Family Matters

By Mary Kleinsmith (

Spoilers: none, I don't think

Summary: What do you do when somebody you love unconditionally is in danger?

Rating: PG13

Classification: MTA, MSR, SA, GA

Archive: Yes, anywhere

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and everything related to them belong to Chris Carter and 10-13, with magic added by David and Gillian. I'm only borrowing them. Certain other characters belong to friends, so I say a huge thank you to those friends. ;-)

Feedback: Please, please, please, please, please, please, please?

Author's Notes: Thanks to all my beta readers, Brenda, Sally, Vickie, and Dawn. And to Sheila, my medical goddess and information source. Please see additional notes at the end of the story - if I say them now, they'll spoil the surprise!

Family Matters

By Mary Kleinsmith (

"Mulder, are you sure you want to see THIS movie?" Scully asked as they stood in line waiting to buy the tickets.

"Scully," Mulder said exasperatingly. "Every Friday night we go to the movies, and every Friday night I ask you what you want to see. Then, every Friday night, you tell me to pick. I ask you if you're sure, then ask you AGAIN once I've chosen. Every Friday night."

"Is this your way of telling me to put up or shut up?"

"I don't know that I'd have phrased it quite that way, but yeah, I guess so. Next week, you pick. No backing down. There are eighteen movies in this theater - you should be able to find one you like." Mulder took two steps to the ticket window. "Two for Iron Monkey, please."

The three teens behind the refreshment counter recognized Mulder and Scully from previous visits. A kind man who'd tipped them very well and shown them their pictures had asked for their assistance in plying a practical joke on his friends. As they'd chattered between themselves after the man's departure, they hoped that they'd get to see the joke played out. There'd be no fun in it if the "gotcha" didn't come until the couple was home in bed.

Finally, it was Scully's turn. Mulder stayed close by her side to be sure she got the order right. "One large diet cola, one bottled water, and two bags of popcorn, please. One without anything - no salt, no butter - and the other heavy on both."

"I can't believe it took us six years to get to know each other well enough to order food for each other," Mulder said, smiling as he slid his arm around her waist.

"I can't believe it took you six years to ask me out on a date," Scully laughed back. It had been six months since that day, but it still seemed so new to them both.

"Well, at first, you scared me to death, I admit. And then, once you'd become the most important person in my world, it just seemed so trite. A date. Like two of those kids behind the counter."

Just then, the "kid" that was waiting on them delivered their snacks. If it dawned on them that it had been longer than it probably should have, neither remarked on it, either to the youth or to each other as they headed for the proper theater.

His two coworkers abandoned their patrons as they rushed over.

"So, did you do it?"

"I can't believe they didn't notice!"

"Check out which theater they go into! Could be the best show all year!"

The young man smiled, basking in his friends' accolades as he discarded the empty vial in the trash.

"So, are you going to hold up your end of the deal?" Scully asked him as the filed out of the theater past four disappointed faces.

"You mean about tomorrow? Of course. A Mulder never goes back on his promises." At her raised eyebrow, he corrected. "Well, THIS Mulder never goes back on a promise. Besides, your Mom is fantastic - I could never turn her down."

"Good. I'm looking forward to it."

They'd moved from best friend to something more romantic six months ago, but they'd agreed they wanted to take it slow. Which meant that they had not ripped the clothes off each other at the first opportunity, even after their mutual admissions of love. One hundred and eighty days. Yet tomorrow night, after they finished helping Maggie set up her garage sale and move some furniture, it was finally going to happen. Scully would not be returning to her apartment alone after tonight, and she tingled at the prospect. Making love with Mulder would be wonderful, even if her or his skills proved to be rusty or completely disastrous, which she doubted would be the case. They would be glorious together because of their love - nothing else mattered.


Saturday 8:30 am

Margaret Scully Residence

If I was the kind of person who slept in, Mulder thought, I'd be really irritated to be out and about at this hour on a weekend. But he WASN'T that type, so standing on Maggie Scully's doorstep wasn't bad at all. Besides, he was spending the day with the two most beautiful women he knew - and that wasn't just on the surface. He remembered Scully's pride as she'd told him that, since Ahab's death had left her Mom well cared for, she'd committed to donating the proceeds of her garage sale to the church. Besides the satisfaction of a truly charitable act, the only benefit Maggie was garnering was the reduction of clutter and reclamation of space in her home.

When Maggie opened the door to them, Mulder was surprised - again - at how young she looked. She'd aged so gracefully, and dressed in an old T-shirt that hugged her curves and a pair of Levi's, she hardly looked old enough to have a 36-year-old daughter. He wondered if she ever dated, ever went out or had a man to her house for dinner and an evening of friendly conversation.

"Dana. Fox," she said as she wiped her hands on a rag, then enveloped them both in a hug. "Thanks for helping me with all this." She backed away, her invitation to enter clear.

"We aim to please," Mulder responded, grinning. He realized he grinned a lot these days.

"I was just making a little breakfast before we get to work. I hope you like pancakes."

Scully grinned. "Your famous buttermilk pancakes? Oh, Mulder, you're going to love these!"

He watched her take a stack from the oven where they were keeping warm. "Anything would have been fine, Mrs. Scully. I'm not too fussy about what I eat." Not wanting to sound ungrateful, he added, "but we appreciate the effort."

"The next time I drag you over this early, I'll put more effort into it and make you my special blueberry waffles. They were always a favorite with my other boys."

Mulder blushed profusely. If Scully and her Mom noticed her use of the word "other," they didn't think anything of it. The idea of Maggie Scully considering him as a son that offhandedly please him, and that, in turn, surprised him. He'd been figuratively without parents for so long, he thought he was content being without. And he was, for the most part. Mrs. Scully just filled a place that had been empty for so long, he'd grown accustomed to it.

"Fox . . ." Maggie broke into his reverie.

"Oh, sorry, Mrs. Scully," he stuttered, blushing again. "I was just thinking. What did you say?"

"I asked if you wanted syrup," she smiled, holding up the small pitcher.

"Yes, thank you," he responded, but before he could reach for it, she was pouring it for him. When his pancakes were smothered in the gooey, sweet-smelling topping, she turned and did the same to Scully's. He raised a silent eyebrow, almost an imitation of her own, and smiled.

"Mom knows I'm a syrup junkie from way back. Can't have pancakes without syrup."

"And not just pancakes, I recall," Maggie added. "I seem to remember a very stubborn young lady who claimed she couldn't eat her waffles unless each and every hole was filled with Aunt Jemimah's best." They all laughed at the image.

"Anything less would be sacrilegious!" Scully claimed.

"Speaking of sacrilegious, do you remember when you wanted to take some with you to church? You were just a little girl."

"Waffles?" Mulder questioned.

"No, maple syrup," Maggie correctly kindly. Mulder turned confused eyes to Scully, only to meet her equally confused ones.

"I don't remember that."

"It was a month or two after your First Holy Communion. The first few times you were so excited and proud, but after awhile, the novelty wore off. Then, one day as we were leaving for mass, I noticed your little purse was bulging at the seams. When I asked you what was in there, you just said it was 'something you needed for church.' Well, you don't raise four kids without developing a suspicious mind, so I insisted you open your purse. You'd filled my smallest Tupperware container with syrup. When I asked you why, you simply remarked that the hosts were rather bland and lacking in flavor - and they WERE sort of like tiny pancakes anyway - so you planned to dip yours in the syrup before consuming to make it more palatable!"

"She didn't honestly use the word 'palatable,' did she? How old is a kid when they make their First Communion?"

"About second grade back then - 7 or 8. Not only did she use it, but she used it correctly. And I can tell you, she was one unhappy little girl when I told her she had to leave it home. Pouted and gave the silent treatment all the way to mass. After the service, I had our priest explain to her why you can't put Aunt Jemimah syrup on the Body of Christ."

"That is one incredible story," Mulder chuckled, wondering what other tales Mrs. Scully could tell on her daughter but being too polite to ask. He didn't even realize that he'd cleaned his plate until Maggie offered him more.

Three sets of hands made quick work of the breakfast cleanup, and before long, Maggie put them to work. She directed which boxes Mulder should carry to the garage, where Dana laid out the wares on the tables her mother had set up before their arrival. Box after box was moved, emptied, then priced by Scully's mom, the day progressing quickly. When Dominoes delivered the pizza that would be their lunch, Mulder realized that while she was a great cook and seemed to enjoy it, Maggie, like her daughter, was eminently practical.

Afternoon brought even harder work. Unused furniture was moved from the attic, basement, and spare rooms, often requiring Mulder on one side and both Maggie and Scully on the other. When Scully plopped down, declaring that she needed a break, he was relieved to see that he was not the only one on which the hard work had taken its toll. They worked very hard at their jobs, but even a foot pursuit wasn't as physically strenuous as the workout they were getting today. At last, Maggie herself sat down.

"Well, that's the last of it," she declared, then added, "finally!"

"What about your signs?" Dana asked her mother while Fox just looked confused.

"They're all made up. I just have to put them up first thing in the morning."

"Why don't you do it now? That way, it'll be easier tomorrow."

"Well, my dear, logical daughter, there are two reasons. The signs are paper, and they're predicting rain later tonight." At her daughter's expression, she added. "Don't worry, it's supposed to be long gone by sunrise, so it won't affect sales."

"I sure hope not," Fox admitted with a grin. "I have no desire to lug all that stuff back inside when this is over."

"Although he'll be more than glad to do so," Scully added, speaking for him with an equal grin.

Looking at him more closely as he spoke, Maggie questioned if she'd asked too much. "Oh, Fox, you DO look bushed. How about if I make us some dinner?"

Dana spoke up, thanking her for the invitation but explaining that they'd made plans for the evening. Maggie was typically understanding. "Well, then, you kids better get out of here. You're going to want to shower and change before going out, I'm sure."

Mulder sniffed the sleeve of his T-shirt comically. "I'd absolutely think so," he joked.

Scully quickly added, "You'd better believe it!"

Mulder stood slowly, feeling aches in muscles he'd forgotten he had. Suddenly, Maggie's hand was on his arm. "Fox, are you okay? You look a little pale."

"I'm fine, Mrs. Scully, thanks. We'll see you late tomorrow to put away whatever's left, okay?"

"Of course, Fox," Maggie agreed, kissing each on the cheek before they strode down the driveway to their car.

Dinner was lovely, and Scully found herself torn between the allure of sitting together like they were for another hour and the desire to take the man she loved home to bed.

She'd expected Mulder to rush her through their meal, knowing that he wanted this as much as she did, but he'd been more than calm. Was it possible he'd even forgotten what they'd planned for the culmination of their evening? Well, she wasn't about to let him.

Mulder was staring into his food, his eyes unfocused, deep in thought. Slipping off her shoe, she ran her stocking foot up his ankle and under the cuff of his dress pants. If he'd seemed lost in thought before, his attention was now fully on her. One hundred and fifty percent. "Hey, where'd you go?" she asked.

"Dreaming of you," he answered with an almost-shy smile. "Dreaming of US."

The hazel eyes that met hers, however, were tired and clouded, but the sparkle in them was unmistakable.

"We won't need to dream much longer," she said, joining her right hand with his left.

"Scully, even after tonight, every moment we're not together, I'll be dreaming of being with you. Every time we're in a room together, I'll be thinking about touching you, kissing you. The only difference will be that now I'll have memories, too."

They whispered quiet endearments as the waiter collected their plates and brought dessert. If Scully's mind had been anywhere else, she'd have noticed that the plate from in front of Mulder was practically full.

Mulder couldn't believe how tired he felt. The most important night in his and Scully's relationship, and he was feeling the need to rub his eyes like a sleepy two year old. He wasn't hungry, but perhaps the chocolate ice cream-topped brownie and coffee would negate the affects of his day of hard work. He definitely wanted to be at his best before they arrived back at Scully's place.

Scully . . . God, she was beautiful. The doubts from the first few weeks of their new relationship - doubts that he wasn't good enough for her, that he didn't deserve her, that she'd realize these things and go running for the hills - were long past. He was secure in the knowledge that they'd be together for the rest of their lives. But there was no reason to tempt fate.

They drove his car from the restaurant. Neither one of them had had enough wine to affect them in the slightest, both wanting their heads clear for the night. The drive took too long, but they had no intention of pulling over and groping like a couple of horny teenagers. They eventually arrived, Mulder locking his door for the night before gallantly opening Scully's for her. They walked arm-in-arm to her door, where he unlocked it and escorted her into the darkness with an arm around her waist.

Once inside, she turned to kiss him lightly on the lips, taking his hand and guiding him back toward her bedroom.

"I know this will be indelicate and very unromantic, but I need to use your bathroom before we do anything else," he said, embarrassed.

"You know where it is," she answered, pecking his lips again. "I'll get changed while you clean up."

Slipping into her romantic gown, purchased for this special night, she found herself oddly content to hear Mulder reliving himself in her bathroom. Maybe it was odd, but it was the sound of comfort between two people, of long-term companionship, of love of two lives shared as one.

"Why don't you hang your jacket on the back of the door so it doesn't get wrinkled," she suggested through the door. She heard a rustling of cloth and several grunts before the jacket's buttons clicked against the door.

"Are you okay, Mulder?"

"Just a few sore muscles," he said with another grunt. "Your mom is quite the taskmaster."

"You adore her and you know it," she joked.

"I love her. I ADORE her daughter," was his response.

"Well, bring the sports cream from the medicine cabinet when you come out and 'her daughter' will rub some on your back."

When he emerged, she noticed he'd shed not only his suitcoat, but his shirt and trousers as well. Mulder in his boxers was nothing she hadn't seen before, but every time struck her like the first. He was, quite simply, gorgeous. The feeling was apparently mutual, as his face reflected his happiness at beholding her like this.

"Mulder, you're staring," she finally said, eliciting a blink of his eyes. It was as if he feared she'd disappear if he closed them for more than a thousandth of a second.

"God, you're beautiful," was all he seemed able to say, but it was enough to pinken her cheeks.

"Come lay down on your stomach," Scully instructed, taking the tube of cream from his hand and leading him to the bed. He did as she said, smiling into the comforter as she straddled his thighs. Some women noticed legs, some butts, some chests, but Scully had always been a "back" woman. She loved the way a man's muscles ripple over his shoulder blades, the dip over his spine . . . It wasn't part of the plan, but an extra bonus for her to begin their seduction this way.

Mulder jumped slightly as the first bit of cream fell from the tube onto his back. Knowing what had happened, she apologized. "Sorry. I should have warmed it a bit first. I'll know better next time."

"It's okay, just took me by surprise."

Quickly, so as to diminish the chill, Scully spread the ointment smoothly, massaging tired muscles as she went. Every once in a while, she'd hit a tender spot and would hear a slight groan. The small of his back seemed especially tight so she concentrated her efforts there for some time. Finally, she decided she'd done all she could.

"Hold tight, I'm just going to put away the cream and wash my hands." She expected to return to the room to find Mulder had crawled under the covers, or at least sitting up against the headboard, but neither was the case. He was right where she left him.

"Mulder, don't you think we'd be more comfortable by the pillows?" she said with a grin and an open-mouthed kiss to the back of his neck. He didn't respond. Moving to sit beside him, she was shocked to find him asleep. "Mulder, wake up!" she declared into his ear. He moved a little, but no amount of prodding seemed capable of arousing the man - in any sense of the word. With a disappointed sigh, she managed to get him under the covers, joining him there after slipping out of her negligee. Well, there was always the morning.


It couldn't have been too early, as the sun had arisen, when Scully awoke. She found herself spooned up behind Mulder, her bare breasts pressed enticingly against his back. She lay there, enjoying the sensations with her eyes closed, using her other senses to absorb the feel of him, of their bodies, of their bed with its crisp, clean sheets. Clean sheets . . . oh, yeah.

With disappointment, the culmination of the previous night's events came back to her. She buried her nose in Mulder's hair.

"Good morning," she said, nuzzling his ear. "How did you sleep?"

Rather than the answer she expected, he shot out of the bed, making a dash toward the bathroom. She hadn't even cleared the bed when she heard the unmistakable sounds of someone vomiting. Pushing open the door, she beheld a trembling Mulder bent over the toilet, panting. She didn't ask if he was all right - it was quite obvious that he wasn't. Wetting a washcloth under cool tap water and wringing it out, she applied it to the back of his neck, holding it there until it seemed the retching had stopped.

"Do you think you can make it to the bed?" Without a word, Mulder nodded and shakily pushed himself to his feet. Slipping her arm around his waist, she guided him gently.

"I feel like shit," he muttered, swaying.

"Lie back," Scully instructed after he'd sat on the bed.

"What a time to get sick," he said, covering his eyes with his forearm. "You got anything in your little black bag for the flu?"

"You're right about one thing - this does look like the flu. I think I'm going to call your doctor. Maybe he can call a prescription into the drug store."

"That's silly," Mulder argued half heartedly. "You're a doctor - why not just call it in yourself?"

"Two reasons. First of all, I'm out of practice, and I'm afraid I'd be missing something, and secondly, I don't trust my judgment where you're concerned. There's a reason why they tell doctors not to treat family, and you, my love, are about as 'family' as it gets."

"If I wasn't feeling so rotten, that alone would tickle me pink."

"Well, you are, which explains why you're green, not pink." Mulder rolled his eyes as she left the room. "I'll be right back."

