TITLE: “The Trade”
INFO: Written for The X-Files Virtual Season 11
(Episode number 16)
CLASSIFICATION: X-File, Angst, ST, MT,
SUMMARY: When Scully becomes seriously
ill, Mulder manages to find a potential cure. But
it is one that he will have to pay dearly for, and
not in a monetary sense.
SPOILERS: “Redux I & IIÓ.
Also there are spoilers for past Virtual Season
cases: Suzanne Bickerstaffe & dtg’s “Legacy“,
the VS 11 Producers’ “Camarilla“, Vickie
Moseley’s “Great Balls of Fire“, Caroline
McKenna’s “Demonic Perfection“, Suzanne
ARCHIVING: The X-Files Virtual Season has a
two week exclusivity to all Virtual Season 11
stories from the day each first appears on the
website. After that, please drop me a note if
you’d like to archive “The Trade”.
Virtual Season 11 can be found at:
My website for all my X-Files fanfiction, thanks
wonderful Skyfox, is at:
DISCLAIMER: The X-Files, the episodes
referred to, Mulder and Scully and all other
characters from the show belong to Chris Carter
and his team of writers, Ten Thirteen
Productions and Fox Broadcasting, and are used
without permission. No copyright infringement
is intended, no profit will be gained. Characters
not recognized from the show are either mine, or
from previous VS stories.
MEDICAL NOTES: At end of story.
THANKS TO: Suzanne, Debbie, Mac, Gerry,
Vickie, Sally and Sheila for help above and
beyond the call of duty or friendship. Also
especially to Suzi for all the help and effort at
such short notice (despite being a fellow
procrastinator <G>) and in giving Corin more
depth. And a huge thanks to the VS11
FEEDBACK: Yes, please!
by Ten, January and February 2004
Mulder sat at the desk in the living room, using
his new desktop computer. He had bought it
recently to replace the one lost when his
apartment building burned down. Having this
new computer not only gave him a more
powerful machine, but it also thankfully ended
the awkward sharing of Scully’s laptop.
She was the one who suggested he set the
desktop computer up on her living room desk.
“It’s the logical thing to do. It’s easier for me to
put my laptop on the dining room table or at the
desk in my bedroom. Plus, if you want to get on
your computer at some unearthly hour, you can
do it out here and not disturb me.”
“Is that just a nice way of saying that you didn’t
want your dining room table to be taken up with
the new computer and case files and my clutter?”
“You’ve got it.”
He didn’t think she minded relegating herself to
the desk in her bedroom Ð it gave them some
time apart in a way. Their own space. They were
trying not to live in each other’s pockets twenty-
four hours a day, since they were so used to
being solitary at home. So Mulder was regularly
going out to visit the Gunmen, for example, or
Dana to one of her friends or her mother’s or to
shop. But they were also enjoying their time
together and doing their best to get around any
hurdles with affection and humor, some times
more successfully than others.
Now Mulder had gotten up even earlier than
usual, and was online, checking out apartments.
He had to, since every one he had inspected
during the last few weeks had failed the Dana
Scully Test. None got her official seal of
approval. Not even close.
“Mulder, you are NOT going to lease that
“Scully, it’s not like you’ll actually be living
there!” he pointed out.
“On and off, I will be. I’ll definitely be sleeping
“If I don’t take this apartment, that means you’ll
be stuck with me indefinitely.”
“We’re managing. We haven’t killed each other
yet. And it is handy not having one of us race to
their own apartment each morning to get ready
and go to work. It gives us time to sleep a little
more, or do other things . . . .”
And at least she wasn’t overeager to bundle him
out the door. So he must be doing something
Surfing the net was also a way of keeping his
mind occupied. To try to stop it straying onto
other things, two in particular.
One was the fire that had destroyed his apartment
building. It was still hard for him to comprehend
that he had lost virtually everything, apart from a
few items he had at Scully’s, the drycleaners and
Fortunately one priceless item had been saved
through sheer luck and timing. Just before the
case that had led to the fire, Scully had wanted to
look through Mulder’s photo album. She ended
up wanting to scan and reprint some of the
photos to put in her own collection, and
borrowed the album. So a number of Mulder’s
childhood, family and college photos had
survived. Otherwise he would have only been left
with the photos of Samantha that he kept in the
However, so many times he found himself
thinking: “I need that book.” Or he wanted
something in particular, and made a mental note
to get it the next time he was at home, before he
realized it was gone forever. He was slowly
getting replacements for a number of things, but
it wasn’t quite the same.
His sofa was a major loss. The fish. The goofy
shoe bookend. The lithograph of the typewriter
and his Navajo blanket.
They’d previously gone through the trauma of
having the basement destroyed by fire, but at
least he was able to painstakingly reconstruct
most of the reports, though he had lost a lot of
his paranormal collection that time. When his
apartment burned, though, there had been no
hope of any salvage at all.
Look on the bright side, he told himself. You
didn’t suffer any permanent injuries Ð the burns
have healed fine. And there are definite
advantages to living with Scully.
At that he allowed himself quite a grin.
Yes, it could have been a lot worse. He could
have died, and Scully could have been there too
when the place went up.
And that brought him to the other worry he was
trying not to dwell on.
Lately his partner was becoming progressively
more tired and drawn, despite getting lots of
sleep. In fact, she was falling asleep well before
her usual bedtime and getting in excess of eight
hours a night. It started with little things, like
running out of breath only halfway through a
joint jog or not feeling like going for a run at all.
Other activities were also suffering. A few nights
ago she initiated some bedroom fun, only to fall
asleep before things really started cooking.
“I just don’t seem to have as much energy,” she
confessed to him the next day.
And that really set a cold fear burning in Mulder
that did not let up. Hopefully it was just
something minor, some bug, or overwork, he
told himself. After all, she had a rough time
recently, nearly being crucified by a madman and
his mother. Perhaps that was catching up with
Fortunately she had made an appointment to see
her doctor, which was this morning, and she was
letting Mulder accompany her. Not just to the
medical center, but in to see the doctor himself.
How far we have come, Mulder could not help
musing. Then he started worrying that Scully
actually letting him come in to her appointment
meant that she thought there was something very
serious wrong with her.
They had been able to arrange the time off with
Skinner and Ð
A noise startled Mulder out of his reverie. He
looked away from the computer screen, which he
had not really been perusing for a while. The
noise was Scully’s alarm going off. It was time
for her to get up and get ready for her
Mulder stood and went to the doorway of her
bedroom, in time to hear his partner groan and
see her reach out and turn the alarm off. She
buried her head under the covers.
He opened the blinds, then walked up to the side
of the bed. “Good morning, Sunshine.” He
couldn’t quite catch her muttered response, but
had a fair idea it wouldn’t get a PG rating.
Then she pulled the covers down with a reluctant
sigh, blinking in the light. She certainly wasn’t
looking perky. He could feel her own worry and
frustration, despite how hard she was trying to
hide them. He was also sure that she was
mentally running through her symptoms, trying
to work out what was wrong.
When her gaze met his, Mulder mustered a smile
from somewhere. He would have offered to make
her breakfast while she was in the shower, but
she had started fasting the night before for her
tests, since the doctor was going to do her post-
cancer check up as part of the day’s appointment.
“Morning already?” she asked.
“Yep. And I haven’t found any apartments you
would approve of yet.”
“I think I can put up with you for a little longer,”
she said with a smile.
Something made him stay by the bed, chattering
on about banalities as she got up. Which was
just as well, because when she stood, she went
even paler and her knees buckled. Mulder
managed to grab her in time to stop her falling.
They stared at each other, Scully a little dazed
but still conscious, locked in Mulder’s arms.
And the fear that they had lived with during
Scully’s cancer leapt back into both of them like
it had never been gone.
After sitting down on the bed for a few minutes,
Scully had recovered from her near-faint, though
Mulder insisted that she have a bath instead of a
shower and that he be present, just in case.
She let him. And unlike during that other dark
horrible time, they held hands and gazes where
Though just like during their cancer time, they
did not say much on the way to the medical
center. Mulder was just grateful they had the first
appointment of the day.
Fainting doesn’t have to mean something doom
and gloomish, Mulder told himself. And she
hasn’t had a nosebleed, or at least not that she’s
mentioned. He didn’t dare ask. The doctor did
ask, and received a negative reply, then checked
her nails and commented on the pallor of her
skin. Doctor Ben Gavins had been Scully’s
personal physician for a long time. He was well
acquainted with her unique medical history.
Scully had some tests there and then, including a
“Most of the results of these particular tests will
be back within a few hours. Why don’t you come
back in two and a half hours? There are some
stores and a cafe nearby,” the doctor said.
Scully managed a smile. “I noticed there was a
great sale going on just down the block.”
The partners didn’t end up going to it, of course.
They sat in the cafe. Mulder only felt like toying
with the food and drink ordered, but because
Scully hadn’t eaten anything since the night
before, he made himself eat and saw that his
partner was doing the same: chewing and
swallowing automatically, not really tasting. It
was an effort for Mulder to stop checking the
time and also to work out what to say. They
ended up talking about mundane things to fill in
the space and beat down the fear.
