Title: The Muses: Melpomene
Author: Daydreamer
Rating: R - language and implied violence
Category: A
Spoilers: None
Keywords: M/S UST
Archive: Yes, please.
Feedback: Yes! Please!

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and Skinner are owned by Chris Carter,
1013 Productions, Fox Television Network, etc. They are wonderfully
brought to life by David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and
Mitch Pileggi. I will make no profit from this, and neither will Fox
if they sue me, for I am exceedingly poor and have nothing material
they can profit from.

Summary: Part of a nine-part anthology of stories based on
the Greek Muses and the artistic field each represents.
Melpomene is Tragedy.

The Muses: Melpomene 01/04

The key finally turned and Mulder pushed the door
open wearily. Too much. It was just too much. Five
VCS consults in the last six weeks, all involving travel,
and he was exhausted. The headache he'd been fighting
all day had finally blossomed into a full-fledged, drum
in the cranium, dagger behind the eyes pain that made
him want to take his gun and put himself out of his
misery. He sighed heavily, and threw his travel bag to
the side as he kicked the door shut behind himself.

Finally. Tomorrow was Friday and he was not working.
Scully was going in to do their paperwork, but she had
been insistent that he stay home and rest, and for once
he was too tired to fight her.

And then there was the weekend. He planned to do nothing
more strenuous than watch TV and read the caller ID on
his phone. And sleep. Ahhhh, blessed sleep. The new bed
he'd bought to replace the waterbed was calling his name.
But first, a shower. He took a deep breath. Oh, yeah, a
shower was definitely called for. Aspirin, shower, sleep,
in that order. He sighed again, this time in expectation
of relief, and headed for the kitchen and glasses, so he
could take something for his head.

He flipped on the light then froze. The small table was
pushed aside, and one of the chairs lay on its side. He
scanned the room quickly, drawing his weapon, then
hit the light switch again. Turning, he kicked off his
shoes and padded silently back out to the living room,
then worked his way methodically through the rest of
the apartment. No other signs of entry, but there had to
have been someone in his place. He was messy, but
even he didn't leave chairs on their sides.

Shaking his head, he holstered his gun and wandered
back out to the kitchen, thinking he would need to have
the damn place swept for bugs and other hidden gizmos
now. Light on again, he picked up the chair and set it
upright, then grabbed a glass from the drainer and
swallowed four capsules for his head. Replacing the
glass on the sideboard, he was ready to head for the
shower, not really caring if there were cameras in the
place now. If someone wanted to see his ass that badly,
they were welcome to look. As long as he got clean and
got to bed.

His hand was on the light switch again when he saw
something out of the corner of his eye. Over in the corner,
on the floor, was an envelope and a piece of paper. He
walked over and bent down, looking, but not touching. It
was addressed to him, in his mother's handwriting.
He frowned. That was odd. His mom didn't have much
to do with him, not for years, and he couldn't remember
the last time she had sent him something that wasn't
a birthday or Christmas card. He didn't know if he'd
ever gotten a letter from her before.

He rose and grabbed two knives from the drawer,
then used them to turn the torn sheet over. There,
in his mother's neat and precise handwriting, he
read:

My dearest Fox,

Yes, you are my dearest, though I know you must
find it hard to believe I feel that way, given the time
and distance I have allowed to come between us.

But no more. I have decided that it is time for you
to know the truth. No more can I continue to deny
myself the only thing that could bring me any comfort
or happiness in my older years. Selfish it may be, but
I would like to think, you, too, would benefit from
a loving relationship with the only parent you have
left. The only remaining family that you have.

And loving it is. My dearest, dearest Fox, how I
do love you. My first born, my brilliant boy, and
now a gifted and caring man, how proud I am of
you. You will never know what pain it has caused
me to keep you at such a distance.

But I can do it no more. It is time you know the
truth. The truth about it all. Samantha. Your
father. Myself. And him. The one you call
Cancerman. And the truth about yourself, Fox.
You deserve to know the truth.

It all started when you were four and we realized
you had taught yourself to read. Your father was
so proud and he couldn't help himself; he told
everyone. Including people who should never
have known of your capabilities. The pressure
began then. And when Samantha came along,
it just increased. I am amazed

And that was it. Mulder stared down at the torn
paper, brow furrowed in confusion, then stood
and lifted the phone. He dialed a number he
knew by heart, but never used. As he listened
to it ring, he found himself thinking how odd
that he knew his mother's number but never
used it. Or was it odd? Didn't most children
know how to contact their parents? He slipped
on his shoes as he waited for her to answer. And
why was she not answering the phone? He hung
up in disgust and returned to the letter.

Grabbing two plastic sandwich bags, he bagged
the envelope and partial letter. He needed to
know what was behind this. What was she
trying to tell him? And who had broken into
his apartment and removed the rest of the letter,
leaving only this snippet to tantalize him?

Headache abated, shower forgotten, sleep foregone,
he wheeled suddenly, grabbed his travel bag again,
and headed for his car. He was going to Connecticut,
and he was going now.

*******************************************

He drove through the night. The sun was just coming
up when he pulled up in the drive, and he took a few
moments to brush at his hair and straighten his tie
before he got out and walked slowly up the walk.

She'd be sleeping, and he was going to wake her.
It was funny how, even at 38, he reverted back
to those hard learned fears of childhood. Mom's
sleeping -- don't wake her up. But surely she
would understand his concern this time. Surely
she would understand that he had to know what
happened. This time, it couldn't wait.

He climbed the three steps to the porch quickly,
then crossed to the door and rang the bell before
his courage could fail him. As he waited he wondered
if other children had keys to their parents' homes.
Scully had a key to her mother's house, he knew
that. Was he alone in this too? Was it normal for
parents to make sure their kids were welcome and
could get in when they came home? He shook his
head. Degree from Oxford and master's in psych
and he didn't know. Fat lot of good that fancy
education did when it came down to practical,
real life matters.

There was still no answer, so he rang the bell
again, fidgeting as he waited. He ran his hand
nervously through his hair, undoing the facade
of neatness he had laid on in the car. His hands
were actually shaking, and his stomach was in
knots. He shook his head again. This was
ridiculous. He was just a grown child paying
a visit on his aging mother. There was no reason
for him to be so nervous. She loved him. She'd
said so in her letter. He reached into his pocket,
hand closing on the sandwich bag as he dug
for more courage and a way to settle himself.

Still no answer. He walked to the window and
peered through into the living room, then gasped
out loud. Furniture lay on its sides, tables had been
upended. Glass shards from broken lamps and mirrors
glittered in the early morning light. The room had
been completely trashed!

Moving back to the door, and forgetting all concern,
he slammed into the heavy oak, falling bodily into the
house as the jamb shattered and the door flew open.
He picked himself up and began to call, "Mom?
Are you here, Mom? Are you OK?"

He was making the first search now, a cursory look
in every room, and coming up empty. Furniture was
in disarray, broken lamps and dishes, but no sign of
his mother. He completed the first circuit through
the house and started again, this time being more
thorough. He opened closets and peered under beds,
looked in cabinets and under sinks. He wasn't
exactly sure what he was looking for -- his mother?
A sign she was here? Had been here? Some clue
to what had happened and where she was now?

Finding no answers to any of his questions, he
returned to the living room and stood there, turning
in a slow circle as he took in the destruction around
him. What the hell had happened here?

Reaching a decision, he pulled his cell phone
and reported a break-in at the house. He declined
to give his name or to answer any questions beyond
the address. Closing the phone, he slipped back
out to the car, and began the long drive back to
DC.

***************************************

"Agent Mulder," the security guard said in greeting,
"you look like shit."

"Thanks, John," Mulder replied. "I'll remember that
when 'Kiss a Security Guard Day' rolls around."

