A dingy poster clung tenaciously to the side of the shabby brick theater, a building unused for years, as attested by the 1987 play dates advertised on the oversized paper marquee. The display painted bold declarations of a magician, a woman billed as The Fabulous Fatima, Mistress of Magic and Grand Duchess of Mystery. Fatima was apparently a voluptuous redhead, clad - barely - in a costume of black leather straps and metal studs, straight from a dominatrix fantasy, an impression reinforced by the addition of a wicked-looking whip and a chain-bound male assistant.
The seedy neighborhood had seen much better days, and on this late September Thursday a light rain had mixed with litter and dirt to form a new layer of muddy sludge that slicked the sidewalk. The pavement was riddled with cracks, dark cobwebs delineating a map to an alien landscape, one of tiny moss-covered mountains rising from miniature valleys. Few people ventured out into this world once the sun began to dip below the horizon; and of those who did, most were involved in activities that were - at best - on the fringe of the law.
Only a few desperate souls braved the bone-chilling rain this late in the day; prostitutes and pimps, drug dealers, a few winos, and the indigents who had no place else to go. In the final category fell a painfully thin, pale man who made his way slowly up to the poster, tracing a trembling hand over the flame-colored hair of the woman in the illustration. The russet color and smooth cut stirred something in his damaged mind, tugging at the fringe of his memory, a memory which recently deserted him, leaving him without a clue to his past, to his home, even to his own name. So far he'd found only one other clue to his own identity, a note in his pocket with a cryptic message: *Got a new lead on CSM ... Scully*. He didn't know what CSM stood for, nor who Scully was, though the swooping cursive was penned by a distinctly feminine hand.
When it became too dark to see, the thin man stumbled back to the shallow, trash-filled alley which was now his home. It was where he woke days earlier, bereft of identification or memory. His gray suit, once impeccable, now was stained and tattered, with shreds of a crimson paisley tie still hanging loosely over a muddied and wrinkled oxford shirt. His face was marred by a deep, ugly bruise, its discoloration extending from just below the left eye, upward into the short shock of dark hair. Blood caked his jaw, matting several days' worth of stubbly beard. He held an arm tightly against his ribs, laboring to support the bones which he knew to be broken. His breath came only with difficulty, and he moved with a pronounced limp. His eyes were sunken, haunted by pain and exhaustion. He knew that he was in need of help; yet instinct told him that asking for help was dangerous, too.
He sensed that if he could remember either the Scully or the red-haired person, he would find some sort of sanctuary. His memory refused to cooperate, providing him with only an occasional tantalizing hint of what should be simple, effortless knowledge.
The man settled painfully into the rotting corpse of a seventies-era brown plaid sofa, unsure which he wanted more, a warm blanket or a hot meal. He pulled old newspapers around him, the only available protection against the pervasive chill. He was shivering violently, so much so that he nearly didn't notice the small photo and article printed on the unfolded periodical. When he finally did see, his eyes went wide. The man in the picture, identified as Fox Mulder, was an FBI agent reported missing. Something about the portrait finally jogged his injured mind.
That's *ME*, he realized with a start. He snatched up the fragile page, struggling to hold the disintegrating newsprint together. The short article detailed an unexplained disappearance and subsequent fruitless search, including a toll-free number to call with information on him, telling anyone who responded to ask for FBI Special Agent Dana Scully.
The injured man defied his flagging strength, making his way back out to the street, searching wildly for a telephone, spotting a lighted booth across the tarmac and wondering if he could reach it before his knees gave way beneath him. He lurched out onto the pavement, praying that momentum would carry him if he couldn't walk the last few steps. He ended up on hands and knees, crawling into the glass-walled booth, dragging himself up enough to key in the proper sequence of numbers. His fingers trembled so badly it took him three attempts before he achieved the correct sequence.
"Scully," answered a weary feminine voice.
"D-Dana Scully?" he asked through chattering teeth.
There was an instant and wary shift to the woman's tone. "This is Special Agent Dana Scully. Who is this?"
"I-I think ... m-my name is Fox M-Mulder."
There was a pause at the other end, then incredulity. "Mulder?? What happened to you? Where are you??"
Relief nearly overwhelmed him, a relief he didn't fully understand. "I-I d-don't know ... there's a street sign, it says J-Jefferson and Twelfth Street. I d-don't know what city. The phone number is ..." His head began to dip forward in spite of his best efforts, and he wheezed, "Area code two-oh-two, five-five-five..." Finally the pain, uncertainty, cold, and hunger caught up with him and he slumped to the bottom of the glass-walled booth.
"Mulder? Mulder, can you hear me? Mulder!! Hang on, Mulder, I'm coming!" the frantic feminine voice assured the man who could no longer hear.
Diagonally across the corner, two more figures stood, shrouded in shadows. A withered hand flicked away his cigarette butt, his heel grinding the glowing ember into the cement.
Behind the old man, a younger fellow leaned forward with a smirk. "You look almost sad to see Mulder like this. How sweet." Sarcasm dripped from his every word.
The old man snorted, "Just like you, Alex, you see the speck of dust and in the process miss the big picture. The loss of a worthy adversary is never cause for celebration. Besides, whoever did this was incredibly sloppy. Mulder is too high profile. If he dies like this, what do you think it will do? This will never just go away. On the contrary, the harder we try to bury it, the more likely it will come back to haunt us."
"But we didn't do it!" Krycek protested, rolling his eyes.
The CSM smiled, dipping his chin slightly in what looked a little like pride. "Al Capone was brought down on a tax related charge, not racketeering or murder. Never underestimate the power of inanities."
Krycek glanced at his watch. "Scully will be here any minute. As much as I'd like to see her expression when she realizes it's too late, we have a plane to catch. We're due in London in twelve hours." The two men ducked into the shadows of an alley as a dark sedan screeched to a stop nearly in front of them. As predicted, the female FBI agent jumped out, nearly losing her footing on the wet pavement. Scully's auburn hair was plastered to her, suggesting she'd been interrupted in mid-shower. A long, dark coat flapped around her calves, and her face was pale and drawn with worry.
Scully's heart was in her throat as she raced through the streets of the nation's capital. Eighteen days since her FBI partner had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth, and the Bureau had essentially written him off, dismissing his disappearance as desertion. After all, there was no sign of foul play; his Arlington apartment was unmolested and his car was still parked in its customary spot at home.
