Title: To The Bone
Author: Brighid
Spoilers: Scully's Season 4 Story Arc Rating: R for language and graphic imagery
Category: SA
Keywords: Sequel to Tonight I Was
Warning: Violent, bloody, and someone gets staked.
Archive: Gossamer, yes; otherwise keep my name
let me know.
Constructive feedback greatly appreciated. Please. Please. Please.
Disclaimer: All things X-files belong to Chris Carter, 1013, and Fox. This is not for profit, but for love.

Summary: Death would have been too easy. Mulder gets help, and sees things through to their unnatural conclusion.

Author's note: One - the title is from Depeche Mode's "Stripped". Two - this makes more sense if you've read "Tonight I Was". You can find it at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Styx/6608/poetry.html .Three- this is for Kelley. I'm ALMOST done my share of the edits, I promise. This just had to be finished because it leapt out and bit me on the tuchus.

I open my eyes slowly against the sanguine light of the neon sign, more than a little surprised to find myself alive. Consciousness is a slow process, giving me a chance to answer that little mystery: I'm not. Alive, that is. No pulse, not to speak of. No breathing. No heat. Nothing.

Well, shit.

Memory is vague, at first, eluding me as I struggle to understand why I am naked in a motel room bed, feeling like the fourth day of a three-day pass. Everything hurts, at least in a vague, distant way, which seems more than a little strange in light of the fact that I'm not goddamned breathing. Gradually, the images blossoming like bruises, I remember. At first it is only short, jumbled images, but as the minutes tick over I began to sort them into place, creating a bigger, clearer picture.

I work my hands free of the binding sheets, touch my throat, find twin punctures along the carotid. The merest brush of finger tips, and they flare in remembered agony; the feel of her mouth on me sears white-hot along my nerve-endings, burns me to ashes. She had been a dagger sliding into me; I feel the wound only now, now that she has gone.

I want to attribute this half-life to mercy. I want it to be a gift, an offering, anything other than what it really is. I remember her eyes in the dark, round and silvered like a cat's, the feral gleam of gaze and smile. There had been no human kindness there, barely anything human at all. This isn't mercy.

It's payback.

I fight my way clear of the bed, struggle to my unsteady feet. My head reverberates with the night sounds of the nearby highway, the hum of sleeping bodies and the other, human noises of the motel. I realize with a start that not only can I hear them, but I can smell them as well. Before I even understand what I am doing, my tongue is out, testing the air, and Christ, I can taste them, too. My gut knots fiercely at that, staggers me with a pain that threatens to core me.

At a guess, it is hunger. I don't want to think about it, explore it. I'm not ready for the answers that I half-suspect. Instead, I stand against the pain and search the room and ensuite for something to wear. My clothes are gone, the sheets hopelessly bloodstained, and she has apparently taken the goddamned towels after cleaning herself off. The shower still carries her scent. I press my face against the slick tiles and inhale her deeply, feeling her curl her way down to my toes. The twin punctures on my throat throb in memory.

I give up my search at last, returning to the bed. I wipe myself off with one of the pillowcases, then sit back and reach for the phone. Thank God for a near-eidetic memory; the man is unlisted. I dial his number with still-shaky fingers, and wait impatiently as the phone rings.

"Skinner." The voice is brisk, no-nonsense despite the hour. I feel myself relax imperceptibly, even as my mouth quirks at the thought of what he'll say to this.

"Sir, it's me, Mulder. I'm sorry to wake you, but I need your help." I can picture him pinching the bridge of his nose, knocking his glasses askew. Can hear the frustration in the growling exhalation.

"Where the hell have you been, Mulder? Neither you nor Scully show up today, and now you call me at-." there is a pause; I can hear the rustle as he turns in bed to check a clock. " Midnight." Skinner sighs. "What do you want, Mulder?"

Something dark and fierce stirs inside me, whispers what it really wants. I bite back a laugh, knowing it will lead me into hysteria. "I need you to come to room 123 of the Adderly Motel. You know where it is?"

