It was all business when he returned to the living room. He needed his life back.
"Tell me the whole story, from the beginning." He settled back on the couch, his hand on Scully's knee, the others dragging up chairs to listen.
"I tried to call you Saturday," Scully began, "I needed some information from you, but there was no answer. I didn't think that much about it, but when you didn't answer Sunday either I decided I'd better go feed the fish, since you probably had gone out of town. When I got there, your door was unlocked. The lights were out. I called out to you, then went on in and. . . and you were lying on your back in front of your couch in a pool of blood. Mulder, your face wasn't damaged. You were easily identifiable. I could see four wounds in your chest from where I stood. I froze; I don't know how long I just stood there. I finally called 911 and then Kersh. They took you away and Kersh said I couldn't do the exam. I won't repeat what I said to him, but I guess I'm lucky to still have a job.
"Mulder, they ran every test, DNA, fingerprints, it was you. I saw you."
She was shaking at the memory and he put his arm around her. "That's not what I remember. Let me tell you my version." She grabbed a couple of tissues from the box Byers extended and settled back.
"I went to a bar, just to get out. I had two beers, total. There was a woman there who tried to get friendly, but I wasn't interested. I don't know if she drugged my drink or someone else did or what. I don't remember leaving the bar, it's just a blank after that. I woke up last night in a warehouse on J Street with no ID. I walked here thinking it was still Friday night.
"If someone went to those lengths to make you believe I was dead, why did they dump me so close to home? Why did they dump me at all? Scully, where did Kersh see me?"
"I called him after I called 911, he came to your apartment. He saw you just like I did."
"Why didn't you call Skinner?"
"I couldn't reach him. And I didn't think about that at the time, but he should have been the one."
"No. I'll bet someone had him out of the way so you couldn't reach him."
"I hear the wheels turning, Mulder. What're you thinking?" Byers leaned forward.
"I'm not sure. I want to know why Kersh identified my body but Skinner and you guys weren't asked."
"Not asked? We tried to demand it." Frohike broke in.
"I think we need to have Skinner join our little party here." Mulder reached over and picked up the phone, handing it to Scully. She dialed quickly.
"Walter? No, I'm okay. I was wondering if you could come over to my apartment for a few minutes. Now if possible. Thanks."
"You know Skinner's private number?" Mulder gently probed.
"I've used it a lot in the last few days." Was her only comment.
She relaxed back on the couch, letting the four of them bounce ideas off of each other about what was going on. The theories became increasing outlandish and a couple brought a smile to her face but she kept quiet, enjoying the fact that he had left his arm over her shoulders. She tried not to be obvious about it, but kept glancing up at his face just to ensure he was still there.
When Skinner knocked at the door, she rose to let him in losing physical contact. She needed to be watching Skinner's face anyway.
"Dana, are you okay?" Skinner had eyes only for her when she opened the door.
"I'm fine. I need you to see something." She stepped aside to let him enter. He caught sight of Langly and started to speak, when Mulder rose from the couch. Whatever he had planned to say was lost. Scully thought for a moment that he was going to choke.>
"Mulder?" He glanced over at Scully. "What the hell is going on here!"
"Come on in." Scully took his arm and led him to the couch where he sank gratefully into the cushions.
"I'm not dead." Mulder offered.
"I can see that. I want to know how you did it and most of all why."
The five of them brought him up to date on what they knew and some of what they surmised.
"Wait a minute, just who was in that coffin I carried yesterday?" His gaze swept the room.
The comment startled Mulder. Skinner had been a pallbearer for him? That needed some more thought, later. Who else? No, not an appropriate question right now. Maybe it had just been these four guys; did he have six friends? He shook his head to try to get back to the topic.
Scully was watching his face, and as always was there with him, thinking his thoughts. She squeezed his hand and he felt himself regain control.
"It bothers me a lot that Kersh identified my body."
"Yeah." Skinner joined him. "I didn't think about it at the time, but I was manipulated away from the morgue. Kersh himself practically threw Dana into my arms." Scully nodded at that memory. She had been frantic to get in that room and handle things her way. Skinner's arms had held her back, while supporting her completely, both physically and emotionally. Skinner's eyes on her showed he shared the memory. Mulder's arms instinctively tightened around her.
