02.36 a.m.
April 6
Dana Scully's Residence
3170 West 53 Road

Scully jerked awake and sat up in her bed, blinking in confusion. The dream she'd had, had torn her out of her sleep. Breathing heavily, she pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them after having turned on the light. Yet the scene from the dream kept playing over and over in her mind. She had dreamed of Mulder. He had been caught in something and had been reaching out to her, begging for her help. But she couldn't move, couldn't get to him.

"Oh my God. Are you still alive?" she whispered. Unable to justify this feeling, her initial intention to reach for the phone and call Skinner subsided again. She couldn't wake him up in the middle of the night to tell him she'd had a dream about Mulder. He would think she had lost her mind. But the feeling was as strong as the time when she thought he had died on that Indian reservation. Stronger, even. He was in need. He needed her. And she didn't know where to start looking.

An idea, which actually made her laugh out loud in disbelief, came to her like lightning from a clear sky. Go back to sleep. Dream on. That was what she was thinking. Could it be possible? Could she find Mulder in a dream and then go to him in reality? The helpless laughter overcame her again. This was insane. This was something Mulder would believe in. No, she decided. It was just a dream. Frowning, she reached out and switched off the light, the nagging doubt not letting go. Was he really dead? Or was he out there somewhere, in dire need of help? She feared the first and wanted to believe the second. And in between there was that dream.


Location unknown

The dark-haired woman stepped into the room after the end of his third week there and looked around. At first she didn't see him, then spotted him in the furthest corner from the windows. She had checked on him regularly and had made certain that he was okay despite the terrible attacks he went through. Most of them were painful only to his mind. It was dark in the room due to the heavy cloud cover outside, announcing another storm. Squinting in the gloom, she slowly walked toward him, aware that he might still be lost in some kind of imaginary world. She squatted down in front of him, her eyes scrutinizing his face.

Swallowing weakly, his lips parted as he tried to form words without being able to speak and his eyes focused on her. A weak movement of one hand indicated that he wanted something from her.

She eyed his hand for a moment, then looked back up at his face. "How are you feeling?" she asked after a moment, her tone of voice as indifferent as ever. It was the first time that she spoke to him since his arrival. He just stared at her. "Any hallucinations?"

He weakly shook his head to let her know that he hadn't had hallucinations in a while.

"Any cramps?"

Again, he merely shook his head no, his eyes never leaving her face.

"Do you feel any hunger for the drug?"

Once more he shook his head in denial.

"Good. I think it's about time you went home," she said, staring at him.

He stared back, no indication of recognition in his eyes. But inside him, something was happening. The word home stirred him to life. Slowly, sluggishly he started thinking again.


3.35 p.m.
April 29

Dr. Dana Scully dismissed her class for the afternoon. Since the Bureau without hesitation had pronounced her partner dead long before that time when it was officially legal, and had reassigned her to a teaching position at Quantico, she had spent her days telling young people how to cut cadavers open, how to determine causes of death. And all the while, she kept dreaming of her partner, the same dream over and over again.

By now, she was as certain as she could be without tangible proof that he was still out there somewhere, but all her resources to find him had been cut off. Skinner had stood powerless when the brass had decided that this was official business. They had even reprimanded him for not putting other agents on the case and told him he should be happy to still have a job.

Scully's mind had rebelled when he had told her about her re‑assignment, but to the outside world, she had seemingly accepted her fate. Her occasional contact to the Lone Gunmen was held in the strictest confidence and although she had given them all the information she could, they had not been able to find even a single trace anywhere.

Scully had naturally been in charge of telling Mulder's mother about his disappearance and the fact that the F.B.I. had closed the book him. Mrs. Mulder had taken the news the way she took any news, calmly, but with a kind of silent despair in her eyes. She had, however, refused to let anybody touch his apartment and was willing to continuously pay the rent until they found a definite sign that her son was gone. Due to her own belief that he wasn't dead, Scully supported Mrs. Mulder in that action and went over there a few times a week to feed the fish.

