He entered the small diner and took his regular seat. Not too busy tonight - good. He had something important to read. A waitress he hadn’t seen before approached him.
He looked up and smiled. Her answering smile was very nearly non-existent. In fact she looked more scared than anything else. “I’d like the cheeseburger, fries and an iced tea.”
She wrote it down, no abbreviations, nodded and moved away. He scoped her from his seat in the booth. Obviously new, she was tense, very nervous, but cute. She was too short for him and he’d never really been attracted to redheads. He dismissed her then, laying the file he’d purloined on the table.
He’d found it in the basement. It wasn’t that old, but unsolved and forgotten. He had no doubt that the agent taking the statement had had a good laugh when he had gotten away from the couple describing their abduction. At least he’d filed a report.
He was reading away when he glanced up and spotted the redhead, a pot of coffee in her hand, head back in his direction. Two booths up, a loud tourist busy complaining about something, rose without warning and slammed into her. The pot jostled but she did a good job - only a couple of drops landing on his sleeve. The man rounded on her, yelling at her as though she’d poured scalding coffee on his nuts. Her face grew redder than before as she stammered an apology, looking around to see how observed they were.
Mulder rose and approached them. “Back off, buddy. You’re the one that ran into her.” Mulder spoke quietly but with authority.
The tourist turned to continue his harangue, but had to look up and up. Mulder made sure he shifted his arm to expose his weapon discretely.
The man’s eyes popped and he backed down immediately. The waitress couldn’t see the gun from her angle.
“Yeah, yeah you’re right. It was my fault. I’m sorry; it’s just been a bad day.” He threw some bills on the table and motioned for his wife to hurry. They left the place quickly.
“Thank you.” She spoke softly, not meeting his eyes.
“He was out of line. Did you burn yourself?”
“Not much.” She hid her hand behind her. She turned at a sound he didn’t hear. “Your food is up.” She slipped away and after a moment he resumed his seat. She was so tiny.
He finished his meal as she worked and left her a larger than normal tip.
The next night he found himself there again. She looked up as he entered. He smiled a greeting and she returned a tentative smile of her own. He purposely chose one of her tables and she came over with an iced tea.
“You remembered.” He grinned. She blushed but nodded. “I’ll have another one of those famous cheeseburgers and fries.”
She opened her mouth, but then remained silent, recording his order. He noted there were some abbreviations this time.
He found himself watching her more than reading, though she only approached his table to bring him his food and more tea.
He took his time, but all too soon he was ready for his ticket. She returned to his side and started to rip the ticket from her pad when the door opened. She looked in that direction. He had noted she did that every time the door opened. This time her face went white and her hand gripped the pencil tight enough to break it.
He looked quickly to the door and saw a tall, older man with mostly gray hair take a seat near the front.
“Are you all right?” he asked softly.
She jerked, remembering he was sitting there. “Y-yes. I’m fine.”
She was relaxing now, but . . . “Are you sure? Dee - “
At that she stepped away from him, her eyes wide. “How did you - “
“Know your name? It’s on your nametag.”
She glanced down quickly and blushed. Instead of speaking she tore his ticket from her pad and left it on the table as she all but fled his side. He was stunned; she was definitely not ‘fine'.
He pulled out his wallet, but waited for her this time. Finally she realized he wasn’t leaving and reluctantly made her way back to his table. He handed her the money. She felt the card on the bottom. She pulled it out and looked at it. It was his business card.
Finally she looked up. “You’re with the FBI?”
“Your name is Fox?”
He gave her a rueful grin. “Most people call me Mulder. On the back of the card is my cell phone number. If you need anything, call me. I’m not coming on to you. If you need some help . . . “ He let it trail off, but watched as she tucked the card deep in her pocket.
“Thank you.” She met his eyes for the briefest moment. “I’ll get your change.”
“Keep it. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She blinked at that, but made no comment, just watched him leave the diner.
She was watching for him the next night and her smile seemed a little brighter, more genuine. “Hi.”
He grinned, “Hi. Where am I sitting tonight?”
“I reserved your regular table.” His grin widened; she was almost teasing him.
