In the living room, the warmth from the fireplace raised Mulder's temperature another degree, sending him into a world of weird fantasies. Closing his eyes, he was still lucid enough to realize that they were just that. The weird shapes he saw from the corners of his eyes vanished when he closed his eyes and draped an arm over his face, too. But then he heard the giggle.

Pulling his arm away from his face, he blinked up at the ceiling for a moment, wondering if it was his imagination playing games with him. But then he heard it again. Struggling to sit up, he looked toward the front door and what he saw there made him gape.

"Samantha?" he whispered.

The little girl standing there in her nightgown grinned broadly at him. "You're such a spoil-sport, Fox," she told him. "Come on. You're not really sick and mom said we could play outside."

"Samantha," he whispered again, fighting to get off the couch. Staggering as he made his way around the couch and headed toward his elusive sister, he couldn't see the madness in the vision. "Samantha, we can't go out there. It's snowing," he wheezed.

"Oh, shut up, buttmunch," she told him in a grave tone of voice but with a twinkle in her eyes. "It's sunny outside. Come on," she said, opened the door and skipped outside into the blowing snow.

His fever-ridden mind could not make the logical decision, which would have been to get Scully. Instead, he struggled on toward the door, half-heartedly wrapping one of the blankets around his shoulders. Reaching the door, he found it closed, but didn't stop to think about it. He pulled it open and was hit by a blast of icy air.

The landscape stretching out in front of him was blurred heavily by falling snow, but he could still see the little girl skipping through the snow ahead of him.

"Come on, Fox," she called over her shoulder and came to a stop. "Don't be such a spoil-sport."

Gasping for breath, he wavered for a moment, a still partially rational part of his mind warning against what he was about to do, but then she suddenly hugged herself, shivering in the icy air. The look of concern on her face made up his mind for him and he staggered forward, out into the snow on bare feet, clad only in a pair of sweat pants, a t-shirt and thin wool blanket over his shoulders. The wind howled around him and in his mind he saw his sister reaching thin arms out to him.

"Fox, I'm so cold," she cried. "Help me, please."

He pushed his way through the knee-deep snow toward her and when he got closer to her, he released his hold on the blanket, which fluttered back toward the cabin, and reached his arms out to her. "I'm here, Samantha," he told her, finding it hard to breathe, to focus on the shivering form in front of him.

Just before he reached her, a bright light hit her and she leaned her head back to look up into it for a moment. When her eyes met his again, he could see that she was afraid. "Fox?" she called, reaching both arms out to him while the light grew in intensity.

"NO," he screamed into the wind while the light faded again and took his sister with it. Stumbling, his knees gave in beneath him and he fell forward into the snow. "Samantha," he wheezed before the icy hell around him turned black and the world disappeared.

X X X

Standing at the stove, a chilly draft hit Scully from the door to the living room. Glancing toward the half-open door, Scully frowned, wondering where that came from.

"Mulder?" she called and stepped up to the door. Carefully pushing it open, she found the couch he had been lying on empty. Her frown deepened as she stepped through to the living room and looked around. "Mulder?" she tried again, letting her eyes run over the interior of the cabin.

The draft in the living room was more powerful and Scully finally realized where it came from. The front door was open. The realization of what this meant took a moment to sink in. Before she had a chance to really panic, she was out the door, running through the heavy snow as fast as she could, feeling the burning sensation in her lungs whenever she drew in a mouthful of the far too cold air.

A few feet from the porch, she found a blanket on the snow and grabbed it as she hurried on, trying to see through the flakes fluttering about her like moths around a flame.

"MULDER," she yelled, following the still visible footprints in the snow.

She found him moments later lying face-down in the snow. Her first reaction was to drape the blanket over him, then she laboriously turned him over.

"Oh my God," she gasped, trying to regain the breath that short trip had stolen from her. "Mulder, what are you doing out here?" she whispered, tears rising in her eyes, but she received no reply. He was unconscious once again.

The only thing she could think of doing was to get him back to the cabin. But she was not nearly strong enough to carry him and something told her he wouldn't be waking up any time soon. Struggling to get him up in a sitting position, she wrapped her arms around his chest and fought to haul him up. Glancing back over her shoulder, she oriented herself and started to drag him bit by bit back toward the alluring dark square of the open door of the cabin.

After only a few minutes, she knew she would never make it on her own. She would have to find something to transport him on. But there was nothing in the cabin and, besides, even if she should luck out and find a sledge, she still wouldn't be able to drag it.

