Safe House, The

by philiater

The Safe House
Author: Philiater
Category: Story, Skinner/Scully but not a true SSR. AU Rating: R
Timeline: Post Patient X with an alternative ending. Secrets abound.
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were. They belong to CC and company.
Beta: Thanks to Keleka as always just great!


From Merriam WebsterMain
Entry: safe house
: a place where one may engage in secret activities or take refuge.

She breathed heavily as she struggled to keep up with the tall man in front of her. Every intake of air was like breathing in razor blades, and carried a burning pain she could feel deep in her chest. Fallen leaves crunched noisily under their feet and swirled in the brisk wind that blew in their direction. Tiny droplets of freezing rain pelted her face and she could feel that the temperature had dropped with the sun. Only a flashlight illuminated their path through the dense undergrowth. She was bone tired and seriously doubted she could keep this pace up much longer.

For his part, the tall man seemed unfazed by the exertion. His strides were long and effortless. Large muscles played under smooth slacks, carrying him further from her. He was effortless and elegant in his single-mined determination.

When she paused to catch her breath, he turned back. A quirked eyebrow and turned down corner of mouth showed his displeasure at having to stop. She ignored it and bent over at the waist to rest her hands on the tan cloth that covered her knees. Concentrate, she thought. Slow your breathing down.

Silently he waited, a tall sentinel in the woods. His dark coat and mood were a warning like a tiger's stripes: Stay away. This is a dangerous creature. She was sure that even the ferocious black bears that roamed this forest would back away from him if confronted.

She must have taken longer than necessary because a circle of light from the flashlight appeared in front of her.

"Are you all right?" his deep voice inquired above her.

She looked up from her legs to see worry flicker across his face. He replaced it quickly with feigned annoyance.

Nodding silently, she righted herself. He thrust a large hand out toward hers, and she balked. She didn't want to be tugged along like a small child.

"Would you rather be carried?" Threat edged the question and she knew he'd do it.

"No."

His gloved hand reached down and grasped her bare one. Numb with cold, she winced at the pressure he exerted. She had no time to think of anything else before he was pulling her forward.

After a half hour of plodding over chilly ground, she felt like collapsing.

"Sir," she panted and slowed.

He turned around and gave her an impatient look. "The safe house should be just ahead. Can you last a few more minutes?"

"I-I think so."

Skinner set his mouth in a grim line and continued forward. He's a robot, she thought. No one could be so relentlessly determined to get somewhere.

Except her, of course.

Was it only a few hours ago that she'd gone to the bridge in a deep trance, seemingly stopping for nothing and no one? When she'd finally become of aware of her surroundings, she couldn't have said where she was and had to be told. She couldn't remember leaving the Hoover or driving all the way to Pennsylvania.

Images of that night's activities came to her in bright flashes. Light, the sound of people screaming and Cassandra in her wheelchair made their way into her conscious mind. People being set on fire and the acrid smell of burning flesh also intruded. None of it made much empirical sense, but underlying it all was grim fear; fear that could easily blind her to everything else in the tangible world.

She looked up at Skinner and knew he was concrete, an anchor in a world where reality shifted like sand. The sight of his bald head was reassuring in a strange way. It was an image to hold onto, one that could drive the terrifying ones away.

Suddenly she stumbled and fell forward, her hand slipping out of his as she hit the wet ground. Blackness threatened to swallow her up and she struggled to stay alert. Arms, large and strong righted her and she could feel Skinner's wool coat against her cheek.

"Scully," he whispered. "Hang on. We're almost there."

She thought she heard a trace of trepidation in his voice, but that couldn't be. Skinner was a man who feared nothing.

He picked her up and slung her over his shoulder like a sack of flour. She tried to protest, but the words died on her lips. She was tired, so cold and tired. In spite of her best efforts, she slipped into unconsciousness.


Warm darkness and the faint odor of aftershave were the next things she became aware of. She felt relaxed, cocooned in a feeling of complete safety. Waking, she realized she was covered with several blankets and Skinner's large coat. The cologne scent was coming from its deep folds.

