Secrets 2/2 (NC-17)


Frohike was frankly stunned to see her when he got the door opened.   She couldn't remember the last time she had seen him speechless.  He stepped back immediately to welcome her in and they followed him into the apartment.

"Mulder, you were right to check those other databases, we - " Byers stopped when he realized that she was with him.

"Thank you.  I want you to know how much this means to me."

Byers rose to his feet and the other two moved closer to him.   "We'd do anything . . . If we - " he stumbled to halt in his speech.

"Don't."  Her eyes were already moist; this compassion was more than she could take right now.  She cleared her throat and straightened her shoulders.  "What have you found out?"

"Uh, yeah.  Here, it's not legal standard, but we have a couple of hits and thought you'd like to check into it."

"Military?"  This from Mulder.   His body tensed when Langly nodded.  "Let me see what you have."

They all glanced over at her, as though for permission.  Mulder lowered himself into the extra chair for the best view.   She nodded and Byers brought a military ID photo up on the screen.  Mulder's eyes narrowed as he looked at the bland face of her possible assailant.

He turned then to look at her and was on his feet immediately.   She had gone deathly pale and her eyes looked impossibly huge.   He had her in her arms and she sagged against him.  He supported her to the couch and sat her there, then knelt in front of her.  "I'm going to take that as a positive ID, Scully."

She barely nodded.  Frohike approached them then and offered her a glass with an amber liquid in it.  "It's brandy."

"Take it, Scully."  He took the glass from Frohike's hand and pressed it into hers.  "Go on."

After a moment she lifted the drink to her lips and took a sip.   That brought a little color back to her face.   "I want you to stay in here with Frohike.  I need to talk to Byers for a minute, then I'm going to take you home."  He wasn't sure she heard him, but he looked over at Frohike who nodded.

He reluctantly returned to the other room.  "I need to get her out of here.  Can you get me a printout and everything you have on this guy?"

"It's printing now.  Is she . . .?"

"No.  I want to get her home."  Langly pulled the paper from the printer and handed it to him.  "Can you keep looking, for the other two?"

"We're on it.  You look after her.  If you need help with . . . we're available."

He shook his head; the next step was his and his alone.   He stuffed the paper into his jacket pocket.   "I'm getting her out of here.   Let me know what else you find, but I don't think she's up to another trip over here anytime soon."

"You can count on us, Mulder." 

He nodded and returned to her.  "Let's get out of here, okay?"  She looked up at him.  All of the progress she had made seemed gone.  Her expression was stricken; it had all been thrown back into her face when she'd seen that man's file.

He helped her to her feet and moved her toward the door.   He glanced back at Frohike once, who was watching Scully.  Their eyes met and Frohike's look of sympathy nearly undid him.  He needed to get himself out here as well as her.  He opened the door and led her out without a word.

She was silent on the way back to his place.  He didn't attempt conversation, she wasn't able and he wasn't sure he was.  He wanted to get her settled so that he could study the information they had gotten. 

Once in his apartment he tried to lead her into the bedroom.   "Mulder, I want, I need a shower.   Please."  She wouldn't face him.

"Sure, anything you need.  You know that."  She turned from him then without a comment.  He felt a growing sense of despair as he watched her disappear into the bathroom.  She didn't quite close the door, as though more afraid than ever of being alone.

He heard the water come on and slipped the paper from his pocket.  He stared at the face of this man that had violated her and felt a murderous rage build in him.   This man was going to die, die horribly at his hands.  That was a pledge.

He forced his eyes away from the face and began memorizing the rest of the information on this man.  He finally realized that the water was still running.  The hot water should be long gone by now.  Was she okay?

He moved to the door, "Scully?  Scully, are you okay?"  He pushed the door open.  The room was full of steam, but he could see her silhouette, scrubbing furiously at her skin.  "Scully!  Scully stop it."  He reached in and turned off the water, then yanked a towel from the rack and wrapped it around her.   She collapsed against him and he lifted her into his arms and carried her into the bedroom.  She was sobbing uncontrollably by the time he got her to the bed.

He found her robe and wrapped it around her, then wrapped himself around her as well.  "Scully, Scully breathe.  I'm here, I'm not going to let anything happen to you."

He wasn't sure she could hear the words, but she clung to him as though for her life.  He had never seen her like this.  That strengthened his resolve, he couldn't make this right, but the men that had harmed her would pay and pay painfully.

