Title: Light Series - The Collector's Edition
Author: Nicole Mason
Disclaimer: Scully, Mulder, Skinner, Lone Gunmen, and other characters that appear on the show are not mine. They are property of C.C., 1013 and whoever else has legal claims to them.

Author's Note: Introduced in the Light series, and hopefully kept as interesting but minor players, are two characters by the names of Dani and Jed. They are part of a completely original piece that I had been working on and somehow they ended up in this universe. Their story has morphed somewhat so they would fit in better in the X-Files realm. The story was started as an X-File only, but ... Well, Mulder and Scully got away from me again and did their thing, turning this into a completely sappy romance. With Cold is the Light and the MSR already established, I tried to focus once again on the investigation part and in the process, generated the largest piece of fiction or non-fiction I had ever written. After breaking that first 100 page barrier, a story now seems almost short if it is less than that. Light: For Reasons Unknown is the third in the series and is mostly in the romance realm.

Enjoy.


The night was clear as they headed toward northern New Mexico. He and his passenger were quiet, one was sleeping and the other was content with the silence. His hand reached across the small space separating them to run his fingers down her cheek. He reluctantly pulled his hand away. 'I love her so much,' whispered in his mind.

She hadn't really been sleeping when she felt his touch. She stayed quiet though, savoring the small caress. "What was that?" For a moment he panicked. Had he said it out loud?

Play dumb. "What?"

"There was a flash of light."

"What light?" He looked in the direction she pointed, his earlier panic forgotten. Were they being followed?

Another flash of blue-white fire burst to life right in front of them. He could hear her short strangled gasp as he lost control. He blinked repeatedly trying to restore his night vision. Too late, he saw the trees looming before them.


"Mulder?" The thud followed by the muffled 'ouch' led her toward her partner. "So you are here," she said to the figure that was rubbing the back of his head. "What were you doing?"

"Besides trying to give myself a concussion, I dropped one of the slides," he explained and put said object into the wheel case.

"Oh, boy. A slide show. Do I have to worry about losing my lunch?" He frowned at Scully's lack of enthusiasm.

"You're the one that likes to cut into dead, decomposing bodies for fun," he reminded her. "This is Captain Zachary Towers." Up flashed the image of an Air Force Captain in dress uniform. The rough-hewn features were devoid of any sign of emotion. "He resigned from the Air Force about 18 months ago. After he lost one of his planes. He was not held accountable for the loss even though he couldn't explain exactly what had occurred." Mulder paused and waited for Scully to respond.

"That usually doesn't happen." Planes were expensive. Loosing one without a good explanation and not receiving some form of disciplinary action was not normal. "How'd he lose the plane?"

"The only thing I could find out so far, was that the engines failed during maneuvers. Everything else was classified."

"O.K. so why am I staring at a picture of a normal man, instead of a wrecked aircraft?" Though I wouldn't mind staring a bit longer, she thought. Nice eyes.

"Because Agents Zach Towers and his partner, Jennifer Ade were on their way from Carlsbad to a town in northern New Mexico to retrieve a suspect when their plane went down two days ago."

There was more she knew, but Mulder had fallen silent. "So...? What?" He stayed quiet and she couldn't resist. "Are we supposed to investigate the guy's recent bad luck with aircraft?"

He snapped out of his internal musings and smiled. "No. We're supposed to check out the reports of large flashes of blue-white light, only seconds apart yet miles away from each other, that accompanied the crash and the subsequent disappearance of two DEA Agents." He triggered the next photo. It was an white oblong blur along the starry background. "And no, it wasn't lightning."

"Definitely not lightning," she agreed. Yes the photo was fuzzy, but not that fuzzy. Mulder clicked to the next slide. Tower's partner, she figured. It was a police academy graduation pose with her family. The woman was towered over by three men, father and two brothers by the looks of it. All were in different law enforcement uniforms.

"Agent Ade's family is heading the search party for the two. They've found the plane, but no sign of Ade or Towers. And..."

As if the non-lightning wasn't enough, Scully thought as she saw Mulder's smile. "And?" she waited for the punch line.

"And she had a Missing Time episode as a child."

"How do you find these things out?" she murmured and mentally reviewed her list of things to do before they left for New Mexico.

She laughed at the smile slowly forming on her partner's full lips. "I have my ways." The suggestive undertone sent a shiver through her that she attributed to the draft always present in the basement office.


It was pitch black now. She couldn't see anything. The only comfort she could find with that fact was their pursuers wouldn't be able to see either. Fear and hunger knotted her stomach painfully. She tried to remember how long it had been since they ate. Oh, well, she couldn't do anything about that right now. Their pack was out there somewhere, but she couldn't leave to find any food, just yet. She placed her hand over her partner's heart. He was breathing steadily, but it was shallow, so shallow. She carefully groped for his hand and held it. She gnawed at her bottom lip. She would have to wake him for a few minutes. He probably had a concussion, as well as the long scratches in his leg. Then she would have to find that pack. Hopefully he had a change of clothes in it. His present ones were stiff from his encounter with the small creek.


Scully stepped gingerly out of the cab of the small pickup. She'd been grateful at the airport, when they had been shown a vehicle that wasn't a Taurus. Even when Mulder had said, "We're in New Mexico. Again. But at least this time, I haven't been shot by my partner." with a wry twist on his lips. Now she wished it was a Taurus. The last hour had been a lesson in bad shocks and worse cushioning. For a supposed four wheel drive, the truck had lacked the luxury seen in the commercials. The plane was a little to the left of center in the small clearing. Several small tents were already in evidence as well as a fully equipped rescue truck. She recognized the man walking toward them from the picture Mulder had shown her yesterday. Joseph Ade looked a little older than the photo, but still appeared to be able to handle the bad guys.

"Agents Mulder and Scully, sir," Mulder told the bear-like man in front of him. He held back the wince at the overly forceful hand shake. He realized it wasn't a test when Scully discretely flexed her fingers after her introduction.

"You two every to any SAR?" he asked as he walked toward the large overhang set up by the plane.

"SAR?" The man's face hardened at the question.

"Search and Rescue. Tracking?" he supplied.

"Not search party tracking. No," Scully said, dropped her pack at her feet and shivered. There wasn't snow, yet, but the temperature and clouds were suggesting it.

"Then what are you doing here?" he growled and turned to snarl at them. "If you don't know what you're doing, you'll only slow us down. Jenny and Towers don't have a lot of time left." Scully's heart twisted at the look of anguish etched into the man's face.

"Sir, we're here to look into what caused the crash. We won't interfere with the search for your daughter." She tried to reassure the man without telling him Mulder's alien theory. He nodded and turned away from them abruptly. The radio at his waist was squawking.

"Pops. we found one of Jenny's signs. It looks like one of them may be hurt." Both Mulder and Scully could here the worry in the disembodied voice.

"How far, Jeff?" The man's knuckles were white around the black rectangle.

"Three miles, south-southwest of the crash. Have John bring his men down this way to focus the search." There was a pause before the voice continued, "Pops, it looks like the sign was left sometime yesterday morning."

"Understood, Jeff. Give me the co-ordinates and I'll have John rendezvous with you." The big man's tension did not ease as he relayed the message to John's party. There hadn't been any other sign in more than 24 hours. But they had been alive 24 hours ago.

"What was the sign?" Ade's head shot up at Mulder's question.

"Longtime ago, I taught my kids how to survive off this land. But I also tried to teach them how to ask for help when they needed it. Jenny was stubborn. She never would ask. Any sign found at all would mean she needed help." The man's eyes were tortured as he looked at nothing. After a few moments, he snapped out of the small trance. "You're looking into the crash?" he asked. Mulder nodded, but before he could speak, Ade was talking again. "FAA's already been here. So has the military." Scully blinked at that. "They only found signs that Towers was flying too low and snagged some trees. He kept his head enough though to pull back from a head-on collision with one and limped it here. Helluva landing, too. There's barely enough room to set a chopper down, let alone land a twin engine."

A battered pickup drove into hearing range. A few minutes later a tired woman could be seen behind the wheel. As she got out of the cab, Ade walked over to her. "You can't do anything here, Sara." Scully winced at the roar. This guy did not know how to speak in a normal tone.

"Well I can't do anything in Albuquerque either, Joe. At least now you won't have to call me when you find them." She patted the big man's cheek and started unloading gear.

Scully watched the interactions of the two for a moment. Ade hadn't been too upset by the woman's appearance. It wasn't his wife. She wasn't sure how she knew that, maybe it was the body language. She looked around for Mulder as she shook herself out of her musings. He was staring at the wheels of the plane.

"This thing didn't land Scully. It was placed here." He crouched down to get a closer look.

She was going to disagree. She looked at the ground to point out the plane's path. There was none to speak of. Ten feet of brake path would not have been enough to slow down a plane going fast enough to be airborne.

"You're right, Mulder." She paused in confusion. "Well that explains why the military was here."

"Scully I think you just jinxed us." She whipped her head around to follow Mulder's gaze. Three soldiers had just driven up in a jeep. One stayed behind the wheel, as the other two headed toward them. Scully groaned at their determined looks.

"Behave, Mulder."

"Hey, it's me, Scully." She shook her head in despair. That's why she was worried.

"Yeah, just don't get us shot. O.K.?" His grin widened as he stood up, rubbing his hands together.

"What are you two civilians doing here?" A lieutenant, presumably, demanded.

"FBI," Mulder said and reached for his ID. His hand slowed down as the other soldier fingered his rifle. "Agent Mulder. And this is Agent Scully." The lieutenant frowned at the valid ID.

"We weren't informed about your presence, Agents. May I ask why you're here?"

"We're investigating reports of several witnesses that claim they saw blue-white flashes of light about the same time the plane went down." Scully mentally groaned at Mulder's attitude. Here we go again.

"Lightning? Or UFO's? This is the area for it, right?" Both soldiers were now sneering.

"Yes, it is." Mulder then proceeded to describe in detail several abduction stories that had all occurred within 100 miles.

Scully tuned him out and studied the ground again. The frosts so far had hardened the ground enough that deep impressions hadn't been made in the soil There was blood on both sides of the cockpit's windshield. They probably both had concussions. And by the mangled looks of the pilot's door, there may be a few other injuries.

Two injured people and yet the only sign so far had been 3 miles from where the plane was.


He still wasn't completely coherent when she tried to wake him, and body temperature was low to the touch. She had struggled to get the dry shirt on him. His pants had not been wet, thankfully. She had probed at the scratches and they didn't seem that deep. She'd have to wait until morning to actually see them.

They had water now, thanks to the earlier voyage outside of their hideout. After several hours, there had been no further signs of pursuit. She had ventured out of the cave into a world of shadows. She had found the pack at the bottom of the hill, inches from the creek. The reflectors on the side of the pack had helped her locate it. Was that how they had been so easily followed? It didn't matter anymore. She could get him into some dry clothes and the two survival blankets would help hold off the cold. Plus there had been several Powerbars. Gross, but edible.

Her patient mumbled. She lowered her ear to his mouth trying to understand the low murmurings. 'I won't let them get you.' She didn't know who he was talking about. Had he seen who was chasing them? The minutes after the flash of light were fuzzy. She remembered biting her lip to keep from screaming, then yelling her partner's name. An eternity later, he had been running, pulling her behind him. She was clear from that point on. He'd tripped when he swung back to check on her. He'd lost his balance and gone over the side. Not far, but far enough to land heavily. She'd scrambled down the side to him. Blood and ice water had covered her hand as she checked his head.

She had heard movement above them and she searched around frantically. A deeper darkness could be seen from the level they were at. She'd practically dragged him to it after checking for current residences. It wasn't very big or deep. But it would protect them from the elements and hide them from their pursuers. So far, it had done its job.

Tears gathered, but she refused to let them fall. In no time at all he would be back to his old sarcastic self. She really wanted to hear him spouting off something about aliens, or werewolves, or vampires. Hell, mutant sewer slugs would be a welcome topic.

Maybe if he were awake, she'd even find the courage to admit her love for him.


Mulder and Scully sat outside their tents and watched as the sky darkened. Joe Ade smiled tensely as Sara handed him a cup of coffee. Several other people from the search parties had wandered into the base camp. Jeff and John Ade were still about four miles away setting up their own sites. The three soldiers had been joined by three more and sat at their own campfire away from the others.

"Are you going to ask Ade about the Missing Time?" Scully asked softly, staring into the flames.

"Yeah." Silence fell again for a few moments. He reflected on how close they were sitting to each other, but realized the need as a gust of wind made the temperature drop about twenty degrees. "Mr. Ade, may I ask you a few questions?" Mulder checked to make sure no one, like the soldiers, could overhear them. Ade shrugged, but didn't say anything. Physically, the man was about three feet away. Mentally, he was out there with his daughter. "There was mention in the file about your daughter disappearing before." The older man nodded. Mulder was about to ask another question when Ade spoke.

"Yes. She was about nine at the time." Mulder swallowed. That would have been about the same time Sam disappeared. "Her mother had just died. Jenny was confused and scared. She ran away. It was only for a day. It was the longest day in my life until now."

"Where did she go?"

Ade shook his head. "She didn't remember. We were living near Silverton, Colorado at the time. Her mother and she would always take long walks into the mountains. I figured she went to one of their places to grieve. I was so relieved when she came back that I didn't press for more information. The only thing she ever said about it was that 'Mom's happy, Pops. She'll miss us. But she'll watch over us until we can join her.' I had forgotten about that."

The big man fell silent. Mulder didn't want to further intrude on the man's grief, so he remained silent as well. A little while later, he had Ade show him how to get to the witness's homes. He groaned mentally as he saw it would be easier to walk the eight or ten miles than to take the rented truck. Following roads would take twice as long, maybe longer.

Everyone else crawled into tents and sleeping bags a few hours later. Mulder was on a different time zone and still couldn't sleep. He sat up by the dwindling campfire, shivering. He would be able to think just as well in the sleeping bag and tent, but then he wouldn't be able to see the stars. He stared at them for quite awhile, wondering if Sam was up there.

Exhaustion finally drove him to find the warmth and lumpiness of his temporary bed.


"The ranch is about three more miles, Mulder. I don't want to spend all day in the cold. Let's go," Scully ordered to a gasping partner. The altitude was effecting both of them, leaving them winded. "It's downhill," she cajoled.

"Yeah, but it'll be uphill on the way back," he grumbled. It was too late to change his mind about driving to the sites. They finally arrived at the main house of the ranch, and were told to look for Joshua Gallagher in the barn. Inside was a lean individual that looked up in annoyance at their arrival.

"Yes, I'm the one that phoned in the report. Josh Gallagher."

"Could you tell us exactly what you saw?" Mulder was trying very hard to control his excitement.

"It was about 7:00 pm. I was headed over here to check on my sick stallion. There wasn't a cloud out, yet I saw a flash of light. It *wasn't* lightning. I've lived out here all my life. I know what lightning looks like. Anyway, this flash of light was just a little bit above the treeline. I thought it was a jet until the second flash. It was way too low to be a jet, but too fast to be a smaller craft."

"How long did the flash last? What was the shape? Were you aware of time passing?"

Gallagher shot Scully a look, asking about Mulder's seriousness. At her impassive face, he answered. "It was a flash. I had barely noticed the light before it was gone. I suppose it was spherical in shape. It didn't last long enough for me to do more than see it. And as I said, only a few seconds passed until the next flash. I didn't think anything of it until I heard about the plane that went down the next morning. That's when I called in with the location."

"Has this happened before?"

"You mean flashes of light that accompany plane crashes?" He smiled at Mulder's unappreciation of the comment. "No it doesn't happen often. Maybe never before. A plane went down about five years ago, but that was during the day."

"What about missing cattle?"

"Now are you asking about aliens, Agent Mulder?" The man's tone sounded like he was speaking to a child. And since he appeared to be only a few years older than Mulder, it wasn't taken in stride. He really hated when people acted that way.

"Yes. I am," Mulder stopped himself before he snarled.

"No. The only cattle I've ever had turn up missing was due to a coyote. And there hasn't been that many over the years." Gallagher continued to care for the horses as he spoke with them. After several more minutes of questioning, they left for the other witness's place. A teenager working with his telescope had taken the picture that had found its way into the FBI basement.

A mile and a half later, they were at the next stop. The 17 year old had been more than happy to stay at home to talk with them instead of going to school.

"Well sir, I had the camera aimed at a constellation. Just before the timer went off, I lost my balance and hit the stand. I developed the film the next day at school and was confused about the shape of the lighted object until I heard about the plane crash from my dad. We gave a copy of the picture to a friend of his. He said he'd get it to the right people. I guess he did." The teenager shrugged as he finished the story.

"But what did *you* see?" He shook his head at the urgency he heard in Mulder's voice.

"Well, I saw a flash in that direction, that's why I lost my balance. I was trying to see what it was. It was weird when I saw the picture, 'cause it was the same thing. But the camera had been aimed at a different direction."

Mulder was quiet for a moment and then asked, "Could you take us to the spot in the picture?"

"Sure." The young man's eyes lit up at the prospect of no school for the entire day. "It's not that far."


It was getting colder. No snow yet, but the brief foray to the opening didn't look promising. There was no longer any light from the stars. He still wasn't responding completely when she tried to wake him. But then that was typical of her partner. The man never was totally awake until after a shower and at least two cups of coffee. She wasn't worried about water now, but food was still beyond scarce. She shivered again. She made her way over to her partner. They were protected from the wind, but hypothermia was still a possibility. She crawled between the survival blankets and wrapped her arm around his chest. He would never know, so she rested her head on his shoulder. She stayed awake for a long time just feeling him breathe. Eventually the beating of his heart under her ear lulled her to sleep.


"Tony are you sure this is the spot?" Scully looked around at the small clearing in confusion. It was absolutely quiet and undisturbed. He nodded and pointed to the jagged ledge in the background.

"You can see that in the picture, behind the plane."

Mulder stared carefully at the 8x11 he held in his hand. "Yes, vaguely. This is the spot, Scully." He looked around for charring, swirling patterns in the grass, broken tree limbs higher up. There wasn't anything but a quiet glade.

Tony stood off to the side now and watched as the two FBI agents circled the small clearing. Lustful thoughts of the female agent entered his head. He couldn't see anything of her figure in the bulky coat she was wearing, but he could imagine it. He flushed guiltily as Mulder caught his eye. A hard glint had entered the man's gaze, a look Tony recognized as saying "She's mine." He cautiously walked over to Mulder when he motioned for Tony. He looked at the ground to where Mulder was pointing.

"Been here recently?" Tony shook his head at the question. Mulder then called, "Scully!"

"What is it?" she asked and squatted down to look at the object half hidden in the underbrush.

"Part of a tire, I'd say." A eight inch chunk of poly(styrene-co-butadiene) laid silently in the leaves. Leaves were imbedded in the rubber where it had melted and then cooled. "Shall we?" he asked courteously and pulled a plastic bag from one of the pockets of the small backpack.

"Let's," she agreed in the same courtly tone and added a smile.


The trek back to the camp was uneventful. Clouds hung heavy on the horizon, casting long shadows. They arrived just as the soldiers were leaving. The plane was still there and probably would be for a couple of days.

The lieutenant walked over to them and asked, "Find your aliens, Mulder?" The words and the tone were sarcastic, but an underlining intensity in his eyes suggested he was serious.

"No," he tried to sound realistically disappointed. By now the lieutenant had been briefed on who Mulder and Scully were. He caught Scully's eye and they laughed silently together. "No aliens yet, but the day's still young." The lieutenant smirked and walked over to his jeep. Looking decidedly smug, the soldiers drove off.

"Well, we don't have to worry about them any more."

"Don't jinx us, Mulder." He grinned at the comment and headed towards Joe. Just by looking at the man, he could tell they hadn't been found yet. He asked anyway, "Any more signs?"

Joe shook his head. "My oldest, John, is concentrating north and west of the last sign. Jeff and his team are combing the south and east. I don't understand it. There are no tracks. Jenny's good, but she would have realized we'd be looking for her."

"Could she be hiding?" Mulder looked closely at Scully. What was she asking?

"No. They haven't seen signs of anything except animals, and the one they found yesterday." Joe hung his head wearily and walked away.

Mulder motioned toward the plane. Scully carefully inspected the wheels. One was missing a large chunk of rubber. They couldn't see how much was missing because the plane rested on part of it.

"A sample is only going to show it's the same type of rubber," she warned.

"It's better than nothing." She silently agreed and watched as he removed part of the tire and put it in a different plastic bag.

"You want to head out tonight, or wait until morning?" Mulder watched the small stream of people as he thought about Scully's question. Apparently the Ades had a lot of friends willing to help with the search. He and Scully really couldn't do anything to help, so he was leaning toward leaving. The only problem was if they did leave now, he wouldn't be able to talk with the two people right away. If they were found. It was now four days. The odds weren't in their favor.

"Let's get this looked at. The university can do it, right?" She shrugged and walked away. Mulder watched her for a moment, not quite sure what he'd said wrong.


He wasn't as cold as he knew he should be. Slowly the reason why registered. His partner was using him as her pillow. He smiled softly and smoothed his hand down her hair. He couldn't see the color, but he could feel the cool fire.

His head hurt, his leg hurt, and his stomach felt like it was about to eat through his lungs. He wouldn't change his position right now for the world. It was so rare that he allowed himself to touch her. The only times he slipped were when she was asleep. Several stakeouts and football games came to mind. He wrapped his arms around her and thought about the last couple of hours. So much of it was blurry. Yet so much was clear. He did remember the crash. He remembered grabbing a pack, her hand, and then running. He also knew that he had fallen, which explained the headache and sore leg.

He felt her stirring in his arms, yet he didn't loosen them. He wasn't ready to let her go. He wasn't sure if they were going to get out of this alive. O.K., that was a slight exaggeration. There was probably a search party looking for them, but he didn't know how far they were from the crash, and if it started to snow.... She was mumbling his name. He knew he was the one that started it, yet hearing her call him by his last name sometimes felt like she was putting a distance between them. Time for a change.

She blinked at the low rumbling above her head. He was awake. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I've fallen down the side of a mountain." Her smile was full of relief at the smartass comment. He was definitely feeling better, then.

"Well, you did, you idiot." His grin now turned sheepish. She realized that she hadn't moved from her resting place. She tried to sit up and was hindered by the strong arms still around her. "Let me up." It didn't sound like an order, nor did it resemble a request. His arms remained where they were. Slowly he shook his head. She looked at him a bit confused. The confusion faded as his hand tunneled under her hair to the nape of her neck. Slowly his thumb massaged the sensitive skin. He pulled her up his chest a little until their faces were even.

"I love you," he said with all of the emotion the phrase deserved. He could see she was stunned by the statement. Maybe he had hidden behind the facade of a friend too well. "I love you," he said again and pulled her down to meet his lips. He tried to watch her reaction as contact was established. He relaxed and closed his eyes at the sigh that had escaped her. Softly, so softly he molded their lips together. There was no way he was going to rush this. Not when she was relaxing into his chest and framing his face with her hands.

She opened her mouth over his. She had dreamed about this. The type of dreams that were so vivid you were a little embarrassed the next day when you saw the object of your dreams. But this was better than her dreams. His taste was dark and smoky. She had thought it would be, but she hadn't quite captured the exact essence of it. Now she would have memories instead of dreams. He was going too slow. His tongue was gently circling her lips, lightly probing just inside of them. She opened her mouth wider to give him better access. She moaned softly in disappointment when he didn't take it. Well there was one way to solve that problem.

His hand tightened in her hair and at her waist as her tongue moved deeply into his mouth. She played with the edges of his teeth and explored at will. He wasn't going to stop her from it. No, he was going to encourage her. His hand moved up and down her back, moving the shirt with it. He felt her leg move over his thigh to rest between his legs. He sucked in a breath as her hip pressed against his growing erection. He felt her smile against his mouth and joined her in the sheer joy of the moment.

She sighed in relief as he took control of the kiss. Good, she had other things she wanted to concentrate on now. She moved one of her hands down his chest, flexing her fingers into the hard muscles. His hand had worked its way up under her shirt. She felt the calluses of his gun hand abrade the silk of her camisole. Such frilly underwear, she knew, but it had always made her feel good to wear such things under her work clothes. He twisted them, so that he was the one lying half on top of her. She had a moments thought for his sore leg. He didn't complain or even wince, besides if he was in pain because of it, they would have to stop. And she didn't want to stop. She felt his palm moving up the outside of her ribcage. Gently he cupped her breast in his palm and started to massage the aching globe.

He felt her pull away from his mouth and arch further into his palm. He always marveled how a woman could be soft and firm at the same time. But the proof was in his hand. He ran his thumb over the hardening peak and felt a similar reaction in his groin. He sat up and quickly helped her do the same. Before she could ask a question, he quickly pulled her shirt and the sexy emerald silk over her head, trying to avoid the cold of the air around them. He sealed their mouths again and settled his chest over hers. Slowly he moved his whole body against her, luxuriating in the soft resilience of her skin. He trailed his lips along her cheek to her ear. He smiled at the small shivers he conjured from her and moved down her neck. He needed to taste her.

She arched her back and gasped as she felt his hot, wet mouth tug at her aching breast. She tunneled her hands under his shirt and then ran them up and down his back. She wanted him to take it off, but she wasn't willing to give up the feeling of his mouth on her. His mouth was moving insistently over her flesh. She dug her nails into his waist trying to hold on. She wanted to pull him to her. But he was moving further down her torso. Her breasts were aching at the loss of his attention, but the rest of her was now screaming in anticipation. He was undoing the buttons of her jeans. While he was distracted with the stubborn material, she attacked his shirt. He pushed the jeans passed her hips as she arched up to help. At the same time, she moved the shirt down his arms. His entire weight rested on her for a second as he removed the shirt from around his wrists. The denim of his jeans was coarse against the softness of her inner thighs.

He moaned as she shifted her legs along side his making room for him between them. His fingers flexed in the roundness of her hip and pulled her into his heat for a moment. She almost growled as she moved against his hardness trapped behind the clothing barrier. He moved his hand around her hip to her waist. He lowered his head again to worship her breasts and slowly trailed his fingers lower. His heart rate doubled at the heat and moisture he encountered. He couldn't help it. He started moving against her thigh, just to feel a little of the friction his body was crying for.

"We can't." He could barely understand her, her breathing was so ragged. She gulped in a couple of lungfuls of air as his hand froze. He knew she wanted him. The proof was drenching his fingers. Slowly he flexed them. His smile was almost savage as she moaned and arched into the sensation.

"Why not?" The words were low and said against her neck.

Why not? her mind echoed. She loved him and had wanted this for a long time. Why not? She wanted to feel his flesh inside of her. She wanted to feel him exploding inside of her. That's why not. "No protection," she managed to say. Her hands were clenched in his hair and held him close as his teeth caught a nipple. It was painful for just a split second, then his tongue eased the small hurt.

"You're not on anything?" She shook her head wildly.

"There hasn't been a reason." She had to touch him. He was straining against her thigh inside of his jeans. She reached to lower the zipper. There were other ways.

"Yes," he urged as her hands hesitated. His fingers were dancing over her damp flesh, teasing her as they flicked and tugged, tangled and plunged. Her hips surged upward seeking more of it.

"But..." She gripped his belt loops trying to anchor herself.

"My wallet," he managed. Then he groaned as her fingers attacked the zipper and relieved some of the pressure on his throbbing erection. He plunged his tongue into her mouth in time with the movement of his fingers.

She was almost mindless now. She needed his weight on top of her. She moaned into his avid mouth as his heat filled her hands. Satin and steel. She could feel his heart beat as it echoed through his erection. Her thumbs massaged in strong counterpoint to his fingers that were stretching her. He pulled back after a few moments. She gasped in disappointment.

He sat up and pushed the jeans out of his way. He winced slightly as the material pulled at the raw flesh of his sore leg. Fumbling, he reached for the pack and got the small foil object out of his wallet and ripped it open. They were both breathing heavily. She couldn't see what he was doing, but she could feel. With her hands covering his, they applied the latex. Her back was chilled now, but she knew it would only be so for a few more seconds. He shifted and placed a hand on the inside of her thigh.

She laid back and reached up to tangle her fingers in his hair. She moaned into his mouth as he guided himself to her center. "Are you ready?" he asked, his voice hoarse, as he paused at the hot, wet entrance. She forced her eyes open. She could imagine what his eyes looked like right now. Intense. Burning. Her dreams had played these images enough. She would have to wait until next time to see how accurate she'd been. She arched upward to answer his question. Slowly she felt his hard, hot flesh parting her, sinking deep into her welcoming core.

Her eyes closed and her head dug into the pallet. It was good, so good just having him inside of her. Finally. But after a few moments it wasn't enough. She couldn't stop as her hips began moving. Internal muscles first contracting, and then the external muscles started rotating in a small circle.

His hand burrowed under her to pull her closer. His lips found a spot under her ear as he started moving. At first the rhythm was slow. He'd pull back almost all the way and hover just inside of her. Then just as slowly he forged his way back into her heated depths. They were both savoring the newness and the rightness of it. She wasn't sure who, but one of them started moving in a more demanding way. He still almost left her, but started to return sooner and with more force. Her heels dug into the thin blanket and then the rock beneath them as she tried to find some traction. His lips moved over her face and he raised up on his elbows. They were both panting heavily. Small whimpers were catching in her throat as he moved more and more forcefully. The smooth gliding rhythm was no more. The control he had over his movements was being ripped away.

He groaned as her fingers flexed into his buttocks, pulling him to her. He tunneled one hand between their sweat soaked bodies. He searched out the erect kernel of flesh and added the extra stimulus of his fingers. Her entire body jerked and tightened beneath him. His mouth on hers caught the scream that was only partially trapped in her throat. He felt the spasms shaking her beneath him. He couldn't hold back any more, the internal massage along his engorged length shattered his control. With a growl, he quickened his pace and seconds later found his own release.

She distractedly noticed the rapidly cooling sweat gathered in the small of his back. She didn't want him to leave her, but he had to. She shivered a little at the drastic change in temperature. Then she smiled softly as his arms wrapped around her, pulling her close. She felt his lips brush her forehead.

Like they had said it a thousand times before, she said "I love you" with a yawn. He replied "I love you, too," and added another soft kiss to her temple.

Whatever else happened, they now had this.


Mulder guided the truck carefully down the now worn path to the road. They only had about twenty more minutes until sunset. He wanted to be on what passed as a highway by then. Scully was quiet next to him, absently staring out the window. Briefly they had discussed the case. But until Towers and Ade could be found, all they had was a Sighting.

They arrived in Santa Fe two hours later. It was too late to contact anyone at the university, except maybe a few overworked grad students. They checked into a motel, and were amazed at what now seemed like luxuries after only one day in the wilderness. Scully fell right to sleep after a warm meal and a hot shower. Mulder stayed up for a little while, but sleep claimed him almost as easily.

The next day, they took the tire samples to be analyzed. Around lunch time, they were called with the results for the initial analysis. Mulder didn't completely understand the jargon being used to describe the samples. The task of translating the data had been passed on to a grad student, as is the way for such things.

"It is the same co-polymer blend. The second sample looks like someone tried to thermally degrade it. It has a lower molecular weight." At the blank looks he was receiving he tried different wording. "It's made up of the same stuff. But, this one, when it melted, the crosslinker, sulfur, was lost. After that, the sample was heated enough to break some of the bonds of the polymer backbone, and evaporate the small portions off. It must have been an extremely hot fire that did this. The degredation is uniform. Where did you find it?" He asked and turned the melted sample around in his hands.

"You can't tell us if this is the same tire?" Mulder wanted a simple answer.

"No, I can't. The fire that melted this deformed it enough so that an exact match can't be made. As I said, the only thing I can conclusively say is that it was the same type of polymer."

"Well thank you, anyway," Scully said diplomatically. Even though she'd been expecting the answer, she was still a little disappointed. Now they had to wait for Ade and Towers to be found. There was a message waiting for them when they got back from lunch.

"Sara called," Scully said as she read the slip of paper.

"Who?"

"The woman at the camp." He nodded in recognition, "They think they found them."

"Really?"

"Yeah, so when are we headed back?"

He looked at his watch. "Now is as good as time as any." They gathered their stuff. Mulder was opening their connecting door when the room phone rang.

"Mulder," he said impatiently.

"We got the info you wanted." Mulder relaxed as Langley's voice came through the wires.

"Go on."

"Towers claimed that he lost control, because he felt the plane move through an inferno."

"Really?"

"That's what we got. He ejected from the plane after and I quote, 'the wall of flame appeared and the controls started to melt in my hands.'"

"Maybe the Air Force should talk with the M
M people. Where did this happen?" He asked as he scribbled notes down. Scully was staring over his shoulder. He moved a little so she could see more.

"Southern Colorado. About 70 miles from where the plane went down this time."

"Thanks. I owe ya," he said and smiled at Scully.

"I'll add it to the list," came through before the connection was ended.

Mulder hung up the phone and waited for Scully to precede him out the door. His hand settled in the small of her back as he pulled it closed behind him. He missed the small shiver, but caught the look in her eyes before she walked down the hallway. He took a deep breath and followed.

The sun was setting by the time they turned onto the off-road portion of the trip. Mulder had to slow down for both reasons and was not happy. He kept the displeasure to himself though, because had Scully had dozed off.

Her head was turned toward him, he let the sound of her breathing calm him. He lifted his hand to tuck her hair behind her ear and then softly ran his fingers down her cheek. Reluctantly, he let his hand fall away and returned it to the steering wheel. 'I love her so much,' echoed inside his head.

"What was that?" Her sleepy voice sent a jolt along his nerve endings.

"What?"

"There was a flash of light."

Mulder looked around frantically. "Where?" He followed the direction she pointed at. Another flash of light occurred right in front of them. "Shit," he said as the truck swerved off the path. He slowed down more. He felt like someone had just flashed their brights at him. A fraction too late, he saw the trees looming before them. The truck bounced roughly over one of the small ones and slammed the drivers side into one of the larger ones. He blacked out as he was thrown to the side. The seat belt hadn't been able to prevent his head from connecting with the driver's side window.


Scully was shaking him, calling his name. He still couldn't see clearly, he noted as he tried to focus. He lifted his hand to his aching head. At least this time, the injuries were due to a car crash instead of a fight he lost. "I'm O.K.," he mumbled and tried to open the door. The trees outside prevented it and he motioned for Scully to get out. He followed her out of the cab and tried to clear his aching head. He looked around. The sounds he was hearing were not friendly. The first clue was he couldn't see who or what was making the sounds. The second clue was he couldn't understand what they were saying. Whispers were overlapped until everything was a blur in his ears.

He couldn't control the fear that invaded his entire system. "Come on, Scully," he said and reached for one of the packs in the truck. He felt the weight of his gun in its holster at his side. He grabbed Scully's hand with his free one and started running in the direction of the campsite. The whispers were still with them, but his sight was starting to clear. He still couldn't see what was after them. He looked back at Scully and saw that she was looking over her shoulder as well. At least it wasn't just in his head. If he was imagining being pursued, he wasn't alone.

He fought the urge to run, but fear prevented it. It felt like they had been running for hours, and he wanted to see what was chasing them. He looked back again. A hole jumped out and attacked his foot. He let go of Scully as he felt gravity take over. He tried to catch himself and only succeeded in shifting the majority of his weight over the edge. He heard her call his name just as a jagged limb ripped through his jeans and into his flesh. As the pain from that injury registered, his head exploded in a cold shock wave.

Scully scrambled down the side of the hill. The whispering she heard was causing an unreasoning fear. She couldn't see anything chasing them. She only heard it. But Mulder was injured now. She had to get them out of sight. She saw what looked like a cave and headed towards it.


She was cold on one side and there was a crink in her neck. Groggily she opened her eyes to find out why. Well for one, Mulder had hogged the blanket. She tugged at the covering and tucked it around her. Moving closer to the furnace that was her partner, she angled his arm to make a better pillow. She thought about putting her clothes back on, but decided not to when she realized that would mean moving out of his arms. She felt the one tighten around her and went back to sleep.

When she woke up again she knew it was daytime. Mulder was nowhere to be seen in the small shelter and her clothes were under the blanket with her. Gratefully she pulled on the warm garments and emerged from the cocoon of survival blankets. She poked her head out the opening. A light blanket of snow covered the ground, so she could easily see what direction he'd taken. Taking a half of one of the powerbars, she went after him.

She approached cautiously. He was sitting on a rock deep in thought. He turned as she stepped on a twig. Her heart soared at the slow smile. He held out a hand and tugged her in front of him. She rested against the rock and leaned her head back against his chest as he wrapped his arms around her.

"It doesn't seem real, does it?"

"Don't even say that. It was real," he emphasized his point be nuzzling her ear.

"No. Not us. I meant the past twelve hours. Do you think they're still after us?"

"Who?"

"The - things- that were chasing us when you fell," she twisted to look at him. The confusion was apparent in his eyes as well as his voice.

"Scully, what are you talking about?"

"We were being chased after you ran into the trees. You must have heard it first. You grabbed one of the packs and started running, pulling me after you." She looked at him with a fair amount of concern in her eyes. "Don't you remember?"

"I know we were running when I fell. But that's it. Until I woke up with you using me as your pillow."

"And what a mighty nice one it was, too." She burrowed back into the portion of muscle she was talking about. A few seconds later, she asked, "Were you ever a boyscout, Mulder?"

"For a very short period of time. Why?"

"Well you follow the creed." He angled his head to look at her.

"Aren't you glad?"

Scully wanted to kick herself. Of course, she was glad he'd had some protection. She just wasn't happy about the reason why. She didn't trust her voice, so she just nodded.

"It'd been in there for a while, Scully," he said softly and pulled her tighter to him. He relaxed as he felt the tension drain from her. He rubbed his chin along her hairline and heard the soft scraping of his beard against her skin. "Did you get whisker burn?"

She blushed at the devilment in his voice. Now his comments were likely to be twice as bad. He laughed at her lack of response. He'd have to cool it, or they wouldn't be able to keep this to themselves. But, then again, some people in the Bureau had started the rumor years ago.

"I wonder if Towers and Ade had been chased. If that was the reason why there wasn't any signs of them. Did they cover their tracks?"

"Only one way to find out. Let's get back to the camp."

"I hate to say this, but will anyone be waiting for us? I mean it was yesterday morning when they found them." Mulder realized they hadn't told anyone they would be coming back to the campsite.

"You're probably right. But if we get back to the truck, we can get our phones and get out of here."

They gathered what little gear they had. The sky was clear as they made their way up the steep incline. Scully paused for a second to look down at where they had been. Seeing all of the rocks and tress in daylight had her marveling at Mulder's good fortune. A headache and a serrated leg were nothing compared to what could've happened. Jest for a second she felt guilty about the night's activities. But only for a second, and only because he'd been injured at the time.

They started walking in the direction she remembered coming from. After two hours they still hadn't seen any sign of the truck. They sat down to get their bearings. It wasn't the wrong way. It had been obvious where Mulder had gone over the side, even with the light snow covering. But, now, nothing was familiar. Imagining everything in shadows didn't help, either. It had been dark and they had been running blind. She hung her head. Why did this always happen to them? Why hadn't she stayed with teaching? With doing autopsies all day? With physics? 'Cause she would've been bored out of her skull, that's why.

"Let's go that way. Maybe we'll be able to see the truck from that height." Mulder shrugged at her suggestion and followed. He winced as the cold fabric of his jeans rubbed against the raw flesh of his injured leg. It was really going to hurt, once he thawed. They climbed the small incline and looked around. They couldn't see anything but more trees. There was no sign of the truck or a road.

Mulder dropped the pack. "Where the hell are we?"

Scully looked around, totally confused. "I don't know. We should've been back at the truck by now. Or at least to one of the roads." She looked around and remembered every time she had complained about him getting them lost. As she looked up at him, she knew he was thinking the exact same thing. "Don't say it," she warned. "And stop thinking it."

The situation was not funny. They were somewhere in northern New Mexico with no food, no phones, and no clue as to where they were. And all she felt like doing was dancing with joy. A smile broke free from her control.