Stirring slightly, she discovered a braided rug underneath her. A fire in a fieldstone fireplace crackled to her left. A dark shape moved on her right as Skinner's bulky frame came into focus. He helped her to sit up, one arm behind her as a backrest.

"Here."

A glass of water was thrust at her and she gulped it down gratefully. He pulled the glass back to let her catch her breath for a moment before bringing it back to her parched lips.

"Better?" he asked when she'd finished.

She nodded gratefully. Fatigue swept over her again and her eyelids began to droop almost immediately. Very gently he lowered her to the rug and covered her again. She tried to speak but couldn't seem to find the strength to utter a single word.

Skinner looked down at her with dark, fathomless eyes. He reached out to put a cool hand on her forehead and then ran it softly down her cheek. She wanted to stay awake and ask him questions, but her body simply wouldn't cooperate.

Just before she fell asleep she heard him murmur. "I'm sorry, Scully."


She woke to bright sunshine as it filtered in through a set of grimy windows. Behind her she could hear Skinner softly snoring. It took a few moments to get oriented. They were in Pennsylvania and Skinner had brought her to a safe house.

Slowly she sat up and saw that he lay a few feet from her on the bare floor. A single, thin blanket barely covered his large frame. His head rested on the edge of the braided rug as a makeshift pillow.

Suddenly he was sitting up, instantly awake. He blinked myopically in the harsh morning light, appearing almost defenseless without his glasses. The only time she could remember seeing him without them was when he was injured. It was nearly as disorienting as their present situation.

"Agent Scully?"

"I'm fine," she reassured him.

She made a move to stand, but a throbbing in her temple made her stop. A bandage was taped over her forehead and she felt another on her right cheek. Looking down she saw that her tan pant suit had been replaced with an oversized blue flannel shirt and gray sweat pants.

Skinner looked away in embarrassment when she gave him an inquiring look.

"You're clothes were wet," he said in a matter of fact voice, as if he undressed his agents as a matter of course, "and you were cold."

"Where are we?"

"Someplace safe."

"And where exactly is that?"

He didn't answer immediately, giving her a probing look instead.

"What do you remember about yesterday?"

She turned toward the dying fire and tried to concentrate.

"I remember walking down the hall."

"At the Hoover?"

"Yes. I remember feeling odd, like I was standing outside my body and felt a strong compulsion to leave. I stopped to take a drink at a drinking fountain and then-" she trailed off.

"And then," he prompted.

"Nothing. Nothing until you pulled me off the bridge."

"You don't remember driving here?"

"I don't even know where 'here' is. I have no idea why I did that."

He nodded, but didn't comment any further. It was then that she noticed he still wore his rumpled business clothes. The tie and suit coat were gone, but his white shirt was mud spattered and blood was smudged along the collar. A scabbed over gash ran along the right side of his neck, accounting for the blood.

Instinctively she reached out to inspect the wound.

"What happened-" Her hand was caught before it reached his neck.

"Nothing," he said flatly, trying to dismiss her concern.

"This isn't nothing. It could get infected if you aren't careful."

"Agent Scully, you should be more concerned with your own condition," he said, dropping her hand. She let it go, unwilling to anger him further.

Looking around, she could see that their safe house looked anything but secure.

It consisted of one room. No bedroom, no kitchen, no real living room either. There were crudely made cabinets against one wall that she assumed contained the bare essentials. A single, log hewn bed was built right into the other. A small table and two chairs occupied the center of the room, just behind where Skinner had slept.

"Why didn't you sleep in the bed?"

He frowned and got up, slowly straightening his large frame as he stood. After stretching and rubbing his neck, he put his glasses on and walked over to one of the cabinets.

"You might have needed me," he said without turning around.

She watched him open one of the cabinets and rummage around. He pulled out a large pot and two tin cans. Other supplies such as a first aid kit, a few chipped dishes, silverware, and some rags lined the wooden shelves. The food appeared to be entirely canned: soups, beans, vegetables and condensed milk. Everything someone hiding away could want.

She was mildly surprised to see him open the cans and dump their contents into the pot. He brought it over to the fire and set the handle on an iron swing-arm to heat.

