He was back with breakfast for them. It would have been more fun if he'd gotten up from her bed, but that was going to happen - at her pace. He'd never been more attracted to a woman, which made no sense. He didn't let people get close to him, it was safer that way, no one got hurt. But this woman, she had wormed her way into his life without breaking a sweat.
He transferred the bag with the Danish to the hand with the coffee tray and knocked on her door. To his surprise, the door swung open. That didn't feel right. He reached for his gun with his free hand. "Dana?"
He stepped farther into the room cautiously, "Dana? Are you here?"
Then he spotted her, crumpled and bloody on the floor in front of her couch.
"Oh shit!" He was on his knees beside her, checking for her pulse. His breathing started again when he found it, faint but there. Then he was yanking his phone from his suit pocket.
911 was responding. He hadn't hesitated to use his badge number and the 'officer down' phrase didn't hurt. "Dana, can you hear me? Please, say something. Open your eyes. It's me, it's Mulder, I'm here."
Nothing. He forced himself from her side to grab some towels and wet a washcloth. He very gently wiped some of the blood from her face. She'd need some plastic surgery, whoever had done this was angry.
Mulder felt his own anger grow. Whoever had done this would pay. He'd make sure of that. And he would find this bastard. "Dana, please, can you hear me?"
He could hear the siren now. "Help is almost here, Dana. Just hang on, please." Tires squealed in front of her building and he heard the EMTs hurrying up the front walk. They moved him out of the way and began examining her, making contact with the trauma center.
"Is she . . .” He had to swallow, "she'll be okay?"
"She's been beaten pretty badly. Are the police on the way?" He pulled out his badge. The EMT glanced at it then back up at him. "I hope you get this guy."
Something about his expression sent ice down Mulder's back. "What?"
"I just hate it when a man forces himself on a woman. This guy . . . “ He shook his head and turned back to his patient. Mulder took hold of the couch to stay on his feet.
He heard others enter the apartment but couldn’t turn to look. He was reeling from the words he was still trying to process.
The first uniform approached him as the second spoke to the paramedics. "Sir? Can you hear me? I'm Officer Harris, is this your wife?"
Mulder looked up then, "What?"
"I'm sorry, sir. Could I have your name?"
Mulder blinked, then pulled his badge out again. He still hadn't spoken.
"Agent, Agent Mulder. Is this a Bureau matter?" He motioned for his partner to join him.
"Dr. Scully is . . . I live upstairs. We, we've become friends. I was bringing some breakfast over." He motioned to the spilt Danish and coffee inside the front door.
The two policemen exchanged glances. This man wasn't on any case. He was devastated at what had happened to this woman.
"We need to transport." That caught everyone's attention as they turned back to the EMTs.
"I have to go with her."
"Agent Mulder, we need you to answer some questions."
"I'll make myself available." He handed them his card. "You can reach me through the Bureau at any time. The door was unlocked when I got here, I didn't see any sign of forced entry." He was beginning to function, barely, but they were not taking her from here without him.
The two officers saw that and were at a loss. Technically he out ranked them.
"Listen, officers, I want this man caught a lot more than you do. I will help you with this investigation, but right now, I am going to the hospital with her. Get your investigators over here and get all the forensics you can, don't screw this up."
They found themselves nodding, taking his orders as a matter of course. Then he was following the stretcher out.
After she was loaded into the ambulance, he raced for his own car and fell in behind them.
He kept his mind carefully blank for the drive. It wasn't until after he saw them wheel her into the trauma bay that reaction set in and he sank into the chair closest to her treatment area.
A nurse approached him shortly. "Sir? I'm sorry to bother you, but I need you to fill out a couple of forms."
"She's on staff here, can't you - "
"On staff?" She interrupted him startled. "Who is she?"
"Dana, uh Dr. Dana Scully."
"Oh my god, I didn't even recognize her." She looked back in that direction.
"Do you know how to reach her mother?"
"Uh, personnel would have it. I'll, I'll get it for you." She returned to the desk and spoke to several of the people there, then picked up the phone. Mulder watched more people move into her area. At least she was getting the best care.
He looked up to see a young female doctor standing in front of him again. "Were you going to call her mother?" She was holding out a piece of paper.
"Yeah, yeah I'll call her, but I need to know how she is first."
The woman nodded, "Let me see what I can find out."
She was back shortly, and obviously paler. He rose before she reached him. "Is she . . .?" He couldn't finish the sentence.
"Her injuries are not life threatening."
"I'm sorry, I'm not being very professional. I'm Dr. Atkins. I'm a friend of Dr. Scully's and . . . and her injuries are, are severe."
Mulder nodded, he couldn't have said it either. "But she's going to live?"
"Her doctors think her physical trauma will heal. They've called in a plastic surgeon, for her face."
Mulder nodded. "I'll, uh, I'll give her mother a call."
"Do you know Mrs. Scully?"
"I've met her. Why?"
"I just wondered if a phone call . . . “ She glanced over to that area again.
