Disclaimers: See Sec.1

References: Tooms, Little Green Men, Max, S.R. 819, Goblins (X Files novel), Ascension.
All others cover multiple episodes.

Oracle, pt. 3

Nothing. The link, whatever it was, was gone. No visions, no predictions, no idea where to
go, what to do. Nothing but a mutilated body still partly encased in cement and a partner I
had no idea how to comfort. I walked behind her and put my hand on her shoulder. Her breath
hissed, but she didn't move, didn't look up. I could feel her shoulders shaking, but couldn't
hear the sobs through the roaring in my ears. Impulsively, quickly, I fell to my knees and put
my arms around her. She turned her head and sobbed loudly into my coat. I just held her.
Anyone would have done, right then. Just having someone there, anyone there... My mind
emptied, my soul emptied. I had failed. For the first time, when it really mattered, when a
man's life was at stake... I promised her... I promised. And it didn't make a damn bit of
difference. I felt Oracle in the doorway, but I didn't move. I couldn't. She came up and put
her slight, thin arms around us both, resting her chin lightly on my shoulder. The shadows
flickered from the dying bulb. They were the only things in the room that moved.

Scully was the first one to move. "We need to get a team in here. I want to be sure," she
said, wiping the tears away with her hand.

"Okay," I said.

Of course. Science. Have to be sure. But I was already sure. Oracle released us and curled
her knees up under her chin.

"I'll go out and call," I said.

"They're still here," Oracle said. I wasn't sure she had spoken, it sounded more like a voice
from a memory than an actual person.

"Their pain. It's still here, after all this time," Scully said. It was neither a statement
nor a question.

"Not so long ago," Oracle said. She got to her feet and glided out the door. We followed.
She made no sound, her figure flashing with every flicker of the overhead lights and then all
but disappearing into the gloom as she moved down the hall.

A faint smell permeated the air, and got stronger as we approached the doorway where Oracle was
standing. I looked in. All I saw were bodies. Dozens and dozens of bodies, badly charred,
stacked on top of each other, pressed against the doorframe as they clawed over each other to
get out. Light, screams, shots, yelling, the flames rising higher, the smoke getting thicker,
nothing but dust and darkness and words... She gently ran a finger over the arm of what must
have been a child, which promptly disintegrated into dust.

"I'm all they have now," she said.

The forensic team was very prompt. They finished digging out the body, collecting what little
trace evidence there was. Kersh called, they must have notified him, something about us
disturbing a crime scene, I don't know, I hung up. We had them ship Mulder's body to D.C.,
where the body would be autopsied. They chatted with us, with each other, giving useless
information, commentary, even joking, implying that we were incompetent. Yet even the almighty
forensics team was stunned into silence when they saw the other room. Oracle was right, they
were still here, and even individuals as jaded as they were could feel it. Scully was still in
shock, but she managed to answer questions when the investigating agents showed up. When they
asked about the charred bodies, she just handed them a stack of crushed papers of all different
sizes from inside her coat. There were names written on them, in tiny, precise handwriting; a
laundry list of the dead. Oracle was seated on a piece of debris. She had vomited; the smell
was still on her, but she didn't seem to mind. I felt like taking charge, attacking the team,
letting it all out, but I couldn't seem to find the energy. I think one of the agents drove us
home; I don't remember. My stomach was empty, the room next door was silent, and my sleep was
dreamless. I didn't know to be grateful.

We flew back the next day. No one spoke. Scully handed me the old photograph and pointed to
the girl in the middle. I knew I should have been surprised, but somehow I wasn't. I handed
the picture back to Oracle, who placed it lovingly inside her bag where it wouldn't get crushed.

Skinner had already been brought up to speed. He offered to keep Oracle safe while we went
home to rest.

"With all due respect, sir, I'm here to perform the autopsy on Agent Mulder," Agent Scully said.

"Scully," he started.
"Please sir. I wouldn't feel right if anyone else did it. I at least owe him that."

Skinner wanted to protest, but he just nodded. "I'll keep the body until tomorrow..."

"Now," she replied.

"Agent..."

"Now."

"Agent Doggett?"

"I'll stay," I said.

Scully was very professional, very thorough. The "man in question" had been in some sort of
confrontation with an individual with a knife. His right arm had been restrained, and he was
stabbed several times in the face, chest, and arms before finally dying from a single gunshot
wound to the chest at point blank range. Scully also took a tissue sample for DNA testing. I
stood silently against the wall, taking pictures when instructed.

"See that the film gets developed," was all she said to me as she took off the rubber gloves
and went into the prep room to take off the scrubs. I dropped off the film at developing and
went home.

I called Scully later on that night to check up on her. She was subdued, but insisted that she
was "fine" and just needed some time to herself, but "not to worry". I went to bed, hoping I
didn't dream again. I should have been so lucky.

It was dark. They had moved me from the large room the first day I was there and every day
after that it was dark. I could hear Krychek straining and grunting next to me. My torso felt
as though it had been completely hollowed out. My face was burning. I heard something that
sounded like a zipper being fed through a paper shredder. Then Krychek let out a bark of
laughter. Then he started cackling, excitedly and wickedly. I then heard shuffling, various
bangs and thumps and the sound of fabric sliding over metal. The racket intensified, then
stopped. I could hear Krychek laughing softly to himself. Then I felt an impact and the
pressure of weight on my table and he whispered in my ear.

"Goodbye, Mulder. I hope that deal was worth the paper you signed it on."

"Krychek," I rasped. The weight on the table lifted, and the air was silent. "Krychek, don't
you leave me here," I tried to yell, but it barely came out as a whisper.

I heard a door open and shut. I strained against my bonds. The straps dug into my already
mutilated flesh, reopening the wounds and causing them to bleed, but beyond that it did nothing.
I tried to struggle, to strain, but my body wouldn't respond. It was like it had given up,
just to spite my mind. Then an ear piercing noise echoed through the hallways. I smirked to
myself. So, the rat bastard tripped the alarm. So much for being big and bad. There were
footsteps, yelling and shouting. I could see the outline of the door out of the corner of my
eye. Light, emergency lights, maybe? Then the door opened, blinding me. The figure burst
forward and started to loosen the straps around my arms and legs.

"Fuck it," Krychek said. I stared at him. "I've got no love for you, Mulder, but it doesn't
seem right to let you burn to death," he continued. I got to my feet shakily, holding my
stomach. "I know the way out. Keep up or you're on your own," he said, darting for the door.

I lurched forward. The ground was swaying under me. I saw the flames down at the end of the
hall, heard screams. "What about them?" I said, diving for Krychek's arm.

"It's too late for them," he said, pulling forward and almost spilling me to the ground. I
clung tenaciously to his arm. "They're at ground zero. You get that? They wanted them dead.
They'll only die from the burns anyway if you waste time on them," he said, pulling free from
my grip.

I took a quick look back and stumbled after him, trying to avoid the debris and items from
different rooms that was now littering the halls. We were almost to the guard station when a
man yelled, "Freeze!"

Krychek pushed himself harder, burst through the door and dove behind the counter for cover as
the man fired. The bullet grazed my side. I tripped and fell head over heels to the ground.
I saw Krychek come out from behind the counter and flee up the stairs. I turned over and tried
to sit only to find the barrel of a gun pointed in my face.

Doggett looked like hell when he came into work the next morning. I was in our office,
sipping slowly from a cup of coffee.

"Any results?" he asked, seating himself on the edge of the desk next to me.

"No," I said, taking another sip.

"Shouldn't you give yourself some time?" he asked.

"I'm not taking any time until I'm sure. We don't know that it was his body. It could have
been any number of people, someone else on Oracle's list. We've been fooled before. I..."
That hollow feeling could be due to something else. Not getting enough food for example. We
don't know that it's him, for sure. We don't know for sure there isn't a Santa Claus,
either... "I just want to be sure that it's him," I said, feeling the tears come.

Doggett put an arm across my shoulders. I wanted to be comforted, but at the same time I was
embarrassed, embarrassed to seem weak in front of Doggett. Just then the phone rang. Doggett
answered it.

