She woke cradled in the gentle embrace of her protector, pressed against his hard chest. His chin rested on the top of her head. Interesting that she hadn't awakened when he instituted all of this cuddling.
Carefully she extracted herself and slipped into the bathroom. He barely stirred. She looked into the mirror of the medicine cabinet over the sink and it hit her again. Missy was gone, really gone this time - not like the months, even years she vanished to live whatever kind of life she chose. She needed to talk to her parents, but there wasn't a phone here. At least the misunderstanding would have been cleared up by now. But they had the new worry of having her vanish into the void. She took a deep breath; there was nothing she could do about that situation. She had to let it go for now.
She changed into fresh clothes; the shower would have to wait until she located some towels, then left the bath and tiptoed out to the main room.
In daylight it looked better, dated but nice. She opened all of the windows to let the place air out, then removed the dust sheets from the furniture. She worked her way to the kitchen. No coffee, nothing in the refrigerator except some ketchup and it looked suspect. The freezer had something in it, but was so frosted over she couldn't make it out. Maybe she could at least get the ice trays out and refill them.
Searching around the kitchen, she located an ice pick in the gadget drawer and started chipping away.
The sound of the bedroom door opening caught her attention and she turned. Mulder was standing there, scratching his head, causing his hair to spike in even more directions. His eyes still looked half asleep and he was barefoot.
"Here." She responded. "Did you sleep well?"
His eyes focused on her. "Did I really sleep eight hours?"
She nodded and realized she was admiring him in his rumpled state.
"I never sleep . . . I don't suppose there's any coffee?"
Scully smiled then, "No. Believe me, I checked."
He rubbed his forehead, "There's a country store a couple of miles from here. Let me find my shoes . . . "
"I put them on your side of the bed."
He stopped then and turned back to look at her. "You slept in here?"
She nodded, her chin going up slightly.
"I thought I dreamed that." He had a little smile on his face then, but turned away before she could comment.
He returned, wearing his shoes and jingling his keys. His shirt was buttoned, hiding the chest she had slept against and he’d attempted to tame his hair. "Come on, we can get a biscuit or pastry or something."
"I could stay here - "
"Nope. You're still in my custody. I'm not leaving you here alone."
She decided not to argue and followed him outside after he did a quick look around. "No one knows we're here."
"Habit." He grinned at her as he held her door open.
She hesitated, "We need to talk."
"After coffee, I promise."
He drove to the little store and pulled in. There were a few others there, people visiting the lake, fishermen and tourists. Mulder found the self-serve coffee pot and poured a cup for each of them. She, meanwhile, looked over the pastry at the counter.
He brought her cup to her. “Decided?”
“They don’t have any yogurt.”
“Thank goodness.” He smiled at the young girl behind the counter. “I’d like a bear claw.” He looked back down at Scully.
“I’ll have a bran muffin.”
He grimaced, but paid for the items and led her to one of the little tables. “You’re really going to eat that?” He looked at the muffin.
“You’re going to eat that?” She countered.
He took a huge bite and winked at her. She shook her head and looked around the small store. There didn’t seem to be anything the store didn’t sell, from detergent to worms for the fishing.
He followed her eyes. “This place hasn’t changed since I was a kid.”
“Were you here a lot?”
“Yeah, Mom brought us up here. Dad traveled a lot, so Samantha and . . . “
“My sister.” He didn’t look at her then, obviously not wanting to continue. That puzzled her, but she had no reason to press him.
They took the long way back, with Mulder pointing out different points of interest. Even then it didn’t take long to return to his place.
He let her back into the cabin and looked around. “You know, I don’t remember it being this small.”
“How long since you’ve been here?” She asked stepping into the main room.
“It’s been . . . cheez it’s been nearly 20 years.”
She blinked at that. “You were just a kid.”
“Yeah.” He didn’t sound like he wanted to discuss it.
“Why did we come here?”
He hesitated, then faced her. “He found you. We were in a supposedly safe location and he just walked in. There were only a handful of people that knew where we were.”
“You think someone at the Bureau . . . “
“I don’t know what to think, but I’m not going to take any chances. You’re sure you didn’t recognize him.”
She looked at him exasperatedly. “No. I swear I’ve never seen him before.”
“Okay, we’ve both seen him now. He should be easy enough to identify.” He was making and discarding plans quickly.
“Why did we change cars?”
He shrugged, “If someone was looking for us - “
“You thought the car was bugged? That sounds . . . really paranoid.”
