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March 2, 1998 Before dawn

“How many of them are there, Mulder?” Her burning eyes scorched him and his shoulders dropped as he turned away from her.

“I don’t know. If...the containers I saw were full, there were probably about sixteen...fetuses in the jars.” He paused, ran a hand through his hair, took a deep breath and plunged ahead. “We know that at least eight women were listed as birth mothers from around the time your—from around the time Emily was born. That’s...two dozen right there. We don’t know how many other...facilities there are.” He sighed again, not wanting to go into such explicit detail, but knowing that he had to. “I saw at least a dozen women in the Pentagon, but I can’t be sure they’re connected directly to the stolen ova. We know for sure that at least a dozen women...disappeared, so in all likelihood, most of the—er—children aren’t...yours.”

“Most-” She sat down, hands limp in her lap, staring at her empty palms.

*Some—some of them could be,* Scully thought. *Some probably are.*

The thought rattled through her, leaving her quivering.

She looked up at him with searing eyes. Pain, rage, grief poured into a tight whisper. “How many babies do I have to lose?”

Mulder reached out a comforting hand and touched her shoulder. Raising her eyes to his, Scully saw that he had no answer to give.

Suddenly he turned away from her and slammed his open palm against the door of her closet. “SHIT.”

She followed him with her eyes as he stalked out her bedroom, her heart pounding with the shock of his abrupt outburst.

A moment later he came back in, with a piece of paper in his hand and a determined look in his eyes.

“I’m going to take a leave of absence, Dana. I have to get away from this for a while. Quit chasing the wild goose.” He handed a piece of paper to her as he spoke.

At his use of her first name, something in her snapped to attention. She looked at him quizzically.

“Those are my travel plans. I want you to be able to reach me if you need to while I’m gone.”

She looked down at the piece of paper in her hands. Rather than an itinerary, there were only a few words.

- Going under. Pack for 8 weeks. Need to find inner children. -

It took a moment for the words to register, but when they did, her eyes widened.

“I think that’s a good idea, Mulder. I’ve been thinking about taking some time for myself, time to find some meaning, come to terms with the things that have happened.”

She paused. “The cancer took a lot out of me, Mulder. I need to get that back.” Mulder grinned wryly at her, knowing that it wasn’t some ethereal ‘thing’ she needed to get back.

She looked pointedly at the paper. “Have you asked Skinner for the time off yet?”

His eyes met hers. “Not yet. Care to join me facing the dragon?”

She gave him a half smile. “Sure. I’m going to pack now. I’ll meet you there in two hours. Gotta see my mom first.”

6:21 am

Mulder’s mental gears turned rapidly as he left Scully’s apartment. A to-do list sprang into being almost instantaneously, and as he drove away, he picked up his cell phone and dialed.

“Turn off the tape.”

“Really, Mulder. We’ve been through this before. Tape is out of date.”

“Whatever. Turn it off.”

“Yeah. All right. It’s off.”

“I need your help.”

“So what else is new?”

“I’m going on vacation.”

A hearty laugh on the other end. “You need our help to go on vacation?”

“It’s going to be a long vacation.”

Langly. “Mulder, that’s not like you at all. Can’t Scully give your fish CPR?”

“No. She’ll be unavailable.”


A long silence.

Byers. “So when do you want to stop by to give us house-sitting instructions?”

Mulder cringed inwardly at the mental image of the boys house-sitting for eight weeks. Bad enough having one bachelor loose in that place...Three would be excessive. Though chances were that Byers at least would do the dishes. If Frohike used dishes. Oh well. It would give the place a homier feel when he returned.

“I’ll be by in about three hours. I want to run my travel plans by you guys, see if you have any ideas for other places to visit, things to take. I don’t really need you to house-sit. Just feed the fish and pick up my mail.”

A different voice on the line. Frohike.

“We’ll do it Mulder, but I want access.”

He sighed. Another mental image he could do without. “Sure thing, man.”


