The X-iles

Extenuating Circumstances

Sweeney Todd Review
NonEssential and NonExistent's NonsEnse
Push's Pad
Xtreme Unction's Labor of Love
Sacred Heart's Ambry
Satchie's "On the Safe Side"
Site Correspondence
Aye, There's the Rum


By Xtreme Unction & Obfusc8er

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Requiem

Summary: An alternative Requiem, but a requiem nonetheless.

Disclaimer: These characters belong to FOX, Chris Carter, and/or 1013 Productions. This was a labor of love, not for profit.

Authors' Notes: This was written for Mulder's Refuge July "Moose on the Loose" contest. The authors dedicate this to NonEssential & NonExistent, two very talented people stepping out of their artistic comfort zone. We should all be so brave.

-- PART 1/7 --

"I'm sorry, but I'm really not him."

She nodded her head, raised her eyebrows and said, "Okay."

It seems that no matter what I tell Anne, she will take it in stride. Must be one of the first lessons they teach you when training to be a legal secretary: just ignore all the nonsense that comes out of your boss' mouth. She was looking at me like she was used to this kind of erratic behavior from -- I checked the business cards in the Waterford crystal holder on his desk -- Kevin Michaels, Esquire. Despite all the trappings of success, it was pretty clear that Kevin had his moments of sheer nonsense.

Even his office was a study in contradictions.

I found myself sitting in his traditional black leather chair, complete with metal rivets lining the seams, facing a solid cherry desk roughly the size of my dining table. It wasn't just the desk. All of the furniture in his office was large, expensive, and imposing. It made me feel small, even in Kevin's tall, muscular form. Yet under the desk, hidden from view, were a couple of moose on the loose -- a pair of furry moose slippers, antlers and all.

The walls were covered with matted diplomas and autographed pictures of a handsome, smiling man, shaking hands with pop culture icons and heads of state. Yet, on his bookshelves was a collection of little framed Dilbert and Far Side cartoons.

Oddly interspersed among thick legal tomes and leather-bound treatises in his office were books like "Donkey Kong 64 Official Strategy Guide," "Cross-Stitch for Dummies," "Alien Agenda: Investigating the Extraterrestrial Presence Among Us," and...

I did a quick double take.

Alien Agenda?

Over by the window, sitting in the middle of his conference table, was an elegant crystal centerpiece full of slinky toys, bobble head sports dolls, Rubik's cubes and little superhero action figures. One of the plastic figures -- a star-spangled Wonder Woman -- was lying abandoned on the plush Persian carpet underneath the table. And here in front of me, next to his laptop, buried underneath a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6), whatever that might be, was a small stack of Marvel Comics.

The phone, a large complicated affair sitting to my right, had each direct-intercom button clearly labeled. Anne's button was front and center, of course. That's how I knew her name. Right next to it was a red plastic stick-on button -- the kind you get at a gag store. It said "Panic!" I felt like pushing it right now.

I swiveled the chair around to look out the wall of windows behind me. The azure sky met the deep blue of the ocean at some indefinable point in the horizon. Around me were tall, mirrored buildings that seemed to radiate the heat of the golden mid-afternoon sun. The ocean, the sun...

I gasped and swung around quickly, grabbing the Motion papers off my desk to look at the top left corner. There was Kevin Michaels' name, state bar number and address. In Los Angeles.

I shook my head, as if to clear it. Ten minutes ago, I somehow found myself sitting in this chair. I can't explain it. I have no idea how I got here, or why I seemed to have become someone else. The last thing I remember was standing in the forest in Bellefleur, talking to my partner and Richie.

A knock at the door made me look up. Anne was entering with a thick sheaf of papers. "This is the revised draft of the Arnett settlement agreement. Do you want to take a look at it before I messenger it to Orange County?"

"I don't know anything about Arnett," I said truthfully.

She rolled her eyes and said, "I'll take that as a no."

As she was leaving, she grumbled, "I cleared your calendar for
tomorrow, as you requested. MacNamara wasn't happy, but he agreed to reschedule."

She turned around to scrutinize me from the door. I sat very still, half afraid she would realize I'm not her boss, the other half hoping she would, just so that I could be sure it wasn't me going crazy.

After a second, she said, "I think you need a haircut."

I nodded slowly. "Okay."

