They hadn’t seen Dana come up behind them, but Sheila was leaning in to Peter, a flush on her face.
“So now you’re smitten with Spooky too?”
“I didn’t say I was ‘smitten’. I just said we had a very interesting conversation last night. Maybe what you thought you saw wasn’t what was really happening, and maybe I was wrong about the man.”
“You, wrong? How refreshing.”
“You don’t have to get snide, Peter. He is attractive. Maybe the stories about him have been embellished. He didn’t sound very Spooky to me.”
Peter’s expression caused her to stop and look around. Dana’s face brought a smirk to the other woman’s face. “Have a nice weekend, Dana?”
Instead of responding, Dana brushed past them and on into the lecture hall.
“Dana - “Peter tried to stop her, but she didn’t slow down. “You know, you’re a real bitch, Sheila.” He moved away from the blonde following Dana, but she had already taken her seat. He’d have to see her after class.
The lecture had already started when the door opened and a young woman entered. She handed a note to Dr. Guttman. He read it and looked up.
“Dr. Scully, get your things together. You’re going to be missing classes for the next few days. Your services have been requested by the VCS. I have no doubt you’ll learn more in the field than here anyway. I will meet with you later about your assignments.”
Dana managed to rise, and couldn’t stop herself, she glanced toward Sheila. The woman's face was bright red, her fury palpable, then spotted Peter out of the corner of her eye. He was white as a sheet and too stunned to move, though Sheila had her hand on his arm. They both knew the implications of such a summons, and exactly who was behind it.
“Report to Bill Patterson.” Dana took the paper her instructor held out to her and nodded, then turned to the door. Karen was grinning ear-to-ear and mouthed ‘call me’ to Dana.
Dana’s nod was almost imperceptible, then she slipped out of the lecture hall.
She came through the metal detectors and got her badge, then hurried upstairs to Patterson’s office. Just outside the door she stopped and smoothed down her skirt and straightened her jacket. Then she took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
“Come.” A man’s voice called to her.
She opened the door to see a large office with a lot of activity. She glanced around, but didn’t see anyone she recognized.
“Yes sir.” She turned to face the man that spoke.
“Mulder said you could be a help on a case we’ve just picked up. He said you were still at the academy.”
“I am, but I am a forensic pathologist. I did my residency - “
“Fine. Report to Mulder; he’ll bring you up to speed on the case.”
“Yes sir.” She turned as the door opened again and she watched Mulder enter the room. He spotted her instantly, as though he’d sensed her before even seeing her. She saw his eyes smile, but it didn’t reach his lips. Fine, professional, that was good. Besides, she had to admit she was feeling a little unsettled by what she had overheard this morning.
She moved to him and held out her hand. “Agent Mulder.” He shook the proffered hand with only a hint of a smile.
“Dr. Scully. Why don’t I bring you up to date.”
“Thank you.” She followed him out into the hall and to the elevator. She noted that he pressed the button for the basement, but neither spoke with all of the other people around. The car emptied out on the first floor and they were alone. “Mulder? Why did you do this?”
“Because I think you could be a help on this case.”
Her eyebrow rose and he grinned. “Okay, I wanted to see you, but I do think you could help out.”
“The announcement made quite a splash in class.”
“Upset Sheila and Peter, huh?”
“You could say that. I thought Peter was going to pass out and Sheila, she almost had an aneurysm. If you were going for shock, it worked.”
His smile widened.
“You did this on purpose. Mulder, Mulder did you really call her last night? “
“Call her? No. Hey, I may have staged the announcement, but I was thinking about this yesterday when I left you.”
“She said - “
“Scully, when I got in this morning I was handed this. It could be a big case, a murderer who targets women, three so far. I need a woman’s point of view. And you are top of your class and a forensic pathologist. You’re not here just because we’ve gone out. We can talk about the phone call later, I promise.”
She looked into his eyes for a long moment, then nodded. “Okay. Thank you.”
“Did you know you were already being discussed in higher circles, I just preempted them by asking for you first.”
That surprised her, but she said nothing.
After a moment, he turned to his desk. For the first time she looked around the room. Why was he in the basement, so far from the others? And who did his decorating? The “I Want To Believe” poster was a little strange, but he had shown a lot of interest in outer space when they were at the Smithsonian. She took a step closer to look at the other pictures, but he flipped on the slide projector. “Want to get the light?”
