18 Nov 1997

Abah VI: The Recovery(1/4)
by Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)

Category: Story, Angst, MSR, Mag/Sk Romance
Rating: PG13 for language
Spoilers: Through to Demons

Summary: The saga continues with Mulder recovering from the trauma he
experienced while helping to provide Scully with a cure for her cancer.
(CC has _his_ ideas and I have mine!;->) We got MulderAngst, SkinnerAngst,
ScullyAngst, MaggieAngst, CSMAngst, a very little MaMulderAngst, and even
a little SamanthaAngst!

Archive: Yes

Disclaimer: These characters belong to 10/13 productions and Chris
Carter. I am merely borrowing them, I won't keep `em unless Mr. Carter
thinks otherwise (which, of course, I doubt, but I can dream, can't I??)
I shall return them at the end of the story, and I do believe this is an
end.. I do, I really, really do! Maybe.

Introduction: So I thought Abah V: Mothers and Lovers was long. Vickie
once told me to write a short paragraph or two in order to clarify a
scene. My idea of a short paragraph is obviously three pages. or
something like that. Well, Abah VI: The Recovery gives these guys a
chance to really tell their stories. I hope you agree. I recommend you
read Abah I, II, III, IV, and V first, because I really think as
"informative" as this story is, there may be some black holes that can be
filled in by the previous stories in the series. Besides, this is my
totally gratuitous groveling and begging for feedback on any and all of my

Once again, my very heartfelt thanks to my cyber buddy and cyber editor,
Vickie Moseley, for all of her help and guidance!! Her keen eye helped me
keep the "facts" straight and guided me to create a clearer, more
articulate story that just (I hope) flows in all the right places. Thank
you, thank you, thank you Vickie!!!!! ;-

Thanks in advance folks for all of your kind words, past and future.
Please send e-mail comments to: STPteach@aol.com

Part 1/ 33

Margaret Scully's Home
Baltimore, MD

Scully stood hidden in the shadow of the doorway to the den and felt as
though she were spying on him. She clenched and unclenched her hand over
and over again as she watched. She wanted so badly to go in there and
just tie the damned things for him, but she realized that would be the
worst thing she could do.

Mulder cursed under his breath again at the awkward movements his fingers
insisted upon making. He was having enough problems maintaining his
balance while just sitting on the sofa bed, so the additional frustration
of not being able to manipulate the laces to his liking caused him even
greater irritation.

"First make one loop. Hold the loop with your right hand. Okay. This is
good," he whispered to himself. "Take the second lace with your left
hand. Okay. Concentrate. Pull the lace around the loop. Okay. Now push
the left lace into the little space of the right loop, and pull it out
with your hand and-"

The whisper became a cry out loud, "__Damn it!__" He looked at the untied
laces helplessly. "Damn it," he said again, only more softly to himself.

Scully stepped back momentarily from the doorway. She didn't want him to
look up and see her. She didn't want him to realize she witnessed what
had just happened. She didn't want him to see the tears in her eyes.

Scully wiped her eyes deftly and then called out to him, giving him notice
of her impending appearance. "Mulder, you in there?"

There was no response. Scully realized he didn't have his hearing aids
in. She walked into the room and moved towards the front of him, talking
to him all the while to make sure she didn't totally startle him.

"Hey Mulder, so here you are," she called out while looking directly at

"Yeah, Scully," he replied, and then added in a voice that resounded of
defeat, "Where else woul' I be?"

"Good morning!," she said cheerfully in an attempt to put aside his dark
mood. As she looked directly at him, she said, "I'm getting ready to
leave for the office, and I want you to walk me to the door."

"I can' tie my shoes, Scully," he responded despondently. "I can' ge' the
secon' loop."

"Oh Mulder, you will." She cupped his chin and drew his eyes to her face
so he could watch her closely. "It's just going to take more time, but we
have plenty of time now, don't we."

Mulder nodded in agreement, and then shyly asked, "He'p me, please?"

Scully told him to start tying them and go as far as he could go. Mulder
made the first loop with his right hand and then grasped the second lace
with his left. He handed the second lace to Scully.
"This is where I keep screwin' it up," he said.

"Okay," she responded and then took his hand and guided it around the
loop. She then pushed the lace through the opening and grasped it, but
then she manipulated his right hand and left hand in such a way that he
could finish the process. "There!" she proclaimed, "You did it."

His face broke into a small smile. They both knew it was more of a pseudo
victory, but a victory none the less. Over the last three months they
learned to accept these small victories, and to relish them. They never
knew how long it would be till the next one.

****Three Months Earlier****

"When did you have the time to get this?" Scully asked. She walked into
the den to find the sofa bed Fox had been sleeping on pushed over to the
side wall. Standing conspicuously in its place was a hospital bed.

"I made some phone calls, Dana," replied Elizabeth Mulder. "The doctors
felt it would be better for Fox's recovery to have a bed with a good
supportive mattress and the ability to change positions."

"Oh. It's so big, yet it's so small," Dana remarked.

Maggie Scully smiled at her daughter's observation. She realized she was
referring to its width. The sofa bed had a queen sized mattress, so Dana
could comfortably slip into the bed with Fox for a good night's sleep.
The hospital bed was a single, and would probably not afford them that
same luxury.

"Dana, it's not like he's going to need the hospital bed forever, honey.
It's just to give him a chance to recover a little bit, okay?"

As she nodded, Mulder was wheeled in on a gurney by the attendants from
the treatment center. They brought him up side by side with the hospital
bed, and on the count of three, lifted him onto his new berth.

He was still out of it because of the various medications the doctors
prescribed. There were heavy duty antibiotics, an anticonvulsant, as
well sedatives to keep him calm during the trip. Mulder had enough tubes
sticking out of him for five people, between the catheters, the IV's and
the oxygen.

Scully still shuddered a little each time she thought of what he went
through over the last few days in order to save her. Though she still
felt weakened from the anesthesia and the pain killers for the stitches
around her face, she was fine. She was cancer free, and it was all
because of the man in the hospital bed.

The man that she loved with all of her heart, and who in turn, loved her
back. Except he was not fine. Not yet. He had a long a long road back
to recovery. A very long road, and she was planning on being with him
every step of the way.


Scully helped Mulder tie his other shoe lace in the same manner. Next,
she watched him reach for his hearing aids, turn them on, and put them in
his ear. She knew he could hear without them if the room was totally
quiet and there was only one person speaking directly to him, but as soon
there was a crowd in a noisy room, he was lost without the aids.

He still went to therapy to improve his listening skills. The aids
definitely amplified the sounds around him. The problem for Mulder was
distinguishing between all of the sounds and making sense out of them. It
was a struggle for him when he first learned the hearing loss was going to
be permanent, and it was a struggle today as well.

"Come on G-Man, I gotta get my rear in gear and get to work," she said as
she held out her hands for Mulder to grasp on to.

"I'm comin', I'm comin'."

"Comin-/g/, Mulder, comin-/g/. Watch the word endings, okay?" she

"Yeah, yeah," he replied weakly. Not only did he have to practice
listening to others speak, he had to keep practicing how he, himself,
spoke. Sometimes he got lazy, because he didn't hear all of the sounds
clearly, and he had to make a conscious effort to say certain words

It was harder work than most of his family realized. The effort it took
to listen attentively and speak clearly exhausted him at times.

Mulder stood up to his full height facing Scully. He was wearing his
sweats and what was now an oversized tee shirt. Depending upon the
clothes he wore, the weight loss wasn't always obvious, but this morning
she could see his collar bone jutting out a little too clearly.

"We've got to fatten you up, G-Man," she said this morning, as she had
been saying for just about every morning for the past three months.

"I'm eatin'-.eatin-/g/," he repeated carefully. "Your mother watches me
eat every morsel she coo_ks_."

"I know you are. I do. You've just always had such a fast metabolism,
for which I still can't forgive you, you know, and with all of the extra
energy you exert in therapy and just moving around this place, well, we've
got to figure out a way of getting more calories into you, that's all,"
she concluded.

She reached around his thin waist and rested herself against him, all the
while providing him with the support he needed to remain standing up
straight. He hugged her back and rested his chin on the top of her head.

"Your hair smells goo_d_, Scully," he said.

"Thank you," was her muffled reply. "Okay, let's get this show on the
road. The boss is gonna have my head if I'm late."

"Right, and we don' wanna tick off the boss, do we?" he replied with a
small grin.

She reached for his walker with one hand while she still held onto him
with the other and placed it in front of him. Next, Scully let go of him
and watched him steady himself in back of the walker. He looked towards
her and indicated he was ready. She began walking and he followed her.
This was the morning ritual since last month.

Mulder walked Scully to the front door and watched her as she met Walter
Skinner, their boss and fellow resident of the Scully household. As he
came upon Skinner, he said, as he'd said for the last month, "Take care of
my girl."

"Always," was Skinner's reply as he leaned forward and placed a gentle
kiss on Mulder's forehead.

It was an act that began three months ago, on the morning after Mulder was
first brought home and confined to the dreaded hospital bed. Skinner had
gone into the den and greeted Mulder with a cheerful good morning.

Then, acting in his now familiar role of "Abah," Skinner leaned forward
and gently kissed Mulder's forehead. It became a morning ritual, and
continued even after said dreaded hospital bed was removed. Walter noted
that Mulder always closed his eyes when he received the kiss, and did so
today, as well.

