Such a strange word.


The woman in charge of the Search and Rescue team beating the bushes during that fiasco in Florida had spent more than a few minutes on the phone trying to explain it to him. Skinner watched the sun creep closer to the horizon. The room behind him had long since emptied, the agents heading off to do whatever it was they were doing.

A verb. It could be a verb.

They were never coming back. He knew that now.

No one had bothered to try and define the word in Wyoming. The agents had been taken, not lost. Skinner supposed that it had been the rest of them who had lost their bearings. Lost the mapping points the two created and the lighthouse beacon they had become. There had been no more attempts at definition. Looking back, there had been no closure either. They had simply been...gone. Not dead. Not beaten. Just missing. Then they came back, and he realized that he did not know where they belonged anymore.

They were more dangerous than he had thought they could be. That potential must have always lurked beneath the surface, but it had never been forced to give birth to itself in screaming pain and announcement. He had seen fingers of it though, creeping through their eyes. Lost hopes. Lost dreams. Lost years.

Lost causes.

God he hoped not.

There was a small scuff of a booted foot behind him. For a moment, the AD wondered if he could ignore him, if the other man would take the hint and go away. Finally, he sighed and waved a hand towards an empty chair. "If everyone else is crazy, does that make me paranoid or delusional?"

"I think it makes you sane." came the trenchant reply.

Skinner snorted.

"No really. In this crowd, it makes you sane."

"He's a survey mapper, Stevens."

The psychiatrist paused, absorbed the words, then responded cautiously,"Most men are."

It made sense, from a survival point of view. Hunters would not always know the territory they found themselves crossing. Landmarks would be useless, and anyone depending on them would soon be hopelessly lost. Instead, what was needed was an ability to see the big picture, to be comfortable with knowing that the prey was "thataway" and that eventually one would arrive. The hunter was not lost, he knew where he was going...he just did not know how or when he was going to get there.

"You've been doing your homework."

Survey mappers and route mappers.

Nature and nurture aside, it made sense for a woman to be trained to think in terms of landmarks. A healthy, uninjured hunter could afford to keep wandering for a day or two, living off the land. A pregnant woman needed to know she had a mate to count on when she was vulnerable and slow. That the food would be there to feed the children. "Thataway" and "someday" just did not cut it. So...landmarks. A to B to C.Each one sequencial and heaven help the person who missed one because route mappers did not do "thataway" all that well. Finding each landmark was the only way they knew how to get to the next one. Which explained the modern rituals of dating. The boasting and the lies. The car, the job, the money and the power to protect and provide. A courtship of evidence that her mate possessed the traits she was looking for and proof that he could be trusted.

Route mappers.

Skinner sighed. "You said they weren't lost."

"They weren't. Being lost is not really a state of being, it's a state of mind."

The psychiatrist shifted, settled himself more comfortably. Gathered his thoughts. When he looked up, his eyes were serious. " We have a biological need, an absolute imperative to know where we are. It's an inbred survival trait and as a species, we are inherently geared towards developing whatever physical and mental skills we need to define our location. We are also infinitely adaptable. South Sea islanders use minute shifts in ocean current, Inuit use the subtle indicators of wind direction cut into the snow pack or blowing aginst the fur of their parkas. Urban dwellers use street signs. We don't have to think about it, we just develop the habits that best assist us with keeping track of where we are in our current environment. Anything that threatens our sense of location is also instantly categorized as a danger. We know, right down to our DNA, that to be lost is to court disaster and we react accordingly. Panic is the first response. It is instinctive, overwhelming, and uncontrollable. The larger the sense of dislocation, the greater the reaction. Did you know, lost people have actually run across roads, right past rescuers, and straight off cliffs?"

Skinner frowned," Our agents are trained..."

"No, they're not."

Annoyance flared. "You don't know what I was going to say."

"You were going to say that they are trained not to panic."

Brown eyes narrowed.

Stevens smiled grimly,"What they are given, is a standard set of directions or landmarks. For a survey mapper, that might be as vague as "he's that way, go get him and don't get shot doing it.". A route mapper will see a series of landmarks. Call back-up. Secure the doorways. Check for obstacles. Locate partner. Advance on the subject. Take subject down. Read subject their rights. Landmarks. All that training simply gives them a framework for either direction or landmark. If you put them in a situation with no familiar referents, they will get angry and they will panic. Not unless they they can substitute the old referents for new ones."


Not just Wyoming.

"We need to know where we are. In many ways, we define who we are with where we are. Physically, mentally, spiritually. The three big fears. Death. Delirium. Damnation. The hows of how we define that state of being lost is as varied as the cultures that have feared it. If we are lucky, we have enough referents built into our lives, that we can take damage to one or two without anything more destructive than a nightmare or silly argument."