He had no idea how much time passed before she regained any composure and her exhaustion was total.  "Sleep, Scully.  I'll be right here."  Her eyes slid closed without an acknowledgment.

He didn't leave her that night, holding her through dreams and crying spells that didn't wake her fully.  In the morning he woke to find her watching him.  He returned her gaze, bringing a finger up to caress her cheek.  "How do you feel?"

She shook her head, but he didn't retreat.  Finally she looked away, "Empty, embarrassed . . . dirty."

He hadn't expected that much honesty.  "You're not embarrassed in front of me?"

She managed a weak smile at that.  "Who else?" 

"After all the situations you've seen me in?  The things you've pulled me out of?  We're nowhere near even, Scully."

"I don't know how to, how to get beyond this Mulder.   I thought I was doing okay, I really did.   But when I saw . . . Am I ever going to be able to - "

"Scully.  It's only been a few days; you need to remember that.  Maybe you ought to see someone though, someone that's trained to help you."   She shuddered at the thought.  "Scully?"

"I can't talk about this Mulder, not even to you. How can I talk to some stranger?   

"I'll help you any way I can."  His hand caressed her shoulder.

"I know."  It was a whisper.  "But I can't, not yet.  Please Mulder, let me . . . "

He nodded, "For a little while, Scully.  For a little while."

She brought his head down to her and kissed his forehead, then slid out of the bed, pulling her robe around her.  It finally came to her that they had slept like this all night and he'd taken no advantage.  No, Mulder would never . . . she breathed a little easier.

When he emerged from the bathroom she was dressed for work.   "Scully, I don't think you should try to go in.  I can make up some excuse or cover for you.  Skinner doesn't even have to know."

"I need this.  I need something that feels familiar, something I know I'm good at.  And you'll be there."  That statement rendered his argument moot and finally he nodded.

*****

"Mulder, we can't get anything on the third man.  You have everything we can get.  You knew it was iffy from the beginning."

He dropped a disk on the desk and leaned on his hands.   "Damn it!  There's nothing else you can get from the rape kit?"

Byers looked up startled.  "Mulder, we never got anything from the rape kit.  I thought you knew.  Everything we've gotten came from the pajamas you found.  Apparently they had 'safe' sex with her."

Mulder felt his knees start to give way with that.  All three of the men converged on him as he tightened his hold on the desk to remain upright, finally collapsing into the chair Langly shoved at him.   It had been that calculated.  The men had been hired for this and hadn't wanted to endanger themselves!  He hadn't realized he could hate anyone this much.  

He motioned them away and pulled himself up.  She was just in the next room and he didn't want her to see him like this.  He had to be strong for her.  She had no idea how this had affected him and she never would.

He had two names; one of them would supply the third.  He would make sure of that.  He wouldn't have to bring her into it.  He couldn't, the first identification had been too much for her.  He wouldn't put her through that again.  She was still refusing to talk to anyone, but she was working, and working well.  She actually seemed to forget for a little while when they were on the road.  The Bureau didn't have to know that one of the rooms they took remained empty at night.  If she felt safer with him, that was their business, no one else's.

But he needed to be alone for what he was planning.  She couldn't accompany him for this.  The problem was he couldn't leave her alone.  He wouldn't leave her alone.  She was still living with him; there was no way she could be unaware if he was gone.  Ditching her would be a bad idea, for both of them.

Could he convince her to stay here, for a couple of days, maybe less?  He had to; he had to get to these men.

"I'm taking her home for now.  Are you okay with her staying here?"

"You know we are, but you shouldn't go alone Mulder."

"Got to."  There was no discussion to be had on that point.  He was planning murder here, cold-blooded murder; no one else was going to be involved.   There would be no courtrooms, no juries, and definitely no reprieves.  Not even for him.

*****

He looked around the bar, taking the site in, memorizing the layout.  The uniform was unfamiliar, but it fit like a glove.  He'd gotten past asking the guys were they got this stuff.

He froze as he saw the man enter the bar.  This was the first man the gunmen had found, the one that had sent Scully into the tailspin. He was a private, a medium size man, not too bright looking.   Well, it was obvious he wasn't too smart - he'd hurt Scully.

