04.33 p.m.
Basement office
J. Edgar Hoover building

Anna Krycek leaned back on the chair, impatiently tapping a pen onto the smooth surface of Mulder's desk and frowned at nothing, the receiver of the phone clamped in between her ear and her right shoulder. She had been on the phone more or less constantly since this morning, trying to get a hold of someone who knew something about property for sale in Virginia's higher regions. Finally, the phone at the other end was picked up. Smiling, she leaned forward again. "Hi, my name is Anna Krycek. I'm calling from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I've got a question about property for sale up in the Appalachians around Fulks Run and I was wondering if you could help me out there." She perked up. "You could? Excellent. The thing is, I'm trying to trace whether any single females have bought any kind of remote property in that area over ... say the last few months. Maybe even as far back as a year. B That's great. I'll hold."

Holding her hand over the mouth piece, she looked over at Scully. "This guy sells property up there," she whispered, then removed her hand from the mouth piece again.

"Yes? You don't, huh?" She didn't look happy. "Nothing? How about further out like Bergton? Anything in that area?" She waited for a moment, patiently hearing the man out. "Really? An old mansion that has been empty for years? - Did she now? - Really? - What was her name, if you don't mind my asking?" She gave Scully a thumbs-up. "Phoenix? A bit of an eccentric? Yeah, I bet." She laughed at something the man said. "Could you give me a description of how to get there?" She nodded, grabbed a piece of paper and sketched a route. "She did, huh? - No kidding? - Wow. Okay. Listen, thank you so much. You've been such a great help. Thank you. - Yes, I'll be sure to call on you if I need any property in that area. Thanks again. Bye-bye." Hanging up, she triumphantly raised the piece of paper. "I think this is it."

Scully got off her chair. "Talk to me," she urged her.

"This guy sold an old mansion that was just about ready to be torn down to a woman he says was a bit far out. But she had the cash, so he sold her the house. Apparently, she had it redone completely. And get this. She had a moat installed. A real, live moat. And a drawbridge, too."

Scully stared at her, a little confused. "What makes you think that this is it?"

Anna leaned back on the chair, the look of a satisfied cat about her. "Because the woman who bought this house called herself Phoenix and he swears he saw at least three women together looking exactly alike. All of them matching the description you gave me of that female who first attacked Mulder."

"Okay. That's good enough for me," Scully replied. "Grab your things. We're leaving. We just have to fill Skinner in."


05.10 p.m.
A.D. Skinner's office

A.D. Skinner looked up when Dana Scully and Anna Krycek more or less stormed into his office unannounced. Before he had a chance to tell them off about it, they both started talking, glanced at each other and then Anna backed down and let Scully do the talking.

"Sorry about barging in like this, sir, but we think we know where to find agent Mulder. A woman matching the description of that ... female who first attacked him has bought an old, remote house up there and we have reason to believe that she might have taken him there."

Skinner stared at her for a moment, the reprimand stuck in his throat. "Up where?" he asked, glancing from one to the other, then fixing his stare on Scully.

"Bergton. It's south-west of here," Scully said.

"I know where Bergton is," he replied gruffly, then again glanced at Anna and then back to Scully. "Well? What are you waiting for? Get going. Get in touch with the local police force up there when you arrive and tell them to back you up. I'll give Bergton a call right now," he added, grabbed the receiver of his phone and thereby ended the conversation.

Both women stormed out the way they had entered and Skinner briefly glanced after them, more than a little surprised at Scully's seemingly reckless behavior. Shaking his head, he went about making that call to the police station in Bergton.


05.34 p.m.
On US 50

Scully drove like she never had before in her life. With a speed of just above 75 miles per hour, she was likely to catch the attention of a traffic police man, but at the moment she didn't care. Not until Anna cleared her throat.

"Don't you think you should slow down a bit? We won't be able to help your partner if we're being detained by a traffic cop," she said, looking a little nervous.

