"Do you have any idea what he wants to see us about?" Mulder asked suspiciously as they entered the elevator. Well, at least he was speaking to her for a change.
"Not a clue. Maybe heís got a case." He snorted at the idea and she shrugged, not willing to argue the point. Theyíd argued enough lately. No that wasnít strictly true. They hadnít argued. If anything she wanted to have an argument with him. At least then he wouldnít be so damn distant.
Angie announced them immediately and they went in, Mulder trying to keep his cynical persona to himself.
"Thanks for coming so quickly. We have a problem that needs attention immediately. Thereís a case in California that needs a male/female team to go undercover. Apparently a team had already been assigned and briefed, but they had to withdraw at the last minute."
"Is this an X-File, sir?" Mulder didnít even attempt to show any respect and Scully cringed inwardly. His attitude stank and had for weeks.
His work hadnít really suffered, but she had and now she realized everyone around him was probably getting this same rebuff. She wasnít sure what the problem was, but she was going to have to address it before he cut his own throat with Skinner.
"No Agent Mulder, it is not. We have women disappearing, five so far. Their connection is nebulous Ė theyíre married and theyíve visited the beach in Southern California."
"Have any bodies been found?" Scully asked, trying to cover for him.
"Not so far. Thereís no evidence that theyíre dead, but none of them have any history of instability and their families are convinced that they have not run away. All of the marriages seem happy, no reported problems. The husbands have been investigated and so far are clean."
"So you want us to go undercover in this area as a married couple?" Oh great, she looked away, with his attitude toward her lately this was going to be a long case.
"Yes. You did a very good job the last time the two of you went undercover. See if you can see anyone hanging around the beach, approaching women. The husbands of the victims have so far been unable to identify anyone."
"When do you want us out there?"
"As soon as possible. Weíre already two days behind due to the problem with the other team, and another woman has gone missing in that time. It looks serial and we want to find him and get those women back alive."
"Do you have a profile?" Mulder was finally joining the conversation.
"A partial. Itís in the file. I want you to get out there today. The Bureau has rented a house on the beach where the majority of the women visited."
He was certainly acting differently than the last undercover assignment theyíd had. Heíd been fun then, enjoying himself. Hell, heíd actually played and had a great time acting as her husband. Sheíd not admitted it at the time, or ever, but his arms around her, his hands always touching her had been nice . . . well more than nice. Now he was . . .
The sound of the surf had lulled her to sleep despite her worry about Mulder. When she woke the room was dark. What had disturbed her? She couldnít hear anything Ė wait . . . breathing, very faint and . . . "Mulder?"
"Yeah, sorry I woke you."
"What are you doing in here?" She realized she wasnít even cross with him, just curious.
He heard that in her voice and rose, approaching the bed. He sat beside her and she sat up and turned on the lamp, pulling the covers up a little higher. He didnít seem to notice.
"Mulder, whatís wrong?"
"Why did you let me kiss you New Yearís Eve?" He spoke quickly but softly as though afraid to ask the question.
What? What was he asking? There was no good reason for her to have stopped him. They were friends; okay they were more than that, but . . .
"I wanted you to." There, sheíd said it.
He stared at her for a long moment. "Did you?"
"Why do you doubt me Mulder? What have I done to make you act like this?"
"Nothing." He looked down at his hands.
"Talk to me Mulder." Her hand was on his arm now and he was looking at it, the way the fingers curved around the muscles in his lower arm, the contrast of her white skin against the dark hair covering his.
"Iím sorry I woke you." He stood and she followed, ignoring for a moment the fact that she was wearing very little compared to her normal attire around him.
"Youíre not leaving. Somethingís been bothering you for weeks. Now is as good a time as any to get it out in the open." He didnít respond but didnít try to leave the room. "Are you . . . are you upset that you kissed me? Are you sorry?"
"No." His head came up then, facing her. "Are you?"
"No, Iím not. I said I wanted you to, that was the truth." What was going on with him? If she didnít know better sheíd say he was drunk.
"But thatís all you want."
"Mulder?" What was it? Why was he acting like this?
"Well it is, isnít it? Nothingís changed, nothingís been said. You havenít mentioned it in any way."
"I . . . I thought thatís what you wanted. You didnít say anything either. I assumed you were . . . that it wasnít what you . . . Damn!"
She couldnít say his expression had changed, but his eyes were lighter. She was sure of it. Whatever it was made her own shoulders relax slightly.
"Weíre a couple of idiots, arenít we Mulder?" She was shaking her head, not sure what to say.
He shook himself, as though to come back to the present and seemed to realize suddenly where he was and what she was wearing. His eyes widened and she saw his pupils dilate. "I . . . Iíll see you in the morning Scully. I didnít . . . good night." And he was gone, with her staring after him.
She didnít know whether to laugh or cry. That was what had been wrong with him? That she hadnít commented on the kiss? Oh my god, Mulder had a male ego after all! Now that was something she had never given any consideration. What was she supposed to have done? Fall to his feet in gratitude? Should she be angry at his attitude? Instead she found herself laughing out loud. She felt lighter than she had since the new year had begun. He had worried about her reaction and, if she was honest, sheíd been just as worried about his.
He froze on the steps at the sound of her laughter. Laughing? She was laughing at him? He couldnít move.