Mulder continued to nurse his beer.   He wasn't going to approach this man - not in public anyway.  When he saw him pay for his drinks and move toward the door, Mulder was moving too.

Mulder jogged in the dark out away from the bar and waited as the man pulled his car away.  Mulder stepped out and waved the man down.  "Private, you headed back to base?   Could you give me a lift?"

"Yes sir, no problem."  Mulder let himself in on the passenger side.

"I really appreciate this, Private.  My car died and I was headed to the bar to use a phone."

"Glad I came along when I did, Sir."  They were out of sight of the bar now and there was no traffic.   Mulder eased the gun from his waistband.

"I want you to make a right onto that dirt road just ahead."

"Do what?"  The private looked over at Mulder and his eyes widened.  "What the hell?"

"You heard me.  That's right."  Mulder's voice was low, menacing.

"I don't have any money." 

"Shut up and drive."   They drove in a tense silence for several miles on the dirt road until Mulder spotted the barn he had investigated earlier.  "Here.  Pull in."

"What do you think you're going to do with me?"  The man's shock was wearing off and his anger was growing despite the gun.

"Shut up and put your hands behind you."  The man put the car in park, but didn't comply with Mulder's request, until he heard a bullet being ratcheted into the chamber.

He slowly removed his hands from the wheel and turned his back slightly toward Mulder.  He was cuffed quickly.  "Who the hell are you?  What's going on here?"

Mulder didn't respond as he shut the car off and pocketed the keys.  He then exited the car and moved to the driver's side, and opened the door.  "Get out."

The bound man glared at him but kept quiet for now, exiting the car awkwardly.   Mulder shoved him toward the barn and muttering the man moved in that direction.  Once inside, Mulder switched on the lantern he had stored there and had the man sit at one of the beams that supported what was left of the roof.

"Face it.  Put your legs around it."

"Tell me what's going on."

"Your legs, now."  Once the man had moved into position, Mulder snapped cuffs around his ankles as well, imprisoning him to the beam.  "Your name Vince Dean?"

"I'm not answering any questions until I know what's going on."  He was still bluffing, not believing his peril.

"Did you attack a woman in Georgetown, you and two other men, about three weeks ago?"  He watched the man's face pale, but he didn't answer.  "I don't believe I heard you, soldier."  He had his face down close to his now and for the first time the man knew true fear.

"Who are you?"  But his voice wavered slightly.

"I have a question and your answer will determine how easily you die."  Vince's eyes grew even larger.  "I know one of the other men was Stu Bremman, I want the name of the third man." 

"You're crazy.  I don't know what you're talking about."  But Mulder could see the sweat beginning to bead on his forehead.

"I have all the proof I need."

"Then call the police, man, and when I tell them about this - "

"You're not going to any court."  His voice was icy, hard.  "I want the name of the third man."

"No way."

"We'll see about that."  Mulder moved around him and unfastened his hands, then brought them around the beam and recuffed him, so that he was seated on the ground, his limbs around the solid support beam. 

"Hey!  You're not leaving me here?"

"What's the name of the third man?"

"I can't!  Mister, listen to me, I can't!"  He was pleading now, but even he realized it was useless.  He watched as Mulder removed a roll of duct tape from its hiding place and move toward him once more.  "No, listen man, don't do this."

"Did you give her a chance?"  Vince's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed but he had no answer to that.  Mulder wound the tape around his mouth and head twice before stopping.  "Sleep well."  Mulder then moved over to the electric lantern and picked it up, moving toward the door. 

He didn't look back as he exited the barn.  He drove the man's car back toward the base and abandoned it at a pawnshop near the gates.  One down.

Mulder wanted to call her, check on her.  Hell, he needed to hear her voice, but he didn't dare.  It might weaken his resolve to stay away from her until he was through. 

She had been extremely upset when she realized he really was going.  No, she'd been pissed as shit.  He hadn't admitted why he was going away, but she knew.  And it scared her.  Hell, it scared him too.  He didn't want to play Dirty Harry, as she had hurled at him, but these men were not getting away scot-free.  Never.  He had to finish this.  He let himself into his room.  This motel was worse than most, of course he'd never allow her to stay in a place like this, she deserved better.  His adrenaline was dissipating.  He didn't have everything he needed yet, but he would. 

