Without A Trace - 5/? (PG-13)
It was after midnight when the bell over the door rang and a large, bald man with military posture entered the room. Ren glanced over at Red, she hadn’t wakened. He moved to the cell door and joined the other men, standing slightly behind them.
The bald man pulled out his ID and presented it to the sheriff. “Walter Skinner, we talked on the phone.”
“Yes sir. Can you tell me what’s - “
“Not at this time.” Skinner looked up at Mulder, giving him the once over quickly. “Are you okay?”
“Mostly confused. Am I a fugitive?”
Skinner blinked at that. No one had mentioned a memory loss to him. “Is Scully with you?”
“I was told a red headed woman - “
“Oh, Red, yes. She’s asleep.”
“She was shot.”
Ren watched the man jerk forward and glance immediately toward the holding cell Ren had indicated. Ren’s eyes narrowed.
“We need to talk.” Skinner turned toward the sheriff. “Do you have a room?”
“Uh, yeah, our interrogation room. It’s small.”
“That’s no problem. It will just be the three of us.”
“She’s asleep,” Ren protested.
“I don’t know how much time we have. We need to talk, now. We can’t leave her out of this. She’d skin us both alive.”
Again Ren’s eyes narrowed, but before he could speak, Red was at his side. Skinner’s eyes raked her and Ren’s arm went around her, staking his territory. Skinner looked down, then headed for the small room the sheriff had indicated. He opened the door for them and closed it behind them. He took a chair, and they sat across the table from him.
“Okay, I didn’t realize there was a memory problem, but it makes sense. You’re FBI agents, partners. Mulder,” he looked over at Ren, “you’ve been with the Bureau since you were recruited out of Oxford. You’re a Ph.D. in psychology. Scully, Dana, you’re a medical doctor, a forensic pathologist. You were assigned to Mulder six years ago.” He watched them absorb this information in silence.
“Your family is frantic.” The look of panic on both of their faces confused him and he watched her lean into Mulder.
“What family?” Ren demanded.
“Her mother, her brothers,” Skinner responded. He watched her eyes close and he realized it was in relief. “Look, I don’t know how much time we have.”
“Wait a minute. Time? What the hell is going on here? Were we - “
“You were taken, the two of you, by the conspirators you’ve been investigating. I’m not sure how you got free, but - “
“We don’t have time for this; I didn’t realize I’d have to explain everything. They’ve probably figured out where you are by now. That puts everyone in danger. We need to get out of here. Do you think you can trust me?”
“She needs to rest.”
“Ren, I can - “
“What did you call him?” Skinner interrupted.
“I call him Ren, short for Renard,” she explained.
“Renard? That, that’s French for Fox,” the bald man said, almost to himself.
“Uh, yes, I think so.”
“His name is Fox Mulder.”
“Fox?” Mulder sounded outraged.
“I didn’t name you. We can talk in the car. We’ve got to go.”
Mulder opened his mouth to protest but her hand on his arm stopped him. Skinner watched the byplay then rose.
“Mr. Skinner, could you tell us how Re-Mulder got his scar, on his shoulder?”
“Well, uh, you shot him.”
“I shot - !”
“It was to save him and it worked.”
“Sounds like you owe me, Red.” He grinned at her.
“Come on,” Skinner said from the door. “We need to get moving. You’ve really started something.”
Mulder opened his mouth to ask another question, but Skinner had walked out and was giving instructions to the sheriff.
“We need to go, Ren.”
“As long as you don’t call me ‘Fox’.”
She smiled then, “I promise.”
He grabbed up the plastic bag of toiletries the sheriff had supplied them and after quick thank you’s and goodbye’s ushered her out the door, following Skinner. They climbed into the car he had rented and pulled away.
“I’d like to take you to a safe house, but I’m now officially outside of Bureau territory. First I want to ditch this car.”
“Ditch - what, are you planning to steal a car?” Ren asked watching this man he had entrusted Red and himself to.
“Matter of fact I am. Rental cars have GPS systems in them now. They could track us by satellite.”
“You’re serious,” Red joined them from the back, leaning over Ren’s seat.
“I think we need to know a little more about what we’ve stepped in here,” Mulder’s sarcasm was strong now.
“You sure as hell do,” Skinner replied without taking his eyes from the road, but then fell silent. Ren looked back at Red who shrugged.
They pulled into the motel a couple of miles from the sheriff’s office and parked next to a similar car. Skinner took no time breaking into the car, grabbing his small bag from the original car. Again Red took the backseat, though she ignored Ren’s suggestion she try to rest.
Skinner pulled out and headed toward the highway.
