She noticed the messenger leaving their office and wondered what had been delivered. In this day of email, few documents were actually brought by hand anymore.
The door was still slightly open so she made no noise entering. She spotted Mulder with the envelope in his hand, the papers protruding from the top of the envelope. His eyes were wide and his attention riveted to whatever was in front of him.
“Mulder?” He jerked at the sound of her voice and slid the papers back inside the envelope. “What’s wrong?” She moved toward him and he stepped back. She stopped confused.
“I have to go.” He pulled his jacket from the back of his chair and clutching the envelope was out of the door.
“Mulder! Wait!” But he was already gone. What had been in that envelope? He had looked stunned; no he had looked like he had been hit between the eyes with a two by four.
She gave him an hour before trying his cell phone. He’d turned it off, never a good sign. He didn’t return to the office the rest of the day and after three messages on his answering machine at home she didn’t know whether to be worried or angry. She nearly called her mother to cancel their plans, but since she had canceled the last two times because of Mulder and work, she just couldn’t bring herself to do it again. She’d check on him when she got home.
She was later than normal for an evening with her mother, but never too late to call Mulder. His sleeping habits were legendary with her. There were two hang-ups on her own phone, but no messages. When she got his machine again she left one more fairly demanding message and decided to go on to bed. If he had ditched her yet again he’d pay.
He was there when she arrived the next morning but he seemed stiff, distant from her. “Well, what kind of wild goose chase were you on yesterday? I tried to call you all day.”
“It was personal.” Short, clipped, hostile even.
“Mulder?” She was becoming disturbed at this attitude, hurt even. It wasn’t like him to so totally shut her out and if it really were personal, who else would he go to? The question left an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of her stomach.
“Skinner wanted to see us.” He rose and moved toward the door. She again stood and watched him for a moment. He was furious; she could feel the waves of anger coming off of him, but why? What was it and how could she help?
The meeting didn’t last long, but long enough for Skinner to pick up on the vibes coming from the man. Skinner had barely dismissed them when he was out the door. “Agent Scully, a minute please.”
She had already turned toward the door herself. She closed her eyes and took a breath before turning back. “What was that all about?”
“Sir?” Keep your expression bland Dana.
Skinner narrowed his eyes and looked at her. “Agent Mulder’s attitude. Can you enlighten me as to the cause?”
“No sir. I don’t know what is behind Agent Mulder’s current mood, but I’m sure it will be resolved shortly.”
“I hope so, for both of our sakes. Thank you.” Skinner turned back to the paperwork on his desk and Scully let herself out of the office. Mulder was nowhere around; he hadn’t waited for her? Enough! She made her way to the office and found him putting files in a briefcase.
“Going somewhere?” She shut the door forcefully behind her.
“Yeah. You have plenty to keep you occupied so I figure I won’t be missed.”
“Mulder, what the hell are you talking about? What’s going on?” She wanted to approach him, and to be honest part of her wanted to slug him, but she held back.
He turned away from her; “I’m taking a few days.”
That was it? That was all he was going to say? Now she did approach him, laying her hand on his arm. He went deathly still, staring down at the small hand lightly caressing his suit coat sleeve.
The look on his face scared her. It looked . . . it looked as though he hated her. It turned her body to ice. He moved away and she allowed her hand to drop back to her side. He didn’t say another word, just picked up the briefcase and exited the room.
She barely made it to his chair before she collapsed. What! What was wrong? She had to find out, she had to have misinterpreted that look. Mulder didn’t hate her; no it was something else. It had to be.
“Sir, did Agent Mulder leave an emergency number with you?” She was mortified to be asking this but she had exhausted all other avenues.
“Agent Scully, if he had wanted you to have it, he would have left it with you.”
“Sir, I . . .”
instance, he wouldn’t want you to know it’s in this file because he wanted the
information kept private. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to
get a cup of coffee. Would you like some?”
“Uh, no.” Her eyes were focused on the file. “No, thank you, sir.” She managed to wait until he had actually left the room before pouncing on the file. She knew that number, it was his mother’s house. He’d gone to the Vineyard? This couldn’t have anything to do with his mother’s death, could it?
Oh god, he hadn’t suddenly decided she’d lied about cause of death? Did he resent that she’d done an autopsy, even though it was at his insistence? She had to talk to him. She rose from the chair and was nearly to the door when Skinner returned.
“Uh, sir, I need to take a couple of days personal time. Since my partner is also out of town, this might be the best time.”
“I agree. I’ll plan to see you Monday.” He didn’t move toward his desk, waiting to see if she had any other comments. He couldn’t remember when he had last seen her so upset.
“Thank you sir.” She didn’t meet his eyes exiting the room. She headed straight for her car. She was going to pack an overnight bag. Whatever was wrong they had to get it straightened out and quickly.