Scully could understand the reasoning in that and blamed her need to hurry so on being over tired. She slowed the car down to the designated 65 miles per hour and kept the car on that speed. "Sure, you're right," she agreed. "I've just seen him the other times and he needed help desperately. He's been gone for nearly two days now and I can't help thinking . . ." She shook her head, aware of how desperate she sounded.

"I know. If it were my partner, I would feel the same. Believe me. But it still doesn't help him if we're being held back by a busy-body of a traffic cop. And, believe me, they don't give a damn about us being Feds," Anna said, totally relaxed again.

Scully kept her eyes on the road and the other cars but had trouble keeping her mind from wandering. "How did you come up with this idea, anyway?" she asked, hoping to strike up a conversation that would keep her focus on the road ahead.

"Just a hunch. I've had a lot of those over the past year and a half and, obviously, my colleagues think it's a good thing. My mom always told me to stop being so imaginative. She was certain it would get me in trouble some day." Anna chuckled under her breath, amused at the memory.

"I'm glad that you didn't listen to your mother's advise," Scully said, glancing over at Anna with a smile. If this turned out to be a good hunch, she would never distrust this woman again. "I just hope it's right, too."

"Yeah, me too," Anna sighed and settled back in her seat. "What's he really like, your partner?"

That question confused Scully a little. "Really like?" she repeated. "What do you mean?"

"Well, Fox Mulder has a ... uhm ... certain reputation among the employees of this reportedly noble institution we work for. I was just wondering if he's really off his rocker or if it's just the typical silly rumors brilliant men like him are exposed to?"

Scully couldn't help smiling. "I take it you don't believe in the supernatural and alien abductions?" she asked after a moment, feeling a little odd about having this conversation. This was usually Mulder's side of the game.

"Well, I believe in most things that I can see. I believe in a few things I can't. It always depends on the circumstances in the end. If I experience something that really rocks my world, I will probably end up believing it. But, no, I don't believe in alien abductions," Anna confessed, watching the road ahead of them without really seeing it.

"Neither did I. Before I met Mulder. Now I'm not so sure," Scully replied. "And to answer your question, no, Fox Mulder is not off his rocker. He's a very brilliant and talented man who is being picked on by his peers due to various reasons. Jealousy is one, I'm sure."


Location unknown

At first he could not think beyond the pain. The throbbing in his leg combined with the continued nausea did little to increase his need to pay attention to his surroundings. It was only when something cold and moist wrapped itself around his ankles that he managed to take his mind off the pain. Water. Ice-cold water was lapping over his feet. Then he heard the splashing.

One hand clamped down on his right shoulder, causing him to expel a sigh. "You know," she said and whimpered, her grip briefly tightening. "I really hate to do this to you." And with that said, she stabbed another knife into his right side.

If he could have screamed, he would. But as it were, the duct-tape prevented this. Instead he managed to tear his lower lip painfully and the blood gushing out of the wound increased his nausea. Swallowing hard a couple of times, knowing for a fact that he would suffocate in his own vomit if his nausea escalated any further, he squeezed his eyes shut, focusing on ignoring the new pain and the nausea.

Her grip on his shoulder vanished and he heard her splashing through the water on the floor. "Damn it. My moat is leaking into the house," she said after a moment, her voice weak.

Mulder was distracted from his misery by those words. A moat? That made him wonder where he was. Another resounding splash interrupted that train of thought.

Gasping now, Phoenix settled on the floor in the freezing water, briefly thinking that she had not expected death to hurt this much. Her head was in constant agony, throbbing and pounding away like with a heartbeat of its own. Through all this, she smiled.