As she waited on hold for the doctor, she hoped that Mulder was getting some rest. His timing couldn't have been worse, but she knew it wasn't his fault nor choice.

The doctor came on the line and she explained the situation of Mulder's illness and his symptoms. He agreed it sounded like a simple case of the flu.

"Give him acetaminophen for the aches and any fever that may develop and give him lots of liquids. If the vomiting continues for too long, pick up the prescription I'm going to call into the drug store for anti-nausea medicine."

"Will they be pills?" Scully asked, knowing that her partner would never hold them down.

"Uhhh . . . no," he responded, and no more needed to be said on that front. Scully knew, and would deal with it when the time came.

"Okay, thank you, doctor."

Hanging up the phone, she returned to the bedroom to find Mulder, indeed, had nodded off again. After feeling his forehead for fever, she left him to make herself some breakfast and to see what kind of liquids she had that might not aggravate Mulder's stomach too much.


When Mulder wasn't better by eleven, still tossing anything he put down his throat right back into the toilet, Scully decided a trip to the drug store was in order.

"Mulder?" His only response was a groan. "Mulder, will you be okay if I go out for a bit?" Her voice seemed to wake him somewhat.

"Time for mass?" he asked, surprising her. She hadn't even thought about church this morning.

"No mass for me today. Too much to do here. I'm just going to run to the drugstore and come home."

"Go to mass, Scully. I'm only going to spend the day sleeping and moaning, and I assure you, I'm capable of doing that alone for a few hours."

"Are you sure?" she asked, uncertainty in her voice.

"Absolutely. And if I get in trouble, you'll have your cell, right? No big deal. Now go, before you're late."

"Okay," she hesitantly agreed, leaving the room, then returning with her cordless. "Here's the phone. I'll be at mass, then the drug store to pick up your prescription, so it could be almost two hours. Stay in bed, keep warm, drink your water . . ."

"But . . ."

"Even if it upsets your stomach. You need to keep hydrated, Mulder. I'll be back as soon as I can." She kissed him gently on the forehead, whispering, "I love you," before turning to leave. She tried to ignore the lead in her stomach telling her this was a mistake.


"I'm home," Scully called as she came through the door an hour later. She intentionally tried to hit a happy medium on volume, not wanting to wake him if he was asleep, but wanting him to hear her if he wasn't. She'd made better time than she expected, but had found her attention span during the service distracted as she thought of Mulder, and finally sneaked out a bit early to be on her way to the drug store and then home.

Breezing into the bedroom, she took in the rumpled sheets but empty bed. It didn't take a genius to know where to look next.

"Mulder, are you in there?" she stood at the closed bathroom door.

"Uh huh," he said, his voice sounding odd, and it seemed to take him some effort.

"I'm coming in," she warned, pushing open the door. Mulder turned from the toilet to her, his eyes begging.

"Oh, my God," she said quietly. It was obvious that Mulder had been vomiting again, but it was so much more now. His face was literally gray, not just pale, and he panted like he'd just returned from a ten-mile run. Kneeling beside him, she touched his face. "What are you feeling, Mulder?"

"Can't catch my breath . . ." he managed, barely. "Dizzy, tired, nauseous. Help me . . ." he panted.

"We need to get you to the hospital, Mulder. If I help you, can you get up?"

Mulder barely nodded, pushing against the toilet with what little energy he could muster. Scully assisted him, closing the lid and seating him on it. "You have a choice. If you feel up to it, I can drive you, or we can call an ambulance."

"No ambulance . . ." Mulder panted.

"How did I know you were going to say that?" Scully smiled. "Let's get some clothes on you."

Scully retrieved his bag from the bedroom, glad to find a pair of sweats and a matching shirt included. Appearance wasn't an issue, but she wanted to keep Mulder warm on the trip to Georgetown General. His boxer shorts just wouldn't serve the purpose.

Mulder was scarily lackadaisical as she slipped socks onto his feet and his legs into the pants. Yet the panting didn't let up, even after sitting in the same spot for the last five minutes. A man of his youth and athleticism should be way beyond this kind of exhaustion, even while sick with the flu.

Lacing up his sneakers, she turned to study him again. The outlook hadn't improved. "Okay, we're going to the car now. Steady . . ."

Slowly but surely they made their way out of the apartment building, but Mulder was weak, and getting weaker. No way could this be a simple case of the flu. He wasn't even able to fasten his own seatbelt - or had no desire to.

She called the emergency room from her cellular as they drove, explaining Mulder's symptoms and difficulty breathing. Exhaling a sigh of relief, she listened as they reported that the ER was particularly quiet that afternoon, and they wouldn't have to wait once they arrived.

"Thank you," she told the nurse. "I'm about ten minutes away."

"Pull up to the emergency entrance's ambulance bay. I'll have a gurney waiting."

Breaking the connection, she pocketed the phone.

True to the nurse's word, there were two orderlies and a bed waiting when Scully pulled the car to a screeching halt. She didn't notice that they'd also brought an oxygen supply until they slipped the mask over Mulder's face. It seemed to immediately bring him some relief, but the grayness remained as the doctor and nurse who joined them whisked him away into the confines of an examination room. Scully was left with paperwork to complete, and, after, to wait. And wait.

Fingering the telephone in her pocket as she paced the waiting room, it occurred to her that she had calls she should make. But what would she tell concerned family at this point? No, it would be wiser to wait and see what the doctor said. They couldn't be that long.

Inside the room, it was a flurry of activity around the sick man. Blood and urine samples were taken, temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and all the other vital statistics that would help them tell what was ailing the poor man before them. Florence, the emergency room nurse on duty, did her best to make him more comfortable despite the little pains and indignities necessary to diagnose him. She'd never before seen anything like this, and while she always thought her memory quite good, could not remember anything similar from her medical books or nursing school classes.

She followed the instructions of the doctor, starting an IV on the patient, adding anti-nausea medicine and pain killers to the liquids flowing into his body. Finally, he seemed to relax and fall asleep.

"I'm going to go talk to the wife," the doctor announced.

Scully's head shot up as the doctor emerged, holding a clipboard. "Mrs. Mulder?" he asked to the room at large.

She stood up and approached him. "I'm Fox Mulder's partner; he's not married. I'm also a medical doctor, but I specialize in forensics. How is he, Doctor?"

"We have him stabilized, and we're waiting for his test results now. Depending on how those come out, we'll know where we'll go from there. I do need to know a few things, if you could . . ."

"Sure, what did you need to know?"

"Well, for starters, does he have any medication in his system already? Tylenol, Alka Seltzer, Pepto Bismal, Nyquil, any over the counter medicines?"

"No, he shouldn't have anything. Everything he's taken since this started he's vomited back up almost immediately. He hasn't even been able to keep down plain water."

"When did he first start showing symptoms?"

"Last night he was really drowsy, but I just figured it was overwork. First thing this morning, when he woke up, he was nauseous. There's been no improvement since then."

"And other than the vomiting and shortness of breath, has he been fairly normal?"

"Absolutely," Scully confirmed, trying to review the past twenty-four hours in her mind. "He helped move some pretty heavy boxes and furniture yesterday, and used a sports rub last night on some sore muscles, but that's it."

"Where were his muscles sore?"

"Everywhere, we moved a lot of things. Arms, legs, shoulders, back, all of it."

"Well, given what I've seen and what you've told me, I'd say it's definitely more serious than the flu. We're going to move him into a room in a few minutes. You can sit with him while we wait for the test results if you want." He looked at her expectantly.

"I'll be there in a couple minutes. I just need to call some family, first."

"He'll be in room 215, and don't use a cell phone in here, just in case you're thinking about it. There are phones around the corner."

She found herself irritated that the doctor would speak to her as if she was ignorant until she realized that he didn't know any of their history. "We're FBI agents, and unfortunately this is not the first time one of us has been hurt. I know the rules, doctor, thank you."

She kept telling herself it was nothing while she dialed the pay phone, letting it ring longer than she normally would.

"Hello," finally came a comforting voice.

"Hi, Mom. It's me. How're sales going?"

"Better than I expected, actually. At this rate, I shouldn't even have much to pack up."

"Actually, Mom, the clean up is sort of why I'm calling. We're not going to be able to come over like we'd planned." Before Maggie could inquire further, she added, "Mulder's come down with something, and he's pretty sick."

"Oh, the poor dear. Is he at his apartment? Maybe after I close up here, I can bring him some chicken soup. I think I still have some in the freezer, and I could . . ."

Dana interrupted, wanting to clarify before her mother had made too many plans. "Mom, we're at the hospital."

"You're where?"

"I ran out to get a prescription for him, and when I got back, he was much worse, so I decided I'd better bring him in." She purposefully didn't mention the shortness of breath - no need to worry her unnecessarily. Maggie was pretty calm in a pinch, but breathing disorders particularly disturbed her.

"Are you at Georgetown?" was the next question.


"Okay, after the sale, I'll be there. If you leave before then, give me a call and let me know how it's going, what the doctor says."

"But, Mom," Scully said, feeling guilty. "How will you clean that up all by yourself?"

"It's all right, Dana. There are a few people from the parish who surprised me and stopped in to keep me company. I'm sure they'll help out."

Scully sighed. "Well, I guess I'd better let you get back to the customers," she said, wishing she could keep the comforting voice of her mother on the line, but knowing she had at least one more call to make.

"Take care, honey, and give Fox my love. I'll see you both later."

"Bye, Mom."

The next number she didn't know by heart, but the business card in her wallet was easily retrieved. She needed her calling card anyway, as this one would be long distance. Dialing several numbers, she finally heard it ring. And ring. And ring.

Well, that definitely wasn't working, she thought. She hung up, referring to the card again, and dialing a new number. This time, it only rang twice.

"Raleigh Police Department," said a friendly, if slightly nasal, voice.

"Yes, I need to speak to Detective Grey MacKenzie. Is he on duty today?"

After a slight pause, the woman responded in the affirmative. "Hold the line and I'll ring you back there."

Country music serenaded her while she waited on hold for the welcoming sound of Grey's familiar drawl.

"Detective MacKenzie's desk," came a masculine voice, but it wasn't Grey's.

"Yes, I'd like to speak to him, please."

"Who may I say is calling?"

Thinking that it might get her faster service, she added her title. "This is Special Agent Dana Scully."

She heard the voice sigh slightly. "Oh, Dana! It's nice to finally speak with you. This is Grey's partner, Mark Preston."

"Mark, what a pleasant surprise," Scully responded politely. "I didn't think you'd know me."

"Are you kidding?" Mark laughed. "We've heard nothing but 'Fox and Dana' since the day Grey came in, announcing he'd found his long-lost brother!"

"They're a perfect match, that's for sure. So, is Grey around? I really need to speak with him."

"Oh, Dana, I'm sorry, but he's not. They've got him on an under-cover assignment, and he's unreachable. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Damn," Dana whispered before turning her attention back to the phone. "If you hear from him, I need you to get him a message. Tell him that Mulder . . . I mean Fox . . . is quite sick, and is in Georgetown Memorial Hospital. I don't have all the details yet as to what the test results will show, but I should know by the time he calls me back."

"Okay, I'll be sure to tell him, and I'm sorry about Fox. Anything else?"

"Oh, yeah. If he tries my cell and can't get through, tell him to call the hospital and ask for his brother's room. I'll be there."

"I'm not sure when I'll be able to get ahold of him, but I'll be sure to tell him when I do. Unfortunately, contacting him now could endanger his life, not just the case."

"I understand. It's poor timing all around, I'm afraid. Not that there's ever a good time to be sick."

"No, there isn't. Well, take care, Dana, and I hope Fox is feeling better soon."

"Thanks, Mark." As she left the bank of phones, she felt a slight sense of failure at not being able to contact Grey. Why did she feel it was so urgent? Mulder was just sick. He'd been there before, and she was sure he'd be there again, despite the flu inoculations they received every year.

It took awhile, but she eventually located Mulder's room. He seemed more comfortable, despite the oxygen cannula under his nose and the IV running into his arm, and was sound asleep. But the gray coloring was still there.

The sun set so very slowly that before she even realized it, the room was dark. She'd been staring so intently at the man in the bed that she was caught unaware when a hand soothed her hair. She quickly followed the hand to its owner.


"Hi, sweetie. How's Fox doing?"

"Stable - that's about all we can say. They haven't gotten the test results back, so we don't know what's causing all this, but at least he's stopped vomiting anymore and he's breathing easier. That's something."

Margaret Scully moved a chair from the corner next to her daughter. Knowing there was little she could do besides offer comfort and her presence, she settled into the chair.

Why did this have to happen now? You didn't have to be a rocket scientist - or an Oxford Graduate - to see that her daughter's relationship with Fox Mulder had changed. No longer were they working partners, or even best friends. Her mother's intuition told her it had developed into something much more. Happiness was within Dana's grasp, and Fox's too. They deserved that.

An hour passed, then two, and soon a third. A kind nurse offered them each a cot in the on-call room, which Scully obstinately refused, but insisted her mother take. Rather than aggravate her, and knowing that she was good for her word to call when they knew anything, Maggie kissed Scully's cheek and went off with the woman. Scully appreciated her mother more and more the older she got, but at this point, she wanted to be alone with Mulder and her thoughts.

Around 2:00 am, his eyes finally opened; Scully had not let herself drift off, awaiting just this event.

"How're you doing?" she asked, taking his hand in her own.

"You're not getting rid of me that easily," Mulder joked. She knew it was a typical defense reaction, but it awakened an anger in her.

"Don't say that, Mulder! Don't you dare even kid about leaving me here alone." Despite her ire, she felt the tears coming to her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Scully. I'm not going anywhere." He drew her hand to his lips, kissing it. "A man would have to be crazy to let anything keep him from a woman like you. Even if she does regularly kick his butt or tell him his ideas are nuts."

"I only kick when the butt needs kicking, and only tell you they're nuts when they are." Nevertheless, the routine sparring made her laugh. Mulder's weak chuckles joined her own just moments before the door opened.

"I apologize for interrupting, folks, but we have the test results back." The grim look on the man's face could be deceiving, Scully told herself, but she was nervous all the same. If anybody had a right to be grim at this hour of the night, it was the beleaguered physician.

"What did they say?"

"It took a little longer to get the results than we originally expected; I ran some of the tests again to make sure they were correct."

Scully felt like she was going to jump out of her skin. "Please, doctor, just tell us. I'm a medical doctor, so you can be as specific as you need to."

"Okay, but it's not good. Mr. Mulder, your blood is showing elevated levels of urea and creatinine along with traces of Xylene, a chemical I think is causing all the trouble. It's most frequently found in cleaning fluids, but this would have to be the pure stuff. Your urinalysis is showing almost none of these chemicals are being excreted through your urinary tract."

"Oh, my God . . ." Scully whispered as the pain literally ripped through her chest.

"Now the fact that there was some in his urine proves that it's not a total shutdown. At least, not yet."

Feeling out of the loop, Mulder's frustration finally released. "What the hell are you two talking about!" he tried to shout in earnest. "What do you mean, 'shutdown?'"

"It appears, Mr. Mulder, that your kidneys are failing. Acute Renal Failure, due to the Xylene in your system. I want to do an ultrasound to see just how bad the damage is, and I'm ordering a series of dialysis sessions. Hopefully, by the time that's done, your kidneys will be healed enough to pick up the job themselves."

"This doesn't make any sense," Mulder said, incredulously. "There can't be anything wrong with my kidneys. I haven't had any problem taking a . . . . well . . . I've been urinating as usual."

"That's not always the way it works, Mr. Mulder. What you're experiencing is called nonoliguric failure - your body continues to produce and expel urine, but it's not taking the poisons in your body with it."

"Okay, so what if the dialysis doesn't help?"

"Why don't we just cross that bridge when we come to it. No need to buy trouble," the doctor said evasively.

"What if they don't?" he repeated, and when the doctor didn't respond, he turned to Scully. "What if they don't, Scully?"

"If your kidneys don't go back to working on their own, they'll have to put you on long-term dialysis treatments. A session every day. Or . . ."

"Or what? I know what dialysis is, Scully. It means no more Bureau. No more X-Files. So what's the alternative?"

"A kidney transplant is the only other option, and the only one that will let you return to a normal life, Mr. Mulder," the doctor said. "I don't want to buy trouble here, but I'd recommend you begin contacting family members, your parents, siblings, anybody who could be a donor, just in case. It would be better if we had everybody typed and matched in advance."

A silence fell on the room, Mulder and Scully's eyes communicating dramatically, though no words were said.

"I'm sorry, Dr. Scully, is there a problem?" When Scully didn't respond, he repeated, "Dr. Scully?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Doctor, I was just . . . distracted. Could you repeat whatever that was?"

"I asked you if there was a problem."

"I'm afraid I don't have much of a family left," Mulder said, holding Scully's hand even tighter, the fear evident in his eyes. Just a few very close friends and . . ."

". . . and one very concerned big brother," came a welcome voice from the doorway.

"Grey!" Scully ran to him, wrapping her arms around his neck as he lifted her from the floor in greeting.

"Hi, Dana." He smiled and set her back on her feet, going immediately to Mulder's side. "How're you doin', little brother?" He hooked his fingers through Fox's, feeling the weakness there.

"Not as well as I thought, it seems," Mulder answered. "Doc, could you give us a little privacy?"