“You got another of those delicious cheeseburgers back there with my name on it?”
She hesitated, “I can hear your arteries clogging from here.”
“Oh? Looking out for me, huh? What should I have?” He smiled easily.
“Well, for a change you could try a turkey on whole wheat and a side salad.”
He grimaced. “Rabbit food? You trying to kill me?”
“Hardly,” she responded.
“Well, okay, just this once. What dressing?”
“I’ll surprise you.” She walked away.
“You already have,” he said softly to himself.
The meal was pretty good, though he gave her some grief. He noted she still checked the door with each opening, but the people who entered were mostly couples and the tall gray haired man did not return.
When she stopped by to freshen his tea, she glanced at the table. “No file tonight?”
“Uh, no. I have to get to other things tonight, unfortunately.”
She nodded and started to turn away.
“Listen, I, uh, I have a case out of town. I’ll be leaving in the morning. I will have my cell phone and I’m serious about . . . “
She looked nervous again, almost to the point of the first night he’d seen her.
“Will you call me, if you need anything?”
“I’ll be fine, but thank you." She turned away. He wanted to stop her, turn her to look at him again. Somehow he felt he had let her down, which made no sense. He didn't even know her last name, but she had come to rely on him in a small way. Reluctantly, he left the diner.
Mulder was exhausted, physically and emotionally. Bill Patterson was a class 'A' prick and working for the SOB made him furious most of the time. But their profile had worked. Correction; his profile had worked, but he'd only gotten grief from Patterson for the time it had taken. Hell, if he'd left it to the rest of the team they'd still be fumbling around in the dark. They hadn't seen the connections, were they just not looking?
He sank into a hard plastic chair in the airport terminal and tried to relax. His cell phone ringing startled him and he grabbed it from his pocket.
There was no response.
"Hello? This is Fox Mulder, is anyone there?"
There was, but they didn't speak. Then the line went dead.
For some reason the hair stood up on the back of his neck. Something was off. Who would call him? Dee? He was surprised that it was her face that came to him so quickly but it felt right. Was she in trouble? Had that man who had frightened her so returned?
He searched his memory for the number at the diner, but he'd never called there. Shit. He quickly dialed Danny. "I need a phone number, Dano. The Hudson Deli on Pennsylvania."
As always Danny was on the spot and had a number for him instantly, "202-555-5353. Anything wrong?"
"I hope not. Talk to you when I get back." He broke the connection quickly. He dialed the diner and listened to it ring. It took five rings before someone picked up.
“Hudson Diner.” It was a woman, but not the one he wanted to speak with. It sounded like the other waitress.
“Is Dee there?” There was a hesitation. “This is Agent Mulder. Is this Ruby?”
“Oh, yes. Dee was here, but she was upset. She left early.”
“Upset? Did she say anything?”
“No, that one keeps to herself.”
“Do you have another number for her, an address?”
“I’m sure Hudson does, but he’s gone to the bank. Could he call you?”
Mulder looked up at the announcement. “They’re calling my flight now. I’ll call back. Tell Hudson what I need, please.”
“Sure. I hope you can help that poor little thing.”
Mulder broke the connection after quick goodbyes and took his place in line. His unease did not abate.
He tapped on the door. There was no answer. “Dee? Dee are you in there? It’s Fox Mulder. Are you okay?”
She opened the door cautiously. When she saw it was him and that he was alone, she lifted a trembling hand to her mouth. He saw the tears glistening in her eyes.
“Dee, what is it? What happened?”
She opened the door then and allowed him inside. She shut the door behind him, locking, bolting and chaining the door. He observed this, watching her as she moved away from the door, but also keeping her distance from him.
“I’ll be right back.” She stepped into the small bathroom and shut the door.
He looked around the small place. It was one room, barely a studio apartment. The place was furnished and from the looks of it, had been used hard for a long time. There were no personal items in sight.
The phone rang and the door to the bathroom flew open. She’d washed her face, but the terror in her eyes as she stared at the phone wasn’t something easily hidden. She made no attempt to answer the phone. After eleven rings, it went silent.
