He squatted beside the body and watched as the CSI turned her. She was a young woman, late twenties, red hair. He
looked closely at the back of her neck.
"Is she one of his?"
"Yeah." Mulder took a deep breath. Another one and he was no closer. This woman fit the profile of no profile. The
last one had been a man, nearly sixty. His neck snapped. A disturbance at the front door caught his attention.
"What's going on? This is my apartment. What are you doing here?" A feminine voice reached him.
Mulder rose to his feet. The victim was supposed to be the tenant, that's what they'd told him. He moved to the door
and saw another young red headed woman; there was definitely a resemblance to the corpse. He withdrew his
badge and stepped up to the officer that was keeping the woman from entering.
"I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder. Did you say you live here?"
"Dana Scully, yes, this is my apartment. What's going on here?"
"Could we speak out here for a minute?" It wasn't a request, and he took hold of her elbow. He led her a few
steps down the hall from her door, away from the sight of the CSI team working.
"What's wrong?" She was obviously torn between fear and anger.
"May I see some ID?" She was watching his face and scrambled in her bag to find her wallet. He looked at it
quickly and returned it to her. "Dr. Scully, do you live here alone?"
"Yes." She looked up into his face and saw the compassion there.
"What's happened?" Her voice shook slightly.
"I'm afraid there's been a murder. We were led to believe that the victim was the tenant, you. Can you give me your
whereabouts for the last several hours?"
"Yes, I was at work. I'm a doctor at Georgetown Memorial. My shift started at 7 a.m. Please, what - "
He glanced at his watch, nearly 4 p.m. "Your neighbor reported a disturbance that occurred around 7:30 this
morning. Unfortunately, she didn't report it until after 10 a.m. I only arrived a little while ago. What time did you
"Si-six thirty. There's, there's someone dead in my apartment? Who, who is it?"
"From the description, we thought the woman was you. She has no ID on her."
Her face paled.
"I'm sorry, but do you think . . . we need an identification of the victim."
She nodded and seemed to stiffen her spine. He admired that, she was such a tiny little thing. He felt like he loomed
over her, but she hadn't backed down or pulled away.
He walked her into the main room of her apartment and she felt a certain comfort from the old fashion courtesy of this
man's hand on her lower back. Mulder looked over at the CSI and nodded. The man gently unzipped the black bag
that rested in the middle of the room and lifted the cover from the face.
The gasp caused Mulder to tighten his grip on her. "Missy!"
She turned then and covered her face. His arms went around her as her knees buckled. He supported her into the
bedroom, which had already been cleared, and sat her on the bed.
"It can't be!"
"Put your head down."
"I'm f-fine," she demurred.
"Put your head down anyway." He gently pushed her head down between her knees and she didn't fight him. Shortly
her breathing became less labored and he helped her to sit up. Tears were streaming down her face.
"Who's Missy?" he asked gently.
"Me-Melissa, my sister."
He nodded slightly, that explained the resemblance.
"She's not even supposed to be here. I didn't know she was in town."
"Does she have a key?"
She nodded and took the tissue he handed her. "I gave it to her when I moved in. She, she moved around a lot. I
wanted her to always be able to feel wel-welcome here. Oh god."
"Dr. Scully, this is not your fault."
"I need to call my family. Mr. Mulder, I need to call . . ." A sob escaped her then.
Mulder closed his eyes for a second. "Mulder."
"Just Mulder. There's been a, a mistake made here. Based on the location and description, your sister was identified as
you. Your parents have already been notified. They're on their way."
Her hand covered her mouth then. "They think, they think I'm dead."
He nodded, thinking quickly. "Dr. Scully, based on what we have here, there's a possibility that you were the target."
She looked up quickly and he found her hand in his. "It's just a feeling, but I think we should get you out of here. I'll take
you to a secure location. As soon as your parents arrive, they'll be informed - "
"And that will make it better how?" She looked down and wiped her face again.
The CSI tapped on the door, "Agent Mulder?"
Mulder looked over at him and nodded, giving permission to remove the body. The younger man slipped away, leaving
them alone again.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Scully, I really do want to get you out of here and someplace safe."
She didn't seem to hear him. "You need to get some things together; you might be away for a few days."
She looked up then, "What? I can't, I can't leave. My family - "
"Dr. Scully, I need you to focus. I know this is a terrible time for you, but I want you to be protected. Please, pack a bag."
She looked at him, obviously confused.
"You are the first break we've had in this case. I'm going to take you somewhere we can protect you. And you might be
able to help us catch this guy before he harms anyone else."
She finally met his eyes and saw that he was serious. She rose to her feet with his help and after a moment of
uncertainty, turned toward her closet. She pulled out an overnight bag and laid it on the bed. He moved to the door,
giving her some privacy and pulled out his cell phone to report to his A.D. and make arrangements.
In a few minutes she squeezed past him and entered the bathroom. He turned to look at her room, it looked
comfortable. The walls were pale green and she had a couple of impressionist paintings on the walls. Her furniture
was warm oak. There was a queen size bed, dresser and chest of drawers, holding a jewelry chest and some
photographs. A small upholstered chair was at the window; the fabric picked up the color in the art. Her bedside table
had several books stacked on it, the only 'clutter' in the room. It was a strange collection - medical journals, a
fashion magazine, a Sherry Tepper novel and one by Dean Koontz. She had packed slacks and sweaters. He couldn't
see below the top layer and didn't move closer.
He turned and gave her a nod, squeezing her arm. He let her past him to finish her packing, then he lifted the suitcase
off the bed.
He led her from the apartment and into his car. "I'm taking you to the Hilton Towers."
"When can I talk to my parents?"
He looked down at her with regret, "Not for a while."
"But I - "
"I know, I'm sorry. This is for your protection." She realized his hand was on her lower back again. He opened the door
and seated her in his car, then placed her suitcase in his trunk. He slipped behind the steering wheel and started the
engine. She didn't look at him, staring out the passenger's window.
At the hotel, Mulder checked in, keeping her at his side. She had come with him, but he still wasn't sure she understood.
She was quiet, too quiet. He led her to the elevator and on to the room. He checked out the bathroom, looked around
the room, then set the suitcase on the low cabinet.
She didn't speak; just let herself into the bathroom. He watched her make her silent way. She was holding it all in
and he was concerned. She had no reason to talk to him, but until they could get a team together, he was all there
He wasn't good with people, not on this level. He knew that. He did okay with women, they seemed to like being with
him. He'd been taught lovemaking by an expert, but in a case like this . . .
He jerked to attention when the door opened and the small redhead returned to the main room. She'd washed her face,
combed her hair. "Can I get you anything?"
She shook her head.
"There will be a team of agents to stay with you." He wanted to reassure her. "A female agent will spend the
night, and - "
"I have to stay here over night?"
"Uh, yes, maybe several." She sank onto the foot of the bed. "I'm sorry. I won't bother you; I'll just sit over here and
look through my notes. The TV won't bother me, if you want . . . "
She seemed to nod. He ached for her, losing a sister hit a little too close to home for him, but she didn't seem to want
to talk. He pulled out the chair at the small table and opened the file he had brought inside. After glancing over at her
again, he spread the photos of the victims out to look at them once more. What had he missed? What was the
connection? How many times had he looked at these damn pictures?
He lost himself in the information, as so often happened on these cases. There was a reason, but the only thing that
linked them was the cause of death. They had all been killed by bare hands, brute strength. And then the wound.
Post-mortem the killer had sliced into the back of their necks. It made no sense. There were no trophies taken, the
wound was too small to be more than just a signature, but why? That's what he couldn't figure.
"Is that the others?" He jerked back to the present at the sound of her voice close behind him. He immediately
pushed the photos into a neat pile and flipped them over.
"I'm sorry. I just . . . I can't, I need to do something."
He nodded; this would drive him up the wall. "You're a doctor?"
She hesitated then shrugged. "I don't blame you for doubting it. I haven't acted - "
"This isn't a case, it's personal. You've been great under trying circumstances. What uh, what kind of doctor are
She gave him an ironic half smile then, "I'm a pathologist." He blinked at that. Not at all what he'd expected of such a
diminutive woman. She caught his shock. "I get that a lot," she said dryly.
"I'm sorry, it's just a surprise."
"I know; I'm used to it," she sighed. "I wonder if my parents are here yet."
"I wish I could let you speak with them. I know they'll be devastated." He rose and placed a hand on her shoulder.
He felt awkward; where was the female agent they were going to send? "Without knowing how he targets his victims,
I need to keep you out of sight."
"I wonder if they'll be . . . "
"What?" He gave her his chair and took a seat on the foot of the bed.
"Missy is, was a 'free-spirit'. She hadn't been in the family for a long time. It was her choice; they would never kick her
out. She rebelled against the military life a long time ago. Dad's Navy. It was hard, we moved a lot. The boys didn't
seem to mind, but Missy didn't adjust as well. Neither did I to be honest, but she went . . . I guess you'd say 'hippie'.
She never held a job for more than a couple of months. She experimented with drugs. I don't think she ever asked our
parents for money, but she came to me a couple of times. That's why I gave her my key. I couldn't think of her as
She looked up at the ceiling for a moment. "Why was she here? She had to need something. And coming to me cost
her . . . "
He leaned forward and took hold of her hand, massaging it lightly. "This wasn't your fault. A sick person came into your
apartment and did this. If she hadn't been there, he would have killed you."
"But if he was after me - "
"No. You can't take that on. And maybe, with your help, we can catch this guy; find out who he's after next."
"I could help find him?" she asked slowly.
"I imagine you do that a lot in your job. Forensics is a big part of what you do. This isn't exactly the way you're used to
assisting the police, but . . . " he shrugged.
"May I see the photos?"
"Are you sure?"
After a moment, she nodded.
He rose and spread the pictures out on the bed. These weren't the crime scene photos, just pictures the victims'
families had given them. The more gruesome ones were at his apartment. He had those memorized. With these he had
wanted to see the person, not the victim.
"Do you recognize anyone?"
She stepped closer and looked over his shoulder. She was quiet as she looked at the faces. Finally she shook her
head. "I don't know any of these people."
"That's been the problem. There's no connection between the victims. It's hard to profile when there's nothing to go
on. Age, sex, occupation, location, nothing in common about their lives. Only their deaths." He shuffled the
photographs together again and tucked them in a file.
"How about something to eat, Dr. Scully?" He picked up the food service menu.
"Just Scully." She tried a weak smile at her quip and he returned it. "Room service? Can't we go - "
"You're in protective custody. We can't expose - "
"We don't have to leave the hotel. Couldn't we eat in the dining room? I'm going crazy here. I just need a little air.
You'll be with me and only the FBI knows where I am."
Mulder looked her over; she was under tremendous stress with only him to lean on. "You'll stay at my side?"
"I promise." There was no irony in her voice; she found she felt safer close to him.
He settled his gun more firmly in his holster, then opened the door, checking the hall. He motioned for her to move to his
side. Again his hand settled on the small of her back and she felt some comfort.
They rode down the elevator, picking up people as they descended. There were a lot of people in the lobby. Mulder
took her arm and led her toward the dining room.
He was on guard, looking around the lobby. There were more people than he had expected. He was ready to tell her
they had to return to the room when her arm was jerked from him. He glanced up to see a large man pulling her away.
The man hadn't been there just a second ago. Scully blinked, startled then began to struggle.
"Let her go!" Mulder had his gun in his hand. The other people in the lobby froze, then began scrambling away. The
man looked at him and Mulder aimed the gun higher, both arms stiff in front of him. "FBI, let the woman go."
The man sneered at him, then looked around the lobby at the crowd that was watching him. Without warning he
released her and shoved her toward Mulder, then he plunged into a thick clump of people. There was screaming
and yelling, a couple of people lost their footing in the melee as Mulder lunged after him.
He wasn't there. Mulder hadn't seen anyone go out the door, but the man was no longer anywhere to be found.
Mulder returned to her side to find security flanking her. "Thanks." He moved her away from them after flashing his
"Are you all right?" He did loom over her now as though protecting her with his body.
"Was that him?" She was breathless, but she seemed in control. She was a lot stronger than she looked.
"Yeah, I think it was."
"He would have killed me. How did he know we were - "
"That's what I want to find out. Come on, let's get your things. We're getting out of here."
"But they - "
"We'll talk about it in the car. Come on." He hustled her back into the elevator and pressed seven.
She threw the few things she had removed back into the suitcase and he grabbed it up, rushing her from the room.
She hurried to get into the passenger side as he threw the bag into the back seat.
She was quiet until he took a turn off the highway, toward the airport. "We're leaving town?"
"But - "
He held up his hand and surprised, she kept quiet. He pulled into long-term parking. She exited the car when he
did and watched him grab her bag from the back. He opened the trunk and took out his own bag and they moved
toward the terminal. She turned toward the ticket counter, but he stopped her.
She didn't have a lot of choice, but she was becoming frustrated now. "What are we doing?" she finally hissed at
"We're getting a car."
"We have a car."
"Trust me, please." He stopped and looked down at her. After a moment she nodded. "Stay close to me."
He walked up to the counter and smiled at the attendant. She immediately returned the smile and Dana's eyebrow
rose. "How can I help you?" She cooed at him.
For some reason that bothered her more than she knew it should. He was her protection, nothing more, but he had
been kind to her. His reactions protecting her, keeping her safe regardless, had startled her.
The attendant was a tall woman, probably 5'8", with long dark hair. Now she was leaning toward him, giving him a
better view of her ample cleavage as well as her name badge.
Finally he felt comfortable. This was a role he played often. Women liked to look at him. None of them knew him and
that was fine. He just needed a car to get her to safety.
"Kaitlen, we'd like a car. Sorry, I didn't think to reserve one before we arrived."
"That's okay Mr. - ?"
"Hale, George Hale. We'll need it for a week."
"Of course. Here on business or pleasure?"
Mulder put his arm around Scully and smiled at the attendant, "Pleasure."
Her smile dimmed ever so slightly. "Full size?"
"Do you have anything sporty?" He smiled full wattage at her and Dana watched her respond to it with eyes
narrowed. The woman seemed to have forgotten she was even standing there.
"Let me check." Kaitlen turned to her computer and very shortly looked back over at Mulder. "I have a Mustang that
might fit the bill."
He gave her another smile, "that would be great."
Kaitlen returned to her computer, then she handed him the printout. "What credit card do you want to use?"
Mulder pulled out his wallet and handed over a card. Dana kept quiet. When the transaction was recorded, Kaitlen
came out from behind the counter and to Dana's surprise began to lead them to the door. She'd never gotten that kind
Just outside the door, Kaitlen began to give Mulder directions to pick up the car and he listened attentively. She
finally seemed to remember Dana and looked in her direction if not directly at her. "I hope you have a nice
vacation, Mrs. Hale."
Dana nodded silently. As they were ready to walk off, a red Mustang convertible drove up.
"Now that's what I was talking about. Any way we could switch?" That smile again. Dana wanted to slug him.
"Well, I guess we could. It hasn't been cleaned."
"Not a problem. As long as there's gas."
"We'd have to redo - "
"Could you handle that for us? We'd really like to get on the way." He touched the brunette's arm and Dana watched her
relax as she leaned closer.
"I guess I could."
"Thank you. I hope you're on duty when we return it."
"I work evenings Wednesdays and Thursdays, and I'm here during the day Monday, Tuesday and Friday." She glanced
over at Dana once again as though just remembering her.
Dana mentally shook herself. The desire to claw the woman's eyes out was totally out of proportion.
"I really appreciate this, Kaitlen." Mulder took the keys and opened the trunk, loading both of their bags, then opened
Dana's door. She slipped in without a word. He winked at the brunette and moved smoothly around the car. They
pulled out toward the exit to the highway.
He glanced over at Scully, but she was staring out at the passing scenery. "You okay?"
