He wasn’t actually sure where to go when he got back to the Bureau. Without her was he in the basement alone? Did he have the X-Files or was he on manure? The problem was solved when the elevator opened on the third floor.
“Spooky! You’re late. Patterson’s chewing nails.”
Patterson? He was in prison, wasn’t he?
“Mulder!” Patterson’s voice was loud and impatient as Mulder moved toward the conference room. “So kind of you to grace us with your presence. Where the hell have you been?”
“I, uh, I had a doctor’s appointment this morning.”
Patterson glared but said nothing further, turning instead to the information in front of him. “We’ve got a serial pedophile, working in the northeast. I have the files here, and I . . . “
Mulder took his seat at the table, letting him drone on. The information would be presented in Patterson’s time. Mulder closed his eyes and let his face rest on his fingertips, to force himself to concentrate on the words. Before Patterson got any further, the door opened again.
“We’ve got another one.”
That voice! Mulder’s eyes flew opened. Reggie? Mulder was on his feet, moving in his direction. He grasped Reggie’s shoulders as though anchoring him to the room. “Reggie? Is that you?”
Reggie looked him up and down. “Uh, yeah. Good to see you too, Mulder. ‘Course it’s only been about 18 hours.”
Mulder looked around to see the snickering faces of his ‘colleagues’ and the annoyed look on Patterson’s face. Instead of being intimidated he pulled Reggie to one side and turned his back on the room. “What day is it?”
“What? Spooky, you okay?”
“Please.” Mulder’s grip tightened on Reggie’s arm.
“October 13. Hey, it’s your birthday isn’t it? Sorry, I - “
“No, forget that. What year?” Mulder’s voice was barely a whisper but the intensity was full blast.
“Are you ser - “ Reggie stopped, it was painfully obvious Mulder was deadly serious. “1990,” his voice had dropped as well. Whatever was going on, the rest of the room didn’t have to know about it. “Mulder? You okay?” The younger man had paled significantly.
Three years. This was three years before he had met Scully. No wonder she hadn’t . . .
“Could you go ahead and kiss him hello and let us get back to this case, Mulder?” Patterson’s voice was icy. Mulder nodded, his back to Patterson, then squeezed Reggie’s arm and without another word returned to his seat. Well, another chapter in the Spooky rumor mill no doubt. He resumed his posture, eyes closed and forced himself to listen to Patterson and not think about what was really important to him. At least now he knew why he didn’t have a cell phone on him.
“Okay, if we can get back to the actual case. What have you got Perdue?”
“They found the body of a girl buried near a landfill outside of Boston. Same MO, a heart was cut out of her nightgown.”
Mulder’s head flew up again. “Roche,” he breathed and reached for the file he had previously ignored. There they were; the bodies of three little girls, all in nightgowns with Roche’s souvenir carefully removed.
“Would you like to share with the class, Mulder?”
“Four? There are only four?”
“Only? I don’t think the parents - “
“That’s not what I mean. Are more girls reported missing that you haven’t linked to this case.”
“We haven’t gotten any calls. We’ll be faxing out a bulletin as soon as we create the profile.”
“Go on-line. Send an email to every law enforcement agency in the northwest. Give them the heart and ask if they’ve found anyone like that.”
“Looking up the email addresses will take a while - “
“It’s worth it,” Mulder interrupted. “After you have them you can create a listserve so that you can - “
“A permanent list of all available emails, so that in the future you won’t have to look them up. It’ll make the Bureau look very innovative.”
“You know some of these smaller areas might not use a computer.”
“But most of them do. It’s worth the time for future cases.” He could hear himself arguing even as mentally he shook his head that he even had to argue for this. What would Langly say? Langly! He needed to get in touch with them as soon as he could break free. “For now, we need to look at John Lee Roche.”
“He’s a vacuum cleaner salesman. He travels; he’s in people’s homes.”
Patterson looked over at Reggie who shrugged. “That’s why I wanted you to bring him in.” Patterson looked more like he wanted to spit, but what the hell.
