From: "Branwell" <>

Title: Won and Lost

Name: Branwell


Date Finished: Sept. 28, 1999

Rating: G

Category: V, A, MSR
          Vignette, Angst, Mulder/Scully Romance
          Sequel to "Operation Clean House" with author
                    Sarah Segretti's permission

Archiving permission: Anyone may archive this. Please keep
my name and acknowledgments with it.

Disclaimer: Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson,
and Ten Thirteen productions created and own the characters
you recognize. Sarah Segretti imagined the situation that
inspired my story in HER story: "Operation Clean House." My
writing is for fun, not profit.

Thanks: I owe thanks to Sarah for permission to use her
idea. I would also like to thank bugs for words of
encouragement and advice.

Summary: I read "Operation Clean House" and later realized
the perfectly imagined farewell scene was haunting me. Here
is Sarah's webpage address where you can read it:
Her story is also at Ephemeral. Artistically it is note
perfect as it stands. In my weakness I yearned for emotional
closure. Sarah kindly consented to my attempting a sequel.
This is it.

Homo Sapiens won.

The crew at the Los Sueños Airport hadn't celebrated yet.
They were still struggling to complete their mission.

Two civilians perched on empty packing cases beside the
hangar door. Their stillness set them apart in the midst of
the activity. He held her hand tightly. For the most part
he never let go of it. She laughed at him good-naturedly
once, when he almost followed her absently into a port-a-

The facilities were terrible. This little airport hadn't
been designed to support a military operation.


In the last three months nothing had gone as planned.

Humanity had lavished its best resources on Operation Clean
House, which was instantly annihilated. In less than a
second three hundred and fifty trained operatives were
wiped out. They had carried vaccine in powerful injector
guns. Among them was the one human acquainted first-hand
with the inside of an alien ship. All vanished without a


The Los Sueños Airport hadn't been designed to act as a
morgue either. All of the strangeness disoriented him.

The tin roof distorted and echoed every sound. Floodlights
rigged on ladders cast crazy shadows around the medical
team, as they plodded between rows of body bags. He would
have to rejoin the grave procession when the next rescue
flight arrived.

A stunned-looking young sergeant had informed him yesterday
that the hopefully named rescue flights had no task other
than recovering their dead. He was only surprised that
anyone could still be stunned.


The DOD plowed ahead after the first defeat. They deployed
Operation Powerhouse with no obvious loss of bravado.
During that attack communications remained open until the
last soldier had been torn to pieces or dragged into the

He thought he knew what happened to captives. It was
certain that no extraterrestrials had attended the Geneva

After the massacre the military men he advised dropped
their condescending manner toward him. They looked at him
with frightened eyes and asked what they should do. He had
no answers.


He swayed a little on his packing case.

"Are you all right John?" Susanne asked cautiously.

He wondered if she feared his eventual breakdown. She had
lived through much worse than this. He forced himself to
nod. She nodded back and stood up.

"Let's get some coffee," she suggested. As she spoke she
disengaged her hand and took his arm so she could walk
closer to him.

Everyone but them wore fatigues and boots. He watched his
brown wingtips move over the chipped concrete next to
Susanne's black flats. Dusty dirt rose in little clouds
around their feet when they stepped out of the building.
The burning bright canopy of stars overhead filled him with
dread instead of delight. He welcomed the dull khaki canvas
that shut them out.

It was odd how the mess tent always smelled like cabbage,
even though it was never served. Not in the two days he'd
been here anyway.


They nicknamed the third assault force Operation Pest
Control. The regular army sent in a thousand men at each
site. They traveled in tanks or helicopters, and included
units with powerful explosives. Missiles couldn't be used
effectively against foes who had dug themselves in deep
during the Stone Age.

The enemy died by the dozens. The soldiers died by the
thousands within minutes of reaching shifting zones around
the ships.

DOD HQ organized Tiger Teams that included specialists in
tactical nuclear weapons. The President's family arrived at
the bunker in West Virginia, where they were forced to stay
in total ignorance and confusion.


When they returned to the hangar he checked his watch
again. The last shuttle of the day was due in fifteen
minutes. God how he hoped someone else had broken the news.

"Mr. Byers. Mr. Byers!" Someone was calling his name. "Sir,
did you get a look at row 7, number 3? Her ID tag is gone,
but she's pretty small. Two of us think it's a she,

Byers shuddered at the memory of his look at row 7, number
3. He agreed it was a she, but the thighbones were too long
for the 'she' he was trying to identify.

"It's not her," he said positively. He turned away to see
Susanne watching him sympathetically.

"They both knew the risks, John. He won't be surprised."

She didn't know him and his unquenchable hope.


After the third defeat came the solar flares. At least that
was their official designation. Satellites, radio towers
and radars everywhere sat useless. News broadcasting and
military communications ceased. Paradoxically, that's when
earth's luck began to change for the better.