"Is it, is it safe to leave her?"
"They'll be working on her for some time. You wouldn't be able to see her. Are you . . . I didn't know she was seeing - "
"I'm her neighbor."
The woman absorbed that and seemed to dismiss it completely. "Neighbor. You're a very caring neighbor."
He didn't comment, looking down at his shoes.
"Look, it's none of my business, but if you know who she is seeing . . . He needs to get over here. She's going to need a lot of support, and not just from her mother."
He nodded, "I'll be back with her mother shortly."
That seemed to reassure the woman, and tell her what she needed to know.
He had no trouble locating the woman's house; the hard part was getting out of the car. He closed his eyes and rested his head against the steering wheel for a moment, then drew a deep breath and exited the car.
Mrs. Scully came to the door quickly and smiled broadly when she realized who stood before her. "Fox! Please come in. I certainly wasn't expecting to see you again so soon." She moved to allow him entry.
He stepped inside and stopped. "Mrs. Scully - "
Her smile faded, "Is something wrong?"
"Yes ma'am. I'm sorry, but Dana was hurt. Someone was in her apartment. She's going to be okay. She's at the hospital and they're taking good care of her. I've come to take you to her."
"Fox, how . . . how badly -"
"Her injuries are not life threatening. Her friend Dr. Atkins checked for me."
"Kim." Mrs. Scully nodded, slightly reassured. "What aren't you telling me?"
"He hurt her." Mulder looked down, not quite able to look her in the eye.
"He." Then realization dawned and her hand clutched as his arm.
"Mrs. Scully, maybe you’d better sit down." His arm went around her for support.
"No, no I need to see her. I need to see my baby girl."
He nodded and helped her out to his car. She asked no questions on the way to the hospital, merely clutching and unclutching her hands. He held her arm again as they made their way inside. Kim Atkins had obviously been watching for them and was at Mrs. Scully's side immediately.
"Mrs. Scully, Dana's with the plastic surgeon now. I'm sure you'll be able to see her shortly."
"Plastic . . .” She looked over at Mulder, who was focused on the area Dr. Atkins had indicated. "Kim, what else, what are her other injuries?"
Dr. Atkins looked at Mulder for an instant, then back at Mrs. Scully. "Why don't we step into the back here?" She took the older woman's arm. Mrs. Scully stopped, and took Mulder's hand as well.
He nodded, "thank you." They didn't release each other's hands as they followed Kim to a more private area.
Mulder seated Mrs. Scully, then they both looked at Kim.
"I'm not treating Dana. They wouldn't allow that, but I've been talking to the attending. She has several cracked ribs, a concussion, and several cuts on her face. Her kidneys are bruised but her internal injuries are being monitored."
"Kim." Mrs. Scully looked deeply into the young woman's eyes. "Please."
Kim looked over at Mulder, then away. "She was sexually assaulted. Mrs. Scully - "
"Oh my god." Her hands came up and covered her mouth. Mulder took a step closer. He wasn't sure whether or not she was going to faint. Until Kim had said it, she had held on to the hope - "No." It was a moan more than a word.
Mulder squatted down beside her, "Mrs. Scully, maybe you should lie down."
She shook her head, "I need to see her, I need to see Dana."
"She's been sedated Mrs. Scully. When they move her to her room you can see her. You know, with a daughter who's a doctor, that they wouldn't be working on her face if she were in any danger."
Mrs. Scully managed to nod and tightened her grip of Mulder's hand. "Can you stay?"
"Of course. I need to call in, and check in with the police to see if they've learned anything, but I won't leave."
He wasn't sure she heard him. He glanced up at Kim to see what he should do. She merely shook her head.
"I'll be right outside. Mrs. Scully, you stay here." She didn't respond. After another quick look at Kim, he pulled out his cell phone and punched in AD Skinner's number.
He explained quickly where he was and why, and that he would be in touch with the police. He quickly accepted Skinner's offer of assistance, then broke the connection and placed a call to an acquaintance with the police.
He broke off the phone call when he saw the curtains open, and a gurney with Dana on it emerge. He approached it without thinking.
"Dana? Can you hear me?"
"I'm sorry sir. We need to take her to her room."
"Is she . . . "
"We need to get her settled. Check with the nurse's station on fourth floor." They were moving again, away from him. That's when he remembered Mrs. Scully and turned to get her.
"Mrs. Scully? They're moving Dana to her room now."
She reached for him and he helped her to her feet. "Where?"
"Fourth floor. Where's Dr. Atkins?"
"She was called away. It's okay. “ She let him lead her to the elevator. “Fox? Could this be the same man that you rescued her from before?”
The question surprised him, he’d not thought about their first meeting. Even now it didn’t feel like there was a connection. “I don’t know Mrs. Scully. I’ll mention it to the police, but I don’t know how he would have known where Dana lived. He didn’t even have a name.”
She nodded, accepting his words for now.
They only had to wait outside of her room for a few minutes. When the nurse emerged Mrs. Scully moved to enter, then turned to him. ”Fox?”
