Shadows of Winter
Part IX
By Jaime Lyn

* Rated 'R' for language and violence.  


Mulder groaned and pulled himself to his feet, bending from side to side.  The bones in his back realigned with a satisfying crunch, and his muscles screamed in exhaustion.  He felt old, suddenly.  Worn out.  His neck was stiff and sore, arms chilled; the house whistled its disagreement with the weather, and the air was edged with the silent creeping of frost.  If this late fall storm was as bad as the weathermen had predicted it would be, chances were good nobody would be getting out torepair the electricity anytime soon.  Which meant no light, and cold house, and no more sex, and annoyed, annoyed Mulder.  

Another stretch, and Mulder pulled on his jeans, buttoning them, pausing when something sharp jabbed him in the hip.  He hissed and reached carefully into the furrowed bulge of his pocket, pulling out the hypodermic needle Marita had given him in the cafeteria. Shards of light bounced off the metal, glinting the tip with white-gold.  His other hand dug into the other pocket, and he removed the amber vial of liquid, holding both up to his face for close inspection.  

"This is for Agent Scully," Marita had instructed, "If the time ever comes for her to need it again."  The words had been cryptic and foreign, but made a modicum of sense in retrospect.  William's injection.  Scully's pregnancy.  Marita hadn't known about the new baby - hell, not even Mulder had known about it - but if she had considered the option as an eventuality, or at the very least, as a possibility, perhaps the vaccine was meant to prevent a similar iron-mutation in another child.  A last resort in the fight against unlucky chromosomes.  

But then there were other concerns:  

"Marita Covarrubias is in love with you, Mulder."

Mulder's mind replayed a slideshow of blurred images; the way Marita had gazed at him, spoken to him, giggled with him in the middle of New Mexico, underneath a blanket of desert frigidness.  The sand cold beneath them, an arch of sunburned clouds scorching the sky.  The way she'd whispered her secrets like kisses, begged him to feed her child as she ran a warm sponge over her soiled arms.  Her voice low, broken: "My father was never buried - they shot him, but they never found the body..."

Marita had not specified the vaccine was necessarily meant for a second child. She said only that the vaccine was meant for Scully.  Specifically, for Scully.  Why would the vaccine be meant for Scully?  Mulder shivered.  At the hospital, Marita had spoken in totality to his wife, her cold, blue eyes like daggers.  The heat of her glare, her voice cracked with bitter repose, like a woman with nothing left to lose.  She hissed, "It was never about you, Agent Scully," and she hissed it like a snake rattling a warning.   Marita wouldn't deliberately try to harm Scully, would she?

Mulder sighed and played with the cap of the vial, twisting it and untwisting it.  Chances, coincidences, fate, life, blizzards...

Scully was convinced that history was repeating itself, that the child she carried was no different than William had been before Jeffrey Spender offered hope in the form of a mysterious liquid.  If she were correct in this assumption, it would mean their unborn child was also a weapon, a commodity, a means to keep alien life alive.  While William's altered biology would now kill anything with alien DNA, a second child could, theoretically, bring supersoldiers back from the dead.  The insanity of the situation was genetically stunning.  The answer lay in his gene-pool - his and Scully's - a crapshoot of recessive chromosomes merging in a single embryo.  Somehow, this revelation came as no surprise.  

One final, errant twist, and the vial opened, the cap spiraling out of his hands into darkness.  Mulder jumped back in surprise, muttered a curse.  Feet frozen in place, he bent and searched along the floor with one hand. All he needed was to spill the liquid all over the carpet, murder whatever chances he and Scully had of beating this thing.  Or at least, figuring out what it thrived on, what its weaknesses were.

On a stumble backwards, the flashlight grazed Mulder's foot and toppled; the room bubbled with slashes of light, cuts of blinding yellow beams.  Shards of yellow-gold bounced over the walls and rolled, skittered, settling with flickers into a far corner.  The carpet was left in darkness, and Mulder couldn't even make out his feet beneath him.  

"Shit," he muttered.  "Fucking wonderful."  

Opened vial in one hand, needle in the other, Mulder worked his jaw as he tried to figure out what the hell to do now.  If the vaccine needed to be sealed in order to retain its potency, Mulder was staring directly into the mouth of trouble. Even if he objected to Scully administering the vaccine right away - or at all - she would certainly kill him if he let anything happen to disrupt the actual compound itself. Anything Marita had given them was evidence, and if evidence helped them destroy the enemy, every single little bit helped.  