The man laughed and Mulder passed on, heading
for the elevator and the sixth floor. He exited and
went directly to Skinner's office. For his purposes,
any of the AD's offices would have worked, even
Kersch's, but he felt slightly more comfortable in
Skinner's.

Kim lifted her brow when he approached the desk,
and he answered her unasked question. "I need to
see him, just for a minute please."

She lifted the phone and spoke, then waved him
by. Mulder walked in and nodded at Skinner, who
was looking curiously in his direction. Without a
word of acknowledgment, Mulder strode to the
middle of the room and addressed the air.

"I know you're here, you son of a bitch. Or you'll
see this. You find me, and you find me now. I
want to know where the hell she is and what you're
doing to her. And if that means a deal, I'll deal.
But you find me *now!*" His voice had increased
with each word till he was nearly bellowing at the
end.

Skinner had watched this display in something akin
to disbelief, but he rose now and came around his
desk to stand before Mulder, hands on his hips.
"What's going on here?" he demanded.

"This doesn't concern you," Mulder snarled, then
moderated his tone and added "Sir," slightly more
respectfully.

"The hell it doesn't," Skinner responded angrily.
"You barge into my office unannounced and start
roaring at the walls, making demands and
promises, offering deals you may not be able to
keep." He stepped up close to Mulder, reaching
out to grab the younger man, and hissed in his
ear, "*What* is going on?"

Mulder tried to shake him off, taking a step away only
to be halted by Skinner's hand, holding him like
a steel vise. "This doesn't concern you," he growled
again, hearing the desperation in his own voice. He
paused, taking a deep breath and reaching for control.

Skinner moved close to him again, whispering, "And
Agent Scully? Does this concern your partner?"

Mulder lifted a hand and scrubbed at his face, shaking
his head vehemently. "No, Sir," he said quickly, "this
doesn't concern Agent Scully either."

Skinner still held Mulder's arm, and he gently led the
man to the sofa, forcing him to sit. Studying him
carefully, Skinner could see the exhaustion etched
in the man's face. "Wait here," he ordered, and
stepped to the door, intending to have Kim page
Scully while he tracked down a drink or something
for Mulder. The man looked on the verge of collapse.

When Skinner returned, a cup of coffee and a
sandwich in hand, he glanced quickly around the
room, then swore, "Son of a bitch!"

Mulder was gone.

*******************************************

Scully arrived at Skinner's office, knocking politely,
then entering. "You wanted to see me, Sir?" she
asked, the question 'why?' clearly evident in her face
and voice.

"Yes," Skinner answered as he rose, "but I think this
conversation might be better held elsewhere." He
pulled his coat on, strode to where Scully stood by the
door and escorted her out. "I'm leaving for the day,
Kim," he said, as he passed his admin's desk. "I'll
see you on Monday."

Scully nodded as well, and the two made their way
to the elevator and out to the parking garage in silence.
Skinner led the way to his car, opening the door for
Scully, then taking his own seat and heading out into
the Friday evening rush hour.

Scully remained silent until they were on the beltway,
then asked, "Where are we going, Sir?"

"Mulder's," Skinner answered shortly.

Scully's eyes widened. "Is he all right?"

Skinner shook his head, then shrugged. "I really don't
know," he said and then related the events of earlier
that afternoon.

Scully listened carefully, taking in each word, and
asking the occasional question.

"So when I got back, he was gone," Skinner finally
concluded.

"And you think he went home?"

"I haven't a clue. But I don't know where else to look.
Do you?"

Scully thought for a minute. "No," she said at last. "He
has a method of contacting people when he needs help,
but he hasn't used it in several years. Still, he may be
at home, trying."

Skinner nodded grimly. "He's opened himself up
to whatever they want to do to him. He's never been
more vulnerable than he is right now."

His phone rang then, and he pulled it from his pocket
and answered. "Skinner." He paused a moment, then
said, "I'm looking for him too, Kim. Give me the
specifics." He listened in silence, nodding occasionally,
then said, "I'll let you know if I find him. Let's not
tell the Connecticut PD that he's missing yet, shall we?
Just let them know that you'll get a message to him and
he'll be in touch. Thanks, and have a good weekend."

Skinner closed the phone and looked over at Scully.
"Mulder's mother's house was broken into, an anonymous
tip reported the break-in. There's a tremendous amount
of damage and breakage."

"Mulder couldn't have been involved," Scully murmured.
"You just saw him an hour or so ago."

"I don't think he's responsible for the damage, but the
break-in? Possibly. If he drove all night, then came back
today. The timing's about right, and he was positively fried
when I saw him. I was worried he was going to collapse
in front of me."

"How's his mother?"

"That's why he was in my office. I thought it was you
he was talking about, or his sister. But it wasn't." He
paused a moment before saying, "His mother is missing."

*******************************************

He didn't want to risk going home. Skinner was likely
to look for him there. God only knew what the AD was
liable to do after the little scene in his office, but Mulder
had been desperate. He didn't know how else to reach
the man he needed, the one who either knew or could
find out where his mother was.

He walked the Mall, making the circuit from the Capitol
to the Lincoln Memorial and back again. The moon
shone down brightly, the stars twinkling in their velvet
blanket, and he was alone on the grassy expanse as he
waited for contact. He was on his third trip when a voice
spoke, jarring him from his reverie.

"You wanted to see me, Agent Mulder?" the man said,
and Mulder jerked to a stop. "You have an -- interesting --
way of attracting my attention."

"Fuck that, and fuck you, too," Mulder snarled. "Where
is she?"

The man looked puzzled. "You said that earlier. Where
is who?"

Exhaustion warred with desperation, and Mulder reached
out to grab the man's coat, gripping him tightly as he
said, "You know who I'm talking about. Now, where
is she? What have you done?"

The smoker looked at Mulder then plucked his hands
from his coat and took a step backwards. "I haven't
the faintest idea what you are talking about, and if you
refuse to elucidate, there is nothing I can do to
help you."

"You have to help me. You owe me that. And if you
don't owe me, you owe Samantha. Your *daughter,*"
Mulder spat.

The man remained silent, a quizzical look on his face.
He and Mulder stared at one another for a long moment
until Mulder dropped his head and whispered, "My mother.
What have you done with my mother?"

"Eglantine?" the man queried, concern evident in his voice
at once. "What's wrong with Teena?"

"I don't know what's wrong." Mulder's voice was broken
as he fought the fatigue and struggled to stay focused. "She's
missing, and there is no way you can play innocent in all of
this."

There was a long silence, and when Mulder lifted his head,
the man's face was hard, his eyes like flint as he stared
across the darkened pool before them. As he drew a deep
breath, the cigarette flared brightly, then slowly dimmed, and
Mulder watched it almost mesmerized. He had no way of
knowing where to start, where to begin, without this man.

The silence stretched on until finally, the man turned and
looked at Mulder. "Why would they take Eglantine now?
What happened to trigger this?"

"She wrote me a letter. She was going to tell me everything,
but someone broke into my place and took it, and when I
went to find her, she was gone."

The man shook his head slowly, sadly. "Teena always
was too fragile for the project. She never was able to
sufficiently -- distance -- herself from things." He looked
over at Mulder. "Or people. It was part of her charm. She
never stopped *feeling.*"

The men stood together for a time, then the smoker
reached and touched Mulder's arm, almost tenderly,
and said, "Come with me, Fox. We'll go find your
mother."

The man's hand fastened onto Mulder's arm, and the
younger man let himself be led away.

End part 01/04

The Muses: Melpomene 02/04

It was a limo. Mulder snorted as he stood staring at it,
wondering why he had expected anything different.

"Get in, Fox," the man said patiently, and Mulder
was too tired to object to the use of his given name.

He climbed obediently into the rear of the vehicle,
a sense of unavoidable doom clinging to his every
move. The smoker entered after him, taking the seat
across from his, his back to the driver's seat. The
driver closed the door, then walked around to his side,
entered, and the car pulled smoothly away.