"Fox," Walter asked as he watched Mulder's eyes close, "does it bother you
that I still do that?"

Mulder looked at Skinner thoughtfully. Then he smiled, and said quietly,
but firmly, "It would bother me if you stoppe', Abah."

Scully reached up and kissed Mulder not on the forehead, but smack dab on
the lips. He held her touch there for an extra moment or two, and then
released her. "I love you G-Man," she whispered.

"I lo_ve_ you always, Scully," Mulder responded as Scully and Skinner
left for work, leaving him behind. He stood by the storm door and watched
as they drove out of the driveway together.

End of Part 1/33

Part 2/33

"Fox, breakfast is ready," called out Maggie Scully.

Even if Fox hadn't had his hearing aids in, he would have known what she
said, since she'd said the same thing to him for the last three months.
She said it to him while he was still confined to bed and she said it to
him while he was still stuck in the wheelchair, and she said it to him now
when he was back using the walker.

Maggie Scully was, if nothing else, consistent. Which of course was just
the thing Fox Mulder needed in helping him to recover from this latest

"Soun's goo'," he replied, which of course was the same thing he'd been
saying to her for the last three months. He shuffled back through the
hallway into the large, bright kitchen of the Scully house. Mulder had
become very much at home in this kitchen during his recovery.

"Eggs and waffles are coming up, Fox. Drink your juice, dear."

"Yes, Mom." She was a no nonsense person, this Maggie Scully. She
treated Fox as though his being there were the most normal thing in the
world. Maggie let him know she had certain expectations of him that would
help him in his recovery, and she expected him to follow through on them.

But, on the other hand, she was also unabashedly mothering him like there
was no tomorrow, and Fox William Mulder was eating it up. Most adults
would have felt totally smothered, if not humiliated, at the idea of being
treated in such a manner.

Not Mulder. He accepted Maggie's care without reservation, and he even
looked forward to it. Especially on those days his own mother was back in
Greenwich, tending to her personal business. During that time, Mulder
could not only anticipate the extra tender loving care, he could really
enjoy it without feeling guilty.

Maggie watched as Fox attacked the serving of waffles, and attack was
just the correct description for it. He held his fork in his right fist,
much like a young child would hold it. He used the butter knife to "saw"
apart the waffle, and then awkwardly brought the fork up to his mouth.
His fine motor skills were still poor, but when compared to what his
skills were when he first came home, Miss Manners would have been proud of

Which was a good example of the difference between Maggie Scully and
Elizabeth Mulder. While Maggie could see the progress from where he had
come, Elizabeth could only see how far he had to go.

Elizabeth Mulder loved her son. No one doubted that. The problem was in
the way she showed that love, or rather in the way she didn't show it.
From the day Fox came back from the treatment center Elizabeth kept track
of all the things he couldn't do.

In her effort to help him, she hurt him, and she didn't even realize it.
No matter how many times Fox let it be known that he was well aware of his
shortcomings, Elizabeth Mulder seemed compelled to remind him of them over
and over again. In her mind, she felt she was inspiring to achieve more.
In his mind, he felt she was knocking him down again and again.

"This is really goo', Mom," Mulder said as he munched on a waffle.

"Goo_d_, then you'll have another one," she replied with a smile.

"Mom, I'm gonna weigh a ton by the time I recover!" he chuckled.

Maggie smiled back at Fox, and thought to herself, *Now, that would be an
X-File.* He was still so thin, there wasn't an ounce of fat on him, and
not much skin either. His six foot frame could easily hold another twenty
pounds. He needed to add some weight, and she decided that she would be
the one to help him put it on, single handed if necessary!

Maggie continued to pile on the food, but Fox was unable to keep up. Life
had changed drastically for Fox since he had the cancer treatment that
saved Scully's life but nearly took his own, as well as the bout with
meningitis that had started his entire ordeal in the first place. One of
the things that changed was Fox's appetite.

In his pre-meningitis days, Mulder could have easily polished off four to
five of Maggie Scully's homemade waffles and a three egg omelet, with
juice and coffee. Today, Maggie was cajoling Fox to finish at least a
half of the second waffle and half of the omelet. He drank the juice,
albeit a small six ounce glass instead of an eight ounce glass, as well as
a cup of decaffeinated coffee.

"Mom, tha's all. I really can' eat anymore. It's delicious, really, but
I jus' can'," he pleaded.

Maggie smiled and took the plate away. She knew if Elizabeth were here
she would berate him for wasting food, so she kept silent. She really had
made way too much food, and the only person who should be berated was

She brought another cup of coffee and the various pills that needed to be
consumed over to the table and joined Fox. "So, what's the plan for
today?" she asked quietly.

Mulder took a deep breath as he fingered his medications. This was the
same question Maggie had asked him each day, and each day he had to come
up with one goal that he was going to attempt to accomplish. He rarely
succeeded in mastering the skill he set out for himself, but Maggie was
always there to point out to him how much he'd improved since the last
time he attempted it.

"Well," he replied, "I though' I' try tying my righ' shoelace. I seem to
be able to kee' my balance better when I try to tie the righ' one than the
lef' one."

"That's a good goal." She paused for a moment and then continued, "Fox,
there's a goal _I_ would like you to keep in mind too," Maggie stated.


"Your word endings, dear. You're leaving a lot of them off, like what_t_,
and righ_t_. Would you try hard to concentrate on that. It's sometimes
difficult to understand your meaning when you say the words incorrectly,
and I don't want to miss any of the wonderful ideas that come out of that
mouth of yours. Okay?" she urged him so gently.

"I'm sorry. Scully's been on my case abou'..., abou_t_ tha_t_ too," he

"Then you don't mind if I point it out to you every once in a while when I
notice?" she asked. Mulder shook his head to indicate he didn't mind in
the least.

He picked up and swallowed the multi-vitamin supplements and the two 200
mg tablets of Tegretrol he took to ward off the grand mal seizures he'd
developed during his latest medical incident. The Tegretrol was
introduced slowly to reduce the side effects, and as a result, he'd been
seizure free for the last two months, much to everyone's relief.

Some time passed, while the two of them drank their coffee. Mulder was
the first to speak. "Mom?" he asked. When Maggie looked directly at him
with a questioning look on her face, he continued.

"Mom, am I ever goin_g_ to make it back?"

"What do you mean, dear?"

"I'm no_t_ goin_g_ to be able to go back to work, am I?"

"Oh, Fox, of course you will. I think we can safely say that field agent
will be out as a job opportunity for you, but just because it won't be in
the same capacity, doesn't mean you won't find your niche in the bureau
again. You will, dear. You have to believe that."

When he didn't respond, Maggie continued. "Fox, you do realize that day
will come a lot sooner now than later."

"You really thin_k_?" he asked.

"Oh sweetheart, it wasn't that long ago that the thought of you being able
to sit here at this table, drinking coffee out of a coffee mug was a

"Fox, think about the day you came home. You couldn't sit up long enough
for the ride home in a car, so they had to bring you home by ambulance.
They wheeled you in here on a gurney.

"It took weeks before you were strong enough to sit upright in a
wheelchair without sliding out, and even then, for the first few days, you
were strapped in so tightly I thought your circulation would be cut off

"It took so many weeks before you could hold a spoon without it having to
be velcroed to your hand. And then it took almost as long before you
could bring the spoon up to your mouth without spilling half of its

"Fox, look how far you've come, compared to what you were able to do just
three short months ago. We all knew this wasn't going to be easy, but
you've been working so hard. And you really are a lot closer now to
getting back into the world again. I am so proud of you Fox William
Mulder. Do you hear me? I am so proud of you," Maggie declared as her
eyes glistened.

"I'm scare'," he whispered. "I'm so scare' I'm never goin' to leave this
house... Oh Go_d_, Mom. I didn' mean it like tha'__
I love the house. I love you for letting me stay here with you..__" he

"Oh sweetie," she interrupted, "don't. I understand exactly what you
mean. There were days I thought I was never going to be able to leave
this place either, but now I can!

"Fox, three months ago, I could never have thought about leaving you alone
in this house. I didn't know if you were going to start coughing and
choking on your own saliva.

"You were having three to four grand mal seizures a day before the
medication finally kicked in. And now, I think I can go out to run an
errand or two, even if your mother is not here," Maggie concluded.

"Right. My mother. When is she due back?" Mulder asked.

"Sunday evening, as usual," she replied.


"Fox, what is it? What's wrong?" Maggie asked.

"I know she loves me, Maggie. I really do. And I love her. I mean she's
my mother, so I love her. Bu' sometimes she makes me feel," he paused and
then took a deep breath. "She makes me feel li'e such a such a cripple.

"She ma'es me feel like I can'_t_ do anythin'. I don' like feelin' like
tha', Mom. Why does she do tha' to me?" whispered.

"I don't know, Fox, but it sounds to me like you're ready to have a heart
to heart with her."

"A hear' to hear'?" he echoed.

"Yes, a hear_t_ to hear_t_," she replied. "When the children and I needed
to clear the air between us, we used to say we needed to make time for a
heart to heart. That meant we could sit down together and get things off
of our chests without any fear of punishments or angry feelings.