Scully shrugged out of her lab coat, grabbed her things and headed for her car. She was in no mood to talk to her colleagues, although they had arranged a small get-together this afternoon where all were invited. She was fed up with hearing snide remarks about her missing partner, about how everybody had expected this to happen sooner or later. For who could think that Spooky Mulder wouldn't go AWOL at one point?

Once behind the wheel or her Ford Taurus, she paused before turning the key in the ignition. Looking out at Quantico, she remembered how many times she had been here in the past. Both on her own and with Mulder. To think that she would never hear his silly comments on things again made her close her eyes briefly. "Oh God. I wish I had the strength of your beliefs now, Mulder. I wish I could be one hundred percent certain that you're still out there." She shook her head, her defeat complete. She had so wanted to stay in Washington so she could further her attempts to try and find her missing partner and friend, but nobody had listened to her. Nobody had paid attention to her needs, her wishes. She had told Skinner about her dreams, but he had shrugged, obviously very burdened by the whole thing, and had told her to forget about it. Unless Mulder resurfaced, alive or dead, there was nothing more he could do. His channels were blocked, he had told her. Nothing could be done.

Scully couldn't help wondering what the Cancer Man had threatened him with, for there was no doubt in her mind that his helplessness stemmed from that corner.


6.30 p.m.
Mulder's residence
Apartment 42
2630 Hegal Place

He woke up slowly, his face buried in an mostly unyielding, familiar smelling mass. He inhaled the scent and very slowly raised his head, staring down at the black, comfortable surface beneath him. Then, slowly, he turned his head, running his eyes over his own living room as if he had never seen it before. Weak to a point where he could hardly move, he managed to shift himself around so he was lying on his side on his couch, the familiar scents of his home bombarding him. He let his eyelids slide shut again and drew in a deep breath, savoring the feeling of being home again.

He'd been gone for a long time. He didn't know how long, though. Through the threshes and the pain, the subsequent hallucinations and his increasing weakness, he had lost count of the days and nights he had spent in that place. But all that didn't matter now. What mattered was that he was home. He felt weak, but there was no pain and the horrible urge for that drug had subsided a few days ago. He felt no need whatsoever to ever stick his nose into something like this again. If he never heard of a drug addict again, it would be too soon.

Running his tongue over the roof of his mouth, he noted the fact that he was thirsty. A glass of water stood on the coffee table next to him and he couldn't help smiling. It was a sarcastic little smile. Life sure had been a mess lately. Reaching out weakly, he grabbed the glass and drank a few sips of the water, noting that the almond taste was gone. Just plain water.

He settled back onto the couch, placing the glass on his chest, and stared up at the ceiling. Then a thought popped into his head. Scully. He had to call Scully and let her know he was okay. With an effort, he managed to push himself up on the couch and reached for the phone conveniently positioned on the coffee table as well. Not a place he would keep it, he mused. With shaking fingers, he pressed the speed dial button and raised the receiver up to his ear.


7.10 p.m.
Dana Scully's Residence
3170 West 53 Road

Scully had settled down on her couch with a bowl of soup, not really hungry but forcing herself to eat. She had lost weight over the last month and needed to regain some of it before she wasted away. Heaving a deep breath, she sighed and shook her head. "I'm starting to be as obsessed about things as you are, Mulder," she said, unable to shake the rock-steady yet odd conviction that he was still out there.

The phone rang, causing her to close her eyes in annoyance. "Bill! It's a guess," she told herself, put the bowl of soup aside and got up to grab the receiver. Her brother had called her on a regular basis, trying to get her to come out to visit so she didn't have to go through this tough period on her own. The thing was, she knew what would happen once she got there and got settled in. Bill would start telling her that she was better off and although he had never wanted for Mulder to die, he certainly had not approved of him being a part of her life. Shaking her head, she raised the receiver to her ear.

"Yes?" she asked, certain to hear her brother on the other end. A patch of silence followed that.