But at least they were together in this, whatever
this proved to be. That was something to take
even a little comfort in.
After what seemed like eons, they returned for
Doctor Gavins told Scully, “From these tests,
I’m strongly suspecting aplastic anemia,
especially from the low levels of your red and
white cells and platelets. But a sample of your
bone marrow will need to be taken and examined
by a hematologist for confirmation.”
“What is aplastic anemia?” Mulder asked,
directing his question at both of them. The look
in Scully’s eyes was telling him that it was not
It was his partner who told him, “It’s a rare but
extremely serious disorder that results from the
unexplained failure of the bone marrow to
produce blood cells.”
That could not be good. Mulder knew that the
bone marrow was a factory producing the cells of
the blood: red cells, white cells and platelets.
Continuous production of blood cells was
necessary to sustain a body, because each cell had
a finite life span once leaving the bone marrow
and entering the blood.
But modern medicine had made so many
advances, even in the seven years since Scully’s
cancer. So surely . . . .
“And it’s curable?” Somehow Mulder was able to
get the question out. But he was only able to
look at Gavins when asking it.
“There are treatment options which could well
work -” Gavins began, before Mulder impatiently
“But if they don’t, then is it fatal?”
Mulder felt like he’d been kicked. Scully was
remaining very quiet, nodding slightly at what
the doctor said. Her outward composure was
The doctor looked back and forth between them.
“But let’s focus on the options for now, before
we go expecting the worst. All right?”
“Could this be due to the chip?” Mulder asked.
Somehow his voice remained steady.
The doctor immediately knew what Mulder
meant, but hesitated before saying, “As far as I
can tell, it seems to be, um, working the same as
it was when Dana’s cancer was cured. But I have
no idea whether this disease has anything to do
with that chip. And honestly I don’t think there
is any way for us to know for sure.”
Mulder couldn’t stop asking questions and
Scully was staying silent. She probably knew the
answers already anyway. “What’s the cause of
Doctor Gavins said, “There are a number of
known causes. It has been clearly linked to
Mulder went very still. Scully had been exposed
to radiation during her abduction and in
treatment for her cancer.
“Environmental toxins Ð” the doctor continued.
They’d had plenty of those . . . .
“Insecticides and drugs, in much the same
fashion as cancer has been linked to these agents.
Benzene-based compounds, airplane glue and
drugs such as chloramphenicol have been linked
to aplastic anemia too. Also, Hepatitis, Epstein
Barr, drugs like Dilantin and even some
antibiotics. In some people it is believed to be
caused by a virus. But in over half the cases the
cause is unknown or idiopathic.”
Then Gavins turned to Scully and asked if she
had any questions. He also arranged to book her
in for the bone marrow test as soon as possible,
where a needle was going to be inserted into the
large pelvic bone and a biopsy taken.
“Restrict your activities and see how much
taking it easy relieves your symptoms.”
Her voice remained calm when talking to the
doctor, but as soon as they were heading out, she
slipped her hand into Mulder’s and did not let go
until they reached the car.
He swore inwardly, raging at everything and
everyone. Why did it have to be her again?
The agents didn’t say much on the way home.
They didn’t have to. Once inside Scully’s
apartment, they held each other tightly, before
Scully gently pulled away and announced that
she was going to call her mother and Skinner.
Scully had the bone marrow test and, while they
waited a few days for the results, she
determinedly did paperwork at home and
consulted on autopsy results from other cases
that were sent to her via the internet or courier.
She also researched as much as possible about
aplastic anemia and the available treatments.
Cabin fever was inevitable, though. Mulder was
trying his hardest not to rock the boat, to find a
balance between being over-coddling and
standing too far back. Maggie was helping out
where she could while Mulder was at work.
“I hate being ‘fragile’!” his partner declared at one
point with an anger that he knew was not being
directed specifically at him. She needed to vent.
“Scully, that is one thing that no one would ever
accuse you of. Even now. You’re still the
equivalent of at least twenty of me.”
At that some of the anger went out of her sails.
“Don’t sell yourself short.”
“Ten of me then?” he asked.
“One of you does me just fine. And I only wish I
felt well enough for you to do me now!”
Her symptoms were not being relieved much by
staying at home either.
The results of Scully’s test confirmed aplastic
Mulder sat quietly while Gavins and Scully
talked about the next steps to take. But then he
realized something and couldn’t help saying,
“You’re not going to hospitalize her?”
The doctor replied, “Agent Mulder, with all of
the superbugs and diseases around in hospitals
these days, it is best that she stay home for now
while her condition allows it. Home help is
available, and it sounds like Mrs Scully is doing
a lot, which is great. Masks can be made
available for both Dana and visitors to wear, to
ensure that she doesn’t catch anything from
anyone Ð even healthy people can potentially be a
threat to her condition. Strict hygiene is to be
followed, for example: thorough washing of
hands.” He said to Scully, “We’ll start you off
on a cycle of drug therapy and see how that
goes.” She nodded.
“Modern medicine keeps most people happy
most of the time, although I’m sure the patients
themselves might not see it quite that way,”
Gavins continued. “Theoretically, Dana should
be able to stay out of the hospital for a long time
yet, just going in for the drug therapy and
treatments like transfusions when necessary.”
During the last week, Mulder had read up on
aplastic anemia. He knew why the doctor was not
starting to test Scully’s family for bone marrow
compatibility in case of a transplant Ð that was
only as a last resort. The transplant also had far
higher risks than just letting the patient be or
trying other options, at least at this stage.
Scully had to keep her activity restricted to
reduce symptoms of anemia, avoid falls or
accidents that could provoke bleeding, and she
was to reduce contact with other people. She was
to go into the hospital as an outpatient regularly
for her treatments, for a few hours at a time.
Outside, Scully tried to put a brave face on it.
“Mulder, it’s going to be fine. There are courses
of treatment. We just have to find out which one
is the best.”
But that didn’t mean that they couldn’t be on the
lookout for other, not so well-marked courses or
paths. Or create a few of their own, Mulder
thought, but instead he said, “Of course it’s
going to be fine, Scully. Look what we’ve
already managed to beat.”
“And this will be a great opportunity to catch up
on my med and science reading,” she said, half
lightly, half seriously. “There’s always so much
He managed to smile at her spirit and
determination, but wondered how much longer
he’d be able to if things got worse.
Mulder couldn’t sleep. That was fine by him,
because he had research to do on this illness and
those other potential paths for a cure, just in
He was out on the sofa bed. He and Scully had
discussed it and reluctantly agreed that it was
best if he did so Ð it would make things easier
than wearing masks to bed, which could easily
slip, and neither wanted to disturb the other if
they were restless or when Mulder had to get up
and get ready for work.
But in reality, Scully was out like a light. That
was the one ‘good’ thing about this illness. She
shouldn’t even notice that the living room lights
were on in the wee hours or hear if he
accidentally made too much noise, which was
another, unspoken, reason why Mulder had
suggested that he sleep on the sofa bed. He half-
expected that his all-encompassing panic and
worry would be loud enough to wake his partner
up. God knew it was certainly gnawing away at
him loud enough.
Okay, focus. To work with you. The phrase
‘Fight the future’ certainly applies here.
He headed to his desk and prepared for a long
The next day, late afternoon:
The agents had been in phone contact a few times
during the day, and it wasn’t just Mulder
phoning Scully to check up on her. She called
him a few times just, he was sure, to check up
on him and be connected to him, to the office, in
some small way. Now he was back home and
had taken over the ‘night shift’ from Maggie.
After Scully’s mother left, his partner actually
admitted to him despondently, “I think I’m
going crazy being here at home all day. I’m
having trouble concentrating on the med
He was surprised by her admission, despite how
much better they had become over the years at
being more open with each other. He guessed she
had kept up a cheery facade all day for her mother
and couldn’t any more.
“Scully, perhaps look at it from a different
angle,” he suggested.
She gave him the eyebrow. “Show me the
“I know you’re frustrated, but try viewing this as
vacation leave. You don’t often get to have a
break. So instead of focusing on paperwork or
going at the journals for so long, step back, at
least for some of each day. Give yourself more
time. Some pampering. Skinner would have no
problem giving you the leave. Read books, the
fun books, the romances, the novels that you’ve
bought and stacked up and not gotten around to.
Watch all those movies you’ve missed. I
recommend comedies Ð it’s always good to
laugh. There are plenty of things you can do that
aren’t as taxing or stressful.”
From the look on her face, she was carefully
contemplating his idea. “A vacation?”
“I’ll hunt out whatever book you want in the
stores, or anything else you want. Hell, we can
go all the way and do the living room up as a
beach. I’ll even wear my Speedos.”
She laughed, then her eyes held a glint that he
was glad to see as she asked oh-so-coyly, “Is
there any rule that says we can’t make it a nudist
beach? For males, anyway.”
So they pretended that the sofa was a deck chair
at the beach on a tropical island and that Scully
was a rich visitor. Mulder was her personal
“Want me to wear a bow tie?”
“That all depends on where . . . .”
