From Thu Jan 16 00:30:20 1997
By: Deborah L. Wells
February 16th, 1997

April 7th, 5:30 A.M.
In The Woods, Wilstead Cabin
Hadden, West Virginia

Mulder pulled Scully into his arms, and she leaned heavily against him.
He held her tight, feeling the slight tremors of apprehension run through
her body.  He wondered if she felt his as well.  Hurried and scattered
scenes from the last many months rushed through his mind.  Their car
accident.  Scully's screams of agony that first night.  Sadly, turning
out to be only a small foreshadowing of things to come.  Ethan's strange
agendas, and their first sickening fear that came with the realization
that they were prisoners in this world.  The slow and monotonous passage
of time.  Days into weeks.  Weeks into months.  The back-breaking hard
work forced upon them.  The loss of their identities and simple freedoms.
The absence of control over their own lives.  The planning and failing
of each subsequent escape attempt.  A part of them knowing the futility
of each one before hand.  Yet the desperate need to keep trying nonethe-
less.  The slow, but deepening loss of hope that dawned and strengthened
with each new day.  The tortures, and spiraling acts of dementia in-
flicted upon them by their captor.  The days of punishment, with no food
or water.  Reduced to groveling.  The subtle eclipse of their dignities
with Ethan's never-ending determination to break their spirits. Emily's
death, and the depths of Scully's grief over her.  The tears.  The
terror.  The hopelessness.  Each painful remembrance branded forever
upon their souls.

"Are you ready?", he whispered now against her ear, repeating Eve's
words.  He held her closer, content within the embrace of her warmth.
The sudden melancholia he had been feeling reviewing the events of
their captivity lifted.  Because he couldn't help but be thankful for
the one truly good thing to come out of all this madness.  Their love
for each other. The spark always there, but perhaps never to have been
acted upon without their catapulting into this alternate reality.  He
envisioned the memory of her face in his mind.  Her body.  Her very
essence.  Remembering how beautiful she had looked and felt when they
had made love for the first time, and each time since.  He loved her
more than he had ever thought possible to love a woman.  And still
more besides.  She was his friend.  His partner.  His lover.  Now his
life.  His one reason for living.  Once again she seemed to reach
inside his very being, connecting with his own thoughts and voicing
them back to him.

"We're going to make it Mulder", she said, pulling away just enough
to look into his eyes.  And he knew she too had been thinking of that
first time together.  The wonderment and awe it invoked in their
hearts.  This one golden treasure found among the ruins of their
imprisonment.  She trailed her palm lightly against his face.  The
cloth bandages of her hand warm and tender against his skin.  He
touched her cheek in return.

"I love you", he mouthed.

She smiled, repeating the words in silence.

Eve watched them.  These two had been through so much.  Over the
months she had been an unwilling witness to their pain and struggle.
They were indeed remarkable people.  Alone they were strong and
capable enough, but together they formed something that defied simple
explanations.  And it was a bond strong enough to be reckoned with,
and acknowledged by virtue of its infinite power.  If ever two
people deserved happiness, it was them.  Yet somehow she felt that
even before they had come here their lives had been scarred with
pain and loss.  Almost as if the gift of their love was such that
they were forced to offer sacrifice on every level for the privilege
of a relationship that few are ever lucky enough to share.  And she
was sure that even though it was a personal heartache that only
they could fathom the depths of; it was a price they were willing
to pay.  Time and again.  Mulder and Scully.  They had both found
a place special in her heart.  So much so that she was now deep
set in the very act of betraying the only family she had ever known
to try and help them escape.  Even though she was absolute in her
resolve, it was still the hardest thing she had ever had to face.
And time, cruel time, was once again not on their side.  She
coughed softly to get their attention.  They pulled apart quickly,
almost as if they had forgotten that Eve was still standing there.
She moved forward towards them placing a hand on each of their

She hesitated as they looked at her intently.  Waiting.  She had
felt a sudden need to say something.  To communicate her feelings.
Her wishes.  Her fervent desire that they would be successful.  But
now somehow the words alluded her.  Until she saw the twin mirrors
of hope that lived stubbornly in their faces.  The belief.  They
would find a way it said to her.  Or die trying.  She smiled warmly
at them as she at last settled on the words she wanted to share.
"I wish I had the look ahead sight to know what this day will
follow for you.  But I can only keep in my heart the pure gladness
that seeing you reach the safe place of your home again would fill
me with.  I'll hold that feeling close and tight.  I can only set
you on your way now with my warm wishes, and loving thoughts."  She
bowed her head solemnly.  "And my heart grieved sorrow for your
worrisome pain these last long days with us."

Scully reached out to Eve, enfolding the young girl into her arms.
"Eve you have nothing to be sorry about.  Nothing to feel ashamed
of.  Without you I....we....would never have lasted this long.  You
have to know that."  Mulder stepped forward, placing his hand on
Eve's shoulder.  "Eve, please reconsider and come with us.  When
Ethan finds out we're gone he might...."  Eve stopped his words with
a defiant look.  Stubborn.  Determined.  "He won't never hurt me
Mulder.  I know this."  The sincerity and absolute faith she placed
in the limits of her brother's tolerance for brutality was one of
the few times that Eve appeared as the child she truly was in
actual years.  With a child's unerring and honest belief that
those closest to them are infallible, above the frailties of human
weakness, and its inherent trappings of good and bad.  It's one of
the most difficult lessons a child, any child, must learn.  That
those they love are still after all only human.  Capable of being
wrong.  Capable of being cruel.  And in some extreme cases, capable
of being evil.  Eve, like any child, was destined to learn her
lesson the hard way.  Experience.

Mulder and Scully exchanged looks, both of them thinking of Emily.
They had considered telling Eve about their knowledge on their
suspicions of Ethan's part in her death.  But they knew, she would
refuse to hear them out.  Mulder nodded, accepting Eve's decision,
knowing there was nothing he could say to change her mind.  "We'll
come back for you Eve, and the others", Scully said quietly.  Eve
was silent, realizing all was said that could be expressed on both
sides.  She stepped back from them, turning towards the door.  They
followed her into the next room.

The first sight to greet them was of a deeply slumbering Earnest.
His head rested on the table in front of him.  His arm outstretched
next to an overturned cup, looking as if he had fallen mid-sip.
Beside him propped up against the bench he was sitting on was his
shotgun.  Eve looked at her brother.  A trace of guilt clouded her
features for a moment, and then just as quick disappeared.  "The
root I used to bring on the sleep is hard to time on its effects,
but I chose it because it wakes the sleeper up easy like when it
wears off.  Just like coming out of a daydream.  It's sits well on
the insides too.  No bad ills follow like a headache or stomachache.
With luck, he'll just think he nodded off for a short bit, and get
right back on with his business."  'With luck.'  The words hung in
the air.  They would need a lot of that this day.  "Ethan and the
rest have gone on already to chore.  I sent the smaller ones out to
gather some herbs and plants for my medicine store.  They're off
looking on the other side of the woods.  I made sure."  Mulder
nodded, as he moved towards the front door.  His mind already pic-
turing the path to the shanty shed out back.  He knew the route and
plan so well he felt he could make the trip without the aid of his
senses if necessary.  A fact he was sure Scully would be pleased
with, as it had been at her insistence that they had repeated the
escape route over in their minds again and again.  He opened the
door, closing it quietly behind him.

Eve moved over to a cot on the far side of the room, pulling out
a bundle from underneath it.  It was a burlap sack with cloth
strips sewn loose unto the back.  Its shape bulky, outlining the
items placed inside it.  "I made this up late last night after
everybody had gone off to sleep.  She moved over to Scully.  "I've
loaded it with some food and a water jug, just in case you should
get lost and end up spending more time out there in the woods than
you're figuring on.  Then she walked over to the bedroom, replacing
the bar bolt across the outside of the door.  Turning she caught
the furrowed brow of Scully as she reached up to adjust one of
the straps laying against her shoulder.  She released her breath
through tightly clenched teeth in a soft hiss.  Her hands, Eve
realized.  She was in pain.  No wonder, considering the severity
of the burns.

Eve crossed the room, taking Scully's hands gently into her own at
the wrists.  She shook her head slowly.  "I wish there was time
enough for me to doctor these up for you."  Scully said nothing,
lowering her eyes.  Sensing where Eve's thoughts were heading now.
"Why?", Eve asked.  Knowing there was no need to fill in the particu-
lars of her question.  "Eve, I can't explain what happened last
night.  Not now.  There isn't time.  And I have a feeling you aren't
ready yet to know.  But you deserve an answer and I promise,
when this is over you'll get one.  For now you'll just have to
believe me when I say I had my reasons for doing what I did."  Eve
opened her mouth to speak again, but was silenced when Scully
shook her head.  Scully looked deep into Eve's eyes, trying to
convey the seriousness of her next words.

"Promise me Eve.  Don't underestimate Ethan.  When he finds out
we're gone....if he...."  She paused unsure suddenly how to put
into words the fear she felt for Eve's safety once they had gone.
She was as much afraid for Eve as she was for herself and Mulder.
"Protect yourself Eve.  Whatever it takes.  I know he's your brother,
but he's also a....danger.  He's capable of anything.  Promise me."
Scully could see the range of emotions as they crossed the land-
scape of Eve's face.  Her eyes reflected back many things - dis-
belief, confusion, uncertainty, guilt.  But finally.  Acceptance.
"I promise Scully."  They both jumped slightly as Mulder walked
through the door.  Scully met him halfway, alarmed at the look
of anger on his face.  He avoided her eyes as he threw the burlap
sack he was carrying unto the table.  Just by the muffled sound
the sack made upon contact with the wood, Scully could guess the
reason for his distress.  The sound had been entirely too light.
It most definitely wasn't the sound that the weight of two FBI
standard issue guns coming into contact with an unyielding sur-
face would make.  It could only mean that there wasn't any guns
in the sack.

