Scully tapped on the door and looked up into Karen Kosseff's comfortable face when she opened the door. Karen smiled when she saw her. "Dana, it's good to see you. Please come in."
Scully entered, but stopped just inside of the door and watched her close it.
Karen didn't comment on her obvious nervousness. "I had heard that you had left the Bureau. Does this visit have anything to do with that?" She motioned toward the chairs facing each other and after Scully was seated, sat facing her.
"Well," Scully looked down at her hands clasped in her lap. "That was the original reason I called for this appointment."
Karen nodded, "But something changed?"
Scully seemed to be focused on the Monet print on the opposite wall now. Karen waited patiently, wanting this woman to feel more relaxed.
"I, uh, I had another offer."
"It was . . . unexpected."
Scully looked at her startled. The question had clearly caught her off guard. She sat silently then.
Karen smiled gently, "Assistant Director Skinner called me just minutes after you did, to let me know you might be calling. I had the impression he would welcome you back."
"He . . . he said that. He was very supportive."
"But you've received another offer?"
"This offer has obviously unsettled you."
"Unsettled." Scully gave a short laugh. "You could say that."
"I'm here to listen, Dana, if you want to talk about it."
"I, uh . . . do you remember me mentioning Agent Mulder?"
Karen tried to hide her smile, remember mentioning? "Your former partner." She noted the slight wince at the word former, but remained quiet.
"Yes. He, he came out to California to help me. I, he's the reason I decided to return to DC."
"He sounds very important to you."
"He is. He's very important."
Karen smiled then. "Important enough to want to work with him again?"
A look of fear crossed Scully's face then.
"He's asked me to marry him."
That did surprise Karen and she struggled to keep her expression bland. "That frightens you."
"I'm not sure 'frightens' is the right word."
"What word would you use?"
"I . . . I was surprised."
"You're not attracted to him, physically?"
"No! I mean, yes, but . . . "
Scully shrugged. "I guess I didn't realize that he felt . . . "
"You had no idea that he had feelings for you?"
"Well, I didn't . . . I mean . . . damn."
At that Karen actually chuckled. "So you're attracted to him and he's attracted to you. But you can't be partners here at the Bureau if you accept his proposal. Is that the problem?"
"Partly. And we've both lived alone for a long time."
"So there would be adjustments. You don't know each other that well?"
"No! I know him very well. We've been together for seven years."
Scully looked down then, "Not like that."
"Not like what, Dana?"
"This is not what I . . ." She looked up at Karen and took a deep breath. "I don't know if I could be a wife to him, or to anyone."
"Dana? What do you mean?"
"The reason . . . the ordeal that caused me to leave the Bureau in the first place. That's what AD Skinner wanted me to talk to you about."
"Is it, what happened to you, is it part of your . . . confusion about this other opportunity?"
Scully nodded miserably.
"Can you tell me why?"
"The man that took me, he was a serial killer, and, and . . . a rapist. He held me for three days before I was able to . . . " Her voice drifted off.
"Did you escape or were you rescued, Dana?"
"I . . . I escaped just before Mulder found me."
"So he was involved in finding you. Was the man prosecuted?"
"No. I," Scully took a deep breath, "I murdered him."
"He got . . . careless. I suppose after that length of time most of the women he had taken were . . . were completely defeated."
"But you weren't."
Scully looked down, no longer able to face the woman.
"Dana? It sounds to me as though you kept your wits about you; protected yourself to the best of your abilities. You're a survivor, Dana. You wouldn't have made such a good FBI agent if you weren't."
"I killed the man."
"Dana, is this the first person you've had to kill in the line of duty?"
"What? Uh, no."
"But you feel guilty about this one. Why?"
"I watched him die, I gloated over him."
Karen just looked at her for a long moment, then, "Dana, what did he do to you during those three days?"
Scully went so pale at that question that Karen reached out, afraid she would faint and fall from the chair.
"Dana, put your head down." Karen stood and gently but firmly pressed Scully's head down between her knees. Dana flinched at her touch, so Karen moved slightly aside. "Take deep breaths. Stay with me Dana."
"I'm, I'm okay."
"I'll get you some water. Just stay here."
Karen was back in no time with a glass of water. Scully took a sip. "How are you feeling, Dana?"
