Residence of Reggie Earle
1003 63rd St.
Oakland, CA

Kwan pushed past Scully as he hauled Skinner through the back door of Reggie's house. The irony of her boss being carried by the man who probably shot him wasn't lost on her. She still didn't know what had possessed her to actually agree to let him join them as they left the warehouse.

It was an uneasy alliance. Scully didn't trust this assassin farther than she could see him. Yet he knew so much about the man who had Mulder. He'd made a compelling case, standing there on the railroad tracks outside the warehouse in front of their cars. After the hailstorm of gunfire inside the warehouse that she was sure he'd been responsible for, she'd accepted his help and even let him help Skinner into the car. He'd had every chance to kill her, kill *all* of them, but instead he was helping her. She shook her head in bewilderment.

Across the room, she noted Carmine, Anthony and one of his men had come in and started talking on the sofa and love seat set near the front door. Inwardly she shuddered as she realized how they had simply sprayed the place during the firefight. While they had taken their fair share of the MiB's out and found the one man hiding upstairs, they weren't there for the same purpose as she was.

She knew that their own agenda outweighed her life, as well as Skinner's and Mulder's. They were along for the ride, until they met up with the First Elder. It was the whole reason they were there - waiting until Scully and Skinner could locate Mulder in the hopes that search would bring them to the First Elder.

Scully caught up with her boss, as Kwan laid him out on Reggie's bed. A minute later, Reggie appeared with a first aid kit. When she opened it, she found more than she'd expected. There wouldn't be any need to take Skinner to a hospital with all this equipment. Again, she looked at Reggie and wondered just what the hell he did for a living, really.

"Do you want to lose the jeans, or have me cut them off?" she asked her boss, scissors from the first aid kit in hand.

He glared at her, but reached down and popped open the buttons and then with Reggie and Scully's help, got them pulled off. For her boss' sake, she draped the material across his lap as she looked over the bullet wound on Skinner's upper thigh. The bullet had gone through cleanly, had missed the bone and artery and she didn't feel any major damage, so she doused the wound with disinfectant and bandaged the holes up, wrapping the whole thing with gauze. She found some antibiotics in the first aid kit, and handed them to Skinner while Reggie appeared from the bathroom with a glass of water.

"Now I know why Mulder keeps you around," joked Skinner. As her face went slack, Skinner instantly regretted reminding her of her missing partner. "Scully. . . "

"Just get some rest Walter. We'll deal with everything later," she said quietly, and got up from where she'd been kneeling by the bed, and walked out.

She stood outside the door and forced herself not to think of Mulder. Instead she found herself thinking back on what had happened at the warehouse. What she'd done. Shaking her head violently, trying to get the images out of her mind, she realized that she'd wandered into the kitchen. It must have been an unconscious move on her part, looking for a comforting place in this stranger's house. Kitchens were mostly the same no matter where you went - kitchen table and chairs, refrigerator, sink, stove. All so simple and uniform.

Pulling out one of the chairs, she settled into it heavily. Looking down at her shirt, she noticed the dust and blood that had somehow flecked the white t-shirt. She shrugged. It couldn't be helped. She'd toss it, or try and get it clean later. Next she noted the leather straps and metal buckles of the rig, and worked to shrug the thing off, still fully loaded with her Sigs and the spare ammo she hadn't used.

She hung it heavily over the post of the chair next to hers and then brought her attention back to the one prize she'd found tonight.

Mulder's watch.

Digging in her pocket, she fished it out and held it in front of her. She'd been so close. Damn it! If she'd only known that they were pinning them down in the front of the building while they spirited Mulder out the back, she would have planned for that. Instead, they'd come close, but had ended up leaving without their objective.

Scully turned the watch over in her hands, her mind full of memories. The paint splatters from the last crappy job of painting his bedroom that he'd wanted her help in doing. The scratches on the face from their side trip in Florida when they'd almost been consumed by the exotic plant life. The plastic strap that had seen better days. She closed her eyes and just grasped the plastic tightly, as if trying to feel him through it.

God, she missed him.

Kwan stood in the doorway of the kitchen and observed the red haired woman sitting at the table. Her hands held a watch, which Skinner had said she had found at the warehouse. And that it belonged to the man she was looking for. This Fox Mulder. Over and over again, she turned the timepiece in her hands, her fingers almost caressing the face, the band. It was obviously unconscious on her part, but since it was the only physical link she had to where this Mulder had been, she was communing with it as if it held a piece of the man's soul.