He got ready for bed, feeling the need to wash after being in Vince's presence.  Stu looked just as sleazy from the photo.  He should have him in custody before this time tomorrow.  Mulder lay on the bed, not even bothering with the TV, knowing sleep was a long way away, if possible at all, and stared into the darkness.

*****

Both men were now secured in the barn Mulder had scouted out.   Neither was very happy, but Stu hadn't had the pleasure yet of spending the night.  Vince was now convinced of Mulder's intention.

"I want the name of the third man."

"Well you ain't gettin' it from me.  I rather take my chances with you any day."  Stu yanked on the cuffs that restricted his hands.  Vince looked over at him but kept quiet.

"You're more afraid of him than you are of me?"  Even Stu stopped at the sound of his voice.  Vince shivered slightly.

"Stu - "

"Shut up, he's just trying to scare us."

"Is it working?"  Mulder moved closer to him and Stu leaned away from him.

"You've got nothing on us, no proof."

"DNA.  I have you."

"DNA?  No way man.  Now I know you're lying."

Mulder pulled the torn pajamas from the paper bag he carried.   "Wanna bet?"

"There's no . . . " Stu looked over at Vince, "Did he . . . Shit!  That lousy son of a bitch, could he have . . .?"

"What?  Was the third man supposed to protect you?  And instead he sold you up the river?  You'd rather take your chances with him?  Why don't I let you sleep on it tonight."  Mulder replaced the cloth tenderly in the bag and stepped back.

Vince gave a low moan, "Shut up!"  Stu spat at him.  "He's not going to kill us, he would have already."

Mulder turned his back on them and left the barn.  Stu was partly right, he was no long quite as sure he could just kill them.  They were people - scum of the earth and deserving of a horrible death - but living people nevertheless.   Maybe he had better start thinking of a new plan, just in case. 

He could hear them whispering but couldn't quite make out the words.  No problem, he had purposely not gagged them tonight.

He got in the car and returned to his motel room.    He slept even less that night, he was just grateful he didn't remember the dream that jerked him awake.

He lay in the dark, envisioning her, wishing she were beside him tonight.  He didn't know what tomorrow would bring.  He had killed people before, but never in cold blood.  It wasn't that he was changing his mind - they deserved whatever happened to them, but . . . he desperately wanted to see her. 

He'd become used to living with her, having her around.  He had worried about that in the beginning, with both of them so used to living alone.  It hadn't been a problem; she had melded into his apartment just as she had melded into his life - as though she had always been there.  If his video collection had gotten a little dusty, he certainly hadn't cared.  Being celibate with her around was a little more difficult, but he would never presume where she was concerned.  She'd been hurt enough.  He sighed and closed his eyes.

*****

He didn't bother to speak when he arrived at the barn the next morning.  He'd brought food and drink, and placed it where it was plainly visible.  The look in Vince's eye was almost comical.

He moved directly to the post that separated the two men and removed the recorder from the place that he had secreted it.  He saw Vince go pale and Stu shut his eyes.

"Think I might have gotten some information boys?"  He pressed rewind and then play.

"You keep your mouth shut Vince.  Clint has connections, we wouldn't survive a day in prison or anywhere else if he thought we had squealed on him."

"But he set us up!  It had to be him that left the . . . the evidence behind."

"It don't matter.  He - "

Mulder cut the recorder off.  "Clint.  Okay, now I want to know who hired you."

"We don't know.  Listen mister, we took our orders from him, from Clint.  It was his contract, he just paid us to go along."

"Shut up Vince!"

Mulder moved over to the food and laid the recorder down, then opened the bag and removed a ham and egg biscuit.  He could see Vince salivate from where he stood.

"How hungry are you Vince?"

The man didn't respond, just watched Mulder's eyes.   His shoulders sagged as he realized that he was dead either way.  "Very."

Mulder nodded and approached him, placing the biscuit and juice beside him.  He removed the key to the cuffs and unlocked them, then stepped back and drew his gun.  "Eat."

Vince didn't wait for a second invitation, scooping up the sandwich with one hand and the juice with the other.  When he was through he looked up at Mulder.  "Hands."  He nodded and placed his arms back around the pole. 

He watched Mulder's eyes as he rose.  "You're going to kill us aren't you?"

"Talk to me about Clint."

