Title: Burning on Re-entry
Author: bugs
Content Warning: This story contains adult, sexual material. It spoils season 7. Beyond that, I'm keeping this story a ride in the dark.
Acknowledgments: Mission Control: Ambress and Branwell

Summary: Houston, we have a problem.


Day 1:

"What's the last thing you remember?" she asks. Her twitching fingers pleat the crisp white sheet beside my inert arm.

I have to stop examining the familiar planes of her face, noting all the subtle little changes, to search my fragmented memory. "I remember..."

...The warmth of her necklace coming to rest on my suddenly chilled skin as she stepped back. Her fingers briefly grasping, then releasing my index finger as the door to Skinner's office opened and the others poured out...

"...We didn't have a chance to kiss goodbye."


I remember our first kiss. It had been sweet. I'm not even sure why I did it. Testing my mettle? A new start for the new millennium? I just couldn't take it anymore? I don't know. All I know is; I did it.

I kissed Dana Scully.

No big deal. I even put an arm around her as we walked out of the hospital. It wasn't much of a kiss, but I planned on doing a better job later.

I hadn't planned on 'later' being an hour later, but she looked very kissable in the dimness of my apartment. I liked how a scared/thrilled chuckle got stuck on her protest. "Mulder, you're hurt--"

I didn't let my lips get any further than grazing distance away from hers as I replied, "But, Scully, it's midnight in Chicago."

"Whaaa?" Good. She was dazed. Maybe she wouldn't notice I was twice as terrified as she was.

I showed her my watch. "The millennium has turned in Chicago, Nashville, New Orleans--"

She pulled back just a bit to be able to get enough breath to start into her routine. "I told you, Mulder. The millennium will not truly change for another year."

I had her. "Then I'll kiss you for twelve months."

She almost knocked me unconscious with the look she gave me. It was the look I'd been hoping to see for a very long time. It was...offering. Open. Soft and warm like a kitten's belly. I had to rub it.

Before she finally left, we'd celebrated New Year's Eve back to the International Date Line.

That wasn't what I'd expected at all. When something finally happened, I'd assumed Scully would just give me a look--the expression like she'd just found the chemical stain on the slide that proved she was right and I was wrong. She'd pull me into a closet and it would be done, fast, without enough thought for regrets.

Instead, she started slow and continued that way. Evenings stretched on for weeks with quiet meals, long silences on the couch before she'd finally tip her head in such a way I just had to kiss her. She seemed to have infinite patience. I felt like time was stretched tight as a taut fishing line.

But that first night, I had all that time to think. Her kisses were slow enough to compose closing arguments in the O.J. Simpson trial. And then she went home, giving me enough time before dawn to mentally pack my belongings in boxes, move them into her apartment, have our first fight, our next and next and next, be thrown out, and start all over again.

Dawn filled the forest with beams of cold, blue light. The light wove among dark trees, searching for my body to warm. I needed warmth. I'd been cold for so long.

"Mulder?"

"Mulder?"

I'm Mulder. I had to answer.

I forced open my mouth. It creaked when I parted my lips. My tongue was made of cement. I couldn't manipulate it. "Scu?"

"No, Mulder. It's Maggie Scully."

Terror burned the lids from my eyes. "Scully!"

A dove's white wing, this woman's fingers, brushed my forehead. "Fox, dear, it's all right. Dana isn't here. She's on her way."

Something was wrong. Scully was always here.

I found out the first time hurts the most. I'd assumed I would drift out of a forest to consciousness. Instead, I fell, like tumbling from the branch of a tree, and landed in the bed with an unpleasant bump.

The mattress was a pebble-studded riverbank. My sheet and blanket held me down like a deep, rushing river. I was being crushed back to earth.

I was barely able to breathe. Capable of only very shallow respiration, I had to concentrate on staying alive. Large terror-filled eyes hovered above me, floating in and out of a round pale cloud.

Other eyes, whirling and spinning over me like swallows joined them. I had to close my eyes. It was too much. I was a coward and welcomed back the cold darkness.


The next time I came to, Scully was there asking me questions. Questions I didn't want to answer. The only thing I can clearly remember is my burning desire to kiss her goodbye. There was that weakness we were both worried would ruin our work relationship.

That's why her face looks so pinched when I say that's all I can recall. She shifts in her seat and can't meet my gaze. She spends a lot of time going over my records and test results.

I don't care, but I listen as she gives me the information. I only want to go home with her.

"We can't find any chips or implants." She allows herself to glance at me quickly. "But we can't take that as a sign you weren't...tagged. They may have developed even smaller implants." Determined, she finishes, "We'll continue scanning and testing your body."

I hear her voice come out of my throat. "No. No. No."

She grasps my hand and I can't imagine how she can lift its immense weight. I don't have the strength to pull away.

"Mulder, I want to know you haven't been hurt." She gives me a wavering smile. "I need you to be in one piece."

"Home. I want to go home," I whisper.

She purses her lips and shifts in her chair again. "You have to gain strength, Mulder. You can barely move. You can't walk or feed yourself--"

The darkness understands what I need. It takes me home.


I remember trying to get to sleep after my return from a fool's errand in England. Not just my body's clock had been off, but my internal thermometer as well. Just as I'd become drowsy, I'd get hot and wake up again. Then my mind would whirl around like crop circles. At night, I usually like to watch TV until I can't possibly keep my eyes open another moment, but I couldn't that evening.

Scully was asleep out on my couch, snuggled under my blanket. So I lay in my bedroom, listening to the 'flip' of the numbers changing on my clock. Trying not to think, but doing it anyway. Scully and another man. Another faceless man.

Had he been her first? An older man, in authority of an impossibly sweet, fresh, freckled-faced young woman, who fucked her in his office because he couldn't take her to his home where his *wife and daughter* were?

Now that she wasn't in the room, I could allow my emotions free ranting range.

I hoped his small heart crushed him to death.

I must have looked insane to her, as she stood in the doorway, bleary- eyed. I was board-rigid under a sheet--my fists tight at the end of straight arms-- staring at the ceiling fiercely.

I forced my voice to be casual. "Scully?"

She mumbled, "I was just going to use the bathroom and go home."

I pushed myself upright. "You can't drive home this tired. Let me get dressed--"

She held up a hand. "No, Mulder. You must be exhausted--"

I shook my head. "I wasn't sleeping--"

She tried logic. "If you drive me there, my car will be here. If you drive my car, you'll be trapped at my place. I'll be fine--" A huge yawn split her face and belied her assertion.

I went for logic myself. "How much sleep have you had in the past couple of days?" I'd gotten out of bed, and laid my hands on her shoulders. She tipped her head up to meet my gaze, and her eyelids were heavy.

I said, "Not much. Listen--Get out of those clothes." I eased her jacket off and tossed in on the foot of the bed. My fingers fumbled at the buttons of her top. "Put on a tee shirt. Get in bed. I'll go out on the couch--"

She stopped me there. "Don't be silly." After a couple of futile pulls at the zipper's tab, her skirt finally dropped. She rolled down her hose and grumbled from under her sheet of hair, "Get in bed with me. Perhaps you'll catch my exhaustion." Pulling my favorite Yankees tee shirt over her head, she'd managed that cool/aggravating maneuver women do, where they remove a bra from under a shirt through an armhole.

I went over to 'my side' of the bed and got between the sheets. After giving a quick, shy kiss to my lips, she'd rolled over, creating a six- inch space between our bodies and had fallen immediately to sleep. I matched my inhalations to her deep exhalations and drifted for a couple of minutes before slipping away to join her.


Day 2:

Now my sleep is in black and white. Black as death, then, suddenly ice- sharp alertness. But I'm trapped in a body of stone. Eventually, that weight pushes me down to the darkness again.

I'm awake now.

No one is here. The hospital is quiet with just the hum of machinery. It reminds me of--

Fear, nausea, and uncontrollable shaking ripple through this betraying body.

I can't remember the place I was kept. I only know I was gone. Whenever I try to visualize my time away, I'm overcome with terror. Now I can understand why Scully didn't want to remember.

Even though I know she's not here, I force my head to turn. The chair beside me, huge as a throne, is empty. The indentation of its hard, plastic seat is a bottomless lake.