She walked around the 18x18 foot building but didn't see what she needed.

"What are you looking for?"

"The bathroom."

"It's out back."

She groaned inwardly. These were truly rustic accommodations, something more suited to hunters and fishermen than the FBI.

The front door appeared to be the only egress and before she stepped out she asked, "Any hope of toilet paper out there?"

Skinner smiled ruefully. "Yes, but probably not the kind you're used to."

She took care of business as quickly as possible and used the hand pump out front to wash her hands. The well water was very cold, but clear and tasted good.

Before going back inside, she paused to take in the cabin's surroundings. Tall pine trees were interspersed with large maples, oaks and elms. Bright fall colors dotted the leaves, but many of them had already fallen in preparation for the cold months ahead. Bare branches stood out like stark skeletons against the cloudy sky. She couldn't see another building or any other signs of civilization. Where had Skinner brought her?

"The woods are dreary dark and deep," she murmured.

"What's that?" Skinner's voice asked behind her. She startled at the unexpected intrusion and turned around to face him.

"Nothing," she stammered, momentarily unnerved.

"You were taking longer than I expected," he explained. "Soup is ready."

She followed him back inside, shivering from the brief exposure in spite of her warm coat. When she sat at the small table, Skinner brought a blanket over and wrapped it around her shoulders before retrieving the soup.

He spooned hers out into a large bowl and the rest for himself in another one. They ate without speaking, each wrapped in their own thoughts. Finally, she broke the uneasy silence.

"You've been here before," she said indicating the clothes she wore. "These are yours aren't they?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

He looked down at his hands. "Business."

"FBI business?"

"Yes."

"Does Mulder know about this place?"

"No."

Talking to him was like talking to a brick wall. She wasn't getting anywhere.

"When are we leaving?"

He looked her in the eye with a cold _expression. "We're not."


He stood at the window waiting, like a sentry guarding a fort. His gun was tucked in the waistband at the back like an undercover cop, out of sight, but ready for use. The sun shown through his white shirt, outlining his ramrod straight back. He was so stiff, so guarded, she wondered if he ever truly relaxed.

He'd said someone was coming for them, but when he'd tried to call to confirm it, his cell phone was dead.

"Do they know where we are?" she'd asked.

"Yes." was the only answer he'd give.

For her part she dozed off and on all day, waking occasionally to use the bathroom. The past twenty four hours had zapped her strength completely. Between the drive, time on the bridge, and non-stop walking to the safe house, she was exhausted.

Skinner was instantly at her side whenever she woke, asking if she needed anything and forcing her to drink more water. Sometime during the day she noticed that he'd changed his clothes to an outfit not unlike her own. He was polite and distant, but curiously attentive. Why was he doing this?

She thought he was acting like a guilty man. His muttered apology the previous evening spoke to that, but what could he be feeling guilty about? It wasn't as if he was responsible for her being there.

Or was he?

"How did you know to where to go?" she asked at dinner.

He gave her an uncomprehending scowl.

"The bridge. How did you know I'd gone there?"

"I followed you."

"Followed me? How? Why?"

He shifted in the chair, stalling for time. She waited patiently for an answer.

"I was worried. You seemed--distracted."

"I've been distracted before and you never followed meor have you?"

"No," he said flatly, effectively severing the conversation.

He walked over to look out the window again. "We may have to walk out of here if no one comes by morning. Are you up to that Scully?"

"I think so. Do you think it will come to that?"

"I hope not. It's getting colder. There could be a hard freeze tonight."

Scully's watch read seven pm and darkness was already in evidence. For the rest of the evening they waited, feeling the temperature drop and snow begin to fall. Wind blew in through gaps between warped boards and the cabin itself made groaning noises.

"I think there's a storm coming," she said looking out at the swirling white flakes as they began to stick to the trees and ground. He came to stand beside her and they watched it come down.

After a few minutes he said, "Maybe we should get some rest." She could tell he was worried and trying not to show it.