"They weren't there", Mulder said, bringing fact to her summation.
"The guns weren't there."  Eve picked up the bag, spilling the
contents out across the table.  Two FBI badges in their cases.
Two cell-phones.  She picked up one of the phones, turning it over
in her hands.  She held it up, facing the wrong way, as she had
never actually seen one before.  "What about these things here?
Can't they be of some use to you?"  Mulder shook his head
impatiently, running his hands across his face.  "No.  The batteries
are dead after all this time."  Scully came over to him.  "Mulder
we have to go without them.  There's no turning back now.  We've
come too far to back out."  He looked at her face.  "Scully, those
guns were the only edge we had.  We have to have something to defend
ourselves with in case....."  He trailed off, not wanting to say
the words he was thinking in front of Eve.  Mulder looked at the
shotgun still propped next to Earnest.  He started to reach for
it, but Scully stood in his way.

"No Mulder.  If you take that gun then you'll ruin what chance we
have to put any time between us and Ethan.  We have to leave it.
When we go Earnest may well wake up and realize something's not
right, and go into the bedroom to check on us.  But then again he
may not.  But if he sees that the gun is missing, he'll know for
sure.  We're already outnumbered.  We've lost the guns.  We can't
afford to lose this too."  Eve quickly walked over to the kitchen
area, opening a drawer she extracted a long handled butcher knife.
"Take this then.  It's better than nothing."  Mulder took the knife
from her, wrapping his fingers tightly around the wooden handle.
It brought him little comfort.  But as Eve had said, it was better
than nothing.

The air in the cabin suddenly felt super-charged with tension.  As
all three determined they had reached the point of final repose.
There was nothing left to do or say.  It was time to go. Scully gave
Eve another quick hug, surprised to find her eyes misting over with
emotion.  Mulder reached for the badges and phones, returning them
to the sack in his hand.  He came up behind Scully putting his
arm on her shoulder.  Eve opened the door, suddenly anxious to
have them on their way.  Scully walked out first.  The sun was just
beginning to rise.  There was a chill in the air, and she shivered
involuntarily.  Mulder came up behind her pressing his body close
to hers, almost as if he was returning the favor from his mind
simulation scenario when she had done as much for him against the
imaginary cold.  But there was nothing remotely imaginary about
this she knew.  Her body responded to her heightened anticipation.
She could feel the blood racing through her veins.  The pounding
of her heart.  The fear.  But somewhere in the midst of all that
foreboding, there was something else as well.  As she crossed the
threshold from the cabin to the outside it hit her with all the
power of her being.


After all this time.  After all the horrors. For the first time she
was able to make a conscious decision without being told.  Without
being forced.  A decision that wasn't against her will.  She was
amazed at how light her body felt suddenly, as she symbolically
shed the shackles of her captivity over these long months.  True,
it did little to quell the fear, as this decision, conscious or
otherwise, could very well end in her and Mulder's death.  But it
was exhilarating nonetheless.  She couldn't help but smile.  It
seemed somehow sacrilege given the seriousness of the moment.  She
turned almost apologetically towards Mulder.  And her smile widened
as she saw his own face marked with the same evidence of pure joy.
Together they turned towards the direction of the first marker on
the trail that they hoped would take them away from this nightmare
forever.  Back home.

Eve watched them from the door frame.  They weren't the same two
people who had been taken here so long ago.  That was apparent
enough.  Neither was she, she realized sadly.  She watched them
until they disappeared into the woods at exactly the point where
she had told them to start.  She looked up at the tree that was the
marker of that starting point.  The sun was just now reaching up
over the horizon, topping the crest of this tree that was just
slightly taller than the rest.  It was silly she knew, but she
wanted to think that the heavens were lighting their way.  The
tree their unofficial guardian.  Its damaged tip bent slightly
towards the left from a ravage storm.  Bent, but not broken.
Not the same, but still alive.  Still fighting.  Like Mulder and
Scully.  Like her.

The sunrise was bringing changing colors to herald the start of
a new day.  A new and very different day.  One that would change
their lives forever.  Or see the end of them.  She sighed deeply,
turning back inside and closing the door.  She went back over to
check on Earnest.  Satisfied that he was doing fine she removed
the overturned cup that had held the tainted tea she had given
him earlier.  She had already disposed of the rest of the pot.
She moved over to the fireplace and poured a half cup of the
regular tea she had brewed since then.  She placed the cup back,
close to his hand.  She was about to sit down across from him
with a pile of mending ready to fill the time with a mindless
task until he woke.  Instead she crossed over to the kitchen
area.  She returned to the same drawer from which she had taken
the large butcher knife she had given to Mulder.  This time she
removed another knife, but smaller in size.  More compact.  She
hesitated only a moment before taking it with her.  She buried it
under the bundle of mending she was working on, as she sat down and
patiently began the chore.  She concentrated, wanting nothing more
than to push Scully's words from her thoughts.  But they refused
to do her bidding.

'Protect yourself Eve.  Whatever it takes....Promise me....'


By: Deborah L. Wells
February 21st, 1997

April 7th, 6:02 A.M.
In The Woods, Wilstead Cabin
Hadden, West Virginia

Eve tried to keep her features from betraying her as she glanced over
at Earnest.  He was moving restlessly.  His eyes flickering with nearing
consciousness.  Slowly he sat up, rubbing his hands over his face in a
tired gesture.  Eve continued with her mending, as if there was nothing
out of the ordinary taking place in front of her.  Earnest gave her a
confused look.  She smiled.  "Well hello there sleepy head", she said
in a slightly teasing tone.  His brow furrowed at her words, as if he
was having trouble narrowing down his train of thought.  He hands
gravitated towards his shot gun.  Her heart leapt as she watched him
check the chambered rounds.  "Bad dreams?", she tried again.  Hoping to
convince him with her words that he had only fallen asleep.

"What's going on here?", he questioned her.  She rose from her seat,
going to the fireplace and picking up the hot kettle with the aid of
a dishcloth.  She brought it back over to the table.  She gave a
slight dip of the kettle in his direction.  "Would you like me to warm
that up for you a bit?"  He nodded, watching her intently as she poured
the hot liquid into his already half-filled cup of tea.  She replaced
the kettle and returned to her place, picking up the mending she had
been working on before.  Slowly, Earnest reached for the cup of tea,
blowing on it absently as it made its way to his mouth.  After a
moment he placed the cup back down on the table.  She could feel his
eyes on her again and she willed herself not to react to the close
scrutiny.  But her fingers were shaking and she accidently stuck her-
self with the needle.  "Eve, what hap....did you....", he paused as
if he had forgotten what it was he wanted to say.  His eyes strayed
over to the bolted bedroom door.  He gave her a quick glance before
rising and heading in the direction of the bedroom.  Eve's heart
jumped.  Her breath felt like it was being squeezed forcefully
through her lungs.  Her eyes widened in an absolute petrifying fear.
She stood up quickly, her mouth open, trying to think of something
to say to detract him from the door.

Suddenly the front door opened and Ethan stormed inside.  He was
clearly angry.  He kicked the door shut behind him and hurried over
to the sink.  "Ethan?", questioned Earnest coming up behind him at
the sink.  Forgetting momentarily about the bedroom.  "What's
wrong?"  Ethan cursed silently under his breath.  "It's these damn
hands.  I can't get any work done without them hurting like all get
out.  Earnest, I want you to go on out and help the others with
clearing the field for that new holding pen.  Everytime I try to
get a grip on the ax it starts to paining me something awful.  I'll
look after things here."  Ethan was so intent on trying to remove
the bandages he didn't see the look of hesitation that crossed over
Earnest's face.  Earnest was about to say something about his feel-
ings that something wasn't right here, but was silenced by Ethan's
no-nonsense tone.  "Go on now Earnest, there's a lot to be done,
and little time to waste."  Eve gave Earnest a hurried pleading
look, as if saying you had better go before Ethan really gets mad.
Earnest, not wanting to be on the receiving end of Ethan's anger,
especially after the episodes he had witnessed recently, turned
and left without another word.

Once he had gone Eve reached out to try and help Ethan with the
bandages.  He moved slightly aside to let her near.  She took his
hands into her own with a tender touch, much as she had done so
very recently with Scully's same injuries.  Eve's hands were shaking
and she willed them to stop, lest they voice her betrayal.  She
was afraid to speak.  The words were caught in her throat.  When
the bandages were removed she guided his hands expertly under the
water pump as he flinched slightly against the rush of the soothing
water.  Her heart was just beginning to get its rhythm under control
concentrating on the grounding familiarity that came with applying
her doctoring skills.  Then he spoke.  Shattering her last remaining
thread of control.

"Did you think I wouldn't find out Eve?"

She froze.  Her eyes refused to move from their viewpoint of his
hands.  She stared at them with an almost awed reverence.
Contemplating the angry red coloring and raised blisters of the
weeping sores. Just beneath the damaged burned outer covering, in
places, she could see tiny patches of his normal skin.  Unblemished.
But the majority of it was tainted and scarred.

Like him.

She closed her eyes.  Realization settling in like a heavy shroud
on her soul.  Slowly he removed his hands from hers, grabbing a
towel from the counter he worked carefully drying them.  She could
hear the soft whisper of cloth against skin behind her, but she
didn't turn around.  She was afraid.

He knows.

This thought pounding over and over in her mind.  And she screamed.
Or she thought she did.  But there was no noise.  It was only in her
heart.  Finally, she gathered her last reserves of strength and
spoke in a halting and strained whisper.

"Let them go Ethan.  Let them be."

She turned to face him.  He was smiling.  And it was the most unsmiling
smile she had ever seen in all her life.  Ethan?  This wasn't Ethan.
But it was.  It was.  And it wasn't.

He moved backwards towards the bedroom door, reaching for it.  He
leaned against it.  Facing it.  Caressing the wood in a manner that

was obvious elaborate mockery, but familiar in some way.  Her brow
furrowed trying to understand his meaning. Then it came to her.  That
night when she had stole away from her cot and had pressed herself
against the door trying to hear some sign of life from inside.  Afraid
that Mulder and Scully had slipped from this life into the next after
four long days of being punished without food or water.  The very
night she had battled her inner demons and reached the difficult
decision to help them escape.  He was letting her know that he had
seen her.  And he had known all along of her intentions.  He was
playing with her.  Like a predator just before pouncing on its
intended prey.

