TITLE: Fuoco Per Vita
AUTHOR: XSketch
RATING: PG
CLASSIFICATION: S, UST, (come on! when wasn't the show about UST?!), 
MT, SC, mini-casefile, and a tiny smidgen of myth-arc and angst.
SPOILERS: Set early season 2 - pre-Sleepless - so anything up to 
then is game for a passing reference.
SUMMARY: Not all freaks are bad, but they can still be very 
dangerous - a lesson Mulder doesn't learn soon enough.
FEEDBACK: Adored and savored like a fine Chianti
DISCLAIMER: The X-Files and all characters associated with it remain 
property of Chris Carter, Fox, 1013 etc.  ...In my dreams they're 
all mine, mine, mine though - Bwahahahah!!!!!!!!! :)
ARCHIVE: Let me know where, and I'll let you know if.



"Scully, save me."

Three words that form a desperate plea and yet are oddly comedic 
due to their rarity when it comes to passing his lips whine down the 
phone line and make her already-heavy eyelids slip shut.  

Two-thirty in the morning was really not the time for this!

"Scully?"

Her head shakes and free hand rises to wipe over her face, but 
despite the sudden concern he's injected into his tone she doesn't 
reply until another minute of silence has passed.  Technically, 
they're no longer partners so his desperation to fill her in on 
everything - especially at this time in the morning - is a complete 
mystery ...Then again, *technically* the X-Files were shut down, but 
she'd always known that that would never stop him, and when he'd 
told her yesterday about his newest unofficial 'mutant hunt' she'd 
been a long way from either surprised or prepared to try stop him.

"*Scully*? You there?"

"Yes, I'm here, Mulder - *wide* awake at half-two in the morning!"  
She'd meant to make a joke of it, but it had come out as an 
aggressive bark and she could almost see him in his car at the other 
end of the line wincing.  "As for saving you, I'm sorry but you put 
yourself there and it's no longer my job to watch your back."

Mulder shifted uncomfortably in his car seat.  She was right, of 
course, but in the year and a half they'd been partners he'd felt a 
closeness beyond explanation grow between them - a trust and 
friendship he'd never imagined possible, especially with somebody 
that had been sent to spy on him - and he didn't want to lose that 
just because of the FBI's plan to break him.  He'd only mentioned 
the lead he'd gotten on a report of Spontaneous Human Combustion 
because of the hope she'd come with him to check it out...Do a stake-
out just like on their second encounter with Eugene Tooms.

He'd only phoned her now, despite knowing she'd be asleep, to hear 
her voice and relieve his loneliness.

...And, God, that sounded really pathetic!

"I'm sorry I woke you," he apologized sincerely - only briefly 
turning his glance away from the house he'd been watching for the 
past three hours to comb a hand through his thick, dark hair.  "I 
just--"  'Just' what?  "Actually, don't worry about it...Go back to 
sleep, Scully.  I'll see you in the offi--...I mean..."  Oh, crap.  
She probably really did think he was a jackass now!  A crazy, 
selfish jackass.  "I'm really sorry.  I'll catch you later."

His thumb was just reaching to disconnect the call, when she 
suddenly started, "How's the stake-out?"  Sleepy and clearly still a 
little frustrated, but at the same time, God bless her, she 
actually, genuinely sounded interested!

"Cold, wet, uneventful and I could really do with a root beer."

Shifting to sit up against the headboard, Dana smiled and brushed 
several errant strands of hair away from her face.  Their 
unauthorized session of surveillance was still fairly fresh in her 
memory, so the root beer joke was well understood, welcomed and 
appreciated.  "Sorry, but I can't jump on the next plane to Georgia 
- some of us have work we *are* supposed to be doing in a few hours 
- so the root beer will have to wait," she chuckled.  "Seriously, 
though, Mulder, what are you hoping to achieve by doing this?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know they won't re-open the X-Files even if you solve this.  
A.D Skinner made no mention of the possibility after you solved the 
Flukeman case, th--"

"*We* solved it."