Mulder tried to frown, the tables were finally turned, but he couldn't keep a straight face in the midst of her obvious enjoyment. Laughter broke forth as she tip-toed and kissed his chin. This was a side of Dana Scully he never knew existed. The playful sprite before him was bending down. He leaned over to see what she was doing and got a faceful of light powder. Totally disregarding their predicament, he launched a counterattack. It ended up being more like a flour fight because the powder wasn't wet enough to stick. He ended it by lightly tackling her.

"Mulder," she tried, but could barely breath, let alone speak because she was laughing so hard.

"You are not going to distract me," he stated firmly and held her wrists by her head.

"What do you mean? I wasn't trying to distract you," she tried to say with her best catholic school tone.

"We're lost. And it's your fault." There wasn't any rancor in his voice. His breath caught at the smile.

"I guess so," she agreed.

"You're not going to argue?" There was no way he was going to believe that.

"No, I'm not going to argue. I'm just going to say this once: We were kidnapped by aliens, have no recollection of time spent there, and were then placed out in the middle of nowhere. A classic example of a Missing Time Episode." He stared at her in utter disbelief.

"Isn't it possible, you just don't remember where we're parked?" There was so much skepticism in his voice, Scully convulsed with laughter. When she could breath again, he was sitting next to her with a bemused air about him.

She sat up and pushed her hair out of her face. "We've been spending *way* too much time together, Mulder, if you'd rather believe we're lost due to ordinary means rather than extraordinary means." He just smiled. She could almost hear him say, 'And we'll be spending even more together.' She stood up and looked around.

"Well the view hasn't changed."

"Which way do we go, Scully? Which way do we go?"

"The buzzards do a much better job of that, Mulder." Quite logically, she said, "That way."

Mulder squinted in the direction she was pointing. "Any particular reason why?" he asked. She nodded as set out at a quick pace. "Are you going to tell me?" She shook her head and walked a little faster. "Scully."

She smiled at the frustration in his voice. She relented. "Food, Mulder," she explained. "Can't you smell it?" He took a deep breath and let it out in a rush. Soon his long legs overtook her. She had to quicken her pace even more just to keep up.


Not long after, they came upon the source of the food smell. The sky was starting to become overcast so they hurried their steps into the clearing with a house and a large garage in it. They both hid their reaction as they were welcomed to the people's home.

"Don't move. Hands to the side. Slowly."

"Must be from a city, originally," Mulder mumbled and slowly held his hands out away from him.

Scully silently agreed. Not everyone would greet someone with the sound of a safety being switched off. She stared straight ahead at the short, pregnant woman. Well, not short, they were probably near the same height. The light wind was whipping her long, dark red hair around her. A few of the strands were caressing the nozzle of the assault rifle she held.

"Move." Slowly they walked forward. The voice was something out of her nightmares. Cold, detached, completely devoid of anything but sound.

"Jed, they're probably the two that are missing," the woman called in a reasonable tone, but kept the weapon at ready.

"So, you're psychic now." A shiver went down Scully's spine. The voice still had no inflections.

"We're with the FBI. And we're lost." Apparently, the woman found that humorous. Mulder scowled at the amount of mirth his statement generated.

"Agents Scully and Mulder," Scully supplied, keeping her eyes on the woman and her hands relaxed as she held them chest high.

"Don't try it, Agent." The woman's voice dropped twenty degrees. "He'll stop you before you even start." The curiosity and friendly wariness were gone and in its place was cold suspicion. "I don't suppose you have your badges with you?"

Scully shook her head. Her's was in the cab of the truck with her gun and phone. No telling where Mulder's was. Probably in a pile of leave down the side of a mountain, along with his gun.

"Your numbers."

Mulder moved to look at the man speaking behind him, but the cold metal behind his ear stopped him. Scully tensed as well when the woman on the porch shifted the rifle slightly.

"Your badge numbers." Mulder and Scully repeated the series of numbers and letters that identified them in most filing systems at the Bureau. "Dani."

"Got it," she said with a smile and went into the house. The three remained outside. Scully tried to shift a little to see the man behind them. She could only move enough to see a large shadow. He wasn't as tall as Mulder, but he probably topped her partner by at least thirty pounds. A few minutes later the woman returned with the weapon. "They're legit."

Slowly Mulder relaxed as the gun was lowered and the shadow stepped away from them. The man moved to stand before them and actually extended his hand in welcome. "You can never be too careful," he said by way of apology.

"And I thought I was paranoid. Fox Mulder. This is my partner, Agent Dana Scully."

"Mulder. Scully. I'm Jed Saetes and this is Dani Rutherford."

The woman shook both agents hands. "You two are probably starving. Come on," she ordered and went into the house. "Jed, get ahold of Ade. He was bitching about going home."

Scully stared in surprise as the man followed orders. There was a dark grace about him that was intriguing. She felt Mulder's stare and smiled at him.

Dani laughed at the exchange. "I think so, too," she said and looked down the hall to where Jed had gone. "There's coffee and stir-fry. Plus feel free to use the showers. No, that wasn't a hint. And we have an extensive first aid kit for you leg."

Mulder looked down at his appendage. The jeans were ripped, but you couldn't really see he was injured. He shrugged and decided to ease the knot in his stomach. The powerbar had been too disgusting to choke down even half of one.

They were both busy shoveling the food into their mouths when Jed came back into the room. "Your truck's been taken to Taos, already. And your A.D. wants you to call. Joe's invited us to a wedding," Jed said the last part as he turned to look at Dani. There was still a tense air about him, but it was a lot less than earlier.

"Wedding?"

"Yeah, Towers finally broke down." Dani smiled and sat down at the table with the two agents. Jed moved to stand behind her.

Mulder watched the pair carefully. The gun was no longer in view, but he figured Jed was still wearing it. He swallowed at the look he was receiving from the other man. "Walt wants you to call. Now. There's a secure phone in the office." Mulder almost choked on a green bean.

"Skinner?" Jed nodded. Mulder was the one that was suspicious now. "How do you know Skinner?"

"Don't worry, Mulder. He just wants to make sure you're not in a hospital somewhere." Mulder stood up and followed Jed to the office.

"Scully?"

"You're the division head, Mulder," she said and took another bite. She couldn't believe how hungry she was. A few moments later, she asked, "He said they moved the truck already? That was quick."

Dani looked at Scully for a moment. "Not really." Suddenly Scully was very tense. "It's been three days since they found it."

"Three days?" She set the fork down and looked around. "Where are we?"

Dani's face remained impassive. "In relation to your truck or a town?"

"Either." Scully's voice was hoarse. She jumped when she felt Dani's hand on hers.

"About twenty miles from your truck. By roads, a little over four hours from Santa Fe."

"Twenty miles?" Scully eyes shot to the hallway. She cold hear the same confusion in Mulder's voice that was in hers.

"No. It would have taken a full day to get that far on foot. The accident was last night." Dani's forehead wrinkled in confusion as well.

"The report that two more people were missing came out three days ago. Your names and general description were included. And Feds have been out at the site looking for you two since then."

"Three days." Well chalk another situation up to one of Mulder's Extreme Possibilities. Wait. She was the one that made the suggestion this time. She definitely wasn't hungry anymore. "May I use your shower?" She could now feel the grubbiness of being in the same clothes for days.

"Sure. And my clothes should fit you." Dani laughed at Scully's wide-eyed look directed at her stomach. "Old clothes," she amended.

Mulder came back into the living room/kitchen area with an excited gleam. "You were right, Scully."

"No, Mulder. There's an explanation for this." She just couldn't thing of one right now. "I'm going to take a shower. When I'm done, I want to look at your leg." She glared at him when he opened his mouth to say something. She could tell it was going to be suggestive just by the look in his eyes.

He nodded and sat down to finish his meal. He'd asked Jed again how he knew Skinner and how they had check them out so quickly. But Jed wouldn't say anything. The office had been full of computers and various electronic equipment. The scrambler for the phone was indeed turned on as well. Skinner had been vocal in his disbelief. Mulder had tried to explain about the crash, but with Jed standing there he hadn't wanted to say too much. Then Skinner had asked why it had taken them three days to go twenty miles before they even tried to contact anyone. Mulder was shocked by that bit of information, but it would explain the face hair and the hunger. Skinner wouldn't appreciate his wounded look, so he'd simply replied, "We got lost." The exasperated sigh told him Skinner wasn't happy. "It'll all be in the report," he had finished. Now he was sitting across from a man that apparently couldn't talk, was on friendly terms with an AD in the FBI, and wasn't comfortable with strangers. Mulder breathed a small sigh of relief as Dani came back into the room.

"Stop it, Jed," she said and hit the man's shoulder.

He looked up in confusion. "What?"

"Ignore him," she told Mulder and sat down at the table. "He has problems getting along with people," she finished with a glare at Jed.

"Only with people that show up unexpectedly on my turf. I think it's time to move." At her raised eyebrow, he continued. "Too much damn traffic lately. Starting with you." She stuck her tongue out at him in response.

Mulder continued to eat and even got another helping. By the time Scully was out of the shower, he'd finished two platefuls and was complementing the cook. Jed nodded his head in thanks and remained silent. Mulder watched Scully walk over towards him freshly scrubbed and looking healthy. The borrowed clothing was only a little bit loose on her. He reflected a moment on the sexiness of flannel.

She sat down next to him. "Your leg," she ordered.

Mulder winced as the thawed flesh throbbed at her words. "Let me get cleaned up. Then you can look at it," he wheedled. She relented with a nod. He wanted to touch her, but restrained himself. Jed was watching too closely. And Jed knew Skinner. Scully saw him waver and smiled in understanding. So did Dani.

"Jed, get some clothes for Mulder, would you?" She laughed as Jed silently stood up and went into the other room. "He'll get better," she assured them.

Jed returned and placed a pile of sweats on the table. "These should be long enough."

Mulder mumbled a thanks and left to take his shower. Scully looked at her two hosts and smiled tightly. Dana and Dani exchanged small talk until Mulder came back. Jed had only made an occasional comment. Scully was definitely feeling tense and welcomed the excuse when Mulder was finished. She grabbed the first aid kit Dani had brought out and hurried over to the couch. She looked up briefly as Jed hurried to the office to answer the phone that wasn't ringing in the kitchen.

"O.K., Mulder."

"It's not bad. In fact it's scabbed over," he protested, but pulled the leg of the sweat pants up. Scully quietly looked at the long scratches that were indeed scabbed over. She took a deep breath. These were several days old. She cleaned them and applied ointment anyway. It was an excuse to touch him.

"Any more?" she asked. Mulder leaned towards her as he nodded. "Where?" she said and uncapped the ointment again.

"My back," he said near her ear. Her head jerked up and she looked over to where Dani was sitting. She ripped one of the bandages off his leg. "Ouch!" he cried, and did his best to look mortally wounded. It was hard with Scully glaring at him, but he did it. His expression turned a little guilty as he heard Dani laugh. He relaxed somewhat as he saw she was looking at the doorway behind him.

Jed was looking extremely uncomfortable. "Skinner says they would understand." He then turned toward Scully and Mulder. The black eyes were hard and cold as he said, "And we won't end up in the report."

That must have been Skinner on the phone, again. "Understand what?" Mulder asked without moving. Scully was still sitting on her heels with her hand on his leg.

"Dani?"

"Yes, dear." She walked over and sat down in the chair. "Jed's still a little uncomfortable about the possibility..."

Mulder turned his memory on and said, "What possibility?" Scully twisted to sit on the floor, but didn't move away.

"Well," she began and looked at Jed. "It seems there's a ...force... that...helps people." Jed continued to scowl, but sat down on the arm of the chair by Dani.

"How?"

"I don't know," she said.

"What does this force do?"

"You're not going to believe it," Jed interjected.

"If I had a nickel for every time I heard that-"

"You'd retire to Arricebo," Scully finished. "What?"

"Well, almost three years ago, Jed and I, encountered this...flash...of light."

Scully and Mulder tensed. "Where?"

"The flash?" Mulder nodded. "We were near the Mexican border."

"What happened?" Scully gripped her ankles as she pulled her legs into her chest.

"We were working for-"

"For?" Mulder asked as she paused.

"It doesn't matter," she said quickly and continued. "We were partners and working on a case. During a....stakeout...we encountered this flash of light. We had finished our shift and were on our way back. We were stranded in the middle of the desert without any provisions, no food, maybe a pint of water, and nothing else. We were lucky it wasn't summer. "

"And you lost several days?"

"No. We knew each second that past. But Jenny and Towers did lose two of their days," Jed offered.

"Partners that are now getting married." Dani nodded at Mulder's statement. "Are you saying that the flashes are some kind of Cosmic Love Boat?"

Dani laughed and Jed smiled. "No, I wouldn't say that. I knew I loved Jed before we were lost. He later confessed that he knew he loved me before then as well."

"What about Ade and Towers?" Scully wanted to turn the discussion a little away from where it was heading, but curiosity was defeating her.

Jed answered, "I've known Towers for years. After he left the Air Force, I was the one that encouraged him to come to New Mexico and join the DEA. I was also the one that told him to tell his partner how he felt."

Mulder was a little taken aback. That was more than the man had said since they met over an hour ago.

"I'm not sure I follow," Scully said.

"It's strange, I know, but you two have been in tense situations," Dani didn't wait for an affirmation. "You know what it's like to almost die or have your partner almost killed." She paused and Jed placed his hand on her shoulder. "You know how that type of stress brings a lot of emotions to the surface." She did wait for a response this time. She continued slowly as they tensed a little more, "When we were stranded, all of those emotions escaped. I couldn't explain the extent of the fear I felt. I still can't. It was only a remote possibility that we would die, but it was still there. And that possibility fed my fear."

Jed spoke again, "I also know that if it weren't for that episode, I never would have admitted my feelings for Dani. Not even to myself, while we were partners."

"You still worked together?" Scully asked.

"Yes. We kept it quiet. People may have suspected, but there was never any proof. It wasn't until we decided on a baby that anyone knew for sure."

"You're no longer working together?" Mulder was curious about what type of agency the two had worked for. He had an idea, but only that.

"Obviously not active field ones," Jed said and patted Dani's stomach.

"No. I do all the paperwork now. But later," she said in an ominous tone.

Scully and Mulder were both thinking the same thing. They still could be everything to each other.

"In a blinding flash of light, it was before all who would see the truth." The tone of his voice suggested sarcasm, but Jed looked completely impassive as he spoke, except for the tightness of his jaw.

Scully wanted to change the subject. "What did Skinner say?"

Jed flashed his teeth in relief. She couldn't call it a smile, but it did soften his features. "Which time?"

"O.K. How about what did you tell Skinner?" If Skinner already knew, there would be no point hiding their new relationship.

"Only that I had an explanation for your disappearance that most people wouldn't accept. Walt laughed and said Mulder probably had several explanations I wouldn't believe."

"Well I hadn't thought we were gone long enough to come up with more in-depth explanations." He caught himself playing with Scully's hair as she rested her head by his knee. He tried to casually remove his fingers from the fiery strands, but both Jed and Dani were watching him. "Your flashes are three for three so far," he said with a shrug.

"Mulder," Scully's voice was strangled.

Dani spoke, "Don't worry. Who is going to believe in a story about how literally a flash of light made people acknowledge their feelings for each other?" She patted Jed's knee. "I wouldn't believe it, if I hadn't experienced it myself."

"What about the time distortions? It hasn't been a full day since the crash for us," Mulder stated.

"I honestly don't know. I can't tell you what it is, or how it works. I just know what the results are. I for one am grateful. I loved Jed, way before that assignment, but I couldn't risk losing my partner, my best friend."

Scully was nodding her head slightly.

"Maybe the time distortion was its way of keeping us alive at this time of year," Scully looked at her partner with the look she always gave him.

"Oh, great. Now you believe in a Cosmic Matchmaker."

Dani convulsed in laughter again at Mulder's wounded look. "Jed does the same thing," she said for an explanation. The person being talked about stared at her.

In an affronted voice, he said, "I do not." Scully smiled broadly. A small silence descended.

Dani broke it when she stood up and said, "We should get on the road if we want to get to Santa Fe before dark."

"We'll still want to talk to Towers and Ade," Mulder said.

"You'll have to ask them. But since you've experienced the same thing, it really isn't necessary." Jed's voice was hard again.

"Yeah, but we weren't flying in a plane when we encountered it."

"Whatever." He shrugged. "Dani, you're going?"

She nodded eagerly. "I was going to wait until next week, but why not? Besides Jayne Ann Krentz's new one is out."

"How do you know these things?"

"I have my ways," she said with a wink.

"O.K. I'll go warm up the Bronco," he said and left.

"Be right back," Dani then said and disappeared down the hall.

Jed was shaking his head when he came back covered in snow. "Forget it, Dani."

"What?" came from a bedroom.

"It's started snowing. Bad. I'm not driving down the mountain in this." She came out of the bedroom and headed toward the door.

"Well, hell. The weather people were wrong again. You know, if they ever get it right, it's going to end up in a file in a basement somewhere." Mulder tensed at the obscure reverence to their office, but decided it was probably correct. "Decide amongst yourselves what's for dinner and who'll clean it up. I'm going to fix the other bedroom up. Maybe the snow will have stopped by morning." She turned on her heel and went back down the hall.

"How many bedrooms do you have here?" Jed smiled at Scully's question.

"Just two. Plus the office. We'll build another one starting in the spring. Dani always has people coming to visit." In the manner of a head waiter, he bent slightly at the waist and held his hands together. "And may I suggest the lasagna for dinner? It's one of our finest dishes. As long as I don't have to clean it up."

"Sounds good," Mulder said and tugged Scully down next to him on the couch. "Scully'll do the clean up," he promised.

"I don't think so. What's wrong with your hands?"

"I wouldn't want them to get chapped from the dishwater. I have plans for them later."

Jed laughed as he saw Scully go for her partner's throat. He hadn't heard what Mulder had said, but he could take a guess. The fiery color of Scully's cheeks gave him a clue. He just loved a woman with a temper. On that thought he started planning his next assault on Dani's.


...The results of the analysis on the rubber samples retrieved are inconclusive. The sample was too deformed to match it with the plane's tire. Chemical analysis only showed that it was the same type of polymer. It has been suggested that the tire sample found had been subjected to a campfire or similar heat source which caused the deformation of the sample as well as partial decomposition. ...Interviews with Jennifer Ade and Zachary Towers lead to no further information on the flashes of light they encountered. They recalled being pursued, but could not identify the person or persons behind it. They also state having no recollection of the first 48 hours they were reported missing. Agent Mulder suggests possible alien abduction, but draws no conclusions due to lack of physical evidence. Mild cases of hypothermia is being postulated for the distortions of the time in question. As to our own encounter with two apparent similar flashes, I'm just glad it happened. Scully stared at the computer terminal for a second. She started to press the back space. Nope. Couldn't put that into the report.

"Scully, are you finished?"

"No. But I'll do it later tonight," she said and leaned back into the hands that were now rubbing the kinks out her shoulders.

"That's fine. You can come over and then we can discuss the new information I have on Roswell."

"Mulder, I have to feed my dog sometime."

"O.K. Your place." His voice dropped in volume. At her ear, he said, "And I'll bring the chocolate sauce."

"Make it butterscotch and you're on."

The End


Title: Cold is the Light
Author: Nicole Mason

"There has been an unofficial request from another agency for the two of you to consult on a case." Skinner was sitting back in his chair, watching the two agents in front of him. Absently, he slowly tipped the pen in his hand end-over-end. Scully sat at attention, everything about her alert and ready for action. Her partner had a rebellious slouch to his posture. Skinner mentally frowned at Mulder, but knew the man was paying attention regardless of the non-interested aura about him.

The silence lengthened as each person waited for the other to speak. Slightly exasperated, Skinner continued, "There has been a series of killings in the southwest. The agent in charge of the case requested you by name and division to help with this."

"What type of killings?" Mulder asked, his curiosity peaked. It had been awhile since they had investigated an actual X-file. He'd wait a few more minutes before asking who had requested them. Just to add to the mystery.

Skinner picked up the file on his desk and handed it to Mulder. "Five bodies. No physical similarities between any of them. Each was found in a different state, and the cause of death doesn't match on any of them."

"So why are they being connected?" Scully asked trying to get a look at the file Mulder was hogging.

"Because each one was found by the same person," Mulder supplied and passed the file to Scully.

She quickly scanned the reports. "Agent D. Rutherford. DEA." A feeling of recognition washed over her. She glanced at Mulder to see what he was thinking. He was hiding it, but she could see the suspicion in his tense shoulders.

Skinner was nodding. "Agent Rutherford has run into a roadblock. There are no leads and very little clues for this so far."

Scully finished reading the file and looked up. "Sir?"

"Yes, Agent Scully?"

"Sir, this says that none of the bodies have been identified yet."

"Yes," he agreed.

"Why?" Mulder leaned over to look at the file over Scully's shoulder.

"Agent Rutherford didn't want to divulge that information before you agreed to consult on the case."

Mulder was quiet for a moment. He caught Scully's eye and saw her mentally shrug a 'Why not?' He only had one reservation. "Sir, do we have to go to New Mexico?"


On the plane to Phoenix, Mulder thought about the person that had requested their help. Agent Danielle Rutherford was 32 years old, 5' 4", and none of your damn business. There was one dependent listed in her file, six-month-old Suzanne Saetes. 'Dani' had been very reserved when they had met. He thought it was just the assault rifle she had been holding at the time. Upon reflection, he realized that even though he and Scully had spent an entire day in the company of Dani and her husband, Jed, neither couple had divulged anything about their work. He was somewhat relieved to learn they worked for the DEA instead of some other acronym.

He looked over at his partner and lover. She was diligently reading some more background information on the case. She looked up as she felt his gaze on her. He smiled at the question he saw forming and shook his head to indicate he'd just wanted to look at her.

He went back to reading his own file. His brow wrinkled. There was no information about Dani's husband, Jed. They had said they were partners before Dani's pregnancy, keeping the more intimate side of their relationship a secret for over two years. So why wasn't Jed mentioned in this? Closer reading also revealed very little about Dani's work before she had been reassigned. Undercover work? Was that the reason they had been unwilling to talk about the place they had encountered the flashes of light?

He pulled out the next manila envelope from his briefcase. This one had been supplied by his friends at The Lone Gunman. It was only about ten pages long. And all of it centered on the vague years in her official file. One account held her and her partner responsible for the timely demise of some of Columbia's finest. That couldn't be true, or they'd both be dead. Another synopsis claimed they had been in the vicinity of an earthquake in central Mexico, which had destroyed several thousand acres of prime 'farm' land. The final entry held a snapshot with it. A couple that could be Jed and Dani were seen on the deck of a yacht. Mulder felt a small twinge of envy. He and Scully never had cases where they could gallivant about the rich and infamous. There was only one paragraph to accompany the photo. All lives had been lost at sea, when the 'Golden Dancer' had exploded for reasons unknown. Among the dead were the owners, Jacqueline and Anthony Strafford, and several of their partners in their latest venture. Officially it had been responsible for the philanthropic scholarships awarded to individuals from South and Central America who wished to study agriculture in the US.

Mulder smiled at the note Frohike had attached to the papers:

This incredible looking woman has been responsible for more than her fair share of broken hearts. It usually involved a bullet, instead of a "Dear John". The partner, Saetes, is a ghost, probably a spook. No past info could be found on him, but we're still looking. And remember: panty hose or garters?

Carefully he wadded the note up. He'd have to get rid of it before Scully saw it. And he was definitely going to lie about the garters.


The heat wave engulfed them as they stepped from the plane into the attached walkway. The pilot had said it was 96 and clear. Scully thanked the powers that be for air conditioning. The silk shirt was already sticking to her under her cream blazer. They had been told someone would meet them at the airport. Scully looked around the terminal for Jed or Dani. She didn't see either one of them and no one approached as the other passengers cleared the area. After several minutes, Mulder went to get the luggage. Scully walked around trying to work the cramps out her legs. She never knew how Mulder survived. She didn't have enough room on planes; how did he manage?

Mulder returned twenty minutes later with their suitcases. There still wasn't anyone trying to contact them. Mulder pulled out his cellular and started to dial the number the report had listed for Dani. Just as he finished the last number, he saw her. She was wearing her long mahogany hair in a knot and was dressed almost exactly like Scully in a cream suit with a maroon silk shirt and heels. Besides the briefcase she carried over one shoulder, there was a diaper bag and a sleepy looking angel.

"Sorry, Suzie's sitter said she was sick," Dani alliterated quickly and held out her free hand in greeting. "The briefing is going to be at my house. I see you got your bags. So if you're ready, we can go." She quickly turned and headed toward the main terminal. Mulder and Scully followed in a bemused silence behind her.

Dani led the way out of the airport and into the intense Arizona heat. Silently and efficiently, she strapped her daughter into the carseat in the Bronco 4x4. Scully knew from previous experience that this four wheel drive rode like one in the commercials and eagerly climbed in the front seat. Scully smiled innocently at Mulder's uncomfortable expression, but held her ground. There was more than enough leg room for him in the back.

As Dani pulled out of the parking space, she said, "I'll fill you in on everything at the briefing. The other agent on the case hasn't heard everything yet, either. And I hate repeating myself. So how are you? Any interesting cases you can talk about?"

Scully was amused by the change in attitude. Dani was acting like a friend they hadn't seen in quite some time. Sure being stranded in her home for a day during a brief snowstorm did lead to a form of friendship, but Scully would classify it more as an acquaintance. She looked to Mulder for a little help and saw that he had problems of his own. The baby had him hypnotized.

"Fine. There hasn't been anymore encounters with rogue matchmakers, though. And you?" She finally said after realizing Mulder wasn't going to answer.

Dani smiled as she drove through the traffic. "Busy. Jed's been on assignment, and this thing with the bodies hasn't been fun."

Scully noted that as she talked, Dani kept her eyes moving the entire time. She was constantly checking the mirrors.

Mulder had finally pulled his gaze from the black haired, black eyed, bubble blowing baby and noticed the actions as well. "Checking for a tail?" he asked casually and a bit sarcastically.

"Always," she said in the same tone of voice. After a few minutes of silence, she asked, "Are there any questions you have that weren't in your friends' report?"

She knew about the guys? "A few," he admitted.

She nodded. "I'll answer what I can. But most of them, I won't be able to."

"I'll accept that as long as it doesn't endanger either of us, and you don't hold anything back about the case."

Dana mentally shook her head. She had read the guys' file on Jed and Dani. Mulder had more than a few questions he wanted answered. And knowing her stubborn partner, he'd get them too.

They continued to drive for awhile until they were well outside of the city. Mulder was more relaxed now that the baby was asleep. The kid's eyes were like her father's. They were way too old for an infant's, though. They drove over a cattle guard which woke the baby up. Instead of being startled, she slowly opened her eyes in recognition of the sound. Mulder watched as she started clapping her hands and blowing bubbles again. She was moving her mouth like she was talking, but only baby sounds were coming out. Dani answered her anyway.

"He will be, Face. And he can't wait to see you, too." The Bronco rounded a small hill that hid a house. It was a sprawling adobe complex that looked like it had several wings to it.

Dana saw a large shadow detach itself from the house. She was amazed. It was almost 100 degrees in the desert. The man was wearing all black and there wasn't an ounce of sweat in sight. Plus, he did not look happy. She only deciphered that as his expression developed. At first she had seen absolutely nothing about what he was feeling. Maybe he could teach her that trick for when she had to deal with what's-his-name again.

"Oh-oh. Mommy's in trouble, Face," Dani said with a large smile. "Hi. When did you get in?" she asked the man that was standing silently by her door. "I love you, too. I'm happy you're home. Will you get Suzie, while I stow the truck?"

Jed was acting exactly like Scully remembered. But at least this time there wasn't a gun pointed at the back of her head. "Dani," he said. Instead, Scully felt like a knife was pressed to her throat as his voice echoed through the cab. "Yes, Jed," Dani answered in an even harder tone. He stood quietly for a moment and then walked around the truck to open his daughter's door. After he had Suzie in his arms, he acknowledged the two passengers.

"Hello, Agent Scully, Agent Mulder. Agent Rutherford failed to inform me you would be joining her on this endeavor."

"Jed, chill. And get Suzie out of the sun. We'll be right in," Dani finished and drove the truck around to the back of the house. As she grabbed her briefcase and the diaper bag, she said, "I hope you don't mind, but you'll be staying here for the night. We'll be leaving early tomorrow morning, so I didn't want to mess with a hotel." They walked to the door at the end of the carport. No one had to shift bags to open the door. Jed was there with Suzie drooling contentedly on his shoulder.

"Woman," he began, but his face broke out into an actual smile. "You are going to drive me crazy," he finished and pulled her to him with his free hand.

"That's my goal in life," she said as she stretched up to offer him her lips. "Hi, babe," she barely finished before she could no longer speak.

Mulder and Dana quietly stood on the steps at the exchange. Dana looked over her shoulder and met her partner's eyes. They weren't going to have to hide as much with these two. She smiled slowly in anticipation.

Mulder felt his hands tremble at the rush of desire. Scully was looking at him in one of the ways he loved the most. He called it the "I-love-you-and-I'm- going-to-show-you-how-much" look. It was his favorite, second only to the "Mulder-if-you-don't-shut-up-I'm-going-to-strangle-you" look. His eyes shot upward from Scully's as he heard an "Ahem." Dani and Jed had finished saying hello and were acknowledging the existence of others again. He smiled inwardly as Scully blushed and followed her the rest of the way into the house.

Dani set the diaper bag down on the kitchen table and the briefcase on the floor. She studied them closely for a second, and asked, "One or two?"

They both debated for a millisecond. They tried their best to keep work separate from the rest of their life. But since work was such a large part of it, they didn't always succeed. Besides, these two already knew. Mulder let Scully decide, though, unfortunately her career would be more affected than his, so he left choices like this totally up to her. He bit back the smile of relief as she told Dani only one room would be necessary. Dani smiled and led the way down the hall.

She opened the door to a cool, shaded room. Scully looked at the old, heavy furniture. It was all made of a light tan wood that had intricate designs carved into it. "Bathroom's in there, if you want to freshen up," Dani said and pointed toward the other door in the room.

Dana was already removing her work clothes from the garment bag to hang them up in the armoire. As she carefully removed the business suits, she asked, "When's the other agent you were talking about due?"

"Well he wasn't due for at least another hour, but I guess he got in early," Dani said as she leaned against the door frame.

"I am never early. I am always exactly on time." Mulder smiled as he saw the effect the words and tone had on Dani. Maybe he should try it sometime. The flush on the cheeks would be more noticeable on Scully's paler complexion. He smiled innocently at the "Don't-even-think-it- Mulder" look he was receiving.

"Mom and David will be here sometime around midnight. So we have plenty of time for the briefing. Are you two hungry? Or do you want details before dinner?" Mulder had to blink as each sentence was aimed at a different person.

Jed settled the decision for all of them "Details, Rutherford." He was speaking in what Dana now thought of as his work voice. The baby squirming in his arms and patting his face didn't take anything from the image of an extremely cool professional.

She nodded once. "As soon as Mulder and Dana are ready," she said and left the room.

A few minutes later, the four people were seated around a dining room table with files neatly stacked in front of each person. Mulder was curious as to why he and Scully had been called in, but he held the question. Most likely, she would tell them as she filled in the details on the case.

Dani passed around a stack of pictures starting with Dana. "Three weeks ago, I found the first body. My partner and I were on a stakeout. As our shift was ending, I saw a figure in the shadows. We went to investigate and found the body of a 60-70 year old, caucasian male. He is still listed as John Doe in the Phoenix morgue. His money was in his wallet, but not the ID. Cause of death was due to a severe blow to the head." She waited until Jed saw the picture before she continued with the next victim.

"Three days later, my partner and I were in New Mexico. In broad daylight, I saw another person in an alley. This time the body found was a 18-20 year old hispanic female. Cause of death is listed as strangulation, but she had multiple knife wounds. She has yet to be identified as well. Robbery may have been a motive. Her knuckles were bruised on three fingers that also had tan lines, suggesting she wore rings. A leather strap was found, but no purse."

Scully studied the picture carefully. A garrote had been used instead of hands. "The strap was used in the strangulation," she said and passed the picture to Mulder before accepting the next one from Dani.

Dani started describing the next incident. "On vacation, fifteen days ago, the next body was found in a locked car at the grocery store. The Las Vegas coroner ruled the death as heatstroke. The victim was a 30-35 year old caucasian female. The owner of the car swears she does not know the woman and that the car was locked. There were no signs of forced entry, and again no ID was found.

"This was not the end of my wonderful vacation. In San Diego, ten days ago, the fourth body was discovered. The victim, an asian male in his early 50's, was face down in a park lake. There were no signs of a struggle, and the death has been ruled as accidental drowning, given the man's blood/alcohol level.

"The latest victim was a 40-45 year old, black man found in Texas. Cause of death has been determined as a rattlesnake bite. That was four days ago." Silence fell as the other three people digested the information.

"Have you noticed any pattern at all? Times the bodies were found? Were there other people around in all cases? Were the days the same? Anything?" Mulder was quickly flipping through all the photographs again as he asked the questions.

"The only thing is that they each were in different states. And that each one is getting further away from the other."

"Usually killings escalate, not calm down," Scully offered. Dani nodded in agreement.

"Thankfully, I've only had to work with deranged drug dealers, not the average serial killer. But it should be the same either way. The killings should have started getting closer together. Instead more time is passing." Dani's voice held some bewilderment.

"Have you gone back to any of the places?" Mulder asked.

"Not the exact locations, no. But I have been to New Mexico and Nevada since the bodies were found in each place. Nothing else happened in either one of the them."

Jed spoke for the first time since they started the briefing, "You're due in Utah in a few days aren't you."

"Yes, the day after tomorrow." Dani said nothing further on the subject and waited for the rest of the questions that were sure to come.

"Why haven't they been identified yet?" Scully asked as she scribbled down notes.

"No matches were found with the prints that were run. The dental records haven't come through yet. Or at least I haven't been notified if they have. I'll contact the coroners again," Dani answered.

"There have been no other similarities between victims?" Mulder asked as he stared at the pictures he had spread out in a semi-circle in front of him.

Dani shook her head. "Random people, random places, random causes of death. Only me and the lack of ID are the same."

"Someone from one of your past cases?" Mulder suggested.

"I've thought of that. Not probable. If that were the case, they'd be after Saetes as well." Jed nodded in agreement with her statement. "I've also ran a check on past convictions. There haven't been any recent releases or paroles."

"The person you saw was at only two of the scenes?" Mulder waited for her affirmation before he continued, "What can you tell us about him?"

Dani closed her eyes and thought about Mulder's question. "He is shrouded in shadows, so I can't see his face and give an actual ID. My partner didn't see him either time. The top of the figure stood about 5'8" and did not seem to have a lot of mass." She opened her eyes and smiled sardonically. Before Mulder could speak, she said, "No, I did not see skeletal hands or a scythe."

Mulder bit back the laugh. He had almost asked her that question. Instead he asked, "What are our badge numbers?"

"You would pick a hard one. Give me a second." Dani closed her eyes again and repeated both of their numbers. "Pretty much useless information so it'll be in there awhile. Do I have to remember any of the conversations from then as well?"

"Nah, I can do that myself. Why isn't your partner here?" He asked, totally changing the topic.

She shrugged and looked at Jed, who was trying to bite back a smile. "Apparently, I'm difficult to work with. Too many years as Ghost's partner. My latest one requested a transfer after only two weeks. It finally came through while I was on vacation."

"Is someone following you and dumping the bodies?" Scully asked.

"Not probable. San Diego was a spur of the moment trip. And Texas was only a two hour notice before we left." The baby had started to fuss as Dani spoke. She stood up and retrieved her daughter from the playpen in the corner.

"Not probable, but possible," Mulder said. Dani nodded and put a bottle within the baby's reach. "Was the Light your only extraordinary encounter?" Mulder hid his surprise as she seriously considered his question.

She shrugged after a few moments. "There have been lucky breaks in a case, some extremely bizarre coincidences and one or two medical miracles, but nothing like you're suggesting. The only thing that can't really be explained is that one incident."

"Saetes?" Jed shook his head and rifled through the photos. He knew what the next question was going to be, and he didn't really feel like giving an explanation. "Why us?" Mulder tensed as Jed and Dani shared a look. He saw Jed barely nod before Dani answered his question.

"We're familiar with the type of cases you work with, not the exact contents, but we do have a general idea. The probable has been ruled out. Now it's time to start looking into everything else that may be possible."

"But you two aren't partner's anymore, right? Why are your superiors allowing you in on this?" Scully directed her question towards Jed. He was way too quiet.

His smile wasn't cold, but it wasn't friendly either. "You've had us both checked out. And your suspicions about what I did before the DEA are correct. I was a spook. I went through a few partners that all got their transfers. I was with the DEA almost two years by the time I was assigned Rutherford. She had a problem with partners as well. She wouldn't take their shit. Someone thought we'd make a good team." He smiled at Dani, while she just frowned. "They're going to bend their rules for us on this case, because we're both between partners right now."

"How is this DEA jurisdiction?" Scully asked before Mulder could get a different line of questioning going.

"Well the first body was found on a remote stakeout. Until proven otherwise, it's being presumed that it's related to the case. The others aren't exactly DEA territory." The last was said a little bit sheepishly.

"And that's where we come in," Mulder stated.

Dani nodded and stared at the baby for a moment. "Not to sound paranoid, but someone is after me. I just don't know for what yet. But I will find out." The last sentence was quiet and in the same cold tone of voice Mulder and Scully heard Jed use. Scully thought it must be part of DEA training.

Mulder understood her sentiments. It was annoying being so paranoid sometimes, but that was him. "How do you know Skinner?" Most often he was on their side when things started hitting the fan, but there had been a few times when Mulder wasn't sure whose interest Skinner was protecting.

Jed frowned and then shrugged. Mulder wasn't going to trust them on any level without the truth. "He and my father served together. When my father died, Walt took it upon himself to watch out for my mother and me." There was a little more to the story, but they didn't need to know it. And if they wanted to learn the rest of it, they could always ask Walt.

"OK, so where are we going early tomorrow morning? You said Utah was the day after tomorrow."

"Skinner didn't tell you?" Mulder's heart sank into his stomach, and he shook his head no. He dropped his head into his palms and rubbed his eyes at Dani's next words. "New Mexico."


"What was that?" Scully asked breathlessly and a little distractedly. She could hear muffled sounds through the door.

"What? This?" Her partner's voice was hoarse.

She moaned, dug her nails into his ribs, and arched her back. "Yeah. That."

He stared up at her. The moon cast a pale light over the room. The sweat covering her skin glowed iridescently. He smiled as her head dropped forward and an intense look of concentration crossed her flushed features. He ran his hands up her sides and massaged the gently swaying breasts.

Dana felt his large hands with the long fingers kneading her tender flesh. She bit her lip trying to keep her motions smooth and slow. She felt him surge within her again as she sank back down onto him. She leaned into his hands and angled her hips tighter against his. She opened her eyes and saw him watching her. The heat she saw in the swirling blue and green depths were almost as intense as the heat of his flesh inside of her. He was watching his fingers as they teased her nipples into even tighter peaks. She watched his hands as well.

Mulder's eyes closed and a low moan was torn from him as she increased the pace. His head dug into the pillow and his hands moved down to her hips, spread wide over his. Her hands were braced on his shoulders and she was moving frantically now. He felt her getting tighter around him as the tension built in her. His breath caught as she stopped moving. He opened his eyes. "What's wrong?" he managed. He knew he was in for an endless round of torture as she smiled and shook her head. "Dana?" he asked as she remained still.

"May I call you Fox?" He groaned in dual frustration. Very rarely would she mention his refusal to allow her to use his first name. And it usually caught him off guard.

"No," he said with a smile and pulled her down for a kiss. She started moving again. Slowly raising herself until he was barely within her, she would pause before moving quickly to take him fully. It wasn't long before his eyes were crossing and his ears were ringing from the pleasure. For a brief second, he felt Dana's hand move across his throat. But it was only moving down his chest from his shoulders. Her nails sunk into his pecs as her entire body arched and started to tremble. He smiled in relief. Finally. She collapsed into a heap across his chest, gasping.

He twisted them so that she was now under him. "That wasn't nice, Scully," he said softly. A contented 'hmmm' was her response. He'd have to get her back later, though. Or had she gotten him back? It didn't matter right now. "Pay attention," he ordered and started moving.

