He rounded the corner headed toward Skinner’s office and was abruptly stopped by the boy plowing into his legs. He managed to keep his feet and grabbed the boy to keep him from falling as well. “Whoa, big guy.”
He looked up to see a girl hurrying after the boy. “I’m so sorry. He got away from me.”
He looked down at her and smiled. She was older than he had first thought, a woman, not a girl, with a woman’s body. Her red hair fell below her shoulder and wisps curled around her face. She looked up and the bright blue eyes caused his smile to grow. She didn’t look old enough to be this boy’s mother, and there was no resemblance. He had dark hair and eyes, looked around 8 or 9 and even this young was slightly overweight.
She couldn’t help her appraisal of him. Tall, over six feet, dark wavy hair that flopped down over his forehead. His eyes were hazel and she liked the way he looked at her, even though she shouldn’t. That brought her up short and she looked down at the boy again. “Randy, we have to stay with the tour.”
“I don’t want to!”
“Randy, stop this. Come with me.”
“I don’t have to do what you say!” She took a deep breath, steadying herself.
“Actually you do, buddy. Your mother’s right -”
“She’s not my mother,” the boy sneered.
She looked up at him, obviously embarrassed. “Stepmother.”
He nodded. “Okay, why don’t I take you back to the tour? I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder.” He held out his hand. She shook it, then he offered it to Randy.
“Dana Forrester. This is Randy.”
“Nice to meet you.” He motioned toward the elevator and his hand touched her lightly on her lower back, leading her in that direction. She was quiet, so he turned to Randy. “Are you visiting the city or do you live here?”
“My dad had an important meeting, so we came with him.”
“That was nice of him, to bring you. I guess you haven’t been here before?”
Dana smiled then. “Actually I lived here for a short while. My father is stationed at the Pentagon.”
“Military or civilian?” he asked, wanting to keep her talking for some reason.
“Military. My father’s career Navy, Captain William Scully.”
“That’s good. You'll get to visit with your family.”
Her smile faded then. “Uh, no. There won’t be time to see them this visit.”
The elevator doors opened before he had a chance to ask anything else. Randy bolted from the car. “I want to see the dinosaurs! You said we could!”
Again he watched her take that deep breath and steady herself. “Okay. We’ll go over there now.” She looked up at Mulder. “Thank you, Agent Mulder.”
“My pleasure. I hope the rest of your day is better.”
She opened her mouth, then just closed it and nodded. He watched them go with a vague feeling of regret, but he shook it off. She was married with a kid, completely off limits.
He turned back to the elevator and headed toward Skinner’s office again. His mood plunged further. If he was being summoned, there had to be a problem.
The phone interrupted them and Skinner grabbed it impatiently. “I said to hold my calls.”
“Yes sir, I’m sorry. There’s a situation.”
“There’s a robbery in progress at Craddock Marine Bank, just down the street. The police called, there are hostages.”
“Shit,” Skinner muttered. “Is the negotiator there?”
“On the way, sir.”
“Thank you.” He broke the connection and turned to Mulder. “We’ve got a problem down the street, Craddock Marine, hostages.”
“You need to go,” Mulder started to rise.
“I need you to head on over there.”
“I’ll be right behind you. The hostage negotiator is on the way.”
Mulder nodded, going from a dressing down to being in charge of a crisis took a minute. He headed for the door.
Running down the street, Mulder reached the barricade quickly. Holding up his shield, he approached the closest police officer. He was directed to a plainclothes officer.
Again Mulder displayed his shield. “Agent Mulder. Can you bring me up to speed?”
“Detective Gregory.” They shook hands. “Yeah. One guy as far as we can tell. Five employees, we’re not sure about customers, at least three, and three children.”
“Children? Shit. Have you contacted him?”
“Once. He didn’t much want to talk.” Gregory motioned for a woman to join them. “This is Meg Jackson, one of the tellers.”
Meg glanced back over at the front of the bank. “I was at lunch. I can’t believe . . . What’s going to happen?”
“We’re going to work this out. Right now I’d like you to describe the inside of the bank,” Mulder reassured her.
Using the detective’s notepad, she sketched the layout. By the time she’d finished, the negotiator, Agent Curtis, was there along with a couple of other agents.
“Sp-Spooky?” the short one behind him stuttered, surprised to see him here no doubt, but handed him a vest.
Mulder turned a carefully bland face toward the man. “Agent Morris.” He took the vest then turned his back on the man and began consulting with the others.
After a few minutes Curtis took a deep breath. “I better try to reach him.” He took the phone the detective handed him and dialed.
While he talked, Mulder moved over to check on the swat team that had been assembled. When he looked back Skinner had arrived. Mulder returned to them and waited for Curtis to bring them up to speed.
When he hung up, he turned to Skinner. “He says he’ll give us the three kids as a show of good faith.”
“Good,” Skinner nodded. “The more people we can get out of there, the better.”
He went quiet when the door opened and two little blonde girls and a dark haired, slightly older boy, stepped out onto the sidewalk. Police grabbed them up immediately, getting them away from the building.
“Mulder, we need - “ Skinner looked up to see Mulder break into a run toward the children. He glanced at Curtis, who shrugged. Shaking his head he watched Mulder lean over to speak to the boy.
“Randy? Are you okay?”
The boy was sniffling, but not crying. He nodded finally.
“Is your mom, Dana, is Dana in there?”
Randy nodded again. Mulder looked over at the bank, then closed his eyes for an instant. “Look, we need your help. Can I make you an honorary G-man?”
The boy’s eyes widened slightly, and he nodded. “Follow me.” With his hand on the boy’s shoulder, Mulder led him back to Skinner and Curtis.
“Mulder, what are you - “
“This is Randy Forrester. His mother, his stepmother, is still in there. I thought he could help us with the layout.”
Skinner stared at him for a moment.
“She’s a friend of mine,” Mulder continued.
Skinner’s eyes widened slightly at that, but he turned to the boy. “Please to meet you, Randy. I’m Walter Skinner. We have a map of the bank. Do you think you could tell us where the people are?”
“Yeah, uh, yes sir.” He looked down at the hand drawn map Curtis spread out in front of him. While the two of them talked, Skinner took hold of Mulder’s arm and moved him away.
“Who the hell’s the kid?”
“I saw him and his stepmother this morning at the Bureau. They were part of the tour and he bolted. He ran into me, literally, and I led them back to the public area.”
Skinner just stared at him for a long moment. “Okay, fine.” He turned back as Curtis was thanking the boy.
“I’ll be right back,” Curtis said, moving toward the swat team.
Mulder looked down at Randy. “You did good, Randy. I thought you guys were headed toward the dinosaurs.”
“She said she needed some money for lunch.”
Mulder nodded. Before he could speak, Skinner joined them. “Agent, we need you.”
“Yeah. Randy, stay here with the officer. I’ll be right over there.” He followed Skinner a short distance, so that Randy couldn’t overhear them. “Did something happen?”
“Yeah. We’re not sure what, but he’s angry now. He’s not talking to Curtis. The team says he’s waving his gun around and yelling at the hostages. Something set him off, damnit. This is deteriorating,” Skinner muttered, keeping his voice down now that press was beginning to gather.
Curtis joined them, his face carefully bland. “He won’t even pick up now. I’m thinking that - “ The sound of a shot from within the bank caused Curtis and Skinner to both look up, but Mulder staggered back, falling into Skinner.
He’d regained steady footing, but his face was drained of blood. “He shot her.”
“Dana.” Then Mulder was racing for the entrance.
“If you’ve got a shot, take it!” Skinner spoke urgently into the walkie talkie. Almost before the words were out of his mouth, a second shot was heard, this one from above and behind him.
“He’s down!” Someone from the swat team reported back and several officers charged the doors. Mulder was only a couple of steps behind them.
The officers converged on the man, but Mulder bypassed him completely, seeing the officers on point around him. They already had him disarmed and weren’t being especially gentle despite the blood on the floor around him. Mulder’s goal was farther into the bank lobby. Two women were blocking his view, but he moved them out of his way and knelt beside her.
“Dana, can you hear me?” There was blood coming from her side and beginning to pool under her. He felt for a pulse and was rewarded with a faint one at her throat.
She didn’t respond. “We need those paramedics in here, now!” he called back behind him as police led the other hostages out of the building.
“Excuse me,” the paramedic spoke up, getting his attention and moving him out of the way. “Get an IV in her; I think her lung’s collapsed. Oxygen and get that board, we don’t want to move her yet.”
Mulder was quiet, but he hadn’t moved far. That’s where Skinner found him. “You okay?”
Mulder nodded but didn’t speak.
“Who is she, Mulder?”
He shook his head then. “I didn’t meet her until this morning.”
Skinner frowned, it wasn’t that he didn’t believe him, but the level of concern was way out of proportion. And how had he known she was the victim? No way to ask that here with all these other agents around. The Spooky comments were too frequent already.
“She’s here with her husband and the boy; some business meeting for him. Randy might know something. Oh, and her father works at the Pentagon, Captain William Scully.”
“This morning, Mulder?”
At that Mulder met Skinner’s eyes. “Yeah. This morning.”
“She needs to be transported. Gentlemen,” the paramedic drew their attention to make room.
“I’m riding with her,” Mulder heard himself say. No one tried to stop him, assuming he needed to speak with her if she regained conscious in the ambulance. Skinner watched him trot beside the gurney with his eyes narrowed.
She didn’t wake in the ambulance and Mulder found his concern growing though he kept his mouth shut. He didn’t understand a third of what was being said but he didn’t want to distract anyone.
In the ER, he was ignored as he watched, out of the way, but present in her cubicle. His badge had given him that much access, so he didn’t push. The need to be here had him confused, but he was going with his instinct.
She was breathing easier, but the bullet still had to be removed. They would be taking her into surgery now that she was stabilized. He wouldn’t be leaving.
Surprised by his request, the doctor allowed him into the recovery room when she emerged from surgery. Her doctor had assured Mulder that she would recover and allowed him five minutes since her husband had not yet arrived.
Once he had seen her, his sense of foreboding dissipated slightly and he finally returned Skinner’s calls.
He returned to the hospital following his debriefing and once he got her room number, hurried upstairs. The door to her room was slightly ajar and he heard a man’s voice. He hesitated, listening.
“How could you be so stupid? I gave you money. There was no reason to go into a bank. You put Randy in danger. I gave you two twenty dollar bills. That was more than enough - “
“One of the twenties was a five, Paul. I didn’t realize it either until - “
“Are you correcting me?”
“No. Paul, I’m sorry but I don’t have a credit card and I didn’t have enough cash to use a cab and buy lunch. You said not to use the Metro. I would never put Randy in danger on purpose. Please, Paul.”
“You should have checked before you left the hotel. I will not tolerate - “
“Excuse me, Dana?” Mulder pushed the door open unable to hold himself back any longer.
“Who are you?”
Mulder pulled his shield from his pocket. “Special Agent Mulder.” He turned away from the man then and smiled at Dana. “How are you feeling?”
“I, uh, I’m fine.”
Paul looked over at her, his eyes narrowed.
“Uh, Paul, Randy and I met Agent Mulder at the Hoover Building this morning. Randy ran away from the tour and Agent Mulder was kind enough to lead us back.”
“You made a friend,” Paul said it mildly but Mulder saw her cringe briefly before getting herself under control.
“I wouldn’t say friend, Mr. Forrester. But your son was a big help during the robbery. He was able to let us know where everyone was positioned, how many people were inside.”
“Randy did that?”
Mulder nodded, seeing the man’s posture improve at those words. He looked back at Dana. “You’ll have to be debriefed about the incident. I’ll wait until you’ve had a little more time to recover from the surgery, probably tomorrow morning. Have they said how long they’ll be keeping you here?”
“A few days. Paul needs to get home.”
“The man, what happened to him?”
“He was shot. He’s upstairs in custody.”
“They should have killed him,” Paul growled.
Mulder shrugged, not willing to agree with this man. The door opened without warning and a large man in a naval uniform hurried into the room. “Starbuck!”
“Ahab? Ahab!” Her smile was blinding as the large man took her carefully into his arms.
“How are you? They said you were shot.”
“I’m okay, especially now that you’re here. I got caught in the middle of a bank robbery. Agent Mulder here rescued me.”
Again Mulder caught the narrowed eyes and general tension in Paul, but he turned to shake hands with the older man. “Fox Mulder, sir.”
“William Scully. I’m very pleased to meet you.”
“I’m a little surprised to see you, William,” Paul spoke up finally. “Did Dana call you?”
“No, the FBI notified me that she’d been injured.”
Dana’s eyes flicked to Mulder, then away quickly. “They must have found your name in my purse. I don’t know where its gotten to.”
“It’s not safe to keep such personal information in something you can’t keep up with, Dear.”