And just as suddenly as any predator he pushed away from the door.
She cried out in surprise, the anguish barely having time to leave
her lips before she felt his hands grabbing her arms in a painful
grip.  She wondered how he could possibly stand to hold her so
tightly against the pain that he must be feeling from his burned
hands.  *He doesn't feel it.*  He doesn't feel anything.  Except
hate.  She looked into his eyes.  They were so dark and angry.  How
could she have not seen this before.  This was her brother.  She
had lived with him all of her life.  But that was no excuse.  How
could she have not seen this before.  He pushed her roughly away
and she felt the corner edge of the table digging painfully into her
hip.  Her eyes strayed to the reddish blotches that now stained the
sleeves of her dress.  The residue from his burned hands.  On her.
It made her sick to her stomach, and she couldn't help but wonder
why.  She had seen much worse.  She had doctored broken bones and
had carried all eight of her brothers and sisters through every
imaginable illness.  But this.  She had never imagined anything
that rivaled this in horror.  This was like having the mark of the
devil himself on her soul.  Made all the more intense because it
was her first tangible proof of Ethan's state of mind.  His inherent

Scully.  Oh God, Scully had tried to tell her.  And Mulder.  But
she wouldn't listen. She wouldn't....her eyes widened as she suddenly
remembered.  The knife.  She would have to use it . But she couldn't.
She couldn't.  Her mind whirled relentlessly, flashing kaleidoscope
pictures of her brothers and sisters.  The little ones.  What if
they came back and walked in on this?  Would he hurt them?  He
wouldn't.  He couldn't.  He would never....and in this one split
second her mind and heart lifted the barrier of the shield that had
been erected in protection of her peace of mind.  A shield she now
realized that she had placed there herself.  A way to separate her-
self from the truth.  She closed her eyes, and the tears fell with
unequaled force down her face.

Emily.  Oh God.  Emily.  My baby.  My sweet little baby.

And she doubled over at the waist, clutching her arms around herself.
The onslot of the truth causing a horrific spasm in her that nothing
from her medicinal plant storage could ever hope to counter.  She
wailed.  An agonized sobbing that tore the very breath from her body.
Hate.  She had never felt it before.  This was hate.  And it consumed
her.  Totally.  She didn't care anymore, closing herself to further
lament.  She turned swiftly.  And without having a cognizant recogni-
tion of the exact sequence of events that had brought her to this
point, suddenly she could feel the grip of the knife she had hidden
under the pile of mending on the table.  Pliable wood and gleaming
steel.  It was in her hands, hot and slippery against the clammy skin
of her palm.  Her hands weren't shaking anymore she thought.  This
absent random rambling flickering across her fevered brain, and then
passing away just as quick.  All sequences of normality and order
lost forever against the avalanche of data being inputted into her
already over loaded system.  Revenge it shrieked in banshee reverber-
ations.  Self-preservation it demanded with utmost urgency.  She saw
herself as if from a distance.  The person she had once been taking
note of the loss of her innocence and carefree abandon that had
now marked her tortured passage from childhood straight into hell.

She watched as Ethan retreated towards the fireplace.  If he was
surprised to find her suddenly brandishing a knife in his direction
he didn't signal it to her.  He turned his back.  Taunting.  Daring
her to make a move.  And she wanted to.  Desperately.  But her feet
were grounded in place.  The hot sting of sweat droplets pulsed down
her face, blinding her eyes with the salty wetness they left in their
wake.  He was still turned away from her, but she watched the muscles
ripple underneath his shirt as he reached down.  Slowly he turned.
Pointing a gun in her direction.  One of their guns.  Mulder's and
Scully's.  He really had known the entire plan.  How?  But it didn't
matter anymore.  As it was no longer relevant how he had come about
knowing.  He just had.

The events were unfolding with surreal implications - her own
brother was standing there with a weapon pointed at her.  And she
knew without a doubt that unlike her....he would use it.  He would.

He did.

It happened so fast.  The sound echoing like the loudest crack of
thunder she could ever remember having heard.  But it still took a
second for the pain to register.  She was already halfway to the
floor, her eyes closing in darkness before she could even acknow-
ledge the reality in her heart.

Ethan had shot her. The knife landed useless next to her body on
the floor.

And Ethan laughed.

After a minute, he moved over to her form, nudging it slightly
with the toe of his boot.  Curious. But nothing more. She remained
still.  He watched with fascination and an almost lupine hunger as
the thick flow of blood spread in a sticky pool from the source of
her wound.  But the satisfaction he had garnered with his actions
were only a momentary euphoric fix.  Quickly, the anger flared
again as he returned the FBI issue gun to the waistband of his
trousers.  The still amost red-hot barrel where the projectile
had issued forth stinging against the skin of his abdomen.  He
welcomed the sensation.  A reminder of the reason for his hate.
Mulder and Scully.  He ambled ungainly towards the front door,
ripping it open, and nearly loosening it from its hinges in the
process.  He scanned the periphery of the woods.  Then he closed
his eyes tightly, letting the intensity of the last months fill
the abnormality that was himself.  Repeatedly closing and opening
the taunt burned skin of his hands.  Using the pain as a further
enabler of his need for blood.  And he filled his lungs with the
excruciating hot tingle like some mythical dragon's putrid breath.
His chest swelled to mammoth proportions, as he let loose with
an ungodly and completely inhuman bellow.  It filled the woods
with its power.

As death has a touch, so can insanity be manifested within a


Mulder and Scully stopped in their tracks, their ears straining
to interpret the sound that rippled through the woods.  The
last resonant echoes dying in the wind.  Around them the life of
the woods reacted, preparing itself with an age-old mode of pro-
tective actions.  The birds scattered from treetops above them
seeking safety as far from this place as possible.  The woodland
floor around them suddenly became alive with scurrying creatures
of various shapes and sizes as they burrowed into their shelters.
It had been a sound like no other heard before in their world.
It was as if the very bowels of hell had reached up and given
birth to a monstrosity of nature.  Giving it free reign to feed
upon the comparable innocence that would be absent from their
own domain.  This horrid sound that had so quickly followed the
unmistakable discharge of a loaded gun.  They looked silently
at each other, communicating with widened eyes and quickened
breaths.  They knew they had just run out of time.  The hourglass
was filling with sand.  And it was balanced against them.
Suffocating them symbolically with its crushing weight.  Burying
them alive.  They moved together closer.  Touching.  Trying to
anchor their last vestige of normalcy and reason, before returning
to their journey.  Quickening their pace and purpose.

Maybe it was only apprehension.  Maybe it was only an irrational
outcropping of fear.  Surely it must be, as they still had at
least a half hour gain on any hunter.  Be or
imagined.  Still.  They could swear they could hear the crashing
of foliage and fallen bushes behind them.  The quaking shake of
the ground being rocked with the force of this thing's power and
presence.  The embodiment of evil lumbering towards them with
purposeful harm and deadly intentions.  Its only reason for exis-
tence to steal their own from them.

Their bare feet were being literally shredded by the various sharp
objects they encountered.  Stones.  Pine needles.  And all the other
myriad obstacles that fate threw their way.  They left bloodied
evidence of their flight.  Mulder stumbled, falling hard.  Scully
stopped and bent down next to him, her breath ragged.  They rose
quickly together, arms about each other.  Clutching.  Supporting.
Running.  Desperate in their quest to outrun the devil.


Ethan moved with a frenzied force never before felt.  He was on the
hunt.  The prowl.  The others before Mulder and Scully had never
brought out this kind of reaction in him.  He could feel their
very presence.  Their fear.  And he fed on it.  He dropped to the
ground on all fours like the animal he had become.  He burrowed
deep within the leaves.  Searching.  Sniffing.  Tracking.  They
were definitely close.  He could smell them.  His tongue snaked out.
Lapping over a crimson spot on a dried leaf.  Blood.  He ran the
tip of his tongue around the coarse contours of the inside of his
mouth.  Tasting it.  Becoming one with it.  He smiled.  Hers.  And
there - beside it.  Another leaf with tell-tale spots.  He repeated
his actions.  His. He brought the leaves to his face breathing in
deeply, capturing their essence.  Searing their scent into his core.
Their tracks.  He bonded with them.  Consumed them.  This done, he
released the mummified remains of the leaves to float upon the
light wind.  His lips parted with pleasure, tiny spots of redness
staining the surface of his teeth.  He smacked his lips reveling
in this small taste of things to come.

He stood. But not erect. Regressing in form to match his mental state
into the animal shell that had been his ancestors.  His features
transforming into a beast-like form.  The brows heavy, sloping,
and over-hanging.  His gait gangly and stunted.  The knuckles
of his hands curled and large.  His body heavy and powerful with
muscles.  All geared towards the hunt.

He now *was* truly the beast.


"There!", Scully cried pointing off into the distance, the one word
wrapped in strain as she made a conscious effort to slow her heart's
rapid pace.  Mulder followed her lead, feeling the stress build to
ever increasing levels in his body.  He let out a breath he hadn't
even realized he had been holding as he confirmed her sight.  It
was indeed the next marker.  Just as Eve had said, and they had
visualized.  A bush, growing at the base of a tree.  Having tendrils
reaching up high along the trunk of the tree.  Encircling it.
Almost as if they were growing together in a symbiotic fashion.  He
reached for Scully pulling her close, almost afraid to let her from
his sight.  The blood was pounding in his temples.  Loud and fast.
He could feel the tremors of Scully's own heart thumping erratically
against his body. Ethan was gaining on them.  They could feel him
getting closer and closer.

The enveloping silence marked only by their muted attempts to catch
their breath was suddenly shattered.  The air was filled with an
animalistic howl.  Closer.  Louder.  And something neither had not
thought possible - even more threatening.

He was coming.  *It* was coming.

They began moving again.  Quickly.