"Granted, sometimes feelings were hurt at first, but by the end of our
heart to hearts, the air was cleared and everyone always felt better for
it," she told him.

"You thin' my mother woul' go for it?" he asked.

"You'll never know unless you try," she replied.

End of part 2/33


Part 3/33

Herbert Hoover Building
Office of the FBI
Washington, DC

Skinner told Kim to have Agent Scully come upstairs to his office A/S/A/P.
He waited patiently for about the first three minutes and then sat
drumming his fingers on the desk.

He had never been a patient man, but since Mulder's illness, he found he
was better able to appreciate the little things in life. He was
especially better able to appreciate the small gains in Fox's physical
progress. However, he was still not good at waiting for people, even if
they weren't late. Even if they really did need a reasonable amount of
time to make the trip from the basement up to his office.

"Kim," he spoke into the intercom, "did you tell Agent Scully this was

"Yes, Sir, and I'm sure she'll be here momentarily," she replied, her
voice mutated electronically. "Sir, I believe she's, yes Sir, she's here
right now. Go on in Agent Scully, he's been waiting for you."

What Walter Skinner could not see were the exaggerated hand signals Kim
was giving Scully to let her know the boss was anxious about something,
and to mind her P's and Q's.

As she entered the office, she looked carefully at Walter. Something
wasn't right. She'd been up in this office many times since they'd
returned to work, and though it took them both a few days to get back into
the swing of things, neither had any real adjustment problems.

Walter, she knew, was only working forty hour weeks. That was his major
concession to Mulder's recuperation and his love for her mother. Since
Mulder first became ill, Walter and Maggie Scully were becoming closer and
closer. He refused to let her bear the brunt of Mulder's recovery, and so
had moved in with them. The once empty nest had become a bustling
metropolis again.

So Scully felt confident that she knew Walter Skinner. He had become not
only her mother's significant other but also a trusted friend and
confident. He had become not only Mulder's surrogate father but her own
as well. She really did think of him as her Abah.

However, while they were at the office, they assumed their professional

"Sir, Kim indicated to me you wanted to see me as soon as possible."

"Yes, Agent Scully. A case has been given to me that I felt should be
brought to your attention. I thought you might have some ideas on how we
should best proceed."

"Certainly. Would you like to brief me or do you want me to look over the
file myself?" she asked curiously.

"How about you look at the file while I give you a very brief summary.
Then you can bring the file to your office and give it a more thorough
perusal," he replied seriously.

"Very well, Sir." He motioned for her to take a seat on the couch so she
might handle the file and its contents more easily. He remained standing
and paced a bit at first.

When she took the file, she observed it was neither exceptionally thick
nor too thin. She noted the label, Case # 222428P and wondered what
exactly this case entailed to cause her superior such obvious distress.

"There's been a half a dozen unexplained deaths in the DC and surrounding
area. The victims had an unusual cause of death."

"Which is?" Scully interrupted.

"Which is cardiac arrest."

"Sir, I don't understand. What is so unusual about cardiac arrests as the
cause of death?"

"Scully, the victims were all, prior to their deaths, healthy, happy,
eight year old children," he responded somberly.

"What?," she replied astonished. "When? Where? Why?"

"If we knew the answers to all of those questions we wouldn't have six
eight year olds dead from heart attacks. Scully, it's the damnedest
thing. The children were all at their schools when the deaths occurred.
They had just finished their lunches and went outside to their playgrounds
for recess. By the end of the recess, they were dead."

He paused for a few moments. Skinner looked as though he needed to brace
himself before he continued.

"Scully, there's one more thing. They found what appeared to be evidence
of small, black, oily entities by each of the children's nasal passages
and ears. The little worms were apparently not viable, but from the
pictures and the description, it looks like they had been infected with
the Black Cancer," shared Skinner.

Scully gasped at the words "Black Cancer." "Oh God, Walter, this means
someone is using children as guinea pigs. They were hosts just like
Mulder. How could they do that to children? It's bad enough they did it
to Mulder and innocent men and women, but children?! What kind of animals
are we dealing with?" she cried.

"I don't know. Which is why I've called you in here to ask your advice.
Before you say anything, I do want to let you know I've contacted Jack
Stein. I figured he must have some clue as to what this is all about,"
Skinner said with resignation.

Walter observed Dana visibly shudder at the mention of Jack Stein's name.
Cancerman. The biggest son of a bitch ever put on this planet, in
Scully's opinion, second only to Mulder's son of a bitch abusive father,
William Mulder. But Jack Stein was the Black Tarred, Nicotine Stained,
Smoke Filled Black Lunged, Son of a Bitch.

And to whom she was indebted for her life.

Sometimes life's a bitch, and then you die. Only she didn't.

Mulder nearly did, because he had to provide the cure for her cancerous
tumor, and Jack Stein had the knowledge and the means to procure that cure
from Mulder's body. But Stein went about it in an incredibly frightening,
dangerous, manner that nearly killed Mulder and set his physical health
back by many, many, months.

"Jack Stein?" Scully paused another moment to collect herself. "Of
course you had to call him," she responded in her most professional tone.
"He very well may be behind all of this. Do you think he'll respond?"
she asked.

"I honestly don't know. I guess it depends how involved he is in these
deaths. I haven't heard from him in over a month, and Elizabeth hasn't
given any indication that she's heard from him either."

"It would be difficult to ascertain that one way or the other Sir, given
how little Elizabeth speaks about anything personal. She's too busy
tearing Mulder down every chance she gets."

"Dana, she's not that bad, is she?" He hesitated, and then said, "I
don't know, maybe she is. But Fox seems to want her here, doesn't he?" he

"I think he does, but she's become such a double edged sword, hasn't she?"

"We'll just have to help him deal with it," he said, and then in a
tentative, hesitant manner, added, "along with everything else."

"Sir, what do you mean?" she asked, but knowing full well what AD Skinner
was implying.

"Dana, if there were another way, you know__," he offered.

But she interrupted in a voice that was suddenly made of steel. "You
can't mean it. Walter, he's not strong enough yet. You know what these
kind of cases do to him! These are eight year old children for God's
sake!" she pleaded.

"Then who do we turn to Dana? Who do we turn to so another eight year old
doesn't die of a God damned heart attack and have little black worms crawl
out of her nose.

"Do you know someone we could trust to find these sons of a bitches? Give
me a name Dana, and I swear I will call that person so fast both of our
heads will spin!" Walter shouted. He then took a deep breath and sat
down heavily on the couch next to Dana.

Walter Skinner suddenly aged ten years. He knew perfectly well what the
potential danger was in giving Fox Mulder this file to work on. He knew
perfectly well what demons might be reawakened in his adopted son.

And he was scared to death for him, because he was never sure if Fox would
be able to climb back out of the abyss he so often found himself hurled
into on cases such as these.

He was also scared to death for Dana, because he knew how much she loved
Fox, and now that she had her own life back, she didn't want to live it
alone. A case such as this could only increase the chances of Fox Mulder
hairing out for the last time.

He was scared to death for Maggie, for she had bonded with Fox so long
ago, and almost lost him too many times for a mother to have to go
through. To rip him from her protective shelter now would be a very cruel
act indeed.

And he was scared for himself. He was Fox's "Abah." He had become the
one adult male figure that Mulder trusted with his life and with his loved
ones' lives. If Walter Skinner asked Fox Mulder to jump into a pool of
fire, Walter knew Mulder would do it, because he trusted him that much.

Would he be able to trust him now? Should he trust him? For the first
time since he'd become Fox's "Abah," Walter Skinner didn't have a ready

End of Part 3/33


Part 4/33

Margaret Scully's Home
Baltimore, MD

Mulder sat at the computer wishing his fingers would do what he wanted
them to do. He had begun sitting at the computer about six weeks ago, but
in the beginning his time there was not terribly productive.

Aside from the fact that he found it very difficult to manipulate the
mouse and use the keyboard, he also had an extremely short attention span.
If he had sat at the computer for ten minutes at first, it was a long

Gradually though, over the last few weeks, he'd been able to increase the
amount of productive time on the computer. He found he was able to surf
the net searching for sites about UFO's and unexplained phenomena for
almost an hour and half without becoming too sleepy or unable to focus.

The one frustration that remained was the difficulty he faced in typing on
the keyboard. His fingers worked clumsily and didn't seem to span wide
enough to cover the keys. It seemed to take him an interminably long time
to type out the words, phrases, and sentences before the search engines
could do their jobs, and as a result, his fingers and hands stiffened up
even more.

As he typed in the wrong key again, for what seemed like the hundredth
time, the phone rang. Mulder twisted in his seat to see if the cordless
phone was still in its cradle. When he noticed that it indeed was, he
grasped his walker that stood next to his chair and slowly stood up.

Mulder was particularly tentative at the moment, since he realized he was
all alone in the house. Maggie had decided it was time to cut the
umbilical cord, and she went to the local convenience store for a gallon
of milk, bread and eggs. That was all she planned to buy, so she wasn't
going to be long.

Mulder was delighted that she felt he was capable of staying by himself,
even if it was for a mere twenty minutes or so. It was the first time he
was left alone in the house, in any house, for over five months, and it
felt extraordinarily liberating.