"Scully, it's me."

Her eyelids slid closed and she barely managed to contain an almost anguished sigh as she brought a hand up to cover her mouth. Although his voice was weak, barely audible, she would recognize that voice anywhere. "Oh God," she whispered. "Mulder?"

"Yeah!" he breathed, sounding ready to drop.

"Where are you?" she demanded, her own voice taking on a strength she had not been able to display over the past month.

"At home," he replied and laughed weakly. "Ironic, isn't it?"

"I'm coming over," she said, ignoring that last remark. "Just ... stay where you are," she added as if on second thought.

"Okay," he replied.

The connection broke again and she stood there with the receiver in her hand, staring at it, wondering if this had just happened. Maybe she had finally gone insane, she mused. Then she shook her head, put the receiver down, went into her bedroom to put some decent clothes on and left the apartment fifteen minutes later.


7.45 p.m.
Mulder's residence
Apartment 42
2630 Hegal Place

Scully unlocked the door and stepped into the apartment, immediately sensing another presence. She closed the door and walked through to the living room only to stop at the sight of him. He was thin. Had lost a lot of weight over the past month. There were dark patches under his eyes and his face in general had a hollow look to it. But he was smiling at her and she could not recall ever having seen anything better in her whole life. Leaning her head to the right, she sat down on the edge of the couch, staring at him with a smile of her own. Without further ado, she leaned over him and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him hard. He in turn slipped his arms around her, attempting to hug her back, but his arms lagged the strength.

"Scully," he breathed after a moment.

She just kept on holding him, savoring the feel of having him near. "Yes?" she whispered.

"You're squashing me," he told her, a smile in his voice.

With a slightly rueful smile on her lips, she let go and leaned back, her hands on his arms.

"I seem to be ... a little ... uhm ... undernourished," he said.

"You do, yes," she replied, inspecting his face thoughtfully, her mind already in doctor mode. "Let me have a look at you," she added, taking his right hand and inspecting that, too. "Do you feel sick?" she asked, turning it over. The skin on his hand was dry, rough.

"No," he replied weakly. "Just ... tired. And awfully hungry," he told her, smiling at the way she was scrutinizing him. "I could go for a burger right now," he added and swallowed hard at the thought of food.

Scully met his eyes and smiled. "A burger?" she asked and he nodded. "I am going to make sure that you get something to eat, but a burger is not going to be it. You need something that can give you your strength back. Something that can get you back on your feet in a hurry. I do not like seeing you like this. But you don't seem sick. Just thinner." Staring at him, her smiled faded. "Where have you been for the past three weeks?"

He returned her stare for a moment, then closed his eyes and sighed. "Has it been that long?" he replied. "I don't know ... a house out in the country. I ... couldn't get out."

She brushed his hair back from his forehead, then traced his jaw-line, searching for the injuries he'd had when he had disappeared. The dislocated jaw should be okay by now, providing he had been treated right, but his broken shoulder and ribs should still be bothering him. Her fingers slipped down over his left shoulder, touching and poking it.

"I'm okay," he told her. "Don't ask how. I woke up in that place and was okay."

"The broken ribs?" she wanted to know and he nodded his head. "You have no bruises anymore. Most of them should be gone by now, but still. There should still be signs. How's your head?"

He smiled weakly at her concern. "Light. I feel very ... light‑headed."


8.30 a.m.
May 25
J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington, D.C.

It had taken him a little over three weeks to get back on his feet. His strength was building daily and both his complexion and figure had returned to normal. Outward there was no sign of what had happened to him. Inside, Scully wasn't so sure. She had watched him closely and had noticed something. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but there was something going on in that head of his. What it was she didn't know, though. All she knew was that he was keeping things from her. Things that might be important.

