Exploring Something New
Mulder sighed and opened the door into the office. He was late, but no one mentioned it. He took a seat at the table and Assistant Director Dillon cleared his throat.
“Now that we’re all here, I’d like to get this meeting started.”
A stab at him, but he was used to it. He glanced around the table. He knew everyone here, at least by reputation. He dragged his attention back to the information being distributed. He hated these cases. Getting inside of the minds of these men was devastating. He wasn’t sure whether he got the assignments because he was so good at them or because no one else wanted them, so they laid it off on old Spooky.
“The man’s a sadist. He brutalizes the women prior to killing them. Agent Scully has performed the autopsies on the last three victims, Agent . . . “
The red headed agent looked at her notes and gave her report without emotion.
Mulder watched her, this was the one called ‘the Ice Queen’. He could understand that, listening to her. He was pretty sure though, that the reputation had come from men who had been unsuccessful with her on a more personal level.
She wasn’t really his type, on the short side, a little too by the book. He looked away, it didn’t matter; he certainly wasn’t looking for a woman. His ‘relationships’ were easier. Besides he just had to pretend to be part of the team, then go off alone and think about it.
An agent sitting across from him looked over. “Got any ideas, Spooky?”
Several of the agents grinned. He glanced at her involuntarily; she wasn’t one of them.
“Mulder, we need you to get to work on a profile ASAP. According to his pattern, we’ve got three days.”
Mulder nodded but didn’t speak. He’d already familiarized himself with the case. He’d need Agent Scully’s notes, then he’d lock himself away and . . .
Dillon dismissed the meeting, and Mulder stood slowly, watching the others disperse. He realized that Agent Scully was watching him. Once the others had left, he approached her.
He thought about holding out his hand to shake hers, but decided against it. “Agent, that was a good report. I wondered if you'd mind lending me your notes for my profile?”
“Of course. Agent Mulder, I was wondering if I could work with you on the profile. I know of your reputation, and I - “
“Spooky?” He gave her an ironic grin.
Her eyebrow rose, “Your reputation as a profiler.”
He gave a mild laugh and nodded. “I’d be honored.”
She heard the sarcasm but chose to ignore it.
“Your office or mine?” He asked with a slight leer.
Her eyes narrowed, “Look, if you don’t want my input - “
“I’m sorry.” He meant it, she didn’t deserve this. “Meetings like this bring out the worst in me. I would appreciate your help.”
She seemed to relax at least a notch, and he smiled. “My office is more private. Not many people come there voluntarily.”
It looked like she started to say something, but changed her mind. He opened the door and let her out into the hall.
At his office, he again opened the door and placed his hand on her back to lead her in. That surprised her a little, but it wasn’t unpleasant. He pulled up a second chair and after she was seated, sat himself and opened the files.
After a couple of hours, he leaned back and just looked at her. “Do you always argue every point?”
He actually laughed. That startled him more than it did her. He’d been focusing on this pervert, they’d gotten a lot done, but he didn’t feel like he’d been wallowing in a sewer.
“Yeah, I guess I do. It’s just that usually no one bothers to listen to my arguments.”
“You’ve made some good points.” She admitted.
“Thanks, so have you.”
“I guess I don’t see where you’re . . . some of your ideas seem, seem unconnected to the facts.”
He shrugged, “A hunch. It feels right.”
“That’s not very scientific.”
“True, which is why I wanted your notes.”
She didn’t dispute that, stretching her back.
“We’ve been at it long enough. Uh, listen, you want to get a bite to eat?”
“I’m sorry, I have plans tonight.”
He nodded, not really surprised. He shouldn’t have asked, but for some reason he felt . . . comfortable with her. She’d given as good as she got from him in their discussion.
“Well, thanks for your help.”
“What about tomorrow?”
“I’m going to keep at it for a while.”
“Oh, of course.” She rose from the chair and he did as well. “I’d like to see what you come up with.”
“Sure, it’s half yours. Stop by when you get in tomorrow.”
“Thanks, I will.” She smiled and left his office.
He looked back down at the files, and felt the familiar despair that he usually had with these cases. How had that small redheaded woman kept it away?
It wasn’t her, he told himself; it was not being alone. She was just the first with the courage to sit beside him during the process. Yeah, that was it.
He took his seat and looked at the pad.
The next morning when she tapped on the door, she heard his voice. It sounded a little raspy, but she entered.
“Mulder, do you - “ She stopped at the sight of him. He was still wearing the clothes he’d had on yesterday, his hair looked like he’d run his hands through it uncounted times.
“Are you . . . did you stay here all night?”
“I had an idea after you left.”
“What?” She moved to him and looked down at the desk.
“You might not want to get too close.”
“I think I can handle it.” She took the file into her hands, and sat without bothering to look at the chair, already absorbed.
“All of the victims have younger brothers? Mulder, a lot of people do. I do.”
“It was the only link I’ve been able to confirm. Age doesn’t matter, socio-economic level, marital status.”
“Yes, but - “
“It doesn’t solve it, but . . . “ He ran his hand through his hair again.
Scully looked up at him. “Let me get you some coffee.”
“I’m sloshing with coffee already.”
“Then you should get some breakfast, get out of the building.”
“I’m - “
“Come on. You can explain it after we’re out of here.”
He looked down at her for a moment. She seemed adamant, not at all reluctant to be seen with him. He nodded and she held his coat for him. For some reason that made him feel better than he had in hours.
They found a coffee shop and took a seat in the back. After ordering, she looked up at him. “You really stayed all night?”
He shrugged, “I do that. It’s a good thing your boyfriend got you out.”
“You said you had plans.”
“Oh, that was with my nephews. My younger brother is in town and we had a family dinner.”
“Oh.” And just why did that make him feel lighter? She hadn’t exactly said she wasn’t in a relationship and it didn’t matter. For some reason it felt good that she hadn’t left him last night for . . .
“We were talking about brothers. Okay, I have a younger brother, and an older one and an older sister.”
“Wow.” He smiled at her.
“Dad’s Navy. Mom said whenever he came in from a lengthy cruise, we added to the family.” She smiled then and he felt himself enjoy it. “What about you?”
“I, uh, I have a younger sister. My father is State Department. He just took short trips.”
She chucked and he reveled in the sound. This was the woman they called the Ice Queen?
“Tell me why it’s relevant that these women have younger brothers.”
“These women all live in Seattle, but in different parts of town. They’re all ages, some have children, but not all.”
“But how would the killer know?”
“That’s where I’m stuck. You told me you had a younger brother, but how would a stranger know that? What would you do that someone would pick up on?”
“I don’t know, a phone call? No, I wouldn’t call Charlie from a public phone. None of these women work together?”
“No. There’s no other connection that I can find.”
“Does there always have to be a connection?”
“No, but there’s no other starting point for us. If we have a serial killer who just picks up the next woman who passes him, we’re sunk.”
She nodded, then looked down at the table to concentrate. “I . . . I buy him a birthday card.”
Mulder looked up at her, “Shopping? A mall isn’t out of the question. No one was taken from one, but that doesn’t mean they all didn’t frequent it. So you buy a birthday card, would it say brother on it?”
“Would they know it was a younger brother?”
“Just conversation, you know, the clerk being friendly while they take your money.”
“Where else can you buy cards?”
“The grocery store, drug store, but you usually use the one in your neighborhood and none of these women had that in common.”
“Right, right. So we need to check out the malls.”
She nodded. They had fallen into this discussion from yesterday as though they hadn’t left each other. This man’s mind was amazing. He could follow her thoughts almost before she had them. The ‘spooky’ nickname seemed to fit, but he obviously didn’t care for it.
She was a little surprised that he had allowed her to sit in with him. He was the consummate loner at the Bureau. Now she began to wonder if it was because the others were intimidated by his mind, rather than his personality. He did seem to go out of his way to piss people off, he had to her at first, but then they had gotten into the case. He hadn’t deferred to the fact that she was a woman or pushed his theories on her assuming that she was incapable of having theories of her own.
She watched him finish up his breakfast and took another sip of her coffee. She realized she wasn’t intimidated by him, more intrigued.
“We better get back Mulder, the clock’s ticking.”
Mulder closed the file following his presentation. He could see that several of the agents had made notes, a couple of others were discussing something in a low voice. He looked over at Scully, who nodded to him.
“Okay, so we need to start checking out the malls now, concentrating on stores that would have merchandise designated for a family member. Agent Scully, I’d like you to take the mall on - “
“Wait a minute.” Mulder interrupted. “Agent Scully will be undercover on this?”
“Yes, she has agreed to be one of our point people.”
“I see.” He shut up, but wouldn’t look in her direction. Assignments were distributed and Dillon dismissed the agents to get started. Mulder was the first one out of the door.
He was half way down the hall when she caught up with him. “Mulder? What?”
“You didn’t tell me you were going to be the target.”
“The man murders women, you knew they’d have someone - “
“Yeah, I, I just didn’t know it was you. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Do you think I can’t handle the job?”
“That’s not it. I was just caught off guard. This man is dangerous Scully. He’s not sane, not the way he brutalizes these women.”
That surprised her; he was worried about her. They’d only met yesterday, but it felt good, warm. “I’m not the only woman who’ll be on this duty.”
He shrugged. “I know you’re right. I . . . I’m sure you’re a good agent, you wouldn’t be on this task force if you weren’t. I didn’t mean - “
She nodded, “I need to go change. Will you still be working this, now that the profile is in?”
“Yes.” He always kept an eye on an investigation he worked on, but he’d be in the middle of this one.
“Good.” She smiled up at him. “I better get going. I’ll see you later.”
“Count on it.”
He was standing close, in her space, but she didn’t back away. He seemed to realize it and took a step back himself. “Be careful.”
“Of course.” Her hand lightly touched the sleeve of his coat. “Thank you.”
He nodded and she turned, walking away from him. Somehow it felt worse than when she’d left him last night. This was dangerous and he had a feeling . . .
They had security on her, but there were two other malls in the area that they were observing and they had only Spooky’s profile to go on, no real suspects. This was a preliminary mission, fact finding.
The three female agents visited each of the shops in the malls that carried the kind of merchandise, buying a card or some item with brother on it at each place.
Each reported in by phone a couple of times during their exploration. One agent advised that no men worked at any of the locations she had tried. The other woman and Scully both were waited on my male clerks in some of the locations.
Mulder hovered around in the background of the headquarters that had been set up, making everyone nervous, though no one called him on it.
“Okay, we’ve got five men that fit the age of the profile. Let’s get started.” Dillon announced as he hung up the phone. He was surprised when Mulder approached him. “You want to help with the background checks?”
“The men at the mall where Scully was assigned. I’d like to check into them.”
Dillon gave him the once over, “Okay.” He handed him the information they had accumulated so far.
Mulder took the file and headed to a desk at the far end of the room. He spread out the names in front of him, glancing over them.
He chose one at random and began his check.
He approached Dillon; “I want to have this guy brought in for questioning.” He handed Dillon the information he had accumulated.
“Why this guy?”
“It’s a feeling. I haven’t had the time to do deep background, but this guy has what I’m looking for.” This was making him twitchy. When he’d seen the man’s driver’s license picture it had felt like ants crawling on his spine.
“Okay, I’ll have the guys start on interviews and we’ll pick the guy up. You better have more than just a feeling, Mulder.”
Mulder nodded. He kept looking toward the door, the other two women had returned to the temporary headquarters, but Scully hadn’t checked in.
After a couple more minutes, he couldn’t wait any longer and approached the dispatch man. “Has Agent Scully checked in?”
“Uh, no. I haven’t heard from her since she reported that she was leaving the mall.”
“And that doesn’t bother you?”
“It’s rush hour.”
“Try to raise her.”
The young man looked over at Dillon, who nodded. A few minutes later he looked up, “She’s not responding.”
“Have they got Sawyer?” Mulder asked immediately.
Dillon looked at the dispatcher, but before he could speak, the younger man was listening intently to his earphone, his fingers pressing it closer into his ear. He looked up at Mulder and paled slightly.
“They didn’t get him. He’s disappeared. His manager is really ticked because he took off with no notice.”
“He’s got her. Somehow he made her and - “
“Another ‘feeling’ Spooky?” One of the agents, Roberts, spoke up.
Without warning Mulder’s hands were fisted on his lapels as he pulled the man up to eye level. The shorter agent actually quailed at the look in Mulder’s eyes.
“Mulder, let him go.” Dillon spoke with authority, but was secretly relieved when Mulder let the man drop back without a word. Roberts brushed his coat back into place and kept quiet himself, but was never heard to use the nickname ‘Spooky’ again.
“Where does Sawyer live?” Mulder asked quietly, reaching for the map.
The dispatcher pointed.
Mulder nodded, “Does he have relatives here? Find out where they live. We don’t have a lot of time.”
“Hey Ms. White! Glad I caught you.”
Scully stopped in unlocking her car and looked back at the man. This was the man she had spoken to at the card shop. Why had he followed her out here, unless . . .
“You left a package on the counter. I’m glad I spotted you.”
“But I have my package right here.” She started to reach for her gun, trying not to be obvious.
The smile vanished from his face and he took hold of her arm, pressing a gun into her side out of sight from onlookers. “Get in the car.”
“What’s going on here?”
“Shut up and get in the car.” He removed the gun from her holster. Her heart sank. This was the man; Mulder had been dead on with his profile. The man worked in a card shop.
He took the keys and forced her into the driver’s seat, then got in himself.
“Where . . . where are we going?”
“Just shut up and drive. Go out the back entrance and turn left.” All trace of the subservient, meek ‘boy’ from the card shop was gone. This was their killer and he was angry that they had found him. Since she had seen him, and she was driving to his location, Scully knew she was already dead.
Would Agent Mulder realize what was happening? He had seemed to care about her. Of course, he would care about the fate of any fellow officer, but he had seemed . . . He was the only one that had any ideas about this man.
“What are you going to do to me?”
He glanced over at her, his eyes cold. “I think you know.”
“Ron, may I call you Ron?”
His eyes narrowed, “How do you know my name?”
“It’s, it’s on your uniform.”
His eyes went down to his shirt and he ripped the nametag off. “Sure, call me Ron.”
“Ron, why me?” She was proud of the fact that her voice was steady.
“You’re looking for me, you found me. Do you really have a younger brother?”
“They’re more stupid than I thought.”
“Why do you hate your sister?”
She did, for now. If only she were wearing a wire, but this was too preliminary. What had she done to give herself away? He couldn’t have seen her gun and he’d initiated the conversation in the store.
“Turn in here, pull around the back.”
“Do you live here?”
She pulled her rental car around to the back of an older house. She kept her hands on the wheel as he exited the car. She unbuckled her seatbelt after he opened the door. He motioned her out with her gun and then followed her to the house. Instead of going in, he turned her toward a cellar door. He lifted open the door and motioned for her to move down the stairs.
Smart, there would be no evidence of her in the house. He shoved her toward a makeshift door and pulled the string to turn on the light in the small room.
“Ron, you haven’t hurt me so far. If you let me go, I can testify for you.”
Rather than respond, he backhanded her and she staggered back. He turned and left without another word.
How long would he keep her alive? According to the evidence they had accumulated, he had kept the women alive from three to four days, torturing them. But he was off schedule, he shouldn’t have taken her according to what they knew. How had he spotted her? She took a shuddering breath and helped herself up from the floor to sit on the bare cot against one wall.
She looked around, it was a makeshift room, obviously added recently. The dry wall was on the outside of the framing. She could break through sheetrock probably, but could she get out of the cellar?
There was nothing here but a bucket and the cot, no chair, no table. She closed her eyes. Agent Mulder, please be looking. Please be ‘Spooky’ and realize where I am.
She had investigated every corner and was lying on the cot when the door opened without warning. Great, she couldn’t hear him coming. He was wearing running shoes on the concrete, and maybe he had somehow soundproofed this little room.
“What are you going to do?”
“Shut up and turn around. Put your hands behind you.”
“Ron, please, let me go. I can help you.”
“Help me. Like you helped your little brother?”
“I love my younger brother.”
“Did you torment him? Are you the reason he was born?”
That confused her, “I didn’t torment him. We fought some, like all brothers and sisters. But we’re friends.”
“Friends.” He spat at her.
“Yes, he’s less than three years younger than me. We were very close.”
“Yes. I remember when Mom brought him home from the hospital. It’s one of my first memories. He was tiny and red and bald. Mom has a picture of me holding him with my Dad’s help.”
“You were just a kid.”
“Yes. Is . . . is your sister a lot older?”
He gave a harsh laugh, but didn’t respond other than that. He took a deep breath finally, “I said turn around and put your hands behind you.”
When he returned with a peanut butter sandwich and a bottle of water, he was already angry.
“Ron - “
“Shut up! Just keep your comments to yourself and eat.” He untied her hands
She nodded and took the sandwich, “No jelly?”
His eyes narrowed.
“Sorry, just trying to make conversation.” The training had said to make a connection, make the assailant see her as a person.
He rolled his eyes, “Conversation? You stupid bitch! You’re just a worthless piece of ass.”
“What did you sister do to you?”
He backhanded her across the face even more forcefully this time and she slammed into the concrete block wall. She barely managed to stay on her feet.
“What did my ‘sister’ do to me? Other than make my life hell, why do you care?”
She steadied herself against the wall and wiped the blood from her chin.
“You, you’re killing innocent women. These are women you don’t even know. What did they do to you?’
“I’m avenging their brothers. They’re too browbeaten to do it. I’m not.”
“They need avenging?”
He actually snarled at her. It was only the thought of Mulder looking for her that kept her breathing.
“They’re all whores. They say they’re your sister, but they put you down and confuse you and then when you’re grown you find out your whole life has been a lie!
She was confused herself now. He was evil, a complete sadist, but until now she’d been able to follow his thought process.
“A . . . a lie?” It hurt to talk but she needed to communicate with her.
His hands closed around her breasts, squeezing them painfully, then his knee jammed into her stomach.
“A sister, the bitch said she was my sister!” His rage was taking over and she knew she was going to lose consciousness.
“She was a whore! My whole life was a lie!” He punched her then, “And no one told me until she died!”
Who had died? What was he talking about, “ . . . lie . . . my mother!”
She slipped under and he let her fall to the floor. He kicked her once more, then after binding her, locked to door behind him.
Scully had no idea how much time had passed before she groaned awake. It took several attempts before she made it to her knees with her hands bound. She made it to the cot and levered herself up onto it. She moaned as she reclined, drawing her knees up. She should never have left Quantico.
What had he said? His life was a lie; his sister was a whore. What was that last thing? Something about his mother. She coughed through the gag and a new spasm of pain flared.
Come on Mulder, be Spooky, figure this out. She’d been hearing about him since she’d been at the Bureau. They used him as an example in more than one class and the “Spooky” stories were legend. He would find her, but would it be in time?
“Mulder, we’ve found a step-father. He lives in Houston.”
“Get him on the phone. Let me talk to him.”
“Mulder, I - “
“I need to talk to him.” He stood toe to toe with the AD. After a tense moment, Dillon turned to the agent who had given him the information. “Find him, and let Mulder question him.”
That surprised Dillon. This meant more than a case to Mulder. He’d never seen Mulder get emotionally involved - the opposite was usually true, distancing himself from the team. “Yeah, let’s just find this guy.”
Mulder nodded and followed the agent to the bank of phones.
Once the stepfather was on the phone, the call was turned over to Mulder.
“Mr. Carson? This is Special Agent Fox Mulder. I’m calling about your step-son - “
“Ron? What’s the ass-hole done now?”
“Has Ron been in trouble a lot?”
“Nyah, he’d too stupid to get in trouble. What do you need?”
“We’re trying to locate him. He may have information about a case we’re working. Do you know where he is?”
“Haven’t seen him, not since I threw the little shit out.”
“When was that?”
“After my wife died, almost eighteen months ago.”
Mulder exchanged glances with Dillon, that was just before this had started. “His mother died?”