Leave it, dispense it, leave it, dispense it...

Shaking his head at what would probably end up being the wrong decision, Mulder stuck the tip of the needle into the vial and pulled up the stopper, sucking golden liquid up until there was no room left in the plastic tube.  Sufficiently filled, he dropped the vial to the desk behind him -

And missed by about half a foot.  The tiny glass bottle pitched into shadows, and Mulder gazed in horror as whatever was left disappeared to its death.  

"Batting a thousand tonight," he muttered to himself.  

There was no way he'd hunt around for that thing in the dark.  Tomorrow was plausible.  At the very least, morning would bring sunlight into the room and, if there was indeed a God, electricity with it.  

Mulder bent to his knees and followed the trail of light on the ground, hypodermic needle clutched in one hand.  He pulled up when his opposite hand closed around the flashlight, and the pastel shaft moved again, a flash on the ceiling.  He gritted out a shiver.  Mulder was actually starting to actually miss the suffocating air of August, the red-mud of dirtied benches at southwestern rest stops.  And Scully - she was a mirage of wild beauty in her white tank tops, damp red hair curling into sunburned shoulders.  

Mulder's flashlight alit a trail of white-gold weaves over Berber carpet, and he gazed in wide-eyed fascination, padding tight-rope-single-file down the hallway.  The carpet was deep beige, speckled with brown.  Each knot was tiny - too tiny.  He'd never before noticed how big his toes were in comparison.  They were actually freakishly large.
A creak on the stairs, and he could hear Scully coming up behind him.

"Hey Scully," he said, bouncing the beam along the carpet at his feet.  "How big would you say my toes are?"  

The slow click of a cocked gun echoed like an explosion in Mulder's ears.  Mulder froze, flashlight squeezed in one hand, a halo of light trained on the door to the bedroom. He didn't dare move the light, and the walls around him receded, inky, dark. The door wasn't more than two feet away, and William was behind that door.  

His son.  

Oh lord, his son.  

There were no weapons in sight, no room for quick getaways.  Mulder strained to see past the fog of darkness, his heart pulsing like the deep rattle of a snake. Three black silhouettes loomed in front of him, two figures back-to-front, and one to the left, blocking the stairs.  Someone floated behind Mulder, training a gun on his head. Scully - she'd gone downstairs to start a fire in the fireplace.  Oh Jesus, where was Scully?  

Another click, and a harsh, three hundred watt glow ignited black into white. Blinded Mulder to his knees. His hand came up, and he shielded his eyes with the fisted needle.  For a moment, he could see only blue-white specks, painful swirls on his burned corneas.  His head tilted to one side, and he backed against the wall.  

"Isn't it nice when the family comes to visit?" asked a stunted voice.  

Mulder turned, following the sound.  

There in the crackling of shadows was a waxy face, nose collapsed in on itself from acidic tear, mouth twisted as if the skin had been made of Play-doh and then pressed with wide thumbs. Luminescence danced, made a freak-show of what science had already deemed monstrous, unnatural.  The man's eyes were blank, expressionless.  His arms seemed to float in a soup of nothing, black sleeves against black emptiness.  His stance was wide - bureau procedure wide - gun trained on the side of Mulder's face.  Mulder had no doubts that the man would shoot if provoked.  Or even just because Mulder's splattered brains would be a nice end to a cold day.   

"Jeffrey Spender," said Mulder, his voice carefully neutral.  "Don't tell me you stopped by for some coffee and crumb cake."

"We're wasting time," said another voice.  

Mulder turned a second time.

And nearly choked.  

Billy Miles stood at the base of the stairs, one arm wrapped around a slender, gray t-shirted abdomen, the other pressed against a pale neck, the gleam of his sharp knife cutting at the hollow of her throat.  Scully's legs were still bare, ivory-kissed, and the Knicks t-shirt bunched around her thighs, strangled in Billy's grip. Her expression was hooded, blanketed in leftover flashlight flickers.  Her chin jutted, her eyes straight ahead; she seemed to radiate pure strength.  She watched Mulder, trained her sights on his face.  Only the rapid rise and fall of her chest gave away what grotesque thoughts might be flitting through her head.  