William stiffened but he kept quiet at that, turning back to Dana. “Well, however they found me, I’m grateful.”
Mulder realized he should leave however much he didn’t want to. She needed to spend time with her father and it was a cinch Paul wouldn’t be leaving them alone. He cleared his throat, “Sorry, just wanted to let you know I was leaving. I’ll be in touch tomorrow about that debriefing.”
“Thank you again, Agent Mulder.” Captain Scully shook his hand again, squeezing it slightly. Dana smiled, but said nothing. Paul, too, was silent, if anything pleased to see him going.
Mulder was headed for the front door of the hospital when he saw a dark haired woman hurry toward the entrance. He held the door and she thanked him with a quick nod. He hesitated and watched her rush to the information desk, something about her eyes . . .
“Dana Sc-Forrester. Do you have her room?”
“Mrs. Scully?” Mulder approached her and she turned, puzzled and looked up at him.
“I can show you to Dana’s room.”
“Th-thank you.” Her brow was furrowed but she moved quickly toward the elevator with him.
“Are you a friend of Dana’s?”
He pulled out his shield. “I met her today.”
“Did you rescue her?”
“I was at the site. Your husband is with her.”
“Oh good,” she breathed a sigh of relief. “Is, uh, is her husband with her?”
She looked down at the floor for an instant, than met his eyes. She forced a smile. “How is she?”
“Doing better. She was thrilled to see her father.”
Mrs. Scully seemed to relax a little at that. “I can’t believe this is happening. We almost lost her last year and now this.” She shook her head.
Last year? He didn’t ask, she was just babbling, but he tucked the comment away to think about later. “Well, she’s doing very well now.”
The older woman smiled then, a full smile and he met it with one of his own. The elevator stopped then and the door opened. He held it while she exited but didn’t follow her.
“Agent? Aren’t you - “
“I’ll be back in the morning to get her statement. I think she needs the time with her family now.”
“Thank you.” She held out her hand and he took it.
“I’m glad you’re going to have some time with her.”
Mrs. Scully looked slightly puzzled at those words, but nodded and stepped back, allowing the elevator to close. Mulder returned downstairs, musing over her words. Why had they almost lost her?
Opportunity or Fate - 2
He stood over to the side of the lobby, mostly hidden behind a newspaper. He saw Paul exit the elevator and move quickly out the door along with the other visitors. Once he was out of sight, Mulder hurried to the bank of elevators and took the first one up to her floor.
He hesitated outside her door, but his instincts were leading him here. He’d learned to go with it, so he tapped on the door.
“Come in,” she called.
He smiled and came on in the room.
“Did you forget something?”
“No. I just . . . I was picking up some vibes earlier and thought I should check by.”
“I don’t understand. Do you need to interview me about the robbery now?”
“No, that’s not it. Did you have a nice visit with your mother?”
A bright smile lit her face. “Yes. Thank you for bringing her up. She said a nice man from the FBI directed her.”
“Well, I’m a man and I’m from the FBI.”
“You’ve been very nice to me.”
He looked away, then gave her a sideways grin. “Your mother said something about almost losing you again. Something about last year?”
Dana sighed. “She mentioned that to you? I think it was harder on her than on me sometimes.”
“What was harder?” He took the chair beside the bed.
“I was . . . missing for three months.”
“Missing?” he leaned forward. She shrugged, then grimaced. He moved closer. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I just can’t move in that direction too well.”
He nodded, waiting.
“The other, I don’t really know what happened. I was taken and . . . kept for three months.”
“You were rescued?”
“Actually I don’t know. Paul found me and nursed me back to health. I didn’t know who I was; I had no memories at all for several weeks. In fact, Paul was surprised when my memory did return. He had researched amnesia and he thought I would never remember.”
“Did he find your family for you?”
“What? Uh, no. I didn’t even know where I came from at the time. There wasn’t really a starting place. He was very good to me.”
“When your memories returned, did you remember where you’d been, who had taken you?”
She shook her head. “I did start having nightmares and had . . . flashes, but . . . “ her voice trailed off.
“Did they stop?”
“No, not really. I was upset about what was happening, so Paul got me some pills. I sleep much better now.”
“Don’t you think it would be better to remember, even if you had nightmares for a little while?”
She leaned back and just looked at him for a long moment. “And where did you get your psychology degree?”
“Oxford,” he grinned.
She gaped at him. “Are you serious?”
He nodded. “Yep, Ph.D. in psychology from Oxford.”
“I knew you were easy to talk to, but . . . “ she shook her head. “Why are you at the FBI?”
“Recruited. I’m a profiler.”
“A profiler? Isn’t that a star at the FBI?”
He chuckled. “A star. Yeah, that describes me to a ‘T’.”
She scanned him then. “Why are you here? Don’t get me wrong, you’re very kind to check on me, but - “
“But you should be sleeping now. I just wanted to make sure you were doing okay. You didn’t look that good in the ambulance.”
“You rode in the ambulance?”
He shrugged. “I’ll let you get some rest.” He rose from the chair.
He grinned and left the room. His smile vanished immediately once he was outside. He spotted the nurse glaring at him and he mock cringed. She shook her head and watched him walk to the elevator, enjoying the view.
He hurried home and powered up his computer. He logged onto the Bureau website and began a search in missing persons.
He had no trouble locating her file in under five minutes. Paul hadn’t been trying very hard. He pulled up the data and scanned it quickly. The second time he read it more slowly and took notes.
Well, now at least he understood why he was drawn to her. She’d been taken, not kidnapped. The fools that had investigated the case hadn’t wanted to see any connections, if they were even familiar with the commonalities.
Neighbors had mentioned a blackout, localized, just the building and a shaking like an earthquake, but of course this wasn’t earthquake country. Nothing else had been taken, no money, no credit cards.
Mulder leaned back, wondering how many people at the Bureau knew about this case. It had been kept from him, of that he was sure. Why else had it been filed under “X”. He needed to see the original files.
Once the thought had occurred to him, it wouldn’t go away. He slipped back on his shoes and headed for the office. This late at night, there was just a skeleton crew so he was unobserved as he headed for the file room. His search didn’t turn up her information, even on the hated microfiche.
With a headache, he started to leave, but returned to the “X’s” one last time. At the very back of the drawer he saw a note. The rest of the files were stored in the basement. The basement? Shit. He came very close to walking out right then, but she came back to his mind. They both needed to know what had happened to her.
He made his way down to the basement and into the dusty file room. Oh yeah, these cases were top drawer. Things were a mess and it took him a while to figure out the filing ‘system’. It was nearly 2 a.m. when he found it. He pulled the file and started to leave when his eye was caught. He turned back to the drawer and the blood left his face. Samantha’s file. He had known it was here somewhere. This Dana Forrester had led him to it. He took both files and hurried to his car. His headache was incredible now and the few headlights he passed nearly blinded him. By the time he got to his apartment he was unsteady on his feet.
Instead of studying the files he had discovered, he staggered to his couch and collapsed on it, the files still clutched in his arms.
“Do we have to watch this, Fox?”
“Leave it, the Magician comes on next.”
“I don’t want to see this!” Samantha yelled at him.
“Mom and Dad left me in charge. Are you going to play?”
Instead she stood up and reached for the knob on the television. Without warning, the lights went out. “Now see what you’ve done,” he said disgusted.
Before he could rise, the room began to shake. He heard a picture frame fall over and Samantha cried out in fear. “Fox!”
Light was coming in around the shades, painfully bright and, and wrong somehow. “Fox!” He looked away from the light and spotted her floating in the air, unable to do more than cry out.
“Samantha!” He woke with a start, sitting up abruptly and dumping the files onto the floor. He sank back down, breathing hard, his heart pounding, rekindling his headache.
He hadn’t had that one in ages. He shouldn’t be surprised; he’d been holding his holy grail - Samantha’s file.
He was awake now; there would be no more sleep that night. He forced himself to his feet and headed for the bathroom. He relieved himself, then took some aspirin and returned to the couch.
He gathered up the files, which had become intermingled and spread them out on the coffee table. He could see parallels even with this meager information. When the sunlight came through his window, he sighed and closed the files.
He rose, stretched and headed for the shower. He wanted to get over to the hospital and see Dana, Mrs. Forrester, as soon as he could.
He wasn’t surprised to see Paul at her side when he knocked at the door. She looked uneasy, even uncomfortable having him there. Mulder entered and nodded to Paul. “Did you have a nice visit with your mother?”
She looked up then, a mixture of relief and gratitude on her face. “Yes, yes I did. Thank you for directing her to the room.”
“All part of the service.” He had guessed right, she didn’t want her husband to know they had spoken without him. He took a seat and pulled out his notebook.
She was able to give him clear and concise information about the robbery. Her answers were full and helpful, as though she had been taking notes herself during her ordeal. He finally commented on it.
“Oh, I seem to notice things, details, better than I did before . . . a few years ago.”
“Well, you’ve been very helpful. When the trial - “
“Will she have to return for a trial?” Paul interrupted.
“Unless we get a guilty plea, yes. She’s our main witness and a victim of the man.”
“That’s not going to be possible. We need to get home, hopefully today. I have work - “
“I’m afraid she’s not going to be able to leave for several days.” No one had heard the doctor enter, but they all turned to him now.
“We need to get home. My son is missing school and I - “
“I understand, but your wife had a serious injury and major surgery. I want her to stay here at least two more days, but if I release her then, she’ll be in bed at home. You’ll need to hire some nursing care and someone else to look after your son.”
The look of anger on Paul’s face caught Mulder’s attention and he rose, positioning himself slightly closer to the bed. She looked up and thanked him with her eyes.
“Look, it’s none of my business, but since Mrs. Forrester has family here, maybe she could stay with them temporarily, while she’s recovering. That way she would be available if the Bureau has more questions and you wouldn’t need to hire a nurse, just an after school - “
“You’re right; it is none of your business,” Paul interrupted again.
“But it is a good idea,” the doctor spoke up. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to check out my patient.”
She looked up, meeting Mulder’s eyes briefly. He gave a tiny nod, then looked away. “Well, I need to check on our robber. Thank you for your help, Mrs. Forrester, Mr. Forrester.” He left without looking back, but he could feel her eyes on him.
His other interview was still under guard and unconscious, so he returned to the office. He transcribed his notes, keeping his mind as far from the files sitting in his apartment as he could. During the day, he managed that, but once he left to return home, it was back. So was his desire to see Dana.
The hell with it, he turned his car in that direction and parked in the visitor’s lot. The last thing he wanted to do was run into Paul, but he wanted, no, he needed to see Dana again. Instead of heading straight for her room, he went upstairs first to check on the prisoner, but didn’t bother the guard when he saw the sign on the door for no visitors and to check at the desk. Instead he headed for the stairs and moved down to her floor.
The door was open and from his angle, he couldn’t see anyone else. He headed for the nurses’ station. “Is Mrs. Forrester still here?”
“Yes. She’s in 312.”
He held up his badge. “Is she alone?”
“Thank you.” He headed down the hall and tapped on her door.
“Come in.” She looked toward the door and when she saw it was him, her smile warmed him.
“Hi. How are you feeling?”
“Better now.” She held out her hand and he moved toward her, taking it.
“Is Paul around?”
Her smiled dimmed then. “No. He decided to head home with Randy.”
“I’m sorry. I really was out of line with that - “
“No. Please don’t apologize. I, I didn’t have the nerve to suggest it myself. When the doctor agreed with you . . . “ She shrugged. “I should be thanking you. Mom and Ahab are delighted.”
Now he was smiling as he took a seat beside her. He realized he was still holding her hand and glanced down at it. She immediately tugged it out of his hand, blushing.
“I didn’t really think I’d see you again.”
“It didn’t feel like an appropriate goodbye earlier. And I didn’t especially want to say goodbye.”
“I . . . I don’t know what to say to that.”
“Sorry, I just, I feel like we were supposed to meet.”
He leaned back. “Sorry again. I’m not saying this right. The last thing I want to do is scare you.”
“I’m not scared, but I am puzzled. What do you mean?”
“If, if you don’t mind, could I talk to you some more about your abduction?”
“I’m surprised you’re thinking about it.”
“Could I just ask you a couple of questions?”
“Okay.” She looked puzzled, but open to him.
“What’s the last thing you remember that night?”
She relaxed back again the pillow and her eyes lost focus. “The lights went out. It startled me and I remember wondering if the batteries in the flashlight were any good. That was my last thought.”
“Do you remember the room shaking?”
She looked up startled. “Yes. Some books fell over. I hadn’t - you know something about this. Do you know who took me?”
“No, no I don’t know, but I have seen this before.”
She just stared at him for a long moment. “Are you going to catch him?”
He looked away first. “I don’t know.”
“Who else? Is she okay? Was her memory affected?”