There had been a lot of questions, a lot of confusion about his disappearance and subsequent return. Skinner and Scully seemed to be among the only ones who saw it as something good that he had returned. To questions about where he had been for the past month, he had replied with the same explanation he had given Scully. A country estate somewhere, he had no idea where or how long he had been there. He knew nothing of his abductor other than that she had taken him away, gotten him off the drug, and had subsequently returned him to his apartment. And he patiently repeated it over and over again. To Scully's great surprise, nothing seemed to faze him these days. He didn't get upset about the questions. He didn't get that set look to his jaw when somebody made fun of him. He in general didn't seem to care. It was like water off a duck's back. Nothing got to him.

She draped her coat over the back of her chair and smiled at him, receiving that odd weak smile back that he had acquired since returning, when he briefly glanced up at her. He hardly made any jokes, which she of course didn't expect him to, either. It was just odd to be with him at the moment. To her utter and complete confusion, he seemed to lean heavily on her opinion about things now. She had not heard him come up with one single remark on anything supernatural. "Mulder," she said, easing down on her chair without taking her eyes of him.

"Yeah?" he replied, looking up from the paperwork he was going over.

"Are you okay?" she wanted to know, a standard question she asked him every morning when she came in since his return to work.

He smiled. There was something overbearing about that smile. As if he gladly tolerated silly questions about his health. "I'm fine," he replied. "Why? Shouldn't I be?"

A diversity from their usual routine. It gave her hope. "I don't know, Mulder. I don't really know you anymore. I'm aware that you've been through hell and it would be nothing short of a miracle if you had gotten away from this without some kind of ... after‑effect. But you're behaving oddly."

For a moment, he just stared at her, his expression calm and unemotional, then he pulled his reading glasses off and leaned back on his chair, the look in his eyes suddenly far away, his expression tensing up. "I have a better understanding for certain things now. Like what a drug addict feels when trying to become drug free. I understand how difficult it is." Focusing on her, the seriousness in his expression did not escape her. The way he frowned, the dark look in his eyes. "I don't ever ... ever want to go through that again. If ever somebody forces me to take drugs again, I'll stay on them."

She was taken aback by his statement. She knew from medical reports, and the few times she had seen drug addicts in the throes of their need, how difficult it could be, but something had happened to him while he had been away which had left him utterly shaken. "That's a pretty hefty comment, Mulder," she said, as serious as he was.

"Yes, I know. But that's how I feel. If ordinary drugs put you through even half of what I went through, I'd rather die than try and get off them." Again his eyes drifted and his expression revealed his inner turmoil. "It was horrible. No nightmare I've ever had could compete with what I saw." He closed his eyes and sighed lightly, pinching the bridge of his nose. "It was so real."

Her heart constricted at his words. This was something he had to live with every day of his life. On top of all the other heart wrenching episodes of his life. She just sat there, staring at him, unable to find any words of comfort. Because she didn't know how horrible it had really been.


August 7
08.10 a.m.
The Consortium Lodge
46th Street
New York

The Cigarette-Smoking Man looked up from his morning paper when one of his many helpers turned up unannounced. She leaned in close to whisper in his ear, "Bad news, I'm afraid."

Looking up at her for a moment, he then lit a Morley and rose. Nodding to his counter-parts, he said "Would you excuse me?" and followed the young woman out of the sitting room. "What kind of bad news?" he wanted to know once they were outside the building, walking slowly along the street, side by side.

She kept her eyes steadily on the pavement in front of her. "Not all are gone. The last one, the original, rose from the ashes after her benefactor tried to retire her. She's not dead. And she is set on revenge. There is only one likely source she will take that out on."

That was bad news, indeed, and it brought a frown to his face. "Unacceptable. Get a hold of our friend and have him deal with it. I want no further trouble from these females," he said, thinking with disgust of what these females had done to one of his protégées. This would not be repeated.

The young woman nodded in acceptance. "Right away. It may not be necessary, though. Her benefactor said it's only a matter of days before she dies," she replied and continued on her own along the street after he had stopped.

