The Road to Emmaus
by Christina M. Simmons
Illustrated by Erin Livingstone

**Standard Disclaimer: All rights to characters and series owned by Twentieth Century Fox and 1013 Productions. No copyright infringement intended. No profit turned by the writing or posting of this work. Please don't sue me.**

Classification: TRA — Adventure/Romance/Angst
Rating: G/PG
Spoilers: Gethsemane

Summary: (Luke 24:13-35) In the aftermath of Mulder's death, Scully must question whether she has "believed the lie" — particularly in the wake of a disturbing visitation, and yet another attempted suicide.

Dedication: For Kam and Lynn, and Danielle and Sharon... whose letters to an author they didn't know made all the difference. Thanks, ladies. I hope this lives up to your kind words. ~CMS

Washington, DC
10:26 pm

"It isn't him." Scully would not take the binoculars the police officer held out to her, only squinted, instead, at the figure on the ledge — a doll-sized figure, spotlighted against the night sky, so high up, too high up to reveal any definite features. The mutter and crackle of police radios was all about, a tv drama background noise.

"We have a confirm on the gun..."

"...armed, possibly dangerous..."

"Where the hell is that negotiator?"

"I don't care if he's in with a client, I want him on the goddamned phone..."

"If it's not him," said a low voice, close beside her. "Then who is it?" Dana Scully turned haunted eyes up, meeting the expressionless gaze of her assistant director. Skinner's face almost softened... almost... and he almost placed a hand on her arm. Almost. She flinched away... it was a gesture too much like Mulder's. Scully shook her head.

"It's not Mulder. Mulder is..." She broke off, turning sharply away, eyes prickling with tears she would not shed. She had mourned her partner's death... she had wept for him, privately, piercingly, through too many sleepless nights. Even on the crowded street in the dead of night, with police chaos and white-hot spotlights everywhere, the thought was enough to drown her deep in an aching solitude.

Skinner did not allow her the completion of her thoughts, however, eyes following the bright spotlight upwards, upwards, to the pacing figure, shielding his eyes from the white-hot light, occasionally turning, shouting some unintelligible threat at the SWAT team they knew were flanking the roof of the apartment building... the same apartment building where they'd found Fox Mulder's body, lying in a pool of his own blood, not quite a month earlier.

"You're going to try to tell me, Agent Scully, that in all the cases you've seen... in all the reports you've pushed across my desk... that you aren't willing to consider a few impossibilities?" The tone was wry, humorless.

"Extreme possibilities." Scully murmured, eyes dropping to her feet even as her heart sank with them. Too much like Mulder... too much.

"I'm sorry?"

"Nothing, sir." A spatter of gunfire, punctuated with shouts, dropped both agents into defensive crouches, their own sidearms out and drawn. The shots ceased as abruptly as they had begun, but the shouts from the officers continued...

"... fired overhead..."

"Blanks, possibly... can't tell..."

"I said, tell your men to hold their fire! Dammit, don't you people ever listen?!?"

Skinner turned, eyes wide, to Scully. Her pale face was framed by red-gold hair, auburn in the darkness, sparkling about the edges where a spotlight caught her profile. "Agent Scully... I know that these past weeks have not been easy for you..."

She spoke before he could force the order out... not even sure that he would, but not wanting to hear the words continue.

"I'll go up." Her voice came to her as though someone else had said it, blue eyes darkening slightly as she met his gaze. "That is not Mulder up there, sir... but..." She broke off, eyes falling. "I'll go up."

Before Skinner could form the words of comfort, of reassurance, she had squared her shoulders, and was pushing her way through the police line to the entryway of the apartment building, hands raised, badge flashing.

She had felt a part of her die within herself looking into his eyes... so clear, so open, so surprised, even in death, as though Mulder had found death somewhat different in action as in perception. She had felt herself die a bit more, that first night, and every night after, sobbing in the solitude of her own bed... and each day, with each passing moment, Dana Scully felt herself die that much more, though as the days passed and the shock and grief began to ebb, the knowledge of that was almost reassuring.

I don't feel like I'm dying... I am dying. And I was dying, even before Mulder... The thought trailed off, her throat closing, and she hugged her pillow to her, curling into the tucked-up fetal position she'd found herself waking in for the past week or so... as though that symbolic return to the sheltering womb, even the womb of sleep, could stave off the cold awareness of death... her own, her partner's... and the grasping fingers of grief melded with guilt. Primates and humans return to the fetal position in the course of natural death... confirming again that death is, as life, a cycle... brought from a sheltered place into a world where one is helpless, and growing stronger, only to weaken, and in the end, curl into that same seedlike form to face a new sort of emergence...

But Mulder had not been found that way...

It was etched in her mind, unerasable... the police scene... the sheeted figure on the floor... the officer lifting the sheet so that she might identify his face. It would be with her forever... unfading... always. And she was left without him... alone.

The fact that Mulder had been visiting her nightly didn't help at all.

Oh, it was a hallucination, of course. Of that much she was certain... medical training had given her enough of a background on the effects of subtle pressures to the brain mass for her to have been expecting it, even before Mulder's death had added stress to physiology. Dizziness... difficulty with thought processes... behavioral or emotional shifts... all symptomatic of brain trauma... or a nasal pharyngeal mass, shifting, growing like the tumor it was.

She'd brushed up on her research after a series of similar hallucinations in the middle of a particularly disturbing case... and now, with grief and guilt calling on her like morbid twin sisters in some Jane Austen novel, she knew that Mulder's presence as she lay herself down each night was nothing more than the effect of the cancerous mass exerting pressure on her frontal lobe.

