Title: An Ordinary Life
Author: Paige Caldwell
Written: May 1999
Feedback: paigecaldwell@hotmail.com
Classification: MSR, X, Angst
Keywords: M, S
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. No infringement is intended.
Spoilers: Through "One Son"
Archive: Please do, but drop me a line as to where.

Summary: Scully leaves the Bureau for what Mulder believes is an ordinary life. A year later, fate brings them back to together, but her "ordinary life" threatens to tear them apart.


Dana Scully was leaving Baltimore General when she saw the ambulance pull up to the entrance to the emergency room. Under normal circumstances, she would not have stopped. She had just finished a sixteen hour shift in the emergency room. The intense pace of her job was more than challenging. It was grueling. In this venue, her only partner was fatigue. It shadowed her daily, reminding her that at thirty-six, she no longer had the energy or exuberance which had once fueled her ambition. Her years with the Bureau had seen to that.

As she wearily drew out the keys to her car, her attention was drawn to the dark, four door sedans that sped up behind the ambulance. She recognized them instantly as government cars.

When she saw the familiar jackets with the FBI insignias, she put her keys back into her pocket. Old habits were hard to break.

Her career with the FBI was over, but her loyalty was still intact. If an agent was down, she wanted to be there. But, as she drew closer to the ambulance, a sudden apprehension seized her. She stopped in her steps.

The sun had gone dark. Her eyes lifted to the sky. For a moment, she stared at the clouds which were drifting in from the west, obscuring the fading light of late afternoon. A strange, tingling sensation coursed down her spine. A premonition. A feeling of dread. As the paramedics shifted the stretcher down to the pavement, she held her breath.

It was him.

Mulder.

"Oh my God...no." she cried out. Pushing past the agents which swarmed around the back of the ambulance, she grasped the side of the stretcher. His jacket laid open to his bloodied shirt. Underneath the oxygen mask, his face was streaked with sweat and contorted with pain.

He had been shot.

"Hey, lady," one of the agents grabbed her arm and tried to usher her aside. "Get out of the way."

She was in her street clothes. Her identification badge had been left behind in her locker. She opened her mouth to protest, but one of the paramedics who recognized her, spoke up quickly.

"She works here. Let her do her job."

"Sorry..." The agent released her arm.

Scully held on to the stretcher and helped the paramedics crashed it through the emergency room doors. In triage, she was met by the physician in charge. He gave Mulder a quick assessment before glancing at her.

"Are you on my shift, Dana?"

"I am now." her voice was shaky. She tried to steady it. "I know him."

Suddenly, Mulder's gaze lifted up to hers. Despite the agony that distorted his hazel eyes, there was a look of surprise and recognition. Instinctively, she reached down to touch him, to peel away the bloodied shirt so she could inspect the extent of his wound. She saw that the bullet had pierced through through his skin just over his right rib cage. Blood seeped through the packing onto her hands. She gave his face a closer inspection. She saw that he was having a difficult time catching his breath.

Her fingers probed the side of his chest.

"He's got a right hemothorax," she cried out sharply.

"Okay, Dana, relax." the doctor reassured her.

"He's bleeding into his pleural cavity." she told the doctor, clinging to the side of the stretcher. "His lung's collapsing."

The doctor ran his gloved fingers along the outer edge of Mulder's rib cage. He gave Scully a debating look. She was one of his best residents. She was rarely wrong in her assessments.

This time was to be no exception.

"Alright, I want a chest tube." he turned to a nurse.

"Not here," Scully grabbed his arm frantically. "Get him into OR. Now."

He glanced down and frowned. Her hand, ungloved, was smearing him with the man's blood. Even under the most extreme circumstances, this woman never lost her composure, never forgot protocol and never challenged his authority. That she did so now suggested that this man was no mere acquaintance.

It also reminded him that she was no ordinary resident.

"Okay, people." He turned to his staff. "Let's send him up."

"Thank you," she whispered, giving Mulder a tense glance before leaving the triage.

Scully raced to her locker on the second floor. Tearing off her slacks, she stood in her underwear while her trembling fingers unbuttoned her blouse. Shit, she was pathetic. She always had been pitiful when it came to this man. Ineffective and useless. She stopped a moment and glanced at the blood that was smeared on her fingertips.

Mulder's blood.

Stark, cold realization coursed through her. Her mind snapped back into control. Reaching for her blue scrubs, she pulled them on, tying the drawstring securely around her slender waist. She laced up her sneakers with steady hands. She prepared herself with a renewed certainty.

She was a doctor now. Not his partner. A doctor who was going to be there with him every step of the way even if they were to be his last.

She sprinted up the stairwell to the fourth floor. She swung open the door and stopped one of the surgical nurses in the hallway.

"The man that was just sent up here from OR. Where is he?"

"OR 3."

"Who's the surgeon?" she cried over her shoulder as she began up the hall.

"Myers, I think." the woman responded.

Good, good, Scully repeated to herself. Myers was one of the best trauma surgeons in the hospital. She liked him. At one point, she had even considered accepting his invitation to dinner. How ironic that the reason she had declined was because of the man that Myers was about to operate on.

Mulder. Always Mulder. Even a year later, his name was still poised on her lips.

She punched the button to open the automatic doors to the operating suites. She slowed her pace. It would not look good if she burst into the operating room like a wild woman. She reached into a box that held latex gloves and snapped them on with a expertise developed long ago. Tucking her hair into a surgical cap, she flinched slightly as the tight knot caught several strands of it. She was more careful when she tied on her mask.

It caved in slightly with each rapid intake of breath.

Inside the operating room, Myers looked up from the table where Mulder was being prepped. Over his mask, his eyes brightened with anticipation.

"The elusive Dr. Scully." he addressed her.

"Dr. Myers." She willed her voice to remain calm.

"Finally taking me up on my offer to observe in the OR?" he asked.

She didn't respond.

"Got a good one today," Myers told her. "Right hemothorax.

The bullet just missed his lung, but the blood is collapsing it."

She gave him a brief glance before her eyes darted back to the operating table. Mulder had been draped. She couldn't see his face. She had to see his face. She slowly edged away from Myers to where the anesthesiologist stood at the head of the table.

"Hey, Fred, how are you?" she was to be solicitous in an effort to get closer.

"Good, Dana. How's the ER these days?"

"Fine. Fine," she said hesitantly. Her eyes slid down to Mulder's face. His eyes were still open. Looking at her.

Seeing her. His mouth began to move as if he wanted to say something to her.

God, she wanted to wanted to reach down and caress his face.

She wanted to reassure him. She wanted to tell him that she loved him. Had always loved him. Would never stopped loving him. But, time had become her enemy. Over a year had already passed between them. It was slipping away from her now, leaving her floundering in her own inability to speak.

"Okay, big guy, sleepy time." The anesthesiologist placed the mask over his mouth and nose. Mulder gave her one last look.

A look so sad, so poignant that it stabbed through her heart.

She felt tears creep into her eyes. Underneath her mask, her lips pressed tightly together.

"You okay, Dana?" Myers asked as he studied her closely.

"Something in my eye," she lied, turning away and pressing her gloved hand to her eyelid.

Hours later, Scully stood outside the intensive care unit, watching him through the window. She had been there for a long time. Waiting. Watching. Studying the rhythm of his heart.

Willing his blood pressure to rise. He was still on mechanical ventilation to expand his collapsed lung. She pressed her fingers against her quivering lips in an effort to still them.

It devastated her to see him like this.

She was not an advocate of fate. Glancing at him now, she understood why. Fate could be so cruel and taunting.

"Why didn't you tell me?" came a voice from behind her. She turned to see Dr. Myers shake his head in exasperation as he studied Mulder's chart. "Special Agent Fox Mulder. Your former partner."

"You wouldn't have let me stay," she answered simply.

"You're right, former Special Agent Dana Scully." replied the surgeon. "Sometimes I forget that your little stint with the FBI is the reason that brought you to us in the first place.

And, to think it was my expertise that you drew you to my OR."

"It was your expertise that saved his life," Scully asserted. "For that I'm grateful."

"From what I've learned, you made the call down in ER. Good work."

"Coming from you, I'll take that as a compliment," she responded. "What do you think, Jason? How is he doing?"

The man raised his arm to the glass window and leaned his forehead against it. For a moment he studied his patient, weighing his words carefully.

"He's still critical. A couple of hours from now do another CT scan and wean him off ventilation to see how he does on his own. He's seems in fairly decent shape from the standpoint of those of us hitting our forties."

"He's strong," commented Scully. "He's beaten death before."

"So, Dana, if my brilliant skills have saved his life, maybe you'll finally take me up on the offer to have dinner with me."

"I'll do more than that..." Scully promised. Myers leaned forward expectantly.

"I'll buy you dinner," she finished, arching an eyebrow at his disappointed expression.

"Dinner without dessert I'm sure," he snickered.