“Not exactly, my wife died.”
“I’m sorry?” What the hell did he mean by that?
“I have time.”
“Why is this important?” The older man seemed wary suddenly.
“It may not be, but I’m confused.”
“Yeah, well, my wife wasn’t the boy’s mother.”
“Then who was?”
“My step-daughter, Bernice. My wife was his grandmother.”
“You’re saying his sister was actually his mother?” Adrenaline dumped into his system. “Did he know?”
“Nyah, hell I didn’t even know when we got married. When I found out, a lot of things made more sense.”
“What kind of things?”
“All the comments the girl had made all those years.”
“Comments?” Mulder’s voice was calm but if he could have gotten his hands on this creep, he’d have pulled him through the phone lines and beaten the information from him.
“Yeah, how the little shit had ruined her life, how having him in the family creeped her out, how she wished he’d never been born. She was after him all the time.”
“Sounds like he could have grown to hate her. Does he know?”
“He does now. After my wife died, he thought he could free load off me. Hell, he’s no relation to me - step grandson my eye. I told him the truth, like I’d tried to get my wife to for years; then I threw him out.”
“Would he go to his sister, sorry, his mother?”
“I doubt it. She’d never take him in. ‘Sides, she moved to Seattle with that no-count husband of hers before he left her.”
“Se . . . Seattle?”
“Yeah, last I heard. I ain’t seen her since the funeral.”
“Do you have an address, a name?”
“Let’s see, the guy she was married to was a Kincaid, Jerry I think.”
Mulder’s look had them scrambling to find the name and a location.
“And an address?”
“It’s probably in her mom’s address book. Hold on.” Mulder heard the phone hit a table. He placed his hand over the receiver.
“Anything? Come on! Move it, we have to find this woman. DMV? Something!”
“We’re on it Mulder. You gotta give us a minute.”
Mulder’s eyes narrowed but there was nothing to say. They couldn’t conjure up the information.
“Agent Miller? You still there?”
“Mulder. Did you find the address?”
“Yeah. Don’t know if she still lives there.” Mulder closed his eyes in frustration. Carson rattled off an address and Mulder watched an agent feed it in the computer. In seconds the agent nodded.
“Mr. Carson, thank you for your help. We may have to call you back, if we need more information.”
“Yeah. Okay. Listen, this information Ron might have; is there any reward?”
“I’m not at liberty to discuss that. Thank you.” Mulder broke the connection and moved to see the computer screen.
“It’s an older neighborhood, kinda seedy.”
“What about the sister, this Bernice Kincaid?”
“It’s coming up now - no arrests or warrants. Shit!”
“What?” Mulder was scanning the screen. His eyes closed.
Dillon stepped closer, “What?”
“She was reported missing - two weeks before the first murder. Let’s go.”
Mulder’s shoulder crashed into the door and he spotted her, bound and gagged on the bed. She was still wearing the clothing she’d had on when she left him to go to the mall, but they were ripped and dirty now.
He was at her side instantly and gently removed the gag from her mouth.
“Scully?” He brushed the hair from her forehead. There were bruises on her face.
“Mu . . . Mulder. I knew you’d come.”
He blinked at that, but made no comment as he carefully removed the bonds from her hands. Without thought his arms went around her, pulling her to him. She didn’t hesitate to reciprocate and he realized she was crying quietly.
“Get an ambulance.” He spoke to the agent behind him, without bothering to look. They both heard him leave the room.
“I’m . . . I’m okay.” But she was still clinging to him.
“You need to be checked out.” She nodded and reluctantly it seemed, released her grip on him. She tried to pull her shredded clothing around her to cover her. Mulder slipped off his suit coat and put it around her shoulders.
She looked like a little girl in it, playing in her father’s clothes. Scully looked up, “Thanks.”
He said nothing, just looking at her; then the others surrounded them. She insisted on walking to the ambulance, Mulder’s arm supporting her.
“Where are you taking her?”
“University Trauma.” The EMT that wasn’t applying the blood pressure cuff responded. “She looks good.”
Mulder met her eyes then and nodded. He watched her until the doors to the ambulance closed and the vehicle pulled out. Then he turned to the team. He found Dillon first.
“They think she will be. Do you need me here?”
“Did you discharge your weapon?”
Mulder shook his head, “Didn’t get the chance.”
Dillon nodded; they’d all have liked to take a shot at this man. “No, but I am going to need to talk to her.”
Dillon looked at the younger agent. That had sounded like an order, but Mulder was right. This could keep for 12 hours. They had the right man and he was dead. After a moment he nodded.
Mulder didn’t even acknowledge it, turning toward his car.
When he arrived at the ER, the nurse informed him that Agent Scully was in room 4 and her doctor would be out shortly. To Mulder’s surprise, he was.
Mulder’s pacing took him to the doctor in three steps. “How is she?”
“Extremely well under the circumstances. She’s a very strong woman.”
Mulder glanced at the door. “The . . . the rape kit, I want - “
“There isn’t one. She said you got there in time. Agent Scully wasn’t raped.”
Mulder’s hand shot out to hold the wall as relief threatened to topple him.
The doctor observed this, then, “What she actually said was, ‘Mulder got there in time’. You’re Mulder?”
Mulder looked up at him and nodded.
“Well congratulations, you did good.” He clapped the agent on the shoulder.
“May I see her?”
“Sure, go on in.” The doctor moved away, but he was already forgotten. ‘Mulder got there in time’.
He tapped on the door. “Come in.” She turned toward the door and saw him. Her shy smile came close to unmanning him. She was wearing a hospital gown and holding up her shredded blouse.
“Don’t, uh, don’t worry about those.” He lifted his suit coat from the chair and slipped it back around her. She nodded her gratitude. He stuffed her clothing into a bag, it was still evidence. The door opened and a nurse came in carrying a set of greens for her to wear.
“I’d like to get out of here.”
“They’re not keeping you?”
“I’m fine, really. I’d just like a shower and some fresh clothes.”
He nodded. “Get dressed. I’ll take you to the hotel.”
When he returned she slipped her shoes on her bare feet and pulled his coat closer around her. She felt his fingers on her lower back and they made their way out.
His fingers were there again as he led her to her room. “You know, you should probably eat something.”
“I couldn’t, not now. I’d rather take a shower.”
“Oh, uh sure. I could use one myself. What if I stop by afterward, see if you’re hungry.”
She nodded and after a moment he turned to leave. “You’ll come, uh, thank you.”
“I’ll be back in a little while.”
She nodded and let him out.
When he returned and knocked, the door opened almost immediately. When he had left her, she had been composed, professional. Now with her hair slicked back, with no makeup and wearing only a light robe, she was lovely but . . . shaken, pale. “Agent Scully?”
“I can’t . . . I can’t get warm.”
“Geez, you’re going into shock. They should have kept you in the hospital.”
“No, I . . . I just . . . “
“Come here.” He led her to the bed and pulled back the covers. “Lie down.”
She looked at him and he saw she was starting to tremble.
“Come on, get in and scoot over.” She did as he bade and he covered her, then shucked his shoes and lay beside her on top of the covers and spooned around her.
“It’s okay. You’re safe, try to relax.”
She seemed to press her back into his chest, absorbing the comfort of him and her shaking did slow and finally stop.
She nodded, not sure of her voice for an instant. “Not very professional.”
“You’ve been through a lot. How long have you been in the field?”
“This, uh, I teach at Quantico. This was my first field assignment.”
“You’re first? Those SOBs did this to you on your first - “
She saw his jaw tighten and his eyes seemed to change color. “Mulder it worked out okay.”
“Okay?” His voice sounded slightly strangled. “Listen, let’s not talk about it now. Just rest.”
She nodded and closed her eyes. In what he considered an amazingly short time, her even breathing told him she had indeed fallen asleep. She probably hadn’t slept except in short naps since she’d been taken. He certainly hadn’t.
When he woke it was light outside and she had turned and was watching him.
“Oops, I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
She swallowed, looking a little frightened.
“Look, Scully, no one ever has to know about this, and . . . and nothing happened, I mean - “
“I know. You just, you had my back.”
“Literally.” He managed to grin.
“Yeah.” She blushed.
“Why don’t I let you get dressed, then we’ll get something to eat. I don’t know about you, but I’m starved.”
“Come to think of it, so am I.” She watched him rise from the bed. “Agent Mulder, thank you. I - “
“It’s okay. I . . . it was nice having someone to work with. I just wish you hadn’t gotten quite so personally involved.” He headed for the door.
“Agent Mulder - “
“Mulder, just Mulder.”
“Mulder. Do you think we could collaborate again some time?”
He blinked then, his hand on the doorknob. “You . . . you’d want to?”
“As long as you don’t expect to end up in my bed every time.”
A huge grin took over his face. “Yeah, okay, not every time.”
She blushed, but nodded.
“See you in a minute. We’ll eat, get the case behind us, and . . . and I’ll tell you a little bit about my work. Then we’ll see if you’re still interested.”
She nodded and looked at the man. He seemed . . . maybe not taller, but as though his step were lighter somehow. She wasn’t sure what she’d gotten herself into, but it sure seemed like it was going to be interesting.
Exploring Something New - 2
Mulder rose when Skinner opened his door. Skinner nodded to him and moved to allow Mulder into his office. He motioned to a chair and Mulder sat.
“You asked to see me?”
“Yes sir. I’m working on the deaths in Colorado.”
“I could use some assistance on the forensics.”
Skinner looked at him for a moment. “Doesn’t Davis usually handle that?”
“Yes sir, but I would ask that you assign Agent Scully to this case.”
“Scully? I don’t - “
“She’s an instructor at Quantico. I worked with her on that case in Seattle.”
“Is she the one that was - “
“Are you sure you want such a green agent on this?”
“She handled herself extremely well, and it was her first field assignment. I was impressed.”
Skinner’s eyebrow rose. He’d never heard Mulder say something like that about another agent. In fact, Mulder had never, ever requested assistance on any case. He had no reason to refuse, and to be honest, he was slightly intrigued.
“I don’t see a problem. I’ll call Quantico. Keep me apprised of your progress. Anything else?”
“Uh, no. Thank you.”
Another first as far as Skinner could remember. Thank you? Mulder rose and left the office without another word.
Scully approached the door to his office quietly. The door was open and she could see him sitting at a table, bent over something. She hadn’t seen him in his glasses before. He looked professorial somehow, though none of her professors had been quite so young or attractive.
She shoved that thought aside. It was inappropriate; she was here to work. She tapped lightly on the door.
He looked up and she saw his eyes light up at the sight of her. He removed his glasses, laying them on the file, then rose.
She glanced around the cramped office. “I’ve never been down here before.”
“Yeah, it’s not exactly on the tour. My own little bomb shelter.
She smiled and he felt his mouth go dry. Damn, maybe this was a mistake. “I, uh, I think I have you to thank for this assignment. Did you really request me?”
“We, we seemed to work well together and I thought you might be able to help me get to the bottom of these deaths.”
She nodded, serious again. “I haven’t actually seen the file. I only got the call from Assistant Director Skinner about an hour ago. I came straight here.”
He blinked at that, she’d been anxious to come to him? “Thank you.” Mulder said it simply and after a moment she nodded. She had a lot of things to learn about this man. She would appreciate a chance to learn them.
“May I see the file?”
“Sure.” He grinned and moved aside, motioning for her to take the seat. He had a nice smile. She had no idea how rare it was to see it.
Scully took the seat he offered as he pulled up another. “What we’ve got here are seven deaths, each exactly to the day six months apart. The victims are all teenagers and their bodies have been found in the Gunnison National Forest. They’ve all come from the surrounding area.”
“Another serial killer?”
“If so, he’s good. Check out the cause of death.”
She picked up the top file. After a couple of minutes, she picked up the second one. After scanning it, she looked up at Mulder. “Did the same coroner do all the autopsies?”
“No. There were four different coroners. It’s a big forest.”
She picked up a photo of one of the victims. “How could they all . . . there’s always a cause of death.”
“You know something.”
“No. I have no profile. As far as I know, these seven kids just took a little trip to the forest and lay down and died. They’re from different high schools. If they know each other it was peripherally – maybe they saw each other at football games or something. They weren’t friends.”
“When was the latest victim found?”
“I want to do the autopsy.” She spoke immediately.
“I hoped you would. I’ve got a flight out at five thirty. I can get you on it.”
“Do. I’ll need to run home and pack. I can meet you at the airport.”
Mulder nodded, but before he could speak, her cell phone rang.
“Excuse me.” She rose and moved to the other side of the office. “Hello? Oh hi.” She glanced at Mulder, then away. “Uh, listen, I’m not going to be able to make it tonight after all. I know, I forgot, but something’s come up at work.”
Again she glanced at Mulder and he saw her swallow, her discomfort was obvious. “Ethan, we’ll have to talk about this later. I have to go home and pack. I need to get off the phone. I’ll talk to you later.” She pressed the end button and slipped the phone back in her pocket.
“Sorry about that.” She moved back to the table.
“I, uh, if you have plans - “
“This is my job Agent Mulder. It’s more important. In fact, if I’m going to make the flight, I need to get moving. Can you fill me in on the plane?”
“Sure.” She was moving toward the door.
“How long do you think we’ll be gone?”
“Couple of days at least.”
“Okay, I’ll pack for three and if we need to stay, I’ll punt. Agent Mulder - “
“Just Mulder, please.”
“Mulder. I really appreciate you giving me this chance.”
Before he could think of a comment, she was gone. He lowered himself into the chair she had vacated. Of course she had a man in her life, and plans for the evening. How could he not have thought of that? But she’d broken her plans, with Ethan, to help him on this investigation.
In any case, this was a professional relationship. He hadn’t asked for her because he’d ‘slept’ with her on the last case. He’d asked for her because she was smart and not afraid to speak her mind to him. She wasn’t intimated by him and . . . and she’d said she wanted to work with him again. Was she just being polite?
He shook that off and rose. He needed to get her arrangements made.
They had already called the flight, and he could tell the attendant at the gate was annoyed, but his badge held her at bay.
He was a little surprised at his sense of relief when he spotted her hurrying toward him.
“She’s here.” He spoke to the attendant then stepped forward to take her bag.
“Sorry.” She was nearly panting.
“No problem. Let me take that.” He took the bag from her hand and she felt his hand come to rest of the small of her back. It felt familiar, right, and she realized she’d missed it in the weeks since their last case.
Scully slipped into their seats as he secured the bag overhead. The flight was only about three quarters full, so they had all three seats to themselves. She buckled herself into the window seat. He took the aisle, placing his briefcase between them.
Once they taxied away from the terminal she seemed to have regained her composure.
“Ag - sorry, Mulder, I’m sorry to be running so late.”
“It’s okay. I’m glad you made it.” He meant it; he’d been prepared to wait longer. She lapsed into silence until the plane was in the air. He noted she seemed slightly tense, but made no comment.
When the engines scaled back, she turned to him. “Ready to bring me up to speed?”
“Don’t you want something to drink, take a minute?”
“Well, a diet Coke would be good, but I’d like to get down to work.” She unbuckled her seatbelt and lifted the armrest that separated her from the empty seat between them, then slid over next to him, placing his briefcase in her seat.
He was surprised at the action, most people avoided being that close to him, but he felt a sense of pleasure as well. Why was she so easy for him to be with?
“Do you want to look at the file?”
“Not yet. I want you to talk to me about the case, the way you did in Seattle. Tell me what you think.”
He blinked at that, but she seemed serious. He took a deep breath and began talking about the three young women and now four young men to have died over the last three years.
She didn’t interrupt, barely thanking the flight attendant for her drink. When he finally ran down, she looked at him for a long moment. “You’re not telling me something.”
“You’re holding something back.”
She’d caught him off guard. He looked down at his hands for a moment. One of her hands touched him lightly. “Mulder?”
His gaze was stuck on her hand, touching his of her own free will.
“Yeah, I am, but it’s not something I can talk about on the plane. When we’re alone, in the car, okay?”
She nodded though she didn’t understand. They had a couple of hours to drive after landing. He’d tell her then.
Dinner was being served, so they halted their discussion of the case.
He watched her remove the plastic wrap from her tray, consisting of the sandwich and fruit. “Not what you expected for dinner.”
“Look, I am sorry I messed up your - “
“You didn’t mess up anything. You may even have done me a favor.”
“It’s not important. I imagine you had to change some plans yourself.”
He seemed startled at that thought. “No, I . . . no.”
She smiled, “You haven’t left some beautiful woman devastated that you can’t be with her tonight?”
“Hardly.” He did smile then; she couldn’t know that the beautiful woman that came to mind was her.
“I’m surprised. An Oxford man should be a good catch.”
“How did you know I went to Oxford?”
Her cheeks colored ever so slightly. “I did my homework.”
“You checked me out?” He was stunned.
“Well, after our last case, I wanted to know more about you.”
“Did you like what you saw?”
She smiled. “Very much. You have an impressive record Agent Mulder. Top of your class at Quantico - probably at Oxford too, right?” The color in his cheeks answered her. “Best profiler in decades, if ever. Commendations out the yin yang.”
”Okay, okay.” He put up his hands. “You know all of my dirty secrets.”
“All of them?”
He smiled then, should he confess he’d done the same check on her? Better not, at least for now.
They talked of other things then, cases they had worked on or heard about since they had seen each other. He asked about several instructors at the Academy and had her laughing at some of his droll impersonations of the more pompous ones.
She was startled when the pilot announced their arrival and turned to him. “I can’t believe how quickly this flight has gone. I have to confess, I’m not a good flyer. You’re a great companion.”
He blinked at that, but managed to mutter something appropriate.
When they landed, he lifted her bag from the overhead and started to carry it, but she reached for it. “Mulder, I can handle it.”
“Don’t want me to be a gentleman?”
“I’d rather have you as a partner, thanks.”
She moved in front of him, but as much because he couldn’t move as his ‘gentleman’ status. She’d just spent a couple of hours with him and still wasn’t racing for the exit.
He retrieved his bag and they rode the shuttle to their rental car. Mulder automatically took the wheel and she made no comment. She let him get out of the parking lot before she pounced.
“What couldn’t you tell me?”
“This is where you start thinking I’m a fool.”
“Why do you say that?”
He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. “Could you run those tests on the body?”
She glanced down at the paper. “Well, yes, but why? I mean, this is an autopsy. We’re not going to do any treatment.”
“It might help lead to cause of death.”
“How? How could his lymphocytes or his glucocorticoids tell us that?”
“It’s . . . it’s a symptom of prolonged weightlessness.”
“Mulder, how on earth could the victim have such symptoms?”
He hesitated for an instant, losing her regard was going to be harder than he’d thought. “I don’t think it happened on earth.”
“I believe these victims were abducted, experimented on, and then returned.”
“By whom? Returned from where?”
Now it was her turn to hesitate. “You don’t mean Mexicans, do you?”
He managed to smile. “No, I don’t.”
She looked at him, though he had turned back to the road. “I see. You believe these kids were taken onto UFO’s and . . . Mulder, you can stop me any time.”
“I think you got it. Wanna call me Spooky now?”
“No, of course not. You . . . you’re serious.”
“They don’t put everything in the personnel file, fortunately.”
She ignored that, “Do you . . . do you have any evidence of this?”
“That’s why I wanted you here. I need, I need scientific proof. I think you could help me with that.”
“You want me to come up with scientific proof of the existence of extraterrestrials?”
“You . . . you seemed to be someone that would look at the evidence and give your honest findings. I know you don’t believe, I’m not asking for that. But if you’d give an honest assessment . . . I’m asking too much.”
She felt the air go out of him, like a slow leak in a balloon. “It was a dumb idea. I’m sorry I wasted your time and ruined your plans. Listen, if I turn around now - “
“No. I don’t want you to turn around. Seven kids have died under mysterious circumstances. That needs to be investigated. If I run your tests, and do my own investigation, will you believe me if I find a more . . . mundane cause of death?”