A nurse bustles in, her scrubs and bushy hair make a flapping noise like a fluffy chicken in my hypersensitive ears.

"Awake, Mr. Mulder?"

My tongue actually moves when I tell it to. "Yes."

She checks my monitors and makes notes on my chart. The chicken now scratches for grubs. Something more for Scully to read. "You're a very lucky man."

"Thank you."

Her kaleidoscope eyes spin, then sharpen. My sarcasm doesn't escape her. "Is there anything you need, sir?"

"What time is it?"

Her arm grows five feet long, a white rubber hose, bending up to show her watch to her huge, bright-green eyes. I blink rapidly to try to return everything to normal perspective. "4:30 in the morning."

"Could you call Agent Scully for me?"

Her face expands like a plate as her expression changes to worry. "Are you sure--"

"Yes, please."

After another moment of hesitation, she picks up the phone and begins dialing as I tell her the number. She holds the red-hot receiver to my ear.

Scully answers on the second ring, sounding completely awake. "Yes?" The word resonates like a gong's note.

I know that's not right. I have to admit a part of me always got an erotic tingle from hearing her rumbled, breathy, 'hewwo?' in response to my early morning calls.

"Scully, it's me."

She gasps.

"Scully?"

Her voice cracks-- a breaking branch-- when she responds. "Sorry, Mulder. You...you just don't know how many nights I wanted to hear that on the phone."

Tears burn at my eyes. "Yes I do."

We sit in silence for a moment.

"Mulder?"

"Scully--" Now I don't know what to say. If she's awake, why isn't she here?

"Scully, could you come down here?"

"Is something wrong?" She sounds frantic in a flash.

"No--" I can tell she's distracted. After a couple thousand telephone conversations with her, I'd developed the ability to visualize her actions on the other end of the line. She's looking away, thinking about something else when she asks, "Then what do you need?"

*You* really seems like a stupid response, especially with the hose bending up again so the nurse can look at her watch.

I get peevish. "Nothing. I'll see you whenever." Unfortunately, I don't have the ability to hang up before she can respond.

I can tell she's moving out of her bedroom, closing the door behind her. Her voice is low. Quickly, she says, "I'll be there in about an hour. All right, Mulder?"

I've begun to shake again. The worried plate face looms over me. I feel very emotionally fragile and hate myself for it. Angry at Scully, I burst out, "You don't have to come! I'll just be asleep!"

There is so much despair in her voice; my anger turns inward again. "No, Mulder. I'll come. It's just going to be a while. I understand. I know how you feel--"

After the nurse leaves, I think about that statement. If she does know how I feel, she didn't share those feelings at the time of her return. She was back to work within the week on that case at Mount Avalon. Meanwhile, I can't raise my head from the pillow.

The fucking tears start again. I've got to get a hold of myself. I want to be the sort of man Scully should have, not the guy she's stuck with.

Bile rises in my throat as I remember the night she told me how my mother died. First I'd thrown a fit, and then I'd cried like a child. Finally, when she was offering me comfort, rocking me in my bed, I tried to fuck her.

It had been just that. I wasn't going to make love to her. For our first time, I was going to grind into her, beat my flesh against her flesh, until, exhausted, I exploded. I would sleep, finally, really, really sleep. I just knew she would be able to do that for me.

I'd crawled on top of her, pulling at her clothes, chewing at her mouth. At first, she'd lain quiet beneath me, not fighting, but not encouraging me. When my hand reached down for my fly, her voice was sharp in the dark room.

"Mulder, no."

I stopped, horribly ashamed to the point of nausea.

Her hands had immediately begun to touch me, combing through my hair, rubbing my back as I started to sob again.

She whispered in my ear, "Mulder, it's okay. It's okay."

It hadn't been okay. I'd shown her what a user I can be.

She continued to be a rock while I made my final search for my sister, but when we got back home from California and I called her to go to dinner, she suddenly had something to do. She'd never had anything to do before.

For another couple of weeks, she was distant to the point where she seemed to be finding things to be pissed off about. I'd been down that road before. I know the classic break-up behavior. But the idea that we would ever 'break-up' in the traditional, dumping my gym clothes on the stoop, kind of way, just wouldn't compute.

So I kept calling. Sometimes she'd chat on the phone, other times; she still had something to do. Occasionally, she'd join me for dinner again, even falling onto my mouth with a strange intensity before jumping out of my car and hurrying to her door.

I spent hours tormenting myself--was she rejecting me because I was emotional basket case, or because I'd been a selfish pig when she was trying to support me? Or both?

Finally, after that killer virtual game in L.A., I had a chance to show her I could give, not just take. She was in a very strange mood there, but I managed to catch the wave of that mood as we were taking off our armor.

She'd been inspecting what would be the latest addition to my scar collection. At least this one would be a conversation piece at the gym.

'Yeah, I got that one protecting my girlfriend from a gun-toting, cyber-Bitch with a rack 42 inches wide.'

A fishing story from a guy who doesn't fish.

She dabbed the cut with a cloth. "I swear, Mulder. One of these days--"

"One of these days, what?" I teased her gently.

Her hair was tousled. She smelled like good, honest sweat. My codpiece became tighter.

She wet her already glistening lips. That interested me. It certainly looked like flirting. There had been a vibration of unspent adrenaline coming off of her ever since we'd escaped the cyber-chick.

Her eyes flicked to the door. I'd seen her lock it as we came in, and at the time, hadn't thought about it much. Now I thought about it a lot.

She growled, "One of these days, Mulder, you're going to get yourself killed."

Our mouths were very, very close. I breathed, as not to break the spell, "Oh, yeah? And are you going to be the one to do it?"

"Uh, huh," she managed right before we started kissing each other with a frantic energy.

I was straddling the locker room bench and gently tugged her hips until she swung a leg over and settled onto my thighs.

We groaned in unison into each other's mouths. This position did interesting things to our costumes, pulling them taut against over- sensitive, hot flesh.

I gripped her waist and pulled her groin snug to mine. She'd been biting at my neck and at that move, she sucked hard enough to mark me.

I gave a bit of a girlie giggle, but she didn't comment.

There was no way in hell I was going to be able to get that outfit off of her, and as incredible as this felt, I didn't get the impression Scully was interested in rutting in a stinking, public locker room either.

I did decide she wouldn't mind if I began to guide her crotch to rub against my codpiece. *I* couldn't feel a damn thing through it, but from the expression of barely controlled ecstasy flitting across her face, which she was trying and failing to hide, I assumed she could.

"Just go with it," I coaxed her.

"Mulder..." She was searching her poor brain for a reason to stop, I could tell. I increased the speed of my upward thrusts. She made a grab. "Mulder. We shouldn't--"

"We aren't," I argued through gritted teeth. We'd never gone this far-- just some intense kissing sessions-- but maybe if she kept talking long enough, she wouldn't notice I'd helped her come.

She weakly protested, "We are..."

Then, "Oh, Mulder," she gulped, her eyes on fire.

I wished the lights were off. I was sure she'd let herself go if she was in the dark. I pulled her face down to bury it against my black shirt. She bumped her head up against my jaw, but kept rocking against me.

Finally, her body jerked to a stop and her head rolled back. Our eyes locked as she smiled, really, really, smiled. Her eyelids drifted shut and that smile softened to a loose, open mouth gasping for air.

I mumbled, "Yeah, yeah, yeah..." as she draped herself over me with one final moan.

I earned my callback that afternoon. Suddenly she was available again. But even in my satisfaction at returning to our careful walk across a tightrope, I had to notice the flashes of her previous moodiness.

In my selfishness, I assumed it was dissatisfaction with me. I even wondered if a fear of a commitment to 'us,' a need to see what else was out there, drove her to hop in the car with the old smoking bastard and into the hospital room of her old lover.

Holding my breath as she made stumbling admissions about her past and her new revelations, I could hear the leather of my couch creak with our every movement. Her heightened sensory perception was catching. I could see she'd been dissatisfied with her life, not ours. Too bad I didn't say something supportive--find the right words to overwhelm her with love and passion...instead of putting her sleep.

Seven long years and I'm still not prepared for this relationship.

