Mind Games (R)

 

Scully let herself in the apartment. She laid her briefcase on the desk and punched play on her answering machine. No messages? That was strange, Mom should have called by now. Sheíd said she would call before lunch. Oh well, sheíd try her in a little while.

She kicked her shoes off at the desk and wiggled her toes as she looked through the mail. Kind of lean today, not a single catalog. She tossed it down on the desk and headed for the bedroom.

Scully shrugged out of her suit coat and unbuttoned her skirt. So good to get out of the pantyhose. She pulled on her jeans and t-shirt. After hanging up her suit and tossing her blouse into the dirty clothesbasket, she padded barefoot into the kitchen.

Sheíd been running late this morning, hadnít even had time to rinse her cup or. . . where was her spoon? That was weird. She checked on the floor and around the sink. Not there. Well, maybe she hadnít used one this morning. But it was odd.

After a quick dinner she booted up her computer and went to work. Another dull evening at home. After talking with her mother, who assured her she had left a message, she ran a bath and then went on to bed.

The next morning she had more time and washed her cup and spoon before leaving for the office. She was reaching for the door handle of her car when she stopped. What was bothering her? She looked around, no one out of the ordinary, regular traffic. She shook it off and went to work.

By the fourth day whatever was bugging her was beginning to affect her sleep.

When she entered the office, Mulder was there and obviously waiting for her. Great.

"Scully, are you okay?"

"Iím fine, Mulder." She didnít even bother to face him, putting her briefcase on the desk.

He slammed the palm of his hand down on the desk and she whirled around startled. "I thought we were past that Scully."

To his shock, tears formed in her eyes and guilt suffused him. She didnít want to talk about whatever it was and here he was pushing her, getting into areas where she didn't want him. "Scully, Iím sorry."

"No, youíre right. I need some help."

Those words shot through his spine like fire. He was moving toward her before he realized heíd processed the words. He put his hand on her shoulder and turned her toward him. "Scully?"

"I think thereís something wrong with me. I should make an appointment with a neurologist, but. . . "

The liquid fire from his spine was now pouring into the rest of his body. Neurologist? "What is it?" He was guiding her to his chair. After she was seated he squatted beside her.

"I think," she had to stop then and gave a shaking laugh, "I think I may be developing the early stages of Alzheimerís."

"You? Come on Scully. Tell me whatís happening." His eyes hadnít left her face, and now he was holding tightly to her hand.

"It sounds so stupid when I say it, Iím losing things in my apartment Ė a spoon, my bath oil . . . "

He waited for her to continue, but when she didnít, asked "Could someone be taking things?"

"Why would anyone want to steal one spoon or half a bottle of lotion? No oneís broken in. I canít tell that anyone has been there."

"Who else has a key?" He didnít realize his fingers were caressing her hand now.

"Only you."

He couldnít hide his surprise at that. "What about your mother?"

"She doesnít have a key. No one has a key but you." That knowledge rendered him silent. He knew she trusted him, but . . .

"And it feels, this just sounds crazy, but when I walk to my car in the mornings it feels like everyone on the street is watching me. When I look around, no one is, but it feels like it."

"Do you feel that way here?"

"No, Iím not bothered by it here."

"Why do you think that is?"

"I just assumed it was because, uh . . . " She stopped and he squeezed her hand.

"What Scully?"

"Because you were here. It was safe."

God, could he take many more of these revelations? She felt safe when he was around? Only he was trusted with the key to her home? He needed to sit down, he was feeling positively giddy and that was definitely the wrong reaction right now. He should be thinking of her and only her.

She was watching him, the first slight smile heíd seen lately playing around her lips. He could feel the color rise on his cheeks. "Iíve said too much."

"Not as far as Iím concerned you havenít. Look, I know this seems strange, and if you want to see a doctor, Iím all for it. Iíll even take you, but why donít we look around your place first. Maybe it isnít you."

"If youíre going to tell me I have rats big enough to do this . . . "

"Well you might, but Iím not thinking of the rodent kind."

"You donít really think someone would go through my apartment for this?"

"What else is missing?"

"Oh maybe some laundry, but since itís a community laundry room someone could have gotten mixed up. An old birthday card that I was keeping. Itís dumb stuff, not the kind of thing someone would break in and steal. I have a little cash hidden and itís still there. What? What are you thinking?"

"What kind of laundry is missing?"

"Some lingerie, a t-shirt."

He could feel the hackles rise on the back of his neck. "Why donít I head home with you tonight. We can grab a bite to eat and I can look around. You can point out where things were. Okay?"

She sighed, he hoped from relief. "Yeah, Iíd appreciate it."

He tried to keep his watching of her to a minimum during the day. She could always tell and he didnít want to annoy her, she had enough on her mind. But he knew she wasnít sick. That wasnít it, but that didnít mean someone else wasnít.

