Dreamweaver

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Dreamweaver

By Mary Kleinsmith

Category: Especially Written for VS9

Spoilers: Anything up to Je Souhaite in Season 7

Summary: When the agents discover a man who can

make people dream whatever he wants, will they

have the strength to stop him?

Rating: PG13

Classification: XF, MSR

Archive: Yes, anywhere

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and everything related

to them belong to

Chris Carter (the jerk!) and 10-13, with magic

added by David and Gillian. I’m only borrowing

them, especially since the fic writers have a

better sense of what to do with Mulder and Scully

than CC and Company does. Still, I’m not making

any money on this.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Sally and Brenda for

the betas on this one, and for encouraging me in

my flights of fancy. And to Dawn,

Vickie, Susan, and Sheila, for boosting my

confidence when I wasn’t sure I could do this.

Feedback: Please, please, please, please, please,

please, please?

Dreamweaver

By Mary Kleinsmith

TEASER

The Rodgers Residence

Auburn, California

The sun had arisen, but its rays didn’t penetrate

the thick drapes of the master bedroom. The room

itself was modestly furnished but decorated with

an obvious hominess and love.

The clock on the bedside table was an old-

fashioned digital, with small paddles that flipped

over to change the time every minute; the small

readout said 6:29 a.m. Monday. As the time moved

to the half hour, the alarm sounded, but the lump

under the quilt remained still.

When fifteen minutes had passed, a middle-aged

woman with a bit of distinguished gray entered the

room, letting in a bit of offensive light; she

didn’t care. “Adam, you’re going to be late for

work,” she said as she sat on the bed beside the

lump. “C’mon,” she added, shaking a shoulder

slightly.

“Don’t wanna,” came a muffled response from

somewhere under the linen.

Yet when she didn’t leave him in peace, he finally

squinted up at her, then begrudgingly rolled to

his feet. He grumbled as he made his way

to the closet.

XxXxXxX

The same clock this time read 7:00 am Tuesday, and

the alarm blared unheeded. The drapes this time

were open, but the sunlight didn’t seem to have

any more success than the alarm clock was having

on the sleeping form. When Janet entered for the

second time in the last half hour, she angrily

yanked off the blankets before Adam could get a

good grip on them. “Adam, do you want to lose

your job after all we’ve done to keep it? Now get

your butt out of that bed ’cause I’m not going to

call you again!” She left in a huff, but he slept

on until the clock read 7:30, when he finally rose

groggily.

XxXxXxX

The clock reading 9:00 am Friday was completely

ignored by the lump under the blankets, snoring

away gently. Janet had long since given up

attempts to wake her husband. Oh, it wasn’t that

he couldn’t be awoken – he’d been conscious

several times since the alarm’s initial sounding

at 6:30, two and a half hours ago. But each time,

he ignored both it and the coaxing of his wife,

only to fall back asleep moments later. At a loss

for what to do, she picked up the phone and

dialed.

“Good morning, could you please tell Mr. Jackson

that Adam Rodgers won’t be in today? Yes, I’m

afraid he’s ill.” She hated lying and hated his

putting her in the position of having to do so.

When she hung up, she redialed another familiar

number.

XxXxXxX

ACT I

Artois Motor Lodge

Artois, California

The dim neon light seeped in around the motel room

drapes, bathing the interior with a faint, bluish

glow. It didn’t, however, disturb the dark-haired

man in the bed. But something was obviously

disrupting his sleep, as his eyes moved rapidly

beneath their lids, and the muscles in his face

twitched spasmodically. The somnambulant

disturbance continued a few minutes before. . .

“No!” Fox Mulder, sitting up with a jerk, came

awake shouting, his entire body bathed in sweat.

Panting until his throat was so dry it made him

choke, he made his way to the tiny refrigerator

the motel provided. Finding the half-empty bottle

of Evian he’d placed there, he took a large swig

before he held what remained to his forehead.

He hadn’t been subject to nightmares like these

for some time, and he wondered what made them

recur now.

Looking at the phone, he realized how badly he

wanted to call Scully, or, even better, join her

in her room. But, since it was a crowded motel

with no adjoining rooms, he also knew her door was

four down and across the hall from his own. It

was just as well. While the case was officially

closed, they were still on the Bureau’s time.

They had chosen, correctly he still believed, to

restrict their more intimate sleeping arrangements

to private time only.

At least, if he stayed here, she’d be spared

having to share a bed with him and his nightmares.

He checked the clock, realizing that it was 5 am.

He wasn’t up to running, but maybe a walk would

tire him sufficiently so he’d sleep better

tonight, he mused. Missing having

Scully beside him, he dressed hurriedly. As he

strode through the door, the phone in his jeans

pocket began to ring.

XxXxXxX

Route 65

Outside of Sacramento, California

“Tell me again why we’re going to this residence,

Mulder? Especially when we could be walking the

concourse of the Sacramento Airport by now,” Dana

Scully asked Mulder from her place in the

passenger side of a Bureau-fleet sedan. “This

sounds more like a case for family services or the

AMA than for a pair of FBI agents. Even the CDC

might be a better idea.”

“A man whose wife claims he’s addicted to sleeping

certainly sounds like an X-File to me, Scully,” he

said. He rubbed his eyes and she noted how tired

he looked.

“Nightmares, again, Mulder?” Scully said

sympathetically, lacing her fingers through his

and guiding them away from his over-rubbed eyes.

He nodded, although she hadn’t really needed the

confirmation. “Well, maybe we can wrap this up

quickly and find some way for you to get a good

night’s sleep.”

“Ooh, Scully,” he grinned. “You planning on

wearing me out?”

“You’d better believe it, buster. We deserve some

time for ourselves.” She paused with a sigh. “So

tell me more about this case,” she requested,

knowing that conversation would keep her tired

partner alert. It wouldn’t hurt her level of

alertness either.

“An acquaintance of mine at Georgetown Medical has

a friend who is the victim’s physician. He called

Peter when he ran out of ideas to help the guy.

Physically, they could find nothing wrong, but the

staff psychiatrist says he’s exhibiting all the

signs of an addiction: tiredness, lack of interest

in anything else, even things that used to be

important to him, that kind of thing. The doctors

are out of ideas, so they asked his wife if it

would be okay to share his case information with a

couple of feds who might be able to help. I think

the fact that you’re a doctor made the difference,

of course.”

“And he called you on your cell phone this

morning?”

“Yep. It was luck more than anything that we had

to pass near there on the way back to DC anyway.

I called Skinner and got permission to look into

it.”

“He approved the 302 just like that?”

“Well, not really. This is just looking into it

to see it if merits a

302. Besides, it helped when I told him that the

request came from one of the most respected

doctors in the city.”

“In other words, Skinner couldn’t say no,” she

flashed a grin which he returned.

“You could say that.”

Thirty minutes later found them sitting in the

Rodgers living room, being served lemonade by a

frazzled yet congenial middle-aged woman who had

introduced herself as Janet Rodgers. “I know this

is hard to talk about, Mrs. Rodgers,” Scully said

as she took her glass. “The report said your

husband has been acting strangely? And before we

go too far, where is your husband right now?”

She knew the answer, but had found the best

results came when you let the victim tell the

story in her or his own words.

“I finally got him to go into work, but I don’t

know how long I’ll be able to keep persuading him.

And ‘strangely’ is hardly the word for it, Ms.

Scully.” She seemed to find it easier to address

Scully than Mulder, leaving Mulder content to sit

back and let his partner ask the questions. “Up

until two months ago, Adam was a typical guy. He

got up, went to work, came home, spent the evening

with me, and stayed up a little later than he

probably should have watching sports on TV.”

Scully flashed a look at Mulder, her own sports

nut, which he caught and turned crimson. Janet

Rodgers hadn’t seemed to notice. Scully continued

with her casual interrogation. “When did things

start to change?”

“Well, first the plant started having layoffs.

Adam wasn’t one of the ones released, but it

always loomed over our family and us. I’m a

housewife, Agent Scully. I wasn’t trained to be

the breadwinner if he got laid off, and he knew

it. After awhile, the tension started affecting

him.”

“Affecting him how?” Scully expected to hear the

addiction idea, but that wasn’t what she got.

Mrs. Rodgers flushed bright red and leaned

slightly closer to Scully.

“He just couldn’t . . . I mean, he wouldn’t . . .

he didn’t . . . .” She cleared her throat and

tried again. “We just weren’t able to – ”

Scully knew instinctively what she was trying to

say. “He wasn’t able to be romantic with you?”

“Yes,” Janet admitted shyly, her eyes dropping to

the hands she had clenched in her lap. “It went

on for over a month. Barely even a kiss

goodnight. Then the nightmares started.”

Nightmares? It was very unusual for someone

having nightmares to enjoy sleeping, both agents

thought. Lack of desire to sleep was more common.

“Did Adam ever talk to you about the nightmares?”

“Yes. It wasn’t like there was any way for him not

to. He’d wake up screaming in the middle of the

night beside me in bed. We both ended up

exhausted, and were afraid that it would affect

his work, moving him to the head of the line to be

laid off.”

Scully shook her head. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Rodgers,

but I seem to be a little confused. How did Adam

go from being awake all night with nightmares to

someone seemingly addicted to sleeping?”

“I’m not sure,” she said, at a loss. “But it must

have something to do with the Yaeger Sleep

Wellness Center in Sacramento.”

For the first time since sitting down, Mulder

spoke. “You mean that sleep clinic with all the

television commercials?”

“Yeah, that’s it. They promised to help him if he

spent a few days there, so he took some vacation

time he had coming and checked in.

I was only allowed to visit him for an hour or so

each day. I didn’t think it would do any good,

but Adam wanted to try it, and he just looked so

exhausted all the time . . .”

“And it helped him too well,” Scully stated.

“After the first night there, he told me he’d

stopped having the nightmares. By the third day,

he said that not only was he having no nightmares,

but he was having good dreams. I can’t remember

him ever telling me that.”

“Do you think that the dreams are why he wants to

sleep all the time now?”