"Sure. The nurse will be in for your treatment in about an hour. Just relax until then and get some rest." He left, and the three occupants watched until the door clicked shut.

"Grey, when I talked to Mark, I didn't really expect you to come up here on a moment's notice. He said you were under cover. How in the world did you get out of the case so fast?"

"Well, my alter-ego did a very stupid thing and got arrested for drunk driving and then resisting arrest," Grey smiled. "Somehow I think it's a good thing he did something so stupid. I felt there was more to this than just being sick as Dana mentioned to Mark, and this just confirmed it."

"What was your first clue?" Mulder asked with a grin.

"Well, most doctors don't ask to see a patient's family for something so minor."

"True," Dana confirmed. "Just bear with me here, Grey. We haven't had a chance to regroup on this yet."

"Agreed. So what do we KNOW through all that medical gobbledygook?" Mulder asked, motioning to Grey to sit on the foot of the bed while Dana sat beside him.

"Okay," Scully sighed, repeating, "what we know. Apparently, a chemical called Xylene got into your system, resulting in some kidney problems. Your kidneys are hardly working, Mulder."

"What was that about 'urea' and 'creatinine'?"

"Those are two of the poisons your body produces that your kidneys are supposed to filter out of your blood. Their presence in large quantities in your bloodstream is the proof that they're not. It's backing up into your blood stream, and that's what's making you sick." Turning her attention to Grey as well, she continued. "They're going to give you some dialysis treatments - that's where they use a machine to filter those things our of your blood - and are hopeful that it will jump-start your kidneys. The fact that they haven't shut down completely already is promising - it could mean that the quantity of Xylene in your system wasn't enough to kill you.

"Anyway, if your kidneys don't improve, you'll have to have dialysis until such time as they can find a kidney donor."

"Well, at least I'm not in any jeopardy, right? That's a plus," Mulder pointed out with a smile.

Suddenly, it was all too much. Somebody had tried to kill Mulder, to take him from her too soon. Her eyes filled, but she kept them from spilling over. "Mulder," she said, clearing her throat when her voice caught. "Mulder, you can't be on dialysis forever and still work in the field. If they can't find a donor . . ."

"You'll have one. We're blood - you can have one of mine," Grey jumped in. "Even I know enough about kidney transplants to know you can have a living donor."

"They'll test you," Scully said, "and I'll have them test me and anybody else who's willing. But even being brothers doesn't assure a match."

"So, you're telling me that I could die from this?" Mulder asked, a hint of fear in his voice.

"I'm not sure, but it doesn't matter. I'm not letting you go, Mulder. So just get that out of your head. You're going to get better, we're not going to have to worry about a transplant, and we're going to be together forever." Scully had tears on her cheeks now, and Mulder pulled her close to him.

"I'm not going anywhere," Mulder assured her. "I love you."

"I love you, too. Now rest." She kissed his lips gently and watched as his eyes slid shut and his breathing leveled off. It didn't take long.

Scully motioned Grey out of the room, and they made their way to the waiting room and the much-needed coffee machine there. "I can't believe you came so quickly, but I'm so glad you did," she said, sliding her arm through his.

"When I got the message about Fox, Mark was careful to tell me that it was just something minor - but I just knew I had to be here. That I had to come as soon as I could."

"But what about your case? Mark said you were under cover."

"I was, but catching a drug dealer isn't worth Fox's life, and that's what it felt like to me. Life and death. Even if I'd stayed, I wouldn't have been able to resolve the case. I'd've been too distracted."

Eyeing the bank of pay phones, Scully asked Grey if he'd get her a cup of coffee. "I need to call our boss. That Xylene didn't get into Mulder's system on its own, so we need to start an investigation into it." With a gentle squeeze to her shoulder, he left her to her business.

"Skinner," a drowsy voice responded after a few rings.

"Sir, it's Scully. I'm at Georgetown Memorial with Mulder."

"Oh, Scully, not again! What did he get into this time?" he asked frustratingly.

"He didn't do this, Sir. I believe that somebody introduced a toxic chemical into his system. He manifested flu-like symptoms first thing this morning. Shortly after mid day, he began experiencing difficulty breathing, so I brought him here. They ran some tests, took blood samples, and . . ." Her voice caught.

"And what, Agent Scully?"

"And the tests now show that he's in acute renal failure."

There was just a moment's pause. "I'll be right over."

"I didn't call to get you down here in the middle of the night, Sir. But I think we need to begin an investigation on this."

"I agree, but I need to start somewhere, and it may as well be with his doctors. Take care of him - I'll be there soon."

"Thank you," she said, but the line was already dead.

"I hope you like it with sugar," Grey said, offering her the Styrofoam cup. "I figured you could use the energy."

"That's perfect, Grey. Thank you. I really need this."

"If you don't mind my saying so, darlin', you don't. What you need is some sleep - almost as badly as Fox does." He pointed to the cup. "That stuff is just a temporary distraction."

"I know, but after this, I need to go talk to my Mom."

"Don't worry, I'll hold down the fort here until you get back."

"I'm only going down to the on-call room," Scully chuckled grimly. "She wouldn't leave any more than I would, but I made her a deal. She went and got some sleep if I promised to tell her as soon as we knew anything about Mulder's condition."

"Your Mom is here?" Grey asked. "You mean I finally get to meet the famous Maggie Scully, mother and caregiver extraordinaire?"

"Yes, and she's in rare form. She's going to go crazy when I tell her about Mulder's problem. Nobody, but nobody, hurts one of Maggie Scully's kids."

Ignoring the familial implications of that statement, Grey said, "I'm not going to pretend to know how your mother's mind works, but I have a feeling she'd be a whole lot worse if you kept her in the dark."

"Worse than your worst nightmares," Scully smiled gently, enviously. Her mother was capable of a purity of love that she wasn't sure she felt in herself. Except for the love she felt for Mulder. He'd told her once that she made him a whole person, but the truth was, he made her human, and capable of love at a level she wasn't sure she ever believed possible. Must have inherited that from Mom, after all, she thought.

Cracking open the door, Scully whispered into the darkness. "Mom . . ." She heard sibilant breathing, and somehow knew it came from her mother. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness somewhat, enough for her to discern the outlines of figures on the cots. The first, distinctly male, short-cropped hair and wideness in the shoulders, and the second, thinner with longer hair that blended with the darkness. "Mom, it's me," she said, shaking Maggie's shoulder slightly.

Through the darkness, Maggie peered up at the shadow above her. "Dana?" It took a moment for it all to come back to her, but when it did, she sat up quickly. "Dana, what's going on? How is Fox?"

"C'mon outside, Mom. I don't want to disturb anybody else sleeping in here. We can talk in the waiting room." Running fingers through her hair, Maggie followed Scully, only to have the two of them joined by a handsome young man in the hall. He looked somehow . . . familiar.

Scully's mother was no dummy. As a matter of fact, she was an incredibly quick study. It wasn't more than minute since they left the on-call room before she put the pieces of the puzzle together. "You're Fox's brother, Grey?"

"Yes, ma'am. It's nice to meet you, despite the circumstances," he said wanly.

"I'm sure everything is going to be all right," Maggie said as she moved into the waiting area, pulling Dana and Grey toward the chairs on either side of her. "Fox will get better, and we'll all go back to my house for a barbecue. Doesn't that sound nice?"

"It sounds wonderful, Mom, but I'm afraid we're going to have awhile to plan that party. Mulder's not going to recover from this overnight." She sighed. "Take a seat, Mom. We're all exhausted, and I can't tell this standing up." They settled in two chairs, Grey sitting on a coffee table before them that didn't truly look like it could hold his weight.

Scully seemed to hesitate, inciting her mother to finally ask the question. "Dana, what is going on with Fox?"

Scully inhaled deeply before she began talking, explaining it all, from the chemical in Mulder's system that did all the damage to the dialysis treatments. Maggie listened silently until it seemed like her daughter was done talking.

"So once Fox has had enough of the dialysis treatments, his kidneys may be back to full function. But Dana, what if they're not?"

"He'll have to have two or three dialysis treatments a day until we can find a kidney donor. He'll be weak, and could develop anemia, infections, or pericarditis as a side effect of the dialysis alone."

"I know anemia and infections, but what's pericarditis?" Maggie asked.

"It's an inflammation of the pericardium - the lining around the heart - and can cause fever and chest pain." She chuckled faintly. "This is one part of my medical training I never thought I'd have to use on him. I should have known better."

"Fox is out of immediate danger," Maggie said, knowing it to be the truth. "Now, we just have to be sure to be here for him, through all of it. And that means that none of us can afford to be less than at our best. Grey, you look exhausted, and I know better than to think I'm going to be able to convince Dana to leave, so you're going to come back to Dana's apartment with me where we'll both get some rest. We should be able to get a couple of hours before the sun comes up, and after that, we'll see how long we sleep. Later, we'll come back and sit with Fox while Dana gets some rest herself. By then, she'll be more likely to be agreeable to that." She looked to her daughter with a knowing raise of an eyebrow.

Despite how very badly she wanted to argue the point, Scully decided it was better to look at the positive side. "That's good. I want to be here when they give him his first dialysis treatment." Her face grew sorrowful, almost painful. "He's going to be so afraid, but he'll never admit it."

"Any sane person would be," Grey offered. "Weren't you, when you had your first chemo treatment?"

A dark look came over Dana's face, and Grey was immediately sorry for bringing up what must have been a very trying time in her life. The last thing she needed was to be reminded of just how mortal they all were.

"Uhhh . . .," Scully began hesitantly. "I'm going to get back to Mulder. He might wake up and I don't want him to be alone." Before she could turn and go, Maggie enveloped her in a hug.

"Take care of him, Dana. We'll be back later today."

"Call if he needs me," Grey said, obviously not wanting to leave, but knowing he needed the rest just as much as he knew that they needed time alone. Even if they couldn't talk to each other . . . love each other . . . they could touch. . . say the words . . . gain strength from each other. It was as necessary to them as the oxygen in that room. He kissed Dana on the cheek and let Maggie show him out of the hospital.


Dana slept. Her head rested on the edge of Mulder's bed, her fingers entwined with his and the sound of his heartbeat near her ear. It was the only way she found herself able to doze in the slightest. And she finally dreamed. Of hands, and bodies, and lips, and skin. Of what they hadn't had, what they'd denied themselves.

As slowly as it had come, the dream world disappeared equally quickly, leaving Scully in an overly-warm room that held cold, impersonal instruments - each one of them attached to the man she loved. Until her dream, she hadn't let herself think negatively. Mulder would be fine. He'd heal, he'd recover, and they'd pick up exactly where they'd left off.

Now, in the darkness of this room and the solitude of her thoughts, she had to admit that nothing was that certain. She HOPED Mulder would heal. She PRAYED he'd recover. But nothing was certain. She found herself wishing that somebody had stayed.

But Maggie and Grey were at her apartment by now, probably sound asleep in her bed and the sofa respectively. Skinner had come and gone after getting the lowdown on what was happening, promising to begin the investigation immediately. Crime teams would be descending on Mulder's apartment at the first stroke of sunlight, and after his, hers would be next, hoping to find some evidence of how this had happened to a fellow agent. Despite the fact that the chemical was often found in cleaning products, nobody believed that it got into Mulder's system by accident.

When the sun rose, shining into the room's one small window, Scully was no longer in the chair. The nurse who came to take Mulder's vitals found her on the bed, snuggled up next to him. Waking her gently, the nurse watched Scully slide from the bed back into her seat while she took temperature, blood pressure, and all the other minutiae that had to be registered on Mulder's chart.

"How's he doing?" Scully asked, watching as the nurse efficiently went about her job.

"Vital signs are about the same, Dr. Scully." She'd whispered the report, but it was enough to wake the patient.

"Mmmm . . . what's going on?" he asked drowsily.

"I'm sorry to have awoken you, Mr. Mulder. How are you feeling?"

"About the same, I guess," he said, seeming to search inside himself. "Kind of hungry."

"The doctor figured that would be the case. He left an order for Zofran1. It'll settle your stomach, and then we can get you something to eat. You'll need your strength, you have a busy day ahead of you."

"Is he on a monitored diet?" Scully asked, knowing how hungry Mulder had to be. "If not, I'd like to go out and get him something a little more to his liking."

"I don't see any reason that shouldn't be okay, but keep it to clear liquids."

Scully turned to Mulder. "How about some chicken soup broth and ginger ale?" She inquired.

"Sounds good - but make it 7-Up instead of Ginger Ale," he answered simply.

"You just want 7-Up because the guy in the commercials makes you laugh," Scully chuckled.

"He's funny!" Mulder claimed defensively.

"If he's a good boy," the nurse suggested with a smile, "he could even have a popsicle. Any flavor as long as it doesn't include cream." Both women watched as Mulder's eyes brightened.

"Any flavor, Mulder. What's your pleasure?" Scully asked Mulder with a grin.

"I think you know what my pleasure is." She tried hard not to laugh. "But for now, I'll make do with cherry or grape." Kissing him gently, she tore her eyes from his and left before she changed her mind.

Scully was gone and back within ten minutes, but when she returned, it was to find Mulder's doctor consulting with the nurse outside his room. They looked very serious.

"What's going on?" she asked, fingering the plastic bag in her hand, needing to do something.

"Oh, Dr. Scully. We were just discussing the course of treatment we're going to take for Agent Mulder's condition."

"Last night you said dialysis. What's left to decide?" She tried to remember back to her medical school training and residency, but this was something they'd only touched on in the general classes. It took a specialist to know all the ins and outs of treating kidney failure.

"There is more than one kind of kidney dialysis, Dr. Scully. Which kind we use depends on the patient's condition and status."

"And what will you do for Mulder?"

"I'm a little concerned about how he'll react to the most common form. His blood pressure is pretty low - he needs something more gentle. I'm thinking of a version called CVVHD."

"Okay, so we try the CVVHD. When will the first treatment be given?"

"That's just it. CVVHD is gentler - and slower. But it means he'll be treated continuously. We'll put a shunt into an artery in his leg so it doesn't interfere with his movement, and another in a nearby vein for the reintroduction of the purified blood. In three or four days, we'll do a sonogram of his kidneys and see if they appear to be healing. Take him off the treatment for a day or so and test his blood to see if they're picking up any of the function."

"They will. Mulder's a fighter, you'll see."

"I have no doubt, Dr. Scully. But just in case, I'd like to begin the testing process as well. We'll need blood samples from members of his family - there's a greater chance of a tissue match with a blood relative like a brother or sister."

"I want to be tested, too," she said nervously. "And I'm sure my Mom will as well."

"You can add my name to that list," came a baritone from behind her. She couldn't help but smile when she saw Skinner's protective bulk coming down the hall.

"Thank you, Sir," she said, wondering if their boss knew of the more personal aspect of their relationship. They hadn't gone out of the way to keep their romance a secret, but by the same token, they hadn't exactly publicized it. They figured that "don't ask, don't tell" seemed like the way to go.

The doctor gave some quiet instructions to the nurse, who went to get the required equipment as he turned to go into Mulder's room.

"Doctor, would you give this to Mulder?" Scully asked, handing him the nearly-forgotten bag that contained his food. "His broth is going to be cold and his popsicles melted if he doesn't finish them soon."

"No problem," he said, leaving the two agents in the hall. Scully turned her attention back to Skinner.

"I know we've had our ups and downs over time, but it means a lot to us that you care enough to be here."

Blushing and uncertain Skinner dipped his head. It was amazing. She'd never seen him blush before, and surely had never seen him embarrassed, but he was definitely both at this moment. They often took their boss, and friend, for granted; maybe they underestimated his need for his own form of human contact.

Letting him off the hook, she changed the subject. "Did the team find anything at Mulder's or my apartment that could have caused this?"

"No, I'm afraid not. We took samples of everything in the refrigerators and cupboards, and even off the dirty dishes - that would have been in Mulder's place." He grinned slightly. "We're hoping that the lab comes up with something in a few hours. For now, I've done all I can."

"You could come in and see Mulder," she volunteered. Skinner seemed hesitant, but she knew that she, at least, needed to go to him. "I need to be there for him. He's expecting a few hours' treatment every day, not being hooked to a machine 24/7. If I'm not in there, he may go over the wall." She smiled gently, both of them knowing that he was not capable of any such thing.

"You might need some muscle," Skinner responded, following as she turned and pushed on the door. The doctor was just beginning to explain everything to Mulder when she came and took his hand in silent support. She noted that some of the food had been consumed, but he was no longer eating.

"Are you sure this is what's best?" he asked, but it was addressed to Scully, not to the doctor. Deciding she wasn't about to worry how it looked, she kissed Mulder on the temple.

"I know it'll be a nuisance, Mulder, but it's important that it's done this way. Trust me."

"Nobody but you," he muttered, looking from her blue eyes to the medical staff in time for the return of the nurse, pushing a sophisticated-looking piece of equipment. "Okay, stick me where ever you need to, because I'm gonna get better. I have too much to live for."

They spent almost an hour discussing the intricacies of the procedure. The doctor wanted him to know all the risks, ins, and outs and everything to expect before they began. "Are you TRYING to get me to change my mind about this?" he asked with a chuckle.

"Of course not, Mr. Mulder, but we have to have informed consent - not just consent. And," he added, taking a clipboard from the nurse, "we need it in writing."