“Mr. Skinner,” Red leaned forward again. “Please tell us about this conspiracy that’s done this to us.”
Skinner glanced back at her, then returned his attention to the road. “Yeah, I know.” He took a deep breath and still hesitated. “You two work in a division called the X-Files. It handles unsolved cases, cases that, that the Bureau doesn’t want to face.”
“Excuse me?” she asked quickly.
“Paranormal cases, unexplained phenomena . . . UFOs.”
Ren’s head slowly turned toward him. “What? Are you saying that I, that we, chase after little green men?”
“Gray,” Skinner said softly with a hint of a smile at his lips.
Skinner sighed. “Just let me tell it once. Someday you’re going to realize just how damn ironic this is.”
Mulder looked back at Red. She had finally given in and drifted off to sleep. That had given him the opportunity to question Skinner more closely.
“Okay, I’ve listened to you. I can tell you’re telling me the truth as you know it.”
Skinner opened his mouth to protest, but Mulder continued, “From what you’ve said I’m the kook, why hurt her?”
Skinner looked over at him, “They’ve used her before.”
Mulder tensed. “What do you mean?”
“Is she asleep?” Mulder nodded. “They’ve taken her at least three times. The first time she was returned in a coma and not expected to live. I still don’t know how she did.” He noted Mulder’s shiver but continued. “The second time you tracked her down and brought her back.”
Mulder just stared at him for a long moment. “You’re serious.”
Skinner nodded. “You don’t give her up. You’re the one that cured her cancer.”
“I cured cancer?” His voice rose slightly and he looked back to make sure she hadn’t been disturbed. “Is all this some elaborate leg pulling?” he finally asked.
Skinner shook his head. “No, but I don’t blame you for thinking that. I just wish you had your memories. You obviously found something. How are we going to protect you if we don’t know what you know?”
“Are you in touch with your office?”
“No. I can’t trust anyone there. Cancerman has access to everything.”
“You’re sure he’s involved?”
Skinner looked over at him, “Well, I’m sure your memory’s really gone if you’re asking me that. We need to find a safe place to hole up until I can think of something.”
Again Mulder looked into the back seat. “We’ll help.”
Skinner nodded. “I want us to disappear for now. Your pictures are on the web, the photo of the two of you in front of the cabin before it was destroyed. So we need to keep a low profile. I want a city, where we won’t stand out. St. Louis?”
“We’re in your hands.”
Skinner looked over at him and after a moment nodded.
Scully joined Skinner on the small balcony overlooking the parking lot. She walked over to the rail and looked up at him. “Thank you.”
He glanced down, surprised. “For what?”
She smiled then. “For taking all this time. I’m sure you didn’t expect to be facing this.”
“I didn’t know about the memory issue, but you’re that much more vulnerable because of it. I hope you don’t think I’m trying to rush you.”
“No. It’s more like we want to rush ourselves.”
He gave her a tight smile, but didn’t comment. They both turned to look out at the parking lot, quiet but not uncomfortable.
She looked down when she heard the door open below them. The new tenant stepped outside and the smoke from her cigarette wafted up toward them. Skinner felt Scully stiffen and he looked over at her. She had gone dead white. Concerned, he reached for her. She grabbed her head and swayed.
Skinner scooped her up in his arms and headed inside. “Mulder!”
Mulder stepped out of the kitchen and spotted them. “Red!” He moved to take her but Skinner was already carrying her into their bedroom. “What? What happened?”
“I don’t know. We were just standing on the balcony. It looked like she was in pain, then she collapsed.” He lay her gently on the bed and stepped back before Mulder could shove him.
“Red, Red can you hear me?” Her eyes were tightly shut and her face pale. “Red, please.”
Her hand came out and he took hold of it, but she kept her eyes closed. She didn’t speak.
“I’ll call 911.” Skinner reached for the phone.
“No,” she said faintly. The two men exchanged glances and Skinner stopped.
“Red, what happened?” Mulder’s voice cracked, and her grip on his hand tightened.
With an effort she opened her eyes and he could see the pain on her face. His free hand cupped her cheek.
“I’ll get her some water,” Skinner said, leaving them alone.
“Mulder, I . . . ”
His eyes widened. “You remember.”
She closed her eyes, but nodded slightly.
“What? What do you remember?”
Skinner joined them then, a glass of water in his hand. Scully looked up and met
his eyes. Mulder felt cold suddenly, not a member of the club. “Red?”
“I’m okay, just a headache.”
“I don’t . . . “ He gathered her to him, but she was stiff, not coming into his arms as she had since they had come to beside the tracks. She looked back over at Skinner who excused himself.
Mulder glanced back when he heard the door close. “Talk to me.”