"Jason, how did you find out?"

"You're listed as his emergency contact. The Bureau in D.C.

faxed it over."

"Oh God," she sighed aloud. "I guess he forgot to change it."

"Does he know?"

The question hung between them for a moment. She felt his black eyes narrowing in on her. Slowly, she shook her head.

"Then we better get him out of here, Dana. The last thing we need is a federal agent in a facility that hosts the program."

cautioned Myers as he gave Mulder another look. "As soon as he's stabilized, we can transfer him to another hospital."

"If he goes, I go with him." warned Scully.

"He means that much too you?" the doctor asked in surprise.

Scully didn't respond. She met his gaze with cool, uncompromising eyes.

"I don't think the Center would be pleased to hear that you're prepared to abandon the program over a former flame."

pressed the doctor.

"I don't give a damn." Scully snapped suddenly. "I've given this program a year of my life. I have suffered all the strain and indignities that a resident experiences just to bring this program here."

"Do I detect a threat?"

"Just a simple fact. The program goes where I go. The Center knows that."

"Point taken." Myers shifted his tactics and began to tease her. "Hey, Special Agent Girl, did you use to carry a big gun?"

"And used it, Dr. Myers. You may want to remember that the next time you call this man my former flame."

"Ooh," he held up his hands in feigned fear.

She was near. Mulder sensed it.

He remembered a glimpse of her when he arrived at the hospital. As he felt his life draining away with each slowing beat of his heart, he had seen her. At first, he thought she was an illusion created out his desperate need to see her one last time. When he blinked she was gone. He strained against hands that pushed him back down onto the examining table. He tried to call out her name, but he couldn't catch his breath. His head fell back in defeat. He gave in to the tingling sensation that coursed through his veins, numbing the pain and silencing the agony that exploded from his soul.

He was taken somewhere where the light was so bright that it almost blinded him. He heard voices, but could not understand what they were saying. He then saw her again. She leaned over him, her pale blue eyes meeting his. The light surrounded her like an aura. His Scully. Ethereal and bright, she had become his angel, guiding him through the last moments of his life. He tried to speak, to articulate her name, to express how much she meant to him. But, his voice had been forever stilled. He gave her one last look, hoping that his eyes might convey all that he felt. Regret. Love. A final acknowledgment of what she had meant to him.

When darkness consumed him his last thought was of her.

But now the darkness was fading. His senses were slowly awakening. She was near now. He felt her presence. He recognized her touch. Certain and steady, it was her hands which had reassured him so many times in the past. They were drawing him back now. He struggled against the mist that obscured his vision. He would see those beautiful, expressive eyes once again. He knew he would find comfort there. He hoped to also find redemption.

"Mulder."

He could see her now. Her face was poised over his. Her eyes were scanning him, seeking confirmation that he could hear her. A stethoscope draped from her neck. He remembered then what she had become. A doctor.

"Can you hear me?" she asked, pressing closer. His hand rose to touch the crimson hair that fanned across shoulders. It was so much longer now, he thought. He tried to speak. His throat was dry and stung from being intubated. His voice sounded gritty.

"Have I ever told you that red is my favorite color?"

Scully smiled. He saw her. He could hear her. He was speaking to her. Reaching for her stethoscope, she placed the ends in her ears and warmed the metal plate with her breath.

"Red, huh?" she murmured as she pressed it against his chest. The strong beat was reassuring. "I thought you were redgreen color blind, Mulder."

"There are some truths that defy logic." His voice a mere whisper. God, he sounded awful. He wondered if he looked as bad as he sounded. He couldn't tell by the look in her eyes. They reflected only relief.

"Imagine that," she teased him. "Truth and logic all in the same sentence. Now, that's what I call improvement."

She settled back on the bed and removed the stethoscope from her ears. He reached for her hand. Her fingers curled around his.

"I thought I was dying, Scully," Mulder said. "Then I saw you and knew I must be."

"Angel of Death, Mulder?" She reached for a cup of water and placed the straw between his lips. "Just a little, bit."

He took a small sip. The cool water swirled against his tongue and glided down his throat. His head settled back onto the pillows.

"No," he cleared his throat. "I thought fate was finally cutting me a break. Giving me a last chance to see you.."

"Ssh." she comforted him. "Don't talk Mulder. You've had a rough time. Rest."

"There's so much left unsaid," he groaned. "So much time has passed."

"Over a year..." her voice trailed off. She turned away a moment, her eyes focusing on the window. The sun was beginning to set again. Two days had passed. The first night had been a long one. She had not left his side. By morning he had improved. His pressure had stabilized. Throughout the next day and night he had been gradually weaned off the ventilator, first with a nasal canula and then finally breathing on his own.

"Three hundred and eighty four days." he murmured.

Her eyes slid back to his.

"You counted them?" she asked in a tight voice.

"Nah, I just made the number up." His attempt at a grin fell flat as pain gripped him.

"Well, Mulder," she said softly. "Perhaps fate has dealt you a better hand than you thought."

He nodded slowly before he closed his eyes. The effort to speak had drained him. He allowed himself to drift, consoled by the fact that she was there.


"How's the patient tonight?" Jason Myers asked when he arrived to make his evening rounds.

"Much improved." Scully handed him Mulder's chart. He studied it for a moment before turning his attention to the man.

"So, Agent Mulder, how are you feeling?"

"Like I've been hit by a truck." replied Mulder in a droll tone.

"Judging by the size of the slug we pulled out of you I would call that an accurate response." Myers said as he placed the chart down on the tray table and began his examination of the man.

As he leaned over the man, he felt Scully draw closer. He gave her a scrutinizing look. She was intently watching his every move, prepared to second guess him if necessary. It intrigued him. He already realized how deeply attached she was to her former partner, yet now her body language revealed more than her words. It suggested a fierce protectiveness.

"You look tired, Dana," he commented, noting the shadows under her eyes and the ashen color of her skin. "How long has it been since you've had more than a couple hours sleep?"

The tone he used caught Mulder's attention. He studied the doctor closely. Myers looked to be around forty. He had dark, swarthy features. His eyes were almost black. He reminded Mulder of a pirate, not a doctor. A pirate capable of plundering gold, if only the gold highlights in a certain resident's auburn hair.

"I'm fine, Dr. Myers," responded Scully curtly. She didn't like the way he addressed her so casually in front of Mulder. It was unprofessional. It was too personal.

"She says that all the time," Myers lifted his eyebrow, giving Mulder a knowing look. "She doesn't mean it."

"Some things never change, do they Dana..." Mulder drew out the syllables in her name.

Scully's eyes slid over to his. She was not amused.

"Mulder," she switched the subject. "Is there anyone you want me to call? Your mother?"

"No," he answered quickly.

"I think I should," she insisted. "She should know that her son's in the hospital."

"I said no." His tone was sharp.

Myers opened the chart on the tray table and reached for a pen. He noticed how the their eyes locked and waged a silent battle. He knew nothing of this man, but he knew plenty about this woman. She could be stubborn. Shit, she could be ice when she wanted to be. Grinning, he made a few notes in the chart before snapping it shut.

"Okay," he said in an enthusiastic voice. "It seems my work here is done."

Scully turned her scowling look on him. Myers held up a placating hand.

"He's stable. We'll remove the drain in another day. I'm going to order some pulmonary tests and labs, but your partner's looking good."

"Former partner," reminded the woman.

"That's right," Myers clicked his pen and tucked it back into his pocket. He gave Mulder an apologetic look. "She's in a different business now, my friend. The one that involves saving lives, not taking them."

Mulder watched the man leave the room.

"She's in a different business now, my friend," he mimicked the doctor.

He shifted uncomfortably against his pillow. His whole body ached. He felt as if layers of muscle and flesh had been stripped away then sown back together.

"What the hell did he mean, Scully? The one that involves saving lives, not taking them? Where did he get such a sordid impression of the Bureau? You?"

"You know better than that."

"Yeah, right, whatever," he closed his eyes.

"You should be grateful. He saved your life."

"He's a pompous ass, Scully."

"He can be at that." Her lips twitched in amusement over his astute assessment.

"And he's definitely interested in getting a piece of yours."

"Mulder," she exclaimed.

"It's the truth." Mulder folded her arms. His eyes opened and narrowed with agitation.

"Former partner," he remonstrated. "How easily that rolls from your lips."

"It's the truth," she retaliated. "Mulder, why won't you let me call your mother?"

"I don't want her to know, Scully. Her health is fragile.

She suffered another stroke about six months ago."

Scully reached for his hand and held it tightly. Her voice dropped to a whisper, "I'm so sorry."

"She lives in Florida now. The warm weather seems to appeal to her." Mulder nodded to himself. It was if he was affirming that he had made the right decision.

She sighed and gazed at him sorrowfully.

"Scully..." He hesitated over a question which had been tormenting him. "Why are you in Baltimore? You told me you were moving to San Diego with your mother."

