Titles: Walls 01 - Coming Down
Author: Saraid
Rated NC-17
Category XRA
Archived 96-09-14
Spoilers: Anasazi
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance.

Summary: En route to New Mexico after his father's death, Scully comforts Mulder with lovemaking, but Mulder doesn't remember it until questioned by Skinner later on. Confronting Scully, Mulder wants to do it again - "only one time."

Author's Note Author's note from Saraid: Greetings and salutations. This is the first story I've ever posted, although I wrote it about a year ago. I'm a johnny-come-lately to the electronic revolution, okay? If you like it I'd like to hear about, if you hate it I want to know, and if you couldn't care less one way or the other, keep it to yourself . send comments to: matsu@wf.net I'm most interested in emotional response; how did it make you feel?

I've played a little fast and loose with the storyline, but you should be able to place it in the timeline. This is the first segment of my vision of M&S's future, and it's here in two parts. Practically all relationship stuff. Some of you won't agree with it. That's okay. Maybe as I post the other parts you'll understand.

I should warn you here that I'm not a particularly cheerful person and this isn't going to be a particularly cheerful series. You want a quick happy ending, look elsewhere details -- these characters actually belong to CC, etc, etc, etc, but I really do care about them and sincerely hope that no one is offended if I play with them for a while -- I promise they'll have fun! The rating on this piece is DEFINITELY R, and perhaps NC-17, depending on your sensibilities. I haven't let my fourteen-year-old daughter read it, so if you're under seventeen, skip it.

Part #1 Respite

Mulder staggered and Scully ducked under his arm, leading him into the room.

"You're sick, Mulder. You need to rest."

"I gotta find them, Scully. They killed my father. I gotta find them." A harsh, dry whisper.

"We'll find them," she assured him, lying him on the bed. He lay flat atop the covers, arms moving restlessly. "After you rest, we'll find them."

"Scully..." he whispered as she went out the door. She stopped, turned back, saw that he had fallen asleep, one hand stretched toward her. Going back, she tucked it in, and covered him with an extra blanket.

She took his temperature again. 102. It was still going up. Mentally she debated waking him, trying to get him into the shower to cool down, but there was no predicting his behavior under the influence of the hallucinogenic/psychotic drugs that had been fed into his system via his apartment water supply. He'd attacked Skinner, possibly shot his own father.

No. She didn't believe that.

But she didn't want to risk waking him.

He tossed restlessly, free hand crawling blindly across the bed, searching, always searching, for something.

For the hundredth time she caught them, holding them for a few minutes before tucking them up close to him, where they would stay for a while before wandering again.

The sedative wasn't working and she was afraid to give him more. Not knowing what he had been exposed to, there was always the chance of an adverse reaction to the combination.

"Dad...Dad...I didn't do it, you gotta believe me, Scully..," he was whispering again, that same fierce, desperate tone she'd been listening to for hours.

She leaned close, to speak into his ear.

"I know, Mulder. I believe you. I know."

Her words seemed to sooth him, but she was increasingly worried. He was fighting the sedative too hard, these episodes of rambling were becoming more frequent. He was sick. If he didn't rest, he might not recover...

Scully sat, and thought, watching him sleep.

She saw the next episode coming. His head tossed and he moaned softly, and his hands began twitching. Could they have given him something addictive? Were these actually the throes of withdrawal, or simply a side effect of his illness? She couldn't be sure without tests, and she had neither the time nor the equipment to run them.

This time she caught his hands as they began their wandering. Holding them in hers, sitting beside him on the bed, she was startled to see his eyes open, focusing dazedly on her.

"The only one I can trust..," he whispered. "Scully, you're the only one..."

"You can trust me, Mulder." she leaned close to reassure him. "You can."

"The only one..." His hands lifted from her lap to cup her face and she started, began to pull away, but recovered herself and held still.

"The only one..," he whispered again, and then he pulled her down beside him and his mouth closed over hers.

"Mulder!" she managed a muffled protest as his tongue invaded her mouth. She could feel the heat of his fever rolling off him in waves.

With an effort she pushed him away, backing up, sitting He had her hands now and was holding them with a death-grip, curled in a fetal position, his eyes closed again, whispering brokenly.


The sudden shout shocked Scully into action. Deciding that her physical presence might be enough to calm him, she lay beside him, an arm across his chest. He sighed and shifted to snuggle into her shoulder, his hands settling at his sides, sighing.

"Scully...trust...no one...me..." the whisper trailed off and he slept again.

"What...Mulder?" Dana jerked herself awake, exhaustion had driven her to doze. She'd been driving all day, trying to keep Mulder calm in the car, finally stopped at a motel where she barely managed to get him into the room before falling onto the bed beside him. He lay there now, very still and she was suddenly afraid.

"Mulder. Mulder!" she leaned over his chest, was relieved to see it rising slightly. Checking his pulse, she found it shallow but regular.

His temp was up to 104.4. He couldn't go much higher, was risking convulsions now.

She had to do something.

Undressing him was awkward, but she managed. When he lay almost naked on the bed she left the room long enough to get two buckets of ice from the machine in the hall and dump them in the tub that she filled with cold water.

Soaking a hotel towel and wringing it out, she lay it on his laboring chest. He mumbled and moaned and tried to roll away, but she held him down by the shoulder and kept it there until it was warm before replacing it with another. Soon he lapsed back into sullen sleep.

Her hands were red from the cold and cramped before she felt she could safely stop. His temperature was down to 101, not good, but much safer than it had been. Beyond exhaustion, she covered him with the lightest of sheets, changed into sweats and a T- shirt, and laid down beside him again, taking his restless hands into hers to quiet them, falling asleep listening to his breathing, easier now.

"Scully..." She woke to his whisper, rolled to soothe him, was surprised to see his eyes open and actually seeing her this time, clear and calm.

"Where are we?" it was a lucid question and she was tremendously relieved. Reaching a hand to touch his forehead she answered.

"In a hotel. We're on our way to someone who can help." His skin was again blistering hot, she didn't know how he could possibly be alert. "How do you feel?"

"I dreamed, Scully. I dreamed about my Dad. Is he dead, Scully? Did I kill him?" His eyes bored into hers, and she saw the shine of tears.

"No, Mulder. You didn't kill him."

"He's dead. Gone, just like Samantha..." His eyes closed and tears slid from under the lids as he began to sob quietly.

"Mulder." She stared. She had never seen him display such emotion. What was she supposed to do? "Oh, Mulder." She sighed, and scooted closer to him, to wrap her arms around his shaking shoulders and stroke his hair.

He responded by clutching her close and his tears soaked the front of her shirt.

His sobs became more wrenching and disintegrated into gasps as his lungs fought to draw air into the furnace his body had become.

"Mulder..." she whispered, worried. "Mulder...It will be okay...we'll find the ones that did it...it'll be okay..." she tried to sooth him, to calm him, but he was lost in a grief her words couldn't reach. Her hands stroked his hair, his back, pulled him closer to her. "Mulder...what can I do? How can I help you?" she said in despair. Getting a hand under his chin, she pulled his face up where she could see it, shocked at the pain etched on it as he stared at her with wide, liquid eyes. "Let me help you," she whispered.

Slowly, his eyes staring into hers, he raised his head and touched her lips with his. A feather-touch, light and unsure. Scully was still. Then he groaned softly, and, closing his eyes, pulled her mouth to his and kissed her hungrily. She wanted to pull away, afraid of this, but there was a need, a desperation in his touch that she couldn't deny.

After long minutes he stopped, pulling back and half-sitting enough to look at her, his eyes still filled with tears, his skin still so hot, studying her face in a fevered haze.

"Scully," he whispered, a statement, an acknowledgment of who she was and her place in his life. When he lowered his mouth to hers again she let him, didn't protest.

It was hard to think. Although she had considered the possibility of a relationship with him in the beginning, she had soon realized that there was no room in his life for one, besides the damage it would have caused to their professional relationship. They would have been reprimanded, separated, perhaps sanctioned. But that initial attraction hadn't gone away, it had just been sublimated, relegated to the corner of her heart reserved for 'might-have-beens'.

And now she was here. She was in his arms, and he needed her.

With a sigh of her own she began to return his kiss. He paused, but didn't draw away, didn't look at her, and that made it easier. Putting her arms around him she let herself be gathered up against him, like holding an electric blanket, so hot she was afraid again, but then his hand was under her shirt and he was pressing her down into the pillows and lowering himself onto her.

His mouth never released hers, his hand held hers close to him, and he was so gentle. He went so long she was sure he would pass out before he finished, but it soon became obvious that he was waiting for her pleasure before he took his own, and it came at last, softly, sneaking up on her, her tired body responding with a delicious shudder. His climax was close after, and he lay on top of her for many long minutes, until she was afraid he had passed out, but then he raised himself to let her breathe, and rolled them both to their sides to hold her against him, his face buried in her neck.

After a few minutes she felt wetness as he cried silently into her hair, his pain diminished, but not vanquished. Crooning wordlessly, she held him until he slipped into sodden sleep.

She held him the rest of the night, dozing and sleeping near dawn. When she woke he was still sleeping curled around her.

She lifted his arm and slid from beneath it. He sighed and turned over to lie flat on his back again, the way she had always seen him sleep before.

During a shower she mentally checked her calendar. She hadn't had a serious relationship since Lt.Brody had been killed and had given up birth control pills for the time being. But her cycle had just ended, so there shouldn't be any danger of complications from that direction.

Back in the room she dressed him again. His fever was lower, but he was still sick, too sick to be much help. It took her ten minutes to walk him to the car and, once there, she had to check his vitals again to be sure he was still okay.

He slept the entire day in the back seat covered with a purloined hotel blanket. When she stopped for gas and to check on him he mumbled and turned over, but didn't wake.

He didn't wake until the next morning, to find her sitting beside him in a hotel. He was wearing his shorts and nothing else.

When he woke she held her breath briefly, but soon realized that he didn't remember the previous two days at all.

As he got up and got himself dressed she knew she couldn't stay around, so, when he asked, she told him she had to go back and try to set things right with Skinner and the office and he accepted that, although she was sure he suspected something was wrong. But he didn't mention his father's death and she hoped he knew now that she did believe him.

The rest of the day she spent trying to concentrate on paperwork while her mind ran round the dilemma she found herself with.

There was nothing to gain from telling him, and a lot could be hurt. Theirs was a very close, very successful relationship, both as partners and as friends. Telling him would most likely destroy that.

She wouldn't tell him.

Then he called and she could tell from his voice that he had found something remarkable, wonderful, terrible...and then he was cut off and she was left holding the phone, her breath coming fast, fear filling her.

** Some Months Later Fair's Fair

"Mulder. Skinner wants to see you. ASAP." The young agent stuck his head in and was gone before Mulder could respond. With a grimace Mulder gathered up what he was working on and filed it away, leaving nothing for anyone to look at, just in case. Glancing at his watch he realized that it was past ten. Scully was late.

He picked up the phone, dialed.

No answer. Not even her machine.

"She's probably taken the morning off," he told himself. But it nagged him as he left the office. Why wasn't she answering the cellular? Why hadn't she left her machine on?

"Agent Mulder." Skinner opened the door as he approached. It was obvious he'd been waiting for him. Stepping into the room, Mulder saw a woman he didn't recognize. Pretty in a cheap way, well but not expensively dressed. There was no air of suspicion to her. Not an agent, he decided. Skinner waved him to a seat and went behind his desk. "This is Dr.Renee' Arboroun. She'd like to talk to you for a few minutes."

"What's this about?" his opening was blunt. "I've got a lot to do today." the woman was studying him, he could feel it.

"Dr.Arboroun is a clinical psychiatrist called in from another office."

"You think I'm crazy? What'd I do this time?" he was tense now, defensive in a self-righteous way. Dr.Arboroun spoke up for the first time.

"Actually, this isn't about you," she said. "I've been called in to profile your partner."

"Scully?!" he was startled and it was too loud. Skinner stared him down and he became still. "What do you think is wrong with Scully?"

She opened her briefcase on her lap and pulled out a file, opening it.

"Your partner is Dana Katherine Scully?"

"You know that." He was even more defensive now.

"You do not call her by her first name?"

"It would be unprofessional." Skinner was watching him, and Mulder saw that he had something in his lap. "Excuse me, is this being recorded?"

"That depends on you, Agent Mulder. If you tell us anything we feel is important enough to record we will start over on tape," Dr. Arboroun said.

"I can't tell you anything if I don't know what this is about."

"If you will just answer my questions I'm sure we can get to that," she said evenly.

Mulder didn't reply.

"Has Agent Scully been demonstrating any abnormal behaviors recently?"


"Has she become preoccupied or been unavailable when you needed her?"


"Agent Mulder, where is Agent Scully now?" Skinner spoke suddenly.

"I don't know."

"Doesn't she keep in touch when she's on a case?" Dr.Arboroun asked as if Skinner hadn't spoken.

"It depends. We often work independently on the same case."

"And why is that?"

Mulder frowned.

"It's productive," he answered honestly. "We can't be together all the time."

"Would you like to be?" Skinner kicked in and Mulder stared, blinked once.

"Excuse me?"

"Would you like to spend all of your time with Agent Scully?" he asked insistently.

"I'm not sure I understand the question," Mulder answered slowly.

"Agent Mulder," Dr. Arboroun said. "Do you have an active social life?"

"I don't see the relevance of the question." Mulder stood.

"Sit down, Agent Mulder. This is an unofficial exploration, but it will become official if you don't cooperate," Skinner said sternly.

Mulder hesitated a minute, then sat sullenly.

"Exactly what are you exploring?" he asked.

"Please answer the previous question," Skinner said.

"How is it relevant?" Mulder asked stubbornly.

"Answer the question." There was a very real threat in Skinner's tone now.

Mulder shrugged.

"Could you repeat the question?"

"Would you describe yourself as having an active social life, Agent Mulder?" Dr.Arboroun said flatly.

"No," he answered in the same tone.

"Do you date?"


"Do you engage the services of prostitutes?"

"No." It was almost angry.

"Are you a homosexual?"

"Is this necessary?" Mulder appealed to Skinner. "I don't see what my love life, or lack of one, has to do with Scully."

"You need to answer the question, Agent Mulder," Skinner said.

"No, I'm not gay. You're not even allowed to ask that. Why would you think I was?"

"How do you spend your free time?"

"I don't have much."

"You have scheduled days off like everyone else. What do you do?"

"I do research. I think about work."

"Do you have any hobbies?"

"I watch football." Skinner nodded at that. He did too.

"Nothing else?"

"No. I visit my mother. I read. I work out. I practice target shooting."

The doctor stopped and made a few notes in the file. Mulder watched her suspiciously.

"Now will you tell me what's going on?"

She didn't answer and Skinner was looking away.

"I have a right to know." Mulder was getting angry again. "I've played your little game, now you give me some answers!"

"We have no answers, Agent Mulder, only questions. Do you recognize this?"

She held up a slip of paper.


"This is a credit card receipt that was charged to Agent Scully's expense account. Items include several meals, and a hotel room."

"We stay in a lot of hotels."

"This is dated September 15, 1995. Where were you that night?"

Mulder nodded as he began to understand.

"Okay. That was one of the nights I was sick. Yes, we shared a hotel room, but only because I was so out of it that Scully had to take care of me."

"What illness were you suffering from?"

"I had been drugged."

"Is there any proof of that?"

"Agent Scully retrieved a filtering device from the water system of my apartment. The water company said they had never seen it before. I displayed unexplained psychotic behavior for several days prior to that, which was later excused."

Skinner rubbed his jaw in memory.

"Agent Scully is also a medical doctor, is she not?"

"She's a forensic pathologist. Her patients are usually dead." He smiled a little at the joke.

"Then you're lucky." Dr.Arboroun did not smile back. "You have jeopardized cases in the past because of Agent Scully, have you not?"

"Neither I nor Agent Scully has ever knowingly jeopardized a case."

"You missed an opportunity to gain valuable information to be at her bedside when she was ill, did you not?"

"There was no guarantee I would have learned anything from that informant."

"And you'll never know," she said.

"Are we done now?" Mulder stood again.

"Possibly," she answered.

"Are you going to tell me what this is about?"

Skinner and the doctor trade glances and she nods slightly.

"We have had reports of...unprofessional behavior between Agent Scully and yourself."

"What kind of...unprofessional behavior?" Mulder mimicked his hesitation.

"You are aware of the rules regarding personal relationships between agents teamed as partners, Agent Mulder?"

"You think we're having an affair?" Mulder practically laughed in their faces.

"There is some indication of that, yes," Dr.Arboroun answered.

"You're way off base." Mulder was smiling now. "I've never even considered it. Scully's my partner, not my lover."

"But you and Scully do have a close personal relationship? So much so that you stayed in contact when your department was shut down and you were moved to different divisions."

"We're also friends. I trust her." Pause. "Only her."

"Your paranoia has been well-documented, Agent Mulder. Which only makes me more curious about why you would choose to trust her. You know she was originally assigned to debunk your work."

"That's the first time anyone has admitted it."

"It only qualifies as a rumor," Skinner added quickly.

"So why do you trust her, and no one else?"

Mulder sat again, thinking.

"Because she believes. She doesn't want to, but it's there. She wants the truth."

"The why isn't she at work today?"

There was a brief silence.

"I can't answer that," Mulder said at last.

"I think we're finished here," Dr. Arboroun said. Mulder got up, preparing to leave.

"This conversation was confidential, Agent Mulder." Skinner said in a warning tone.

"Are you ordering me not to discuss this with my partner, Director Skinner?"

"Your discretion would be...appreciated."

"That's not an answer," Mulder said.

"It's all the answer you're going to get." Skinner pointed. "You know your way out." Mulder got to the door and Skinner spoke again. "Agent Mulder. You are aware that your activities are being monitored."

"So what else is new," he said, and left.

** And Later

"Scully? Are you home?"

It had been hard waiting until the office closed to check on her. They weren't actually working on anything serious right now, so he wasn't really worried about her. But still...

He thumped his fist on the door again, bruising a knuckle on the nameplate.

"Scully! I need to talk to you."

There was a scuffling sound and then the door opened wide enough to let him in.

"Mulder, you're attracting attention. What's wrong?"

He stepped into the hallway and stopped when he saw her.

Wearing a long robe, she looked like she'd just climbed out of bed.

"Why didn't you come to work today?" it was concerned but still harsh.

"I'm not feeling well. I think I've picked up a virus," she said with a questioning glance before turning to lead him into the living room. Her little dog hopped off the sofa as she entered and scampered into the kitchen.

"Why didn't you call me?" she sat on the couch but he remained standing, walking to check that the drapes were drawn.

"Why are you being so paranoid?" she said. "I meant to call, but I fell asleep."

"Are you really sick?" he dropped into a chair beside her with an ungraceful slump.

"Are you okay?" She studied him quizzically. "Yeah. I've got a bug, and I'll be fine. I've got plenty of sick time coming."

He didn't reply, just glanced at the windows again.

"Mulder, what's wrong?"

"I got called to Skinner's office today." He shrugged.

"What's happened now?" She sighed. "Are they shutting us down again?"

"This wasn't about the X-files, Scully. This was about us."

"Us? What do you mean, us?"

"I was pretty much ordered not to tell you, but they're crazy if they think I won't." he leaned toward her, a small smile playing on his lips. "They think we're having an affair."

He laughed lightly, not noticing when she caught her lip and looked away.

"Isn't that the craziest thing?" he said, then stopped laughing as he looked at her. "Scully? What's wrong? I'm not laughing at the idea, I mean, if we weren't partners..." he paused and then continued, uncomfortable. "When we were shut down, I thought then, maybe, but things got so weird and there wasn't any time..."

"I thought maybe, too, Mulder," she said. "But you're right; there isn't any time in your life for a relationship. All of your energy, all of your passion, you feed it all into your work. There's nothing left for anyone else."

He's quiet while she speaks, and then looks away for a few minutes. She watches him.

When he speaks again it's in a whisper. She leans closer to hear him, and their faces are close.

"If it was anyone, Scully..," he said it slowly, "it would be you."

"Ohh, Mulder," She sighed, pulling back a little. "You shouldn't tell me that."

"But I trust you, Scully."

"And no one else. I know, Mulder."

"I've never told you that," he said.

"Yes, you did," she said, her voice getting softer so he had to strain to hear. "You don't remember it."

"When I was sick," he made the connection. "Before I...died."

"When Melissa did die," she added.

"It's funny," he said, sitting very still, hands dangling from his legs. "Sometimes I dream about that time...I've dreamed about you, Scully. About you, when I was sick and you were there when I died...and you were there when I came back."

"What do you dream, Mulder? What do you dream about me?"

The room felt dark and close. Mulder shook his head and broke the spell with an effort.

"Telling you would probably be setting myself up for a harassment suit." He managed a short laugh, but she suddenly reached over and took his hand in hers.

He stared at the clasped hand, then raised his eyes to hers.

"Scully," he said, and the inflection was questioning, curious.

"There's something I need to tell you," she whispered. "Before anyone makes any more accusations."

"Do you want me to tell you about my dream, Scully?" he asked, and then, after a minute of her silence, he looked away, his eyes going back to their clasped hands.

"Do you already know about my dream, Scully?" It was a shocked, harsh whisper and he held her eyes with his as he waited for an answer.

She tried to answer, she really did. But her mouth was suddenly dry and her lips wouldn't move.

His hand tightened convulsively around hers, but he waited for her to speak.

The minutes stretched as she nodded her head. Once, then again.

More silence.

"How do you know?" it was said softly, he seemed surprised to have said it.

"Mulder, I..." she couldn't find the words.

"Did I tell you about it, or did it actually happen?!" his voice rose to a shout and she flinched from the betrayal in it. He snatched his hand from hers and held it before his eyes, studying it like he'd never seen it before. "Have I touched you with these hands?"

A long silent pause as he raised his other hand and stared at them, alternating between them and her downcast eyes.

"Have I held you in these arms?" his whisper wavered with wonder.

She pressed herself back into the sofa, her breathing rapid, eyes wide, hands clenched in her lap as she struggled to answer him.

"Have I kissed you, Scully?!"

He stood and leaned over her, an arm on either side of her head, leaning in close as he whispered, hard and sharp, "Did I make love to you?"

She reached a hand tentatively, not quite touching his face. He held firm, his eyes pinning her to the sofa.

At last, hand still suspended in mid-air, she told him.

"Yes, Mulder." She paused as his eyes widened, as he tried to absorb her words.

"The second night on the road, in the hotel...you were so sick and I was afraid you would die...I couldn't take you to a hospital, they still thought you'd shot you're father and we had the tape..."

"So it was a pity fuck?" She flinched from the obscenity. "You were so ashamed that you couldn't even tell me?"

His words hung in the air between them, fouling it.

She spoke at last, twisting her hands together.

"Nooo." She sighed. "I wanted it too. That maybe has been there since I met you."

His face cleared a little and he pushed himself back, away from the sofa, still standing over her, hands on his hips now.

"Why didn't you tell me? Were you afraid it would change things?"

"Of course I was!" now she raised her voice, hands grabbing the blanket and crumpling it beside her. "How was I supposed to bring it up? 'Good morning, Mulder, glad you're alive, oh, by the way, we slept together last night?' It wasn't exactly easy to work into a conversation."

"You're angry," he said softly, understanding. "You're mad because I didn't remember it."

"It was for the best." She shrugged, but he could see the hurt in her eyes. "Personally and professionally."

"Tell me about it." He sat on the sofa beside her, a foot separating them. "I remember bits and pieces, but it's still like a dream."

He smiled suddenly, one of those quicksilver mood swings.

"It wasn't a nightmare, was it?"

"No," she said grudgingly. "It was...nice."

"Not the most enthusiastic review I've ever gotten."

"You were deathly ill and I was exhausted," she retorted. "What do you expect?"

"How did it happen?" he leaned closer again and she found herself relaxing in his presence.

"You couldn't sleep. You kept talking and I tried to calm you, but you just kept muttering and tossing..."

"About my dad."

"You needed to rest. I would lay beside you and talk to you and that seemed to help. You woke up a few times, really awake, and you knew me and what had happened."

She paused and he waited, encouraging her with his eyes.

"Then you woke up and remembered everything. You cried so hard...it was like your heart was being ripped out...I held you...and you kissed me..."

"I started it?"

"I don't normally take advantage of drugged men in a fevered haze," she said shortly.

"So why didn't you leave?"

"You were hurting. I thought it would help. And..." she paused briefly. "...I wanted to."

He was quiet for a minute, then grinned, a twisted, lopsided grin. "Was I good?"

"Mulder!" she was shocked, but, then, reluctantly, she laughed. "Yeah. For a semi-conscious drugged man, you were pretty good."

He scooted closer on the sofa and slid an arm along the back behind her.

"I bet I could do better."

"Mulder." She slid away, clutching her robe together. "This isn't a good idea."

"I think it's only fair, Scully. You had your way with me when I was sick..." He followed her across the sofa until she was in the corner of it and he could lean over her.

"What about work? They'll crucify us..," she whispered as his hands settled on hers, loosening the robe gently.

"What they don't know won't hurt them..." he whispered. Then, after a pause looking into her eyes, "I think you should kiss me first."

"We can't do this," she whispered in quiet desperation as he closed his eyes and waited patiently.

"Don't you want to?" he asked, opening his eyes and looking at her. "I know I do. I want to touch you and feel it, I want to hold you and remember it." Another pause. "I want to look at you and know you remember it."

There were other words in his voice, important words that floated and lingered in the air between them. Scully heard them and Mulder knew he didn't have to say them - any more than she did.

"I don't know how we can..." She sighed. "It makes things so complicated."

"You've never liked them easy," he said softly, brushing a kiss across her hair, one hand sliding up to caress her neck. "Did I tell you that I dreamed of you, Scully? Before this happened. I dreamed of you...what you would feel like, what you would sound like...have you ever dreamed of me, Scully?" he punctuated his words with soft kisses on her face and hair, sighing as she closed her eyes and relaxed into the cushions.

"Yes, Mulder...I have..," she whispered as his mouth hovered near hers.

"What you would taste like..." He closed his eyes again, one hand behind her neck, the other insinuating itself into her robe, warm and gentle spread on her stomach. "You're going to have to kiss me now..." he whispered, and, as much to her surprise as his, she did.

They kissed for a long time, softly, sweetly. When her hands finally moved, rose to the buttons of his shirt, he caught them and pushed them down to her sides.

"No hurry..." he whispered. "We have as long as we want..."

She sighed into his mouth and pressed herself up to him, just a little, giving him the chance to slip an arm beneath her and roll so they were face-to-face, sideways on the sofa. He kicked off his shoes and hooked a leg over both of hers, anchoring himself with his other hand on the back of the sofa and pulling her very close, as close as he could.

Their mouths opened wider and the kisses became deeper, lips sealed together, breath rushing from nostrils to mingle in the scant inches between them. His jacket slipped off one shoulder and he shrugged quickly, trying to shake it loose and her hands pushed it down, away from him, until it hung from his arm and her hands were sliding beneath the shirt, between the buttons, to settle with warm familiarity on his smooth-muscled chest.

Mulder released his hold on the sofa, sliding her robe up and his hand under the gown beneath it to cup her butt and knead it gently, pressing her pelvis to his, letting her feel him.

"Scully," he whispered, raising his face to look down at her, her eyes wide and shining.

"I know, Mulder," she answered, reaching to pull his head back down, but he resisted.

"Not just now..." he sounded worried. "I need you -- as my partner, my friend. I can't risk that for..." He shrugged, gave her a quick kiss, "for this, even as good as it is."

Now she opened her eyes again and stared at him lucidly, putting her hands back on his chest.

"It's okay, Mulder," she spoke with a serene calm, "It didn't change anything the first time it happened, it won't change anything now."

"Are you sure...?" he began to lower his head again, watching her eyes. "Scully, are you sure?"

"Mulder." She sighed as he began to kiss her again, from her forehead to chin, tiny, teasing kisses. "Call me Dana."

"Dana," he said it softly, testing it on his tongue just above her lips. "Dana."

Then he rolled away from her, onto the floor, and stood slowly, arms reaching for her.

With a smile that was a little bit shy, a little bit nervous, she held her arms out to him and he lifted her with surprising strength, and began to carry her into the bedroom, trying to kiss her as he did.

"Mulder," she whispered as they approached the half-open door, "it's kind of a mess..."

"Like I care." He gave the door a shove with a foot and it swung open. The bathroom light was on, softly illuminating the room, the rumpled bed and a couple piles of clothing on the floor. He laid her on the bed and took a single step back, watching her.

Scully lay back on the pillows and smiled at him, one hand reaching for him.

"It's okay, Mulder," she encouraged. "I want this to happen."

"I'm glad," he said, beginning to unbutton the shirt, shedding the jacket, watching her watch him.

He undressed with no fanfare, keeping his eyes on hers, noticing when hers dropped to look at him, catching them again when they rose back to his face.

"Okay?" he said quietly, taking a step toward the bed, standing over her.

"Okay," she agreed, taking his hands and pulling him down beside her. He buried his hands in her hair and began to kiss her neck, softly, nuzzling behind her ear and then kissing lower, and lower, a soft path down to the neck of her gown. Her hands were on his shoulders, they tightened and urged him on.

The robe belt fell open beneath his hands and he curved them around her hips as he rose slightly, looking down at her, studying her, meeting her eyes.

"I always knew you were beautiful," he said, and she smiled nervously.

His expression changed as he looked at her, from light- hearted teasing to something darker, more serious.

"There are some things we haven't discussed," he said slowly, not uncomfortable, but trying to be delicate.

"It's taken care of," she said softly. "After the last time...I decided I needed to be in a relationship, that I needed to start dating again, so I went back on the pill."

"Nothing - happened - 'that last time', did it?" he sounded concerned.

"The timing was good," she said. Then she smiled. "Or bad, depending how you look at it."

"As long as there weren't any complications," he said with a sigh, lowering himself beside her and pulling her onto her side to face him, looking at her, his hands still on her hips.

"You can change your mind," he said suddenly. "What I said about fair -- it wasn't the right thing to say."

"No, it's okay." She stroked his face with her fingertips, smiling as he caught them gently between his teeth. "I've wondered, too, Mulder. What it would be like. Especially now -- I'd like to be with you while you're conscious, when you can remember it."

"I'll always remember this," he said, lowering his head to nuzzle again at her neck, drifting lower until his face was pressed between her breasts, his arms tightening around her convulsively as he took one in his mouth and suckled, one hand dropping to push her robe further aside, to unbutton the front of the soft gown.

Relaxing into his embrace Scully allowed her hands to wander, answering some of the wondering she had, remembering most of him and being surprised by some. The scars of gunshot wounds, puckered and thick, the pebbled feel of an old road burn on his thigh, these were new to her.

"Scully," he whispered as his mouth traveled back up to hers. "Dana." As he closed his over hers again, to pour his soul into that kiss until they were both straining against each other, pressing hard, his hand rubbing, caressing her back and thighs and butt, hers cupping and stroking and exploring with a delicate, heady touch.

The passion built until they were both groaning softly, then he pulled away and lay back beside her, smiling at her small sound of frustration, catching her reaching hand and bringing it to his lips to tenderly kiss and then slowly suckle each finger.

"No hurry," he whispered again, but then gave into her urgings and pulled her close again, to begin kissing and stroking and teasing again, stoking the fire between them until he thought he would explode, and then pulling back yet again, this time leaving only their legs touching, entwined, and her hands on his chest as his were in her hair.

"Mulder." She sighed. "Don't tease."

"Everything worth having is worth waiting for," he whispered, gently holding her away from him when she tried to move closer. "I want this to last a long time -- if this is all we're going to have I want to make sure it's special."

"Is this all we're going to have?" she asked, not trying to reach him anymore.

"Yeah," he sighed and now moved close to her again. "Yeah. I think so, Dana."

"You're probably right," she agreed softly as she let her hands wander again before settling with purpose below his waist. "But it will be special, because it's us."

"You and me," he agreed as he slid a leg between hers, watching her face carefully.

She opened to him willingly and their eyes locked as he entered her with a slow lunge, stopping to experience the sensation of becoming one.

His arms were around her waist and hers tight on his shoulders and they stared at each other for long minutes until he released the breath he hadn't realized he was holding and lowered his mouth to hers.

He teased her lips, nibbling and kissing lightly until she moved against him in protest and he groaned once, deeply, and began kissing her with eager hunger, moving within her slowly at first, but then building a rhythm that matched hers as she moved with him.

One hand cupped a breast and he stroked his fingertips down her side and back as she moaned softly and urged him on with a hand on his butt, her leg thrown over the top of his as she leaned into his rhythm and they began to move as one, in sync, and they were kissing and making love and it was perfect as time stretched and slowed and seemed to cease.

There was no point where he began and she ended.

Her rising moan of approaching satisfaction was echoed by his groaned "Scully...!" as he peaked and held himself to her, his body shuddering with the force of it, as close to her as he could possibly get. For one moment of startling clarity they saw each other and knew that they were one, and then it was over and they were falling again to earth, to collapse against each other, he holding her with quicksilver strength, face buried at her shoulder, shuddering with emotion as she tried to wrap herself around him and sooth, protect, ease him.

When his shudders subsided they lay quiet, no desire to move, content to just lie there and enjoy the aftermath as one.

"Hey," her whisper floated into his ear, her mouth right beside it. "I thought I told you to call me Dana."

He raised his head and his grin was like a homecoming.

"I tried," he answered with quiet humor. "But you'll always be 'Scully' to me."

"I guess you're right." She sighed and shifted her leg. He moved his hips to give her room and slipped from her, bringing a groan to his lips. "Uhhhn."

"Sorry." She didn't move away, just snuggled closer. He rolled to his back and pulled her against his side, her leg over his, his arm around her, her head on his chest.

They lay as their breathing slowed and their bodies relaxed. She was getting sleepy and beginning to nod off when he spoke again, a whisper.

"Can I stay?" there was a hint of uncertainty in it, the vulnerability that no one else was allowed to see.

"Of course." She turned her head to kiss his neck, his chest, while he reached past her and drew the rumpled covers over both of them. Settling back he snugged her closer and lay his cheek on her hair, sighing into it, his free hand covering hers on his chest.

"Thank you," he whispered, and she smiled against his skin before closing her eyes and drifting to sleep.

She didn't know he lay awake until dawn, watching her sleep.

She woke still wrapped in his arms. They had turned during the night and they were snuggled spoon-fashion, Mulder wrapped around her.

With a smile she slid out of his arms and padded to the bathroom, closing the door and stepping into the shower, thinking.

If he were any other lover she would have invited him to join her, but this had been a one-time-only thing and she wasn't going to push it. Their professional and personal relationships were too precious to risk for a physical one, she agreed with him on that, but she was very glad this had happened. Their trust was deepened, the uncertainty was gone. They might go on to other lovers, but this night would stay with them.

The dog started barking and she winced, hoping she'd left the doggy door to the little patio open or there would be a mess to clean up, but then she turned off the water and heard the doorbell.

Hurrying, she stopped only to grab her robe from the floor where she had dropped it and went to look out the peephole, QueegQuaig bouncing at her heels.


Assistant Director Skinner, looking as if he'd slept a week and bathed longer, was standing impatiently on her landing.

"Agent Scully," he said loudly, but not loud enough to bother the neighbors. "I need to speak with you."

"Director Skinner," she acknowledged, twisting the latch and opening the door a crack. "I was in the shower. Can't this wait until I get in?"

"I don't think so," he said, and he looked angry. He glanced slowly at the parking lot and she followed his eyes as they came to rest on Mulder's car, parked beside hers.

"There was an emergency call for Agent Mulder last night, and he didn't answer his phone. When you also did not answer your phone it was assumed there was a reason to worry."

"Noo," she said slowly. "No, everything's fine. There's no reason to worry, Director Skinner."

He paused and looked at her carefully.

"Could I come in to discuss this? It's awkward standing here."

"I'd rather you didn't," she answered steadily, thinking of Mulder's shoes and jacket abandoned beside her sofa.

"Ah." His soft sound of affirmation unnerved her.

"I'll be in by nine, sir," she offered.

"Do you think Agent Mulder will also be in by nine, Agent Scully?" he asked quietly.

"I couldn't say."

"If you hear from him you will suggest it, won't you, Agent Scully?"

Meeting his eyes she answered steadily.

"Yes, sir. I will."

"Then I will let you get back to your preparations," he said, turning to go. She watched him go down three, then four steps before he turned back.

"You know, Agent Scully, sometimes things happen. They might not be smart things, but it seems like they're just meant to be. The best way to deal with something that has to happen but shouldn't is to pretend it didn't," he paused, one hand on the stair railing. "Don't you agree?"

She opened the door a little wider to lean out as she answered him.

"Yes, I do, sir," she said quietly.

"I'll see you at the office," he said, turning to go again.

"Yes, sir," she said as he left. "Good morning, sir."

He didn't say anything else as she watched him go, and then she went back inside, locked the door, and got dressed for work.

Mulder stirred as she sat on the bed, putting in her earrings. His hand brushed her thigh and she shivered, covering it with one of her own as she looked down and he opened his eyes.

"Hi," he said, looking at her.

"Good morning," she replied, restraining the urge to lean over and kiss him. "You slept late. We've already had a visitor."

"Who?" he sat up, sheet slipping down, unselfconscious.

"Skinner. He saw your car, Mulder. He knows."

He shook his head at her worry, smiling his catchy grin.

"He won't say anything."

"How do you know?" she asked. She agreed with him, but was mildly annoyed by his certainty.

"I just do," he said as he rose from the bed and walked naked across the room. She watched him resignedly.

"We can't do this again," she said.

"I know." He picked up his pants and pulled them on over bare skin before coming back and leaning over her. "I knew last night."

She looked up at him, trying not to smile but unable to resist his lopsided charm.

"But it was worth it, wasn't it?" he said softly and she melted inside.

"Yes, Mulder," she answered as he leaned to kiss her one last time. "It was."

They kissed deeply, tenderly, and then he gathered up his things and left, Scully standing in the doorway and watching him go, trying to ignore the burning in her eyes, knowing in her heart that this was best. As much as they meant to each other, this was a distraction. But, she thought, as his car pulled out, they had years ahead of them. Things could change.

When Mulder got home he went in and climbed into the shower, turning the water on full force, the steam rising in waves, raising his face to it.

Then, as the water washed her scent from him, he leaned forward, forehead pressed to the tiled wall, arms braced to support him, and sobbed brokenly, until the water ran cold.




Title: Walls 02 - Crumbling Mortar
Author: Saraid
Rated NC-17
Category XRA
Archived 96-09-14
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance. Rape.
disclaimer: somehow M&S still belong to CC and Co, although I'm sure I would've thought of them if I'd thunk long enough [not].
DEFINITELY NC-17, stop here if you're under 17 -- go to jail, go directly to jail, etc, etc, etc, and DON'T READ THIS.

Summary: Mulder and Scully deal with Scully's rape separately in group therapy, both admitting past encounters and current feelings of love. In repeat attack Scully kills the rapist and turns to Mulder for comfort, but they then draw apart again.

Author's note from Saraid: Greetings and salutations. That's some pig. This is the second of my M&S series, and it's pretty harsh. CAUTION: Depressing Subject Ahead! Don't flame me for it, okay? If you really hate it, write a story where you kill me in a suitably messy fashion and send it to me. It's good practice and you'll feel better for it, trust me. Oops! - I meant "trust no one." Didn't I?


The songs quoted are from the CD "Throwing Copper" by the band LIVE, used without permission, but they've made enough money now that I don't think they'll bother me too much about it. BTW, it's a good album, especially for those of us with a darker turn to our thoughts. It was certainly inspiring while I wrote this, one long weekend...

Everything in italics is thought, not spoken, unless it's in quotation marks. It's not as complicated as it sounds, honest. This may seem like a cheap literary device, but it works for me.

This is all relationship stuff. The timing isn't too important -- I figure it happened recently, probably during the summer reruns. We knew they were doing something all those months...


Part One: A Crime

There are crimes, and then there are crimes, Special Agent Dana Scully thought to herself as she finished packing up her briefcase, alone at the long table in the University library. It was really late, on a Saturday, and even the most dedicated students had left the books for a chance to rest or play. Scully herself had played earlier in the day, shopping with her mother, but brought herself back to work with a semblance of eagerness. She was going to testify on Monday, at the trial of a serial killer with a distinctive style. It had made him hard to catch and harder to prosecute, but her partner, Agent Fox Mulder, had done it - with her help, of course.

Calling himself "The Angel of Mercy," Jonathan Brooks, ex- communicated Catholic priest, had taken upon himself to relieve the abused and neglected children of the world of their suffering, and get their parents blamed for it. The full count would never be known, but there was enough evidence to prosecute him for seven of the tragic deaths, and some evidence that he'd been a factor in at least thirty more, which would put him way up on the list of historic killers. Personally, Scully thought the number was a little high, that some of those children actually had been killed by their parents, but it didn't matter now. He was in a cell and they were going to make sure he stayed there for a really long time - or died trying.

She left the stack of books on the table for the librarians - she never seemed to get them back where they belonged - and began to make her way out of the stacks.

Prrrrrrrrp. She stopped, leaned on a table and pulled out her phone, knowing who it was.


"Are you asleep yet?"

"I'm still at the library, Mulder. I was just heading home."

"I just got some news. It'll make your life easier."

She waited, knowing he'd tell her before she asked. It was a game they played, and he always lost.

"'Father' Jon's dead. I just got the call."

She sat, relief filling her. She hadn't been looking forward to testifying, he knew that. Making a jury of laypersons understand how the drugs Jon Brooks had used gave the appearance of a severe beating by making bruises appear after death when the children had actually died of oxygen depravation to the brain, she hadn't been quite sure she was up to the challenge. She would have done it and done it well, but she was so glad she didn't have to.

"He killed himself, at midnight." Mulder seemed to think that was funny.

Scully shook her head. "How? I thought he was being watched carefully."

Mulder's voice got more cheerful.

"He stole a fork from the cafeteria and used it to slit a wrist, in bed under the covers. Nobody noticed until the blood started dripping on his cellmate, but it was too late. Apparently those pillows they use are pretty absorbent."

"But, Mulder, aren't the cafeteria forks plastic?"

"Ouch." he seemed amused by her reaction. Oh, well, she amused him regularly. It was probably the only fun in his life outside work.

"So, you're off the hook. Want to celebrate?"

"I'm going home and going to bed, Mulder. Some of us actually try to sleep at night."


Scully changed subjects, not wanting to debate that one again. "I'm having dinner at Mom's tomorrow, would you like to come?"

"I'm already invited." It was said smugly.

"She never gives up." Scully sighed. Her mother was quietly determined to get the two of together as a couple.

"Should I bring a movie?"

"Don't you dare. Do you want to give her a coronary?" Scully's mother, Margaret, was as open-minded as they come, but there was no way she'd understand Mulder's affection for porn. It just wasn't something nice boys liked, and she thought Mulder was a nice boy.

"As if." He gave it a real valley-girl intonation that made her chuckle. "How about Steel Magnolias?"

"That's her favorite movie. How did you know?"

"I asked," he still sounded smug. "Not everything has to be difficult, Scully."

When he said her name like that she felt a coolness to her skin, like an unfelt breeze carrying the memory of that night, more than a year ago now, and what they had shared.

"I gotta go, Mulder. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Are you smiling?"

She smiled at the question and answered. "Yes, Mulder. I'm smiling."

"Good, because I wouldn't want your face to freeze in that 'thinking' mode."

He hung up without saying goodbye, as he always did.

Scully sat for a minute and reviewed the conversation. They hadn't said anything new, nothing had changed, but still she felt like a door had been opened. It was an odd sensation, looking into that door and seeing the possibilities trail off in endless configurations.

She thought about it as she walked out of the library, a brief wave to the grad student with the unenviable job of watching the desk while all of his friends played.

"Good night, Agent Scully," he said cheerfully, looking up from his computer.

"Good night, Steve." She knew a lot of the grad students who worked at the library. When she wanted to do medical research but didn't want to run into anybody from work, this was where she came.

The parking lot was dark. She paused at the door to get out her keys and hold them ready as she ventured out. Why don't they light this better? she asked herself for the thousandth time as she headed for her car, in a visitors' spot, the last row on the left. I guess students deserve the good spots, she thought as she started the long walk, her briefcase swinging at her side. They have good security here. It was silly of her, but even when there were ample student spots open closer to the building, like there had been tonight, she still parked way back there in visitors'. Just a stickler for the rules, she was.

She smiled softly to herself, thinking of Mulder and that night, as she did at least once a day. The memory gave her hope and pleasure. Well, not all the rules.

Caught up in her thoughts, she didn't see the shadow that rose from behind one of the few cars parked in the lot as she passed it.

The weight hit her hard from behind, slamming her to the asphalt, skinning her knees and smashing her nose as her briefcase skittered free of her hand and under the car.

Her scream was cut off before it began, a large hand over her mouth and nose, the other grabbing at the back of her waist for her weapon.

She struggled furiously, but the hand was cutting off her air, and she had no leverage. He - she had no doubt this was a man and she knew what he intended - was large, bigger than Mulder, and he'd planned this well. In the shadow of the car, on the ground, they were invisible to anyone passing on the street. But still she struggled, desperately, biting his hand and arching herself back in an effort to throw him from her.

But he was too big and she couldn't breathe. Sparkles in her eyes warned her that time was running out and she increased her struggles with a rush of adrenalin that pounded through her even as she felt her panties ripped off and the air on her skin told her her skirt was gone, too.

Then there was a blinding flash of pain as he hit her with something - her gun? - and she collapsed, a limp body on the pavement.

And he got on with business.

Part Two: Three Hours

Steve DelRio, a doctoral candidate in mathematics and computer hacker extraordinarre, was tired, but excited too. It was a strange sensation, this combination of exhaustion and adrenalin. He couldn't wait to get home and crawl into bed with his laptop and a joint and finish the conversation he'd been having all night with Sierra, a med student at UCLA. He was pretty sure how it would end.

The sky was till dark. He closed up around four every Saturday morning to give the maintenance crew time to really clean the place before it reopened at noon on Sunday.


Steve stopped, hearing the buzz of a cellular phone. He checked his pockets, but his was silent.

Maybe he was hearing things. He hadn't slept much in the past few weeks.

Prrrrrrrrp. There it was again.

He followed the sound around the bulk of an old Chevy, possibly dumped, it had been there for a month now.

And caught his breath with a harsh gasp.

"Oh my God." He ran to the woman, seeing the blue-grey suit, knowing who it must be, suddenly terrified.

Prrrrrrrrp. The phone rang again, it seemed to be getting louder, angrier. He looked wildly around, saw the scattered briefcase and the phone lying beside it.

What did he do?!!

Carefully, afraid of moving her, wincing as he saw the blood soaking her legs and hair, he turned her head so he could search for a pulse.

There wasn't one!


No, wait. Calm down, he told himself. Take your time, feel carefully.

With a deep breath he steadied himself and searched again, this time rewarded with a faint flutter at the base of her bruised neck, letting out a sigh of relief.


The obnoxious phone was getting to him. He grabbed it, afraid to hear a voice on the other side - who knew what was going on here - and answered hesitantly.


"Scully?" the voice on the other end was deep and smooth and a little harsh. Steve winced.

"No, I'm not Agent Scully. She's...She's had an accident."

"Who is this?" the voice was angry now, and alarmed. "What are you doing with Scully's phone?"

"I don't have time to talk to you, I've got to get an ambulance..." Steve trailed off as the voice on the other end exploded.

"HEY! This is Agent Mulder! I'm Scully's partner! Where are you? Where's Scully?! What happened to her?!!"

"I'm in the parking lot, at the university library - I work here. I was just walking out to leave and I found her, lying here - she's hurt, and I've got to call an ambulance..."

"oh my god." the man's voice dropped dramatically, now filled with pain. "Is she alive?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Stay with her - don't move her. Keep her warm. I'll have an ambulance there in five minutes." Mulder promised. "I'll be right there."

"Okay." Steve agreed, hearing the connection cut. He sat beside Agent Scully, seeing her as she'd left - had it been two hours ago or three? He didn't remember, but the video camera would.

It would also show him sitting at his desk the whole time, he realized with a surge of relief, feeling guilty about it. They wouldn't think he did this.

Looking at her, he was pretty sure what had been done.

He took off his bomber jacket - worn for style, not warmth - and gently covered her with it. He wanted to turn her over, to ease the pressure on her face, which was still nose-down on the pavement, but the other agent had said not to move her. But could she breathe okay like that? He compromised by carefully, gently turning her head to the side. Her eyes fluttered, but didn't open and he was glad of that. He didn't want to be there when this pretty woman woke up and remembered what had been done to her.

She still looked so uncomfortable. He pulled off his T- shirt, folded it and carefully raised her face and slid it between her bruised skin and the asphalt. That looked better.

He took her hand, so small and still, and held it in his, as he waited in the dark with the pretty woman, hurt so bad.

Scully's hurt, Scully's hurt, Scully's hurt... it ran through his brain like an insane mantra, and his heart was swelling, threatening to fill his chest and cut off his air.

He saw his exit and flew for it, gunning the engine and crossing three lanes to barely make it. It was a good thing the streets were pretty empty now - but not completely, he realized as a horn blared to his right as he came off the freeway.

He would get there before the ambulance, he hoped. He wanted to see her, see what had happened. See this kid who had found her.

He wanted her to see him when she opened her eyes, not some stranger.

Steve heard the car squeal into the parking lot, followed by a campus security vehicle with flashing lights. He stood and waved both arms.

The man that threw himself from the blue Taurus was exactly what Steve had been expecting. Tall, good-looking, graceful. He didn't go around the Chevy, simply came over the top and landed beside Scully's still form.

And everything seemed to drain out of him. He shrank in front of Steve, the shouts of the campus cops ignored, and sank to his knees beside her.

"Scully..." his whisper was so full of pain that Steve cringed in sympathy.

With very gentle, long fingers Mulder traced her face and felt gingerly at her neck. The steady beating there reassured him and he was able to examine the rest of her, with breif, gentle touches and discrete movements.

He didn't hear the campus cops behind him, or Steve keeping them away, or even the sirens as an ambulance, police car, and several Bureau vehicles pulled into the lot.

He only saw Scully, and how she had been hurt, and he felt that pain as if it were his own.

Ignoring his own advice, he turned her over and pulled her upper body into his lap as he sat, legs spread, tenderly brushing the matted hair from her face, sliding the bomber jacket down to cover her exposed lower half. He saw glimpses of things that didn't mean anything now, but he knew they would later - a piece of crumpled, shredded satin; a pile of dark blue linen; a gun with dried blood scabbing the barrel.

The medics were running over, Skinner and several other agents behind them, and Mulder waved him off, knowing Scully wouldn't want them to see her like this - abused and exposed.

"Back off!" he yelled at Skinner, who stopped just as he came around the Chevy, his hands suddenly clenched behind his back as he took in the scene and stiffened.

He nodded, spreading his arms and keeping the others from passing him.

The medics pulled up the gurney and came to him, and Mulder let them touch her with great reluctance, not letting them take her from him.

They cut her clothes off and covered her with a thermal blanket, started an IV and medicine to combat shock and he watched them with half his mind, the other half focused firmly on Scully, willing her to stay unconscious, to spare herself this invasion of her privacy.

The medics were talking to him, and it took him a minute to hear them and respond.

"We need to get her into the truck now, sir." the older one, a man, was saying. "We need you to let go."

He looked down and realized that he still held her, in his arms, tightly.

"We need to get her to the hospital, sir." the medic was stressing this but Mulder couldn't seem to let go. He looked at the man helplessly.

Then a pair of strong hands were on his shoulders and he heard a familiar voice in his ear, trying to give him strength.

"Let them take her, Agent Mulder. They'll take care of her." AD Skinner reached to loosen his arms from Scully, but Mulder resisted. "They have to take her to the hospital, Agent Mulder."

He understood now. With a heave that barely disturbed her he got himself to his feet, Skinner understood and reached to help him lift himself, hands under his arms.

He was up, Scully in his arms. The younger medic grabbed up the IV bottle while the older tucked the blanket around her as it threatened to slip off.

Mulder carried her the few feet to the gurney and laid her gently on it, laying her hands by her sides and tucking them under the blanket.

"Can I ride with her?" he asked, his voice so flat Skinner didn't recognize it.

"Yeah, we got room for one." the older medic said, gesturing for him to jump in with the younger guy.

"Give me your keys - I'll meet you at the hospital." Skinner said. With a glance Mulder did, still numb, not entirely aware. He climbed into the ambulance and the doors slammed shut behind him.

Skinner stared after the ambulance as it pulled out, awed by the pain he'd seen in Mulder's face. Partners became close, but these two were famous for their relationship, in the Bureau.

If anyone could get Dana Scully through this, it was her partner.

Skinner went to the gathered agents and began issuing instructions, a part of his mind chiding him; Mulder isn't all that stable himself - will this destroy him as well as Scully?

He would do everything in his power to prevent that.

Bursting through the emergency room door, Mulder was shouldered aside by a burly orderly as people surrounded Scully, shouting instructions at each other.

"Okay, we got a white female, approximately thirty years of age..."

"Thirty-two," Mulder said, to nobody. "She's thirty-two."

They ignored him.

"Probable rape, vaginal bleeding, compound fracture of left radius and ulna, broken nose, possible internal injuries from blunt trauma." the older medic said as they transferred her to the hospital bed. "She's an FBI agent." he added, as if it was important for them to know.

"Give me 10 cc's of..." the young doctor began pulling off the blanket, leaving Scully bare to the world, "..Anapromaine and a rape kit." he suddenly looked at Mulder, who was staring in utter horror at the deep purple bruises mottling Scully's pale torso and upper thighs. "What's he doing in here? Get him out of here!"

"I...I'm her partner..." he stammered, something he'd never done before, not even as a high school geek.

"I don't care if you're God, get him out of here!" the doctor shouted, and Mulder felt himself pushed from the room and the curtain fell in front of his face, cutting off his view of her, which was a sudden relief.

He stood, stunned. A nurse came out from behind the curtain, saw him, and took pity on him.

She approached him carefully, seeing the gun holstered at his side, seeing the fine tremors that ran through his body, correctly deciding he was going into mild shock.