“You don’t mind?”
“I’d appreciate it.”
He tried to smile but couldn’t. He was reeling from this. Who could do this to her? He felt the growing need to beat the shit out of something. He seated Mrs. Scully beside her bed and squeezed her shoulder. Mrs. Scully’s hand came up and clasped his.
They both looked up startled at the discreet tap on the door. An older man stuck his head in and nodded to Mrs. Scully, then motioned for Mulder to step outside.
Mulder leaned down. “That’s Detective Costas. I’ll be right back.”
He moved out into the hall, pulling the door closed behind him, and glancing inside once more through the window. “What have you found?”
“Not much. How’s she doing?”
“They have her sedated. She had to have plastic surgery. You found nothing in her apartment?”
“Listen Mulder, we just got started on this. We’ve lifted a lot of prints, some are yours.” Mulder nodded. “The, uh, the rape kit is being analyzed now. Are you and she . . . “
Mulder shook his head, “We haven’t been together.”
“Look, I’m sorry, but - “
“You’re doing your job. I want you to do whatever you have to do. Did anyone tell you about the assault here in the hospital a couple of weeks ago?”
“Yeah.” The detective looked down at his notes. “He’s out of the running, the perfect alibi. He’s in jail. We got him a couple of days after the attack. He was a kid trying to get drugs. She just came on him in the stairs. He was scared and confessed to the attack.”
“Did you tell her about this?”
“I, uh, I don’t know. She should have been notified.”
“Great. Look, I want that evidence analyzed. If you need the Bureau’s resources, you’ve got them.”
Costas nodded. “I really need to talk to her.”
Mulder looked grim. “I’ll let you know when you can.”
“Mulder, I’m sorry about - “
“Just find him, okay? I need to get back in there.”
“Yeah.” He looked over at the door.
“Dana? Dana, can you hear me?”
Dana turned toward the sound of her mother’s voice and struggled to open her eyes. “Ohhhh.”
Mulder stepped forward at the sound. Maggie looked up at him with sympathy in her eyes. “Honey, you’re going to be okay. You’re in the hospital.”
“Hospital?” She winced and reached up to touch the bandage on her forehead and over part of one eye.
“Yes Honey. But Fox found you. Kim says - “
“Wait, what?” Dana squinted, what had her mother said?
Maggie looked up at Fox and motioned him closer. “Fox got you help very quickly. You’re going to be fine.”
She looked over at the man approaching the bed. “You found me?”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there, Dana.”
She absorbed that for a moment. “Where did you find me?”
“Your apartment.” He reached for her hand and she shied away from him.
“Thank you . . . Fox?”
He froze then and looked up at her mother.
“Honey, you know Fox, don’t you?”
“I’m sorry I - “ Her look was one of fear now.
“Dana, it’s okay. Just relax Honey. You’re probably a little confused because of the blow to your head. Please don’t get upset.”
“Yeah, look, I’m probably in the way here. I’ll give you two some space. And, uh, I’ll tell the nurse she’s awake.” He looked at her for a moment, but she wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“Fox, I’ll give you a call.” Mrs. Scully spoke softly.
He nodded and turned toward the door.
“Mom, has Doug been here?”
Mulder stopped, his hand on the door. “Uh, no Dana.” She looked up at Mulder, then back at Dana. “Honey, I didn’t call him. You two aren’t seeing each other anymore.”
“What are you talking about?” Dana glanced over at Mulder and quickly away.
“Maybe . . . maybe I was mistaken. Just rest, Honey. I’ll go give Doug a call. Okay?”
“Thanks Mom.” She closed her eyes and Maggie allowed Mulder to lead her into the hall.
“Fox, please.” She put her hand on his arm. “Just give her a little time. She’s been through a traumatic experience. More so than even she knows. Give her a chance to - “
“Mrs. Scully - “
He managed a small smile. “Maggie. I’m okay. She’s the one we need to worry about. If . . . if she wants Doug here, then you should call him. I’ll, uh, I’ll check with the police, see how the investigation’s going. You should get back in there. Would you call me if - “
“Of course I will. I think you should stop by this evening. She should be more herself by then.”
He nodded and she gave him a quick hug.
He rode down the elevator in silence, but snatched the phone from his pocket once he reached the lobby.
“It’s Mulder. Where are you?”
“I’ll be right there.”
“Hey, how is she - “ But the detective realized he was speaking into a dead phone. What had happened?
He looked up as he heard Mulder approach him. The look on the younger man’s face didn’t bode well. He rose from his chair. “What happened? Were you able to question her?”
Mulder sank into the chair beside the desk. “No.”
“Is she . . . Mulder?”
“She doesn’t remember.”
Costas leaned back slightly. “Well that’s fairly common, isn’t it? I mean, she had a concussion and . . . Mulder?”
“She doesn’t remember me. She’s lost more than just this morning.”
“Oh. Hey, Mulder, you shouldn’t jump to any conclusions. You couldn’t have talked to her that long.”