By: Deborah L. Wells
February 28th, 1997

April 7th, 7:30 A.M.
In The Woods
Hadden, West Virginia

He was the master of his environment and as such, it bowed subservient
to his approach.  Cowered.  All that he had been before this time was
no more.  There was no turning back now.  The transformation was
complete.  This was his destiny.  This was his place.  And they were
his quarry.  This was his right.  Just as he had been born the hunter.
They had been bred the prey.  There could be no sentient conqueror
without the conquered.  All that had come before this point in their
mutual existence had only amounted to a farce.  A masquerade.  An
illusion.  Now that he had succumbed he no longer felt the tearing
struggle of inner conflict that resulted from trying to obtain what he
could never possess.  Sanity.  It had only held a tenuous hold at best
on his being anyway.  He was the dark and he accepted fully its
influence over him.  It was only when he had tried to fit into the
constraining mold and mores of the others that he had been forced to
battle the rife of discord within himself.

The snake can only slither and crawl.  He was the snake.  Its kin.
Its brethren.  Its master.  And servant.  They were one.  Merged as
they had always been meant to be.  This was his time to bring honor
to those that had come before him.  And brand the path for those
that would follow.  And there would always be more to follow.  Since
time began.  There is a time and place for life.  There is a time and
place for death.  This was the time and place for madness.  And he
was the bringer of madness.

His hungry eyes searched the woods.  Gleaning with a tempest hot
glare straight from hell.  They could hide, but he would see.  They
could run, but he would chase.  His nose was pugged and toughened
with extra skin now.  Resembling more a canine snout than human
cartilage anymore.  He sniffed the air, his heightened senses keenly
separating and categorizing the aromas through the extremely sensitive
nerve endings.  Blood.  His ears perked up in anticipation.  Wanting.
Needing.  He had the taste memory of their blood still fresh in his
mouth.  From the leaves.  He would recognize it.  He was a part of
it.  He sniffed again deeply, taking in all the information the wind
had to offer.  Ready as always for the hunt.

And then dismissive.  Disappointed, but not diswayed.  Never.  The
smell analyzed now - not human.  A fresh kill.  Animal.  All the
woods was joining in the hunt today it seemed.  That primitive
quest.  He nodded slightly, giving credence to this connection made
not far away.  Congratulating this other hunter on his kill.  And
somewhere over the valleys and deep hooded canopies of the woods
another animal lifted its head in answer.  The blood of its kill,
a small animal, still warm on its snout.  The animal accepted the
acknowledgment of this strange beast.  Determining the hunter
connection to itself.  The animal/man wove the tapestry of itself
through the tendrils of the wind.  Its past.  Its history.  Its
proud lineage.  Telling the tale of those that had come before it.
Communicating.  And the other listened.  Understanding.  Learning.
And then bowing deeply in reverence to its awe-inspiring power.
Clearly the man-beast's skills overshadowed its own.  It was the
undisputed master.  As this other animal's own ancestors bade it
remember now.  And never forget.

The one that had been Ethan returned to his own hunt, shrugging off
the smell of the other.  It wasn't what he was searching for.  Not
his prey.  He turned back.  Trying again.  Filling his chest.  There.
It was them.  Not blood.  But almost as sweet.  Fear.  It was close.
Very close.  And it was so achingly strong.  He moved away in the
direction his centuries old hunter instinct commanded him towards.
His four powerful and sinewy limbs lightly touching the ground in
a lopsided gait.  First one side and then the next.  Working
together like the well-oiled machine they had become.  And once
again he bellowed his pleasure and anticipation into the four winds.

The hunt.  It was his destiny.


"We've course...somehow", Scully said stopping suddenly
in her tracks.  She leaned over at the waist, breathing hard.  She
shook her head dislodging the sweat that had plastered her hair to
her scalp.  She was really feeling each step of this journey.  She
had been locked inside of that cabin for nearly everyday of the last
seven months.  Ethan so determined to put her in her place, had
hardly ever let her see the light of day.  As such even though her
extremities had toughened from the hard and relentless work, she
wasn't used to this kind of strenuous physical exertion anymore.
She had lost weight, mostly muscle.  She was weak and malnourished.
And the sun, even filtered through the treetops, was beating down
unmercifully.  Burning its searing rays into her sensitive and
exposed skin.  She could feel the heat that radiated off her body.
This combination of events was making her feel slightly unbalanced
and decidedly dizzy.  She felt an even more intense hatred of
Ethan for taking away not only her very life and freedom, but now
her strength as well.  She was a trained FBI Agent.  She should
have been able to run this distance in her sleep.  But no more.  She
would never admit it to Mulder, but she was having a lot of trouble
keeping up.

Mulder had pulled up short, stopping and coming back to stand beside
her. He was winded, but nowhere near to the point of her exhaustion.
His lot in this had been different.  Each day he had been sent to
work outside.  His muscles had strengthened.  And he was already
deeply tanned from the sun.  Although just as malnourished and thin
as she, he still possessed considerable strength.  He paused a beat
before answering her.  Not wanting her to know he was giving her
time to catch her breath.  She would never forgive him for making
allowances for her.  'Damn', he cursed to himself.  As many times
as they went over this in their minds, neither one had taken into
consideration what it would mean physically to make this run for
freedom.  Perhaps both were still stubbornly clinging to the hope
that if they were no longer mentally the same, at least they were
physically the same people they had been before.  But it was not
to be.  All that they had been before was gone.  Stolen from them.
"No, we turned right....", he paused breathing deep again before
continuing.  Drawing out the breath to give her even more time.
"We turned right at the last marker, and we've been going straight
since then.  It has to be...."  He looked around at the massive
trees encircling them.  His actions betraying a lack of faith in
his own words.  Each tree looked much the same as the one before
it.  "It has to be around here somewhere."

Scully straightened up, her breath finally regained, making a slow
circle.  Trying to define a path amidst the wood maze.  "We should
have reached the fork by now Mulder.  Maybe we should go back.
Retrace our steps.  We can't afford to get lost."  They both jumped
slightly as the eerie echo sound slithered its way through the
woods once more.  Familiar now.  But still never to be understood.
And always chilling to their souls.  The sound of the beast.  Death
calling out its domain. Reinforcing the fear.  Reminding them once
again that they were not alone.  Never safe.

Mulder put his arm around Scully's shoulders, urging her silently
to start moving again.  "You're right Scully, we can't afford to
get lost", his eyes scanned the landscape.  "But right now we can't
afford to stop."

Scully nodded, ready to continue.  But then paused once again.

As she suddenly heard so very clear in her mind the ghost echo
timbres of Eve's voice.  Sweet and strong.  It held all the
qualities that Scully had come to know and love over their long
time together.  A beguiling combination of old and young.  Wisdom
and innocence. Frailty and strength.  And now.  Something else as
well.  The kind of sorrowful intonation that only bitter experience
and cruel life lessons can lend to intimate knowledge.  Eve was
somehow here now. Scully knew this without hesitation.  Guiding
them.  Reminding them. Helping them.

She listened.

<<Take my strength Scully.  Use it.  You're set on the right path.
  Don't slow down now and doubt yourselves.  It feeds on fear.
  Follow the path Scully.  It's there.  Follow it until you reach
  the fork.  Maybe another quarter mile down.  Remember don't take
  the fork in either direction.  Climb over the hill in front and
  follow the path behind it.

  Hurry Scully.  Hurry.  It's coming.  It's coming!>>

"Scully?", questioned Mulder, shaking her slightly.  Concerned over
the glazed look that had clouded her eyes for a moment.  "Are you
all right?"

She looked up and realized his face was out of focus and she closed
her eyes.  Opening them again she was relieved to see his features
before her now in a crystal clear image.  "Sorry Mulder I....I guess
I just got dizzy for a moment.  I'm all right."  She turned away, out
of his arms, and he reluctantly let her go.  She moved ahead a few
paces, and then pointed.  "This way Mulder.  It's just ahead.  I know
it", she said in a voice filled with renewed strength.  He joined her
quickly, resisting the urge to question her sudden resolve and sense
of direction.  They both started running once again.  Towards their
freedom.  Straining to put distance between themselves and the night-
mare that had taken on a frightening corporeal form.


And only fifteen minutes behind them it appeared from the cover of
the woods.  Stopping suddenly it lingered over the place where they
had rested.  It bent down placing its ear to the ground.  Scuffing
the area with its paws.  Stirring the leaves and pine needles.
Listening.  Feeling.  And it was pleased.  They were weary.  Tired.
Wearing down.  The woman was....he struggled with the human concept
of words.  The woman was sick....weak.  If this had
been a true hunt in every sense of the word she would have been
separated from the other.  And left to fend for herself.  A diversion
to appease the hunter.  To ensure the survival of the prey species.
Sometimes one must die so that others could live.  This was the way
of the hunt.  It had always been.

But this wasn't like the majority of other hunts that played in his
brain.  Hunts of the past.  Before his time.  Retold and revisited.
This was the forbidden hunt.  This hunt belonged to his species
alone.  All hunting skills were passed on from one generation to the
next. But somewhere his species' vision had been skewered.  Altered.
Bastardized.  It had begun with the One who had come before.  The
First One.  Its hunger and need one day no longer quelled with the
myriad selection of species of prey it had been hunting since time
began.  It had turned to the others.  The Forbidden Ones.  The ones
that were never to be taken.  The ones that were then their masters.
The humans.

To hunt one of the humans was a taboo.  A line never to be crossed.
It would bring certain knowledge of their existence.  The Ones who
were the hunters would become themselves the hunted.  But the temp-
tation had proven too much for the First One.  It had finally
taken one of the humans.  And fed on the sweet taste of their
intoxicating blood.  The thrill of this hunt unsurpassed as it had
been with an undisputed superior.  All this was captured forever in
their one collective.  Passed down in memory from one generation to
the next.  It was indeed the greatest hunt of all.  The ultimate
experience between hunter and prey.  But it also proved their undoing.
Their presence known now they became the hunted themselves.  Almost
into extinction.  But a few survived.  And ever since that fateful
combination of events his species and all its progeny had been
condemned to prowl the sparse areas.  The back lands.  The periphery
of existence.  Hidden in plain sight.  Masquerading as humans.
Forever banished.  Only resurfacing when the need proved too much.
The call to the hunt.

