Diana walked into the diner less than thirty minutes later. She spotted them and moved immediately toward them, walking purposefully. The red head cringed away from her and without thought he slipped his arm around her.
Diana noted that and her eyes narrowed. She slipped into the other side of the booth.
“Diana Fowley, this is the woman I found last night.” He began the introductions.
Diana looked at him for a moment. “You don’t know her name?”
He squeezed the young woman’s hand, “She hasn’t done a lot of talking. What about the people you found?”
“None of them were conscious. Are we taking her to be examined?”
“Don’t worry, Red. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you.”
Diana stared at him, was he . . . no, he wasn’t involved with her. He’d just found her last night. He was being protective.
“Did you bring her anything to wear?” He looked back at Diana.
“Uh, yeah, but it’s too long.”
Mulder smiled, “Not a surprise. Why don’t you go get the stuff? She can change in the ladies room.”
“Fox, what about evidence?”
“Evidence? It’s already compromised. We slept in the woods last night and she’s been wearing my coat the whole time.”
“Did she have the bruises?”
He nodded, “but they’re gone now.”
“There’s not a bruise on her. I checked this morning.”
“Yeah, I bet you did.” She muttered, then noted the color in his face, but decided not to pursue it. She stood and turned toward the door. He didn’t try to stop her.
Mulder turned to see her watching Diana and obviously not liking what she saw. He squeezed her shoulders. “It’s okay.”
Diana returned with a paper bag and placed it on the table in front of Mulder.
He picked it up and rose from the booth. “Do you need any help?” This was addressed to the little redhead, so Diana kept her mouth closed.
She glanced at Diana, then took the bag and walked to the ladies room. Diana watched her with distaste. She opened her mouth to say something to Mulder, but his expression and the fact that he hadn’t taken his eyes from the door since it had closed behind her, caused her to clamp her lips together. She rose and got herself a cup of coffee, but didn’t hurry back to the table.
He was still watching when the door opened and she emerged. The slacks had been rolled up several times as had the cuffs on the shirt. She looked like she was playing dress up in her mother’s clothes. She still clutched his jacket. He had to smile. He was on his feet moving toward her before he realized it.
Diana’s eyes narrowed, but she followed him. “What now?”
“We take her back to the motel.”
“We can’t talk here. Come on.” He took her hand and Diana followed them out to the car. Mulder had opened the back door and helped her inside. He bent to pick up the shoe that fell off her foot as she climbed in, then crawled in beside her.
“I need to stay close to her.” He said in response to Diana’s look.
At the motel, they all entered his room. He seated her on the bed and she kicked off the shoes and scooted to the head of the bed, her back against the headboard, watching them.
Mulder pulled out his wallet and handed Diana his credit card. “Listen, I need to stay with her. She’s still not steady. Could you pick up some things for her, closer to her size.” He spoke guilelessly, unaware of the insult that she perceived.
Diana glanced over at her, but finally took the card he held out. “Fox, we - “
They both turned to look at the young woman.
“What did she say?”
Mulder grinned. “My name.”
“She calls you Mulder?”
He shrugged, “I prefer it.”
Diana rolled her eyes. “Okay, I’ll hurry, but we need to talk.”
“We will. Go on, okay?”
With one last look at the young woman, Diana let herself out. Mulder saw her shoulders relax. “It’s okay. Diana won’t hurt you.” She wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“Okay, I need a quick shower. You won’t leave, will you Red?”
She looked up then and he thought she shook her head. “You stay right here.” He let himself into the bathroom and took one of the quickest showers on record. He was toweling himself off when he realized that in his rush he hadn’t brought any clean clothes in with him.
He secured the towel around his waist after giving his hair a final tousle. He opened the door to see that she hadn’t moved. “Uh sorry. I forgot . . . “ He wasn’t looking at her, so he missed her appraisal of his body. He would have been pleased by her look of approval.
“You probably would enjoy a shower yourself. There’s shampoo and stuff in the tub, and a couple of towels.”
She rose from the bed.
“You don’t . . . do you need any help . . .”
This time she did shake her head, entered the bathroom and closed the door behind her. He dressed quickly, then made a couple of phone calls. He got off the phone when he heard the water shut off.
He’d expected her to put back on the clothes Diana had lent her, but when she emerged, she was wearing a t-shirt he’d left in there. It reached to her knees and he appreciated where it molded to her.
She sat at the table, watching him.
“I, uh, I have a comb . . . “
She held it out and he nodded, “Yeah, that one.”
She began combing her wet hair, drying it as she could with the towel.
“We should think about lunch. What are you in the mood for?” She just looked at him. “I always knew women were mysterious to me, but you’re taking it to a whole new level.” Her lips twitched and he smiled.
The knock on the door caused her to pale and fear was back in her eyes.
“It’s okay. It’s probably just Diana, back with your things.” He moved to the door and looked though the peephole. When he spotted Diana, he nodded to Red and opened the door.
She hurried past him and dumped the bags on the bed. “I had to guess at her sizes, but - “ She stopped when she saw the t-shirt now adorning the smaller woman.
“Uh, I guess she didn’t feel comfortable in your clothes.