Sobbing with fear and frustration, she kept pulling at him, feeling her own strength ebbing away with every step she managed to take. Eventually, her strength deserted her and she lost her balance and sat down hard in the cold snow. Her tears froze on her cheeks and the biting cold ripped through her, making it impossible for her to regain her breath.

Wrapping her arms around Mulder and covering him as best she could with the blanket, she pressed her forehead against the top of his head and cried into his hair, certain that they would die on this damned mountain. And she now fully understood why Zoltaire had called it Fear Mountain.

At that moment, Mulder came to briefly, blinking into the swirling snow and the darkness surrounding them. All he had sense for was his sister and that he had lost her again. His lips moved when he formed her name without sound. His eyes focused on a dark shape in the snow and if he'd had the strength for it, he would have reached out to that person. Then the complete darkness once again overtook him and he passed out again without ever letting Scully know he had been awake.

The dark shape he had seen turned out to be more than just a fever fantasy, though.

"You shouldn't be out in this weather."

The voice came out of nowhere and it caused Scully's head to snap up in dumbfounded surprise. Blinking through her tears and the snow at the dark shape standing there in front of them, she almost could not believe that someone else was actually up here with them.

"Oh, thank you, God," Scully finally gasped. "Please, help me," she added, struggling back to her feet with the last reserves of strength she could muster. "Please help me get him back to the cabin. I can't carry him and he's very sick."

"Sure." The shape reached up and removed the snow goggles and the scarf, revealing a handsome woman underneath. She gave Scully a smile, then took over where Scully had left off, hauling Mulder up and out of the snow with no apparent effort.

Within moments they were back in the cabin and Mulder was back on the couch. Scully tended to her frozen friend while the mystery woman removed some of her heavy snow gear. Once she was able to move better, she stepped up behind the couch and looked down at Mulder, who was burning up with fever and quite unconscious.

"What are you two doing up here?" she finally asked, fixing her eyes on Scully.

Scully raised her head and met a pair of the most incredible brown eyes she had ever seen. The brown was deep and rich and tiny golden dots swirled around in the iris.

"I might ask you the same," Scully replied, eying her rescuer with solemn suspicion.

"I live up here," the woman said as ways of explanation, but did not offer to elaborate on the subject. "This is no place for a vacation at this time of year. I take it you're not survivalists?"

"No, we're not," Scully agreed. "He came up here to find something. I was unable to prevent him from going, so I came along with him. He has pneumonia and this weather is not making it any better."

The woman eyed Mulder for a moment, her expression revealing a kind of quiet wonder. Then she returned to staring at Scully.

"If you're not survivalists, how can you even think of coming up here at this time of year? Didn't anybody warn you?"

"Yes, somebody warned us. But ... I can't make decisions for him and he was too sick by the time we reached this cabin to be taken outside again. Beau Zoltaire left us behind, but he said he would send somebody up here once the storm was over."

The woman's expression didn't change much, but there was a very subtle twitch at the mention of Zoltaire's name.

"Beau isn't known for his concern about others, lady. And this storm may last for days," she said, a dark look in her eyes. "What have you been doing about his pneumonia?"

Scully didn't really see why their mystery guest wanted to know this, but she decided to play along for now.

"I've been giving him an antibiotic treatment, but it doesn't seem to help much. I'm at the end of my rope," she confessed, glancing down at Mulder's flushed face.

"I've got something which might help him," the woman said and returned to her backpack to retrieve a little brown paper bag.

Without explanation, she walked into the kitchen, repeated Scully's actions from earlier, and made a strong, herbal tea from the dried leaves she had in the bag.

After a few moments, she returned to the living room with a pot of tea and a mug. Setting both down on the coffee table, she poured the mug full and handed it to Scully.

"Make him drink this. It's an ancient Indian recipe for breaking a fever and curing the ailments of the body. I've used it many times and it works."

Scully gave the nearly black brew a somewhat concerned look, then sighed. It probably couldn't harm him. Leaning in, she pushed a hand behind Mulder's head and brought the mug to his lips. He instinctively swallowed the liquid but didn't wake up.

"The tea is just as good cold as warm, so you can easily make him drink the whole pot without trouble," their mystery guest said.

Scully looked back over at her, for a moment studying her. She was a rough-looking person. Not heavily built, but obviously used to this climate and the mountainous area. Her hands, clasped in front of her as she sat there on the armchair across from them, were rough and looked powerful. Her face was a different matter, though. She had delicate features and a softness that didn't fit with her chosen lifestyle. A dark-brown braid hung over one shoulder and she was dressed for the weather in a heavy woolen sweater, thick corduroyed pants and heavy boots.

