Nexus: 2. Found


Scully blinked. She was in a forest, surrounded by trees. It was night. She shivered, and instinctively wrapped her arms around her body for warmth. Later, she realized that despite the darkness, and the wintry appearance of the bare branches of the trees, it was, in actuality, quite warm. Three fingers of light shone through the woods – displaced moonbeams that didn’t do more than cast an eerie glow over her predicament. Scully took a deep breath, and started to walk.


She had been walking for a long time, when she paused for a moment, resting her back against a tree trunk, surprised that it didn’t feel cold to the touch. It didn’t even feel ridged, or uncomfortable, despite its gnarled appearance. Scully looked around, and then frowned. She had been walking for miles, but she was still in the same clearing. Nothing had changed – the trees still enclosed her within their looming, ominous circle, and the same three fingers of light still shone through, casting long, terrifying shadows through the trees. Scully closed her eyes, and then opened them again. She was imprisoned here – lost in a dark wood, where nobody would ever find her. There was no way out.




LP Manufacturing Inc.
January 8, 1999


Linus Pelman opened the door to his office, and fumbled for the light switch.


“Damn,” he cursed as the room remained in darkness. “Bulb must have blown.” He felt his way carefully across the room until he came to his desk, and opened the bottom drawer, reaching in to find the bottle of whisky he kept there…only to discover that the drawer was empty.


“It’s here.” A voice in the darkness made him jump, and he saw a figure seated behind his desk. “I considered draining the bottle, but then I realized that you probably have even more need for oblivion than I do, Mr. Pelman. Perhaps you have more on your conscience.”


“Who are you?” Pelman whispered.


“I’m the man who stole your light bulb,” the intruder said with a grim chuckle. “I’m also the man who’s got a gum aimed at your head, so why don’t you just sit down, and I’ll ask the questions.”


“I’ll call security…” Pelman blustered.


“I’ve taken care of your security as you call them, although I think ‘soldiers on loan from a nearby military base’ describes them more accurately. They’re here to guard their precious new weapon aren’t they?”


“Who are you?” Pelman edged his way nervously into a chair.


“That depends.” The other man shrugged, pushing the bottle of whisky across the desk. “If you tell me everything I want to know, then I’ll disappear into the night and you can just think of me as a figment of your imagination. A ghost.”


“And if I don’t?” Pelman asked, ignoring the proffered whisky.


“Then I’ll have the honor, or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, of being the last person you speak to before you die.”








“You killed Melissa.”


“Mom? Mom, where are you?”


“Dana, sweetheart.”


“Bill, don’t tell daddy. Please.”




Scully curled herself up into a tight ball and placed her hands over her ears. The darkness of the forest soothed her. She was safe here. The moonbeams bathed the trees in a darkly luminous glow, comforting, and warm, like being enclosed in a womb. Scully crouched at the base of the largest tree, trusting it to hide her and keep her safe, as if she were a small woodland creature – a mouse, or a squirrel. If she stayed here, she’d be okay.


“There you are.” The voice sounded clear, and too loud, echoing around the clearing. Scully jumped, and looked up.


“Mulder?” It was still dark, but she could just about make out a shadow through the trees.


“Yeah, it’s me, Scully. Who were you expecting, huh?” He was leaning against a tree, looking incongruous in this forest, dressed as he was in his smart work suit, with one of his tasteless ties around his neck.


“Mulder…oh, Mulder.” She uncurled her tightly scrunched body and got up, ran over, then stopped just in front of him, feeling utterly relieved that she was no longer alone.


“I was…” She paused. His hazel eyes were laughing at her.


“Scared? Surely not. The rational Dr. Scully is scared of a little old forest?”


“Mulder…” she began, disturbed by his tone, but he turned on his heel and started to walk away from her. “Come on, Scully. Get those little legs moving, or we’ll be late!” he called over his shoulder.


“Mulder, no. I don’t want to…I don’t want to leave here.” Scully held onto one of the trees for safety, and security.


“Don’t be stupid, Scully. Follow me. You know you will. You always do.” He gave an infuriating smirk, and strode off into the woods. Scully took a deep breath, staring uncertainly at his disappearing back, and then, with one last glance around the forest, she followed him.




LP Manufacturing Inc.


January 8, 1999.


“What do you want to know?” Pelman licked his lips nervously, staring at the stranger, whose face was obscured by a black ski mask, and whose hand definitely, and unequivocally, held a gun.


“I want to know all about your coma-inducing weapon. I want to know who designed it, and I want to know how its effects can be reversed.”


“That information is classified. I can’t possibly tell you,” Pelman stammered. “If I do, they’ll kill me.”


“If you don’t, I’ll kill you.” The man stated implacably.


“If you do, you’ll never find out.” Pelman retorted, eyeing the whisky on the desk, wanting it – needing it.


“Ah, an impasse.” The man leaned forward, and poured a large measure of whisky into a glass tumbler. He held it out to Pelman. “Take it,” he urged. Pelman reached out a shaking hand, only to find his wrist pulled into a rough grasp. He was pulled bodily forwards until he could feel the other man’s warm breath on his cheek, and then blunt fingertips were placed against his head. “I have another way of finding out. I can take the information I require.”


Pelman opened his mouth to scream, but found it silenced, as if the weight of a large blanket had fallen over his mind. He felt a pain, thrusting deep inside his head, and he gasped, whimpering.


“Ethics. They’re so conveniently selective, aren’t they?” The boy stood behind Pelman, his eyes mocking.


“Fuck off.” Skinner growled.


“So – you won’t share yourself with Scully, because it’s what? An intrusion? But you don’t mind forcing yourself into this man’s head and taking what you want.”


“There are lives at stake.” Skinner insisted in a desperate tone.


“Self-righteous justification – and you know it. You don’t have any link with this guy. If you push your way into his mind it’ll drain you, and you’ll end up as weak as a puppy. It’ll hurt you, and him, and I don’t think you’ll ever get over the guilt.”


“If Mulder and Scully die I won’t get over that either.” Skinner snapped.


“Go ahead then.” The boy shrugged. “I only tell you what you already know anyway.”


Pelman watched as the man who held him in that vice-like grip fought some kind of internal struggle, his eyes fixed on a point somewhere over Pelman’s shoulder, holding a conversation with somebody who didn’t exist. Finally, the iron grasp of those fingers on his arm slackened, and the man released him.


“Just tell me,” the intruder begged, leaning forwards into the half-light, so that Pelman could see the desperate look in his dark eyes.


“There’s not much to tell you. I only manufacture one of the components of the weapon, and get the other components from seven other factories and assemble them onsite. I have no idea why and how the components produce the effects that they do when combined.” Pelman found himself responding to the unspoken plea in the other man’s eyes, as much as to the gun pressed against his heart. “Look, buddy, I’d like to help you, but I don’t know any more than you do. I just know that we had an accident on the factory floor a few days ago, and everyone within hearing distance went into a coma. My guess is that the weapon works on an aural level, but I don’t know how.”


“Do you know how the effects can be reversed?”


Pelman hesitated, knowing that he was about to dampen that faint light of hope in the other man’s eyes. He had no way of knowing how his attacker would respond to what he was about to say, or whether he would use the gun he still held pressed into Pelman’s flesh.


“I’m sorry,” he whispered at last, “but as far as I know there is no way of reversing it.”


“There must be!” The man’s voice was a desperate whisper.


“If there were a way, why would I know it? Did Oppenheimer know how to reverse the effects of the atom bomb?”


There was a grim silence in the aftermath of this spoken truth, and the masked man took a deep breath, and ran a hand over his head, as if thinking out loud, pacing the room as he did so.


“Who is your contact at the Military Base? Who ordered this?”


“I don’t know. I don’t have a contact there. At least I don’t have the same one twice.”


“Why then? Why Mulder and Scully? Why use the weapon on them? For what purpose?”


“The FBI agents?” Pelman licked his lips nervously. “Look, I had nothing to do with that. Security must have reported back that they were both caught trying to break in here. Someone at the military base must have ordered their…” he trailed off, uncertainly.


“Oh god.” His assailant stopped his pacing, and rocked back on his heels. “I’ve been stupid,” he said. “So, so stupid.”




“Mulder!” Scully chased after him, but he seemed to have disappeared, as had the forest. She looked around. It was winter. She was dressed in a thick black coat, with black leather gloves on her hands. She was in a church. Everybody was wearing black – and her mother was sobbing. Scully put her arm around the weeping woman, and they left the church together, and started walking behind the coffin as it was taken outside. She saw her brother, Bill. He looked grim faced, almost angry. Her heart jumped suddenly. There was Mulder!


“Mulder.” She ran up to him, caught his arm. He turned, and gazed at her solemnly.


“Maybe I shouldn’t have come.”


“I’m glad you did.”


“Your brother…”


I’m glad you’re here,” she told him firmly. Bill gave them both a look of disapproval. Scully sighed – she was used to Bill’s disapproval. They walked slowly towards the grave, but Scully’s footsteps faltered and slowed as they drew close.


“I don’t want to go here,” she whispered.


“You have to.” Mulder said flatly, his hand holding her arm with a grip like steel.


“No…” she tried to say the words, but they wouldn’t come out. Mulder’s eyes glinted a dark, malevolent hazel.


“You aren’t…Mulder…” she breathed, trying to pull away.


“And you can’t escape.”


He dragged her towards the grave, pushed her in front of him, holding her shoulders tightly so that she couldn’t move. She looked down. In front of her were three freshly dug graves, and inside them were three open coffins, each of them containing a body. Scully tried to turn her face away, but Mulder swung her around, and made her look at the first body.


“Daddy,” she whispered. He looked gray and old, rigid and cold. She reached out a hand to him, but his eyes remained closed.


“Dead.” Mulder said, in a cold flat tone. He shoved her towards the next grave.


“I don’t want to…” She struggled in his grip, but he was too strong. Missy lay in the next coffin, her long red hair dull and lifeless, her slender hands crossed over her chest, clutching a single white rose. “Oh, Missy.” The tears came unbidden to Scully’s eyes.


“Dead.” Mulder told her, picking her up, and swinging her bodily towards the next grave.


Don’t…” Scully begged. “Please don’t…” She closed her eyes. This grave was small, and she knew without looking who she would see there.


“Look at her!” Mulder shook her until she opened her eyes and gazed down on the innocent round face.


“Emily.” Scully stood rooted to the spot.


Mulder laughed. “Dead – all of them dead because of you.”


“Because of me? No. Daddy…”


“Melissa, Emily – they died because of you. Your father tried to contact you but you wouldn’t listen – you wouldn’t hearhim, would you? It was his last message to you, and you couldn’t be bothered to find out what it was.”


“That’s not true!” She cried. “Please, Mulder stop this. It hurts. It all hurts too much.”


“We haven’t finished yet – don’t you want to see the future?” he asked, pushing her again, his fingers digging into her flesh as he propelled her across the ice-encrusted grass towards three more graves, lying side by side a little way off.


“No. I don’t. I don’t want to!” Scully squirmed in his grasp, trying desperately to free herself, but his strength was superhuman, and soon she found herself staring down at another open coffin. Inside, lying with his eyes open, staring lifelessly into space…was Mulder.


“NO!” She cried, spinning around to look at the visage of the being that held her. His eyes gleamed malevolently from Mulder’s face as he grinned at her.


“And the next one.” He picked her up again, and threw her towards the second grave. “This one should amuse you.”


“No…” she whispered, knowing, dreading what she would find. “Not this. No.” His fingers closed on her shoulder blades, and it was like being held by pure ice. He pushed her close, and she peered inside – and found herself staring back, eyes wide and lost. Scully shivered.


“What’s the matter – someone walk over your grave?” Mulder whispered chillingly in her ear, his voice breaking off into a cheerless, malicious laugh. “Last one.”


She shook off his hands. “I’ll walk there myself,” she told him defiantly. Skinner lay in the last coffin, dressed in black, only… he wasn’t dead. He was talking to her, but she couldn’t hear what he was saying. She threw herself forward, trying to catch his words, but she couldn’t quite make sense of them.


Her heart froze as the coffin lid was screwed down, and earth was piled on top of the casket. “He isn’t dead.” She turned to her captor, and pounded against his body with her fists. “He’s alive! You can’t bury him alive!” The being just laughed again, and turned away, disappearing from sight.


Scully jumped down into the grave, and tried to pull the earth away, to pry open the coffin with her fingers.


“Skinner!” she shouted. “Help me! I can’t hear you…please come back, come back and rescue me…Don’t disappear, don’t go…please don’t go…”


She worked for what seemed like a lifetime, the tears spilling down her cheeks and onto the freshly dug ground below, but her efforts made no difference. Soon, the earth was piled high on the coffin, then grass grew over the earth, and trees on top of the grass, and when she looked up again, it was night. The moon shone its three fingers of light through the branches of the trees, and she was lost once more in a dense forest. Scully sat down under one of the trees, and curled herself up in a tight ball, her arms around her knees, staring blankly into the darkness.




George Washington University Medical Center.
January 8, 1999


Skinner sat down on the chair in the hospital, too weary to even think straight. He stared, dazed, at the two bodies, lying side by side, with their wide, sightless eyes. He had brought Scully back to DC with him, traveled beside her the whole way, holding her hand, and trying desperately to push his mind into hers, to find her, but like Mulder, she too was missing, lost. He had tried talking to her, as he had talked to Mulder, but her eyes hadn’t even flickered in recognition of his voice. He wasn’t going to leave her there though, in that town where she had no friends, abandoned among strangers. If she were going to die, she would do so lying next to Mulder, the two of them together, where they belonged. If she were going to die…Skinner was too tired to fight the sense of loss and anger, and it spilled into him, eating him alive.


He sat there, feeling dislocated from his own body, watching their breathing, gazing blankly at their pale faces, at the empty blue eyes and the vacant hazel ones, both of them fixed at a point somewhere in space, beyond his ability to reach them. He sent his mind wearily along the half-formed nexus between them, looking for something, anything, but found only an echoing silence that made his heart ache. For the first time in three years, he was alone again – more truly and profoundly alone than anybody could comprehend. It was a loneliness that bit deep into his heart and tore open his soul, leaving a great, gaping wound.


He heard a noise in the distance, and after several disoriented seconds, located the source – his cell phone was ringing.




“Sir? This is the Carroll County Hospital. You asked for news…”


“Yes?” Skinner’s heart pounded inside him, and he felt a surge of hope, sitting up straight.