Knowing that, however, made it no easier to cope with. In an effort to maintain some semblance of sanity and reason, she'd adopted a diffident attitude, much like the one she'd always taken with Snort, the imaginary monster under her bed, when she was eight...

Always bucking the system, even in the end, Mulder? Where were you that night... didn't you say, once, that the dying would see wraiths at the moment of death, or shortly before? You couldn't have given me that much warning? That much time to prepare?

The first night, faced with the apparition of her partner, she'd experienced the old terror... at the first tingle, the intangible-yet-enveloping sense of not-rightness... and turned, and paled. Just like her father, seated before her... just like those young girls... just like the ghostly face in her rear-view mirror, not so very long ago... but not like any of those spirits, in its own way. She would turn, and Mulder would be there, his brow creased in pain, the anguish in his eyes as clear as it had been the last time they'd stood face to face...

When I'd told him that he was to blame for my cancer... She blocked the thought viciously... though the awareness of it never left her, not in sleep nor in waking times. She hadn't needed Mulder's spirit to remind her of that... she remembered all too well that half-accusation, and had repented speaking it every moment of every day from the second she had crossed Mulder's threshold that last time.

She was sorry, down to the core of her being, but that did not stop him from coming.

He did not speak to her, nor make a move to try... just watched her, from several steps away... always watching. Leave it to Mulder to realize that his spirit could not bridge the gap to the world of the living... not this time, at any rate. If he had come to remind her of her part in his death, he did it all too effectively in silence... watching.

It hadn't stopped her from trying to speak to him, though.

At first, she'd found herself without a voice... only natural, perhaps, under those circumstances. Then, when the shock subsided, the guilt had emerged, and she'd wept before him, apologizing, watching his face twist with agony as his own tears flowed... perhaps he could not hear her words, but somehow, it seemed that he understood, and ached with her. Then, as the worst of that passed, the shock and grief faded into a numb acceptance, and if her partner could not tell her why he remained, silently lingering in the stillest, most solitary hours of the night, she invented her own reasons... though if she'd believed in any of them, it might possibly have helped.

She'd wondered, at first, if he'd come to say goodbye... finish what was unfinished. A fleeting night-terror wondered if he had come to return to her the agony of her own betrayal... for even if she had not impelled her partner's suicide, she certainly had betrayed his memory by going before the committee. But no, there was no menace in the lingering spirit... only an infinite sadness.

It was penance for her, perhaps... Catholic guilt being what it was... to face him until she could come to terms with her part in his death, though it felt as though she never would. Or... she had flinched to think it at first, though now the thought was almost welcome.... perhaps, perhaps, her partner was simply waiting for her to join him... knowing that her time, too, was coming... so that once more, as so many times in the living world, they might face the path of the unknown together. It had warmed her, that brief thought... loyal Mulder, for all his faults, staunchly upholding their partnership even in death, despite all she'd done in those last hours...

Odd that he would ditch her so often in life, though, only to remain by her side in death... and that had been the dark humor within her, the only spark of laughter left. Perhaps this was Mulder's form of Hell, then... his penance. She'd asked him that, in fact... though the expression, or lack of one, on his face told her plainly that either he was not disposed to replying, or could not understand her question.

She hadn't spoken to anyone of the visitations, however. Who would she tell, when she herself accepted them only as vivid illusions of her own mind? And so she'd grown almost accustomed to it... the silent apparitions... until, just as suddenly as they'd come, they'd gone.

It was then that the feeling of loneliness seeped into every pore of her being... and again, Dana Scully wept, utterly bereft in her solitude.

Mulder was gone.

"They couldn't get near him..." Someone was saying, keeping pace with her as she made her way to the elevator. All about her, black flak jackets moved back and forth under black baseball caps, and the steady male murmur of the police SWAT team filled the corridor. "He kept threatening to go right over the edge We sent a team up, flanking him, on another roof... but the second he saw 'em, he started firing —"

"At the other team?" It startled her, somehow... the incongruity of it. You see, Dana? Did you have any doubt? Would Mulder do that?

"No... he was firing into the air, like warning shots, just screaming at the other team to get the hell back or he'd jump... one of the rookies spooked, and returned fire... damned lucky, is all I say. We got a clear shot at him from every angle, just about."

"You'll have your people hold their fire." Scully's eyes flashed, lighting and fixing on the young police officer at her side, and there could be no question of the orders in her tone, her gaze. "He is armed, but at this time he's no danger to anyone but himself. Are we understood?"

The young man blanched, straightening involuntarily, almost snapping to attention. "Yes, ma'am... but if he turns that gun on anyone..."

"He won't." You're so sure of that, are you? "Keep your men in their flanking posts... but I don't want anyone else on that roof. No one. Just him and me."

"Yes, ma'am... understood. We've got a team with a night-vision sniper on the roof right off side... and the FBI, your people, they've got a post directly across the street." He handed her a lumpy black bundle. Kevlar. "You'll be wanting this, ma'am, just in case."

Scully stared at it, the bulletproof vest, for a long moment.

"I don't need that." she said, and punched the elevator button.

"But, ma'am..."

"Don't call me ma'am." She stepped into the elevator as soon as the doors gaped wide enough, stabbing the button to close them again before she could be accompanied. It was all she could do not to press the button for Mulder's floor... forcing her finger, instead, to the topmost level.

>From beyond the door, she heard the low whistle from one of the black flak suits who had watched the hallway exchange.

"Wheee-oo, she gone put you in your place, huh? 'Don't call me ma'am!'" An answering grunt.