"I'm sorry." Scully put the glass down on the small table holding the box of tissues.
"That was quite a reaction to my question."
Scully closed her eyes, but nodded.
"Dana, I think maybe that's enough for today. You need a little time to process this. I don't want to rush you, but in order to face this, I think we're going to have to talk again."
"I don't want . . . "
"Dana, has not talking about it worked for you?"
A single tear escaped before Scully forced control back upon herself. "No." Her eyes seemed to focus inward for a moment. "I can't marry him. Not when I'm like this."
"Is that reason enough to talk about it?"
Scully looked up startled, then nodded.
Karen smiled with deep sympathy then. "I have time day after tomorrow."
Scully nodded. "I'll be here."
Mulder looked up as the door opened. The sight of her coming through that door caused his heart to skip a beat. God, he had missed her more than he had ever allowed himself to know. Almost as quickly his joy was tempered by the fact that she had been crying.
He was on his feet. "You, uh, you okay?"
"Fine." But she smiled as she said it.
"I'm going to take you home."
"I can - " she stopped herself at the look on his face.
'I'll take you home." He already had removed his suit coat from the back of his chair.
He wouldn't admit it, but he was a little surprised he had gotten away with it. She obviously still wasn't herself, or the meeting with this Karen had been . . . He had his hand on her back now, and damn it felt good.
They were quiet on the way home. Not uncomfortable, but she had put a distance there that he knew he had to respect. He, however, was dying to know what had happened and what had caused her tears.
She wanted to be surprised when he came inside. It wasn't lunchtime, but she knew she was kidding herself, he wanted to talk.
She started for the kitchen, but he ran his hand down her arm and took her hand. "Scully?"
She stopped and looked up at him. He saw how uneasy she was, but hell, so was he. He tugged gently at her hand and moved toward the couch. Scully took a deep breath and followed him.
He seated her, then sat beside her, not too close. He massaged her hand for few minutes, then finally spoke. "Scully . . . Scully, I remember enough of my psychology to know I'm not supposed to ask what you talked about. And I'm trying not to, but I can see you've been crying."
"Mulder - "
"You might as well know, your tears scare me. If we are . . . if we are going to be together, you need to know that about me."
"Mulder, don't - "
"This Karen thought it was a shitty idea to get involved with me, didn't she?"
"No. I think she was amused that our relationship wasn't . . . "
"Amused? She doesn't know me, we've never met."
"Actually you have, when we investigated Charlie Holvey."
He paused, thinking back. "That was her?"
"And what she saw of me, amused her?"
"No! No, Mulder, that's not - "
"She knows me by reputation then, and can't imagine us together."
"Mulder, she didn't say anything like that. She's not opposed to you, or to us. We, we talked."
He nodded, slightly relieved.
"And we're going to talk again, day after tomorrow."
His head jerked up then, obviously stunned by that information.
"Mulder, is this going to be a problem?"
He saw the fear in her eyes then, and forced his own fear down. "No. No Scully, I want you to get the help you need. But Scully, I want to help you too. Please."
"You are, Mulder. You've already been more help than you know."
But it's not enough, he thought, though he didn't say it. He wasn't going to make things worse.
She took a deep breath, "Mulder, go on back to work. I'll be fine."
"It's early for lunch, I know, but - "
"Mulder, it's okay. Go to the office. Don't worry."
"Yeah, like that's going to happen. Okay, will you call me, if you . . . "
"You know I will."
He nodded. "I'll bring dinner home."
"I can cook."
"You cooked last night. It's my turn." That brought a smile to her face. "What? You think I can't?"
"Go to work. Mulder."
He did grin at her then, placed
a light kiss on her forehead and let himself out of the apartment.
Her smile faded as the door closed and her arms went around herself as
though she were suddenly cold.
She was better when he was here, but that was part of the problem. She needed to be strong alone again. She sighed and found herself moving toward the bedroom, where she shucked her shoes and crawled back into the bed, pulling his pillow into her arms.
She opened the door when he knocked. "Mr. Mulder, please come in." She smiled up at him as he entered her office.
"Thank you for seeing me."
"You can thank Dana for that." Karen motioned to a chair and he took it, straightened his coat and adjusted his tie. When his fidgeting stopped she leaned forward from her own seat. "I believe we worked together one time."
"Yes ma'am, on the Holvey case."