"This is Agent Doggett. What? Yes, sir, we'll be down there right away." He hung up, and I
looked at him questioningly. "That was AD Skinner. Someone just fired multiple rounds through
his window with a semi automatic."

"Are they all right?"

"I don't know. We'd better get down there."

Skinner's apartment building was completely cordoned off. There was already a crowd of
onlookers, police, detectives, agents, and news media when we arrived. We flashed our badges
and got in. The entire apartment was filled to the brim with law enforcement. Oracle's arm
was being bandaged by a paramedic, and Skinner was holding a bag of ice to his forehead.

"What happened, sir?" I asked. He waved his hand, indicating the sliding glass door on the
balcony.

"We were watching TV. We hit a commercial, and I got up to use the bathroom while Oracle made
some popcorn. I was almost to the hall when she yelled something and tackled me. As soon as I
hit the floor, the shots started."

"How many rounds?" Doggett asked. Skinner shrugged.

"72," Oracle piped up.

"Must have come from across the street," Doggett continued, examining the glass from the door.

The paramedic finished and stood up. I came over and crouched beside Oracle.

"It was the same one who tried to kill you, Scully," she said.

"Are you sure?"

"I felt him, just as I stood up. I caught a glimpse of myself through his eyes. That's when I
yelled, "Hit the deck" and tackled Skinner. Then the guy started shooting."

"Is your arm all right?"

"Just grazed. Skinner had it worse, he banged his head on some sort of metal art thing in the
hall. He's going through an awful lot of trouble to make sure that we're all dead," she said.

"You think he was the one who set the fire?"

"Who else? He must have had helpers within the project to round everyone up, but he either
couldn't get to me or decided to save me for himself."

"But why? You said he was one of you."

"Well, if we're all dead, then there is no one who has the power to stop him from doing
whatever he has planned." She shook her head. "How could he have become so broken? I mean,
my God, we were the only family we had," she said.

"Agent Scully," Doggett said, motioning me over. I gave her arm a quick squeeze before joining
him. "Judging from the angle of the glass, the shots must have been fired from the roof of
that building over there," he said, pointing to a building across the way and slightly to our
right.

"Should we go check it out?" one of the detectives asked.

"Yeah," Doggett said. I suddenly got the hint of an idea.

"Why don't you stay here with them? I'm going to go consult with a few of Mulder's friends.
See if they can shed any light on this."

"I overheard you talking with her. If it is the same guy, then neither one of you is safe
going anywhere alone."

"I'm armed," I protested.

"So was Skinner."

"All right," I said, throwing my hands up. "I'll have them come to us," I added, stepping out
into the hallway and placing the call on my cell phone.

We checked into a hotel down the street and waited. Byers, Frohike and Langly materialized
right on schedule.

"We heard about the circus. What happened?" Langly said, as Frohike pulled the drapes closed.

"Fan letter. We have a lot of admirers," Skinner said wryly.

"I hear you," Frohike said.

"What do you know about the government kidnapping psychics?" I asked them.

"Project Clear Horizon," Langly said.

"They've been kidnapping psychics ever since the crash at Roswell. Rumor has it they were
using them to monitor alien activities, spy on foreign governments..." Byers began.

"Create the perfect soldier, protect them from alien abduction, or just to keep them from
selling national security secrets," Frohike continued.

"It was the basis for all their work in genetics," Langly interjected.

"And probably led to the creation of the first alien human hybrid," Byers finished.

I glanced at Oracle for confirmation. "They're pretty with it. I'm impressed," she said.

"Your new insider, Agent Scully?" Langly asked jokingly.

"She's one of the psychics with the project you just described," I said slowly, holding my
breath for the explosion of excitement I felt sure would follow that statement. I wasn't
disappointed.

"Whoa," Frohike said.

"I didn't think they were still collecting," Langly said.

"They aren't anymore," Oracle said softly. That sliced right through their jovial mood.

"We found the warehouse where the project was located last week," Doggett said.

"The bodies the FBI recovered," Byers said. Doggett nodded. They kept very quiet.

"Sorry, kid," Frohike said.

"Thanks," Oracle said.

"But there was at least one other that got away," I said, breaking the silence.

"Who?" Langly asked.

"That's what we need your help to find out. This man, whoever he is, has attacked myself on
one occasion and caused the shooting in Skinner's apartment today. We believe he was
responsible for the deaths of the other psychics of Project Clear Horizon, and that he is
trying to complete his work."

"Do you have a list? Someplace we can start?" Byers asked.

"I had a list. I gave it to the FBI in New Mexico to match up with victims," I said
apologetically.

"The doctors kept files on everyone. I didn't see them at the facility, but I know they must
have backups somewhere," Oracle said.

"So we're looking for a male. Anything else? Age, height?" Frohike asked.

"He must have been relatively young. He seemed pretty strong when he held that pillow over my
face," I said.

"Physical appearance has nothing to do with age when it comes to us," Oracle said.

"This is going to be fun," Langly said sarcastically.

"Could we at least get your name, so we can eliminate you from the list?" Byers said.

"Oracle. Sorry, I don't know my birth name." They fell silent again.

"THE Oracle?" Langly said.

"You've heard of her?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah. A couple found a 3 year old kid by the side of the road in 1954. She stayed with
them for two months, and word got around that she was some kind of holy woman. People of all
religions drove hundreds of miles just to get healed by her or ask a question, and she never
disappointed them. After that, she just disappeared," Byers said.

"The first time I escaped. I managed to take the mind of a guard while I was being transported
and forced him to let me go. After the story hit the press, it didn't take them long to find
me. They caught me asleep, injected me with drugs, and took me back to the warehouse. They
kept me isolated and drugged after that. It inhibited my powers enough to where I couldn't
take minds or root through them and get the code," Oracle said.

"One mystery solved," Frohike said.

"I wish you wouldn't print that. This might be my last chance at a real life. I don't want
anything to spoil it," Oracle said.

"We won't," Byers said reassuringly. There was another pause. "Well, I guess we'll get
started," Byers said, heading towards the door.

"Hang in there," Frohike said.

"If anybody wants Mexican food, I know this great place. Call me later on if you want the
address," Langly said, following the other two out and shutting the door.

"They're funny. Maybe I should go work for them after this blows over," Oracle said.

"Forget it," Doggett said.

My cell phone rang. "Scully."

"Agent Scully? The DNA results you ordered are in."

"And?"

"We're not allowed to give the results over the phone."

"Thank you. I'll be right there," I said, hanging up. "The results came in," I announced.

"I'm coming with you," Doggett said.

"I'm going too," Oracle said, standing up.

"No, you're not," Skinner, Doggett, and I said at once.

"If you are this man's target, it's safer if you stay here. We'll be back soon," I said, with
a nod at Skinner.

I felt a lead weight in my stomach all the way down to FBI headquarters. I knew what the
results were going to say, but I kept hoping that they would say just the opposite. The agent
at the lab handed me the results, and I quickly thumbed through them.

"It's him," I said. Irrefutable, scientific proof that my partner, my best friend, the man I
spent seven years with in a quest for the truth, was undeniably dead. "Did you double check
the results?" I asked.

"Just like you told us," the technician said. "I'm really sorry, Agent Scully," he said,
before moving off back to his work.

I couldn't cry. All my tears had been shed when I found that body. The lab report was just a
confirmation of something that I already in my deepest of hearts had known.

"I'm sorry, Agent Scully. I'm sorry I failed you," Doggett said.

"You didn't fail. You did everything you could. It just... wasn't meant to be," I said.

He nodded, but I could still see the responsibility weighing him down. "Let me drive you home.
I'll call Skinner and let him know what happened," Doggett said.

I nodded, and we stepped out into the hall.

Skinner insisted I stay with Scully. I didn't want to leave them unprotected, but Skinner
said he had already called for some agents to stand guard outside the door. Scully was
unusually quiet. I expected more of a reaction from her, and it was making me nervous.

"Should I call Langly about that Mexican food?" I asked her. She shrugged, taking off her
shoes. "If you want to talk..." I said.