“I, uh . . . “
“Oh, you can’t talk about it, it’s a case, right? I’m sorry.”
“No, that’s not . . .When you were rescued, were you physically okay?”
“You mean aside from my memory? I was weak, like I had been in bed for a long time, but I wasn’t sick.”
“You were in a hospital,” it was a statement, but he was watching her.
“Uh, no. I wasn’t sick,” she repeated. “I was at Paul’s home. He’d had me checked over by a doctor, but since there was no reason to keep me. . . and I had nowhere to go. He took very good care of me.”
“So that’s how you met.”
“Yes. I just woke up in his home,” she paused then. “That sounds so strange when I say it. At the time, I was just so grateful to have someplace to be. For weeks I didn’t know my name, he called me Miriam - that was his mother’s name.” She looked down, “I’m not sure he was pleased when I remembered my own name.”
Mulder’s eyes narrowed, so far he hadn’t learned a single thing about this man that made him feel positive. “You married him rather quickly.”
Her head shot up and he regretted his words. “He cared for me; he protected me and gave me a home and security.”
“You’re right. I apologize.”
She seemed to deflate slightly at his words. “I suppose it does seem strange. He’s quite a bit older than me and sometimes he treats me like another of his children.” She was studying her hands now.
“Considering how he found you, I’m sure he feels protective. Did he tell you how he happened to find you? I mean, were you in Atlanta or . . . “
“He was on a trip, and took a day to sightsee. He found me out in the desert.”
“He was in Las Vegas for a meeting. He drove out just to look around and I was out there. He said I was wandering around, sunburned, and dehydrated. He took me back to his room and eventually to his home.”
“Do you remember any of that?”
She shook her head. “Nothing, I just woke up in his guest room.”
“I’m surprised he didn’t take you to a hospital. They should have been able to - “
“He did what he thought best, Mr. Mulder.”
“You’re right.” Mulder tried to smile. “Did your parents attend the wedding?”
Her face fell then. “No, I didn’t have my memory back then.”
He made no comment, though he had several, to that. To change the subject and hopefully warm the atmosphere, he changed subjects. “When are you going to get to leave the hospital?”
She accepted his change. “Hopefully, day after tomorrow. I’ll spend probably a week at home, then I’ll have to return to Atlanta.”
Have to? He let that go; he was already so far over the line even he knew it.
“I suppose I should let you rest. It was very nice meeting you, despite the circumstances.” He held out his hand and saw the look of fear on her face.
“I, I guess this is goodbye.”
“Would you let me know when you’re released? Maybe . . . “
“I’d be happy to,” she seemed to seize the opportunity to see him again, and the relief he felt startled him. He pulled a card from his pocket and wrote his cell phone and home numbers on the back.
“You can call any time.”
They just looked at one another for a long moment.
“Well, you take care. Let your mother look after you. I think she’d really like that.”
Dana smiled. “I believe you’re right. Oh, they wanted to say thank you again.”
“It’s been all my pleasure. I, uh, well, bye,” he said with just a touch of loss in his voice, then without looking back let himself out of her room.
Opportunity or Fate - 3
He hesitated a moment, then dialed. “Yeah?”
“Uh, hello. This is Fox Mulder, I was - “
“G-man! Didn’t expect to hear from you, big guy.”
“Yeah, well, uh, I need some help.”
“Help? From us?” The cackle of laughter caused Mulder to wince and nearly hang up before he heard the phone being handed over.
“Hello? This is John Byers, may I help you?”
“Byers, yes. This is Fox Mulder.” Mulder breathed a short sigh of relief. Byers was the normal looking one.
“Agent Mulder, what can we do for you?”
“This is going to sound strange, but I have an investigation I’m involved in and I’d rather not go through the Bureau.”
“Of course. Would you like to come over? We don’t like to talk about our work over an open line.”
Mulder grinned, but made no comment on that. “Yeah, that would be fine. What’s the address?”
Mulder smiled as he heard the locks being disengaged. He’d thought he was paranoid. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea, but at least he knew they’d be cautious.
The little one, Frohike, was at the door giving him the once over. “Is this a set-up?”
“May I come inside?” Mulder asked quietly.
Again it was Byers that smoothed things over. “Agent Mulder, please, come in.” He glared down at Frohike, then led Mulder over to the living area of the large room. One side was filled with electronic equipment. The blonde with the long hair glanced up, then returned to his keyboard.
“How can we help you, Agent Mulder?” Byers spoke up to cover for the other two men’s lack of manners.
“Yeah, about that, maybe I - “
“Backin’ out?” Langly sneered. “Afraid we’d show up the Bureau?”
Mulder squared his shoulders and looked the man straight in the eye. “Not at all. I hope you would be able to show up the Bureau in this case. They’ve already dropped the ball and apparently don’t care. I do.”
Langly leaned back, but didn’t challenge him.
“So what’s the case? I’d love to shove it up their asses over there,” Frohike returned to the room holding four beers. Mulder took the one offered and nodded his thanks.
“What we say here, it’s just between us?” Mulder asked.
“Yes, it is. I swear it,” Byers held out his hand. Langly looked like he was going to protest, but Frohike shook his head and then all four of the men settled around the living area.
“I have an abduction victim who was returned. She had no memory of her abduction or of herself. Apparently she was rescued by a Paul Forrester of Atlanta, who told her he’d had her examined by doctors and that she would very likely never recover her memories. He kept her and married her.”
Byers frowned. “Was he the kidnapper?”
“No, but I wonder if there was some connection. What I need is an extensive background check on the man, but I don’t want to go to interviews yet. I’d like it to be an electronic trace, at least at first.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place for that. Paul F-o-r-r-e-s-t-e-r?” Byers was taking notes now.
“Yes, husband of Dana Scully and father of Randy Forrester. Don’t have an address or workplace, other than Atlanta. I don’t want to tip my hand. Dana and Paul have been married less than a year; I could probably get that date for you. Randy is from a previous marriage.”
“You want to tell us what you hope to find?”
“I’d rather not.”
Langly nodded at that and grinned, cracking his knuckles. “Sit back, Agent Mulder, and watch me work.”
“You?” Frohike sputtered, and moved toward another of the keyboards. Both began typing rapidly.
Byers met Mulder’s eyes and motioned for him to follow him to the other room. When they took seats in the mismatched easy chairs Byers took a drink from his bottle. Mulder followed suit.
“I have to say I’m really surprised to see you, Agent Mulder.”
Mulder took another swig from his bottle. “I’m a little surprised myself.”
“This is a personal investigation.”
“Yes, it is.”
They were silent for a moment. “You know, it might help us if we knew a little more about - “
“It might, but I can’t,” Mulder interrupted.
Byers nodded. “Fair enough. What else have you been up to, that you can talk about?”
They visited for nearly an hour before Langly’s whoop startled them. “My guess is Langly found something before Frohike,” Byers said dryly.
“Yeah, that’s what it sounded like to me.” They both rose and returned to the machine room.
Frohike was plainly pissed, but had moved to stand behind Langly, reading over his shoulder.
“What’d you find?” Mulder joined him.
“Your ‘hero’,” Langly said sarcastically.
“What?” Mulder tensed, moving closer.
“He’s on the payroll of Rouche.”
Mulder looked blank at that.
“Rouche? Didn’t you read the issue before last?”
“Sorry,” Mulder muttered.
Frohike shook his head. “We try to keep you informed, big guy.”
“I’ll try to do better. Could you explain?”
“Roche is a pharmaceutical company; not the most ethical one.”
The two men nodded.
“I don’t get it.”
“They do testing, Mulder. Not necessarily legal testing. Probably on humans.”
Mulder’s eyes widened.
“The government knows about it,” Langly stated flatly. “They’re in cahoots.”
“Langly,” Byers said slightly exasperated, “we don’t - “
“Sure we do,” Frohike interrupted. “They’ve been doing it for decades. How else could such a small company stay in business against the giants of the pharmaceutical industry?”
“I don’t know any of their products,” Mulder said watching them.
“Good point, but they manage to stay in business,” Frohike mused.
“So, Paul works for these guys. And he ‘found’ Dana wandering in the desert? Could you guys keep looking into this?”
“Sure; we’d be happy to. Exposing this kind of shit is what we live for,” Langly gave Mulder a slow smile. “Then will you tell us what you know?”
“I hope so.”
He had his key in the lock when he heard the phone ring. He quickly made his way inside and grabbed up the receiver before the machine could pick up. “Hello?”
“Dana? Is everything okay?”
“Yes, I, I know it’s late notice, but we, my parents and I, were wondering if you could join us for dinner tonight.”
“That sounds wonderful. Are you sure?”
“Very sure,” she sounded more relaxed now. She gave him the address and some directions.
He had no trouble finding the place. The house was in a nice neighborhood of medium size homes. It looked like a home, not at all what he was used to. He reached for the doorbell, but the door opened before he could press it. She was standing there smiling up at him.
For just an instant he was speechless. “You’re up,” he said smiling.
“Yes, but slow. I don’t think I’ll be running any marathons in the near future.”
“They’re overrated, a nice swim gives you a great workout without killing your knees,” he responded as he joined her in the entry. “You really do look good.”
“Thank you.” Her cheeks tinted slightly at the compliment and she turned away, motioning toward the living room. His hand came up to the small of her back without thinking.
Her father was on his feet as he heard them coming. “Mr. Mulder, I’m glad you could join us tonight.” They shook hands.
“It’s my pleasure, really. The cold pizza - “
“Uh oh, I better tell Maggie to heat it up.”
“Ahab,” Dana shook her head, smiling. “I’m pretty sure Mom has never served cold pizza in her life.”
“Cold what?” Maggie’s voice came from the doorway. “Mr. Mulder, you’re here.” She joined them and to his surprise gave him a quick hug. “I haven’t done anything fancy for dinner, pot roast.”
She looked puzzled at the chuckles that brought. “Ignore them, Mom,” Dana said, laughing herself. “Ahab just offered him cold pizza.”
Maggie looked askance at her husband, then her eyebrow went up. “You obviously need to be more help in the kitchen. Come on.”
Winking at Mulder, he meekly followed his wife back toward the kitchen. Dana took a seat on the couch and motioned for him to join her. “Are they always like that?”
“I don’t know, friends.”
She blinked, watching him. “Yes, I guess they are. They’re each other’s best friend.”
“That’s really nice.” He looked around the room spotting the photographs. “Are all these family?”
“Pretty much.” She started to rise but he forestalled her, rising himself and picking up the group picture. “That’s Bill and Tara, this is Charlie and Mary with their boys, Will and Sam. Melissa is my sister and that’s me.”
She nodded. “I guess it is these days, but Dad was gone a lot, Navy, so . . . “
He grinned at the inference and nodded. They talked of her health and visiting with her family until Maggie came to call them to dinner. He assisted her to her feet, and again, his hand was on her back as they moved to the dining room.
He goggled at the food laid out before them but it seemed to be the norm for them. Maggie was pushing thirds on him before he realized it. “I, I can’t. I’m going to have trouble getting dressed tomorrow,” he protested. Then watched her bring in the apple pie for dessert. “You can’t eat like this.”
Dana laughed, “No. I wouldn’t fit in anything I own either, but this is a special occasion.”
“Thanking the man who saved my life.”
“I didn’t - "
“Yes, you did,” William interrupted. “If not at the bank, then at the hospital.”
Mulder looked puzzled and Dana looked away from her father for a moment. There was an awkward silence for a moment.
“Well, I certainly do appreciate this. I haven’t had such an enjoyable evening in a very long time,” Mulder said looking at Maggie.
How was he supposed to have saved her life at the hospital? Rather than ask that, he brought up a subject that had been studiously avoided all evening. “How long has Paul worked for Rouche?”
“Rouche? I’m sorry, I don’t . . . “
“Rouche Pharmaceuticals,” Mulder said by way of explanation.
“Paul doesn’t work there. He’s an investment banker. Where did you hear that he worked for a pharmacy company?”
“I thought he said, guess I was mistaken. Sorry, I’m sure you know where his paycheck comes from. Have you heard from him?”
“Oh yes, he calls every night to check in.”
Neither Maggie nor William made any comment to this and Mulder regretted bringing up the man’s name.
“Why don’t we have our pie and coffee in the living room,” Maggie changed the subject and rose from the table. Dana led the way with William carrying the tray. They took seats and Maggie served the dessert.
Mulder and Maggie noticed Dana’s stifled yawn at the same time. “I think I should be heading home. You need to get some rest.”
“It’s early, Mulder.”
“But he’s right, Dana. You’ve been up a long time today.”
“I’m trying to get my stamina back, Mom.”
“Starbuck, you know she’s right,” William said gently.
“I feel like a child, being sent to bed.”
Mulder grinned. “I need to head home anyway. I want you to look after yourself.”