To her surprise he grinned, “Yeah. I guess it does.” He offered nothing more, but she found herself more intrigued that ever.
He looked around again. “I can’t believe Dad has left the power on all this time. I guess his business manager just pays the bill. I’m sure he hasn’t thought about this place in a long time.”
“It looks like a nice place to vacation.”
“It was. My sister and I slept up in the loft then, in sleeping bags on air mattresses."
His sister again, just the mention of her seemed to depress him. Was it because of her sister? She wanted to ask, but she didn’t know this man well enough to ask such questions despite having slept in his arms the night before.
Instead she took the towel he offered and left him to take her shower. When she emerged, he took the bathroom and finally got the opportunity to change clothes. She hadn’t seen him in jeans before. She was surprised at the fact that he was just as attractive as in his suit.
She shook herself mentally, she wasn’t a tall brunette. He’d only cuddled her last night because he was asleep, or to offer her comfort. Take it for what it was, she told herself and turned to look out toward the lake.
“Want to walk down there?” He offered.
“I’d like that.” He touched his gun, now at his back, clipped to his waistband, then opened the door to the screened-in porch and led her outside. They followed the paving stones to the boat house, then took the path along the shoreline. She was startled when his hand brushed against hers, then took hold of it. She thought of pulling away, but it felt good and she needed it. For a change she was going to accept this. She so rarely allowed anyone to care for her. She knew the support was temporary but it helped.
She caught him looking at a large tree near the path and moved toward it, pulling him along. She looked up and smiled at him, only to see that his face looked strained, his eyes sad. His grip on her hand tightened as though he was drawing support from her.
She followed his look and spotted the carving on the tree. The word Fox was carved deeper with more skill, but below it was also the word Sam. It was shallow, the handwriting was less sophisticated and his eyes were locked on it.
He nodded and started walking again. Damn, what was it? This wasn’t just support for the loss of her own sister. She was beginning to feel like she should ask, but she didn’t know how to get into it.
They had a nice leisurely walk, mostly not talking, though Mulder pointed out where the diving platform had been and talked about skiing. It was easy being with him. He wasn’t treating her like he had Kaitlen and that made her feel more special somehow, more real.
Finally they returned to the house and she headed to the kitchen to make some sandwiches with the supplies they’d bought earlier.
That’s where she was when the front door burst open without warning. She whirled in that direction in time to see the large man they had seen in the lobby of the hotel grab Mulder around the throat and lift him effortlessly into the air.
Mulder struggled, unable to speak, his hands clawing at the grip. The man had his back to Dana. Mulder managed to land a telling blow in the man’s crotch and he doubled over, but didn’t release Mulder’s throat.
Scully immediately grabbed the ice pick off of the counter where she had laid it earlier that day. She aimed for his back, hoping she could at least get him off of Mulder long enough for the man to get his breath. His assailant shifted as Mulder writhed beneath him and her aim was off. The ice pick plunged into the back of the man’s neck.
She was shocked that she had done such a thing, but her shock escalated when no blood escaped the wound, only a green foamy substance emerged. Her eyes started to burn as the large man reached frantically at his neck with his free hand, trying to dislodge the pick.
He released Mulder, searching for the weapon with both hands now.
Mulder drew in a ragged breath and lurched to his feet. “Out!” He managed to croak and grabbed her hand pulling her out the front door. They raced to the car and she jerked her door open, but he had stopped and was watching the house.
“Mulder? We have to get out of here!”
The being staggered out of the cabin toward them. He seemed to be . . . disintegrating. He made it nearly to the gravel driveway before collapsing in the weeds.
They looked at each other, then Scully rounded the car to check on Mulder, and to be honest, to be closer to him. She reached inside the car and pulled out their bottles of water, handing him one. She washed out her eyes and he followed her example.
“Be careful. Your larynx could be bruised. Are you breathing okay?”
“Yeah. I think I’m fine.” He started to approach where the thing had fallen.
“No! Don’t get close to it.”
“There’s not a whole lot left of it.” But he stopped as she grabbed his arm. He looked down at her; she seemed truly concerned for him.
"What is he? What . . . How did he find us!" Her voice shook slightly though she felt better knowing he was beside her.
"I don't know. No one knew we were here, no one. The car couldn't have been tampered with . . . Do you want to go get something to eat?”
She gaped at him, unable to take in the sudden change in subject. “What?”
“We need to let the place air out.” He explained calmly. “There’s a good seafood restaurant in what passes for a town around here. Do you like seafood?”