“Yes, I do. I expected things to go back to

normal once he came home from the Center — you

know, like it was before the lay offs — but it

just got worse. Now, he hardly gets out of bed at

all unless he’s at work. And I’m beginning to

worry that pretty soon he’ll give up on work, too.

He’s already missed a few days; I had to call him

in sick when I couldn’t get him out of bed.”

“So something must have happened at the Center to

instigate this, is that what you’re thinking?”

“It’s the only thing I can come up with, Agent

Scully,” Mrs. Rodgers smiled slightly. “I’d sure

appreciate anything you could find out.”

“We’ll do our best, Mrs. Rodgers,” Scully said,

taking the woman’s hand as she rose. Mulder also

shook the woman’s hand before following Scully out

of the house.

“So, what do you think?” Mulder asked his partner

as he steered onto the highway.

“I think that a visit to the Yaeger Sleep Wellness

Center is in order.

Don’t you?”

Instead of answering, he proposed another

question. “And what do you expect to find there?”

“Mulder, it isn’t the bogeyman who’s making Mr.

Rodgers’ dream patterns shift so abruptly.

However, it could be some new form of non-

FDA-approved, experimental medication or

procedure.” Mulder chuckled slightly. “I presume

you don’t agree? So what’s your big theory?”

“I really don’t’ have one,” Mulder admitted.

“Look, it’s 9:00. Why don’t we get checked into

the local hotel and get some sleep. We can come

up with something over breakfast in the morning.”

The nearest motel was a local establishment where

the guests entered their rooms from a hallway

rather than an outside door. It was nice, for a

change, as was the congenial woman at the front

desk. “May

I check you in, Mr. and Mrs. . . .?” she asked

them as they approached her desk. They exchanged

grins but didn’t give in to the compulsion to play

into her mistake.

“Agents Mulder and Scully of the FBI. We’d like

two rooms, please,”

Scully requested.

“Adjoining, if you have them,” Mulder added. When

he saw the woman grin, he specified, ” it makes

working late a lot easier.” Not that they owed

her any explanation, so why did he always feel

like he had to give it anyway?

They each entered their rooms, proceeding

immediately to open their own side of the

adjoining doors. Mulder wondered if he’d regret

that, as he had no desire to wake Scully if the

nightmares visited him again.

“I’m going to have a shower,” Scully volunteered,

opening her overnight bag and extracting her

nightgown. “I don’t suppose you’d like to join

me,” she said with a lascivious grin. She came to

him, wrapping her arms around his waist.

“But, Agent Scully, what about our commitment

about business and pleasure?” Despite his words,

he couldn’t resist nuzzling her hair.

“Look at it this way,” she said, taking him by the

hand and leading him to her room. “We’re being

responsible public servants by conserving water.”

“Whatever you say, Agent Scully,” he said,

convinced and happy. And while they both returned

to their individual rooms after the shower, they

fell asleep with the connecting doors wide open.

XxXxXxX

Sacramento Super 8 Motel

That night, the nightmares came for Mulder just as

they had over the past few days. If anybody had

told him six months ago that they could get worse,

he wouldn’t have believed it, but they had. Too

many things had happened recently to threaten his

partner and the memory of his sister.

The bedside clock read 12:30 a.m. the first time

he awoke, drenched in a cold sweat and uncertain

whether he’d shouted in his sleep. He’d been out

less than two hours, having turned in unusually

early in the hope of getting a full night’s

slumber. He was exhausted. He watched the

doorway to Scully’s room, but she did not emerge

to check on him.

Once he calmed enough to think, he deduced that he

must’ve been quiet enough not to awake her. He

settled down once again, and the exhaustion pulled

him under fairly quickly.

The incident was repeated at 2:05 a.m., but,

thankfully, Scully still didn’t seem to hear.

Sleep reclaimed him only to be snatched away once

more. This third time, Scully was by his side

before he gained full awareness of his

surroundings.

“Mulder, it’s okay,” she said as she rubbed his

shoulder. He found himself sitting up, his back

pressed against the headboard and the blanket

clenched in his tight fist. She kept rubbing,

giving him the chance to calm his heaving chest.

“Guess I woke you,” he muttered, noting the clock

said 3:28 AM this time.

“You’ve done it in more enjoyable ways,” she

intimated with a wink, taking a seat in front of

him on the bed.

“I’m sorry. You must be bushed.”

“This is nothing,” she said in denial, although

her eyes said otherwise. “When I was in med

school, I lost a lot more sleep than this.” Her

smile came, and her eyes sparkled. “And as for

the last nine years, a certain Special Agent I

know has kept me up more than a few nights

worrying about him.”

He gave her a wry grin, not sure what should

happen next. Should he talk to her? Tell her he

was going to go back to sleep – no matter how much

he didn’t want to? She made the decision for him.

“Mulder, I’m worried. I’ve never seen your

nightmares this bad.”

“It’s no big deal,” he countered. “One little

nightmare isn’t all that unusual for me.”

“No, but three in a single night sure is.”

Mulder looked flustered. She must have heard

after all – no sense in denying it. “I didn’t

think you’d heard the first two.”

“How could I not?” She paused, sighing heavily.

“I didn’t want you to feel like I was intruding.

Is this why you’ve been avoiding spending the

night lately? How long have you been having

them?” she asked, not really expecting an answer.

She already knew. “Mulder, this is ridiculous.

Sooner or later your working exhausted is going to

get somebody hurt.”

“What would you suggest I do, Scully?” He replied

defensively. “I see the Bureau shrink when

mandated by a case, and you know my history with

them. They’ve never helped when I had nightmares

in the past, and

I don’t see any reason they would now. Do you

want me to go back?”

“You know that’s not what I meant.” She sounded

frustrated now, and too tired to argue much

longer. “I just want to make sure that you’re

okay.” She smiled as she stood up from the bed,

letting all the emotions except her caring bleed

away. She laid a feathery touch on Mulder’s hand.

“We can talk more about this in the morning, okay?

Let’s get some rest.” And despite their promises,

she slid in next to him and let him wrap her in

his arms. They’d do nothing more, but having her

close would help.

XxXxXxX

“Say you’re right, Scully. Do you really think

that if we go in there flashing our badges and

asking questions, they’re just going to come out

and say, ‘yes, we’ve been practicing illegal

medicine’? No way.

And ten minutes after they get rid of us, all

evidence of their having used unauthorized medical

procedures will have disappeared.”

Scully tried to ignore the commotion of the fellow

diners around them while eating her fruit plate,

listening to Mulder and watching him eat a

ridiculously large stack of pancakes. Despite how

noisy the other patrons were, it wasn’t that hard.

“Unfortunately, I’d have to agree with you.

Somehow I don’t think it’ll be that easy.” She

paused, seeming to be thinking. “I’m afraid that

our method of attack on this is moot at this

point. I called Skinner this morning.” She waved

a fork to stop the interruption she knew was

coming. “We had to file for an official 302 if

we’re going to stick around and look into this.”

“And he said . . .” Mulder prompted.

“He agrees with you – going in up front and asking

questions isn’t going to work in this case.” Her

eyes rose to meet his. “He wants us undercover.”

“Scully, we don’t generally go under cover.

Unless you count off-the-clock time,” he grinned

lasciviously.

“Well, we do now.

XxXxXxX

“Are you crazy?” Scully practically shouted,

drawing all eyes as she and Mulder walked through

the hotel lobby.

“Shhhh!” Mulder said, smirking at her blush when

she realized she’d raised her voice. It was

unusual for Scully to react so strongly.

“Don’t you think it’s a good idea?”

“Mulder,” she said, now whispering. “I know I said

I wanted you to do something about your

nightmares, but checking into this place is

dangerous! Why can’t your cover be an orderly?

Or a janitor, for

God’s sake.”

“You’ve been in my apartment. Do you really think

that cleaning is an area where I’d be a natural?”

“Mulder, this is nothing to kid about! There’s a

dangerous person who has full access to that

clinic. How would I protect you?”

“That’s where your credentials come in handy. You

go to the Chief of Staff or whatever the

equivalent is and ask for permission to observe

for a few days. Tell him you’re writing an

article for

‘Today’s Medical News’. You’re a medical doctor;

you could pull it off. And it would let you stay

close by.”

“And if he’s a co-conspirator in whatever they’re

doing?”

“He won’t suspect you, and you can keep your eyes

on him as well as the rest of the staff. Whatever

it is that they’re doing out there,”

Mulder reasoned, “I seriously doubt that they’re

doing it in the open, in front of the entire

staff. Someone would be too inclined to report

it. Everybody on the staff can’t be in on it,

right? Between the two of us, from different

vantage points, we should be able to find out

what’s going on.”

“Well, I do have an old friend on the ‘Today’s

Medical News’ staff. I could call him and ask him

to cover for me should they check on my supposed

assignment. He owes me one,” she explained when

his expression asked why the friend would do such

a thing.

“Should I be jealous, Scully?” Mulder asked,

nuzzling her ear as they got on the elevator.

“I introduced him to his wife, my love. They’ve

been married for eighteen years.” She nuzzled

back, “you have nothing to ever worry about.”

“So how do you intend to spend the rest of your

day, Agent Scully?”

Mulder said, capturing her lips with his own. It

was clear what he had in mind.

“As much as I like your train of thought, I’m

going to have to spend some time learning about

sleep disorders. If I’m going to pull this off, I

need to look like I know what I’m talking about.”

At Mulder’s downcast look, she kissed him back.

“Of course, everybody knows that people learn

better if given breaks to get their mind off the

study topic. Think you can find something like

that, Agent Mulder?”

“Oh, I think I can manage one or two.”

XxXxXx

ACT II

Yaeger Sleep Wellness Center

Sacramento, California

As it turned out, it had been easier than either

of them expected to get the Chief of Staff’s

permission for Scully to be an official observer.

He seemed eager, she thought, to show off the

unprecedented successes of his facility,

especially if it meant some publicity in a

nationally respected publication. After issuing

her an ID and a lab coat, he gave her the grand

tour, including looking in on several patients.

Once he’d verified her medical license, she was

given access to the patients’ charts.