"Where are we going?" Mulder asked, his voice hoarse
and scratchy from lack of sleep.

The man shook his head, then opened a mini-refrigerator
and took out a bottle of juice. He handed it to Mulder,
saying, "When did you eat last?"

Mulder held the juice, staring at the bottle in confusion
as he tried to process what was happening. Finally,
he shrugged, popped the lid, and drained the bottle in
one long swallow. Almost immediately, his eyes
began to close, and the man whispered, "Go ahead
and lay down, Fox. I'll wake you when we get there."

"You drugged me, you bastard," Mulder slurred, fighting
the darkness that was rising up to swallow him.

"Believe it or not, Fox," the man said gently, "I'm trying
to keep you alive."

Mulder was losing his battle to remain erect, and awake.
The smoker reached out, attempting to ease the younger
man down onto the seat, but Mulder batted feebly at his
hands, pushing him away. The man sighed, then sat
back in his seat, watching as Mulder's eyes drooped,
finally closing completely, and he slid down, loose-limbed
against the seat cushion. The man reached over again,
shifting Mulder till he lay sprawled across the rear bench,
his long legs bent and angled onto the floor between the
seats. He lifted the cushion next to him, and removed a pillow
and blanket, sliding the first under Mulder's head, and
tucking the second around him. When he was finished,
his hand lingered for a moment on Mulder's wrist, then
he sat back and tapped on the window between the
passengers and driver.

The glass opened and a voice asked, "Yes, Sir?"

"No more need for subterfuge. He's asleep. Take us
directly to the facility."

"Yes, Sir." There was a pause, then the driver added,
"ETA in about 10 hours."

The smoker nodded, and the window slid shut, leaving
him alone with his charge, and his thoughts.

******************************************

"He's not here," Scully said, before they were even
really in the door.

"How can you tell?"

She moved into the apartment and nodded toward the
TV. "First thing he does when he gets home. Turn
on the TV."

Skinner was staring at her, and she glanced up, catching
his eye. She shrugged. "He turns on the TV; I turn on
the stereo. Neither one of us is much for empty silence
anymore."

Skinner nodded, walking through the small living room
and mentally checking off any differences from his
last visit. Although, in all truth, he hadn't paid that
much attention to the decor the last time he had been
here. Scully would be better at identifying anything
missing or out of place.

He followed her to the kitchen, then paused as she
stopped just inside the door. "The table is wrong,"
she said. "Too far to the left." She walked over
and looked down at an envelope inside a plastic
sandwich bag. "Letter from his mother. Why
would he bag that?" She looked up at Skinner as
she asked.

"Could explain why he went to Connecticut,
if he was indeed the one to report the break-in.
I'd think we could safely assume, wherever he
is, he's looking for his mother."

"So what do we do?"

"Two things. You go to Connecticut. Work with the
local PD and see what you can find. I'm going to try
to reach the same people Mulder was looking for when
he came to my office this afternoon."

********************************************

Mulder began to hear through the fog first. He was
laying on his back, on something soft, and he couldn't
move. Not even his eyelids would cooperate, but he
was hearing sounds. As he concentrated, the sounds
began to sort themselves out into words, and slowly,
the words began to make sense.

"... give him? You said it took you ten hours to get
here and you drugged him in DC. You've been here
six hours and he's still out."

"Calm down, Teena, he's all right. I had the doctor
check him. He must be more susceptible than usual
to the little cocktail I gave him."

"And you, of course, didn't think about that before,
did you? Act first, think later. That's always been
your way."

That was his mom. He'd found his mom. And she
was not happy. He recognized that tone. That was
the tone she used when she was getting ready to
completely take someone down -- usually him or his
father.

"What else was I supposed to do?" the male voice
hissed. "If I brought him here awake and aware,
how long would they have let him live? As it is,
I'll have trouble getting the two of you out alive."

"Don't touch me!"

That was his mother. What the hell was happening?
Mulder renewed his struggles to open his eyes, to
move, even to speak, and was rewarded when a heavy
moan slipped through his lips. "Noooo."

He could feel cool hands on his brow, pushing his hair
back and stroking his forehead, and his mom was cooing
to him. He tried desperately to speak, to make a sound
again, to move, but he felt a needle slip into his arm, and
the darkness rose up again.

"No!" his mother cried. "Stop! You've got to let him
wake up!"

"Not now, Teena," the voice said again. "I can't risk
what they'll do if he wakes up. I need to make the
arrangements to get you out of here first, then we can
wake Fox and leave."

"He's not responding to this normally, you know that,
but you keep drugging him anyway. What if you damage
him?"

Mulder could feel the darkness reaching for him, an inky
blackness pulling him relentlessly into its maw. He fought
to listen -- just a bit more -- but the darkness reigned
supreme and he drifted away.

**********************************************

"We've got a print, Sir," Scully said into the cell phone.
"Anything on your end?"

"Nothing," Skinner said in disgust. "Apparently my
discourse to the air isn't as effective as Agent Mulder's."
He snorted as he paced the confines of the office. "Who
does the print belong to?"

"One Leonard Sidlivich, from Greenville, South Carolina.
Ex-military with a history of trouble - drug possession,
petty theft, disturbing the peace. Had a big time lawyer
for his last arrest three years ago, and hasn't been in the
system since."

"You have an address?"

"Last known, yes."

"When does your flight get in? I'll meet you at the airport
and we can leave from there."

**********************************************

When Mulder woke the next time, the room was quiet.
He lay still for a long time, then slowly lifted his lids
and looked around. He seemed to be able to move now.
Perhaps they gave him something different this time.

He lifted a hand, and slowly rubbed his face. He was
stiff and his muscles felt unused. Movement was
hard; it felt as if he was moving through jello. There
was a heaviness in his limbs that felt unreal, but he
ignored it and pushed himself up to sit in the bed. He
paused a moment more, still surveying the room,
finally assured he was alone. A glance up and around
only told him that the cameras were well hidden, for
he had no doubt they were there. Which meant he
didn't have much time before someone came to check
on him.

He pushed himself to his feet, then staggered to the
door, pulling on it desperately. It didn't budge and he
looked blearily at the door handle, then the wall. A
palm-size metal plate adorned the wall by the door and
Mulder slammed his hand against it. He heard a soft
'click,' and yanked the door open, making his way
arbitrarily down the corridor to the left. His left
leg was asleep, and he dragged it almost uselessly behind
him as he clung to the wall and hobbled as quickly as
he could away from his room.

The corridor itself was empty, but he could see the video
cameras suspended from the ceiling. They were tracking
his every move, and he had to get away. At least until
the drugs were out of his system. He couldn't figure
out where he was. It wasn't a hospital, didn't seem
to be an office building. Perhaps a lab of some kind?
The room he had been in had been set up similarly to
a hospital room, and there were offices here. He'd peered
into several as he limped along.

He came to a stairwell, and took it without thinking,
hoping only to get out of sight of the cameras. He'd
made two flights, hopping down the stairs, using the
rail to propel himself forward, when he heard it -- the
door opening from the floor he had left. He renewed
his efforts, and made the next landing. Opening the
door, he peered out into a small warehouse type area,
with a number of people in sight. He turned and
continued down, still fighting the drugged torpidity
that threatened to overcome him. He made the next
landing, which was also the last, and opened the door
to a dark and dusty basement.

He scurried through as quickly as he could, heart racing
and lungs working overtime, his eyes searching for a
hiding place or a weapon he could use. He moved
along the wall, straining to hear the sounds of pursuit,
and he stopped once to pick up a piece of lead piping,
hefting it in his right hand. He heard the door behind
him creak, and dove into the room on his left, then
looked around. The only possible hiding place was
a full-sized metal storage locker. And if he concealed
himself there, they could simply lock the damn thing
and leave him. He opted to stand behind the door,
hoping he could move first and surprise them.