The door wasn’t locked and his car was here. She squared her shoulders and let herself in. She spotted him through the glass doors, at the kitchen table. He obviously hadn’t shaved since he’d been here. His eyes were red, lack of sleep or something else? As she stood there he ran his hand through his already spiky hair yet again. He had papers all over the table in front of him but she couldn’t see them from where she stood.
He looked miserable. She needed to get him to talk. He finally looked up when she opened the glass door. His hands went out quickly and gathered the documents together and turned them upside down, away from her sight. He wiped his eyes and finally acknowledged her.
“So you were right, Skinner can’t be trusted.”
“He knew how worried I was about you. He’s concerned as well.” She didn’t try to move any closer, not yet.
He just sat looking at her. The anger, which had not been present when she entered, was returning. Just looking at her was infuriating him. What the hell was this?
“Mulder, please - “
“Please. Please what? Talk to you, confide in you? So that you can betray me again? Has it been from the beginning, Scully? I trusted you, I trusted you like no one else on earth. How long has it been going on? Huh?” He stood then knocking the chair over and advanced on her.
She managed not to retreat, but her knees were growing weak. She’d never felt this kind of anger from him and this was directed at her. Betray him? She hadn’t, she wouldn’t. Surely he knew that after all this time. He was still coming at her, so she took a step back.
“Mulder, I haven’t betrayed you. I don’t know what you’ve heard, but it’s not true.”
“Heard? Who said I heard anything?” He had her backed up against the wall now and took her arms into a painful grip.
“Mulder stop, you’re hurting me.”
“I thought you liked it rough.” Her eyes widened, he’d lost his mind. Whatever had happened had caused him to snap. For the first time she feared for her own safety.
“Mulder, please. What are you talking about?” She hated that her voice shook, but she couldn’t help it.
He didn’t speak but reached behind him and grabbed a paper off of the table. They were photographs, eight by ten glossys, and he shoved it in her face. It took her a second or two to focus, a man and woman nude, entertwined, all over each other.
It took another second to see the faces, it was . . . her? No! Who was the man? This photo didn’t show his face. She reached up automatically to move it to a better position to see. He dropped his hands from her and stumbled back.
“What are . . . where did you . . . who did this?”
“I assumed you posed for them. Are you saying you didn’t know the camera was there?”
“I wasn’t there! This isn’t me, or it’s a composite.”
“Not according to the photo expert I had examine them – “
“You took these to the Bureau?” She looked up at him stricken.
“No, someone I know. They don’t know you and don’t have your name.”
“It’s not me! Mulder, it is not me!”
“What about that?” He pointed to the photo. “That heart shaped mark on your left breast.”
“How do you - “
“I saw it when I pulled you out of that container in the arctic. When I saved you, remember?” She was starting at the photo, but suddenly remembered the others spread out in front of her. She moved toward the table and he moved back out of her way. She grabbed other pictures from the table, anxious to see what they had created.
Krycek? She looked up at Mulder. Part of her now understood Mulder’s fury, but she couldn’t deal with that now.
“Mulder I didn’t . . . I never . . . “
He automatically moved to her. The instinct to protect this woman was too strongly engrained and there was no doubt in his mind she was going to faint. He couldn’t help it, despite her betrayal there had been too many years of loving this woman. Yes - love. He could no longer avoid knowing that when he saw what these pictures had done to him.
She leaned against him, too weak to stand suddenly. He seated her at the table and stepped back. She reached out for him, then saw what looked like revulsion on his face. She buried her face in her hands and moaned.
He believed this. He believed that she had slept with Krycek. Someone had sent him these pictures to prove it. How had they done it?
Mulder stood watching her, torn between wanting to comfort her and wanting to lash out at her. How could she have done this? That was her - not just her head superimposed on someone else’s body. That beauty mark on her breast – how many people knew about that? He hadn’t for years.
It was a good act she was putting on. As he watched she lifted her head and looked over at him. He turned his head, avoiding her gaze and heard her move the photos around. When he glanced back she was caught by the pictures, shaking her head. Her hands were shaking too, he noted. Being found out had been a real blow apparently.
“Mulder.” She wouldn’t look at him now. “ I don’t know what happened. I don’t know who created these pictures.” She looked up at him now. “But I do know this never happened. I have never had sex with Alex Krycek. If you can’t believe that, believe me, then that’s the way things will be between us. I know what the evidence shows, but it did not happen. I swear it on my mother’s life.”
That startled him. That wasn’t a vow she would make lightly. She managed to stand and tossed the photo in her hand down on the table. “I’m going back to DC. I need to find out what’s going on.”
"Wait. You . . . you shouldn’t be driving.”
