mulder-hospitalizedSummary: A dying wish catapults Mulder into an alternate universe; one in which he never had cause to join the FBI. Still, not all is well in Mulderland. Spoiler: End Game. Ingredients: Conspiracy, UST, Angst, Violence, and a few bad words.


February 3, 1995 Somewhere In Alaska 10:34 p.m.

A large, dark spot lay in the still, white snow. With eyes swollen shut and searing with pain, some minor relief was found in the coldness of snow that he had scooped over them. It hadn't been a good idea shooting the alien. He knew he didn't have a clear shot of the base of its neck to kill it. But he let his anger and his anguish for his sister overtake him. All he got for his trouble was a face full of toxic fumes and one pissed off shape shifter who for some strange reason resisted the urge to break his neck. Not that tossing him off the submarine in the middle of frozen nowhere was much of an alternative. He would still die. Only now it would be a slow and agonizing death.

The toxic fumes which had gushed out from the alien's bullet wound had raced quickly to his lungs making breathing excruciatingly difficult. His left arm ached where it had been nearly disconnected from the shoulder when the alien dragged him by the attached handcuff, then dangled him briefly from the top of the hatch. He deemed himself somewhat lucky that his body was slowly becoming numb from the bitter cold. He had known when he left D.C. that he probably wouldn't survive this journey. He was beginning to wish that he had told Scully where he was headed after all. It would be nice to hear her voice right about now asking her favorite question of, "Are you okay, Mulder?"

She would definitely hate him for this. For not only running off without telling her, but getting himself killed as well. She would, of course understand why he had to do this, but she would still not forgive him. She'd be a few steps behind his father though in the unforgiving department. Behind his now useless orbs he still held a vivid picture of his father's face the last time he saw him. Those cold, spiteful eyes had burned into his soul and made him feel unworthy to even breathe the same air as William Mulder. After all, he had just lost his little sister again. Even though she was a clone and there were others where she had come from, he stupidly managed to lose them all. And this great misbegotten venture was his last chance at salvation.

His heavy parka and several layers of clothing did little to keep him warm. He felt a deep chill clear to the bone though he no longer had the energy to shiver. He felt himself slipping quietly under. He would soon sleep a peaceful slumber from which he would not awaken. He thought of saying a small prayer, but found that along with his eyelids, his lips were now frozen shut. He wouldn't have bothered praying for a miracle to save himself, he only wanted to offer a blessing for those he would leave behind. His heart ached at the thought of his mother after just losing her daughter for a second time, now having to grieve for her lost son. And oh, poor Scully. He hoped she wouldn't take his passing too hard. He hoped she wouldn't waste any more of her life chasing after the impossible in a misguided tribute to her late partner.

God, how he wished that none of this had ever happened; that he had never dragged Scully into his paranoid and chaotic world; that he had never undergone hypnotherapy; that in fact his sister had never been abducted. He wondered if he clicked his heels three times if he could wish himself into a hot Jacuzzi with a bag of sunflower seeds and a Baywatch babe.

"I'm sorry, Mom, Dad... Scully. I love you all." Those final sentiments echoed lazily through his brain. Then all at once, the frigid cold and darkness that had engulfed him, mysteriously abated. There was a surge of warmth that seemed to emanate from the center of his heart outward. A faint circle of light blossomed into a blinding glow. He felt himself rising upwards towards the light.

"Fox," a gentle voiced called out to him. "Fox, can you hear me? Wake up."

Mulder's eyes fluttered open, chasing the white light away, as he focused on the owner of the voice that had awaken him. "Frohike?"

"I look like Frohike to you?" the puffy little face with the five o'clock shadow hovering above him asked.

"You're not?"

"You feel safe with Frohike?"

Mulder eyed the little man with the oddly feminine-sounding voice suspiciously. "As long as we're both fully dressed, I suppose so." He glanced down at himself and was relieved to see that indeed he was fully clothed in gray sweat pants and matching shirt.

"How do you feel?" asked Frohike. "Can you sit up?"