"Agent?" she made it a question, and he looked at her with blank eyes. "Let me take you to the waiting room..."

She carefully took his arm and led him a few feet, to a plain door, and through to a small room with a sofa, chairs, coffee table, lamp and phone. It was carpeted, plush and quiet.

"Sit here." she pushed him down on the sofa, and gave a shout out the door.

"Nancy! Get me a thermal and some coffee in here, STAT!"

Then she sat knelt in front of him and slowly reached for his gun.

His hand clapped over hers suddenly and she held her breath.

"I need to take your weapon, sir," she said. "We can't take any chances here."

He looked into her face and she saw that he was seeing her, that he understood as he pulled his hand away.

She removed the gun from the holster, checked to make sure the safety was on, and laid it on the coffee table.

"What's your name?" she asked, glad that they weren't so busy, that she had the time to talk to this man and give him some support until his friends and family got here. "I'm Jill Roberts. I'm an RN."

"Mulder. Agent Mulder," he said, rasping. "When can I see Scully?"

"Is that her name? Scully?"

"Dana." the word seemed to drag out of him, as if he'd never used it before. "Special Agent Dana Scully."

"She's going to be fine." There were no life-threatening injuries, so there was no reason she shouldn't be. "You can see her as soon as we get her to a room."

Another nurse came to the door, with blankets and two large cups of coffee. Roberts took with a quiet thank-you and came to spread one over Mulder, whose trembling had become more pronounced. He accepted the coffee, but didn't drink.

"Scully drinks coffee," he said suddenly. "She has to have it, every morning, so I make it when I get in. It keeps her in a good mood."

"She's going to be fine." Roberts said. "I need to go check on her now, so you drink that and I'll be back, okay?"

He didn't answer, but took a sip of the hot liquid.

When she returned to tell him that Scully was being moved to a room, she found the room full of men in suits. She thought she would have guessed what they were if she hadn't already known. They all had that look to them.

Mulder was still where she'd left him on the sofa, but there was a woman crying in his arms. From the greying red hair and small stature, Roberts deduced that this was Scully's mother.

He was holding her and talking quietly in her ear as she sobbed. The other agents were standing stiffly, looking uncomfortable.

One stepped in front of her as she came in. Tall, sturdily muscled, he had a definite air of authority.

"I'm Assistant Director Skinner. Can you tell us how Agent Scully is doing?"

"She's being moved to a room right now. Doctor Patterson says that her family should meet him on the floor, he'll talk to you there." she looked past him to the mother. "Are you Mrs. Scully? I can escort you up."

"Is she going to be okay?" Skinner asked insistently.

"There is every reason to believe that Agent Scully will make a full recovery," she said, unable to say more without the doctor's permission.

He sighed, a sigh of relief, and stepped back.

"Mrs. Scully?" Roberts said, coming to the woman. "Can you come with me now? You, too, Agent Mulder."

They walked past the others, Mulder half-supporting Margaret, and Skinner stopped him at the door.

"Do you want me to stay?" he asked Mulder.

Mulder's eyes were dark and bleak, but there was hatred in his voice as he answered.

"We'll be fine. Just find the bastard who did this."

"We will." Skinner let him pass. "Before the day is out."

Mulder didn't reply, just followed Roberts down the hall, Margaret beside him.

They sat at her bedside, one on each side, Margaret a little closer than Mulder, waiting for the doctor, who hadn't been waiting for them.

They didn't speak. There seemed no room for words, no air. Scully lay between them, a pale, fragile form that barely moved. Clad in plaster and cotton, hung with tubing, she seemed a mannequin, a semblance of a human being. Not Scully.

He felt it, the guilt welling inside him, threatening to fill him and drown him, but he pushed it down. Not now. Later, when I know Scully's okay. Then I will feel it, he told himself.

Looking at Margaret, he convinced himself that he could feel her agreement to that.

The doctor finally stumbled in, flushed and hurried.

"I'm Dr.Patterson," he said shortly, not sitting. "You are Mrs.Scully?"

"Yes," she said steadily.

"You daughter's injuries are of an extremely personal nature, Mrs.Scully. Do you want me to discuss them in front of him?"

"Fox has as much right to be here as I do."

Mulder blinked at that. Did she know what had happened between them last year?

"If you say so," the doctor said and shrugged. "Mrs. Scully, your daughter was brutally raped, both vaginally and analy. There were severe lacerations the genitals. Her nose was broken, and her arm. The arm has been set and she is currently receiving medication for pain. It is usually my recommendation in cases like this that the patient be kept sedated until the worst of the...more private...injuries have begun to heal. Four or five days, at least."

"She won't wake up for four or five days?" Mulder asked.

"I wouldn't recommend it."

"It's for the best, Fox," Margaret said. "She doesn't need to know what happened until she's not hurting so much."

It will hurt so much anyhow, he thought.

"Whatever you think is best," Margaret said.

"Can we stay with her?" Mulder asked.

Can I stay with her? he didn't say it out loud, afraid of the answer. Not that he wouldn't stay with her, he just didn't feel up to fighting about it right now.

"Why don't you go home and get some rest." Patterson suggested. "Come back this afternoon. We're going to finish cleaning her up, and there's really nothing you can do right now."

"You go," Mulder said to Margaret. "We can take turns. I don't want her to be here alone."

She nodded, looking suddenly old. Mulder had never seen her that way before.

"I need to call her brothers and the rest of the family." she said slowly. "You'll stay with her?"

"Haven't I always?" he said softly, and the doctor saw something, an understanding pass between them.

Mulder would stay and be strong as long as Scully needed him. Then he would fall apart in private.

Margaret got up to go.

"Would you call my mother?" Mulder asked.

"Are you sure you don't want to?" she asked, concerned. He had never had a good relationship with her, but Margaret had thought it was getting better.

"Not now." he shook his head.

"Of course. She can stay with me." she knew Catherine would want to come down from the vineyard until Dana was better.

"There are some forms you need to fill out..." Patterson led Margaret from the room, leaving Mulder alone with the pale form that was Scully.


They let her sleep for six days. Patterson explained, awkwardly, that the damage had been extreme.

"Dana is a small woman, Mrs. Scully, much like yourself. Whoever attacked her was a large...well-endowed man. Ahem. Does she have a regular sexual partner?"

"Is that relevant?" Mulder spoke from his place by the wall. He wanted to be close to her, but was afraid the presence of any man might disturb her.

Patterson looked vaguely embarrassed. "Well, yes. Regular sexual activity stretches the vaginal muscles. If she hasn't had a regular partner that would explain the level of injury."

Margaret looked at the doctor and then at Mulder, then shrugged.

"She didn't tell me about anyone. Was she seeing anyone, Fox?"

His answer was short. "No."

Margaret looked at him, hearing something in his voice, and the doctor waited expectantly.

Mulder continued reluctantly.

"She hasn't...been with...anyone - in over a year," he said haltingly.

"You're sure?" Patterson asked.

"I'm sure," Mulder said flatly, trying not to remember that night...how sweet she had tasted, how long it had been, how he had longed to do it again. Was longing for it now, this minute. He wanted to take her in his arms and erase everything that other guy had done to her.

"We'll start withdrawing the sedative tomorrow morning." Patterson said at last, wondering as he looked at the handsome, aloof man. "I think Mrs. Scully should be here when she wakes up."

Mulder nodded sharply, understanding what he didn't say - how she might react seeing a man.

"Dr. Levine will take over her care at that point," Patterson continued. "She's experienced in rape cases and can make the best recommendations in Dana's case. There may be a need for reconstructive surgery."

"Of what?" Mulder asked, then he shook his head and held up a hand as the doctor hesitated. "No. I didn't mean that. I don't want to know."

"You should both go and get some rest," Patterson said. "It's going to be tough from here one out."

Margaret nodded.

"Thank you, doctor," she said, shaking his hand. "We appreciate everything you've done for Dana."

He nodded at Mulder, and left.

Margaret turned and stared across the room at him.

"Fox," she said. Her heart was broken and breaking again. She could see the pain he was in and knew that nobody could ease it - except, possibly, Dana. But she was out of his reach now, and she wouldn't be able to help him when she came back. Not right away, at least.

Though she loved this man as if he were her own child, she hardened her heart and said what needed to be said.

Stepping closer to him, around the bed, she wasn't surprised when he actually shrank back against the wall to avoid being touched by her.

"You're going to have to rest," she said, laying a hand on his arm. "You're going to have to be strong. Dana will need you, and you can't need her. Not now. Not that much."

He lowered his head to his chest, closing his eyes, gathering strength.

"She can't see your pain, Fox. Or your guilt. It will be so hard for her -- don't make it any harder."

He raised his head and, gently, took her hand in his, tentatively, afraid to touch, to feel.

"I know." he opened his eyes and Margaret could see the strength, the resolve in them.

She believed him. He wouldn't make Dana suffer his burden. At least, not yet.

But maybe that was what they needed to push them over the fence they had straddled so long.

She turned to leave, thinking. Leaving him alone with her, for the first time since the attack.

He leaned against the wall for a while, watching the sunlight fade in the sky outside the window. The sunset was moody and dark and he felt akin to it.

After a long time he moved to stand beside the bed. Looking at her, he leaned to whisper into her ear, his face close to her neck, smelling the freshness of Scully beneath the hospital stink.

He put a hand on the bed to steady himself, took a deep breath.

"Scully. I know you can hear me, even if you don't understand what I'm saying. That's okay. I just wanted to tell you. To tell you that I love you, and you're going to be fine. We'll get through this. I can be your wall, your refuge, your strength. All you have to do is let me."

He paused, considering.

"I know this is my fault...I should have been there, or I should have warned you - reminded you to be careful. But we're not going to talk about that. I'm going to swallow it down and bury it deep. It's mine and not yours and I'm not going to share."

He stood back up and looked at her for a while longer.

"I'll come back when you ask for me. When you're ready to see me." he whispered into the darkness. Then he leaned down and kissed her bruised face gently, her eyelids, her cheeks, her lips.

Then he left, quietly, the nurses staring after him. He was an enigma to them. The woman's partner. An FBI agent. They wondered among themselves - what kind of relationship do they have? The consensus was that he did love her, if his actions proved anything.

Part Three: And Later

"Mom." Dana sighed, shifted in the bed. She hurt so many places - places she didn't like to think about.

Her mother put down the thank-you list she was compiling and smiled at her daughter. She was doing so well. She had cried after she woke up, a little, and then gotten to dealing with it. Personally, Margaret thought she'd passed through that stage a little too quickly. And the hospital staff agreed.

"Yes, Dana?" she said, waiting to hear what she wanted. She had asked for Fox that first day, when she woke, but not since.

"Where is Mulder? Why hasn't he come to visit me?" she sat with an effort, reaching a finger under the edge of the cast to scratch what she could reach, but it just made the itch worse.

Margaret stood and came to the bed. "I was wondering when you would ask that," she said, adjusting the pillows behind her so she could sit comfortably. "I thought you would ask sooner."

"I just thought he was giving me time." Dana sighed. "How is he taking this? Does he ask about me?"

"He calls me every night, and I tell him how you are. He never asks anything."

"Is he afraid to see me?"

Margaret considered. "I think he's just waiting for you to ask for him. He doesn't want you to feel uncomfortable."

Dana smiled wanly. She'd noticed the lack of men. No men visited, no male doctors or nurses came into her room. Even the cop who had taken her statement had been a woman. Skinner had called, but he hadn't come by, and the others -- so many of them -- had sent cards and flowers.

Rape made the old boys' network nervous, she decided. A sense of group responsibility.

Oh, no. She hadn't thought of that. Was Mulder blaming himself?

She smiled again, and her mother noticed.

Duh, she told herself.

This is Mulder I'm thinking about. He blames himself for everything bad that happens to people close to him.

"I think I'd better call him," she said aloud.

"Good idea." her mother smiled. It was a start. Fox wouldn't let her sweep her feelings under a rug. He knew too much about that.

"I don't get it." Mulder stood suddenly, disrupting the meeting. "Why can't we find this guy?"

"Sit down, Agent Mulder." Skinner's voice cracked out like a whip and Mulder sagged back into his chair reluctantly.

"We have two previous and a ton of physical evidence -- there's got to be a lead here!" he snarled.

Now Skinner stood, coming around the table to stand behind Mulder.

"We have everything but the important stuff, Mulder. No fingerprints. No semen sample. He wore gloves and a rubber. He was smart."

"We know we're looking for a large man, 6'4" or 6'5", who weighs about 280 pounds. We know he's blond, and has a pale complexion. He's probably a student. That's it." Gyles spoke from the other end of the table. Skinner had assigned him to the case because he knew he was thorough.

Mulder shook his head. "What about the university? What are they doing to help?"

"They know they can't keep it quiet any longer. They've beefed up security substantially. But they don't have anything more to offer."

"How about going through the student files?" Skinner asked.

"I was hoping to avoid that," Gyles said. "The school is adamantly against it. It will cause some problems, they won't cooperate after that, not willingly."

"This is going to hurt enrollment." Mulder spoke up. "That's all they care about."

"We can't just go through their files and question everyone who looks like that," Gyles said.

"Why not?"

Skinner raised his hand and Gyles leaned back, relaxing. He would keep 'Spooky' under control.

"I think Mulder's right. We need to go through those files. Have you followed up everybody who left the school this last week?"

"Of course. No matches."

"Then we go through the files. Mulder will help you."

Gyles looked like he wanted to object, but swallowed it.


Everyone checked their phones. With a shrug, Mulder stood and opened his, moving toward the window.

"Mulder," he answered shortly.

"Where have you been?" the voice on the other end was like a breath of life.

"Scully!" he said happily. The others looked up and he knew they were listening.

"It's time for you to come see me, Mulder," she said into the phone as her mother watched. "We have things to talk about."

"I'll be right there," he said, hanging up as soon as he was done. He turned to the room, a small, wry grin on his face. "Agent Scully has requested my presence, gentlemen, so if you'll excuse me...?" he looked toward Skinner, who nodded.

"Of course, Agent Mulder. Give her our best."

He was out the door before anyone could start speculating.

He opened the door hesitantly. Scully was sleeping, alone in the room, her mother gone home for the day.

He stood at the bedside, looking at her. She looked so much better. the swelling in her face was gone, the bruises faded to yellow-and-green.

She opened her eyes and smiled at him. "Mulder. You came."

"I didn't have anything else to do," he said softly, holding himself back.

"Why didn't you come sooner?"

"This is a girl thing, Scully. Not something I should be around for."

"Pregnancy is a 'girl thing', Mulder. Rape hurts everybody."

He stiffened when she said the word.

"It's okay," she said, holding out a hand to him. "I'm dealing with it."

He took the hand and sat in the chair beside the bed.

"So...how are you?" he asked.

"I'm going to be fine. I still need to have surgery to fix some things up, but that won't be too bad."


"Next monday. Will you be here with me?"

"Anything you want," he said. Looking at the room, the flowers. He'd sent baby roses, three dozen soft pink blooms in dark green foliage. He saw them sitting on the bedside table.

"Anything?" she asked softly, and he brought his eyes back to her face.

"Anything," he said.

"Then will you quit being my partner for a few minutes and just be my friend?"

"I can do that." He smiled twistedly.

"Would you come up here and hold me?"

He hesitated, releasing her hand. "Scully..."

"I want to feel safe, Mulder. I want to feel your strength around me. I haven't felt safe since I walked into that parking lot."

He didn't say anything, just stood and came to the bed. She scooted over and he sat beside her, waiting.

She looked at him for a long minute, then turned her back and leaned back into his chest. He closed his arms around her and hugged her close, resting his chin on her shoulder.

"Better?" he asked softly.

She closed her eyes and relaxed against him.


He sat very still, feeling her warmth fill his arms as it hadn't done in so long.

She felt his heart beating against her back and caught her breath, then relaxed again. This was Mulder. He would never hurt her.

They sat that way for a long time. A nurse went by the door, looked in, and smiled at him. He didn't smile back, too absorbed in the feel of Scully in his arms. When she left he closed his eyes and breathed her scent.

"Mulder," she whispered, realizing that she'd fallen asleep. They were in the same position, but it was dark now. She shivered and Mulder shifted.

"Are you cold, Scully?" his breath was warm in her ear.

"No. I just don't like the dark much anymore."

"Hang on." he released her with one arm to reach the remote control and turn on the TV, muting the sound. The flickering screen added a splash of ghostly light to the room.

Scully almost chuckled.

"I don't think that's an improvement," she said as he brought his arm back and rested his chin again. "What time is it?"

"Just past midnight. You were tired."

"I haven't been sleeping very well." she admitted reluctantly.

"Want to talk about it?" it was a simple offer and she knew he wouldn't be offended if she refused. But she was ready, now.

"I think so." She turned her head to look at him, and he lifted his to look her in the eyes. "Are you comfortable?"

"This is great." He smiled crookedly.

"It's got to be killing your back." she objected. "here, let's do...this..."

She lay back against him further, and he had to shift to the center of the bed to accommodate her. Now she lay between his wool-clad legs, head still on his chest, his back supported by her pillows.

"How's that?"

"Not bad," he said, hoping she didn't notice the erection he was getting. Close contact with her always had this effect on him, and her butt was right up against his crotch.

She probably noticed. So he hoped it didn't frighten her or make her nervous.

"Okay." she sighed and closed her eyes again.

He waited a few minutes.



"Did you get me into this position so you could go back to sleep?"

"No, I'm going to talk. I'm just gathering my thoughts."


She smiled at that little noise, then began to speak.

"I was lucky, you know. That he didn't kill me. He had my gun and I was unconscious - he could have done anything."

"I think what he did was bad enough," Mulder said softly.

"But I'm alive, and I'm going to be okay. After the surgery I can put this all behind me. I'll still be able to have children and live a full life."

"I'm behind you, Scully."

"So you can just shove it on back."

She was quiet for a few minutes and then he spoke up.

"I don't think it's that easy."


"I said I don't think it will be that easy. I'm a psychologist, I know how hard something like this can be -- should be -- to get over. If you go too fast you'll carry it with you forever."

"I'm going to carry it either way, Mulder." she sounded so sad.

"But it doesn't have to be the first thing in your mind everyday. It doesn't have to keep you from living your life as it was meant to be lived."

"I didn't say I was going to let it do that."

"I'm just saying...in my professional opinion, you can't put it behind you that easily."

"I'm strong, Mulder. I can handle it."

He hushed, holding her to him, letting her talk, about work and her dog and her mom and a hundred other things that weren't the subject at hand.

There was no doubting it. Scully was in denial.

He was with her when she woke up from the surgery, held her head when she puked into a basin from the anesthesia, washed her face when she broke into a sweat from the pain. Because it was worse than she'd thought it would be, worse than he could believe. It felt like what she imagined childbirth would feel like, and it didn't stop for three whole days. The doctors said it was the amount of work they'd had to do -- cutting and moving and restitching parts of her cervix, vaginal walls, and external genitalia to repair the damage and rebuild a normal passage.

"You'll still be able to give birth normally." Dr. Levine told her the next day as she struggled with the pain and waited for the next shot. "All the original muscle was replaced. And you'll be able to have sex again within three months."

That wasn't too high on her list right now, Mulder imagined as her hand gripped his, leaving white pressure marks across it.

Frankly, it wasn't very high on his, either. He couldn't stand the thought of ever making love to another woman. Even if Scully found someone and got married, he would never want another. He knew that now.

Good thing he had all those tapes. After this Scully might just decide to become a nun. She was Catholic, after all.

Then she was better and released to come home. Over the phone Skinner told her to take another week off to regain her strength.

When she left the hospital, Mulder on one side, Margaret on the other, Dr. Levine gave her a small card with an address and phone number.

"This is the counseling group I was telling you about. That's when we meet. I'm expecting you to be there."

"She will be." Mulder and Margaret spoke up as one, then smiled, she thoughtfully, Mulder nervously.

"There's also a group for the men that meets in a different room at the same time." Levine told Mulder. "I know you and Agent Scully are only partners, but it might help you understand what she's going through."

He nodded.

"If Scully wants me to go I will."

"You don't have to, Mulder," she said. "You guys are making a fuss about nothing. I'm fine."

He stared at her, remembering all the times she'd said that.

All the times she'd been lying.

Part Four: Grouping

He came to pick her up right on time. She was wearing a suit, looking as cool and collected as she had that day more than three weeks ago.

"Ready?" he asked, opening the door for her by leaning across the seat. He'd had an urge to get out and do it, but knew she wouldn't appreciate the chivalrous gesture, especially not now.

"As I'll ever be." she got in, put her seatbelt on. "Are you going?"

"If you have to I guess I should," he said noncommittally. Actually, he was hoping he'd learn something about this - this denial she was exhibiting.

"You don't have to."

"I want to." he insisted as he drove, quickly, smoothly. "Besides, I don't want you driving yourself around yet."

"Mulder..." her voice warned.

"Allow me some vestige of chivalry," he objected to her objection.

She sat back, accepting this.

"So that's your wife?" a small man, thin and dark, asked Mulder as they waited for their shrink, watching the women walk by, carrying cups of coffee. Scully smiled wryly at him.

"No. She's my partner," Mulder said evenly.

"One of those live-together things." the man nodded sagely. "I got no problem with that."

"Noo, she's my partner. I'm an FBI agent and she's my partner."

"Really?" another man spoke up. "My wife's a firefighter, and the hardest thing for her was accepting that some guy could overcome her when she was really fighting."

"Scully's not very big," Mulder said. "But she's a crack shot."

"I just meant that I think it's harder for women in traditionally male occupations to come to terms with this." he paused. "With being raped."

Mulder stared at him, angry that he'd said it aloud. Mulder had never said it.

"I'm Davis. I'm an accountant." The man, who gave the general impression of calm blandness, held out his hand. Mulder shook it.

"`An I'm Octavio." the swarthy man said. "My wife, Gena and me, we run a deli. That's what happened. I left to go see our boy, Grego, play in a ballgame, and Gena had to lock up, and this asshole came in to rob her."

"And it wasn't your fault." another man, tall and distinguished, came in, wearing casual clothes. Two more men followed him, took seats, making a small half-circle. "Hello. I'm Doctor Baroudi. I'm glad to see you here."

He sat down across from Mulder and Mulder settled back in the chair. He didn't like shrinks and he didn't like being psychoanalyzed.

"You're the only new person tonight." Baroudi said. "Would you like to introduce yourself?"

"Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI," Mulder said. "Also psychologist."

"I'm glad you're here, Agent Mulder. Should we call you Fox?"

"Just Mulder," he said shortly. Why was he doing this, again?

"Want to tell us why you're here?" Baroudi picked the words from his mind.

Mulder hesitated.

"It won't help anybody if you don't."

"It's not so bad." Davis said encouragingly.

"My partner..." Mulder fumbled for words, something he never did. Of course he almost never talked with other men, either. "my partner, Agent Scully, was raped."

"And you think it was your fault." Baroudi went right for the heart of it. "Wait! Don't answer that yet - think about it and we'll get back to you." he turned his attention to the others.

"Anybody want to talk about anything?"

Octavio spoke up.

"I did what you said, with my boy Grego, and it seemed to help. He's still mad at me, but he's not hovering over his mother so much this last week."

"You know how hard things can be for teenagers. It's easier for him to blame you than himself, and healthier, too. He'll get over it. And how is Gena?"

"She went out today with her sisters and got her hair done. She hasn't done that since the attack."

"That's a good sign. Davis?"

The accountant shrugged. "She's in the bed, I'm on the floor."

"Why? She told you last week that she didn't want you doing that anymore."

"But I get into bed with her and she's afraid. I can feel it." his eyes told Mulder how hard it was for him to see his wife afraid of him. "I go to the sofa and she can't sleep without me in the room. What am I supposed to do?"

"Did you try lying down with her during the day? Fully dressed, just to take a nap?"

"I'm getting to where I need one." Davis shook his head. "She wants to go back to work and I'm afraid it's to get away from me."

"She works three on, three off, right?"

"Yeah. Three nights away from me at a time. I don't know if she'll ever come back." he looked close to tears.

"You've got to tell her that." Baroudi said. "Am I right, Mulder?"

"I only did my clinical," Mulder said. "I've never been in private practice." he paused. "But that sounds right to me."

"Me, too." the others agreed.

"It's hard." Davis said.

"Joe? How is Lisa?"

"Pretty good, considering. Doc says the baby's going to be fine, but she's scared. Really driving me crazy with all her worrying."

"Lisa lost a baby when she was raped six months ago." Davis supplied for Mulder. "She's pregnant again."

"Just let her worry and do what she asks." Baroudi said. "After the baby comes she'll relax some. Harold?"

"The trial starts Friday. She's terrified he's going to get out and come back after her. She wants me to buy a gun, but I said no, she's not in any condition to use it."

Mulder nodded approvingly. So many cases involved frightened people who shot their friends and family by mistake.

"But I did say we could get a dog -- she wants a big one -- so we're going to go pick one out tomorrow if Dr.Levine thinks it's a good idea."

"A dog could make her feel safer when she's home alone." Baroudi agreed. Then he turned back to Mulder, catching the look on his face. "So how are you doing, Mulder?"

"I'm fine. I wasn't the one hurt."

"Have you and Agent Scully been partners for very long?"

"Four years."

"It's a very dangerous profession. Have you saved her life?"

"Not as many times as she's saved mine."

"And that just makes you feel worse because you didn't save her this time." Baroudi looked shrewd and Mulder's face froze up. The others noticed, giving each other knowing looks.

"What happened to your last partner?"

Mulder smiled, sarcastically.

"He didn't die, if that's what you're getting at. I've had several partners. They all left because they couldn't work with me."

"And she can?"

"Surprisingly enough." Mulder deadpanned.

"Do you think she's going to quit the agency because of this?"

"It didn't happen in the line of duty. It was just a stupid case of bad timing."

"Have you caught the guy?" Harold asked.

"Not yet." the words were so bitter Baroudi stared at him.

"Do you want to talk about that?"

"No." Mulder snapped. "I don't want to talk about any of this. All I want is to know what to expect from Scully and how I can help her."

"Does she have a first name?" Davis asked, trying to make a joke of it and failing.

"Dana," he said shortly.

"Dana." Baroudi watched Mulder as he said it, noticed the tightening of his jaw. "But you call her Scully."

"She's my partner."

"Not your wife." Baroudi agreed. "Or your lover...right, Mulder?"

Mulder was silent.

"Everything you say here is confidential." Baroudi said softly while the others almost held their breath -- Mulder looked on the edge of violence.

"I don't record. I don't take notes. I don't even write reports." Baroudi continued.

"Do you have an eidetic memory?" Mulder asked sharply.

Everyone but Davis looked confused.

"Photographic." Baroudi supplied. "No, Mulder. Do you?"

"Yes." Now Mulder leaned forward, folding in on himself. "You don't know what it's like, not to be able to forget anything."

There was a minute of silence as the others watched him pull himself together. The violence was gone, replaced by a blank mask of control. Baroudi sighed. He didn't think he'd ever seen a control as complete as that.

"Scully and I have been lovers," he said flatly. "Twice. the last time was fourteen months and three days ago."

"You keep count?" Joe was startled. This guy was weird.

"Was that a good experience?" Baroudi pried carefully and was rewarded by a crack in Mulder's mask as he smiled, a tiny upturn of his lips and his answer sang through him.


"So why aren't you together?" Harold asked, confused.

"Are you in love with her?" Davis was concerned.

"She's my partner. Our work is very important to both of us. One of us would be transferred, our department might be shut down. It's not worth it."

"You can find other jobs," Baroudi pointed out.

"Not like this one." the look on his face was enigmatic, and Baroudi decided to change the subject. "Has she had other boyfriends since than? Has she ever been married?"

"No and no." Mulder hesitated, not wanting to expose Scully's privacy any more than he had to. "That's why...the doctor said...he said that was why she was hurt so bad -- because she hadn't been having sex...the guy was big...and Scully's not very big..." he couldn't say anymore. He could tell the others understood, by the expressions of pity and disgust on their faces. Baroudi sighed.

"That's very sad, Mulder. Is she going to be okay?"

"Yeah," he said softly. "Her body's okay. And her heart will be, too, if I --" he shut his mouth like a trap.

"If you can do the right thing?" Baroudi prodded. "If you can say the right thing, every time? Mulder, you should know better than that. No one can do that."

Mulder remained stubbornly silent.

"Okay." Baroudi said softly. "I think that's enough for you tonight.

"No, wait," Mulder said. "Tell me what to do. She's going home tonight for the first time, at her apartment. I'm driving her there. Should I offer to stay? Should I leave her alone?"

"Was she raped in her apartment?"

"It was a parking lot."

"Your Scully sounds like a strong woman, Mulder." Davis said. "If I were you I'd do whatever she wanted you to."

"Look who's talking." Mulder retorted without heat.

"He's right, Davis." Baroudi smiled.

Davis grimaced. "Okay. I'll sleep in the bed."

"She'll stop being afraid after a couple of nights. A week at the most." Baroudi encouraged him.

"Just do what she wants me to," Mulder said. "What if I can't?"

"I don't think there's anything you wouldn't do for your partner, Agent Mulder." now Baroudi smiled at him.

"I didn't say won't." Mulder snarled. "I said can't." he started up from his chair, his jacket loose, shoulder holster visible. The other men stared at it and he sat back down abruptly.

"Would you like to stay and talk with me in private after this session?" the doctor offered quietly.

"No." it was barely above a whisper. "I have to take Scully home."

"Okay." Baroudi turned his attention back to the other men, his mind working on the puzzle of Agent Mulder. Apparently he wasn't a very stable individual. Of course, that could be the result of current events, but the trouble finding a partner suggested otherwise. There was a lot of pain weighing this man down, and his partner's rape was only the tip of the iceberg.

He wished he would come back and talk to him, but he knew he wouldn't.

"Here we are." Mulder stopped the car, turned it off, and waited.

Scully looked out at the night darkness, broken by bright streetlamps.

"I never realized it was this dark at night," she said softly.

"I can take you back to your mother's, Scully," he said. "You don't have to do this yet."

"Yes I do," she said, opening her door. Mulder followed her, getting her suitcase out of the trunk. He'd come over to get some of the things in it for her when she needed them.

"How did the session go?" she asked as they went up the stairs.

"It was interesting," he said.

"Mulder. Tell me you didn't shoot anyone."


"Hit anyone."


"Yell at anyone."

"I might have yelled." he allowed.

"Mulder. What am I going to do with you?" she asked as he unlocked the door and went in, turning on lights as he went.

"Let me sleep on your couch," he said over his shoulder as he disappeared into the bedroom with her case.

She followed him. He was unpacking for her, putting things away as neatly as she would have.

"You don't have to do that."

"I don't mind." It was such an understatement he could barely get it out.

He finished unpacking and put the suitcase in the bedroom closet, right where she kept it.

"You know me so well." She smiled.

"I'm going to order out for dinner and then we're going to watch a movie and then you're going to get some sleep," he said, looking down at her as she faced him. The urge to reach for her was so strong his hands actually moved a couple of inches before he caught himself.

"I think I'll take a shower before the food gets here." she said, breaking the spell she probably wasn't aware of.

Can I come with you? he thought, meaning it in every possible way.

"What?" she turned and looked at him.

"Thai, Chinese, or Pizza?" he said quickly. Had he said the other out loud?

"Chinese." She smiled and went back into the bedroom, leaving him to sigh with relief. No, I was just thinking too loud.

He ordered chinese.

Dana stood under the hot water of the shower for a very long time. It seemed like she just couldn't feel clean anymore. She understood why, understood the psychology of it, but that didn't change how it felt.

Mulder was being so normal. Okay, nicer than normal, but essentially normal. She'd been so worried he blamed himself for what happened, and it seemed like she'd worried over nothing. Just like her mother, always looking at her with concern when she thought Dana wouldn't notice.

She stepped out of the shower at last, with a sigh of relief. It was so good to be home, where her mom couldn't hover. And she wasn't going to let Mulder do it, either. He could stay tonight, to make him feel better, but that was it.

The empty take-out boxes cluttered her coffee table, and 'Steel Magnolias' was winding to an end.

"I hope you didn't rent that three weeks ago." Scully said. She was sitting on the sofa, in a long red T-shirt and socks. Mulder was on the floor, his back against the sofa, long legs stretched beneath the coffee table, head laid back. He'd taken off his jacket and tie, unbuttoned the top button and rolled up his sleeves. His shoes sat by the recliner.

She stared at him, thinking that she didn't often see him this relaxed.

"I bought it. I was going to give it to your mother as payment for dinner."

She smiled.

"That was sweet of you." she was so glad her mother had taken Mulder under her wing. He'd needed a mother's love for a very long time. At least twenty-five years. "You can give it to her next time."

"No, I think I'll keep it," he said quietly. "I'll get her another copy."

There was quiet as the credits rolled and the screen went dark.

"I'm going to bed," she said at last, standing up. She stepped over him and he had a glimpse of rose-colored satin.

A sudden, desperate desire to touch her struggled in him and he compromised with himself, merely touching her leg as she gathered up the trash.

She jumped, then scolded herself.

"Sorry." She smiled at him.

"I can get that," he said softly. In the near-darkness of the room she could have sworn his hazel eyes were glowing gold.

"Okay." she agreed, not sure why she was suddenly so uncomfortable.

He removed his hand and watched her as she walked down the hall, reaching for the remote.

"Goodnight Scully." he called after her.

"Goodnight, Mulder." she called back.

He found an old war movie on while he listened to her moving around the room and finally be quiet, and then he watched it, still listening.

Maybe it was the stress of the last few weeks. Maybe it was the chinese food. Or maybe it was because he was in Scully's apartment, and Scully was there.

Then again, maybe it was to avoid thinking or remembering.

Whatever the reason, Mulder fell asleep on her couch.

Lying on her side, curled into a tight ball on her bed, covers twisted around her, Scully dreamed.

She could feel his weight pressing her down, feel the pressure of his hands on her exposed parts, feel the slickrough surface of the pavement beneath her bleeding nose, taste the blood in her mouth.

Her arm cracked with a blinding pain that left no room for breath and she tried to scream, but something was in her mouth.

Mulder sat suddenly. He always woke quickly, but it took him a few seconds to adjust and remember where he was.

He heard the sound again, the one that had cut through his exhausted deep sleep to touch his heart and wake him.


A whimper...a whisper of sound. Her voice coming from a dark place.

He went to her room, afraid to go in, afraid not to. Standing indecisively outside the half-open door, he heard it again and his heart clenched, a fist of pain in his chest.

Do what she wants me to. What would Scully want him to do?

Screw it.

He went in, looked around the room. Everything was fine, normal, except for Scully, twisting slowly on the bed, caught in the throes of a nightmare. They both had them, but this one was worse than the others, because it wasn't shared.

It was something only she had suffered.

Approaching quietly, he sat on the edge of the bed and reached to stroke her face, trying to wake her gently.

She threw herself away from him, eyes suddenly wide with fear, and he struggled to restrain himself, to keep from reaching for him.

"Scully." he whispered, then a little louder. "Scully. It's me. It's okay."

She stared at him, dream images mixing with the reality of her dark room.

Without warning she opened her mouth and screamed as she hadn't been able to that night.

Mulder flinched, but made no move to stop her.

She screamed again, filling her lungs without pause and splitting the air with the sound of her terror.

Before she could do it again he turned on the bedside lamp. The pool of soft light helped her recover her senses and now she simply stared at him.

"Scully." Mulder looked at her. She didn't seem to see him. "Scully." he reached to touch her arm with one gentle hand, resting it lightly, almost not touching.

She looked at him, and then down at her arm, and back at him.


Hr voice was that of a lost child and his heart broke again. There were so many pieces of it now he knew he'd never fix it now.

"I'm here, Scully. It's okay." he scooted a little closer, not wanting to frighten her.

She moved suddenly, away from him, then stopped and seemed to gain control of herself, actually looking at him now.

"I had a nightmare," she said softly. Her voice sounded like it hadn't been used in a long time.

"Yeah." his was soft, begging, really. Let me hold you, let me help you, don't shut me out..."You okay now?"

She shook her head, trying to clear it. She could have sworn she heard him say something else..."I guess so. Thanks for waking me."

"It's not the first time," he said, a strange note to his voice. And, of course, it wasn't. They had both had their nightmares before, sometimes where the other could hear them, wake them. On the road, in the car, it had happened. Before and after that time fourteen months and three days ago. "Do you want me to stay? I could...sleep on the floor." he suddenly understood why Davis had done that willingly, even gratefully. To be close to the woman you loved, even if you couldn't touch her...it was something. Not enough, but nothing could ever be enough.

She smiled, looking tired and tousled and so very vulnerable.

"You don't have to do that." He held his breath, hoping she would suggest he stay in the bed with her, hold her again, no matter what kind of problems that might cause..."I'll be okay now. Go back to the living room and sleep on the couch. That's where you're comfortable."

I'm comfortable anywhere you are. He clamped his lips tightly together, astonished at how close he'd come to actually saying the words.

"Okay." he stood, looking down at her. "Do you want anything? A drink of water?" Can I tuck you in and kiss you goodnight?

"I'd like that," she said, and bent to straighten the covers while he went to the kitchen and poured a glass of cold water from the filter-pitcher in the fridge. When he got back she was back under the covers, everything neat and tidy, sitting up on several pillows. He handed her the water and stood while she drank it all.

"Okay?" he asked.

"I'm fine, Mulder. Don't fuss," she said.

"Okay." he walked to the other side of the bed and reached for the lamp, but she stopped him with her eyes. Looking at her, he pulled his hand back and left it on.

"Good night, then," he said softly, watching her.

"Good night, Mulder." she closed her eyes and lay back against the covers.

He actually made it to the couch, where he spent the rest of the night remembering breathing. In, out. In - out. In-and-out. There was a pattern to it, a rhythm he seemed to have forgotten.

And he never forget anything.

He stayed the next night. And the next. And then the week was gone and he was still sleeping at Scully's. She didn't say anything about it. There was this distance between them that couldn't be crossed, words that couldn't be said. She never said "Don't stay." He never said "I need to."

Instead he took her to dinner, or ordered in, and they watched movies or TV or he beat her at Scrabble. And then she went to bed and he watched some more TV or read something dry and boring.

His trips home were limited to that thirty minutes in the morning while she was getting dressed. He ran home, showered, changed clothes, and grabbed breakfast on the way back. The mornings were best for her, that was when she felt safest, most in control and capable.

He dropped her at her mom's and went to work.

When he walked into the small room at the crisis center, it was possible he might need to talk more than he had the last time.

If nobody said anything.

If nobody looked at him wrong.

If nobody breathed funny.

Dr.Baroudi watched him come in and sighed. This was worse than he'd thought.

He had called in a couple of favors and gotten a rundown of Mulder's history from an old classmate. He would have liked to see the file, but this was enough to tell him that this man was a bomb looking for a terrorist to set him off.

And that, possibly, his partner was the terrorist.

"Agent Mulder." he greeted him quietly as he came in, late, the others were all there. "How are things with you?"

His grin was so full of self-mockery, so grim, so painful it hurt just to see it. Baroudi could hardly gauge the level of pain a strong man would have to feel to smile like that. And he already knew Fox Mulder was a strong man. He had to be, he'd survived everything that had happened to him so far.

But everyone has a limit. A point where it becomes impossible to absorb anymore pain.

Had Mulder finally reached that point?

And what could be done to bring him back?

"I'm still on Scully's couch." Mulder's flat voice brought him back to the present.

"You're staying at her apartment?" Davis asked, the words full of understanding, making Mulder shudder.

"Every night."

"Why?" Baroudi needed to know his reasons before he could help him.

"So I can wake her from nightmares. Bring her water. Mess up her living room." Smell her on the towels.

Looking at him, Baroudi would have assumed he was a very neat man, but perhaps not.

"Have you talked about anything?"

"Movies. What to have for dinner. Which suit I should wear."

"She picks your suits?" Harold sounded amused. "Are you sure you aren't married?"

"No way a woman picked that tie." Davis spoke up with a grin, lightening the atmosphere.

Mulder fingered it, a vivid wash of blue-and-orange-and black paisley.

"You don't like my tie?" there was a sense of humor there, and they all smiled a little to hear it.

"That's a god-awful tie." Joe supplied.

"You should have seen the one I wore yesterday." Mulder didn't seem at all offended.

"Mulder, what did you give Dana last year for Christmas?"

Mulder hesitated. "Still trying to understand the relationship, Baroudi? Don't bother. I can't."

"And you're probably smarter than I am." Baroudi said aloud. "I understand that, Mulder. You're probably one of the smartest people I've ever met."

"You see what good it's done me." Mulder snorted. "I couldn't even pick her a present last year. It took me three months."

"So what'd ya get her?"

"A Pats sweatshirt and a video."

"What was the video? Some girl movie?" Davis asked curiously.

Mulder's face opened a little and the self-mockery was so plain the other men cringed inwardly, all of them afraid of that pain.

"Bimbos on the Beach."

"You gave her a skin flick?!" Harold seemed appalled, and so were the others when they realized he was right.

Mulder's smile widened, spreading across his face like a disease.

"Hey. She's my partner. I was trying not to be sexist."

Baroudi decided it was time to focus on somebody else. He wasn't going to let Mulder use this session to beat up on himself. He was pretty sure the tall agent did enough of that already.

"So how are you, Dana?" Dr.Levine turned her attention to the petite redhead, studying the casual clothes, jeans and sweater and high-heeled boots. No makeup, no jewelry.

"Not so good." Dana was willing to talk to these women, willing to share her fears and worries, but she'd held back so far.

She didn't know how to talk about Mulder.

"Tell us about it."

Dana settled herself, hands tight together in her lap, feeing just a twinge of the most recent pain, from the surgery.

"I haven't been able to sleep well."

"That's to be expected. Have you gone back to work yet?"

"Monday. I think Mulder's more worried about it than I am."

"Your partner, right. Why do you think he's worried about it?"

"He's been at my apartment every night this week."

"That's very considerate of him, to check on you like that." Dr.Levine said. "Does it bother you when he's like that?"

Dana looked up. "No, you don't understand. He's been at my apartment. Every night. On my couch."

There was a silence as that sank in, and then the doctor asked the important question.

"Do you want him there?"

And Dana gave the important answer.


"Then why is this a problem?"

Dana paused, gathering her thoughts, wondering how much she could reveal safely, how much she could say before she had to acknowledge things she wasn't ready to say out loud.

"It's - it's not, really. It's just that I can't seem to do anything about it."

"Have you asked him not too?"

"I want him to stay," she said, a little fiercely. "Mulder would never do anything I didn't want him to do."

The other women, six of them, were watching with undisguised curiosity. They wanted to understand this relationship, this woman who was so different from most of them. Small, fragile- looking, she stood alongside the men and fought the dangerous ones to a standstill. And this man, the one who was sleeping on her couch every night, stood beside her, watched her back, and let her.

Linda spoke up. She understood, a little bit, what Scully had with Mulder. She shared it, too, with the men in her firehouse. She was closer to some than to others, but they all knew to let her go her own way and do her job.

"I think the real question is, Dana, do you want him to do anything else?"

Dana shrugged, tears filling her eyes.

"I just want to stop being afraid. I've never been a shrinking violet, and now I feel like such a wimp. Mulder must think I'm a baby."

"Does it matter what he thinks?" Levine.

"Of course. How can he trust me to watch his back if I'm afraid? How can he let me do what I have to if he's afraid for me?"

Levine smiled at that reasoning. "Haven't you ever gone into a situation afraid? Haven't you ever known he was afraid for you?"

Dana raised her hands, rubbed them over her pale face, didn't answer from behind them.

"Of course you have." Levine said softly. "And I'm sure he has. Tell me about the scariest thing that ever happened to you, Dana. The most frightening thing that ever happened to you and your partner."

Dana lowered her hands and looked at Levine, then around the circle at the other women, hesitating.

"It's okay, Dana." Linda encouraged, her warm eyes lending strength.

"We don't usually talk about things..." Dana started, then stopped. "Mulder and I. They happen and we deal with them, but we never talk about them. I've listened to his nightmares, through hotel walls, and he's listened to mine, but we never talk about things. He calls me and wakes me up when he knows I'm having one."

Levine; "But you don't talk about them."

"No. We don't talk about them."

"To anyone."

"Who would I talk to? Most of the stuff we deal with is so unbelievable...I don't want to frighten my mother, and my friends have all moved on. They have boyfriends, husbands, families, lives."

"What do you have, Dana?" Levine's voice was soft. "What do you have?"

Dana looked straight at her, her eyes filled with sorrow and loss and sadness.

"I have a search for the truth."

She paused.

"And I have Mulder."

Levine asked the hard question for her, before Dana could actually let it into her mind.

"Is that enough?"

There was no judgement. If Dana said it was enough, then it would be enough.

"It used to be."

Linda spoke up, moving restlessly. "I'm not clear on your relationship with your partner Dana. Is there something else going on here?"

Levine waved her to silence.

"You don't have to answer that, Dana," she said soothingly. "Let's go back to my other question. Tell us about the scariest thing you shared with Mulder but didn't talk about it."

"Talk about it now." Renee`, a thin blond woman spoke up beside Dana, offering support.

"It'll be okay." Gena, a matronly Italian mama added.

Dana looked at them, took a deep breath.

They waited patiently as she gathered her thoughts for a few minutes.

And she began.

"So many terrifying things have happened. But I remember the worst. And I remember why it was the worst."

She paused and they waited while she tried to find a way to explain it, to explain what Modell could do and did.

"There was this man -- he had a tumor. A brain tumor. Once in a blue moon, a thing like that in your brain can change it. Make it stronger. And Modell's mind was very strong." she paused, looking to see how they were taking this. They look interested, not skeptical. "I can't explain how he did it, but he could take over a person's mind and force them to do what he wanted."

There were several gasps and sighs, but Dana just stared at Levine and continued talking.

"He wanted Mulder, because Mulder is smart -- a genius. He wanted Mulder to play a game with him. So he took an entire hospital wing hostage so Mulder would have to."

More gasps, several women looking nervous. Levine help up her hand for silence, and Dana continued, looking at Levine, her eyes steady.

"Mulder went in alone. Modell wanted him, not me. But then Modell took him hostage and I had to go in after him. I had to." her words, though soft, rang with conviction.

Then she was silent.

"Dana?" Levine asked softly.

"The next part is a little hard to believe." Dana hedged.

"It's all hard to believe!" Linda said loudly, breaking the spell, and the others agreed with relief.

"Do you want to tell us the rest of it?"

"I'd like to tell somebody." Dana sighed. "I've been carrying it around inside me so long."

"Then we'll listen." Levine sat back as if a decision had been made.

Dana waited a minute, then began again.

"He had Mulder in a hospital room. There was a man in there, on life support. They were sitting at a table, Modell and Mulder. Modell had a gun he took from a security officer. Mulder had left his outside so Modell couldn't use it against him. So had I." she paused. "Modell wanted Mulder to play russian roulette."

More quiet reactions, Levine making shushing motions.

"He gave Mulder first shot at him, but the bullet wasn't in the chamber. Then he made Mulder turn the gun on himself. I yelled -- "Mulder, NO!" rang suddenly in her memory and she saw again his grimace as he ducked his head, barrel to the temple and pulled the trigger -- but he did it. He put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, without hardly a fight. I was terrified he was going to blow his brains out right there in front of me. Then the barrel clicked and he tried to put the gun down. But Modell had another idea."

"He wanted Mulder to shoot you." Levine saw where this was going.

"Yes. He said I had to play to. He told Mulder that he'd get another chance at Modell after my turn." she paused, tears beginning to run slowly down her face. "Mulder looked so scared. He almost started crying. He fought it, as hard as he could, I could see it. He pointed the gun at me, and told Modell he was going to kill him." her voice dropped to a whisper as she continued, "He told me to run and he whispered my name..." she couldn't finish.

"What happened?" Linda demanded.

Dana shrugged.

"I saw the fire alarm behind me in the mirror over the bed, ran and pulled it while Mulder fought his control. The alarm broke Modell's concentration and Mulder shot him."

"My God." a woman's voice breathed beside her. Levine pressed a tissue into her hand, and she wiped her face with trembling hands.

"That's incredible."

"That would scare me." Levine said softly. "So why don't you and Mulder talk about it?"

"He just doesn't talk about things. Mulder's not...not a very happy person most of the time. He hurts so much, for so many things, and he covers it up with humor and his intelligence."

"Uses it to protect himself."

"Yes." Dana agreed.

"What would you ask him if he would talk about it?" Levine sat back again, seeing Dana gather herself.

"I'd ask him why he didn't fight when Modell told him to shoot himself, but fought so hard when he tried to make him shoot me."

"You gotta know that." Linda said with a half-hearted grin. "It's obvious he loves you."

"It's not that obvious." Levine scolded. "Why do you think he did that, Dana?"

"Mulder scares me sometimes, he seems so close to the edge. Sometimes it seems like I'm the only thing that pulls him back. Me, and the work. I've sat in out office and watched him when he thought I wasn't. He sits at his desk, reading files, working on the computer, and he plays with a razor blade. Twirls it between his fingers, almost absently. But I know what he's thinking about. And I know I can't do anything to stop it."

"Your partner is suicidal?" Levine seemed surprised by this revelation.

"Not all the time. But I can't always predict what will push him that way and what won't. He doesn't share things with me, not those things. I just have to watch and notice them."

"The FBI allows him to work like that?" Linda sounded surprised. "The Chief watches us really carefully for that sort of thing and helps us if it happens."

Dana smiled dryly. "The FBI allows its agents to do anything as long as it gets the job done. And Mulder's obsessions make him a very good agent. One of the best. We have a high case clearance, one of the highest. He's driven, but he directs it into his work."

"And where does that leave you, Dana?"

"On the outside. Looking in. Wanting to help him, but he won't let me. Won't even admit anything's wrong, ever."

"And how does that make you feel?"

"Alone. Sometimes abandoned. I need to talk to him, but..."

"You can talk to him, Dana. Can you make him listen?"

"I want him to talk back." Dana said slowly, understanding. "I don't just want to talk to him."

Levine paused, then patted Dana's hands.

"Have you ever considered that you might be in love with him?"

Dana closed her eyes, Mulder's face looming in her mind, how he'd looked when he kissed her, when he took her to him...then opened them slowly.

"I know I am. I have been, for a long time."

That admission got absolute silence from the others.

"And what are you going to do about it?" Levine said at last.

"There was a time - a little over a year ago - that I thought we'd gotten through that barrier. He came to me and I... I took him to my bed. But he said it could only happen that one time. Never again."

"Was it so bad he's afraid to try again?"

Dana smiled a little, and her voice was filled with the delight of the memory.

"Noooo. It was great. He was wonderful."

"Because of the work." Levine understood. Dana nodded, the glow fading.

"Because of work, and because of Mulder. He's so terrified of losing someone else in his life -- he's lost everybody, sister, father, mother -- that he won't take the chance."

"Your partner sounds like a man who needs you very much."

Dana smiled for real, her voice breaking.

"He's told me, a little, what I do for him, and I can see the rest. I'm his balance, his voice of reason, his anchor. I don't think he'd be alive today without me, and I know he feels the same."

"You're not talking about protection on the job, are you?" Linda ventured. Dana shook her head.

"I'm talking about his life."

"So what happened to you hurt him very badly."

They were back to the rape now. Dana hadn't talked about it much. She sighed.

"I feel like such a wimp. Letting him stay at my place, sleep on my couch, take care of me. I can't let this go on, not after I go back to work. It's too hard, keeping away from him when he's so close."

"And being together is out of the question?" Linda asked curiously.

"I don't think he's ready." Dana said.

"Will he ever be ready or will you have to push him?" Levine asked. "What will you do if he's never ready, Dana? Are you willing to go on like this until one of you dies?"

"Forever? No." Dana sighed. "I can't go on like this forever. But nothing has pushed me to make a decision before this."

"What do you want, Dana?"

"A life. A man who loves me and work that challenges me. A family."

"Is Mulder the one who can give you those things?"

"I don't know. But I do know that I can't leave him to find them and let him quietly self-destruct without me."

"You aren't responsible for his actions, Dana."

"When you love someone you don't want them hurt." Dana answered. "You don't want to hurt them."

Levine handed her another tissue as tears welled again.

"My advice to you, Dana, is to make the break. Not completely, but at least get some space between you so this isn't so painful. Get him out of your apartment and back into his and put your relationship back on a professional footing."

"We are friends." Dana said. "We'll always be friends."

"But having him stay with you is bringing things up that apparently neither of you want to talk about." Levine said softly. "And maybe neither of you are ready to talk about them. But if he stays much longer, I think you're going to have to."

"But I'm afraid to be alone." Dana admitted, eyes filled with tears. "And I hate being afraid."

"Strong women usually do." Levine smiled, then looked at the clock. "We've gone a little over tonight, ladies, the man must be waiting."

"I'm sorry I monopolized the time." Dana said, wiping her face again.

"No, don't be." Linda said.

"It's like a great opera." Gena spoke up, smiling at her in sympathy.

"Like a sad poem." Renee` agreed. The others murmured their assent as they gathered up their bags and purses.

Going into the hall, they let Dana go first, by unspoken consensus, and watched eagerly when she stepped out and her partner saw her. They saw his eyes go to her face, where her eyes were reddened from crying, and saw his hands clench and jaw tighten. Then the tension flowed out of him when she smiled at him, a wide, bright, you-should-know-what-I'm-thinking smile.

He came up, nodded to them, and took her arm, gently.

"Okay, Scully?" it was a simple question, but they were all reading new meaning into it.

"I'm fine, Mulder," she said.

He looked down at her, ignoring the audience. "Liar."

She smiled again, less brightly, and he walked beside her, one hand on the small of her back, not quite touching, and the others watched them go, sighing.

Ah, love. What a bitch.

Part #5 Falling mortar

"You need to go home now, Mulder." Dana said, coming out of the bathroom. He was relaxed on her couch, crunching sunflower seeds, throwing the shells at a bowl and occasionally missing.

"I'll clean it up," he said cheerfully.

"No, you need to go home. I'll clean it up tomorrow." she said, reaching to shake his leg.

"A little higher." he suggested, grinning, but his eyes suddenly closed off so she couldn't see what he was thinking.

"Now, Mulder. I want to go to bed."

"So go. I'll keep it turned low."