"Vince - " 

"You shut up, Stu!  He set us up; he planted evidence against us.  To hell with him!"  He turned back to Mulder.  "You won't get him, men like him are above the law and you can't get close enough to hurt him yourself."  Mulder didn't respond, waiting. 

Vince shook his head.  "I don't know who hired him.  I swear.  He came to us; we've done little things for him before.  This was the biggest.  He was . . . "

"What?"

"He was excited about this job.  I don't know what he meant, but he said something about being in the big time now.  He . . . he went first, he enjoyed it too."  Vince was unaware of the tension that had overcome Mulder's body as he relived that night.  "I'd never seen him . . . like that, he wanted to hurt her.   She was barely conscious when - " He looked up at Mulder's face then and his own lost all color.  Any other words he'd been about to say were stuck in his throat.

Mulder turned without a word and headed for the door.

"Hey, wait!  Don't I get any food?"  Stu called to him.

"What's Clint's last name?"  He turned to look at Stu.  The bound man looked away.  "Where can I find him?"

Vince looked over at Stu, then back at Mulder.  "The base.  I don't know his last name."  Stu growled at him, but said nothing.  Mulder tossed the bag with the remaining food in their direction and left.

He was on the phone immediately.  "Langly, find me someone on the base named Clint.  And hurry."  He pulled the car out onto the paved road and returned to the bar. 

Once there he entered and ordered a sandwich and a beer.   He had to wait somewhere for Langly's call, but it seemed to be taking forever.  Intellectually he knew that wasn't true - things were actually moving quickly, but he wanted this to be over.  He wanted to be back with her.

He ate seated at the bar and wasn't paying attention to the clientele.  Mulder checked his watch again, why hadn't Langly called?  He missed the man that entered as he was finishing his meal.  The man didn't miss him though and his eyes widened in recognition before he slipped into a back booth to keep on his eye on Mulder.

Frustrated, Mulder finally rose from the bar and headed out the door.   The man watching him followed discretely.

Once in the car Mulder pulled out his cell phone again.  "Langly, anything?"

"No Mulder, we're still trying.  There's no 'Clint' on the base and our source went wiggy when we asked.  He knows something, but he's too scared to talk to us."

"So Clint exists.  My friends are scared of him too.  Keep trying; I'll head back to them.  Is she . . .?"

"She's missing you.  I think she knows what's going on."

"She is Scully, man.  I'll be home soon."  He replaced the phone in his pocket and pulled out of the parking lot. 

He was nearly out of sight of the place before the car began following him, and only the dust showed the man where Mulder had turned onto the dirt road.   On instinct the man followed the dust cloud at a slow pace.  He spotted Mulder's car up ahead, parked at an abandoned barn.  He pulled his own car off the road and proceeded on foot, his weapon drawn.

If Mulder was this close it wasn't good, and he wasn't about to take any chances.  He'd thought leaving the evidence was a lark.  That uptight bitch of a partner of his would never go public with what had happened to her, it had been a joke to keep the other guys in line.  He hadn't counted on Mulder taking the initiative.

The man moved closer to the barn.  If he was right, the two missing morons were inside and since Mulder was looking for 'Clint' they had to have talked.  No problem, he had the advantage of surprise, and out here, no one would find them for a very long time.

He was just outside the door now and he still couldn't hear very well, however he could see.  Stu was shackled around a post, when he moved slightly he could see that someone was shackled around another one.  That had to be Vince.  Those stupid assholes - how had they gotten themselves caught like this?  And where was Mulder standing?  It would be best to get him out of the way first, but all three were going to die, no more loose ends on this assignment.

He must have moved too much, because he realized Stu had spotted him seconds before he blurted out his name in fear. "Clint, no!"   That settled that. 

The bullet caught Stu in the throat, severing the artery.   The man was dead before he had time to fall against the post that held him.  Clint was inside now, pivoting toward Mulder.  Vince had been scared silent.

Damn the agent was fast; Mulder already had his gun out.   So what?  He fired at him as the FBI agent dived for some debris as a shield.  A tight smile appeared on Clint's face as he saw blood blossom on Mulder's coat. 

Mulder wasn't out, but he was down.  That gave him the time to turn and take care of Vince with no more thought than squashing a bug.

He turned back to Mulder now.  Time to finish off this icon that the men who had hired him feared so.  He hadn't been in their employ long, a few small jobs and then this one - hurt the partner, make him back off.  It was a stupid plan in his opinion, if they wanted to be rid of Mulder, go ahead and be rid of him, but he'd seen the partner and it wouldn't hurt his feelings to get a little time in - it was their plan after all.