He knew what this man Mulder looked like. The First Elder had given him pictures of the people on his list to kill. While he wasn't expected to kill him specifically, the man had explained it might be a bonus. Who was on his list were several of the men he'd just helped. And the petite woman in the kitchen before him.

Except that after everything he'd seen happen in the warehouse, he had found himself questioning his loyalty to the men who had sent him here. What kind of threat could *she* be to Them? There was no doubting her fire and intelligence, but what could she have done to be put down like a dog?

Beyond that, while he'd watched her in the warehouse, and when he'd looked into her eyes as he'd explained himself to her, he found himself attracted to the object of his assignment. Yet he could see that no matter what he believed he was beginning to feel for this remarkable woman, she had someone else that occupied her thoughts, and if he guessed correctly, her heart as well.

"You care for him?" Kwan asked from the doorway, surprising Scully and rousing her from her meditation.

His words brought her up short, and she turned in her chair to face the man who had spoken, seeing the assassin that she'd agreed to trust, if only on a limited basis. Her eyes flicked to her guns, less than a foot away, and wondered how she had disregarded everything Mulder had taught her over the last five years.

Trust no one.

Except that she had to trust someone. And right now, she could use this man's skills to get Mulder back.

Kwan walked toward her, and took a seat in the chair next to her, yet across from the rig hooked on the chair by her side. She set the watch down reluctantly and returned her thoughts to what she thought he'd said.

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch what you'd asked."

"The man you are looking for," he stated, pointing one long finger in the direction of the watch on the table. "Mulder. You care for him, yes?"

"Of course. He's my partner," she replied quickly.

"Partner. That is the term Americans use for someone with whom they have an. . . intimate relationship with. Is that right?" Kwan asked, trying to recall the nuances of the word.

Scully looked at him in shock. Had he misspoken? If he hadn't, then he thought. . .

"No, no," she started, her voice insistent and the words almost tripping over her tongue in their haste to get out. "Mulder's my partner in the FBI. We're not, I mean, he and I, we're not. . . involved."

Curiously he stared at her, watching as her cheeks started to flush pinkly. In embarrassment, he thought, or something else.

"Pardon me. I just assumed that your relationship was something more than business by the way you spoke of him to me and to Mr. Skinner. And because of what you seem willing to do to have him returned. Such devotion seems to indicate to such a relationship, given your partiality for him," Kwan explained at length.

Instead of correcting him, Scully found herself having to consider his words closely. Certainly both she and Mulder had gone to great lengths to aid each other. But they'd always attributed it to their partnership, and the friendship that had developed from that.

Was it more than that though? On his end, as well as hers? And when exactly had begun to realizes that she felt something more for Mulder than friendship? Surely it was a recent development, maybe just a passing thing, due to his abduction.

Except the longer she thought about it, the more she realized that it wasn't something new. It was just her perception of her feelings had changed along with her.

When she'd allowed herself to feel the full extent of her baser, primal emotions - anger, fear, aggression, she hadn't considered that the other base feelings she felt for Mulder would escape as well - love, desire, need. And now all the emotions were flourishing in the landscape that was Dana Scully unleashed.

The proverbial genie was out of the bottle now, and she didn't know if she'd be able to get her emotions for Mulder to go back into the box she'd been storing them in and pretend things were just like they had been before.

And looking down at the watch in her hand, she was starting to recognize the fact that she didn't want to.

Unknown location
Somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area

Mulder awoke and took in his surroundings. His head, arms and ribs hurt from the beating he'd taken when they'd forced their way into his room and hauled him out, informing him he was moving. He'd tried to make a break for it, realizing it might be his only chance, and had taken the punishment for it.

At least, he tried to look on the bright side, they hadn't shot him on the spot.

His new prison was very much like an old brig. The stale smell of sweat, urine and shit that permeated the cement block floor gave it away. Of course the layout was obviously prison style - bunks, wash basin, toilet, window with bars and the barred door that looked out onto the wall of a corridor made it clear. At least it was bigger, he sighed half-heartedly.

The smell of the sea was much stronger than before and the outside noise was limited. His new space must be part of a much larger building, most likely a prison or police station, not like the warehouse he suspected he'd been in before.

Why would they have moved him? And so quickly? It was like. . . someone knew he had been at the last place he'd been held at, and they had to get him out before they were found.

His heart raced at the thought. He could only imagine one person risking themselves for him.

Scully.

She was alive. He knew that now. She was alive and searching for him. Obviously she had found him once already, which would explain why they'd moved him. But if he was here, where was she? Did she know he'd been there? Did she know where they'd moved him to?

