She was exhausted and practically limping as she let herself into the apartment. It had to be a man who invented four-inch heels. No woman would do this to another woman. She kicked the offending shoes off as she locked the door. She reached around to unzip her dress immediately. A deep breath would be greatly appreciated.
"Kinda late, isnít it Scully?"
She started violently. Only the recognition of his voice staying her hand from her weapon. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I came by to see if you were okay. Youíve been so distracted at work, I was concerned. I guess I misinterpreted your distraction."
"I didnít realize you were seeing anyone. I wouldnít have bothered you." He was looking her up and down, trying to keep his tone cool.
"What if Iíd brought my date back here? How would I have explained you?" She needed to get him out of here. She couldnít deal with him tonight, not tonight.
"Yeah, youíre right. I guess I would be a little hard to explain. Sorry, I was worried about you. I guess thatís his job now. See you at work." He grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.
"Mulder." Why had he come here? Had she been acting that differently at work? He didnít stop, not quite slamming the door behind him. She dropped onto the couch. What had just happened here?
He had to sit for a minute before even thinking about driving. Well, sheíd finally gotten that "life" she had wanted. And apparently the right man to go with it, if he could cause her to be that off at work. That dress. . . heíd never seen her dressed like that. She owned scarves with more material in them. It was ice blue, but no one at the Bureau could possibly think ice queen seeing her in it. It was so much shorter than anything heíd seen her in. If she sat in that youíd be able to see. . . which was probably the point you pathetic moron. His eyes had traveled up. If she was going to wear it, he should be able to look. Her breasts had been escaping from their meager confinement. His eyes had flickered up and her eyes caught him. Shit, he had felt like his mother had caught him with a Playboy. He could feel the color rising again in his face. Oh god. Sheíd found someone, someone probably sane. He brushed a trembling hand across his eyes. Another man. Why was he surprised? Heíd certainly never made his feelings known. Besides, she deserved better than him. Well, good luck to her. He had to get out of here.
She heard the car peel out and her heart sank. What was he thinking? She looked down at the dress she was wearing. Thatís what he was thinking Ė sheíd seen his pupils dilate at the sight of it. Would he be willing to listen when she was able to explain?
She managed to get ready for bed, but found she couldnít sleep despite her fatigue. Sheíd agonized over this decision for days before deciding to go through with it. Why did she feel guilty now? Mulder didnít own her. She hadnít ditched him, like he had her countless times. So why did she feel like she had? Why did his feelings have to intrude on every aspect of her life anyway? Damn!
In the office the next morning he sat waiting for her. Well, part of the time anyway. Heíd paced awhile; heíd searched through files. Not that he remembered what he had looked at. Mostly he saw her in that dress, with another manís hands on her, kissing her, holding her to him. Shit! He slammed the filing cabinet shut, just as the door opened and she walked in.
She looked startled at the noise. "Everything okay?"
"Fine. How about with you?" His most sardonic tone. Even he winced at it.
His eyes raked up and down her body, making her doubly glad she had worn her most conservative pantsuit today. Sheíd wanted to cover herself. Last night was still too fresh in her mind. She didnít bother to answer him. He wasnít looking for an answer anyway, only a fight.
She poured herself a cup of coffee, managing not to spill any even with her shaking hands, and headed for her computer. A tense silence clouded the room, neither able to concentrate on their work. He opened his mouth to apologize, something, anything to relieve this tension, when the phone rang. He grabbed it before the first ring was over. "Mulder." A short silence, then "Yes sir" and he hung up.
"Skinner wants us in his office now."
She rose gracefully and headed for the door without speaking. He watched her walk out of the office. She hadnít even asked what he wanted. And damn, she even looked good in that awful suit she was wearing today. He forced himself to his feet and followed her out of the office.
There was no point to this meeting. Expense reports? Paperwork? Why was Skinner wasting their time with paperwork that had been completed weeks ago. He had better things to do, and he knew he was in no shape to sit here. He could spend this time checking out the new man Ė see if he was worthy of the outfit sheíd worn last night. Except no man would be worth her. Didnít Skinner have work to do? Of course, since his own answers were just one centimeter short of insubordination he should be grateful.
Good, they were being dismissed before he had a chance to completely self-destruct. He was on his feet, headed toward the door.
