He was playing the tape for the umpteenth time, trying to understand Billís reaction when the door opened and Scully walked in. He stabbed the stop button immediately, but too late.
"Mulder? Was that Billís voice?"
"Scully, I thought youíd be with the lawyers all day today."
"I was supposed to be, but Bill got called away, so we had to postpone it. Was that Bill?" One look at his face was enough to let her know he didnít want to get into this.
She approached him then, using his technique of invading body space. She literally stepped between his legs and placed one hand on the back of the chair, leaning over him. "Whatís going on Mulder?"
"Scully, please." It hadnít occurred to him that there would ever be a time he didnít want to have her this close. "Let me do some checking, then Iíll. . . "
She took the remote from his hand and turned toward the screen. She pressed play and heard Waltos voice asking why Bill had been in town under an assumed name. Billís reaction held her motionless.
"Scully?" He rose and sat her in his chair. She didnít protest even when he took the remote from her hand and again pressed stop.
"Whatís going on Mulder?"
"I donít know. Let me check into it. You donít need to get
"Involved? Mulder, do you think Bill had anything to do with. . .?" She had to swallow hard, hanging onto her composure by her fingernails.
"Bill would never hurt your mother, Scully. I know that, you know it too. I donít know what he might have been caught up in. It might have nothing to do with your mother."
"The tape." She gestured toward the TV.
"Okay, it doesnít look real good right now. Waltos obviously caught him off guard, but we donít know from what. Hell, he could be having an affair and doesnít want Tara to know. It could be anything Scully. Donít jump to conclusions."
"Like you havenít?" She sounded distant, too distant for him.
"I havenít reached any conclusions Scully. Waltos wants to get to the bottom of this just like we do, he has to check everything out."
"I need to talk to Bill." She started to rise from his chair.
"No." She looked up at him then. He hadnít shouted, but the tone of his voice meant the same thing. "Scully, you are not going to talk to Bill about this. Not yet and not alone. Please Scully. Let me handle this. Promise me Scully."
"Mulder. . . "
"Promise me." He wasnít quite touching her, though he could have easily. He was afraid, what if she thought he would force her to do this, physically. He didnít dare go any farther, but he could feel the distance between them like a chasm. It took everything in him not to pull her into his arms.
"I wonít talk to him today Mulder. You can have that much time. Tomorrow Iím going to him. I have to know Mulder, I have to know.
After a moment he nodded. He started to speak again when the phone rang. He looked at her, then with an exasperated sigh he grabbed the receiver. "Mulder."
"We have some information. You need to come over." Frohike didnít bother to identify himself.
"Itís not a good time."
"Make it a good time Mulder. This is about what you had us working on. Youíll want to see this."
"Iíll be there as soon as I can." He hung up and turned back to Scully.
"It sounds like you need to be somewhere." She didnít look at him.
"I donít want to leave you."
"Itís okay. Iím fine." He winced at that. She couldnít know how much he hated hearing those words from her lips. "I wonít see Bill today, I said I wouldnít."
"Scully. . . "
"Go do what you need to do. Iíll talk to you later." She turned and left the office.
Talk to you later? Not see you? Shit, had Bill won after all? He grabbed his jacket and headed over to the Gunmanís apartment.
"What are you dressed for?" Mulder gave Frohike the once over when he finally opened the door.
"Iím supposed to be a tourist. You know, a reason for the video camera."
"Come on guys, Iíve got someplace I need to be. What did you find?" He was getting a headache and wasnít able to get that defeated look on Scullyís face out of his mind.
Byers took over. "Mulder, we knew Bill was going in to be questioned. We were waiting to follow him when he left."
"You what?" That was dangerous and these guys werenít trained. The fact that they had done this without being asked, just for Scully and him caused a spasm of guilt in his chest.
"We thought youíd want to know where he went, what he did."
"So you guys followed him. Well. I donít know what to say, except you should be more careful."
"He never saw us, he was way too distracted."
"Okay, what happened?" They had his full attention now.
"Well," Langly joined the conversation, "he found the first public phone he could and made a call."
"Could you get close enough to hear?"
"No, but we did get close enough with the zoom lens. We got the phone number he called."
"You what?" He was on his feet. "Whose is it?"
"Thatís a little strange Mulder. Thereís absolutely no record of this number anywhere. Officially it doesnít exist. We havenít called it yet. We thought you should be here for that."
"How safe is it to call from your phone?"
"Safe as we can make it."
"Good I want to record the conversation."
"Weíre all set up. Do you want to talk, or do you want one of us to handle it?" Byers turned to him, ready to proceed however he wanted.