She was paying attention. How could she not? His harsh breathing echoed in her ear. His chest was moving across hers, teasing her nipples again. And he was hot and hard inside of her. She moved her legs to wrap them around his waist. His lips covered hers. She loved the opened mouth, desperate way he was kissing her. She felt the heat building again and went with it.

He was moving forcefully, concentrating on the pleasure being generated for both of them. Her fingers were clenched in his hair, keeping their mouths sealed. He felt her getting tighter around him again and let go. She gasped his name into his mouth as the shudders racked his body. He groaned her name and collapsed on top of her. Slowly their breathing returned to normal, and he moved to the side, not wanting to crush her. She languidly moved into his arms as he pulled her to him. Letting loose the yawn that formed, she closed her eyes and whispered, "I love you, Fox."

He grinned ruefully. "I love you, too, and that's the only reason you get away with it."

She didn't ask what he meant. She knew and she didn't have the energy to tease him right now. She was dead tired and realized that Mulder would probably stay awake for a few more hours once she was asleep. Something was keeping her from complete sleep, though. Maybe it was just the unusual place? No, the multitudes of hotels didn't bother her. She realized it was the muffled sounds of music a few moments later. It had to be extremely loud at the source to seep through the thick walls. "Mulder?"

"Hmm?"

"Do you hear music?" She sat up and looked toward the door.

"It's probably just Dani and Jed. It's not that late to them," he said and motioned to the clock. It only read a little after 10:00 pm, but it was after 1:00 am to their bodies.

"I'm going to check it out," she said and got out of the bed. She quickly pulled on shorts and a T-shirt and left the room.

Mulder flopped back and got up a second later. With the door open, he could hear the thuds that accompanied the music. What was going on? He pulled on a pair of sweats, then followed Scully down the hall. It wasn't Dani and Jed's room. That was in the other wing. Scully opened the door and covered her ears at the blaring sound of heavy metal music and screaming.

"Come on. Try it." The incredibly angry voice was Dani's. Mulder covered the rest of the ground quickly and looked over Scully's head. Dani and Jed were circling each other. Both of them looked far removed from the civilized beings of earlier. As they watched, Jed attacked with a series of spinning kicks. Dani blocked each one and then interrupted his next move with an attack of her own. One particular move knocked the breath from Jed, and it was followed up with a sweep that had him flat on his back, her palm pressing into the zyphoid process.

Mulder winced in sympathy, while Scully smiled in admiration. Dani and Jed noticed they had an audience and stood up, Dani extending her hand to her downed partner. She went over to one side of the gym room and turned off the music.

"Sorry. We didn't mean to keep you awake," she said and tried to wipe some of the sweat off of her face.

"You two do this often?" Mulder asked as he gestured to the room.

Dani nodded and answered, "Every night we're home. Sometimes he wins, though."

Having a good healthy argument was one thing, but full contact martial arts? "How often does one of you end up in the hospital?"

"From this?" Dani sounded incredulous. "Never. We know what we're doing."

Mulder shook his head. With his luck, he'd be in the hospital at least once a week if he and Scully did this together instead of jogging. "We didn't mean to interrupt," he said as a belated apology.

"No problem. We'll keep the music down, too," Jed said and went to get a long tan stick off of one of the walls.

Dani rubbed her hands together in glee. As Scully turned to close the door behind them, Dani said, "Oh, if you hear a truck in the next few hours, it's just my mother. See you in the morning."

" 'Night," Scully agreed and closed the door. Almost immediately she could hear the music, at a lower volume, and then the hollow sound of wooden sticks hitting each other.

"There's no way in hell, so don't even think about it," Mulder stated firmly as they went back to their room.

"I don't think the Bureau's insurance would cover all the times you'd end up in the emergency room." She climbed back into the bed and was asleep as soon as Mulder got comfortable. She was definitely looking forward to the next day, especially the morning. Very rarely did they indulge themselves with spending a full night together. Someone usually went home a little after midnight, just as if they had worked late. And they tried not to spend the night together while on a case. Mulder always had visions of the maids reporting back to the accounting department that only one bed had been used. So this would probably be the only one on this trip. Unless, he messed up the covers in his room, sneaked into her room while she was asleep, and joined her then.

Mulder smiled as her breathing became deep and rhythmic. He marveled at the silence surrounding the house. Sure he didn't live on a particularly busy street, and neither did Scully, but there was always some type of background city noise. His mind drifted toward the case. There had to be a pattern. Unless the killer was purposely choosing the randomness of his victims. Utah, in another two days, she had said. But why go back to New Mexico? Dani hadn't said much about that, and Jed was as closed-mouth as ever. Skinner was a friend of Jed's family. Great. Maybe he should ask Skinner about Jed's past. He dismissed the idea, neither one of them would appreciate it. Scully mumbled in her sleep and almost punched him in the face as she turned. They didn't need to workout together. He always ended up with one bruise or another when she was sleeping.

Mulder jerked fully awake, a little while later. He thought he heard a low pitched buzzing echoing in the hall. A few seconds later, Dani and Jed were walking by the door. "...off work early, or David broke the sound barrier," Dani was saying. Jed laughed and replied, "The sound barrier." The buzz must have been some kind of perimeter alarm, because it was several minutes later that he saw the headlights flash into the room. Was that how they had been ready for him and Scully in New Mexico? Talk about paranoia, or were they just always prepared? He knew where he was and that the other two would probably sleep in this wing as well, but he still tensed and eyed his gun on the night stand at the sound of voices a little while later.

He finally drifted off to sleep. His last thought was a selfish one as he pulled Dana closer. He wanted everyone to know about them, solely to get a good four hours of sleep a night. The nightmares rarely came when he slept with her near. He figured his subconscious was otherwise occupied on those nights and looked forward to the results of his active imagination.


The alarm was buzzing. Scully reached over to hit the snooze. The alarm didn't stop and Mulder mumbled an ouch. "Other side," went through her mind. She extended her other hand and swung. She did not encounter the alarm this time either and Mulder jerked violently. His breath hissed out and she felt him grab her shoulders.

"I'll get it. Don't move, OK?" The buzzing stopped and she opened her eyes. It was totally dark. But 4:00 am was like that. She had forgotten how early they were supposed to leave.

The shower helped some, but he needed coffee. Scully was still half asleep, but you couldn't tell by just looking. He grabbed their briefcases and headed towards the kitchen. He breathed deeply, savoring the smell of morning. Dani was sitting at the table, her head braced on her palms. Jed quietly drank his coffee and listened to the other woman sitting at the table, who was fully awake.

"Susan Rutherford, this is Fox Mulder and Dana Scully," Jed made the introductions, and Dani slowly raised a cup of coffee for a drink.

"Nice to meet you," Sue replied. Before anyone else could speak, she continued, "Dani said you're with the FBI? How long have you worked there? What type of cases do you usually handle? Where are you from originally?" Mulder answered the question automatically. When he found himself mentioning his sister, he stopped abruptly. The woman would be an excellent interrogator of the 'nice cop' variety.

Dani noticed Mulder's discomfort and spoke for the first time that morning, "Mom, that's enough. We have to go now." She stood up and kissed the woman's cheek. Her voice was too low for him to hear, but she must have been reassuring her mother. The older woman looked liked she wanted to wring her hands together.

Jed stood up as well and embraced her. "Sue, take care of our Face, OK."

"You only want me to do this so I won't worry. It won't help," she warned. He nodded and headed towards the door.

Mulder and Scully said 'good-bye' and were both told to be careful. Mulder winced as she told him to keep a good grip on his gun. Skinner must love telling stories about him to this family. He climbed into the front seat of the Bronco with Jed. Apparently Dani was going back to sleep and had wanted the backseat. Scully didn't argue and settled down for a long monotonous ride.

Three hours later, they had passed Tucson, and Dani was waking up. She didn't say anything to disrupt the conversation going on around her and listened. They were talking about the bodies, trying to see if there was some type of pattern she had missed. Closing her eyes in misery, she tried to ignore the blurring images speeding by on the roadside.

"We'll be stopping in a few more miles, Rutherford." She acknowledged his statement with a small nod. She could feel the other two agents looking at her, but she couldn't open her eyes.

Scully watched as Dani's complexion took on a gray cast. If she got this sick driving, why hadn't she taken anything for it? "Are you alright?" Scully kept a critical eye as Dani's eyes remained closed while she gave another small nod. They stopped a few minutes later to stretch their legs and get fuel. Scully was a bit leery as Dani climbed into the driver's seat.

"OK, Rutherford. Do you want to tell us where we're going and why?" Jed asked from the passenger seat.

"Near the border. I need to check something out."

"Dani, what's going on?" His voice was soft and full of concern. The total opposite of what Scully thought of as his work voice.

"I don't know if it's connected to this or not, Jed. But the first body, triggered a memory. The others were too much of a coincidence, and the last one confirmed it."

"Don't hold back, Rutherford." Mulder and Scully both tensed at the change.

"It must have been in the back of my mind when I requested your help," she said to the two in the back seat. "It's weird, Jed. That's why I didn't mention it."

"What do you mean by weird?" Mulder asked as he poked his head in between the front seats.

"I've helped a snakebite victim, a person who was mugged, someone that almost drowned, a person suffering from heatstroke, and someone at a construction accident. That's what I mean by weird. But all of those people were alright."

"The incidences weren't this close together?"

"No. They were years apart and in different places. The others all lived though and there were no other similarities between them and the ones that have died."

"Dani, why didn't you say something about this earlier?" Scully heard a small amount of pain in his voice. If that much could be heard, she didn't want to know how much he was actually feeling.

"I don't have any proof of what I'm saying, Jed. It's just a feeling and it's defying logic." Dani's voice was tight and so where the hands wrapped around the steering wheel.

"What do you think it is?" Mulder's voice was neutral. He didn't want to bias her theories.

"That someone or something is pissed at me and out to prove how much power he or she has."

"Something? Are you saying that Death is proving its power?" Dani shot a look at Dana for the questions and the tone of her voice. Mulder was glad he was out of range of that glare.

"No. I'm saying that someone connected is not happy with me. I don't know who that someone is and I've run out of ways to find out. Why do you think I haven't said a whole lot about it?" Mulder listened as the two women argued back and forth. Dani and Dana were equally matched in their skepticism. But Dani held fast to what she was saying. The connections this person or thing had were not normal. She would have already dealt with normal.

'Death out for revenge,' he thought. 'Was it possible? Wouldn't doctors be a more likely target?' He looked again over at Scully. Would she be in danger on this trip? She had been the reason he'd cheated death many times in the last few years.

"The first set were totally random and coincidental, right?" Dani nodded yes to Mulder's question. "As well as the second group?" Again she nodded yes. "Are the orders the same?"

"No and that's what has me worried. There has been only one other situation in which I was directly responsible in keeping someone alive. It was a gunshot wound." Jed's head swung in her direction.

"Jesus, Dani. Is that what you're thinking about?"

"What?" Scully asked forcefully. If something from their past was now in on this...

"Jed was almost killed several years ago. A gunshot wound near the left ventricle."

"How did you save him?" Mulder asked when Dani remained silent, her eyes on the road.

"I haven't a clue. I freaked for a second. It's a little fuzzy, but I knew I had to stop the bleeding. As soon as that was done, I called for medical help. His heart stopped beating before they got there and I had to perform CPR. The medics arrived just as it started beating again. Someone must have had them out in the area for something else, because they arrived less than five minutes after he was hit."

"One of the medical miracles you mentioned?" Mulder questioned.

"Yes."

"Dani, it's not going to happen." Jed's voice was soft, but steady.

"Rationally, I know that, Jed. But things have been too weird lately. I don't like it and I want it stopped."

"We're going back there aren't we, Dani." Scully heard the deep sadness and acceptance in Jed's voice.

She nodded. "You have to see, Jed. You have to see how desolate it is. How lucky we both were that night."

Each mile that passed, Mulder wondered at the event she described. They had turned off the main highway and were on deserted county roads. Every once in awhile a house could be seen, but nothing else. They finally drove through a small, tired town near the Arizona-New Mexico border. Lunch was a reserved, quiet affair with sparse conversation.

The only time Mulder relaxed was when Jed pulled Dani away from the table and said they were going for a walk. He watched them leave and then turned to his partner. "So what do you think, Scully?" He knew that whatever she said, it wasn't going to be near anything that he was thinking.

"About the randomness of fate? They were lucky. There's a clinic here, but you heard Dani. It's almost an hour yet to the place where Jed was shot. What were the medics doing that far out? Who actually called them?"

Mulder took a deep breath and prepared himself for "The Look" he knew Scully was going to give him. "Do you think they have a psychic bond?"

"Mulder..."

"No, listen. You've seen how they communicate verbally. They don't really. Yet they get things done in sync. And the baby, she knew Jed was there before we were even near the house."

"Mulder, they've been married almost two years. Before that they were partners for, what, five years or more. We do the same thing sometimes, Mulder. It's part of being close."

He thought about that. Then said, "Do you remember when we first met them?"

"I'm not likely to forget it, Mulder. I still hear that safety being removed sometimes."

"He said, and I quote, //You're psychic now.//"

"The man doesn't phrase things in question form when he's working. Haven't you noticed that?"

Mulder couldn't resist the setup of that line. "I guess he'll never do very well on Jeopardy then."

Scully ignored him. Two year olds and Mulder did not need any encouragement when they thought they were being cute. "He was probably just being sarcastic. Besides..." Scully didn't finish the sentence as Jed and Dani came back into view.

"Besides what?" Mulder followed her gaze and studied the two people on the small sidewalk for a moment. Jed held her face in his hands, his forehead touching hers. Neither one of them was speaking, yet he could *see* the communication between the two. "Scully, look at that," he said and gestured toward them She probably wouldn't see it, but he had to try.

Scully bit back the comment that she was looking and watched the silent sharing. She felt a twinge of envy for the openness of their actions. They could show the world their relationship, while she and Mulder had to hide theirs. But they did have their work, as well as each other when they weren't working. Only a few knew about that little secret. "What, Mulder?" She continued to watch both Jed and Dani.

"Can't you see it?" He insisted.

Scully opened her mind, trying to see the Extreme Possibility he was implying. She was getting better at it. She could actually consider Mulder's theories, sometimes come up with some of her own, before finding a non-X-file explanation. This time she saw a deep love of two people that had shared, what probably seemed like, centuries together. She felt like that sometimes, usually when Mulder was in the hospital. "I see something, Mulder, but it's not what you're seeing. I see what others might see when they look at us, if we would let them." He reached over and covered her hand with his. They both acknowledged the silent sharing, but allowed the contact only for a few seconds before pulling back. They were working.

"You don't have to," Dani said, startling them with her nearness.

Mulder looked up and saw her standing by the table with Jed a silent shadow behind her. "What?" She motioned towards the table, where his and Scully's hands had been a moment ago. He shook his head and knew Scully was doing the same.

"Yes they do, Rutherford. Remember." She looked sad for a moment at Jed's words and then nodded.

"But not forever. We have to go now," Dani said and turned on her heel. She deftly side-stepped Jed and headed for the door.

"Wait," Mulder called after them. "I want to check out the clinic." He remembered why he didn't like working with other agents on cases, especially when Jed and Dani climbed into the only mode of transportation.

"Come on, Mulder," Scully said and left the table. She smiled because Mulder was definitely going to sulk now. But she was willing to bet they would look at the clinic's call-ins the night Jed was shot sometime today.

"I think Scully and I should check out the clinic," he said again, just in case they hadn't heard him a moment ago. "But I also want to see the area where the shooting was." Scully bit back another smile as Mulder used his persuasive voice rather than his "spooky" tone.

"The clinic's another five miles from here. We had to get directions first, so that's where we're headed now." Dani paused for a moment and took a deep breath. "You two have to take over this part. We're too close to it." Mulder noticed the tension of the other two agents. They weren't used to taking the backseat, that much was obvious. "Remind us. Forcefully, if necessary," she finished.

"Are you sure? You won't be able to change your minds once Mulder gets going." Scully ignored the combination glare and wounded expression Mulder aimed at her.

"Yes. This is not our area of expertise. Where my thoughts are leading... I don't know if I believe it, if I can accept it."

No one said anything until they reached the clinic. Scully felt strange flashing her badge while wearing casual, summer clothes, but the other three were dressed similarly. The casual clothes had been suggested by Dani and almost ordered by Jed. It was too hot for normal work clothes and judging by the looks of the town, they would have been severely overdressed. She requested to see Jed's medical records and the log of calls for the medical team that night.

The nurse/receptionist glared over her bi-focals. She was acting extremely upset with the four people who interrupted her reading marathon. After closing her magazine with an impatient sigh, she said, "If you can find it, you're welcome to the information."

Scully just loved it when people pulled an attitude. "If you would at least show us where the records are kept, I'm sure we'll manage just fine."

The woman shrugged and led the way to a closet in the back of the house that served as the medical center for the area. "We just moved to this place two weeks ago. Some people from the town helped to make the move go quicker. But a few of the boxes fell off the dolly. I haven't had a chance yet to straighten the mess."

They all groaned mentally when they saw the mess. All of the older records were not filed. They were thrown haphazardly together in various boxes and two large plastic bags (of the linear low density polyethylene variety).

"I guess this means the only way we're going to find what we want, is if we go through this mess and organize it for you." Mulder looked at Dani and almost cringed. Ack, her cool professionalism was as intimidating to some people as Scully's.

The nurse lost the slight gleam in her eyes. "It would help us both. If you would just stack the rest by years..." She let the rest of her sentence fade.

"OK, everybody take a box. Is there somewhere we can work." Dani grabbed a box as she directed the order to the nurse, who had tried to sneak back toward the reception area of the clinic.

Jed rolled his eyes and waited until the nurse had turned. He then said, "Dani. Behave."

She looked up with an innocent expression and flushed. "Sorry. I did warn you, though," she said and waited until Scully and the nurse led the way to a small room that looked like it doubled as a doctor's lounge.

The next several hours were spent organizing files and sheaves of papers into binders. The town barely had 500 people in it, but the surrounding territory had several thousand. "I never realized so many people would call an ambulance for nothing more than a stubbed toe," Mulder said rubbing the bridge of his nose. At least he didn't need the Dramamine for this paper search.

"Dani, what was the name we're looking for again?" Jed asked as he hunched over another stack of papers.

"Criston. You got it?"

"Yeah," he replied and pulled out a map from her bag. The area where he'd been shot was circled, making the distance calculation easy.

"What time were you hit?" Scully asked, studying the page.

"It was 4:57 pm," Dani answered.

"This says the call came at 5:00 pm. Are you sure about the time?"

"Yes. We were joking about banker's hours when we heard the chopper. The ambulance was in the area anyway," she said as she pointed to the map.

"Not according to this," Mulder stated as he read the paper Scully passed to him.

"What?" Dani almost growled as she reached across the table for the paper.

"The ambulance left the clinic right after the call came from the Criston place. They reported gun shots and screams at 5:00 pm. The place is how far?" Scully requested.

"At least thirty minutes from here, and that's doing ninety." Dani's voice was soft. "He would've died before they got there."

"Are you sure about the time then?" Scully repeated.

Dani thought carefully. She forced herself to relive every second of that day three years ago. "I'm sure," she said with absolute conviction.

"Time distortion?" Mulder asked.

"Does everything come back to that for you?" She smiled to soften the sarcastic words. "Not more than usual in such situations. I mean things seemed to move in slow motion, but not that slow. And everything was continuous. There weren't any breaks in movement or confusion about what I had been doing."

"What about when you said you freaked?" Scully then asked, "Did the chopper come back on a second pass?"

"No. Jed was hit and on the ground. I was right beside him then. If it had come back, we both were non-moving targets. They would have been able to finish us both off."

"Maybe the Cristons heard the helicopter on the other side of their property and called for the medics," Scully offered.

"Before gunshots were heard? Not likely. Air traffic was common in the area, that's part of the reason why we were there," Dani argued.

"What exactly happened when Jed was hit?" Mulder interjected before they could go off on some tangent .

"He fell backwards unto the ground. I had been standing about twenty feet away and ran over to him. The wound was mid-chest on the left side and I tried to stop the bleeding. I could feel his heartbeat as I applied pressure. There were eighty-one counts before it stopped. That's when I started the CPR. His heart had just started again, when I heard the sirens." The expressions of the others slowly registered when she stopped talking. Jed's was the easiest to read. He was angry because she was upset. She also saw the remembered fear as he relived those moments when he thought he was going to die and leave her. Scully looked impassive, like she was still looking for some answer. And Mulder was trying to keep a lid on the excitement she could read in his eyes. "There couldn't have been more than ten minutes that passed. Max. He would have lost too much blood by then."

"OK, think about this..." Mulder paused and Scully braced herself. "Psychic healing."

Dani blinked. She didn't want to insult him with her first response. He was a colleague whose help she had requested, especially for his unusual area of expertise. "My first thought doesn't concur. Neither does my second or third one. Jed?"

Mulder thought about another person that had denied their psychic abilities as Jed formed his answer.

Slowly he shook his head. "I don't remember much between hearing the chopper and the lights from inside the ambulance. If you're asking if I felt a wave of heat or anything, no. I was more on the cold side."

"Maybe I was wrong about the place where it happened," Dani offered.

"No. The Criston's place is close enough to where you said it occurred. And the call coincides with the time you said the shots were fired," Scully said looking over all the notes so far. "It's the time in-between that's not being accounted for."

Mulder accepted being the only one to believe in what he was saying without proof. He had a feeling though, that the only way they were going to get proof was if someone got seriously injured. And it would probably be him.

"Do you still want to go to the site?" Dani asked, looking around the room.

Mulder nodded while Scully said, "It has been three years. There isn't going to be anything out there."

"I still want to check it out." Scully showed no reaction, but she knew they would go. Mulder was using his "I'm not budging" tone.

The nurse opened the door to check on them. Every half an hour or so, she had done so apparently because she had nothing else to do. They had heard the phone ring twice and only one car drive up. Scully knew why the files hadn't been touched yet. But she was still annoyed at the nurse's silent refusal to help them. "Are you finished yet?" Scully flinched at the look Dani sent the woman. The nurse stammered the next few words. " I- I'm getting ready to-to leave. The other nurse will be here in a few minutes."

"And." Mulder stared a little in awe as the nurse actually started to bow at Dani's command.

"And, I-I was wondering when you would be done here?"

"Obviously, not yet. Which isn't surprising, considering how much effort had gone into the re-filing so far. We'll let someone know when we leave." The nurse quickly shut the door behind her.

"Exactly how would you react if I had to remind you -forcefully- who was the lead team?" Mulder held his hands up in mock surrender. Then they all laughed as Dani's face flushed scarlet.

"She annoyed me," she said in self-defense and added a shrug.

"I'd hate to see it if someone were to piss you off," Mulder teased.

Jed nodded emphatically. "Yes, you would."


Mulder squatted down and picked up a hand full of the sandy soil. Slowly he let it shift through his fingers as he looked around the deserted area. Off in the distance, he could detect a small adobe structure. The Criston place. He scanned the rest of the landscape behind the protection of his sunglasses. There was nothing to soften the harshness of it. "This is it?"

"Give or take a few feet," Dani replied, her arms wrapped around her waist. She raised her hand to shade her eyes further. "We were facing this direction. We had a tip that a drop was going to be made, probably by air, so we were expecting a twin engine or a chopper. But not until dark. We were just getting things setup when we heard it." She took a deep breath and stared at Jed.

Mulder had noticed that the two hadn't touched as much compared to the last time. He also noted that their exchanges, though friendly, weren't exactly intimate either, excluding the scene outside of the diner. Most likely work mode, he guessed and compared his and Scully's actions to theirs.

Dani continued, "We had a camping permit, if anyone asked, so we weren't worried about hiding our presence completely. The tent was already set up and the Blazer wasn't marked. Jed was standing about twenty feet away when the helicopter came into view. Someone onboard started firing an HK-53K. It peppered the ground in front of Jed with seventeen bullets before one struck him."

"Why didn't you move?" Scully asked him

"Have you ever been chased by a helicopter? I was lucky the guy was a bad shot and was only hit the one time."

"They were caught?" Mulder asked, thinking these people were behind the deaths.

"They were caught." Dani and Jed both answered in the same emotionless tone.

"You said no one had been released lately, right?" Scully asked, squinting against the sun.

"The pilot and the gunman both died before they were arrested. They attempted another hit on Jed's life in the hospital."

"You?" Mulder requested.

"Yes and the guard stationed outside the room," Dani answered with a nod. "Have you seen enough?" Her shoulders were set and her jaw was tight as she asked the question.

Mulder nodded and they all climbed back into the Bronco. They stopped and questioned the Cristons. They remembered the shooting, but not the exact times. Still, with the hospital ambulance logs, that left a half hour time frame between the shots and its arrival.

Scully quietly thought over everything so far. Jed had been extremely lucky. The helicopter must have been far enough out of range for the weapon to be less than normally effective. And considering the gun in question was more powerful than an M-16, it must have been closer to the Criston place when firing. She wanted to look at the hospital records of the wound. Maybe Dani's idea of near the left ventricle wasn't the same as hers. The exit wound should have been large enough to rip out most of Jed's left lung, killing him long before the ambulance arrived. Even if it had arrived there in time, they wouldn't have had the necessary equipment to save his life.

She still thought that the chopper had made a second pass. Or maybe it had shot a few practice rounds on the other side of the remote house, prompting the call. Psychic healing? Dani was dismissing the possibility, so probably not. Though it wouldn't be the first time they had encountered someone denying their abilities. Was she afraid of becoming an X-file? But why have her and Mulder called in?

Scully carefully studied the woman driving. There were no signs of the gray pallor from earlier on her skin. She tried to remember the ride down the mountain last year. There hadn't seemed to be any signs of motion sickness last time. Jed had driven and the road had twisted and turned every few feet. Why was she getting sick on straight stretches? Was she already pregnant again? The last thought held a little bit of envy. She looked over at Mulder. Now wasn't the right time to even think about it. Maybe later...

Scully also thought about the other woman's attitude in general. There was a no-nonsense, sometimes abrupt, reserved air about her, but Dana had also seen her interacting with her family. Overall the woman was, she mentally shrugged, normal. No, not normal. She and her husband had some paranoid tendencies, but they were in law enforcement. Some paranoia was expected and encouraged in the field. Dani was also extremely logical. She would actually think about Mulder's theories before coming up with reasons in favor of or more often against them. Unlike most people who dismissed him as a escaped mental patient, impersonating a Federal Agent.

She focused back onto the conversation occurring in the truck. Mulder was now interrogating her about the five similar instances in which she had managed to save lives. Dani was resistant still toward the idea of psychic healing. She insisted that general first aid knowledge and timing were the reasons the people had lived. For the ones that had died, she had found them after they were already dead. If she had found them earlier, maybe she could have helped them. But again, she emphasized she would have used emergency first aid to do it.

They stopped for dinner at the same diner where they had eaten lunch. Mulder continued his questioning trying to find an instance in which Dani had noticed anything unusual when she had helped people. Scully also asked several questions about the first aid procedures Dani had followed. Everyone of them would have helped the person until the paramedics arrived.

Night had fallen by the time they hit the road. Jed was driving again with Dani in front. Through the eerie glow of the dashboard, Scully saw that Dani was asleep. "I have some Dramamine if you think Dani would want any," she offered quietly.

Jed shook his head. "No. She's tried it. Knocks her out for at least twelve hours."

Scully nodded and tried to get comfortable. Mulder's legs had taken over part of her space. The dark road, music, and the rhythmic sound of the engine lulled her into a half-sleep state. She stretched out across most of the seat and used Mulder's shoulder as her pillow. He in-turn angled his body more, so that she was resting against him like they did on a couch. She ignored the fact that she was bending, by a large amount, one of their rules. She was getting tired of being so careful all of the time about how frequently they would have any physical contact in front of others. They were even stingy in the presence of her mother. And it was all to prevent a slip-up at work. As she adjusted her position a little, she rationalized that he was much more comfortable to lay against than the window.

She was jerked awake and almost fell onto the floorboard awhile later. Jed was cussing quietly and fluently in English and another language she wasn't sure of. He slowed the Bronco down and she could then feel the unevenness of the car. One of the tires must have blown. She sat up and watched as Jed got out of the truck and Dani followed a little groggily with a flashlight from under the seat. Scully glanced at Mulder, who was already getting out to see what the damage was. She opened her door and saw Jed through the harsh illumination of the headlights. He did not look happy.

"What happened?" Mulder asked. One of the tires was completely missing and part of the underbelly was severely dented. The flashlight Dani had showed a puddle forming under the engine.

"Armadillo committed suicide." Mulder smirked at the answer. It sounded like something he would say to annoy Scully. Well it was working. She was shooting Jed her glare. He just shrugged it off and continued, "They're armored raccoons."

The puddle under the engine had grown. As well as killing the tire, the steel-plated rodent had apparently damaged the oilpan. Dani started to backtrack to retrieve the lost piece of metal, when she stopped. "There's only two quarts in the back."

"Nice. Where are we." Dani glared at Jed as he spoke.

Dana was relieved that it wasn't her and Mulder responsible for this mishap as Dani said, "I don't know. You were driving. Figure it out so I can call someone." She went to get the phone from the front seat, for a change, grateful about the necessity of carrying one all of the time. She started dialing a series of numbers and prompted Jed when she was finished.

"It's about 110 miles to Tucson and about 40 miles to I-10 and 666." Mulder was glad they weren't on 666 yet. That would be a little too surreal.

Dani repeated the location with a bit more detail. When she hung up the phone, she said, "We're out of range for Tucson, but they'll tow us to Cochise. They said it would be about an hour." Silence was heavy and uncomfortable for a moment as Jed killed the headlights, and they were surrounded by the darkness.

"Well is anyone up to a game of 'Name that Incandescent Ball of Gas'?" Jed asked as he sat down and propped himself against the Bronco, apparently not worried about the local night life.

"No. You cheat," Dani replied.

"You're only saying that because you never win."

"No, because you always change your mind about which one you're pointing at."

Dana shivered as the two argued back and forth good-naturedly. The temperature had dropped since they had last been out of the car. "Maybe we should sit inside the Bronco." Mulder suggested as he saw her shaking, plus he thought about the snakes that might be lurking about. "Funny how people will amuse themselves on stakeouts, hmm?"

"Mulder, we're not on a stakeout," she said as she closed the door.

"Might as well be. A dark car. Waiting. Just you and me," his voice dropped into its teasing pitch.

"And Dani and Jed and a tow truck on the way."

"No fun, Scully. Now imagine, it's just you and me..."

"We're in the middle of nowhere and can't leave," she interjected.

He nodded. "Exactly. The stars are twinkling softly in the sky, reminding me of the lights in your eyes," he continued.

"The wind blows gently, bringing with it the smell of your b.s.?" she offered.

"No, not my b.s. It's the smell of Floyd the Flukeworm and he has the undeniable urge to procreate."

Dani and Jed looked over their shoulders as the Bronco lurched and they heard an indignant "Mulder!"

It was more like an hour and half before the tow truck arrived. They were entertained on the way to the town with stories of kamikaze armadillos. And since all five people were crammed into the cab of the truck, they needed to listen to something besides their cramping muscles. Mulder used the opportunity to hold Scully close, but that was easy considering he was acting as her chair right then. He savored the sensation as his body remembered a different episode. He had to start thinking about paperwork though as Dana shifted her weight.

She tried to get a little more comfortable until she felt Mulder's growing erection. She froze and started making up a grocery list. No. Bad idea. Chocolate sauce was at the top of the list. Paperwork, yeah. Thinking of all the reports she was going to end up writing worked quickly on her accelerated heart rate and surging hormones.

"Watch, there's going to be a limited number of rooms," Mulder mumbled to himself. He was not even going to suggest he share a room with Jed. He'd prefer the Bureau find out about their involvement to that scenario. But if that did end up being the case, they could put the rooms under different names and no one in Accounting would have a clue.

They were promised the Bronco would be ready first thing in the morning, and were dropped off at the only motel in the area. It was small and Mulder held his breath as he requested three rooms.

The woman stared at the four people. They were not ordinary tourists and braced herself for a high class temper tantrum. "I'm sorry. We don't have three rooms available." Four people, three rooms? Someone didn't want to share.

"OK. Fine. Two rooms. Double Beds." He didn't care about their rules at this moment, but Accounting would. And no way in hell would there be a record of his and Jed's name on a hotel receipt with only one bed listed for the room.

"I'm sorry. All we have left is a single with 2 double beds." She now held her breath, waiting for the explosion. She hated it when people started making digs about small towns. The man talking and the woman with the short red hair looked uncomfortable. The other two looked like they were going to bust out laughing. Apparently the tall man didn't want to be near the others. She didn't know what to think about these people. Nor did she really care. It looked like someone was going to end up sleeping on the floor.

"We will -" The silent man placed his hand over the mahogany haired woman's mouth. The other two grinned, and the tall man finished her sentence.

Mulder looked around the room as four people took up most of the available space. Crashing on the floor was out. Someone would step on him on the way to the bathroom. He looked at Scully to gage her reaction. She just shrugged and plopped down on one of the beds. Dani was calling home and Jed had disappeared into the bathroom Mulder sat down next to Dana. "Well, there go my plans for the night." At her raised eyebrow he continued, "Innocently dreaming of holding you in my arms."

"Mulder," she warned.

"I know, but there's no room for me on the floor."

"Well the bean counters are going to start some more rumors when they see four names on the bill."

Dani propped herself against the headboard when she had finished talking. Just as she got comfortable, Jed ordered, "Move," and sat down where she had been. Mulder saw him place a gun under the pillow before laying down on the thin pad. Mulder looked at the clock and winced at the time. No wonder he was actually tired. He doubted if he would get any sleep though. He usually didn't relax enough around strangers, even when they were unarmed, to do something like enter an unconscious state.

An hour later the lights were off and CNN was playing softly. Since Dani had vetoed the possibility of the Playboy Channel, and Dana had agreed, the continuous cycling of the news had been selected. Both women were dead to the world, while Jed and Mulder both pretended to be asleep. They weren't doing it on purpose. They were just too aware of the other people in the room to relax enough to enter REM. Mulder's eyes snapped open awhile later.

"Jared! They're taking Jared!" Dani was saying. The rest was incoherent, until she sat up. "No. Listen. The comet is the answer." At that point, Jed reached up and pulled her down across his chest.

"Does she always do that?" Mulder asked.

"Not too often. And that's they only thing she says that you can ever understand. Usually it's just mumbling." He was quiet for a moment before he continued, "It freaked me out the first time she did it. I was ready to skewer a raccoon before I realized she was still asleep."

Mulder wondered about what she had said for a few moments until the anchor's voice on CNN lulled him into actual sleep.


She didn't want to move. But something was telling her she should. She started to throw the covers off and felt Mulder nuzzle the back of her neck. She dropped the blanket and got ready to fall back asleep. Water was running. She remembered where she was. Dana opened her eyes and stared at the wall in front of her trying to focus on her surroundings. She blinked fuzzily as the phone rang once.

"Saetes...Eight-thirty." There was another pause as the person on the other end spoke. When Jed spoke again, his voice was still soft. "Eight-thirty... Yes." She heard Jed stand up and walk to the bathroom.

"No. Don't move." Mulder was awake. She shivered as his morning beard scraped across her neck. "Let me say good morning first."

"Not the way you usually do. They'll be back in here in a few seconds. Even you aren't that quick in the mornings." She yelped as Mulder's teeth sank into her shoulder for a second. She laughed as he sat up and bunched the blanket around his waist. He turned the TV on as Dana crawled over him to get out of the bed.

Mulder thought about teasing her a little more but decided against it for the sake of his health. It was just after 6:00 am. They had a little over two hours before the 8:30 deadline Jed had issued to the person that had called. The car would be ready by then or some kind of rendezvous had been scheduled. Most likely it was the mechanic that had phoned trying to weasel some more time out for the project.

Dana was sitting on the edge of the bed, brushing her teeth with the supplies she always carried in her briefcase, when Jed stepped back into the main room. "The Bronco will be ready at 8:30. And I want this guy found before Dani has to go to Utah."

They didn't reply, mainly because Jed didn't expect an answer. The Bronco was indeed ready by the time they had finished a leisurely breakfast. Mulder wanted to check on the people Dani had helped before, to see if there had been any connection that she had missed. He doubted they could be tracked down and interviewed before the trip to Utah was scheduled to happen, but they could at least get started on it.

They got back to Dani and Jed's without further delays. Once there, Jed led Mulder and Scully to the office. They started the search for the five people and were informed that three of bodies had been identified. Dani meanwhile contacted their supervisor. He wanted to know if any problems had evolved working with Jed again. Jed heard Dani laugh and actually smiled. The smile vanished a second later as the perimeter alarm sounded. Mulder wondered at the extent of the security system and even commented on their caution.

"I don't know if I've gotten better or just more subtle about it," Jed replied as he agreed with Mulder.

Dani came into the office carrying Suzie. "Mom's back," she said unnecessarily. "Also Bartell wants us to behave. One hotel room is not an option."

"What?"

"We are to act, and I quote, in the same manner as before the baby,"

"You're joking." Jed was eyeing her closely, looking for any signs of demented humor on her part.

Dani shook her head and grinned a wicked smile. "Nope. We've been co-signed to the forgotten realms of sexual frustration again."

"Not in this lifetime." Mulder heard Jed say under his breath before he continued in a louder tone. "This case is definitely going to go quickly, Rutherford."

Dani laughed again and passed the baby to Jed. She sat down at one of the computers and pulled up the itinerary for the trip to Utah the next day. "The original plans have been changed a little. I'm still scheduled to be on the commercial flight out at 9:30 tomorrow morning, but Jed has the Cessna ready to go. I'm supposed to be in court at 1:30."

"I think it would be better if you did use the commercial flight. If you are being followed, we can keep on eye out. And if all of the killings have been - random, you changing your schedule might make it harder for us to catch him." Mulder continued to look at the computer screen in front of him as he spoke, making mental notes on the information before him.

Dani nodded her head. "You're right. I was still thinking I had to handle this on my own, catch the guy by surprise. So bring the cessna along, or does everyone take the commercial?"

"Your partner wasn't scheduled to testify?" Scully asked.

"No. This is the partner before the last one," Dani replied, averting her eyes.

"Just how many have you had?" Mulder asked tallying numbers.

Dani answered with a guilty flush to her cheeks, "Only two since I returned from maternity leave. But I did have the one partner for over five years." The last was said a little defiantly. "What about the travel arrangements?" she asked, changing the subject.

"We'll see if we can get on the same flight, first," Mulder said and reached for his phone. "What's the number for the airline?"

They arranged for the flight and worked on the search for the five people. The first person barely remembered the episode and had to be prompted on the events leading up to it.

"I'm sorry I can't help you. But that was over ten years ago."

"Sir, anything you can tell us will help," Dana tried again. She refused to direct the questioning toward the psychic healing possibility, though. She just couldn't do it with a straight face. Mulder was motioning that she pass him the phone. She knew that it would be better if she finished the interview for simplicity. "Was there anything unusual that you remember?" That was the only concession she would make towards Mulder's line of questioning.

"I had been conked on the head with a wooden beam. That's pretty much all I remember about that day. That and the young lady that helped me."

"What about her?" Dana hadn't mentioned Dani, other that to say the call was in reference to his accident.

"I remember her hair. Dark red and long. It seemed to surround me. But that's about it. The doctor told me later that she had saved my life. She kept me still. Otherwise one of the bone fragments most likely would have come loose."

"Were there other people around?"

"Probably some co-workers. I couldn't tell you their names. I didn't ever learn hers either. They said she left when the paramedics arrived."

Dana tried several more questions, all of which he couldn't answer thoroughly. Mulder was glaring at her when she hung up the phone.

"Why didn't you ask him?"

"And say what? Excuse me, sir. I need to ask you some questions to determine whether or not you were helped by a psychic healer? I'm sure he would have jumped up and said yes, that was how he survived. You know damn good and well that phone interviews are hard enough to conduct without throwing your credibility out the window with a question like that." Dana held her breath. She loved the man glaring at her more than she should, but he still made her incredibly angry sometimes.

