Chapter 13

Mulder spent about half of the remaining evening trying to convince the
others that he had seen Scully. When they had finally started to agree with
him that it might be her, he realized they were only doing it to make him
calm down, and he spent the rest of the evening effectively sitting in the
corner and pouting.

They'd laid down the few blankets they had along the floor in the small
room and were settling in for the night.

Mulder was along the far wall, laying on his side with a blanket draped
over him, facing away from the others.

He was dressed only in a T-shirt and his boxers, as the rest of his clothes
were hanging out over the table and chairs, almost dry.

He felt confused and vulnerable, and the lack of his clothes, though
barely, only reinforced his emotional turmoil.

Invictus had tried talking to him once, but had given up soon after. Mulder
wasn't in the mood to talk.

And he couldn't decide much of what mood he was in. All he knew was that he
needed to be alone. He felt that way already, so he figured he might as
well complete the ensemble.

He got up suddenly and grabbed his clothes. Quickly putting them on, trying
to avoid the stares of the rest of the group, he tied his boots up.

"Going somewhere?" Invictus asked quietly. Looking around the room, Mulder
ascertained that it was a collective conjecture. Everyone was staring.

"Yes," he answered shortly. "I need to think."

He overheard Cass whisper to Invictus.

"I *won't* go far," he said, standing up looking directly at Cass, "I'll be
back. I need to clear my head."

With that, he stood, and left the small enclosure. Instead of turning
towards the door that led to the outside, he turned toward the interior of
the labyrinth and headed deeper into the tunnels.

He didn't mean to go far, only so far as to escape the feeling that there
was anyone immediately around him. But he'd gone liminal.

He had a tendency to do that, he knew. To live so far in his head that he
functioned on the barest of motor-mechanical skills. It was a form of
highway hypnosis he'd perfected over the years.

And now he found himself in a particularly large section of tunnel that he
and the other group members hadn't ventured into yet. There were several
doors on either side of the tunnel, these much bigger and more secure than
any they'd seen yet.

He stopped as soon as he realized his folly and held his breath, listening.

There was a faint hum in the background, but no sounds to indicate that he
wasn't alone. He breathed a sigh of relief and curiously, though still a
bit nervously, took a few steps forward and tried one of the door handles.

It came open easily enough, though the room was pitch black and he couldn't
see into it more than a few feet. Forgoing the idea of trying to find a
light switch-he and the other members of the group decided early on to
simply go by the lights that seemed to be on at all times in the main
hallways of the tunnels. Though there had been a few light switches, they
hadn't wanted to alert anyone to their presence, and hadn't turned on any
lights. He closed the door and moved to the next one.

It was similarly open.

He tried every door in the hallway and found all but one to be unlocked.

He was just turning to make his way back to the rest of the group when he
thought he heard something. He paused, fight or flight flaring.

Almost positive he was imagining it, he turned to head back when he heard
the sound again. He froze when he realized that they were footsteps and
quiet voices, and they were coming his way from the opposite direction,
from deeper in the tunnels.

He threw open the nearest door and went through the doorway blindly,
closing it softly behind him.

As he knelt by the doorway, gun in hand, ready to fight back should they
come through the door, his eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness that
permeated the room. Before his eyes could make out anything in the room,
his nose immediately began categorizing it's musty scent.

It smelled like a pet shop, he thought to himself. Cedar shavings and shit.

Then he began to make out shapes. There were cages strewn about the room,
all empty. Some with the doors hanging wildly open, some shut. There were
cabinets lining one wall, and tables clear of any debris in between.

This must have been a laboratory, he thought, where they perfected the
vaccine.

So they were right, they WERE in the right place. Now all they had to do
was find it.

If he lived that long, that was.

The footsteps got closer, and paused right in front of his door. He held
his breath, willing the party to move on.

A few seconds later, after some mumbling that he couldn't make out, they
footsteps resumed, headed for the rest of his group, and he breathed out
reverently.

But his relief was short-lived. They were headed right for Invictus and
Cass and the rest, and they had no way of knowing who or what was headed
their way.

But there was no way for him to get there first and warn them, so he stayed
put and waited. He'd head back after a while, he determined, and threw up a
short prayer to a God who, even if existed was probably dead that his
friends remained safe, and that Scully, wherever she was in the city, was
safe too.

XxXxXxXxXxX

He waited a half an hour and cautiously headed back toward the small room
where they'd stationed themselves. He moved quietly, with his gun drawn,
trying not to make a sound.

When he got within about ten yards of the room and still heard nothing he
started feeling equal parts of both relief and trepidation.

He quietly reached his head around the corner and saw all of his party but
Invictus sleeping soundly on the floor. Invictus was sitting at the table
looking curiously at him.

Mulder motioned for him to come out and join him and he did.

When they'd gone about twenty feet from the small room, Mulder turned and
spoke softly to Invictus.

