This guy they were searching for was nasty. Mulder wanted a shower desperately, anything to get away from the case. And he wanted to talk to Red. He needed to hear her voice. He had shrugged off his suit coat and loosened his tie when movement caught his eye. Before he could reach for his gun, he recognized the woman coming out of his bathroom.
She was wearing a lacy black teddy. Her large breasts were threatening to spill out of the top. He’d always been a breast man, the larger the better, but now after Red . . . Red was the perfect size, she made this woman seem disproportionate or something. He didn’t feel an instant of arousal, only . . . revulsion.
“Fox, come on. Let’s forget about today. We both need to relax a little.” She moved toward him, her hand out. Without thinking he backed up a step. That caused her to halt in the small motel room, suddenly very unsure of herself.
“Fox - “
“Get out.” He hadn’t bothered to ask how she had gotten in; he didn’t seem to care.
Her eyes widened, his voice was completely devoid of all emotion.
“Fox, we . . . “ the look on his face stopped her.
“Get dressed and get out Diana. We don’t have to talk about this again.”
She opened her mouth to respond, but he had turned away. Not, however, before she saw his expression. Mortification suffused her and she snatched up her robe. She had badly miscalculated. Without looking at him, as he stood on the far side of the bed studying his feet, she rushed out. All semblance of dignity was gone at this point.
When he heard the door slam shut he let his shoulders slump. He felt filthy; he couldn’t even call Red, not now. He moved toward the bathroom, shedding his clothes as fast as he could.
The shower he took in the cramped bath with the heavy industrial colored shower curtain was as hot as he could take it. His skin was red and fevered when he stepped out into the steam. His skin was sensitive from the scrubbing he had given it, so he didn’t pull on any clothes, just wrapping the not quite soft towel around his waist.
He collapsed on the bed and looked at the phone. Yeah, he needed to talk to her, at least hear her voice.
“Hello?” A female voice, but not the right one.
“Mulder, I thought it might be you. Are you okay? You sound a little . . . tired.”
“I am. It’s a tough case.”
“I’ll get Dana for you. Good luck.”
“Thanks.” He waited impatiently for the sound of her and he wasn’t disappointed.
“Mulder?” He could feel the tension lessening just from hearing her voice. “Mulder, are you okay? Mom said - “
“I’m better now.” He would swear he heard her smile.
“Talk to me.” She felt comfortable again, close to him.
“You first Red. How was your day?” He stretched out on the bed.
“Uh, well I’ve been doing research on the innovations in pathology for the past year. There are some new developments in DNA that are fascinating. But not as fascinating as you.”
He felt himself smile for the first time in hours. “Who are you Red?”
“What?” She chuckled nervously.
“Nobody does what you do for me.”
“I . . . I haven’t done anything.”
“Yeah, you have. I can’t talk about the case, but you made it better just getting on the phone.”
“I wish I was there.” She spoke softly, but he heard the sincerity.
“I wish you were too. You can’t imagine how much.”
She wasn’t sure what to say to that, so she kept quiet for a moment. “Is there anything you can talk about?”
“Do you own a black teddy?”
“Good. Don’t ever get one.”
“O . . . okay. Are you going to explain that?” She gave a nervous chuckle.
“No. Red, I don’t want to, but I have to get off. I’ll be up most of the night anyway going over this stuff. I just needed . . . “
“You can call me anytime. If you need to talk at three in the morning, just call.”
“I don’t think the captain would appreciate that.”
“He’d understand. I’m not kidding Mulder, call me.”
He sighed lightly, “Just knowing I can helps.”
“When will you be home?”
“I’m not sure. As soon as possible. I really need to get started. Night, Red.”
“Good night.” He reluctantly hung up the phone. Her voice really had cleansed him a little. He picked up the file and began retracing the evidence they had.
He actually hung his coat on the coat rack, rather than drop it on the chair. Red would be over tonight. It had been days since he'd seen her. The phone calls just weren't enough and he wanted the place to look at least okay. He turned toward the kitchen, but stopped at the knock on the door. Was she here already?
He pulled open the door with a smile on his face. It faded when he saw Diana standing there. “What do you want?”
“We need to talk.”