In spite of her close proximity to the fire and the blankets, she found herself shivering and woke to the shuddering sounds of the cabin as the storm outside intensified. She rolled over to see Skinner curled into a ball under his blanket, his stocking feet sticking out from underneath.

Quietly she got up and walked over to where he lay. She stood over him, regarding his sleeping figure with curiosity. He looked younger in sleep, and seemed less severe than the face he normally presented to the world. Could he be a close ally after all? He'd saved her life and she'd trusted him to keep her safe these last two days. Could that trust be sustained once they returned to Washington?

Without warning, he opened his eyes, his face registering surprise that she was standing over him, but he didn't speak. He waited for her to break the silence, to explain herself.

"It's cold."

He nodded, and started to give her his blanket.

"No. Come over by the fire with me."

Frowning he sat up and looked at her slight form. Dark eyes probed hers for truth and found it when she started shivering. Trust, she thought, he needs to see that I really trust him now.

Truth be told she'd also begun to feel guilty that he was so exposed to the cabin's frigid temperature. She didn't think he'd share the blankets with her unless she asked him to or he thought she'd really needed his added warmth.

He moved forward onto the rug and Scully lifted the bedding to admit him inside. They kept a discreet distance between them; as much as the small camping blankets would allow. They had to lie propped up on one side in order to stay covered.

She relaxed perceptively once they were settled, feeling better now that she was sure he was warmer. Within a few minutes she was asleep again.


The Safe House part 2
Descriptions, disclaimers and rating in part one


When she woke, he was gone. Looking at the spot he'd occupied next to her, she could see the rumpled blankets. Reaching out, she could still feel his body heat. He couldn't have been gone for long.

She threw the blankets back and shrugged her coat on. The cabin had become even chillier during the night, but it was nothing compared to the frosty air outside. At least two inches of snow lay on the ground and a hard crust of ice had formed over the top. She could see large footprints in the snow outside the front door leading to the back. She hoped they belonged to Skinner and not some errant Bigfoot.

"Skinner?" she called, her breath creating white plumes in the air. It was far colder than she realized, and became quickly chilled in just the short time she'd stood outside. Where was he?

He came around the corner, his arms full of wood for the fire.

"What are you doing out here?" he admonished her.

"You were gone."

He gave her a surprised look, and then replaced it with one of grim resolve.

"I will never leave you."

His eyes held hers, boring into them with clear intensity. The sudden declaration had a strange effect on her. She could feel his deep voice reverberated inside her, solidifying into something pure and concrete.

She believed him.

Light flickered in his eyes, and the moment was broken. He pushed past her and went into the cabin to dump his load of wood.

"It has to be below freezing outside," he said.

"So much for hiking out of here," she said ruefully.

"Neither one of us has the right clothing or shoes to do that," he agreed.

She wanted to leave, had the urge to leave, and not just because they'd be missed. It was disconcerting to be sharing such close quarters with Skinner. The persistent undercurrent of nervousness between them seemed to permeate their every encounter. It was nothing like the straightforward camaraderie she shared with Mulder.

Skinner brushed the snow off the logs and himself before stacking the wood into one corner. She watched the easy way he moved, the graceful strength and hard muscle he possessed. She didn't think he seemed to be as guarded around her as she was around him.

When he turned toward her, he caught her gaze. Rising slowly he advanced on her and stood close. A large hand reached out toward her face.

"I should change the dressing on this," he said, touching the bandage on her cheek.

Momentarily caught off guard, she simply nodded her assent. She let him sit her down at the table and retrieve a first aid kit from the cabinet. With careful hands, he removed the bandage and cleaned the tender skin on both her cheek and forehead. His motions were slow and he asked her more than once if he was hurting her. She wouldn't have believed he could be so gentle.

"I don't have a mirror to show you, but I think this looks much better."

Gingerly, she touched the tender skin. It felt smooth and the pain had decreased considerably.

"You're right. I don't think it needs a bandage. Thank you."

He nodded and started to rise, but she grabbed his wrist. "Tell me what happened on the bridge."

He gave her a scowl. "What do you mean?"

"This is a burn on my face. How did I get that?"

He hesitated a moment, and she believed he was thinking about how to phrase the words.