"Mulder, your roaches are going to send out search parties and I don't want them to find you here."

He swung his legs off the couch, looking at her carefully.

"You want me to go?"

She nodded.

"You want to be alone."

She nodded again, watching the pain rise in his face. so sorry to have caused it, but knowing this was best for both of them.

"okay, Scully," he said softly. "If you think you're ready." He didn't mention that she had yet to get through a night without a nightmare. Or how badly he wanted to stay. He just stood, pulled on his jacket and shoes and gathered up the stuff he'd brought over.

Dana smiled and carried some dirty dishes into the kitchen. He passed her as she went back to the living room, going into the kitchen, and then back down the hall. She thought he was going to the bathroom. Turning off the TV, she tidied the stack of newspapers on the coffee table and turned off the lamp before going to the bedroom.

She stopped, startled to see him there, turning back the covers. There was a large glass of water with lots of ice sitting on the nightstand. He turned to her, suddenly nervous.

"I just wanted to get you off to a good start," he said, the shyness that had plagued him all his life obvious on his face.

She gestured to the glass as she walked to the bed.

"And that?"

"In case you - wake up," he said.

She climbed into the bed and didn't stop him when he reached to pull the covers up to her shoulders, then handed her her cel phone.

"And this," he said.

"In case I wake up." she looked at him, seeing something new in his face. Some new resolve he would probably kill himself to keep. "Thank you, Mulder. This is very sweet of you."

He leaned down to tuck the covers more tightly.

"I'll leave the hall light on," he said, his face close to hers.

He was close enough to kiss her. She stared at his lips for a second, seeing his eyes drop to hers, and closed her eyes.

And felt the brush of his lips on her forehead, then a sudden cool as he straightened and moved away from the bed.

"Good night, Scully."

She turned on her side, sighing as she replied.

"Good night, Mulder."

She listened and heard the door, heard the lock, and then lay awake in the dark, the faint glimmer of the hall light not enough to keep the demons at bay.

Mulder spent the night watching TV and alternately urging his phone to ring and begging it not to. Around five a.m. he pulled out a video to watch, needing to relieve his tension. Sprawled back on his couch, he touched himself and groaned while the lewd images frolicked on the screen, but it wasn't enough. Finally he got up, turned it off, and got into the shower, turning the water on hot and leaning back against the wall, closing his eyes and letting visions of Scully glide across his aching mind.

"Don't tease, Mulder." lying naked beside him, her hands reaching for him.

"That feels so good." his mouth on her body, she squirming beneath it.

"Oh." becoming part of her, looking into her eyes and seeing only passion and welcome.

He shuddered as he came, his essence lost in the water, shaking from the intensity of it, losing the strength in his legs. Feeling himself start to slide down the tiled wall, he braced a hand up and turned the shower hard over to cold. It took a second to change and then he gritted his teeth and struggled to keep from screaming as the frigid water hit him like a wall.

Then he did yell. Once. Not a scream of pain or shock, but a

low cry of anguish as he fought for control of himself.

He would not lie down and cry.

He would NOT.

At last he felt his face relax, his breath slow, his chest open again. Then he opened his eyes and stood again, turning off the water and getting out, finding a clean towel and going to his little-used bedroom to get clothes.

It was dawn. He had work to do, and errands to run.

He got dressed.

Dana woke with a start, looking around the room anxiously. She had finally dozed off around four, exhausted.

Everything was fine. Early sunlight was coming in her window.

She sat and stretched, dropping the covers, then lay back and considered what had woken her.

She had been dreaming -- a nice dream. Warm and erotic, she could remember it now as she thought of it. She and Mulder. The sounds he had made as he touched her so gently, so hungrily.

The way he had screamed her name as he gave himself to her.

That's when she'd woken up. When he'd screamed, in her dream.

Smiling to herself, she pulled the covers back up and turned over. Maybe if she went right back to sleep the dream would come back.

Mulder lay on his couch, the curtains pulled against the fading light of day, the TV spilling popular music as he stared at the ceiling unseeing.

The song changed and the words of the new one seemed to beat into his brain, driven by the eerie guitar work and the bitter warmth of the young man singing.

When all that's left to do

Is reflect on what's been done

This is where sadness breathes

The sadness of everyone

We took the dead man in sheets to the river,

flanked by love

Deep enough to dive

Deep enough to die

Be here now

He looked up at the screen long enough for register the name of the band. It seemed a good addition to his 'depression collection'.

We took the dead man in sheets to the river,

flanked by love

Deep enough to dive

Deep enough to die

Be here now

He glanced at the screen again.

The name of the band was 'Live'.

He managed to find a smile for that.

Part #4 Business as usual

Her first day back was hard for Dana Scully. Everyone knew what had happened, the investigation was ongoing. She got sympathetic looks, encouraging smiles, and a few curious glances. But she managed to ignore all of them.

Just as Mulder managed to ignore her.

Not that he didn't speak to her, or talk to her. He did, a lot, catching her up on all of their cases, telling her a funny story about another agent, generally treating her much as he always treated her.

But he didn't touch her, not once. She looked over while they were working and saw the razor blade. Not in his fingers, gleaming on his desk beside his computer. His face was closed, and she couldn't seem to really see his eyes.

Skinner called her to his office and apologized sincerely for the trouble they were having finding her attacker. He seemed nervous and angry and out-of-sorts, and she smiled a little when she left, realizing that he took her attack almost as personally as Mulder did.

He promised they would find the guy and punish him.

"I just don't want him to hurt anyone else," she said softly.

"There hasn't been another attack with the same description of the attacker since yours," he said.

"Maybe he's waiting for it to cool off."

"Maybe he's waiting to see how much you know." Skinner said. "I wish you had gotten a good look at him."

"No offense, sir, but I saw enough to last me a lifetime."

He grimaced and closed the file.

"Yes, Agent Scully. I suppose you did."

Then she went back to their little basement office and Mulder was on the phone, bugging some poor schmuck for information about something.

Gyles came by, gave them an update. The school files had turned up three very good possibilities -- all fitting the physical description, all with juvenile records for something -- "But they all have solid alibis." he finished lamely.

"There have to be more than three tall blond men at that school." Mulder objected.

"We were concentrating on the ones with previous records." Gyles said. "To narrow the search."

"So widen it!"

Dana laid a hand on his shoulder, surprised by the outburst. Mulder was at his most controlled, it was unusual for anything to get to him when he was like this.

He stilled under her hand, every nerve in his body straining toward that ethereal contact.

"We have." Gyles finished quietly, looking at Scully sympathetically. He respected Mulder's intelligence, didn't listen to the gossip about his wild theories, and actually liked the man personally -- not that Mulder would ever accept that. But he could see that he could be an asshole to work with. "we're checking all the files now. We'll find him. At least he hasn't gone back to any of the victims, Agent Scully, so you don't have to worry about a repeat attack."

She smiled faintly. That had been one of her worries. Many woman were attacked again by the same man, knowing they were hurt and vulnerable from the first time. But these guys seemed to be as pattern-steady as serial killers, very faithful to the way they did things. If he hadn't attacked the others again, he probably wouldn't come for her again either.


Mulder followed her home in his car. Going up the stairs, she couldn't help looking at him and wondering what he was thinking. At the door he stopped and looked down at her, his eyes slit hooded, his face masked.

"Do you want me to stay for dinner?"

Do you want me to stay the night?

"No, I'm fine. I've got a lot of work to do. Got to catch up with you -- can't have you getting ahead."

"Don't push yourself, Scully." there was a warning in his warm voice, roughened by the control he was exerting.

Don't push me.

"I won't," she said, opening the door and sighing. "Mulder, I'm fine. Go home, go out and do something."

"I'm going shopping," he said, suddenly. "There's a CD I want to buy."

She grimaced and waited for him to continue. When he didn't she prodded gently.

"Who's it by? A string quartet from Jupiter?"

"A band called 'Live'."

She smiled. "That sounds almost promising."

His smile was feral. "Believe me, it's not."

On those words he turned and went down the stairs, then stood at the bottom until she shut the door and he heard the deadbolt thunk.

It was a peaceful evening for Dana. She was getting used to being home alone again, and remembering that she liked it. It wasn't so scary anymore. Her mother called and sounded received that things were getting back to normal, though she did ask if Fox was going to drop by.

"Mulder, mom," she said affectionately. "You're supposed to call him Mulder."

"He never said so." Margaret Scully retorted lightly.

Dana made an exasperated noise and said goodbye.

Mulder listened to the new CD. He found it very much to his liking. After the first runthrough he'd programmed it to two songs. Now, the lights off, the room cold, he lay on the couch and shivered, wearing only a pair of sweatpants, stubbornly refusing to pull down the blanket he kept draped over the back. Margaret had given it o him, not long after Scully recovered, to replace the old one she called a disgrace.

It was soft and warm and felt like black velvet -- she'd known that no other color would do -- and he wasn't going to use it tonight. Or turn down the air.

No, he was going to lie here and suffer. And listen to that new CD.

And to love: a god

And to fear: a flame

And to burn a crowd that has a name.

And to right or wrong

And weak or strong

It's known, just scream it from the wall.

I've willed, I've walked, I've read

I've talked, I know, I know

I've been here before.

And he did know. He had been here before. But he loved the irony of the next line. It made it all seem somehow -- appropriate.

Hey, now we won't be raped.

Hey, now we won't be scarred like that

He lay on his couch and shivered and listened to the songs, over and over and over...until he couldn't feel it anymore.

Dana went to bed late. Trying to catch up with Mulder was no picnic -- his perfect memory made her so mad sometimes. He could read something once and have it forever, at an instant's notice - but she had to work for it. Medical school had trained her's pretty well, but it was still work.

Well, at least he doesn't expect that from everybody, she thought as she prepared for bed. The clock on the nightable said 2:05 in glowing red letters. Would he still be up?

She picked up the cel phone and hit the speed dial. He answered on the first ring.

"Mulder. Scully?" he sounded half-asleep and she hoped she hadn't woken him. He slept so little sometimes. "You okay?"

"Yes, it's me, Mulder. I'm fine. I just thought you might still be up. I didn't wake you, did I?" as she listened she heard music in the background. It sounded like grunge. Not usually Mulder's style.

"I was just lying here." thinking of you.

"I'm going to bed. I just wanted to say good night." that sounded really stupid. She sighed audibly.

"Miss me?" it was said with all the patented Mulder charm and she had to laugh.

"Yeah, I guess I got used to having you underfoot." or being under you.

"I could come over and mess up your living room if you like. Scatter some sunflower seeds, drop a pair of socks..." and everything I'm wearing.

"Thanks, but I don't think that will be necessary." she smiled into the phone and could feel him smiling on the other end. "I'm off now."

"Take the phone with you, Scully," he said, lying back again on the couch. "Talk to me for a few minutes." don't leave me alone here, in the dark, with this music.

Feeling like a giddy teenager Scully took the phone to bed with her. Mulder listened to the slight rustling noises she made and had to bite his lip, hard, as he remembered a comment he'd made another night, on the phone. That night he'd heard wet, soapy noises and had asked "Scully, what are you wearing?" he said before he could stop himself.

"A black silk nightie," she said, teasing. It's really short and..." and if you were here I would take it off for you.

She was rewarded with a groan. "You are not."

"No, actually it's just another long cotton shirt."

His mind tortured him with visions of her, clean and fresh and sexy...are you wearing any panties?

"Are you okay, Mulder?" she asked sweetly, and he could see her smile.

"Yeah." he managed. "I gotta go now..."

"Sleep well," she said it so sweetly he knew that she knew what she was doing to him.

Oh, god, he thought. It must be pretty bad if my thinking is that convoluted.

Suddenly he was cold again. The numbness had evaporated, and the music was just loud, angst noise.

He couldn't stay here.

He had to get out.

He was in his car and driving before he realized he'd decided to.

Dana lay back, turning off the bedside lamp. She ran a hand under her pillow and felt the gun there. it was her second gun, her spare, and having it there made her feel a little more secure. Her service was hanging in the bedroom closet, as always. Too far to go if something happened.

He waited. The woman had stayed up far too late, and his back hurt, his shoulders were cramped, his legs going to sleep. He'd heard the conversation with her partner and followed it eagerly. So she was having an affair with him. Not that it mattered to him. He'd take what he wanted and leave the G-man his sloppy seconds.

He waited a long time, to be sure she was asleep. It had been harder than he'd thought to get into her apartment. Only the maintenance man's carelessness had given him the chance that afternoon. He'd come over after class, as he had a couple of times before, and watched. The man had left the door open when he went out to get a part for the sink, and he'd been able to d slip right in before he came back.

He'd been worried she might check her closets or something,but, just as he figured, she was too tough for that. She felt safe her. When he'd heard her partner ask if he could stay he'd been worried, but he should have known that she wasn't going to want a man right now. Not when she'd had him. She'd never want another man again.

Mulder drove quickly, parked in Scully's n looked down at himself.

He was wearing sweats and boxers. No shoes. No shirt.

He'd probably scare her half to death.

That was okay. He wasn't going to crash up there and wake her. He just needed to be close to her. He didn't have to wake her for that.

He got out of the car, relishing the feel of a summer night on his skin. Stretching, he walked around it a few times, and then settled at the foot of the stairs, looking up at the sky. His cel phone made a tempting bulge in his pocket. If he called her and told her where he was, would she invite him up?

She'd probably scold him and shoo him home, he thought glumly.

But that was okay. She just wanted to be close.

He was very excited. He'd been wanting to do this for so long. The other two girls, they had left school and he hadn't ben able to go out to see them. It would've given him away, and besides, he would have missed class. But she lived right here in town and he was going to get to fuck her again. He remembered, how small, soft she had been, and how tight. The tightest he had ever felt. He had thought she was a virgin at first, but, no. How could she be? An FBI agent. But she had been sooo tight.

It was time.

He opened the door, glad of the well-oiled hinges he had noticed when he slipped in. The carpet of the hall muffled his careful footsteps. For such a big guy he moved very quietly.

She might have her gun. If she did he would just take it away from her again and use it as he had the first time. He liked them better after they were unconscious. Then he could do what he wanted to them and they didn't object.

She was lying on her side in the bed, sleeping peacefully, tired. He had just stepped too far into the room to leave easily when she moved.

She sat up. Her hands came up. He couldn't see very well in the darkness -- was she holding something.

Scully's heart beat in terror. The looming shadow in her bedroom brought memories back in a rush, all of them bad.

"That better be you, Mulder," she said, trying to make it sound light, because, of course, it had to be him. She would have heard anyone else break in.

He stood very still, sure she was going to shoot him, and then decided to try and fool her. If her could just get a couple of steps closer...

"It's me, Dana." he whispered so quietly she couldn't have possibly recognized the voice. "I just came to check--"

He threw himself forward as he heard the click of the trigger and the gun boomed in the room, suddenly so small.

On the stairs Mulder leapt to his feet and tore up them, screaming, suddenly terrified.

"Scully! Scully! Scuuuulllly!" but there was no answer.

Not bothering with his key he hit the door. It didn't give, the deadbolt holding tight. His hands trembled so badly he could hardly get the key in, reminding, in an insane flash, of another door, and a dead woman on the other side, and a pair of handcuffs holding him to her as he struggled with the key...

Dana fired again. There was a stranger in her home! A man!! Where had he come from?!

She say tightly, watching the lump as it slumped at the side of her bed. After a minute, when it didn't move, she dared to breathe and reach for the light.

Then the room was flooded with light as someone threw on the overhead. She stuck the gun out, blinded by the sudden brightness, and would have pulled the trigger if she hadn't heard his voice as he stopped in the doorway, staring in horror.

"Scully! It's me! Don't shoot!"

With a gasp she lowered the gun and scrambled out of her fouled bed to run into his arms. He was getting his phone out when he caught her up, hugging her tightly to him with the one while he called with the other.

Bursting into tears, Dana clung to him and sobbed as he called 911. Then he hung up and gathered her close to him, lifting her in is arms, looking at the mess on her bed, her carpet. The man was dead, of that he had no doubt. Scully had nearly blown his head off.

And hour and fifty minutes later he was watching the bag boys drag the corpse out of the room, not even bothering with a gurney. Skinner, pulled again from his bed in the middle of the night, was watching them go with grim satisfaction.

"We'll get an ID on him in the morning and notify his family." he told Mulder, who was standing, Scully on the couch directly behind him, taking a protective stance. "How did you get here so fast, Agent Mulder?" he surveyed his clothes with a curious look.

"I was already here." Mulder admitted.

"On the sofa?" Skinner smiled tightly.

"No, sir." Mulder met his stare and smiled back, just as tightly. "On the stairs. She kicked me off the couch last weekend."

With a snort Skinner glanced at Dana, who seemed to be okay. She was quiet, but okay.

"Don't feel that you have to show up tomorrow, Agent Scully," he said, his voice dropping, friendlier.

"I'm fine, sir," she said faintly.

"I mean it, Scully. Don't come in."

"I won't let her, sir." Mulder spoke up firmly and Skinner gave him a real smile.

"I bet you won't ," he said, telling Mulder that he had no doubt Mulder would do exactly what Scully wanted to do.

"Try to rest." he told Dana. "It's over now. You can put it behind you."

He let himself out and Mulder sat beside Dana. In the harsh light of the overhead fixture she looked drawn out, pale.

With a soft smile he reached for her hand, took it between both of his.

"hey," he said, and she looked at him. She'd stopped crying quickly, but she was still on the verge of collapse. "What say we get out of here?"

She nodded.

"I'll just go get you some things, okay?"

She shook her head, not wanting him to leave her, to go back into that room.

He nodded. "Then you can just borrow some of mine." Standing, he pulled her to her feet, and led her to the door, where he took her trench off a hook and wrapped it around her.

"There. Now everybody won't stare," he said teasingly. She didn't smile, but met his eyes for a minute, then let him lead her to his car.

Part #5 Crumbling Mortar

He led her into his apartment and sat her on the couch, going to turn on the lamp, the kitchen light. Not too much, but enough to make her feel more secure. He was worried, she hadn't spoken a word the whole long drive.

Standing in front of the couch, he studied her. She looked back, but there was something missing in her eyes. He knelt and put his hands on either side of her.

"You should take a shower," he said softly.

She looked down at herself and he wished he'd cut his tongue out long ago as she realized that she was covered -- with blood and brains and bits of gore. Raising her hands, she found that it was in her hair, too. He held his breath, waiting for hysterics, but none were forthcoming.

"Yuck," she said so softly, he had to strain to hear it. No more loud music, he decided then and there. "You're right."

"You know where it is."

She nodded, and got up, went to the bedroom and through the door. He winced, knowing what a mess that room usually was, and set himself to fixing it.

After he'd changed the sheets and tidied the room he put a kettle on. He'd bought it just so he could make her tea those rare times she wanted it. Leaving two mugs and honey on the coffee table,he went to dig through his drawers for something she could wear tonight. Tomorrow he would call a cleaning service to take care of her place and run by to get her some clothes...there. This would do. He pulled out a Knicks T-shirt, too big for him -- he'd thought it would shrink more -- and a pair of soft flannel boxers. Women were actually wearing these things by choice now.

He knocked on the door, and was greeted by a rolling cloud of steam.


There was movement behind the shower curtain, but she didn't answer. Concerned, he went into the small room and spoke to the curtain.

"Are you okay?"

There was still no answer. Suddenly afraid the medics had been wrong and she had been hurt, he pulled the curtain open a crack to peek at her.

His partner was curled pathetically in a corner of the shower, sobbing her heart out.

"Oh, Scully." he breathed, Without another thought he stepped into the shower and picked her up, holding her wet, nude body next to his, relieved by his lack of response, which would have been so inappropriate now.

She turned her head to his bare chest and cried on him as he turned off the water, balancing her delicately with an arm and a knee, and then carried her out to the bedroom, grabbing a towel to wrap her in on the way. He fell back on the bed, holding her tightly to him, and lay still.

She was still cry,having trouble getting air between the sobs, her whole body shaking with it. At a loss, he touched her hair, putting his face close to her ear, murmuring to her in his gentlest, sweetest voice.

"There, it's okay, Scully. He's dead, he can't hurt you again. I'm here, I've got you and everything's going to be okay. It's okay. Scully, Scully..." he found himself making a soft chant of her name. Did she know how he felt about her? How could she not? He just held her and stroked her hair and talked to her in those warm, soft tones.

At last her sobs began to taper off. As she loosened her grasp of him he realized that he was hearing something, actually had been for a while now. The piercing whistle of the tea kettle.

He felt her now, lying quiet against him, even snuggling a little closer.

"How about a cup of tea?" he suggested, raising his head to look at her. Here eyes were swollen and red, her face looked puffy, but she was clean and beautiful.

"I'd like that." she whispered. He got up, going into the bathroom to grab the clothes, and then gave them to her.

"I'll get it and you can join me in the living room, okay?"

She nodded, and he left, leaving the door open behind him so she could call him if she needed to.

He was just pouring the tea into cups when she came out, and he had to swallow an instant reaction of lust. Those clothes had never looked that good on him.

You asshole, he told himself. She's been raped once, attacked again, and all you can think about is your dick?

He shoved the reaction down relentlessly, knowing he had to turn to her without any evidence of his wayward thoughts, and managing, barely.

She sat on the couch and he handed her the cup, with just the right amount of honey, he'd seen her make it so many times.

Then he sat beside her and sipped his own, not really liking it but needing something to do.

The silence stretched between them until she broke it, putting her cup down and looking at him. A vestige of her former confidence seemed to be returning.

"On the stairs, Mulder?" softly.

"I couldn't sleep. I was making myself miserable." he shrugged. She'd never condemned his behavior before and he knew she wasn't going to start now. "It wasn't the first time."

"It wasn't?" Now he regretted the unthinking admission. She had a way of making his mouth say things that were never supposed to touch his lips, just by looking at him.

"No." he shook his head. No, it wasn't. No, don't go there, Scully.

She seemed to hear his unvoiced answer and accept it.

"Are you tired?" he asked. She had to be, after pumping that much adrenalin.

"Yes. But I don't think I'll ever sleep again."

"I know that feeling." He smiled sadly. "But you're stronger than I am, Scully. You'll sleep again. In your own bed, even."

She shook her head, disbelieving.

"You can sleep in my bed tonight." he offered. She understood the distinction. It wasn't a come on, but an offer. He didn't sleep in his bed. Hardly ever.

Looking at the back of the couch she reached to stroke the blanket.

"Is this the one Mom gave you?" she remembered Margaret Scully saying something about the ragged condition of the other one. She stroked the soft black depth.

"yes." he was almost unable to restrain his reaction to her stroking fingers.

"It's nice," she said, and sighed. "I don't want to be alone right now, Mulder."

"Do you want me to call your mom?"

"No." she sighed again, and curled up in the corner of the couch, pulling the blanket partially down over herself. "I want to stay out here with you."

"Okay," he said hesitantly.

He sat back, aware of her so few feet away, her head propped on the arm of the couch, staring out into space. He reached for the remote and she caught his arm.

"Can we leave it off?" she asked, her eyes wide, the blue filling his vision.

"Anything you want," he said, putting it back down and sitting back again.

He sat there, and she closed her eyes. He watched her and tried not to, wondering if he should hide in the bathroom for a few minutes and ease the pressure he was feeling. It would make it easier to deal with her. Scully under his blanket on his couch in his underwear was just too much.

Then he felt the delicate touch on his leg. His eyes flew open and saw that her hand rested there, still.

Slowly, he looked toward her, met her eyes with his own. All his pain, all his fears, every longing he'd ever had for her shone from those eyes.

And hers were filled with a matching pain, a fresh fear, and her need for him.

She didn't have to ask him to hold her, now. He knew it was the right thing to do, and he slid over to gather her close again, burying his face in her hair, damp and smelling of his shampoo. She smelled like him, but underneath it all was something that was just Scully.

He held her tightly and she held him back and he could breathe again.

"Mulder?" her voice came as a surprise. Still holding so tightly, feeling her heartbeat smooth and finally beat with his own, he had thought she would fall asleep.

He tilted his head to look at her, her pretty face tucked beneath his chin.

Her mouth was so close to his.


She smiled a little at him, but nervously.

"I know we agreed that it would only happen that one time, but I feel so...so..." she couldn't seem to find the words.

"So - grateful? received? depressed? frightened?" he supplied slowly, trying to get a smile as he gave her words to use.

"All of those." she sighed, and snuggled closer. Her butt was firmly on his crotch and he wished that he had snuck into the bathroom for a few minutes. "And more."

She was looking at him again.

"What else, Scully? Tell me what you're feeling."

With a tiny, nervous smile she raised her head from his chest and brought it up so her lips were close to his. One hand curled around the back of his neck.

"Mulder." she sighed, her breath warming him inside-out. "Call me Dana."

He stared, his eyes changing colors in front of her. She wouldn't have thought it possible, but she was watching it happen. Grey to green to gold...he was watching her watch him and she flushed pinkly.

"Scully," he said, disbelieving. "Are you asking me to make love to you?"

"I wish you would," she said, her fingers tracing multiple tiny circles on the back of his neck. "I feel safe when I'm with you, Mulder. Protected and loved. And I really need to feel that now." her voice dropped.

"Are you sure you're ready?" his whirling mind tried to count the weeks, the months -- had it been as long as the doctor said it should be?

"I know I'm ready." she insisted, moving her body against his, feeling his immediate response under her.

"I don't want to hurt you..." he trailed off, watching he mouth open and her tongue flick out, just touching his collarbone, and then withdrawing.

It was suddenly hard to breathe again.

"Scully, I can't hurt you..," he said, half-desperate as she did it again, this time trailing the pinpoint heat up to his neck.

"You won't. She whispered. "You never could."

He doubted that. But, oh! if she really wanted this. It would make him feel so much better.

He lowered his head and caught her lips with his own, tracing them gently with his tongue, pressing his lightly to them, testing her. She returned it with no heat, only a calm acceptance, and when he drew his head back he shook it slowly.

"No, Scully. You don't really want this. You're scared and hurting and you want something. I can't take advantage of you."

"But I do want you," she said, frustration in it. "It's been a long time, Mulder. I want..." she lowered her lashes and didn't look at him as she continued. "I want your hands on me where he touched me. I want your words in my ears so I can forget his. I want a memory of you, to banish the one of him."

Mulder breathed shallowly.

"That's exactly what I wanted to do, Scully." he sighed. "When it happened, I wanted to grab you and erase every horrible thing he'd done to you. I wanted to die, seeing you hurt so, and I wanted to make you forget, give you something better."

"You can now." her eyes were clear and full of an emotion he was afraid to identify.

And he was afraid of what his eyes were showing her.

"I don't beg, Mulder," she said softly, regaining his attention.

"If I just hold you here, all night, that won't be enough?" he said quietly, trying to give her an out.

"Not this time." her whisper brought his eyes to her face. Seeing the pain there he knew he'd do anything to chase it away.

"Anything you want, Dana." he whispered before leaning to catch her mouth again.

This time his tongue slid between her lips without a thought and he tasted her -- toothpaste and Scully -- and his hands came to cradle her face, tilting it back to kiss his way softly down her throat and back up again.

Her hands were resting on his waist now and he didn't mind that she was letting him take the lead. He would do everything he could to make this good for her.

He kissed her for a long time before she began to kiss him back. Patiently, coaxing, he played with her tongue and nibbled on her full lower lip, sucking and tracing it, trying to pour his soul into her, his life, everything he was. It was all hers.

And then she kissed him back. Shyly at first, a little frightened, but knowing, really knowing that she was safe, here in his arms, if no where else in the world.

He left her lips to trail kisses down her neck to the collar of the shirt, brushing it aside so he could treat her shoulder and the back of her neck to a soft, sensuous tongue washing, until he could feel a reaction starting in her. He paused, his mouth resting above the pulse in her neck, starting to flutter just a little. He kissed it, pressing his lips there, and heard the whisper of sound that came from the back of her throat and ran down his spine as a chill.

"Dana." he sighed against her. "Oh, god. Dana."

He lay back, his length spread on the couch, with her on top of him, her hands pressed to his bare chest as he kissed her and she kissed him back and time seemed to stop.

And started again. Later, when at last he found the strength to move his hands from his face, to run them lightly over her body, and then in smoothing, tender caresses, up and down. He wanted to touch her everywhere, taste her everywhere.

But he had to be sure.

Putting his hands to her shoulders, he pushed her up gently, to look in her eyes.

They shone down at him, wide and blue and dreamy, no hint of fear or censure.

"Dana." he whispered as her hands curled and relaxed on his chest, teasing the fine hair, trailing around his flat nipples. "Are you sure? This is enough for me. I can give you what you need without taking anything for myself."

She smiled at him now, the first real smile he'd seen in weeks.

"You're such a martyr, Mulder." she sat up, and pulled the shirt off in a fluid, graceful motion, then sat, proudly, meeting his eyes as they traveled over her pale skin and inviting curves. "Do you really think you could do that?"

He sighed and reached for her again.

"Probably not." his hands touched her breasts, weighing them, cupping their fullness. She'd lost weight.

She leaned down to kiss him again and he met it while his hands played gently with her nipples, rubbing over them, twirling them lightly, every touch soft and gentle and tingling. When her mouth went to his chin and then his ear he lowered it to taste her, laying further back, sinking into the couch as he closed his eyes and suckled slowly, his hands meeting on her back and long fingers trailing down to her butt.

For a while it was enough to do that. She kissed his neck, trailed her tongue over his ears and face and once over his nose and he lay there and soothed himself with her breasts, dividing his time between them, wanting no more than to lay with her forever like this. But her back arched and she felt him pushing at her and he knew she wanted more and suddenly so did he. His hands returned to their wanderings.

The thin ridge of scarred flesh he found as he trailed them along the joining of ass and thigh made him stop momentarily, shaken with rage, but it passed as she spread her legs slightly and urged him on.

His fingers trailed, spread, and stroked her center, feeling the criss-cross of scars even on that satin flesh. And feeling the wet heat she was building for him.

Remembering the doctor's words he probed carefully, finding the passage very tight, but wet and slick. One finger, and then two and three, but that was all. He despaired of completing the act as she was now. It was a blessing he was no more than averagely endowed.

Her throaty whispers had become moans and she was reaching to stroke him inside his sweats, but he put her off, instead pulling her up to straddle his chest, and then higher as she didn't object. Delicately stroking her legs, her thighs, he began to nuzzle them as well, snuffling and licking them as she gradually relaxed and allowed them to fall farther apart.

As her legs spread he lifted her under the shoulders, his strength giving her a quick rush of pleasure, and settled her over his face. The flannel material tickled his nose and he pushed it out of the way. Baggy, the boxers proved no deterrent to his questing mouth as he nuzzled up her leg and pulled her closer.

"Mulder..." she sighed above him, leaning back. He wasn't sure if it was rejection or approval, so he looked up and was struck by the picture she presented. Her hair glowing, eyes shut, breasts flushed deep pink, her breathing was coming fast, her hands gripping him behind her.

"I'm going to make you ready for me, Dana," he said softly. "I won't hurt you."

"Mulder, please." she was begging now and he knew that was approval, so he returned to his slow seduction of her legs. She was quivering visibly before he finally let himself taste her, and it brought a sweet gasp from his partner. So he did it again, and then settled himself to it, kissing and licking and sucking where she felt it the most. Soon she was wriggling above him and he made no attempt to hold her, just let his mouth travel where it may as she moved above him. His hands cupped her butt, kneaded it, stroked the crack between her cheeks, and dropped to test her readiness every once in a while.

She was hot, and swollen, and open as far as she was going to be. Leaning further back, she got a hand on him, and that first touch nearly ended the whole thing. He hadn't been paying attention to his own state, concentrating on her, but now it was brought home to him in a roaring red rush as his back arched helplessly and he groaned into her red curls.

"Dana...don't." he panted, trying to regain control. And of course she didn't listen, just kept touching him, stroking him, measuring him. He felt like he was going to explode.

He knew he was going to explode. But he wanted to do it inside of her, her slick heat around him...he lifted her away from his face and pushed her down his body, struggling to reach his pants and pull them off. She understood, rose to her knees to give him room, and then settled over him, but not around him, and watched with amusement as his face clenched and he bucked against her.

"Mulder." She smiled, leaning to kiss his chest, his stomach, her hands on his hips. "We've got all night."

He knew she was paying him back for the teasing he had dished out the last time they had done this, but he was too hard, too close.

"Not this time, we don't," he said thickly, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. "I'm not going to make it...much longer...Dana..." he sighed as she lifted herself and settled over him, her hand going to raise him, guide him.

"Stop..." he panted, fighting to be still, to let her take him at his own pace, "Stop...if it hurts...if I'm too much..."

An inch, and then two. Three. Four and she was so tight, so hot. He could see it as her eyes glazed over, how he stretched her, filled her. His hands went to her waist to steady her and their eyes met, both flaming with passion but still concerned, aware of the other.

He didn't go any farther, and couldn't restrain a whimper as she began to rise off him. A small hand came down to cover his mouth, giving him a finger to suck while she worked on getting him in.

He couldn't stand it. It was too intense. Then he was in, all the way, and it was so intense he thought he would pass out, the blood pounding in his brain, as -- yes -- he exploded. Buried in her to the hilt, he spasmed, clutching her hips and fighting it the whole time, but there was no way to stop it.

Scully felt him come, his heat filling her, and felt a pang of regret, but brushed it off and leaned to kiss him, his mouth clinging to her sweetness.

When he could breath again he tried to speak.

"Sorry...Scully. You just feel so good and it's been so long..." he couldn't finish as she lay on him and he wrapped his arms around her. "Just give me a few minutes." he whispered into her ear, tasting his sweat on her, tracing the delicate contours. "We'll finish this right."

Her chuckle was soft and welcome.

"How old are you, Mulder?" she teased.

"But it has been a long time." He raised her face in his hands and began kissing her again.

They kissed, drinking each other's breath, and she did feel the stirrings of renewed passion within her as he groaned low and soft.

"See what you do to me..." he growled playfully, as she moved against him, rubbing his chest with her breasts. Her eyes were still glowing, like huge sapphires, standing out in her face. She pushed herself back and up and he reached to cradle her breasts, stroking them, kneading them with such a delicate touch it sent shivers up her neck.

He was watching her, smiling a little lopsided smile.

"You're beautiful," he said suddenly, catching her by surprise. "The most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

Considering his tapes, that was a compliment, but she didn't take him seriously and he saw that.

"Dana." he groaned as she rode him gently, rocking back and forth, creating a wonderful friction between her legs as she rubbed against him. "Dana Scully. You are the most beautiful woman..." he groaned again as she went a notch faster, breathing harder, her face flushed and eyes closed, hands firm on his waist, clinging as she rocked in time to the music he was making with his wonderful voice. He slipped a hand down to the cluster of nerves where they became one and pressed lightly on it, still talking, a chant now, a song of love..."Dana Scully, youarethemostbeautifulwoman..." again and again and again until she believed him and release crashed through her, her first clenching grabbing him and dragging him over the edge with her as she arched back, her hair actually brushing his thighs, and she screamed his name to the world.

"MULDER!!!" it echoed on and on as she threw herself forward, into his waiting arms, and he held her as if they were one.

And of course, they were. They both knew that.

As breathing returned and sanity not far behind, they stared at each other, each afraid to say anything that would break the spell. This was far more than it had been. More than they had bargained for. A complete melding of bodies and souls.

She stayed the night.

Then she stayed the week, and they were one for a while every night.

And then, both knowing that they were pushing the that made them work, that allowed them to be the two people they needed to be, she went home. To her clean apartment. And slept with her gun under her pillow.

And he lay on his couch, smelling her in the leather, listening to the new CD. End


Title: Walls 03 - Red Brick
Author: Saraid
I'd give it a PG-13 for no sex, some drugs & rock-n-roll, mild homoerotic undertones, and a goodly quantity of blood, no VP.
Category XRA
Archived 96-09-14
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance.
Disclaimer: CC and Co came up with M&S `an they owns `em, but I'm borrowin `em for a little while. If anyone sues, they get the cats. They're pretty annoying cats, they steal popcorn and claw sofas and shed everywhere...

Summary: Mulder pushes Scully away while in Texas searching for a blood-drinking assailant. They confirm the existence of genetic vampires and meet another strange character, Richard *Dancer*.

Author's note from Saraid: Greetings and Salutations. That's some terrific pig. This is part the third of my ongoing M&S series WALLS. If you haven't read the rest you won't know what's going on here. *WARNING* This is not a cheerful series. While there are some moments of peace-love-joy, they is few and far between.

The lyrics quoted are from 'Question' by the Moody Blues. Pick an album, they have so many of them I can't tell you which one it came from first. In an effort to avoid litigation, I will now flatter Justin Hayward and hope they are appeased; In my humble opinion he's got the most beautiful voice in rock-and-roll.

There is an actual case here, using a few of my own characters, specifically Joseph Patterson, Richard Dancer, and Mycroft d'Arcy. They will probably show up in later segments (hint-hint- hint), so tell me before you borrow them so I can fit it into the storyline. (not that anyone will ever want to borrow my characters :) ...CC don't know how lucky he be.)

The timeline for this one is...well, sometime after the last one, but not too long. Don't stress yourself over it.


He was so hungry...but he couldn't go outside, the sun was too bright, he could hear his skin burn whenever he tried.

He could hear everything, and he couldn't make it stop. As long as the sun as up.

It hurt so bad. His stomach cramped viciously, doubling him over as it tried to digest itself. Desperate, driven, he raised his arm and brought it to his mouth. His short, blunt teeth weren't made for biting, so he tore until a thin trickle of blood ran forth. Licking it, trying not to hear his own whimpers, he lay down in the darkest corner of the room, curled around his arm, sucking slowly until the darkness took him again.

Part #1 Games

Special Agent Dana Scully was late.

And she was never late. Her partner paced agitatedly around the their chilly basement office, listening to the buzz on the other end as she didn't answer her phone.

The door behind him and he turned with innate grace, to relax as she appeared in the doorway, looking just as she should.

She held up a bag that smelled good, and cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Where ya been?" it came out surly, but he sat at his desk and leaned back, his face saying other things.

Dana sighed. He'd been a little overprotective since her attack some months ago. It was almost endearing, but he'd begun to let it get into the work. He couldn't watch her back and his at the same time. Fortunately they hadn't had anything challenging lately so it hadn't been a problem, but she was going to have to do something about it soon. Probably the next time he tried to hold her back or talk her out of something.

She sat at her desk and opened the bag, pulling out two large cream-filled chocolate-covered monstrosities. With a smile she set them on a napkin and scooted them to the edge of her desk where he could see them, and then went to get a cup of coffee.

When she turned back he was eyeing the donuts warily, as if he thought perhaps they were going to leap up at him. She walked past him, sat again, and pulled out a plain croissant. Bringing up a file on her computer, she nibbled on it, ignoring him.

"Trade." he was standing over her and he flopped a file on her desk.

"It's not like I was going to eat them." she said, looking him over. "What's this?"

"Got it this morning." He picked up the first donut and bit in half. She expected to see cream spurt out -- it couldn't hurt that tie, might even improve it -- but was denied that petty revenge as his tongue slipped out and caught the extra. Scully watched that tongue flicker and had to suppress a sudden soft shiver.

She sighed again and opened the folder.

Pictures. There were always pictures. She hated pictures. But, in this case...

"Mulder?" she looked up at him.

"Hmm?" he was on the second donut and it was going as fast as the first. Still nothing on the tie -- that she could see, anyhow.

"These people are alive."

He finished the donut, wiped his face with the napkin, and leaned on his elbows on the desk beside her. "Nice change, isn't it?"

"So what are we doing with it?"

"Still a violent crime, Scully. And it's interesting."

She began reading snatches of the report aloud. "Lubbock, Texas. Fifteen victims in the last six days. All reported a young male, inordinantly strong, attacking them after dark. He cuts them and drinks the blood, and then lets them go." she paused, thinking about it, trying to predict where Mulder would go with this. "You're thinking vampires."

"Nosferatu, Scully. You gotta get the names right." his grin was twisted.

"Probably cult related." she said, thinking aloud. "It could be a gang initiation -- do they have gangs in Texas? -- or cult related. I don't think it's the same guy every time, do you? What kind of descriptions did the victims give?"

"None." now she stared as he actually grinned. "They say they don't remember what he looked like -- just that he was tall and thin and had long hair and red eyes."

"Hypnosis would certainly fit in with cult activity." she agreed with reservations.

"And it could escalate." he picked up his briefcase. "Hope you've got your bag packed."

She always kept a case packed for emergency jaunts, he knew that.

"And that's where we come in?" she asked, shutting down the computer and gathering her coat and coffee.

"You betcha." he said as he led her out and shut the door behind them.

He waited until they were on the plane two hours later before he asked again, this time in a much nicer tone. She was by the window, reading the file, leaving him the aisle so he could stretch his long legs out and be scolded by the flight attendants.

"So, why were you late this morning?"

"I had a date last night." she said it softly, and saw the shuttered look as his face closed off, blanked.

"Anyone I know?" he could have been her brother asking so causally.

"Dr.Patterson. Joseph. Do you remember him?"

"Would you like to ask another question, Scully? That one was too easy." the blank look was still there, but there was a hint of humor in his voice. She couldn't restrain a chuckle.

"No sense giving you any openings." she agreed. "Oddly enough, I went to med school with his older brother, Matthew. I ran into him at that conference I went to last month and we got to talking and I made the connection."

"So you called him and asked him out." it was deadpanned, but she wasn't sure there was any humor in it now.

"No, his brother called him and convinced him to call me. He's actually a little shy."

"Did you have a nice time?"

She smiled a little, wishing he'd be just a little upset, a little hurt. Or that he'd let her see it if he were.

"Really nice. We went to Hacalas and drank margaritas and then he took me to a nice jazz club. It was very relaxing, and we talked a lot. We have a lot in common."

"I wondered why you didn't pick up the phone last night."

She glanced up from the window and caught his eye.

"I'm sorry. I should have realized you'd be worried. I didn't have time to check my messages this morning."

He shrugged slightly, gracefully. "It isn't like I keep tabs on you."

She shook her head.

"But those stairs are hard. I think I'll start bringing a pillow." he said softly.

She frowned. "You didn't."

Grinning suddenly, unexpectedly, he replied. "Nah."

Then he went back to his copy of the file, effectively shutting her out.

Dana looked out the window and wondered how much of what he'd just said she could believe. He would never lie to her and he didn't exaggerate, but he could simply not say things. He was good at that.

Why couldn't he be just a little bit jealous?

They were getting off the plane -- he had a hand on her arm, a light touch, protective but not possessive when they went down the stairs and she heard him ask, right above her ear as they went into the sunlight.

"Are you going to see him again?"

She stopped and looked up at him, but he was steering her in the direction of the rental car booth, still giving the impression of brotherly concern.

She didn't answer. Because she wasn't sure.

"I guess you can talk to people." Detective Halroy was mightily impressed with Dana Scully, Mulder could tell. "I've got their statements, but I might have missed something."

He didn't seem at all concern that the Feds had been called in on his case. If anything, he seemed to welcome the help.

What a strange attitude for local law.

Mulder looked at Halroy looking at Scully and decided that her suit probably had something to do with it. Dark green, the skirt short enough to hint at great legs - he knew - and the heels bringing out the curve that could make a man's heart stop.

He covered a smile as she began piling up the depositions to read. He knew why she wore the heels. It was most impractical of her, but endearing.

"You can have the third office down." Halroy said. "Nobody's assigned to it just now."

"Are you going to be available for some questions?" Mulder spoke up.

"Anything you need. Just tell me when."

"Give us a couple of hours to slog through this and I'll come get you." Scully suggested and the man's tired blue eyes lit up.

As they walked down the bare hall Mulder accepted half the stack from her and murmured into her hair. "You just made his day, Scully."

She grinned wryly and they went in, sat down, and got to work.

Two hours later they knew all there was to know about the strange attacks and Mulder was hungry.

"Time to get Halroy?" Scully asked as he began pacing around the small room. At least it was warm.

"Time to get food." he stopped, sat on the edge of the desk. There was only one in the room and he'd let her have the chair. Sometimes he thought better when he was moving. "So, first conclusions?"

"I'm stumped." she sighed and sat back. "Feral child? A twisted version of cattle mutilations? Vampires in cowboy boots? What do you think?"

He smiled and got comfortable.

"Glad you asked. I do actually have a theory, and it's not as bizarre as the ones you're suggesting."

She grimaced at that.

"But it's pretty weird in its own way." he warned with a glimmer in his eye. "Have you heard of this game -- Vampire? It's really popular with the high school and college crowd right now."

"It's a card game, isn't it?" she asked. "There are two of them, Vampire and Magic. You collect the cards like baseball cards and play the game with them."

"No, that's just Magic." he corrected. "Vampire is played out of books."

"A role-playing game." her eyes widened. "You don't think somebody's playing it for real."

"I know somebody is. A lot of somebodies. I read reports of it in the net all the time. When you play it in the real world it's called The Masquerade."

Playing a role-playing game in real time." she grinned. "I bet you played Dungeons and Dragons."

"Before my time." he snapped back cheerfully. "I've read a lot about this game and it's got a few funny tangents."

"Besides pretending to be vampires?" dryly.

"Beyond that. It's a heavily integrated system, well- designed." he sounded almost admiring. "One of the aspects of the game is the concept of blood dolls, mortals who drink the blood of other mortals as a sort of love-bond."

"But how does this tie into the case?" she wasn't going to let him go off the deep end.

"This is a college town. Lots of kids running around getting bored. It's possible there's game going on here. No one's being killed, the victims seem to be covering up..."

"And nobody says anything because...?" she waited for this one.

"Because the first rule of the live game is don't let the mortals find out. That's why it's called the Masquerade. Humans aren't supposed to know the vampires exist, and there are punishments if you tell."

"Interesting theory, Mulder." she stood up. "And, unlike some you've come up with, this one actually seems to make sense."

"So we can eat now?"

"On our way to the campus." she agreed.

He followed her out, trying to banish the bits of memory that were fighting to the surface of his scarred psyche.

He didn't want to think about Kristen now.

She didn't stop to feed him.

Sandra, the Dean of Student Activities was very helpful. Part of her job was allowing groups to register with her when they wanted to play different games on campus. She knew what Mulder was talking about right away.

"Let's see..." she led them to three large bulletin boards on the wall outside the cafeteria in the student center. Scully studied them, Mulder beside her.

There were lists of names on each one, each with notations after them. Some of the names were crossed out, and then there were new, shorter lists with longer notations after the names. Sandra ruffled them and shook her head.

"There's one game of Assassination running now -- looks like Lord Byron made another kill last night, I'd better watch my back -- and one of Magic. They'll be starting a new Immortals tonight, only ten people. No Masquerade, but there's been some talk about it. The student council has to approve it."

"Watch your back?" Mulder asked.

"Yeah." the woman smiled brightly, pulling a key-ring out of her pocket. It was packed with blue plastic tags. "There's only twenty of us left now. He's probably going to come after me next. I dumped him last semester."

"Doesn't that get in the way of education?" Scully asked.

"It's an after-hours game only." Sandra supplied. Mulder saw Scully's eyes narrow.

"Murder is not a game."

The young woman didn't backpeddle, just went on as if Scully hadn't spoken.

"I can give you the name of one of the guys who asked about starting the vampire game."

"Thank you." Mulder said. When he didn't say anything else the co-ed turned and went back to the office she worked in, looking back at them nervously. The he looked down at Scully.

She was fuming. "I cannot believe these people! How can they play at killing each other? What kind of person is our society producing, Mulder, is these are out best and brightest?"

He lay a hand on her shoulder and felt her calm at his touch, pleased he still had that effect.

"They're just kids, playing a game. Getting a little excitement before they settle down to routine, boring lives."

"I could stand a little boredom myself." she sighed and leaned back against him, leaning on his strength for just a second, then stood again as Sandra came back toward them.

She handed him a sheet of notebook paper with a dorm name and number and phone number, and smiled, still friendly. "I should tell you that he's never in his room, but I know he's going to be here when they start the Immortals."

Mulder said "When?" and she said "Eight o'clock. In the atrium."

"Thank you." he finished and got Scully out of there before she could say anything else.

After going to their hotel and checking in Mulder really wanted to eat, so they went looking for a place.

"It's Texas, so I guess we should eat steaks." he said as they drove through town. It wasn't a small place.

Scully had the file open and was studying it.

"Scully? Steak?"

"I think there's a problem with your theory, Mulder." she said. "I didn't mention it before because I hadn't really thought it through, but at least half of these victims aren't college students. One of them is fifty-seven."

"I don't think the victims are playing the game, Scully." he saw a steakhouse, large, dark and the parking lot was full. Must be a good place. He swung in. "In the game, humans are cattle, here only to feed the vampires."

She looked around as he parked, grimacing at his choice. He got out and came around to open the door for her. "Should have spoken up." he chided as he saw her expression.

"Next time I will."

There was a wait to get table, so they sat in the bar and drank coffee and iced tea, Mulder happily cracking the ice in his glass until she stared at him.

"That's going to ruin your teeth, Mulder."

"You're a doctor, Scully. You know that's an old wives' tale."

"Like ninety percent of the X-Files."

"But that other ten percent sure knocks you on your ass, doesn't it." he looked at her, and was relieved when she smiled and chuckled.

"Don't it just."

They finally got a table, Scully smiling and stopping to sniff at a huge bouquet of long-stemmed roses set in a tall brass planter that could have easily have held a small tree.

"There must be hundreds of them." she said as they were seated in a secluded booth. "I wonder what they're for?"

He smiled. Flowers weren't really his style, but he made exceptions for Scully.

He had a steak. A thick, juicy rare one, and a baked potato oozing with butter and sour cream. Staring over her pasta salad Scully managed to restrain her comments, but couldn't bear to watch him eat it. She could hear his arteries clogging.

They argued quietly back and forth, amiably suggesting and refuting ideas as they went. It was a pleasant hour that stretched into two as Mulder had a piece of pecan pie and Scully indulged in Irish coffee and they were still talking about the case when it was time to go back to the school.

Walking out the door, Mulder plucked a single rose from the display, smiling wickedly at the cashier, who grinned and looked away.

He held it behind his back as he walked behind her to the car, and then brushed it over her hair and into her lap as she fastened her seatbelt.

She startled, sighed, and smiled up at him, and for that minute he felt complete.

The opening ceremony - ? - of the game was strange, but the people seemed normal enough. Marcus Adlerson was bright, articulate, and had a quiet sense of humor that came through every word.

Yes, he played the game on paper. No, he wasn't playing it live. As far as he knew, nobody in town was. Sure, he'd give the names of some of his friends, but, hey, they'd all be at the party tomorrow night, why didn't they just drop by? He gave them an address. Mulder accepted, much to Scully's dismay.

"A frat party? We're going to a frat party?"

"Never let it be said I'm a boring date, Scully." he said as they stepped off the elevator and walked to her room. She held the file in one hand and her rose in the other.

She had nothing to say to that.

"Speaking of dates, you'd better call doctor Joseph Patterson. He's probably been trying to call you."

She nodded and was surprised when he leaned and kissed her lightly on the cheek. "I'm going to see if this bed's as good as a couch." he said, turning and walking down the hall, to open his door. He gave her a little wave before he went in and shut it.

She touched her cheek where he had kissed her. How very like him. He was going to be noble and step aside so she could be happy.

But she wasn't sure anyone else could ever make her happy.


He walked, for miles on end. He could see the night now a new way, with eyes that smarted in artificial light. The people flowed around and through him and he could hear them, smell them, almost taste them.

Yes...taste them. That was what he needed. The sight or smell of food made him nauseous, brought back the pain. But blood eased it. These things passed through his mind as something quite different from rational thought. He could smell them, he could see them, and he needed them, so he smiled at them and he took them...and they let him.

The pain eased and he could sleep at last. For a while.

Part #2 Hunts

The insistent ring of the phone woke him just after he'd managed to fall asleep, having counted his way up the list of prime numbers.

"Mulder." he hoped he didn't sound too groggy, assuming Scully was on the other end. She'd be the only one who could tell.

"Agent Mulder." it was Halroy's voice, still cheerful at -- what was it? Four a.m.? -- and adrenalin hit him as he rolled to a sitting position, wearing only grey flannel boxers although the room was cool bordering on cold. "We just picked up another victim. Would you like to come down to the ER and talk to him?"

"We'll be there in thirty." Mulder said flatly. "How badly is this one hurt?"

"About thirty stitches' worth."

Scully woke from a warm, pleasant dream where she was held in strong arms and soft hazel eyes laughed down at her to the sound of Mulder's banging.

"Scully. C'mon, we gotta get down to the hospital.

Not wanting him standing in the hall making a spectacle of himself, she grabbed her robe and pulled it over the sensible cotton T-shirt she was wearing to open the door and usher him in.

"Give me ten minutes." she said. She grabbed clothes and went into the bathroom while he went to the coffeepot and started it. When she came out, ten minutes later, he handed her a large cup, cream, no sugar and she smiled gratefully all the way to the hospital.

"Daniel Osborn. 29. Says he was just out for a walk, but, personally, I think he was cruising. He has that look about him." Halroy confided as they approached the cubicle where Mr.Osborn was getting sewn up.

"What look?" Mulder asked the calm casualness Scully knew meant trouble.

"He's gay." Halroy shrugged.

"You can tell that by looking at him." Mulder gave him a hard look and Halroy noticed it, and turned his speculative eye to Mulder himself.

"There are some things that are dead giveaways." he said, still studying Mulder. "Loud ties, excessive neatness..."

"That rules you out, Mulder." Scully joked, trying to catch him before he sank into a funk or lost his infamous temper.

Mulder gave her a hard glare and walked past both of them. Halroy looked at Scully and smiled apologetically with a shrug. She brushed past him to follow her partner, deciding he wasn't that helpful after all.

Daniel Osborn, 29, an elementary school teacher, wasn't talking much.

"I couldn't sleep, so I went for a walk." he said with quiet insistence as the intern finished stitching the two long gashes on his forearms where he'd thrown them up to protect his face.

"Just anywhere." Mulder sounded disbelieving.

"I haven't done anything wrong." Osborn's eyes, a bright green, left Mulder's to seek Scully's, catching them and holding them. "Can I go now? I've got to call a my principal so she can get a sub."