“Mulder, could you wait just a moment,” William asked.
“Of course.” He helped Dana to her feet again and watched as Maggie and she ascended the stairs after a last goodnight.
After they had disappeared upstairs, William looked over at Mulder who resumed his seat. “Paul didn’t mention where he worked to you, did he?”
Mulder met his eyes. “No, sir.”
William sat back, sighing. “You investigated him.”
“I’m sorry. I had no - “
“Please, don’t apologize. I’m grateful. Could you tell me what you found?”
Mulder blinked, but slowly nodded. “He’s listed as an employee for Rouche and not as a banker. I take it you don’t know him very well.”
“I don’t know him at all, what I do know is that Starbuck is not the same person she was before she was taken.”
“In what way?”
“The Dana I know would never let a man dominate her the way Paul does. He’s isolating her from her family, friends, and her personality has changed, she’s more subdued, less independent. I’m worried about her.”
“Is she still on the sleeping pills?”
“What sleeping pills?”
“Paul has her on them, to keep away the nightmares she started to have when her memories started returning.”
William stared at him for a long moment. “He’s drugging her.”
“I don’t - "
“I’m very glad you came over tonight, Mulder.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, each clearly contemplating what the next question should be. William looked up to ask Mulder something and saw the younger man tense, stiffen, then before he could open his mouth they both heard the screams from upstairs.
Mulder was on his feet racing up the stairs before Maggie, who was half down could turn. William was only a couple of steps behind him.
Mulder burst into the room Dana was using, and saw her in the throes of a night terror. He didn’t hesitate, taking her into his arms. “Dana, it’s a dream. You’re not alone. It’s Mulder, I’m right here with you.” He murmured these words over and over, holding her, rocking her.
It took a while but she finally began to calm down though she was still clinging to him. That’s when he realized that her parents were standing there watching them. “Uh, sorry, I - “
He started to release her but her grip on him tightened and William shook his head. Mulder nodded and pulled her back against him. She looked up at him then. “Th-thank you.”
“It’s okay. Do you remember the nightmare?”
She shivered but shook her head. “I, I can’t remember anything but the terror.”
“You didn’t take your sleeping pills?”
“No, not tonight or last night. It was a mistake.”
“I don’t think so. But I’m sure it feels that way right now. Think you could sleep again?”
“I don’t even know if I want to.”
“You need your rest,” Maggie had moved closer.
Dana turned fearful eyes toward her, but didn’t argue. Mulder helped her recline again and tucked her hair behind her ear. “Your mother’s right. Try to get some rest.”
He retreated from the room along with her father, while Maggie tucked her back in. They headed downstairs slowly. At the foot of the stairs, Mulder turned to William. “May I take a couple of her pills, the sleeping pills, to have them analyzed?”
“I’d appreciate it.” William looked back upstairs. “She responded to you.”
Mulder looked up startled. “I - “
“Sorry, just an observation. Let me get those pills.”
He made a quick stop at the guys’ apartment before heading home. He left them with the pills and information about Paul’s employment. They promised to get right on it. Byers was already crushing up one of the pills for analysis before Mulder left them.
Opportunity or Fate - 4
He’d waited as long as he could. He grabbed up the receiver and dialed the number. Maggie answered. “Hello?”
“Mrs. S- Maggie, it’s Mulder. I just wanted to check in.”
“I’m so glad you did. She had a rough night; the nightmare.”
“She had it again?”
“Twice, but she finally fell into a good sleep around 4:30.”
“I hope I didn’t wake her.”
“No, there’s no phone in her room.”
“Would you mind if I dropped by at lunch?”
“I think she would really appreciate that; I know I would.”
Mulder felt himself smiling at that. “Thank you. I’ll see you then.”
Maggie opened the door this time and greeted him warmly.
“Did she get some sleep?”
“Yes. She’s awake now, getting dressed. I was just headed up to help her with the stairs.”
She looked at him for moment. “Yes, thank you.”
He smiled and moved toward the steps. At the door to her room he hesitated, then knocked.
“I’m dressed, Mom, come on in.”
He opened the door and peeked in. “It’s me.”
“Mulder? I, I wasn’t expecting you.”
“I called a little while ago. I wanted to see how the rest of the night went.”
She shrugged, “It went.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“I told you not to take the pills,” he reminded her.
“But I don’t have to listen to you,” she smiled.
“True, you only have to listen to yourself,” he said quietly.
She turned away then, not able to face him. They were silent for a moment, then she felt his hand on her arm. “May I help you downstairs?”
“Thank you.” She wouldn’t face him, but allowed him to take her arm. They walked slowly down the stairs where Maggie joined them.
“Good, lunch is ready,” she said turning back toward the dining room.
“Oh, Maggie, I didn’t mean for you - “
“Shh, she’s loving this,” Dana said quietly. “To go from four kids and friends to just she and Dad has been an adjustment.” She smiled up at him and he was so grateful to see that smile again, he shut up and followed Maggie into the kitchen.
She had soup and sandwiches waiting on a smaller table in a nook of the kitchen. He held Dana’s chair, then Maggie’s before taking a seat himself. After eating for a few minutes, Mulder looked over at Dana. “May I ask a question?”
She looked a little wary, but nodded.
“Where were you when you were taken? You said he found you in Nevada.”
She swallowed but faced him. “Actually I was in Virginia. I was with a friend, at his apartment having dinner. I suppose he witnessed what happened, but when the people from his department finally came to check when he didn't show up at work, he was unconscious and they didn’t even know I had been there.”
“Greg Evans. He worked with me at the hospital. He was an anthesiologist.”
Maggie spoke then. “Greg was killed by a hit and run driver a few weeks later.”
“That’s terrible. Did they find the driver?”
Maggie shook her head. “We didn’t even know about this when we started trying to get some help in looking for Dana. Since she didn’t live here, and is over 21, no one was very interested. Greg was unconscious for several days. It wasn’t until he woke up that we got any details and they were sketchy.”
"He woke up?"
"Yes, we spoke to him, but then there was a complication, a blood clot or something. They wouldn’t talk to us."
Mulder nodded. “Taken from Virginia - "
"Yes, Greg had bought a condo and to celebrate I was his first guest."
“You were close to him,” Mulder remarked a little surprised to find himself more bothered about this guy than her husband.
“I thought we could be,” Dana admitted.
“But Paul found you in Nevada.”
“That’s what he told me. I have no memories of any of that. I have no memories at all of that time, except maybe in the nightmares.” She shuddered and he touched her hand. She looked up and gave him a feeble smile.
“Sorry, let’s change the subject.”
They talked of other things then, different parts of the country they had been stationed with Captain Scully, and his time in England.
Regretfully he checked his watch. “I’ve got to get back to work, if I can still walk.”
“You barely ate anything. A few more meals and I could put some meat on your bones,” Maggie protested.
“Not compared to my normal routine.” He rose from the table and helped Dana to her feet as well. “Do you know when you’ll be leaving?”
“The doctor hasn’t said,” Dana replied not looking at him or her mother.
“We’re in no hurry,” Maggie said.
After work, he headed over to the guys’ place to see what they had unearthed.
Byers let him in, and motioned for him to join them around the computer. Langly looked up. “This dude is no investment banker. This guy, right?” he turned the monitor so that Mulder could see the face. It was definitely Paul.
“Well, that’s interesting. What is he?”
“Research scientist. He probably can talk money, if he’s used to applying for grants and things - “
“I don’t think Rouche needs to apply,” Frohike interrupted.
“What do you mean?” Mulder turned to him.
“They have tons of government contracts, but they’re not getting them through the front door. I’m not finding audits of the place either, which is mandatory if you’re using government funds, at least if you’re using them legally.
“We may yell government conspiracy more than you, but this is blatant,” Frohike finished, looking up at Mulder.
“How are they getting the funds?”
“Black ops, Paperclip, Bluebook.”
“Paperclip? Blue . . . that’s UFO studies,” Mulder protested.
The three men nodded at him in unison.
Mulder was quiet for a long moment. “The pills?”
Byers sighed deeply then. “Mulder, she needs to get off of them. I don’t know her diagnosis but . . . “
“What?” his voice was urgent now.
“It’s a compounded substance. Part diazepam, that's Valium. Part alprazolam, that's Xanax, which I wouldn’t mix, but there’s stuff in there . . . Mulder, I couldn’t identify some of it.”
“What do you mean?
“I mean it was unidentifiable. I can send it off to some of our friends, but - “
“No. No, let’s keep this between us. You say it was compounded?”
“Yeah, like by a research pharmacist.”
Byers and Mulder exchanged glances. “Were you able to check about his trip to Nevada?”
"He was there around that time. He went alone, and as far as we can tell, he returned alone. He didn’t buy an additional ticket.”
“So there’s no way to know for certain that he brought her from there. That could be another lie he’s using to keep her off balance.”
Langly shrugged. “We can keep looking.”
“Yeah, I’d appreciate - “ He stopped when his cell phone rang. “Mulder.”
“I’m sorry to bother you - “
“William? What’s wrong?”
“She’s trapped in a nightmare. We can’t wake her. You seem to understand more about what’s going on. Should we call 911?”
“No. I can be there in twenty minutes.”
“I’m glad you called me. I’m on my way.” He broke the connection and looked over at Byers. “I have to go.”
“We’ll keep looking.”
He squealed to a stop in front of the house and vaulted from the car. William opened the door as soon as he knocked. “Thank you for coming.” Mulder could hear her, not screaming, but crying out and frightened.
He didn't hesitate, taking the stairs two at the time. Maggie looked up and quickly moved away when he entered the bedroom. Mulder took her into his arms and began talking to her, a low crooning that neither William nor Maggie could quite hear.
It took a few minutes, then her hand came up and pressed against his chest. Her breathing was evening out and then she opened her eyes. "Mulder?"
"Yeah, it's me."
"It was a bad one, they couldn't wake you up."
She looked stunned at that, and turned to see her parents watching them. "Mom? Ahab?"
Her father stepped closer as Maggie took a seat at the foot of the bed. "We called Mulder when we couldn't reach you."
"Couldn't . . . What's happening to me?"
Mulder looked at her father, who nodded to him.
"I think you're remembering, remembering what happened to you."
She was silent for a moment, then looked at Mulder. "He didn't find me in Nevada."
Mulder shook his head.
"Dana . . . "
"Tell me. It can't be worse than this."
Mulder looked over at her father, who nodded slightly. "I investigated Paul."
"Why?" she asked, clearly puzzled.
He gave her a grim smile. "I didn't like him. I didn't like the way he treated you."
She blinked at him. "The way he treated me?"
Mulder shrugged. "It was a feeling. As a profiler I use that a lot."
After a long moment, she slipped her hand into his. "Go on."
He gave her a small smile then. "Paul is not an investment banker. He's a research scientist working for Roche Pharmaceuticals, and he's been doing experiments on humans without FDA sanction." He watched her absorb that, looking at her father and mother for an instant. "The pills that he was giving you, to help you sleep? I had them analyzed."
Again her eyes widened but she kept quiet.
"It was a dangerous mixture of Xanax and Valium in part. There were other ingredients, that couldn't be identified. It was compounded, like something created by a research scientist."
"Unidentifiable, how?" William asked.
Mulder let go of Dana's hand then and moved back. "Here's the part . . . Years ago my sister was taken. I was there, she was eight, I was twelve."
He heard Maggie gasp. "How long was she gone?"
"I'm still looking," Mulder admitted and saw the tears that glistened in the woman's eyes. "Anyway, I witnessed it and woke up in the hospital three days later. I wasn't injured, just . . . non-responsive."
"You weren't injured?" William asked, puzzled.
"I was suffering from weightless
sickness, but other than that, I was fine."
"Weightless - "
"My sister was abducted by aliens." He said it flatly, knowing their reaction.
"Mulder, you're, you're kidding right?" Maggie asked and he started to turn to her.
"Maggie," William spoke first. "I've seen a lot of things at sea, at night, things we don't talk about. It's the same with pilots, air traffic controllers. I'd be lying if I said I thought the planet isn't being visited."
"William, you never said anything - "
He took her hand. "It's not the kind of thing you can explain, right, Mulder?"
Mulder stood there, staring at the man, stunned at the unexpected support. "Right."
"What does that have to do with the medicine I took?" Dana asked with a shaky voice.
Mulder turned back to her immediately. "The compound . . . "
"Oh my god." Her eyes had widened as she took in the implication.
"You're not taking it any more. I believe it was what was keeping your memory away. These nightmares are the memories returning."
"Did you have nightmares?" William asked.
Mulder nodded. "Still do on occasion, but I got some help with it."
"What?" Dana and Maggie asked together.
"I had hypno-regression. I got to the memories without having to wait. It didn't take away all of the trauma, but I had some control over it that way."