Mulder sighed, looking at the ceiling for a minute. “Okay, what have you got?”
Costas opened the file. Three sets of prints, hers, yours and a Douglas Michaels. You know him?”
“Yeah, she was seeing him until . . . Why were his prints on file?”
The detective ran his finger down the page. “He’s an investment banker, he’s bonded so he had to have his prints taken.”
Mulder nodded, but his eyes had narrowed. “You need to check on this guy.”
“We did, no criminal record, not even a parking ticket. We’re going to question him, but - “
“I want to be there.”
“Hold it. No way, this is not your investigation.”
“I don’t . . . this guy was upset when she told him she didn’t want to see him anymore.”
“Fine, I’ll keep that in mind, but you’re not interrogating him. Mulder, you’re part of the case. Have you met the man?”
“And you didn’t like him. Another reason to stay out of this. If he was her boyfriend, then you’re already prejudiced against him.”
Mulder started to speak again, but he couldn’t really dispute anything said. Finally he leaned back again. “I need to stay in the loop.”
“Okay. But let us handle this.”
“What about the DNA?”
Costas actually grinned then, “What did I just say? They’re working on it - it’ll be a week anyway and then, unless the guy’s in some database as a repeat offender - “
“Mulder, you know the case load.” He looked at the agent for a minute, “I’ll put a rush on it, call it a Bureau matter.”
Mulder nodded his thanks and stood. “Mulder, I’ll stay on this.”
“Thanks. You know how to reach me.”
Costas nodded. “Listen, check back with Dr. Scully. I’m sure she’ll remember you.”
“Yeah, but is that a good thing?” He turned then and headed for his car, leaving a confused detective behind him.
Mulder looked through the glass in her door. He didn’t see Maggie, but Dana was awake, so he tapped on the door and let himself in.
“Dana? How are you feeling?”
She looked over at him startled. “Fox, right?”
His heart sank, though he tried to keep it from his face. He kept a distance between them rather than take her hand, as he wanted. “Still don’t know me, huh?”
“It’s not your fault. Is . . . is Maggie here?”
“She went to get a bite to eat.”
He nodded, unsure what to say to this woman he had been so open with just days ago. “I’ve, uh, I’ve talked to Detective Costas. He’s going to be working hard to find the man - “
“What the hell are you doing here?”
Mulder turned as Dana jumped at the intrusion. “Doug? Do you know Fox?”
We’ve met.” Was his clipped answer. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“I wanted to see how Dana was doing.” He wanted to ask if Doug had a problem with that, but managed to hold his tongue in deference to her.
“She’s fine, but she doesn’t need visitors.”
“Doug, its - “
“The doctor said you were to rest. I’m sure Mr. Mulder would want to respect that.”
Again Mulder managed to show restraint, though he wanted to flatten this pompous little shit. “Doug’s right, Dana. You should rest. If you need anything from your apartment - “
“Why would you be anywhere near her apartment?”
“I wouldn’t necessarily, but since I live upstairs . . . “
The smaller man froze and Mulder saw his eyes
bug out. “You . . . you live . . . “
”Right upstairs. Funny we haven’t passed in the hall.”
“When . . . when did you - “
“About three weeks ago.” Mulder stated calmly, watching and weighing the man’s obvious unease. After a short silence Mulder turned toward the bed again. “Dana, I’ll check on you again later.”
She smiled tentatively, slightly unnerved herself at Doug’s reaction. Mulder let himself out and moved down the hall until he was out of sight of her room. Then he stopped, and leaned his back against the wall. What the hell had that been about?
“Fox?” He opened his eyes to see Maggie approaching him, a worried expression on her face.
“Maggie.” He managed to smile.
“Did you see her?”
“For a second. Doug was there.”
Maggie rolled her eyes.
That brought a chuckle to his lips. “Thanks.”
”Sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I’ve been a mother long enough to know you can’t criticize choices.” She sighed, “as much as you’d like to.”
“Have you spent much time with him?”
“Very little. In fact, I had the impression she wasn’t seeing him anymore.”
“She wasn’t. But that memory is apparently gone too.” He glanced back in the direction of her room.
“Don’t worry, Fox. She’ll remember soon.”
He sighed and nodded. “Does she know about . . . “
“Yes. She’s being Dana, stoic and strong. She doesn’t want to talk about it. She’s going to have to get help, but she’ll have to reach that conclusion herself.”
“I talked with Detective Costas. I’m not letting this filter down in the stack.”
“Thank you, Fox. I think they’re going to let her go home tomorrow. I’m still trying to talk her into coming home with me.”
“Is she resisting that?”
“Of course. It would be a sign of weakness.” She sighed, “I need to get back in there. I’m just not comfortable around Doug.”
“Will you call me if you need anything?”
“Thank you, Fox. I will.” She turned back toward her daughter’s room.
Mulder watched her walk away, but after a couple of seconds, didn’t actually see her, his mind clicking into gear.