What about two agents who had lost or cut themselves off from almost all normal support structures? Mulder was fine unless the goal got lost or he began to question his direction. Then, with so little else in his life outside of his work, he had no short-term goals or directions to carry him until he could find his long-term footing again. Now that the AD thought about it, Mulder probably relied on his partner's short-term landmarks to tell him where he was, then used them as a launch pad. Not to mention the fact that her landmarks kept the brass and the accountants moderately happy.

What about Scully?

Route mappers needed landmarks. For someone who had been forced to number her successes in lives saved and cases closed rather than the normal trappings of family and social success, he suddenly had a much clearer picture of just how important all those dotted i's and crossed t's must be. They weren't just empty habits or obedience to the staus quo. They were her only guideposts. The only things telling her how to get from point A to point Z. Then the X-file would up and bite them on the ass and she would have to abandon the only markers she had and take a fucking blind leap into the dark after her partner.

Mulder had once told him that she was the bravest person he had ever known.


Skinner had forgotten that.


They caught him just after dark. Four Hunters; two male, two female. He snarled at them in futile rage as they stripped his backpack from him and located the files he had stolen from office. The real files. The ones that Ellis had failed to give to the FBI the first time they had come sniffing through the trash heaps of Serenity Falls. The two females watched with calculating expressions as the two males growled at him to stop fighting. They took him to his knees when he failed to obey.

Nothing. It had all been for nothing.

Worse, now Ellis and Maia would know.

"It's past your bedtime, puppy."

Roberts sucked in a shocked breath and sagged as he fixated on the ghostly shape materializing out of the darkness. He looked again at the unfamiliar Hunters. They were hers? His eyes narrowed in thought as he realized that none of the hunters were wearing any identifying markers, not even their birthright medallions.So...hers by allegiance ties. He swallowed sharply at the thought of what that might mean for the Clans. Before he could rethink what he was about to do, he tipped his head back and averted his eyes.

If he had been hoping to generate a distraction, he succeeded.

The Hunter on his left hissed in startlement, but Sera simply studied his face shrewdly. In peripherial vision he noticed her gaze settle on the earring dangling prominently from his left ear. His birthright medallion would mean nothing to her-other than the fact that his sept-Clan bent their necks to Maia's Call. That was a known fact and one his Alphas made no secret. Still, there was one fact so well known that no one seemed to remember it. A small black bead proudly displayed above his birthright for all to see since his eighteenth year. Enforcers were, by duty, blooded to none of the Six.

They swore allegiance, blood and bone to the Seventh.

He would only back down the once.

"You have a flair for the dramatic, puppy"

He met her eyes squarely.

"Puppy-not"she acknowledged quietly.

The Hunters released him. When he would have reached for his backpack, she raised one hand to stop him. Reflex tightened his jaw and he eyed her warily. Technically, she could deny him. Technically, she could try. As he straightened carefully, it hit him that this was no longer fact. Or it was only quasi-fact. Guardianship should have ended the moment the Dancer made her choice clear. Was Sera more like Maia than he had thought? Even as he considered that, he discarded it. His life was not in danger because of what that backpack held. It was something else. Something he had never truly realized...a responsibility he had never had to exercise before. Her actions were his to judge.

Enforcers did not bend to the Six.

Painfully aware of the silence of the others, he met her eyes calmly and held out his hand. The males tensed, the females were coldly watchful and Sera surprised him with a tiny smile of approval. She gestured slowly and a lithe shape detached itself from the shadows. As she got closer, Roberts recognized the young protege rumored to be the next in line for Beta when Shiala retired. The female stopped a handsbreadth off her Alpha's shoulder and returned his gaze calmly.

"Bretta will see that your package gets to where it needs to go."

Before he could recover from the duel shock of being given a ranking female's birth name and that same female's appraising glance, Sera dropped a small package into his hand that nearly stopped his heart. He watched his fingers clench protectively and his hand came to his chest to cradle the weight. He did not have to ask. He knew what it was, and his throat closed tightly as the realization of generations of waiting swept through him.

It was real.

"You have another duty, Enforcer."

Exhilaration swirled and as he met her glittering eyes, she threw back her head and howled wildly.

A bare second later, Bretta and the others took up the Call.


A sewer. Mulder had finally managed to track her down, and they were in a sewer.

How unspeakably appropriate.

At least it was a pretty sewer.