“Uh, sure.” She turned off the fluorescent lights and turned toward the picture showing on the wall. It was horrific, the woman had been brutalized. Dana swallowed hard and stepped closer. “Was she raped?”
“Yes.” He pulled another slide, of a different woman, but the wounds were similar.
“The coroner . . . well, I would prefer it if you would do an autopsy yourself. I’m not . . . he may not be as reliable as we need for this case.”
“When was she autopsied?”
“Yesterday. The first slide was the latest victim. There have been two others.”
She nodded, “Where?”
“We fly into Little Rock this afternoon. How long will it take you to pack?”
She blinked, “Not long. You've already made the arrangements?”
“We need to move on this. Our flight is at 2:30.”
She glanced down at her watch. “I need to go to my apartment.”
“I can pick you up there.”
“It’s out of your way.”
“I don’t mind. You better get going. I’ll brief you on the plane.”
She nodded, “I’ll see you in a little while.” She moved toward the door, but with her hand on the knob, she turned back. “Mulder, thank you.”
“You can do this. And I need you. Go on, I’ll pick you up in an hour.”
They made their plane with little time to spare. Fortunately the flight wasn’t crowded, so they had a row to themselves. He took the aisle seat, tossing his briefcase into the window seat so that she would be next to him.
She didn’t settle back as he had expected, and seemed to tense up when the engines revved. “Dana?”
“I’m okay.” She managed a small smile.
He looked straight into her eyes, deeper than she’d ever felt before, then casually draped his arm over her shoulders. She seemed to move just a touch closer, though it might have been his imagination.
“For the record, Dana, I did not call Sheila.”
She looked up surprised. Not what she had expected him to say. She relaxed a little more, he had seen her tenseness at flying and had made her physically comfortable and now was distracting her. And it was working.
“I . . . I didn’t really think so. She must have seen me standing there and wanted to make Peter and me both jealous.”
“Did it make you jealous?” She caught the surprise and the . . . the hope in his tone.
He smiled then, “Well, I didn’t call her, but she did call me.”
“She what?” Dana sat up a little, but he pulled her back down against him, even closer than before.
“She’s half a step above stupid Dana. She said she wanted to ‘warn’ me that you weren’t the person you were presenting yourself to be.”
Dana’s mouth had fallen open and it took all of his will power not to pull her even closer and take advantage of that fact.
“What was I supposed to be?”
“A bimbo, sleeping her way through medical school and now the academy.”
She blinked, “Doesn’t fit the ‘ice queen’ rep, does it?”
“Nope.” He grinned.
“I didn’t you know.”
She sighed, “I have made mistakes.”
“So have I. Do we need to exchange stories?”
She chuckled, “No. I don’t think I want to hear about your women.”
“My women? Yeah, then what would we talk about for the other three hours and ten minutes of the flight?”
She realized they were in the air and met his eyes. “Thank you.”
He shrugged, “Want to go over the case?” He reluctantly removed his arm.
They had met with the sheriff, then he had driven her over to the hospital to use their facilities to repeat the autopsy. Now he stood watching her as she bent over the body. She was adorable in the greens, though he’d never say that. She was all business. He glanced at the body, and winced. It was bad enough looking at dead bodies, but here with the deep investigation . . . he had to keep objective. At least he didn’t lose his lunch like some cops.
She reached for another instrument and he cleared his throat. She glanced over at him and noted his discomfort. “You don’t like this part.”
“Not especially.” He grinned at her.
“I really don’t need you to stay here. I want to be thorough. Why don’t you meet with the Sheriff, see what else they have. I can call you when I’m finished.”
“How long are you talking?”
“A couple of hours at least.”
He was there in exactly two hours to pick her up. She was finished and scrubbing when he arrived. It took her just a couple of minutes to don her street clothes.
"Find anything?" He asked when she rejoined him.
"Yes." She handed him a small evidence bag.
He looked at it closely. "What is it?"
"A splinter? Where . . . "
"Her vagina." He winced. "Mulder, he performed object rape in addition to assaulting her himself."
"It was post-mortem."
He closed his eyes for a moment. "It's late, let's get out of here. Do you feel like eating?"
"I'd really like a shower and to take off my shoes. Could we get some take out?"
He smiled then, "Sure could. Chinese?" The smile grew.
"Without Mr. Tai? Wouldn't feel right. How about Italian?"