"I knew what the results were going to be before I walked into that room. It was just a
formality. I've already shed my tears for Mulder. We have a case to work." Her blue,
determined eyes met mine. You're stronger than I am...

"Skinner ordered you to take some time. One night won't hurt. He has two extra agents helping
guard, and Oracle takes the well being of everyone around her very seriously. I'm sure they'll
be all right," I said.

"All right. Mexican food sounds good."

I called Langly. He sounded thrilled to death to hear from us. I got in depth information on
where the restaurant was, what dishes were the best, when all the cute waitresses worked,
and... "if you drink three tazo grande margaritas and can still walk out, your next meal is
free," he finished.

"Thanks for the information," I said, trying to keep a straight face.

"No problemo. Have fun," he said as he hung up.

I could still feel the grin twitching at the corners of my mouth. "I got the address," I said.

"Let's go," she responded.

Calling the place a dive was being polite. The cracked walls were orange, the wooden tables
and booths were painted a bright yellow that was peeling in places, and the tile was red in a
past life but had over the years worn to a dark black. However, the servers were very
friendly, and the aroma coming from the kitchen was delicious. Scully and I seated ourselves,
took a menu, decided on an item, and I went up to the counter to order. I received a large
stuffed burro and was told that the server would be right out with my food.

I placed the burro on the edge of our table and sat down. I could barely see the top of
Scully's head over it. I crouched down so I could see her below its belly, and at the same
time Scully craned her head so she could see over it. The situation was so ridiculous that we
both started laughing. Scully grabbed the burro and put it in her lap. I tried to start a
conversation with her, but every time I opened my mouth we both started laughing again. The
server showed up a few minutes later with our food.

"Making friends with the burro, eh?" he said as he took the stuffed animal from Scully.

"Just keeping him safe," she responded.

"I appreciate that," he said with a smile as he walked away.

The combination plate was excellent, and Scully's baja tacos didn't look that bad either.

"I wish Langly had told us about this place sooner. Mulder would have loved it," she said.

"What would he have liked? The food? The d├ęcor? The friendly service?"

"All of that, AND the opportunity to rib me about my height? How could he resist?" she said
with a smile. I nodded and took another bite of my food. "What was your life like?" she asked
suddenly. "I mean, before you joined the X Files."

I told her all about my life as an enlisted Marine and about my time with NYPD, talking about
cases, coworkers, bosses: anything I thought was relevant or interesting. I also briefly
mentioned the hardest case I had ever worked: the kidnapping and murder of my son. She asked
numerous questions, and told me about her life as a Navy brat, her time in medical school and
as an instructor at Quantico. She gave me a brief overview of her time on the X Files, but I
could see it was still too painful to talk about in any real depth. After we were finished, we
sat in silence.

"We've been here talking two and a half hours," I said, looking at my watch.

"Is that a problem?" she asked.

"No, I was just surprised. We haven't talked for more than two and a half minutes at a time
since we've been working together."

"Maybe its just time that we got some things out on the table," she said.

There was a cheer from the other end of the restaurant, and one of the servers started ringing
a cowbell. "What was that all about?" Scully asked.

"He must have made the limit," I said.

"What?" I told her what Langly had said about the three margaritas. She let out a laugh. "Is
that why you looked so amused when you hung up the phone?" she said.

I watched the man, supported by his girlfriend, leave the restaurant, surrounded by his adoring
buddies. "Would Mulder have tried that?" I asked her.

"In a heartbeat," she said.

I nodded and stood up. "I guess it's time to head back."

Scully stood up, and I let her lead the way out the door.

"Have a good night, guardaburros," our server called.

"You too," Scully and I called back at the same time.

Scully provided me with a blanket and pillow, and then she went into her bedroom and closed the
door. I hoped that Scully was in as good a mood as she seemed to be. I knew it would come
back to haunt her tomorrow when she had go back to work and make the preparations for Mulder's
burial. I prayed that I wouldn't have another dream. What she needed was a good night's
sleep.

Too late, I realized as I was falling asleep that I was going to continue the dream. A man I
didn't know was shoving a gun into my face I was shoving my gun into Mulder's face.

"I got him!" he yelled (I yelled).

"Good work Agent Doggett," Smoking Man said (Agent Spender said). "You've saved the world from
a dangerous murderer," he continued.

"You bastard! He's lying! He's kept me locked up here! He killed those people!" I yelled
(Mulder yelled).

He blinked. He lowered his gun just a bit (He seemed so sincere, could he be telling the
truth?)

"Finish him off, and get the rest of the doctors out," Smoking man said (Agent Spender said).

"What? I was told I was here to apprehend a murderer, not to kill him," Agent Doggett said
(I said.)

"You misunderstood. You weren't brought here to prevent a murder," Smoking man said (Agent
Spender said).

Smoking man pulled a gun out of his coat and shot him (he shot me)! He fell to the ground (I
fell), and I tried to stop the bleeding (Mulder placed his hands over the wound), when Smoking
Man bashed me over the head and everything went dark (Agent Spender cold cocked Mulder with the
butt of his pistol, and he fell off to the side. Agent Spender kicked me in the jaw, picked
up a piece of glass, and stabbed me over and over. I put up my hands to protect myself, tried
to fight away, to grab the gun, but it was hard to move, everything was so fuzzy, so dark...)
I woke up strapped to a table. Agent Doggett's broken body was next to me. I winced.

"Don't feel too guilty about him, Agent Mulder," Smoking Man said, as one of the doctors
poured drops into my eyes. "He just saved your life."

I woke up in a cold sweat. I grabbed my shoes, pulled them on, grabbed my coat, and went out
the door. What is happening to me? I can't be... He can't be... I drove my car as fast as I
could to the hotel. Why wouldn't I remember? I was there... Why wouldn't I remember being
there? What else have I forgotten? I took the elevator up to the room and banged on the door.
An agent I didn't know opened the door, and I shoved my ID in his face.

"Agent John Doggett. I need to talk to Oracle right now."

"But..."

"Right now!"

"Agent Doggett? What's going on?" Skinner came over to me cautiously.

"Something happened... Please, I just need to see her," I said.

"It's fine," Oracle said.

"Could we have some privacy, please?" I asked. The two agents left, with Skinner after them,
looking at me curiously. "I..." I started.

"I know. You don't have to say anything," she said, sitting on the edge of the bed.

I collapsed in a chair. "What's wrong with me?" I asked.

"Not a thing."

"Why didn't I remember being there until now?"

"They made you forget."

"That's not possible."

"It's happened to Agent Mulder before. They're light years ahead of the general market in
plastic surgery. Believe me, it's possible."

"When were you going to tell me?"

"I didn't know for sure until you came in here just now with your thoughts screaming it. Your
aura felt strange to me when we first met, but I couldn't tell why."

I paused, and looked down at my shoes, my wrinkled pants, my barely buttoned shirt. "Who am
I?" I asked.

"Right now? You're Agent Doggett, with a few stray memories of Agent Mulder's. Who you'll be
tomorrow is anybody's guess."

"I mean, is it true? Is that who I was before? Is that where these memories are coming from?"

"Yes."

I nodded. "If that's true, why don't I remember anything else about Agent Mulder? And why do
I remember everything about being John Doggett?"

"Some of the doctors called it an etch and sketch. They take what's written, wipe it off, and
put something new over it. The pieces are still there, you just have to reconnect them.
Sometimes it can take days, sometimes it can take years, and sometimes it doesn't come back at
all."

"Can't you put me under? Force it out?"

"With your track record? Ten minutes under, and six hours to recuperate? You won't get back
all your memories before you're dead." I laughed bitterly. "The best thing to do is just keep
an open mind. Keep an eye out for things that look familiar, things that Scully says, anything
that jogs a memory. The important thing is to be aware. Your memories seem very determined to
come out. Don't force, and the memories should come to you," she said.

"And if they don't?"