"Partners, y'know... and you know what they say about..." The elevator doors cut off the rest, and muffled the burst of male laughter faded as the elevator lurched upwards.

It was odd, very odd, that she'd sat, stone-faced, through the memorial service... through the funeral. Some applauded her strength... she heard their lowered voices, tinged with respect. Some called her cold, in the same lowered voices... and maybe she was. It had rained the day of the funeral... a steady gray downpour, running in rivulets off the black shields of the umbrellas... fitting, she'd thought distractedly. She had not shed a tear. She'd wept in her own privacy, not even to the comforting eyes of her mother, and certainly not before Mulder's mother, though she'd been told to visit, and soon...

She'd returned to work as soon as mandatory leave would allow, though she shunned the basement offices, and the voices of colleagues seemed oddly distant, and the governmental corridors more toneless gray than ever. But it was better than before... better than being home, alone, where a phone no longer rang at an ungodly hour of the night, and there was no longer a familiar voice on the other end of the line.

Her apartment walls had seemed too colorless during the forced sequestering, her walls too enclosing. Family checked in, keeping watch on their own, but she'd taken to screening her calls. Her mother, overly-solicitous, just wanting to be sure her baby girl was all right... her brother, stalwart, the good soldier, too awkward to be much consolation. At the advice of the Bureau social worker, she'd been to brunch with the Gunmen twice, feeling more kinship with Mulder's friends than her own family... and had almost smiled at Frohicke's attempts at banter, before they both remembered their loss, and fell silent. Byers had walked her home that last time... unspeaking, pacing beside her, solemn as always. She'd had the door half-open before he spoke.

"I miss him, too." he said, in that light, soft voice. "We all do." She nodded around the lump in her throat.

"We all do." she echoed. Then she'd half-smiled, and held out her arms, and hugged him as any old friend would. She hadn't called again after that, and had retreated to the solitude of her office. Her office... with her own desk, and her name on the door, but she kept the door closed... the easy banter of other working pairs, passing by her office, drove all thoughts out of line.

Skinner had called her in, just as she'd expected, offering his own brand of granite sympathy, his gaze asking the question she'd been anticipating before he voiced it... her medical file resting on the desk before him... and she had replied quietly, firmly.

"I'll work until I'm deemed unable, sir." And a long, shuddering breath. "Mulder would have wanted it that way. It's all I have, now."

And it was true...

Mulder was gone.

Scully paused at the door to the roof, one hand resting on the doorknob. She'd ordered the police team on the roof inside... no need to instigate an incident... but a strange reluctance seized her. She knew what she would find out there.

Steeling herself, she forced the breath down... slowly. Evenly.

It's not Mulder out there, Dana. Mulder is dead. You saw him yourself.

She stepped out onto the roof.

The days settled into a dust-colored blur, and she'd found, as she always had, that life did, indeed, go on... the grief had receded, if only a bit, and she'd thrown herself into her work with a passion that rivaled her partner's. Twice another agent had tried to pass on cases bound for the X files... and twice, she had denied them, citing her own caseload of consulations, and upcoming classes at Quanitco. On the first occasion, she'd stared, almost stunned, at the file, as someone yammered on, speaking too quickly, about exsanguination and fang marks... then at the young agent, red-faced, who'd broken off, stammered an apology and retreated. The second had been more matter-of-fact... this was what she did, wasn't it? Working with Spooky Mulder? No? Sorry, then, his mistake.

It was, perhaps, the one redeeming aspect of falling back into daily life... though she'd her share of atrocities to consult on... Violent Crimes was running its feet off, with that Pickax Murderer... at least her cases no longer cost her sleep.

She'd been awake that night, anyway, though... for some reason unable to sleep, lying wide-eyed in the darkness. In the stillness, every sound seemed amplified... footsteps outside the window, a couple's voice laughing, chattering...

The latch of her front door sliding, ever so softly, open.

She was bolt upright with the first click... out of her bed, sidearm in hand, with the soft hiss of the door over the carpeting. In the hallway, taking aim at the moving silhouette, waiting, waiting....

The door catch clicked as it shut, and she echoed the click with the release of her safety.

"Don't turn around. Step away from the door." She hoped her voice was steady... since when had it been anything but? "I've got a gun pointed at your head. Move."

The figure had frozen at the sound of her voice, but she saw it fumbling at its waist... then heard the thud of a holstered gun hitting the floor... tossed into a square of moonlight. Unnerving... she hadn't even seen the gun in the darkness.

"Take two steps forward and turn on the light."

She moved forward slightly, staying to the shadows, pistol trained on the tall shadow... it was black-clad, or nearly so... but it did not move so much as one cautious, but as one who had been expecting her interception. She watched, cloaked in shadows, as it reached her table lamp and clicked it on... and turned to face her.

She nearly dropped her gun.

If she hadn't been so accustomed to Mulder's phantom hallucinations, she'd have dropped it for certain. It was a trick of the light, she thought... a trick of the light, or my mind playing tricks on me, or my heart showing me what I expected to see... wanted to see... it's late, and I haven't been sleeping...

The eyes she knew so well followed her, unafraid, but cautious... his forehead creased in that familiar worry-frown. He raised his hands slowly, showing her that he was unarmed... then spoke to her.

"Scully... they're going to kill me."

The sound of his voice was almost too much... the tears started in her eyes. It was all right, all just as she'd remembered it... the cadence, the timbre. Her hand trembled.

"Stay where you are."

"I'm not going anywhere, Scully... I came here. I need your help."

She almost laughed... not a humor-filled laugh, but one borne of a near-hysteria that she aggressively choked back. Of course you need my help. You're dead, Mulder, and you're standing in my living room. Or would that make me the one who needs help? Professional help?