Mulder watched his partner get worse. She was
still able to function at home, however it was
like a leak in a dam. When a trickle, no big deal,
but as the hole gets bigger, it has more and more
of an effect, but still no major problems. Finally
the hole was going to get so big that the dam
It wasn’t about to burst just yet, but . . . .
The trips to the hospital for the treatments were
taking a lot out of Scully. Often her control and
determination were a marvel, however her temper
was getting shorter and more explosive when it
did break through, and it was a strain to monitor
everything he was about to do or say, to try to
minimize any flare ups. Having to rely so much
on others and not be able to do her job or much
else during the course of a day was hell for her,
he knew. Being extremely intolerant to any form
of exercise, after being such a fit and active
person was a constant source of irritation too.
And there was the frustration of having to be so
aware of quarantine procedures, which had really
put a damper on their holding and touching. The
masks. So they went back to the ‘old days’ of
communicating so much with their eyes, though
they also said a lot with words that they would
not have told each other in those old days. And
often after a flare up, Scully would get upset
with herself and apologize to him.
She slept a lot anyway, and he continued on with
his research. After exhausting the Gunmen’s
library, he paid a visit to Chuck Burns, who
knew about their situation.
“Mulder! Great to see you. How’s Scully doing?”
“Not good. Can I go through your stacks? You’re
bound to have magazines and articles that could
have slipped under my radar, or the Gunmen’s.”
“I pride myself on finding obscure releases. Sure,
you’re welcome to borrow whatever you want.
Are you looking for anything in particular?”
“Hopefully I’ll know when I see it.” They ended
up discussing some rather remote possibilities,
but to no end.
Scully had been on the drug therapy for two
weeks, but now was going downhill too fast for
it to remain a viable option. The doctor was
baffled and frustrated by the rapid deterioration.
She was being given blood transfusions during
her trips to the hospital, to try to correct her
anemia. Fortunately she hadn’t started bleeding
yet Ð her platelet levels had not dropped that
low. That sort of bleeding was an acute medical
emergency, with the danger of fatal hemorrhage
Her brother Bill, mother and surviving relatives
proved to be non-compatible for a bone marrow
transplant. Seeing that Charlie Scully appeared to
have Consortium links and had tried to kill
Mulder recently, the chances of him suddenly
turning up and offering to have his blood tested
for compatibility were remote. They couldn’t get
in contact with him anyway Ð and Maggie, who
had no idea about just what her son had become,
believed he was currently unreachable because he
was on a long term undercover assignment.
The database of donors was being searched, so far
with no luck of a match with Scully.
Maggie was staying with her daughter all the
time during the day and a home help nurse came
in when required. At night, Mulder was the
caregiver, and he regularly got up and checked
how Scully was during the night.
Scully had a PICC line inserted in the crook of
her arm. It was a special IV that would not need
changing for weeks, so the line could be used for
antibiotics at home and for the drug therapy and
transfusions in the outpatient clinic, without a
new one having to be inserted each time.
She also had a liquid oxygen tank with a nasal
cannula. The tank was set up in the bedroom, but
had tubing long enough to allow Scully to move
around in other rooms of the apartment while
still getting the oxygen. She and her caregivers
just had to be careful not to trip over the tubing
or get it hooked up or accidentally put something
on it, like a chair leg.
Scully was out in the living room. At the
moment she was not receiving anything via the
PICC line, and it was heparin-locked, capped off
so they didn’t have to deal with an IV stand and
its various paraphernalia for now.
“I wonder . . . ” Scully began, then tailed off, as
if realizing she was saying a thought
inadvertently out loud.
Mulder looked at her, knowing that she hadn’t
stopped talking only because she was short of
breath. “What?” he asked, fearful of what she was
going to say, but he had to know.
“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way.
But I wonder whether the chip or my medical
past . . . might be accelerating the progress of
Mulder’s heart sank even more. She was going
downhill a lot faster than expected, without even
something like an infection to really gallop it
“Sorry, Mulder. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“You could easily be right.”
“But without that chip . . . wouldn’t have had
seven extra years with you,” she finished
Without me, Mulder couldn’t help thinking, you
wouldn’t have been abducted and had the cancer
or needed another chip.
“Mulder, I know what’s running through your
head. Stop it. You know that I could well have
never joined the FBI and stayed in medicine . . .
only to get killed in a car accident coming home
from a shift one day. Life has no guarantees.”
He nodded, trying to put on a good act so as not
to further worry his partner.
It had been a bad day. Mulder knew that if this
kept up, in a few days Scully would have to be
admitted to the hospital. Since she was a doctor
and had twenty-four hour care and a home health
nurse, her doctor was still letting her try to stay
at home for as long as possible, but there were
limits and she was close to reaching them.
“Bedtime,” Mulder said softly, dreading how
tired the trip would make her. And that she
might resist and make things worse.
“Too bad the bedroom . . . wasn’t closer to the
beach,” Scully said wryly.
An idea sparked in his mind. “Well, instead of
the rich woman on the tropical beach, we could
do ‘Gone With the Wind’.”
She smiled and he knew she was pleased at his
efforts to keep their spirits up. “Sweep me off
my feet . . . and carry me up that staircase,
“Staircase? Have you and your mom been
renovating while I’ve been at work?”
He was relieved that she had acquiesced, that he
had found a way to carry her without making her
feel weak and upset. Or too much so.
It wasn’t quite as easy a task as the ‘Gone With
the Wind’ scenario: there was the oxygen tubing
to factor in, but they managed. And somehow it
still felt romantic, the closest they could get at
END ACT ONE:
Later that night:
Once again he was back at his desk, on the
computer and poring through journals and
magazines and anything he could think of which
might provide some help.
He was going through one of Chuck’s
paranormal magazines when he found it.
A letter in a magazine. The letter was written by
a thirty-five year old man called Corin Harper, in
which he claimed that at age eleven he had
somehow been cured of a deadly childhood
illness, but on the same night as that happened,
his mother had died. Recently he found out that
she had died of that very illness. It was cystic
fibrosis, which was incurable, so Corin should
not have survived it in the first place, and it was
impossible that his mother had suddenly
developed it in adulthood.
Corin said he had only recently recovered
memories of that time, which had made him
curious, and led him to access his own and his
mother’s medical records. He wrote: “It’s as if a
trade occurred between us,” and was enquiring if
anyone else had undergone a similar experience
or knew of anyone who did. He urged them to
There was something about the way the letter
was written that pulled Mulder in and made him
not dismiss the writer as a crank. It was a
heartfelt enquiry for answers. There was not
much in the way of detail about what memories
the man had recovered, but it came across to
Mulder as the writer being cautious about the
sort of responses he would get. Like not telling a
psychic much about your life and seeing what
they came up with, to test how accurate their
Mulder checked the date on the cover. This
magazine was published twice yearly and this
issue had come out nearly five months ago.
He mused over the words. Like a trade had taken
place. . . .
Mulder read back through the letter very
carefully. The man said that he had medical
records, so that would be some proof. He decided
to phone Corin Harper in the morning and talk to
him. Within the last five months other people
may have written to Corin with their theories or
stories. Mulder was interested to find out what
they had said.
He looked again at the contact details. Corin
Harper lived in Sharpsburg, Maryland. That was
about an hour and forty minutes away, or a two
hour drive with rush hour traffic. So it was
possible to visit the man fairly easily if need be,
instead of relying solely on phone contact.
Because if the phone call went well, Mulder
wanted to see this man for himself. A visit
would not be to just go over his evidence, but to
see him face to face and gauge if he was genuine.
Hopefully he had a potential way out of Scully’s
Over the phone, Corin Harper promised to fax
Mulder copies of his medical reports and his
mother’s autopsy report. Corin also said he
thought that he had pieced together what
happened on the night that he became a healthy
child, thanks to responses from people who had
read his letter. “My mother took my illness into
herself. And she’s not the first or the last person
to do such a thing.”
Hope and curiosity set Mulder’s heart beating
faster at hearing this.
Before Corin could go into more detail, Mulder
could hear the sound of a doorbell. “Damn.
Sorry, can I call you back?” Corin asked.
“Please fax those medical records to me as soon
as you can. And could I come and see you
sometime today? Would that be convenient?”
“Sure. What time?”
Agreement was quickly reached. Soon the
paperwork appeared on the fax machine in the
basement and backed up what Corin claimed in
his letter. Though paperwork can be forged or
mistakes made, Mulder told himself. He sighed
and started to get ready to head to Sharpsburg.
Mulder checked the street sign and nodded to
himself. He wasn’t far from Corin Harper’s
home. And the trip had gone well.
Apart from the niggling guilt about keeping this
Mulder took a deep breath, again going over his
reasonings, justifying them to himself.
Time was running out. A donor match might be
found in the database, but it hadn’t happened yet
and hopes were fading. The drug therapy wasn’t
working. There had been no luck at tracking
down any of the other potential means of help,
like the healing aliens.
And Cancerman hadn’t popped up to dangle a
cure at the cost of a deal.
Mulder didn’t want to raise false hope in his
partner about Corin Harper’s discovery, in case it
turned out to be false or for some reason not
work for them.