“Yes. If you can prove that something else killed them, I need to know it.”
“Fair enough.” She pulled out the file, turned on a small book light and began reading. He didn’t interrupt, but his relief was palpable. She hadn’t demanded that he pull the car over, or take his temperature. She read for a long time, without comment. When she did close the file, she rubbed her eyes.
“That light just isn’t adequate. Where are we?”
“We should be there in about twenty minutes. We have rooms at the Gunnison Travel Lodge.”
“Two rooms, right?” He heard the humor in her voice and felt relief again.
“Yeah. I figured that would fly better in the travel department.”
“Scully . . . “ He stopped and felt her look over at him curiously.
It was early for bed, but she’d been up since five, so she was beginning to drag. He caught her stifling a yawn. “Go on, turn in Scully. We can get started tomorrow.”
“I hate to put off seeing the body.”
“It’ll be better when you’re fresh.”
“What about you?”
“I don’t sleep much. I might go for a run.”
“Mulder? You sure?”
“Go on to sleep, Scully. See you in the morning.”
He moved down to the next door, and slipped his key into the lock as she stood in her door. He waited until she disappeared inside her room before entering his own.
He placed his suitcase on the luggage rack and sank onto the bed. He was a fool, why had he thought she’d do this? Had he asked for her just because she fit so well in his arms, or because he’d had the best night’s rest in memory when he’d been with her? It didn’t matter, she’d never want to take another case with him.
He was shaken by how depressed that made him feel. He was used to working alone, preferred it actually. So what the hell was wrong with him? This little slip of a woman should have no effect on him. When he got back to DC, he’d put this aside and never think about her again. Yeah, that would be for the best. He sighed and rose to his feet. Maybe that run was a good idea.
The knock on the door roused him, but it was coming from the wrong direction. He moved toward it and realized it was the connecting door. He opened it quickly.
“You plan this?” Were her words, but there was a smile on her lips.
“No, I mean, I didn’t even know they had, I mean . . . “
She laughed at his obvious discomfort and he stopped, realizing she was actually teasing him.
“Nite Scully.” He watched the door close in an entirely different state of mind. Rather than run, he decided on a shower and then he’d read. Maybe he’d sleep a little, knowing she was at least still speaking to him.
The hand felt cool against his face.
“Mulder, wake up. Can you hear me?”
“Sc . . . Scully?”
“Yes, it's me.” Her smile was tremulous, “Are you okay?”
“What, what are you doing in here?” He managed to sit up and realized he was only in his boxers. He pulled the covers up and didn’t attempt to rise. She was sitting on the edge of the bed anyway.
“You were yelling. I thought . . . I don’t know what I thought.” She picked up the towel he’d dropped on the floor and handed it to him.
He dried off his face and wiped down his chest. It had been a bad one, but to have awakened her in the next room . . .
“I’m okay, really. Thanks for checking on me.” She didn’t seem anxious to leave and he watched her hand return to his face, his cheek and forehead, checking for fever.
He caught her wrist. “I’m okay, it was just a dream.”
“That wasn’t a dream, it was a night terror.”
He shrugged, he couldn’t exactly get up and escort her out. “It happens sometimes.”
“Sometimes? This happens to you . . . often?”
“Scully, I’m okay.”
His eyes widened and his mouth went dry.
“Mulder, who is Samantha?”
“I don’t . . . you can go back to your room.”
She didn’t move away. “You should talk about it Mulder, or you’ll never get back to sleep tonight.”
He gave a harsh chuckle at that. “Don’t worry, I know better than to try.”
She absorbed that, he obviously had some experience with this. His cries had startled her awake. She’d been relieved to find he hadn’t locked his side of the door to her room.
Whatever he’d been fighting had terrified him. The look of anguish on his face had nearly brought her to tears. He’d been drenched in sweat, the cords of his neck standing out.
“Mulder, let me help you. That night, when you brought me back to the hotel, you stayed with me. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t. Why can’t I do that for you?”
She hadn’t moved from the bed, so he slipped out the other side and grabbed a pair of sweatpants from his suitcase. He pulled them on, his back to her.
“Look, I appreciate your concern, but it’s a different - “
“You need someone, I needed someone. What’s so different?”
“It was, it was a new trauma for you. You didn’t know how to handle it. I’ve handled this for years.”
“You’ve had nightmares like this for years?”
“Do you really want me to leave?”
He wouldn’t meet her eyes, or say anything. After a moment she rose from the side of the bed and moved toward the door. As her hand gripped the knob she heard him. It was barely a whisper, “no.”
She turned back to him and saw the conflict on his face. She actually wanted to put her arms around him, but that would be inappropriate, instead she returned to the bed and took a seat at the foot, looking up at him.
After a moment she held out her hand to him and he took it, grasping it as though it were a lifeline. She tugged him over to the bed and he sat beside her.
“Mulder, please, let me give you some of the support you gave me.”
They were sitting at the head of the bed now. She’d pulled the covers up, straightening out the damp twisted sheets from his dream. The pillows were behind them, against the headboard, their legs stretching out in front of them. Her robe was belted over her pajamas and at her encouragement, he had slipped on a t-shirt so he wouldn’t get chilled.
He still had her hand, though now he seemed to be playing with it as well as holding it, though he hadn’t seemed to notice. She didn’t mind, it felt good.
On some level she was reeling from his revelations. He truly, sincerely believed in the existence of extraterrestrials. And he was convinced they had taken his sister from his custody at the age of twelve.
He had agreed to show her the files when they returned to DC.
“Mulder, you need to try to rest. Come on, stretch out.”
He nodded, “You should sleep too. Go on back to your room.”
“I will in little bit, after you’re asleep.”
“I’m okay.” And a little embarrassed at what he’d poured out to this woman. He never opened up like this and he barely knew her, even if it didn’t feel that way.
“I know. But if it was me, I’d have a little trouble getting back to sleep. I can sit over there - “
“No, no you’re fine there.” He started to rise, “Scully, this . . . this is just between us?”
“Yes Mulder. No one else needs to know what you and I talk about on a case. You didn’t tell anyone about last time.” It wasn’t a question, she trusted him.
“No, I wouldn’t do that.”
“Neither would I. Now get comfortable and when you start snoring, I’ll leave.” She smiled at him.
“And if I don’t snore?”
“I’ll think of something.”
She could feel him relax. He crawled under the covers and put his head on the pillow. She reached for the light.
“You can leave it on, read or something. It won’t bother me. Most nights I sleep in front of the TV.”
She thought about that. Did he have any idea what he had just revealed to her?
“Okay, I’ll reread your notes. I need practice on your handwriting anyway.”
He harrumphed at that and rolled over. Before she could stop herself, she ran her hand through his hair and he seemed to settle in even better.
Exploring Something New - 3
She woke as he nuzzled into her belly. What the . . . ? Oh shit, they’d done it again. The file she’d been reading was scattered on the floor beside the bed, the light was on and she was slumped to one side, toward him. He had his head in her lap and was peacefully asleep.
She could see it was morning through the windows, but didn’t know the time. Her watch was in her room and she could see his lying on his dresser.
Once could be considered an accident, but twice? What was she supposed to think? What would he think? She had never acted like this around a man. She and Ethan hadn’t slept together for nearly six months after they’d started dating.
But of course that was totally different. She and Ethan had sex, she and Mulder had only ‘slept’ together, and offered comfort. So why the hell did she feel better waking up with Mulder?
Scully shoved that thought brutally aside. She wasn’t ‘waking up’ with Mulder. Well, yes she was, but not in the same context. And why hadn’t she moved yet?
She sat up straighter then, her neck a little stiff from the unusual position. He protested this, burrowing his face deeper into her abdomen.
“Mulder? Wake up.”
“Umm?” Then it penetrated what he was doing and where. He came awake in an instant and moved away from her.
“Morning.” She spoke dryly.
“Oh god. Nobody would ever believe this.”
“I was thinking the same thing, Mulder.” She shook her head but he didn’t hear anger in her voice. “Maybe we should try getting rooms in separate hotels next time.”
That surprised a chuckle out of him. “I’m not sure that would help. Two night’s restful sleep for me. I could get addicted.”
“Better not, the Bureau frowns on fraternization.”
“It also frowns on less than alert agents, but I’ll let that pass. Did you get any sleep?”
“Actually I did, but a hot shower sounds good.”
“Yeah, good idea. I’ll, uh, I’ll meet you in the hall?”
“Even better idea. I won’t be long.” She slipped out of bed and into her room, closing the door behind her. He didn’t realized until it didn’t come, that he was listening for the sound of the lock snicking into place.
Rather than dwell on this, which would definitely be counterproductive, he also rose and headed for the bath.
When he tapped on her door less than an hour later, she was ready. He didn’t ask how, but she looked fresh and awake. He felt a surge of gratitude that she was here with him.
She looked up and smiled, but his expression caught her off guard. He was gazing at her with something like awe.
“Mulder, you okay?”
“I’m good.” He heard what he’d said then, he was good. Good? He hadn’t been ‘good’ in ages, decades, but he was now. Who was this woman?
“Well, uh, we better get moving. The body’s not getting any fresher.”
“Right, what about breakfast?”
“The sign said there was a continental breakfast in the lobby. Will that hold you?”
“Sure.” No need to tell her he usually just had coffee after he got to the office. Instead, his hand on her back, he escorted her to the lobby. She choose a bagel, light cream cheese and some fruit. He picked up a bear claw, a sweet roll and some fruit filled thing.
She laughed lightly when he joined her at the table. “Should I have an insulin injection ready?”
He just grinned taking a large bite of the fruit pastry. It was nice to have an appetite.
In deference to the other guests, they refrained from discussing their next stop. He watched her as she ran a hand around her neck and stretched.
“A little. That’s not my normal sleeping position.”
“Here.” He rose and moved beside her, placing one of his large warm hands on her neck. He massaged gently, “since it’s my fault.”
“You better stop or we’ll never get out of here.” She saw the amused conflict in his eyes. “Yes, we have to get out of here.”
He looked as though he were pouting, like a little puppy dog, until she shook her head at him, then he sighed and released her.
“Come on then, slave driver.” He took their trash over and she refilled both of their coffees, fixing his just as he liked it.
As they were leaving the room, they overheard one of the women turn to her companion and say, “I love to watch honeymooners. They always look so happy.”
Scully hesitated, but Mulder’s hand steered her outside.
“Mulder, they thought - “
“I know. I heard. Scully, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to put you in such a position. I - “ He looked deeply concerned about her reaction.
“You didn’t do anything, I did - letting you massage my neck.” The color had deepened in her cheeks. “I think . . . I think maybe we’re a little too comfortable with each other.”
“We’re not behaving professionally enough.” It was a statement.
“I’ve not had a partner assigned to me, Mulder. We don’t really need them at Quantico. I don’t want to mess this up.”
He nodded, his mood plummeting. “Yeah, we should get to work.”
She nodded soberly, but didn’t say anything when his hand returned to her back as they headed for the car.
The facilities were adequate, maybe slightly more, but Scully had the impression that gunshot wounds from intoxicated hunters made up more of their work than what they were faced with now. She requested the tests that Mulder had mentioned, then began her visual exam of the victim.
There wasn’t a scratch or a bruise on him. If it weren’t for the fact he had no vitals, Scully would have told him to get up and stop with the jokes.
She took her time, and Mulder watched without interrupting; his mind still partially on the woman’s offhand comment upon observing them. Had they really looked like honeymooners? She had just come from his bed, but not in the way he’d like. Whoa! Hold on Mulder, this was an intelligent, educated, sophisticated woman, not like the type he’d actually spent time with over the years. Since returning from England he’d been too busy, or too reluctant, to work at meeting a woman. He certainly wasn’t in her league.
He watched her pull over the tray to begin the incision. She was all business now, this may have been where she’s gotten the name “Ice Queen”. How else would she be able to get through what she did. But now he knew better. “Scully, you don’t need me here. What if I head over to the site where they found him; see if there’s anything there.”
“Sure, take your time. This is going to be thorough.”
He managed a small grin and let himself out. She watched him leave, a little concerned. He’d been quiet since that woman had made that comment about them. He was probably mortified that she would think he was interested in someone like her. He probably went for tall women, blondes with . . . she sighed. She wasn’t here for that, this was work. Yes, they were comfortable with each other, but that could be the problem. Why wasn’t she treating him as professionally as she usually did her male colleagues?
Because she’d woken up twice in his arms. The thought stung her. Just how unprofessional could she be? No, not now. She had work to do.
It was irrational to be angry at the victim, pissed at a corpse, but she was. The boy should get up now and walk out of the morgue. She’d checked everything - his heart was healthy, the same with his lungs, liver, kidneys, everything, damn it!
She glanced over at the test results that had been delivered just a short while ago. They’d rushed them. There were some perks to working for the Bureau. It’s just that the results weren’t helping; at least they weren’t helping her. Mulder was going to be pleased.
As though on cue her cell phone rang. “Scully.”
He hesitated at her tone. “Scully? Are you okay?”
She could feel him blink at that. “What . . . what happened?”
“He’s not sick, Mulder. He’s not injured. He should just stand up and walk out except for the Y-incision I put in his chest.” She shook her head. “What about you?”
“Nothing on the ground.” He looked around him, “There’s a strange burn pattern in the trees.”
”Yeah, I’ll show you. Did you, did you run those tests?”
He felt the hesitation on her part, and waited.
“I got the results, but I don’t understand them.”
“Listen, I’ll be right there.”
“Take your time; I’m not ready to give up yet.”
That statement didn’t surprise him. “Okay, see you in a little bit.”
He didn’t take his time. He felt the need to connect with her. It was an unfamiliar feeling, but not unwelcome.
She looked up when he entered. “Two things Mulder.”
“What?” He hurried to her side.
“I hadn’t looked at the X-rays.”
“There was a small piece of metal in his sinus cavity. There’s no scar, I don’t know how it got there, or what it is.”
“What it is?”
“Look.” She indicated the microscope, and waited.
“Do you, Scully, do you know what this is?”
“It looks like a computer chip, but Mulder, it can’t be.”
“Is there any medical reason for any piece of metal to be lodged or placed into someone’s sinus?”
“None that I know of.”
He took a deep breath, “You said two things.”
She turned back toward the body. “His brain. There’s what appears to be . . . new growth.”
“New? I thought the brain didn’t grow, couldn’t even heal.”
“There are some studies that are questioning that, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“So let me get this straight, this boy has no wounds, no disease that could kill him, but there’s what looks like a damn sophisticated computer chip up his nose, there’s new growth in his brain. Even though you haven’t said, his glucocorticords are off and there’s a reduction in the lymphocyte population. Did I miss anything?”
She looked at him for a long moment, then dropped her eyes.
She didn’t look up, concentrating instead on removing her gloves. “No, I think that covers it.” She knew she sounded hostile, and she could feel him withdraw from her even though he hadn’t moved physically.
Scully took a deep breath, “I’m sorry. I’m not angry - “
She did look up then and he watched her face soften into an ironic smile. “Yes, but not at you.”
He didn’t return her smile. “I shouldn’t have asked you to come on this case. Working with me will only . . . only hurt your reputation at the Bureau. I don’t know what I was thinking. You should fly back to DC this afternoon. You can turn in your report and wash your hands of this . . . and me.”
“Mulder? Do you, do you want me to leave?”
“I think it would be for the best.”
“Best for whom?”
“Best for you Agent Scully. If you continue to work with me, it will ruin you at the Bureau and I would hate to have that on my conscience.”
“You have that kind of power?”
He just stared at her, after a long moment, he nodded.
“I don’t believe that.”
“Agent Scully, I’m the lead agent on this investigation. I requested your assistance. You’ve given it. I’d like your notes, but your phase of this case is over and I - “
He blinked at that. Most people didn’t have the guts to speak to him like that, to defy him.
“You can’t throw me off the case like this. AD Skinner assigned me, not you. We had a deal, if I found a mundane cause of death, you wanted to know it.”
“But you didn’t.”
“I’m not through. I haven’t seen where his body was found or this strange burn pattern you mentioned.”
“That’s external. You have his body here - “
“Yes, but its only part of the evidence. I am a part of this investigation and until it ends, I’m one of the agents of record. I can’t force you to work with me, but I’m not leaving.”
That took him aback. She didn’t even come up to his shoulder without her heels, she was a green agent, yet she was defying him. That was a first. She didn’t seem to be the least bit intimidated by him or his reputation.
“I’ll need the car. I can drop you somewhere.”
“Why do you need the car?”
“I want to see the site.”
“If that’s the only way I can.”
“You’re not listening to me. I’m trying to save your career.”
“I believe that’s my job Agent Mulder.” Her tone had a touch of ice now and he was reminded of her own nickname.
“I’ll take you out there.”
“You don’t have to put yourself out.”
“I’m not . . . Damn it, Scully!” He backhanded the instruments on the tray and she jumped at the sound, the violence. “Fine, let’s go.” He turned away from her.
“I have to, I have to clean up.”
“I’ll wait in the car.”
“Mulder - “ but the door was closing behind him. She closed her eyes. What the hell had just happened? They had been working well together, but . . .
She hurried to get out of her scrubs and outside. She spotted him in the car, his head lowered, brow resting on the steering wheel. He sat up quickly when she opened the door, as though embarrassed to be caught in such a position.
He watched her buckle in, then reached for the key already in the ignition. Her hand rested on his and he nearly pulled away from her. “Mulder, please.”
He didn’t look at her, but he waited. “Are you upset with me because I’m not convinced of the existence - “
“No. Hell no, Scully. That’s . . . it hit me what I’ve asked of you. I realized what this is going to look like for you.”
“I’m a joke Scully, you know it. Spooky Mulder. I shouldn’t have requested your help. You could go places at the Bureau.”
“I plan to, but I see no reason I can’t go to those places with you.”
He did look at her then, mouth slightly agape. “With me?”
“Mulder, you’re brilliant, you can teach me things I don’t even know I need to learn. You’re good at what you do, I feel safe with you as my partner, and Mulder, I trust you.”
Now his mouth was open and his eyes locked on her.
“Wh . . . why?”
Not exactly the question she was expecting, nevertheless she answered. “The way you treated me on our first case. You didn’t condescend to the female agent, you didn’t avoid me because I was green. You listened to my theories and shared yours. And . . . and when I fell apart, you put me back together and kept it confidential.”
She was staring at her hands now. “I assumed that had blown everything, but then just a few weeks later, you asked for me, for me, to assist you again. I wasn’t first in my class in medical school - “
“You were at Quantico. And being third isn’t bad. In fact, if you were male, I bet you would have been first.”
Her head shot up.
He shrugged, “I read your file too.”
“Mulder, I want to be here. I want to work with you. If we disagree about certain aspects, at least I feel like you’ve heard me.”
“I just don’t want you to regret this Scully.”
“I promise, if you’ll do the same.”
He nodded and she realized she was still touching his hand. Her cheeks colored and she released him.
“I’ll show you what I found.” He started the car and pulled out.
The site was still marked, though nature didn’t show a lot of respect for the taped barrier. He pointed to the trees. They were burnt near the top, maybe the top third of the trees, but no deeper. There was no evidence of fire on the ground.
He watched her as she looked around. He’d already seen everything he needed to, but he could enjoy watching her and what she felt was worthy of her notice. He wouldn’t be asking for her again, he couldn’t indulge in such selfishness.
He could just count on his memory for the feel of waking with his head cradled in her belly. He shook his head to dislodge those thoughts and looked where he had last seen her. She wasn’t there.
“Scully?” No response. He raised his voice, turning to look around a little. “Scully?” Still nothing. A crease appeared in his forehead and he moved quickly to where he had last seen her. “Scully, damn it! Answer me!”
Nothing, no sound of birds, not a breeze. What the hell was going on? “Scully!”