Solar aquatic sewage systems made perfect environmental sense. Run the raw material through a series of processing tanks where biological elements and growing plantlife broke it down into a harmless, sanitary by-product that could be used on the gardens growing outside the housing structure. No monstrous toxic lagoons. No dumping straight into the local lake or ocean. No smell. The water usage was minimal because it could be recycled if the capacity was built into the system and the electrical load was low because the process itself was organic and almost completely self sustaining. The air-scrubbing nature of the plants themselves could even be tied into the air filtration system of the host building. The physical plant for a small town was not much more than the size of a convienience store. One running along the dimensions of a Wal-mart could service the largest campus in the country.

This one was built to service the hospital.

It was also a research project. Local university researchers were studying the effects of dumping contagious biomatter into the semi-open system. Considering that you could not control who used your bathroom, it would not do to end up growing hepetitus or ebola in the basement. As a result, the housing structure was far more elaborate than it needed to be for general usage. Three completely contained greenhouses ran the length of the south wall of the hospital, the first two being the staging areas for levels of testing and biohazard protocols USAMRID would be pleased to own. The greenhouse she was in contained the final stage of the process and the effluent here was probably cleaner than the water that came out of her taps in DC.

It was still a sewer.

If he had been hoping to hide his arrival, he mistimed it. She heard the click as someone unlocked the door for him, felt the slight whoosh and the tiniest change in air pressure against her inner ear as he pushed open the door. One and a half minutes later, a compressor kicked in and the greenhouse was filled with the hissing slide and rattle of several million tiny heat-reflective balls of insulating material as they were sucked into the vacumn between the doubled glazed panes of glass that were the front wall and ceiling of the greenhouse structure. The compressor whined for a few more moments and the beads shifted sullenly, compressing and compacting themselves. Then it was silence.

The security guard had warned her that the lighting was minimal after the doors locked. She had assumed that he was exaggerating, but Mulder's cautious pace and hesitant step seemed to indicate a more shadowy darkness than she was seeing. Improved night vision would be the only benefit to the screamingly painful and wildly erractic light sensitivity she was experiencing. Light sensitivity. Sound sensitivity. Hell, her body was one giant nerve. As if someone had taken sandpaper and scraped back a layer of epidermis, her skin was convinced it could feel the air currents created by the movement of the people halfway across a room. Light and sound levels peaked and dropped with excrutiating intensity. She was seeing colors that did not exist and catching echoes of conversations she should not be able to hear. Medically, she knew it was possible that her mind was simpy focusing more intently on the sensory input. That she was simply aware of things her mind normally filtered. But how did that explain the conversations in the hallways? Hallucinations.It had to be. She was finally going mad.

Even better, it was getting worse.

Every muscle in her body ached. Her skin ached. Her bones ached. Not painfully. More like the remembered ghost of a toothache. The not quite right sensation of something being wrong. Like an itch she could not scratch because she could not quite decide where it was. As if her brain could not quite remember where it had left the edges of her body. As if her skin was not quite real, feeling too much and not enough.As if she were losing cohesion, the molecules of her body threatening to spin off into the ether, leaving nothing behind. She had spent the past hours, grimly searching for Scully. In the quiet of the greenhouse, the clamor of other people muted and distant, she had fought for a sense of self.

She had found her hands.

She remembered how they felt. She knew how they felt. The way the palms were constructed, the way the bones and skin flexed and pulled as she wrapped her fingers around a scalpel, or a pen, or a gun.

She had found her feet.

Standing in heels. Running after a suspect. Stuffed into hiking books, snow boots or rubber boots that were always too new from being purchased at the last minute or too big from being borrowed from the local Sherrif's closet or FBI field office.

She had found her legs.

Always toned and too short for elegance, they now possessed a strength and athletisism that pleased her. Her heels were an attempt to keep from looking like a child next to her giraffe of a partner, not from any leftover vanity. That had burnt itself out over the years. She regretted the fact that she could not run with Mulder. She regretted the fact that the autopsy tables never seemed to be of the elevating variety and so were a bit too high for comfort. She regretted the fact that he did not seem to realize that the heels meant that she did not have to step away from him in order to reduce the crick in her neck. That when he bent his head his lips brushed the top of her ear instead of the top of her head.

She had found her arms.

She had realized that there was not a lot that she liked about her arms. Empty arms, holding onto...what? They did not seem to be good for much more than attaching her hands to her shoulders. No matter how many times she reached out, no matter how far she stretched, she could never seem to bridge the gap between where she was and where she wanted to be.

Bit by bit, she catalogued every muscle, bone and piece of her that nine years of field work had battered, bruised, shaken and torn.Her awareness before the X-Files had been limited to pain/not in pain and the occasional bout of pleasure. Nine years had taught her to catalogue the minutia that described simply being alive. She knew herself. To the bone she knew exactly what she was. Sometimes, she did not always know where she was or who she was, but she always knew what she was made of.

