Rating: PG-13

Local Sheriff's office

Skinner had paced the office of the local sheriff so many times that he would soon begin to wear a groove in the floor. He had declined offers to sit down and relax and have some coffee for the simple reason that he was in no mood to get comfy with the locals while Scully was out there somewhere. Although he had to admit to himself that he found it increasingly difficult to hold on to the idea that she was still alive. Abductions there had been before. But never like this. This was the one time in the years he had known Scully that he didn’t think she was coming back. Mulder wasn’t able to go out there and look for her. He had no doubt in his mind that Mulder would have succeeded in finding both her and the ever-elusive Bigfoot if he had been up to speed, but he wasn’t and hence his partner was gone.

When the door to the office opened, he turned around, hoping it was the sheriff with good news. Instead it was Bill Scully, his complexion pale, his expression drawn. The man looked like he hadn’t slept a wink since Skinner had called him.

“A D Skinner,” he said, stretching a hand out.

Skinner took it and gave it a quick squeeze before letting go again. “Captain Scully,” he replied.

“Any word yet?” Bill wanted to know, concern etched into his features.

“No, not yet. We have three search teams going over the area up there. They haven’t called in yet. But they will as soon as they find something,” Skinner said, then waved toward a chair.

Bill settled down. “I appreciate that you didn’t call my mother. I don’t think she should know what’s going on until we know more ourselves,” he said as Skinner sat down on the sheriff's chair. Bill fell silent for a moment, an uncomfortable silence, where he kept his eyes on the floor. Then he looked up at Skinner. “What do you think the chance is that we will find her alive? And please tell me the truth.”

Skinner didn’t like questions like that. He didn’t like robbing others of hope and if he were to tell the truth, he would do just that, extinguish the frail flame of hope in the other man’s eyes. “To be honest,” he said, but hesitated for the second it took him to make up his mind, “I don’t know. It can go either way right now. It hasn’t been really cold until today, so her chances have been fairly good so far. Depending on what happened to her, of course.”

Bill nodded, aware that Skinner couldn’t be held accountable for what had happened. But he was still royally pissed off and scared out of his mind at the same time. “And what did happen to her?” he wanted to know.

That caused Skinner to purse his lips. Now, that was a question he certainly didn’t want to answer at all. “You’ll have to ask Agent Mulder about that,” he said somewhat curtly, picked up a paperclip and started to fiddle with it. “As it were, we do know that she vanished in that area up there because her backpack was still there.”

Bill nodded again, rose from his seat and stepped up to the window to look out at the bustling town. “A D Skinner,” he finally said, not looking back. “When all this is over and Dana hopefully is back among us, alive and in one piece, I want you to transfer her away from Agent Mulder. I know she’s a grown woman and that she can make decisions on her own, but he has jeopardized her life one time too many and she just can’t see it.”

Skinner stared at the other man, somewhat confounded by that request. He couldn’t really say he blamed Captain Scully for wanting his sister to get away from Mulder, but he also found it a lot less than respectful of her wishes that her brother would even voice such a suggestion. Returning his gaze to the now utterly unrecognizable paperclip, Skinner considered what to say and decided there was really only one thing he could say. “I can’t do that.”

Bill turned around, his expression fierce. “Somehow he has blinded her to what’s going on around her. She’s probably too close to him to see how dangerous he is to her health. That’s why I’m asking you to make that call,” he nearly demanded, his tone having a desperate ring to it.

Skinner looked up to meet his gaze, his own eyes hard as flint. “As I said, I can’t do that. Agent Scully is very capable of seeing what’s going on around her. If she does not voice any intent of leaving Agent Mulder, I can’t and I won’t force her. They make a good team and Agent Mulder has previously gone out of his way to save her. He is rather overprotective of her in most cases and has even requested the same thing you just did. I had to give him the same reply.” Seeing the feelings in the other man’s eyes made Skinner uncomfortable, but as usual, he had a most excellent grip on his own. “If you want your sister to quit the X-Files, you’re going to have to convince her yourself. It’s out of my hands.”

Bill was upset. He couldn’t deny it, couldn’t hide it even. “After what has just happened?” he demanded angrily. “Agent Mulder should be held accountable for this. He brought her up here, he is the one exposing her to danger all the time. I’ve lost one sister, A D Skinner. I will not lose another.”

Skinner rose, his expression as hard as his eyes. “It’s not my call. Besides, I doubt severely that Agent Mulder at any time twisted her arm and forced her to come along. She had the option of going back any time. The fact that she didn’t must be enough of a pointer at that she was where she wanted to be. As you said, she’s a grown woman and she can make her own decisions. I’m sorry I can’t be of any help to you, Captain Scully.” Silence settled heavily on the room as they stared each other down, then Skinner sighed. “I sympathize, Captain Scully. I realize that your family has already suffered too many losses. But this is not something that is up to me. It is not Bureau policy to break up a well-functioning team because their family members don’t think they belong together.”

Bill swallowed and then cleared his throat. He knew he had overstepped the line and if he wanted to stick around and find out what happened, he would have to keep a low profile from now on. “I apologies for my outburst. I’m just very worried about my sister,” he finally said.

“I understand. The waiting is the worst part of it,” Skinner agreed and sat back down.

Just then, the door to the office opened again and the sheriff stepped in. “Sir, there’s a call for you from Washington,” he said, nodding toward the phone.

Skinner frowned, then grabbed the receiver and briefly talked to his secretary, Kimberly. Eventually, he hung up again and focussed on Bill. “I have to return to Washington,” he said. “There seems to be a crisis there, which needs my immediate attention.”

That raised Bill’s temper again. “So you just leave while one of your agents is still missing?” he asked, sounding somewhat surprised.

“I have no other option, Captain Scully. Besides, there isn’t much I can do here anyway but sit around and wait. The team leader will keep me posted and he will assist you in any way he can,” Skinner said and rose. “I’m sorry. I have to go. I have a plane to catch.” With that, Skinner was out the door and happy for it. Having to deal any further with Scully’s upset brother would have been rather uncomfortable. In his eagerness to get out of there, he managed to forget about Mulder.