They continued with their opposite and equally obstinate stand-off for a moment. Then in silent communication, they backed down. They knew they weren't always, well most likely never, going to agree on some things. So when one of those topics arose, they tried to keep calm about it, at least until they were in their basement office. Waiting to explode until then took some of the steam out of the argument, and also prevented them from taking the arguments home too often.

"I'll call the next one," Mulder offered innocently.

"Mulder."

"And I'll behave, Scully," he said with even more innocence.

She shook her head. He would do what he wanted anyway. Somehow he would get the answers pointing toward Dani having some kind of healing power. She listened closely as Mulder spoke with a woman that had almost died of heatstroke in the Grand Canyon. She mentally cringed when he asked if the woman had felt any kind of healing presence. Dana had to remind herself that he didn't believe everything written in the tabloids was true. No, he just believed the possibility was there.

The third person was unavailable and not expected back until much later. They attacked the five deaths again, searching for patterns with the new information that had come through from the coroners. There were still no solid leads, and Mulder rubbed the bridge of his nose, trying to uncross his eyes. Only two of the victims had been ruled as homicides. No foul play had been noted for the snakebite victim or the drowned man. The heat stroke victim hadn't been ruled on yet, though the ME was suggesting suicide. Mulder snickered at that one. The preliminary toxicology report had found a sedative in the blood. If it had been suicide, why hadn't the woman just overdosed on the sedatives? The drug suggested to both him and Scully that it was a homicide rather than suicide.

Mulder laid his reading glasses on his notes and looked out the window. He really wanted to go running. It had been three days and he was feeling the excess energy build. "Do you want to run?" he asked as he stood up. He could find the patterns while he exercised and rested his abused corneas.

Dana stared at him for a second, before shaking her head. "It's almost 100 degrees out there. Plus, Dani asked if I wanted to workout later." Scully watched as he nodded abruptly and left. Distracted, she went back to what she had been doing.

Dani came to get her before Mulder returned. This time, instead of heavy metal assaulting her eardrums, Pachabel's Canon in D filled the room. They started out with some stretches. Dana was flexible, but she winced in pain as Dani contorted herself into almost impossible angles. Dana became a little worried when they started sparring. Dani hadn't stopped to put on any pads, but it went well. Dana's training had been more focused on self-defense, while Dani's technique was more aggressive. Or maybe it was just Dani.

They ran through a series of drills before practicing free-style. Scully thought she was going to lose her head a couple of times. She figured Dani was pulling her punches when she wasn't decapitated. That wasn't good practice for either of them, so she went on the offensive. Then Dana wished she hadn't as Dani's foot connected. 'Oh, jeez, that hurt,' went through Dana's mind as she wrapped an arm around her waist and tried to bring the air back into her lungs.

"Got your diaphragm, didn't I?" Dani asked as she filled her own lungs easily. Dana just nodded. "You took me by surprise," she explained and offered an apologetic smile.

"I'll try not to do it again," Dana said as she stretched the abused area.

"You won't," Dani reassured her as they moved into their ready stances again.


She couldn't sleep. Even after an intense workout and stuffing herself at dinner, she was wide awake. It was like this more and more often. She had trouble falling asleep anymore when Mulder wasn't there. She berated herself; he was just down the hall. She told herself she shouldn't become dependent on his presence at night. If that happened, she'd never get any sleep between his nightmares and her worrying about his nightmares. If he went home before she fell asleep, she'd stay awake until he called. Then they'd be on the phone for awhile, and she still didn't get any rest. She finally gave up an hour later. The house was totally quiet as she walked down the hall to the family room.

Mulder was slouched in a chair, a file resting on his chest. A mindless movie was on, giving a small amount of background noise. Her chest tightened at the sight. A soft smile formed as she turned off the TV. "Mulder, come to bed," she said softly and shook his shoulder. He mumbled in his sleep, but didn't move otherwise. She shook him again, and he slowly opened his eyes. More than half-asleep, he followed her down the hall and climbed into bed. Dana climbed in on the other side and was asleep within seconds.


The teenager was fighting with his sister. It was just the usual squabbling that all siblings seem to go through regardless of their ages. Mulder sat on the couch watching them with a bittersweet smile. He had never had the opportunity to tease his own sister about what a geek, dork, or nerd her latest boyfriend was. But there was something different about the way the boy was acting now. His sister was the one teasing him, and he didn't like it. He pushed her hard. The dream Mulder stood up and tried to see if she was ok. When he checked her head, his hand came away covered with blood. He looked up at the teenager, who was smiling maliciously. Mulder looked around for a phone and couldn't see one. He told the teenager to call an ambulance, but the boy was frozen in place. As Mulder watched, the girl changed. Suddenly it was Scully lying on the floor covered in blood. The other girl was kneeling beside him, trying to stop the bleeding.

Mulder's ears hurt from the lack of outside noise. The echo of his heartbeat grew to fill his entire range of hearing. Other heartbeats joined his and all of them settled into a slow, steady rhythm. His eyes could no longer focus on the room at large. His field of vision narrowed to show only the wound. The area he could see grew even small, so that there was only a pinpoint of light...

Mulder opened his eyes. The sun was at just the right angle to blind him. He turned his head and buried it in the pillow, trying to shield his sleep sensitive eyes. A familiar smell caught his attention, and he turned he head towards it. Dana. She was still sound asleep. He smiled as the memory of her coming to get him washed over him. Her fussing about how he slept, or didn't sleep, always took him by surprise. He moved his head so that his face was buried in her hair. She mumbled something and shifted onto her side, away from the light. It was now time to wake his favorite Special Agent up in a fashion they both enjoyed....

Dana was vaguely aware of someone calling to her. She knew she was dreaming and incorporated the voice into her dream. There was no way she was going to willing end this one. She and Mulder were on a boat and Mulder wasn't seasick. It was a sailboat on a calm ocean and there was no one piloting the craft. Mulder was staring out at the horizon as she came up behind him. She laid her face against his back and wrapped her arms around his lean, slightly tan waist. She felt him shift and his arms covered hers.

The smell of male with a hint of coconut oil made her senses spin. Lightly she ran her hands up and down his chest with his still covering hers. He tried to turn as her hands moved along the waistband on his speedos. God, she loved it when he wore the microscopic things. She didn't mind when other women looked either. Because if they ever dared do anything more than look, she'd abstract their eyes all the way to the occipital lobe with a rusty scalpel.

Much to her delight, Mulder stood still as she caressed his thighs and hips, teasing him with light, fleeting touches. When she couldn't stand it any longer, she cupped him through the thin material. He was hard and getting harder. She heard him groan from far away, then she moved against him. She wanted to feel his skin against her breasts and suddenly their swimsuits were gone. She still wouldn't let him turn to face her and his hands still covered hers, going where she led. He was straining against her fingers and gasping for breath when she finally moved away enough for him to turn.

He grasped her shoulders and stared down at her with blazing eyes. She saw his control returning with the wicked gleam that now tinted his eyes to a more green color. She wanted them black and unfocused. Before he could act on the delicious torture she could see awaiting her, she dropped to her knees on the hard wooden deck of the sailboat. She felt the strength of his hands as his fingers tunneled through her hair and massaged her scalp. She felt the muscles in his legs become rigid as she tasted the salt of the sea and of him. The sounds he was emitting were disjointed and discordant and she rejoiced in each one she wrung from his as she then used her nails gently to tease him further.

She heard her name echo on a tortured groan seconds before he pulled away. She stared up at him with the same smirk he usually wore. His eyes were glazed, he chest was heaving, and he was covered in sweat. Quite pleased with herself, she decided to tease him just a little more...

She cried out as the dream changed swiftly to reality. Mulder was inside of her and moving powerfully. She tried to steady herself by reaching for his back, wanting to feel the muscles moving under her clenching fingers. She couldn't move her hands though. Her head moving on the pillow encountered both hers and Mulder's. She brought their hands to her mouth and kissed his fingers. Mulder attacked her exposed neck with zeal. She forced her eyes open at the loss of his mouth. The muscles in his neck and shoulder were corded and his jaw was clenched tight. Her fingers dug into his shoulders as her released her hands. Her body tightened in response as he shifted position just enough to bring her heat into greater contact with his plunging hardness.

His head was by hers again and he whispered encouragements into her ear. The hot words, hot breath and hot body moving over her, around her and in her were consuming her senses, sending her into a fiery explosion. Mulder felt her release along the fringes of his own. The wild wave of pleasure/pain stripped away what little remained of his strength and he collapsed onto the pliant body under him.

He felt her hands trying to soothe him as he struggled to regain himself. Her breathing was still harsh and ragged, her heart still beating fast against his. He gathered himself enough to ease some of weight from her small frame. He gently kissed the lips that had formed a dreamy smile. It widened as her eyes opened. She arched trying to keep him within her. He kissed her eyes closed and moved to her side. "Morning, love," he said and smoothed a hand along her ribcage.

"Morning," she answered and tried to go back to sleep.

"Huh-uh, we have to get moving."

She mentally groaned at the smile she heard in his voice. For some reason, sex in the morning always energized him and wore her out. "Give me a few more minutes." She felt the kiss he placed on her nose and then he got out of the bed. Lying in a boneless sprawl, she listened as he whistled tunelessly and turned on the shower.

Dana stretched languidly with only a muscle or two protesting the movement. Slowly she opened her eyes to look around. It was definitely time to get up, she thought as she eyed the clock. Mulder was still in the shower. She would've like to join him, but that would make them even later than they were. So she pulled on her robe and went to get the clothes out for their jaunt to Utah. She stepped into the steam filled bathroom, armed with her toothbrush. "Mulder, hurry up. I need to get a shower as well." She laughed as he poked his head around the corner and wiggled his eyebrows, his head covered in lather. His was maybe two inches long at most. Why did he need to use half of the bottle of shampoo?

"Feel free to join me," he offered.

Regretfully she shook her head. "Not this time. You haven't shaved yet," she pointed out the fact and emphasized it by rubbing at an abraded spot on her neck. She mentally looked at the blouse she had laid out. Yep, it had a high collar on it. As she dressed, she felt uneasy about the flight. They didn't have a description of the person that had been following Dani, nor would there be a sequence of events to watch out for. The only thing they had to go on was the next victim would probably be shot. Should she warn Mulder to wear a vest?


Mulder and Scully were several rows back from Dani on the plane and Jed was one row in front of her. The security at the airport and courthouse would restrict the killer's opportunities, making the rental car retrieval and ride in between stretch into an eternity. Jed was in the other car with Dani. Even being several cars back, Mulder imagined he could see the tension of the other two people. As they parked the cars, Mulder scanned the entire lot, looking for absolutely anything suspicious. He didn't see anything, and neither did Scully if the frown wrinkling her forehead was any indication.

Inside the courthouse, they relaxed a little. The proceedings were mundane; no Perry Mason outbursts ensued. Although at one point, Mulder thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye. For some reason, no one was surprised when Dani was told she would have to be in court again the next morning.

In complete disregard for their supervisor's orders, Dani and Jed checked into only one room.

"You know, this isn't an official case," Mulder said under his breath.

"You know we are working," Scully countered.

"They don't have three rooms that connect. Scully, I don't like this."

She agreed with him. Were they being set up? "We get the connecting room, then. OK, Mulder? I don't feel all that comfortable with this, either."

They were sitting in Dana's room just relaxing when the shouting started. "No, dammit. I'm not going to let you go out." Quite unashamed, they strained their ears to hear the reply. All they could catch was the incredulous note in Dani's voice before it got quiet in the other room. They both jumped when there was a knock on Dana's door.

It was Dani. "Anyone in the mood for a walk?"

Scully shrugged and looked over her shoulder and asked, "Mulder?"

He warred with himself. If Dani was a magnet for trouble, he didn't want Scully around her. But if he said that ... "Sure. Why not?" he asked as he swung his feet to the floor. It would be better to casually go along rather than say something that would get him in trouble. The same kind of trouble Jed was probably in right at that moment. He waited for Scully to precede him.

She shook her head at the encouraging gesture he made. Then she said, "Go ahead. I'm going to read some journals," and firmly closed the door behind them.

Dani set out at a brisk pace even in her high heels. Mulder lengthened his stride to a more natural one to keep up. "Are you ready?" he asked as they rounded the corner of the street.

"For what?" she answered and quickened her step just a fraction more.

"Well, I have this tendency to get shot."

She stopped dead in her tracks. "You get hurt, and I'll be toast. I'm sure Dana would definitely seek revenge." She started walking again. The next turn led them into a different scene. The business atmosphere was gone and was replaced with the other side of downtown areas. They both slowed down to a more casual pace.

"How often do you get in trouble for not following orders?" he asked as he scanned the streets.

"About as often as you do," she replied and kept her eyes open as well.

"Let's see. That would make it at least once a week."

"On average," she agreed. Dani flinched a few moments later as the phrase 'a comfortable silence' came to mind. It was a clich‚, but it fit. They continued to walk silently, both of them using the mild physical exercise as a catalyst for mental leaps.

Dani started to relax as some of the tension of the day left. "That's it."

Mulder turned his head to ask her what she meant and saw the reason for her disgust. A white cargo van had pulled up along side of them and two men stepped out of it. Mulder looked closely at each one of them, imprinting them into his brain. Paranoia in full swing, he prepared to go for his gun and knew Dani was doing the same. Maybe it was just a simple mugging. Nope.

"Don't move or you'll regret it." The order was issued from a third party behind them.

Dani knew the man wasn't talking about doing harm to her or Mulder. She could see him out of the corner of her eye. He held a baby in one arm and in the other hand, she saw a flash of metal resting at the base of the baby's skull.

Slowly they both moved their hands away from their weapons. She tried to telegraph to Mulder what she wanted to do and not let the others know. But that was the problem when you were working with someone new. She wouldn't have had this added worry with Jed, and Mulder was probably thinking the same thing about Dana.

Dani tensed and relaxed at the same time. She had to get the child out of the situation. She spun on the ball of her foot, hoping Mulder would go after the two in front of them.

Mulder felt, rather than saw Dani start moving. OK, it looked like he was going to take care of the two in front. One hand went for his gun as he said, "Federal Agents." He didn't think it would stop them, but they did pause. There hadn't been any weapons in sight, but as he moved into one of the two men, he saw a flash of metal. He knocked the man off balance and into the other one. The taller of the two swung his arm wildly, trying to catch his balance. Mulder felt an instant of heat sear his arm and knew Scully was going to kill him. The two men landed in a heap at his feet, almost taking him down with them. He half turned to see how Dani had done with the man behind them. Mulder's eyes widened as a baby let out a howl.

The third man had dropped to one knee and braced himself with one hand on the ground. A baby Mulder hadn't known was there was caught between Dani and their assailant. After a second, Dani's hands dropped from around the child.

Dani stepped back and Mulder didn't move. The blood running down the back of the baby's neck prevented either of them from trying anything else.

The man slowly stood and took several deep breaths. "In the van," he ordered. Mulder followed Dani as she hobbled over to it. Not that he had a lot of choices. One of the two fallen men was standing. The metal that had slashed his forearm was now poking him in the kidney.

The man with the baby climbed into the back of the van with them, while the taller of the two got into the front seat with the driver. The third one closed the door from the outside. Mulder carefully studied the individual in front of them. He could see why Dani's attack had failed. The baby was strapped to the man's chest allowing him free movement of his arms. One hand kept what looked like an ice pick pressed against the base of the baby's skull. The other hand massaged an area high on the inside of his thigh. No wonder he had dropped to his knee. And Dani had been wearing those heels.

"Slowly remove your weapons and place them in front of you." It sounded like he had heard the line a few times, but was the first time he had used it.

When neither one of them moved, he did. The little boy let out a whimper, and Dani slowly removed the gun from under her blazer at the back of her waist. Mulder did the same and tried to keep his right leg out of view.

"Aren't you at least going to tell us what this is about," Dani said with a slow evil smile.

"Ms. Rutherford, you and your partner are to be our guests until my associate no longer requests your presence."

She looked at Mulder and knew he was thinking the same thing: This guy watched too many movies. Dani didn't correct him about his misconception of Mulder being her partner. It wouldn't have made a difference anyway.

"Not to sound ungrateful, but we're busy right now. Maybe some other time?" It was extremely easy to be sarcastic in such a tense situation. She had years of experience as a smart-ass. Years of practice also made it easy to follow the direction the van was going. Sitting on the floor like they were, they felt every turn the van made. She mentally followed where they were going and calculated distances.

"Could you explain to me what's going on? I've only worked with her for a few days now." Dani almost laughed at the put-upon expression Mulder was wearing. He probably saw that same one on Scully's face sometimes.

"And you are?" Their captor prompted as he braced himself against the movement of the van and picked up their guns.

"Mulder," he responded. "And you?"

"You may call me ... Roy."

Dani rolled her eyes. "Seen 'Die Hard' have you?"

"Ms. Rutherford, or should I call you Mrs. Saetes? I wouldn't anger me, if I were you. I heard you had a child not too long ago. There's time now to retrieve her."

Dani tensed but forced herself to relax. It was an empty threat. Suzie would be safe in Phoenix. Her mother and David would make sure of it.

They were driving in circles and she didn't know who these men were working for. Her testimony at the trial wasn't that relevant. So it wasn't probable that this was connected to it. Had her mysterious shadow intended for her to be the last victim?

After a half an hour of circling, the van pulled into a garage. Oh shit. She hated it when Jed was right. They slowly got out of the van. Dani saw the leather around Mulder's ankle and moved to block it from the others as he got out. She also saw a few drops of blood on his hand.

A young woman in her teens ran up. "You didn't hurt him, did you? Joey, baby, are you OK?" Roy took his eyes off of his two captives, allowing the driver and the other man to cover them. "He's bleeding." Dani frowned at the lack of concern in the girl's voice. She reminded herself that this girl had allowed Roy to use the child in the first place. "Daddy didn't mean to hurt you." Dani's stomach turned at the words.

"No. I didn't." Mulder could usually tell when someone was lying. He didn't need a sixth sense with this guy though. He had been too calm when he had pricked the baby's skin. Mulder felt his forearm throb as the girl took the baby and left the garage. Something in the tone of the girl's voice worried her. She made a mental note to call a few people and put a watch out. The girl's voice and words reminded her of people usually involved in abuse cases.

Mulder scanned the area they were in. It looked like it was part of a mechanics shop. The lights were out, but the sunlight streamed through the greasy bank of windows enough for him to see. There was another van two work areas away. Now they could move with the baby no longer a factor. Only one of the three men was visibly armed. Mulder sensed Dani's readiness again and prepared himself.

He heard Dani yell as he dropped to one knee to retrieve his other gun.


Dana looked at the clock on the TV as her stomach rumbled. /They have only been gone twenty minutes,/ she reassured herself. Even Mulder couldn't get into trouble that quickly. The next time her stomach spoke to her, she knew something had happened. Sometimes he was more predictable that a TV show. She set aside her reading material and went to knock on Jed and Dani's door. She called out and stood to the side of the peep-hole, waiting for him to answer. He was tucking his arm behind his back, most likely replacing his gun. "Mulder's gotten himself into trouble," she said without preamble.

"More likely, it was Dani's fault this time," he mumbled and pulled on a suit coat. "Come on, Dani was nice enough to say which way she wanted to go."

Dana nodded and hurried to catch up with him. Tall men, fast paces, and heels didn't go well together. After all her time with Mulder, you would think she'd learn. Jed did shorten his stride a bit after looking to see why she wasn't at his side. Scully tensed when Jed growled a few minutes later. "I'm going to strangle her." Sure the neighborhood had turned a little unsavory, but Dani and Mulder were trained Federal Agents. Then again, Mulder had a way of finding trouble and Dani had been encountering something unusual lately.

After a few more minutes, Jed stopped. "They didn't come this far."

Scully looked up at him. Dani sure had given detailed direction to him. They back-tracked a block and a half and stood in front of a closed store. Jed began carefully searching the ground. "What are you looking for?" she asked a little impatiently.

Jed held up his hand and squatted down. He rubbed at a spot on the ground. Angling his head, he stared at something out of Dana's line of sight. Jed walked over to a gutter and reached down behind a tire of a parked car. "I am definitely going to strangle her. I don't suppose Mulder has a phone on him."

Dana shook her head and reached inside of her blazer for her phone. She carefully described the situation, all the while keeping her eyes on the few drops of dried blood. Dani wasn't the only one that was going to be strangled when they found the two.


A police unit, an FBI team, and a DEA team showed up shortly after Scully made the calls. So far no one had seen anything.

Agent Terry Brown studied the two people that were questioning one of the store owners. He knew Jed Saetes' reputation for sniffing out clues and had overheard the two FBI agents mentioning a 'Spooky' Mulder. "Well maybe with all of the psychic energy between the two, Saetes could *feel* where the other two are," he mumbled under his breath. He quickly pretended to study his notes when Saetes looked over at him. Agent Brown then decided he better talk to the next person on his list.

Scully muttered a polite thank you to the store owner. Jed had already moved away and was waiting for her near the closed store. She felt a slight chill travel along her nerve endings when she got a good look at Jed's eyes. She had seen the same determined expression more than once in Mulder's eyes.

"These people know where they are, Scully."

"I'm sure some one saw them, Jed. Maybe you should go back to the hotel and see if they've tried to contact us." She bit the inside of her cheek as she realized how patronizing that sounded. "I'm sorry. Forget I said that."

Jed's glare softened into his normal impassiveness. "I meant these people here. The store owner and his customers at the time are our witnesses."

She turned her head to look in the dark interior. They would have had a perfect view of the whole thing.

"Brown, I want this owner found."

Brown looked up and saw the other side of Saetes' reputation. He'd rather deal with the weird hunches than what he saw now. "Someone's already on it," he lied. He quickly made the statement true, though.


Dani carefully took stock of her new situation while she remained motionless. There was a throbbing in her left arm, and her head still felt a little fuzzy as she tried to bring back all of the details. She had gone after the two unarmed ones, knowing the odds were in her favor against them instead of a gun. Her movements had distracted Roy enough so that Mulder could get his gun clear. A small stand-off had ensued before Roy had given up his weapon. Then everything had gone black. She vaguely remembered smelling something pungent.

She was lying on her side on a rough metal surface, probably the interior of another van. Her hands and feet were tied together behind her and ... yes, duck tape covered her mouth. She mentally tensed as she felt movement. She almost laughed. It was Mulder, and she could almost hear him thinking, 'Not again.'

Mulder was indeed thinking just that. He opened his eyes, hoping no one was watching. It was dark and no light came through any cracks. It felt like a van, but they weren't moving right then. He turned just a little and could make out a shadow near him. He started to say Dani's name and felt the tape across his mouth. He quickly closed his eyes and made his muscles relax as the rear door was opened.

"No, they're still out of it," a voice reassured, "Yes, I'm sure."

Mulder knew they guy wasn't talking about his deodorant. The smell almost made him gag.

Dani knew he was referring to her at least. She felt the nylon over her calf split as the tip of a knife moved over it. She hated wearing the damn things anyway.

The van door closed, muffling the man's voice as he continued to speak. A moment later, two doors were opened, then closed and a motor was started. Dani carefully turned her head. Mulder's eyes were indeed opened. After he made eye contact, he looked over his shoulder. She assumed he was looking at his hands.

There was a little light now. They must have been indoors earlier. If it was still daylight, not that much time must have passed. Maybe Jed wouldn't end up killing her over this. No. He was definitely going to be upset.

Dani looked around trying to see if there were any clues as to who did this and why. A piece of paneling separated them from the front of the van. They would have some kind of warning then, before they would be checked on again. She nodded and scooted closer as Mulder twisted and managed to bring his tied hands into contact with hers. The knots were simple to manipulate free. "What kind of amateurs are these guys?" she asked mentally as Mulder quickly untied her. Slowly she worked the tape free. Either way it hurt, but this one was easier to control.

The van slowed down and they both tensed. Forty-five seconds later, they were moving again. Stoplight. They were still in the city then. Mulder carefully shifted his balance and made his way to the back. There was a handle on the inside. Dani nodded her agreement at his raised eyebrow. Moments later, the van slowed down again and Mulder opened the door before it came to a complete stop. The car directly behind the van almost didn't stop. As the van stopped completely, Mulder used that moment to mask his exit from the back. He studied the make and the license plate as Dani got out.

The middle-aged man in the middle-class car gaped at them like a fish. When the light changed, Mulder closed the door softly. They both watched it pull away into the traffic. Cars behind the stupefied man demanded that he move. Mulder gestured for Dani to go first, and with a gracious nod she did, being careful of the miscellaneous items in the street and her bare feet. Mulder headed toward a pay phone and quickly dialed.

Dani smile at the sheepish, "Hi, Scully." Dani could imagine the tirade Mulder was listening to. She was going to be hearing a different version of it from Jed. Mulder quickly reassured her that they were both OK and needed to be picked up. At the hint, Dani checked out the cross streets and told him. Mulder relayed some of the information so far before he hung up. Maybe it would distract Jed and Scully. He hung up and looked down at Dani. "We are in trouble."

"But it wasn't our fault."

"I know that, but they are never going to.."

"Believe it," she agreed. She kept looking around as they waited. The guys in the van would be more than stupid if they came back. But she hadn't been dazzled by their brilliance so far.

Seconds later, the sirens could be heard. Jed and Dana drove up first in one of the rental cars, followed by a police car.

"Mulder, are you OK?"

The simple words warmed his heart. He never understood why she would get angry when he asked the same thing. "I'm fine, Scully," he replied with a small smile. It widened just a little as she frowned.

"We found blood," she argued.

"And you automatically assumed it was mine." At her knowing look, he continued, "Just a scratch." He started to pull his sleeve up for proof.

"Agents, if you'll come with us, we'll start the paperwork." The officer could understand the look that crossed Mulder's face.

"Haven't we been through enough for one day?" Mulder suggested at the dreaded P-word. He smiled innocently as Dani snickered behind him. His expression turned serious at Scully's continued glare. "Have you run the plates yet?" he asked the police officer, all joking set aside for the moment.

"They're doing it now. They should have it by the time we get to the station," he assured the four grim people. Silently they all piled back into the car and followed the squad car back to the station. The other agents were waiting for them there.

Jed and Scully were quiet as Dani and Mulder told what happened. The plates didn't match the van's vehicle description and had been reported stolen earlier that day. Take-out was brought in for their grumbling stomachs as they described the four men and one woman they had seen. An hour later, an APB was issued for an Angela Ross and Robert (Roy) Yates.

Mulder wasn't happy and neither were the others, he could see. Roy and his buddies were small time, judging by their police records. Maybe they would get lucky and the person behind it would be just as inept.

Things really got confusing as Mulder and Dani tried to explain what had happened to their fellow agents. The two agents from the FBI tried to argue that it was their case, and the other agency's representatives claimed it was their jurisdiction. Mulder and Dani were grilled for an eternity. When a veteran officer came to say that they had located the garage, Jed stood up.

"We'll go check it out. Dana," he said as he held the door open.

She stood up as well and paused at the doorway. Her expression was unreadable, but Mulder knew he was in for it later. With the way things were going it would probably be much later.

He was right.


They had located the first van at a garage that matched the description and location given by Dani and Mulder, Dana and Jed reported when they returned. It was part of an A/C service fleet and the employee, who matched the driver's description, had not showed up for work that day. The garage was owned by a relative of Yates, and he swore he hadn't known what his nephew was up to. Dani's other shoe and two of the missing guns were found at the scene as well.

Jed had stalked the entire perimeter of the garage, looking for any kind of signs. All he could tell was that the place hadn't been used to service anything for awhile. The place smelled too fresh. The heavy, stale order of car exhaust and oil had been diluted by time.

The dried blood in the van had held Dana's attention for several moments. No one else noticed her lapse, thankfully. She shook herself. He was alright. At least until she could get ahold of him in private.

The owner had proof that he had been on vacation. That explained the lack of recent work in the garage. It also supported his statement that he hadn't known about his nephew's activities. Jed, Dana and the police unit returned to the station with little else to go on at that point.

Mulder was sitting in the hallway on an uncomfortable wooden bench looking haggard. He smiled faintly as he saw Scully approach and Jed walked into the room where Dani was still being asked questions. "You know, I actually convinced them of something." He continued at Scully's silent question of what, "Aliens weren't behind this abduction." She smiled at the bad joke and sat down next to him, offering her support.

"We found your gun."

"Good, now I only have to report the one as lost." She rolled her eyes and leaned back to wait for Dani and Jed. She wanted to touch Mulder and reassure herself, but she had to be content with the slight brushing of their clothes.

Not long after, Jed and Dani emerged from the small room and headed for the doors. Dani had removed the ruined panty hose, but was still in her bare feet. As they walked toward the car, Jed half turned and ordered, "Check your rooms when we get back."

Mulder nodded and got in behind Dani, where there was more leg room. It was possible the place had been bugged, but not likely. Dani said just as much, stating rather that they had probably been followed from the hotel. Jed didn't like it, but accepted the idea after the rooms turned up clean. He was calm enough now to be angry about the whole mess.

Mulder knew his time had come when Scully ordered him into the bathroom. He winced a little when he took off his shirt. Part of it pulled at the dried blood along the shallow cut. He watched as Scully carefully cleaned it and bandaged it using the first-aid kit she always kept stocked.

"It wasn't my fault," he said.

"This time," she agreed and closed the kit.

"Aren't you going to say something about how glad you are that I'm safe?"

"Mulder, if I said something like that every time you were hurt or kidnapped, I would never be able to say anything else." But he was right, she was glad he was OK. And now she could lower the barriers enough for him to see it. She raised her hand to rest on his bare chest.

He smiled softly as Dana tip-toed and placed a kiss below his ear. "I'm glad you're OK," she said and ran her hands up and own his arms, taking care not to hit the new bandages. His hands cupped her elbows as she trailed her fingers down his chest. "I'm happy you're safe," she said into the hollow of his throat. His hands moved to cup her shoulders and pull her a step closer. "I love you," she said against his lips when he bent his head down toward her. As her fingers reached for his belt buckle, he covered her lips completely and lowered his hands to her hips, pulling her into his heat.

"We're breaking all of our rules here, Mulder," she said arching into the warm mouth that was trailing down the front of her now opened blouse.

"Yes, we are, Dana. Do you want me to stop?" he asked, slowly lowering the zipper of her skirt.

She reached into his loosened pants. "Only if you want to." He groaned as her hand cupped him through his boxers. "I guess not," she managed before he stole all coherent thought from her with his agile tongue.

They helped each other out of their clothes, rediscovering the familiar territory, delighting in the sounds of pleasure they wrought from each other. The bathroom tile was cold compared to their heated flesh, but it warmed quickly. In the far reaches of her mind, Dana thought about the bed just a few feet from them. Some other time, right now it was too far away.

His ears were ringing again. No. It was the phone. Dana's phone. Shit. It was probably Skinner. "Your phone," he said and dropped his forehead to her shoulder.

She tugged on the sleeve of her blazer, pulling it down off the sink and within her reach. She swallowed heavily and hoped to God her voice sounded normal. "Scully," she said, just a little off. Mulder felt her stiffen and sat up, running a shaking hand through his hair. "Yes, sir." Yep, it was Skinner. "No, sir. No stitches and only one gun." He smiled as Scully defended him once again. "No, sir. This time it was just bad luck." She was just as poised sitting naked on the bathroom floor as she would be in full armor in Skinner's office. "No, sir. No aliens. It seems Agent Rutherford was the target...Uh, yes, sir, room 218... Uh, no sir. No screaming." Mulder mouthed 'what' as her brow wrinkled in confusion. His did as well with the last phrase. "I'm not sure, sir. Two hours seems reasonable... Yes, sir. A full report." She turned off the phone before she broke out in laughter.

"I think Skinner just asked me to report on how long it took before screaming could be heard from next door."

"Screams of rage or screams of pleasure?"

She shot him a 'grow up' look. "Come on, let's get comfortable," Dana said and extended her hand to Mulder as she stood up.

"He didn't want to chew me out?" he asked as he got up only far as his knees and knelt in front of her.

"I think he wants to wait until we're back. Then - then he'll... he'll say it all in... in one large ses-" The last word wasn't finished as the phone clattered onto the countertop. She sank back down onto the cool tiles, pulling a wickedly grinning Mulder with her.


The screaming started about an hour later. Actually it was more like bellowing and Scully sat up straight from her comfortable position hunched over the computer. Mulder was propped against the headboard and arched his back to look at the wall above his head.

The sounds were low pitched enough so that the actual words could not be understood. Nor could they tell if the speaker was Jed or Dani. "Rage or pleasure?" Mulder asked.

"If Dani is as frustrating as you ... definitely rage."

"I thought that was from pleasure." He ducked to avoid the pencil Scully threw at his head and went back to flipping through the channels. He would work later, once Dana was asleep.

A short while later, he heard the phone ring next door as it interrupted the monotonous drone that hadn't stopped yet. Scully was getting ready for bed and he had taken her place at the computer. When the phone in his room rang, he thought it was Skinner. Maybe he was done chewing out Dani and it was now his turn.

"Mulder," he said, ready to defend himself once again.

"Agent Mulder, your gun is going to be used in a shooting."

"Really?" The voice was playing on the edges of his mind. It wasn't one from this afternoon, though.

"Your shooting." The caller hung up without saying anything more. Mulder slowly hung up the phone, trying to recall the voice.

"Mulder?"

"In here, Scully," he said over his shoulder.

"Was that Skinner?"

"No. I don't know who it was."

"Really?" She leaned against the door frame between their rooms. Mulder bit back a grin at the picture she made. The gray goop covering her face reminded him of one of their other cases. She would not appreciate the thought.

"Whoever it was knew about this afternoon."

"One of the men?"

"Huh-uh." He shook his head. "But I do know the voice."

"From where?"

"I'm working on it."

"Well, I'm going to sleep then," she said and started to approach him.

He took a step back. "Scully, what are you doing?"

"I was just going to say goodnight."

"Scully, you're going to give me nightmares."

"I love you, too, Mulder," she said and followed him into the corner.

"Scully, not with that stuff on your face. Scully-" He acknowledged his fate and lowered his head to carefully kiss her, trying to avoid the gray mass.

"Don't stay up all night, Mulder. I have to wash this stuff off now. It's starting to itch." She laughed at his outraged expression and quickly exited the room.

By the time she had re-emerged from the bathroom, he had transferred all of his files to the other room. " 'Night, Mulder," she said again and crawled under the cover.

"Goodnight. Dream of me."

"Always," she said as he only partially closed the door so that the light didn't hit her in the face. She fell asleep to the reassuring sounds of his frustrated mutterings at the computer in the next room.

Mulder finally remembered where he knew the voice from around 3:30 in the morning. He carefully extracted his arm from under Dana's head and went back into the other room to pace.

Unconsciously avoiding the topic that had kept him awake, he thought about how many of their rules they were breaking. Dani and Jed had to be a catalyst for it. They were much more careful even in their own apartments, just to avoid a slip-up at work.

Eventually his thoughts led him back to the voice. The owner of it was dead. He and Scully had both been there. This was one instance when he was reluctant to believe in the Extreme Possibility of things. Unbidden, images replayed themselves in his head.

Dana watched his shadow move back and forth for a few turns. She knew he was thinking and wouldn't appreciate the interruption just yet. So she grabbed his pillow and fell back to sleep. She would grill him over breakfast.


At 6:30, there was a knock at her door. Dani was in the hallway waving a bakery bag in front of the peep-hole, an uncommon early smile on her lips. Dana unlatched the door and stepped aside to let her in. Dani also had coffee with her. Coffee that had a hint of vanilla. She closed the door and the one leading into the other room, just in case Mulder decided to parade around naked.

Dani set two of the largest blueberry muffins in the state on the table and dug in, a goofy smile present the entire time. Dana was awake enough now to realize there were no sounds from next door. That meant Jed and Mulder must be off somewhere together.

"Where are they?" she asked, bringing the cup of coffee to her lips.

"Jogging I think. Most likely, Jed's making Mulder go over our steps from yesterday," she said with a shrug.

Dana was dying of curiosity. Dani knew so much about her and Mulder that she felt a little off balance. Finding out would even things up a bit. "Did Skinner interrupt the bellowing match?" She smiled to soften the harsh sounding words.

"Yes, and because he did the lecture was thankfully cut short. After a crisis, Jed likes to sound like a bullhorn. Somehow he got it into his head that I actually listen when he talks like that." She shook her head and continued to munch on the muffin. "I received a six hour lecture when Suzie was born."

Dana thought about the similarities, but it was usually her giving the lecture. "Mulder received a call last night."

"Walt? Did he interrupt anything else?"

It was hard to think of her boss as 'Walt.' "No, not Skinner, though I did speak with him." Dani hid her smile behind the coffee cup. Dana had ignored the second question, but judging by the color on her cheeks, Dani would say that Skinner had interrupted something. "Apparently, the caller was connected with yesterday. Mulder couldn't place the voice before they hung up."

"I don't think yesterday had anything to do with Mulder. They knew who I was on the street. They hadn't a clue who he was and actually thought he was my partner."

Dana digested the information. Mulder must have remembered the voice and that's what set off his pacing. Dreams of Samantha were usually a little more violent and prompted him to wake her.

Dani and Dana were finishing their coffee when Mulder opened the connecting door. "Morning," he said, still sporting his sweaty clothes. "Where's my razor?"

"Did you look in your bag?" She knew his question was an improvisation. He hadn't expected to see Dani in the room.

"Thanks," he mumbled and turned, leaving the door open.

"I'll let you guys get dressed," Dani said and stood up.

"Thanks for breakfast. We should be ready in about thirty minutes."

"No problem. And there's no rush. Jed usually takes an hour to get ready."

"I do not," he said, poised for knocking as Dani opened the door. "Did you at least save a muffin for me?"

She shook her head. "You found me out. I went from our room to the front desk to pick up the delivery."

Dana smiled at the woeful tone of Dani's voice as the door closed. Mentally humming, she hung the clothes for the day on the bathroom door. The steam from the shower would hopefully loosen the few wrinkles she could see in the fine linen. She always felt a little guilty when she didn't iron something. But why should she? She paid a fortune at the dry cleaners each week. She shouldn't have to iron the stuff as well.

Mulder was sitting on her bed tying his shoes when she came out of the bathroom. Though they usually kept a tight lid on the sexual side of their relationship on cases, the being together in the mornings and evenings had grown. It was part of the trade-off. At home they usually didn't share this part of the day.

"Did you remember the voice?" she asked, straightening her collar on the suit coat.

"Yeah."

"Well?" He was wearing his wounded look. She wasn't going to like the answer.

"It was Clyde."

Yep, she didn't like the answer. "Bruckman?"

He held up his hand. "I know what you're going to say, Scully." He continued before she could say anything. "You'll start with 'Mulder' drawing the last syllable out and giving me your evil eye. Then you'll say, 'That's not possible. He's dead'. And I'll say, 'I know that, Scully, but it was him.' Then you'll be quiet as you try and glare reason into me." He offered a smile as her frown formed.

"Mulder..."

"See," he interrupted.

"Be serious."

"I am. I think he was trying to warn me."

"Then why didn't he just come to you in a vision, Mulder?"

"With all of the negative energy present?" he suggested and ducked back into the other room to get his tie.

Dana went to put her makeup on, thinking about what Mulder had said. One of these days, she was going to give him a heart attack by accepting one of his theories first off.

"Mulder, *if* it was him, why didn't he call earlier? I thought he only predicted ..." She didn't form the last word and went to glare at her partner.

Mulder stared for a second. With only one of her eyes outlined, she really did look like she was giving him the evil eye. Damn. He'd been found out. "Scully?" he asked innocently.

"What did the caller say, Mulder."

"Um, that my gun would be used in a shooting."

"Who was to be shot? Forget I asked. Mulder, I could predict you getting shot every day and my hits would be as frequent as any psychics."

"Especially if you do the shooting." /There's the evil eye again, here comes the../

"Mulder." He held his hands up in surrender. "No going off with Dani today."

"Jealous, Scully?"

The only time he was ever serious, people thought he was crazy and didn't take him seriously. Silently, she finished her other eye, while he tried to decide between two atrocious ties. He only wore the ones she had picked out when she reminded him of their existence. The one he was tying now was from her mother. The pattern was nauseating and he wore it quite often. She shuddered and went back into the other bathroom.


