The Trade

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TITLE: “The Trade”

INFO: Written for The X-Files Virtual Season 11

(Episode number 16)

AUTHOR: Ten

EMAIL: kristena@ocean.com.au

RATING: PG-13

CLASSIFICATION: X-File, Angst, ST, MT,

MSR

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

Bickerstaffe’s “Hollow Earth” and my “Layers“.

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:

http://www.virtualseasonx.com/

My website for all my X-Files fanfiction, thanks

to the

wonderful Skyfox, is at:

http://ten.bitter-moon.com/ten/xf/

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

production team!

FEEDBACK: Yes, please!

“The Trade”

by Ten, January and February 2004

xXx

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TEASER:

Scully’s apartment:

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

dump.”

“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

there regularly.”

“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

right.

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

the Gunmen’s.

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

basement office.

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

her.

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

appointment.

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.

xXx

ACT ONE:

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

they could.

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

blood sample.

“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

the results.

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

something minor.

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

interrupted him.

“But if they don’t, then is it fatal?”

“Yes, eventually.”

Mulder felt like he’d been kicked. Scully was

remaining very quiet, nodding slightly at what

the doctor said. Her outward composure was

legendary.

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

aplastic anemia?”

Doctor Gavins said, “There are a number of

known causes. It has been clearly linked to

radiation Д

Mulder went very still. Scully had been exposed

to radiation during her abduction and in

treatment for her cancer.

“Environmental toxins Д 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.

xXx

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

anemia.

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.

xXx

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

published.”

He managed to smile at her spirit and

determination, but wondered how much longer

he’d be able to if things got worse.

xXx

That night:

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

case.

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

session.

xXx

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

journals.”

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

angle.”

“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

waiter.

“Want me to wear a bow tie?”

“That all depends on where . . . .”

xXx

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

would burst.

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.

xXx

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

occurring.

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

this illness.”

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

along.

“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

sincerely.

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,

Rhett.”

“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

the moment.

END ACT ONE:

xXx

ACT TWO:

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.

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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

contact him.

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

responses were.

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

suffering.

xXx

FBI Building

X-Files Office:

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.

xXx

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

from Scully.

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

the furnishings.

“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

food?”

“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

partner.

“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

through.

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

start?”

“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 Д

“A blackness?”

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

anything but.”

“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

returned.”

“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

died.”

“Most?”

“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

necessary.”

“Do you know if anything like that happened to

your mother?”

“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

make out.”

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

had learned.

Near death experiences and brushes with death.

He’d certainly had those.

But so had Scully.

xXx

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

back?”

“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

occur.”

“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

to 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

the cost.”

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

combos.”

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.

xXx

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.

xXx

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

concentrated harder.

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

‘pulled’.

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.

clip_image004

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

halted it.

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

from her.

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

immobile.

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.

clip_image005

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

more deeply.

xXx

Next morning:

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,

was gone.

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 Д

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

after all?

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

Relief?

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

few sentences.

“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

though.”

“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

his eyes.

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

xXx

ACT THREE:

Tests confirmed it. Scully miraculously no

longer had aplastic anemia. But Mulder was

suffering from it, severely enough to be

hospitalized.

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

them.

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 -”

“No. Irreversible.”

“That’s not true. Otherwise you wouldn’t be

guarding the method so fiercely,” she pointed

out.

“Maybe I want to patent it . . . and make a

fortune,” he shot back. “Scully, we still have

other options. The Gunmen are . . . looking into

them.”

“Healing aliens?”

“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

human doctors.

“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

technology.”

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

own.

And even if she didn’t find out what he had

done, she might be able to find another way to

save him instead.

xXx

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

even gotten.”

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

the moment.

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

asked.

He didn’t answer.

xXx

Scully’s apartment:

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

with it.

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

contents.

xXx

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

condition.

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

die.

It was time to take back what was hers.

xXx

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

FBI couple.

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

disturbed.

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.

Damn!

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.

Nothing.

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.

Malevolence. Hunger.

She swallowed and steeled herself. Remember

me?

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

towards her.

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

nearest one.

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

bed.

Mulder’s eyes were open, staring at the cloud, at

her.

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

hand.

“Mulder, don’t!”

“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 Д

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

saw Mulder.

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

things difficult.

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

xXx

ACT FOUR:

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.

xXx

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

hand.”

“Talk about a lucky metamorphosis!” Corin

commented.

“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

case.”

“Yes, we specialize in those,” Scully said with a

grin.

Mulder laughed, then said, “Corin, please keep

us updated about any other instances you find of

this phenomenon.”

“I’ll be glad to.”

Eventually it was time to go. Mulder shook

Corin’s hand. “Thanks to your letter, you saved

us both.”

“My mother deserves the credit,” came the

wistful reply. “Now, before you go, come out the

back.”

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

response.

“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

pride.

“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

apartment.”

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

another place?”

“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.”

“Excellent!”

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

said goodbye.

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

trimmings.”

“After we go back to your apartment and I show

you my gratitude,” he said with a smouldering

look.

“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.

THE END.

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.

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