“Find this Roche, bring him in. At least we can see if we can tie him to a location,” Patterson barked at one of the younger men behind him.
Patterson turned to his file then, silently dismissing most of the room. Mulder knew better and remained. He heard more than one ‘Spooky’ comment as they filed out. Reggie joined him. “What’s going on, Mulder?”
“I don’t know that I can explain, at least not here.”
“You were shocked to see me and you didn’t know the date. That’s needs some explanation.”
“I know it does,” Mulder agreed, looking Reggie in the eye.
“Okay. How about a beer after work?”
Mulder worried his lower lip for a moment. “I need to check something out first. I want to talk to you, but I can’t mess this up.”
“An X-File,” Mulder responded and watched Reggie shake his head.
“You be careful.” Mulder nodded.
“Mulder!” Patterson barked finally. Both men turned to him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, showing up late, then just tossing a name out as a though you were waiting to say it.”
“You don’t have to believe me, but this is the right guy.”
“It’s your goal in life to piss me off, isn’t it Mulder? Well you’re certainly on target there.”
“You’ll be able to tie him to the victims. He left his DNA all over - “
“His DNA? What the fuck are you talking about?”
Mulder looked down. No DNA testing yet, but there were other ways as long as the crime scenes had been truly investigated, fingerprints, shoe prints, the man couldn’t have an alibi, he’d done it. “Just bring him in, get him in the system. His fingerprints will check out. I can’t explain it, but I’m asking you to trust me.”
He knocked rapidly on the door, impatient for information. It was Byers that opened the door. He stood there for a moment, “Agent Mulder? Uh, would you like to come in?”
“Yeah, I need some information.”
“You know me, right?”
“Yeah, we remember you,” Langly spoke behind him.
Mulder relaxed slightly. Yes, he had met them in 1989. “Good, where’s Frohike?”
“Here,” the shorter man joined them. “What’s going on?”
“I need to know what you know about time travel.”
All three of them gaped at him for a moment. “Are you serious?” Byers finally asked.
“Yes. If someone were to come back in time, knowing things that are going to happen, what happens if they . . . “
“If they tell people?” Frohike finished for him.
“Why don’t we have a seat?” Byers offered, gesturing toward the large room. Mulder nodded and followed him toward the sitting area.
“I’m wondering about the time line. Would doing something like that change things in the future? Would it help?”
Frohike looked over at Langly and shrugged. “There are all kinds of theories about that. You might be able to affect the present, but that has to affect the future. If you could go back and kill Hitler as a child he wouldn’t have caused World War II, but that doesn’t mean that someone else wouldn’t have taken his place. The war might have been delayed a year or forever.”
“But an individual life might be saved.”
Byers glanced at his friends, “We can’t answer you definitively. We - “
“Hey man, have you never watched Sliders?” Langly interrupted.
“Sliders. It’s a series about this very thing. The assumption is that every decision is made every day and has created branches on the timeline. We live in this reality, but all other realities are out there just a dimension away. Go ahead and save the person you want, but they’ll still die in half of the other realities.”
Mulder’s eyes narrowed but before he would respond, Byers spoke. “It’s a theory as good as any. Hitler was killed, Hitler won the war, Hitler got married and had six kids and never became political, hell, Hitler was never born. Maybe they’re all true. There’s also the theory that whatever you do, what was ‘supposed’ to happen will still happen, reassert itself, no matter what you do.”
Mulder slouched back in the chair running his hands through his hair.
“I’m sorry, Agent Mulder. We don’t - “ Byers started.
“I know. I appreciate . . . “
“Agent Mulder,” Byers leaned forward, “why did you come to us?”
“I always do. You’ve helped me for years.”
Mulder rose. “I have to meet someone. I’m going to try it; I’m going to try to save some people, at least for a while.”
The three men just sat there, allowing him to head to the door. “Agent Mulder!”
He stopped and looked back. “Will you call; let us know what’s happening?”
“Of course.” He let himself out as the three men sat staring at each other.