Well, the blood didn't seem to bother her, but she'd have to have a strong stomach for this work. "Italian it is. I'll drop you by the motel, then go get the food."
"You don't - "
"It'll be nice and hot when you get out." He cajoled.
"Mmm, sold. Let's lock up the evidence and get out of here."
She answered the door quickly when he knocked. He had to check her out and he liked what he saw. Her hair was slicked back, but the tendrils that had dried were curling. She had on a large USN t-shirt and running shorts, but had topped everything with a three quarters length robe. She let him in and pulled the robe closed. He was positive she wasn't wearing a bra.
"Smells good." She took a deep breath.
"So do you." He responded and enjoyed her shy smile. "May I join you?"
"Of course." She scooped her papers off the small table and pulled up the other chair.
He steered the conversation away from the case, and Sheila. He knew what he had to do tonight and this respite would get him through it.
She cleaned up and put her files on the bed. "Do you want to work in here?"
He blinked at her, in here? With her? He didn't answer and her face flushed. "I'm sorry. If you have a routine . . . "
"No, it's not . . . no one's ever asked before. I don't know, I'm not good company when I . . . "
"I understand." She gathered up her notes and settled Indian style on the bed.
"Dana, really, I've never worked around anyone when I'm trying to get into someone like this guy's head."
"Mulder, it's okay. I'm not upset. I don't know how this is done, I've never done it either. If you need to be alone, I understand."
"The problem is, I don't want to be alone."
She smiled slightly then. "I'm not throwing you out."
He joined her on the bed then, not close enough to touch, and made himself comfortable against the headboard. "You could tell me what you found. Talk to me."
He stirred when she rolled over. Shit, he hadn't meant to get really comfortable, much less fall asleep. He had work to do. He slipped off of her bed and took the papers over to the table, then took the half of the bedspread he had been lying on and lay it over her. Before good sense could take over completely, he gently kissed her lips. She seemed to sigh a little, but didn’t wake. He let himself out of the room.
The knocking woke her. She turned, stretching slightly. Why was she on top of the covers with the bedspread draped over her. Mulder! Her eyes flew open. He’d been here, explaining how he worked through the evidence.
The second knock jolted her back to the present. “Who is it?”
“Dana, open up.”
Mulder. She scrambled out of the bed and hurried to the door. She glanced through the peephole, then hurried to let him in.
“They found another body. We need to get over there.”
“Give me fifteen minutes.”
He nodded and she looked at him more closely.
“Are you okay?”
He nodded, “We need to hurry.”
“Of course. I’m sorry. I’ll be right out.”
“I’ll find us some coffee.”
The scene was gruesome, the rage and overkill blatant even to her novice eyes. The locals had waited for them and now Dana was taking the crime scene photos as Mulder talked to the neighbor who had reported the disturbance.
They had moved to another room, so the older man could get his composure back. Mulder was torn between talking to him, and keeping an eye on Dana. He knew she had picked up his emotional distance this morning and he wanted her to know it was the work. He shoved that aside, they could talk later.
One of the deputies took the neighbor home finally, after Mulder thanked him for his assistance. Mulder hurried back to the bedroom. She looked up as he came through the door “Is Mr. Abram okay?”
“Not really. The deputy was going to stay with him until his son can get here.”
She nodded. “We’re about through in here. I’ll ride with the body and you can have the car.”
She seemed rather distant herself. They moved out of the way, so that the body
could be loaded for transport and in the relative privacy of the hall, he
touched her shoulder. “Listen, I - “
“Mulder.” She smiled up at him. “It’s the work. It’s why you’re so good at it. I don’t want to be a distraction, I want to be a help.”
He leaned down, close to her ear. “Do you know how much I want to kiss you?”
“About half as much as I want you to?” She grinned at the stunned look on his face.
They had loaded the body onto the gurney now. Dana leaned over and unzipped the bag, to check one last thing he assumed. He looked down at the dead woman. What he saw froze him - it wasn't the dead woman, not the victim that had brought them here. It was her, Dana, lying on the gurney, her beautiful red hair spread out around her peaceful face. He couldn't speak, he couldn't even move.
"Mulder?" Her hand on his arm brought him back. "Mulder, what's wrong?"
He still didn't speak. She motioned for the men to take the body out, then pulled Mulder to the side.
"Mulder, talk to me. What is it?"