"Who are you?" He grinned at that, the same way he always grinned at her when she'd said something he'd expected, and appreciated. The same old Scully, his expression said. The same old Scully. I knew it. He'd taken a step towards her, half reaching out to her, and she'd nearly leaped backwards, trembling. "Stay where you are!"

The smile vanished as he watched her finger tighten on the trigger, and his hands went up again.

"Scully, it's me... just let me explain..." His eyes flickered from the gun to her. "Just put down the gun, Scully, and let me explain."

"The hell I will." She took a faltering step in the direction of the phone, but her feet would not steady her, so she remained still. "I don't know who you are, but I know you're not Mulder. Mulder is dead. I saw him myself."

"You believed the lie. You saw what they wanted you to see." He'd seen her falter. He knew she was trembling... he couldn't help seeing that, too. He took a step forward, more slowly now. "Scully, you've got to trust me..."

"I'm warning you..."

He moved forward another step, eyes on her... soft, reassuring... unafraid. Of course he isn't afraid. He's dead already... She blocked that thought... but as he took another step, she could not move away.

"Just hand me the gun, Scully. I know this isn't easy for you... but since when is working with me predictable and easy?" He smiled reassuringly, teasingly.

"Back off..." But her voice held no conviction, even to her... my god, it was shaking, and her hands, too.

"You really don't want to shoot me, Scully..." He was directly in front of her then... reaching for her... hands gently folding around her own, as his eyes held hers, unwavering.

She closed her eyes and pulled the trigger.

Her eyes stung, burned, and she gasped as she writhed about on the floor... choking on the fumes that had come from nowhere, nowhere... but she was writhing alone.

With a cry of pain, Mulder had staggered back as the bullet grazed his side... clutching at it, as though trying to hide it... but not soon enough to stop her from seeing the green, hissing, vicscious liquid coloring his hands.

He'd seen that she'd seen, and ripped the gun away from her... she'd tensed for the shot, too weak to move... but instead, the gun clicked once, ejecting its cartridge, and both had clattered against the wall with a fury before Mulder staggered away... and she had fallen into darkness.

She was lying on the couch when she came around... a damp towel across her eyes, and something foul-smelling close at hand. The towel moved, dabbing gently at her eyes which felt swollen to twice their proper size, and full of sand.

"I really wish you hadn't done that..." said Mulder, and she could hear water being squeezed from another cloth, felt it replace the cloth across her eyes, warm and wet and soothing. "Gonna be hard to hide the blisters... if we aren't lucky. This should keep the swelling down."

She reached up to remove the cloth... trembling, though with fear or rage, she wasn't certain. She'd seen the green liquid before... for all her skepticism, she'd seen it, and she knew what it was... what it meant.

He was standing there, on the ledge of the building, his back to her, gazing out over the chaos in the street below, the wind ruffling his hair ever so gently. Scully let the door close behind her... softly, so as not to startle him.

"Who'd you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?" He didn't move a muscle, and his voice sounded leaden, weighed down... but the sound of it forced her to stop, to suck in her breath, to remind herself.

It's not Mulder. You know that. He told you that, Dana...

And he had. Lying on the couch, helpless, unarmed, she'd had no choice but to listen to him as he unfolded the Project before her... all things she'd heard before, many times before... and familiar phrases surfaced and resurfaced.


Alien hybridization.


She rememberd the rage, mostly.

At first, she'd been numb, numb to the core, colder than the walking fog she'd been in since they'd put the coffin in the ground. He hadn't seemed to notice... and, oddly, that was more like Mulder than anything, relentlessly pursuing his train of thought as he gently mopped her face and eyes with a wet cloth smelling sharply of baking soda and something else... lemon, perhaps, or some spice from the little bottles she rarely used. He was talking to her steadily, almost cheerfully, and she remembered fragments of phrases... recurrent themes, words she'd heard before.

"... he really wasn't even stable," Mulder's voice was saying. "What with that latent paranoia, the inability to trust. He could never manage to hold down a partner... let alone an intimate relationship. I never could figure how... hold still, Scully... how they kept passing him through the psych eval. I mean, I took it for him, most times, but then they started spot-checking... keep your eyes closed... just before you came, and I wasn't always around in time... maybe that's why they put you in with me... sorry, with him." Something heavy and wet was removed from across her eyes, and she blinked fuzzily up at him. Her eyes felt full of sand, swollen to twice their normal size, and ached hotly.

"It was him, at first... but after a while me, mostly, once they figured out that you weren't going to bolt on him. And..." He grinned Mulder's goofy, lopsided grin. "... once they figured out that you weren't going to do exactly what they'd planned. I was pretty freaked, at first, trying to figure out what I was going to do with you... but we made their life pretty miserable, I'm telling you, between the two of us, after a while... no wonder they kept trying to split us up. That's why they kept him around so long, you know."

She felt the stirrings of anger, then... baseless, rootless, but rising swiftly.

"You're not Mulder."

He paused, considering the statement, and set aside the pan of water and the damp cloths, not seeming particularly distressed.

"That all depends on how you look at it, Scully."

"Is Mulder dead?"

He rose, pacing... and every step, every movement, spoke to her of Mulder. She knew her partner... even now, the memory was fresh, and this stranger's stride, his posture... it all called to her, aching with its similarity.

"Answer me, dammit!"

"You saw him dead." And his voice had lost all its lightness... and seemed, for that moment, infinitely sad. "They shot him. Made it look like a suicide."


"They want me dead, Scully... I told you that."