He was right, there wasn’t really anything that was helping her out here, but she’d wanted to see it. She didn’t think the boy had been killed here. Of course, knowing how he died would help there. She shook that thought aside and turned to ask him a question.
He wasn’t there.
“Mulder?” She hadn’t heard him leave. But of course he hadn’t left her, he’d probably just seen something and . . . he was used to working alone. She turned back to where she’d last seen him. “Mulder, can you hear me? Where are you?”
There was no answer. He wouldn’t have left her. Things had been back to okay between them. Besides he wouldn’t just leave her, not Mulder. Where was he? She turned in a complete circle - something seemed . . . off somehow. Had it gotten darker? It wasn’t overcast, in fact there were no clouds. But it was darker. She glanced down at her watch, but realized it had stopped.
This was getting creepy. Where was he? Maybe she should head back to the car, at least the path they had followed was still there. Still there . . . the yellow crime tape was gone! That was impossible, but it was gone. She halted where she stood. What had happened? Was she hallucinating?
“Mulder? Mulder!” No don’t panic, she was armed and, and she had her cell phone! She was panicking. She took a deep breath and pulled the phone from her pocket.
Nothing, not even ‘no signal’. She couldn’t even get the thing to turn on. She realized her hands were shaking. She was going to check, but she knew somehow that the car was gone. Something had happened, something . . . supernatural. She’d never had a thought like that before. Mulder was affecting her.
She marked her route carefully and returned to where she knew they had left the car. There was no evidence that a car had ever been there.
“Mulder!” She tried again, a little hopelessly. What should she do? It was getting dark more rapidly than it should. Did she return to where he had left her, or try to hike out?
No, somehow she knew there was no ‘out’. She shivered at that thought. He’d found her before, could he do it again? The only thing she was sure of was that he was going to try.
She made her way back to where the body had been found. There was nothing there, but it was where he had left her, so it was where he could find her.
She was shivering again, not from the cold, from reaction. This was beyond weird and she couldn’t help but wonder if she was conscious or maybe in a nightmare. It was full night now, and she couldn’t have been alone an hour.
She backed up to the large tree that had had yellow tape around it and slid down to a sitting position, her arms locked around her knees. “Mulder.” But this time it was barely a whisper, more of a prayer.
She eventually let her eyes slide closed, there were no sounds, no rustle of leaves or chirps of birds. She couldn’t help the tear that escaped her eye.
He was beyond frantic. The one thread of sanity he was clinging to was unraveling. He’d checked the car, she hadn’t slipped past him, not that she would. She’d heard his story last night, he’d told her about Samantha - there was no way she would pull something like this, even if she could.
Where the hell was she! He ran his hand through his hair again. He needed reinforcements. He needed help. But he was out of range for the phone. He couldn’t force himself to leave. She was here, it was like he could sense her, but . . . the sounds had returned. Whatever had caused the birds to be silent was gone. Gone . . . and her with it. He stumbled and caught himself on the tree where he had last seen her. He’d been searching for her for over two hours now. If her . . . if her body were here he would have found it. She wasn’t here and he had to leave, for just a little while to get some help.
“Scully.” He whispered it, his eyes closed.
Then he forced himself upright again. He had no choice, he wasn’t going to find her alone. He might not find her at all. That nearly brought him to his knees. Like Samantha, was this going to be like that?
He’d barely remained sane when they took her. He knew his father had kept his breakdown out of the record. Would he be able to come back from this?
He’d taken a couple of steps from the tree when he realized that the birds were silent again. He felt his heart rate soar.
“Scully!” He roared the word this time, turning back in time to see her scramble to her feet from the foot of the very tree where he had been leaning.
“Mu . . . Mulder?” Then she was in his arms, being crushed against him as his lips tasted her. Her arms gripped him as well, unable to speak. She looked up at him and their lips met, melding together. Her eyes opened wide at the sensation, but as she opened her lips to him, her eyes slid closed unable to take in any more stimulation.
She met his kiss with equal passion, wanting to be completely encompassed by him, held in his arms safe forever. He was more than willing to accommodate her, unsure he could physically release her anyway.
When he could finally speak, it was into her hair. “Are you . . . are you alright?”
“I want to get out of here.”
He nodded and they turned toward the car. There were no fingers lightly touching the small of her back this time. He had a gentle but firm grip on her arm. When they got to the car, he opened the drivers’ door. She got in and climbed across, apparently neither wanting the width of the car between them.
He reached across her to buckle her in himself. He needed to touch her. He couldn’t drive holding her hand, so after an instant, he placed her hand on his thigh. He glanced at her as though seeking her okay. She couldn’t smile, but squeezed his leg to reassure him.
He lost no time getting them out of there. As he neared the lodge, he finally spoke. “You need to eat something.”
“Something light. Come on.”
She closed her eyes, but he pulled into a diner nearby. He opened his door and hurried around to open hers. He helped her from the car and she allowed it. Hell, she needed it as much as he did.
He led her to a booth in the back and seated her, then instead of sitting facing her, slid in beside her, as though shielding her from the rest of the world. He didn’t comment on her shaking hands, but ordered both of them the homemade chicken soup.
When the waitress left them. He turned and softly asked, “Do you want a drink? A beer or something?”
“No. If you want one . . . “
“I don’t do much drinking. My father . . . my father has a problem, and I . . . “
She nodded and they fell silent again. When the waitress brought their soup, he picked up his spoon. “Scully, you need this. It’ll warm you.”
Again she nodded and managed to still her hands enough to take a few sips. “Mulder, I - “
“Not now. We can talk later.”
She met his eyes, then returned to her soup. She didn’t finish it, but he let her get away with it, finishing his own, then helping her back to her feet. She wasn’t as pale now, but touching her made him feel better.
He walked her to her room and took the key from her hand, opening her door. He followed her inside and she sank onto the foot of her bed.
“Mulder, I don’t know what - “
“Scully, no. Not tonight. You’ve been through enough, we both have. Why don’t you get ready for bed?”
“I’m not sure I can sleep.”
“I, uh, I have a suggestion.” The color was high in his face, but he continued. “Since, since we’re probably both destined for nightmares tonight, what if we just started out in the same bed.”
Her eyes widened, but she didn’t protest.
“I’m not, Scully, I’m not suggesting anything more than, than comfort. I just think - “
“I agree.” She interrupted. “I don’t think I’ll be sleeping either, but I don’t want to be alone.”
He gave her a grim smile, “Take one of those long bubble baths you like and I’ll meet you here in a little while, okay?”
She blinked, how did he know she liked to soak in a hot bath? That wasn’t in her file.
He winked at her and rose, holding out his hand. She took it and he pulled her to her feet. “Take your time.”
She disappeared into the bathroom, turning one last time to look at him.
He was back when she emerged, wearing her pajamas. Her robe was belted around her. He was lounging on her bed, wearing his sweats and a t-shirt. He had the TV on, turned so low she hadn’t heard it in the next room.
“Scully, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, if you - “
“You’re right. Neither of us will get any sleep tonight, I’d rather not be alone.”
He nodded and turned down the bed. She managed a quick smile and lay down. He got in on the other side and without words, seemingly without thought, they came into each other’s arms - not sexually, just holding each other.
After a few minutes, she spoke. “Aren’t you going to ask about what happened?”
“Not tonight. I don’t want to think about it and I’m sure you don’t.”
“I wish I could stop.”
“I do have one question.”
She pulled slightly away from him, waiting.
The question startled her. Ethan? That was the last thing on her mind, but she recognized the psychologist in him - leading her to other areas, taking her mind off of this afternoon.
“He’s the man I was seeing.”
She gave a small shrug, “I don’t know if we’re still seeing each other or not. He was pretty upset when I changed our plans.”
“Were they that important? Were you meeting his mother or something?”
She actually gave a light laugh at that. “I’m not sure Ethan has a mother, maybe he was hatched. No, it wasn’t that big a deal. We were supposed to have dinner with some of his co-workers.”
“Then I don’t understand.”
“Ethan is . . . controlling. He tolerates my job when it doesn’t ‘interfere’.”
“I guess I’m surprised you put up with that.”
“I don’t think I realized it before . . . before Seattle. It was easy just to go along, letting him have his way.”
“I don’t know, I just felt stronger. That sounds strange given what happened, maybe I felt alive again. While I was there, I knew you were looking for me, but I wondered if you’d get to me in time.”
He gave a small nod; he’d wondered the same thing. He’d gotten lucky, and he’d found her before the pervert had a chance to . . . to hurt her.
“Back to Ethan, what does he look like?”
“Look like?” She smiled then, “Why?”
“I don’t know, I guess I’m interested in the kind of guy you go for.”
“Well, I’m not sure I have a ‘type’, at least physically. Ethan had light brown hair. He had the tips lightened.” She grinned at Mulder’s surprise.
“He works in TV, a producer. He does some of the news shows, you know, Sunday morning.”
‘Good looking, huh?”
“Well, not as much as he thinks.” And not nearly as good looking as you, she thought, then remembered where they were and blushed.
“Scully?” He was confused now. Did she think Ethan was attractive or not?
“He, uh, Ethan’s 5’9”, on the thin side.” At least compared to you she added to herself.
Mulder gave one nod, he didn’t understand what he was hearing. This was the guy she was dating. What was the deal?
“How long have you been dating?”
“Almost nine months.”
He absorbed that in silence. Nine months. He’d only been around her what, three, four days?
“I guess you’re pretty close.” I guess you’re really ‘sleeping’ with him, was what he was asking, though he couldn’t use the words.
She looked away then, “I guess.”
“Turn about is fair play. Who are you seeing?”
“I’m, uh, I’m not seeing anyone.”
“Mulder? Are you serious?”
“I don’t know, you don’t look like you’d have trouble getting dates.”
He blinked, “What?”
“Dates, going out with someone of the opposite sex usually.”
“I know what a date is.”
“You didn’t sound like it.”
“I don’t go out much. My job takes me out of town a lot, usually at the spur of the moment. And when I’m working, I’m not really good company.”
“You mean you’re better company when you’re not working? I’m not sure I could take it.”
He stared at her for a moment, not sure if she was kidding. “Are you, are you teasing me?”
She sighed, “Maybe a little.”
“Are you uncomfortable with me here?”
“The short answer, yes. But I want you here.”
His eyes searched hers.
“I don’t remember anyone ever saying that to me before.” He finally answered.
Her eyes held his, “Maybe you haven’t been listening.”
“I want us to leave tomorrow.”
“We haven’t solved this case.”
“It’s not a case that’s going to be solved. Even if I could prove that little green men killed them, someone would change the evidence, get rid of it. I’d look like a fool again, and this time so would you. Besides, I want you away from here.”
“You’ve seen this kind of thing before.” It wasn’t a question.
“The boy, yes. I knew what you were going to find with the tests - not the chip or the business with his brain tissue. Or what happened out there.”
She shivered at his words.
“Sorry, I said we weren’t going to talk about this tonight. Relax, we’re safe here.”
“Yeah.” He pulled her tighter, “get some rest.”
After a moment she nodded. “You won’t leave?”
“What?” He chuckled, “The opposite of what happens every time we get together? Rest Scully, I’m right here.”
He even managed a couple of hours sleep himself, with her there in his arms. He hadn’t changed his mind about leaving the next morning and she didn’t fight him.
She waited as he loaded the information online and email it, though he didn’t tell her to whom. He placed the chip and the slides of brain tissue in his pockets, then decoys of the same in his luggage. She asked no questions, not at this time. He had more experience in these areas - more than she had even imagined and for now she needed to follow his lead.
They were quiet on the flight, though he held her hand most of the way, remembering her remark about not being a good flyer.
She wasn’t entirely sure what he had told local authorities, probably that they were continuing the investigation and would be in touch. That might be true on his part, but she knew without being told, that he would not accept any more of her help. From the set of his shoulders, probably forever.
He still hadn’t asked what had happened, seeming to understand that she couldn’t talk about it yet. She didn’t know what to tell him anyway. Nothing had happened, she had just been . . . elsewhere. With no explanation.
She didn’t have a lot to say that she felt would help at this point. She was still shaken on a deeper level than she could analyze about what had happened the day before. She needed to process this, get her feet back under her and, as much as he made her feel safer, she needed to do this on her own.
He didn’t seem at all surprised that his luggage was missing when they landed, but refused to talk about it.
“Let’s find your car. I need to get the evidence somewhere safe.”
“I can - “
“Let me get you to your car, just in case. I am going to need your written report.”
“I’ll email it to you.”
She looked deeply into his eyes, but he didn’t back down. “I enjoyed working with you Agent Mulder.”
He nodded, “You too Agent Scully. Good luck at Quantico.”
She managed to smile and turned toward the parking lot. She didn’t see him close his eyes, or the deep breath he took before following her. And she didn’t realize how long it would be before they would have the conversation they needed to have.
Exploring Something New - 4
Mulder flipped on the TV; it was almost time for the game. He headed into the kitchen and poured himself a tall ice tea, then grabbed the last slice of left over pizza.
The special bulletin caught his attention as he returned to his couch, “ . . . of Investigation has released the information that two agents have been killed and three wounded, two critically, at a shoot out near Buffalo, New York. The names are being withheld until - “
He ignored the rest of the broadcast. He was suddenly standing in the midst of tea, ice and broken glass. He spun to reach for the phone as he clicked off the TV.
“This is Special Agent Fox Mulder.” He rattled off his badge number. “I need information about the agents injured in New York.” No reason to ask about the ones that had been killed. She wasn’t dead. He would know it if she were, just as he seemed to know she’d been there in the first place.
“Agent Mulder, we can’t - “
“I’m not asking . . . just tell me if Agent Scully, Dana Scully, was injured.”
There was a long pause. “Yes, Agent Mulder.”
“Where was she taken?”
There was another hesitation, then she sighed, “University Medical in Buffalo - “ She realized the connection was broken before she got the words out.
He snatched his keys off the table, grabbed his leather jacket off the coat rack and was gone.
He burned up his cell phone making arrangements on his way to the airport. He grabbed his overnight kit from the trunk and took the valet parking option - a first for him, then raced to the gate.
It wasn’t until the plane took off that he allowed himself to think about what he was doing . . . and her.
He hadn’t seen her since they’d gotten back from Colorado, except once. That had been an accident. He’d been asked to come out to Quantico, and had chosen a day when she wasn’t scheduled to teach. But she’d walked out of an office and he’d practically run her down. She’d seemed delighted to see him, and insisted they have lunch together. He couldn’t make himself refuse. He hadn’t allowed himself to know how much he had missed her. Maybe it was such a new feeling he hadn’t recognized it.
They had talked easily. She took his lead and didn’t ask about any cases. He assumed she was back with Ethan, their problems worked out, though he didn’t ask. Mostly he had just listened, watching her, and knowing it was a mistake. Now he would have to go through withdrawal yet again. Davis had done the two autopsies he had needed since . . .
He hadn’t called her. He’d told himself he didn’t want to see her, but he’d jumped on this plane without thought.
He used his shield like a battering ram to get to the hospital and to her floor. She’d survived surgery, but they hadn’t released her from recovery.
His steps slowed as he approached her room, and he hesitated with his hand on the latch. He couldn’t delude himself, he had to see her. He let himself in, but stopped at the sight of her. “Oh god.” He actually took a step away, his back pressing against the door to steady himself. “Scully.” He was only able to breathe the word.
Then he was beside her, touching and then gripping her hand. “Scully, come on, wake up. Please, for me.”
“Sir?” A gentle hand came to rest on his forearm. He turned startled.
“I . . . I’m sorry. I didn’t know anyone was here.”
That was obvious. When his eyes had locked on Dana, the rest of the world had vanished. “I’m Maggie Scully, Dana’s mother.”
“Mrs. Scully.” He acknowledged her, “Fox, uh Agent Fox Mulder.” But his eyes were back on Scully, he didn’t see the recognition in her eyes. “Is she going to be okay? What are they saying?”
“They, uh, they’re ‘guardedly optimistic’.” He winced at that. “She lost a lot of blood, so they’re concerned.”
“What was she doing there? She’s supposed to be teaching at Quantico!” He shook his head, “I’m sorry, I . . . I’m sorry.”
Mrs. Scully squeezed his shoulder and motioned for him to take a seat where he wouldn’t have to release her hand.
“She was in surgery when I got here. I heard two other agents have died from their injuries.” He nodded, not speaking.
They were quiet for a moment, then Mrs. Scully spoke again, “I’m glad you’re here. She’s spoken very highly of you.” He glanced up and quickly away. “You’re the man that saved her in Seattle.”
“That was a team effort.”
“Funny, she never mentioned anyone else.” She gave him a sad smile.
He had no idea what to say to that, so he kept quiet.
“Fox, I haven’t wanted to leave her alone. Would you mind if I stretched my legs for a minute?”
“Of, of course not. I’ll be right here. Take your time Mrs. Scully.”
“Maggie.” He nodded.
“I won’t be long.” She let herself out and hurried to the ladies room to cry.
Mulder focused completely on Scully instantly. “Scully, come on. Open your eyes. I need to see your eyes. They’ve put you in too small a bed for me to join you, so you’ve got to wake up and prove you’re okay. Listen to me Scully.” He squeezed her hand, but there was no response.
She was still alive, that was the important thing. He’d wait, he had nothing else as important to do.
He didn’t know how long he’d been there when the door opened again. A male voice startled him, “Who the hell are you?”
He looked up into the hostile face of a man about his age. This wasn’t Ethan, he was as tall as Mulder and heavier. Mulder knew he’d have trouble taking this man, if the need arose.
“Bill?” Maggie entered the room then, “Bill!” The man turned and took Maggie into his arms, hugging her tightly.
Bill? This was her older brother. Mulder relaxed slightly.
When Bill released his mother, he turned back toward Mulder, his eyes were narrowed and his hostility had not abated. “Are you one of those FBI assholes that forced her out of medicine?”
Mulder looked at him for a moment, “No, I’m a different asshole.”
The answer caught Bill off guard, but didn’t exactly appease him.
“Sorry,” Mulder rose, but didn’t release her hand. “I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder.”
Bill looked over at his mother, asking the question silently. “Yes, this is the man that saved your sister in Seattle.”
Mulder watched Bill try to relax his stance and partially succeed. “Were, were you here, when . . . “
Mulder shook his head, “I heard about it on the news.”
“And you rushed up here?”
“Uh, yeah. I . . . I needed to make sure . . . “
“Fox came to check on your sister, and I’m very grateful. Bill, I haven’t been able to reach your father. Do you think you could pull some strings?”
“Oh, I figured . . . sure. But tell me how she is first.”
Maggie looked over at Mulder, “Has the doctor been back?”
Mulder shook his head.
“We need to step out into the hall, Bill. They only allow one person in here with her.”
Mulder’s eyes widened at that, he’d been unaware. Maggie had allowed him to stay with her, while she waited outside? Maggie looked over at Mulder, “We’ll be in the waiting room.”
He nodded slowly, not sure what to say. He could see the outrage building in Bill again, but Maggie had her hand on her son’s arm. Her smaller stature didn’t faze her any more than Scully’s did where he was concerned.
He was asked to step outside when the doctor finally did come in to check on her. The monitors hadn’t told him anything, but the sound of them had become essential to him as time passed with no reaction from her.
The three of them were waiting when the doctor emerged. “Her vitals are steady. I’m going to have her moved to the ICU.”
“Is that safe?” Mulder asked before anyone else had the chance.
“Yes, it means she’s improving. You are?”
“Special Agent Fox Mulder.” Again he pulled out his ID. “You know her mother, this is her brother Bill.”
The doctor shook each of their hands. “I am pleased with her progress so far, but we’re going to be keeping a very close eye on her.”
“The other agent that was critical, is he okay?” Her mother asked.
“No, I’m sorry. We lost him.”
Maggie closed her eyes in a quick prayer and Bill took her arm. Mulder said nothing, it hadn’t occurred to him to ask, though he probably knew the agent. He couldn’t focus on anything but her.