Scully was quick to notice that not all the

patients of the clinic were having the unmitigated

success of those strictly suffering from dream

disorders. According to her previous day’s

research, the patients at the Yaeger Center had

successful recoveries in time periods which were

about average compared to other facilities… with

the exception of one group. The dream focus group,

with their brief yet fantastically productive

stays, was well above the national norm – on the

realm of three hundred percent better than other

clinics.

That afternoon, she arranged to be near the

admitting desk when a certain tall, very good-

looking man checked himself in. Scully and

Mulder exchanged a wink as the nurse punched his

vital statistics into the computer. Despite his

interest in the case, she saw nervous tension in

the depths of his hazel eyes. Mulder completed

the paperwork while Scully stood nearby,

pretending to review charts.

Mulder was then ushered into an office to meet

with Dr. Flaherty – an interview that she wasn’t

allowed to observe.

Mulder didn’t mind the questions so much, but he

was beginning to get a little tired of all the

poking and prodding. Okay, so they had to verify

his health before beginning treatment, but did

they have to be so thorough? Nobody was ever more

relieved than Mulder when the doctor finally told

him he could change from the nearly-nothing gown

he wore for the examination into a normal pair of

hospital pajamas and robe.

Normal, he thought with amusement. He hadn’t worn

a pair of pajamas since he was ten. Well, there

was that one brief period of a few weeks where he

gave them a try convinced that Scully would prefer

them. At the time, it was a silly idea – he

hadn’t yet convinced himself to tell her how he

felt. He’d found himself unable to adjust, which

worked out for the best since he now knew that

Scully definitely had no such preference.

As he emerged from the office, Scully hid in a

corner, unsuccessfully trying to cover the smile

on her lips. She knew that, if he’d known the

battery of tests he’d have to undergo, he would

have re-thought the whole idea. Mulder hated

medical tests. He always said that what the

discomfort didn’t take from him, the loss of

dignity did.

She didn’t feel the need to follow him to his

room, which disappointed Mulder. He wished she

was there to reassure him as he beheld all the

equipment that he expected would soon be hooked up

to him. An image of him, looking like an

electronic spider, painted itself in his mind.

Forty-five minutes later when Scully looked in on

him, she wondered how long he’d be able to last in

this particular assignment. He looked more

uncomfortable than she’d ever seen him. Still,

the image he presented made her smile.

“Sure, go on and laugh, Scully. I’m beginning to

be sorry I talked you into this.” Finally, she

did laugh, and he chuckled nervously.

“Mulder, if nothing else, maybe they’ll take care

of your nightmares.

It would be a pleasant by-product of finding out

what’s going on around here.”

“All I know is that these things are driving me

crazy.” His eyes rolled around, trying to get a

good look at the EEG leads that were attached to

various areas of his forehead and temples, then

moved down to take in the EKG pads stuck firmly to

his chest where his pajama top was unbuttoned.

“And do you have any idea how much those are gonna

hurt when they pull them off?”

“I’m going to try to keep myself from saying again

that this was your idea, Mulder. You could have

been a janitor, remember? Now I’m going to get

some rest so I can keep myself from falling asleep

tonight while I’m supposed to be keeping an eye on

you.”

“Is there a place you can do that here?” he asked,

worried for her as much as for him. “I could

always make room for you in here,” he grinned

lasciviously, pulling back the blankets for her to

join him.

“Uh, I don’t think so. There’s an on-call room,

just the other side of the hall, and an office

area within sight of this room where I can work

tonight after lights out. I’ll never be far away,

so don’t worry.”

“Who’s worried?” Mulder asked with a sardonic

grin. They both knew the answer to that question.

XxXxXxX

2:30 a.m.

Clinton Leads was proud. He was proud to be the

only male nurses’ aide employed by the Yaeger

Sleep Wellness Center, and even more proud of the

work they did here. He’d always found such joy in

sleeping and was glad when others could find

similar happiness.

Making the rounds on his floor, he dutifully noted

the readings shown on each patient’s EEG and EKG

machines, scribbling them on their chart before

moving on to the next room.

This patient’s new, he thought to himself, pushing

the door open and entering the room. The chart

read “Fox Mulder”. “God, it’s no wonder the guy

has trouble sleeping,” Leads whispered as he drew

nearer to the bed being certain to remain in the

darkness. “Who in their right mind would name

their kid ‘Fox’?” After making the requisite

notes on the chart, he paused, staring at the

sleeping man, reaching out to him. Mulder’s eyes

were moving rapidly beneath the lids, his face

becoming more and more pained as each second

passed.

Leads deepened his gaze, drawing himself, his

mind, closer and closer to Mulder’s until he was

one with him, a part of him. What he saw there

was like nothing he’d ever experienced. The

nightmares of other patients he’d helped – dreams

of falling or showing up for work in the nude or

ghosts and goblins – were mere happenstance

compared to the torment this man was experiencing.

These weren’t nightmares of threats on the

physical plane, but were of such loss and anguish

that he wondered how the man got any sleep at all.

This was one patient he knew he had to help.

Nobody should have to live through this. He

rubbed his hands together before laying one gently

on the patient’s forehead. To an observer, he

could just as well have been pushing hair out of

the man’s eyes or feeling for a temperature, but

that wasn’t what was happening. At the slight

touch,

Fox’s troubled brow relaxed and the slight

twitching that was in his face ceased.

Scully exchanged nods with the night nurses’ aide

as he came out of Mulder’s room while on his

rounds. He seemed like a nice enough fellow and

as diligent as they came. She smiled at him as he

walked past.

She would have said hello, but when the mere smile

incited a deep crimson blush before he could hide

his face, she knew that it would be too

uncomfortable for the shy man.

XxXxXxX

Yaeger Sleep Wellness Center

6:30 a.m.

Dana gently pushed the door open, curious to see

if her partner was awake before going to get some

rest herself. She knew she dared not leave Mulder

unprotected while he slept which meant she could

only sleep once he’d awoken.

“Hey, G-woman,” he whispered groggily once he saw

she was alone.

“Hey,” she smiled back at him. “How did you do?”

Long arms stretched overhead before pushing

himself to a sitting position, at the same time

moving himself over on the bed slightly, making

room for her to sit down. “Pretty good.”

Scully interpreted his unspoken signal and lowered

herself gently to the mattress. “By ‘pretty

good’, do you mean you weren’t subject to

nightmares again?”

“I can’t honestly say none at all, but I didn’t

wake up screaming.

That’s progress.” He fidgeted, obviously

uncomfortable with being the topic of

conversation. “What about our case? Any sign of

something amiss?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever, Mulder.

Are you sure we’re not wasting our time here?”

Mulder ignored the question to ask one of his own.

“Did you get a chance to look at everybody’s

charts? Was there anything that stood out?

Struck a chord of any kind?”

“There were a few rather unorthodox treatments

being tried on some patients, including sound

techniques, but that wouldn’t explain the

problem.”

“Could they be introducing subliminal messages in

the sound waves?”

“I thought of that already. I got a look at Mr.

Rodgers’s chart, and according to the records,

sound therapy wasn’t one of the methods used on

his particular sleep disorder. And, from what I’ve

read, sound therapy is most often used on insomnia

patients rather than dream disturbances.”

“So what you’re telling me is that, besides my

first nearly perfect night of sleep in ages, we’ve

got nothing so far?”

“It’s been less than a day, Mulder,” she said,

reaching up to run a hand over his disheveled

hair. “Not nearly long enough to check out

everything.”

“I know,” he responded, obviously impatient.

“This sudden urge to have this case resolved

couldn’t have anything to do with the activities

on your schedule for today, would it?” she asked,

trying to hide a smile.

“They haven’t even told me what’s on my agenda.

It’s something I’d like to avoid, I presume?”

“It could be worse, Mulder. You’ve got an

electroencephalogram, an

MRI, and a full battery of blood work.”

He cringed at the thought of feeling like a

pincushion, dismissing it as he took a closer look

at his partner. She looked exhausted.

“Scully, you need to get some sleep.”

“I’m fine, Mulder. Besides, I want to be around

to check out everything. If they’re administering

some kind of drug, it could be during any of these

tests.”

“Well, I’m certainly not going to complain about

having you close at hand,” he said, leaning over

and kissing her gently. She could see that the

words he spoke weren’t hollow in their intensity;

Mulder was scared.

XxXxXxX

9:00 a.m.

“Would you mind terribly if I observed?” Scully

asked, matching her steps to the doctor’s beside

her. Dr. Ian Flaherty, a tall, blond, handsome

man in his mid thirties, smiled at her warmly.

“Not at all, Dr. Scully. I welcome it.” He

winked at her as he added, “just so long as the

patient doesn’t object.”

“Of course,” Dana smiled back at him. So what if

using her feminine wiles was unfair – she was

willing to use all the tools at her disposal,

especially where the safety of Mulder was

concerned.

clip_image001

Ian held the door for her as they entered the

room. Their patient was being settled into a

reclining chair that looked more comfortable than

the beds in the last ten hotels at which they’d

stayed.

“Hi, doc,” Mulder smiled nervously as he looked up

into the doctor’s face. “What are we doing to me

today?”

“Nice to see you in such good spirits, Mr.

Mulder.”

He eyed the nurse who was wiping down his arm with

alcohol. “Why wouldn’t I be with all these

beautiful ladies around.” It was an obvious joke,

meant to distract the physician.

“Just a warning,” the doctor returned, smiling,

“the nurse here is very happily married.” He and

the woman made intense eye contact, and

Mulder realized.

“You mean to you, huh?”

“You got it. So she is most definitely hands off.

Now, I don’t know about our Dr. Scully here, but

I’ll leave that to the two of you to discuss.”

Mulder sighed in relief and looked directly at

Dana for the first time since she’d entered the

room. The doctor had pretty much just given them

permission to spend more time together, talk more

privately and intensely – exactly what they

needed. So what if he had no idea what their

relationship was or would be.

“For now, Fox, the lovely nurse here is going to

take a blood sample, then we’re going to do a few

tests. Have you ever had a MRI? Or an

electroencephalogram?”

“I probably have. I’ve had head injuries at work

a few times, so I imagine so.” Mulder tried to

stifle the instinctive reflex to look to

Scully for confirmation on his medical history;

she always remembered all the little details. As

a rule, when he was in the hospital, he didn’t

want to know what they’d done to him while he was

unconscious.