She tried to appear non-chalant.

"Plans change," she answered cautiously.

"I wish I had known," he remarked.

"Why?" How would that have made any difference?" There was a hint of sarcasm to her voice.

"To have known that you were so close..."

"Coming from a man who traveled to Antarctica to find me, you're now going to quote distances?" she chided him.

"You're right," he clarified. "Distance really had nothing to do with miles."

Scully dropped her head and stared at the floor. He noticed how her hands clenched the railing of his bed. The skin across her knuckles grew white. He reached out suddenly and clasped his hand over hers.

"I'm sorry, Scully. That wasn't fair."

"No, Mulder," she sighed. "I'm the one who is not fair.

It's just that I'm really tired."

"You should take Dr. Pomp Asses suggestion and go home."

"I can't." She watched her foot which shifted restlessly across the floor. "I gone on duty in the next few hours."

"You can't work without sleep."

"I'm used to it by now. Residents don't sleep, Mulder. We nap. All of those nightly stakeouts with you prepared me for this job. I'm a professional napper now."

"A professional napper who used to snores with her mouth open, drooling on my shoulder," he reminded her.

She couldn't help the smile.

"I really have missed you," she stated softly.

"Enough to stop yet?"

The smile died on her lips. She pushed away from the railing. Not now, she thought. Neither one of them were ready to continue the confrontation.

"I got to run," she announced crisply.

That's right, he thought bitterly as he watched her leave.

Running was what she did best.

Later that night, in the middle of her shift, she heard the voice of one of the nurses.

"Dr. Scully."

"Yeah," She was seated at the nurses station making notes in a patient's chart.

"There's a man waiting to see you."

"A patient?"

"No, he says it's personal."

Scully rubbed her neck and squinted out through the glass window that separated the lounge from the nurses station. It was Skinner. Assistant Director Walter Skinner. Her former boss.

He paced back and forth outside the room, stopping short to place his hands on his hips and glare at her through the glass. He looked agitated.

She rose from the chair and followed the nurse outside.

"How are you, sir?" she extended her hand.

"Scully," he clasped it gratefully. "I can't tell you how good it is to see you. How is he?"

"He's fine. Bit of a rough time for the first twenty-four hours, but he's good now." she advised him.

"I got here as soon as I could. I was attending a conference in L.A." Skinner remarked. "I went right up to see Mulder, but he was asleep. The nurses directed me to you. I can't believe the coincidence to find you here."

"Mulder calls it fate."

"He's a very lucky man," Skinner was hinting at something that she didn't know. She sensed it. His face was grave.

She ushered him into one of the private treatment rooms and closed the door.

"What happened, sir? Why was Mulder in Baltimore?"

"He was profiling a serial killer. He's been working on the case for months. They tracked the man here."

"That's not an X-File. That's the Behavioral Crimes Unit," she noted.

"There are no X-Files anymore, Scully."

She was stunned. Skinner could see it. Her hand flew to her mouth as if she was trying to suppress a cry of surprise or indignation, or both. Her fingers began to tap her lips. She was thinking, processing the news he had just given her.

"After you left, there was another reorganization at the Bureau. New players, Scully. New rules."

"Which one did he refuse to follow this time?"

"The one that involved taking Agent Fowley on as his new partner."

Scully felt the wall behind her back. She slumped against it and leaned over to grip her knees. Her blood pounded through her veins.

That woman...that insidious, manipulative woman.

Agent Diana Fowley had been the catalyst to the end of her relationship with Mulder. Because of Fowley, she had lost her partner's trust. He had refused to see that his former lover was an integral part of the dark conspiracy. When she had offered him proof, he had thrown it back in her face. It began a slow, downward spiral of their relationship. She had been too emotionally embroiled to salvage it and he had been too emotionally damaged to save it. Instead, he retreated from her, shutting her out, pursuing leads on his own until she was left with the feeling of being dead weight around his neck.

"He refused the reassignment," Skinner's words broke into her thoughts. "He accused her openly of betraying him."

Scully's eyes glistened with tears. The woman who never cried seemed poised to do so now.

It had taken Skinner some time to understand the unique bond between the two agents. Two highly intelligent people. One eccentric and compulsive, the other too reserved, almost strangled by an acute need for rationalism in a world gone chaotic and disorderly. He had come to the conclusion that Mulder and Scully had been the perfect pairing because of their opposite natures. They drew from each other those qualities missing in themselves. While she had grounded him, he had emancipated her.

They had parted under circumstances that were as mysterious and elusive as any X-file. Skinner had never understood how two people so dependent upon each other could go their separate ways.

With Mulder the result had been dramatic. He had lost the classic charm that made his compulsive nature tolerable. He floundered for months. Only when he transferred back to Behavior Crimes did the dark curtain lift. He excelled quickly in a field he had mastered years ago.

"You know, Scully," Skinner pursued an idea. "Mulder has found distinction again in the Bureau. He is one of the best profiler in the Behavioral Crimes."

"What are you saying, sir?"

"He can write his own ticket. The Baltimore SAC is quite captivated by him. He took a bullet because one of the field agents panicked. Mulder not only saved that man's life, he took that serial killer down as he fell."

"Are you saying he could transfer?" Scully rose to her full height. She leaned forward, listening intently to his next words.

"He could operate out of any field office of his choice."

conveyed Skinner. "Given the proper motivation, I think he might leave D.C."

She instantly forgave Skinner's lack of subtlety. He was offering her hope and she intended to take him up on that offer.

A week later, Scully appeared in Mulder's room while he was finishing his lunch. With one hand he stabbed at the food on his plate. The other held the remote control. He flipped through the channels, bored and restless.

"Another classic Mulder moment," she remarked, setting down his tote bag onto the nightstand.

"No scrubs?" he asked, immediately noticing her attire. He couldn't help it. For days he had seen her only in scrubs. They gave her a shapeless look. Today she was dressed in jeans and a scooped necked sweater which revealed the mounds of her breasts.

He couldn't stop his eyes from roving.

"Nope," she reached for the remote and clicked off the television.

"No work today?" he asked.

"Not for the next few days."

"How did you manage that?"

"I've got friends in high places," she quipped as she unzipped the bag. "How would you like to get out of here?"

She retrieved a pair of jeans, a flannel shirt and boxers from the bag. His clothes. He stared at them in disbelief.

"I'm being discharged?"

"With one little condition," she paused.

His eyes slid over to hers.

Taking a deep breath, she continued.

"You come and stay with me for those next few days. I won't have you going back to D.C. to recuperate in that rat hole you call your apartment."

"It's not a rat hole," he smirked at her description.

"No work, only rest. And, I'll be right there to make sure of it." She countered.

"It's not a rat hole," he repeated, pulling the clothes towards him.

"What's it going to be, Mulder?" she asked. She folded her arms and shifted her weight to one leg. He knew the pose. The unflinching, no compromising Scully mode.

"Do I have a choice?"

"Like I said, Mulder, I have friends in high places. One of them happens to be your attending doctor. It's his signature that shall set you free."

Mulder reached behind his neck to untie the ribbon of his hospital gown. He stripped it off and reached for the shirt.

There was a slight pause. Scully turned around so that he might dress with privacy. His voice was caustic as he reminded her.

"You are aware that your friend, Dr. Myers, expects a return on his investment."

Her head jerked back around. The hospital gown laid on the floor. Mulder was naked, having swung his legs to the side of the bed to tug up the boxer shorts. His eyes met hers. An unspoken challenged surfaced from the hazel depths. For a moment she was paralyzed. She blinked and turned away.

"Caught you looking," he goaded her.

"Nothing I haven't seen before." Her response was deceptively bland.

"Then why are you blushing?"

"I don't blush."

Scully lived in a townhouse by the harbor. She opened the white wrought iron gate to a walkway lined with yellow day lilies. He could smell the fresh, wet mulch mixing in with the salty air. She unlocked the front door and beckoned him inside.

He followed her through a dimly lit hallway that opened to the bright expanse of the enormous great room. The mid-afternoon sun flooded through two sets of french doors that faced the harbor. The floors were polished wood. Area rugs were scattered under cozy, overstuffed furniture. In the corner, a pine armoir opened to a television and stereo system.

The diningroom and kitchen were divided by a long l-shaped counter that was lined with more books, a few potted plants and fat ivory candles. It was immaculate and comfortable. Mulder circled it with approval.

He crossed over to the french doors and peered out to the harbor. A wood deck lined the back of the townhouse. It held a table and chairs covered in seafoam green cushions. A umbrella of the same color rose over the table. Terra cotta planters were filled with salmon hued geraniums and ivy. His eyes traveled past the deck to the grass that sloped down to the dock. Boats lined the harbor which glistened against the pale blue sky.

"Now I know why you call my place a rat trap," he remarked, holding the tranquil view with appreciation.