The Cigarette-Smoking Man watched her go while thoughtfully blowing a cloud of smoke into the air. Content in the knowledge that his more-than-human friends could deal with this situation on their own, he returned to the lodge, settled down on his chair and resumed reading the newspaper. There was fairly little in this world that could push him off track. And this was not going to be one of these things.


10.15 p.m.
August 9
Mulder's residence
Apartment 42
2630 Hegal Place

The dialogue of the movie was getting old. Having seen WAR OF THE WORLDS a million times, Mulder had never thought he could get tired of it. But he didn't feel like watching nonsense tonight. Like any other night since May.

He could positively say that he had changed since May. Four months had passed since his finale encounter with that crazy shape-shifter. In those four months, he had gotten his shoulder forcefully broken and put back together again in a miraculous way. He had become a drug addict and had been forced off the drug again. His whole life had been screwed up. And three months before that, it had all begun with a most painful and horribly embarrassing encounter. Seven months of his life had been messed up by that odd invention that the Consortium was obviously so proud of. Shaking his head at that thought, he switched the television set off and leaned back on the couch, his feet on the coffee table.

He was a mess. No matter how much he fought the very notion, he knew he was a mess. His mind was screwed up by those incidents. At first the torture, then the fear, then the sense of freedom when he had thought himself safe. And then she had resurfaced and beaten the crap out of him, nearly killing him, forcing him into a brief yet painful addiction to a drug which had since disappeared mysteriously from the market again. Too many events to process in one go. And all within a year.

He had gone back to work as soon as he could, taking the time to recover, yet pushing himself back into action. Just so that nobody could hold that against him as well. And he also knew that he had to get back on the horse, metaphorically speaking.

One month ago he had done his best profile yet, helping to catch another crazed killer within the short time span of three weeks. That was all it had taken him to figure out who the guy was. They had found out where he was hiding, had arrested him and Mulder had testified in a court of law against the man, thereby certifying that he would not get out of prison again for quite a long time.

And Mulder had fooled Skinner. He knew as much. Skinner thought he was over the events which had ended in May and he had done nothing to prove the man wrong. After the successful profile, Skinner had padded his shoulder and told him, "Welcome back." He had grinned and had joined in on the celebration this quick arrest of that lunatic had resulted in. But on the inside, he felt everything but happy. He was alert nearly twenty-four hours a day. He slept badly. He drank coffee by the bucket just to stay awake long enough to nearly pass out. Only then could he sleep without dreaming.

Sighing, he ran both hands over his face, briefly thinking of all the new scars he could add to his collection and grinned joylessly. This was not good. Not a good line of thought. If he didn't get his mind focused on something other than what had transpired four months ago, he would dream about it. And he would wake up screaming.

Before he had a chance to come up with something, the phone rang. With a hunch of who it could be, he picked up. "Yup?"

"It's me." Scully's voice was subdued and he could hear the television blaring away in the background.

Mulder smiled. She was calling him on a regular basis, checking in, so to speak. "Hi," he said. "What's up?"

"Oh, nothing much. I was just wondering what you were up to," she replied, trying to sound indifferent but not quite managing.

Now there was someone he hadn't fooled. He couldn't fool her. No matter how hard he tried. She called him almost every evening to talk about nothing, to ask if he was okay, to wish him sweet dreams. He in turn wished that her wishes would come true. But usually, they didn't. "Nothing much, either," he replied, still smiling. It warmed him that she was so concerned about him. A concern she kept under wraps while they were working together. "What are you up to?" he wanted to know.

She suppressed a yawn and chuckled. "Oh, I was about to go to bed. Just wanted to ... you know ... check in. And remind you that we have a meeting with Skinner tomorrow morning. Nine sharp."

He could not help laughing softly at that. "Don't worry. I haven't forgotten. I know how much it means to him that we're there on time. But, let me in turn remind you of that you've got the car."

A brief pause followed that and he could just imagine her expression. "Oh yeah, that's right," she finally replied, managing to sound a little embarrassed. "Well, then I guess I'll just have to pick you up tomorrow, won't I?"