Bill Scully wasn’t a happy man. Actually, he couldn’t claim to have been completely happy since his baby sister had joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The thought of the danger she put herself in on a daily basis was sometimes more than he could handle. His wife had heard that argument too many times to count and he was fully aware that he was repeating himself to her over and over again. But it just bothered him that his baby sister, the only sister he had left, was subjecting herself to real danger every day. And why? Because her so-called partner was insane.

Bill stood outside the sheriff’s office and stared up at the looming mountains, a feeling of dread building in the pit of his stomach. He wanted to go up there, tear the damned forest apart, until he found his sister and could bring her back to civilization. He wanted to believe that she wasn’t gone for good, that she would be found alive and well.

The more he thought about it, the more he blamed Mulder for what had happened. The fact that Skinner had let him know that Mulder had a concussion and a badly twisted ankle and therefore couldn’t have gone after her anyway made no big difference to him. He didn’t care much for the man and would love to hold him responsible for everything that had ever gone wrong for Dana.

Making a face, he made a decision he felt was long overdue. With determination, he turned and headed toward the local hospital.


Memorial Hospital

Mulder was feeling a little better physically and that made a world of difference to the decisions he made. Lying around and waiting for news wasn’t something he could stand doing, not when he felt responsible for the events forcing him to do so and especially not when he felt he would be able to do something about it now that he felt better.

So, when the nurse came in to check on him, she found him fully dressed and on his feet, although a little unsteadily. “What in the name of God are you doing?” she asked, more surprised than anything.

“I’m not doing much in the name of God,” Mulder replied, steadying himself against the foot of the bed. “Could you get me a pair of crutches, please? I can’t walk on this foot yet,” he added as if his getting up was the most natural thing in the world.

“I certainly cannot,” the nurse replied in a huff. “You are going back to bed, Mr. Mulder. There is no way that any doctor in his right mind would release you from this hospital right now.”

Mulder stared at her for a second, then sighed. “Then I’m just going to have to make do with walls and chairs, won’t I?” he told her, successfully hiding his present discomfort from her scrutinizing eyes. She wasn’t Scully. She couldn’t seen right through him. “I have things I need to do. I can’t stay here.”

“You most certainly can, Mr. Mulder. You are in no condition to go anywhere,” the nurse insisted, crossing her arms over her chest and blocking his way out of the room. “Get those clothes off and go back to bed. Don’t make me call the orderlies,” she warned.

Mulder was in no mood to put up with bossy nurses at this point and he wasn’t going to give in on this one. “Don’t you treat me like I’m a kid,” he snapped, suddenly angry. “My partner is out there, in desperate need of help. I have to try and find her. It’s my fault she’s out there in the first place.”

“I don’t care. You’re in no condition to go anywhere and that’s final. You’re in the custody of this hospital until the doctor says otherwise. Now, hush-hush, back to bed,” the nurse said, waving toward the bed.

Mulder glared at her. Although it hurt his head, he glared, because she had just let him know that she didn’t care one way or another if Scully died up there while he was lying around, feeling sorry for himself. Well, he didn’t care what she had to say. “Look, I have to go look for my partner, okay? It’s my fault that she’s out there. When I’ve found her, I’ll willingly go back to bed and stay there for as long as you think I should. But I’m not staying here while she’s out there, do you get that?”

The nurse eyed him thoughtfully for a moment, then shook her head. “Mr. Mulder, you’re not going to do her any good in your present condition. Let the others search for her. You’ll feel a lot better when they’ve found her and then you can be there for her when she really needs you,” she suggested, not yet willing to give up the fight.

“She really needs me right now,” Mulder insisted.

“Give the man a pair of crutches,” a dark voice said from behind the nurse.

Mulder stared in utter surprise at Bill Scully, who had turned up in the doorway, an unreadable expression on his face.

The nurse, however, was not surprised and was not about to give in just because someone else said so. “I most certainly will not. He’s in no condition to leave this hospital. Heaven knows what complications there can be if he doesn’t rest,” she said, waving a hand toward Mulder.

“Just get him the crutches,” Bill said sternly. “I’ll look after him,” he added and sent Mulder a look that could not be misunderstood.


It had taken the better part of an hour to convince the doctor that Mulder should be released and it only happened when Bill pulled rank on him. How he managed to convince the doctor that he could influence the man’s further career was beyond Mulder. And he didn’t try too hard to understand the reasoning behind it anyway. His head hurt too much and so did his foot. He was released at his own responsibility, but the doctor was insistent enough to give him a bottle of prescription pills for the pain he might suffer. Mulder had gratefully accepted the bottle and had taken two of the pills right after to subdue the headache.

Sitting on the passenger side seat of the Ranger Rover Bill had rented for the trip, he had his eyes closed and his head leaning against the headrest. He felt lousy, but the thought of Scully made him push his own discomfort aside and focus on her.

Bill drove in silence. He hadn’t said a word since they’d taken their leave of the doctor and Mulder knew exactly why Bill had done what he had done. It hadn’t been because he wanted to help him. Apparently, Bill had the same idea he’d had when he had come to the hospital. That he should come with him up to the campsite to look for Scully.

“Has there been any news?” Mulder finally asked and opened his eyes to squint out the windshield.

“No,” Bill replied curtly, his eyes on the street ahead. He was not about to embark on a conversation with Mulder.

Mulder nodded and closed his eyes again. What was the purpose of striking up a conversation with this man? He didn’t like Mulder one bit and this last incident sure hadn’t improved on their already very tense relationship. Sometimes, though, Mulder couldn’t help thinking what would happen if ever he and Scully got more involved than they were now. What would Bill do then? Choose not to see his sister because he didn’t like his brother-in-law? He couldn’t help wondering about things like that, couldn’t help wondering if it was an option on the horizon or if it was just wishful thinking on his part. He was most inclined to believe the latter and hope for the first.