He grabbed her upper arms in a painful grip. "I want you to go home, back to DC."
"What? No. I have an autopsy to do." She motioned toward the door.
"I know how he picks his victims."
Her eyes grew wide. That had been a point of frustration all along. "How?"
"Its women he sees at the crime scene. He comes back, to watch us work. Then picks an innocent bystander."
“Mulder, you can’t know that.”
“Dana, please, trust me. I’ll have to do some checking, but I’m right.”
“Okay, you go to the station and check. I’ll go to the morgue and start on the autopsy.”
“He’s seen you. I’m sure of it. You’re not safe. Hell he could already be targeting you!”
She just looked at him and his frustration grew. Why wasn’t she listening? He knew what he was talking about. She must have seen his frustration because after a moment she nodded. “I can take a deputy with me. He can wait outside of the morgue.”
His eyes closed and the relief actually bowed his shoulders. She had listened, she might not believe, but she had listened. He looked down at her then, and let one finger trace her cheekbone. “Don’t leave the morgue until I come to get you. No one else.”
She gave him a slight smile. “No one else, got it.”
“I’m serious Dana.”
Her smile disappeared, “So am I. I need to get going, and so do you.”
Mulder arranged for her to ride in the ambulance, but to be followed by Deputy Miller. His directions to Miller were specific. He drove back to the sheriff’s office, but his unease didn’t lift. Seeing her body, lifeless on that gurney, had affected him, truly affected him in a way he had been unprepared for.
He tried desperately not to think of the victims of the crimes he investigated as people. It didn’t help, and only made the depression worse when he worked.
He cornered the sheriff in his office and went over his theory that their murderer had been at the scenes of each of the crimes, which could mean it was one of his people, at the least someone he knew. They also checked, where they could, about whether or not the victims had been at previous crime scenes.
The other correlation hit him as he stared once again at the folders spread out in front of him. It was what he should have seen last night, but he’d been too comfortable. These women, all but one had traditionally male jobs. The first victim had been a loan officer, the second a lawyer, this last one worked as a lineman for the electric company. That didn’t explain the waitress.
“Sheriff, look at this.”
Wilkins moved over closer, and looked at the files with the grisly photos spread over the extra desk. “Yeah?”
Mulder quickly explained his theory.
“So you’re saying he’s angry at women who get ‘men's’ jobs?”
“Yeah, except for the third one. A waitress is traditionally a woman’s job.”
“Well Mollie only did that part time.”
“Part time? It’s the only occupation listed.” He pointed at the file.
“Well, she wasn’t official yet.”
“Official?” Mulder was not going to hit the guy, not yet.
“She was a volunteer fireman, well fire fighter I guess is the correct term now. She hadn’t completed her training, but she was good.”
That was traditionally a male role. He had hit on it. But he should have realized this last night. Dana was in danger from this guy because he’d been slow. She was a doctor, a pathologist and an FBI agent - how traditionally male could you get?
He pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed her cell.
He looked up as Miller approached the desk, and felt fear grip him. "Why aren't you with Agent Scully?"
"Dell told me you needed me here. He came to relieve me." The confused deputy looked up at Mulder.
"Dell? Who's that? Did you send him?" Mulder turned on the sheriff, even as he pressed redial on the phone.
"Dell? He's a guy that hangs around here. I've deputized him a couple of times. Real helpful guy.”
“Well, yes. He applied for the police academy this past session but didn't get in."
"Oh, space. I'm sure he'll get in next time."
"Space?” Mulder felt a familiar sinking feeling. “Who got the last space this time?"
"Let me think, Grace, Grace Madison. She had a better grade on the entrance exam."
"A woman. How did he take it?"
"He was disappointed, maybe a little sore. He took some ribbing because a woman - "
"This Dell, he's the guy that been murdering these women. He's been at the crime scenes; he's seen the women. Shit! I should have - He's got Dana. Where would he take her?"
The two men in front of him were still gaping at him, unable to make the leaps he was making at this lightening speed.
“Did you hear me? Where would he have taken her?”
“Now listen just a minute Agent Mulder. You don’t even know that she’s not still in the morgue, checking out the body.”
Mulder held up his cell phone, “She hasn’t answered.”
“So she’s got her hands in the woman’s body.” The sheriff put his arms out to try to calm him, clearly put out by the man’s attitude.
“Come on.” Mulder grabbed his jacket.