"I'll go ahead and book it. You want Jacques to come here, or can you make it down to the salon instead?"

I stared at her dumbly.

She let a full minute go by before finally saying, irritably, "Just let me know when you decide. And quit being such a space cadet! You'll scare the staff."

With that, she left.

I slumped in the chair, defeated. Who is this man, and how did I get in his body?

Looking down at Kevin's neatly manicured but well-calloused hands, I realized the first thing I needed to do was call Mulder.

-- PART 2/7 --


Hearing his voice on the phone suddenly brought home the absurdity of this situation. What in the world was I supposed to tell him? That I was in someone else's body, sitting in someone else's chair, in this richly appointed office, on the 44th floor of a skyscraper three thousand miles away?

"Hello? Is there anyone there?" He asked in an impatient tone.

"Mulder, it's me." I finally said. The deep, masculine resonance of my voice jarred me, but the cadence and inflection was the same. I heard his sharp intake of breath, matching mine.

"Is this some kind of sick joke?"

He was whispering, spitting the words out with so much venom that I recoiled. "Who the hell is this?"

"" I didn't know what to say. Try the truth, I thought.

"My name is Kevin Michaels. I'm an attorney in LA. At least, that's what my business cards say. I...I need to meet with you, to discuss something about Dana Scully."

I heard a barely audible series of clicks, which I knew meant a trace was already in progress.

"Don't bother with the trace." I read him my address off the motion papers in my hand.

"Do you have information on the whereabouts of Agent Scully?" I could hear a twinge of desperation beneath his detached, professional demeanor.

"I...I'm not sure. How long has she been missing?"

My stomach dropped when I heard his reply.

"Six weeks to the day."

His voice was sharp, rushing over the words now, tongue struggling to get the thoughts out as fast as his mind was moving. "Is she in Los Angeles? Have you seen her somewhere? What prompted you to call? Tell me your address and I'll meet with you. I can be on the next flight out."

The sound of his rapid keystrokes was echoing through the phone. Closing my eyes, I could picture him at his desk, logging on to the Internet to find the soonest available flight. His eyes would be shadowed by dark circles contrasted with pale skin, no doubt, and there would be lines of worry on his forehead. The image was simultaneously troubling and reassuring.

"She isn't here. I can come to you. I'll get on the next flight and meet with you at the office."

"The office?" He had suddenly stopped typing.

"Your office, I mean."

"You know where my office is?"

"Yes, Mulder. I do." I sighed deeply.

He paused, as if taken aback by my response. "I can have an agent from our LA field office with you in 20 minutes. Just sit tight. And I'll see you first thing tomorrow morning in LA, Mr. Michaels."

"But..." I just want to go home, but I know it would be much less
complicated to let him come to me.

"Yes?" he asked.

"Never mind."

"Have you seen Agent Scully?" His voice contained an infinite sadness that made my heart ache.

"No. But I know that she's fine, Mulder."

"The way you said that, Mr. Michaels, sounded just like she would say it." Again, I heard the grief and longing in his voice. I swallowed the growing lump in my throat.

"It's a long story. We can talk tomorrow. Forget about the field agent; just meet me at my house, as soon as you can."

Uncharacteristically, he accepted that brush-off. I hung up and buried my face in my hands. I felt like crying, but my male physiology would not allow it to happen so easily. So much for the invalidity of Mars and Venus theories. Perhaps there really is a chemical difference.

-- PART 3/7 --

Anne again, at the door with more paperwork. She didn't say a word as she placed the stack in the leather-wrapped in-box on my desk.

Poor Kevin. Does this woman ever leave him alone?

She has a very schoolmarmish air about her, with her strawberry blond hair twisted neatly into a chignon, a pair of cats-eye rimmed glasses perched on her patrician nose, and her lips in a constant purse. Maybe she senses something is wrong with her boss. She could be a very attractive woman, if she wasn't always frowning. The frown deepened as she turned and left.

How am I supposed to get home, where I could have Mulder meet me without Ms. "Hawkeyes" Anne sticking her nose in every 5.2 seconds? I know how people live in Southern California -- everyone drives their own car, there are few taxis, and people commute as much as an hour a day over mind-boggling convoluted freeways. Kevin could live anywhere in this great urban sprawl.