Bear Lake
Northwestern Territories

The drive back up into the mountains seemed a lot longer than it had the first time and Mulder realized that a path to the second campsite had been cleared through the forest in order for the search teams to be able to move back and forth easily. He couldn’t help realizing that all this effort, which was made to find Scully, hadn’t been made to find the other seven missing hikers. It once again proved that having connections paid off.

Bill stopped the car in the middle of the clearing and pushed the door open and got out without a word. He slammed the door rather hard and Mulder took a moment to get his act together and get out of the car as well. The pills were working, suppressing his headache, but they did fairly little for the thudding of his twisted ankle. He tried his best to keep the foot off the ground as he pushed himself into a standing position and wearily glanced around the campsite.

Bill stood a few feet ahead of the car, hands on hips, and glared at the forest as if that alone would produce his sister. When nothing manifested itself, he turned around to face a decidedly pale-faced Fox Mulder. “Where did she disappear?” he wanted to know, unmoved by the other man’s plight.

Mulder nodded toward the cabin. “From inside,” he said and started moving forward toward the cabin. “It took her from in there.”

Bill’s already stern expression didn’t become brighter from that remark. He snorted contemptuously and turned back toward the forest, his eyes scanning the ground. If there had been a trace of the creature Mulder claimed had taken Scully, it was gone by now. The ground of the clearing had been torn up by the wheels of vehicles and boots. “So, where did this creature take her, then?” he wanted to know, utterly unconvinced that any creature had taken his sister away. For all he knew, Mulder had probably left her behind in a ditch somewhere to go chasing after his holy grail again.

Mulder had almost reached the cabin, the thought that it was weird that nobody else was there but them foremost on his mind, but Bill’s words made him stop short. Turning, he couldn’t help the powerless anger rising in him at Bill’s obvious ignorance. Usually, he couldn’t care less if others believed or not. But this was about Scully. “If I knew, I would have told someone. Don’t you think?” he asked back, his tone somewhat sharper than perhaps intended.

Bill looked back at him for second, then grumbled something under his breath and turned back to fully face him. “I don’t like you, Mr. Mulder. I never have and I never will. You’ve put my family through more sorrow than any one family should have to go through and I will not stand by and let you continue to be such an integral part of my sister’s life. If it hadn’t been for you, Melissa would still be alive and Dana would still be with us, able to have children and perchance even happily married. So, you better give this your best and hope that we find Dana alive. Because, if we don’t, I’m going to kill you. Do you understand me?”

Mulder just stared back at him, aware that he was right. Although he knew that Bill wanted to blame him for everything that went wrong in Scully’s life and most of it was blown out of proportions by her overprotective brother, Mulder couldn’t help thinking that he was right, that all of Scully’s misfortunes since she had met him were his fault. Instead of replying to that obvious threat, Mulder turned and made his way into the cabin, where he sank down on the cot Scully had been taken from. If Bill decided to leave without him, he wouldn’t put up a fight. All he wanted to do was just sit there and try to forget how much pain he had caused her.

Bill stared at the doorway to the cabin for a moment, then snorted again, turned back to the forest and started searching the perimeter. If Mulder didn’t want to help, he would have to suffer the consequences.


Bill Scully had spent the majority of the day searching the forest around the campsite for Scully without finding any trace. There were no tracks, no indication of anything or anyone having moved beyond the area the search teams had gone over. He had gone a little beyond that, but fear of getting lost himself had eventually driven him back to the campsite right after dark.

He stopped in the middle of the clearing in front of the rental that had brought him to this place and looked around. Everything was completely silent. Not a sound could be heard. For a long moment, he didn’t reflect on that, then it slowly dawned on him how odd it was that a forest should be this silent. Okay, so maybe there were no crickets this time of year, but there ought to have been some kind of life. With a shake of the head, he dismissed those thoughts as completely irrelevant and walked over to the dark cabin and stepped inside. He had expected Mulder to at least have sense enough to turn on some light, but he hadn’t even done that. He was still sitting on that cot, his back to the door, slightly hunched over.

“Sitting around here won’t bring her back,” he said after a moment, his eyes on the motionless figure on the cot.

Mulder didn’t respond. He felt he had nothing to say to Bill Scully and hence didn’t even try. He knew there was nothing he could do to bring Scully back and by now he was really starting to give up the hope that he would ever see her again. He was cold and in pain, but he didn’t bother lighting a fire to get warm again or take the pills in his pocket to subdue the pain. What was the point, after all? There was nothing left for him in this world.

Wallowing in self-pity, he just remained seated, unmoving, uncaring what other words of scorn Bill Scully might have for him. He had long since admitted his guilt in her disappearance to himself and that was all he needed to know.

Bill stared at him for a moment longer, then he sighed and walked over to the fireplace to start a fire. “We’ll stay here tonight. I’ll keep on searching for her tomorrow,” he said. Somehow, he found it rather uncomfortable that Mulder said and did nothing. For the first time in the years he had known of Mulder’s existence, he wondered if maybe he hadn’t been a little too hard on the man. His condition wasn’t good and Bill could tell without trouble that Mulder wouldn’t be able to join him in the search.

“Why bother?” Mulder asked after while of silence and focused on Bill. “You’re not going to find her.”

Bill made a face. “We’ll see,” he said, unwilling to let go just yet. “I just don’t much feel like calling my mother to tell her that she’s lost her last daughter. It’ll be the death of her.” Leaning his head back, he looked up at the ceiling of the cabin and sighed deeply. “I’m glad my father isn’t alive to witness this. It would tear his heart out. Both my sisters were his one and all. He would have guarded both with his life. It would have broken him to lose them like this.”

Mulder found it hard to retain his feelings at that moment, but he fought and won the battle against the lump rising in his throat. He was not going to break down in front of Bill Scully. He didn’t even want to do it in front of his sister while she was awake and aware. Swallowing, he gazed disheartened into the flames flickering in the fireplace and wondered what it would take for him to not destroy other people’s lives.

Bill regarded him for a long while, taking in every little sign of the other man’s rapid decline. Then he pursed his lips. “I’m going to do my damnedest to convince Dana to quit the FBI if I find her alive out there,” he said after a moment. “She needs to have a normal life and she can’t do that while she’s working with you.”