"That's right. I was very impressed with the open mindedness that you displayed during that case."
He blinked at that, impressed with his open mindedness?
"I can't tell you how overwhelmed I was at what was happening, but you seemed to take it in stride and work with the situation."
"Thank, thank you. I don't usually make that kind of impression," he admitted.
She smiled indulgently. "Well, you asked to speak with me, and Dana agreed. What would you like to talk about?"
"Her recovery. I, I feel that I may have messed that up."
Karen looked slightly puzzled, "In what way, Mr. Mulder?"
"I don't know. It just feels that she's taken a step backward since we got back to DC."
"From what she's told me about her time in California, she doesn't see it that way."
"What can I do to help?�"
Karen smiled then, "You already have. Maybe you don't realize how much help you've been. Has Dana been able to talk to you about her experience?"
Mulder shook his head, "But I know what he did to the other . . . "
Karen nodded, "Then you know that Dana was sexually assaulted, savagely, and tortured."
He winced at those words, he knew it, but to hear it said was devastating.
She noted his reaction, but made no comment on that. "I understand that you touch her."
"No. I mean, I haven't - "
"Relax. Mr. Mulder. I mean you hold her hand, she tells me that you hold her while she sleeps."
He nodded at that.
"Are you aware that yours is the only touch she can abide? She has not been able to be touched by any other person since her ordeal."
"She's suffering from post traumatic stress, Mr. Mulder. Having someone touch her skin is painful, except for you."
He was staring at the woman now, his lips parted and his eyes wide. She smiled gently at his reaction.
"Still think you're not helping her very much?"
He closed his eyes and let his head drop back against the back of the chair. "Want to buy a Ph.D. from Oxford? I know where you can get one cheap."
She laughed then, "No, Mr. Mulder. I think you're going to need it a lot more than I am. Especially after you marry her."
His body jerked forward then. "You, she told you . . . Is she going to marry me?"
"She'll have to answer that, Mr. Mulder. You two need to talk about it, but it is on her mind."
"Is she," he had to clear his throat, "Is she afraid of me, of . . . "
"I know that she has concerns about certain aspects of a relationship with you. She wants to be whole again, Mr. Mulder, and she feels that you are the key to that."
Karen just looked at him then, watching him absorb her words.
"Do you feel that you can handle that role, Mr. Mulder?"
"I don't . . . I don't know."
"How would you describe your relationship?"
"Our relationship? I don't . . . I don't know the words." Mulder examined his hands. Karen waited patiently.
"She, she completes me."
"I'm not sure I understand."
"I, uh, there are pieces of me missing. They have been for as long as I can remember. I didn't realize these pieces were gone until . . . Scully just plugged up the holes. She's part of me now and when she was gone . . . Maybe that's when I finally faced it."
He leaned back and wiped his hand across his brow. "She fit into my life. I can't say she did it seamlessly, we've disagreed, hell we've fought, but still I knew I was going to see her every morning."
"Before she left, did you ever consider a more personal relationship?"
He gave a rueful laugh. "Yeah."
"Would you like to elaborate a little on that?"
"You've seen Scully. Of course I wanted more. What red-blooded male wouldn't? But . . . "
"I assumed she thought that would endanger the partnership. Now, well, we're not FBI partners right now. If she'd prefer that to . . . Whatever she wants. I just want to be part of her life. I'm better with her." He looked up, as though frightened for a moment. "I guess it's more important that she's better with me, isn't it?"
"Why are you worried about that?"
"Well, she's the important one. I know she's . . . she's frightened."
"My advice to her was to talk to you about her fears. That's going to be my advice to you as well. It sounds to me as though you're as afraid of not being enough for her as she is of not being enough for you. Communication, and patience, sounds like it could be the key. I have another appointment with Dana on Monday. I'll talk to her then about a joint meeting, if you like."
He nodded then, "Whatever she wants."
Karen nodded and rose to see him out.
He was reluctant to enter the apartment. He desperately needed to see her, but the things he had learned, had faced in Karen's office, needed to be processed.
She must have heard him, because the door opened and she stood there watching him. "Coming in?"
"Thought I would."
She smiled, but it was tremulous. "Now I know how you felt when I came back from my first visit with Karen."
He gave her a sad smile then and reached for her, but stopped.