Sugar and spice and everything nice...

She snorted.

Twenty feet away, Mulder froze. He peered into the shadows cautiously. She held her breath for a long moment, spinal reflex making one last effort to get her to sprint past him and disappear into the darkness. She was so tired of being afraid. She was tired of not knowing why she was afraid. She was tired of trying to justify her actions. She was tired of running. She was tired of hurting him, and she was tired of hurting herself.

She was tired of being tired.

It had been so easy in the beginning. There had been much that she had admired about him. His passion, his committment, and his intellect. All the things that had attracted her to Jack and Daniel. But liking someone was not the same as being in love with someone. At least, that was was she told herself. Daniel had admired her, Jack had cossetted her. Both men had made her feel cared for and admired. Protected and adored.

Mulder exasperated her.

The few times she had haltingly tried to define why she did not consider him husband material, she had started out with the fact he was her partner, the fact he was obsessed with his work, the fact she was determined not to repeat past mistakes and ended up with the semi-guilty, truly uncomfortable realization that her subconscious just did not see him as overwhelmingly...male. Every feminist cell in her body had cringed in horror and she despised the fact it was true long before she realized why it was true.

Jack and Daniel had been capable, responsible and respected men, who had respected and admired her. Despite the fact she would never allow herself to do so, some part of her had found comfort in the belief that if she ever weakened enough to lay her monsters at their feet, both men were more than capable of making them go away. Of making her world safe. Intellectually, she knew it was not true, but it had been several months and too many monsters before she realized that she had been equating authority with masculinity and seen weakness in the possibility of defeat.

She had been defining Jack and Daniel as Men.

Mulder had simply been human.

Seeing Jack again had been a shock. She had not missed the resemblance with his height, his intensity, his obsessiveness and the VCS. She had thought at the time that Fate had a nasty sense of humor. But no matter how she compared them, Mulder had come up short. As an agent, and as a man. Less responsible, less effective, less mature. Somewhere along the line, her subconcious had drawn the conclusion that the reason she worried about Mulder more was the fact that she could not trust him not to get into trouble. That Jack was more than capable of taking care of himself. It had not been until Jack had taken a shotgun blast to the chest that she realized it was because Mulder mattered more.

She had cared. Of course she had cared. She was losing a friend. But if the shooter had dropped Mulder, the third shot of that triple tap would have been to his head. She had also discovered that losing a friend was nothing compared to losing part of her world, and it was a shock to realize that she had known the difference. She had also learned something else she had not known. Jack had respected her as a woman. He had respected her as a friend. But when the chips were down and she called him on his actions in the field, despite the fact that he called her "agent", he had been accepting the warning from a friend and the woman he used to sleep with. She knew she was not wrong, because she had heard the difference later, when he had addressed her as an agent and meant it. That was when she realized she preferred the partner to the Man. That her partner gave her something, that a lover could not.

God, she had been so young.

How long had it taken for her to realize that her definition of Man had started to change? It had been so easy, slipping into the role of partner, friend, and comrade in arms. Familiar. Comforting. Comfortable. That in itself should have been an X-file. Despite the fact it had never happened before, she rationalized it as part of having brothers. If their partnership was all she ever had from him, it would have been enough. More than enough. It was more than she had shared with Daniel or Jack and she had loved them. It was enough that the thought of risking it had quickly become unthinkable. Because of what they shared. Because of what they would be risking. Because as good as it was, it had room to grow and she wanted to see it get there. Because she needed time to herself. Because the X-Files was quickly taking over her future. Because she still could not see Mulder as a lifemate although the thought of him in her bed had started to disturb her with alarming frequency, intensity and incredibly vivid images.

The fantasy had begun to scare her.

There was no way it could be that intense. That satisfying. That good. Could it? Ellen had accused her of living a fantasy that no man could live up to. In a way, she had been right. When had she come to the realization that she had become her father? That her family would by necessity come second to her duty, not because she loved them less, but because she could not fail the standards that she set herself and still be herself. That was who she was and who she wanted to be. What she did would keep them safe and there were other people, who loved their families just as much, who needed her to keep them safe.

Ultimately, she loved honor more.

A husband, a family, would own only part of her. In the normal course of events, given a normal partnership, it might have been a big part. Her husband could have become a confident or a safe harbor. He could have been the person she told everything, or the one place she kept pretty and clean and separate from the horrors of her job. She often thought it ironic that a Navy husband would have been ideal. A ship's captain or Navy SEAL, maybe. They could love each other long distance, experiencing physical intimacy in small but intense doses and she would never need to feel guilty about long nights, last minute trips and late night calls. Career Navy would understand duty and a SEAL might even understand about Mulder.