She was a feisty bitch, she'd actually fought for a while, even knowing there were three of them.  His blow to her head had finally calmed her down, then the fun had begun.  He'd gotten first dibs, but he'd left enough to satisfy the other two.  A smile came to his face as he remembered her.  That smile is what sealed his fate. 

When Mulder saw it, saw that smile, he had known instantly what the man was thinking.  He went ice cold, the pain in his shoulder vanishing as the frigid fury took over his body.  This man was going to die.  Clint was a murderer now as well as a rapist, doing Mulder's job for him.   It didn't matter what happened to him, this man was already dead, even if he didn't know it.

Mulder silently reached for his second gun.  He wasn't quite as good left handed, but with both guns in play, that shouldn't be a problem.

He rose as though he had all the time in the world.  Clint was just a fraction late seeing him stand.  His mind had been on other things for a second there.  Big mistake, Mulder's first shot knocked him back against the post that held Stu.  That kept him upright though and he managed to fire at Mulder.  His aim was off, and Mulder didn't even bother to duck, bringing his left hand up and firing again. 

Mulder's next conscious thought was that his guns were empty.   He had no recollection of firing all of those rounds, but the evidence was in front of him.  Both guns had been fully loaded, now the firing pin was hitting nothing and 'Clint' was lying on the filthy floor of the barn in a large pool of blood. 

It took a minute for Mulder to get his breath, he must have been holding it the whole time and after staring at the man in front of him for a long moment, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket.  Once the police were on the way, he moved to replace the phone and winced for the first time as his own bullet wound made itself known to him.  He'd need to get Scully to look at it; she could patch him up.

*****

He wandered into the kitchen and spotted her at the counter.   He couldn't stop the smile from growing on his face.  It felt so good having her here, even if she hadn't quite forgiven him.  At least she hadn't left him and she had patched him up quite well.   His smile faded as she turned to him.  "Is something wrong?"

"No.  I just . . . I was . . . I need to think about going home." 

"You are home."  That slipped out before he thought about it.

She gave him a sad little smile.  "Not really.  I need to get back to my apartment.  I have - "

"What?  I don't mind getting it for you."

"Mulder.  I have to go back sometime.  All of my things, my furniture is there.  And you need your space."

"My space."  He thought about that for a couple of seconds.  "My apartment has never looked better, I'm eating like a king, and I wake up with a beautiful woman in my arms every morning.  Yeah, I need things to go back like before."

She'd looked away at the 'in my arms' part.  Now she faced him again.  "But you deserve more."

"More?"

She moved toward the living room, her hands fumbling with the coffee cup.  "Mulder, what if you meet someone and you want to start a relationship with her.  I'm in the way here."

"Start a relationship?  Scully, I'm in a relationship.   I have been for years and I'm not looking to meet anyone.  Are you?"   He followed her and almost took her hand.   Was she looking for a way out?

"No.  Mulder, damn it."  She studied the coffee intensely.  "You deserve a whole woman.  One who's not afraid - "

"Scully, stop it.  I haven't tried to push you have I?  I haven't meant to put any pressure on you.  If I have - "

"You haven't.  But a woman who was whole wouldn't make you wait this way.  You could be in a healthy relationship, maybe even start a family."  She absolutely would not look up at him now.

"Scully, when you're ready you'll tell me."  He decided to ignore the family part; that wasn't a topic they should get into right now anyway.  "Until then I like things the way they are.  Well, except for one thing."  She looked up and he saw the fear in her eyes.  "It is a little crowded around here.  I was thinking about looking for another place.  Maybe a two bedroom."

"So we could have separate rooms."

"Did I say that?  Stop putting words in my mouth Scully.  I like sleeping with you; I don't miss the nightmares at all.  I was thinking we could use an office.  We both have a lot of stuff and I'd really like to keep the couch.  It just wouldn't go too well with your furniture."

She was staring at him, mouth slightly open.  "You want to live with me?"

He glanced around the apartment and then back at her.  "What are we doing now, Scully?"

She hesitated, that question had caught her off guard.  "You're letting a friend stay over following a traumatic experience."