Why had Doug been so freaked that he lived in the building? Where had the man been this morning? Okay, he wasn’t officially part of the investigation but when had he ever followed any rules?
He pulled the phone from his inside coat pocket and dialed. “Danny, it’s me. I need some information about a Douglas Michaels. Everything you can get. Yeah. Yeah, I’m headed in. Thanks.”
Costas looked up to see Mulder looming over him. "Shit, Mulder could you make a little noise when you move?" He shook the hot coffee off of his fingers.
"Sorry. But you need to bring Michaels in."
"Yeah, he's the one that attacked Dr. Scully."
"You got proof? Come on Mulder, we’ve worked together enough - "
"Have you taken his DNA?"
"No, but he admits they were lovers. She agrees. Mulder, if he had been the one to attack her, she'd recognize - "
"She doesn't remember. She's blocked it out of her memory."
"What about his alibi?"
"He got to work on time. That's not an alibi, this attack happened early in the morning. I'd gone out to get breakfast before the attack. Why are you going easy on this guy? Because he's a banker?"
"No, because he's a friend of the victim and he's spending time with her, giving her comfort and support. Look, I can understand why you'd think - "
"He did it. He's using her memory lapse to cover himself and make nice. She had dumped him, I know he came over and confronted her once about that."
"But you're the only one that remembers that."
"No, she doesn't remember it and he's lying. Bring him in. Have him take a polygraph. Take his DNA. Treat him like a real suspect, because that's what he is."
"Yeah, and ask him if he knows anyone else who lives in her building."
"That's what set him off. He was furious that she had dumped him. Then he found out that I was living there, but he thought I was living with her. That sent him over the edge, don't you see? He was punishing her for being with me. He found out yesterday that I'm not living with her. If you go after him now, before he has a chance to regroup . . . "
Costas sighed, "That's flimsy."
Mulder shrugged, "Prove me wrong."
He knocked on the door and looked directly at the peephole, so that she could see him clearly. After a long moment she opened the door to the length of the chain on the door.
"Dana, could I come in?"
She looked at him, then nodded and shut the door. It opened again and she stood aside to let him enter.
"I tried to find your mother, but she wasn't home."
"She just left. She went to get some things from the store for me."
He nodded. "They, uh, they've arrested someone in your case. I wanted you to hear it from me. You want to sit down?"
She looked him over and finally nodded, seating herself on one end of the couch. He took the other end, as far from her as possible.
He watched her, taking in her unease. "You still don't remember me. I'm sorry if I'm making you uncomfortable."
"You . . . you said they had arrested someone?"
"Yes, Doug, Doug Michaels."
"Doug? No, he - "
"He's confessed, Dana. When he, when he thought you had taken another lover so soon after throwing him over, he snapped."
"Who, who did he think I was sleeping with?"
"Oh." She looked down, flustered.
"He, he didn't realize that I had moved in upstairs. He's the one that keyed my car as well. I guess you don't remember that either."
She shook her head. "I . . . I wouldn't think Doug was capable of what - "
"I don't think he knew he was either. Do you remember how he reacted when he found out I lived upstairs?"
"He was . . . I think he regrets it, but . . . that's not enough. He hurt you badly. Maybe you'll forgive him some day. I won't."
She didn't speak, just watching him.
"Well, I uh . . . “ He rose from the couch. "You'd probably like to be alone now. I'll head upstairs. You're okay, aren't you? When's your mother due back?"
"I'm okay. Thank you. I just . . . I need to think about . . . Thank you for the information." She knew that sounded formal, unemotional, but she needed to stay in control.
She rose as well, to see him out. Before either of them could move, they heard the knock on the door. He saw the fear immediately form in her eyes. "You want me to get it?"
"What? Uh, no, I'll get it." She glanced up at him and away. She moved toward the door. She checked the peephole and frowned. He moved slightly closer to her. She noted it and smiled her thanks.
"Dana? You remember me?"
"Dana, this is Melvin Frohike. He's a friend of mine, you've met him a couple of times."
She nodded, "You do look familiar."
Mulder turned to look at her then. "Really?"
Frohike grinned, and backhanded Mulder in the chest. "Women don't forget the Frohike charm, tall guy."
She actually chuckled at that, and seemed to relax a little.
"I was looking for you, Mulder. I have that info you wanted. When you weren't upstairs, I thought I'd check down here." He glanced over at Dana. "I'll get out of here, glad you're feeling better."
She involuntarily touched the bandage on her forehead. "Thank you."
"See you guys later." Frohike clapped Mulder on the shoulder and left the apartment, pulling the door closed behind him.
Mulder turned immediately to Dana. "You recognized him?"
"I . . . I'm not sure. When I looked out at him, I was . . . he was kind of scary looking, but then I remembered that you were here."
Mulder blinked at that. "Thank you."
"But when he came in, there was something about him . . . I'd seen him before, in a good context. I mean, he wasn't scary anymore. When did I meet him?"
"He helped me move in here. He and two other guys, my friends, Byers and Langly. You shared a pizza with them, and fortunately my taste in friends didn't scare you off."