When the door opened, he sprang and the lead pipe
connected solidly with the first man's stomach. He
hadn't expected the man to be alone, but he had hoped
for only one more. Unfortunately, not one, but three
others piled in behind him, and Mulder was quickly
overpowered and relieved of his weapon.

The man he had attacked was pulling himself up
from the floor, still breathing hard, and he looked
at Mulder with cold, hard eyes.

"Did," pant, pant, "they say," pant, pant, "we could
kill him?" he asked in a ragged voice.

Mulder felt his blood congeal as fingers of ice tickled
his neck.

"No. They want him alive."

The man Mulder had hit pulled himself erect, and held
out a hand. One of the other men handed him the pipe.

"Well," he said, still pulling hard for air, "they say,"
pant, "anything about," pant, pant, "injuries?"

"Nothing permanent."

"Good." He smiled evilly and lifted the pipe.

*********************************************

"Oh my God!" Teena was crying. "Where is he? You
swore to me he couldn't go anywhere!"

"Calm down, Teena," the man began, but was interrupted
when the woman whirled, lifted her hand, and slapped
him soundly.

"Do *NOT* tell me to calm down, Edmund," she said.
"Really, I have had quite enough. Dragged from my
home in the dead of night. Incarcerated here against
my will. My child drugged and restrained. I want you --
no, I *demand* you exert some of that influence you are
so proud of and find Fox and take us home!"

"Teena," the man began again.

"And *don't* call me Teena. You forfeited that right
years ago!" A sob escaped and the man started to
reach for her, pulling back as she glared at him.

"Eglantine, please," he said, one hand extended to
her. "I have people looking for him. He can't get
far and my people won't hurt him."

"Your people? What does that mean, Edmund? There
are other people who will hurt him?" The blood had
drained from her face and she stared at him as she
awaited his answer.

Slowly, he lowered his hand, then turned till he faced
away from her. "You were brought here without my
knowledge, Tee -- Eglantine. I already told you I was
going to have my hands full getting you and the boy
out."

"Edmund, please, answer me. Are they going to hurt
him?"

"If my people don't find him first, yes, there is a possibility
he could be hurt."

"We have to find him." She walked to the door, tugging,
but it was locked. "Edmund, please. Don't make me beg
you." She was already pleading, but this was her son,
and this man could keep him safe.

He sighed heavily, then walked to the door and depressed
the metal plate and the door clicked. He pushed it open and
gestured to Mulder's mother. "After you, my lady. I never
could deny you anything."

"Just one thing, Edmund," she said as she walked through
the door, head held high. "You denied me one thing, and
it was enough."

**********************************************

"Thank you, Sheriff," Skinner said as he shook the man's
hand. "When we struck out at the last known address,
we were at a dead end. Knowing Sidlivich's routine
will certainly help. We appreciate your assistance."

He and Scully turned and walked back to the car.

"The Pretzel Barrel. We won't have much chance of
finding Sidlivich until tonight."

Skinner nodded agreement as he pulled the car out
of the parking lot and eased into the light flow of
cars. "Motel?" he asked, and Scully nodded.

"I don't like waiting, but I don't see what else
we can do. With no current address on our boy
Leonard, we'll have to hope we can catch him at
the Pretzel Barrel tonight."

Skinner stifled a yawn. "Agreed. And I don't know
about you, but I could use a nap."

********************************************

"Stop!" the smoker ordered, and the man with the
pipe froze in mid-movement. The other men were
slinking away, but he fixed each of them with a
glare and they ceased their retreats.

"Oh my God," Teena cried, pushing her way past
the man, and falling to her knees beside Mulder.
She scooped him up, clutching his head to her
breast and began an almost frantic rocking.
"What have they done to you? What have they
done to you?" she keened. "What have they done
to you?"

The smoker crushed his cigarette under his
foot and took a cell phone from his pocket.
He pressed a button, waited a moment, then
said, "Basement. Medical," and closed the
phone.

He looked down at the woman kneeling on the
cement floor, her clothing now covered in her
son's life fluids, and he looked at the bloody and
battered body of the man she held. His chest
still rose and fell in a regular rhythm, but he was
obviously unconscious. There was a significant
gash on the back of his head. He could see
where the blood was still dripping and the hair
had begun to mat. The face was battered,
bruises forming already, and he suspected
there would be contusions on the boy's -- he
mentally corrected himself -- on the man's
abdomen and chest as well. One leg lay at
an odd angle. It was probably broken.

This boy had always been trouble. And now
he had just made everything ten times harder.
He might have been able to get the boy and his
mother out before. Now it would be a miracle
if he could get Eglantine away. Not that she
would go without her child. She'd listened to
him once, when he promised he would bring
the child later, and later had never come. She'd
never trust him like that again.

He sighed, then went and knelt beside her.
"Eglantine?" he murmured. "Help is coming."
He reached out a hand and gently touched the
boy's brow. The man's brow. Fox's brow. It
was so hard to remember he wasn't a child anymore.
But he was still all she had. And she loved him.
Why the hell did she have to go and write that
damned letter?

************************************

"Leonard Sidlivich?" Scully asked as she approached
the man.

He turned, the angry look on his face rapidly replaced
with a speculative one as he took in the attractive
redhead who addressed him. He stood a little straighter,
licked his lips, and said, "Yeah, I'm Len." He stepped
closer, one arm reaching out to touch Scully's arm.
"What can I do for you?" he oozed.

Scully shook off the hand, and produced her ID. "You
can answer some questions."

Sidlivich took one look at the ID, whirled on his toes,
and stepped right into a crisp, well-starched, white cotton
shirt. "Going somewhere, Mr. Sidlivich?" Skinner
asked as he held the man with one hand and produced
his own ID with the other. "I believe Agent Scully
wanted to ask you some questions."

"Your fingerprints were found in a house in
Greenwich, Connecticut, Mr. Sidlivich. Can you
explain that?" Scully asked.

At the mention of 'Greenwich, Connecticut,' the man
had blanched and he began to look nervously around.
"Are you trying to get me killed?" he whined.

"That's not our first option, no, but if you aren't more
forthcoming, we won't be able to do anything to protect
you," Skinner stated.

"There is no protection from these people," he hissed.
"Once they have you, they own you forever."

Scully and Skinner exchanged a look.

"And how do we find 'these people?'" she asked.

Sidlivich ran his fingers through his hair, shaking off
Skinner's hand and began to pace along the wall by the bar.
"Oh man, I am dead," he muttered. They had let him
complete the circuit two more times when he stopped
suddenly and demanded, "Where was my print?"

"On a broken table leg," Scully told him.

"Oh shit. I am so dead," he mumbled again and stood staring
into nothingness for a long moment. Finally he focused, and
addressed Skinner. "Can the FBI keep me alive?"

"I don't know, Mr. Sidlivich," Skinner answered honestly.
"Against these people, I just don't know."

End part 02/04

The Muses: Melpomene 03/04

Mulder woke slowly. He was in a bed, soft pillow
beneath his head. His head. The headache from - how
many days ago was it? Well, the headache from hell
was back with a vengeance. The slightest movement,
including breathing, sent waves of pain cascading through
his skull. He shifted slightly, then gasped as new
pains sliced through his chest and abdomen. Broken
rib at the least. He moaned, then tried to speak.

" 'lo?"

"Fox, darling," a quiet voice answered immediately,
and a soft hand stroked his face.

Scully? Scully didn't call him Fox. And she certainly
didn't call him darling. But who else would it be?

"Scully?" he asked, the incredulity evident in his
tone.

"No, baby, it's Mom."

"Mom?"

"Shush now, it's all right."

"Thirsty."

A straw appeared like magic, touching his lips and he
sucked, drawing in fluids.