Stretching, he looked up at his hands and noticed his watch was missing. Where had. . . Then he remembered that he'd taken it off to rub his wrist when he'd been in the small room in the old location. Before he could put it back on, they'd come to get him. That meant, if it really was Scully, she would search the place and find it. She'd know he'd been there.

He could only hope that she was alright, and that she'd be able to find him again.

Residence of Reggie Earle
1003 63rd St.
Oakland, CA

Kwan questioned his motives once again as he sat stock still, watching the petite red-headed FBI agent pace back and forth in front of him. His duty was supposed to be to kill her, yet he'd done everything but.

Well, not everything he reminded himself grudgingly, as she turned away from him, and he found himself watching her ass.

This man she was looking for, Fox Mulder was a lucky man.

"Carmine. I need your help," Scully said in a strained diplomatic tone. "They've moved Mulder and I need you to tell me if you can speculate as to where the First Elder would take him. Did he have any property here, or maybe some old connections that he would use?"

"What makes you think I can guess where that fuck is taking your partner after 25 years of being locked up," Carmine spat, wiping his mouth on his tailored shirt sleeve as he sat in Reggie's recliner.

"Look, I'm not asking for you give me any assistance other than information. If you can just say where they might take him in the city on such short notice, I can take care of the rest."

Even without anyone voicing it, there was an obvious sound of disapproval to her request.

"Dana, you need help. Even if you don't wish it, you must consider the danger and the sacrifice you may be called upon to make if you decide wrong," Kwan explained, his tongue slipping over a few words as his native language accented his nearly flawless English.

Scully turned and glared daggers at the Asian man behind her, not just for using her given name to try and sway her, but for the audacity of him to believe that she needed help. She knew that Carmine and Anthony were in agreement with Kwan's position. They were the big, tough men and she was the poor, defenseless woman who needed their assistance and protection.

Fuck that *and* them, she inwardly growled. In a sudden outburst, she slammed her fist into the closest wall, the sound startling everyone. Staring first at Kwan, then Skinner, and finally at Carmine, she stalked across the room to look Carmine straight in the face.

"Jesus Christ, I've had enough of this bullshit. If you don't want to tell me anything, just tell me so, goddammit. Don't use the pansy-ass excuse of needing to protect me. I don't need anyone to do that. Not you Carmine, or your Mafia buddies," she said angrily, and she then began to look around her as she spoke, looking each man in the eyes as she said their name. "Not you, Kwan, not Skinner and his friends and not even Mulder. So unless you want to take this outside, I suggest you start being serious with me."

The room was silent, and no one knew exactly what to say.

Suddenly, Skinner's cell phone rang, and all eyes fell on him as he answered. He didn't say a word, but when he closed the phone, he looked at Scully.

"They have him on Treasure Island."

San Francisco Bay
7 miles from Treasure Island/Yerba Buena Island

They'd put on the wetsuits just in case they had to abandon ship and swim at all in the cold bay. Reggie had explained that during the winter, especially after dark it was cold enough to cause hypothermia in a couple of minutes - almost as fast a frozen lake.

Reggie manned the Zodiac's outboard motor and rudder as the rubber craft cut through the water. On board, Skinner, Scully, Kwan, Carmine, Anthony and Anthony's three men kept low in the boat, heads forward and focused on the shore of the island in front of them.

They'd been en route to the island for what seemed like forever after leaving a remote part of the Alameda docks. Reggie had assured Scully that they'd be on shore within 30 minutes of leaving the harbor, so as she huddled down to check the time on the watch around her wrist, Mulder's watch to be precise, she knew that it shouldn't be much longer. As the boat skipped in the water, sending splashes of the cold wet into the boat and onto its occupants, Scully turned her attention from the watch to the lights of the Bay Bridge above them, winding its way through their objective. She wished that they could have just driven onto the island, but that route had to be watched.

In what seemed like record speed, they navigated under the bridge, turning north towards the sea wall that skirted the island, and then west. They stayed low in the boat as they continued along, and Reggie suddenly turned them south along the far side of the island. Moments later, they were anchored to the sea wall that lead up to a small beach and then directly into the streets of Treasure Island. Hurriedly, they scrambled in the dark onto the rocks, stripping off the wet suits to reveal their street clothes. Once done, they passed the equipment up from the Zodiac to the beach, where they parceled out the weapons. Scully shrugged on her rig while Skinner grabbed the binoculars in the pack and scoped out the situation.

From the beach, Scully, Skinner and Kwan passed the binoculars back and forth as they looked up into the cluster of buildings before them. While most of this end of the island was empty, there was one building that has its lights on, and on closer inspection, Skinner and Scully noted the four large black sedans parked outside.

