Chapter 14

A cautious whisper.

"She's awake."

A glance and a survey of the surroundings.

"I suggest we move." A smirk danced on the verge of a woman's lips. "I
think after all this time, a little privacy is called for."

Muffled laughter and the pitter-patter of not-so-little feet shuffling into
another room left Mulder and Scully alone, lying, albeit injured, in each
other's arms.

Invictus took lead, and as they left the room to allow their friends some
catch-up time, they could not refrain from the slightest bit of
eavesdropping. Somehow the tone, not so much the words, filled the others
with a glimmer of hope that temporarily brushed away the despair creeping
into their once-vibrant determination.

He unconsciously brushed her cheek with this well-weathered hands, a
gesture of tentative love that appeared to be done out of habit, but really
was not. There was a catch in his throat. "Yes, Scully, it's really me."


Over their mutual concern for Scully, Elspeth and Richter avoid coming to
blows with Invictus' faction. Her swoon had not come unexpected--they had
sustained a vicious fall, one that left Scully limping and Richter
partially incapacitated. Elspeth had amazingly suffered little damage, coming away
with a few cuts and bruises. Winding through the dark tunnels below
downtown Madison, they had finally discovered a light source, which lead
them into their present company.

John's gruff voice commanded their attention back to the issue at hand.
"Richter, you said your name was?"

Standing close enough to Elspeth that they seemed joined, Richter nodded.
"Who are you?"

Ignoring him, John pressed on. His head flicked slightly towards Elspeth.
"And you, who are you? What's your business here?"

"We mean no harm unless you do," she said icily. "That fact that you're
still alive accounts for that."

Her words threw John for a loop. Although the odds were decidedly in their
favor, the . . .John could not think of a better word--the balls she had
displayed and the stealth apparently in her eyes made them step back and
reconsider their actions. Then from the shadows behind them, the observing
figure of Invictus emerged sage-like to face Elspeth.

"You are familiar." It was a statement, not a question.

The silence hung heavy as the underground dampness. Invictus half-circled
them. Richter shifted uncomfortably, adjusting his injured arm. Elspeth,
warrior-like in stance, still in her transformed state, eyed him back with
equal curiosity. Then it came, a spark of recognition that lit up her dark

"Out of the night that covers me, black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul."

Invictus betrayed a smile. "You obviously know who I am," he said with a
small nod. "But who are you?"

She moved to speak, but Richter touched her arm to stop her. Her gaze
softened as they looked upon him, acknowledging his concern, but her face
conveyed to him her decision. "My name is Elspeth Parr, Mr. McCloud. I see
you've recovered the famous Fox Mulder."

"And you the mysterious Dana Scully, once thought to be merely an

"We all sort of discovered each other, along the way. Our mixed company is
a pawn of destiny through decision." She shot a look back to the room where
Mulder and Scully rested. "And it's good to see that our queen and king are
finally back together."

The light mood was shattered by a grating voice breaking through unwanted.
"What the hell is going on?" Alan snapped, his irritation taut as wire.
"McCloud, who are these deviants? And why do we have to have anything to do
with them?" His face was twisted with suspicion.

Cass rolled her eyes, shoving him. "They're on our side, you idiot."
However, Alan still didn't look convinced.

Richter cleared his throat in attempt to gain attention his way. "If I'm
reading this right, our goals are the same. I suggest we work together."
Elspeth's quick look to his face beamed with admiration. "I'm damn sick of
this game," he continued, his voice a little tight. "It's time to win or
lose, and I'm not in the mood to lose to some glorified, extraterrestrial

"I'm guessing you're looking for exactly the same thing we are," Elspeth
asked. "The . . ."

" . . . vaccine," Invictus said, clapping his hands together in devious
delight. "Welcome to Mission Save the Earth."

"Glad to be aboard," Elspeth said, now grinning widely.

Cass stepped ahead, her grin matching Elspeth's. "Yeah! Let's show them
what having game is all about!"

And from both sides, they all let out a collective groan.


Mulder shifted her pant leg up gently to get a better look at her swollen
ankle. He paused a moment and flashed her a joking little smile.

"Scully, you're legs are hairy," he said.

"So's your face," she replied in kind.

His grin grew wider and he turned his attention back to her ankle. "How are
you feeling?" he asked, giving her the once-over.

She shrugged, or maybe she was stretching--he couldn't distinguish, and
said, "I've been better." Then her voice hitched and she pulled back a
little bit, looking into his hazel eyes, her blue ones softening as she did
so. "I take that back, I don't think I've ever felt this good."
Impulsively, she threw her arms around him and held him tight, running her
hands up and down his back to assure her even more. He reeled a bit from
the hug, but returned it after only a second's worth of hesitation. He
didn't let her go until he felt her arms slacken and experienced the
sensation of her warmth leaving his embrace.