Unconfirmed sightings of faceless monsters cropped up in
reports couriered by soldiers on bicycles. Then some
members of the original strike force started turning up in
unpredictable places. It was on their say-so that the CDC
began sending sanitization teams to the sites of the alien
ships. So far all were clean.

The solar flares subsided and the good news spread. The
BioTerrorism Threat was contained. It was V-BT Day.

Three days ago Fox Mulder of the Operation Clean House
force flagged down a military patrol near Mount St. Helen.


Byers swallowed hard when he remembered the phone call.

"Hello. Is this Mr. Byers? I'm calling to complain about
the late delivery of my 'Lone Gunman.' Not only that, but
the boy keeps missing my 'Inbox' and I have to wipe off
smut from the newsgroups."

"Mulder? Mulder it's not you! Is it? You're dead. I
don't...What about...What happened?"

"Our ally helped with diversions. If I talk about it much
I'll end up rocking on a rest-home porch, brim to the rim
with happy sap. The whole truth isn't going to come out.
But we beat 'em!"

"Did you know what was going to happen ahead of time?"

Mulder ignored his question. "Do you know where she is

Byers knew. He'd been keeping track of everybody. Except
the dead of course.

"You can't reach her. Her team is in the field."

"You could get to her base before me. Do you have access?"

Byers admitted modestly that his clearance went pretty

"Go to her. Tell her I'm alive."


Scully's mission had departed from Los Sueños the day
before Mulder's call. Byers arrived with Susanne in time to
hear that her team was missing in action.

It was a routine assignment to confirm site neutralization.
Radio communication was disrupted shortly after the
confirmation was made. A reconnaissance plane reported
wreckage and rescue flights were dispatched. The first
helicopter to return brought back a black box. Byers heard
the puzzled comments from the flight specialist who
examined it.

"One minute the elevation was ten feet above sea level, and
the next it was two thousand! Then it went back to ten. It
doesn't make any sense." He couldn't explain it further
except to say that the same atmospheric anomaly that cut
off the radio probably caused the crash.

The entire mission had gone down. Or perhaps the ground had
risen up to meet it. Either way, there were bodies and body
parts strewn across the desert landscape between the
airport and the alien ship. Most of them now lay on the
hangar floor.

Byers never got to tell her that Mulder had survived after
all. That her partner was on his way to the little airport
at Los Sueños to meet her. Byers had wanted to be the angel
at the empty tomb. Watching her come alive again at his
news--it would have been a double resurrection.


Mulder wore civvies. The too short jeans must have been
borrowed, but it was his gray T-shirt. He still wore his
combat boots.

Byers judged from his expression that he hadn't heard the
news. He appeared no nervier than usual as he covered the
length of the hangar in long strides. His broad smile as he
caught sight of Byers made the man cringe in anticipation.
What if Mulder hugged him and then he had to tell him? He
couldn't bear this.

Mulder contented himself with putting one arm around his
shoulders. "Byers. Susanne. You can't imagine how good it
feels to see you here together, without fear."

Byers writhed under an additional burden of guilt. After
years of waiting, he had Susanne. Mulder had lost Scully.
And he didn't seem to know it. How could a trained
investigator miss the significance of the body bags?

He couldn't let his friend continue living in a fool's
paradise. It was better to get it over with. "Mulder, I'm
afraid I have some very...sad news," he faltered.

"You mean about the casualties on Scully's mission?" Mulder
asked guardedly. "I heard about them. I'm not worried.
They'll find her soon."

Byers gaped at him in horror and admiration. This was going
to be worse than he thought. When the truth became
unavoidable Mulder's collapse would be absolute.

"You've got to understand," Byers urged gently. "The
choppers out there now are the last they're going to send.
Even if they don't find her body...."

Mulder reached out and for one mad moment Byers thought he
might hit him. Instead he held the index finger of his left
hand to Byers' lips and the one on his right to his own.
Even as Byers saw panic stir briefly beneath his mask of
calm, Mulder spoke quietly. "I've got a feeling she's all
right. I would know if...." He studied the trembling of his
own outstretched hand with a bemused expression. Then he
drew it back and folded his arms tightly.

Byers realized with a painful constriction of his throat
that they would be testing Mulder's theory very soon. The
movement of soldiers into the landing area with stretchers
meant that the last rescue flight had radioed its arrival.
He edged toward the door along with Susanne and Mulder.

When the first bodies were added to row 9, Byers expected
Mulder to join him in his conscientious examination of the
dead. They would honor Scully's body if they could do no
more. Mulder disregarded his meaningful looks and finally
pulled away from Byers' hand on his arm.

"I can't come with you right now," he stated impatiently.
"I don't want to give them a chance to drag her off to a
debriefing before I can say hello." Mulder epitomized cool
confidence apart from his white-knuckled grip on the
railing next to them.