Again the soft growl. "I know where it is," he acknowledges. "I'll be there within the hour."

"And sir, I need you to bring me some clothes. Anything will do." The laughter bubbles inside me again as he snorts.

"What the hell have you gotten yourself into, Mulder?" he asks dryly, a little despairingly. "I guess I'll find out soon enough, won't I?" With that he hangs up. I return the handset to its cradle, sit myself on the least filthy blanket, and wait. I probably should be figuring out some way of explaining this to Skinner, but I'm too damn tired, too damned scared, and it is all I can manage not to crawl the walls from the gnawing ache inside me.

The door is unlocked when I reach it. Not totally unexpected, but with Mulder, it always pays to be wary. I sling the duffel bag over my shoulder, pull my gun out of my ankle holster and nudge the door open with my foot. "You in there, Mulder?"

"In all my glory," comes the dry response.

I move in, gun still up, to find Mulder sitting bare-assed on the bed. I holster my gun and go for the light switch. He winces, curls into himself, as though the light hurts him. I switch it off quickly; I've seen enough, anyway, for now. The bed under Mulder is an ugly red smear, and Mulder is little better. Shit.

I move across the room, dropping the duffel. I reach out, touch his bare flank, touch his bent head. "What the hell is going on, Mulder? How badly are you hurt? Why the hell didn't you call an ambulance?" His skin is cold and slick beneath my hands, like ice. At a guess, shock, but why? How?

He lifts his face from the cradle of his knees, and his eyes are strange in the glow cast by the distant streetlights. They shine, silvery, like a raccoon caught in headlights. "I wouldn't get too close to me, sir," he says, his voice high and strained, and fuck, his nostrils flare and his lip curls and he is all teeth. Something inside me snaps, panics. I flop back, crab-walk back from him, scrambling and falling over the forgotten duffel.

"What the fuck happened here, Mulder?" There is comfort in the offense, in attacking where I am weakest. Right now I feel so weak that my knees are water.

"I think I ditched Scully once too often," he replies, his voice an odd mix of dry ruefulness and strained tension. "Sir, this situation is seriously beyond anything I've ever experienced before, and well, shit, I needed help. Need help. Please."

If I had a calendar I think I would mark a red ring around the date. "How about you start at the beginning, and then we go from there?" I sit up, then stand up, and cross my arms across my chest. "This had better be good, Mulder."

He looks at me, and the strange gleam fades from his eyes, leaves them dark and sad. "Good is not the word for it, sir." He uncoils on the bed, unconcerned by his nakedness, almost unaware of it, despite the damp chill that pervades the room. "But I can promise you interesting."

I'll say this for Skinner, he listened all the way through without once interrupting. When I was done, he simply shook his head and muttered something he must have picked up in the Marines. "Well, do you believe me, or are you going to put in me in five-point restraints?" I hazard after a long, uneasy silence.

A muscle along his jaw twitches, jumps. I think I've been a one-man workout plan for that muscle over the last few years. Every time I deal with the man, his teeth grind down a little lower, the muscle twitches a little more. "I believe you. Which probably means I should be in five-point restraints, but I believe you." He sits down on the edge of the dresser he's been leaning against. "Between that non-regulation hickey you're sporting, the fact you've got more teeth than you had last time I saw you, and your tendency to forget to fucking breathe when you're not talking, I've got to accept that something is going on." He shakes his head, like a bear shaking off bees. "How the hell do you manage this, Mulder? I mean, the conspiracy shit was just sort of handed to you - but this is just plain dumb luck. How the hell do you manage it?"

"I think I must've fucked up big in my last life," I offer with a shrug. "And now, after all that, back to the mundane. Please tell me you brought clean underwear and a towel in that bag. I'm about ready to crawl out of my skin."

Skinner bends down, grabs the duffel and lobs it to me. "Yeah. It's mostly my gym kit, so there's a towel and sweats. Hope you can handle boxers. I figured my briefs would end up around your knees."