Until her daughter screamed and she kicked the door in, gun drawn, looking for the monster under the bed.

Until she missed one too many BBQs and her husband drew a line in the sand.

Until she lined up one too many hostages to fortune and someone started shooting.



Until the day she knew that if she had to chose between living with her husband or dying with her partner, the bullet would probably win.

The mythical husband deserved more. That was the day she folded that particular dream away. Just one more loss of a shadow woman to the shadow war. Mulder never knew. Or maybe he did. He had made the same decision himself although she doubted he had seen it that way. Mulder had held fast to an image of a golden someday. The day when he could have everything he was supposed to have and life would be the way it was supposed to be. His life had stopped the day his sister disappeared and it had never really started again.If she had died, he could have mourned. Missing never ended. There was no ceremony for missing.

She, Scully thought sadly, had been safe to love.

Poor Mulder. His early flirting had been so casual that she had been completely oblivious when he started to get serious. Dangling Bambi like bait, trying to get his partner's attention. Trying to prove to her that some people would consider him a viable male member of the species. Then Bambi walked away with an older man in a wheelchair. In front of Scully. Hell of a testament to his masculinity. Of course, the fact that Bambi had been looking for more than a pretty face in her bed should have clued him in to the fact that that was all that he had offered her. On the other hand, Mulder had not really been courting Bambi.

Of all the things she wished she could take back...-

She wished she could have taken back the crack about the aliens and the uber-children. She...she had just been trying to tell him that she was on his side. She had thought he was mildly upset about losing Bambi. For God's sake, he was on the phone with her while lying his pretty face off to the gorgeous scientist, how emotionally involved could he be? Until he snapped at her, not with his usual wit or skill, but with the awkward anger of a bruised 12-year old boy who knows he's not allowed to hit girls.

Of all the things she wished she could take back...

She had not known. Of course, their very next case would involve a bleached blonde with legs to her chin and the case from hell. They had had such a good time. She accused him of misusing Bureau resources to get laid and he had run like a rabbit the minute the blonde got frisky. If she had known that then, she might have figured out about Bambi, but she had simply seen that her partner was looking everywhere but right beside him. At tall women. At beautiful women. She had also begun to see that he was lonely. That he wanted someone to come home to. There was a missing piece in his life and he wanted to find it.

She had not known how desperately he wanted someone to love him, until Apison.

She had thought the obvious at first. Mulder saw her in a supporting and supportive role. A father. A loyal Sergeant. Not a lover. Never a lover. Later, after that disaster in Philedelphia, she had begun to wonder if maybe that was how he saw her opininon of him. That she loved him, that she cared for him, but that she did not see him as a mate. Guiltily, she realized that at one point, he would have been right. The thought had bothered her, niggled at the back of her mind like a slightly loosened tooth. Was it possible that Mulder had accepted her rejection of him on so deep a level that even his subconscious acknowledged it? Then why did he keep trying?

The truth broke her heart.

People who loved Mulder left him. His sister because he could not pull the trigger, his parents because no matter how good he was, he could not replace what was lost. Phoebe left when his skills as a lover obviously weren't enough and everyone else used him just long enough to get what they wanted. Then they left too. All those collegues and friends jumped ship the minute he blueflamed into the basement and despite the fact he had everything a woman was supposed to want, none of them stuck around long enough to say 'I do' and mean it. People stopped loving Mulder when he did something wrong.

He was trying to figure out what she wanted him to do right.

She had stared out at the moon, tears cold on her cheeks and said good-bye to a dream that could not be. Might never be. They could not be partners and survive this. They could never function if he was spending every minute as a partner, trying not to offend his lover. Trying not to do something wrong. She could not be his partner and be honest, because he would never believe she wasn't rejecting him. She could not be both. She would get them killed trying. She had stared up at the moon and silently promised him that she would be the person he never had to worry about.

Fate cackled as she learned that was a promise she would not be able to keep.

She had learned to hate God then.

Her fury and anger should have burned down the world. Then Mulder had come over with wine and she had thought that at least she could give him this. That she could take it for herself. And it was all a lie. She had hurt Mulder on some level so far down that her own heart hurt. He wondered why she had not known it was him. All she could do was think blankly, that it was because he had brought wine. All the working dinners where he had brough beer or pizza or popcorn and this time he had brought wine.

He just saw that he had obviously been doing something wrong.