She thought of several comments, but settled on "George Hale?"
"Sometimes I need to keep a low profile."
"You have ID in a different name."
She shook her head and looked out the window again, trying to put his reaction to the other woman out of her mind. That
wasn't important now, why couldn't she focus?
He woke her as he pulled up to what looked like a small cabin. It was too dark to see it clearly.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to fall asleep."
"It's okay, I'm actually a pretty boring guy." He grinned.
"Somehow I don't believe that." She didn't smile. Then she turned toward the building, "Where are we?"
"Quonochontaug, Rhode Island," he responded. "This is my family's lake house. We used to come here when we
were kids. I haven't been up here in years."
"It took us a long time."
"I took a 'circuitous' route. We weren't followed."
"Are you always this paranoid?"
"Yep." He yawned, then opened his car door and got out, stretching.
"I'm sorry, you must be exhausted."
He shrugged, "Let's get inside." He took their bags from the trunk, then used a key from his own key ring to open the
door and tried the lights. To his relief, they worked. He yawned hugely and she looked over at him.
"Go on to bed, Mulder."
He nodded, too tired to argue. "Let me lock up."
"I'll do it."
He started to protest, but she looked up at him, her eyebrow raised. He gave her a tired smile and moved toward the
"You can't get comfortable there, Mulder." She turned him toward the open door of the bedroom. He sighed and did as
"I only need a couple of hours." He yawned and she nodded, not bothering to correct him.
After he left her, she realized the bathroom was in the bedroom, as well as her bag. She sighed and made sure
everything was locked, then stepped quietly into the bedroom. Mulder was sprawled on top of the bedspread, the
dust sheet tossed to the floor. He had removed his shoes, which were on the floor in front of the door, and his suit coat
and tie were tossed across a chair. He was still in his slacks and dress shirt, which was unbuttoned half way down. He
was sound asleep.
She opened her suitcase, withdrew her bag of toiletries and entered the bathroom. When she emerged, she glanced out
into the living room and grimaced at the love seat. The man was dressed and had been a complete gentleman.
She made her decision, then carefully joined him on the bed. He didn't even stir, so she relaxed. She expected to
lay awake, thinking about what had occurred to her, her family, since she had first seen this man. The horror of
seeing Missy like that seemed to be fuzzy now, a defense mechanism. Regardless, between the emotion and the
adrenaline, her body decided the nap wasn't enough and pulled her under.
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
“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
“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
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 “Are 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
“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,
"Hi," he said shyly. "I hope I'm not intruding." He glanced past her to her parents.
"I'm glad you're here." She squeezed his hand. "Please, come meet Mom and Ahab."
Before he could ask any questions, or even refuse, they were moving in that direction. "Mom, Ahab, I'd like you to
meet Agent Mulder." Her father's eyes widened slightly at the name.
Mulder stuck his hand out, "I'm very sorry for your loss, Captain Scully, Mrs. Scully."
The older man took his hand in a firm grip. "Thank you. And thank you for keeping Starbuck safe during all of this."
Mulder nodded unsure what to say. Mrs. Scully took his hand then. She opened her mouth; then seemed unable to
speak. Her husband put his arm around her. A tall man with ginger hair broke from the group around the priest and
Mrs. Scully forced composure and took the man's hand. "Bill, this is Agent Mulder, the man who protected Dana."
"Agent Mulder." He nodded to Mulder; then turned back to Mrs. Scully. "Let's go back to the house, Mom. You haven't
eaten all day."
Mrs. Scully managed a wan smile. "Who's the parent here?"
"He's right, Mom. We should go." Dana looked over at her father for back-up.
Her mother was looking at Mulder. "Would you come back to the house with us, please. There's plenty of food and I'd
like for you to be with us."
Startled didn't cover it, but seeing Scully's nod of encouragement, he relaxed slightly. "Thank you. I'd be honored."
Dana smiled then and looked up at her father. "Why don't I ride home with Agent Mulder? It's easier than giving
directions." Ahab looked back at the young man and nodded, mostly to himself.
"We'll see you at the house." He took Maggie's arm more firmly then, as Bill took her other arm and led her to the car.
The rest of the family followed, nodding to Dana.
"Is your mother okay?" he asked once the family was out of hearing.
"She will be. Today was especially hard. Thank you for coming."
He shrugged. "I wasn't sure . . . "
She squeezed the hand she realized she was holding again. "I need to get her ashes."
After a brief word with Father McCue, they were on their way to the Scully home.
At the house there were other family and friends. Mulder was introduced, then tried to remain in the background,
though he kept Scully in his sights. He saw her younger brother, Charlie, pass him headed toward the stairs. He had
his younger son in his arms and was trying to get the older one to come along. Dana hurried toward him and looked
over at Mulder. He joined them.
"Need any help?" Dana asked the younger man.
"I want to get Sam down for a nap. Will, too, but I'm having a little trouble." He looked harried and the younger boy was
starting to cry.
"I don't need a nap! I'm not a baby," the older one whined.
"Of course you're not," Mulder spoke, causing them all to look at him. "Why don't you and I go see if there's a game
Will accepted the reprieve instantly, taking Mulder's hand. "Come on. There's a TV back here." He tugged on the
Mulder nodded, winking at Dana. "We'll see you guys later."
Charlie shrugged and took the squirming baby up the stairs. Mulder and Will disappeared into the study.
In less than ten minutes Dana tiptoed into the room to find Will asleep on the couch, his head against Mulder's leg.
Mulder shrugged. "I told you I was boring," he whispered.
"Hardly. Was there a game?"
"No, he just needed to be quiet for a minute."
"You have many kids?" Her eyebrow went up.
He shook his head, laughing quietly. "I worked with them at Oxford. These two are your younger brother's, right?"
She nodded. "He and Mary were married their freshman year in college. Charlie just got tenure at OSU in English
Literature. Mary's up for tenure in Nutrition there now."
"What about Bill?"
"He and Tara have only been married a little over a year, no kids yet. Do you think we can move him?"
Mulder nodded. "He crashed completely." He lifted the boy into his arms and followed Dana out and to the stairs.
Charlie met them at the top of the stairs, his eyes wide.
"How'd you do that? And can you teach me?" Charlie grinned and led them to the bedroom. Mulder lay the boy on
the bed and he curled up as Charlie draped an afghan over him.
Dana turned as she heard her name called. "See you in a minute." Mulder's eyes followed her out, and Charlie
"You saved her," Charlie said quietly.
Mulder looked over startled. "I . . . "
"It's been hard on her, losing Missy. She only smiles when she looks at you."
Mulder just blinked at that. Charlie nodded. The younger boy stirred, so Charlie and Mulder tiptoed out into the hall.
"I just want to thank you. I hadn't seen Missy in years. She never even saw Sam. I tried, but she didn't want to be part
of the family. Dana wouldn't quit, she never gave up on her. Do you have a sister?"
"Wha-uh, yeah, I did."
"Did?" Charlie looked up at him, concerned.
"She went missing a long time ago."
"I'm sorry. I didn't . . . "
Mulder shook his head.
"Does Danes know?"
"Yeah." He didn't offer anything more.
"Well, we better get back downstairs. I'm sure Mom needs us to eat again. She seems to think it's the thing to do."
Mulder managed a small smile then. "She's right on some level. Comfort food and all that.
Charlie nodded. "Anyway, thank you. You're good for Dana." Again Mulder just looked at him. Charlie clapped his
shoulder. "Come on."
Dana had saved a place for him at the table by her side. He slipped into it and took the dish she passed him. "Everything
"Sure. Just getting to know Charlie a little." He smiled then.
She knew he was less than comfortable with this large family group, but the fact that he was willing to be there at all
warmed her somehow.
There were several conversations going on. He didn't even try to keep up, not knowing the names or connections; it was
enough that she wanted him here. His attention returned when he heard her tell her mother that she was going back
to her apartment.
"Dana, are you sure. Why don't you stay here? We'd love to - "
"Mom, I need to go back to my place, and there's just no room. I'll be fine."
The look on Maggie's face showed exactly what she believed about that statement. "Your car isn't even here,
Honey. You could . . . "
"I could give her a ride," Mulder heard himself say.
"That would be great." Dana smiled over at him. "See, Mom. It'll be fine."
Her father's hand patted her mother's and he spoke low in her ear. She closed her eyes and allowed his arm to go
around her. Mulder saw the tears that formed in Dana's eyes and tentatively touched her hand. Her fingers closed
around his though she didn't look at him.
After a few minutes, Mary rose and started clearing the table. Dana helped her; then found Mulder where he was
trying to be invisible in the living room.
"Were you serious about giving me a ride?"
"Absolutely." He smiled down at her.
"Thank you. Let me tell the boys bye, and assure Mom and Ahab that I'll see them tomorrow." She squeezed his hand
and moved away.
He waited for her by the door and shook Charlie's hand when he walked her out. "Appreciate the help with the kids,
Mulder. I hope we see you again soon."
"Thanks, I'd like that." His hand rested on Dana's lower back to walk her to the car and Charlie noted it looked damn
natural. He nodded again and slipped back inside to spend a few minutes with Mary before the kids woke up.
He let her into the car, then got in and pulled away. "I really appreciate the ride, Mulder."
"You know I don't mind."
"And it gave you a great excuse to leave." Her eyebrow was high as he sputtered a response.
"Okay, you have a lot of family," he conceded. "To get them all at once was a little overwhelming."
"So Will wasn't the only one that needed a little time alone to relax."
He cut his eyes at her but didn't answer. She changed the subject then and they talked of inconsequential things until
they were closer to her apartment. He noted she became more and more quiet. When he pulled into a parking space
he realized her hands were clasped in her lap and her knuckles were white.
When his hand covered hers she jerked. "Scully?"
She shook her head.
"Have you been back here since . . . "
"I didn't realize. Scully, you shouldn't . . . Let me take you - "
"Mom had the place cleaned. It, it'll be okay."
"Scully, really - " She opened her door and exited. He rushed around the car to meet her.
She stopped and looked up at him. "I have to."
He searched her eyes, then took her arm and walked with her inside. He took her keys from her when she couldn't get
them in the lock, but he kept quiet.
He stepped inside first, looking around. The place had been cleaned. There was a faint scent of disinfectant in the air.
He allowed her inside and she too looked around. She didn't seem all that relieved.
"I'm okay," she said, not meeting his eyes.
"Well, I'm convinced." He looked down at her. "Look, it's been a very long day. Why don't you go change into
something more comfortable?"
She looked up at him, her eyebrow high.
"You know what I mean. Go get comfortable."
"I have to pack."
"Pack?" he asked quickly.
"I'm going to San Francisco in the morning to . . . "
He nodded. "I'd forgotten. Are you going alone?"
"Yes. The boys have to get back and, and Mom wasn't that pleased with Missy's cremation. She wanted to bury her
here. Ahab and I convinced her that Missy wouldn't be happy in one place for all . . . "
"I think you're right." He squeezed her hand in support. "When is your flight?"
"I fly out at 12:30. I wanted to tell the boys goodbye," she sighed. "Do, do you have to leave?"
"No. I'll hang around until you throw me out. Go on."
She didn't move. "What if I don't throw you out?"
"You might find the seat up occasionally," he said lightly, not wanting to allow himself any false hopes.
"Small price . . . " She turned then and moved into her bedroom. His mouth had fallen open, but he kept quiet.
He'd been here before of course, but not as a guest. After a couple of minutes, he walked into the kitchen and opened
the refrigerator. There was half a bottle of wine, so he pulled it out and opened a couple of cabinets to find her wine
glasses. Maybe she could relax a little. He poured them both some wine.
He turned immediately and raced back into the living room. She had changed into light flannel drawstring pants and a
t-shirt with Pebbles Flintstone on the front. He didn't even notice as he saw her pale face and trembling body.
"Scully, I'm here. I'm right here." She threw herself into his arms and they closed around her. "It's okay. It's okay."
"I thought, I thought you'd left."
He brushed her hair back and pressed his lips against her brow. "I told you I'd be here. I promised."
"I know. I just . . . I'm sorry." She started to pull away, but he didn't release her. Instead he led her to the couch and
seated her in the corner.
"Wait right here." He squeezed her hand and returned to the kitchen. When he returned with the glasses of wine, her
face colored beautifully. "Here, take a sip. Just to relax you."
"You're not trying to get me drunk?"
"Not tonight." He winked at her. "Are you all packed?"
She nodded and took a sip, then looked over at the spot on the floor where she had seen Missy that evening. "I . . . I
didn't expect . . . I work with - "
"Scully, this is personal. I'm not sure staying here tonight is a good idea."
"I've been staying over at Mom's since . . . since I got back. This is my apartment, my home. I need to be able to live
here. I need to be able to sleep again. I can't . . . "
"Give yourself a break. You've never had to deal with anything like this. Go on, drink your wine."
She settled in against his side, making herself comfortable. He glanced down at her and saw that her t-shirt had a v-
neck and she wasn't wearing . . . He forced himself to look away. He was here to support her, not as a pervert.
"How do you deal with it?" she asked into his chest.
"Sometimes you can't. If the case is about kids, I have problems. But I try to distance myself. It's like you doing an
autopsy. You can't let yourself get too close. It's why you don't work on family or friends."
She nodded and took another sip. He took a drink as well. They sat in silence then. He could feel her relaxing; at least
the tension in her shoulders was easing. He took the glass from her hand when it tipped. He smiled down at her as she
"Scully, Baby you should go to bed."
"Right." He grinned. He stood and slipped his arm under her knees and behind her back, then carried her into the
bedroom. She hadn't been sleeping, so the wine had hit her harder than he had expected.
He got her tucked in. She burrowed into her pillow, murmuring something about iced tea. He grinned, and
slipped out of her room, leaving the door open.
He tidied up the wine and glasses. She seemed to be sleeping well now. Maybe he'd hang out for a little while,
make sure she was out for the count. He returned to the living room and turned the TV on low. It wasn't that late. He
could stay here for an hour or so, then head home.
She had the Sci Fi channel so he tuned into some cheesy monster flick half way through and settled back. He jerked
wide awake when he heard her scream and was at her door before he realized he had moved.
She was sitting up in bed, clutching the sheets with white knuckles. Tears streamed down her face.
"Scully, Scully it's okay. It was just a dream. You're safe."
"She was, she was there on the floor. She wanted to know why I let her . . . She was bleeding and - "
"Don't. It was a dream. Melissa wouldn't blame you. You know that. She knew you loved her."
She shook her head.
"It's true. You were the one that kept in touch; that forced her to remember she had a family. She came to you - "
"And it got her killed."
He hesitated at that. "But you didn't kill her, Scully. And there was nothing you could have done differently."
"I can see her, see the blood . . . "
He pulled her against him then. "I know. Does this happen every night?"
She started to pull away, but his arms tightened. "Please - "
"Yes, please. Please let me help you." His fingers under her chin tipped her face toward him. She tried to evade him.
"I'm a damn pathologist. I can't even . . . "
"Cut yourself some slack. This is not pathology; this is your life, your family. When's the last time you slept through the
night? Come on, Scully, talk to me."
She slumped against him and murmured something he couldn't understand.
"At your lake house."
He blinked at that. "What, what was different there?"
"Nothing. Don't - "
"Okay, this is gonna sound really arrogant but, was it me?"
"Mulder, you - "
"May I stay here tonight?" he interrupted her gently.
"I can't ask . . . "
"Then just answer. May I stay here?"
She looked down at her hands, but gave the tiniest of nods.
"Thank you." He tilted her head back up toward him again. "Thank you." He settled her back in the bed. "I'll be right
back." He kissed her forehead and headed to the bathroom. She watched him until he was out of sight, then
she closed her eyes.
He returned shortly, wearing his t-shirt and boxers. "You're on my side." He grinned at her.