“I’m sorry, sir. The four remaining coma patients all died within minutes of each other about an hour ago.”


“I see.” Skinner cut the connection, and stared glumly into space for a long time, the ‘phone hanging from his nerveless grasp. Finally he found some energy from somewhere. “I’ll get revenge,” he told the silent agents, as he struggled to his feet, and walked wearily towards them. “I promise you that. I’ll find whoever did this to you, and to those other poor bastards, and I’ll break them in two with my bare hands. They won’t live for long after you go.” He stood between their beds, and took one last look at them. He ran his fingers through Mulder’s hair, and down the side of the other man’s still face, and then he bent to deposit a kiss on Scully’s forehead. “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep you safe,” he whispered, taking off his glasses, and brushing his fingers over wet eyes. “I’m so, so sorry. Please forgive me.” Then he left.




Scully closed her eyes and put her hands over her ears, trying to block out the sounds of the wind as it whistled through the trees, making their branches sway, and rustle, and whisper.


“Shut up,” she said through gritted teeth, as the whispers grew louder.


“Dana!” A voice called. She opened her eyes in surprise. In front of her, dressed in a striped red tee shirt, was a small boy. “Were you hiding?” he asked.


“Charlie? Yes…yes I was,” Scully told him. It was sunny, and the forest suddenly didn’t seem so threatening.


“I’ve made a den. Want to come and see it?” Charlie asked her.


“Yes.” She got to her feet, and looked down at her thin cotton dress. Her bare white legs and sandal-encased feet were smaller than she remembered.


“Come on.” Charlie took hold of her hand, and dragged her through the forest, until she was laughing, her long red hair streaming out behind her.


“Bill helped me.” Charlie told her proudly, showing her the collection of cardboard boxes covered by raincoats that was the den.


“Mom will kill you if you get those coats dirty.” Scully giggled.


“You won’t tell though.” Charlie grinned at her.


“No way!” Scully crawled inside the den. It was comfortable in here, safe and hidden. Maybe she would stay here forever. A shadow fell across the entrance, and a large hand descended on her ankle, and dragged her out.


“What have we got here?” a voice asked, and she screamed with laughter, wriggling to escape.


“Bill, let me go, let me go!” she gasped helplessly, as both her brothers descended on her.


“Death by tickling!” Charlie exclaimed. “That always works on Dana!”


Soon she was a limp, panting, heap – exhausted by her giggles. She lay on one of the raincoats, and grinned up at her two brothers.


“You are such a tomboy, Dana Kate.” Bill poked her in the ribs.


He looked so young – not serious, and grumpy, and middle-aged before his time as he later became. Scully closed her eyes, feeling safe here with her two brothers. Melissa rarely joined them – she was a girly girl, she liked dressing up and playing with her hair. Dana hated those games; they bored her to tears. It was much more fun playing with Charlie and Bill, teasing, being teased, roughhousing, wading through streams, and getting dirty. Charlie always had the ideas, and Dana always pointed out how crazy they were, but went along with them anyway, just so she could tell Charlie “I told you so,” afterwards. Bill would watch them with a superior big brother air, and then wade in and rescue them when it all went wrong, just as Dana had predicted. Scully looked up at the blue sky, and hoped nothing would change, and Bill smiled down at her, his eyes glinting, and said three words:


“You killed Melissa.”


Scully opened her mouth to protest, and instead heard herself start to cry, a heart-rending, keening wail. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, it was dark, and she was sitting in the forest surrounded on all sides by a dense thicket of trees, tears pouring down her cheeks.




Crystal City, VA
January 9, 1999


Skinner took a long, hot shower, trying to ease the aches out of his shoulders and back, but the ache in his soul remained. He stared at himself in the mirror for a long time, wondering if he really intended to go through with this, and then nodded to himself. He went to his bedroom, and pulled on the black sweater and combat pants that he had worn the other night. He checked his guns, and knives, placing them in their holsters, then stood up, ready to go. His FBI badge caught his attention, and he glanced at it for a moment before, regretfully, picking it up and throwing it in the wastebasket. He had no intention of coming back, and he wouldn’t use his title for what he was going to do. This wasn’t about Assistant Director Skinner, or the FBI; this was personal.


“So, that’s your decision is it?” The boy was leaning in the bedroom doorway, his arms folded.


“Yes.” Skinner brushed past him, and ran down the stairs into the lounge.


“What are you going to do? Go on a rampage?” The boy was already in the lounge, his eyes mocking.


“If need be.” Skinner poured himself a glass of whisky, and downed it in one gulp.


“You’ve figured out who’s behind this then?” The boy was seated on the couch, his long legs on the coffee table.


“Not exactly, but close enough.” Skinner grunted. “The accident at the factory caused injuries of such a bizarre nature that Mulder believed a weapon was being manufactured utilizing alien technology. When he went to investigate, he got caught. The military followed him back to his apartment and used the weapon on him to shut him up.”


“Neat. They got themselves a test subject – and they also got rid of someone who was asking too many questions at the same time.”


“So it would seem.” Skinner poured himself another glass of whisky. “That could have been the end of it all too easily.


“Only you and Scully showed up.”


“Yes. I was a fool. A damned fool.” Skinner thumped his glass down on the table, shattering it, and spilling the contents onto the carpet. The boy seemed unimpressed by this display of bad temper. “That guard at the factory saw Scully’s face when he took her mask off. I should have killed him.” Skinner’s voice was low, his tone bitter.


“What was it Mom used to say?” The boy turned his mocking face to one side. “Never regret the things you’ve done – only what you haven’t done?”


“Don’t quote Mom at me. She had a saying for every occasion,” Skinner growled.


“And she wouldn’t believe that you are sitting here berating yourself for not killing somebody. Since when did killing become your first, best option, Walter?”


Skinner shook his head. “This is different. Scully will die because of me.”


“So, you’re going to charge down to that military base, storm inside…and do what?” The boy asked. “Are you sure you’ve thought this through?”


“The answer is in that base. Whoever gave the order that Mulder and Scully were to be killed is in that base. I’m going to find them, and I’m going to make them pay for what they did.”


“Vigilante justice? That’s not like you. They’re not dead yet,” the boy murmured. “Maybe your revenge is somewhat…premature?”


Skinner stared glumly at his feet. “Mulder has less than 24 hours,” he said. “The doctors don’t have a cure for this. Why should they? This is far beyond anything they’ve ever come across. Imagine the implications of it, a weapon that can wipe out a unit of soldiers with one shot – they don’t even have to be in sight.”


“Yes,” the boy shrugged, “but if you go down to that base, then maybe you’ll end up in a hospital bed, staring into nothing, just like Mulder and Scully. You won’t be much help to them then.”


“I’m not much help to them now,” Skinner said despairingly. “I feel so…” He rested his head in his hands. “They’ve always been there before,” he confided. “For the past few years, I just had to close my eyes and they were there. It was comforting, to hear their thoughts, to see what they were seeing, even when they were hundreds of miles away. Now they’re gone. I can’t be alone again.” He looked up, his eyes bleak. “I’d rather die.”


“Mulder seemed to think that you could help him.” The boy pointed out.


“That stupid book.” Skinner grunted. “What the hell kind of help was that?”


“It was Mulder telling you what he wanted you to do, the only way he could.”


“I don’t understand what he was trying to say!” Skinner slammed his hand onto the book, which was lying on the coffee table in front of him. “What is there in here that’s of any use to me?”


“In your dream you were a woodcutter…” the boy murmured. “That could be a clue.”


“Do you have any idea how many damn woodcutters there are in this book?” Skinner glared at him. “Hundreds. Woodcutters are commonplace in fairy stories. They give advice, marry princesses, befriend changelings, go on quests, abandon their children in forests, kill wolves, save children abandoned in forests, turn out to be long lost kings…”


“Do you remember the Old Woman?” The boy came and knelt down in front of Skinner, his dark eyes serious and intense.


Skinner exhaled deeply. “Of course,” he murmured. He could still see her face, her kind eyes, and long white hair. “She saved me. She brought me back to life, and she still watches over me. She warned me about what would happen to Sharon. She was trying to protect me. Why isn’t she here now?” he asked ruefully. “Isn’t she paying attention? I need her help now, damn it!”


“Maybe she’s busy protecting someone else,” the boy said. “Someone you care about. Maybe that’s why I’m here instead.”


“I can’t…this is all…” Skinner struggled with it, wordlessly, for a long moment. “Mulder would be three steps ahead on all this, but I can’t handle it. I don’t understand it!” he stated bitterly. “This,” he took a gun from his holster, “is something I canunderstand.” He got to his feet.


“If you don’t help them then they will die,” the boy told him sadly. “Don’t turn away from them now, Walter. They need you.”


“To do what?” Skinner exclaimed, exasperated.


“What the Old Woman did for you,” the boy said quietly.


“Which is what?”


“She brought you back to life. You couldn’t have returned to your body without her, could you?”


“No.” Skinner whispered.


“You know where Mulder and Scully are. You’ve known all along. You’ve been there,” the boy said insistently. “You’ve been there, and you found a way back.”


“Hansel and Gretel.” Skinner said suddenly.


The boy raised an eyebrow at this leap of thought.


“The obligatory wicked stepmother abandoned them in the woods. They couldn’t find their way home. They used white stones at first, to mark the route, and then bread, but the birds ate the bread, and they couldn’t find a way back. The Old Woman told me I couldn’t stay there – I had to move on or go back. It’s the same for Mulder and Scully.” He got to his feet, and paced the room anxiously, running a hand over his head. “I cannot believe that I just theorized the cure for a coma based on a fairy story,” he muttered wryly. “It’s absurd. Lack of sleep. I’m going nuts. If they were here now they’d die laughing at me.”


“You could find them. Bring them home.” The boy stood up.


“You think that’s what Mulder meant? That he was lost? He can’t find the way back?”


“Don’t you?” The boy shrugged.


“But how?” Skinner asked in despair. “I tried to use the link to follow them, but I told you, I didn’t complete the nexus, I just made the beginnings of it. I couldn’t find them – the link wasn’t strong enough, or they were too far away.”


“There are other ways to travel.” The boy grinned.




“Hi.” Scully glanced up. A youth stood there – about 17 years old, blond hair, blue eyes…and then there was two of him.


“Hi.” The second one said.


“Hi.” Scully looked back down at her book, feigning disinterest.






Two voices piped in unison. She glanced up again.


“Hmm,” she murmured. “Okay, I’m hazarding a wild guess here. Twins, right?” Tom? Todd? What got into some parents, she wondered idly to herself. She was used to a constant stream of neighbors coming and going, some with kids, some without. Being a navy brat she was used to making friends quickly, and saying goodbye in haste. She was used to it – but she didn’t like it. Her nature wasn’t suited to quick friendships. She longed for knowledge, for permanence, for the security of slowly getting to know, and getting known by, friends, forging valuable bonds that would last for a lifetime. As she grew older, she had shunned friendships altogether, contenting herself with her studies, and with her family. She’d also grown closer to Melissa. Once Bill had left for college, she had turned to her older sister for companionship, and they had both found, much to their surprise, that despite, or maybe because of having nothing in common, they got along well. Each had qualities the other didn’t possess, but admired in her sister. Now Melissa had flown the nest as well, and Scully found herself feeling lonely. She had no intention of getting close to these two blond, all-American kids, with their wide, lantern-jawed smiles, and freckled noses though.


“We’ve just moved in.” Tom, or possibly Todd, informed her.


“Great.” She looked back down at her book.


“What are you reading?” Todd, or possibly Tom, asked.


“A book.” Didn’t they get the message? The ‘don’t talk to me, I don’t want to know,’ message?


From afar, an older Scully watched from under the dark branches of a tree, three fingers of moonlight reaching through the forest to dapple her hair. She found that she was smiling, despite herself.


“Why do you always want to be alone, when it’s so easy just to reach out…” Tom whispered, looking past the teenage Scully, sitting in her backyard, his eyes meeting those of an older, sadder Scully, trapped all alone in a dark forest. Scully felt those blue eyes beckon her, pull her back into her old life, and she lifted her hand, wanting to feel warm flesh and blood, wanting to live again. She was aware of two worlds colliding, the forest merging with her past life, and she gasped as she found herself back in her 17-year-old body, sitting in the sunshine. Tom was smiling at her, an easy smile that made her breath catch in her throat, and her heart pound inside her chest. “We could go for a walk?” he suggested. “We don’t know the best places around here, do we, Todd?”


“No.” Todd ducked his head. He was the shy one of the two, Scully decided.


“You could show us.” Tom said.


“There are no best places,” she informed them with a wry smile. “This is Dullsville, USA, but a walk sounds fine.”


She took Tom’s hand, and he pulled her to her feet.


“Dana,” she said, finally smiling at both of them. They smiled back, flashing two identical, cheesy grins. Oh, brother




Crystal City, VA
January 9, 1999


The boy walked across the room, and picked up a photo from the sideboard.


“Do you remember this?” he asked.


“Yes, of course.” Skinner frowned.


“Do you remember when we’d all hit Saigon on leave? Do you remember where we went?”


“Yes.” Skinner stood behind the boy, looked over his shoulder at the photo. It showed a unit of marines, goofing around for the camera. Skinner closed his eyes, smelling the distinctive odor of rotting vegetation and sweat that he associated with his days in Vietnam. He walked into a bar – he was leaner, supple, but graceless, his long legs still gawky and awkward. He walked with a gangling, loping stride. His friends were with him.


“Hi, boys,” the woman behind the bar said in her singsong voice. “You want the back room, yes?”


“Yeah.” Murray slapped some money down on the counter.


“It’s all ready for you. I’ll send my girls in.”


They disappeared into the back room. Skinner remembered sitting on some faded red cushions, hearing the whir of a fan overhead. Someone gave him something to smoke, and he opened his mind, allowing the sensation of being high to drift through the link, calming and soothing them all. Casey opened the tin box on the table and took out a syringe.


“Want to try something stronger, Walt?” he asked, looking at his comrade through those innocent sandy eyelashes.


“No. I’ve told you before, I don’t do that stuff.” Skinner shook his head.


“Come on. You’ve seen how good hash is through the link, sharing the high.” Casey filled the syringe, and brought it over to where Skinner lay. “Well, this stuff is even better. We can’t get that high without you, Walt. You’re the only one who can push it through the link. You have to take it.”