“Who’s stalking you, Dee?” he asked softly and she finally looked at him.
“How did he find me? What am I supposed to do?” The quaver in her voice drew him. He stepped closer to her, carefully, and let his hand lightly touch her shoulder. She didn’t draw away. Tears formed in her eyes again and he let his arms go around her.
After only a tiny hesitation, she allowed him to hold her. In seconds she was sobbing in his arms. They stood that way for several long moments. She started to relax, her sobs diminishing to hiccups, when the phone rang again. She nearly jumped out of his arms.
"Shhh. It's okay." He seated her on the worn sofa and moved in the direction of the phone.
He winked at her, then picked up the receiver. "Hello?"
A man's voice, slightly flustered said, "Sorry, wrong number," and was gone. Then Mulder casually leaned over and unplugged the phone from the wall.
He returned to the sofa then and took a seat beside her, not too close, but near enough to take her hand. "Can you trust me?"
She met his eyes and the fear was plain. "I . . . "
"I want to help you."
Miserably, she looked away.
“Please.” He touched her chin, turning her towards him. “Is it that man who came to the diner?”
“No.” She shook her head, pulling back from him. “I thought . . . he looked like him.”
“Is it your father?” he asked gently.
For the first time a quirk of a smile touched her lips. “No.” A horn blared in the street and she jumped violently.
“Does he know where you live?”
“I don’t know. He got my number.”
“Let’s get out of here.”
“I don’t have anywhere else to go.” She sounded defeated and weary beyond her years. “And no money to get there.”
“Come with me. Come on, pack a few things. I’m not going to let him hurt you.” When she didn’t move, he took her hand. “Let me help you.”
She searched his eyes and seemed to see something that relaxed her. She nodded slightly and rose from the sofa.
When she was through packing, he took her suitcase and led her to his car. He noted that there was nothing left in the apartment that could be traced to her. He placed the suitcase in the trunk next to his own, and opened the passenger-side door for her.
She was quiet, so he gave her the space she obviously needed. She did look around at his route, but it wasn’t until he parked in front of his building that she looked over at him. “Where are we?”
“My apartment. It’s a mess,” he grinned, “but no one will find you here.”
She didn’t comment, just let herself out of the car. She took her suitcase from him despite his protest and he led her into the building carrying his own. He had her precede him into the apartment and he looked around ruefully. “Told you it was a mess.”
She glanced up at him, a small smile on her face. His smile grew. “Come on, let’s put your stuff in the bedroom. The bathroom is over there.”
“There’s, there’s only one bedroom.”
He nodded. “No problem, I usually sleep out here. I need to change the sheets. Why don’t you get settled.”
“I’ll help you.”
They were quiet around each other, but she seemed to be less nervous when she rejoined him in the living room.
“I was going to order in some dinner. Do you have a preference?”
“I . . . no, anything. Mr. Mulder, I don’t have much - “
“Don’t worry about the money. I have to eat anyway.”
“I won’t be here long. I don’t want to - “
“Let’s not worry about that right now.” He handed her several take out menus and let her make her choice, then placed the order. She was looking around the room when he finished. He had straightened up while she was unpacking. There was room to sit on the couch and the coffee table had been cleared off.
“I need to make some tea, or would you prefer a beer?”
“Uh, tea would be fine. Can I help?”
“There’s not much to do. Why don’t you just relax, Dee.”
“Uh, Dee isn’t my . . . my name is Dana, Dana Scully.”
He nodded, “Thank you. How long has this guy been stalking you?”
She shuddered then and looked away.
“Listen, it’s okay. I shouldn’t push. I need to take a shower and change. Here’s my wallet. Just pay the guy when he gets here.” He removed his wallet from his inside jacket pocket and handed it to her.
She took it, but looked up at him. “You, you trust me with your wallet.”
He blinked at that. “Yeah. I do.” He gave her a grin and headed for the bathroom.
She watched him, not knowing what to say.
When he returned to the living room, he was wearing wash faded navy sweat pants and a gray t-shirt. He smiled to see her bringing his plate to the cleared off table. She motioned for him to sit and when he did, she positioned the plate in front of him.