"This isn't right. I shouldn't use you like this." She seemed to be studying the far corner of the room.
"It's time for me to confess something, Scully. I haven't slept through the night since then either."
She looked up at him startled. He shrugged. "I . . . I have nightmares most nights. It's why I understand what's
happening with you. When we were in Quonochontaug, you were there, in my arms."
"You don't have to - "
"Scully, it's the truth."
She finally met his eyes and believed him. She scooted over to make room and he joined her in the bed. "Turn over."
She obeyed him, turning her back to him as he spooned around her. Between the wine and the comfort of his body,
she fell asleep quickly.
It was surprisingly easy to get ready around each other the next morning. She made coffee while he showered and he
cleaned up while she dressed. It was as though they had lived together for years.
He didn't leave until she did, loading her roll-around into the trunk of her car. She carefully placed the urn holding
Missy's ashes on the floor of the front seat.
"Will you call me when you get there?" he asked softly. "I need to know you made it safely."
She looked surprised, but pleased. "I will. And thank you for . . . "
"I needed a good night's sleep too, Scully. Thank you."
She nodded, her throat suddenly tight, and got in her car. He stood watching as she drove off.
She stood in line waiting to board. It had been tearful at the house. Who knew when she'd see her brothers and their
families again, and this particular trip was already sapping her strength. Thank goodness she'd slept last night. That
thought brought color to her cheeks.
"Why are you blushing?" a sexy and familiar voice whispered in her ear.
Her head jerked up to see Mulder leaning over her.
"What, what are you doing here?"
He shrugged. "I haven't been to San Francisco in years. I thought I'd like to see it again." His face was serious, not a
hint of a smile. "Do you mind?"
The tears that formed in her eyes embarrassed her and she looked down.
"Scully, if you don't - "
"Thank you," she barely breathed, and he took her hand, relief leaving him temporarily speechless.
On the plane, he slipped their bags and the urn containing Missy's ashes into the overhead compartment, then took his
seat beside her. She had regained her composure by then. "How did you do this?"
"Being an FBI agent has some perks, and if they think I need to get somewhere for an investigation . . . " He grinned.
She shook her head, but she was smiling for the first time since she'd left her apartment.
"Do you have reservations?" he asked as she buckled her seatbelt.
"Yes, there's a Holiday Inn near the Golden Gate."
"Are you familiar with the city at all?"
"No," she responded, shaking her head. "I figured I could get a cab to the beach."
"Is that what you want to do?"
She shook her head again. "I'm really glad you're with me."
He smiled then. "I've been there a couple of times. There's a nice place, not the most expensive, but classy, the Adante
near Union Square. I know this isn't a pleasure trip, but I want you to have some good memories of the city. Your
sister did, if she wanted to be there. I'd like you to see some of what she saw."
Tears formed in her eyes. "I'd like that too. Think we could get in to this place?"
"We're already in," he said softly.
"How many rooms?"
"Uh, well, one. I thought sleeping would be, uh, a good idea while we were out of town."
"Sleeping." Her eyebrow was rising slightly.
"I, uh, you trust me, don't you?"
"Yes. I trust you." She lay her head on his shoulder and his arm went around her.
He checked them in and let the bellhop lead them to their room. The king sized bed caught her eye, but she didn't
mention it. Once they were alone he approached her. She was looking out the window at the activity below. "This is
your trip, Scully. What do you want to do?"
"I'm going to feel unfinished until I . . . Are you starving?"
"No. Why don't we head out to the ocean? See what feels right."
She gave him a small grateful smile and picked up the urn. He drove them to the ocean and they walked out to the end
of a pier. There was no fog and he pointed out the constellations to her.
"Mulder, the tide's going out." He nodded. "I want to do this now so she can be free."
"That's a good idea." The wind was pushing out to sea as well. "Do you want to be alone?"
He stood quietly as she opened the container. She bowed her head and murmured something he couldn't hear. Then
she tilted the urn, letting the breeze catch the ashes and take them away toward the horizon. It didn't take long.
When the container was empty, Scully fit the lid back on and finally turned to look up at him.
"Thank you," she said softly.
He shook his head slightly. "Thank you for letting me be here."
She took his hand and allowed him to take the empty container. They walked slowly back to the car. He seated
her and moved around the car to let himself in.
"You know, I have an appetite for the first time in days," she said with just a note of wonder.
"Then we should take care of that."
He drove without hesitation to a smallish restaurant not far from the pier. "The last time I was here, they had the best
seafood I'd ever had. Want to try it?"
She nodded and took his hand when he helped her from the car.
She was under the covers when he came out of the bathroom. They'd slept in the same bed several times now,
but instead of getting easier it seemed to be getting harder each time. No pun intended, right?
Okay, she shouldn't be thinking these thoughts; that's not why she'd come to San Francisco. Of course she'd had no
idea that she would have company on this trip. He'd been a perfect gentleman since the first moment she'd seen him.
She knew she had no worries about . . .
He got under the covers, wearing his boxers and a t-shirt again. He rolled toward her. "Comfy?"
"Um hum." She wouldn't meet his eyes.
"Scully? Listen if this is making you uncom - "
"No." She looked up then. "I'm very glad you're here, but I feel like I'm taking advantage of you."
"Great minds, Scully. I'm feeling the same way. But I wanted to come here with you; I didn't want you to be alone.
I didn't want to be alone."
She met his eyes, and smiled. "You know we are adults. I mean Missy would think we were being insane. I am
attracted to you, that's no secret and I'm fairly confident that you're - "
"Be completely confident. But that's not why I'm here. I have no intention of rushing you. I know that's not what this
trip is about."
"True. But you said I should have some good memories of San Francisco to take home with me." She watched his
eyes widen as her leg pressed against him. Well, that was pretty confidence building. "I know Missy would approve. In
fact, she'd scold me for not making a move quicker."
"I think I like this sister of yours." He carefully didn't use any past tense and she smiled again.
She let her hand caress his cheek, noting he had shaved again. Considerate too. She moved closer and let her lips
nip at his. He met her with enthusiasm and in a very short time she realized that she was covered with him like a
blanket and it felt good.
"Am I crushing you?" he whispered in her ear as he sucked slowly on her lobe.
"You feel just right."
His smile grew and he ducked his head to continue exploring her. It had been a while since a man had investigated her
assets to this extent, but she found she was excited about it rather than embarrassed. Whatever he was doing, it
certainly felt right.
Then to her disappointment, he pulled away from her. "Scully, I . . . I don't have any protection."
"Like I said, I didn't want to rush anything."
"It's a good thing I'm a doctor." She winked at him and rose from the bed. Barefoot, she padded over to her purse and
pulled out a short string of condoms. She looked back to see a wide grin on his face.
What the hell, she touched the hem on her nightgown and saw his breathing change and his eyes dilate. As she'd said,
they were adults. She could almost hear Missy urging her on.
She let the nightgown drift over the chair and she returned to the bed. His hand reached for her and she thought she
heard a slight moan when she knelt on the bed over him.
She woke to find him entwined around her. It felt good, damn good. She felt at peace for the first time since . . .
She eased away from him and he followed. "Umm, no."
"I'll be right back." She smiled.
He made a grumbling noise but allowed her to leave the bed. She moved toward the bathroom. She brushed her
teeth before returning and slipping back into the bed.
"Not fair." He nuzzled her neck.
"What's not fair?"
"You brushed your teeth. Now I have to get up."
"I'm not complaining." She kissed him.
"Nope, not enough. Keep my side of the bed warm." He padded into the bathroom. She grinned at the sight of his
naked butt disappearing into the bathroom.
He returned and moved her body aside with his own. "Do you know what time it is?"
She shook her head. "The sun's up."
"Way up. We've missed the breakfast downstairs."
"Somehow I don't feel terrible about that." She let her hand brush through the hair on his chest.
"Are you saying that there's something you'd rather do than eat breakfast?"
"Well, a couple of things come to mind."
The sun was nearly straight up when they finally left the room. They only had the one day, but Mulder had a short list
of places she had to see. He actually had a list, written down.
"I know we don't have time for all of this, so pick a couple and we'll save the others for next time."
Next time, she smiled at that. "Okay, what's the list?" She reached for it. "Okay, I've heard of the Golden Gate Bridge
and the cable cars, and even the wax museum, but the Chinatown Ghost Walking Tour and the Winchester Mystery
He grinned then. "Those last two are just on my wish list. We don't have to - "
"I don't know; they kind of intrigue me."
"Don't lead me on, woman."
"Come on, we can see the Golden Gate any time."
He carried her suitcase to the door of her apartment and followed her inside. He was watching her for any reaction
and she knew it. She stopped and took a deep breath, then turned to look at him.
She nodded. "Yes. But not so wonderful that I might not need some company."
His lips twitched then. "So I'm still needed."
"Needed, yes, that sounds right."
He pulled her against him and gave her little kiss. "Sounds right to me too. I'll have to set the alarm. I have to run by
my place for a quick shower and clothes."
"Okay," she agreed, and took her suitcase toward her bedroom, "And if you wanted to keep a few things here, so
you don't have to get up early . . . "
His grin widened. "You know that would be a smart idea. And I'm sure we could work out a reciprocal agreement for
my apartment, should the opportunity arise."
She nodded, trying to keep a straight face.
He was looming over her again, and pulled her against him. "I'd like for the opportunity to arise."
"I think it already is." She pressed herself even closer.
"And don't you forget it. Now I have to unpack and let Mom know I'm home."
"We don't want the phone to ring when we're busy, do we?" she whispered in his ear.
"You're a very wise woman." His hands were making her forget what they'd been talking about. When he stepped
away, he kept a hand at her waist to help her balance. "Make your phone call."
She nodded, not sure she could speak.
He let himself into his apartment. They still didn't have the SOB. They might be closer, but he was physically sick from
being inside the pervert's head. He wanted to lose himself in Scully's arms, but how could he be around her now? He
wasn't even fit company for himself.
He trudged to his phone. She wouldn't be home from work yet. He could leave a message. When the beep sounded,
he spoke, trying to sound better than he was. "I'm home, Scully. Just got in. I'm going to clean up and I'll give you a
call tomorrow. Night."
He hung up and closed his eyes, then forced himself into the shower. Two or three hours should do it.
When he was dressed again, in his oldest navy sweats and a gray t-shirt, he flopped down on the couch. He flicked on
the TV, in no mood to eat.
He sat in a stupor, unaware when the program in front of him changed. The knock on his door finally roused him. He had
no idea how long it had been going on before it got his attention. He rose from the couch, his body stiff, annoyed by
the continued knocking.
He jerked the door open, ready to blast the intruder when he saw her standing there.
"I need to ask you a question." She looked up at him. He could only blink. "Do you want to be alone, or do you think I
don't want to be with you?"
Without hesitation his arm went around her waist, pulling her to him and crushing her lips with his own. She was smiling
when he let her catch her breath. He reached for the door to close it, but she stepped away.
"Just a minute." She stepped out into the hall.
"Wha - "
She handed him a grocery size brown bag. "I brought dinner." In her other hand was a small brown bag.
"What's that one?" He was smiling.
"This? I didn't know if I'd need a change of clothes."
His eyes widened and he did push the door closed this time. "By all means, I want you to be comfortable."
She dished up the meal, despite his protests that she shouldn't wait on him; he ate with more appetite than he'd
had since he'd left her.
When they were finished and she'd put away the leftovers, she turned and leaned against the refrigerator. "You didn't
answer my question."
"Do you want to be alone?"
He pulled her to him again, nuzzling her neck. "Never."
"Honestly? I mean that call didn't sound like you. I did just invite myself over and kind of force my way in."
"It was exactly what I needed. I just didn't know it."
She smiled, and pressed her lips against his shoulder.
She helped him make the bed the next morning. He ribbed her about the meticulous hospital corners that they had
completely undone with their lovemaking the night before.
His mood had obviously improved, but she was aware that they hadn't really discussed that message he had left. She
could wait, but it was something they needed to explore.
They started for the door, but he stopped suddenly. "I need to get something, just a sec - ". And he headed back for the
bedroom. She heard a drawer open and close, then he returned.
"What did you forget? I saw you put on the boxers." She winked at him.
Instead of answering he kissed the tip of her nose. "Come on, we'll be late."
He was out of town again, but due back tomorrow night. She'd talked to him a couple of times from the field. He was
profiling, but the calls seemed to lighten his mood. She had switched shifts so that she could pick him up from the
Also there were some perks to working the 'graveyard' shift in the morgue. There were usually fewer interruptions, and
the tech had a great sense of humor.
It was nearly 4 a.m. when she stepped away from the body to allow Lennie to remove the gurney. Pain flashed through
her left leg and she had to grab hold of the table to remain upright.
"Dr. Scully? You okay?"
The pain was already dissipating. She looked down to see if she had cut herself with one of the instruments by accident.
There was nothing. "I'm . . . I'm fine. Just a muscle cramp I guess." She shook it off, unable to come up with any other
explanation. "Anyone else?"
"Nope. You were in fine form slicing and dicing tonight." Lennie grinned at her. "I've got this. Go ahead and get
"Thanks." She let herself into the locker room and took a quick shower. She'd take a more leisurely bath before
Mulder came in. She could only hope he hadn't sunk too far in, or that they had caught the monster.
She was running a comb through her hair when her new cell phone rang. She grabbed it, nervous suddenly. Who would
call before six in the morning? "Hello?"
"Yes, I'm trying to locate a Dr. Dana Scully."
"This is Dr. Scully."
"I'm Walter Skinner. I'm an Assistant Director at the FBI. Dr. Scully, I apologize for calling so early. Are you a friend of
She had caught hold of the locker at his introduction. Now she lowered herself onto a bench. "Is he all right?"
"He was injured earlier this morning, during an arrest. He's been transported to a hospital and he's in surgery."
"Medical College in Philadelphia on Henry Avenue."
"What's his condition?" She was yanking on her coat and checking her pockets for keys.
"The, uh, the bullet nicked an artery in his thigh."
She closed her eyes, absorbing that. "I'll be there on the next shuttle. Mr. Skinner?"
"How did you know to call me?"
"You're listed as next of kin in his records."
Her mouth dropped open, but there wasn't time for that. Not now. "Thank you." She broke the connection and raced to
The cab dropped her off at the entrance to the hospital and she hurried to the door. It had occurred to her once she was
on the plane, that she didn't have anything with her, not a toothbrush, not a change of underwear, but it hadn't
She moved to the visitor's desk and asked for his room number. It took a moment to locate his name, then she was
told he was in recovery.
Her credentials got her a chair inside the recovery room. She was there when he began waking and shortly thereafter
she was allowed to accompany him to his room. When he woke for real, she was holding his hand.
He turned his head and his eyes widened. "You're not a dream," he rasped at her.
She shook her head, her throat tight.
"Are we in Philly?"
"Yes, and you're going to be fine."
"I know that now." He squeezed her hand lightly, his eyes already closing again. "Will you be here?"
"Right here. Rest."
He was already asleep.
When he woke again, she was asleep in the chair. "Hey, Scully," he said softly.
"Mm, Mulder. Sorry."
"Don't be. What time is it?"
She glanced at her watch. "After lunch. You missed your Jell-O."
"Damn. When did you get here?"
"Around seven. You were in recovery."
"Didn't you work all night?"
"Mr. Skinner called me just as I was getting off."
Mulder's face colored slightly. "I should have - "
"Thank you." She rose then and gave him a light kiss on the lips. "I need a favor."
"Don't get shot again."
"Yes ma'am." He smiled at her, pulling her down for another kiss. "Have you really been here all along?"
She nodded. "As quick as I could get here."
He looked into her eyes for a long moment. "You should go get something to eat. When they do bring my Jell-O, I'm not
gonna want to share."
"Yeah. I'll wait right here."
"You better. I won't be long. I want to be here when your surgeon comes by." She gave him one more quick kiss,
squeezed his hand and let herself out of the room.