"Agent Scully, can I see you for a minute?" Mulder hesitated, his hand on the doorknob.
"Of course sir." Scully sat back down. Mulder looked at her, then at Skinner and back to her. Skinner? Oh god, he had to get out. He managed not to break into a run, bypassing the elevator and using the stairs to work off a little energy. Skinner?
"Scully, whatís wrong with him?"
"Sir?" That bland, innocent expression meant he was getting nothing from her on that subject.
"Fine, bring me up to date."
He simmered in the office, waiting for her. Maybe it would be better if he werenít here when she got back. It had been over half an hour already. He was in no shape to see her. The door opening got his attention.
"Agent Scully." He addressed her as she entered. God he hated it when he used that tone. Imagine how she must feel. Of course right now she was probably feeling fine. His hands fisted at his side.
She decided to ignore him. Why get into a fight?
"You sure this is a smart move, Scully?"
She finally looked at him, "What?"
"Banginí the boss. That could get. . . " Her hand connected hard against his face before she turned and was out of the office.
He sank into his chair, his own hand rubbing his cheek where sheíd slapped him. God he was a moron. He had no right to her personal life, despite his feelings. Sheíd never wanted that. How were they going to work together now? Would she ever speak to him again, much less work with him? Damn, how big a fool could he be? No wonder heíd gotten so proficient at phone sex Ė the only sexual relationship he could maintain. Those women didnít have to actually meet him. On his feet again, he took two steps and kicked the trashcan across the room. He leaned back against the wall, sliding down to a squat, unsure whether or not he was actually going to cry.
He had no idea how long he sat that way before the phone pulled him back to the present.
"Mulder, is Agent Scully with you?"
"No sir." He spit it out.
Skinner ignored the tone; "Do you know where she is?"
"No sir." He repeated.
"Get up here Agent Mulder. Right now." Mulder could hear the marine in his voice. He pursed his lips, deciding whether or not to obey this order. Why not? He placed the phone back in the cradle.
In minutes he was knocking on Skinnerís door. "Come in."
Mulder opened the door, stepped inside and carefully closed it behind him. "You wanted to see me?" He didnít bother to take a seat.
"When is the last time you saw Agent Scully?"
"Following your private meeting with her, sir."
"She came directly downstairs?"
"I assume so. How long did you keep her?" Okay, he was going to get fired; he might as well get this off his chest.
"Have you got a problem, Agent Mulder?" The tone was getting to him. Skinner had half a mind to flatten him.
"No sir." Why would I have a problem with you and Scully doing it here in your office? Why would I. . . shit!
"Well I do. Agent Scully missed an appointment. A very important appointment and now she canít be located."
"Canít be. . . what are you talking about?" That sounded like business. What was going on?
Skinner looked away, gathering his thoughts and didnít answer.
"Whenís the last time you had this office swept?" Mulder asked.
That surprised him. "Whatís going on?" Something was wrong; he knew that tingling at the back of his neck.
"Look, Agent Scully is involved in something. Iím concerned."
"Tell me." He still had to decide whether to listen or to swing at him.
"Scully is working an assignment, undercover."
"Sheís what?" He had stepped closer to the desk. Oh god, heíd made a mistake, a big one.
"You heard me."
"As a hooker?" Skinner flinched at that. "God, that is it! What have you done?"
"Sheís an escort." But he couldn't quite maintain his confidence in the face of Mulder's outraged expression.
"Escort! Did you see how she was dressed last night?"
"No. How did you?"
"I was. . . concerned about her. I went by her place last night."
"Has that been your problem today?" Mulder looked away. "What did you say to her? Talk to me now Agent Mulder." Skinnerís whole body was stiff with anger.
"I made some wrong assumptions."
"Regarding?" Skinnerís eyes had narrowed now, Mulder knew heíd be paying for this blunder for a long time.
"Regarding you and Scully, okay?"
Skinner took a deep breath. "As flattering as that is, Agent Mulder, you may have placed her life in danger with this distraction."
"Whatís her assignment?"
"This information doesnít leave this room." At Mulderís nod he continued. "We had word that several members of Congress had been targeted for assassination. The hit "man" was reputed to be a member of a certain escort service. We decided to infiltrate the service."