Yet Scully was convinced throughout his absence that her partner was missing involuntarily, that he was injured or dead. She stubbornly continued making inquiries on her own, through both traditional and non-traditional sources. She took out the recent personal WATS number that rang in on her cell phone, and sought help through MUFON, the acronym for the Mutual UFO Network. She even took out an ad in *The Magic Bullet*, an underground periodical published by a trio of distinctly off-the-wall friends self-dubbed the Lone Gunmen. The fringe newspaper reported fantastic conspiracy theories, extraterrestrial sightings, the odd and the bizarre things too far removed to ever touch mainstream media. Their writing steadfastly treated the material with deadly seriousness. Crazy or not, those same stories were often substantiated by heartbreaking tangible evidence.
At one time, Dana Scully would automatically have rejected any thought of such farfetched connections. But after years of working on the FBI's so-called X-Files, she wasn't prepared to dismiss anything out of hand, particularly when it might involve the safety and well-being of her partner and best friend. Fox Mulder, for all of his quirks, had become a very significant part of her life, too much so for her to hesitate over minor details like her reputation, her job, or even the possible loss of her own life.
An X-File was the Bureau's designation for a case which defied conventional logic, a case which as a result called for unconventional methods of investigation. Vampires or extraterrestrials, zombies or Bigfoot, human oddities or killer computers, if it was weird and was reported to the Bureau, it generally fell to Scully and Mulder.
Their jobs put the two Special Agents into an ignoble position. Their department was the butt of office jokes, and nobody else would touch the cases they investigated, but there were plenty of times that the mainstream personnel had nowhere else to turn for help on cases that just didn't fit the stereotypical molds. Scully's original assignment to the Mulder and to the department had been arbitrary, her job to discredit everything her rogue partner did. Years later, after her scienctific approach repeatedly substantiated his work, she couldn't imagine herself anywhere else, even though her stubborn defense of Mulder earned her more than a few enemies.
Tonight, Scully whipped her car through the rain-slicked streets, fishtailing around corners and not caring what anyone thought. She roared up to the address the caller had provided, slammed her transmission into "park", and jumped out into the moist, chilly air. She spotted the dimly lit phone booth and tore across the street, slipping more than once while she ran along the mud-slicked cement, her long gray trench coat flapping around her calves and her light auburn hair darkening as the drizzle turned into downpour around her.
Disappointment registered when she found only a shivering wino slumped at the bottom of the booth. She knelt down beside the filthy figure, gently shaking his shoulder. "Sir? Sir, I'm sorry, but I'm looking for a man who was here earlier, six foot tall, dark hair, hazel eyes. His name is Fox Mulder, have you seen - ?"
She caught her breath when she realized that the skeletal figure was the very man she was seeking, his skin, hair, and clothing muddy, and his face so battered and emaciated he was almost unrecognizable. "Oh, god, Mulder!" she gasped mournfully. "What happened?"
The man lifted his eyes with difficulty, fighting to focus on the face of his rescuer. He saw an extraordinarily lovely woman - too beautiful. His head lolled forward again. "Not real... dreaming ... "
She carefully lifted his face, telling him firmly, "Mulder, I'm real, and I need you to stay with me, okay? I'm calling for an ambulance." She had her cell phone out, alternately speaking to the 9-1-1 operator and to her injured partner, who seemed only marginally aware she was talking at all.
Mercy Memorial Hospital
14 hours later
Scully watched as her partner's eyes focused on her face. She smiled, as always unwilling to convey the depth of her concern. The admitting physician, a no-nonsense type, actually used the word "miracle" when discussing Mulder's survival against a staggering laundry list of injuries.
The man's lips quirked into a crooked smile. "Hello. You're Scully?"
She frowned. "You don't know?"
He shook his head, looking inward. "I don't remember much of anything. I know my name is Mulder, but only because of the newspaper article that pointed me to you. I remember waking up in an alley a couple of blocks from the telephone booth where I called you. I remember... I'm not sure, but I think I remember someone dumping me there, someone familiar, but the face--"
Scully eyed the rapid, slightly uneven pattern skittering across the EKG monitor. "Never mind," she soothed instantly. "It doesn't matter. What matters now is that you're alive. You had us really worried."
"Your friends," she explained. "You really don't remember, do you?" She hadn't counted on the possibility that his memory loss would continue. With a head injury, it wasn't an uncommon side effect, but in this case it was particularly frustrating. She was convinced she'd seen the Smoking Man in the shadows as the ambulance was pulling away. If Mulder couldn't remember what happened, what had prompted the vicious attack, or who had carried out the conspirators' orders, he was doubly vulnerable. She desperately needed the information locked in his damaged mind.
He swallowed. Ingrained FBI training still drove his thought processes, and he understood the implications as well as she did, though he shifted to what he hoped was a safer topic. "I'm sorry if I don't remember you. If we had a relationship -- if we HAVE a relationship, I really don't recall."
"We're partners," she clarified. "And friends. We, um, have a pretty long and varied history."
He glanced over at the small ceramic sculpture she'd brought him in lieu of flowers. The figurine was a hand, its center finger upthrust in a universally-understood sign. Gilt letters on the base spelled out "Do Unto Others". Someone had penned in the added line *At every opportunity*. This beauty clearly knew him very well, was fully attuned to his sense of humor. "Friends," he muttered, resigned. "Why do I get the feeling that's the story of my life?"
Another man strode through the heavy door of the hospital room; a tall, powerfully built man with an imposing air. Wire rimmed glasses wrapped over a bald pate, the metal frames punctuating steel gray eyes. Scully turned at the sound of footsteps. She nodded to the visitor. "Assistant Director Skinner," she explained softly. "He's our boss. And a friend." Her hand dropped to Mulder's forearm in a gesture of tacit reassurance.
Skinner stared at her, then at Mulder. The muscles worked in the AD's jaw. "Agents, what the hell is going on? Do you mind telling me how it is that I just spoke to a very much alive and well Mulder in my office not half an hour ago?"
5 hours later
Scully pulled into a slot in front of the familiar brick apartment building, sucking in a deep breath and fighting again to get her bearings. She wasn't sure what to believe. She decided that Mulder's doppleganger at the office was the same being they'd encountered before, the entity who seemed capable of changing his appearance at will. Then she spied the man through the doorway of Skinner's office, when the pseudo Mulder got a paper cut. Such a small incident, but the blood was red, not green, and Skinner didn't collapse in reaction to the bodily fluids of a shape shifter.
She felt a little like Alice in Wonderland, almost hesitant to drink her tea at lunch for fear it would turn her into a Liliputian oddity. It was a crazy reaction to an insane maze. She decided that the instant she started talking to the Cheshire cat she was going to have herself officially committed.