"Who ARE you?" Talking... keep him talking. It was all she could do, for now... she wasn't strong enough to fight him, not now. Sitting up on the couch reinforced that, as the world tilted precariously on edge for a moment, then lurched out of focus. She tried not to show it, and met the man's gaze coldly. Hazel eyes regarded her curiously for a moment, as though the question puzzled him... she closed her eyes, turning her face away... he looked far too much like Mulder, looking at her like that.

"I'm the same man you've known for four years, Scully..." he said softly. "And if I try to explain, you're not going to believe me, even with the proof standing in front of you."

She said nothing to help him along, and he continued.

"You could have found me out, you know. That one time. In Alaska. That's when they made the switch, me for him, permanently." He said it slowly, consideringly. "You never questioned it, when it happened... the thickening of the blood... the absurdity of all medical records during that time, you explained it away, and your science let you do that. They knew that you would... that's why it had to be then, then and at no other time..."

"What did they do to him..." She had to know. She had to ask.

"You know what they did." And the image of Mulder's body on his apartment floor sprang to her as though cued, and she flinched, then was on her feet, seething, eyes snapping at this stranger in her partner's body, irrationally engulfed in a blood-thrumming fury.

"I mean before that, you bastard! What did they do to him... when they took him away? Where was he, all that time?"

And Mulder's twin backstepped, as though confused by her response... by her dogged pursuit of that thread. Then his face shifted... not in form, but expression... and she could see that he was trying to conceal the hurt that had sprung to his face, unbidden.

"He was in the Place. But you never noticed... and you were better off for it, Scully! I know that's hard to hear, but dammit, it has to be said. Fox Mulder as you know him never existed in the man you were partnered with..."

"If you're talking about you, " she said evenly. "That's probably the only truth I've heard since you came in here. You aren't even human, are you?" Memory jarred... and suddenly, she was in a hotel room... hearing Mulder's voice on her cel phone, and turning... and seeing him, without his phone, standing there. It clicked... and the recognition in her eyes hardened her expression, eyes fixed on this familiar stranger. "Are you?"

That seemed to strike a nerve... either the question itself, or her tone, contemptuous, daring him to contradict her. He recoiled as though he'd been struck... but rebounded just as quickly, a new light flaring in his eyes, almost angry, and he moved towards her. She rose to her feet, meeting him stare-for-stare, until they were face-to-face, a tableau, barely breathing.

He broke the gaze first.

"I may not be human, Scully, but I was a damned better human being than the man you thought you knew..." His voice dropped, deadly serious, almost a growl. "I was better at being him than he ever could have been. In every way that mattered. A better son... a better brother... a better partner, and friend."

"You're insane..." It would be logical... here, in this situation where logic had flown long ago... where her clinical, scientific detachment had vanished. An insane alien. Call Steven Spielberg. But Mulder shook his head emphatically.

"HE was insane... or would have been, before long. They didn't call him Spooky Mulder for nothing..."

"What about Samantha?" She lunged for the topic, seizing it as a weapon. The first question had rattled him. Twice... twice might buy her some time, or leverage. "If what you're saying is true... what about Samantha? Was that all a lie, too?"

His face crumbled.

"I don't know." he said softly, and the ache in his eyes could not be feigned... she'd seen it too many times, and something inside her responded without thought... stop it... anything can be faked... you know that... He looked away sharply, eyes glistening around the rims, and forced the tears back. "I tried to find out, but they never told me. I know she's alive. Somewhere... and I... they said I didn't need to know, but dammit, she was just a little girl..."

She hadn't expected that... but the rage hardened itself within her, overpowering any softer feelings that naked reaction called forth. Lies... everything had been lies, if even one grain of what this stranger said was truth. She thrust her immediate, muddled response aside, seizing this unexpected vulnerability.

"You're trying to tell me that you were honestly trying to find her? That you were created... that you replaced my partner... that you worked for the people who had us both abducted, who gave me cancer, who killed him... but were trying all along to find his biological sister? You expect me to believe that?"

"I don't give a damn if you believe it or not... I loved my sister!" She hadn't expected that reponse, either. The explosion knocked her back, wide-eyed, grasping for the gun that wasn't there, as Mulder's hazel eyes flashed at her, his lips twisting, angry. "Just because I was created doesn't mean I don't feel, Scully... doesn't mean I don't know what's right... dammit, you've worked with me for four years now... you should know that. I'm a lousy tool... and they found that out. I cared too damned much." His tone dropped back into softer tones... those special, gentle tones he'd always used... Mulder had always used... to try to make her see 'reason.'

"I looked for Sam longer, harder than her biological brother ever did. And as long as I was Mulder... as long as I stayed where he had been... I was safe. They couldn't touch me... just like they could never touch him without me. I did what I was trained to do, Scully. And I did it damned well. They wanted me to be Fox Mulder... and I was." It was almost a plea, and he moved a step closer to her. She wanted to recoil, but could not. "But now, they've cut their losses. I was getting too close to the truth... you were getting too close. So they killed him... left him in his apartment, where you'd be sure to find him... And now, they want to kill me, too. That's why I came here, Scully... I need your help... "

His voice was barely more than a whisper now... urgent, harsh, and undeniably honest. He was afraid for his life. He would not harm her... not looking as he did. Scully steeled herself.... the words, all he'd said, spinning madly in her mind. The grief of the past weeks... the apparitions... the sudden mental tumult... it burned in her, threatening to drive her mad with its oil-hued chaos. Through it all, only one fact remained central... cold, unbreakable.

The man before her was not Fox Mulder.