"Do you remember the cult suicides? The burnings at Skyland Mountain?"

"Yes."

"There were more people burned like that on the bridge."

"And I was with them."

"Apparently some of them had chips in their necks like you do. Mulder showed me the x-rays."

"How did I keep from getting burned up like the rest of them?"

"I pulled you off before the fire reached you."

"How did you know to do that? How did you know where I'd go?"

He looked away from her and stood up. Several seconds ticked by before he answered.

"I was warned you'd gone there."

"By who?"

"I can't tell you that."

"Damn it, Skinner I have the right to know. Who would have access to information like that? Who would know that people with microchips in their necks would feel compelled to gather on a bridge to be burned up?"

Skinner's face became hard again. She could see him literally close down in front of her.

"Agent Scully, you're going to have to trust me."

There it was again; a question of trust. Trust in a man she barely knew.

To offset the argument, she suggested that she make their meal this time. She longed for bread, fresh fruit or eggs. Instead they feasted on more stew and vegetables heated over the fire. She located some coffee in an old tin and was surprised to find it tasted good despite being boiled over the fire.

The rest of the morning was spent trying to stay warm and stoking the fire. They didn't speak to each other much.

What was there to talk about? Scully didn't think he'd want to talk about work and she didn't know what other subjects he was interested in.

At lunch they ate again in stony silence. Scully was beginning to go stir crazy and decided to try and draw him into a conversation. She asked him a question as they sat huddled in front of the fireplace.

"Sir, I was wondering if you have any family."

He looked at her with suspicious eyes, but seemed to relent when she gave him a small smile.

"My parents are dead. I don't have any brothers or sisters. I have cousins somewhere out west, but I haven't seen them since I was ten years old."

"Would you like to see them again?"

He frowned, considering the question for some time before answering.

"I think it would be nice, but I'm not sure they'd want to see me."

She would have asked him more, but a sound interrupted her.

They both turned toward the door and waited. It came again, a persistent thudding like footsteps tracking through the ice and snow toward the cabin.

They ran to one of the windows in the front to look out. In the distance, downhill from the cabin was the figure of a man. As he got closer, his broad features could be seen from a short distance.

"Is that the man you were expecting?" she asked cautiously.

"No."

Before she could say anything else, Skinner was out the door with his gun drawn. He stood between the man and the cabin in a shooting stance.

"Stop right there and identify yourself," he shouted. The man said nothing, but kept advancing steadily on the cabin.

"I said to stop."

Again the man ignored Skinner as if he wasn't there.

In answer Skinner pulled the trigger on his gun. The man's right shoulder suddenly jerked backward from the impact, but it barely slowed his advance. Scully watched in horror as Skinner emptied the gun into the man's chest, all to no avail.

She watched in fascinated horror as green fluid oozed out of the man's wounds and stained the white snow at his feet. A clone, he was a clone. He didn't speak, or slow down before grabbing Skinner in a choke hold.

Scully knew she was no match for this man's strength and the gun was empty. The only way to kill him was a sharp instrument to the base of his neck.

She ran back into the cabin and grabbed a long, sharp knife and a thick log. Going back outside, she knew she'd never get near him with the knife until he could be momentarily incapacitated.

She put the log up high over her head and swung it at the man's head for all she was worth. A dull thud sounded with the impact, but he didn't loosen his hold. She struck him again and again until he seemed a little dazed and let go of Skinner's neck.

Skinner began to cough and choke, clutching at his neck in pain. He managed to roll out of the way before the man fell forward and began to jerk in the snow. Scully thought his movements looked like seizures, but they were too disorganized and odd for those.

In the meantime, Skinner had struggled to his feet and retrieved the knife she'd brought out with her.

"Put it in the base of his neck," she instructed.

Without hesitation he stuck the sharp point into the base of the man's skull as far as it would go.

Immediately the head began to cave in on itself, green ooze smoking in the cold air and melting the snow underneath. Scully pulled him back as the rest of the body disintegrated into a bubbling mess.

