mulder saw something he hadn't even considered. Scully was backed up against the far wall, her head bleeding and her gun pointed straight, albeit shakily at the assassin with his own gun pointed at her standing right in front of her.


A huge sigh of relief burst from his chest which startled everyone in the room. The MIB turned to see Mulder and his eyes at first bugged out, then narrowed in anger.

But behind him was the real show as Mulder saw Scully take in his appearance at the doorway and turn white. He heard her gun fall to the floor just as he brought his own up to bear on the man threatening his partner.

"Drop *it*! Drop the gun and get *out*! Get the *hell* out of here before I blow a hole in your *Goddamned* chest!" Mulder yelled at the man, not caring if he got away. At the moment, his only concern was for Scully, who seemed very grateful for the wall she'd been backed up against, as it looked like it was the only thing holding her up.

The man glanced from Mulder's menacing form, over to Scully's crumpling one, and then back again. Mulder stepped inside and advanced on the man in black, making sure he knew exactly how serious he was in his intent to send him to the hereafter.

The look in Mulder's eyes was what finally spooked the would-be assassin, and he dropped his weapon and cautiously moved for the door, hoping that he could escape being shot in the back. As it was, Mulder followed him out the door and into the hallway. It wasn't until he was certain that he was long gone that he came back in and shut the door and then turned to Scully.

Then *his* gun fell to the floor as he raced across the room to catch her as she passed out.

Gingerly he held her in his arms, looking down at her face. He had to admit, even after fainting and being shot, she looked better than she had the last time he'd seen her. Shifting her weight in his arms, he was able to brush a hand over her head, checking the superficial wound that was no longer bleeding.

It had been close, he realized. Very, very close.

With that thought, he pulled her closer to him, just needing to know that he'd been there for her in time. This time at least. Then she stirred in his embrace and her eyes opened. At the sight of her blue eyes looking up at him in dawning recognition, he couldn't help but hear in the back of his mind every single argument and doubt about his decision disappear.

Hell, he'd do it again.

Just to know that he'd saved her life.

"Hey Scully," he said quietly, in the tone of voice that he used to address her so casually for years.

She stared at him. Just looking at him, taking in his nose, the scruffy looking beard and his unruly hair. And most of all his smile. One that was in his eyes and on his lips.

Scully couldn't believe that she was looking at the man who she was certain she would never see again. Would never hear again. But he was there, holding her and speaking to her and smiling at her. . .

Dear God, she thought with a surge of emotion, dear God he was *back*.

"Hi Mulder," she said with a quavering voice.

Then somewhere within Dana Scully, a dam broke that she hadn't even aware of and she started laughing. She laughed and laughed, shaking in Mulder's embrace until he realized that the laughter had turned to wracking sobs.

And then he was crying with her, their arms around one another as the relief and pain and fear and separation all came pouring out.

Slowly she came under control and so did he. This time their eyes locked as she looked to reassure herself that he really was there. That she wasn't dreaming.

"You're alive," she breathed, reaching up to touch his face, and then felt his hand wrap around it and take it away.

"Last time I looked," he said with a wry grin that made her smile. Then he turned serious. "I'm sorry Scully. I didn't want to. . ."

She shushed him by wrenching her hand from his and covering his mouth.

"I know Mulder," she informed him matter of factly. "But I just want to tell you one thing. . ."


"If you ever 'die' on me again Fox Mulder, I'll *kill* you."

They both laughed at that, Scully a little less than Mulder, but the scars of the past week were beginning to fade fast under the bond of the reunited partners. Together, they knew that they could find the answers and the truth that still awaited them. But it could wait until tomorrow.

"So Mulder," she began as he stood and then hauled her up to stand in front of him.

"Yeah?" he replied humorously.

"Do you want to tell me what you've been up to since you 'died'?"

"Well Scully," he remarked with a grin as he lead her over to the couch to sit down, "it's a long story."


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