"He just came at you with a knife, cut your arms, held you down and drank your blood, then got up and let you go?" Mulder went over the sequence with mild derision. "You're a pretty big guy, Daniel. How did he manage to hold you down?"

"I guess I was in shock." Daniel said, shaking his head. "He was bigger than I am, and it hurt a lot."

"Have you ever played a game called Vampire?" Scully asked suddenly.

He shook his head, still meeting her eyes. "I know it's popular at the high school, but I don't have time for that sort of thing."

"And you don't remember what he looked like?" Mulder pushed, sounding angry. But Osborn didn't get defensive, just answered in the same quiet, tired voice, "No. There was a general impression of red -- his clothes or his hair or his eyes, or all three. But I really don't remember anything else."

"You can go now." Scully said suddenly. "Detective Halroy may want to speak to you again."

"If I can just get to a phone first..." the man slid off the table, his bandaged arms crossed over his chest. Watching him walk away Scully privately decided she agreed with Halroy's assessment of his sexual preference.

"I was still talking to him, Scully." there was a dangerous undertone in Mulder's voice, but she ignored it.

"I think we should have a talk with the other victims." she said, leaving quietly. Swallowing his anger, for now, Mulder followed her into the parking lot, where she turned and leaned against the car to talk. "We may be going at this wrong."

"How so?"

"I think Halroy was right. That man is gay. What if the other victims are too? This could be a series of hate crimes in disguise."

"Many of the victims reported that he went for their faces." Mulder said slowly, his temper cooling in the face of her logic.

"To disfigure them."

"What about the red?"

Scully shook her head. "Did any of the other victims say something similar?"

He paused for a moment, bringing the pages of the file into his mind's eye and flipping through them with the speed of thought.

"Not really. Maybe Osborn is just more fanciful than the others."

"Fanciful? Fanciful, Mulder?" she teased gently and he shrugged.

"It's too early to talk to them. Let's get some breakfast." he suggested."

"Deal." they got in and drove around until they found a Denny's.

After a long day of questioning the victims, many of whom weren't particularly thrilled to have the FBI on their doorsteps, they made their way to the campus only one step ahead.

"Okay, so I was wrong. It was a good idea." Scully said as he opened the car door to let her out at the ramshackle two-story building that housed the fraternity. They'd both changed to jeans and sweaters, his black and black, hers dark blue and soft green. Their weapons were hidden beneath warm jackets, because the wind was fierce.

At the door Mulder stopped her with his hands on her shoulders, and spun her around, looking into her eyes. For a split second she thought he was going to embrace her -- perhaps even kiss her -- but then the closed look came over his face and he asked, in an entirely too-normal tone -- "Did you call Doc Patterson last night?"

"He was on duty." she said. "But he left me a message and I left him one."

"Good." he released her so suddenly that she almost stumbled. Looking up quickly as she recovered herself, she saw the depth of his eyes and drew a quick breath.

"Mulder..." she tried to speak, but he looked away. When he looked back there was nothing there.

No emotion at all.

"Let's go to the party, Scully."

It was loud and crowded. Somebody shoved a beer at Mulder, who took it and sipped judiciously, thinking that the last thing he needed just now was to have his wits muddled by alcohol. Scully shook her head at one and they tried to spot Adlerson.

There was some curiosity directed at them, out of place in the young crowd.

"I don't see him." Mulder had to lean low and whisper in her ear to be heard over the music. "You want to dance?"

There was a slow, loud song playing. She looked up at him, her mouth brushing his face as she spoke.


"I like this song." he said back, then took her hand and pulled her into the middle of the crowded room, where thirty other couples swayed together. Stopping in an empty patch, he pulled her into his arms, to lean against him, and she rested her head on his chest, her hands linked behind him.

He put his arms around her waist and leaned his head down to talk as they swayed. Years of working together had sharpened their timing and it showed in the way they flowed together.

Scully glanced at Mulder. His face was pressed against hers lightly, and his eyes were closed. He seemed to be singing under his breath. She listened to the words of the song, trying to remember where she'd heard it before and who'd done it.

It's not the way that you say it,

When you do those things to me.

It's more the way that you mean it,

When you tell me what will be.

The lines made her heart clench and she could feel him tighten his arms around her.

I'm looking for someone to change my life.

I'm looking for a miracle in my life.

And if you could see what it's done to me

To lose the love I knew and safely lead me to

The land that I once knew,

The love as we grow old,

The secrets of our souls

"Mulder..." she sighed, not knowing what to say.

"Moody Blues." he whispered in her ear.

"Look - there's Adlerson." she pulled away and pointed to him, talking to another young man wearing black.

Mulder let her go and they walked over to their contact, who smiled at him. He was obviously stoned.

"This is Paul. He wants to talk to you." Adlerson smiled widely and offered Mulder another beer.

Scully grimaced when he took it and drank. She didn't need to deal with Mulder drunk, and he was so unaccustomed to alcohol that even a little bit affected him.

"Do you know anything about a Vampire game?" he shouted to be heard over the music.

Paul shook his head. "I don't know about any game!" Paul shouted back.

"Then why do you want to talk to us?" Scully slipped in front of Mulder to face the slim young man.

"My roommates missing and I'm worried about him."

"How long has he been gone?" she asked, seeing the barely controlled grief on his face.

"Since last week. A week."

Mulder cut in with a sharp question. "What day did he disappear?"

Scully watched Mulder, knowing he was making a connection, but seeing it. She'd back him, she always did, and his intuition was legendary...

"A week ago." Paul looked like he might cry. "We were at a party and he took something and then he ran off. He forgot his medicine, and I'm worried about him."

"Let's go someplace we can talk!" Mulder shouted above the noise. He took Paul's arm and steered him up the stairs, surprising Scully, who followed quickly.

Mulder opened the first door they came to -- a young man and blond woman were having vigorous sex on the bed in the room.

"Sorry!" he said loudly, slamming it and leading Paul on down the hallway, looking for an open door, going through it when he found one.

He pushed the young man down on the bed and sat in the chair near it and studied him. Scully stood by his side and whispered at him fiercely.

"Mulder! What are you doing? You're scaring him half to death!"

"Have you reported your roommate missing?" Mulder ignored her and her eyes flamed. Paul looked frightened.

"I was going to...but I called his family and his dad said they'd take care of it. But I called the police station tonight and they said nobody ever filed a report."

"What's your friend's name?" Scully asked kindly.

"Myk. Mycroft d'Arcy."

Mulder smiled suddenly and Scully glared at him, so he quelled it.

"Do his parents live here?"

"No, they live out by the lake. Lots of money. Myk was homeschooled, he never had many friends. And he never did anything wild before."

Scully went to stand in front of Paul, looking down at him with a mixture of rebuke and concern.

"What was he taking medication for?"

Paul shrugged. "I dunno. He said it was something genetic and had a really long name. He's taken it ever since he was born."

"Was it something potentially fatal?"

"He never said." Paul was looking more and more worried. "I called his house but they keep telling me his dad's not home. He hasn't been home for two days, unless they're lying to me."

"What did he take at the party, Paul?" Mulder spoke up.

Hanging his head, not looking at them, Paul mumbled something.

"I didn't hear you." Mulder said with dangerous softness.

Paul mumbled again.

"Two hits of acid."

"Who gave them to him?"

Paul looked back up, terrified.

"It wasn't me! I told him not to try it -- !"

"I want his home address and a sample of that medication." Mulder said, standing and reaching a hand to Dana. "Scully?"

"I've got some in my room -- if you'll wait here..." Paul got up and was going to leave, but Mulder grabbed him by the arm and spoke quietly.

"We'll go with you."

Following Paul across campus -- he walked everywhere, he said -- the icy wind sliced through Scully's coat like it was tissue. She shivered, and Mulder put an arm around her, pulling her to his side as they walked. She leaned into him, grateful for the warmth, and asked what the hell he was thinking.

"Think about it! The kid was kept home all his life. Maybe there's something wrong with him, maybe he's psychotic. They got it under control with drugs, but then he drops acid and flips out. He runs off and he's off meds and he's lost his marbles."

"Schizophrenia?" Scully thought about it. "But he said he's always taken the medicine."

"There are cases of early childhood onset schizophrenia."

"Not that early."

"Then he exaggerated. To cover up. His father is looking for him and won't file a missing persons report because he wants to find him and cover this whole mess up first."

"Okay." she nodded. "It's a possibility. Another theory."

"But he still might be a vampire." Mulder said, staring at her just to see her reaction. She rewarded him with a grimace and a little shove as they came to Paul's dorm.

Thirty minutes later they were pulling into a long circular drive in front of a beautiful modernistic house on the bank of a small lake, sparkling in the moonlight like a poem waiting to be written.

Scully stopped just to look at it for a minute.

"Scully?" Mulder stopped beside her, their arms barely touching.

"It's so peaceful." she sighed.

"You'd die of boredom in a week."

"You're probably right." she replied as they went to the front door, but there was another sigh in it.

"We need to see Mr.d'Arcy." Scully insisted, getting angry now. The butler seemed to flinch, but stood his ground.

"We can come back with a warrant." Mulder, behind her, threatened softly. The butler stared at him as if he were crazy, specifically for associating with this termagant.

"That won't be necessary." another voice spoke, softer, tired, and another man, wearing a robe over pajamas, stepped past the butler. "I'll speak to them."

"Yes, sir." the butler said stiffly. "In the library, sir?"

"In my office." the man said, turning away.

"Right this way." the butler led them after him.

Scully and Mulder exchanged glances, but followed.


It was getting easier now. Picking out the ones who would respond to him, the ones he appreciated. No thought, just a cycle of cold and hot, hungry and fed. No memory to disturb him. As long as he could eat he was fine.

Part #3 Skeletons

"Mr.d'Arcy?" Scully asked as he sat behind a large desk in a luxurious room and the butler closed the door behind them.

The man, who looked very pale and frail, nodded. Mulder was studying him carefully, the he glanced over and caught Scully's eye, both of them thinking the same thing.

This guy is too old to be the father.

d'Arcy watched the communication and understood.

"Yes, I am too old." he said, startling them. He laid his hands, thin and lined, on the desk top. "I told my wife that when she carried him. We were both too old. She died giving birth to him and I will die before he reaches twenty-one."

"Are you suffering from a terminal illness, sir?" Scully asked curiously.

"Life." he said, meeting her vivid sapphire with washed-out blue. "Life is terminal. It just works faster on some than others."

"You are Mycroft d'Arcy's biological father?" Mulder went up to the desk, leaning on it, insisting on the truth.

"If I weren't you wouldn't be here."

Scully pulled a brown plastic medicine bottle out of her pocket and held it up to him.

"As well as an FBI agent, my partner is a doctor." Mulder said with quiet pride. The tone of his voice gave Scully a soft thrill.

"A forensic pathologist." Scully clarified. "Mr.d'Arcy, I've never heard of this drug, but your son's roommates claimed he took it daily and that it was necessary to his life."

"It is."

"Where do you get it? What pharmacy? What does your son suffer from?"

d'Arcy shook his head slowly. "No pharmacy. I make it myself."

"You've been giving your son an unapproved medication since his birth?"

Mulder stepped back, letting Scully get in front of him. He knew that tone, knew she was on a roll -- well and truly pissed.

"Do you know the federal statutes regarding the distribution of illegal drugs, Mr.d'Arcy? Dow you know what the FDA can do to you for this?"

The old man shrugged, and then sat back further in his chair. He was looking them over, Mulder realized. He fought the urge to step closer to Scully, to establish domain.

d'Arcy saw the struggle on the handsome man's face. He was very close to his partner. And she was standing tall beside him. They were obviously parts of a whole.

Intelligent, inquisitive parts. He knew something about them.

"Mr.Mulder, Ms.Scully. Would you like to hear a story?"

They glared.

"I promise you'll find it interesting. It might even qualify as an X-File."

They both looked sharply at that.

"What do you know of the X-Files?" Mulder asked harshly.

"Sit." d'Arcy urged. "Listen to me. I am a rich man, Mr.Mulder. I use my money to protect the ones I love. If I hadn't allowed it you would never have heard the name Mycroft d'Arcy."

Reluctantly the two agents sat in the armchairs before the desk, and waited.

After a moment the old man began, his eyes on Scully's.

"I'm sure you are aware, Dr.Scully, that there are billions of genes on a single strand of DNA."

She nodded once.

"And that flaws can occur on these genes or in the spaces between them. If these flaws are mistakenly copied the DNA is forever damaged."

She nodded again.

"My family has a long history, going back generations, to medieval Europe. There are some of us who think the damage was done during the great plague, or perhaps one of the little ones. Be that as it may, there are fewer than a dozen of us left now. We have inbred ourselves right out of existence. My own dear wife was my first cousin. Though we swore never to have children, when she found herself pregnant at the age of forty she refused to end it, claiming the child was worth more than her life." he paused and a sad smile crossed his lips. "She was right. Though it killed her to have him, my son has been the light of my life."

"What illness do you have?" Mulder asked, thinking he was missing something. But Scully looked as confused as he did.

"It's an odd thing. We've managed, by spending millions of dollars, to pinpoint the damage - it occurs in three segments of DNA, each affecting a different bodily function, but the combination has a singular result; our bodies do not produce several key enzymes that allow people like you, Mr.Mulder, to draw nutrition from food. Enzymes carried in the blood."

Scully shook her head.

"That's not possible. A fetus with that problem wouldn't eve survive to term."

"Unless its mother was taking a supplement that allowed her to digest basic proteins." d'Arcy corrected gently. "My great- great-grandfather perfected the formula, through a study of human and animal blood. It's not hard to make and it's not expensive, and it allowed my family to live as normal people."

"What did your family do before they had the formula?" Mulder asked quietly.

"We used the enzymes that other people produced. Sometimes given willingly, sometimes not." d'Arcy bowed his head, covering his face with his hands.

"You're saying that you're a vampire." Scully said, and then snorted. "He's all yours, Mulder."

"No, no..." d'Arcy. "We are not 'undead'. We are just as alive, and just as human as you are, though we do tend to die sooner."

"Sooner?" Mulder was close to laughter, Scully saw. Just like the man. All the times Mulder had tried to convince her that things like vampires could exist, now he was presented with one and he didn't believe them.

d'Arcy looked back at them, obviously angry. "It's not a joke, Mr.Mulder. My life is not a joke."

"Can you offer any evidence?" Scully broke in.

"I knew you would ask that." he opened a desk drawer and pulled out a thick, fat file, laying it in front of her. Then he added a small tube of what appeared to be blood. "This is mine. If you do not believe me I will allow you to draw your own sample." he turned his arm over and displayed an angry red patch of skin. "Unfortunately my veins aren't what they never were and drawing blood is something of an ordeal."

Scully stared at his arm, and then at the tube.

"I'll accept your word for it." she said softly.

"A secondary characteristic of the condition is a reduction in red blood cells. We produce approximately half as many as you do and thus breathing can become difficult."

"It also explains the skin tone." Scully agreed. Beside her Mulder was frowning, deep lines between his eyes.

"If what you say is true -- and I'm not saying I believe you -- why would you tell anyone now? Especially us?"

d'Arcy smiled wanly. "He's my only child. Possibly the last of his kind. I tried to protect him, tried to give him a normal life, but there were risks. I do not want our names in the paper. I do not want camera crews from Unsolved Mysteries or Sightings camping on my lawn. You have always shown integrity, Mr.Mulder, in the face of overwhelming odds. You will not run to a tabloid to sell my story."

Mulder nodded.

"What have you done to try to find him?" Scully asked. "You know he's hurting people."

"They will be compensated." d'Arcy sagged. "He won't kill anyone. He doesn't have it in him. I hired a private detective, but he's had no success. Mycroft must be moving, sleeping in different places every day. A sensitivity to the sun is part of the disorder, Ms.Scully. It is exacerbated by the lack of proper food and the fact that Myk is a redhead with skin fairer than yours does not help."

"Can we have a picture of him?" Mulder asked.

d'Arcy flipped open the file and handed him several. He passed half to Scully, who whistled in surprise.

"Good genes." Mulder deadpanned.

Indeed, Myk d'Arcy was an uncannily handsome young man, verging on beautiful. His hair was a fiery shade of red that flowed past his shoulders, his features fine and aristocratic, his eyes a deep, unrelenting green. He was tall and thin, and his skin was a fragile china-doll white.

"That depends how you look at it." Mr.d'Arcy said. "Will you help me find him, Mr.Mulder, Ms.Scully? I will not ask that you bury the file, because I know that will happen regardless."

"You're probably right." Mulder said with a touch of heat. Scully reached out and laid her small hand on his arm and d'Arcy saw him visibly relax.

"We'll go over the information you've given us." she said, "And get back to you after we've made a decision."

d'Arcy thanked them and the butler showed them out. Mulder stayed silent until they were driving out the gate, sweeping brick wings flowing back from the road.

"I don't believe this." he muttered.

"Mulder? Rejecting an extreme possibility?" she teased, opening the file. "There's alot of information here."

"Faked." he said, giving her s sideways glance. "Just like those pictures of your 'brothers'."

The unexpected jab brought a sudden smile to her face and he gave a little back, a small, crooked grin. "I thought you'd forgotten how to do that."

"It's been a rough few weeks." she said.

"You want to go to the hotel and catch some rest?" he looked at the deep black of the sky. They were far enough away from the lights of the city to let the stars really shine.

"Yes. We'll go over this file and then I'll use the station lab to run some tests on this sample." she played with it, holding it up to the dashboard, where it glowed a sickly green in the reflected light.

"It sure looks like vampire blood." Mulder said softly.

"You'd know better than I." it was out before she could think about it and she saw his face close up.

"Yes." he said, his voice flat and emotionless. "I would."

Scully sat back, mentally kicking herself. She knew how he felt about that incident with Kristen while she was missing. Knew he had slept with her out of a sense of despair, his pain and anger fueling a desperate attempt to feel something, anything else. She'd forgiven him for it even as he told her, her heart breaking to see the level of self-hatred he concealed, shown to her so rarely and no one else, ever.

Knowing how he felt about it, she had to throw it up in his face.

Saddened, she looked out the window as he drove.

He left her at her door with a promise to meet her at breakfast the next morning, and turned and walked away without another word. She wanted to go after him, to apologize for her careless words, but she knew he needed time to heal, at least a little, before he could speak of it rationally.

There was a message from Joseph on her voice mail, telling her to call no matter how late she got in.

Torn, needing comfort and unable to go to Mulder for it, she did.


He had seen the man following him. Was he offering himself? That would be nice of him...he really didn't like to hurt people. It was just as well most of them seemed willing to help...he would look for him while he was out tonight, and smile at him.

Part #4 Bricks

Mulder had changed by the time he picked up Scully the next morning, knocking on her door at eight.

She could still see him, the man who was her friend and partner and once-upon-a-time lover, but he was buried deep, deep beneath that other half.

The half that hated himself and everything he'd ever done, the half that knew no peace, that sought pain to fill the void left when other emotions were too painful.

Scully didn't like that half of Mulder, but she knew how to deal with it; ignore it until it went away and try to keep it from hurting him too much in the meantime.

So she greeted him with a soft smile and walked to the car carrying the cup of coffee he'd brought her.

"So what do you think we should do?"

"I'm going to join this Richard Dancer and help him track this kid down while you run some tests on that blood and research the stuff in that file. So we know what we're working with when he have him."

She let him know she didn't like it with a glare.

"He sleeps during the day, Scully." Mulder said. "There won't be any danger."

She looked at him as he drove, looking for a crack in his facade, but his other face was firmly in place.

"Okay. That sounds like a good idea." she agreed, looking for any relief on his part, but there wasn't any she could see.

He dropped her off at the station and drove to the offices of the PI d'Arcy had hired to look for his son. Walking into the plush suite, shown into a wood-paneled office, Mulder thought that maybe he was in the wrong business.

Of course, money could buy silence on a range of topics.

Dancer was a small, slender man who moved like his name. Mulder couldn't quite tag his ethnic background, had the feeling it was interesting.

"Rich." the man said in a voice like a song as they shook hands. His was calloused and rough.

"Not Dick, huh?" Mulder couldn't resist.

The man sat back down behind a largish desk with an impossibly neat surface and grinned widely at him, not at all put off.

"My line of work was predestined."

"d'Arcy called you?" Mulder leaned on the back of the offered seat. Usually short people were intimidated when taller people loomed over them, but Dancer didn't seem to notice.

"Mr.d'Arcy said I'm to give you any assistance you need." he stood again, suddenly, his movement fluid. "Maybe you've met my cousin...he's a field agent in California, a few years younger than you are; Ruark Dancer?"

Mulder shook his head and Dancer shrugged.

"It's not that small." he said, reflectively as he lead Mulder out of office to the elevator in the lobby. "I hate that stupid song anyhow. We'll take my car, if you don't mind...?"

Mulder was still following the line of half-jokes when the elevator doors closed. Small world, the Disney song, everybody knows everybody...he allowed himself a tight smile.

His car was a four-wheel drive Jeep Grand Cherokee, ready for any and all terrain. Mulder agreed to take it, and they were off. Dancer drove even faster than Mulder.

"So where are we going?" Mulder asked as they slowed and turned into an old residential district. Many of the houses were boarded up, and there were no children playing in the tiny overgrown yards.

Dancer gestured, and Mulder looked up to see a bank of tenements that started two blocks down. they were also boarded up, with bright yellow warning signs posted up and down the walls.

"I've been analyzing the attack patterns and I thin our boy may be holed up here."

"But the attacks have taken place all over town." Mulder said as they parked on a parking lot that bordered a giant concrete flood channel, now flowing with sluggish dirty water.

"I Know." Dancer took off his coat and Mulder saw that he wore only a T-shirt and jeans under it. No shoes.

He glanced meaningfully at the man's feet, which were thick and heavy, very unlike the rest of him. A second glance confirmed that his hands looked out of place as well.

"Don't you get cold?" Mulder asked quietly, tightening the belt on his trench.

Dancer shrugged. "Gotta touch the earth to dance." he said softly, then he was all business again. "Although the attacks were in different areas, they were all business districts. I don't think he's been hiding there -- too many people. He won't like people right now." he flashed a grin at Mulder that told him Dancer knew d'Arcy's story, and bought it. "This is central to almost all of the attacks, and perfect for his requirements."

"You're playing a hunch." Mulder assessed.

"Exactly." Dancer smiled at him again and then led off into the first building. "These things were supposed to be torn down several months ago, but the money for replacements seems to have gotten tied up someplace..."

Mulder followed him into the cool dimness of the building, pulling out a bright flashlight.

The sky was beginning to darken, and Mulder was tired. Tired and hungry. Tired and hungry and sore.

He watched Dancer as the man scrambled nimbly up yet another flight of broken stairs. Mulder had tripped down one earlier and only the PI's surprising strength had kept him from a bad fall.

And his feet were apparently immune to glass and nails and other dangerous debris.

In spite of himself, Mulder was just a smidgen impressed.

But they hadn't found anything.

Dancer looked out a window where the board had been pried loose.

"Full moon out?" Mulder asked, intending it as a joke.

"Three more days." the small man said.

"Want to call it a day?" Mulder didn't really want to meet this boy at night, whatever was wrong with him, and he was really hungry.

"He didn't get anyone last night." Dancer said. "That means he'll be out there tonight. I'd rather catch him before he hurts anyone else."

"He may not be here." Mulder almost hated to point it out, but Dancer shook his head quickly.

"He's here."

"How do you...?"

Mulder's pocket buzzed and he pulled out his phone. Frankly, he was surprised she hadn't called earlier.

"Hi, Scully."

"Mulder, where are you? I'm back at the hotel, changing."

"A block of condemned project housing." Mulder said. "What did you find out?"

"If scientific proof..." he heard a grunt and rustle -- she was pulling a shirt over her head -- "was all we had to go on, I'd believe him."

"What?" he'd never thought he hear that.

"Documents can be faked, Mulder, and samples doctored. But everything I read today, every test I ran upheld his story. I even found two obscure references to patients suffering from this condition."

"They must have been relatives." Mulder mumbled. Scully believed this?

"Any luck tracking him?"

"Well Dick the PI here insists he's in this building somewhere, so we're going to keep looking."

"I'll catch up with you. Just give me the address."

Mulder balked.

"We're doing fine here. Why don't you get something to eat and call Doc Patterson." out of the corner of his eye Mulder saw Dancer leaning close to a doorframe, the door long gone, and - sniffing it?

Sniffing it.

This was getting weirder and weirder and he didn't want Scully anywhere near it.

"Mulder, I am not going to sit on my ass here while you track down a potential killer." she snapped.

"He hasn't killed anyone, Scully." Mulder followed Dancer as he crept through the doorway, still sniffing it. He covered the mouthpiece of the phone with his hand and hissed at him. "You got a cold?"

Dancer flashed him another grin and continued. Mulder went back to the phone and realized he had dead air.

He redialed quickly, but there was no answer though he let the phone ring a few hundred times.

"Damn!" he shouted suddenly.

Dancer stopped. "So much for the element of surprise."

"She's on her way over here, even after I told her I - we - could handle it." Mulder snarled, debating throwing the phone into the water below.

"She is your partner, am I right? "Dancer said. "She probably just doesn't want you hurt."

"I don't want her hurt." Mulder snapped back.

"Then we'd better find him before she gets here." Dancer turned his back on him and continued his search.

Getting out of the cab, scully paid him. When he protested leaving her there alone she gave him a glimpse of her gun and pointed to the jeep.

"I'm meeting someone." she said and the man had driven off unwillingly, leaving her bemused by his chivalrous attitude.

But there was no one there. Looking up at the buildings she tried to decide where to start. How far could they have gotten since this morning?

She pulled out her phone and hit speed dial. He answered it before the first ring finished.

"Where are you?"

"The parking lot."

"Stay there - we'll be out in a minute."

"I'll meet you - which building are you in?" she wasn't too fond of parking lots anymore - especially large, poorly-lit ones.

"The third." he said. "We're on the fifth floor, it'll take us a few minutes to get down."

"On my way." she said.

Negotiating the staircase again was an effort. Mulder set his feet carefully, fully expecting the cracked and broken steps to give way without warning. Dancer...danced down ahead of him.

She played her bright light over the room exposed by the door they had left pushed open.

Nothing here but us chickens, she thought. Olly-olly-all-in -free.

Grinning at her own silliness she went to the next room, looking for the stairs.

They had made it to the second floor when Dancer suddenly stopped, and then began simply bounding down.

"What? Did you hear something?!" Mulder demanded as he struggled to keep up.

Dancer spared him a glance.

"He's down there!"

"Scully's down there!" Mulder didn't ask how he knew that, just accepted it - faith - and began to follow him heedless of his own safety.

There wasn't a sound to give him away, but Scully suddenly knew she wasn't alone.

Quickly she backed against the nearest wall, playing her light over the room she was in, but it was rather a large one...and it had gotten very dark.

"Mulder? Don't tease me, dammit."

There was a soft breathing sound, strained, and then something grabbed her.

She screamed, as loud and as hard as she could, terrified memories of her rape suddenly leaping to the forefront of her brain.

One floor up Mulder heard her and punched his way past the racing, bouncing detective.

"Scully!" he yelled once, and then saved his breath for running. If he fell, hurt himself, he wouldn't be able to help her.

Whoever it was wasn't hurting her, or trying to stop her noise. She dropped gun and flashlight and the beam spun crazily until it pointed across her, held tightly in...arms?

She craned her head back to get a look at the face, but the rank smell and long dirty red hair that spilled over her was enough to identify who had her.

"Mycroft?" she demanded harshly. "Are you Mycroft d'Arcy" Let me go!" she struggled but he held her as if she were a small, angry child.

This wasn't the kind he liked...what did he do with it now? It wiggled too much and made a lot of noise. Maybe if he smiled...

Scully was turned gently around and lifted so that her face was level with the boy's.

She shuddered. He was smiling, but his lips and face were coated with peeling dried blood.

"We're here to help you." she told him, softly, urgently, trying to reach the boy, the college student who loved his father, beneath the animals mask he wore, as pretty as it was.

She was struck by her own thought. He was pretty, even in this state. Mulder was right, he probably was gay. That explained why he only attacked men.

So what did that say about her?

"PUT HER DOWN!!" Mulder's roar shook Scully's body. Myk -- if that's who it was, and there seemed little doubt -- turned slightly so Scully could see him, and small man following him.

Mulder pulled his Glock and took careful aim.

And his gun was snatched from his grasp by the PI.

"Sorry, Mulder." Dancer threw the gun, and it went right through the board over the window, crashing the glass and sailing into darkness. "I can't let you shoot him. He's kind of a cousin of mine."

Moonlight streamed into the room and Scully thought she saw something change on the detective's face.

Staring at him, Mulder thought he saw the detective's face change.

"What are you?"" he breathed.

"Hadn't you better concentrate on saving your partner?" Dancer came back. "I can't attack him - it's against the rules."

"Is this some sick game?" Mulder snarled. "Has it been a game all along?"

Dancer shook his head.

"This is life, Agent Mulder. I don't play games."

"Mulder..." Scully tried to get his attention back. Her upper arms were starting to ache where Mycroft held them.

Abashed, Mulder took a step forwards. Mycroft growled, deep in his throat and Scully winced as his grip tightened.

This one looked better than the one he had...maybe he could trade? It was coming closer, maybe it wanted him. Wanted to help him...

Mycroft watched as Mulder took another careful step, his shining green eyes wary but interested.

Mulder got to a couple of steps away before Myk jerked Scully close. She was unable to restrain a whimper.

Mulder's heart broke.

Without a thought, without premeditation, he did the only thing he could.

Grabbing a piece of glass off the floor he held out his left arm and slashed across it, deeply. The sudden pain made him giddy and he dropped to one knee.

"No!" Scully shouted, too late.

Mycroft looked at her, and then at Mulder, who was looking at Scully. The blood ran freely, pooling on the floor at his foot. He braced his other hand on the floor to keep his balance.

That was an offer...YES!

Mycroft dropped Scully so suddenly she landed on her butt and had to scramble back to her feet. She looked wildly around for her gun, but couldn't see it, and Dancer was staring at her.

Mycroft approached Mulder hesitantly, his eyes lighting up, hands reaching.

Mulder nodded and offered the arm to him.

With an eager sound the boy threw himself to his knees and fastened his mouth over the deep gash. Mulder could feel his mouth working on it and flinched - it hurt. But he didn't pull away, even when Scully stood in front of him making frantic gestures, afraid to disturb the boy with words.

Mulder lifted his good hand and laid it on the boy's head. With a sound like a purr Myk leaned against his chest, Mulder's arm tight to his mouth, eyes closing in contentment.

"It's okay, Scully." Mulder said softly, stroking his hair. The brilliant red was still visible on a few strands. "He's just hungry."

She stared, and then glanced as a shadow passing over the window.

Dancer -- or whatever he had been -- was gone.

When the boy finally stopped eating Mulder was able to take his hand and lead him out of the building. Dancer's jeep was still in the parking lot, the keys in the ignition.

He climbed in the back seat with Mycroft and Scully, reluctantly, slid to drive. Dancer was such a small man she didn't even have to pull up the seat.

"Where to?" she asked. The implication was "this is your show, how do you want it to end?"

"Let's take him home." Mulder said.

Beside him Mycroft slipped into sated sleep, his head in Mulder's lap and Mulder picked up a towel that was lying on the floor and applied pressure to his wound.

Part #5 Gaps

"He'll be fine." d'Arcy senior told them as he personally ushered them to the jeep, Myk bathed, dosed with medicine and fed a real meal. He was too sleepy to understand what was going on. "You need to get that arm stitched, Mr.Mulder."

Mulder stopped to ask a question.

"Did he know?" it was said with low intensity. "Did he know what he was?"

d'Arcy rubbed a palsied hand over his eyes.

"I was going to tell him when he finished school. It's a terrible burden...I wanted him to enjoy the last of his youth."

Mulder pulled his wallet out one-handed, flipping it open and lifting it to take a card out with his teeth and tongue. Scully watched with a shiver.

"I'm a psychologist, Mr.d'Arcy. I think I'm uniquely qualified to help your son through the adjustment he's going to have to make."

d'Arcy shook his head. "He will be fine."

"He's attacked seventeen innocent people and drank blood for a week." Scully backed Mulder. "I think he's going to need some help."

"And why are you so qualified, Mr.Mulder? I can afford the best therapists in the world." d'Arcy wasn't smiling anymore.

"But none of them will believe you."

He took the card.

"I will not push him -- but when he feels up to it, I will suggest that he call you."

Mulder nodded.

"Thank you for finding my son." d'Arcy said.

They went to the car and Mulder turned to shout back at him, shattering the peaceful beauty of the scene.

"What the hell is Richard Dancer? One of you? Where can we find him?"

d'Arcy smiled faintly and even Mulder could see the quiet laughter in it.

"He is absolutely not one of us, Mr.Mulder. And I have the distinct feeling that he just left for a long vacation."

Mulder slammed the car door.

"Drive, Scully."

Scully drove.


Author's note from Saraid: That's it so far. I hope everyone likes it. (Actually, I don't, that would mean it isn't dark enough :) As I said, Myk and the others are mine. I think I came up with the concept of genetic vampires, but it's entirely possible I read it or something like it someplace and then forgot. But I've worked on it a lot. More to come...(after I get done with my real book I've been neglecting for this obsession :) As always, q&c's to: matsu@wf.net


Author's note from Saraid: Greetings and salutations. That's some terrific, radiant pig. Okay, this is part four, you need to read the others to know what's going on (Catch up!). As always, not very happy stuff, but pain is good for the soul. (Yes, I actually believe that)

details: Hey, CC, I've got an idea -- you let me use your characters and I'll let you use mine. Wha?! You're not interested? C'mon, please. I beg very well (among other things... :). Oh, well, I'll just borrow them for a while (since they are yours) and tidy up some loose ends. Or unravel new ones...it's not like I'm getting paid for this, so don't sue me. I'd have to give you a teenager, and, believe me, they're more trouble than they're worth.

The rating on this is PG or PG-13. Lots of UST, some language, nothing violent. All relationship stuff (There'll be a case in the next one, I promise) and DS in a hot dress (What did you think of the one she wore to the Emmys? I'm taking a poll) dancing with somebody else. Yes, it's going to get darker before...well...I never said it was ever going to get brighter, did I? (There's always Hope, but she's on another show :)

Another Dancer, one of my characters, is in here, and I'll have to ask you now not to borrow him because I'm moving the whole Dancer pack into a real book. I have a few ideas about them...

The song at the end is Simple by Collective Soul, off their first album. You've probably heard it on the radio, but you don't get the full effect until you set it on repeat on the stereo and listen to it thirty or forty times at high volume with headphones while you're writing...honest. Buy the album and then maybe they won't sue me since I gave them free publicity. Not like they need it.

As always, comments and critiques to matsu@wf.net I haven't heard many yet -- thanks, Stef! -- and I'll probably quit if I don't get some soon

Title: Walls 04 - The Tower
Author: Saraid
Rated NC-17
Category XRA
Archived 96-09-14
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance.

Summary: At a conference Mulder pushes Scully at second Dancer character, Ruarke. Scully confronts Mulder with his behavior while Mulder is depressed, Mulder confesses love to Scully but insists there is no possibility of a future for them.

Part #1 Windows

"You will do this, Agent Mulder."

AD Skinner stood over him, his bearing ramrod straight, glaring down at Mulder, who was glaring back with equal heat. Beside him Scully clenched her hands in her lap -- relieved she wasn't being chewed, but afraid of Mulder's reaction. He'd become very careless lately, forging ahead and damning the consequences.

Apparently Skinner had noticed.

"Tell me why I should." Mulder almost snarled, a severe breech of etiquette. Reflexively Scully raised her hand, to touch his arm and calm him, but pulled it back with inches to spare.

"Because the Bureau wishes you to." Skinner said it slowly, explaining as if to a child. "Because I am telling you to."

"That's not good enough." Mulder met him stare for stare.

Skinner sat on the edge of his desk, arms crossed in front of him. Anyone else might have thought he was relaxing and accepting Mulder's objections, but Scully knew better.

"Do you like your job, Agent Mulder?" he asked, his voice dangerously soft.

"I need it." it wasn't really an answer. Scully wanted to ask what do you need it for, but kept her mouth shut. Mulder hadn't been answering many of her questions lately.

"Then you will do as I say." Skinner looked disgusted. "I've put my ass on the line for the two of you more than once and now you're going to do something for me."

"Excuse me, sir." Scully spoke up deferentially. "Just how will the two of us going to this conference and presenting be to your benefit?"

"It will prove, hopefully, that you are still team players - and that I can still control you."

Seeing Mulder prepare to blast that idea, Scully spoke again quickly. "And the topic of the papers? You insist that it be -"

"Something normal, Agent Scully. No metamorphing intergalactic bounty hunters. No non-terrestrial retroviruses. Something that shows the two of you can still do good investigative work." he turned his attention back to Mulder. "You've had academic papers published, Agent Mulder. I've even read a couple of them. It doesn't have to be difficult."

Mulder stared sullenly. Personally, Scully found this particular expression very attractive on him, but she was relatively sure Skinner wouldn't.

"He's not asking us to back off, Mulder." she said quietly. "Just to play it straight for a weekend."

He looked at her, long and hard. She could feel Skinner's eyes on her as she met Mulder's.

There was a moment of silence and then Mulder looked away, at the window, past Skinner.

"I suppose you'll want to read them before we go." he said caustically.

Skinner stood and walked back around his desk, sitting in the chair and picking up a file. He answered without looking at them.

"This isn't third grade, Mulder, and I'm not your mother. You're a professional. Write a professional paper."

He opened the file and ignored them. Knowing they were dismissed Mulder and Scully got up and left.

When Scully would have turned to back down to the basement Mulder stopped her with a touch on her arm.

"Let's get some air." he said stiffly.

They had walked six blocks when he stopped by a hot-dog vendor. "Want one?"

She shook her head and grimaced as he loaded his up with mustard and onions. He caught it and grinned at her, his mouth full.

They went to sit on the base of yet another stone monument glorifying something...Scully had no idea what.

He gulped down the hot dog and they say quietly until he felt like speaking.

"The rub of it is I've been working on a paper." he sighed. "It's perfect."

"What's the topic?"

His mouth twisted, as he leaned back on his forearms.

"Environmental Delusional Adaptations."

"What?" she had no idea what he was talking about.

"The ability of a delusional or psychotic personality to see the world around them as they belie it to be. Like Don Quixote."

"You're going to do a paper on Don Quixote?"

"It was just an example, Scully." he sighed. "Some of them come up with surprisingly creative rationalizations to explain those things that don't fit their world-view."

"Everyone does that."

"Wait until you hear it." he held up a hand. "We can argue about it then."

She nodded, and he got up, offering her a hand down. They began to walk back.

"What will you do?" it was said with casual curiosity, but she hoped he meant more by it than that, that he was actually interested...three months ago she would have been sure he was.

"I've been jotting down ideas for the last six months." she said, waving her hand vaguely. "I'll come up with something."

"Yeah." he sighed. "I know you will."

He didn't say anything else until they got back downstairs.

And then he only talked about work.

Part #2 Chambers

"I hate this." Mulder snarled in Scully's ear as they walked into the large, brightly lit atrium of the Four Seasons, New York.

There were tables scattered across the floor, signs hung with agency and division numbers on them. Scully spotted theirs and steered him toward it.

The room was crowded. There was a bar at the other end, and people were wandering through carrying drinks, greeting old friends and studying the newcomers.

Scully felt many eyes upon her as she approached the table, and it wasn't because of the conservative dark suit she was wearing.

They were watching Mulder. And she could tell from the rigid set of his jaw that he knew it.

"Hi." the girl at the table greeted them with a bright smile. "You're FBI?"

"We are. Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, Washington." Scully said.

The girl looked over her box, and pulled out two brown envelopes, heavy.

"Here ya go." she said. "Your room numbers are on the front -" she read glanced at them "- and the keys are in there, along with your speaking times and conference rooms. I think you have a suite." she said helpfully. "If you have any questions, you can ask them now or get hold of me later. I'm Martha."

"Hi, Martha." Mulder suddenly smiled down at her and Scully saw the girl's eyes widen with appreciation. "You're doing a great job here." he continued, turning on the charm. Scully felt nauseous.

"I try, Agent Mulder -- Fox, isn't it?" she was melting at his feet. Scully understood why -- he was handsome and sexy in that suit and the badge didn't hurt. And when he smiled like that...she realized he hadn't smiled at her that way in a very long time. Since she was raped, or even before.

As her partner chatted up the hotel clerk Scully suddenly realized that they were much further apart than she'd thought. She couldn't remember the last time he had really smiled at her.

Shocked but not showing it, she nudged him in the ribs. Martha looked offended.

"Let's get out stuff up, Mulder." she said, pointing to the stack of bags by the entrance to the atrium. More people were coming in and adding to the pile and she didn't want to have to dig for it.

There was a group of men who had turned away from the bar and were headed toward them purposefully. Mulder glanced at them, then cheerfully excused himself from the girl, promising to call her if he needed "-anything." she stressed.

They got their bags and managed to avoid the curious group by taking the first elevator although their rooms were far to the back.

Scully opened her envelope, startled.

"Mulder, we do have a suite. Do you think there's been a mistake?"

"All of the presenters get one, Scully. Each office picked two people to present papers and those people get a suite to share." he shook his head at her. "Didn't you read the intro notes?"

"I was trying to finish the paper..."

"It will be okay, Scully." he said from behind her as the doors opened. He picked up both cases and garment bags, leaving her with just the envelopes. "Lead on."

Not protesting, she did.

It was a nice suite, she thought as she came out of her bedroom into the shared living room. Mulder was already sprawled on the large sofa, remote in one hand, sunflower seeds in the other. And he was dropping the damp shells on the carpet.

"The maids are gonna love you. Don't you have a bed?" she sounded shrewish to her own ears and hated it.

"I'll try it tonight." he flipped channels rapidly, not staying on one long enough to let her see what it was.

"I'm going to hang out my dress for tomorrow. Do you want me to do your tux too?"

"I'm not going tomorrow night, Scully." he didn't look at her.

She snatched the remote from his hand and sat on the sofa beside him, angry.

"You told Skinner you'd play it straight this weekend, Mulder. He wants us to go out and be normal and that's damned well what we're gonna do!"

He stared at her. She never swore.

"Who pissed in your oatmeal?"

She stood, stung by his crudeness.

"I'll go to the dinner, but not the dance." he said sharply. "There's no need to put myself through that."

Maybe that's what Skinner wants, Dana thought. Maybe he wants Mulder to know how other people think of him.

"Skinner will chew you up and spit you out." she warned darkly.

"A few more scars will hardly be noticeable." he shrugged. "Can I have the remote back, please?"

With a hiss she threw it at him, even angrier when he caught it neatly in his hand.

With a glare she went back to her room to hang the wrinkles out of her dress.

She'd bought it last week. The day after they agreed to go, she'd decided she didn't have anything dressy enough -- okay, okay, new enough -- for such an important event. She hadn't needed to dress up in ages.

It had been fun shopping for something fancy. And she had chosen this dress for a very particular reason. There had been others she liked, one even more than this one.

But this one would drive Mulder crazy.

Hanging it up in the bathroom and turning the shower on hot for a few minutes she reached to stroke the soft, stretchy velvet. It wasn't black and it wasn't purple, somewhere in between, cut almost to the butt in back, criss-crossed with sparkling black cut-glass beads that wrapped once around her neck and then draped down the deep valley in front.

Well, she thought, looking down at herself, it isn't so deep now, but the right kind of bra can do wonders.

Mulder knocked on her bedroom door over an hour later. She opened it and frowned. He was wearing the same suit he'd arrived in. She had changed into something more comfortable, less tailored, a cream linen pantsuit with a soft green silk shell.

His suit looked like he'd slept in it.

Or at least rolled around on a sofa.

"Ready?" he asked, not looking at her face.

"Are you?" she jibed and then regretted it. "Yes. Are you hungry?"

"If the speeches don't turn my stomach." he led her out of the room and to the banquet room, which was filling up fast.

They took their plates and walked past the buffet, Mulder piling food on his while Scully was a little more selective. When they got to the end and he had his iced tea they looked for someplace to sit.

Sweeping the room, Mulder saw someone who looked familiar.

"See him?" he nudged Scully, who was noticing that people were staring at them again. She glanced, but couldn't see who he was talking about. "I think I know him."

She didn't resist when he stepped behind her and gently pushed her in the right direction.

He goal, she soon saw, was the last table in the row, at the very back of the room.

"Don't be so paranoid." she scolded.

"No, look." he insisted, guiding her with his tea glass at her back. She hoped it didn't slosh, it would be heck to get out of linen. But she did look, at the small group of men seated, and soon saw what he meant.

She'd only seen him for a few minutes, in moonlight, and she'd been held in mid-air by a teenage vampire at the time, but this man looked like Richard Dancer.

"He told me he had a brother who was with the Bureau in California." Mulder leaned to speak in her ear. People were watching. "Shall we join him?"

She glanced up at him. He looked suddenly cheerful. A mystery often did that to him.

She followed him over to the table.

Dancer -- if it was his brother -- saw them coming and waved them over. The other men looked up and stood as Scully came to the table.

Mulder held her chair and she smiled, amused by this old- world courtesy.

"Agent Scully, Agent Mulder." Dancer -- it had to be him -- held out his hand warmly. Mulder shook it realizing that it was as disproportionately large as Richard's had been. "It's a real pleasure to meet you. I've heard a lot about you."

"You know them?" one of the other men spoke up.

"This is Agent DeAtley, my partner, and Agents Hayward and Graham. Scully and Mulder assisted my brother on a case a few months back."

"Dana." Dana said with a smile. He was just like his brother, small and slender and graceful. His hands moved through the air like music as he talked.

Mulder sat as the others did and began to eat.

"Mulder." he said casually. "You know, I never did hear from your brother after that case. Any idea how I could get in touch with him?"

"Ruarke." Dancer smiled at Dana and she saw appreciation in his eyes. "But you can call me Ru."

"And you'll rue the day you do." his partner added with a grin. "John."

Scully chuckled at the pun, realizing DeAtley must make it at least once a day.

"He's gone back home to visit family." Dancer told Mulder. "It's pretty inaccessible."

"Don't tell me." Mulder folded a slice of beef in half, then in quarters, and put it in his mouth while Scully winced. "Antarctica." he chewed.

"New Road, Alaska." Scully saw the man's dark eyes dance with amusement. "They don't have any phone lines for three months of the year."

"Close enough." Mulder continued eating. The others glanced curiously at him, but went on with their own meals. Scully stared, dismayed by his table manners.

She talked to Dancer and the others, finding Dancer himself very interesting, even intriguing, but in a light-hearted way Mulder could never match.

"You may be the most cheerful agent in the Bureau." she teased.

"I have to make up for my brothers. They're doom 'n gloom all the way. Like him." Dancer smiled at Mulder to take the sting out of it, but Mulder ignored him, working on a third piece of chocolate layer cake.

Scully was worried. She'd seen him really eat before, but this was ridiculous.

"Brothers?" Mulder looked up. "There's another one of you?"

"Actually, we're two sets of twins. Richard has a twin sister, Renee', and I have a twin brother, Rafael. Interestingly enough, he's a dancer."

Scully laughed lightly.

"He's in a show here in New York." Dancer continued. "I've got tickets to see him Sunday night. I can get a couple for you if you'd like."

"What show?" Mulder asked, considering it. Scully was surprised, Broadway shows weren't really his style. But, of course, he thought something strange was going on here.

"Epthimalion. It's gotten really good reviews. Rafe is the second lead."

"We could take a later flight out..." Mulder was thinking about it.

"Show's at eight. We're flying out at midnight." Dancer provided.

"It wouldn't be a problem?" Scully asked.

"He always reserves at least six, in case any family shows up." Dancer said. "I haven't seen him in a year."

"But won't there be a full moon tomorrow night?" Mulder asked suddenly, quietly.

"It was last week..." Dancer stopped and stared at him, his smile fading and then widening again. "Sneaky, Agent Mulder."

Scully stared from one to the other, confused.

"I would love to see that show." Mulder said softly.

"I'll see what I can do." Dancer said.

The others at the table were looking as confused as Scully. She was about to demand an explanation but there was a woman getting up at the podium and the ceremony was starting.

She sat back, watching Mulder watch Dancer and knowing that Dancer was watching her.

His intense scrutiny was flattering and made her feel light- headed.

He really was attractive.

"What time is it?"

Scully glanced up from her conversation with Dancer and looked at Mulder, who was nursing his third beer as they sat in the alcove of the bar. The bar itself was still crowded with agents and associates, but the alcove was nearly empty.

Meeting her partner's eyes, the depth of pain in his slid into Scully's soul and she had to glance away. Although Mulder claimed he didn't drink because of what it had done to his father, she knew the real reason -- it let him feel to much, remember too much. More than he wanted to.

Dancer was watching the exchange with unobtrusive interest.

"Just past two." he supplied. "I suppose I should let you get your sleep, Dana. Although you certainly don't need it."

She smiled at the graceful compliment, and looked again at Mulder. He had bowed his head over his hands, still holding the mostly-empty glass. "You ready to go, Mulder?" she asked quietly.

"Whatever." he said, his voice low and dead-sounding. They got up, Dancer with them.

"I can walk you to your door, can't I?" he asked slyly, and Dana had to smile again.

Mulder ignored them and walked out past them. Scully would have rushed after him, but Dancer stopped her by slipping his arm through hers.

"Space, Dana." he said softly, smiling at her. He was only a few inches taller than she was -- they would be almost even if she wore heels. "I know what it's like to live with demons. He needs space."

They began to walk as Mulder got into the elevator. Dana let her arm stay through his, feeling very comfortable with this man.

"Demons, huh?"

"Hey." he smiled widely. "You show me yours and I'll show you mine."

Her outraged gasp was followed by a reluctant chuckle that followed Mulder as the doors closed and the elevator left her there, walking with another man.

Mulder was on the sofa when Scully did get up. She'd hovered at her door with Dancer, still talking. They had talked about so much...his family, large and close like hers, his father and parental expectations, movies, books, music...she felt like she hadn't had a real conversation in years. And, considering how things went on the X-Files and her familiar relationship with Mulder, maybe she hadn't.

He seemed to be sleeping lightly, so she took a blanket out of the closet and covered him gently.

When her bedroom door closed he opened his eyes and stared into the darkness, one hand clutching a fold of the blanket like a frightened child.

He was nowhere in sight when she got up the next morning. His bedroom door was shut and there was no answer, so she assumed he was either still sleeping -- in a bed! -- or had already gone down.

Dancer was waiting near the elevators, waiting for her to come down.

"Like a sunrise backwards." he told her softly.

"Do you know a lot about sunrises?" she asked as they went to eat, and his face softened as he answered, oddly serious.

"Moonrises are more my specialty." it was enigmatic and, try as she might, she couldn't get him to say one more word on the subject.

Mulder woke with a start. He hadn't slept until dawn, and Scully's knocking had woken him just past. Throwing off the sheet he climbed out of bed, wearing brown paisley boxers, and then saw the clock on the nighstand. The numbers seemed to swell and loom in his mind.

1:48 p.m. the bright numbers shone serenely, blissfully unaware that they were ruining his life.

"Shit!" he yelled at the room in general. Scully was presenting at 2. How was he going to make it on time?!

Ten minutes later there was a commotion at the back of the crowded room as Agent Scully stepped up to the podium on the small portable stage. At the front table Dancer smiled at her encouragingly.

The room was too full, with people standing in back behind the tables. Most of them room weren't just there to hear her lecture, she knew. They were here to see The Ice Queen, her professional persona that many thought was all there was to her. She hadn't meant to be anything other than coldly professional when she came in here, but now, suddenly, she wished they thought differently about her.

Maybe she could do something about that.

There was a medium-loud protest from the back and she thought she spotted a familiar head, one she'd been looking for.

"If that's my partner --" she said into the mike while everyone stared -- "would you mind letting him through so I can have a turn at him?"

There was a soft wave of laughter at this and the crowd parted to let him through, straightening his tie, he walked to the front with cool dignity. Dancer pulled out the empty seat he'd saved and offered it to him.

Mulder took it with a bare show of gratitude. And Scully got started.

Two hours later she finished up to rousing applause. Listening avidly, Mulder had kept notes as she spoke, but Dancer, sitting beside him, quickly noticed that the notes weren't on her lecture, but rather, an account of comments made while she was talking, good and bad. With a quick grin he turned his attention to the people on the other side of the room and did the same. Mulder acknowledged this with a nod. Neither of them were doctors and, while the talk was interesting, they could only follow it on the surface.

Most of the comments were positive and appropriately directed, but there were also the "Ice Queen" references and hints of the rumors about her relationship with Mulder. With his superior hearing -- Dancer glanced at Mulder and saw that he wasn't paying attention to him -- Dancer heard more than he knew he was supposed to. He followed Mulder's lead and wrote it all down, good and bad. When it came to the Q&A at the end they alternated writing the questions and answers so that they would get everything.

Scully thanked everyone and joined them while they waited for the next speaker. They were sitting right next to each other and she paused, wondering who to sit next to, then Dancer moved over to a recently vacated seat so she could sit between them.

"How was I?"

"Impressive." Dancer spoke first.

"Professional." Mulder said, and for some reason that made her smile.

"Did you get the notes?"

Dancer had seen her pick up her tape recorder. "Didn't you tape it?"

"The tape isn't sensitive enough to pick up things said out here."

"All of it." Mulder said flatly, and she rolled her eyes.

"That bad, huh?"

"I thought most of the comments were very appreciative." Dancer said encouragingly.

"Keep em." she told Mulder. "I'll read over them when we get home."

He nodded and held out his hand for Dancer's notes, which he passed over willingly.

"So, the next guy is doing evidence storage. Want to get some lunch?"

"I'm not hungry." Mulder said, and Scully looked at him, concerned. "You slept late and you're not hungry? Are you sick, Mulder?"

"I'm fine." he said brusquely and dancer wondered why he was being such a jerk. But apparently Scully was used to it.

"Whatever you say." she turned her attention from her apparently sulking partner and to Dancer, who basked in her attention.

"What would you like?" he said softly.

"Food. Seafood." she amended.

"There's a great oyster bar here in the hotel. Will that do?"

