***Chapter Nine***

The food was getting better.  Maybe the "lunch lady" guy was
just a better cook, maybe it was that he had so few people
to cook for.  I don't know.  Maybe I was just hungry.

Walter didn't wait until eleven to drag me out of my lab. 
He let me pay a visit to Mulder and Keesha, and then took me
to the cafeteria.

He sat me down at a table and brought me my dinner.  Someone
else got me a cup of coffee - and put real cream in it. 
People kept stopping by the table and saying things.  

"God bless you, Dr. Scully."

"Dr. Scully, I know you'll bring my boys back to me."

"Dr. Scully, I thank God you and Mr. Skinner are here for

"When we get through this, Dr. Scully, it will be because of

"I tell you this, little lady.  I'll never say a bad word
about the government again.  Not after what you and Skinner
have been doing for us."  

I don't know which was worse: that I was doing nothing
except for puttering around in a lab while people were
*dying* or that it was the government that may have gotten
them into this.  

I must have been exhausted.  That's the only explanation I
can find for my loss of control.  I just couldn't keep the
tears from flowing.  I felt a hand on my shoulder.  For a
moment it felt familiar, and then I remembered where my
partner was.

"So slender to carry the world."  I don't think he meant for
me to hear those words, he said them so softly.  Almost
magically, the people around us disappeared.  I don't know
how he did that.
Then the tray was in front of me and Walter was sitting next
to me.  He took my hand.  His hand was warm.  

"Dana, do you need to leave?"

I shook my head. "I'm fine."

"You are not fine, Dana Scully."

I wiped away the tears with my free hand and took a deep

"No.  I'm not fine.  I'm scared.  I'm scared that I'll fail
and let all those people down.  That I'll let you down. 
That I'll let Mulder down, and he and Keesha and all the
others will spend the rest of their lives like that."

He nodded and squeezed my hand.  "I'm scared, too.  I'm
scared that we won't do our job and help these people.  I'm
scared that forces within our government may have made this
situation.  I'm scared that someone is keeping this a
secret.  I'm scared of the uses the military might find for
this disease."  

I had never thought I'd hear Walter Skinner say things like
that.  On the other hand, if someone like him could admit he
was frightened, then maybe it wasn't so bad that I was
frightened, too.  I squeezed his hand back and tried to

After dinner, I went back to my lab.  Mr. Grange, the
science teacher, was already there.

"Just in time, Dr. Scully.  I have a report all ready for

To my amusement, it was in an old-fashioned graph paper
notebook, exactly like I'd used myself in high school.