"That must be it," Skinner said, pitching his voice loud enough to be heard, but not too loud. "We'll get within a block, fire in some tear gas and then storm the building. Scully, Kwan and Reggie are with me going in the front, Carmine, you and Anthony's men cover the back."

"Carmine, make sure that they don't get off this island. Or so help me, I'll make you sorry we sprung you from your cage," Scully growled as she looked at him, her eyes burning like fire in the low light.

He replied by making a dismissing sound, and they started forwards, creeping along the deserted streets, staying close to the walls and in the shadows. A block away, Skinner turned to Reggie, who produced a tear gas launcher. Dropping a canister into the tube, he aimed for a partially open window and fired. As soon as it sailed through, they headed for the front door, weapons in hand.

Moments before they reached the door there was a loud explosion and grayish colored gas started to issue from the windows. The door swung open, and Kwan shot the man trying to escape the gas point blank, then grabbed him by the collar before he could fall, flinging him out of the doorway. Scully and Skinner pushed inside, eyes watering from the smoke while they fired at the shadows moving within that had just realized that they were being attacked.

Bullets began whizzing in their direction, and Scully and Skinner split up at the door, flinging themselves down and to the side as Kwan and Reggie leaned around the doorway and fired into the room.

Scully leapt to her feet and started shooting, moving towards the window and some fresh air. She heard rather than saw Skinner and Reggie firing their S&W autos into the left side of the room, making sure that anyone in the building firing at them was being fired upon.

Bullets zipped back and forth across the room, and Scully knew she had just dodged one or two by seconds. Things were ok for the moment, she realized, but things were going to change fast.

The gas was starting to dissipate.

At the back of the building's main room there seemed to be what looked like a passageway or corridor leading left and right. Scully heard scuffling and a clanking noise that sounded metallic coming from that direction. Coughing for a second, she tightened her grip on her guns and headed into the back of the building, firing at anything in her path. From behind, the sound of his 12 gauge shotgun blasting away alerted her to Kwan's presence behind her, following her.

Skidding to a stop at the doorway into the corridor along the back of the room, she flattened to the wall, Kwan shadowing her on the opposite side, his shotgun in hand. For a moment, she flashed back on the thousands of times she'd been in this same pose, except the man on the other wall was Mulder. The thought sent another surge of adrenaline though her system, and she swung herself into the corridor, firing off half her clip, catching one of the MiB's fleeing from their advance in the back, sending him sprawling.

Kwan turned down the other corridor going left and fired his shotgun. He saw two men laying bleeding when he stopped, but no one else. He turned to check on Scully, and saw her taking care of herself. He paused and flattened against the wall while he pulled shells from the pocket of his black vest and shoved them into the shotgun as fast as his fingers would let him.

Scully started running down the hall, looking to both sides as she went, looking for doors or windows where either MiB's could be hiding, or Mulder could be being held.

Once door to her right appeared ajar, and she fired through it before kicking it in. As it flew open, she shot again, moving inside. She heard and felt the bullets fly past her, and she backed up, throwing herself backward to the floor, shooting at the same time. When she hit the wall of the corridor, she groaned at the impact at the same time as she heard the groan and thud of whomever had shot at her.

Scrambling up, she went back inside and checked to make sure that whomever was in there wasn't getting up again. When she saw the MiB's body sprawled face up on the floor, bullet wounds to his head and chest, she turned back to her task and moved hurriedly down the corridor. There was a door at the end of it, open to the street she guessed, and headed towards it faster than before.

Abruptly she came up short in front of a cell. An empty cell.

She paused briefly at the doorway of the brig-style cell, the iron bar door wide open, and she knew in her gut that Mulder had been in there, and that they'd spirited him out already, most likely they had hurried him out that open door she'd been headed for, probably thirty feet away at most. He was that close, she though excitedly.

"They're outside!" she yelled loudly as she ran down the hall.

Outside, Scully heard yelling and gunfire, and she continued down the corridor and out of the building. She saw Dominic and Stan shooting at three MiB's manhandling someone into a waiting sedan a block away. She looked in the low light and was sure she recognized the lanky figure that they were dragging.

"Mulder!!" she screamed as she headed towards the MiB's who were firing and dodging the bullets being fired by Anthony's men. She saw the man who was sandwiched between two of the MiB's start to jerk around wildly, trying to break from their grip.

"Scully!" Mulder called out, as one of the men holding him shoved his hand over Mulder's mouth, silencing him.