"Better?" His mother was touching his head again,
fiddling with the covers and he wanted so badly to open
his eyes and look at her. But it just required too much
effort at this point.

"Wha' happened?" he managed to ask.

"Shhh. It doesn't matter, now. You're safe and we'll
be leaving as soon as we can make arrangements to move
you."

"Tired."

"I know, sweetheart."

The hand was back on his brow, stroking his forehead, her
fingers running through his hair. Funny, it was usually
Scully who was doing that, Scully who was taking care of
him, Scully who was waiting for him when he first woke
up. Scully. Where was Scully? What had happened? His
short-term memory suddenly seemed pretty hazy and he
could feel panic rising in his chest.

He forced his eyes open, blinking until he could focus, then
scanned the room. "Mom?" he asked, agitation rising. "Mom.
I don't remember. Where's Scully? Is she hurt? Why isn't she
here? Why are you here?"

A man came into his field of vision, and he felt a prick as
a needle slid into his arm, then a burning as something was
injected. Almost immediately, he began to relax and he
felt sleep creeping over him. "No," he protested weakly.
"Mom, tell me. Where is Scully?"

"Edmund, no!" his mother was saying. "No more!" She
turned back to Mulder, lowering her voice to speak softly
to him. "Scully isn't here. She's safe. You just need to
rest now, Fox. Just rest."

His eyes closed against his will and he could feel the
darkness calling him again.

"Edmund, he has a head wound! You can't sedate him!
What are you doing? Do you *want* to kill him?" His mom
was pretty mad. He couldn't remember her ever being
so mad over someone doing something to him. Despite
the pain, despite the sleep that was pulling him under, he
smiled as he realized how nice it felt to have your mom
stick up for you -- even if you were 38 years old.

He struggled to remain conscious just a bit longer, listening.

"He doesn't remember, Eglantine. If he doesn't remember,
they have no need to neutralize him." The man took
a pack of cigarettes out, tapped one from the box, and
lit it. "If he doesn't remember ...

Mulder faded out. If I don't remember what? If I don't
remember what? He drifted away to the chant: If I don't
remember what?

********************************************

"If he doesn't remember that damned letter you wrote
him, they'll let him go. They'll need to be assured he
doesn't have any memory, but I think I can get him out
now." He drew on the cigarette again, looking coolly
at the woman who sat by the bed. "And you, my dear.
I think I can get you out as well." He was rewarded
when she looked up at him, surprise evident in her face.

"You can get me out?" Her eyes were wide and he was
pleased to see a spark of appreciation in them. She
dropped her head, looking at the man in the bed, and
lifted his hand carefully. "I didn't think ..." she
whispered.

The man put the cigarette out, then stepped to the
woman by the bed. He gently placed a hand on her
shoulder, satisfied when she didn't pull away, and
said, "You just didn't think at all, Teena." His
words were stern, but his tone was soft, his expression
tender. "You've always let your feelings get in the
way of good sense." He squeezed her shoulder carefully,
and she reached up, covering his hand with her own.

"I thought that was what you liked in me." There was
a hint of wistfulness in her voice as she spoke.

"You kept me human, Teena," the man whispered, and
he dropped to his knees beside her.

She looked at Mulder again, noted he was sleeping
now, then turned to face the man kneeling beside her.
"You used to *be* human, Edmund," she said sadly.
"Why did you let them steal your soul?"

The man lowered his head. "They didn't steal it,
Tee, I sold it -- a tiny piece at a time."

She reached out and touched him now, and he let
himself revel in this simple contact. Her hand
against his cheek, the same cheek she had so
brutally slapped just hours ago. He leaned into
her touch, craving the connection, and his hand
slipped out to rest on her leg.

"It's still there, Edmund. You still have a soul."
Her voice was quiet, and he fancied he heard
compassion in her tone. "You've just forgotten,
that's all." He felt her moving, and was astonished
when she kissed him softly on the top of his head.

He looked up at her, tears hovering in his eyes.
"I'll get him out, Teena, I promise. I'll get you
both out. And I'll make them leave you alone."

"I know, Edmund," she said, a sad smile on her
face now. "I'm sure you will. But my impetuousness
has caused grave damage. Not even you can fix that.
What will it take to assure my son's safety? What's the
going rate for a soul these days?"

****************************************

"All right," Scully said as she hung up the phone. "The
arrangements are made. You get a new identity, new
home, new job, the whole works. You vanish into obscurity,
and you get it all outside the country." She paused,
eyeing the man seated at the table in the motel room.
"Now. Tell us where he is."

"Not him," Sidlivich corrected. "I never saw the man you're
talking about. Just the woman. The one you said is his
mother. We went and got her and took her to the
facility."

"Where is the facility?" Skinner barked. He had about
reached his limit with this man and his demands. There
was no telling what was happening with Mulder, or his
mother, and this man wanted only to make his own
arrangements, secure his own protection.

"No," Sidlivich said, and Scully and Skinner both started
in shock.

"What do you mean, 'no?'" Scully said in a deadly quiet
voice, her eyes narrowed as she glared at the man.

"I mean 'no,'" Sidlivich restated. "I'll tell you where the
facility is when I'm on the plane, ready to leave the
country. I don't think you two have enough motivation
to keep me alive at this point. Perhaps this will help."

Skinner reached out, grabbing the man by his collar, and
his fist pulled back, but Scully's voice halted him. "No,
Sir, we can't. We need him to find Mulder."

Skinner released the man reluctantly, walking away from
the smug look plastered on Sidlivich's face. He stood across
the room, staring at the wall as he took several deep breaths
and fought for control. They were so close ...

Finally, he sighed and turned back to find Scully watching
him quietly. "When can we get him on a plane?"

"I'm working on it now, Sir, but if we charter one, I think
we can get him out of here within two hours."

Two more hours. Shit! Wherever you are, Mulder, I hope
two hours isn't too late.

*********************************************

Mulder was in that foggy place again, half awake,
half asleep, half alert. He took a quick inventory, an
overwhelming sense of deja vu that he had performed
this ritual already. Head pain -- concussion. Deep breath.
Gasp! Agony. Note to self -- no deep breaths. Broken
rib. One leg was immobilized. A cast? Splint? Had
he broken his leg? He could feel the swelling in his face.
An accident of some kind. Had he been in an accident?
Scully would know. Oh God! Scully! Was she with him?
Was she hurt?

He dragged his lids up, opening grainy feeling eyes to
gaze around the room. "Scully?" he called, his voice
hoarse and scratchy.

But it was his mother who answered. "Shhh, Fox. I'm
here. Mama's here."

Mama? God, he hadn't called his mother 'Mama' since
he was about -- well, since he was 12. The day the world
ended. He had to be dreaming. His mother never came
to see him when he was injured.

He shook his head, welcoming the pain to chase the last
vestiges of sleep away, then looked around once more.
"Scully?" he tried again.

"Hush, darling," his mother crooned to him, and he felt
a cool rag wipe his face. His mother? Fussing over him?
Impossible! He forced his eyes up to meet her face, and saw
the love and concern shining from her eyes. Love? Concern?
For him? Had there been a time warp and someone forgot
to tell him? She hadn't fussed over him, loved on him, since --
well, just since.

"Mom?" he croaked.

"Yes, baby, I'm here. It's all right."

"But Scully? Was she with me? Was she hurt?"

A strange look crossed his mother's face, an emotion
flickering so quickly he wasn't sure he saw it. Nor
could he name it. Anger? Pain? Jealousy?

"No darling, she wasn't with you. You were alone."

"Where," he licked his lips and swallowed, and his
mother put a straw to his lips. He took a long pull,
then tried again. "Where is she? She's always here
when I wake up."

His mother looked up. Checking with someone before she
answered?

"She doesn't know where you are."

Mulder thought a moment. His memory was so hazy. He
couldn't figure out what had happened. "I was on a case.
We were on a case. Scully and me."