Yet it also felt frightening as hell. He hadn't realized just how
dependent he'd become upon Scully, Maggie, Walter and even his mother, and
it scared him to death to realize how much of his independence he had
relinquished. Not that he had a choice, but it was a terrifying thought
for a man who had been essentially left to his own devices since he was
twelve years old.

So, as the phone continued to ring, he grasped the handles on his walker
and worked hard to steady himself. Just as he began to walk towards the
phone, the answering machine picked up.

"Hello, you have reached the Scully residence. We are unable to answer
your call right now, but if you leave a message after the beep, we'll get
back to you shortly. Thank you. Beeeeeeeeeeeep."

"Maggie? Maggie? Where are you? Is everything okay? Maggie, what's
happened? I know Fox doesn't have any appointments today. Oh my God,
what's wrong? Maggie, please___"

"___Mom?" Mulder called out as he picked up the unwieldy phone. "Mom, is
tha' you?"

"Oh, Fox, is everything all right?" she asked anxiously.

"Yeah, Mom. Everythin' is fine."

"Well, I had wanted to talk to you anyway, dear. I'm so excited! I've
bought you an early Hanukah gift!" she said excitedly.

"You have?" Fox said in amazement. Usually Elizabeth Mulder's idea of a
Hanukah gift was a sedate tie or sweater. Somehow, those kind of gifts
didn't seem to warrant the type of giddy excitement his mother was now
displaying. As a result, Fox's own anticipation increased with excitement
as well.

"Yes, I have. You see, I was at Arnold Cohn's office yesterday, you know
dear, my accountant? Well he was helping me straighten out some of my
personal affairs when I noticed his secretary was typing on the oddest
piece of machinery I'd ever seen.

"Well, she noticed I was staring, and she said, `Weird looking, isn't it?'
And I agreed with her," Elizabeth recounted.

"Mom, are you talkin' about a keyboar' a monitor, or a har' drive?" Mulder

"Oh, the keyboard. The monitor and the hard drive were standard, but the
keyboard was so unusual. It was split into two parts, and the mouse was
built into the right side.

"I asked her why she was using it, and she explained to me that she had
rheumatoid arthritis, and though medication eases her pain on most days,
there were times when she found it difficult to do her job. She was
concerned and saw her doctor and asked him if there was anything he could
do for her in terms of providing stronger medication for those days that
she was in more discomfort.

"Well, instead of medication, he handed her a brochure for this odd
looking keyboard. It's called a Kinesis Ergonomic Keyboard, and it was
designed to help people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
I figured if it could help Arnold's receptionist get through the day with
rheumatoid arthritis, why shouldn't it help my brain damaged son?" she

Mulder involuntarily hissed as he drew in a breath at her observation.
Though he realized immediately she had no idea as to how deeply her words
just cut into him, it hurt nonetheless.

"I saw how much you wanted to get back to using your computer, and how
difficult it's been for you to do so. I've always found it hard to work
those little mouse things, and I didn't suffer the traumas that you have
dear. So I thought this might help you become more independent and allow
you to get back to your work at least a little bit.

"Well, anyway dear," Elizabeth continued, "I asked Allison, that's the
receptionist who was a very sweet looking thing, such a shame she has
rheumatoid arthritis.. it makes the hands become so unsightly... well,
anyway, I asked Allison if she still had the brochure, and she did!

"I called up for one of those keyboards right then and there, Fox. I told
them to ship it overnight express mail. Oh, I was so hoping it would have
been there by now. Are you sure Maggie didn't take in any packages?
Sweetheart, why don't you put Maggie on so I might ask her?" Elizabeth

"I can_t_ Mom."

"Can't? Oh Fox, that's okay, I'll wait. I'm sure she won't take that
long," she replied.

"No, Mom, I'm no' sure how long she'll be."

"Fox, for crying out loud, how long can a person stay in the bathroom?"
Elizabeth snapped.

"She's no_t_ in the bathroom, Mom. She's no_t_ home."

"Oh. Well, then let me talk to Dana or Walter," she stated in a somewhat
demanding tone.

"Mom, they wen' to wor_k_ earlier."

"They left you alone? Fox, you're all by yourself?" she gasped.

"Yes, Mom. I'm all by myself, and I was actually enjoying the little bi'
of privacy, but then you called," he retorted.

"Fox, you are too debilitated to be left by yourself. You could fall, you
could hurt yourself. What's wrong with that woman to leave you alone? Is
she crazy?!" Elizabeth ranted.

"Mom, calm dow'. Please. Mom, I'm fi'e. All I was doin' was sittin' at
the computer table tryin' to surf the ne'. From the soun' of it, your
gif' soun's like it will really hel' me a lot. Than' you for thinkin' of
me," he concluded in a vain attempt to calm and placate her all at once.

The last thing he wanted was for Maggie Scully to be the brunt of his
mother's wrath. He knew all too well how cutting his mother's words were
when she was angry, and he never wanted anyone else to fall victim to
those words.

"How long has she been gone?" she asked through clenched teeth.

"Mom, Maggie's only been gone abou' fifteen minutes. She drove to the
corner for mil' and brea'. She shoul' be back any minute. P'ease, calm
down. We both knew she wouldn' be gone long, an' she has my cellular
phone with her in case I neede' to contac' her. So, woul' you please cu'
us some slack here?" he pleaded.

Mulder heard his mother take several deep breaths. At the same time he
heard the back door open and Maggie call out, "Fox, I'm home."

"In the den, Mom," he replied.

This time it was Elizabeth Mulder's turn to draw in a biting gasp. After
all of these months, she still could not get used to hearing Fox call
Maggie Scully, "Mom." Rationally, she realized it would happen eventually
since Fox was going to marry Maggie's daughter. However that would have
been following protocol, the rules of marriage etiquette, if you will.

But not now. Now it was just a slap in Elizabeth Mulder's face, and it
stung her deeply.

"Put Maggie on the phone, Fox," she said tersely.

"Mom, I don' thin' so. No' until you calm down," he replied.

"Fox, I am calm. Put her on the phone. Now."

Maggie entered the room and saw Fox looked pale and his right hand
trembled slightly. "Who's on the phone, Fox?" she asked softly, but

"My mother. She wan's to talk to you," he said tremulously.

"Thank you, Fox. I would love to talk with your mother," she said
confidently. She smiled broadly as she took the phone from his hand in an
attempt to let him know she was fully capable of handling his mother, even
if he, himself, was not.

"Hello Elizabeth. I hope you're still planning on coming back Sunday
afternoon," Maggie said lightly.

"Maggie, how could you leave him alone?" she asked accusingly.

*So that was the problem,* Maggie thought to herself. *Poor dear, she's
scared to death.*

"Elizabeth," she began, "I left him alone for a short period of time,
because he was ready to be left alone for a short period of time.

"When he is ready to be left for a longer period of time, then we will
leave him alone for a longer period of time.

"Elizabeth, I would never do anything to endanger Fox. You know that,
don't you dear?" she asked gently.

There were several moments of silence while Elizabeth mulled over Maggie's
words. She knew Maggie was a bright, competent person who truly loved
Fox. She also had a great deal of common sense, and Elizabeth knew in her
heart that if Maggie felt Fox could deal with being left alone for short
periods of time, than it was most likely the case.

It just irritated her that another woman was making these kind of
decisions for her son. Elizabeth felt she should have been involved in
this decision, and when she returned to Baltimore, Elizabeth vowed to
herself that she and Maggie would definitely have a serious discussion
about the chain of command when it came to decisions regarding her son's

"Of course I know that, Maggie. It's just that I hadn't expected him to
be left alone so soon, and without my knowledge. It took me by surprise,
that's all," Elizabeth replied rationally.

"Well, Elizabeth, I apologize for that. Fox and I should have discussed
this with you first. I promise we will make an effort not to exclude you
from any more important decisions," Maggie said seriously.

Elizabeth murmured her gratitude and then went on to excitedly describe in
detail the early holiday gift that she felt would surely impact positively
on her son's recovery. When Elizabeth extracted a guarantee from Maggie
that she would indeed phone her when the package came, she hung up the

Fox looked admiringly at Maggie, and with a little bit of awe as well.
"How di' you do tha'? How di' you ge' her eating ou' of your han' like

"Oh Fox, William Scully Sr. may have been the captain in this house, but
_I_ was always the admiral," she said with a smile and a wink.

Mulder chuckled at that, but then his face took on a somber expression.
"I don' understan' her, Mom," he said quietly.
"I mean, one momen' she's doing something wonderfully kin' like buyin'
tha' keyboar' for me, and the nex' minute she's tellin' me it's because
she fel' it woul' help her brain damage' son," he recounted tentatively.

"She said what?!" cried out Maggie. "Fox, surely you didn't hear her

"Mom, believe me, I may no' always understan' why my mother says the
things she says, but I hear' her correctly. It's kinda typical for my
mother to say or do somethin' nice for me one momen', and then in the same
breath say somethin' tha' cu's into me like a knife. An' the crazy thing
is, I don' think she even realizes she's doin' anything wron',.I mean
wron_g_, " he corrected when he saw Maggie's expression suddenly turn

He automatically thought her chastising look was meant for him. After
all, whenever his own mother looked at him in that manner, it was always
meant for him.

Meanwhile, Maggie was well aware of how stress affected Fox's speech
patterns. When he was at ease and he could focus on the words and how
they were formed, he spoke clearly. Yet, at the moment she heard him drop
many word endings, and now he even looked guilty.