Then he heard the door open above him and her footsteps headed for the stairs. He turned to look at her as she descended toward him. Sheíd grabbed her robe, but hadnít bothered to tie it closed. She stopped a couple of steps up, eye level with him for a change. He fought the urge to run out of the house and disappear into the ocean.
"Itís my turn." Her eyes were twinkling with . . . Amusement? Joy? What?
She leaned forward and kissed him, her arms draping themselves over his shoulders. His own arms came up and around her automatically. The kiss lasted forever and no time, time seemed to disappear. When she drew back she seemed inordinately pleased with herself.
"Good night Mulder." She drew back another step and he reluctantly let his arms fall back to his side. She turned then, her robe whirling around her and headed back upstairs without another word.
He stood there, mouth open, unable to stop the chaos in his brain. Then a smile began to grow on his face. He backed down a couple of stairs, not willing to turn away from where heíd last seen her, then finally turned and headed back to his bedroom. The smile didnít abate even in his sleep, which was peaceful for the rest of the night.
The smell of coffee lured him out of bed the following morning and he trailed it to the kitchen. She turned when he entered, offering a cup. That same twinkle was in her eyes. His eyes glowed for an instant in relief. He hadnít dreamed it.
"Sleep okay?" She was watching him closely.
"Yeah. Yeah, I slept like a baby after I finally got to sleep."
"Good, you look more rested. Want to spend the day on the beach?" She watched his eyes scan her body, visualizing it in some sort of bathing suit. That brought visions of his Speedo to her mind and she turned away before she could reveal too much.
He moved closer and put his hand on her shoulder. "Scully? Are we okay?"
She didnít face him, dipping her head a little, "Better than that I think."
He turned her gently toward him and lifted her face toward his. "Was last night for real?"
She smiled then, a 100-watt Scully smile and he drew her into his arms. His own smile rivaled hers and he bent to kiss her forehead. "I thought Iíd ruined everything."
"Why would you think that Mulder? How did I act that . . . "
"You didnít. You didnít act any differently at all and I . . . I guess I wanted you to. When you didnít, I imagined all kinds of Ė "
She was on tiptoe then, hushing him with her lips. She finally pulled away from him. "We have work to do Mulder. When the jobís finished we can talk about this."
He nodded and reluctantly stepped back from her. She was right; they were here to work. The fact that they were doing it under the same roof, or out on the beach nearly nude, didnít diminish the importance of the job. At least they were communicating again. This had been caused by his insecurities, it was his fault. Hell, it had taken him five years to try to kiss her in the first place and two years after that fiasco to finally remedy the situation.
He could be with her in any situation, had been for the most part. He knew she cared for him. Why had the physical part thrown him for such a loop? It wasnít like he was a virgin Ė well not physically anyway, but emotionally . . .
"Come on. We need to get ready." Her voice drew him back to the present, and he nodded. He watched her leave the room, then taking his coffee cup, returned to his own room and changed.
This might not be a good idea. He should have brought a different suit. Well, he could buy one, but today could be iffy. The jogging shorts, that would be a better idea. He changed again and returned to the kitchen.
She joined him in a few minutes wearing a short terrycloth robe, her hair in a ponytail. His imagination had already filled in the blanks, but he wanted, no he needed, to know what she was wearing.
"No Speedo?" He looked up finally to her face and realized heíd been staring.
"I . . . I uh . . . " Then he realized she was teasing him. "Youíre an evil woman."
She didnít disagree; it was too nice having him back. She drew the sunscreen from her bag. "Will you do my back?"
Was she kidding? Sheís the one that had pointed out they needed to work. Now she was down here, in that, and wanted him to run his hands over her body? And she had wanted him to kiss her. She was beyond evil. But he found he had the bottle of sunscreen in his hand.
"Thanks." She had her back to him and dropped her robe from her shoulders. The feeling of deja vu sent him reeling back to Oregon Ė their first case. He stared at her back unable to move. "Mulder?" She twisted to see what he was doing.
The suit she was wearing was black, one-piece. The back was cut so deeply that her entire back and the top of her ass were exposed. The legs were cut high too. Part of his brain knew that was to make her legs look longer; the rest of his brain didnít give a damn it was so . . . right. He took a steadying breath and poured some of the cream into his hand. He had to lean over her, didnít he, to do this? The front of the suit left little to the imagination as well. That deep a v Ė this was not a suit to swim in, this was only for being seen. He closed his eyes for an instant. Yeah, and he liked what he saw but he was supposed to be working.
She gasped and straightened up arching slightly as the cool cream touched her back. As long as she didnít turn around before he did maybe he could finish this, then wrap a towel around his waist and . . . it was going to be a long day.
"Thanks Mulder." Her voice made him realize that he was finished with this particular duty and he stepped back, snatching the towel from the counter. She picked up her bag and hat and headed for the door.
Walk Mulder, one foot in front of the other. He managed to follow her down the steps to the beach. The Bureau had rented a nice house, right on the oceanfront. He was glad this wasnít going on his Visa bill. Yeah, think like that Mulder, you can get through this.
He helped her spread out the blanket, turning his head when she bent over to smooth it out. Once it was settled she sat down and looked up at him.
"Uh, I think Iíll check out the waves."
"Mulder, donít you think itís a little cool to get in?"
"Yeah, thatís the idea." And he was gone. She stared after him, mouth open. Had he really said that?
She shook herself and decided against watching him jog to the water. She opened the bag and pulled out the magazine that hid the information she needed to study.