"Scully," he whispered, for lack of better things to say.  

Flanking Billy Miles was a woman, tall, thin, red hair - her hands shook on her flashlight like an almost-mercenary tricked into robbing a bank.  Lizzy Gill, Scully's former baby nurse, and an admitted scientist for the project. Lizzy said nothing, merely darted her wide-eyed terror from Spender, to Mulder, to Billy Miles clutching Scully, and then back to Mulder.  Her coat was long, brown, torn at the sleeves.  She was haggard, unkempt, a wild creature with an agenda.  She shivered, and the light fluttered in arching swoops across Mulder, and then across Spender.  

"What do you want from us?" Mulder asked.  

Truthfully, the question was both a ploy and a fish for explanation; Billy Miles had found them.  He had come in place of Knowle Rhorer. Which meant Marita had been wrong - not all of them were dead.  And chances were even greater now that more would soon follow.

Billy Miles' face remained expressionless, sallow in the burn of crackled orange.  Mulder's flashlight and Lizzy's flashlight criss-crossed in midair, pressing an X down above them and burying everything in deathly shades of canary and scorched sunset.  

"I'm here to give you a choice, Agent Mulder."  Billy Miles nodded towards the closed bedroom door.  "What I want for what you want.  I could kill Agent Scully, but her death is fairly inconsequential at this stage of the game."  

Billy's fist closed hard over Scully's neck - as if for emphasis, and Scully's eyes widened, oxygen ebbing from her throat. Her hands flitted to Billy's elbows, pulling, clutching - a gasp escaped.  She couldn't breathe.  Oh dear God, she couldn't breathe. She couldn't breathe!  

Mulder fought back the urge to leap the foot-wide divide between them, teeth bared like a leopard protecting the cave.  Mulder's fist clenched around the barrel of his only weapon: Marita's hypodermic needle - and his fingers trembled with rage.  His wife, his partner.  They'd traveled the world together and always emerged victorious, beaten, but glued tight in places that mattered.  A study in the art of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.  Defeat was palpable, but foreign.  They couldn't have gotten this far only to have the vine chopped off behind them.  

"You want my son," said Mulder, his voice a growl.  He tilted his chin at Scully, who gulped deep breaths as Billy's grip loosened and allowed oxygen flow.  "You'll kill her no matter what I do.  And then you'll kill me.  So why not just kill all of us right now?  You don't care whether we live or die.  Your kind never has."  

It was a risky tactic, being that forward, but he needed to understand before this went any further.  Why hadn't Billy Miles just killed Scully downstairs?  Why go to all the trouble of bringing her up here?  It didn't make any sense.  

Billy tucked the blade closer to Scully's neck, said, "You have something I need."    

Scully's eyes darted, searching for something, anything - God himself, to provide a distraction, a means of escape. Billy's voice was low, deadly. "Knowle Rhorer was careless, and he let the situation deteriorate into the fiasco it has become."

Mulder swallowed, watching Scully carefully.  "What are you talking about?"

"They're all dead, Agent Mulder."  Billy's brown eyes glinted.  "Knowle Rhorer was a prototype.  His job was to maintain security of the project, and he failed.  He was eliminated because of his failure.  And now I am the last.  My only goal is survival. The woman I brought knows how to properly dispose of the toxin that has destroyed plans for colonization.  I would have killed your brother, had he not made himself useful in finding you out.  Agent Scully is, from what I understand, an emergency room doctor. And she calls herself Lily Selden.  Am I right?"

Scully paled, and her eyes widened at Mulder, her mouth half-opened.  Mulder tried to think back to the realtor who had sold them the house, the phones he'd installed himself, the electronics he'd checked and re-checked again.   Privacy was an undefined, unidentifiable frame of mind, incapable of providing comfort.  his conversation with Scully in the kitchen, about the pregnancy - Jeffrey Spender had been tracking them all this time, perhaps even listening in. Anything was possible.  How much did Billy Miles know?  Could he have found out about Scully's pregnancy? Fear was awash in the quiver of Scully's lips; they were both thinking the same thing.  