*Ohmigod!* she thought wildly to herself. *He thinks I'm upset with him!*

"Oh Fox," she cried out to him, "_she_ should know better. It's not your
fault. You don't deserve to be treated like that. Do you understand me?
It's not your fault. We'll talk to her, Fox. I promise, we will make
her understand. I swear to you, we will."

And with that, Maggie Scully embraced a very tearful, but also very
relieved, Fox Mulder in her arms.

End of Part 4/33


Part 5/33

Margaret Scully Home
Baltimore, MD

Skinner and Scully arrived home to see Mulder sitting at the computer,
typing away furiously on the strangest looking contraption either of them
had ever seen. Mulder was so engrossed in what he was doing, he didn't
notice the couple standing nearby, staring at the device that his fingers
were manipulating with less awkwardness than they had been used to seeing.

Elizabeth's package had arrived about twenty minutes after Maggie had hung
up from their phone conversation. Naturally, and true to her word, Maggie
called back to let her know her present had arrived. She couldn't quite
tell who was more excited, Elizabeth or Fox. It was a toss up, that's
for sure, but Maggie was delighted to see Fox become so animated. It had
been far too long since she'd seen him so eager about something.

Mulder and Maggie had sat together amidst all of the Styrofoam packing
peanuts. The keyboard came with a number of pamphlets, a manual and a
practice exercise book. It took Maggie and Fox about an hour to decipher
the directions for hooking up the keyboard to the computer, as well as
adjusting the keyboard to suit Mulder's needs.

Once the keyboard was adjusted, Mulder set to work to master it. At first
his frustration in dealing with something so alien was quite obvious.
Maggie had left him to his own devices and was tempted a number of times
to put the keyboard back in its box in order to put Fox out of his misery.

After a time, however, Maggie heard less cursing out loud, and more
rhythmic tapping on the keyboard. An occasional "Oh, now I get it," or a
"So this is it," was heard, so Maggie stayed back.

It wasn't until she heard Dana and Walter come in the door that she
realized Fox had been sitting at the computer for almost two and a half
hours. This was the longest period of time he'd been able to maintain his
concentration since he'd come home from the treatment center.

Maggie walked over to where Walter and Dana were watching Fox tap away.
"Pretty unusual, isn't it?" Maggie asked.

"What the hell is that thing?" Walter asked in astonishment. "I've never
seen anything like it."

"Actually, I have seen something similar to that," Scully began. "It's
one of those Ergonomic keyboards, isn't it? Where did it come from?"

"Elizabeth," replied Maggie. "She sent it as an early Hanukah gift. I'd
say, from the looks of things, her gift is a hit. Dana, between sitting
with me and reading the directions, putting it together, and practicing
how to use it, Fox has been sitting with it for over three hours."

"Three hours?" echoed both Dana and Walter.

Maggie nodded in affirmation, Dana and Walter shook their heads in

"I guess timing is everything," said Walter.

"What do you mean, Walt?" asked Maggie.

"Mom, we'll talk about it later. Please. Not now, okay? Let's have
dinner first, please?" Scully pleaded.

Maggie looked at her daughter and then at Walter. She knew something was
bothering both of them a great deal. She knew her daughter like the back
of her hand, and she was fast becoming able to read Walter Skinner like an
old book as well.

This, she knew, had something to do with the young man sitting so focused
at the computer table that he was oblivious to the now very worried trio
watching over him.

"Okay, we'll let it rest until after dinner. But then, we talk," declared


Unknown Address
Washington, DC

"What do you have to report?" he asked in his normal, clipped tone.

"Well, sir, apparently the children all died of cardiac arrest. They also
apparently had nonviable, black entities discharged from their nasal
passages and ear canals," reported the subordinate.

"And?" he asked as he lit another Morley.

"And, that's all the information we have at this point, Sir."

"This is not acceptable. I have personally checked with the staff at our
DC Treatment Center, and they denied ever having inoculated any child with
the Black Cancer. Where is this renegade group?" he wondered aloud.

"I don't know, Sir."

"Well then, it is your priority to find out. Do I make myself clear?" he
queried amid the clouds of smoke.

"Yes Sir. Perfectly clear."

"I have to make a phone call. You are dismissed," he said as he reached
for the phone.

As Jack Stein watched the young drone leave, he punched in the speed dial
number two and waited patiently as the phone rang.


Elizabeth Mulder's Home
Greenwich, CT

Brrriiinnnggg, Brrriiinnnggg. Brrriiinnnggg, Brrriiinnnggg.

Elizabeth walked over to the phone, and as she picked it up she noted the
time. *The man is like clock work,* she thought to herself. She put the
receiver to her ear and said automatically, "Hello Jack."

"Elizabeth." he acknowledged. "How are you this evening?"

"I'm fine Jack. How are you?" she queried, repeating the same dialogue
they said each week when he phoned her in Greenwich.

"Good. We have some new developments that I thought I would share with
you. Do you have a few minutes?" he asked, yet he already knew the

"Of course, Jack. What can I do for you?"

"We apparently have some outsiders participating in the game," he stated.

"How so?" she asked.

"They are destroying some merchandise that I was unaware of ever being on
the market," he replied cryptically.

"How are they being destroyed?" she asked.

"By a cardiac arrest possibly brought on by an ebony intruder," he

"What is the nature of the merchandise?" she asked quietly.

"The same type of merchandise that was ripped from us twenty-five years
ago," he replied.

"Oh, Jack. Who?"

"I don't know, but it's happening again, Elizabeth. We've got a renegade
faction acting out," he stated tensely.

"Jack, they have to be stopped. What are you going to do?" she asked
anxiously. She was fearful of all the possibilities.

"I have my people looking into it, but I believe we will need to need to
take other measures as well. AD Skinner left a message for me to call
him." He paused momentarily to allow the significance of that remark to
sink in. "He is aware of the destroyed merchandise."

"Jack, what are you planning to do?" she asked apprehensively.

"I suspect the same thing AD Skinner is planning to do. We have to hunt
down these radical outsiders, Elizabeth. What better way to go hunting
than to add a fox to the mix?" he stated too indifferently.

"Jack, why can't you leave him alone? He's not yet recovered. I don't
think he will ever fully recover. Please, Jack, I'm begging you. Leave
him out of it," she implored.

"You've played the game for a long time, my dear. It's too late to change
the rules now. We have to find that renegade group, Elizabeth," he

"But why? Why is it so important now? Why can't you just let the
authorities handle it?" she pleaded.

The Smoking Man chuckled hoarsely at that, and said, "Elizabeth, we
__are__ the authorities, remember?" A long silence stood between them.
Jack Stein broke it when he quietly added, "Elizabeth, I have a feeling."

"A feeling?" she echoed.

"I have a feeling about this, Elizabeth," he said. "I'll call you next
week," and he hung up the phone.

End of Part 5/33

Part 6/33

Maggie Scully's Residence
Baltimore, MD

The dinner dishes were cleared by Scully and Maggie, while Skinner went
into the den with Mulder to do a couple of exercises required by Mulder's
physical therapist. One of Fox's many, major, remaining deficits was his
lack of balance, so the therapist designed a simple exercise that would
help Mulder gain better control of his body in space.

Skinner stood in front of Mulder in the middle of the den, with thick foam
mats surrounding them. Mulder stood still without his walker while
Skinner literally pushed him , however gently, to try to get him off
balance. In the beginning, Mulder would tip over and fall immediately,
hence the necessity for the mats.

Now that a couple of months had passed since they had first tried this
exercise, it took a lot more to get Mulder on the floor. Skinner pushed
on a shoulder and Mulder would manage to remain standing, though it was
often in an ungainly manner. The therapist recently suggested that they
try to make the exercises even more challenging and do it while Mulder had
his eyes closed.

Skinner didn't give it much thought, but Fox was genuinely nervous about
it. His hearing, though better with the hearing aids, was still
supplemented by visual cues. Therefore, when he closed his eyes, Mulder
felt more than just unbalanced. He felt lost.

Walter held a blindfold up for Mulder to put around his head. He had
suggested a blindfold, because Mulder kept opening his eyes instead of
keeping them shut. Walter was oblivious to the slight shudder Fox made
when he held up the blindfold. Mulder took it from Skinner's hand but
did not move to tie it over his eyes.

"C'mon Mulder, it's been a long day. I'm tired, so put the thing on so we
can finish up," implored Skinner.

"I _don't_ wan' to," he replied obstinately.

"Mulder, just put it on."

"No, I don' wan' to," he replied tensely. "I'll kee' my eyes close'."

"Fox, your reflexes work against you, and you open them almost
involuntarily. So just put the damned blindfold on, and let's get this
done for tonight."

Fox took the blindfold and brought it up to his face. "I really don' wan'
to do this, Walter," he said firmly. Walter ignored the comment and just
pointed to the blindfold. Mulder tried to tie it, but every time he
raised his arms to place it around his head he kept losing his balance.
Walter finally intervened.

"Here, let me tie it," he said impatiently, as he reached around Mulder's
head to tie the blindfold. When he finished tying it closed, Skinner let
go and left Mulder standing untethered to anyone or anything.

"Walter?" Mulder whispered anxiously.

"What, Mulder? What is it?" he replied intolerantly.