"One of you might be better. Who wants the honor?" The guys exchanged glances and turned back to Mulder. He grinned, these guys were a trip. He turned to Frohike, and nodded. "Ask for Jim."
Frohike nodded and after throwing a couple of switches, dialed the number. "Yes?"
"I need to talk to Jim." Frohike sounded impatient and angry. Langly grinned.
"Thereís no Jim here."
"Damn it Mildred, canít you even get a frigging message right?" Frohike growled at Langly and slammed down the phone.
Langly high-fived him. "You should have gone into acting bro. Beautiful!"
It was good that Mulder had allowed them to place the call. They turned to him then and saw him white faced, eyes closed, resting his head on the back of the chair.
The three of them sobered immediately. "Mulder? Who was it? Are you okay?"
"I donít know his name. Scully and I call him Cancer Man. Why in hell was Bill calling him? And how do I tell Scully?" He lowered his face into his hands. "Bill was involved in his motherís death. How does he live with that? How does Scully?"
It was late when he arrived at her apartment. He still didnít have a clue how to break this news to her. He didnít even know if he was welcome inside. When he reached her door he started to knock, then stopped himself. Heíd been living here for nearly a week. What would it say if he were suddenly afraid to enter without her permission. He let himself in with his key.
"Scully? Are you here?" He hung his coat up and turned. There was no answer and that disturbed him. The lights were on. She should be here. He stuck his head in the kitchen and bedroom, then headed on to the bath. The door wasnít locked, so he went on in to find her soaking in the tub, eyes closed. The scent of her bathing oil and the steam in the room filled his head. How could he hurt her like this?
She opened her eyes as the cool air from outside hit her. "Mulder." He shut the door and came on in, sitting on the side of the tub. "I wasnít sure you were coming."
"Sorry. There was stuff I needed to do. That looks comfortable." Heíd imagined sitting here like this in so many cities. Would he ever get the chance again, after what he had to tell her?
"I donít think youíd fit, Mulder." She sighed, "Are you going to tell me what you were doing?"
"After a while, this is too good to disturb." She smiled, but couldnít hold it long. "You want some privacy?"
"No. Iím about ready to get out. The waterís cooling anyway." He dipped his hand in the water to test it. Barely tepid, sheíd been in here a long time. She held her hands out to him and he lifted her to her feet and when she stepped from the tub wrapped her in the big fluffy towel she had sitting on the wicker stand beside the sink.
"You smell good." He bent over her, and for an instant she felt protected. Too bad it couldnít last.
She dried off and donned her robe. "Hungry?"
"Not really. But if you want something, we could go out."
"No Mulder. I donít want to go anywhere." He trailed her out and found he had nothing to say. Nothing that he wanted to say anyway. She sensed his reticence and left it for now. Heíd tell her when he could, the fact that it was this hard meant it was bad news.
The ensuing dance they did around each other was as poignant as it was painful. She couldnít settle down, wandering around the apartment fighting between impatience that he wouldnít tell her what he had learned and fear that he would. He watched her with no idea of how to approach this subject.
He tensed as she returned to the living room from the kitchen once again. "Scully Ė "
She panicked. "Iím going to bed Mulder. Good night."
What was he supposed to do? He watched her all but run from the room. Did he follow her? Did she want him to leave? Well that was out, no way he could do that.
He gave her a few minutes, then went into the bedroom. Sheíd left the light on on his side of the bed. When he joined her he started to speak but she rolled away, turning her back to him.
"No." He placed his hand on her shoulder and gently turned her back toward him. "No, Scully. Iíve waited too many years to be in your bed."
"I canít Mulder."
"Iím not. . . Scully thatís not what Iím talking about. I donít want this distance between us. As long as weíve been friends, this is still new, weíre still new. I donít know what to say to you. I have information that will cause you pain, I know that." When she shuddered he did draw her close to him. "I canít stand the thought that weíre going to be damaged. Do you. . . do you want me to leave?"
She burrowed into his chest. "What did Bill do?"
"Scully, I donít think he did anything. I think he got in over his head. Your motherís death may have been a punishment, a warning."
"From who? What? What could he be involved in that would lead to this?"
He tightened his grip, taking in the scent of her, the feel of her hair against his face. He had drawn her into this conspiracy. He could have, should have, asked for her transfer years ago. He hadnít and now their lives were so intertwined even if he wanted to it wasnít possible. Hell, when she breathed he got oxygen.
He sighed, "When Bill left the police station, the first thing he did was find a phone booth. He made one call."
"Who Mulder?" Still he hesitated. Her arms tightened around him. "Tell me. I have to know."