Ethan, he was one of them.  One of The Forgotten Ones.

With him now he carried the life blood and memory of all that had
come before him.  And he was destined now to reenact the human hunt
once more.  To satisfy the animalistic savagery that consumed his
soul.  To offer this human sacrifice in honor of the Ones that had
come before.  His family line had carried the genetic markers for
centuries on his mother's side.  Dormant.  Until the right combina-
tion of time and genes.  Heredity and environment.  Genetic markings
and strategic couplings.  His mother had never even known until the
very end the monstrosity of nature she had given birth to. It was a
one in ten million birth. The final knowledge had killed her.  Seeing
her first born, her son, display these tendencies that were counter
to the very laws of the universe.  He had still been young when she
died, and she had been extremely intuitive.  She saw the evil in him.
Before he was even aware of it.  She had noticed his surreptitious
acts of cruelty. And even more disturbing to her, the pleasure he
derived from them. Increasing over the years in intensity and

She had also carried the memories of the Ones that had come before.
But her memories, there, but not carrying the same need to be acted
upon, had only been awakened by witnessing the slow transformation
of her son.  She had control, because unlike Ethan she had been
more human than one of The Forgotten Ones.  She had made him promise
on her death bed that he would try and fight the urges.  That he
would never turn on his own.  And he had stood there and sworn his
loyalty to her.  Given his word.  To her.  To the humans. And he had
truly believed that he would be able to keep his vow.  And for awhile
he had.  Until the first human he had taken captive, the one he had
brought home to be their 'parent' from the grocer's.  He had only
intended to play with him.  Taunt him.  Torture him.  It might have
been enough to stave off and quell the hunger.  If only.

If only he hadn't tried to run.

The chase that had ensued was the first time he had ever felt
complete.  Grounded.  Connected to something that was infinitely
bigger and more powerful than anything he had ever experienced
before.  He was an active part of the past.  He was the master of
the present.  And he was the shaper of the future.  All these things
in one.  From that point on the hunter in him could no longer be

Standing now he felt the wind shift.  Carrying their scent.  He
breathed in deeply.  Savoring.

And the voices of his ancestors cried out in unison around him.  He
could hear them.  He could see them.  As all joined in with him now
in the hunt.  The chase.

The final stand.

The kill.


They stood before the hill.  It was higher than they had envisioned and
overgrown with foliage.  The twines were massive and rope-like, reaching
and stretching.  They flowed up over the crest of the hill like a reverse
waterfall.  Disappearing over into the darkness of the other side.  If
they hadn't been given prior knowledge of the locale it would have been
so easy to miss the significance of this marker.  The forks beckoned
them.  Promised sweet safety in their sense of order.  A pot of gold
waiting at the end of their respective rainbows.  But they knew this
was only a subterfuge.  They were placebos.  A false sense of security.
If taken, they would only lead deeper into the woods.  The only way
out lay on the other side of this hill.  And beyond it the place where
Eve had told them Ethan had set unknown traps.  Deadly traps.

Mulder reached out testing the strength of one of the vines.  Pulling
it taunt to see if it would anchor his weight.  Then he released it,
and silently began removing his shirt.  Scully furrowed her brows.
Questioning him, as he neatly ripped it in two.  He took one of her
hands in his, wrapping the cloth from his shirt around the makeshift
bandages already in place on her injuries.  And then repeated his
actions with her other hand.  Once completed, he smiled at her, and
touched her cheek gently before taking hold of the vine once more.
He began climbing.  One leg reaching up and capturing a foothold,
and then the other.  His hands moving upwards on the vine.  One on
top of the other.  And then again.  Until he had reached the top of
the hill.

He looked down and saw Scully below, as she reached for the same vine
he had just used himself.  Slowly she began making her way to the
top.  Grunting initially at the first flare-up of pain in her hands.
Which no doubt would have been much worse without the extra padding
of his shirt.  She concentrated on her journey.  And above Mulder was
watching her progress intently.  His head lowered towards the ground.
But then something caught the corner of his vision.

A movement.

He lifted his head slightly.  Scanning the woods.  Nothing.  The wind
stirred the leaves restlessly.  A raspy sound like dried skin moving
against itself.  Wringing its hands with a purposeful malevolent
intent.  Feeling decidedly uneasy, but unable to pinpoint the exact
cause, he was about to return his gaze to Scully - when he saw it.
And this time it wasn't imagination.

There was a palpable evil potent force crashing and moving through
the woods.  Towards them.  From his vantage point he had an almost
panoramic view of the woods.  Down the path they had only recently
emerged from before reaching the fork - it was coming.  The brambles
and brush parting.  Bending.  Falling away in an almost suicidal
reaction from the locomotive power of the entity that barreled its
way through.  Intent on its destination.  Its goal.  Its need.
Mulder was strangely rooted to his spot.  Mesmerized by the scene
unfolding before him.  He could only see bits and pieces through
the coverage of the trees.  But it was enough to send tidal waves
of terror down to his very core.  It was Ethan.  And it wasn't.
Part man.  Part beast.  But all of it determined on killing them.

He tore his gaze away long enough to check on Scully's progress.
She was about halfway up.  She was sternly focused on her task,
unaware of the nearness of the approaching demon.  He looked back
again and nearly collapsed with fright when he couldn't see the
beast anymore.  Where was it?  He started to panic.  It was here.
It had to be.  But where?  And then he caught sight of it again.
Closer.  Too close.  And moving faster now.  It had seen them.

"Scully!  Hurry!", he cried out to her.

He reached his hand down.  His fingertips straining to touch her,
but she wasn't close enough yet to take hold.  She looked up at
him, startled at the level of desperation in his voice.  The fear
she saw mirrored in his eyes.  She swiveled her head around.  He
could hear her horrified audible gasp as she caught sight of the
thing that was coming their way.  She hurriedly turned back,
redoubling her efforts to climb the vine.  But she misplaced her
foot, lost balance, and slid several feet down the length of the
vine before catching hold and stopping her descent.  Sweat was
cascading from her pores.  Pain radiating through her hands.  She
was now only a third of the way up.  Closer to the ground than
from the top.

Mulder grabbed the vine from its top stem, pulling on it.  Trying
to aid her ascent.  The muscles of his arms rippled in outline
underneath the skin of his frame.  He gritted his teeth.  Put
everything he had into his objective.  Scully could feel herself
being pulled upwards.  She braced her feet against the face of
the hill.  Pushing out, almost horizontal.  Walking up the side.
She used her hands as additional leverage, even as they betrayed
her with the agony.  Each time she placed them as far up on the
vine as she could reach, and followed their lead with her feet.
Using her efforts together with Mulder's strength to pull her up
at a steady pace.  They worked together. Making progress.  But not
fast enough.

The beast emerged.  At the apex of the fork.  It stopped.  And
all around them time seemed to stand still.  Scully couldn't see
it.  Her back was turned away, towards the hill.  But Mulder had
an almost cruel unencumbered view.  It had traveled on all fours.
But now it was rising to stand on two legs.  The front limbs were
markedly shorter than the back ones, but not heavily distinct in
their differences from each other.  An odd mixture of human arms
and legs, along with animal fore and hind quarters.  It was
covered in a dark coarse fur.  Thick and bristly.  The tips of
its ears were almost triangle in shape.  And large.  Its face
was a mantle of facial hair.  Not as dense as that which covered
its body, but leaving very little skin showing through.  The
points of the face were centered around the extended snout. And the
gaping maw.  From which protruded the rows of sharpened yellowed
teeth.  Razor-edged.  The incisors impossibly huge.  And in
contrast to this mammalian image, countering it; was the pair
of jeans that covered its lower half.  Torn and split in places
where animal and human form battled for dominion and had split
the seams.

There wasn't nearly enough chill in the air to manifest fogs of
breath, but they were there nonetheless.  Leaving the animal's
putrid mouth in waves.  Not condensation.  Decay.  A visible
decomposition.  The staggering smell reached even to the vantage
of Mulder's perch.  It was the foulest odor he had ever smelled.
He gagged involuntarily.

As the animal/man reached its fully erect stature. It lifted
its head in their direction.  Bringing the pads of one of its
paws in front of its face.  Displaying the claws.  Fanning them
out from front to back.  Finger to finger.  The fatal daggers
that they were.  The weapons that promised agonizing death.


Mulder saw all this in a split second moment of time.  Then reality
rushed back in with vengeance as the aberration charged forward
with a sprint of speed that was maddening calculated, despite its
seeming spontaneity.  Mulder yanked back urgently on the vine.
Pulling Scully upwards forcefully another foot.  Two-thirds of the way
up now.  Almost there.  But not enough.  He pulled again.  The veins
of his neck standing out in hardened and pulsing cords.

The beast reached the bottom of the hill and sprang upwards in one
continuous fluid motion.  Its claws extended like stiletto blades.
Aiming for Scully's legs.  Meaning to pull her down from the vine
she now clinged to with every ounce of her remaining strength.
Just inches short, the claws connected only with empty air.  And
quickly as it fell to the ground it regained its trajectory and
launched itself again.  And in synch with the animal's efforts,
Mulder tugged savagely on the vine that had become Scully's only
lifeline. Pulling her over the top to him with one gigantic final

Together they toppled over the crest of the hill.  To the other
side.  Where they were immediately engulfed in an almost complete
darkness.  The canopies of the trees coming together in an almost
dome-like structure. Blocking the rays of sun down to pinpoints.
They slid down the slope quickly.  The exposed parts of their
bodies becoming immediately skinned and scraped from the friction
and speed of their descent.  Small rocks, leaves and dirt embed-
ding themselves into their sensitive skin.  Both landed on their
feet.  Quickly standing.  Every nerve in their souls screaming at
them to run.  Escape.  They fought against this overwhelming need
knowing they had to proceed cautiously.  There was more than the
horror behind them to contend with now.  They were also battling
the unknown, as they had just entered the very lair of the beast
they were trying to outrun.  Giving it a homeground advantage. A
cruel ironic edge allotted to the thing that already held the cards
in its own favor.