By the time he returned she was deep into the file. She gasped as he shook his hair out over her, spraying her with water. She slapped the file closed and looked up glaring. "Funny."
He grinned down at her, more in control, then joined her on the blanket. "What did you find?"
She decided to get down to business, otherwise . . . "The women are all 22 to 27. Very nice looking, blond, brunette Ė "
"The man has no taste."
"Mulder." The tone was warning, but not too bad. "I have the pictures if you want to see them."
"Later. Tell me how they were taken." He stretched out beside her and turned toward her. Bad idea, he was looking straight at her thigh that had the file propped against it. He closed his eyes and turned his head the other way. If she noticed this by-play she didnít comment on it.
"The first two just never came home from shopping. It took a while for their husbands to realize that something was wrong. Then the police didnít want to touch the case because they were missing adults. The third was missing from the beach when the husband returned with food. The fourth from the market and the fifth vanished while her husband went to get the car when they were leaving a restaurant."
"Heís been successful every time."
"What?" She turned to look at him. He was still facing the other way.
"Heís gotten every woman he tried for, no slip ups. Thatís why heís getting bolder. How much time could he have had waiting for the car? He feels invulnerable. No one has seen anything. He may think heís invisible now. That could be to our advantage; overconfidence could lead to mistakes." She nodded, "So I shouldnít let you out of my sight."
"That could be counter productive to our investigation donít you think?" He shrugged and still didnít turn to face her. "You need some sunscreen yourself, Mulder."
Before he had a chance to protest he felt her hand on his back, then she settled herself on his butt and began massaging in the lotion. He didnít even have time to react before feeling her press her weight against him.
"Scully?í He finally managed a choked gasp.
"Weíre supposed to be married, right?"
He groaned again and she thought she heard the word "evil" before he finally decided to relax as best he could.
When she was through torturing him she rose and hid the information in the bottom of her beach bag inside the magazine. "Come on, we should wander the beach; see and be seen."
"Are you saying you didnít wear that suit just for me?" He was looming over her now, his view of her navel nearly unimpeded.
"Iím armed Mulder" she said, and turned from him.
"Iíd be happy to frisk you."
She smiled and moved on. He followed and scooped the bag from her shoulder, leaving the camera with her. They did look like a married couple to anyone watching. Friendly bickering, the closeness, his arm slung across her shoulders and her arm around his waist, looked incredibly natural to the man observing them.
He noted them and their location and then left them alone, not bothering to stalk them. He knew what he was doing now and he was good at it. He could take his time.
After their stroll on the beach they returned to the house, changed, and continued their observations, taking in the outdoor market where two of the women had vanished and passing the restaurant. It would be open for dinner so they would return then. The second woman had been last seen at the Mall but they opted to stay closer to the ocean where the other four had last been seen. This was his territory and they wanted to cover as much as possible.
They called in to the field office late that afternoon to check on any developments from their end and reported their own lack of new evidence. Scully hung up and turned to Mulder, "Nothing. Do you think the women are still alive?"
"I donít know. I donít have a sense of this guy. Why is he sticking to happily married women? And where are they now?"
"Do you think he drowns them? Is that why heís at a beach?" Scully leaned over him as he sat at the table looking over the file one more time.
"Could be. The bodies would certainly be harder to find if he dumps them far enough out. I donít know, I canít get a feel for this guy." He had the pictures spread out before him; they were all lovely women, but they had no characteristics in common other than that and their age.
"Come on Mulder. If weíre going to make our reservation we need to get ready." He nodded and replaced everything in the file. He looked up in time to see her leave the room and couldnít help but smile.
It was like a weight had been lifted from him. For a few days he had been able to handle it, but as time passed and she still didnít mention the kiss, or made any move toward him, he had sunk into a depression nearly as profound as when he was a child. He handled it differently. He was much more sardonic in his wit now, but his insecurities had run rampant.
Why had he taken so long to talk to her? He saw her everyday and she really hadnít acted differently. Like heíd said, that was the problem. He hadnít really expected her to swoon and fall into his bed, had he? No, not Scully. But some acknowledgment would have been . . . She was as insecure as he was. For some reason that was comforting to him, now that he saw it.
It helped being here with her, out of town and in this kind of setting. Last night, going to her room in the dark, it had been easier than facing her. In the dark he could imagine that she felt like he did. But to find out that it was true . . .
"Mulder!" He had to grin; she certainly sounded like a wife. One heíd want forever. He shook himself, come on weíre talking about a couple of kisses, not a lifetime commitment. He rose to head to his bedroom and stopped Ė lifetime commitment? They already had that, didnít they?
Why didnít that scare him? He had always assumed it would, if it ever happened to him. Now it just felt warm. He needed to clarify this with her of course, but after last night he felt more self-confident than he had in a very long time.
When he emerged from his bedroom he spotted her in the living room and came to a dead halt. "Where are you getting this wardrobe?"
"Donít you like it?" She smoothed what little material covered her hips and twisted to look at him.
"Yeah, Scully, I like it. Why havenít I ever seen it before?" There was as little material on top as there was at the bottom. In fact the spaghetti straps seemed to strain to cover her full breasts. Maybe she was used to dressing like this when he wasnít around. She looked so good in it. The blue brought out the color in her eyes, and it was certainly short enough to expose enough leg. He had always thought a v-neck would expose the most cleavage, but this straight across cut was . . . was damn effective.