She ran a hand through her auburn mane, straightened, and made a direct line to the fourth floor apartment, turning her key in the lock, finding the door already opened. Her senses went instantly to red alert status, her weapon drawn before it became conscious thought. She stepped lightly, determined to stop whatever intruder she encountered.
The shadow alerted her too late. A hand snaked out and wrenched her wrist, knocking the gun from her grip and snapping her against a lean masculine body.
"Scully!" Mulder's jaw went slack and he crushed her against him in a bear hug. "I was afraid they'd gotten you, too, and that I'd never see you again!" he exclaimed fervently, brushing a tender kiss over the part in her hair.
Shaken, Scully craned her neck to look at him. The man who held her was gaunt and clearly exhausted and in need of a shave. He was also, from everything her senses told her, Fox Mulder.
Scully backed away, quaking. "Who ARE you?" she demanded.
He blinked in disbelief. "What do you mean, who am I? Scully, are you all right? It's me, Mulder." He reached out to catch her arm, concerned at her sudden pallor. "Scully, what did they do to you? You really don't remember me?"
"I remember you. I just don't remember you being twins." Her gut instinct told her that this was Mulder. Her gut instinct also told her that Fox Mulder was lying in a hospital bed four miles away. "Curiouser and curiouser!" she grumbled, "And if you say one word to that I'll beat you senseless."
"Wouldn't dream of it," he countered hastily, though he wondered if she'd received a blow to the head. "Why don't you sit down?"
Still extremely wary, Scully eased onto the mahogany leather sofa, reluctantly accepting a glass of water from him. "Mulder?" she asked at length, "Is that really you?"
He wasn't sure if he should be exasperated or concerned. "Why is that so hard for you to believe? What did they tell you?"
She inclined her head slightly. "THEY didn't tell me anything. I found you, beaten and bloodied, on the sidewalk in a less-than-reputable part of town. You were semiconscious with more injuries that I care to list. That happened last night. I left you at the hospital not an hour ago, in critical condition." She lifted her chin. "So how can I be sitting her talking to you right now? I'm not crazy, but this whole situation is beginning to read like the results of a bad chicken sandwich. Obviously, one of you is an impostor."
52 hours later
"Well, they're not clones, the genetic material would be identical. According this, they're close, but not exact. There are some weird elements here and here, possibly designer DNA, but nothing that we're going to be able to identify."
Scully was bone tired, so weary she found it somehow hysterically funny that she was here in the office/home of the Lone Gunmen. Byers was using a jeweler's loupe to study the transparencies, as if a closer look at the grayscale bars would offer him some magic portal of understanding. Topping it off, the courtly man wore a pair of flannel pajamas printed with cartoon clouds and sheep.
To Byers's left stood an equally tall Langley, blond hair in a braid, eyelids still heavy with sleep. All well and good, considering that it was in the middle of the night. But his sleeping attire presently consisted of a plaid flannel nightshirt that boasted neon lettering across the chest that read "Sexy Thing". Not to be outdone, a short, drowsy Frohike sat on the counter in a pair of flannel pajama bottoms colored to resemble blue jeans, and a tee shirt top splashed with the graphic exaggeration of an body builder's chest.
"So which one's Mulder?" Langley asked in whining sing-song.
Scully shrugged helplessly. "You tell me. I thought maybe our patient at Mercy was just a close resemblance that would clear himself up once he started to heal, but not only does he look like Mulder, he's begun to remember things that only Mulder would know. So I figured maybe the office version would give himself away on some little detail. Problem is, BOTH of these men are close enough that if somebody was playing genetic roulette like they did on me ..."
Frohike whistled. "Either one of 'em could be Mulder."
Langley nodded, adding sagely, "Or neither of them could."
Mercy Memorial Hospital
36 hours later
The female FBI agent was still unnerved every time she saw either of the two Mulders. She wasn't sure how to react to either one, knowing they couldn't BOTH be the man she'd befriended over the years, yet she still couldn't find any specific reason to disbelieve either one. She pasted on a smile and moved to the injured man's side. "You're looking better," she remarked noncommitally.
Mulder bit his lip. "Scully, did I do something particularly obnoxious that I don't remember?"
Her shoulders slumped and she confessed, "No. I guess I haven't exactly been Miss Congeniality lately, have I?"
He cast her a doleful look. "You could say that. Look, I'm alive, I'm ready to jump bail and get outta this place in a couple of more days, I bribed the doctor. What say, you fill me in on the X-File that's got you in this knot. I'm going through withdrawals anyway and two heads are always better than one."
She choked, then deadpanned, "I beg to differ in this case."
"Huh?" he replied, bewildered.
She reached up and rubbed the knot forming at the back of her neck. "Look, there's no easy way to explain it. There's someone you need to meet." She walked over to the door and gestured for a visitor to enter. Two sets of hazel eyes met and widened, two mouths formed mirror-image O's simultaneously, both men turning to Scully, who quipped flatly, "Fox Mulder, I'd like you to meet Fox Mulder."
Mulder scooted up in his hospital bed, swallowing convulsively. "Scully - We've seen him before. Why is he here and why does he look like me?" If he was faking fear, he was doing a damned good job of it.
The standing Mulder shook his head, bewildered. "Now I understand why you believed it was me. I'm seeing him and *I'm* wondering if he's me. Whoever did this did a remarkable job."
Scully saw genuine panic in the both men's eyes. "His blood's red," she assured. "Both of you. I checked. And you're not clones, I checked that, too. I also decided to go by the book. I ran fingerprints, decided to check dental records. I discovered that all of Fox Mulder's identifying records, other than photos, have been wiped from every database I could access. I even decided to consider the most obvious answer, researched birth records. You are too close genetically and physically to ignore the possibility that you could be brothers."
That elicited raised eyebrows from both men. "And?" they chorused simultaneously.
"Lovely," she said dryly. "Mulder in stereo. AND," she continued without missing a beat, "I found a birth record saying that Fox Mulder was a live offspring in a multiple birth. But don't get too excited. The record was doctored, pardon the pun. I decided to get creative, then, figured I'd go behind where I knew my Mulder had been. 'My', as in the Mulder I've worked with for more years than I care to count at the moment. I figured I could find fingerprints to compare."
The man in the bed smiled triumphantly at the lookalike. "I'm impressed. I'm not sure I'd have thought of that."
The standing Mulder shrugged. "So you found him out. Any clue who he really is?"
Scully's response was a harsh laugh, her blue eyes focused on empty space. "Well, what I found was interesting, I'll admit. I ran comparisons from places where I knew that I'd been with the real Mulder. I found two sets of prints, some in one place, some in another. It's like the two of you have been living a tag-team life for the past six months."