An open staircase led to the second floor. She stood on the first step.

"Come on up, Mulder. I'll show you your room."

As he followed he joked with her.

"My room? You mean I don't get to share yours?"

Suddenly she stopped dead on the stairs. He collided with her. Her head turned suddenly. Her eyes reflected surprise, a tinge of uneasiness and something else he wasn't able to discern.

He feared that he had overstepped his bounds.

"I'm teasing, Scully," he covered quickly. "God, you think I'm that presumptuous?"

"Maybe you should be," she said. "Maybe after all this time we both should be."

Mulder froze on the steps, stunned by the transformation in her eyes and her voice. It was seductive. This wasn't the Dana Scully he remembered. Their flirtation had always been subtle.

An exercise of wit and innuendo. Always teetering on the edge of something more, but never fully realized. His own voice faltered as he answered, "Maybe you had better show me the guest room before I fall down the stairs."

The provocative look disappeared behind an amused smile.

She led him to landing where a narrow hall separated the two bedrooms. The master was to the left. She ushered him into the room opposite it. It held a double bed covered with a comforter patterned with a cornflower blue and yellow design. His attention shifted to the exercise bike and the desk which held her computer. More books and medical journals line shelves above it.

"Combination guest room, workout room and office," she offered apologetically.

"It's great, Scully. I can sleep, workout and check my email without missing a beat."

"I don't have visitors often," she admitted.

"What about your Mom? Doesn't she come to visit?" he asked, walking over to the bed and sitting down on it. "Ooh, soft, just the way I like it."

"Sometimes. She's pretty wrapped up with her new grandson."

There was no sorrow or regret. Time had erased it. She had wanted her mother to be happy. She had caused her family enough heartache to last a lifetime.

"I'm sorry, Scully." There was a note of sadness in his voice.

"There's nothing to be sorry about, Mulder."

"Are you lonely?" he asked. She caught her breath. For a moment she almost admitted it, then changed her mind.

"I am way too busy to be lonely," she lied.

"Your work in the ER." Mulder nodded.

That's why she chose such a demanding job, he thought to himself. She had immersed herself into a field that allowed little time for a personal life. For a moment he felt disillusioned. She had left him for an ordinary life. He had imagined it quite differently. He had envisioned something quieter and less stressful. Research, perhaps, not emergency medicine. A life filled with family and friends. Not a cloistered existence where she exhausted herself by day only to retreat to this idyllic, but solitary, setting at night.

"You know, Scully," he said. "If it was a grueling, empty lifestyle you wanted, you could have stayed on at the Bureau."

She gave him a perplexed look.

"What are you talking about?"

He rose from the bed. Towering over her, with an expression that hinged between anger and disappointment, he stated, "You didn't have to leave me."

"I didn't leave you," Scully responded defensively. "There was nothing left to leave. You were already long gone, pursing your own path, forgetting that I even existed."

"You are so wrong, Scully." He spoke through gritted teeth.

His eyes flashed with fierceness. "You were my existence."

"Then you had a twisted way of showing it."

"I wanted you to have that ordinary life that you kept hinting at. I wanted you to be happy."

"For the FBI's most prized profiler, how could you be so damn obtuse?" she cried out angrily.

He didn't know, she thought. He had no idea why she had left.

Mulder was floored. He staggered back from her in shock.

Oh my God, my God, he agonized. She had told him that she wanted an ordinary life. She had wanted out. He didn't stop her because she deserved better than a life which had turned precarious and filled with danger. He had sacrificed his feelings for her, refusing to stop her with the belief that he was finally doing the right thing by her.

Suddenly, he grew dizzy. His sank down onto the bed and buried his face into his hands.

She stared at him. She saw that his hands were trembling.

She suddenly felt ashamed. He was still recovering from a serious injury. She had promised herself to take things slow.

Instead, she was lashing out of heartache and frustration.

"Mulder, I'm sorry," she whispered apologetically. She knelt before him and tugged his hands from his face. She saw it then. Despair so deep and genuine that it brought tears to her eyes. She cupped his face tenderly, rising up on her knees to brush her lips against him. A delicate kiss. A peace offering.

A promise renewed to him and to herself.

Mulder gripped the side of the bed. Her kiss was affectionate. A gesture between good friends. He wanted more.

He had to have more. As she began to pull away, he grasped her arms tightly and jerked her back to him. His mouth captured hers greedily, opening it with a hunger that had gone crazed from denial. He wanted to drink her in ... to savor the sweet taste of mouth.

God help me, Scully thought, as desire pierced through her.

Her lips parted wider. She was gifted the tantalizing motion of his tongue against hers. She wanted him. Absence had not curtailed the longing, but accentuated it. She should stop. She needed to stop. She had to stop.

"Stop." She flung herself away.

"Stop?" he groaned.

"It's too soon. You're not ready for this."

"Trust me, Scully. I've been ready for years."

She struggled to come up with an acceptable excuse.

"I mean you're still recovering, Mulder," she offered finally.

"What if I promised to use only my lower half?" There was a mischievous glint to his eyes.

She shook her head.

"What if it's me? What if I want to take things a little slower? Get a little reacquainted first."

"Where do you want to begin?" He teased her.

"Right now? Probably with a cold shower for me and a nice nap for you." she grinned.

"You expect me to sleep?" He was incredulous.

"I'll sing to you if you'd like," she offered as she lifted herself up to her feet.

"That's not necessary," he said quickly. He held up his hands in resignation. She went to the bottom of the bed and tugged off his Reeboks. He eased back down against the pillows.

"You gonna take off my jeans too, Scully?"

"You're bad," she replied, drawing the comforter over him.


Mulder couldn't sleep. He shifted restlessly under the comforter, trying to will away an urge so primal and acute that he was engorged. He unzipped the fly to his jeans to ease the painful pressure that was constricting him. He stared at the shut door to the guest room. How easy it would be to find his release. He could just close his eyes and pretend that it was her hand. The scent of her perfume still lingered. The taste of her was still in his mouth.

Fuck it, he thought, throwing the comforter off of him. He was no longer willing to find satisfaction in conjured images of her. She had just shown him how inept his fantasies had been.

His phantom lover was dissipating like a fine mist, replaced by the woman herself.

He rose from the bed and crossed over to her computer. He needed distraction. He would access check his e-mail, surf the net, anything to still the want that coursed through his body.

He flipped on the monitor and started the hard drive. Sitting down in the chair, he stretched his long legs underneath the desk and waited as the computer booted.

His hand steered the mouse to her e-mail program and made the connection. The window opened directly to her in box. She had mail.

Shit, did she have mail. From the CDC. What the hell was she getting mail from the Center for Disease Control? He clicked on the first, hoping to retrieving it. Encrypted. All of her email from the CDC was encrypted.

Why?

He studied the e-mail address. scottd@cdcagency.com. The same man was corresponding to Scully almost on a daily basis.

Why? Who was this man that she was receiving encrypted message from him.

A colleague? A lover? Whoever he was, Mulder wanted to know.

He reached for his glasses from his duffle bag as the data coursed across the screen. His eyes had grown weaker lately.

Too many late nights peering at a screen such as this, searching for a way to ease his boredom, visiting chat rooms to assuage the loneliness she had created...

He went back to the most recent message and studied the peculiar algorhythms. What ever program she utilized was foreign to him. He was no hacker, but knew enough to realize sophistication when he saw it. He toyed with guessing her password, but decided against it. Most programs would destroy the data with one false entry. That would make him more than just a discourteous houseguest.

And he was beginning to believe that this was what he was.

A houseguest.

When Mulder came downstairs later, he saw that one of the french doors was opened. She was outside on the deck, grilling what he hoped was dinner. It smelled delicious. Steaks marinated in something tangy and sweet. He paused at the door to study her. There was a bead of sweat glistening above her upper lip. Her cheeks were tinged from the heat of the grill. She closed the cover and moved to the railing where a glass of wine waited. She took a sip and fastened her eyes on the horizon. A sailboat was passing by. Her mouth moved slightly, as if she were relishing the taste of the wine and the view. Her finger toyed with the stem of the wine glass. It began to tap the glass with a steady, contemplative beat.

She was debating something, he concluded, stepping out onto the deck. Maybe the reacquainting ritual would not be a long one.

She turned to greet him, smiling brightly, "Mulder, come here. You've got to see this sailboat."

He leaned over her shoulder so that she could direct his gaze to the sailboat. The smell of her hair was fresh. It felt like silk against his face.

"Hungry?" she squirmed away from him and returned to the grill.

"That's an understatement," he responded.

While they ate dinner, she examined him closely. Freshly showered and shaved, he had changed into another pair of jeans and a hunter green shirt. She noted with appreciation the long, lean look to his body. Her eyes traveled down to his forearms and hands. They were so strong and capable. He wasn't handsome by standard definition. He had a long face, too high of a forehead, and his nose... well... she wouldn't even try to come up with a satisfactory description. Yet, she was incredibly attracted to him.