He undid Skinner’s sleeve, rolled it up to his elbow, and pressed around in his flesh to find a vein. Holding the syringe between his teeth, Casey tied a strip of cloth around Skinner’s arm, until the vein pulsed. The other men just sat there, watching, their pupils dilated, waiting for their next high.


“All right, Walt?” Casey asked, holding the syringe poised. Skinner felt their expectant minds inside his own, urging him to do this for them. He nodded, and Casey grinned, rewarding him with a surge of excited energy. The syringe was plunged into his arm, and he felt the substance flowing into his veins.


Girls joined them in the room, giggling, nuzzling close with their straight dark hair and exotic, almond-shaped eyes, their musky perfume heady in the hot night air. Skinner felt too hot. He undid his shirt, and the girl he was with simpered, pressing her silky hair against his naked chest. He felt as if he was floating, far, far away. This felt so good…The girl’s lips teased at his flesh, licked his nipples. He could feel Casey, pounding into the girl he was with, while she called out in a foreign language, her legs wrapped around his back, her fingertips gouging long red streaks down his back.


At the same time, the Lieutenant was having his cock sucked, while he smoked some hash, one hand listlessly holding the joint, the other lazily tangled into the hair of the prostitute who was blowing him.


Murray was kissing the girl he was with, his hands stroking her thighs in an insistent rhythm…Skinner was in each of them, as the orgy of their bodies became a shared orgy of the mind. The sounds grew loud and indistinct, the faces hazy – a whirl of red and white. Panting, heaving flesh, laughter, sweat running down foreheads, blood running down backs, semen spurting onto flesh, into flesh, hot…too hot…


Skinner was overwhelmed by the kaleidoscope of images and sensations, and started to scream. He was on a carousel, going around and around, but too fast. He was going to fall off. He was going so fast that the world had turned into a heaving, writhing, roaring, blurring monster, devouring him whole…He screamed as he spun off into a dark void, his mind leaving his body, and the link, far, far behind. He turned, and looked back down on himself, lying senseless on those cushions, the prostitute draped over him, licking his body. His eyes were open, and as he stared into them, he found himself returning to his body, his consciousness flooding back inside his flesh with a jolt. Feeling disoriented and ill, he pushed the girl off, leaned over, and vomited onto the floor.


“Bad trip,” was all they said, as they pulled him up, and gave him some water. He never talked about what had happened – maybe he had even forgotten it – until now.


“Drugs?” Skinner looked at the boy.


“It’s one way of getting out of your head,” the boy grinned. “People do it all the time.”


“Not me. I never touched hard drugs again after that one time.” Skinner shook his head vehemently.


“This is different. This isn’t for you. It’s for them.”


“It was for ‘them’ last time. A different ‘them’.” Skinner remembered the press of their minds, their expectation, and the giddy excitement of pleasing them.


“They weren’t dying.” The boy pointed out.


I can’t…” Skinner felt a wave of fear remembering the sensation of being high, out of control, rising out of his body. He felt sick just thinking about it. “I can’t do it,” he whispered.


“Then they’ll die.” The boy shrugged. Skinner stared into those uncompromising dark eyes, fighting the rising tide of distress that was threatening to overwhelm him.


“Go away,” he said, in a tone low with rage. “Go away!”


“What’s the matter, Walt? Scared to have their deaths on your conscience? Scared that they’ll die, and you’ll know you could have saved them if only you’d been brave enough?” the boy asked, in a sneering tone. Skinner’s hands snapped out and fastened themselves around the youth’s neck only to find that it was insubstantial, and the boy slipped out of his grasp.


“I told you – you can’t kill me!” The youth exclaimed, unaffected by Skinner’s attack. “I’m part of you. There’s no getting rid of me and besides…” his dark eyes glinted with amusement. “I think you’re going to need me.”


“I don’t need you,” Skinner snapped. “I don’t need anybody.”


“Not even them? Not even Mulder and Scully?” The boy taunted. Skinner closed his eyes, and saw their pale faces, lying on the hospital bed.


“The way I see it is this,” the boy stated. “You have a choice to make, Walter.You can either blast your way into the military base like Rambo and get yourself killed, or you can lead Mulder and Scully out of their mental prisons, which is what Mulder asked you to do in the first place.


“I said I wouldn’t go back there.” Skinner crouched down on the floor, his arms around his knees. He remembered a white light, and a dark tunnel. “I was scared. I never wanted to look beyond that experience. I’m not like Mulder. I don’t get off on this stuff.”


“You’d rather die than leave your body, and face your past?” The boy whispered softly, kneeling in front of the big man, and holding his face between blunt, bloodstained fingers.


“Yes…no…” Skinner trembled. “You don’t know what you’re asking.”


“I do.” The boy smiled, sadly, his fingers finding Skinner’s and melting into them, fitting him like a glove, or mirror image. The same hands, the same fingers, the same tilt of the jaw, and the same eyes, only younger. “Of course I do, Walter.”


Skinner looked into those familiar brown eyes for an eternity. Finally, he took a deep breath, and got to his feet.


“Ready?” The boy asked, holding out his hand.


Skinner nodded, accepting the proffered hand. The boy melted into Skinner’s body, settling inside him, his mocking dark eyes glowing for a moment from within Skinner’s serious ones.


“I think I know just the place,” Skinner murmured.




It was summer. The woods were green and lush, and a stream gurgled over dark mossy rocks and stones. Scully lay on her stomach, and trailed her fingers through the cool water.


“Happy?” Tom asked.


“Yes.” She turned and smiled at him. “We can stay here, can’t we?” she asked, glancing fearfully around the forest, straining her ears to make sure that the whisperers hadn’t returned.


“Of course. If you want.” He took hold of her hand and kissed her fingers, gently, one by one. She lay back, feeling mellow, enjoying the sunlight, the company. She could see Todd a little way off, examining something he’d found in the stream, a lock of blond hair falling into his eyes, a frown creasing his forehead. Todd was the clever, unpredictable one: quiet and studious, but given to fits of moody introspection that only Tom could rescue him from. Tom was sensible, stable, easy going. Everybody loves Tom, Scully thought to herself, even me… She had known the twins for a year, and they had become inseparable in that time.


Scully shivered as Tom’s lips traveled up her arm, along her neck, and finally ended up at her mouth. He paused, wanting her permission, and she took hold of him and pulled him down on top of her, shocking herself to the core of her Catholic soul. His mouth felt so good though, and she parted her lips to let him in. He tasted of the cider they had both recently drunk. He was heavy, and she was enjoying the rhythmic movements of his solid body against her own a little bit too much. She felt a hand smoothing her hair, and looked up into Todd’s blue eyes, and shy, gentle smile.


“You’re so pretty, Dana,” he whispered. Scully smiled at him, as Tom drew back. Melissa had always been the pretty one – Dana had been the Plain Jane. She had never thought of herself as pretty before. Tom lay down beside her, his hand stroking her arm. She glanced at him, and he nodded, agreeing with his brother.


“You’re our pretty Dana,” he said. His fingers moved to the front of her blouse and unbuttoned it, his eyes never leaving her face as he watched her to see if she would allow him to continue with his exploration. She knew that she should ask him to stop, but the truth was that she didn’t want to. Todd’s fingers continued to stroke her hair, then slipped down, and gently touched her lips. She glanced at Todd, and then at Tom.


“You know, we always share everything.” Tom said, with an apologetic little half smile.


“Is that all right, Dana?” Todd’s lips brushed against her cheek, and she knew that she should be shocked. She wanted to be shocked, to turn against them, to get up and storm away, outraged, but somehow she couldn’t. This felt so…right. They both loved her, and she loved them. What was wrong with that? She realized then, that she couldn’t have chosen between them, even if she’d tried. She wanted them both. They had always treated her like a goddess, their Dana, the center of their universe, and she loved them for it.


“Yes. Yes of course, ” she whispered, pulling Todd’s head down so that she could taste his lips too. Tom’s fingers finished unbuttoning her blouse and pulled it open, his cool fingers slipping gently beneath the fabric of her bra, and finding one swollen, eager nipple. Scully gasped, arching her body into his caress. She had never been touched like this before – she had touched herself, during dark nights of guilty self-exploration, but this was different. This sent waves of something warm, exotic, and exciting coursing through her veins. Todd’s fingers rippled in her hair, as his tongue clashed against her own, exploring her mouth, while Tom’s fingers just played, gently, with her nipples, and soon her body was afire with both sensations. Tom’s hands went lower, pulling at the waistband of her skirt, tugging it down, and she wriggled her hips to help him. It was soon disposed of, and his fingers edged up slowly inside her panties. He glanced at her face, to make sure she wanted this, but Scully was enjoying herself too much to resist.


She moaned out loud as one of Tom’s fingers disappeared into the warm, moist, folds between her legs, and clenched hard around him. Todd, meanwhile, had taken Tom’s place at her breasts, gently unfastening her bra, and loosening them from their captivity, holding each one in his hands, kissing first one, then the other. Scully had never felt so totally the center of attention. As one of four children she had always had to fight to be noticed, but here, now, she was the focus of so much love and adoration that she wished time would slow to a standstill so that she could savor this moment forever.


As if in a dream, she found herself unbuttoning Todd’s shirt, smoothing it away from a hairless golden chest, and hard, youthful muscles. She licked at a nipple, and watched in wonder as he threw back his blond head and his Adam’s apple jutted out, bobbing convulsively. On an impulse, she kissed his throat, nipping him slightly with her teeth. His fingers closed around her nipples, teasing them until she was writhing with the sensation, and then he bent his head and sucked. Every nerve-ending in Scully’s body exploded, and she was aware for the first time, that Tom had removed her panties, and was caressing her inner thigh, his own pants open, and his erect cock nudging her entrance.


“I’ve got something, Dana. Protection for you.” He pulled a packet from his pocket, and it took her a while to know what he meant. She knew that she should say ‘no’, knew that if she did, the twins would stop their loving caresses, but she didn’t want that. Her eyes met Tom’s over his brother’s head, and she nodded, imperceptibly. He gave her a smile of pure joy, unwrapped the condom, and rolled it onto his eager cock. Then he gently parted the folds of flesh between her legs, and pushed into her eager, waiting body.


Scully was gripped by a wave of longing, and she found her legs wrapping themselves around his hips, pulling him close, forcing him deeper into her waiting body. Her hands tangled in Todd’s hair, as he sucked on her breasts, and she gave a gasp of pain as Tom’s hard cock pushed deep inside her, then the pain receded as swiftly as it had come. She rocked in time to his thrusts, her body overloading from the attention it was receiving at their eager, adoring hands. She flung her head back, and saw the sunlight flooding through the forest, bathing their union with its blessing.


Her first orgasm was a blinding flash of light that consumed her senses and left her reeling. She was aware from a distance that Tom was still thrusting into her willing body, and that Todd still played with her breasts, but she was on a different sensory plane entirely. Then she came back to herself, to find Tom lying beside her, holding her, and stroking her sweat-dampened hair, while Todd directed her willing fingers to his own hard cock. She had never touched a man’s penis before, and she felt a momentary curiosity as her fingers made contact with the thick length. She ran her hands along Todd’s cock, fondling and caressing, watching his face, loving the way he flung his head back, and his tongue moistened his bottom lip. She could tell by his expression that she was doing something right, and increased the pressure of her caress until he came, with a shuddering sigh, and, like his brother, he flung himself down beside her and wrapped her in his arms.


She felt safe this way, with these two boys, safe within their embrace, sharing the closeness of their bond. This felt right. It felt like belonging, being part of something greater than herself, something beautiful and satisfying. I don’t want this to end, an older, sadder, Scully wept, a wave of foreboding sweeping through her. Please…I know what happens. Don’t let it continue. Please, please, stop it! She fled from her warm, sated body, and hovered among the branches of the trees, gazing down on the naked, abandoned bodies below. Don’t make me live this again. I want to stop it. I want…She placed her hands over her eyes, remembered footsteps, and her brother’s look of horror as he found them. His sister – the whore, lying naked with not one, but two lovers. She could remember the disappointment in his eyes. He had been shocked to the core of his conservative Catholic soul, and she couldn’t blame him. She remembered running after him, frantically adjusting her clothing, calling him back.


“Bill…please don’t tell Daddy. Please…” She remembered the way her brother had looked at her, the way he had looked at her ever since. The disapproval was always there, warring with the love. He hadn’t told their parents what he had found that day, and he had never spoken to her about it either, yet somehow it was always there between them. “I was always making things up to Bill,” Scully whispered, sinking back down beneath her tree, in the darkness. “I was always trying to show him that he was wrong about me.”


The darkness closed in around her, and she clutched her knees to her chest, and placed her hands over her ears. Outside, beyond the small circle of trees that both trapped her, and kept her safe, she could hear the whispers starting again.




Downtown Washington,


January 9, 1999


The woman behind the bar looked up as the man walked in, some sixth sense, honed over many years working in this dive, telling her that he was trouble. He was a bit older than her usual clients, but his hard, muscular body, and the black combat clothes he wore hinted at danger. Something about him didn’t ring true to her. He looked out of place, and she knew that he didn’t belong here.


“Can I help you?” She asked him politely.


“Yes.” He had a low, deep voice, and his eyes were dark and unreadable behind the wirerims he wore. “I want to buy something.”


“Whatever you like.” She spread her hands, gesturing at the bottles behind the bar.


“That’s not the kind of substance I want to get high on,” he told her.


“We don’t have anything else.” She shrugged, reaching for a glass. “Now what can I get you?”


His hand shot out and grabbed her wrist.


“I want what you sell in the back rooms. Don’t pull any crap with me, I know what this place is, and I know what goes on here.”


“Are you a fed?” She asked, her heart pounding. Something about him wasn’t right; the way he looked, the way he spoke – even the way he walked.


“No.” He gave her what he probably thought was a reassuring smile, but it only succeeded in alarming her further. “I have cash.” He moved aside his coat, revealing both his weapon and a quantity of cash sticking out of an inside pocket. “Well?” He asked.


“All right. Go through.” She pulled out a key, and unlocked a door behind the bar, and he followed her into a dark corridor that stank of urine and vomit. They walked along to a room, dimly lit, hazy with cigarette smoke, and filled with empty, staring faces. A man stood by the door aimlessly cleaning his gun. “Is this what you want?” The woman asked. Skinner nodded, and she scuttled off back to the bar.