18 hours later
Two men ambled in front of the old theater, eyeing the workmen who were removing the "Fatema" billboard. The cleanup crew took no notice of the two dark-haired strangers in matching leather jackets and jeans.
"I've got to hand it to you, Krycek, you are one slick son of a bitch. I thought the planted fingerprints were overkill, but she actually checked. You're right, she's really a piece of work. God, but it feels good to smoke again." Mulder's eyes rolled back in ecstasy as he took another long draw from the cigarette. "I hate having to give it up, but I guess if I'm going to take over his life, I've got to play the game."
Krycek grinned at the compliment. "You don't know the half of it. I had my work cut out for me, barely yanked the files on his finger-prints and dental charts before she hit the system. It is such a rush, though, isn't it? You get to kill Mulder and keep Scully. I call that a fair trade." Krycek’s hands swung at his sides, his relaxed attitude the direct result of pulling off such a coup. There were still details to work out, yes, but things were clearly working.
They walked in silence a little further, stopping at the alley. 'Mulder' shuddered. "Now that is one nasty little hellhole. Still gives me the creeps, you know. I have every one of his memories, and at times I'm HIM. I literally forget who I am, can't tell whether I'm remembering his life or mine or if they're really the same thing. I still ache every time I get a little too cold. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I don't think of myself as Popovich. Talk about an identity crisis!"
"That's what it's all about," Krycek shrugged. "You slip up, you'd better damn well believe Scully will know it. There isn't room for mistakes. I'm leaving it up to you to eliminate Mulder and distract Scully permanently. If you're not up to the job, I can find someone who is." His voice was measured, imbued with just the right touch of threat. He'd come a long way from being just another Conspiracy patsy, he thought. A long, long way.
Mulder peered at the other man. "You really believe that crap? You're going to find another man on a street corner who matches to this degree? Voice, build, genetics, looks, attitudes, everything? You're crazy. You know, if I didn't know better, I'd actually believe I was the guy's brother. Except for a little thing called a conscience, we'd be the same person. Of course, you and I know I don't have a conscience. It gets in the way of what I want."
"Sir, can I talk to you?"
Skinner glanced at the diminutive redhead standing at his threshold. In the space of a heartbeat, he made an assessment. "Of course, Agent Scully, come in." She'd never come alone to his apartment, as far as he could remember. Then again, she'd never before faced anything so bizarre as dealing with two partners with the same face, either. Even for the X-Files, this situation was extreme.
He led her into the sparsely furnished cubicle that served as his home, gesturing toward a white club chair. He punched a button on the remote and his television went dark. "What brings you here, Scully?" Without being asked, he poured a cup of steaming coffee and settled the mug in her hand. Not for the first time, he was painfully aware that moving boxes were still stacked against the bland white wall of his living room, even all these months after he moved in.
She sipped the bitter liquid gratefully. "I'm not sure who to trust right now," she confessed uneasily. Her posture reminded Skinner of a sparrow poised for flight. It was a startling change from the self-assured woman he'd come to know and respect.
"I'm your friend," Skinner replied reassuringly. "You know that." His brow furrowed in concern at the dark smudges that underscored her blue eyes.
She leveled a troubled expression at him. "No Sir, I don't know that. Given the current situation, I don't even know that you're YOU. But the truth is, I don't know where else to go."
Skinner stood, stretching the kinks out of his neck. Illumination striped the room, the sunrise dripping through the venetian blinds at his window. In the hours since Scully’s arrival, she outlined what was both the most scientific and the most bizarre report he'd ever heard.
She fell asleep on the floor. Unwilling to leave her there, he lifted her carefully to deposit her on his bed, while Skinner continued to study the impossible and indisputable records she'd compiled.
Two Mulders, each visually indistinguishable from the other, critical information pilfered from supposedly ironclad federal government databases, the implications of a duality that stretched back over months, maybe years, even covering minutae like his birth records and fingerprints scattered throughout shared history. Both the Assistant Director and his feminine subordinate concurred that they were being manipulated by a master, and both knew without a doubt that they were being set up for something.
And yet ...
Even with the Syndicate, genetic manipulation had its limits. As Scully was fond of pointing out, nothing occurred outside the laws of physics. A clone met certain comparative criteria to its origin, and designer genes set off a domino effect that dramatically affected its host.
None of those factors were in evidence here.
Neither could they explain the specific and personal memories that both incarnations of Fox Mulder possessed. Memories were inherently personal and couldn't be transferred, not by any known mechanism. Hypnotism and suggestive controls could affect perceptions, but the core personality was still unchanged, even in the case of brainwashing.
Skinner reached for a hot mug, sipping at the near-boiling brew. His own badly-made coffee generally didn't bother him, but this morning it was just like this case. It was an itch just below his skin, like the innate knowledge that he was missing something fundamental and obvious.
Finally, stymied and too tired for words, the AD collected the drowsy Agent Scully and stuffed her into his car, heading for the only outside source he trusted.
"I'm comin', already, hold your horses!" Frohike's voice grumbled through the door.
Scully tapped her foot impatiently while the diminutive computer geek turned keys and levers and removed the chains to an even dozen locks on the wooden door. She didn’t have the heart to point out how vulnerable wood could be if anybody actually wanted to get in. Given the Gunmen's propensity for paranoia, they'd probably sub-let some place even more undesirable.
At least the unlikely trio was dressed this morning, in what was for them normal attire. Frohike could easily walk unnoticed down skid row, Langley looked like an overgrown rock groupie, and Byers was, to all outward appearances, the quintessential yuppie.
She smiled in spite of herself. For all of their quirks, the self- dubbed 'Lone Gunmen' were brilliant technological analysts, loyal to a fault, and the only people besides Mulder and her mother that Scully trusted without question. Well, without question of their loyalty, anyway. And in her mind, they fell firmly into the category of *friends*.
Skinner's alliance with the threesome was decidedly more guarded, though the AD had also grudgingly begun to accept their expertise. It was his idea to cloister with the men he called the three musketeers, hoping they could pinpoint something that he and Scully had overlooked.
Scully carried a thick sheaf of papers and a snowballing attitude. Her expression told everyone that she'd had enough. She was ready to put an end to the fugue state which seemed to expand exponentially with every moment.
Each and every man in the room knew that look, knew to do as he was told and stand back, even the indomitable Skinner. Mulder nicknamed the characteristic stance "Scully Foo", an inference to intellectual jujitsu. He just never called it that to her face. Mulder was a rogue who challenged the status quo.
That didn't mean he was stupid.