“I don’t think we have - ”
She looked him in the eye and he looked away first, but allowed her entry. They had barely spoken since the debacle in his motel room and that had been fine with him. She didn’t move toward the couch, standing in the entry while he reluctantly closed the door. He turned toward her but didn’t offer her a seat.
“You’re a fool Fox.”
He blinked, “Wha - “
“You’re a fool.” She repeated. “They’re watching you. They’ve been watching you. And they know about her, they’ve known from the beginning. Oh, if someone else had found her, had harbored her until her memory returned, then maybe she could have slipped under their radar, but no, you had to find her, you had to bring her home and now you have some sort of relationship with her. That puts her in even more danger.”
“I - “
She continued as though he hadn’t spoken. “You’re throwing everything away, Fox. They’ve indulged you so far, letting you play with the X-Files. You are an incredible profiler, or you were. If you’d only go back to that . . . but you won’t. You’re obsessed with finding your sister. Fox, if Dana remembers what really happened to her, hell, who knows what they’ll do. And if she doesn’t, Mulder do you honestly think she’ll stay around, with you?”
He tried not to react to that. “What are you - “
She didn’t give him a chance. “Fox, you are an incredible lover. Technically probably the best I’ve had. But technique isn’t everything. A woman needs to feel a little emotion behind the act. I don’t think you know how to do that.”
“Diana this isn't - “ He should be angry, so why was his predominant feeling fear?
“Let me finish. She’s going to leave you Fox, it’s inevitable. You’re not a long-term kind of guy, not for a woman like her. Look at your relationships. And when she does go, you’ll realize what you’ve lost. Your career, your reputation, your dignity . . . and me.”
He managed to keep quiet then, waiting, though he wanted to shove this woman up against a wall and demand that she take it back, all of it. She didn’t know what she was talking about. Of course there had been no emotion with her, but it wasn’t like that with Red. And Red knew it, she did, she had to.
“If you try to stay with her, they'll take her again or you’ll get her killed, you’ll get us all killed. I’m getting out before that happens. I requested a transfer and it was granted. I’ll be leaving for Europe at the end of the week. You do what you have to do, but . . .” She stopped, shaking her head. She knew her words would have the desired effect. She hadn’t studied the man this long without knowing his weaknesses.
His face was shuttered now, but she knew the pain she had caused, as well as the insecurity. Oh yes, she was good at what she did, and she knew when to cut her losses. He would self-destruct, and most likely take his precious Dana with him, but she would be out of the line of fire.
“Think about what you’re doing Fox, before it’s too late.” She turned then and let herself out of the apartment, shutting the door behind her.
After a moment, he moved with a heavy tread over to the couch. Get her killed? Have her taken again, like Samantha was? And it would be his fault, just like Samantha’s disappearance. How could he live with that?
He didn’t hear the knock
on the door. He didn’t react until she stood in front of
”Red. I . . . I didn’t hear . . . “
“Are you okay?” She sat beside him, taking his hand. He didn’t grip her fingers or play with them. Something was definitely wrong.
“I, uh got a new case. I was thinking about it.”
“Your door was unlocked.”
He glanced in that direction. How long had Diana been gone? Apparently Red hadn’t seen her. “Guess I was preoccupied.” He made himself focus on her. He didn’t want her to know what Diana had done to him. He had to think and he couldn’t do that with her here.
“When did you get it? You were okay just a little while ago.”
“Yeah, sorry.” He shrugged, trying to at least look normal. She didn’t need to see his devastation. He just needed to get her out of here. He had to think.
Dana nodded, watching him, then leaned forward and touched his face. “Mulder, there’s something I need to talk to you about. Maybe now isn’t the best time, if you’re thinking about a case, but I’ve been trying to find a good time and - “
“What? Is something wrong? You’re okay aren’t you?” He couldn’t help himself, she was the only thing that mattered any more.
She looked into his eyes, surprised. “I’m fine, I found out something and I need to share it with you.”
“Found out something?”
“Do you remember when we took the picture of Samantha over to the guys?”
“Yeah, I’d . . . I’d forgotten. Did they age the picture?”
She nodded and pulled the uncrumpled copy from her bag. “This is it.”