"Nothing's going to happen," he restated firmly, making sure the razor wasn't near his throat as his jaw clenched.

"Yes. Today. I've got that feeling again."

He remained silent as he stared at his companion in the mirror. He nodded once. "Then we'll be ready."


"This is too vague. I don't know what we're looking for. If this in a wild goose chase..." she stated with a great deal of frustration.

"It wouldn't be the first, and most likely it's not the last. So think of it as a type of vacation." He turned to scan the crowd again and missed the crossed-eyes aimed at him.


"She's scheduled for 9:30."

He glared at his watch. "That means we have to act now."

"Why do you care?" He hadn't meant to say it outloud, so he wasn't expecting a response.

The other person was quiet as he thought about the words. He cared because failure was not an option. And after yesterday, there were new wounds that needed healing.


"I'll be right back," she said and maneuvered around his legs.

"Where are you going?"

"Bathroom. Wanna tag along?" The heavy sarcasm told him to chill. He bit back his own comments and watched her walk out of the room.

She smiled politely at the other person in the mirror as she washed her hands. She jumped as the needle sank into the flesh of her buttock. Her assailant had managed to inject half of the stuff in the surprise attack. Fighting the lassitude stealing over her, she managed to remove the needle and trip the woman, both of them falling to the floor. Before she could gather enough strength to do anything more, her vision narrowed, then went completely black.


Dana Scully shook her head. They weren't going to be happy. Mulder was probably eating his tie. Good. The tie deserved it.

She looked around. There wasn't any light. She couldn't even judge the size of the room. Her head still felt fuzzy. Whatever they had shot her up with, hadn't completely knocked her out. She remembered leaning heavily on the woman as they had walked out of the bathroom and then out to the street. Then they had gotten into a nice, normal car and driven away. The woman had then injected her with something again. She didn't know what happened after that.

Did they think she was Dani? They shared some similar qualities, but not enough to be mistaken for each other.

As she thought, she carefully searched the area. The room was probably 8 x 8 feet, but she couldn't reach the ceiling to tell how high it was. Nothing new there. The place didn't feel dusty, and she couldn't detect a door. The surfaces were smooth, but warm, almost like paneling. And oh, joy, there was a toilet. "There's nothing like an extended stay at an exclusive resort," she almost smiled as she imagined Mulder saying that.

The smile never formed as the sound of a latch being released echoed through the darkness.


Mulder stared at the doors of the courtroom. Scully wasn't back yet, but it had only been a few minutes. She would try to kill him if he went to look for her, so he forced himself to remain seated. He paled though as he saw a dark shadow out of the corner of his eye. He turned to stare at it head on. Around 5'8" and thin. That's all he could tell about it. That and the fact that no scythe was present. He felt a malicious wave being generated from it. A wave that was catching him in the backlash.

He heard a strangled gasp a few feet ahead of him. Dani was staring, her complexion completely white. Jed stood and walked towards the figure. He turned and headed for the door. Mulder stood up as well to follow him. Both pursuers were stopped several corridors away by the presence of a locked door around a corner and at a dead end.

Mulder went to get someone to unlock it, while Jed decided on a more direct approach. The sound of Jed hitting the thick wood had a security guard speeding up his pace. It also generated the diversion necessary to remove a drugged and disorientated woman from the scene.


Dani watched as Jed chased after the shadowed figure. She took several deep breaths, trying to calm her racing heart. She got herself composed enough to follow after them. She tried to make her way through the throng of people that were gathered around the sounds of a man cursing eloquently. Distracted, she turned toward the sound of less refined phrases and someone grabbing her arm. Before she could do more than pull her arm free of his grasp, she felt the needle pierce her skin. /Goddammit. This is not good,/ she thought and felt her knees start to give.

Dani tried to fight the lethargy. From an outside source, she saw herself and Yates. His arm was wrapped around her waist and she was hitting him. But it looked more like idiotic, playful swipes rather than the bone-breaking blows she was telling her muscles to execute.

Jed was going to have an conniption fit.


Dana heard voices arguing. The light through the open hatch wasn't blinding and her eyes adjusted quickly. She scanned the room. It was paneled and there weren't any breaks in it. How had they put her in here?

Should she point out that they had the wrong person? Would that change her situation? Probably not.

The voices above were still arguing. One was harsh, the other one was defending herself. "You said short, red hair."

"I said short and red hair."

"Well, she's both. You could've at least given me more of a description."

"Maria, just help me."

Dana couldn't see them, but they were dragging something to the edge. A laundry bag was being lowered quite awkwardly from about six feet above her head. Too high. Damn. She moved to the side as the bag started wiggling furiously. From the extent of movement, the muffled screaming, and the conversation of the two above, it was probably Dani.

"There's not enough rope."

"What?"

"No. More. Rope."

"Fine. Leave 'er like that." Someone started to close the hatch.

They were just going to let her dangle several feet above the ground? "I'll untie her," Dana called.

"No! Stand back." Dana backed up as a man pointed a gun down at her. He was the one Mulder and Dani had identified, but the woman wasn't the same. She was much older than the teenager they had described.

"She could break something if she falls from that height while she's tied up." /Be cool and logical, Dana./

"The bitch would deserve it." She assumed he was referring to the kick to the groin yesterday.

The bag stopped wiggling. Dani had either heard them or had felt the rope slip the knot a little. "She's falling anyway. Just let me help, so she's not seriously injured," Dana said as she slowly approached the center of the room again.

"Back off, bitch. Or I'll just shoot the both of you." Even separated by more than ten feet, she heard the gun being cocked. He walked back out of her line of sight and the bag holding Dani started to rise. The bottom of the bag stopped at almost six feet off the ground. Dana guessed that when the rope came undone it would maybe be a foot above her head. The hatch was closed and plunged the room into darkness again.

"Dani, don't move. I'm going to try and lift some of your weight off of the rope." The bag grunted and twisted in her hands. "No, Dani. Don't move around," she ordered again. Too late. Dana felt the full force of Dani's weight slide down onto her back and then to the side.

There was a thud and silence. Dana hurriedly tried to undo the drawstring on the bag. "Dani, are you hurt?" The woman remained silent as Dana took inventory. She couldn't feel any blood. And apparently Dani had been trying a Houdini stunt. There was a rope loosely wrapped around one of her wrists and a rag was tied around the lower part of her face, holding another on in her mouth. Dana removed it and asked again, "Are you hurt?"

"Ouch," she whispered. In a little stronger voice, she said, "I'll live."

"Mulder's lines are a bit more amusing."

"Before he loses consciousness or afterwards in the hospital?"

"He usually has one for each occasion." Dana smiled in the darkness. Only when Mulder wasn't sarcastic, did she worry about his injuries.

"I guess they mistook you for me. Sorry." Dani tried to see into the blackness. The angle was wrong for the light at the hatch to do anything more than illuminate that one small portion.

"Did you see who it was?" Dana asked, shifting her weight off of her ankles.

"Yeah. Right after he jabbed a needle in my ass." She rubbed the doubly bruised area. Her hip was going to be nice and colorful for awhile. "That jackass, Yates."

"Well if he's anything like yesterday, we should be out of here in, say, twenty minutes."

Dani laughed softly at the small joke and tried to move some more of her weight off of the bruised area. This was almost like spelunking. She could feel Dana's presence just a few inches from her, but knew she could be mistaken. She tentatively extended her hand and felt the reassuring warmth of Dana's foot. They both laughed tensely as Scully jerked in reflex. "I'm not too sure about the twenty minutes. I think I saw who orchestrated this."

"Who?" Dana's voice resonated through the room.

For once, there was a hint of vulnerability in Dani's voice. Dana wasn't sure she liked the change. "My brother."

"Would you care to explain why?"

"Not really," Dani said. Then, "Where's the wall?"

"Four feet in any direction. Watch out-" The thud, ouch, and explicatives drowned out the last couple of words Dana said.

Dani rubbed the back of her head. Yeah, another bruise. "The rope's too high, isn't it?" she asked to change the subject.

"Yes. Unless you were part of a highwire act?" Dani smiled at the hopeful note in Dana's voice.

"Nah. I always got stuck with ground crew." It was Dana's turn to smile. "So what are we going to do?"

"Same thing we do every night, Pinky - Sorry, Mulder got me hooked on that stupid cartoon. I don't know. I checked the area out earlier. There wasn't even a seem in the wall to indicate a door."

"They dropped you down in here as well?" Keep this topic going. Don't even think about the other one.

"No. At least I don't think so. She hit me with another shot after we were clear of the parking lot. I don't remember much after that." Dana was patient as she waited for the next opportunity to ask about Dani's brother.

"How thick are the walls?"

"I think they would notice if we tried to kick our way out."

Dani glared in the direction of Dana's voice. She was just way too calm about this. "Are we supposed to wait here like a couple of damsels in distress?"

"Not in this century," Dana argued. "But it would be better to wait for the right moment. Like when they come to get the rope."

"I thought you weren't into the Flying Trapeze scene." Dani used the wall to stand up. She had to move.

Dana listened to her slowly walk the perimeter of the room "I'm not. But with a boost, I could get ahold of the rope."

"And what?"

"Dangle by my arms and yodel?" Dani laughed again, some of the anger abating. She sobered again as Dana continued, "I guess we wait."

"Yeah. I guess so," Dani agreed and slid down the wall near where she had started.

"So are you going to tell me?" Dana asked after a few minutes of silence.

"Anyone ever tell you, you're too persistent?" Dani asked as she wrapped her arms around her raised knees.

"Yeah, and he's usually trying to avoid answering me when he does it," Dana said as she cautiously made her way closer to Dani's voice. She sat down next to her, leaning her head against the wall. Hell, if she could out wait Mulder, Dani would be a piece of cake.


The figure was gone by the time Jed got the door opened. He was sure of what he'd seen, though, and Dani agreed according to her reaction. But how? There had to be a logical explanation. Well now he knew who had been after Dani and he could act on that knowledge. He scanned the diminishing crowd. Mulder was a few feet away, a frown crossing his face. Jed was sure the same expression was etched across his own features.

Dammit. The amateur hour yesterday had lowered his guard. Maybe she was still in the courtroom. He tried to picture Dani being in shock for more that two seconds and failed. The only time she had come close was when she had realized she was actually pregnant. He headed toward Mulder, making a mental list of everything he needed to set in motion.

Mulder heard Jed approach, but didn't say anything. He hadn't seen Scully or Dani yet. And Scully wasn't one to wait to find things out. She would've heard the commotion and gone to investigate. Maybe she was still in the bathroom. He looked at Jed and nodded. Jed set off toward the courtroom, while he made his way to the woman's restroom.

Mulder knocked and called out to see if anyone was in there. When no answer came, he stepped into the mysterious world of a public restroom for women. Everything was intact. He calculated the probability of someone coercing her with a gun. Knocking her out would have caused too much of a scene and would not be easily explained. His heel slid on something as a woman stepped into the restroom. He smiled at her shocked expression, but refrained from making a comment as he bent to pick up the little plastic cap.

Jed burst in looking less than his normal calm. "One of the guards saw Dani leave with a man matching Yates description."

"Did you see Scully?"

Actually, Jed had forgotten about Dana for a moment. He wouldn't let it happen again. There was no need to ask a guard though, he could tell by Mulder's tortured eyes that she wasn't here.

Mulder extended his palm. Jed looked at the opaque plastic used to cover a needle on a syringe. He felt the need to be extremely violent. /Later,/ he told himself, /You have to find her before you can strangle her./ Mulder headed toward the exit and didn't stop until he reached the guards' station. Jed followed a second later.

The older woman stared for a moment at their retreating backs. She checked the sign on the door twice before deciding to use a restroom on a different floor.


"I thought he died." Dani's voice was soft and echoed eerily in the darkness surrounding them.

"Your brother?"

She nodded to answer the question before remembering that Dana couldn't see any better than she could at the moment. "Yeah."

Scully surprised herself by including 'ghost' in her quickly formed explanation. /Rule out the other possibilities first, nitwit,/ she chastised herself. "What happened?"

"We were just kids. Jared, my brother, and I were arguing like normal."

Dana could almost see the scene Dani was describing. She forced herself to wait for the punch line, though. It sounded a little like Mulder's story.

"Our parents were gone for the weekend. And Jared took his responsibilities to heart. And being a little more than the typically rebellious teenager, I disagreed with his orders about not going out with friends."

Dana relaxed a little. The kids had been older than Mulder and his sister. So maybe little gray men wouldn't figure into the story.

"We started pushing each other. I fell and hit my head. I woke up in the hospital. My friends had come by to get me and had seen the front door standing open. There was no sign of Jared and his car was gone. Almost a week later, it was found."

Dana ran through several possibilities in her mind. Was the car empty? Had there been a body? Was the car found imbedded in a tree?

"It had been involved in a head on collision. My father identified him and that was it. My father kind of lost part of himself. He tried not to blame me, but I could see he did. They were divorced a year later. I haven't seen him since."

"This happened while you were kids?"

"Yeah, I was fifteen. Jared was eighteen."

"So how do you know it's your brother?" Almost twenty years had past with out any contact between the two. There had to have been something that had prompted this theory.

"I saw him." Scully could hear Dani trying to breathe slowly and not quite succeed.

"Where? Here?" She was going to be very upset if this occurred yesterday.

"At the courthouse, a few second before Yates mistook me for a pin-cushion. How did they get you?"

Dana blinked in the darkness. Dani's voice was back to normal. Good, now they would be able to work their way out of this. "In the bathroom. The woman, Maria, came up behind me."

"And men have always wondered why women go to the bathroom in groups."

Dana started to smile at Dani's Mulder-like quip. It didn't reach full force. There were those thoughts about Mulder again. Dammit, she was more obsessed with him now than ever.

She closed her eyes against the darkness. Sunlight filled her vision as she pictured Mulder...

He was wearing his worried expression. It would take a little more before he started to really lose his cool. He was leaning over a poor, defenseless guard as he questioned the guy about who had left the building and how.

Mulder's frown deepened as the guard told him about how Dana seemed to leave willingly with a woman. Then he was trying to picture Maria as the guard described her, not recognizing her, he scowled.

She smiled in sympathy as she pictured him calling Skinner. Mulder wasn't going to get the speech she usually received. No. Skinner would be a little more worried at her disappearance and therefore a little more angry.

He was loosening that god-awful tie, now and digging in his pocket for some seeds. He was going to terrorize the entire police force and all of the local agents into action. She saw him commandeer office space and set up a report station. He hid the hope and deepening worry behind lethal sarcasm. For some reason, she could now picture him with Jed and they were arguing. Was Jed telling Mulder about Dani's brother? Was Mulder now focusing on a quarry?

He paced as Jed talked, firing questions with rapid, controlled bursts. Dana's frown deepened as the mental Mulder took on the other man, not physically but mentally and emotionally. They circled each other with equal numbers of wins and losses. Dana relaxed as Mulder calmed down again. There was definitely something for him to go on now.

She pictured one of the agents from yesterday interrupting their stand-off. Bad move on the young man's part. Mulder and Jed tore the poor guy apart before he even said a word. There was a lead on Yates and some preliminary reports on Jared. He'd been institutionalized for almost ten years. Then he had lived with his father for five years after that, still being treated on an out-patient status. Mulder questioned the hapless agent about the three years since then. The man backed out of the room as he said they were still working on it.

Mulder and Jed were told to calm down by someone in the FBI. Dana actually smiled as she pictured the two of them sharing a look and agreeing. Jed got to tell this guy off; Mulder would get the next one. She saw Mulder walk over to a window and stare out of it. Her entire body ached at the expression in his eyes.

'We're alright,' she mentally reassured him. 'I love you,' she shouted in her mind. He wouldn't believe the first part until, oh, six years after this was all over.

She snapped herself out of the daydream as Dani started walking again, saying something about keeping the sore muscles loosened up.


Mulder stared at the passing traffic as he listened to Jed tell the 'Supervising Agent' from the FBI where to shove his pompous bullshit. He was calmer now. Jed had explained who the man was they had chased. Now he could work on getting into the guy's head, figuring out the next move before it happened. He absently munched on a handful of seeds and thought about Scully. Dana. She would be calmly trying to figure a way out of whatever mess they were in. So far there had been no proof that Dana and Dani were taken by the same people, but he and Jed hadn't let the others know that. They knew it was true.

She was OK, so far. He knew she was OK, simply because he was still breathing. "We're working on it, Dana. And I love you."

His mind a little clearer, he turned back toward the room and picked up the file on Dani's brother. Mr. Jared Rutherford was not going to like his life when Mulder finished fucking with it.


"Dani, is it possible that your father knew Jared was alive?" Dana heard the rustle of clothing cease.

"You're asking if my father was hiding Jared? But I was OK. Why would he?"

"What about the accident? Whose fault was it?"

"Give me a second," Dani said and slid down the wall to sit. After a full minute of silence, she spoke with soft anger. "Jared's. I remember hearing my father arguing with his lawyer. But that still doesn't explain this." She gestured with her hand, following the movement with her mind's eye.

Dana nodded. Why had she imagined Jared in a mental hospital? From the car wreck? And why hadn't Dani's father ever told her that Jared was alive?

"Dani..." Now how could she delicately phrase the question?

"Yeah?"

"Your father. Was he, I guess, rigid in his beliefs?"

"Do you mean narrow-minded, unforgiving, closed off to anything but his own ideas?"

"A little more harsh than the way I worded it, but yes."

"Yeah. And Jared wasn't much better." There was a careful note of neutrality in her voice. Dana recognized it from when she used it herself.

"Would he have been ashamed-"

"Of a son who wasn't whole?" Dani saw where the questioning was going and agreed. "Yes. He will live his entire life trying to deny it." That explained why her father had gotten the divorce and disappeared. "But-"

"What?" Dana asked, trying to find more pieces of the puzzle.

"Jared looked fine. I mean, at the courthouse, he was really thin, but he looked OK." She pictured the pale, gaunt features of her brother again. "Shit," Dani breathed and hit her head against the wall.

"What? Your hip?" Dana asked, hearing the pain in that one word.

"It was Jared."

Scully waited a moment. They had already established that fact.

"He was the one behind the bodies recently," Dani finished. She brushed aside the feeling of betrayal and tried to focus. "He was the figure I saw at two of the scenes."

"But why?" Was he seeking some kind of revenge?

"I don't know. I just..." Dani stopped and looked toward the widening stream of light.


Jed was pacing and losing more of his patience with each passing second. He glared in annoyance at the man sitting calmly at the table. Dammit. He should be out there, looking for her. But no, they were keeping him here, saying he wouldn't be objective. Damn right. Dani was his wife, not just a former partner.

And that was the dig. Mulder's concerns and questions were being treated a little more seriously than his. A man afraid for his wife versus an agent worried about his partner. Though he knew Dana and Mulder were more to each other, no one else here did. Otherwise Mulder would be just as ignored as Jed. Maybe he should have held his temper a little while ago with that other agent.

He took a deep breath and tried to remember how he had acted before the last two years. The moment he was rational again, he would be able to get them to listen to his concerns as a competent agent, not just a frantic husband.

Mulder looked up as Jed stopped pacing. The other man's entire persona was calmer now. He could still see the fear and worry in Jed's eyes, but only because he knew it was echoed and hidden in his as well. He passed Jed the stack of police reports on Yates and company, and buried his mind in the reports on Jared T. Rutherford.

Several words sent chills through his soul. Accounts of violent outbursts were interspersed with reports that the subject was intelligent, unmotivated, and that there were a few instances of pure spitefulness. Mulder saw that what he was reading wasn't an official report from the institution Rutherford had been in. It was personal notes from one of the doctors that had treated him. He searched the stack and found more personal notes as well as official hospital records.

"Where did you get this?" Jed saw what Mulder was waving in front of his face and shrugged. "These are supposed to be confidential." Mulder didn't raise his voice. He wanted the information in his hand too much to worry about technicalities.

Jed stared at the younger man. He felt centuries older just then, mainly because his life from so long ago was rearing its ugly head. "Someone owed me a favor. I called it in while you were on the phone with Walt."

"It hasn't even been..." Mulder looked at his watch and swallowed. An eternity so far had passed. "...four hours since they were taken."

Jed remained still, then said, "He knew it was important."

Mulder looked back at the notes he had. Between the phone call and the delivery of the files, it had been barely three hellacious hours. Apparently Jed's sources were easier to contact than his own were. And they didn't drag their feet about getting the information needed. There was something bothering Mulder about the files. Not one of the session notes had mentioned Dani or the rest of the family yet. "Do you have the numbers for the doctors?" he asked Jed after looking through a few more of the files.

"I can get them," Jed replied and walked out of the room. A few minutes later he laid a list down in front of Mulder.

"Why do I feel like you're going to say 'You've never seen this and I was never here'?"

Jed just smiled, a real smile, as he sat back down to work. He would need just a little more information before he could call in some more favors.

Mulder contacted the first name on the list. The reason Jared hadn't mentioned his family was because the doctor hadn't know there was anyone beyond the father. When asked about his mother, Jared had replied that she had left them. The reasons for his initial therapy were credited to the car accident in which Jared didn't remember killing three other people.

The information coincided with what Jed had filled in. Jared's mother, Anne, had left her family when the baby was only a few months old. Jared's father, Thomas, had met and married Dani's mother less than a year later. Only one of the doctors had met Jared's father and he remarked on the older Rutherford's impatience with Jared's progress at the time. He now understood why it had been slower than expected.

Mulder even called Susan Rutherford at Dani and Jed's home. She was shocked to learn that Jared was still alive, that Tom was dead, and had been for three years. She described Jared as a normal teenage boy that was a little over-protective of his little sister. Sure he had a temper but so did Dani and so had Tom. Mulder asked about the incident that led to Dani's hospitalization and Jared running away. Sue replied that Dani had been more worried about Jared getting in trouble than about being hurt. Sue didn't know or understand why Tom hadn't told her about Jared. After asking a few more questions she didn't have answers for, Mulder passed the phone to Jed and used a different one to contact Thomas Rutherford's lawyer.

After convincing the lawyer, he was who he said he was, Mulder asked about the conditions of Rutherford's estate. Everything had been left to Jared, except a small trust that had been set aside for 'the children of my child, Danielle Marie Rutherford.' Again, Mulder passed the phone to Jed to finish that call.

So Jared hadn't remembered Dani. Had remembering her and the accident set him off? Fifteen years was a long time to not know about a major part of your life. He would know. The years he hadn't remembered what happened to Samantha still made him feel like he had abandoned her. Hadn't Jared been relieved to learn he hadn't killed or seriously hurt his sister? What if he was upset because she had been OK? Had he organized all this to fix what he hadn't done right the first time? What was going to happen to Scully when they realized she wasn't Dani?


Both women stood up as the hatch in the center of the ceiling was opened. In unspoken agreement, they moved to stand several feet apart. They watched the rope as it was pulled even further out of their reach and finally over the side.

Dana steeled herself, trying to prepare for anything. If Jared had planned this just to get to Dani, how was he going to react to another person in the equation?

"Well, hell," Dani muttered.

Dana agreed. She new it was futile, but she tried anyway. Tears streaming down her face, she used her jacket sleeve to cover her nose and mouth. Knowing what was coming, she used the wall for balance and slowly sank to the floor.


Mulder watched as Jed completely ignored all requests from the other agents to let them handle the search. Jed had been on the phone for almost an hour with more people than Mulder could count. He also noticed that Jed rarely spoke when one of the others would enter the room. The only thing Mulder could hear him say was Yates' name each time. Everything else was in such a low tone that he couldn't catch it. But he was too busy to even try to eavesdrop. People kept bringing him sporadic information on what Jared Rutherford had been doing for the past three years.

"I've got Yates." Mulder looked over at the man that had spoken. He was looking down on the same scene Mulder had stared at earlier.

He set down the latest useless bit of information they had brought him and stood up. Pulling on his jacket, he said, "Let's go." His voice was grim.

Jed replaced his own jacket and preceded Mulder out the door. One of the agents from yesterday was sitting in the hall, looking extremely bored. "Brown, we're going to get some food." Jed thought it would be out of character besides being a little too obvious if he asked Brown if he wanted anything.

"Agent Saetes, I can get someone to do that," he said and jumped up, reaching for the phone in his pocket.

Jed ignored the man and his frantic speech into the phone. Mulder guessed they weren't going to tell the others. That was perfectly fine with him. In fact he would prefer it that way.

Brown gave up trying to keep them in the building. Walking past a desk with a phone on it, he dialed another number. A man a few floors away answered his cellular phone. Brown relayed that Mulder and Saetes were leaving. He was told to follow them because Saetes most likely had another one of his leads. Brown closed the phone and wondered why he always got the shit details.


Brown frowned when Mulder and Saetes pulled into a drive-thru. Maybe they had just been hungry. His stomach grumbled, reminding him that he hadn't eaten either. He stayed where he was, knowing it would be his bad luck to get caught in the line. He stayed several cars away from them and dropped back further when Saetes turned into a residential area. The rental car seemed to blur into obscurity in the neighborhood.

Brown watched the car turn a corner with a sinking feeling in his stomach. The feeling was confirmed as he rounded the corner and almost plowed into two cars. The drivers were holding a conversation in the middle of the street, effectively blocking traffic. He watched as the car with Mulder and Saetes turned another corner and disappeared from sight.

Mulder looked over his shoulder and saw Brown hit the steering wheel in frustration. Satisfied, he turned and stared straight ahead as Jed continued to take evasive measures. The smell of the food was playing with his stomach. He glared at it and grabbed another handful of seeds. "Can you tell me where they are?"

"I have an address where Yates was last seen with an unidentified woman about three hours ago. We'll check the place out and if it looks like Dana and Dani are there, we'll call for backup. Just like we're supposed to." Jed's voice held a large note of sarcasm. And if that wasn't enough, his features were twisted into a grimace of distaste.

Three hours. If Yates was holding them, he wouldn't have left yet. He would be waiting for Rutherford to contact him and advise him. Even after being contacted, Yates may feel safe enough to stay where he was. The big question was how was everyone evolved reacting to Scully's presence. Their plans probably hadn't counted on another hostage.

Jed stopped the car twenty minutes later. "It's the next block over. Second building from the corner. I'll take the back door, if you cover the front."

Mulder nodded as they split up. Upon closer inspection, he could see that the place had once been a retail store. It had undergone a few renovations since its original purpose, the primary one being a conversion into some type of illegal living quarters.

A light tapping brought no one to answer the door. He told himself that 'movement' through the soap on the doors and windows drew his attention. As it quickly left his field of vision, Mulder removed his gun. 'Suspicious scurrying' wasn't exactly probable cause, but he would deal with that later.

The doors were locked. But a hard yank on one of them opened the door rather easily. Maybe a little to easy. Quietly he made his way through the shadows to where he had seen the movement. There were stairs leading up and down. Mentally flipping a coin, he chose to follow the ones going up.

He paused to let his eyes adjust to the darkness before continuing to the top. He had a penlight in his jacket but didn't want to risk being seen just yet. At the top of the stairs, he looked around. Someone had remodeled the place to include windows on the second floor. It appeared to be recently lived in. It was arranged like a loft, with the ceiling sloping to the floor near the 'bedroom'. There was a kitchen area with a counter and barstools, and a living room area that included a couch and a small TV set. A few throw rugs covered the tiled floor and there were two plants by one of the windows. The last few details usually meant a woman was in the picture.

Someone was currently living in the place. Or they had been. Mulder couldn't find any other personal effects other than the plants. Everything else had recently been removed, he judged as he looked at the dust and lack of dust in certain areas. The bathroom, closet, and storage space yielded nothing. Mulder was careful not to touch anything, for when they called in the forensics team.

The figure had probably gone down the stairs instead of up. Being extremely cautious and keeping an ear open for Jed, Mulder made his way back down the stairs into the darkness. He quickly scanned what he could see of the first floor. The doors didn't look like they had been touched, so he continued down to the next flight.

He rounded the corner and stopped. He could hear movement, but there wasn't any light to illuminate whatever was causing the noise. He couldn't risk the little light. It wasn't bright enough to blind and would only pinpoint his location. He'd have to wait for Jed. Naahh.

Mulder carefully felt his way along the wall. He paused as he noticed the wall curved at a right angle. There was some type of room on the other side. He hadn't gone far enough for it to be the end of the building. Storage or another apartment? Neither. The wall ended and curved again without any breaks to indicate a door.

He used the penlight to try and look around. The small beam only showed what he already could tell. The stairs had deadended into this room. There had to be another way to see what was on the other side of that wall. With a lot less stealth than earlier, he quickly walked back up the stairs to the first floor.

Mulder's heart almost stopped as he collided with Jed. "Nothing's down there. Did you find anything?"

"There were two back entrances. One of them led to a garage downstairs, and the other one opened onto this floor."

"There were no signs of them?"

Jed shook his head. Apparently Mulder hadn't found anyone in the building either if they were speaking this openly. "No. But I didn't check upstairs yet."

"I already have. Someone has been living here, but they moved out recently. Left all of their food, but took everything else," Mulder said and described the scene upstairs.

"Let's find some light to get a better look at this level then. I didn't want to risk a flashlight earlier." They found a breaker box. After throwing the switch, both of their jaws dropped.

In the middle of the huge room, was an area that had once been the changing areas for the clothing store. Racks and cashier counters were still present as well as a few signs indicating the departments of the store.

One whole wall of the structure in the middle looked like it had been removed and laid on the floor looking like a prefab portion ready for assembly. Mulder and Jed both stared into the 8 x 8 area that held a toilet. There were no lights in the room, so Jed used his slightly larger penlight to scan the three foot area above their heads to the ceiling. It seemed that the removed wall was the only way into the room. That wouldn't be easy to control. Mulder carefully searched the other three walls while Jed continued to scan the ceiling.

Mulder watched as Jed moved to the center of the room and stared straight up. That would be the floor in the center of the loft, directly under the couch. He could barely make out a seam in the ceiling. "That's the loft up there. I'll go see if the couch is covering something."

Mulder ran up the stairs and over to the center of the room. The couch was extremely light and didn't make any noise as he moved one side of it out of his way. There was a latch, much like one that would hold closed a cellar door. Cursing under his breath, he released the latch, trying not to smear any prints that might be there. Jed was standing directly under him, the fury of hell developing in his eyes.

Mulder pulled out his phone and called for the backup they didn't need and a forensics team. He watched as Jed pulled his own phone out of his jacket and walked angrily out of his line of sight.

As he made his way back down the stairs, Mulder heard Jed as he said, "They're not here any longer. It hasn't been that long though. Get me information on anything and anyone that has left this building in the last hour." He closed the phone with a decisive snap and walked out the front doors. "I do not want to be here when the others show up."

"Skinner's probably ready to kill me anyway. Might as well make it a certainty," Mulder said with a shrug and walked along side Jed back to the car. They left just as the sirens indicated the others had arrived.


Dana woke up feeling nauseous. There was a lingering smell surrounding her as it wafted up from her clothing. She tried to open her eyes, but couldn't see anything. The knot pulled a few strands of hair, letting her know that she was blindfolded. She couldn't feel her hands or her feet, which indicated that they were tied and had been for some time. Her sense of nausea increased as she encountered the rag stuffed in her mouth. Breathing slowly and deeply through her nose, she tried to extend her senses.

Carpeting was under her and something was jabbing her in the shoulder blade. She strained her ears, trying to hear Dani or anyone else nearby. Silence greeted her. There wasn't any indication that she was in a car. Trying to stomp down on her imagination, she started flexing the fingers she still couldn't feel. Maybe if she could contort herself enough, she could bring her arms under her and around to the front of her body.


Dani looked around the small room. She didn't know if the thirst she was feeling was due to the rag shoved down her throat or the passage of time. Her stomach was also telling her that more than a few hours had passed since the muffin from this morning. As these complaints registered, she studied the scene outside the tiny window directly opposite of the cot she was tied to. She could see some trees as the sun set them ablaze along the horizon. If she could believe the angle of the shadows, it was nearing twilight.

Several more hours had passed since the kidnapping and she hadn't a clue as to where she was at now or where Dana was. Now was not the time to panic. Her mind filled itself with the most calming image she could find. Jed stood before her, a beserker's rage in his eyes.


Jed paced the length of the dim room. His phone was sitting on the table at the other end, turned off for now. His superior, Walt, Brown, and a few others he didn't know had kept calling, distracting him. He had to rely on the pay phone two doors down to get the messages and information he needed.

He scowled as he checked his watch again. Walt was going to fly out if this hadn't been resolved by his deadline of 6:00 pm his time. Mulder had relayed that message and was not happy about the prospect either. Another pass of the room and another check of his watch didn't make the time go any faster. He always hated the waiting part. And without Dani to help him focus, he felt almost lost.

He sat down as he thought about how much of his life his wife was part of. The last few assignments had lost their meaning to him without her there. He still liked his job, but maybe it was time to get into something else. He also realized he worried about her more now than when they had been partners. He didn't trust someone else to watch out for her the same way he had.

Mulder stood to the side of the window and concentrated on the street below him. They had found Dana and Dani's prints in the room, but no one else's. The loft was leased to a Maria Banks, an old girlfriend of Yates. Her description matched the woman's the guard had seen with Scully. No other prints had been found at the place. Some one had been very careful with the cleanup. Banks' name and vehicle description had been added to the growing APB list.

Mulder looked longingly at his phone. He wanted to be on it with someone, tracking down the rest of the information on Jared Rutherford. They had connected him with Maria only by chance. A woman on her way home from work had heard the sirens and curiosity had led her to the old store. She was a waitress from a diner a few blocks away and had seen Maria and Rutherford there together on several occasions in the pass few months. Mulder knew that Jed's people had tracked down the waitress. There was too much of a coincidence otherwise, and coincidences were something he usually didn't believe in.

Mulder knew Dani's brother wouldn't hurt Scully right away. She was a wild card. The main question was what did Rutherford plan to do with Dani? The store/loft had been a temporary hiding spot, one to stay at until everyone could meet. He had told the local FBI to check into property leases and titles for Jared Rutherford's name during his second call to them more than two hours ago. Mulder knew they were pissed at him all over again. The first time just for being 'Spooky' and now he wasn't following the rules again. He mentally shrugged an 'oh well'; he didn't like most of the rules anyway.

The tinny echo of the ringing pay phone tore him from his internal musings. He looked over his shoulder at Jed and nodded toward the sound. Mulder watched as Jed slowly stood up and left the motel room they had checked into. He smiled slightly as he recalled the look the desk clerk had given them. The place had rooms by the hour and Jed had paid for five. There were thirty minutes left on the clock.

Mulder forced the images of Scully's disappearance from his mind. He couldn't stand to relive that time. He was even looking forward to getting shot if that meant they would find Dani and Scully before the day was over. He really didn't want to think about facing Skinner without Scully at his side.

Jed returned looking more grim. "Someone has seen Banks' car almost three hours from here. The driver was Yates and Banks was in the passenger seat. A woman with red hair was in the back seat asleep when they stopped for gas."

"And Dana?" Mulder somehow got the words out pass the lump in his throat.

"Only the three people were seen." Jed understood what Mulder was going through. It could just as easily have been Dana instead of Dani the person had seen. "But the guy didn't get close enough to see if someone else were lying in the seat." There was also the possibility that she had been put in the trunk. Jed didn't want to mention that because of what Walt had told him about Dana's three month disappearance a few years ago. Mulder would have no problems remembering that and most likely wouldn't appreciate any reminders, even if they were meant to reassure him.

"Are we going?" Mulder asked as he grabbed his phone, jacket and the keys. He kept seeing Scully's battered and terrified face as she looked up at her captor from the trunk of a car.

Jed nodded and followed the other man out of the room. "Head south on highway fifteen."

A little over two hours later, Mulder pulled into the same gas station that had serviced the people they were chasing. A figure detached itself from the lengthening shadows of sunset. Mulder found it a bit reassuring that Jed was willing to include him in the conversation, not that he would have politely stayed in the car for this meeting.

"I was able to track down the place, Saetes. You owe me big for this. I had to call in some favors of my own." Mulder tried not to stare at the new, large scar running down the side of the man's face. It still looked raw and ran from his temple, across his left eye, all the way to the corner of his mouth.

"Whatever you want, it's yours, Etienne." By the way Jed said it, Mulder could tell that he meant absolutely whatever the man wanted, no holds barred.

"Just a week of Suzie's TLC would be sufficient," he said as he handed over a packet of papers.

"Hell, she and Dani will probably insist on a month," Jed said with a relaxed smile.

It was well and good that a price had been agreed upon but, "Was there another woman with them? One that looked like Dani?"

"Yes. Your woman is there also. They are not together, but Dana is being held there as well. It's all in the notes." Etienne turned towards Jed again and said, "I will telephone you with the week that I will be there, Saetes. Maman will be upset that her petit fils will not be home sooner. But she would want her son to be healthy in spirit as well as body when he returns."

"Thank you, Etienne."

"De nada," he said and turned away.

Mulder looked at the small stack of papers lying in Jed's hands. His own itched to see what information was in there. He looked up as the sound of a motorcycle's engine filled the air around them. Etienne was but a speck seconds later, and Jed was opening one of the bundles.


Dana was extremely uncomfortable. Her shoulders hurt from when she had tried to contort herself to free her hands. She hadn't had anything to drink or eat since the small breakfast with Dani that morning. But that hadn't stopped her kidneys from still performing their function. Even with the sensory depravation she was experiencing, she still felt time passing. At least an hour had passed since she had regained consciousness. No one had come to check on her at least no one that she could sense.

That statement held true for only a few more minutes. She heard a door open and someone step into the room. She strained her ears trying to pick up any other sounds.

Silence reigned for several minutes. She couldn't even hear the person breathe, but she knew someone was there. A disgusted oath echoed softly right before the door closed. Filled with a new sense of urgency, she tried once again to bring her arms under her legs. She had been able to do it before.

OK, she had been twelve at the time, and there had been a little more play in the ropes holding her then. But her brothers had dared her, and she had been determined to prove that she could do it.


Dani twisted again, trying to loosen the ropes around her wrists. She only succeeded in abrading her already raw skin. She stopped moving as the door opened. She allowed none of the anger and frustration she was feeling to show.

The fear was harder to control when she saw her brother standing in the doorway. What had she done to warrant the hatred she saw in his face? As he stood silent, she tried to see the events from so long ago through his eyes. It didn't help. There had to be something she still didn't know about that was causing his animosity.

She tried to speak, but the rags made it impossible. 'When reason fails, go for blood.' went through her head and she started twisting violently. She hated being helpless. She fought the sensation with every cell in her body, but to no avail. The ropes still held tight and the rag couldn't be budged.

Jared stared down at her, a slow smile curving his lips. He nodded his head and stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Dani sagged into the bed. She knew Jed was looking for her. She also knew he would do a few things beyond his power to find her and Dana. But would it be in time? Jared had looked happy. The last time she had seen that expression on his face, she had been lying on the floor in their parents' living room, blood seeping from the cut on her head with Jared standing over her.


"Are we going in with guns blazing?" Mulder knew Jed had a plan, but he hadn't shared it yet. They were sitting about a mile away from the cabin. The small line of trees, prevented a clear view of the place, but they both knew it was there.

"No. We are going in quietly." The glare Jed sent Mulder made him feel like Han Solo in "Return of the Jedi". /This isn't the forest moon of Endor, and I really don't have the type of personality that always acted first, no matter what Scully thinks,/ he mentally protested.

Jed stared out the window on the passenger side of the car. He tensely counted the seconds as the shadows deepened into full dark. Going in with blazing guns was an impossibility. He only had the one. Besides, guns weren't his favorite form of offense or defense. They were too impersonal. With the last vestiges of light he looked down at the layout in his lap.

The cabin had been traced to Jared Rutherford, through his father's attorney. There were three rooms. One of which had been circled. Jed didn't know if Dani or Dana was in that room. Etienne had said that they weren't being held together. So where was the other one? He searched through all of the information again. Were there two levels to the place?

He stared out the window again. Mulder was crunching on some more of the sunflower seeds that he seemed never to run out of. Jed really didn't want to know what he was doing with the shells. As total darkness fell, he said, "It's time."