"Yeah.  Can you see me curled around Frohike each morning?  No, don't go there."  But he delighted at the smile that took over her face at that visual.

It didn't last long.  "Mulder, I'm serious.  I've been here a lot longer than I had ever imagined.  You need your life back.  You need to meet a whole - "

"Stop, stop right there.  You are a whole woman.   I'm tired of you referring to yourself that way.  You are the most 'whole' woman I have ever met."

"Don't patronize me, Mulder.  I wasn't whole before this happened, and now - "

"Now what, Scully?"  He was watching her too closely.  She looked away, trying to escape him.  "Scully, please."

"Mulder, damn it, I'm supposed to be at my sexual peak.  I'm living with the most desirable man I've ever known, and I can't even - "

"Wait!  Back . . . back up a minute.  You . . . you think I'm desirable?"  The glare she shot him didn't even faze him.  He sank onto the couch and looked up at her, giving her the position of power.  "Are you saying that there's a chance in hell that you might want to be more than partners?"

She sat down on the coffee table, facing him finally.  "That's what I'm talking about.  A real woman would jump at the chance to be with you."

He just stared at her speechless.

"Mulder, stop it.  You haven't had a woman over here since I moved in.  That's not fair to you.  I can't - "

"Just for the record, Scully, I hadn't had a woman over here for years prior to you moving in."

"Mulder, I - "

"It's true, Scully."

She looked away, "Regardless, you deserve more than I can give you."

"Scully, tell me, have I pushed you?  I need to know."

He saw her shoulders relax a little then.  "No.  No, Mulder.  You've been wonderful.  You've kept me sane.  I'm not . . . I know you've not given me the complete story about . . . but I know you're responsible for their punishment."

"They deserved what happened to them."  She looked down.  They'd been over this before.  He had been cleared of all charges.  It had been proven beyond a doubt that Clint had killed Stu and Vince.  And he had shot Mulder.  That meant self-defense.  Why Clint had taken the two men out to the abandoned barn had not been explained, but with Clint dead that would probably never be explained. 

"Scully, could you care for me?"

She looked up quickly.  "I already do."

"Then stay.  I'm serious, Scully.  I want you to stay.   If you want . . . more," he cleared his throat, unsure what it was she wanted, "we can get through this."

He watched her shoulders sag.  She didn't believe him.  What could he do to help her see?  He had to help her - as much for himself as for her.  It was true he didn't want her to move out.  When she'd moved in he hadn't given it that much thought; knowing it was temporary.  As the time passed and more of her things appeared in the apartment it had felt right.  Now it was right and he didn't want to even think about her leaving.  Hell he'd even learned to put the seat down.  With his willingness to take that kind of training, surely she didn't want to go.

*****

He joined her in bed and propped himself up on one elbow to look down at her.  She had her back to him, and didn't jump as his finger began outlining her ear.  She didn't move at all, but her breathing grew shallow.

Finally she spoke, "Mulder, what . . . what are you doing?"

"I'm investigating your ear."

"Why?"

"I'm a desirable male."  She relaxed then and chuckled lightly.  "I knew I should never have said that."

"Ahh, but you did."  He kissed her ear, then rolled over and switched off the light, leaving her staring after him, speechless.

Nothing was mentioned the next day though she found herself watching him; it was as though it had never happened. The next night she was already tense when he came into the room.  He lay down beside her, again with her back to him.  She turned to stone as she felt his hand find its way inside her pajama top.  He lightly kneaded the muscles in her back.

"You still counting on your desirability as a man?"  She asked, her voice only shook slightly.

He decided to ignore the question.  "You're awfully tense."  He continued to massage her back, not removing her top or straying forward to touch her breasts.  He felt her begin to relax and smiled to himself.  After a few more minutes he withdrew his hand, kissed the ear that he had investigated the night before again, then rolled away from her and switched off the light.

She sat up then and looked down at him.  What the hell?  She didn't have a clue what to say, so after a moment she eased back down.  She felt more relaxed in one way, but more keyed up in another.   She lay there, confused.  She almost asked questions a couple of times, but finally fell asleep.  She didn't see the smile that kept appearing on his face.

Scully was distracted most of the day, but Mulder made no comment, merely finding the things she kept misplacing in the office.  It was his night to cook, so she was a little surprised to find wine on the table.  He almost never drank, but she made no comment.  Maybe it would make things clearer for her.