"You won't have to suffer long, Fox Mulder," she confessed, looking around her at the rising water level. "Same time tomorrow evening, the water should have risen enough for you to be submerged up to your chest. By that time, you'll probably have frozen to death. It's damned cold, this water. If you don't die of the temperature, you'll drown the day after." She had sat down with her back to the wall, seeking support. Leaning back against it, she kept on smiling and felt a little regretful that he couldn't see it. She knew she looked crazy. And horrible, too. The disintegration of her body had started already, beginning before she was even dead. "At least you won't have to worry about the fumes of my disintegrating body. The water will remove the problem," she added and coughed. Green acid blood spattered the water surface in front of her. "There's a time for everything, you know. A time for living and a time for dying. A time for love and a time for hate," she went on, her voice distorted by her crumbling vocal cords. "Time ... to die," she whispered, feeling life ebbing away. For a moment longer, she stared at her prisoner, then her head dropped forward, her chin hitting her chest. Slowly, she keeled over.

Mulder knew she was dead when he heard her body hit the water. He also knew that he would be dead soon, too. The water was up around his ankles and he had no doubt whatsoever that it would be up around his chest in twenty-four hours. If indeed he had not drowned by then already. Once again, he focused his thoughts on the one person who might care.


08.20 p.m.
Bergton Police Station

Scully stood ridged, staring at the log of a man who was the chief of police of the Bergton Police force, unwilling to understand what he had just said. "Excuse me, Chief Meyers," she said, her tone of voice icy. "I don't care if the judge is out of town. A man's life is at stake here," she insisted. She had asked for their assistance and they were more than willing to give it, providing they had a search warrant. As the Judge was out of town and nobody obviously knew where he was, police chief Stan Meyers had told Scully that she would have to wait until the next morning, where judge Hemingway would be back and not unlikely to give them the warrant.

"I realize that, agent Scully," Meyers said in an overbearing tone of voice. "But we're not doing anything without a warrant and the only one in town capable of issuing one is out of town until late tonight or early tomorrow morning. So, until then, we can plan but we can't act." A smile curled the corners of his lips. "Why don't you just check into the local motel and cool your heels for a few hours?" he suggested. "I don't know how you people do business in a big town like Washington, but here we don't disturb our good townsfolk, be they ever so crazy, without a warrant."

Scully was about to blow a fuse when a hand grabbed her arm. "That's fine, chief Meyers," Anna said, her eyes boring into those of the police chief. "If you could just give us the judge's address, we'll wait in front of his house until he comes home. Then we'll get the warrant."

Meyers was not happy about it, but relented and gave them the address.

Eventually, Anna was able to drag a fuming Dana Scully from the police station back to their car. "I'm sorry, Dana," she said after a moment. "I didn't mean to override you, but I know townsfolk like these. You can't start bossing them around without knowing which buttons to push."

For a moment, Scully sat there on the front seat of the car, then she slowly turned her head and stared at Anna. "I'm glad you overrode me. I was about to blow up in his face and I realize now that it would have done us no good. Let's get to that address. Maybe we're lucky and the judge is home."

Anna nodded, smiling weakly. "We'll be on time. I'm sure we will."

"I hope so," Scully replied darkly and put the car in gear. "Because if we're too late, this town will be looking for a new chief of police." With that hazardous remark she drove off toward the judge's house.


Location unknown

Mulder tried to swallow, painfully aware of how dry his mouth was. Leaning his head back a little, he tried to estimate his state of health. It didn't look too good from what he could sense. Cold sweat covered his body and the water was halfway up his shins now, rendering the lower part of his legs numb. Wincing, he flexed his fingers and moaned quietly. The house was silent now. No sounds. His captor was gone, lying dead in the water before him somewhere, and he was stuck here, on a chair bolted to the floor, tied down by unrelenting wire, hurt, cold and desperate. All he wanted was for this to end. One way or another.

He knew that if he got away from here in once piece, alive, there would be no more attacks of this kind. But his hopes for that kind of release were dwindling with every inch the water rose around him. He couldn't hear the flow of water from anywhere, which probably meant that it was seeping in quietly. But that didn't stop it, of course. He was aware that his former fear of this female had dwindled. Knowing that there were no more left made him feel slightly more secure. He knew he could beat this if he got a second ... or rather a third chance at this.