"If they don't, at least you aren't any worse off than you are now. And you're keeping an eye
on Agent Scully, which is what Mulder would have wanted. I think that's why they put you in
the position that they did. A last joke on Mulder." She paused, and said, "I'll work with you
if you like. See if I can find any promising fragments for you to puzzle out yourself. It
will take time, though."

"Thank you," I said, forcing myself to stand up.

"Hang in there," she called as I went out the door. The two agents pushed past me and went
into the room.

"What was that all about, Agent Doggett?" Skinner asked.

"Bad dream. I just wanted to confirm that it didn't mean anything more than what I originally
thought," I said.

"Take a day off, Agent Doggett. I'll help Agent Scully out tomorrow," he said, entering the
room and closing the door.

I smirked to myself as I went to the elevator. Agent Spooky Mulder, huh? If word of that gets
out, I'll never live it down. I just hope he's not as much of a paranoid delusional as I think
he is. I pushed the button and sighed. I just hope he's as capable as Scully thinks he is,
because I know that I can't handle this.

I heard Doggett coming up the stairs. I pulled on my bathrobe and flung open the door.
Doggett stopped and gaped. I realized that my robe was open a bit more than was proper, and I
held it closed self consciously.

"What happened to you?"

"I couldn't sleep. I went out for some air," he said, brushing past me.

"You had another dream," I said. By the way his shoulders tightened, I knew I was right.

"Go back to bed, Agent Scully," he said as he took off his coat and laid it neatly on the table
as he sat down on the couch.

"What happened?" I said, coming over and standing next to him.

"It's not something I'm ready to talk about. Not just yet," he said, meeting my eyes. His
emotions were written plainly across his face, and everything screamed; Please understand, if
it shook me up that badly, and I didn't even know Mulder, imagine what it could do to you.

"I understand," I said.

I went to the refrigerator, poured him some iced tea, and brought it out. He took the glass
from me absentmindedly and took a sip.

He licked his lips, chuckled, and said, "You read my mind."

"Must be fate," I said as I sat down on the edge of the coffee table and watched him drink the
glass of iced tea.

"Thank you," he said, handing back the glass. There was a different quality to him, a genuine
honesty in his voice and a shading to his eye that I hadn't seen before. Something Mulder had
shown him had touched him. But what could have affected him so profoundly?

"You're welcome," I said, taking the glass. I stood up, went and set the glass on the kitchen
counter, and went toward the bedroom. Doggett was still sitting on the couch, hands clasped,
arms resting lightly on his knees.

"Good night, Agent Scully," he said, as he reached over and turned off the table lamp.

"Good night," I said to the darkened room as I shut the bedroom door.

I got ready quickly the next morning. Doggett was still asleep. I stood by the couch,
uncertain of whether or not to wake him. I knew he was tired, but oh, God, I didn't want to
make the funeral arrangements alone, and something about his demeanor last night told me that
he would be good to bring along. Skinner's knock on the door spared me that decision.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

"Agent Doggett," I said, pointing to the figure on the couch.

"I gave him the day off. After his behavior last night, he deserves it."

"Last night?"

"He came by the room, demanding to see Oracle. He was yelling at my agents, looked like he was
going to fall asleep on his feet when he left. He'll be all right," he said, guiding me out
the door.

It was a silent drive to the cemetery. I felt that weight come again and settle in my stomach.
The funeral director was very pleasant and compassionate. Doggett had the foresight to return
the tombstone that Mulder had picked out. We also went out to visit the gravesite. It was a
pleasant plot, not far from his mother's. I stood at the site, imagining the hole, the
tombstone. What were you thinking when you stood here, Mulder? Were you frightened? Were you
at peace? Did you choose for yourself, or did you think about the people who would visit you,
what they would have wanted? Did you think about your family? Did you think about your
friends? Did you think about me? I scheduled the burial for two weeks from today. I don't
know why. No service, I know you wouldn't have wanted everyone making a fuss. I wonder who
will come. Skinner, for sure. Doggett? He might, to support me. The Lone Gunmen? I went to
his funeral. I watched it from 50 yards away with a telephoto lens... Oh, Mulder. I felt the
lump rise in my throat again. I pictured him at the restaurant last night, smiling and
laughing and playing with the stuffed burro and teasing me about my "short little legs" and
joking with the waiter and drinking the three margaritas just so he could give me the coupon
for the free dinner and we could laugh the next day about how he tripped over his own feet
getting to the car and me and my short little legs had to drive him home. I felt the tears
come, and I wiped them away. Skinner put his arm around my shoulders and guided me away.

When we got back to my apartment, Doggett wasn't there. I called his place, no answer. Then I
called the hotel room.

Oracle answered the phone. "Yeah, he's here," she said between giggles. "We're sharing
stories and playing Uno. I was kicking butt, until they stopped letting me deal."

"Because you're a dirty rotten cheat!" I heard one of the agents yell in the background.

"We'll be right there," I said, hanging up the phone.

"Was he there?" Skinner asked.

"Yeah," I said, taking the keys and walking out the door.

When we got to the room, Doggett was just finishing up a story. "...and I told her, 'I just
thought it was a pretty cool key chain.'" The agents laughed appreciatively as Oracle reached
for the deck. "I told you, you're not dealing," Doggett said, taking the deck from her.

"You, out," Skinner said, motioning the two agents outside.

"Don't play cards with those two," one of the agents said, pointing at them.

"Yeah, I dumped twenty bucks on those vultures," the other said, both of them laughing
uproariously as they went outside and shut the door. Skinner and I sat down on one of the beds
and stared at the two of them. "

I wanted to go with you today, but when I woke up you were already gone," Doggett said, as he
gathered up the cards and put them back in the box.

"It's quite a turnaround from last night," I said.

"I've been helping him out," Oracle said.

"Besides, there's not much we can do until our suspect strikes again or Mulder's friends turn
something up," Doggett said.

"How are you doing?" I asked Oracle.

"As well as can be expected. I know they're in a better place, and that helps a lot. My life
can't just stop; I have work to do. After all, I'm not the one who died," she said.

Just then, there was a commotion outside the room door. Skinner went over and opened the door
with his gun drawn, then said with exasperation, "Let them in."

The Gunmen came bounding in. "We have your suspect," Byers said, thrusting an envelope on us.

"That's everything we could find on him," Langly said.

I opened the folder and groaned, "I knew it."

Skinner looked at the photo and growled, "Alex Krychek."

"You're kidding. Xander? He was one of the most soft hearted people I ever met," Oracle said.

"You said something had warped his personality," I said quietly.

"That's an understatement," Skinner said in a low, dangerous voice.

"What do you know about him?" Doggett asked.

"His father was a cold war defector," Langly butted in.

"Came over when he was three. He had talent, so as part of his father's payment to stay in the
country they turned him over to the project when he was eight," he continued.

"He apparently had an aptitude for influencing minds and incredible powers of regeneration,"
Byers said.

"The perfect candidate for making the perfect solider. Not only could he get access to
sensitive material," Frohike started.

"But he could take a hit and keep on coming," Langly finished.

"Regeneration? That means..." I said.

"He's probably regrown a new arm by now," Oracle said quietly.

"He came and tried to warn me off this case," I said.

"He had a good reason," Skinner said.

"He attacked us three times," Oracle said, musingly.

"Two times," Doggett said.

"Three times. That was him on the plane," Oracle said.

"What? It didn't look a thing like him," I said.

"Influencing minds. Think about it. We had him in custody. So why didn't we turn him over to
authorities when we got off the plane? We just forgot he was there," Oracle said.

"She's right," Doggett said.

"God damn it!" Skinner said, jumping to his feet and pacing.

"Anything we can do?" Langly asked, as Skinner stormed around cussing to himself.

"Watch our back while we figure out what he's up to," Doggett said.

"Will do," Frohike said. They left, closing the door behind them.

"I'm going back to my office to start making calls," Skinner said, leaving and muttering "Son
of a bitch," as he slammed the door behind him.

Weeks passed without anything eventful happening. Oracle had moved out of the hotel into
my apartment and was looking for a job. She had apparently met a woman downtown that did
horoscope readings for a living. The woman was looking for an assistant, and Oracle wanted to
take the job.