"Whatever.  The fact is, if they didn't open them then they're 
certainly not going to when they find out you've left your current 
assignment in favor of a more personally enriching mutant hunt!"

Mulder nodded his head in acknowledgement to himself that what she'd 
said was true.  Then again, if he were honest, he'd known that all 
along, as well as the fact that there was likely nothing about the 
fires and their victims construable as paranormal.

But that was far from being the point.

Whether the suspect was nothing more than a lowly pyromaniac 
successfully leaving behind no trace evidence of his guilt or not, 
Mulder knew he had a higher chance of wrapping up the case local law 
enforcement had failed to all while breaking protocol and literally 
demonstrating to the Powers That Be where to stick their stupid phone
-tap detail.

"You really don't know?" he eventually asked with a slight chuckle.  
"Scully, you should know by now that I'm never gonna be ready to 
roll over and do what they tell me to.  I'm never gonna fit in with 
what they expect me to be, and anything they send my way to reel me 
back in is only ever gonna make me rebel against it twice as much...
or embrace it and use it to my advantage..."  He was keeping fingers 
crossed that she didn't misinterpret that addendum and think he was 
only using her as an ally to spite their superiors.  "I can't just 
sit back listening to wire taps all day - it'll drive me crazy, and 
that won't get the X-Files back either."

"I know."  As her shoulders slumped in unavoidable defeat, Dana 
shook her head and quietly repeated "I know" almost to herself.  
"But you couldn't have dug up a more convincing X-File?  Besides 
your fear of fire, we dealt with an arsonist before and it turned 
out to be far from relating to spontaneous combustion...You couldn't 
have found something a little more 'out there' or--"

"Spooky?"

Scully nodded, momentarily forgetting that he wasn't there to see 
the gesture, and quickly replied, "Something like that, yeah."

"Wow: I've turned Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully to the dark 
side!"

"Mul-der."

The cautionary tone already so indelibly etched in his brain made 
any further quips quickly die in his throat.  "It was the only thing 
I could find to follow," he finally conceded.  "All the mutants must 
have gone on vacation.  Anyway, who said anything about spontaneous 
human combustion?"

"Uh, that would have been you, Mulder."

"Me?  Oh, okay...Well, I may have been a bit off the mark on that 
theory, but I'm not prepared to rule out all possibilities of 
supernatural activity."

"Meaning?"

It was almost 2:45 in the morning, and he knew she had to be at 
Quantico earlier than normal to run over some notes, so maybe it was 
time to let her be - waking her up for a quick chat just to hear her 
voice was one thing, but to make her too tired to work at full 
strength was quite another.  "You know what, how about I give you a 
rundown another time?  I really shouldn't have called you at this 
time as it is - get some sleep."

She was actually considering insisting that he stay on the line and 
go over the casefile more in-depth than his brief summary had been 
yesterday, but a large yawn was her undoing and reminded her 
practical side why she'd been annoyed at him to begin with.  "I-- Oh
...I guess that's my cue," she light-heartedly sighed - eyes closing 
as sleep wrapped its enticing arms around her.

"Yeah."  He would have said more, but the sound of deep, even 
breaths filled Mulder's ear and he couldn't help but smile.  "Scully
...are you asleep?"

Silence, but then, "...Mm..."

"I'll talk to you later, then."

"......Mm..."

"Sweet dreams."

"...Be...careful..."

Her end of the line went dead, but for several long moments after he 
sat staring at the cellphone in his hand, drawing comfort, 
protection and company from it as if she were there with him instead.

Maybe it wasn't going to be as long a night as he'd set out 
believing after all.

*   *   *

3010 GENIALS WAY
RADCLIFFE, GEORGIA
2:48 AM

He'd never considered his life easy: from the day he could walk the
...problem, if you could call it that, had hindered everything Aaron 
Goffin had ever done, but in the last couple of weeks it had become 
a lot more unpredictable, uncontrollable and dangerous.  Two of his 
friends and a stranger he'd bumped into on the subway had died 
because of it, and it was only a matter of time before either the 
cops took him in and it killed them, or it finally consumed him.