“Where’s yours?” he asked. “You’re not supposed to serve me tonight. You’re my guest.”
She started to speak, then turned and got her own plate. “I made some tea.” She brought the pitcher with her to the table.
“I have a pitcher?” He grinned.
She looked down at the plate, but he could hear her soft laugh. He nodded to himself.
“Did . . . did your case go okay?” She watched in dismay as he straightened up, his face losing all trace of humor. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked. It’s none of my - “
“Hey, it’s okay. I . . . it was tough.” He managed a smile. “Not good dinner conversation.”
She nodded but seemed leery of him now. He sighed, “Dana, I’m sorry. I’m a profiler. It’s my job to get inside the head of the bad guy and figure out who he is and what he’s going to do next. This guy is really nasty. He takes women, tortures them . . . you don’t need the details. I’ve been working the case for a while. They thought they had another one, but I believe it was a copy cat. There are a lot of sicko’s out there.”
“And you’re supposed to find them?”
He shrugged and gave a crooked smile. “I’m kinda good at it.”
“But . . . it must be hard.”
“Sometimes it’s harder getting away from it. Makes me glad you’re here.”
She blinked at that and blushed faintly. He turned back to his meal, giving her a little space.
The rest of the meal was quiet, but not uncomfortable. They cleaned up together and she actually seemed to be having a good time. They each took a glass of tea back to the living room and settled on the couch.
“You know, this is going to be a short conversation if you can’t talk about yourself and I can’t talk about my work,” he observed as she got comfortable against the arm of the couch, curling her legs underneath her as though making herself as small as possible.
“How, how did you know it was me that called you?” She asked in a small voice.
“It was a feeling, like you needed me.”
She just stared at him for a long moment. “I know I should tell you . . . I don’t want you to be involved. It could be dangerous.” She studied her hands.
“You think this guy is worse than what I do on a daily basis?” he asked gently.
She glanced up, then away. “You shouldn’t have to help me too.”
“If I get a choice, I’d much rather help you.”
She looked up then, her eyes big and wet. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Get hurt? What had happened? She was terrified of this guy. What the hell had he done? “I feel the same way about you. I really would like to listen, if you can talk about it. I might have some ideas to help.”
Again she stared at her hands. “I made a stupid choice. It’s all my fault.”
“I’m not sure I believe that. We’ve all made choices we wish we could change.”
She didn’t look at him, but she nodded. “I went to medical school at USC. I did my internship in San Diego and then was tapped for the residency program in Chicago. That’s where . . .”
He’d gone quiet, medical school? He realized she'd always seemed out of place at the diner, not quite fitting in. Now he could see why. He found himself reassessing the trauma she must have experienced to be where she was now.
“I finished my rotation in pediatrics, emergency medicine and pathology. Then I started cardiology.” She went quiet then.
After a long moment he touched her hand lightly, “Dana?”
She sighed and looked at his hand touching hers. She didn’t draw away. Finally she took a deep breath. “The head of the department took an . . . interest in me. I don’t know why.” She fell silent again.
“Dana, you’re a beautiful woman. To get where you’ve gotten, you’ve got to be intelligent too.” She said nothing. “What were you ranked in your class?”
“I . . . “
“I was first.”
“I thought so.” She looked up then, startled. “Smart is sexy,” he said simply.
Now it was his turn to look startled. “Of course you are. But that’s not the issue here. Tell me what happened.”
“He paid me attention. I was flattered. He’s an internationally renowned cardiologist. I know now how naïve I was, but I never dreamed . . . He was a married man. He has a daughter my age. But he, he became obsessed with me.”
“Did you report him?”
She nodded, “They didn’t believe me. The police didn’t . . . They thought I was . . . “
“Leading him on?”
She nodded miserably. “He started being wherever I was, the cafeteria, the break room, he even came in the women’s locker room once. He was quiet when others were around, not really talking to me, just making sure I knew he was there. I started making sure I wasn’t alone if I could help it. So he started calling my apartment at all hours. My roommate . . . “ She stopped then and dashed a tear away. He handed her a tissue from the box beside the couch.