She hesitated. “I’m sorry.” She moved slightly away from him and his brow furrowed.
“What is it you remember about us?”
She looked down and felt him stand. She reached for his hand. “We, we’re partners . . . “
“Partners.” His voice was flat, devoid of all emotion.
“No, we’re more than that, but we, we’re not . . . “ She glanced at the bed they had shared the last few nights.
“We’re not lovers.”
Color returned to her face in a blush.
“Don’t worry about it, Red. I’ll sleep out there.” His voice was distant, cool.
“Mulder - “
“Don’t worry about it.” He shut the door, leaving her alone in the bedroom.
Skinner was waiting for him. “She okay?”
“She’s fine.” Mulder didn’t look at him, moving past him to the living room.
Skinner watched him, then after a moment turned toward their bedroom. He knocked and waited for Scully’s response. “Scully?”
He gave her a grim smile. “So you do remember.”
She nodded. He looked back toward the living room. “What’s wrong with him?”
She glanced down at the bed, then back up at Skinner.
“I think we need to debrief,” she said quietly.
“Are you - “
“The sooner the better.” She rose and he took her arm. She didn’t resist.
“Mulder,” Skinner called to him. “We need to talk.”
“Do you really need me there?”
“Mulder, please. It’s to save our lives,” Scully said softly.
He looked at her, then away and took a deep breath. He sat at the table beside Skinner. She didn’t comment on the physical distance. She had forced the real distance between them.
“When did you realize we were missing?” Scully looked at Skinner.
“Not until Monday morning. We had no indication of a problem; you just didn’t show up for work.”
“Mulder and I were at my apartment Friday night - “
“Together?” Mulder interrupted. “Why?”
She hesitated, then decided to ignore Skinner’s presence. “We often get together outside of the office. We’re very close and . . . “
“Yeah, go ahead.” Mulder looked down and she sighed.
“We had finished eating and were watching a movie. There was a knock on the door and I answered it. It was the pizza man that regularly delivers to us, but we hadn’t placed an order. He stepped inside to use the phone and see where he should have been; at least that was his excuse. Once the door was closed he, he morphed back into the alien bounty hunter.”
“The what?” Mulder finally looked up.
“Bounty hunter. We’ve seen him before. He can look like anyone and we can’t tell. Once he turned himself into you and . . . We couldn’t fight him. I wasn’t armed and you couldn’t shoot because I was too close. He, his blood is green and toxic to humans. He’s strong and . . . “ She closed her eyes and Mulder lurched forward wanting to take her in his arms. He forced himself back and waited.
“He threw you into the door frame of my kitchen, stunning you, then he knocked you out. I’m not sure what happened then, but I was knocked out as well. The next thing I knew we were in one of their train cars.” She looked over at Skinner. “Remember when Mulder was missing and we found him in Blue Earth, Iowa? One of those cars, but we were both in the one car. They were dressed in biohazard suits, so I don’t know that I could identify any of them, but they don’t usually have identities anyway, do they?” her voice sounded bitter now and Mulder glanced up at her.
“I don’t know what they were doing. I don’t know why they took us.”
“Do you know where you were?”
She shook her head. “Just in one of the train cars. I could hear Mulder. He was struggling, screaming at them to leave me alone, not to hurt me.” She closed her eyes at the memory. “I was there, but I couldn’t move, I couldn’t . . . Then he was quiet, like a switch had been flicked. I was struggling but I couldn’t move. Then he was bending over me, Cancerman. Everything in the room was clean, sterile until he was there. The stench of him, from the cigarettes . . . that’s what brought my memory back. The woman downstairs’ cigarette . . . He moved away and I heard him say, ‘take it all’, then . . . I was lying on the ground next to the tracks and Mulder was bending over me.”
They were all silent for a moment. She could feel Mulder watching her and couldn’t meet his eyes.
“What were you working on? What case?” Skinner probed gently.
“It wasn’t even an X-File. We were looking at an older case involving missing children in Arkansas. We had done everything we could from DC and were going to ask you about flying down there the next week.”
Skinner nodded. “A cold case? Mulder dug it out and . . . “
They both turned to look at him. “What? I’m just sitting here taking up space.” His anger was barely contained.
“That’s not true. It will come back, it did for me. You understand better than either of us what’s going on. We need your help.”
He wanted to look away, but her blue eyes, the eyes that had shown him love until a short while ago held him. She hadn’t fallen out of love, whatever she remembered now it was still there. When he looked at her, really looked, it was there. She couldn’t hide it from him.
“Tell me about the case, the kids in Arkansas.”