“You’ve got the siren and lights. Now!”
The sheriff sighed, but he did move to follow Mulder. “Miller, hang out here. Call me when Dell shows up.”
The sheriff’s attitude had changed abruptly when they arrived at the hospital. Neither Dana nor Dell was anywhere to be found, but the body had been left out, exposed, the autopsy half finished. The blood spot on the floor near the door had two red hairs caught in it
Mulder felt blackness creeping in on him. He’d been right, but he hadn’t followed through enough to protect her in time.
“Where would he have taken her?” His voice was low and harsh. The sheriff winced. “He murdered the other women in their homes. They let him in, that’s why there was no forced entry. He’s got a uniform, doesn’t he?”
Sheriff Wilkins nodded.
“Okay, they felt safe.” Mulder had gone inside of himself again. “Why these women. There were other women that witnessed the clean up, from behind the lines. What am I not seeing?”
The sheriff stood there, watching him.
“The victim, the first one, she was a loan officer. Did he have any money problems?”
“Uh, listen - “
“You listen! This madman has my partner, a woman doing what he thinks is a man’s job. Tell me what I need to know.”
“Yes, he had money problems. He ended up having to sell his family home after his Grandmother died. They wouldn’t extend the loan.”
“She was the first victim. He liked the feel of it, he felt justified. Where would he take her?”
“He lives in a, it’s like a boarding house. He couldn’t take her there.”
“The home he had to sell - “
“The new family is there.”
Mulder reached for the man’s lapels, ready to shake him, but realized in time and forced himself to step back. “Are there outbuildings on the property?”
“I haven’t been out there. We need to talk to Miller.”
“Come on, he can meet us out there. We don’t have any time.”
Mulder was moving toward the door, ready to break into a run as soon as he was outside of the building. Wilkins hurried to catch up. He had put her in this danger, he had to find her, he had to save her.
It was Deputy Miller who spied Dell’s car hidden in a wooded area of the old farm road. The closest building was an old shed, used to store equipment closer to the fields. Dell had obviously had to improvise quickly with a woman who had no home in the area.
They heard no sounds coming from the building, but Mulder’s senses were on high alert. The sheriff had only pulled his gun reluctantly at Mulder’s insistence.
By sign language, Miller indicated he would go in first. Mulder felt as though they were placating him, but he needed the back-up.
Miller cautiously pushed the door open, but the groans from the hinges spoiled any hint of surprise. Then Miller was on the ground, struck in the head, unconscious. Mulder moved then, as the sheriff stooped to check for a pulse.
Dell had moved back into the shadows where Dana lay, knowing he was caught, but desperate to finish his work before they had him.
Dell raised the piece of wood he had slammed into Miller’s head, but Mulder’s bullet caught him on the down swing, knocking him back. He lunged forward once more, but another bullet, from behind Mulder, finished the job.
Mulder was already on his knees beside her. “Get an ambulance!” He barked at the sheriff and heard him race off toward the cars.
“Dana? Dana, its Mulder. You’re safe now. Can you hear me? I’m sorry, I’m so damn sorry.”
Her eyelids fluttered, but didn’t open. He saw her split and bleeding lips form his name. Relief threatened to topple him, and he found himself sitting on the wooden floor at her side.
“It’s going to be okay.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead and felt her relax under his hands.
He was in a hurry; he wanted to get to the hospital. He needed to see Dana, but he had to get this out of the way. He picked up the phone and dialed.
“Come.” Sheila opened the office door at his biding. She had stopped to freshen her lipstick, fix her hair, and unbutton the top two buttons of her blouse.
“Agent Mulder.” She practically purred the words and he struggled to keep his face impassive.
“Please, call me Sheila.”
The huff from the corner of the room drew her attention and Mulder saw a look of unease come over her face. Peter? “What are you doing here?”
“Agent Mulder asked to see me.”
“Please,” Mulder motioned to the chair. She sat, but didn’t cross her legs provocatively. Mulder found himself a little disappointed, and a lot amused.
“Ms. Lewis, Sheila, I thought you should know that you’ve been the subject of an unofficial investigation.”
“I just decided to check into your ‘credentials’.”
He saw her face pale and he pushed a file toward her. Peter just observed from the far side of the room. After a moment, she took the file he extended. Mulder was watching her, but she had dropped her eyes. She opened the manila folder and began looking at the papers. Her face lost even more color. After a couple of minutes, she closed the file and faced him. “So?”