Where are his keys and his wallet? They weren't in my pants pockets, I realized after groping about. Maybe in his suit jacket. I stood up and walked around the office, looking for them.


Then I noticed an internal door.

I twisted the knob and pushed it open to find one of the most elegant washrooms I have ever seen. There, between the pewter-basined pedestal sink and the glass-enclosed octagonal shower stall, stood a white armoire. I pulled both doors open and found his jacket, along with a spare suit encased in dry-cleaner's plastic, a couple of extra dress shirts, a couple of ties, brand-new underwear, athletic shorts, t-shirts, and a pair of running shoes.

Two sets of keys were in his jacket pockets. I found a heavy ring in his right outer hip pocket. It had about 10 different keys on it, one of which has to be his house key. The other ring, which I found in the inside breast pocket, held a black plastic car key that didn't even look like a key. No metal -- it looked like just the handle of the key with the car-maker's insignia on it. How odd. So this is how expensive cars are driven nowadays? With non-keys? I shook my head in wonder.

Is he married? I looked at my hands, I mean his hands, and found no rings. Of course, that doesn't mean anything in this day and age. What if I arrived home and found a wife and kids waiting for me? No pictures of a family anywhere, so it seemed unlikely. Still, I was worried. I hope he has no family, no girlfriend or lover, and no one that will miss him as much as Mulder...

What am I saying? I sighed deeply and took it back. Why would I wish such a thing on anybody?

Stepping back to assess all the beautiful possessions, the high-powered job, and the money he clearly has in great abundance -- what does any of it mean if Kevin doesn't have someone who cares enough about him to notice that he isn't quite "himself"? Of what value is any of this if Kevin doesn't have someone that loves him enough to miss him, someone that would move heaven and earth to find him if he is lost?

Anne's voice was calling to Kevin from the office. It shook me out of my reverie. I grabbed the jacket and exited the washroom, a solution in mind.

"I'm not feeling too well. Will you please drive me home?"

To her credit, she looked stunned for only a split-second. "Sure," she murmured, concern marring her otherwise smooth brow. "Why don't you sit down while I get us ready?" She pointed to the couch in the corner. I went over and laid down.

Anne looked distraught to see her boss flat on his back. She
approached me and said, "Should I take you to the hospital instead?"

"No," I replied. "Please, Anne, I just need to get home, to take a few aspirin and rest."

"You always push yourself too hard," she whispered. "Don't I always tell you to slow down a little? To give yourself a break?" I was shocked to find that she looked on the verge of tears.

"I'm fine." I said, out of habit. "Please don't worry. I just need some rest."

My mind was working overtime as she rounded Kevin's desk, pulled his laptop computer out of its docking bay and packed it into a briefcase. She was wearing a modest black sheath dress with a matching black blazer, but the scarf at her neck was Hermes -- probably worth more than the rest of the outfit put together. And the watch on her wrist was a platinum Rolex. Just how well paid are legal secretaries in big firms? They must be gifts.

Were she and Kevin lovers?

Not necessarily, I decided. A scarf and a watch are entirely appropriate to give one's secretary. Extravagant enough to show how much she is valued, but nothing too personal.

Even if they are lovers, I realized it wasn't something I needed to worry about right now. My feigned illness could cover any unwillingness to hold her hand or kiss her goodbye.

Good Lord!

My eyes popped open and I developed a genuine headache at the mere thought. It brought home to me the fact that I was in a male body, with male physiology, even though every ounce of my soul was female and straight. There was no way I could be attracted to Anne, kiss her, or God forbid, make love to her. No matter how beautiful and caring she may be, I could not do it. For the first time in my life, I truly empathized with homosexuals. It made my heart ache for every gay person I have ever known.

And it made my heart ache for all the missed opportunities in my own life. For how rare is it to find someone you truly love, desire, and respect? How seldom is such a gift given to each soul? And when a person finds their perfect other, how great a crime is it for that person to squander the blessing?

-- PART 4/7 --

Anne carried my briefcase, her purse and her keys in one hand. She turned to look at me and said, "Do you need help or can you manage to walk to the elevator by yourself?"

The look on her face indicated she would much rather not have to deal with the gossip that would certainly erupt throughout the office if she was seen holding me up as we made our way to the elevator.

"I'll be fine," I reassured her.