"Frankly, I don't care what happens to you, Agent Mulder.   There is no project left, no great cause for you to fight.  I'll give you what you want - " He turned his head so that his breath tickled Scully's cheek.  Scully closed her eyes, her jaw tight.  "If you'll give me what I want.  It's a very simple transaction."  

Mulder gazed helplessly at his wife. There was no right way out of this.  None at all.  

"You're a liar," he said, hoarse.  "I won't let you kill my son or my wife.  I won't make that choice."   

Jeffrey Spender pressed closer, and the cold metal of the barrel caressed Mulder's ear.  "You're walking a fine line, dear brother.  Choose your next words carefully."  

Mulder turned his head; the gun traced the line of his earlobe, his jaw, and then pressed directly into his nose. Jeffrey's eyes were deep black hollows of un-remorse.  His blank gaze rested on Mulder's hand, and on the vaccine clutched to his chest.  There was a moment of crackled tension.  An un-spoken message passed between them, a sort of bizarre communication.  Mulder's nostrils flared as he fought for understanding, desperation tugging at the corners of his mind.  The back-sounds of wind and thunder echoed in his ears - a winter storm cracking away at the house, at the foundation -

Realization flooded him.

"You want this vaccine," said Mulder. He felt cold all over, frostbitten. When he turned again, Spender's gun ran the planes of his face, and then trained on the back of his head.   The tip of the revolver trembled, and Mulder knew he'd been right.  

"Keep quiet," Spender ordered.  

Mulder pressed his thumb to the stopper of the needle, pulse racing, and he turned the metal towards his right arm, poising to administer a shot.  "You went after Marita because she stole this from one of the labs.  The same lab my brother got William's vaccine from.  You needed to be sure whether any one of us had injected ourselves with it. You need this thing before you can kill William. That's why you haven't killed Scully yet."  

"Time is running out for you," Billy Miles warned, holding fast to Scully.  "I haven't killed her yet, but I will if you force my hand.  And then I'll kill your son."  

Mulder felt bile collect at the base of his throat.  "You lying son of a - "

"Your son doesn't have to die," Lizzy Gill blurted.  She bobbed the flashlight, her voice broken, nervous. Her opposite hand outstretched towards Mulder, her pale, sallow face tense under the X of flashlight threads.  "We can take care of him, study him.  We can co-exist together with these life forms, learn how to make ourselves better, stronger. But we - we need the vaccine, Agent Mulder.  If we have the compound, William doesn't have to die." Her eyes darted to Scully, who stood silent beneath Billy Miles' strong grip.  "Ms. Covarrubias died because she betrayed the project and gave the compound to you.  Do you - Do you want to see your wife die?"  

Scully released a strangled breath.  "Mulder, don't give - "  

But Billy Miles pressed the knife roughly into the jugular of her neck, and her mouth closed, eyes screaming with frustration.  

Mulder held the vaccine close to his bare arm, needle pressed just above his bicep.  He fought to keep his shaky fingers from pressing down on the stopper.  

So Marita was dead.  Strangled or shot or broken, left to decay somewhere behind a snowdrift or a slush-eroded building or maybe just in a dumpster, blue and frozen, awash in rats and putrid leftovers from a life that pressed on without her.  The thought turned Mulder's stomach inside out like a ragged shirt.  Marita had given him back his son. She'd had ulterior motives for every move, every ace she'd ever offered him, but she'd not been evil. She'd been human.  Too human.  Another person dead for this project, for this science that should never have been.

Mulder's feet were lead; he was rooted.  There were no weapons this time.  No means of escape.  He had no idea what molecules swam in this solution he held, whether or not the compound would kill him or turn him into a slab of iron or make him into a supersoldier, but threatening to inject himself with it was the only way out. Billy Miles needed this vaccine, and he needed it badly enough to enlist the help of corrupt, 'mere mortal' scientists.  He needed it badly enough to use Jeffrey Spender in order to find he and Scully.  He needed it badly enough to kill Marita, but to keep Scully and William alive so long as Mulder threatened to waste the mysterious liquid on himself.  

"Give Lizzy Gill the vaccine," Spender ordered, jabbing the gun closer to Mulder's scalp.  "I'll kill you - "

"You'll kill me anyway."  Mulder's words were hard, and his gaze rested again on Scully.  Her lower lip quivered against chattering teeth, her eyes focused wholly on the needle at his arm.  Terror was bold in her expression, and she seemed to will the needle into becoming a way out, forcing God's hand by sheer concentration.  