"What else do you remember?"

"I came home." Mulder's words were coming slowly as
he struggled to think back to what had happened. "I
came home," he repeated, "but that's all." He looked
up at his mother, sudden fear evident on his face.
"That's all I can remember, Mom."

"Shhh, now, it's all right. There really wasn't anything
else, baby," she comforted him.

"I was in an accident?" he asked.

Again she looked up, seeking approval for her answer.
Who was she looking at?

"Something like that. But you'll be OK."

He nodded, forgetting for a moment how painful that
was, but being reminded almost immediately, as his
head exploded and he drew in a deep breath. Another
mistake. Tears sprang to his eyes, and he lay back,
taking shallow little puffs of air. "Hurts, Mama," he
whimpered, feeling her hand take his.

"I know, baby, I know. We'll give you something for
the pain now and you can sleep."

There was a prick in his arm and he felt something flowing
in, and then he began to grow sleepy. He closed his
eyes, relaxing into the drug's influence.

"Are you satisfied?" his mother demanded, "Or do you
want to wake him again and torture him?"

Man, he was glad she wasn't talking to him like that
anymore. He didn't realize how much he'd missed
having his mom care for him. It was nice. He felt
safe, and warm, and loved. He'd missed being loved.

A man was talking now, but the sleep was upon him
and he couldn't distinguish the words. He smiled,
thinking how good things were. His mom was there,
and she loved him. And Scully was safe. He'd have
his mom call her when he woke again. For now though,
he would sleep.

*****************************************

"The facility? Where is the facility?" Skinner was
yelling to be heard over the engine of the small plane.

The man, Sidlivich, walked between him and Scully,
across the tarmac and paused before stepping up into
the cockpit.

"It's in the city. An office building in a corporate
park. The address is ..."

There was a pop, and Sidlivich rocked back, a bright
red geyser erupting from his chest. Skinner turned
to look, but Scully moved, tackling him, and rolling
with him till they were under the plane. She had
her weapon out and pointed in the direction the shot
had come from, but there was nothing to be seen.

Skinner felt foolish. Too damn many years riding
a desk. His own weapon was out now, and he kept
watch as Scully crept back to Sidlivich, checking for
life signs, then slowly shaking her head. He scanned
the tarmac again. The pilot had jumped from the plane
and was cowering behind the far wheel, but other than
that, there was -- nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

He crawled out from under the plane, standing slowly,
then turned to help Scully up. He leaned into the
cockpit and turned the plane off, watching as the props
slowed and then finally stopped.

When the silence was complete, he turned to find
Scully staring at him. "We have to find him, Sir. I
have a bad feeling."

Skinner nodded grimly. He'd had the same feeling
since Mulder ditched him. "We'll start a building by
building search, get everyone involved, and we'll go
through every corporate building in this city." He
smiled slightly. "How many can there be in a place
like Greenville, South Carolina?"

******************************************

"It's the only way, Teena," the man was saying. He
glanced at Mulder, asleep on the bed, his mother
still by his side.

She turned to lift tear filled eyes to him and whispered,
"Edmund, I can't. It would kill him."

"They'll kill him if you don't."

She turned back, her hand reaching out to stroke her
son. "I -- I'm lonely, Edmund," she said softly. "I miss
him. And I don't want to see him in pain." She looked
up at the man again. "Pain like this, or the pain of
not knowing. Edmund, please, it's killing him."

"He's strong, Tee. You made him strong."

"I ignored him. I rejected him. I kept him at a distance."

"Yes! Because you had to. You kept him safe and you
made him strong!" The man's voice had risen as he spoke,
more emotion than he had displayed in years. He forced
himself to speak softly, and went on. "He's stronger than
you think." He closed his eyes thinking back to times
he'd met with the boy -- the boy turned man. "Believe
me, I know how strong he is."

Her voice was wavering. "I'm weak, Edmund. I'm weak
and I'm selfish. I gave up one; I don't think I can give up
the other."

"You have no choice, Eglantine." The man made his
voice hard. "You started this, you and that damned letter.
And then you ordered me to get you out of it. Well, I
have. I've gotten you both out. Don't you dare tell me
you won't comply now!"

The woman had laid her head on the bed now, next to
the broken body of her child. Tears dampened the sheets
and he could see her shoulders shake as the sobs issued
forth. "Oh, God, Edmund," she cried, even as she anointed
her first-born with those selfsame tears. "How did it come
to this?"

The man walked to her, and very carefully, very tentatively,
touched her. When she didn't pull away, he reached out
and gripped her arm gently, lifting her to her feet. He turned
her to face him, both hands on her arms now, watching as
the tears still poured over her cheeks. She was shaking,
a storm of emotions ripping through her, and he slowly
drew her into his embrace. Her head pillowed on his
shoulder, and he stroked her back as he held her. "We're
all pawns in someone else's game, Tee. We're all just pawns."

***********************************************

"I had no idea," Skinner murmured as he looked at the map,
industrial and business complexes marked in red. "This
could take days."

"I don't think we have days, Sir," Scully said quietly. "Mulder
*never* disappears like this without calling me. If he was
OK, he would find a way to call me. We have to assume he
is being held against his will, or is injured and unable to make
contact. Either potentiality requires swift and immediate action
on our part."

"Agreed." Skinner turned and addressed the assembled group.
"Sheriff, if your people will take the north end, then Captain, your
people can take the east and south, as you have more resources."
He turned to speak to the SAIC from the Bureau's Columbia office.
You're with Agent Scully and myself. We'll take the west, starting
with Donaldson Center."

He looked at the assembled law enforcement officials. A diverse
group, but Mulder's life could be in their hands. "I don't need
to tell you, this is one of my own. One man is dead trying to prevent
us from locating this man. So let's get out there and find him, but
watch each other's backs."

End part 03/04

The Muses: Melpomene 04/04

"The FBI is searching this complex. They'll find the facility
fast enough. We're evacuating now."

"I can't leave him, Edmund," Teena said practically. "He's
too badly injured to be left alone."

The smoker heard the accusation, 'Your fault,' that went
unsaid. "Teena, we discussed this. You asked what the
cost for his life was. You know. His partner is in the
search team. She'll take care of him." He paused, thinking,
then made his own dig. "She always has before." He
immediately regretted his pettiness when she jumped,
his words an almost physical blow. He went to her, reaching
out, but she firmly rebuffed him.

"Please let me talk to him. Let me tell him why."

"That's not in the agreement."

"Fuck the agreement," and the man recoiled at the foul
words coming from this cultured woman's mouth.
"Edmund, he's my son. He's your --" she paused and
the rest remained unsaid. She reached out, not for comfort,
but in entreaty, begging shamelessly and without
thought for her own dignity. "Let me tell him I
love him, Edmund, please," she pleaded.

The man took her hand. He had learned the art of
compromise in many years of the work he did. He
wanted her to come to him because she wanted him,
but he would take her any way he could. She stepped
into his arms, and didn't resist when he embraced
her tightly and leaned down, brushing his lips across
her own. "All right, Eglantine," he mumurmed,
burying his head against her shoulder, impressing this
moment forever. He never could deny this woman
anything. Only the one time, and it had ruined
everything for so many people.

"All right," he whispered, his lips against her cheek.
"You can talk to him."

***************************************************

It was harder and harder to wake up each time. Mulder struggled
toward consciousness, fighting against the stupor that dragged
against him. "Scully?" he whispered. "Scully, are you here?"

"No, darling. Your Scully isn't here yet, but she's coming."

That's right. It was coming back to him. His mom was here.
And she loved him! He could feel it every time she touched
him, see it in her eyes when she looked at him.

"Mom?"

