"Scully, how do you feel about camping?" She looked at him without answering, waiting for the punchline. "Scully?"
She sighed, "Our trips to the woods, historically, have been disasters."
"Oh come on, your singingís not that bad." He ducked from the paperclip she threw at him. "No, really, weíve got a case. Weíve got people vanishing from a campsite in southern Virginia, and turning up three days later in totally different areas of the country. We have reports of six cases so far."
"Six? I havenít heard a word."
"Well, there may be more. These arenít people who check in regularly." He handed her the file. She glanced at him once more, then opened it and began reading.
"Mulder, these are deadheads. They could have been high and not even have remembered moving."
"Most of them, yes. But look at the last two. Law students, not deaders. They swear they werenít using and they hadnít missed class before."
"So you want to go where?"
"I want to go camping. See whatís really happening."
She sighed again. Camping huh? It had been a long time.
Scully was unloading the trunk of the car as Mulder struggled to put up the tent. It wasnít a bad campsite, well laid out. They had picked a site fairly near one of the bathhouses. There were toilets, showers, and utility sinks Ė most of the comforts of home, minus electricity. There were picnic tables at each site, where Scully set up their kitchen.
After successfully battling the tent upright, Mulder laid out the mats and sleeping bags. He made sure their clothing and toiletries were all inside the tent rather than left in the car. No one had reported that their car had followed them across country to where they had been found.
Scully looked up at him as he came out of the tent. "What do you think?"
She smiled. "It is beautiful here. And it smells so good. Iíd forgotten how good it can smell in the mountains. We did some family camping when I was a kid. It was usually in the early fall like this, when it wasnít so oppressively hot."
"Did you bring a suit?" He gestured toward the lake they could see glistening through the trees.
"Arenít we suppose to be working?"
"Nothing happens until dark according to the files. Come on, weíre both hot from setting up." He shot her that puppy dog look.
"Fine, but if the waterís too cold, you go in alone."
He smiled and ducked back into the tent. When he emerged she looked over at him. "What? No Speedo?"
"I wasnít sure you could control yourself."
Her eyebrow rose, "Right." She started toward him.
"Scully?" He stepped back, she wouldnít. . .
"Can I have the tent now?"
"Oh, sure." He moved out of the way and checked the car one last time to ensure that everything had been unloaded. He kept one eye on the tent and stopped in his tracks when she stepped out. Why did she wear those suits to work? No, it was probably a good thing. He wouldnít get any work done.
"Mulder?" She looked around for him.
"Here." She turned toward his voice and felt the color rise in her face at his obvious regard.
"Are we going to swim?" He nodded and they headed toward the lake. He stepped in and immediately retreated.
"Damn, where do they keep the glacier?"
"Chicken. Itís not that cold. Come on." Scully eased into the water and began swimming toward the platform out in the lake. Well, he couldnít let her show him up that way. He dove in and managed to beat her to the raft.
He climbed up and reached to help her up. "Not bad, Mulder."
"Damn." He shivered. "Now I remember why I didnít wear the Speedo." She couldnít hold in the laugh, then shoved him back in the water. He came up sputtering. "You are dead meat, Agent Scully."
When they finally called a truce, they sat on the raft and looked around. "This really is a beautiful place, Mulder."
Mulder sprawled beside her. "It is nice here. Hard to believe a place like this exists a few hours from DC."
"True. Are you sure this is the right place? Thereís not many people here, and the ones Iíve seen donít look like real Grateful Dead fans."
"Good. Maybe youíll believe itís not a drug induced blackout."
"We ought to get to work. See if anyoneís seen anything."
"Right. Would that entail getting back in that icy water?"
"Be brave, Mulder. At least thereís no sea monster out here. Bye!" She dove in before he could grace her with a reply and this time beat him to the shore. She ducked into the tent first as well, to change.
"Hey, hurry in there! Iím freezing out here."
"So how come you only brought one tent?" She called from inside.
"Because if anything happens, I didnít want us separated."
"Good answer, Mulder. Iíll pretend to believe you." She came out in shorts and t-shirt, pulling her hair back. "Just stay on your side of the tent."
"Scully, you wound me." He ducked into the tent to change. She was sitting on the picnic table when he emerged, tying her shoes. With her hair in a ponytail, she looked about twelve years old. He smiled; she hadnít in that bathing suit. She looked up then and returned his smile.
She jumped down; "Do we ask questions as Fibbies or campers?"
"Campers I think. You know, is it a quiet place? Were they here for the last couple of nights?"
"Lead on McDuff." He stuck his tongue out at her and pulled her beside him.
"A little respect, Agent Scully. This is a serious investigation." She rolled her eyes. No this wasnít a serious investigation; she was having too much fun. Besides, people didnít just vanish and then appear hundreds of miles away Ė not sober anyway.