To Spender, Mulder afforded the truth: "He's going to kill you right after he kills me."  And then, with a jut of his chin towards Lizzy: "And he'll kill you, too."

"No." Lizzy's flashlight jabbed towards Mulder in hard stabs, erratic patterns darting on the walls and ceiling.  "You don't understand.  It's okay, Agent Mulder.  There's more going on here than you - "

"He'll kill you," Mulder repeated, his eyes unapologetic.  "Just like he killed Knowle Rhorer and Marita Covarrubias.  Just like he killed your colleague, Duffy Haskel.  Just like he'll kill Scully and my son.  He's only used you to get to me."

"You think you're some kind of God," Spender hissed, the barrel shaking erratically at Mulder's scalp.  "You think you can save the world by not handing that needle over?  By giving us all your goddamned expert opinion? You think you've won this round, just because you have your son back?  Why don't you ask Marita Covarrubias what happens to people who think they can play God?"

Scully seemed to notice the slight wavering of the gun, and her eyes flitted in Spender's direction.  Her mouth opened slightly, only slightly, and her left leg crossed back over her right.  The stairway behind her was dark, bottomless. The toes of her left foot came up against her calf, and her eyes sought Mulder's.  Her meaning was loud and clear: distract him.  

"You're losing focus," Billy Miles snapped, turning the knife so that the blade faced into Scully's chin and not into her neck.  It wasn't much, but it might be enough to allow Scully to tuck and roll away.

"Just grab the baby," said Lizzy Gill, her voice a squeak.  "Why do we have to kill anyone?"

"We can't take the baby until we have the vaccine," said Billy Miles.  "Agent Mulder needs to stop playing games he can't win."

Mulder kept the vaccine pressed hard to his arm.  Scully's eyes locked on him, her left foot edging slowly up the back of her right leg.  Closer, closer. Almost -

"You're afraid," said Mulder, his finger pressed to the stopper.  He fought for understanding, and sputtered out the first idea that came to mind.  "That's it, isn't it?  You won't come near me because you're afraid of what this compound can do. You think you know what it is, but you're not sure.  Not after what happened to my son. It could do anything.  It could poison you - or perhaps it could make an ordinary man powerful.  Powerful enough to stop you."

Billy Miles' knife wavered a fraction of a centimeter, and Mulder noted that he'd hit a nerve.  

"You'll be dead," said the supersoldier. "Before all the liquid even circulates through your system."   

"If I'd be dead then why haven't you just killed me and taken it?"  

"Agent Mulder - "  Lizzy's expression was pleading.  "Please.  Give it to me."  

"Give me one good reason why I should hand this over," said Mulder, vaccine trained on his bicep, pressing down like a sharp pencil. He felt sick, dizzy.

"I'll put a bullet in your head," Spender growled.  The gun wavered in hummingbird quickness, and Scully's eyes darted quickly from the gun, to Mulder, and then to the gun, and then to Mulder once again.  So close now. So close.  Just had to wait for the right moment...

Mulder swallowed, took a breath.  "One of you is going to kill me anyway, so you might as well get it over with." Mulder tore his gaze from Scully and faced his brother once more.  The gun was hard, and cold, and terrifying against the raw stubble on Mulder's cheek.  "You've been jealous ever since the minute you met me." Mulder jutted his chin in challenge.  "You hate me so much that you're willing to align yourself with this man - admittedly a result of the work our father perpetuated. You're willing to give up your decency, your courage - the few things that seperated you from him.  Now nothing separates you from him.  You're a coward."

"Shut up!" Spender shouted.  The skin hanging from his nose flapped.  Lizzy's flashlight jutted at the shout, and light splashed off the silver metal of Spender's gun.  Mulder's breath caught in his throat.  He prayed that Scully was ready to make her move.  Otherwise they were both good and dead.  

"So why don't you just shoot me, Jeffrey?"  Mulder steeled his expression.  "You've been wanting to.  All these years you've been wanting to - "

"I'll give you ten seconds," Billy Miles interrupted.  