There was a faint sensation that told him he shouldn't be able to rise, but when he tried, there was no problem at all in succeeding. He sat up on the beige, leather couch and swung his sneaker-clad feet to the floor, then stood to better take in the unfamiliar surroundings. He was surprised by Frohike's yuppie-like taste in decor. The living room looked like it had been plucked whole from the showroom of one of the better furniture stores.

"It's quite a place you have here, Frohike. I'm a little shocked though. I never figured you for the 'Better Homes and Garden' type."

"Oh, this isn't my place," said Frohike. "It's yours."

Mulder's first inclination was to laugh, and he managed a good chuckle before something astonishing occurred to him. As he turned his attention to the surrealistic painting of wild horses on the wall above the couch, he came to realize that he recognized the artwork. He even recalled the moment he felt that it would make a nice addition to his home. He shifted his gaze to the Aztec marble coffee table with a bronze statue of a ballet dancer atop it. He had purchased the statue at an estate sale because it had reminded him so much of....

"I don't understand what's happening to me." He looked pleadingly to Frohike. "What the hell's going on?"

"Perhaps you should sit down for a moment. I have something to tell you."

Feeling suddenly boneless, Mulder practically collapsed as he plopped down onto the couch.

"What's the last thing you remember just before you woke up?" asked Frohike.

"I... uh... I remember being cold and in pain. I remember... dying." He whispered the last word, afraid to openly admit it to himself. "Is this heaven?"

"Is this your idea of heaven?" Frohike asked.

Mulder glanced about at the stylish and well-coordinated furnishings and shrugged. "Where are all the Playboy Playmates?"

Frohike smiled lightly and said, "If you were in heaven, you wouldn't even care about such things."

"You're really not Frohike, are you? Look, you said you had something to tell me?"

"Well, it's like this. No, you're not dead. You're not in heaven and I'm not really Frohike. I'm your guardian angel."

"My guardian angel?" Mulder grinned. "You must have really pissed off the big guy to get stuck with me."

"Yeah, well it was either you or..." he shivered at an unpleasant thought. "Let's not even go there."

"So, you're my guardian angel and I'm not dead. What happened? You just plucked me off that iceberg and gave me a home in the suburbs?"

"In a manner of speaking. You remember what you wished for just as you were on your way to becoming an archeological find?"

"I wished that I was in a Jacuzzi with a blonde, big-chested babe."

"Yes, but before that, you wished that--"

"My sister had never been taken."

"It was a dying wish. Not all dying wishes are granted, but sometimes for some people...." Frohike smiled warmly. "You got your wish. You didn't die, Fox because you never made that trip to Alaska. You didn't make that trip because you never became an agent with the FBI. You never joined the FBI because you never had to search for your sister, because she was never abducted."

Mulder wanted to dispute everything the man had told him, but the moment he went to open his mouth, the contradicting words vanished from his mind. The little man was right on all accounts, but something still troubled him. "What about Scully?" he had to ask.

"Who's Scully?"

"Scully's my... my, uh...." Exactly what the heck was a Scully anyway? And why was he even wandering about it? Mulder found himself sitting on his living room sofa, scratching his head and trying to figure out what he had been mumbling to himself about. Must have been another one of those weird dreams again. He must have fallen asleep after going for his morning run. Admittedly, that was odd for him, but he had been up late last night baby-sitting a suicidal patient.

The ringing phone gave him a jolt and he sucked in a startled gasp before realizing what the sound meant. He stood up, looking absently around for the phone and spotted the cordless handset on the floor near the leather reclining chair across from him. By the time he was able to reach it and switch it on, he heard his own voice answering from the kitchen.

"Hello, this is Dr. Mulder. Sorry I'm not available to take your call. Please leave a message."

"Hey, Fox, it's me," a familiar female voice spoke to his answering machine. "It's too early for you to have gone to the office already so you must be out running those cute little buns off. Anyway, I just wanted to remind you about Mom & Dad's anniversary dinner tomorrow night. If you have a date, bring her, if not, let me know because I have a friend who would just love to meet you. Call me. Bye." Mulder stared at the flashing red button on the answering machine. He wasn't sure why he hadn't picked up the phone and spoken to his sister. For some reason, her voice had caught him off guard. It must have been that damn, stupid dream. The remnants of it so faint, all that was left was an uneasy sensation that he had forgotten something very important. There was a mild itchiness at the back of his brain that he was forced to ignore when he noticed the time. He had fifteen minutes to shake off the cobwebs, shower and get ready to leave for work.