"Give me one good reason why I should help you." She heard her own voice... cold... icy, to match the resolve rising within her. "Assuming that I believe any of what you've said to me... you've lied to me. Everything I remember... or think I remember... is a result of a lie. How can you expect me to trust that? Trust YOU? You lied to me, possibly for four years... you perpetuated it, an intentional lie. A deadly lie." She narrowed her eyes. "I don't know who you think you are... but no partner of mine would have any part in that."

"Don't do this, Scully..." His eyes, pleading, fixed on her... his tone one of a man almost despairing. "Not this way. Not for him. He is NOT the man you thought he was... he isn't your partner, the one that you trust with your life, the one..." He broke off, looking away, face utterly wretched, drawing a deep, shuddering breath before he continued. "Scully, he isn't ME. Look at me, Scully, look at me, into my eyes, and tell me that I'm not your partner... that I'm not Fox Mulder... Tell me that, and I'm gone...."

She'd turned her back on him then, felt him hesitate... and then he'd gone, just as he'd said he would. Now, in the humid breeze of a too-damp DC night, filled with car fumes and building thunderclouds, their positions were reversed. The man who had left her apartment stood on the ledge, overlooking the city, his back to her... yet uncannily aware of her presence.

Treat this like any other hostage negotiation. They prepared you for this at Quantico.

She moved across the roof towards the ledge... slowly... not threatening... hands raised. He heard her feet on the gravel and half-turned... but did not point the SigSaur in her direction. Instead, he stepped back, perilously close to the edge.

"Stay back. No closer."

She stopped, obedient. Let him think he has the upper hand.

"You don't have to do this." She was pleased to note that her voice did not tremble, and her own tone lent her strength she did not feel, looking at him, hearing his voice. A police chopper roared past, spotlight dancing crazily, fluttering both their topcoats in its breeze, and they tracked it as one until it vanished. Mulder remained where he was, eyes vacant, staring off over the ledge at nothing.

"Who am I, Scully?" He did not look at her. She did not answer at once, and he repeated the question. "Scully. Who am I?"

Why did he have to sound so much like Mulder? When he turned his face to hers, it was her partner's face she saw... that same agony that had surfaced in brief, tremulous moments... the same pleading in his eyes, as if she held within her the truth he so desperately sought. It had always evoked in her the desire to hold him, to gather him close, to shelter him from his own demons.

But this was not Mulder. By his own admission, this man was not Mulder.

By his own admission... this man was not even human.

"You know that better than I do." It was probably the wrong thing to say... but she could not, would not, give him the reply she knew he wanted.

"Then why are you here?" And that was a fair question, too. "If I'm not your partner... not your Mulder... why are you here, Scully?"

"Maybe I don't want to see you dead." He wouldn't buy that... even Mulder wouldn't have believed that. There was a pause, however... as if he were considering it.

"They're going to kill me, you know." He shifted away from her, staring into the whiteness of the floodlight. "They're down there right now."

"And this the best alternative you can come up with?" She allowed the skepticism to color her tone, and saw it draw a quirk of a smile from Mulder's face.

"I always loved that about you, you know." he said softly. "That tone. That, you've- got-to-be-kidding-me-Mulder tone. Sometimes, when a case was dragging... I'd say something, something totally out in left field, just to get your reaction. Even if everything else was going to hell... it always helped." He drew a deep, trembling breath. "You're wasting your time, Scully."

She'd hated him for what he'd done.

The wound not even half-healed... the scars fresh, too fresh... but she'd started to learn to live with them. Started, until he'd been there. She'd turned, and he'd been gone...

And she'd been alone again.

It wasn't Mulder she'd seen. She wouldn't let it be Mulder. All the nights of seeing him there... the loneliness that pierced her through, like a biting wind... she couldn't face it all again. She'd never wanted to become this involved... with a partner, a friend, anybody.

She'd entered the FBI to prove herself... to her parents, her siblings, the world at large. To assert herself. She'd welcomed the chance to work with Mulder... to debunk his theories. One more hurdle to overcome... science to triumph over the unknown. She'd prove herself there, her worth as a scientist, as an individual... and it would be a start.

But he'd worked his way into her, even as she'd intertwined herself with him. She knew that she was the strength in their partnership... the logic, the reason... but she fed off his passion, his drive. Together, they had become more formidable than she'd ever been alone...

And that had frightened her.

That one-ness they'd shared, almost a telepathy. How he could read her emotions with a half-glance. How she could make him pause for a moment, consider reason rather than impulse. On a case, shoulder to shoulder, looks exchanged in silence conveying more than words ever could... even in the worst of times, that binding union - never alone, never exposed. A camaraderie... a fluid unity... that other agents worked decades side-by-side to achieve and never began to touch. Spooky Mulder and Mrs. Spooky. It had bothered her at first...

But when it was gone, it was a physical loss. Seeing his body, bloody and still, on his apartment floor... it was as though a knife had carved into her flesh. Remembering, the knife cut deeper and deeper, and parts of her fell away like tears.

She was strong, and she would survive...

But the moment she'd been left alone in her apartment, the emptiness welled up in her, and she no longer wanted to.

Why did he have to come here? Why? She saw the hurt in his eyes when she'd raged at him... and it blended, in her mind, with the face under the coroner's sheet. How many times would she be forced to relive that... to see his face, still and dead, staring up at her?

She'd called in sick to work the next day, and stayed in her bed, shades drawn, unmoving. It had been dusk before she'd noticed the day passing... and then, full dark, and inside herself, the void threatened to engulf her.

And then the phone had rung, and Skinner's voice had been on the other end of the line.