Mulder blinked, then focussed on the other man. “I never meant for this to happen. I never meant for her to suffer,” he said.

Bill’s expression darkened while he stared at Mulder with dawning realization. “You love her,” he finally said. “Don’t you?” His tone of voice indicated how much he was against such a notion, yet he felt compelled to ask that question. He wanted to get things straight in his head and if that was the only way to do it, that’s what he would do, however much he might dislike the answer.

Mulder looked away, returning his gaze to the flames. “I care for her. We’re friends. She’s stood by me through some pretty tough times. She refuses to leave the X-Files despite all that has happened,” he said, his words slow and well considered. “I did try to make her leave. But she won’t. In the end, it’s her decision.”

“You haven’t tried hard enough,” Bill claimed. “If I find her, you are going to do whatever it takes to make her leave. If you care as much for her as I think you do, you know that the X-Files and the FBI is not for her. And I will not lose another sister.”

“You won’t have to,” Mulder replied and closed his eyes, speaking with the dawning certainty that Scully wouldn’t come back. And even if she did by some miracle, he was certain that she would leave the X-Files behind, convinced by her brother and, in part, also by himself. “I’ll do what I can to make her leave,” he then promised.

Satisfied, Bill nodded. “Good. Now, let’s get some sleep,” he said.


The sun rose almost serenely over the quite forest, shedding its light over the bare branches of hardwood trees and the rich, dark green of pine trees reaching towards a blue, cloudless sky. The air was chilly and a light breeze rustled wilted leaves on the ground. A deer crossed the clearing, paused briefly to sniff the air, and then bounded off into the underbrush again, disappearing from sight almost instantly.

After a sleepless night, Mulder had struggled to get outside so he could sit on the steps and listen to the forest around him. His head hurt ferociously and his foot wasn’t doing too good either. He had overcome his need to suffer halfway through the night and had taken two pills, but their effect had worn off again, leaving him sore and in dire need to sleep. But he couldn’t and he definitely wouldn’t sleep. Closing his eyes, he let his head drop and just listened to his surroundings. What he wouldn’t give to hear her calling out for him right now.

But all that answered him out there was silence and the faraway song of a bird. No calls for help rang out and he once again cursed himself for not being there for her when she needed him. That time when she had been abducted, she had called him, reached out for his help, and he hadn’t been there. Even though he knew he would never have been able to make it to her place in time, it made no difference. He hadn’t been there when she needed him. And now the same thing happened again. Something had taken her away and all he had been able to do was pass out.

With a heavy sigh, he pushed his fingers into his hair and pressed his palms against his temples, both trying to stop his thoughts and diminish the pain. He knew that the outcome of an untended concussion could become dire indeed, but how could he lie around in a hospital bed, trying to get better, when Scully was out in those woods, perhaps in dire need of help? He couldn’t just do nothing. It wasn’t in his nature as a profiler and a field agent for the FBI to let sleeping dogs lie. He just couldn’t and wouldn’t do it.

A sudden sound interrupted his train of thought and he brought his head up a little too sharply for comfort. With a flinch, he grabbed his head with his right hand and blinked a few times to clear his suddenly blurry vision. It took a second for the rushing of blood to subside in his ears, but once it did, he could hear the forest around him clearly again. And there was a sound out there that didn’t fit. The sound of footsteps had disturbed the otherwise serene morning, the sound of someone nearing the edge of the clearing from the north. The footsteps, the sound of breaking twigs and rustling leaves, made him stare intently into the foliage. Someone or something was out there, heading toward the clearing. He tried to focus on the sound, to figure out from where exactly it came, and suddenly caught sight of something moving amongst the trees. It wasn’t big, so it couldn’t be what had taken Scully.

Slowly, he got up, trying to force his eyes to adjust to the shape approaching the clearing. His heart skipped a beat when it dawned on him who it could be, but his mind dismissed it instantly again. It couldn’t be her. She couldn’t walk. Nevertheless, Scully pushed through the underbrush and into the clearing, where she came to a halt and briefly looked up at the sky. Then she sighed and looked over toward the cabin.

His first thought was that his concussion had been worse than he thought and that this was some kind of fever dream or something similar. But there she was, alive, moving on her own accord, and when her eyes fixed on him, she smiled.

“Mulder,” she said and started moving again. She was dragging her right leg a little, not putting her full weight on it, but she was walking and she looked fairly okay, alas a little dirty. She closed the distance and came to a stop in front of him, her head tilted back a little meet his eyes. “Have you been here all the time?” she wanted to know.

He was speechless. For the first time in a long time, he felt himself completely unable to speak, to find something to say. All he could think of saying was rather irrelevant. That didn’t stop him from saying it, though. “I thought you were dead.”

His words and obvious confusion made her smile again. Then she realized what a state he was in and her expression changed to a worried one. “Look at you. You’re a mess,” she said and reached up to feel his brow for fever, which she discovered he had. “You’re feverish. You need to be in bed. What happened to you?” she wanted to know, all business.

At that very moment, Bill opened the door to find out where Mulder had gone and stopped short. “Dana?” he exclaimed.

“Bill?” she asked, stunned. “What are you doing here?” she then wanted to know, her tone of voice indicating that she wasn’t exactly pleased to see him.

“What am I doing here? Are you kidding? You’ve been missing for five days. We all thought you were dead,” he huffed, both angry and relieved at once. Before she could stop him, he had wrapped his arms around her, all teary eyed. “I thought we’d lost you.”

Scully allowed him a moment, then she pushed back and out of his arms. “You haven’t lost me. I’m right here. And I’m fine. What is Mulder doing up here? He needs to be in bed,” she demanded.

Bill glanced at Mulder, then back at Scully. “He was responsible for losing you. I figured it would only be right if he helped find you again,” he tried to explain.