That was just the thought to be having as Scully enters the room, looking frazzled and faintly pissed off. Her hair appears as though she'd combed it with her fingers in the car, and she has no makeup on. Shockingly, her sweater is misbuttoned and has some odd stains on it. But at least she isn't rippling and twisting like a funhouse mirror.

Sure enough, she heads for my chart.

"I'm fine," I say with no irony.

She ignores my protest.

"What are you doing awake this early?" she asks.

"What were you doing awake at this hour?" I don't know what made me ask, but I'm surprised to see her Bad Liar face come on.

Weakly, she responds after a pause, "I was going over some things."

"Oh."

She sinks into the well of the bedside chair and picks up my hand, cradling it, tracing the IV with her fingernail.

I pose another explosive question. "What are you keeping from me?"

"What?" she stutters with her matching Bad Liar voice.

"Nothing is right," I mutter.

Quickly, looking relieved, she says, "It just feels that way at first--"

"Scully, goddammit!" I roar, "I can't fucking move! And nobody seems to find that strange--"

Her quiet tone cuts me off. She's begun to glow gossamer white to my burning eyes. "Mulder, how long do you think you've been gone?"

I hadn't considered it. "Uh--" I have no sense of passing time. The past is clear, but it stops at a cold edge, when the freezing beam of light covered me like an avalanche. "I don't know."

She takes a deep breath. "Fourteen months."

I'm overwhelmed. "What?!"

She's trying to calm me. "Mulder, don't get upset--"

My body can barely move, but I can yell. "Don't tell me not to get upset! I've lost my fucking life! A year!"

Firmly, she squeezes my arm until I have to look at her. "But you're back now. You have your life back."

"I can't move, Scully." I suddenly realize I'm scared.

Smiling, she reassures me. "You will. Your muscles have to gain strength. They've atrophied during your abduction." Pulling back my sheet and blanket, she grasps my ankle. "Here, let's do some work. We were going to wait until you'd recovered more before starting physical therapy, but I think you've shown you're ready."

This tiny woman is able to lift and manipulate my leaden limbs with grace and ease. I'm drenched in cold sweat within ten minutes, but at least I can shift my legs across the mattress, lift my head, and clasp my hands after half an hour of work.

She wipes my sweat away with a warm sponge, swabbing my body clean.

"Oh, thanks, Scully. You've fulfilled Mulder's Fantasy #45," I tease as she towels me off.

She blushes and looks unsettled. I'm confused. I stumble on. "'Cause, unfortunately, I didn't get myself shot those last couple of months and you didn't get a chance--"

She's still not smiling and my attempt at levity is lost when a nurse peeks in about the door. "Ms. Scully? There's a call for you."

"Take--Oh, yes." She drops the sponge in the basin and pastes the I Can Lie face on. "Thank you. I'll be right there."

Quickly straightening my gown and pulling my blanket back up, she says, "I'll be back in a bit, Mulder."

"I'm not going anywhere," I assure her as she hurries from the room.


Day 3:

Skinner and Scully are tossing a ball over my still body, chained to its hospital bad.

The ball is a red-hot glance.

Meanwhile, they're making small talk.

Skinner: "You gave us a bit of a scare, Agent Mulder."

"I'm sorry."

He laughs heartily. "I didn't mean it that way, Mulder."

The ball is tossed back to Scully. He says, "We're just glad to have you back."

I must stop the game. "So, what's been going on while I've been gone?"

That works. Their eyes lock and the ball is mine.

Scully gives me a small, insincere smile and forces out a laugh. "Ready to go back to work already, Mulder?"

Skinner cuts in before I can answer. "Don't think about that, Mulder," he says fiercely.

He and Scully nod. I nod. I'm not sure what I was agreeing to.

Scully takes my hand. "Yes, you have to concentrate on gaining strength. Are you still suffering from hallucinations?"

I glance over to Skinner. His head swells until it resembles a hot air balloon, drifting up to bounce against the ceiling.

"No."

"Mulder," she probes.

"Perhaps," I concede.

With artificial cheer, she pats the back of my hand. "The doctors aren't concerned for now. Don't worry."

"But I do worry, Scully," I state gravely.

The game starts again. Skinner tosses the ball back to her.

She tries to reassure me. "Don't, Mulder. We're going to have another physical therapy session. Isn't that good news?"

She wants me to agree. "Yes," I say.

We all nod again.

Yes, it is good news. The sooner I get stronger the sooner I can leave.


Scully doesn't spend more than an hour at my side before she has to go out to 'get a call.' After a few times, the nurse doesn't even bother with this lame excuse. She just sticks her beak around the door, cawing, "Ms. Scully."

I'm exercising. Slowly, painfully, I pull my body free of the magnetic mattress, hanging onto a suspended bar like an anchor. The motion and all the intense concentration in the act remind me of making love to Dana Scully.

I'd spent some time fantasizing about the first time Scully and I would make love. A fair amount of time. I had several hundred scenarios worked out, complete with schematics, ready to go.

It was still a complete surprise in all ways.

I'd always imagined it would grow out of one of our meetings that might be called dates by someone who didn't know us better.

Instead, one Friday afternoon, we both cut out of work early. We'd been taking work lightly after my latest hospitalization in North Carolina. She was going with a group of women from her church on a long weekend retreat. I went over to her apartment to drop off my tent. I was carefully explaining how to set it up, demonstrating in her living room.

"Is this bad luck?" she asked.

Trying to get that damn little stick to go into the proper opening and not rip the canvas, I was only half-listening. "Huh?"

"Like opening an umbrella indoors," she suggested.

I turned to see if she was serious, and she gave me one of those big grins she'd been wearing lately, guaranteed to inflate my heart to the size of a Macy's parade float. Then it disappeared from her lips.

She walked up to where I knelt by the slowly collapsing tent.

"I'm going to miss you," she said with sincere pain.

She swooped down and began kissing me slowly, but with a powerful, clear intent. I let my hands come around her waist and pulled her closer by the curved handles of her hips.

Even as our physical closeness slowly and sweetly grew towards the obvious conclusion, I imagined our first time would be a frantic, darkness-cloaked rush.

Instead, her bedroom was bathed in the bright summer afternoon light, sunbeams lazy with heat. All the drapes were open, and the sun was softly filtered by the floating sheers. The windows were open and I expected her to close them. She didn't and the muted grumbles of traffic and playing children were our accompaniment.

Her bedspread was lemon yellow and her sheets glaring, clean white. They were cool against my naked skin.

And everything was slow. She undressed slowly--for me, I decided. I lay on those sheets and just kept gulping down my fears. It wasn't her body. That I was familiar with. It was the act of disrobing.

I'd done my duty as quickly as possible, like pulling off a Band-Aid. She was always braver than I, in a lot of ways.

The first time, I'd planned to make love to her all night long and into the next day. Instead, we had just an hour before her friends were coming to pick her up. But she refused to hurry and I seemed incapable of rapid movement. All my limbs were stuck in low gear.

My leaden fingers dragged over her skin so slowly, I expected them to leave deep tracks. My leg could barely rise to drape over her hip. My head was so heavy, I could only roll it backward to bare my neck to her mouth.

Somewhere in the room, there was an old-fashioned wind-up clock. It's ticking became as loud as our rasping breathes. It was our timer for this moment.

She piled a mound of pillows at the head of the bed, and crawled up, spreading her thighs open. There was nothing wanton about the gesture. It was as direct and practical as Scully always is. She'd been doing some planning too. I'd been sure there would be trouble finding a position and a few false starts. Instead, I grasped the railings on either side of her head, and slid into her easily.

She smiled at me. She'd been smiling at me a lot lately, but this was a new smile. It started in her eyes. Their blue became thick and deep as turquoise under heavy eyelids. It bloomed across her flushed cheeks. It settled on her mouth, a blush, open blossom. It flickered with her tongue as it lapped at her lips. It whispered to me, "You feel incredible, Mulder..."

I'd been under a spell, frozen. It was my turn to smile. "You do too, Scully," I whispered back as I began to move. She'd piled the pillows high enough to give me an angle of deep penetration. We could move with the easy, hypnotic rhythm. I was reminded of slow-motion footage of a galloping herd of gazelles, the way my body starts to move just from watching them.