She sputtered for an instant, then “Aren’t we going to leave . . . it, there?”
“After the fumes are gone. Besides, I don’t think my great-grandchildren will need to weed in that particular area for a long time.”
“And you’re hungry?” She watched him.
He shrugged, “I want to get away from here for a little while.”
“He found us again.” She finally said what they’d both been thinking, not moving toward the car.
“Let’s at least get something to drink and then think about it, okay?”
She accepted finally. He was right, the place needed to be aired out because the man had, had melted like the Wicked Witch of the West. Was she really awake? Why did Mulder suddenly seem charged with a new kind of energy? What the hell had she fallen into? She looked up at him and held out her hand.
“I’ll drive. You can navigate.”
“I can - “
“You were just assaulted, choked. I’ll drive.” Besides, she needed at least the illusion of control.
He stared at her, a little incredulously. She was ordering him around? She didn’t back down, meeting his eyes. After a moment he nodded and moved around to the passenger side of the car. They both adjusted their seats and she backed out onto the road.
By unspoken agreement they didn’t discuss anything in the restaurant. She pushed her food around her plate while he ate with gusto. He was clearly as excited about what had happened as she was shaken and incredulous. Just as clearly, his throat did not seem damaged.
He asked for a take out box for her food, and they returned to the cabin in a minimum of time. There was nothing left of the man that had broken into the cabin, only a man-shaped burn in the weeds by the driveway.
They stood looking at it for a long moment, then she turned away. He watched startled as she left him and entered the cabin. He looked around, then used a stick to take up some of the dirt to take with him to analyze. Finally he hurried to catch up with her.
“What was he? How did he find us?” She demanded when he touched her shoulder, turning her toward him.
“I think . . . I think we were tracked.”
“Tracked.” Her eyebrow rose, “in an anonymous car to a location that only you knew.”
He nodded. “I’ve been thinking about it. Remember the signature wound I told you about? It’s the only thing that’s consistent. The small, non-fatal, post-mortem wound on the back of the neck.”
”What about it?” She demanded.
“May I?” He reached for her neck.
“What are you doing?”
“Checking a theory.” His hand caressed her neck gently and his face went completely blank.
“Mulder? Mulder, what?” She twisted away from him.
“You have a small scar - “ His voice was flat, devoid of emotion.
“I have what? No, I . . .” She reached back there herself and found the tiny scratch where his finger had been. Her eyes widened, “What is it? What is it!”
“I don’t know.”
“There’s something under it.” She felt around, pressing on it. “Get it out.”
“What?” He backed away a step.
“Take it out. It’s right here, just below the surface. You can feel it. Just a little slit and put on a Band-Aid. I have what you need in my bag.”
“I’m not a surgeon.” He shook his head.
“It’s not surgery. Just look at it, please.” Her voice wavered then and he looked miserable. They stared at each other, then after another moment, he nodded.
“Thank you.” She whispered and headed for the bedroom. She grabbed up her bag and brought it back to the table. She pulled out what they would need and wiped the area herself with an alcohol swab.
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“It’s okay. Please.”
Mulder hesitated until she looked back up at him. Those eyes were so blue and wet. He nodded, then stilled his hand and made a tiny cut over the scratch on her neck. He dabbed the drop of blood and saw the miniscule black spot there just under her skin. He used a piece of gauze and removed the speck. He lay it carefully on the table, then dabbed more alcohol on the cut and covered it with a bandage.
“What is it, what did you find?”
“I don’t know. Probably nothing more than a piece of gravel or something.”
“Under my skin?”
“Are you okay?” At her nod, he moved to the breakfront on the wall outside the kitchen. He opened the top drawer on the right and pulled out a magnifying glass. He returned to her side and held the glass over the speck.
He blinked and leaned in closer.
”I, uh . . .” Instead of answering, he handed her the glass.
She took it with a slightly shaking hand, then leaned in herself. She straightened up slowly and just looked at him.
“Let me find something to put it in, so we don’t lose it.” He hurried into the bathroom and returned with an empty prescription bottle and what looked like a white sack. He lifted the speck and shook it into the bottle; then dropped the bottle into a lead-lined film holder and wrapped it around the small container. Finally he used the medical tape to secure it. She watched him silently. He shrugged, “Dad always had these around. They’re lead lined for transporting film through airports. He worked for the State Department. I don’t know that it will do any good, but . . . Scully?”
“It’s too small to be a real microchip.”
“Is it?” He asked quietly.