"Agent Scully... you'll want to come with me. There's something... downtown... that you need to see."

She could not tell for how long they'd been standing there, unspeaking. On the ground below, people hustled back and forth, harsh black shadows chasing them. On the other rooftops, she could pick out the humps of crouched men, men in black, with rifles cocked. Scully shivered in the damp wind, and was answered by a rumble of thunder. Mulder had not budged... and she was being a pretty lousy negotiator, all things considered. Finally, with a sigh that was weary enough for the two of them, he spoke again.

"There's one thing... one thing I'm grateful for, I guess." The tone was odd... the expression on his face odder, a blend of pain and relief, and he would not look at her, though she could see his profile clearly, and the lights from below gave away every flicker of emotion. "I was always afraid... was always scared that... I didn't want to have to watch you die, Dana. Knowing that when the time came... that I'd be left here, all alone... that there was nothing I could do." He paused, and she saw his breath catch, and when he looked at her, his eyes glittered, liquid. "You were right, you know..."

Her breath caught in her throat. His words had gone straight into her, but stuck, like barbed shafts, and she could still feel every syllable.

"Right about what?"

"I did lie to you." He closed his eyes, as though suddenly weary to death. "They're going to kill me anyhow, sooner or later... it can't be helped... but when I came to your apartment, Scully, I knew you couldn't protect me. If I was looking to hide... I already had the perfect cover."

It was true. Why she hadn't seen that from the first... why it hadn't occurred to her... was irrelevant. She felt something lurch inside of her, anticipating his next words... not even needing to ask, really...


"Do you really have to ask, Scully?" The sheer misery of that tone made her glad his eyes remained shut. "They took you away from me once before. When... when they gave you cancer. Knowing that... knowing what we both know... I just couldn't do it again. We're both going to die eventually, Scully... and I just couldn't leave you that way. But I didn't think you'd believe me..."

"Believe what?" She could barely hear her own voice... it was impossible that he would her her.

The voice, in response, was equally as soft.

"You know what I am now, Scully... you know who I am, even if you won't admit it... to me, or to yourself. But you won't believe it. I can't blame you for that... but would you have believed me, knowing what you know, if I'd told you that this... this clone who became your partner was more afraid of living alone... than of dying, so he could be with you, just a little bit longer?" A short sound, muffled, could have been a choke, or a chuckle. "The way it turned out... it didn't really matter, did it?" A heartbeat, little more, and the softest shake of his head. "Goodbye, Scully."

In her mind's eye, she saw him falling... and she was stepping through his apartment door again, numb, cold. She'd felt as though she was falling then, too... alone, only her feet propelling her forward. She saw him fall, and the life crushed out of him upon impact... and once more, wide, startled eyes stared up at her, and the coroner's sheet being drawn up to close them.

"You're not even human, are you?" Her voice, harsh, mocking, resounded in her mind.

"Look at me, Scully... look into my eyes and tell me I'm not Fox Mulder, and I'm gone..." It was Mulder's voice, Mulder's eyes... she knew them as well as her own reflection in the mirror, knew his voice almost before he spoke, the rhythm of his walk, the crease of the forehead that betrayed his every emotion.

But you know that's not Mulder up there...

No... all you know is that he isn't who you expected him to be... WHAT you expected him to be.

They seemed frozen, trapped in Mulder's "lost time" — she could feel her heart choking off her breath.

"Scully, it's ME..." The eyes, the voice, the expression...

If you can say that he's not your partner, let him fall.

He turned his face to her then, as though aware of her thoughts, as though she'd called to him... and seeing her frozen, those familiar hazel eyes closed once more.

It all took less than a heartbeat.

He made a move, a step forward... and she felt her own knees nearly give way as she lunged forward, hitting the waist-high ledge some three yards away from him, arm outstretched.


She heard her own voice, as though from a distance. Had she really called him Mulder? The shock of it seemed to hold him, too, for he had frozen... though he still didn't meet her eyes. She moistened her lips, though her mouth was dry as dust.

"Mulder, come down from the ledge." She expected to feel disoriented, steeped in confusion, but as she spoke, it was as though the fog, the enveloping numbness, was lifting... and she grasped at the clarity it left in its wake. He did not move, and she felt the chill of real fear in her, and the grief, walking into his apartment, resurfaced. She could not look at his lifeless, broken body one more time...

No matter who he was... before.

"Please, Mulder... if anything you've said is true... Mulder, don't do this. You said you didn't want to watch me die... to be left alone... but I saw you dead, Mulder. I saw your blood spilled on your apartment floor. I saw them put you in the ground. I know what that alone feels like." She saw his head half-turn towards her, and shadows blocked his face, cloaked, unreadable. "Don't make me watch my partner die again, Mulder. Please."

He hesitated a heartbeat longer... then stepped from the ledge. His knees buckled, folding under him, as he hit the roof... not the open air Not a faint... not a collapse... more of a sinking, as though all resistance in Mulder's tall, lanky frame had been suddenly sapped. Head bowing almost to his chest, shoulders hunched, he sagged to the gravel rooftop... and curled in upon himself, arms locking about his knees.

Scully stared, numb, hand dropping to her own side in slow motion. Go to him. He's your partner. He needs you. The rebellious voice made one feeble last attempt, its voice small in her mind.

He isn't your partner. Even if he was... he needs professional help. You said what you had to... you got him off the ledge.

She was all too aware of the watchers on the other ledges... of their eyes on Mulder. On her. Now was the time to call them in... bring the support staff up... turn the stranger in her partner's body over to someone's hands that were more capable than her own... or over to those who had created him.