"Could you do that for me?" Dana asked.
"You're a Ph.D. in psychology. I'm sure you have some training . . . "
"I shouldn't have told you that."
"I'm glad you did," she responded with a little more spunk. "It would be better than some stranger."
"I don't know about this, Dana. I haven't done anything like that since school."
"But one of the most important components of the process is trust, and I trust you." She couldn't interpret the emotions that seemed to flit over his face at those words, but she reached for him again.
"In, in any case, not now.," he shook his head. "We can talk about it tomorrow; give you a little more time to think about it."
She started to say something, then just nodded.
"I'll see you tomorrow."
He caught the look of fear that flicked through her eyes and squeezed her hand one more time. "You can call me any time."
"I might," she said softly. He winked at her and left the room. Maggie stayed behind, but William followed him out into the hall.
"Mulder, look, I know it's an imposition and I haven't spoken to Maggie about this, but dinner's nearly ready, we have a perfectly fine guest room, and - "
"You don’t think she'll mind the over protectiveness?"
"I don't really care right now. She's suffering from these night terrors, she's not healed from major surgery. I'm ready to do anything to help her. I feel like we're running out of time because that husband of hers is going to come and try to force her back home. She'll be back on the medicine and . . . "
"Let me run home and get a few things. I'll be back in an hour."
"I appreciate this."
Dana was surprised, but her relief was palpable when she saw Mulder emerge from the kitchen carrying a hot dish for Maggie.
He grinned. "Sorry, you're not rid of me yet."
"I'm glad," she said quietly
They just looked at each other until the heat of the dish caught his attention. He hurried to put the dish down on a potholder and wiped his fingers on his jeans.
"Like I said," she watched him arrange the dish, "I'm glad you're here, but a little confused."
"Uh, your parents invited me again. Apparently I'm too skinny."
Her eyes scanned his body, with especial interest at part of his anatomy. She looked up to find his cheeks a touch pink but watching her. "You could gain a little weight. But somehow I don't believe that's the project Mom's working on."
He grinned, but made no comment. Maggie joined them then. "Have a seat. I'll call your dad. Go ahead and start."
William joined them shortly and they ate the delicious meal. When they were through, Maggie tagged William to help with the dishes, so Dana and Mulder retreated to the family room and she turned on the television. He took a seat on the wide, comfortable couch and she took a seat beside him, not too close.
After a while she looked over at him. "You're welcome here, Mulder, but I'm sure you'd like to - "
"Uh, actually - "
Maggie walked in then, William just behind her. "Dana, Mulder will be joining us for the night."
Dana looked up at them horror-struck. "You've hired an FBI agent to babysit me?"
"Well, I'm not charging," he said mildly.
"Oh my God!" Her face was scarlet.
"Dana, listen to me." Maggie had taken a place in front of her daughter. "You haven't had a decent night's sleep since this thing started. You're recovering from major surgery, you came here to recuperate and your father and I are going to make sure it happens."
Dana had drawn back slightly at her mother's tone and opened her mouth to protest when William shook his head.
"Drop it, Starbuck. You're still our daughter and we're going to look after you."
"I'm an adult, Ahab."
"Yes, you are, so you can see the sense of what we're doing. Your mother and I are going up for the evening. If you need us, call. I'm assuming you're not quite ready to go to bed yourself." The older man turned then, halting conversation while Dana sat there, feeling like a teenager who had just been grounded.
She stayed quiet until they were upstairs, then she turned to Mulder. "You don't have to stay here."
"May I stay?"
She met his eyes. "Why?"
"I'm hoping I can help. Come on, let's see if there's some chick flick on Lifetime."
Her eyebrow rose at that. "Chick flick?"
He grinned. "Okay, you have control of the remote. And believe me, it's a sacrifice."
She huffed but took the remote from him. What a strange evening this had become.
It was after midnight when William made his way back downstairs. He saw that the TV was still on, the sound turned low. "Mul - "
Mulder turned to him, his finger to his lips. William proceeded into the room and spotted Dana, sound asleep on the couch. The top of her head pressed against his thigh. Mulder had pulled the afghan off the back of the couch and covered her.
"She seems comfortable," Mulder whispered.
"Yes, she does. And safe." William met his eyes.
"Thank you." He meant several things and William seemed to understand.
Opportunity or Fate - 5
Dana woke and stretched. Where . . . she in the family room, but what -
"Morning," a rough and damn sexy voice sounded in her ear.
"Um hum. You were hogging the afghan, so I just put you on top of me so we could share. Now I know you're an adult, married woman, but if you don't want to be embarrassed, you're going to have to let me up." He winked at her and, scarlet faced, she scrambled off of him. He rose quickly and took her arm to ensure she had her balance. "You seemed to sleep well," he noted.
"Y-yes, I did." She couldn't help it, her eyes glanced down, then she quickly turned toward the stairs. He saw that she was moving easily and headed for the half bath downstairs.
He headed for the kitchen then, following the aroma of coffee.
Maggie turned and smiled when he entered. "Did you sleep well?"
Before he could answer, William joined them. He had overheard the question and very slightly shook his head at Mulder. She didn't know where they had slept?
"Yes, very well. Thank you." He saw Dana enter the kitchen. Before she could speak he continued. "Your guest room is more comfortable than my apartment."
He saw William turn away to hide his smile. Dana looked the question at him and he shook his head slightly.
"I'll have pancakes ready in just a minute. William, would you get the juice out?"
"Pancakes?" Mulder asked. "You really were serious about fattening me up. I'll need to run to work."
"Nonsense. Take a chair. We eat breakfast here in the kitchen." Dana brought the coffee pot to the table.
"Thank you," she mouthed to him and he nodded.
She finished her pancakes under the watchful eye of her mother, then reached for her juice. "Are we going to do this hypnosis today?"
"Uh, I have to go to work. Why don't the three of you discuss it. When I get off I'll get in touch - "
"Come to dinner, Mulder," Maggie said immediately.
"I'm going to have to buy some drawstring pants," he mourned as she laughed. "Thank you, yes, I will be back tonight. Please, give this serious thought."
Dana nodded, and he rose to head home before going to the office.
It was a long boring day except for the time he took to reacquaint himself with hypnosis. He wasn't sure this was the right thing, but he could see the necessity at least in her eyes. The nightmares were taking their toll.
When he presented himself at the front door, it was Dana that opened it to admit him. She was dressed in a light green top and jeans, which looked just a little too big for her. His smile when he saw her, warmed her whole body.
"Mom's roasting a chicken. You're bringing out the best in her."
"I'm the one enjoying this. All aspects of it." He watched with appreciation as her cheeks warmed.
She cleared her throat, leading him to the family room. "We talked about the hypnosis."
"I want to go ahead with it. I don't know what I'll remember, but it can't be worse than the nightmares. At least I'll know."
He looked at her for so long she became uncomfortable, but bit her lips to keep from speaking. He seemed to be trying to read her mind. "Okay, but I want your parents as witnesses, and I want to record what happens. I don't want to lead you."
She nodded. "After dinner?"
He shook his head. "Before." He caught the fear that flickered through her eyes and was gone. This woman wasn't going to let fear stop her.
"I'll get Mom and Ahab." She motioned for him to take a seat and slipped out of the room.
When she returned with her parents, Maggie looked frankly scared, William was holding it together for his women, holding the recorder. Mulder didn't question their decision again, offering a seat on the couch to Dana. Maggie sat on the far end of the couch they had shared the night before. William took a seat in the chair beside his wife.
Mulder sat on the coffee table in front of Dana. "I need you to relax as much as you can. This might not work on the first try; that's okay."
Dana swallowed, then reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a pendant. "Melissa gave me this. Can you use it?"
He nodded, smiling slightly. "First just get comfortable." He saw Maggie bite her lip out of the corner of his eye, but continued. "Concentrate on your breathing."
When he had walked her through relaxing each part of her body, he did use the crystal pendant that her sister had given her. "Dana, you will remember everything that you say, but it is a memory. Nothing can hurt you, you're in your parent's home and safe. You'll be able to speak to us and we can stop this at any time. Do you understand?"
"Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Think about Greg's apartment, remember the furnishings, the way you were feeling. Tell me what you're doing."
"He's kissing me." She smiled at the memory and Mulder felt himself tense. He glanced over and saw that William had noticed. He forced himself to relax. It was none of his business who she kissed, and the memory of the feel of her on top of him last night had to be shoved aside.
Suddenly her breathing changed, grew rapid and her body tensed. "Dana, you're safe. Tell me what you see."
"The lights have gone out. It's dark."
"Slow your breathing, Dana. Tell me what you see."
"Red, red lightning. The, the building's shaking. I feel funny, like I'm floating. Light! It's too bright, painful." She winced, then tensed again.
"It's just a memory, Dana. Tell me what you see."
"I'm on a, a form. It's molded to me and it's, it's oily and . . . it feels alive. I, I'm nude." Her voice was rising again. "There are lights and, and there are . . . beings."
"What do they look like?"
"They have no eyelids! Their skin is gray and - Oh god! They're touching me! They're - "
"Dana, Dana listen to me. It's a memory, they can't hurt you. May I touch you?"
Her hand reached out to him and he took hold of it, then the other. She seemed to relax immediately. "We can stop now."
She shook her head.
"You want to go on?"
"Please," it was a whimper but her hands tightened around his.
"Tell me what you see."
"I can't see the room, there are lights and sounds. But there's no talking, just a, a vibration."
"Move forward, Dana. You were rescued, returned. Do you remember that?"
There was a pause, then she nodded.
"What do you see?"
"I'm on a table. There are beings, no men, around me in space suits." Her brow furrowed. "No, biohazard suits. The man in charge, he's . . . oriental. There are eight of them, examining - No!"
"Dana," his hands tightened on her. "Come back. Come back to us on the count of three. One . . . two . . . thre - " Before he could finish her eyes flew open. Her mother moved to comfort her, but Dana had launched herself at him, clinging to him, her face buried in his chest.
"It's okay, it's okay." He was rocking her, crooning in her ear as she wept.
It took nearly ten minutes, but she finally began to calm down. William handed him a glass of water for her and she sat up and drank it.
"I'm sorry, Dana. I shouldn't have - "
"It was Paul. He was one of the scientists examining me. I slept with him! I thought - "
"Dana, you're away from him now. You never have to go back."
"He's part of this. He, he works with the people that . . . "
"We know that now, and he doesn't realize you're on to him. Maybe we can use that."
"You have an idea?" William asked quickly.
"Not really, not yet. Let's shove this aside for a little while. Think that chicken might be ready?"
"Oh!" Maggie was up and hurrying toward the kitchen.
To Mulder's surprise, Dana giggled at the sight. He looked down to see if hysteria was next but she met his eyes. "I needed that. It put it in some sort of perspective."
He smiled at her and let her sit up. She rose from his lap and turned to her father. "I'm sorry, Ahab."
"Sorry about what? You didn't do any of this. You are a survivor if I've ever met one. I always knew you were the strongest of my children. I just didn't think you'd have to prove it like this."
They hugged each other when she sat on the arm of his chair, and a few more tears were shed, then they heard Maggie join them. "We lucked out. You might need a little extra gravy, but I think it's edible."
"With you as cook, it'll be incredible, just like every other meal I've had here." He rose, helping Dana to her feet.
They ate, their conversation carefully casual and not about what they had just witnessed. He learned about her brothers and sister, and moving to different naval bases growing up. After the meal, he insisted on helping with clean up.
"I have eaten my last four or five meals here, I need to contribute. Please; I promise not to break anything."
"I'm not worried about that."
"Mom, I'll help him."
"You can tell me where things go, but I'm doing the clean up," Mulder said immediately.
"Deal. Go on Mom, I know you and Ahab need some time."
Maggie and William exchanged glances and agreed. William led her out of the dining room.
They still kept things light, teasing each other about their household skills. When he folded the towel and laid it on the counter, he turned to her and felt her tense. "I've been invited to sleep over again tonight."
"You don't have to - " she said quickly.
"I know, but I think I should. We stirred up a lot of . . . stuff tonight. It might be good for me to be here."
"Oh the couch," her tone was dry.
He grinned at that. "Think we could get away with it again?"
Her face heated up and she mentally cursed her complexion again. "I doubt it."
He sobered. "Okay, but I can be close by."
After a moment, she nodded and let him lead her from the kitchen. They found her parents in the family room and took seats on 'their' couch to watch the end of whatever was on. Again her parents excused themselves and left them alone when the show ended.
Mulder turned to watch them leave and William looked back, nodding once. Dana hadn't seen or had ignored it, so Mulder settled back and after a moment put his arm along the back of the couch. Without seeming to notice, she moved closer and shortly was cuddled into him, asleep again.
He was fairly certain that another night on the couch would be more than he should ask for, so after an hour or so, he looked down and spoke to her. "Dana? You need to go to bed."