As if recognizing and savoring its conquest they could hear the
beast behind them.  Climbing.  But slowly.  Making its progress up
and over the hill in a languid pace. The paws slapped and pounded
against the surface of the hill.  Loosening debris and plant life
around it.  Each foothold and grasp it captured was marked.
Deliberate.  It pulled its body up.  Agonizing in its unrelenting
determination. Telegraphing its imminent arrival and purpose.
Closer.  Coming.

Mulder and Scully moved away slowly from the side of the hill.  The
path here, unlike the other markers, was easily defined.  Afterall
there was no need to camouflage it.  Between the unknown traps and the
protection of the beast it had all the built-in safeguards it needed.

And the animal voiced its approval.  Its roaring pleasure.  It was
staking its claim of victory.  There was nowhere now for its prey to
run.  It crested the hill and stood there for a moment.  Basking in
its superiority and hunter's skill.  Highlighted against the sun
that shone through over its shoulder from the other side.  Contrasting
against the darkness in front.  Its form was silhouetted for a moment.
A combination of shadows.  It's breath shown in gray-like tendrils of
shadow smoke.  Part light.  Part dark.  Part animal.  Part man.  A
merging of tortured souls.  An unnatural hybrid.  Lifting its snout
to the winds.  Howling in evil and decadence.  Raising its powerful
paws in homage to his centuries-old species.  This ritual an ancient
tradition of rites.  Offering the sacrifice of its intended kill to
appease all the Ones who had come before.  His species.  Its kind.

The Forgotten Ones.

Moving with a lupine gracefulness it easily traversed the slope of
the hill, down to the other side.  Pushing itself away from the
curve of the hill, it moved in for the kill.

The pain took a moment to register in its consciousness.  Confused
it stumbled a step before whirling to face its attacker.  Mulder
stood in front of it, still brandishing the heavy tree limb that he
had just brought down on the side of the beast's head.  The blood
it now smelled was its own.  It opened its mouth in a furious howl.
Regaining its composure and senses quickly.  It moved a step forward.
Mulder lifted the stick once more.  The creature was quick.  Lightning
quick.  Now aware of the danger, it would easily be able to sidestep
the next attack.  This one.  This man.  He would die slowly.  It
promised.  It extended its claws menacingly.

And then pain again.  But not from the same place as before.  It was
confused.  The man still stood before him.  He hadn't moved.  This was
different.  The pain was intense, radiating from the back of his neck.
Iron-hot.  Searing. It whirled.  The woman stood there.  Backing up a
few steps.  In her hand a knife.  Dripping with blood.  His blood.  She
had plunged the knife deep into his neck.

And just as he had been compelled to repeat the actions of his
ancestors.  Reenacting the hunt.  Reveling in the power of the kill.
So it seemed he was destined to repeat their mistakes as well.  As now
the hunter became the hunted.  Once again. He felt the surge of anguish
that was the essence of his species.  He had greatly underestimated
their wills to live.  Realizing there was no way to outrun the hunter,
they, these pitiful humans, had elected to stand their ground. Surprise
being the only factor in their favor.

They moved together now.  Circling. Advancing on him.  His weapon and
hers raised and ready.  He retreated.  But strategically.  Mulder
surged forward, but the beast lunged.  Rolling on the ground it used
its claws to rake down the length of his leg in a sweeping pass.
Mulder fell to his knees, dropping his weapon, clutching his leg in
a stifled scream of pain.  The animal stood over him, ready to finish
the job. But then Scully rushed in to his aid raising the knife high
in both hands. It roared with the onslaught of fresh pain, as she deeply
buried the knife to the hilt into his lower back.  Agonizingly out of
its reach. It had gone in so deep and so quickly she had not had time
to pull it back out.  She stood now defenseless.  As it staggered
towards her.  Weakened.  Bleeding.  But still powerful in its deadly

Scully was fighting to retain her sanity.  Her brain kept insisting
that the thing that stood before her was just not possible.  It wasn't
real.  It couldn't be real.  But it was.  Coming towards her.  But
then it stopped a moment.  Smiling.  Like the false calm of the eye
of the storm.  An only temporary sanctuary.  And it suddenly surged
forward, launching itself into the air.  Forcing Scully to back up
even further.  It hit her, knocked her off her feet, and they rolled
together under the continuing momentum force of his attack.

She felt the ground literally fall away underneath her body.  She was
falling.  And she landed hard.  Into a complete darkness.  A pit.
More than likely one of Ethan's traps.  By accident or design the
thing had dropped her here. And then she heard it.  A ragged breathing.
The devil's breath.  Behind her.  Around her.

It was in here with her.

She could hear Mulder calling her above.  Confused.  Not sure what had
happened.  And then she was knocked off her feet once again.  It moved
over her. Pinning her to the ground with its weight.  Droplets of saliva
dripping from its open mouth onto her neck.  She couldn't see the
details of its face.  And she was grateful.  But she could feel the hot
rotted stagnation of its breath on her face growing even hotter as it
slowly descended its bared teeth towards her. Going for her jugular.
Ready for the kill.  She closed her eyes tightly. Knowing she was going
to die. Only wishing now for it to be quick. Praying at least that her
death would afford Mulder his escape.  Forever thankful for the short
time they had together as lovers.  Wanting so fervently to tell him she
loved him one last time.  All these thoughts and feelings rushing
through her mind in a single second span of time.

It shifted its body atop hers.  Leaning in.  She felt the rough scrape
of its fur against her neck. Its tongue lashing out to taste her skin.
She tensed her body.  Trembling with a force she had never thought

Not ready to die. Afraid.  Afraid.  Oh God, so afraid.

She opened her eyes suddenly in the darkness. She wasn't hallucinating.
It had been unmistakable. The outline feel against her belly. Machinery
steel and mechanized power.  A gun.  In the waistband of its jeans.
A last vestige reminder of her human world in this nightmare realm.
It was held tight in the snug fit of the material against its fur.
Forgotten. Pulled taunt by the transformation it had made from human
to animal.

<<It feeds on fear>>

She remembered Eve's warning.  And her own resolve that night at the
fireplace.  She would not give him what he wanted.  Her fear.  Her
pain.  Never!

She pulled her knee upwards slamming it with as much force as she could
garner into his body.  He roared.  Screamed.  Falling backwards.  She
caught hold of its upper body.  Following it down.  Not wanting to lose
sight of him in the dark.  They fell together against the far wall.
And she reached down.  Grabbing the gun.  Pulling it out.  Moving back,
even as it regained its senses and scrambled towards her again.

The woods rang out with the recoil of the shots.  Echoing again and
again until the clip was completely empty.  Fully loaded except for
the one shot that had befallen Eve back at the cabin.

And then silence.

Mulder followed the sounds to the edge of the pit.  Calling her name.
Desperate. Throwing one leg over the edge, ready to jump in, but afraid
of what he would find.  And then.

"No Mulder.  Don't come down here.  I need you to pull me out."  Her
voice was exhausted.  Drained, but controlled.


There was an audible pause.  His heart hammered in his chest.

"He's dead."  Mulder waited a second, but no further explanation was
coming.  Only silence.  He moved away to find a strong vine to pull
her up with.

Down in the pit Scully pulled her knees up into her chest.  Rocking
gently.  As far away from the body of the beast as she could get.


Once again time held no meaning in their existence.  They made the rest
of the journey in near silence.  Slowly.  Their pace no longer dictated
by fear.  By chase.  By death.

They held onto each other.  Leaning.  Supporting.

When they reached the edge of the forest, they stopped.  Staring.
Unbelieving.  There under the seven-month natural growth of foliage,
along with a careful effort of camouflage was the wrecked remains of
their car.

And they fell to the ground together.  On their knees.  Hugging.
Crying. Kissing. Touching. Desperately clinging to one another.

It was over.

They had survived.

They were going home.


By: Deborah L. Wells
March 7th, 1997

April 7th, 3:43 P.M.
County Road 5
Hadden, West Virginia

Mulder winced underneath his breath.  Tightening his arm around her
shoulder.  Scully shielded her eyes from the hot sun with her hand and
looked up at him.  Concerned.  He had been limping heavily for the last
half mile or so.  His face was a mask.  Trying to conceal his pain from
her.  The sharp razor-like intrusive wounds that had been inflicted
upon his leg by the claws of the beast were serious.  Very serious.
He had lost a lot of blood.  Too much.  She had applied a make-shift
tourniquet by tearing off material from the bottom of her dress, but
he needed proper medical attention.  His skin had taken on a ghastly
pallor underneath the ruddiness of his tan.  She was afraid he was
going into shock.  She brought her right arm across his stomach,
reaching around to clutch his waist.  Her other arm was around his
back across his shoulder.  She raised her hand, laying it beside his
chin to encourage him to lean against her and drop his head on her
shoulder.  She tried to take much of his weight, but she barely had
enough strength left to support herself.  And it didn't help that
they were so uneven in height.

They had been walking for hours along the same county road they had
been driving on originally so many months ago.  Barefooted.  Tired.
And injured.  When they had started out it had been an easy trek as
they had traveled on a sheer euphoric energy.  Brought on by the
unbelievable relief and giddy happiness that came from knowing they
had finally escaped their prison of over seven months.  Upon
initially emerging from the confines of the woods they had been in
an almost shell-shocked state.  Caught in an eerie essence of
unreality.  Safe now after the harrowing chase that had ensued
between them and Ethan, or what had once been Ethan.  And even
knowing they had survived.  That they were now free.  Somehow still,
it was only when they had seen the remains of their car that they
had truly been jolted back into the present.  This had been the
tangible evidence that had finally caused the impact to hit them
with a hammer force realization.  As much as they had physically
stepped from underneath the heavy tree canopies of the darkness
into the light.  So too in this one single moment they crossed
the invisible mental barrier that had existed between the nightmare
world that they had been held captive in, and their own world.  The
one they had once belonged to before.  And had so desperately been
trying to return to ever since.

It was really over.