She drove me home in a very clean four-door luxury sedan, classical music playing softly in the background. I almost tripped over my newly acquired long legs while getting into the car, but once seated I felt very comfortable.

She slipped off her jacket and hung it neatly in the back before getting in the driver's seat. After fastening her seatbelt, she turned to me, unwilling to start the car until I did the same. I buckled up dutifully. She reminded me a lot of myself, I realized.

I slumped down and asked if she would mind if I slept.

"Of course not. Sleep. I'll wake you when you're home."

But I didn't sleep. Instead, I watched carefully as she exited the parking garage, traversed the streets of downtown LA, then got on the 10 freeway. Twenty minutes later, we wound up in front of a striking ocean-view home in Pacific Palisades.

She parked in the circular driveway, got out of the car, and came around to my side. I opened the door and handed her my jacket, saying, "I think the keys are in there."

As soon as we entered, she strode across the marble floors into the spacious modern kitchen, over to a tiny white electronic security wall-panel. Apparently she had the alarm code. Thank goodness, I thought.

"Come on, I'll take you upstairs and get you situated," she said in a completely nonchalant voice, as if she had done this a million times before. I followed her obediently.

When we got upstairs, she opened a set of double doors that led to Kevin's bedroom. A king size bed dominated the space. It was high enough that I would have needed to hop up onto it in my own body. The walls were unadorned, except for a plasma TV hanging on the wall like a piece of art. Still no pictures of family or friends in sight. Kevin kept his electronics in a solid cherry entertainment center across from the foot of his bed. DVD player, three different video game consoles, a Bose surround sound system...

It's a wonder he ever leaves the room, I thought.

"You get undressed and under the covers, while I get you some water and aspirin."

I nodded and did as told.

When she emerged from the adjoining bathroom, glass and aspirin in hand, I took them and whispered my thanks.

She studied me, hard, for a moment.

Then she reached down, cupped my cheek and said, "Feel better soon, Kev."

I closed my eyes as she turned to leave.

-- PART 5/7 --

We were both hunched forward with our elbows on our knees, studying each other carefully from across the coffee-table in the den.

He looked haggard, with dark circles under his grief-stricken eyes. He was thinner than usual, his posture exuding a sense of weariness. I knew I looked just as bad in Kevin's body, if not worse. I had a day old growth of stubble on my cheeks and all the telltale signs of not having slept a wink the night before.

"That's really you in there, isn't it Scully?" he asked.

Wordlessly, I got up from the couch and walked to the other end of my room.

"What do we do now? I'm open to any suggestions you might have," I said.

When he arrived at my house this morning, I answered the door in a pair of faded button-fly jeans and a white t-shirt that stretched across my chest and biceps. I stood a couple of inches taller than him in my bare feet, which was a very strange feeling. Looking down a bit to meet his eyes, the moment our gazes connected, I saw a flash of recognition in his. He was actually speechless.

He was wearing the green Jerry Garcia tie my mother gave him two Christmases ago. I grinned, despite myself. Before I could think about the implications, the words were out my mouth.

"My mother will be so pleased you're finally wearing that tie, Mulder."

He looked stricken.

My smile faded as I stood aside to let him in. I wasn't even sure what my smile looked like at the moment. I have heard of people feeling uncomfortable in their own skin, but this was an entirely different level of weirdness. Soon, I found myself sitting across from him, withstanding his intense scrutiny.

It never ceases to amaze me, how willing Mulder is to accept
unexplained phenomena at face value. It took him all of two minutes to come to terms with it. Meanwhile, I'm pacing around the den again, still trying to wrap my brain around the concept that kept me up all night and nearly drove me insane already.

I'm not unfamiliar with this kind of struggle, you know. I spent many an all-nighter in college and med school, trying to make sense of ideas that I had never before encountered. I reveled in the challenge. Eventually all the tumblers would turn over, the locks would disengage, and the door would swing open in my brain. No such luck this time.

I continued to pace as he sat on the couch, dazed.

"I searched everywhere for you, Scully. I practically lived in those woods for weeks, looking for you, hoping to find any sign of you." His voice broke. "I called in every favor. I begged, borrowed and stole. No one could help me, of course. And I started to lose hope. Deep down I knew it was all for naught. I knew. You had been...taken." His voice dropped down to a whisper. "Again."