Mulder turned in time to see the shadowed supersoldier press the knife to Scully's cheekbone.  Time slowed to an aching crawl.  Scully was right; time was relative, objective, a variable that shifted in the eyes of the beholder. Mulder swallowed back a curse.  Scully's eyes trained to the left, where the sharp blade hovered just below her lash-line.  

"I would hate to slash your wife's pretty face."

 The tip of the knife pressed into the skin below Scully's auburn lashes, and Scully gasped out involuntarily.  A drop of blood, round and perfect and tear-like, skipped the side of Scully's face.  She looked like she was crying paint.  

Mulder's mouth went dry; he was running out of time.  Billy meant it.  He truly meant it.  Ten seconds and Mulder's wife would be dead.  Scully's ankle trembled, and she seemed to be fighting for composure.  Or else she was going into shock.  Fear rose like tendrils of icicles in Mulder's throat.  Distracted as she was, she'd never be able to execute a self-defense strike like this.  Billy would cut her throat so fast she'd be dead before she hit the floor.    

Mulder took a breath.  He felt melted, like Jell-o before the gelatin hardened.  "Try anything and I'll inject this whole fucking compound into my veins.  I don't care what it is."  

Billy Miles grinned, and the action didn't agree with him. "You wouldn't."

"Try me."  

Scully's face was dark, painted, a line like war-paint down her cheek.  "Mulder - just go.  You have what they want.  Fight them.  Take the baby and - "

Billy squeezed her abdomen to choke her off, knife trailing down the side of her face.

"No!"  Mulder pressed the needle harder into his arm, so hard he nearly punctured skin.  "You kill her and I'll die putting you down."  

"Agent Mulder - "  Lizzy Gill again, desperation edging each word like a warning.  "Just give it to me.  I'm begging you."  

"Eight seconds."  

Mulder's fingers squeezed the stopper.  "There won't be a single fucking drop left. If you hurt her - "

Another drip of scarlet trickled the apple of Scully's cheek, and her mouth opened and closed; she looked as if she was either praying or losing her mind.

"Seven seconds."  

A creaking outside the house - slow at first, and then harder, faster.  A snapping of sorts.  Tethers loosening, splintering, wood crunching together and then splitting apart completely.  All movement in the hallway seemed to stop, freeze frame like a VCR on pause.  Wind howled in delight, slapped at the windows - the slow tear of glass stretching to its breaking point.

"Mulder - "

A mind-numbing crash rocked the floor beneath them, buckled the carpet, rippled them nearly off their feet.  Mulder gasped and hit the wall, Spender landing hard behind him, palms out, defensive.  Ricochets of light prisms fluttered off the walls and ceiling, and then burnt out.  The air went black with loud, hideous whistles of blizzard.  The world was gone.  Mulder was blind.  

"Scully, run - "

"I'll kill you myself," hissed Spender, and Mulder was pulled forward - pulled with invisible hands.  He struck out with the heel of his palm, turned his face away.  Spender's skin flaked, and Mulder grimaced as the man's nose crumpled like an accordion - Spender howled and Mulder twisted them both back with his legs, crashed them into the wall.  He had to get the gun away.  He needed leverage, needed -

A grunt and a shriek from the other side of the room: what might have been the toppling of a body down a hard, wooden pit.  Other bodies rushing forward, hitting the carpet, hitting the wall.  Glass and snow flushed into the hallway, wind bellowing, thunderous.  

Spender's arm came up behind Mulder, knocked him to the ground.  The hypodermic needle dropped from his hand, spiraled out into the darkness.  


A scuffle here, a scuffle there - a woman's gasp - Mulder couldn't tell whose.

 "Here," came Scully's breathless reply, and then another thud - a body crashing against the wall.   She grunted, and there was a third thud.  A wheeze of air.  A blast of low, rolling thunder drowned out anything more.

"Stay away," screeched a woman's voice - not Scully's.  "Stay the hell away from me - "

"Back!"  Scully's voice this time, dark, familiar.  "You don't want to get hurt then you stay the hell out of my way."  

Air froze, condensed; It was snowing inside the house.  The storm had banged for entrance, and now the worst had finally gotten in.  