A shiver ran through him when he tried to open his eyes behind the blindfold. For a minute, he had forgotten that the vapors of her blood had singed his eyes. It had been a stroke of luck that his nose had not clogged up from the painful attack of the vapors. Otherwise he would have slowly but sourly suffocated to death. Focusing on his aching right side, he tried to sense the severity of the wound, but all he got from that was rising nausea.

Letting his head drop back, he again thought of Scully, letting her image take away the pain he was in. >Please, find me,' he begged mutely.


10.45 p.m.
In front of Judge Hemingway's residence

Scully glanced at her watch for the umpteenth time and sent another scowling look up at the judge's house. She could not for the life of her understand why these people were so uncooperative. In her mind there was no question of the seriousness of this event and she hated to think that they were wasting time here if this wasn't the place. Her partner, her friend, could be dying somewhere, needing her, and she was sitting here, waiting for a man to come home from what was probably a party somewhere.

Rubbing both hands over her face, she knew she looked disheveled, but she didn't really care one way or another. Having this time on her hands, her mind started wandering again and this time, she let it. Her subconscious was trying to tell her something and now she was ready to listen. Leaning back, she briefly glanced over at Anna, who was staring out at the street with a distant look in her eyes. "What are you thinking of?" Scully asked after a moment.

Anna blinked, then glanced at Scully with a smile. "Oh, nothing," she said, fiddling with a wedding band around her right ring finger.

Scully suddenly realized that she had not thought of that Anna's last name might be her married name. She stared at the wedding band for a moment. "You're married?" she then asked.

Anna glanced down at her ring and smiled again. There was warmth in that smile. Love, even. "Yeah, I am." Heaving a deep breath, the smile turned sad. "I guess."

Frowning, Scully stared at her. "What do you mean, you guess? Don't you know if you're married?"

Anna chuckled. "I am married. I just don't know where he is. He ... vanished some time ago. And I've been on my own ever since. It's a weird feeling, really. He's ... I don't know ... not easy to keep track of."

Old fears and suspicions rose in Scully at Anna's words. She could do fairly little to suppress them. "What's your husband's name?" she asked.

Suddenly apprehensive, Anna bit her lower lip. Before she had a chance to answer, though, a car came down the road and pulled into the drive way in front of the judge's house.

Both women got out at the same time and approached the elderly, dignified-looking man who had just gotten out of his car. "Judge Hemingway?" Scully asked.

He turned around and readjusted his glasses in one go. "Yes?" he replied, looking confused.

"I'm special agent Dana Scully of the FBI. This is agent Anna Krycek. We need a warrant for a house search and it's very important that we get this under way as soon as possible. A man's life is at stake," Scully said, holding up her badge for him to see.

Judge Callum Hemingway eyed the two disheveled-looking women for a moment, then focused his attention on Scully. "A search warrant?" he asked, a little taken aback by this. He wasn't as sober as he should have been and he was also tired after having spent the evening in the company of his daughter and son-in-law and the party they had thrown in the next town over. "Uhm ... please. Come in," he finally said, having gotten a grip on himself again. He waved toward the dark house. "Let me just hear why you need this search warrant and for which house and I'll consider it."


12.03 a.m.
August 11

Scully stood back while Anna handled the local police force with cunning. Chief Meyers had to call in his people first and that took time. Although Scully would have liked to have pushed the man a little more, she trusted in Anna's obvious abilities to handle the situation. Within an hour, they had assembled sixteen men, ready to go.

Scully and Anna drove along with the rest of them to the house in question, a drive which took another half hour. Around 2 a.m., they stood outside a house which looked like a cheap caricature of an ancient, European castle. Mainly because the house itself was an ordinary house, yet it was surrounded by a moat and had a draw bridge installed. Scully looked up at the odd combination of 19th century building style combined with that of ... say ... the 15th century. Shaking her head, she then glanced over at chief Meyers. "How do we get in there?" she wanted to know.