Physical attraction had been almost immediate, but loving him had taken time. While it had been easy to admire his tenacity and develop a strong, loyal friendship, falling in love with him had been a gradual process. She was not the type to feel infatuation, nor was she the type to give in to emotions that didn't justify with her mind. For years, she had been satisfied with the intellectual stimulation of the relationship, the loyalty and the loose, casual affection. She had not look for more because she had not been willing to chance what she already had.

The magnitude of her feelings crashed down upon her the day Diana Fowley entered her life. Jealousy and possessiveness flared out with an intensity that astounded her. It manipulated her. It came to rule her. It forced her to recognize her need for more, but soured her from speaking or doing anything about it.

And now, over a year later, there was yet another obstruction. A decision she had made based on misperceptions and lost trust. A revelation that would not be easily accepted by him.

"What are you thinking?" Mulder asked, noticing how she intently studied him.

"About you," she answered calmly.

He toyed with his fork a moment. "Scully?"

"Hmm?" she lifted her glass of wine.

"Who's Scott with the CDC?"

"Jesus, Mulder," she choked and reached for a napkin, pressing it against the lips. "I thought you were sleeping this afternoon."

"After you practically shoved your tongue down my throat you expected me to sleep?" he rebutted.

"I didn't expect you to access my e-mail," she accused.

"I didn't." He paused to correct himself. "I couldn't. It was encrypted. What's this guy sending you that's for your eyes only? Achy, breaky heart love letters?"

She gave him a withering look. "You were always such a snoop," she responded.

"If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck..." he bantered.

"Yeah, but duck isn't the word that comes to mind right now," Scully retorted.

"I'm sorry," Mulder apologized. "I was planning on retrieving my e-mail but the window opened up to your in-box.

Your Scott must be getting impatient. He sent you two messages today."

"He's not mine. I've never even met him." She shook her head. This was not how she had planned her admission. Yet, now there was no stopping it.

"Scully, Scully..." There was a flicker of amusement in his voice. "Have we crossed a threshold here? If I give you my email address will you send me dirty, little encrypted messages?"

"Mulder, it's not what you think," she sighed. Reaching for the wine bottle she poured some into his glass.

"No, thanks. I don't drink anymore."

"Since when?"

"Since the three day binge I went on after you left me."

"Oh Mulder," she murmured. She handed him the glass and said solemnly, "You may reconsider sobriety after you hear what I have to tell you."

Leaning back in his chair he listened. He could tell by the expression on her face that it was important.

Drawing a deep breath, she began.

"I didn't leave the FBI to pursue a career in medicine. I left to go to work for the CDC."

"You what?" he asked.

"I am an operative for a new division of the CDC. A division formed specifically to distribute the vaccine for the alien virus."

"You what?" Mulder repeated again in an incredulous voice.

"After the Consortium fell, the scientists who assisted in the development of the vaccine suddenly discovered how selfserving their patrons were. They sought out a new alliance and found it with our government. The formula has been perfected, Mulder. Not only can it stop the virus, it immunizes one against it."

Mulder stared at her for a moment, silent and unmoving.

When he spoke his voice was low and combative.

"The plans for colonization died with the Consortium, Scully."

"Surely you don't believe that."

"Trust me, I would have known about it. There's been nothing. No leads, no hint of activity, not even a scrap of information. Believe me, Scully, I've been watching."

"You've been watching in vain, Mulder. The Bureau has been cut out. Just like FEMA. There were too many infiltrators."

Mulder exhaled sharply. This wasn't happening. The woman, who had never believed, sat across a candlelit table trying to convince him that she had become a participant in a government program designed to battle an alien plague. A threat gone dormant over the past year. The key players had vanish overnight. Those who escaped incineration from the Resistance had disappeared without a trace. And, so had the Resistance.

His eyes glinted with agitation. He turned them on her composed face and asked in a scathing voice.

"Why you?"

"Because of my history and background, I was enlisted to help implement the pilot program," she explained. "I am Patient X, the first fully immunized test subject. You, yourself, injected me with the vaccine."

She paused and took a deep breath. Continuing, she related, "I am also a scientist, one who had first hand knowledge of the tests that the Consortium conducted. Finally, I am a doctor, one who has been trained to supervise the administration of the vaccine to the public. Under the cover of a resident, of course.

My lack of clinical experience could not be ignored."

"How is it done?"

"The vaccine is manufactured in West Virginia. The CDC distributes the vaccine and monitors its dissemination among several hospitals and military bases throughout the country.

That's why I'm in emergency medicine, not pathology or research as you suspected, Mulder. A slip of a needle goes easily unnoticed in the emergency room. The same opportunity is found in surgery or intensive care. Even in pediatrics, under the guise of routine vaccinations. In any given day, hundreds of people are immunized without their knowledge. In the next five years, hundreds of thousands will be immune to the virus."

"Five years..." he picked up on the words.

"That is the time table. Or so believed, no one is really certain at this point," she pressed her lips together.

"Colonization is imminent, Mulder. But, with this program we have a fighting chance."

It was a bizarre twist of fate. The one who had always refuted the idea of colonization had been one chosen to defend against it. Even when the magnitude of the conspiracy stared in her face, she had contradicted it. Babbling on with her infuriating logic and science. It was a parody, a cruel mockery of the illusion he had created for her. She had left him for an ordinary life. Now, she was telling him that she had left him to pursue the extraordinary.

She leaned across the table and gripped his hand in both of hers. Her forehead creased with desperation. Her eyes were wide and imploring.

"You have got to believe me, Mulder. In know this is hard, but please believe me."

"Oh, I believe you Scully." He withdrew his hand. "I just don't believe in you anymore."

For a long time he stared out to the horizon. The sun had almost completed its gradual descent behind them. The harbor was growing dark. The water was a soft, muted grey. It gently swayed the boats along the dock. It was so still, so silent that he could hear her breathe. Her breath was rapid. It was contorted.

She was crying. He steeled himself against the sound of her, refusing to look at her. Damn her. Out of all the lies, her deception was the cruelest.

"Your not the Dana Scully I knew," he renounced her severely. "She would have never agreed to a program which inoculates people without their knowledge or consent, treating them no better than lab rats."

"Not lab rats," Scully interjected. "There are no risks and no side effects."

"Yeah? Tell me that in five years." He said sarcastically.

"How could you have done this, Scully? The woman I knew had integrity. She would have chosen truth over deceit."

"The truth can be dangerous thing, Mulder," she choked out.

"If it became known, it would result in mass panic."

"Would I have panicked? Is that why you chose not to tell me?" Mulder condemned her. "Christ, Scully, I was your partner.

I was as involved, as invested as you. I had a right to know."

"I tried, Mulder. You wouldn't believe me. You no longer trusted me." She stopped, as a sob threatened to tear from her throat. She swallowed hesitantly, before continuing. "You went to her, Mulder. Fowley. You believed her. You were prepared to go with her to that hanger where the Consortium waited for the Colonists. You were more than willing to face your destiny by her side."

"I asked you to come too."

"An after thought. That's what I had become to you."

accused Scully. "Fowley was a part of the Consortium, Mulder. I couldn't take that chance. If you couldn't see past her lies, I couldn't trust you with the truth."

"Was is your definition of truth these days, Scully? I'm curious. Little white lies?"

"Truth begins and ends with one basic concept these days," Scully insisted. "Survival."

"God, you even sound like one of them." He said with disgust. He shoved his chair back and sprung to his feet.

"Lady, you are as misled as you are misleading. If colonization is imminent, then there's not a chance in hell that anyone will survive. Technology will win this war and we aren't the ones who have it."

"Mulder..."

He flung open the french door and went inside.

He was leaving.

He was leaving her.

He stormed up the stairs to the guest bedroom to retrieve his duffel bag. She followed, tears coursing down her face so hard and fast that they dropped onto her blouse. Her mind was racing, trying to find the right words to stop him. Once again she was reminded of how ineffective and useless she had become.

She had crossed over into dangerous, unpredictable territory. A realm where his perception had gone dark with jealousy and misunderstanding.

She stood in the doorway to the room watching him stuff his clothes into the bag.

"Mulder, please." she begged. "Please listen to me."

"I think I've heard enough." He straightened up and turned to face her. "Get out of my way, Scully."

"Where will you go?"

"Back to D.C." He lifted the bag from the bed and advanced on her. She held up a restraining hand and said, "Don't stay there long, Mulder. It's Ground Zero. When it begins, it will begin there."

"Thanks for the tip," Mulder sneered.

"One more," she insisted. "When you came into the Emergency Room you were injected with the vaccine. Standard protocol. I'm sorry."

She was sorry. She had lied to him. Betrayed him.

Surpassed him on what had begun as his personal quest. He dropped his bag as he felt his control snap. Enraged, he seized her by the shoulders and pushed her roughly up against the wall.