Dana Scully pulled a suitcase out of her closet. *Eight weeks. how the hell am I going to pack light for eight weeks?*

Suddenly she realized that it probably didn’t matter at all what she packed for this trip. She pulled down another suitcase, opened them both, and began pulling clothes out of the closet, out of the drawers. *Make it look good.*

Casual clothes, jeans. Several knit shirts. Two suits. Slacks. Shorts. A seldom-worn black tank bathing suit. Three or four sets of pajamas. 8 pairs of panties. Three pair of hose. Four bras. A couple pair of socks. The first suitcase was bulging as she zipped it shut. Into the second went pumps, sandals, sneakers, a small jewelry case. Her toiletries bag. On a whim, she grabbed four or five paperbacks off her shelf and wedged them in. The second suitcase closed easily, but was quite heavy when she lifted it and carried it over to the front door.

She picked up her cell phone and dialed.

“Mom? Hi!”

“How are you, Dana? Is something wrong? It’s awfully early.”

“I’m fine mom...Look, are you busy? Can I come over for breakfast?”

Maggie Scully frowned at the telephone. “I suppose. When will you be over?”

Dana looked at her watch. “I can be there in about half an hour.”

7:30 am

Maggie Scully opened the door at her daughter’s knock and smiled warmly. “Dana!”

Scully stepped inside and suddenly hugged her mother tightly, wondering if what she was about to say next would be upsetting.

Whispering directly against her ear, Scully said, “Mom...the house may be bugged. Please don’t say anything. Play along. I have to go away for a few weeks, maybe as long as a month or two. It’s an assignment, and Mulder’s coming with me. You can’t tell Bill, Charlie...anyone. Just play along, when I get back, I’ll explain everything, OK?”

Maggie pulled back, smiling warmly. “And how are you, dear?” The twinkle in Maggie Scully’s eyes said more than her words ever could.

*Probably thinking about me and Mulder spending weeks together away on assignment,* Scully thought.

“I’m fine, Mom.”

“Well, why don’t you come on in out of the cold! I’ve got a nice hot breakfast prepared.”

Scully followed her mother into the kitchen and sat as Maggie puttered around, putting the finishing touches on old fashioned oatmeal with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins. And eggs. And fresh fruit. And—thank god—coffee. And orange juice. And toast. *How do mothers do it?* Scully wondered. *Ten seconds notice, and a full, healthy, warm meal appears as if the Food Fairy had stopped by.*

“So, tell me your news!” Maggie said.

“I’ve decided that you were right,” Scully said, a sudden inspiration striking her. “I do need time to recover from the cancer. So...I’m going on vacation for a while. Just some time off to regroup, get my head together, get back into myself.”

“That’s nice dear. Do you know where you’re going?”

The question was more pointed than Maggie had intended.

Scully smiled. Once a mother...

“No, not yet. Somewhere warm, though, maybe the coast. When I know, I’ll call or drop a postcard or something.” She paused, and then set the hook for whomever might be listening. “I may be out of contact for a while, Mom, and I don’t want you to get upset. I just need time alone, with myself, you know? The last few weeks have been so...intense.”

Maggie patted her daughter’s shoulder as she passed by.

“I understand completely dear. You call if you get time. But I expect a postcard or two.”

Scully made a mental note to write a dozen or so postcards before they left town so they could be mailed from a forwarding-house later.

“So, have you heard the latest about your brother?” Maggie asked, pattering on about family and friends. Scully tuned most of it out, making assenting, acknowledging noises when appropriate.

*As far as Moms go,* Scully thought, *Mine is pretty cool.*

8:20 am
The office of Assistant Director Walter Skinner

“Sir, we have been through hell in the past couple years. I think both of us deserve some substantial time off, and I think that the Bureau should support us in that.”

“Agent Mulder, I’m not arguing with that. However, I’m not clear on how much time you’re talking about. Or why you haven’t requested this time off through usual channels.” Walter Skinner’s face twitched. Usual channels and this pair of agents rarely went hand-in-hand.

Agent Scully looked at her hands and then up at the A.D. “We were hoping to go on leave immediately, as the X-Files are experiencing something of a lull.”

“How substantial are we talking about here? Two weeks? Three?”

Mulder braced himself. “Eight.”

Skinner’s eyebrows went looking for his non-existent hairline.

“May I ask where each of you plan to go?”

Mulder handed a piece of paper to his boss. “Here’s my itinerary. I think Scully’s going to the coast.”

-The walls have ears. We need your help.-

“I see.” Skinner’s face was unreadable.

Skinner stood up and pulled his trench coat on. Without a word, the two agents followed him out of the office.

As they passed his secretary’s desk, he paused. “Hold my calls, please.”

Continue to Chapter 1