--------

January 5, 1995 The Summit Building Dr. Mulder's Office

:50 p.m.

"Tell me what to do, Doc." Arnold Matlin pleaded while lying flat on his back and staring up at the ceiling.

"I can't tell you what to do, Arnold. All I can do is make suggestions, but you're going to have to make the final decision on your own. You're the one whose going to have to live with the outcome."

"But I don't know what to do. I don't know how to decide."

"You can start by making a list of the pros and cons of getting married. Think about if you feel ready for a lifetime of commitment, children, in-laws, reduced freedom. Think about having a secured relationship, a friend and partner who will always be there for you."

"Yeah, and sex whenever I want it too," said Arnold rather naively.

Mulder bit down on a chuckle and nodded. "Yeah, well write all those things down, good and bad, and see if the larger amount of good things end up on your 'I do' list." A beeping timer on his watch sounded and Mulder reached to turn it off. "I'm afraid that's our time for now, Arnold. I'll see you next week?"

Arnold jumped to his feet and shook the hand of his psychologist with a nod of his head. "Sure. See ya, Doc."

As his fifth patient of the day left, Mulder sat down behind his desk to make notes. The buzzer on the phone rang the moment he turned on his portable tape recorder. He switched it off again and answered the call.

"What is it, Libby?"

"Dr. Mulder, you have visitors. They're with the FBI."

"FBI? Send them in."

Mulder had no time to even guess what would bring the FBI to his doorstep. He got to his feet just as the door opened and two people strolled purposefully in. The tall, dark-haired man was about his height and weight and a few years younger. The young woman was very petite, red-headed, and wore a no-nonsense expression on her otherwise lovely face.

While flashing her badge, she introduced herself. "Dr. Mulder, I'm Agent Scully and this is my partner, Agent Krychek. We're with the FBI."

Mulder reached out to shake her hand, and as he grasped it, a vague memory nudged the back of his mind. "Did you say Scully?"

"Yes. Dana Scully."

"You seem familiar to me. Have we met before?"

"No, I don't believe so. I'm sure I would have remembered."

Mulder realized that he had held her hand longer than necessary and with a flash of embarrassment he released it and acknowledged Krychek's presence with a minor nod.

"Please, have a seat." He waited until they accepted his hospitality, seating themselves in the two chairs directly in front of his desk, then he sat down again. "So, what can I do for you?"

Scully presented him with a photograph of a casually dressed, young, black man posing proudly in front of the Washington Monument. "Do you recognize the man in this photograph?"

Mulder took a good look at the picture and nodded. "Yes, this is Darnell Beamer. He's a patient of mine," he added in returning the snapshot.

"We assumed as much. We found your card stuck to his refrigerator and your name penciled in several places on his calendar."

"Is Darnell all right?" Mulder asked with genuine concern.

"We're looking for him. He didn't go in to work today. Would you happen to have any idea where he might be?"

"Why are you looking for him? What's going on?"

"We're investigating a series of murders."

"Murder? You think Darnell's a murderer?"

"It looks that way."

Mulder shook his head in disbelief. "I find that a little hard to swallow. Of course, he's got problems, but murder? I've been treating him for eight months now and I'm sure that I would have picked up on it if he had any murderous tendencies."

"All our evidence points strongly in his direction. We just have to find him now before he leaves behind any more evidence to collect. We need your help to stop him."

"I'm not sure how much I can help you. There is such a thing as patient/doctor confidentiality."

Krychek jumped in, barely restraining his anger. "This guy has been hacking up 13 to 16 year-old girls for the past five months. You can't tell me his rights to privacy are more important than those kids rights to live!"

Mulder looked from Krychek to Scully, seeing the weariness and frustration of not being able to capture the man committing those heinous crimes reflected in her eyes. "I'll tell you what I can," said Mulder.

"When was the last time you saw or spoke to Darnell?"

"That would be yesterday. Wednesday is his normal appointment day."