"And isn't that an image for the poor bastard transcribing the surveillance tapes," I say, letting my lip curl enough to show the joke, fighting it going any further. I keep wanting to bare my teeth at him, make him cower and tremble like he did when he first found me. I'm not entirely sure how much of it is a result of my transformation, and how much is just some petty desire to get back at him for all the times he's ripped me a new asshole in that office of his. I don't think I want to find out; neither motivation is very comforting. Instead, I dart into the bathroom and shut the door behind me.

I turn the shower as hot as it will go, and don't feel anything at all. Not hot, not cold; there isn't anything. I can feel the weak pressure of the shower spray, can feel the grit and stink of my humanity slide off me, but it is distant, muffled. It terrifies me, unmans me. I start to cry, to try and weep out the strange disconnectedness that pervades me, but all that will come are these dry, choking noises; it feels like the ultimate loss, that I have no tears to cry.

That hurts most of all, that I finally feel. My body surges and heaves and cannot weep. I howl at that, drive my fist into the tiling, began to pummel myself into the wall as if that can somehow provide the catharsis my stolen tears cannot. I want to feel my body bruise and break, want to be able to mark my loss somehow. Once again it is nothing but distant sensation. My throat opens up, and a torrent of grief and rage lets loose.

The sudden howl over the hiss of the shower startles me, makes me reach for my gun. I haven't heard anything like that in over 20 years, outside of nightmares. Shit.

I run into the steam-fogged bathroom, find him pummeling his body against the old, yellow tiles of the shower. His face is like that cliched tragedy mask, all gaping mouth and dark, endless eyes. For the second time that night a chill walks through me, strips me. This time, it feels like pity.

I reach into the shower, swearing as the water scalds along my arms and back. I hook his flailing body, pull him against me and out of the shower. He continues to thrash, slender body alternately slamming into me and arching out from me, a bizarre push and pull between us like a magnetic charge. Somehow I manage to turn him around despite the manic strength of him, manage to cage him against my ribs with arms that twenty years of weight training have seemingly prepared for this.

All of sudden he is soft and pliant against me, the borrowed heat of the shower leaching away and leaving him slick and cold in my embrace. The water pools around us, soaks into my pants as I slide to the floor and brace myself against the pressboard vanity. I try to mutter soothing things to him, try to comfort him, despite the strangeness of his chill, silent body.

I feel his face settle into the hollow of my neck, brush against the warm pulse of my carotid. His mouth opens softly, surrounding it, and I feel his tongue dart out, soft and snake-fast. I think what startles me most is the warmth of it, the animal heat that is missing from the rest of him. It is as if all the life has concentrated in him, narrowed to this one, small point, where his body joins to another's. My breath hitches in my chest; I find myself hovering between the desire to shove him away and pull him closer still.

He is warm and solid and utterly real beneath me, and I want nothing more than to dive into him, swallow him whole. He tastes good, the heat and salt and tang of him the only real sensation I've known since I woke to this half-life; the pulse of his blood echoes through me, gives me an answering pulse that I feel in my belly, my balls, by toes. I feel his breath catch and shiver in his body, feel the pulse drive up, but his arms don't waver, he doesn't flinch under me, and that soothes the wildness inside, just a little. No one has ever held me like this before. No one.

I let my tongue drift up, press the throbbing length of his artery, then pull back slightly. "Would it offend you, sir, if I said that I wanted you in the worst way?"

A short, sharp bark of laughter convulses the body beneath mine. "Don't bother, Mulder. I'm still not signing off on your last expense account." His voice is deep and gruff and threaded with wry amusement.

I pull back further, away from the temptation of his warm, human flesh. "Thank-you." His eyes are dark and deep behind the glint of his glasses, and I see the flash of understanding. Skinner has never been a stupid man.