Scully had spent the time it took him to say that with inspecting her ailing partner closer and she was rather appalled by what she saw and heard. “Right?” she snapped, angered by her brother’s insensitivity, then turned her attention to Mulder again. “Do you have a concussion?” she wanted to know and he nodded gingerly. “You need to lie down. Right now,” she told him and, without deigning her brother with another glance, pushed Mulder back into the cabin. “Lie down,” she demanded. “Have you seen a doctor?”

“Yeah, I have,” he said, impatient to know where she had been. “Scully, what happened to you?” he wanted to know, not at all interested in talking about his own frailty.

“Never mind what happened to me. We can talk about that later. Right now, I want you to rest. What did the doctor say?” she wanted to know, upset about his poor condition. She took his pulse, then shook her head in annoyance. “Did you get anything for the headache?”

“Yes, I did. It’s in my pocket. Scully, please just tell me what happened to you. I saw...” he began, but she clapped a hand over his mouth.

“Shut up, Mulder,” she told him and searched through his pockets until she found the bottle of pills. She inspected the label for a moment, then shook out two and handed them to him. “Take these,” she told him, then turned to her brother, who stood in the doorway, a stunned look on his face. “Bill, get me some water,” she told him. When he didn’t move, she gave him an angry glare. “Now!”


Memorial Hospital

With Scully in charge the whole time, they returned to Yellowknife and returned Mulder to the hospital. The majority of the people who had been involved in the search for Scully turned up to see her and marvel at the fact that she had obviously survived her stay in the forest without any trouble at all. As a matter of fact, she had become better. And through it all, she refused to talk to anybody about what had happened. Whenever someone breached the subject, she would brush it off and avoid it.

Bill nearly lost his temper with her after only an hour. “God damn it, Dana, what does it take? That lunatic drags you up here and puts you in mortal danger, you disappear for five days and now you won’t even tell me where you were? What kind of sick, twisted game is this?” he demanded angrily while the doctor, who had checked her over, put a pressure bandage on her right knee. Although it was doing a lot better than it had only five days ago, it was still sore and she needed to be a little careful about walking on it too much.

Scully gave her older brother an angry glare. “Can we talk about this later?” she hissed through clenched teeth, not willing to let herself be pulled into a verbal fight with him once again. Especially not when there were other people in the room.

The doctor gave her a brief glance, then padded her knee gently. “There. That should give you some mobility. I don’t think I have to remind you that you need to stay off this leg as much as possible, do I?” he asked her.

Scully deigned him with a smile. “I realize that. How is Mulder doing?” she wanted to know, not interested in talking about her own injuries or how she had come to be so fit after such a short time.

“He’s sleeping comfortably. I don’t think he’ll need anything to help him sleep, either. He virtually passed out a moment after he was back in bed. Fortunately, his condition seems to be so poor merely because of fatigue and a rather constant headache rather than a severe concussion. The elements have a lot to do with that, as well. His condition. Not the concussion,” the doctor explained.

“Thank you,” Scully said, thereby dismissing the man. Instead, she turned her attention to her brother, who stood with his back to her by the window, smoldering under his own right. Once the doctor had left, she felt rather inclined to let him have it. But blowing up wasn’t going to benefit anything. She knew that well enough. Instead she drew a deep breath to calm herself down. “There are a few things about my life that are none of your concern, Bill,” she finally said, causing him to turn around to face her with a frown. “Number one is Mulder. He is not a lunatic, he is my partner and perhaps my best friend. He has come through for me more times that I care to remember and I like to repay the favor in kind. If that means I have to protect him from your rampages, so be it. If you ever as much as scowl at him again, Bill, I’m going to cut you off and never speak to you again, do I make myself clear? Mulder has nothing at all to do with the things that happen to me. They happen because that’s the way life goes. Dad never tried to overprotect me and you’re not going to try and do that now. Take care of your own family, live your own life, and leave mine be.”

“Are you so blind that you can’t see it?” Bill replied instantly, hot tempered as ever. “You just don’t see how bad this whole thing is for you, do you, Dana?” he went on. “That... job and that partner of yours. How many times have you been in the hospital over the past six years, Dana? How many of those times were your injuries work-related? How much have you lost over this? Think about it for a minute, Dana. Just think about it. You’ve lost your fiancé, your sister and your ability to bear children. If that doesn’t start off the alarm bells, nothing will. Look at your life, for pity’s sake. Or what life you’ve got left in you.” He threw his hands in the air in utter frustration that she wouldn’t see things his way, that she wouldn’t listen to his reason. “Every time I see you, you look more worn out, more damaged in one way or another. When will this stop? When we find you dead on the floor in your apartment with a bullet in your head like Missy? Or they drag your corpse out of the river after you’ve been killed by one of those psychos you and that partner of yours are always hunting after?” He blinked furiously for a second to rid himself of treacherous tears rising in his eyes. “I can’t cope with losing another sister, Dana. I just can’t. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for me and Charlie. And most of all, do it for mom. If you hadn’t come back this time... it would have killed her.”

Scully stared at him while he spoke, slowly becoming aware of that his reasoning wasn’t so far off base in general. She suddenly understood the background for his anger, for why he was always so upset about these things and she had to admit to herself that she had never seen it from that angle before. She gave him a second to regain his composure, then she slipped off the examination table and pulled her pants back on before turning around to face him. “This is not about you. Or Charlie. Or mom, for that matter. This is about me, about my choices, my life. Mom is a lot stronger than you give her credit for and I doubt severely that Charlie shares your view on this. So don’t drag them into this. And don’t drag Mulder into this, either. I have had plenty of chances to leave, Bill. Plenty. But I didn’t take them. And you know why?” She stared at him for a second to give him a chance to say something, but he said nothing. “Because I like what I do. I feel like I’m at least trying to make a difference. If that means that I’m in the danger zone, then that’s where I’ll be. If that means I risk getting shot at, stabbed or otherwise hurt, that’s just a chance I have to take. And you know why I don’t mind taking those chances?” she asked, but again he merely stared back at her. “Because I’ve got Mulder watching my back. Because I know that he’ll be there if I need him. Because I care about him and he cares about me. We’re much more than partners. We’re friends. And I won’t have you put my friends down.”