Exchanging a look with Scully and getting her nod, he quickly scribbled his name where the doctor indicated. "Do with me what you will," he declared, sinking into the softness of the pillows. "Which leg do you want?"

The machine was moved into place beside his bed, and the blankets were moved to reveal his left, less used, leg. Having the equipment attached was not pleasant, but once it was in place, there wasn't a great deal of pain to speak of.

When the procedure began, he couldn't pull his eyes away from the red liquid making its way up the tube. It was disconcerting. After a minute or two, he found he didn't want to look at it anymore.

"My foot's cold," he commented, knowing what would happen next. The nurse, careful of the tubing, covered his leg with the blanket once again. "I just want to go back to sleep. Why don't you go get yourself some coffee or something, Scully. Or better yet, something to eat. You weren't gone long enough to have gotten something when you picked up my colorful if insubstantial meal. I'm not going anywhere."

"He's right, Scully," Skinner said, drawing attention to himself for the first time since he'd entered the room.

"Drag her out of here, would you, please?" Mulder asked him with a smile. "I don't need her getting sick on me."

"C'mon, Scully. There's a Denny's right across the street - we'll be back in less than an hour."

"Are you sure, Mulder?" she asked, the uncertainty strong in her tone.

"Yeah, it's fine. I'll just catch forty winks, then I'll finish my soup," he answered, nodding to the forgotten Styrofoam container that sat on the tray table.

Mulder napped longer than any of them expected, and his soup became two meals rather than one. By the time he was sipping on the liquid, kindly reheated by his nurse, Scully and Skinner had returned, soon joined by Maggie and Grey.

"Hey, how're you holding up, bro?" Grey said, taking his brother's hand and trying not to react to how cold the skin was.

"I think the doctors would say 'as well as can be expected,' whatever that means."

Grey eyed the new machine at Mulder's side, knowing what it was, but not really wanting to face it. "Well, when your treatment is done, how about we cruise the grounds a bit, get some fresh air." He watched his brother and Dana exchange a look that spoke volumes, then, conversation completed, Mulder nodded.

"That's not going to be possible, I'm afraid," Scully spoke. "The type of dialysis the doctor has ordered dictates that he has to be attached to the machine constantly for a few days. Mulder's stuck in bed for at least the next three."

Just then, the nurse came in, checking Mulder's vitals and the shunt in his leg. Grey flinched at the first sight of the thing - it just didn't seem right that his brother would be hooked up like he was part of the machine. Apparently, everything was proceeding normally, as the nurse covered the leg with his blankets, speaking to the group at the same time.

"The lab called up that they're ready to take your blood samples, whenever you're ready to go down." She smiled at them, looking them each in the face for the first time. "I know them down there, though. I wouldn't recommend more than two at a time unless you want to stand around for awhile. They're not really fast."

"How about we older folks go first, and let the three of you young folks have some time together," Maggie volunteered, moving to Skinner's side and touching him gently on the arm. There was no doubt who the "older" folks were, but the inclusion caused Skinner to blush - something incredible to see a second time.

Seeing the hesitation, the nurse added. "It was my understanding that all four of you wished to be tested. Have you changed your minds?"

"No, not at all," Skinner said, clearing his throat. "We'll head down there now."

"Sir," Mulder asked from his place in the bed. "Would you do me a favor and call the Gunmen? I was supposed to drop off an article I did for the newsletter, and I'm obviously not going to make it, so I want them to know what's going on. Just tell them not to worry, and I'll get the article to them as soon as I can."

"Sure, Mulder. Not a problem. What's the number?" Skinner jotted it on the notepad he kept in his pocket as Mulder reeled off the digits.

"Don't let them give you a hard time," he added.

"I doubt it'll happen," Skinner said, smiling. "In the last few years, I've become quite familiar with your friends. Remember Arlington General? And Bermuda?"

This time, it was Mulder's turn to look embarrassed. "I'm not likely to forget them," he said.

"Let's not keep the lab staff waiting," Maggie said, leading Skinner out the door. It was an image that they couldn't remember seeing before, Skinner being led instead of leading.

They stopped in the hallway long enough for Skinner to call the Gunmen, who, after hearing the details of Mulder's condition, quickly announced their intent to also be tested to see if they were compatible donors.

Resuming their walk down the corridor, Maggie tried to think of something to say to the man walking beside her. She'd only met him a few times, usually in times of crisis. But he seemed like a good man. "Thank you for doing this, Mr. Skinner. I know I've never said it, but I appreciate all the times you've been there for Dana and Fox."

"I'm just doing my job, Mrs. Scully."

"It's more than that, and you know it. And it's Maggie, or Margaret if you prefer. You've gone above and beyond a normal boss's responsibilities to his underlings. I admit that Dana's father and I weren't thrilled when she announced her intent to join the FBI. Meeting Fox after her father's death, I felt somewhat better in that I knew he'd protect her. But he can't assure her safety." As they got on the elevator, Skinner moved as if to speak, but she interrupted. "I know, I know. You can't either. But you try your best and then some, and that means a lot to me."

Walter Skinner smiled at the woman beside him. He felt comfortable with her, being himself. Being a human being and not just a Bureau employee. "Well, I'll deny it if you quote me, but Mulder and Dana have grown pretty special to me. They haven't been just 'underlings' for a long time now. And it's Walter."

They rode the rest of the way in silence, approaching the nurse at the counter hesitantly. "May I help you?"

"Yes, we're here to give blood samples for tissue typing for a patient here." Skinner was impressed that Maggie remembered the correct terminology for it.

"Oh, you're the people for Fox Mulder?" she asked, and they both nodded their agreement. "Come on in, and we'll get started."

She led them through a side door, indicating a pair of gurneys, side by side. "Have a seat, folks. I'll just get the trays and be with you in a minute. You're going to want to take off your suit jacket," she said to Skinner.

Maggie stepped up onto the gurney, watching as Walter removed the jacket and then pulled himself up without benefit of the step. The nurse returned, and went to Maggie first.

"Which arm?" Maggie asked, and rolled up her left sleeve when the nurse answered. "There'll be least five more coming in some time today who need the same test - would it help if I gave you their names?"

"Sure, just let me finish here and I'll get the chart." Needles didn't really bother Maggie, but she didn't have any desire to watch as the hypodermic slid under her skin. Looking to Walter, his eyes were glued to what the nurse was doing to her, and if she wasn't mistaken, there was a distinctly green cast to his face.

"Are you okay, Walter?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just not crazy about . . ."

"Needles, I'd guessed." Maggie ignored the slight smile the nurse wore - she'd apparently seen this often enough that it amused her, especially in such a masculine figure.

"All done," the nurse said, withdrawing the sample from Maggie. She put a piece of gauze on the inside of her elbow, bending the arm to keep it in place. "Just hold that there for a minute."

By the time she turned to take Skinner's sample, Maggie could see that a slight sweat had broken out on his strong forehead. The nurse either hadn't noticed, or hadn't really cared, despite how kind she seemed. "Are you ready?" she asked as he rolled up his left sleeve.

"Ready as I'll ever be," he said, embarrassed at his obvious fear. It wasn't the first time he'd done this, he told himself, and it wouldn't be the last. Just grit your teeth and get over it. He closed his eyes as the needle came closer, but was surprised into opening them again when he felt a warm hand taking his own right one. Looking up, his eyes met Maggie's look of encouragement, a warm squeeze communicating the support. Logically, there was no reason for it to have helped, but it did. Before he broke the gaze, his left arm was bent with a similar piece of gauze to Maggie's sandwiched in between upper and lower arm.

"Thank you," he whispered to her.

"You're welcome," she said simply, yet he somehow knew that this would remain between them.

"How long before we'll know?" he asked the nurse.

"If any of you are compatible tissue donors? Two or three days, I'm afraid."

"The doctor said that Mulder would have to be on the dialysis for at least that long anyway," Skinner said in comfort of Maggie, who was obviously unhappy with the answer. "It's most likely that Grey will be the match, and then, if necessary, they can do the surgery right away."

"Somehow, I get the feeling that Fox hasn't let himself think that far yet."

"He's a fighter, Maggie. I'm sure he's certain that it won't come down to the transplant. But if it does, he'll adapt. Just as he's always done."

Up in the room, Scully and Grey were trying to keep Mulder's mind off his predicament. "So, Grey," Scully said, her tone conversational. "What was this big case you were working on? Mark made it sound really serious."

"It was for Narcotics. I've been working for a couple of months setting up the persona, getting in good with the gang. We wanted to take them down for good. Our statistics and information says that this particular group is responsible for more than 50% of all the drug trafficking in the city of Raleigh. If we could put a stop to them, think about how many kids we could keep off that crap."

"Sounds dangerous," Scully remarked.

"Well, that's part of the job, darlin'. Just the same as yours."

"Your coming up here," Mulder questioned. "What is that going to do to your case?"

"I'm afraid my part is pretty much blown. They'll never let me back in after I failed to show up for a few meetings. It'll be too suspicious."

"I'm sorry," Mulder said sadly.

"It's not like you did this on purpose, and no way in hell would I not be here, so just forget it. The PD will continue the investigation without me."

"Still, I hate to think that we ruined your case."

"Will you stop it!" Grey laughed. "This is the most preposterous conversation I've ever had."

"What's preposterous?" Maggie asked as she returned to the room.

"It's nothing, Mom. Just business."

"I always found it interesting that you both," Maggie said to Fox and Grey, "ended up with careers in law enforcement."

"Yeah, I keep telling him that a career in federal law enforcement could take him far, but he seems to be a home town boy," Fox said, eliciting a chuckle from everybody. "Hey, I'm not kidding!"

"He's not, folks," Grey smiled. "He's been trying to talk me into joining the academy every since we met. I keep telling him that I'm way too old to go through that again. Once was more than enough."

"Not to mention the fact that I don't think the Bureau could withstand more than one Mulder," Skinner said sternly, but the gleam in his eyes gave him away.

"It's too bad he didn't join a few years ago," Scully grinned devilishly. "The mere presence of two Mulders would have been enough to bring Blevins out into the open. It would have saved us so much trouble."

Fox's face grew dark, and Maggie knew it was from the mention of such a difficult time in all their lives. Scully's cancer had not only nearly claimed her body, it had nearly claimed his soul as well. If she'd died, Maggie knew he would have followed soon after, either by accident or by design. And she had no doubt that the reverse would be true should something ever happen to Mulder. She thanked God that his life was in no danger. Dialysis was a nuisance, but it was no threat.


Unfortunately, Mulder's kidneys didn't improve, and the dialysis continued. Over the next four days, despite being an active person, Mulder dealt exceedingly well with being essentially a captive in the small hospital room. While awake, he watched TV and read the case files Scully brought him. Thank God for ESPN and the wise and noble person on the hospital staff who chose to have it included in the television package. Scully'd argued with him when he insisted she go to work rather than spend twenty-four/seven at his bedside. She didn't tell him that her investigative time wasn't being spent on X-Files, but on discovering how the mysterious chemical agent had gotten into his body.

She'd also insisted on checking him thoroughly for puncture marks, signs of a hypodermic, but only found those for which the hospital was responsible. She returned to her original theory that Mulder was given the chemical orally, either by accident or by an intentional effort on the part of one of their many enemies. It seemed unlikely that it could have gotten into food or liquid he drank unintentionally, but why would anybody do it on purpose? It wasn't a foolproof method for murder, so a supposed perpetrator would have to be either careless or stupid if that was the original goal. So what would be the benefit of only sidelining Mulder?

Given those facts, Scully's attention was drawn to their latest cases. Maybe there was something there they didn't WANT Mulder investigating. . . If that was the correct scenario, she intended to uncover the plot.

Unbeknownst to her, Mulder was going over it as well. It may have appeared that he was engrossed in football or basketball or soccer, but it wasn't so. He was reviewing the files for each case, carefully stored in his eidetic memory. Scully and Skinner seemed to think they were protecting him by not directly answering his questions regarding the investigation into his own case, and he knew he'd never convince them otherwise.

The most frustrating thing for Mulder about being in the hospital was the inability to be alone. For a man who spent most of his life as a relative recluse, having somebody at his side so much of the time was disquieting. Nurses, orderlies, and doctors were in and out all day. Either Maggie, Grey, or Scully was a constant presence, often doubling up, as they were now. Grey was as absorbed as Mulder pretended to be in the basketball on TV - a mutual favorite where sports were concerned. Scully, meanwhile, was reading in the chair vacated by her mother less than an hour ago. Yet despite how it sounded, he appreciated their being there.

The effect these treatments were having on him was odd. Although performing no physical exertion, he would suddenly grow tired, his lids sliding shut for no reason he could discern. He felt it approaching again, but it felt different.

The alarms drew Scully and Grey's immediate attention, the basketball game and book forgotten. Scully had hardly discerned which of the machines surrounding her partner was screaming at them before a swarm of figures in white descended on the room. Instinctively, she backed away to give them room to work, but Grey was frozen at his brother's bedside. A nurse she vaguely recognized was suddenly speaking to her.

"Get him out of here, please!" It was more an order than a question. "We need room to work."

Knowing what was most important, she pulled Grey by the arm from the room. Once in the hall, he grew less dazed. "What are you doing, Dana? Fox NEEDS us!"

"No," she responded sternly. "He needs those people in there, and he needs us to keep clear heads and out of their way." Grey adopted the genuine puppy-dog look she'd seen so often on Mulder, and her tone grew softer. "I know you want to be with him - I do, too - and you will be, just as soon as he's stabilized and we've had a report from his doctor."

"Do you know what happened in there?"

"I only got a glance at the monitors," Scully responded, "but it looked like a sudden drop in blood pressure."

"What would cause that?"

"I don't know . . ."

They fell silent, each with their own thoughts. It had seemed like years since they'd left the room when, finally, most of the staff filed out, the nurses returning to their other duties. The doctor, however, came directly to them.

"I want to thank you for your cooperation in there - I know how hard it had to be for you both. Especially you, Dr. Scully."

"How is he?" she asked.

"He's stable, still unconscious, but should be waking soon. Pretty much back to how he was before the crisis. It's lucky we got to him so quickly."

"What happened to him?" Grey asked.

"He became hypotensive. His blood pressure dropped suddenly. It happens occasionally to patients on dialysis. His body reacted badly to the treatments."

"But he HAS to have them," Scully confirmed, nodding her head. "So you proceed, and keep an eye on him?"

"Yes. I can't promise it won't happen again any time he's receiving the treatments. I'm hoping that the tests come back with a match for one of you. The real thing is always better than a machine."

"When will they be back?" Scully asked. Now that they knew the dialysis wasn't fail safe, she wanted this other option more than ever.

"I didn't actually expect them until morning at the soonest, but I'm going to call down there and see if I can get them to hurry it up."

"Is he in danger?" It was as uncertain as Scully had ever heard Grey sound.

"Well, there are inherent risks in any medical procedure . . ."

Unwilling to accept the formal answer, Grey interrupted. "Look, forget all the legalese. We both read the consent forms. Just tell us honestly - is he at risk?"

The physician actually blushed. "Okay, honestly. Yes, he could become hypotensive again as long as the dialysis continues. And no, I can't guarantee you that he couldn't bottom out all the way on us, but every member of the staff here is on the alert for just such a complication. He's at a lot less risk on the dialysis than off of it if that's what you're thinking, Mr. MacKenzie."

"But he'd be at less risk if we find him a kidney," Scully stated.

"Absolutely. Which is why I'm on my way down to the lab. You can go in and sit with him if you like."

Her "thank you" was an afterthought, addressed over her shoulder as they returned to Mulder's bedside.


The scene three hours later was almost the same as it had been before the hypotensive crisis, except that now, Skinner was absorbed in ESPN along with Mulder and Grey, and Maggie chatted quietly with Scully, whose book hadn't been touched since their return to the room. Her mother was listening intently to the story of what had transpired that afternoon, noticing that Dana was close to tears.

"I know I'm a doctor, Mom, but I was . . . I still AM . . . terrified. I could lose him." Her look became distant as she took in Fox on the bed. "There's so much we haven't done yet. So much we have left to experience together."

Maggie knew what her daughter was thinking - they'd discussed her and Mulder's decision to go slow early on in their romantic relationship. But truth be told, she was surprised that, after six months, Dana and Fox hadn't given in to their passions. The feelings were strong; you could feel it any time they were in the same room together.

"Don't worry, baby," Maggie said, enveloping Dana in a hug. "You and Fox will have your time together, I know it. You've been through too much for God not to reward you."

"I wish I was as sure as you are," Dana replied, wiping at tears that had never totally fallen. Just then, they all looked up as the door opened.

The doctor, carrying a folder, looked grim, and Scully instantly felt this wouldn't be good news. But she'd misinterpreted a "doctor face" before.

All attention was on him, waiting for him to speak. After a deep inhalation, he opened the folder in his large hands. "They just sent down the tissue-typing results. I haven't had the opportunity to look at them yet, but we'll review them together, okay?" He read off the first sheet.

"Byers, J: Negative." He flipped the page.

"Frohike, M: Negative." Flip.

"Langley R: Negative." Flip.

"MacKenzie, G," he took a deep breath - this was a biggie. "Negative." Gasps were heard all around as the doctor turned to the next page.

"Scully, D: Negative." Flip.

"Scully, M: Negative." Flip

"Skinner, W: Negative." He closed the folder slowly.

