Patchwork

cover (2)

Title: Patchwork (conclusion of Circles)

Author: The VS10 Producers

Rating: PG-13

Category: Case file

Archive: Exclusively on the VS10 site for two weeks, then

with permission.

* * * *

Patchwork

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Teaser

Undisclosed Location

Wednesday, 2:54 a.m.

It was cold. The air smelled damp and musty, and the surface she

was lying on was most definitely not her bed.

Slowly, Scully opened her eyes, her lashes sticky with too much

sleep.. or something worse… and discovered a ceiling made of

chain link fencing. Where the hell *was* she?

Looking around her, she saw that the walls were made of the same

wire fabric. She was sitting on a cot. Like a temporary detention

area. A military–

She sat bolt upright, wincing at the pain in her throat. Lights. A

strong arm choking off her air. Mulder rushing toward her and

being knocked to the ground. Mulder!

She quickly scanned her surroundings and found him almost

immediately on the other side of the wire wall. He lay on his back

on a cot like her own.

“Mulder,” she called out to him from where she sat. Under the

circumstances, she wasn’t sure who was watching. He stirred at her

voice, turning his head in her direction, but still asleep.

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“Mulder!” she called a little louder. He opened his eyes, shivering

slightly as he came awake. She could see his breath misting in the

cold air.

“Mulder, thank God you’re all right,” she said, watching him rub

his eyes and the back of his head. The rifle had at least left a bump,

if not a gash where his fingers were exploring.

“Where are we, Scully?” he groaned, trying to prop himself up on

one elbow.

“I don’t know. But I have a feeling our little excursion into the

field last night wasn’t a welcome one.”

Mulder squinted down at his watch. “‘S three a.m.” he slurred.

“We can’t have been here long.”

“We must have been brought here after the field. It can’t be far

from Clayville. Damn that Krycek!”

Mulder shook his head in response. “Too many clues. He gave us

too many–”

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The sound of a chair screeching across the concrete floor down the

hall cut him short. A soft, heavy thud. Footsteps– first walking,

then running.

The two agents’ eyes met in panic. “Get down,” Mulder hissed out

before lying back down on the cot. Scully followed suit and lay

motionless, every muscle tensed for whatever was coming.

The hurricane fencing rattled and tinkled as someone tried to open

Mulder’s gate. Through her lashes, Scully could see the flash of

hands working through a ring of keys. They found the right one,

flung the opened lock to the floor, and rushed into the cell.

“Stop playing possum, or you’ll both regret it.”

Scully opened her eyes wide at the order just in time to see the

speaker kick Mulder in the heel with a steel-toed boot.

It was Krycek.

Mulder hauled himself up as fast as he could manage while Krycek

ran to open Scully’s gate. Scully got up and clung to the woven

wire as Krycek fumbled with more keys. Mulder poked his fingers

through the barrier and wrapped them around hers possessively.

“Ah,” Krycek sighed out reminiscently as the latch clicked open,

“Such fond memories of dark basement cells. Too bad the both of

you won’t enjoy the pleasures I’ve had in places like this.”

“You’re a sick bastard, Krycek,” Mulder half chuckled, half

sneered out. They pulled the door to Scully’s cell open.

“You don’t know the half of it.” He flashed a gleaming smile at

Mulder, then nudged his head in the direction of the exit. Three

pairs of feet slapped furiously down the hall, the sound of them

drowned out by a whining siren that had begun to pierce the air

around them.

Krycek led them through a maze of equally dimly lit hallways,

service tunnels lined with water pipes that went on for a few

hundred yards at least, and up slippery metal ladders that wobbled

as they climbed. At last, they came through a door that opened up

into a corrugated metal shed filled with farming tools and smelling

of gasoline, motor oil and fertilizer. It was dark, but they could see

the silver lining of moonlight on the edges of a windowsill.

“Wait here,” Krycek huffed out, trying to catch his breath. They

could hear him swallow hard, taking a deep long gulp of air to

soften the sound of his breathing. In the next moment they saw a

slightly brighter shade of dark as Krycek slipped through a nearby

doorway, and into the night.

“Where do you think he’s going?” Scully whispered close to

Mulder’s ear.

“He brought us this far, Scully. I guess we just wait and see.”

It was about ten minutes of tense, back-aching crouching, the tiny

noises of the shed settling into the ground, and the scratching of

small field creatures and insects before they both realized Krycek

wasn’t coming back.

Mulder carefully opened the door he’d seen their savior use, and

grabbed Scully’s hand gently to follow him. They were in another

field, although this one had been harvested in the fall, and it was

wide open and muddy. Not far ahead, they could see the straight

man-made line of a road.

Their shoes sucking into the muddy ground, they walked with

knees high and backs crouched, fearful of being caught, but

wanting to move as quickly as possible.

Upon finally reaching the road, they homed in on one of the few

pools of light from a lamppost. The faint hint of dawn brightened

the horizon, and revealed that the road stretched to forever in both

directions with no sign of civilization.

“What do we do now?” Scully said hopelessly, flapping her arms

limply to her sides.

“I guess we walk,” Mulder answered, leering down at Scully’s

feet. “Unless…”

“Unless what?”

He grinned widely at her. “Unless you care to show a little leg.

*That’s* bound to attract some kind of attention.”

She shook her head in mixed humor and exasperation, and walked

toward the direction of the rising dawn, swaying her hips a little

more than she normally would. Mulder followed, still smiling at

the short dark silhouette ahead.

ACT I

Hoover Building

Wednesday, 8:04 am

“Skinner didn’t say anything, he just sounded pissed,” Mulder told

Scully as she straightened his tie and he fixed the collar to her

blouse in the elevator up to the Assistant Director’s office.

“He calls us on your cell phone at 6:00 in the morning, tells us to

get our ‘asses back here’ and doesn’t give any explanation. I don’t

know about you, but that’s not what I was hoping for when we got

back to the motel,” Scully said with a sigh.

“A little snuggle under the covers, perhaps?” Mulder inquired in a

low whisper.

“Try a nice hot shower and clean clothes,” she shot back.

“Hey, you’ve got on clean clothes,” Mulder pointed out. Scully was

busy using the metallic doors of the elevator as a mirror to help her

wipe a smudge from her jaw line. She turned for just a second to

glare at him before going back to her inspection. Changing into

clean clothes had been all they had time for when the newspaper

delivery person at dropped them off at their motel just before 6 am.

The nice woman hadn’t even accepted the money Mulder had

offered her for giving them a ride in to town.

“I’d love to get my hands around Krycek’s neck right now,” she

huffed as the car stopped, the doors opened and they stepped into

the hallway.

“You think he set us up?” Mulder asked, letting just the tips of his

fingers on his right hand come to rest on the small of her back as

they hurried toward Skinner’s door.

She glanced at him over her shoulder, confused. “You don’t?”

“When it comes to Krycek, I don’t know what I think. But one

thing is obvious: we did learn something.”

“Don’t go anywhere Krycek tells us to go,” she whispered as he

opened the door and waved her into the office in front of him.

Kim was at her desk and smiled wanly at them when they entered.

“He’ll be right–”

The inner office door opened abruptly and revealed a stern faced

Assistant Director. “In my office, now!” Skinner interrupted Kim

and jerked his head to indicate the two agents were to follow.

Mulder was almost certain that little blue vein on the Assistant

Director’s neck was about ready to pop any minute.

They didn’t even bother to take their usual seats, partly because

they hadn’t been offered. Skinner stood behind his desk, hands

clenched into fists and resting on the desk blotter. “I want a full

explanation of what happened in New Jersey and I want it now!”

he hissed.