"All right, gentlemen," Scully announced tersely. "I'm sick and tired of being the pawn in somebody else's game." She slapped the stack of reports onto the thick, scarred wooden table in the only corner free of computer paraphernalia. "We are being played, there's no doubt in my mind. While my gut tells me that the Smoking Man's pulling some of the strings, I still haven't been able to connect him. I did find something else, though - God, I must be slipping -something that didn't hit me until in the car on the way here. One of the fingerprints I found didn't belong to either of our candidates for Mulder-of-the-year. It belonged to Alex Krycek."
Langley cleared his throat, interjecting meekly. "Um, not to challenge you or anything, Scully, but isn't that unlike Krycek? To leave a fingerprint behind, I mean? Seems a little careless."
Scully shrugged. "Maybe he got careless. Or maybe he acquired a little too much confidence and it's his way of taunting us. Bottom line, I don't buy the whole dual-life thing I'm being funneled into. It doesn't wash. As much as a hate to admit it, I'm beginning to suspect which one of our Mulders is real and which one's Memorex."
All four men perked up. Skinner voiced what all of them were thinking. "Well?" the AD demanded. "Who's the real McCoy?"
Her mouth formed a thin, humorless smile. "Think about it. The two of them are a little too perfectly matched, aren't they? The only two people that close would have to be either clones or identical twins, both scenarios we've pretty much eliminated. That leaves the high tech option. Think just about every celebrity who ever started to sag."
"Plastic surgery," Byers said, awestruck. "And with plastic surgery, you get bruises ..."
"Yeah," she sighed. "You certainly do. But that's not an absolute. I still have a lot more questions than answers. The two of them bear a resemblance that runs more than skin deep. Their expressions, their walk, their voices, the way their off-color minds work; those things can't be instilled by plastic surgery. And I swear, if one of them is playing a role, I can't spot it. It's like they actually have the same mind, the same memories. It's deeper than brainwashing, even, and we have to assume that the fake is playing his part voluntarily."
Frohike mused, "You know, there is one way you might be able to tell for sure."
Scully raised an eyebrow at him, the skeptic in her operating full tilt. "Really? And how would that be?"
"Well," the little man said, his mouth flipping up in a devious grin, "You could kiss 'em. They say no two men kiss the same."
Scully choked. "They say that, do they?"
Warming to the idea, Frohike straightened. "Sure they do! Just to show you, I'll be happy to volunteer as an example. You kiss me, it will be different than say, if you kissed Langley or Byers or Skinner or Mulder. It'll be an experiment in personal identification. All in the name of science, of course!"
It was a full two minutes before Scully trusted herself to talk. "Science, huh?" she asked, her eyes tearing up with a guffaw that was precariously close to escaping.
"Yeah! Hell, you could actually kiss us all just for warm-ups, to prove my point. Langley, you'd do it, wouldn't you?"
Langley replied innocently, "Me? Um, sure, I guess so." He couldn't see how obviously he was grinning.
Scully forced a straight face. "What about you, Byers? You're game for Frohike's ... experiment?"
Byers actually jumped. "What? Oh, I ... Yeah, count me in."
Scully turned to her boss, noting the scarlet flush that rose from his collar up. "You, too, Sir? You think kissing Mulder would prove who's who? And you'd participate in a kiss-a-thon to prove it?"
Skinner opened his mouth to protest, then shut it firmly. He finally responded with a curt nod of his head.
"Science, huh?" Scully said flatly. "No prurient interests whatsoever. My, my, aren't we the high-minded gentlemen? All right, Frohike, this is your baby. You think kissing Mulder will prove who's who, and you're all game, I say go for it. Both of them are holed up in that apartment. You three take your van, Skinner and I will drive back in this car, and we'll meet you at Mulder's place."
The AD eyed her suspiciously. He was astute enough to know that the russet pageboy covered a steel-trap mind, and he had a sneaky feeling he was stepping into the trap.
Weekend traffic was relatively light as they wheeled southward. The young woman re-read the medical and scientific reports while Skinner tried to read HER. He already knew that Dana Scully could maintain a perfectly cool facade in the face of the most outrageous circumstances. He knew that she possessed a formidable intellect, that she put about ninety percent of her male colleagues to shame, and that if she put her mind to it, she could probably play pied piper to any male she desired.
And he had a feeling that this stupid little interlude was going to end with egg on a whole lot of faces, including his.
He wouldn't miss it for the world.
The two Mulders opened the door to admit the mismatched quintet. The identical duo shared the same puzzled expression until Scully explained, "Gentlemen, Frohike has proposed a little experiment, one he believes can definitively clarify which one of you is the real deal. IF we do this, everyone has to agree. Just so you know, Mulder ... and Mulder ... Frohike thinks that kissing the two of you will positively tell us which is which."
"All in the name of science," Frohike interrupted hastily.
Scully smiled, and both Mulders knew the mischievous gleam in her azure eyes. They also read the unspoken warning not to let the others in on the joke, even though they didn't yet know what the joke WAS. "Mulder, both of you, this all hinges on your participation. Will you play along - " Her voice was ripe with the private exchange of double meaning, " - To make the point?"
The twin heads swiveled, looking at each other, then her, then each other again. Both knew instinctively that they were key in the mother of all practical jokes, and knowing how Scully's mind worked, they both had an inkling of what she had in mind. "Sure," agreed the dark haired man on the left.
The Mulder on the right echoed the sentiment. "All in the name of science," he agreed, nodding at the expectant Frohike. All four of the other men, even Skinner, looked a little like hungry wolves preparing to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Both Mulders were fully prepared to play their part in this little production, and to play it to the hilt.
Scully nodded. "All right, then, here are the rules. Nobody gets to watch, you wear a blindfold and only one of you guys in the room at a time. You don't touch anything but lips or I break your neck. Everybody agree so far?"
There was a chorus of general consensus. "Whatever you say, G-woman!" "You're the boss." "Rules are fine, just pucker up."
"All right. And just to satisfy your cooperatively sick curiousity, I WILL allow photos. You can each get a Polaroid of your own part, but you show 'em to anybody else and I will hunt you down and kill you like sewer rats. Got it?"
Frohike was awestruck, his decidedly ugly mug wreathed in smiles. "She is a GODDESS!" he declared as he walked back into the room with his friends. "The most incredible - amazing - Oh god, she really WANTS me, no mistaking that." In an aside, he confided, "She even came back for more and, uh, there was some tongue action!" He tapped Byers's shoulder. "You're the only one left, Mr. Clean. Trust me on this, you'll come away a changed man."