They had fallen to their knees. The broken hull of their rental car
standing as a strange monument background behind them.  Shaking.
Crying.  Holding each other with trembling arms.  Trying to sort
through the staggering array of emotions that threatened to over-
whelm their spirits.  Finally, after many long minutes they had
hesitantly parted.  Standing together with arms held tightly
about each other they had started to walk.  With an unspoken but
matched resolve, they had headed off in the same direction they
had been traveling that fateful day.  That day that had started
out much like any other, but had served to change their lives and
their relationship forever.  These thoughts and feelings carried
them.  Supported them.  But as the day wore on the sun's heat
began to take its toll on their already battered and bruised
bodies.  Not one car had passed by them in all this time.  It
seemed almost as if they had become the only two people left
alive in a world gone somehow mad.  Yet they continued.  Even-
tually, they began to feel the full force sting and jarring pain
of their combined injuries.  Their weakened state.  They were
close to heat exhaustion as well.  Scully ran her tongue over
her dried and cracked lips.  They had no water as the back pack
Eve had prepared for them had been lost during the pace of the

Mulder stumbled suddenly, and with her arms clasped around him
in support, Scully couldn't stop herself from falling as well.
They landed in a heap on the side of the road.

"Mulder", Scully called to him.  He was moaning softly.  His
eyes closing.  And then silence.  "Mulder", she tried again.
They were both laying prone on the ground.  She crawled over to
him, leaning over his chest.  Shaking him slightly.  She placed
the palm of her hand against his forehead.  His skin was clammy.
She lowered her head, brushing her cheek next to his.  Feeling
the fever heat of his body radiated back to her.  He was uncon-
scious.  "Mulder", she whispered softly, burrowing her head
into the hollow of his neck.  She spoke quietly against his
ear.  "Don't leave me now.  Please."  She lay there for a
moment.  With him.  Her arms around him tightly.  Not moving.
Willing him to wake up.  But he didn't stir.  Finally, she
sat up, looking morosely off into the distance.  The crudely
paved road offering the only break in scenery.  A shimmering
river of blacktop and tar that split the woods neatly in half.
The painted divided lines thinning and diminishing in perspec-
tive over the horizon.  She turned her head, looking the other
way.  And was met with only an exact mirror version of what
lay on the other side.  Deserted.  She was alone.  Completely

She stood up on shaky feet.  There were spots swimming in
front of her eyes, and her head pounded steadily with an almost
deafening headache.  The sun beat down strongly on the top of
her head, reminding her of its power.  And potential threat. She
knew she had to get Mulder out of the sun, into some shade.  She
bent down over him, putting her hands underneath his arms.  She
pulled back hard, straining with the effort.  Her burned hands
strongly announcing their displeasure at her course of action.
He didn't budge.  She tried again, leaning back using every ounce
of leverage and strength she had left.  Grunting with the
monumental effort.  Finally he moved, almost imperceptibly.
And struggling, inch by inch, she managed to drag him over to
a nearby large tree, which offered generous shade.  Once he was
settled to her satisfaction she dropped exhausted and covered in
sweat next to him.  Pulling him into the comforts of her arms.
Her hands throbbing in a staccato beat in time with the pounding
in her head. She leaned back against the tree. Almost immediately
her eyelids began to close.  For a moment she fought their inten-
tion.  But total exhaustion had finally caught up with her and
would settle for nothing but her complete surrender.  Never
releasing her hold on Mulder she fell unwilling into a deep,
but restless slumber.


It was nearing dark when she awoke again.  She tried to sit up
and was at first startled to find that she couldn't move.  It
took her a second to realize that she was pinned underneath
Mulder's weight.  Her hands still clutching his shoulders against
her body.  She drew in a sharp breath as her body began
signaling a painful tingling, as it chastised her for her sudden
movements of sore limbs held in one position for far too long.
It took a concentrated effort, but she finally was able to
extract herself, lowering Mulder's head carefully to the ground
behind her.  She checked his pulse.  Slow.  But strong.  And
then rearranged the tourniquet on his leg.  The wounds were deep,
ragged, and still seeping blood.  Too much blood.  She was
worried as well about infection.

She braced herself against the tree and tried to use it as an
aid to help her to her feet.  Almost immediately she fell back
down again.  Her legs felt like they were made of rubber.  Weak.
Too weak now to even hold her own weight.  She brought her
aching arms across her face, to her eyes.  Rubbing them roughly.
'Dammit', she thought angrily.  'How much more?  How much
more could they be expected to suffer?'  She slammed her fist
hard against the bark of the tree.  A futile gesture.  Anger.
Nothing more.  She stifled a scream at the red-hot flare-up of
pain in her hand which only served to fuel the growing fury in
her soul.  Her feelings of complete helplessness.  She was
suddenly seized with the irrational feeling that somehow the
woods around them were as much their captors as Ethan had been.
Still refusing to let them go.  Working against them.  Throwing
obstacles in their path at every step.  Reaching out with an
animate malevolence.

She had never felt so alone.  She slid down slowly until she was
laying next to Mulder.  She used her body to cover his.  Offering
her feeble warmth to him against the coming chill of the night.
She was so tired.  So very tired.  Her eyes began closing once
again.  And she was too exhausted to fight anymore.  Sleep.  It
called to her.  Beckoning like an old friend.  Her body began
relaxing, which allowed the constant pain to recede slightly.
Drawing her further into the waiting arms of total unconscious-
ness.  And she welcomed it.


Later, only minutes she was pretty sure, as she was still in that
limbo place that is part wakefulness, her eyes fluttered open.
She had felt something.  A vibration.  She sat up gingerly.
Tense.  Waiting.

There it was again.

The quietness and almost cocoon-like setting of the woods afforded
something like an early warning system.  It was transmitting
information to her even now.  Through the tiny vibrations coming
from the ground.  And now adding to that, a far-off soft sound as
well.  She hadn't heard this sound in a long time, but it was
unmistakable.  There was a vehicle approaching.  A car.  Still a
long ways down the road.  But it was coming.  She hurriedly tried
to stand.  Forgetting. Only to be betrayed once again by her own
body.  Falling to the ground she immediately assessed that she could
not afford to waste time on this useless endeavor.  Her legs could
no longer support her.  This was a fact.  So, she began to crawl.
Determined.  Towards the road.  Painfully moving first her knee and
then pulling her body forward after it with her elbows.  Then the
other side.  Her arms were shaking violently.  Threatening to
collapse.  But she continued her pilgrimage.  An almost horizontal
reenacting of her earlier vertical climb on the vine.  This time
though instead of running *away* from something, she was trying
fervently to get *to* something.

But the same muscles that had been tortured then, now stubbornly
refused to be abused anymore.  Just like the woods it seemed -
working against her.  She cursed and muttered under her breath.
Damning the world and all that had transpired over these last
months.  Yet this very anger dared fate to stop her now.  She
reached the break between woodland and blacktop, just as the
headlights of the on-coming car could be seen cresting a not
too far-off hill.  She quickly realized that she could not take
the chance that the car would pass her by.  Unable to see her
on the side of the road.  This car being the only sign of
civilized life they had come across all day.  She had to be
sure she was seen.

She pushed herself forward again.  Onto the road.  Until she
had reached the very middle.  Straight into the trajectory
path of the on-coming car.  She wanted to at least sit up.
Wave her arms. Something. But all strength left her completely
in a rush of air that exited her chest in an agonized breath,
as she fell upon her back.  She lay there on the pavement,
heaving, as her body completely shut itself down to her further
entreaties to move.

'Move!  Dammit!'

But it wouldn't.  Arms outstretched.  Eyes to the sky.  She
was frozen in place.  She waited.  Praying.  Pleading.  A
mantra playing in her head over and over again - 'See me.  See
me.  Seemeseemeseemeseeme.....'  She could feel the increasing
vibrations echoed through the pavement and then up along the
entire length of her body.  Magnifying their frequency with the
car's velocity and approach.  The mounting power of its engine
only outweighed by her own fear.  She was able to turn her head
limply, dropping it to the side weakly.  Watching.

And was suddenly blinded by an intense light.  She panicked.  Her
heart hammering.  At first thinking it was the headlights of the
car, closer than she had estimated.  But it wasn't.  As this
intense light was immediately followed by a stabbing dimming
numbness in her brain.  It seemed her mind was now matching her
body's lead, following it into a total eclipse.  She was slipping
away again.  Falling into unconsciousness.

The last things she registered before it took her was the sounds
of a horn blaring, and the unbearably loud, screeching sound of
brakes.  The smell of burning rubber assaulting her nostrils.
The impossibly huge image of the car barreling down upon her, close
enough to spray her with a sheet of gravel that painfully imbedded
itself into the skin of her face and legs.....And then, mercifully.


By: Deborah L. Wells
March 7th, 1997

April 10th, 11:37 P.M.
Memorial Hospital
Culver, West Virginia

Mulder opened his eyes.  It was raining.  But somehow this was wrong.
For some reason it didn't feel right.  It took him a moment to under-
stand the reason for his confusion.  He could see the rain.  But he
couldn't feel it.  Because he was no longer outside.  In the woods.
He was inside a darkened room.  Lighted only by a soft glow coming
from somewhere over his head.  The rain he had heard was tapping
against the window at a steady beat.  He looked around, trying to
orient himself.  He was in a hospital.  That was obvious.  There was
an I.V. line trailing a tube from it's steel pole down into his arm.
The clear liquid dripping slowly from a half-empty bag of fluids.
He could see and feel the heavy outline of bandages covering his
leg underneath the blanket over him.  He twisted to the side looking
for the nurse station call button he knew from many past experiences
that he would find there.  He pushed on it insistently until the
door opened on a hiss of cushioned air.  A tall blonde nurse
entered, turning the light on as she came through the door.  Mulder
blinked against the sudden glare.  She smiled at him. "Agent Mulder.
You're awake.  We were wondering....."