“Ouch!” His thoughts were returned to the nurse

at his side as she inserted a needle into the vein

of his arm. She drew two vials of blood for

analysis and then bandaged the spot where the

hypodermic had punctured his skin.

The remaining tests were fairly standard, with

Scully by his side the whole way. He was more

relieved than he could say to have her there. She

had a strength he could draw on when the fear of

being closed inside the MRI machine became too

strong. He’d never been claustrophobic before,

but . . .

They maintained eye contact until the bed slid

into the receptor, cutting off Mulder from the

rest of his world.

XxXxXxX

Midnight

Despite the fact that all the testing had

exhausted Mulder, he just wasn’t able to fall

asleep. It wasn’t that he was feeling insecure

either; Scully was right out side that door,

looking out for him, watching his back like she

always did. The door was propped open, as usual,

and he imagined he could see her sitting at the

tiny desk he knew she occupied. He just wished

she was here, in his bed, instead.

He’d barely looked away when a shadow was cast

into his room, drawing his eyes back to the

doorway. But it wasn’t any of the medical staff,

or even Scully, passing there. “Hey, where do you

think you’re going?” Mulder asked the other

patient with a grin. He and the man had exchanged

nods and greetings in the hallway before, but he

didn’t yet know the patient’s name.

“Anywhere where I don’t have to lie there all

wired up, staring at the ceiling and counting

sheep trying to get some shuteye!” the man said

back to him with a smile. “Maybe I’ll be able to

sleep after a walk and a cold drink of water. Not

that I couldn’t do with something stronger, but .

. .”

“Unfortunately, there’s none of that around here,

I’m afraid,” Mulder responded from beneath his own

sheath of wires. He definitely knew how the man

felt.

Adam Wimsby was a high school librarian, well

schooled, and an upstanding member of the town and

his church. He didn’t know why he was suddenly

plagued with insomnia, which is what finally

prompted his wife to suggest trying the clinic.

She was a good woman, he thought as he wandered

the halls in stocking feet. He missed having her

by his side at night.

He turned the corner, stifling a gasp as he spied

people in the halls so late at night. Generally,

they were deserted except for the occasional night

nurse or aide. One of them was Dr. Thiason, who

he’d seen on rounds but who was not his doctor.

The other was a man he did not recognize. Suffice

it to say, the man looked menacing.

“I already gave you the ten vials I promised. I

can only get you three more from here,” the doctor

whispered, withdrawing from the medicine cart.

“Any more at once and it’ll be noticed.”

“Thirteen will be fine for now. There isn’t a lot

of market for morphine in its pharmaceutical form,

but enough to make it worth my while.” The

buyer’s voice was low and deep.

“You’ll see that the proper amount is deposited in

my private account, I trust.”

“Of course, of course. Just as soon as I verify

that the stuff is good, there’ll be a direct

deposit made in cash. No way to trace it.”

“Good,” Thiason said, turning from the man.

Terrified, Adam tried to duck back around the

corner, but tripped.

Both men probably saw him, he realized, as their

eyes looked his way.

His only hope was that they couldn’t see him

clearly enough to identify him.

Wimsby turned on his heels and rushed away. When

he passed Mulder’s door, the agent called to him

again. “Hey, what’s the rush?”

“I can’t talk right now!” Adam whispered fiercely,

the tremor in his voice belying his fear.

“What’s wrong?” Mulder asked, but the man was long

gone.

Thinking about the strange reaction of his fellow

patient, Mulder finally fell into a fitful

slumber. He didn’t even notice when the night

nurses’ aide came into his room, laying his hand

gently once again on Mulder’s forehead.

XxXxXxX

2:30 a.m.

Clinton Leads jumped in astonishment when

something grabbed him by the arm as he exited

Mulder’s room. A second later, he recognized the

face and relaxed. “Dr. Thiason! You startled me.

What can I do for you?”

“That’s just it, Mr. Leads. You can do a lot for

me.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Leads stated,

confused. He didn’t know the doctor that well,

but this was surely odd behavior.

“I know what you can do, Mr. Leads. Do you think

that I’m as stupid as Flaherty? That I don’t see

what you’ve been doing with these patients?” He

drew close, menacing, as he pulled him around the

corner and into an empty room. That nuisance Dr.

Scully had just run to the bathroom; she wouldn’t

be gone long.

Leads was stunned. How could anybody guess what

he’d been doing?

Most people didn’t even believe in psychic

abilities, especially ones as specialized as his.

The conscious world was still a mystery to him,

but the subconscious was his domain.

“Now,” the doctor began again. “If you don’t want

to end up locked up for the rest of your life for

what you’ve been doing, you’ll do what I want.

How’d you like to spend the next seventy years in

prison,

Leads?”

The nurses’ aide shook his head vehemently. He

couldn’t take being locked up.

“Then I need you to use your talents on a certain

patient. His name is Adam Wimsby, and he’s two

doors down.”

“But he’s just an insomnia patient,” Leads

remarked. “There’s nothing wrong with his dream

state.”

“Not now, there isn’t. But by the time you’re

done, there’d better be. I want him so messed up

that nobody will believe a thing he says, you got

that? You can give him whatever type of dreams

you want, just so long as they’re enough to drive

him over the edge.”

“But . . .”

“Jail, Leads. Think about it. Where would you

rather be?”

Resignedly, Clinton hung his head in shame at the

prospect of using his Gift for disreputable

purposes.

“Okay, Dr. Thiason.”

XxXxXxX

7:00 a.m.

“So how are you this morning?” Scully asked,

smiling down at Mulder.

He’d managed to become entangled in the many

wires, and his just-awakened grogginess made him

endearing. So like a little boy.

“Well, I don’t know about the case, but at least

I’m doing better.

No nightmares again – once I got to sleep, that

is.” He smiled sardonically as she stepped

forward and began straightening out the monitor

leads.

“You had insomnia? Oh, Mulder . . .”

“It wasn’t too bad. I got to sleep eventually.”

He paused, looking thoughtful. “Hey, Scully. Did

you see a man about my age in the hall last

night?”

“About what time?”

“Oh, it must have been about twelve or twelve-

thirty. Tall, dark hair, glasses?”

“Oh, yeah. His name is Adam Wimsby. He’s a

teacher or something like that. Why?”

“I’ve just seen him around and was curious who he

was.” There was suddenly a sparkle in his eyes.

“Hey, Scully. Didn’t it behoove you, as part of

your medical license, to get on his case when you

saw him up so late last night?”

“I don’t remember the policing of men acting like

little boys to be part of my Hippocratic Oath,”

she said, topping it off with that special look

she gave him when he knew she would laugh if she

let herself. “Funny you should mention him,

though. You’re the second person to ask me about

seeing him. Of course, the other was a doctor –

not a nosy FBI agent.” She grinned.

“I am not nosy,” he said with the petulance of a

small boy. Then, he added, “Regardless, I think

I’m going to see if I can find him. He seemed a

little frazzled; maybe he could use a sympathetic

ear.”

“Do what you want with your ear, Mulder, just keep

your nose out of trouble. The rest belongs to

me,” she whispered before kissing his cheek and

leaving the room.

XxXxXxX

ACT III

10:30 a.m.

It didn’t take Mulder long to locate Adam Wimsby’s

room, but Mulder was surprised at what he found

when he did. The man in the bed was definitely

the same person, but this man didn’t smile. He

didn’t joke.

He looked exhausted, and Mulder noted the addition

of an IV drip where before there had been none.

“Hey, how’re you doing?” he asked.

“I’ve been better,” Adam said simply.

“I won’t kid you, you looked a lot better last

night.”

“Last night?” The man looked confused, lost.

“Yeah, remember when you walked by my room? I’m

Fox Mulder from two doors down.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Mulder, but I don’t remember.

I’ve had a rough night and I’m not doing so well.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to get some

sleep. At least this stuff is good for

something.” He motioned to the IV, turning his

back on Mulder with a whispered goodbye.

XxXxXxX

11:00 p.m.

Why did he suddenly feel so dirty? Not dirty on

the outside, but dirty deep inside where you

couldn’t wash. Leads knew very well why. He’d

never used his gift for anything but helping

people, and he was finding very quickly that using

it for other purposes, even to protect himself,

left a bad taste in his mouth.

The time he spent last night in Wimsby’s room was

harrowing, uncomfortable, painful. When he’d

finally pleased Thiason, he swore he’d never use

his gift again. Never, ever! Making the decision

to stop visiting those he’d already been helping

here was already hard, but he’d had to do it.

There was just one exception . . . one case that

he had to resolve before he left this hospital and

this town. Fox Mulder should be an exception in

anybody’s book – he didn’t deserve the ghosts

haunting his subconscious.

After an uneventful day, Clinton’s first stop on

night duty was Adam Wimsby’s room. Maybe he could

try something he’d never tried before.

A trigger to discontinue the horrid nightmares he

had instilled in this patient. It wouldn’t help

now, but at least the man’s future wouldn’t be

totally destroyed. Bringing him to the brink of

insanity yet not pushing him over wouldn’t be

easy. Thiason had ordered him to make that final

push – to drive him insane – but that he couldn’t

do even to save his own skin. But maybe if he was

just acting off kilter, it would be good enough to

save them both.

The perspiration beaded and dripped on his face as

Leads concentrated with one hand on Wimsby’s

forehead. His effort was apparent to anybody

watching, not that anybody was. A twitch in his

face, and then another, both mirrored by the

bedridden patient, signaled the final connection

being established between the two. All awareness

of time faded as he burrowed deeper and deeper

into Adam Wimsby’s psyche.

His second stop was Mulder’s room. The man was

sleeping peacefully, finding blessed sanctuary in

a nightmare-free slumber. Perhaps it was in

contrition for what he was being forced to do to

Wimsby that he made the decision to go one better

and give Mulder some dreams that were more

blissful than anything he could have imagined,

even in his waking hours. Even if he wasn’t doing

it to settle his own conscience,

Fox Mulder deserved it. And so it was with a

thoughtful gaze and inner peace that he placed a

gentle hand on Mulder’s forehead.