At the moment, the latter option didn't sound too far from appealing.

His problem?  Test after test had given it no medical or scientific 
name, but that didn't stop it from being very real: without warning, 
parts of his body would spontaneously combust for minutes at a time, 
leaving him with only very minor burns and anybody in physical 
contact reduced to ashes.  His parents had always told him that he 
wasn't a freak or abomination ('There are people all over the world 
that have special abilities, and you're one of them') even after 
he'd accidentally incinerated his pet rabbit, but he'd been forced 
to forego school and at-home tuition, and keeping a job had proven 
too dangerous to be possible.  When the local SeaWorld attraction 
had taken him on for employment and things had run fairly smoothly 
for the next month, Aaron'd dared to believe his luck was changing.

Then Ursula Balovski - his team buddy at the park, and nearest thing 
he'd probably ever gotten or ever would get to a girlfriend - had 
touched his hand in a friendly gesture, and quickly become his 
'ability's' first human victim.  In a state of panic, he'd fled and 
left town - heading for a friend of the family's home here in 
Radcliffe.  

A picture of Ursula decimated to nothing more than a pile of ash and 
two shoed, intact feet (the only things used to identify who the 
victim was) appeared in the following morning's edition of the 
Courant.  There had also been an article citing him as a suspect 
along with it, but he hadn't been able to read that.

The only passenger in his car on the night train from Alpharetta had 
just gotten too close whilst walking by.

Maybe he should have just bought a gun and shot himself then - it 
certainly would have spared the life of the last person he'd had 
left to turn to - but, regrettably, he hadn't and now he was lost 
with nowhere to go and somebody he didn't know sitting in a car 
outside his friend's house.

"Stay calm," Goffin sighed, desperately trying to even out his 
breathing as he let go of the net curtain and walked away from the 
window.  A hand raised to irritably comb through his unkempt ginger 
hair, but he could feel a familiar tingling sensation building 
within his body.  It was a sensation that had become rare in the 
past fortnight - making way for the sudden blaze that gave him no 
chance to move away from others - but when he did feel it it gave 
him chance to try calm his senses a little.  "There's no one here to 
hurt.  It'll pass.  I just...have...to stay...relaxed."

The warmth spread down his leg and rapidly increased when it reached 
his foot, forcing him to sit back on the bed.

"Breathe, A.  Stay as cool as--"

And then the fire erupted, illuminating the small room.

*   *   *

Despite his insomniac tendencies, Mulder couldn't help but feel 
tired as he settled back in the car seat and folded both arms across 
his chest.  Admittedly their life threatening trip to the woods, the 
death of Deep Throat, the shutting down of the X-Files and resulting 
separation of he and Scully, and the encounter at Arecibo had all 
helped to deprive him of even the minimum number of hours' sleep his 
body required to function.  However, he'd always been able to depend 
upon his ability to stay alert when it was imperative - no matter 
how little sleep he'd had - and if he couldn't rely on that now to 
complete this stake-out, he was in trouble.

As a car taking advantage of the dead hour sped past, causing a 
cloud of fallen leaves and dirt to pelt against the side of Mulder's 
rental, he reached to turn up the radio with one hand and pick up 
the case notes from the passenger seat with his other.

"It's too disorganized," he grumbled, focusing on a crime scene 
photograph from the subway train car.  "Or maybe it's the fact that 
it's not disorganized...If the fire had been set by a pyromaniac, 
why isn't any other part of the carriage burnt?  The seating...even 
the walls..."  Realizing he was talking out loud, Mulder paused and 
looked up to check nobody was watching.  It was amazing - especially 
to him - to think how so accustomed he'd become to having somebody 
by his side to bounce his wild theories off of, and how much this 
silence that had always been his closest friend was now actually 
impeding his ability to solve the case!  "No obvious source of 
ignition..."  Another pause, this time as he shuffled through the 
pages to look at another photo.  As he did so, though, a small 
square of paper slipped out and onto the floor under Mulder's feet.  
He #frowned, awkwardly reached down for it, and then turned it over 
in his hands to see the neatly scrawled message.