“So,” he smiled, “they’ll be asking for your resignation. You might want to get your resume together.”
“Because of Dana? Because we set you up on a blind date?”
Peter jerked at the word ‘we’, but Mulder’s look kept him quiet.
“Actually I’d like to thank you for that, but the rumors, the lies about her reputation, come on Sheila, the sabotage on her car? What is this, high school? You don’t have what it takes to be in the FBI. Personally, I don’t think you have what it takes . . . never mind.”
“What about Peter? Are you throwing him out too?”
Mulder turned to look at the man, “No. I don’t have the authority to throw either of you out. Besides, he might be able to cut it. The Bureau needs agents willing to . . . to work hard and do the scut work.”
“Dana - “ Peter started, but Mulder’s narrowed eyes stopped him for a moment. “She doesn’t have to worry about . . . I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? What you are is a wimp.” Sheila hissed at him. “No wonder she wasn’t interested in you. What woman would be?” She turned to face Mulder then, “Fine, I’m out. You gentlemen can run the damn Bureau, but you,” She looked at Mulder, “You’re no better for her than he is. I didn’t make up your reputation, you earned it. You really think a woman like Dana Scully could stay interested in you? Has any woman ever stayed interested in you?” As she watched, his face became totally impassive; no expression at all graced his features. For the first time, she felt fear.
He pushed the door opened quietly, she was asleep. He was pleased to see that her bruises were healing. A movement caused him to look to the side of her room. Her mother stood and motioned for him to step outside. She followed him, pulling the door closed silently.
Not Fox, he felt a pang of dread. “Mrs. Scully. How is she?”
“Better. They may let her go home tomorrow.”
“That’s wonderful.” He glanced at the door.
“Mr. Mulder . . . I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to see her. She, she’s confused about her . . . her career path right now. Her father and I would like to see her return to medicine. You have, you have a great deal of influence over her and we, her father and I, would rather you not attempt to talk her into staying with the Bureau.”
“Mrs. Scully, I . . . I would never try to convince her to do something she doesn’t want to do.”
“That’s the problem Mr. Mulder; she doesn’t know what she wants to do. Please, for her sake, would you step away at this time?”
He glanced at the door one more time, then settled his shoulders. “You think that’s for the best.”
“I do. I’m sure you are a very nice man, but - “
“No Mrs. Scully. I’m not a nice man. I was able to get into the head of the man that hurt Dana. I understood him, I was able to find him. Someone that can do that . . . we should be alone. I knew that before I met her, I just forgot for a little while. Would you tell her I’m glad she’s doing so well. No, no don’t do that.” He held out his hand, “It was very nice meeting you and your husband Mrs. Scully. You have a wonderful daughter and I . . .” He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and looked at her, “Goodbye.”
She watched as he turned and walked toward the elevator. She very nearly called him back and did take a step toward him, but stopped herself. He wasn’t her worry, Dana was.
She put her coffee down, she couldn’t let him see that her hands were shaking. She wasn’t even sure why they were. When the Bureau had called for an assist on an autopsy, it hadn’t crossed her mind that the AIC could be Mulder. They hadn’t spoken in nearly two years.
The timing was unbelievable. Just last weekend she had been helping her mother in the garden when the older woman had brought up Mulder. Dana had tried to change the subject at first, but Maggie Scully would not be dissuaded.
Finally Dana sank down on her knees beside her mother, mouth open. “You asked him . . .” She lost her voice. Her mother had no idea what she had done. The man was so insecure. He had been so incredulous that her parents had liked him and then . . . oh god.
She’d left her parents home in a daze, allowing herself to remember that time. A time she had worked so hard to put aside, to forget. She was stunned that it was still so vivid.
She’d been a little surprised when he hadn’t come to the hospital, but knew that he had a lot of work to do to finish up the case. Even though there would be no trial, and the shooting had been witnessed by the sheriff, there was a lot of paperwork to complete. She was hurt when he didn’t call after she was released. He had to know she was home. In the beginning she had jumped at every call, and, though she had never admitted it, she had called him once. She hadn’t had the courage to leave a message when the machine picked up.