The clock's ticks become more insistent. I quickened my pace. Her hands wiped the sweat from my chest and swept across my ribcage to massage my back muscles. I could watch everything from my position, soaring above her. The sway of her breasts and the waves of arousal washing over them. The rivulets of sweat waterfalling off her torso. My dark cock, seeming to be frothing with creamy sweat, nestling in, then sliding out of her red curls.

This image fascinated me. I hung onto the rails for dear life, rattling them like bars to a cage, neck bent, so I could watch our bodies contract and expand, over and over. Then I noticed she was watching too. Our eyes met and she smiled again. My eyes stung and I realized I was crying.

She reached down and separated her pubic hair, exposing her swollen clit. I could barely choke out, "Oh god, Scully." I wasn't sure if I was offering a prayer to her clitoris, her, or her god.

"Yeah," she breathed, as she delicately began to rub it with slick fingers. With each plunge of my hips, her long fingernails scraped my sensitive skin. It only a slight touch but more stimulating than any aggressive stroke. It was elusive. It was fleeting. It was Scully.

She kept quiet, probably mindful of the open windows. Her orgasm sounded as light as the dip of a bird's wings when it lifts off. But inside, it felt as powerful as volcano caving in on me, burying my cock in unbearable heat and weight.

I hung on those rails, arched my back, and kept my thrusts short and fierce, gushing and gushing into her. I didn't think it was ever going to end. First my testicles were emptied, then my heart, finally, my brain cavity.

Sadness washed over me. I wanted to grow deep into her--cling to her-- like a tenacious root. I'd hoped making love would complete our connection but I realized I was going to have to pull away in a moment. It was a fleeting illusion.

Heartbroken, I fell into darkness, leaving only a hot, white trail of "Love you, love you, love you..."

"Mmmm..." moaned from under me.

"Move," I groaned. "Gotta move." I became aware of the fact my face was crushed between the headboard and a pillow and Scully was somewhere beneath me.

Her hands immediately grabbed my ass, holding me in place. Her voice was definite in my ear. "No."

"Okay," I agreed quickly. Ridiculous hope sprang up instantly. Maybe she wanted to remain connected forever too.

Her breathing, brushing across my armpit, was slowing to normal.

"I'm sorry," I said.

"Why!?"

"I was a little primitive there. I didn't realize I had so much bodily fluid stored up."

Her chuckle tickled. "I've kept a pretty good eye on you. You've had it stored up for a couple of years now, at least."

My brow furrowed as I tried to interpret that. "I take care of regular disposal. I don't have any hang-ups about spilling my seed." I immediately cringed at the unintentional reference to fertility. She didn't tense under me, however.

She replied, "Some things just aren't the same when done...by hand." She laughed at her own joke.

I had to look at her. She was in an odd mood. Regretfully, I pulled out and rolled off, ignoring her grumbling protest. I peered down at her reddened face, obscured by a swirl of matted hair. Pushing it from her eyes, I stared into them. She grinned.

"Dr. Scully, are you suggesting you possess powers I could never hope to duplicate?"

"Yeah," was her frighteningly casual answer.

She turned her head to look at her bedside clock. Rising suddenly, she cursed. "Damn! I better shower quickly. They're going to be here in fifteen minutes." As she scrambled towards her bathroom, she threw over her shoulder, "Could you pack the tent for me?"

"Uh, sure," I mumbled. She actually expected movement. I crawled out of bed and tried to find all my clothes.

Somehow I had the tent back in its little bag by the time she hurried from her bathroom, all freshly scrubbed and blown dry. She gave me a quick, embarrassed glance before she checked over her backpack.

I shifted from foot to foot. "I guess I should split before they get here."

She came close and put a hand on my chest, rubbing my crumbled tee shirt in a circle over my heart. "You smell great...to me." Smiling, she added, "But it might shock some of the church ladies."

She smelled clean. She'd washed away the odor of us and replaced it with all the familiar Scully odors.

I nodded. Repeating her words, "I'll miss you," I gave her a soft peck on the neck, not wanting to disturb her makeup or hair. I remembered women hate that.

She looked puzzled, and then that grin came back.

There had always been a brittleness about Scully, like a tuning fork that never stopped vibrating. As though she had to be ready to prove something to me all the time. Sometimes I admired her for it; sometimes it irritated the hell out of me.

After making love, the grin made sense. It was confidence. Confidence that loving me wasn't going to make me stop respecting her. And perhaps the perception that she has me whipped.

"Can I carry your backpack down?" I asked.

She seemed to consider the idea for a minute as she fetched a heavy coat from the closet. "Okay. Sure."

She did kiss me goodbye at the curb before her friends drove up. I'm sure because that's what you do when you're going to go away for the weekend and you've just fucked a guy so hard he can barely walk.

Day 4:

The guys have come to visit. Any hope that this strange spell everyone seemed to be under would have missed them is lost.

All three stand in front of me, wavering on their feet like corn in the breeze.

So happy to see familiar faces, however distorted, I ignore the sharp, cutting vibes. "What's new, guys?" I bubble out.

They freeze and become the three monkeys; See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil.

"Nothing!" they bellow in unison after a dreadful pause.

I know I can break them. "Let's go for a walk," I suggest.

Swinging my legs over the side of my bed, I show off my ability to stand.

But they're backing towards the door. Frohike gulps, "Uh, Mulder, we have to go. Something to do. We'll be back soon. Real soon."

Before I can lift another foot to try to stop them, they've hustled through the door, leaving me alone.

I wobble over to the chair by the window. Exhausted, I drop into it. Dusk has fallen over the city and the buildings are burning up in pink flames. The darkness drowns the fire, just as it kills me every night. I cry for the city.

The lights glow like white hot embers and dance in the blur of my tears.

With the Bureau's credit card paying the bills, we'd danced, and danced dirty. Or at least as dirty as Scully would allow in public.

After a couple of hours spent rubbing our sweaty, hot bodies together on a dance floor, she finally gave up. I was proud of myself. I held out longer than she did. She whispered, "Let's go back to the hotel room. I wanna..." She gave me a sloppy smile. We'd had a lot to drink. "Wanna take a bath."

Oh, yeah. I can remember the excitement as though she's saying those words now. I'd never had desire physically hurt so much.

Back at her hotel suite I realized I'd had way too much to drink. My will was strong but my flesh was weak.

After she got the water started in the huge tub, she wandered out of the room to get undressed. She must have taken a few baths before that night. Half gutted candles rimmed the tub. I lit them, flipped off the light and slid into the water.

My dick would only shift and twitch and that was about it. But I figured she wouldn't mind some personal attention until the proper blood flow returned to my extremities. And I would relish the chance to do an inspection without the insistent pressure of a hard-on.

She'd wandered back into the bathroom, nude except for her heels. "Oh, Scully," I groaned, now suddenly regretting my magnanimous thoughts. I wanted to fuck her so bad...

She sat on the side of the tub, crossing her legs to slip the shoes off with a fingertip. Did she realize the little touches are what make me want her all the time?

Slipping into the water, she straddled my lap, sitting on my thighs and encouraging me to soap up her breasts and belly. I must have played with her nipples for half an hour, testing her reactions.

Her breathing was crackling like wildfire when she finally grabbed my hand and shoved it between her thighs. The needy whine that came out of her throat as she bore down on my fingers was startling. I instinctually began caressing her, taking this first opportunity for a leisurely exploration.

"Scully?"

She refused to look at me, in fact, turning her head away. I watched her mouth twist and her eyelids flutter, fascinated.

Pulling her up, I kept the one hand between her legs, but got her high enough to fasten my mouth on one breast. The long groan must have come from somewhere deep--somewhere my fingers were touching. It rose through her body and drifted past my ear.

I gasped out when her fingernails gripped my neck, pulling me even closer. The nails bit into my skin. My blood felt cool on my scalded flesh. The more she raked at my neck and back, the harder I suckled and pumped at her with my fingers and grinding palm.

Taking a great gulp of air to clear my head, I started in on the other breast. I grabbed the red and wet breast I'd left behind, fiercely pulling at the abused nipple. I pressed, pushed, rubbed, and chewed at any nerves I could get access to on her body.

I'd never expected anything like this with Scully, but felt like I had to follow her lead. It seemed she wanted just this. Still, when she gave out a seemingly endless, rasping scream, I was so startled, I almost stopped everything.