        'Not everybody kills with purpose, Mr. Mulder, but 
        there'll always be others to take advantage of that 
        power.'

The fact that the language and handwriting was definitely not 
Scully's was the only thing Mulder was able to determine as he 
puzzled over the note.  It must be another line from the new shady 
source he was yet to meet, but the meaning...?

"'No obvious source of ignition...'"  Another brief glance at the 
first picture, and then the theory struck like lightning.  He'd 
flown to Georgia on nothing more than the premise that two bodies 
had been discovered burnt to the same condition as purported victims 
of SHC - the wide-eyed, out-there part of him wanting that to be the 
case, but the rational part Scully had given birth to in him 
questioning the idea enough to consider more mundane scenarios.  A 
few questions here, several name drops there, and he'd successfully 
tracked down the only place where the PD's suspect had to go, but 
he'd still been far from coming up with a motive, let alone theory.  
Was it really possible-- Was this note implying that Goffin was 
somehow not burning people by intention?  That, maybe, he had a 
lethal power that gave him the ability against his will?

Mulling it over, Mulder looked up again at the house, just in time 
to see one of the previously-unlit bedroom windows now illuminated 
by a flickering glare that could only be caused by fire.

*   *   *

With both feet still raised away from the floor and edge of the bed 
he sat on, Aaron slumped against the wall as the fire died.  
Thankfully, it had only been a brief burst, but with the remains of 
his friend downstairs still cooling, something inside told him it 
wouldn't be long before the next one.

"I'm gonna become the Human Fireball at this rate," he sadly joked, 
struggling to muster a chuckle.  ""A freak, as always."  No matter 
what his parents believed - how perfect, lovely and special a person 
they insisted he was - there would never be any changing what others 
saw him as or what he, himself, had regarded himself as for his 
twenty-five years long life.  If his uncertain future held whole 
body infernos or sparking off every few seconds in store, how could 
he truly be expected to regard himself as 'perfect' and carry on?  
He couldn't do this anymore...It had to stop before another person 
died...

"FBI!"

The bedroom door sharply swung open and Aaron glanced up to see the 
silhouette of a man standing in the entranceway.  Seconds later, the 
wall switch was flipped and the room filled with light to show that 
the visitor had a gun, and it was aimed at him.

Mulder glanced around the room and then focused on Goffin.  He'd 
found the proprietor's ashes and feet in the hallway downstairs when 
he'd kicked down the front door, but he'd expected to find yet 
another victim up here.  Fortunately, he was wrong.

"Aaron Goffin?" he asked, flexing his fingers to be better grip the 
gun.

"D-don't come near me...please...I don't--..." The younger man 
paused and shook his head - finally, but tentatively, lowering his 
feet onto the floor.  "I don't wanna hurt anyone else."

With a nod and comforting quirk of the lips, Mulder re-holstered his 
weapon.  "It's okay, I'm here to help."

"You can't help - nobody can," Goffin lamented.  "You don't even 
understand what it's like for me!  To be too scared to sleep in case 
the bed catches light?  To...to have no control over when a part of 
your body'll suddenly go up in flames?  No friends, a family that 
tries to act as if everything's normal, dead bodies in your wake!  
You saw Gerry, right?"

"Yeah."

"He was the last person I could turn to, aside from my parents, and 
I *killed* him!  My only education may have come from watching the 
TV and looking at pictures in books, sir, but I know right from 
wrong, and I definitely know when I'm up Fudge Creek!"

Despite the warning given, Mulder took several steps forward toward 
where Goffin sat.  "I'm not going to pretend I understand what 
you're going through - in fact, you know, I haven't a clue about 
anything to do with you right now - but what I will tell you is that 
I'm usually pretty good with first impressions of people, and I 
don't think you're a bad person.  In my job, I've met a lot of 
people with oddities and...and 'powers', say, but most of the time 
they wanna use that power for bad things - to cause havoc and pain.  
Trust me, if you're telling the truth about none of this being your 
fault, you should be proud that you've managed to be strong and stay 
on the right path."