"There are people here," he said, motioning back toward where he had just
come. "They were headed this way."

"I haven't seen anyone," Invictus answered him. "Do you know how many, or
if they were military or whatever?"

Mulder shook his head.

"Well," Invictus said, "I'll wake up John and have him keep watch with me
for a few hours, we haven't heard or seen anyone, they're probably just
locals exploring or something. In the mean time, I don't see that there's a
lot we can do. Go lay down and get some sleep, you need it."

Mulder was about to agree, but had heard a shade of doubt and worry in the
older man's words. And Mulder knew he wasn't thinking about the people
Mulder had just heard.

"I saw her," he said, his voice low.

"I believe." Invictus hesitated, "I believe that YOU believe you saw her."

Mulder simply nodded at the man and went and laid down. He admitted that he
needed some rest. Maybe when he woke up things would look a bit
differently.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Things certainly did look different when he woke up.

For one thing, he wasn't allowed the gradual recognition that normally
comes when ones body plays reveille.

He was jolted awake.

For a split second, he was absolutely confused and had no idea what was
going on. Then, when he saw Invictus and John Baxter at the doorway with
both of their guns drawn and trained on a man he could only partially see,
he bolted upright and stood where he'd been laying.

From his new vantage point, he could see that the unknown man had one arm
in a makeshift sling, and the other he was holding back slightly behind him
as if he was driving and had to come to an immediate stop, trying to
protect whomever was in the passenger's seat.

He could see at least one more pair of legs behind the man, but could see
no faces.

"I asked who the hell you were," Baxter all but shouted.

Cass was still laying down, but had shifted her weight to her elbow and was
looking on the events before her with apprehension.

Alan was simply sitting up, a blank look on his face.

"I could ask the same of you," the man said.

"You could," Baxter answered, "but *I* have the gun, so *I* ask the
questions."

"Would it make a difference?" the man asked. "You're just going to kill us
anyway, aren't you?"

"Alright look," Invictus interjected, "let's just settle down. You and
whoever you've got out there just come in here slowly, and we'll talk this
out."

The man in the doorway narrowed his eyes suspiciously, but nodded when a
voice said softly behind him, "Richter."

He moved forward slowly, wincing a bit as he walked.

Mulder looked behind him and his jaw instantly dropped.

Coming through the door was a small woman who had her arm wrapped around
another's waist. The other woman's ankle was swollen so badly that Mulder
could see from where he was how large it was. She was concentrating so
hard on walking that only when she looked up through tangled strands of red
hair and met eyes with Mulder did she stop.

And then, after a few seconds, from pain, weariness, and simple surprise
that came together to defeat her resolve to be strong and stoic, Scully
fainted.

XxXxXxXxXxX

When she regained consciousness, the first thing she was aware of was the
throbbing pain in her right ankle. Her attached leg was elevated and
resting on something relatively hard and cold. Her head, conversely, was
resting on something relatively soft and warm.

When it shifted under her, she struggled to open her eyes. She blinked in
the overhead lights.

"I was hoping you'd wake up soon, you were starting to cut off my
circulation."

Mulder? She thought to herself.

"Yeah, it's me."

Oh. Maybe she'd said it.

But then, she was more likely feverish and hallucinating. She was almost
convinced of this when beneath her, something shifted again. You couldn't
hallucinate feeling, right? Her mind was too muddled with pain and
overwhelmed with confusion and hope for her to begin even thinking. But she
could feel.

"Oh my God," she said quietly, almost to herself, reaching up to grasp at
anything, everything. "Is that really you?"

Flailing blindly, she encountered a head, his head, with a near thunk, and
latched her fingers onto his hair, refusing to let go.

"Yeah," he said on a sigh, finally coming into her field of view, "it
really is."

She let herself revel in his presence for a moment, not wanting to let
herself cry though she felt the tears welling up inside her. After all of
this, he really was alive, and he really was here. It was almost too much.

Then, she heard a familiar voice somewhere off to her left.

"Is she coming to?"

It was Richter. She glanced to her side. There were a bunch of people, she
realized, all watching her.

Damn it. Damn everything. Damn the colonization, the resistance. Damn them
all for being here with her and Mulder. Damn their not being able to be
alone together.

Of course, not that. Never that.

She tired to sit up, but winced in pain when her ankle slid off of the
table it was resting on, and she stopped.

She felt Mulder slip his arms under hers and carefully moved her until she
was sitting up, slightly turned his way.

She turned her head to look at him in full. And her soul was reborn. And
her spirit was resurrected.

Because of him.

She took a moment to reacquaint herself with him as he looked now. She
reached out slowly to touch his new grown beard and the rest of her body
followed until she found herself wrapped in his arms tightly, her head
tucked securely underneath his chin.


END CHAPTER

Chapter Fourteen