A deeper sigh was heard now. All the results had turned up negative - not a single match among them, not even his own brother. The doctor was still speaking. "I also had my own blood tested - that came up negative as well."

Mulder was scared - there was no denying it. "Does that mean I'll be tied to this contraption the rest of my life?"

The doctor half nodded, beginning to speak. "We'll put you on a treatment program where you won't have to be attached 24/7, but yes, you'll need to continue them."

"No," Skinner suddenly spoke, definitely sounding like the voice of authority. "There's got to be a match for you out there somewhere. We'll find them." Looking to Mulder, he asked permission. "Is it okay if I get some volunteers from the Bureau? Send out a few emails?"

"See if there's a match among other agents?" Mulder nodded, grinning slightly. "I don't have a lot of choice now, do I?"

"I'm afraid not," Scully said affectionately, squeezing his hand. Mulder nodded again to Skinner, who silently turned and left.

Scully knew the way some of their fellow agents saw her partner. She had to hope, however, that they would put their disdain aside and help them if at all possible. Hope hell. She had to believe!

Looking across the room, Scully realized that Grey was being abnormally quiet. She wasn't sure what she expected, but not that. Mulder, as usual, was meeting the crisis with his trademark humor, but Grey . . .

"Grey, are you all right?" she asked hesitantly.

"All right?" he laughed, but it sounded bitter. "All right? I'm useless. What the hell good am I if I can't even help my only brother when he needs me?" Grey grew more agitated with each word.

Mulder tried to console him. "Grey, there's nothing . . ."

"No! Don't give me any of that 'this is not your fault' crap, because it sure as hell feels like it is! After not having you in my life for over thirty years, I damn well should be able to do something to help you!"

"You ARE doing something," Mulder said forcefully. "You couldn't do any more than you already are. I mean, shit, Grey! You've left your home, and your life, left a case in the middle of an investigation, just so you could be here with me during this time." There was a pause while Mulder tried to judge if he was getting through to him. "You've done everything I could ask and more. The rest is out of your hands. I appreciate all of it, more than I can say, but I don't blame you for anything."

Mulder's intensity, while helping shore up his brother, also seemed to help calm Mulder himself. "Okay, little brother. Message received." Grey smiled, calmed, yet the shadow of guilt was still in his eyes.

Maggie had been standing quietly, observing from afar. In typical fashion, she gave comfort in her own unique way. "I'm going to go make dinner for us all, and bring it back here. Are there any special requests?" She looked from Mulder to Grey to Scully and back again.

"Anything cooked in your kitchen will be better than what I'd get at home," Mulder smiled. "Anything is fine."

Grey and Scully nodded their agreement, and Maggie kissed them all and left.

With her mother gone, and Grey and Mulder settled, the enormity of the situation descended on Scully. It was a strain to keep the tears at bay. She knew it was pressure release, but she didn't want to cry in front of Mulder. He had enough to worry about.

"I'm going to go check in at the office, see if there were any new leads, and I'll be back in time for dinner." She quickly kissed Mulder and fled the room.

"Where's she going?" Grey asked, sensing there was more to it than what she'd said.

"To regroup. Let her be. She'll be back, just as she promised."

"What do you mean, regroup? I thought it would take wild horses to drag her from your side."

"We've been together, in one way or another, for so many years. I love Scully, but I'm not blind to her faults - we all have them. She has this . . . idiosyncrasy, I guess you'd call it. She won't let anybody see her cry if she can possibly avoid it. And given the situation, I'm sure she thinks she's protecting me from her own emotions."

"But I've seen her show her emotions before. Why is this different?"

"She's gotten a lot better about being open since . . . well, since we got 'together' in the romantic sense. Must've felt a major blowout coming if she felt the need to run now."

"She loves you." It was said without a doubt and was not a question.

"God knows why, but yeah. I've finally come to believe that she does."

"Cut it out, Fox. We've been through this before. There are a lot of things that she sees in you to love. Me, too, although they're probably not the same as Dana's." Grey chuckled.

"You have no idea how much that eases my mind," Mulder laughed back, but tiredly. Grey recognized it immediately.

"You ready to take a rest, little brother? I think you could use it."

"Yeah, I think so," Mulder responded, sliding down under the covers. Wake me when Scully gets back, okay?"

"If she lets me, I will," Grey smiled, watching as his brother's eyes slid shut.


She'd made it as far as her car before the wave finally overtook her. They'd never had a perfect time together, but the last six months had been as close as she'd ever expected it to come. And just when everything was going so well, this had to happen. Why did it always have to be them?

The sobs shook her as she sat behind the steering wheel, knowing better than to proceed on the road before she had better control of herself. As the tears flowed, she went through it in her mind. She was a doctor, she knew the situation. She knew they could still have a long life together, despite treatments he'd have to have and being tied to a desk for the rest of his career. How would Mulder react when that realization finally came to him?

She seemed to finally be running out of tears when a trilling sounded from her pocket.

"Scully," she said into the cell phone, trying her best to sound normal.

"Dana, this is Skinner. Are you okay?"

Damn. "As well as can be expected," she said, her voice growing smaller.

"Where are you?"

"I'm in my car on the way into the Bureau. What's going on?"

"I'm calling because I want the permission to go through Mulder's place again. There's got to be a clue there somewhere." Skinner's voice was soft, but determined.

"You really want to catch this guy, don't you, sir?"

"I know I can't do much to help Mulder, but resolving the case and maybe finding somebody who is responsible or how this got into his system will, at least, make me feel better."

"You don't want it any more than I do, sir. Do you still have the key to Mulder's place?"


"Call me as soon as you get done, and you have to promise to tell me if you find anything."

"Of course, Scully."

A simple good-bye and their conversation ended. The call had helped to settle Scully's nerves and she felt safe putting her car into gear and leaving the hospital parking lot. She was met with a few looks of sympathy upon entering the Bureau, but nobody had actually spoken to her about Mulder's condition. The only people who knew so far of his illness were the ones directly involved in investigating his case, but she knew that would be short lived. Even now, rumors were sure to be flying. Once Skinner's memo got out, she'd be inundated with questions and sympathies.

Gratefully, the elevator was empty, and she rode to the basement in silence. Her desktop computer was booted quickly, her email message light blinking a moment later. She smiled as she read the only new email.

To: All Bureau Personnel

From: Assistant Director Skinner

Subject: Assistance Needed

Special Agent Fox Mulder is in the hospital, his care being carefully overseen by the doctors and staff, as he fights the affects of complete kidney failure as a result of an on-the-job attack. Any agent willing to put in extra time in an attempt to resolve Agent Mulder's case and bring his attacker to justice is gratefully welcome to join the investigation. Please see my secretary or your immediate supervisor to let us know of your availability. Please watch for future emails that will update you on the condition of Agent Mulder as it changes.

Scully chuckled as she moved the email to her permanent file. Resolving the case wouldn't help Mulder's medical situation, but it would go a long way in helping his general attitude.


Ten agents and forensic specialists squeezed into Mulder's tiny apartment, each under the supervision of AD Skinner. He'd intentionally brought different people than had participated in the first search, figuring that they would have no preconceived notions of where to or not to look for any kind of evidence. Most were currently concentrating in the kitchen, but a few had scattered to other corners of the apartment.

"Wow, almost nothing in his medicine cabinet," Skinner heard somebody say, and he wandered toward the voice, finding himself quickly standing in the doorway of the bathroom. It was surprisingly clean for a bachelor - Skinner remembered those days of his youth.

Once again the bathroom came up clear of any clues. His eyes scanned the room as the two agents' did likewise, finally falling on what seemed to be an extraneous knob coming out of the wall. "What's that?" Skinner said, pointing.

"What's what, sir?"

"That knob." He walked over and pulled on it, a panel tilting from the wall to reveal a dirty clothes hamper. "This was missed the first time, and there are clothes in there. Check it out. Be sure you empty all pockets."

"Yessir," they said, beginning to extract items. Skinner hadn't even gotten as far as the doorway when he heard a slight rip. Turning, he saw that one of the agents had caught the sleeve of a dress shirt on the corner of the opening, tearing it open.

"One of you is going to owe Agent Mulder a new shirt, I think," he said.

"Maybe it's not that bad," the agent holding the shirt muttered, searching the sleeve for the tear. He unrolled the cuff, and almost didn't notice as a piece of popcorn dropped onto the floor. "Hey, what's this?"

"Just a piece of popcorn," the second agent said, casually.

"But worth checking," Skinner added with a stern look. Then he called, "forensics, in the bathroom, please."

The search turned up a few other samples from the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, and then they returned to the Bureau with high hopes that something would show up in the lab tests.


Mulder sat impatiently in bed, looking forward to being able to leave the hospital later that day. The doctor had given him a schedule for dialysis treatments on an out-patient basis, and gone over the new requirements for every day living of his life.

His life . . . was that still what it was? Some things wouldn't change, of course. Many things. But so much would. Starting with the fact that he could no longer do his job the way he had been. He could go in the field - go out of town, even - but only so long as he was sure he'd be back in time for treatments. He wasn't sure that the Bureau would let him work as a field agent with his medical condition being what it was.

He was still alive, though, and for that he was grateful. It meant more days with Scully, and nights, too, if she was still of a mind. She'd been wonderful through this whole thing. He'd tried to thank her, but she just brought up all the times he'd been there for her, making her sacrifice seem like a minor one.

Grey didn't seem to be dealing with the situation nearly as well as either of them were. Until now, Mulder always believed that what Scully affectionately referred to as the "Mulderguilt" was exclusive to him, but now, it seemed that Grey was just as much a victim of it. He couldn't seem to forgive himself for not being able to help his brother, no matter how much they tried to comfort him.

Scully had gone home to collect some clothes for Mulder, leaving Grey behind to keep him company. The conversation had begun stilted, and eventually faded into nothingness, each man deeply entrenched in his own thoughts. Both of them were practically startled out of their skin when the door abruptly slammed open.

To their surprise, it wasn't one of the myriad of hospital personnel, but their boss, with Scully right behind him. He got to the point of his visit with no preamble.

"Where did you get popcorn?"

"What?!" came three voices simultaneously.

"Where were you recently that you ate popcorn?" Skinner clarified anxiously.

"Oh, my God," Scully said in shock. "I forgot all about the popcorn. It's such a little thing, I never thought . . ."

"We went to the movies on Friday night. Why?" Mulder answered as Scully joined him near the bed.

"We found a piece in your clothes hamper with traces of the chemical on it. Did you have any of that same popcorn, Scully?"

"No, I had my own. Mulder and I don't agree on the butter issue," she grinned.

"Which theater did you go to? And do you think you could identify the person who served you?"

"It was the Regal Cinemas on Denmark Avenue in Georgetown," Scully offered, unintentionally neglecting the second question. "What did you find?"

"Xylene. Strongly concentrated. Too much to have come from cleaning supplies by mistake."

Grey spoke for the first time, his distinctive southern drawl awestruck. "You mean somebody put that on his popcorn on purpose? But why?"

Skinner looked back sympathetically. "Well, if we find out the 'why,' we'll be pretty sure of the 'who.' I'm going to requisition the theater's employee records, and then we'll see if anybody in them looks familiar."

"We'll be headed back to my place as soon as the doctor releases us, so try my cell first," Scully suggested. "If I don't answer, it'll be because we're still here."

"Which we probably will be," Mulder said sardonically. "Seeing as I've never seen a hospital yet that can get a person out on time."

"Okay, I'll talk to you soon." The room was dead silent after Skinner's departure.

"So, it's official. Another attempt on the life of good ol' Spooky," Mulder said darkly.

"An attempt, maybe . . . but a FAILED attempt, Mulder. You're still with us, and I, for one, am eternally grateful." Scully smiled lovingly, squelching the desire to crawl into bed with him.

Mulder reached up, caressing her face. "I have a lot to live for." His eyes moved from her to his brother, still sitting in the bedside chair. "A whole lot."

"Oh, geez," Grey said, grinning, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Now he's gettin' mushy. I'm going to take a little walk - I'll be back before they release you, I promise." Rising, he kissed Dana on the cheek before leaving the room.

"He's been uncharacteristically maudlin lately," Mulder observed.

"Well, it seems that he inherited the Mulder family guilt complex after all." Even though she knew Mulder understood, she added, "he's blaming himself because he couldn't give you a kidney."

"How the hell does he figure that's his fault? He can't control it."

"Mulder, I've seen you take the blame for a whole lot less than that. But just like you, he'll go out, get some fresh air, and be back in a much better frame of mind. Don't worry."


Two hours later

Despite what they'd been told, the much-desired release papers still hadn't arrived, but Skinner had. The three of them had scanned through the employee files until they found a familiar youthful face, and then two slightly less familiar. Their boss left as quickly as he'd come, off to assign agents to question the teens.

Meanwhile, Grey was on his umpteenth lap around the hospital, but it wasn't making it any better. He'd given up trying to calm the fury in his mind, instead attempting to re-focus it. This wasn't an accident or a mistake. Somebody had intentionally done this to Fox, and if he couldn't help him medically, he was going to help extract some justice. Solve the case. Get the bad guys. Work alongside the feds and make sure they're doing everything they should be doing.

Anybody who masterminded the attack on Mulder - for that's how he thought of it - would have to have a far reach. Fox had told him only a fraction of what he and Scully had gone through the last several years - people with enough power to put them through all that would find it simple to slip a little toxic substance into Fox's food. After all, he was human - he had to eat.

Suddenly, it came to him in a flash. Anybody with that far of a reach could control anything. And anybody. Including the hospital laboratory staff. Staff who could fix the results of a test . . . like a tissue-typing test.

Walking was no longer sufficient to his needs. He ran for the nearest elevator, pounding the button incessantly until the car finally arrived. His blood ran hot through his veins. He might be the answer for Fox after all, and those evil men probably kept them from seeing it. From knowing it.

Trapped in the slow-moving elevator, he wished he'd decided to take the stairs instead. This was just too slow! Every second could count; even now, they could be making their getaway.

Grey made his way to the lab, stopping strangers in the hall for directions when needed and leaving them stunned and confused. At last, he broke through the doors to the laboratory. . .

. . . to see no fewer than a dozen federal agents, their badges showing, going through everything.

"I'm sorry, you can't come in here," one said, courteous enough considering the circumstances.

"I need to," he panted. You don't understand . . ."

"Yes, we do, Mr. MacKenzie." Grey was shocked that the stranger knew his name. "As soon as Assistant Director Skinner confirmed that Agent Mulder's condition was due to an attack, if a subversive one, he sent a team down here to check for infiltration. The medical specialists are in there reviewing all the records right now, and we're hoping for some information very soon."

"On whether the tests were tampered with," Grey said, not questioning.

"Yes. If you would like to wait, you can do it just beyond the doors."

"I have a lot of respect for your kind, Agent, but the only thing that's going to get me out of here is if you place me under arrest." Then, trying to adapt a more gentle tone, he added, "I promise. I won't interfere."

"Very well. But one wrong move and you'll be taken out of here, understand?" After exchanging nods, the agent left him alone.

Grey wasn't particularly crazy about the idea, but he knew he couldn't possibly leave - even to go back to his brother's room. Needing to know, he paced and tried to stay out of the way. After several minutes, he grew tired and plopped into a nearby chair, his head propped on his hand.

Grey couldn't have told how long it was, so deep in thought had he been, but he was suddenly aware when a change in the sounds around him registered in his subconscious.

"What's happening?" he asked urgently of the agents filing by him. They were leaving!

After the first several ignored him, one young woman took pity. "We're pulling out. Nothing turned up, and all the tests were valid. I'm sorry . . ."

Her sympathy moved him. "Excuse me . . . do we know each other?"

"Not really, but you're Agent Mulder's brother, right? Somehow I had a feeling you'd turn up here."

"Yeah," Grey said morosely. "Bravo for me."

"Hey, don't sell your brother or yourself short. It's not over yet. A few of us who consider ourselves friends are staying to leave samples."

"Do you have any idea what that entails?"

"We know. And we think it's high time that Mulder realized that not everybody at the bureau thinks that he's a pariah. He's a good man. And we'll find a match for him." She sounded so certain, for a moment, he believed it. "Now I'd recommend you get back to Mulder. Scully can only control him for so long." She smiled, and he rose to follow her from the room, parting ways once they were in the hall.

He returned to Fox's room just as the phone rang. Grabbing for the receiver, Scully's reflexes were apparently faster. "Mulder's room." Tipping the receiver, both Mulder and Grey were able to hear the deep voice on the line.

"Agent Scully, this is Skinner."

"Any progress, Sir?" she asked.

"We're getting there. The kids in question say that some guy paid them to put some stuff on Mulder's popcorn as a joke. He and his friends gave a description of the vial it was in, but the odds of finding it in the trash are slim. They're working with a sketch artist now."

"If the composite comes back looking like Krycek, I swear I'm going to kill him with my bare hands," Scully said, but Mulder rubbed her denim-covered thigh and it seemed to calm her.

"Who the hell is Krycek?" Grey asked angrily.

"It doesn't matter, it wasn't Krycek," Mulder said.

"How do you know?" Scully challenged, but Skinner, forgotten on the phone they both held, interrupted.

"It wasn't Krycek. Unless he's managed to age twenty years and become blond with blue eyes."

"That's the guy the kids described?"