She responded by cuddling in further and letting her hand drop into his lap. He practically hissed at that. He looked around as though for help, then sighed and carefully stood. When she still didn't wake, he gently lifted her into his arms and headed for the stairs. She only buried her face in his chest and slept on. Great.
He laid her on her bed and removed her shoes. She should have gotten ready for bed before they'd settled in front of the TV, but he had the impression she hadn't wanted to be away from them, from him, for that long.
Okay, did he stay in here with her? Shit, this was certainly a new situation for him.
Well, he wasn't about to undress her and what she had on should be comfortable enough. He arranged the covers and got her settled, then headed to the bathroom. Still undecided, he returned to her room to find her restless as though searching for something. He looked up and down the hall, then shut the door and returned to her bed. He shucked off his shoes and got comfortable on top of the covers. In her sleep, she moved closer.
He woke when she stiffened and pulled away from him, starting to shake. "Dana. Dana, wake up. It's a dream, you're safe."
"Mmf," she cuddled in. "Muld . . . " She was asleep again and relaxed.
She hadn't come completely awake, but she hadn't gone into the nightmare, even with everything she had remembered. His ego would have loved to think that it was his presence beside her, but she didn't know him that well.
What was it about her that he touched? He had known when she was struck by that bullet, he had been aware of her nightmare that first night before she had cried out.
She was calm again now, so he relaxed and she cuddled in. He let his eyes close.
He woke the next time at the sound of the knob turning and had one second to realize where he was before turning to see Maggie Scully's wide eyes at the door. Before he could speak, William appeared beside her. He took in everything at a glance, Mulder was fully clothed except for his shoes and on top of the covers. Starbuck had on clothes as well. "Did she have a nightmare?"
Mulder shook his head and started to rise. Dana protested, still asleep and her arm pulled him back.
William did not smile, but Mulder distinctly saw his eyes twinkle as he turned to Maggie. "Let's go start the coffee." He eased the door closed and Mulder collapsed back onto the pillow. Damn.
While he lay there trying to decide if he could make it out a second story window, Dana stretched, then froze. "Mulder?"
"We did it again?"
"And got caught this time. Both of your parents were just here."
"Oh my god." She was scrambling to get out of the bed and Mulder saw her wince.
"Stop. You'll hurt yourself. It's too late anyway."
"But - "
"Look at us, Dana. We're both dressed and I'm on the outside of the covers. Your father saw it instantly. Believe me, he looked. Now he's taken your mother downstairs to make coffee. Relax a minute."
To his wonder, she did, lying back against the pillow for a moment.
He decided to say it. "You can't go back to him."
He seemed to relax a little at her words. "He deceived you. Everything he told you was a lie. Could that be grounds for an annulment?"
She blinked, then smiled. "I need to find out."
"I, uh, I need to go by my place this morning, so I better get out of here."
She nodded and watched him rise from the bed, thoroughly enjoying the view this morning.
He was drinking a cup of coffee by the time she got downstairs, moving the best she had since the surgery. Sleeping beside the man was good, but she'd had the thought of how much better it could be and now couldn't seem to shake it.
"Really, I can miss one breakfast; or rather have my 'normal' breakfast." He indicated the cup in his hand. "I have to get home for few minutes, but I'll be here after work."
"Well I certainly hope so!" Maggie said quickly and Mulder grinned.
"Me too," Dana said softly and he turned toward her. After an instant, he nodded. He finished his coffee and Dana walked him to the door. "Have a good day."
He grinned and looked back toward the kitchen. Since no one had followed them, he leaned over and gave her a quick kiss. She looked startled, but immediately smiled and her arms went around his neck. "Hurry home."
His smile warmed her to her toes.
After he was gone, she returned to the kitchen and at Maggie's urging helped herself to the eggs and took a seat beside Ahab. Dana took deep breath. "You know nothing happened."
"Thank goodness I put the heavy bedspread on your bed," Maggie remarked and William watched the color stain his youngest daughter's face, but he chuckled.
"I believe you. He's a gentleman, but let's not talk about thin bedspreads."
"Ahab!" William chuckled and shook his head.
"I'm not going back to Paul."
"I didn't think you would."
"I need to talk to a lawyer, but Mulder and I think I might have grounds for an annulment."
Maggie looked up and smiled. "I can check into that for you."
Dana headed upstairs to take her shower and dress. She hurried down a few minutes later, her hair still wet. "Ahab!"
He met her at the bottom of the stairs. "What? What's wrong?"
"Mulder. Something's wrong. We have to go."
"His place. Damn, I don't know his address."
"I have it," Maggie said, turning back toward the kitchen. "What's going on?"
"I'm not sure. I feel like, I think someone's at his place. They're going to . . . to hurt him."
"Dana," Maggie returned, handing the address to William. "Why do you - "
"I don't know, but I can't ignore it. Ahab - "
"We'll head that way. Maggie, try to reach Mulder on his car phone."
"He left it here." Dana held up the Bureau issued phone. "I need to call 911, get the police over there."
''I can - "
"We're too far away. We won't get the right 911. We'll use his phone when we get closer." William had caught her urgency by then, and was headed toward the garage. "Come on, Starbuck; I'll drive."
They were gone in minutes. At one point Ahab patted Dana's wringing hands.
"You believe me, don't you, Dad?"
She hadn't called him 'Dad' in years. She sounded so young. "We're on our way. He's only about fifteen minutes ahead of us."
She nodded and looked back down at the phone in her lap. Soon, but not soon enough for her, Ahab motioned for her to try to use the phone.
It was the third try before she finally connected with the 911 operator. She didn't look over at Ahab. "Help me! I'm at 2630 Hegal Place, Apt 42. Someone's in my apartment."
"What's your name?"
"Mulder, Frances Mulder. Please, send someone!"
"Where are you?"
"I'm in the bathroom. Please - "
"Someone is on the way, Ms. Mulder. Just stay on the line with me."
"Yes, please hurry . . . battery . . . hurry!" She broke the connection then and looked over at her father.
"Not bad. They'll be all the quicker, thinking you're trapped inside."
"And they're not trying to find out why my name isn't on the address."
He nodded, and pressed a little more on the gas pedal as a hole opened to the side of him in traffic.
There were three police cars there when William pulled onto the street and Dana looked over at him. "Is he okay?"
"You tell me, I think you know."
She managed a smile then.
"I think you better stay in the car, Starbuck."
"In the - ?"
"Yes. If they're after him because he knows you and you show up at his apartment . . ."
"You think Paul is behind this?"
"From what Mulder told me, I don't think we should take the chance. Stay here." He was out of the car then and hurrying across the street. The police tried to stop him. She couldn't hear what he said, but they let him past.
Opportunity or Fate - 6
William took the elevator to the fourth floor and hurried to the end of the hall. He saw a paramedic standing over someone. He couldn't see who, then the police lead two men out of the apartment in handcuffs.
"Be sure you take their pictures and prints," Mulder called after them. "Because I can guarantee you everything you do will disappear and whatever you think you're charging them with will go away." He turned to the paramedic. "It's not that bad, please I need to go to the station - "
"You may need stitches, Sir. The police have them in custody."
"It won't matter, they'll - " He spotted William then. "Did you see them? Get a good look at them?"
"Good. Hey, why are you here? Where's . . . "
"We were worried about you."
Mulder looked puzzled for a moment, then realized what William was saying. His eyes widened, and he rose from the side of the couch where he'd been sitting. "I'll get the stitches, but I need to get to the station. I'll sign whatever you need."
The paramedic looked exasperated, but William joined them. "I'll make sure he gets that taken care of."
With a huff, the young man butterflied the cut and wrapped it. "You need to sign this, that you refused treatment."
Mulder scrawled his name on the sheet and turned to William. "We need to - "
"Why don't you pack a few things? You don't want to have to stop by here until things settle down."
Mulder nodded and turned toward his bedroom as the EMTs packed up. He returned shortly with a gym bag and William reached for it. "I can - " But he handed the bag over without another word at William's expression. They took the elevator down and saw that the police with the two attackers had left.
William discretely pointed to his car and they headed that way. They saw that Dana had moved to the back seat and had found a baseball cap, which now covered her red tresses. She looked like a young boy waiting back there. Mulder had to grin, despite how his morning had gone.
He slipped into the front seat next to William and they headed toward the Scully home.
"You're hurt!" She sat forward, spying the bandage on his arm.
"It's just a scratch." He turned toward William. "I really do need to get to the station. They are definitely going to be set free and the information will disappear."
"Do you think it's safe - "
"You need to have your arm - " Dana and William spoke together.
Mulder looked over at William. The word safe had caught his attention. "If these are the guys I think, they know I'm in contact with Dana." He was speaking to William now. "She's not safe."
"I'm not safe? You were attacked in your own home."
"And that can't happen to you. William, she needs to go into hiding, at least for a little while."
"So do you," William responded to the younger man. "We need to make plans."
Mulder nodded, looking forward again and going silent.
William pulled into the garage and closed the door before anyone got out. He led them into the kitchen.
"Fox, are you okay?" Maggie hurried into the kitchen.
"It's just a scratch," he said quickly as she took his hand. "I've got an idea, but I need to make a phone call." She nodded, confused, but pointed to the phone on the wall.
He dialed quickly, then, "Reggie, it's Mulder. My apartment was just broken into. I got stabbed, but I'm going to be okay." He met Dana's eyes and winked, shaking his head. "Yeah, I'm getting it looked after, but could you run over to the police station and make sure the pictures and fingerprints don't mysteriously disappear? Yeah, a neighbor called 911 and they caught them there, called an ambulance for me. Looks like I'll be out a few days. Yeah, if you can get copies that'd be great. Make extras. I know, I know, indulge me, okay? I'll make it up to you. Yeah, mail one copy to this PO Box." He gave him the number. "Yeah, three rounds at least, you pick the bar. Thanks. I'll call." He broke the connection and turned to the anxious family behind him.
They all took seats at the table and looked expectantly at Mulder.
"I, uh, I have an idea. I'm sure this ties back to Paul. That means Dana could be in danger and I think she needs to disappear for a few days at least."
"Disap - " Maggie started.
"I have time off now; they won't be looking for me at the Bureau. She and I could get out of town. I have a place, it's better if you don't know specifics. But, while we're gone, I think you should report her missing to the police and the Bureau. Make a stink; remind them that she was missing once before and that you believe her husband is involved. Talk about the lies he's told - his job, finding her in Nevada but no record of bringing her back, the funky medication he put her on. Mention Rauche every chance you get."
"Why?" Maggie asked, confused.
"If Paul has been lying about himself, it's because he doesn't want anyone to know what he really does. Dana had no reason to doubt him, but now that we know he's been experimenting on her, the pills, the mind games . . . they don't want publicity. They never want their work to see the light of day; it's one of the reasons for keeping Dana from you. Look what's happened in a few short days. She knows now. She can't go back to him."
"We certainly agree with that," William sighed. "Do you think I can get anyone to listen?"
"I have some friends who know publicity. You've probably never heard of the newsletter, The Lone Gunman, but - "
"The Lone Gunman?" William interrupted. "You know those guys? I never miss it. Don't always agree, but I at least get a good chuckle."
Maggie looked over at him. "You read that kind of thing? You see lights in the sky; next you're going to tell me you're really a Marine."
"Now don't blaspheme, Mags," he shook his head and winked, then turned back to Mulder. "I can work with them if they're willing."
"I'll give them a call. And while we're 'away' we'll have to communicate to you through them. It'll be safer for everyone." Mulder turned to Dana. "I didn't . . . are you okay with this?"
She smiled then. "Thanks for asking, and yes. After everything Paul has done to me, I want him exposed."
"Good. You need to pack for two or three days, jeans and things."
"I'll help you," Maggie rose and the two of them headed upstairs.
"Sir, I'll take care of her."
"If I doubted that, you wouldn't be leaving here." Mulder nodded. "What do you need, cash? Anything?"
"No, this place, we won't need much. I, I appreciate your trust in me."
"I've seen you two together. I've seen what you give her, and to some extent what she gives you. She knew you were in trouble this morning. I don't know how she knew, but there was no doubt. I can't say I understand that exactly, but I appreciate it. It seems to me that over the last few days it's grown stronger."
Mulder nodded, but didn't speak.
They heard the two women returning. "Well, I guess I'll take you back over to your car."
"Yes, but only I can get out. I'll meet you at the convenience store on up Hegal. I don't want anyone to see the two of us together."
"Good idea. What about those friends of yours?"
"Right, I'll call them now." He started to pick up the receiver as Dana and Maggie joined them.
Maggie handed him a sling. "You need to look more injured than you are," she said before he could protest.
"Good idea," William agreed. "Call your friends and I'll put everything in the car."