Adrenaline rushed through Scully's limbs as she ran faster, needing to stop that car. Dominic and Stan were taking shelter behind a few trees as they were fired upon, by Scully ignored them. She saw the last of the men get in the sedan and while the men in back kept firing out their windows, the driver started pulling away, gaining speed every second. She fired at them with one gun and then another in repetition as she ran, knowing her aim had to be shit as her arms were jarred with each step.

She kept running and shooting until car was out of sight.

Gone. He was gone again, she cried inwardly as she stood there on the street, her weapons still clutched tightly in her hands. She'd lost him again!

Part of her wanted to just break down, right there on the asphalt. Sink to her knees and cry out in anger and loss. Except that she didn't have time for that luxury. She'd seen him, heard him call her name. He had been so close, and she knew that she could get him back next time.

Slowly she holstered her weapons and turned back towards the block house. Walking sluggishly back to the building, she caught sight of Dominic and Stan turning the corner and heading into the building.

They'd been right there, less than 20 feet away from whatever exit the MiB's had come through with Mulder, and they'd let them slip past and get to the car. What the fuck had they been doing?

What they had been told to?

Had Carmine or Anthony told the gangsters not to interfere if they saw Mulder being taken out? Were they only looking for the First Elder, and to hell with the missing agent?

She started walking faster, her fury getting more out of hand the closer she got to the block house. By the time she came through the door, she had a Sig in her hand and was ready to murder Carmine, Anthony or all of them if her suspicions were true. She felt her feet crunch shell casings that blanketed the floor of the makeshift combat zone as she stormed into the room.

"You *fucking* asshole!" Scully screamed at Carmine as she stormed in the open door while he sauntered around the bullet ridden room, his Uzi nearly dangling from his hand. "Your men lost them! They were *that* close to saving Mulder and they let them get away! And why? Did you tell them to? You think I'm not capable of making good on my threat? I *will* put you down if I find out that you let them go!"

Instantly, Anthony's men are there, and holding their weapons in Scully's direction. Skinner, Kwan and Reggie were taken aback by the suddenness of both Scully's outburst and the gangster's response.

"You think I'm scared?" Scully asked Carmine, her voice dropping to a level Skinner had never heard before. "I've faced a lot worse than you and your kind, believe me. And I'll let you know a little secret. I'll put a bullet through your brain before they kill me, so I'd suggest you drop the fucking dramatic stand-off now!"

The tension in the air was thick while Carmine seemed to consider his options. With a slight gesture, his men stood down.

"Look honey, I got more to gain by helping you than not at this point. What you want will help me get what *I* want. Capeche?" he explained to her as he reached in his pocket for a cigar.

She stared at him intently as he lit the cigar. He seemed calm enough, but she watched the sweat start to bead at his temples. Good, she thought inwardly. He needed to be afraid of her. If he had lied to her just now, she'd find out and make sure he regretted it. For now though, she didn't have any proof that they'd let Mulder's captors escape. So, unless she wanted to finish it here and now, she knew it was time to back off.

"Fine," she fumed, her eyes closing as she turned away from the men around her. "But the fact is that they escaped and now we need to find Mulder again."

They had to find him again, she sighed silently. But he had been here, she'd heard his voice this time, had seen them spirit him away in one of the sedans. While she had missed the tires on the sedan, she was sure that she'd cracked the rear glass as the car sped away. She tried to console herself that they had gotten closer this time. But it was still frustrating and painful to the point of collapsing.

The only bright point she could find in it all was the fact that Mulder had screamed her name after she'd called out to him. He'd heard her, knew she was coming for him. With all her heart she hoped that the knowledge that she was coming for him would help him hold on until she found him.

Scully opened her eyes and turned to see everyone watching her, waiting to see what she was going to do next. With a deep breath, she straightened her spine and reconstructed her invulnerable, tough exterior. She waded back into the discussion that seemed to have continued without her as to their next move.

"Now what?" Scully asked Skinner, her anger and adrenaline faded under the fear and failure of their blown rescue attempt. He could see, just beneath the surface how the constant near-misses were affecting her. If there had been no one else in the room, he was almost sure that she would have just crumpled to the ground and started crying. But she couldn't do that in front of everyone. She had to keep control of the situation, even if it meant denying how she felt.

"We stop following them, and take this to them. By finding the First Elder," Skinner explained simply. "I'll make a call and see if we can find out where he is. But at this point, I don't think we'll be able to do anything till morning."

At that, Scully only nodded her understanding. Another day. She could do that.

Continue to Part Seven