Looking back up to meet her eyes, Scully finally found the strength to smile.

"I'm Dana Scully. This is Fox Mulder," she introduced them both. "Thank you for helping us."

The woman's gaze flicked to Mulder and she seemed to study his fever-flushed face for a moment. Then she looked back at Scully. Without moving a muscle, she finally said, "You're welcome. And I'm Sam."

Scully's expression betrayed her feelings. For a brief moment she wondered if what Mulder was looking for was really here. Could this be his sister? Then she mentally shook her head. She was beginning to think like him.

"Well, thank you again, Sam," she said, trying not to let the confusion she felt show.

Sam leaned back on the chair, her eyes back on Mulder. "He'll start sweating profusely when the tea starts working," she explained. "And he's going to fight the fever for a day or two before it breaks. But his chances will be better if he gets enough of this tea."

Glancing over at Scully, she smiled.

"You're welcome, Dana."

X X X

The night passed slowly. Scully managed to grab some sleep since Sam didn't seem in the habit of sleeping much. She remained seated on the arm chair and watched Mulder thoughtfully when Scully was about to drop from exhaustion. Not that it was any surprise that she was exhausted. She had after all spent time in the snow with Mulder when he'd wandered off in a fever-dream. So Scully headed off to bed at four in the morning, the storm raging like an angry beast outside, while Sam stayed where she was.

Once everything had gone quite and nothing but the howling of the wind was heard, Sam rose from her seat, stepped around the coffee table and sat down on the edge of the couch. The light from the fireplace flickered constantly, giving the scenery a surreal feel to it.

She leaned her head to one side and regarded Mulder quietly for a moment before she reached out and ran the tips of her fingers over his face.

"What are you doing up here?" she whispered, her eyes tracing and memorizing every line of his face. "Why'd you come? Who told you where I was?"

Her soft whisper stirred him to life and his eyelids fluttered open. In his fever-induced reality, he thought she was a dream, a specter from the past, because she looked so much like their mother had when he had been a kid.

"Mom?" he whispered.

Sam smiled a little. "No, it's Sam," she told him quietly, running the back of her cool fingers over his burning-hot face. "It's Sam."

"Sam," he breathed.

She pushed hair away from his forehead, still smiling. "Yeah, it's Sam. What are you doing up here, Fox? Who told you where to find me?"

He weakly grabbed for her hand, telling himself over and over again that she was a figment of his imagination. He felt so weak, so hot. It could only be the fever which produced the image he so longed to see. With that thought on his mind and her hand pressed against his cheek, he passed out again.

Sam leaned back a little, still staring at him. Then she sighed deeply.

"He came up here to find you."

Sam raised her head to face Scully, who was standing in the doorway to the bedroom she had chosen.

"You heard, huh?" she asked and Scully nodded. "I bet you're wondering what I'm doing up here."

"You could say that, yes. What makes me wonder even more is the fact that you've never given him any sign of being here. Why not?" Scully found it hard to retain the rather obvious resentment in her voice. Without having all the facts, this situation looked bad.

"I couldn't. Mostly because I didn't know he was out there. I was told that ... my family was dead. I steered clear of people in general. Didn't feel like latching onto anybody. People die, you know."

"Well, now you know he isn't dead. Will you rejoin society now?" Scully wanted to know. She couldn't help being a little angry at the whole thing. Because Mulder might still die from his disease without ever becoming aware of his sister's presence.

Sam eyed her thoughtfully for a moment, then slowly shook her head. "I can't," she simply said and looked back down at Mulder. Brushing the knuckles of her right hand over his cheek, she shook her head lightly again. "As a matter of fact, I'm leaving. I won't be here when he comes around." Getting up, she walked over to where her gear was lying on the floor and started putting it on.

"You're leaving now?" Scully asked, stunned by the mere idea.

"Yeah, it's morning, Dana," Sam said, waving at the windows. "I've got things to do. I can't stay," she added as ways of explaining why she was rushing out already.

"And what do you expect me to tell Mulder when he wakes up?" Scully demanded, waving a hand toward her unconscious partner.

"Tell him what you want, Dana," Sam said, glancing at her over her shoulder. "But tell him not to come looking for me. He'll never find me up here if I don't want to be found."

"And you don't want your brother to find you? Is that it?" Scully asked, trying hard to keep a lid on her feelings.

Sam seemed to think that over for a moment, then she slowly shook her head.