“Why would anyone put a microchip in my neck?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” She sounded on the verge of hysteria for the first time. “A man that can’t find us, appears with no warning, no car! He’s strong enough to pick you up with one hand. He bleeds green! With toxic fumes. And he disintegrates in your front yard - what the hell is going on!”
Her trembling had turned to shaking now, tears trailing down her cheeks. He didn’t hesitate; he took her in his arms and held her tightly against him. She broke down then, sobbing into his chest.
She wasn’t even aware when he moved them to the couch. He held her, murmuring soothing sounds, rubbing her back.
Slowly she regained her composure and sank into the comfort of him for a moment, then finally sat up. “You okay?” He asked, watching her face closely.
“You needed that.”
She nodded. “You know more about this than you’re telling me.”
After a moment he nodded, “It’s not what I was . . . It never crossed my mind that I was dealing with . . . “
She stared at him. “Aliens.” He nodded. “Men from outer space?”
He gave her a sideways grin. “You know anything else that bleeds green and disintegrates when you stab it in the neck?”
Her mouth opened but no sound emerged.
“Listen, I don’t expect you to be able to take this in, not right now. I’m more concerned with how that chip got in your neck.”
“All of the others, they had this chip?”
“I don’t know. But it makes sense. It’s the connection I didn’t see. I’ll bet they were all alien abductees.”
“Alien . . . “
“I’ve never been - “
“Think about it Scully. Think back, have you ever had missing time, a lost weekend?”
“Lost - “ Her face paled and he moved closer, taking her hand in his.
“Talk to me, please.”
“How did you get involved with . . . There aren’t any men from outer space. It’s science fiction.”
“Okay, but what happened to you? I saw your reaction. Please, trust me.” The pressure on her hand increased gently and she looked down at it.
Trust me. For some reason those words seemed to echo around her. She did. She did trust him. There was no reason not to, he had saved her at the hotel; dropped everything else to keep her safe. She’d even slept in his arms last night. Last night should have been a horror for her, but with him, she had slept dreamlessly and woken refreshed.
They had shared an experience, one that she couldn’t begin to explain, but with him there, she hadn’t panicked. Okay, she still didn’t believe in men from outer space, but she did trust him.
“I wasn’t abducted.”
“Okay, but what did happen. Did you have a ‘lost weekend’?” He grinned at her.
“It wasn’t like that. It was only a couple of years ago. I had ended a relationship and some friends decided to fix me up.” She shrugged. “I wasn’t interested. So they agreed to do a group thing. We took an afternoon and drove down to Virginia for a picnic. It was a nice place, a mountain with a, one of those sky trams. What was it . . . Skyland, Skyland Mountain. We had a nice day.”
“Was he a nice guy?”
“Greg? He was okay.” She gave him a sort of smile. “Anyway, a storm came up. I remember there was a lot of lightening, but no rain. We were headed for the car . . . “
“What?” Mulder leaned closer.
“I don’t know what happened. I remember the lightening, then I woke up in a hospital four days later.”
“Hospital?” He touched her arm, “What happened?”
She shook her head, “That’s the weird thing. The others said I, I disappeared. Apparently I was missing for those days. I don’t know what happened. They said when they got to the cars, I wasn’t with them. The police were called, they searched, but . . . “
“Were you . . . hurt?”
“I wasn’t molested. I was in good health. No one could tell me how I got to the hospital. I was just found there. I couldn’t give the police any kind of statement.”
“So, did you ever see Greg again?”
That startled a chuckle from her. “Uh, no. And I got my friends to quit fixing me up.”
He absorbed that with a slight nod.
“Are we leaving now?”
“No.” He made his mind up quickly. “It’s late and we’ve both had a long day.”
She couldn’t explain or even admit her relief, but she nodded. She turned away as she remembered the feel of his arms keeping her safe during the night. Inappropriate, and she wasn’t his type. That didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy it.
He touched her arm to turn her back to face him. “You think I’m crazy.” He was watching her eyes. “Do you want to leave?”
“No.” She was surprised to realize she meant it. She needed to get home, there was so much to do and she wanted, no she needed to see her parents, but she also didn’t want to leave. “It is late. By the time we got back to DC, I’d hope that my parents would be getting some rest. Tomorrow morning is soon enough.”
“For what?” She asked puzzled.
“For not running screaming in the other direction.” He gave her a rueful smile.
“Why would I do that?”
“Because most people would. You’ve got to think I’m insane.”
“I think you’ve saved my life; I think you’ve put your life on hold to do it.”