"Perfect." she allowed him to take her hand and lift her out of her chair. Mulder watched with narrowed eyes. "You coming, Mulder?"

"I'm going to go over my notes."

"Mulder, you have an eidetic memory. you don't need to go over your notes."

His face twisted in a wry grin, self-mocking.

"I'm trying to come up with a better joke."

"I have a few." Dancer volunteered, but Scully took his arm and steered him away, out of the room.

"What?" Dancer asked.

"You don't want to know." they left the room. "But I like jokes."

"Okay. What does a cross-dressing psychologist wear..."

Their voices faded out as they went around the corner, not noticing Mulder coming out and watching them go, his face set in harsh lines.

Scully was early for Mulder's lecture. Dancer could tell she was nervous.

"Is he going to bomb?" he asked as they took seats right up front, Scully wanting to give him moral support.

"Mulder's brilliant." she said, and then sighed. "But sometimes he has problems bringing it down to everyone else's level." She opened her binder to a clean sheet. "And he has a ... reputation."

Dancer smiled.

"Don't we all?"

He was looking into her eyes in a way that made Dana feel like a schoolgirl again, but the moment was interrupted by Mulder's entrance.

He nodded to Scully, once, and stepped up to the podium. The room was filling quickly and she could hear murmurs and comments -- many directed at the fact that his hands were empty, he brought no notes, charts, or displays.

Scully caught her breath as he began to speak. Dancer patted her hand and she relaxed, knowing Mulder, knowing what he was capable of.

One and a half later she was realizing that she'd been wrong. She hadn't known what kind of work Mulder was capable of. His lecture was brilliant, concise, cutting-edge, and still accessible. Entertaining as well as educational, delivered in flawless, flowing prose, his voice perfectly modulated to fill the room and keep you awake.

But the comments she was writing weren't at all flattering, and that made her mad.

He closed to a lukewarm round of applause and she caught the unguarded second as he stepped down.

His face was tight with pain and she knew he'd expected a better response.

"What did you think?" he asked, coming to the table. Everyone was clearing out, Mulder's had been the last lecture of the day and there was still the big dance tonight, the banquet.

"It was wonderful." Dancer said honestly. "I think now I can really get inside a suspect's head and try to see the world the way he does."

Scully nodded agreement.

"It was everything Skinner wanted it to be." she said and that got a faint smile.

"And what did everyone else think?"

With a shrug Scully shut her binder and stood.

"Let's go over them together when we get home, 'kay?"

"That bad." he began to walk away from them, to the door that led to the back hall, away from the party and everyone else.

"Mulder." she said softly after him. Dancer could see the instant he heard it, how his spine stiffened and then he turned, his look questioning. "Are you coming tonight?"

No reply.

"I'd really like you to." she said.

"Then I will." he left them standing there, Dancer beside Scully wondering if, perhaps, some of the rumors weren't true. But he couldn't smell Mulder on her, and that wouldn't go away if they were in close, frequent contact. It couldn't be washed away, the scent of a lover. It became part of you.

But Scully only smelled like Scully.

She stepped out of her bedroom with a nervous flutter in her stomach. Mulder had seen her in some great outfits over the years. Even a few dresses. But nothing, nothing like this.

She hoped he wasn't too shocked.

Then again, maybe she hoped he was.

She was standing in front of the TV, catching up on CNN when he came out. His suit was perfect, black-on-black pinstripe over a black shirt, with -- oh, geez -- a perfect tie. The perfect tie. Shining with a touch of silvery glimmer, it had tiny diagonal stripes in dark green that almost looked black.

The suit defined his shoulders, and shaped other parts of him that Scully didn't usually notice.

"You look great." she said suddenly, not realizing that she'd been holding her breath until he met her eyes.

His face didn't change from its serious, sad expression, but she saw the appreciation in his eyes. He would tell her how great she looked, as soon he stopped staring.


She nodded, and he offered his arm, and then there was a knock on the door.

They looked at each other.

Then he went to open the door.

Dancer smiled gently at both of them, looking poised and calm in his dark blue suit. He wore a black bow tie.

"I thought I'd walk you down." he said, seeming slightly embarrassed.

Scully wasn't sure what to say. Glancing at Mulder she saw that he was staring at the wall behind her now. Gently he pulled his arm from hers.

"The more the merrier." he said to Dancer.

After giving him a hard look Dancer offered his arm to Dana, who took it unhappily. As they walked down the hall she kept looking at Mulder, who was still studying the walls.

What was he thinking? Why was he acting like this?

She felt that the answers would be important, but didn't know how to get them.

Part #3 Spiral Stairs

It was nice dancing with someone when she could see their eyes.

Dana relaxed into Dancer's arms, smiling at him. His green eyes smiled back. He was stronger than she'd expected, but that wasn't a surprise. He was a surprise.

"Tuppence?" he leaned his head close to whisper, and she grinned.

"You want British thoughts?"

"Any thoughts you might have." he smiled widely, revealing large, even teeth. "French, german, dutch..."

"Kind of an international thought maven."

"Exactly." he twirled her around slowly and she caught sight of Mulder, sitting alone at the table they had taken. He hadn't asked her to dance once all evening. "So....?"

He was waiting for an answer. Flustered, she returned her attention to him with an apologetic smile.

"I was just thinking how nice it is to be able to look at the man I'm dancing with."

"It's a nice change for me as well." true to his name he moved with innate grace. "It's not often I find a woman my size in our line of work, and never one so beautiful."

Caught off-guard by the compliment Dana blushed. They went past the table again and her eyes were drawn to Mulder, who was watching the walls again. Or, perhaps, the shadows on the walls. He looked so alone...

"It's too bad your heart is already taken."

Dancer's soft comment brought her back to her senses and she almost stopped in the middle of the floor, but he swept her on and regained their momentum. Dana didn't reply, just looked down at his chest.

"It's not obvious to everyone, if you're worried about it. I have...particular...powers of perception. Not quite an X-File, but it serves my purpose. I just wish there was something I could do to make this easier for you."

Now Dana found the courage to raise her head and meet his eyes.

"Mulder and I are partners."

"More than you know." Dancer smiled, a soft, kind smile. "Is it so hard for him to love?"

"Hard to trust, harder to love." she sighed. "I thought I was happy with things the way they are, but, sometimes..."

"You want more. I understand." his smile widened again, became a mischievous grin. "I'd be glad to do anything you'd like that would make you feel better."

Now Dana grinned back at him, enjoying his attention.

"If I didn't know better, that sounded like a pass."

"Who said you knew better?"

He grinned down at her as he swept her across the floor again, past Mulder and his brooding. They didn't notice when his eyes left the walls and focused on them.

She was smiling at him, laughing into his eyes and Mulder felt another tiny part of himself die. It was good to feel it because he was the one killing it. It was good to feel anything. Even if he didn't know why. Even if he couldn't stop it.

The song ended and the dancers applauded briefly before another began. Dancer led Scully back to the table. They fit well together, her slender fairness against his dark strength.

Mulder sighed, and Scully noticed.

"Are you done pouting, Mulder?" she asked firmly, taking his hand. "You owe me a dance."

"For what?" his sly grin manifested unexpectedly.

"I'm sure there was something..." she tugged gently, twirling the hem of her skirt with her other hand. That dress...! It made it hard for him to breathe, much less think. But he had to think. "Saving your life a dozen times, feeding you more..."

"Shooting me?" now it was a real grin as she blushed and Dancer spoke up.

"You shot him?"

"There were extenuating circumstances." Scully muttered.

"And she did take very good care of me afterwards." Mulder added and was rewarded with another blush. Dancer looked from one to the other.

"I know there's a story behind that, but I'm not gonna ask." he looked around briefly. "There's my partner, annoying the natives. I'd better go rescue him."

He headed off in the direction of the crowd surrounding his partner and they watched.

"I wonder if he's as good as pulling his partner out of the fire as you are." Mulder said.

"Only if his partner's as good at getting into trouble as you are." she pulled again and he stood reluctantly and led her to the dance floor. The band was playing a waltz, and he pulled her close, her arms around his waist, his around hers.

"You know, when it was first invented - can you invent a dance? - the waltz was considered scandalous because the man and woman were so close to each other." he said softly.

"I could see where people would get that idea." Scully answered, resting her head lightly on his chest. Her eyes crossed and she stared for a minute at his tie, and then pulled her head back to focus on it clearly. "Mulder!"

"What?" she could tell from the tone of his voice that he was enjoying his joke on conformity.

The thin green stripes on the tie were actually tiny little aliens laid end-to-end.

"I was wondering when you'd notice."

"That's...that's awful!" she tried to sound outraged, but a chuckle escaped. "Has anyone else noticed?"

"Not a one. They just aren't as observant as you are." he smiled happily, proud of his little joke and she smiled back. If he was still up to a private joke like that he had to be okay.

But he excused himself after the single dance, leaving her confused and a little lonely. But it wasn't long before Dancer and John came to her rescue.

Scully laughed at the face Dancer made as they got off the crowded elevator.

"I always feel like Dr.McCoy on the transporter." he confided, and then put on a hokey southern accent; "Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a sardine!"

She laughed again, wondering if it was the wine or the company. He linked his arm through hers and they made their way down the hall. Although Dancer had drank twice as much as she had, he didn't seem to be affected.

She stopped at the suite door and turned to face him, finding him suddenly very close. His arms moved to either side of her head as he leaned, inches between them.

"You can come to my room, Dana." he whispered. "Just to sit, and talk, and, maybe, snuggle a little."

She hadn't had a man suggest snuggling since high school. And then it had been a ploy to get into her pants. But, somehow, she didn't think that was what this man was after.

"I like you too much to do anything else now." he added, his mouth warm on her ear, his breath on her neck.

With a sigh Dana wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him to her for a kiss.

It was soft and warm and friendly. She could tell he was holding back, trying not to push her, and so she pushed him, opening her mouth and becoming more aggressive.

He responded willingly, but broke off after just a few seconds, lifting her away from him and stepping back, his hands still on her arms.

"Dana." he studied her with dark eyes. "This isn't the time or place. You're not ready to move on yet."

"dammit." she whispered, rubbing her eyes. "It must be the wine."

"I'm not complaining." he said. "And I'm not saying never...but you should know some things. In my own way, I'm as driven and tormented as Mulder. You would only be trading one hard case for another. Maybe you should stick with the one you've got."

"I don't know what I've got." she said, sounding forlorn. He pulled her close for a hard hug and released her quickly.

"You need to find out before you give it up."

He leaned close and brushed a kiss across her cheek.

"Goodnight, Dana. Happy hunting."

She watched him go down the hall and leaned against the door, trying to order her whirling mind.

He was sitting on the sofa, in the same place and the same position he'd sat in after he'd walked in the door and hit play on the boombox.

Just being still.

Nobody understood this, that sometimes this was all he could do. The music, loud noise played at low volume, moved for him.

Sit still.

She walked in at three o'clock in the morning. Her face was flushed and her hair was mussed and she looked more beautiful than he'd ever seen her. So beautiful it hurt, and he had to close his eyes.

He felt the weight beside him as she sat and almost groaned with despair. Not now. Not tonight.

He couldn't deal with this tonight.

Her voice was so sad when it came that he wanted to cry.

"What are you doing to me, Mulder?"

He didn't answer, just squeezed his eyes tighter shut.

"A man -- an interesting, engaging, attractive man -- likes me and all I can think about is you and what's bothering you. It's so bad even he knows something is up, and so he pushes me away."

His mouth worked. There were words he could say now, words that would fix this...but he'd forgotten them.

He was forgetting a lot these days; How sweet she smelled, how badly her pain cut him...

"We've never talked about this, Mulder, and I need to. I need to know what the future holds for us."

He found words. They weren't the right ones, but he said them anyhow, just so she wouldn't keep talking.

"Not now, Scully. I can't do this now."

Movement beside him as she shifted, then her hand on his face, turning it to her.

"Yes now, Mulder. It won't get any easier by waiting."

He opened his eyes and heard her soft gasp, which told him what he'd already known, that his heart was shining through them.

He pulled his face from her hand, turning away again. She leaned over his back, her mouth against his ear, hands on his shoulders, hair brushing his neck.

"Tell me, Mulder. Let me help."

He jerked away, jumping to his feet and backing away from her. His eyes were wide now, filled with pain and anger. She sat back, giving him space to vent, crossing her arms over a throw pillow, eager, yet afraid of the storm to come.

"You don't understand." he hissed. "You haven't been around when it's like this -- when I'm like this. There's nothing you can do!"

"Tell me about it." she urged. He clenched his hands into fists before him, then twisted them together brutally. She winced at the sound of painfully cracking knuckles.

"You're a doctor - you know what depression is." he said it hard, accusing.

"I don't know what yours is."

"It never goes away, Scully!" he shouted, then his voice dropped to a plaintive whine, a plea. "It's always there...the list of things I've screwed up, the people I've hurt, the chances I've missed. They never go away, and they all say the same thing: why do I keep trying?!"

"Because you want to do what's right." she said, hugging the pillow closer.

"It's more than that!" he started to move and stopped himself, becoming very still again. "It's like a hunger, Scully. I'm hungry for violence, for pain -- for anything that will fill this hole inside me where I used to be. I have to be -- be still, and quiet until it goes away. Until I can trust myself again."

"You're still there, Mulder. You've just lost sight of yourself for a little while."

He bowed his head, closing his eyes, hands clenched together. His voice dropped to a whisper.

"I'm afraid to shave, Scully." he rubbed his cheek on his shoulder and she heard the rasping of stubble in her head. "I drive and I look off overpasses, wondering. I carry my gun every day and suddenly I want to do more than that with it."

Scully sat up, afraid to approach him, leaning forward, wanting her words to reach him.

"It will get better, Mulder. It will."

She didn't suggest doctors or anti-depressant drugs. A hint of this and he'd lose the X-Files for good. And they were probably the only thing keeping him alive.

"I make a list every morning, Scully. Reasons to live versus reasons to die."

"What are the reasons to live, Mulder?" she asked softly.

"That's the thing, Scully. They're the same." he gave a short bark of laughter. "You. And Samantha. And the X-Files. Those are the reasons I need to live. And those are the reasons I want to die."

Sitting back, wishing she'd paid more attention in abnormal psych or done a psych rotation during her internship, Dana listened and watched with worry creasing her dainty features.

"Every time something happens I think: At last. This - this - is bad enough. Now I can justify it. People will understand. But as long as Samantha's gone and you're here I can't. No matter how..." his voice faded and he gulped, then continued. "...how badly I want to."

"I'm glad you can't." she said softly. "There's a chance that I'm going to spend the rest of my life with you, Mulder, and I don't want you to throw that away."

He turned his back on her, wrapping his arms around his shoulders, head still down. She could barely make out his next words.

"There's no chance of that, Scully. I love you too much to do that to you."

Dana wasn't sure which shocked her the most - that he'd finally told her he loved her, or that he'd done it after saying they couldn't have a life together.

"If you love me, Scully, you'll go on without me. Have the life you want, the things I can't give you. A man without demons, someone who will love you and not need you as much as I do. You can still have all those things, Scully; a life, a family, children."

There was a long pause as Dana fought to stay away from him, to let him finish.

"Have them for me, Scully."

He walked away, to the window, where he leaned with his head against the glass. She wondered briefly, wildly, if that made him want to jump. She got up, walked to a foot away, reached out a hand but didn't touch him.

"Mulder..." she said on a sigh. "I..."

"Shhhhhh..." he sighed as well, not moving. "Please, Scully. Please. Let it be."

There was something in the air between them. Dana could feel it, touch it, but she couldn't see it.

A wall. Taller and thicker than any he'd thrown up before.

Suddenly she was too tired, too sad to climb it.

"Goodnight, Mulder." she said softly, drawing back her hand.

He didn't answer - she didn't expect him to - and she went to her room to undress for bed, throwing the new dress onto the floor like a rag and climbing into bed exhausted, fighting tears.

And then she did cry, for both of them, because he couldn't cry for himself.

When he was sure she wasn't coming back out he loosened his arms and walked to the sofa, sitting carefully in the same position, the same spot. His only movement was to turn up the volume on the box, just a little louder, so he could hear the song and not his screaming heart.

Hey, hey, can't you see?

Love is all that you should need.

Can't you see?

Ease your troubled mind.

Let love seek and let love find. It's simple.

Ease your weary soul.

Let love lead and let love flow. It's simple.

His sudden laughter was bitter and harsh, pain pouring from him in waves.

Cleansing out your tarnished heart.

It's simple.

Learning from each other can be simple.

Hey, hey, don't you know?

Love is all that we should show.

Don't we know?

Her tears drying on her face, Dana lay awake and listened to her partner's heart break.


Title: Walls 05 - Dungeon
Author: Saraid
Rated NC-17
Category XRA
Archived 96-09-21
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance. Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a series of ritual suicides in a Wyoming town with a Japanese population while establishing new boundaries to their relationship.

Author's note from Saraid: Are you my mother? (I'll take quotes from favorite children's books for $500, Alex) Okay, folks, here's part 5 and things may be looking up. (But don't get used to it :) details: CC, 1013, yada, yada, yada...(are you bored with this? I'm bored with this...) Rated PG-13 or R for language and major UST. Some necking, but no sex. There's an actual case here, but it's not really a very interesting one. Not really an X-file, either, but they do get stuck with them sometimes. None of my personal characters either, just some local filler. As always, comments and critiques to matsu@wf.net. I've been getting some good responses, I truly appreciate everyone who took the time to write me, I need the feedback to keep going. Is there anyone out there who *doesn't* like the series? I wanna know, *really*.

Prologue: Slime

He had it!


Scully's scream brought him back to earth, hard. Gasping for air, he scrambled to his feet in time to avoid the bullet that spurted dust in front of him.

"Back here, now!" she grabbed the back of his jacket and hauled, pulling him behind their battered rental car, where he flopped beside her and watched while she rose from her crouch and returned fire over the hood, her shots echoed by a dozen other guns wielded by local law officers.

"Did you get it?" she asked as she crouched again. With a twisted grin Mulder held up his prize in tightly clenched hands - the journal Eric Rosoez had dropped as he fled his apartment after he realized it was being watched.

"Dumb luck, Scully." he said.

"Is it in there?" she rose to shoot again. Rosoez couldn't keep this up forever -- he was pinned behind another car, an old truck. And without his book he had no bargaining point.

Mulder flipped pages faster than she thought humanly possible, searching, searching..."Yes! Here it is! A map!"

Closing her eyes Scully breathed a quick prayer of thanks. Mulder was following the crumpled paper with a finger.

"Somewhere by the lake, Scully, the east side!" he said loudly over the gunfire.

"Let's Go!" signaling the cops behind the nearest vehicle she and Mulder began to back away from the shootout, reaching the corner of the apartment building and straightening, both hovering over the book. Scully checked her watch, and then the sky. "It's been over 48 hours, Mulder, she might not still be alive."

"She's strong." Mulder said as he sprinted to another car parked behind the building. There were two plainclothes detectives in it, watching the back. Mulder yanked open the door and grabbed one by the shoulder.

"We've got the book! Let me drive!" he shouted. The detective stared while his partner reached for his weapon, but Scully held up her badge and added her voice to her partner's.

"We need this vehicle. We know where Samantha Fox is." Mulder waved the book in front of their faces and yelled at them.

"We're running out of time! Give us the car!"

Understanding suddenly, they tumbled out of the car. Mulder jumped behind the wheel while Scully shouted directions at them.

"East side of Starbuck Lake! Call for an airlift, we'll meet you there!"

Then Mulder stomped on the gas and they peeled out, the sound of gunfire fading behind them.

They walked quickly through the woods. Evening was fast fading to dusk and the flashlight they had found in the glove compartment was dimming on old batteries. Mulder swore and banged it against a tree.

"That won't help, Mulder." Scully said. This case, with it's eerie echoes of their own lives, had been hard on him.

But not as hard as it had been on the five teenage girls Rosoez had kidnapped, raped, and left for dead, tied somewhere in the Arkansas woods. Samantha Fox was the sixth -- and, praise god, the last. If only they could find her before she died.

"*Fuck this*!" Mulder shouted suddenly, throwing the flashlight into the trees. Scully started to follow it, but turned back to him. He was leaning on the tree, close to tears.

She put her hands on his shoulders, lending strength. It had taken him three weeks to figure this guy out, to get into his head enough to let them find him, and it hadn't been a pretty trip. Rosoez had taken three more girls during that time and each one Mulder had taken personal responsibility for. And the last one had been a stroke of genius on Rosoez's part, even if he didn't know it.

*Samantha Fox*. Why had he chosen a girl with that name? Did he actually have the rudimentary psychic power Mulder suspected? Or was it just a horrible coincidence?

It didn't matter. Scully leaned close to Mulder, letting him feel her weight, her strength, and then began talking to him, slowly, quietly.

"Breath, Mulder. Easy. Just breath, and think. You know which way he went. Follow his path...you can see it in your mind..."

After a minute he breathed deeply and straightened, turning and gently pushing her away from him. She sighed, feeling the implied rejection as she had so often these last few weeks.

"Okay." he looked at the stars, getting his bearings. "Everything in sixes -- which constellation only has six stars, Scully?"

She looked at the sky with him. "Stars, Mulder?"

"He's done the earth, the water, the air, etc. Stars may be the next logical step."

"Uhhhh...I don't know." she sighed.

"*Little bear*. The little dipper." Mulder said suddenly. "On the map, it said 'By the Little Bear'!"

"Okay." Scully was following that. "But which way do we go?"

"North." he said firmly. "I'll explain while we walk."

He explained as they recovered the flashlight and it made perfect -- if twisted - sense.

And then they found Samantha Fox. Tied tightly to a tree, just as the other girls had been. Gagged and nude, her body showing signs of abuse that Scully empathized with.

When she heard them approach she opened her eyes, wide and terrified.

When she saw Scully she began to cry. She was so dehydrated that there were no tears, but that was okay.

She was alive.

"You're going to be fine." Scully told her as they cut her down and wrapped her in their jackets and Mulder carried her out of the woods. She meant it. PART#1 - Sentry

Dana Scully lay back on her pillow with a deep sigh. It felt so good to lie down and know she wasn't going to be yanked up for an emergency. Tonight she actually got to *sleep*.

With a yawn she shut down her laptop -- sitting on her lap, natch -- and set it to the side. She planned on sleeping so hard she didn't even bump it.

Snuggling down, pulling the quilt up higher, she reached for the bedside lamp and eyed the phone.

Should she call him?

She knew how he would be. Friendly, funny, distant.

The way he'd been ever since that night in New York, when he told her he loved her.

When he told her to go on with her life without him.

He'd worked so hard on this case, it had really taken a chunk out of him. He took it personally, he *always* took it personally, but this had been so bad.

But they'd won. Rosoez was in custody -- the cretin had surrendered, obviously his vaunted psychic powers didn't tell him where child molesters were on the social scale in prison -- and Samantha Fox was alive and well.

Unlike Mulder's sister.

She knew that was what would be eating him now.

And she couldn't just let him lay there alone in the dark and obsess about it.

With a heavier sigh, knowing she was setting herself up for a major rejection, Scully climbed out of bed and shrugged into her long velour robe. It was warm and soft and covered *everything*.

Then she left her room, went down the short hall -- she had chosen the hotel this time -- and knocked on Mulder's door.

There was no answer, but she knew better than to believe he was sleeping.

"Mulder?" she said, not too loudly. It was late and she didn't want to wake anyone who was lucky enough to be sleeping. "Mulder, it's me."

There was a shuffling sound and then the door opened, showing her his back as he trudged away from it.

She went in. He didn't greet her or even look at her, just sat back down on the bed and stared at the TV that was providing the only light in the room.

Scully sat beside him.

Silence reigned.

At last, unable to take it, Scully leaned against him and wrapped her arms around his waist, her head on his shoulder. She felt him stiffen, but he didn't pull away.

"It's okay, Mulder." she said softly. "It doesn't have to mean anything more than friends. I just want to sit here with you." I don't want you to be alone right now.

Her only answer was a grunt as he grudgingly put his arm around her shoulders, bringing her head to his chest, but he didn't relax, kept that tight hold of himself. This was the worst time for him, after. The time he went over everything he'd done and kicked himself for not doing more. For not being better, smarter, faster.

For being only human.

But he held her. And for now, that was enough. Scully closed her eyes and soon slept, lulled by his controlled breathing.

The shrill ring of the hotel phone woke her. It stopped after one and she rolled over -- was she still in Mulder's room? -- and saw him sitting beside her, the phone pressed to his ear.

"Yes, sir. Thank you sir, we tried."

He nodded as Scully sat up. She was still wearing her robe, and she was warm, so she unzipped it. Mulder caught her hand without looking at her.

"Where? Three o'clock. Got it. I'll tell Scully. We'll be there."

He hung up the phone without a goodbye and turned to her, pulling his hand away quickly and standing.

"I was going to let you sleep." he said, stopping a couple of feet away from the bed, presumably a safe distance. But his heart was in his eyes and Dana couldn't help reaching for him, one small hand beckoning.


He backed off another step, shaking his head slowly. Then he turned and left the room without saying anything.

Mulder leaned against the stop sign. It was a good thing he'd been wearing sweats last night, because he'd needed to run. To see her, waking up in his bed, looking so sweet and soft and sexy...it had nearly killed him when she'd looked at him that way, her eyes so soft, just like they were when he touched her...

He shook his head fiercely. He *couldn't* think that way. This was the right thing to do, this was what was best, *for Scully*.

What was best for him didn't matter.

Pushing himself off the sign, he began again, a steady, ground-eating pace, back the way he had come.

His bare feet slapped on the pavement, absorbing the shock with a jolt that ran up the back of his legs. This was gonna hurt tomorrow.

"Ugh." Dana stepped into the shower, feeling grungy and unwanted. Mulder had run away from her like she was his darkest demon...which, come to think of it, she might just be.

But she could be his angel, too. She knew that. She just had to make him see it.

Or not.

As the hot water poured down on her she leaned back and considered. Why was she pushing him so hard? Was it because he had admitted he loved her? Or was it, as Dr.Levine had suggested at her last session, to avoid other, potentially more fulfilling relationships?

Mulder loved her. She knew that.

But what could he give her? What *would* he give her?

Friendship. Partnership. Trust he gave no one else. But he wouldn't give her marriage and he wouldn't give her children and he wouldn't give her the future she craved.

She was thirty-two. Was it time to accept what he had to give and look for those other things with someone else?

Her thoughts turned immediately to the other FBI agent she had met, had spoken to and emailed regularly since. *Dancer*. He was light to Mulder's dark, a smile to Mulder's pain. And Joe. She hadn't called him in a month. He had taken her out several times, they had talked and she liked him. *Really* liked him. His humor, his commitment, his gentleness.

She could fall in love with him. Or with Dancer. But Dancer hinted at his own darkness, which he felt rivaled Mulder's own, and Joe was...well.

She rinsed her hair and stared at the curtain, appalled at what she was thinking.

Joe was *black*.

Did that *bother* her? She'd never considered herself a person who was concerned about color. It was an accident of birth, a happenstance, like her red hair and pale skin. Had she actually stopped seeing him because of *that* and used Mulder as a convenient excuse?

She got out of the shower, toweling herself roughly.

She needed to *do* something about that.

But she needed to do something about Mulder, too.

He knocked on her door two hours later. She let him in without a word, dressed in jeans and a sweater. He seemed to be limping slightly.

"Skinner called." he said without preamble. "We have another case. We got it because it's weird and we're nearby, relatively. Wyoming."

She sat at the small table and watched him. He wasn't really looking at her.

"What time is our flight?" she asked quietly. He was too controlled, too far away emotionally to reach now. She'd have to wait.

"Three. Are you packed?"

She nodded, remembering when he wouldn't have asked, just assumed she was ready to go.

When they had had entire conversations with their eyes.

Now they had to use words, clumsy and slow.

"Good." he said.

"Mulder." she said as he turned to leave. "Aren't you going to tell me about the case?"

"Skinner didn't tell me anything, just said we'd get the data when we got there." he said, obviously uncomfortable.

"Oh." she sighed. "Go on, I can see how bad you want to get away from me. I wouldn't want to keep you."

Her harsh words hit him hard, she could see the pain in his eyes.

"Scully." he started, then stopped. Tried again. "I..."

"It's okay, Mulder." she sighed. "That wasn't fair. It's not right for me to try to push you into something you don't want."

"It's not what I don't want. Scully." his voice dropped and cracked like a teenager's. "It's what I can't have."

"No one but you ever said that."

He stepped closer, until he was almost close enough to touch. But she didn't reach out her hand.

"Mulder. You're destroying us. Everything we had, everything we were, it's all slipping away." she whispered.

"I know...I can't seem to do anything to stop it..." he clenched his hands in front of him and then wrapped them around his shoulders. "I'm stuck, Scully. I can't go forward and I can't go back."

He sighed as her hand came out and stroked his chest, lightly. "I can only go down..."

She wanted to stand, to go to him, waited for a sign, but he remained solid, apart from her. And she didn't.

The moment passed and he pulled away, opening his eyes and shoving his hands in his pockets.

"I'll come get you at two."

She nodded and he left.

They sat alone, separated by walls thicker and stronger than those of the hotel.

Part #2 - Sacrifice

"Okay. I'm done here." Scully yanked the mask off her face and stripped down as she walked out of the autopsy room. The corpse had been recent, not particularly gruesome, but still unsettling.

It was the thought of it.

Mulder was waiting, a large cup of hot coffee for her, her jacket. He knew the room's chill would penetrate her scrubs and she usually came out shivering. Not enough body fat, he'd teased her more than once.

"So, is he dead?"

She gave him a patented Scully 'look'.

"If he wasn't before he is now."


"The metal analysis hasn't been run yet, Mulder." she scolded. "What have you got?" she sat in the plastic chair to drink her coffee and warm up.

He flourished the folder that had been under his arm.

"Same thing I had two hours ago. Second body, same family. Only the first guy did himself -" he winced at the mental image "- and apparently this guy was encouraged."

"Forced." Scully corrected. "Forced, Mulder."

"Right." he stood. "I haven't got a hotel yet, I thought I'd let you choose."

"So why are you being nice to me?" she asked as she followed him out of the building. They'd arrived just in time for Scully to perform the autopsy. "You trying to set me up for another bizarre theory?"

He got into the rental car -- another blue Taurus. It was an epidemic. "Not me, Scully." he shook his head as he started the car. "I think it's a family thing. The grandfather felt dishonored and so he killed himself in the appropriate ritual fashion to expunge that dishonor from his family name. Then another family member got angry at the second guy, the grandfather's son, either for causing the dishonor or for not doing the deed himself."

"You think it's based off some archaic honor code."

He gave her a hard look, then went back to the road. "Japanese men committing sepeku in the proscribed fashion, the same way they did it eight hundred years ago? Yeah, I think it's an honor thing."

"I thought it was called 'Hari-Kari." Scully objected.

"Hari-Kari is allowing yourself to be killed in pursuit of an honorable goal." Mulder slowed as they approached a Motel 6, but Scully shook her head and he passed the entrance. "The fighter pilots who bombed Pearl harbor, *they* committed Hari- Kari. These deaths were *sepeku*, done to restore honor."

Scully wanted to ask, how do you know so much about this, Mulder? but was afraid.

"Trust me, Scully." he smiled as he pulled into a Howard Johnson's. "I'm an expert on this."

She didn't answer him, just went in to get the rooms.

He waited in the car.

"See?" he opened the file as she finished her food, but not to the pictures, she was grateful for small favors. "They were both on their knees, feet bound together and then tied to their waists."

"Why do it that way?"

"So the body doesn't fall over before it's found -- that would be disgraceful."

"Kind of a *you can't even kill yourself right* thing?"

He smiled at the tone of her voice -- angry and disbelieving but amused nonetheless. "Exactly. Then he took the sword and made the cuts in the right directions -- north-to-south and then east- to-west."

"So why cut off his head? And if the first guy did it to himself, who did that to him? *Don't* try to tell me an eighty- year-old man cut off his own head, before *or* after he disemboweled himself."

"No, someone else does that. It's kind of like having a second when you're dueling -" her stare made it clear she didn't get that reference, " - a friend you ask to help - he's there to prevent you from making a mistake. Or backing out. Or embarrassing yourself by screaming from the pain."

"So the guy disemboweled himself and then his friend cuts off his head."

Mulder nodded, eyes sparkling. "Yeah. Unless it was a woman. Because women's abdomens are meant for making babies -- and women are generally considered to be less strong in Oriental cultures - all a woman had to do was cut her throat."

Scully winced.

"But her second would still cut her head off for her, so she wouldn't scream, and in case she didn't cut deep enough."

"I don't think I like this." Dana signalled the waitress for more coffee. The girl, a petite asian beauty, came right over, smiling. When she left Scully glanced around. There were a few other people in the room, and at least half of them were of Japanese descent. "What are all these people doing here, Mulder? I know it's the great American melting pot and all that, but why are they all *here*? In Wyoming, of all places?"

"I thought you'd get that one right off." he sounded disappointed. "World War II, Scully. Several of the biggest interment camps for *enemy citizens* was right here. We can even take a tour, if you'd like."

"Interment camps?" Scully sounded shocked. "A prison camp? *Here*?"

"Japanese immigrants *and* Japanese born Americans, Scully. Ripped from their homes and transported here against their wills, and then stuck here after the war. Doctors, lawyers, teachers - they all became farmers. That's all they were allowed to be."

"Yet another glorious moment in American history." Scully sighed.

"It was pretty bad." he agreed. "So, where do you think we should go first?"

"How much information do we have on the family?"

"The Makitas." he supplied the name. "Family history seems pretty normal. Grandfather -- "

"Deceased." Scully said.

"-- Hiro. Wife deceased. All traditional names, that's a little unusual. Sons Nabol -- the second victim -- and Hiro junior, wives Pando and Kim. Grandchildren Suki, Hikaru, Nobuki, Matsu and Tetsu. The last are twins. Great grandchildren are Lei, Midori and Alito. All of them are Hikaru's children, but Suki is newly married and expecting." he glanced at Scully, met her eyes and continued, looking back at the file although he didn't need to read it again. "Hiro was a pig farmer, Nabol and Junior were pig farmers. Hikaru and the twins are teachers, married to teachers, and Nobuki is sort of a handyman to his father Junior."

"They kids went to college. Does it say what Hiro did before he was shipped here?"

Flipping through, Mulder frowned. "Nope. It doesn't even say he was shipped here, I sort of inferred that."

"It's probably not relevant anyhow." Scully said, getting up. "I think we need to talk to Junior and the others. Find out what it was that Hiro senior was so upset about."

Mulder followed her out of the diner. "Several of the local cops are japanese, they knew what was going on, they asked, Scully, and got no answers. That's why they called us."

She got into the car, and he leaned on her window.

"We have to at least try, Mulder." she said softly. Then we can explore more interesting angles."

"I have some pretty interesting angles." he said softly.

Scully narrowed her eyes and hit the button to roll up the window. Mulder backed off and smiled wryly.

"Sorry." he said shortly as he got in to drive.

She didn't say anything.

They drug themselves into the hotel lobby after eleven that night. Frustrated, tired, the last thing they wanted to hear was the clerk's apologetic words...

"I'm really sorry, but we've had a leak on the third floor and it's caused several problems on the floors below."

"No rooms." Scully said flatly.

"There was that motor court back down the highway." Mulder suggested, anticipating her grimace and response.

"The one that rents room by the hour? I don't think so." she pinned the clerk down with her stare, and he squirmed like a bug. "You don't have a single room left?"

"Well, there is one..." he seemed hesitant to offer it.

"We'll take it." she said, turning away toward the cafe. "I'm getting some coffee. Take care of it, Mulder."

The clerk stared after her and Mulder grinned at him as he brought his attention back.

"Are the two of you a couple?" the clerk asked, looking at Mulder's feet. "I just ask because the room is really small and there's only one bed..."

"No couch?" Mulder asked sympathetically.

The clerk shook his head.

"We've been partners for four years." Mulder grimaced. "I think I can manage to share the room with her."

He had everything taken care of by the time Scully came back with her coffee.

"Your key." he handed it to her with a soft smile. She really looked beat. Dark circles under her eyes and everything.

"Thanks." she let him take the luggage and lead her to the elevator.

"Oh, shit."

Mulder put the bags down. The clerk hadn't been kidding. the room *was* small.

Way too small for his comfort. The bed was only a double, with a round table and two chairs on one side and a small chest of drawers on the other. The mirrored dresser held the TV, and there was a door leading to a tiny bathroom.

No tub.

He stuffed the bags in the crack beside the bathroom door that was probably meant to be a closet, and turned.

"Why don't you take the bathroom first while I see if I can order a pizza." he said, seeing how tired she was.

Scully nodded. The room was awful, but at least it was clean and didn't smell bad. She was so tired she couldn't see straight, and it bothered her. Why was she so tired? She'd put in longer days than this...Mulder's offer of first shower was generous, considering what the hot water situation was likely to be, and she took him up on it gratefully.

"Extra mushrooms." she said. He'd left her case on top of his so she dug for a minute and recovered essentials before shutting the door behind her.

Good thing she wasn't claustrophobic.

He ordered the pizza and some sodas, then got out his own change of clothes. He felt nervous, as if this was something important happening.

It's just a hotel room. Nothing's gonna happen. You decided that months ago.

He looked at the bed and shook his head, instead pulling out a chair and turning on the TV to sit and watch. But his eyes kept coming back to the bed.

Scully. His rebellious mind kept throwing up images, visions he didn't need to remember right now. Things he needed to keep control of, or they would control him.

Scully on his chest, smiling down at him, her hands warm as he kissed them. Her body pressed tight to his. Her weight as she slept in his arms.

He shook his head, hard, encouraging the headache that was building at his temples. When it came it was going to hurt. Speaking of hurt...he took off his shoes and peeled socks off battered feet.

Ouch. There were a few speckles of blood, but mostly they were bruised. He needed to toughen them up more if one run left them in this condition.

The knock on the door was a relief, but now his feet hurt even more because he'd looked at them.

He was sitting in one chair, feet propped on the other, eating pizza when she came out. Greedily, she'd stayed in long past what was polite, trying to soak the unexplained ache out of her muscles. He didn't seem to mind, only smiled a half smile and opened a diet soda for her, handing her a napkin with a piece of pizza -- the one with the most mushrooms, she saw.

"Thanks." she sat on the bed with relief, watching as he got up and went into the tiny bathroom. There was a yelp and she covered her mouth with one hand to keep from laughing. He'd found the top of the shower stall - with his head, just as she had imagined he would.

She put down the pizza and looked around the room. Cramped quarters. She was really going to owe him for this one.

Thinking about it, she looked at the bed. It was pretty small. But there was no way he was going to be able to sleep in those chairs...and not enough room on the floor on either side.

So they'd have to share.

Did she want to take advantage of that?

She lay back, thinking of that night in New York. The convention. His words; *I love you too much to do that to you.*

Did she love him too much to do this to him? With a sigh she rolled over and had a conversation with herself, the way Dr.Levine had showed her. It clarified things.

What do you want, Dana Scully?

A man who loves me to live my life with.

Is Mulder that man?

He could be. I don't love anyone else the way I love him.

Does he want to be?

No. Maybe.

Do you have the right to push that on him?

Does he have the right to take that away from me?

What kind of life could you have with him?

The one I'm leading now, only we'd be doing it together.

And what about the rest of it?

There was the sticker. *What about the rest of it*? Could she live with never having children? Never seeing Mulder's beautiful eyes stare up at her from a tiny face?

*Mulder's* eyes? Where had that come from?

She was still trying to sort it out when sleep claimed her unwillingly.

He stepped out of the bathroom shivering. The hot water had run out just as he shampooed his hair and he'd had to stay in long enough to finish. He hoped Scully had enjoyed the hot water, she'd apparently got most of it.

She was asleep, on her stomach, curled around a pillow. He fought the rise in his throat as he looked at her.

She looked so small. So frail.

So perfectly wonderful.

She hadn't eaten. Maybe she was more tired than she'd looked. But she had *looked* very tired.

She shifted and he sat on the bed, reaching a hand to rub her back and sooth her back to sleep, as he had after her nightmares when they had woken them both. He hoped she didn't have any tonight.

He sighed deeply. He was tired too. And his feet hurt. Maybe he could get some sleep. He always slept better when she was nearby, whether it was the next bed or the next room. But now there was only this room and this bed.

He'd be okay.

He turned out the lamp and stretched out beside her, still shivering, so he pulled back the covers, carefully moving her, and covered them both. Lying back, he closed his eyes.

And wasn't surprised when she rolled over and pressed herself against him. Holding his breath, he waited until she was settled in a comfortable position before he allowed himself to react, wrapping an arm around her - there was nowhere else for it to go - and sighing again.

In her sleep, snuggled to his chest, Scully smiled.

Her hands were on his chest, stroking, touching him, and he sighed, turning into the contact, his hands reaching for her. Her mouth opened beneath his and she met his tongue with her own, eagerly, hungrily.

There was no air to speak and no room between them for words as she pulled him closer insistently.

Her hands were on his, moving them where she wanted them and then his hands were filled with the bare silken softness of her breasts and she groaned into his mouth and...Mulder woke up.

Actually, woke fully.

Dana was in his arms and he was touching her and she was holding him close while they kissed...and he hadn't been dreaming.

His sudden stillness told her something was wrong. With a mental shake she pulled herself from the pleasure she was feeling, the security she had craved, and looked up into his eyes.

In the dark of the room, broken only by a sliver of light from the slightly separated curtains, he looked shocked.

And angry.

He didn't say a word as he pulled away from her, releasing her body with a suddenness that left her aching and cold inside, rolling brusquely over and yanking the covers over himself with finality.

The chill air crept up on her and she covered her mouth with her hands, determined not to cry, the hurt so deep and so filling that, for long minutes, she couldn't feel anything else. Couldn't think.

Couldn't breath.

It faded gradually, and oxygen returned to her lungs and feeling to her body, but the need to sob became overwhelming.

Matching his movements, she rolled as far as she could to the other side of the bed and pulled the covers to her ears, clutching a pillow and holding it close to her face as the tears began to fall, silently, rolling to soak the white cotton as she struggled to breath without making a sound.

His body ached with the force of his desire, but he wasn't going to give in. *How could she have done that to him?* Didn't she *care* how he felt? He'd explained himself to her...but she hadn't listened. Or she thought she knew better than he did what was right for him. For them both.

His feet still hurt, and now his headache was a reality, a splitting, pounding fact that wasn't going to let him sleep again.

It was very quiet in the small room. He strained to hear her breathing, to tell if she had fallen asleep again so he could creep out of the bed without a fight. He didn't know where he would go, but he had to go someplace. Outside. To get some fresh air...

He heard a muffled noise that he couldn't place. Worried, he rolled slowly back over to study her.

The restrained shudders might have been unnoticeable to another, but he saw them right away and knew what caused them.

She was breaking his heart all over again.

"Scully..." he whispered, afraid to reach out.

His voice floated to her ears and drove the pain another notch deeper. She bit down on her lip to hold in the anguish that was tearing her apart.

There was a definite shudder, a reaction to his voice and he responded to it the only way he could.

He scooted closer and gathered her unresisting into his arms, wrapping himself around her, holding her close and whispering in her ear.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry...I thought it was a dream and then I woke up and it was real and I was scared..." his words tumbled over each other as he tried to ease the hurt he knew he had caused. "I didn't mean it, Scully, I love you. Please don't cry. It hurts me so much when you cry...I can't stand to be the cause of it."

There were tears in his voice but he held them back, unwilling and unable to release them. But she heard them and they touched her, reminded her of who he was and how he did things.

"Please, Scully. Don't cry anymore. I'll do anything you want, just don't let me make you cry. I'm not worth it, we both know that."

His promise of 'anything' was enough to bring a fresh spasm as her mind flew across the possibilities. What she could ask for was so far away from what he could give. But her thoughts did help bring her back down to the world, where it narrowed gradually to the bed, her pain, and the strength of his arms, the warmth of his voice.

Her sobs tapered off. He continued whispering to her, not saying anything, really, just needing to fill the space between them with his voice, his words. At last she was lying, quiet, spent and his voice trailed off to silence.

They lay, wrapped in each other, both so quiet the other thought they were sleeping, and then, at last, as the first pale light of dawn began to lighten the room, Scully spoke softly.

"I should be apologizing, Mulder. I took advantage of the situation to try to push you into something you don't want. It was unforgivable."

"No..." he shushed. "No. It was kind and generous of you to want to share yourself with me after all I've put you through. I just want you to understand, Scully. It's not you. It's me."

"*What* is it about you, Mulder?" she asked, so tired that she didn't really care about the answer. "What makes loving me so hard for you?"

There was a pause as he sought an answer to that.

"I'm a coward, Scully. I'm afraid to try because I'm afraid to lose you."

"Oh, Mulder." she sighed, her eyes closing, on the verge of sleeping again. "Someday you're going to lose me anyhow. Will it hurt less if we're not together when it happens? Or more because of all the chances we wasted?"

He had no answer for that, and she didn't demand one. Instead she slipped into exhausted sleep and he climbed out of bed to pull on sweats and go for a run, his sore feet punishing him every step of the way.

Part #3 - Something Rotten

She was up and dressed when he got back, sitting at the table working on something.

He walked in and she looked up.

"We've got another one."


"Yes." she didn't ask how he knew the victim -- Mulder had powers of intuition well beyond normal man. *Too bad they didn't apply to anything but work*. "His daughter found him this morning when she went to pick him up for work -- they car pool. His wife was asleep in the next room and didn't hear anything."

"I guess we need to talk to her." he looked down at himself, sweaty and grungy. He was relieved she wasn't going to bring up last night, but oddly irritated that she could turn it off and concentrate on work so easily.

Of course he had no idea if it had been easy for her or not. And she wasn't about to tell him, not after what he'd done.

"Why don't you go grab something to eat while I shower and change." he suggested, wanting her out of the room as much as he wanted food.

She nodded without answering and got up, gathering her things. Suddenly she was interrupted by a harsh sneeze.

"Bless you." he said automatically, handing her a tissue from the box beside the bed. He stared at her, carefully measuring her, as she blew her nose and sniffled a little.

She was wearing the dark kakhi-colored pantsuit. The one she wore when she was unhappy. The circles were still under her eyes and her nose looked red beneath her makeup. "Are you feeling okay?"

She nodded, not looking at him, and left the room without further comment.

Nabol's wife Pando had taken inscrutability to a whole new level. She hadn't heard anything, she hadn't seen anything, and she didn't know anything. They left feeling like they knew less than they had to begin with.

At the car Mulder laid his head on the top, feeling the metal already warming in the morning sun. Scully got in and waited for him without a word.

He started up and glanced at her as she sneezed again.


"I'm getting a cold, Mulder. Nothing terrible." she said with an irritated look. "I'm stuck on this, what angle do you think we should be following?"

He drove, idly thinking of stopping at a drugstore so she could get something, and thought about her question.

"There has been no discernible loss of honor on the household." he said reflectively. "Tax records and employment histories show do problems. The whole family is probably more stable financially than I am. We're missing something."

He pulled into the parking lot and got out.

"Wait here."

He came back a few minutes later to find her leaning back against the seat, eyes closed. Getting in, he dropped a small bag in her lap.

She eyed it curiously, almost afraid of what she'd find inside. What had he gotten at the drugstore?

"If you're planning an apology for last night, I have to tell you I don't really feel up to it." she said quietly, with a question in her eyes.

His smile was warm and amused as he shook his head.

"Just open it."

She did and was rewarded with a bottle of Nyquil, a box of cold tablets, a package of tissues and a small bottle of orange juice.


"You need a clear head to work today." he said.

"Thank you." she said, debating. The way her head as pounding, the Nyquil looked very inviting, but she knew it would knock her out. So she opened the box of cold pills and swallowed a couple with the juice, which she finished quickly.

"Where are we going?"

"I want to check the records at the camp." he said as he turned onto the freeway. "Call it a hunch."

"Okay." she couldn't think of anything better to do, they might as well. They weren't getting any leads on this one.

"It's a way out of town, feel free to take a nap."

"Thanks." she muttered with irritation. But she did put her head back and doze off quickly.

She woke up a while later to find her head on Mulder's shoulder as he pulled into a graveled parking lot inside a high barbed-wire topped chain-link fence. He parked in front of a low concrete building and looked down at her.

His eyes were soft brown and warm, easing her headache just by looking at her.

"You feel up to this?" it was asked softly and she felt a sudden sense of deja'vu. It felt, just for a minute, like everything was the way it had been.

"Yeah." she pushed herself up and blew her nose again as he smiled with quiet amusement and went around to help her out of the car.

Sneezing yet again, feeling as if her head was going to explode, Scully pushed the ledger away with a groan. Instantly Mulder was there, hovering. It had been sweet at first, but now, six hours into their search, it was just aggravating.

"I'm fine, Mulder. It's just a cold."

If he's this bad now, I wonder what he'd be like if I got pregnant, she ruminated, her mind wandering.

He'd be perfect, she knew. The perfect expectant father.

When he wasn't working or thinking or crashing.

"Here's something." he said suddenly from his seat across the table and she blew her nose again. She should've taken the Nyquil. She leaned to see what he was pointing at.

"This entry is about disciplinary action against one Hiro Makita, for giving his food to a friend, Nishumi Takuri."

"They punished him for sharing his food?"

"Well, it was really just a warning. But the interesting part is that Hiro claimed that he owed it to Takuri. He told them ;'My family is honor-bound to his. I must do as he asks.'"

Scully sat back, thinking.

"Is there any mention of Takuri in the police reports?"

"He was never mentioned."

"What does he mean by honor-bound?"

"The Japanese had a very rigid social code, Scully. A family usually belonged to the lord of the province, the *daimyo*. He decided everything for them, where they lived, what they did, who their children married. He could also demand sepeku if the family dishonored itself."

"Do you think they're still doing that here? Now?"

"It's a possibility." he smiled a small. "And not all that extreme." "Are there any more entries about them?"

He read further on, and nodded, turning the page and pointing to another.

"It seems when rationing got tight Takuri demanded Makita's share on a regular basis. Even Makita's wife, who was pregnant at the time, gave him her share."

"What a jerk." taking food from a pregnant woman.

"More than you know." he read on and stopped at another entry. "She lost the baby a few weeks into it."

Scully's face reflected sadness for this woman, so far removed from her in time and culture.

"But that doesn't explain what's going on now."

"But it gives us a place to start." he snapped out his cel phone. "Sgt.Bullock, please. Yeah, I'll hold." he rolled his eyes at Scully, who smiled wryly. "Yeah, Bullock. I was wondering, have you questioned a Nishumi Takuri? Uh-huh. Well, there's an old family connection and I was wondering if you'd looked into it. Uh-huh. You think it's a waste of time? Whatever." he grimaced and Scully could imagine what the big, beefy, distinctly unfriendly Bullock was saying. "Well, we'll follow our own investigative procedure."

He snapped the phone shut with a shrug.

"He says there's no connection between Makita and Takuri and we're wasting our time."

"Which probably means we're onto something." Scully agreed.

"So let's go talk to Takuri."

Takuri's house was beautiful, set on a small hill, built on very traditional lines. Mulder got out of the car and surveyed it.

"Bet it's cold in winter."

"C'mon." Scully said, going up the curving path with another sneeze. He walked beside her, not touching, but close enough for her to feel his warmth.

The door was opened by a young white woman.

"We need to see Mr.Takuri." they flashed badges and she paled slightly beneath her healthy tan.

"He's in the stable." she said quickly. "One of the mares is foaling."

"That one?" Mulder pointed to the largest of the outbuildings, but she shook her head.

"The broodmare stable." she pointed into the distance and they could make out a much smaller building painted white. "He's been there all night.

They thanked her and began walking.

"Ugh." Scully said as she almost stepped into something disgusting. Mulder took her arm and neatly steered her around it. "I think this stuff has gone to my head."

"Isn't that why they call it a 'head cold'?" he grinned and she rolled her eyes at him.

There were several small pens around the stable and Scully had to stop with a smile, seeing the lanky foals nursing and playing beside the bulk of their placid mothers.

"Babies are so cute." she said softly, and Mulder looked down at her.

"I guess so."

She gave him a *men* look and they went into the darkness of the stable, lit only with a shaded overhead bulb.

Two men leaned over the side of a large stall, calling quiet encouragement. They were so concentrated on the event in front of them that they didn't notice the two agents for a couple of minutes.

"Who are you?" the taller of them, a lean white man with long dark hair neatly braided up, looked up with concealed curiosity.

The older man, an elderly Japanese, ignored them like they weren't there. He was still talking to the horse they could see as they got closer, on her side in the straw, sweating and straining, murmuring in his native language.

"Federal agents." Mulder displayed his badge. "Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. We'd like to ask Mr.Takuri some questions."

"Can't it wait? We've been with her all night, this is her first foal and he's going to be worth a lot of money."

"Will it be much longer?" Scully asked.

"Not too long now. Would you like to watch?"

She looked at Mulder, who shrugged. Takuri wasn't going anywhere. They might as well wait.

Scully pressed up against the stall when the young man motioned to her, Mulder looking over her shoulder.

"I'm Allen Stone, Takuri's farm manager." he said. Up close, with the light on his face, Scully could see he was of obvious mixed ancestry. She graced him with a smile and turned her attention back to the horse.

She was straining, and there was a tiny pair of hooves protruding from her. Mulder gulped audibly behind her and she hoped he wasn't going to faint.

It didn't take much longer. There was a great heave and then the mare climbed to her feet to wash the wet, dark bundle of goo at her feet that wiggled and then, suddenly, was revealed as a small horse, all legs and neck that craned around wobbly.

Stone slipped through the door and knelt beside the baby, rubbing briskly with what looked like an old sack while the mare washed the face, with an obvious white mark running down it.

"A good little stud." Stone said, but didn't sound pleased about it. Takuri grunted and turned away, walking out of the stable. Mulder followed him, but Scully lingered to watch as the baby struggled to his feet, enchanted.

"Did he want a girl?" she asked Stone as he came back to the side. It had been only ten minutes since his birth, but the baby was up and looking to nurse.

"She's an old mare and we've had a heck of a time getting her pregnant. He wanted another one like her." Stone acknowledged. "But his bloodlines are good and he'll be fast."