"Horoscope readings? You've got to be kidding," was Doggett's commentary on the subject.

"I know. But one more tarot reader will attract less attention than a bona fide psychic. If I
learn the trappings, I can use my gift and give people useful advice without raising suspicions,
and get paid for it. It can't get much better than that," she insisted.

Since Oracle had never been to school and therefore had no degree, learning only what she had
managed to glean from the minds of others, I was inclined to agree with her. She had started
keeping a journal, writing down what she remembered of the others so that they "wouldn't be
forgotten."

Doggett was still going to Oracle every day for "therapy", as they jokingly referred to it.
Whatever they did, it seemed to be helping. He was more confident, more at ease, although I
had the uneasy feeling from time to time that he was having a private joke at my expense.
About what, I couldn't imagine. Oracle had spent quite a bit of time with me as well. She had
become my favorite shopping buddy, and she did readings on the baby, giving me impressions on
what he would be like or how he was doing (she seemed certain the baby was a he.) The only
thing she did that annoyed me was her habit of calling Dr. Dunbar every other day. My long
distance phone bills were a nightmare.

Mulder's body had been buried, and after that I felt a sense of closure. Doggett went to the
funeral, although he seemed terribly uncomfortable being there. I saw Skinner there, although I
hadn't spoken to him there or since. He always seemed so preoccupied. As the days went by, I
started to get more and more tense, like Krychek was waiting around every corner. Skinner
apparently never came out of his office, preferring to stay close to the phone. Doggett's
private joke seemed less and less like a joke and more and more of a burden. Oracle spent a
lot of time away from us because of the general "bad feel."

Then one day the bombshell hit. Doggett's, anyway. I was in the break room at headquarters
after getting back from a long, exhausting and ultimately fruitless chase after reports of
"forest demons" in Maine. Doggett didn't accompany me, he was busy filing paperwork from our
last assignment, a cut and dried gangland dump in New Jersey that overflowed to us from Violent
Crimes. X Files were in short supply these days. I set my briefcase down on the counter and
hunted around under the sink for Styrofoam cups.

I heard Doggett say from the doorway, "Agent Scully."

I glanced up and gave a tired smile. "Hi. I can't wait to dump this paperwork, go home, and
take a nice long bath," I said.

"Agent Scully," he started again, coming into the room and standing behind me.

"Don't worry, I won't make you write the report, I'll do it myself tomorrow."

"Agent Scully, there's something I have to tell you," he said in a hesitant tone.

"Whatever you did, just come out with it. Nothing you say can surprise me," I said.

Doggett looked skeptical. "You might want to sit down," he suggested.

"Why? This will only take a minute, right?" I asked, pouring myself a cup of coffee.

"Yeah, but..."

"Then go ahead. I'm listening," I said, taking a sip from my cup and turning to place the pot
back on the warmer.

Doggett took a deep breath, and let it out with a long sigh. "Scully, it's me," Mulder's voice
said in my ear, full of gentle warmth and a bit of trepidation. I dropped the coffee cup.

Scully yelped and jumped back onto my toes with a curse as the hot liquid splashed over her
shoes. She shoved past me and sat on the counter next to the sink, yanking off her shoes and
clumping them down on the counter as she grabbed a paper towel and tried to wash the coffee off
of her feet with cool water. I went over, took a paper towel and tried to clean off her shoes.

"Coffee doesn't come out of suede," she snarled.

"I thought you used that spray stuff on your shoes to protect them," I said.

She winced slightly at my voice. "I didn't have a chance. I just bought them," she said.

"Then why didn't you wear an old pair?"

Scully rounded on me. "Is this your sick idea of a joke?!" she demanded.

"You think I would JOKE about something like this?!" I responded, anger mixed with hurt.

"Is there a problem here, Agent Doggett?" Agent McDaniel (one of the agents from white-collar
crimes I met in the elevator a few weeks ago) asked hesitantly, peeking around the doorframe.

"Fine, Agent McDaniel. Agent Scully just spilled coffee on her shoes," I responded in
Doggett's voice.

Scully grabbed her shoes from my hand, slid off the counter, and stormed out of the room.

"Damn," said Agent Napolitano (Agent McDaniel's partner). He was standing behind Agent
McDaniel in the hall, grinning from ear to ear. "I haven't heard a row like that out of the
Ice Queen since Spooky was still around," he continued.

"She didn't burn her feet, did she?" Agent McDaniel asked.

"She's fine. Excuse me," I said, working around Agent Napolitano. "I've got to go apologize
to her about her shoes," I said, heading down the hall.

Agent Napolitano imitated cracking a whip and started laughing.

"That's the understatement of the year," I responded dryly.

I made it to the end of the hall just as the elevator Agent Scully was in closed. I decided
not to wait for the elevator and took the stairs down to the basement instead. The door to the
office was still open. I took that as a good sign. Scully was standing next to my desk, arms
crossed, with her profile toward me. I entered the office and shut the door.

"Scully," I started in my own voice.

"How could you?"

"Scully, I..."

"How could you let me think you were dead? You went to the funeral!"

"I know..." "You went to your own god damn funeral!"

"I didn't know, Scully! I didn't remember everything until just a few days ago."

"But you at least had an idea." I sighed. God, she's going to turn this into a knock down
drag out bitch fight. Just what we need.

"How long have you known?" she pressed.

"Scully, it wasn't..."

"How long?"

"Since that night we went to the Mexican restaurant." She snorted and nodded angrily. "But
Scully, you're missing the point. I knew then that I was Mulder. But I didn't remember being
Mulder. Oracle said my memory might come back only partly or not at all. I didn't want to say
anything until I could prove it," I said, coming over and standing behind her. "Scully?" I
said, putting my finger against her chin and turning her head.

She turned, but didn't look up at me. Instead she wrapped her arms around the middle of my
back and buried her face into my chest. My arms came up in a defense position, but then I let
out the breath I had been holding and put one arm across her shoulders and the other across the
small of her back, resting my chin on top of her head. I stood there, just enjoying the warmth
of her, the smell of her.

"Talk to me, Mulder," she murmured softly against me after awhile.

"Hmm?"

"Talk to me."

"What should I say?"

"Anything. Just so long as you talk."

"You changed shampoos. You smell different than I remember."

"Is that bad?"

"No. Just different." I paused, then decided to go ahead and ask. "How's the baby doing?"

Scully jumped, and then asked, "How did you know?"

"Because I've been paying attention."

"Does it show?"

"No. I just knew because I know you."

"The baby's fine. I hope it looks like you."

"I think it would be cuter if it looks like you."

"You think I wouldn't choose an attractive man to be the father of my baby?"

"I think that that man's attractiveness is a little relative at this point." Scully didn't
respond, and I started to absentmindedly massage her back.

"Mmmm. That feels nice," she purred.

"People are always telling me I'm good with my hands," I said in my most seductive voice.

"Mulder," she groaned in her "I can't believe you said that" voice.

I grinned and started tickling her side. She squawked and tried to pull away. Our legs got
tangled together and we both fell squarely on our bottoms, laughing. I was momentarily
distracted by how far her skirt had risen up her thigh, when I felt her fingers touching my
jaw. She was examining Doggett's face as if she had never seen it before, tracing the edge of
my jaw, pausing where my mole should have been before continuing on across my chin, up my cheek
and across my brow. She examined my nose at great length, murmuring "Don't fidget" when I
started to get restless. Now what? Is she going to get distracted every time I talk to her
because I still have Doggett's face? Her fingers gently traced my lips, and she licked hers
unconsciously. I didn't even try to suppress my amused grin. Her eyes flicked up to mine with
irritation. When I saw the recognition, exasperation and affection in her eyes, I knew that my
appearance would only be a minor problem.

"All right?" I asked when she let her hand drop.

"All right," she confirmed, eyeing me. She then shook her head and smiled. "You scared the
crap out of me, Mulder."