"Mulder? Is something wrong?"
"No. Is, is it okay to . . . "
"To touch me? Karen told you about that."
"Yeah. Scully, why didn't you?"
"I thought, I thought it didn't matter." She reached out then and ran her hand down his arm. "Your touch doesn't hurt."
At that he moved closer and took her into his arms, closing his eyes as he held her against his body. Her arms went around him as well.
"Karen says we have to communicate."
Scully nodded against his chest. "I don't know if I can."
"I'm not going to rush you, but Scully . . . "
"I know. Just give me a little more time, Mulder." Her arms tightened around him and he kissed the top of her head.
He moved her over to the couch and she cuddled against him.
"Why can I touch you?"
"I don't know. I didn't even realize it at first. I mean, I couldn't let anyone touch me when I left the hospital. After I got to California, there was no one to touch me. I could get out of shaking hands because I had gloves on at work, and I didn't see anyone else. Bill isn't a touchy person and I didn't help much with the baby.
I had noticed it by the time Mom got you out there, but . . . but I wasn't ready to work on it. Part of me didn't care."
"Dana Scully? Didn't care?"
She smiled at him, "Okay, it's not like I was at my best."
"Well, that's where I want you to be now. Tell me how to help you."
"Mulder, I don't think I can talk about it. Not even to you."
"You've already told me you felt guilty about how he died. That's not true anymore is it?"
She took a deep breath. "I'm always going to feel guilt about that to some extent. I wasn't supposed to be judge, jury and executioner. I did what I did, it can't be undone. Neither can what he did."
He gave her a quick squeeze. "Karen says you're afraid of . . . of certain aspects of a relationship with me."
The color rose on her face, but she didn't dispute his words. "Mulder, please."
"After all these years, you know I'm not going to rush you, don't you?" He chuckled, "Haven't I already proven I'm the most patient man on the planet?"
"You're never going to convince me that you've been attracted to me for a long time."
"Well, it's not been quite a decade - "
"Scully, don't let this monster cripple you. That's all I'm saying. You beat him, continue to beat him."
"You say you've been patient. Can you continue?"
"With you as the prize? You bet I can. But I won't accept you being less than you are. I want you in my life - fully and completely."
She nodded; it was what she wanted as well.
"Karen suggested that we have a joint meeting with her." He felt her body stiffen at that. "Scully?"
"Let me . . . let me think about it." She shifted away from him then. "I need to start dinner."
Her reaction had been a surprise to him. "I'm not hungry, Scully. Just fix something for yourself."
"I've upset you." She said it quietly.
"No, not you. The situation, the fact that you can't talk about it. I want so desperately for this never to have happened."
Her hand caressed his cheek at those words. "That's one of the reasons that I love you. I know I haven't said it, but I do want to be in your life - in any way I can. Mulder, you are helping me, please know that."
She fell asleep easily in his arms that night and he relished the closeness that they were able to share, tamping down his desire for more. Not yet and no way would he rush her.
He was just drifting off when she stiffened suddenly in his arms. "No! No, please . . . " She whimpered.
That caught him off guard. She hadn't had a nightmare since he'd been with her. "Scully? Come on, wake up. You're safe now. It's me, Mulder."
"Mu . . . Mulder? Oh god." She burst into tears.
"I've got you. It was just a dream."
Her shaking gradually subsided, and she took the tissue he offered. "Thanks."
"I didn't know you were still having nightmares."
"I haven't, not since you . . . "
"I put too much stress on you."
She managed a small smile at that. "I'm so lucky to have someone who'll take the blame for everything." She slipped her arm around his waist. "No. You haven't done anything except want me to get well. This was a new dream."
"Can you talk about it?"
She buried her face in his chest for an instant. "I was back on that bed, the one . . . I was tied spread eagle and there was a rope around my neck so I couldn't struggle. That's the way he . . . "
Mulder nodded, he'd seen that bed and those bonds before he had plunged into the woods, desperate to find her.
"I didn't see him, but I was, pieces of me were breaking off, like I was made of porcelain or something. I was just crumbling."
"You know that's never going to happen, Scully. You're not genetically made to crumble. I've seen you in too many situations where a normal person would do just that. You're strong, whether you realize it or acknowledge it; you're stronger than I am. You're stronger than anyone I know."