Mulder licked his lips and looked over at Scully. “Sir, we

investigated the disappearance of Greta Wilson, as you requested.

We found the local authorities to be particularly uncooperative and

the other women who have experienced similar disappearances

were equally closemouthed. We were investigating the actual crop

circles themselves when we received word that Mrs. Wilson had

been returned. We went over to question her, but she was

extremely distraught. Scully offered to examine her and managed

to ask a few questions. We went back to the motel.” He stopped

just short of giving the AD a description of the events of the rest of

the evening, and he omitted any mention of the chip Scully found

at the base of Greta’s neck.

“When you interrogated Mrs. Wilson, Agent Scully, exactly what

did you ask her?” Skinner spit out.

Scully fought to hide her discomfort at the force of Skinner’s

anger. “I tried to get her to talk about what had happened. I asked

what was the last thing she remembered. She remembered the last

quilting circle meeting, but not the field or anything about it. Sir,

when Mulder and I were investigating the crop circle, the pattern

of the circle exactly matched the pattern the women were making

on the quilt they were finishing. It was too much of a coincidence,

so I asked Ms. Wilson if she knew who’d picked out the quilt

pattern. She didn’t know and she said she’d never seen the pattern

before. She was coughing and I asked Mulder and Mr. Wilson to

bring her some water. At that point, I decided it would be best to

let her rest. We were planning to come back today and continue

our questions.”

“Well, that’s not going to happen,” Skinner said, finally dropping

to his seat with a frustrated look on his face.

Mulder was ready to take the bait. “May I ask why, Sir?”

Skinner took off his glasses, tossing them carelessly on his desk so

that he could properly rub his eyes. “Because Greta Wilson

committed suicide last night. She ingested the entire contents of a

bottle of sleeping pills. And her husband is blaming your

interrogation of his wife for pushing her over the edge.”

Mulder swallowed, opening his mouth to speak, but the words

wouldn’t come. Scully was shocked, too, but managed to find her

voice. “Sir, that’s not possible! When we saw how exhausted she

was, we left. Her husband, Mr. Wilson, even thanked us for

helping. Sir . . .”

Skinner shook his head sadly, then leaned forward and retrieved

his glasses, putting them back on his face with exaggerated

movements. “Regardless of his feelings yesterday, today he is

devastated and outraged. He’s looking for someone to blame and

you are the lucky recipients of his anger. Furthermore, the same

connections that brought this case to the attention of the FBI are

now working to see that you two take the full brunt of that anger.

There is a pending wrongful death suit, naming you both, and a

review by OPR to see if your actions were in any way

unprofessional or outside Bureau policy. If anything is found in

that review, you will be brought up on criminal charges.”

It was Scully’s turn to drop to the nearest seat, her face clearly

showing her incredulity. “Sir, I can’t believe this,” she muttered.

Mulder had managed to recover somewhat and put his hand on her

shoulder. “It’s OK, Scully. We’ll figure this out.”

“You weren’t in that room, Mulder,” she whispered. “It was just

Greta and me.”

He pursed his lips and shook his head, silently entreating her to

remain quiet on that piece of information. Finally, he looked back

over at Skinner. “Sir, how much time to we have before the

review?”

Taking in a deep breath, Skinner looked up at Mulder. “Two days.

You have exactly two days to get to the bottom of this.”

“There has to be an autopsy of the body,” Scully said suddenly.

“Scully, don’t bother. Even if Wilson would agree, the OPR won’t

let you near that body with a scalpel,” Skinner told her gruffly.

“But will he allow the FBI to conduct the autopsy?” she asked.

Skinner turned thoughtful. “Very possibly. It is still an FBI

investigation. We could request it.”

“I think that would be wise, sir. We need to keep control of

whatever evidence that is gathered.”

Skinner nodded. “You need to do whatever you can to clear your

names before that OPR meeting. I suggest you get right on that.”

“Thank you, sir,” Mulder said. He reached down and took Scully’s

elbow, helping her stand. “We’ll be in touch,” he promised.

“Please do,” Skinner retorted.

They were silent all the way to the basement. Mulder’s hand never

left Scully’s back. He could tell she was still extremely upset, but

was doing her best to hide it. He also knew she was going over

every detail of their time at the Wilson home the day before,

examining each action or comment she made for any possible

indication that she or he had pressed the woman too far. It was a

process he was putting off for the time being, knowing it wouldn’t

do for both of them to be introspective at the same time. Someone

had to keep their head above the rising waters.

“Want a cup of coffee?” he asked, when he had her seated at her

side of their shared desk. She shook her head numbly and refused

to even look at him as he took his place across from her. “You did

nothing wrong,” he said, wanting to get the words spoken before

another minute passed.

She raised her head from her intense inspection of her nails. “You

weren’t in that room, Mulder,” she reminded him sadly.

“You examined her for what . . . ten minutes? And I was in that

room when you found the chip.”

She closed her eyes, silently begging him to give her a reason to

believe that she truly was blameless in the woman’s death.

“Scully, something caused Greta Wilson to kill herself. But I’m

willing to bet my bottom dollar it had nothing to do with us and

everything to do with that quilting circle.”

“We’re betting more than our bottom dollar, Mulder,” she

whispered.

He sighed. “I know.”

“I have to view that autopsy,” she said firmly. “I need to find out

what else was done to her.”

“Scully, how are you going to do that? They’re treating us like

suspects,” he pointed out gently. “I truly doubt any pathologist

would allow you . . .”

“I’m hoping we don’t get just any pathologist,” she said with an

upturn of the corner of his mouth. “I’ll call Mel Harmon. Ask her to

snag this case.”

Her suggestion was the first ray of sunlight he’d seen and he

jumped on it. Mel was one of a handful of friends they had a

Quantico and by a happy coincidence, was a damn good

pathologist. She’d already helped them on one case in the recent

past. During the investigation of a man who could travel through

time, Mel had been injured, as had Mulder. Thanks to Scully’s

good work, the case had been resolved and both Mel and Mulder

had recovered.

“Remind her she owes us one,” he said, allowing himself a full-

blown smile.

He was irresistible, she couldn’t help smiling back. “I think she

remembers it differently, Mulder. She thinks we owe her one.”

He shrugged. “Then tell her we’ll owe her two. Just get her on this

case and make sure you can observe, in whatever capacity you can

manage.”

“Including illicit, I suppose,” she chuffed.

“Whatever works, Scully,” he said. “We’re already in hot water,

might as well wade out to the deep end.”

* * *

The Morgue at Quantico

Wednesday, 10:00 am

‘Snagging the case’ had proved to be a lot easier than getting

permission for Scully to observe the procedure. The fact that her

friendship with Mel wasn’t widely know had helped, but only up to

a point. Scully was under strict orders to keep a safe distance from

the body at all times and not to ‘interfere’ with Dr. Harmon.

Mel Harmon kept up a running commentary as she worked, as

much for Scully’s benefit as to record her findings. When her

words were meant for Scully alone, she turned carefully away from

the microphone that hung over the center of the autopsy table.

Scully held up her end of the bargain by standing off to the side

with both hands jammed in the pockets of her scrubs. Avoiding

temptation.

“I see nothing that would contradict the initial finding of suicide by

barbiturate overdose,” Mel concluded for the microphone’s benefit.

Then, to Scully, “What makes you think this isn’t what it appears to

be?”

“History, I suppose.” Scully pitched her voice low enough to avoid

activating the mike. “Mulder’s finally wearing off on me.”

Mel chuckled. “I saw that coming a long time ago.” Then she

sobered. “Now that I’m finished here, what was it you were hoping

I’d find?”

“I wish I knew.” She hesitated for a moment, biting her lip.

“What?”