He followed her home so that her car would be available to her in the morning and after parking, walked her to her door. His hand was resting lightly on her back and she steadied herself with the touch.

Before allowing her to use her key, he checked the lock. No signs that anyone had tried to break in, no scratches. Okay that didnít mean it hadnít happened, it could mean that they were very good. Again he followed her and stopped when she hesitated just inside the door.

"Scully?"

"Sorry, I donít even want to come in here anymore." Her eyes swept the apartment. "I donít see anything wrong."

He moved in front of her then and stood in the middle of the room, turning to take everything in. After a minute he looked over at her. "Want to show me what youíve found before?"

She nodded resignedly and led him into the kitchen. "It doesnít make sense, but count the spoons, only seven of them now. I had eight teaspoons with the set. Oneís gone. I thought I remembered using it in my coffee three or four mornings ago, but when I got home only the cup was in my sink. I even checked the garbage disposal. Itís not in the apartment, so I had to have thrown it away. Why would I do something like that? I never have before."

"Donít assume you did Scully. What else?"

She nodded and led him to her bathroom. She picked up a delicate looking bottle half full of some lotion. "I bought this new last weekend. At least I thought I did. Itís expensive and I never use this much. In fact, I only remember using it once." She held it out to him.

Instead of just taking it from her, he pulled out a tissue and took it gingerly from her. "Why donít I have this dusted, just to make sure."

"Mulder, I appreciate you trying to reassure me, but who would steal half a bottle of this stuff."

He removed the lid and took a sniff. "Someone who wants to smell like you, or be reminded of you?" She looked away, not at all reassured. "Anything else in here?"

"Well, a washcloth that matches my yellow towels. That could be laundry, except I hadnít put it in the dirty clothes that I remember." She gave a harsh chuckle, "That I remember is the key phrase, right?"

"Scully."

"Mulder this is stupid. No one would break in here for a spoon, a washcloth, come on. Iíve done something with these things. Do you think I didnít check the lock, or look for evidence of someone being in here? Iím even erasing messages that I donít remember hearing."

"Tell me about that." He drew her out of the bathroom and back into the living room.

"Mom left me a very detailed message about some plans she was making. She knows it was my machine, but I have no memory of hearing the message. Weíve done a couple of tests since then, I told her I wanted to make sure the machine was working, but . . . I usually have at least a couple of messages on my machine when I get home, now I donít have any."

"Did you check when we got here today?"

"I donít know, did I?"

Where was this fear coming from? This didnít sound like Scully, what wasnít she telling him? He glanced over at the machine, no light blinking announcing a message waiting. "You donít have any messages Scully, and I can vouch that you didnít erase any."

She seemed to relax a little at that.

"What else is it Scully? This isnít enough to convince you."

"Iím dreaming." It was only a whisper, he leaned in closer to hear her.

"About what?"

"I hear someone telling me all of the things Iíve forgotten during the day, the things Iíve misplaced. Iíve even found a few things right where the voice said."

"Is it a male voice you hear?" His mind was racing, this wasnít right, something else was going on here.

"Itís my voice Mulder." He looked down at her, startled. She nodded. "Itís me. When Iím asleep I can remember better. But what if I stop telling myself where the things are? What if my mind goes away for good?"

"Scully, look at me. This is not what you think it is. Somethingís happening, I agree. But not what youíre thinking. Your mind is clear as a bell. Nothing like this is happening at work, I would have noticed."

"You did notice. You knew something was wrong, you confronted me about it."

"No." He shook his head at her, "Not this kind of thing. I knew you were upset, I could tell you werenít sleeping, but youíve answered every question, youíve found every file, every bit of evidence. You caught my mistake on the travel form."

He couldnít mistake the look of hope that had appeared in her eyes. "But Ė"

"Donít doubt yourself Scully. I donít." He saw tears form in her eyes again but she blinked them away. "Why donít we get something to eat and you tell me everything." She took a deep steadying breath and after a moment nodded.

She was willing to order in but he wanted her out of here, away from the added stress. He led her out, watching as she locked the door. She was fine; he knew it, scared but fine. Once outside he pointed to his car and realized she was so busy looking around to see if anyone was watching her she hadnít noticed.

"Iím here Scully. Nobodyís going to bother you. I wonít let them."

Her attempt at a smile was feeble and she couldnít even sustain that. He wanted to take her in his arms but he was pretty sure he knew how that would be received. He did take her arm and seated her in his car.

They were quiet on the way to the restaurant. He chose Thai, her favorite. They were seated before she realized where they were. "Mulder, you donít like this food."

"You do. Come on, letís order." Once the waitress left them alone he reached over and covered her hand with his own. "Tell me the rest. This isnít enough to scare you like this. Donít tell me youíre not scared."