Instead, I rode her orgasm out. She draped over me, apparently boneless, her anguish turning to gulping laughter.

"Wow," she mumbled as she sank down into the dying bubbles.

I looked around. Our splashing had extinguished most of the candles. I used wet fingertips to kill the rest.

"Whatcha doin'?" she asked. Reaching down between our bodies, she grabbed my finally hardening erection. "It's your turn."

Shaking my head, I said, "I'm too old for this. I need some room and a flat, dry surface."

"I'm going to suck your soul out." Her eyes glowed gold in the low light. I was afraid. Very afraid. I was also suddenly hard as steel.

She had me lie on the bed, suggesting I prop my head up with pillows to get a better view. I think that's when I started to whimper.

She made me lie there for a minute while her eyes slowly inspected my body. My curled-up toes earned a giggle.

Glancing at my white knuckles hanging onto the comforter for dear life, she drawled, "You need to relax."

"Uh huh," I mumbled. "Please?" She'd intimidated me a bit in the tub, I will admit. Did she want things to progress along these lines?

The look of amazement she shot me would suggest not. "You don't have to ask, Mulder."

"No?"

"Most certainly not," she assured me.

Lying on the bed beside me, bent like a paperclip, with her head on my knee, her toes rubbing through my hair by my ear for an odd, but erotic sensation, she finger-walked up towards my quivering dick.

"No, not at all," she repeated.

I let a breath out. "Okay." My voice was quavering in time with my begging erection.

Her smile was warm and sweet. "Yeah, Mulder, okay."

She started slow with broad, massaging swipes of her tongue...everywhere. I didn't realize I had so many sensitive areas in my groin area. I tend to go for the big two when jacking off. And no amount of lube could have ever substituted for that soft mouth.

Somehow, oddly, her ministrations calmed me. My hips lifted slightly, following the flow of her tongue and lips, but it seemed as though this--me--would last forever.

And I watched. I think the only thing that held off my orgasm was the erotic equivalent of a brain freeze from eating ice cream.

All fantasies were being fulfilled that night. Unable to believe it was finally true, I didn't come. Scully suckling at my balls. Untrue. Not happening. Scully sliding her wet mouth along the side of my cock. A bizarre, unreal dream. Butterfly kisses on the head of my penis? Wild delusions. Minute after minute.

Finally, she asked, breathless, "You want to come, Mulder?"

My final whimper. "Please."

This time she didn't seem bothered by my begging as she pushed my legs apart to drape herself between them, prop herself up on her elbows bracketing my hips and settle down to the job of causing me to scream just like she had.

My control and lazy state was suddenly and completely shattered. I couldn't possibility last. My balls felt wound up as tight as a pitcher's arm and then the spring was released as I roared. And it certainly felt like a solid baseball was ejaculated out of me.

As I lay beneath her, limp body shaking, I remembered. That was my soul that came out.

Managing to look down at her, I saw she was licking up the last bits of that soul from my now flaccid penis. She sensed my gaze and glanced up.

"Feel better, Mulder?"

"Uh, huh," I gasped around my sore throat.

"Good," she said primly as she wiped her lips with a tissue. "You seemed a little down earlier."

I lifted my arms to her and she crawled into my embrace. "I'm up now."

She looked doubting, but in a self-satisfied way.

"Well, technically, in a while."

Smug, she said, "Not likely. Maybe in the morning."

Slightly stung, I answered, "Give me a minute--"

She didn't give me that ego stroke. "Don't worry about it. My head is pounding, my feet are sore, and I'm exhausted. See you later to work off your morning erection." And just as though we were on a stakeout, she fell instantly to sleep.

We didn't get that chance in the morning. I had the erection, but the blasting phone with the wake-up call awakened us both. Our plane left in two hours.

I tried to interest her in slipping away to the airplane's bathroom, but she just shot a look at the equally hung-over Skinner and gave me a little shake of her head.


Day 5:

The darkness shimmers and shakes, breaking the particles apart to fill the room with light. Someone's left my bedside light on. It burns at my retinas. I try to lift an arm to block it, but I can barely move it. I curse low in my throat. My words, banging to and fro in my skull are pushed aside by other words, slithering in through an ear like a venomous snake.

Skinner--"Have you told him anything?"

Scully--"No. Nothing. I can't."

I force my eyes to open again and focus through the partially closed door. The two figures are silhouetted in the brighter light of the hallway. They stand close. I watch arms reach out. The hands meet and clasp.

She continues. "He's not strong enough yet." She's right. I feel the crushing weight settle on me again. Her voice strengthens as I weaken. "No, Walter. He's still too fragile."


I remember Skinner had kept shifting his weight in his cramped airplane seat. Despite being crushed against the bulkhead, I could handle that better than his idea of small talk.

He shook me out of my thoughts with a sudden question. "What are we doing, Agent Mulder?"

"Excuse me?" I thought I'd gone over the plan with him.

He was blunt. "What's the final objective?"

That pulled me up short. Sometimes blunt is very clarifying.

"The final objective is finding a new road. We'll travel down an old road to find a new road."

Skinner shot me a jaundiced look. "And that means?"

I had to chuckle. "It means I'm going to stop chasing lights in the sky that may or may not possibly be something that could be extraterrestrial."

Skinner looked properly shocked. "You don't believe--"

I cut him off. "Yes, I do. But I realized something. It's been seven years since I've been in Bellefleur. I've changed all my body's cells. I should be a new person. But I'm not. I'm doing all of the same things, running in the same circles. If anything, the circles have become deep ruts in the earth. I'm going to demand some answers." And they were going to come from Scully, but I wasn't going to share that bit with him.

My boss looked relieved. Although the words were different, I was still crazy. All was right in the world. Even my abduction must have seemed in character. It must have seemed the perfect ironic cap on my vows.

My fingers manage to make a fist, balling up the sheet. He took my cryptic words to mean I had no interest in a relationship with Scully. Taking that 'knowledge,' he went to her, offered support while I was gone--perhaps she believed I deserted her.

Scully comes into the room.

"You're awake," she says.

"I want to go home," I announce.

She starts in, "Mulder--"

"I want to go home." I'm stubborn. All I can see is her small hand lost in his large fist.

I roll my head and catch her worried gaze. "Why don't you want me to go home?"

Anger flares in response. "You aren't strong enough yet. Your physical therapy is progressing, but--"

"Open a phone book and find me a nurse then. I don't want to be here." All the words she isn't saying are answering all my unasked questions.

"Tomorrow, Mulder--"

"Dammit, Scully!" I shout.

She does too. "It's 10:30 at night! I can't find anyone at this hour! Tomorrow!" She runs out of steam. "I promise, Mulder."

This is it. I have to press her and find out what's going on, even if the truth is the last thing I want to hear. "Scully--"

The fucking nurse sticks her head into the room. "Ms. Scully--"

She jumps up from her chair. "I'll be right there." She starts picking up her purse and coat. "Mulder, I'll be back in the morning--"

"Scully, please," I beg. "We need to talk--"

She's at the door. "Tomorrow, Mulder. Really."

The click of the door in the lock on my cell.

I retreat to a happier place. My couch. Her small, warm body beside me. A belly full of popcorn and beer.

"What would you wish for?"

I'd expected her to suggest something selfless and on a high plane. So I was surprised when she put down her beer bottle, smiled shyly and said, "A massage."

Shocked, I stuttered, "Excuse me?"

Ducking her head, she mumbled, "Forget it--"

Jumping off the couch, I stated, "No, no, I heard you." Holding out my hand, I said, "I just expected you to say something different."

Tipping her head back, she asked, "What did you think I would say?"

"World peace. Cure cancer," I said as I tugged her off the cushions.

Her cool fingers laced through mine and we walked shoulder to shoulder towards my bedroom. She pointed out, "Look where those wishes got you. I decided to play it safe."

I flicked on the bedside light and nodded towards the bed. "You always have been smarter than me." She laughed in delight. "Undress, please."

My fingers squeeze my weak thigh muscles as I remember sitting on the edge of my bed watching her undress. I suppose our new relationship should have led to days and nights of passionate lovemaking. Perhaps years of restraint were going to be hard to overcome. For the time being, I gained simple pleasure from seeing her cream skin slowly revealed to me. My gaze shifted from the straightforward excitement of BREASTS! to the complex ambiguous messages in her veiled eyes and twitching lips.