I turned to look at him and found him sitting on the floor now, his knees drawn up and his head down. He was sobbing like a child.

"Mulder..." I went to him and kneeled down to face him. As I placed my hands on his forearms and leaned my head down to touch his, I felt him stiffen and push back.

Okay. I forgot I was in a male body.

Our souls recognize each other, despite the form of external shell
surrounding us at the moment. But our physical bodies recoiled at the touch of any hand except the familiar.

He read my mind. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." He apologized, but it was already too late. I was back to standing all the way across the room again. "It's not that your current body happens to be male -- it's that you aren't in Scully's body. I just want my Scully back," he whispered in a hoarse voice.

I brushed back my tears that came unbidden.

Neither of us had any idea what to do to now.

When the doorbell rang, we simultaneously looked up in shock. Both of us quickly tried to wipe away the emotional evidence from our faces. After all, each of us had a male ego to protect...mine just happened to be elsewhere at the time. While I went to answer the door, Mulder stood up and straightened his tie.

It was Anne.

Silently, she took in my tear-stained cheeks and Mulder's obvious
distress before stating, "This is not the way it was supposed to happen."

"What?" Mulder and I said in unison.

"S-something..." she stammered, looking at me fearfully, "something's gone terribly wrong."

-- PART 6/7 --

I grabbed her hand and pulled her into the house. "Please tell me you know how to fix this, Anne. Please tell me you know what's going on."

"Where is Scully's body?" Mulder demanded.

"Who the hell are you?" she asked, fear and defiance in her eyes.

"My name is Fox Mulder. I'm a Special Agent with the FBI. Now where is Agent Scully?"

Anne started crying. "I'll take you to the facility. But I don't know how to fix anything."

"We'll cross that bridge when we get there," I remarked, as I ran to the hallway closet for a jacket and some shoes. "Take us there now. Mulder will drive," I told her.

I jumped in the passenger side of Mulder's rental car, while Anne settled in the back. Twisting in my seat, I stared at Anne with renewed eyes as she gave Mulder driving directions. I knew there was something more to those hard stares she was fixing on me yesterday. I just hope she has more information than we do at the moment.

"Do you and Kevin work with the people that abducted Scully?" Mulder asked in a steely voice. I recognized that tone. He was desperately trying to hold back his emotions. Rage, helplessness, fear. His knuckles were white on the steering wheel.

"Yes, but we didn't know." She was sounding tense. Her posture was defensive, arms crossed tightly over her chest.

"Why don't you start from the beginning, Anne?" I prompted in a gentle voice. It was Kevin's voice. She relaxed considerably.

"It's a very established client, lots of assets in real estate and precious metals, but we only manage their West Coast holdings. Kevin started digging and..." her voice broke before continuing.

"I told him not to ask too many questions, but he said he smelled
something fishy. He wouldn't listen to me. He said he had an ethical obligation to verify the accuracy of the asset statements he was getting from the client. I repeatedly asked him to leave well enough alone. Some secrets are better off unknown..."

Profound, I thought. But why would she say such a thing? Was she part of the agenda?

"Go on," Mulder said.

"He went on an unannounced site inspection at several of the client's largest warehouses. Everything seemed kosher, until he found something neither of us could believe at this one facility near Terminal Island. It looked like an old field hospital from the outside, which is nothing unusual, considering the location. It's near a decommissioned naval base. When he entered, he found every bed was filled with comatose women in various stages of pregnancy."

Upon hearing her words, my vision blurred. I heard Mulder gasp beside me. The car slowed and swerved slightly as the revelation hit him with physical force. I found myself bent over in phantom pain, reflexively grabbing at my stomach.

No, no, no.

This can't be true.

Flashes of memory from my first abduction, of sterile medical equipment, white-masked scientists and women holding my hand careened through my mind. They weaved in and out, dancing among the more recent memories of intravenous lines in my arms, hushed whispers in bright halls, and the sounds of newborns crying nearby.

But I knew it was true. I knew, just as Mulder knew. He was staring at me worriedly now.

All the tumblers were turning over, the locks were disengaging, and the door was swinging wide open in my brain.

Anne continued to talk.