“She seems comfortable enough in yours.”
The color rose in Mulder’s face, but he didn’t respond.
Red moved over to the bed to look over the purchases. She pulled out a pair of white cotton panties and grimaced. Diana rolled her eyes. Mulder looked away so neither woman would see his smile.
“Look, Fox - Mulder,” she glanced over before the redhead could correct her again. “What are you thinking? We’ve got to notify the authorities.”
“No. I will not turn her over to the government or a bunch of scientists, I’ll find her family. I can look after her.”
“You can’t be serious. You could lose your job, or - “
”Diana, I am not putting her in that position. She trusts me and I’m not - “
“Fox, she’s not your sister! You - “ She stopped, but it was too late. She couldn’t take back the words. Mulder had frozen in position, unable to speak for a moment.
“Fox, I - “
“We were discussing lunch. Do you want some?” He interrupted his manner distant, barely polite, his voice wooden.
“No, I . . . I’ll head over to the hospital, see if I can learn anything.”
He nodded, but didn’t speak. Diana took a step toward him, but he turned slightly away and she stopped, then took a deep breath and let herself out of the room.
He didn’t even realize she had left the bed until he felt her small hand over his heart. He looked down to see her beautiful blue eyes watching him, then she lay her cheek against his chest. He was stunned to realize she was comforting him. His arms encircled her and he let his cheek rest on the top of her head.
They stood that way for a long moment, then she pulled away and took his hand, leading him to the bed. She had him sit after arranging the pillows so that they could sit against the headboard.
She sat beside him and cuddled in, then looked up at him expectantly.
She nodded and her hand came up again over his heart.
“You . . . you want to hear about my sister?”
“I . . . I haven’t talked about her in a very long time.”
Could he do this? It had been ages. He cleared his throat. “She, Samantha, was taken a long time ago, when she was just a little girl. She was eight and I was twelve. I . . . I was babysitting when it happened. I was in charge and, and I lost her.”
She cuddled close, listening. “My parents . . . things were never the same after that. We never found her, she was never returned. I saw what happened; I know they took her, though I didn’t remember for a long time. I had memory regression when things got bad for me. The memories were coming back and I . . . My father blamed me, no, not exactly, but there was something . . . Things changed forever. He, he resented me after that. And Mom . . . She never said anything, but she kept a . . . a distance from me. It was obvious she would have been more comfortable raising a daughter. I lived with her until I went to school. I’d see my father occasionally but he traveled a lot. He worked for the State Department. I ended up getting my Ph.D. in psychology at Oxford and apparently that made me very attractive to the FBI. Turns out I have a talent for profiling, that’s getting into the heads of criminals, see what makes them tick and catch them quicker theoretically.
“I miss her, Red. I still miss her and I want to find her. I owe it to her, I didn’t protect her. She’s the one person in the world who truly loved me, unconditionally, and I let them take her. She’s the reason I was out there in the woods. She’s the reason . . . I won’t let them have you, Red. The government knows about this, they’re working with . . . with them. Someone knows what happened to Samantha and I’m going to find out who that someone is.”
He watched her hand come up to his face and take a tear he hadn’t been aware of on her finger. She placed it on her own face. He closed his eyes and pulled her against him.
“I don’t know if you can understand me, Red, but . . . thank you.” She cuddled in as a welcome. They sat there, comfortable in a way he couldn’t define. He had done it, he had talked about Samantha and it, it felt kind of good.
He was surprised when his stomach growled.
He chuckled and she smiled. “I guess I forgot to order anything. How about Chinese, maybe some soup? That should be light enough, okay?”
It didn’t take long to arrive, but gave her time to try on some of the clothing that Diana had purchased. It was fairly obvious she didn’t care for it and Mulder couldn’t really blame her. The colors were wrong enough that even he noticed and the styles weren’t . . . her. At least they fit better.
He saw her eyes start to droop as they were eating, and by the end of the meal he was afraid she was going to fall into her soup. He scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed. The move startled her at first, but then she relaxed and stretched out on the bed while he covered her with the extra blanket. That was probably unnecessary, but she pulled it around her and her eyes closed.
He cleaned up what was left of their late lunch and pulled out the file. That’s what he was doing when Diana knocked again. He hurried to the door before she could wake Red and let her in.
She glanced over at the bed, then sat down at the table.
“Did you find out anything?” He asked softly.
Okay, he didn’t want to talk about anything personal. She was grateful, she needed more time to figure out how to handle that. She nodded, “Ed was there, he has a friend that works at the hospital and she slipped him some information. The guy that was recovered first has begun to talk a little, but he doesn’t remember who he is. Apparently none of them do. Their fingerprints have been sent to DC to see if they’ve been reported missing and when.”
“And they’re still being held incommunicado?”
“The military are guarding the hospital.”
“The military?” His voice rose and he glanced over at the bed.
“They’re not in uniform, but it’s pretty hard to miss.”
“Shit. Now do you agree we can’t turn her over?”
“Fox, I . . .”
“I won’t do it. I want you to return to DC in the morning. Keep Blevins off my back. I’ll drive her back to Washington.”