He remembered the nightmares he’d helped to

decimate . . . the two women who starred most

vibrantly in them. The first sometimes appeared

as a woman, sometimes as a young child, but he

knew it was the same person. The second he

recognized immediately. It was Dr.

Scully, who had been observing since the day

before Fox had checked in. He wondered briefly

about their connection, how they knew each other,

and why they were acting as if they didn’t.

Perhaps they were both narcotics investigators,

trying to catch whoever was responsible for the

drugs he’d heard had been turning up missing.

Whatever the case, that was not his concern. In

Mulder’s dreams he saw a fierce devotion, a deep

caring, and an almost tangible need for this

woman, yet she often sustained injury, with him

unable to keep the harm from her. Well, from now

on, his dreams would be different. . .

Mulder wasn’t sure what this place was, but it was

wonderful. A large banner along one wall

proclaimed “Special Agent of the Year,” while

various agents and superiors sat at round tables

scattered about the room. Yet the most intimately

placed ones were occupied by non-Bureau personnel.

Teena Mulder sat, smiling lovingly at her son with

a pride he hadn’t seen in years. Beside her,

Scully’s mother, Maggie, beamed with warmth and

affection, for not just Scully, who was at her

side, but for him as well. A nearby table held a

man he didn’t recognize, but who shared Scully’s

red hair as well as her smile, a pretty brunette

woman, and Bill and Tara Scully. Bill smiled at

him and gave a thumbs-up, laughing when Mulder

returned it with wariness.

Scanning the room, he realized that everybody was

grinning at him like that, and suddenly he

realized he was behind a podium. Feeling that the

viewers were waiting for him to say something, he

muttered a quiet thank you. Surprisingly enough,

it incited the crowd to applaud. He knew he

should take a seat, but was frozen. Then, equally

suddenly, a woman was at his side, a dainty arm

slipping through his own. Scully stood beside

him, kissing him on the cheek as he took her hand

in his own. It was odd. While this body was his,

he clearly did not have full control over it. He

was here, in this body, but not all the movements

were his own.

“Come on, Mulder,” she said, pulling him from the

dais. “Speech is over – time to greet your

adoring public.” But he failed to follow her off

the platform, despite A.D. Skinner’s being ready

to make the final remarks. He was surprised when,

instead of following her, he realized he was again

beginning to speak.

In the back of his mind, he was anxious to hear

what he was going to say. The sense of duality

was fascinating. “Ladies and gentlemen, I know

that you’re all sitting on the edge of your seats

to hear what words of wisdom our Assistant

Director has to impart, but if you will indulge me

for just a few more minutes . . . I am very

honored to be here receiving this wonderful award,

and I am thrilled that so many of the people I

love could be here to share it with me.” He

exchanged glances with Dana and Maggie.

“But I have to say that I am not sure you are

giving this award to the right agent. If my

accomplishments look good to the Bureau, it’s only

because I have had the support and assistance of

the most wonderful agent . . . the most wonderful

woman . . . to ever walk the halls of the J Edgar

Hoover Building. Dana Scully is more than just a

friend to me. More than just a partner. She’s a

part of me. A part of my life. No. She IS my

life. And so. . .” At this point, Mulder

surprised himself yet again by dropping to one

knee in front of Scully. “Dana Katherine Scully,

will you do me the honor of not just being my

partner at work, but my partner in life, for as

long as I live? Will you marry me?”

He brandished a velvet box, opening it to reveal a

lovely solitaire diamond. Oohs and ahs rang

through the hall for a few minutes at the shock of

his actions before a chant began. Quiet at first,

it was soon strong and firm. “Scully, Scully,

Scully, Scully . . .” Dana gasped aloud,

surprised to see her entire family and Mulder’s

mother joining in a show of support. Finally, she

spoke loud enough to be heard over the din.

“Yes, Mulder. I’ll marry you. I love you!”

The room erupted into applause and cheers, and

Mulder realized that it felt good – felt natural.

Skinner stood like a proud father beside them as

Mulder’s mouth eclipsed Scully’s in a deep kiss.

When they withdrew, they smiled out at their

fellow agents and family members, watching them

continue to cheer.

Slowly, everything disappeared and a peaceful fog

overtook the room.

Opening his eyes, he realized that he was in his

bed at the hospital, not in the dream world he’d

fantasized. A glance at the clock told him it was

6:30 – time to get up as Scully would be coming

soon. But instead, he simply rolled over and went

back to sleep.

XxXxXxX

7:00 a.m.

“Mulder, are you awake?” The stage whisper came

from Scully, who’d surreptitiously sneaked into

his room, but it got no response. “Mulder, c’mon.

Wake up.”

A groan was her answer, and she realized that

she’d have to be a little harsher if she was going

to wake him. “Mulder, wake up! Breakfast will be

ready soon.” She flicked the switch on the wall,

illuminating the room with light. Adding to the

brightness, she pulled open the drapes as well,

inciting another groan and covers pulled up over

everything but the tousled brown hair.

Mulder blinked owlishly when she yanked the

blanket and sheet down around her partner’s waist.

“Mulder, what is with you this morning?”

“Sorry, Scully,” he muttered groggily. “There was

this dream. . .”

“Did you have nightmares again? So much for last

night being the start of a new routine.”

“Actually,” he said, pushing himself to a sitting

position and motioning for her to sit beside him.

“It wasn’t a nightmare. Have you ever had a dream

you just wished you could have over and over

again?”

“On occasion,” she smiled warmly, taking his hand.

“Most of the things I want to repeat these days

happen while I’m totally awake.”

He smiled shyly before realization came over his

face.

“Oh, Scully. I just realized – you must be

exhausted. I’m sorry for being so difficult. Why

don’t you go on to bed. I’ll hold down the fort

from here.” He began to slide down again with a

yawn.

“Oh, no you don’t,” Scully said. “I don’t go

until I know you’re up for good. I’ve never seen

you sleep so much, Mulder. Are you sure you’re

okay? Did you hear or see anything last night?”

“Not a thing,” he said, swinging his legs over the

side of the bed.

“What about this dream?” She asked. “You sounded

pretty engrossed.”

“Trying to pry all my secrets out of me, huh?

Well, I’m not going to tell you everything. I’ll

just say that if I could have the same dream every

night, I’d never again have trouble sleeping.”

“I’d like that as much as you would,” she said.

“So what are your plans for the day while I’m

getting some sleep?”

“Staying in this bed is making me nuts. The

doctor said that there’s a gymnasium downstairs on

the first floor, so I think I’ll go check it out.

Do you know where they put my bag?”

“It’s in the closet,” she motioned, and he struck

pay dirt upon opening the narrow door.

“I’m glad I put my workout clothes back in the bag

after I washed them last time, that’s for sure.

It’ll be great to get out of these pajamas –

they’re driving me nuts, too. If the other

patients are as stir crazy as I am, there’ll be

plenty of them down there. Maybe I can coerce

some into some educational conversation about the

goings on around here.” He began to shed the

night clothes, sliding into his boxers and shorts

unashamedly.

“Sounds like a good plan. Just try to keep your

gorgeous nose out of trouble,” she added, standing

on tiptoes to kiss the tip. “I’ll see you

later,” she added, giving his rear a pinch before

leaving the room. He smiled and shook his head.

She never stopped surprising him.

Stopping at the nurse’s station, Scully reported

in to the head nurse, along with Dr. Flaherty, who

happened to be filling out a chart. “I’m off for

some rest. If you need me, I’ll be in the on-call

room.”

“I don’t get it, Dr. Scully,” Flaherty questioned.

“Why would anyone in their right mind

intentionally work nights if they had a choice?”

“Too many years spent interning, assigned to the

night shift, I guess. I can’t sleep at night

anymore. Besides, this being a sleep clinic, it’s

more interesting to observe the patients while

they’re not awake.”

“Yeah, I guess,” he said, smiling at her. “Well,

I didn’t mean to keep you from your rest. Take

care.”

“Thanks, Ian,” she said, then turning to the

nurse. “Could you ask somebody to be sure to wake

me about 4:00? Thanks.” The nurse nodded, and

Scully made her departure. But sleep didn’t come

quite so quickly. Mulder was behaving so oddly

this morning. Almost exactly like the other

patients who had become ‘addicted to sleeping.’

She questioned that it was true addiction, since

the dedication to sleep seemed to be one hundred

percent the choice of the victims.

She’d have to wait and see how he was in the

morning.

XxXxXxX

Mulder pretty much spent the day in the gym, which

turned out to be incredibly well equipped.

Weights, treadmills, bicycles, a running track,

and a myriad of other equipment including a

jacuzzi and small swimming pool. He was dying to

try out the pool, but he didn’t have his suit, and

his desire wasn’t quite strong enough to incite

him to wear the suits the hospital provided. With

all that, he still wished for a simple basketball

court, but figured he’d make do with what they

had. The track would be good for starters.

He’d always loved to run. It just cleared his

mind as well as his body, letting things surface

from his subconscious that he’d been suppressing

or resisting. He hoped that it would happen now;

so far, all he’d been able to sense was that he

was definitely missing something. Realistically,

they were no closer to solving this case than they

had been days ago when they got here. How long

would

Skinner let it continue?

The only benefit he’d seen so far was that his own

nightmares had stopped. He knew for sure that it

wasn’t coming from any drug they gave him, or any

weird treatment of which Scully was unfamiliar or

was unable to substantiate through her research.

So what was it about this place that was so

special?

“Well, good morning, Mr. Mulder,” a voice said

from beside him, and he realized that he’d been

unaware of another runner drawing abreast.

“Getting a little workout, I see?” It was Ian

Flaherty.

“You got it, Doc. I was going stir crazy in

there.”

“Understandable. That’s one of the reasons we

added on the gymnasium area. Patients need

something to do other than sleep their days away,

and the need for physical activity is a general

health issue. It wasn’t easy getting the funding

from the board, but we managed.” He smiled,

panting slightly from his own exertions at keeping

up with Mulder.

Mulder thought about mentioning the basketball

court, but decided that it wasn’t really

constructive. Where would they put it? He

trusted

Flaherty, and wanted to draw him out, but couldn’t

be as direct as he wished. Maybe a little

subterfuge was in order.