She'd lain on the bed, giving herself over to my writhing fingers. I'd willed myself to go slowly and remain calm. After a few moments, it wasn't an act. Her smooth skin and strong muscles were like the surface of a worry stone. I mapped routes over the muscles and between the bones, from the column of her neck to the soles of her feet, her low, pleased grumbles and moans rumbling like an old car's engine.

Finally, I said quietly, so not to break the spell, "Are you sure this is your wish? Not mine?"

"It's okay if we're both happy," she mumbled into the pillow, her face obscured by her hair.

"Good point," I whispered.

I'd had further plans that night, but my ministrations, a couple of beers, and a long day knocked her out. I was left crouched beside her slumbering form with a throbbing erection to show for all my hard work.

"Scully?"

I tried one more time, guilt keeping my voice low. "Scully?"

A light snore was my answer.

At the time, I was mature about it. We weren't a couple of teenagers needing to fuck all the time. Her feeling comfortable enough to fall asleep in my bed after coming over for a movie made me happy. Besides, she'd be there in the morning, and so would I...

It didn't turn out that way. The ringing phone pulled me out of a dream involving Scully wearing a harem outfit, lolling on a pile of pink pillows but reading expense reports to me in her best bored-stiff voice.

"Yeah?" I grumbled.

It was Skinner. "Agent Mulder, I've been by your office. You weren't there." He gave a dramatic pause. I said nothing, unable to think of anything to add. "And I thought I should remind you of the Bureau audit you have in an hour."

"Thank you, sir." I was awake then and looking for Scully. She was uncurling herself from a tight ball, pushing her hair out of her eyes, and looking around the room, confused. I placed a silent kiss on her bare shoulder, frantically adding up prep and travel time in my head and unable to find the necessary minutes to make love.

Frustration colored my tone. "I'll be there, sir," I said, cutting Skinner off as I heard him take a breath to start on a lecture.

"Dammit," I ranted as she flipped the covers off herself and began collecting her clothes.

The time was never there. We were in Bellefleur and my yearning was replaced by fear for her safety. I think she was more concerned about that emotion then the passion. She could push my lust away with a well- timed raised eyebrow. But my concern and hovering was her old enemy, now compounded tenfold. I refused to hide it.

I came to realize that things weren't as simple as I assumed they'd be once Scully and I became sexually involved. She never said anything explicitly, but I knew she didn't think we should do anything while working. And we were always working.

So I'd been shocked when she showed up at my room that night. Her old response would have been to avoid me. As terrified as I was for her safety, hope was beginning to swell as well. It loosened my tongue, beginning a flood of words that might have overwhelmed her.

I decide to find out tomorrow.


Day 6:

She brings a small bag with my clothes.

Struggling to sit up and swing my legs over the edge of the bed, I say, "Thank you," while peering under the dip of her hair to try to read her downcast eyes.

Her arms are tightly crossed and pull even tighter until her blazer creaks in protest. She meets my eyes briefly, I see the fear, then her gaze shifts to a spot on the sheet beside my hand.

I repeat, "Thank you," as I rummage through the bag to find my boxers and socks.

She starts in. "Mulder, I don't think this is a good idea--"

Cutting her off, I ask, "Did you get me a nurse?" This answer will tell me a lot.

"Yes," she says slowly. Her eyes shift away again. She's lying.

Yanking my socks on, I tell myself I don't care. I'll go home and lie on my couch. But this test must be passed for both of us.

I stumble as I stand to put my underwear on. She hurries forward to support me.

"Thank you," I say again.

Silent, she helps me dress.

"Are they bringing a wheelchair? Do you have the paperwork?" I keep pushing.

She presses her lips together tightly, then releases them with a whoosh of air. "Mulder--"

I sit down on the edge of the bed. "Yes, Scully?"

She settles beside me and picks up my hand, her two hands wrapping around the palm. "I think you're pushing yourself. I don't think you're ready to go home." I get the impression she was going to say something else.

"I think I'm the best judge of that. I'm just lying here and doing some simple strengthening exercises a couple of times a day. I can do that at home." I wait for her next move.

I watch her pupils shift back and forth as though she's scanning a report for a scrap of evidence. Finally she suggests, "The inverse is true as well. Why go home when you can be here in comfort and security?"

Stubbornly, I insist, "But I'm not comfortable or secure here."

I push myself off the bed, wavering briefly before heading for the door. "Call me a cab, eh, Scully?"

Her silence is like a knife, slowly slicing slivers from my heart.

I make it as far as the doorway before the world begins to jerk like a rollercoaster heading up the first climb. Gripping the jamb, I will it to stop.

It's too late. I sag on weak knees as my stomach makes the freefall and the hallway tilts, banks and speeds away from me.

Finally, I hear her voice yelling, "Mulder!"

Big, white geese begin flapping around me, and I swat at them wildly. Geese have always scared me.

Their wings cover my face, and they press me down to the floor. Their honking is deafening and I press my palms to my ears.

The birds lift and carry me to the bed, flopping me down on the mattress. My stomach settles and I can blink until the birds shrink and take on the forms of nurses and orderlies.

Scully, her dark clothes making her a shadow in the glaring whiteness, steps forward. Soberly, she says, "Mulder, I'm not going to let you leave. Do you understand why I need to do this?"

I stare at the ceiling. Hands are carefully pulling my street clothes off my limp body. I've got the answers I was looking for.

"Mulder?"

She wants me to make her feel better. But I have to go somewhere quiet to think. I close my eyes and the room dissolves.

I remember...what am I remembering?

My eyes snap open. The white-walled room is dim, the machinery around me humming efficiently to itself. I lift my left hand from the nubby blanket and watch it rise from my side.

They kept me strapped down. I remember that. I *am* free now. Or am I?

Are any of these memories real? Have I merely twisted years of yearning and a boyish crush into a fantasy relationship to push away my torture?

Or have I just been moved to a new level of tests? Are They watching my inner desires like voyeuristic viewers, munching on galactic popcorn and snickering at my romantic fumblings?

There's only one way to find out.

I eye the clock. 9:55 PM. The hospital is quiet now.

Very slowly and carefully, I move to the closet and retrieve my clothing. I dress. I find my wallet in the bedside dresser drawer. Good Scully. There's money.

I pause when I see her necklace under my wallet, glinting dully in the low light. After a moment, I pick it up and fasten it around my neck. I'm going to need its strength.

I walk with measured steps to the door and check the hall. Although the walls are glowing and shimmering, I'm able to make my way to the elevator.

The ride down almost does me in, but I lean against the wall for balance. After a few deep breaths, I'm able to leave the elevator car and walk out the front entrance of the hospital.

The street is dark and intense, throbbing with the turn of vehicle tires. The lights burn at my skin, causing me to begin panting.

A cabby leans against his bright yellow car. He shifts to stand. "Ride, sir?"

I nod slowly. He holds the car door open. I ease into the back seat and gratefully settle into the oily cushions. The vinyl grasps me and holds me fast.

"Where to?" he asks.

"1419 Sterling, Georgetown," I say with conviction.

I close my eyes for the ride, my fingers playing with her cross around my neck, concentrating on those last moments.

She'd finally loosened her grip in our embrace. We knew Skinner and the others would be coming out of his office at any moment. Once again, there was no time.

I could see she was fighting tears. I fumbled for some comforting words and couldn't think of a single one.

Her hands came up and began working at the clasp of her necklace. I dropped to the bench by her side. I knew what she was doing and it drove away any words that might have been forming.

"I can't get it," she muttered in frustration.

I turned her and as she held her hair up, I was able to undo the small clasp. I stared down at the crumpled chain and cross in my palm. The sight brought back some unpleasant memories.

Suddenly, I could think of a thousand things to say, and they came out in a rush.

Babbling, I began. "You don't need to worry, Scully. I'm going to be home by tomorrow and we're finally going to concentrate on us."

Our eyes met. Encouraged by the question in her gaze, I continued. "We'll keep saving the world, but from 9 to 5. I want to do some catching up."