“There’s a scar on the back of the victim’s neck.”

Mel’s eyebrows rose. She turned back to the table, turning the

body’s head away from her to look closely at the back of the

woman’s neck. “I don’t… wait. ” She lifted the left shoulder off the

table, fingers probing a spot at the base of the neck. Then she spun

on Scully. “A chip?”

Scully nodded. “You’ll want to excise it, though I don’t imagine it

will stay in the evidence locker for very long.” At Mel’s worried

frown, she added. “We’re being careful, Mel.”

Her friend snorted. “That would be a first.”

Scully walked over to her friend and squeezed her shoulder fondly.

“If you want to bow out, I’ll understand. But I need to ask another

favor.”

Mel’s smile was fierce. “Name it.”

“Dig. Test everything you can think of, then test again. I don’t

know what I’m looking for, but…”

“…but I’m your only hope of finding it,” Mel finished her thought.

Scully put every ounce of gratitude and affection in her smile.

“You’re *our* only hope.”

* * *

Clayville

10:20 am

Mulder slowed down the car as he approached the area’s perimeter.

The cornfield looked considerably less ominous now in daylight,

yet he knew he needed to remain cautious.

Never knew when a rat might get underfoot.

For that very reason, when he stepped out of the car, Mulder drew

his gun. Before he made it twenty yards into the field, he realized

there was nothing left to see.

“Damn it!” he bellowed into the open air not caring who might

have heard him at that moment. The field had been harvested– or

rather, run flat– with something that had cut the stalks to pieces.

Whatever pattern had been visible from the air was now in ruin.

“How the hell do they destroy everything so damned fast?” he

wondered aloud.

That’s when he noticed the zigzag pattern that was cut into the dirt;

creating several almost linear paths that led from one end of the

field to the other.

Mulder walked over to the nearest track and knelt down. It was a

tire track, but a very small one. It was either a very wide bicycle

tire… two of them riding side by side. Or…. “Golf carts?” He stood

up and scanned the area. There must have been a dozen or more of

them driving over the area. The tracks followed a pattern almost as

intricate as the original crop circle, but they all seemed to merge

into a single path that led to a wooded area just north of the corn

field.

He pulled out his cell, punched in the number one and hit send.

“Scully,” the voice on the other end responded.

“Feel like a walk in the woods?”

He could almost hear the eyebrow go up.

“Only if it starts raining sleeping bags,” she shot back. Pause.

“Mulder, where are you?”

“By the crop circle, Scully, or what’s left of it. I found some tracks

that look like a golf cart convention. They’re leading into the

woods.”

“Wait a minute, backtrack for a second. What do you mean ‘what’s

left of it’? The crop circle is gone?” she asked incredulously.

“Everything’s been chopped down. I’m following the tracks as we

spea– Shit!”

“Mulder, what’s wrong?”

“Gopher hole. I tripped.”

“Be careful.” Then, “Mel says ‘hi’.”

Mulder smiled in spite of himself. “Hi, back.” He huffed into the

phone as he stumbled over another rough spot.

“Try to stay out of trouble, okay?” Her teasing tone didn’t quite

hide the genuine concern.

“Walk in the park.”

Scully snorted and hung up.

Mulder clicked off the phone and kept walking. Several minutes

later and still following the golf tracks, he practically tripped over

himself. “Damn,” he muttered out loud as he looked down. When

he took note of the ground, he saw exactly why he’d nearly taken a

spill.

The tire tracks suddenly expanded. In fact, they became huge,

cutting deep and hard into the ground. Widely spaced. Too wide to

be anything but–

His cell phone trilled, and he snatched it to his ear, expecting

Scully.

“Agent Mulder? This is Chief Donaldson. You think maybe you

and your partner can get up to my office.”

“You want us to help you?” Mulder paused for effect. “Can I ask

what changed your mind?”

“The other members of the Quilting Bees – they’re gone.”

“What? You mean they’re missing now, too?”

“No, Agent, if only that was it. No, all of those women – they were

all found dead earlier today.”

* * *

ACT II

Clayville Hospital Morgue

4:08 pm

Mulder was biting sunflower seeds and spitting them into his hand

before returning the shells to his pocket. He knew he was going to

get hell from both Scully and his dry cleaner, but he couldn’t be

held responsible for his actions. He’d been standing outside the

double doors to the morgue for over five hours, he’d been chased

out twice already and he was just about to the point where he was

going to blow a gasket. Finally, he couldn’t take it any longer. He

pushed one of the doors open and stepped inside.

“Mulder,” Scully growled, low in her throat.

Mel Harmon glanced up, eyes dancing with amusement over the

plastic protective goggles. She seemed rather cheerful for someone

who’d driven two hours just to spend five more on her feet.

“Ah, Mom,” Mel teased, “he’s just bored. You really need to invest

in a Gameboy or something for his next birthday.”

Mulder shot her an evil look, then turned pleading eyes toward his

partner. “Scully, c’mon, I’ll be good. Just give me something,” he

whined. He caught himself doing it this time, and cleared his

throat, trying for a more professional tone. “You haven’t found

*any* commonalities?”

Scully stepped back and looked at him for a moment before raising

her goggles to the top of her head. Mel continued to work. “The

majority seem to have ingested sleeping pills or some other

narcotic. One apparently went out to the garage, plugged the doors

and left the car running. Only one went so far as to slice her wrists.

I got the feeling they didn’t want anything that would take a long

time or that might be discovered before it was finished.”

He winced and bit his lip.

“I can tell you that although it’s really hard to pinpoint, there are

indications that this was not done simultaneously. From the looks

of it, some of these women killed themselves early in the evening,

some in the middle of the night and a few in the early hours of the

morning.”

Mulder puzzled on that. “Like a chain reaction?”

Scully shrugged. “It wasn’t done at one time. But it all happened

within a few hours.”

Mulder grabbed another handful of seeds and popped a couple in

his mouth.

“Mulder, if you get any shells in one of these bodies,” Scully

warned.

He put his hands up in surrender and started backing toward the

door. “Are you about finished?” he asked, and this time made sure

it didn’t sound like a six year old begging to go out and play.

“We have to close on this one and we have one more after that.

Then we’ll be done,” she told him, giving him a smile before

dropping her goggles and joining Mel back at the body.

As he started his pace in the hallway again, his cell phone rang.

Quickly checking to see if any hospital personnel were around to

yell at him for having it turned on, he answered. “Mulder.”

“It’s Skinner,” the voice on the other end said shortly. “I thought

you’d want to know. In light of the other suicides, Wilson has

decided to drop the wrongful death suit. The OPR has cancelled

their review as well.”

Mulder took in as much air as his lungs could hold and let it out in

a rush. “That’s good news, sir.”

“I would think so,” Skinner replied dryly. “What has Scully come

up with in those bodies?”

“All suicides, sir. But the times of death are indicating that they

didn’t do it at one time. They were spread out during the night.”

“So you don’t think it was a suicide pact?” Skinner asked.

“Sir, at this point, I’m not entirely sure these are suicides,” Mulder

said slowly.

“But you just said . . .”

“Sir, these women died by their own hands, there is little doubt of

that. But whether it was of their own volition or they were forced

into these acts, that remains to be seen.”

Skinner was silent for a few seconds, then Mulder could hear his

boss sighed on the other end. “Just go where the evidence leads

you, Mulder.”

“As always, sir,” Mulder responded with a grin. Skinner had

already hung up. Mulder was sliding his phone back in his jacket

pocket when the exit doors at the end of the hall opened.

A man came rushing straight at Mulder and had the agent up

against a wall with an arm against his larynx in the blink of an eye.

