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.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter,10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.