When she returned, she met the nurse leaving the room. "Is he okay?"
"He was experiencing a lot of discomfort. I gave him some of his pain medications. He'll sleep for awhile now."
Stricken, she hurried on into the room. She immediately took his hand. "Mulder, why didn't you tell me you were in
He opened his eyes and blinked at her. "Wasn't . . . when you were . . . here." He was asleep then.
She stared down at him for a moment. The memory of the sudden stab of pain in her leg returned. She hadn't seen his
wound yet, and since he was out, now was as good a time as any. She carefully removed the bandage from the
surgery site. Color was good, the scarring should be minimal, and it was exactly where her pain had occurred.
She looked up startled when the door opened. A distinguished looking older man entered. He paused when
he saw her. "Checking out my work, or his?" He asked with a leering smile. It looked predatory to her.
"I've been appreciating his work for some time." She looked him straight in the eye, her voice frosty.
He nodded and moved closer. "He was lucky. They had an ambulance on sight. He could have easily bled out. I'm
predicting a full recovery. He'll need to be here for several days, and he'll need crutches for a short while. Are you his
He held out his hand then. "Dr. Samuel Dwoskin."
"Dr. Dana Scully."
His eyebrow rose. "Doctor?"
"I'm at Georgetown Memorial in DC."
"Surgery?" He glanced down at his work again.
"Pathology." She admired the surprised look on his face. She saw it a lot.
After an instant he nodded and turned to his chart. He gave Mulder a quick examination, then nodded to her and left
without another word. She found herself amused by the attitude, but relieved that he'd found nothing troublesome.
She settled back into her chair.
When he woke again it was to find her smiling at him. "How're you feeling?"
"Really good now."
"You will tell me if you're in pain."
He blinked at that. "Sure. Why?"
"You didn't before."
He looked puzzled at that. "I don't remember any pain when you were here."
She squeezed his hand and didn't pursue it.
"So, when are you breaking me out of here?"
That startled a laugh from her; her first in several hours. "Don't even think about it. You need some recovery time."
"I'm not good in hospitals, Scully. My couch is the best place for me to recover."
"Your couch? Mulder, don't be ridiculous. When you get out, you'll come to my place. I can keep an eye on you while
"Okay, now I really want out of here." He leered at her and she sank into the chair she'd used earlier; relief sapping her
strength for a moment.
She swallowed, the smile negating the tears that had fallen from her eyes. "I was so scared," she whispered.
"It's not your fault," she laughed shakily.
"But I should have warned you about using your name, for my emergency call."
"I'm glad you did that."
He gave a small sigh of relief. "I still should have asked."
"The results would have been the same." She took a calming breath. "The surgeon came by while you were
"Did you approve of him, or her?"
"Him. Yes, it looked like he did a good job and you should have very little scaring."
Mulder's hand touched the bandage at his groin. "You, uh, you checked?"
She made her face serious as she could, though her eyes were twinkling. "I noticed everything I needed to."
He mock glared at her, but seemed to relax a little. "I really do want out of here."
"I know," she said softly. "Just get well, promise me."
She held the door open as he maneuvered into her apartment. He had obviously used crutches before. That
was something she wanted to ask about some time. He hopped the last couple of steps to the couch.
"Mulder, you should go on to the bedroom. You've been up a long time."
"Come on Scully, just a little while. All I've done for days is lie in bed without you. You haven't done a lot of resting
either. Please, come sit beside me." He gave her that puppy dog pout and she melted.
"Stop doing that, Mulder. I haven't built up an immunity to it yet."
He nuzzled her neck. "I hope you never do."
She allowed him to sit there for a little while after she left his side, taking the time to change the sheets and turn down the
bed. She also laid out a towel and washcloth for him.
She insisted then that he go to bed after a stop in the bathroom. He stopped just inside her bedroom and
surveyed her preparation for him. "Sorry there's no chocolate on the pillow. I didn't think of it in time."
"Not a problem, Scully. I'd rather have red hair any day."
She was smiling as she helped him maneuver into the bed. "I need to change your dressing."
He looked up startled. "It's, it's fine, Scully."
Her eyebrow rose and his face colored. Without a word she left to get her supplies. He sank back against the pillow. He
hadn't thought about this. That wasn't the kind of doctor he wanted her to play in that particular area of his body.
He opened his mouth to protest one more time when she returned, but her expression shut him up quickly. She
changed his bandage efficiently with a detachment he envied. Then his eyes were startled open when she lightly
caressed his balls. His cock sprang to attention and he watched her smile grow.
"Good, no problems in that area." She pulled the sheet up over him as he gaped in disbelief.
"You're going to leave me, like this?" he managed to croak out.
"You can't move that leg around too much."
"That ain't my leg, Scully."
She grinned then. "I think I'll get ready for bed . . ." He watched her slip from the room, smiling himself now.
Having him in the apartment was surprisingly easy. Having him in her bed was incredible, even with his injury. They
worked out a good schedule. She was still on the graveyard shift, which did work nicely. At night while he slept, she
worked, coming home to crawl into bed with him for a few hours before he got up.
He couldn't drive himself to physical therapy, but didn't want to inconvenience her. He made arrangements for some
friends of his to pick him up.
"Come on, Mulder. No one who lives in a classy place like this is gonna hang out with you."
"I beg to differ, Fro. I know how to be charming."
"He certainly does," Scully spoke from the bedroom door. The three men turned at the sound of her voice. She was
tying the sash around her waist.
"Scully, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."
She smiled. "You didn't."
"Mulder, she's hot," the short one said, eyeing her without restraint.
Mulder took hold of his shoulder. "Back off, Frohike. I want to make a good impression. Now she's going to realize I
Scully chuckled but with Mulder there she felt comfortable enough to approach them.
"The respectable looking one is John Byers, the troll is Melvin Frohike."
"Pleased to meet you." She shook both of their hands.
"There's another one, but he couldn't come. That's probably to my benefit." Mulder maneuvered over to the couch with
his crutches. "You'd throw me out and I'd have to stay with them."
"Don't worry; I'm not throwing you out. Would you like some breakfast?" Her smile made it clear that she included all
three of the men.
"Thanks, but we need to get moving if we're going to make his appointment," the respectable looking one said.
Mulder sighed and levered himself back up off the couch. "Go back to bed, Scully. You didn't get enough sleep last
night." He leaned over and gave her a kiss.
"If I'm not awake when you get back, wake me up. We'll eat together."
He smiled and cupped her cheek. "You got it."
"It was very good to meet you," she said as Mulder headed for the door. Frohike moved over closer, but Byers' hand
clamped down on his shoulder.
"It was nice to meet you, too. We'll get out of your way now."
"Dana, I'm just saying if you really are committed to one another - "
"We're together, Mom. Please try to understand."
"He calls you by your last name."
"I call him by his last name too. It's, it feels right."
"You're an adult; I know that. I don't have to tell you about 'buying the cow' - "
"All right, but I felt like I needed to say something to you about this."
Mulder quietly stepped back out into the hall before she could answer. He leaned heavily on his cane for a moment,
eyes closed. He took a steadying breath and knocked loudly on the door as he opened it. "Scully, you here?"
"In the kitchen," she answered and he moved in that direction.
"Maggie, I didn't realize you were here." He hugged her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "My two favorite women, in
the kitchen - " He waggled his eyebrows at them.
Maggie chuffed. "I don't know who's the bigger flirt, you or Charlie."
"Charlie, by a mile," Mulder assured her.
One of her eyebrows rose, but she didn't dispute it. "Do you two have big plans for this evening?"
"That depends, where would you like to go?"
"Oh, not me. I need to get home. The captain has probably put out warning flags already. You two have fun." She gave
him a quick peck on the cheek, then turned to Dana. "Think about what I said."
"Yes, mother," Dana replied dutifully and walked her mother to the door. Mulder sank against the counter once they were
out of sight. When the door closed, he straightened up.
"So, it's just us, where would you like to go?" He pulled her against him, taking his welcome home kiss.
"No where I have to wear shoes," she sighed.
"Three autopsies. I need to be barefoot."
"Your wish is my command. Go put your feet up. I'll order in."
"You don't mind?"
He chuckled. "They're probably ready to put out an APB on me from Chao's. That or they think I've starved to death
somewhere. Go on."
He placed a quick order. She smiled when he ordered her favorite without asking. Then he joined her in the living room
and pulled her feet up into his lap. He untied the sneakers she wore to and from work, and peeled off her socks.
"What are you doing?"
"Pay attention." He began massaging her right foot. His eyes crinkled at the tiny moan she allowed to escape. He
brought her foot up and kissed her instep.
"Now I know you really like me," she quipped, then met his eyes. The smoldering look took her breath away.
"Yeah, I do," his voice was husky, low and the shiver that went up her back wasn't quite hidden from him. They were
quiet then as he soothed the ache in her feet and ankles.
The lids of her eyes were low, but she was watching him. He didn't go into great detail about his work, just as she
didn't, but something was bothering him. Her lips parted to ask when the doorbell rang.
"Ahh, dinner is served." He lay her feet on the couch and rose. She started to stand, but he wagged his finger at her.
"I'm in charge of dinner tonight. Stay."
"But - "
"Stay." He moved to the door then, not bothering with the cane. He carried their dinner to the kitchen and dished it up,
bringing a plate to her.
"What in the world have I done to deserve this?"
"Put up with me," he said quietly, then returned to the kitchen for his plate and drink.
She was sitting up, but her food hadn't been touched when he took his seat beside her and handed her a napkin.
"What does that mean?" she asked finally.
"Eat. It'll make your feet feel better." He took a bite and grinned at her. It took a second or two to realize it hadn't
reached his eyes.
She began to eat, but her appetite had diminished. They ate in silence for several minutes before she put her fork down.
He looked over startled.
"Talk to me, Mulder."
He sighed, placing his own fork down. "I am committed to you, Sc-Dana."
Her face flamed. "Oh god. You did hear . . . "
"I'm sorry. Mulder, I'm so sorry. She had no right - "
"She has every right. She's your mother, she loves you and she's worried about you."
"I'm an adult. I can make my own decisions."
"But you're wondering why I haven't - "
"No. No, I'm not. I know you care about me. I hope you realize how much I care for you, but on the evolutionary
scale, we've known each other mere seconds."
He shook his head. "We've been through things together. I've told you more about me than anyone, ever." He looked
down at his hands then, "Which is why I'm always a little surprised you let me in your place."
"Mulder - "
"I want to be with you, but . . . "
"But what, Mulder?"
"I think you deserve a safety valve."
"I . . . I never forget for a minute that I'm 'Spooky' Mulder. I know what I'm like when I'm wrapped up in a case. No one
should be required to put up with me when - "
"You think I couldn't handle the worse in 'for better or worse'?" She tried to keep her tone light.
"I'm thinking you shouldn't have to."
"I always assumed that would be my choice, if someone asked me."
He gave her a crooked grin then. "Maybe that's why I've been afraid to ask."
"Then I guess we should spend some more time getting to know each other," she said softly. "I don't see any need to
The coughing woke him and he sat up. "Scully? You okay?"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," she managed to get out between coughs.
"Are you okay?" Mulder flipped on the light. "Scully?" He reached for her, touched the crimson stream on her face.
"What?" She wiped at her face and looked at the blood on her fingers.
"I'll get you a cloth." He was out of the bed before she could stop him. He returned with a warm damp cloth and dabbed
at her face.
"Here, let me." She took the cloth and cleaned herself, then wiped at the pillowcase. She looked up at his concerned
face. "It's probably just too dry in here. I'm fine, really."
After a moment he nodded. She was a doctor and that made sense. "Come here." He took her back against him
and they eventually slept again.
The next night when he came home he found her in the kitchen. She tried to hide the bottle in her hand, but he
moved around her. "What's this?"
"Just aspirin. I've had a headache most of the day."
His brow furrowed. "You don't have to hide things from me, Scully. Why don't you go lie down, I'll fix dinner."
"You don't - " She stopped when his lips pressed against her forehead.
"I want to. Go on. It might not be gourmet, but I won't poison you." He grinned and turned her toward the
bedroom. She gave him a tiny smile and left him.
He assembled the meal that she had laid out and dished it up. He started down the hall to check on her when he heard
her coughing. He hesitated, then opened the door. She was sitting on the side of the bed, a tissue at her nose.
He sat beside her. "I think you need to see a doctor."
She cut her eyes at him. "Do I point out the obvious?"
"Don't even try. Doctors are the only patients worse than me. You have a friend or two in the business, right? Just
have them check you out. Maybe you're allergic to me or something, and you need shots."
"Shots? Rather than have you move out?"
"Shots," he said definitively.
She nodded. "Okay. I'll see if Karen can prescribe something tomorrow. It's probably just a sinus infection."
"Good. I don't like my woman being under the weather."
"'Your woman', huh?"
He grinned. "Feel like eating?"
"Yeah, I think that'll help."
He helped her to her feet and took her in his arms, surprising her a little. "You don't really mind being 'my woman' do
"No. Not at all."
He removed his glasses, rose from the desk and stretched. He'd been going over photos too long. The little growl from
his stomach reminded him he needed to eat something, something light. They had big plans for dinner, bigger than
she knew. He smiled to himself and felt his pocket again, almost superstitiously. He was almost to the door when his
cell phone rang. "Mulder."
"It's me. Could you come over?"
"Scully? Are you at home?" Her tone was wrong somehow. He felt his heart rate increase.
"No, the hospital."
"Are you okay?"
"I . . . I need to see you."
"I'm on my way. Your office?"
"Uh, no. Ask for me at the ER." He heard other voices in the background. "I need to go."
"Scully!" But the connection had been broken. All thoughts of food gone from his head, he hurried to his car.
He parked illegally, but didn't give it any thought as he hastened inside. "Dr. Scully?" he asked at the desk.
"Yes, sir. Down the hall, second door on the right." The nurse had obviously been watching for him.
He glanced at the sign on the ceiling but didn't take time to let it register. He reached for the handle to the door and
pushed it open. She was standing there, in one of those pink flowered hospital gowns. Her back was to him as she
gazed at the lighted panel on the wall.
"Scully?" he said quietly. She reached for him, but didn't turn to face him. He eagerly took the hand she held out.
"What's going on?"
"I saw Karen this morning."
He moved closer, watching her though her eyes remained on the lighted panel. Suddenly the word he had read as he
entered this hall made the connection in his brain - Oncology.
His hand tightened around hers. "Scully."
"Here." She touched the light spot on the film in front of them. "It's a small growth between the superior conchea and
the sinoidal sinus."
He felt the spear of fear penetrate his spine. His breath was gone. "I, uh, what do we do?"
She turned to look at him for the first time then, a small smile gracing her face. "Nothing. I just needed . . . I haven't called
anyone else. I needed - "
"What do you mean, nothing?" His hand around hers tightened, anchoring her to him.
"Let's get out of here. I, I don't want to be in a hospital today. Oh, you're supposed to be at work."
"No I'm not. Get dressed. I'll make a call." He pulled her against him for a moment, then stepped out into the hall. He
made a quick phone call and was waiting when she opened the door, now dressed in her street clothes.
His arm went around her immediately and he led her back through the ER and to his car. Her eyebrow rose at his
parking place, but she made no comment. He pulled out a little quickly, but then settled down in traffic.
"Are you hungry?" he finally asked.
She gave a sad laugh and shook her head. "No."
"Okay." He pulled onto the highway and headed north.
"So, where are we going?"
"I don't know yet, just out of the city." He headed for the shore. They were quiet. She watched the scenery and he
drove, although he did glance at her occasionally. She was aware of it, but neither spoke.
He pulled into a parking lot and she was out of the car immediately, headed for the small beach area. He followed,
giving her space even though he ached to hold her. She stood with her back to him, looking out at the ocean. Her
arms were wrapped around her ribs, hugging herself tightly.