Mulder was used to running around in the woods at night, especially if it meant he and Scully were on a case. But this time was different. He refused to allow the memories of the last time he searched for her to surface. This time was not like the last one. He didn't think he could survive something like that again.

Mulder quietly followed Jed's silent form through the dark trees. The man had incredible night vision. Mulder continued to find his way uneasily, while Jed practically glided over the ground.

A few minutes later they stopped, still sheltered by the trees. Mulder could see the light coming from one of the windows. A car matching the description of Maria Banks' vehicle was parked along the side of the place closest them. Jed motioned to Mulder that he was going to circle the house.

Mulder nodded and pulled his gun. Trees would only cover Jed for three-fourths of the way. He saw shadows moving in front of the lighted window. One of the shadows detached itself and opened the door. It was the woman. She went to the car and prepared to get in. Mulder tensed as he decided on his course of action.

Jed saw the movement just as he circled one side of the house. Now was not the time to tip their hand. He didn't know whether or not Jared was in the house or where they were holding Dana. He quickly made his way back to Mulder before the other man could do anything to give away their presence.

Jed placed his hand on Mulder's shoulder, effectively stopping him from going after the Banks woman. He forced himself not to react as Mulder swung toward him, his gun aimed at Jed's face. "We can have her picked up later," he said soundlessly.

Mulder did not agree. He was about to voice the opinion that they weren't following the correct protocol when he remembered he rarely followed the procedures preferred by the government. But that still didn't mean he agreed with letting the woman get away.

Jed retreated several yards into the woods and used his phone. "She won't get far," he assured Mulder in the same soundless whisper he had used earlier. "There's a shed with a padlock on the other side of the cabin. It could be where they're holding Dana."

Mulder tried to see past the light from the cabin. All he could detect was shadows. He really should up the Vitamin A content in his diet. If the shed was locked from the outside, Dana should be OK until they could look at the rest of the place. Mulder reluctantly followed Jed and they crept to stand on either side of the window, staying out of the line of sight anyone would have from that standpoint.

There was movement. Someone went into one of the backrooms and stood in the doorway for a moment. Mulder couldn't see anything from his hiding spot and doubted Jed could either. When the person turned around, Mulder saw it was Jared Rutherford. He spoke to the another person in the room, most likely Yates. The words were muted by the closed window, but the man did not look happy.

Mulder saw Rutherford head toward the window. They both ducked down further into the shadows. Jed motioned for Mulder to move around to the front. He nodded his agreement and hugged the wall as he turned the corner. Jed went the long way around the house. He waited the eternity of seconds as Jed finished circling around.

The echo of a gun shot stopped both of their hearts. Caution forgotten, they busted through the door. Yates made a move toward what Mulder assumed was a hidden weapon. Both he and Jed made a rudimentary attempt to follow their agencies' regulations by identifying that they were Federal Agents. Yates didn't stop and another gunshot sounded in the small room.


Jared Rutherford looked down at his victim. Blood was pooling under her slim body, much like he had dreamt about for three years. Now there was one more to take care of. He swung around violently as he heard the shouts and the gunshot from the other room.

Slowly he turned and stepped into the other room. Good, he would be able to witness both of their reactions. In the confusion he knew would follow, he would then be able to take care of his other prisoner. Jared hadn't counted on being tackled like an ill-guarded quarterback, though. The gun in his hand was fired again.

Mulder felt the searing pain that indicated he had been shot. Again. It wasn't bad though. /And Clyde was right, the son-of-a-bitch had used my own gun on me./ Jed was wrestling with Jared and managed to subdue the man rather quickly. Mulder went into the other room.

The woman was bound and gagged and lying in an widening pool of her own blood. He dropped to his knees and removed the blindfold.

"Dana?" No sound made it passed his burning vocal cords.

He worked quickly as he untied her. Dana had managed to loosen the ropes around her wrist, but that was as far as she had gotten before Jared had fired.

Mulder couldn't see. He only felt the blood welling up between his fingers as he tried to apply pressure to the wound near the center of her chest on the right side.

He only had one thought. "Jed. Get. Dani." He had to be right about her. If he wasn't...

Jed's mind started to function again as he saw it wasn't Dani lying there. She was OK. But Dana wasn't. What he had seen of the wound was bad. He dialed his friend's number that had a chopper nearby as he ran to the shed in the back. Dani had to be in there or Dana didn't have a prayer.

He didn't trust his aim with his gun, as he neared the small structure. Not caring if he had the proper technique, he ran into the door with all of the momentum at his two hundred pound plus disposal. The door didn't stand a chance. It practically splintered under his weight. The remaining energy carried him to the far side of the room, where he wrenched his knee on the bed frame Dani was tied to.

He didn't speak as he untied her. Dani could tell something was still incredibly wrong. The gunshots had been muffled by walls and several feet of space, but they had still been recognizable. She didn't like the feeling invading her. She tried to stand up and start running to the house. Her numb legs wouldn't follow her commands and collapsed beneath her instead.

Jed picked her up and quickly covered the distance back to the cabin. "Mulder or Dana?" she managed to ask through her cracked lips.

"Dana."

"Oh, God."

Dani didn't spare a glance for the two figures in the front room of the house. The other two doors led to a bathroom and a bedroom. She could see Mulder's hunched shoulders as he leaned over an inert form.

Jed set her down by the two people and looked around helplessly. He had to do something. Maybe there was something in the bathroom or the kitchen that could help.

Dana had been hit midchest a little to the right of center. Not good. A lot of arteries and veins were on that side. Mulder wouldn't look at Dani. He kept staring down at Dana.

"Help her."

Dani bent and felt for Dana's pulse. "I can't, Mulder." The pulse was extremely weak and erratic.

"Help her!"

"I can't, Mulder." Dani knew what he was going through. She had been there herself.

"You will help her."

He promised all the fires of hell in that simple statement and Dani believed him. She had no clue what she was doing. She just knew she had to help both of these people and if it meant she would become a tabloid sensation, so be it.

Her hands hovered over Mulder's hands that were still covering the wound. "I don't know how."

"Do what you did before," he urged. "When Jed was hit."

Dani didn't like to think about that time. Even now. But Dana was dying. Dani forced herself to remember what she had felt then. When she had recounted the event for Mulder and Dana, her emotions had been carefully controlled as to avoid involvement. Now she opened the locked door on those feelings.

Mulder felt an unnatural calmness permeate him. He had felt this way once before and was reassured by it. He felt the temperature surrounding him drop and his vision narrowed to include only his hands, covered in blood, as they rested on Dana's chest. He knew Dani's hands were there as well, but he couldn't see them. He tried to look over at Dani, but something was preventing it. He felt a wave of darkness envelope him. It wasn't peaceful and reassuring. It just was.

He vaguely heard Jed saying that a chopper was on its way, that it would arrive in a few more minutes. They wouldn't be able to get Dana to a hospital quick enough for them to do anything. Mulder knew that if Dani couldn't help her right now, Dana wasn't even going to make it to the hospital.

His breathing slowed and he felt more of his body's heat leave him. Was this what Dana was feeling? The cold and the darkness were drawing him in, urging him to take a different path.

His heart rate had dropped to a slow steady pulse. He tried to focus on his hands. He had to keep Dana in his sights.

Jed watched the three people. He could barely tell that Dani was still breathing, let alone the other two. There was so much blood. Some of it was Mulder's, but most of it welled from the gaping hole in Dana's chest.

Dani was on her knees, weaving as she kept her hands on top of Mulder's. Her breathing took on the same pattern as the other two. It was extremely shallow and didn't occur often enough for his piece of mind.

"I won't let her do it!" Jed turned at the sound of the screeching voice. Jared had staggered to his feet and was leaning against the door, his hands cuffed behind his back. Jed blocked the other man from stepping further into the room. "She wouldn't help me! I won't let her help others!"

Jed really wanted to know what he was talking about, but he couldn't help himself. He stepped back and looked into Jared's wild eyes for a moment. When the man opened his mouth to screech again, Jed let loose. Turning on the ball of his foot, he cocked his arm, and used his elbow to shut Jared up.

Jared Rutherford crumpled to the ground, unconscious with copious amount of blood coming from his nose. Jed registered the sound of the helicopter's blades and stepped back into the room. All three of them were still silent, still not moving, but still breathing. The flow of blood had slowed. He didn't know if it was because of what Dani was doing or if Dana just didn't have any more to lose.

He carefully walked over to them. The three steps necessary to cover the distance seemed to take minutes to accomplish. He didn't want to distract Dani, so he didn't touch her. Instead he reached for Mulder's shoulder. He slowly rested his hand on the dazed man. Jed was shocked at the cold. It poured over him and almost forced him to his knees. He pulled his hand away and staggered a few feet to the wall. He slowly slid down it and stared at his palm. It was red and splotchy, like the time he had spent two hours playing in the snow without gloves as a kid. He could still feel the intense cold as his teeth started to click together uncontrollably.

The wind generated by the blades of the helicopter buffeted the house, bringing Jed out of his daze. He looked at the trio again. No one had moved. He made his way to the front door and waited for the pilot to make his way over to him.

"I brought what I could, Saetes. I also radioed the hospital and told them there was a gunshot victim." Jed absently nodded and led the way into the other room.

"Don't touch them," he ordered.

"Then how the hell am I supposed to help them." Matt Brinker had known Jed for the entire time he had been with the DEA. Not once had Saetes been unreasonable. He supposed there was a first time for everything and went to pull the two people off of the injured woman.

Matt turned and stared in confusion as Jed held him back. "Don't touch them." Matt nodded at the hypnotic command and swung his gaze between Jed and the trio in the center of the room. He was the only one aware of the time passing, apparently. What was the matter with all of them? Were they holding a wake for the woman on the floor? Or was it some bizarre prayer session?

Not willing to challenge Jed, Matt went into the front room to check out the two people he had seen in there. The one was dead. The other one was passed out, probably from the busted nose. He heard a low pitched moan from the bedroom and went back in there. He didn't care how pissed Jed got. He had to get that woman to the hospital.

Jed bent down to pick up Dani. She had collapsed next to Dana after opening her eyes to stare at him. Mulder was still connected to Dana and still not moving. Dani felt like she had spent the past hour in a freezer, prompting Jed to carry her over to the bed and wrap her in the blankets.

Matt knelt down beside the two figures still in the middle of the room. He recoiled from the cold. After a few seconds to recover, he tried again. The man, who must be the FBI guy, Mulder, was now staring into space. His breathing was quick and shallow, most likely from shock. Matt could see blood covered the entire left side of his shoulder under the coat.

There was another moan that snapped him out of his distraction. It came from the woman on the floor. Matt managed to move Mulder's hands from the woman's chest. He spared a glance for man as Mulder fell onto his side. There had to be a bullet wound. He could see the hole in her blouse. Matt ripped it open and quickly examined her torso. It was covered in blood, but the skin was undamaged. The blood had to belong to someone else. He couldn't find any signs that she had been hit. He sat back on his heels as she opened her eyes.

"Mulder?"

"Is that him?" Matt asked.

Dana turned her head and quickly sat up at the sight of her partner's inert form. "Mulder?"

"He's been shot. What's going on here?" He felt a guilty flush stain his cheeks at the glare he received.

She quickly removed the unconscious man's coat and shirt. Matt watched the efficient way she went about it and her familiarity with the large first aid kit he had brought. He looked up to where Jed and Dani were. They hadn't moved, except for Jed to wrap another blanket around them. He was speaking softly to her.

The other woman drew his attention again. "Come on, Mulder. It's only a flesh wound. Can you get me some blankets? He's in shock." After bandaging the wound, she had laid his clothing over his chest. Matt nodded and went to find what she had requested.

Dana looked up from Mulder's prone form over to Jed and Dani. "Is she OK?" she asked and started to stand up. The weakness in her knees prevented her from taking more than two steps. And the draft she felt reminded her that her blouse was hanging open. With all of the buttons gone, she tied the ends together to preserve a smidgen of modesty.

Jed nodded. "She coming out of it."

Dana wanted to ask what had happened, but Mulder let out a sound that stopped her heart. The man she didn't know came back with a blanket, and she laid it over her partner.

"We can get them to the hospital in my helicopter," he offered again, almost afraid of the reaction he would get.

"Helicopter? What are we doing still here then? Jed, take Dani to it and then help us with Mulder. His temperature is still too low and his heart rate is not good."

Jed stared at the woman that had been near death only minutes ago. Dani's breathing had evened out so he was willing to follow her instructions. He laid her, still wrapped in the blankets, in the front seat of the chopper. She opened her eyes long enough to see where she was and smiled. Jed smoothed her hair out of her face and then went to help Matt and Dana with Mulder.

He took over Dana's position at Mulder's feet, while she ran ahead to get in the helicopter. His legs were too long to get his entire body to lay across the seat in the back, so they bent his knees and tried it that way. They somehow managed to brace him against the majority of the chopper's movements, with Dana acting as his main restraint.

Jed gathered Dani into his arms and climbed into the front with the pilot. Matt radioed that they were on they way and gave the hospital a few more details about what to expect. He also spoke with the local law enforcement officials and convinced them to head out to the cabin. The rest of the trip was made in a healing silence.


Assistant Director of the FBI, Walter Skinner stood outside of the hospital room. He had arrived just as Mulder was taken to the recovery room from surgery. The gunshot wound hadn't been life threatening, but he had lost enough blood to cause his body to go into shock. 'You would think Mulder would be immune to bullet holes by now,' Skinner thought and started to pace up and down the hall. Dani was being held for observation a few doors down from Mulder, so he didn't have to go up and down the stairs during his vigil.

Skinner paused outside of her room for a second before he entered. Jed was still sitting at her side. She had been diagnosed with a case of hypothermia. Skinner wasn't sure if he wanted to know how she had gotten that cold in the middle of August.

Jed looked up at the silent man. "Hi, Walt. You didn't have to make the trip out here."

Skinner smiled at the younger man and sat down in one of the other chairs. "Hey, this gave me an excuse to get out of the office. And now I can spend a few days with my granddaughter."

Jed smiled at the man he was closer to than one of his own uncles. "Thanks, Walt. It helped a lot."

"If you can't take advantage of friends and family, who else can you? Just don't tell Mulder. He'll expect those kind of results all the time."

Jed nodded his answer. Now how could he convince Mulder that Dana hadn't been shot? He didn't want his family to be under a government microscope any more than it already was. He raised his hand and trailed the back of his fingers down Dani's cheek. She was sleeping like she always did with him near: Dead to the world. Any other time, and she would hear the person breathing in the next room.

"Dani's mom is on her way here with Suzie. Their plane should land in about thirty minutes."

"I'll pick them up. Plus that will give Mulder and Scully some time to get their stories straight." Skinner stood up and placed his hand on Jed's shoulder. "Whenever you're ready."

Jed nodded again. He started to repeat his thanks, but knew it was not necessary. "Please don't start spoiling my daughter until after I've had a chance to see her."

"I never make that kind of promise." Skinner left the room and paused outside the closed door again. Consulting his watch, he decided to check on Mulder and Scully. It would be interesting to compare the before and after stories.

Scully was sitting in the chair, looking out the window. Skinner noticed the green of the hospital scrubs matched her complexion. She looked extremely tired, and only half of the tray brought in for her had been eaten. Skinner didn't say anything. He just watched her for a second.

Dana sensed the other person in the room. When no comments were directed at her, she realized that it wasn't one of the hospital staff. She was too tired to show any reaction to her boss's presence. "Sir -"

"I just wanted to see how Mulder was doing, Agent Scully. The report can wait a few hours." Skinner stood over the bed, looking down at Mulder. One of these days he would get used to seeing his people ensconced in a hospital bed.

"He's just resting now, Sir. The wound wasn't as bad as they thought. They'll only succeed in keeping him for two maybe three days."

Skinner wondered at the emotions he heard in Scully's voice. He reminded himself that she had been held prisoner and her partner had been shot. That entitled a person to a reaction or two. He nodded and said, "The local agents are handling the clean up details right now. They want your statement early tomorrow. I could only put them off until 9:30."

"Thank you, Sir. I'll have everything ready by then."

"Agent Scully ... try and get some rest."

"Yes, Sir." Dana watched as Skinner left. What had he started to say?

Skinner thought about that on his way to the airport. He had started to ask what had happened. The reports so far contradicted each other on who had been wounded. He would get the official report and a little more from Jed and Dani, but that didn't tell him why he had almost asked her version of it. He would also need to do some fast talking with the field agents on the case. Jed and Mulder had pissed more than a few people off with their Lone Ranger and Tonto escapade.

He promised himself he wouldn't let any more of his people work with other agencies. It was bad enough trying to sort things out when everyone had the same superior. Trying to straighten the messes that accompanied cases having multiple jurisdictions were a nightmare.


Almost everyone was in attendance for the 9:30 meeting. Jed and Scully looked like they had sat up in a hospital all night. Dani still looked tired, but she was in better condition than Mulder. Skinner watched in amazement as they corroborated each others stories down to the periods of each sentence. He could easily tell which parts Jed was holding back on all of the truth. He would go into detail when he was hiding something.

The first indication was when Jed was questioned about his information sources. He told them absolutely everything without giving away a damn thing. The second one came when he described the shootings in the cabin. Jed went into way too much detail about his dealings with Jared Rutherford, glossing over the events in the backroom because he hadn't been there.

Skinner also watched as Mulder refrained from telling all he knew. This agent of his had a passion for the truth that worried him on most occasions. Mulder must not have all of the answers he wanted. It was the only thing Skinner could think of that was keeping Mulder from expounding upon some extreme theory.

He frowned as Dani played a helpless and confused role. It wasn't obvious, but it wasn't the woman he knew. She honestly didn't know some of the answers to the questions she was being asked. But with others she was being deliberately vague. It was the same area Jed had pulled evasive maneuvers on.

Dana couldn't explain why her blood type had been found at the scene in such large quantities. She didn't know what happened between the time she heard the first gunshot and the time she had seen the helicopter pilot leaning over her. The doctors thought she might have been knocked unconscious, but there hadn't been any bruising to back that theory up.

Skinner decided to be patient. He would get the information out of them at some other time. Right now he wanted to watch the four people confuse the shit out of the two agencies represented in the hospital room. It was going to an interesting show.


Two days later
Washington, DC

"What do you mean you knew Jared Rutherford had been institutionalized?" Mulder asked.

"It seemed logical, Mulder, after some of the things Dani told me."

"But how did you know about -" Mulder stopped talking. Dana was distracting him with her lips. He grabbed onto a fleeting thought like a lifeline. "I think your psychic abilities are increasing, Scully."

"Well let's test yours. What am I thinking now?"

"That's obvious, Scully. And if you don't put your shirt back on, your going to catch a chill."

"Then you can keep me warm," she said and went back to what she'd been doing.

Mulder's eyes closed and he dug his head into the armrest of his couch. "I'm still recovering," he managed.

"You better not be that sick, Mulder."

"I think I'll be dead before I'm that sick. And I think you'll be the one that kills me."

"You better believe it, Fox." She distracted him again before he could issue a reprimand about his name.

The End


Title: Light: For Reasons Unknown
Author: Nicole Mason

Walter Skinner knew he was being followed. He quickly looked over his shoulder. The hallway was empty. He knew it wasn't just his imagination. He had too many years of experience under his belt for the feeling to be just in his head. He opened the door to the stairwell and ducked behind it. Thankfully no one was using the stairs. He waited tensely for the door to open and almost jumped out of his skin.

Mulder was staring up at him from the bottom of the turn in the stairs. Well if anyone were to witness his paranoia, it might as well be someone who understood. He motioned for Mulder to stay where he was. Mulder in turn moved his jacket out of the way of his gun. Yes, they were in a Federal building, but that didn't mean anything sometimes. They both watched as the handle on the door was rattled and opened just a bit.

"Grandpa Walt, it's me," the voice said through the crack.

Mulder's shoulders sagged in relief, and he watched, amused as a flush appeared on the AD's cheeks.

"Yeah, honey. It's OK." Mulder's jaw dropped at the gentle tone.

The door was opened completely and a girl toddler dressed in shorts and a T-shirt darted around the corner. Skinner swept her up into his arms and listened raptly as she talked. "Mommy and Daddy are by your office. I knew you were going to see Uncle Fox. So I came to find you." At the 'Uncle Fox' comment Skinner looked at the man that was slowly coming up the stairs. "Where's Aunt Dana? Catch me." The black haired imp ordered and launched herself from her Grandpa's arms.

Mulder awkwardly caught the flying projectile. "You remember me?"

"Yes. Why wouldn't I?" There was a lot of her mother's sarcasm in that phrase. This eighteen-month-old was definitely not shy and incredibly well spoken. He wasn't sure how to answer her and was glad when she started speaking again. "Here comes Daddy. Grandpa Walt, I'm going to be in trouble." Mulder stared at the tears gathering in the large black eyes.

"Well Suzie, you did take off without them." Skinner said and Mulder grimaced as he tried to hand Suzie Saetes back over to her Grandpa. The little girl had a death grip around his neck.

"Where's Aunt Dana." There was a frown puckering her tiny forehead, the tears gone.

Jed poked his head around the door just then. There was a small flash of relief before the general impassiveness of his features returned. "Suzie."

"Uncle Fox won't tell me where Aunt Dana is." The tears had returned to her eyes, making Mulder's heart ache.

"She's home sick today," he finally said and tried to hand her off to her father. "Hello, Jed."

"Mulder," Jed managed as Suzie spoke at the same time.

"Jamie's coming." All three of the men were captivated by the smile that they were blessed with then.

"Who is Jamie, Face?" Jed asked as he finally reached for his daughter.

"He's my friend," she said and laid her head on her father's shoulder.

Jed just nodded as Skinner said, "Let's go to my office." Mulder followed without a verbal invitation. The one extended by Suzie was silent and compelling. Besides he needed to talk to Skinner.

They walked through the hallway with Suzie talking the entire time. They received a few looks from some of the other agents they saw. Mulder thought it had something to do with the enraptured looks he saw on Jed and Skinner's faces. The same look he assumed was on his own face as well.

Dani was waiting outside of Skinner's office with a frown. Mulder watched in amazement as Suzie stopped talking and the tears appeared again. "Young Lady." She smiled at Mulder in hello, a little busy at the time, trying to discipline her monster.

"I just went to get Grandpa Walt."

"No harm, Dani," Skinner assured her. Mulder refrained from commenting on the episode in the stairwell at Skinner's look. He really wanted the man in a good mood.

"I'll just speak with you later, sir." Skinner was instantly suspicious of the deferential note he heard in Mulder's voice. It had to be important to prompt three requests for a meeting in as many hours.

"No, Agent Mulder. Now is fine," he inclined his head to the three people watching him.

Mulder smiled a sickly hello at Dani and followed Skinner into his office. He heard Suzie whisper quite loudly, "It's about Jamie, Mommy."

Skinner watched Mulder pace back and forth for several moments. Finally he took a rather large breath and said, "Sir, Agent Scully and I wanted to tell you this together, but she's out sick today."

"Mulder have a seat. You're making me dizzy." Skinner was curious. Mulder looked terrified and ill as he sat tensely on the edge of the chair. "What is it, Agent Mulder?"

Mulder looked around. Skinner was relaxed so that meant it was OK to talk. The man's body language was getting easier to read. "Sir, Agent Scully and I, well, sir, we..." Mulder ran his hands though his hair. Skinner may be relaxed, but he sure as hell wasn't. He took another deep breath and held it. "We want to get married."

Walter Skinner stared at one of the most unconventional agents he had ever worked with. He should've seen it coming. Maybe he had. Hell, he knew how Mulder felt about her, had known since Scully's disappearance. And he had suspected how Scully felt about Mulder, but there hadn't been any proof, just some very strong hunches. Hmmm. And Dani and Jed hadn't said a thing. "How public are you going to make it?"

"Sir?" Why had he expected Skinner to have a hissy fit?

"If you keep it low key, we may be able to work something out." Skinner silently celebrated the fact that Fox Mulder was speechless.

"Yes," he said tersely into the buzzing intercom on his desk.

"Sir, Agent Scully is here to see you," his secretary said.

Sparing just a glance as Mulder's face registered surprise and relief, he said, "Send her in."

Scully walked in calmly, looking a little pale. Mulder said she had called in sick. She did look a little tired as well. "Have a seat, Agent Scully. Agent Mulder was just telling me of your news."

Dana shot a glance at her boss and her partner. Mulder looked like he was coming down with what she had. She wanted to reassure him and smiled. Almost two years they had kept their relationship a secret. But now was the right time to let the Bureau know.

"As I was saying, if you keep the marriage low key, we may be able to bend some rules."

No wonder Mulder looked dazed. "What do you mean by low key, sir?" Scully asked at Mulder's continued silence.

"Are you planning on keeping your maiden name?"

"For professional reasons, yes." Skinner nodded at her answer.

Mulder was damn glad Dana was there. Skinner was talking about the two of them still working together. Scully would've never believed it, if she hadn't been here.

"Had you planned on a transfer?" Skinner's mind was moving rapidly. He really didn't want to see this team break up.

"We concluded that would be the result of this decision," Scully said.

Skinner nodded once. It was unavoidable. "How about VCS. And I'm sure the Department Head won't object too much whenever the X-files Division needs your help."

Both agents were stunned. He could see that and smiled. With the way Mulder went after cases and stayed away from paperwork, they would probably work together just as often as they did now. Skinner worried about Cancerman. But it looked like they were willing to risk it.

Skinner tensed as the door opened without anyone knocking. Suzie poked her head around the corner and said, "Can we go eat now." The tone was imperial and made him smile.

"Sure, sweetheart. I need a few more minutes and then I'll be ready to go."

"Uncle Fox and Aunt Dana, too." It was Dana's turn to be astounded by the little girl.

"That's Jed and Dani's girl," she said unnecessarily.

"Yeah. And apparently we've been adopted," Mulder said, still looking dazed.

"Suzanne." The little girl rolled her eyes and closed the door at the sound of her mother's voice.

Dana rubbed her temples and took a deep breath, trying to keep from coughing. She thought she had been feeling better, but apparently not. The dual wave of nausea and heat almost had her passing out right in front of her boss.

Mulder looked closely at her as he saw Scully turn a little green around the gills. She shouldn't have come in today. But he wasn't going to say anything. He'd already been chewed out on the subject twice in the past twelve hours.

Skinner stood up. "Her highness has demanded my presence. If you'll excuse me, we can continue this after lunch."

Both agents nodded and preceded him out the door. Dana stopped to say hi to the family sitting in the outer area. She had come in the other door, so hadn't known the Saetes were in the building. The message on her machine only said that they were going to be in town.

"Hi, Dani," she said as they embraced warmly. Dana was shocked to feel tears gather, but she had missed this woman. They had written and talked over the past year, but had found only one weekend eight months ago when their schedules had overlapped enough to see each other. "You didn't say where you were staying," Dana finished.

Dani was discretely rubbing the corner of her eye as she replied, "Sorry for the early call, but it was a last second decision. I wanted to let you know we would be in and figured that would be the best place to get ahold of you." There was a small smile because Dani had talked to the machine. "We'll be at Jed's mother's"

Jed and Mulder shared a more friendly hello as Suzie was passed to her grandpa. Mulder couldn't wait to see Scully's reaction to that little tidbit. He hugged the woman that had saved Dana's life with all of the gratitude he still felt. Mulder was glad no one else was around to witness the display. Having Skinner there was bad enough.

Dana greeted Jed as thankful to him as Mulder was to Dani. She started to tell Dani to call her at home, but before she could open her mouth Suzie launched herself from Skinner's arms and headed toward Dana. The "catch me" was her only warning, but having several nephews and nieces, it was enough. The little girl was grinning impishly. "Aren't you going to tell me how much I've grown?"

"Well let's see, the last time I saw you, you were knee high to a grasshopper. But since you're still pretty short, I guess that doesn't mean much. What if I said something about how much you're talking now?" That was a small understatement. The little girl had blossomed in the speech department since the last time Dana had seen her. At that time, something resembling 'uncafoc' had been her favorite phrase.

"Jamie's coming, Aunt Dana." Scully was shocked as something inside of her jumped in recognition.

"Who is Jamie?"

Suzie said the same thing she had earlier, "My friend." Suzie could tell all of the adults were a little confused. They would understand later, just like her mother had. "You're coming to eat with us."

"Ask people, Suzie. Don't order them." Dani tried to correct her child.

"Yeah, young lady. Leave the ordering up to your mother," Mulder teased them both. He happily waited for the counterattack he could see coming.

"Children, we have an appointment we must keep." Mulder laughed as Dani's face froze, her tongue sticking halfway out. He turned the chuckle into a cough as Skinner's look changed to include him. "Why do I have a feeling these two already know?"

OK, Mulder was confused. Who knew what? Ack, about the engagement. "Uh, no, sir."

"Then you can tell them over lunch," Skinner ordered.

Dana's stomach did not welcome the thought of food right now. But she bit back the decline. There was no sense in antagonizing Skinner. Although Mulder would probably succeed in doing just that during the meal.

"Say yes, Aunt Dana." She looked at the little girl in her arms and nodded.

Scully was quiet in the car next to Mulder. How the hell had this happened? Dani and Jed were involved that's how.

Mulder looked over at his silent partner as he drove. At a stoplight he reached for her hand and laced their fingers together. He could barely contain the joy that had invaded his soul. He and Scully would no longer have to hide their involvement. They would still limit the public displays, but then neither one of them was they type for it anyway. No more nights apart. That's what he was looking forward to the most. Over the past year, he had spent less and less time in his own apartment with Scully occasionally staying over at his.

Dana eyed their entwined fingers lying on the armrest. She pulled his hand toward her and kissed his knuckles. Two months of agonizing when to tell Skinner and how were over. She was the one that had brought up marriage. She held back a shudder as she remembered what had prompted it.

Mulder had been working on a case for the Behavioral Science people and was out of town. No big deal. But for some reason, she had been on edge about it. She had gone over to feed his ever dying fish and stared at the room in amazement. He was there. At least she thought it was him. But this man was completely unguarded. He was asleep on the couch with a diapered baby drooling on his bare chest. Mulder had opened his eyes and said, "Shhh. He just fell asleep. Go on back to bed and get some rest. I'll entertain our micro-mulder until he needs to be fed."

She had tried to assure herself that it was just her biological clock letting her know it was still running, that there was still time left for her to experience another road. But the argument hadn't worked. She had extended her hands to gather the tiny creature in her aching arms. Mulder had smiled and sat up, shifting the baby for the pass-off. With the baby in her arms, she had felt Mulder pull her into his.

Dana blinked as she remembered waking up on his couch with a pillow in her arms and the smell of Johnson's Baby Lotion in the air. Her cell phone had been ringing. The caller had informed her that Mulder had been hurt. She had asked him to marry her while he was still in the Atlanta hospital.

She blinked again, as she remembered him telling her to get his bag from the closet. "I've had this for almost six months, waiting for you to realize there was no way you were going to get rid of me."

She rubbed the ring, hanging from the chain around her neck. She always wore it, either on its chain at work, or on her hand at home. It hadn't left her possession since he had given it to her six months ago.

Mulder watched intently from the corner of his eye as Dana reached for the clasp of the second necklace she wore. It had become a small ritual for them. After work she would take the necklace off and he would place the emerald with its discrete circle of diamonds on her hand. He still felt the same thrill race through him each time they held their little ceremony. The next stoplight afforded the opportunity.

They leaned toward each other for the next part of the ritual. But they jerked apart at the sound of the honking horn. Mulder stepped on the gas to catch up with Skinner's car. He pulled Dana's hand to his lips to softly kiss the ring only a few other people had seen. It was hard keeping Scully's mom quiet about the whole thing. His mother had been just as happy for them, but she understood their reasons for wanting to keep it quiet more than Margaret did. Love didn't always conquer all and God's will was sometime overridden by man's.

"Mulder, why are we going to lunch with Skinner?"

"I wish I knew. I think because Suzie ordered it," he said as they pulled into the parking lot behind the other car. Mulder had a bad feeling as he waited for Scully to walk around the car. He placed his hand at the small of her back and thought about the dread creeping over him. He had avoided it for quite some time, but he could no longer deny it. He was going to be on friendly terms with Skinner from now on. One lunch and he was going to be committed for life.

Dana shot a glance over her shoulder at the sigh Mulder had released. He was looking sick again. "Please, no," she prayed. An ill Mulder was not one she wanted to be around.

The lunch crowd had thinned enough for them to get a table with only a small wait. Suzie lead the procession with Mulder bringing up the rear, dragging his feet just a little.

Dana was somewhat bemused when Mulder held her chair for her. He usually only did that when they ate at home and during the four day weekend they had stolen in March.

Conversation until the food came centered around catch-up news. Skinner was a little shocked to realize that the four adults around him knew each other quite well. Mulder and Dani kept trading insults as Jed an Scully tried and failed to keep them in line. He listened carefully to the banter, gathering blackmail information on all four of them. With Suzie sitting on his lap, Skinner felt he had to behave. He'd save the information he was gathering for later. He'd always thought a whole helluva lot more must have happened last year for Jed to be this... friendly towards someone. Maybe now, with the marriage announcement, they would fill him in on the details.

"Dana!" All eyes swung to Dani as she gasped the name. Her emerald green eyes were huge and focused on the other woman's hand that was holding a water glass. Dani flushed as she realized she had said that rather loudly and looked like she wanted to gnaw on shoe leather instead of waiting for the food they had ordered.

Skinner felt a little better. He wasn't the last to know. "They've already told me." He didn't add that it had only been an hour or so since the deed. /Fast work with the ring, people, / he thought with a smile.

"When!"

Dana knew she wasn't asking about when Skinner had found out. She glanced at Mulder, then at her boss. "Six months ago."

Walter Skinner began to choke on his scotch and water. When he could breathe again, he glared at his two favorite troublemakers, hoping to see them squirm a little. They did. Scully looked Catholic school guilty and Mulder looked like he was going to try and brazen his way though yet another reprimand. "Well that answers one of my questions." He smiled slightly at the continued worried expression, "If you two would be able to keep a professional facade for the benefit of the higher-ups."

Mulder was still tense despite the teasing tone in his boss' voice. "Sir-"

He was interrupted by, "He's not sir. He's Grandpa Walt."

"Say it, Mulder, and you're dead." No teasing note there. "Just Skinner is fine." He didn't think either one of them would be comfortable with Mulder calling him 'Walt'.

Whatever Mulder was going to say was interrupted by the delivery of their meal. Suzie was moved to the high-chair and held court from there for the entire time food was on the table. Dana thought about the ceremony that was going to take place in four more weeks. She had been worried about when to invite Dani and Jed without Skinner finding out before she and Mulder could tell him.

Dana knew she was wearing a besotted look on her face, but she couldn't help it. Mulder had finally caved-in to the necessity of informing the bureau. Now with that major worry out of the way, maybe she could talk Mulder into saying yes about a baby by Christmas.

She and Dani shared a conspirital glance. Dana realized the other woman knew exactly what she was thinking. Dani raised her water glass while Dana lofted her iced tea. Suzie added her milk to the silent toast.

The men watched the silent exchange and began to worry. Two wondered what the hell they were about to get involved with now and the third was damn glad he wasn't going to have to deal with whatever antics they were dreaming up.

Dani started asking about their wedding plans. Jed kept trying to change the subject, and Skinner laughed at the uncomfortable expressions on three of the faces. Dani glared at him and told him to lose the hard-ass attitude until he was back in his office. At that point, Skinner decided all of them were fair game.

"Come on, Walt. It wasn't my idea." Jed definitely wanted a change in subjects. His escapades during his teenage years were not his favorite dinner topic. "Dani said I couldn't tell." He knew Walt was trying to get back at him for keeping quiet about Scully and Mulder.

Mulder was the next one to plead for mercy. "Have you memorized every single time something like that has happened to me?"

"That's not necessary. New things keep cropping up to replace the ones that I've forgotten." Mulder really wanted to throw something at his boss.

"Grandpa Walt, stop teasing Uncle Fox." Skinner nodded his consent to the command and moved on to a different subject.

Dana learned the Saetes were going to be in town for almost a full week and suggested they get together on Saturday. Still feeling ill, she insisted she was well enough to go to work when the meal was over. She definitely wanted to finish the talk with Skinner. In the car, she put the ring back on its chain. Until they figured out how low key Skinner meant, it would be wise to keep the status quo.

Skinner had a meeting scheduled right after his lunch and told them they would finish their discussion then. Scully knew they were getting some looks from the other agents in the halls. Skinner wanted to see them. Nothing new. Mulder was smiling. Call Guinness Book of World Records. This was indeed a first at work. At least Mulder waited until they had the office door closed. He leaned against it, a crooked smile on his face.

"Come here," he whispered and pulled her willingly to him. She slowly smiled up at him, making his heart trip. For the third time since their relationship had changed, he kissed her in the office. Angling his head, he sealed their lips and tried to tell Dana how happy he was. The tension they had both been feeling about the Bureau was released as a different, familiar tension built.

Dana wondered how long it would take Mulder to completely move into her apartment. Probably this weekend. She moved her hands into his hair, letting the silky strands caress her fingers and palms. Oh, shit.

Mulder stared down in question as Dana abruptly pulled away. She let out a series of coughs and a sneeze before he could ask her what was wrong. He pulled a handkerchief from somewhere and gallantly offered it to her. He ran his fingers across her cheek. She still felt like she had a fever. He straightened as she stepped away looking miserable. "Scully, why don't you go home." He tried to say it in the most unconcerned tone he could manage. Apparently he failed.

"Mulder, I'm fine." She bit her lip and tried again. "Really, I just hope you don't get sick." She meant it. A half a day out to her, translated to three for him, leaving her with all of the paperwork instead of most of it.

He stared down at her a second longer. "OK, but you're leaving early. I'll pick up some dinner on my way home, so we don't have to cook." He paused as the words sank in. "Home... Scully, can I move in this weekend?"

She started laughing so hard she had to sit down. She collapsed in her chair fighting for breath. Mulder stared at her in exasperation. What was so funny? He went over to his desk to wait out the storm. It was the only thing he could do when she got like this. Well, not the only thing, but the only one that would be appropriate for the office.

He remembered the first time she had laughed like that had been when he had packed away his video collection. When she could breathe again, she had told him he looked like a wounded puppy. He hadn't appreciated the thought that the woman he loved and was willing to give up, or at least pack away, his collection for, thought he looked like a mutt. When he had told her that, she hadn't stopped laughing until he had shut her up with his hands on her body. Maybe he could get her laughing like that again at home. He thought better of it, when coughs were added in between the dwindling giggles.

"I'm sorry. It's just -"

The door swung open in mid-sentence. Mulder didn't recognize the man standing there, but he made a mental note on everything about him. Mulder tensed as the man looked around the room. Scully stood up and stepped around the half opened door.

"May we help you?" Her features softened only a little as the man jumped.

"Dr. Scully?" She knew him from somewhere.

"Yes?" She looked across at Mulder. He didn't know this guy, judging by his look.

"I don't know if you remember me. Mike Reynolds."

She shook his hand trying to place the name as well as the face. "I'm sorry, I don't-"

"Quantico. Three months ago. I came up after your lecture and introduced myself." She extracted her hand carefully from the over firm grip.

"I remember now." She took a step back, a little uncomfortable with the proximity of the other man. She saw Mulder stand up and was slightly relieved when he took Mr. Reynolds attention from her. Her paranoia was increasing.

Without extending his hand, Mulder said, "I'm Agent Mulder, Reynolds. As my partner said, how can we help you?"

"Mulder?" Dana almost felt sorry for the kid when his voice cracked. "I just wanted to tell Dr. Scully how well I enjoyed her lecture." He turned tail and practically ran out the door.

"I think your reputation's gotten worse at the Academy, Mulder." She shook off the uneasy feeling she still had and sat back down to work.

/Apparently, it's not bad enough, / he thought to himself. That kid had almost tried to pick up Scully.

Skinner finally called them back up to his office late in the afternoon. Dana saw that he relaxed a little as he saw her bare hand. She blinked as she thought she saw a smile form. "VCS was willing to go fifty-fifty with your time."