Meyers had been staring up at the draw bridge after making certain that there wasn't a back-entrance. Now he glanced back at Scully. "We'll get in. It may take a little while, though. We've got to get a chainsaw out here and some way of getting across that moat." Shaking his head in wonder, he briefly regarded the dark water of the 10-foot wide moat. "Whatever the hell possessed this woman to have a moat installed I wouldn't even be able to guess at," he grumbled and went to work.


02.45 a.m.

The water was rising faster now. Mulder could feel it edging up his legs. Getting desperate while he felt his time running out, he kept his thoughts on Scully, on what he could do to improve their relationship. He had come to the conclusion that if she saved him again, it was meant to be. If he came out of this one alive, he would be different. He would give her the attention she deserved. He would treat her right. >Just, please, let me survive this. Please!' he begged silently.


03.00 a.m.

Scully covered her ears while the chainsaw cut into the wood of the draw bridge. Within one hour, the cops had managed to create a bridge leading across the moat so the guy with the chainsaw, a local lumberjack, could walk out there and cut a hole. He did his job well and within fifteen minutes, he had carved a hole into the bridge. Then the locksmith was sent through to open the door beyond and lower the draw bridge.


03.05 a.m.

Mulder raised his head suddenly. A sound cut through the building he couldn't recognize at first. Then he identified it as the sound of a chainsaw cutting through wood. It sounded far away, though, and he feared that it might be outside and that whoever was cutting trees down in this area would never think about checking this house.

He moaned in anguish and fear, the water now lapping against his mid-section. There was one good thing about the water, though. It had numbed the pain from both stab-wounds. Although he was so cold he was shivering, he could think more clearly. Not that it in any way would help him out of this predicament.

The water had reached the arms of the chair and had a good effect on his swollen hands. The swelling had gone down considerably, but the numbness in his fingers had not gone away.


03.25 a.m.

The draw bridge started to rumble down, the chains holding it squeaking loudly until the bridge settled on the edge of the moat. The locksmith came back over. "No sign of anybody home," he said to chief Meyers, took his leave of the others and went home again.

Meyers glanced at Scully. "Ready?" he asked.

She nodded and walked briskly across the bridge and stepped into a completely empty hallway. Looking around, she shivered in the cool air of the house.

Meyers was right behind her, followed by his men. "Okay, guys, spread out, search the premises. Look for signs of any occupants. Start at the top and go to the bottom," he ordered.

The sixteen officers started spreading out, most of them going upstairs to search through the big house.

"Agent Scully, do you two want to join in or should we do this on our own?"

Scully glared at him for a moment. "We'll join in. We'll take basement," she replied and started searching for the door or staircase leading down. "Anna, come on," she urged her reluctant counter-part.

Anna followed Scully a little hesitantly. "It smells wet in here," she commented.

"That's because this house is surrounded by a moat and it's not built for that. I wouldn't be surprised if the basement was flooded," Scully replied, opening one door after another, finding various rooms, the kitchen and a bathroom, but no way into the basement. "Damn it, where the hell is that door?" she growled.

"Kitchen," Anna replied. "It may be in the kitchen," she said and headed back to the door leading into the kitchen, which was also empty. The whole house was empty. No appliances. No furniture. Nothing. Everything was bare.

Scully followed Anna into the kitchen and there was the door to the basement. "Good observation, Anna," she said with a harried smile on her lips. She opened the door and looked down into the darkness. "Yup, it's flooded," she said and took a few steps down. The water level would probably reach up to her waist, maybe a little below, from what she could see in the darkness down there.

"Okay, so he's probably not down there, then," Anna said, looking uncertain.

Scully frowned down at the water, then nodded. "Probably not," she replied with a sigh and turned around.


03.30 a.m.