“You son of a bitch! You killed her! You called her in the middle

of the night and started up with this crop circle shit and pushed her

over the edge! Well, maybe you ought to join her!” the man yelled

and pushed harder against the agent’s neck.

The double doors to the morgue flew open and both Scully and

Mel ran into the hall. Scully had her gun out trained on the man

just as Mulder brought his own weapon to bear.

“Release him immediately and put your hands up!” Scully shouted.

The man reacted instantly, dropping Mulder and spinning around.

Now, both agents had guns trained on him. He stood there, hands

in the air for several seconds and then he seemed to dissolve. He

crumbled to the ground, shaking with sobs.

“Lizzie! Oh, god, Lizzie why did you do this?” he gasped out and

curled into a fetal ball.

Mulder coughed a few times and was tugging on his shirt and tie,

wincing as he tried to swallow. Scully was at his side, a silent

glance ensuring that he was going to be all right. Slowly, she

stooped to the cowering man and placed her hand on his back, then

at his throat checking for a pulse. She looked up at Mel, who was

still trying to take it all in. “Mel, call for a gurney. I think he’s

going into shock.”

Scully turned her attention back to the man. “Sir, can you tell me

who you are?” she asked gently.

Mulder was getting his bearings back after the attack, but the name

the man had said struck a chord. “Lizzie? Lizzie Johnson. That’s

Lizzie Johnson’s husband, Scully,” he told her, holstering his gun.

The man was quite obviously no longer a threat.

The man uncovered his face for a moment, and looked woefully up

to Mulder. “Why did you call her? Why couldn’t you just leave us

alone?”

Mulder cast a confused look to Scully. “Sir, Mr. Johnson, I didn’t

call your house last night. I can assure you I did not make any call

to your wife.”

Scully decided to intervene on her partner’s behalf. “Mr. Johnson,

we can check the phone records and prove it wasn’t Agent Mulder

who called last night.”

Johnson shook his head, whether not hearing or not believing was

anyone’s guess. “She wouldn’t kill herself. We were doing so good

again,” he continued to mumble as tears streaked down his cheeks.

“We’d put it all behind us.” He broke down into more sobs and

curled back into a ball again.

A gurney and an orderly appeared, followed by a resident and a

nurse. “I think he needs to be sedated, and I’d like him under police

guard. He attacked my partner,” Scully told the resident. The

young woman nodded and went about giving orders to the staff.

Scully finally had time to come over to where Mulder was standing

and give him her full attention. She reached up to loosen the top

few buttons on his shirt and with an exasperated sigh, he allowed

her to examine his neck. “I’m fine,” he told her, though he didn’t

expect it to have any effect on her actions. She didn’t disappoint

him, she continued to check him out.

“There might be some bruising. Tell me right away if you have any

trouble swallowing later tonight,” she told him and patted his

shoulder. “I think we can rule out an xray,” she told him, dropping

her eyes.

He smiled at her and raised her chin so she had to look at him. “I

know that took a lot to say, Scully, and I want you to know I

appreciate it,” he teased. He pulled her into a brief hug then held

her at arms length. “You finished already?”

“No, we heard the commotion and came running out to save you,”

she said with a dead eyed stare, but a twinkle in her eye. “We still

have the last body to go.”

He nodded, accepting her comments on her rescue attempts

gracefully. “I think I’m going to do a little digging of my own

while you work.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m curious about something,” he said cryptically.

Her gaze narrowed. “Mulder, you’re curious about everything,” she

said pointedly.

He gave her a wide grin and headed down the hallway toward the

exits.

Scully’s smile faded as she turned back to the double doors. Inside

the morgue, she found Mel standing motionless next to the table,

her expression thoughtful.

“Hey, no daydreaming until we’re done.” Scully snagged a pair of

gloves from the pop-up box next to the sink and pulled them on.

Mel didn’t seem to know she was even in the room. Scully walked

up to her friend and touched her shoulder. “You okay?”

Mel jumped, then looked down at Scully with a faint smile. “There

was something strange about the ribcage.” She leaned over the

body and pushed the incision open, pointing as she spoke. “Here,

where the rib spreader cracked this section?”

Scully peered at the area. “I don’t see what–” Suddenly, she

couldn’t breathe. The shock of recognition must have shown on her

face as she looked back at Mel, who nodded. “How did we miss

this?”

“I’ll have to confirm it with more tests, but I’d say there’s a very

good chance this woman had Paget’s carcinoma of the bone. If she

knew, it might have had something to do with her decision to end

her life.”

Scully’s mouth had gone dry. Deja vu– the chilling kind– had

rendered her speechless.

Mel put a hand steadying hand on Scully’s shoulder. “You look

like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Scully shook her head slightly. “You have no idea.”

“Dana, *tell* me.”

Even as she gave Mel the details of Teena Mulder’s illness, and

how she’d believed it to be the cause of the woman’s suicide,

Scully began to second guess herself. Yes, finding Paget’s again in

another unexplained suicide was disturbing, but it hadn’t yet been

confirmed. And even if it *did* turn out to be Paget’s , this was

just one victim out of many. The others had apparently showed no

sign of the disease.

“Dana, I can see the wheels turning. You’ve already decided not to

tell Mulder about this.”

Scully puffed out a long breath. “Not until we’re certain. We have

to finish the final autopsy, then retest the others.” She felt an

inordinate rush of relief at the small reprieve. She would tell him

when she knew something for sure. Not now. Scully straightened

and smiled up at her friend. “Now, let’s finish this up before

Mulder gets back.”

* * *

Scully was still bent over the body when Mulder poked his head

into the autopsy bay some time later. Mel saw him and said

something to Scully. She looked back at him over her shoulder.

“We’ll be awhile, yet.”

“Can you take a break for a minute? I’ve got something to show

you.”

“Go ahead, Dana. I’ll finish up.”

A look passed between the two women that Mulder couldn’t quite

read. Then Scully pulled off her gloves and tossed them at the bin

next to the table. “I’ll be right out.”

Mulder nodded and let the door close. A few minutes later, she

joined him in the hall, still dressed in scrubs. Mulder jerked his

chin toward the autopsy bay doors. “Anything turn up?”

She shook her head. “Nothing definitive.”

He shrugged and took out his notebook. “Scully, in every case,

those women received a phone call last night. Or at least the phone

rang and they were the ones to pick it up. I have some approximate

times here.” He handed her the notes and she read them intently.

“Mulder, judging by these times, if they’re correct, the phone calls

almost match the times of death or very near.”

He nodded and she gave him a look. “But you were expecting

that.”

He nodded again, smiling this time. “Scully, it was something

Johnson said. The call pushed Lizzie over the edge. I think he’s

right. I just wasn’t the one to make the call.”

“So the person who made the calls . . .”

“Has a lot of explaining to do,” Mulder finished. “I need to get my

hands on the phone records for each of these houses, see if I can

get any information on the source of those calls. I think that will

bring us one step closer to the responsible parties.”

She bit her lip and nodded.

* * *

Clayville Police Department

5:14 pm

Mulder held his cell phone next to his good ear. Johnson had really

done a number on him earlier, and his cheek still throbbed dully

from the punch. A rifle whack to the head and a decking by an

angry husband bent on bloody murder didn’t put him in the best of

moods.

Chief Donaldson had been slightly more accommodating today,

letting him use an empty cubicle for his research. Easy listening

‘hold music’ assaulted his eardrums. He was humming along with

an instrumental version of “Walkin’ in Memphis,” remembering

the Cher concert a few years ago, when the crackle of someone

picking up a receiver interrupted his musings.

“Welcome to Sprint Customer Service, this is Lisa. How may I

help you?” a much-too-perky female voice greeted him.