She swayed and lowered herself back into the chair as he reached for her. He didn’t know what to say to her, but he felt his anger dissipating. He had never expected this reaction - defensiveness, justification, even arrogance had been more likely in his mind.
“How could they have created these, Scully?”
“I don’t know. It looks like me, but I know I never did these things. Not with Krycek, not with anyone. If you believe this of me, then I have to wonder what the last seven years meant to you.”
He had no response, but he did not want her to leave. A whole new aspect of this situation was looming before him now. Retreat seemed the best strategy.
“You should eat something. I have left-over Chinese in the refrigerator.”
“I’m not hungry.” He nodded, that didn’t surprise him.
“Look, I don’t want you driving back to DC tonight. Not now. Stay here, you can have Mom’s room and maybe tomorrow - “
“Why? Why should you care what happens to me?”
His anger flared again, “If I didn’t care about you why would any of this have made any impression on me? Why would I give a shit who you slept with if I didn’t care? Answer that one Dana.”
She cringed back at that and he immediately regretted his outburst. It revealed too much anyway. “Just stay tonight, Scully. Please. I don’t want you on the road. Did you bring anything to sleep in?”
She nodded, “My bag’s in the foyer.”
“Good.” He retreated from the room and when she was able she rose from the table and made her way back to the front of the house. Her bag was missing and she could hear him moving around upstairs. It took all of her energy to climb the stairs, holding firmly to the railing. She stood at the door to his mother’s bedroom and watched him make up the room for her.
He turned when he felt her presence. “Will this be okay?”
“I need a shower.”
“Uh, sure. I’ll be downstairs.” He fled the room, that was the only word for it. He returned to the kitchen and put the photographs back in their envelope, which was becoming the worse for wear. He heard the water cut on and paused. She was upstairs in his home, as nude as in the pictures he was holding. He shook his head. Was there a possibility that the woman wasn’t her? He was the proponent of extreme possibilities, why hadn’t he jumped for them this time?
Her shower seemed to last forever. The hot water had to be gone by now. Had she passed out up there after all? Finally, unable to wait any longer, he returned upstairs. The bedroom door wasn’t locked, so he tapped and let himself in. He moved to the bathroom door and listened for her movement. She was crying, sobbing in there. Oh god, he wanted to go in there, comfort her. That wasn’t a possibility now. Everything was ruined between them.
He couldn’t let her find him in her bedroom. He retreated feeling worse than he had before they had talked and if anything, more confused than before she had arrived.
He waited, but even when she finished her shower she didn’t come out of the bedroom. Eventually he got ready for bed himself, but he’d never felt less like sleep. He found himself listening for her again. She wasn’t asleep, he knew that. He could hear her moving around in there.
Finally he rose and moved to the door of her room. He tapped lightly, “Scully? May I come in?” There was no answer though her movement stopped. He hesitated another moment then opened the door.
She had slipped into the bed and had the covers up over her chest. “Scully?”
“What do you want?” Her voice was frosty, distant.
“You aren’t able to sleep either. I wondered if you wanted to talk.”
“About? Why would you want to talk to me? To give me more information about you and your work to betray you to your worse enemy.”
He slid into the chair, “For your information talking to Krycek about our work didn’t occur to me. That wasn’t the betrayal that devastated me.”
She looked up surprised. Then what? He was obviously reading her face and her confusion was plain.
“Scully, it wasn’t the fact that it was Krycek. To see you like that with any man would kill me. Okay,” he reacted to her look of incredulity, “the man being Krycek didn’t help, but it was twenty-four hours before I thought about him learning more about the work, or me. You don’t believe me do you?” He gave a nervous chuckle, “Like you should, right? What are we going to do, Scully?”
“Why do you want to do anything? You don’t believe me. You think I made passionate love to Alex Krycek.” He winced at that, and she hesitated. “What?”
“I guess I need to talk to my best friend about my woman problems. Unfortunately, my best friend is the woman in question in this case.”
“Don’t - “
“Scully, I’ve not been able to think about anything else since I opened that envelope. My immediate reaction was that it couldn’t be you. You wouldn’t do that. Remember, I rushed out - it was to prove that it wasn’t you. I wasn’t going to show them to you. But he couldn’t disprove it.”
“So you believe him and not me?”
"Not anymore. Scully, I don’t know what happened, how they did it, but I believe you. You would never swear on your mother’s life. This was done to us.” He watched her shoulders sag as though relief had sapped her strength and a tear escaped down her face. “You should get some sleep, Scully.” He started to rise from the chair.
“You don’t have to leave yet, I mean . . . “
“You wouldn’t mind if I stayed for a little while?”
“Good, there’s no TV in my bedroom.” She had to smile then; he’d given her an out, a reason to stay. He snatched up the remote and stretched out on the bed beside her, on top of the covers, and flipped on the TV.