Mulder heard voices. Muffled, yet audible. The house had shook a little a moment before, which he hadn't liked at all because the water was rising faster than ever after that. It was halfway up his chest now. And now he heard voices. Using what little strength he had left, he tried to make himself heard, screaming into the duct tape.


03.32 a.m.

Scully was about to walk back up into the kitchen when she heard something. Stopping short, she tilted her head to the right and listened.

"Come on, Dana," Anna said, waving her up.

Scully raised a hand, hushing her to silence. "I heard something," she said, looking up at Anna with a frown.

"It's probably the water," Anna tried.

"No, there's somebody down there," Scully replied and turned back around. It was dark down there and the water looked cold. "Do you have your flashlight on you?" she asked, looking back over her shoulder.

"Uhm ... no, I don't. Look, Dana, there can't be anybody down there. The basement is flooded," Anna tried again, not happy about this. She hated dark basements.

"I heard something," Scully insisted. "Get me a flashlight, Anna."

Anna nodded and went in search of the requested item, hoping against hope that Scully wouldn't make her come down there with her. A childhood trauma where she had accidentally been locked up in a pitch-dark basement for several hours had left its mark.

She had to get a flashlight from one of the cops and it took her longer than she had anticipated. Scully was a bundle of nervous energy when she returned. "Here you go. But you're going down there on your own. I ..." she began, hoping that she could explain.

But Scully interrupted her by raising her hand, her back already turned. "Stay up here. Go get some of the others. I may need help," she replied and took the first step into the freezing water. She could hear the muffled, inarticulate cries ringing in her ears, drawing her down into the darkness.


Scully waded through the cold water, the flashlight held high, searching for the source of the sounds. A closed door was the only option she had. The water was up around her waist and she thought she could feel it rising. Reaching into the icy water, she grabbed the door handle and pushed the door open. One sweep with the flashlight revealed what she was looking for. "Oh my God," she exclaimed, then glanced back over her shoulder, yelling, "I NEED SOME HELP DOWN HERE."


Mulder stopped his efforts at reaching someone when he heard her voice. Feeling slightly ashamed, he realized that he was crying by the time she reached him, her hand reaching out to touch his face. Her fingers brushed over his cheek, grabbed a hold of the blindfold and removed it. "Jesus," she whispered, then gently caressed his cheek again. "Hold still. I'll try to get the duct tape off," she told him and started fiddling with the corners of the already ingrown tape.

Scully stared at his eyes, at the puffed-up, red skin and the suppuration, while she gently started peeling the duct tape from his mouth. Pieces of skin stuck to the tape and blood started to flow, but he made no sound to stop her. Eventually, she had removed it completely.

"Oh my God," she mumbled. "I'll get you out of here. I just need to . . ." she went on, reaching into the water to find out how he was tied down. In her effort, she struck the hilt of the knife imbedded in his thigh and he let out a harsh, pained cry.

Others were splashing through the water now, more flashlights bringing more light to the scene. "We need some tools to get him out. He's got a knife stuck in his left thigh," Scully said.

"And in my right side," he whispered hoarsely, cursing the fact that he could not open his eyes and look at her.

Scully nodded, completely balanced at the moment. Looking over at Meyers, who had turned up in the doorway, a stunned look on his face, she hoped he would know what to do. "We need to cut him loose. I think he's tied down with wires or something," she said.

"I'm on it," Meyers said, turned around and hollered for one of his men to bring a tool box. Then he turned to the rest of them already in the basement. "Who's good at diving?"

One man tentatively raised his hand.

"Okay, you go down and cut him free."

Glancing over at Scully, he eyed the cool-looking woman for a moment. "Are his legs tied, too?" he asked.

Scully glanced at Mulder, then down into the water and nodded.

"Okay, move it guys," Meyers called. Someone came down the stairs and within minutes, the young man who had volunteered for the task was under water, cutting Mulder free.