As his eyes simmered with fury, hers grew wide with fear.

Scully sensed the threat and felt it as his body crushed hers. His breath was distorted and hot against her ear. For a moment, she cringed. He was so much larger, easily capable of harming her. She could fight back. She could attempt to talk him down from his frenzy. She decided against both. This was Mulder. The man she loved. He would not hurt her. She had learned the cruel result of lost trust. She would not make the same mistake again.

She closed her eyes in resignation. The hammering of her heart was deafening. She barely heard his voice. It was low and broken against her ear.

"How could you have done this, Scully? I loved you. I would have done anything for you."

Her sobs exploded so heavy that she gasped for air. She was drowning in his pain and hers. Suffocating. Her fingers stretched up to touch his waist, to cling to his shirt that had gone damp with sweat and tears. Her tears. His tears. He was crying. He was shaking with such anguish that she wanted to die that moment. Her legs began to collapse. They were fluid, unable to support her any longer.

"I loved you too, Mulder," she cried brokenly. "I still do."

Mulder stumbled backwards, releasing her. She slid down the wall to the floor. He bent over to clutch his knees, panting, choking, trying to quench the agony that tore from his chest.

Her words seared through his mind, obliterating his anger, propelling him to a truth that surpassed all others.

She had loved him. She had followed him on his obsessive path for years. She had battled by his side. She had suffered more losses than could be counted, and yet still managed to keeping him sane in an insane world. He remembered the moment where it had all changed. He had berated her in front of others, accusing her of using personal animosity towards Fowley rather than professional judgment. He had wounded her in the worst possible way. It was he who had caused the alienation of trust.

Yet, despite his betrayal, she still loved him. And, despite hers, he still loved her.

"Mulder," she whimpered.

His eyes focused on her. She clutched her sides as if she was having a difficult time breathing. Her eyes were swollen and bloodshot.

Had he hurt her? His anger had been explosive. Had he injured her without realizing it? Panic overtook his despair.

He moved over and knelt by her side.

"Scully." he reached out to touch her arm. Her skin was cold. "Did I hurt you?"

She shook her head. More tears fell onto her ashen face.

He was going to leave her, Scully thought. He would never forgive her. The choice she had made was going to haunt her for a lifetime.

"Maybe next time fate will deal us a better hand," she sobbed.

"Maybe we won't have to wait." He responded gently. "Maybe it's still poised in the corner, watching and waiting to see how well we play this one."

Mulder tugged her arms away from her waist. He ran his hands across her rib cage, her arms, her shoulders, trying to ascertain if he had hurt her. He had forgotten how tiny she was.

Her petite frame had grown so thin that her shoulder blades protruded over the top of her shirt. He could see the beginning of bruises there. Angry red marks left by his fingers.

"And, I don't know about you, Scully, but I'm sure as hell tired of playing solitaire," he murmured. He lowered his lips to press gentle kisses to her skin as if to soothe away the pain he had inflicted.

Scully felt herself being borne up by the touch of his lips and the comfort of his arms that cradled her to him. She breathed in deeply. Air filled her lungs, renewing her, allowing her to participate in what she hoped would be their final act of contrition.

When his mouth reached hers, she responded with a vitality of one no longer drowning, but resuscitated. Her lips opened to his. The feel of her tongue, the pressure of her breasts heaving against his chest, ignited his desire like a flash fire. It sizzled through him, incinerating the last of his regret and his restraint.

It was not to be poetry in motion. Overwhelming sexual tension had robbed them of what should have a gradual descent to lovemaking. Tenderness was forgotten. Exploration would come later. For now, they grappled and clutched for each other.

Trying to claw their way to the top of the wall between them.

Both knew that the moment had come. A moment where words were useless. Commitment meant consummation. They either scaled the wall or would be forever obstructed by it.

With one possessive thrust, Mulder claimed the woman he thought he would never have. He froze when she tensed. He began to withdraw, but she shook her head fiercely. Her hands gripped the front of his shirt as she inhaled slowly and relaxed. As he carefully glide back and forth into her, her eyes blinked as if she was startled. Suddenly, the depth of her increased. Her legs opened wider. A slick wetness followed, enveloping him with sensations both sweet and torturing.

Scully began to quiver as her hips lifted from the floor to meet his. Every nerve, every fiber of her being was poised on a threshold that had never been so easily or quickly attained. She wasn't inexperienced, but her attempts with others had been mediocre. Foreplay had been the only way she had achieved gratification. Never like this. Never so fast. She should have known...

She should have known that it would be like this with him.

"Oh my God, Mulder," she whispered.

"I know," Mulder murmured back. "We should have done this a long time ago."

"Do it now," she pleaded.

Mulder caught her hips in stilled them. He began to plunge deeply into her, offering his full length. Her first, he thought desperately. It had to be her first.

She felt her nipples harden against her damp blouse. She was coming. God, she was coming. She was climaxing so hard and fast that she was erupting like molten lava around him. Her back arched up from the floor. She couldn't take it. It was too much. It was splitting her apart. She began to struggle against him, pushing him away.

He caught her hands and pinned them to the floor.

"Give in to it." he said through clenched teeth as he felt his own control slip away.

Her fingers gripped his. Crying out in a voice that sounded foreign and delirious, she discovered that fate was no longer cruel, but bright with rapture. No longer taunting, but fulfilling. And, within seconds, fate joined him with her. The sound of him moaning her name, the feel of him shuddering and spilling himself into her, was more than gratifying. It was singularly the most satisfying moment of her life.

For several moments, they remained locked together. She drifted through thoughts both contemplative and warm. She didn't realize that he was on the other end of the spectrum, balancing his extreme emotional and physical release with typical, dark humor.

"Told you I could use just my lower half," he joked.

"Mulder!"

Each of them were still half dressed. Dampened with perspiration and tears, their shirts stuck together as he withdrew from her. He rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling. A wide smile crossed his face. The woman next to him rose up on an elbow and assessed his expression with a critical eye.

"Mulder, you're grinning like the village idiot."

"See what an impact you have on me?"

"Right now, I'm thinking of the impact we have on each other. God, Mulder, what happened here? One minute we're arguing, the next minute you're leaving and then we're..."

"If you start to analyze this, Scully, I swear..."

"Alright, Alright..." Scully fell back onto the floor and sighed. She, too, stared at the ceiling. The first words she had hoped for came out quite differently that what she imagined.

She wanted a simple admission. A confirmation that what they had just done was more than...

"Scully..." He interrupted her thoughts.

"What?"

"I love you."

She smirked.

He leaned over her. His hand smoothed away the strands of hair that had fallen across her eyes. It was then that she saw it again. The same look he had given her in the operating room.

A look of love and reverence so deep that her hurt was instantly assuaged.

"I love you," he repeated emphatically.

She reached up to touch his face.

"I love you, too."


Mulder woke the next morning to the smell of coffee and bacon frying. He had slept so deeply that her leaving the bed had gone unnoticed. His body ached from exertion. Too soon, she had warned him. Despite the ache, he was glad that he didn't listen, that he had been capable of steering her past her own advice.

When Scully came into the bedroom, she carried a large wicker tray holding breakfast and two cups of coffee. She had showered and dressed. Her auburn hair was still damp and pushed behind her ears. Looking into her face, he was reminded of the day before while she gazed at the sailboat coursing the rim of the harbor. She wore contentment well.

"How's my little operative this morning?" Mulder heckled her.

She ignored the remark, depositing the tray on his lap. Her eyes examined him for a moment. "You look tired."

"But, in a very good way." He grinned. "Hmm, fried eggs and bacon. Trying to clog the very arteries she saves."

Scully sat down on the bed and tucked her feet underneath her. She lifted her cup of coffee and blew it gingerly.

"I'm going to fatten you up, Mulder. You've lost weight."

"Speak for yourself. Hasn't anyone told you that the waif look went out a long time ago?"

"I'm not a waif," she protested. "I'm...lean."

"You're skinny. I like my women with a little more padding."

"You also like women who are long legged, tall and brunette.

I don't match any of those criteria."

"That's because you forgot intelligent and funny."

"I'm not funny, Mulder."

"Oh, you are Scully. You are so very, very comical at times."

"That's not being funny. That's being made fun of."

"Teasing you was always one of my favorite past times," he admitted, stuffing a fork full of eggs into his mouth. He grinned at her sullen expression and continued, "I guess it's a good thing that I've discovered a new one."

"Hasn't anyone ever told you that you shouldn't speak with your mouth full?" she shot back.

"I'll remind you of that later." he grinned. "Hey, you're not going to try to change me now that you have me, are you?"

"I'm a doctor, not a magician." Scully reciprocated.

Mulder shook with silent laughter.

"I'd change for you," he tried to charm her.

"Liar," she snorted. She reached across to the tray and stole a piece of bacon.