With a groan of purpose, Mulder slammed back into Spender, knocking them both to the ground.  The gun skittered away into a clank of crushed metal or glass or something that sounded like a pile of shards.  Mulder searched the darkness for a big enough shard, or the syringe, or Scully, or anything - a fist came up into his chest and air whooshed out of him.  Mulder's back hit the ground hard, and deep edges of invisible shrapnel dug into his spine.  Mulder hissed, his heart beating  - his pulse drummed a frenetic map of survival: grab the sharp thing, grab the sharp thing, grab the sharp thing...  Mulder's fist closed around a cold slab of glass.

Swinging wildly, praying he would hit something, Mulder finally connected with bone: there was a crack, and a slice of glass through skin, and Spender went down.  For how long, Mulder couldn't be sure.  The syringe.  Mulder had to get the syringe.  

"Scully!" he yelled.  "I need you to get - "  

Behind the door to the bedroom, a child's wails exploded. Shrieks fought for dominance over the roar of winter wind. William. The gun, the baby, the gun, the baby.  But where was Billy Miles?  If he was at the bottom of the stairs, experience told Mulder that he wouldn't be down for long.

On his hands and knees, Mulder swept along the floor - the gun, the needle, the gun, the needle. And the baby.  Fucking hell.  He couldn't see a goddamned thing.  

"I have it!" came Scully's voice.  "Mulder - "

Light flooded back into the room - it was Lizzy Gill, crouched on the floor by the far wall. Her eyes wild, she swept the hallway with a silver flashlight in her shaking hands.  Wind whipped through her hair, and the shaft of light illuminated walls, and shattered glass, and drunken swirls of snowflakes swimming like dust.  Finally, the light rested on Scully, crouched like a cat, her fist closed around the base of a hypodermic needle.  Her back to the stairs, her elbows shook.  Her bottom eyelid dripped blood, but she didn't seem to notice.  Her blue eyes glazed: the prowl of a wild den mother.  

Behind Scully, Billy Miles loomed up the stairs, his face blank, arms at his sides.  His shirt was ripped, arm gashed. He didn't care.   He shouldn't; the blood wasn't real.  

Pain erupting from the punch to his abdomen, Mulder crawled towards her, reached out an arm.  "Scully!  Behind you!"  

Scully turned on her knees, and Billy Miles paused at the top of the stairs.  Mulder reached back an arm to steady himself and connected with a solid, fleshy object.  His hand slithered in a pool of warm, wet liquid.  He didn't need to turn to know what it was.  Spender.  He wouldn't look - he couldn't.  He still didn't have the gun.  Nobody, it seemed, had the gun.  Where was the motherfucking gun?

William's screams grew louder, more desperate, and Mulder's eyes darted from the door to the bedroom, to Scully, to Lizzy Gill cowering in a corner, and then back to Scully.  Billy Miles pressed off to the left and Scully turned on her hands and knees, following Billy's movements, never breaking eye contact.  She was a cornered lioness, a trapped dragon.  She pressed the needle in towards her bicep, her fingers caked with blood. She was a grain of salt away from breaking.  Her knees - it was her knees that bled.  Mulder breathed raggedly, and each exhale puffed like smoke into the air.   

Scully's teeth barred, her eyes glittered.  She hissed, "You take one step towards my husband or my son, and so help me God, you'll wish you hadn't."  

Billy Miles remained expressionless, slinking along the wall towards the bedroom.  "And what will you do, Agent Scully?"

Air smoked out from her lips, snowflakes collecting in her hair.  Snow blew sideways in jagged lines, the swirls and upsweeps of wind almost deafening.  Scully was the wilder storm.  "You know exactly what I'll do."

Billy crept closer to the bedroom, unconvinced.  Mulder jutted his chin towards the man.  "Now you've done it," he said.  "Now you've really pissed her off."

Scully's thumb teetered over the depressor of the needle. Her eyes darted and she gasped.  "Mulder - " She jutted her chin.  "Mulder, behind you - "

Mulder turned in time to see Jeffrey Spender, deformed and bleeding, skaking and rising to his knees.  A dark spot spread over his shoulder, and he grasped the gun in one black-gloved hand and lowered it to Mulder's temple, index finger a hair away from pressing the trigger.  Mulder squinted through the upsweeps of snow and skirted away, down on his spine, pulling himself backwards with his hands.  He slid his feet across the floor to take out Spender's knees.  Spender came down and a shot fired, deflected wide.  Mulder ducked, and behind him, there was a shriek from Scully.  