“My roommate was furious about it. She finally lost it over the phone with him. She told him she was going to report him, go to the police and the newspaper.”
Dana took a shaky breath. “She was hit by a hit and run driver. She lived, but her injuries . . . She’s had two surgeries already. She’ll need a least two more. She can walk, a little.”
No wonder she was scared. “Was he charged?” he asked quietly.
She shook her head. “He was questioned. They said his alibi checked out.”
“But you didn’t believe it.”
“The calls continued, increased and I know someone was in my apartment at least twice. I called the police again, but when I told them who I was reporting, they laughed at me.”
His eyes narrowed, but he wasn’t really surprised. A young woman like her, against a prominent citizen . . . Things needed to change, but what was supposed to happen in the meantime?
“I changed the locks, I changed my phone number to unlisted. It didn’t help. I couldn’t sleep, I was . . . I was a wreck.”
“What made you leave?”
She shuddered then and he wanted to pull her to him and keep her safe. Inappropriate, she’d think he was some sort of pervert.
“I came home and found a rose on my bed with a note, ‘You’re mine
and you always will be. Don’t forget it’.”
“I was terrified. My roommate was in the hospital. The police thought I was a troublemaker. My family was in California. They didn’t know what was going on. I . . . I thought I could handle it until . . . They don’t know where I am.”
“You didn’t call them.” It wasn’t a question, but it started the wheels spinning in his head. The bastard had been thorough. He handed her the glass of tea and she took it gratefully. The simple gesture seemed to center her again.
“I moved to another apartment, but he must have had me followed. He didn’t follow me. I made sure I came and went when he was in surgery or with a patient, but he found me in days. I came home and found the place ripped apart. There was a message on my machine, warning me not to try that again. That no matter where I went he’d find me because I belonged to him.”
Mulder’s hand touched hers again. She turned her hand to grip his.
“I left the next morning. I just drove. I didn't consciously come to DC. I have a brother in Cincinnati, but I didn't want him hurt, so I avoided there. I just ended up here, at the diner. I'd been there less than an hour when you walked in."
That startled him, he'd had no plans to go there that evening. He'd even driven past it, then turned around. He kept quiet, that might freak her out and he didn't want to do that.
“Is there a missing person report on you?”
She shrugged, “Probably. My parents . . . I’m sorry.” She turned away and wiped her eyes.
“Something else happened. Come on, Dana. Even running you would have called your family, reassured them.” She wouldn’t look up at him. “I’m not trying to interrogate you; believe me. I want to help and I need to know what sent you over the edge.”
He hadn’t thought she could look more frightened.
“I haven’t . . . there was something else, besides the rose.”
He tightened his grip of her hand. “You’re safe here.”
“There, there was a picture, one of those instant pictures on the bed with the rose. It . . . it was my little brother, Charlie, holding his new baby. Will is only a few months old. I had to leave, disappear. I couldn’t put them in danger.” She was shaking now and he pulled her to him.
They didn’t speak, he just sat letting his finger caress her hands until he felt her begin to relax.
She took a deep breath, "Now he's found me again. But how?" Her voice shook then and he decided to throw caution to the winds. Letting his arm go around her, he pulled her closer to him. She didn't resist, burying her face in his chest.
His hand rubbed her back, letting her cry. She needed the release.
When she started to pull back, he let her. “I’m sorry.” She wiped her eyes.
“Nothing to apologize for, Dana. Can you, you didn’t give me his name.”
She took a hiccupping breath. “Daniel, Dr. Daniel Waterston.” That seemed to drain the rest of her energy from her.
“You’ve been through the wringer. Why don’t you go get ready for bed? You’ll be safe here. There’s a lock on the bedroom door.”
She nodded, her breath hiccupping slightly. He rose and helped her to her feet. “There’re towels in the bathroom. If you need anything else, I either have it or can fake it, okay?”
She gave him the slightest of smiles. “Thank you,” she whispered, then looked down, away from his eyes. He stepped aside and she moved toward the bedroom.