"You want me to wear this around the office? Or maybe chasing criminals down alleys?" She was struggling to keep from laughing at his expression. He did like it; he wasnít lying about that.
"Do you wear it for anyone else?"
Her eyebrow rose, but he didnít back down. The thought of her being out with some other man, wearing this, was profoundly disturbing.
"Iíve never had the opportunity to wear it before. Iím not even sure why I bought it. Itís not really me."
His stance relaxed. "Itís very you Scully." But Iím damn glad youíve never worn it before. That comment was to himself alone. No need to get called on his territoriality right this minute.
Dinner was very nice and they had a friendly conversation with their waiter about the woman that had disappeared. He knew nothing other than it had happened and the boss was trying to keep it low key to avoid frightening customers away. No one had seen anything, and there had been no disturbance until the husband had finally made a scene to have the police called.
They really were getting nowhere fast. The photos Scully had taken that day of other people on the beach and in the markets should be ready. Theyíd pick them up on the way home. She insisted that he leave her alone at the door to retrieve the car, reminding him forcefully that she was armed and that otherwise the kidnapper might skip them for being too vigilant.
He lost no time getting back to where he could observe her, then took his time approaching to see if anyone else seemed interested. Well, every man that left the restaurant seemed interested Ė that damn dress, but no one approached her and he finally drove up to the entrance and got out to open her door.
"Good manners, Agent Scully." He whispered to her, however he stood where the view of her was obscured from other men walking past.
Once back at the house she changed into pajamas and robe, then joined him at the table to look over the photos. "Nothing Scully. None of these men are giving me a buzz. Thereís just too little to go on. Itís all been too clean."
"Do you think more than one person is involved?"
"No. More than one person and the word would start to leak. This guyís serious; heís not even teasing us with his abilities yet. Whatever he wants those women for is very important to him and he has no plans to stop until he gets it."
She looked up at him worried; "Thereíll be more."
"Yeah. Thereíll be more." He collected the photos and placed them back in the envelope.
"Well." She rose from the table. "I guess we ought to get some rest." His eyes hadnít left her face, but he made no move toward her. "Mulder? Are you okay?"
"I want to be with you." There, it was out. What kind of reaction was he going to get?
Her shoulders relaxed, she hadnít realized they were tense and a shy smile formed on her face. "Thatís a pretty big jump Mulder."
"And Iím willing to do it without a net Scully." Her smile grew. "You havenít run screaming from the room."
"Why would I want to do that?"
"Because Iím Spooky Mulder and you know me better than anyone."
"One of the best arguments for having you stay that I can think of."
He absorbed those words for a moment then rose. She had always had to look up at him but for just a second he seemed to grow even taller and she touched the back of the chair to remain steady as she looked up.
His hand on her back allowed her to release the chair. "Do you mean that?"
"Yeah." She realized she did mean it. His distance of the last few weeks had bothered her more than she had admitted to herself until last night. Things would never be all smooth sailing between them, but there was no other man in the world that she wanted to spend time with, be with.
"What does that mean?" She had to set the pace here, he couldnít push her, much as he wanted to.
"Iím not sure. Moving forward could destroy our friendship."
"I donít think what we have could be classified by the term friendship. I think itís . . . "
"Deeper? It is. Iíve never been closer to anyone in my life, but look what happened to us over a kiss."
"That was my stuff, my insecurities. If Iíd communicated with you, told you how I felt Ė "
"Can you do that Mulder? I mean full time. I donít know that I could. I want to be with you," He felt his heart rate soar at that admission from her, "but I donít know that I could stand it if this tore us apart. I need you, youíre part of my life."
"Thatís not going to change Scully. You could no more get me out of your life than you could swim to France. Weíve been through too much together."
She had to agree with that Ė he was the only one sheíd called when sheíd been diagnosed with cancer; even with her family all around her, Mulder was the person sheíd called, the person she needed when sheíd found Emily. But did he do the same with her? Yes, sheíd been with him when his mother had taken ill the first time; sheíd been the one to tell him his mother had died. He did trust her, more than he trusted anyone else, but was it going to be enough Ė enough to cross this barrier? She loved him, and yes, damn it, she was in love with him. In love with Fox Mulder, what did that mean?
He was watching her; he could see her uncertainty, even fear. Well, that was understandable. This was a commitment like neither of them had ever made before. How could he reassure her that it was a commitment he wanted to make? Heíd been consumed by it since heíd finally kissed her. Look what a shit heíd become when he thought she didnít want him.
Was that what had scared her? "Iíd never hurt you Scully."
"I know you would never intentionally hurt me Mulder. And I would never intentionally hurt you, but we do that to each other all the time."
"Weíve never belonged to each other Scully." He stopped, no he was pushing. "Iím sorry Scully. If you donít . . . "
"We are adults. Weíve both had other relationships." He carefully kept his reaction to those statements to himself. It was more than heíd hoped after the beginning of the conversation. She took his hand, "Come with me."
He nodded mutely and followed her up the stairs.
They returned to the house after their time on the beach the following morning. She had taken another roll of film, which she laid on the counter. "Iím taking a quick shower, wanna join me?" He leered down at her.
Her eyes gleamed but she shook her head. "It would take too long and you know it. We do have work to do." He pouted for an instant until she placed her hands on his chest and mock shoved him toward the door.