"No, that's not it. I can't explain." Fully dressed and ready to go, Sam gave her a weak smile. "If things turn out all right, I'll be in touch with him. There are few things I have to deal with before I can come back." She walked back to the couch and looked down at her brother for a moment. "I miss him, too, but I just ... can't come back right now."

With that she turned around, grabbed her backpack and headed toward the door and the ever-brighter whiteness out there. Before opening the door, she glanced back over her shoulder. "The storm will be over soon. Just remember to give him the tea and he'll be fine. Get him to a hospital as soon as possible," she advised. Opening the door, a blast of icy wind hit her. She stood there for a moment, then sent one last look back at Scully. "Take good care of him, Dana."

With those words, Sam was gone. The door closed and all Scully could do was stand there and stare at it. She listened to the gale of the wind outside and the whole thing seemed very unreal to her all of a sudden. That Samantha should have been here suddenly didn't make any sense. With that thought on her mind, she strode over to the kitchen to look for the bag of tea. It was still there, which meant that Samantha had been here. That's what it meant to her, anyway.

One glance out the window told her that the storm was still in full effect and she wondered if Samantha would survive the trek. On the other hand, she had managed to find them in the snow while it was dark. Scully didn't really have any doubts that the other woman could handle herself up here. She was more concerned about Mulder and herself. And what bothered her the most was that she was going to have to explain Samantha's existence to him without having him rush back up here to find her. But maybe it would be enough for him to know that she was alive and that she would contact him if she could. Although Scully doubted it, she hoped that this would be his reaction.

X X X

The storm raged for two more days where Scully depleted the contents of the bag of tea Samantha had given her. And to her great surprise, Mulder actually seemed to be improving. Although he was out cold most of the time and only awake in wild fever fantasies on occasion, she could hear that he was breathing easier. And he had stopped coughing up blood from his over exerted lungs.

When she poured the last of the tea leaves into the tea pot and sent another look at the now snow-covered window of the kitchen, she wondered if they would indeed die up here. Her concern was laid to rest when someone knocked on the door, though.

Frowning, she hurried to the front door and hauled it open. The sight which met her was both wonderful and calming. It had stopped snowing and the wind had nearly ceased. The whole glittering white landscape was illuminated by the sun and it made her smile.

The man standing outside the door looked a tad worried. "Hey there. Zoltaire asked me to come up and see if you folks wanted to come down now," he said.

"Yes, for God's sake," Scully erupted, getting very close to hugging a stranger. "And as fast as possible," she added. "My partner is very sick. He needs a hospital."

"Got it," the man said. Apparently he had come up here on a snow scooter, which he returned to, to call for a rescue chopper.

Scully stared at the vehicle and wondered why she hadn't heard it. One glance in either direction along the porch gave her that reply. The cabin was virtually wrapped up in snow. A thick layer of it.

The young man returned after a moment. "The chopper is on the way. It'll be here in half an hour. Do you need any help packing?"

"No, not really. I just need to prep my partner for the trip back," she told him and waved him inside.

"No need for that. The paramedics on the chopper are gonna do that. They're very efficient. I'm Harcourt, by the way."

"Well, Mr. Harcourt, you're a sight for sore eyes. I can't wait to get back home," Scully told him. "I'm Dana Scully. That's Fox Mulder."

"Good to see you're both still alive," Harcourt said, then suddenly frowned. "You're not married, are you?" he asked.

"No. What gave you that idea?" Scully wanted to know, a little surprised.

"Ah well, that's Zoltaire for you. He got it all backwards again. He kept calling Mr. Mulder your husband," Harcourt explained with a chuckle.

Scully made a face, but found it a little hard to laugh at the idea. Mainly because they obviously gave the impression to the outside world that they might as well be married. She shook her head and went about packing their things. She was about ready when she heard the helicopter outside.

Harcourt went out to meet them and by the time Scully carried their backpacks into the living room, the paramedics were already working on getting Mulder onto a stretcher. He was semi-awake, mumbling under his breath.

Harcourt took the backpacks from her, smiling. "Come on, Ms. Scully. Let's get you two off Fear Mountain before she tries to claim you as her own," he said and started toward the door, following the paramedics.

Scully noticed that he had killed the fire in the fireplace.

"I've taken care of the stove and the fireplace," he told her when he noticed that she was looking in that direction.

A thought popped into her head and she hurried into the kitchen. Pouring the tea leaves from the pot back into the bag, she rolled it up and stuffed it in her pocket. Why it was important to her to bring it was yet unclear to her, but she just needed to bring it along.