After a long moment Skinner looked at Mulder. "You need to stay dead, while we investigate this."
"Mulder, your mother?" Scully asked.
"I don't mean to be cruel Scully, but we can't let her know I'm alive. I want to trust her, but some of her associations. . . No, she stays in the dark."
Scully looked down, but didn't argue. That was hard enough for him to admit, no need to make it worse.
"You need to stay hidden. We can make room for you at our place." Byers offered.
"I have an extra room, it might be safer with me." Skinner offered.
"He stays here." Scully's voice, though soft and low, was edged with steel. The discussion ended immediately with no further debate. Mulder felt the relief flood his senses, this was where he had to be. "I'm not expected back at work for another two weeks, that gives me the most freedom of movement."
She had taken a leave of absence? Mulder was once again overwhelmed at the depth of her anguish. She usually threw herself into her work, not escaped from it. He felt humbled by her, she was so much more than he deserved.
"Dana?" Skinner drew her attention, "I need to know who you see when you look at Mulder. I hate to get an artist over here, but. . . "
"The program is on her computer." Mulder offered.
"Then let me have a try at it." Langly volunteered and headed for her desk. He booted up her computer and gallantly allowed her to feed her in password, though he had known it for some time.
She forced herself to look at "Mulder" while describing him. The others had their eyes on the screen, but Mulder held her eyes since he couldn't touch her hand.
The blond, pale man with a thin face, mustache, thin lips, and a small nose looked back at them from the screen. "What color are his eyes, Scully?"
"Hazel, they couldn't disguise the eyes." Mulder's hand twitched to take hers, but he fought it back.
"I want a printout of that. I want to run it through every database I can find." He turned back to Mulder, "I think whoever took you has a mole in their organization. You had help getting away. If they were this sophisticated, they wouldn't turn you lose in this city, probably not this country."
Mulder nodded, he'd already realized that. "Will you be safe looking for this man? Kersh is right there."
"I still have a few people there I can trust. And these guys probably can do anything off site that I can." The three of them reluctantly nodded. "Okay, there's nothing we can do right now except gather information. Keep your head down and be on full alert. Dana, you have my beeper number, use it. I'll be in touch as soon as I know anything."
Scully let him out and Mulder watched him give her a quick hug. He was aware it made the hair on his arms stand up, but kept his mouth closed.
Byers, suddenly realizing that five was definitely a crowd, poked Langly who caught on and nodded. "Scully, Mulder, we're gonna get out of here. We need to get started on this."
<"Oh, okay. I need to go out too. There's nothing here to eat."
"Hey, we can handle that for you. Do you have a list?"
"You guys have done enough." Scully's eyes immediately moistened at this show of continued support.
"Let them, Scully. You and I still need to talk." She nodded and went into the kitchen to make a quick inventory.
"How was she? You said she looked after my mother?"
Byers spoke in low tones with an eye toward the door she'd entered. "She was walking dead, Mulder. We made sure she wasn't alone."
"It was like that?"
All three of them nodded. They moved apart as they heard her returning. Frohike took the list from her and they headed toward the door.
"We'll let you know what we turn up. Keep out of sight." Scully let them out as Mulder stayed on the far side of the room. As soon as the door was shut he approached her and put his hands on her shoulders. She leaned back against him for a second, then stood up straight again.
"Scully, tell me everything. Tell me what you saw at my apartment."
She shuddered and didn't respond.
"Did you touch the body?"
"You were cold. You were so cold." He turned her and wrapped her in his arms. After a moment he spoke again.
"Did you see anyone? Pass anyone on the way to the apartment? Did anyone speak to you? Touch you?"
"No, there was no one."
"What about the night before?"
"I didn't see anyone after I got home Friday night. I spoke to Mom on the phone."
"Do you remember any dreams?"
"No, I. . . "
"Yes. There was a dream. The. . . the abduction dream."
"I didn't know you still had that."
"I don't often, but sometimes it just happens." She watched his brow furrow. "What? What are you thinking?"
"I'm not sure. Let me worry about it. Right now I want you to be able to see me when you look at me."
*****Believe Me 3
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris, 10-13 and Fox – Bless them for it!! No infringement intended.