She heard the word "evil" drift back to her as she grinned and turned back to her bag.
She sensed a presence and turned. Hadnít Mulder gone upstairs? The arms that went around her werenít Mulderís, the hands were too soft. She began struggling immediately and took a breath to shout for help, when a cloth was shoved over her mouth and nose. The scent overwhelmed her and she knew she was going under. The struggle was over practically before it began and she was carried from the house, her terrycloth robe left behind on the floor.
"Scully? Do you want to eat here or pick something up?" He had slipped on a t-shirt and shorts following his shower. "Scully? You here?" Maybe sheíd gone up to her room. He turned and spotted her robe from the corner of his eye. What the . . .?
He picked it up and heard something metallic hit the floor. He glanced down and spotted her cross lying in a tangle of gold chain on the floor.
Oh god no! He raced outside as he grabbed the phone from the counter. No one. He punched in 911 as he checked the perimeter of the house. His identification brought him immediate attention and assurance that a patrol car was on the way. He returned to the house, mindful of evidence and raced upstairs. No, heíd known she wasnít there, but . . . oh god, what was he going to do?
She awoke reluctantly. Her head hurt and her mouth was horribly dry. "Here, just a sip." A cup was placed at her lips and the cool water was delicious against her parched tongue and throat.
"Thanks." She managed to sit up, the woman assisting her. She looked around the small room, made even smaller by the cots and women crowded in it. "Where am I?"
"We donít know. Near the beach, we can hear the ocean at night, when itís quiet."
The struggle in the kitchen Ė sheíd been taken just like the other women. They were alive. He hadnít killed any of them. She forced herself to focus on the woman that had given her the drink. "Julie? Julie Davenport?"
"Yes. Do I know you?" The other women still hadnít spoken but had moved nearer.
"No. I was looking for you. Iím Dana Scully with the FBI. My partner and I are out here to find you. All of you."
"Well you did." The blond at the far side of the room spoke, half laughing half crying. There was a hysterical look in her eyes.
"Are you . . . has he harmed you?"
That brought a variety of responses and tears. Scully turned back to Julie. "What is he doing? Has he raped you?"
"Yeah. I guess you could call it that. He hasnít . . . he uses other things. I suppose it would be referred to as sexual torture rather than rape." Julieís voice had gone flat, emotionless.
Scully couldnít let her feelings show. She had to be professional. These women were definitely not okay and she needed to keep them as calm as possible if they were going to be of any help to her. "How long have I been here?"
Julie looked over at the other women and shrugged, "Overnight. Time is hard to keep up with around here."
Overnight? It had been mid-morning when sheíd turned to find the man beside her in the kitchen. Mulder must be going mad. Theyíd found nothing; seen no one. Heíd go through the pictures, but she couldnít remember seeing the man prior to her abduction herself. He had been totally nondescript, androgynous if anything.
Theyíd made love the night before, she and Mulder. Now he didnít know if she was alive. No, these women were the top priority for now. If she spent time worrying about Mulder, she might miss something and that was unacceptable. But she ached for him, more concerned right now for his sanity than her own safety.
She felt the women tense around her and Julie whispered. "Heís coming. Lie down and donít move. Donít let him know youíre awake. He wonít bother you when youíre asleep."
There wasnít time to argue so Scully did as she said, keeping her eyes mostly closed, but hoping to get a decent look at the man that had taken her.
"Is she still asleep?" The voice was higher than the normal male range, almost feminine.
"You gave her too much, sheís just a little thing." Julie was her protector again.
"Fine, Iíll take you then." Scully felt the woman shudder and would have risen, but for Julieís fingers digging into her arm. Once they were gone and the door bolted again Scully sat up.
"Whatís going on?"
"Heís using her. He tries things. Itís like he wants to know about our bodies but doesnít want to touch them."
"Weíll get you medical attention as soon as I can get us out of here. Please tell me everything you can about this man and his habits."
"Medical attention wonít help, not now. Itís too late. The damage is . . . " Cynthia moved away from the rest of the women at that point and after a moment Diana followed. Scully watched them, then turned back to the other two women who had remained at her side.
The information they gave her was horrific and she struggled not to allow her shock and anger to show. This man was sicker than anything she had imagined, but seemed so matter of fact. It was as though he were a scientist doing experiments on test animals Ė rats, not beautiful, vital women. The damage he was doing was beyond her ability to process.
She had to focus on his habits, the timing of his visits. She would have to escape with these women; they werenít going to be found. As good as Mulder was, he had to have something to go on and this man had left nothing.
When they heard him returning, they again had her lie down and pretend to be asleep. As soon as he was gone she was up and moved toward Julie. The woman was curled up on her cot not focused on anything in this room.
"Leave me alone Dana."
"Let me help you. Iím a medical doctor."
"You canít help. Please. Leave me alone."
Lori took Danaís arm and pulled her away. "Donít try to touch her now. We donít have anything here that will help. Just give her some time."
After a moment Dana nodded, they were right. She couldnít help, she wasnít sure anything could. Getting away, that was the only option for these women. With a sigh she turned her attention to the door of their room.
It didnít look that substantial. The hinges were on the outside, but the constant assault of the weather had bleached the wood and weakened the structure.
"Can you tell when heís not here? Not in the building at all?"