Her memories of the actual rescue were muddled. She knew that she hadn’t been raped, but it would have been soon. He had already removed his belt and beaten her with it. She had been drifting in and out of consciousness, but knew the sound of his voice, Mulder’s voice. A feeling of peace had come over her. She had heard the shots, then his arms were around her, his voice in her ear whispering apologies over and over. He hadn’t kissed her lips, which were torn and bleeding but she had a vivid memory of his lips on her forehead, as though branding her with his mark.
She had returned to a changed class. Peter was there, but more subdued. He had welcomed her back along with the others, but had not attempted to get close enough to even shake her hand. But she was truly shocked to find Sheila gone. Karen had been more than willing to bring her up to date.
“You haven’t heard? Oh Dana, it was the biggest scandal! No one knows how the news came out. We hadn’t even heard that you had been injured yet. They decided to redo a background check on her for some reason and apparently re-interviewed some people that had recommended her. It all came out. Instead of being in the top 10% of her class, she was in the bottom 5% and wouldn’t have been there if she hadn’t been sleeping with, as it turns out, several of her professors. And she was getting ‘help’ here as well. Agent Davies is no longer at Quantico, though no one wants to talk about it. I heard he was transferred to Minneapolis.“
She had known instantly that Mulder had been behind this. He’d run the investigation while she was in the hospital recuperating. That was the night she had called, but hung up. If he’d cared enough about her to look after her, to protect her this way, then why . . .
After several weeks, she was given an assignment that took her downtown. After a great deal of tossing and turning the night before, she had made up her mind to confront him - for better or worse, she needed to know why.
The door to the office had been partially open and she’d seen him, his back to the door. He was poring over some file. Just the sight of him had sent a thrill down her spine. Before she could chicken out, she tapped on the door.
“Yeah.” He turned surprised.
seen him in glasses. God, the man just looked better every time she saw him.
Several expressions flitted across his face before he had control of himself.
He rose finally, and stepped toward her. “How are you?”
“I’m good. All healed, well mostly.” She smiled softly at him. “Am I interrupting?”
“I’m working on something for Patterson.”
She nodded, “I won’t take long. I just . . . Mulder, what did I do wrong?”
“Wrong?” He seemed genuinely puzzled.
“I . . . you didn’t call, or . . . “
“I kept up with your progress. I’ve just been very busy.”
“Busy.” She repeated as though she didn’t understand the word. “I see.”
He stood there, obviously impatient to see her go. Instead she plunged on, “Mulder, you know I don’t blame you for what happened, don’t you? You saved me; that’s what I remember.”
“You wouldn’t have needed saving if I hadn’t dragged you out there. I should have . . . “
“Was it because I’m so inexperienced? Did I - “
“No. I was the senior agent. The whole debacle was my responsibility.”
“But it wasn’t! You knew. You’d figured it out and I didn’t take it seriously enough.”
He smiled slightly, sardonically, “I’m used to that.”
“Mulder, don’t - “
“Dana, I really need to get back to work.”
“That’s it? You want me to leave?”
“I think that would be for the best. Don’t . . . I really enjoyed meeting you - “
“Meeting me?” Her eyes widened.
“Spending time . . . Listen - “ The phone rang interrupting him. He grabbed the receiver, trying not to show his relief. “Yes sir. Yes. Right.” He hung up. “Dana, I have to - “
“Of course. I need to get to my appointment, It was nice seeing you and . . . and thank you again for saving my life.” She turned quickly, so that he wouldn’t see the tears threatening to fall from her eyes, and left the room. She didn’t see him reach out to stop her, or the look of anguish when he let his arm drop.
She hadn’t looked back.
Finally she had managed to put it aside, she had begun dating and now was in a relationship with Ethan. She was over Mulder, completely. This assignment would prove that, besides she hadn’t really been in the Bureau long enough to have a professional reputation, not like now. Okay, the ‘ice queen’ label had stuck. Dana occasionally wondered if Sheila knew that she had actually helped with that particular rumor. The men she had to deal with understood that she was all business. She could do this. She squared her shoulders and turned toward the door, she was ready to face him now.
Okay, it’s probably not the complete resolution you were looking for. Yes, Sheila is still out there, but hey, so is Flukeman. Anyway, I haven’t lost the keys to this particular universe and plan to visit again in the future - not as a WIP, just to check in again.
My undying gratitude to Marianne and Wylfcynne for the incredible support and speed with which is series got out. Now I go back to my regular pace!
Blind Date 5
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter,10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.