"Sorry, Scully." Just then, the phone rang. I untangled myself, stood up, took a moment to
compose myself, and answered the phone. "This is John Doggett," I said, allowing myself to
fall back into character. "Yes, sir. Agent Scully and I will be right up." I hung up the
phone, lightly brushed the dust off my pants and straightened my jacket.

Scully was standing and gaping at me. "It scares me how well you do that," she said.

"Do what?" I asked, all Doggett's cool innocence. She shook her head, took the papers she was
working on, and put them neatly in her briefcase. "You can't tell anyone, Scully," I said in
my own voice, all seriousness. She looked up at me. "The fewer people that know, the safer
we'll both be," I continued.

"What about Skinner?"

"Something's going on with him; something that's not sitting with me quite right. Until I know
what it is, I don't feel comfortable bringing this up."

"Don't you think you're being a little paranoid?"

"Paranoia is my middle name."

"True enough." She picked up her briefcase and walked toward the door.

"Hey, Scully."

"What?" she asked, turning around.

"You've got dust on your butt."

We rode up in the elevator. I chatted politely with the other agents who got in, and tried to
put fantasies of Scully and I dropping down on the floor of the elevator and going for it in
front of everyone out of my mind. No one would have thought twice if Mulder had done it, but
the rumor mill would have been working overtime if Doggett had appeared the slightest bit
randy. Damn undercover work. I managed to get into Doggett's frame of mind in the waiting
room just before Skinner called us in. He looked jumpy, pacing as we sat down and then sitting
behind his desk and playing with his pen.

"How's your case work going?" he asked.

"Well, sir, the forest demons turned out to be a wild goose chase, but our other cases seem to
be going rather well," Scully said.

"Good, good," he said, wiping his brow.

"Agent Doggett, how are you doing?" he asked me.

"Fine, sir. Here's the report on the Jersey murder," I said, sliding the report across his
desk. Skinner grabbed it and thumbed through it rapidly, but seemed to be checking for
something rather than reading it. He finished flipping through the file and set it down on his
desk with a disappointed look on his face. "Is something wrong, sir?" I asked him.

"No, no Agent Doggett. Everything seems to be in order. I'll let you know when the court date
has been set so you or another agent assigned to the case can testify."

"Yes, sir." After a pause, I asked, "Will that be all?"

"Oh, yes. Dismissed." Scully and I both stood up and walked out the door.

"What was that all about?" Scully asked me.

"I'm not sure," I responded in Doggett's voice, just in case anyone was listening.

"Agent Scully," Skinner called from the doorway. "Sorry, come back in. There's one more thing
I have to ask you."

"I'll see you downstairs," I said as I went to the elevator. As soon as the doors closed, the
phone rang.

"John Doggett," I answered. There was a lot of static, and I could barely make out a woman's
voice on the other end. "Hold on, I'm in the elevator, I'll be out in just a minute." The
elevator stopped at the second floor and I got off. "Hello?" I asked.

"Stop them!" Oracle's voice came over the line frantically.

"What?"

"Krychek's got control of Skinner. He's kidnapping Scully. You've got to stop them!" I
darted back for the elevator. "No, not the elevator! The stairs." I rushed for the
staircase.

"Which way?"

"Down to the main level. Go outside, north east corner. You should see them coming out of the
parking garage."

I took the stairs down two at a time. I flew through the lines of tourists and out onto the
terrace.

"Fuck," I said as I saw Skinner's car pulling out. I took off as fast as my feet would carry
me. "Scully!" I yelled. She looked out at me, and her face went pale. She tried to open
the door, but couldn't. Skinner put his foot on the gas, rounded the corner, and was gone.
"Where are they headed?" I yelled into the phone. There was nothing on the line but an "off
the hook" tone.

I bolted across the street, car breaks squealed, horns blared. I kept running, taking streets
without thinking, heading for the astrology shop where Oracle worked. I burst through the
front door, past startled customers waiting for a reading and into the reading room. The
doorway between that room and the storeroom was wide open, with the owner lying in the doorway.
She had been shot once in the head. I stepped over her body and into the storeroom. Oracle
was lying on the floor, five perfectly round holes in her back causing rivers of blood on the
floor. The receiver on the wall phone was swinging back and forth like a body in a noose,
making a rhythmic bang against the wall.

Oracle was miraculously still alive when the paramedics arrived, but the owner was
pronounced dead at the scene. I rode with Oracle down to the hospital, where she was rushed
into surgery. I sat around in the waiting room, feeling as lost as the day I discovered that
Scully had cancer. I knew that Krychek was the one who shot Oracle. The bastard waited just
long enough for us to get complacent, then made his move. If she died, it wouldn't be just her
that I would lose. It would be any chance of finding Scully and Skinner alive. That thought
echoed through my mind for the next four hours while Oracle was in surgery. They finally
wheeled her out. She looked dead, but the doctors reassured me that she was very much alive.

"Are you her father?" one of them asked me.

"No, just a friend. She doesn't have any family," I explained.

I watched through the critical care window. One of the nurses tried to get rid of me, but I
wasn't about to give her the satisfaction. I snuck into the room when no one was around and
knelt beside her bed.

"Don't give up on me," I whispered to her. "We have to find Scully and Skinner so we can stick
it to Krychek." I paused and looked at the machines, the monitors. She looked even more like
a child than usual, lying on that bed. But I knew she was a vibrant, independent woman inside
that shell. She can't die, she still has everything in front of her. "Don't give up, you hear
me?"

(I hear you.) Oracle's voice came into my mind, tired, kind but impatient. (Now get out of
here and let me get some rest. I can't think with you yammering all the time.)

I grinned. You're all right. We'll find them, don't you worry.

(Yeah, big bad Mulder and his sidekick Kid come riding in on their trusty steed Taurus and blow
the competition away with their dry wit and enigmatic presence. If that doesn't work, maybe
you can smile him to death. Who knows, the shock of seeing a grin on Doggett's face might
actually kill him.)

You're such an optimist.

(GET LOST.)

I left.

Oracle woke up two days later. The doctor said he had never seen such a miraculous
recovery. I asked if I could see her and got the go ahead. Oracle was sitting up, finishing
the last bit of a giant mug of water.

"My, we are thirsty today," the nurse said, refilling the jug. She noticed me in the doorway
and said jokingly, "I'll be back in an hour to refill it."

"Har, har," Oracle said as she left.

I pulled up a chair and sat. "How many of those have you had?"

"One an hour's not a bad estimate," she said, putting the jug down on the tray next to her bed.
"I need the fluids to help my body repair. It helps the life force flow better, for some
reason. It would work better if I was immersed in water, instead of just drinking it, but they
won't let me take a bath," she continued. "Now, let's see what we can dredge up, shall we?"
she said.

"Are you sure? I mean, I don't want to push you," I said.

"Liar," she said calmly, with a hint of mischief in her eyes. "Here, give me your hands," she
said, holding hers out palms up.

"Shouldn't it be the other way? During the sessions you always held your hands out palms
down," I said.

"That's the life giving position. I'm receiving this time," she said. I hesitated. "I won't
hurt you, I promise. If it's too much of a drain on you, we'll stop," she said. I took her
hands, and she closed her eyes and went under. Her skin was very pale, and her breathing
became much shallower. I started to worry, but she gave my hands a slight squeeze to reassure
me. "He's got Scully and Skinner. Scully is tied up to a pole supporting the roof. Not the
warehouse, though. Just someplace he knows," she said.

"Where?"

"Tables, chairs stacked along the walls. Dining room, light strings, paper snowflakes hanging
from the ceiling. Muted tones, like a hotel or convention center."

"Windows?"

"Large, plate glass, like there's a view outside."

"What do you see?"

"Nothing, it's dark."

"Any logos? Motifs?"

"No. Krychek is talking to himself, can't hear him."

"Where's Skinner?"

"On the floor in the office around the corner. He's got a bright rash all over his body.
Krychek didn't even bother to tie him up, he's so weak." She hissed, and said, "He's drawing
off of Skinner, keeping him weak. He must have given him blood."

"Is he drawing off of Scully?"

"No. He doesn't want to hurt her, he's only after the baby, I think."