"Sometimes we hear the other door close. Heís usually gone in the mornings. Iím not sure he sleeps here but every afternoon heís here doing . . . heís here." Lori had taken over Julieís role while Julie was incapable of talking to her.
Scully marveled at how well they were doing. Cynthia and Diana were the most traumatized, though they had all earned the right. Sheíd have to keep an eye on them during anything she planned.
"I think we can get out of this door, if we work together. When heís out Ė "
"Break down the door? Are you kidding?" That from Diana, probably the first comment sheíd heard from her.
"Iíve done it before. They canít come for us without knowing where to come. This guy has left no evidence, so we have to assume weíre on our own and act accordingly."
Cynthia was listening now. "You honestly think we can get out?"
"If we work together, I know we can." She watched the gleam form in Cynthiaís eyes. She would remember that later.
The women, except for Julie, gathered around her to listen to her outline the plan. Since they couldnít be certain he was away at night, they would have to wait until he left after feeding them breakfast.
It was a long night. Her thoughts kept turning to Mulder and the torture she knew he was enduring. His need to know her whereabouts was something she had grown accustomed to over their years together Ė along with his obliviousness that she would appreciate the same information. She was okay so far, thanks to these women. If only she could get that knowledge to him.
She was right about his reaction. To the team that was assembled around him he seemed in command. Inside he died a little more with every passing minute. He could see every man in every photo in his dreams Ė if he could sleep.
One night Ė heíd spent one night in her arms after all these years and now he didnít know if she was alive. He had to find her. He wasnít sure he could live without her Ė he knew he couldnít live without knowing. He had thought losing Samantha had destroyed him Ė he had had no idea something could hurt this much more.
"Agent Mulder. Weíve got things under control here. Why donít you try to get some sleep?" The local commander confronted him.
"No, you arenít. You haven't slept in 36 hours and youíre going to get sloppy. That could get you, my men or even those women killed. I canít force you to sleep, but I can take you off duty for the next few hours."
Mulder started to speak, then stopped. The man had a point; he needed to be fully functional. Sleep wasnít an option, but maybe if he cleared his mind for a little while heíd come up with some insight.
They had set up their headquarters in the house, so at least he didnít have to be too far from information. He retired to her room, their room, and lay on the bed.
He couldnít say he was asleep but he was definitely in a stupor when the knock came at his door. "Agent Mulder? You said to Ė"
"What? Have you found her?"
"We donít know. A 911 call came in with no voices, just gunshots, but itís only a few blocks from here."
"Letís go." He was out the door.
Police cars ringed the area already when they arrived only moments later. It might only be a few blocks from the house they had used, but the neighborhood was definitely different. Mulder approached the commander. "Bring me up to date."
The man in charge glanced at Mulderís badge. It didnít go with his rumpled appearance or unshaved face but he outranked him. "A 911 call was received. Before any conversation could take place, there were the sound of shots, then a womanís voice saying no. The neighbors reported 4 or 5 shots and there are people down in or near the water. We havenít been able to Ė "
Another two shots rang out and everyone ducked. Then Mulder heard her, Scully, screaming no, over and over. He vaulted the barricade and raced for the other side of the house.
It was her, she seemed covered in blood and she was trying to pull a woman from the surf. The police converged on the bodies on the beach and he was aware of orders being shouted. He was beside her.
"Help me! Weíve got to save her!" He scooped the woman Scully was struggling with into his arms and she stumbled beside them, her hands still on the woman. Mulder laid her on the sand and a paramedic team joined them.
While they examined the woman on the beach, he was examining her. She had blood everywhere but he was beginning to realize none of it was hers. "Scully?"
She had tears running down her cheeks and though she was clutching him, her eyes were on the woman. He looked down in time to see the paramedic shake his head.
"No! Please, not Julie!" Then she all but collapsed in his arms and he held her tightly. He needed to get her out of here, so he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the closest ambulance.
"Mulder, I donít . . . Iím okay, itís them."
"Youíre not okay. Stay right here and let these people check you out. Iíll check on the other women." He turned to the paramedic placing the BP cuff on her arm. "Donít let her leave here."
The guy nodded and Mulder reluctantly left her side to get the information she needed. It was bad; all six women were dead. Six? But only five women besides Scully had been abducted, unless someone hadnít been reported?
"Agent Mulder!" He turned to the policeman leaning over one of the women and headed that way. "Itís a man."
"What?" Mulder leaned over and watched the man remove the wig that covered this manís head. He still wasnít sure; the person could be either as far as he could tell right now and he wasnít about to investigate further here in public.
He returned to Scully, the bodies fell under police jurisdiction. She was his priority. His heart skipped a beat when he saw her lying on a gurney and he raced to her side. "Scully?" No response.
"She has no physical injuries sir. But sheís slipping into shock. I think we should take her in." He nodded not sure what to say. They started to comment when he climbed into the ambulance with her, until they saw the grip they had on each otherís hands. She needed him and it looked like the same was true of him.
They wanted to keep her overnight, which she protested, but Mulder added his insistence to the argument and she finally gave in, more from exhaustion than agreement.
She woke several times during the night and he was there beside her each time. She was released the next morning and though he was uncomfortable about it, their first stop was police headquarters to give her statement.
Then, their part of the investigation effectively ended, he insisted they return to DC. She was not okay and he wanted to get her home. Maybe familiar surroundings would help.