The man with the gun looked Skinner over, then gestured with his head to a recess, partially obscured by a curtain. Skinner strode over, slipped behind the curtain, and found himself in a booth, facing a gap-toothed man with a large box full of tiny plastic envelopes, and several tubes containing hundreds of colored pills.


“Jesus, what a place. These people are the living dead.” The youth hovered behind the drug dealer, glancing at the content of the box. “At least back in ‘Nam, there seemed to be something exotic about it – some sense of fun, hedonism even. This is so…”


“Soulless.” Skinner finished for him.


“What?” The gap-toothed man looked up.


“Nothing. I want to buy.” Skinner gestured with his head towards the box.


“What are you interested in?”


“Something that will take me out of my body.” Skinner told him seriously.


“You mean something that will blow your mind?” The man grinned.


“If it does that too, I’ll just view it as an unfortunate side effect.” Skinner shrugged.


“You want crack.” The man said confidently.


“No. I want heroin.” Skinner replied. “Or acid.”


“You don’t look like you take heroin.” The man peered at him through the hazy, smoky, half-light.


“My money looks like real money.” Skinner drew out a wad of dollar bills, and laid them on the table.”


“You’re not a junkie.” The gap-toothed man leaned back in his chair, surveying Skinner, sizing him up.


“I’ve done heroin.” Skinner insisted, counting out some bills, and then reaching across to place them in the other man’s hand. The man hesitated.


“We have to be careful. We don’t want to be busted.”


“If I were a fed, I can assure you that it would already be too late,” Skinner snapped tersely. “I’m not going to bust you, I want to buy from you.”


“Okay.” The other man finally made up his mind. “It’s expensive here, but at least you know it’s not cut with rat poison like those assholes sold those poor bastards who o.d. two days ago.”


“Fine.” Skinner nodded.


“And you pay for the protection.” The man gestured in the direction of the thug cleaning his gun in the doorway. “Nobody messes with you while you’re high.”


“How…reassuring.” Skinner murmured.


The gap-toothed man nodded, taking his words at face value. “We provide a service here,” he said, sounding almost proud.


“It’s an all-American kind of place.” Skinner commented ironically.


The man laughed. “Yeah. Just like apple pie.” He handed Skinner a sealed syringe. “It’s all in there. Just inject and fly.”


Skinner took it and eased his way out of the booth, glancing around the room until he found an empty table in the corner. When he got there, he found the youth already sitting waiting for him.


“Is this going to work?” Skinner asked, rolling up his sleeve, and tapping his arm to find a vein.


“How the hell should I know?” The youth shrugged.


“Thanks. That’s just what I wanted to hear.” Skinner snapped.


“Hey, I just say it like it is. That’s the deal – you know that by now. Well, are you going to sit there all day staring at it?” The youth nodded his head in the direction of the vein that was now bulging up under the pressure of Skinner’s thumb.


“Shut up.”


Skinner hesitated for a moment, and then plunged the syringe into his waiting flesh, pushing the contents into his body. He closed his eyes and leaned back, waiting for the rush, remembering the way it had felt all those years ago in Saigon. The sounds in the room grew louder, and everything shifted into slow motion. Skinner heard a voice, and turned his head towards it. He saw the boy, sitting beside him, his mouth opening and closing as he spoke.


“What…? I can’t hear you…” Skinner said, and his mouth felt heavy, as he listened to the sound of his voice from a great distance. He closed his eyes again, and when he opened them, he was sitting staring at himself, as if had jumped straight into the youth’s insubstantial 18-year-old body. He glanced down at his bullet-ridden uniform, soaked in blood, and then across to where he sat – older, heavier, his face etched with weariness and despair. His eyes were open, blank and unseeing. Skinner waved a hand in front of the face he had previously only seen looking back at him from mirrors, or reflected in water, or other people’s glasses. There was no movement; his eyes were staring into space – lost. Skinner shivered as a cold sensation seeped into his soul, and then he found himself ascending to the ceiling, looking down on the smoky room full of lost souls. He rose up further, into a dark void, and beyond, towards a bright light.




“Fox? I have to leave you now.” The Old Woman moved his head gently from her lap, and glided silently away from him.


“You can’t go.” He sat up, panic-stricken.


“I have to. Jace is here.” She smiled. “I said that he’d come for you.”


“Where is he?” Mulder looked around.


“Near. I must go and greet him.” She paused, putting one hand out, and resting it against the cell wall, and Mulder watched in horror as her fingertips disappeared into the very fabric of the wall. He opened his mouth in a wordless cry. Outside, the whispers grew louder.


“I don’t have long do I?” He asked, looking around, and shivering violently. The warm red glow of the cell had dissipated almost to blackness.


“No.” She shook her head. “When Jace comes you must go with him, Fox. He doesn’t have a magic wand that he can wave to make you safe.”


“Then how will I ever get out of here?” Mulder whimpered.


“With strength, and courage. You have both of those in abundance, and you can borrow them from Jace as well. He’ll stand beside you.”


“That’s not enough!” Mulder muttered mutinously, but the Old Woman just shook her head.


“It has to be,” she said, and then she disappeared, her body melting into the wall as if it didn’t exist. Mulder put his arms over his head, and buried his face in his knees.




Skinner stood still, bathed in a bright white light. He heard a voice, and a dim shape walked towards him through the light.


“Jace?” A voice whispered, and it echoed all around him, the word caressing him, like a lover.


“I’m here.” He wasn’t sure when he had started to respond to the name ‘Jace’, but he just knew that it felt right.


“It’s an old name. You’ve worn it for a long time,” she said, reading his thoughts, her body suddenly coming into focus, gray hair floating around her shoulders in a ghostly cloud.


“I don’t remember.” He shrugged.


“No.” Her voice was full of regret, and she gathered him up in an embrace. He stood, stiffly for a moment, and then felt himself relaxing. He trusted this woman. More than that, on some deep level that he couldn’t understand, he loved her. He felt her love flowing back into him, and for a moment he couldn’t feel his body. He merged with her in a flow of energy, and as he did so, his consciousness touched an infinite number of other souls, and he was suffused with a longing to join them.


“Not yet.” The old woman whispered, as he surrendered himself to the experience. “They just wanted to send their love.” He felt joined, at one with something larger than himself, in a way that he hadn’t felt since he lost his comrades all those years ago. The energy of those countless souls flowed through him, connecting him to them, bathing him. He opened his heart, mind, and soul, and felt them touch him, leaving him cleansed, refreshed, and strengthened for the task ahead.


“You were chosen,” the old woman said, her voice as heavy and sweet as honey. “Out of all of us, you were chosen for this task, Jace. You haven’t disappointed us.”


“I want to come home,” he murmured.


“Not yet,” she said again, her voice regretful. “We chose the brightest and the best from among our number. You’re a very old soul, Jace.”


“As old as you?” He asked.


“Yes.” She chuckled.


“And Mulder and Scully?”


“One of them old, the other new, made by us all to meet the threat ahead of us, and shining as bright as a star.” She spoke proudly, like a mother talking about a special child. “We gave the best of ourselves, tiny pieces, to form the new-born. You were all chosen, Jace, and you all accepted the task, freely and willingly, knowing how hard it would be.”


“What task?” Skinner asked, his body becoming a loose collection of atoms, and each one of them merging with the light until he was indistinguishable from his surroundings.


“You’ll find out soon enough if you take the right path, and I hope you do. We can’t interfere, but we know you well enough to trust that you will do what is necessary. If you fail, well…” She shrugged. “We hope you don’t.”


“There’s a lot at stake, isn’t there?” Skinner whispered.


“Yes. Our union is at stake, the consciousness of every single one of us is at stake, and, less importantly perhaps, the fate of your world is also at stake.”


“I don’t understand.” Skinner felt his body solidifying once more, and he could have wept for the loss of those minds touching his, loving and supporting him. He glanced down at his torn uniform, and the blood that liberally covered his body, oozing from a dozen wounds. “I look like an extra from a horror movie,” he commented wryly. “Why?”


“None of us are corporeal here, Jace. You’re wearing the body that you associate with this place, the body you were wearing the last time you were here. That’s the only way I can describe it. Now, you must do what you came here to do, and find your friends.”


“My friends?” Skinner stood there for a moment, puzzled, and then realization swept through him. “Mulder, and Scully. I’m not used to thinking of them as ‘friends’.”


“You’ll soon learn to think of them as something else entirely. I can take you to Mulder. Scully is… elsewhere. Now that you’re here I can go and find her. I couldn’t leave Mulder before.”


“Why? Is he all right?”


“Yes, but the longer he stays the weaker he becomes. Come. Time is different here, but he doesn’t have much of it, all the same.”


Skinner followed her unquestioningly, disappearing into a haze of bright light, and emerging on the other side into a completely white space. A man lay on the floor, crouched in a fetal position, rocking backwards and forwards.


Skinner looked questioningly at the Old Woman.


“Mulder?” He raised an eyebrow.


“Yes. He’s in grave danger. He knows the end is near and he doesn’t have the strength to fight it for much longer.”


“Why doesn’t he leave here?” Skinner asked, looking around. “What’s stopping him?”


“This isn’t how he sees it,” she explained with a shrug.


“Mulder.” Skinner knelt down, holding out his hand as if to a wary cat. Mulder gave a whimper and scrunched his body up even tighter. “What’s wrong?” Skinner glanced up at the Old Woman.


“He doesn’t recognize you. He thinks you’re one of them.”


“One of who?” Skinner frowned.


“The whisperers.”


“I’m not making any sense of this.” Skinner stated flatly, fighting the fear inside. “These things scare me.”


“I know. You’re too rational.” The Old Woman smiled, and caressed the side of his face with her gnarled hand. “You must learn to trust your instincts more.”


“Like Mulder?” Skinner glanced at the other man who still rocked back and forth at his feet, his body tightly clenched.


“Maybe not quite like Fox, no!” She laughed. “He has his own destiny to follow, and he needs your strengths. He doesn’t need you to be a carbon copy of him.” She saw his troubled expression and took pity on him, her expression softening. “Jace – the child has been wrenched from his body, but his mind and memories are intact. He’s lost inside them. That’s the closest I can come to explaining it to you. If you want to get him to safety, and back to his body where he belongs, then you have to enter into his delusion, and bring him out.”


“How?” Skinner looked up at her helplessly.


“Using the link you have with him of course.” She smiled.


“The link…that isn’t properly formed. It isn’t a true nexus. I didn’t complete it,” he gabbled defensively, shame-faced.


“You feel guilty,” she remarked, looking at him keenly. “Well, I suppose that’s understandable. Nonetheless, if you want to save his life you’ll have to complete the nexus between you.”


“If I do that, there’s no turning back. We’re in each other’s thoughts, inside each other’s minds until we die. I can’t do that to him without asking him if he’d want it first.” Skinner told her.


“You can’t ask him if he can’t hear you.” She shrugged.


“You don’t understand. Mulder’s very…independent. I think he’d hate being part of a nexus. I think it would frustrate him, and I think he’d hate me for forcing him into it.” Skinner stood up.


“So you’re just going to leave him here to die?” The Old Woman asked calmly. “Jace, you’ve already looked into his mind. You’ve stolen glimpses of his soul when he wasn’t looking. This time you can do it to save his life. ”


“Glimpses, yes. You’re asking me to do so much more.”


“Don’t do it then.” The Old Woman shrugged. “But he will die. In your world he has less than three hours left.”


Skinner stared at her helplessly. “I’m in a no-win situation here,” he protested. “I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.”


“I never said that your choices would be easy.” The Old Woman sighed. “I don’t promise he won’t resent you for this either. I just tell you how it is.”


Skinner thought about it for a moment, and then exhaled deeply, glancing down at the prone body of his colleague. It hurt him to see Mulder in so much distress.


“All right.” He knelt down beside the other man, and placed his fingertips against his head. Mulder jerked away, a hoarse scream rising in his throat, but Skinner held on tight. His mind opened up, traveling along the link he had formed guiltily over the past few years, finding the bright, swirling brilliance of Mulder’s mind and following it, merging himself into it. He found the threads he had planted there, little links that he could use in order to find Mulder at any given moment, sending out his thoughts to connect to the links, to see what Mulder saw, and, most of all, to check that the other man was all right. Mulder had been in so much danger over the years that it had been impossible to resist. Now Skinner fastened his own energy onto those links, made them bigger, weaving a pattern like a spider weaves a web. Finally, when his work was completed, he surged into the new nexus he had created.


The whiteness faded into a dark cell. There was one window, with bars over it, through which three fingers of light shone into the prison, illuminating the huddled figure on the floor.






Mulder looked up and saw a terrifying apparition staring down at him. A youth, wearing a ripped uniform rendered unidentifiable by bloodstains and bullet holes. He had short, cropped dark hair, and deep, sad eyes. His face was pale, and his cheekbones and jaw were sharp and angular. He was tall, thin and lanky, with hard muscular forearms and a hint of solidity around the shoulders. His mouth was set in a straight line, as if something so terrible had happened to him, he never intended to smile again. Bright red blood oozed from a dozen or more wounds on his body, although he didn’t seem to be in any pain.


“Are you dead?” Mulder asked.


“No. Yes. No.” The soldier shook his head. “That’s a tricky one.”


“Am I dead?” Mulder whispered.


“No. Not yet.” The youth stood up, glancing around. “We must leave here though, or you soon will be,” he said.


“You’re Jace.” Mulder uncurled his body and got to his feet.


“Yes. Come on, Mulder, hurry.”


“No. I’m not going back out there again.” Mulder shook his head. “The whisperers are out there. They want me.”


“If you stay here you’ll die.” The youth held out his hand and gave a hint of a shy, gentle smile. “Come on, Mulder. I’ll be with you. I won’t let them harm you.”


“No.” Mulder shook his head. “You don’t understand. I tried it before. I got lost. There was Richard, and Sam, and Dad…I couldn’t find a way out. I don’t know you.”


“Yes you do. Come on, Mulder. Trust me.” The soldier held out his hand again. He sounded a lot older, and his tone was more imperative than seemed right given his youthful appearance. “You have to trust me.”


Mulder hesitated. He looked into the boy’s solemn brown eyes, and felt that he knew him.