Walter reached over and gently tapped his left shoulder. Mulder would have
gone down like a pile of sticks, except he grabbed on to Skinner's arm

"Abah! Don'!" Fox cried out.

"Fox, for crying out loud, I'm right here."

"Abah, I can' do this. I wan' it off," he insisted, as he reached up and
tried to remove the scarf.

"I don't think so," said Skinner as he removed Mulder's hand from the
blindfold. "Let's just give it another try, okay? All right, stand up
straight. Good."

And with that Skinner tapped Mulder on the shoulder, and then quickly
stepped back to prevent Fox from grabbing onto him again. Mulder
teetered, reached out wildly for Skinner's support, and then collapsed.
He sat on the floor, groping around as if in search for something.

Skinner looked at Mulder and realized the younger man was suddenly
breathing much too rapidly. He was beginning to hyperventilate.

"Scully!" he called out, as he pulled off the blindfold, "Bring me a paper

A few moments later Dana and Maggie both came running into the den. Dana
carried the paper bag as requested, and took Walter's place when she knelt
down beside Mulder. She placed the bag over Fox's nose and mouth so that
he could breathe in some carbon dioxide and steady his breathing.

"What happened?" Maggie asked as Dana tended to Mulder.

"I'm really not sure. I guess he got upset about having to wear the
blindfold. I don't know." Skinner hesitated a moment or two before he
added, " I suppose I didn't exactly have the patience of Job tonight

Dana listened to Skinner explain as she held the bag over Mulder's face
with one hand, and gently stroked his forehead and hair with the other.
She cooed softly to him, telling him everything would be fine and to just
breath normally.

"Walter," she finally said, "if he didn't want to use the blindfold, then
why in heaven's name would you force him to wear it?"

"The therapist said it would help his recovery, Dana. I'd like to see him
regain his balance a little more, wouldn't you?" he replied defensively.

"Dana, sweetheart, Walter's been working with him on these exercises for
the last three months. I think we can trust his judgment," Maggie

"I think it's time we start trusting Mulder's judgment on some things too,
don't you think?" questioned Scully.

At that moment, Mulder pushed the bag away. He looked up at Maggie and
Walter, as well as across towards Scully. He stated in a breathy voice,
" Don' you thin' i's time to stop talkin' abou' me as if I'm no' here?
Damn it, I am here," he added angrily.

The trio looked at each other guiltily. Skinner then sat down on the
floor near Fox and spoke first.

"You're right, of course, and I do apologize for treating you as if you
weren't here. I also apologize for not talking to you more about why you
didn't want to wear the blindfold. I am so sorry, Fox.

"All I can say is," Skinner continued, "I am tired and cranky. I've
recently had a bitch of a case tossed my way, and it's causing me a great
deal of stress. It doesn't excuse my behavior, but I hope it at least
explains it," he concluded.

Fox looked at Walter and merely nodded. He was still feeling angry about
being forced into a situation where he felt so vulnerable. He was angry
with Walter for putting him in that position, and really didn't plan on
accepting his apology immediately. But something he said intrigued him.
It intrigued him a lot.

"Wha' case?" he asked with restrained curiosity.

"Nothing," Scully interrupted. "Nothing you should be concerned about."

"But if it's somethin' tha's givin' Walter agita, then it must be pretty
importan', or pretty grizzly."

At that moment the doorbell rang. Maggie excused herself and walked to
the front door. When she looked in the peephole she let out a small gasp
of surprise. Maggie opened the door.

"Hello Mrs. Scully. It's delightful to see you again," he said.

"Mr. Stein. Oh my goodness. Jack Stein. Hello, Jack," she repeated as
if she needed to remind herself it was not a dream. "To what do we owe
this honor?"

"Walter contacted me today, and it seemed rather urgent. I thought it
might be helpful to come here tonight to see if indeed it was as
imperative as his message indicated. I hope you forgive me for the
intrusion, my dear, but it was actually Walter who contacted me first," he
stated seriously.

"Of course, Jack. Please do come in. I'll tell Walter you're here," she
replied while leading him into the little used living room. As Maggie led
Jack into the room, she thought about how she wanted the larger house to
accommodate the many social events her husband, the Captain, and she
hosted when he was on leave. Of course, since his death a couple of years
ago, the room laid dormant.

It was only recently that Maggie began thinking about what that room could
be used for and then knew exactly what would be the next Scully Social
Event of the Year! Dana and Fox's wedding would occur in there amid the
grandeur of a wedding gown and gentlemen's morning coats. Someday. Soon.
She hoped.

She walked quietly into the den and looked at Walter. He stood up and she
leaned up to whisper in his ear, "You have a visitor. Jack Stein is

"He's here? You're kidding," he remarked. Then, looking across the room,
he called, "Scully, Jack Stein is here."

"Let's go see what he wants to use us for now," Dana replied as she rose.

As Skinner and Scully both began to depart, Fox Mulder let his voice be
heard. "Sto_p_!" he shouted as loudly as he could. "I want to go with
you," he stated as clearly as he could.

"I don't think so, G-Man. I don't think you're quite ready to face

"I'm as ready as I thin' I'll ever be, Scully. So you migh' as well hel'
me up now, because if you don', I'll be yellin' from here to Kingdom

Dana looked at Walter helplessly and prayed she would get some backup in
her wish for Mulder to avoid this meeting with Jack Stein, a/k/a
Cancerman. Walter chose to ignore Dana's facial pleas, but not because he
believed she was wrong.

Actually, Skinner would have much preferred to have talked with Jack Stein
without anyone present, and that included Scully. But since he knew that
would not be a plausible possibility, he figured they might as well have
Mulder in there from the beginning. It would save a lot of extra
debriefing time.

Maggie shook her head when she realized what was about to happen. She
decided that her presence was, if not expected, would no doubt be
accepted, since she was going to stay with Fox no matter what. She didn't
like the smell of this before dinner, and now that Jack Stein was added to
the salad, she wasn't sure if she had the stomach for anything else he was
involved with.

They all joined Jack Stein in the rarely used, formal living room.

End of Part 6/33


Part 7/33

Jack watched the quartet enter the room. He remembered a time some months
back when he watched this group, along with Elizabeth Mulder, enter
another room. It hardly seemed possible that it was only three short
months since Fox Mulder nearly lost his life in his bid to save Dana

Jack hadn't seen Mulder since he had left the treatment center. He
recalled having watched him depart the center on gurney and leave in an
ambulance. Fox had been totally and completely helpless.

He hadn't expected him to make the kind of progress he did. Jack was
amazed to see him walk into the room with the use of the walker. After
thinking back to that night when the Black Cancer was removed from his
body, Jack recoiled at the number of times Fox's heart had gone into
arrest. The doctors were positive there would be brain damage, the only
question was how much.

Jack observed Mulder and wondered about the answer to that very question,
since Fox Mulder was an important part of the equation in solving the
mystery behind the cardiac deaths of those six children.

But there was something else Jack Stein considered very carefully. He was
certain if they found the solution to this latest puzzle, it would lead to
the answer of the conundrum that was most important to him, finding his
daughter, Samantha.

The foursome acknowledged Jack and sat down. Maggie wondered if she
should offer to make coffee, but she didn't want to leave the room, so she
remained quiet. She did listen very carefully, however.

"Stein, it's been a while since we've seen you," Walter began.

"Yes. Yes, it has, and I am most pleased to see how well Agent Scully
looks, as well as the remarkable progress Agent Mulder has made." Stein
turned directly towards Mulder and said, "The last time I saw you I
wondered if you would ever be mobile without a wheelchair. You have done
yourself proud, Fox."

Mulder was just about to snap back that his name was Mulder, when
something held him back. At first he wasn't sure exactly what it was, but
then he looked at Stein's face and realized why he held his tongue.

Jack Stein was being totally sincere. The man really was impressed with
the progress he had made. "Thank you," he replied feeling slightly

"Stein," Skinner interjected, "I assume you're here for the same reason I
had contacted you earlier. Am I right?"

Mulder looked curiously at Walter, for he couldn't imagine for what reason
Skinner would be contacting Cancerman. In the past it had always been the
other way around.

"Yes, AD Skinner, it is for the same reason."

Mulder noticed Scully flinched slightly and realized she was well aware of
the circumstances behind this meeting. The only two people apparently
still in the dark were Maggie and himself.

"So, what do you suggest?" Skinner asked.

"I think we both know what will be required," Stein replied cryptically.

"That shouldn't be allowed," Scully proclaimed.

"Agent Scully, I don't believe we'll have a choice," Stein responded.

"If there's another way to go, I would like to explore that first,"
interjected Skinner.

The three of them continued to haggle around in circles for anther few
minutes while Maggie looked on with a puzzled expression, and Mulder felt
just plain frustrated. Especially when everyone started talking at once,
including Maggie Scully who eventually decided to jump into the fray.

"Wai'. Wai_t_. Please, sto_p_!" Mulder finally shouted.

Talking ceased and all eyes looked towards Mulder. He looked at the three
pairs of surprised expressions and continued, " I can'_t_ understan' you
if you all talk at the same time. I don'_t_ understan' what you are
arguing abou', and I would like to because__, because I think it has
something to do with me, doesn' it?"