"You're welcome," he says, shifting to rise to his feet. I stand first, tug him effortlessly up. He is surprised for a moment, than shakes his head ruefully. "I see the days of me getting you in a headlock are long gone," he says at last. He hands me the towel I'd laid out on the counter, watches incuriously as I dry off. "So what do we do now?"

"Find Scully," I answer, shimmying into the boxers he hands me, laughing slightly as they hang on my spare hips. "Kill Scully."

His eyes shut, and that muscle jumps yet again. "You're sure that's the only choice?" He asks the question because he must, because it has to be asked. My very existence is all the answer he needs.

I nod anyway. "And once she's dead, you have to kill me," I reply, pulling the sweat top over my head and heading back into the bedroom. I can hear the sharp sound of his inhalation, feel the shock as my word sink in. He doesn't argue, but I sense he is putting one together in that A.D. head of his. I can sense him thinking, 'but you're not like her' and I know, in what used to be my heart, that it is more accurate to say I'm not like her, yet.

I can still taste him, and the darkness inside wants more.

His apartment is the same as it always is: small, dank, depressing. Shit, I think even the fish are depressed; they just sort of drift aimlessly in the water. I had fish once, as a kid. They used to at least come to the side of the tank when someone stood by them. Mulder's fish go and hide in the plants. Considering the amount of gunplay that's gone on in here, I'm not really all that surprised. They may be sluggish, but they obviously aren't stupid.

I can hear him on the phone as he changes into his own clothes, talking to Langly, who apparently is up on the Goth scene. I try not to think too hard about that one. It's two in the fucking morning and I'm too damned tired for that level of weird. Instead, I pace the living room, taking a mental tour through all the terribly bad things that have happened in Mulder's apartment. He must have something on the landlords; if he were my tenant, I'd have evicted him years ago.

Mulder reappears, wearing black jeans, a black silk shirt, and a black leather jacket. Combined with the luminescent pallor of his face, he is some Goth's wet dream, no doubt. He tosses a pad of paper at me, and I glance down at it, see a bunch of addresses.

"They're after-hours clubs, Goth or related, that are within a 10 mile radius of Scully's place," he explains. "Some are poetry and music, some are raves that won't stop. She's probably going to be hunting in one of them, trying to blend in."

I glance from the pad to him and back again. "What, are your vampire senses tingling?" I ask at last. I can feel him flinch at that, at the first time someone uses that word. I've never been afraid to speak plainly to him before; I'll be damned if I start now.

I look up to find his eyes half-lidded and gleaming, a small, sleek smile on his face. "Something like that," he admits. "I've got this territorial feeling, you know, and right now it's centering here," he gestures around his apartment, "so I figure Scully's probably the same." Eyes snap open, darken back to normal. "Besides which, she'll have to be subtle or else risk being caught. She'll choose a venue where her appearance, her preoccupations won't make her stand out. And all the legal bars and clubs will be closing." He strides across the room, hands me a black T-shirt. "Put this on. Your little grey sweatshirt will scare all the dead wannabes."

I drop the addresses, pull off my sweatshirt and pull on the black knit T-shirt. It clings like a second skin, and Mulder laughs. "Well, sir, if we were going out to the gay bars you'd have 'em lining up." He stares at me a moment longer, a wicked smile curving that too-mobile mouth. "Maybe we can stop off and get you a piercing somewhere tonight."

I marshal my face into an A.D. scowl. "I don't think so, Mulder." I pull my trench on, the black leather indulgence that Sharon had bought me the year before our divorce. I don't think I'll fit well, but they'll be too damned busy looking at Mulder. The sonuvabitch gleams, like moonlight. It's scary. I can feel that terrible push-pull in my belly even now.

He picks up the pad, hands it back to me, and then heads out the door. "I hope you like Nine Inch Nails, sir," he says with that same wicked smile as he pauses to lock the door behind us.

"Only if I get to choose who I pound 'em into," I answer, at my very driest. He snorts at that, and laughs openly, without the shadows that have dogged him all evening. His eyes are bright and hazel, and the only gleam in them is pure Mulder. I wonder how long that will last.