They spoke with everyone in the campsite. Their story was they were trying to catch up with friends. No one had seen or heard anything the night before, though Scully was convinced some of them wouldnít have noticed a jet landing in their tent. However, there were a number of senior citizens who had also heard nothing.
"Mulder!" Scully was laughing as they headed back to their own campsite. "I feel like Iím in a 70ís flashback."
He loved to see her laugh. He didnít care if she was making fun of his case; she was relaxed and enjoying herself. At this point he didnít care if the case was a bust himself.
They managed to fix dinner with a minimum of friendly bickering and after washing up, Mulder proceeded to pack everything inside the tent.
"Tell me youíre worried about bears, Mulder."
"I just want everything we brought to be with us when we wake up."
"So how come you piled everything on my side of the tent?"
"Because with those short little legs, you donít need that much room."
"You are going to pay for that one, Fox."
"Oooh, playing dirty, Dana?" His eyes laughing, the taste of her name different on his lips.
"You had better be nice to me, I know where the ingredients for the símores are hidden."
"Oh Scully, donít tease me. You brought símores?"
She grinned. "Couldnít let this trip be a total waste. Build me a fire, G-man, and Iíll see if I brought enough for you."
He admired those short legs as she headed to the car. When she returned with the bag he demanded to know where she had hidden the stuff. Heíd checked the car at least twice.
"You donít know everything about me, Mulder. A woman has to keep a little mystery."
Their light-hearted banter continued as they sat across the fire from each other. He enjoyed the way the fire made her hair even redder, and the easy way she moved in her casual clothes. She in the meantime was enjoying his ease at being with her. He was like a different person out here without the melancholy air that always seemed to lie just behind his eyes.
"Youíve got chocolate all over you, Scully." He teased as she was licking her fingers.
"I do not. I am not a messy eater."
"Right, then whatís this?" He rose and used his finger to wipe some chocolate off the side of her face, then popped the finger in his mouth. The sight caused the color to rise in her face and she was very grateful for the heat of the fire as an excuse.
"Enough! Iíve gained five pounds today."
"Nyah, you swam that much off. You ready to turn in?í
"Yeah. Hand me a flashlight please, Iíll go on up to the bathhouse."
"Wait. Let me put the fire out and Iíll walk you."
"Afraid Iíll vanish, Mulder?"
"Maybe, and maybe Iím afraid one of those old letches is lying in wait for you." She watched him douse the fire, making completely sure it was out, then they walked companionably up the rise to the bathhouse.
He was waiting for her when she came out, and hung around outside the tent until she bade him enter. She was already in her sleeping bag.
"Go ahead and change, Mulder. I wonít peek."
"Awww, and I wore my special glow in the dark boxers."
"I canít believe I let you talk me into this, Mulder. But Iím glad you did, itís like a vacation from my past."
"You can open your eyes now Scully." He stretched out in his own sleeping bag.
"Oh, was I suppose to close them?"
"You are having all together too much fun Dana Scully. You are going to have to fix breakfast for me in the morning as your punishment for not taking this case seriously enough."
"Hold your breath, Mulder. Good night."
She dropped off to sleep fairly easily. Mulder took longer, but her quiet even breathing was very relaxing and he finally drifted off as well.
It was light when he woke. He rose quietly and decided to throw on some clothes, head to the bathhouse, and then start breakfast as a surprise for her.
One step outside the tent was surprise enough. "Scully, get up. Weíre not in Kansas anymore."
"What?" She rose from her sleeping bag. "Are you kidding?" He silently stepped aside. "Someone stole our car!"
"They also stole our bathhouse and our lake." Her head whipped around to confirm his words.
"Mulder. . . "
"I donít know. I think we better check it out." He reached into his pack and found the compass. "Look." He held it out so she could see. It was spinning, not pointing to anything.
"Mulder, where the hell are we?"
"Thatís what weíve got to find out." He stepped outside so that she could dress. She hurried and so did he. He brought some fruit bars out for breakfast.
"Mulder, thereís no noise. No birds, no bugs, nothing."
"Like weíre in some giant terrarium?" He offered.
"What, you think Brainac took us up in his shrink ray and weíre on the outskirts of the bottled city of Kandor?"
Mulderís entire face lit up. "You know Kandor? I never pegged you for a Superman fan."
"More Supergirl, until they killed her off, but I knew the entire mythology. So that is where you think we are?"
"No, but right now I canít prove it."
"Great. What do we do?"
"We investigate. Come on." First they headed toward where the lake had been, making sure to keep the tent in sight. When that revealed nothing they returned to the campsite to find a way to mark their trail. The woods continued in every direction, no matter how far they walked.