Scully closed her eyes for an instant in relief, then nodded. “It started a few years ago. Children were taken, male and female, kept for three or four days, then returned. They didn’t remember anything, they were not molested. They were apparently drugged, but the lab tests were unable to identify the drug used.”
“Was everyone returned?”
Scully nodded. “That’s why it wasn’t given a higher priority. By the time the Bureau got involved they were already home. The file was sent down to the basement.”
“Where our office was, Mulder.”
Mulder looked between Skinner and her. “We were real popular, weren’t we?”
Scully looked down, but he saw her lips quirk. “Yes, real popular.”
Mulder looked over at Skinner who rolled his eyes. “Okay, keep going. Why did we decide to go see a case that was over?”
“Partially because it involved children. You, you have a weak spot . . . “
Mulder’s brow furrowed but he didn’t comment. Finally he looked between the two again. “So, what were we looking for?”
“Years ago, we had only been together about a year, we had a case in a small town in Wisconsin, uh, Delta Glen. We discovered that the children there had been treated with an unknown substance by their doctor. It had been going on for years. It was an experiment with a control group in the same town. That was the first time. Later we found another experimental group in South Carolina, children exposed to smallpox through a bee sting.”
“A bee sting?” he questioned.
“Yes, they were experimenting with bees as the delivery system of an alien virus.”
He opened his mouth to protest that, but she continued. “We know it worked and we know there was an alien virus. We know because I was stung, I got that virus and you saved me. You tracked me to Antarctica and, and you saved me.”
Mulder glanced over at Skinner who nodded slightly.
“Okay, I have a lot to remember. Did we suspect these kids had something done to them?”
Scully nodded. “You had a, a feeling that we should check into it.”
“A feeling? You were willing to go to Arkansas on my feeling?”
Scully looked over at Skinner as he chuckled. Her lips quirked. “Yes. We’ve gone out on your ‘feelings’ lots of times. It’s why you’re known as ‘Spooky’ Mulder. You see things, connections before the rest of us do.”
He huffed but didn’t say anything else.
“We need to know why you were looking at that case,” Skinner said.
“Did you know we were looking into it?” Mulder asked him.
Skinner shook his head. “You hadn’t approached me about it yet.”
“So how did this alien bounty hunter know we were investigating these kids?”
“Good question. Our offices could be bugged, or my apartment. We have them checked regularly but they’re bigger than we are,” Scully said, the understatement sounding tired.
“Mulder, wake up.” Her hand was cool against his face and without thought he reached for her. He remembered in time and pulled back. He watched her eyes close, but she stayed where she was.
He rolled to his side and threw his arm over his eyes. “What do you want?”
“You had a bad dream.”
He glanced over as he saw Skinner close the door to his room, then back at her.
“Sorry I disturbed you.”
“Mulder - “
“Go on back to your room - “
“I can’t sleep.”
That stopped him for a moment. “I’ll try to be quieter.”
“I was already . . . you didn’t wake me.”
He gave up then and sat up. “You need your rest,” he turned away from her wishing she would go ahead and leave already. Instead she settled beside him on the couch, she was close, too close. He shifted away and she moved with him. “Red, go back to bed.”
“It’s . . . lonely in there.”
“That was your decision. Remember, we’re not lovers,” his voice was harsher than he meant it to be, but the words were out there now.
“We’d never made love, but we were lovers, Mulder.”
He glanced down at her, startled. “What?”
“I know you love me. I’ve known for a long time; I realize that now.”
He remained silent, not knowing what to say anyway.
She continued, “and I love you. It’s the only explanation for the things we’ve done together, the depth of - “
“Only explanation? Don’t get too romantic, Red.”
Her blush sent a flood of regret through him, and without thinking his arm went around her. She had stiffened but now relaxed back against him. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t - “
“No, Mulder. We’ve always been in opposite roles, since we met. I’m the one with fear of commitment, fear of letting myself get involved with you.”
“History. I’m not very good with long term relationships.”
“Skinner says we’ve been together - “
“Six years, almost seven. And in that time we’ve been separated, forced to work with other partners. We always find our way back to each other.”
“Did I really find you in Antarctica?”
She nodded, her eyes moist. “Yes and even after all this time I can’t believe what you did to rescue me.”
“Do you love me?”
She looked up at him, “I said - “
“You said it explained our ‘relationship’. Do you love me?”
She took a trembling breath. “Yes.” It was soft but he heard the truth behind it.
He closed his eyes and drew her closer, resting his head on hers. They sat that way for awhile, then Scully sat up. Reluctantly he released her. “Come to bed?”
“In there?” he asked.
She nodded. He rose and held out his hand. She took it and they headed for the bedroom they shared.