She managed a smile at that. "I think a lot of things would be less scary with you around." That statement surprised even her.
He automatically reached out to her, but stopped himself. "That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."
"I don't remember you. I wish I did."
"I wish you did too." He nodded and opened the door again. "I'm upstairs if you need anything."
She shut the door behind him and felt a deep sadness. She made her way back to the couch and sat trying to assimilate the information he had brought.
That's where she was sitting when her mother let herself back into the apartment. "Dana? Did something happen?" She dropped the bag she was carrying and hurried to her daughter's side.
That was when Dana realized she was crying. "I'm okay. Mr. Mulder was here earlier. They . . . they arrested Doug." Her mother nodded. "You knew?"
"Fox told me he had done it.
I didn't know they had the proof."
"Why didn't you say something?"
"Because you were leaning on the man and you didn't remember. Fox believed it was him, he was positive, but he didn't want to upset you. That's why he came to me."
"He was protecting me?"
"Oh yes. That man would do anything to protect you. He's devastated that he . . . allowed this to happen. I've tried to tell him that he couldn't have known, but . . ."
"He cares that much about me?"
"I've never seen anyone so upset and . . . guilty. You two had become very close in a very short time. I've gotten to know him a little bit over the last few days. I don't know why he feels as guilty as he does, I feel like he's absorbed a lot of guilt in his life and is used to it. Of course, I don't know that, it's just a feeling."
"You like him."
"Very much. I hope that's not the kiss of death for him."
Dana managed to smile then, "No. He is an attractive man."
"A friend of his stopped by while he was here, looking for him. Did he spend much time here?"
"I don't know."
"Oh! His friend, Melvin Frohike, he looked familiar."
"Familiar? That's wonderful. Do you know from where?"
Dana shook her head. "Mom, I'm tired."
"Why don't I stay here tonight, Dana? I don't want you to - "
"Mom, thanks. But I need some time. Doug's in . . . in custody. I'll be safe. And Mr. Mulder is upstairs, in an emergency."
"Would you call him?" Her mother asked softly.
"I . . . I think I would."
Maggie nodded and after a moment, bent to pick up the groceries she had dropped when she entered the apartment. "I got everything on your list and some dinner for you. I'll head on home, but promise me you'll call Fox or me if you need anything."
"Thanks Mom. I'm okay." She shook her head at her mother's expression. "Well, I will be."
"I know." Maggie hugged her, then reluctantly left for home.
Dana forced herself to eat some of the dinner her mother had brought her, and put away the supplies she had gotten. She turned on the TV, but in a few minutes flipped it back off. She couldn't get interested in the book she had been reading, or even the magazine on her coffee table. She wasn't sleepy either, instead she found herself pacing around the apartment.
Doug had come into her apartment and . . . and . . . She closed her eyes. She shuddered, suddenly incredibly lonely. She had trusted Doug, given her body to him willingly many times. And he had done this because she had wanted to quit seeing him? What kind of man would do that? This Mulder wouldn't. She already knew that about him, if nothing else.
Maybe a nice warm bath would help. But instead she found herself in her bedroom. She opened the drawer in her bedside stand and pulled out her address book.
It was there, Mulder's phone number. She'd known it would be somehow. Her mother wouldn't deceive her and somehow she knew he wouldn't either."
Before she would allow herself to change her mind, she dialed.
"Hello. This is - "
"Dana. Are you okay?"
She took a deep breath. "I'm not sure how to answer that. I'm lonely but I don't want you to come down. Could you just talk to me a little?"
"I'd love to." She could hear him getting settled. "We've done this before."
"Yeah. I have to travel in my job and when I'm out of town, you feed my fish and I call you to check on them."
"I feed your fish?" She
laughed a little nervously, was he kidding?
"Yeah, you have a key. You're the only one I could trust with such a heavy responsibility."
"Not Mr. Frohike?"
He laughed out loud then. "Oh no, I like finding them alive when I return."
She felt herself relaxing for the first time in ages. "Tell me how we met."
She woke the next morning rested, her headache barely noticeable. After a quick shower she dressed and fixed breakfast. She was washing up when she heard the knock at the door.
For the first time that morning she felt a nervousness come over her. She moved toward the door and when she saw him felt her shoulders relax.
She opened the door, and smiled.
"I guess I should have called first, but I wanted to see if you were okay."
"I'm okay. Thanks for keeping me company last night."
"I was very glad to do it. When you're . . . when you're up to it, I'd like to take you to a place we went before. It's a . . . a relaxing place. We . . . we were close then, the closest we'd gotten."
"I'd like to see it."
He nodded, "When you're feeling better."
"I am feeling better."
"I'm sorry. You have to work." And her boldness surprised even her.
"No, no I don't have to be anywhere today. But are you sure you want to . . . to go somewhere with a stranger."
"I'm not sure you really classify as a stranger. From what I hear, you've saved me several times. And my mother really likes you."
He mock cringed. "And that doesn't turn you off?"
She grinned, "No, but don't tell her that." She sobered, "You wouldn't hurt me, would you?"
"Never." She heard the depth of that statement
She nodded then. "Take me to this place, the place where we were close."
"Call your mother. I'm not going to take you anywhere without her knowing about it."
"Okay." She reached for her phone. "Mom? No, I'm fine. Mulder is here. I've asked him to take me to a place he told me about, someplace he says he took me before. He wanted you to know." She nodded, "Sure, here he is."
She handed the phone to Mulder. "Maggie?"
"What's going on Fox?"
"She wants me to take her to a place in Virginia. It was the last place we went together. I think she wants to remember."
"I know she does. Thank you for calling me. Fox, keep an eye on her. She's not as strong as she wants everyone to believe."
"I know. You still have my cell phone number? We'll have it with us."
"Thank you, Fox. I hope this works."
"Me too. I'll give you back to Dana." He handed her the phone. "I'm gonna get some things. I'll be right back."
When he returned he'd changed into jeans and t-shirt.
She couldn't stop her review of his body as he stood in front of her and she suddenly wondered if she had made a good decision.
"If you've changed your mind, I understand."
She met his eyes startled. Was she that transparent?
He gave her a worried smile, "The last thing I want to do is rush you."
She straightened her shoulders. "No, I want to do this. I haven't been anywhere but the hospital or inside here in days. You cleared it at work?"
"Yeah, they're glad to have me out of the place."
She looked puzzled at that. "Don't worry about it. I'll explain later. Be honest Dana, do you want to do this?"
"Honestly? Yes and no." He nodded, watching her closely. "But after last night, if I'm going to heal, I feel like you could help."
"I want to."
"Were you this good a neighbor at your last apartment?"
He laughed then, "You know, there are some things you'd be better off not remembering. Especially about me."
Dana took a deep breath. "Let's go." He smiled, then his hand came up to touch her back. He stopped himself and shrugged. She noted the gesture and held her silence, moving ahead of him out of her door.
The closer to Skyland Mountain they got, the quieter she became. He was ready to offer to turn around when she looked over at him. "We were here?"
"Yeah. Nothing looks familiar?"
She shook her head and seemed to shrink slightly.
"Hey, don't give up yet. Wait until you see the beautiful spot I'm taking you. Dana, you know I'll take you home, right now, if you want."
"Dana, you don't have to be strong for me."
She was quiet then, so he kept on driving. When he pulled into the parking lot and stopped the car, he felt her shudder. Rather than ask again, he let himself out of the car. He opened the trunk, giving her time, but she let herself out and came back to meet him. He threw the blanket over his shoulder and reached for the bag.
"Aren't I supposed to carry the blanket?"
He looked up at her and after a moment nodded, transferring the blanket to her shoulder. "Thanks."
He led her to the spot they had visited before, occasionally taking her hand to help her over the terrain, but otherwise allowing her to move without him.
He stopped finally, "This is the place."
She turned to look at the vista and allowed him to take the blanket from her shoulder and spread it out. When he turned back to her, she was rubbing her forehead.
"Dana? You okay?"
"My head . . . I - "
She stumbled and he caught her. "Dana!"
"I can't . . . Oh my god . . .” She collapsed into his arms then, sobbing.
"Dana, Dana can you hear me?"
God, what had he done, bringing this fragile woman out to the middle of nowhere? She was completely hysterical, but instead of pushing him away, she was clawing at him, trying to get closer to him. He tightened his hold and lowered both of them to the blanket.
He held her close, so that she couldn't harm herself. He couldn't leave her to get help, so he spoke softly to her, letting her get it all out.
Her grip finally eased and her breath began hitching. He realized she had cried herself to sleep. Now what was he supposed to do? He eased her down onto the blanket, but she shivered, so he lay down beside her and drew her back into his arms. That seemed to satisfy her and he felt her relax slightly.
He smoothed the hair back from her face and pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead. How could he have put her in this position? He did have that damn degree in psychology - why hadn't it occurred to him to use it? He'd promised Maggie to look after her.
Her sleep wasn't peaceful, but he held her when she struggled with her dreams, and after a little more than an hour she opened her eyes.
"Mu . . . Mulder?"
"It's okay. I'll take you home."
She shook her head, "I remember."
"What we talked about here, you, and . . . and what Doug did." She shivered then and moved closer to the warmth of his body.
"Dana, I'm sorry. I didn't think, I wanted you to remember, but not like this. I need to get you home."
"No, not yet."
"Tell me what you need."
“I need to see the sunset.”
His mouth fell slightly open at those words and then the smile began to grow in his eyes. “Yeah. That’s a good idea.”
She cuddled in, not speaking, just absorbing the peace of the place. Finally she took a deep breath. "This is the place where we decided to take it slow." He nodded.
"Mulder, do you still want a relationship with me?" She said it quickly, needing to get the words out.
He blinked, "Do you doubt it? I'm here, I want to be here with you."