When he saw her shiver he knew it wasn't from temperature and moved to stand beside her. He pulled her into his arms,
her back pressed against his chest. Her hands pulled his arms even more tightly around her. He buried his face in her
hair for a moment. "What can I do?"
"You're doing it." She leaned against him.
He kept quiet then, letting her gaze out toward the horizon. After a few long minutes, she turned and let her cheek rest
against his chest.
"Scully, what do we do now?"
"You know, surgery, chemotherapy. What's the next step?"
She looked up at him then. "I . . . you don't understand. There is no next step. Because of the location of this tumor,
there's nothing . . . " her voice trailed off at his expression.
"No! There has to be - "
She turned to him finally. "Thank you."
Her hand came up then to caress his cheek, her thumb stroking his bottom lip. He forced himself to silence again.
He swallowed hard. "You need to eat something."
She started to protest, but then just nodded and allowed him to lead her back toward the car. He drove them to a seafood
restaurant nearby and parked. They were a little early for the dinner crowd.
They ordered, but when the meal came, Scully mostly pushed her food around on her plate. He watched to make
sure that some food was eaten, but didn't force anything. When she lay her fork down, he pushed back his chair and
moved around to hold her chair as she stood. She leaned against him and his arm went around her. His eyes closed,
then he took a deep breath and they returned to the car.
"Why don't we get a room? It would be late when we got home."
"Sure." She stared at her hands.
He watched her for a minute, then put the car in gear and headed down the strip. He pulled into one of the slightly
nicer looking motels and parked. "You want to wait here?"
She nodded and he let himself out. When he returned, he moved the car closer to the stairwell leading to their room
and got out, pulling his overnight kit from the trunk. He helped her out of the car, placed his hand on her back and
led her to the room.
Once inside she looked around at the aqua and beige décor but didn't seem to see it. "We, we don't have anything with
"Everything I need is here," he said gently.
"Don't." She swallowed and looked away. He moved to the small bathroom to set his kit down and to give her some
"You want to get comfortable? Would you like me to run you a bath?"
"No, that's . . . no."
He unbuttoned his shirt and tossed it over a chair, then removed his t-shirt and handed it to her. "Can you sleep in
She took it and crushed it to her. "Yes," she said quietly.
"I'm, uh, I'm gonna take a quick shower." She nodded and he let himself into the small bathroom and turned on the
water. He managed to hold it together until he was in the warm enclosure, then clasping a washcloth to his face, he
sobbed until he had to lean against the wet walls for support. When he was cried out, he flipped off the water
and, taking a deep breath, stepped out of the tub.
He slipped on his cutoff sweats and a sleeveless t-shirt from his bag, checked the mirror for signs of his breakdown, then
returned to her.
She was sitting Indian-style on the bed. The TV was on, but she wasn't watching. When she spotted him, she used the
remote to turn it off. He joined her on the bed, pulling out a pillow to brace against.
She faced him then and tried to smile. Immediately it slipped away and her eyes widened. "Oh Mulder, the reservations!
He glanced toward his suit coat. He'd forgotten as well. "No biggie, Scully. I can make reservations again."
"Those took a while."
"It's not a problem. There is one thing I'd still like to . . ."
"What?" She watched him stand and move toward his coat. He reached into the inside pocket and withdrew the ring
box. He looked over at her. Her face was pale and her eyes huge. She was shaking her head.
"Scully - "
"No. You can't do this, just because I got . . . sick."
"Scully, do you remember me stopping to buy a ring on the way up here?" he asked gently.
She paused then, of course not. "Be-because of what Mom said. No, Mulder, that's - "
"No. Not because of your mother. I didn't exactly buy this ring, Scully. It was my Grandmother Mulder's. She left it to
Samantha, then I got it."
"But why now?"
"You said you wanted to be with me. I'd waited, but when you said that . . . "
"Look at the receipt, Scully. I had it sized for you."
Silently she took the slip of paper. "This, this is . . . "
"The morning after you came to my place to find out if I wanted to be alone," he said quietly. "I don't." He opened
the small box and she stared down at the large emerald with diamonds on either side. "I know it's not a solitaire or - "
"Mulder, it's beautiful, it's perfect, but I can't . . . "
"Are you saying you don't want to be with me?"
"No! I mean . . . Mulder, I can't marry you, not now. I don't know how long - "
"Stop. Stop right there. I'm not letting you go, and I'm not letting you give up. I want to be with you for the next
"Mulder - " she was shaking her head.
He sat back on the bed then and pulled her against him. "You're already my next of kin. Let me be yours."
Tears welled up in her eyes then and she buried her face in his chest. "I wanted this so much."
He felt a pang at that, but just caressed her hair. "You have it, Scully. Just say yes."
"You haven't thought this through. It's not fair to you. I'll become a burden and - "
"Shh." He kissed her gently. "It's only unfair to me if you say no."
"Mulder - " His lips cut her off then.
She watched this man as he caressed her, loving her. She had never felt this close to a man, never gone through
experiences like she had with this one. He had taken charge and protected her from the moment she had met him, not
only in her apartment, but at the hotel and especially at his lake house. She still was in awe of how they had moved
toward one another after that experience.
He loved her. Even now he made her feel alive and safe. For as long as she could, she wanted to be with him.
He began making love to her, slowly, thoroughly. She didn't remember losing the t-shirt, but she was nude as he hovered
over her, using his knowledge of her to move her toward ecstasy.
He'd made certain she was completely satisfied before he allowed his own pleasure and they fell asleep clutching each
When she woke the next morning, he was on one elbow watching her. She lifted her hand to caress his cheek and
saw that he had slipped the ring on her finger. "It looks good there," he commented, his voice rough from sleep. It caused
a shiver up her spine. "I want you to wear it, it's yours whether you marry me or not, Scully. I just hope . . . "
"I love you, you know that. That's why I don't want to - "
"Marry me," he interrupted, his eyes locked on hers.
"You know you're crazy."
He nodded solemnly. "About you."
"Isn't living together - "
"No. I want; I need to be legally in your life for all the world to see."
Those words stopped her - legally. He'd have a voice in her care, in whatever future she might have. The tension in her
body eased. "You can change your mind."
"I won't." But his eyes betrayed his nerves. "Is that a 'yes'?"
She leaned up and kissed him gently. "Yes."
He was stunned, paralyzed for an instant.
"I . . . I never - " His whole face lit up. "You're serious; you really just agreed to marry me."
"Did I make a mistake?" She grinned.
"No way." He tucked her up against him. "So, how big a wedding are we going to have? Ten bridesmaids? Because
I have to tell you, I don't have ten friends to be ushers."
She chuckled then. "No, not a big wedding."
"I was kidding. You can have any kind of wedding you want. I can afford it."
"That's not . . . you can afford what? Am I marrying a rich man?"
"Well, kinda, yeah."
She turned toward him. "You have money?"
He shrugged. "A trust fund. Grandmother Mulder didn't only have jewelry."
She faced away from him again putting that knowledge aside and snuggling into the curve of his body. "I need to talk to
Mom and Ahab."
"What are you going to tell them?"
"There's a lot they should know, but I'd like to give them the good news first. After the year they've had, losing Missy like
that . . . I really think they deserve to enjoy this for a little while before . . . "
"I can go along with that; whatever you say."
"Can I get that in writing?" she said with a light laugh.
He knocked on the door and then impatiently knocked again. "Hold your horses, I'm coming," Frohike called out.
He pulled the door open. "What's the hurry, man?"
"I need some help." His tone drew the attention of the other two, and Byers approached them.
"What is it, Mulder?"
"What do you know about nasopharyngeal mass?"
The three men exchanged glances, finally Byers spoke. "It's a cancer of the sinus that eventually goes into the brain."
"What's the treatment?"
"I, uh, there isn't one. It's too close to the brain for - "
"There has to be!" Mulder's fist pounded the metal cabinet next to the desk.
Byers jerked back a step and Langly stared at him. Frohike's hand came to rest on his arm. "Scully?"
Mulder's eyes closed and he sagged against the desk.
"Oh god, Mulder, I'm sorry." Byers moved toward him. "I didn't . . . "
Mulder shook his head and straightened up. "I need you to check into it. See if anyone has any treatment, anything."
"It's our top priority, Mulder," Byers said softly and looked over at Langly, who nodded.
"Thanks." He turned toward the door. "Oh, and I want to invite you to our wedding."
"Wedding?" Frohike was the first able to speak. "You and Scully?"
"Yes." Mulder looked down at him, a look of defiance in his eyes.
Frohike looked him straight in the eye. "Congratulations. You couldn't have picked a better woman."
Mulder turned away, blinking. "I'll get back to you with details." He let himself out without another word. The three
men exchanged glances again, then Langly sat forward and his fingers started dancing over the keyboard.
She stopped just before they got to the door. He turned to check on her. "You alright?"
"Do I look okay?"
He had to chuckle a little at that. "I think you look beautiful, but I don't think you'll get a completely objective opinion from
me on that." She blushed lightly and took the hand he offered. "I'm the one that's supposed to be nervous, not you."
"I know; I've just never come to them with this kind of news before." He pulled her to him and kissed her brow lightly.
"You're right. Come on." She rang the bell and very quickly her mother was before them, welcoming them in.
"I'm so glad you could come with Dana for lunch today, Fox. We don't see enough of you."
"I'll have to make a point of coming by more often, Maggie." He smiled as she gave him a hug.
"William is in the den, some game is on if you want to join him. Dana, why don't you help me in the kitchen?"
"Sure, Mom." She managed not to roll her eyes at his grin and followed her mother to the right as Mulder turned left.
He followed the sound of the television and saw her father in his favorite chair, watching football until he was summoned
for lunch. The older man looked up as Mulder stopped in the doorway.
"Come on in. I'm not pulling for either team in this game, so if you have a preference . . ."
Mulder shook his head. "I'm more into basketball myself." He took a seat on the sofa fidgeting slightly.
William noted Mulder's nervousness. "What is it?" William sat up straighter and hit mute on the remote control.
"Excuse me?" Mulder looked back at him startled.
"Something's on your mind. You're wound tight as a tick. What is it?"
"Uh, I . . ." The older man's eyes never left him. He took a deep breath, this wasn't exactly what he'd planned, but -
"Sir, I would like to marry your daughter." There, the words were out.
William didn't even blink. "Thought so. Does Maggie know?"
"No sir, I, I don't think so."
"She does," he nodded sagely. "That's why we're having the rib eye roast. You should be impressed; she doesn't do that
for just anybody."
Mulder stared at the man for a moment, then his lips started to twitch. "Does that mean I should relax?"
"Yes, but not too much. Can you support her? I know, she's a doctor, but if she wanted to take time off with kids or
something . . . " William had looked away and missed the pain that came to Mulder's eyes.
"You don't have to worry about that, William." If his voice sounded husky, her father didn't seem to notice.
"Be good to her, she loves you a lot." William harrumphed at that and looked back to the TV. "The wife will still have to
grill you a little, but I think it's a fine idea." He rose and stuck out his hand and Mulder took it gratefully. After a moment
the older man turned up the volume on the TV and they sat in silence thinking their own thoughts.
Maggie opened a bottle of champagne and they toasted over lunch. Mulder didn't have to say much, for that matter
neither did Scully. Maggie had taken over. Mulder watched that Scully only sipped the wine; she was only on over-the-
counter drugs for headaches so far, but that wasn't a topic for today.
"I need to get in touch with Father McCue, see when his schedule is free. And we need to talk about catering and
flowers, and - "
"Mom, Mom please; just a minute. We're talking about a very small wedding here, just the families and a few close
Maggie looked at her daughter, then over at Mulder. "Why? It's your only wedding. You should have a wonderful, big
ceremony. Don't worry about the cost."
"That's not it and we're going to be paying for the wedding ourselves, Mom, Ahab. It's just that we don't want to wait.
We're talking about a couple of weeks, the fourteenth."
"The fourteenth!" Maggie set her glass back down on the table. "You can't be serious. I, you're not - "
"No!" Dana blushed at that and shook her head. "Mom, we both have careers and our time off is limited. We want to be
married, not all the hoopla."
"Are you talking about a justice of the peace?"
"No, Maggie." Mulder stepped in there, "If Father McCue would agree to do the ceremony, we'd be fine with that. You
know I'm not Catholic."
"Dana's never mentioned your religion."
"Well, I don't really . . . my mother is Jewish, but we never practiced. My father isn't religious."
"What about, what about children? Will you want to raise them as Jewish?"
"Mom - "
"No, Maggie. Any children that Dana and I have I want to be raised like her, not me. You don't have to worry about that."
Maggie looked deep into his eyes. A look of concern came over her face. "Sometime I'd like to talk to you about that."
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Scully press a finger to her forehead. "I'd like that Maggie, but today unfortunately
we're going to have to get out of here. I hate to eat and run, but I have a major meeting tomorrow morning, and I am not
"Oh, so soon? We have so much more to talk about."
"I know, and I know time is shorter than you'd like, but we really have to go now."
"Dana could stay. I can run you home later, Honey."
Mulder shook his head. "She is my report. If I'm going to sound like I know what I'm talking about, she's got to coach
me on the language."
Maggie sat back then. "Oh, well do you mind if I make some calls, get started?"
"That would be nice Mom. I'd really appreciate it, but please remember, small, intimate."
Maggie squeezed Dana's hand. "I promise; no taffeta and tulle. But I do think some flowers, music, don't worry."
"Thanks Mom. I'll take care of all the clean up next time." Maggie waved that off and watched Mulder lightly touch
Scully's shoulder. She looked up at Mulder as he held her chair. He took her hand as she stood. "I'll talk to you
William rose as well and both of her parents walked them to the door. Hugs and congratulations were exchanged again
and Mulder's hand led her out to the car. Mulder opened the door for her and seated her, then waved back at the house
and got in himself.
Maggie looked over at William. "Something else is going on."
"I don't know, but something."
"You're happy for them, aren't you?"
"Oh yes. They're good together, but something doesn't feel . . . Come help me with the dishes."
Mulder looked over at Scully. Her pain was obvious now. "Headache?"
"Put the seat back and close your eyes. I'm taking you home." She did as he bade silently. He knew she would
only take so much coddling, but she had gone along with his story to get out of there.
He was a little surprised that he had beaten her home, but she was out shopping for a dress with her mother. He
checked the refrigerator but decided to wait. Maybe she'd like to go out to eat tonight and just relax.
He smiled when he heard the key in the lock and moved in that direction quickly. He opened the door and his eyes
widened. "Shit." He lifted her into his arms and kicked the door closed, then carried her into the bedroom.
He lay her gently on the bed and brushed her hair back. "What happened?"
She shook her head slightly. "I'm just tired."
"Did you work all day before you met your mom?" He started to scold her, but she looked too beat already.
"I had a nosebleed while we were shopping."
"A bad one?"
She shrugged slightly.
"Do you have a headache?"
She closed her eyes rather than answer.
"I'll get you some medicine. Just relax." He returned with her pills, a glass of water and a piece of toast, lightly
"I'm not hungry, Mulder."
"You shouldn't take the pills on an empty stomach." She cut her eyes at him, but didn't dispute it. "Now lie back." She
did, letting her eyes close. He cupped her face and brought his lips lightly to hers, then quietly slipped out of the room.
He headed for the kitchen, but the phone stopped him. He grabbed it up to keep her from being disturbed. "Hello?"
"Mulder, we've got something. Can you come by?"
He glanced toward the bedroom door. "I can't leave now. What about lunch tomorrow?"
"We'll be here. Is she okay?"
"She's really tired."
"Yeah, okay. Let her know we're thinking about her." Byers hung up, and Mulder turned. He realized she was standing
in the door.
"What are you doing up? Did the phone wake you?"