Byers' eyes were round. He straightened his tie and lifted his chin as he pulled the door closed behind him. "For science," he reminded himself aloud, as much for his own edification as for anyone else.
Langley was perched on Mulder's sofa, his dazed expression approaching worship. He actually hugged a pillow like a schoolboy, his mouth moving but no sound coming out. Skinner's own face was blank, his jaw slack.
Frohike was animated enough for all of them. The little computer geek was in heaven, practically dancing a jig in his friend's hall. He'd maintained a long running crush on Scully, openly adoring her while keeping the respectful distance that allowed him to live. He was ecstatic at this chain of events, reveling in his part in it, loving the fact that the object of his desire had not just permitted the buss, but had done so with such panache and such passion.
They heard feminine laughter from behind Mulder's bedroom door, and Scully skipped out, grabbing her coat and purse, giggling uncontrollably even while she was poised for flight. The double Mulders emerged next, both grinning from ear to ear.
Skinner raised an expectant, if still shaken, face to Scully. He demanded, "Well? Did you figure out which one's the real Mulder?"
Byers walked out slowly, staring at the fistful of snapshots in his hand.
Scully's hand was on the knob of the door. She shot over her shoulder, "You tell me, you kissed them!"
Skinner blanched. "No. You DIDN'T!"
Tears of laughter streamed down the woman's face. "You're right, I DIDN'T. MULDER did! And I've got the pictures to prove it!"
She slammed the door behind her, her laughter echoing as her feet flew down the hall.
Frohike's smile crumbled into horror. He was remembering ... TONGUE action.
When Scully stopped laughing - and it was a while - she was forced to rethink her position. There really HAD been a method to her madness, above and beyond its obvious appeal.
She never expected both Mulders to agree.
The whole concept had been so preposterous, she figured the real Mulder would do it in a heartbeat, playing along for all it was worth. After all, he knew all of the parties involved, had known all but Skinner for longer than she had. The fake, though, would be new to the dynamics of the group. He should at least have balked at the prospect of kissing a bunch of men he didn't even really know.
Scully slammed a clenched fist onto her dashboard. She was so sure that she'd be able to separate the chaff from the grain with the harmless prank! It infuriated her to know that her plans had again been deflected so flawlessly. If anything, the longer the two men were around each other, the more they seemed like the same person. They weren't, though, and she knew that there had to be SOMETHING to give away the Xerox version.
The only thing she had to go on was pure speculation, fueled exclusively on the assumption that the one man's injury had been created to mask manipulative surgery. And that, she admitted, was a very slim excuse for evidence. Besides, she didn't even know now which of the two men had been injured and which undamaged. They were virtually indistinguishable.
She had long since concluded that Alex Krycek was involved, and she suspected the Smoking Man, but those were the only two characters she could imagine were even more elusive than the reason behind the Mulder duality.
She pulled her sedan into its parking place in front of her apartment and stepped out, juggling keys, purse, and briefcase as she crossed the street. She was so focused on the Mulder dilemma that she didn't see the black limousine barreling toward her.
The vehicle swung around just in time to keep from mowing the startled woman down. Scully didn't have time to react before a door opened and she was yanked inside, a damp cloth clamped over her mouth. A slightly sweet smell emanated from the rag, and some part of her fading consciousness recognized it as ether. She didn't see the face of the man who held her captive, nor the flash of sympathy that crossed his features as she sagged against him. Gently, he stretched her out on the opposite seat, his hand lingering briefly on her cheek.
She woke to semi-darkness. She was alone and unrestrained in a room decorated with a nautical motif. It took a moment for her to recognize that she was on the ocean, in some sort of boat. The size of the stateroom suggested a yacht, actually. She was still fully clothed, a detail she found somewhat comforting.
She rose slowly, making a face at slight nausea, an aftereffect of exposure to ether. It wasn't pleasant, but it also wasn’t incapacitating. She tried the door: given that they were at sea, it didn't surprise her that the portal opened freely. After all, she wasn't exactly going to walk away.
A LARGE yacht, she corrected mentally. An ocean liner, from the length of the corridor. She turned briefly to note the number on her room, then strode forward to the first set of stairs she encountered. She hoped she was right in believing that since she hadn't yet been harmed, she was reasonably safe in moving freely. If this was a public vessel, she'd be able to call for help. If private, she'd eventually have to deal with her captors anyway. Now was as good a time as any.
She made her way up two flights and stepped out onto a deck. Not a public liner, she decided; not enough people for a cruise ship, and the handful of crew members weren’t wearing uniforms.
"Good morning, Dana."
Scully whirled at the familiar voice, her eyes narrowing as they lit on the cigarette in the old man's mouth. "You," she hissed through clenched teeth. "I thought pirate ships went out with the revolutionary war."
"Welcome aboard," he returned cheerfully. "I'm sorry about the undignified invitation. There really wasn't time to quibble. I needed to speak to you now."
"This is the 21st century. Ever hear of a telephone?"
He chuckled. "Touchè! There are extenuating circumstances, though. I knew you'd understand when I tell you. Mulder's life is in danger, you know. I suppose you could call me his guardian angel."
"Guardian angel, huh?" Scully retorted. "I can think of several terms to describe you. Angel isn't on the list. You said Mulder's life is in danger: I'm listening."
"Truly, Dana, I'm injured. I'm just trying to help save a man's life. As you've already ascertained, Alex Krycek is involved. He's been working both sides of the fence, in case you're wondering about my motives. I know you don't accept in my benevolence out of hand, so consider it this way. Krycek has been toying with the former USSR for far too long. They've become miffed, and his latest escapade pushed some very powerful men over the edge. He's managed to acquire an experimental new... technology, for want of a better term. It is actually the embodiment of your precious X-Files, a blend of science and the paranormal, a combination of drugs and hypnosis and technological elements which, when applied in the right combination, can rewrite a man's soul. That's what's happened here. Krycek found a man with the right physical characteristics, downloaded Mulder's personality and memories, and voilà! Two Mulders."
Scully eased into a deck chair, considering. "Let's say I believe you. Why would you tell me this, and why would Krycek elect to duplicate an enemy? Why not download a friendly personality into an enemy and create a friend?"
"Krycek selected his guinea pig with one other personality quirk, one of which I'm sure you're not aware. Mulder's twin is a killer for hire, and a very good one, from what I'm told. What better way to eliminate the competition? He kills the real Mulder and transitions smoothly into place, convincing you and everyone else that he's the real deal. Only he's not. He's Krycek's patsy. Mulder's enough of a challenge on his own. I don't want a Mulder with the added complication of Krycek pulling the strings."