And he wanted to find out everything he could
about this trading ability first, because if it did
work, he didn’t want Scully to be able to reverse
the process. Not if it meant her dying.
He had made sure his cell phone was fully
charged, so if Scully or anyone wanted to phone
him, they could. Just hopefully she wouldn’t ask
him where he was . . . . She thought he was at
work for the day.
I am working. This qualifies as an X-File.
And it isn’t like I’m doing something like
sneaking onto a Consortium base.
Corin Harper worked from home as a carpenter
and woodworker. As Mulder got out of his car,
he could see a workshop at the end of the
driveway, behind the house. A large and
beautifully carved wooden business sign on the
fence directed customers to the workshop. The
front door of the house opened as Mulder was
deciding which building to try. A man appeared
in work overalls, greeting him and waving him
up onto the porch.
“I’ve left a sign on the workshop door for people
to come to the front door instead,” the man
announced. “And my business phone will divert
through to the house. But hopefully we won’t
have any or many interruptions.”
“That’s fine. I appreciate you letting me visit at
such short notice.”
Corin was a cheerful man with close-cropped red
hair. The living room they went into contained
beautifully crafted and finished wooden furniture
and fittings. As Mulder settled down in a
comfortable chair, he noticed a glass cabinet held
a lot of sporting trophies and items from around
the world. The mantelpiece contained a lot of
family photos Ð Corin as a boy and a woman
who would have to be his mother. A vase of
fresh flowers was next to the main photos.
“Did you make all of these?” Mulder gestured at
“Yes. It started out as a hobby in my teens and
sort of snowballed from there.”
“It all looks great.”
Thank you. Would you like some coffee or
“No thanks. Not at the moment.”
“Okay. I guess to business then? So, you work
for a branch of the FBI that investigates strange,
potentially paranormal, happenings?”
Mulder nodded. He had approached Corin in that
way, instead of mentioning that he had a sick
“Well, if you’re hoping to find out how to save
dying people by this particular method, the news
isn’t that great. Someone still has to die.” The
man’s eyes, now sad, went to one of the pictures
on the mantelpiece for a few seconds.
Mulder had another look at the photos. The ones
he could see of young, pre-teen Corin showed a
frail boy, but the few beyond that showed a
remarkable difference. Mulder decided he’d been
right not to mention the real reason why he was
here. Corin could clam up and not tell him what
he needed to know Ð he might have even been
burned by people wanting a miracle cure after the
publication of his letter. Mulder would just have
to see, and hopefully no desperation would show
Corin pulled his eyes away from the photos and
mustered a smile. “Anyway, I know you want
the whole story, so where would you like me to
“According to the letter, you were eleven when
your mother died.”
“Yes, but I couldn’t remember the period around
her death until well into my adulthood. Before
that, I could just remember that I was a sick
child because of cystic fibrosis. It was and still is
an incurable and eventually fatal childhood
disease.” He paused, before continuing, “Then
suddenly my mother was dead, and I wasn’t sick
anymore, which was quite a contrast, because I’d
been living with that illness since birth. My aunt
and uncle raised me after my mother died. They
didn’t have any children of their own and were
my only living relatives. They talked about my
mother, but not about her death, just that she had
suddenly died when I was in the hospital. So I
grew up thinking she’d had a heart attack or a
stroke, and that some sort of miracle had
happened in regard to my own sickness.”
“How did you recover your memories?”
“They started coming back to me in the last five
years, in my dreams. Or rather, in my
nightmares.” Corin shifted in his armchair, one
hand absently stroking the polished arm rest. “At
first I didn’t realize what they were, because I had
a partner, and she would wake me very quickly
when she could hear that it was a bad dream. It
wasn’t until after we broke up about eighteen
months ago that the dreams lasted longer and I
was able to see that they were about my mother.
Hazy bits of images of her standing over me in
the hospital, her concentrating, and then falling.
Nurses running in. I thought it was my
unresolved grief about her death, but then I
started to wonder if these were actually memories
instead of just things from my imagination.”
“Did you try hypno regression?”
“No. I think what I can remember now is all that
I’ll be able to recall. On the night that my
mother ended up dying, I was in the hospital
because I was getting worse. I had a bad infection
and my lungs were so clogged up . . . . The
doctors didn’t expect me to live long. I either
had sedatives in my system or was asleep when
my mother came into the room, so that’s why I
can only recall hazy bits of what happened next.
Mom was standing there, concentrating, there
was a blackness between us Ð”
Corin nodded. “A haze. When I recalled it, I
thought it was just the drugs or the fact that my
eyes were just cracked open a little. Then my
mother clutched her chest and collapsed. Next
thing I can remember, there were medical staff
rushing my mother away, out of the room, and a
doctor checking me. I could breathe properly.”
Mulder wanted to ask more about the black haze,
but Corin kept speaking.
“Cystic fibrosis is something that no adult
should spontaneously develop. It’s something a
person is born with.”
Mulder knew that Scully would think that
Corin’s illness could have been misdiagnosed,
and was something hereditary that tests failed to
pick up about twenty-four years ago when
Corin’s mother died. Or that someone bungled
the finding that Mrs Harper died of cystic
fibrosis. Therefore, no X-File, no trade.
“As you’ve already seen, I managed to trace my
old medical records and my mother’s,” Corin
said. “They confirm what I remember. Somehow,
suddenly and inexplicably, my mother got this
disease. The autopsy report confirms it, as
impossible as it is, because she had been healthy
all of her life before then. It looks like the
sudden shock killed her, though the infection
soon would have anyway. Suddenly her lungs
weren’t working right.” He swallowed. “She
probably felt like she was drowning, unable to
take a deep breath.”
He shuddered, his eyes getting damp. “The
weirdness of it must have really freaked my aunt
and uncle out Ð that’s why they didn’t talk about
my mother’s death. I think it came as a relief to
them that my memories of that time were
blocked out. Even when I asked Aunt Isabel
about it not long ago, telling her what I could
remember, she did her best to avoid the subject.
Perhaps they were even a little afraid of me. My
mother was very much into meditation and the
new age way of thinking, while my aunt was
“So once you got the memories back you decided
to track down these medical records?”
“Yeah. I had those snatches of memory, and the
knowledge that I’d had cystic fibrosis as a kid
and somehow been cured. The impossibility of it
had always nagged at me, so that’s why I was so
curious and started digging once those memories
“So how did your mother take your illness onto
herself? You said on the phone that you think
you now know.”
“I *think* I’ve found out via others how she
managed to do it,” Corin stressed. “About twelve
people have contacted me with similar
incidences. And most of those occurrences seems
to match the bits I can remember of the night she
“Yes. There are a few that I think are fake,
cranks. They just don’t ‘feel’ right.”
Mulder nodded, well aware of how he himself
was able to discern cases with a ‘paranormal
bouquet’. And at the moment, he was getting the
feeling that Corin was genuine, that the man did
believe in what he had written about.
Corin said, “The ones that ring true are very
interesting, and collaborative. Some people have
been able to concentrate hard enough to actually
‘lift’ the affliction out of their loved one and take
it onto themselves instead.”
“But if sheer willpower/prayer/hope/wishful
thinking, whatever, are all that is required, then
such a trade should be much more common,
especially when parents are having to watch their
children dying in hospital,” Mulder pointed out.
Heck, if that were the case, he would have been
able to do that with Scully when she was in her
coma or with the cancer.
“Yeah, I wondered about that too. I examined all
the occurrences I could find and I think I’ve
found two similarities. The main link seems to
be that the person who is able to take the
affliction onto themselves has had a near death
experience in their past, like an accident that has
brought them medically close to death or they
have needed CPR.”
That made Mulder sit up straighter. “So they
actually had to have found themselves on another
plane of existence or in a hallway moving
towards a light, until they were brought back?”
“It might be enough that the person had a close
brush with death. The people who have contacted
me haven’t all mentioned imagery like that.
Some of them don’t know for sure if the person
who sacrificed their life for them actually had
such an experience. I talked to the survivors and
some can give me an instance where, for
example, their benefactor had been in a car crash
a few years beforehand but survived against steep
odds.” Corin ran a hand through his hair,
contemplating the issue. “That person just may
not have talked about what they went through, or
remember it, or they might not have had the
tunnel and the light, etc. It might not be
“Do you know if anything like that happened to
“Yes. She told me when I was little. When she
was a child, she and some friends tried to make a
snow cave. It collapsed and my mother was
caught in it. She couldn’t breathe, and a feeling
of incredible peace came over her. Then suddenly
it was gone Ð her friends had dug around and
managed to uncover her face, just in time. She
said that after that, she didn’t fear dying. I guess
knowing she felt that way is some comfort. And
it made me feel better when I was little that death
wouldn’t be so scary. But until people got in
contact with me about my letter in the magazine,
I hadn’t considered that experience of my
mother’s as a factor in regard to what she ended
up doing for me.” Corin looked over at the
photographs. “A miracle that could do so much
for sick people, but at quite a price.”