They came to move her and Maggie insisted they all get a bite to eat while they weren’t allowed to be with her. Mulder hadn’t thought of food until she mentioned it. He wondered idly what he’d done with that slice of pizza. He and Bill escorted Maggie to the cafeteria. He reached for coffee, but wasn’t sure his stomach could take it, so chose water instead.
He ate the cardboard sandwich without noticing, listening with one ear to their conversation. “I got hold of my CO; he’ll locate Dad for us. Hopefully he’ll be on his way home tonight.”
“I just want to have some positive news when he calls.” She looked toward the elevators.
“We will. Come on, Mom, we’re talking about Dana.”
Mulder nodded without thinking.
“Fox, have you been working with Dana lately?”
“Uh, no. She helped me with a case a couple of months ago, but . . . “ he let his voice trail off.
”Really?” Her mother sounded confused, “I had the impression that you two had a close working relationship.” She didn’t mention the obvious, that he had dropped everything and appeared at her side.
“I . . . I work mostly alone.”
“Maybe you can talk some sense into her and get her to return to medicine.”
“I’ll give it a shot when she wakes up.”
“So you agree that the FBI isn’t the place for her?”
“It would be a big loss for the Bureau, but she wouldn’t be shot at.” He glanced at Maggie and away.
“You seem very protective of her.” Maggie observed.
Mulder decided against comment and she let it drop. He was already anxious to be back at her side. Being social wasn’t exactly his strong point. When they finally did arrive at the ICU, they were informed that only two people were allowed and for only five minutes.
“Bill, you haven’t spent any time with her. You and Fox - “
“No Mrs . . . Maggie. You need to see her. Go on, I’ll be right here.” She saw what that cost this strange, quiet man - he cared for Dana, more, she thought, than he realized. Bill nodded, that was the only solution as far as he could see. He took his mother’s arm and led her in.
When they returned five minutes later, Bill was quiet and obviously shaken.
“Did, did anything . . . “ Mulder couldn’t finish the question.
Maggie gave him a sad smile, “There’s no change. She’s still not awake.”
Mulder nodded and looked toward the doors. “They’ll let us back in at five til the hour.” She offered.
Mulder swallowed, but kept quiet.
“Mom, let’s get you a room. There’s a place connected to the hospital. I saw it on my way in. You need to stretch out and maybe make some calls.”
She looked at the doors again, “I hate to - “
“I’ll be here Maggie. I’ll find you if there’s any change.” He pulled out his card and wrote his cell phone number on the back. “It’s always on.” He managed to smile at her.
Maggie looked back and forth between these two men and finally nodded. She promised to call Mulder with a room number in a few minutes, then she allowed Bill to lead her away.
Once the elevator doors closed, Mulder turned toward the swinging door and quietly let himself in. He wasn’t challenged, everyone was occupied, and he found her cubicle with no problem. He pulled the plastic chair closer and sat beside her, taking her hand into his.
“Hey Scully, it’s time to wake up. You’re scaring your Mom.” He was kneading her hand, his eyes darting between her and the monitors arrayed around her.
He was so quiet no one noticed him for nearly twenty minutes, then a nurse was at his side. “Sir, I’m sorry. You can’t be in here now.”
“I won’t bother anyone. They let us be with her in recovery.”
The nurse glanced at the chart and pursed her lips. They’d been allowed in recovery because they hadn’t expected her to make it to ICU and the doctor had wanted to give the family some time with her. That wasn’t something she could say, so she smiled at the man in front of her. “I understand, but we have more patients in here, and we have to . . . I’m sorry.” She stepped back to allow him to stand.
He did so reluctantly and squeezed her hand before forcing himself to release her. Instead, her hand tightened on his. “Scully?” He leaned closer and the nurse moved in on the other side.
“Ms. Scully, can you hear me?”
She tried to make a sound, but the respirator hampered her. Her eyes fluttered.
“Scully, don’t try to talk. There’s a tube down your throat. If you can hear me, squeeze my hand.”
He felt the light pressure as her fingers moved and had to steady himself against the side of the bed.
“That’s right Scully. Everything’s going to be okay. Listen, they want me to wait outside, so - “ Her fingers tightened again, a little stronger this time. Mulder looked up at the nurse.
“I’ll call her doctor, you can stay here until he arrives, but then we’ll need the room.”
“Yes ma’am.” He looked back down at Scully, this other woman forgotten already. He leaned in close, his lips barely brushing her ear. “I’m still here, Scully.”
Her eyelids fluttered again and she managed to open them, then blinked trying to bring him into focus. Her lips tried to move.
“Scully, be still. Don’t try to talk, okay?” His fingers touched her cheek lightly and her eyes seemed to smile, before slipping closed again.
The doctor lost no time in answering his page and again they were after him to leave. He stood his ground for a moment, “Scully? Scully, can you hear me?”
Her eyes opened more quickly this time. “Hi. They’re asking me to step outside while they examine you. I just wanted you to know, I’m not far and I’ll be back in a few minutes.” She seemed to nod slightly, but the doctor noted her eyes tried to follow him as he left her bedside. He was in the hall before he realized he hadn’t called her mother. At least he was confident if he woke her, she wouldn’t be upset.
Bill answered the phone. “It’s Mulder. Is Maggie - “
“Has something happened?” Mulder could hear movement in the background.
“Something good. She’s awake, the doctor’s with her.”
“We’ll be right there.”
They were, in less than ten minutes. The doctor still hadn’t emerged. “Fox?”
“She had her eyes open and she squeezed my hand.” He answered her unspoken question. To his shock, she threw her arms around him and, after an instant, he returned the hug. It had been a long time since he’d had a maternal hug, hell, a hug of any kind. It was unfamiliar, but damn pleasant.
Finally the doctor appeared at the door and joined them. He looked a little less solemn this time. “We’ve removed the respirator and she is breathing on her own, we are supplementing oxygen. I’m going to let you in to see her, but just for a couple of minutes. She’s still very weak.”
Maggie nodded and brushed away a tear with a business-like gesture, squaring her shoulders. A nurse appeared behind the doctor, smiling. “She’s asking for her husband.”
“Husband?” Maggie questioned.
“The man that was with her when she woke?”
Maggie and Bill turned to look at Mulder. “She said husband?” Bill asked as they all shook off their paralysis and began to move into the ICU.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t there. Nurse Rickard sent me.”
They could see her now. The largest piece of equipment had been moved away and they could see the smaller oxygen line. Her head turned toward the sound, and her eyes found Mulder. She truly smiled this time, though she was still too pale, too weak.
“Mulder.” It was only a whisper, due to the irritation in her throat, but he heard to the bottom of his soul.
Her fingers moved on the covers and he took her hand. Even the doctor saw the tension leave her face, as though pain medication had been added to her IV.
“Scully, your Mom’s here and your brother.” He moved to the side, not releasing his grip on her. Bill noted it and wasn’t happy, but even he had seen.
In five minutes, the doctor began herding them out. “I’ll be right outside Scully.” Her brow furrowed instantly.
“Doctor, can Fox stay in here with her?” Maggie asked quietly.
Bill opened his mouth to protest, but her hand on his arm stopped him.
“She needs her rest.” The doctor demurred.
“I believe we all saw that she would rest better with him here.”
The doctor looked back at his patient, then at the dark, solemn man standing, waiting.
“You stay out of the way.” Mulder nodded, then turned to Maggie.
She nodded, “Keep my baby safe.” Again Bill opened his mouth, but Maggie took his hand and tugged him toward the exit.
Mulder had already forgotten them, leaning over her. “I’m staying.”
“In . . . bed?” She whispered.
At that he grinned. No one that knew him from the Bureau would have recognized him. “Don’t tempt me. Now rest, or they’ll throw me out.”
Her eyes drifted closed and he settled back in his chair.
For the next two days that’s how things went. Maggie and Bill took turns relieving Mulder and Scully was able to speak to her father over Mulder’s phone. He was on his way, but it looked like it would be at least two more days before he could arrive.
He had asked her if Ethan was going to show up and try to take him out. She had shaken her head and changed the subject. He hadn’t pursued it.
Mulder’s meals with Bill were quiet and strained. The man was obviously resentful, though Mulder didn’t know why and hadn’t bothered to ask. Maggie more than made him welcome. In fact, he was more than surprised at her acceptance of him. He was damn curious about what the two women had discussed regarding him, but he found he was actually too nervous to ask.
On the third day, she was moved to a room on the surgical ward, and was allowed to celebrate with a little clear jello. “You should have held out for the cherry, Scully. I’ve had the lime too many times, I know.”
She started to respond, but saw the smile fade from his face. She looked in the direction he was facing and saw Bill standing in the doorway. The look on his face stunned her, it looked like he hated Mulder.
He looked at his sister then and his face softened. “How are you feeling?”
“A lot better. Where’s Mom?”
“She’s resting. We’re going to pick Dad up around midnight tonight at the airport.”
“Good idea. I know that’s after visiting hours, but please bring Ahab here as soon as he lands.”
“Will you be here?” Bill looked over at Mulder and the friendly tone left his voice.
“She’s a lot better. I won’t interrupt your family reunion.” Mulder spoke in a monotone, but she saw the hurt in his eyes.
“Bill, I want Ahab to meet Mulder.”
“Scully,” Mulder broke in, “I’m not leaving, just giving the family some space. Don’t even think about it.”
“I am thinking about it. What’s your problem Bill?”
“Can we talk about this later?”
She opened her mouth to refuse, but saw Mulder shake his head. She closed her mouth, for now.
“The jello's made me hungry, Scully. I’m gonna go grab a bite. I’ll check back later.” He squeezed her hand and moved past Bill without a word.
When the door shut, Scully turned to her brother. “What’s going on?”
“I had him checked out.”
“You did what?” She winced as she tried to sit up to yell at him.
“Take it easy, Dana. You nearly died.”
“I know that Bill, and Mulder has been at my side the whole time helping me heal.”
Bill snorted, “What do you know about him?”
“What are you talking about? I’ve worked with the man, he saved my life and . . . and looked after me on assignments when I’d never been in the field before.”
“And you shouldn’t be in the field now.”
“Bill, that’s a different fight. Mulder has been a good partner and an excellent friend.”
“Do you know what they call him at the Bureau? Spooky - and for a good reason. The man is a total weirdo. He actually believes that little green men from space kidnapped his sister!” Bill shook his head.
“Bill - “
“He looks for the strange cases. He’s a loner, people avoid him like the plague and for good reason. Listen to me Dana, he’s a psycho. He comes up with these theories about cases he works on - “
“And he’s usually right. That’s why they call him in on all the hard cases. This person that ‘checked him out’, did he tell you his solve rate? Did he tell you how successful Mulder is when he gets involved in a case?”
“Dana, you should stay away from him. Really. He’s not the kind of guy you should get involved with. His father doesn’t even have anything to do with him.”
She stiffened then. “You asked about his family?”
“No, the guy offered. His father worked for the State Department. My friend had heard of him, but he’s retired now.”
“Listen to me Bill. Mulder has been there for me in ways you could never understand. He’s helped me in ways you don’t know and I’m not going to get into with you. I trust him, I like him, I . . . I feel safe with him. If I had come to with that respirator down my throat and he hadn’t been there . . . Bill, I panicked, then I heard Mulder. I knew, I knew it would be okay. I can’t explain it better than that. If you can’t understand, then leave it alone. He’s not the kind of person you want to hang out with, fine, but don’t pry into his life and do not expect to order me around about my co-workers or my friends.”
Bill looked into her snapping eyes. Now wasn’t the time to make her see reason about this. He wasn’t going to let it drop, unless of course she came to her senses and returned to medicine, but now wasn’t the time. After a long moment, he nodded.
Bill moved around the room, obviously ill at ease now.
“Bill, I’m fine. Why don’t you go do something. I don’t need a keeper any more.
When the tap came on her door, she turned and smiled as Mulder looked in. She saw how his eyes checked out the room. “He’s gone.”
He nodded and came on in, then stood over her. She reached for his hand and he seemed to relax a little. “Sit.”
His lips twitched, but he obeyed her.
“Mulder, I have a question.”
He immediately sobered, what had Bill put into her head? He waited.
“Are you AWOL?”
He blinked, not the question he’d expected. “Uh, no. They know where I am.”
“You’ve been here for days.”
“I have plenty of leave, Scully.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“Scully, I’ve been in touch with Skinner. In fact I’m the reason you haven’t been debriefed.”
Her lips parted slightly and her eyes widened. “I . . . I wondered about that.”
“They’ll be talking to you, but they had enough uninjured agents from this cluster fuck to talk to without bothering you.”
She absorbed this, not sure how she felt about this protection.
“Now I have a question for you.”
“What were you doing there anyway? Why weren’t you at Quantico?
She looked confused then, “I wanted to get more time in the field. I want to be able to help you, cover your back, instead of being a burden.”
“I thought . . . you don’t want to teach?”
“I could be more help to you if I have experience. You won’t always have to be rescuing me. I don’t want to be a hindrance.”
“You couldn’t be a hindrance.” She managed a small smile then. Before she could speak, the nurse tapped on the door.
“Ms. Scully? I need to change your dressing.” She glanced at the hunk that was always at this woman’s bedside. In fact, she’d won the toss to come in here and see him up close and personal.
“I, uh, I’ll see you later Scully.”
She smiled at him and nodded, then held out her hand. He took it and squeezed it, then let himself out.
He headed toward the elevator, but didn’t seem to focus on anything. He realized he was in the cafeteria, and bought a cup of coffee. He found a seat in the corner and sat staring into the dark brew.
She had gone out, put herself in danger, to be a better agent for him? Did she honestly think that was the reason he hadn’t requested her? Had she not listened to him?
He glanced up startled as Bill loomed over him. “I think it’s time you went home, Spooky.”
Mulder looked down, making no comment.
“Did you hear me?”
“What do you want Bill?”
“I want you to go away. My sister doesn’t need anyone like you in her life. She’s still almost a kid. She’s made some dumb choices lately, but she’ll get her head together now, after this disaster. She doesn’t need a weirdo like you hanging around, confusing her.” He leaned back and glared at the dark man. “Leave Dana alone, Mulder. Just stay away from her.” Bill pushed back from the table and left without another word.
Mulder sat there until he knew Bill was out of the way, then forced himself to his feet. He moved to the front of the hospital with a heavy tread. He stood outside and after a moment, pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called for a cab.
He was at the airport less than an hour before he got a seat to DC. He didn’t speak again until he asked for his car.
He sat on his couch, facing the flickering lights on the TV, but not seeing it. “Leave Dana alone, Mulder. Just stay away from her.”
The worst part was, he agreed with Bill. It was what he’d been trying to do. He hadn’t analyzed what he was doing when he bolted from his apartment. He’d just known he had to get to her.
Why? He was no doctor. He’d done nothing to save her, but the thought had been compelling. He’d had no choice - at least it had felt that way at the time.
He could have gone to work today, probably should have, but he couldn’t work up the energy and it was Friday anyway. It’s not like anyone would miss him.
He was so deep in his funk the knock on his door didn’t register at first. Strange, he hadn’t ordered any food and no one else ever came here. He started to ignore it, but the knock came again, more insistent this time. What the hell? He rose to his feet and stretched - how long had he been sitting here?
He opened the door to order the annoyance away and was struck dumb at the sight of her.
“May I come in?”
“Sc . . . Scully? You, you should be in the hospital.”
“If one more person says that to me, I’m going to scream.”
She looked like she meant it too. That galvanized him into motion. He stepped aside to let her in. “I . . .” Then stopped again.
“Bill finally told me what he did. I’ve left him to Mom and Ahab, but I think he’d prefer a firing squad.”
“How did you . . .”
“I signed myself out AMA. You know, ‘against medical advice’, I am a doctor. We’re notoriously bad patients anyway.” She shifted on her feet and winced.
Instantly he had his arm around her. “Sit down.” He half carried her to his couch, where he sat her tenderly in the corner and arranged a pillow at her back.
“I’m fine Mulder.”
“How did you get here?”
“I flew, then I took a cab. He’s waiting downstairs in case you throw me out.”
He looked toward the window. “Wait right here.” He didn’t even bother to slip on his shoes, racing down the stairs. He paid off the driver and sent him away, then headed back up the stairs even faster.
He burst into his apartment as though afraid her being there had been a dream and she saw his relief when he spotted her where he had left her.
“What . . . what if I hadn’t been here?” He asked.
“The manager would have let me in. I have a badge.”
His eyes seemed to lighten at that and she patted the seat beside her.
“Tell me why you left and why you didn’t say goodbye.”
“I . . . it seemed to be the best idea at the time.”
“Because of Bill?”
“He was saying what I already knew, what I’d told you.” She sighed slightly. “Are you okay? Can I get you . . . “ Damn, he had nothing here, “some water?”
He rose then and moved toward his kitchen. She had come here, looking for him. This was insane, why did she not get who he was? Did she not realize . . . He was supposed to be the psychologist, but he was . . .why had he sent the cab away? He should throw her out. But even as the thought formed, he knew it was an impossibility.
He dumped ice and water into a glass and returned to her.
“Scully, why are you here?”
“Why did you ask for Davis’ help on your last two cases?” She responded.
He took a deep breath, “I don’t give a shit about Davis’ reputation.”
“Why do you care so much about mine?”
He didn’t have a clear, an easy, answer for that. “Maybe, maybe it’s not your reputation. Maybe it’s you.”
“Scully, when you were missing, that day in the woods . . .” She nodded, they had never discussed that. “It was like, like Samantha again. I thought . . . Scully, I can’t go through that again. If I don’t care about someone, I can’t - “
“I can’t have you as a partner.”
She looked at him for a long moment, then swallowed. “So, I guess someone else will have my back.”
He looked away, she sat up straighter then, and moved to rise.
“I need to go home.”
“I’ll take you.”
“I don’t want to put you out.”
“You’re not putting me . . . Damn it, Scully! I told you - “
“Yes you did. I should have listened. I guess I got confused when you showed up at the hospital. Why did you come?”
He just stared at her, not answering, then rose himself and moved to the other side of the room, near his desk. She watched him and jumped when he slammed his fist against the desk.
She again started to rise and he moved swiftly to confront her, caging her on the couch with his arms, but not touching her. She was frightened a little at the intensity of his look, as though committing every inch of her face to permanent memory.
Then she realized she was doing the same.
Neither would ever know who made the first move. It was as though they were one person, moving so in synch, as their lips melded into each other. She parted her lips first, welcoming him into her, as he probed, tasted and explored her. Then she demanded her turn without a word.
She was gasping when they broke apart, his arms no longer merely caging, but holding her. Her own arms were around him as well, her fingers entwined in his dark hair.
She smiled then and he was able to breathe. She had thought nothing could compare to the kiss they had shared in the forest. She’d despaired of ever having the opportunity to compare. He looked frightened.
“I . . . Scully, I’d, I’d offer to let you stay here tonight, but I don’t have a bed.”
“You don’t have a bed?”
“I . . .” he managed to smile, “I usually sleep here.”
She looked away, mainly to hide the tears that simple statement had brought to her eyes. It made him catch his breath, had she changed her mind? Was she sorry she’d allowed the kiss?
“Mulder, maybe you’re right. Maybe we shouldn’t work together.”
His muscles clenched and his stomach roiled. He didn’t dare speak.
“Could you take me home now?”
He swallowed, trying to master himself. He should get her home. She shouldn’t even be out of the hospital. “Sure.” He stood and moved toward his shoes. He shoved his feet into them and returned to help her off the couch.
“You need to get some things.”
Things? What did she mean?
“Toothbrush, a change of clothes.”
“Wh . . . what?”
“I do have a bed.”
He blinked at her, “You just . . . you just said - “
“That I didn’t think we should work together. I know.”
“But . . . I don’t . . . “
“Just get your things and let’s go. I’m really getting tired.”