He said nothing, did nothing, risked nothing and he refused to admit they were running out of time. As if denial could make the truth a lie. The irony had not been lost on her. Then she was alive again and with a new lease on life, and her fears had seemed like just that, fears. But she discovered another thing she had not known. Mulder would talk the talk, but he was not prepared to walk the walk. He was more terrified of actually getting what he wanted, than he was of sleeping alone. They were trapped. Trapped in a nightmare of a paradox, where if he actually went so far as to put her in the position of lover, in his mind, he forced her to betray him. That, after all, was what lovers did. They left. Ironically, she even proved the rule. She had left Daniel. She had left Jack. Every time she chose Mulder over another life, she chose the partner and left the lovers behind. Love left. Always. Love changed. Always. Love could not be trusted.


Six months after Antarctica, the dreams started. She dreamed of fire. That was all she remembered. Until she started dreaming about a battle she had never seen, in a field she had wished she had never found. Mulder would have been proud. She actually started writing the details down. She never told him. Despite his beliefs, she had never gotten the impression he truly believed in Sullivan Biddle. Oh, he had wanted to. He had wanted to, with a desperation she could taste. But in the end, she never felt that he did. And in the end, she never felt that he had truly grasped the implications of all such a past implied.

Mulder...missed things.

He focussed on a single goal and all the things that stood between were just standing in his way. He did not always see the logical steps, the logical conclusions. He definately did not always consider the consequences to other people if he was wrong. She sometimes wondered if that was the only way that he could do the things he did. But that did not help anything when he missed the whole point of what he had just said. He had asked if it would change the way they looked at each other, if they had known. She had thought she had answered the question. She had certainly answered the question he had really asked. But after the dreams started, she had realized there were other questions. Questions that started with "what if..."

What if he was right?

What if they had been friends, compatriots and partners in other lives, other wars?

What if Mulder was not a reflection of Daniel or Jack? What if they were a reflection of him? Had she spent her whole life looking for him? How many lives would they have had to have led for the emotions to bleed through that strongly? There were those who felt that reincarnated souls returned to learn something. There were those who felt only those who had a task to complete, something to do or to teach, returned. Still others felt that everyone returned, brought back again and again to those who they loved or hated. What if they were all right?

What if soulmates were created, not born.

Life after life, touching some, abandoning others. The details changing, but the essence, the soul staying the same. In love, she thought, being in love relied on memory. On shared history and the currency of expectation. But what did you call a love of the soul? What name did you give to something that involved nothing of the body? Not memory. Not pleasure. That was created not because of something the other could give, but embodied nothing more than pure joy in the other's existence? You could fall out of love. People could change.

People could change, but the soul would not.

What if two souls could shape themselves around each other, lifetime after lifetime. Chipping away at rough edges, smoothing and buffing until one day, only the other half made the whole complete. Lifetime after lifetime, friends but never lovers, because the quest, the duty remained the same. Because the fabric of their souls was knit from a warp and weft spun of obligation and honor. His father? She would trade five years as his lover if it meant she would have thirty to love and watch over him. In a lifetime of lifetimes, what was one?

They had never been lovers.

Not in any of her half-remembered dreams. She rather thought it would have meant a much different thing, coming together in the youth of their creation, than now, in the final stages. They might not have been lovers before, but after, she suspected they would not be able to be anything else. If memory played fast and loose, if she hurt him beyond what he expected, how many lifetimes would they suffer? Worse, if they died before doing what they were meant to do, how many lifetimes would they have left?

Would humans reincarnate as aliens?


Now that he had cornered her, he did not have a fucking clue what to say.

Or do.

That about covered it.

Her shadow moved a bit to the left. Spinal reflex jerked his body to the right and cut her off . His forebrain was congratulating his hindbrain for its monumental stupidity when she sighed and took another half step to the left. Her face came into view as the move pushed her into a dim pool of light. His forebrain took one look at her bland expression and grabbed the hind by the scruff of the neck before it could slink back into its cave. Both brains eyed her warily.

"Have you ever profiled me Mulder?"

What kind of question was that? He was a profiler, of course he had profiled her. Subconsciously. Consciously. Accidentally and with unethical intent. Female, early thirties, personality formed around...

"...not like that."

Not like...?


A frission of fear sliced through the effervescent panic and anticipation that had been bubbling through his system since he had seen that tape. With brutal efficiency, the shock yanked his mind out of the hopeful fuzziness it had been trapped in and he found himself uncomfortably focussed on his partner to a disturbing degree. He edged away from the awareness with practiced care. She took a half step closer, and despite the danger, he found that the allure she had always held for him had increased geometrically with what he know knew. The depths of her eyes beckoned, and he could feel his control slip as leashed hunger began to hiss and growl as it struggled and lunged toward her.

He took a measured step back.

"You tried to seduce me, Mulder."

There was no anger in her tone, just thoughtful calm. "You used everything you knew about me against me."