The carpenter blinked, then looked back at
Mulder. “Perhaps a person who has a brush with
death then possesses some sort of talent or
power. Hopefully more people will write to me Ð
I could do a follow-up letter in the next edition
of the magazine, an article even, and publish in
some others too. Then we can see if the same
pattern keeps emerging. But I’m in two minds
about doing that.” The carpenter did not elaborate
though. “I haven’t got long to decide before
submissions close for the next edition.”
Mulder made a mental note to ask Corin about
that hesitation, but first he reminded the
carpenter, “You said there were two similarities.”
“Yes. I’ll tell you the other after I’ve got us
something to drink. I think we need it,” he
replied with feeling. He indicated a folder on the
coffee table. “There are the letters I’ve received,
my copies of the medical reports, and my notes,
including the ‘rules’ of this trade, as far as I can
Then Corin went to the kitchen to make some
coffee, and Mulder started looking through the
paperwork. He also started to muse on what he
Near death experiences and brushes with death.
He’d certainly had those.
But so had Scully.
When Corin came back and they settled in their
chairs again, he continued. “The second thing
seems to involve visualization and focus. A
person who has the necessary close brush with
death might have a child who is sick, but
wishing and praying that the illness goes or is
given to the parent instead doesn’t seem to work.
My mother was into meditation; she was very
visual. One person said that her father pictured
the illness in her body and mentally focused on
lifting it out. She said she saw a cloud of ‘black
light or mist’ rise out of her own body, and go
into her father. Just like I saw. When I read that,
I knew I was on the right track, because I hadn’t
mentioned that in my letter. Several other people
wrote about it too in their letters to me. That
seems to be how the illness appears, how it
manifests: a dark cloud. And once it is out of the
sick person’s body, they are fine. It’s like all the
damage and weakness it caused has gone too.”
Time for the million dollar question. Mulder
mentally crossed his fingers and asked it. “Due
to the rules, as you know them, if one person
manages to get the affliction out of another,
could the cured person turn around and take it
“I’m not sure. It does seem that the person who
has taken the illness onto themselves can’t then
remove it from their own body, for example to
try to transfer it to someone else. And it looks
like it has to be a fatal disease for the trade to
“Some diseases are fatal to children but not so
much to adults . . . . Some forms of leukemia, I
think,” Mulder said.
“I haven’t had any cases where something like
that has happened. Whether that’s because for
some reason the trade can’t take place under those
circumstances or I just haven’t been contacted by
anyone like that yet, I don’t know. In the child
to adult trades that I’ve read about, and
experienced, the disease or illness was strong
enough to kill the adult.”
Corin told him more, recounting how one person
had found out from someone else how to do the
trade, so she decided to try it with her sick child.
She got the illness out of her child and then as
the dark cloud came towards the parent, she held
up one of their farmyard animals in front of her,
trying to see if the mass would go into the
animal instead, therefore sparing both her child
and herself. But it couldn’t Ð it had to be human
And the mass couldn’t be lifted out of the victim
and then mentally ‘thrown away’ by the person
doing the lifting.
The haunted look was back in Corin’s eyes,
making Mulder uncomfortable, considering what
he was planning.
Corin said, “Now that I know what my mother
did for me, I’m kind of torn. I’m grateful for her
sacrifice, but it’s hard to accept that I’m only
here because she’s dead. She may have felt guilty
because cystic fibrosis is inherited, so she could
have passed the disease to me in that way, as a
carrier. But she always tried to make things
happy and positive. When I became healthy, I
was determined to live life, to make the most of
it, and I have.” Corin gestured at the glass
cabinet, full of trophies and evidence of his
travels. “I guess now I need to keep focusing on
that. Not to waste what Mom gave me, despite
Mulder hoped Scully would see it that way, if he
did manage to pull off a trade. He found himself
asking, “Do you believe in fate? That this was
perhaps meant to be?”
At that, Corin paused for what seemed a long
time, before finally saying, “I honestly don’t
know. Perhaps to some degree, but a lot of free
will and luck too. Mom used her free will. This
is what she chose. I’m also torn about writing a
follow up letter or article. I mean, in a way this
is giving people a chance to save a loved one,
however it could also be seen as aiding murder or
suicide . . . .”
Soon Mulder was about to take his leave. He
indicated the folder on the coffee table. “I’d like
to take copies of what you’ve got there.”
“Of course. I’ve got a printer in my office that’s
also one of those copier, fax and scanner
Once that was done, Mulder looked at the
collection of papers. I still have to go through
these thoroughly, but I am probably going to try
this. I’ve got nothing to lose, apart from Scully,
which is not an option.
“Thank you, you’ve been very helpful.”
He saw a look go through Corin’s eyes, and a
hesitation, and for a moment he thought that the
carpenter suspected that Mulder wanted to use
this trade himself and was about to ask. But the
moment passed and Corin instead ushered him to
the front door.
When he was leaving, Mulder almost told Corin,
‘I’ll keep you in mind for your furniture too. I
had a fire in my apartment recently and could do
with some new things.’ But then he thought that
there was also a good chance that he might be
dead of aplastic anemia soon, if the trade worked.
No! He couldn’t let himself think like that. If
this did work, there was the chance of a donor for
him, or a chance of drug therapy working. He
had to try it Ð there were no other options at the
moment. His innate stubbornness and arrogance
and ‘never give up’ mentality were assuring him
that somehow he would find a way to outwit this
trade or make it work out.
And if the trade didn’t work, there was a good
chance that Scully would die, and his life would
be over anyway. So any thoughts about buying
or ordering new furniture were definitely on the
backburner at the moment.
Mulder returned to D.C. in good time and
without Scully being aware that he had taken a
little trip. He phoned her from the basement to
check how she was, and then went home that
night at the usual time.
“My next doctor’s appointment . . . is tomorrow.
And I think he’ll want . . . to admit me,” Scully
told him quietly after Maggie had gone.
Mulder looked at his partner. She was lying in
her bed, with the nasal cannula, and he was
wearing a mask. To a degree she was already in a
hospital. He nodded, outwardly appearing to
accept the inevitable. “We’re going to be okay.”
She managed a smile. “You go have dinner.
Mom’s already . . . given me mine.”
“Okay. Do you want anything? Another audio
book or something?”
“No. I’ll have a nap . . . Then you can read to me
. . . or tell me some jokes.”
“Jokes? Now that could be interesting. Let me go
through my prolific selection, and just ring the
bell if you need anything.” A hand bell was set
up within easy reach for her.
Several hours later:
She was sound asleep. It was time.
Mulder carried one of the chairs from the dining
table set into the bedroom. He put the chair next
to the bed, its back up against a bookcase, on the
side that Scully was sleeping on.
He sat down. Hands resting on his knees, he
took a deep breath.
Please let this work, he thought, while another
part of him was internally raging, rebelling
against such a drastic step. The thought of
willingly allowing a deadly disease into himself
. . . . He did have a strong instinct for survival Ð
he’d had to, considering what he’d managed to
overcome over the years. However this was for
Scully. He would willingly take a bullet for her
in the line of duty. This was no different. He
remembered how close to the brink he had come
when he thought he would lose her to the cancer.
And there will be a way to get rid of this, he told
himself. There has to be, and I will find it. I’ve
done it before. There will be time.
But for now . . . .
More deep breaths. He concentrated on Scully,
the features he knew so well. Then he pictured
her illness as a dark cloud inside her, an invader
in her body.
For a little time, there was nothing. He
Suddenly he could feel it. Not see it, but his
mind brushed against something. The impression
of something strange, leaden, in Scully.
He concentrated more, visualizing his enemy,
and he felt himself mentally connect with it. He
You picked the wrong place to set up as a
squatter, buddy. Eviction time.
He pulled harder, his mind straining.
And to his astonishment, relief and fear, a black
cloud rose out of Scully’s sleeping form, to
hover just above her.
Am I imagining this? Sheer wishful thinking?
Mulder was so surprised and startled, that he
started to let go of his mental grip. The cloud
began to sink back into Scully, but he quickly
He could be imagining it, or have fallen asleep
and be dreaming Ð things certainly felt surreal at
the moment – but he had to assume he wasn’t.
Okay, I’ve lassoed the varmint, he couldn’t help
thinking to himself. Now I have to pull it away
He could feel the cloud was trying to go back
into Scully’s body. And Corin was right: no
amount of effort on Mulder’s part could make the
mass go anywhere else but into either himself or
Scully. He felt panic, then resignation. He kept
reeling the black haze in. His body could not
move while he was doing this. Somehow it was
Once he got the cloud over the halfway mark
between their bodies, the gravitational pull of his
own body took over, and suddenly the cloud
easily flowed into his torso with a speed that
took him by surprise.
Simultaneously his mind yelled both a
triumphant, hopeful ‘Yes!’ and a horrified,
helpless, ‘No!’ at what he had just done.
Mulder blinked. The cloud was gone. He could
see no trace of it, either in the air or on his own
skin. Perhaps he had imagined all this, and just
fallen asleep in the chair instead.
Scully kept sleeping. Mulder found he could
move again, and tried to work out if he felt any
different. Tired for sure, but that could be
explained away by all they’d been going through.