“Oh, yeah.” He moved then, hurrying to gather up the things she mentioned. He tossed them into a gym bag. He returned, she did look tired. “You ready?”
She nodded and he helped her to her feet. She seemed to need his support even more and that worried him. He seated her in the car and tossed the bag in the backseat.
“My apartment is - “
“I know where it is. Just relax.”
She looked at him for a moment, then reclined the seat slightly and took his advice.
He found her apartment with no problem. He’d never been there but that hadn’t kept him from looking it up. She was asleep when he pulled up to her place. He hated to wake her, but she’d be more comfortable in the bed. He moved around to her side, grabbed his bag and opened her door.
“Scully? You’re home. Do you want me to carry you?”
“Mmm, no.” She stretched and winced slightly.
“I’m okay.” But she allowed him to help her to her feet and support nearly all of her weight to get her inside. He took the key from her trembling hand and opened the place.
“You are far from okay.”
“Maybe I’ve pushed myself a little too hard, but I’m just tired.”
He kicked the door shut and led her into her bedroom. He seated her on the bed and removed her shoes. “Do you want me to undress you?”
She managed a tired smile. “I can handle it, if you’ll just hand me a gown.”
He hesitated, but then nodded and opened the drawer she indicated. He pulled out a simple beige gown, tea length, with a sage green flower embroidered on one shoulder.
She tried to rise and he had her arms around her again. He helped her to the bathroom, then retreated to the bedroom to wait for her. He turned down the bed and glanced around the room. It looked like her, not frilly, but enough feminine touches to make it hers.
He glanced up as the bathroom door opened and moved quickly to her side. She made no pretense of being able to walk alone and his concern grew. “Scully, let me call an ambulance.”
“I’ll be fine. I just need to rest. Stay with me?”
“Until you fall asleep. Then I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You won’t.” She sank into the bed, her eyes already closing. She was right, he would never hurt her. If she wanted him next to her, then that’s where he’d be. He didn’t have any idea what she was thinking - hell it didn’t matter. He was where he had to be.
He slipped off his shoes, then grabbed his bag and retreated to the bathroom himself. He hurried to change and then moved to the bed. He crawled in carefully, not wanting to disturb her.
Her eyes opened a little, “Mulder.” He took her carefully into his arms and she relaxed against him, falling on to sleep.
Exploring Something New - 5
It was morning, early, not quite six. He hadn’t slept, maybe dozed a little, but mostly just held her all night. She’d be waking soon; he needed to see if there was anything here for her breakfast. He eased out of the bed and she merely sighed, not disturbed.
He padded into the living room and looked around. Their apartments couldn’t be more different. Besides hers being clean, it was nicely furnished. A couch and chair, a small desk, an entertainment unit. He had most of that, why did his place look more like a frat house? This looked like a home, hell she had plants, live ones and nicely framed pictures and . . . shit.
He moved to the kitchen. She had eggs and oj. He could scramble some for her, that should be light enough, but he needed to wait until she woke up. Coffee. That he could handle, he got it started and headed back to check on her.
The phone rang as he was reaching for the knob on her door. He hurried over to it, to keep her from waking. “Hello?”
There was a moment of silence, then “Fox? Is that you?”
Oh shit, he closed his eyes. Her mother - how the hell did he explain being here this early in the morning?
“Thank God you’re there.”
His eyes flew open and he stared at the receiver.
“Is she okay?”
“Uh, I . . . yes. She was exhausted. She’s still asleep. Do you want to speak to her?”
“No, no don’t disturb her. I knew she'd go to you. We didn't even realize . . . we didn't know she had left the hospital until this morning. The captain and I are on our way home. We should be there in an hour or so. We’ll see her then. You’ll stay, won’t you?”
“Of . . . of course. Be careful, really she’s okay.”
“We’ll see you soon. Thank you, Fox.” She broke the connection. He slowly placed the receiver back into the charger and looked at it.
“Who was it?”
He turned to see her standing in the doorway. He moved immediately to her side. “Are you okay? Should you be up?”
She smiled at his concern. “I’m feeling a lot stronger, but I missed finding you beside me this morning.”
His cheeks colored slightly and she again marveled that a man that looked like him could be this . . . shy. “So, who was on the phone?”
“Oh, uh, your mother. She, she probably knows I was here . . . “
“Did she seem upset?”
“Well, no. She . . . she thanked me.”
Scully smiled then. "Do I smell coffee?"
"Oh yeah. Have a seat, I'll bring you some."
"I can sit in the kitchen." She was enjoying the feel of his arms around her.
He seated her, then brought her coffee to her, "How about some eggs?"
"Mmm, think I can afford you?"
"I come cheap."
"Good, I'm going to want a long-term contract." He looked deep into her eyes at those words, but made no comment. He was still, at least partially, seeing her as she had been when he arrived in Buffalo - so near to death.
"What else did Mom have to say?"
"Oh, she and your Dad will be here in a couple of hours. I'll clear out so you can visit."
"I'd rather you stay. I want you to meet Ahab."
"My father. He's Ahab and I'm Starbuck."
He couldn't quite smile at that, "He's Navy, like Bill?"
"He's Navy, not like Bill. Mulder I'm so sorry . . ." Mulder rose and opened the refrigerator, taking out the eggs. "Mulder?"
"Don't apologize for Bill. I know where he's coming from."
"You two are in agreement about my life now, right? Too bad I've got a mind of my own."
"What? You think if you hang around me you can improve my reputation, make me reputable?" He asked.
"I said last night I wasn't sure we should work together."
His fingers went numb at those words and the egg he was holding hit the floor and exploded. He closed his eyes, then without looking at her, "Sorry." He reached for the paper towels.
She continued, his back to her as he squatted to clean the floor. "If we were partners, in the Bureau definition, sleepovers like last night would be frowned on." Mulder turned then, still not speaking, "I realize I'm making assumptions here, Mulder, based on what little time we have spent together, but you seemed okay with staying here last night."
"Scully - "
"If you're not interested in me, as a woman, I need to know now."
He gaped at her then, and had to steady himself on one knee. She was offering a personal relationship? No, no way.
His continued silence was beginning to get to her, but she decided to plunge on. "When I opened my eyes in the hospital and saw you there, it was, it felt right. In my mind I'd been calling for you and it felt like you'd answered."
She'd been calling for him?
"Mulder, if you don't say something soon, I'm going to go hide in the bathroom . . ." She tried to smile, but the look in his face was . . . was a little frightening.
"You," he had to swallow, "you'd see me on a, on a personal basis?"
Her eyes widened, "I've been in bed with you four times, how personal - "
"I've put you in danger, even when I haven't realized it. You were on this case to . . . to get experience - for me."
"Are you taking blame for me getting shot?"
"If you'd been at Quantico - "
"I don't want to be at Quantico all the time. I enjoy teaching and my students are great, but . . . but I want more on occasion. It will make me a better teacher. But I was talking about . . . about us."
"Us." His voice actually trembled. "Scully you don't want there to be an 'us'. I'm sure Bill - "
"Fuck Bill. Do you want to be with me?" She was blushing now. She'd never been quite so overt about such a question.
He opened his mouth, but before he could answer the doorbell pealed, repeatedly. She didn't seem to hear it, but his lips closed and he rose, carrying the mess he had cleaned up to the trash. Her eyes followed him as he continued on into the living room.
She'd heard the doorbell, and had a good mind to murder whoever was on the other side of the door.
She closed her eyes and sighed, then forced herself to her feet. She was still moving slowing and would be for a while, but last night's sleep had helped her. His arms around her had helped her.
He had the door open, looking puzzled at the shorter man facing him. Scully made her way into the living room. "Ethan?" Mulder turned to look at her, stunned.
"Dana." The man stepped around Mulder and approached Scully. His arms went around her and Mulder's mouth dropped open. Scully's eyes were on him, then at Ethan's embrace, she let them slide closed. Mulder closed the door and stood there, unable to take his eyes from the sight. The pain where his heart used to be immobilized him.
"Ethan, Ethan please, that hurts." She tried to move away from him. That gave Mulder the ability to move again and he took a step toward them.
"Oh hey, I'm sorry." He released her, unaware of Mulder's movement. "Here, sit down." He moved her to the couch and seated her, placing a pillow at her back. She wouldn't look at Mulder.
"Dana, why didn't you call me? I saw your name on the release and I freaked. I should have been there for you."
"I . . . Mom was there, and my brother. And I couldn't have visitors anyway."
"I'm not a visitor, Dana." He took her hand and sat on the arm of the couch. When she didn't respond he finally looked up at Mulder. He stood and held out his hand, "I'm Ethan Minette."
Ethan waited, but Mulder offered nothing else. Scully looked at her hands.
"I'll, uh, I'll get out of your way." Mulder moved toward the door. He didn't bother with his things. He didn't want Ethan to see that he'd stayed over anyway. He didn't notice the look of panic she hid quickly.
"Will, will you call me?"
"Sure, I'll be in touch." He didn't turn toward her. She tried to bring her breathing under control. She couldn't make it to her feet, so she watched him leave her apartment with barely controlled terror.
She knew that Ethan was talking but the words made no sense. Her eyes were locked on the door that had closed behind Mulder.
"Dana? Dana can you hear me?" Ethan turned her face toward him.
She blinked as though coming up from underwater.
"I think you should be in bed." Ethan helped her up from the couch and moved her gently toward her bedroom. If he noticed that the bed looked more mussed than from just her presence, he didn't mention it. He helped her recline and straightened the covers, then sat beside her.
He took her hand, drawing her attention back to him, "Why don't you tell me what happened."
"So you can use it on your show tomorrow?" She spoke with a flat voice, finally focused on him.
He had the grace to blush, or maybe it was a flush of anger she saw. He withdrew his hand. "The public needs to know what happened, Dana. Since you were there, your insight might make the FBI look a little less stupid."
She closed her eyes slowly, "I don't want to talk about it. I haven't even been debriefed."
"All the more reason to get the truth out there, before they ask you to change your story, or do a whitewash for them."
"Is that why you came here?"
"No, no Dana, I wanted to check on you. I know we . . . broke up, but we're still friends aren't we? And if I can help you - "
"I could use something on my stomach. I don't suppose you could make me some toast?" She was watching him now.
She noted his look of annoyance, but he couldn't see a way to flatly refuse her. After a moment, he released her hand and rose. He was back shortly with some toast, dry. Then, seeing her expression, returned with some butter, jelly and a fresh cup of coffee. She tried not to think about the eggs Mulder had offered to fix, before she had frightened him off with her too pointed questions.
Ethan tried a couple of times to steer the conversation back toward the incident in upstate New York, but she changed the subject each time. She could tell he was getting anxious to return to the studio and wondered idly if he would have bothered to visit on the day before a broadcast if he’d known how uncooperative she was going to be.
“Ethan, I think I’ll try to sleep now. Could you let yourself out?” She’d interrupted him, always a no-no with his ego. She wanted to smile at that, he hadn’t bothered to even ask about Mulder, and thereby acknowledge his existence.
“Well, I hate to leave you alone . . .” but he was checking his watch.
“I’m fine. Thank you for stopping by.” Again that flash of annoyance at her flat tone. She knew she wasn’t being properly appreciative or attentive to him, but she couldn’t seem to make herself care.
“Okay, I’ll call you.”
“Thanks.” She rolled over, wincing slightly at the movement. He made no comment, Mulder would have been all over her, asking what he could do . . . but he wasn’t here. With her face turned away, Ethan didn’t see her tears.
Ethan closed the bedroom door, then looked up at the knock on her door. He glanced toward her room, then moved to answer it.
“Fo . . . Ethan? I . . . I wasn’t expecting to see you.”
“Maggie, Captain Scully, come on in. Dana’s lying down, but she hasn’t had time to get to sleep.”
Maggie nodded, ‘When, uh, when did you get here?”
“Maybe an hour ago, not that long.”
“I see. Is, is anyone else here?”
“No. Listen, I hate to rush off, but it is pre-production day, so I need to head out. It was good seeing both of you. You should watch tomorrow, we’re covering the whole debacle.” He wasn’t looking at them, his eyes scanning for his jacket, so he missed the look of distaste that flittered across Maggie’s face. “Well,” he shook Captain Scully’s hand and waved at Maggie. “Hope to see you soon.” He flashed his professionally whitened teeth at them and was gone.
Captain Scully looked at the door Ethan had just closed. “I thought you said this Fox guy would be here.”
“He was supposed to be. What could’ve . . .” She was moving toward Dana’s room already and tapped lightly on the door even as she was opening it. “Honey, are you okay?”
Dana looked up at her mother’s voice and tried to brush aside the tears. “Mom?”
Maggie sat carefully on the edge of the bed, “Baby, what happened? Where’s Fox?”
“He left, when Ethan got here.”
“They didn’t have words, did they? He knows you’re not seeing Ethan, doesn’t he?” Scully’s eyes widened, had that been a factor as well? Not only had she thrown herself at him, then Ethan . . .
“Mom, I don’t know where he went. He was upset . . . “
“Which you don’t need to worry about.” Maggie had taken in the pallor and listlessness of her daughter. “You should still be in the hospital, recovering.”
“Mom - “
“Right, but I am your mother and your welfare comes before everything else. Your father and I are taking you home.”
“Mom, please, listen to me. I want to stay here. If you want to bring me a few meals, I’d appreciate it, but I want to be here, in my bed. I love you, but I can’t - “
“Will Fox be back?”
“I don’t know.”
Maggie paused at that. “You sleep now. I’ll see how you are when you wake up, but if you’re not any better . . . “ Scully bowed to the threat in her voice.
The knock on the door surprised him, and he thought about ignoring it, but at the second determined knock, he rose. He found himself straightening up at the sight of the man in casual Navy uniform. There was nothing casual about the man’s stance.
He nodded, “Captain Scully.” He moved to let the older man inside. He turned to follow him to the living room, wincing at the mess. Well, hell, he hadn’t been expecting an inspection.
“I thought you would be at my daughter’s apartment when we arrived.” The tone was only slightly accusing, but Mulder looked down.
“You’re right, I apologize, but when her boyfriend showed up - “
“It’s my understanding that she is no longer seeing Ethan.”
“Well, he, uh, he showed up and I didn’t want to be in the way.” He glanced around the room again, “Please, have a seat.” He gathered some papers and magazines from the chair and kicked a pair of shoes under the coffee table, grateful he didn’t drink. At least there were no beer bottles around.
Captain Scully didn’t seem to notice the clutter, seating himself on the couch.
“Would you like some coffee? I don’t have much else right now.”
“No thank you. Please, sit with me for a minute.”
Mulder only hesitated an instant, then seated himself at the far end of the couch. Captain Scully took a deep breath, “If Dana were an only child, I’d be asking your intentions toward her.”
“Ex . . . excuse me?”
“I think you heard me, but after raising four children I’ve mellowed a little. What is your relationship with my daughter?”
“We work together.”
“Work together?” He was watching Mulder’s eyes. It was very clear to him what was going on, this man loved his daughter. The information Bill had given him was strange, but he had no doubt that was the reason for the pain in this young man’s eyes.
“Yes sir, on a couple of cases. I . . . I asked for her assistance on a case a few months ago, but not - “
“You haven’t asked for her help since then. Is there a reason?”
“Captain Scully, I’m sure your son told you about me, my . . . my reputation. I would not want your daughter’s career to be tarnished by close association with me.”
The older man nodded thoughtfully, “I see. So Dana’s feelings in this don’t matter.”
Mulder blinked, “Her feelings?”
“The fact that she has feelings for you.”
It took Mulder a moment to get his breath. “As her father I would think you’d want better for her.”
“As a father, I’ve learned better than to interfere on such a level. When you have children, you’ll understand.” He watched the hunger flare in Mulder’s eyes at his words, but said nothing for a moment. “Besides, you’ve met Dana. Do you honestly think that the most stubborn of my children would listen if I said she was seeing the wrong man?”
That brought a faint smile to Mulder’s face that faded immediately.
“Both of my sons are married, but neither of my daughters. I worry about that sometimes, I worry that they won't find men strong enough for them. From what Bill told me about you, about your ‘reputation’ and the fact that it hasn’t cowed you makes me think you might have that kind of strength.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving you Dana, even if I had that kind of influence. And I’d like to get to know you before I pass any judgment. Right now, my wife - the one that taught my girls their strength - has sent me to find you. My instructions, orders if you will, were to bring you back. I’m not exactly sure what you did for Dana while she was in the hospital, but Maggie seems to think it’s the only reason I still have my daughter. If that’s true, I thank you.”
“It’s not true. I’m the reason she was in the hospital in the first place.”
“I don’t understand.”
“She . . . she told me that she accepted this assignment, away from Quantico, in order to get more practice in the field. She wanted the experience so that she could work with me. She felt . . . “
“Dana wants to be a help to you, possibly even be partnered with you?”
“You don’t want that?”
“She won’t want that, once she really thinks it through. Bill told you, I’m not someone she should associate with if she wants a career at the Bureau.”
“What if a Bureau partnership isn’t exactly what she wants?”
Mulder’s eyes widened, then he looked down at his feet, shaking his head. “When she thinks that through it will be the same.” After a moment he looked up, "What has Maggie told you about me?"
"That you're the man who saved Dana out in Seattle and I'm aware of another case she worked on. Something strange happened - " He stopped as Mulder's head whipped up. "I don't know what, Dana hasn't wanted to talk about it, but I know it made her rethink some things." He smiled faintly, "that's an accomplishment, in case you didn't know it."
Mulder just shook his head.
"I'm also aware you arrived in Buffalo about twenty minutes after my wife did and you hadn't been contacted by the Bureau."
The older man just watched him for a few minutes, then clapped his hands to his knees, "Well, I need to follow orders from the commander, so will you come back with me to Dana's apartment?"
"I . . . yes sir." He rose and moved toward the door, picking up his jacket on the way.
"I'll follow you, there has to be an easier way than the route I took." Captain Scully waited as Mulder locked his apartment, still watching the man closely. It looked as though the man would be happier headed toward his execution.
"Fox." Maggie's arms went around him as he entered the apartment. He returned the hug, savoring it for a moment. This woman made him feel good about himself.
"Hi Maggie. I'm sorry I wasn't here when you - "
"It's okay, I understand. Ethan let us in."
"He was still here?"
"Just for a second, we caught him on his way out. I'm fixing lunch, you two go wash up and I'll take Dana's in to her."
"How is she?"
Maggie's smile faded away, "She's . . . not good. She shouldn't have left the hospital." Maggie watched Mulder absorb this information.
"Maybe I shouldn't be here."
"Of course you should be here. Now go on, I'll be right back.” She turned her back on the two men and returned to the kitchen. Mulder looked over at Captain Scully who just shrugged.
Maggie took the tray on into Dana's room. Scully wasn't asleep, just lying there staring at the ceiling. "I brought you some soup, Honey."
"I'm really not - "
"Don't even try it Dana. You're going to eat this; oh and Fox is here."
"He's here?" That got her attention.
"Yes, your father went over to his place - "
"You forced him to come back? Good grief, do you not - "
"Calm down right now young lady."
"Young lady? Mom, do you have any idea how old I am?"
"Your age or your actions, Dana?"
Scully closed her eyes and shook her head, no way would she win this one.
"Fine, now I put your soup in a mug so you could feed yourself. Do you want company?"
Feed yourself, Scully rolled her eyes. She hadn't been treated like she was five years old in a long time. There was no reason she couldn't eat at the table, except . . . he was here.
"I know your Dad would like to spend some time with you."
That melted her, "Yes, please I would like to see Ahab."
Maggie smiled and nodded, letting herself out of the room. "William, why don't you eat with Dana? Fox and I can visit a little."
"Watch your back, son." Captain Scully picked up his own lunch and carried it into his daughter's room.
Maggie narrowed eyes followed him out of the room. "And just what has my husband been telling you about me?"
Mulder shook his head, a small smile playing at his lips. "Something about 'supreme commander'."