“Y’know, when I first read about this place, I

really didn’t know what to expect. Somehow I had

these visions of people sleeping day and night,

round the clock, but don’t ask me where that came

from. I mean, nobody can sleep all the time,

right?”

“Well, there are those patients who suffer from

narcolepsy, who can fall asleep at any time, but

in general, no, nobody sleeps for twenty-four

hours a day.”

“Have you ever had a case where somebody did? It

seems like that would be the ultimate challenge

for a clinic like this. I mean, I don’t know if

it would be considered a sleep disorder at all,

but . . .” He spread his hands in a shrug as he

kept up his pace.

“No, I know what you mean, Mulder. Luckily, we’ve

never had anybody quite that bad, although we have

occasionally had patients who, once we’ve helped

them, went a little overboard, but nothing

excessive.”

Like he’d admit it if they had, Mulder thought to

himself. There was open, and then there was

complete disclosure, and no physician was likely

to do that – except maybe a certain beautiful,

red-headed one he knew.

“That smile must mean something more than you’ve

just hit your runner’s high,” Flaherty observed

with a chuckle.

“I hadn’t even realized I was smiling,” Mulder

said, grinning nonetheless at the buddy-ish barb.

“No, I don’t think I was.”

“I’m a doctor, Mulder. I think I can identify a

smile when I see one.

It wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with a

certain physician who’s taken a personal interest

in your case, would it?” He was like a male

Yenta, Mulder thought, but since it was his idea,

there was no harm in playing up to it. Plus, it

was like a stamp of approval for him and Scully to

be seen together. And not just as patient and

doctor.

“Aw, Dr. Flaherty, I didn’t know you cared,”

Mulder joked, stepping up the pace a little bit.

Let’s see what this doctor could do.

“You know darn right well who I mean, Mulder,” Ian

laughed back, not missing a stride. “Look, I know

she probably told you it couldn’t be known;

doctor-patient relationships and all that. But I

don’t have a problem with it under these

circumstances, and I won’t give you a hard time.

Look, she’s warm to you, you’re warm to her. Why

not let nature take its course?”

This time it was Mulder’s turn to laugh,

maintaining his cover. “We haven’t even had a

date yet!”

“Yet?” Flaherty observed pointedly.

“Yes, ‘yet’, so now let’s switch topics, shall we?

When do you think I’ll be released? My nightmares

have been a whole lot better the last few nights.”

“That’s true, and you’ve made great progress, but

I’d like to try to find out what caused the

drastic change before just releasing you.

Something has had a noticeable impact on your

subconscious mind . . . besides the lovely Dr.

Scully, that is. We haven’t really been treating

you with any significant therapy beyond just

simple rest and mild sedation at nights; it

shouldn’t be happening this way, but it is.”

“Could it be simply that I’m comfortable here,

thinking that I’ll be cured, so I am?”

“You mean confidence in our establishment as a

means to a cure?

Well, it’s possible, but it’s kind of far fetched.

But if the nightmares stay away, and we haven’t

identified the cause in the next three days, I’ll

just release you. You’ll know where I am if it

gets bad again.” Mulder noticed that the doctor’s

breathing was no longer as even as it had been,

nor was his speaking.

“Are you okay?”

“Sure. But tell me something. Just how far do

you run? And how often? I used to think I was in

pretty good shape, but I’m just about ready to

pass out!”

“I usually run three or four times a week, five

miles or so each time. Sometimes more, sometimes

less. At times, when it gets cold, I’ll swim

instead. It varies.”

“Well, it’s obviously working for you.”

“I have to keep it up for my job. Can’t afford to

get flabby.”

“Yeah, Dr. Scully wouldn’t like it either,” Ian

winked affably. “Okay,

I confess – you’ve worn me out. I’m going to take

a swim and then a steam. Care to join me?”

“I’ll have to pass. I didn’t expect your facility

to be so well-equipped, so I didn’t bring my

suit.”

“The hospital has suits you can borrow. Come on,

I’d enjoy the company.”

“I really can’t. I’ve just never been able to

swim in those baggy trunk things. They create too

much drag.”

“Well, you really are the athlete, aren’t you?

Maybe I can lend you something a little more to

your liking.” Mulder was surprised at how eager

Flaherty seemed to spend time with him, but

decided to take it in stride for now – no pun

intended.

“Locker rooms are this way,” Ian said as he led

the way through a door at the side of the workout

room. It smelled slightly of disinfectant and

chlorine. Banks of lockers were unused and

unlocked, but Flaherty walked assuredly to a row

of larger ones that were labeled and secured. He

spun the dial on the padlock hanging from the one

marked “Flaherty”.

Mulder noted carefully the names on each of the

lockers, committing them to memory. If a search

became desired or necessary, it would help to be

able to match them with their owner rather than

have to check them all. Perhaps going along with

the doctor for a swim had been a good idea after

all.

The rattle of the door drew his attention,

revealing a fluffy towel hung near the front.

“What, you don’t make use of the towels they

provide?” Mulder asked, smiling. A doctor who

didn’t use his own facility supplies . . .

“Nope. They’re tiny, they’re threadbare, and

they’re scratchy. Lynn keeps me in all the towels

I need.” He took one down, showing another behind

it, and tossed it to Mulder. “See what married

life will do for you?”

Mulder laughed. “Y’know, Doc, subtlety will never

be your strong suit.

And speaking of suits . . .”

“Okay, okay. I’m sure a buff athlete like you

wants to get back to the workout. You’re lucky,

because Lynn just washed these, too. It wouldn’t

be safe to lend you one otherwise. What do you

prefer, blue or black.” He looked at the two

suits being proffered, both of which were the same

brand and style he wore at home, if not the same

color. “I presume these are more in line with

your personal preference?”

“I really appreciate this,” Mulder said with a

smile. “But I really don’t care – you pick.”

Flaherty tossed the black one at him. “You can

put your clothes in one of the lockers along that

wall. The pool is through the door at the far end

– I’ll meet you out there.” He walked towards

what

Mulder presumed was the restroom area, leaving him

alone to change in relative privacy.

Mulder was already in the pool swimming laps

before Flaherty emerged from the locker room. In

between laps, they tried to continue their

conversation.

“Hey, how is that guy down the hall doing? Wimsby?

We talked my first night here and he seemed like a

nice guy. I heard he’s not doing so well.”

“No, he’s not, and we’re not sure why. I can’t

really say too much, and he’s not even my patient,

but he’s no longer even ambulatory.

I wish I could help.”

Mulder was struck by the sincerity in his voice.

He didn’t know how to respond, and they swam in

silence for quite some time. After many laps,

they both drew to a stop at one end of the pool.

“We’d better get out. Lunchtime is coming up, and

I need to get back on the floor and check on some

other patients.” Flaherty drew himself out of the

water, quickly grabbing his towel and turning to

watch as

Mulder did the same.

Mulder looked up sharply as he heard a gasp. Ian

Flaherty stood frozen, looking at him with rounded

eyes.

“What?”

The doctor shook himself. “I’m sorry, Mulder. I

know I’ve seen them before, but it just took me by

surprise when I saw your scars.” His eyes moved

from Mulder’s shoulder to his thigh. “I admire

you for not being self-conscious of them.”

“I guess I figure it’s all part of the job. Each

one is a significant moment in my life. And

they’re so faint now – compared to how they were.

Most people don’t even notice.”

Flaherty chuckled sadly. “Still, call me

narcissistic, but I’d be running for the nearest

plastic surgeon. Have you ever thought about it?”

“Plastic surgery? Never seriously, although my

doctors mentioned it at first. I don’t care that

much about it, and they’re hardly noticeable.

It’s just me.”

“Well, I’m a sure a doctor wouldn’t be bothered by

them. Especially a beautiful, understanding doctor

like Dr. Scully.”

This time, Mulder laughed. His “Will you stop

it!” trailed behind them as they disappeared into

the locker room.

XxXxXxX

After a very active morning, Mulder found himself

ravenous at lunchtime. He’d been privately pleased

that he’d been able to out-exercise the doctor,

but it had taken it out of him. He found himself

looking forward to bedtime. And while the

afternoon was quiet, filled with reading and

strolling the halls, his appetite was just as

large when it came time for dinner. He couldn’t

have been happier than when he saw the petite

figure who delivered dinner right to his room.

“Scully,” he said, smiling his welcome. “Where’ve

you been?” He knew she tried to wake around four,

but it was now six and he hadn’t seen her in the

last two hours.

“Bringing you a surprise,” she said, raising two

bags in the air.

“There’ll be no hospital food for you tonight.”

She handed him the bag in her right hand, keeping

the one in the left for herself. He read the

outside of the bag.

“Wendy’s? Scully, this is great! What did you

bring me?”

“See for yourself,” she said, beginning to unpack

her own dinner as she settled on the end of his

bed, facing him. Dinner was spread out on the

blanket between them, a burger, fries, and Seven-

Up for Mulder, with a spicy chicken sandwich, a

small cup of chili, and a Diet Coke for Scully.

“You’ve got cola?” Mulder noticed, forlornly.

“Want to trade?”

“You can’t have caffeine, Mulder. Now eat, and

tell me what you’ve learned today.”

“Okay, but don’t complain that I’m talking with my

mouth full.”

She chuckled.

“I actually spent a good deal of time with Dr.

Flaherty today. He was in the gym while I was

working out, and we talked. I’m totally convinced

that he knows nothing about what’s going on here.

He seems puzzled at even my own improvement when

they haven’t begun any real treatment as of yet –

we’re still going through the preliminaries. He

also told me Wimsby – the guy I saw the first

night – that his condition has gotten worse. Much

worse. He looked upset that he couldn’t help

him.”

“Well, we don’t know for sure, but I tend to agree

with you – Flaherty seems honest. But it still

doesn’t solve the case.”

“If it comes down to it, I did see a great place

for somebody to stash an illegal substance.” At

Scully’s raised eyebrow, he continued.