He interrupted her.  Needing to know.  "Scully?  Dana Scully?
Where is she?  Is she all right?"  He could hear the urgency in
his voice.  The nurse walked over to the side of his bed reaching
up to check the I.V. as she spoke.  "Dr. Scully is fine.  She's in
another room.  One of the other nurses went to wake her as soon as
you rang the station."  She paused, frowning slightly.  "Dr. Scully
has been her instructions to be notified when
you regained consciousness."  Mulder almost laughed, knowing that
one little word - *vocal* - actually meant that Scully had probably
been breathing down their necks.  Generally throwing her weight and
title as Dr. around to ensure that he would get the care that *she*
would give him herself if she could.  A sure sign in his mind that
she was okay.

And then she was there.  Standing in the doorway, leaning slightly
on the arm of another nurse.  Looking very small and tired.  But
alive.  She smiled at him from across the room.  She moved away
from the supporting arm of the nurse, shuffling slowly towards him.
She was wearing a hospital gown and slippers, covered by a thin
robe.  Her hair was freshly washed.  It was longer now reaching
below her shoulders in soft waves.  It shimmered in the subdued
light.  By the time she had reached his side, the two nurses had
discreetly backed out of the room, closing the door.  Leaving them

Mulder reached for her, pulling her against him.  She breathed
warmly against his neck.  'Oh God, she feels so good', he thought.
He never wanted to let her go.  But she pulled back from him.
Turning away from him.  She worked her way back to the door.
For a terrible moment he thought she was leaving.  Maybe regretting
now what had happened between them during their captivity.  Wanting
to begin the break of their relationship easy.  Now that she had
had time to consider its implications on the dynamics of their real
world lives that they would soon be returning to.  He tried to
swallow around the lump forming in his throat, as she reached her
bandage covered hand towards the door.  But her hand passed the
doorknob, instead lifting towards the light switch, turning it off.
And he breathed out again in relief, as she came back to him.

She climbed on the bed beside him, lifting his arm with the I.V.
attached.  Carefully she nestled next to him, lowering his arm
tenderly around her shoulder.  She looked up into his face.  Seeing
the traces of doubt that had crossed his features for a moment.
Knowing he wondered if she still felt the same way about him now.
She lowered his head to hers.  Kissing him gently.  When they parted
she looked into his eyes before speaking.

"I can't go to sleep anymore without you next to me Mulder."

He closed his eyes.  Unable to speak for a moment.  Finally, he
opened them again, holding her tight.

"You won't ever have to again Scully.  I promise."

They were silent for several minutes.  Listening to the rain.
Content.  "Tell me what happened Scully", he asked her after
awhile.  She took a deep breath before beginning.  "After you
passed out, I was able to flag down a car."  She used this simple
sentence to skim over her ordeal with the car that had almost
driven right over her back there in the woods. "We were taken here.
We've been here for three days now.  Both of us were unconscious
for the first day.  When I came to later, I found out that they
didn't even know who we were.  It took awhile, but I finally
convinced them of our identities and connection with the FBI.
And the kidnapping.  I contacted Skinner.  He was....", she

"Angry?  Speechless?  Flabbergasted?", Mulder supplied playfully.

"Surprised", Scully finally settled on the tactful word that came
closest to the flurry of expletives and shocked silence that had
flown across the phone wires.  Afterall it wasn't the first time
he had witnessed their miraculous return from the dead.  "He'll
be here tomorrow by the way", she added.  Mulder nodded.

"And I called my mother", she said quietly.  He looked down at her.
Seeing the pain in her face.  Knowing she was blaming herself for
the grief that her family must have suffered thinking she was dead
after all this time.  "My brother said she had to be sedated after
talking to me.  I shouldn't have called her Mulder.  I should have
waited until we got back so she could see me in person.  She was
so upset, crying and.....", her voice dropped off, strained around
her choked-back sobs.  Mulder held her tight, letting her work
through the sorrow until she was able to speak again.  "I was
going to call your mother, but after talking to mine, well....",
she trailed off.  "We'll go see them both first thing Scully."
She nodded, drawing her arm across his chest.  They were quiet

She drew deep breaths.  Steeling herself.  Knowing what he would
want to know next.  And he didn't disappoint her.  "What about the
Wilstead family?  What happened to them?"  She was silent for a
moment.  At first he didn't think she was going to answer him.
But then.  "By the time the authorities went back there.  Using
my directions to the cabin.  They were gone Mulder.  We think
maybe they are hiding.  They know how to live and survive in those
woods.  There is still a search going on, but I don't think we'll
find them."  "What?", he stammered.  "Gone?  All of them?"  She
shook her head sadly.  "Not all.  Eve was still in the cabin."
Scully lowered her head.  "Her body was there.  She had been

This time Scully held Mulder tight.  Feeling the grief rack his
body.  The tears slip from under his closed lids.  She smoothed
his hair down around his face.  Whispering to him softly, calling
his name.  She let him have all the time he needed to adjust to
this sorry event.  She had her own time to grieve already.
And a part of her had somehow known even before the police officer
had given her the news in person.  Back in the woods, when she
had heard Eve's voice.  She thought now maybe she had known even
then.  She could feel Mulder's body relaxing against her now.
Drifting off to sleep.  He was exhausted.  So much to absorb.
She let him sleep.  Kissing his cheek lightly before closing her
own eyes.  But there was still more to tell him tomorrow.  He
didn't know about Ethan.

When they had gone back to the pit to retrieve his body.  It was


May 9th, 7:45 P.M.
Scully's Apartment

Scully tapped her fingers on the table where she had been reading
a medical journal.  Still trying after a month to catch up on
everything that she had missed during her long absence.  Her eyes
kept straying towards the door.  She finally slapped down the
book impatiently.  Knowing she would not be able to concentrate
until she got this out of the way.  She walked over to the front
door of her new apartment.  After being gone for over seven months
both her and Mulder's apartments had been let go.  Life had to
move on.  Luckily though, both their mothers could not part with
their possessions yet, and had placed them in storage.

She and Mulder had decided to use this convenient need to relocate
and had rented apartments within minutes of each other.  Skinner
had grandly given them both a month's leave of absence to recuper-
ate from their ordeal.  This timeframe would end in a couple of
days and they would return to work.  To the X-Files.  This all of
course had involved a governmental battle of unending proportions.
First, the redtape paperwork that was required to change their
official status from deceased to living was still on-going.  And
re-opening the X-Files was major challenge.  But with Skinner
on their side and taking into consideration all that they had gone
through.  It had finally been accomplished.

Scully reached for the door and began the irritating ritual that
had become so ingrained in her routine over the last weeks.  But
it was getting better now.  She only had to do it once or twice
a day at most anymore.  She started at the top.  Sliding and
slipping the chain lock from its cradle.  And then the bolt.
She reached down and turned the lever on the deadbolt to the
right.  This done, she grabbed the doorknob, yanking it back.
She opened the door.  Stepped outside for a moment.  And then
came back in.  She was about to lock the door again when there
was a soft knock.  She opened it right away.  Knowing ahead of
time who it was.

Mulder stepped in encircling her with one arm, while holding a
full grocery bag with the other.  He moved back looking at her
closely.  "You opened the door rather quickly.  How many times
does that make today?"  She smiled.  He knew well of her
ritual.  The need she had developed over the weeks following
their imprisonment.  The need to know that she could get out
if she wanted to.  To know that she wasn't locked inside.
Trapped.  Confined.  As they had been for so long.  It had been
bad in the beginning.  As were his nightmares.  But the mandated
therapy they had received, along with having each other to lean
on had made things much better now.  "It was the first time
today", she told him, a tone of accomplishment evident in her
words.  She walked with him over to the kitchen.  Curious to
see what he had brought with him for their dinner.


May 11th, 1:45 A.M.
Scully's Apartment

She still missed her old apartment, but she loved having the balcony
that this one had.  She sometimes had trouble sleeping and she would
come out here for awhile.  Letting the soft cool wind play with the
tendrils of her hair.  Her nightgown rippling lightly against her
legs. It was another way to make her feel her freedom.  A realness
in being able to walk outside whenever she wanted.  And as always it
wouldn't be long before he would miss her warm body next to his and
he would come to join her.

He slipped his arms around her waist from the back.  Drawing her close.
Nuzzling his face against her neck.  She reached her arms up draping
them around his neck.  "Are you worried about tomorrow?", he asked her.
Tomorrow.  It was more than just another day for them.  They would be
returning to work. But first they had a meeting scheduled with Skinner.
At their request.  They had sat down together when they had gotten back
and talked.  Argued.  Cried.  But always coming to the same conclusion.
They loved each other.  There was no going back now to what their
relationship had been before they had been kidnapped.  Nor did they
want to.  But being back in the real world demanded they live by the
rules of the real world.  Their work was a part of who they were.  It
was what had brought them together in the first place.  They both loved
their jobs. But if it came down to it.  They would give up the X-Files.

They came first. Their lives together. They had already lost too much
time. Both held their own visions in their mind that centered around this
decision.  For Mulder it was that first night.  When he had held Scully
as Ethan had pulled on her broken arm.  Hearing her screams.  Vowing
that he would give anything in return for her comfort.  His life.
The X-Files.  The Truth.  Samantha.  And he was just as willing today
to make those sacrifices.  And for Scully it was that last day.  In
the pit with the beast poised over her ready to take her life.  Her
final thoughts only of her fervent wish to tell Mulder once again how
much she loved him.  And how grateful she was that they had become
lovers.  And for them both, all that had happened in between.  As
each horror filled day had managed to bring them closer together.

They would try to have it all.  The X-files and their life together.
It hinged on their meeting tomorrow with Skinner.  They owed him the
truth.  If he was willing to keep their secret.  If they could prove
to him, and to themselves, that they could have a relationship and
still work together on the X-Files.  Then they could indeed have the
best of both worlds.

And if not, well they had already typed and printed their letters of
resignation.  Ready to hand directly to Skinner tomorrow if the
meeting went against them.

But they were ready either way.  For either outcome.  Because they
would go in together and continue their work.

Or they would walk out together for good.

She turned to face him.  Smiling. The strands of her hair moving
against his cheek in the wind.  "No Mulder, I'm not worried at all."
He returned her smile with an equal one of his own.  She lay her
head upon his shoulder as they walked back into the apartment.