"He called me from the facility, about six weeks ago, to tell me what he found. And he said he was watching them bring in a new one. A red-haired woman with skin so pale she looked dead."

Mulder sucked in a quick breath. He looked ashen.

"Everyone seemed to accept Kev's presence because they thought he was acting under corporate authority. He pulled her chart and found out she was a Fed. It said so brazenly, right there on her forms. That's when he knew something was very, very wrong. The women were not there willingly."

Tears were streaming down Anne's face as she was telling us this. It was a wonder she could see through them enough to give driving directions.

"He knew better than to upset the apple cart at the time, but he had me start digging immediately. He wanted names and phone numbers for all the board members. He wanted to speak to them directly, instead of just to our usual liaison. He wanted to get to the bottom of everything and get those kidnapped women home."

Mulder adjusted the rear-view mirror to look at Anne's face as she related the facts. I just stared ahead, transfixed in horror.

"I told him it was insane!" Anne cried. "I told him there was probably nothing we could do to halt this. He was just one man. It was a huge operation. 'Please,' I begged him, 'please tread carefully.' These are powerful men."

"His partners at the firm ordered him to drop it, but he wouldn't." She continued, her voice rising to near hysteria. "The client threatened to withdraw all of its business, but he threatened them with exposure. Subtle death threats were made against him, but he made equally subtle threats. He said his untimely death would result in a press leak the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He wouldn't let it go. He said this was not the kind of thing any decent human being could just let go."

No one spoke for a while. Finally, Anne looked at me with an indefinable mixture of love and sadness in her eyes. She was studying Kevin's features, drinking them in like a desert nomad about to embark on a journey across the Kalahari.

"The very thing that is most aggravating about Kevin is the same thing that makes him such a wonderful man. He just doesn't know when to give up," she whispered.

"What happened to him?" Mulder asked hoarsely.

"I don't know," she answered in a nearly dead voice. "They promised him they would let the Fed go -- the woman with the red hair, your Agent Scully. She was the only one whose life was not going to be endangered by release, they told him. The rest were too far along in the experiments to survive. He seemed to calm down upon hearing this. I thought things would finally settle down. Then all of a sudden, yesterday, he started acting strangely. He was not himself."

She leaned forward from the back seat, grabbed Mulder's arm, and whispered fiercely, "You have to get him back, Agent Mulder. I need him back." Fire was blazing out of her red-rimmed eyes. "We may just work together, we may not be married, but understand that he...he means everything to me. He is the most significant other I have ever known."

Mulder took his eyes off the road and stared at her for a moment before saying, "I understand exactly how you feel, Anne. I promise you, I will do everything I can to get Kevin back to you."

I turned my head to look at him upon hearing this, but Mulder wouldn't meet my eyes.

Anne slid back into the seat and continued, "It's not just a selfish request. People like Kevin are important to this world. His work, his contributions -- there is so much more that he is meant to accomplish in this lifetime. He is special, and not just to me. If necessary, I would take his place."

She raised her head to look Mulder in the eye through the rear-view mirror.

"I'm a woman of childbearing age and much more valuable to them than he is. If they won't let him go without a trade, tell them I offer myself in his stead."

Mulder murmured almost inaudibly, "I understand exactly how you feel, Anne."

It was the last thing I remember hearing before passing out.

-- PART 7/7 --

I woke up, a day later, in a hospital bed in D.C. I looked down and found my own small hands, my tired arms, my slightly aching breasts, and my weakened legs, underneath the thin blue hospital gown.

The nurses told me today's date. It is six weeks earlier than yesterday. What happened to time, the universal constant? What happened to everything? My world was topsy-turvy, my mind unable to cope. The more I tried to remember what happened, the less I could recall. All I had was little wisps of memory, which I held onto with all my might even as they were slipping through my fingers like sand: the wetness of his tears on my fingertips, his last chaste kiss on my lips, and his final
whispered words to me.

"No matter where they take me, or what happens, regardless of time, space and dimension -- I will always love you, Scully. Always."

Just the vague memory of his words filled me with a longing so deep that it pierced right through me. The tumblers -- the tumblers were all messed up again. And the locks were firmly in place. I shoved at the door of understanding with all my might, kicked it and pounded on it, but it would not open. I crumbled in a heap at its base instead.

Mulder was missing.

And I was six weeks pregnant.

* * *