"Not to hurt you. Never..." his instinctive protest was cracked and dry. He swallowed painfully as she just looked at him.


Oh shit.

Scully was hunting.

Bitterly, he wondered what she would do if he sat down and started laughing until he cried. What was he supposed to tell her? That it was easier to lie to himself? Easier to pretend that settling for what he could get was better than nothing. That the only reason he kept hoping, that he kept trying for a little piece of what he wanted, was the fact that he had always known that she did not love him. Was not in love with him. Whatever.

What a mess.

Not that he had been thinking all that clearly himself lately. All he had known was that what they had been heading for had terrified him. Combining their disappearing physical boundaries with what had happened in San Diego, he had panicked.Bill Scully's little bombshell had relieved him almost as much as it had hurt. Because if she did not love him, she had other reasons to stay with him. If she did not love him, she would not leave him. If she did not love him...

...she would not look deeply enough inside him to trigger the darkness.

And he would not be tempted to try.

"What do you really want, Mulder?"

Want? He wanted her to fall in love with him. That was all a part of him truly wanted. He wanted her to smile at him in the morning and argue with him over coffee and cry because she thought he had forgotten her birthday. He wanted her to live with all the little quirks and foibles that pissed her off and still chose to go to bed with him at night. He wanted all the things that would make it worth the pain when she finally left. He wanted her to look at him and see something worthy of loving and he wanted to love her for the gift of her innocence as much as he would hate her for not loving him enough to see the truth.

How is that for fucked up Scully?

Hating her for not seeing what he did not want her to see in the first place.

Scully was the one person who should have seen it. Diana never did. He at least had that comfort. He had managed to drive her away simply by being himself. She had never been a profiler, had never had the training to see what Cheryl had seen. She might have loved him, but she had never trusted him enough to let him in far enough to be a danger to either him or herself. Ironically, Scully knew more about him than either Cheryl or Diana ever had-and she never saw it. Which meant that maybe she chose not to see it, the way he chose the shallower of two paths. And if she chose not to see it...

It was bad.

Really bad.

Nausea twisted and he took another instinctive step back when she made a move toward him.She met his eyes and all he could do was stare in mute horror as a familiar openness flared in her gaze.


The hunger surged upward, a painful combination of conflicted yearnings. He wanted to let her in. Fall at her feet and surrender. He wanted to fall so far into her mind he would never find his way out. He wanted...


Her head snapped back and shock warred with hurt. Anger took over.

"Is that it? God damn it Mulder, do you still think I don't know who you are?"

He couldn't help it. He started to laugh. Shit fucking damn, he was screwed. She was a danger because she knew too much. She was a danger because she knew too little.

"...I'm not leaving!"

No, he was.

He managed to stumble three feet towards the door before her hand hit him in the chest. He had not even seen her move. Had not heard her.

"Where the fuck do you think you are going? You started this."

He was ending it.

"I don't have to be your lover to hurt you, Mulder."

No. She had already proved that.

Now there was nowhere that was safe.

He watched as she read the truth from his face. Waited for confusion and hurt and anger. Watched as ice settled into her eyes and wondered distantly when the pain would hit. He waited for the disgust and maybe even hatred. When she did not move, he realized she was going to make him take it all the way. He was going to know exactly who left this time.

Except she seemed to have forgotten her lines.

When he moved to step carefully around her, her hand closed over his wrist and would not left go. Tension thickened as she lifted his hand slowly and raised it to her lips. He swallowed painfully as she deliberately ran the tip of her tongue from the edge of his wrist to the tip of his little finger. He shuddered as his finger disappeared into the wet heat of her mouth and his knees nearly buckled as she sucked lightly, her teeth scraping lightly over the knuckle.

"Skinner thought you'd be horrified."

The sides of her teeth rubbed against the side of his hand as she brought it to rest against her cheek. Her whisper and her eyes were dark.

"Were you horrified Mulder? I don't think you were horrified. I were turned on. I think you liked seeing what I would do. That you liked the fact that they all saw what I would do. I think..."

Her lips gently kissed the inside of his wrist, right above the pulse point. She turned her head until he could see the knowledge in her eyes.

" liked watching me claim you as mine."

He could not stop her and it was worse than he had ever thought. She had no idea what she was doing.


Her lips pulled back from her teeth in a snarl. "What? Don't tell the truth? Or don't do this?"

Her eyes gleamed as she threw herself recklessly into the profile. He scrambled frantically, trying to keep from being dragged into it with her. He dug mental fingers into the fragile earth at the top of the Abyss and ignored the instincts screaming at him to let go. To grab her with both hands and throw them both into the deep. To pull her so far inside she would become a part of him. Until identity erased itself in a blinding fire of need and desire and he would own her forever. Until she started screaming.