Giving the cabin one last glance, Scully climbed into the helicopter and sat down next to her delirious partner. She grabbed his hand and thanked any available deity for their rescue.

X X X

Charter North Hospital
Anchorage, Alaska

Scully stared out at the scenery of the busy city below her while listening to her boss telling her how annoyed he was at the situation. Eventually, he trailed off, having nothing more to say on the topic.

"Sir, I understand. Believe me, I do. But I just couldn't let him go on his own. He would never have made it," she explained.

"I realize that, agent Scully," Skinner growled. "How is he doing?"

"Much better. The fever broke last night and his breathing is back to normal. But they still want to transport him in an air ambulance back to D.C. We're leaving early tomorrow morning. They can't postpone any further. The weather is threatening to become bad again."

"Good. Give me the number to the hospital so I can reach you. And keep me posted, Scully," Skinner said, not sounding happy about the whole thing.

"Right. The number is 907 277 7575. Mulder is in room 1013. I'll be here most of the time," she told him, knowing that the rebuke wasn't over yet. He would raise hell once they were back in D.C.

"Got it. Just make sure he gets well again, Scully. I'll see you tomorrow, then." With that, the A.D. hung up again, cutting the connection rather curtly.

Scully gave the receiver a pained look, then hung up too and headed back toward Mulder's room.

X X X

Room 1013

Mulder opened his eyes and stared up at a white ceiling. He felt exhausted to the core of his being and at present had no idea where he was. Turning his head, he glanced around the obvious hospital room he was in while memories flooded him in a tumbling array of strange visions and odd events. He couldn't find a straight line through these events, but then suddenly it all clicked into place. The first hard evidence he'd received on Samantha's whereabouts. He'd been sick when he had left. But they had reached the cabin on Mount McKinley. He remembered as much. But what had happened then? He seemed to remember seeing Sam as a little girl, running away in the snow. But that vision made little sense to him. Then he remembered an older version, a grown-up one, of Sam. But it was fuzzy and unclear.

He tried to sit up, but found he had no strength for it. Moaning under his breath, he tried to come to terms with the fact that he was no longer on Mount McKinley and hence away from the possibility of finding his sister.

"No," he groaned.

Just then, the door opened and Scully came in. She raised an eyebrow at finding him awake.

"Well, there you are. I was starting to wonder if you would ever wake up again," she said, half joking.

"Where are we?" he wheezed, still easily out of breath.

She had feared that question because she thought she knew what his reaction would be.

"We're in Anchorage, Mulder. We're going home tomorrow," she told him, knowing from experience that telling him gently would have the same effect as saying it straight out.

He glanced out the window for a moment, then turned his head back to face her. "How long have we been here?" he wanted to know, his voice barely a whisper.

Scully could see the disappointment in his eyes, but there was nothing she could do to cushion the blow. "Three days. I just talked to Skinner. He's ... uh ... upset. To say the least. He gave me a rather forceful verbal rebuke over the phone and I'm certain he isn't done yet."

Mulder stared at her for a moment, the disappointment and guilt over dragging her along vying for control inside him. "How long were we up there?"

"Three days," she replied, wondering if he was going to ask about Samantha now. To cut him off before he could, she continued, "you were pretty sick. Zoltaire wanted to leave the morning after we arrived, but ... I didn't want to risk taking you out in that weather again. So I decided that we should stay. The storm raged for three days. Then we got picked up by a rescue chopper. So, here we are. And tomorrow morning, we're being flown back to D.C. in an air ambulance. You're still too weak to go any other way."

Closing his eyes, he tried to come to terms with that he had been unconscious the whole time up there. It cut deeply into his heart that he had missed out on his first real chance of finding his sister. The disappointment took over and grew to undreamt-of proportions. It would take a long time to get over this set-back. Instead of dignifying Scully with an answer, he turned his head away and suffered in silence.

Scully eyed him for a moment, then sighed. "I'm going down to the cafeteria to get something to eat. You want anything?" she asked, but he didn't reply. She had feared this behavior and now that he was displaying it, she didn't know what to do. "I'll be back in a little while," she added, turned around and left again.

She didn't expect him to be grateful, but she had hoped that he would be a little less disappointed about the turn of events. Why she didn't tell him about Samantha right away she didn't really know. Perhaps because she herself actually doubted that Samantha had really been there and that she had, in fact, been Samantha. Eventually, however, she would tell him about it. When he started accusing her of dragging him out of there before he had a chance to meet his elusive sister. Then she would probably tell him about the encounter. About Samantha's words. And she dreaded his reaction to it.

X X X