"Why?"

"Don't know." She then gasped and said, "He's got your Smoking Man."

"Where?"

"In the kitchen. He beat him over the head with a wrench, didn't quite finish him off, but
he'll die anyway, nothing can stop it now. Now Krychek's going over to the window, and looking
out, like he expects something."

"Can you see anything?"

"Outlines of trees, the stars."

"What kind of trees?"

"Mountain trees. Pine, I think." Then her breathing slowed even more. I let go of her hands
and reached over to shake her. Then her eyes opened. "Stars," she said.

"What?" "Stars. That's why he chose that place. Something like rising or floating..."

"Ascending? Ascending to the stars?"

"I guess so."

I sat back in my chair with a thump. "Thank you," I said, standing up.

"I thought we were doing this together," she said in a hurt tone.

"I know where they are. If I can catch him by surprise, I might be able to save them," I
responded excitedly. She crossed her arms and looked at me. "Oracle, I'm sorry, but I can't
wait here and take a chance that something might happen to them."

She sighed and said, "At least tell me where you're going. That way if something happens, I
can send a team after you."

"Skyland mountain."

"All right."

"Take care," I said, leaving the room.

(Whatever), her voice grumbled in my mind.

After Mulder left, I neatly pulled the IV out of my arm and stood up. If he thinks after all
this time I'm going to sit by and let him and Scully and Skinner get killed like the rest of my
family, he's smoking some serious crack. I could feel the stitches straining. They'll
probably tear right out, but I don't care. I slipped into the bathroom, found my lovely
bloody clothes, and changed. I held the nurse's mind so she didn't see me, and walked out the
front door. I had lifted some money out of Mulder's wallet when he was there. I wasn't
stupid; I knew he would ditch me. I took the bus back to FBI headquarters, broke into Scully's
car, and hotwired it. Thank god one of the security guards knew how to do that, or else I
would have been screwed. I held his mind, drove the car right past him, and headed out for
Skyland mountain. Hold on, everybody. I'm coming.

I rested my head against the post and watched Krychek pace around the room. I recognized the
route to Skyland mountain as soon as we got off the interstate. As soon as I saw Mulder rush
out of the FBI building and yell my name, I tried to open the door. Finding it locked, I
pulled my gun on Skinner and demanded he stop the car.

"It's not my choice, Scully," he said, opening his shirt and showing me the rash. My throat
tightened. The nanobodies in Skinner's blood had reactivated. "He said he'd already killed
Oracle and if I didn't bring you, he'd kill me and Agent Mulder, leaving you defenseless
anyway. What was I supposed to do?" he said plaintively.

I nodded sympathetically. Then it hit me. "Wait, you know about Mulder?" I asked.

"Krychek let it slip. I don't know anything other than he's alive. I had the crazy idea that
Doggett was Mulder, but the handwriting's different." That's why he checked the folder. He
paused and looked at me. "You've seen Mulder? You've talked to him?"

"Yes. He knew there was something off about you, that's why he didn't talk to you directly."

Skinner snorted. "Smart man. I just pray to God he knows what Krychek's up to and is able to
prevent it."

I looked out the window. "I'm sure he can figure it out."

So that's how I ended up at the ski lodge at Skyland Mountain, tied to a post in the
dining room. Krychek stopped his muttering and seated himself on the edge of the table near
me.

"That's what I like about you, Scully. No fuss. No bribe attempts. Just accepting of
whatever happens."

"You won't get away with this," I responded.

"No? Who's going to save you? Doggett? Mulder? You think they can stop me? After knowing
what you know about my kind, you think anyone can stop me?" He paused and watched for my
reaction. When there was none, he said, "Oracle's dead, you know." I looked up. "I killed
her myself."

"So now you're going to gloat?"

"Self preservation, Scully. If she knew what I had planned, she'd never let me go through with
it. She could intimidate with the best of them, but when it comes right down to it she didn't
have the balls to make the hard choices."

"So, you were lying about her."

"She was dangerous, Scully. If you think she didn't spend every waking moment of the day
manipulating people, you're kidding yourself."

"You admire her," I said with dawning awareness.

"She taught me everything she knew." I paused, questions burning in my mind. "Fire away,
Scully. I'm curious," Krychek said.

"Why me and Skinner?"

"Skinner was just convenient. A source of information, a way to keep you on a leash. You, I
could care less about. It's the kid, Scully."

"What about my baby?"

"It's Mulder's."

"I don't understand. Why is that important?"
Krychek threw back his head and howled with laughter. "You never stopped to wonder how he
reached his conclusions? How he could profile criminals so accurately? Why the alien artifact
stimulated psychic powers in his brain and no one else's? He's one of us, Scully. Him and his
sister. His father's partners knew his child had powers and forced him to hand the child over.
The gift was so rare that they never dreamed both the Mulder children were gifted," Krychek
said with a giggle.

"You're not at all worried that Mulder will use his powers on you?" I asked.

"He doesn't know he has them. Therefore, they don't exist. But the baby, the baby has them.
I can feel them. Once I have the baby, my work will be done." He stood up and went to the
doorway. "Good night, Agent Scully," he said, turning off the light behind him.

I awoke to the sound of a car pulling into the parking lot. I craned my neck, trying to
see. The figure picked the lock to the front door and entered silently. It crept over to me
quietly and started to pick the handcuffs.

"Hang on. I'll have you out in a minute, Scully," Mulder whispered.

"Skinner's down the hall," I whispered back.

"I know. What did he want with you?"

"The baby. He said it was a psychic, like him."

"That means he was planning on killing it after it was born." The handcuffs came apart, and
Mulder put his hand on my knee. "Stay here. I'll go get Skinner," he whispered. His
silhouette then crept around to the doorway and out into the hall. For several tense minutes,
there was nothing but silence. Then a door banged open down the hall.

"Mulder?" Krychek's voice called. "Mulder, I know you're here." Silence. "Mulder, you don't
know what you're doing. I never meant to hurt your child. I wanted to keep it safe, raise it
to use its powers, hide it from them. I didn't kill the others, Mulder. It was the aliens
that did that. I wanted to punish them, to make them suffer for what they did to my kind, my
family. Smoking Man, he helped them, he had to pay along with the rest of them. Mulder?" The
voice came closer and closer down the hall. "Mulder?" I saw Krychek's silhouette enter the
room. Then he was knocked flat by someone pouncing on him. "Nice trick, Mulder," he said.

There was a flash, and Mulder was thrown up against the wall. Krychek flipped on the lights
with one hand while holding Mulder by the throat with the other. "I'll be damned," Krychek
said with a laugh when he saw his face. "No wonder I didn't start sensing you until a few
weeks ago." I started creeping forward. "Don't even think about it, Scully," he said from
behind me. I turned, and saw that he now had Mulder pinned against a wall behind me. I
blinked and stood frozen in the doorway, when my legs were kicked out from under me. I banged
my head against the floor. "I thought you knew about pushing," Krychek said mockingly. He was
still in the first spot I had seen him. I lunged for him, and he just calmly backhanded me
across the face, dropping me to the floor.

"Let him go," a cool voice said from behind me. I glanced up. Oracle was standing in the
doorway to the ski lodge, wearing her usual clothes and a small smirk. Krychek was stunned
speechless. In a blink, she was across the room, stiff arming Krychek in the neck. He fell to
the floor, gasping for air, and releasing Mulder on the way down.

"You don't know what you're doing," he wheezed.

"Oh, I know now you didn't kill the others, but two wrongs don't make a right. Even if you
kill them all, it won't bring the others back. And wanting the baby for yourself is
inexcusable," Oracle said. She glanced up at us. "Get out of here. This is between me and
him now." Mulder and I picked up Skinner from against the wall where Mulder had left him
slumping while he attacked Krychek. We helped him out, keeping an eye on the two combatants.

"You need help," Mulder insisted.

"Not your fight anymore, Mulder. Take care of the baby. You'll both make terrific parents,"
she said, with a genuine smile. She then turned back to Krychek as we went out dragging
Skinner.