"He switched back and forth between male and female, thatís why he was so hard to spot. He was still in counseling regarding whether or not he was a candidate for the surgery to have the sex change. He was already on the hormone therapy. Apparently he wanted to know what . . . what being female meant in areas he couldnít imagine." Skinner was speaking to her but she couldnít face him.
Sheíd failed. The women had been alive when sheíd found them. But she had underestimated the damage this man had done to Cynthia and Diana. They hadnít been able to face their husbands, their families after what he had done to them. But Julie, she should have been able to save Julie and Lori.
Cynthiaís aim had been too good, too accurate. Neither she nor Diana could conceive of anyone wanting to live after what they had endured. They probably thought they were doing Julie and the others a favor.
"Is that all?" Mulder knew she was losing it, he needed to get her out of here, away from this case for awhile. He knew how she felt, heíd been through this himself and he was honestly frightened of how she was taking it.
"Yes, Iíll submit your reports when I get the autopsy results." He nodded at Mulder as dismissal, allowing his own concern for Scully to show for an instant. Mulder acknowledged it and took Scullyís arm as she stood. She didnít pull away, but she didnít seem to notice either.
Mulder walked her to the door and watched her leave the room, then turned back to Skinner. "Are the bodies here?"
Skinner nodded. "She had them shipped here for examination. Is she able to talk about it yet?"
"Let me know what you need." Mulder nodded and moved out of the office. He hadnít realized she had stopped right outside the door, waiting for him.
"Letís get out of here Scully. Thereís nothing we can do today and we donít have anything that important pending. Let me take you home."
"I need to work." She knew what he was trying to do, but he seemed so far away and she wasnít sure how to reach him. But it wasnít him, it was her. She needed to reach out, she needed his strength but he seemed somehow distant. Did he blame her for the deaths of those women?
"No Scully, right now you need to recuperate. Let me look after you for a change."
She made no comment, allowing him to lead her out of the office and the building.
When they arrived at her apartment he sat her on the couch and removed her shoes. He wanted desperately for her to let him in, to let him relieve some of the pressure for her. Sheíd done that for him often enough.
They hadnít made love since that night, the night before sheíd been taken. It was almost as if she feared him. Didnít she know he would never willingly hurt her? "I think you should lie down for a bit."
"Mulder, Iím Ė "
"Donít say fine, Scully. Itís not the truth and we both know it. Come on." He rose and pulled her back to her feet, then led her toward her bedroom.
She stiffened as they approached the bed. "Mulder, I . . . I canít Ė "
"No pressure Scully. Just let me hold you." She relaxed slightly and reclined on the bed. He joined her and pulled her into his arms. It took her a long time to relax enough to let him get truly close to her. He hated to see her suffer like this. She had done a good job. She had caught the sicko that had taken the women; she had almost saved them. Hell, she had survived and thatís the only thing that really mattered to him.
She finally drifted off and he allowed himself to relax next to her. Heíd been with her constantly since they had pulled her from the surf where sheíd been trying to pull one of the women back to shore Ė Julie, wasnít it? He was exhausted too and since she was here in his arms, safe for now, he allowed himself to sink into sleep as well.
When he awoke she wasnít in his arms. He rose and went looking for her. She wasnít in her bathroom, or living room, or kitchen. His fear had grown with each room. He returned to the living room Ė her shoes were gone. His heart sank. Where was she? He looked out the window and saw that his car was also missing.
Where would she . . . oh shit! The autopsies. She couldnít handle that. He had to stop her. How long had she been gone?
He was able to flag down a cab quickly and headed for Quantico. Surely she hadnít been out of his arms for long. How could he have fallen asleep when she needed him so desperately? He tossed the money at the driver and raced inside to the lab.
She stared down at Julieís body. She was so still, so white. How many bodies had she looked at over the years? Thousands? But not like this. Julie had died saving her life. Cynthia had been aiming at her. Sheíd been trying to get the gun away from her after she shot Diana, Lori and Amber. The surf had turned red with the four womenís blood. Then while, she was trying to pull Julie out of the water Cynthia had turned the gun on herself. Sheíd handled everything wrong.
She began the autopsy. Cause of death wasnít an issue. She needed to know what that SOB had done to her, to all of them.
No. No sane person would do this. The pain these injuries would have caused . . . Cynthia was right about one thing; it had been too late. This probably couldnít have been repaired. Children would have been out of the question. How could he . . .? She leaned against the table, closing her eyes and allowing the tears to escape from them.
When she opened them the glint of the light off the scalpel caught her eye. It wasnít right; these women had protected her. Theyíd saved her from this same mutilation. She should be dead, like Julie. She brought the blade up, closer to her face. It was sharp, one quick slice and sheíd join them. Thatís the way it should be. She brought the blade closer to her throat.
"Scully!" He knocked the blade from her hand and it hit the tile floor, skidding under the counter. "God, Scully!" He pulled her into his shaking arms. "What were you thinking? Scully you canít do this." His grip tightened but her own arms remained at her side. "Scully, can you hear me?"
He was scared to death. Scully wouldnít kill herself. She was the last person who would do something like this. He had to get her out of here. Keeping his arm tightly around her, he led her from the lab, stopping only long enough to inform a technician she was leaving.
He seated her in his car and got in himself. "Scully can you hear me?" There was no response so he started up the car. His apartment was closer; heíd take her there. It was like moving a large doll. She didnít protest, but she didnít help any either.