Another step forward, and his shins bumped up against the edge of 
the sprung mattress.

Goffin's mouth opened to reject the statement, but he faltered 
momentarily and a doubtful frown creased his features.  "fr-freaks 
m-m-more dangerous t-than me?" came the cautious tone desperately 
seeking a glimmer of hope, finally.  "Bad freaks?"

"Whoever said you were a freak?" Mulder snorted, daring to complete 
his trip across the room by sitting down next to the younger man.  
Whether Aaron hadn't noticed or not, the agent was unsure, but he 
didn't object and so Mulder didn't question.

"How can I not be!?  Parts of my body catch fire!  What's 'normal 
about that?"

"You're not a freak, but you are a suspect for two homicides...You 
know the police have been looking for you since the death of Miss 
Balovski, don't you?"

Aaron simply gave a simple nod of his head.  He could almost still 
sense the smell of her burning flesh clinging to the hairs in his 
nose.

"If you explained your situation to them - what happened - maybe 
they can get some help for you."  Goffin looked petrified by the 
idea, so Mulder reached to place a comforting hand on his right arm.

Except, that was the instant it set alight.

Mulder shot up off of the bed, flailing his own arm that was now 
ablaze left and right.  Aaron was keening some desperate plea over 
and over again, but as his flesh begun to cook, the federal agent's 
last concern was the guilty party's cries.  It seemed pointless, but 
he stripped off his jacket - desperately using it to swat at the 
bright, scorching flames as they defiantly licked at the air and 
scalded his skin.  When that did nothing more than send blackened 
remains of his shirt sleeve floating to the floor, and rapidly 
encourage the fire up toward his shoulders - embers dropping to also 
ignite the leg of his pants - Mulder knew he only had one option 
left and he'd have to move fast.

"I told you to stay away - I *begged* you!" Goffin wept, cowering in 
the corner of the room and glancing down at his arm as the inferno 
died out as quickly as it had come.  "And now I've done it again!"

Blinding pain made way for writhing agony.  Reddened tissue darkened 
in hue to purple and then an almost charred-black.  His only hope 
was the bathroom sink downstairs, but as he painfully but 
instinctively ran as fast as possible for the staircase, Mulder 
wondered if he'd passed the point of no return.

*...Sculleee!...*

The glare from the bright flames along with the sweat pouring down 
his face made keeping his eyes open impossible, so he headed 
aimlessly forward, but as the agent reached the top of the stairs 
the overwhelming pain made his brain shut down, and his burning legs 
gave way.

And like a rag doll, he tumbled to the bottom.

*   *   *

"Sculleeeee!"

Eyes flung open and Scully sharply sat up in her bed as she 
struggled for breath.  Rationally she knew it had been a nightmare, 
but it had seemed so real, and the all-consuming heat--

Suddenly the phone on her bedside cabinet trilled to life.  Still 
shaken by the dream, she answered on the fifth ring.  "Scully."

"Agent Scully, this is Assistant Director Skinner."

That couldn't be good.  He must have somehow found out about 
Mulder's little trip...

"Can you explain to me why Agent Mulder abandoned his current 
assignment and took an unauthorized flight to Georgia?" boomed their 
boss's furious but clearly sleepy voice down the line.

Bingo.

She hesitated before answering, "I...uh...I wouldn't know, sir - I 
haven't--...I haven't spoken to Mulder for a couple of weeks."

"Phone records show quite the opposite, Agent!"

"I..."  Dana fidgeted as she struggled to think of an answer to 
that.  She couldn't lie, but then she also couldn't sell her ex-
partner out and tell Skinner what he was doing...could she?  "I 
really don't know what to say, sir.  Mulder mentioned being fed up 
with the wire taps, but he never said anything about going 
anywhere.  Do you know what he was doing in Georgia?"

at his end, Skinner frowned.  Despite their separation, he knew the 
two kept in contact and kept each other updated of things that were 
happening - be that with their private lives or days at work.  But 
as many times as Mulder'd been known to unexpectedly ditch his 
partner, Skinner found himself wondering if Scully was really 
clueless, as she was making out.