Mulder entered the bar and looked around. He spotted Reggie and joined him in the booth. He signaled for a beer, then turned to Reggie. “I have stuff to tell you.”
“What’s going on with you, Mulder? You usually tick Patterson off, but not like today. You just give him a name and expect him to believe he’s our perp?”
“He is; you have to believe me.”
“And just how to do you know this?”
Mulder was silent, accepting his beer and waiting for the waitress to move off. “I’ve already seen it.”
Mulder nodded. “I’m from the future.”
“Oh good. I thought you were going to tell me something hard to believe. You know ‘Spooky’.” He took a long draw of his beer.
“You don’t have to believe me, you just have to listen. John Lee Roche did rape and kill those little girls. He’s not that careful about the evidence because there’s no connection, no reason for him to even be suspected.”
“What was that crap about DNA?”
Mulder shook his head. “I wasn’t thinking; you can’t do that now. But he left his DNA in everyone of those little girls. If they keep the rape kits of the ones they’ve found, someday it’ll be tested. Don’t worry about that. You’ll have prints in rooms that a vacuum cleaner salesman would never have to see. Right now his prints aren’t in any database. It won’t take long.”
“Okay, what aren’t you sayin’?”
“I know some other stuff.”
“I, I don’t know what I can tell you yet.”
“I don’t know what I can change, if anything,” Mulder said carefully. “I don’t know if I’ve already changed some things.”
“Assuming I believe any of this . . . “
“I know. John Barnett.”
Reggie drew back, surprised at the name. “What about him?”
“He’s not dead.”
“He didn’t die in prison. He was a volunteer in a medical experiment, not exactly FDA sanctioned. The . . . process worked on him. He’s out and he’s well disguised.”
“As?” Reggie asked.
“Say again, Mulder. I don’t believe I heard that correctly.”
“He was given an experimental drug that reversed his age. You wouldn’t recognize him. He’ll be coming after me, but not yet. Let me think, February of 1994, yes, he escapes wherever they’re keeping him then and he tries to make good on his pledge. Before actually going after me, he attacks me through my friends. Reggie . . . “
“He gets me?”
“We can’t go after him overtly, officially he’s dead.”
“Mulder - "
“I’m asking you to believe me, Reggie. Other than Scully you’re the best partner I had and I’ve had to live with the guilt over what happened to you because of me for years.”
Reggie just looked at him for a long moment, then, “Who’s Scully?”
The slightest upturn to his lips caught Reggie’s attention. “My final, true partner. You’ll have to wait.”
Reggie rolled his eyes but nodded. “I’ll try some discrete looking into Barnett’s death.”
He let himself into the apartment. Well, the key worked. The place actually looked pretty normal. The fish were alive and the couch was waiting for him. He opened the door to the bedroom and was confronted with stacked boxes everywhere. So the mysterious waterbed gift hadn’t arrived yet.
No bedroom raised his level of depression quickly. He’d made love to Scully in there. He sank down onto the couch and didn’t even reach for the remote. It was just too much trouble.
He’d sat there staring at nothing. He wasn’t sure how long it was but the phone ringing startled him. Hell, should he even answer it? He didn’t know anyone he cared about now. Just before the machine, he grabbed it up. “Hello?”
“Scully? Scully, is everything okay?”
“What? Oh yes. I, I just wondered how it went at work.”
He was silent for a moment. “Really?”
He heard her sigh. “No, I just wanted to . . . “
“Is Ethan not there?”
“He decided to stay at his place tonight.”
“Oh.” What was he supposed to say about that? “Did he get the lock changed?”
He couldn’t help the smile. At least right this minute he could still get into her place. The smile faded immediately. She still didn’t know him. What was he supposed to say?
“Yeah, I’m here. Uh, listen, have you eaten?”
“What? Uh, no.”
“Would you like to grab a bite?”
“I, I guess so.”
“I can pick you up.”
“No, I’ll meet you. Where?”