And he wasn’t sure how long it took for an
illness to assert itself in a new body after a trade.
Not too long at least, because Corin could
remember his mother falling . . . .
Mulder stood and gazed down at his partner. She
seemed to be sleeping more easily, breathing
Scully woke up, but didn’t open her eyes, just
drifting in contentment in the warmth of the bed.
Of course, it would be even nicer if Mulder was
there with her. She would just have to imagine
that he was Ð
Then she realized she wasn’t short of breath. In
fact, the fog of lethargy and illness that had been
weighing her down, getting worse and worse,
She felt healthy, alert and awake. And even,
thanks to her imaginings about Mulder,
definitely in the mood for some fun.
Scully opened her eyes and looked around. She
was in her bedroom, not a hospital. She still had
the cannula and the PICC line, so her illness
could not have been a nightmare she had just
woken up from. But what was going on? She
took a few experimental deep breaths. No
problem. She stretched her legs under the covers.
No aches, no strain. In fact, she sensed that if she
got up and went to the bathroom, heck, even for
a run, her legs would oblige her.
She cautiously sat up. No dizziness or
overwhelming tiredness hit her. She gingerly
removed the nasal cannula, with no ill effects.
She looked at the bedside clock. Her alarm was
due to go off in about ten more minutes. Mulder
should be up, getting ready. He was going to
come with her to the doctor’s appointment, then,
after the verdict, phone Skinner to tell him what
was happening and whether he would then be
coming in to work.
She couldn’t hear the shower running, or any
other noise. “Mulder?” Her voice was strong and
clear. No answer. “Mulder!”
Perhaps he had gone somewhere, or for a run.
But he wouldn’t have dared leave her alone. Not
when she was this sick.
Only she didn’t seem to be sick anymore.
“Mulder!” Scully wondered if she was having a
good hour or something, as impossible as it
seemed at this stage, and that everything would
come crashing back on her any minute. She
turned off the alarm, and slid her feet out of the
blankets and onto the floor. The PICC line was
still capped off, so she didn’t have to worry
about taking the IV stand along as she headed
towards the bedroom door.
But then there was movement, a shuffling noise,
and Mulder appeared in the doorway.
“Mulder, there you are! I’m Ð”
She stopped and blinked. The room was still
somewhat dim, so she wasn’t getting a clear look
at Mulder’s face, but she could hear that his
breathing was heavy and see that he was holding
onto the doorframe tightly. Had he gone for a run
As she turned on the bedside lamp, she asked,
“Mulder, are you all right?” at the same time as
the same question came from him. Only his
voice sounded very weak.
She blinked in the light and then finally got a
good look at him. He looked like hell. In fact, he
not only looked like, but sounded like . . . .
Herself, just yesterday.
“Mulder, what’s wrong?”
He ignored her question, but did not move
forward from his grip on the doorframe. “Are you
all right . . . Scully?” he repeated.
“I’m fine. Honestly, I feel fine. Like I’m not sick
anymore.” She saw him close his eyes, in
exhaustion and Ð
Then realization rooted her temporarily to the
spot. She had somehow been cured, but at a cost.
“Mulder, what did you do?”
“What makes you think . . . it was me? Your
chip probably came . . . to the fore again.” He
was getting breathless already, just saying those
“No. I know you’re lying. Not only that, but
you’re looking and sounding like I was.” Her
tone brooked no argument, and it also contained
traces of fear. She moved towards him, seeing
the effort it was taking for him to stay on his
feet, and then he stumbled forward. Between
them, they managed to get him to sit on the bed
without him falling along the way.
She reached for the nasal cannula, intending to
put it on him. “What have you done?” she asked.
“What I promised you I’d do.” He paused for
breath. “What you would . . . have done for me.”
“Whatever it took . . . . Mulder, you didn’t make
any deals, did you?”
“I swear to you, no deals were made . . . . I just
found a way to cure you . . . and against all
odds, it worked. I have to admit, I’m just as
surprised . . . as you are.”
She had finished positioning the cannula and he
took a few deep breaths as she was opening her
mouth to instruct him to do just that, quickly
getting some oxygen into himself. She stared at
him. “But you’ve got the illness. Somehow,
you’ve got it now.”
“Yeah. I think so . . . . Have to run tests for sure
“And that’s a cure? You having it instead of me?
Making me feel better in one way, but horrible in
another!” She was nearly yelling at him now,
even though she could see the pain and hurt in
Then a ghost of an ironic smile flitted across his
pale face. “You’re welcome.”
Trying to hold back her fear and questions,
Scully headed for the nearest phone.
END ACT TWO
Tests confirmed it. Scully miraculously no
longer had aplastic anemia. But Mulder was
suffering from it, severely enough to be
Scully sat by her partner’s side, in protective
gear, including a mask. Her PICC line had been
removed. She was an internal mess of emotions
at the moment. Anger at him for doing this
clashed with her gratitude and love, fear that she
was going to lose him was nearly smothering
her, and a burning desire for answers and for his
cure spearheaded through them all.
She felt awful pressing her partner with questions
while he was lying sick, oxygen mask firmly in
place, but this had to be done. For him. For
For what seemed to be the thousandth time, she
asked him, “How did you do it, Mulder?” When
he shook his head, she snapped, “I have the right
to know! Look, if you’ve found a way to swap
this illness from me to you, then surely there
must be a way to -”
“That’s not true. Otherwise you wouldn’t be
guarding the method so fiercely,” she pointed
“Maybe I want to patent it . . . and make a
fortune,” he shot back. “Scully, we still have
other options. The Gunmen are . . . looking into
“And hollow earth,” Mulder said, referring to a
race of highly evolved and enlightened
humanoids they had encountered twice two years
ago in a National Park in California. Those
beings, the Agarthans, lived deep underground,
and were able to easily heal Mulder’s injured leg
and a case of progressive amnesia that baffled
“Lathos said we wouldn’t be able to contact them
again for a while,” Scully pointed out. He was
the Agarthan who had taken them to his city.
“A while may be up. It was something . . . I was
considering when you were first diagnosed, but
at the time we thought . . . the other treatments
would work or a donor would be found. . . . .
Then by the time those things . . . didn’t pan
out, you were too sick . . . to make the trip.”
“And so are you.”
“Byers is willing to go to the campsite . . . and
see if Lathos turns up. Or you could go. Or who
knows Ð Cancerman might even . . . decide to
intervene with some of his . . . alien
Because he thought that Mulder was his son?
“You’re taking a hell of a gamble.”
“That’s me. And you’re worth it. I just couldn’t
stand to see you . . . in a hospital again, Scully.”
“I know. But here I am, in a hospital again, and I
can’t stand it, even though I’m not the one in the
bed.” Well, her heart was.
“There are also . . . experimental treatments.
Could try . . . one,” Mulder said. Scully and her
doctor had considered several of these, but ruled
them out for her on various reasons. But now
that the aplastic anemia was in Mulder, perhaps
those reasons no longer applied.
But he was deteriorating so quickly Ð there
probably wasn’t time to try.
Mulder must have done his best to cover his
tracks to the secret of the trade, but there had to
be some traces left, some clues. And she was an
experienced investigator too, with contacts of her
And even if she didn’t find out what he had
done, she might be able to find another way to
save him instead.
Several days later:
Scully stared despondently at the wall in
Mulder’s hospital room, unsuccessful thus far at
finding out the secret cure. Or ‘swap’.
The Gunmen and Chuck all swore that they had
no idea how Mulder had done it. And that they
weren’t lying to protect her.
She had considered going to see if she could
summon Lathos, but Mulder had come down
with a serious infection, and she was scared to
leave him for too long. Especially when she had
no idea how long it would take for Lathos to
appear, or one of the others, if at all. So Byers
was about to make the trip instead, fully briefed
by Scully on all they knew.
Skinner had also promised her he would do
anything he could to help.
“Mulder, there was still a chance that they would
find a donor who was compatible with me,”
Scully said to her partner.
“Well, they hadn’t . . . so far. Time was running
out . . . for you.”
“And now you’ve got an infection, a very serious
one, that there is a good chance I wouldn’t have
Time was running out quicker for Mulder. There
was no donor match for him so far, but even if
they did find a match, there was the danger that
he was already too weak and unstable to have a
transplant, or that it would most likely fail. It
was a rough procedure and even patients without
infections could have a bad reaction. Trying to
control the infection was the doctors’ priority at
Inwardly he was cursing the infection, while also
being glad that Scully had been spared it. But it
was stripping him of time he couldn’t afford to
lose and hadn’t counted on losing. As Deep
Throat had warned, he was a shark that was now
no longer swimming.
“And if you won’t tell me what you did, what
this cure is, then isn’t that preventing other
people from being able to use it too?” Scully
He didn’t answer.
Now Scully was the one sitting at a desk, poring
over all the things that Chuck said he had loaned
Mulder. Unless of course Mulder had removed
anything relevant Ð Chuck had such a large
collection that it was hard for him to keep up
After going through Mulder’s computer files
herself, she had given his computer to the
Gunmen with orders to see if there was any
deleted information they could retrieve that could
be of some help. Her computer. His office
computer. She was using another, borrowed,
laptop when needed.