He blinked at that, but didn’t seem to know what to say. Again she thought of Kaitlin and smiled.
“I do have a question.”
He smiled then, releasing her arm and took a seat on the couch. He looked up at her, “Okay, hit me.”
“Why? Why do you know anything about aliens?”
“EBEs.” When her eyebrow rose, he patted the seat next to him. Extraterrestrial Biological Entities. Someone has to do it.”
“Mulder . . . “ She joined him on the couch.
He sighed then and the smile left his face. “I . . . my life was turned upside down by it.”
“Your life . . . I don’t understand.”
“My sister . . . my sister was abducted when she was eight years old.”
She sat watching him, waiting for more. He sat calmly, offering nothing more. Finally she couldn’t wait any longer. “How long was she gone?”
He tried to smile, but failed. “She wasn’t returned.”
Her eyes widened and her hand went out touch his arm. No wonder that look of sadness had come over his face at every reminder of the girl. “Talk to me.” She said softly. He looked away, shaking his head slightly. “Trust me.”
That brought his head up quickly. Her look of compassion unsettled him; he was much more used to derision on this subject. Her hand squeezed his arm and she moved a little closer.
He had finally wound down, his voice slightly hoarse from talking so long. She was now cuddled against him and his chin rested on her head, reminiscent of their position in bed this morning. She didn’t know if she believed, or even understood everything she had heard, but he had opened up to her. He had been through so much. She knew there were still things he hadn’t shared, but somehow she knew he had been more open with her than with any other woman.
“You still awake?” He asked softly.
“Of course.” She looked up at him. For a moment she thought he was going to kiss her, but at the last minute he pulled himself back.
“We should get some rest. It’s late and I have to get you back in the morning.”
She nodded, remembering what she was facing at home. “I guess we should go to bed.”
“Remember, there’s only the one.” He looked toward the bedroom.
“It was okay last night.”
He looked at her for a long moment, then nodded. He let her go on into the bedroom to get ready while he locked the place down for the night. He stood at the door for just a minute, looking out at where he knew the burned area was located. Then he took a deep breath and headed for the bedroom.
Maybe he’d sleep again tonight with her beside him.
When she spotted her parents, she had flown into their arms. Holding and being held by them, her mother kept touching her face, trying to take in that this daughter was safe and alive. Her father kept clearing his throat, wiping his eyes, but not letting go of her hand.
“Charlie’s here, at the hotel. Bill is on the way. He was out on maneuvers, but we’ve talked to him. He’s okay.”
“Is he? They were so close at one time.”
Her mother brushed her hair back from her face. “I think he mourned her years ago.”
Dana nodded, she understood that. In some ways she’d done the same. Missy hadn’t wanted to be in their world. With a start she remembered Mulder and looked around quickly to introduce him. He was nowhere to be seen.
“Did you see the man that brought me here?”
“Tall, dark hair? Yes. Once he saw you with us he slipped out. Do you know him?” Her father asked.
“Yes. He’s a . . . a friend. He kept me safe.”
“Then I’d like to thank him.” Her father looked around again to see if he had returned. They didn’t find him.
Dana knew that Missy would not have approved of the Catholic service, but it was more for Mom and Ahab anyway. Missy had been cremated as she’d instructed Dana several years ago.
She had already arranged a few days off to take Missy’s ashes to San Francisco. She would scatter them there, where Missy had been her happiest. She hadn’t told anyone, but she was going to save some of the ashes and take them to the lake house where she had felt so safe. She wanted to scatter some ashes over that burned area in front of Mulder’s house.
She rose and crossed herself, then turned to follow her parents out into the aisle. It had been a small turnout, friends of her parents, Charlie and Mary with their boys, Will and Sam. Bill and his new wife, Tara were there. Father McCue met them, hugging Maggie and shaking William’s hand. When the priest turned to Bill, Maggie looked up.
“Dana, that man, the one that protected you, Mr. Mulder?”
She looked up at her mother, “Yes?”
“Are you close? I mean are you seeing - “
“No, Mom. I’m not his type. He was just doing his job. I’m sure he’s forgotten all about me.”
“I don’t think so.” She pointed behind Dana, who turned to look. He was standing there, watching her. Her eyes widened and she moved toward him without even thinking about it. She was unaware of the look of joy that came over her face. That caused the worried look to leave his eyes and he met her, taking hold of her hand. They didn’t speak for a moment. There was no need.
She knew about him and could still smile. He wanted to know more about her. He wanted to know as much as she would allow, starting now.