Their watches showed time passing, and they returned to their campsite at 5 p.m., tired and hungry, having missed lunch.
They fixed dinner and cleaned up, rationing their potted water. They ate in silence, each thinking their own thoughts. When he reached for her plate to clean it, she handed it to him. "Remind me, no matter what you say, to never go into the woods with you again."
"Scully, I. . . "
"No. Three strikes and youíre out. You got the prehistoric bugs, then the moth men, now this. They all reappear three days later?"
"Yeah." He sounded very subdued.
"How long did they think they had been gone?"
"Did the people who vanished believe they were gone three days or more?"
"I didnít. . . "
She closed her eyes. He wilted a little, what had he done now?
"Letís clean up. We canít do anything more tonight. Itíll be getting dark soon."
"Scully, Iím sorry."
"Look, as far as we know, no oneís been hurt. We just wait the three days and find our way home. Iím just glad you didnít come alone."
"Donít let me off that easy."
"I havenít. You owe me and you will pay, when I decide what I want." He managed to look up at her. She didnít look furious at least. But he knew he was on thin ice. "You know, I really miss that damn bathhouse with the spider webs in the corners. Iíll see you in a little while."
"Wait! You canít go off. . . "
"Oh yes I can, Mulder."
"But. . . "
"Donít even think it."
"Look, Iíll stay here, but you have to keep me in sight. Promise me that, Scully. We donít know where we are or how we got here. We shouldnít be separated."
"Well thatís a little easier for you. Damn it, okay. You stay right here and do not move."
He silently nodded. She stalked off behind him, muttering to herself. He was just as glad he couldnít quite understand the words, he could hear the sentiment clearly enough.
Once they were both safely tucked into their sleeping bags he attempted again to apologize. "Mulder, Iím not really mad at you. I want to know whatís going on and I want a rational explanation for it. And Iím a little bit scared, itís creepy with no bugs or anything, I miss the noise. But Iím very glad you didnít come alone, Iíd be frantic."
"Mulder, go to sleep." She turned away from him and finally did drift off, exhausted from the hiking of the day.
He had a lot more trouble. Even her breathing sounded accusing to him. When he did finally drop off it didnít last long. He woke to find her bending over him, brushing the hair from his forehead.
"Itís okay, Mulder. It was just a dream." He closed his eyes and sank back, relaxing his stomach muscles, and drawing a deep breath.
"Did I cry out?"
"You couldnít find me. But itís okay now. Weíre not separated."
"These bags zip together." Had he said that out loud?
"Mulder, thereís less than two feet of space between us now. Iím not going anywhere."
"But if I could touch . . . Iím sorry." She sat back on her heels and looked at him. He was giving himself a lot of grief about this and worrying about her. Oh what the hell . . . She would feel more at ease herself, not that sheíd ever admit it.
"Get up Mulder. But if you get out of line, youíll be limping for days."
He gave her that familiar leering grin. "I swear Scully. No hanky panky."
"Hanky panky? Good lord, Mulder . . . nevermind, just get up and help me get these bags together."
"You know itís not really dark outside. Thereís no moon, but . . . "
Scully looked up, she hadnít really thought about it. She could see fine, even inside the tent. Her night vision wasnít that good, there was a light source. She decided that she really didnít care where it was coming from and turned her attention back to the bags.
"Scully, donít you want to check it out?"
"No, I donít. I want to stay here, inside of this tent with you and turn up back home in a couple of days. I donít want to know whatís making the glow or where the birds are or anything. And you arenít going outside either."
"Yes maíam." She was scared, he realized. That didnít happen often and he was the cause of it. Heíd dragged her off again, without checking everything out, ignoring her safety because he wanted her company. If he ever did manage to grow up, he was going to owe her a hell of a lot more than he could ever repay in this lifetime.
He finished fitting the bags together and let her get settled, then crawled in beside her, giving her a much room as possible.
She finally had to laugh. "My touch wonít turn you to stone, Mulder. You can have a little room."
You want to bet? He thought, but decided no comment would be worth that amount of hurt. He did however relax a little and when she slipped her hand into his, he squeezed it and felt the tension leave his body.
She woke feeling very rested and secure. It wasnít until she started to move that she realized that she was spooned into Mulderís chest. His arm was across her, his hand resting between her breasts, and his hard on pressing into her buttocks. When did they become so friendly? She moved to disengage herself and his arm tightened around her. His hand closed around her breast, his thumb began caressing her nipple.
"Mulder. . . Mulder wake up."
"Um, Scully." He nuzzled her hair.
"Mulder!" She was more insistent this time. She couldnít let him. . . and he knew it was her. At least he was using her name.