He took one uncertain step forwards, then another, and then reached out, and his fingers touched the youth’s outstretched hand. The other man’s fingers closed around his own, and his blood-stained face broke into a wide, full smile. Mulder had a sudden, curious sensation of coming home. The hand holding his own felt warm, safe and comforting, and Mulder was filled with a renewed sense of hope and optimism.


“Where do we go?” Mulder looked around. The cell walls were solid, unchanging. “How do we get out?”


“The cell isn’t here, Mulder.” Jace said. “Your mind created it. Look at it – it’s like a picture you’ve seen in a book. Maybe inThe Count Of Monte Cristo, or something like that. It’s a stereotypical cell – with bars over the windows, bare brick walls, a heavy locked door. The door isn’t real, Mulder and neither is the cell. You can walk out anytime you choose to.”


“No, I can’t. The whisperers…” Mulder shook his head.


“Mulder, listen to me, there is nothing here but the inside of your mind. I’m not leaving you. Come with me and I’ll take you to safety. Trust me.”


“It isn’t real?” Mulder gazed around the cell. When he looked closely, it did appear to be insubstantial.


“No, it isn’t real. Except for the light that you can see through the window. That’s the way back to your body, Mulder, and I’m going to take you there. I want you to focus on it, and on it alone. Nothing else matters.”


Mulder turned to look at the three fingers of light, as they shone through the bars covering the window, then he ignored the bars, and concentrated on the light. The light grew brighter and brighter, until it suddenly exploded into the cell, and the walls of his prison disappeared.


“I can’t see you,” he yelled, panicking. He couldn’t feel his body, or see anything, but the whispers grew louder, filling his mind.


“I’m here.” A reassuring voice said inside his head. “The whispers are just your memories. They can’t hurt you.”




He whirled around to see his father calling him.


“It’s dad. I have to go back,” Mulder insisted, trying to pull away, but Jace’s grip was like steel. The youth didn’t seem to be holding onto his hand any more, he seemed to be inside his head, and there was no escaping from him. “Let me go! I have to go to my father. I have to tell him that I lost Sam again. I have to…”


The light that surrounded them wavered, and dissipated, coalescing into a room, and Mulder found himself sinking back into the memory, watching himself, as he opened a door…






Scully thought about it rationally for a moment, and then opened her eyes.


“I know you’re not real,” she said, staring at the Old Woman who was standing under one of the trees, watching her. “I know that you’re just a figment of my imagination, or maybe someone from my past. You can’t really hurt me if I don’t give you any power to,” she said firmly.


“I don’t want to hurt you.” The Old Woman sat down beneath the tree opposite Scully.


“Good, because this isn’t actually real. None of this is real.” Scully nodded vigorously as if she were trying to convince herself. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but, uh, I think I’ve probably suffered some sort of head injury. This is clearly a hallucination. I expect there’s some sort of medical explanation and…” She swallowed, and gripped her hands even more tightly around her knees.


“I’m sure there is.” The Old Woman smiled. “I’m glad I’ve had this chance to meet you again, Dana.”


“Again?” Scully frowned. “I don’t know you. We’ve never met before.”


“Yes we have. You’ve been here before, my dear. When you were trying to choose whether to live or to die.”


“Choose? I don’t remember making…”


“Nurse Owens.” The Old Woman’s features shifted and changed, until she had the appearance of a homely, middle aged female, dressed in a white medical uniform.


“No, this is a trick.” Scully shook her head. “You’re going to try and take me away from here, to lure me away from this place, where I’m safe.”


“Well…” The woman looked around. “It’s a little bit dark and lonely, but no, I’m not going to try to make you leave, if this is where you feel safe.”


“I’m not listening to you.” Scully put her hands over her ears. “You’re him. The one who pretended to be Mulder, the one who accused me of killing Melissa, of killing all of them.”


“That was you, dear.” The other woman replied, shaking her head sadly. “The guilt, and grief, and sense of loss that you suppress every day of your life. You had to store it somewhere in order that you could go on being so calm, and rational, and strong. The trouble with suppressed emotions is that they can take on a life of their own.”


“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Scully replied. “I don’t feel guilty about Melissa. It wasn’t my fault…”


“Hush, sweetheart. You don’t have to lie to me.” Nurse Owens said soothingly.


“They thought she was me.” Scully’s face crumpled up. “It should have been me. I should have died…” she wept.


“No, my love. I know this is hard for you to believe, but it all happened exactly as it was supposed to. You were born for a purpose, a very particular purpose, and Melissa gave her life gladly in order that you could fulfil your destiny.”


“I miss her.” Scully tried to wipe the tears away with her sleeve, to hide the fact that she was weeping.


“You don’t have to be strong here, with me, Dana.” Nurse Owens told her gently. “Later on you’ll have to be brave again, but here, now, you have a little respite from the storm. Cry all you like.”


“I’m not crying.” Scully sobbed.


“You can accept comfort too, sweetheart. It’s a lonely path you’ve walked so far and there are hard times yet to come – but many good times too.”


“It’s just there are so many things I don’t understand.” Scully squeezed her knees tightly with her arms, making herself as small as possible. “I feel as if I’ve been sucked into his slipstream, as if he’s a vortex and I’m lost swirling in his clouds. I don’t know who I am any more. I know that sometimes I want him, but I also want more than he can give, and he knows that too, so he doesn’t offer anything. He loves me too much to hurt me, but I want something. I need something.” Scully wept. “That’s not selfish is it? Every day I go to work, I help him on his quests, and I lose everything I love, and every day my own beliefs are undermined and he doesn’t care about that. He doesn’t care…” Her voice trailed off into a series of gulps. “God, I’m whining.” She gave a self-deprecating smile. “I found something, someone. Someone else.” She looked into the other woman’s eyes for the first time. “He was inside my mind, and he was strong, so I didn’t have to be any more. I didn’t have to carry everything around on my shoulders – I could share it. He was there, he was with me, and it was intimate in a way I’d never known before. Then I lost him too…” Scully fought to control herself again, and failed, the tears running down her cheeks.


“Sweetheart – you don’t have to be strong with me.” Nurse Owens patted the ground beside her, giving Scully a warm, inviting smile. Scully gazed at her, uncertainly, but the other woman’s smile never faltered. Slowly, uncertainly, Scully got to her feet, and started to walk towards her.




“You didn’t have me come all this way to give me good news. What is it, Fox?” Skinner recognized the man’s grim, unsmiling features. He had only seen Bill Mulder once before, but he knew him immediately. He watched as Mulder turned away, trying to hide the tears in his eyes.


“Samantha’s gone, Dad…I lost her.” Mulder’s shoulders were set in a tense line, and it was clear to Skinner that this conversation was a painful reminder to both men of one that had taken place many years previously.


“What do you mean, you lost her?” Bill Mulder’s expression was hard and cold, his tone hectoring.


“There was a man. He was holding my partner hostage in exchange for Samantha.” Mulder explained.


“You let his man take your sister – isn’t that what you’re trying to tell me?” Skinner wished that he could change something about this scenario, he wished that he could somehow intervene and stop this gut-wrenching memory from tearing Mulder apart. Instead, all he could do was watch, as Mulder turned around.


“I can explain it to you but, um, I believed that I was doing the right thing, Dad.”


“Was this your decision?”


There was silence for a moment, and Skinner saw a familiar pattern – an apportioning of blame, and a sense of guilt settling around Mulder’s shoulders that was so tangible he could feel the weight of it.


“Yes.” Mulder answered finally. “I’ll tell Mom.” The tears welled up in Mulder’s eyes.


“Do you realize what losing her again will do to your mother?” Bill Mulder demanded. Mulder’s face was grief stricken. He clearly realized all too well the effect that this news would have on his mother. “Do you?” Bill Mulder asked again, in that same cold, hectoring tone, as if his son’s distress meant nothing to him.


“I’m sorry, Dad. I’m sorry. I’m sorry…sorry…” Mulder’s voice trailed off. Skinner watched as Bill Mulder made no move to comfort his son, and he felt a deep anger rise up inside him. How could anybody who purported to love Mulder stand by and watch him in such obvious distress, and do nothing? Mulder was hurting, Mulder was his, part of his nexus; how dare anybody, anybody at all, even his own father, cause Mulder such pain, stand by and watch Mulder in pain, and donothing


“Enough!” He wasn’t even aware that he’d spoken until the words reverberated around the room. The effect startled Mulder out of the memory, leaving the room, and Bill Mulder, frozen in time. Skinner’s rage rose around them both like a dark cloud, and he saw Mulder flinch in alarm as it filtered through the link between them. Skinner fought hard to suppress it. “Come with me. Leave this behind,” he urged, holding out his hand again.


“I disappointed him so many times.” Mulder said softly, touching his father’s unmoving, unsmiling face. “He must have despised me.”


“He’s your father. He loved you.” Skinner insisted, unsure whether that was the truth. “He matters to you, Mulder, but he’s dead. You’re still alive. Let me take you back to the light.” Mulder stood there for a moment, uncertainly.


“It hurts,” he whispered.


“I know. It hurts me too. I feel what you feel.” Skinner waited, his hand outstretched, and finally Mulder took it again. Skinner slid his arm around the other man’s shoulder, and ushered him away from the scene, back towards the light.


Almost immediately they were assaulted by images. A thousand snapshots from Mulder’s life, a swirling mass of memories, all overlapping in a tumultuous confusion until all that could be heard were insidious whispers, claiming Mulder, pawing at them both, trying to suck them back in. It took all Skinner’s strength to keep Mulder moving, to drag him past the images as they flashed before them, revealing so many facets of Mulder’s life that he had never glimpsed before. He saw a birthday party, a nine year old boy dressed as Mr. Spock. He saw a little girl running in a park, and a man sitting smoking at a table. The images grew stronger, weighing them down, and Skinner started to run, propelling Mulder along with him.


“I can’t…” Mulder panted.


“You have to.” Skinner insisted. “Don’t stop. Don’t look at them. If you look at them they’ll drag you back, and keep you from returning to your body. You’re strong, Mulder, you can resist.”


“I can’t.” Mulder twisted in his grasp. A red-haired woman loomed in front of them, her face pale and drawn.


“Mulder. Help me, Mulder!” She cried.


“Scully…” Mulder reached out a hand, but Skinner pulled him on, away from the memory, and it faded as it passed them. “Scully…!” Mulder called, his arms stretching out behind them, as Skinner forced him on. They turned the corner, and Skinner stopped dead. There, in front of them, was himself.


“Agent Mulder, would you like to explain to this committee why…”


“You’re standing by this report, Agent Mulder?”


“I want you to tell me what the hell you thought you were doing!”


<Shit. Ignore it.> Skinner closed his eyes, walking forward purposefully. <Christ, anybody would think that all I ever did was give him a hard time. You have such a selective memory, Mulder.>


He opened his eyes again, and an image of himself restraining Mulder in a choke hold sprang up, closely followed by him immobilizing the other man over a desk. He saw himself shouting, and some sort of weird bug creature looming up over his own shoulder. <Did that really happen?>


He stopped for a moment, fascinated, his gaze drawn to the monster’s red eyes, then felt himself disappearing inside a body, but not his own. He watched in horror as the memory became real, as he became Mulder re-living the event, trying desperately to warn his unseeing, unbelieving boss that he was in danger. He saw his own large hands fasten around his wrists, and felt aggrieved, out of control, wanting to be believed, wanting this man to believe him, wanting that more than anything else. As those big hands held him against the desk, and he felt the weight of a solid body pinning him down, he was suddenly overcome by a sensation of desire.


Skinner jerked back out of the memory with a gasp of surprise.


“Where did you go?” Mulder asked accusingly, grabbing hold of his arm. “You were here and then you disappeared.”


“I’m sorry. It’s all right. I’m back now, I’m sorry.” He pulled the agent closer, scared by the ease with which he had been sucked into the memory, and still reeling from the shock of being Mulder, and seeing himself from Mulder’s perspective, to say nothing of that curious wave of desire. “We have to be strong, Mulder. We have to keep going. I won’t fail you again. Come on.” He hurried the other man along the twisting recesses of his memories, experiencing a whole lifetime in a series of swirling images, stray words and thoughts. A beautiful woman stood naked in a doorway, beckoning.


“Fox…care to join me?” She purred.


“Diana.” Mulder whispered, reaching out. Skinner hurried him on.


“You’ve never done this before have you?” A man with blond hair leaned over them, his hands moving in an intimate caress. “It’s all right. I’ll be gentle…”


Skinner digested the implications of that image without surprise, still forcing Mulder on. The whispering around them built up to a crescendo and Mulder started to whimper.


“They’re everywhere. I want to stop…”


“You can’t. Close your eyes. I’ll lead you.” Skinner told him, glancing at the other man. Mulder’s face was pale, and he looked almost ghostly in appearance, his dark eyes showing the struggle he was going through to hold onto his sanity in the face of the constant bombardment. Mulder thought about it for a moment, then nodded, doing as he was told. Skinner felt their minds merge, becoming utterly and irrevocably one, as they fled down the recesses of Mulder’s past. The white light glowed in the distance, coming closer, and he breathed a sigh of relief.


“We’re nearly there, Mulder. Nearly there…” He said encouragingly, picking up the pace again, starting to run.


The image rose without warning, too big to avoid, spilling out in front of them, blocking their escape route. It was a 12-year-old boy, mouth open in shock, watching shadowy figures take his sister away. Beside him, Mulder’s footsteps faltered, and came to a stop. He sank down, and buried his face in his arms.


“I can’t go any further,” he said, the memory settling around them both like a blanket. “I’m too tired.”


Skinner stopped, and crouched down in front of the other man, touching his face gently to make him look up.


“I’ll carry you,” he said. Mulder stared at him, his eyes filled with despair, then Skinner felt the link between them suddenly pulse with a sense of hope.


“Will you?” Mulder asked.


“Yes.” Skinner reached out and swung him up, wrenching them both through the scene that was playing out endlessly in front of them. A little girl was screaming out her brother’s name, Mulder was trying to tell his parents that she was missing; imparting news that would hurt everybody he knew, enduring hours of endless questioning, trying not to cry, failing. Mulder lay almost comatose in his arms, the whispering so loud that neither of them could hear anything else, as Skinner battled through the assaulting images, his footsteps as slow and labored as if he were walking uphill into a head wind.


“Leave me.” Mulder said suddenly. “You can save yourself. Leave me. This is all I am, and all I can ever be. I can’t get beyond it. I’m lost here.”