"Basically, yes. We'll know more later."

"If we're not home by then," Mulder told him, "you'll be arresting ME for the death of that damn doctor who's taking forever signing my release papers."

A new voice entered the conversation. "The damn doctor is here," the physician grinned wickedly.

"Oh, gotta go," Scully muttered, hanging up the phone while Mulder spoke aloud.

"It's about time!"

"I'm sorry, I got held up in surgery."

"Okay, now I'm not only impatient, but I'm jealous." All three of them looked at Mulder curiously. He shrugged his shoulders, "at least SOMEBODY found a donor." He grinned.

"Mr. Mulder, as you've heard me say before, you can lead a constructive life even if we never find you a match. Diabetics take insulin shots every day. Epileptics take Dilantin or Phenobarbital. You'll just happen to have dialysis treatments. And while I'd love to tell you that you'll be totally well some day, I can't guarantee that. But you'll be alive."

"I know," Mulder said, hanging his head. Scully knew that apologetic attitude. But she also knew what he didn't say. That he wouldn't be able to do his work.

The silence was broken when the phone rang; Scully scooped it up in a flash.


"Is this Agent Mulder's room?" inquired a young-sounding female voice.

"Yes, would you like to speak with him?"

"Oh, no thank you," she replied, and Scully realized she sounded rather excited. "Is Grey MacKenzie there?"

"Oh, yes. Sure, hold on." Placing her hand over the mouthpiece, she held it out to Grey. "It's for you, and it's a woman." She smiled wickedly, and laughed when he actually blushed.

"Grey MacKenzie," he announced into the receiver.

"Detective MacKenzie, this is Agent Carpenter. We spoke in the hospital lab awhile ago?"

"Oh, yes. What is it?" Suddenly, he had a thought and it excited him. "Wait! Did they find a match? Among one of the other agents?"

"No, but it may not be necessary after all." She was gearing up, he could tell. He wished she'd just get to it.

"Agent Carpenter, if this is bad news, I wish you'd just tell me." He tried not to sound angry at her, but he was tired, and couldn't seem to find much hope.

"It's not bad news. Not really, anyway. The last agent was leaving the lab when he heard the supervisor talking about a worker, a member of the cleanup crew, who failed to show up for work this morning. He was really worried. They called his home to check on him - apparently he's been one of the most reliable employees they've had."

"And . . ." Grey muttered, trying to egg her on.

"It turns out that he's efficient, reliable, but a little on the slow side. Borderline retarded. When they talked with him, he was terrified, saying that he knew he'd get caught and lose his job. It took forever to get him to tell them what he could have done that was so wrong to deserve firing."

"That's very sad, but what does it have to do with me?"

"He said that he'd made a mistake. Knocked over some vials of blood in the lab, then got scared and replaced them with parts of other blood samples!" For a moment, what she was saying didn't sink in. "Mr. MacKenzie, one of those samples was yours! You or one of the others who were tested initially could still be a tissue match for your brother!"

"Oh, my God," Grey said, stunned, and Mulder and Scully watched as he went pale.

"You need to gather those and get down there right away to have new samples taken," Carpenter said. "Is Mulder's doctor there? He needs to be informed."

Grey was stunned, but it faded into an ear-to-ear grin as he blindly handed the receiver to the doctor. He didn't wait for his brother or Dana to ask.

"That was one of the agents who was down in the lab earlier. They just discovered . . ." Suddenly, he seemed to shake off his shock. "They found out somebody on the cleaning crew screwed up our earlier blood samples! She said that we all need to be tested again - that there's still a chance for a tissue match."

"Oh, my God . . ." Scully unconsciously repeated Grey's earlier words.

"You hear that, little brother? There's still a chance!"

Scully wrapped Mulder in a hug, but he didn't speak. Holding him tighter, she whispered in his ear. "I know you're afraid to get your hopes up, but I can feel it. This is going to work out for us."

Just then, Mulder's doctor hung up the phone. "Well, it looks like we've got a lot of testing to do, and I'll insist they do it right away. Mr. Grey, you and Agent Scully need to head down there right now. And, on your way, call your friends who had their samples taken at the same time."

"Will you be okay?" Scully asked Mulder as she squeezed his hand.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. The sooner the better." They smiled, and Grey and Scully left. The doctor moved to follow. "Doc, if you'd give me a minute . . ."

The doctor stayed behind, and Mulder waited to speak until the door was tightly shut. "I need you to do a favor for me. Make a phone call."

"What is it? Wouldn't you be more comfortable with one of your friends . . ."

"No, it can't be them, but I need to know something."

"Okay, what is it?"

"Call the police department doctors in Raleigh, North Carolina. Find out if a man can be on active duty on the force if he only has one kidney."

"But why . . ."

"If Grey gives me one of his kidneys, he's got to know all the repercussions. It's got to be HIS choice, knowing all the downfalls. You've said that I'm in relatively no danger. He's got to have the option." Mulder was adamant, and the doctor was struck by depth of his concern for others. He couldn't think of anybody else who would consider the impact on the donor before himself.

"Well, if it comes to it, he will. I'll make the calls." Looking his patient in the eyes, he reassured him. "I promise."

"Now, I know you're eager to get out of here," he continued. "But given the circumstances, I'd like you to stay. At least until the test results come in."

"I don't mind telling you, the cabin fever is really getting to me," Mulder admitted. "What are the benefits of my staying."

"Mostly time. If one of the new tests comes up a match, we could begin prepping you immediately. If we have to track you down and wait while you make your way in here, it's just that much longer you have to wait."

"It took three days the first time. Just how quickly do you think you can convince them to do these tests?"

"The original results were nullified essentially because of a laboratory error. The tests don't really take three days - it takes three days for them to get to a particular test. This time, they'll be pushed to the head of the line. We'll know something in just a few hours. Two or three. It'll be at least an hour before your partner even gets back," he added convincingly.

"Okay, okay. Ya got me. I'll stay put and twiddle my thumbs until we get an answer."

The doctor observed him and how nervous he looked. "I know this isn't easy for you. I'll try to make your wait as short as possible." He turned and left, not hearing Mulder's final comment.

"I'll be right here, waiting all by myself. . ."


He knew he was doing the right thing, but Grey didn't mind admitting he was terrified. Lying on a bed in his brother's room, he thought how much had changed in less than twelve hours.

Nobody had been more elated than he was when the doctor had announced that he, as expected, had been a tissue match for his brother. Curiously enough, Mulder himself hadn't seemed quite so excited for a man who'd, figuratively if not literally, been given his life back. He'd wanted a few minutes alone with his brother to talk, see if he could figure out what was going on, but Scully, Skinner, and Maggie Scully, on and off, had individually or all at once seemed glued to their sides.

Grey had had to undergo a full physical and a psych evaluation, just to make sure that he could withstand the surgery. His medical records from the Raleigh PD were requested and faxed. In the end, all had been deemed to be a go. The surgery was scheduled for the morning, and the doctor was expected to come in momentarily to explain the entire thing to them both. Mulder was quiet, though, and not talkative.

"I've got to take a . . ." embarrassed, Grey blushed when Maggie Scully's head shot up. "Umm . . . I need to use the restroom. When Dana comes back, promise her I didn't run off, okay?"

"I promise." As he entered the bathroom, he heard Maggie explain she was going into the hall for a drink from the water fountain, leaving Mulder alone. Peacefully alone. Grey tried to hurry.

Out in the room, Grey couldn't hear when the doctor entered.

"Good evening, Mr. Mulder. How are you feeling?"

"Did you make that call for me?" Mulder asked.

"Yes, I did, and neither you nor your brother has anything to worry about. A man can be either a Raleigh Police officer or an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation with only one kidney as long as it's fully functional."

Mulder looked at him, puzzled. "I didn't ask you to contact the Bureau . . ."

"No, you didn't. But Agent Scully did."

"She did?"

"Yes, she did. She's in the hall and will be in momentarily. I already told her."

"Told who what?" Grey asked, emerging from the restroom.

"Just some information that Scully needed, Bubba," Mulder responded.

"Now, Mr. MacKenzie, if you'd get into bed, I'll review the procedure with both of you."

Rather than getting into his own bed, Grey alit on the edge of Mulder's, smiling as Scully entered and sat opposite him, only closer to Fox. Her fingers were white so tightly was she holding his hand.

"We plan to perform the surgery first thing in the morning, about nine if everything goes well. You'll both be prepped, and taken into adjoining operating rooms so as to save as much time as possible."

"Why is that so important?" Grey asked, his concentration not straying from the doctor even as Maggie and Skinner entered the room.

"As you know, any surgery is inherently dangerous. In addition, I've reviewed Mr. Mulder's medical records and he has had negative reactions to anesthesia in the past. Therefore, I want to keep him under as short a time as possible, and you, too, in case the problem is genetic." Grey nodded his understanding and the doctor continued.

"I'm going to be in the operating room with Fox, and my colleague will perform the organ extraction from Mr. MacKenzie, but don't worry because she's one of the best." He addressed himself mostly to Grey at this point. "She'll make an approximately nine centimeter incision into your lower left abdomen, just about at the bottom of the rib cage. We take that one because it has a longer vein than the right and is easier to remove safely. Once it's removed, your involvement is essentially over. We'll suture the incision and you'll be taken to recovery. You'll probably be awake within an hour."

"How will one kidney work where we usually have two?" Grey asked.

"Your health will be unaffected, I assure you, Mr. MacKenzie. A lone kidney in a body enlarges slightly to take over full function. You'll never know the difference. Once the kidney has been flushed with saline solution and is ready, we'll begin Mr. Mulder's part of the surgery. We don't always, but given the unusual nature of the damage, I think it's highly advisable that we remove both of the bad kidneys. You'll have dual incisions, naturally. We'll remove both kidneys and replace the right with the one from your brother. It'll fit easily into your pelvis, where we'll join the arteries and veins, then connect it to your bladder. If all goes well, when we remove the clamps, it'll begin working right away."

"And that's the end of it? We heal up and go on as if nothing happened?" Mulder sounded incredulous. "It couldn't be that easy."

"You're right. It's not quite that easy. After you come out of recovery, you'll be started on a regimen of immunosuppressant drugs to prevent your body from rejecting the new organ."

"But you said that the tissue typing matched," Skinner commented this time.

"It has, but your body," he addressed Mulder rather than Skinner, "would still recognize it as not its own if we didn't. The transplant process isn't perfect, and even with the drugs, there's a slight chance of rejection. You'll be on these immunosuppressant drugs the rest of your life, but otherwise, you WILL be back to normal. A pill once or twice a day, no different from thousands of other healthy people. The pills just make sure you stay that way. Any questions?"

Mulder spoke up first, before anybody else could even think. "Is there any significant danger for Grey in all this? Any at all? And don't give me that medicalese about there being inherent dangers in any surgery or risks of allergic reactions."

"Okay, Mr. Mulder. Straight information, I like that. There is, I'd say, a 99% chance that your brother will be absolutely fine within two weeks, and he'll be totally normal four weeks after the surgery. We'll do pre-surgery tests and check his medical records to be sure the anesthesia is as compatible with his physiology as possible and in the offhand chance he has a reaction, it should be minor and result in only some nausea upon his waking."

Mulder breathed a deep sigh of relief as Scully hugged him tightly, not caring who was watching. The only person who was the least bit taken aback was Skinner, and it didn't come as much of a surprise to him either.

"What happens if he rejects?"

"If, and this is a long shot, there is a rejection, we'll give him an intensive treatment of medication. If the situation is not resolved, he'll be right back to where he is right now. No worse, at least. And hopefully the rejection would resolve itself and he'd be fine. Any other questions, anybody?" When the room was silent, he smiled comfortingly. "Well, gentlemen, I'd recommend you get a good night's sleep tonight because tomorrow is going to be a big day for both of you. The down side is that you can't have anything to eat after 8:00 tonight, so make your dinner count. And absolutely NO water or liquids after midnight. If you have trouble sleeping, call the nurse - I'll leave an order there for a mild sedative."

"Somehow, I don't think they're going to take advantage of that," Scully smiled warmly. She knew of Mulder's antagonism towards drugs, and had a feeling that it was something he shared with Grey. Even if he didn't, no way was Grey going to let his brother stay up all night alone while he sawed logs.

However, they were good at playing possum later that night, and fooled the night nursing staff each and every time they came in to check on the pair. Their charts read that they'd slept through the night. The charts, like the nurses, were in error.

By the time they were given the first round of pre-anesthesia drugs the next morning, they were tired enough that it hit them hard. Harder than even the nurse realized.

"Now you two just take it easy. I'll be back in a few minutes, and by then, you should be feeling those shots."

They sat for about five minutes, and then Mulder giggled. And then giggled again.

Grey watched as Mulder covered his mouth with his hands, his eyes round. Then he giggled, too. "What's so funny, little brother?"

"It's the doctors and nurses. D'you know why they dress all in white?" Mulder sounded like an adorable six year old. An adorable, drugged six year old.

Grey, of course, had to get in on the action. Smiling like the big eight year old, he made his guess, although it sounded like he was sure. "They wear white so you can be sure to see all the guts and blood and stuff, so they can be sure they get 'em all off when they wash their clothes. Y'know, if they wore red, there could be all kinds of blood on 'em that they miss and nobody would know!" He smiled conspiratorially.

"Nah, that's not why. It's all psychy . . . .psochy . . .psicky . . . in your mind! They know that all the 'good guy' cowboys in the old movies wore white - white equals good. And if they dress in white, they'll fool ya into thinkin' that they're good guys. Then, just when you trust 'em, bang! They sneak up on ya with a needle the size of Cleveland!"

"You might have a point there," Grey said, trying to sound adult. It wasn't working. "After all, she sure had you fooled when she was in here before!"

"Yeah," Mulder blushed. "Can you believe the size of that thing and where she wanted to put it?! She actually thought I was going to let her put that up my you-know-what! But I showed her!" he pouted.

"You're lucky she didn't go tell Dana on you! Then you'd reeeeeeealy be in trouble."

"I don't care," Mulder pouted. "Nobody gets to see me there but Dana. And when I get outta here, she's gonna, I promise you! I'm gonna take her back to my room and . . ." He stopped, watching Grey's eyes grow large and round. "What'samatter?"

"What if . . . what if what they do to you in the operation hurts your you-know-what?" He motioned down to his own manhood, hidden under a hospital gown.

"Nothin's gonna happen to me down there. Weren't you listenin' last night when the doc said that they'd be cutting here?" He swiped a hand inspecifically across his lower abdomen.

"Yeah, but what if they slip?! They could cut somethin' mighty impu . . . impa . . . vital. Vital to ya as a man, y'know what I mean?" He waggled his eyebrows.

"Scully would never let that happen," he said, sounding almost normal for just a second.

"Yeah, but she can't be in there standin' next to the guy cuttin' ya. They wouldn't let 'er."

"You got some bright idea, then?" Mulder challenged.

Surreptitiously, Grey's eyes scanned the room, darting back and forth like the old "cat" clocks their sisters had hung in their rooms as children. Finally, they stopped on a leather satchel propped against the table between the beds. "Wa's that?"

"That's Scully's laptop, but she'll KILL you if you even look at it! She won' even lemme carry it for her - it's like her baby! So don' touch it."

"She won't care if I jus' look! Maybe it'll gimme an idea how to save you from losin' somethin' other than a kidney." Mulder blinked several times as he watched Grey reach the mile distance between his bed and the case. He made three grabs before his fingers caught the handle. "Gotit!" he said, victorious, as Mulder shushed him.

"Sh!!!!! You wanna get us in trouble again? That nurse is gonna come back in here and try to stick that thing up my butt again!"

"Tha's not punishment, you baby! Ya gotta get one of those before they op'rate on ya sometimes. I read all 'bout it th' other day. It's a emin . . . anom . . enam . . . well, forget it. A ha!" he shouted victoriously. He dug down deep into a side pocket, his hand coming out with a blue Sharpie permanent marker. "This'll do the job!"

"Whatcha gonna do?" Mulder asked, watching as Grey got up on unsteady legs and staggered to his bed.

"Lemme see," Grey said, yanking back the blankets and raising Mulder's gown before he could object to being bared to the world. "See, we just need t'make a little note here," he lowered the pen.

"No!!" Mulder exclaimed. "You can't write on me there! By the time they get THERE, it'd be too late!"

Grey raised the pen to study his unlikely canvas a little closer. "Yeah, you're right. . . I know!" He lowered the pen again, drawing a less-than straight line from one hip to the other, just above where the thick patch of hair began. "Hey, Fox," he added curiously. "That lady did a good job when she shaved your stomach - you should get her to do your face when we get done with all this. Maybe you won't havta shave again for a week!"

"Never mind my stomach, look at that stupid line? Nobody's gonna know what that means!"

"Yeah they will, 'cause I'm gonna 'splain it." He bent again, writing in uncertain letters along the line.

Propurty of Dana Scully - Do Not Cross!

"Grey, you don't spell property with a U! And why is it all smudged on that side."

"Well, is it MY fault that you didn't have enough belly for the whole thing? They're gonna be able to read it just fine."

"Ya think so?" Grey nodded, smiling proudly. "Thanks Grey. You're a good big brother, y'know? First ya give me one of your . . ." he stuttered at the loss for the word. "One of your inside thingies, and then you help me save all my man parts for Scully. Ain't nobody else gonna touch 'em except her, ever ever again."