He went back to staring out at the three helicopters that
had landed. "You know this accident was probably caused by
a sort of friendly fire. Our ally's travel technology
alters time and space. They're in the process of leaving
earth." He chuckled with an undernote of bitterness. "It's
not strictly accurate to call them allies. They're the
enemy of our enemy."

"That's interesting," Byers remarked automatically. It
wasn't nearly as interesting as what was happening on the
garishly lit runway. They were bringing in two more bodies
and closing the doors on two of the choppers.

If he had been Mulder he would have asked someone else to
keep vigil for him. Since Mulder insisted on maintaining a
clear-eyed gaze at the third chopper, Byers averted his own
eyes. He couldn't stand to watch the corrosive grief etch
itself on Mulder's face. He heard a stifled gasp from the
man beside him and felt the tears start from under his own
closed eyelids.

"It's all right John," Susanne said in a strange voice. She
never sounded jerky and uncertain like that. He reached for
her to offer the comfort of his arms. "Open your eyes," she
said in the same choking voice.

When he did, he recognized Scully at the far end of the
landing area. She was turning away from her pilot with an
uncharacteristic slump to her shoulders. Her hair was
pulled back into a severe knot, and she wore an olive drab
T-shirt with baggy fatigues to go with her combat boots.
She'd lost even more weight since Byers last saw her. But
there was no mistaking her tiny stature or hair color.

She didn't see Mulder yet. Mr. Cool was pounding towards
her across the tarmac, never slowing his breakneck pace,
still finding the breath to bellow her name.


She literally staggered with the impact of hearing it. She
squinted against the lights, and made her hands into
binoculars to eliminate the glare. When she locked onto her
partner she started running too.

Scully's short legs pumped furiously, a humorous
counterpoint to her partner's graceful gait. But she was
speedy. The distance between them closed as though reality
had gone into fast forward. Then they were in each other's
arms, like the lovers they had long been in their hearts.
Hands and lips sought reassurance in fierce clasps and
kisses. They examined each other's faces as if they found
miracles there. Finally Mulder stood very still, his head
thrown back defiantly to the starry heavens, his hands
cradling Scully's head close to his chest. Her arms
encircled him with comfort and protection.

Byers overheard the excited words of another survivor
speaking to a small group of jubilant friends. "...didn't
know it, but one of them was damaged when we landed.
Passengers would have been risky. Five of us volunteered to
wait at the site for a rescue. But no one came. If McCrory
hadn't rigged that beacon today....I didn't want to die in
that place. It was hell's waiting room."

Gradually the flight crew nudged the oblivious Mulder and
Scully in the direction of the hangar door. Up close Byers
found the intensity of naked joy in their faces almost as
difficult to witness as the pain he had feared earlier.

Mulder created a small pocket of privacy for them by
putting Scully between himself and the hangar wall. His
tense back and protectively extended arms broadcast a clear
demand to be left alone. The unspoken message was respected
until a tired-looking AF colonel appeared in search of Dr.

Following various pointing fingers, the man unhesitatingly
tapped Mulder on the shoulder.

"We're waiting for Dr. Scully in the conference room. We
need her report." The colonel appeared not to notice Dr.
Scully's red-rimmed eyes and wet cheeks.

Mulder gave Scully a questioning look. She nodded and made
one pass at her hopelessly disarranged hair. He held onto
her hand as she followed the officer toward the lounge now
glorified by the title of conference room.

"Sir, this debriefing is classified. You can't attend," the
colonel intoned.

"I can't leave her," Mulder stated simply.

The colonel scrutinized his face.

"Who are you, anyway? Let me see some ID."

Byers knew that Mulder had to have a military ID like his
own, but his friend pulled out his FBI badge instead.
Security would be all over him any second now.

As the colonel scanned his badge, Byers saw Mulder shift
his stance and stand up straighter, probably preparing to
dash for an exit. He wanted to scream at Mulder to play the
game, just once, for Scully's sake. How would she feel if
he ran away after claiming he couldn't leave her?

Byers waited for red-faced rage on the officer's face. He
saw awed respect steal over the man's features.

"You're Special Operative Fox Mulder? We'll be honored to
have you at our debriefing. How do you take your coffee?"
the colonel asked with a deferential smile.

Mulder smiled back. Then he turned to his friend and gave a
small, self-deprecating shrug of his shoulders.

Even in this death-filled place, Byers felt a powerful
surge of hope.

Things had really changed. It was a New World Order-a
better one. There would be no more Callings. No more
hideous experiments in the name of preventing or promoting

In this world Susanne could live in the open without fear.
Mulder would have respect and honor.

Some of John Byers' dreams might come true.

It was time for the victory party.
End of "Won and Lost