“There’s an Italian restaurant not far from your apartment, Giuseppe’s. How about there?”
“I’ve seen it, but I haven’t been there yet.”
He closed his eyes; it was one of her favorites. Now he would be introducing her to it, again. “You’ll like it. I’ll meet you there, an hour?”
“Fine, I’ll see you there.”
The voice in his head yelling ‘mistake’ was ignored as he raced to change.
She saw his head come up before she was through the door. She had thought she would beat him here. He must have left as soon as he hung up. He looked good, wearing jeans and a gray t-shirt. His leather jacket was hanging from the post of the booth. Damn he looked good and eager to see her.
She pushed aside her apprehension and approached the booth. He rose to greet her and she slipped into the seat opposite him. Neither seemed to know what to say. Finally he cleared his throat, “I, uh, I ordered you eggplant parmesan.”
She blinked, “That’s my favorite.”
“I know. You’ll really like it here.”
“How? How do you know?”
He shrugged and looked up as the waitress set her glass of wine and his refill of tea in front of them. When she had left them alone again, Scully looked at her glass. “Trying to get me drunk?”
He grinned. “Even as little as you are that one glass won’t hurt you.”
“Little?” Her eyebrow rose. That was the reaction he wanted and he grinned, relaxing slightly. She took a sip. “This is excellent.”
He opened his mouth to comment, but decided against it. That was her favorite as well.
They talked around the things they wanted to know, traffic, weather. When the meal came she tried a bite and he wanted to laugh at the bliss on her face. He’d gotten to introduce her to this place twice. If only dating were really this easy. That thought drew him up short; was this a date?
“Huh?” he asked, pulled back to the present.
“Where did you go?”
“Einstein's Twin Paradox: A New Interpretation.”
She drew back then, her expression wary. “Are you stalking me?”
He wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at that. “No. I’m wondering about changes to the time line. You did too at one time.”
“You’ve read my thesis.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“What’s going on? Really, I need to know.”
“You’ll think I’m crazy.”
“Try me,” she said dryly. “Frankly, you’re most of the way there already.”
He tried to smile. “My ‘theory’? Time travel.”
“Time travel. How many glasses of wine did you have before I got here?”
“It’s an explanation. It’s how I know these things about you, how I knew about . . . “
He shook his head. “Work.”
She sat contemplating him now, what little remained of her meal forgotten. “So we will know each other sometime in the future.”
He nodded. “We’ll meet in 1993.”
“I must age well.”
“You saw me this morning; you didn’t realize I was younger?”
That did bring a softening to his face, a look in his eye she was afraid to interpret. “I’ve seen you in a lot of situations, you’re always beautiful.”
She looked away then and murmured her thanks softly. “You know this can’t be real.”
“I’m willing to listen to other theories.”
“I shouldn’t be here.” She began gathering up her purse and jacket. His hand closed over hers for an instant and she jerked. He immediately released her, sitting back.
“Scully - "
“This is not like me. I don’t do this. I’m practically living with Ethan, I’m a stable person. I don’t call strange men or meet them or - " She missed the look of pain when Ethan’s name was mentioned.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to dump that on you. It’s just . . . you’re the person I talk to. You’re the one that listens and either laughs at me or helps me find out what’s really . . . I’m sorry.”
She silently rose and turned from the table. God, would he ever see her again, now that she knew?
“Scully, have Maggie force Ahab to have his heart examined.”
With a sharply indrawn breath she whirled around. “How do you know Ahab?”
“I don’t. You call your father that and he calls you Starbuck.”
Pale she sank back into her seat in the booth. After a moment she lifted the glass of wine to her lips again. “What the hell is going on?”
“Do it, Scully. I don’t know how knowing that will change the future, I don’t know if it can, but you need to try.”
“What’s wrong with Ahab?”
“Nothing right now. This is preventative. It can’t hurt.” He watched her attempt to absorb that. Finally she met his eyes again. She nodded and stood. “Scully - "
Ignoring him she left the restaurant. He leaned back against the booth. Now what?
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.