Scully's mouth gaped slightly as she first looked at Mulder and then
turned to Skinner. Skinner returned her surprised gaze and in turn looked
at Stein and then Maggie. When he took in Maggie's expression, he could
tell she was not happy about the situation.

"Maggie," he began. "We probably don't have a choice."

"Why not?" she asked, since she deduced that the haggling was about
whether or not Fox Mulder should be brought into a case . "Why don't you
have a choice? What if he were still incapacitated? What if he were
totally unable to offer any assistance? What would you do then?

"For God's sake Walter, you're going to tell me, out of all the people who
work for the FBI, the only person who can solve this case is a young man
who is on a desperately needed medical and disability leave?" Maggie

Jack turned to Maggie and said, "Mrs. Scully, the truth of the matter is
there will be more lives lost if Fox is not brought in to consult. He is
the best profiler there is, and with his efforts, we may be able to stave
off the deaths at six. Six victims of cardiac arrest."

Stein paused for a moment for effect. It worked because he caught their
attention. "Six victims that were eight year old children.

Maggie Scully gasped audibly, while Mulder's face blanched at the details.
Eight years old was too close to home for Fox to take without discomfort.
No wonder Scully objected outright and Skinner was hesitant.

Yet Cancerman indicated he wanted him to join the case. Mulder wondered
why the Cigarette Smoking Man welcomed him on this case, yet had always
thwarted him on every other case he worked.

"When do I get to see the file?" Mulder asked.

"No," Maggie stated vehemently. "No, we cannot have this discussion
without Elizabeth present. Please. I promised her we would include her
in discussions that had a major effect upon Fox's well being."

"Actually," Stein stated, "Elizabeth is already aware of the situation."

"What?" gasped Skinner. "What the hell are you talking about, Stein?"

"I spoke with Elizabeth earlier, and mentioned to her there was a
possibility that Mr. Mulder might be brought in on a case in a
consultant's role."

"Mr. Stein," Scully ventured, "I didn't realize it was policy to discuss
FBI cases with people not employed by the bureau.

"If that were the case, my dear Ms. Scully, then your own mother would
have had to leave before this discussion began."

"Stein, why do I get a feeling there's something you're not telling us,'
Skinner said tightly.

"Mr. Skinner, you know about as much as I do about this case. The only
other thing I can offer is a hunch."

"A hunch?" Mulder repeated.

"Yes, Agent Mulder, a hunch. I believe there is something much bigger
involved here. There is a reason for that of course."

"And that reason would be...?"

"Found on each of the children were nonviable Black Cancer entities," he
replied succinctly.

At the sound of "Black Cancer," Mulder visibly trembled. His mind became
a jumble of thoughts and worries and apprehensions. He honestly did not
know if he _could_ handle being assigned to this case. He didn't know if
he wanted to be this close to his weaknesses again.

"I don' know wha' I coul' do to be of he'p," Mulder said tentatively. "I
don' see this as bein' a serial killer, so I don' know wha' I woul' be
able to profile."

"Fox, if you don't feel up to this, then you mustn't do this," Maggie said
protectively. "I can't believe any of you would even consider this. Look
at him!" and then Maggie did look directly back at him and said, "Fox,
sweetheart, you have made such strides in these last three months. I am
so proud of you.

"But you are not fully recovered, and to be honest you are far from fully
recovered. I think you would be placing your health and recovery at risk
if you took on this case," she concluded.

Mulder looked back at Maggie Scully and saw the worry and concern in her
eyes. He also saw pride and love and felt it was necessary to acknowledge

"Mom, I know you're prou' of me. Hell, I'm prou' of me. I remember wha'
it was like tryin' to fee' myself.

"I remember wha' it fel' like the firs' time I go' ou' of the wheelchair
and they strappe' me in tha' damn standin' boar'. God, I hate' tha'
thin'. I also remember wha' it fel' like to ta'e steps again on the
parallel bars.

"Bu' I also know how I feel abou' sittin' aroun' the house all day with
nothin' more to do than some physical therapy exercises an' watchin' TV.
I don' know if I'm ready to go back to work. I don' know if I'm ready to
handle this case.

"Wha' I do know is I woul' never be able to forgive myself if there were
more deaths and I didn' try to do anythin' abou' it.
I have to try. Even if I fail, at leas' I'll know I trie'. Okay?"

Scully stood up at this point and walked over to the chair where Mulder
was sitting. She kneeled on the floor in front of him and placed her arms
on his knees. She looked up at him with a love and intensity that she
reserved for only him.

"Mulder, are you sure about this? You don't have to do this if you're not
really sure. You work so hard every day just trying to get your strength
back. Yes, Mulder, you do work hard every day. It's not just sitting
around watching television.

"You know you have nothing to prove, at least not to Walter or Mom, and
certainly not to me. Fox, I love you. I will always love you. You don't
have to subject yourself to this. The case will get solved with or
without your assistance. It might take longer without your help, but,
then again, it might not.

"Don't let anyone pressure you into doing something you're not absolutely
sure about. Will you do me a favor? Will you at least think about it
before you throw yourself into it? Please?" Scully implored.

"Scully, I don' have to thin' abou' it. I already know wha' I wan' to
do." He looked over at Jack Stein, paused a moment and then returning his
gaze towards Scully said, "And for some reason, Dana, I fee' like I have
to do this. There's a reason for me to be on this case tha's more than
just solving the case."

"Mulder, a feeling?"

"Yeah, don' as' me to explain it, bu' it's a very real feeling." He
clasped Dana's hands and squeezed gently. "Besides, Agen' Scully, I
assume I can coun' on you, if needed, to sa'e my ass as usual?"

"Now that's hell of an assumption, Mulder," Skinner said.

"Yes, Sir. It is," Scully said smiling while squeezing back Mulder's
hands. "It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it."

Mulder chuckled and bent down to kiss his partner and love on the lips.
Scully reciprocated happily and then stood up. "I'm going to get
something to drink. Any requests?"

As Scully took the drink orders, Mulder looked over at Jack Stein. He saw
him twisting and turning a pen in his hands. *Nicotine fit,* thought
Mulder. He remembered his father and mother going through similar motions
when they ran out of cigarettes.

Just then Mulder's eyes met Stein's. Mulder saw something in them he
rarely saw before. There was raw emotion in Stein's eyes. Mulder felt
himself shudder, because he felt something familiar in those eyes and he
didn't understand it, or perhaps, he didn't want to understand it.

Scully appeared at that moment with the drinks, including Mulder's
medications. He was still on a low grade antibiotic as well as a muscle
relaxant and the anticonvulsant medication.

Mulder took the pills from her as well as the iced tea and swallowed them
all at once. He lived for the day when he could be medication free. He
found they left him less focused than before, but of course he had really
no way of knowing if it were the pills or just the fact that his brain had
been without oxygen for too long a period of time.

Mulder always felt self-conscious about taking the pills in front of other
people, but no one else appeared to notice. Except Stein. Mulder felt
his gaze on him once again, and it unnerved him. There was something
Stein wasn't saying, and it was bothering the hell out of Mulder. He knew
it had something to do with him, but he wasn't sure what. All Mulder knew
was he had to corner Stein by himself and ask him, point blank, what this
was all really about.

End of Part 7/33


Part 8/33

Mulder swallowed the pills, looked directly at Stein, and then said,
"So Mr. Stein, you spo'e to my mother earlier?"

"As a matter of fact Mr. Mulder, I did."

"Di' she mention to you the gif' she ha' sen' me?" he asked.

"No, I can't say she did," Stein replied.

"Well, come with me into the den. I'd like to show it to you," Mulder
said as he grasped his walker to stand up. Both men excused themselves.
Mulder led the way back into the den while the older man followed.

Maggie, Dana and Walter looked curiously at the two men leaving the room,
but when Dana appeared ready to follow them, Walter grasped her arm and
shook his head.

"Wait Dana," he said with a gentle firmness. "You know Mulder wouldn't
normally seek Stein out if he didn't have a reason. He's safe in the
house. Let him investigate a little on his own."

Scully looked at Walter Skinner seriously and with her jaw set stated, "I
don't care what Jack Stein did for me. If it weren't for the that smoking
bastard, I wouldn't have had the cancer in the first place, and Mulder
wouldn't have had to go through a second recovery after the meningitis."

In a whisper, Scully continued, "I don't trust the son of a bitch. I'm
scared, Abah. I'm scared for him."

"We'll keep him safe, Dana," he murmured back to her. He placed his arm
protectively around her, and said, "We'll keep you both safe."

Meanwhile, the two men in the den were discussing the new keyboard
Elizabeth Mulder had sent her son. They were discussing the pros and cons
as well as the similarities and differences between the new one and
standard keyboards.

Mulder finally said, "Stein, there's somethin' you're no' tellin' us."

"I have told you everything I know about the case so far."

"But you haven' said why this case interes's you so much. Why involve
me?" Mulder probed.

"I told you, I feel you're the best profiler around and could help to
solve this case quickly."

Mulder looked at Stein and saw a nervousness in his demeanor that he
hadn't recalled seeing in him before. "No," Mulder said, "there's
somethin' else, and if you don' tell me now, you can ta'e your damn case
and shove it up your ass."

Stein weighed his thoughts carefully. He wasn't sure if he wanted to let
Mulder in on all of his suspicions, but realized he had everything to lose
if he didn't. "I don't know who these people are. This is a renegade
faction, and I don't know what their plans are."