Three clubs down, all of them washouts. We've gotten into every one, too, despite a few wary looks at Skinner. He really does look like a poster boy for Gay America, big and butch. I think they let him in because they think we're 'together' together, and at least I fit the part. If he hasn't figured it out, I'm not going to enlighten him. He's handled things pretty damn well tonight; I'd hate to blow his mind over such a piddling little detail.

It's hell going into those clubs; it's not the heat but the humanity that gets to me. Hundreds of heartbeats, synched together by music or absinthe or nihilism, and I can feel them inside me like there's nothing else in the world. I open my mouth and I taste them, smell them, feel them crawl inside me. Skinner's pulse beneath my mouth was enough to make the hunger rise up. These little pretenders are an invitation to madness. I want to know them all, from the inside out.

I want to know them, to the bone.

It's here in the fourth club, a black painted warehouse with neon lights, that I sense her. I breathe in the night and she is there, filling me up. I can taste her, swallow her, and the almost-healed marks on my throat pulse with the memory of her body sinking into mine. I stand stone still in the threshold, searching through the mist and gloom and candles, trying to find with my eyes what I know in my gut.

Skinner bumps gently into my back, and his breath is soft on the side of my face. "She's here." It isn't a question, but I nod anyway. He puts a hand on my shoulder, lets my body direct him even as my instincts turn me towards her.

She is at the bar, small and white and inarguably lovely in a black T-shirt and miniskirt. Her hair is sleek and blood red around her white, white face. She is paler even than when the cancer threatened to eat her up, gobble her down, but this time it looks good on her. She's learned how to make death work for her.

Her hands toy with a wineglass as she talks to a waif-girl in a long, velvet gown. Her fingers flash in and out, weaving small spells in the space between her and the young woman. She is all smiles, bone-white and brilliant, and her entire concentration is focused on the girl she is seducing, spinning up in spider silk. She reaches out, touches the girl's carefully painted face, leans in and kisses dark lips, then gestures her towards the back exit. The girl smiles, a trifle dazed, and takes Scully's waiting hand.

We find them in the alley, Scully wrapped around the girl with her face buried in the slight cleavage of the girl's gown. I reach her first, pull her back, and I am torn between the desire to lick away the carnelian smear that stains her face and the equally powerful urge to rip her fucking face right off.

I watch in amazement as Scully leads the girl into the alley, have to shake myself to remember that I'm witnessing a stalking, not a seduction. This is an act of predation, not passion. Mulder is off after her, cutting through the club's depths like a knife, pushing through with the same relentlessness that has marked all his work. It's nice to know some things don't change.

I have to run to keep up. I don't take kindly to being ditched.

She's taking the girl right there in the alley, pressed up against an overflowing dumpster. I see Scully's bright head pressed against the flat white of the girl's half exposed breast, see the girl's lolling head and glazed eyes. It is the most erotic, most repugnant thing I've ever seen. A shudder moves through me, and I'm not sure if it's longing or revulsion.

Mulder grabs Scully, pulls her away from her prey. I step in, grab the dazed girl and hustle her out of the alley, shaking and haranguing her back to her senses. I know I ought to see her to medical care, but that would raise too many questions I'm not prepared to answer. Instead, I cram a twenty into her hand and tell her to take a cab to the nearest emergency room. It'll have to do.

By the time I turn around again, Mulder and Scully are nowhere to be seen.

Some things really never do change, apparently.


She is a hellcat in my hands, all tooth and claw and appetite. This time we are matched, though, and for every blow she lands, I get in one of my own. I had thought waking was painful; that was hopeless naiveté on my part. When she touches me, cuts me, tears me, there is no disconnection or distance. I feel it everywhere at once, tearing me in two, each time she claws or bites.