Then, she made contact again. Shoving him with both arms, she demanded,
"Where the hell have you been?"

Mulder gave himself a moment, propping himself back up with his arms and
letting the air that she had knocked out of him, back into his lungs.
"Where have I been . . . ?" he trailed. She gave him a hard stare and
besides himself with good humor, he couldn't repress a smile. She was still

tough-as-nails Scully. "Where have I been," he repeated. Then giving her a
roguish grin, he answered, "I wish I knew myself. It's all still really

"So you're telling me you had amnesia?" she asked incredulously.

"Actually? Yeah."

"Oh brother."

"Where have I heard that before?" he moaned.

Then a little kinder, she asked, "Really Mulder, what's happened to you in
all this time?" A small smile betrayed her face. "I'm used to having you
run out on me, disappearing--being dead and returning from it, but the
circumstances usually aren't this . . . extreme." Then as after-though she
added, "And that's saying a lot."

He let out a long sigh. So much had happened and she hadn't even seen the
tip of the iceberg yet. Scully's face remained ever-inquiring, and now,
looking into it again so close for the first time in a very long time, he
found himself lost and dizzy again, like so many times before in the years
they had known each other.

"Well?" she asked impatiently. "Are you going to tell me or . . ." He
silenced her with a hand. Her eyes wandered confused over his face.

"Or what?" he mumbled, offering it as a suggestion, not a repetition. Then
he smirked. "You know what, I think that I'm going to kiss you now, Scully,"
he said, voice cracking but determined. Her mouth formed a perfect "O" but she
said nothing in protest.

He took it as a positive sign. "I just want you to hear me out. Let me
kiss you and you can slap me or yell at me afterwards. I just, I just think
this is something I need to do." He swallowed hard, embarrassed and anxious
all at once. He looked at her again, searching.

"What are you waiting for? Still all talk?" she asked softly.

Gently, they pressed their foreheads together, noses touching
ever-so-slightly. She wet her lips, terror streaked with excitement in her
eyes. Blinking, he finally leaned in first and touched her mouth with his.
He felt Scully's sudden intake of breath, but then just as quickly felt her
relax into the kiss. It began sweet--a melancholy interlude setting them up
for the harmonic climax of a masterpiece. As the kiss escalated, so did
their movements. Her hands went to cup his face, the stubble welcoming to
her hands. His arms curled around her waist, then climbed up her back,
wrapping her up so completely that it could not be determined where one
began and the other ended.

She tilted her head back and he followed her lead, their kiss twisting and
turning in the throes of passion. When they finally broke apart due to lack
of air, they did so reluctantly. Gazing at each other in as much surprise
as in pleasure, they pulled back, numb and wordless.

Clearing her throat, Scully broke the silence. "I don't think I'm going
have to slap you for that," she said, her voice analytical. Reaching out,
she took his hand. Then taking the cue, he pulled her closer, and they
kissed again, oblivious for the moment of all that surrounded them and
awaited them beyond the light of each other's company.


Invictus cleared his throat and broke Mulder and Scully out of their
revelry of each other. They both looked up at the same time, the flush of
embarrassment coloring their faces. Invictus could only smile, choking down
a joke to allow them their peace. Probably the first peace for them in a
damn long time, he thought.

"How are you feeling, Dana?" a smooth voice asked, tinged with concern.
Elspeth stepped forward towards them. Reluctantly, they disengaged
themselves from each other and Scully allowed Elspeth to examine her ankle,
even though she was more than capable, and more qualified, to make any sort
of diagnosis.

"I assume you all have gotten to know each other," Mulder said with a wave
of his hand towards their group.

"Yes, but I don't believe we've met," a dark-haired stranger said to him.
"Richter McLachlan." He came into the light cautiously and bowed his head
in greeting. Seeing him injured, Mulder did the same in greeting him.
"I've heard much about you, Mr. Mulder. I'm happy to meet you."

"Under the circumstances," Mulder said in equal politeness, "it's my
pleasure." Then he turned to an attending Elspeth who was brushing a
tendril of hair from her eyes when he looked. Sensing him, she turned and
thrust out a hand. They exchanged a firm handshake, not a word passing
between them until Elspeth twitched an eyebrow.

"What?" he asked.

"You are real," she mused. "I hope you're as good as advertised."

Mulder shot Scully a questioning glance to which she only returned to him a
wily smile. "Ah, I see how it goes. Well, I suppose we should do something
then to get this shindig off the ground, hmm?"