24 hours later
Plants needed watering now and then. It was a simple fact of science.
Scully dropped yet another dead pothos into her trash compactor, suppressing the urge to hum a verse of *Amazing Grace* or some other funeral hymn. Her job kept her on the run so much that the average plant didn't stand a chance. She even killed cactus on occasion.
Yep, she thought morosely, best to stick with another silk ficus or ivy. It was amazing that Mulder's fish survived - then again, the Lone Gunmen took care of the aquarium when her partner left town.
At the moment, the Gunmen weren't talking to Scully. In her mind the payoff was well worth the cost. She noticed that Skinner still reddened every time he looked her or Mulder's direction, too.
Her patience and her nerves were becoming dangerously frayed. She'd normally have gone to Mulder, following his instincts, interjecting her own scientific slant, and together they'd follow the situation to its conclusion. Only this time, a consultation with her partner was, by definition, impossible. She didn't know who her partner WAS.
As implausible as the Smoking Man's story was, it made as much sense as anything else… with one glaring question mark. Even Cancer Man couldn't explain the genetic similarities between the twins. They were simply too close for Krycek to have pulled some schmo off of the streets, even one who looked like Mulder.
And she was still no closer to figuring out which was the real Mulder, which left her little better off than before. If, in fact, both men shared Mulder's memories, they were genetically too close to call, and they were physically indistinguishable, she wasn't sure it was possible to discern the truth until it was too late - and then, no one would ever believe her when she cried wolf.
48 Hours Later
Krycek strode forward, smirking. He reached out and grabbed Mulder's tie, flipping it up contemptuously. "How can you stand wearing that stupid monkey suit every day?"
*Mulder* shrugged. "Just part of the job, Krycek."
Something about the way the other man said his name caused Krycek to pause. "Something wrong? Because I'm getting impatient. You've had all the time in the world and Mulder's still alive." Krycek flipped open a box of cigarettes, pushing one of the paper-wrapped cylinders toward his hired killer.
"No thanks, I don't smoke," the other man replied absently.
Krycek stopped dead. "Since WHEN?" he demanded. "You ARE Popovich, aren't you?"
Popovich/Mulder looked startled. He stared at the cigarette, reaching for the familiar object, putting it to his lips. "Yeah, it's me ... I think."
"What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?" Krycek asked, incredulous.
"I don't know, man. I mean, I'm HIM. I think like he thinks, walk like he walks, live his life. I swear, I feel what he feels! I want to kill him, but it's like he's controlling me. I can't explain it. And Scully. You know what this will do to her?"
Krycek grabbed the other man's lapel, snarling, "Look, Popovich, I hired you to do a job. You get the best of all worlds if you do it, but if you don't, I will slice you right down to individual atoms. I hired you to kill Mulder. You blow the man away and you get to comfort Scully any way you want. It's your job to convince her that you're him, anyway. You told me you don't have a conscience. You're the best, you said. Now PROVE IT. I want Mulder dead within twenty four hours or I'll take you BOTH out, and take Scully along with you."
"You touch Scully," growled Popovich icily, "And I'll personally demonstrate to you just how good a killer I am."
Mulder dragged himself out of bed, stumbling to the kitchen to get a couple of aspirin. He gulped down the pills with a water chaser and dropped into a chair in the hall. He glanced through the darkness to the sofa, where he was sleeping.
He laughed softly, humorlessly, still unable to reconcile the absurdity of watching his mirror come to life. It gave a whole new layer to his FBI nickname, "Spooky". One he'd like to forget.
He didn't mind that the man looked like him; it was a little weird, ok, but he could appreciate the double-takes it drew when they walked together in public, the assumptions that they were actually identical twins. People lived with twins. Granted, they generally had a whole lifetime to get used to the idea, but it was survivable.
Of course, a twin didn't typically claim to BE you, seriously wanting to acquire your life. This whole fiasco tugged at something else at the fringe of his memory, something to do with Area 51 ... Ah, but that had been a dream, the disquieting, FICTIONAL recollection Scully had blamed on a bad burrito in a fruitless flight to New Mexico. This was real and even more perplexing.
He picked up a pencil, chewing on the eraser, and he began to shake. His mind flashed back to the alley where he'd wakened, bloodied and bruised, bereft of his soul. He remembered the sour scent of rotting garbage, the damp chill of falling rain, the discomfort of going too long without bathing, the one-two punch of overwhelming hunger and pain.
Only he was seeing HIMSELF in that situation, the brutal beating administered by his own hands, the kidnapping that preceded it, the drugs and hypnosis, everything.
The pencil fell, clattering to the floor, echoing like the report of gunfire against the wooden floor. His double sat up straight, and the two men stared at each other with absolute understanding and crystal clear memory. Mulder remembered Krycek, remembered the contract to kill, the deal with the devil that endangered them all, even Scully.
He knew that his twin shared every breath of his history in intimate detail. He was missing only one detail.
He wasn't sure if he was MULDER or POPOVICH. And from the look in the other man's eyes, his look-alike was in the same boat.
Scully woke with a start, her heart threatening to rip through the wall of her chest. She was hyperventilating, light-headed and frightened out of her wits. She dreamed again of her partner as she'd found him in the phone booth, only this time she was too late and he'd already slipped beyond her help.
It's only a dream, she reminded herself, struggling to bring her vital signs under control. *It's not real. Mulder's alive.*
Another voice argued, ONE OF THEM IS A KILLER AND HE'S OUT TO MURDER MULDER! She had no proof other than the words of a man who had elevated lying to an art form, and yet ...
Mulder and his clone - or whatever he was - were sleeping in the same apartment, sharing the same food and clothing. The only change since the appearance of the double was the fact that neither was allowed to return to work, pending positive identification. As a result, the two were pretty much joined at the hip, only separating occasionally for breathing space. If the artifice WAS a killer, he'd had ample time to complete the job before now.
She hesitated briefly, then pushed herself to her feet, reaching for her clothes. Something was happening, something critical, and she had to know what it was.
She wasn't surprised to see the light on in Mulder's window when she pulled into the only empty parking space near his building. Drawing a deep, cleansing breath, she locked her car and, portraying a confidence she didn't feel, she loped across the pavement.
Moments later, Scully raised her hand to knock on the familiar apartment door, her mind racing with possibilities and settling on none. She was a little surprised to see both men's hand on the doorknob, their responses timed so closely that it was like they literally were operating with a single mind. As she walked through the threshold, both men performed synchronous turns and walked in perfect unison behind her.