Noticing that her partner was gone, Scully smiled at the young man, and went in search of him.

Mulder had Takuri cornered by the pens, and he didn't look happy about what he was saying. She could hear him as she caught up.

"You're saying you know nothing about any of this." Mulder was reiterating.

Takuri nodded.

"The men who ran the camp had no idea what was going on, Mr.Mulder. They probably thought it was some old family honor thing."

"And it wasn't?"

"It didn't *happen*, Mr.Mulder. Things were tight for everybody. They misunderstood what they saw."

"What *did* they see?"

"Two old friends sharing." Takuri said with a sad smile. "I was as crushed as Hiro when she lost the baby, almost as if it were my own child."

"Do you have any children, Mr.Takuri?"

"I married very late." Takuri said softly. "My wife was only able to give me one child before her death, a daughter to care for me in my dotage.

Scully arrived and Mulder was looking irritated.

"May we meet your daughter?" she asked, picking up the conversation.

"She's away at school right now."

"You have no knowledge of the situation in the makita family." she pushed.

He shook his head genially, spreading his hands before him.

"I am saddened by their losses, but I have nothing to do with them." he said calmly.

Seeing they weren't going to get anything else from him, they left, silent communication flowing between them.

*Do you believe him?* her eyes sought his.

*No. Those records were clear.* His met hers.

*But what could he have to do with it?*

*I don't know, but we're gonna find out.*

They got into the car and drove off to look for lunch.

Over her bowl of chicken soup Scully studied Mulder, allowing her mind to wander on the edge of the fever she felt overtaking her. *What would his babies look like? Would the world ever know? What would the world lose if he never had children?*

She sighed and he noticed.

"Scully, you look like...." he didn't finish the sentence but she got the gist.

"That was so sweet, Mulder, I'm at a loss for words."

"Why don't I drop you by the hotel and you can get some sleep while I try to track down a connection between Takuri and Matika?"

She closed her eyes for a minute and thought about it. Sleep...

"That would be good." she said quietly. "I don't know how much help I'm going to be for the next couple of days."

"You can fly back if you want." he said softly.

*And miss sharing that room with you?*

"No, I'll be fine. I just need to rest." she said.

He finished his burger and she her soup and he dropped her off. Gratefully she took the Nyquil and fell into the bed in a pair of his boxers and one of his T-shirts. Somehow wearing his clothes made her feel better when she was sick.

The clerk stopped Mulder as he blew in that night.

"Agent Mulder! We have several rooms available now, sir, if you and your partner would like to move." he said, obviously glad he could tell him this.

Mulder stopped and smiled to himself, and shook his head.

"That's okay. We're comfortable where we are." he said.

The clerk looked like he was going to object, but then he smiled knowingly and nodded.

"Whatever you say, sir." he said, and Mulder went up to the room, carrying a bag of chinese takeout complete with two orders of egg drop soup.

She was sleeping curled around a pillow. He smiled when he saw that she had confiscated his favorite shirt and a pair of boxers. Leaning over her he touched her face, relieved to find it cool.

She woke at his touch, opening her luminous eyes, looking at him clear and cool.

"Hi." he said softly. "Hungry?"

She nodded and sat up, not noticing when the T-shirt dipped low until he reached to pull the collar up. She blushed lightly.

"I thought you could eat this." he handed her the first cup of soup and she took it, drinking while he ate rice and chicken.

"Did you find anything?" she asked after a while of companionable quiet.

"The grail." he said with an enigmatic smile.

"A Japanese grail?" she smiled back.

"Actually, almost every culture has some sort of grail mythos..." he started and then raised his hands as she threatened him with a pillow. "No, *really*."

"So what did you find? About the case."

"I wondered how Takuri was doing financially. He has that big ranch, a great house. But his tax records say he's been losing money for the last ten years. And Matika put his kids though college and has always turned a profit, but he lives in that dinky little place on the other side of town."

"You think Takuri has been squeezing him."

"On the basis of an ancient loyalty."

"But why stop paying now?" Scully finished the soup and dared to try a piece of chicken. He handed her his carton with a grin.

"Nabol took over the financial workings of the farm for his dad last month. Seems Hiro's eyesight was failing and he couldn't keep up with the paperwork. I talked to Hiro's opthamologist, he had cataracts, inoperable because of a genetic heart condition. He was going blind."

"So Nabol took over and discovered what his father had been doing all these years and put his foot down."

"Can you imagine what it was like, Scully? To struggle for years and then find out your father had been giving money away to someone who didn't need it when you did? Nabol and his wife almost lost the twins at birth because they were premature, and they were paying off that hospital bill for the first seven years of the babies' lives."

Scully frowned.

"So Takuri's been putting pressure on them. Hiro felt so bad about the whole mess that he killed himself, and then - what? Takuri hired somebody to force the others?"

"I did some checking." he smiled wryly. "The records keeper at the city paper likes to talk. A lot. About anything. She's locked down there in that basement hours a day...I have to tell you, I empathized." he took a bite of rice, making her wait. But two could play that game, she serenely nibbled his chicken. "Okay. Takuri said he had only one child, a daughter, right? Well, that was true as far as it goes. Olla -- the records keeper -- says he carried on an affair with a woman from the wrong side of the tracks -- a white woman -- for many years. A Sandra Stone. He supported her and she gave him five strapping sons."

"Allen Stone." she said, understanding.

"Not acknowledged -- bastardy is a real stigma in most asian populations -- but supported by their father. Even employed by him."

"And perhaps willing to kill to keep that support."

He grinned widely.

"It gets even better. Guess who Suki Matika is married to?"

"I would think his last name would be 'Stone'." she said.

"Right. The youngest of the Stone boys. He's several years younger than Suki, but apparently he wanted her real bad so his dad insisted."

"And she went along with it."

"Traditional upbringing. You marry who your father tells you to."

*Who would her father have wanted her to marry?* Scully wondered briefly.

"Is Suki the next target?"

"I don't know if they're willing to kill her, but she might be."

Scully sat back and sighed, putting the food down. It was sticking in her throat.

"This is all speculation, Mulder. We can't prove any of it, except that Matika doesn't seem to have enough to show for his years of hard work."

He came to sit beside her. She glanced at him and he opened his arms. She curled up next to his chest gratefully, feeling warm again.

"I'm sure we'll think of something." he said into her hair, allowing himself a minute of contact before he stiffened up and held her with his arms and not his heart.

They were quiet for several minutes before she spoke up.

"Mulder. You're making me crazy. What do you want?"

He sighed but didn't answer, just laid his cheek on her soft hair.

"*Mulder*." she insisted. "You can't keep doing this. You push me away one minute and pull me close the next. *What* are we going to do about this?"

"I thought it wouldn't change." he whispered. "I thought we could spend that time together and go back to the way we were."

"I thought it would draw us closer together, give us a deeper understanding of each other." she said softly, echoing his sentiments in her mind.

"I would go back if I could." he said in a voice that broke.

"I wouldn't." she looked up at him, his eyes shut tight as his arms tightened around her. "I wouldn't ever have known how you really felt if we hadn't made love."

He didn't speak, and she could feel his breath as it caught in his chest.

*Enough.* she thought. *We're pushing it too hard. We're talking again, it will only be a matter of time before we work this out.*

"Mulder." she said softly, her voice gone professional again. His breath whispered into her ear.


"We have to get to Suki Matika's place before the Stone brothers do."

"yeah." he unwrapped himself from her and they got up. He went outside to give her room and privacy to change, but she almost wished he'd stayed to watch.

The distance was safely between them again by the time they got to Suki's.

It was a pleasant little house, and Suki was a cheerful little woman with pain in her eyes and a well-rounded stomach before her.

"Yes, I know what my grandfather did with his money. My father told me when he found out. He was against my marriage because he knew I wanted to marry another, but I...I chose to follow my grandfather's wishes. I wanted him to be happy."

"Do you think your husband had anything to do with your father's death?" Scully asked quietly.

"He went to his mother's that night." she said, dropping her eyes and looking at the floor.

"Do you think you might be in any danger?"

"Women are usually the last to be killed. We aren't important enough to go first." she said, not looking up.

"Actually, the women were often killed first, to torture the their husbands and brothers with their inability to protect them." Mulder said.

Scully gave him a hard look, and he shrugged.

"We can protect you." Scully told her. "You don't want anything to happen to your baby."

Suki finally raised her eyes form the floor.

"It would be no life for him without honor."

"Are you saying that you agree with what's going on?" Mulder was harsh.

She didn't answer, only looked back at the floor.

"I don't think we're going to get anything else here." Scully told Mulder. "We should start pulling in the Stones for questioning."

Suki spoke, her eyes still downcast.

"No. Even though I know it is wrong, I would rather my child live without honor than die because of it."

"Do you know anything about these killings?" Mulder tactically avoided the word *murder*.

"Stanley took his sword that night. When he went to his mother's." she said softly. "And he did not come home last night."

"To distance himself from you before your death." Mulder mused aloud, glancing at Scully.

"It's possible. Or they know the game is up. They've probably already disposed of the weapons and other evidence. She stood, pulling out her phone. "We need to get people out looking for him and the others and get you to a protected place."

Suki nodded. "Can I get some things?"

"I'll take you." Mulder followed her to the bedroom, where a lacy bassinet stood in the corner, waiting for the new arrival. Suki packed quickly and grabbed the small suitcase that was already waiting by the door.

"For the hospital." she said and he smiled encouragement.

Scully appeared in the door.

"Bullock doesn't believe me, but he's agreed to put out an APB on the Stone brothers. I wanted to ask you, Mrs.Stone - do you think Allen was involved with this?"

She shook her head. "Allen does not condone violence. We dated in high school so I got to know him fairly well."

"But you married his younger brother." Mulder said.

"It was my grandfather's wish." she shrugged again. The load she was carrying seemed too heavy for her small frame. Mulder took the cases from her as they walked to the car.

"We're going to take you back to out hotel." Scully said. "I will stay with you there while Mulder helps track them down and questions them. The room isn't very big..."

"But neither are the two of you." Mulder finished with another smile. Scully stared. She hadn't seen him smile this much in months. *What was he so happy about*?

Suki showed no emotion when they got to the hotel. Scully was afraid she was going into shock, or, worse, labor. She got her to lie down and sat in a chair, watching TV, waiting for the phone to ring.

"Gotcha!" Mulder threw himself at the fleeing suspect, hitting him hard and rolling on the damp grass - he was ruining his suit, he knew it - but the man stopped fighting and he cuffed his efficiently, pulling him to his feet.

"Am I under arrest?" Stanley Stone asked sullenly.

Mulder gave him a hard look.

"Should you be?" he walked him back around the house, his mother's house, and turned him over to the waiting uniform cop. "Make sure he gets Miranda'd." he said shortly before going to the house, where Bullock stood, looking put out.

"Ain't no more of 'em here." he informed Mulder high- handedly. "Looks like your theory is off the mark."

"Or one of your men warned them." Mulder was getting angry. Bullock had ignored his request for backup until the last minute and, as a result, the other three brothers seemed to have gotten away.

"Sgt!" a young man's voice called from inside the house. "I've got something!"

Mulder shoved past Bullock as he turned and went in first. The young officer was standing in the living room, pulling on a lose brick in the fireplace wall.

Mulder joined him and together they yanked the brick free. Mulder reached a hand into the dark space revealed and smiled angrily as he pulled free a katana, and then a smaller, lighter blade.

"The wakizashi." the officer supplied. Mulder gave him a look and saw that he, too, showed signs of Japanese ancestry. "The matching 'short sword'." his name was Silos.

"Used for the belly cuts." Mulder said and Silos nodded. Mulder turned to Bullock, shoving the sleek black lacquered scabbards at him. "I'll bet these match the metal fragments found in the victims' bodies."

Bullock took them, his face red.

"Doesn't prove nothin." he said, and Mulder cut him off.

"Do you want to be cited for obstruction, Sgt.Bullock?!" he said, his voice loud in the quiet room. He leaned in close. Bullock was heavier by fifty pounds, but they were eye-to-eye. "I'm about this close to doing it!" Mulder got in his face.

Bullock took a hasty step back, the swords in front of him.

"You got no call to treat me like this in front of my men." he protested. Silos was watching, but didn't move to interfere.

"I think your men know what kind of incompetence you exemplify." Mulder snarled. "Those men are out there and now we have to protect the entire Matika family. If anyone else gets it, it's on your head!"

With that last burst of fury he left the house, past the other cops, stopping by his car and calling Scully.

"Mulder." she said, sounding relieved. "Did you get them?"

"Bullock blew it." he snarled. "We only got Stanley, the others are still out there and they know we're onto them. We're going to have to gather the family up and find a safe place for all of them."

Scully looked at Suki, who had dozed off a few minutes before.

"I hate to make her move again." she said.

"I'm going to go by the main house and talk to the wives." he said. "They might have an idea. At least they can get everyone together. Meet me there."

"Okay, as soon as I can."

He hung up and she sat for a minute, thinking. He always gave her as much as she could handle, just dropped it in her lap and expected her to take care of it. Like a good partner should. They both knew each other's limits and allowed the other to live up to them.

With a sigh she changed into more comfortable clothes -- if they were going to have to wait out a group of killers, she wasn't going to do it in heels -- and woke Suki. It was getting dark outside.

Mulder got to the Matika farm and found that most of the family was already there. He explained the situation.

The sons didn't take him seriously.

"Takuri isn't a *daimyo*." Matsu protested. "Living by that code is ridiculous in this day and age."

"But Grandfather was very strict about the old samurai honor code.*Bushido*." his twin said softly. He looked at his grandmother. "What do you know of this, Abu-san?"

The elderly lady, dressed in a heavy white dress for mourning, shook her head.

"She is not allowed to speak ill of the dead, agent Mulder." Hikaru spoke up. He was cradling his youngest child, a tiny boy named Alito, in his arms as he slept. "But I will do so. I am not afraid. Grandfather was wrong to do what he did. My father showed me the records, and it hurt me to see what we'd done without to fulfill *his* sense of honor."

Mulder nodded.

"It shouldn't take too long to gather them up. If Stanley gives us anything we'll be able to pick Takuri up tonight."

"He will not speak against his father." Nobuki said softly. "Do we have to stay here?" he addressed it to Mulder.

"It's for your own safety. There are some officers coming over to watch you, and my partner will stay as well."

"I do not wish to stay." Nobuki said firmly, standing. He was the tallest in the family, but still shorter than Mulder. Mulder looked down at him with worry in his eyes.

"You aren't going to do anything stupid, are you?" he asked. "I can have you taken into custody if you refuse protection."

That wasn't entirely true, but he figured correctly that Nobuki wouldn't know that.

"I'll stay out of trouble." the young man promised solemnly. "There's just something I need to do. It has nothing to do with this -!" he said earnestly.

"You're not a prisoner." Mulder said. "It would be safer for you to stay, but I won't make you."

"Thank you." Nobuki went and kissed his grandmother, and then went out the door, leaving in his old miniature pickup truck. Mulder turned back to the others.

"Can you gather up the papers supporting this theory so I can get them copied?" he asked Hikaru. "And I'll need any personal papers your grandfather or father might have kept that would mention or explain his relationship with Nishumi Takuri."

Hikaru nodded and handed the sleeping child to his wife, Pando. He went up the stairs, taking the twins with him.

Scully helped Suki into the car carefully. The younger woman smiled a little, embarrassed.

"It's so hard to move now." she said wistfully. "But I know it will be worth it in the end. "Do you have any children, Agent Scully?"

"No." she said as she drove, watching carefully for a tail. "My job doesn't exactly lend itself to family life."

"But you want them don't you?" Suki smiled and patted her arm in a friendly fashion. "I can tell, especially when you look at your partner."

"Mulder really doesn't want children." Scully answered, not meaning to be sharp, but knowing that she was. In truth, she didn't know if Mulder wanted children. They'd never talked about it, for obvious reasons.

"A sore point." Suki nodded. "I understand it can be hard. But you have to make your life where you are, Agent Scully. I do not love my husband. I did not want to marry him or make babies with him. Both the babies are all I will have from this life and so I did."

Sully glanced at her.

"I just couldn't do that." she said at last. "Sacrifice my life for something someone else wants. My father would never have asked me to do something like that."

"It is a different world." Suki agreed.

She said no more and Scully concentrated on driving.

Mulder came to help Suki out when they got to the house, and then her family took her and got her settled in an upstairs bedroom. Mulder saw that Scully was tired, but she wasn't sneezing anymore.

"I'm going to go question Stanley. He's had some time to think about it." he said. Scully nodded. "Your backup is due here in fifteen minutes, so you'll be able to rest a while."

She watched him go with an unidentifiable feeling in her heart. *What was she feeling*?

Part #4: Sour Air

The air in the interrogation room was still and closed, filled with the tang of old sweat and dried fear. Mulder leaned in close to Stanley, right up in his face, close to enough to kiss him, and Stanley couldn't back up anymore because he was already against the wall, his head banged into it as she moved spastically, trying to avoid the FBI agent's angry voice and cutting eyes.

"Whose idea was it, Stanley? We have to swords, it's just a matter of time before we know which one of you did the killing. But I bet it was *you*." he snarled. "You're the one he got a wife for, just the one you wanted. It didn't matter if she didn't want *you*, did it! What kind of man marries a woman who doesn't want him, Stanley?" Mulder straightened suddenly, leaving Stanley gasping. "Not a man at all." he hissed, turning his back on him, but still speaking. "I think you did it, Stanley. And if you don't give me the others I'm going to see you fry for it."

In the next room, watching through the one-way glass Silos whistled admiringly as his partner nodded agreement.

"He's good."

"We could learn from this guy."

"And he has the prettiest partner..." Silos grinned as his own partner, Wagner, a ten-year veteran of the force, stuck her tongue out at him.

"In your dreams, little boy." she smiled. "But *he's* pretty cute."

Silos "Humphed." and they watched as Mulder let Stanley sweat for a minute.

*He's going to break any minute*. Mulder could feel it, the fear in this man. He stank of it. He was what Mulder had called him earlier -- a little nothing man.

"I...I..." Stanley stuttered and Mulder didn't respond, but waited. The watching officers admired his form.

"He's a rock." Silos said. "You can't move him."

"You should be so tough."

Stanley rubbed his face with his cuffed hands and tried to speak again.

"It...it was my dad's idea." he said at last. Now Mulder slowly pivoted on one foot to face him.


"And Jay did the actual killing. Jay and Roger. I just drove the car."

"You know..." Mulder leaned close again, but not as close as before. Stanley still flinched back. "They're going to say you did it. Why should I believe you?"

"Because I love Suki." his eyes were filling with tears and his nose began to run. Mulder grimaced with distaste and handed him the tissues. "Then prove it. Tell me where they are before they try to hurt her and your baby."

"I don't know!" Stanley wailed. "They left when I wouldn't go with them!"

Mulder gestured to the window, where Silos and Wagner were waiting for just such a signal and came in with a notebook and pencil and recording equipment.

"Take his statement." Mulder told them. "Make sure you get everything. I'm going to get a warrant to search Takuri's place now that Stanley here has implicated him."

"Sure thing, Agent Mulder." the way Wagner, a tall, thin brunette spoke made Mulder give her a sharp look. Then he grinned slightly as she winked at him. Silos shook his head.

"Then I'm going to save my partner's butt." Mulder said very slowly, letting the significance sink in. Wagner sighed and Silos stared and Mulder grinned for real now.

"We'll get everything." Silos promised him as he left, on the phone, ready to bitch at Bullock again.

Scully was getting worried. Mulder had called and told her that Stanley confessed, but she hadn't given the news to Suki yet, for a very good reason -- she was afraid the young woman was going into labor.

She watched as the young asian woman clenched her teeth and held her breath for what seemed an inordinantly long time and then relaxed again. They were the only ones still downstairs so there was nobody else to notice.

She crossed to sit beside her.

"Are you okay?" she asked softly.

The dark eyes were filled with tears as Suki looked at her.

"It is not so bad yet." she said, confirming Scully's suspicion. "I've a long time to go."

"Do you need to lie down?" Scully racked her brain, trying to remember that three-month OBGYN rotation she'd done a lifetime ago, it seemed.

"Walk." Suki said. "I should walk. But I am too tired."

"Then you just try to stay comfortable." Scully said, reaching for her phone to call Mulder.

"Hi, Scully." he said as soon as he answered, and he sounded way too cheerful. "What's up?"

"Suki's going into labor." she said shortly. "What have you found?"

"Not the other brothers, but a shitload of stuff on Takuri. We've got him on blackmail and racketeering. Not to mention records fraud -- he's been cheating on the registration records of his thoroughbreds."

"That's weird." she said. "Do you think we should send her to the hospital?"

"She won't want to go by herself. How much time does she have?"

"Probably several hours." Scully guessed.

"Don't you know this stuff, Scully? You're a girl."

If she didn't know better she'd think he was teasing her.

"*I've* never had a baby, Mulder. How would I know?"

And I probably never will. It hurt even to think it.

"I'd stay put unless things get urgent. It's easier to protect them there than it would be on the road or in the hospital. These guys may just run now that dear old dad's been snagged, but I wouldn't count on it."

"Okay." she agreed, hanging up and returning to Suki's side. "We're going to stay here a bit longer, see if we can find the others before we move you. Do you want me to get your mother down here?" That was one thing she definitely remembered from that rotation -- eventually they all wanted their mothers.

Suki nodded.

"Please. I'm a little nervous."

"I'm sure that's normal." Scully went up the stairs to find Pando.

She was halfway up when the lights went out.

"Damn!" she shouted, yanking her gun from it's holster and turning to rush back down. The doors were locked and she hadn't heard any glass breaking. They weren't inside yet.

There were shouts from upstairs and the family came pouring down, frightened.

Scully took charge.

"Get me any flashlights, any candles you have." she instructed Hikaru and Junior. "Pando, go sit with Suki -- she's in labor."

Her face set, the older woman did as she was told while the men began to search the kitchen, getting whispered directions from their mother. Kim and the twins gathered up the smaller children, coaxing them into the closet in the hallway, Kim joining them, Alito crying quietly in her lap, his mother Denara crowding in with them.

Scully grimaced. That probably wasn't the safest place for them, but, with any luck, the cavalry would be here before they found that out. She hit speed dial and called Mulder.

"They're here. They got the power."

"You got any light?"

Hikaru came up with two flashlights - he gave one to Kim and the other to Pando while Junior lit a large fat candle in the center on the kitchen table.

"Yeah, some." she said.

"We'll be there in ten minutes." he said.

*Be careful, Scully*. He didn't have to say it out loud, he knew she heard it.

*You too*. It was always there, the possibility that one of them would get hurt,or worse. That's why it seemed so stupid to her, to deny how they felt about each other and let time slip by.

Mulder started yelling as soon as the phone cut off. He'd told Scully ten minutes, but he planned on being there in five.

Suki let out a long, low groan, curling around her swollen abdomen. Scully went to her side. her mother was holding her hand tightly.

"It's coming faster." she told Scully. "I don't think we have much time."

Their eyes met in understanding.

"I'm a doctor." Scully said quietly. "If I have to I'll deliver the baby myself."

Pando didn't ask if she'd ever delivered one before, and Scully was relieved. She'd watched, but she'd never done it.

*Mulder, get your ass over here...* she breathed prayer.

And then the glass on the living room window shattered with the force of a bullet, the noise drowning out the actual gunfire.

"Everybody down!" Scully shouted. "Get out of this room!"

Hikaru ran past her to wedge a chair under the closet door, and jerked suddenly when another shot rang out. He fell, and rolled, then crawled behind the couch, where Scully shined Pando's light on him. He was clutching his arm, but seemed alert.

"Stay put!" she hissed at him. *Mulder, where are you*?!

Behind her, on the lower stairs, she heard Suki's moan and her mother's worried voice whispering.

"Agent Scully! Agent Scully! I think her water broke!"

Scully groaned softly to herself. What baby wanted to be born during a firefight?

"I'm coming." she said, backing slowly up the stairs. No more shots were fired.

The flash of a gunshot alerted Mulder as he pulled into the driveway. Going over the curb, he simply ran into the car the shooter was sheltering behind, taking him out. Then he leapt from his car, the police vehicles behind him spreading out to surround the house, trapping the assailants between them and the house. He wasn't sure that was the best idea, but Bullock *would* do things his way, the prick.

There was a bullhorn shout and a man broke from cover, running, and was dropped in his tracks by a nice shot from Silos.

The other two threw out their guns and came out, hands up.

Mulder was on his feet, running for the house. Passing Wagner, he yelled "Call for an ambulance." and missed her reply as he hit the door.

"I already did!"

Scully heard the feet on the porch, turned and set herself, light and gun trained on the front door, and heaved a huge sigh of relief when Mulder's voice reached her through the broken window.

"Scully! Any injuries?" he yelled, coming through the door like a linebacker. She had to smile, it was so unlike him...or was it?

"One gunshot, behind the sofa!" she yelled, going up the stairs two at a time. "And baby on the way!"

She reached Suki, knowing that Mulder would care for Hikaru while the others let Kim and Denara and the crying children out of the closet.

Kneeling beside the panting woman, Scully spoke softly.

"How close are the contractions?"

"What...what contractions..." Suki panted. "It's just...one big one..."

"I need to take a look." Scully said, handing the flashlight to Pando. "Lay back...somebody get up here and give us a hand!" she shouted down the stairs. Denara came up quickly and Scully instructed her to sit behind Suki.

Pando focused the light and Scully immediately saw what she needed to see.

"Mulder! Where's the ambulance?"

"Coming!" he said, coming up a couple of steps, obviously not comfortable with getting any closer.

Suki moaned loudly, a long moan that rose at the end into a scream.

"Get me blankets, Mulder, and towels soaked in hot water." Scully ordered. "And a sharp knife!" she added as he rushed down to do her bidding. The twins scrambled into the kitchen after him, grabbing things and shoving them at him.

Suki moaned again and Pando tried to put the light down and move to her head, but Scully stopped her.

"Wait! I need the light! Mulder!" she yelled, and then he was coming up the stairs, the twins behind him. But the landing was too small for all of them, so they passed things over to Pando, and Scully met Mulder's eyes.

He was worried, but excited, she could see it. She took the light from Pando and handed it to him.

"Hold this." she said, and Pando went to hold Suki's hand while Denara rubbed her back.

Suddenly Suki screamed. There was an echoing scream from the children downstairs.

"Get them out of here." Scully told the twins, still on the steps. "Suki...Suki! Listen to me...you're crowning." she could see the shock of dark hair and was tremendously relieved, knowing it wasn't a breech. "You need to pant for a minute, let me cut an episiotomy so you don't tear..."

Suki nodded, panting frantically. Mulder stared as Scully wiped her hands on the hot towels and ran a finger along the baby's head, breaking the suction.

"Knife." she said. With a grimace he offered the small chopping knife he'd found in the butcher block. She took it without looking at him. "Hold the light higher." she said, feeling carefully. She'd seen this done a dozen times, it couldn't be too hard...just a little snip....

She pulled her hand away, saw the fresh red blood and almost panicked as the cut spread...and spread...but it stopped, and the baby's head surged forward as she reached to support it.

"Okay, Suki! Push! Push!" she said, not loudly. Everything seemed to be suddenly quiet. She spared a glance at Mulder, and he looked almost...reverent. For a man with no religion this was an awakening.

"Just a little more..." Scully urged as Suki gasped for breath and her mother quietly urged her on. "Almost out..."

And then the head did it's rotate and the shoulders slid out and she was holding a baby.

"It's a girl!" Mulder said, excitedly. "You had a girl!" he told Suki loudly.

Scully didn't cut the cord, just wiped the baby's face and blew in it until the red infant opened her mouth and howled at the world. Then Scully smiled, wrapping her in several dry towels and laying her on her mother's stomach.

"A beautiful girl." she said softly. Mulder trained the light on mother and child and Scully felt suddenly superfluous.

Then Mulder was beside her, his arm around her shoulders, holding her tight to him and she leaned into his warmth.

And sneezed.

The medics arrived in time to finish the job with the placenta and they were soon outside as power was restored and everything was put to rights. Suki was being carried off on the gurney when she reached for Scully's hand.

"I don't even know your first name." she said, looking exhausted and radiant.

"Dana." Scully said with a smile, touching the baby's cheek gently.

"I have already chosen her first name, but I will use yours for her second." Suki smiled. You have done so much for us..."

"What's her first name?" Mulder asked.

"Akiko." Suki smiled. "It was the name of a great ancestress."

"Akiko Dana." Mulder smiled. "Oh, I like it."

"Domo arregato, Dana-san." Suki smiled as they took her away. Part #5 - Steadfast

They got back to the hotel sometime before dawn. Paperwork had to be finished, even when one of them was covered with ick and sneezing her head off. Mulder had offered to run out for more Nyquil, but she'd been afraid it would knock her out and the paperwork would never get done.

There was no discussion about changing rooms. They were too tired to consider it anyhow.

"First shower." he said, flopping on the bed and waving her in. She gave him a grateful smile and considered asking him to join her -- but that would be to much after last night.

When she came out -- clean, damp, wearing his boxers and shirt again because they made her feel warm -- he was munching yet another pizza and watching a basketball game from -- Japan?

"Satellite." he said, seeing her glance at the TV. He handed her a piece and a soda and she was struck again by a deep sense of deja'vu.

"Mulder." she said, watching him. "What are we doing?"

"Shhh." he scolded, watching the game. "In a minute. Eat and take your medicine."

Disgruntled, she did, finishing two pieces and the whole soda before pinching her nose and tossing down the Nyquil.

"I think that's the test." he said, and she looked up to see him watching her. "If you're not really sick you won't take the stuff." he smiled slightly. "It tastes that bad."

She nodded.

"I think you're right. "Every time a kid wants to stay home from school we should offer them a choice - Nyquil or school."

"I would've taken school every time." he agreed.

"I think most kids would." she lay back and looked at him, and then, slowly, trailed her hand across the bed, palm up, reaching for him.

He watched, his eyes unreadable, body language inconclusive.

"Are we going to talk?" his voice was quieter now, she had to strain to hear it.

"I'd like to." she said.

"Then I'll stay over here."

"Okay." she made no effort to hide the hurt in her voice, and he winced.

"All I seem to do anymore is hurt you." he said, almost angrily, but she didn't know it was at himself or her.

"I'm a big girl, Mulder. I choose." she said softly, rolling onto her side and propping her head on an arm, to look at him.

"What do you want from me, Scully?" he said it so softly, with such pain she had trouble holding to her resolve. *We are going to talk about this*.

"I'm not sure, really. Right now..." she reached a hand out and laid it gently on his leg, unaware how her touch burned him. "I want to know what you want."

"You know that." he shifted slightly, trying to put distance between them without moving, a doomed effort. "I want the truth. I want to know what happened to Samantha. I want to understand my life."

"And there's nothing else? No dreams of family or home? No hopes for the future?"

"What have I got to hope for?" he shrugged, his shoulders lifting dispiritedly. "I learned a long time ago that I'm not the kind of guy a woman wants to spend her life with. I'm too...obsessed. Driven. I can't do anything about it."

"It's who you are." she echoed his unspoken defense. "*I* understand that, Mulder. I just don't understand why that means you can't have a life if someone wants to share it with you."

"Because..." he lowered his head to his hands, rubbing his eyes like a child. "I don't have anything to give back."

"Bull." she slapped his leg sharply. "Don't pull that on me, Mulder. You know damn well you have a lot to offer. I wouldn't be your partner if you didn't."

"But it's not the same, being partners." he protested, reaching to rub the sting on his leg and finding her hand. She took his gently in hers, holding it tightly.

"No, it's better. Or worse, depending on how you look at it." she said. "Husbands and wives don't usually face death together, almost never on a regular basis. They don't develop the level of trust we already have because they don't need it. We're ahead of the game, Mulder. We already know each other's dirty little secrets."

He wouldn't look at her.

"Mulder." she said.

After a long pause he did look at her and her breath caught in her throat.

This was hurting him, so much.

*But pain can be good for the soul*, she thought and forged ahead ruthlessly. Sometimes you have to disturb old wounds to get them to heal.

"I don't want to spend my life with anyone else. I can't live with less than I have with you and I'll never find someone who gives me more. More trust, more freedom, more confidence. No other man will ever treat me the way you do."

"You mean no other will ever ignore you for days on end, constantly put you in danger and then make you cry?" his whisper was ragged, tearing at her. She gripped his hand so tight the fingers began to go numb, but he didn't notice.

"Let me tell you what *I* want, Mulder. I want you. All of you. In my life, my work, and my bed. I want to have your children, bind your wounds and cover your ass. But I can't have that unless you want it too."

He covered his eyes with his hand, unable to look at her.

"No, Scully. You need someone better...someone sane..." he was on the verge of tears.

"You should never have admitted you love me, Mulder." she said, getting off the bed and coming to lean against his back, his hand still in hers, wrapping her arms around his chest as his shoulders shook. "Once I knew that I couldn't leave you. Not ever."

"But you will...!" it was a cry of anguish torn from his soul. "Everyone leaves..." he whimpered like a child and Scully knew that she wasn't dealing with her partner now, but the twelve-year-old boy who had lost his sister, his father and his mother's love in one heart-breaking minute and never recovered from any of them. He held this child inside to drive him on, but this was the first time she'd been sure she was hearing that young Fox speak.

"Yes." she said softly. "Everyone leaves eventually. But the memories we make of them allow us to go on without them." she whispered in his ear, feeling his arms come up to wrap around her. Moving in front of him she allowed him to pull her into his lap and cry silently into her hair.

"Shhh." she whispered. "Shhhh, love. It will be all right. I'll be here to pick up the pieces when you're done."

He cried, emptying his heart until all that remained was a hollow echo of the pain, and then he finally raised his head to look into her eyes, also bright with tears.

"I can't, Scully." he said, his voice raw from the tears. "I can't let you throw your life away on me."

"It's my life." she smiled at him, lighting up the very room. "I choose."

He would have protested again, but she silenced him with a kiss. Empty, aching, he couldn't refuse. He met her with his mouth and his hands in her hair, holding her to him as he accepted the comfort she offered.

They kissed for a long time, deep, searching kisses, breathing each other's air and sharing the same space.

And then he did pull away, lift her from his lap, putting her away from him, but he kept her hands in his.

"And what about work, Scully? I can't do what I do without you, not anymore. What about the life you want?"

She shrugged. "I don't usually think like this, but we'll cross those bridges when they come." she said softly, and he shook his head.

"I told you once before that what we have now is worth more than anything we could have then."

"Are you sure?" she stared at him. "Could you look at that child tonight and tell me that you wouldn't give all of this up for that?"

"Would you?" he met her stare and she had to drop her eyes.

"I don't think I have to."

"You might." he said, his exhausted mind swirling with images of Scully carrying his child -- children he had never dreamed of having. *She would look so defenseless*.

"Do you love me?" she demanded.

"More than life itself." he knew it was a cliche', but it was utterly true.

"As a partner, a friend, and a woman?"

Ducking his head, not meeting her eyes, he answered almost too soft for her to hear.


"And I love you." she said, coming closer to him, putting their clenched hands on his chest. "The rest is just details."

"Some fucking details." he sighed.

"We don't have to work it out tonight." she said, rubbing her cheek on his chest, smelling him. "As long as we're clear on that I can wait for the rest."

"Really?" he sounded so startled she had to smile up at him, reaching to stroke his jaw, the stubble prickly on her soft palm.

"Not too long."

He couldn't find anything to say as she pulled his head down to hers.

They fell back on the bed, Scully on top, and she kissed him with eagerness and anticipation, but he held back and soon she stopped as well.

"Not yet." he whispered, his eyes pleading with her not to be hurt, not to be mad. "I can't. Not yet." *I'm too scared*.

She saw the fear and heard the unvoiced sentiment and rolled off him, giving him a gentle shove.

"Go take your shower." she said. "We have time for other things."

Reprieved, he made a quick escape, but she followed him into the bathroom and perched on the edge of the sink after he started the water.

"Sully!" he exclaimed, soaping his hair.

"Want me to scrub your back?" she acted deliberately nonchalant, as if she did this everyday, like she hoped to someday.

"Scully...!" there was a warning note in his voice now and she was glad to see him recovering his equilibrium.

"I'm just looking." she said softly. "You're very nice to look at, Mulder."

"Shit." he cursed plaintively. "You're killing me."

"Nobody ever died from embarrassment." she teased. "I'm going to sleep now, but you can wake me if you want to."

She left the bathroom, and he had to lean on the wall to catch his breath, shampoo running down his face and into his eyes unheeded.

She *was* asleep by the time he got out. He climbed into the bed and took her in his arms, wrapping himself around her, resting his head on her breast, feeling her chest rise and fall softly.

But he didn't wake her.

He even managed to sleep eventually. End.


Title: Walls 06 - Forms
Author: Saraid
Rated NC-17
Category XRA
Archived 96-09-26
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance.

Summary: Mulder and Scully help a second Dancer character track a serial killer responsible for the death of his mate while Mulder investigates Dancer and pulls away from Scully again, who then pursues the relationship to the next level.

Author's note from Saraid: Here's part 6. Hope everybody likes it. I've been getting so much positive response to the series, thanks for putting it out there for me where people can read it. Drop me a note when you have time... Author's note from Saraid: I am the cat that walks by herself and all places are alike to me. Okay, okay, *darn it*. This series is cheering up. Must be all those wonderful ego-stroking responses I've been getting. Stop sending them! and I can put things back on the emotional level nature intended. details - Study your disclaimer notes. Quiz tomorrow. This piece is rated NC-17 for vivid, imaginative (I hope) and consensual sex. Don't let the kiddies anywhere near it, 'kay? There is a case here, but once again it's secondary to the relationship stuff. Everyone's favorite (well, actually, *Rafe* is my favorite) *Dancer* is back so Mulder can eke out a few more clues about him...maybe. Remember, folks, he's mine. For the future: Yes, I do have an ending planned, though it's not your standard run-of-the-mill relationshipper ending. Ya have ta remember that I started this for fun, it was never intended to go on and on...there is a problem with this...actually there are several problems...I've been ignoring my *real* books for this fluff that I can't sell...I broke down and wrote an outline and now I feel like it's finished, *I* know how it ends, why should I tell you guys?...my desk chair broke, the new one hurts my back, I need to go to the dentist...I'm ranting now, aren't I? Maybe things aren't as cheerful as I feared...:)!

This is part six of a potential 14...or so. Read the others so you know what's going on.

Part #1 - Time for Friends

Mulder looked up from the backlit display of slides, cocking his head. He'd heard something, in the hall.

He glanced at his partner, deep in a thick volume, research. She hadn't heard anything.

*There it was again*.

He got up and went to her desk, leaning on his elbows, putting himself in her personal space. Making himself the focus of her attention.

She met his eyes. She was smiling slightly, a mere upturning of the corner of her lips.


He shrugged.

"Just wanted to look at you." he whispered it so softly she had to strain to hear. They both knew the room was bugged and acted accordingly. "Want to take a break?" he said more loudly.

Translation; want to step outside where we can talk?

She shook her head.

"I've got to finish this, Mulder."

This time they both heard it, since it came from right outside their door. A piercing low whistle.

A wolf whistle.

Mulder groaned softly.

"I bet I know who that is."

There was a knock and Scully got up to answer it.

"Considering the way you threw me at him, you should be happier to see him." she scolded mildly as she opened the door to smile at the man she'd known was standing there - he'd called her that morning to let her know he was on his way into town. "Ru!" she said with honest affection, allowing herself to be swept into a very unprofessional hug before withdrawing from him.

Dancer squeezed her and nuzzled her neck, picking up information she couldn't have known was available on her skin -- no, she and Mulder were still working it out, though there was a stronger essence of him on her, so they must be spending more time together than they had been.

But he knew they still weren't lovers by the time he set her down and turned to Mulder.

The taller agent made a cross with his fingers in front of him.

"Don't even think it." he said as Dancer took a step closer, arms akimbo. The shorter man laughed and crossed to flop - he was so damn graceful, Scully thought - into Mulder's recently vacated chair.

"Good flight?" Scully asked, standing beside him, close enough to make Mulder's insides twist with a very basic male response.

"You knew he was coming?" he asked Scully quietly.

"He called." she shrugged. Mulder had been attentive, caring since they got back from Wyoming...but he hadn't kissed her properly. Not once. Maybe Dancer's presence would remind him.

Not that she would have asked him here just to push Mulder's buttons. He had a case, one with a personal slant, and he wanted their help.

She perched on the desk and smiled at both of them. Mulder took her abandoned chair.

"So tell us what you've got." she said.

"That's what I like about you, Dana." Dancer chuckled, but it sounded forced. "Always get right down to business."

Mulder watched with rising frustration as his cool, calm partner blushed. She only did that for him when...he yanked his mind back to the room as Dancer laid his briefcase on Mulder's desk and opened it, pulling out a thick sheaf of files.

"I've got a serial killer." he said flatly. "Last seen boarding a plane for Annapolis at six-thirty last Friday morning. Didn't get the warrant in time." he shook his head at that. "Thirteen dead by my count, possibly as high as twenty-one. And the last victim was my cousin, a woman named Sierra Nightrunner, in Denver."

"What's it got to do with us?" Mulder asked, feeling sympathy for the man.

"I'm trying to get it 'X-File' status so you can help me find him." Dancer said. "He claims to be a 'demon hunter' and that all of his victims are 'unclean, undead, or inhuman'."

"Lovely." Scully laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I spoke to Skinner this morning, he said he'd talk to us as soon as you got here, I'll call him now and see if he's free."

The basement door opened again and was filled with the sturdy, stocky body of their immediate supervisor, who took in the room with a glance, his eyes lingering on Scully's hand still on Dancer's shoulder. She grimaced and removed it.

"Agent Dancer." he said as the three of them stood respectfully. "I was coming to speak with Agents Scully and Mulder about your request."

"Assistant Director Skinner?" Dancer flowed over the floor to offer his hand. "I'm pleased to meet you, sir."

Skinner returned the handshake firmly.

"I've spoken to your AD, and he had only *good* things to say about you." he spoke to Dancer while looking over the short man's head at Mulder, who shrugged slightly.

"I'm flattered." Dancer took Mulder's chair again, tidying the already neatly stacked files.

Skinner turned his attention to his agents.

"I'm approving your assistance in this matter." he told them sternly. "I don't want to report anything but *good things* to *his* AD when you're done."

"Understood, sir." Scully answered, but he was staring at Mulder, until her partner nodded.

"I can give you three days." he told Dancer. "Find him."

"Thank you, sir." Dancer was perfectly polite.

With a last long look at Mulder, Skinner left, shutting the door behind him.

"Nice guy." Dancer smiled at Scully, a silly grin.

"He tries." she answered. She could *see* the steam building behind Mulder's ears. "Have you had lunch?"

They put off conversation until they were settled in The Kettle Black, a pub-type place popular with the FBI crowd. Dancer ordered a rueben and ale, Scully got her favorite pasta salad, and Mulder went overboard with rare roast beef and fries. Lots of them.

Sitting back with his ale, Dancer gave the crowd a breif sweep. Many of them were surreptitiously watching their trio.

"We're popular." he observed. Scully watched as Mulder's jaw tightened. He remained silent.

"If any of them are cats they'll die soon." she said, half- joking.

"Not getting any better?" Dancer was sitting next to her, leaning back, looking too comfortable for Mulder's peace.

Scully considered. She knew he was asking if the treatment they received at work was any less annoying, but she also thought he was asking how things were between her and Mulder. They'd talked on the phone about it just last week, so he knew what was going on.

"No, not really." she said with a sigh. He patted her hand on the table and Mulder closed him eyes briefly.

When he opened them the waitress was standing over him with his food.

They ate, but Mulder, uncharacteristically, didn't finish his sandwich, actually left most of it. Dancer polished his off and glanced at Mulder's plate with a gleam in his eye.

"Mind?" he asked, reaching a hand out. Scully forced down a smile at the look on Mulder's face.

With a shrug Mulder shook his head, and Dancer put Mulder's plate over his empty one and took apart the sandwich, eating the medium-rare meat a slice at a time with cheerful relish.

"Maybe you'd like it better raw." Mulder said, not really fishing, but still annoyed with Dancer because Scully had been so glad to see him.

"Against the rules." Dancer grinned, finishing the last piece and delicately wiping his fingers on a napkin. "Cooked food is a triumph over my nature, Agent Mulder."

Scully made an inquiring face at that. Mulder leaned closer, his elbows on the table.

"And is your nature so very different than mine, Agent Dancer?" he asked. Scully wondered what he was insinuating, but Dancer just kept grinning.

"Not *so very* different." he leaned to meet Mulder's eyes and Scully got suddenly nervous. "I know you love a challenge, Mulder, but this one's beyond even you."

"Was that a gauntlet?" Mulder's eyes were gleaming with what Scully could only call mischief, and Dancer was grinning like an idiot.

"Enough macho posturing." she snapped, pulling on Dancer's shoulders. He sat back up without a fight, while Mulder leaned back more slowly, still studying the shorter man, who met his eyes with a smile free of guile. "We have a case to work on, unless you want more meat, Dancer."

Now *Mulder* was smiling at her.

"What'd I say?" she looked from one to the other, bewildered.

"We have a case to work on." Mulder answered, deadpan.

"I want to canvass shelters, homeless compounds, churches." Dancer said, switching gears smoothly. "Get an APB put out."

"I think we should look for the next potential victim." Mulder said suddenly.

"You think you can predict who this guy's going to hit next?" Dancer was skeptical.

"There are often reports of possessions and exorcisms." Mulder says stoutly.

"In the *Enquirer*." Scully rolled her eyes at him.

"Hey, no problem." Dancer stood, smiling, holding a hand to lift Scully from the booth. "We don't need three feds to ask around. Scully can come with me and you can go do your research."

Mulder stood as well, not looking happy about this.

*This wasn't working*. Scully felt like the situation was getting out of control. She tried to catch Mulder's eye, to re- establish their communication pattern, but he was staring at Dancer, who was also avoiding looking at her.

*Was this a guy thing? Or was there something else going on between them*?

"That sounds like a good idea." Mulder said slowly. There was a definite hint of threat in his voice.

"*Mulder.*" Scully hissed. People were watching openly now, and she didn't want the attention.

"Then we'd better get started." Dancer said, still smiling. Scully had to look twice.

It wasn't a *nice* smile anymore.

Actually, there was something feral about it.

*What the heck is going on with these two*?

She and Dancer walked back to his rental car while Mulder got his and drove off without a word. It was worse than his usual lack of 'goodbye'.

Scully directed and Dancer drove. First to the office specs room to pick up the copied pictures he'd asked for before they left, and then to the list of missions and shelters the local provided.

Sitting forward in the car -- it smelled faintly of peppermint and sweat -- Scully studied the picture.

"You don't seem very urgent to find this guy." she said, watching him drive, with a tenseness Mulder never showed. Mulder liked to drive. "Aren't you thinking he might be out there killing someone else?"

He shrugged, shocking her a little.

"If he is there's nothing I can do about it. Everything will happen in its own time, I just follow the path." he answered, sliding into a parking space near the first mission on their list.

They got out and began walking, both studying the crowd still gathered at the front door hoping to get lunch. Scully's heart twisted when she saw several small children in the line, waiting patiently, not demonstrating an average child's intolerance for long lines.

"I would never have pegged you for a fatalist." she said as they went to the service entrance in the alley and buzzed.

"I'm not a fatalist, as you might have noticed. I *do* think that some things will happen the way they are meant to and an individual can't change that. I also think that most of those things will be good, in my personal case."

"How do you work in this business with that attitude?"

He was going to answer but the bell rang and they were admitted into a close, dark hall that smelled strongly of something burnt and old, old despair.

Directed to the head office, at the other end of the building, they walked slowly, glancing into the doors of small private rooms where worried and frightened and wary faces looked back.

"Hitchcock." Dancer said suddenly.

"What?" she gave him a hard look.

"A memory game I play. My memory isn't anywhere near as good as Mulder's, or probably even yours. So I remember places by assigning them to a category. Today I'm using horror movies."

"Hitchcock?" she questioned as the reached the office and knocked.

"If this was a movie set they'd be filming a Hitchcock piece." he smiled as the door opened and a fiftyish woman greeted them unenthusiastically.

"Okay, okay. Two videos *and* a twelve-pack." Mulder sighed. "*Not* Scully's email address. She'd shoot me again."

Frohike frowned, disappointed.

"You got any good pictures of her?" he brightened.

"NO!" fed up, Mulder turned to the tall blond man standing behind him. "Make him stop!"

"Can't." Langley shook his hair out and went to sit at one of the many computers in the room. "But I can try to run the search for you."

Knowing Langley was really a hardware man, not a hacker, Mulder shook his head. But the tactic had worked, Frohike was rolling back to his station and getting to work, threatened with somebody else infringing on his territory.

"You want everything we can give you on this guy Dancer?" he asked as his short fingers flew over the keyboard.

"Him, his family, his background, what he wears to bed."

"Phone records?" Langley was also starting to type, albeit more slowly.

"*Everything*." Mulder grinned. "And I'll work on those exorcisms and possessions."

"Most recent are in the cabinet to your far right. Lower left hand side." Langley supplied.

"Here's the beginning." Frohike said loudly. His finger hovered over the 'enter' key. "You want hard copy?"

"No, just let me read it." Mulder threaded his way through the room to read over the dwarfish man's shoulder, scrolling down the screen. He nodded. "Got it. Get more." and went back to the file cabinet.

"Must be nice." Langley said with exaggerated envy.

"Here's more." Frohike called. Mulder sighed and stood. *This was going to take a while*.

It was past eleven when they got in. Dancer had wanted to stay at a hotel, but Scully insisted that he stay with her, if he didn't mind the couch.

"Mulder not on it tonight?" he asked, concerned when her face fell and she sighed sadly.

"He hasn't been here long enough to even sit on it."

"What's his problem, Dana? I thought you guys had this worked out."

"I did too." Dana let them in and hung her coat. Dancer had gone all day without one, not feeling the cold. "But I hint, and hint, and it seems to go right over his head."

"Wow." he flopped on the couch, not claiming it the way Mulder did, but just sitting. "He's either blind or dead."

She rewarded the compliment with a smile and went into the kitchen.

"You hungry?" it had been a long time since lunch for her.

A flicker of emotion crossed his face, but she wasn't around to see it. "Nah. I'll go out for something later."

"You're not tired?" she stuck her head out, a casserole dish in her hands.

"Sure, but I have to run at night or I can't sleep."

"I wish that worked for Mulder." she came out and sat beside him.

"Dinner in the nuke box?"

"Oven. It tastes better that way." she said, leaning back and sighing again.

"I'm sorry you're unhappy, Dana." he said softly as she closed her eyes.

She waited, but he didn't say anything else.

Or make a move on her.

That was good, actually. She did love Mulder, but she wasn't getting much attention from him that way lately.

"I think you need to remind him what he's missing." Dancer's voice was close to her ear. "I'll be sure to stay out long enough for you to drive him crazy."

"He's already crazy." she grinned.

There was a knock on the door and Dancer sat up straight, still grinning. "Speak of the devil."

Scully got up and let him in.

He blew in like a summer wind, warm and excited. Seeing Dancer, he flopped at the other end of the couch, feet up on the coffee table, and smiled with malicious cheerfulness.

"Guess what I found out today?" he said to Scully, still standing by the door.

"Have you eaten?" she asked, avoiding the question.

"No. I found out some things about Ru, here." he pointed his chin at the shorter man, who crossed his arms over his chest and grinned.

"Do tell." Dancer looked skeptical.

"You're way too young for Scully."

"Excuse me?!" Scully glared at him.

"That's for her to decide." Dancer was still smiling.

"Wait a minute!" she stared at Dancer. "Just how old *are* you?"

"How old do you think I am?" he countered softly.

"My age. Maybe a year or two older." she looked confused. "You can't be that much younger."

"Twenty-six." Mulder was cackling with laughter "He's only twenty-six! A *baby*." and then he subsided when she turned her glare back on him. "Hey! It's not my fault he looks older...!"

Dancer wasn't upset.

"It's a genetic thing." he told a stunned Scully. "What other bombsheels did you find?"

"You're overcharged on your Visa bill." Mulder was teasing him. "And your family has a long and weird history of getting shot."

"Mulder!" Scully was apalled that he'd bring up something that had to be painful to Dancer like that.

"My mother and father were shot, yes." Dancer agreed, not apparently bothered.

"By poachers in a state park who thought they saw wolves!" Mulder was enjoying this. "And you have so many cousins... Nightrunners, Packers, Silvers and that little group out in Texas -- the Wolfhearts."

"His wife was shot, too." Dancer supplied. "Your sources are better than I thought if they made those connections. I'd better clean my records up when I get home."

"I would if I were you." Mulder smiled. "By the way, *what* encryption code do you have on your home system? My... friend... couldn't begin to break it. It's worse than Navajo."

Scully thought she was going to faint.

"You hacked his home computer?"

"Tried to." Mulder was grinning widely, and *Dancer* was grinning back.

*This is too weird*, Scully thought.

"It's kind of something I was born with." Dancer stretched hugely, still grinning as he picked up the remote and threw it at Mulder. "You'll never get it."

"I know." Mulder caught the remote and turned on the TV. "Basketball?"

"There's a National Geographic Special on the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone." Dancer suggested.

Mulder seemed to think about it, then shook his head.

"Football." he said decisively, changing the channel. "How's dinner coming, Scully?"

She was standing like a statue, staring at both of them.

"Hey, the man's hungry." Dancer added. "You got a beer?"

Throwing up her hands, she retreated to the kitchen.

An hour later Mulder was fed, Dancer had drank both the beers in her fridge, and Scully, sitting between them on the couch, was getting sleepy.

She was warm and comfortable, leaning on Mulder's shoulder, Dancer's leg touching hers. He was a very warm person, she could feel the warmth flowing from him. In contrast Mulder was the steady coolness of a fall day.

They were watching CNN. After a bit Dancer stood and stretched, his hands not even reaching the ceiling, and bent to gather the dishes left from her chicken-and-broccoli casserole.

"You didn't even eat." Scully protested softly.

"I'm house-trained." he answered, and she felt Mulder's twitch at the comment, as Dancer took the dishes to the kitchen. He came back out and headed for the door.