Bill stared at her for a long moment after she stopped talking. Then he sighed and dropped his gaze. “In other words, you’re telling me to butt out. Is that it?” he asked and glanced up at her again.

“Yes, for Pete’s sake, Bill. I’m asking you to butt out. I’m a grown woman. I’m an FBI Special Agent, for heaven’s sake. I can take care of myself as I think I’ve proven this time around, too. Would you please give me some credit and stop treating me like your little kid sister all the time? I don’t need your protection. I don’t need anybody's protection. I can protect myself. And when I do need backup, I’m turning to Mulder,” she said, trying not to let exasperation sneak into her voice. She was so tired of this constant battle over what she could and couldn’t do in her brother’s opinion. “You have to let go. You’re not my father.”

For a long moment Bill didn’t know what to say. He listened to the hum of the air-conditioning for a bit, a thoughtful expression in his eyes, then he sighed once again. How could he argue with that? She was right, after all. Although he doubted he would ever stop blaming Mulder for her misfortunes, he could see the sense in her words. “You really care about him, don’t you?” he asked, wanting to once and for all set things straight.

“Yes, I do,” she agreed with a tired sigh and without looking at him.

“For what it’s worth, I think he’s in love with you,” Bill said after having thought carefully about the outcome such words could have.

Scully raised her head and looked at him for a spell, then sighed. “For what it’s worth, it doesn’t make any difference. We’re there for each other and that’s all that counts,” she told him. “Now, would you please go home and calm your wife down? I’m sure Tara is about to go through the ceiling by now because you’ve once again painted her a pretty picture of the worst case scenario.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stick around?” Bill asked, not ready to leave. “I could stay until your boss gets here.”

“Skinner is coming up here?” she asked, then shook her head. It didn’t really surprise her. “Yes, Bill, I want you to go home. You’ve got a job to tend to and a family, too. And if you’ve told mom about this, it’s your job to calm her down again,” she said.

“I didn’t tell her for obvious reasons, Dana. Perhaps we shouldn’t... you know... tell her about this anyway,” Bill tried, suddenly a little timid at the thought of his mother’s wrath if she found out he had kept something as important as this from her.

“That’s one thing I’ve never understood about you, Billy,” Scully said, unable to keep a smile at bay. “How can you be a Navy Captain and still fear your mother?” It had always been something she wondered about. Her brother was all talk, but when he faced his mother, he was a little kid again and didn’t dare oppose her.

Bill made a face. There was fairly little he could say to that. Eventually, he sighed deeply. This wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. But he would give her some leeway. Mainly because he knew she would tear his head off if he continued to be so persistent about it. “Alright. I’m going back home. But you better call me when you’re home to let me know that you got there in one piece, you got that?” he demanded.

Scully nodded, mostly to get him off her back. “Yes, I got that,” she replied. “Now get out of here. I have a sick partner to tend to,” she added.


Mulder was out cold for the next two days, basically sleeping most of the time, and that left Scully with enough time on her hands to think things through in peace. Skinner arrived an hour after Bill left and he had the same kind of trouble to get through to Scully. She insisted that she was fine apart from minor injuries and that she wasn’t ready to talk about what had happened to her. To keep him off her case, she spent most of her time at Mulder’s bedside and was there when he finally decided to resurface from his extended nap.

When he opened his eyes, he found her beside his bed with a smile on her face. “Scully,” he whispered, then cleared his throat. “How are you?”

That made her laugh. “I’m fine. Besides, that’s my line,” she told him with a good-natured smile. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I’ve tried to use my head as a wrecking ball,” he confessed and rubbed a hand over his brow. “How long was I out for?”

“Two full days. And it’s done you good,” she told him.

Mulder eyed her for a moment, realizing there was a definite change in her. Something was different. “What about your brother?” he asked, glancing toward the door.

“I sent him home with a warning,” Scully replied. “He shouldn’t butt in where he isn’t wanted,” she added. “Skinner’s back.”

“Ouch,” Mulder mumbled and pressed both hands over his face. “He must be pissed,” he added and dropped his hands to face her again.

“I guess. He seems pretty... settled, though,” Scully responded and glanced toward the window.

Mulder regarded her thoughtfully for a moment. “How’s your knee?” he asked.

“Better,” she said and returned her attention to him. “A little sore. I’ve been keeping my weight off it for the past two days by sitting here all the time.”

“Good bedside manners, Doctor Scully,” he said with a quirky little smile.

That made her smile, too, but hers was a little off beat as if she wasn’t really paying attention. “I’m getting tired of spending so much time beside your sickbed,” she confessed. “Not that I won’t do it again, of course. It’s just happened too often lately.”

“Look who’s talking,” Mulder replied and shifted a little to get more comfortable. “You’re the one who just went missing for five days in a row in a rather hostile environment. Care to tell me how you made it through that?” Somehow he got the distinct impression that she wasn’t going to tell him. He just didn’t really understand why she would refuse him that information.

Scully looked at him for a moment, then sighed and looked away. “I don’t remember,” she finally said.

Mulder stared at her, somewhat surprised by that claim. “Look at me and say that again,” he told her.

Scully looked back at him, her eyes meeting his. “I don’t remember,” she repeated, not even blinking.

He didn’t think she could be more obvious about a lie than this one and it hurt him that she wouldn’t open up to him. He knew it was still hard for her to admit to these things, to seeing things that weren’t supposed to exist, but it did put him off a little that she would so bluntly lie about it. With a deep sigh, he looked away. “Fine,” he replied, his tone of voice standoffish.

Scully just looked at him for a moment, then leaned back in the chair and looked down at her hands lying folded in her lap. She wasn’t ready to talk, wasn’t even halfway sure about what she had experienced, and until she had it all straight in her mind, she would keep things under wrap. Fortunately for her, Skinner took that moment to make an appearance, stopping whatever Mulder had in mind to pry the truth out of her.

He stepped into the room and was relieved to find that Mulder was obviously awake and, from what he could tell, ticked off about something. “Good of you to rejoin us,” he said with a glance at Scully, who wasn’t paying attention.