Finally she manages to climb up my body, like a cat up a tree, and sink her teeth over the old marks she left the first time. My body stiffens, ablaze in agony white-hot and vicious, forcing me to my knees. By the time my vision clears, she is gone, nothing more than a small blur climbing up the side of a distant warehouse. I howl something unintelligible and take after her, relentless in my pursuit.

That is, after all, what I do best.

It takes awhile, but I find them. Somehow, some way I don't even want to begin to consider, they've gotten to the roof of a warehouse at the far end of the alley. I walk the perimeter of the building, and manage to find a fire escape. Apparently we the living still have to work a little harder at these things. By the time I reach the top, I am huffing, despite an hour at the gym every day. If they both weren't already dead, I'd kill them.

They're grappling, rolling on the tar roof, two wild things. They make noises I'm never going to be able to wash out of my brain. The mere sight of them makes me want to piss myself. It's like watching two wolves fighting over who gets to crack your marrow. A part of me wants to turn around, head back down the fire escape and just go home and pull the fucking covers up over my head. It would be the sensible thing to do, and God knows that until Fox Mulder and his X-Files got assigned to me, I was a man who tried to do the sensible thing.

Instead I bend over, take my back-up piece from my ankle holster, and circle around them, looking for an opportunity. I don't hold out much hope of it doing any good if I do get a shot off. I've only got standard issue, and I have this feeling that it's got to be silver or something like that - or is that werewolves?

They just didn't cover this shit at Quantico. God knows, until Fox Mulder, they didn't need to.

It happens then, flows into place with the precision and grace of a ballet or a great hockey play. She rolls him over, pins him under her with unnatural strength, and rears back her head like a snake about to strike. I squeeze off first one shot, then another, finally emptying my gun into her face. It staggers her, throws her off her balance. For a second she just smiles at me, a sickening coquetry from the midst of her ruined visage, and then she tilts her head and laughs.

"Wait your turn, Walter. You're next."

Even as my blood freezes to absolute zero, she is toppled over, losing her advantage in the momentary distraction. Mulder is on top of her, his head burying itself in the soft juncture of neck and shoulder. She wails and screams and flails under him, body arching impossibly high, but he rides her out, covering her with his long, gangling limbs, blanketing her in the determined weight of his body.

After a painfully long time, she at last goes still.

I feel her go silent under me, know that it is finished beyond pretense or deception. I ease back off of her, pull her into my arms, cradle her once-again-mortal body against mine. She is small and fragile and beautiful despite her shattered face, and more than anything I want to lick the blood from her, so not a drop is wasted.

I throw my head back and howl, a sound that echoes and reverberates and threatens to split the night in two. I feel her stir slightly, feel her sigh my name against the stained silk of my shirt.

I look down, and her eyes are blue and bright and Scully again. "I'm sorry," I say, pressing my mouth over a bullet hole in her forehead and allowing myself nothing more than a human kiss. "So fucking sorry, Scully."

She shakes her head slightly, barely any movement at all. "Just, too much. Couldn't take being taken anymore," she says softly, as though pushing each word out by sheer force of will. "Felt - good - to be the one taking," she admits, a trace of a smile on her bloodstained mouth. "Too good." She sighs, shifts in my grasp. "End it, please."

Her gaze is unyielding, unwavering, and I cannot turn my eyes. I hear the sound of someone scrabbling about, the sound of metal scraping wood, and a few minutes later feel something cold and slick pressed into my hand. I glance at what Skinner's handed me, see part of a skylight frame, rusty-red from weather and his blood. After a moment or two of just staring he sighs and pulls it from my grasp again.

"Put her down, Mulder," he says, and his deep, gravel voice is painfully gentle. Another sigh and he crouches down, pulls her from my arms. I snarl, bare my teeth at him, but he barely flinches, just drags her away and lays her on the dirty tar roof. He presses the makeshift stake back into my grasp, covers my hands with his own, and raises our arms above our heads. Together, with all the force we can both muster, we drive it down through the fragile barrier of her ribs, and through her heart.