That thought clicked for her and she began connect the dots. It dawned on her that Krycek's scheme backfired and that his hired killer had become TOO much like Mulder, acquiring the conscience that prevented the cold-blooded murder of another man. She saw it in both pair of hazel eyes - the fear and anguish of their unwelcome, shared understanding.
"You shouldn't be here, Scully, it's dangerous."
"One of us is a killer."
She stepped inside, closing the door behind her. "I don't believe that, not any more. Krycek's little game isn't what he expected, is it? Which one of you is Mulder and which one is ratboy's hired gun? Do you even know?" She searched the uncertainty in the matching faces and knew before they answered that she was right. "What's your name?" she challenged the man on the right. "How about yours?" she asked the other.
Both men looked at each other, then Scully, then back at each other. In perfect unison, they answered, "My name is Andrei Nicolai Popovich."
Scully didn't breathe. "You aren't both Popovich and you aren't both Mulder," she replied, her voice more steady than she thought possible. "You share the same memories and both personalities, though, don't you?"
"Yes," the duo whispered concurrently.
The Mulder to her right wore a heather gray tee shirt, the other one that was crisp white. Otherwise, they appeared absolutely identical.
"I have a theory," she offered slowly. "I think that whatever was done to you, whatever its original purpose, created a link between you, an extremely complex neurological connection that truly blends your two psyches. That means whatever happened before, you truly are both Mulder now."
The man in the white shirt nodded, agreeing. "I think you're right, except it didn't stop there."
His counterpart concluded, "The link went both ways. We're both Mulder ... and we're both Popovich. And if Popovich doesn't kill Mulder - "
"Krycek promised to kill us all, including you, Scully. You know we can't let that happen."
The implications finally hit her with their full impact. BOTH of these men were, in the most integral ways, the same man she'd come to know over so many years together. She raised troubled blue eyes to first one, then the other. They might have the memories of a murderer, but it was the personality of her partner that dominated. "I've thought of a way to find the original Mulder," she murmured softly. "It's something I forgot until I saw an ad on TV for the movie 'Scarface'. The real Mulder has a scar in his left shoulder, the trace of a bullet that went all the way through. I know because I fired the shot that caused it."
"Right after my father died," replied the Mulder on the right, plucking at his gray shirt even as he spoke. Seconds later, he stood bare-chested, and Scully and Popovich stood staring at the telltale mar on otherwise smooth skin.
Popovich stepped back in shock, his hand tracing the spot on his own shoulder where memory told him a bullet had pierced his flesh. But he had to accept the absolute that stood before him. "Well," he said shakily, "I guess that's that. I am Andrei Popovich. I was hired to kill Mulder, and if it means saving Scully, that's what I'm going to do." Popovich reached for the service revolver hanging from the bookshelf, drawing it from its holster.
Mulder twisted in place, pushing his slender partner behind him, sheltering her with his own larger frame as the report of a gun rang out.
Mulder sagged against his partner, his breath coming in huge gulps. He stiffened, and for a moment Scully thought he was gone. Instead, he raised his head, swiveling to look at the assailant. "I'm not hurt, Scully." He sounded surprised, and for Scully worried he might have been hit without realizing it; but he gained his footing without any apparent difficulty, drawing her up with him. Steadying each other, they turned to look at their opponent.
Mulder, stunned, gestured toward Popovich's ruined face. "He must have put the gun to his mouth and pulled the trigger."
Unnerved, Scully stared partner's crumpled form. Even knowing it wasn't really him, the image was like a knife through her midsection. Weeks of cumulative stress and uncertainty finally claimed its due, her knees buckled. Her partner's arms circled her to prevent her fall. She was vaguely aware that Mulder continued to speak.
"He was me. If your life was at stake, I'd have done the same thing." His voice trailed off and he hugged her to him. His heart beat a staccato rhythm against her ear.
Sons of Israel Hospital
A very young Teena Mulder was groggy but anxious. "What is it? Is something wrong with my baby? I thought I heard two cries. He's not a two-headed monster, is he?"
The middle-aged doctor took everything in stride, allowing for the effect that anesthesia had on some of his OB-GYN patients. "Your baby is fine, Mrs. Mulder. You have a healthy little boy. We just had a little trouble with the afterbirth, nothing to be concerned about. You're both perfectly normal."
He handed the child to a nurse, who clamped an ID anklet on the boy, its typed tag stating "Mulder - Boy". The nurse gave the mewling infant a hurried bath and wrapped him in a blue blanket, then settled the child in his mother's arms. "Congratulations, Mrs. Mulder. You're now officially a mother."
Teena stroked the dark-haired infant. "My little boy," she cooed, "My sweet little Fox."
Across the room, another nurse carried out the writhing results of the *difficult afterbirth*, wrapped in surgical towel. She carried the bundle into another delivery room, where she cleansed a second baby boy, wrapping him in an identical blue blanket and fastening an ankle bracelet that read, "Popovich - Boy".
She murmured comforting sounds to the infant as a young man approached. The nurse gave him a scathing look. "You can't smoke in here, Mr. Popovich. Hospital rules." Nonetheless, she placed the newborn into the arms of the young CSM.
Scully glanced at the clock on her desk. Nearly one a.m., according to the digital readout. She passed a weary hand over her eyes.
She hardly slept since the tragic encounter in Mulder's apartment, and his own face was lined with the same sense of grief. Given that she was awake, anyway, she'd thumbed the button to turn on her laptop and decided to write the conclusion to her report on the now-closed X-File. She took a deep breath, knowing it was a report that her partner would read, as well, and she didn't like the implications she was required to address.
Her fingers flew over the keyboard, clicking out the words that ate away at her consciousness.
**All of Agent Mulder's personnel records have now been restored and updated, fingerprints and dental charts, DNA samples, everything as it was before, all taken anew from the man at the center of this case. I am convinced that he is the man with whom I have worked for the past seven years.*
**I am, however, bound by duty and by ethics to address the findings of myself and of the Medical examiner. The ME identified the body as one Andrei Nicolai Popovich, Caucasian, six foot tall, 178 pounds, brown hair and hazel eyes. What I didn’t know is that Andrei Popovich shares Agent Mulder's birth date and birthplace - including the same hospital and attending physician. I had already concluded that the genetic comparisons were too close to be coincidental, that whatever official records stated, Popovich was related by blood to Agent Mulder. With the new evidence, I have no choice but to believe that the two are identical twins separated at birth. The birth records were undoubtedly manipulated to cover a kidnapping of Andrei.*
**There is one more aspect to the autopsy report, one with even more disturbing implications. The pathology report states that the victim died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the face. It also says that he had been shot before.*
**An old wound, a single projectile through the upper left shoulder.”**