She thought sheíd been ready. She thought in his arms that it wouldnít be as bad. Sheíd been wrong. He felt her stiffen. "How. . . how would Bill know him?"
"I donít know. Iím going to find out Scully. Iím not going to let this go. I know where he lives. Iím going to talk to him tomorrow."
"Iíll go with you."
"No Scully. You canít. You know you canít."
"Mulder. . . "
"No. Let me handle this. Itís the best way." She started to pull away. "Please, Scully. Donít push me away."
She stopped and let him hold her. At first the tears came slowly but they gathered momentum. Finally, after years of wanting to, he was allowed to hold her as she lost control, sobbing into his chest. She cried herself to sleep in his arms and he held her, caressing her through her bad dreams. He might not be able to make it better, but heíd damn well be here trying.
He closed the door behind himself and pulled the pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. That was when he heard the sound of a round entering the chamber.
"We need to talk."
He turned slowly. "Agent Mulder. If Iíd known I was going to have company Iíd have straightened up a little."
"Why did you kill Mrs. Scully?"
"Mrs. Scullyís dead? Iíd heard she was missing." That smug overconfident tone made Mulderís finger itch to do what heíd wanted to do to this SOB for years.
"What did she ever do? What did Bill do to make this happen?" He might have looked relaxed in the chair, but he was wound tight, ready to spring at this man that symbolized all evil in his life.
"Iím serious Mulder. I didnít hear she was dead."
Mulder heard the tone then, "Is she dead? Donít lie to me, because I really want to pull this trigger."
"The last time I saw her, she was very much alive."
"And when was that?"
"Not that long ago." Cancer Man was relaxing a little; Mulderís gun was no longer pointed directly at his heart. He still didnít want to make any moves, like sitting on the sofa across from Mulder, but it didnít look like his blood would be spattered all over the door any longer.
"There was too much blood found."
"I remember them saying the same thing about me. Did you know Mrs. Scully was a regular blood donor? Very civic minded woman."
For the first time Mulderís hand trembled. "If sheís alive where is she?"
"Safe enough. Iím very good with mothers Mulder. You didnít complain when I had your mother healed."
"Wha. . .what are you saying?" Heíd gone very still at those words. This man had something to do with his motherís recovery? Donít let him do this to you Mulder. Heís playing with your mind, stay on top, donít let him have the satisfaction.
"That youíre not showing the proper gratitude. Though I have to say, I healed her as much for me as I did for you. Your mother is an extraordinary woman. So is Mrs. Scully in her own way. Different, but extraordinary nevertheless."
Change the subject back! Donít dwell on this, you can think about it later. Get back to the subject at hand! "Youíre telling me Maggie Scully is alive. Are you holding her prisoner?"
"Sheís in my custody now, though thatís not how it started. Your Agent Scully has reason to be grateful to me as well."
"Where is she?"
"All in good time, Agent Mulder. Sheís safer with me right now than she would be in the loving arms of her daughter. Or her semi-loving son. Bill isnít as bright as his sister, or he lets his emotions get in the way too much. He really hates you Mulder. What is it you did to him to make him feel so strongly about you?"
"What is it you want from us?" Whatever it was, heíd get it. In order to give Scully back her mother, hell, if he wanted the X-Files, they were his. Mulder leaned back in the leather chair that was obviously Cancer Manís favorite. The smell of him was a permanent part of the furniture.
"Some people didnít understand your importance to the project, Agent Mulder. Using Bill Scully to try to destroy you was a pitiful attempt. Heís not man enough to handle the assignment and the people directing him are too shortsighted to be of any further use to us. Give me a couple of days, Fox. I think I can make this go away."
"How? How could you. . . what do you mean my importance to the project? Iíve been opposing you my whole life."
"Iím sure thatís how it looks to you. Go home Agent Mulder, or to Agent Scullyís apartment, and let me handle this."
He decided to ignore the reference to where he slept now. "You want me to trust you with Mrs. Scullyís life?"
"Did it sound like I was offering a choice?" Now he finished retrieving the cigarette heíd reached for earlier. "Give me 48 hours to clear up some loose ends. I give you my personal assurance that Mrs. Scully will remain where I can keep an eye on her. Killing me now would complicate things significantly."
Mulder released the tension on the trigger. "I want Mrs. Scully back."
"And I want the status quo for now. You will give me time to clean this up. Can I offer you a beer?"
Mulder snorted. "Why do you need 48 hours to return her?"
"I donít want this action, or one like it, repeated. I need to make some people understand my position and how seriously I take it."
Mulder stood. "48 hours. If sheís not home, I will find you. I wonít hesitate to kill you then." Cancer Man nodded but wisely did not extend his hand.