The sound of her partner crying froze the hand that was reaching for her cel phone.

He needs his partner, Dana.

Broken, exhausted... Mulder cried in front of her only once before, and at that moment he'd thought that his mother — could she be called his mother, now? — was dying. Now, the tears flowed down sheltered cheeks, face tucked into tight-wrapped arms... as though something else had died, deep within. Scully reached his side in two hesitating steps as the last of Mulder's strength vanished into a sob.

You are NOT going to do this... he's not Mulder. Not your partner. Not even HUMAN!

He's the only Mulder I knew. The only one I wanted to know. My partner. My friend.
And when he hurts, you hurt, her mind added to that conscious thought. Don't fool yourself into thinking that this is just part of the job... it's deeper than that, and you know it.

Soft, tentative, and wordless she came to him... dropping to her knees, she reached for him, her touch introducing her presence as she wrapped her arms around him as best she could, enveloping his taller form from behind. Mulder's grip on himself tightened, trying to pull further into himself, and further from her...

She wouldn't let him. Countering his movements, she slipped a hand under his chin, preventing him from turtling away... but he tried, eyes tight-shut even as the tears leaked out, turning his face from her, every muscle in him as tight as strung wire.

She caressed him, drawing him closer into her protection, stroking her cheek against his, whispering reassurances that took word before she could think of them. She did not release him, nor slacken her grip, even as she felt her own tears creeping up, trickling warm down her cold cheek and blending with his. With a strangled sob, Mulder turned to her, reaching for her in that moment, burying himself into her arms.

"I'm sorry... I'm so sorry... don't leave me... please, don't leave me..." She wasn't certain if the choking, pleading whisper was his voice, or her own.

Scully heard the creak of the door, but it sounded distant... the footsteps, slow and measured, seemed to hesitate as they approached. She looked up, over Mulder's head, to meet the assistant director's gaze, as inscrutable as ever, and the unmasked expressions of the other agents... shock, even disgust, on their faces as they holstered their guns. Mulder was entirely unaware of their presence... but to Scully, it was all but tangible; an intrusion... and unwelcomed.

"Go away." She said it quietly, though not defiantly, not unkindly, and did not bother to blot the tear-tracks from her cheeks. "Go away. All of you. I'll take care of him. He'll be okay now." She caught Skinner's gaze, eyes pleading, and her tone dropped. "Please." This isn't a place for them, her eyes said. They won't understand. They don't know him like I do...

Skinner's eyes lingered on his agent one moment longer, something mixed of pity and understanding passing across his face, crossing the barrier of space to her... and then he turned, gruffly ordering the others away. Tomorrow there would be callings-in, and she would face him across his broad desk... and others, perhaps. But now, tonight, he had given Mulder into her keeping. He paused only once, glancing back, his hand on the door.

"He'll be okay." she heard herself say, perhaps too softly to be heard.

"You make sure that he is." Then the door shut... and the world faded around the two still figures on the roof.

Skinner laid the sheet of paper down, carefully, contemplatively... as though it might break. He touched it, almost holding it to the desk, then turned to the two figures standing beyond his large desk. She was serious... he could see it not in Dana Scully's eyes, but in her manner, in her bearing.

She stood just in front of Mulder, her back to his chest, resting against him in a taut easiness... tense with the situation, but comforted by his tangible presence? It was a physical intimacy she'd never have permitted herself in earlier times, and certainly not in the presence of her assistant director. Physical intimacy... or was it more? It came to him suddenly that if he'd a mind to draw his sidearm, that he'd need to shoot through her to reach Mulder... yes, it was protective as well as intimate.

"Your decision is final?" he asked, more of a statement than a question. She did not nod, betrayed no expression. "I can't say I'm pleased with this."

"It's the only way, sir." Even now, with her resignation in hand, she rested easily in that respect. "I'm dying of cancer. My time with the Bureau..."

"You didn't feel that way two days ago, Agent Scully. And you know that this..." He let his eyes roam to Mulder's face, meeting the hazel regard unblinkingly. "...changes everything. Your life could be in danger. His life already is."

"To the rest of the world, my partner is dead, sir." And Scully's chin rose slightly, almost daring him to contradict her. "And my life will end, by bullet or in a hospital bed. The Bureau could not protect me... could not protect us... from that."

"And you believe that you'll fare better on the outside."

"I'm certain of it." Her eyes left his briefly, turning up to meet her partner's. Yes, her partner's... removal of badge and rank could not strip that from these two. Skinner breathed, then lowered his eyes and touched the letter of resignation.

"The paperwork will take some time to process." It was a lame excuse... barely one, at that.

"I've accumulated sick leave to fill that gap."

"There's nothing I can say to change your mind."

"I'll be careful, sir." And Scully responded to that unspoken concern, reading it through his careful mask, allowing her own eyes to warm, if only slightly. "We both will be." Behind her, Mulder nodded once, his hand briefly caressing Scully's arm before dropping once more.

"Be certain you do." He lowered his eyes, folding his hands. "You'll have the letter of commendation in your file, before it closes... for your selflessness in talking that vagrant off the roof of an apartment building. He vanished from the scene shortly after, as I understand... they often do." He nodded to the inner door, the unofficial exit from the office, taking one last look at the pair of them, his agents, his more than any other working pair under his direction.

"Thank you, sir." Scully paused for a moment, then crossed swiftly to his desk, laying her badge and sidearm there, with an expression that belied the calm tone. He gazed at her for a long moment, seeing the startings of what might have been tears or gratitude, before breaking off, allowing her to retreat.

The door closed behind them, soft but certain, and he did not look up.

To Be Continued....?