They giggled at each other, Grey holding the marker as its point soaked ink into his hospital gown, and Mulder lying there with his nightgown up around his chest looking proudly at his brother. Until they heard a shriek.

"What hell are you two doing?!!" the nurse, different from the one who'd left a short time ago, screamed.

"We're gettin' ready for our surgery," Grey said, as if it were all perfectly reasonable, while Mulder nodded his head like the statue of a dog in a car's rear window.

Grabbing the intercom button, she called for a pair of orderlies. One relieved Grey of the marker and put him back in bed, ignoring the pout at the loss of his prize. The other took one look at Mulder's bared body and left the room, returning a moment later with a basin of water and an unidentified cake of soap.

"Don't stop until you get at least most of that ink off him. We cannot have him going into surgery that way," the nurse said. "Apparently, we need a larger dose - I'll be back in a moment."

Five minute and two slight puncture wounds to the gluteus maximus later, the troublesome boys were finally out of it to the point that the staff could be certain they'd be staying in their beds until AFTER the surgery. For once, she'd taken great pleasure in sticking them.


"Hey, Scully!" Mulder said weakly but joyously as the bed on which he was lying moved through the hall. "Are you comin' with us?"

"Only as far as the operating room," she smiled. Mulder was adorable when he was drugged and just the other side of silly. "I'll be waiting for you out here."

"Nobody's waitin' for me," said a forlorn but equally adorable voice from behind them. She turned to see Grey, his lip stuck out in a pout looking thoroughly miserable.

"We'll be waiting for you, too," Maggie said, moving to Grey's gurney. "I promise to be right beside you when you wake up, just as your own mother would if she were here." Grey smiled goofily and relaxed, closing his eyes.

"Has anybody thought to tell his mother?" Skinner whispered to her as he walked beside the group.

"Grey told me his parents are second honeymooning on a cruise in the South Pacific. He called his sisters to let them know what was going on, but they couldn't come because of work. I promised him I'd keep them informed." Skinner looked at her with a crooked grin, raising an eyebrow questioningly. "Okay, I confess. I've already called them with updates a few times."

"Now THAT I believe," he said simply.

Two hours later, Grey awoke in the recovery room, groggily amazed that Maggie was at his side. "Ma?" he squinted blearily before she came into focus and he realized he'd been mistaken.

"No, it's Maggie Scully, Grey. You're in the recovery room."

He was pretty out of it, but still had certain things on his mind. "Fox?"

"He's still in surgery, and probably will be for a couple more hours. Everything went fine with your operation, and they brought you here as soon as they were done. You'll probably be in your room before Fox gets finished."

"No, I want to stay here until they bring him in. Need to see him," Grey said, rolling his head back and forth on the pillow. Maggie understood how close the brothers were. Fox Mulder didn't have many people who cared about him or whom he could lean on when he needed to, but he had Grey and Dana, and they were formidable together or apart.

"I'll see if I can talk them into it," she said, running gentle fingers down the side of his face. "Now why don't you go back to sleep and I'll go talk to the nurses."

Meanwhile, outside the OR, Scully couldn't help but pace. She was happy that her Mom was looking after Grey, and Skinner had received a call to come into the office - something important on a case - so she was alone. And with nothing to distract her, her nervous energy definitely got the better of her.

Walking to the doors of the OR, she looked intently through the tiny window, trying to get a glance at Mulder's surgery. She'd even unsuccessfully tried using her medical credentials to get permission to observe, but if she was honest with herself, she knew that she wouldn't be able to be objective in there if something went wrong. There's a very good reason that doctors aren't allowed to treat family, despite the number of times she'd patched up Mulder's minor bangs and dents.

She'd started out creating a scenario in her mind, seeing each part of the surgery as it was done. It had helped for awhile, surprisingly, watching as Mulder was anesthetized, as his vitals were monitored and his condition quantified until somebody brought in the valuable organ. But she couldn't get past the idea of slicing Mulder open with a razor-sharp scalpel. Splitting his tanned, smooth skin and watching as rich, dark blood welled up and was whisked away by a nearby nurse with a sponge. It was something she didn't want to imagine, so she was forced back to her pacing, and praying, and hoping.

It had been three and a half hours since she'd last seen her partner when a gowned and masked figure emerged through the swinging doors. Pulling off his mask, he smiled.

"I've never had a transplant go any more smoothly, Dr. Scully."

She sighed deeply, fighting back the tears of relief that wanted flow. This wasn't the time, nor the place.

"The last of the sutures are being placed now," he added, "and then he'll be moved to recovery. I know better than to think I'll keep you out of there, but if you'll just let us get him settled first . . ."

"I want to be there when he wakes up." Her tone brooked no argument.

"Of course. I'll send somebody to get you just as soon as he's moved. He won't wake up without you, I promise."

It suddenly occurred to her how it sounded, but she didn't care what the doctor thought. She HAD to be there for Mulder, and that was all there was to it.

Very shortly, she was being shown to the recovery area by a kind-faced nurse. The room was fairly empty, and she wondered momentarily if it was part of the reason she'd been allowed in. Beside one of the first beds, she recognized her mother, and then the bedraggled figure in the bed. He appeared to be fighting to stay awake.

"Grey . . ." she said. What more was there to say?

"Dana . . ." he said drowsily. "Fox . . .?"

"He's out of surgery," Scully said, noting the commotion around a bed at the other end of the room. Somehow, she knew that was where Mulder was being settled.

"Wait a minute," a nurse said to the group working with Mulder, and there was more commotion as wires were unhooked. In moments, Fox Mulder was being laid in the bed beside his brother. Grey smiled weakly, but happily.

"Will you go to sleep now?" Maggie asked wearily, turning her attention to Dana. "He refused to sleep or let them transfer him to his room until he saw Fox."

"Apparently, stubbornness runs in the family," Scully answered, taking a seat beside Mulders's cot.

"If I wasn't so tired," Grey said, his grin fading quickly, "I think I would be offended."

"It was said with love," Scully said. "And if you don't sleep now, you won't be awake when Mulder finally comes to. You want that, don't you?"

Grey didn't respond, but instead simply shut his eyes and drifted away, relishing the gentle stroking Maggie was giving his forehead.

"They look like such little boys," she commented.

"It takes my breath away each and every time I see Mulder like this. Not that I've had a lot of opportunity, but enough. You'd never think he'd been through everything he has."

"Not much opportunity?" Maggie grinned, continuing to stroke Grey's face.

"We're working on it," Scully said, chagrined, and blushed a deep crimson.

"I don't think I have to tell you, or him, how much I love Fox, do I? I relish being able to think of he and Grey as members of our family. I guess what I'm saying is, in case you don't know it already, whatever you and Fox do has my blessing." Maggie smiled warmly at her daughter.

"Thanks, Mom. Right now, I just want to take him home. Healthy and whole."

"Patience, Dana. That's all you need now. Patience."


Mulder had only regained consciousness for a moment in the recovery room - one he wouldn't even remember later - before the doctor declared him fit enough to be returned to his room. They'd moved Grey several minutes before, mostly at Scully's suggestion. They didn't want him telling them what they were doing wrong as they moved all the wires and tubes connected to his brother.

Despite a morphine drip in his IV, Grey watched carefully as Mulder was put in the bed beside him. It was incredible. Scully knew that he should be unconscious or at least incoherent from the post-surgical pain medication, yet he persevered.

"Grey, he's asleep. Now why aren't you?"

"Haven't you heard? It's the responsibility of the older sibling to keep the younger one out of trouble," he said with a tired grin and a sparkle in his eyes.

"Haven't you heard?" Scully countered. "It's not the elder sibling's responsibility to oversee the younger, especially after they've become adults."

"Well," he murmurred, quieter now, the drugs finally taking hold. "I think you're going to have to take over for awhile, darlin'. Seems somebody slipped me a mickey . . ."

"And that," Scully said, smiling, "is why they call me 'Doctor' Scully." Turning to her mother, she took in the tired eyes. "You've been here all day, Mom. Why don't you go home and get some rest." At Maggie's raised eyebrow, she continued. "Look, they're not going anywhere, but their recovery will take a while. We can't afford to exhaust ourselves."

"I could say the same about you, Agent Scully," Skinner said from the sidelines, and she wasn't sure if she saw a glimmer in his brown eyes. She'd hardly realized he'd returned to the hospital until he spoke.

"Point taken," Scully hesitantly agreed.

"Look, I need to get back to the Bureau and see what's happening on the investigation, so why don't I drop you off at home," he said to Maggie. "That way, Scully . . . I mean Dana . . . will have her car in case she needs it."

In seeming agreement, Maggie gathered her purse and her tote bag. She carefully kissed both Mulder and Grey's foreheads, then Scully on the cheek "I'll ask one of the nurses to bring you a dinner tray on the way out. After all, it's not like either one of them will be eating tonight. You might as well."

Despite the best of intentions, Scully found the food to be inedible, and was soon having a hard time focusing on the book she'd taken from her purse. It was by her favorite author, but even that couldn't keep her attention. It was more interesting to watch each and every nuance of Mulder's face for the slightest sign of his waking once again.

Grey watched her from under slitted eyelids for quite a while, marveling at what a wonder she and his brother were when they were together. Not just in their work, but in everything they touched and everywhere they went. He knew couples who had been together for thirty years who didn't have the kind of magic Fox and Dana had.

"Y'know, he's still going to be there if you close your eyes for an hour. Little gray men aren't going to come and take him away, I promise."

"You're awfully confident," she answered, smiling at him warmly. "What do you know that your brother doesn't?"

Grey chuckled, then groaned at the pain that shot through his abdomen. "Please don't make me laugh. And to answer your question, what self-respecting alien would want a broken-down body like mine or Fox's?" He studied her closely as her eyes darkened. "On the other hand, maybe you can think of somebody else who'd like to take him into their custody?"

He loved it when Scully blushed, and this was a killer. As mature and reasonable as Dana Scully was, she still had a hard time where her heart was concerned. But he could think of nobody better than his brother to help her get in touch with that most unpredictable of organs.

"Y'know, a guy could get a whole lot more sleep without all this talkin' going on," came a weak voice tinged with humor, and Grey saw such joy in Dana's face.

"Mulder. . ." she said, jumping up to take his hand and look into his eyes. "How do you feel?"

"Like a guy with a couple extra holes where they're not supposed to be," he answered, then added, "but also like a guy with a new lease on life." He rolled his head to take in his brother in the adjoining bed. "Thanks, bubba."

"T'weren't nothin', little brother."

"Do either of you need anything? How's the pain? I could call the nurse . . ."

"Scully," Mulder said as strongly as he could. When she stopped and looked at him again, and he knew he had her attention, he answered her questions. "The pain is okay, there, but not too bad. I don't need the good stuff just yet. As for what you can do for me, the only thing right now would be a reduction in the number of tubes going into this battered body. We could start with the most embarrassing one." He knew she'd know he meant the catheter, but he also knew there was really no chance in getting it removed tonight. Still, they had to go through the motions.

"You know the doctors aren't going to do that just yet, Mulder. Hell, you're less than nine hours out of major surgery! For now, just relax and heal. Both of you need that."

"You need to sleep, too, Dana," Grey commented.

"Well, that's just too bad. I'll sleep when Mom gets back in the morning."

"Are you turning down an opportunity to share this luxurious adjustable bed with me, Agent Scully?" Mulder asked jokingly.

"For now. But once you're healed, I make no promises."


A little over two weeks later, they found themselves in a very familiar position, only this time there were TWO anxious patients waiting to be released.

Grey had, naturally, healed faster than his brother, and actually would have been released a few days earlier if he hadn't insisted on staying until he and Mulder could leave together. Scully smiled, remembering the expression on his face when he realized that he didn't feel any differently inside after losing a major organ. It had been somewhere between shock, amazement, and utter relief.

Mulder had taken a little longer to bounce back. His incisions had healed remarkably uneventfully, and if he was still slightly sore and off his feed, it was a minor complication. She had every intention of keeping both men in line until they were back to one hundred percent.

It seemed like they spent half their lives waiting for medical personnel. Grey had actually managed to dress in one of his looser pairs of jeans and a T-shirt, while Mulder, less healed, opted for a pair of baggy sweats and a sweatshirt. In deference to his sutures, he'd returned the snug boxer-briefs to his athletic bag unworn.

Maggie stood silently in the shadows, relieved that this latest ordeal was finally drawing to a close. It seemed like one crisis just preceded an even more serious one with her daughter or her partner. They never just got to relax. Now that they'd gotten past this one, she prayed it would be the last.

When Walter Skinner walked in, they all tried not to appear too disappointed that it wasn't a member of the staff with the longed-for release forms. Despite their efforts, Skinner himself looked less than pleased.

"I thought I was the only one who put that look on your face, sir," Mulder joked.

"I wish, Mulder. There's been a development in the investigation in what happened to you."

"A development? That sounds oddly without resolution."

"Well, it's not over yet, but it's starting to make sense. Grey, do you know who Thomas Santone is?"

"Sure," Grey responded quizzically. "He's the leader of the largest narcotics ring in North Carolina. I was on the case under cover when Mark got word to me that Fox was sick. The only reason the investigation continued after I pulled out was because we had a second office on the inside. I didn't even know about her until I talked to the department the other day."

"Yes, well, it seems that she was okay, but you were made early on. Your partner," Skinner referred to his notes, "Mark Preston, got word from the second agent as soon as she found out that they'd arranged to 'get you out of their hair.'" He looked at Grey with pity. "They didn't want it said they'd killed a cop, so they arranged for Mulder's poisoning. Or drugging, or whatever you want to call it. I faxed the composite made from the theater employees' description and Preston ID'd it as one of Santone's group. They did their homework - if you hadn't been able to be a donor, they knew you'd still insist on staying with your brother. And if you were, all the better. By the time you got back to Raleigh, they'd have packed up and moved their operation out of there."

"So this was done to Fox intentionally - just to get me off a case?" Grey's voice was bewildered, but the scorn also grew with each word. None of them expected him to add, "You mean this was ALL because of me. Because Fox is my brother?"

"I'm afraid so," Skinner responded.

"This is in no way your fault," Mulder said sternly, just as Scully began to speak herself.

"You can't help what some evil people do, Grey," she soothed, but Grey's self-disdain only grew.

"Fox would be safe now if it weren't for me!"

"Fox IS safe now . . . BECAUSE of you. We all accept the hazards of doing the work we do." Mulder looked thoughtful. "You know how many times you've been endangered by the X-Files as much as I do. Do I need to quote you specific instances?" Grey's eyes were on his shoes, but he gave a single nod. "So just call this balancing the scales."

Scully smiled, using a finger to lift Grey's chin. "If penance is what you seek, you can consider yourself Mulder's official guardian while he recovers at my place. I can't do everything and watch after him for escape attempts as well."

Grey nodded, smiling in agreement, and Maggie gave an approving nod. She'd planned to offer her services to help oversee the recovery of the two men, but it was obvious that Grey needed this, to cleanse his conscience if nothing else.

"Just one more thing," Grey asked, turning to Skinner. "Have they taken down Santone's group yet? 'Cause if they haven't, I wanna be there."

"It went down just this morning. The DA hasn't filed any charged yet regarding Mulder's situation, but they've got enough drug-trafficking charges to send them up for multiple life sentences. Some of the underlings are singing, but so far, nobody's confessed to this."

"Well, they'd better PRAY they don't get out while I'm still around, or I'll put them in the hospital myself." Nobody could remember hearing Grey speak with such anger.

"You are NOT going vigilante, Grey," Mulder attempted to soothe. "All it does is get you into trouble." Scully questioned that this was her partner speaking so rationally. She knew he'd be of the same mind as Grey if their situations had been reversed.

"Yeah, but it would make me feel a hell of a lot better!"

"Glad to hear you're feeling better," the doctor said as he entered the room, misinterpreting the last few words Grey had said.

"Nothing personal, Doc, but I won't feel 'better' until I'm outta here," Mulder joked, with Grey nodding his own agreement.

"Well, then," the doctor addressed both men. "I see no reason to delay you any further. Your last kidney function tests came out perfect, your incisions are healing nicely, and since you have your own private physician to keep an eye on you for the rest of your recovery, I feel confident it's safe to release you both."

"Thank God!" Grey uncharacteristically exclaimed, inciting laughter from the rest and a groan from Mulder when it pulled on his stitches. Two orderlies arrived pushing wheelchairs that the brothers were only too willing to use in order to escape their prison.

There was no way that either of the men was going to get into the back seat of a two-door car, so Scully had signed out a four-door fleet sedan from the Bureau motorpool for the ride home. It was disgustingly plain black, and she felt like a fictional MIB climbing behind the wheel of the tank. She'd thought that they'd retired all the oh-so-obvious cars in the motorpool, but this one had slipped through. She was grateful, though. It allowed Mulder and Grey to go home in comfort.

Skinner, who'd offered to ride along and return the car to the Bureau, made the fourth passenger, but his presence didn't intimidate them. Still, Grey was uncharacteristically quiet, and both Mulder and Scully realized it.

"And here they always said southern boys were so friendly," Mulder said, trying for at least a smile. For his part, Grey tried, but couldn't quite get by his true feelings.