“No.” Skinner replied.


“You don’t understand…”


“No.” Skinner said again. “It’s not an option.” Mulder’s hazel eyes stared at him wordlessly, and then he reached out a hand to touch the bloodstains on the other man’s neck.


“Who are you? Why are you doing this for me?”


Skinner’s only response was to open up his entire soul to the link, pouring every last ounce of reassurance he had into the fledgling nexus that he had constructed between them. Mulder’s eyes opened in wonder and shock, and then suddenly his own mind opened up, his thoughts and emotions flooding into the nexus as if a dam had been breached, momentarily overwhelming Skinner until he could adjust to the force of Mulder’s presence in the link. Without warning, the whispering stopped, as if somebody had flicked a switch, and they were plunged into complete silence. The images faded, and there was an explosion of white light all around them.




Scully wasn’t sure how long she had cried, she just knew that it was a relief to be able to. The other woman’s arms circled her, protecting her, and she laid her head against that motherly breast and wept herself into oblivion.


“Damn, did I make a fool of myself?” She asked, as the sobs finally subsided.


“No, dear.” Nurse Owens laughed. “You just gave yourself permission to do something you never do back in your world. Did it help?”


“I don’t know.” Scully lay back, and stared at the light from the moon as it filtered through the trees. “I think so. Maybe. I hate being weak.”


“Oh you’re not that.” The other woman chuckled, hugging her close. “You’re very dear to me, Dana, and to Jace. He wants to help you. Will you let him?”


“I don’t know.” Scully said again. “I don’t know anything here. None of my usual rules apply.”


The other woman laughed. “Dana, you have an important destiny to fulfill. I think we picked well, when we chose you. I don’t think you’ll let us down.” She leaned forward, and kissed Scully on the forehead.


“What do you mean?” Scully asked, grabbing the woman’s hand. For a second she had a sensation of being connected to something so big that she couldn’t comprehend its vastness. She saw a swirling mass of colors, repeating an endless, age-old pattern, over and over again, and gasped.


“It’s beautiful…” she whispered, transfixed by the jewelled display.


“Yes.” Her companion took hold of her other hand and held it tightly. “You are at its heart, Dana. Let me show you.”


Scully felt her heart beating inside her chest, until it filled her ears with its sound, and the world turned in time to the rhythm. For one brief second, Scully felt connected to every blade of grass in the world, every tree, every insect, every human being. She breathed with the wind, flew with the birds, swam with the fish. The world, and the souls of everything that had ever lived, were woven into a tapestry, like a giant, gossamer spider’s web, spun out of rubies and sapphires.


“I never knew,” she whispered, leaning her forehead against the other woman’s, overwhelmed by the image.


“The pattern spins and weaves, and has done for countless eons, but one day soon, all that we are, and all that we could be, will be threatened by a darkness as strong as our light. You are our hope, Dana. You, and Jace, and the child, Fox. Don’t fail us. Please.” Scully felt as if she were falling into a dark river as she stared into those solemn gray eyes.


“I won’t. I swear,” she promised, and the next thing she knew, she was alone once more.




“What happened?” Mulder looked around, dazed by the silence.


“I’m not sure.” Skinner shrugged.


“You got me out. I…thank you.” Hazel eyes regarded him with solemn gratitude.


“We haven’t finished yet. I can’t take you back until I find Scully,” Skinner said. He realized that he was still carrying Mulder and put him down, feeling vaguely embarrassed. Mulder gave him a look of puzzlement, and Skinner could feel the nexus glowing at the interchange of emotions between them, unsettling them both. “I’m sorry.” Skinner murmured.


“For what?” Mulder asked, looking, and feeling, confused, the emotion flowing palpably through the link.


“You’re going to hate this. Hell, I’m not sure I’m going to like it.” Skinner mumbled. This was so different from before. Then he had been young, innocent, open. Now he was older, and he had hidden himself for so long, his heart and soul closed to everybody around him, that the newly created nexus between him and Mulder seemed awkward, and frankly embarrassing.


At that moment, the light parted, and the Old Woman returned.


“Fox.” She took him in her arms and kissed his forehead. Skinner could feel the agent’s sense of unease, combined with a giddy surge of joy at being enveloped in her embrace.


“Dana?” Skinner looked at the Old Woman over Mulder’s head. “Have you found her?” The Old Woman smiled, and nodded.


“There’s just one small problem,” she murmured.


Skinner’s heart sank. “She’s all right?” He asked anxiously.


“She’s fine. She’s just very determined to…well, you’ll see.” The Old Woman sighed.




Scully sat on the forest floor, making a daisy chain. She heard footsteps, and looked up as a shadow fell across the folds of her skirt.


“You’re Jace?” She stared into the eyes of a young soldier who looked…half dead. His face was a deathly white, which contrasted with the wet, violently red bloodstains on his clothing and face. She gazed at him for a long while, and then decided not to scream.


“Yes.” The man crouched down beside her. “I’m glad you’re okay,” he murmured.


“Nurse Owens told me you’d come to find me.” The bloodstained boy looked confused, Scully thought to herself. “You know who Nurse Owens is don’t you?” she asked.


“Yes. Of course.” The youth replied, although he was frowning and didn’t appear all that certain. Scully completed the daisy chain and fastened it around his neck, smiling at him. He flushed a bright red, looking extremely confused now, to say nothing of embarrassed.


“I want you to come with me.” The soldier held out his hand. Scully looked at it for a moment and then shook her head. “Why not? I can take you back home.” The boy gave what he probably thought was an encouraging smile. Scully shook her head again.


“I’m safe here,” she said.


“No, Dana, you’re not.” He tried to scoop her up, and she gave a blood-curdling roar of rage that stopped him in his tracks.




“I’m staying here!” She fumed, pounding at him with her fists until he let her go. “I’ve worked it out quite logically. If I stay here, I’ll be safe. If I try to leave, I’ll just get even more lost. There are no such things as ghosts, or monsters, or demons, so it’s quite impossible that there’s anything lurking behind the trees waiting to eat me.”


“You don’t believe in monsters?” The stranger asked, with a wry smile.


“No. I’ve decided they can’t exist, so they don’t.” Her mouth was set into a straight line, and her jaw was clenched in determination.


“Dana, you’re not safe here. I know you think you are, but you’re not.” The boy’s voice was insistent, but she didn’t trust him.


“You’re lying! I’m not going out there with you. You’re not real; you’re some perverse part of my mind that wants me to die.”


The boy exhaled loudly, turned to somebody that Scully couldn’t see, and said:


“She won’t come with me. What the hell do I do now?”




It was, Skinner decided, worse than a nightmare. First he had to leave the safety of his own body and journey to this place, which had scared the hell out of him. Worse, once he got here, he had an overwhelming desire to stay, which also scared the hell out of him. Then he’d been forced to run the gamut of Mulder’s memories, which had given him a new perspective on the man as well as most definitely scaring the hell out of him. Now, he was faced with the task of convincing an extremely skeptical Dana Scully that monsters, mutants, ghosts, ghoulies and things that went bump in the night did exist, and she was better off leaving with him than staying here to be eaten by one, hypothetically speaking at least.


<Since when did I become an apologist for the paranormal anyway?> he wondered resentfully. Then he laughed at himself, some rational part of his brain pointing out that he was right slap bang in the middle of the most paranormal experience anyone could ever have so what the hell, he should just go with it.


“She’s still Dana,” the old woman informed him. He saw her sitting rocking in a chair, Mulder crouched by her feet. “She still has Dana’s thoughts and memories. It’s just that she’s a little confused. She’s been taken from her body, and finds herself lost in this place where there’s no clarity or certainty, and her memories are all chopped up. She doesn’t know what’s real and what isn’t. You can imagine how frightening that must be for someone like Dana. Bad enough for Fox here,” she kissed the top of Mulder’s head, “but worse for Dana.”


“Scully’s here?” Mulder looked at Skinner with worried hazel eyes. “She’s lost too? Like I was? Can I help find her?”


“Hush, sweetheart.” The Old Woman murmured. “You’re safe here for now, but this is Jace’s task. You won’t be any help to him; you’re growing weaker the longer you stay here. Just rest.”


“I could…” Mulder began, but the Old Woman placed one finger over his lips to quieten him. Skinner felt the force of her will flickering through the link. No wonder Mulder had shut up. He wished it was a trick he possessed. It could save him a lot of time and energy in meetings.


“Tell me…” he said to Old Woman, “why is she so attached to this piece of forest? I can understand Mulder creating a cell, but why a forest?”


“You have a link with her – you find out.” The Old Woman smiled.


Skinner sighed. “How did I know you were going to say that?”






The blood stained kid was talking…only he wasn’t moving his lips. Scully stared at him for a moment, perplexed, as his words continued to echo inside her mind.


<Dana, I want to understand. Will you allow me?> She felt a sigh, or a whisper, pass through her mind, gently sifting through her memories. It wasn’t unpleasant. In fact, Scully enjoyed the sensation. It was like showing somebody your vacation snapshots, or sharing a thought or emotion with them, only without the clumsiness of expressing it in words. If it had been somebody else, she wasn’t sure that she would have enjoyed it, but with Jace, it felt right.


<I like you.> She told him impulsively. He laughed.


<I like you too. A lot.> More than a lot… That last thought was private, but she caught it as if it had been blown to her on a breeze, trapping it in her mind as it passed, like plucking dandelion fluff from the air. It made her feel warm inside. She felt his mind settle inside her own, and it was familiar, and comforting.


<Will you stay here with me? > She asked.


<No. We have to leave, both of us. > He replied, still searching through her mind.


<But will you stay here,> she repeated. <Inside my head?>


<I don’t know.>


She sensed a maelstrom of emotions, and glimpsed the edges of a huge internal struggle. She was about to say something else when he found what he was looking for. She felt herself falling back to a place and a time that she could barely remember. She opened her mouth in panicked surprise, but Jace was with her, holding her as they both fell, calming her, and she felt comforted by his presence.


She was six years old. She had been in these woods at the back of the house many times before, and felt safe here. True, her mother had always told her not to come here alone, but she had wanted to be alone. Sometimes, she just needed to get away from Bill and Charlie and Melissa, to come to a place where she could escape, and have silence and solitude. She wasn’t sure how she had got lost. She had been so certain that she knew the way. At first she had wandered in circles, then she had become frantic, as she couldn’t find her way home. Finally, exhausted, she had sank down beneath a tree and watched as the afternoon became evening, and darkness fell.


A rustling in the trees behind her made her turn, a scream rising to her lips. She was sure that she could see something moving in the undergrowth, something big, something that would hurt her. Another noise startled her, and she turned again, her imagination providing a set of bright red eyes, gleaming from a nearby tree trunk. If she looked very closely she could see a nose under the eyes, and a dark, gaping hole where the mouth was, waiting to gobble her up. Scully began to shiver violently, trying to remember the prayer she had learned in Sunday School last week. Something slithered next to her hand, and she jumped, gasping out loud, seeing a snake, its large fangs poised to plunge into her flesh. A silhouette flickered beside a bush, and she saw a ghost, screaming out its agony, reaching for her. On one level she re-lived the memory, but on another she was aware that she was merely watching it, safely wrapped up inside Jace’s mental embrace.


<You were six,> he whispered. <You were lost, and scared, and wanted your mother. What happened?>


She sensed his anxiety, and could feel his own imagination supplying all sorts of scenarios, the worst being a shadowy figure creeping up behind her, placing a hand over her mouth so that she couldn’t scream, large, rough hands touching her, unbuttoning her dress. As Jace’s imagination supplied a scenario as frightening as the ghosts and demons her own six year old imagination had dreamed up, many years ago, Scully could feel his anger and sense of protectiveness rising, and forming into a dark cloud that seemed familiar to her.


<Someone hurt you?> He asked, and his distress was real and tangible, resonating inside her mind.


<No. It’s all right. That didn’t happen,> she soothed. The memory continued to play out in front of them, Scully’s imagination running riot, until she was convinced that the entire wood was filled with monsters and goblins and trolls – creatures from the fairy stories her mother read to her at night. She was so petrified that her heart froze in her chest, and for a moment she struggled on the edge of total collapse.


Then, some small nugget of clarity opened up inside her mind. She made a conscious decision to reject all the creatures of her imagination, to irrevocably turn her back on fantasies and fairy tales. At that moment, as she made that decision, she saw that the snake had been a tiny worm, slithering through the leaves. The gaping mouth on the tree that she had imagined was going to devour her, was merely a big hole. There was no ghost moaning his despair, only the sound of the wind rustling through the bushes.


<You’re safe if you don’t believe.> Scully told Jace. <Trusting in hard, cold facts – that’s what keeps you safe.>




So that was it. Skinner processed this information, feeling sure that he was the worst person in the world for this task. Scully’s defining moment had been when, as a six year old child lost in a wood, she had refused to believe in the creatures from her imagination, and had resolutely turned her back on anything she could not see, quantify and explain. During that one moment it had kept her sane, and she had relied upon that defense mechanism ever since, even in the face of experiences she had undergone on the X Files that would have given many other people, himself included, nightmares. Skinner stared his dilemma in the face. How could he convince her that this survival mechanism, relied upon for so many years, would kill her if she insisted upon sticking to it here?


<Dana, this time the danger isn’t imaginary, it’s real,> he told her urgently. <I’m not a figment of your imagination. This time, if you don’t believe, you’ll die. I can’t explain it, and I can’t prove it scientifically or give you evidence.> Skinner paused, and looked into her skeptical blue eyes. He decided on a different approach. <Agent Scully, you were exposed to a weapon which has trapped you here. Your body is growing weaker, and will die if you don’t return to it soon. This forest is just a construct of your imagination, a place where your mind has imprisoned you. If you don’t leave it, then it will kill you.>


<You’re asking me to have faith.> She stated.


<Yes, and to trust me.>


The memory dissolved around them, and they were back in the forest that her mind had constructed, a place to keep her safe, a place to imprison her. Three fingers of light slid past the branches of the trees, illuminating the dark red blood that was seeping through the fabric of his uniform. For a moment, he wondered why the hell she should trust him, looking like this, looking worse than any of the creatures her six year old imagination had supplied to torment her with all those years ago. He sensed her uncertainty through the link, and underneath that was her fear, which she always kept so tightly contained, almost to the point of denying that it even existed.