He took it from her reverently, “She’s beautiful.”
“Yes, and kind and gentle.”
“Wha . . . Red? What did you say?”
“I’ve seen this woman. Mulder, she’s . . . she’s one of the women that came to us after the tests.” He stared at her, not speaking, too stunned to speak.. “Mulder?” She pulled him against her and held him.
He felt stiff, wooden. She wasn’t sure he could even feel her. Maybe she’d done this wrong again, but the knowledge had begun to weigh on her. He needed to know, he needed . . .
He jerked away from her suddenly and moved to the other side of the room.
He shook his head.
“Mulder talk to me, please. I know this is a shock, but I thought you should know.”
“She was there? She . . . Samantha works for them?”
“No, I mean yes, but not like the smoking man. She was helping us.”
He took a shaky breath, but couldn’t seem to speak.
“There were four of them. This woman, a blond woman, a redheaded man and an oriental man. They all came to us at one time or another. They never spoke, but they would hold us, just be with us. I can’t tell you that this is your sister but -
He held up his hand and she fell silent. After several very long moments he spoke, but didn’t look at her. “I need to work on that case I was talking about.”
“You, you want me to leave? Mulder, I’ve just told you I think I’ve seen your sister. I can’t . . . you can’t just turn to a . . . a case. We need to talk about this.” He'd been out of town for days. She had thought they would discuss this, that she could support him tonight. She'd screwed up again. She should have kept waiting for a better time, but she'd felt so guilty, keeping this from him. If this was his sister, then she was alive. His voice brought her back.
“I’m sorry, but I think it would be a good idea right now.” He looked away. Too many blows, too fast. If he had an actual sighting of her . . . but that would keep Red near him and therefore in danger. God, he was almost physically sick. He needed some time.
“What?” He couldn’t even remember what he’d said last.
“I don’t think you should be alone. You’re in shock. You’ve been there for me constantly since you found me out in the woods. I - “
“No. That’s not how I . . . I need to be alone. I’m used to it. I’ll call you tomorrow.” Go. Please go Red, before I grab you and never let go.
“Mulder - “
“I’m not, I’m not angry, Red. I just need to think about . . . about things. I need . . . “
She rose and moved toward him. He managed not to flinch, but she could tell he was on the edge. “Okay, I don’t agree, but I’ll leave. But you have to promise to call me in the morning. Mulder, promise me.”
“Yeah, yeah I promise.”
Her hand reached out to touch him and he couldn’t stop himself, he stepped back. He saw the hurt in her eyes, but no words came to him.
She took a breath, “Okay, I’ll go now. Mulder, if you change your mind, I . . . I’m here to talk or just be with you.”
She stood there for a minute, looking at him, then finally turned toward the door. This didn’t feel right, but it was what he said he wanted. He felt distant from her. She desperately wanted to take him in her arms. But he’d cringed from her. Maybe she should give him some space. She felt . . . she was scared, but he was the strong one. He’d be okay.
With one last look she moved to the door. He’d promised to call. By morning maybe he’d be okay.
He watched her go, scarcely able to breathe but it was for her sake. If she stayed with him they’d take her or, or kill her. Diana worked with them, she knew what they were capable of. It didn't occur to him to think about Samantha. The pain of losing this woman, Red, was too intense.
He stood where she left him for nearly ten minutes, then he finally leaned over and picked up his keys. He was moving like an old man, but then he felt old. He really had no destination in mind when he got in his car; he just needed to get out. The apartment held too much emotion; the sight of his couch where they had made love would kill him now.
He found himself in front of the guys’ apartment and after he realized it, parked and got out.
“Mulder? You okay?” Byers opened the door and Mulder walked in without a word.
Mulder sank into a chair as the other two gathered around. Langly and Frohike looked over at Byers who shrugged.
“I saw the picture.”
“The picture? You mean the one of Samantha? Dana really freaked when she saw it, then she didn’t mention it again. We weren’t sure if we should say anything or not.” Byers sat beside him.
“She was there, with Red. Not like Diana, not just a memory, but there.”
All three men froze in shock. “She was . . . Samantha was there?”
“Which means she could be released as well. I just have to, I need to know if other are going to be released.“
Byers nodded, “We were looking into that. We been studying the distortions we saw when you went to Oregon.”