My voice dropped. "I'm going to make love to you every night--"

She immediately began shaking her head, her gaze held firmly by my left shoe, but I would not be deterred. "Yes, Scully. I'm going to eat whipped cream off your breasts--"

"Mulder--" She was trying to protest, but there was a flicker of yearning in her downcast eyes.

"We're going to be selfish. It'll be about the two of us. We're going to go sailing on the weekends--"

"Do you know how to sail a boat?" she asked, trying to dissuade me with humor.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. And I'm fine if we stay on a lake," I said stubbornly.

Pushing onwards, I added, "It's going to be our time now. I'm going to find out where you're ticklish. You're going to discover how easily I can be convinced to degrade myself."

She lifted her necklace out of my hand and pushed my shirt collar away from my neck.

I kept at it. "I've got a hundred ways to make love to you stored up, Scully. There's just been no time to take a breath and pull them out of the drawer. But when I get back--"

Her fingernails lightly scratched at my neck as she fastened the clasp. Our gazes locked and she started to lean into kiss me one last time-- would the kiss have been an agreement? Then Skinner's door swung open and our motley crew of compatriots emerged. Our time ran out.


"Sir? Sir? Is this the place?" The cabby finally gets my attention.

Squinting, I make out Scully's apartment building across the rain- soaked street.

"Yes," I say as I fumble for payment.

He pulls his cab away and I make my way to the doorway. My key still works.

The hall walls pulse as the building pants in excitement around me. It wants to know what I'll find within her apartment.

I'm not sure what I'm expecting. Like a hundred times before, my instincts tell me my final answers are going to be found within Scully's four walls.

Her front door opens silently and I'm drawn towards her bedroom by a beckoning finger of light.

Standing in the doorway, I peer into the dim room, seeking truth in the yellow pool around the bedside lamp.

There they are.

Scully's red hair is splayed across a pile of pillows propping her up. Her eyelids are draped at half-mast and she's humming to herself. Skinner's round, shining head is at her breast, suckling.

My attempt to muffle an exclamation doesn't work.

"Mul?" My name comes from her slack mouth with that painfully familiar mumble, all passion's promise.

"It's me. Don't worry."

She goes bolt upright. "Mulder!"

Yeah, I bet. But I have to be strong. Just because she thinks I'm not strong enough to handle this doesn't mean I can't fake it.

I start babbling, "It's okay. Really. I just thought I'd drop in. But I see I'm interrupting--" Looking for a higher, existential meaning to my life, all I've found is that my girl is screwing around on me.

Skinner turns on his back, then mumbles, "Whaa?"

His pink mouth opens wider. WWWWWWAAAAAAAAAA!!!

He shrinks smaller and smaller, no matter how much closer I get to him.

Scully's picked him up, cradling him on her lap. She tries to soothe him. "It's okay. Shhhh....It's all right, Boy."

Skinner is a baby. A baby is Skinner. There is no Skinner. There is a baby in Scully's bed.

All the swirling chaos of the last few days in gone. The earth screeches to a halt and a hush settles over the room. The only sound is the slow tick of the clock.

I fall to the ground, landing with a painful thump.

The nubs of the carpet bite into my tender palms. The four corners of the room are sharp, perfect forty-five degree angles. The walls rise straight and true, a clean cream color. The round rails of her bedstead glow gold with polish. The flowers on her bedspread are blue, crisp- edged on a field of white.

Twin faces, both white with flushed pink cheeks and big blue eyes, look at me. They seem to be expecting me to say something.

"It's a baby."

"Yes, Mulder." She seems relieved.

I'm confused. "Where did you get it?"

"I gave birth to him."

The baby has started to fuss, and Scully's immediately diverted. She pulls up her top again and it latches onto her breast. I look away. I don't want to intrude.

It's not an 'it'. It's a boy. I have to look back to them. "What's his name?" I can't think of any other question.

"I've just been calling him Boy. I was waiting for you to get back."

"Why?"

She looks like she's going to cry. "I thought you might want to help me name him."

My mouth can only make one sound. "Why?"

She shakes her head at me, and her eyes are glistening. "Mulder--"

I must say something else. "How?"

She looks so happy at my change of tack, I'm immediately proud of myself. "The usual method."

I'm still confused. "But we only did it once."

"It only takes once," she patiently tells me.

The ringing phone stops the pup from chasing its tail inside my head.

She snags it, cradling the baby on one arm. "Yes. Yes. He's fine. Thank you."

After hanging up, she shakes her head at me. "You escaped."

"Yes."

The baby appears to be finished eating. She rises from the bed and crosses to where I'm still slumped against the wall. Sliding down next to me, she snuggles close, shoulder to shoulder.

I can smell her. I can smell the baby. They smell similar yet distinctively different.

Boy's eyes have drifted shut and his body goes limp.

"Is something wrong with him?" I ask, anxiety welling.

She looks puzzled, shifting his weight to her other arm, bringing him closer to me. Heat radiates off his small body. "No, what do you think is wrong with him?"

"The way he sleeps. It's disturbing." I cap his melon head with my palm. Fine hair is scattered over the skull, white as his skin. He's his mother's son.

But...the mouth looks wide enough to be mine, and the dimpled chin...

Smiling, she reassures me. "It's fine. That's how they work."

Shaking my head, I continue. "Everything else works fine? I mean, he's okay--"

I'm stumbling over my questions. I need to ask them, but I'm terrified of the answers.

Her smile widens and glows. I can imagine what her face looked like when she found out she was pregnant. I don't even try to stop the tears. I missed that day.

She grabs my hand with her free one, and gives it a squeeze. "He's fine. Perfect. Healthy as a horse. In fact--" She reaches up to stroke my hair.

Her face is bright with an evangelistic sort of conviction. "Boy's made me have faith, Mulder. I believe he's unharmed by Them. I believe he's our son. And I believe he protected me from being abducted. I'm sure They rejected me when he was detected."

"You believe all of that?" I ask, astonished. "Without proof?"

"Yes." She gives one solid nod. "I decided to wait until you got back to seek that proof." Smiling tentatively, she adds, "I've been waiting for my partner to return before going back to work."

Some connections are made in my mind. "But you didn't believe in me."

She looks confused. "What do you mean?"

I'm overwhelmed as I realize what's been going on. "You've been keeping me in the dark--"

She tries to defend her actions. "I had to--"

Furious, I continue, "--since, I got back! Six days, Scully. Six more days of my son's life I've missed."

Her pain-filled eyes meet mine. "Mulder, you don't understand. I wanted you to be strong enough to make decisions on your own. This--he--is a lot. A lot of responsibility. A lot of work--"

Crushed, I say, "You don't think I'm up to it."

She insists, "I didn't say that. It's just--I've never chased any man, Mulder."

Wryly, I tell her, "No, Dana Scully. You most certainly have not."

She ignores my jab and fusses with the baby's clothes until he wakes and begins whining in protest. "I had him with me at the hospital. He was down the hall the entire time." Her imploring eyes looked to mine for understanding. "I would go to feed him, and I'd want to bring him back so much. Just walk into your room with him in my arms--but then I'd come in and you'd be in your bed, your eyes still so fearful...you'd be hanging onto the edge of your mattress as though you were in a raft heading down the rapids--I couldn't suddenly overload you with a baby!"

She looks away. "I didn't want you to feel like you owed me and Boy anything--that you had an obligation to return my love and come to us."

"I did come. Tonight," I remind her.

She concedes, nodding, "Yes. You did." She squeezed my hand again, and the self-recriminating expression on her face breaks my heart. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I forgot how strong you truly are, despite the occasional evidence to the contrary. I have to remember you're a survivor."

I'd never really thought of it that way. She continues, "If you've managed to stay alive this long and be reasonably sane, a little baby shouldn't be too big of a hurdle to overcome."

I open my mouth to protest her backhanded compliment, then it sinks in that she'd admitted to loving me and I'd missed that opening. But there's something more bothering her. I ask, "What is it?"

With forced nonchalance, she queries, "Do you remember anything, Mulder?"

Feeling suddenly weak with fear, I ask, "Why?"

"I'm wondering if you found your answers."

I have to tiptoe into the minefield. "What else is worrying you?"