"What if itís the cancer?" She blurted it out as though the words were burning her. "What if itís returned and moved into my brain?"

His heart clutched. Not the cancer. The chip was supposed to protect her. He needed to speak, reassure her. His grip tightened on her hand. "No Scully. Itís not the cancer. Iím going to get the food to go after all. Will you be okay?" She gave a small nod.

When he returned with their dinner he took her arm and led her out. "Iím taking you to my place for a while." She didnít protest.

Once at his apartment she seemed to relax a little. "Why donít you go change, Scully."

"Change?" She glanced down at her work clothes.

"Yeah, hereís your chance to rummage though my wardrobe and outfit yourself. I know itís one of your top fantasies." That earned a small smile from her, but she did as he asked. He spread the food out on his coffee table and looked up as she returned to the room. He had to smile; she looked like a little girl in his clothes. Of course, he knew what was under them. He mentally shook himself and rose to draw her over to the couch.

She was able to eat a little and they kept the subject light. While he cleaned up she wandered around, fed the fish, smiled at the titles of some of the videos he didnít own, but mostly touched things, making physical contact. He watched her while she wasnít looking, aching to help her. Knowing she had to be okay, she had to be.

He joined her then, "You look tired Scully."

"I havenít been sleeping."

"Put your feet up, itís a comfortable couch." To his surprise she did scrunch down into it. "Iíll be right here." She nodded and closed her eyes. He realized shortly that she was asleep, so he settled himself in front of the computer. Heíd never gotten rid of his bookmarks on the web regarding her cancer, much as he hated it he was going to research it now.

Her restlessness drew him back to the couch. She began making small noises, then an occasional word. As she became more agitated he reached for her. "Mulder."

"Iím right here." But she wasnít awake. He realized she was crying. He brushed her cheek with his finger. "Scully, wake up. Itís just a dream. Come on." She finally opened her eyes to the comfort of him bending over her, there for her.

"What time is it?"

"Not quite ten. Itís still early."

"I should be getting home." She sat up.

"I want you to stay here tonight."

"What?" He could not have said what she heard.

"Hey, Iím not making a pass Scully. Honest. I think youíre more comfortable here right now."

She knew the color was high on her cheeks. He knew her too damn well. But she didnít have the strength to pretend he wasnít right. Finally she nodded and his eyes smiled though he did manage to keep it from his lips.

"You hungry now? You didnít eat much."

"No, thanks really." She continued at his look. "What if I just got ready for bed. Itís the first time Iíve slept in ages."

"Bathroomís yours. Thereís an extra toothbrush in the cabinet."

"One of the extras you keep around for all your women?"

"Yeah, if you spot any in there would you send them out?"

"Count on it." After a slight hesitation she took the hand he held out and stood. When she emerged he looked up. "Sorry, no other women." He grinned.

"Damn, thatís usually my luck too. Wanna go on to bed now?"

She nodded. "Thanks."

"You know itís not a problem Scully. See you in the morning."

He was asleep on the couch when he heard her. "Stop it! Stop!" He was on his feet and racing to her.

Whoever she was fighting seemed to be winning. "Scully." He pulled her up in his arms. "I wonít let them get you Scully. Iím right here." She calmed down with his arms around her and he held her until she was sleeping calmly again. He moved then to lay her back down and she protested that, her arms going around him.

Her hair smelled good, all of her did. She wouldnít be happy if she were to wake and find him here. Heíd wait a while then get out of here.

That really was his intention, it just didnít work out that way. The warmth of her body, the relaxing sound of her breathing, lulled him into sleep as well with her in his arms.

It was morning when she turned in his arms, waking him. He realized immediately what had happened and knew it was morning. "Scully?"

"Mulder? What are you Ė "

"You were having a nightmare."

"Did you . . .?" She looked around.

He nodded. "Iím sorry. I should have left."

"Itís, itís okay. We, uh we should be getting up." He noted for the first time that he hadnít released her. It hadnít even occurred to him.

"Sorry." He removed his arms from her then, albeit reluctantly. And headed for the kitchen to start the coffee.

When he finally emerged from the bedroom she looked up, "Weíre going to be late."

"Weíre not going to the office. I think we should go directly to your doctorís office. Letís clear these doubts up."

"Mulder, we canít just show up at Connieís office. Sheís a busy doctor, Iím sure she has a full day of appointments already set up."

"She wonít turn you down, Scully. She can at least set up some tests. Come on, we have to . . . you have to do this." He watched her shoulders slump but knew that she agreed with him.

Connie had agreed as well, setting up a PET scan and blood work immediately. Mulder remained with her when he was allowed; showing his support and helping her remain calm. It was only when they were separated that he allowed his anguish to show. Not again, this just could not be happening again.