"Why Scully?" Heíd finally taken a seat. He needed to concentrate and standing had become more than he could handle.
"She volunteered. Have you ever thought she might not want to spend her entire life in the basement, Mulder? Maybe she enjoys working with the VCS occasionally."
Mulder said nothing, his jaw clenching. He was no longer able to look Skinner in the eye. His righteous indignation was completely spent, leaving him limp.
Skinner continued, "Her carís here, but sheís not answering her phone."
"Iím not sure she had it when she left the office." Bolted from the office, his mind supplied, though he didnít say it. "She doesnít have her badge on her." Heíd seen that on the desk, he tried to visualize where the phone had been but couldnít.
"Well that could be a positive. If she was taken. . . "
"Why are we just sitting here?"
"Because we donít know that her coverís blown. If itís not, we donít want to be the ones to do it. Weíre going to move cautiously on this one Mulder. Weíre setting up a command post across the street from the headquarters of this service now."
"Why was I not informed? Sheís my partner."
"She specified that you not be told. She said you would have a problem with it."
"Youíre damn right I have a problem with it! Youíve put her in unnecessary danger."
"I have?" Skinnerís eyebrow rose. "How do you define unnecessary? Sheís trying to save lives. This was her choice Agent Mulder, and not up for debate. If you donít wish to help with this investigation, you can leave now."
"Tell me what you need." He hated it when Skinner was right, especially as right as he was now. Why hadnít he trusted her? Why had he automatically jumped to those conclusions? And no, he didnít want to think about those answers now.
Sheíd been so upset when she fled the office she hadnít realized she didnít have her badge or her gun. Sheíd just wanted to get out, get away from him. How dare he accuse her of sleeping with Skinner? Did he not know anything about her? Damn him anyway.
She didnít realize where she was until she felt someone take her arm. "Danielle? Is that you? I almost didnít recognize you."
"Yeah, what are you doing here? And dressed like that?"
"Oh, I had a lunch client in the FBI building. You canít go in there, well, you know."
"Yeah, I guess. Havenít had anyone in there. Did Minuet get hold of you?"
"No, I guess I turned my cell phone off while I was. . . What did she want?"
"Thereís a big do this weekend and she wants everyone there. Sheís called a meeting this afternoon to go over assignments."
"Yes, now in fact, so it wonít interfere with anyoneís plans this evening. Come on, we can share a cab."
"Well. . . " She looked back toward the building. She had no excuse to go back and she didnít want to arouse suspicion. It should be okay, just a meeting. She was out of contact and had no backup. Mulder would be furious. And why the hell had she thought of him? That stiffened her spine. "Sure Gina, thatís a good idea."
They headed over to Minuetís townhouse in a fashionable part of Georgetown. Business was obviously profitable. They entered to find most of the women already there. It was an eclectic bunch of women, tall, short, red hair, blond, brunette, but invariably beautiful and intelligent. This was definitely not streetwalker mentality. Scully was more than a little intimidated, especially dressed as she was today.
This was definitely high-level stuff. The list of attendees to the party was of the highest rankings. This had to be the night. Not much time to prepare, she needed to get in touch with Skinner. As the meeting was breaking up Scully began moving toward the door.
"Danielle?" Minuet had come up behind her. "May I speak with you for a moment?"
"Of course. Is anything wrong?"
"I hope not. Please, this way."
Minuet led Scully upstairs to her private office and opened the door, allowing Scully to enter before her. Three of the women had gotten there before them. Two of them were armed and had the third in their sights.
"Whatís going on here?" Scully took an automatic step back.
"Thatís what weíre going to find out." Minuet glanced at the girl seated before the other two. "Nothing is going to ruin this weekend for me. If youíre not involved in trying to mess things up for me, youíll be set free Monday morning. If I find out differently, well, you wonít be."
"Whatís suppose to happen at this party that could be this important? The men are well known, but so what? Weíve signed confidentiality statements. I have no plans to go public about what I do. I just want the money." Scully knew she had to stay in character, but what did these people know? And why was this other girl also being held?
"As I said, you might not be the person Iím looking for. It could be my other little friend here, Erika. Iím not willing to take any chances on my own retirement fund. Iíve waited too long for a chance like this and neither of you is going to be in a position to stop me."