"All these years, Mulder. All these years I've watched you. Search for your sister. Search for answers to a lot of important questions. I've always admired your passion for those searches. I've enjoyed being in the presence of that passion. It just wasn't directed at me."

She can't possibly think that. "Scully--"

"Hush," she commands. She's been around a child too long already. "This had changed, yes. But then you had this opportunity to continue your quest to its natural conclusion," she finishes carefully, smoothing the small, soft flannel shirt across Boy's belly.

I'm shocked. "I'd never leave you willingly--"

"I would understand Mulder--" I can tell she means it.

"No. I didn't leave you," I insist.

"Not intentionally." She gives me that, but then, determined, goes on. "I searched and waited, Mulder. And months went by. I begin to wonder if you'd found what you were looking for." She lifted the baby and draped him over her near shoulder, thumping lightly on his back until he belched into my ear. "I wasn't sure if that would be me and Boy."

Now I understand why she never told me she loved me. Loving her came easy and signified nothing. She didn't just break down her resistance because she wanted to get laid. She wanted something solid and real.

I'd always seen her as a defined, limited space: Scully. Now I could see she had expanded and become infinite. The true quest is going to be finding a way to make a relationship work every day. Even if we succeed, there will be another day. A child signifies infinity.

Too many times, I tried to talk my way out of things with Scully. I called her my best friend and made grand speeches, but she still had that guarded look in her eyes as she crawled into my bed in Bellefleur. This time I decide to be solid and real to show her what I'm feeling. Carefully, I pull the baby out of her suddenly limp arms.

As I nestle him into the crook of my arm, his bright eyes blink up at me. His body fits along my forearm easily with his bottom, large with diaper, fitting in my palm.

He's heavier than I imagined a small infant would be. It's nearly a dead weight. He needs my support to keep from rolling right off my arm. At first, my breath is coming fast with anxiety, loud in the still room. I think Scully is holding her breath, but she doesn't reach out to take the baby from me. I'm grateful to her.

I find his center of balance and gain some confidence. It's like learning to balance a basketball on the tips of my fingers. The shape and weight becomes familiar. I lift him close to my face. He immediately reaches out to grab at my nose and his fine nails scrape at my cheeks.

He's loud. That surprises me. It's been a constant stream of noises since I entered the room. Now, up close, I feel as though those sounds are becoming a language. In them, I hear permission. The fear of the large, looming face is gone from his eyes, and the grumbles sound compliant. I lean over and kiss his smooth forehead.

When I straighten up, his gaze seems much more aware and intelligent than I expect a baby's to be.

"Are you sure he's normal?" I ask.

She must know what I mean. "Yes. Babies are just scary."

I laugh for no better reason than it comes easy.

We sit in silence for a few minutes, all talked out for now. My body becomes heavy again, but this time it's familiar exhaustion.

She reads my drooping shoulders and half-mast eyelids correctly. "Let's go to bed, Mulder."

"Okay." Handing her Boy, I haul myself to my feet and begin dragging my clothes off.

She's at the crib in a dark corner, settling him behind the bars.

Finally stripped naked, I crawl under the comforter and sheets. Turning, she catches sight of me, and squeezes my heart with her big grin before she snaps off the light and joins me under the covers.

Her arms wrap around me and a leg nestles between my thighs. "Welcome home, Mulder."

Feeling lightheaded and giddy, I mumble, "Oh, I've come home for sure," as I push her hair aside to begin a road of kisses from her neck to mouth.

She gasps, "Muld--" and her fingers twine in her necklace, pulling me to quicken my trip to her lips.

We're both half-asleep, and our kiss has the quality of a twilight, bright then deep, then fading.

"Mulder, I'm sorry--" she mumbles when our mouths slip apart.

"Don't be. There's time tomorrow. And the next day." This time I believe it.

"Please," she says as her eyelids drift shut. I'm not sure what her plea was for, but her grip on my middle, even is sleep, is vise tight.

Smoothing her hair back so I can kiss the rim of her ear, I watch our son in his crib. He's wiggling and grumbling to himself. Like father, like son.

His small fists shake as though he's involved is some heated, internal debate. Suddenly, he stops, alert. One hand opens, and stretches upward.

Moonlight is streaming through the window, a blue-white beam cutting across the room. His tiny, white hand enters the beam and he starts grabbing, as though he can capture the light. Terror freezes me.

His eyes are bright, reflecting the shining ray. His mouth opens wide, and I hear the oddest little sound. Sort of a laugh: 'Oh-Hah!'

Shadowy visions become to flood my memory and panic dampens my suddenly chilled skin. I can't even feel Scully in my arms.

The baby's chortle finds me in the darkness. I take a clearing breath. Boy's right. There's nothing to be frightened of.

"Scully?"

She wakes instantly. "Yes?"

"I remember--"

"Mulder, I don't want you to try too hard--"

"No, I want to tell you." She shifts to try to look at me, but I lay a hand on her shoulder to signal that I want her to remain the way she is. For some reason I don't think I can look into her eyes to tell her this.

Urgency rushes words from me. "I can't remember details. I don't know if I ever will. But I know they hurt me. The pain was constant. The fear."

"Yes," she says with an empty voice and I tighten my grip around her. I don't want to remind her of her own experience, but I can't stop talking now.

I hurry on. "I tried to find a distraction. For some reason, they left your necklace around my neck."

I lift the cross from the hollow of my throat and hold it between my finger and thumb. "I would concentrate on its fine weight on my skin. Its size and shape. The drape of the chain. That worked for a while."

I feel the sob rise in her throat as she gasps, "Mulder--"

"Then that wasn't enough. I started to think about what that cross meant to you."

Her body tenses. I'm crossing a line, I know that.

"I looked for a god to save me. I realized I'd been searching for something for a long time. I wondered if that was it. And now I was in the fight of my life. I wanted to come back to you so much--"

She wipes the tears from her cheeks with an impatient swipe of the back of her hand. Carefully, she asks, "Did you find...something?"

My mouth muffled in her hair, I say, "Yes, I did. I stopped being afraid. I accepted where I was--in that spaceship. I let myself feel the universe--its power and scope--and then went back inside."

She tips her neck back and in the dim room, I can make out the disappointment in her eyes. I haven't said what she may have wanted to hear.

I have to make her understand. "I took stock of every molecule in my body. And in there, I found something." My next word sounds a little preposterous. "Me. I believed I was good. I believed I was strong. I believed I would survive. And you were there too."

She lifts my hand to her lips, brushing them over the knuckles. Perhaps I was wrong. Satisfaction warms her voice. "Good."

"I had the strength of your beliefs. You saved me again, Scully."

"I tried to call to you, Mulder." She seems embarrassed. "I tried to tell you about the baby."

I look over at Boy. He's watching us through the bars, his gaze intent as though we are the ones in the cage.

More memories flood me, causing me to blink with pain. I gasp, "I heard you--I thought it was one of Them. I saw a creature with a large head. Its heart was beating, loud and rapid. I should have felt afraid, but I remember being soothed. I was afraid that meant I'd given in and was accepting my imprisonment. But now I understand."

She nods, bumping my chest with her forehead.

I nod too. "I think I've found some answers."

"Good."

Why do I feel like all I do is talk and yet Scully is able to put more conviction in one word?

I repeat it to feel its weight. "Good."

"Tomorrow--" Now she sounds less sure.

I'm filled with sudden energy, my legs shifting on the sheets as though I'm running in place. "Tomorrow we'll start back to work. There's still so much to do. We have to find out how you got pregnant, who took me, if that old smoking bastard is really dead. Oh, and we should get married--"

Her arms tighten around me, cutting me off. I can feel her smile against my bare skin.

"Welcome home, Mulder."

The ticking clock marks the minutes, then begins to bong, low and reassuring, twelve times. The seventh day has begun. As my eyes drift shut, I decide perhaps we can rest for one day.

~~~The End~~~

MORE AUTHOR'S NOTES: Sorry Skinnerfans. I'm really, really sorry. It was all in Mulder's mind! (That's my defense and I'm sticking to it.)

YET MORE: (Pushing aside guilt.) This was my attempt to tie all of Season 7 together, as insane as that is. I dare CC to give it a try! *Evil cackling from my covey hole*

Sure, send me some feedback!


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