"Yes, darling?" She was touching him again, her hand on
his head, then his arm, stroking gently and making his pains
recede. He didn't know moms could do that. He'd always
thought that was a Scullyskill. But then, his mom had never
been there before when he needed that particular brand of
magic.

"Where am I? A hospital? Why hasn't a doctor come in?"

"No, Fox, not a hospital."

"Where?" He shifted slightly, ignoring the pain in his
chest and head, taking in the room. Close to a hospital
room, but she was right. There were subtle differences.
No guard rails on the bed for one thing.

"Doesn't matter, sweetheart." She leaned over and kissed
him on the forehead.

His mom kissed him? His mom kissed him! He smiled
up at her, wanting to remember this moment forever.

She looked over at someone, someone standing out of
his line of sight, then sighed, and turned her eyes
back to him. "I don't have much time, Fox. I need
to tell you some things."

A throat cleared, a man's throat, and his mother jerked
her eyes upward again, nodding.

"Wha'?" he asked. "What is it, Mom?"

"I love you, Fox. Never doubt that for a moment."

"I know, Mama," he responded, then he twitched slightly
as he felt the now familiar sting of a needle sliding into
his arm.

"No!" his mother cried. "I need to talk to him. I need
to explain! You said I could talk to him!"

"Eglantine, you can't. You've told him what you needed
to say." Mulder knew that voice. He knew that bastard's
voice! Why was he here? What was he doing to his
mother?

"Mama!" he cried, "Mama, tell me!"

"Oh, baby, I can't. I can't. But I can tell you I love you.
I love you more than life itself."

The sleep was advancing but he was strong and he was
fighting it. Somewhere in the back of his mind he thought
he shouldn't be sleeping anyway. Scully never let him
sleep when his head was hurt.

"What?" He was drifting away, and he knew there was
something important that he needed to hear, something
that would make things right, that would correct some of
the damages. "Mom, wha'?" he slurred, his voice thickening
with encroaching slumber.

"Shhh, baby, you sleep now. When you wake up, your
Scully will be here."

"Mom," he was sliding under, fading away, everything
seemed to be at a great distance. "Mom, I'll come
see you. You can tell me then."

"I love you, Fox," she said again, and her hand brushed
over his eyes, his eyes sliding shut beneath her touch.
"Sleep now, baby. Sleep."

*******************************************

"What the hell is this place?" Skinner asked as he and
Scully advanced through the obviously recently deserted
corridors of the corporate building.

She was shaking her head, peering into rooms as they
moved ahead. "I have no idea. But we're in the
right place. They couldn't have been gone more than
an hour. Coffee pots and copiers still on, but files
are empty. Recent fires in the metal trash cans. They
shredded and burned."

She paused a moment and looked up at the older man.
"What if they ..." her voice broke and she pulled herself
rigidly erect, fighting for control.

"If he's here, we'll find him. If they took him, we'll
keep looking." Skinner reached out hesitantly to lay
a hand on Scully's shoulder, squeezing gently, then
turned and said, "Come on, the search isn't over yet."

They finished the floor they were on and were ready
to move up one, when there was a cry from the other
end of the building. "Got him!"

Scully and Skinner both wheeled, racing for the man
who was still calling, "Medical! We need medical!"

Scully reached the door, pushing at taller, broader
male agents, trying to get past. "Move, move," she
was ordering, "let me pass!"

The men were shifting somewhat, but everyone
wanted to peer into the room and she was still having
difficulty getting through the mob. She had actually
reached for her gun, and had it half drawn when a
hand grabbed her wrist, and a wry voice said, "I don't
think that will be necessary, Scully."

Skinner lifted his voice and boomed, "Clear this corridor,
and make space for medical." Agents began to immediately
fall back against the walls, giving way and Scully slipped
forward and into the room.

Mulder lay on a twin size bed, his head swathed in gauze,
and an unsightly looking bulge around his left leg was
visible under the covers. His chest rose evenly, and he
seemed to be sleeping.

She moved over to the bed, making an initial assessment.
Some basic first aid had been applied, but even in the
first glance she could see that Mulder needed to be in
a hospital. She pulled the blanket from him, noting he
wore only his boxers. His chest was a mass of small
cuts and contusions, a vivid panoply of purples and reds.
She watched him breathe -- even asleep his breaths
were shallow and she reached and gently traced his
ribs, watching as he flinched beneath her hands. One
broken for sure, maybe more.

A temporary splint encased the leg. She ignored
that for the moment, moving up to look at the bandage
around his head. She began unwrapping the gauze
turban, wincing when she saw the size of the gash it
covered. The gash that had been cleaned but not
sutured.

She closed her eyes and leaned down, her forehead
resting against her partner's, and whispered, "What
did they do to you, Mulder? What was it all about
this time?"

She turned her head slightly and brushed her lips
against his cheek, then straightened abruptly when
she heard someone say, "Oh, yeah, they're just partners,
all right," and the hallway erupted in sniggers.

"Where the hell is the medical?" she demanded, ignoring
the bloom of color in her cheeks.

"Coming, Scully," Skinner said gently. "How is he?"

"Head trauma. Knowing Mulder, we'll be lucky if it's
only a concussion. Track marks on his arms ..." She
trailed off, then picked up her train of thought. "At
least one broken rib, the leg is probably broken as well.
Bruises, cuts, and scrapes."

"Accident?"

Scully turned to study Mulder again, his hand held firmly
in her own. "I don't think so. There's a pattern. If I were
doing an autopsy, I'd say deliberate blunt trauma. Something
like a bat or a pipe."

There was a sound at the door and two paramedics entered,
a gurney between them.

"Excuse us, Miss," one said as he moved her to the side.

She started to protest, but Skinner was there, pulling her
away. "They know what they're doing, Scully," he said,
as he walked her to the far side of the room. "Let them work."

She watched as they put the cervical collar on, and started
an IV. He was swiftly moved to the gurney and they were
heading out the door almost faster than she could follow.

"Where?" she cried. "Where are you taking him?"

"Greenville Hospital. They have an Emergency Trauma
Unit."

She looked back at Skinner, suddenly lost, her thoughts
focused on the man being wheeled away.

"Come, Agent Scully," the AD said. "Let's go and we'll meet
him there."

*************************************************

"In addition to the blow to the head, he's been repeatedly drugged.
There are traces of everything from a mild paralytic to analgesics
to sedatives." The doctor stood in front of the view screen, pointing
to the images from Mulder's CT scan. "Subdural hematoma --" she
paused, then pointed again, "and you can see here, there's a slight
midline shift."

"Who's going to do the surgery?" Scully asked.

"Surgery?" Skinner was confused. "He was awake and
talking a little while ago."

"But he was sluggish, and his words were slurred. And he
was in a *lot* of pain."

"He didn't say anything," Skinner said.

"He never does," Scully replied. "He hates to admit he isn't
one hundred percent."

"But --" Skinner raised his hand helplessly. "How?"

Scully shrugged. "I can tell. What he doesn't say. How he
doesn't move. What he doesn't ask for."

"Like?"

"He didn't ask when he could go home." She was staring at
the scans as she spoke, answering him almost absently, and he
decided to let it go for now.

"Surgeon?" she verbally prodded the doctor again.

"Burwell Towson."

"Curriculum Vitae?"

"Undergrad from USC, then the Med school. Did his residency
here as well. He's a local boy, but he's good."

"I take it USC is University of South Carolina, not Southern
California," Skinner commented dryly.

"Around here, there is nothing else." The doctor grinned as
she spoke.

"When will he be here?" Scully was still looking at the scans.

"Dr. Towson is on his way, Dr. Scully," the woman said. "He's
aware of the gravity of the situation."

Scully was nodding. Finally she turned and looked at Skinner
and the doctor. "I'm going to go sit with him," she said, then
turned and left.

"Devoted," the doctor said.

"Very," Skinner agreed.

"Isn't it odd for spouses to work together in your line?"
the doctor asked.