"But I'm not! I rely on you to get through each day."
maybe but - "
"No Mulder. Always. Since I met you. You know I didn't have a clue what the X-Files were when I was assigned. You could have gotten rid of me in a heartbeat. I cringe when I realize how green, how naive I was."
"You thought that?"
"Tell me you didn't think I'd bail half way through our first case."
He grinned then, "Well, I certainly didn't want you to, especially after the striptease."
"Mulder!" She swatted his shoulder, but made no move to distance herself.
After a long moment she spoke again, but this time so low he had to lean in to hear her, even in the bed. Her warm breath against the hair of his chest was . . . stimulating.
"Mulder, I have to ask you something, and I don't want you to answer right away. I want you to think about it and be honest. Mulder, I need your honesty about this."
He looked down at her, troubled. This was obviously difficult for her, no time for a quip. "I promise Scully. What is it?" He hooked her hair behind her ear but she wouldn't meet his eyes.
"Mulder, do you," she swallowed and almost lost her courage. He tilted her face up toward him, but she shut her eyes and shook her head slightly. "Do you really still want me, after . . . after what he did to me?"
The question stunned him, it hadn't occurred to him. She had no blame at all in what had happened.
She felt his surprise in the tenseness of his body and tears were already forming in her eyes.
"Scully, Scully look at me. I don't need any time to think about that answer. I want you. I've always wanted you. Nothing has changed that, nothing could."
"I'm damaged Mulder. I don't know if I can ever - "
"Scully, we'll learn together. That's what we'd have to do anyway. We'd have to take our time, find out what feels right, what works."
She managed to look at him at those words and he could see the dim light of hope in her eyes.
"Oh god, Scully. Why didn't I know this was the problem? You are so damn precious to me and I should know when something like this is . . . damn." He pulled her closer and reveled in the feel of her arms around him.
He leaned in and kissed her lightly. His delight when she responded knew no bounds. He deepened the kiss and she stayed with him. He was nibbling on her neck when he felt her stiffen. He realized that his erection was pressing firmly into her abdomen.
"Scully, Scully just ignore him."
"Ignore that?" Her voice trembled slightly.
He chuckled then, "Yeah. Because nothing is going to happen. You're getting no sex from me tonight."
"I'm not that easy."
That did startle a laugh out of her. "Oh?"
"That's right. I've held you off this long. You're not getting into my pants just because you're cuddled up next to me with those perky breasts and full lips."
She drew back slightly to look into his eyes, which were sparkling.
"You're afraid I'll take your virtue?"
"I know women like you. I want you to still respect me in the morning."
At that she rolled her eyes. "You better not be implying that you don't respect me now, Dr. Scully."
"You're crazy you know."
"I think that's part of what attracts you to me." He gave her another kiss, then turned away from her. He had to keep this light and the friction against her body was making him aware of just how long it had been for him.
She cuddled up to his back. "I think you're right."
He closed his eyes. After she was asleep he'd have to take care of this. Her warm breath on his neck was certainly not relaxing him.
"He didn't give me any disease."
What? What had she said? He started to turn back to her, but her hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"He was very careful that he not be contaminated. He was convinced that all women were diseased. He never touched any of us without protection. That's why we never could get the DNA evidence we needed. You were right and I wanted you to know it."
She rolled to her side then and pressed her ass against his back.
"Scully, I wasn't worried."
She didn't respond, just taking a shaking breath and settling into the pillow. When her breathing became steady and he knew she was asleep, he didn't leave the bed, turning instead to envelope her once again in his arms.
She woke alone and followed the smell of coffee into the kitchen. "Morning Sleepyhead."
She smiled over the cup he handed her. "You should have woke me."
"You looked too peaceful to disturb. Listen, do you need the car today? I don't know your plans."
"I don't really have any. But my car is over at Mom's. I should get it, at least recharge the battery." She nodded, plans.
"Okay, just be careful." He kissed the tip of her nose and enjoyed the blush that grew on her face. "I'll call you, see about lunch?"
She nodded, straightening his tie. "Have a good day."
"Um, you going to be wearing the pearls when I get home, Mrs. Cleaver?"
"Bite me, Mulder." She stepped back at the gleam that brought to his eyes, but her own smile grew bigger. This was fun, not for long term, she needed to get back to work herself, but for the present . . .