She began to shake, from cold or shock she wasn't sure. He turned her around and bundled them both back into the cabin. He sat her down in front of the fire and threw more logs onto it.

Scully struggled to gain control of herself, to stop the cursed shaking that seemed to have possessed her body. She closed her eyes tightly and took long, deep breaths. When she thought she was more in charge of herself, she opened them.

To her dismay, Skinner was slumped forward and appeared as if he might pass out. His ashen face was close to hers and she could see the gash in his neck had opened up. Red fingerprints where the man had grabbed Skinner's neck shown clearly against his clammy skin.

He suddenly keeled forward and Scully barely had time to catch him before he fell flat on his face. Vaso-vagal reaction, she thought, a normal response to partial strangulation. His blood pressure was probably dangerously low.

She eased his big body down onto the rug. With a heave, she turned him over onto his back. Dragging a chair over to his feet, she elevated his legs.

Color returned to his face, and his breathing evened out. Scully loosened his coat and probed for other injuries. His neck seemed to have taken the brunt of the attack. Gently, she cleaned his neck and bandaged it with a first aid kit Skinner had used on her earlier.

It was her turn now to watch over him and wait. A persistent fear that more men were on their way kept gnawing at her. She and Skinner couldn't leave, but how could they stay?

She kept the fire going, trying to keep them both as warm as possible against the cold. She watched the sunset and looked for shadowy clones to emerge from the gloom, but the only movement came from the snow laden trees in the wind

Finally, when she was too exhausted to stay awake, she crawled under the blankets next to Skinner. He was still sleeping peacefully, and she suspected it was more from exhaustion than from the assault. She doubted he'd had more than a few hours of sleep the past few days. Always needs to be in charge, she thought fuzzily before sleep claimed her.


She couldn't say what made her wake, but when she opened her eyes, Skinner was leaning over her. His eyes were sharp, glittering onyx in the firelight.

"Sir-?" she began, still waking up.

In answer he brought his lips to the burn on her cheek. Slowly he caressed it with gentle softness. Before she could register the kiss, he moved to her forehead and kissed her there. It wasn't until he covered her mouth that she became truly astonished.

What was he doing? She hadn't thought he was attracted to her, and even if he was, it wasn't in his nature to act on it. His sense of propriety would forbid it.

But he was kissing her with an achingly slow tenderness. She felt one hand reach up and cup her breast, raising the nipple under his gentle kneading. He was trying to woo her, coax her into making love.

No, she thought. This isn't right. Not here, not now-

"No," she said softly, putting a hand on his chest to stop him. "Not like this, not like this," she said breathlessly, trying to gain control.

He pulled back frowning, considering her words. She'd stopped him, but hadn't objected with anger or fear to his advance.

She hadn't said never.

He nodded and lay back down. She watched him try to get control of his own breathing and body.

Rolling on his side away from her he said, "I'm sorry, Scully."

She reached out and squeezed his arm reassuringly. "It's all right."

When he started to get up, she held onto his arm. "It's cold," she said, echoing her words from the previous night. "Stay."

He looked around at her and she made sure he wouldn't see pity or regret in her expression. Pulling on his arm, he allowed her to bring him back to the warmth of the blankets.

Despite the calming of the storm outside and a noticeable rise in temperature, it was a long time before either of them could sleep.


Sometime before sunrise, they were woken by fluorescent light shining into the cabin. Suddenly, the door burst open and several men with guns poured in. Light, noise and confusion reigned as Skinner and Scully were pulled out from under the blankets.

It took two strong men to subdue Skinner, and another rather large one to restrain Scully.

"What's happening?" she shouted in confusion.

Just then a trench coated figure came in through the ruined door. He was backlit by the artificial light outside, but the curling of cigarette smoke around the man's head made him instantly identifiable.

"Bastard!" Skinner shouted and was rewarded with a punch to the stomach.

"Mr. Skinner, is that any way to greet your rescuer?"

"How, how did you get here?" Scully asked.

"Friends in high places, my dear. And there's a road not far away, but I'm guessing Mr. Skinner didn't tell you about that did he?"

She glanced over at Skinner and he looked puzzled.