"Scully? I. . . oh god!" He released her immediately, giving her as much room as he could within the confines of the bag.
"Itís okay Mulder. Just relax, we were both asleep. And I did sleep very well, thank you."
"Me too, listen, could you. . . I need to. . . "
She could tell he really did need to, so she quickly slipped from the bag and let him up, turning her back so that he could leave the tent with some semblance of dignity. She didnít dare laugh, besides it wasnít funny. Well, yes it was, but not to him.
She went ahead and dressed while he was out of the tent and when he returned slipped out herself. He was so subdued and totally mortified, she needed to reassure him, but didnít have a clue what to say. He obviously did not find this a joking matter, so why had he seemed so turned on? He didnít know anyone else named Scully to cuddle up with, did he? She squared her shoulders; this had to be taken care of.
"Mulder." He actually shuddered, but wouldnít turn toward her. "Mulder, please. Nothing happened. I actually felt very safe."
He muttered something, but she couldnít understand him. She drew closer and put her hand on his arm. "What? Mulder, look at me."
"I said, thatís what Iím going for with a beautiful woman in my arms. That she feel safe." He finally did look up, a rueful smile on his face. She knew she was blushing, no way she couldnít be. "By the way, when did you start sleeping in my clothes?"
"What?" Oh good grief, the t-shirt sheíd slept in, it was his. Heíd left it at her apartment and . . . busted. She took a deep breath.
"Why donít we just start this day over from scratch, Mulder. Nothing happened we canít get past. Weíre partners; we offer support to each other. Thatís all we did last night."
"Right. Canít really see me offering that kind of support to Krycek, and of course if I caught him offering you anything like it, that would just be another reason to kill him." But at least he was smiling again.
"Come on we have work to do. If we canít walk out, we should at least take samples back so we can figure out where weíve been."
"Youíre good for me Scully."
"I know." She said softly and headed back toward the tent to fix some breakfast. "Mulder, the water. . . "
"Donít tell me we sprung a leak last night."
"No." Her voice was shaking. He was at her side in one step. "Its back up to the level it was yesterday morning. Mulder, who filled it and from where?"
"Are you kidding. . . ? Scully, itís okay." Now she really looked frightened.
"No itís not okay. Where the hell are we Mulder! How could someone have gotten into that tent last night with neither of us hearing anything and what is in the water? Maybe this is a drug-induced episode. What if weíre still at that campsite!"
"Scully calm down. Thatís not whatís going on. This is real. If you donít want to drink any of the water, thatís fine. We have other things here to drink. You were right, we need to get samples. Concentrate on that Scully, you have to believe that this is just like the other cases and weíll be home day after tomorrow. You have to believe that. Scully, youíre not going to cry. . ." No, he couldnít take that.
"No! I am not going to cry. Letís get the damn samples. I donít want to be gone from the site for long."
"Should I pour out the water?"
"I donít know. Do whatever you want."
"Scully. . . "
"Iím sorry." She visibly steadied herself. "Weíll need samples of it too. I need to be busy, Mulder. I donít want to think right now." She walked away from him, not bothering to see if he followed.
The day dragged, what samples they could collect did not take long and they didnít have the heart for it anyway. They ate lunch that day, mainly so they wouldnít have to throw things away. Neither had any appetite. Mulder tried to apologize again and Scully finally cut him off.
"If you want to blame yourself go ahead. I donít blame you, Iím an adult and I could have refused to come with you. I didnít. Drop it, you are not responsible for me or my actions. So far we donít seem to be in any imminent danger and I donít want to dwell on it, okay? Donít apologize anymore."
"Iím sor. . . right." Why did he pull such bone headed moves? He wasnít a kid anymore, he was supposed to be smarter than this. He stood and walked away from the fire he had started, more for light than warmth. She watched him walk away, then took a deep breath and followed him.
"Mulder. Stop, look at me." She took hold of his arm, not that she could hold him if he truly wanted to get away. "Itís not enough, is it? It doesnít matter that I donít blame you because you blame yourself. Come back to the fire, we have still have some símores to finish. You can tell me scary stories, okay?"
She was unprepared for the look in his eyes, or his hand coming up to caress her hair. She found she didnít want to step back away from him.
"Youíre too good for me Scully. I donít deserve you. I wish I had the strength to send you away."
"I donít. . . " Her voice caught in her throat, "I donít want to go." She broke the gaze, confused and a little frightened. He immediately dropped his hand and turned back toward the fire.
"Uh, did you say you had more símores?" She wasnít interested in him, not that way. Why should she be, look at their history? Business as usual, thatís what he had to be for her. When they got home, and they would get home, theyíd discuss a transfer for her with less emotion.