She huffed slightly, "And he better not forget it. Have a seat Fox." She brought his bowl to the table, then joined him. "Dig in."
They ate in silence for a couple of minutes, then Maggie looked up. Mulder automatically tensed. She placed her hand over his, "Relax, okay."
He managed a smile of his own, "I'll try."
"You know I was very surprised to see Ethan here when we arrived."
"Yeah, Yes, I probably should have stayed but . . . "
"Why did you leave?"
He looked slightly trapped at that question, "Well, I mean they are seeing each other and - "
"Were. Were seeing each other. I happen to know she quit seeing him right after she returned from that case in Colorado. She didn't give me any details, just something about life being too short. I had the impression that something had happened between the two of you. I was surprised when you told me at the hospital you hadn't seen her."
"I think I realized how dangerous what I do is, and I . . . " he shrugged.
"You wanted to protect her." He nodded, "but she circumvented you by taking a case you weren't involved in."
He stared down at his soup. "You know, your son Bill is right about a lot of things. The FBI can be a very dangerous place to work. Scully's had more than her share of close calls since . . . since I've met her."
"She didn't ask you for permission to join, any more than she asked us. She is an adult and while I would prefer she worked in a hospital and delivered babies or something, she chose pathology and the Bureau. Personally, I would feel better knowing that you were around to keep an eye on her."
His mouth dropped open at that. "Did you talk to Bill?"
Her eyes rolled at that, "I didn't get much said, that he heard. I thought children grew out of that when they became adults. I guess I'll just have to wait for grandchildren before he stops seeing everything so black and white."
"Captain Scully said almost the same thing."
"Well, he can be right on occasion, when I let him." Her smile broadened. "I wish he was around a little more often, but he loves what he does. I chose to embrace his work, as I do Dana's and all my children."
"Don't suppose you'd want to adopt me?"
"I think I already have."
His eyes grew moist at that and she changed the subject, talking of the flight down from Buffalo and pending weather until he had control again. She finished her soup and stood, taking both of their bowls to the sink. "I checked her cupboards, I need to do a little shopping this afternoon. Is there anything special you'd like me to pick up?"
"Will I be here?"
"I hope so. She's adamant about staying here rather than coming home. When I offered to stay here with her, she refused. I don't want her here alone."
He met her eyes, "I . . . "
"I'm not completely over the hill, Fox. She's in no shape for 'shenanigans'." She refused to allow her amusement at his blush deter her. "She may be an adult in the eyes of the world, but she's still my baby girl. If you hurt her . . . "
"Yes ma'am. I understand."
"You two had words this morning didn't you? Before Ethan arrived."
He looked startled at that, "Well, it was . . . "
"It's none of my business, except that Dana was hurt. Whatever it was, you two need to talk about it and get it cleared up. I have to admit, I don't understand your relationship. If my math is correct and you really haven't seen her lately, you've only spent a few days in each other's company - "
"We - "
She continued as though he hadn't spoken, "but then I saw you at her bedside and it throws off my calculations completely." She shook her head, "Well, I'm going to tear William from her side and pick up these things, then after I drop them off, I want to take a nap in my own bed. You'll be here, in case she needs anything?"
She nodded and returned to Scully's room. Her father came out, with the tray. "You look like you survived okay."
"Yes sir, barely a scratch."
"She was going easy on you then. I hear the plans are for her to get some groceries and we're going home for a little while. She's going to bring dinner over, but you're staying here tonight?"
Mulder swallowed, "Yes sir. I'll look after her."
Captain Scully's eyes took in all of him then. "All right then, make sure that you do."
Mulder released the breath he was holding. Damn, he hadn't been this nervous when he'd met Gloria's parents before the prom. Of course, he hadn't slept with Gloria in his arms the night before. He'd never have been able to withstand this man in front of him at seventeen. He barely could at twice that. They both turned as Maggie joined them.
"I want her to rest a little. I gave her her medication; she should sleep. I'll be back in an hour or so with her groceries."
"I'll be here. No one will run me off this time."
"Glad to hear it, son. Come on Maggie." Captain Scully took his wife's arm and moved her toward the door. She looked back once more at the bedroom door, then allowed him to escort her out.
Mulder locked the door behind them, then sank onto the couch. No matter what, he kept finding her in his life. He needed to check on her. After taking a deep breath, he rose and moved quietly to her door. He opened it and looked inside.
"You're still here?"
He stepped inside then, nodding. She sat up and he adjusted her pillows. "You're supposed to be asleep."
She looked away. He perched on the side of the bed then, "Can I get you anything?" She shook her head.
"Look, your Mom has gone to the store, she'll be back in an hour. Then, if you want me to go . . . "
"I'll be fine alone."
He shook his head, "That's not an option. I'm taking orders from a higher power. Did you know your father refers to your mother as the 'supreme commander'?"
He saw Scully's face lighten slightly.
"I like your Dad."
She looked down at her hands, "He likes you too." She glanced up at him and saw the . . . the longing there.
"Lie down, Scully. Let me stay here with you. You really do need to rest. Come on." He moved to his side of the bed and toed off his shoes.
"Mulder - "
"We can talk later." He pulled her against him and in spite of herself she seemed to relax in his arms. She made herself comfortable against him, her body making the decision for her. He stroked her hair and when he knew she was finally asleep, kissed her forehead and laid her gently against the pillows. He sat beside her, one hand lightly on her arm until he heard the knock at the door.
He eased himself off of the bed and let Maggie in. He took the bags from her and followed her into the kitchen.
"How is she?"
Maggie smiled, "Good. She needs it. And to be honest, so do I."
Mulder nodded, "Let me put this stuff away. You go be with your husband. I know he's been away awhile."
"I'm going to take you up on that. You'll be here tonight?" He nodded. "I'll bring dinner over - "
"Maggie, I can fix something. Why don't you call, talk to her, but give yourself a break. I'll call if she needs anything."
She looked deep into his eyes. "You won't hurt her."
"Never if I can help it."
That seemed to satisfy her. "I'll call."
He was on her couch, looking through her photo album when he heard the bedroom door open. He looked up to see her watching him. "Hi, hope you don't mind."
"No, it's fine." He closed the album and rose, helping her to the couch. "How long did I sleep?"
He glanced at his watch, "Nearly three hours." That seemed to surprise her. "You needed it."
She glanced away, toward the kitchen. "Did Mom come back?"
"Yes, then I sent her home to rest. I put away the stuff."
"Did you find where everything went?"
He smiled slightly, "That's why they put the 'I' in FBI."
"Great, you've investigated my kitchen."
"Yep, all those dirty secrets are out now."
She wouldn't look at him and he felt his mood shift back down another notch.
"When is Mom coming back?"
"I told her to take some time for herself; that I could fix your dinner."
"Is that a problem? I won't poison you."
She managed a small smile, "It’s not that. My dressing needs changing and I wanted her to help me."
"Oh. We could call her, or, or I could help."
She looked at him for a long moment, "Yes, I suppose you could."
He shrugged, "want to take care of that now?"
She nodded and he helped her to her feet. He sat her on the side of the tub and she let her robe fall open, revealing her bra. He carefully removed the bandage and lightly applied the cream the doctor had prescribed.
"Does it look that bad?"
"Bad?" He sounded confused.
"You're so tense, does the wound look - "
"Scully, I'm not tense because your body looks 'bad'." He managed a feeble grin and a shrug.
"Oh." Blood suffused her face, "I’m . . . "
"You're beautiful and could we finish this up, so I could go cook or run or take a cold shower or something?"
She looked away, and he realized she was chuckling quietly to herself. He managed to relax a little and was smiling when she looked back. He taped the new bandage securely to her skin.
"We are a very strange pair, aren't we?" She looked up at him.
"The strangest; somehow, that seems to fit for me." He shrugged.
"Do I fit for you? Sorry." She pushed herself up.
"Scully - "
"Do I finally get those eggs you promised me this morning?"
"Uh, sure, I can even make it an omelet."
It was fairly early for dinner, but they decided to go ahead. She joined him in the kitchen, though he made her sit and watch rather than actively participate. She was surprised at how well he knew her kitchen after only one visit.
"I have one of those memories, Scully. Once I have it in there, I can't seem to get rid of it."
"Well that's good isn't it?"
"On investigations, yeah. Other times . . ." He shrugged. She decided not to pursue it, and just appreciated watching him move around in her space. It was funny she seemed to know what he was looking for before he did on a couple of occasions, but she kept quiet and let him find things for himself.
The meal he placed before her looked good. He obviously knew how to cook even if he didn't practice often. She took a sip of the ice tea he had brewed and smiled. "You'd make someone a good wife."
"Ah, but I've heard the perks aren't great."
"Depends, if you decide it's a life time commitment, you don't have to be on the market any more."
"I suppose that would be a great incentive."
They kept it light, he got her to talk about her family, other than Bill. "You know, I'm kind of surprised you know about the 'supreme commander' thing. You must have made an impression on him."
"Or had one imposed." He remarked ruefully.
"No really, he was at ease with you. That's not common among Melissa and my male friends."
"Melissa, the other strong, stubborn woman in the family."
Scully looked up at him and saw the grin. "He did talk to you. Interesting."
He tried to shoo her out to sit on the couch or something while he cleaned up, but she stayed, observing him and keeping him company. When he was through, they moved to her living room.
"Why don't you call your mother? I know she's concerned."
"Not so much with you here."
"Thanks, but I don't want to take any chances. If I'd known they didn't know where you were this morning . . . "
"I guess that was stupid, but . . ."
"I'm glad you came. I just don't want you to hurt yourself."
She nodded and picked up the phone. After talking to both of her parents, she let him speak for a moment, then they hung up. She was watching him when he looked back. "Are you?"
"Am I what?" He asked curiously.
"Glad I came?"
He looked down at her hands, twisting in her lap. She didn't seem to have noticed. He placed one of his large warm hands over hers. "Yes, for purely selfish reasons. You should have stayed in the hospital."
"Why didn't you answer me this morning?"
"It was too much question, Scully." He knew immediately what she meant. "Do I want to be with you? Hell yes. Should I be with you? An unqualified no." He watched her absorb his words and then look away from him.
He continued anyway, "Ignoring for a moment the fact that being with me, on any level, would ruin you professionally, what if we were partners? What if we were out in the field and you were injured. Look how well I took it this time and I wasn't even involved. I'd spend all of my time making certain that you were safe. It would really eat into my investigation time." He managed a sick kind of grin. "And if we weren't 'partners', if we were 'involved' . . . it wouldn't last."
"Come on, you've been up long enough." He rose and took her hands into his, lifting her gently from the couch. She allowed it, mulling over his words. She slipped into the bathroom after snagging a fresh pair of pjs and got ready for bed. He was lounging on her side of the bed when she returned.
"I know this is too early for you to go to bed, Mulder. I have cable or - "
"I'll get ready for bed, then after you go to sleep, if I'm still awake, I might slip out to the living room. Don't worry about me." He took her into his arms and she sank into the comfort of him, enjoying the sound of his heartbeat under her ear.
They just breathed together for a little while. "Mulder?"
"Why don't you think it would last?"
"Aren't you tired?"
"Not so much when I'm here with you. And I'm not sleepy at all."
"Great." He muttered under his breath, but she heard him.
She couldn’t help but smile. She always felt more confident than she would have thought with his arms around her. "What? Some deep-seated fear of commitment?"
Well, he was adamant about that. Some woman had done a number on him. She turned her head, not losing contact with his chest. Her brow furrowed for an instant, "Who's Phoebe?"
He jerked as though shot. "What?"
She winced at the movement.
"God, I'm sorry. Are you okay?" He held her away from him, watching her.
"Where the hell did you get that name?"
"I . . . I don't know, it was just in my mind."
He just stared at her.
Exploring Something New - 6
He just stared at her. It had just appeared in her head? “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know, I just heard her name in my head.”
“Heard her name.” He was watching her.
“It was . . . It sounded like your voice.”
“My voice?” He asked
“Why are you upset? I’m lying here in your arms while you think about another woman.” He blinked at that. “Well? Are you thinking about someone named Phoebe?” She demanded.
“Uh, that’s not the point.”
“So you are.” She pulled away from him then.
“Look you just plucked a name out of the air and - “
“And you were thinking about her.” She broke in.
“No! I wasn’t thinking about Phoebe.”
“So there is a Phoebe.”
He took a steadying breath. “There was, a long time ago.”
She looked stunned and, and hurt. “Really?”
“Hey, you brought her up.”
“Forget it.” She rose from the bed, her hand to her side.
“Wait a minute!” He scrambled after her. “You’re upset with me?”
“I shouldn’t be?” She shot back at him.
“No! I didn’t do anything.”
“Who’s Phoebe?” She demanded
Shit, this would be funny if he weren’t so stunned.
“Will you come back to bed? Please?”
“No.” She stood up straighter and grimaced.
“Damn it! You’re gonna hurt yourself.”
“She’s someone I spent some time with when I was England, okay?”
“Spent some time with?”
He actually threw his hands up in disgust. “I was seeing her, we . . . we were together.”
“You were sleeping with her.”
“Yeah, I slept with her.”
“And you wanted a commitment.”
He sank down on the bed, looking up at her. “I thought I did, yeah.”
She nodded and turned away, moving toward the door.
“Hold it!” He was close enough to touch her now, “You’re not . . . it was years ago. Ethan was here this morning.”
That stopped her, and after a moment, she did turn back to him. “Will you tell me about her?”
“Will you come back to bed?”
After a moment she nodded and moved back, but evaded the hand he held out to help her. Once she was settled, he joined her again though she didn’t allow him to take her in his arms.
“I met Phoebe when I was at Oxford. She seemed to be attracted to me, so I asked her out.” Scully huffed slightly at that. “Turns out she, uh, pursuit was more her style than long-term relationships.”
“I don’t understand.”
He shrugged, “monogamy wasn’t her strong suit.”
“Oh.” She said it in a low voice.
“Like I said, it was a long time ago.”
“She hurt you.” He shook his head, “I mention commitment and she pops into your head.”
“Actually she popped into your head and I’d like to know how.”
Scully blinked at that, “I . . . I don’t know.”
“Have you ever had that happen before?”
“I don’t . . . “
“I mean, do you usually . . . have you ever had flashes like that before?” She shook her head, then stopped. “What?”
“Well, it’s not really the same . . . “
“I was . . . it was a few weeks ago. I had the day off and I was looking forward to it, but, but when I woke up that morning, I knew I needed to go into work.”
“Was something wrong? Was it a case?”
“No, not at all. It was, that was the day you came out to Quantico and we had lunch.”
Mulder’s mouth opened slightly. He’d thought about that a lot, agonized over going out there, planned it, so he wouldn’t see her. It had been foremost in his mind for days, like Phoebe had been when she’d talked about commitment.
He needed to think about this. It didn’t feel like a coincidence. He realized she was trying to stifle a yawn. “Your medicine's kicking in.”
After a moment she nodded. “Scully, we can talk about this in the morning. Please.” Her eyelids were drooping.
“You’re not getting out of this, like last time.”
“I promise.” He reached for her and this time she allowed it. She placed her cheek back against his chest. He hadn’t thought about Phoebe in years. He was right; Ethan had been here this morning. She let her eyes drift closed.
He reclined, so that she would be more comfortable, but sleep, for him at least, was a long way off.
‘You’re not getting out of this, like last time.’ Last time. He’d made an effort not to think about that afternoon or the terror he’d felt at her disappearance. He hadn’t allowed her to tell him what she’d experienced. Contrary to his normal practice, he didn’t want to face that afternoon again. He didn’t want to know. He shivered slightly; it would be like reliving that night when Samantha was taken.
He couldn’t think clearly about this, not with her in his arms. He should go in the living room, think. That’s what he did best - switch off his emotions and puzzle things out. Instead he held her against him as though she were a shield against reality.
Something had happened that afternoon and he knew, like he knew so many other things, that the thoughts she’d picked up were from him. Something had been done to her. She was right; when she woke up they needed to talk about it. It was a leap, but that’s what he was infamous for. Spooky.
She was more restless that night than other nights, but then so was he. At one point he did leave her, just to walk around, try to clear his mind. He was barely out of the room when she cried out and he moved back to her.
“It’s okay, I’m right here Scully.”
She didn’t wake and only calmed a little. He forced his own thoughts away, concentrating on his conversation with Captain Scully and she relaxed. He closed his eyes and forced himself not to think about that either.
When he did leave her side in the morning, he started coffee then took a quick shower. When he came into the room to get some clothes, she sat up and watched him.
“Morning. How you feeling?”
“Okay, a little better every morning.”
“Good. The coffee’s ready. Want me to bring you some?”
“I can walk.” She rose from the bed.
“You’re still upset with me.” He stated it flatly.
“No. You had a life before we met; we both did. I’m just . . . how did I know her name?”
“Why don’t you get dressed, then we can talk.”
“You’re not putting it off.”
He managed a grin, “I think clearer when you’re dressed.”
She blushed, and chuckled slightly. “I’ll meet you in the kitchen.”
He nodded and watched her leave the room. He hurriedly dressed and put some bagels in the toaster.
He looked up when she joined him, and she plucked at her t-shirt. “Better?”
“I didn’t say that, I said I thought clearer.”
“Thanks.” She might have been talking about the bagels, but he didn’t think so. He seated her and brought everything to the table. They ate in near silence and after he put the dishes in the sink, he rejoined her at the table.
“Scully, tell me what happened that day, the day in the forest.”
She blinked, that wasn’t what she’d thought he’d bring up. After a moment she took a deep breath.
“So you saw no one, nothing.” He was in full agent mode, listening to every nuance of her tale. She shook her head and he leaned back, watching her, but also going over every word.
“I thought we were going to talk about the ‘flash’ I had.”
“I think we are.”
“What? I don’t understand.”
“That forest, it’s where all those kids were taken. Each time the opposite sex. A man had just died, so they were looking for a female. You were there.”
“But it hadn’t been six months.”
“No, but . . . but maybe they’d figured something out. Maybe they fixed what they were doing wrong.”
“What they were doing . . .?”
“I don’t know, but that new growth, the new growth in his brain. It was, it had to be for a purpose.”
“What kind of purpose?” Her voice shook slightly and he took her hand.
“I’m not sure. What I do know is that when you were . . . returned, I was the first person you saw.” She was watching him, waiting but not speaking. Her hand turned to grasp his. “Maybe . . . maybe you imprinted on me, my brain waves or something.”
She watched his eyes. “Okay, I picked up Phoebe, but . . . “
“The other time, when you went to work on your day off, I was . . . I was thinking about you, trying to avoid seeing you.”
“Why avoid?” He could hear the hurt in her voice.
“I’ve told you the reasons, but mainly so I wouldn’t have to go through withdrawal when I left you again.”
Her eyes softened at that and her look was puzzled now. He didn’t dare look too long; he’d drown in that look. Come back to business.
“Is there a test, some way we could check . . . “
He jerked and his grip tightened painfully. “That’s not funny.” His voice was harsh and dangerous sounding somehow. It caused a shiver to run up her spine.
“I . . . I wasn’t suggesting one. That’s just the only test to see if my brain has ‘new’ growth. Or I could guess what number you’re thinking about.”
He tried to look stern; she obviously wasn’t taking this seriously, but the twitch of her lips was distracting.
“Not even close.” But he relaxed a little.
“So I’m not able to read your mind.”
He looked up at the ceiling. “Not about little things like that. It has to be something strong, not just a number.”
“So concentrate on something.”
“Scully, I - “ the phone interrupted them. “I’ll get it.”
“Let me. It’s probably Mom.” His forehead creased, “Mulder, you’re going back to work tomorrow, I need to get up and down. I can look after myself.” She rose, using her hands to help her. Mulder’s hands twitched, but her eyebrow stopped him.
“Hello?” She smiled, “That’ll be fine. Yes, anytime. We’re up.” She hung up and turned to him.