When she was getting ready for bed that night, she realized her pajamas were missing.  Mulder must have put them in the laundry.  Rather than dig through the unfolded clothes, which were in the other room anyway, she pulled out a nightgown and slipped it on.  She got in bed and pulled the covers up over her.

She glanced up when he entered the room and her breath caught to see that he was only wearing shorts, no t-shirt.  He'd worn a t-shirt every night since she'd come here.  She couldn't tear her eyes away from him, from the pattern of hair on his chest.  She couldn't seem to get a full breath.  He didn't even seem to notice, just climbing into the bed and stretching out, taking part of her side of the bed.

"Mul . . . Mulder, what's going on?"

"Um?  What?" He glanced at her then away, ignoring her turmoil.

She realized her hand was on his chest.  When did that happen?  He didn't seem to mind, and he had touched her - kind of - the last two nights.  No, she couldn't do this.  She probably couldn't follow through and that wasn't fair to him.

But she hadn't removed her hand.  "Mulder, I don't know . . . "

"Your show, Scully, your pace."

"You . . . you'd be okay if I couldn't . . . "

"I'm good with whatever you decide.  You know that, don't you?"

She nodded, her fingers entangling in his chest hair now.   His breath caught as she brushed his nipple.   He got that under control, there was nothing he could do about his cock, so he tried to ignore it.

It wasn't as easy for her.  She glanced down and he saw her face pale.  He brushed a finger along her cheekbone.  "Scully, don't worry about that.  Please."

"Ignore part of your desirability?"  She managed to smile.

The chuckle rumbled in his chest, it turned to a gasp as Scully rolled his nipple between her fingers. 

"Would you touch me?"  It was barely a whisper.

He blinked but managed to nod.  "Where?"

"My breasts?"  It was barely a breath that time.  His hand found and cupped her breast.  She shook her head and he stopped.  "Not through the nightgown."   A small smile played around his lips then.  He slowly found the hem of her nightgown and at her slight nod, lifted it gently over her head.  That left only the panties.

She was beautiful, more than he had imagined - and more fragile than she had ever let him see before she'd moved in.  Those men couldn't hurt her again, they'd never hurt anyone again - he'd seen to that, but it had been too late for her.  She was trying.  He just had to make sure he didn't scare her, didn't rush her, even if she was trying.

His hand cupped her breast again, his thumb brushing her nipple, which immediately hardened into a little bud.  He felt the shiver run through her whole body.  "Your decision, Scully.  Your pace."  When she made no move to stop him, he began caressing her body, exploring all those places he'd fantasized about all of these years.  He had to be slow, gentle - this was for her, not for him.  She did seem to be enjoying it - it sounded like she was purring.

After a little while she took hold of his hand and moved it to the elastic of her panties.  He looked up at her face.  "Scully?"

She nodded, "Before I change my mind."

He took that in.  He was going to give her plenty of time to change her mind.  For now he could continue showing her pleasure without pressure.  He slipped her panties from her body and let them fall near her nightgown.

He slid his finger into her crevasse.  She was slick with juices.  Her body was ready even if her mind remained ambivalent.  He needed to let her know that sex could be enjoyable, safe with the right person.  He wanted to be that right person for her.

He continued to caress her with one hand while the fingers of his other hand drove her mad.  This was Mulder, she was safe here.  She felt herself melting into his touch.  She didn't realize that she was moaning, but he did and his eyes smiled though he managed to keep it from his lips.

He found that bundle of nerves and pressed gently on it.   She tensed slightly and he started to withdraw.  "Please.   Mulder, please."  He relaxed slightly and continued loving her.  She was moving now, increasing the pressure herself.  "Mulder!"  And then she was coming in his arms.  She was clutching his shoulders, her head back, her eyes closed.  "Oh God, Mulder."  Her body was still shuddering and he held her as she came back to herself.

"Why the tears?"  He asked gently as he brushed a tear from her cheek.

"I never thought . . . I believed that was over for me, that I never . . . that not even you . . . "

"Shhhh."  He pulled her to him then and held her as she cried, partly from relief, partly from joy.

There was time; there were no secrets between them now.  He loved her and she knew it.  And better yet, she loved him.  She wasn't sure about everything yet, but now she could start to believe in things again.  Now they could truly be together. 

- Fin -