Mulder made his call, jotting down the number they wanted the Scullys to use to contact them.
Mulder took the front seat beside William, while Dana lay hidden in the back. It looked as though William had taken him to get his arm looked at to anyone watching. Mulder got out, saying thank you and got into his own car awkwardly. William drove off and Mulder left in the opposite direction. About ten minutes later, he pulled into the convenience store and popped the trunk.
The transfer took little time and they were on their way.
William hurried back to his own home and picked up Maggie.
William pushed into the precinct door, uniform pristine, and marched to the counter. "I need to report a missing person."
The reporters hanging around looked up, and even the officer on the desk seemed to come to attention.
"My daughter is missing. She's been staying at my house since she was injured in a bank robbery a couple of weeks ago. I believe her husband has something to do with her disappearance."
"Wait a minute; she's an adult, married?"
"Yes. Her husband has been lying to all of us. Paul Forrester, he told us he was an investment banker, but we've discovered that he actually a research scientist with Rauch Pharmaceuticals, and he's doing experiments on humans. My daughter for one." He held up a small baggie with several pills in it. He could see the interest in the reporters, who were moving carefully closer. "I need to speak to a detective."
"Sir, I'm sorry. We can't take a missing persons report for forty-eight hours on an adult. Maybe she just went back to her husband."
"She's afraid of him. He's been lying to her for months; keeping her from her family, her friends."
"Sir, again, I'm sorry, but - "
"You say he's a research scientist with Rauch?" One of the reporters had approached them now.
"Yes, and I'm afraid he's going to start feeding her these drugs again." Those friends of Mulder's were right; wearing the uniform had been the right decision. He was getting respect and people were listening. He could see a plain clothes officer approaching now.
"Sir, may I help you?"
"Uh, Captain!" the reporter drew his attention back. "What's in those pills?"
"Here, take one, have it analyzed. You won't believe me." He withdrew one of the pills and handed it to the reporter. The detective winced, but had no reason to stop him.
"Let me take your report. We can't do anything yet officially, but I can get the information at least." He led the Scullys back to his desk and the reporters talked among themselves. The one with the pill took off. William, and Byers, hid their smiles.
Dana slipped into the drivers' seat as soon as she slipped from the backseat of her father's car. Mulder blinked but this wasn't the place to cause a scene. He let himself into the passengers' seat and she drove off, having already told Ahab goodbye.
After they were out of sight of the place, he turned to her. "Why are you driving?"
"Your arm is injured; you don't need to be flexing the muscles driving."
"You were shot."
"That was ages ago." He saw the tiny quirk of her lips and settled back in the seat.
"You don't know where we're going."
"But you can navigate," she retorted, her eyes on the road.
He had to admit, she was a lot feistier than she had been when he had met her. He liked it, and realized that this was her true personality without those drugs that Paul had been feeding her. He'd been attracted to her before, now . . .
"Where are we going?" She asked after getting on the freeway, bringing him back to the present.
He turned to her opening his mouth and
"Wha - " She stopped when he touched a finger to his lips. He pointed to an exit off the highway and silently she took it. He directed her to a large truck stop. She glanced at the fuel gauge, which read full, but she didn't protest. She pulled in front of the store and parked.
Mulder reached around to the back seat and hissed as his arm touched the seat. Before she could scold him, he stepped out of the car and opened the back door. He located a small black draw-string bag. She watched as he pulled out a small instrument and begin to walk around the car.
Concerned she stepped out herself, slipping on her ball cap and adjusting it to conceal her face more. "Dana, go inside, use the ladies room, buy some snacks anything. I'll join you in a minute. Just get out of sight."
Truly worried now, she complied. She glanced back and saw him reach up under the rear passenger tire and pull out something. A homing device? She hurried behind a counter to shield herself from view of the large window.
Mulder entered the building and walked through to the other side, where the showers and facilities for the truckers were housed. He knew what he was doing; she scanned the parking lot for anyone that was watching him. She purchased some snacks and drinks and waited for him.
When she spotted him returning, wiping his hands, she moved to the car and got in, starting the engine. He slipped back into the passenger seat. "We okay?" she asked.
"Yeah, fall in behind that big rig with the dark blue cab. We're going to follow him for a little ways, then pull off when we're ahead of him and out of sight."
"You found a tracker."
He nodded, not as surprised as he'd expected to be that she had picked up on what was happening. Her father was right. "I'm sorry I didn't think about it earlier - "
"No, this is probably better. We've led them in a wrong direction for a while, now that we feel safe, we're turning to our 'real' destination. I think it's that white car."
He gaped at her for an instant, then smiled. This was definitely the woman without the drugs to slow her down. Yes, he'd been attracted before, now he was fascinated.
They drove for an hour before she pulled over to get gas and stretch. He saw her wince when she straightened up. "That's it, I'm driving for a little while."
"Muld - " but his expression shut her up. Maybe they could share the driving for a while. It was a seven hour trip.
They both used the facilities, then headed back out. They talked of their childhoods, Mulder telling stories of the cabin where they were headed, Dana talking of the trials and tribulations of a large family growing up. They were both surprised that they still had things to talk about when he, driving once again, turned off the highway and into a small community of houses. He pointed to a small cottage and drove past, then backed into the obviously unused gravel driveway.
She looked over at him and he shrugged. "Might as well make them work to look at the license tag."
He opened the door with a key on his ring, and peeked inside, then let her in. "It's dusty, but - "
"That's not a problem. We can let it air out."
"I'll run get us some dinner after I get the power and water on."
"You're not hungry?"
"No, Mom packed us food. Remember, oh, you were on the phone with your friends while Dad loaded the car. Open the trunk." Laughing she watched him return to the car after flipping the appropriate switches for the electricity. She was beside him when he opened the cooler.
"Damn, she really is serious about fattening me up."
"You have to share," she reminded him and she reached for the handle.
"No, you can't lift - "
"I'm not, we're going to lift it. You can't use that arm." He opened his mouth to protest but saw the lift of her eyebrow and took the other handle. They placed it on the counter that separated the kitchen from the main room and she shut the door to the refrigerator, left open to keep it from mildewing, to let it cool down.
He went in search of the main water valve and she began taking the dust cloths off of the furniture. She heard the water gurgling in the pipes as he returned.
"Want the tour?"
"Sure," she moved over to him.
"This is the living room, dining room, sitting room, whatever you need room," he grinned down at her. "That's the kitchen."
"Gee, I'd never have guessed," she said dryly.
"Which is why I'm giving you the tour," he responded, moving toward one of the doors opposite the kitchen. "This is the bath, you can get in from out here or the bedroom, so be sure to unlock both doors when you're through. And this is the bedroom."
"The bedroom? There's only one?"
"Yeah, Samantha and I slept in the loft." He pointed back out to the main room and she stepped out eyeing the ladder.
"I think I can do that."
"What? No, I'll sleep up - "
"You can't even stand up there, much less sleep. No, I can - "
"I couldn't stand straight the last time I was here and I did fine."
"Tell me you were over six feet then."
"No, but - "
"So, I can sleep in the loft."
"No." He turned away then and she grabbed his good arm. He looked down at her trying to be slightly menacing but she was only looking up at him, her eyebrow raised. "Look, I have a cut on my arm, you had major surgery. You should have the bed."
"If I have a nightmare, you might hurt yourself coming down that ladder. Then what good will you be to me?"
He blinked at that and she saw him glance at the too short couch. "Well, I could - "
"You could share the bed."
That stopped him short and he just stood there, looking down at her.
"Well, you could," she said, slightly embarrassed. "I'm not offering my body to you, but there's only one bedroom."
"You could offer - "
She turned her back on him and returned to the kitchen as he grinned at her. She unloaded the cooler into the refrigerator and found where the pots and pans were stored in the oven. She rinsed a pot off and chose a container to heat up.
"I need to find a pay phone and check in with the guys."
"Wait until dark."
He couldn't argue with that, so he began opening windows to air the place out. He hadn't been here in years and now he could admit he'd been apprehensive coming up here, but with her beside him, it wasn't so bad. No, not bad at all.
He helped her get dinner ready, washing dusty plates and silverware to her satisfaction and then sitting down to eat another delicious Maggie Scully creation. He watched her eat with real enthusiasm and realized how much freer she was feeling. After eating and washing up their few dishes, they took a seat on the couch to wait for dark. He saw her mood begin to sink.
She looked up, startled. "Nothing, I - "
"You're thinking about something that's bothering you."
After a moment she nodded. "Randy."
That took him a moment, and he was surprised at the flash of jealousy he felt at the response of a male name before he remembered. "Your stepson."
She nodded. "If his father is somehow punished for what he's done to me and probably others, who's going to look after him?"
"Do you feel maternal towards him? I mean, you lived with him for all of these months."
"No. I guess that makes me sound hard hearted, but there are no maternal feelings around that boy. He made my life hell, but I know it wasn't entirely his fault. He's the way Paul raised him."
"What about his mother?"
Dana shook her head. "I don't remember her ever being mentioned and there were no pictures of her in the house. Even Randy didn't have one in his room."
"Maybe he was hatched," Mulder commented hopefully.
Dana snorted lightly. "He might have been, but he's still a child and will have to be cared for by someone."
"When I check in, I'll have the guys start a search for family for him. It could be his mother has been excluded on purpose by Paul."
She nodded and looked out the windows. "Is it dark enough?"
"For me, yes. You're staying here."
"What? I can - "
"You can stay out of sight. I'm only going to be a few minutes, just to the gas station, use the phone and right back. Unless there's something we need? I can - "
"No, I think we're fine. You won't be long?"
He crossed his finger over his heart and she smiled. He rose and picked up his jacket, feeling for the keys, then winked at her and headed for the door.
She felt the cold as soon as the door shut. It was psychological, she knew that, but he wasn't here. She headed for the bedroom and located some sheets, fastidiously stored in a zipper bag and made the bed, then returned to her seat on the couch. How long had he been gone?
She found her jacket and pulled it around her cuddling back into the couch, feeling very alone.
It was the first thing he saw when he returned to the cabin, her huddled under her coat, staring at nothing. "You're cold," he accused, moving toward the windows to close them.
"No, not really, just . . . " she shrugged.
He closed the windows anyway and then joined her on the couch, his arm going around her automatically. "They know we're here and safe. Your parents did go to the police and it went off beautifully. A couple of guys from the press were there, like they predicted. They jumped on the story immediately and one of the reporters took a pill to have it analyzed. Byers said your father took command."
Dana smiled at that. "I am not surprised."
"Look, it's been a long day. Why don't you go ahead and get ready for bed. I'll find the sheets and - "
"You should have waited for me. You're not supposed to be tugging at mattresses."
"I didn't tug." She sighed. "I guess I will get ready. It's ridiculously early, but I am tired." She rose and headed for the bedroom.
He watched her leave, a little unsure if she was being truthful. She had looked frightened when he'd returned, but she obviously didn't want to talk about it. Why shouldn't she be? She was alone in a strange cabin, in an unfamiliar location, with a barely known companion - running from her 'husband'. He sighed.
He looked up when the bedroom door opened and had to stifle a laugh. He wasn't completely successful and she glared at him. "I guess your mother doesn't trust me after all," he ventured, sizing up the pajamas. She looked like she was wearing her older brother's pj's. He was surprised there weren't cowboys and horses adorning them. Oh wait, that had been his old pj's. "It's certainly not as attractive as last night's ensemble."
Her cheeks pinked slightly at those words, but she pulled again at the waistband. "I should have been paying better attention which she packed," Dana groused. "I should have thought about this elastic waistband."
"Is it against your incision?"
"You can't wear that. Is it really all she packed?"
Dana nodded, disgusted.
"Look, that will keep you up all night. You're welcome to borrow one of my t-shirts. It should hit you about mid-calf."
She narrowed her eyes. "I am not that short."
He grinned and started toward the bedroom. "You just keep tellin' yourself that little lady."
She glared at him as he ducked into the room and returned immediately dangling a gray t-shirt from one finger. She huffed as she snatched it from him and shut the door firmly in his face.
He was still chuckling when she emerged, but the sight caused the mirth to die. He had exaggerated, the t-shirt didn't reach her knees, but the soft curves underneath it caught his breath. She had to have noticed, because she wouldn't meet his eyes.
"I, uh, I know it's early for you, but the offer of sharing the bed is still open, whenever you decide . . . "
"I'll go ahead and get ready too," he said. "It has been a long day."
She retreated into the bedroom, leaving the door open and after a moment he followed, picking up his kit and stepping into the bathroom. He emerged, still fully clothed. She was watching.
"What do you normally sleep in?"
"Me? Uh, my boxers, a t-shirt if it's cold."
"Are you cold?"