Not that it was easy to consider such things this early in the 
morning!

"I have no idea, and that's why I expect you to find out all the 
answers." he finally huffed.  "You'd better hurry, too: Mulder's 
been air-lifted to the burns unit at Grady Memorial in critical 
condition."

Scully's eyes quickly grew to the size of saucers - the nightmare 
now much more real than she'd initially imagined.  A lump of fear 
blocked her throat, but by the time it shifted a fraction and she 
was able to croak out, "Sir?" the caller had already hung up.

^   ^   ^

BURNS WARD
GRADY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
ATLANTA, GA
EIGHT DAYS LATER

Of course, Skinner had demanded updates on his agent's condition, 
but thankfully not made the trip to the hospital.  Scully had worked 
to stay professional and keep him well appraised, but the sight of 
Mulder's unconscious, intubated, bandaged body in the hospital bed - 
tubes left, right and center necessary to fill him with intravenous 
fluids if there was to be any hope of keeping him alive - made it 
difficult to function at all.

The past week had rolled along painfully slow, but she'd refused to 
leave his bedside.  Tests, skin grafts and antibiotics had become 
the mundane routine for each day, and yet still his eyes had not 
opened - no sign at all, save for the steady beeping from the ECG 
monitor - that he was even really still in there.

Having just finished informing their boss of today's run of check-
ups, Dana pocketed her cellphone, quietly made her way into Mulder's 
room and then sat down in the chair at his bedside.  No words passed 
her lips, but she grasped his unharmed right hand in her own and 
stared at his face - praying for his recovery and willing him to 
wake up.

Nothing happened, and eventually she fell asleep with tears in her 
eyes.

*   *   *

11:22 PM

It was a struggle, but eventually he was able to fight off the 
darkness that had claimed and kept him captive for the last eight 
days.  As awareness returned, however, so did the stinging, burning 
sensation spreading down the whole left side of his body.  He tried 
to let out a painful groan, but it became muffled around something 
that had been placed in his airway.

"Mulder?  Mulder, are you awake?"

That voice!  That feel of her hand cradling his!  Could it be...?

Unable to verbally respond, Mulder let out another groan and then 
attempted to open his eyes.  It took several moments, but eventually 
they opened, and after yet another minute of trying to focus he was 
able to see the frame of red hair and her exhausted-yet-beautiful 
face. 

"It's going to be okay - don't try to talk," she assured with a 
smile, resting her other hand against his forehead.  "I'm going to 
call the doctor, okay?"

With more effort than he'd been willing to exert, Mulder managed to 
nod and watched as she left the room - leaving him to think about 
what had happened at that house.

Ten minutes later Scully returned with a white-coated woman actually 
shorter than herself that claimed to be his doctor.  He shot a 
questioning frown at his partner, but she simply shrugged and asked 
doctor about the possibility of removing his intubation.

Another examination, another shot of pain meds, and he was freed 
from the breathing aid.  Exhausted, though, he quickly fell asleep 
again.

*   *   *

1:14 AM

"Scully?...Are you awake?"

He doubted he'd get a reply from her - she looked worse than he 
felt, and he found it difficult to believe that she would have flown 
all this way to stay posted at his bedside - but she surprised him 
when her head slowly lifted and she sleepily mustered,

"Are you okay, Mulder?"

"Couldn't stay asleep," he weakly croaked.  "Hurts."

"Do you want me to call the nurse?"

"No, s'okay for now... Been wondering - need to know what happened...
How I'm not a pile of ash like the others."

Dana gave an uncertain shake of her head.  No matter how relieved 
she was, the fact that Mulder had actually placed a call to the 
police department asking for backup *before* entering the house he'd 
been surveilling just had to have been the most unbelievable thing 
she'd ever heard.

The news she'd been informed of the following day had to come close 
second.