He remembered the screaming.

They had all been screaming. Cheryl, long before he had backhanded her across the room. The other agents as they tried to pull his hands from her neck.He remembered Thatcher hitting him with a right cross and he remembered Cheryl grabbing his arm as he let her go. Her grip desperate as she tried to reestablish the link. Her cry as he hit her, his mind on fire and frantic to get away. Only the fact her nails had driven far enough into his lower back to draw blood had saved him from a rape charge.

Scully pushed him down onto a nearby bench and he tried to warn her.

He had danced too close to the fire.

Somewhere during the profile, sexual desire and knowledge had triggered a loosening of boundaries. He had just kept falling, she had just kept pulling him in. When the hunger changed to something less angry and more absolute, she never felt it change. He had panicked, but when he looked into her eyes, all he had seen was a desire for surrender. He had not known. It was a flaw she knew nothing about.

Too much victim. Not enough steel.

They had gone too far. Out of nowhere, a dormant hunger awoke. An aching emptiness that bled a cold lonlieness a thousand suns could die to feed. Cheryl had screamed in terror, the gaping hole inside him finally exposed to both their horrified gazes. Most of her had turned to flee, and desperate need had grabbed for her. Dragged her down into the wound as his psyche tried to fill the emptiness. Parts of her fit, and her body had convulsed beneath his, their minds oblivious to the cameras, the other agents. Oblivious to everything except a desire for completion.

Most of her burned.

He had screamed in agony as the parts that did not fit scraped along sensitive nerves and his entire being had recoiled. He had tried to thrust her away, but she would not go. The parts of her that fit dug in hooks and talons, oblivious to the damage she was causing. He'd battered at her, forcing her to weaken her hold. Fury swept in when she tried to push herself where she did not belong. In a final act of self-destructive agony, he had wrenched every part of himself away from her, tearing her mind from his, leaving them both screaming as raw edges tore. She had grabbed for him one last time, and only his collapse on the floor after he hit her kept the other agents from putting him there.

Lying on the cold tile, the bottomless emptiness he could see clearly in his mind surged and sucked at everything good in him. Even through the pain, he remembered enough to remember the truth. Before she had hurt him, before he tried to push her away, it had been his hunger that had trapped the two off them. It had been his darkness that had sucked them under. According to the video tape that Patterson later burned, he never made a sound. Mulder clearly remembered screaming. He spent the next two days in the psyche ward, sedated into a coma and the nurses said that he never stopped crying.

Patterson simply patted him on the back and told him he needed a more compatible partner.

He landed back in the present and discovered Scully straddling his lap, her arms tight around his waist and her face buried in the side of his neck. He must have been babbling his fool head off because she just kept saying "you won't hurt me" over and over again. He flinched when she sat up and he could not meet her eyes. He did not want to see the pity or the fear he he knew was coming. She cupped his face with her hands and although he allowed her to tilt his head forward, he kept his eyes closed.

"Mulder, look at me."

Not in this lifetime. Not so he could watch as she very seriously told him that he needed help. Probably therapy.


The amusement in her voice annoyed him. He cracked his eyes open to glare at her.

She smiled,despite the evidence of tears. "It won't hurt. "

He blinked.

Her smile faded and she stared into his eyes, her own dark. " Almost two thousand years to get to this point...she didn't belong there Mulder. She wasn't me."

Before he could protest, or even ask her what the hell she thought she was doing, he saw every defense she possessed fall down. Shock jolted his system and he tried to come to his feet. He had a single impression of startled blue eyes as she landed on concrete, then the hunger roared into being and leapt toward her. He flailed desperately for control, but it was too late and he was too cold and she was so close. A maelstrom of repressed need and desire swirled around him and he felt the terrifyingly familiar sensation of the thinning of his personal boundaries. Only this time, there was no profile to provide artificial edges. Nothing to prevent him from falling completely into the Abyss. He fell to his knees and when she started to move, he tried to warn her. Tried to tell her run.

She came to her knees and her hands were tearing at his belt buckle as she whispered into his mouth,"Not this time."

He wrapped his arms around her as they started to fall. When her back hit the concrete, he barely got his hands out in time, because as far as he could tell, they were still falling. That was when he realized that he wasn't alone. Beneath her kiss was a loneliness and hunger that matched his own. Not quite certain he was still sane, all he could do was hold on and drag it close, closer. The edges slammed together, hungry and desperate. They meshed and something clicked with a force that almost hurt.Hurt the way a sunset hurts, with colors too beautiful to hold. As he slid inside, her eyes opened, and as he stared at her in wonder, she smiled.

"Found you."