“Yes, Lisa this is Agent Mulder of the FBI. I’m calling about

account 555-4154. I’d like to request a phone record of calls made

and received between the hours of 5 p.m. last night and 8 a.m.

today. My badge number is–”

“I’m sorry, sir, I cannot disclose that information at this time. You

will have to mail or fax us a copy of a warrant for records of the

account.”

“May I speak to your manager, please? I’m sure we can clear this

up and get down to business.”

He heard the woman sigh on the other end, thinking about this

proposal. When she came back on the line, she sounded uneasy.

“Agent Mulder, these are standard procedures. I’m sorry, but

anyone you speak to will give you the same answer.”

“This is a critical situation. Doesn’t that qualify as an exception to

standard procedures?” he asked in the most authoritative voice he

could manage. He wondered if he were sounding at all like

Skinner. Scully had mentioned the similarity recently.

“If you’ll just hold–”

“No! No, wait don’t do that. I’ve been on hold for–”

“What would you like me to do, Agent Mulder?”

“Just,” he sighed in defeat, “give me your fax number, and I’ll see

what I can do.”

She rattled off a number to him, thanked him for calling Sprint in

that awful perky voice, and hung up. He beeped off the phone, and

pushed the antenna back into place with his forehead.

He’d been hitting road blocks at every turn. If the phone

companies weren’t accepting his badge number, they were telling

him such phone accounts didn’t exist. The recent area code

changes in this part of New Jersey weren’t helping matters either.

The red tape just hadn’t all been trimmed away yet. It seemed

nobody wanted to take responsibility for their own customers.

Wiping the tension out of his eyes, he prepared himself to make his

next call, but this one was on the speed dial.

The Assistant Director answered, grumbling into the receiver. He

had a bad habit of holding the mouthpiece too close when he was

distracted, and the sound of breathing against plastic sounded like

static to Mulder’s ears.

“What is it, Mulder?”

“Sir, I’m going to have to request a subpoena to access the phone

records of all the Quilting Bee members.”

“I thought I’d hear this request from you earlier.”

“Yeah, well, I tried it the old fashioned way first. You know,

follow protocol, etcetera, etcetera.”

“Humph,” Skinner laughed into the phone, the sharp spurt of static

slicing into Mulder’s ear again. “Since when do you follow

protocol, Agent?”

Mulder chuckled darkly to himself, “Since my way hasn’t gotten

me very far out here in the sticks. Ask a simple question, and I’m

wanted for murder.” He gently caressed the swollen part of his

face, wincing at even that exploratory touch.

“I’ll have Kim set up the form, and I’ll approve it–” a beeping

sound interrupted the AD’s sentence, “–right away.”

“That’s my other line. Thank you, sir. Would you have Kim fax it

over to the Clayville police department?” The beep insisted again.

“It’ll be there within the hour.”

“Thanks.” Mulder pressed the flash button on his phone and

answered, “Yeah.”

“Mulder, it’s me.”

“Scully, I think my ear is going to fall off.”

“That bad, huh?”

“Let’s just say I’ll never be interrupting your dinnertime with

surveys on how much television you watch weekly.”

“Well, take a break. I need you down here at the morgue as soon as

possible.”

His ears perked up. “You found something!”

Silence. “Just get down here as soon as you can.” She disconnected

before he could press for more information.

*****

Clayville Morgue

6:30 pm

He found Scully in a small room off the side of the morgue, seated

at a computer terminal. She looked up from her work and noticed

him before he reached the door. She’d been waiting for him, and

she wasn’t smiling.

“Made any headway?”

“Mulder, let’s go out into the hall,” she suggested, glancing

uneasily over to the wall of storage units. She led him back into the

office, where Mel had been sitting in the visitor chair while Scully

worked.

“Hey, Mel.”

“Mulder,” the pathologist greeted, burying her nose into a cup of

steaming coffee as they passed behind her. They exited through a

secondary door that led straight to the hallway.

It felt cold and empty and Scully was holding her elbows as if she

were warding off a chill as well. She was holding her breath,

clearly excited about something, but at the same time, acting as if

she were holding back.

“Come on, Scully, hit me with it.” He leaned against the wall,

composure relaxed, hoping to make her feel a little more at ease.

With dry, slightly bloodshot eyes, she gazed up at his warm

inviting expression, then joined him against the wall. She crossed

her arms tighter, in an attempt to simulate physical support,

preparing herself to continue.

“Greta Wilson was dying from something else before she

committed suicide.”

“What?” he asked, curiously.

“Paget’s Carcinoma. It was the early stages, but it was still there.”

This time Mulder held his breath. He knew the disease. It was the

same disease his mother had suffered from. He shifted his shoulder

blades, pushing them hard into the solid wall. Squinting down at

her, he now understood her reticence.

“And?”

“And,” she continued, “all the women in the Quilting Bees circle

suffered from the same disease.”

Mulder pushed himself away from the wall and faced her. “I wasn’t

aware the disease was so common.”

“It’s not. In fact, it’s highly improbable that such a high ratio of

women suffering from the disease in one community would even

exist. Statistics would suggest it impossible.”

Mulder looked to the ceiling and blew out a puff of air. There were

some obvious conclusions that were begging to be jumped to, but

he refused to take the bait. He could read his partner almost as well

as she could read him, and there was something else she wasn’t

ready to tell him. It was written all over her carefully blank face.

He also knew that pressing her would be futile. Time for a

diversion.

“Let’s get some dinner and you can tell me the rest.”

She let the surprise show in her eyes for just an instant before the

professional mask returned. “Okay. I’ll see if Mel wants to join us.”

She gave him an odd look, then headed back through the doors.

* * *

7:35 pm

They sat in the small diner several miles away from town so they

could talk without fear of being overheard by one of the

townspeople. Though Mulder was finally getting cooperation from

the Clayville Sheriff’s Department, he still wasn’t sure if they were

being completely forthcoming with every detail about the case.

Besides, there was nothing like a little diner comfort food to loosen

the lips. Or, so he hoped.

Scully ordered a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a tuna sandwich,

while Mulder braved the house special of meat loaf and garlic

mashed potatoes.

“If you think you’re going to get lucky tonight, you’d better think

again, garlic breath,” Scully said with a light chuckle.

“I know that’s your way of letting me know you want to taste them,

Scully.”

“Damn straight it is,” she retorted. She smiled, but it faded quickly.

Then she grew quiet… suddenly fascinated with the napkin holder.

Her water glass. The cars in the parking lot. Everything but him.

Mulder watched her for a few minutes. Then he reached over to take

her hand. She sat up straight, eyes fixed on his.

“Mulder, I think there’s something more going on here than just

Paget’s Syndrome.”

“Okay, I’m listening.”

“I don’t think we’re dealing with ordinary malignant cells.”

“Malignant cells in and of themselves are rarely ordinary, are they,

Scully?”

“No, you’re right, they’re not. They’re usually highly irregular in

their shape, which is one of the reasons they’re identifiable as

cancerous.”

“So what makes these even more irregular?”

“Well, that’s just it. They’re not.”

“They’re not, what?”

“Irregular.”

“You’ve lost me, Scully.”

“The women were all definitely in one stage or another of Paget’s

Disease. We were able to identify the condition through the

molecular structure and the other symptoms that we overlooked at

first.

“But, Mulder, the very nature of cancer is that there is no real

pattern or structure to the cells themselves. There’s no rhyme or

reason to when they manifest themselves. But–”

“– but these cancer cells were too orderly, too predictable in their

appearance and indicators to be your run of the mill Paget cell,

right?”

“Right.”

“So, what are your Scully sensors telling you it means?”