That would diminish her performance in both divisions, "Sir-"

"That's for the normal case situations. I've convinced the Department Head that arrangement would most likely kill your efficiency in both areas. So Anderson's agreed to basically add another person to the X-files Division." He watched as that sank in. Mulder was tensing at the thought of a new partner. And they both looked resigned to breaking up their work team. "Officially, he'll be Agent Scully's partner. So when you call her in on a case in the field, he goes too."

It was going to take some work on all of their parts to make the adjustment. But Dana was willing to try. Mulder, though, was reluctant. "A chaperon, sir?"

Skinner laughed. "It's a little late for that, isn't it?" They both smiled at the barb. Skinner shook his head. "No. More of a buffer for the fundamentalists." He could see the wheels in Mulder's head start to gear into high speed. "And Mulder, the first time he's left behind, will be the last time."

Mulder nodded meekly at the command. /Well squash that idea. / "Sir, what if he chooses to stay behind?"

Skinner thought about that probability on an X-file. "We'll make sure he has a damn strong stomach." There was one more concession he was going to make for these two. "You may both be in on the screening, but the final decision is not yours."

Mulder saw that as an apology for Krychek being assigned to him so long ago. He nodded his head, not knowing what to say.

Skinner was relieved Mulder understood. That had bothered him for years, even though he hadn't been the one behind the assignment. "Remember, the sooner the paperwork goes through, the sooner you can make things official."

"Is tomorrow OK, sir?" Skinner bit back a laugh at the eager expression on Mulder's face. He had to cough as Scully blushed, though. Interesting.

"It'll be a few weeks most likely," he warned. Now they both looked uncomfortable. What now? "Is that a problem?" He realized they had looked the same way at lunch when Dani had asked about the wedding date. Shit. "When's the date."

They looked at each other and Scully said, "Labor Day weekend."

"You two did not give me a lot of time to work with," Skinner accused.

Mulder shrugged. "I kept wanting to put it off," he confessed.

"Why? Besides the obvious necessity of a transfer?" There was a flush on Mulder's cheeks. Embarrassment or guilt?

"Nightmares of commuting from Quantico," Mulder mumbled.

Skinner looked at Scully for clarification. "We figured I would be assigned to teach again. Not that every once in awhile is so bad, but everyday? It's not what I want to do." Would she have quit, had that been the only choice?

Skinner nodded. "Fine, we'll try to have all of the paperwork processed in two weeks. If it's more than that, your transfer will be approved without having a partner ready for you," he spoke to Scully, seeing she was more rational than Mulder. Skinner had never seen the man so ... happy. "That way you'll be able to have more than a weekend for the honeymoon." Skinner blinked. Then he blinked again. Mulder was blushing. "That's everything."

Skinner watched with different eyes as they stood up in tandem, looking for any signs that he might have missed over the years. In fact, if they hadn't told him, he never would have guessed they had become more than partners.

Scully turned as she opened the door. "Thank you, sir." Mulder remained silent, but Skinner could see the same sentiments in the normally hostile eyes.

Skinner nodded as he acknowledged the gratitude. "You're welcome, Agent Scully."

He called down to personnel. Veteran or rookie? He had no clue. Skinner also wondered where the hell his air freshener was. The black-lunged-sonofabitch would probably put in an appearance soon.

Black-lunged-sonofabitch... He like that; it had a nice ring to it.


Mulder hit the doorbell with his elbow. "Hurry up, Scully," he called at the 'who is it?' The files, duffel bag, box of books, and bags holding a fine home-cooked meal were trying to move to a lower energy state.

Scully rescued the food and let Mulder deal with the rest. She had been listlessly surfing channels as she waited for him. She hadn't had the energy to do anything else at the point. Her fever was back, but the nausea was gone.

Mulder set the box of books and files in the spare bedroom/office and dropped the duffel bag at the foot of the bed in their room. He looked around and imagined a few ways to imprint his tastes now around the apartment.

"How are you feeling?" he asked as he walked into the kitchen.

"OK. Better than this morning."

"Work didn't tire you out? That meeting with Skinner-"

"Was exactly what we both had only dreamt about," she interrupted him with a smile. He meant well, but he quickly crossed the line from endearing to annoying when he was worried.

"You're absolutely right. Now can I have my 'Welcome Home' kiss?" He wondered how cold the food was going to get this time as Dana stepped into his arms. /Oh, well. There's always the microwave, / was his last coherent thought for quiet some time...

The next one happened when he tucked the comforter around a sleeping Dana. Her skin was flushed and it wasn't from the recent lovemaking. Dammit. She still had a fever. He knew he was going to be up on murder charges one of these days because of her stubbornness. He only hoped he had a sympathetic judge.

He unpacked another box of his research books as he snacked on some of the food he had brought. He'd wait until later and share the rest when she was awake. An hour later, she was still asleep and still running a fever. He went in search of the cold medicine he knew was in the apartment somewhere. He found it in an improbable place and knew he'd been the last to use it. Waking her up just enough, he made her take the medicine and drink a glass of juice.

Grabbing the files out of the office, he settled onto the couch and wondered if he would have to give up his. Mulder smiled as he realized it really didn't matter. Absently he picked up the phone when it rang, trying to minimize the possibility it would wake Dana up.

"Yeah." He muted what little sound was coming from the TV. Mulder tensed at the silence on the other end. It wasn't Margaret or one of the other Scullys. They were used to him answering the phone on occasion.

"Is Dana Scully there?" The voice was male and hesitant... Reynolds.

Mulder bit back the 'she's in bed' that sprang to his lips. Be polite or Scully will find out. "She can't come to the phone right now." He was not going to be that polite and offer to take a message.

"I'll call back later."

He wondered, a little irrationally, how many times something like this had happened and she hadn't told him. Stomping down on the jealousy, he smirked at the phone. /Call back later, / he dared, /I'll still be here. /

Dana woke up enough a little later to eat something. She smiled to herself when she saw that he had waited to eat until she did. Sometime he was so sweet. It wasn't often, so she took advantage of it when it surfaced. She wondered why he tensed when the phone rang. She wondered even more when he relaxed as she said, "Hi, mom."

"Tell her I said hi," he said as he went back into the living room with his work.

She spoke with her mother as she rinsed the last few dishes and put them in the washer. No. They didn't want a DJ. They wanted a *small* band. Why was she asking? The band was already lined-up. Yes. They did want an open bar. Yes. She knew how her uncles and cousins acted when intoxicated. No. They did not want any newspaper announcements. Yes. There was one more invitation she wanted to send out. And that was it. No more.

Mulder wondered why she wanted Skinner's home address, but told her anyway. Oh, god, the wedding, he realized a moment later and looked into the kitchen, horror etched across his features. "Scully."

"Too late, Mulder."

He dropped his head in defeat. Well after the plans set in motion today, he thought it might be an acceptable trade. Skinner probably wouldn't show anyway.

He half listened to the ball game on TV and the phone conversation. So far Dana and her mother had had the same conversation a total of fifteen times since they had told Margaret about the engagement. Next up was the debate on a full mass. No. They didn't want one. Why? Because people didn't want to spend their entire Saturday morning in church. Mulder's knees wouldn't be able to handle all of the kneeling. Because Mulder's family wasn't Catholic. And a few other excuses.

Mulder smiled. He knew the real reason. Scully didn't want to go to Confession. And the bride refusing Communion at the alter because of her lapse would scandalize her entire family. The threat to just have a civil ceremony ended the debate a few minutes later.

Dana dropped down onto the couch next to him when she finally got off of the phone. "Wake me when it's over."

"Why didn't you just tell her you were sick?" He ignored her 'Get Real' glare.

"Because if I did, she and your mother would take immediate control at even that small sign of weakness, and we would have absolutely no say," she said as she reached for one of the numerous medical journals stacked neatly in the magazine rack along with some of Mulder's subscriptions.

Mulder mentally compared their reading material to an imaginary 'normal' couple and laughed silently. The average couple didn't have journals on the latest autopsy techniques, government conspiracy theories, UFO sightings and abductions, gene mutations, or rules and regulations for Federal employees. There wasn't a Newsweek, Time or Good Housekeeping in sight, for which he was more than grateful. The thought of either of them starting to read something like that brought to mind "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Thinking of which... He surfed until he found it. The triple feature starting included the original, the one with Donald Sutherland, and the one that was only a few years old. Aliens, government cover-ups, and gory stuff. Just what they needed to take their minds off of work.

Dana rolled her eyes at the choice and got more comfortable by putting her feet in Mulder's lap. Maybe he would take the hint. Yep. Aahhh. She looked at the clock. Because of her nap, she figured she'd be up for several more hours. That was right before she fell asleep.

She awakened awhile later as the phone rang. Before she could move, Mulder picked it up.

"Yeah." He didn't like whomever was on the phone. "She's asleep." She would kick him if he didn't offer to take a message. She saw Mulder glance at her. Her glare prompted him to offer, "Do you want to leave a message? ... OK."

"Who was it?" She asked after he hung up.

"Didn't say." He didn't add anything further and buried his nose in another file. /Well, he hadn't said who it was, / Mulder told himself. /Now how do I keep Scully out of the office when he comes looking for her? /


Dana opened bleary eyes and took stock of how she felt after Mulder killed the alarm. "I look forward to the day when the damn thing doesn't go off an hour early, just so you can go home and change."

"You only have to say when."

"Hmmm." She pretended to think about it. "How about two weeks from now?"

Mulder mumbled, "Smart-ass," and curved around her. "Feeling better?"

She nodded sleepily and snuggled closer. She felt his morning rough cheek move across her bare shoulder. /Maybe they could keep setting the alarm that extra hour early, / she thought and moved even closer to him.

Mulder warmly cupped a sleep-flushed breast and gently kneaded it. He felt the nipple tighten against the center of his palm. He shifted a little, settling his mouth along the curve of her neck, breathing in her fragrance. He felt the anticipation build as his hand moved to her other breast and her hand reached behind him to tangle in his hair.

Dana stretched and felt the strength of him behind her. She trapped his calf between her feet, and then she moaned as his hair-roughened leg moved between hers. She lowered her hand to grasp his hip. The arm that was acting as her partial pillow shifted allowing his hand to join the other one at her aching breasts. "Hmmm, Mulder."

"Yes?" She arched and pressed tighter against his hands and hips. He shifted and she felt his heat move between her legs. He didn't enter her, though. He just rubbed up against her, teasing her into mindlessness. She tried to trap him, but his leg prevented it. She also tried to reach for him. He snagged both of her hands and held them with one of his own. His free one trailed down her stomach and around her navel before tangling in the dewy strands shielding her moist secrets.

"You know what Dana?"

She bit her lip and moved against him again. "What?"

"I love you."

"I love you, too, Mulder."

"You know what else?" She shook her head in answer. She didn't know anything at that moment beyond his body and hers. "I need you."

"I'm here, Mulder."

"I can feel that," he said as her head twisted and his lips covered hers.

"You know what, Mulder?"

"What?" he asked as her hands fought his gentle hold and her body moved with impatience against his.

"I need you, too." The softness of the tone told him it was more than just the physical need humming in their blood right then. It was the need of a soul for its other half.

"You have me," he whispered as he penetrated her softness. He released her hands and then he wrapped one of his arms around her lower torso, pulling her deeper into his embrace.

Her hand covered one of his and the other one reached behind to smooth up and down what flesh she could reach. The gentle rhythm seemed to go on forever. Neither one was in a rush to end the sharing of the moment. Dana gloried in his movements within her. The slow drag and surge of their rhythm was timeless. She felt her climax start and tried to hold back. That only increased the tension gripping her body and heightened the feel of his movements within her.

Mulder felt her trembling and groaned into her hair. 'Just a little longer,' he told himself, 'Just a lit-' "Dana," burst from him as she shimmered in his arms sending him into the light.

He trailed tiny kisses along her shoulder as their heart rates returned to normal. She twisted to look up at him as he slid from her body. His smile was light, almost matching the one in her dreams. "Good morning," she said lightly, nipping at his lower lip.

"It is now," he agreed until he saw the clock. "Damn. I'm gonna be late." He didn't move though.

She laughed softly and kissed his bristly jaw. "You're not the only one. Go on. Getting Skinner mad at you would not be wise at this junction."

"You're right," he said even as he lowered his head for another kiss.

"Go," she said again. "I'll see you at work in a little bit."

Mulder reluctantly got up and went into the bathroom. It was going to save him a little time to shower and shave at Scully's, but he'd still have to fight traffic back to his place. "Two more weeks," he promised himself during the drive. "Fourteen more days," he chanted as he searched through his ties. "Ten more working days," he prayed as he grabbed a slice of pizza from the fridge. /Yuck. Never mind./ he thought as he got a closer look at it. He had seeds at work. Maybe Scully would bring him a bagel.


He almost grabbed her to kiss the freshly glossed lips when he arrived at the office only two minutes after 8:00 am. He had thirty seconds to spare according to government specs. Telling Skinner had relieved so much of the tension he'd been feeling lately, he was almost euphoric. /Until it's official, it can still change, / he reminded himself and settled for a smile of greeting. "Thanks," he said as she passed a bagel to him. "There wasn't anything to eat in my apartment."

"Not even cold pizza?"

"Nah, the last one died. I think an autopsy is needed to determine the cause."

"Most likely it was from fright of the other entities in your refrigerator."

"No, probably just neglect. You see, I haven't been spend-" Mulder stopped mid-word as the door opened.

"Closed doors usually indicate a knock is required." His good mood went out the window as he saw it was Reynolds again.

"I was looking for Agent Scully," he said as he stepped around the door.

"Yes, Agent Reynolds?" /Not another one, / she hoped. OK, so it would only be the third one since she and Mulder had become closer, but so far the others had tried the same tactic. 'Just ignore Spooky' had been their motto.

"I was wondering if I could have a word with you?"

/Oh, Lord, he's blushing. Please don't let Mulder notice. / "About?" /Catch a clue and say a case, kid, / she mentally urged.

"Umm, can I speak with you in private?"

Scully reluctantly stood up and stepped into the hall. She couldn't use the 'no co-workers' spiel. It would be proven false in, oh my God, four weeks as of tomorrow.

Mulder glared at the closed door. /Just don't mention you called last night or I'll be toast. /

Dana studied the silent man in front of her for a second. Average height, average build, brown eyes, brown hair, blends in perfectly with the scenery. Even his tie was, ick, nondescript. "Yes, Agent Reynolds?" She did not want to spend her day waiting for him to ask an embarrassing question.

"I was wondering... would you care to have dinner tonight?"

Shit. He asked. Maybe it wasn't what she was thinking. "Is there a case you want me to consult on?"

"No. I was hoping this would be a date." He now had the cocky attitude she hated, but seemed to be standard Bureau issue. At least Mulder had other redeeming qualities.

Time for the truth. "I'm involved with someone." She saw him nod.

"I thought as much when I phoned your home last night."

He wasn't surprised? ... Mulder...

"I figured there would be no harm in asking."

"Thank you for the offer." Time for the cliche. "Maybe we could have lunch."

"Maybe," he agreed as he headed down the hall.

Mulder watched as she stepped back into the room. Oh-oh, Reynolds mentioned the call.

"You didn't say he called last night."

"Reynolds? The person didn't leave a name."

She studied the careful expression of innocent confusion. Maybe the caller hadn't identified himself, but Mulder had probably known who it was.

"What did he want?"

"Nothing." How would he react to the evasion? Not well, judging by the glare. "Just dinner, Mulder."

"What did you say?"

"Mulder, we are getting married in twenty-nine, count them, twenty-nine days. What do you think I told him?"

He sat back in his chair, dumb-founded. Then they both shared the joy of that fact with a slow smile. "You're right, Scully. Do you still have the file on the sightings in Montana? I can't seem to find it."

Dana looked at the natural disaster area that was his desk. It would be easier to double check her desk while he still looked through his. "I thought I gave it to you, but I'll look."


Mulder had finally gone to his place to pack as she rushed to the address Dani had told her they were staying at. The house was near the outskirts of DC in one of the more quiet neighborhoods. Dana was a little relieved when Dani answered the door, nowhere near ready.

"Do you want to adopt a monster?"

"No thanks. I already have Mulder." Dana looked around the immediate area for the hellion in question. "Where's Suzie?"

Dani started mumbling curses as she followed a trail of tiny discarded clothing. "Suzanne Josephine, if you don't get your padded little butt out here -"

Dana watched as the little girl crawled out from under a bed with huge tears in her eyes. "Mommy," she said with a large sniff.

"Clothes, Suzanne." She retrieved the discarded garments and held them up for help. "Jed falls for the tears every time, no matter what she's done." Dani looked up at Dana as she knelt to tie the tiny tennis shoes and said, "If she's this bad now, I'm never going to survive the decade from hell."

"At least you don't have to worry about your children turning out like Mulder."

"You're right. I just have to watch out for 'Mother's Curse'." Suzie was only slightly uncooperative as she tried to get Dana's attention.

Dana picked up the freshly dressed angel an she said, "You mean the one that starts, 'When you have children of your own, I hope they...'"

"Insert standard misbehavior. Yeah, that one. OK. Tell me everything you couldn't with Walt sitting right there. Although he didn't believe me when I told him I didn't know anything." Dani finished getting ready as Dana spoke and played with Suzie.

"Well first off, your invitation is in the mail. I did put it off just a little bit until we could speak to Skinner first. I didn't want to put you two in the middle of something like that."

"Understandable. How does the zoo sound?"

Dana agreed with the choice and filled in a few more details about the wedding in general.

Suzie started squirming around in her car seat. "What's wrong, Face? Do you have to go to the bathroom?"

"Jamie's coming, Mommy."

Dani wasn't comfortable when her daughter used that tone. It sent chills down her spine. Especially because she was always right when she used it. "I know you said Jamie's your friend, Face. But is there anything else?"

The little girl was nodding her head. "I can't tell right now. But he's my and Jeremy's friend."

"Now who is Jeremy?" Dana asked.

"My little brother."

Dana swung her eyes to Dani, the question quite clear. Dani nodded. "Nine weeks. Suzie knew the day it happened."

"What? How did she know?"

Dani shrugged. "Early that day, she just said, 'Jeremy's coming' to Jed. We had no clue what she meant until I was sure. We were telling Suzie about her new sibling when she again said that Jeremy was the baby's name and when he would be born."

"That doesn't explain Jamie." Dana wasn't sure if she liked the suspicion forming in her head.

"Yeah it does. But it's too spooky to think about." Dana glared at Dani. The subject was not funny. In fact it was scaring her quite a bit.

"Mommy, Aunt Dana isn't happy. Tell me about the pandas."

Dana swung her head around to look at the little girl. There was a very adult smile on her face. It was both reassuring and worrisome at the same time. Dana shook herself. An eighteen month old baby could not have known when her new sibling had been conceived. The child may be smart, but that level of biology was still a few years away. Her years with Mulder and the X-files precluded outright denial of the possibility though. Maybe she and Mulder should be a little more careful, until they were both ready to start that family she wanted and had yet to convince him he wanted, too.


Mulder dumped another box onto the livingroom floor. Dana's -their- apartment now held almost half of his stuff. He looked at Scully, silently pleading for help.

She shook her head. "Forget it, Mulder. I did my part by making room in my closets and office." She went back to the report she was working on, a little distracted. Suzie had kept up the knowing looks all afternoon. The little girl hadn't said anything else about the topic, but she had still unnerved Dana several times with her smile.

They had met Jed and Skinner for a late lunch after Dani had called them on a payphone. Dana was still a little shocked at how different Skinner was out of the office. At the time, she had an extremely fleeting thought about fixing her mother up with the attractive older man. The next second, she had dismissed the idea. She wasn't sure she or Mulder could handle being responsible for that development. Now if it just happened...

She looked up as Mulder brought a final load into the now cramped apartment. And this wasn't everything. Maybe they should decide which things would go into storage now. Maybe not. He was looking highly put-upon.

He set the last box in the bedroom and came back to plop down next to her on the couch. He had spent ALL DAY packing and moving. Now he had to unpack it. And worse, he had to organize it. Scully would only let him go so far with putting his stamp on the place. She'd already told him if the apartment ended up looking like the office, the would keep separate residences. When she used that tone, he had a tendency to believe her.

"Will you at least help me unpack and organize some of this stuff?"

Dana pretended to think about it. She was going to help, simply so she would be able to find things she needed later. "OK. I'll take care of the stuff in the office. You take the bedroom."

"But I won't be able to find anything if you unpack all of the books."

"Yes, you will. All of the others are alphabetized."

"By subject?"

"Mulder, I don't want to know what some of these books are about. Is that how you file things at work?" No wonder she could never find anything. And Lord only knows what Mulder would consider the main subject on some of their cases.

"How about we flip a coin? I call tails," he said as he reached into his packet for a quarter.

"Huh-uh. Statistically speaking, tails occur more in coin tossing."

"Last time I checked, it was fifty-fifty," Mulder argued.

"The probability is. But statistically, tails is more frequent because the heads side is heavier. I call tails."

Mulder looked at the coin in his hand. It would serve her right if he used the two-headed one. "OK, you win."

"Bowing to statistics, Mulder?" That was too easy. What was he up to?

"No, bowing to the probability that eventually all the books will be under author again."

He looked so forlorn now she wanted to laugh. But she usually got in trouble when she would react like that. Maybe trouble wasn't the right word. "Mulder... you're wearing your puppy dog face again." His features instantly changed to include wounded along with pouty.

"When you say that, it does wonderful things for my ego."

"Your ego needs all the taking down it can... Mulder, what are you doing?" She felt like she was being stalked by a large, sleek cat. He was weaving his way stealthily through the maze of boxes, a determined look in his eye. "Mulder?" She didn't have any place to back up to. Maybe she could dart under his arm.

"Oh, no, you don't," he growled into her ear. One arm wrapped around her waist and the other one cleared a spot off on the desk.

Dana wrapped her arms around his neck as he lifted her to sit on the edge of the desk. "Didn't I see this in one of your videos?"

"Videos? What videos?" he asked trying to find the hem of her shirt.

"The ones you don't want me to see you still get." The words were a little hard to understand with the way she said them into his neck.

What were they talking about? Oh, yeah. "I'm a collector, Scully."

"Uh-huh. I believe that one." She did believe it, but it was fun to tease him.

"I'll tell you a secret," he said against her skin.

Her mind and body were choosing to focus on only one subject. "What?" she asked a moment later after she found her voice.

"What?" he answered.

"What secret?" she managed.

"Later," he urged around a low moan.

"Yes. Later." She had no clue what she just agreed to.

She'd worry about it later...


"I can't believe I let you talk me into this."

"It's only a few weeks."

"Twenty-six days. I'm not going to survive."

"You? What about me?"

"We could always change our minds."

"Mulder..."

"Twenty-six days." A wistful sigh echoed through the room.


"Did you hear?"

"What?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Spooky are actually going to get married."

Dana watched in amusement from the stall as one woman smeared lipstick into her hair, she moved her head so violently.

"That's the reason for the transfer?" She hadn't noticed the garnish red in the bleach blond locks yet.

"That's the reason."

"How long do you think they've been sleeping together?" She had noticed the lipstick and frowned even more.

"Since the beginning. Wouldn't you have been?"

"With Mulder? Hell, yes. With my partner? Hell, no."

The woman with the lipstick in her hair was tying to remove it without much success. Dana debated on whether or not to make her presence known. The transfer was two days old. Today was the first day she had worn her ring. Her faith in her co-workers' investigative ability was restored. It was barely 8:30 and the topic was already under discussion in the women's restroom.

She decided to go for it.

Two sets of jaws dropped as she stepped over to the row of sinks. Dana smiled as they quickly retreated without saying a word. A frown crossed her forehead as she noticed how pale she was. Maybe it was just the light.


"Scully, are you OK?" He'd strangle her is she said she was 'fine'. A person who was 'fine' would not be curled up on the couch looking ashen.

"I'm fine, Mulder."

"Scully."

She smiled weakly at his tone. He no longer let it go when she used that phrase, but some habits were very hard to break. "No. Really. I just started today. That's all."

"Do you want a back rub?" he asked and sat on the edge of the couch at her knees.

"I'll love you forever," she said and moved the least amount possible to give him better access.

"You will anyway."

"OK, past forever, then."

"It's a deal."


"Mulder, you are not going on that case alone."

"You don't have a partner yet, so they're not going to OK you're going."

"Since when do you go by the rules?"

"Since I'm getting married on Saturday."

"Mulder, if you get shot, I'm going to kill you."

His shoulder twinged in remembrance. "It's just an abduction follow up."

"You see one MIB and I want you to run, Mulder."

"Yes, Jenny."

It took her a second to realize what he meant by that. She flushed when she did. "Just... Be careful."

"Without you there to watch by back, I'll have to be."

"Yeah, I'm the reason you're always getting in trouble." Dana barely held in the unladylike snort.

"And if I end up in the hospital, we can held the ceremony there."

"And the honeymoon, as well?"

"Damn straight." His jaw was tight as he glared at her.

"It's only a few more days."

"Ceremony's over at 11:00. That makes it eighty-eight hours and twenty-seven minutes."

"Mulder, the reception's right after the wedding."

"Yeah, but there's the limo ride to the banquet hall."

"Mulder."

"Eighty-eight hours and twenty-five minutes. I don't think I'm going to make it, Scully."

"Mulder."


"Scully," she said into the annoying contraption that had been distracting her all day.

"Forty-four hours and thirteen minutes."

"You mean you don't have the seconds counted yet?"

"Talk to me during the ceremony. My plane lands at midnight. You want to come and get me or should I just take a cab home?"

She heard the familiar sound of cracking shells and smiled a little more. "Mom wants me to come over to her place for a final fitting. I'll just stay there and pick you up on the way home. Hold on." She nodded absently to the person that handed her a file. She paid a little more attention as the person began to speak. She could hear Mulder still eating his seeds when she came back to their conversation. "What's the flight number?" She quickly wrote the information down on her calendar. "I'll see you then."

"Aren't you going to say you love me before you hang up?"

She tucked the phone more comfortably under her ear. "We can do that, can't we?" Her tone was serious because his had been so plaintive.

"I'm not afraid to say it, Scully."

"Well then say it," she dared.

"I'm in an office full of people."

"So am I," she countered.

"You asked for it... I can't wait to -"

"OK. I love you. Bye, Mulder." She quickly hung up. His voice had dropped to a seductive purr. Four small words in that tone had sent shiver down her spine all the way to her toes. Forty-four hours and eight minutes.

She wasn't going to make it.


"Do we have to do this?"

"Yes. It's tradition, Mulder."

"But I don't have to worry about how fast I'm going to walk down the aisle."

"You're going to be worrying about being able to walk at all if you don't shut up."

"The knot's not even tied and the noose is already around my neck."

"Mulder."

"Yes, dear." /Sixteen hour and twenty-two minutes. Sixteen hour and twenty-two minutes. Sixteen hour and twenty-one minutes. Sixteen hour and .../.


"I don't want to kiss you."

She stared up at her husband of two seconds. "What?!" The tender look in his eyes was the only thing saving him from severe bodily harm.

He cupped her face with both palms and leaned forward to whisper, "I won't want to stop. And it's 627 seconds before we'll be in the limo."

"Mul-" Six hundred seconds. It was too far away. She wasn't going to make it. They both stepped back from the kiss before their bodies could override their minds on that score. They had a major audience and Mulder didn't want to develop performance anxiety.


"How was I supposed to know Mom had assigned the kids to ride with us?"

"Because your mother has a cruel, viscous streak. Just like you."

She looked up at him innocently, or she tried to anyway. "It's only going to last about six hours, Mulder."

"Six hours! Scully!"

"Are you two ever going to call each other by you first names?"

Mulder looked at the man that had just moved into hearing range and was dancing with his mother. "Well, I could start using Mulder for Scully."

"People would only thing you were talking to yourself." Skinner said and led his smiling partner away from the couple.

He grinned as he heard Scully say, "It wouldn't be the first time, Mulder."

Mulder frowned, leaned down, and whispered something in Dana's ear that had her cheeks matching her hair.


"Are you sure about this, Mulder?"

"It's a little too late to ask that, but yeah, I'm sure." He forced air back into his lungs a few times before he said, "Did we succeed in making this official? Or should we try again, just to be sure?"

"If you up to it. It all happened so fast..." Her wicked grin contradicted the nonchalant shrug that accompanied the words.

"It has been over 670 hours since you talked me into waiting until the honeymoon. We have a lot of time to make up for."

His fingers dancing over her body told Dana more than words could that he was ready again. "I'm not going to be able to walk tomorrow, am I?"

"Nope. And neither am I," he said with glee as he settled into place. Her moan of acceptance brought him to the edge of his control. He fought valiantly, but eventually lost the battle when Dana shuddered beneath him, consumed with the pleasure he could bring her. He gave up the fight willingly and followed her seconds later, groaning as he spoke of his love in many ways.


"Where are we?" She looked around, seeing something besides Mulder for the first time in hours.

"A hotel room."

"I already deduced that. But it's a nice one."

"Hey, all of my choices weren't runners-up for Sleaziest of the Year."

"Close though. Mulder, do you think we should get up?"

"Again?! I can't move, Scully."

"Well, we're going to need food eventually." She tried to move, but the protesting muscles stopped her. She fell back with a groan. "You did this to me," she accused.

"Either that, or it was one helluva dream," he suggested and pulled her back into his arms. "I need sleep more than food right now." The last words slurred into nothing.

Dana stared out at the bright blue sky for just a moment. As she fell into an exhausted sleep she thought she heard Mulder mumble "Only 480 more hours to make up for."

480? She wasn't going to make it.


"You order the food. I'm going to soak in the tub."

"Are you OK?"

"Nothing two weeks of celibacy won't cure."

"I think it was the celibacy that caused this to begin with."

"Mulder."

"I'm ordering the food. I'm ordering the food."


"So did you even get out of the room to see the town?"

"Mom!"

"It may have been a very long time ago, but I remember my honeymoon quite clearly... It's hard to forget when your first child was conceived."

"Mom!"

"I know. You and Fox are going to wait awhile. But, please, make it sometime this century."

"Mom, I'll talk to you later. I just wanted to let you know we're back and only one fish died."

"I killed one of the fish?!"

"No. Mulder did when he tried to pet it. Love you, Mom."

"Too bad I can't kill the dog that way."

"I heard that, Mulder."


She hears you when you're speaking...


Even if it's in your mind...


She has many psychic abilities...


All of which she denies...

"Mulder..."

"See. I told you, dog."


"So what do I call you?"

She took a deep breath and carefully measured the man standing in front of her. Her new partner was a little shorter than Mulder, but had the same build. Brown hair and brown eyes held innocence and wisdom that were at odds with each other. Maybe it was the smooth chin that was throwing her off. He looked so young, but he did have the attitude of a new agent. /Remember Dana, you screened this guy / "Scully's fine. Or Dana," she finally said.

"Not Mulder?"

"Since we will be working with Agent Mulder frequently, that could get a little confusing." /A rookie. Why did they choose a rookie? / she lamented silently. The unspoken question's answer was an experienced agent would have been just as bad, if not worse. "Come on. I'll show you downstairs."

Avoiding the elevator out of habit, she led the way into the nether regions of the building. She had adopted a bit of Mulder's warped pride about the X-files. She had to bite her tongue a few times so the sarcastic comments wouldn't escape. The poor guy was terrified enough as it was. There was no sense having him run screaming down the halls. They would just have to go through the process all over again.

She knocked once to let him know she wasn't alone and called out, "Mulder," as she opened the door.

"Yeah, Scully."

The man behind her idly wondered if they used last names in bed, too. Then he looked around the barely lit room. Chaos reigned supreme. As did gore. That explained a lot of the questions he'd been asked. The "I Want To Believe" poster explained the rest, even if the rumors hadn't. He stared at it in fascination for a moment as two parts of him held a familiar argument. He shook himself mentally as the other man spoke.

"Fox Mulder."

He nodded and shook the hand that was reluctantly extended. "Peter Townsend. And no "The Who" is not planning another tour."

Dana saw Mulder hold back a smile. /Oh, God. No. Please, not two of them. / She couldn't decide which was worse: The two of them getting along, or being at each others throats. She relaxed a little when Mulder returned to his normal sarcastic self. But Peter held his own when Mulder started with an alpha-male attitude about the X-files.

Sure the man wouldn't be jealous that his wife had a new partner that a lot of women would find attractive. No, Mulder was more upset about having to share a messy room full of moldy files.


Mulder could feel that something was wrong. He just didn't know what yet. He mentally reviewed his actions of the day. He hadn't left the wet towel on the floor. He had rinsed the sink out after he shaved. The toilet seat had been returned to its downright and locked position. He hadn't been sarcastic with Skinner (no more than usual, that is). He had been nice to Townsend. He hadn't made a peep about the healthy meal she had made him help prepare. And he had even done the dishes without being asked.

"Scully, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, Mulder."

/Neutral tone and Evil Eye... It has to do with work.../ "What is it, Scully?"

"Nothing, Mulder."

/Repeat of phrase and change to defensive tone... It wasn't Skinner...Townsend? / She was upset because he'd been nice to her new partner? Or she thought he hadn't been. "Scully, I tried to be nice. I really did."

She looked up in surprise from the stack of files in front of her. /How did he do that so quickly? / "I know, Mulder. I guess I'm just tired."

"Are you ready to go to bed?"

The boyish eagerness and wicked gleam had her stunned for a moment. Her mood lighted immensely as he quickly killed the TV, dropped the file he'd been reading and took the glass and plate into the kitchen. Two weeks of married life and he was still on his best behavior. If she was lucky it would maybe last through the holidays.


"Scully?"

She noticed the worried look he shot across the room to her partner. 'Wait 'till later,' she said mentally.

'OK. Until we get back to the motel room,' he agreed just as silently. He picked up the next report on a series of minor mutilations.

Fifteen different couples across the country had disappeared over the past seven years for varying lengths of time. Sometimes it was only for a few hours, other times reported had lasted two days. The disappearances hadn't been witnessed by anyone, and the reappearances had all been in isolated areas, sometimes miles from where the people had last been. All of them had been found with a small starburst scarring on the bottom of their right foot. So once again, they were in a small town in the southwest. Didn't aliens ever visit populated areas on the east coast?

Townsend felt like a fifth wheel. He was doing his part of the legwork, but not the theory forming. So much of Mulder and Scully's communications was silent, like just a few minutes ago. But maybe that was a good thing. Getting a call at almost 11:30 at night had thrown him for a small loop, especially when he was told they had a seven o'clock flight the next morning. Now he was in the middle of nowhere in a cheesy motel with Mr. and Mrs. Spooky chasing aliens.

Who had he ticked off to get stuck with this detail?


"OK. Do you want to tell me what's wrong?" Dana dropped her purse on the TV and kicked her shoes off.

Mulder threw his jacket on the bed and loosened his tie even more. He fell face first onto the bed and quickly rolled over when his stomach protested. "No more healthy food, Scully. My system can't take it."

"That was not healthy. You know, I think there's an X-file in that diner."

"The X-file is that we're still alive after eating there. It reminded me of that chicken processing plant. The one with the cannibals. Remember? Scully?"

"Thank you, Mulder. I really needed that image on top of that food."

"Sorry."

She smiled at his sheepish expression. "Now what was it you wanted to talk about this afternoon?"

"These people. There was a familiar name in it."

"I didn't recognize one." She went to his case and pulled out the summary of names. "It would be the last one." A sliver of apprehension went through her. "Towers, right? The case we were on when we met Jed and Dani." Mulder nodded and Dana continued, "I don't see their name on here." Mulder shook his head. "But they wouldn't have reported anything even if something had happened." Dana paused for a second. "Or maybe they didn't notice? This was their territory. And some of the reports say that only an hour or two was missing."

"Scully, I love you," he said as he picked up the phone. Then he paused, "Where are they?"

"Last I talked to Dani was at the wedding. Try Phoenix. If not..."

"The ever popular cell-phone that they never answer," he muttered and finished dialing. He hit a button a few seconds later and dialed another number. "No answer."

"Who are you calling now?"

"Skinner."

"Mulder, it's after eleven there."

Mulder winced as the wires burned with the cussing coming over them. "It's Mulder... No, sir... No, sir... No, sir... We just need to reach Jed and Dani." Mulder rolled his eyes and Dana bit back a smile. Mulder was still upset that Skinner had shown up to the wedding. Dana looked over his shoulder as he wrote down another number. Mulder hung up the phone with a sigh of relief. "He had the ba-nerve to ask me if I one- lost my gun, two - lost your partner, or three - had been shot. And they're in Oregon."

"Oregon?"

Mulder shrugged and dialed the phone again. Dana noted the very male smile that crossed Mulder's features. "It's Mulder and it is... Fine so far... Well, we're on a case right now, but definitely later tonight ... Yeah... Did you notice a minor time loss in the past few years? ... What about the appearance of a scar that looks like a starburst? ... You're sure?..." Dana tried to hear what they were saying. But like normal, Jed was speaking in a low tone that carried only as far as he wanted it to. "I'll let you know... Ice fishing? I don't like Alaska, Jed. It's almost as bad as New Mexico... Yeah, there's a story behind that ... No, I wasn't shot. Was I, Scully?"

She shook her head no. Alaska had involved everything else, but he hadn't been shot. "Tell them I said hi." He nodded and finished the conversation a few second later. "Well?" she prompted.

"They both have the scar." They were both silent a moment before Mulder said in a controlled voice, "Give me your foot." Dana sat down heavily and raised her skirt. Mulder took none of the normal pleasure in removing her stocking. He cupped her foot in his hand and held it up to the light. He shook his head a few minutes later. They both relaxed a little.

"Now yours," she ordered.

"Don't tickle me."

"Mulder."

"I'm serious." The Evil Eye shut him up as she carefully searched his foot. "Scully!"

Her smile was full of relief as he squirmed at being tickled. His glare wasn't quite as effective as hers when it came to making someone behave. They both jumped at the knock on the connecting door. Dana stood up to answer it while Mulder flopped back on the bed, not sure if they were clear of this or not.

Townsend looked in confusion at the woman standing in the door. She was about three inches shorter. He looked down and saw one bare calf and one tan calf. He looked over at Mulder and saw one shoe and sock off. He didn't want to know. He really didn't want to know.

"Am I a baby-sitter or a fellow agent?"

Mulder sat up and demanded. "What?"

"Am I a baby-sitter or a partner on this case?"

"What exactly do you mean by that Agent Townsend?" Dana asked. She blocked him from entering the room with a determined stance.

"Assistant Director Skinner just called and told me to check on you two at least once an hour."

"I'm going to kill him, Scully. How do you feel about Voo-doo curses?"

"Mulder," she said to the man that had moved to stand behind her. To the one in front of her, she said, "Skinner's upset because Mulder just woke him up."

"Oh, great. The AD plays pranks on you two."

"It's a first for us as well. And I think something exceedingly slow and painful would be appropriate," Dana answered Mulder's early question.

Townsend was glad he wasn't Skinner right then. "Fine. I'll see you in an hour then." He successfully hid his smile until the door closed behind him. Just for the hell of it, he decided he would check in on them in an hour. Being newlyweds though, he would call.


"Mulder," he said before the first ring was finished.

"Just checking."

"Do it again, and I'll have a curse put on you."

"Too late," Townsend said and hung up.

"Who was that, Mulder?" she asked from the table full of notes.

"I don't like your partner, Scully."

"This is going to be a twist."

He didn't like the smile he saw. "What?"

"Someone calling you in the middle of the night all the time."

"I'll just let the phone ring long enough to wake you up as well." She didn't seem phased by that. What about... "Oh, I had to give Frohike my new number."

She wasn't sure what he was talking about at first. "Mulder, you didn't."

Maybe that had been a bad way to tell her. "He knows we're married, Scully." He wasn't going to tell her that Frohike's questions in exchange for info had taken a bizarre turn. And telling him what kind of face cream she used was harmless. Wasn't it?

"I know he knows, Mulder. I had to dance with him. Twice." She was still glaring at him. What had Frohike said during those few minutes? "And no more telling him what's in the medicine cabinet."

"Yes, dear." He needed to have a serious talk with his friend.


"They must have started on the honeymoon," Mulder mumbled. He looked around the house strewn with toys. "They've only been together two years, Scully. How can they have three kids?"

"That's easy, Mulder. Twins."