The phone records from Mulder’s cellular,
Scully’s home phone and the office phone
yielded no clues. She even got her own cellular
records checked. The bastard had probably used a
payphone somewhere, if he had needed to contact
anyone about this. His credit card transactions
also gave no indications.
Amongst Mulder’s paperwork, there were a lot of
trails that led to dead ends, because her partner
had been chasing down so many paths in trying
to find a cure for her.
Scully believed that Mulder had kept records of
what he had done and placed them somewhere for
her to find, but not to come to light until there
was no longer any possibility of her reversing
whatever he had done. Because, like she had said
to him, otherwise he would be preventing other
people from being helped in the same way.
So she used her FBI credentials and her rights as
his Power of Attorney to do some digging. His
safety deposit boxes gave no answers, though she
did have searches ongoing just in case Mulder
had more out there she didn’t know about or
under a false name like George Hale. And she
had contacted his lawyers to see if they were
holding anything Ð she was waiting for the
Rhode Island lawyer to get back to her.
Scully sighed. She had the feeling that whatever
method Mulder had used, there had not been
much time in-between him discovering it and
then implementing it. So that meant not much
time to cover his tracks. She had hoped that in
his haste he would have forgotten something.
And it also meant that the answers were likely to
be somewhere in either their basement office or
her apartment. So far her searching had not led
anywhere Ð even in just those two places, there
was a lot of ground to cover and a lot of time
needed to do it thoroughly.
She checked her watch, intending to head back to
the hospital in another hour. Mulder’s infection
was getting worse, and his temperature was up.
Despondent, she swivelled in the desk chair,
looking around her living room, trying to work
out where to check next.
If she were Mulder, where would she have put
the answers? They would be in a place that he
knew she would eventually look, but in
something that she would be too distracted to be
using, or needing something from, at such a
hectic, frantic time.
A possible answer came to her with a jolt,
without her eyes even having to land on it first.
His photo album. He would have gambled that
scanning his baby pictures was hardly a priority
at the moment.
Scully hurried over to the shelf where the album
had been put for safekeeping. As she pulled it
out, it felt thicker than she remembered. Sure
enough, a paranormal magazine was tucked
inside the front cover, as well as various pages.
Heart thudding, Scully sat down to read their
Scully had finished reading the hidden secrets of
the album. This trading ability sounded
fantastical, but . . . it was also the only answer
that explained her recovery and Mulder’s
Potentially, it might be reversible. There were no
instances of anyone who had tried it, but that
could be because most of the cases sent to Corin
Harper involved a parent and child, with the
child unaware of what had happened until too
late. Or the disease was ‘generic’ enough for its
remission in one person and occurrence in the
other to be seen as just a horrible coincidence.
“A near death experience is the key . . . .” Scully
mused out loud. Her qualifying on that score was
not a problem. No wonder Mulder had been so
guarded about what he’d done.
She found herself wondering if she would also
get Mulder’s infection when she transferred the
aplastic anemia back. But that really didn’t
matter. She fingered one of the pages that had
been in the album: a handwritten letter from
Mulder to her, that he had expected her to read
after his death. It had brought her to tears, and to
even fiercer determination.
All of the emotions he felt for her, that made
him take this illness onto himself, she felt just
as strongly towards him. She couldn’t let him
It was time to take back what was hers.
Scully entered Mulder’s hospital room. It was
very late at night Ð luckily the medical staff were
all extremely well acquainted with this particular
Mulder was asleep, sedated. His fever was down,
but it was only a matter of time before it rose
again. The infection was gaining ground, despite
what they threw at it. IV antibiotic treatments
were buying some time and temporary respites,
but that was all.
Scully sat with him, waiting for the next nurse’s
check. Finally someone showed up and went
about their duties. After the nurse left, Scully
knew how long it would be until the next one,
how long she should have before she would be
She had to try this now. Hopefully he was
sedated enough, or at least deeply asleep enough
not to wake up and realize what she was doing.
But if this did work, what would be the affect on
the monitoring equipment? If it started going off
halfway through the trade . . . .
Scully considered whether to lock or bar the
door. But that gave rise to danger if something
went wrong and no one could get in. Perhaps she
should call one of the Gunmen to come and stay
at the door, but then she would have to wait for
another shift and there was no guarantee that he’d
be allowed into Mulder’s ICU room when there
was already one visitor.
She decided to try the trade now and looked
around. The curtains of all the windows were
closed, including the ones in the walls that ran
along the corridor. Good.
Quietly Scully stood up. She turned and moved
the recliner chair out of the way, then came back
to stand beside Mulder’s bed. She stared at him,
concentrating not on him, but on the illness,
picturing it as a black cloud in Mulder’s body.
She felt rather self-conscious and somewhat silly,
but forced those feelings aside. If this was what
it took, then so be it. Mentally she imagined
lifting the cloud up and out.
She tried again. Still nothing.
Scully felt panic creeping in. Had she been led
on a wild goose chase? Or was her own
skepticism getting in the way of this working?
There were more than enough brushes with death
on her record Ð including her own bout of this
aplastic anemia Ð to make this work.
She looked at Mulder’s pale, sleeping face, or
what she could see of it around and through the
oxygen mask, and her determination tripled.
And this time when she pictured the illness, the
invader in his body, she could *feel* her mind
brush against it. The heaviness and dread of it.
She took hold of it in her mind. Heat.
She swallowed and steeled herself. Remember
Scully pulled at it with all her willpower. She
felt it resist. The infection was well-settled and
spread and did not want to leave. But Scully
could be and was a most determined woman.
A dark cloud lifted out of Mulder and hovered
just above his body.
Scully sucked in a surprised breath through her
mask, and just like Mulder had, almost let go of
the cloud upon seeing it for real.
It *was* real.
But more importantly, this was working.
Scully tried to lean over, to get as close to the
cloud as possible. But it was like her body was
locked in position Ð already caught up in the
battle to prevent the cloud from going back into
her partner. So she tried to bring the cloud over
to her with her mind.
Slowly, ever so slowly, it began to move
Fear sent her heart racing even more. The notes
had been right; she couldn’t get the cloud to
move left or right, or away from them both. It
needed a body, and it was determined to have the
There was not much distance between her and
Mulder, relatively speaking, but it seemed like a
chasm. Scully’s head was aching, and the cloud
was halfway to her now. A little more and the
‘gravity of her orbit’ would pull it in.
A part of her realized that she was crying. In
resignation, relief . . . .
She felt the cloud coming Ð
“No!” came a hoarse, horrified voice from the
Mulder’s eyes were open, staring at the cloud, at
The black mass halted abruptly. Scully could feel
Mulder’s will come into play, as surely as if he
was grabbing hold of the cloud with a mental
“Scully!” His eyes were wide and wild, holding
off sleep and sedatives somehow. His face was
straining and his body was taut. She could tell
he was desperately trying to move, but like her,
his body was locked. Only their minds had any
sway in this battle.
And their minds were an even match. Scully
hoped that the sedatives and weakness would
have some effect on Mulder, allowing her to take
the cloud. Though now that the cloud was out of
his body, those things could well be too. The
darkness was suspended between them, straining
as they both exerted their wills on it.
A bizarre tug of war, with only one ‘winner’.
“Mulder, please!” She almost found herself about
to yell, ‘It’s mine!’ like a child in a playground.
But her desperate plea to him had just as much
emotion in it.
The cloud moved closer towards her.
“No!” Mulder concentrated, and the cloud halted,
like a dog reaching the end of its leash.
Stupid, stubborn man! And now that the illness
was out of him, he was making the most of his
renewed energy in trying to reclaim it.
She could feel him trying to pull it back.
And suddenly she realized that something was
happening to the cloud.
It was starting to churn. Flashes of electricity or
energy appeared and disappeared in it.
Her distraction allowed Mulder to move the
cloud closer towards him. Scully quickly
stopped that in its tracks.
Her head felt like it was going to split in two,
but she had to keep this up. She tried to tell
Mulder with her eyes to please let go, that she
couldn’t bear to see him go through this.
But his eyes were telling her exactly the same.
“Scully,” Mulder managed to get out, past his
straining and the oxygen mask. “See if we can
move it away. . . Both of us together . . . might
be able to . . .”
Two together might be able to do what one could
not. It was worth a try, though she was at a loss
as to how they were going to be able to get rid of
it. “Okay, to my left!” she ordered.
But although they concentrated fiercely, the
cloud would not bend to their wills in that way.
It was writhing in earnest now, little internal
lightning bolts darting across its surface and in
its murky depths.
Oh God, someone would surely notice this and
come in . . . .
“Mulder, please let me Ð”
She stopped her plea when she saw something
pass through Mulder’s eyes. She had seen that
look often enough Ð during the times he was
making one of those spooky leaps of logic.
“Keep it there! Keep it between us!” he cried out.
The cloud was roiling as if in a rage. The
lightning had increased.
Then suddenly there was a flash of light and a
bang. Something hit Scully with such force that
she was knocked off her feet. She found herself
lying against the wall, dazed.