“That as abnormal as cancer cells are, these particular cells are even

more of an anomaly. Mulder, we’ve both seen this before.”

“When?”

“Think. When have we seen a perfectly healthy person suddenly

become deathly ill with millions of parasitic cells attempting to take

over his entire body?”

Recognition came almost immediately and Mulder’s reaction was

just as swift and equally as angry. “That sonofabitch has his dirty

hands in this, too?”

“It would make sense that Krycek has something to do with this,

given his penchant for playing games with his remote control

nanocytes.”

“So these are nanocytes in the women’s bodies?”

“I think it’s possible that these cells were manufactured and

implanted. That these women were given this disease.”

“But why? Why this disease? Hell, why *any* disease?” Mulder

opened his hands in a questioning gesture.

“Well, it could be as simple as the reason Krycek gave Skinner the

nanocytes – control. But to be honest I’m not sure what exactly

whoever did this to these women expected to gain from controlling

them,” Scully answered carefully.

“It was more than just control, Scully. Krycek wanted control of

Skinner because he knew that Skinner had a power that he could tap.

These women had no power; there was no reason to want to control

them. No, Scully, it was more than just control. These bastards used

the disease as a cover for something else.”

“But what? And why? And who?”

“You do have a penchant for the sixty-four dollar questions, don’t

you?” He picked up his fork and waved it at her food. “Eat while

you have the chance. We’ve got a long night ahead of us if we’re

going to get those questions answered.”

“Where do you propose we start?” she asked as she pushed her soup

spoon into the mound of garlic mashed potatoes.

“With the ‘who’, of course.” He pushed the fork into a hunk of meat

loaf. “Krycek.”

* * *

ACT III

Clayville Inn

9:03 pm

Scully was dozing in the seat next to him as Mulder pulled the

rental car in to the parking lot of the motel. When he reached a full

stop, he leaned over and ran his finger down her cheek. She sighed,

yawned and opened her eyes. She stretched and he winced as he

heard her vertebrae cracking and popping.

“I think we’re due for some R and R,” he chided. “Maybe a nice

bubble bath.”

“Mulder, we have a hundred and one things to be doing . . .”

“And not a single one of them can be accomplished at this hour,”

he retorted. “Scully, I have to get a subpoena for those phone

records, and that will take a judge. It’s almost 11 pm, I doubt I

could get one now and there wouldn’t be anyone at the phone

company to release the records anyway. C’mon, we’ve worked

hard, we deserve a little ‘us’ time.”

“Well, when you put it that way,” Scully smiled and opened her car

door. Mulder was halfway to the door when he stopped, staring off

into the distance. Suddenly, he took off at a dead run and tackled a

figure that had just stepped out from the shadows.

Scully gasped, grabbed her gun and had it trained on the two

combatants, but couldn’t get a clean shot. Mulder was tossing the

unknown against the wall, getting in a couple of good punches to

the face and stomach before the other man threw a right to the jaw

that sent Mulder back a few feet, landing sprawled against the

hood of a car.

In the dim light of the motel overhang, Scully could finally make

out a face. Alex Krycek.

Mulder didn’t stay out of it for long. He launched himself off the

car hood, taking Krycek down in a tackle that would have done

any defensive linebacker proud. Both men hit the cement sidewalk

and rolled, fists flying and groans marking each target hit.

Scully stood there a moment, considering her options. The last

time the three of them had been in similar circumstances, she’d

shot Mulder in the shoulder to keep him from killing Krycek. How

many times in the ensuing years had she wondered at the wisdom

of that course of action? She brought her gun up just as Mulder

gained the upper hand and had Krycek pinned to the ground.

Mulder reached around and grabbed his gun, sticking right under

Krycek’s chin.

“You killed 11 women, you bastard!” Mulder gasped, getting his

breath back. “I oughta send you back to hell where you came

from!”

“Mulder,” Scully cautioned, but made no further move to

intervene.

Mulder’s flicked off the safety with his thumb. The sweat started

popping on Krycek’s brow.

“Mulder, it wasn’t me, I swear,” he rasped. “It wasn’t me,” his

voice trailed off in fear or surrender, it was hard to tell.

“Like I could ever believe you, you son of a bitch,” Mulder spat

and his finger twitched on the trigger.

“Mulder, goddamn it, you have to believe me! Why would I come

here if I did it? I’d be miles away from here, you know that!”

Mulder seemed to be working that over in his mind. Scully shifted

nervously from one foot to the other. She didn’t really believe that

Mulder would ever pull the trigger, that he would kill someone in

cold blood regardless of how evil they were. But then again, there

was a tiny part of her who would never blame him if one day he

did.

Mulder made up his mind in the blink of an eye. He grabbed

Krycek by the shirt and pulled him up to his feet. The gun was still

quite firmly in Mulder’s hand, but he thumbed the safety back on.

Krycek never lowered his gaze from Mulder’s, but reached up to

wipe the blood from his mouth.

clip_image008

“You two have a funny way of saying ‘thank you’,” Alex muttered.

Mulder grabbed him by the back of his leather jacket collar and

propelled him toward the door to their room.

“I don’t know. You’re alive. I’d say that’s more than enough thanks

for what you’ve done,” he replied and after Scully had opened the

door, Mulder shoved Krycek into the nearest chair. Noting that

Scully had her gun trained on their suspect, he holstered his

weapon and leaned against the low dresser with his arms crossed.

“So who are you going to finger, Krycek? And make it snappy,

Scully hasn’t been to the range in a week and she might decide to

take out her frustrations on you.”

Krycek regarded Scully and then dropped his eyes. “I don’t know,”

he said. When Mulder started to lunge again, Krycek put up his

hands in defense. “Wait, I know how that sounds. I know of them,

I just don’t know the specifics!”

Mulder glowered at him, but went back to leaning. Scully tapped

her foot inpatiently. “Get on with it!”

“You might want to consider leaving ‘red’ behind,” Krycek said to

Mulder. At their joint snort, he turned to Mulder again. “I mean it

this time.”

“I’m sure you do,” Mulder said calmly. “But it’s not going to

happen. So do tell, what do you know.”

“There’s an airbase, abandoned in the first round of budget cuts

back 8 or 10 years ago. It’s been falling into disrepair, but

apparently someone has found a use for it.”

“Where?” Mulder demanded.

“I’ll show you,” Krycek replied, all teeth.

“Not in this lifetime,” Mulder shot back.

“Look, it’s not a set up! You want to find out who is responsible

for those women, who took them, who made them sick . . .”

“How do you know they were sick?” Scully demanded, taking a

step forward.

Alex chuckled softly, with a desperate air. “It’s not the first time

they’ve used that. Paget’s carcinoma. Pretty damned rare to find 11

women in a town that size, don’t you think?”

“You’re saying it was manufactured?” Mulder asked, a sense of

dread filling him.

“Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying,” Krycek said pointedly.

Scully was licking her lips. “I don’t suppose you have any proof,”

she interjected dryly.

“Proof,” Krycek laughed again. “What more proof do you two

need? You got so close they had no choice but to kill those

women! You said I killed them. I think you oughta go look in a

mirror. If anyone is at least partly to blame for those deaths, it’s the

two of you and this investigation!”

Mulder glanced over and noticed that Scully had paled at Krycek’s

words.

“Don’t listen to him, Scully! He’s a liar and he’ll do anything to get

out of this.”

“Just keep tellin’ yourself that, chief,” Krycek said. Mulder took a

step and backhanded him hard, bringing blood to the other corner

of the double agents mouth.

“Cut it out!” Scully shouted. There was a moment when the three

of them just stood there, staring at each other. It was Scully who

broke the spell. “Mulder, we have to go have a look at the airbase.”