"I'm going for a run. Don't wait up." he said over his shoulder.

"Don't you need shoes?" Scully called after him, and felt Mulder muffle a chuckle. "What?" she punched him in the chest and he grabbed her hands to protect himself as the door closed behind Dancer.

He held her hands in mid air and their eyes met. He looked worried, but she heard his quick intake of breath as she leaned forward, touching her breasts to his chest.

"Bondage, Mulder? I never would have expected that from you."

"I thought you knew me by now." he was teasing, she saw, trying to keep things light, but she decided not to let him get away with it this time. Boldly she lowered a hand to his crotch and rubbed sensuously.

The light was hitting his eyes at just that angle that made them go gold, and she watched as they softened, his face relaxing, not smiling but at ease, and quietly eager.

He slid to lay back on the couch, holding her to his chest with strong arms, his coolness becoming warmth as she softly kissed his jaw, his neck, his lips.

"Scully..." he sighed and opened his mouth beneath hers, allowing her tongue access to his wet warmth, his hands spreading over her back, stroking with gentle assurance. She broke the kiss long enough to meet his eyes, the blue so startling that he caught his breath, and then she smiled.

"I was afraid you didn't want to do this anymore." she whispered. He couldn't reply because next she traced the contours of his mouth with the tip of her tongue and he felt himself surge in response. It hit him so hard and so fast that he gasped aloud.

"I've been preoccupies." he defended himself softly as her delicate hands slid between the buttons of his shirt

"It's time you think about something besides work." she said in that low, sexy voice that made his toes curl. He hadn't thought toes could actually curl.

"Uhh." his soft moan echoed in her ears. She wrapped a hand in the soft, short hairs at the back of his neck and pulled his head back. He closed his eyes and offered her his throat, and she traced it in painstaking detail, his skin blazing in the trail her tongue left.

He'd never thought *anything* could feel this good.

"Dana." he groaned her name, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her up to plunder her mouth, kissing her hungrily, forcefully.

Then he broke off, struggling to regain his control, and sat up, Scully hot in his lap, protesting.

"Mulder...what? What's wrong?"

He leaned his head close to her ear and whispered, one hand running light, tantalizing fingers down her side.

"Damn. Have you *cleaned house* lately?"

She rubbed her eyes with one hand, trying to decipher what he was saying.

Oh no. She shook her head.

"It's been awhile. Not since we got back from Wyoming." she admitted reluctantly.

"I'll have somebody over to do it tomorrow." he said, hugging her close, and then lifting her to set her on the couch beside him. She clung to him for a minute and then let go, frowning and frustrated.

"You don't really think..." she said, but then realized that, yes, he did. He smiled down at her, a twisted, lopsided self-depreciating grimace.

"Believe me, it's not want *I* want." he said softly. Then his voice dropped even softer as he leaned to whisper, his breath stirring the fine hairs on her neck and making her shiver. "*I could take you back to my place, but that would look suspicious..."

She turned her head to whisper to him and their lips brushed in passing. He began to deepen the kiss and then caught himself.

"They can't always watch us..." he heard the plea in her voice and it almost undid his resolve.

"Do you want to take that chance tonight?" his hands were still stroking her blouse, making her squirm and want to crawl back into his lap. "This can't work if we're not careful..." he pressed a kiss to the side of her neck as he drew back, looking alone again.

This time she let him go, moving away with a deep sigh.

They watched the TV for a few minutes while getting things under control.

Then Mulder stood, with an obvious wince that made her grin.

"Problem, Mulder?" she asked wickedly. His expression said she was going to pay for that one.

"I'd better be getting home." he answered. "Wouldn't want to be here when the dancing boy gets back."

"Mulder!" she threw a throw pillow at him, covering her laugh with a cough.

"Goodnight, Scully." he leaned over her on the couch and *just* touched her lips with his. "Sleep well." it was said with a grin that could only be described as evil.

"Mulder." she said as he went to the door, gathering his jacket and case and phone as he went.

"Scully." he answered with a small, real smile.

"Don't go home and watch a video, okay?"

He looked at her. Curled on the couch -- she seemed to curl up whenever she was comfortable -- like a small red kitten, her face flushed from his kisses, her body still sensitized by his touch.

"I'll suffer through." he said quietly, his eyes telling her that it wouldn't be enough, that nothing on those tapes would ever compare, and that he'd wait until he could have the real thing. She sighed and smiled, a little bit shy, embarrassed at having brought it up.

"Goodnight, Mulder." she said as he went out the door.

He didn't watch a tape. He didn't relieve his discomfort.

But he *did* take a very long, *very* cold shower.

If this keeps up much longer, he thought as he dressed quickly in sweats and pulled Margaret's blanket over him on the couch, I'm going to get pneumonia.

*And then Dr.Scully will have to take care of me*.

He smiled at that and picked up the textbook that was his choice of reading material for the night. Part #2 - Chasing Time

The phone woke Scully, but Dancer, in the living room, got it first, as Scully pulled on a robe and came out to listen.

"Huh? Who?" he obviously wasn't at his best first thing in the morning. Scully glanced at the clock and saw that it was half-past six. She didn't usually get up this early either.

He listened for a minute, agreed, thanked the caller, and hung up, promptly falling back on the couch, eyes shut.

"Who was it?" Scully asked, wondering if he was the roll- over-and-go-back-to-sleep type.

One dark eye opened beneath a heavy brow and glared at her balefully.


"What did she say?" Scully came to stand over the couch, holding her robe shut and staring at him sternly.

"Saw him."

"*Where*?" she felt like she was dragging information out of a teenager.

"Southside camp." he punctuated his response by rolling over to face the back of the couch, leaving her staring at him, miffed.

"I'm calling Mulder." she said, retreating to her bedroom. "We'll check it out."

Sitting on the bed and picking up the phone she wondered just how late he'd stayed out.

Mulder was already awake, his frustration returning full- force, and very glad to hear her voice.

"Scully? I scheduled the exterminators to be in by noon. Is that okay for you?" his voice carried a wealth of information to her, most of it about how badly he wanted her - *now*.

It made her shiver deliciously. Mulder was so focused, so intense, and when he directed that at her alone, it was almost intimidating, but so exciting.

"We have a lead." she said. "But I think Ru will still be here, so that's okay."

"I'm not sure I want him to meet these guys, Scully." Mulder hedged. As soon as they heard his name the Lone Gunmen would know he was the one Mulder was interested in, and then *they* would be interested in him.

That might be a good thing.

"I'll be there in an hour." he said, hanging up and heading for the shower.

Sister Mary Angela was not a typical nun. Like most modern brides of Christ, she didn't wear a habit, just a modified wimple over a simple blue dress with an ankle-length skirt. But the zippered motorcycle boots beneath the dress said something to Mulder right off.

"I saw the picture when I came in yesterday." she said. She was prettier than most nuns, too. "I'd been home to visit my folks and had to go over the board when I got in, so it was fresh in my head." she stuck a thumb at the large bulletin board covered with pictures and 'missing' notices. "And then I went to the homeless camp down on Southside, and there he was."

"What was he doing?" Scully asked. If she didn't know better she would think that Mulder was flirting with this woman.

She could just imagine him saying; 'But a nun is such a challenge, Scully!'

With a hard shake she got that image out of her head.

Sister looked at her and she realized that she hadn't been paying attention. Years of Catholic elementary school flooded back and she almost *felt* her hand stinging from the slap of a ruler.

"Scully?" Mulder looked concerned, but amused.

"Are you well?" Sister asked kindly.

Scully gave Mulder a 'this-is-all-your-fault' look and answered steadily.

"Yes, Sister, I'm fine. I've just been having trouble sleeping."

Sister smiled gently.

"If I had such an interesting man in love with me I might have trouble sleeping as well."

Now Mulder was the one shaking his head. Getting over her initial shock, Scully managed a coherent answer.

"Agent Mulder is my partner, Sister." she couldn't say anything else.

"That must be obvious to everyone you meet."

"Southside camp? On the dumpster side?" Mulder strangled out.

"Yes." Sister nodded. "I hope you find him before he hurts anyone else."

His hand on Scully's back, steering her to the parking lot, Mulder didn't even give her time for a thank-you or goodbye.

He didn't stop until they were safely in the car, and then he leaned close to whisper on her cheek.

"Why didn't you tell her we aren't together?" he put his hands behind his back, sure he would put them someplace else if he didn't.

"I can't lie to a *nun*, Mulder!"

"It's not like you're very good at it." he agreed, and she groaned in frustration, but didn't know if it was the situation or the case.

"Let's find this guy so we can get this over with." she said, scooting away from him and getting her seat belt.

He didn't answer, just started the car.

"You haven't seen him since yesterday."

"You don't know where he went?"

"Does he have any favorite hangouts?"

"Does he have any friends in town?"

The questions went on and on and they weren't getting anywhere. Scully checked her watch with a groan. It was almost noon. The gunmen would be at her house soon and Dancer was probably still asleep on the couch.

And she still hadn't had anything to eat.

Mulder closed his notebook -- it wasn't like he needed it, it just gave his hands something to do besides grope Scully -- and looked down at her, reading her face with the ease of long practice.

"Back to your place to get ballet boy and then lunch." he said.

She nodded gratefully.

"It *is* his case."

"I guess he thought I was staying the night." Mulder smiled, a small, soft smile. "I should've let him stay at my place."

"But he makes such a good alibi." She almost laughed at his expression. "I'm sure everyone thinks I dumped you for him."

"Or they think we're doing some weird threesome thing."

"Sounds kinky." she saw the speculative gleam in his eye and shook her head. "No. NO....Mulder!" she said in a warning tone.

"I might find out more about him..." Mulder said suggestively.

"Hey!" she punched him in the shoulder and he raised his hands in defense.

"You're hitting me a lot lately." he complained in a sulky tone, rubbing the spot before starting the car.

"You deserve it." she retorted, but sat back as he drove, thinking that the reason she kept hitting him was because it was the only way she'd been able to touch him for weeks.

They met the Gunmen at the door. Frohike and Langley had the equipment and Byers was keeping a discreet lookout in the parking lot.

"Mulder." he said in his usual no-nonsense tone. "More data came through on that search you were running. You can come by and get it tonight before nine."

Mulder nodded while Scully studied him, unwilling to ask in front of them.

Dancer was still asleep on the couch. With a grin Dana went over and sat beside him, leaning to whisper in his ear. Mulder grinned and Frohike looked startled.

Whatever she said had Dancer up in less than a minute, staring at them with wide-open, anxious eyes that soon settled into their normal calm shade of black-brown, meeting Mulder's as the shorter man slipped an arm around Scully and grinned at him wickedly.

Swallowing a smile Scully removed herself from his embrace.

"I think we'd better leave them to it." she said, giving Frohike a hard look. "You don't have to rifle my drawers or anything, do you?"

Mulder spoke up.

"Guys, this is another agent from California we've been working with. *Ruarke Dancer*."

To give them credit they didn't blink an eye. To them it was totally normal for Mulder to be checking up on people he worked with. Even to be encouraged.

Byers glanced at Mulder before answering Scully and she grimaced.

"No, Agent Scully, we won't be into anything private." he assured her.

"Good." she said sharply, annoyed that they still didn't trust her. Mulder did.

But they didn't work with her day in and out, either, so she supposed she had to forgive them. And they *were* doing this as a favor.

"Are you ready?" she asked Dancer, who was pulling on his suit jacket over his severely wrinkled white shirt.

"Food." he snapped, grabbing his plain black tie and slinging it around his neck before pulling on his boots while standing. He had excellent balance, Mulder observed silently. "You got me up, you feed me."

Dana would have argued, but they had an audience and, besides, she was pretty hungry herself.

"You don't want a shower?" she asked. *Or a clean shirt*?

He sniffed the air in front of him and grinned.

"Not too bad."

"How did you ever manage to survive the academy?" she asked as he led the way out the door, Mulder hanging back to talk to the guys.

"I was the meanest one there." he answered with a smile that had nothing to do with humor.

They ate at a steakhouse, Scully amazed at the quantity of meat Dancer put away.

"I thought the FDA outlawed those 'eat this and it's free' specials." she said as he finished what had to be a five-pound steak. The waiter had checked on them four times, apparently as astonished as she was that this small man was managing to put away the whole thing.

Eating a modest sirloin, Mulder went slowly through his plate, keeping his own council, but meeting Dancer's eyes more than once.

They understood each other, he and Dancer. He knew that now.

It didn't make them friends, but they weren't going to be enemies.

*That left a lot of room to maneuver*, Mulder thought as dancer finished with a contented sigh. He'd even managed the potato and vegetables, though he had doused the broccoli and carrots in steak sauce to do it.

"Enough meat?" Mulder asked while Scully signaled the waiter. Not only had he eaten enough for three meals, but he'd done it in the time it took Mulder to eat his one, yet with perfect table manners.

"For now." Dancer grinned at him, showing his teeth in a way that might have been construed as threatening.

"Then can we get to work?" Scully was irritated with both of them.

"Yes, ma'am." they answered simultaneously, then dancer chuckled while Mulder drew back into himself.

Scully saw that he was thinking and hoped he was coming up with a solution to this case.

Or, better, that he was planning his moves for tonight.

*Whoa.* she caught herself. This was Mulder. Maybe she better hope he *wasn't* thinking about things for tonight...all those videotapes... Part #3 - Finding Time

"How many miles did you do last night?" Mulder asked dancer conversationally.

"Ten." his smile hinted at more.

"Don't your feet hurt?" Mulder wa remembering his four miles barefoot and the days of soreness afterwards.

"Used to it."

Mulder drove, Scully beside him, Dancer leaning over the seat from the back.

Mulder to Dancer; "You ever use a seatbelt?"


"Where are we going?" Scully cut in.

"To see a Father Frank. Rumor has it he performs exorcisms without the sanction of the church."

"Rumor?" she asked uneasily. That could mean he'd heard it any number of unsavory ways.

"It's not something he can advertise, Scully, not and keep his official status."

"Oh. Right." Scully thought about that. Though she didn't agree with -- or even follow -- all of the churches teachings, the idea of a *priest* disobeying them made her oddly uncomfortable.

"It's not a perfect world." Dancer said suddenly from the backseat.

*Was that meant to be consoling*? she thought. *Cause it ain't*.

Father Frank lived in a tiny apartment above the rectory, which was used as a temporary shelter for the homeless. He greeted them in the small living room, which was serving as home to a family of four. Three small children danced around the TV to the tune of a purple dinosaur.

"I'm sorry we have to talk here." the priest, a cheerful man in his late fifties, said as he sat on the bettered sofa and a toddler came up to him, arms out. He pulled him onto his lap automatically, and the baby lay on his shoulder, sticking his thumb in his mouth and closing his eyes. "Their mother has a job interview today and there was no one else to watch them. She has tried very hard to find work, I am very hopeful that this time she will be successful."

"This is fine." Dancer spoke up, wanting to put the man at ease.

"I've seen your record for social services." Mulder said. "I have to tell you, I'm surprised you aren't running a real shelter or presiding over a larger congregation."

Father Frank smiled wryly.

"I have unpopular views, Agent Mulder. As I have heard you yourself do."

Mulder did a double-take at that and Dancer covered his mouth to hide a smile.

"I know what information you are interested in, but I cannot give it to you without knowing your reasons for wanting it."

Mulder began to object but Frank held up a hand, holding it off.

"The people who come to me are not freaks or psychos. They have very real problems that sometimes require extreme measures to solve. I would not want them to be investigated or harassed by your agency or any other."

Mulder nodded. "Any information we get will be kept confidential."

"There is a chance that one of your - special cases - may be in danger." Scully said quietly.

"We're hunting a killer." Dancer pitched his voice lower than the goofy song still playing in the background, not wanting to frighten the children. "He claims to be killing those who are 'possessed' or 'unclean'. Perhaps people like your patients."

Frank looked worried.

"I can give you the names of the ones I am talking to now." he said. "I do not keep records after a patient has left my care, and my memory is not as good as it once was."

"Do you refer to them as 'patients' for a reason?" Mulder asked suddenly.

"I thought you knew that, Agent Mulder." Frank tsk-tsked. "I hold a master's degree in psychology, and am a qualified therapist."

He stood, looking for a place to put the toddler, but most of the sofa was covered with folded laundry and pillows. Dancer came to him and held out his arms.

"Let me. You can take Mulder and Scully for the information." he said quietly.

The baby was transferred with a minimum of fuss, Mulder watching curiously, expecting the child to -- cry, or something.

Dana smiled when Dancer settled back, the child still soundly asleep, drooling on his shoulder.

"Good thing you didn't change clothes." she said.

"My files are in the garage, in my office." Frank said. "You will keep an eye on the others?" to Dancer.

"No problem." Dancer smiled at the two little girls, who were climbing into the big armchair on the other side of the TV. One smiled back shyly.

The office was pretty basic. Desk, two chairs, filing cabinet. And a long table on the wall with a pillow at the end.

"Very Freudian." Mulder said.

"Hmmph." Frank unlocked a cabinet, pulled out several files, and handed them over. "I would like these back as soon as possible."

"As soon as we check them." Scully answered as Mulder opened the first and began reading, shutting them out.

"I guess I'm driving." was Dancer's response when they got out of there.

Mulder didn't even bother to grunt.

Frank currently had four patients who were being considered for exorcisms. Two had experienced periods of 'possession', one was deeply depressed and the other was a teenage boy apparently undergoing a poltergeist episode.

"I thought poltergeists were usually girls." Scully was in front with dancer, Mulder in the back reading aloud.

"Maybe he's gay." Mulder smiled up at Dancer in the rearview.

"Don't tempt me." Dancer retorted and Scully stifled a laugh. These two were perfect for each other.

"I suggest we talk to the possessions first." Dancer said. "That would be more appealing to our hunter."

"You sound like you know him." Scully said.

"I *understand* him." Dancer corrected. "Mulder's not the only one who can get into people's heads. He's just the best at it."

It was a fruitless endeavor. Even with Father Frank's name to get the door open, none of these people were talking to the FBI without a warrant. Leaving the last house, in which a young man -- younger than Mulder -- sat contemplating ending his life, Scully was disturbed by the resemblance to Mulder, and climbed into the back of the car with him, surprising him when she wrapped her arms around him and held on for a minute.

"Scully." he said softly, understanding what was bothering her.

She lay her head on his chest and he put an arm around her shoulders, reluctant to show affection in public, even though they had been watching for a tail all afternoon, just in case.

"Home?" Dancer asked, watching in the mirror with a soft smile.

Scully nodded, but Mulder shook his head.

"I've got an appointment."

"Skip it." Scully said, knowing what he would be talking about.


"Why are you doing this?" she asked quietly, neither of them aware that Dancer could hear them clearly.

"Can't resist a challenge." he said softly, brushing a kiss across her hair. "That's why I fell in love with you."

"For the challenge?" she looked up at him, her eyes smiling.

"For everything." he kept his arm around her as Dancer drove through the darkening night, aware of her, wanting her.

It helped to know that she wanted him too.

But he left without a word of goodbye when they got to her place, taking his car and leaving them on the stairs.

Scully looked at Dancer as they went in.

"I think this means he trusts you, just a little bit." she said. "Otherwise he would have brought me in himself and checked the place."

"Mulder needs his paranoia." Dancer replied. "It keeps him alive."

"You sound like you know a lot about it." she said as he went to his suitcase and began pulling out jeans and a shirt.

"I just hide it better than he does." Dancer smiled at her. "Let me take a shower and I'll buy you dinner."

"Not another steak...." she warned.

"Fish." he offered. "Okay? Fish."

Smiling, she agreed, and went to clean the kitchen while he showered.

"Look." Scully said across the table. They were in a bust seafood restaurant, sitting in a table by the wall and Dancer's back was to the room. Mulder would never sit that way. "It's AD Skinner and his wife. I'm glad they got back together." she smiled as the hulking marine walked by and did a double-take, turning back to look again.

"Oh, no."

He spoke to his wife and they came back to the table, Sharon smiling the smile of a happy woman.

"Agent Scully." Skinner greeted her, looking Dancer over. He'd changed to jeans, a black *silk* shirt, and a leather jacket that matched his boots. Scully had settled on a simple cream knit dress. "It's so unusual to see you without your partner. Agent Dancer." he nodded to him, curiosity emanating from him.

"I'm off-duty, sir." she said quietly. "Contrary to popular belief, Agent Mulder and I do not spend every waking moment together."

"I'm glad to hear that." she could have sworn he almost smiled. "You have met my wife, Sharon?" he tightened the arm he had around her. She smiled brightly at Scully and offered her hand.

"You were so helpful the last time we met." she said softly.

Scully remembered. It had been a horrible situation, Skinner accused of murder and Sharon in the hospital with him also accused of putting her there. But Skinner had saved the day, and, apparently, his marriage.

"And I'm Ruarke. Ru Dancer." Dancer stood and took her hand, bowing over it as Skinner stiffened and Sharon colored faintly. "A good friend of Agent Scully's."

"It's about time Agent Scully had a friend like you." Skinner said, getting some back as Dana now blushed, the curse of a red head. "How is your case coming?"

"No shop talk, Walter." Sharon said, steering him away. "I believe we are interrupting a *date*. You mustn't frighten your agents like that..."

He allowed her to lead him away. Behind them, Dana and Dancer looked at each other and burst into subdued laughter.

"What was *that*?!" Dana demanded. "Now he thinks I'm dating *you*!"

"What better way to take suspicion off you and Fox?" he threw back. "Maybe now the tongues will have something else to wag about."

"Fox?" she questioned with a look, but he ignored it. "That's not such a bad idea." she said, picking up her wine glass and sipping with a smile.

"And he'll hate it." Dancer smiled back.

"So this is a date?"

"I'll even take you dancing." he promised, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

"Be still my heart." suddenly life seemed better.

They got in very late, Dana tipsy and giggling, Dancer trying to keep her on her feet and finally giving up and carrying her up the stairs, then juggling her as he tried to get the key in the lock.

But the door was opened from inside and Mulder, in shirtsleeves and stocking feet, stared at them, stunned.

"Here." Dancer said shortly, heaving Dana at him -- Mulder caught her by reflex -- "I think this is yours."

Dana snuggled into his chest with a smile, her hands playing with his shirt buttons while Mulder looked from her to Dancer and back again.

"What'd you do to her?" he asked harshly.

"Not anything you're gonna." Dancer grinned wickedly. "We went to dinner, she drank wine. We went dancing, she drank wine. We stopped for cheesecake, *she drank wine*." he was entirely amused by the situation. "I'd say she was getting ready for you."

Feeling the air on his chest as she undid his buttons Mulder shifted her to one arm and caught her hands with one of his.

"Mulder..." she said in that low voice he loved.

"Scully." his tone was scolding.

"I'm going to be out for a while." Dancer said. "That cheesecake is *killing* my stomach." he slipped off his boots and jacket, peeling the silk shirt off in front of them, revealing a heavily muscled and furred torso, but Dana didn't even look up from Mulder's buttons. Grabbing a T-shirt, he stopped at the door and smiled back at them.

"Lactose intolerant?" Mulder asked stupidly.

"*Sweets* intolerant." Dancer replied as he went out the door. "She's stubborn."

"I knew that." Mulder said, looking down at the woman in his arms. She'd given up on the other buttons and was contenting herself with nuzzling the flesh she could reach, her tongue searching for his nipples blindly.

"Scully." he turned to carry her into the bedroom. "*Dana*."

She looked up at him and smiled like the sun.

"Mulder." she said it like what-the-heck's-wrong?

He lay her on the bed and took a step back, unsure.

"Mulder...?" she was sliding the short sleeves of her soft dress down, pulling out one arm and then the other, holding the top to her body while he watched and she watched him watch. "Come to bed."

"Dana." he said it like a plea. "No...not like this."

She sat up, still holding her dress, reaching a hand to him.

"I know what I'm doing." she said softly and he *did* see sanity in her shining eyes. "I just wanted to have some fun tonight. And now I want to have *more* fun...with you." she dropped the top of the dress, allowing it to fall around her waist, revealing a scrap of white satin and lace with her pale skin straining against it.

With a soft groan Mulder lay on the bed, pushing her down beside him, pulling her close and fitting her to him, his mouth on hers, his hands behind her to unfasten the bra and let her flesh spill out.

"Dana..." he groaned. "I've been here hours, thinking about this..."

"I'm sorry I took so long to get home." she muttered as they broke for air, his hands on her breasts making it hard to think.

"As long as you're here now." he covered her mouth with his own again, shrugging out of his shirt, wanting her breasts touching him, wanting her hands on him. "Dana..." his whisper was hot in her ear. "*Touch* me, please, I'm dying here..."

Hearing the need in his voice she lowered her hands to his crotch and fumbled with the zip while he kissed her urgently, and he stiffened and groaned into her mouth as her hands closed around him. She smiled against his mouth, no doubt about the effect she had on him.

"Mmmmm." she sighed as he lowered his head to other areas, licking and kissing his way down her neck. "*Mulder*."

"I love you too." his whisper from her chest started a new fire in her belly and she shivered as his mouth closed over a nipple, the heat of it making the room seem freezing. His hands were pushing the dress further down, past her slim hips, catching her panties, and over her legs as she twisted, to assist, enjoying the movement. Then he pulled himself from her hands to roll off the bed and shed his pants, boxers, and socks before rolling her over and sliding on top of her, resting against her for a minute, both of them marking the minute before they became one again. He lowered his head to kiss her, one hand in her hair, the other below her waist, testing, teasing, and he suddenly stopped, pulled his hand away.


"I was thinking." he suddenly looked worried. The only light in the room was from the hall and it barely illuminated half his face, leaving half in shadow and making him look...spooky. "We haven't been doing this the way we should."

"*What* are you talking about?" she reached for him and he caught her hands again, holding them above her head.

"I've never been a choirboy, Scully." he said softly. "I know you're on the pill, but I still worry. But I get all the tests regularly and I can tell you I'm clean."

"Mulder." she sighed. "I knew that. I've seen your records."

"But we haven't been safe." he said softly.

"We're as safe as we're gonna get." she said, arching against him. He dropped one hand to her hip, hers still trapped in the other. "You're really killing the mood here, Mulder."

"Had to offer." he said with a killer smile. "Being a sensitive nineties kinda guy."

"Well, quit it and be yourself." she said, and he chuckled before lowering himself between her legs again, moving his hands to hold hers at her sides.

"Is this okay?" he asked, looking into her eyes as he held them there and slowly lunged against her, pressing into her. She met his stare with a sigh and a parted mouth that urged him to kiss her.

"Anything *you* do is okay." she gasped as he lunged suddenly, filling her, his weight settling on her inside and out. "Oh, God, Mulder!"

"What?" he whispered against her lips. "Tell me how it feels. Tell me how *I* make you feel..." he rotated slowly against her, making her squirm. "I want to hear you, Dana."

"What do you want to hear?" she kissed him, her hands curling in his grip, aching to be in his hair, to hold him and stroke him, but he held them fast, controlling his motion, controlling himself. "How much I love your mouth? Or your hands..." they splayed over hers, lacing his fingers with hers as he lunged again, slowly, deeply, holding himself there as she moaned and sighed.

"yes..." he withdrew and did it again, her low soft sound running down his spine, bathing in the light of her eyes as she looked at him, wanting him, *welcoming* him.

"Mulder..." she whispered, arching and beginning to move against him. "You feel like a part of me I was missing...like you're the only thing that belongs..."

"Dana." he said, moving with her, picking up the rhythm, feeling her tighten around him. "*Dana*."

He released her hands and wrapped his arms around her waist, sitting up, pulling her with him so she was sitting in his lap, buried deep inside her, feeling her pressed against him as she gasped for breath, her body hot and slick on him. She threaded her fingers through his hair and pulled his mouth back to hers as he slid his arms up her back, cupping his hands over her shoulders and moving her with him. He buried his head in her neck where it met her shoulder and moaned loudly, deeply, the sound reverberating in her bones as he moved faster, words spilling out as he took her hungrily.

"oh, Scully, oh, Scully, oh, Scully..." he said as most men say Oh, God, and his voice was enough to send her off that edge she'd been standing on, to fall into the abyss, taking him with her as he stifled a scream by biting down on her shoulder his arms bands of iron holding her to him, shaking with intensity, trying to crawl *into* her, become a part of her, *meld* with her...

Dana shivered as the last surge of feeling died and he continued to hold her so tightly, his mouth open on her shoulder, his arms still so tight she had to fight for breath...but she wasn't going to ask him to let go, not if she passed out from the lack, because she was too close to him, knew him too well, their souls beating in time with their synchronized hearts and laboring lungs.

He didn't let go of her, simply fell over with her still in his arms, the two of them entwined on her bed, still a part of each other, still shaking in the aftermath.

At last he raised his head. She met his eyes with a soft smile and saw the tears shining in them and kissed them away as he whispered.

"I never knew I could love anyone like this." he kissed her softly. "Be so close to anyone."

Her answer was a smile and another soft kiss as he loosened his arms and she could breathe deeply again. Feeling soreness in her ribs, she hoped she wasn't bruised. Not because it would hurt, but because he would be upset about it.

"Neither did I." she answered. "I dreamed...."

"I had no dreams before you loved me, Dana." his whisper ached. "Only nightmares."

"You've made my dreams come true, Mulder." she sighed as he kissed her again, tongues playing erotic games between them.

"All of them?" his question was quiet and serious.

She met his eyes, his still bright and soft.

"There's time for the rest." she pressed herself close to him again.

"Time *tonight*?" his change of tone warned her before he rolled onto his back, her on top of him, pushing her up to straddle him on her knees, his hands spread on her hips, fingers almost touching above the curly red hair. He moved his hands, urging her to rock against him.

"You feel so good." she could feel that he wasn't ready to start again, but he moved with her, groaning softly as he whispered, his words loud in the silent room. "I love looking at you...knowing I can touch you..." he raised his hands to cup her breasts, making her quiver and blush faintly as he stared at her, admiring her. "So perfect..." he leaned up to take one in his mouth.

With a sound from the back of her throat Dana twisted on him, her hands going behind her to stroke him and lean back on his thighs as his hands traveled lower, down her stomach, hands back on her hips, thumbs sliding to where they joined, looking at her intently, watching her as he touched the nerves that made her gasp and squirm.

"I want to do that to you..." he smiled, looking more relaxed than she'd ever seen him.

"Every night?" she gasped, heat building between her legs. To distract herself she moved her hands up, cupping his sac, playing with it, feeling him harden in her, heard the sound he made when she rolled him in her fingers just so..."Anytime, love." she said softly as he moved, shuddering, beneath her. She leaned to put her arms on his shoulders, watching him as he threw his head back and closed his eyes. His hands on her hips encouraged the pace.

"Scully...!" he gasped. "Come with me..." it was a plea.

"Not this time." she leaned to whisper into his ear, sitting back up to watch him again. "This is for you."

Knowing what she wanted he opened his eyes and locked them with hers, baring his soul to her, showing her all that he was and all she meant to him as he bit his lip and stiffened, his hands clenching on her hips, stilling her movement abruptly, thrusting deep and shuddering suddenly, violently.

It was minutes before his eyes cleared and sanity returned, without a trace of embarrassment. Seeing her looking at him he reached to pull her down to his side, their legs still wrapped together, holding her gently, closely, his long fingers tracing abstract patterns on her heated skin.

She lay on him, her head on his shoulder, shivering occasionally as he teased her skin, sighing into his neck, her own hands resting on his chest. Still aroused, she moaned softly when his fingers trailed through her curly hair and he sighed into her hair.

"There..."he whispered, repeating the caress softly, feeling her shiver and his own tired response. "You like that..."

"Yes..." she couldn't find any more words as he did it again, the movement deliberate, sensuous, and he started to rub and caress her purposefully, feeling her straining against his hand, feeling new heat as she opened to him.

"There...let me feel you...Scully..." he whispered as she arched into his hand and closed her eyes, her breathing fast and heavy, breasts flushed. "Give yourself to me."

"Mulder..." she groaned. "*Mulder...*"

"Yes...." her world narrowed to his whisper and his hand and then she felt the exquisite agony of release, clinging to him and whimpering as she shuddered, his arms holding her close and safe.

"Good." he kissed her head. "You're so beautiful, Scully." He wrapped her snugly in his arms and folded the blanket over them, not wanting to move. "I love you so much...far too much to be safe."

His words and the fear inherent in them penetrated her fogged brain and she responded sleepily.

"We can handle it." she whispered, kissing his chest. "We're strong."

"I'm not as strong as you are." he answered, watching her eyes close and feeling sleep sneaking up.

"...love you always, Mulder..." her sleepy words faded as she drifted off.

He hugged her close, the tears she'd seen earlier spilling out to run silently down his face into her hair.

"I can't live without you." he whispered, crying silently until he slept.

Creeping in after three Dancer went down the hall, wanting to use the bathroom. He'd run for so long tonight, but not gone, unwilling to mark territory he wasn't claiming. He saw them, together in her bed, wrapped around each other, Scully half across Mulder and Mulder's arms tight around her even in sleep. The room smelled richly of love and lovemaking, making his stomach turn over with desire that he ruthlessly squashed.

He made it to the bathroom, but Dana's eyes were open when he came out, which surprised him. He figured Mulder would be the one to wake, his paranoia pervading his sleep.

She looked at him, obviously aware that she wasn't fully covered, and smiled faintly. He stepped closer.

"Cold?" his whisper floated in the room. She nodded gratefully.

He went to the hall closet, where she had shown him the blankets -- laughing because she knew he wouldn't use them -- and pulled out a light quilt.

Coming back into the bedroom he saw that her eyes were closed, but she opened them briefly as he gently covered them both and smiled at him, mouthing a 'thank you'.

He grinned a response and left them where they belonged.

Part #4 - Hang Time

This was the twenty-ninth abandoned church they had searched. Dancer and Scully had greeted Mulder's new theory with skepticism that afternoon, and now they were downright amused by it.

"Last one, Mulder." Scully said as they approached the boarded-up doors. The building was good-sized, surrounded by a miraculously intact high wooden fence covered with graffiti. "I want to get home at a decent hour tonight.

"Why?" he said, a flash of interest in his eyes that was quickly smothered by his frustration with the case.

His only answer was a smile as Dancer joined them, he and Mulder both reaching for the doors. Dancer slid his square fingers under the edge of one and pulled it off with a ripping sound as Mulder watched, still a little stunned though he'd seen Dancer's strength many times this day.

There was no glass in the door. Dancer laced his hands together and leaned down for Scully.

"After you." he said as she stepped up and in, her bright light cutting through the darkness. "You know, we might not find this guy. He may have moved on." Dancer shrugged gracefully. "I may just have to wait for another lead."

"Do you know something you're not telling us?" Mulder was asking seriously beneath his sarcasm. "Some other unexplained instinct you're using?"

"In cases like this your instincts are better than mine." Dancer said, pulling himself through the window and disappearing. Mulder heard Scully moving around in there and hurried to follow.

They covered the church quickly. It was getting dark out, and Dancer seemed distracted, unlike his usual calm self. Mulder watched him, wondering if the time was right for a little test.

Going up the stairs to the balcony where choirs once sang, he leaned over the rail, his light picking up debris on the floor.

Dancer and Scully were on the other end, checking the alcoves on either side of the raised stage.

"How long until the full moon?" he asked the air in front of him.

Dancer appeared suddenly in the doorway, without the flashlight Mulder was beginning to believe he didn't need, looking at him from across the distance. His eyes, normally a dark brown that was almost black, seemed to be glowing lighter as Mulder raised his light to illuminate his face.

If he didn't know better he'd say Dancer was looking...unnerved.

"Not nice, Mulder!" Dancer yelled across the room. "Dirty pool!"

Smiling suddenly Mulder went down the stairs.

Dancer met him at the bottom, studying him with eyes again dark.

"Tomorrow." he said flatly. "The moon is tomorrow."

Mulder noted how he said 'the moon', not the 'full moon', but let it pass.

"Did you get into the rectory?" he asked, dumping the subject for later thought.

"Not yet. Scully and I don't have your prowess at picking locks." Dancer said, relaxing as soon as Mulder didn't pursue the subject.

"Then I'd better get it." Mulder went past him.

He got the lock in ten minutes. Cracking the door, he peeked and then looked back at the other two.

"I think we just got lucky." he whispered. "A light behind the door on the left."

They both nodded and pulled their weapons from behind themselves as Mulder slid his out of the shoulder holster he preferred. With a quick look to confirm that they were with him he stepped back and kicked the door, going straight for the half- open door across the hall, Scully going to his right and Dancer to his left, flanking him as he went through the other door and then following him.

Mulder stopped. There was nobody in the room, but a window banged in the sudden wind outside.

"Damn!" he yelled, almost running over Dancer as they all turned to rush out, Mulder's long legs in the lead.

Outside Mulder and Scully went left while Dancer went right, circling the building carefully. Their suspect wasn't a young man, they didn't think he could have beaten them to the front or scaled the fence.

Straining his senses as he slid around the corner into an angle where the rectory joined the church, Dancer still missed the footsteps behind him until he heard the unmistakable sound of a gun cocking.

"There you are, demon." the voice was friendly, even. Normal. And behind him in the shadow.

Dancer turned, raising his hands to shoulder level, gun dangling from his fingers.

"Drop it."

Dancer did, the soft thump it made in the dirt running through him. He shivered once.

"You recognize me." he stepped from the shadows and Dancer got his first real look at him. "And I know what you are.

Not much to see. An old man, greying bald head, an old wool suit.

Holding a large gun and a cross.

Hoping to stall him until Mulder and Scully arrived, Dancer spoke as if addressing an equal.

"That won't hurt me, you know."

The man wiggled the cross and then tucked it into a coat pocket.

"Not for your kind." he agreed. "But what's in this *will*." he waved the gun. Dancer prepared to rush him, but hesitated, If he knew what he was doing he probably had...

His thoughts were interrupted as movement exploded behind him.

Mulder and Scully had arrived.

"Drop it!" Scully shouted, training her gun on him. Mulder flanked her, his gun pointed at the hunter's head.

"Do you think you can kill me before I kill him?" he looked at them. "I do not want to shoot the two of you. You do the same work as I."

"We are *nothing* like you." Scully grated out. "Drop it or I'll shoot."

Mulder tried a different tack.

"He works with us. He's one of us. Why are you going to shoot *him*?"

"He's one of *them*." the man grimaced. "The unclean. God has appointed me to clear them from the face of his earth."

"If we are what you think we are then God made us as well." Dancer said slowly. "Why would he want you to kill us?"

Scully felt like there was another conversation hidden in the one she was hearing.

"God makes mistakes." the hunter replied.

"And he's asked you to clean them up? Give me a break." Mulder said suddenly and Scully frowned. *Mulder* was in on this conversation, too?

"You know how hard we are to kill." Dancer said quietly. "Go ahead. *Shoot*."

"You don't think I will?" he smiled, calm and happy. "I will. They may kill me, but I go to my reward. You will go to hell, to join your female and the whelp she carried."

In the fading light Mulder couldn't be sure, but he thought Dancer's face paled suddenly.

"You didn't know. She didn't have time to tell you. *Good*." the hunter smiled, nasty this time. "It would have been so much harder to kill her if you had been there to protect her."

"I know which of us is going to hell." Dancer said softly, all the life gone out of his voice.

"That's enough!" Scully shouted, confused but determined to end this. "On the count of three - you throw down your gun or we shoot!"

She caught Dancer's eyes, suddenly realizing how yellow they looked in this light...

"One. Two. - "

A shot rang out and Dancer went down, holding his stomach with both hands. Mulder and Scully's guns rand out together and the hunter went down without a sound.

Scully rushed to Dancer, ripping open his shirt.

"Mulder, the light!" she shouted. "Call 9-1-1!"

Mulder shined the light on the hole in Dancer's middle. Shiny loops of intestine were visible, Scully trying to hold them back with her hands. "Call, Mulder! He's still got a chance!"

"*no, Dana...*" Mulder heard dancer's voice, weak and distant. "No hospital. *I need to...* -" he gasped for air and Mulder dropped to his knees beside Scully, taking her hands from his wound, pulling when she resisted.

"You need to run." he said quietly, understanding, not letting his mind process what he was saying, what it *meant*. "Let him go, Scully."

"Mulder, no..." she said, just as she had that night when he'd put the gun to his own head.

"Dana." his voice, soft and full of love, caught her. He never spoke to her like that outside the bedroom. "Let him go. Don't ask why. Just...trust me."

Without another word she stood and stepped away while Mulder helped Dancer struggle to his feet. He was bleeding copiously.

"You're going to bleed to death." she told him urgently. "You need medical care...if you won't go to the hospital, let *me* treat you!" she was almost begging.

Unsteady, wavering on his feet, Dancer shook his head vehemently and almost fell over. He raised his eyes to hers and smiled, a ghastly expression in his dirty, bloodless face.

"I'll see you soon, Dana." he said, so softly the words just brushed over her ears.

Then he turned, staggering, and managed to turn the corner of the rectory, out of their sight. Dana tried to follow, but Mulder grabbed her and held her in a tight embrace.

"Mulder! Let me go! He's delirious..." she trailed off as she pulled away and saw the expression on Mulder's face. He was goofy, giddy, as excited as a child in Disneyland. "Mulder...what the hell is going on here?"

"I truly don't know, Scully." he said, still smiling that dumb smile. "But I think we've had a *very* close encounter."

"What?!" she didn't resist as he lead her to the car. "What the hell do you think he *is*, Mulder?"

He got in and started the engine, then glanced in the rearview mirror, sure he saw a passing shadow behind them.

"I told you, Scully, I *don't* know. You have as much information as I do. You figure it out."

She pouted and pleaded, begged and demanded, but he wouldn't give her a scrap of information on Dancer.

But he made up for it when he got her back to his place.

They even slept in the bed.

Title: Walls 07 - False Fronts
Author: Saraid
Rated NC-17
Category XRA
Archived 96-10-17
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance.

Author's note from Saraid: I'm not getting any *Ma-illll* (la-la-la). If nobody writes me I don't write any more on this series....:) You got any objections to this piece, email me and we'll talk about it. I will tell you up front that I have personal experience with the most disturbing part of what follows and can tell you a lot about it. But I will admit my view is biased as I still consider it a reasonable solution (and I'm not talking about abortion here, either) in some circumstances. Worse then some, better than others. (and people wonder why I'm not hospitalized....)

It ain't all sweetness and light here, folks.

details: *Ah-one, ah-two, ah-one-two-three-four -!* Dis-claimer, dis- claimer, it's time to say *dis-claimer*, Dis-claimer, dis- claimer, let's sing the disclaimer song! (*everybody*, on four!) Rated PG or PG-13 for mild violence in a disturbing context. (not sexual - I'm done with *that*) MSR, Story, and Dancing-Boy is back. No bad language, no spoilers unless you haven't read the rest of the series; shame on you! Go back and do it now, I'll wait. (tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.....)

part#1 - falling

She had chosen this doctor out of the book, mostly because she could get in today. Early.

Because once she decided to face the possibility, she had to do it *now*.

There really hadn't been that much to it. She told Mulder she needed to visit her mother, got in the car and drove. Made several -- okay, *many* sudden sharp turns, just in case. Stopped at a phone booth, flipped to the yellow pages, and began making calls.

And here she was.

She smoothed her soft linen skirt, trying not to notice that her hands were shaking.

She'd done what she was supposed to. Taken the pills every morning. Even asked to check the expiration date on the big bottle at the pharmacy once, feeling paranoid and cursing Mulder's effect on her. Laughing, the pharmacist had indulged her.

But maybe it hadn't been enough.

They didn't have sex often, she thought defensively. He was too paranoid, afraid to set a pattern that would tip *them* off. Once or twice a week, sometimes not at all for a week or more, and *never* on a case. So she'd probably be able to pinpoint the actual day...

She gratefully let the thought drop as the door opened and the doctor stepped back in, her white coat gone.

"Miss. Scully." Tall, slightly overweight, soft brown hair falling into clear grey eyes, she wasn't old enough to be her mother, but just now Scully felt like a child, a frightened, apprehensive child, who wanted mommy to make it all better.

Dr.Sarah Hall went to sit behind her desk, then changed her mind and took the armchair in front of it, turning so that she faced her patient.

The pretty, fragile-looking redhead with terror shining from her so-blue eyes. Who had called and asked for a last-minute appointment, and showed up ten minutes later.

Who had paid for the visit in advance. With cash.

Her suit was good quality, her hair and makeup spoke of professional standards.

The gun she'd calmly laid to one side while undressing spoke of casual familiarity with danger.

Sarah Hall had seen fear, and understood it.

This woman was very afraid, and her condition was a major factor in that fear.

Her thoughts passed quickly and she saw that the woman was watching her. With an apologetic smile she opened the file and met her eyes.

"You are pregnant." she said softly, wanting to be kind.

A sound like a sob, then her hands came up to cover her face.

She wasn't crying. Dr.Hall put a gentle hand on her still shoulder and waited.

The blue eyes were luminous with tears when she looked back up, but they didn't fall, and her jaw was set with determination.

"How long?"

Pulling her hand back, not wanting to somehow deny this woman's strength, Dr.Hall answered.

"Seven weeks. It could be a Christmas baby."

"He'd *love* that." Scully said flatly and Dr.Hall was further worried.

"The father?" she tried to ask it gently. "If I'm going to help you through this we should talk about circumstances and how they affect you. Or you might want to shop around and see if there are any doctors you really like." Or go see your regular doctor.

"I won't be back." Scully tried a smile that curved her lips but didn't make it past her nose. "Is there anything I need to be doing right now for the baby?"

Her direct reference to it caught Dr.Hall off-guard. She had already known...of course. This was just making it official.

"I can give you a prescription for prenatal vitamins, but you are aware of the importance of good prenatal care?" she asked, slowly getting up and going around the desk to scribble on the pink pad.

"There are..." the woman hesitated. " - circumstances. I may not continue this pregnancy."

Holding her tongue, Dr.Hall help out the slip, and she took it gracefully. Her hands weren't shaking any longer.

"Thank you." Scully said softly, leaving the tidy office and stepping out into the spring sunshine, just heating up to summer.

Her life was changed.

It was such a powerful, unexpected sensation.

Her life was no longer just her own.

Stopping with her car door half-open, she suddenly curled a little bit around herself, arms wrapped protectively around her flat stomach.

"Oh, god." she said aloud.

Watching from a window, Sarah Hall winced. This woman wanted this baby, she *knew* that. What could possibly make her consider not having it?

part#2 - busted

Mulder looked up from the file expectantly. To his surprise, Scully was staring at the wall. Again.

"Scully." he slapped the file down to get her attention. "Am I boring you?"

"No, Mulder." she sighed and he winced. She looked so tired lately. "I'm listening. The blood tests were inconclusive, but you still feel that the anomaly could be explained if the patients were all exposed to hard radiation for a period of time approaching a nanasecond." Now she looked at him. "Mulder, we can't even measure nanoseconds. *Any* radiation exposure would have left other physical evidence, not this minute, *bizarre* DNA twist."

"*Should* have, Scully." he was enjoying this, enjoying baiting her, trying to distract her from whatever was bothering her. "It was probably a kind of radiation we aren't even aware of. Something they use, or something incidental.." he stopped as she looked away again.

Away from him.

*That was it*. She didn't want to look at *him*.

With silent tread he walked over and touched her shoulder. She jumped, and he grimaced. It wasn't like her, to be nervous around him. Going around to the front of her desk, he crouched on the floor before it and stared at her across the bare surface.

"What did I do?" he said softly. Trying to keep his voice neutral, to make his eyes blank, empty of emotion. Hands twisted between his legs, out of sight. "We haven't spent much time together lately, I know..."

She looked at him, and he couldn't read her expression. A first.

"It's nothing." she said softly. "I've just got things on my mind." her voice was soft, but her eyes were darting, as if she was looking for an escape.

"Tell me." he didn't dare any more than that.

She didn't answer, looking down at the desktop, away from him.

"Maybe we could take a walk..." he suggested. Maybe she would talk about it away from the office and the ears they knew were listening. They were pushing the limits already. "I'll bring the file and we can discuss it in more - pleasant surroundings."

Her nod was all he needed.

They went to the elevator, Mulder a half-step behind her, his hand hovering at the small of her back, not quite touching.

*What was bothering her*? he asked himself as she pushed the button and they waited. *Was it their relationship? It had been a week since they were *together*. Did she want more now? Did she want to end it?*

Feeling him there, hovering, protecting her as best he could, as he always did, she felt a sudden relief. *I'm going to tell him. It can't be any worse than agonizing over it alone...He has a right to know.* she thought, glad to have made that decision.

The elevator light blipped on and they waited for the door to open.

*Then I won't have to decide alone*. she allowed herself to finish the thought. And the door slid open.

"Agent Scully, Agent Mulder." AD Skinner stood in the metal box. He looked...concerned. Yes, that was it, Mulder decided. Concerned, and perhaps angry.

He began scrolling back through his memory to find whatever it was he had done so he could apologize and they could get out of here to talk.

Skinner surprised him by ignoring him, looking instead at Scully.

"I was wondering if you could join me for lunch, Agent Scully." he said, with such a flat intonation that her heart sank and she thought, despair filling her. *He knows*.

He heard Scully give a little gasp and *felt* her shrink against him. No more than an inch, but enough for him to know that she didn't want to talk to him.

And maybe enough for Skinner to notice it.

"We were just going to clear this case, sir." he spoke up, gleefully risking Skinner's anger for his Scully.

"I would like to, sir." she said as soon as the words left Mulder's mouth, pulling the rug out. "Would you mind if Agent Mulder joins us?" she pried delicately.

"I was hoping to discuss a...personal matter, Agent Scully." his dark eyes said it clearly. He definitely knew.

"I have no secrets from my partner, sir." she met his eyes and he blinked. Whether it was shock or disappointment, she couldn't tell. Perhaps both.

"Perhaps you should." Skinner sounded vaguely accusing as he stepped back to make room for them in the elevator. Scully got in and Mulder followed, keeping himself between them. He thought loudly as the doors closed. *What the hell was going on*?

Instead of walking to one of the familiar places close by Skinner insisted that he drive them to a place he knew.

"It's worth the drive." he said as he started the car. "Very quiet, and perfectly *clean*."

Saying nothing, Mulder sat in the back and stared at the back of Scully's head, silently urging her to turn and smile at him. Scold him. *Something*.

She looked straight ahead the whole half-hour drive.

"Here we are." the waiter, a young black man, undoubtedly gay, showed them to a small table screened by plants.

Mulder pulled out Scully's chair and both men waited until she was seated before sitting themselves. She wasn't surprised at this old-world courtesy coming from Skinner. Very military.

Skinner picked up a menu and studied it while she looked around. This wasn't the sort of place she had thought Skinner would frequent, expensive and very french, somber colors and discreet staff in suits, but the matre'de had greeted him by name and title.

She hoped it was as *clean* as he claimed.

"Would you like me to order for you, Agent Scully?" his voice caught her by surprise. She'd been brooding again.

"Please, sir." she answered. Mulder frowned over his menu.

"Sir, what is this about?" he said suddenly, loudly. Scully sighed. The tension was getting to him.

""I would prefer to wait until after we've eaten." Skinner said slowly, anger masked. "The food deserves your attention."

"I don't think I'll be able to eat." Mulder responded in the same tone.

Skinner glanced at Scully, who nodded.

"My intention was to speak with Agent Scully alone." Skinner said quietly. "But she obviously wants you here, and you may be able to answer a question for me."

They were both staring at him, but Mulder kept darting little glances at Scully. The set of her jaw, the acceptance of her gaze told him that she already knew what Skinner wanted. Or thought she did, and it amounted to the same thing.

The waiter stepped up but Skinner waved him away.

"I received a disturbing piece of email this morning, Agent Scully." he began. "Unsigned, and I can't trace it. The information in it was confidential, and it concerned both of you."

Mulder was looking alarmed but resigned, and her expression didn't changes, telling them both now that she knew what this was about.

Skinner looked as uncomfortable as a man of his dignity could. "This is difficult for me, Agent Scully. I want to say now that I do not want an answer right away. I want you to take 24 hours to think about it. We will meet again for lunch tomorrow and then, *only then*, you may answer me. Is that understood?" a bit of the marine command crept into his voice and she nodded, once.

Skinner paused, seemed to be gathering words.

At last, he spoke.

"Agent Scully. Are you pregnant?"

Mulder felt the world crash down and his heart stop. Hearing his gasp Skinner and Scully stared at him

The blood had drained from his face, leaving him ghastly pale. Scully wondering with clinical detachment if he was going to faint.

"Agent Mulder? Are you well?" Skinner's voice had an edge to it.

Grabbing his glass and gulping water, Mulder managed a strangled affirmative. Skinner turned back to Scully, who was pale but not startled.

She nodded at him, with a small, tight smile, her hands very still, clenched on the tablecloth.

"Is Agent Mulder the father?" Skinner's voice was low but snapped with some emotion she couldn't identify.

He held up a hand though she didn't begin to answer.

"*That* is the question I want you to answer, Agent Scully. The question I want you to take *the time* to answer."

She nodded again, feeling Mulder's eyes on her, wide and hurt.

"Scully, you're pregnant?" Mulder was acutely aware of Skinner's gaze on him, tried desperately to show nothing other than partner-ly concern, not knowing if he succeeded. The shock he had felt ran so deep he felt numb.

"Yes, Mulder." her voice was perhaps softer than it should have been, but that could be blamed on the circumstances.

Skinner waved at the waiter, who almost dashed over. He ordered for all of them, looking at the menu while Scully met Mulder's eyes.

*Sorry* she mouthed, allowing a bit of her fear to show through.

*I love you* it was the perfect response at the worst possible time, but he couldn't say it out loud. Her eyes told him that she'd heard it in her heart.

Skinner was studiously studying his napkin as he unfolded it.

Lunch was delicious, but none of them tasted anything.

** part#3 - saved

By unspoken mutual consent they didn't leave the office early. Scully sat at her desk and finished an overdue report. Mulder sat at his desk and pretended to read a stack of files.

Then it was 6:00 and they walked out into the evening heat, without speaking to each other once.

"My place?" she asked as they stood, not looking at each other.

"Mine was *cleaned* yesterday*." his response was short and clipped. Was he mad at her?