"I'm serious, Scully."

"Sure you are." Her teeth bit into it viciously.

He cringed. It was time to change the subject.

"Scully, tell me more about the program."

"I don't want to talk about it."

"You know we have to."

"Why?"

"Because last month a hospital in Detroit was bombed."

Mulder informed her. "The Bureau was involved in the investigation, which I'm sure you know came up with more questions than leads."

"It could have been just a random act of violence, " she offered.

"Was it random or was it a warning?" He shifted the tray from his lap. "Tell me, Scully, did Detroit host the program?"

"What if it did?" She tried to deflect the question.

"It means that you could be in danger," insisted Mulder.

"What's your definition of danger?" Scully argued. Risk?

Taking chances? We did that for years, Mulder. Why should it bother you now?"

"Because I've suddenly developed a taste for an ordinary life," he confessed.

"My life is far from ordinary," warned Scully. "I've crossed over the line from reluctant witness to active participant."

"You've also crossed over the line to become my lover," he concluded.

She smiled. He could be persuasive when he wanted to be.

"So, you're willing to change." she drew him back to his offer. "What if we begin by changing your venue? You know, Skinner said you could work out of any field office you chose."

"And the Baltimore SAG did send over a big basket of fruit," Mulder added.

Their eyes met and held a moment. Hers reflected happiness.

His suggested more. A hint that he wanted to seal the bargain just made.

"Mulder, no." she protested feebly as he reached out and drew her on top of him.

"Scully, yes..." He began to unbutton her blouse.

"Too much exertion, too soon," she cautioned.

"What if I promise to use only my hands," Mulder proposed.

"And, maybe my mouth..."

Several days later Scully was back at the emergency room.

She had just completed suturing a laceration along the eyebrow on a twelve year old boy who had been injured playing street hockey.

She gave the boy an encouraging smile as she snipped the end of the stitches. Returning the scissors to the tray next to her, she said.

"So you're the goalie, huh? Well, now you can show your friends what distinguishes a goalie from the rest of the players."

"Will there be a scar?" the boy's mother asked as she pressed close to the examining table.

"His eyebrow will conceal it." Scully advised. She rose from the swivel chair and picked up the boy's chart. Studying his history, she noted that he had a routine medical history. No recent injuries or illnesses that required medical attention in the past year.

"There was a lot a dirt in the cut," she informed the mother. "Your son really should have a tetanus shot as a precaution."

"What ever you think, doctor," the mother agreed.

As she administered the vaccine, she watched the boy turn away and fixed determined eyes on the wall. So brave, she thought. It was children like this who were really the hope for the future.

"Dr. Scully," She heard Dr. Myer's voice as he approached.

She excused herself and met him over by the nurses station.

"Coming to supervise my handiwork, Dr. Myers?"

"Coming to see for myself if the rumor is true," Myers responded. His eyes narrowed as he intently studied her face.

"What rumor?"

"That sullen Dr. Scully is smiling alot today. Humming too, from what I hear." Myers paused as a nurse passed by them. "Oh, yeah, I can see it. The very subtle sparkle in your eyes, the radiant skin, the sheen to your hair. A few days away from the rat race has really made an improvement."

"Is that what you really believe?" Scully pursued a point she felt necessary to make with this man.

Myers leaned against the counter and folded his arms.

"It's that former partner of yours, isn't it?"

"He's no longer my former partner."

For a moment, she saw a flicker of disappointment in the man's eyes. He recovered swiftly, giving her a smile of genuine pleasure.

"Good for you, Dana."

Scully realized then that it wasn't ordinary jealousy. It was envy of her ability to push aside fear. To find happiness in the moment when the future appeared so bleak. Those who knew of the program had a difficult time coping with the magnitude of the threat. Armageddon was no longer an abstract concept. It was capable of striking at any moment. The realization wore down their resistance, distancing them from those unsuspecting, closing them off to forming what could be futile relationships.

"Ignorance is bliss," Scully said suddenly. Myers gave her a quizzical look. She drew his attention over to where the young boy was rubbing his arm where she had injected the vaccine. "But, knowledge has given us hope."

Mulder arrived at the Federal Building fifteen minutes before his appointment with the SAC of the Baltimore Field Office. He was greeted warmly be several agents who ushered him from the waiting area into the operations room. Spooky Mulder was a distant memory. In this place he had found distinction among his peers. In their eyes he was a hero. He tried not to appear uncomfortable amidst the backslapping and praise from the fellow agents. He wanted to fit in, not to react with his usual wry manner that too often bordered on sarcasm.

"Hey Mulder," one agent called over to him. "Got a moment?"

"Sure," Mulder responded, glad to have the excuse to cross over to the man's desk. The agent pointed to his computer screen and said.

"What's your experience in domestic terrorism?"

"What do you got?" He glanced over the agent's shoulder.

"We're being put on alert. Two hospitals, one in Seattle and one in Atlanta were bombed this morning." The agent quickly reached for the phone. He pressed the SAC's intercom.

In a terse voice he advised his superior of the news. Cupping the receiver, the man nodded as he listened to his instructions.

"Agent Mulder," The agent turned to him. "Agent Mulder?"

He was gone.

As Mulder raced through the parking lot of the Federal Building, he reached for his cell phone. Shit, shit, shit, he thought frantically, remembering then that she no longer carried one. A beeper. She wore a beeper. She had given him the number. He dug the slip of paper out of his wallet and punched in the numbers. Unlocked the door to her car, he waited to be connected with the paging system. His fingers pounded the number of his cell phone.

"Come on, Scully." He willed his cell phone to ring. He started the ignition. Let it ring. He had to reach her. He had to warn her.

He screeched the car out of the parking lot, cutting off oncoming traffic as he sped up the boulevard. His foot pushed down the accelerator pedal as he gripped the wheel. He jerked it suddenly. The tires spun and screeched as the car turned down a side street.

"God damn it, Scully, answer the page." Mulder grabbed the cell phone and dialed again.

"Someone's insistent," Myers said as Scully's beeper went off a second time. She reached down to the waistband of her pants and turned the beeper off. It was Mulder. Paging her twice. Why was he calling her now? She was on duty. He had an appointment at the Baltimore Field Office at 2:00 and it was only a few minutes after. Something was wrong. She sensed it.

Excusing herself, she moved to the other side of the counter to lifted the handset and dial his number.

"Mulder," she murmured in a low voice so she would not be overheard.

"Scully," He was shouting. She heard the screech of brakes.

"Mulder, that's my car you're driving. Mulder?"

"Scully, get out." he yelled. "There's a bomb. Get out of the hospital now."

Scully's hand froze on the receiver as her eyes lifted to Myers. It was then that she the flash of light.

The line went dead.

Mulder screamed her name as he witnessed the bomb's detonation. The air reverberated with its impact, shaking the car as it pulled into the hospital parking lot. His eyes dilated with horror as he watched the building shake with the force of the blast. Windows shattered into bits of glass, spraying out onto the pavement. A thick black smoke billowed out of every opening, rising upward to the roof. The force of the blast twisted and bent the steel supports, causing the building to pitch to one side. At one end, floor after floor began to collapse. The entire west wing crumbled. It tore down the middle, leaving one half of the building demolished.

The east wing, where the emergency room was, still stood.

Please God, please God...his heart hammered as he bolted out of the car. The parking lot was strewn with glass and concrete. He could hear the terrified screams coming from the rubble. People began to stumble from what was left of the building, covered in blood and soot, some charred from the heat of the blast. As he maneuvered to the emergency room doors, a paramedic tried to stop him. His face was glazed with sweat he caught his arm.

"You can't go in there."

He threw off the man's restraining hand and whipped out his badge.

"I'm going in..."

"The rest of the building could collapse."

"There may be people alive in there." Mulder growled. "If you can't job, fine. But, don't stop me from doing mine."

"Jason?"

Scully crept around the nurses station on all fours.

Pausing, flinching, as another piece a glass pierced through her skin, she inched around the counter to where he had fallen.

Daylight filtered into the corridor which had gone dark with smoke and loss of electricity. She peered down the corridor to where the west wall had been ripped away. Half of the hospital was gone. Gone. She gasped, choking on smoke, trying to breathe in air that was suddenly hot and charged.

"Dana..."

She turned back to Myers. His face was scorched from the the blast. She had been spared the intense heat, shielded by the counter of the station. His dazed eyes met hers.

"A bomb," he whispered.

"A bomb," she nodded. Her ears rang painfully from the massive blast. Cupping them, she glanced around what remained of the emergency room. Wires dangled from the ceiling which had partially collapsed, dripping layers of insulation and fragmented plaster. There was glass and debris everywhere. Her eyes shifted to where she heard the groans and whimpering of people.

Several hospital personnel had already struggled to their feet.

Stunned, some sought out the injured while others sought their escape.

Scully tugged at Myers arm.

"We got to get these people out of here," she gasped.