Scully grabbed Mulder's chin and forced him to focus on her although he couldn't see right now. "Mulder, listen to me. I'm going to remove the knives. If I don't, the minute you're no longer tied down, the water will carry you upward and that will make for a whole lot of pain. The temperature of this water is going to staunch the bleeding, so you don't have to worry about bleeding to death, okay?"

He nodded, not responding in any other way.

Scully ran the tips of her fingers over his cheek again. "It's okay. I'll get you out of here. The nightmare is over." With that, her fingers closed around the hilt of the stiletto imbedded in his right side and pulled it out. He paled considerably and passed out instantly. Scully sighed, then removed the second knife. "I think there's a wire around his chest, as well," she told the young man, who had just resurfaced.

"I got it," he told her, already shivering badly from the cold water. He found the wire and cut it. "There you go," he added with a quivering smile.


08.30 a.m.
August 12
Room 1013
Rockingham Memorial Hospital

He stirred to life, slowly becoming aware of his surroundings without being able to see them. His eyes were covered again and that set him off immediately. Hands grabbed his shoulders, pushing him back down on the bed when he tried to sit up. "Easy, Mulder. You're okay," he heard Scully's voice. The mere sound of that voice was enough to calm him down. His lips were sore. Come to think of it, everything hurt.

Scully brushed a strand of hair away from his forehead. "It's okay. You're safe," she told him. His left hand searched for and found one of hers. Scully held it, wrapping both her hands around it. "You're okay," she repeated.

"My eyes," he managed after a moment, clearing his throat a few times.

"It's a minor chemical burn. The doctors say that there's probably not going to be any permanent damage, but that you should rest them as much as possible," Scully replied. "You had hypothermia when we brought you in. The stab wounds are not as bad as they may have felt." Turning his hand over, she looked down at his palm. "Do you have any feeling in your fingers?"

He shifted on the bed, then flexed his fingers slowly. "Yeah. How long have I been here?"

"Around thirty-two hours. Just take it easy. You'll be fine. They patched you up as soon as we got in. You haven't lost enough blood to warrant a transfusion, but you have to stay in the hospital a few days. No rushing out there too soon." Basically unaware that she was doing it, her thumb caressed the palm of his hand gently. "How do you feel in general?"

"Disoriented. What date is it?" Again clearing his throat he turned his head toward her. "I feel parched," he added in a near whisper.

Scully released his hand and reached out for a glass of water sitting on the bedside table. She pushed a hand under his head, helping him raise it a little. "Easy now. Sip it. The date's August 12," she told him, holding the glass of cool water to his lips.

He eased back down on the bed, frustrated that he couldn't see, but fighting the urge to remove the bandage. He could move. That mattered more than he would admit right now. And Scully was there. That was the only thing that really mattered. "I thought I was going to die," he confessed after a moment, groping for her hand again.

She grabbed it with both of hers, squeezing it lightly. "But you didn't," she replied.

He could almost hear the smile in her voice. "No. Once again, you saved my sorry behind," he replied with a weak grin. "But it's over now."

Scully heaved a deep breath, wondering. "I don't know," she said, aware that this might not be the right time to relight his fears.

"But I do. She told me. All her ... sisters as she called them are dead. And she died, too," he said. For once in his life, he had believed a stranger off hand. He didn't know why. Maybe it was important to his subconscious mind that he believed it. Maybe it was the truth.

Scully stared at him for a moment, her hands wrapped tightly around his. "So, she was the original. What else did she tell you? Did she let you know why she was doing this to you?"

That brought a frown to his face. "She said that I was important to the Consortium. And she was putting a spoke in their wheel by killing me. At least she believed that to be the truth," he mumbled, exhausted.

"But she died before she could kill you, then," Scully inserted, not quite able to follow him.

"Her plan was to disable me so I would die slowly. She said it was something about ... making me suffer the way she had suffered. She said it wasn't fair, but that somebody had to pay."

Scully made a face, concerned about his words. Why would anybody want to make him pay for somebody else's mistakes?