We put Skinner into the back seat, and I was about to sit down next to him when Mulder gasped,
"Scully, look." I looked up to where he was pointing. The largest spaceship I had ever seen,
even larger than the one in Antarctica, was settling into position over the ski lodge.

"We have to get out of here," Mulder said, jumping into the driver's seat.

"We can't leave them," I insisted, leaning into the car to yell at Mulder better.

(Scully, stop stalling, get in the car, and get the fuck out of here. Tell Mulder to go talk
to Dr. Dunbar. He'll know what I mean.) I heard Oracle's voice, jumped into the car without
hesitation, and said, "Floor it."

Mulder took off in a rush of squealing tires. I was flung against the back seat, and I
managed to reach out, grab the wildly swinging door, and close it. Mulder took on the curves
at 90 to nothing. Skinner started to shake the same way Oracle had done.

"The link's severing," I said to Mulder. He glanced in the mirror. "Watch the road!" I
screamed.

We went around one curve, and I could see the lodge up at the top of the mountain, bathed in a
beam of light from the spaceship. Skinner let out a violent, torturous yell, and I heard
Oracle and Krychek screaming incoherently in my head at the same time. The ski lodge exploded,
and the fireball rose up in a column to the heavens and consumed the spaceship. There was a
bright green flash, and a wave of energy came out of it like ripples in a pond, slamming into
the car. Mulder put on the brakes, causing the car to skid. It scraped along the edge of the
barrier separating the road from the edge of the cliff, and came to a stop. We were both
breathing hard.

"Are you all right? Mulder?" I asked.

He managed a nod. Skinner was lying across the back seat with his head in my lap, breathing
deeply and evenly. I turned on the overhead light, just as Mulder got out of the car and
stared behind us. Skinner's rash was gone.

"Scully," Mulder called, and I got out of the car and looked. There was no sign of the
spaceship or the lodge. We both stood staring at the cliff, feeling our own grief.

"We need to get Skinner to a hospital. Come on, Mulder," I said, holding onto his arm and
guiding him away.

Once we got to the hospital and got Skinner inside, Mulder turned to me. "I need to go
away for a little while, Scully. There are questions I need to find the answers to," he said.

"Oracle told me to tell you to talk to Dr. Dunbar. She said you would know what she meant," I
said.

"Yeah, I think so. Will you be all right?" he asked me. I looked into his eyes. I missed
the hazel color; Doggett's blue just seemed too sterile.

"Yes," I said.

"Thanks, Scully," he said.

He went back to the car, promised to send my mother to pick us up once Skinner was better, and
drove away. Skinner was released within a few hours with a perfect bill of health.
"Exhaustion", was what the doctors said. True to his word, my mother showed up and drove us
back to our respective apartments. Skinner cursed when he realized that he still needed to
replace his sliding glass door. I went back to my apartment, feeling that same pit in my
stomach, but also feeling hope. If bloodsucking doctors, five bullet holes, and over 50 years
of experimentation hadn't killed Oracle, who was to say that an explosion would? I wished that
I had gotten to know her as well as Mulder had. It was true, she had lived at my apartment,
but we were both preoccupied with our own agendas most of the time, even when shopping
together.

Two weeks passed. Skinner went back to his office, and I went back to the basement. I told
everyone that Doggett had decided to take some personal time. Then, one day, I went into my
office and a familiar figure was standing in front of the filing cabinet with his back toward
me. I was about to greet him as Doggett, when I noticed the brown hair and the jacket and tie
flung carelessly over the back of his desk chair.

"Morning, Scully," he said, cheerfully, closing the filing cabinet.

I ran forward and embraced him. It was Mulder. I mean, it was really Mulder. Brown hair,
hazel eyes that changed color with the light, long legs, fit body, devil may care attitude...
Mulder. So this is what Oracle meant when she sent Mulder to Dunbar. He must know the doctors
who perform the identity switches, or used to be one of them. I breathed Mulder in. I missed
that smell. He found the whole thing very amusing. I didn't know whether to kiss him or slap
him.

"What?" I finally said with exasperation.

"I've been hanging around here for the past two days, Scully," he said, in a voice mixed with
equal parts mischief and apology.

"I'm not that unobservant," I protested.

"'Fraid you are, Scully. I almost went over and waved my hand in front of your face to make
sure you were still alive."

I gave him the evil eye. True to form, it didn't perturb him in the slightest.

"What were you doing? Someone could have recognized you," I scolded.

"I was switching Doggett's name with mine on the DNA tests, autopsy reports, death certificate
and fingerprint files. I also had the name on the tombstone changed. He doesn't have any
family, so I didn't think anyone would complain. I also had myself reassigned to the X Files.
I was planning on going upstairs and telling Skinner as soon as I finished my breakfast," he
said, indicating a bowl with what I assumed was soggy cocoa puffs and curdled milk in a past
life. In its present incarnation, it had taken on the appearance of dark brown cottage cheese.
To say I was revolted would be putting it mildly.

"You're not really going to eat that," I said. Mulder gave me his "Think again" look and
picked up the bowl. He dug through his bottom drawer and came up with a fork. It had
mysterious bits of food still stuck on it.

"Do you even know what that is?" I asked, indicating the food spots.

"Burrito, I think. Oracle was using it to stab something that came out of the microwave."

"Then that fork hasn't been washed in over two weeks."

"It hasn't decomposed yet."

He shoveled up a big forkful of the bowl sludge and took a bite. I looked around for the
garbage can in case one or both of us decided we needed it. Mulder actually did make it
through the "meal" without getting sick. I almost didn't. He licked out the inside of the
bowl and put it aside.

"Let's go," he said, taking his coat.

We went to the elevator and pressed the button for the floor where Skinner's office was.
Mulder was leaning over me. His breath still smelled like bowl goo. He noticed my revulsion
and started hunting around in my suit jacket pockets. I was about to protest, when he came out
with my tic tac box. He popped a couple into his mouth, closed the box, and stuck it back in
my pocket. I gave him my "you could have asked" look. He shrugged. I found myself admiring
him. He had forgotten his tie, and his shirt was open just the tiniest bit. He was one of the
few men I had ever seen who was attractive when he slouched. I pictured him in his old jeans
that were almost threadbare in the seat, and felt my face flush. He noticed me checking him
out, and his eyebrows went up the tiniest bit. "Here? Now?" his expression said. I was
embarrassed, and turned away. He was still watching me. Well, just as long as you don't
mind... He didn't mind. We were still kissing when the elevator arrived at the floor. There
was a gaggle of agents waiting to board the elevator. Everyone in the hall stopped to gawk at
Mulder and Scully making out in the elevator, with Scully's hands up his shirt and Mulder's
tongue down her throat. The fact that Mulder was supposed to be dead didn't make us any more
unobtrusive. I removed Mulder's hands from my ass and squeezed past the throng of agents.
Mulder followed me, tucking in his shirt.

"Going down?" Mulder said to the group pleasantly.

Skinner had come out of his office to see why the hall had suddenly gone dead.

"Agent Mulder, good to see you again," he said, shaking his hand.

"Thank you, sir," he said, allowing Skinner to usher us into his office.

"Back to work, people," Skinner said, shutting the door.

Word got around fast that Mulder was indeed back from the dead and returned to the X
Files. Skinner broke the news that Agent Doggett had been killed in the line of duty. Mulder
went out of his way to be kind to old friends of Doggett's. Scully had the baby right on
schedule, a boy named William. He's already showing powers, like predicting when someone is
at the door and when Mommy or Daddy is going to wash Drooly (his bear.) Marriage hasn't really
been discussed, but neither agent seems opposed to the possibility. The Gunmen were thrilled
at Mulder's return, and have been enlisted as babysitters on several occasions. As for me, I
returned Mulder's Georgetown shirt in an unmarked package tied with string (which nearly caused
Mulder and Scully a heart attack, couldn't tell if it was because I was alive or because it
looked like a pipe bomb) and settled down in Omega with a tarot reading practice and a certain
young doctor named Matthew Dunbar.