<What happened?> he asked, <back then? When you were six? How long were you lost for?>


<A few hours.> She shivered at the memory. <My mother and father, and half the naval base were out looking for me, with flashlights, calling my name.> Skinner caught an image of recollection: a bright light shining through the wood, a woman appearing, crying and laughing at the same time as she picked Scully up and held her tightly, kissing her, murmuring her name over and over again, alternately shaking her and hugging her, berating her, saying how worried everyone had been, and then telling her that she was loved, crooning that she was safe. Then the bliss of being handed over to her father, of snuggling up against his shoulder as he carried her back home, his hand gently making circles on her back the entire journey, and his lips continuously kissing the top of her head as he walked.


<I can take you back home as well,> Skinner told her. <Time is running out. If you don’t come soon, Mulder will die. I need to get you both back.>


<Mulder is here?> Scully’s concern for her partner radiated through the link.


<Yes. He’s lost, just as you are. Come with me, and I can take you both back.> He stretched out a hand to her, keeping the nexus between them open, flooding it with as much reassurance as he could muster. She stood there, brave, beautiful, and uncertain. Her blue eyes radiated her fear, as she struggled with the dilemma.


<I’m scared,> she whispered at last.


Skinner knew how much that admission had cost her. <That’s okay.> He placed his hand palm up, waiting for her. <I’ll keep you safe. I promise. Both of you.> He had an image of them lying in their hospital beds, faces pale, eyes staring and lifeless. <I failed you,> he thought miserably, and if you don’t come back with me, you’ll die. I couldn’t bear that. I couldn’t…> He was lost for a moment in the sensation of total, abject misery. <It was bad enough before…>


He felt himself falling noiselessly to the floor of the jungle, a terrible pain ripping through his body, the sounds of his friends dying assaulting his ears. He felt the wrenching pain as they departed from the nexus, one by one, and then he was alone. The link that had once pulsed with their vibrant energy now lay battered, ruined, and lifeless, occasionally flickering with a spark of blue energy, like the twitching of a corpse, as life finally, irrevocably departed. The remembered pain drove him to his knees. He had suppressed it for so long, keeping it down, keeping people away so that nobody would guess how much it hurt inside. Now it rose up and overwhelmed him. All he could see were the faces of his lost comrades. Murray’s gap-toothed smile, Casey’s fair hair and freckled nose. He was falling, falling into darkness, and sadness. He felt a touch, fingers soothing his cropped hair, and then a hand ventured into his own, jolting him out of the memory.


<Please. Don’t be sad.> Her strength flowed into the nexus, creating something new and solid, joining his own energy and Mulder’s, and completing the link between them. Something snapped into place, and he looked up into her worried blue eyes. <Jace, please…> Her hands patted his face. <You’re scaring me. Come back, come back.>


He smiled, his fingers tightening firmly around the hand she had placed in his.


<It’s all right. I’m sorry I scared you.>


He turned, and led her back towards the light.




Mulder felt a huge sense of relief as the skinny, badly injured youth emerged once more into the light leading Scully behind him. Mulder got up slowly, his body pale and insubstantial, and went to greet them both. As he looked into Scully’s eyes, he had the weirdest sensation of being her, looking back at him.


While Jace had been gone, the Old Woman had talked to him about destiny and various other new age concepts that he wasn’t sure he believed in. Mulder was, quite possibly, one of the most open-minded men on the planet, but all the same, he liked to choose what he believed in. He didn’t like to be told. In fact it irritated him. The idea of having a destiny alarmed him more than he could say. If that was the case, then he was helpless, at the whim of some fate larger than himself, any decision taking him closer to a pre-ordained outcome that made a mockery of his own free-will. He hated the very thought of it and told her so.


“It isn’t pre-ordained,” she replied. “We don’t know if you’ll succeed or not, or even if you’ll do what we want, what weexpect you to do. You might not even survive this current crisis. If Jace doesn’t get you back soon, you’ll die before you come close to fulfilling the hope we have for you. Let me show you something,” she waved her hand, and he felt himself surrounded by an infinite ocean of souls, all pressing close against him, caressing him. It was, he had to concede, nice. More than nice, it was cleansing, and he felt loved and cherished.


“What are they? Some kind of sub-ethereal, ectoplasmic…” he began. The Old Woman shut him up with a laugh.


“Turn your mind off for a moment, Fox,” she told him. “They’re souls, if you need a term for them. ‘Souls’ might be somewhat misleading, but it’ll do. I don’t think you’re equipped to handle any other concept of them.”


“You’re trying to sell me some kind of concept of an afterlife here, aren’t you?” He asked. “I have to say that I’m not religious, and I’m not sure that I believe in any quasi-….”


“Fox.” She spoke firmly and he shut up. “Good, because here’s the part I know you’ll appreciate.”


Mulder had a sudden image of a pulsing, writhing mass of something; he wasn’t sure what it was.


“That’s our nursery, if you like. Every living thing has a soul. Many of them are tiny. When their lives are over, they rejoin the whole, and as they are reborn, they grow larger and add more to the richness and texture of the whole. Experience makes them so. An individual soul can be reborn many times, over and over again.”


“Right. Yeah, I know this concept, it’s drawn from…Sorry.” He bit on his lip and grinned at her. “It’s just I underwent regression hypnotherapy so I know all about this. You’re going to tell me I was Julius Caesar or something in a past life aren’t you?”


“No.” She laughed. “Your past life regression was accurate, although not in the way you imagine. You’re unique, Fox. We created you. We took the best parts of ourselves, and made you. We are facing a threat, and we had to be prepared. You are, if you like, our child.” She smoothed his hair gently. “Not an old soul, Fox, but brand new. That’s what gives you your hope, your strength, your great optimism, your ability to search so long and so hard for the truth. You’ve lived no previous lives at all, and yet, in some ways, you’ve lived more than any other soul, as you have a part of each of us inside you. You are the sum total of our experience so far. Flawed, of course, for we haven’t got all the answers yet, but so beautiful. As much as we could have hoped for. More, maybe.”


“Right.” Mulder nodded. “So you’re saying that before 1961 I didn’t exist at all, but other people, like, Kersh,” he spat the name with venom, “have been wandering around for millennia?”


“That’s about it, yes.” She laughed at him again, and he was beginning to become irritated by that. “You don’t understand, sweetheart. It isn’t possible for you to fully understand because you’re limited. When you die…”


“Oh great. Enlightenment in the afterlife.” He interrupted sourly.


“Let me show you something else.” She took his hand and he felt himself spinning out into space. He gasped, looking back, and saw the Earth a long way beneath, glowing blue and white. “Our pattern belongs to this planet. Every living planet has its own nexus of souls. When each nexus spins to completion there will be a joining such as you can’t imagine.” He felt an explosion of joy inside him, and saw an image of an infinity of souls becoming one, merging into the ultimate fulfilment of its purpose, a huge nexus of individual beings, existing as one entity. “Then our work will be done, and we will be able to find other worlds, a whole universe full of nexuses, and eventually we will join with each one in turn, their completion merging with our own, until the entire universe is joined in the ultimate pattern. That is the purpose of everything.”


“Sounds great.” He muttered, trying, and failing, to keep up his attitude of sullen indifference in the face of the information overload he was experiencing.


“We are facing a threat that might prevent us completing our own nexus, Fox. We have chosen you, and certain other people, to help us defeat that threat.”


“Oh, right. So what you’re saying is that we have the fate not only of our own world, but possibly the entire universe in our hands. Is that it?” Mulder asked.


“That’s about it, yes.” She smiled.


“Fabulous. I’ve always wanted to be Captain Kirk.” Mulder commented sourly.




Skinner’s relief at having rescued Scully was short-lived when he saw Mulder. The other man was so pale as to be almost insubstantial. His body seemed to lack solidity and he looked bone weary, as if he didn’t have the strength to carry on.


“I have to get you back.” Skinner said, and Mulder smiled wanly, sinking back down to a crouching position.


The Old Woman enveloped Skinner in an embrace, and kissed him firmly on the forehead. He wasn’t sure how she managed this, as she was at least a foot smaller than he was.


“Take them back, Jace. As I did with you.”


He nodded, remembering that journey back into darkness and pain, all those years before. “Do I have to go back?” He whispered, suddenly suffused by a longing to stay in this serene place forever.


“We’ve had this conversation once before,” she replied. “Don’t worry, when you return this will all seem unreal. You won’t remember it clearly, any of you. The mind has an amazing capacity for blocking out what it cannot fully comprehend. Take them home,” she whispered. Her mind reached out and lightly caressed them, whispering some private message meant for each of them alone, and then she was gone.




Scully felt Jace’s arm around her body, holding her tight, then he scooped up an almost comatose Mulder in his other arm, and she saw the darkness speed towards them. She cried out, and buried her face in his neck, but his arms held her close, his chin resting on her hair. The darkness devoured them, and for a moment she was sure that she’d never breathe again. Without warning they emerged into daylight, hovering high above two prone bodies, with wide sightless eyes. She recognized herself with a start of surprise, and stared down, fascinated. She looked so pale, and ill. So lifeless.


<Mulder!> He looked even worse, his breathing coming in ragged gasps, his eyes sunk, with huge, dark shadows beneath them.


She was aware of Jace loosening his hold, and then she felt something drawing her back. Looking down, it seemed almost as if an invisible string was pulling her towards her own body, and she followed it blindly. She paused, watching as Mulder settled into his body, his eyes jerking shut, his whole body going into spasm for a moment, and then, unable to resist, she too, re-entered her body, sinking deep inside it, returning to safety. In that split second, as consciousness returned, her own wide, staring eyes saw the face of a young man hovering far above her, pale, and covered in blood, with dark, sad eyes. She felt a wave of affection for him, and he smiled, returning it.


<Thanks…> she murmured, and then the raw sensations of her body claimed her, and she closed her eyes, giving up the struggle for consciousness.




Skinner watched for just long enough to see that they had both returned safely, then he felt a tug, pulling him away, drawing him in a different direction, and he floated through the ether for a moment before seeing his own body, far beneath. He swooped down, crashing back inside himself so quickly that he was disorientated. He felt sensation return to stiff, frozen limbs, and yelped almost immediately from the pins and needles he’d developed in his feet. The room span around him, dizzily, and he held onto the table, shaking his head to try and clear it. For a moment he felt hazy, and insubstantial, and then consciousness flooded back with a vengeance, and he vomited all over the table.


“Bad trip,” someone murmured, as his guts spilled out over and over again, and he remembered those words from another bad trip a long time ago. He struggled to his feet, and walked unsteadily to the door. A man sat there, cleaning his gun.


“There was a boy.” Skinner whispered, holding onto the door frame as he swayed, struggling to stay upright. “He came in here with me. Skinny, wearing a uniform…”


The man gazed at him blankly.


“You came in here alone, buddy,” he said, turning his attention back to his gun. Skinner nodded, feeling suddenly bereft. He staggered out of the building, and somehow got back home, although he wasn’t sure how.


The ‘phone was ringing as he opened the door. He picked it up, trying to remember how to speak. His tongue felt furry, and his head was pounding.


“Mr. Skinner? You asked to be informed if there was any change in the condition of Agents Mulder, and Scully?”


“Yes.” He leaned his forehead against the wall, enjoying the coolness against his scalp.


“I’m pleased to report that they regained consciousness about an hour ago.”


“Yes, I know.” Skinner put the ‘phone down and half ran, half lurched to the bathroom, where he threw up, over and over again. His gut hurt so much that he was sure he’d pass out. He lay on the tiled bathroom floor, his shaking hands clutching the toilet bowl, his vision blurred. He wished that he felt a sense of elation, but there was nothing, only this nausea, and the protests of his abused body. He lay there for several hours, vomiting frequently, occasionally managing to take a sip of water, then vomiting again. Finally he started to shiver, and got up, dragging himself back to the lounge, where he laid on the couch, covering himself with a blanket. In the darkness, by the door, he saw a dim figure.


“I thought you’d gone,” he whispered. The boy came to stand next to him.


“I’m always here. Inside you,” he replied.


“Can there be such a thing as the ghost of someone who isn’t dead?” Skinner asked, his teeth chattering.


“You did die. I’m the ghost of the boy who died that day, in Vietnam, the 18 year old soldier you once were.”


“She sent you here, to nag me, to make sure that I made the right decisions…” Skinner wrapped the blanket more tightly around his frozen body and curled his large frame up into a fetal ball.


“Yes. I’ve finished my task. Nobody could be harder on you than you are on yourself. She knew that.” The boy gave a half smile. “You did the right thing.”


“Then why do I feel like shit?” Skinner mumbled.


The boy drifted closer, his body fading, and becoming insubstantial.


<Because you faced your demons, Walter,> a voice said. <As Mulder and Scully faced theirs.>


<How…?> Skinner closed his eyes, but all he could see was the Old Woman’s face as he drifted in and out of consciousness.


<You all did what you feared most. Mulder faced his past, and found the strength to leave it behind. Scully trusted on faith alone, without proof. And you ventured back into the unknown and willingly embraced an experience you’d always refused to look beyond. > Skinner knew that the voice in his head belonged to the Old Woman.


<You pursued me all the way back to my body to give me that New Age pep talk?> he murmured, convinced that he was hallucinating.


<Any excuse to spend more time with you,> she chuckled. “Now that you know me better, I trust you’ll listen to me next time I appear in your dreams.>


<Oh hell, no.> Skinner groaned. <Don’t pull that dream shit on me again. It scares the crap out of me.>


He heard her snort, and then she was gone, the echo of her laughter fading behind her.


Skinner lay on the couch in the darkness, and allowed his mind to wander along the brilliant white light of the newly formed nexus that he had created in order to save the two agents. It felt so strange, to experience this again, to feel the warmth and energy of a link. He traced the flow of energy back to source, and contented himself that they were both there, both alive and safe. The flickering lights of their minds told him that all was well. He smiled, briefly, and then, quite purposefully, he snapped the energy flow off inside his mind.


They need never know, he thought to himself. They hadn’t been given a real choice, and he knew, even without thinking about it, that Mulder would hate having anyone else in his mind. It would drive the agent crazy. He remembered the days before he had got used to his first nexus. Long days of confusion and terror, not knowing if they were his emotions, or whether they belonged to someone else. He had been forced into that link against his will, but he wouldn’t do the same to Mulder and Scully. The nexus between them had been created, and he knew no way to undo it, but that didn’t mean the two agents had to be aware of it in any way.