He shook his head. Cold, did not describe how he felt right now. She only nodded and pulled down the covers on his side of the bed. He hesitated a moment, then took a seat at the side of the bed and removed his shoes, socks and after a moment's thought, his jeans.
She was watching him, her expression serious. "You said you weren't cold."
"So why are you still wearing the t-shirt?"
"Oh, I uh, I didn't want to make you uncomfortable."
He nodded at that and slipped the shirt off over his head. She took his injured arm into her hands and examined the bandage. No blood, no seepage. She nodded and relaxed back, reaching for the bedside lamp.
Before she could say the room was truly dark, he had moved closer, turning her on her side and wrapping himself around her back. She started to speak, but then just relaxed into his embrace.
Opportunity or Fate - 7
She woke to find herself on his side of the bed and him nowhere in reach. She glanced over, but the bathroom door was open and the light out. There was no noise from the main room, but she rose anyway, stretching carefully. She opened the door but he wasn't there. That caused her to look quickly outside, but the car was gone. For an instant she felt total panic.
She fled back to the bedroom, but then just sank onto the bed, completely clueless as to what to do.
Dana had no idea how long she had sat there when she heard the door open. She rose and stepped back into the main room. He looked over and smiled but at her expression emptied his hands on the first flat surface and rushed to her side.
"You were gone."
"No, I, I just went to get us some coffee and breakfast and the Washington Post. I thought I'd be back before you woke up."
She glanced over at his hastily discarded items, seeing the bag and the carrier with two steaming coffees. She closed her eyes and felt his arms go around her. "I wouldn't leave you."
"I couldn't feel you," she whispered leaning against him.
"Feel me," he repeated, then led her to the table. He opened her coffee, and she inhaled the fragrance and her hand went around it. He sat opposite her and pulled a pastry from the bag along with several napkins.
He waited until she had finished roughly half of her coffee and managed to nibble a little at the sweet fruit thing in front of her.
"You felt me yesterday morning, when I was in trouble."
She nodded, not looking up at him.
"You knew to call 911. The police got there just as things started to happen. I thought I was alone. I opened my apartment door and stepped inside. Before I could close the door those two men were inside with me. Apparently they had orders not to kill me, they never pulled guns, but - " He stopped at her shudder. "You knew."
"I felt it," she said simply, not attempting to explain.
"I never told you what happened outside the bank." She looked up puzzled. "I was there, the negotiator was trying to get him to pick up and we all heard the sound of his gun going off. Dana," he touched her chin to bring her eyes up to his. "I fell back at the impact."
Her mouth fell open. "Wha - "
"I felt you shot, then I was running to you. My supervisor saw it, he'll probably never mention it, but he definitely saw it. And that first night I was at your parents' house, just before you cried out from your nightmare, I tensed, I knew it was coming. Your father saw that, I caught him watching me afterward. I knew it was going to happen."
"I don't know, unless we're linked somehow. I noticed you at the Bureau that day, I found you very attractive, but when I realized you were one of the hostages, I was crazed for a minute. I didn't know you, hell we'd spent four and a half minutes together, but I was terrified for you. Seeing Randy come out of that bank . . ." He stopped and closed his eyes.
Her hand came to rest over his. "I know. That's how I felt yesterday morning." They were both silent for a moment. "Why?"
He met her eyes then, understanding her question and shook his head. "I don't know. You said you couldn't 'feel' me this morning. I wasn't in danger, and I was happy."
"Yeah, holding you all night made me happy." She blushed then and looked away. Happy, yes that could describe how she had felt in his arms last night. "When you're all healed, I think I could be even happier." He gave her a sappy grin and laughed. She pulled her hands away.
"I am still married."
"Technically maybe, but you fulfill the conditions for an annulment."
"How do you know that?"
"My geek friends can look up all kinds of things."
"How are you, we, how are we able to feel these things?" Dana went back to their original conversation.
"I'm thinking it has to have something to do with what we both went through. I wasn't taken, but I was there when they took Samantha. I don't remember everything that happened, I wasn't a test subject, there wasn't time. Something happened to me though. I've never woken up in a strange place, not knowing what happened - even in college," he chuckled, the sobered again. "When I got out of the hospital, went back to school, I was different."
"Before that night, I was at best a B student in math. I did okay in English, history but math was not my thing. When I got back, it was . . . clear. I understood what I hadn't before. And I became more intuitive. That's not exactly a good thing at that age, but I was able to read people's faces, I knew what they were going to do before they did it. That kinda freaked me out. I still played basketball, but it was weird because I knew the moves the other players were going to make, their expression, the move of a shoulder or knee . . . "
She was watching him. "That's a great thing in a profiler."
"Yeah, but a 'spooky' thing in middle and high school. I moved to the more solitary sports, track and swimming. That's when I turned into more of a loner."
"My memory. It got scary good. I didn't have an eidetic memory before that night."
She blinked at that. "You're sure."
It wasn't really a question, but he answered anyway. "It's not the kind of thing you don't notice before."
"No, I guess not. Why didn't I get any of that?"
"What do you mean?"
"You 'feel' me now. Maybe you got it too, and because of Paul's drugs you haven't had the chance to realize it."
"You think . . . "
"We can look at it, test a little, if you want."
She straightened up at that. "Is there anything in the paper?"
"Haven't checked." He allowed the change in subject, and pulled the paper to him. He began searching while she finished her pastry and took another sip of coffee. After a minute or two he smiled. "Here's something - 'Research Scientist Questioned in Disappearance of Wife'." He quickly scanned the article. "Those guys are good. I think they hacked into the AP and posted this themselves. Oh, and here's something else. 'Rouche Pharmaceuticals Using Humans in Trials'." He laughed then. "I should have turned these guys lose on the public a long time ago."
He handed her the paper and she quickly read both articles. "Paul is going to be furious."
"You don't have to worry about him, Dana. It's in the light now, he can't get to you."
"Will Ahab be in trouble for giving a false report?"
"No. You ran because you discovered what your husband had been doing to you. You were afraid and hid. When you heard about the search, you contacted your parents. They won't be in trouble."
After scanning the report again, she nodded.
"Go get dressed. There're some nice trails around here. We're here to relax and there're some places I'd like you to see."
Dana smiled then and left him to clean up while she dressed.
They had a very nice, relaxing day. He showed her the tree where he and Samantha had carved their initials as children and where he had learned to swim and water ski. It was quiet, only the full timers here now as the weather grew cooler.
When he checked in that night, the guys were crowing about how many papers had picked up their story. The police had indeed questioned Paul at his office in Atlanta which, lo and behold, was not in a financial institute but in the offices of Rauche Pharmaceuticals. They had caught him off guard, and he had apparently been less than gracious. In fact, he had been taken away handcuffed after assaulting one of the officers.
The maternal grandparents of Randy Forrester had been located and were in touch with authorities. Lilith Forrester was deceased and her parents were now pushing for an investigation.
"We've only been gone two days," Mulder said stunned.
"You underestimate us, G-man," Langly laughed into the phone. "Her parents are worried about her."
"She's doing fine, relaxing, getting herself back together. Ask them not to worry."
"Will do, what else do you need?"
"Nothing for now. We'll still be here tomorrow. She needs to be strong to face whatever's there when we get back."
"We'll keep the flames going. Take care." They broke the connection and he leaned against the pay phone kiosk, shaking his head.
He looked around then and slipped back into the car. No one was paying him any attention and no one followed him back to the house. He'd given the car a much more thorough search for bugs that afternoon and was confident about that at least.
Dana was popping popcorn when he returned. He pulled out the tea pitcher and they settled on the couch while he brought her up to date.
When he had finished she sat there goggling at him. "They, they work fast."
He chuckled. "Don't know why I haven't been using them in investigations for years."
"Do you really think this is going to work? Do you think I'll be free of him?"
"I promise you that, Dana. Whatever else happens, I'm going to make sure of that. You, you haven't told me. What do you want to do when you're free?"
"I'd like to go back to school," she said immediately. "Before all this happened I was doing my internship at Georgetown."
"Do you know what kind of doctor you want to be?"
"No. There're some I can cross off now, but I have to do residencies in all of them before I finish. If I can get back in, that is. There are some I can go ahead and cross off in my head - pediatrics, gerontology, and psychiatry."
"After being a 'mother' to Randy . . ." she shrugged. "And you're the mind guy; I wouldn't want to compete there."
"But is there any way anyone would allow me back into a program anywhere?"
"The drugs," he questioned.
She nodded. "I forgot everything while I was missing."
"But you've gotten it back. You were still being drugged until a few days ago. Now look at you. You're totally different from the woman I saw in that hospital bed a week ago."
"Do I dare ask which you like better?" She was trying to tease, but he saw her fear.
"This one," he said firmly. "The other one was attractive and I was drawn to her, but this one is real and strong and, and what I've been looking for."
She blinked at that, unable to think of anything to say.
"You're hogging the popcorn," he said softly to break the mood and it worked. She chuckled and handed him the bowl.
"Are we going back tomorrow?"
"Let's check the paper first, see what's happening. Are you in a hurry to get home?"
She shook her head and leaned against him. His arm went around her and they sat in comfortable silence.
After a while, he looked down at her. "I don't think you're going to have nightmares tonight."
"You're comfortable with yourself again."
"What are you thinking?" she looked at him curiously.
"Well," he looked away for a moment. "I think I better sleep out here tonight."
"Why?" she demanded.
"You're married," he said simply.
"I was married last night too," she pointed out.
"I know that, but . . . Listen, no pun intended, but it's getting harder and harder to just hold you."
She blinked, then the most beautiful smile took over her face, knocking the breath from his chest. "Maybe we should stop fighting it."
"You had major surgery."
"You were stabbed," she countered.
"So maybe we should wait until we're both healthy?"
"Was that a question?"
He actually laughed then. "Yes, and no."
"To presume here," she said cautiously. "We have the rest of our lives."
His face was solemn then. "Yes, we do."
The next morning they went over the paper, Dana actually had her finger running down the page as she read and reread the information. The story about Rauche had moved to the front page, below the fold, but still on the front. The acquisition of funds, the lack of audits which had been requested through the freedom of information act and the accusation of human trials had made it one of the sexiest stories to break in ages.
"I can't believe how this has exploded," she finally looked up at him.
He nodded. "I believe it's taken on a life of its own, but the guys are going to keep the heat on. There's always something that can steal the interest and since this is government, I'm not going to be surprised if that happens. If it does, they'll keep it alive."
"Are they going to want me again?"
"You're pretty high profile now, you might even be asked to give interviews."
"Yes, and you need to make sure they know you don't remember anything that happened while you were missing. You were drugged for all of that, but they kept you and continued drugging you. That's what you can speak about. There's no need to talk about any returning memories other than your identity. In fact, you need to make sure that those are the only memories you mention."
She nodded. "I get that. Do you think they'll be punished? Go to jail?"
He shook his head. "I don't think so. I think they'll go underground and try to do this again. It doesn't end."
"So I won't be safe."
"I think you will. Like I said, you're high profile now. It's too dangerous to use you again."
"You really believe that?"
"I do, and I'm planning to make sure of it."
"How will you do that?"
"By being around."
The slight smile on her face was answered by one of his own.
"Are we going back today?" she asked.
"I don't want to," he replied. "I'm still going to be out, or on desk duty and I'm not anxious to get back to that. I guess you want to start looking at returning to school."
"I could wait one more day."
His smile broadened. "Yeah, we could wait one more day."
She actually laughed at his expression. As he moved closed, her smiled faded and when their lips met, they were both completely serious. "We need to be gentle," he said.
She nodded and he took her hand to lead her into the bedroom. He lifted the t-shirt over her head let his hand caress down her side. When his hand touched her bandage he felt her stiffen.
"No," she whispered and tried to pull away.
"Let me see it," he said softly.
She shook her head. He tilted her head up to meet his eyes. "Let me see it." He gently but firmly had her recline against the pillow. He carefully removed the bandage and looked at her wound. The skin around it was pink and healthy looking, it was healing well. He let his finger caress it, then he leaned down at kissed it. She jerked slightly at that.
"I'm sorry for the pain this caused you," he said quietly. "And I'm sorry you think this mars what I consider the perfect female body. But I'm glad this happened. Listen to me, if this hadn't happened, you would have gotten on that plane with Paul and Randy and flown back to Atlanta. I would have a vague memory of running into some woman and her stepson in the halls at work and, and as your memories continued to return, he would have increased your medication until it killed you." She felt him shudder slightly at those words. "Instead you've reconnected with your family and, and we're here together and I'm about to make love to you."
He saw the tears that shone in her eyes. "Dana, fate gave us this opportunity. I don't know if it would work to give us this again. We need to take it."
She didn't know if she had an eidetic memory now or not, but she knew she would remember these words for the rest of her life, their lives. She leaned up and took his lips with her own. Opportunity or fate, it didn't matter.