"You were very lucky is why," she smiled, squeezing his hand.  "Very 
lucky, and very clever for once.  The police and fire departments 
arrived just as you hit the bottom of the stairs.  Another--...
Another ten seconds later and we wouldn't have been able to have 
this conversation."  Her voice trailed off, and for the briefest 
instant he was able to take a peek through a crack in the wall 
around her heart before it repaired itself.  Those moments when he 
was reminded that she wasn't the 'Ice Queen' everybody referred to 
her as seemed only reserved for him and it made him feel even more 
special in her eyes.  "As it is you have fifteen percent partial 
thickness and five percent full thickness burns across your left 
arm, legs and chest - it's going to take a long time for you to 
heal, and even then there will still be some scarring."

Mulder closed his eyes and kept them tightly shut as the full weight 
of Scully's words pressed down on him.  "What about Goffin?" he 
asked, still refusing to open his eyes again.  "Was he arrested.

There was no reply, and that was when his eyelids lifted so that he 
could incredulously stare at her.

"Scully?"

The hold on his hand suddenly disappeared.  "Skinner's furious at 
you - you may have completely destroyed any hope you had of getting 
the X-Files back," she replied, avoiding his question and turning to 
pace the room.

"That doesn't--...I don't care about that right now.  I wanna know 
what happened to Goffin.  He did the murders, but it wasn't 
intentional - I need to explain that to the police chief, an--"

"Mulder, Aaron Goffin is currently missing."

"Wha--?"

"He was arrested at Gerry Stanz's home when you were rescued, and he 
was locked up for the rest of the night, but in the morning...His 
cell door was discovered open and he was nowhere to be found."

Despite his injuries, Mulder suddenly pulled the bed covers back and 
shakily shifted to hang his legs over the edge.  Scully sharply 
turned on her heel and rushed to stop him.  "Mulder, what are you 
doing?"

"We have to find him!  They...They have him!"

"Who has him?  Mulder, lay back down and tell me what you're talking 
about."  Worried for the sake of his health, she gently placed a 
palm against his right shoulder and pressed until he finally lay 
down.  "You're not going to help anyone but trying to kill yourself 
again."

"They have him," he repeated, more weakly, as she carefully lifted 
his bandaged legs back up onto the mattress.  "...Them..."

"You're making no sense - who are 'they'?"

"Th-Those working against u-us...We have to find him and help him."

It took her a moment to think the options over, but then she shook 
her head and sighed, "No, we have to make you better and then fly 
back to D.C.  It's over, Mulder.  It shouldn't even have started in 
the first place."

"He can spontaneously combust without warning..."

"It doesn't matter anymore, and I'm too tired to care.  If you 
really must, you can argue it out with Skinner when we get back to 
Washington - even OPC when they meet with you - but I don't want to 
argue with you about it.  Okay?"

He had already fallen asleep again.

*   *   *

UNKNOWN LOCATION
TWO WEEKS LATER
2:47 PM

The tall figure of a man shrouded in shadows moved swiftly down the 
long corridor and stopped when he reached the door to his 
destination.  He knocked with his free hand, and was admitted 
entrance almost immediately.

"The fire consumed him twenty minutes ago, sir.  His remains have 
been taken to the lab for further analysis," he started, sliding the 
clipboard that had been stowed under his arm onto his boss's desk.

The seated figure turned in the chair to look out through the large 
window at the end of his office.  "Did you get all the necessary 
tests done?  Do we know how his body was able to tolerate such 
heat?  How he contained the infernos?"

"No, sir, but we still have a lot of tests to be run on the blood 
and tissue samples."

There was a pause as the dark man considered this before he finally 
ordered, "Tell me the results as soon as we have them.  If we can 
recreate or even improve on Mister Goffin, it will be a major step 
forward."

"Yes, sir."  The soldier saluted and then exited the room - the door 
closing behind him making the pages on the clipboard he'd left lift 
up on the ripple of air, and the photograph of a sad Aaron Goffin 
float to the floor before it mysteriously disappeared in a ball of 
flame.


THE END


'A flow of words is no proof of wisdom'
                                        ~English proverb


AUTHOR'S NOTE: There's no intention for a sequel, but if I get poked 
enough I'm always willing to answer requests :)











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