When she thought he wasn’t paying attention she carefully pulled her hand out from under the covers. She should never underestimate his powers of observation. His own hand covered hers immediately though he didn’t look at her.
She wasn’t really able to follow the movie, her emotions were still too raw, but it was an excellent excuse to be together without having to talk right now. It wasn’t long before she realized he had fallen asleep himself.
She shouldn’t be surprised; he probably hadn’t slept in days. She knew the correct thing to do was to wake him and throw him out, but his presence was reassuring. She needed that reassurance right now. Instead she pressed the off button on the remote and slid down under the covers. He immediately spooned around her; his arm draped across her waist but didn’t wake.
Yeah, maybe he could keep away the monsters for this one night. His even breathing lulled her to sleep finally and the nightmares she had anticipated never materialized.
She woke to the feel of his warm breath against her neck. When had he crawled under the covers? Well, no real harm done. And she had gotten good sleep.
Tattoo. What the . . . Tattoo! She must have been dreaming about this. “Mulder!”
“What? What, hey I’m sorry. I was just so comfortable - “
“No, no. My tattoo, is my tattoo in any of the pictures?”
“I . . . I don’t know. You’ve never shared it with me. Where is it?”
She hesitated a moment then turned from him and lifted the bottom of her pajama top, exposing the tattoo to him. His finger traced the circle. She arched and had to stifle a moan.
He wanted to pull her against him, but how would she react to that? Instead he climbed out of the bed, “Let’s find out.” She listened to him hurry down the stairs and tried to shut her thoughts out of her head.
She heard him rush back up the stairs, what did that mean? She watched him enter the room, the envelope unopened in his hand. He’d waited for her? He sat back on the bed, adjusting the pillow and leaned back against the headboard. She sat up too and waited for him to open the envelope.
He glanced over at her and at her faint nod pulled the photographs out. He forced himself to concentrate on the area where her back was exposed, trying to act as though it were a normal investigation. The fact that they were in a bed they had just shared notwithstanding. He handed the photos to her when he was through.
After a few moments he turned to her. He was going to state the obvious, that the mark wasn’t there, but when he saw her face he stopped.
“It’s not there. The mark on my . . . on my breast has always been there, but I got the tattoo after my abduction. If they . . .if these photos are . . . are real - “
“Scully, if someone did this to you during your abduction then it was rape, there’s no fault on your part. You weren’t responsible, you’ve got to know that.”
She wouldn’t look at him, allowing the photos to slide out of her hands and onto the floor. He saw the tears spill out of her eyes and run down her face.
He didn’t hesitate this time, pulling her into his arms, pressing his lips against her forehead. She was clinging to him, clutching at his back as if trying to burrow inside of him.
His lips continued down her face, at first only to offer her comfort, but when his lips reached the hollow of her throat he couldn’t kid himself any longer.
“Scully.” His voice was husky, at least an octave lower than usual it seemed to him. “Scully, please.”
She held him as he came back to himself, his body still shuddering from his release. “When you find yourself lying helpless in her arms”, he’d heard that in a song, but it was true. If she decided to stab him through the heart right now he wouldn’t be able; hell he wouldn’t want to do anything to stop her.
She brushed the hair off of his forehead and he nuzzled her breast. “Mulder.”
“What just happened here?”
He kissed the heart-shaped mark and looked up at her. The quip he’d been about to make died on his lips. “I just made love to the only woman in the world I’ve ever cared about. My one in five billion.” He watched her reaction to those words, “Why the tears?”
She shook her head and met his lips with her own. After a few moments she pulled back and smiled at him. His own smile grew, “Hungry?”
“No . . . yes . . . I’m not sure I can walk.”
“Don’t try. I don’t want you to leave this bed.”
“This bed, oh my god, Mulder we had sex in your mother’s bed!”
“About time it saw some action, don’t you think?” He grinned at her.
His grin grew, “Wait here, I’ll make us some coffee, something to sustain us for further action in the field.”
Her eyes widened, it wasn’t a one-time thing. She’d known that, but still it was nice to hear. She relaxed back against the pillow and felt him leave the bed. She reached out and he squeezed her hand. “I’ll be right back.”
He looked back when he reached the door. Her eyes were closed and he’d never seen her look so peaceful. She wasn’t thinking about how this had come about. This wasn’t the kind of thing Krycek would have kept from him. Krycek would have wanted to rub his nose in this; he would have never kept this from him for an instant. Which could mean he didn’t know about this either. The man worked for the people that had abducted her, hell he’d aided in her damn abduction. He hated Krycek, but if he had led to this closeness . . . don’t think about it now. Just hurry, so you can get back to her. Back to where you belong.