He waited until she was in the bedroom, then got ready for bed himself. Not wanting to disturb her, he left the TV off and read for awhile until he got drowsy.
He’d been asleep a few hours when the nightmare came. He woke, breathing heavy, sweat slick on his chest. He glanced at the clock; better than most nights. He sat up and turned on the TV, the volume low.
He’d been watching less than half an hour when he heard her. He hesitated, then moved toward the door. Damn, she was moaning, crying. Should he go in? Hell, had she locked the door?
He tried the knob and opened the door quietly. She was fighting something.
“Dana? Dana, wake up.” She couldn’t hear him, deep inside the dream. He moved closer to the bed. He had to help her. “Dana.” Shit, she couldn’t hear him. He reached for her and touched her shoulder.
She shrieked, waking at his touch and scrambling away.
“Dana, Dana it’s Fox Mulder. It’s okay, you were dreaming. Can you hear me? It’s Mulder.”
Her breathing was ragged, but she seemed to recognize him now. She nodded shakily.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to frighten you, but . . .”
I’m . . . I’m okay.” She seemed to be calming down.
“I’ll get you some water.” He moved away from her, giving her space.
When he returned, he tapped on the door. “Come in.” He opened the door, extending the glass of water. She managed a shaky smile. “It’s okay, I won’t bite you.”
She sat up and pulled her robe to her from the foot of the bed and slipped it on. He handed her the water. “Do you think you can get back to sleep?”
She shook her head quickly. “I’m sorry I woke you.”
“You didn’t wake me. I was already awake; I had my own nightmare a little while ago.” He smiled ruefully.
She met his eyes then and saw that he was telling her the truth.
“I’m watching TV. If you’ve never seen Forbidden Planet, you haven’t lived.” He grinned.
“Forbidden Planet, huh?”
“You’re welcome to watch with me.” He held out a hand and after a moment she took it, rising from the bed.
She took the same end of the couch she’d had before and settled in, curling her legs under her, again making herself as small as possible. He leaned back, watching her and the TV. She was calming down and seemed to be enjoying the cheesy movie.
Before the movie ended, she had drifted off. He left her there, draping the afghan over her.
She woke to the smell of coffee a few hours later. She looked around and realized her host was in the shower. She’d slept. She’d actually fallen back to sleep after the nightmare. She rose, stretching, and poured herself a cup of coffee.
When he joined her, he was wearing a suit and tie. “Morning. How did you sleep?”
“Better than I’d hoped.” She gave him a slight smile and poured him a cup of coffee. “I’ll get ready. I don’t want to hold you up.”
“Hold me . . . wait, you don’t have to hurry. I thought you could hang out here, get some rest today. No one knows where you are, you could just relax, watch TV or something.”
“I missed work yesterday. I need to - “
“Dana, he got your number. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go back to the diner.”
“But I need the job.”
“Dana, you’re a doctor. You don’t need a job waiting tables in a diner. We’re going to get this straightened out. Just give me a little time - “
“No. He’ll hurt you. I just need to disappear again.”
He took hold of her shoulders then, forcing her to meet his eyes. “You do not need to disappear. You need to let me help you. It’s what I do. I’m a professional and I try to protect strangers day in and day out. Please let me protect someone I care about.”
She blinked at that. “You care . . . “
He stepped back then, realizing what he had said. “Look, I need you to trust me for a little while longer. Please, just hang out here. Let me do some investigating.”
She looked at him for a long moment, then finally nodded. “I can’t stay here long.”
“I’m not going to kick you out.”
She looked down then, studying her feet. “I know and I thank you. I do want to have my life back.”
“Good. Let the machine screen the calls today. You know how to reach me, any time.”
He stopped by the diner on the way home. Ruby approached him immediately. “Is she okay?”
Mulder moved her back, away from the door. “Yes, she’s okay. Has anyone been here, looking for her, asking about her?”
“Well, yes. A man came by. He didn’t seem to be looking for her especially; he just asked where the new little red-head was.”
“What did he look like?”
“Um, middle aged, balding. He’s eaten here a couple of times since she started.”