She flails once, makes a single soft noise as the stake pierces her through. Her eyes blaze sapphire, lance through me even as the stake hits the roof beneath her and sends a jarring shock wave back up the stake and through our arms. I think the noise was thank-you, but I am sobbing too hard and cannot hear what she says.

A moment later is she is dust, and then not even that.

This time, I feel tears running over my cheeks. Skinner reaches out, wipes them away, and then holds his fingers up for me to see. They glisten darkly in the moonlight, and I start to laugh, laugh until I think I might vomit up the blood I've swallowed.

I should have known my tears would have a price. They always have before.

He is weeping, dark tears that leave bloody streaks on his lightly flushed face. I fight the impulse to stick my fingers in my mouth and suck the blood away. "C'mon, Mulder. Somebody's going to call those shots in, and we'd better be long gone before the police show up. I don't feel like explaining this whole Van Helsing routine to anyone." My breath wreathes my head, and for the first time that night I realize it is cold.

He just sits there, weeping silently, staring at me with eyes gone silver in the moonlight. At last he reaches blindly out, fumbles around until he finds the stake. He grasps it tightly, then wordlessly holds it out to me.

I shake my head at him. No. No. "No, Mulder. No."

His expression shifts, becomes angry. "Yes, Skinner, yes!" he contradicts, his voice a hiss. "Unless you want to go through that with me, too. Track me down, wrestle me to the ground, fight me once the darkness inside takes over and makes me as much predator as any animal we ever put away!" He thrusts it into my hands, viciously, determinedly. "I can smell your blood, Skinner. I can fucking taste you, even though I just gorged myself on Scully, and the only thing I can think about is pulling you into my arms and crawling inside of you, draining you to the marrow and then sucking that dry." He uncoils, slithers over to me, presses his slick face against my throat. For the second time that night he covers my carotid with his mouth, tonguing the artery to the rhythm of my pulse. I drop the stake, and press his face hard into me, hard enough so that his too-sharp teeth pierce me.

"Then do it, you sorry fuck, just do it," I hiss, both hating and loving the feel of him against me. Blood and sex, the fundamentals of life and death. And here Mulder was, both of them in deadly package.

He tenses against me, straining against me like a horny teenager about to break in a virgin. I feel a small tentative suckle, feel my eyes roll back in my head at the sheer sensation of it, and then it stops. He shudders in my arms, collapses against me, boneless in his exhaustion.

"I can't," he whispers, face still pressed against my throat.

"And that's why I can't," I explain gently, tenderly.

"Even if I said please?" he asks, pulling away and smiling lopsidedly. "C'mon, Skinner. You've gotta admit you've fantasized about driving a stake through my heart. You'd be lying if you said you haven't."

I stand up, pull him to his feet. "Mulder, I don't even want to begin to put fantasy and you in the same sentence." I sober. "Whoever did that to her is still out there, you know," I say quietly, awfully.

Mulder nods. "So he is," he agrees. "And then there's all those men behind the scenes, the movers and shakers. The conspirators. I have a feeling that I still have a lot of work to do." He closes his eyes, infinitely weary. He is more alone than I can ever remember seeing him.

"You're going to need someone to help cover your tracks," I offer quietly.

He opens his eyes, regards me thoughtfully. "Yeah, I suppose I will. And someone to feed me information. Know anyone?"

I nod. "I might." I lift up my arm, let it come around his shoulders, trying to give him my trust despite the faint, lingering trace of terror that snakes along spine.

He leans against me for a second, impossibly cool and thin, then pulls away and begins to head towards the fire escape. "Better get going before the sun comes up. Since the stake worked, I don't feel much like tempting fate with the dawn. Not today, anyway." He pauses at the lip of the roof, studies me with hazel eyes, Mulder eyes. "You're going to have to kill me, eventually," he says, his tone almost apologetic.

I smile at him. "Well, shit, Mulder, I always knew that." He laughs, and it is genuine and real and completely Mulder. It is a start.

The End.

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