Mulder nodded in encouragement for him to continue. Stein hesitated, but
then said, "I have a feeling there is more involved here. I believe there
is a reason I am in the dark about this group, Mulder. My suspicions
leave me to believe there is someone involved in this faction that we both
share a special interest in."

Mulder looked at Stein with incredulous eyes. He suddenly felt a little
light headed and began to sway. Stein startled and grabbed him as quickly
as he could, but Mulder was in too precarious of a position and fell to
the ground.

Scully was the first to react to the crashing sound she heard coming from
the den. She ran in to find him laying on his side with his knees brought
up to his chin.

"Mulder, what's wrong? What did you do to him, Stein?" she screamed in

"I did absolutely nothing, Ms. Scully, I assure you. We were merely
conversing, and all of sudden he appeared to become dizzy and though I
tried to reach him, I was unable to prevent him from falling.

At this point, Maggie and Walter were standing nearby, both looking ready
to pounce if necessary.

"Scully," Mulder interrupted, "I'm okay. He didn' do anythin'. I jus'
go' a little ligh' headed, tha's all."

"Can you stand up?" she asked, concerned.

"Yeah, I thin' so."

Walter came over to assist Scully in helping Mulder up off the floor.
Both of them steadied him before they let go. Mulder grasped the walker
firmly and managed to turn himself so that he was directly across from

"It's Samantha, isn't it?" Fox asked.

""I don't know what you could possibly be talking about," Stein replied

"Yes, you do know. You clearly know wha' I am talkin' abou'. How, Stein?
How is she involve' in this rebel faction?" Mulder demanded.

Stein didn't know what to say. Like Mulder, he didn't know who he could
trust anymore, and wasn't sure if was smart to impart his thoughts on the

However, he also knew that if Mulder was going to get anywhere on this
case, he would have to be completely honest about it.

"I don't know how she's involved. Truly, I do not, but I do believe there
is a connection between this faction rebel group and Samantha. I want to
find her, Fox, and I need your help," Stein concluded.

Mulder couldn't believe the tone of voice he heard come out of Jack
Stein's mouth. He actually sounded like a whole human being. "Stein, I'll
do wha' I can, but since I'll be only on a consul' basis__," Mulder tried
to conclude, but was cut off by Scully.

"___A very limited part-time consultative basis," interjected Dana.

"Part-time consul' basis," continued Fox, "but, I don' know wha' you
expec' me to fin'."

"I expect you to help find the people who are the cause of the deaths of
six innocent children, Mr. Mulder."

Mulder's gaze locked with Stein's. They stared at one another for a
moment or two, and then Stein looked away. Mulder continued to look at
him and wondered just how he came to supposedly be on the same side as
Cancerman. This was a scenario he never, ever expected to be a part of,
yet here he was, asked to work on a case that interested the bureau and
Jack Stein.

Somehow, Mulder had a feeling he was going to discover a lot more than
any of them expected. He wasn't sure if he was happy about this or not.


Baltimore General Hospital
Baltimore, MD

Mulder had been complaining about his hearing aids, so Maggie had made an
appointment with the audiologist to check them out.

"Mr. Mulder, what exactly is the problem?" Brooke Anderson asked. "How
can I help you?"

"I keep hearin' feedback. It's makin' me crazy," he replied.

"Well, let's check inside your ears. Sometimes it's just a matter of
removing some wax buildup in the ears," she advised.

While Brooke Anderson examined Mulder's inner ears, an unidentified
gentleman, who wore a white lab coat, examined Mulder's hearing aids and
checked them over for any malfunctions.

He opened them up to expose the micro wiring, cleaned the mechanism
carefully, and then deftly inserted a microscopic device into each of the
aids that would enable those with the right equipment to keep track of Mr.
Mulder. The fox hunt was to begin shortly.

After Brooke cleaned out some waxy residue from Mulder's ears, and new
batteries were inserted into his hearing aids, Mulder felt the aids worked
more efficiently. He felt a little more self-assured now, and his posture
was a little taller and straighter as he headed over to the Physical
Therapy Department.

He had been working for the last week on adapting to the use of canes
instead of the walker. Mulder was not at all confident when using the
canes, but it was just a question of time.

He held the canes somewhat awkwardly, but at least he was able to maintain
a grasp. That was an impossibility three months ago. He watched James,
the PT, as he demonstrated the movements he needed to practice while using
the cane.

Next, he asked Mulder how the balance exercises were going. James asked
for a demonstration, and proceeded to push Mulder around a little bit.
Somehow, he managed to remain upright. When James asked Mulder how he was
doing with the exercises with closed eyes, Mulder pleaded the fifth.

Mulder worked an hour with the PT before going next door to the
Occupational Therapist's Office. Mulder told the OT all about the new
keyboard and explained how it was quite possible that the keyboard would
enable him to go back to work part time.

Bonnie, the OT, was very happy for him, and in fact noted that Mulder's
fingers did not seem nearly as stiff. He was convinced that all of the
practicing on the keyboard was probably responsible.

Bonnie asked him if there was anything in particular he wished to work on,
and he replied there was. By the end of the session, Fox Mulder could tie
his right and left shoes.


Maggie Scully's Residence
Baltimore, MD

Elizabeth had arrived the night before last, but elected not to go with
Fox to his therapy sessions. She was fighting a cold and felt it would be
best for all concerned if she remained behind.

She had spoken with Jack after he'd met with Fox, Walter, Dana and Maggie.
Jack said they were surprised she'd heard from him. He expressed
surprise that she hadn't mentioned to them she was in touch with him all
these months. Jack expressed feeling something akin to the black sheep of
the family, to which Elizabeth chuckled and merely stated, "If the shoe

Elizabeth didn't have any more information than any of the other members
of Fox's recovery team, but she was every bit as concerned. She watched
him like a hawk to make sure he wasn't overtaxing himself. Everyone was
demonstrating more concern for Fox since Jack's visit.

When Maggie and Fox arrived home from the hospital appointments, Elizabeth
greeted him and asked how today went.

"Great Mom. It went great," he replied succinctly.

"What was great about it, dear?" Elizabeth asked.

Mulder steeled himself for the Inquisition. He knew she would ask the
same damned questions she been asking for the last three months.

"What did the doctor say?" she began.

"I didn' see any doctors today, Mom. I saw the audiologis', the Physical
Therapis' and the Occupational Therapis';. They all said' I was doin'

"Yes, dear, that's very good to hear, but when did the therapist say you
would be able to walk without your walker? And what about your speech,
dear? Did the speech therapist say when you would be able to hear clearly
enough so you would be able to speak more clearly? And how about your
hands? Did the therapist think the new keyboard would be a help? And
what about your balance, son? What did they say about your balance?" she
droned on.

Mulder pretty much tuned her out after she asked about his ability to walk
without the walker. He knew she meant well, and she was merely concerned,
but he was so tired of feeling he needed to be on a specific timetable for
her benefit. He felt as though he had enough to worry about, and didn't
think it fair of her to add to those concerns.

"They don' know, Mo'. I'm tire'. I thin' I'm goin' to ta'e a na' before
I ge' to wor'," Mulder said tiredly. His speech always seemed to worsen
around his mother.

When Mulder awoke from his nap, his mother was sitting in the recliner
with a book opened on her lap. She had fallen asleep. Mulder felt a
little guilty for being so short with her before. She was fighting a
nasty cold, and she was just showing her concern by asking all the

The thing that his mother had yet to learn was all of her questions just
raised more and more doubts in his own mind with regards to his recovery.
The more she questioned, the more he questioned.

Mulder was apprehensive, but he overcame it by pouring himself into the
work. He sat at the computer reading the downloaded files that Skinner had
sent to him via E-Mail. He tried to develop a preliminary profile, but
there was still so little to go on.

Mulder began to work on establishing a connection between the six children
that died of cardiac arrest. He delved into their past histories with all
of the grace and tact of a bulldog.

Mulder even phoned the unholy trio at the Lone Gunmen.

"Hello boys, it's me. Turn off the tape," Mulder said, enunciating as
clearly as he could manage.

"Hey Mulder, what's the good word?" asked Byars kindly.

"Guys, I nee'you to check on the backgroun's of some doctors in the
Baltimore, Virginia and DC areas. These ki's all wen' to differen'
doctors, bu' I know the link has gotta be through them somehow. Jus' find
out everythin' you can abou' these people, okay guys?" Mulder requested.

"We'll get right on it Mulder." Frohicke asked.

The LG were delighted to hear from their old buddy, who was apparently
climbing back in the saddle again. He filled them in on everything he
knew about the case, including the involvement of Jack Stein.

As happy as they were that Mulder was feeling useful again, they were
equally nervous about hearing that Cancerman was an active participant in
this latest investigation.

"Mulder," continued Frohicke, "be careful around Cancerman. Remember, he
still works for them, and he will always have his own best interest at
heart. Okay? Promise me that, please?"

"Yeah, I promise. I'll be careful. Loo' you guys, anythin' and
everythin' you can find ou' woul' be apprecia'ed," Mulder replied.
"Than's guys."

Mulder heard Langly and Byers shout their "You're welcomes" from over
their speaker phone and then hung up.

End of Part 8/33