Invictus snorted. "It's about time."


Elspeth moved from Richter's side. She shot Invictus a look, to which he
acknowledged and addressed the group. She was still too much of a stranger
to presume that the others would listen, no less trust her or Richter.

"We've been discussing plans of action, and I think the best idea out of
the pot is splitting into two groups and searching the tunnels out. We need to
find routes of escape or routes that will lead us *somewhere*." Invictus
rubbed his chin. "Hopefully we'll be able to find out some information,
too, though I don't know how. Maybe artifacts." He shrugged nervously,
turning his eyes towards Mulder and Scully who sat rapt in attention. "Two
groups of three. That way we're big enough for back-up and small enough to
elude attention if we run into any trouble."

"There are eight of us," Mulder pointed out.

"And one of us--Scully--is too injured to be moving about too freely. And
another who's still having memory problems and has to remember something
important, no doubt," Invictus chided, "that's you, needs to stay with her.

Anyway, we need people at a pivot point to report to, and we can't risk all
of us at once."

Cass tossed John a gun. "Remember to arm yourselves," he said, "but stay
calm. We don't need to be attracting any unwanted attention." Weapons were
distributed like pieces of candy. "We also don't have a lot of artillery,
so don't waste what you use."

Richter inserted the magazine with a click. "How are we split?" He reached
a hand out towards Elspeth but she shook her head.

"Me, Alan, and Invictus," she said. "You, Cass and John.

"We can't protest this?" Mulder asked, watching the others jumping into

Elspeth looked at the two newly-reunited FBI agents. "Do you really want
to?" His lack of response gave her his answer. "Good." She motioned for
Invictus to take the lead.

"John, take your group that way," he said motioning towards the archway
where they had first confronted Scully and her group. "Elspeth says that
she saw some doors and tunnels branching off the main route. I'll take my
group through the tunnels that lead toward the center of town--near the
capitol building."

Invictus spoke to Mulder and Scully now. "You two be careful. There's
something vital that you two still need to do. I don't know what it is, but
whatever the outcome, you two need to stay alive. Call it a gut feeling."

"I feel it too," Elspeth murmured to no one but herself. She wandered

"So is the Force telling you this, Invictus-Wan?" Mulder joked.

"Ah, if only it were," he sighed. "I'd love to wave my hand and make all
the bad guys fall down. But really, now that that's settled . . . C'mon,
children. It's time to save mankind."


Cassidy, Richter, and John backtracked towards the lake, weaving through
the fallen debris that littered the tunnels.

"Nothing but crap," John muttered.

Cassidy sniffed the musty air disdainfully. "Certainly smells like it."

They pushed on but found nothing of interest. However, for the other group,
the same could not be said.


Invictus carried a flashlight, shining the faint glow on the area ahead of
them. Water dripped from the ceiling of the tunnels, producing a hollow,
dungeon-like drip-drip echo.

"So who are you really?" Alan asked Elspeth in an off-handed voice. She
frowned and continue to move ahead, ignoring his question.

"Hey, I asked you--"

"Shut up you damn fool!" Invictus hissed at Alan. "You want to make it a
little more obvious that we're here? Who knows who else is down here and
what their intentions are. You want us to get killed, because I'll gladly
let you take lead and at as our bullet shield."

"Thank you," Elspeth muttered underneath her breath.

Alan was immediately huffy. "I'm just looking out for our safety, *Curtis.*

There are some people I'm still not sure I can trust."

"You're lucky we didn't string you when you killed Dice!" Invictus snapped.

Elspeth shushed them irritably with waves of her hand calling for silence.
Reluctantly, both men turned from each other and progressed. Defiantly,
Alan moved to take the lead, pulling the flashlight out of Invictus's hand.

Elspeth glanced at him, but the blond man simply shrugged, continuing ahead
and ceasing any valid argument he had.

Into three more "rooms" they explored, finding nothing. Their hour was
almost up, but when they were about to retreat with no results to their
scouting mission, a clattering brought them to attention. The noises came
from just beyond another darken entrance-way, crashing boxes and muffled
voices. Quickly, the three of them rushed for cover in the room, which
appeared to be a cleaning-supply storage room. Huddling together, they
strained to hear as two distinctly male voices seemed to come closer and
become clearer.

" . . . waste of time," one voice said unhappily.

"Buck up, Marine," another voice replied. "There were sightings by the
shore of people. It might be those rebels we're after."

"Probably just troublemakers. Really, Rae, do you honestly believe that
*the* Mulder and Scully are in Madison, Wisconsin of all places?" He
snorted. "I heard that one or both of them were dead. And what about that
woman the Doc is looking for? The hybrid?"