* * *

9:50 pm

Mulder checked the odometer and let up on the gas. “It should be

right here.”

Scully lowered her window and peered into the empty darkness. “I

don’t see any– Wait!”

He spotted it at the same time and slowed to a crawl. Off to the

right, at the limit of the headlights’ reach, was a small structure. “It

looks like a gatehouse.” He pulled off the road and cut the engine.

Mulder clicked on his small maglite, adjusting the lens to produce

a narrow but intense beam. Then he shone it on his own face so she

could see him waggle his brows. “Stealth mode.” He popped the

door locks and got out.

Scully rolled her eyes, but adjusted her light before she followed

him.

It indeed was a gatehouse– what was left of it. As they drew

closer, they saw remnants of a chain link fence clinging to posts

where the gate had been. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness,

they could make out two large shapes in the distance.

“Hangars?” Scully whispered.

“Maybe. Whatever they are, we’re not their only recent visitors.”

He pointed his light at a group of overlapping tire tracks

paralleling their path.

Scully grabbed his arm and hauled him to a stop. “Mulder, do

those tracks look familiar?”

“Yeah.” He pulled his arm free and moved it around her shoulders.

“Let’s find out what made them.”

They headed for the building on the left. It was indeed a hangar, a

huge corrugated steel structure with a large overhead door in front.

The door was closed, but an entrance door on the side stood

invitingly ajar. Mulder and Scully exchanged a look in the

dimness.

Mulder leaned over and whispered in her ear. “Wait here.”

She gave him a look that was clear, even in the dark. Without a

word, she walked to the door and went inside. Mulder followed,

shaking his head.

Inside, the darkness was total. Scully’s light was sweeping the vast

space twenty yards ahead of him. As the it fell on a large vehicle,

they both froze in their tracks.

“It’s a Hummer,” Scully called back to him in a stage whisper.

Her light moved on, finding another truck. And another. One

whole side of the building was parked full of them. The floor was

tracked with mud, criss-crossed with treads just like those they’d

seen in the field and on the road coming in.

“Mulder, look.” She was pointing her light at the far wall, behind

one of the trucks.

Mulder came up behind her and added his beam to hers. Something

was back there, covered by a tarp. “Supplies, maybe.”

They squeezed between the two nearest trucks and found there was

quite a bit of space behind the row. Mulder reached down and

pulled the tarp back. “Golf cart.”

Scully had already moved to the next tarp and uncovered another

cart. She bent down, looking at something near the floor.

“What have you got?” He started toward her, but she stood up,

holding something in the beam of her light. “Cornstalks.”

Suddenly, she shifted her light to a point behind him, and he turned

to look. “Mulder, it looks like an office.”

The trucks had hidden it from their view. The door wasn’t locked,

and there was even an overhead light that worked, as they abruptly

discovered. Mulder had automatically reached for the wall switch

inside the door and nearly blinded them both with the sudden glare.

Scully gave him a squinty frown. “I guess I can assume we’ve

discarded the stealth approach.”

He moved past her to a desk across the room. “I don’t hear any

weapons being cocked, so I guess we’re clear.” He began pulling

out drawers and rifling the contents. “The golf carts tie this place to

the crop circles. All we need is something to tie it to the women.”

“And something to tie the place to whoever is responsible.” Scully

started searching a filing cabinet next to the door. The first drawer

was full of office supplies: paper, ink cartridges, boxes of paper

clips. She closed it and pulled out the second. Mulder’s excited

voice turned her around.

“Scully! This is it!” He waved a sheet of paper in the air. “Names,

phone–”

“MULDER!”

The gunshot was so unexpected and so close that it stunned her.

Before she could recover, she was pulled back against someone by

an arm tight across her throat. She grabbed the arm with both

hands, trying desperately to pull away.

Mulder was down, on the other side of the desk. She couldn’t see

him, and suddenly breathing seemed less important than finding

out how badly he was hurt. “Let me GO!”

“If you’ll calm down, I will.”

Shock stilled her movements. The voice was…

“That’s better.”

No. It wasn’t possible.

The arm moved from her throat, and she drew a ragged breath,

suddenly afraid to turn around.

“Dana, look at me.”

She turned. And stared in total disbelief.

It took two tries to find her voice.

“Charlie?”

It couldn’t be. Her brother stood before her with a gun trained on

her chest. The same gun he’d just used to–

“Mulder!” She spun around, intent on finding her partner, too

numb to think beyond that goal. The rest… the rest was an illusion.

A nightmare… Anything but what her eyes were telling her.

The man grabbed her shoulder with steely fingers that held her

fast. “Wouldn’t you like to know why I’m here?”

No sound from the other side of the room. Mulder could be dead.

She spun on the man who looked like her brother. “I don’t know

who the hell you are, but you have to let me go to my partner.”

“Him?” The man snorted. “He’s not worth your time, Dana. I’m

here to offer you a way out.”

“Who are you?”

He tightened his grip on her shoulder until the pain made her eyes

water. “You know who I am.”

She shook her head. “I know who you look like.”

“You know who I *am*. I can see it in your eyes.” The face, as

familiar to her as her own, looked down at her kindly.

Her voice choked down to a whisper. “You are not my brother.”

“Haven’t you ever wondered how the two of you have managed to

stay alive all these years? It was me, Dana. I’ve risked my own

position, time and again, to keep you safe. But this is the end of the

line.”

“You’re lying.” Please God, don’t let this be true.

“Am I?” He seemed to search his memory. “Okay, tell me this:

how would I know about your bunny? The one Billy boy hid from

you. He killed it, Dana. He didn’t mean to, but he put it in a box,

and it died.”

“No.” It was barely a whisper.

“Yes. Ask me anything. Something only Charlie would know. I

need you to believe me, Dana.”

“My brother would never do what you’ve done.”

He chuckled. “Oh, Dana. For such an intelligent woman, you can

be so incredibly naive. You still think you’ve chosen your own

path, don’t you? With everything that’s happened, you still believe

in the future.”

“I want to go to my partner.”

Blue eyes pleaded with her. “I’ve seen the future, Dana. And there’s

nothing you can do to change it. Not with Fox Mulder. What I’m

offering you is not just survival. You’ll have everything you could

possibly want.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

His expression turned to stone. “They said you were a lost cause.

I’d hoped that wasn’t true.” The gun barrel came up, pointing at her

head. “This is your last chance. The most important choice of your

life, Dana. Come with me and live, or stay with him and share his

fate.”

Scully squared her shoulders and put everything she was feeling

into her eyes. “Go to hell.”

For just an instant, the man’s blue eyes softened with something

like sorrow. “Good bye, Dana.”

The gun moved so swiftly, she had no time to flinch. The barrel

came down hard as the floor rushed up toward her in a blaze of

pain and light.

What seemed only seconds later, someone was pulling her to her

feet. “Mulder?”

“Not quite,” came a familiar voice, inches from her ear.

Reflex jerked her away from him even before her spinning brain

put a name to the voice.

Alex Krycek grabbed her shoulders and turned her back to face

him. “We don’t have time for this. I’ve got Mulder in your car. Do

you want to come along, or would you prefer to walk back to

town?”

His face was swimming in and out of focus. Her knees refused to

lock, and she hated knowing he was holding her up. “You bastard.

You set us up.”

“I suggest you can the attitude. You need me, no matter how much

that turns your stomach.”

*I’ve got Mulder in your car.* She stopped struggling. “Is he all

right?”

“He’s bleeding all over your leather seats. You want to stand her

awhile longer and tell me what you think of me, or can we get him

to the hospital first?”

She wasn’t surprised to find that her car was now parked just

outside the door. Krycek, after all, had learned hot wiring the same

place she had. Quantico.