She ignored that. "This is why I was hesitant to accept your proposal."
"What?" He moved toward her, obviously disturbed by her words.
"You have somewhere you need to be, some evidence you need to check on, but I'm holding you back."
"That's not - "
"Mulder, I'm going to bed. You don't need to watch me sleep."
"Maybe not watch, but I'd like to hold you." That got a tiny smile.
"Get out of here, Mulder."
He sighed. "Let me tuck you in, then I'll go." She held out her hand to him and he grasped it gently.
Langly answered his knock. "I thought you couldn't come tonight."
"She tossed me out. I can't stay long. What did you find?"
Byers had joined them and led the way to the desk. "There's not a lot of data, Mulder, and the treatments seem to mostly
make the patient miserable without prolonging . . . Anyway, this is what we found." He motioned for Mulder to take the
Frohike joined them. "Did you tell him about the anomaly?"
"Allentown, Pennsylvania. There's a cluster of patients there. No correlations like work, but they're all women and
they all belong to the same Mufon group."
Mulder gaped at them, "Mufon? Are you serious?"
"That's why we didn't want to talk over the phone."
"You have names? Addresses?"
Byers handed him the sheet. Mulder scanned it quickly. "I need to get up there."
"These women all claim to be abductees. Has Dana . . . " Byers' voice trailed off at his look. "Let us know what else
Mulder took the list and a printout of websites, and tucked them into his jacket pocket. "The wedding's on the 14th at
St. Gregory's, 4 p.m."
"We'll be there."
Mulder nodded his thanks and let himself out. They watched him silently.
With the dress out of the way, Mulder deemed nothing else should be secret from him. Scully's meetings with her
mother included him. Rather than subject her to the ordeal of meeting his parents, he orchestrated a dinner in a public
place and made certain her parents also attended. Everyone was imminently civilized if her parent's warmth
was lacking from his own.
He really thought he was holding it together, and in front of her he did.
When he learned that Charlie and his family would be coming in a little early for the wedding, he readily agreed to a
Mulder was moving toward the dining room when he heard a tap on the door and then it opened without waiting. A young
boy that Mulder recognized blew in, followed by Mary holding the younger one. Will and Sam. Mary hugged Mulder, then
chased after Will toward the kitchen.
Charlie dropped the suitcases just inside the door and took a deep breath, then shook Mulder's hand. "Never travel with
two kids under five."
"I'll make a note." Mulder grinned.
"You move fast," Charlie commented.
"The wedding? Yeah, I guess I do. I found the perfect woman." His smile dimmed a little, but Charlie didn't seem
"Perfect woman? Gotta remember, she's my sister, I can tell you stories."
"But you won't." Both men turned at the sound of her voice.
She took the ginger haired man into her arms and he returned the hug. Mulder saw the slight frown appear on his
face. Charlie looked up at Mulder as he held her and started to make a comment. The slight shake of Mulder's head
stopped him. He stepped back and took a long look at his sister. "You look happy."
"I am." She smiled. "Come on, say hi to Mom."
"I'll take the luggage up," Mulder offered.
"Wait for me. We've got a ton of it with the kids' equipment."
Mulder nodded and followed him toward the kitchen. After hugs were shared, Mulder and Charlie returned to the front
of the house and made a first trip up to take the bags. Once in the guest room, Charlie turned to Mulder. "Is she okay?"
"What do you mean," Mulder evaded, moving one of the suitcases from the floor to the bed.
Charlie looked at him for a long moment. "She's never looked happier, but hasn't she lost weight? I mean, she's
tiny to begin with, she doesn't need to lose any and I saw the circles under her eyes. The makeup wasn't that good."
To his shock, Mulder sank onto the bed and let his shoulders slump. After an instant, Charlie pulled on his arm. "We
need to get out of here for a few minutes."
He led the taller man downstairs and grabbed up the car keys he'd tossed onto the foyer table.
"Mary!" he called toward the kitchen. "I'm going to pick up a couple of things. I'm stealing Mulder." He didn't wait for an
answer, pulling open the door and nearly dragging Mulder outside.
"I can't, I can't leave."
"Mary's here. There's nothing she can't handle. She married me, didn't she?" He grinned and Mulder followed
him, taking the passenger's seat in their minivan. Charlie pulled out of the driveway and headed west. He didn't drive
far, spotting a small park with playground equipment. He pulled over and parked. Charlie got out first and Mulder
followed. They headed toward the equipment and took a seat on a bench near the swings.
After a moment, Charlie looked over at Mulder. "What's going on?"
Mulder shrugged. "I . . . "
"Is something wrong with Dana?"
Reluctantly Mulder nodded.
"Is she sick?"
Mulder leaned back, looking up at the emerging stars. After a moment he responded. "Yeah. She, she has a tumor."
"A tumor? Where?"
Mulder closed his eye and shifted on the bench. He let his face fall into his hands. "Near her brain."
Charlie gaped at him then. "Are you . . . are you saying she's got cancer?" He realized that Mulder was crying.
Without hesitation Charlie took him into his arms as he would one of his sons.
They sat there a long time, until both men had regained their composure. "She doesn't want anyone to know, at least until
after the wedding."
"That sounds like my sister," Charlie sighed. "She can't protect us like that."
"She's worried about how Mom . . . "
"I know; especially now, with Missy gone. Look, I won't say anything, but I need more information. What's her
treatment? I mean, chemo, radiation?"
Mulder shook his head. "She isn't . . . She says there isn't an effective treatment. She's not taking anything right now.
Maybe after the wedding, but the treatments I've investigated aren't . . . "
Charlie stared toward the playground equipment, not seeing it. "She would know; she would have investigated this. You
can't bullshit a doctor on this kind of thing."
"She's had nightmares that she'll have a nose bleed in her wedding gown and ruin it before I can see it."
"Jesus," Charlie muttered.
Finally Mulder sat up. "I need to get back to her. Can you make sure she doesn't realize you know?"
"Yeah. I can do that for her. Mulder, you're not alone. You can call me. We can talk." The look on Mulder's face nearly
caused Charlie to cry again, but he rose to his feet and held out his hand. "Come on. We need to pick up some beer or
something. We need an excuse to be gone."
Mulder nodded mutely and headed toward the car. He didn't feel nearly as alone as he had.
Her brothers and Skinner joined the Gunmen for a bachelor party. Watching Bill and Skinner with his friends was the
best part of the evening for him and Charlie, though he kept quiet about that.
Returning to an empty apartment that evening was almost more than he could handle. Maggie had insisted that they
not see each other prior to the ceremony and Mulder wanted to kick himself for not insisting on an 8 a.m. ceremony. After
a bad night, with a multitude of bad dreams, he found he had to entertain his parents, who inexplicitly seemed to want to
spend time together with him. That didn't make the time pass any faster. He was delighted when Charlie came to
rescue him, taking him to the church to get dressed.
"How's she doing?" he asked Charlie as soon as they were alone.
"Good. She had her hair done and she's excited. She seems to have a lot of energy."
"No. It'll be okay, Mulder."
The taller man nodded. They both dressed, then Charlie watched as Mulder paced. When Mulder realized what he
was doing, he looked over at Charlie, smiling ruefully.
"You know you're supposed to be nervous," Charlie said grinning.
Mulder looked startled. "I'm not nervous about getting married. I just want to see her."
"I know." Charlie looked down at his watch. "It won't be long now."
Very shortly Father McCue joined them and led them to the small chapel. When the doors opened and Captain Scully
led his Scully into the aisle, Mulder felt his jaw drop slightly. She looked incredible. Her mother had talked her into a
wedding gown rather than the suit that she had originally thought about. The gown had a short train and the veil did
not cover her face. The empire waist accentuated her bust line and lace covered the bodice. The long sleeves had lace
at the V-point that covered the back of her hands, very traditional, very elegant. Her father's dress whites matched
When they reached Mulder, the Captain gave Dana a kiss, then placed her hand in Mulder's. The ceremony was short,
Charlie didn't lose the rings and Mulder finally heard the priest say the words he'd waited for. "You may kiss your bride."
He didn't wait for a second invitation.
The reception was short, following what felt like a massive photographic session. Mulder had vetoed a dinner, wanting
to get her away and alone with him as soon as possible.
They cut the cake, fed each other, and toasted with champagne, then they slipped away to change clothes.
After traversing a gauntlet of rice, they made it to the car, which had been decorated by his 'dear' friends. Scully
laughed out loud when she realized there actually were tin cans tied to the bumper.
She settled back in the seat finally, sighing. He looked over to see her smile.
"A penny for your thoughts, Mrs. Mulder."
Her smile grew. "You can't afford these thoughts, Mr. Mulder." She placed her hand on his thigh and he covered it
with his own. They were quiet then, remembering the day.
She sat up a little. "Mulder, you missed the turn."
"What turn?" He didn't look at her, but she could see his grin.
"The turn to the apartment."
"Oh, well, I only missed it if I had planned to turn there."
"And where else had you planned to turn?" Suspicion was growing in her voice.
"Toward our honeymoon."
"Honeymoon? I thought we were staying home, locking ourselves in, and not answering the phone."
"We're doing that too, just not at the apartment."
"You're serious." She turned to him then. "Mulder, I didn't pack."
"I know," he grinned as his voice dropped. "I did it for you. It was a real education rummaging through your underwear
"You pervert." But she was smiling then and he marveled at her trust in him. "Do I get to know where we're going?"
"I guess I could let you in on it."
"Gee, thanks." But her eyes were gleaming.
"Cape Cod. It may be too cool to swim, but I think we can find other things to do."
"You think? Do we have reservations?"
"I know we didn't talk about this." For the first time he seemed insecure.
"You know I trust you."
"That's good to know. I got us the Chauffeur's Cottage at Alyce's Dunscroft by the Sea."
Her eyes widened and she seemed speechless.
"I, I've heard about it, but I never thought I'd . . . How? How did you do that with such little notice?"
"Oh, that. I can be charming. It's a stretch - "
"I think you're pretty terrific," she said quietly.
He lifted her hand to his lips, then turned toward the airport.
They found their seats in first class and settled in. He held her hand as the plane taxied and took off. She was looking
out the window, but he was watching her and moved closer when he saw her wince in pain. "Scully? What is it?"
"Just a little headache."
Immediate concern colored his face. "The air pressure. I didn't think - "
"It's okay. I have some medication."
He pushed the button to summon the stewardess and got her some water. When the woman returned she handed the
bottle to Mulder, then her head came up. "Oh honey, I'll get you a warm cloth."
Mulder's head swiveled toward Scully and he saw the blood coming from her nose. "God, I'm sorry. I should have - "
"Mulder, relax. It's okay, I'm okay."
"But I should have realized. We'll drive home."
"Mulder, eight hours in a car versus two hours in a plane? You made the right decision."
He didn't respond; taking the warm, wet cloth from the stewardess. Scully thanked her, but Mulder's attention was
only on his bride.
After she had cleaned up and downed her medicine, she settled back and took Mulder's hand. "Please don't let this
"I'm not. I just need to think things through."
"I'd prefer you didn't," she retorted. "I don't want my illness to be the first consideration of everything we say or do. At
least not yet."
He nodded, lifting the armrest that separated them and holding her close. She sighed and relaxed against him,
falling asleep shortly. He didn't release her until the wheels being lowered woke her.
She sat up, straightening her clothes. "I didn't mean to fall asleep, but I guess it's a good thing."
"I plan to be up late tonight." Her eyebrow rose and his smile looked more genuine.
The medicine seemed to work, at least she didn't seem to be in pain any longer and there were no more nose bleeds by
the time they landed.
When they pulled up in front of the inn, Scully's eyes were huge. She exited the car and stood looking out at the private
beach. "Mulder, this is incredible."
"Wait until you see the room." He handed the keys to the valet and led her inside to register. By the time they reached
the cottage, their bags had been delivered and the king-size bed turned down. She stood in the main room, her hand
caressing the fabric of the loveseat, facing the fireplace.
"Do you think it will be cool enough for a fire?"
"Count on it," he murmured in her ear. "Why don't you get comfortable, maybe a bubble bath and I'll order us some
"I like the way you think. Don't suppose you could join me in the tub after you order?" His smile took her breath away.
While she let herself into the spacious bathroom, he placed a quick call to confirm their meal, laid a fire ready to be lit
while they ate, then hurried to join her. The bath was steamy and the lights were low, but candles gleamed from
several surfaces around the room. She was in the double garden tub, her head resting on a small pillow with her eyes
closed. Her hands were drifting in the warm water, making tiny waves that crested on her breasts. He had to stop and
just look at her for a long moment.
She opened her eyes and smiled at him. "Get undressed, Mulder," she murmured and he lost no time complying.
They sat in their robes in front of the fire, feeding each other the seafood that was brought to the room in between kisses
and caresses. Mulder rolled the cart outside when they were through and hung the 'do not disturb' sign on the door.
They made love most of the night, savoring each other slowly and thoroughly. The sun was high when she woke to
find him watching her.
"What? Was I snoring?" She stretched, smiling.
He shook his head. "No. I just love to watch you sleep. You look so innocent."
"Are you implying that I'm not really innocent?"
The gleam in his eye sent her eyebrow rising. "After last night, I don't think 'innocent' is a word that really applies."
"Have I been insulted?" She started to rise, but his body pressed hers down into the mattress and breakfast was
When they finally managed to leave the room, they walked on the private beach holding hands. He brought her up to
date on the plans he'd made for their week - whale watching, a tour of Hyannisport, a trip to the Raynham Flea Market to
find a couple of pieces for the apartment that would be theirs, and the Wellflet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
By mutual consent what they were facing wasn't mentioned. This was their oasis of time and they made it memorable.
When they returned to real life, they would have to discuss options and plans. For now, they were together.
He pulled up in front of the house and parked. This was the first time he'd been out of town since their honeymoon. He
missed her, even though they both would have been at work even if he were in town. This was just a day trip anyway.
Skinner now knew about Scully's illness. When he'd asked for clearance to investigate these women, Mulder had to tell
him something. He thought he'd handled it pretty well until Skinner had motioned for him to take a seat.
"Cut the bullshit, Mulder. What's going on?"
Once again he'd found himself sitting in front of the desk as though being reprimanded on his lack of protocol, but after a
few minutes of stammering he sighed. "I have to interview these women."
"Women with cancer. I don't have any record of a case."
Mulder closed his eyes. "Records or not, I have to . . . to . . . It's Scully. She . . . "
Skinner's eyes widened. "Mulder, I'm . . . I don't know what to say. How long have you known?"
"Six, seven weeks."
"You knew," Skinner said in a soft voice
"Let me know what you find out in Allentown." He handed the paperwork back to Mulder without another word.
Mulder took it just as silently, unsure he knew anything else to say.
The woman that answered his knock on the door looked quizzically at him. "Good afternoon. I'm looking for Betsy
Agopian. Is that you?" He gave her his most charming smile.
"I'm sorry, she's not in. Can I help you? I'm Penny Northern."
"Ms. Northern." He shook her hand. "I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI." He had his shield out and watched her
eyes widen slightly. "Could you tell me when you expect her back?"
"I don't know what's going on, Mr. Mulder, but I don't believe Betsy will be coming back here."
"I don't understand."
"Betsy's in the hospital. She has advanced brain cancer. We're just taking turns - Mr. Mulder? Are you all right?" Her
hand closed around his arm and she guided him inside. He had lost all color in his face. She led him to an overstuffed
chair and he sank into it. "I'm going to get you some water. Maybe you should put your head down."
With a last worried look, she hurried to the kitchen and returned with a glass of ice water. "Here you go." She took
a seat beside him and watched him anxiously as he took a few sips. "Are you a friend of Betsy's? Did you not know
she was ill?"