“I figure I’ve slept enough to last me a lifetime,” Mulder replied and carefully pushed himself upright. He felt stiff and sore from lying down for too long.

Scully rose to help him with the head of the bed, a gesture he accepted without a word. After fluffing the pillow, she stepped back, not looking at either of them. She was fully aware of the constantly questioning glances she received from Skinner and the somewhat hurt look Mulder kept sending in her direction. With no apparent effort, she ignored both men’s attempt to hear her story. She merely settled back down on the chair and gave Skinner a pointed look, telling him without words to back off. Fortunately for her, her boss was well versed in subtle hints and he returned his attention to Mulder instead.

“How’s the head?” Skinner asked, having settled for not getting the story just yet.

“Better. It still hurts a little, but not as badly as before,” Mulder replied and glanced at Scully again, only to receive a suddenly decidedly frosty look back. It put an end to his hurt pride, though. She was getting angry and he didn’t want her to be angry with him. Not right now.

Skinner glanced at Scully. “Do you think he’s well enough to travel by tomorrow?” he asked her.

“Hey, I’m still here,” Mulder interjected, his tone slightly miffed.

Scully gave him a brief look, then returned her attention to Skinner, who was ignoring him. “I don’t know,” she replied and looked back at Mulder. “What do you think?”

Mulder shrugged. “Beats me. I haven’t been out of bed yet,” he replied.

“And you shouldn’t be getting out of bed yet, either. You should rest some more,” she admonished him with that motherly tone in her voice that he both hated and loved.

“Don’t you think I’ve rested enough? I’ve been on my back for two full days,” he countered, aware that they were slipping into an argument as regular as clockwork.

“And you’ll be on your back for one more day. We’ll see how you’re doing tomorrow. If you can get out of bed without falling flat on your face, we can all go home. If you can’t, we’re staying on,” she replied.

Skinner raised an eyebrow. Not for the first time he felt relieved that she wasn’t his superior. He was quite certain that she could be pretty tough if she was in charge. “Well, as things are right now, I have to get back to DC tomorrow, with or without you two,” he said.

Scully nodded. “That’s fine. If he can’t get up tomorrow, we’ll follow as soon as he can,” she said, her eyes on Mulder, her demeanor daring him to make a fuss.

To avoid obvious complications, Mulder remained silent. She was, after all, the doctor. And he was hoping that maybe she’d spill the beans if Skinner wasn’t around.


The following day came and left Mulder with little choice in the matter of going home or not. He was up before dawn and didn’t, as Scully had put it the day before, fall flat on his face. That made-up Scully’s mind. She wanted to go home and they ended up boarding the plane that afternoon with Skinner in tow.

The trip was long and became rather uncomfortable for Mulder near the end. Because of the confined space of planes in general, he couldn’t keep his foot up and it started throbbing angrily halfway through the trip. He downed two painkillers to take the top of the pain and they worked for a while, but then his foot started swelling, too, and the last flight from Toronto to DC became something close to a nightmare.

Squirming in his seat, he tried to shift around to find a more comfortable position, but couldn’t find the space to do so. Scully glanced at him occasionally, aware that he wasn’t much for admitting defeat by asking her for help. She was fully aware of his situation, but after having asked him three times if he were okay and having him nearly hiss at her that he was fine, she had settled for leaving him to suffer in silence. But his constant moseying around was disturbing her and eventually, she pushed the armrest between their chairs up, grabbed a hold of his leg and pulled it onto her lap, thereby forcing him to follow her movements by shifting around in his seat. She then handed him a pillow to put against the armrest behind him and then gave him a scrutinizing look. “You have to keep your foot up,” she told him, well aware that he knew that, too. She was, in fact, giving him a way around this whole dilemma without having to ask for help.

Mulder made a face and shifted a little, then settled back in a much more comfortable position. He considered his current position a little, then sighed. “Sorry for being such a pest,” he said with a quirky little smile on his lips.

Scully didn’t respond immediately although she was in the mood to let him have it right then. Not because she was angry with him or annoyed in general, but because she suddenly felt like she had the upper hand in this partnership. That would be just about the first time this had ever happened and she wanted to savor the moment a little while longer. She had information that Mulder wanted and she knew how frustrated he got when someone withheld what he considered vital evidence of one kind or another. And she was withholding evidence from him at this point, though not with the sole purpose of agitating him even though she had to admit that it played a part in it.

Figuring that she did owe him an answer to his claim, she turned her gaze toward him and smiled wistfully, her left hand resting on his shin just above the bandage. “Don’t worry about it. I’m getting used to it,” she told him, leaned her head back and closed her eyes, thereby effectively cutting off anything he might have to add to that.


J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington, DC

Scully took her own sweet time to get things straight in her head, much to her partner’s and boss’s annoyance. Skinner kept pestering her about it because he wanted this whole thing to be over with and as long as she kept her whereabouts during those five days a secret, it wasn’t over. Mulder didn’t say much about it, but he kept looking at her in a strange way and she knew very well what was going through his head.

One afternoon two weeks after their return to DC, Mulder was sitting on his chair, his feet resting on the edge of his desk in accordance with doctor’s orders, going over some files since that was the only thing he could manage with such a severe sprain as the one he had, when Scully returned after having had another chat with Skinner about her whereabouts without telling him a thing. She had nodded and shaken her head at the right times and eventually just shrugged when he had once again asked her directly where she had been.

Mulder looked up when she stepped back into the office, then returned his attention to the file he was reading, not even bothering to ask how it had gone. He knew up front that she hadn’t told Skinner anything. He could tell from the expression on her face, that far-away look in her eyes.

Scully hesitated briefly beside her chair, then walked over to stand behind Mulder’s chair to get an idea about what he was reading. With no real surprise, she realized he was - once again - reading the file of the missing hikers. He had - rather pointedly - reminded her no more than a few days ago that she wasn’t the only one who had gone missing up there and when she saw the file again, she decided it was time to spill the beans. At least as far as she could explain what had happened.

“They weren’t taken by Bigfoot,” she said softly, her eyes on the folder.