When Connie finally called them in her office he was at wits end. It was as though she were supporting him again suddenly. "Dana, I have good news. The cancer has not returned." She waited for a moment for them both to begin breathing again. "I donít know whatís causing your symptoms. I think a further examination is called for, but there is no evidence of cancer. Are you okay?" Connie had risen now from behind her desk and put her hand on Scully's arm.

"I think so." Scully managed a tremulous smile, her other hand going out toward Mulder. He clasped it tightly, and after a minute assisted her to her feet.

"Dana, I want you to call me tomorrow. Iíll make an appointment for you and weíll talk about your symptoms. In the meantime, try to relax. Weíll find out whatís going on."

Her steps became steadier the closer they got to the car. "Are you really okay Scully?"

"Well, we still donít know whatís wrong with me, but yeah, Iím better. The PET scan . . . "

"Yeah." Theyíd reached the car by then and he opened the door for her. "We never got any breakfast, you up for some now?"

"Actually, Iíd like to get some fresh clothes. If you want to drop me off I can meet you at the office."

"You donít need to come in today Scully. Take some time, at least the rest of the day." When she didnít fight that statement he started the car and headed toward her place. At his insistence he walked her to her door. "Iíll call you later, see if you want to grab a bite or something."

"Mulder, thanks. Last night was . . . "

"Scully, youíre welcome to grace my bed anytime." She grinned at him and nodded. "Go. Let me get cleaned up. Iíll call you later."

"Make sure you do." He squeezed her hand and she let him out the door. She realized that even with him gone it didnít feel so bad here any more. Heíd done what she needed to feel better, both last night and today.

She made her way into her bedroom, purposely not looking to see if anything was out of place or missing. There she shucked her clothes and walked nude into the bathroom. She checked to make sure her robe was behind the door, good it hadnít been touched. She drew a tub for herself and turned on the radio she kept in there, finding some soft jazz to relax her as she soaked some more of her tension away. The cancer wasnít back, and sheíd awaken to the feel of Mulderís arms around her. She knew she was blushing even in the privacy of her own bath, but that didnít diminish the pleasure sheíd gotten.

When the water cooled she reluctantly rose and wrapped a towel around herself.

She was feeling almost her old self when she emerged from the bathroom. The cancer wasnít back. Sheíd had a very good nightís sleep, that thought brought a blush to her cheeks even though nothing had really happened. And Mulder believed her that something was going on. He had a theory already though he hadnít shared it with her and she hadnít had the energy to press.

She padded toward her bedroom in her bare feet, securing her robe around her. There was really no reason not to go in to work. It wasnít that late and she was positive that Mulder could use some help on the report they should have finished yesterday.

She glanced toward the living room and stopped dead still. It was in shambles, the couch sliced, the pillows disemboweled, the coffee table overturned, books on the floor.

The arms that went around her scared her into immobility. One arm around her waist, the other over her mouth. She had a moment to realize that the fear she had lived with had affected her more than even she had let on when she heard the voice in her ear.

"Did you wash all of him off of you? Where he touched you with his hands, his mouth, his penis? I thought you were better than that. I thought the traveling with him was legitimate, business only. Why did you stay with him last night?"

She couldnít respond with his hand over her mouth and he made no move to release her. Now they were moving backwards, towards her back door. Is that how he kept getting in? Mulder had checked, there had been no marks on that lock either.

She still hadnít seen his face. He was taller than she was, but not as tall as Mulder. He was strong, she wasnít sure she could have taken him even if she had been in top form. "Iím going to take my hand from your mouth. If you donít keep quiet you will be sorry." Scully nodded, she couldnít do anything at present, but she was alert now, sheíd find her chance.

A mask was dropped over her eyes. This man didnít want to take any chances on being seen. Then she felt handcuffs placed on her wrists. Her handcuffs she was sure. Now what was she to do? His arm left her waist now and his movements seemed to keep him as far from her as possible. What did that mean? Think, Dana, profile him! He was taking her out back of her apartment building now, she could smell the garbage cans and now into a car. He had opened the back door and was pushing her gently down, his hands only touching her shoulders. Should she be fighting him? He hadnít displayed a weapon, but he had to have at least a knife, the gouges in her couch had not been made by hand.

He seemed to be driving in circles, so he was trying to confuse her about their destination. Well, mission accomplished. How long had they been driving? Blindfolded it seemed like a long time but rationally it couldnít have been. Mulder wouldnít have any idea that she even needed him. Heíd check on her, but not answering the phone could mean she was asleep. He wouldnít realize at first there was a problem, not unless he came over, which he would eventually, but would he in time? Heíd think she was following his suggestion to stay home. Mulder, you know me so well Ė know that I need you now.