“Is that the first time he’s asked about her?”
“First time with me. I don’t even remember her waiting on him to be honest.”
“If he comes back, can you get a name for me? A license plate?”
“Is he the prick hurting Dee?”
“I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.”
Ruby looked up at him for a moment. “I’ve never seen you with anyone, Mulder. And I sure wouldn’t have picked Dee as your type, but you look after her, you hear?”
“I, uh, I will.”
She nodded. “Tell her I said hi when you see her.”
His apartment smelled good when he got home that evening. He stopped just inside the door and took a deep breath. He shut the door and glanced in the kitchen. “Dana?”
She came out of the bedroom and smiled at him.
“Did you go shopping?” he asked, puzzled.
“No, I haven’t left the apartment.”
He waved at the stove, “You twitched your nose?”
“No.” She grinned, “I found all of this stuff in your kitchen. I had to cut a little freezer burn off the chicken. You really should defrost more often.”
“It’s when you let the ice that’s built up in your freezer melt. You cook what’s in there or, in some cases, throw it away.”
“Oh, that kind of defrost.”
She laughed then. “Why don’t you go take a shower, change? Dinner will be ready soon.”
“Sounds like you’re waiting on me again.”
“Just welcoming you home.”
His smile faded as he met her eyes. “It, uh, it’s nice to be home.” He turned abruptly then and moved into the bedroom.
She just stood there, her cheeks burning.
He was effusive with his praise of her casserole. She finally threatened him with a glass of tea in the face to shut him up. They were laughing together as they cleaned up.
Settled for the evening, he looked over at her, curled into her regular place on the couch. The glint of gold caught his eye. He reached for it, but then stopped. “Sorry.”
“What?” She looked down and realized he was looking at the small golden cross around her neck. “This?” She touched it gently.
He nodded, “You always wear it.”
“Mom gave it to me years ago. She gave my sister one as well. You’re right, I never take it off. It’s . . . it’s a connection to home.”
“You could get in touch with them.”
“I will. I just want to make sure . . . Trying to get rid of me?” she asked lightly.
“No,” he answered immediately. “I’m working on this. I want you to try not to worry. Let me handle it.”
“I am,” she said softly, then took a deep breath. “So, what are we watching tonight?”
“Mulder.” He picked up the phone in his cubicle.
“It’s Ruby. Do you have a minute?”
“I sure do. Any news?”
“That guy was back. He was subtle, but he did ask about Dee again. Said his name was Randy but I didn’t believe him. He was driving an older Ford, Crown Vic, ’82 or ‘83 I think. He has Illinois plates.”
“Did you get a number?”
“Yeah, hold on.” He could hear paper rustling. “PKY 4133.”
“Ruby, you’re a doll. I’ll get back to you.”
“Just look after that little girl.”
“I promise. Talk to you later.” He broke the connection and had Danny on the phone in less than a minute. “Got a license plate for you.”
He had to knock on the door when he got home that evening. She opened the door a crack, then smiling, opened it fully. “Where have you been?” She was laughing now.
“The grocery store. I didn’t have a list, so no complaining.”
“Who me?” She took one of the bags and placed it on the counter to begin looking through it. “You know, I’m beginning to feel like a kept woman.”
“I don’t think I can afford a classy dame like you.” Without meaning to his finger traced the outline of her cheek. She looked down, but didn’t pull away. “Sorry, I . . . “
“So, since you’ve brought all this food here, I better figure out something to make with it.” The moment was broken and he realized he was grateful for her composure.
After dinner that night, they took their regular places on the couch. “I did learn something today.”
The smile on her face faded. “Is he here?”
“I don’t think so. But I believe you have been followed. A PI named Randy Summerlin has been by the diner three times asking about you. His car is registered in Illinois. Do you know the name?”
She shook her head.
“I’m thinking Daniel hired him. I have someone checking that out, but I don’t want to confront him yet. He doesn’t know about our connection and he does not know where you are. If you don’t mind, I’d like you to stay here until we have proof.”
“I owe you a lot.”
He smiled over at her, “I think we’re very nearly even.”
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.