Once at his place he seated her on the couch and left to make her some hot tea, after he made certain she wasnít armed. She hadnít moved when he returned. "Scully, drink this. Itíll warm you up." She wouldnít take it, so he held it to her lips but after a couple of sips she refused any more.
Should he take her to a hospital? Who should he call? No, not yet, maybe sheíd snap out of it if she could rest. He helped her to her feet and led her to his bedroom. Once seated on the bed he began undressing her. She still seemed unaware of him, not protesting even when he removed her bra.
He slipped one of his t-shirts over her head and then put her to bed, tucking her in. Her eyes closed and he felt a moment of relief. If she could get some rest, she might begin thinking straight again.
He pulled the door to the bedroom almost closed and returned to the living room. He could see the door from there and hear her if she cried out. His mind replayed the scene of walking in and seeing her with that scalpel moving toward her throat. Would she have done it? Would she really have killed herself?
He obviously hadnít heard what had really happened while this sicko imprisoned her. She needed to talk it out; he had to get her to confide in him. Surely she could do that now Ė they had been lovers. It was hard to believe they could be closer than they had been, but in her arms heíd finally felt complete. She had felt the same, that couldnít be faked.
He moved back toward the bedroom. He didnít want to disturb her, but he needed to be close to her. She was asleep but it certainly couldnít be classified as peaceful. How could he help her?
He turned off the lights and curled around her body, trying to warm her even though he knew her shivers werenít caused by a physical cold. It seemed to help, at least she got some sleep. He dozed occasionally. After knowing she had slipped from his arms and nearly . . . sleep wasnít something he was comfortable with right now.
"Sir, Agent Mulder. I just wanted you to know that Agent Scully is going to need a few days."
"Did something happen?" The concern in his voice was obvious.
"Can I speak off the record?"
The hesitation was so slight Mulder might have imagined it. "Yes."
Mulder cleared his throat. "Agent Scully attempted suicide yesterday."
"She . . . is she all right?"
"Physically, yes." The answer was cautious and Skinnerís concern rose.
"Where is she?"
"Sheís going to need more help than that. Did she ingest . . .?"
"Uh, no. It was a scalpel. I got there is time."
There was an even longer pause this time. "Mulder, are you all right?"
"I just wanted you to know that we wouldnít be in."
"Mulder, keep me up to date. Let me know what you need. Try to get her to talk to someone."
"Iíll be in touch." He broke the connection; there wasnít anything more to say. He sat staring into space, unsure what his next move should be. He looked up as he heard his bedroom door open.
"Mulder? Were you on the phone?"
"Yeah, I was telling Skinner we were going to take a few days." He rose and put an arm around her to lead her to the couch.
She jerked away. "Itís me Scully. Iím not going to hurt you, I need you to talk to me."
She shook her head not able to respond to him. "Youíve got to get it out. It doesnít have to be in the report, but you have to get it out."
"I canít . . . "
"Scully, itís me. I love you. Youíve got to let me help you. I donít ever want to see a scene like I saw yesterday again. I donít want you to even think about dying."
"I should have been able to save them."
"What happened Scully? What did you do that you would change?"
She sighed; he wasnít going to let up. Would he be able to look at her again when he knew how badly she had screwed up? He said he loved her, would he after this? "I didnít realize how badly damaged Cynthia was. She was the first one taken; he had the longest to torture her. I should have taken that into account. But I didnít know that sick fuck had a gun. He didnít use it on me, as far as I know he didnít use it at all after he took her. For those few seconds they all seemed stunned when she grabbed it from the desk.
"I had taken the phone and dialed 911. I should never had turned away but . . . "
"Scully, there was no way you could have known there was a gun there. Did you feel that you had time to look for one?"
"But I should have thought of it! I didnít. It was my fault everything went so wrong!"
His arms cradled her. "Why do you think you might have missed it?" He sounded matter of fact but his arms were making her warm for the first time since . . .
"I was too worried about their state of mind. What he did to them . . . I just wanted to get them out. I knew we could track him down with their help even if we didnít find him there. These women would have been able to identify him without a problem. I wanted to get the police there, thatís why I called 911 instead of checking . . . "
"Thatís the choice I would have made. How could you know that one of the victims would turn on the other victims and murder them?"
"It wasnít murder. I believe she thought she was doing them a favor. She couldnít conceive of anyone wanting to live after what heíd done to them."
"Scully what did he . . . " He stopped as the tears started to flow again. "Iím sorry. You donít need to talk about this anymore now. Just let me hold you."
She nodded slightly. Could he make it better? Mulder? Heíd listened to her, he hadnít judged her. She didnít feel quite as much like killing herself sitting here in his arms. "You make a pretty good psychologist."
He gave her a slight grin. "I donít know about that, but I want to help. Youíve done it for me often enough."
"Why do you say that?
Youíre the one that always gets the call that I need you. You never call me
He stared at her a moment, "Is that the way you see it?" He tried to remember all the times sheíd been there for him, "Maybe itís true. Maybe I donít call you Ė but thatís because youíre always already there. You know when I need you before I do."
She looked at him for a long moment. He seemed sincere. He thought she helped him? Heíd gotten her through so much, more than he even knew. He was giving her back the will to live. Her guilt was still there, it always would be; but so was Mulder. In his arms . . . one day at a time Dana. If anything was going to get her through this it would be Mulder.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.