"It's highly possible that any of them might be here. We had them in
Chicago, O'Conner. Remember that we had them once. We'll get them again."

O'Conner picked up a piece of cardboard and then tossed it back down at his
feet. "She would have to be a complete moron to come here knowing what will
happen to her if they catch her. Hell, Rae, if I were here, I'd haul-ass in
the other direction and never look back."

"You didn't read the fucking file on her, did you, O'Conner? Jesus H.

"What?" the other protested, pouting like a little boy who had been sent to
his room. "I read it."

"Yeah, sure you did." There was a shift in tone. "She's one of those
rebels. First page, paragraph three. Leader of Phoenix group." The man
called Rae's voice grew higher. "Operating out of Madison."

"Is that supposed to mean something?" the other asked defensively.

"Why are you such a moron, O'Conner?"

"I've been spending too much time with you, that's why!" the other snapped.

"Anyway--what was the name of that hybrid? Elizabeth? Embeth? Something
weird like that?"

"Elspeth Parr," the voice belonging to the man named Rae said distractedly.

Elspeth stiffened, clenching her jaw so tightly it hurt, and as quickly
Invictus reached out a calming hand, placing it on her shoulder. Alan's
head swung accusingly towards her. "You!" Alan hissed, his tone indicating
that he had already tried, convicted, and executed her in his mind.

One of the two male voices suddenly tensed, growing loud. "Did you hear
something, O'Conner?" it barked.

Invictus swore silently and drew out his gun, immediately unlocking the
safety. Alan did the same, his face hot red. Elspeth, without a firearm,
grabbed for the nearest thing--a broom handle. Tense, they sat and waited,
the voices getting louder and closer until footsteps and heavy breathing
was heard in their room.

Two large men entered the room, their guns drawn. They walked as if
stepping around landmines, both surprisingly agile for their sizes.

Then the inevitable happened. "Behind you, O'Conner!" Rae shouted, firing
off a shot into an old bookshelf, splintering the thick wood in two. Before

Alan had the chance to aim another shot was fired off straight into his
direction, blowing a hole straight through his head. Blood and brains
splattered, hitting a shocked Elspeth in the face. She blinked. "Two
others, O'Conner!" Rae shouted again before either Elspeth or Invictus had
a fraction of a second to react to Alan's sudden death.

Numb, Elspeth crawled over to Alan's body, shielding herself from the
debris that exploded around her like fireworks. Frantically-- blindly, she
searched for Alan's gun, trying to fight off the fact that she was
scavenging through his still-warm body. Invictus fired off another shot and
she heard one of the men scream, shrill in his pain.

A bullet whizzed by Invictus, grazing him across the cheek. Flinching back
forcefully, he dropped himself to the ground and sat crouched. Dust was
heavy in the air, obscuring what little visibility there was in the damp,
underground caves. A curtain of silence fell between them as both sides
waited to make the next move.

Elspeth wiped nervously at her forehead, her mind sprinting off in multiple
directions all at once. They couldn't let these men just go and spread word
of their presence underground, but there was the risk that she and Invictus
could not take them both out, and if what they said about her was true . .

The ground suddenly disappeared from below her and Elspeth crashed
awkwardly onto the floor, gun flying from her grasp as a hand twisted like a vine
around her ankle. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the barrel of a gun
directed towards her face. Her head fell back against the ground. She
squeezed her eyes shut. They would not take her. They would not take her
alive . . .

"Don't shoot her!" Rae cried out suddenly, stumbling towards his fallen
partner. Seeing movement, he trained his gun back towards where Invictus
hid. "Move and I'll kill her, I swear to God."

Invictus could not suppress a roll of his eyes. Obviously they were dealing
with full-blown idiots here, but out of caution Invictus remained still
for the time being. There was no purpose in risking both of their lives in
a last, suicidal attempt of rescue.

Supine on the ground, Elspeth waited with baited breath as the footsteps
came nearer and nearer. She was motionless except for the flex of her
fingertips. She had to think of some way to distract or dispose of the Rae
and O'Conner to buy Invictus enough time to escape and bring warning to the
others. She gritted her teeth. They had gotten so far. To lose it all now
was unacceptable. It no longer mattered if she lived or died. Elspeth was
certain now of what she was. She swallowed hard and thought fleetingly of
Richter. Of course, she thought angrily, the rage masking her wounded
heart, of course this is how it would turn out. The die had been cast and
she would come out the loser--but she would not let the others share her
fate. Not if she could help it. Elspeth stretched out her fingers again
and was surprised to feel something very real and very solid in her hand.
The broom. A false sense of relief flooded her. No, she could not swing it
at him. He would see the movement and shoot her without hesitation. Or
else his friend would get her first. She cringed. But maybe this was the
opportunity she needed--and the chance that Invictus had to get out.
Slowly, she pulled the broken broom handle into her palm. No, she would not
swing it at him. She didn't have the arm strength to bring it up fast
enough to surprise him. She would have to throw it like a javelin at him.
As for his friend . . .