Jennifer Towers waddled back into the room. The three children weren't an official count, at least for another day or two.

"Ms. Towers, when did you notice the appearance of the scar?" Mulder shot a glance at Townsend. He was being serious enough, but there was a familiar skeptical tone in his voice. Mulder was the only one aware of it, though, because of his long years with Scully.

"February 18th."

"Why is the day so prominent?" Townsend thought she was making it up.

"I had just found out I was pregnant with the girls. My husband was out of town and I wanted to tell him right away. Five hours later we were out in the middle of nowhere. Zach bad been hundreds of miles away. That's what worried us the most."

"Did the Light reoccur?"

Jennifer looked at the man that had asked the question. He was worried. "You think it was a follow-up?"

Dana spoke. "We're not sure. We've talked to another couple that has experienced the same thing. They both have the same scar as well."

Townsend raised his head at that bit of information. He may be a rookie, but he was proud of his aggressive nature. He would speak with them later on being excluded.

"Do you think it had something to do with your pregnancy?" Mulder was terrified at the prospect.

"We worried about it for several months," Jennifer said, a hand resting on her stomach protectively. "We had all the normal pre-natal test run and a few others. They all kept coming back normal. But we didn't relax until the girls were born." Jennifer stood up and went to the girls' room.

Dana watched when one of the girls came into view, holding onto her mother's hand. "Tracy said that Dani's scared."

Townsend watched in awe as both Mulder and Scully lost a lot of their color. He could see how they were fighting not to touch each other. What was all this about?

"Dani?" Mulder had no idea how he got his voice to sound normal.

"Dani Saetes. Zach and I worked with her and her husband a few times."

"We know Jed and Dani and Suzie. You've talked with them recently?" Townsend wondered at the tightness in Scully's voice.

Jennifer shook her head "No, but that explains a few things."

He couldn't take it anymore. Mulder and Scully had definitely held something back on this case. "Explains what?"

"Well my children have been exhibiting psychic abilities since they were born. It's more obvious now that they've started talking. They talk with Suzie a lot. And they even predicted Sandy." She patted her stomach with the last sentence.

"Dani said Suzie did the same thing with Jeremy." Mulder swung his gaze to the woman sitting beside him. The tightness in her shoulders was the only indication that she did not like this line of questioning.

Townsend wondered how easy it would be to get a scorecard.

"Dani's pregnant? How long?" Mulder had not been aware of this and waited for the answer.

Dana finally said, "Three months, I think."

"And Jeremy's the baby?" Dana understood the question Mulder was asking and nodded. She sent a 'Later' look to him, which he heeded.

They asked a few more question and tried to find out if Jennifer knew any of the other people. Zach Towers did not look happy to see Mulder and Scully again, but was nice about it. Townsend was looking forward to the two hour drive, just to get a few things straightened out.

Before he could ask one question from the backseat behind Scully, Mulder started talking. "OK, Scully. How about this - the initial disappearance takes a genetic readout. The second encounter is to test compatibility and the third sees if they were right."

"You think it's a breeding program?" She didn't like this.

"Well Suzie and the twins are psychic."

"That's not proven, Mulder. And it's only three possible children out of ... we don't know how many yet."

"You're right. We have to check out the children of the other couples."

"Excuse me," came from the backseat. He could tell they had forgotten his existence. "Are you suggesting a "Village of the Damned"?"

"No. Those children were half alien. These women so far have been impregnated by their partners." Mulder looked over at Scully's tense features. They both had two disappearances under their belts. Was the third one close? He started counting.

Dana was counting. Her stomach rolled at the numbers. /Two extra is not something to worry about, / she chanted to herself.

Mulder gave into the urge he'd been fighting for almost an hour. He reached across the front seat and grasped her clasped hands with their white knuckles. He could see the fear she was controlling. He thought he'd been ready. Now he wasn't so sure. "Maybe they're using the doctors' records as confirmation."

Townsend wondered who the "they" was Mulder kept referring to. He refused to jump to the conclusion that all "Spooky " dealt with was aliens. This could just be a major government conspiracy, also designed to breed psychics, but were of an earthly origin. Time to get some answers. "OK. Who are Jed and Dani? What is this about multiple disappearances? Why didn't you share this information sooner? I may be new here, but I am a part of this team now. So share." Townsend thought he sounded like his mother right then. It was confirmed when he added, "And I don't mean a conspirital look with each other."

Dana stared straight ahead for a moment or two. "A trend of two is not enough to go on. But the Towers had an ... experience two years ago. Their plane was hit by something and went down. The lost what? ... two days."

"And nine months later she gives birth to twin psychics?"

"No. Their disappearance was in November and the twins were born a year later. The report on the disappearance in on file in the office."

"You still haven't told me who Dani and Jed are."

"They're friends of ours. And they aren't on file." Something about Mulder's tone told him to leave the subject at that.

"There has to be more," Townsend countered.

"Nothing official. They won't back it up." Mulder wasn't about to tell Townsend that hadn't stopped him from forming certain theories.

"You could have done a follow-up anyway."

"With no outside evidence? I may be Spooky', but I do look for proof to support my theories."

"I know that. And I know you find it. That's what has half of the Bureau scared shi-spitless." Townsend calmed down with a few of his questions answered. He reminded himself that Mulder and Scully had worked together for years. It was going to take some time for them to get used to him.

Mulder couldn't decide whether or not he liked the man in the backseat. The guy was probably OK to be Scully's partner outside of the X-files. But when it came to the X-files, it had been just the two of them for so long that it was hard to share. And here was a guy fresh out of the Academy with an attitude. Skinner must have picked Townsend just to see how much he could drive Mulder up a wall.

Dana forced the mantra out of her head. If she worried, it would only make things worse. She pulled the list out of her briefcase and started compiling current address. "Two of the couples are in L.A. now and one in Sacramento. There's one in Dallas and Houston, three in New York, and two in Chicago. The rest are sporadically spread across the country."

"We can run some more detailed backgrounds. Look for any similarities in their past stories," Townsend suggested.

"Yes. And pay close attention to any disappearances recorded, no matter how minor." Mulder ran his hand through his hair.

Two days. If doctors' records were how they kept track of things, he didn't want Scully going to one until they had some answers. Two days. Her system had gone off track the last time she had stopped taking birth control, but they had also been quarantined at the time.

She was looking through the information they had again. Maybe with this new theory, she would be able to make a few connections between the people.

They finished the drive back to the small motel in silence. A message from Dani was waiting for them. Mulder wanted to gather his wife in his arms and as soon as the door was closed, he did.

Dana wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head on his chest. She was grateful that his wasn't spouting meaningless platitudes. She wouldn't have believed them anyway. She felt Mulder's palm smooth her hair. They had learned long ago how to convey their feelings to each other with the minimum amount of touching. So that embraces such as this, was worth more to Dana than she had been able to tell him. She felt tears gather as he whispered I love you' at her temple. She tightened her arms for a moment and then raised her head.

Mulder felt relieved as he looked into her eyes. Some of the torment was gone and lessened a little more as she said the words back to him. He bent and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. The only way he would be able to help remove this new horror was to find answers. "You call Dani. See if you can get her to remember when the scarring appeared."

"Or if there was another disappearance before she met Jed."

"And Suzie. If there was anything remotely unusual about the pregnancy." Why couldn't this case have come up sooner? Like before they decided to try and start their family? "I'll get Townsend and we'll look into the backgrounds a little deeper."

"Mulder..."

He turned to look at her. "We'll get the answers, Scully. Before..."

"And if it's too late?"

"I am *not* going to let them take you away from me again, Scully."

"Once was more than enough?" she said lightly, trying to soften his ferocious mood.

"Damn straight." He place a quick peck on her nose. "And after this, I don't think I'm going to let you get near Dani again. Too many weird things happen when she and Jed are around."

"And nothing weird happens when I'm around you," she mumbled to herself because he had already stepped into the hall. Taking a deep breath, she reached for the phone and dialed the number Dani had left.

"Hi Dani. It's Dana."

"I just talked to Jenny, hoping to catch you there. What do you have?"

"Nothing so far. Mulder's going to see if the others had similar, previous experiences." Dana was silent for a moment. "Dani, when did the scar appear?"

The woman on the other end of the line closed her eyes, trying to fight the fear that had been generated by a simple question last night. "Shortly after it was confirmed I was pregnant with Suzie."

"Yes or no on a time loss?" Dana was somewhat glad Dani wasn't in the room. She was too busy chewing on the pencil to take notes.

"I'm not sure."

"Dani."

"We found out I was pregnant and thought it would be a perfect time to take our delayed honeymoon. Lucky us, we went camping in the middle of nowhere."

"And it being your honeymoon, you assumed you were asleep for any time you can't remember." Dana could almost see Dani shrug as she pulled the details to the front of her mind.

"Yeah."

"What about the scar?" Dana stared at the bottom of her foot. Was she going to end up with one soon?

"We were fooling around in a wash and thought we had stepped on something."

"Dani, that's not like you or Jed."

"I know, but I'm serious. We even searched the area, looking for the object. We found a soda bottle top that sorta matched, so we didn't think anything of it after that."

They were both silent for a moment. Dana tried to find her work persona and failed. "What about your pregnancy?"

The other woman heard the controlled fear. Dani had enough worries involving the event. This extra factor was not welcome. "Everything was fine with Suzie." She tried to reassure Dana and herself. "But we hadn't thought there were any outside factors to worry about either."

"And now?"

"OK, so far. But I think I maybe starting to panic."

Dana heard the waver in Dani's voice and understood. "Me, too," she confided.

"You're pregnant?"

"We don't know for sure yet, but I stopped taking birth control right before the wedding."

"And you're late already? That was fast work."

Dana heard the smile in Dani's voice and a small one formed on her lips. "You think we should start a support group?"

"Because of who we married? What we've encountered? Or because our children will grow up like their fathers?"

"How about all of the above? We'll call it..." Dana paused as she searched for an appropriate title.

"Idiots and Their Men? What Did We Do to Deserve This? Occupational Support for Encounters with the Supernatural?"

Dana groaned. "Is it too late to seek psychiatric help?"

"Why? Because you married Mulder?"

"No, because I'm friends with you."

"Thanks, Dana. And the next time you get shot, you're on your own."

"Hmm. Gunshot wound or frostbite."

"OK, I'll behave, Dana. Was there anything else?" Dani was feeling a little better now. The worry was still there, but having Dana to share it with was helping.

"Yeah, let me get the other names and see if you recognize any of them." Dana ran through the list of names, more in control of her emotions. She wasn't sure if she wanted Dani to know any of the other couples or not. After Dani answered no to all of them, Dana said, "Mulder has another idea."

"Give me a second," Dani braced herself for something unusual. "OK. I'm ready."

"How about before you met Jed? When you were a child?"

"Does he have a specific year in mind? Or a certain event?"

Dana thought it over. "Not really. I could just say it had to be unusual, but with you..."

"Thanks, Dana. Did Mulder tell you to get a couple of insults in?

"Actually, it's getting to be second nature. Call if you think of anything."

"I will, and I'll talk to Jed, too, but he'll probably deny everything. Dana..."

"Yes?"

"The answers are very important to us."

"To us as well, Dani. We'll call when we find something."

Dana could hear Dani take a shaking breath. Then Dani said, "I'll talk to you later, then."

"Bye, Dani." Dana hung up the phone and stared at it for a second. She laid down and grabbed one of the pillows, holding it tight. A thousand possible nightmarish scenarios were running through her mind. Had they been lulled into a false sense of security? Since her abduction, she had been to a doctor more frequently than recommended. Every time the results had come back normal. What if the results had been tampered with? What if she wasn't OK? And, oh, God, what if she was pregnant?

She had been thinking about children for awhile. And whenever the subject had come up, Mulder would develop an unusual expression. He would start to get a faraway look in his eye and a soft smile would transform his worried features. She wasn't sure why he had agreed so readily to a baby. With his beliefs, she thought it would take her months to convince him. So here she was, three weeks married and two days late. Plus there was the possibility that all of the events leading up to had been orchestrated by someone for reasons unknown.

She forced herself to answer the ringing phone. "Yeah." She knew she sounded lifeless. Damn, if it was Mulder...

"Scully? Are you OK?"

"I'm fine, Mulder." She found a smile. Mulder was in worry mode now and would probably stay that way until they were both too old to remember this.

He could hear her smile and offered one of his own. "Did you speak with Dani?"

"Yes. She didn't know any of the others on the list."

"And the other matter?" His voice was low and tense.

"Same thing Jenny said. Absolutely no problems." Dana did manage to keep her voice steady.

She heard the expulsion of his breath before he said, "I was getting worried, Scully."

"You're always worried, Mulder. What about you?"

"Nothing much. We're on our way back to the motel. What do you want to eat?"

Dana thought about it. She wasn't exactly hungry. But, just in case... "A salad or something if you can find one."

"I think I saw a Wendy's. Can I put seeds on the salad?"

"Just don't make it all seeds and a little lettuce. OK, Mulder?"

"I keep telling you, seed are healthy, Scully."

"Seeds only, isn't. I'll see you in a few."

"Bye, Scully."

Townsend finished gathering what they were taking back to the motel as he eavesdropped. He was extremely relieved that these two weren't 'lovey-dovey' as least not in front of people. They were supposed to be trained agents. And even being married, these two were acting like professionals. So far. If they started acting 'inappropriately', he was supposed to call Skinner and go from there. He really couldn't tell if he was a babysitter or not.


Dana couldn't sleep. She tried thinking about anything except the case and everything came back to it. She would just start to fade into sleep when a disturbing image would enter her brain. Giving up the fight, she turned in his arms and buried her head in Mulder's chest.

He moved so he was lying on his back and brought one hand up to her hair. Tangling his fingers in the silky strands, he held her close. /One insomniac in the family's bad enough, / he thought. Pulling the pages from memory, he started reading outloud.

She listened as Mulder imitated a British accent whenever one of the characters was speaking. He had a small problem with women's voices, but each of the male characters resonated beneath her cheek. She concentrated on the slow, steady beat of his heart. She knew Mulder was going to be the preferred storyteller.

She heard the alarm and didn't see any light. "Bye, Mulder. See you at the office," she said and snuggled down for another hour's sleep.

"Come on. You wanted to run this morning."

"I changed my mind." At least that's what he thought she said.

He turned on the lights, opened the curtains just a crack, flipped on the TV, and pulled the covers off of her.

She groaned and opened one eye. "With your sleeping habits, one would think mornings would be the enemy."

"Not when it comes to running."

"You're sick, Mulder, really sick. OK, give me a second to wake up." She blindly made her way to the suitcase, looking for her running clothes. Maybe she had forgotten them? No, they were there.

They returned to find Townsend sitting in the small lobby. "I thought breakfast wasn't for another hour. We are on Mountain Time, aren't we, Scully?"

Townsend felt a little foolish. At least he hadn't called Skinner to tell the boss he'd been dumped already. But that was only because, as he was dialing, he saw the car still in the lot. "I thought you said seven for breakfast. Sorry." Would they buy it? He could see they were skeptical, but he would stick to that story. He wasn't going to tell them he had heard them leave and thought they were off chasing clues without him. /Mental note: They jog in the morning. / He went back to his room and flipped channels for an hour as he went over some of the field notes.


"God-dammit." Townsend looked across at the man that had muttered the soft phrase. He could sense the controlled anger but didn't know what it stemmed from. They had been on the case for almost a week. Mulder hadn't wanted to do a remote investigations, so they were traipsing all over the country. Yesterday, Skinner had given them one more day in the field. There was one hour left on the dead-line. That was probably part of the reason for the fury, but only part.

They had spoken with all but two of the couples on the list. Most of them had similar stories. Three were a few hours of lost time reported shortly after the family's first pregnancy was diagnosed. When they were asked about previous disappearances, some said yes, some said no, and some had an "Are you real?" reaction. Townsend was getting used to that type of reaction.

Dana had asked about the actual pregnancies and health of the children. She tried to ask the questions as delicately as possible, but some of the people had still become upset. She understood the panic that had flared in some of the mothers' eyes. She was barely controlling hers and each day it grew. The only reassurances she received was that all of the children were healthy. All were exceptionally bright according to their parents. Some of them were too shy to even speak to the agents and the rest were just normally rambunctious children. Dana was still worried, though. The ones that admitted to experiencing lost time had only lost twenty four hours at the most. No one had been gone for three months.

Townsend was given the responsibility of trying to find a common denominator with their backgrounds. He couldn't find any connection that they all shared. There were several financial levels represented and a few people had gone to the same colleges. The one that lived near each other weren't even acquainted. He checked previous marriages as well. He did put his foot down when Mulder wanted to speak with the parents of the couples. They ended up compromising and agreed to just run checks on the sixty or so people.

Townsend wanted to quit. He really did. Life in his mother's accounting firm couldn't be this bad.

On the flight back to D.C., he took note of his partner and her husband. They both looked like they hadn't slept all week. They both had large, dark circles under their eyes, but Scully looked unnaturally pale. He'd seen her barely pick at her food. The only thing she seemed to eat at all was sunflower seeds. Mulder would flash a grin every time she asked for some, but the grin would fade shortly after into what Townsend suspected was Mulder's worried expression.

Something about this case was hitting close to home for them. He decided to look into it as soon as they got back to the office. Hopefully, he would be able to do it sometime this century. He still had his share of the backgrounds to do, type up his field notes, start on the report for this case, find out what VCS had put on his desk while he was gone, make an informal report to Skinner, see if his cat was alive, and find out whether or not he still had a girlfriend.

Life as an accountant kept looking better.


"It's the stress, Mulder."

He crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned against the door frame. He kept all disbelief in her statement to himself. She would just give a few medical reasons he wouldn't be able to check out easily.

They should be happy about this. But instead, they were both terrified. Everything was pointing toward nothing. It had taken another week to get all of the backgrounds done even with three people working overtime on them. And for the past three days, Scully had not felt well in the mornings.

"It's the stress," she repeated, trying to convince herself. "It's too soon for it to be morning sickness."

"Isn't it different for each woman?"

"You've been reading, haven't you."

He didn't deny it. On a few nights after she had fallen into an exhausted sleep, he had tried reading some of her medical books. When that failed, he'd gone to a bookstore and bought a book aimed at lay persons.

"Scully -"

"Not now, Mulder." She paused for a second. "Please. I have to get ready for work."

He nodded his acceptance of the delay, reluctantly. He didn't want to put the discussion off much longer, but he didn't want Scully to be under any more pressure. He was unsure how to break the silence that was enveloping them until they were walking out the door. "No matter what, Scully, I love you."

"Mulder..." He paused in the act of retrieving his briefcase. In that position, he was at eye-level with her. Make-up hadn't completely hidden the dark circles, but her eyes were a little less troubled. "I love you, too."

He smiled and moved to kiss her. A moment later, he pulled back with a rueful grin. "We have to go to work, Scully."

"How about if we leave early, then?"

"It's a date," he said in that low sexy tone that sent shivers down her spine and weakened her knees.


She took the car at lunch to run some errands. One of which included a stop at a pharmacy. The woman at the checkout counter gave her a look which would have been funny if Dana hadn't been the one buying the items. In and of themselves, they were normal; together, they were ludicrous. She put the plastic bag in her gym bag she had stowed in the truck.

In was time to take charge of her life again. Even if it was a small delusion.


Mulder looked at the clock on the dashboard. It was a half an hour after everyone else left, so in essence they had left almost an hour early. "So are we going to make something, or do you want to go somewhere?"

"Let's just go home and order a pizza." At the surprised look he shot her, she smiled.

Mulder thought he saw heaven on the horizon. No cooking, no cleaning, no work and Scully. She seemed, for lack of a better word... better, a little more relaxed. He called for the pizza and hid the dog while Scully went to change clothes. The leather on the couch creaked as he got comfortable and loosened his tie. "Hey, Scully! Where's the remote?"

"You were the last to have it, Mulder. Did you check the freezer?"

"One time. I put the remote in the freezer one time over a year ago and she still suggests it every time the thing gets lost." He stood up anyway and went into the kitchen. He had gone for a snack last night ...

"Did you find it?" Dana asked as she pulled her hair back into a ponytail. Mulder stared in appreciation at the expanse of skin revealed by the shorts. She smiled knowingly at his look. Then she glanced at the floor in confusion. "Mulder, where's the dog?"

He shook himself. The pizza was due any second. "I put him in the office." At her glare, he finished, "Just until we're done eating."

"Will you take him out to his pen? I'll get the plates and things for dinner." /And look for the remote, / she silently added.

Mulder took the little furrball outside to the small area in the back of the apartment building. If they were going to have a dog, why couldn't it be a real one? Like a Husky or a German Shepard? Or a Norwegian Elkhound named Heinrick? The pizza was there when he took the dog back up to the apartment. And Scully was looking tense again. "What is it?"

"I don't know yet." Mulder couldn't decipher her look. "I want you to come and look at something with me." She held out her hand and headed toward the bathroom.

He looked at the remains of the cardboard box and then at Dana, the question in his eyes.

"I don't know yet," she said again and reached for the small stick with her free hand. She felt his fingers tighten around hers and she held her breath.


"How do you feel?"

"About you, Mulder?"

His hand found her bare hip and lightly slapped it. "Seriously, Scully."

"Seriously?" She raised onto an elbow and stared down at him. She felt his heart rate returning to normal under her palm as she considered his question. His hand came up to tuck the tousled hair behind her ear, understanding lighting his eyes. "I'm terrified."

"I know, Scully. And we'll handle it." She relaxed back into his arms and reflected on the other item she had purchased at the pharmacy. It looked like the box of condoms wouldn't be needed for quite some time.


Townsend walked into the large room where most of the VCS agents had desks. Carpet covered partitions were there to make an attempt at privacy. If you listened closely, you could hear the person two or three cubicles away. At the early hour, that number expanded to five. He set his briefcase down and went to his partner's desk. Did those two never go home? "Morning, Scully."

"Morning," she said with a small smile.

He looked at her closely. She and Mulder must have made some headway on the starburst case. That wasn't going to stop him from running that check, now that he finally had time to do it. No, this only goaded him on. They had some inside information that wasn't in their reports dealing with the Towers/Ade disappearance from two years ago.

After they coordinated who would take what parts on the assignment VCS had for them, Townsend asked how often X-files seemed to occur. His partner smiled, a spooky' smile and said, "Sometimes with an unusual frequency." That didn't answer his question, but he couldn't think of a better way to phrase it.

Two more weeks went by with an alarming lack of action. They still had lots to do, but the starburst case was at a standstill. The backgrounds he'd done on his partner and her husband scared him. They seemed to end up in the hospital quite often with mysterious illnesses. And Mulder had this habit of getting shot.

Townsend had been down to the basement office at least an hour each day. Mulder had been suspicious and still was, but he hadn't stopped Townsend from reading old X-files. Townsend hadn't requested to borrow the files to read at home. Mulder would have blocked that move if it had happened. Instead he had grabbed a stack, asked if he could use the other desk for awhile, and preceded to spend time in the basement with Spooky.

Townsend surprised himself by liking Mulder. He hadn't been sure they were going to tolerate each other workwise, but so far it hadn't been bad. Mulder could be off the wall and purposely weird, but he was a good at his job. Townsend now understood part of their isolation from others. Some of it was due to the ... unusual cases, but VCS and Behavioral dealt with weird ones as was; it was the nature of the departments. Part of the isolation was because Mulder and Scully liked it that way, especially Mulder. He definitely wasn't a People Person.' And the final part that isolated them was their record. Townsend still couldn't believe the solve rate Mulder and Scully had on their cases. The others were simply envious.

He told himself to be patient when his friendly overtures fell on suspicious ears. They had been isolated in the building of conservative clones for so long that they forgot others could be just as off the wall in their theories. He had his own about his distant cousin, Owen.


The three of them were in a meeting with Skinner. He was upset with the waste of man hours,' lack of conclusive evidence,' and the missing flashlight report.

Mulder turned red. "Sorry, sir. Force of habit. There were no flashlights lost on the last assignment."

Skinner wanted to laugh, but he wouldn't. Until he knew Townsend better, he couldn't joke around with the other two. Minus a call every now and then. He watched closely as Mulder tried to explain the extra backgrounds they had run. Mulder and Scully looked... better. For awhile there, he had thought the strain of living with Mulder had turned out to be too much for Scully. He dismissed them without telling Mulder he was off the hook. The cocky grin Mulder shot him, told Skinner Mulder knew it anyway.

The three agents stood up. Skinner did as well when Scully weaved on her feet for a second. She caught herself quickly enough so that Skinner thought he had imagined it. Except, she now looked a little pale in the fluorescent light.

Maybe he should give Jed and Dani a call.


"Scully, we can't put it off forever."

"I know, Mulder. Just a little more time."

"Scully."

"You know, we've had this conversation before," she said thoughtfully.

"Yeah. Yesterday. And the day before that. And -"

"I mean before. When you were delaying telling Skinner."

"And look how well that turned out." She wasn't fooled by the cheerful note.

"I've scheduled an appointment for Thursday afternoon," she said finally.

"I'm going with you." His tone said there would be no arguing. She wasn't going to though. She wanted him there.

"Do you want to make reservations for a trip to the middle of nowhere?"

He considered her question seriously. "Yes. I wouldn't want there to be too many questions."

"Mulder, we would be the ones to ask the questions," Dana reminded him.

"There's your partner now, too."

"Looks like he's more your partner than mine at times," she mumbled.

"Scully?"

"Nothing, Mulder. Do you think Dani and Jed will let us use their cabin in New Mexico?"

He wanted to know what she meant by that other statement. He let it go as she fell asleep. She had been getting less sleep that he usually did recently. He proof was seeing what would get done after he fell asleep. It was too much, but she wouldn't stop until she was ready. So he kept quiet about his worries and encouraged her naps whenever they occurred.


"Mrs. Mulder, you should have made an appointment sooner," the doctor chided with a detached manner as he scanned the file in front of him.

After recovering from the Mrs. Mulder' bit, Dana said, "This was the earliest I could," Her tone of voice was the same as the doctor's.

The man glanced up from the file before him. "It could have been something other than pregnancy. And judging by the tests you've undergone in the past, you should have been aware of that."

Mulder watched as Scully readied for battle. "I do have a medical degree, doctor. I know how to interpret the results of those tests and others."

"I apologize, Dr. Mulder. I didn't know you had run a self-diagnostic." Mulder silently applauded. This doctor would get away with some things he couldn't. But then again, Scully wouldn't temper her responses like she did sometimes with him. Nope, the poor guy was going to get 100% of Scully's professional attitude.

They argued back and forth for a few moments. For everything the doctor asked, Dana had an appropriate response. She may have been denying the possibility of a pregnancy those first few weeks, but she had increased the vitamin content of her diet, moderated her exercise program and a few other things Mulder hadn't been aware of.

The doctor stood up and said, "Mr. Mulder, if you would like to wait in the lounge, we'll take Mrs. Mulder to the examining room."

"No. I'm going with you." The doctor was startled by the soft steel in the man's voice. If the parents were this stubborn, he didn't want to imagine how the child would turn out.

Dana covered Mulder's hand as it rested on her shoulder during the examination. She stared up at him and watched as he looked around the room curiously. Before this was through, he would be acquainted with every item in the place. And would probably end up knowing more about it than she did.

They were back in the office when the doctor said, "Well, Mrs. Mulder, I think you're off on the conception date. You're further along than you thought."

Dana raised an eyebrow in question. "No. That's not possible."

"Judging by the size of your uterus right now, yes it is. We'll wait a few more weeks until the ultrasound to get a more specific due date."

"I stopped taking birth control at the beginning of August. I had my period right on schedule."

"Sometimes that happens." She wanted to throw something at the smirking features. She knew that it was possible.

"But we didn't have sex for several days before I stopped taking the Pill."

"One of the little guys must have had a long life span." He feared for his life at the glare she sent him. It wasn't worth mentioning the other possibilities. "I'm putting you closer to twelve or thirteen weeks rather than the seven you suspected." They both looked stunned by the news. He wrote a few more things down and said, "If you'll see the receptionist and make an appointment for four weeks from now, I'll see you then."

"Doctor."

/Now she sounds like a normal woman / he thought. "Yes?"

Dana collected herself. He sounded impatient. "I'd like to schedule the appointments more frequently."

The doctor didn't respond further to the uncertainty he heard in her voice. "That's not necessary until the final stages."

"There was a reason for all of the extra testing." He watched as the couple in front of him shared a look. "I may have been exposed to something and was worried."

"Nothing in your files suggests anything abnormal, Mrs. Mulder."

That was it. She was going to stay with her regular doctor. Even if this guy was supposed to be a specialist, it wasn't worth the attitude. "Thank you, Doctor." She and Mulder stood up and silently left the office.

Mulder stayed silent in the elevator and on the ride to the airport. He was waiting for her anger and frustration with the doctor to abate before he said something that would get him into trouble.

After they were seated in the plane, Dana finally spoke. She was fastening her seatbelt and felt the waistband of her slacks pinch a little. "I guess that explains a couple of things."

Mulder looked at her as he tried to arrange himself in the compact seat. "And that is?"

"Why I started getting sick so soon. Why my clothes are starting to feel snug."

"Really? I hadn't noticed anything yet on that score," he said as he leered at her. He made a mental note to take inventory when they got to the cabin.

Somewhere over the Mississippi, Mulder said, "Scully?"

She raised her head sleepily from his shoulder. "Yeah?"

"You said Suzie predicted Dani's second pregnancy."

She heard his mind turning things over. "That's what Dani said."

"How?" She looked at him with her eyebrow raised. "Let me rephrase that. What did she say? How long after the prediction did Dani know?"

Dana relayed the information dispassionately. / Mulder's going to draw his own conclusion, anyway / she thought. "Dani said Suzie just told Jed one morning that Jeremy was coming. Then Dani said a few weeks later, Suzie told her the baby's name was Jeremy and when he would be born."

"Suzie said something like that to me. But it was Jamie, not Jeremy."

"When they were in D.C. at the beginning of August?"

"Yes. She said Jamie was her friend." He ignored the people around them, cupped her chin and bent his head a little more, trying to catch what she said.

"She said the same thing to me later. Just the way she said it, it reminded me of you, Mulder."

"When I'm at my spookiest?" He watched the small smile that formed. "You know what though?" He brushed his lips along hers as she shook her head. "We're past a risky stage."

"You've been reading again."

"Yep."

"I love you, Fox."

"I love you, too." Now it was time to get even. She never learned her lesson about his name. "It could be twins."

"Mulder..."


"I can't sleep." She threw the covers off and quickly walked out of the chilly room.

Mulder stared at the empty spot next to him for a second before he got up tofollow her. It was late, but even later to their bodies. Scully should be too tired to do anything but sleep. He went into the livingroom. She already had the fire restarted and was staring down into it. He wrapped his arms around her stiff frame and rested his chin on top of her head. After a few minutes, he said, "Come on. Let's sit down under the covers."

She stared into the flames from the vantage point of his embrace. The dancing orange and yellows helped her relax. "I feel ... powerless, Mulder. I don't know what to expect."

"Neither do I. But *all* of the others are OK, Dana."

"That we know about. Mulder ... what if -"

"If something was wrong, they would have found it before now."

"But that implant. All of the others."

Her voice was steady. She was retreating into her purely professional mode. "Dana they had experiences for years. Yours was only the one time."

"Yes, but none of the starburst women were missing as long as I was."

"And none of the others had me in the picture. The longer time was because of me, Scully. Not because of you." He just held her in the silence that followed.

"Maybe I should have an abortion, Mulder," she finally said.

He was silent as he thought about that option. Maybe it would be best. But that didn't stop him from picturing the baby. Was it a boy or a girl? If they believed Suzie, it was a boy and his name was Jamie. Would the baby take after him or Scully? Hopefully, the baby would be more like its mother. That was the only reason he could imagine himself as a father. Dana was the mother. He couldn't see himself in this situation with anyone else.

He didn't think he could hold her any tighter, but he tried. "I don't know, Dana. Maybe we should have some of those tests run first."

"It's going to be harder if we wait. And the most conclusive ones usually can't be determined before six or seven months into the pregnancy."

"The final decission is yours," he said.

"No way are you chickening out, Mulder. It's ours." Her voice was strong with the conviction of that statement. It wavered with the next one. "Mulder, do you want the baby?"

He thought about it, really thought about it. "I do want a little Scully or two. But not if you or the baby would be in danger, Scully. Never that."

Again several minutes passed before she spoke again, "We could adopt in a few years." She was doing her best to fight the fear. She couldn't let it consume her.

"Yes, we could." Mulder was trying to control his protective instincts. They had doubled, maybe even tripled, since the beginning of this case.

The fire slowly projected shadows around the room. Dana kept seeing one image reflected in the flames. "Mulder, I never told you this, but something prompted me to ask for your hand in marriage."

"You mean besides my good looks, my charming personality, my astounding intelligence, the government pension when I retire, and the way I can make you scream with pleasure?"

"Or rage. Yes, Mulder. Something beyond all that." There was a slight exasperated note in her voice that he was relieved to hear.

"What was it, Scully?" he asked when she didn't continue right away.

"I had a ... vision."

He was shocked at her choice of words. The family skeptic claimed to have had a vision? "When?"

"Right before the call came that you'd been wounded in Atlanta."

"Tell me about it."

Dana smiled ruefully. She'd been around Mulder for too many years, but at least she had chosen someone who would believe her. "You were asleep on the couch, but the decor was different." She paused as she tried to collect the images and feelings into words. "You looked so ... happy. Peaceful. I think I've only seen you look like that a few times, Fox."

"When you woke up from the coma and when else? Definitely not at the wedding."

So he was aware of how seldom he was at peace. "No you were too nervous then. It was about three months ago. Oh, god, Mulder ..."

"What?" His tension returned at the alarm in her voice.

"I think I know when the baby was conceived."

He relaxed at the awe he heard in her voice. Nuzzling the side of her neck, he said, "Well share, so I can relive the moment, too."

"The morning after we told Skinner about the wedding."

"Why then? Why don't I just have super, long-lasting, energizer sperm?"

She felt his smile tickle her ear as he buried his head in her hair. "That would be too normal of an explanation. It was that morning."

"You just know?"

"I just know," she repeated.

"Scully, don't tell me we were a statistic."

"No. I think we were meant to be, Mulder."

They fell silent again for several moments. "Was there more to this vision?" Mulder asked softly.

Dana nodded, but didn't speak right away. "You were asleep and so was the baby. He was so beautiful, Fox. He'd drooled all over you, but you didn't care. I was staring down at the two of you, when you woke up. You told me to go back to sleep, you would take care of our micro-mulder until he needed to be fed." She turned in his arms to stare up at his unshaven face. "It was so real. You held me while I held the baby." After another moment, she said, "I could smell the baby lotion."

"I guess we add precognition to your psychic abilities."

He knew she was still seeing the image when she said, "I guess so." He thought she had fallen asleep until, "Mulder, I think the baby's OK."

He looked down into her clear eyes. "Really?"

She nodded and smiled. "I want to believe."

"Then do, Scully," he urged softly. "I do."

"I know and that is giving me the strength to do it, Mulder." She laid her head back onto his chest and closed her eyes. From far away, she heard his question. Mulder closed his eyes and shifted just a little as she answered. "William. James William Mulder."


He had no body. He could sense things, but the information was being translated directly to his brain. The normal pathways were ignored.

Dana. Dana was nearby.

He expanded himself until he found her. In the next instant he was at her side. The others in the room looked at him in surprise, then approval. No words were spoken, but he knew what they were discussing.

The baby would have the ability.

He forced the fear and anger down and ... merged with Dana. He thought he could feel the life force that was their child and was humbled by it. Mulder could feel some of the confusion Scully was experiencing and knew she felt his emotions as well. Together they became the words: what ability. They could now sense the joy of the others. Images, feelings, words hit them from all angles. They cried out at the overload and splintered apart.


Mulder woke up, hard and throbbing inside of his wife. It wasn't the first time they had awakened joined. But it was the first time he didn't remember how he got there.

He tried to pull out. She needed her sleep too much for this right now. He shifted as he tried to gain enough leverage to move off of her. He only succeeded in pressing his hips tighter against hers. Sweat broke out over him. She was tight and hot around him and her inner muscles were pulling him deeper into her. He tried again, but her hips lifted off the couch to follow him. He lost his balance when her elbow hit his hand. Of their own accord, his hips moved and he surged fully into her heat. A groan escaped him and her eyes opened.

Dana looked up at his flushed, agonized features. It felt like he was filling her soul and she didn't want him to leave her. She reached down and grasped his buttocks, urging him to move.

Now that she was awake, he didn't try to withdraw any further than was necessary before he would return and envelope himself in her heat. The tempo increased and he fought for breath to say her name. He watched as her neck arched and her eyes closed, the tension almost unbearable.

"Now, Mulder. Please now." He felt her nails sinking into his shoulders and arched his back, seeking her lips. Their mouths joined in the same manner as their bodies. Gasping for air, they reached the pinnacle together.

An eternity later, she stretched as Mulder moved to the side. "I love waking up like that," she said with a soft smile.

"So do I, love."

She twisted to face him so they would both have more room. "I think the blanket's under us," she offered. He shrugged and lifted his leg to rest on top of hers to ward off the cold. "We could go in the other room to the bed." He shook his head and tucked her head under his chin. " Night, Fox. Love you."

"I love you, too."


She didn't wake up as enjoyably as earlier. The second her feet hit the floor, she broke out in a sweat and made a mad dash to the bathroom.

Mulder raised his head to look over the arm of the couch, then he went to help. The floor was cold and almost painful on his bare feet. "Are you OK?" His heart twisted as she shook her head miserably. He went to get her robe and covered her bare shoulders. "Bath?" She shook her head. "Shower?" She nodded yes. Mulder started the water and retrieved some towels. She was already standing under the spray when he joined her.

"I don't like this, Mulder."

"I know, Scully. I wish I was the one going through this instead of you."

"So do I, Mulder." He knew she didn't mean it. Then he felt a wave of nausea that knocked him to his knees. "I did mean it, Mulder." It took a minute for the wave to subside. When it did, he glared at her.

"That wasn't nice, Scully."

"What?" She really didn't know what he was talking about. She'd figure it out later. Right now he was massaging the shampoo into her scalp.

Her herb tea was cooling a little while later as Mulder repeated. "That wasn't nice, Scully."

"What?"

"When you let me feel the morning sickness. You could have at least warned me."

"Mulder, what are you talking about?"

"In the shower."

She started at him for a moment as she brought the cup to her lips. "Mulder, are you weirding out on me again?"

He shook his head and stood up to retrieve a cup of the freshly brewed coffee. He yelped and sat back down as pain shot up his right leg. He pulled the injured appendage across his other leg and rubbed the sore spot. He felt unfamiliar raised flesh and lifted his foot to get a better look. "Scully, what is that?"

"Mulder, get your foot off the table."

"Scully, look at it."

She blanched as she saw the soft pink scar. "It's the same as the others."

"Shit." He almost left his foot on top of the table as he dove under it to look at Scully's foot. "It's there."


"I'm scared, but I'm not terrified. And it could have been worse," she said with an impish grin. His look said, Oh, yeah? How?' "We could have had an audience for this morning."

"Well this morning was spectacular if I do say so myself."

She looked back over her shoulder at him and glared. One of these days she was going to render him speechless.

They continued walking for several more minutes. Dana looked around the late fall scenery. Why wasn't she more worried? Because what they had encountered last night hadn't been malevolent. They discussed the bits they could recall. Most of it was a sense of well being about her disappearance. Whatever had been done to her, wouldn't effect her offspring.

Dana didn't realize how far that worry had been buried in her subconscious. The relief she was feeling told her more than she had acknowledged to herself.

"They're waiting for this generation, Scully," Mulder said, his hands overlapped low on her abdomen. "It's the psychics of this generation that's going to allow communication."

"You know, Mulder, I still don't believe that they were beings from another planet."

"Scully, how can you say that?"

"Easily."

He sometimes thought her skepticism was just a ploy to aggravate him. "I'm sure you have a perfectly, logical explanation, hmm?"

"Yes, I do, Mulder."

"Well?"

"Jamie told me."

She smiled as she rendered her husband and the father of her child speechless.

end

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