Time disappeared on the howls of wind.

For a terrifying second, Mulder was sure she'd been hit. His heart erupted into his throat.  

William screamed, and Mulder could make out terrified squeals of ... it sounded like... "Mama."  Again and again, like a demented joke. First words, first steps, first brushes with death - "Mama, Mama - "

Scully cried out.  

Mulder couldn't see her.  He had to turn.  Billy Miles would kill her - would kill her.  A cry ripped from Mulder's throat -


Spender grunted, and struggled for control of the gun.  Mulder felt along the floor and grasped a long shard of glass with one hand, the other clutched at Jeffrey Spender's elbow.   Underneath the man's ribs, Mulder thrust the shard of glass, twisted, tugged.  Warm liquid burst over Mulder's fist and he thought he might vomit altogether.  His brother.  Jesus.  This was his only brother.

 The gun clicked to the floor, and Mulder kicked it away; the barrel sputtered and hit the bedroom door.  

"Mama!"  William's wails jabbed like pins in Mulder's ears.  "Mama!  Mama!"  
Mulder turned and the Universe screeched to a halt.  The syringe was completely empty, buried in Scully's arm at an impossible angle.  Heat flared in her eyes, and Billy Miles sprung toward her.  Scully sat, daring him with her jutted chin, unafraid.  

Pulse racing, terror running like frozen blood in his veins, Mulder leapt up and tripped over Spender's slick fluids, entagling his legs and dropping back to the floor.  The nerve-endings in his ankle shrieked.  Glass crunched in hot needles of pain beneath his fingers.  More blood.  His blood. Hurt.  So cold.  Scully.  He had to get to Scully.  Had to get to her before -

Billy Miles grabbed her, yanked her to her feet by her hair.  The needle dropped from her fingers, useless now, forgotten.  "Was the truth worth it, Agent Scully?"  

Fear flickered in Scully's eyes for only a moment, and her gaze froze in tandem with Mulder's.  Glinted. She was a hundred Scullys at once.  She was Lily Selden and Laura Petrie and Dana Scully, and she was the truth and the light and every answer he'd ever sought.  Air constricted, ebbed, and the room was a vaccum of singular moments.  She was looking forward to working with him, she had a wedding that weekend but would see him on Monday, she didn't think vampires killed the cows because vampires didn't exist, and he was nuts, bringing up genies and mummies, and she tasted like chocolate when she ate Hershey's Kisses with her beer... Mulder's ears hummed. He silently willed to her: Scully, run.  Go.  

The blade came up quickly, before Mulder could blink, and time abruptly ran out.  Billy dug into Scully's neck with an arc of graceful dexterity.  Across her neck the glint of the knife ripped, trailing a thin smile of blood behind it, dark, almost black.  A nauseating whoosh of metal sliced through skin.  And just like that, her throat was severed. The hourglass shattered over his head, blinding him, and what was done was done.  


He couldn't tell who was screaming.  

"No!  No, no - Scully!"    

"Mama!"  William cried, muffled now, receeding to background noise. "Mama..."

Scully's eyes went wide in shock, her expression like that of a kitten who had just been birthed.  Her mouth opened, struggled for air where the was none. Her blood bled deep, brick red over Billy Miles' arms.  He released her with a disgusted shove, and Scully fell forward. Mulder pitched towards her like lightning and caught her before she hit the floor.  He couldn't even feel her.  He couldn't feel anything.  They sank together.  

A sob tore from his throat. Mulder cradled her, sticky and wet with his blood, with Spender's blood, and now with his wife's blood.  She was so pale and red was so stark, so bold - it didn't belong on her.  He felt like howling, like covering himself over with leaves and grass and dirt.  If she died, he would die here with her.  

Scully's eyes closed, opened once more in a desperate, losing battle.  Her hands shook and she brought her fingers up, gazed at them.  Disoriented.  Reaching.  Blood.  So much blood.  She was everywhere, spilled over the rug, trickled over his hands.  Her eyes glazed, and she focused on him one last time. Her lids heavy, her mouth moved without sound.   

"Don't go," he choked.  

And her eyes closed a final time.  Her neck dropped.  The lily had been broken.

Oh my God, Scully's dead!  Or is she?