"Did he seem to be in his normal state of mind?"

"Actually, he seemed a bit more agitated than usual."

"And did you question him about this?"

"Yes, but he wouldn't say much. And the things he did say didn't make very much sense to me."

"What did he say? Maybe we can find a connection to the case."

Mulder was reluctant to give out that information. "I'm afraid I can't divulge any of our conversation."

"Look," Krychek threatened, "we can come back with a court order to search your files and confiscate your records, but that takes time, and time is not something we have in abundance. We believe he's taken another girl. He keeps them for three days before he kills them. This is day three." Mulder considered this for a moment and came to a conclusion. "I think I may have an idea where he might be. But I'd like to come with you."

"No way," said Krychek. "You just tell us and we'll handle the rest."

"Look, he's MY patient. I may be able to talk to him, to get him to give himself up without a fight."

"Dr. Mulder," Scully cut in, "Darnell is a very dangerous individual. We can't allow a civilian to accompany us on a case of this nature."

"I'm sorry, but I'm still not convinced that you have the right suspect. Now Darnell happens to be a naturally nervous young man," Mulder told her. "He panics easily. I wouldn't want anyone to get hurt because you or your people misinterprets his reactions to a stressful situation."

"Look, we don't have a lot of time to sit around and argue with you!" Krychek belted out.

"No, you don't," said Mulder in a voice that said he would not compromise.

"Then you'd better tell your receptionist to cancel the rest of your appointments," said Scully.

Exasperated, Krychek glared at his partner momentarily, then shook his head accursedly and stormed out of the office.

"We'll meet you outside," said Scully as she took a bit more time in leaving. "We're parked right across the street."

"I don't think your partner likes me any," said Mulder as he escorted her to the door.

"It's been a tough case. He's on edge."

Mulder nodded. "I understand. Well, let me just converse with my receptionist and I'll be with you in just a minute."

After making arrangements with Libby to reschedule his patients, Mulder caught up with the two FBI agents. Krychek was already behind the wheel of the government issue Taurus while Scully sat on the passenger side. She waved Mulder over and he quickly approached and climbed into the back seat behind the female agent.

"Okay, where are we headed?" Krychek asked.

"You know how to get to the airport?" asked Mulder.

"Of course I do."

"Then start driving. I'll let you know when to turn off."

"Why don't you tell us exactly where we're going?" asked Scully. "We could call in for backup and have a unit that's closer go check it out. I don't think we can afford to waste any time."

"I told you, Darnell is a nervous person. I don't want him hurt and I don't want him to hurt anyone else. If your people rush in on him, I'm afraid that's exactly what might happen."

"If anything happens to that little girl," Krychek threatened, "because of you, I will personally slap the cuffs on you and throw your ass in jail for obstruction of justice."

"I still don't believe you have the right guy."

"Despite the evidence?" asked Scully.

"What evidence?" asked Mulder, leaning forward in his seat to better converse with the young woman in front of him.

Scully twisted slightly in her seat so she was more or less facing Mulder. "We found items in his apartment that belonged to the victims. Hair ribbons and underpants among them. Plus news clippings of all the murders. You still don't think he did it?"

"I... uh.... I don't know what to say to that. If he was going to kill anyone I would imagine it would be someone like your partner there."

"And what the hell is that suppose to mean?" Krychek snapped.

"I thought you said you knew the way to the airport. We should be over in the far right-hand lane."

Krychek swore under his breath and concentrated on moving the car into the appropriate lane. His back seat passenger thankfully kept his mouth shut for several miles. When they approached the airport exit, Mulder informed him to bypass it. They drove silently pass the next exit, then upon reaching the second one, Mulder spoke up again.

"We'll get off here and make a right."

"Where are we going?" Scully asked.

"It's his grandmother's house. She left it to him when she died two years ago. It's not much but it's on a lake and he likes to go fishing there sometimes."

"Skipping work and going fishing on a Thursday? That doesn't seem odd to you?"

"Haven't you ever played hooky from work, Agent Scully?" Catching her straight-laced reflection in the door's rearview mirror, Mulder got his answer. "No, I guess you haven't. We're almost there."

end part 1