Scully looked at the armed women. These were the assassins sheíd been sent to find. They were as beautiful as any of the other women downstairs, just slightly more deadly. How was she going to get word back to Skinner? Would Mulder even realize she was missing? Would he care? He was the only one she counted on to find her. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest. Mulder, please figure this out! Donít leave me out here alone. Surely you know me better than to really think Iím interested in any other man? Please Mulder. Or a lot of people are going to die. And Iím probably going to be one of them.
She was seated facing away from the other woman. This was one she didnít know. Why did they think she was involved? Did she work undercover as well, or was she just unlucky enough to have been in the wrong place and at the wrong time? There was no opportunity to talk. The blond assassin had tied her to the other woman, back-to-back. She was no novice at this.
Minuetís phone calls were becoming increasingly frantic. Scully realized she had missed out on information she should have been listening to. Get control, do your job. There would be an opportunity. She had to be watching for it.
"Damn it! No one knows anything in this stupid town. You would think someone would be able to pinpoint who the plant is. Neither of you two is going to get me. Itís got to be one of you. Why the hell am I worried about saving either one of you with what else I have planned?" Minuet shook her head, "I need to focus, I canít let it get out of hand."
Scully hadnít even known of this underground entrance to Minuetís place. The information the FBI had supplied her was so inadequate she couldnít believe it. Now they were shoving her into the back seat of the limo with Erika. No one knew where she was. Mulder, how are you going to find me now? No, Scully, donít panic. Youíre a capable agent on your own, there has to be a way.
The two assassins got into the front seat of the car, the blond driving, and the brunette with her gun trained on them. What did they think she and Erika could do tied up like this? Where were they being taken? No blindfolds, no attempts to hide the entrance to the underground garage. They would not be coming back. They were being driven to their deaths.
Oh Mulder, Iím sorry. Iím so sorry that your last memory of me will be of me slapping you. God how can I leave it like that? And youíll blame yourself, I know you that well. Can you ever come to realize that I made the decision to do this, not as anything against you, not because I was tired of the X-Files, but just to see if I could handle it? Well I couldn't, Mulder and thatís not your fault. Iím not as good without you as I am with you, and donít ask me why it took so long to allow myself to know that. Just please forgive me.
Scully had seen the sign welcoming them to Virginia. How far were they going? At least make it easy for Mulder to find her body. He couldnít handle never knowing what had happened her like he had with Samantha. That would drive him over the edge.
They had stopped but there was nothing around. This must be where they were going to kill them. "Iíll take this one." The brunette grabbed Scullyís arm and pulled her from the car while the blond did the same to Erika.
While still on opposite sides of the car, the brunette hissed in Scullyís ear. "This could go bad for all of us real quick. Do exactly as I say and Iíll make sure they find you in time."
Scullyís eyes widened but she kept quiet. Who was this woman? Was she a plant too? What the hell was going on?
She and Erika were hauled out into the field and without letting go of their captives, brunette and blond had a hurried conversation that Scully couldnít quite catch. She tried to make eye contact with Erika but was unsuccessful.
"Okay, thatís it then." The blond pointed her weapon at Erika and pulled the trigger. Scully cried out as the young woman fell to the ground beside her. The blond turned to the brunette and waited.
Scully was pulled close to the woman, who whispered in her ear. "Play dead. Donít give this away or you wonít be playing." Then licked Scullyís face with a long and sensuous movement. She took one step back and shot Scully in her side.
The pain was immediate and all consuming. Scully was aware she was collapsing toward the ground but everything had gone into slow motion. The fire in her side slowing down all senses. Her eyes remained opened and as she fell she watched the brunette turn and fire her weapon again. Blood blossomed on the forehead of the blonde.
Then the brunette was bending over her. "Here, press this against your side. Iíll let them know where you are. Donít worry." And she was gone.
Scully wanted to wonder what was going on, but it was too much effort to think of anything but the pain. She had followed instructions and was holding the cloth against her to slow the bleeding, but she knew she was going into shock. That could kill her as surely as the bullet. How could she stay warm?
Just to her side Erika lay partially under the blonde womanís body, maybe she could use them. She managed to squirm closer to them, fighting to remain conscious. Sheíd have to use their body heat as long as it lasted to maintain her own. Mulder, please!