“There’s a bank of lockers in the gymnasium locker

room that are reserved for the staff. Each is

tagged for the staff member and locked with a

standard, dual-latching combination padlock. If

it’s the kind with a key override in the back, we

may be able to pick them, should it become

necessary. Scully, this is so good!” he remarked

off topic, chewing happily on a French fry.

“I’m glad you like it. I’m going to check out

more of the patient records this evening. There’s

got to be a connection between these patients.

And once the night shift comes on, I want to keep

my eyes on a nurse’s aide here. He was acting a

little spooked last night. It might be nothing,

but . . .”

“I appreciate your watching my back, partner,” he

rocked forward onto his knees, pecking her on the

cheek.

“Always, Mulder,” she answered, swiping one of his

fries. He looked longingly at her food. She knew

him well enough to know what he wanted. “There

isn’t more than one or two spoonfuls here, but

would you like the rest of my chili?”

He knew she never would offer him more while he

was technically a patient here. He nodded

cheerfully. “You’re the best, Scully,” he

grinned, swiping the small, red cup.

“You only love me for my chili.”

XxXxXxX

She couldn’t believe her eyes. It couldn’t be.

It just couldn’t.

Yet the evidence was so clear.

She’d surreptitiously shadowed Clinton Leads, the

night nurse’s aide. As he went from room to room,

she watched as he recorded pulse rates, sleep

status, and all the other minutiae necessary. In

the third room, a patient was restless, in the

throes of some kind of dream. Nightmare more

likely, or even worse, a night terror. He turned

to leave, hesitated, and then turned back, seeming

to come to some kind of decision. Then, he

touched the patient’s head. . .

And the patient immediately calmed. Okay, that

was no big deal, she’d admitted to herself.

Perhaps the touch of comfort was reminiscent of

one the patient’s mother had used to calm him as a

child. Nothing special, or rare, or

unexplainable. She thought all this until, of

course, she watched him do it three more times in

different rooms. What did it all mean?

Regardless, at the very least, some questioning

was in order. She waited in the shadows for Leads

to emerge from the room, hoping that he’d

cooperate. Finally, she heard the sounds of

hinges that were developing full-blown squeaks.

“Freeze, Mr. Leads,” she said in a stage whisper,

but her gun hand was steady. “FBI.”

XxXxXxX

ACT IV

The look on his face was stunned silence, like a

deer caught in a flashlight’s beam. She felt

certain that she was safe in approaching the large

man.

Finally, as she drew closer, he seemed to break

out of his near-catatonic state. But what was

originally a quiet man quickly became a sobbing

child.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Scully. . . I didn’t want to. . .

They made me. . .

They threatened me. . . I was so scared. . .”

For a moment, Scully feared the man was quickly

moving into hysterics.

She’d get no information from him this way. “It’s

okay. It’ll be okay,” she reassured, taking the

unresisting man by the arm. “We just want to ask

you some questions. We’re not going to hurt you.”

She tried to lead him away by the arm, and he went

willingly.

“Are you going to take me to jail?” he asked,

sounding frightened.

“Not if you haven’t done anything wrong,” Scully

assured him. She was having a hard time picturing

this man as a suspect with any malicious intent.

“For now, let’s go talk with my partner.”

If he wondered who that was, he didn’t question

it, following her docilely to Mulder’s room.

Slipping into the darkness, she flicked on the

light over his bed and shook him by the shoulder.

“Mulder, wake up.”

Despite the hour, Mulder came to consciousness

quickly, pushing himself into a sitting position.

“What’s going on? You got something

on the case?”

“You could say that,” she responded, turning to

look at Clinton Leads, standing behind her. “Hey,

are you okay?” she asked, taking in the shocked

expression of the man as he looked at Mulder.

“You’re a police officer?” he asked Mulder,

stunned.

“Well, FBI to be specific.”

“I didn’t know. I didn’t mean to interfere.

Please don’t put me in jail.” The man was

literally pleading with them now. “I just wanted

to help!”

“Okay, okay. Just calm down. We only want to

talk for now,” Scully soothed. “Why don’t you

take a seat in this chair. I’ll sit right beside

you.”

“Dr. Flaherty will be upset if he sees I didn’t

complete my rounds.”

“I’ll explain it all to him. You won’t get in

trouble.” At times, the man seemed more like a

small boy. Finally, he sat in the uncomfortable

plastic chair, seeming relieved when Scully sat in

the one beside him, having holstered her gun, and

Mulder sat with his legs hanging off the side of

the bed.

She looked into Mulder’s eyes, communicating her

deference to him in questioning the man. As an

accredited psychologist, he’d have a better idea

of how to approach him. But his eyes communicated

back that he needed her lead. He needed to know

what she’d seen.

“Clinton,” she said, trying to gain his trust by

using his first name.

“Tonight, when you were checking on the patients,

I saw you touch some of them. You laid your

fingers on the foreheads of some that were

restless, and they calmed down.”

Leads nodded in acknowledgment, but clearly didn’t

understand what they were asking. Mulder took

over.

“What did you do for them, to let them sleep,

Clinton? Did you help them?” Mulder smiled

slightly, non-confrontational. Leads seemed to

take this as appreciation rather than

condemnation.

“Yeah, I helped them. They were having

nightmares, so I took them away.”

“How do you do that? What do you do when you want

to help somebody who’s having a nightmare?”

“I touch them here,” he showed them on Scully’s

forehead, “and then I just reach out with my mind.

I get inside and I tell the nightmare to go away,

and it does.” He shrugged.

Mulder and Scully exchanged looks, both wide-eyed.

“Do you help all the patients here?” Scully asked.

“I can only help the ones with nightmares, or what

Dr. Flaherty calls night-terrors.”

“And have you helped all the patients that have

nightmares?” Leads looked scared for a moment,

but Scully’s look seemed to reassure him.

“Yep. Nurses’ aides are supposed to want people

to feel better; I just don’t do it like the other

nurses’ aides do. I figure it’s better if we

don’t have to give them drugs.” He smiled shyly,

blushing, and added, “sometimes I even . . .”

“You even what?” Mulder asked.

“Sometimes, I even give them happy dreams. I

think some people need happy dreams to make up for

all the bad things in their nightmares.”

“Clinton, did you help me?” The question from her

partner came out of left field, and Scully was

surprised. “Did you take away my nightmares and

give me good dreams?”

Leads blushed even brighter red, if it was

possible. “Your dreams were scary. . . and so sad.

I made them better, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did,” Mulder admitted, smiling

enigmatically at his partner.

“We know you didn’t mean to do any harm, but we

have to talk to you seriously about this. What

you’re doing for these patients is having long-

term affects on them after they leave the

hospital. It’s making them want to sleep all the

time – not do anything else. So, while I know you

were just trying to help,” Mulder said with

confidence, “you have to stop it. This is a very

special ability you have, Clinton, but you can’t

use it any more.”

“And if I don’t, if I promise never ever to use it

again, you won’t put me in jail?”

“We can’t promise anything,” Scully said gently,

“but we’ll talk to our boss and see if he agrees.

I have to be honest with you, though.

Our boss might not like the idea of your

continuing on with this ability. They may decide

to put you on some medication to try to suppress

your abilities.” Scully couldn’t believe she was

saying this!

“Tell them I promise. Cross my heart,” he added,

including the motion.

“I’ll never, ever, ever do it again, no matter how

much I want to.”

“I believe you,” Mulder responded. “Could you

please wait in the hallway for just a minute? I

need to speak to Dr. Scully in private.”

Scully couldn’t help but chuckle when the man

smiled and blushed.

“Okay,” he agreed as he got up to leave. “But no

kissing!” He’d apparently gotten more from

Mulder’s mind than simply his nightmares.

“So what do you think?” she asked him.

“I’m finding it very hard to believe that that man

ever had a malicious thought in his life. His

ability is incredible, but I don’t think he had

any intent to hurt anybody when he used it. I

think we should recommend to Skinner that he goes

free with a warning, and then track the records

here to make sure the cases go back to being more

normal.”

“While I tend to agree with that, Mulder, I’m not

sure the upper echelon will. If he can really do

what he says he does, he’s a medical miracle.

People will want to study that.”

“Can you see what that would do to him, though?

To any person? To

be turned into a guinea pig?”

“I didn’t say I agreed with it, just that the

possibility exists. I think we’re pretty out of

our league at this point, I’m afraid. Ultimately,

it’s not going to be ours to say. Hell, I don’t

know if what he might be doing is even technically

illegal! Let’s just make our report and send it

to Skinner. After that, it’ll be up to him.

Let’s go tell Leads.”

“Hey, Scully,” Mulder asked, beginning to unbutton

his pajama top.

“Since the case is pretty much over, do you think

I can get rid of these things? They’re going to

hurt like hell coming off, but at least they won’t

itch anymore.”

“Yeah, I think that would be okay,” Scully said,

moving close to him to gently begin removing the

small pads from his muscled chest. She added in

an almost-perfect mimic, “but no kissing!” They

both chuckled as she continued her work.

In the hallway, Leads was pacing, obviously

worried. “Clinton,”

Scully began, “we need to write up our report and

email it to our boss in Washington, and then we’ll

find out what he decides.

Don’t worry, I’m sure everything will be okay.”

“Good. Don’t forget to tell him I promise. I

won’t ever do it again.”

“I’ll tell him . . .”

Before Scully could say anymore, there were a

series of shrieks that echoed down the corridors.

Leads took off at a run, considerably ahead of

Mulder and Scully, who were still trying to

identify from which direction the screams were

coming. They finally saw him disappear into a

room two doors down from Mulder’s, and followed

him.

The man on the bed was in full five-point

restraints, thrashing about wildly and yelling

nonsense words. Mulder recognized that it was the

man he’d met briefly, Adam Wimsby. Dr. Flaherty

had told him yesterday that he wasn’t’ doing well,

but Mulder wasn’t prepared for this.

They were also unprepared to see Leads, weeping

near-hysterically by the man’s bedside. He kept

repeating, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” in between sobs

as he buried his face in his hands.

“Mr. Wimsby, wake up!” Scully tried shouting into

the man’s ear, shaking his shoulders, but nothing

seemed to calm the man.