"I'm sorry. You caught me off guard. I had heard there was an anomaly of nasopharyngeal cancer in this area and - "
"Yes. Because of the alien abductions," she spoke matter of factly, looking him directly in the eye. He gaped at her for an
She sat up a little straighter, leaning slightly away from him. "I know, you're with the FBI and you don't believe in such
"You, you'd be surprised. Why do you think the two things are related?"
"Because we all have it, Mr. Mulder. Everyone in our group, every woman that is, has developed this cancer."
"You have it?"
She nodded and he saw the distance now in her eyes. "I do. They've taken me fewer times than they took Betsy.
She's been taken since she was a child."
His knuckles were white on the rolled arms of the chair. "Please, talk to me."
He was still in the same chair, but now he was surrounded by women, the other members of the Mufon group. They
had told him their stories and were now watching him.
"You don't believe us, do you?" The youngest woman was staring at him, frankly annoyed.
"Actually I do," he said quietly. "I have some personal experience with this. That's why I'm here. My wife has
developed . . . she was abducted a couple of years ago in Virginia."
"Skyland Mountain," one of the women breathed.
"Yes." He turned toward her. The others were nodding. "As far as we know she . . . she was only taken once."
"Does she have the mark?" Penny asked finally.
He saw their hands come up, all of them, to touch the back of their necks. He closed his eyes for a moment. He took a
deep breath and faced Penny, nodding. "A small chip."
Without a word the women reached into their pockets and purses and withdrew small bottles, vials, all kinds of
containers. Each held an identical tiny spot like the one he had personally removed from Scully's neck.
He leaned forward, actually rocking slightly to try to ease the pain which was physical now. "Are you under treatment?"
He was looking at Penny but the question was for everyone.
"Yes. It hasn't helped Betsy, but there's nothing else available. Does your wife's doctor have any
"My, my wife is a doctor."
Mulder watched her get ready, applying a bit more color to her cheeks and checking for circles under her eyes. "We
can do this another night," he reminded her gently.
"We haven't seen them since we got back; just a couple of phone calls. Mom wants us to come over and I want to see
"I do too, Scully."
"I know. I'm fine, Mulder. We don't have to stay late."
He nodded, making no further comment.
He opened the car door and took her hand to help her out. "I thought that would stop now that we're an old married
couple." She smiled slightly at him, trying to get him to relax.
"Who you callin' 'old', woman?" He took her hand and led her to the house. The door opened before they could reach
it, and Maggie stepped outside to greet them.
After hugs they were pulled inside and she called for William. He joined them from the back of the house,
hugging Scully and shaking hands with Mulder.
Maggie turned Scully toward the kitchen to help her get dinner on the table and shooed the men toward William's
den. "Dinner's almost ready," she tossed over her shoulder as she led her daughter away.
Mulder had barely gotten settled in 'his' seat when he heard Maggie's voice from the kitchen. "Dana!"
William would have said his reflexes were pretty good from a life in the military, but Mulder was out of the room before
William even processed the sound. Mulder burst into the kitchen to find Maggie supporting Scully, leading her toward
Maggie turned to Mulder. "I thought she was going to faint."
Mulder settled her in a kitchen chair and gently pressed her head down. "Scully?" he whispered in her ear; the question
"I'm okay. I was just a little dizzy." She sat up, not quite meeting his eyes. Before she could reassure her parents,
blood began pouring from her nose.
"Oh my god." Maggie snatched up a towel and Mulder took it from her. He held it against her face, forcing her to look at
"Here's some ice." William put the plastic bag from the freezer in his hand as well. Mulder nodded his thanks, then
lifted Scully into his arms and carried her to the den. He lay her gently on the couch, then sat beside her. He faced his
in-laws holding her hand.
"What's going on?" Maggie's voice shook slightly, her eyes on her daughter.
"Mom, I'm - "
"Scully," he interrupted her gently. She seemed to deflate slightly, but she nodded to him.
He turned to face her parents. "Scully, uh, Dana, is ill."
"Ill how?" her father asked immediately.
"She has a tumor in her sinus cavity."
"Cancer," Maggie barely breathed the word. No one said anything for a long moment, then William took a seat beside
Reluctantly Scully met his eyes and nodded. The older man closed his eyes for an instant, then reached for her hand.
Mulder released it to him and moved so that Maggie could take his seat at her side.
"How long have you known?" Maggie asked finally.
"Just a few weeks," Scully demurred.
Maggie turned to Mulder. "You knew. You knew before the wedding." It wasn't quite an accusation, but close.
"Why didn't you say anything, either of you? We have the right to - "
"Mom," Scully interrupted gently. "I wouldn't let him. I tried to turn down his proposal, but - "
"You weren't even engaged?" William asked quietly, looking at Mulder.
William squeezed her hand. "Excuse me just a minute." He left the room as Mulder studied his shoes.
"Dana, talk to me," her mother insisted, pulling Scully's attention back. "Tell me everything."
"Maggie - "
"No, Fox. I need to hear this from Dana," Maggie interrupted.
"Mom, I am taking care of myself. I'm seeing Dr. Adams; Karen recommended him and he seems very
"And you kept this from us? Dana - "
"Mom, please. When I found out, when I found out I was in shock."
"And you called Mulder," her father said quietly as he returned to the room. His nose was a little red, but he was
steady again. "As you should have. I understand."
Maggie opened her mouth to protest, but William took her hand.
"I'm sorry. I should have said something sooner, but I didn't want to spoil the wedding, and with Missy . . . " Dana's voice
Maggie took her in her arms. "You're not supposed to protect us. That's our job; but that's not important now. Tell
me what this Dr. Adams is doing for you."
"I'm not actually taking any treatment at this time. We're still investigating options, Dr. Adams and I, and when we - "
"You can't wait, Dana. It's important to get started right away. What kind of thing is he talking about?" Maggie was
struggling to sound reasonable.
Scully glanced over at Mulder. "Mom . . . "
"What? What aren't you saying?"
"I'll talk to Dr. Adams again on Tuesday - "
"I want to go with you," Maggie insisted immediately.
"Mom, that's not necessary," Scully said gently.
"Of course it's necessary. You're my daughter. Fox, tell her that I need to go."
"Maggie . . . Let, let's have some dinner." Mulder took her hand and helped her to her feet. She opened her mouth to
protest, but William rose as well.
"Mulder's right. Let's put this aside for a little while. We have a lot to talk about and we can't cover it all tonight.
Come on, I'll help you in the kitchen." William nodded to Mulder and took Maggie's arm.
When they were alone again, Mulder took Scully back into his arms. "I'm sorry," he said gently.
She let her head rest against his chest. "They had to know."
"Are you going to take her with you to see Dr. Adams?"
She sighed wearily.
"Come on. Think you can eat anything?"
"I'll try." She managed a small smile, but it didn't last. He helped her to feet and his arm went around her.
What little food was eaten was done in silence. Maggie and William would occasionally glance at Scully, but she
remained focused on her plate. Mulder thought she hadn't noticed until she spoke quietly. "My appointment's at nine."
Maggie glance over at William then back at her. "Thank you. Would you like me to pick you up?"
"Uh, I'll, I'll be a work. I'll just meet you upstairs."
"You're still working?" her incredulous question caused Mulder to wince.
"Maggie - " William shook his head.
"Fine. I'll meet you there."
Mulder saw both women give the same nod and looked down to hide the small smile at the movement.
When dinner ended, Mulder and Scully took over the dishes; Mulder washing and Scully drying. Maggie kept quiet and
put away the leftovers. Even William stayed and took the dried dishes from his daughter and put them away with a
minimum of searching. No one mentioned that it was a little crowded and things did lighten up a little with her father's
obvious cluelessness. Mulder was again struck with how a real family drew closer when they needed each other instead
of falling apart.
If the hugs were a little longer and tighter when they left, if wasn't mentioned. William did take Mulder aside for just an
instant, putting his arm around his son-in-law's shoulder. "If you need anything, to talk, whatever, call me."
Mulder could only nod. William understood, holding Maggie as they watched the younger couple head for their car.
Once at their apartment, Mulder insisted she get ready for bed. He joined her there and pulled her into his arms. "You
"At least they know."
"Yes." He pulled her tighter against him and her eyes slipped close.
The phone call from Skinner had sent him racing for the airport. He had resisted taking out of town cases, but this
one had been impossible to avoid. When the hospital hadn’t been able to find him, they had asked for his
supervisor. Where the hell were Maggie and William?
He had used his badge to force his way onto the first flight available and upon landing, had raced to the hospital.
Maggie had accompanied Scully to her last appointment. Even Mulder could see how subdued Maggie was following
that. He hadn’t pushed himself on her parents, feeling the guilt of keeping this information from them. Okay, that had
been her idea, but he hadn’t argued.
Had he really tried to get her to go to them? Had he just been selfish? No, he had gone along to protect her and to
some extent her parents. They had accepted him and he hated that they were in pain. Hell, he was babbling even to
The news that she was in the ICU caused him to falter, then he was on his way up the stairs. Skinner was in the waiting
room and rose when he heard Mulder’s voice at the nurse’s station.
The younger man turned at the sound, but didn’t seem to recognize his boss. “Mulder?” Skinner took his arm and led
him into the small waiting room.
He resisted automatically. “I need to see her.”
Skinner looked up at the clock. “Ten minutes. Have a seat and get your breath.”
Skinner shook his head. “I’m not sure. Apparently she collapsed earlier. It was a good thing she was here. They
rushed her to the ER, then transferred her up here.
“Co-collapsed. I shouldn’t have taken that case.”
“Mulder, you have a job. Don’t feel guilty about doing it. That said, if you need to take a leave, I’ll okay it.”
Mulder nodded, he wouldn’t be leaving town any time soon.
They sat in silence then until the nurse stepped into the small area. “Mr. Mulder? You can see your wife now.”
As much as he wanted, needed, to see her, he froze at those words. Skinner rose to his feet and took hold of
Mulder’s arm. That galvanized the younger man and he nodded to Skinner and followed the nurse through the
He followed the woman to the cubicle and finally saw her. He had to stop at the sight. He bent over, his hands on his
knees. His mouth was open, trying to get air into his lungs.
“. . . lder? Sir?” He finally became aware that the nurse was speaking to him. He forced himself back upright and
ignoring the nurse, moved to her bedside. There were tubes in both arms; blood in her left and a clear fluid in her right.
There was an oxygen cannula in her nose and wires leading to monitors that beeped and drew lines and basically scared
him to death.
He leaned in to whisper in her ear. “Scully, I’m here. I won’t leave you. Please, open your eyes.”
“Mr. Mulder, you can stay here for ten minutes. I’ll . . . “ She realized he couldn’t hear her and backed away.
He sank into the chair beside the bed and carefully took her hand. He couldn’t remember ever being this scared. Maybe
when Samantha was taken, but he didn’t think so. It was too soon, it was happening too quickly. He had to find
something to help her. He had to.
One of the nurses started to move toward him when his ten minutes were over. The nurse that had led him back
stopped her. She shook her head and the second nurse looked over at the man, then nodded and moved away.
It was later when a nurse finally approached him. He looked up and immediately shook his head. “Has it been ten
She smiled softly. “Its been thirty-five, sir.”
His eyes widened and he looked down at his watch.
“We have to run a few tests. You can come back at the top of the hour.” He started to protest but she just shook her
head. “I’m sure there are phone calls you need to make.”
He nodded his assent then and reluctantly rose. He gave Scully another kiss, squeezed her hand and forced himself
to leave the cubicle.
To his surprise, Skinner was waiting for him. “How is she?”
Mulder shook his head. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen a doctor yet.” He sank onto the small couch. “I need to find
“There’s still no answer at their home. I haven’t left any more messages.”
Mulder nodded. “I’ll call Charlie. Maybe he knows something.” He rose again, unable to sit still. He pulled out
his cell phone and dialed a number.
“Professor Scully please.”
“He’s in class. May I take a message?”
“This is urgent. Ask him to call Mulder. 201-555-8540.”
“8540, I’ll find him, sir.”
Mulder broke the connection after a quick thank you and looked over at Skinner. “She’s going to find him.”
“You want any coffee?” Skinner asked.
“Uh, yeah. That’d be good.”
“I’ll be right back.”
The elevator doors were just closing when the cell phone in his hand rang. “Mulder.”
“It’s Charlie. What happened?” The concerned voice of his brother-in-law sounded in Mulder’s ear.
“Scu-Dana’s in the hospital. I can’t find your parents. I was out of town; Skinner called me.”
“I know Mom and Dad were talking about going to see Mom’s sister, Connie, for her birthday, but they wouldn’t
leave town when you were gone unless - “
“She didn’t tell them,” they said together. “Damn,” Mulder breathed. “How can I reach them?”
“How bad is she?”
“She’s in intensive care. I just got here; I haven’t seen a doctor.”
“Okay, you concentrate on her. I’ll call Aunt Connie. I’d think they’re on their way back by now, but I’ll make sure. If
they’re on the road . . . “
“Tomorrow they’ll both have cell phones,” Mulder said decisively.
“Amen. Mulder, do I need to come?”
There was a pause, then Mulder spoke, sounding exhausted. “I don’t know. Let me talk to the doctor. I’ll call
“Okay. I’ll let you know about the folks.” Both seemed reluctant to actually break the connection, but Mulder saw
Scully’s oncologist step off the elevator.
“Gotta go. I’ll call.” He hung up and hurried to the doctor’s side. “Dr. Tucker?”
“Mr. Mulder, I’m glad they found you.”
“Dana had a bad hemorrhage, but she was here and they got her to the ER very quickly. She’s had two pints of blood
and is working on the third.”
Mulder winced. “Why isn’t she waking up?”
“I’m sure she’ll be waking up soon. Her vitals were much better when I checked her a few minutes ago. She went into
shock, losing blood as quickly as she did, but she’s strong, Mr. Mulder. I’ve known Dana for a while, she’s going to fight
this as long as she can.”
Mulder looked past him then. “I need to see her.”
“Sure, go on in. They said you were with her when her vitals strengthened. I don’t mind using you some more.” The
doctor smiled at him and moved out of his way. Mulder stared at him for a moment, then shook his head.
“Th-thanks.” He hurried back to her bedside.
When his phone rang, he grabbed it before the nurse had time to scowl at him. He wasn’t supposed to have it on back
here. “Mulder,” he was whispering.
“It’s Charlie. I talked to Connie. Mom and Dad left about three hours ago, so they should be home in a couple of
hours. I didn’t tell her anything; I didn’t know if she knew Dana was sick. How’s she doing?”
“They say her vitals are stronger. She hasn’t woken up, but Dr. Tucker seems pleased.”
They were both silent for a moment. “You, uh, you with her?”
“Yeah. They’re letting me stay.”
“Good. That’ll do her the most good. I’ll let you get back to her. Mulder, Mulder call me.”
“I will, and I’ll call your parents in a couple of hours.” When they hung up, he turned back to Scully, taking her hand.
Almost immediately he felt her fingers curl slightly around his hand.
“Scully? Scully, can you hear me? It’s Mulder.”
Her eyes fluttered but didn’t open. He was already pressing the call button.
A nurse came on the run. “She’s waking up,” he said urgently.
“I’ll get Dr. Tucker.” She smiled at him and hurried away.
“Just take it easy, Baby. You’re in the hospital and your friends are taking good care of you. I’m gonna be right here
Her lips curved upwards slightly at that. He leaned down and kissed her brow. Dr. Tucker’s arrival caused him to look
away for an instant. When he looked back, her eyes were open and focused on him.
“Hi,” he said softly. Her hand tightened slightly around his fingers.
“Mr. Mulder, we need to check Dana out.”
“I won’t get in your way,” he responded instantly.
“Mulder, it’s okay,” her voice was low but she nodded to him.
His brow furrowed, but there really wasn’t much room. He brought her fingers to his lips. “I’ll be just outside.