"Yeah, and they always taught us that northern boys were smart. Ya never know how wrong stereotypes can be." He winked at Scully in the rear view mirror, and she resolved that he would be over any residual guilt before he left her apartment.

Arriving home, she quickly realized that, while she knew what she'd planned, Mulder and Grey did not. Knowing of the simple full-size bed which she had in her spare room, Mulder commented about the unlikelihood of he and Grey sharing it and offered to sleep on the couch.

"Putting the two of you in one room was never my intention," she noted with a smile, then added under her breath, "you'd have the entire building down around our ears before the first day was out." She resumed speaking to them. "Grey, you get the guest room - it's all made up and ready for you. Mulder, you'll sleep in my room. I'm shorter, so I'll sleep on the couch."

Grey nodded and went off in search of the guest room and a nap, knowing that he was abstaining from the small disagreement that would ensue over Scully's plan.

"Scully, you don't have to sleep on the sofa, you know. There's plenty of room in your bed, and it's not like we're strangers. Hell, if this hadn't happened, we hopefully would have shared that bed several times by now." He looked at her lasciviously.

"Exactly," she said, her eyes downcast. "I'm just making this decision for your health. I'm not sure I could lie in that bed beside you and not try to make it more. And you're not healed enough yet for that."

At her admission, Mulder's smile grew wide and devilish. "Why Scully . . . are you coming on to me?"

She swatted him carefully yet playfully on the behind. "If I have to answer the question, then I'm not doing it right. Go get yourself settled in. There's an empty drawer in the dresser for your stuff. I'm going to start dinner."

"It's only 4:30, Scully. Isn't that kind of early?"

"Not that I'd expect a bachelor like you to know it, but it takes more than five minutes and a microwave to make a decent meal." Mulder cringed a little but walked away still holding onto his grin.

When she went to check on them twenty minutes later, she was amused to find them both asleep. For all their macho vibrato, both bodies were still healing.


"Dana, if meals like this are the norm in this house, I may just have to stay a little longer than I'd anticipated," Grey said around a mouthful of stuffed shells.

"Well, as much as I'd like to take full credit, it's really nothing. The shells come frozen. Pour a jar of sauce over them, bake, and wah-la."

"Well, you can 'wah-la' for me anytime." He looked to Mulder, who was picking over his food. He had eaten a fairly decent amount, but not nearly what his brother had. "What do you think, Fox?"

"Scully and I fully expect to wah-la for each other for many years to come," Mulder grinned, locking eyes with Scully across the table. Despite the brazen double entendre, Scully was amused to see his face had grown red at the words.

"I'm not sure we're talkin' about the same kind of cookin' there, little brother," Grey laughed. And you're only up to one kind at the moment."

"Well, that is one thing you're right about." He looked to Scully, and the smoldering in his eyes had dimmed. "Are you going to need some help with the dishes?"

But those eyes that always spoke volumes did so again. She was concerned. "No, the cleanup will be quick. Why don't you go watch something on the TV, read, or nap." Then her tone turned sardonic. "I know you don't recognize the concept, but that's called resting."

"Very funny," he smiled. Slowly rising, he gave her a peck on the forehead before heading for the couch. Grey held back just a moment to see what Dana's preference would be. He was well enough to help with the dishes if she wished, but he could also keep Fox company if she would like. Without having to be asked, she let him know what she wanted.

"Why don't you go, too, Grey. Mulder's going to have a hard time finding something in MY tape collection that strikes his fancy."

Pushing away from the table, he made his way into the livingroom, surprised to find Fox reclined on the couch, his head pillowed on the arm at one end.

"Comfy, bro?" Grey asked, grinning, but he couldn't hide the worry in his eyes.

"Scully has the second best sofa on the eastern seaboard," Mulder mumbled.

"Let me guess where the best one is," he laughed, remembering a few occasions when he found Mulder sleeping on his couch. "You want me to put in a movie?"

"Sure, anything that's not a chick flick is good for me."

By the time the opening credits were through, Mulder had fallen asleep, and Grey and Scully watched the remainder of the movie in silence, whispering only when necessary, until the tape ran out a few hours later. Dana yawned, taking in the sleeping Mulder and dozing Grey in the armchair. The sound of the VCR rewinding brought Grey out of his lethargy. "Wha . . . . what's happening?"

"Movie's over, Grey. I think it's bedtime."

"So why don't you go to bed?" he yawned.

"I would, but somebody's sleeping in my bed." She eyed Mulder lovingly.

Standing and going to the sleeping figure, Grey shook a shoulder gently. "Hey, Fox, bedtime. Wakey wakey."

"Huh?" Mulder said groggily.

"It's time to go to bed, little brother. And that means you've got to get up and move into the bedroom."

"Oh, right," Mulder said, rolling to sit and then rising carefully. He looked at Scully, then put his arms around her briefly. "Night, Scully. Sweet dreams." He kissed her on the forehead.

The two men walked down the short hall together, drawing to a stop in front of the bathroom door. "Hey, you want first dibs?" Grey asked, motioning to the room.

"Nah, you go ahead," Mulder said, moving again towards Scully's bedroom. "I'm just going to turn in."


"Breakfast's on!" Scully called early the next morning. She heard motion from the bedrooms and wondered who would be out first for her special French toast. If she'd known what was happening in her bedroom, she would never have stayed in the kitchen.

"Hey, Fox. What's takin' so long?" Grey stood in the doorway, watching his brother rise slowly.

"Tired. Guess I didn't sleep very well." He began to stand up, dropping back down when he found himself suddenly too weak. It did not go unnoticed.

"Hey, you okay?"

"Yeah, I think so. Give me a hand." Grey pulled Mulder to a standing position, but kept a grip on him when he began to sway. "I'll get my legs under me in a second. Let's head for the bathroom for starters."

They walked together to the door, where Mulder went on on his own. While he seemed to have his feet under him now, Grey stood by - just in case.

Five minutes later, Mulder had still not emerged, and Grey began to really worry. He knocked twice. "Hey, you okay in there?"

When there was no response, he turned the knob, and when the door opened without resistance, he entered slowly.

"Damn!" He ran to Fox's side where he stood over the toilet bowl, a white knuckle grip on the nearby vanity the only thing keeping his brother on his feet. He was nearly bent in two, the sweats he'd been wearing down around his ankles. "What's wrong?" he asked urgently, pushing a shoulder under Mulder's arm to support him in standing erect.

"Not sure," Mulder said, still obviously weak. "Hot, tired . . ."

"Let's get you back to bed," he said, pulling up the sweats one-handed and then leading him back to Scully's bed. "Dana, get in here now!" He tried to keep the upset tone from his voice, but it came through loud and clear. Faster than he believed possible, she was there, watching, as he laid Mulder down on the bed.

"Mulder, you look horrible!" she exclaimed, rushing to him. Touching his cheek, she grew even more alarmed. "You're burning up. Enough macho, what are you feeling exactly?"

Mulder sighed deeply before managing words. "Hot. Tired. When I was in the bathroom, it was hard to breath, but then it got better."

"When was the last time you urinated, Mulder?"

"Umm . . . last night before dinner. Not much, though."

"Do you have any pain?"

"Yeah, stomach. But not near the stitches. Thought it might be a little infected, so I was careful to clean them really well last night. Lotta good that did, huh?" He smiled weakly.

"Dana, what is it? You know what's wrong, don't you?"

"We need to get him to the hospital. Grey, call Mulder's doctor - the number is on the pad by the phone on the end table - and tell him that we're on our way in. Tell him . . ."

"What, Dana?!"

"Tell him I think Mulder's rejecting."

Grey stood, stunned for a moment. Finally, "oh, my God. I'm on my way."

"No. . . Scully . . ." Mulder begged. "It can't be that. . . . Maybe it's just the flu. . . . Indigestion . . . Bad cheese in the shells last night . . ."

"And if it is any of those things, I'll thank God and bring you right back here. But we can't take the chance, Mulder. I won't risk losing you."

"Don't wanna go back on dialysis . . ."

"Even if you are rejecting, it doesn't mean you won't be able to recover from it. Reversal of rejection is possible, but only if I get you some help now!"

"Then let's go," Mulder said in agreement, making a super-human effort to get up and put one foot in front of another.

Before he'd gone four steps, Grey was back by their sides. "Doctor says he'll meet us there, but he said it would be faster to drive him than to wait for an ambulance if he's able to be moved."

"Not moved . . ." Mulder managed as Grey took on part of his weight from Scully. "Move . . . on my own."

"Well, Mr. Macho," Scully said warmly. "Let's get you out to the car."

Grey had argued about driving, but Scully didn't think he was long enough out of the hospital to be behind the wheel. He did manage to convince her that he was fit enough to slide into her back seat, which he did with alacrity once Mulder was settled in the passenger seat. While Dana drove, he used her cell phone to call the local police and let them know that a federal agent was being rushed to the hospital so that they wouldn't interfere with the speeding car. It was something about which Scully hadn't thought until she heard Grey making nice with the officer in charge.

A crew was waiting for them when they pulled up to the emergency entrance. Before Scully could even park the car and get back inside, they had a large-bore-needle IV running into her partner. As she entered his cubicle, Mulder's doctor drew up by her side.

"What do we have here, Agent Mulder?"

Before Mulder could answer, Scully responded. "He's feverish, has been very tired and has abdominal pain. I was worried about rejection."

"Has he been taking his meds."

"Like clockwork - I wouldn't have it any other way."

"Mulder, when was the last time you had a significant urination?" He spoke directly to the patient; this wasn't a question Scully could answer for him.

"I'm not sure . . ." he managed, and it was obvious that he was having a hard time talking. He was infinitely grateful when the medical staff stopped asking him questions, even if it did mean more poking, prodding, and a rather embarrassing harvesting of a urine sample.

Before that was begun, Scully and Grey were relegated to the waiting room, where Grey sat uncomfortably and Scully paced. And paced.

Some time later, the doctor finally came out to talk to them.

"Dr. Scully, Detective MacKenzie . . ."

"Yes, how is he? What's going on?"

"Well, the bad news is that Agent Mulder is suffering acute rejection of the transplanted organ. The oral immunisupressants aren't working for him at the current time."

"So that's it? What will they do? Will they have to remove the kidney? I can't believe we've been through all this for nothing." For the first time since she'd known him, Grey sounded near tears.

"Not necessarily - at least, not yet. There is a brand new drug I'd like to try called Thymoglobulin that's shown to have tremendous success in reversing just this kind of situation. With your approval," he looked to Scully, then to Grey, "I'd like to start him on a routine right away. We'll give it to him daily for seven to fourteen days. Hopefully, by the end of that period if not sooner, the rejection will have reversed itself."

"I haven't heard of this new drug, but I trust that you know what you're doing," Scully said hopefully. "Let's give it a try."

"I agree, too. If we can help his odds, let's go for it."

"Okay, let's see if we can't let him keep his new kidney. We've moved him into Room 932 if you want to go see him. He'll be coming to any time, and the nurse should be in momentarily with his first dose." The doctor looked at them warmly, then left them there.

Grey began to lead Scully toward the elevator, subconsciously guiding her with his hand on her lower back as he'd seen his brother do what seemed like a thousand times before. Suddenly, she pulled away from him.

"Why don't you go on up. I'll be with you in just a minute."

"You going to call your mom?" he asked, expecting an answer in the affirmative. The answer was not what he anticipated.

"No. I just need . . ." She swallowed deeply, and her eyes locked on his. "I'm going to stop in the chapel for a bit. Tell Mulder . . . Tell him I had to powder my nose."

Draping an arm around her shoulders, he kissed her temple. "I will, but he'd understand, Dana. He knows your beliefs, and he even counts on them."

"I don't know, but I do hope they come through for me this time."

"We don't gotta hope they will, darlin'. We gotta BELIEVE they will," he said, releasing her.

"I'll see you upstairs."

"Feel free to speak for me, too, 'kay? I'll go keep Fox company."

"You bet."


Four days later, Scully didn't see much difference from when she'd seem him for the first time back in a hospital bed that night. Medication fought pain and fever, but Mulder was and had continued to be lethargic. How much of that came from the medication and how much from the rejection, nobody seemed willing to commit.

Some days, she felt like she spent half her life at a hospital bedside and the other half in a basement office at the Bureau. At this point, she would have been thrilled to have been in the dingy hovel just so long as Mulder was there with her.

The nurses came and went frequently, checking vital signs and taking samples of various bodily fluids, often to the irritation of their patient. She wanted to ask him if he was feeling any different - any better - but she was afraid. Afraid of the answer.

After stopping in at the hospital chapel, Scully had called her mom, who had promised to stop in the following day, and had visited daily ever since. Skinner had also visited a few times, but it was Scully and Grey who kept vigil, despite the number of times Mulder tried to convince them to go home for rest and food.

All three of them were nearly nodding off when there was a new presence in the room.

"Good evening, Agent Mulder," the doctor said with a smile.

"Where ya been, Doc?" Mulder asked as Scully tried to straighten from her slouched position.

"Had sicker people to worry about," he said, and they were all too cautious to hope. "Mulder, you like that new kidney?"

"Ummm . . . yeah, I think so."

"Well, it looks like you're going to get to keep it." Scully and Grey both jumped up, excited. "The Thymoglobulin is doing the job, and the rejection is being reduced even better than we hoped."

"But you said that it would take seven to fourteen days before we knew," Grey stated, confused.

"I said that he'd have to be treated for seven to fourteen days. But you can tell much sooner whether it's working, as it seems to be. At the rate you're recovering," he addressed Mulder again, "you should be back to normal by the ten-day mark."

"Will I still have to take the immunosuppressants every day?"

The doctor looked aggravated. "Agent Mulder, you may as well get used to it, because nothing is going to stop that - especially this little incident. Those pills are a part of your life from now on - absolutely vital."

"When can I go home?"

"Mulder . . ." Scully warned, but she loved this about him, among everything else.

The doctor laughed.

"You do like to rush things, don't you. Well, we need to keep you here for awhile. The medication is fantastic, but it can cause side effects. We need to watch out for them, and you could miss them at home."

"Side effects like what?" Scully asked.

"Nothing life-threatening if caught early enough. Fever, infections, and thrombocytopenia - the reduction of platelets. That can lead to bleeding and we don't want that."

"No, I'd prefer to avoid that if I could," Mulder joked.

"Good. Hang in there, Mulder, and this time next week you may be home - and home free."

Mulder tried to thank the physician, but his voice was muffled in the two pairs of arms that were suddenly wrapped around him.


"Mulder, I know it's your first night out since your recovery, but we can't!" Despite her words, Scully giggled as they stumbled into her apartment.

"I think I more than deserve this, and we've waited so long," Mulder answered, his voice lascivious.

"I can't believe what you tried in the movie theater!"

"You didn't like it?" Mulder asked innocently. He could just as easily have been asking about a birthday gift.

"That's not the point," Scully responded, frustrated. "It would have gotten us arrested!"

"Scully," Mulder said, more seriously now. "I love you. I don't care who knows. They could put it on CNN and I'd be perfectly happy."

"I feel the same way," she said, taking his hand. "But what you wanted to do would only be fitting for the Playboy Channel."

"So, we're home now. Home . . . privacy . . . safety . . . anonymity," he said, circling behind her and pressing seeking lips to her neck at the pulse point. "What's stopping us now?"

Scully chuckled, feeling it vibrate through Mulder's lips against her skin. "In case you've forgotten, you brother is right in the spare bedroom! He doesn't leave for Raleigh until morning."

"He was married, Scully. He knows how it's done."

"Well, I'm a doctor, and so do I - that doesn't mean I want a front-row seat for somebody else's participation in the event."

"He's sound asleep by now," Mulder said, pulling her by the hand. "Come on, Scully. I want to love you. To make love to you. I've wanted it for seven years."

"You've been hot for me for that long?"

"As long as I've known you, but it's not just 'hot'. Sex . . . making love . . . it's more than just physical for us. It's an unparalleled sharing of ourselves. It's letting down every single barrier and laying everything you are at the other person's feet. I want to give that you to, Scully. I want to share it with you."

"Oh, Mulder," Scully said, kissing him. "Don't ever think that I don't love you or want you. It was easier to control when we weren't with each other so often, but once we started officially dating, I thought about it every time you were near. But I'm not comfortable with having our first time be with your older brother in the house. Would you want it if Bill, Jr., was in that guest room?"

"No," Mulder stated. "But only because, if he ever suspected what we planned, he'd beat the shit out of me before we got past first base. Grey loves you, and he loves the idea of you and me together. He knows you're good for me."

"He knows we're good for each other - I can't argue with that."

"Look, I'll prove how sound asleep he is. I'll go look in on him." His eyes moved from where they stared at the guest room door and were captured by her own a moment before their lips follows suit. She pulled him closer, melding herself to him. "I thought . . ."

"Sometimes, Mulder," Scully said, backing toward her room without breaking their kiss, "we both think entirely too much."

And in the next room, Grey stared at the ceiling as he remembered fondly the kind of love a man and a woman who were meant for each other could share.


Additional Notes: By now you know that I owe an incredible debt of gratitude to Dawn for allowing me the use of Grey MacKenzie, who originated in and for her Blood Ties Universe. Please note, however, that this story is written completely outside of the Blood Ties universe. I just stole the idea of Mulder's brother, and couldn't think of a better one than Grey. Betcha thought Samantha was going to materialize, huh?