Mulder virtually froze at her words. He realized that the enchanted moment had come and he was afraid to say anything at first out of fear that she would clam up again. But he then considered that this might be his only chance for getting her to talk about it, so he leaned his head back to look up at her. “How do you know that?” he wanted to know.

“Because they weren’t there. And... because they told me so,” Scully replied, not at him. She was afraid her courage might desert her if she met his eyes right then.

“They?” Mulder asked, pulled his feet off the desk and turned his chair around to better face her. “The hikers?”

Scully shook her head almost thoughtfully. “No, the creatures.”

His eyebrows shot up at her words and he almost rose. “There were more of them?”

That question made Scully smile weakly when she finally focused on him. “Oh yes. In order for them to survive without inbreeding, there would have to be several. And it’s my understanding that there are more of them out there.” She walked a few steps away from him and kept her back to him. “They should be left alone, Mulder. They’re not harming anyone. What happened to you was a mistake,” she went on and turned back to face him. “It thought you were hurting me.”

“Hurting you?” he asked, somewhat baffled by the whole thing. He didn’t really know what he had expected her to say when she was finally ready, but he hadn’t expected this. “But... I wasn’t. Not on purpose, at least.”

“You weren’t hurting me. That’s just the point. But, Mulder, we can’t let anybody know about them. Ever. We have to keep this a secret. We have to protect them against the outside world,” she said, her words both a plea and a demand.

His expression darkened a little. “Okay, we can do that. But what happens to the next one who stumbles across them? I mean, it might be better if people were made aware of them,” he suggested.

Scully sighed deeply at his words and shook her head. “Sometimes not knowing is better than knowing, Mulder. And this is one of these times. As long as people just think they’re a myth, they won’t go looking for them and hence won’t find them. These... beings steer clear of human settlements because they know the danger. They would end up in a zoo or in lab. And I will not be responsible for that. They’re gentle beings. They deserve to be left alone. And they’ve survived this long because they haven’t interacted with humans. Let it stay that way.”

Mulder stared at her for a moment, then finally nodded. “Your secret’s safe with me,” he promised. “Just tell me one thing,” he added. “What are they?”

Scully stared into space for a moment, then made a face as an explanation slowly took form in her mind. “Back in 1974, a team of scientists found the skeletal remains of what they called australopithecine or southern ape. They dubbed her Lucy. Remember that?” she asked and he nodded. “Well, the southern apes are believed to be extinct and that this happened about one million years ago. The thing is, I don’t think they are extinct. I think these beings I met are descendants of the southern ape. They’ve evolved alongside Homo sapiens, but because they are gentle creatures, they were out-manoeuvered... by us.”

“So... you think... they’re... what?” Try as he might, he couldn’t exactly get a grasp on what she was trying to tell him with this little anthropology lesson.

Scully merely smiled at him. “This could be the missing link in human evolution. The link between the true primate and Homo sapiens. These beings are intelligent and they possess a lot of our abilities, too. They communicate with each other in a complex language which I doubt we could even begin to learn. They are tool-users like us. But, being with them for five days, I didn’t even once see anything that resembled a weapon. Apart from that, they’re herbivores. Whether they’ve always been that or have evolved into that because we sort of cornered the market I don’t know. All I know is that I didn’t see any meat there, either.” She hesitated for a moment, then shook her head. “It all depends on which part of the evolutionary theory you believe in. They may be another branch of evolution in which we all stand equal. In any event, I think they should be left alone so they can pursue their lives in peace. They avoid us because they don’t like our hostility towards each other and towards everything else. I think it’s only fair if we avoid them - so to speak.”

Mulder nodded thoughtfully. “The missing link, huh?” he asked and smiled . “Well, I suggest we lose that link again. There’s just one thing about this whole business that I don’t understand.”

Surprised, Scully looked him in the eye. “What’s that?” she wanted to know.

“When it took you away, you had a raging infection in your leg and you certainly couldn’t walk. Yet five days later, you walk back out of the forest, seemingly fine. How did that come about?” he wanted to know.

With a small smile, she dropped her gaze to the floor and stared at nothing for a moment. Then she glanced up at him again. “In want of a better description, they have healing abilities,” she finally said. “That’s the only way I can describe it. The one that took me away wrapped his hands around my knee and an hour or so later, I was feeling a lot better. It took me those days to get back to my feet and eventually, I figured I’d better go back where I belong. They went with me to show me the way, but didn’t want to go near the clearing because there had been so much activity in the previous days and they generally avoid humans.”

All he could do for a moment was stare at her. Then he simply smiled and leaned back on his chair. “How are you going to explain this one to Skinner?” he wanted to know.

She raised an eyebrow, then shrugged. “I don’t remember,” she replied and returned to her desk. “Memory is a tricking thing. And I... just don’t remember what happened to me,” she repeated and gave him a smile before attending to her work again.

Mulder smiled to himself and returned his attention to the folder in front of him. “That still doesn’t explain what happened to those hikers,” he said after a moment.

“Can’t help you there. I don’t know either,” Scully replied without looking back at him.

Mulder raised his head and looked over at her with a frown. It hit him that maybe she hadn’t told him everything and he knew already that she wouldn’t tell him any more than she had. “So, what do we do with this case, then?” he asked, hoping against hope that she would slip up.

“I guess we can do with that what we do with all the others. Leave it open,” she suggested. “Now, do you mind? I have a bunch of paperwork to go through.”

With that, the conversation on this topic was over. Mulder sighed and closed the folder somewhat reluctantly. He would so have loved to stamp this one with the big red CLOSED stamp he had in his drawer. That thing was collecting dust in this office and he would like to use it just once in a while. But it appeared that this wasn’t going to be this case that would allow the stamp to come out of its hiding place in the lower left drawer. With a brief shrug, he dropped the folder into the FOR FILING tray and leaned back again after propping his injured foot up on the desk again. “Another unsolved X-File,” he mumbled and glanced over at Scully, who made it a point to ignore him. All he could do was smile again. At least she was back home, safe and sound, and with an experience that had opened her mind a little more to extreme possibilities.