If they get rough with you, just yell. I’ll hear you.”
She did smile then. “I know.”
Reluctantly he stepped away and her fingers slipped from his hand. He backed out and when she was out of sight, he
turned and moved toward the waiting room.
A nurse stopped him at the desk. “Mr. Mulder? The other gentleman left a note for you.” She handed him a folded slip
of paper and he nodded his thanks. He made his way back to the small waiting area and took a seat. He opened the
“Mulder, I will be in my office if you need me. You also have my cell phone. Please let me know how she’s doing.
Mulder nodded to himself. He should call him and Charlie, but right now he felt paralyzed. He’d know more when Dr.
Tucker came out, and when he could look into her eyes again.
He was on his feet instantly when Dr. Tucker appeared at the door. “How . . . “
The doctor gave him a slight smile. “Her vitals are much stronger. We want to keep an eye on her here in ICU for a
couple of hours. If she doesn’t have any more nosebleeds, we’ll move her to a regular room.”
“The, the cancer . . . “
“I’ll schedule a PET scan for tomorrow morning.”
“It’s worse, though, isn’t it?”
“Mr. Mulder, I don’t want to speculate. Why don’t you go back and be with her. I know she feels better when you’re
“You know . . .?”
“She’s mentioned it to me several times.” At the stunned look on Mulder’s face, Dr. Tucker squeezed Mulder’s
shoulder. “Go on.”
Mulder lost no time complying.
When they moved her to a regular room in a couple of hours, Mulder placed a call to her parents home. He closed his
eyes in relief when he heard William’s voice answer.
“Dad, it’s Mulder.”
“Mulder, what’s wrong?”
“Sc-Dana’s in the hospital. She’s doing a lot better. They’re moving her to a regular room right now.”
“She had a really bad nosebleed, and uh, she’s better now. She’s at Georgetown.”
“We’ll be right there.”
“Take your time, really, she’s a lot better. Be careful. I’ll be here.”
“Son, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said nearly steadily.
“Okay. We’ll be there shortly.”
When Mulder hung up, he dialed Charlie. The phone was picked up on the first ring. “Mulder?”
“Yeah. She’s doing better. They’re moving her to a regular room but they’re going to keep her for a little while. And I got
hold of your Dad. They’re on the way over now.”
“Thank goodness. I’ll let you get back to her, but please call me if there’s any change.”
“I will. Th-thank you for being there.”
“Mulder, we’re brothers. I’m here.”
Mulder couldn’t speak. A brother? His brother. “I, uh . . . “
“Go be with her, Mulder. I’ll talk to you tonight.”
Mulder nodded though he knew Charlie couldn’t see and listened as Charlie broke the connection. He started moving
toward her room then, picking up his pace the closer he got.
His exhaustion and relief that she was at least out of the ICU caught up with him once he was back at her side. He
lowered his head to her bed, not releasing her hand.
The sound of the door barely registered, but Maggie’s stifled gasp woke him immediately. Mulder hurried to her side and
gave her a hug, then motioned for her to take the chair he’d occupied.
He turned to William then, offering his hand. The hand was ignored as William hugged the younger man to him. Mulder
returned the hug, struggling with his composure. Had his own father hugged him in the last thirty years?
“Tell us what happened.” William led Mulder to the other visitor chair and motioned for him to take the seat.
“I wasn’t here. I’m sorry. I was sent out of town on a case. AD Skinner called me when the hospital couldn’t find any of
us. I didn’t realize you were planning a trip out of town. I know she didn’t want any of us thinking she couldn’t look
after . . . That was one of her biggest arguments against marrying me, that she would hold me back. She doesn’t get
that I want . . . “
“This is not your fault, son. We’ll all have to talk to her about keeping secrets from us when she’s a little stronger. What
caused her to be admitted?”
“Nose bleed, apparently a bad one. She was in intensive care until just before I called you. They had to give her three
pints of blood - "
“Three?” Maggie interrupted. William moved over to her and rubbed her shoulders. She didn’t release Scully’s hand.
“I’m sure Dr. Tucker will be in to see her soon. He can tell you more, but he was pleased with her progress, and he did
move her out of ICU.”
Maggie nodded and turned back to her daughter. William moved back over to Mulder. “You look done in.”
Mulder gave him a weary smile. “I was in Wisconsin when I got the call. I don’t have a clue where my luggage might be.”
Before William could respond to that there was a tap on the door and it opened. Dr. Tucker entered. Mulder introduced
her parents and the doctor shook hands with them both. “If you’ll let me do a quick exam, then I’ll talk with you.”
Slowly Maggie rose from her chair and they all stepped out into the hall. “Can I get you something, Mom? The coffee’s
not very good, but it is strong.”
She shook her head and moved closer to William. “She’ll be okay, won’t she?”
William put his arm around her and held her close. No one answered her.
When the doctor joined them he was smiling. “She’s doing much better. She’s awake and asking for you, Mr. Mulder.”
“Thanks. Do you know when I can take her home?”
Maggie immediately started to protest, but the doctor beat her to it. “Not for at least 24-hours. I want to do an MRI, see
how things are progressing.”
“Pr-progressing?” Maggie said quickly.
“You know she’s refusing conventional treatment. I’m keeping an eye on her. I’ll probably release her tomorrow
afternoon. Go on in, she needs to see you.” Dr. Tucker touched her shoulder, nodded to the men and moved to the
Mulder and William followed Maggie inside.
“Mom? Ahab? I thought you went to see Aunt Connie.”
“We’ll discuss that later, young lady.”
“Young, young lady?” Scully smiled at her mother. “I’m in trouble?”
Maggie shook her head and took Scully’s hand. “How do you feel?”
“A little spacey, but I’m fine.” She looked over at Mulder. “I am fine.”
He nodded, but didn’t speak. Her eyes filled with tears and he moved closer. “It’s okay. Don’t, please don’t cry.” He
held her against him gently.
“Don’t be angry with me.”
He shook his head. “Never. But you’re not getting me out of town again. Dr. Tucker is too good looking.”
She gave a shaky chuckle then. “Okay. No more sneaking around with Chris. He can’t compare anyway.”
“Good to hear. I’d hate to have to pull my gun.”
“You look tired,” she caressed his face.
“I’m good. I think your Mom needs some time with you.”
“I know. Listen, why don’t you go home and get a little rest.”
“Leave? You’ve already made a date with this Chris?”
“Go on, Mulder. You look like the type to ignore visiting hours anyway.”
“Who me?” He glanced back at his in-laws. They did need some time with her. He gave her a quick kiss and nodded.
“I’ll give you guys a little time. But I’m not leaving you alone with this Chris guy any more.” He kissed her again and
William followed Mulder out of the room. “Mulder, son, Maggie needs this. Go on home and take a shower, get a
good night’s sleep. You know I’ll call you if there’s any change.”
The anguished look on the younger man’s face caused the older man to look away. “I’m not throwing you out, son. You
need some time away.”
“I, I know. You will call.”
“Of course I will. Take a little time; you know we’re not trying to keep you away.”
Mulder nodded and after another look in the direction of her room, he headed for the elevators.
Once in the car, he realized he couldn’t face returning to their apartment. The very thought of being there without her
made him sick. Instead he turned toward his friends’ place.
Langly opened the door and looked his friend up and down. “You look like shit, man. Did you sleep in those clothes?”
Mulder ignored him and moved around the man, not waiting for an invitation. Byers joined them. “Mulder?”
“She’s in the hospital.”
Frohike hurried into the main room when he heard those words. “How bad?”
Mulder looked out the window rather than answer.
“Mulder,” Byers drew his attention back. “You haven’t told us about your trip to Allendale.”
Mulder met his eyes and took a deep breath.
Mulder had his head back on the back of the sofa, his eyes closed. There was a glass of iced tea on the table in front of
him, the ice mostly melted. Langly sat looking at his beer bottle. Frohike took another long drink of his whiskey. Byers
glanced at Frohike, but said nothing. He reached for his own iced tea but then decided against it and leaned back.
Frohike stared down into the whiskey as though it held all the answers. “So all of these women developed the same . .
. disease.” No one responded, there was nothing to say. “And they all developed it after they removed their implants.”
Mulder looked up then, staring at the little man. “Say that again.”
“They got it after they . . . “ Mulder turned to look at Byers.
Byers was already sitting up straighter. “Mulder?”
“They all took it out. If they hadn’t, Byers, if they hadn’t . . . “
“I don’t know.” Byers was thinking frantically. “Do you think that - “
“It can’t be a coincidence,” Frohike interrupted, catching up.
“Put it back in,” Langly said emphatically.
“But if it’s a tracking device,” Byers mused looking over at Mulder.
“That M-O hasn’t come up again in any case since she killed it. Believe me, I’ve checked.”
Byers nodded. That he believed. “Mulder, I don’t want you to get your . . . I mean, it’s a computer chip.”
“It’s something to try. That’s more than we’ve had before. I’ve got to get to the apartment.”
“Mulder, you need a nap and a shower. Yes, go home, but clean up, change. Take a short nap. We’ll wake you in a
few hours. You said yourself she’d been moved from the ICU.”
“Byers is right,” Frohike agreed, nodding. “You can’t run yourself into the ground and expect to be there for her.”
“Yeah, okay. I just need to go the apartment. I’ll be fine.” He was already hurrying to the door. He didn’t look back as
the guys watched him leave.
“He’s not gonna be taking any nap,” Langly mused.
“Nope,” Frohike agreed. “I just wish we could do something.”
Mulder let himself into the apartment and wondered again where his luggage might be. He’d have to check into that
sometime. For now he had more important things to do. He hurried to their bedroom and yanked open her top dresser
drawer. He searched around in it for a few seconds, completely destroying the nice orderly stacks of her lingerie.
Toward the back of the drawer his hand knocked a small prescription bottle. He snatched it up and looked at it.
Yes, the minuscule disk was inside. His hand closed protectively around the small orange bottle as he moved
toward the door, leaving the drawer open and one of her bras trailing out.
When he arrived back at the hospital, he hurried to her room, but stopped just outside to look through the glass panel of
the door. Her mother was beside her, in the seat he had used. She was holding Scully’s hand and moving something
with her other hand. It took him a moment to realize Maggie held a rosary and was praying.
Scully seemed to be asleep and he didn’t see William. Wait there he was in the corner, watching the two women. Mulder
opened the door quietly and both of her parents looked over at him.
William put his hand on Mulder’s arm. “You couldn’t have gotten any rest.”
“No, but I, I need to talk to you for just a minute.”
William looked back at Maggie, then nodded. “Why don’t we go to the cafeteria? Maggie, can I bring you anything?”
Maggie shook her head, so the two men left her alone with Scully. “Mulder - "
“I’m not asking Maggie to leave her side. I found something and, and I need to talk to you, privately.”
William’s brow furrowed, but he led the younger man to the elevators.
There was little activity in the cafeteria at that time of day, so they took their coffee to a table in a quiet corner away from
the few other patrons.
“What is it, son?”
Again that word, son, caused Mulder to hesitate for an instant, then he looked his father-in-law in the eye. “I need
to talk about Melissa’s murder.”
William blinked. “Excuse me?”
“You’re not going to believe what I have to tell you. I can only hope that you won’t have me committed, but you need
to know some background.”
William looked deep into his son-in-law’s eyes and after a moment, nodded. He leaned back, taking his cup of coffee
with him. “Okay, I’m listening.”
William was no longer leaning back. Both men were silent and Mulder could feel the older man’s eyes searching his
face, trying to get into his mind. Hell, William was probably trying to figure out how many men it would take to get him
into a straight jacket. Mulder waited, he’d run out of anything to say. More would only make it worse.
Finally William broke his gaze, looking down at his empty cup. “You’re saying that my daughter killed an
extraterrestrial that murdered her sister, saving both of your lives.”
Mulder squared his shoulders. “Yes, sir.”
“May I see the chip?” He held out his hand and Mulder reluctantly placed the vial in William’s hand. William
squinted at it, holding the container up to the light. “You think removing this caused her illness.”
Mulder met his eyes and nodded.
“How did she know that the back of the neck - “
“She didn’t. Neither of us did. It was a lucky break.”
“But you knew that it was looking for her.”
Mulder recognized William’s statement was really a question. “Not at first. I was brought in because of the serial
nature of the killings. They were all over the country. The men and women had nothing in common in life that anyone
had reported, yet they all had that signature wound in the back of the neck, post-mortem. The other agents were . . .
convinced it was nothing, but it was all I had.”
“Melissa didn’t have the chip.”
“No, sir. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her resemblance to Scully may have caused a momentary
confusion, but he knew he had the wrong woman immediately,” Mulder hesitated then, he was talking about
this man’s daughter.
“Go on,” the older man said after a moment.
“There was no way a man could have followed us. Even if he had seen me take Scully to the hotel, we would have lost
him at the airport. The rental car we took hadn’t even been cleaned; but he found us in Rhode Island in less than 24
William looked at the orange vial again. “If this is a tracking device, what would stop something else from coming for
“The murders stopped when Scully killed it. There hasn’t been another one reported, and believe me, I’ve checked.
The M-O is on every data base for police, both here and internationally.”
“I never told you that I recognized your father when we met.”
Mulder blinked at the change in topic. “Uh, no.”
William nodded. “I’d heard of him when I was working at the Pentagon, years ago. He was working on a project there. It
was completely hush-hush. In fact they moved him and his team out of the Pentagon not long after I got there. I had a
security clearance, not top level but, anyway your father’s was light-years above mine. There were rumors about that
team, things people laughed about quietly; that they were part of Blue Book, MJ. I didn’t believe it and kept my head
down, did as I was ordered. I’d forgotten about it completely until you introduced me to your parents. He didn’t remember
me; there was no reason he should.”
“I don’t know. What I do know is that all of those women in Allentown removed their implant and they all got sick. All of
them. I don’t know if there are other people out there, still healthy, who still have the chip in their necks. I wouldn’t
even know how to start an investigation on that. But they got sick after it was removed. What if it was put back - that's all I
want to know.”
“Are you asking my permission to try this?”
“No, I, well yes, I guess I am. I want to talk to Scully about it of course, but . . . William, I have to try something. I’ve just
gotten her in my life. I can’t lose . . .”
The look of anguish on the younger man’s face made William look away. Finally he turned back. “I understand. I
don’t think we should mention this to Maggie. Not right away in any case. Let’s do it and see what happens.” He saw the
look of hope that blossomed on Mulder’s face and had to look away again.
“Yes, sir. I think that’s a good idea,” Mulder’s voice was husky. This man, whose respect he so wanted had listened,
maybe even believed a little.
“I don’t think we should get into a debate with the doctors either. I want you to put it back. You know where it goes.
And I know you would never intentionally hurt my daughter.”
“No, sir,” Mulder’s voice was only a whisper.
William nodded. “Come on, I’m sure Maggie needs a break herself now.”
“You, you believe me,” Mulder sounded overwhelmed at the thought.
“I believe you believe; and I want to save my Starbuck. This will be just between the two of us.”
Mulder nodded solemnly. They rose together and started for Scully’s room.
“Mulder, you and I have a lot to talk about, soon.”
“I look forward to it.”
“I’ll get it,” Mulder called back toward the back of the apartment when the doorbell rang. He opened the door and
stopped, shocked. The woman stepped inside and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
“I know my coming here is a surprise, but I wanted to see you and meet this Scully of yours.”
“You look wonderful,” he smiled back at her, welcoming her inside.
“Mulder, who - “ They turned as Scully joined them from the bedroom. She stopped when she saw the strange woman.
“Scully, this is a good friend of mine, Penny Northern. Penny, my wife, Dana Mulder.”
Scully stepped forward then and Penny saw her hand smooth the fabric over her protruding stomach, protectively
caressing the child growing within her.
“I am so please to meet you, Dana. So very pleased to meet you.”