"They're not married," Skinner said shortly.

"But," the doctor was confused. "She's listed as his next
of kin."

Skinner shrugged. "They're --" he paused, searching for
the right word, "unique."

*********************************************

Mulder struggled valiantly, finally prying his eyes open,
and was rewarded with the vision he had been seeking all
along. Scully was sitting in the chair next to his bed,
his hand held loosely in her own.

"Scully," he croaked. "You're here."

"Yeah, I am." Her hand came out to smooth the wrinkles
from his forehead and he sighed contentedly.

"Any pain, Mulder?"

He shrugged minutely.

"Mulderrrr," she growled warningly.

"It hurts," he admitted.

"Where?"

He looked up at her. "Chest, head, leg." He paused a moment
taking inventory. "Actually, everywhere. When can I get
the good stuff?"

"Post-surgery."

"Surgery?" His eyes widened, unasked questions in his face.

"There's a pretty nasty gash on the back of your head. Any
idea how you got that?"

His eyes closed as he thought. "No," he said finally. The
eyes opened again, and she could see the beginnings of fear
in them. "Surgery, Scully?"

"You have a subdural hematoma, Mulder. They need to
relieve the pressure." She squeezed his hand. "You're going
to be fine."

"Gonna come with me?" he asked lightly, but she heard the
concern beneath the joking tone.

"Always," she answered seriously, and he smiled up at her.

They gazed at one another for a long moment, then she spoke,
"Hey, you, you've been sleeping since you got here. You
remember anything about what happened?"

"I think I may have been in an accident or something. All
I really remember is that my mom was there. I think she said
it was an accident." He smiled again, a memory chasing the
pain away for one tiny minute.

"What?" she asked, and was surprised when he colored slightly,
as if embarrassed.

"It's nothing," he mumbled, but she reached out and gently stroked
his cheek.

"Give," she ordered softly, smiling at him.

"My mom -- she, uh, well, she said she loved me." He looked up
at her, the words suddenly tumbling out of him. "She was really
nice, supportive," he blinked and looked away for a second, then
returned his eyes to meet her gaze. "Like you. She was trying
to make them stop --" his brow wrinkled again, as he fought to
bring the memory forth, "to stop something. She was standing
up for me. Wouldn't let them do -- something." He looked
around then, as if realizing for the first time they were alone.
"Hey," he asked, "where is she?"

"She wasn't at the facility, Mulder," Scully said. "You were
alone."

He shook his head, then moaned as pain rocked through him.

"Shhh," Scully was murmuring. "Let's not do this now, Mulder.
We can talk about it later. You need to be still and rest."

He nodded imperceptibly. " 'k," he said, and Scully knew he was
in an enormous amount of pain to give in so easily. "But you
gotta look for her. She was there."

"All right, Mulder," Scully soothed. "I'll talk to Skinner and
we'll find her." His eyes were closed and he breathed in shallow
little pants, fighting against the pain that surrounded him.
Her hand moved slowly up and down his arm, a constant
reminder that she was there, that he was not alone. "For now,
you just rest."

He tried to nod again, exhaustion overtaking him, and he let
himself go, knowing that as long as Scully was with him,
she would take care of it all.

**************************************************

"When will he wake up?" Skinner asked.

"He always has some problems with anesthesia," Scully
responded. "Takes him a long time to come back, and then,
well," she shrugged slightly, "he tends to be sick. I've
already told them he's gonna need an anti-emetic."

She rose and rolled her shoulders, then began to walk
the small room. "You find anything in Connecticut?"

Skinner nodded, a displeased look on his face. "The house
was put back in order by a service. New furniture, door replaced,
everything. Then they closed it up tighter than a drum, and
left. His mother is apparently out of the country."

Scully looked at him, alarm in her eyes. "Are you sure
it was of her own free will?"

"Oh, yeah," Skinner sighed. "She left a message for Mulder."

"Do you -- did you ...?"

"Yes again. I used my credentials and had it released to
me." He sighed again and shook his head. "It's not
what he is expecting."

Scully raised an eyebrow.

"She is going to stay with various friends on the Continent
for a while. 'The Continent.' Her words. Due to the
'difficult nature' of their relationship, she doesn't feel
'continuing contact' would be 'beneficial' to anyone.
If there is an emergency, she can be reached through her
solicitor."

"She didn't even leave him a contact number?" Scully
asked in disbelief.

Skinner shook his head. "And the lawyer gets to decide
what constitutes an emergency. She's basically abandoning
him."

"He thinks --" Scully paused, "he expects things to be
different." She turned, staring at something unseen. "This
is going to crush him."

**********************************************

"I don't believe it!" Mulder said vehemently. "These people
can make you do anything!" He turned to look pleadingly
at Scully. "You know what I say is true."

"Mulder," Skinner began, "I looked into it personally. There
is no reason to suspect your mother has been coerced in any
way. The lawyer is totally legit, the same firm your family
has used for years."

"That alone should make them suspect," Mulder muttered
under his breath. He was seated in a wheelchair, one side
of his head shaved and a gauze pad covering the incision
from his surgery. The bruises on his face were fading, so
instead of mottled reds and purples, he was sporting greens
and yellows now. He breathed carefully, trying not to
disturb the broken rib unduly, and his casted leg was
propped on a chair in front of him.

"The AD went up to Connecticut, Mulder," Scully
explained. "When he says he looked into it personally,
he means 'in person.' He put a lot of effort into finding
out where your mother is and why this sudden decision
was made."

Skinner nodded gratefully, then continued, "And I found
that it truly does seem that she has just decided to sever
contact --" Mulder winced and Skinner hastened to amend
his statement -- "for the time being."

Mulder was staring at his lap, back rigid, but eyes downcast.
His lower lip trembled and he nodded carefully but said
no more. Skinner met Scully's eyes over his head, then
quietly excused himself to go and get the car so that Mulder
could be discharged.

Scully went and sat next to Mulder's cast, perching on the
edge of the chair before him. "You OK, partner?" she
asked, her hand reaching out for his.

He looked up and offered her a sad half smile, nodding once,
then shaking his head as a tear spilled over. "I can't believe
she would leave me like this," he whispered. "Scully, she
was -- incredible -- back there. She really did love me."

"Of course she loves you Mulder. You don't know what
caused this. Whatever her actions, she loves you. You
know that, right?"

"I know it's normal, I recognize the syndrome, but I suddenly
feel like an adult orphan." He gave a cock-eyed smile, then
wiped at his eyes again. "Things have been strained between
us for so long, but I always knew she was there. And now,"
he shrugged helplessly, "now -- she's not."

"She loves you, Mulder," Scully repeated. "She told you
that."

"But she left me." Mulder heard the desperation in his
voice, but was powerless to control it. "Everyone who
loves me leaves."

Scully's hand reached out, her fingers tracing the ridge
of his eyebrow, then trailing tenderly down to cup his
cheek. "Not everyone, Mulder," she whispered. "Not
everyone."

*****************************************

Teena Mulder rolled over, looking at the clock. She did
the math and decided Fox would be coming home from
work now. Or perhaps he had plans and would be spending
the evening with his partner. She smiled slightly. Maybe
even in a non work-related activity.

Her hand reached out to brush the glass of the picture
by the bed. The boy, tall, almost smug looking as he
smiled self-assuredly into the camera. And the girl,
laughing as she stood beside her older brother. Both
lost to her now. But at least one was protected.

A hand snaked out and wrapped around her waist,
and she stiffened, then forced herself to relax. He
rolled forward too, and murmured, "Can't sleep?"

She let herself settle against him, still torn between
this forced liaison, and her own desperate need for
comfort. "Thinking," she replied softly.

He rubbed her back soothingly, then lifted his head
to nip lightly at her neck.

"You've done it, Teena," he whispered as he kissed
her. "He's safe now."

End