Mulder. She scrambled up, having to fight
briefly with the recliner chair that was now lying
on its side. Her mask was dangling around her
neck, and the lights were blinking on and off but
so rapidly she could still see. Alarms were going
off on equipment. As soon as she stood up, she
He was still in the bed, but struggling into a
sitting position and pulling off the oxygen mask
and reaching out for her. If he wasn’t tethered by
the catheter and other tubes and leads, she knew
he would have been out of that bed like a shot.
Though a few of the leads and monitoring wires
were hanging off or askew. The protests coming
from the equipment seemed to be more from
whatever had just happened with the power and
Mulder losing some of the leads than him being
at death’s door.
She went to him. “Are you all right?” they asked
each other simultaneously. Scully didn’t even
notice the bedrails pressing against her as she
managed to embrace her partner. The lights
stopped blinking as they held each other.
Scully could hear that med staff were trying to
get in the door. The recliner chair was in the
way, jammed on an angle that was making
Her heart was pounding, and she could feel
Mulder’s was too. “Which one of us did it go
into?” she asked, looking up at him, more
worried about that than letting the med staff in,
for the moment. “I felt something hit me. It
must have been the cloud going back in.” She
felt sore, but that could have been from being
knocked down. And here was Mulder, holding
her tightly, with no sign of frailty or fever or the
need for oxygen.
But she didn’t feel sick either. Unless a trade
took several minutes at least to ‘settle’ into a
new body . . . .
“I felt something hit me too,” Mulder said, still
holding her. “But I think we’re okay. I’ll tell you
my theory in a minute, but first you’d better
open that door before they smash a window or
get a battering ram. Coming!” he called out,
reluctantly letting go of her.
END ACT THREE
A few days later:
“Capable Carpentry, Corin speaking.”
“Mr Harper, this is Agent Fox Mulder.”
“Hi! You’ve got good timing. I was going to
contact you today Ð I just received another letter
and was going to send you a copy.”
“That would be great, thank you. I might be able
to collect it in person if I can come and see you
sometime soon, because I’m actually phoning to
give you some news I’m sure will interest you
very much . . . .” And so Mulder started to
explain that his work as a paranormal
investigator hadn’t been the only reason he had
gone to see Corin in the first place.
The next day, Mulder and Scully were sitting in
Corin Harper’s living room.
“Our bloodwork is clear,” Scully told Corin.
“Neither of us have aplastic anemia anymore.
And Mulder’s infection has completely gone.”
The carpenter looked happy and amazed in equal
parts. Mulder had told him over the phone, but
actually seeing for himself was another thing
entirely. “And you think it was because you were
able to keep the cloud suspended between you?”
Mulder took up the explanation. “It all came
down to physics and our tug of war over the
cloud. It had converted into a mass of energy to
exit the body, and couldn’t remain in that state
indefinitely. It either had to be in a body, or it
had to discharge. And fortunately Scully and I
were able to keep it outside of its natural
environment for long enough that it was forced
to discharge. In a ‘normal’ trade, there is only
one person battling the mass and they only have
limited control over it, but for two people it is
possible to hold the cloud in place and force its
“Talk about a lucky metamorphosis!” Corin
“Very. Though it certainly took a lot of energy
and strain on our parts. From what we can tell, it
converted into a bit of a shockwave Ð flash of
light, a bang, a rush of air strong enough to
knock Scully back and pin me to the bed for a
moment. Fortunately no actual explosion to
speak of, no electric discharge, or not much of
one, otherwise the room probably would have
been incinerated or there could have been a nasty
reaction with the oxygen supply I was on at the
time. And even though we were both hit by the
‘wind’, the cloud was now in a different state and
harmless as was. So, no illness.”
“We beat the trade,” Scully said, still with some
disbelief amongst her relief. “We found a way.”
Yes, Mulder thought. Because we’re two people
who are so completely stubborn when it comes
to each other’s wellbeing. If this outcome hadn’t
happened, he could only imagine the two of
them continually trying to ‘steal back’ the illness
from each other, if possible, until the aplastic
anemia reached a point where it killed whichever
one of them it was in at the time. Other just as
awful scenarios also came to mind. He tried to
conceal a shudder of horror.
Corin was ecstatic. “What a loophole. I’ve got to
put this in my follow-up in the magazine! This
makes me determined to do one now, because
this is the ultimate case! Other people can be
saved.” Then his smile dimmed. “Though if only
I’d known this back when my mother saved me .
. . . She could still be alive today.”
“You were eleven years old and very sick,
Corin,” Scully pointed out gently. “You had no
way of knowing.”
He sighed and nodded, still looking regretful.
They sipped at their drinks. The agents were still
feeling sore from the bone marrow biopsies done
on them to make sure they were cured, but that
was nothing compared to what they had just been
through. And due to the bizarre nature of their
recoveries, the tests and results had been rushed
through a lot quicker than normal.
Corin had a thoughtful look on his face. “I have
a feeling that the two of you won’t be able to do
it again,” he remarked after a pause.
“I’m just glad it worked this time!” Mulder said
with feeling. “But what makes you think that? If
it was a case of ‘once swapped, no refunds’, then
Scully wouldn’t have been able to pull the cloud
back out of me.”
Corin elaborated. “Mulder, you told me a bit
about some of your near death-experiences.”
The agent nodded. When Mulder had phoned
Corin with the good news, the carpenter had
wanted more information about their own close
calls, to see if it all matched in with the ‘rules’
as he knew them so far about the trade. Corin
had provided them with so much help and
information that it was only fair they did the
same for him.
“You said that in one of your near-death
experiences, you could remember something
about being on a bridge that spanned two worlds
Ð which would be the real world and the spiritual
world. Those that have had near-death
experiences probably retain some residual access
to that bridge, that connection, even
subconsciously, to be able to do the trade. But
due to what transpired, I think you may have
sealed that connection off. For now, anyway. I
guess we’ll have to see, as it is a rather unique
“Yes, we specialize in those,” Scully said with a
Mulder laughed, then said, “Corin, please keep
us updated about any other instances you find of
“I’ll be glad to.”
Eventually it was time to go. Mulder shook
Corin’s hand. “Thanks to your letter, you saved
“My mother deserves the credit,” came the
wistful reply. “Now, before you go, come out the
When they entered Corin’s workshop, Mulder
was pulled away from admiring the objects and
items by Corin saying, “Agent Scully phoned
yesterday, without you knowing. She had a
request for me, one that I was happy to fulfil.
Something she wanted to get for you.”
He led them to the back of the workshop,
laughing at the quizzical look that Mulder gave
Scully. She just smiled mysteriously in
“What do you think?”
Mulder stared. Corin was pointing at a beautiful
wood cabinet, one that was holding an empty
forty gallon fishtank. The tank fitted perfectly,
and the cabinet was designed with room for the
tubes and wires, plus storage space underneath
for all the necessary paraphernalia and more.
“Hand rubbed walnut,” Corin supplied with
“And hand carved,” Scully said, admiring the
intricate borders and patterns.
“You couldn’t have gotten this ready so
quickly,” Mulder said, a little stunned.
Corin answered, “I didn’t. It was one of several
I’d already made. And this one matches the type
and measurements that Agent Scully wanted.”
“Better than I ever imagined. If you want it,
Mulder, we can get it delivered to my
Mulder said honestly, “I love it. It makes metal
stands seem obsolete. But where are we going to
put it in your apartment while I’m looking for
“We’ll find room. I wanted to get you some fish,
and it will be nice to have them around.
Especially in this marine Hilton!”
Mulder laughed and nodded. “Thanks, Corin.
You’ve made a sale. And when I’m looking for
other furniture, I know where to call.”
Scully insisted on buying the cabinet for Mulder
as a gift. They decided to get a tank in D.C.,
then made delivery arrangements with Corin, and
As they pulled away from his house, Scully said
to her partner, “Let’s go back to D.C. and pick
out some fish and a tank with all the
“After we go back to your apartment and I show
you my gratitude,” he said with a smouldering
“Deal. And from now on, the only trades we’re
doing involve matters like housework or food.”
“Agreed.” He also knew that he wouldn’t be
looking up what apartments were available for
rent, not just yet anyway.
MEDICAL NOTES: A lot of the medical
information on aplastic anemia I got from the
MEdIC Aplastic Anemia Answer book on the
internet, and from friends with medical
backgrounds. Beta opinion varied on medical
aspects like the lengths of treatment times, speed
of scheduling for tests and when results would be
available, etc, so I have gone with the times and
scenarios that best serve the plot. Any mistakes
are my own.
AUTHOR’S NOTES: The idea for this story has
been bubbling in my head for years, originally
conceived for a planned fourth season alternate
universe fic as a way that Mulder cures Scully of
her cancer. Influence probably came from a fanfic
I remember reading in around 1996, which I
think was called “Driver”, where Scully becomes
blind. With the help of a woman’s mysterious
powers, Mulder takes her blindness instead.
And the show itself has done some episodes
along similar themes, like ‘Tithonus’ and a
season eight episode, the name of which escapes
me. So it was fun to try to find another angle.