Skinner was at the heart of the nexus, and all its energy flowed through him. If he dammed up the flow between them, they wouldn’t even know it existed – not if he was vigilant anyway. He wouldn’t be able to stop their thoughts and feelings flowing into him, now that there was a full nexus between them. He could no longer block them out as he had with Scully after their raid on the armaments factory, but he could stop them flowing any further. He could block his own responses flowing back to them or theirs flowing into each other. It would be hard work, and he’d have to remain vigilant, but he was sure that he could do it. Even if stray thoughts and emotions got through, it wouldn’t be enough to intrude on their privacy, or to change their lives irrevocably, without their consent, which was the only other alternative.


He nodded to himself, making his decision. In a way, this was almost worse than losing his comrades in the jungles of Vietnam. At least they hadn’t still existed, a living reminder of what he had lost. Mulder and Scully were alive, and for that he was grateful, but their presence in his life would make every day a living hell for him. Seeing them, feeling their thoughts, and not being able to respond to them, sensing their emotions and not being able to reach out and touch them. Skinner closed his eyes. He’d cope. He had to.


Some little voice also told him he was cutting off the life-blood of the new-born nexus because he feared the intimacy, and, coupled with that, he also feared the horror of their reactions to being known so completely by him of all people. He would have nothing to shield him from knowing every emotion they felt on the subject, every thought that politeness would keep them from expressing, and he shuddered at the concept. Rejection: plain, good old-fashioned fear of rejection, a voice whispered in his ear. He ignored it, and finally allowed his weary body to get some rest, drifting into a deep, and mercifully dreamless, sleep.




Washington D.C.


January 18, 1999


Mulder held the door to the café open, waiting while Scully slipped past him and went inside. It had been just over a week since their miraculous recovery, and they were due back at work the following day. He hadn’t spoken much to Scully about what he had seen during his OBE, and she hadn’t shared much of her experience with him either. By unspoken agreement they both seemed to have decided that it had been a too intensely personal experience to share with anybody, although they had discussed a few basics. In truth, it already seemed unreal and even the memory of it was fading rapidly. He was beginning to wonder whether it had in fact been a hallucination. He was sure Scully would have a perfectly rational medical explanation for the whole event, if he were to ask her. He didn’t because he decided that he’d like to cling onto at least the possibility that something extraordinary had actually occurred.


<Over there.> Scully said.


Mulder nodded, noticing Skinner sitting at a table by the window, absently stirring his coffee. That’s another thing, Mulder thought to himself as they ventured across the café. Why do I feel different? Something’s changed, and I’m not sure what it is. Sometimes he was sure he almost picked up on Scully’s thoughts, but he discounted this as being absurd. They’d always had a close, almost telepathic communication, and this most recent experience had just bonded them even closer.


What was more alarming was the sense he had that someone else was watching him. At times he felt like a juicy fly, caught in a spider’s web, aware that the spider was just sitting there, watching him, waiting for him to move so that it could scuttle in for the kill. Mulder was trying hard not to move, but he didn’t like the sensation one bit.


Skinner looked up as they approached, and for one unguarded moment Mulder saw something curiously akin to pleasure in the other man’s eyes. Then it was replaced by a cold, abrupt nod of his head in the direction of the seats opposite. Mulder and Scully sat down.


“I ordered coffee for us,” Skinner said.


“I like low fat, de-caff…” Scully began.


“Yes, I know,” he interrupted brusquely. Their coffee duly arrived, and Mulder noted, with his ever present profiling ‘third eye’, that his own order was what he normally drank as well.


“You’re both well?” Skinner’s eyes raked over them anxiously, as if checking for signs of harm.


“Yes.” Scully nodded. “I thought you might visit us in the hospital,” she murmured, and Mulder noticed the reproach in her tone.


“I was busy.” Skinner took a sip of his coffee. “I thought I should meet with you before you returned to work though, and as we’re forbidden to have contact, Starbucks seemed the logical choice of meeting place. I have a file here.” Skinner threw it down onto the table, and glared at Mulder. What the hell did I do? I’ve been in the hospital for 8 days! He can’t possibly be annoyed with me.


“This is the report on that weapon you were investigating up in Thurmont.” Skinner said brusquely. “The one you had no authorization to be investigating.”


“Oh. That one.” Mulder picked up the file. “Did you catch whoever did this to us, sir?”


“No. I checked out the base and the contractor involved, but, unsurprisingly, there was nothing. After those people died, everything relating to that contract was terminated. I’ve requested information from the military base but, also unsurprisingly, they’ve told me to butt out. They are, of course, entitled to create and manufacture any weapons they choose, as long as they’re not violating any international treaties.”


“Even if those weapons are using alien technology in their construction?” Mulder asked in a bitter tone.


“Agent Mulder…” Skinner sounded as if he were barely holding onto his temper. “Let me remind you that you have no evidence to support that theory.”


“That doesn’t stop it being true.” Mulder took a deep gulp of his coffee, and the burning liquid scalded his throat. Skinner winced, and took a sip of water, then handed the glass to Mulder who took it gratefully, allowing the cool water to soothe his burning throat.


“Sir…” Scully had been watching this exchange keenly, and now she spoke. “Mulder and I would like to submit our own reports on the incident…”


“This wasn’t an official investigation. There’s very little point.” Skinner interrupted her. Her blue eyes flashed, angrily.


“We think there’s a point,” she told him. “We both underwent a profound experience as the direct result of the injuries caused by that weapon, to say nothing of nearly losing our lives. We’d like that put on record.”


“Fine.” Skinner snapped. Mulder couldn’t remember ever seeing the man look more jumpy, as if he were holding onto some secret that he didn’t want them to see.


“Sir, do you have any idea, why we survived while those other people died?” Scully asked.


“No. I don’t.” Skinner played with his spoon restlessly.


“Did you follow up the areas of investigation we were pursuing while Mulder was unconscious?”


“Yes, but I’m afraid I didn’t find anything more than what we’d already figured out. It’s all in there.” Skinner gestured tersely towards the file. “I’m assuming that neither of you saw who shot you?” He asked. “Did you?”


Mulder and Scully exchanged glances.


“He took me by surprise.” Scully said with a shrug. “To be honest I didn’t even hear whoever it was entering the motel room.”


“The guy who shot me was lying in wait for me when I got home.” Mulder recalled. “I didn’t even get a good look at him. I don’t know how he got access to my apartment, but I’m guessing that if you have technology that can give people Out of Body Experiences, then lock-picking’s pretty straightforward.”


“Or even if you don’t.” Scully looked Skinner directly in the eye, and Mulder noticed the other man avert his gaze. What the hell is that all about, he wondered.


“The case is now closed, not that it was ever officially open,” Skinner told them firmly. Mulder opened his mouth to protest, but didn’t get that far. “I mean it, Mulder.” Skinner’s tone was forceful. “You are not chasing back up to Thurmont to see if you can find evidence of alien technology. Do I make myself clear?”


Mulder shrugged, which just served to infuriate the other man.


“I said, do I make myself clear, Agent Mulder?” Skinner ground out. Mulder gazed at him thoughtfully for a moment, and then nodded.


“As crystal, sir,” he murmured.


There was silence for a long moment, as three unhappy people sat, not looking at each other. Scully built a little pyramid out of some spilled sugar on the table, while Skinner stirred his coffee for the umpteenth time, gazing out of the window.


Mulder sat back, and watched the other man. His eyes raked across Skinner’s face, struggling to understand what was going on. He was good at reading emotions, and understanding patterns of behavior, but he couldn’t figure this out at all. He was transfixed for a moment, by Skinner’s blunt fingers as they stirred his coffee. Not for the first time, Mulder imagined those fingers caressing the side of his face, touching his lips, and he opened his mouth slightly, wetting his lips with his tongue. He never bothered fighting the desire he frequently felt for Skinner. He didn’t even bother hiding it from himself. It was part of him, as much a part of him as his love for Scully. He had no intention of acting on either emotion. It just wasn’t an option. He was scared that it would ruin his friendship with Scully if he hit on her, for a start. As for Skinner – the man would break him in two for even thinking about it, he was sure of that. He’d never met a man who screamed ‘straight’ more than Skinner did. Mulder liked the idea of Skinner being straight – he liked the thought of the macho marine holding him in those strong arms, kissing him. He wanted to reach out and place his hand over Skinner’s incessantly stirring fingers, to bring each one to his lips and suck, gently, his eyes never leaving Skinner’s face.


Skinner’s fingers froze, and Mulder was jolted out of his little fantasy. Skinner was flushing, and he turned back from gazing out of the window and looked straight into Mulder’s eyes. Mulder’s breath caught at the back of his throat. Skinner knew what he had been thinking! It was as clear as day in those dark, knowing eyes. He felt naked, his harmless little fantasy exposed.


“That’s all, agents.” Skinner murmured.


“Not quite, sir.” Scully seemed to wake up, clearly not ready to be dismissed. “Mulder and I haven’t talked much about what happened to us during the time we were unconscious but…”


“What happened to you?” Skinner sounded almost sneering. “Nothing happens to people when they’re unconscious. That’s implicit in the term, isn’t it?”


Scully flushed, but continued anyway. “Mulder and I both remember seeing the same figure. Someone called Jace.” Mulder watched, intrigued, as Skinner placed a finger under his collar and loosened it slightly. “In fact, I believe that we owe our lives to him,” Scully continued, her blue eyes boring holes into Skinner’s flesh with their intensity. “I’m sure you’ll agree that if we were hallucinating, it’s most unusual for two people to share the same hallucination.” Skinner remained silent, clearly unwilling to agree any such thing. “Jace was a soldier – he’d been badly injured, and Mulder and I both thought he seemed familiar, as if we should know him.”


“And do you?” Skinner asked, leaning back, with all the appearance of being casual, but Mulder noticed the deep tension in his shoulders, and the stiffness of his arms as they rested on the table.


“No.” Scully glared at Skinner. “We were hoping that you might know who he is.”


“Me?” Skinner looked surprised. Mulder didn’t blame him. He wondered what Scully was getting at. “Why would I?”


“I don’t know,” Scully mused. “Are you saying that you don’t?” She pushed. Skinner hesitated for a long moment, and Mulder could see a nerve pulsing in the other man’s neck.


“No.” He said, finally. “I have no idea.” Mulder felt a sudden, inexplicable sensation of guilt flood through him.


“That’s a shame.” Scully mused. “We wanted to thank him, didn’t we, Mulder?” Mulder dragged his attention away from Skinner, and nodded.


“Yeah. He saved our lives. We were lost, and he found us. We owe him.”


“So, you’re sending us back to work under A.D. Kersh as if none of this ever happened?”


Skinner’s head jerked up at Scully’s words, and Mulder was intrigued by the look in those dark, unfathomable eyes.


“Yes.” Skinner growled.


“I see.” Scully nodded. “Well, I think that’s all there is to say on the subject.” She got up. “Coming, Mulder?”


“Yeah.” Mulder got up, and took the file Skinner had left lying on the table. “There’s nothing to stay here for, after all.” He followed on behind Scully and they both left the cafe.


As they crossed to the other side of the road, Mulder glanced back at the window where they had been sitting. Skinner had taken off his glasses, and was rubbing the bridge of his nose – or maybe his eyes. He looked…lost.




The Mulder Residence, Chilmark.


March 25, 1971


“It’s for you.”


The smoking man gave the child his most benign smile, and took the proffered telephone receiver. He watched the boy scurry off towards the kitchen, dressed in his, what had he called it – Mr. Spock – uniform?


“Sir. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.” The voice on the other end of the ‘phone said.


“Yes? What is it?” He took a long drag on his cigarette, and watched the young Mulder boy playing with his sister. They made a charming pair. It was such a pity.


“The Nexus Project, sir, the one you gave orders to be terminated?”




“Well…a mistake has been made.”


“A mistake? How so? I took care of the termination myself.”


“Yes, sir. I know.” The subordinate at the other end of the line swallowed nervously, clearly not eager to deliver the news. “The thing is, that we’ve just found out that somebody survived. He’s in a hospital in Saigon. He’s badly wounded but it looks as if he’ll make it.”


“I see.” The smoking man took a thoughtful drag on his cigarette. “And the man’s name?” He knew what it would be without waiting for the answer.


“Corporal Walter S. Skinner, sir.” The subordinate said, confirming his suspicions.


The smoking man was silent for a long while, as he gazed at his friend, Bill Mulder, watching as the other man downed a glass of whisky in one gulp. His colleague had made a very interesting point earlier, when he had criticized his handling of the termination. Maybe he had been hasty in disposing of Walter Skinner. Maybe he would come in useful one day. Not now, perhaps. The project had, after all, been terminated, and he had no intention of pouring any more time or resources into it.


“Sir?” The subordinate spoke. “Are you still there, sir? Do you want me to order Skinner’s termination?”


“No. That won’t be necessary.” The smoking man severed the connection. He still had some related files on the Nexus Project in storage, awaiting destruction. The subordinate he had been speaking to had no idea what the project was about – it was just a name to him. He dialed another number, and asked to be put through.


“Ah, good. You’re still there.” The smoking man smiled. “I want you to dig out the file and all related material on one…Walter Skinner.” He checked the name he had written on the note pad by the ‘phone. “Yes, from the Nexus Project. Yes, I know it was terminated, but now I’m re-opening it. You still have the monitoring equipment? Good. I want you to keep an eye on it. If Skinner creates a new nexus, at any time, now, or in the future, I want to be informed immediately. Is that understood?”


He put the phone down, barely listening to the assurances he was being given.


“Good news?” Bill Mulder looked up at his friend’s smiling face as he rejoined him at the table.


“I’m not sure.” The smoking man stubbed out his cigarette with a firm sweep of his fingers. “Let’s just say that there’s been an interesting development shall we?”


End of Part Two


Hmm, you were expecting the telepathic threesome sex *already*? I told you this was going to be a long series! View it as extended foreplay <G>


This part was a bit weird. Like it?



~ I love receiving friendly feedback! If you enjoyed this story, please leave a comment below. ~

Submit a Comment

No Comments on Nexus: 2. Found


Buy Xanthe's original character BDSM slash novel, Ricochet now!

Paperback on Amazon

E-book on Amazon

Smashwords in various formats

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons