Nightmares (R)


 

 

He woke with a gasp; sweat drenching his t-shirt.  He fell back against the pillow, trying to get his breath.  Nightmare, but what was the dream?  And did he want to remember?  Scully - she'd been gone.  He closed his eyes, oh yeah.  It was like she'd been flung back, away from him, a look of shock and . . . and pain on her face.

It was just a dream.  Nothing had happened to Scully.  She was perfectly fine.  He found the phone in his hand anyway.

"He . . . Hello?"   He'd obviously woken her.  "Mulder?"

"That predictable, huh?" 

"Are you okay?" 

"Yeah, yeah, I m fine."  

"Go back to sleep Scully.  I'm sorry I woke you."  

She glanced over at the clock, almost one.  She'd only been asleep about an hour.  "Why don't I come over?"  

"No, Scully.  I shouldn't have - "

"I'll be there in a little while."   She hung up and rose from the bed.

He held the phone for a long moment then hung up himself.  No way was he going to admit, even to himself, how relieved he was she had overruled him.

He rose from the bed and stripped off his t-shirt and wiped the sweat from his chest.  He dropped the shirt on the floor and moved on into the living room.  He sank onto the couch to wait for her.

Then she was there, in front of him.  He could hear her talking, but he couldn't make out the words.  Suddenly she was moving backwards away from him, but her feet weren't moving.  She reached for him and he grabbed for her but missed.  She was picked up off of her feet and flung back, her arms out, her face a mask of pain.  He could see her lips form his name.  He looked down and his hand was in front of him, a gun in it - pointed at her.

Then he felt a hand on his face.  "Mulder, wake up.  I'm right here." 

"Scully?"  

"I could hear you out in the hall."   He sat up and scrubbed his face with his hands.  He tried to rise, but her hand on his shoulder stopped him.  "Let me lock back up, Mulder.  Just stay there." 

He ran a hand through his already sleep-mussed hair and did as she bade. 

She returned to his side quickly and sat beside him.  "Was it the same dream?  You were screaming my name." 

He nodded his head, exhausted.

"Okay, don't worry about it now.  Come here."   She kicked off her shoes and drew him to her.  He didn't resist, letting her cradle his head in her lap.  She pulled the afghan down over him and brushed the hair away from his forehead.

She could feel him relax with her there, and made herself comfortable in the corner.  With each other there, they both drifted off to sleep quickly.

He woke sometime later, nuzzling into her stomach   He realized where he was immediately and looked up.  She was asleep with her fingers in his hair.  She was going to have a stiff neck if she stayed like that the rest of the night.  He shifted on the couch, pulling her down to lie beside him and shared the afghan with her.  He was asleep again almost immediately.

The next time he woke was when she squirmed into him and hiked her leg across him.  That movement brought him wide awake instantly.  The sound coming from deep in his chest roused her slightly and her hand moved down to see what her knee had encountered.

"Uh, Scully . . . "

She opened her eyes then to find herself partially atop her partner, her hand nearly groping his hard-on through his boxers.  She snatched her hand back. Oh my god.

"Scully, it's okay.  It's . . . let s just decide it's a normal morning phenomena." 

"Normal morning . . . "

"Well sure, on the nights I use you as a security blanket."  

The heat in her face increased, and she tried to move farther away.  "Uh, listen Scully.  I'll uh . . . "  He gestured vaguely in the direction of his bathroom.

She nodded, not looking him in the eye, trying not to look anywhere near him.

When he returned, she was in the kitchen watching the coffee brew.  "Scully?  I'm sorry."   He was wearing sweats now and a t-shirt.

She shook her head, but didn't speak.

"You should take first shower.  The hot water doesn't always last." 

"I'll, uh, I'll shower at home." 

"You're welcome to - "

She shook her head and picked up the coffeepot to pour herself a cup.  He saw that her hand was shaking, but made no comment.  When she held out the pot to him, he nodded and reached for his own mug.

She was uncomfortable with him.  She had come over here in the middle of the night because he had needed her and now she was uncomfortable with him, embarrassed.

"I really appreciate what you did for me last night, coming over here." 

She shrugged, focusing on the coffee.

"Scully, are you sorry you came?" 

She looked up, surprised.  "No." 

"Please don't be embarrassed about . . . about this morning."  

"Mulder, I'm not - "

"Yes, you are." 

She glanced away.  "A little." 

"Listen, you came over here to help me.  And you did.  I should have sent you to the bed when I woke up, but I couldn't.  It was too right holding you.  The problem is, I took advantage of you. You're obviously uncomfortable with me like this.  I knew that, but I didn't take your feelings into consideration.  I'm sorry Scully." 

She wanted to dispute his words, brush aside his apology, but how could she explain that? 

"What . . . what was the dream?" 

He blinked at that.  Well, as least it was a safer topic.  "I was facing you and you started to speak, then you screamed for me and, and I think you were shot.  You flew back and . . . "  He took a deep breath, "It reminded me of when Johnny Barnett shot you at the theatre."   He shuddered slightly at the memory. 

"It was just a - " 

"Just a dream, I know.  But I still appreciate you coming over to keep the demons away last night." 

"I should get going." 

He nodded. "Scully, are we okay?" 

"Sure.  I'll see you at the office." 

He seemed to deflate a little, but walked her to the door.  "See you in a little while." 

She moved out the door without looking back. 

It was strained in the office that day.  He wanted to clear the air, but didn't know how.  When he left for the afternoon, he was depressed and unsettled.  She didn't look much better, but she obviously didn't want to talk about it. 

He made a pretense of eating some leftovers, answered some emails and finally found an old movie on the Sci Fi channel.  He didn't consciously decide not to go to bed, but that's what happened. 

When she flew back away from him, he jerked awake with her name of his lips.  Shit!  Now what?  He was still dressed, maybe if he went out.  He wasn't going to get any sleep regardless of his location.  He slipped on his shoes, patted his jeans pocket for his keys and let himself out of the apartment.  He trotted to his car and pulled out; there was a bar he'd been to several times.  But he drove past it without a second glance. 

If he were honest, he'd known where he was heading as soon as he woke up.  He didn't have to wake her; he just needed to be close to her.  And yes, he knew he was an idiot. 

All of her lights were out; she'd probably been asleep a couple of hours.  He let himself in quietly.  Her bedroom door was open and he looked in.  It didn't look like he had disturbed her.  He toed off his shoes and made himself comfortable on her couch. 

He slept the rest of the night and when he heard her alarm go off the next morning, slipped out before she could spot him. 

That worked the next two nights as well, but he should have known better.  Hell, he did know better, but the sleep, the comfort seemed worth it. 

By the fourth night, he had gotten complacent.  He didn't hear every sound she made anymore, having become familiar with her sleeping patterns.  So when she broke that pattern and rose to go to the bathroom, he slept through it. 

When she emerged, something caught her eye; he shifted or moved somehow.  She was wide-awake instantly and stepped cautiously toward the living room.  Mulder shifted again to get more comfortable and she recognized him. 

"What the hell do you think you're doing!"   She flipped on the light and was looming over him before he knew what was happening. 

"Uh, Scully . . . " 

"Yeah, Scully.  What are you doing here?"  

"Well, I . . . I  . . I don't have a good reason." 

"You don't have a good reason.  Do you have any reason at all?"  

"Yeah, kind of one."  

"Well?"   Her arms were crossed and her eyebrow was sky high. 

"The, uh, the nightmare.  The one where you were . . . It, uh, it came back."  

She still didn't speak, just watching him. 

"I didn't want for you to have to come over and . . . "  He hung his head, "You wouldn't have come anyway, right?  Look, I'm sorry.  I . . . "  He looked for his shoes and slipped his feet into them. 

"I'll go.  I am sorry."   She still didn't speak and made no attempt to stop him as he let himself out of her apartment. 

***** 

He was in the office when she arrived.  She entered, slamming the door behind her.  "Was that the first night you've done that?"  

"What?"   He knew exactly what she meant, but needed time. 

Her eyes narrowed.  "Exactly how many nights have you been sleeping on my couch?  Is that question clear enough?" 

"Scully, I . . . four nights."   His shoulders sagged. 

"Four!"   She sank into the chair across from him, stunned. 

He nodded miserably. 

"You've had the nightmare every night?"  

"No, I haven t had the nightmare since I've been at your place.  I don't have the dream at your apartment."  

She shook her head, and rose. 

"Scully?"  

"Not now, Mulder."   She headed for the door and he wasn't sure he could get to his feet if he wanted to.  What had he done? 

She didn't reappear in the office that day and he sure as hell didn't have the nerve to go looking for her.  When he let himself into his apartment that evening he was as depressed as he remembered being for at least twenty years. 

He had a beer for dinner and couldn't finish that.  He found himself staring at the phone, but he didn't dare pick it up.  He'd made an absolute fool of himself and he'd used her.  He'd betrayed her trust and used her.  Had he honestly thought he could spend every night in her apartment and her not find out? 

He flipped on the television.  It was on the Spice Channel and he left it there.  He didn't care; he wasn't going to be watching it.  He just needed the noise. 

He did fall asleep, finally, on the couch.  The nightmare jerked him awake a little while later.  He rose from the couch and stripped the sweat dampened t-shirt from his body.  Shit, he'd had a faint hope that it wouldn't happen.  It had been five nights.  No, he'd been deluding himself.  It had been inevitable.  He took a shower, cleaned his apartment and finally left for work a little after 5 a.m.  There was no reason to hang around. 

When she arrived, she only hesitated an instant before entering the office.  He looked up, but didn't speak.  Anything he said would probably make things worse, if that were possible. 

"Good morning," she spoke formally. 

"Morning."   He turned back to the paperwork he'd almost finished.  It was fairly easy to do this kind of work when someone was trying desperately not to think about what was going on in the rest of the world. 

She could tell he hadn't slept, but she refused to feel sorry for him.  He was, theoretically, an adult.  Okay, he suffered from nightmares, but he had for years.  This wasn't her responsibility. 

They stood there, neither knowing what to say to the other.  Mulder was actually relieved when the phone rang.  "Mulder."  

"I need you up here".   No need to identify that voice. 

"Yes, sir."  

Mulder rose.  "Skinner wants us."  

"A case?"  

Mulder shrugged, but he certainly hoped so.  Then at least they'd have something to talk about.  He trailed her to the elevator, but didn't put his hand on her back as he usually did.  She noted it, but didn't know whether to feel grateful or not. 

"Agents."   Skinner nodded to them when they entered his office.  "Have a seat."  

"Is . . . is there a problem, Sir?"   Scully asked as they sat. 

"I received a call.  I need you in New Orleans.  We got a call . . . " 

"Sir?"  

"Check out this file.  I don t have much information, but it looks like your jurisdiction."  

Mulder frowned at the man.  It must be strange, if Skinner thought they were the right team.  Good, he needed something he could get his head around.  "We'll leave this afternoon.   He took the file from Skinner's hands, and Skinner nodded in dismissal. 

Scully glanced over at him, but didn't correct him.  Mulder stood and, after a second, she rose as well.  He trailed her from the office, his hand automatically rising to touch her, but he caught it in time. 

"I'll make the arrangements if you want to go on home and pack." 

"Fine.  I'll meet you at the airport."

He opened his mouth to offer to pick her up, but caught himself in time.  Better not push it. 

She was already at the gate when he arrived.  The flight was full, so they had an additional person in their row.  The woman was next to the window, so Scully was wedged in between.  The armrest was up between Scully and the woman, and Mulder could see Scully was crowded, so without a word, he lifted the armrest between them to give her more room. 

She didn't look up at him, but did make herself a little more comfortable.  Almost immediately after takeoff, Mulder put his seat back and closed his eyes. 

She took the opportunity to glance up at him.  He did look tired, as though he hadn't slept well lately.  She stiffened her spine, but that was still no excuse for him to break into her apartment and make himself comfortable on her couch. 

Okay, his long frame couldn't have been exactly comfortable and he didn't break in because he had a key, but still . . . 

He was already asleep; his breathing had become deeper and even, though he didn't snore.  It was amazing that a man, who didn't sleep as a rule, could fall asleep in any position.  He seemed to sleep quite comfortably in chairs, in hospitals, and in the car on stakeouts.  Then it came to her, she was there on those occasions.  Was it really her presence that kept away the nightmares?  How?  How could that be? 

He stirred and his hand came to rest on her thigh.  She looked down at it, but didn't disturb him to move it.  Instead she opened the file and tried to ignore it. 

Ignoring it grew more difficult as the flight progressed.  On occasion his grip would tighten, not painfully, but as though kneading her flesh.  Where the hell had that phrase come from?  She didn't read that kind of literature.  She forced her mind back to the pages in front of her. 

Four women had been found so far, murdered in their homes.  That alone wouldn't make it an X-File.  The reason Skinner had called them in was that they were found with voodoo signs carved into their flesh. 

Scully waved away refreshments for Mulder and herself, letting him sleep without disturbance.  He started to rouse just as the pilot came on to announce their arrival.  He gave her thigh a final squeeze and released her.  She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth to disperse the unexpected, and unwelcome, arousal that brought up. 

She was icily calm by the time he finished stretching and opened his eyes.  He turned to look at her and grin.  "Smooth flight, huh?"  

"I guess so."  

He winced at that.  What had he done now?  Or was she still that pissed from before?  Surely she wasn't angry that he'd slept the whole flight.  She hadn't acted like she wanted his company. 

When they pulled up to the gate, he lifted her bag down from the overhead and handed it to her, letting her precede him out of the plane and into the terminal.  Part of him wanted to hang back and check his 5 o clock shadow for icicles.  They picked up their rental car keys and as they approached the car, he looked over at her.  "Do you want to drive?"  

"No, go ahead."  

He opened his mouth to ask what was wrong now, but decided against it and unlocked the car. 

He'd been here on a case a few years before, so he knew where police headquarters was.  He pulled in and looked for a space. 

"I thought we were going to check in some place first."  

"Sorry, is that what you want do?"   It was the first time she'd spoken since they got in the car. 

"Never mind."   She opened her door and got out. 

He slammed the heel of his hand against the steering wheel.  Damn her, if she was going to be in such a pissy mood, he'd rather have come alone.  She had stopped and turned to look at him. 

He opened his own door and leaned out.  "Get in the car."  

"What?"  

"We'll go find a hotel and come back."  

"We're already here, Mulder."  

"Well I'm not in the mood to talk to local authorities now.  Come on."   He closed his door and started the engine. 

She looked at him incredulously.  He was really going to leave her standing there?  Her eyes narrowed and she gave serious consideration to letting him do just that, but then took a deep breath and returned to the car without another word. 

He peeled out of the parking lot, his anger causing him to use less caution than usual.  She quickly grabbed her seatbelt and snapped it. 

He headed toward the motel he had used last time, and found it had been upgraded and renovated.  Hell, the Bureau was paying; he pulled into the parking lot and got out. 

She hesitated.  She couldn't remember the last time he d been truly angry with her.  And what right did he have to be angry?  She hadn't been creeping into his apartment or groping him on public airplanes. She steeled her resolve and exited the car.  He was already inside. 

He turned when she came up behind him.  "They have two adjoining rooms, or I could get something in the other wing."  

She narrowed her eyes, but spoke smoothly.  "Adjoining will be fine."   She fairly snatched the card the semi-amused clerk held out and moved back toward the car. 

"Hey, buddy," the older man stopped Mulder.  "You might as well apologize.  It don't matter if it's her fault.  Yer gonna have to make peace."

"Uh, thanks."   Mulder nodded and turned away as the clerk shook his head. 

The problem was, the old man had a point.  He needed Scully, and not just as a talisman to keep away the nightmares, he needed her.  He glanced over at her as they opened the doors to their rooms, but she let herself in without looking his way.  Mulder sighed and entered.  He put down his suitcase and sank onto the foot of the bed. 

He wasn't okay.  He and Scully never fought, oh they argued all the time, he thoroughly enjoyed that, watching her mind work, but not like this. 

She shut the door behind her and just stood for a minute, not even releasing her grip on the roll-around.  In the big scheme of things, did it really matter that he'd come over in the night?  Some little part of her brain responded immediately - you're an FBI agent, how the hell could someone slip into your apartment, numerous times, and you be unaware? 

But it was Mulder.  He's practically family and you trust him.  In the field we've slept with no more between us than a wall many times.  And that night in his apartment . . . her face flooded with color.  Scully shoved both voices aside and put her suitcase down.  She had to talk to him; they had to get past this.  She couldn't allow this to ruin what they had. 

She turned toward the door and opened it, then stepped back instantly, startled.  Mulder was standing there, his fist raised to knock.  Some of the tension went out of her shoulders. 

"Uh, Scully, I . . . listen, I'm really sorry.  I, I know I took advantage of our relationship, your trust, but can we get past that?  I hope you know I never meant to hurt you.  I just . . . I lost my better judgment and - "  

Her eyebrow rose.  "You have better judgment?"   But her eyes weren't as hostile. 

"Yeah, I call it Scully."  

She blinked at that, but kept quiet. 

"We friends again, Scully?"
 
"Yeah."   She saw the relief in his posture and marveled slightly that this man seemed to care so much about her regard when it seemed the rest of the world could go to hell as far as he was concerned. 

"If I remember New Orleans, the latest victim lived on a street not far from here.  Wanna go by there first?"  

"Sure."   She picked up her briefcase and turned toward the door.  He opened his mouth, then seemed to decide against it and closed it again.  He did open the door for her and she nodded her thanks. 

He could tell she was still a little off, but not like before.  He'd just make sure he behaved himself. 

***** 

The door to the apartment still had yellow tape over it.  Their badges got the manager to let them inside. 

After a few minutes, Mulder turned to her.  "Well?"  

"No struggle, the door wasn't forced.  She knew him?"  

"Probably."   He looked down at the outline of the body of the carpet.  "Why out here?  They've all been found in the living room, not the bedroom."  

"He's impotent?" Scully offered. 

"Could be."   He was distracted now, deep into the case.  This never failed to fascinate her.  He opened the coat closet door and squatted down.  Scully watched him pull a glove from his pocket and once he had donned it, pull out a gym bag.  "Looky what somebody missed."  

She approached him and looked over his shoulder. He pulled a zip-lock baggie from the bag.  It contained a wet gym suit or bathing suit.  There was a damp towel in the large bag as well. 

"How long would you leave your wet stuff like this?"  

"It would be the first thing I'd take care of when I got home from the gym."  

"So why would she put it in the closet?"  

Scully thought a moment.  "She wasn't alone.  Someone came inside with her so she stowed it for just a minute, until they left.  She didn't think it would be for long."  

He nodded. "A friend came home from the gym with her.  We need to find out what gym."  

"I guess we head for police headquarters."   Mulder nodded and followed her out. 

At headquarters they were directed to Detective Beaumont.  He stood as they approached his desk.  "So, ya'll are the agents sent from Washington.  Pleased to meet you, ma'am, sir.  Have a seat."  

They did and watched the detective pull out a file.  "Some of my friends at the Nawlins Bureau suggested I request your help.  They said you worked on this kind of a thing."

"I would think you'd be more experienced with voodoo."  

The detective laughed.  "That's just a stereotype, Mr. Mulder.  If anyone still believes in that old religion, it's in the back country."  

"If you don't think its voodoo, why did you call us?"  

"I'm in the minority, and they don't want any more women murdered.  You two have a pretty good record."  

Mulder made no comment on that.  "Has an autopsy been performed on the latest victim?"  

"No, we heard ya'll were comin' so we waited."  

"Fine, can we get started?"  Scully spoke up. 

"Of course, Agent Scully, ma'am.  I can take ya'll over there right now."  

"Why don't you go on Scully, I want to do a little background check."  

She nodded and rose.  Mulder's eyes narrowed slightly as Beaumont took her arm, but since she made no comment, he held his tongue.  He did watch them leave, then opened the files that Beaumont had left for him. 

The women were within five years of each other in age.  Two from one section of town, the other two didn't live near either of the first two.  No mention of gym memberships.  He picked up the phone. 

***** 

It was a little over an hour before he joined her.  She glanced up when the doors opened.  "Beaumont here?"  

"No, he dropped me off.  I had the impression he avoided this part of the investigations."  

Mulder shook his head.  "His loss.  Watching you slicing and dicing is a real education."  

"Did you find out anything?"  

"All four were members of gyms, three different ones so far.  The first two victims were at the same gym, but the last two were members at two others."  

"He wanted to spread out; keep suspicion down?"  

"That's what I'm thinking.  We need to get a membership roll.  What about the symbols?"  

She uncovered one of the woman's legs. Mulder winced at the marks excised into the woman's skin.  "These were done post-mortem.  There was almost no blood loss.  Cause of death was strangulation."  

"By hand?"  

"No.  The police have the scarves in evidence, according to Beaumont."  

"Anything distinctive?"  

"I haven't seen them, but Beaumont didn't think so," Scully said, looking at the victim.  

"Beaumont hadn't spotted the gym connection either."  

"You upset with him?"  

Mulder saw him take Scully's arm again in his mind, but shook his head.  "No, just thinking."   He turned from the body, then turned back suddenly.  "Scully, look at this."  

She moved closer to see what he was looking at.  "What?"  

"That's not a voodoo symbol that I'm familiar with.  That's . . . I think that's Egyptian."  

"Why use an Egyptian symbol?"  

"No reason, unless the person doesn't know that much about voodoo."  

"Not an X-File," she stated. 

"I don't think so.  I'd like to see the scarves."  

"I'm finished here, unless you've thought of something."  

"You got pictures of all of this?"   She nodded.  "Then you've covered everything.  Ready for some dinner?"  

"Only if I can take my shoes off."  

"Room service?"  

"I'd even take a pizza at this point.  We didn't eat on the plane."  

"Right.  Come on."   He waited while she cleaned up, then they headed for the motel.  He talked her into an upgrade from pizza, ordering room service, then heading back to his room to change while she showered. 

He opened his side of the connecting door when he was ready and tested the knob.  Her side was still locked.  Had she forgotten, or was it a message to stay out?  He didn't have the guts to ask, so he left his side wide open, but went out and knocked on the door in the hall. 

She was dressed, her hair slicked back, when she let him in.  She had barely gotten the door shut when the food arrived. 

"You're eating in here?"   She realized both meals had been delivered to her room. 

"Uh, do you mind?  I thought . . . "  What had he thought?  He'd just assumed everything was back to normal and she wanted his company. 

"No, that's fine."  

He stopped and looked at her.  "Is it really?"  

She realized then how insecure he still felt.  Just how harsh had she come across? 

"It's good, Mulder.  Relax."  

"Sometimes that's hard."  

"Did the nightmare come back?"  

He nodded, but didn't elaborate.  She decided to drop it as well, taking a seat at the small table.  They ate in near silence, just an occasional comment on the food.  His mood continued to sink.  Once they were finished, he rose and piled the dishes back on the tray.  "Well, I'll see you in the morning."  

"Mulder, you don't have to go yet."  

"No, it's okay.  You're probably tired.  We can go check out the gyms in the morning; see if anyone remembers who these women left with."   He took the tray to the door. "Good night."  

She didn't speak, watching him leave.  After the door shut behind him, she closed her eyes.  They weren't in synch.  She'd forgiven him for sleeping in her apartment, hadn't she?  And no one saw his hand on her thigh, so why was she like this? 

She rose from the table and ran a bath.  She lay in the hot water, her head back and her eyes closed, but she wasn't relaxed.  She was trying to be honest, brutally honest, about her attitude toward Mulder.  She was pushing him away.  He had apologized for breaking in, but she wouldn't let him get close enough. 

And it was because of the first night, the night in his apartment.  She sighed.  Okay, honesty.  Waking up in his arms, waking up to his . . . arousal, had thrown her off balance.  They flirted with each other; well, he did.  But they'd been careful not to . . . 

He'd been pressed up against her and his erection . . . god, his erection.  Nothing had been left to her imagination.  Maybe it was just a normal morning phenomena for him, but she had wanted him so badly she had ached.  It had been so damn long.  She couldn't get out of there fast enough. 

And she'd brought herself off with that memory, while he'd been asleep on her couch - just feet from her bed.  Her face burned from the memory.  What if he had heard her? 

The bath wasn't helping and the water was cooling.  She rose and dried herself, then slipped on her pajamas.  She knew she wouldn't sleep, which meant she'd be in an even worse mood tomorrow.  How the hell did she break this cycle? 

She stretched out in the bed and turned off the light, staring up at the darkness.  She didn't bother to close her eyes. 

"Scully!"   Her head jerked toward the connecting door.  "No!"

 She was on her feet then.  Was his side of the door open?  She threw open her side and was startled to see the other door wide open. 

He was entangled in the sheets and struggling, still trapped in the dream.  She didn't hesitate, hurrying to his side. 

"Mulder, Mulder wake up.  I'm okay, I'm right here."   She brushed the hair from his brow, caressing his cheek with her other hand. 

His eyelids fluttered and he managed to focus on her, then was sitting up and clutching her to him.  She closed her eyes and didn't fight it, letting her arms go around him as well. 

"Scully,"  he whispered into her hair. 

"It's okay.  I'm  okay."   She rocked him as he slowly came down from the adrenaline high.  "Why don't you go splash some water on your face."  

He nodded mutely and forced himself to his feet.  "Are you leaving?"  

"No,  go on, I'll wait here for you."   He looked at her for a moment, then moved into the bathroom. 

She straightened out the tangled bed clothes, then picked up his socks and shoes to move them out of the way.  When she turned he was standing in the door, watching her. 

"Come on, lie down."  

He returned to the bed, but sat, leaning against the headboard. 

"Was it the same dream?"  

He nodded. 

"Tell it to me."  

He shuddered and her hand covered his.  She joined him, sitting against the headboard herself, her legs stretched out in front of her on top of the covers.  She noted how much farther down the bed his feet tented the sheets. 

"It's okay.  You said I was shot."

He looked away. 

"Come on, tell me the dream, Mulder.  Let it release its hold on you."   He moved over to give her more room, but she scooted with him. 

"You're in front of me.  You turn toward me and your eyes go wide, but before you can say anything, I see a hand come up.  It must be my hand, from the angle and the gun goes off.  The blast," he swallowed and looked away, "the blast picks you up off of your feet and throws you backwards.  Then I wake up."  

She gave him a small smile.  "Then I don't have to worry.  Mulder, you would never shoot me.  Partners don't do that."   She smiled at the irony, but he didn't return it. 

"Why can't you forgive me?"  

"Mulder, I have forgiven you."

He shook his head.  "You haven't."  

She sighed.  "I'm not upset with you for coming to my apartment."   He met her eyes, but didn't speak.  "I'm not.  I m upset with myself for not realizing it.  I am an FBI agent and you were able to sneak in - " 

"Scully, please talk to me."  

She looked down, abashed.  "I can't . . . " 

"Scully, don't do this.  Don't pull away from me."   He sighed into her silence, then got out of the bed on the far side.  She remained motionless on his bed.  Finally he walked around and took her hand, tugging her to her feet.  "Go on back to your room.  You need some sleep."  

He led her to the door, but she stopped again and looked up at him.  "I'm upset about the other night, the first night at your apartment."  

He flushed a dark color, but nodded.  "Thank you for admitting it."  

"You knew?"  

"I suspected.  Scully, I m sorry.  I never meant to - " 

"To turn me on?"   She spoke low and wasn't looking at him.  After a long moment, he tilted her head to look up at him. 

"What did you say?"   He sounded hoarse, strangled. 

She looked miserable, but didn't look away.  When she said nothing, he finally bent down and gave her a tentative kiss.  When she didn't pull away, he did it again, deeper and let his hands touch her shoulders.  The third time brought his hands to her face, and her hands carefully caressed his upper arms. 

"Scully?  Are we really doing this?"  

"I . . . uh,"
"Cause I feel about fourteen years old."  

That brought a slight chuckle to her lips. 

"Scully, I . . . I turned you on?"   She nodded, slowly.  "Me?"  

"Who else.  You were the one on the couch, fondling me, grinding yourself into me."   He watched her blush.  "I can only hope  you were dreaming of me."  

He nodded.  "The only one for about seven years."  

"Seven years."  

"I'm a patient man."  

"No you aren't."  

"No, I'm not." He managed to grin.  "But fear is a powerful motivator."  

"Fear?  You're afraid of me?"  

"Of rejection by you."  

"That ice queen thing?"  

"No!"   He was obviously startled by that reference.  "You've, you've just always kept your distance, in that way."  

"Well so have you.  I mean an occasional innuendo . . . " 

"That fear thing again.  So, so what do we do?  I mean, do I ask you out on a date?"  

"I think we're kind of past that.  You are standing here in your boxers, and I have on my pajamas.  What does that say?"  

"That you're overdressed?"

She closed her eyes and chuckled silently.  "Now that sounds like my Mulder."  

"Your Mulder, I like the sound of that."   He lowered his lips to hers again.  "Maybe we should go to bed."  

"To get some sleep?"  

"Eventually."  

***** 

The gyms weren't much help.  No one remembered a man leaving with any of the women, but were frank that that didn't mean much.  Clients often left together, or met for drinks.  Mulder asked for a member roster at all three gyms and shrugged at Scully.  Good old fashion grunt work.  

"We know it's not an X-File.  We could turn this back over to - " 

"Not yet.  I'm in no hurry to leave New Orleans."  

She looked down but he saw the smile.  "Well, we need to get started."  

He nodded and placed his hand on her back, but this time his fingers didn't stay still, though only he heard the low moan she let escape. 

*****

"Okay, Mulder, what next?  There are no men that belong to all three gyms."  

Mulder leaned back, stretching.  "I don't know.  I still feel like the gyms are in the mix."  

"Too bad serial killers are historically men.  There are four women who belong to all of - " 

"Women?"   He looked up at her and she could see the wheels turning. 

By the time they had the information necessary, it was late, so it was decided to do the interviews the next morning.  Mulder had asked for Beaumont's help with these interviews.  They didn't have the evidence to bring the women in, so he had Beaumont take two of the women.  He and Scully took the other two.  He had spent a lot of time staring at one of the names - Diane Baronski.  Finally she had called him on it.  "Your spider sense tingling?"  

"That's not all that's tingling."  She flashed him a warning glance, but had to admit that two nights of nearly non-stop loving had left her surprisingly alert and rested.  In fact except for that strange dream last night . . . she shook that off.  Maybe she'd tell him about it someday.  For now there was work to do. 

"She's the only one that works out of her home.  She's slightly older than the victims.  I don t know."   He shrugged. 

She just accepted it.  If he had a feeling, that was enough for her; not that she would admit it.  When they left the station, they immediately headed for Ms. Baronski's home.  It was a house; three stories with the ground floor garage.  It was narrow and long in a row of similar homes.  There was no answer, so they moved on to the other woman on their list.   

Suzanne Comers was a receptionist and answered their questions readily.  She hadn't realized she was on the rolls of all three gyms.  She had moved and tried out two new gyms closer to her home.  One she had only visited the one time, but had filled out an information card.  She wished them luck as they left her office. 

"It's not her."  

"I agree, Mulder.  Want to try Diane's place again?"  

He nodded and pulled into traffic. 

The car still wasn't in the garage, but this time the small door leading inside of the garage was standing open.  Mulder started in. 

"Mulder, stop.  We don't have a warrant."  

"The door's open, Scully.  It wasn't earlier.  We need to make sure everything's okay."  

She rolled her eyes, but followed him inside.  The door at the top of the stairs from the garage was closed, so they looked around the garage itself.  There was room for a small car, but boxes were stacked on the right of the garage.  Mulder headed that way, while Scully took the left. 

"Mulder, what is it we re - "  She stopped and he looked up.  Her eyes were wide and before he could speak, he saw the gun come into his vision lower to his right.  His dream.  Scully!  

But the gun had fired and he saw Scully hit, dead center of her chest and be lifted off of her feet.  Everything went into slow motion then.  He had hold of the arm holding the gun without looking to see if a man or woman was connected to it.  He heard the bones break as they struggled for the gun.  The gun falling toward the cement floor seemed to take hours.  The woman cried out in pain when he grabbed her broken arm, but he was too busy to care.  Without thought, he had her cuffed to a drainage pipe and kicked the gun farther from her reach. 

Then he was on his knees beside Scully, before his heart could decide whether or not to beat again.  No blood, was she bleeding internally?  Had the bullet stopped her heart in mid-beat so it couldn't pump out her life's blood? 

Scully, Scully don't you die on me.  God, not now!   He ripped her blouse open and stopped, unable to process the sight.  A . . . a Kevlar vest? 

"Scully?"  

She moved then and he sank onto the floor of the garage, unable to support himself.  Trembling fingers caressed her cheek.  "Scully, talk to me."  

"Mmmm, Mu . . . Mulder?"  

He closed his eyes, then realized he needed help.  He finally drew his cell phone and dialed 911. 

***** 

He sat outside of her examining room, fighting off the vision of her truly flying through the air from the gunshot.  He jerked when the door opened and the nurse stepped out. 

"She's getting dressed."  

He didn't acknowledge that, moving into the room.  She turned, her arm covering her breasts.  He didn't speak, but she knew what he needed.  She moved her arm, letting him see the bruise already a dark blue in the center of her chest.  He caught her eye for an instant, then picked up her bra and put it on her, fastening it carefully.  He slipped her blouse on and slowly buttoned each button.  He stepped back to allow her to tuck the blouse into her slacks.  He picked up her blazer and the vest and walked her out. 

He took her to the motel, over her mild protest, and let her into her room.  "You should lie down."  

She moved to the bed, but sat with her back against the headboard, mirroring his position from two nights ago.  She patted the bed and he sat beside her. 

She cuddled into him and he gently put his arms around her.  He felt her sigh and rested his chin on her hair. 

"I am okay, Mulder."  

He hesitated, then.  "Why didn't you tell me you were wearing the vest?"  

She was silent for so long he didn't think she was going to answer.  "I . . . Mulder, I felt foolish."  

"Foolish?"

"It was a dream.  I was putting on a bullet-proof vest because of a dream."  

"So you believed me.  You did that because of my dream."  

"And one of my own.  You had it so many times, and . . . and I knew you d always have my back, even in your sleep."  

He swallowed hard. 

"And I realized, after the last couple of days, I really wanted to live."  

He inhaled sharply, then couldn't seem to get his breath.  He pulled her close, torn between wanting to crush her to him, and not wanting to hurt her.  She realized he was crying and he was immediately caught in hard, wracking sobs.  She held him then, murmuring comfort into his ear until he calmed down and sat up. 

"Mulder, I'm okay.  You saved me again."  

He was watching her then, his eyes locked on hers as though recommitting her to his permanent memory.  His fingers traced her face, touching her eyelids, her checks and finally her lips. 

"Mulder?"  

He had to clear his throat, but finally was able to speak.  "I have to go down to the station, file our report.  I won't be long."  

"Mulder, no.  I'll go with - " 

"No.  You stay here and rest."  

"I - " 

"Stay here, Scully."   He said it gently, but she knew he was adamant. 

Finally she nodded.  "Hurry back."  

***** 

He walked into the station house to the sound of applause and police clapping him on the back.  Detective Beaumont shook his hand,  "What?"  

"You caught her, Agent Mulder.  She's confessed.  She is one whacked out broad.  Come on, I'll give you the whole story."  

"I don't need it.  I have to get back to my partner."  

"Yeah, how's she doing?"  

"The doctor says she'll be fine.  She's sore and bruised."  

"It's a good thing she asked for that jacket this morning.  To think, I tried to talk her out of it."   Beaumont shook his head.  "Seemed a bit much, but her instincts were dead on."  

Mulder closed his eyes at the word dead, but he managed to nod.  "Yeah, she has very good instincts most of the time.  Listen, I really need to get back."  

"Of course.  Here, take this, it's a copy of her confession."  

***** 

She was asleep when he let himself back into the room.  He placed her lunch on the table and slipped off his shoes, then sat to watch her breathe.  It wasn't long before the aroma of the soup pulled her back to consciousness. 

"Mulder?"  

He rose immediately and moved to the bed, sitting gently beside her.  "How do you feel?"  

"Good.  It's always good to wake up and find you - and not be in a hospital."  

He didn't smile.  "Uh, why don t you tell me what happened while I've been napping."   She started to sit up and he arranged the pillows. 

"She confessed."  

"And?  Come on, why did she do it?"  

"Jealousy.  The first woman had started seeing the man Diane had been dating.  Diane trailed her and joined the gym, then made friends with her.  The victim didn't know about the connection.  While she had the first victim under surveillance she spotted the second woman doing the same thing - taking a man from an older woman.  She decided, on behalf of all older women, to get even."  

"Why the voodoo signs?"  

"To throw off the investigation.  She knows nothing about voodoo, as evidenced by the Egyptian sign that Beaumont missed.  She's originally from upstate Pennsylvania."  

"You still don't like him."  

"Ambivalent.  He was too friendly to my partner, and then I found out he tried to talk her out of the vest."  

She looked away.  "Yes he did, and he almost succeeded."  

She felt the shudder that ran through him.  "But he didn't.  I trusted you.  Mulder, why is that so hard for you to . . . " 

"When did you decide on the vest?"  

She looked at him closely; he was suffering.  "Mulder, our first night together, it was magic and I'll never forget it.  But last night, maybe I was more relaxed, I don t know, but . . . but there was a moment there when I . . . I didn't know where I ended and you began.  It was like we melded.  Does that . . . " 

He nodded.  "I know when you mean."  

"I've never felt anything like that."  

"Me either."   But his words were only a breath. 

After a moment she nodded.  "When I fell asleep, in your arms, I . . . the meld continued.  Mulder, I had your dream.  I saw myself shot, from your eyes.  I felt your horror.  I wasn't scared as much as I was . . . sad.  I told you, I want to live.  I thought, I thought wearing the vest - oh hell, I can't explain it."  

He was watching her dumbfounded.  "You had my dream?  I . . . It was a gift, to me?"  

She blinked.  She hadn't thought of it that way, but . . . yes.  She gave him a small smile.  "Talk about being Mrs. Spooky."  

His finger touched her cheekbone.  "Sounds like a great idea to me."   He pulled her against him.  For some reason it felt like his nightmares were ending.