“It’s all my fault,” Leads said, the tears running

down his face. “I did this. I didn’t want to,

but they made me. It’s my fault. Please,” he

turned pleading eyes to first Mulder, then Scully.

“Please let me help him!”

“You promised, Clinton,” Scully reminded him.

“But you don’t understand. I did this. I made him

like this – these aren’t HIS night terrors. I gave

them to him. Please let me take them back.”

“Wait a minute,” Mulder said, trying to grasp the

situation. “Somebody coerced you into doing this

to Wimsby? Who was it? What did they say?”

“It was Dr. Thiason. He didn’t tell me why. Just

that he knew what I could do and that if I didn’t,

he was going to have me arrested. Put me in jail.

Or maybe even let them cut me open to see why I

can do what I do. I was afraid.”

“So you did as he ordered,” Scully said sadly,

sorry for the frightened man. Mulder sent her a

look that communicated volumes, and her look back

told him of her agreement.

“If you can help him, we’ll give you permission

just this one time. A man should be able to right

the wrongs he’s done.”

Clinton Leads seemed relieved. He rose, wiping

his eyes and then his face, drying the tears on

his hands onto his uniform. A slight touch on

Wimsby’s forehead was quickly followed by a few

twitches in Leads’ own face. Viewing the process

from up close for the first time, they both

realized that this wasn’t something that was easy

for the aide.

His effort was reflected in the perspiration on

his brow. But within a couple of minutes, Wimsby

grew silent, and then settled unmoving on the bed,

regaining the normal breathing rhythm of sleep.

“Why do you think this Dr. Thiason would make him

do this,” Scully whispered to Mulder as Leads

retook his seat. He seemed tired.

“I’m convinced it goes back to that first night.

The man who left his room and passed by mine was

content. Happy. But when he was returning to his

room, he most definitely was not. He was

terrified. I think he saw something. Something he

shouldn’t have, and it scared him to death. And

Thiason must have been involved. I’d planned to

talk to him the next day, but by the time I got to

him – with the tests and all – he’d already

succumbed.”

“Well, I can only think of one way to find out

what he saw that night,” she said, looking to the

sleeping man. “As much as I hate to wake him. .

.”

“Wake him we must,” Mulder concluded. “Maybe you’d

better do it.

Women are much gentler, and believe me, waking to

your face will be a lot nicer than waking to

mine.” Scully chuckled but proceeded to the bed

to wake Wimsby.”

He didn’t wake easily, and Mulder was beginning to

think he was going to have to help when the man’s

eyes slowly opened, evolving from a mere slit to

wide and round. “What’s going on?” He asked,

confused.

“Mr. Wimsby, do you remember me?” Mulder asked.

“Yeah, you’re a patient here, like me.”

“Do you remember when you walked by my room the

other night? You were frightened.”

Dawning realization lit in the man’s face as the

memories of what he’d seen obviously flowed. “Oh,

my God . . .”

“I’m an FBI Agent, Mr. Wimsby. I need you to tell

me what scared you so badly. We know it has

something to do with Dr. Thiason.”

“If I tell you, will you protect me?”

“We’ll put you in protective custody immediately

if it’s warranted,”

Scully assured.

“Okay. I went for a walk. I couldn’t sleep,

being in a new place and all. The hallways were

pretty dark, but the nurses’ station was well lit.

There weren’t any nurses there, though. I guess

they were making rounds or something. Dr. Thiason

was there, talking with a guy in a leather jacket.

The doctor took some boxes out of the locked

cabinet behind the desk where they keep the drugs,

I guess, and gave them to this guy. They were

talking really low, but I think the guy in leather

told him there would be money put into his bank

account. I started to get closer to hear better,

but I made a noise and they saw me.”

“They saw your face?”

“Yes, I’m sure of it. The halls were dark, but by

that time, I’d moved into the lighted area.”

“Is there anything else they said that might help

us?”

“Yeah, the other guy said something, before the

doctor unlocked the cabinet, about what he’d had

in his locker not being enough. I got the feeling

that he’d already given him some that was hidden

somewhere, but the guy demanded more, so he took

it out of the drug cabinet.”

“Okay, just one more question, Mr. Wimsby,” Scully

said. “Would you be able to recognize the other

man if you saw him?”

“Yes, I’m sure I could.”

“Excellent,” Mulder said victoriously. “I know

it’s very late, but would you mind getting dressed

and coming to the local police station?

We need you to fill out a report and then they’ll

get you the protection you need. Hopefully, if we

take Dr. Thiason into custody, he’ll identify this

contact of his.”

In seeming agreement, Adam Wimsby alit from the

bed, heading for his closet. “Could the lady, at

least, leave while I change?”

“Oh, sorry,” Scully said, then turned to Mulder.

“I’ll be right outside. Mulder, you may want to

go back to your room and put something else on

yourself.” He looked down, as if realizing for

the first time his attire and left quickly to

change.

The foursome, once dressed, made their way to the

elevator, and then down the corridors of the first

floor. Coming around the corner, the sight

shocked them all into stillness. Wimsby recovered

first.

“That’s them!” he said, pointing out the two men

standing outside the locker room doors. One was

definitely Dr. Thiason, and the other wore

leather.

“Stay here!” Mulder shouted as he took off in

pursuit of the men with Scully on his heels. They

were forced to split up when the dealer ran

through the locker room doors and the doctor

sprinted down the hall.

“Get Thiason!” he shouted as he rammed his way

through the swinging door.

Thiason was not physically fit, but he had

desperation and longer legs on his side. He was

at the stairwell doors by the time Scully caught

up with him, her attempt to halt his flight

shoving them both through onto the landing at the

base of the stairs. Before she could pull her

weapon, he pushed her hard into the wall, stunning

her for just a second.

It was long enough to get away, except that

another large figure then jumped on the man’s

back. Scully looked up, surprised to see Clinton

Leads trying to halt the man’s escape. Thiason

must have had some kind of self-defense training,

she thought quickly as he easily threw

Leads from his back. She cringed as she watched —

and heard — the aide’s head impact the stair

railing. Leads was unconscious, but he had given

her time. Her weapon was now pointing unwaveringly

at the doctor.

“Freeze, Thiason. You’re under arrest.” She

cuffed both wrists, reciting to him his rights by

rote and turning him over to hospital security

guards. She hoped that Mulder was doing well in

containing his own fleeing suspect.

The locker room was a maze of walls, closets,

showers, and toilet stalls, and Mulder had to

check them all. He kept an ear out, hoping that

footsteps would give away the man’s location. He

had to be in here – the only other exit was into

the pool area. Wait . . .

Could it be that simple? If he didn’t know the

lay of the building, he could easy be making his

way to that door, hoping for an escape.

Working on instinct, foregoing closets and toilet

stalls, Mulder ran silently to the pool entrance

door. It was still closing as he caught the

handle and pulled it open again, spying the UNSUB

creeping with careful steps on the smooth tile

that surrounded the pool. A door at the opposite

side was his obvious goal, but Mulder had no

intention of letting him get that far.

Putting on a sudden burst of speed, praying that

his sneakers allowed him enough traction, Mulder

caught up to the man, making a diving tackle that

went slightly wrong, sending both of them

careening into the water. They both sputtered to

the surface, Mulder slightly slower than the

UNSUB, but enough for the man to attempt a

roundhouse punch to Mulder’s jaw. It never

landed, however, as Mulder grabbed the man’s hand

out of midair and twisted it efficiently behind

his back, subduing him to a slur of curses.

He looked up to see two hospital security guards

and his laughing partner standing at the top of

the pool steps. “Could one of you cuff this guy?”

he panted, pushing the still-cursing man up the

stairs and into the hands of the guards. Turning

to Scully, he took in her delight. “Nice that you

can laugh while I nearly kill myself apprehending

that guy.”

“Oh, Mulder,” she said, trying to hold her

laughter. “Even if you hadn’t fallen into the

pool, you’d be all wet.”

XxXxXxX

EPILOGUE

Dana Scully’s Apartment

Georgetown, Virginia

Mulder came into Scully’s bedroom and flopped on

the bed, face down.

“That was a long phone call,” Scully commented

from the confines of the bathroom. When he didn’t

react, she repeated it louder.

“Oh, sorry, Scully. I still can’t seem to get all

the water out of my ears.”

“If it doesn’t get better, you should probably see

the doctor so he can drain it. You probably have

wax buildup.”

“You sweet-talker, you,” he chuckled.

“Not romantic enough for you? How about this?

Would Agent Mulder like a hot-oil back rub?

Purely therapeutic, mind you.”

“Uh, that would be great,” Mulder murmured,

pushing his face into the quilt. “Y’know, I think

I’m just getting too old for this.”

“You’ll never grow old, Mulder,” she said,

alighting on the bed beside him. She poured the

oil into the hollow at the center of his back

where it pooled, spreading the warm liquid moments

later with gentle hands. “So who was that on the

phone?”

“It was an update from the local Bureau office on

the Leads case. They kept him overnight in the

hospital, and he seems to be fine. But all tests

show no sign of his ability to manipulate dreams.”

“You mean, he’s not a dreamweaver anymore?”

“Nope. He’s been very cooperative, but hasn’t

been able to repeat the feats he’d previously

accomplished. It’s actually for the best, I

guess, since nobody could seem to agree what the

best course of action would have been should he

have retained the ability.”

“A blessing in disguise. Just like your time with

him. You haven’t had a nightmare since the case

ended, have you?”

“I’d think you’d know the answer to that as well

as I would,” he said, turning his head to wink at

her as her hands continued their magic.

“But, for the record, no. No more nightmares.”

“I know they’re gone now, but have you given much

thought to what caused them in the first place?”

He rolled over, sitting in front of her and taking

her hands in his own. “Actually, I’ve thought

about it a lot.”

“And what was your conclusion, Dr. Mulder?” she

grinned.

“It was this,” he said, holding her hands higher

and tighter. “My fear of losing this. I’m not

ashamed to admit that it terrifies me.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Mulder. So you’d better

just get used to having me around.”

“I could get used to having you around for the

rest of my life,” he muttered. He joined his lips

to hers, wrapping her in his arms as she reached

over to flick off the bedside light.

THE END

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