"I didn't know," he said hanging his head. "I didn't know."

"Of course not." Sarcasm laced her reply. "Is this who was supposed to come for us? Is this the man who told you where to find me?" she asked in disgust.

"Yes," he answered without looking at her. "He was supposed to have come sooner than this."

"Oh, you misjudge me, Mr. Skinner. I gave you that extra day as a gift, to give you time to become acquainted with Miss Scully and let nature take its course." His face wrinkled up in a nicotine stained smile. "And did it take its course?"

Skinner made a lunge toward him, but was stopped by the armed goons. More struggling ensued, but it was ineffectual.

"I'll kill you for this," Skinner said through gritted teeth, "if it's the last thing I do."

Spender laughed and took another drag on his Morley.

"Brave words, Mr. Skinner, but you must remember you won't be around to try anything like that."

Scully watched as Skinner's head snapped up in surprise. Shock and something very close to fear crossed his face.

"Has he told you, Dr. Scully, what he's traded for your safety?"

"No, Spender, don't-"

"No," she said interrupting him. "He hasn't told me."

"Don't tell her, you bastard. We made a deal-"

"A deal to trade you for her. Simple really."

"What is he talking about?" Scully asked with fear of her own. "What does he mean trading you for me?"

Before he could answer, a powerful vibration rumbled through floor, and more light flowed into the cabin.

"Your ride is here, Mr. Skinner," Spender said with finality. "Outside." He pointed to the door, and they were dragged through it.

High above them a massive and dark machine hovered, giving off intermittent sparks of light. The alien craft was awful in its beauty and magnitude. Scully felt pure terror at the sight.

Skinner was pulled directly underneath and held there. He gave her a half smile, showing a false bravado.

"No!" she screamed as white light enveloped Skinner and his two guards. The vibration increased in intensity and the ground beneath them shifted and rolled. She fell down, as did Spender and the other armed men.

The vibration became so intense she thought she might shatter. She closed her eyes tightly and then blackness overcame her.


Epilogue

Floating. He was floating in a sea of white, feeling no pain, no emotion, no regret. He couldn't feel his arms or legs or tell whether he was lying down or standing up. If he was dead, then this must be heaven. Heaven was a white place of peace.

But that peace was interrupted by the soft sound of a woman's voice. She sounded sad, and grieved.

"You promised you'd never leave me."

He recognized the voice but couldn't think who it was. He struggled to speak, to say something to her, but felt paralyzed. He knew whoever she was, he couldn't stand to hear the poignant tone in her voice.

Something cool and soft touched his face.

"Not yet," he heard her say. "Let's wait a little longer." He was enveloped in white again, going to a place without any sensation at all.

Drifting in and out of awareness, he heard snatches of sound: the beeping of a heart monitor, the collective buzz of people talking, the rattle of equipment being moved. None of it made much sense to him, or held a purpose beyond that of taking him away from the white peace.

Sometime later he had a dream. He dreamed of white snow, red fire and black smoke. It was an uncomfortable dream and he struggled to leave it. When he did, he found himself in a hospital bed.

He first focused on a bright patch of pink and red that slowly became Scully's face. She smiled down at him when she saw that he was awake. He tried to say her name, but was thwarted by something in his throat.

"Don't try to speak," she said gently. "You have a breathing tube in your trachea."

She reached for something on a table and returned to place it on his forehead. A cool cloth was pressed to his hot skin, and he found it eminently soothing.

"Once you're a little stronger we'll take out the tube," she said, fussing with the various other implements sticking into his body. "And you seem to be in good health. Other than an unusually high level of carbon in your blood, you don't appear to be any worse for the wear."

He nodded his understanding and closed his eyes. Staying awake for even that short period of time seemed to zap all his strength.

When she made a move to leave him, he grabbed her hand and held on tightly.

"Do you want me to stay until you fall asleep?" He nodded again and she smiled.

"All right."

He heard the rustle of clothing as she sat next to him in one of the vinyl hospital chairs. True to her word, she stayed until the white came again, never letting go of his hand.


End
Note: We never got an explanation for the nanocytes. This is mine.

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