“Are they on their way?”
“Yes. Mom went to early mass. I guess we need to shelve this discussion for now.”
“Please. I’ll set the table.” He turned and she watched him go. This was upsetting him, but it was crazy. She couldn’t read minds. She rose carefully and made her way to the bedroom to finish getting ready for the day. Enough with robes and pjs.
Mulder answered the knock on the door and took the basket of food from Maggie. “William’s parking the car. How is she?”
“Better, I think. She seems stronger.”
Maggie smiled, “Good. Let me get lunch ready.” She moved into the kitchen and he followed her with the food. Shortly William knocked on the door and Mulder started in that direction. He spotted Scully coming from the bedroom.
“Your Mom is in the kitchen. I’ll get the door.” She smiled and moved toward the kitchen. “Good morning Sir.” He opened the door wide to admit the man.
“Morning, son. Everyone okay here?”
“Yes sir.” He glanced toward the kitchen.
“They both in there? Then my place is out here.” He took a seat on the couch and picked up the remote. He flicked on the TV and flipped a couple of channels. “Ever watched Ethan’s show?”
Mulder shook his head and joined the older man in front of the set. The show had already started, and they were discussing the shoot out. Neither noticed that Scully was watching as well, from the door.
Mulder’s brow furrowed at the information being discussed. He’d heard a little about the case; this didn’t sound right.
“No.” He turned to see Scully in the door. “That’s not . . . Ethan’s got it wrong. He’s going to be upset.” She shook her head, “That’s why he came here yesterday and I wouldn’t talk about it. He decided to run with it, because it’s what he wanted to believe. He has no respect for the Bureau; he thinks my working there is a joke. This way he thinks he has an exclusive.” She shook her head again.
“You were right not to discuss it Scully.”
She nodded, “He’s not going to be happy.”
Maggie came up behind her, “Is it over yet? I’ve got everything ready.”
“Close enough. We’ll hear about the retraction tomorrow no doubt.” William rose and turned off the set.
Lunch was excellent and the company pleasant. The captain and Mulder discussed places they had each visited in England and Scully enjoyed learning this new side of the man. There was nothing Spooky about him now.
They all insisted that she not help with clean up, so Mulder and her mother did the dishes. She visited with her father and answered his questions about her job and plans. For the first time she didn’t feel the disapproval from him. Maybe Bill showing his butt had done her a favor.
When the leftovers had been put away and the dishes repacked into the basket, her parents insisted they needed to head home and let her rest.
William took the basket out to the car and Maggie went to the bathroom. Mulder retreated to the kitchen to get her medication.
When she heard the knock on the door, she assumed it was her father and opened the door. Ethan, clearly irate, forced the door open wider, and grabbed her by her upper arms. “How could you have let me go on the air with inaccurate information!”
“Ethan, I didn’t know what information you had, we never - “ He had obviously blocked this from his mind in his current state. Hell, in this mood he might even have told the people he worked with that she had lied to him. She’d never seen him like this.
“I came over here to get confirmation! You, you - “ He shook her then and she cried out.
“Get your hands off of her.” The voice was low, but the menace was unmistakable.
Ethan looked up to see the dark man towering over them. He released Scully’s arms, trying not to look intimidated.
“Why are you here again?” He demanded of the taller man.
“I think you need to leave.”
Ethan’s anger flared again. “This is none of your business. I need to talk to Dana.”
“She’s my business. I want you to leave.”
“Just who the fuck do you think you are?”
“He’s the man that lives here, with me.” Scully spoke before Mulder could.
Ethan’s eyes widened at that. They’d been together for months and she’d gotten upset when he brought a toothbrush over. He took a step back toward her.
“Don’t ever touch her again.”
Maggie, who’d been listening to it all, felt a chill at his words. She saw that Ethan had paled. Mulder stepped around him and opened the door. “Out.”
The smaller man was obviously calculating his chances, and came to the same conclusion that Maggie had reached. He sent a hate-filled look at Scully, but wisely kept his mouth shut, storming out without looking at Mulder.
Mulder shut the door and put his arm around her. “Are you okay?”
She nodded, but her hand was clutching his t-shirt. “You need to sit down.” She nodded and Maggie rushed to her.
“I’m . . . I’m okay Mom.” Maggie looked up at Mulder.
He shrugged, “maybe you should lie down.”
“Mulder, please.” She turned back to her mother. “Go on home, Mom. I’m fine and Mulder is here.”
Maggie looked up at him. “I will be here, Maggie.”
After a moment Maggie nodded, and rose to her feet. Mulder walked her to the door. “I’ll keep an eye on her. Try not to worry.”
She physically relaxed her shoulders. “With you here. Tomorrow when you go to work, I’ll stay with her.”
“I don’t think he’ll be bothering her. You should be okay here. I don’t want you to worry.”
Maggie smiled, “I’ll call later.”
He closed the door and turned to find her watching him. “How are you really?”
She met his eyes, “Shaken.”
“Did he hurt you?”
“At the time, he hurt me, but I’m okay now. You wanted to kill him.”
He sat next to her. “It crossed my mind.”
“It did more than that. I saw you aiming between his eyes.”
He took a deep breath. “It was an intense thought.”
“And I read it.”
He nodded once, “You haven’t taken your medication. Why don’t you do that now and lie down for a little while.
She made no move to do as he said.
“I am picking up your thoughts.”
He held out the medicine and she finally accepted it and the water. “Come on.” When she had swallowed the pills, he lifted her to her feet. She looked deeply into his eyes, then allowed him to lead her into the bedroom. She made herself comfortable on the bed and he pulled the afghan over her.
“Could they have done other things to me?”
“Scully - “
“I need to know.”
“Yes, we do. But not today.”
She gave a small nod and patted the bed beside her. At that he smiled and slipped off his shoes.
He woke to find her watching him. He hadn't expected to fall asleep. Last night had left him without rest as well. She hadn't spoken, just watching him.
"What? Was I snoring?"
She shook her head. "I want to make love with you."
He blinked, he must still be asleep, that was the only explanation. Her hand came to rest on his chest. She could feel his heart pound. She didn't need to read his mind to know his thoughts now. His eyes had dilated and his body was reacting in more obvious ways as well.
"Uh, Scully - "
Her thigh moved to make closer contact and his eyes closed. She watched his Adam's apple bob, then he moved slightly away from her.
"When you're stronger."
"Is your love making that strenuous?"
"Scully - "
"Is that the problem?"
"I just want to give you every opportunity to back out."
She nodded slightly, "And if I don't back out?"
Again his throat contracted, "Then, then we'll see."
Her eyebrow rose, "Yes, we will." Then she moved off of the bed and toward her bathroom. He collapsed back against the pillow.
Nothing more was said, though she was aware of his eyes on her wherever she was in the room.
"Mom will be here in time for you to go to your apartment to dress in the morning. You might want to fix it so she doesn't have to come so early Tuesday."
"Bring some things over here, so you won't have to make that stop."
"You wouldn't mind?"
"I wouldn't mind." She barely smiled and moved away, enjoying his expression.
He tried to keep more to 'his' side of the bed that night, but she seemed oblivious to his discomfort, taking her side down the middle, pressed against him. He didn't sleep nearly as well as she did.
Maggie eyed him when she arrived the next morning but wisely kept her mouth shut. She couldn't say she completely approved of what was happening or the pace these two were moving, but that was a conversation with Dana, not Fox, and William liked him.
He pretty much coasted through the day, finally finding a receipt that travel insisted on and talking to Scully a couple of times. He didn't go 'home' for lunch, giving the two of them time, but he did sneak out about thirty minutes early to try to avoid some traffic.
He was grinning when he pulled up to her building. Coming home to her, to her mother's cooking - it was a fantasy. He wished he could relax and enjoy it. He'd have to knock to get in tonight, but - "He's the man that lives here with me." - they lived together? That increased his grin to the ridiculous level. And she wanted to escalate things. Well so did he, but she'd brought it up. He'd never had anything like this in his life. Her parents even seemed to like him. He'd never met Phoebe's parents. It was amazing that this tiny planet could house such incredibly different women . . .
He approached the door, and lifted his hand to knock. Then he realized the door wasn't completely closed. He pushed slightly on it and it swung inward. All trace of a smile was gone. This wasn't right, his Spooky sense was tingling, and he found his gun in his hand. Later it would occur to him that his paranoia hadn't allowed him, even for an instant, to think she had left the door open for him. He stepped cautiously into the room and spotted Maggie on the floor, unconscious or . . . He was beside her, kneeling immediately. When he felt for a pulse, she moved and moaned. He wanted to close his eyes for an instant in gratitude, but he was too busy right now. Back on his feet, both hands now on the gun, he moved toward the bedroom.
"Be there, Scully." He mouthed to himself, without much hope. And he was right, the bed was empty, the covers and sheet torn nearly off and lying partially on the floor. "Scully."
A quick search of the rest of the apartment told him what he already knew. His cell phone was in his hand, demanding assistance from 911. Then he was kneeling beside Maggie again as she stirred.
She opened her eyes, wincing, and then focused on the man leaning over her. "Fox? What . . . Dana!" She tried to rise, but his hand stopped her.
"She's not here, Maggie. Just stay still. The ambulance is on the way."
"No, I don't need - " but the headache cut her off as she tried to rise.
"You may have a concussion. Let's wait until they check you out. Can you talk?"
"It was Ethan."
Mulder's face paled at those words. He'd disliked, distrusted the man at first sight, but he'd repressed it, thinking it was due to jealousy. Why hadn't he trusted his instincts? Hell, he'd even told Maggie they were in no danger.
"Keep talking Maggie. What did he say?" Mulder pulled the afghan from the back of Scully's couch and laid it over the woman.
"He was crazy, Fox. Out of his mind, raving that it was her fault."
"What was her fault?"
"They fired him, because of the story yesterday. He had it wrong and he tried to blame her. It was like he'd snapped."
Mulder's hand scrubbed at his mouth. Fired? Over one screw up? Maybe it worked that way in such a high-pressure job. It didn't feel right, and he'd screwed up enough to know.
"Fox, she's not okay. She should still be in the hospital. He was hurting her."
Now his eyes did close for a moment. "I'm going to find her Maggie. She's going to be okay. Do you hear me?"
She just watched him, her eyes full of compassion and pain. She looked toward the window as she heard the ambulance shriek to a halt.
"Maggie, you just let these guys look after you."
"You'll find her." It wasn't quite a question.
"I will." He rose as the EMTs and a policeman entered the apartment. He moved to the side and pulled out his cell phone. "Danny, Mulder. I need a home address on an Ethan Minette. He's a producer over at Channel 47. Danny, I need it an hour ago. Thanks." He disconnected and turned to the EMT approached him.
"We're going to transport Mrs. Scully over to Georgetown."
"Is she - "
"It's just a precaution, since she was unconscious. Her vitals are good, her blood pressure is a little high, but not dangerously. We'd just like to make sure."
Mulder nodded and moved over to her as they lifted the stretcher to roll it out.
"Fox, call William for me. Make sure he knows I'm okay."
"Oh Maggie, I'm sorry. I should have already . . . I'll get him over there. Don't worry about any of this. None of it, okay?"
She tried to smile and squeezed his hand. "You've got other priorities." The EMTs nodded to Mulder and wheeled her out.
He picked up Scully's phone and called Captain Scully. After reassuring each other, Mulder hung up. Before he could place another call, his cell phone rang. "Mulder. Yeah Danny." He scribbled the information on her pad. "Thanks Danny, I owe you." He hung up and dialed quickly from her phone.
"Sir, Agent Mulder - "
"How did you get this number?"
"Sir, Agent Scully has been abducted from her home - "
"Agent Scully? I thought she was still in the hospital in Buffalo."
"No sir, she checked herself out. Listen, Ethan Minette broke into her home and took her. He's the producer of that news show that blew the story about the shooting yesterday. He was fired and he blames her."
"Hold it, you don't - "
"I'm at her place. I found her mother unconscious on the floor. She's been taken by ambulance to Georgetown. I need you to send a couple of agents to Minette's apartment, if he's there, make sure he stays there. Agent Scully has not recovered from her injuries. Her mother is frantic."
Skinner didn't bother to comment that Mulder sounded just as upset. "Okay, I'll send someone over. Where will you be?"
"I'm on my way, but you're closer." He gave Skinner the address.
"I want to hear from you, an hour."
"Yes sir." Mulder broke the connection. “The Bureau is handling this” he spoke tersely to the policeman. “I’ve got to go now, you have my name.” The cop started to speak, but he was already racing to his car. He pulled out into traffic, determined to get to the man's apartment in record time, so that he could beat the shit out of Ethan before anyone else could put him out of reach.
He'd gone a couple of miles before the nagging in his head got through to him. Minette wouldn't take her to his apartment. No, the man had just been fired. He could legitimately be considered disgruntled. He'd taken her to the studio.
*Scully, I got it. I'm coming.*
Mulder abruptly slammed on brakes and performed a U-turn in the midst of blaring horns and squealing brakes. He pulled up in front of the studio shortly and threw his FBI sticker in the window.
A heavy-set older man stepped in front of him. "I'm sorry. We have a situation - "
Mulder flashed his badge. "A hostage situation?"
"Uh, yeah. How did you - "
"I want you to call the Bureau, speak only to Assistant Director Walter Skinner. Tell him you're calling for Mulder, that's me. Tell him what's happening and that I need backup now." He handed the man his card with Skinner's number scribbled on the back. The older man took it gratefully. Mulder could see he was a security guard, mostly retired with little or no training in anything like this. The man was obviously in over his head. Mulder could see that his blood pressure was up from his florid cheeks and heavy breathing.
"You're doing great, Miller.'" Mulder read the nametag quickly. "Just let the FBI and the police in. When the police arrive have them summon a couple of ambulances, just in case."
"Yes sir." The man was standing taller already. "He's on the third floor." Miller had already pressed the elevator button for him.
People were leaving the floor in droves. Mulder didn't try to stop them, but one man in shirtsleeves did try to stop him. Mulder's badge was out again.
"Good, we've got an employee out of control."
"Where? I need to see the layout."
The man hesitated only an instant. "Come on to the control room, you can see everything from there. I'm Brian Adams." He held out his hand.
Mulder shook it. "Fox Mulder. Can you bring me up to date?"
"Yeah, the guy with the gun is - "
"Gun? He's armed."
"Do you know the make?"
"Sorry, the last gun I held was a Daisy." Mulder nodded for him to continue. He explained that Ethan had been fired that morning - one too many arrogant decisions that hadn't panned out, but of course, nothing was ever this guy's fault. They'd arrived in the control room and Mulder was able to see out into the studio.
Ethan was on the dais, his arm tightly around Scully, using her as a shield in front of him. A quick glance at the gun in his hand had Mulder convinced he'd stolen Scully's service revolver. It was also obvious that the man knew nothing about guns from the way he held it and waved it around. That made him doubly dangerous.
"Can I hear what he's saying?"
"Sure." Brian flipped a switch and Ethan's voice flooded the control room. "There's at least four people in there with them." Brian was pointing. "Two camera men, the makeup girl and a page. As far as I can tell the others got out."
Mulder stood silent, taking in the scene. Scully's face was drawn with pain and she was pale. She was wearing sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt, something loose because of her bandages, but Minette's grip was making that moot.
A sound or movement that Mulder didn't catch caused the overwrought man to turn and Mulder heard Scully gasp and then moan in pain.
*I'm here Scully. It's going to be okay.*
Mulder watched her head come up and her face clear slightly. There was less fear in it now.
"I have to get down there. Is there a door where he wouldn't see me right away?"
Brian quickly explained the layout of the room. "Shouldn't you wait for someone - "
"She's already injured. I have to get her help. They're on their way, but I need to move."
Brian didn't dispute that. "Yeah, I think she's bleeding."
"What?" His head swiveled back to her. Shit, Brian was right. There was blood on her t-shirt and it was growing. "Make sure the EMTs are here or in route." He moved toward the door. There was no time for Bureau procedures.
He walked boldly into the room, purposely drawing Ethan's attention. His gun was in his hand, but down at his side. "Ethan, you need to let her go. She's hurt, see? We can get this straightened out without anyone else getting hurt. Let her and these other people go, and I'll stay with you until we get it all sorted out."
Ethan's eyes narrowed. "You again. You said not to touch her, right?" His arm tightened painfully around Scully and she gasped.
"That's right. She hasn't done anything to you Ethan. She didn't get the chance to talk to you about the case in Buffalo, but she could help you now. Just let her go, and we'll get it all cleared up. Come on, you're in charge here Ethan. Don't hurt anyone."
Mulder couldn't look at the blood now staining her shirt.
"What if I just take care of it this way." He brought Scully's gun up and aimed it at Mulder.
She obeyed him instantly, going limp in Ethan's arms and causing him to drop her. Mulder's gun went off immediately catching the man in the upper right chest. He realized that Ethan had pulled the trigger of the gun he was holding as well, unaware that the safety was still on.
He was over the man before he realized he'd moved and picked up her gun, tucking it into his waistband. Then Ethan was forgotten as he knelt beside her.
"Scully." His shaking hand touched her cheek.
She opened her eyes and he saw the tears sparkling in them. "I thought, I thought he'd shot you."
"Shh. Don't talk. There's an ambulance here."
"Mulder - "
"I said shh. Everything is under control. I'm not going to let anything happen to you."
Her eyes were slipping closed and it seemed to him she was bleeding more heavily. The EMTs were in the studio now. He managed to draw his eyes from her to see the first medic heading toward Ethan.
"No. Her first."
"This man's been - "
"Her first." He didn't draw his gun again, but the implication was there. Mulder moved and the younger man saw the blood covering her t-shirt and beginning to pool under her.
"Yeah." He turned to his partner. "Get that other unit up here." Then he was kneeling beside Scully himself. Mulder was moved out of the way and for once he didn't protest.
He looked over at a very angry Assistant Director Skinner. "Sir."
"You know procedure." The larger man had him over to the side and was speaking low, through clenched teeth. "You come in here without backup, without a hostage team - you could have gotten everyone killed."
"Yes sir, but he was . . .she could have bled to death while we - "
"Bled to - " Skinner turned then and saw the ambulance personnel working on her. "I thought . . . is she going to be okay?"
"She has to be."
Skinner focused on him at those words. "Mulder, are you . . . " He fell silent then. Finally he sighed, "We'll talk tomorrow." He made his way over to the EMTs working on Ethan and had a low conversation, then moved back, taking charge of the investigation.
The first EMT looked up at Mulder, "We need to transport."
"Is she . . . "
"We need to move."
"I'm coming with you."
The medic opened his mouth to protest, but one look at Mulder's face silenced him. "You'll have to stay out of the way."
Mulder nodded. Skinner watched the younger agent leave with her stretcher and kept his mouth closed.
She stirred and reached for his hand, knowing he was beside her. "Muld . . . "
"Right here, Baby."
"She's gonna be fine. She has a concussion, but the doctors are pleased with her progress. She's here for observation. Your Dad's with her. I'm supposed to let them know when you're awake."
"What about Ethan?"
"I didn't kill him."
"He's here too. He's out of surgery and under guard in the psych ward. He'll probably go on suicide watch when he wakes up."
She nodded. "When can I leave?"
"Don't even start. He pulled your stitches; he opened your wounds. You're going to stay here until a doctor - other than you - says you're okay to leave."
She blinked at his tone. He'd not 'commanded' her before and it did send a little thrill down her spine, but she could feel how serious he was. She could also feel how frightened he'd been when he'd seen her bleeding on that floor. After a moment she nodded. "It's just that this bed is so damn narrow."
He relaxed at those words and a slight smile took his lips.
"We need to talk Scully, before you get out of here."
"Talk?" But she had already seen what he wanted to say to her. He loved her, he was in love with her and wanted . . . wanted to be with her . . . forever. She tightened her grip on his hand. What an incredible exploration they had ahead of them.
Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.