"What a coincidence," Rae said mildly. "We were just talking about you, Ms.

Elspeth did not respond, although a sarcastic comment hung dangerously on
her lips. She cast a quick glance towards Invictus. She just hoped he knew
what to do when the time came. Rae was almost directly over her, his
pompous swagger causing his progress to slow.

"Sometimes, O'Conner, this job is just too easy. Like stealing candy from
a baby."

When he looked to his injured partner, Elspeth took the split-second
opportunity and made her move. Roughly she pulled the leg that was held by
O'Conner towards her, pulling him in. Crossing one leg over the other, she
crashed the heel of her heavy boot into his head. Confusion on that end,
she twisted her body upwards and hurled the broom handle into Rae's
stomach. He crippled over in pain as the wooden stick struck him in the groin.

"GO" she screamed, but Invictus paid no heed to her order. A carefully
aimed shot--one he had trained on Rae for the entire time of the man's
distraction with Elspeth, exploded from the gun and tore into the
ex-Marine's back. He howled like a beast out of hell, falling but not

O'Conner, recovering from the blow to his head, reached out, bleeding and
moaning, for his gun. Still on the ground, Elspeth swung her legs again and
knocked him back down towards the ground. She then fumbled around in the
dark, searching through the grime. Then she felt it, pulled it up quickly,
firing off three rounds into O'Conner who finally fell heavy and dead.

Now that Elspeth had moved out of his line of fire, Invictus took the
initiative and fired again at his enemy. Like a scene out of a bad action
movie, the body fell in a splatter of blood, flinging more dust into the

As the dust settled from the fallen bodies, Elspeth fought off nausea and
the flood of dizziness that rushed into her head. Forcing a sneer to fend
off any sign of vulnerability that could betray her--the only face she
could make without falling apart, she stood up deliberately. She walked over to

"We need to get that checked out," she said, indicating the bleeding gash
on his face. He touched it absentmindedly. "It could get infected."

He shook his head. "I'm fine, really." Then his eyes wandered over to
where Alan's body lay. They flickered a moment before he turned back to
her. "He's . . . ?" She sighed and nodded, touching her upper lip. She
had tasted blood, and realized a split-second that it was not her own. She
turned her gaze away from where Alan's body lay and shuddered

"Elspeth ," Invictus started with a gulp. His eyes darkened as he
seemed to search for the right words. Roughly, he grabbed her arm. "Who .
.. . what are you?" he finally spat out.

She felt her muscles twitch in her face. Then she turned away from him,
ignoring the question. Instead, she walked away towards where the bodies of
Rae and O'Conner lay. Coldly, she lifted the gun and fired a neat round
into each body.

Invictus jumped. "Jesus Christ!" he shouted, stumbling backwards in
surprise. He tried to compose himself quickly. As he did, he pushed
through the mess on the floor towards her. When he reached her, she grabbed
her by the arm. Invictus and Elspeth locked eyes. He looked at her,
radiating new-found suspicion. His gaze was met with a dangerous flash of
her eyes, no doubt a warning to him to back off. But Invictus had seen so
much and survived so much that it was little matter to him what she

"Elspeth," he persisted, shaking her, "what the hell is going on? Why were
those two talking about you? What are you hiding?"

She ripped her arm from his grip and stalked away angrily. "The others,"
she muttered as she paced back and forth like a caged animal. "We have to
warn the others. Someone's bound to have heard those gunshots so they know
we're down here now. We have to get the hell out of here." She was talking
to herself, then looking up, snapped back to reality, she turned towards
the other doorway and began to walk there, and eventually began to run, leaving

Invictus standing alone with three corpses and countless questions.

"Elspeth!" he screamed as she disappeared into the darkness. "Elspeth!" He
balled his hands into two fists. Then cursing viciously to himself one last
time he moved towards Alan's body to check if he really was, indeed, dead.
The truth acknowledged, he let the wave of pity and frustration surge
through him. He shook his head again, gritting his teeth. Drawing in a
deep breath, sucking in the damp air, he muttered to himself, "Why do I
feel like we're just making all of this up as we go?" and broke into a sprint
after Elspeth and back to the camp.


Chapter Fifteen