“Drive? Fox, that’ll take days.”
“Yes, but it gives her the time to recover, maybe remember on her own. I’m not going to let them have her.”
Diana looked over at the bed again and saw that the woman was awake and listening to them. Mulder followed her eyes and stood.
“Hey Red, get enough of a nap?”
She glanced at Diana and didn’t respond. “Red?”
She looked at him then and gave him a little smile, then got off the bed and went into the bathroom.
“Fox, are you sure you - “
“It’s settled Diana. We’ll take you to the airport in the morning.”
“I’m trying to look after - “
“I’ve been looking after myself for a very long time Diana.” She drew back as though stung, but before he could speak the bathroom door opened and Red joined them. Diana had the definite impression that she’d been listening at the door.
She decided to change tactics. “What about dinner? Do you want to go out somewhere? You’ve been trapped here all day. I could watch her or - “
“No, we ate late. Maybe we’ll order a pizza later or something.”
“Where . . . where is she going to sleep tonight?”
Before he could respond, she had crawled back into the bed and pulled the blanket up, staring defiantly at Diana.
Mulder swallowed hard to keep from laughing and nearly choked. When he got it under control, he looked at Diana. “It’s okay. She can stay in here.”
Diana had no response to that, but refused to look back over at the younger woman. “Do you want to work on our reports? They need to correspond.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea. Red, you want to watch TV or something?” He rose and turned on the set for her and found a channel she seemed to want, then returned to the table.
They worked for about an hour, until their reports were close enough to suit him. There was no mention of his new charge. “Okay, you can take both reports back and I’ll submit an additional one when I get there. Just keep him off my back for a couple of days.”
“It will take more than a couple of days to drive across country.”
“We’ll have the weekend too. If we leave when you do, I think I can make it by Monday.”
“That’s pushing it.”
“I can do it.” His face was set.
“What if I need to reach you? What route are you going to take?”
He shrugged, “What do you think?”
She pulled a map out of her briefcase. “There’s not a lot of detail, but the major highways are here.” She spread it out on the table. “The best route looks like I-84, to 80, to 76, to 70. It’s a straight shot and major roads. You could make the best time.”
He nodded, “That sounds good. I’ll check in a few times, make sure everything’s going okay.”
“I’m worried about this Fox.”
“I appreciate that Diana. Just don’t tell anyone about her. I don’t want her taken by anyone again.”
Diana nodded and rose, folding the map. He wouldn’t need it, the man never forgot anything. “So, you don’t want any dinner?”
Mulder looked over at Red. She shook her head slightly. “No, we’re good. Thanks anyway.”
Diana set her shoulders and moved to the door. She looked back once, but neither of them seemed to notice, so she let herself out. This was bad, and it was going to be worse. Her people were not going to be happy that he had this kind of access. What if she remembered what she’d been through? Damn.
They finished up the Chinese for dinner rather than getting anything else, or leaving the room. They watched some TV, with him explaining some of the new shows to the best of his ability. She really didn’t seem to care, watching him more than the TV.
When she yawned, he grinned down at her. “I guess you still need some catch up time. Go get ready for bed.”
She looked at him for a moment, then nodded and picked up the nightgown that Diana had purchased for her. She held it up and turned as Mulder chuckled. “Okay, it’s not the most attractive . . . “ It was full length, white cotton with small pink flowers all over it. He wouldn’t have chosen pink for a redhead, but then he wouldn’t have picked anything with long sleeves or ruffles either.
She disappeared into the bathroom and he shook his head. Diana obviously wasn’t happy about Red and Red was even less than happy with Diana. He did not understand women, he knew that, but keeping them apart would be beneficial for everyone - that much he was sure of.
He looked up from the table when the door opened and his eyes widened. She was back in his t-shirt, not the matronly nightgown. He felt his body begin to respond and cleared his throat as he stood.
“I’ll take the bathroom now. You go on to sleep.”
She watched him with a small frown on her face, but of course didn’t speak. When he emerged in t-shirt and slacks, she looked . . . disappointed. He sat at the table instead of joining her and her eyebrow rose.
“It’s, uh, it’s okay, you go ahead and get comfortable. I can - “
She pulled back the covers and waited.
“Red, last night was one thing, I mean we were outside, you were in shock, but -“
She shook the covers at him and her eyebrow went a little higher.
“You, you really want me to . . . “
She nodded emphatically once. “You’re sure?” Her look was pure demand then and he rose slowly to move toward the bed.
She scooted over to give him more room. Okay, if it made her more comfortable. He could, could hold her until she went to sleep then he’d spend the rest of the night at the table. He never slept more than a couple of hours a night anyway. It would be . . . okay. She glanced pointedly at his slacks, so he removed them, folding them and laying them over a chair.
She turned her back to him and cuddled into his chest as she pulled his arm over her, anchoring him around her.
God she felt good against him. Just how bad an idea was this? Very quickly her even breathing told him she was asleep again. His own eyes were growing heavy. After all he had slept under a tree last night, very different from how comfortable he was now. Maybe he should try to catch a couple of hours; he’d have a long drive starting tomorrow.