He kept her upright with an arm around her shoulders while he

opened the back door. Mulder was sprawled across the seat with

his back against the door, and Scully had to catch him when it

opened. He was out cold.

Krycek went around to the drivers side and got in, leaving her to

struggle with her partner’s dead weight. She got him situated on

her lap and closed the door just as Krycek peeled out toward the

main road. It was all she could do to keep Mulder from slipping

out of her arms as they bounced over the rutted surface.

When they reached the main road, she was able to locate the

source of the bleeding. The bullet seemed to have followed the

same path her own had done years ago, only in the reverse

direction. The exit wound, and the heaviest bleeding, was in the

front this time. His shirt was soaked all the way to his waist.

Krycek wasted no time getting them to the hospital. He screeched

to a halt in front of the ER entrance and laid on the horn for a

moment. Then, without a word, he got out of the car and

disappeared into the night.

* * *

Clayville Hospital

Post surgical wing

Three hours later

“The doctor left orders for pain medication for you, Miss Scully.”

Scully turned her head carefully. Mulder’s nurse was looking down

at her with concern. “No, thank you. I’m fine.” She straightened

slowly in her chair and turned back to Mulder. “It will make me

sleepy and I want to be here when he wakes up.” She reached over

and took his hand.

“I can see that you’re in pain. If you change your mind….”

Scully smiled. “I will. Thank you.”

The woman finished checking her patient, and left the room. Scully

sagged back in her chair, rubbing wearily at her burning eyes.

The nurse was right. She was in pain. A lot of it. But very little

came from the wound in her head.

Her concussion was mild, they said, but enough to dim her

memories of the events directly proceeding the blow to her head.

Not dimmed enough, though. Not nearly enough.

The man who shot Mulder. If he was indeed her brother– and she

was coming more and more to believe that he was– the

implications were almost incomprehensible.

Greta Wilson’s death. The disappearances, not just here, but…

Could it have been Charlie all along? Putting them in danger, but

somehow keeping them alive? Not because Mulder was important

to them, but because of *her*?

She replayed every memory she could grasp, searching for the

signs she must have missed. Anything that could have warned her

that the enemy was so close. So treacherous.

So loved…

“Scully, what’s wrong?”

She jerked her head up at the raspy whisper. Mulder was looking

directly at her, eyes dark with worry. She got up and sat carefully

on the side of his bed. “Nothing, Mulder. Nothing’s wrong.”

He reached up and touched her face, then brought his damp

fingertips out for her to see. “Then what’s this?”

She swiped quickly at her eyes. “How do you feel?”

“Better than I should, apparently. How long have I got, Doc?”

She chuckled in spite of herself. “You’re fine, Mulder. The round

went straight through.”

He gingerly moved his left shoulder. “Feels familiar.”

“Yeah,” she whispered, eyes downcast. Suddenly, the tears were

clogging her throat.

Mulder’s fingers lifted her chin. “Scully, tell me what’s wrong.”

She looked into his eyes, drawing strength from the love she found

there. “I know who shot you.”

His eyes widened, but he said nothing.

The words poured from her, bitter as bile on her tongue. All the

while, his gaze never wavered. Never once showed her anything

but complete trust. That, more than anything, destroyed the last of

her control.

He held her to his chest, rubbing his cheek against her hair, making

soothing sounds as she wept.

Finally, she sat up and looked at him. “I’m sorry, Mulder. I don’t

know what–”

He touched two fingers to her lips. “Don’t.”

She nodded. For now, there was nothing more to say.

“How’s your head?”

“I hope you’re referring to the bump on it and not what’s going on

inside.”

He gave her a stern look. “You’re in pain.”

She reached up to brush her fingers gently through his hair. “Not

so much, now.”

“Am I interrupting?”

They both looked toward the voice. Skinner was standing in the

doorway.

“Not at all, Sir. I didn’t know you were here.”

Scully stood up and tugged self-consciously at her rumpled

clothes.

“I’ve been out at the air base.” He looked at Mulder. “How are you

feeling?”

“I’m fine, Sir. What did you find?” Mulder asked the question in a

tone that said he already knew the answer.

“There’s no sign of the evidence you reported to the sheriff, Agent

Scully. I don’t imagine that comes as a surprise.”

“No, Sir. Not really.” Mulder was speaking to Skinner but his eyes

were on Scully.

For a long moment, no one spoke. Then, Skinner walked to the

foot of Mulder’s bed. “I don’t like the feeling I’m getting here.”

“What feeling is that, sir?” She lifted her chin and held his steady

gaze.

“The one that says there’s more to this than I’m being told.”

She felt Mulder’s warm hand close over hers where it rested next to

him on the bed. Then he coughed– for effect, she thought, until

she looked at his face.

“Sir, Mulder needs to rest.” She pressed the call button.

He just looked at them for a long moment. “I’ll see you back in

DC.” He left without waiting for a response.

When he was gone, she turned back to Mulder. “Are you okay?”

She reached out to feel his forehead, but instead found herself

staring dumbly at her shaking hand.

“Scully, come here.” He pulled gently with his uninjured arm, and

she let herself lean into his embrace. After a moment, she pulled

her legs up onto the bed and burrowed her face against his neck.

“We have to tell him, Scully.”

She nodded against him. “I know.”

When the nurse came around with his meds a short time later, she

found the two of them cuddled together in the narrow bed, sound

asleep.

* * *

Epilogue

She’d managed to pull the box of old photographs from the back of

the closet without too much difficulty. She’d been meaning to get

to them for so long, but time had always found a way to escape

her.

Now time was running out.

She picked up one from the pile of haphazardly placed photos and

sighed. She pushed a silver wisp out of her eyes and found her eyes

tearing.

She’d wanted to cut the child’s hair so desperately – such a pain to

wash! She was always fussing when the soap got in her eyes or

how long it took to dry it, especially when the weather turned cold.

Winter on the vineyard was never very pleasant; the child was

always walking around with a runny nose.

But now, she fingered the picture, tenderly. She’d give anything to

be able to braid the long, dark hair again.

Anything.

She sorted through the pile of photos until one oversized document

caught her attention. It was the piece of paper that sent her world

into a final tailspin. The order to cease the investigation was in

faded black ink; why she chose to save that piece of hell, she’d

never been able to figure out.

Maybe as a reminder of what evil still lurks in the world, though

why she felt she needed a reminder was beyond her as well.

And now time was passing too quickly.

A splash of blue and red caught her eye. Her baby boy, in his

favorite striped shirt. Oh, Fox, can you ever find it in your heart to

understand? She’d never expected him to forgive her; she could not

even forgive herself. But understanding was a gift she could only

dare to hope for.

She picked up the phone and dialed a little used, but well

remembered number. The answering machine responded on the

other end.

“Fox? It’s your mother. I need to speak with you. I…, I have to talk

to you. Please, There’s been so much left unsaid, but I hope you

can understand.”

She hung up the phone and proceeded to look at the pictures again,

fingering them tenderly and then brought the one of the young boy

up to her lips to grace it with a small kiss.

“Please, understand, Fox.”

Teena picked up the trash can from under the secretary and

brought it closer to her by the couch. Next, she picked up the

lighter– one that *he* had given her– and held the flame to the

edge till it caught fire. She held it for as long as she could, until the

heat came too close and forced her to drop it into the bin.

The process was repeated with photo after photo. Each time before

lighting the photograph, she held it up to her lips and tenderly

kissed it.

“Please, understand, Fox.”

The phone rang. Teena picked it up, expectantly.

“Yes.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Mytharc Continues…

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3 thoughts on “Patchwork”

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