Myers shifted himself up and pushed her away.

"You're the one who had got to leave, Dana. Before it's too late."

"I'm not going anywhere until I check for survivors."

She rose to her full height. She searched through the rubble for the boy and his mother. She found them huddled behind the overturned examining table. Both wore stunned, their arms and faces streaked with blood.

"Jason, help me." she called over her shoulder. He joined her, leaning over to pull the woman to her feet. She moaned.

Myers steadied her and began to steer her towards the opening in the wall. Scully grabbed the boy and followed.

"Scully..."

She whirled around. Mulder. She could hear his voice in the distance. Her eyes strained down the corridor towards the waiting room. He was battling his way through the wreckage to reach her.

"Get as far away from the building as fast as you can." she pushed the boy through the opening.

"Mulder." She screamed his name. Energy surged through her legs as she sprinted down the hall and into his arms. He clasped her tightly to him, lifting her off her feet.

She was alive. She was alive.

"God, baby, I was so scared." he murmured, pressing desperate kisses across her face. It was then that he felt the stickiness against his lips. Her skin was smeared with sweat and blood. Her hair was matted to her temple where the skin had been lacerated. He pushed her away suddenly, his eyes traveling the length of her in the dim light. Her forearms were scratched, bleeding, staining the front of her scrubs.

"Your hurt." he cried.

"I'm fine." she assured him. "Help me, Mulder. There are still people in here."

"Dana." It was Myers. He had returned to find her. Seeing her with Mulder, he exhaled in relief.

"Agent Mulder." He spoke urgently. "You have got to listen closely. She's in danger..."

"Jason, no!" Scully snapped.

"Dana, you knew this might happen. We all did. The program in this hospital is dead. And, so are you if you stay here."

"Scully?" Mulder peered down into her face. Her eyes dropped as if she was seeking a way to contradict what Myers had just told him.

"Agent Mulder, you have got to get her out of Baltimore.

Those responsible for this will be looking for her. Wanting to make sure that the operative is among the dead. She's the one, Mr. Mulder. Without her, none of this would have been possible."

The doctor gave Mulder a sharp look and continued.

"I saved your life. Now, you save hers."

Mulder needed no further encouragement. He seized Scully around the waist and dragged her down the corridor to where the wall opened to sunlight and safety. She resisted, protesting first with words, then struggling with him physically. He refused to listen, pulling her along side of him, stopping to lift her into his arms when she tried to jerk away.

"Mulder, please listen..." She grasped his neck for support.

"Not this time." His arms tightened around her legs and back as she twisted in his grasp.

Her strength did not compare with his. She could do nothing other than stare back with regret to where Myers stood. He lifted his hand in farewell.

Back at the townhouse, he packed quickly. She retrieved two suitcases from the back of her bedroom closet. One contained clothes. The other held her personal effects and money.

"I see that you've been prepared." Mulder commented.

"Ever since the bombing in Detroit," she conceded finally.

There was no time to linger. Not even time for her to shower and change. She rushed into the guest bedroom. Reaching for a disc, she began the process of sabotaging her computer.

Once the task was completed, she reached for her medical bag and joined Mulder at the front door.

As they left, she paused as if she forgot something. He anxiously waited while she turned back to securely lock the door to the townhouse.

"Locking out the Yankees, Scarlett?" he joked, realizing his mistake when he saw the look on her face. She was about to cry.

In the car, she did. Overcome by stress and trauma, she hunched over in the passenger seat and wept.

Mulder gave her a tense look. He wanted to comfort her but there was no time. He couldn't stop driving and getting out a Baltimore was an arduous task. Roads were blocked off by emergency crews. Traffic was congested. All had stopped to witness the devastation. Finally, he steered the car off the road and onto the shoulder. He maneuvered it several hundred yards to the entrance of I-95.

"North or South, Scully?"

She sniffed and looked up. Tears had streaked paths through the dirt and dried blood on her face. She stared at him with incomprehensive eyes, as if the decision was too hard to for her to make. She was retreating into a state of shock.

"North then." He answered for her. To go South they would have to pass by D.C. Ground zero.

They drove until dark, until Mulder's concern for her condition outweighed his determination to get as far away as possible. They stopped at a roadside motel which was cheap and garish. Inside their room, he gently stripped off her soiled hospital scrubs. When she wavered unsteadily on her feet, he removed his own clothes and steered her into the bathroom. The fluorescent light flickered, casting a harsh, uneven glow on their bodies. He held her in the shower as the hot water coursed down them both. Dirt and dried blood began to wash clean of her skin. When he lathered her hair with shampoo, bits of glass came away in his hands.

She was silent, yielding to him like a trusting child. He wrapped her in a towel and led her to the bed. He used tweezers to retrieve splinters of glass that were still embedded in her arms and hands. She didn't flinch. When he applied antiseptic to her many cuts and scratches, she stared at the ceiling with vacant eyes. Drops of water fell from his wet hair onto her face as he scrutinized a laceration that ran from her scalp down to her temple. The shower had removed the caked blood that sealed it. Now it began to seep again.

"I don't know, Scully." He bit his lip. "You may need a doctor to look at this one."

"I am a doctor," she murmured. It was the first time she spoke in hours. The hot shower had warmed her. Her numbness was fading.

"Your dripping on me, Mulder."

"Sorry." He sat back. She reached out and clasped his hand.

"In my bag there should be some bandages."

"Got em." He pressed them along the cut. The bleeding stopped.

"Tired, Mulder," she whispered as her eyelids began to flutter close.

Mulder lifted the edge of the bedspread and glided her under the sheets. He removed the towel and tossed it over a chair.

"Want your jammies?"

She shook her head.

"Just you."

He eased into the bed beside her. Her tiny, beleaguered body curled up next to his. Her breath fell evenly against his chest. She had fallen asleep.

The next morning, he left her sleeping to go across the street to a diner where he brought breakfast, coffee and a paper.

When he returned, she was awake, sitting fully dressed on the edge of the bed watching the morning news. As he handed her a cup of coffee, his eyes studied her contorted features. She looked battleworn. Her skin was pallid except for the area surrounding the bandaged forehead. It had reddened with inflammation. When he pointed it out to her, she nodded solemnly and asked for her medical bag.

"What are you doing?" he asked, flinching as she drew out a syringe and a vial of medicine.

"Antibiotic," she told him.

She tore open the plastic bag that held the syringe.

"You're not going to make me do that are you?" He tensed with the thought of sticking a needle into her skin.

"You did it once before," Scully reminded him as she jabbed the syringe into the lid of the bottle and measured out the dosage.

"Once was enough," Mulder protested squeamishly.

"Here hold this." She held out the syringe. He took it hesitantly.

She contemplated him as she reached for a pad moistened with alcohol. She rubbed it against the skin of her upper arm.

"It's okay, Mulder," she answered as she took the syringe back from him. He grimaced as she injected herself with it.

"You are something..." His voice dropped in awe.

"Yeah," she scoffed as she withdrew the needle and wrapped it back in the plastic. "I'm something alright. Because of me, hundreds of lives were lost at Baltimore General yesterday. Hundreds..."

"Don't blame yourself, Scully," Mulder cautioned her.

"You're not responsible."

"I'm the operative. I brought the program there."

"You brought hope. You brought survival. Hundreds may have been lost, but thousands have been spared."

"Don't try to placate me with your philosophical bullshit, Mulder." Scully retorted. She rubbed her arm which stung from the injection.

"Then stop the self-flagellation." Mulder countered. "You and the others knew this could happen. It did. This is a war, Scully. There are bound to be victims."

"I want out," she bellowed back. "I don't want to be a part of it anymore. I want that ordinary life that you spoke of. I want it with you."

"So get out," Mulder responded dryly. "What's stopping you?

The provisions have been made for you to disappear. And, although the identities of the victims aren't in yet, I'm sure that Myers will make sure your name is among them."

"The provision is for me to drop out of sight for a while.

Not permanently. Just long enough for things to settle down.

Myers will report the truth to the CDC. In a few months, they will expect me to resurface. I'll be reassign me to another facility ... another program."

"Again, Scully, the choice is yours," he pointed out.

"I want it to be ours," Scully insisted. "What about you, Mulder? You've got to report into the Bureau."

"Just long enough to resign," said Mulder.

"You can't mean that," she protested. "It's your life's work."

"Lives change," he told her. "What would you have me do, Scully? Go back to tracking down serial killers? Chasing the proverbial monster of the week while the fate of mankind is crashing down around us?"

"What are we going to do?" she whispered in agitation.

"We're going to give you time to heal. Time to reflect and decide what we should do next." He reached for her hand and squeezed it tightly. "We're going to take that suitcase full of money and for the next few months, live that ordinary life."

An ordinary life...

An ordinary life with him...

The End


Feedback is most graciously accepted. Please e-mail me at paigecaldwell@hotmail.com.

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