"Make love with me."
"Here? Now?" She had caught him completely off guard.
Dana nodded. "Do you have any protection?"
"Uh, if you're talking about the condom in my wallet, it's been there since high school and I really wouldn't trust it."
She laughed lightly at that. "There should be some in my bag."
"You, uh, you always carry condoms?"
"They distribute them at the clinic."
"I love a woman who can take care of me." He kissed her thoroughly, "but I'm not sure this is a wise idea. You were just in the hospital."
"Then you'll have to be gentle." She murmured as she nipped at his throat.
"You're, uh, very persuasive . . . oh god."
They held each other as the sun went down. When the colors faded, he looked back down at her. "You're incredible."
She smiled up at him, relaxed and at peace. "This was the right place and the right time."
She sighed then and looked back at the sky. "What'cha thinking?" He asking, watching her.
"To be honest, that I should invest in Adam and Eve."
She laughed then, "It's the company in North Carolina that supplies the clinic with . . . supplies."
He laughed out loud then, "Are you kidding?"
"Nope, it's a real company. And right now my gratitude knows no bounds." She grinned at him. "I could stay here forever."
He nodded. "But as much as I hate to say it, it's going to get dark quick. We should head back to the car."
She sighed and reluctantly nodded. He rose to his feet and gently pulled her to her feet. When she winced his grip tightened. "You okay?"
"You sure?" She could hear the concern in his voice.
"Mulder, you were very gentle, but you can't help how . . . well endowed you are. I'm not complaining."
He shook his head then, just looking at her. After a moment he bent to pick up the blanket, which he shook out and placed over her shoulder again. He gathered up their trash and stuffed it in his bag. He took her hand then, and they headed back to the car.
He started the engine, then pulled his phone from his pocket. "Call your mother. We've been gone a lot longer than she thought, I'm sure."
She nodded and dialed. "Mom? Hi. Thought I'd check in. No, we're in Virginia, but headed home. Mulder. Mom, I remember him, I remember it all."
Mulder glanced over at her. Not all her memories were pleasant unfortunately. She looked at him and smiled. "She wants to speak to you."
He took the phone. "Maggie?"
"Is it true? She remembers?"
"Yes. I think she's okay."
"I'm sure she is, thanks to you. I don't know what you did, but I'm eternally grateful."
Dana watched the dark red take over his face, but his words were steady. "Your daughter is an incredible woman."
"True, but now I can see her happy as well. Be careful and tell Dana I'll talk to her tomorrow." She hung up the phone and Mulder disconnected his own.
"You okay Mulder?"
"I . . . I've never had a mother thank me for . . . that before."
"She's wise, Mulder, but she's not psychic.
She probably still doesn't know."
"God, I hope not. I want her to like me."
"Don't worry. She adores you. You're all she talked about while I was in the hospital. She only left me alone last night because you were upstairs and I promised to call you if I needed anything."
"Way, Mulder. She thinks you're the world's best neighbor."
"What about her daughter?"
"Oh, she thinks having you live in the building could be damn convenient."
"Yeah, I think she would like to see a lot of you. Get to know you better than she's known anyone. Having you live upstairs could be considered 'convenient'."
The smile he shot her was reassuring. "The fact that you remember me and want to know more is . . . I don't know a word for it. It's never happened before."
"Do I get to hear how many times you've tried it?"
"That could take a couple of minutes. Dana, I haven't had a 'relationship' since I got back from England. I've gone out a few times, but - "
"You've been back from England for years, Mulder."
"I've been trying to find my sister, and working. I spend free time with the guys, but most of the time I work."
"You called in today without even hesitating."
"I wanted to be with you. I'm not sure how you did it, but . . . you're different. I can't . . . being with you feels right. It feels . . . complete."
Her eyes grew wide at that.
"Now I am scaring you." He sounded uneasy.
"No, not exactly scaring."
"Reading my mind."
He looked over at her, then back at the road. As soon as it was possible, he pulled the car over and put it in park. "Say that again."
"I'm not calling you Spooky." She didn't know how to feel under his intense gaze.
"What do you mean, reading your mind."
"Mulder, I feel the same. We hadn't said more than a dozen words to each other when I knew that I didn't want to see Doug anymore. I didn't know if I would ever see you again, but I knew that what I had with Doug wasn't right, wasn't enough. I felt like I knew you. It wasn't just that you put me at ease when you rescued me in the stairwell, or that you recognized me at the restaurant. Mulder, I've never done it, but if you hadn't moved in, I would have called you." She saw the disbelief on his face. "Don't you believe me?"
"God, I want to."
"Relax, Mulder. You still have a lot to learn about me too."
"I'm beginning to think it wasn't just an incredibly lucky coincidence that I moved into your building."
"Oh we do have a lot to talk about. Your place or mine?"
"Well, mine has a bed."
He laughed out loud then. "Come on neighbor. Let's go home."
She smiled and leaned back. She felt healed, well healing anyway and she couldn't wait to complete the task - with him.