“You’ve seen them again?”
Frohike nodded, “They’re beginning to form in Nevada. We were going to call you.”
“Where? I need to get out there.” He moved toward the computer screen, allowing himself to feel something for the first time since she had left his place.
“Alone? Mulder what can you do - “ Frohike started to argue.
“Yes alone. I need to see what’s going on. I need to see what I can do.”
Langly caught Byers’ eye. That wasn’t a tone they had heard from the man since Dana had come into his life. Something was going on. Byers shook his head slightly.
The desert made it harder to hide than the wooded area where she had been returned. But he’d been here a couple of days; he’d had plenty of time to scope the place out. He had parked his rental jeep in a washed out ravine to wait. He hated waiting. It gave him too much time to think. Like he needed time to remember Diana’s words.
“Do you honestly think she’ll stay around, with you? You’re not a long-term kind of guy.” Just because every other woman had left . . . He hadn’t dated in high school. Everyone on the Vineyard knew the story, or some version of the story of Samantha’s disappearance, so he wasn’t exactly someone a mother wanted out with her daughter.
It wasn’t until Phoebe that he’d realized some women could find him physically attractive. At least that’s what she’d led him to believe, but he wasn’t man enough to keep her. She’d taught him a lot, but what he remembered most was that she had used him, over and over and then . . . then she’d left. Moved on to the next unsuspecting . . . There had been other relationship disasters. Disaster, what an understatement. He’d given up on relationships, and decided on videos, 1-900 numbers. He was better off alone. Diana had seemed the perfect solution, but she’d been using him too, keeping him complacent.
Dana was too intelligent to want someone like him. He’d read her thesis, he’d laughed at the irony of it given how they’d met, but now . . . He was the weirdo in the basement who believed in little green men. She’d realize that soon enough. Spooky had a whole new connotation now.
He felt the change, air pressure? Something was making the hair on his arms stand up. It was getting dark rapidly, he reached for the flashlight, but before he could exit the vehicle, the first flash of light appeared in the near distance. He scrambled from the jeep.
Before he could reach the first site, a second light flashed down. The first returnee was a man. He was unconscious of course, but Mulder had to know who the next one was. A woman, not Samantha, younger than Red. Another one, farther away. He raced over and spotted another man.
His head came up when he heard motors racing his way. Shit! He’d hoped to have more time. He wasn’t ready. Headlights appeared and he instinctively ducked. All of the returnees were unconscious, dead weight. That first guy, he’d been 6’5” at least, over 200 pounds. And the woman was the fartherest from his car. A search light came on from the lead car, making his decision for him. Crouching he moved as quickly as possible for the ravine where his jeep was hidden. He could make out forms running toward them now. Definitely military; and no doubt wearing night vision goggles, so he had to stand out like a sore thumb. He pushed himself into a burst of speed and threw himself into the jeep. He’d been here long enough for it to cool off, so it should be a surprise. He could hear them yelling behind him now. Shit!
He switched on the headlights and heard them howl as the light overloaded their goggles. He gunned it, backing out of the ravine and spinning the car around in a maneuver that would have made James Bond proud - as long as he didn’t realized how close Mulder had come to flipping the damn thing. He killed the lights again as soon as he hit the paved road. He was lucky there were no helicopters, but apparently the military was smart enough not to want to share air space with something like this.
He raced back to the crummy motel he’d checked into earlier, and let himself into his room with shaking hands.
He’d blown it. Blown it completely and nearly gotten caught in the process. If they’d gotten him, what would have happened to Red? Diana said they were watching her, he didn’t dare disbelieve her. He’d put Red in even more danger tonight just being here.
He was a fool, coming out here like this. He was completely unprepared. He’d brought no clothes for them, made no arrangements for care. Diana had helped him when he found Red. She wouldn’t have if she’d known, but she had helped. Was he capable of doing this alone? Stupid question, he had to be.
He stretched out on the bed, his body coming down from the adrenaline. He had to do better than this. He forced the tremble from his hand when he noticed it. For an instant he looked longingly at the phone, but turned away. He couldn’t talk to her; he wouldn’t know what to say.