The whole thing was beginning to be very amusing. "Isn't that a little out of your way, agent Scully?" he replied. "Why, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you were coming on to me."

That made her laugh out loud. "Don't flatter yourself, agent Mulder. I'm just trying to do you a favor so you don't have to take public transportation to work, God forbid," she told him, her tone of voice full of irony. "I'll be there at half past. Just be ready, okay? I'm not coming in to wake you up. If you're not downstairs when I honk the horn, I'm leaving and then you can take the bus to work and explain to Skinner why you are late for this meeting."

Mulder enjoyed these little conversations they had. It made him think of other things. "Yeah, I'll just tell him you ditched me even though you promised to pick me up," he replied, grinning.

"I ditched you?" she shot back, sounding a little baffled. "Now there's a thought," she added. "I'll be there at eight thirty. Be ready. I will come up and drag you out of bed if I have to."

"Oooh! Now that makes me want to stay in bed," he said.

"You wish," she said. "I'll see you tomorrow. Good night, Mulder. Sweet dreams."

"Thanks. You, too," he replied and hung up. "Yeah, sometimes I do wish," he added with a smile and decided to turn in. His mood was decidedly better now and he thought he might actually have something else to dream about. Something good for a change. Tired and for once not afraid to admit it, he reached out to switch off the lamp, slid down on his couch, pulled the blanket up to his nose and closed his eyes. He needed a good night's sleep.


10.35 p.m.

Down on the street, across from the building, a shadow stirred in a dark doorway. Phoenix broke out of the shadows and stared up at the now dark window, her eyes glowing with hatred. In general, she had nothing against Fox Mulder, she didn't even know him except from what her now dead sisters had told her, but her former benefactors seemed to think he was important to their goal and what better way to bring them down than to remove one of their crown jewels? And she would make him suffer for her defeat. She needed one of her former benefactors' little inventions to stay sane. They had taken it away from her and with every passing day, she would become more of a threat to her surroundings. Still fully aware of her own madness, she glanced either way before stepping out on the road. Her hands deeply buried in the pockets of her long, dark trench coat, she made her way across the street, her eyes on the entrance to the building.


08.30 a.m.
August 7

Dana Scully stopped the car and honked the horn, leaning back to wait for a moment. Nothing happened. Leaning forward a bit, she glanced up at his window and sighed. "Damn it, Mulder. Are you really going to make me come up there?" she mumbled under her breath and glanced at her watch. "Two more minutes and I'm coming up, Mulder," she added. "And I'm not going to be gentle."

With a sigh, she shook her head in annoyance, turned off the engine and pulled the key out of the ignition. She pushed the door open and stepped out on the road, a fresh breeze making her stop short for a second while she stared up at his living room window.

She slammed the door of the car and locked it, then stalked across the street and up the few steps to the front door of the building. "You better have a hell of a good excuse for this one," she mumbled as she pushed the door open and stepped inside.

She caught the elevator to the second floor and walked purposefully down the hallway until she came to his door. Giving the 42 a sharp glare, she raised her fist to knock. His front door swung open at first contact.

Scully froze, staring at the half-open door in surprise and sudden dread. A feeling of déjà-vu crept up on her and holding her breath, she pushed the door fully open and stepped through to the small hallway beyond.

"Mulder?" she called. No reply. "Oh no, not again," she whispered, examining the immediate area closely. No blood stains. That was at least a good sign.

She walked through to the living room and stopped short at the sight of the damage done there. The coffee table had been turned over, a blanket was tossed across one of its legs, the couch had been moved a bit and the pillows lay scattered on the floor next to it. It was obvious that he had not given up without a fight. Just to make sure that she was not reading this scene wrong, she went into the bedroom and found it as untouched as it had been for the past seven months. The bathroom was also empty and the kitchen, too.

Running a hand over her face, she had trouble suppressing her immediate feelings for a moment, then dug her cell phone out of her pocket and called for help.