Because she hadn't told him? Because Skinner knew first? Or simply because she *was* pregnant?

Well, she was going to find out.

"Now." she said firmly. He finally looked at her, but his eyes were so guarded she couldn't read them.

"Yes." his voice was soft and she relaxed a tiny bit inside. "now."

His apartment was dark and cold. The air conditioner was working for once and he was taking advantage of it, leaving it on constantly in doomed hope the cool would stay after it inevitably broke again.

"You want anything?" he asked as he shut the door, turning to the tiny kitchen.

She sat on the battered couch, one hand stroking the blanket folded so neatly on the back.

"Some tea would be nice." she said.

"Decaf." his grin was a flash, gone too quickly.

He brought back two mugs and the honey.

"I cheated." he admitted. "Microwave."

"S'okay." she took hers gingerly, surprised to find it wasn't hot, adding a spoonful of honey and stirring.

"Poured it into another one." he explained, noticing, understanding.

They were quiet.

"So." he didn't look at her.

"So." she looked at him.

More silence, but at least now they were looking at each other. His eyes were still dark and unreadable, hers shining softly.

"Whatever happens, Mulder..." she sighed. "I want you to know I'm happy about this."

"Really?" he turned to her convulsively, grabbing her hands and holding them close to his chest. "I...I..."

"That doesn't mean I'm keeping it." she said quickly, wanting it to be clear.

Her words had a stunning effect on him. He pushed himself off the couch and backed to the wall on the other side of the small room, arms crossed convulsively, hands clutching his shoulders, head down.

"*Why not*?" a defensive whisper. She heard the hurt in it, felt it as if it were her own.

She wished he would look at her, just meet her eyes while she tried to explain, but the floor had his visual attention now.

She hoped he was at least listening. She tried to put all of her worry, her fear into her words so he would *understand*.

"I don't know what they did to me, Mulder. They may have changed me. They may have *hurt* me. Is it right for me to have a baby when I know something may be wrong with it?"

His voice was hard and flat. "It's your body, you decide."

More hurt, she tried to keep it out of her voice.

"It's *our* decision, Mulder. I wouldn't keep you out of this."

*It's too important* she thought, wanting him to hear the words without her having to *say* them.

He didn't respond. She got up and went to him, touching his face gently, but he pulled away from her hand, actually took a step back away from her.

"What is it?" she whispered. "There's more to this."

"It has nothing to do with you." he answered, still not looking at her, arms across his chest, hands on his shoulders, a posture she had come to recognize, Mulder trying to make himself feel better because no one else would. Trying to comfort himself.

It broke her heart to imagine him younger, standing like this, no one loving him enough to see his pain.

Sometimes she wondered if anyone had *ever* hugged him when he was little.

"I didn't think you wanted children, Mulder."

"*Your* children, Scully? *Yours*." It was so soft, so sad. The words floated in the room. "Anything, Scully. For *your* children."

"Oh, Mulder." she reached for him but he moved again. Now he was in the corner, trapped, leaning back, breath coming faster. Was he still here, in this room with her? She wanted him to face her, stepped up, inches between them. "*Fox*. What is it? What's *wrong*?"

Her use of his name seemed to break some barrier in him but he fought it, biting his lip until she was sure he would draw blood, wedging himself tighter into the corner.

She reached and placed hand on his arm, knowing he wouldn't allow more,but it was enough. He could feel it there like a brand, and the warmth of it radiated through his body. And he could speak; slowly, painfully.

"I hated her by then, but I still wanted her..." he began, and stopped. Began again, his voice cracking. "She told me...and I begged her to give it to me, *begged* her, Scully, told her she wouldn't have to do anything but *have* it..."

"*Phoebe*." her anger at this woman, a constant dark spot in her heart, rose in her. Murder was too good.

He didn't answer, but she knew.

"She said she would wait...and then she did it anyhow." his voice failed, a harsh whisper, and he raised one hand to wipe his eyes, still not looking at her.

Afraid to reach for him, not knowing if he would welcome her comfort, Scully stood, indecisive, her hand still.

Then she made a decision. The hard one. It was the right thing, and she'd known it all along. No matter what may have been done to her, no matter how it screwed up their lives.

"I'm having this baby." she said steadily. "We just have to find a way to keep it from destroying us."

He looked up, caught her eyes. His were still wet with the tears he wouldn't shed.

"I'm *sorry*, Scully!" he said at last. "I should have been more careful."

"We *were* careful. This is always a possibility." she leaned against his chest, felt relief when his arms came around her. His head was on her shoulder, in her hair, and it felt good to be held.

"What are we going to do?" he wasn't whining or panicking. Just asking. Too tired, too scared to think.

"I don't know." she answered, wanting to be held, to stop thinking about it, just for a while. "*I don't know*."

They held onto each other for a while, and then went to the couch. Mulder picked up the phone, ordered takeout, and snuggled her close, wanting only to hold her long enough to feel better...

The doorbell rang a few minutes later.

"That can't be the food." she said, her face buried in his shirt. She moved reluctantly to let him get up.

"Worse." he said, opening the door. She could have sworn she heard laughter in his voice, however unlikely that was. "It's the cha-cha chump. Your timing sucks." he told the person on the other side bitterly.

She stood, too, and then frowned as he opened the door wider and another, smaller man stepped in.

"Ru!" she was startled to see him. Going to him, she offered him a hug, and felt him against her, strong and well. "How are you?" it was a good question, considering the last time she'd seen him he'd been bleeding to death from a belly-ripping gunshot wound.

He set her back and sniffed loudly. "No food?"

"Not cooked, and you're not allowed the raw stuff." Mulder answered, not unfriendly, just distracted.

"I'm fine." the dark, slender man smiled at her. "Sorry to scare you like that, Dana. It was kind of a weird time for me."

"Uhuh." she wasn't going to let him get away with that. "You going to explain it now?"

Mulder shut the door while they went to the couch.

"Actually," Dancer sat with that damnable grace, looking so perfectly himself that Mulder wanted, briefly, to shoot him, "- I'm here to help you."

"Help us how?" Mulder asked sharply. *What was going on now*?

"I know you're in a...situation." he said it carefully, looking at both of them, putting them together with his eyes.

"Excuse me?" Dana snapped. "Where did you hear that?"

"You shouldn't pay so much attention to rumors." Mulder added sharply.

Leaning back with a suddenly feral smile at him, Dancer shrugged.

"No rumor. A little illegal tap, maybe, but no rumor. *Yet*." he stressed the last.

"Illegal *tap*?" Scully looked incredulous. "You've got a tap on *Skinner*?"

"His computer." Dancer nodded, enjoying this but very serious now. "I found out when he did."

"*How*?" Dana practically screamed. "How did *he* find out?! Who *told* him?"

Dancer didn't flinch before her rage, and Mulder moved closer, to put a reassuring arm around her.

"Let him finish." he whispered to her, wondering if Dancer could hear him. "I think he's trying to help."

"Yes." Dancer said softly and Mulder wondered if he could read minds as well. "I only want to help, Dana. I think I have a solution you can live with."

The bell rang again and he reached for her hand.

"Sit down. We can eat and discuss this." he said softly, his voice carrying, soothing.

Mulder got the door, paid for the food, brought it back to the table and handed it out. He'd ordered a lot.

"Chopsticks?" he offered them to Dancer with a quick grin.

"Thanks." Dancer took them and used them with evidence of practice. Mulder sighed. It seemed like he was good at *everything*.

"I can't eat." Dana said suddenly, dropping her sticks and putting her carton down. "How did you tap Skinner's computer?"

"You *need* to eat." Dancer picked up the sticks and put them back in her hand, placing the food in the other. "I'll explain it, but only if you eat."

He stared until she took a small bite.

It was good and she *was* hungry. She swallowed and took another.

Mulder felt oddly left out.

"So talk." he said sharply.

"Okay." Dancer's tone was placating, but he paused.

There was a minute of quiet as they ate, Dancer gathering his thoughts, looking for a place to start.

"You know I'm not your average Joe." he said finally. "I can't tell you about myself or about my life."

"It's against the rules." Mulder.

"I *can* tell you that what you do -- the two of you -- is important to me and my family."

"Your cousins, too?" Mulder asked, his grin staying a few seconds longer this time.

"Especially to my *cousins*." Dancer grinned back, and his stayed. "You've helped us twice now, and we protect our friends."

He took another bite of the cashew chicken, chewed thoughtfully, swallowed. Mulder took a bite as well.

Dana kept eating as she listened. She hadn't realized how hungry she was. *Was this normal*? She tamped the thought down -- if she started worrying about everything she'd be a basket case by morning.

"I took it upon myself to take a few precautions that you -- being who and where you are -- weren't able to." Dancer continued, meeting both their eyes in turn.

Illegal precautions. It didn't have to be said aloud.

"I knew the two of you would end up together. It was so obvious I didn't even *try*." his smile was reserved for Scully now. "I was afraid something like this would happen." he didn't say what, they all knew. "So, last month, I asked for a transfer. Here."

"You want to work here?" Dana asked, feeling stupid. "How will that help?"

"We'll say the baby is mine." he said it so simply.

Dana's face froze.

Mulder was thoughtful.

Dancer ate some more.

"The timing works, I think. If not we can fudge it. Skinner thought we were dating, we even *encouraged* that, so he can't discount it as a possibility. And I know someone who can fix any tests they might run..." he stopped as he saw Dana's face.

She was livid. Furious. *Enraged*.

"Dana?" hesitant as he noticed her reaction.

"You *man*." she snarled, standing suddenly, knocking over her food. "You think I need you to lie for me? You think I need you to *take care of this* for ME?!"

Mulder stood quickly, glaring at Dancer, warning him off when he made to follow her into the hallway darkness.

She wouldn't face him.

"Scully..." he said softly. "He's right. It's a good solution. *Think* about it. If they don't know it's mine, then it will be safer. *Our baby* will be safer."

He didn't say safe, because they both knew that they weren't safe anymore. But maybe *safer*.

They won't try to take it to hurt me. Not like they would if they knew it was mine.

"Mulder...!" her voice cracked with the pain of betrayal. "You said *anything...for my baby. *Anything*, Mulder. Didn't you mean it?"

"I meant it, of course I meant it." he whispered, pulling her stiff against his chest. *Anything but lose you*.

Dancer was studying his food as if it were very, very interesting.

"I want this baby, I want *our baby*. But I couldn't stand losing it the way I lost Samantha..." and there's nothing to stop them from taking it...his eyes told her as she looked back and up at him. "If they think we aren't as close, if they think you're in love with someone else, if we give them *proof*, then maybe they'll back off." maybe they'll concentrate on me.

The sobs started deep in her belly and rolled out, her soul being torn from its moorings.

"Why?" she went back to Dancer, stood in front of him, he was still looking carefully at his food. He met her eyes. "Why would you do this for me?" For us?

"I like you." his smile was sweet and guileless. "And someday I may need something from you." His eyes made it clear that he wasn't talking about anything they wouldn't be willing to give.

"How would we do it?" Mulder asked quietly.

"They already think I asked for a transfer because I wanted to be closer to her." Dancer said reasonably. "When she tells them this they'll speed it up. We can get a place together and make it look good."

"And what about me?" Mulder sounded suddenly lost. With a a glance Scully saw his fear, hovering beneath the calm surface. he would hold it in forever, she knew, if she wanted him to, needed him to. "What do I do? Bow out? Stay away? Let you marry her?"

Dana shook her head fiercely, and Dancer grimaced.

"I don't want to marry her, Mulder. Living together will be enough. They'll buy that."

With quiet firmness Dana objected.

"Mulder has to be part of the baby's life. Someday we'll be able to tell him the truth and he has to know Mulder. Has to *love* him." she gave him a mischievous sideways grin that told him she was loved their baby already.

"Him?" Mulder said stupidly.

"It's going to be a boy." she didn't even glance at him, still staring at Dancer, daring him to argue with her. "How long?"

"Until the danger's past." Dancer shrugged. "I can give you a few years. Maybe more."

"What about your life?" she was concerned now. "Do you want to *pretend* and still see other women?"

His eyes hardened, flint-like. He looked suddenly dangerous, startling her.

"I will never take another mate, Dana. Sierra was the only one for me. I know people say that -" he stopped her objection with a sharp look, "- but in my case it's biological. We mate for life. Period."

Mulder was thinking that over as Dancer continued and almost missed the rest.

"Maybe we could find a place *together*." the darker man said softly, musing.

"Oh, that would look *great*." Dana snorted half-heartedly. "I'm sure they'll buy if Mulder's living with us."

"Close would be enough." Mulder said hopefully(?). "Adjoining apartments. A house with a garage apartment I could take. Just something where I could come and go unseen."

"Easier said than found." Dancer commented. "But it might work."

"It has to." Scully said, getting up and crossing to Mulder, now sitting in the armchair. He held out his arms and she slid into them, snuggling on his lap, burrowing to his chest.

"Tired?" he whispered as Dancer took the hint, getting up to clear the table, making himself busy in the kitchen.

"All the time." she admitted, feeling his hands gentle on her body, one smoothing her hair. "This won't work, Mulder." she sighed.

"It has to." he lifted her chin with a finger, kissing her softly. "I can't see any other solution. Except you leave me and the X-Files. And that still won't protect the baby. They took you, Scully. They could take him."

He had frightened her, and so he spent the next few minutes kissing it away, until she lay her head back on his chest and closed her eyes. His hands continued the stroking, soothing, until her weight and breathing told him she was asleep.

They sat that way a long time. He watched the numbers on the clock turn.

Dancer came back in after a while, stood over them, looking down. Mulder met his eyes, his hands clasped around her soft form.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked quietly.

Dancer shrugged.

"I need a cause. A reason to live. I like you."

Mulder's face said he thought there was more to it than that, but he accepted it.

"This will be hard for you." Dancer commented, sitting back on the couch, feet on the coffee table.

"Just keep the public displays of affection to a minimum, okay?" Mulder tried to grin but it wouldn't come.

"I'll be a model boyfriend." Dancer did grin and suddenly Mulder could, too. Understanding warmed the space between them.

"I'd better let you take her back to her place." Mulder sighed and started to shift, but Dancer shook his head.

"They already know I'm in town. Let them think she called me and waited over here because she didn't want to be alone when she told me. If she falls asleep and I decide not to disturb her because she's so tired, that's our business." his words made Scully his responsibility, a twinge of pain in Mulder's heart.

"They're going to stick me in Cold Cases." Dancer continued. "It's all they've got open. I'll take it, but it will mean traveling a lot. Of course her *dedicated* partner will be here to take care of her when I'm not."

Mulder understood.

"Thank you." he said softly. "I may not be able to say it later..."

"It depends on your mood." Dancer nodded. "I understand." He stood, stretching leanly.

"Running tonight?" Mulder asked, curiosity coloring the words vividly.

Dancer smiled, nodded.

"Every night I can." he said, and slipped out the door.

He knew Mulder would be awake to let him back in later.

And Mulder knew it too.

part#4 - planned

"We'll see him as soon as we get in." Scully said as she went into her bedroom to change. It was early. She had spent the whole night on Mulder's lap in the living room chair, part of it with Dancer a few feet away on the couch. Her lover probably hadn't slept at all, but he looked okay. He had woken her to bring her home and let her shower and change before work, following her into the bedroom while Dancer rifled her kitchen looking for food.

"He eats more than I do." Mulder commented as he closed the door behind himself and leaned against it, watching her with bright eyes. His face was still but not expressionless, and the dark circles under his eyes weren't as bad as she'd seen them before.

"Mulder." she said, looking pointedly at the door.

"You want me to leave it open?" he feigned innocence. "Dana..."

He wanted to look at her. She was slightly annoyed, but knew he was looking for reassurance, gave in with a shrug.

"I won't look so good a few months from now." she warned him as she stripped gracefully, dirty clothes hitting the floor. She *never* dropped clothes on the floor, but he was there, picking them up, as she went into the bathroom, leaving the door open. His hands full with her linen suit and underthings, he rubbed his face in the soft blue silk of her blouse for a second before following her, dropping the clothes in the hamper, draping the blouse over the hook on the back of the door. She handwashed her own silk, he knew that now.

The bathroom was steamy and all he could make out was a general outline of her form. He would love to join her, but two things stopped him.

He didn't think she wanted him now.

He didn't know if it was safe for the baby.

He stared when she came out, thinking he could see the first small changes in her, wanting so badly to reach out and touch her, test them. The urge was so strong he put his hands behind his back like a naughty child trying to resist candy, feeling deeply that he didn't deserve it, that he'd lost that right.

Drying off with a large green bathsheet, she noticed, and smiled.

"I'll have to get a regular doctor and ask some questions soon, won't I?" she said teasingly.

"Yeah." he smiled softly, pleased that she was happy today, not wanting her to worry about him, not catching the meaning behind the question. "That would be a good idea."

"Dancer will have to go to some of them." she added, going back to the bedroom to dress. Behind her he grimaced.

"I know. But I'll go when he's not here."

"And you can both do Lamaze with me...in case he's out of town when the baby comes."

They both knew the baby might never come. Either or both of them could have had their genes twisted round at some point. But they didn't need to talk about that now, and so they didn't.

Choosing a soft red knit dress instead of a suit, she slipped it on over a lacy slip. "I think I'm making a statement today." she faced him. "What do you think?"

His eyes covered her in a bare second.

"Wonderful." he breathed it between his teeth.

"Time, guys!" Dancer's voice rattled through the door. Mulder closed his eyes as if in pain and gave his head a hard shake.

"If he wasn't bailing us out I'd have to shoot him." he grumbled, opening the door and holding it for Scully.

"Better use a silver bullet." her comment made the men exchange glances. Dancer looked discomfited and Mulder grinned at him.

"Agent Dancer." Skinner looked up with surprise as the three of them walked into his office, Mulder separated from the others by several feet. "I wasn't expecting you for several more weeks."

Dancer was either a very good actor or he'd bought into his role, Mulder thought. He might still have to kill him.

Taking Dana's hand in his and gently interlacing their fingers, Dancer gave Skinner his 'goofy' grin.

"I couldn't stay away with news like this."

Dana blushed faintly and Mulder ground his teeth, very glad Skinner was staring at the two of them and not glancing his direction.

Skinner stood, came around the desk, and studied the closely.

Dana was definitely blushing. She never had lied well, Mulder thought, but under these circumstances it actually helped.

"Do you have something official to tell me, Agent Scully?" Skinner crossed his arms and rocked back on his heels. Finally he spared Mulder a glance.

Agent Mulder's face was set, hard and closed, his eyes dark, his hands at his sides.

But he looked like that all the time.

Not getting any information there, Skinner looked back at Scully and Dancer.

"Are congratulations in order?" he inquired politely.

"You can congratulate us on the baby." Dancer said with a wider smile. "But I haven't convinced her to make an honest man of me yet."

"Like that's possible." Scully muttered. "I trust you won't mind if I cancel our lunch plans, sir?" she asked pointedly.

Skinner stared at them for a minute, then looked at Mulder again.

"How about you, Agent Mulder? You want to have lunch with me? I'm sure we could find something to talk about."

"Thank you, sir, no, sir." Mulder said slowly and carefully.

"Well. We'll need to make some arrangements, Agent Scully, and Agent Dancer, your transfer hasn't been approved yet, but I'll see what I can do to push it through."

"Thank you, sir." Dancer practically saluted the guy. He was better at kissing up than Mulder could ever hope to be.

They left as a group, Dancer still holding Scully's hand and others noticing, whispering as they passed.

"You may wish you weren't associated with us." Scully warned him with a sigh.

"Never." he promised effusively, and Mulder almost threw up.

"I've got to get some air." he said suddenly, turning around and walking away from them.

"Mulder..." she called after him once, but he ignored it and kept doing.

"Space." Dancer's voice was in her ear as he leaned over her.

"Demons." she agreed.

"But it gives the whole thing credibility." Dancer added with a wicked grin.

By that evening it was apparent that the gossip mill had churned out the story, with an addendum to her relationship with Mulder.

Now no one thought she was sleeping with him (she supposed she was relieved that they didn't think she was the type to sleep around like that), now they thought she had *dumped* him for Dancer. There were a lot of reasons bandied about, but his moodiness and weirdness were the most oft-cited.

Now everyone thought she'd dumped Mulder for Dancer.

There was a new pool set up...how long she and Dancer would last.

The odds were twice as good as they had been on her and Mulder.

And a whole new pot with wildcard odds: how long it would be before Mulder; a) got himself fired, b) killed Dancer or c) killed himself.

*b)* had the most takers, but c) was a close second.

part#5 - executed

*Three days*

He went into his apartment, not bothering to lock the door behind himself, barely even shutting it. He needed to be alone, in the dark, so badly that it didn't matter. If a shadow government assassin walked in right now with a gun he'd welcome him and offer coffee.

If they drank coffee.

It had been three days since they began this subterfuge. Three days of watching Scully and Dancer at work. Three days of pitying looks and sarcastic comments in the cafeteria, three days of *time*.

Time to think, time to brood, time to understand that life as he knew it was over. He had a new life now, with more people to be responsible for. More people that could be hurt getting to him.

He didn't like this new life.

Didn't much want it.

But it was here, and he had to deal with it.

It wasn't so much the baby, he thought as he curled up on his couch, the only light in the room coming from the TV. It was knowing how badly a kid could be screwed up and how capable he was of doing just that. If there was ever a worse choice to become a parent, he couldn't think of one.

*Serial killers excepted, of course*.

The dark humor almost made him smile, but he crushed the urge ruthlessly. He didn't *deserve* to smile, not after what he'd done.

He should have left it alone.

When he'd found out the truth of what had happened between him and Scully on that road to New Mexico, he should have filed it in the mental box labeled 'to be forgotten' and left it there.


How could something, someone so wonderful hurt so much, without even trying. She looked at him and nothing else mattered. Not Samantha, not his mother, nothing. *As long as she would look at him like that*.

But she didn't always. She was too strong, too savvy for that mistake. She gave him what he needed and then pulled back, made him work for the rest.

He couldn't live without her anymore.

That was one truth he hadn't wanted to find.

The couch was too warm, the room stuffy. He felt restless, shivery nerves edgy.

Sitting, he rocked, trying to calm himself.

Standing, he paced, short, hard steps that rang on the floor.

Against the wall he leaned, his head going back with a thud.


That felt good. He banged it again, harder, the impact driving thoughts out of his mind, leaving it empty for the first time in days.

Bang. Bang. Bang. The sound was comforting, solid.

He'd done this before, he remembered. After Samantha was gone. When nothing else had helped.

Bang, bang, bang. A cloud of tiny paint particles sifted down as he watched the floor.

That had been a dark time and he'd been full of dark silence. His father ignored him, his mother sank into frailty, he'd been a boy alone, more alone than ever before in his life, and the pain had helped him survive it. Gave him something to feel; the cuts and burns and bruises defining his life off and on until he got out of that house.

*Bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bangkf-!* The last sound wasn't a comforting *thud* but a dull, disjointed *crack* as the sheetrock gave.

With an effort he snapped his head forward, neck burning with whiplash, resting his chin on his chest, feeling the pain beginning to seep down from his abraded scalp to his tired brain, taking up possibly permanent residence there.

The pain that replaced the emotion he was afraid to feel now. As it had replaced the emotion he *couldn't* feel then.

His head was throbbing now, a deep black pain that blotted out the ability of thought. Stumbling, he half-fell onto the couch and closed his eyes, welcoming it.

Pain was something he knew. Something he understood.

If he could *do* this. If he could stand *this*.

He could deal with anything else that came.

"Hi, Scully."

Dana looked up as her partner and co-conspirator walked in. He was a little late, but maybe he'd gotten some sleep. She hoped.

He looked better. She got up from her desk, went to meet him, gave him a quick unofficial hug that he returned gently.

He hadn't touched her since they had started this charade. She leaned into it, eager for his warmth.

He held her for many long minutes, then pushed her gently away with a small grin.

"We've got to quit meeting like this."

"We haven't met like this in ages." she dared a small scold and was relieved when he smiled back, apologizing with his eyes, his mobile mouth, his hands stroking her shoulders tenderly.

"I know." was all he said.

"My first pre-natal appointment is this morning." she said softly. He could hear how badly she wanted him there, and this time he didn't shy from it, but agreed.

"Since Tango Tom is still out in Arizona I guess you'll just have to make do with your poor, pathetic partner." his self- mockery was firmly in place as he released her.

"Mulder." she sighed as she gathered her coat and purse. "You have never been pathetic. Patronizing, paranoid and pitiful I'll give you. But never pathetic."

He held the door and they walked out.

"Isn't pitiful the same as pathetic?" he teased gently.

As she responded in kind Scully rejoiced inwardly. He was better. Calmer, centered, really there with her. It was like he'd decided this was important enough to put aside his fears and live it.

She was so glad.

part#6 - learned

"Everything looks good, Ms.Scully." Dr.Hall said with a smile, leading a now dressed Scully back into her office. "Shall I call your partner?"

Scully's call to her office had come as a surprise, but she had been truly pleased to take her as a regular patient though her schedule was tight. "Mr. Mulder?" she opened the door at Dana's nod. "You can come in now."

Looking as nervous as an expectant father and trying hard not to, Mulder did, sitting next to scully. He checked his hand just before it moved to reach for hers.

Dr.Hall sat behind the desk, pulling out a scheduling book.

"Is the father -- Mr.Dancer, you said, right? - going to miss many appointments?" she asked in a totally non-judgemental tone. "If he is you'll probably want to pick an alternate for your childbirth classes."

"Mulder will do it." Scully said with a smile that taunted him. He groaned inwardly, running a hand through his hair at the thought, the slight tough causing a burst of pain from his bruised scalp. He concentrated on the pain as the women talked.

"Usually a woman picks her mother." Dr.Hall commented. "It's not always a circumstcance you want as part of a professional relationship." she was smiling kindly, trying gently to warn Dana that perhaps Mulder wasn't the best choice for this. He didn't look like he was willing to be here, much less *there* when the child was born.

"I'll do whatever Scully needs." he said shortly with a flash of the smile women cried for. Dr.Hall wasn't immune, her returning grin would've made Dana jealous under other circumstances.

"Okay, then." she said with a that's-settled look, going back to her book. "We need to get you in for a sonogram to determine exactly how far along you are, and we'll need blood samples from you and the father, if you want to do the basic genetic testing. I always recommend it." now she shut the book, looking at Scully seriously, reassurance in her eyes. "I believe it's always better to know ahead of time if your baby is carrying or will develop a genetic illness. It gives you information to make decisions with."

Dana glanced at Mulder, who was biting his lip, teeth caught on the full curve of it.

He shrugged.

"It might make you feel better about that other thing." he said hesitantly.

"Yes." her agreement left Dr.Hall feeling in the dark.

"Is there a possible problem I should know about?"

"No." they both said too quickly.

"If there is going to be a problem with this baby I need to know so I can make good decisions for both of you." the doctor persisted. Scully shrugged, arms around her belly, sitting straight.

"I had a strange experience a while back." she said softly. "I think something may have been - *done* - to me during that time...but there's no evidence of that."

Dr.Hall stared at both of them.

"You're not going to exlain that, are you?"

"Sorry." Mulder treated her to another grin with his shrug.

Okay, so she could get jealous under these circumstances, Dana admitted.

"Then I won't ask." the doctor stood, held out her hand, shook theirs in turn. "My secretary, Susan, will schedule your sonogram for you and give you the adress and dirrections to the lab I use. Test results can take up to three weeks, so I suggest you get Mr.Dancer in there as soon as you can." she paused with a smile. "You call me with any questions, Dana. Anytime. My service will put you through."

"Thank you." Dana was grateful. It had been a stroke of luck when she picked this name out of the phonebook.

"And you keep her from getting shot." Dr.Hall admonished Mulder.

"She'd the one usually doing the shooting." Mulder teased and Dana smiled, but frowned at his next question. "How long is it safe for her to remain in the field?"

"Until she's not comfortable with it or I'm not." Hall answered before she had a chance to object. She walked them to the door and stoppped as she opened it. "Does your Mr.Dancer have a first name? It helps to have something else to put in the record." it was said with mild amusement and Dana blushed faintly. Mulder grimaced.

"Ru." Dana said softly, giving a very good impression of a woman in love. "Ruarke."

"I didn't think anyone was actually named that outside of romance novels." Hall said with a laugh. "Susan will help you now."

The appointment made, they left.

Mulder rubbed his head a lot in the car. Scully wondered if he was getting dandruff. Noticing her curious glance, he said; "New shampoo. Think I'm allergic." and she smiled.

Title: Walls 08 - Stacking Boulders
Author: Saraid
Rated R
Category SR
Archived 96-11-11
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance. Author's note from Saraid: Obviously all of my readers respond well to threats ! I've gotten a lot of mail, but let me say it again: if you don't write I won't. Summaries are now posted at Kelsy's, up to the current story -- no hints!

I'll be taking a break after this one to pursue more commercial projects. Part 9 should be up by the end of December (sorry!:) -- if it's not, write me and bitch so I'll get to it. Recent editing of the storyline says there will only be 11 parts now.

details - Isclaimerdae: esethay aractersche elongbay otae ischray Artercae ndday entae irteenthay roductionspae. Onay ffenseoae isay ntendediae, Iay ustjae antway otae laypay ithwae hemtay orfae aey ilewhae. Eythay illwae ebay eturnedrae harmedunay nddae ossiblypay apperierhae. Ymay anksthae otay Illiangae Dersonanday nddae Avidday Uchovnydae orfay ivinggae emay osae anymay reatgae ingsthay otae orkway ithwae. Kayoay? (hey, nobody said it had to be in english)

Taking votes on baby names...girl *and* boy. Send me your suggestions and I'll compile them to tag onto a later story.

Big THANKS to Rhonnda and Elizabeth, two great correspondents! And *DOUBLE* to Stef, for duty above and beyond; The sono scenario was *her* idea, I just fleshed it out...

I rate this R for language and content. MSR, mostly MSA, and *Dancer*. If you haven't read the first seven parts, I give up. You're a lost cause and you shouldn't be here. Shoo! Shoo! Come back when you know what's going on! :)

part#1 - one on top of another

The clock read 10:08 a.m. when Mulder glanced up from his research to see his stoic, composed, unflappable partner lurch from her chair and dashed out of the office.


With a sigh he pushed himself away from his desk, opening the second left-hand drawer -- the shallow one where he used to keep his junk food stash -- and pulled a clean washcloth from the pile stacked there, next to the paper cups. He took a cup, too. As he closed the drawer he scraped his raw palm, the one he had roughed with a pumice stone last night, across the edge. The stinging pain was soothing.

The sound of tortured retching hung in the air as he walked into the ladies room. Scully was the only woman on this level and the place was all her's, he wasn't worried about anyone objecting to his presence.

He was worried about Scully.

Leaning on a sink on her elbows she hunched over and tried to catch her breath. He saw that she hadn't turned on the water this time. Her hair hung limply around her face. Stepping up behind her he brushed it back with gentle fingers, leaned to turn on the tap, then put an arm around her waist as another spasm racked her slender frame.

Wetting the cloth in the next sink, Mulder folded it and lay it across the back of her neck, then held her quietly while she finished, setting the cup on the edge where she could reach it.

After a while -- he wasn't sure if it had been ten minutes or twenty -- she rinsed her mouth several times and then straightened. She swayed and he pulled her close, then simply lifted her in his arms, cradling her to his chest.

"Put me down." she said, but there was no fight in it. She lay against him, eyes closed.

"Enough's enough Scully." it came out harsher then he'd intended and he deliberately softened it. "Dr. Hall said to take you to the ER if this happened again. You haven't kept anything down in two days. I'm taking you to the hospital."

"No!" she struggled in earnest and he set her carefully on her feet, stepping away from her, watching worriedly as she fought for balance. "I can do my job, Mulder!" she hissed, irrationally angry with him.

"Which one?!" he yelled suddenly. "FBI agent or mother, Scully?" he continued with a whisper, so soft after the outburst. "Which one are you today?"

Shocked, she stared at him, tears filling her eyes. He saw and made an unconscious promise to punish himself for them.

*Damn hormones* Scully thought, wiping her eyes roughly. But his words hurt.

He met her stare and she forgave him when she saw the pain in his eyes, a pain she recognized. He was trying so hard, this was so hard for him, and she wasn't making it any easier.

"You were up all night again." his anger always faded quickly, unless it was directed at himself.

She managed a sickly smile, holding out a hand. He took it and they began walking slowly down the hall.

"Okay." she gave in gracefully., knowing this was hurting him far worse than it hurt her. And he *was* right. Darn it. "I'll call Dr. Hall while you call Skinner."

His grimace made it almost worthwhile.

"Dancer's apartment-hunting." Mulder said flatly into the phone. "He doesn't have a cellular yet."

On hold with the doctor, Scully watched his face twist.

"I'll take very good care of her, sir."

He hung the phone up with exaggerated gentleness, as if he was afraid he would slam it. Scully was going to say something when the secretary came back on.

"Dr. Hall says you should go to Cedar and ask for Dr. Valdez in the ER. He'll be expecting you and she'll be there after office hours."

"I'll get the car." Mulder got up, grabbing his jacket and slinging it on. "Meet me in back."

He left while she quizzed the secretary.

"After office hours? How long will I be there....?"

Cedar was better organized than any ER Mulder had ever been in. They were waiting for Scully, had the paperwork done and a room set aside for her. Good thing, too, because she made him pull over twice in the twenty-minute drive so she could hurl hanging out the door. It was starting to hurt, too, he could tell. She had that 'I'm-not-going-to-bend-over-no-matter-how-bad- it-hurts' posture that he'd used so many times.

"Are you the husband?" a small black nurse stepped in front of him as another woman wheeled Scully down the hall.

"We're not married." he summoned his warmest little-boy grin. As usual, it worked.

"Give us a few minutes to get her changed and then you can come in."

"I'll make a couple of phone calls." he pulled out his cel phone and dialed the office. Dancer should check in soon, he needed to be here to keep their cover.

He held her hand while they got the IV started. She was so dehydrated it took four tries, and she winced a little more with each.

The doctor came and went, it seemed like he was just passing through.

"We'll get some fluids into you and try you on a couple of new anti-nausea medications." he checked the chart and scarcely looked at Scully. Mulder flushed with anger but Scully kept her eyes closed. She was so tired. She didn't ask him any questions or anything, just rolled over for the shot and clutched Mulder's hand.

Fifteen minutes later she opened her eyes and smiled faintly at him.

Sitting on the bed beside her, he leaned close, his lips in her hair.

"This is better." he half-scolded.

"I'll never admit it." she closed her eyes again and sighed deeply, wishing he would hold her. She was cold and felt exposed, vulnerable.

"Mulder." she sighed, pulling her hand from his and wrapping it in is shirt front. "I'm cold..."

He stiffened and began to pull away, she could feel his reluctance. He hadn't *touched* her since they found out three weeks ago.

It was starting to piss her off.

"*Mulder*..." she opened her eyes and there was a threat in her voice.

"Dana! Honey!"

Mulder hopped off the bed as soon as he heard the cheerful voice, Scully releasing him resentfully as Dancer bounded into the room, as usual using far more energy than the action required, the petite black nurse hot on his heels.

"Only immediate family allowed, *sir*!"

"I'm the father!" Ru was by the bed, leaning over, pulling Scully into his arms as he sat. She snuggled close with a grin at Mulder, who shrugged. The short man was so warm...smoothing her hair, he held her.

The nurse glared at Mulder, who didn't care enough to try the grin that might have saved him.

"So who are you?" the words dripped menace.

"Her partner." he shrugged again, leaning against the wall. Experimentally he thumped his head once, softly. He turned his attention back to Dancer as the nurse glared, unsure how to deal with the situation. "Hey." Dancer smiled at him, understanding in his eyes. "Flamenco Fred. I'm headed back to the office. I'm gonna call Margaret and I'll see you tonight."

"No." Scully's voice was muffled against Dancer's thick chest. "Not my mom. I don't want her to worry."

"You're going to have to tell her eventually, Dana." Dancer stroked her hair.

"Not yet." she said insistently and Dancer shrugged at Mulder.

"Soon." Mulder warned.

"I found a place." Dancer said as he left, speaking to his back. "We'll talk about it tonight. Get in early, Mulder!"

Mulder didn't answer and the little nurse watched him all the way to the door.

A note on the office door said that Skinner wanted to see him. In the elevator he did a quick mental review -- the last field report was in, the expense account signed off -- must be a case. Or the AD just felt like yelling at him.

The prospect cheered him disproportionately.

"Agent Mulder." Skinner didn't stand when he came in, a good sign. "How is Agent Scully?"

He wouldn't have called him up here just for that.

"I left the hospital after Agent Dancer arrived, sir. She seemed to be resting comfortably."

"The baby is in no danger?" Skinner was actually concerned.

"I'm under the impression it's just really bad morning sickness." Mulder said calmly. "The doctor says it will stop eventually."

"I'm considering changing her schedule." Skinner shoved a closed file across the desk. "I'm not comfortable, Agent Mulder, with Agent Scully doing field work at this time. As her department head, what is your assessment?"

Mulder answered immediately.

"I agree, sir."

"This case in particular I find disturbing." Skinner added.

Their eyes met and each saw understanding in the other's.

"I will speak with Agent Scully." Skinner said.

"Thank you, sir." Mulder was sincere. Skinner took another file off the stack. Mulder left, skimming the file as he walked, grimacing.

No, this *wasn't* a good one for Scully. Not now.

He let himself into the apartment quietly. He knew Dancer would hear him either way, but he didn't want to wake Scully if she was sleeping.

With a sudden thought he didn't allow himself to finish he stopped with the door half open and looked back and up to the sky, searching for the moon.

Almost hidden by thick grey clouds, it shone dimly, its shape full but irregular.

Hunter's moon. He would have to stay the night.

damn. Scully didn't need him around now. He was too strung out, too tense, anticipating the fight he knew they were going to have tomorrow, and his body was aching to be close to hers.

He went in and looked around. The friendly room seemed dark, and not from a lack of light.

It also seemed to be empty.

Dancer wouldn't have left her alone...

"*Mulder*." he turned quickly and the dark man was there, in front of him though he saw no movement. "*Where have you been*?" his normally soft voice was low and harsh.

"I'm sorry." Mulder was careful to keep his hands where Dancer could see them, he looked just a little bit crazy. It *could* have been the light. "I forgot..." to check the moon? That you needed to go out? What exactly was he supposed to say here?

"*Right*" Dancer drawled. There was a flicker of humor in his glittering eyes, eyes that seemed very yellow right now, especially when compared to their usual placid brown-black.

It must be the light.

"She said to tell you to come to bed." the shorter man flowed past him like water. "Look at the apartment tomorrow -- I left the ad on the table." he reached the door and went around it like a shadow, gone into the night. Mulder listened but didn't hear anything on the usually noisy stairs.

Not that he expected to.

With an effort he pushed Dancer's eccentricities (uh-huh. right) out of his mind, locking up and creeping into the bedroom.

She was curled around a pillow, a shaft of light from the bathroom falling across her face, her hair deep red in the shadow, still looking a little bit pale.

He considered going back and sleeping on the couch, but part of him rebelled.

It was okay. He could handle it.

Telling himself that he stripped to his boxers, then went for a shower. The nausea had made her over-sensitive to smells and it had been a long day.

She came into his arms with sleepy eagerness, pressing herself to him.

"Shhh...Scully." he whispered against her neck, holding her tightly. "You need to rest."

"Mmmm. Mulder." she sighed and relaxed in his arms, back to sleep.

He held her and watched her sleep. And chewed a neat little hole in the middle knuckle of his right first finger, meditatively licking the blood as it slowly oozed.

It helped.

Mulder rolled over and was out of bed with a lunge, abandoning her warmth, reaching blindly for his clothes.

"Mulder?" she was awake, but sleepy and confused.

"I'm late!" he said pulling on pants and shoes.

"Wait for me." she sat up too quickly and groaned. He dropped his shirt and came around the bed to sit beside her.

"Isn't it Saturday?" she managed, looking distinctly green.

Oh. Yeah. "Where'd you put the new meds?"

"Kitchen. By the sink." she whispered. "Ohhh...." he pulled away as she ran for the bathroom.

He got the two brown bottles from the kitchen, nuking a cup of the herbal tea Dr. Hall had recommended. He didn't see Dancer and briefly hoped the other man hadn't gotten into any trouble.

The shower was running. Good. That would make her feel better. He hoped Dancer got back soon, he didn't want to leave her alone, but he had to do the background on this case and catch a flight this afternoon. They were expecting him in San Antonio by 5.

"Want to go look at that place Ru found?" she asked him an hour later as they got into the car. The medicine had kicked right in. She still looked pale but she'd had a cup of tea and a piece of toast with jam that seemed to be sitting well on her stomach.

She looked so fragile in the plain black pantsuit that he had to fight the urge to carry her back up and put her to bed. Telling her about the case was out of the question.

Maybe he could distract her and then she'd go home and rest. He could get the background on the plane.

"Where is it?" he pulled into the morning traffic.

"East forty-second." her tone made it clear she didn't know where that was.

"Warehouse district." Mulder groaned inwardly. "By the docks."

She shook her head. "Never mind. I'm not raising a child over there." she leaned back against the seat and closed her eyes, her lids almost translucent.

They were never going to find a place for all of them.

"Did he say anything else about it?" Mulder got on the freeway, remembering which exit he would have to take.

"He said it was almost perfect." she didn't open her eyes.

"Than maybe we should give it a chance." he reached for his phone. "It can't hurt to look. What was that number?"

"It's big." he commented forty-five minutes later, standing in the living room of the apartment. It ran the length of a converted warehouse, one long apartment on each side of a central hall, stairs at one end, freight elevator at the other. Five stories, this was on the top.

"Two bedrooms, two bath and a den." the rental company had sent Mr. Schuerman over promptly. "Room for a family."

"What's this about 'artist space'?" Scully consulted the description sheet he had given her.

"It's over here." Schuerman, an average fellow in every way, led them down the hall. There were three doors on the left and two on the right, with one more at the very end of the hall that opened to a cramped staircase. "It was converted to two apartments originally but we had trouble keeping the top one rented. So when they both came empty at the same time we decided to offer them together."

Mulder hovered as Scully climbed the steep stairs to come out in another long room, this one empty, about one-third the size of the one below. It had skylights over half the length of the slanted ceiling that let in pale light, a small kitchen space on the far left and a wall with two doors at the other end.

"Bathroom and closet." Schuerman nodded at them.

"Where does that go?" Mulder pointed to the door in the middle of the kitchen.

"Roof access." Schuerman led them over and opened it with a key from his crowded ring. "The elevator comes all the way up, too, and opens directly to the roof. The view is nice." he said as they stepped out onto the tar surface. "There's plenty of room for a garden, if you like that sort of thing."

Scully looked reluctant, but Mulder went eagerly to the brick retaining wall -- chest high -- and looked over it. There was a lot of space between the side of the loft and the wall, enclosed on three sides.

"Look, Scully." he was getting excited in spite of himself. "We could put a fence up across there --" he indicated the open end "--and have a safe play area. The air is better up here."

She came to stand beside him and stared over the wall that came up to her neck.

"I can see the bay from here." she said softly, leaning against him. He put a hand on her back, uncomfortable with a witness around.

"Ahab would have liked that." his voice was soft now.

"There aren't any kids around to play with."

"He'll be in daycare and then preschool. Kids will sleep over. He'll have plenty of friends." Mulder leaned to whisper in her ear.

"It's too expensive."

Mulder turned to Schuerman, who was going through his dayplanner, politely ignoring them.

"We have a -- friend -- who will be moving in with us." Mulder hedged. "Can we get it as two separate places?"

"As long as the lease gets signed."

"So how much is it?"

Schuerman smiled, cheerful. "It's not as bad as you might think. We've had such trouble keeping the place full -- most people don't want to live on this side of town, it's too far away from everything -- so the price has been dropped a couple of times. If you'll sign a two-year lease it'll be even lower." he sounded enthusiastic, and named a figure that made Dana smile.

"We can afford that." she said, turning away from him, looking at Mulder. "I guess we should take it. We haven't found anything else even close to what we need."

"It would be good to move before I have to roll you up the stairs." he grinned back.

"Not to be nosy, but are the two of you expecting?" Schuerman grinned wider. "Congratulations!"

Mulder's smile vanished.

"No." he snapped. Scully shook her head and smiled to reassure the man, who looked bewildered.

"Yes, I'm going to have a baby, but Mulder is my partner, Mr. Schuerman. We're FBI agents. My...*boyfriend* is another agent. But I want to be close to Mulder because he's gone a lot."

"So I can help out." Mulder said defensively.

Schuerman looked at them, one to the other.

"Of course. That's very dedicated of you, Agent Mulder."

FBI agents. He hoped they didn't cause any trouble. But they should pass the credit check...he smiled again, thinking of his percentage, he would get it as long as they lived there. His wife, Emily, would be thrilled. Maybe they could go on that cruise now...?

He led them back downstairs to do the paperwork. Watching the tall man's hand hover protectively on the tiny woman's back, he wondered how much of what they had said was true, then scolded himself mentally. They were partners, he knew what that meant. He watched NYPD Blue. They might be closer than husband and wife, but they would never be anything *else*. It was obvious her partner was as excited about the baby as she was, but that was just because he wanted her to be happy, of course.

That was a lucky baby, to have so many people to love it, he thought. There would always be somebody around for it.

"My doctor has cleared me for field work. *Sir*." Scully was leaning over Skinner's desk, looking much more threatening than a woman her size had a right to. Her stern boss leaned back almost involuntarily.

"I thought to spare you the emotional trauma of this case, Agent Scully." he tried to defend his decision.

"Perhaps I should only involve myself in cases concerning men." she snapped. "And I'll have to rule out the ones with short people. And redheads -- I couldn't handle a case with a redhead, could I?!" her voice never changed volume but Skinner felt like he'd been yelled at.

"Unless you plan to replace me as Mulder's partner -- a move I *would* protest formally -- then I'm on this case!" she whirled on one foot and stormed out of the office without a backward glance.

Skinner leaned forward on the desk for a minute, then opened the top drawer and fumbled for the tylenol bottle.

God, she'd sounded like Mulder.

He found himself smiling slightly despite the pain of his headache.

Mulder was going to get it.

He felt better already.

"MULDER!" the basement office door slammed.

He winced and dropped the needle he'd been playing with into the open drawer, slamming it shut as she came up behind him.

Now she *was* yelling.

"Where do you get off? Trying to *protect* me again?!"

He yanked his sleeve down to cover his wrist, dotted with tiny beads of blood in an aesthetic pattern, and handed her the file without a word. He'd known she wasn't going to be left out, not really, but maybe he could salvage something... distracted, she opened it and blanched a shade paler. He wouldn't've thought that was possible.

The first picture was an 8X10 of a tiny little girl, looking *unfinished*, waxy-looking skin lined with neat sutures, lying on a white blanket in a patch of tall, purple-flowered weeds. Somebody had laid a plain blue spiral notebook beside her for scale. She wasn't even that long.

Scully's hand trembled as she flipped the pictures.

Seven. There were seven in all.

Mulder was standing beside her now, ready to catch her if she did something stupid like faint, and she couldn't meet his eyes for several minutes.

"Yes." he said at last, softly. "I am trying to protect you."

"It's my job." she wasn't angry now. "Tell me about it." she pulled her desk chair over and sat close, the file open in her lap.

"Seven fetuses between five and seven months along, found over the last three weeks. All delivered vaginally judging from the cranial molding and lung compression. All apparently born dead. It's obvious that autopsies were performed, but the organs were returned to the body cavities. They were all found wrapped in a plain white hospital blanket in different urban areas around the city."

She cringed.

"So why is it an X-file?"

"There have been reports of strange lights, strange noises all over the city, some coinciding with the discovery of the bodies. No one had come forward to claim them and no kidnapping reports have been filed. There have been three late pregnancy miscarriages delivered in the city hospitals, but all of those infants have been properly delivered to the morgue and their families have made the appropriate arrangements."

He leaned close, taking her hands in his, trying to put all of his love into words not strong enough to hold it.

"*Dana*. Let me handle this. I'll send you the lab work, consult with you, I won't cut you out completely. But you're still not feeling well. And we have to move, we've given notice, you have the sono next week. I'll be okay, I don't think this one is dangerous."

"For you." she looked shaken. She was starting to think like him. "You think it's a set-up. To get me and this baby where they can do something to us."

"Maybe. We still don't know who our enemies are, or how far they will go." he leaned closer to her, close enough to kiss her...but of course he didn't. His voice dropped, became intimate. "And there's another thing. When I was seven...my parents *went* to San Antonio, Scully. They left me with at a friend's house. And I think Mom came back pregnant."

Her indrawn breath echoed his.

Could this have something to do with him personally? With Samantha?

"Just let me go and look around." he nuzzled her cheek, his big nose soft on her skin. "If there's any danger I'll call you. I need to do this one by myself."

The door behind them opened and Mulder leaned back reflexively. Dancer, looking tired, glided in, his grin firmly in place.

"Don't mind me." he perched on the edge of Mulder's desk. "Carry on. I'll take notes."

Scully let out an exasperated snort and Mulder gave him a shove. Dammmit, the man even *fell* gracefully.

"So how did you like the place?" Dancer asked from the floor.

"We took it." Mulder was glad to change the subject and Scully knew it. "You can send for your stuff now."

Dancer stood, one hand on Scully's shoulder.

"Mulder, I don't have any 'stuff'."

Scully looked at him, startled.


He grinned widely.

"I take it back. I have about a dozen boxes of books at my sister's place."

"No furniture." Scully wasn't questioning.

"My last place was furnished, right down to the plates." he shrugged easily. "I'm not really a material person."

*Not really a 'person'*, Mulder thought, allowing a brief grin that Dancer returned.

"I have some money in the bank." Dancer misinterpreted Scully's frown as she glanced at Mulder suspiciously. "I can get whatever we need."

"You can have my bed." Mulder clenched his fist in his lap, leaning into the fresh pain, unnoticed. "I won't have a bedroom. I think it's time to admit I don't need one."

Scully's frown was deepening.

"We need to talk about money, Ru. How are we going to divide things? I don't want you to feel responsible for me..."

"Hey, hey." he held up his hands. "Chill. It's just money, Dana. I don't care."

"Are we going to divide it by two or three?" she was insistent. The men exchanged glances -- she was going to upset herself.

"Scully." Mulder's voice was matter-of-fact but his eyes were warm and soft meeting hers. "Let's talk about this over lunch."

His glance around the room reminded her that someone might be listening and she understood. Their secret was a delicate thing, easily revealed accidently. She hated watching her words.

"Did you get some breakfast?" Dancer interpreted the exchange and decided to play his role, sounding worried.

"Mulder fed me."

"But you need to take your medicine and eat again." he said, reaching for her briefcase. "We can discuss personal finances over an early lunch."

As they were going out the door he continued, an arm loose around her waist, Mulder trailing behind.

"This baby is going to have the best of everything, Dana, you know I'll get you everything he needs..."

Lunch was pasta at Giovanni's, Scully's choice.

"I *need* garlic." she'd insisted, and so she had scampi alfredo, and actually ate it.

"I'll pay the rent on the big one." Dancer said as she scribbled in her notebook, charts and graphs and columns of figures. Mulder was quietly crumbling a breadstick onto a napkin.

"But that's almost $400 more than the bills will be." she objected. His grin was beginning to annoy her.

"But *you* will pay them on time. It's worth the difference."

"Then you have to take the master bedroom."

"You're gonna want the private bath." he came back, enjoying himself.

Mulder picked up another breadstick and began plucking off the sesame seeds one by one, piling them on top of the napkin dispenser.

"Besides." Dancer kicked him firmly, unexpectedly, under the table. "There's gonna be a crowd in your room."

Mulder threw the denuded breadstick at him. It bounced off.

"*Especially* if I have his bed."

He was grinning like an idiot again.

"C'mon, Scully." he wheedled like a little boy, and he was even better at it than Mulder. "This is the closest thing I've had to family in years. Let me do it the way I want to."

He didn't say anything personal very often and Scully picked up on it.

"What about you brother and sister, your twin?" she said it softly.

"There aren't enough of us left." his smile faded. "We scattered after Mom died. Da said we needed to spread out..." he didn't finish, just met her eyes and spoke quietly, a touch of pleading. "Don't go there, Scully."

"It's a scary place." Mulder added with an easy grin, reaching for her hand. She knew she was being distracted, but it was so seldom he was openly affectionate that she let him.

"If I don't give him a hard time you'll have to talk to me about that case." she retorted, a gleam in her eye as she rubbed her fingers over his, feeling a roughness on his palm.

"Cool!" Dancer sat back, his grin reasserting itself.

"You stay and get us moved while I go west." lifting her hand, Mulder kissed her fingertips one at a time. She sighed and closed her eyes. "I'll send you the autopsy reports and lab work to go over."

"You cheat." the accusation was soft.

"I know." he put her hand down and stood. "Deal?"

She looked up at him. He seemed so far away. His resolve -- to protect her, to protect their baby, to prove himself -- was so clear in his eyes. But there was something else there, too, something she hadn't seen before. A new level of sadness.

She caught Dancer's grimace out of the corner of her eye.


And they had to be fought alone.

"I'll go home and start packing." she gave in with a smile.

"Don't forget my videos.' his grin was suddenly his own again, and then he left.

They watched him go with similar expressions, then Dancer stood and offered her his hand.

"Packing." he snorted.


"I can think of better ways to spend a Saturday."

"So can I." her agreement was sad.

*He really loves you*. Dancer's eyes told her as they got into his car.

*I know*. She didn't have to answer aloud.

"Agent Mulder?" the tall brunette with legs to die for approached him as soon as he cleared the gate. "I'm Sandra Rodriguez. Roddy."

He shook her hand, allowing himself a minute to admire. She returned it just as obviously.

"Is your partner coming?" Roddy, as she had told him to call her, was definitely interested as they got into the car, yet another Taurus, this one green.

She'd heard the stories and wanted a shot at Spooky Mulder. Rumor had it that he was worth the effort.

"Scully's a trifle indisposed just now."

"Oh?" she pulled into traffic dominated by pickup trucks.

"Morning sickness."

"How nice for her!" she sounded genuinely pleased. "When is she due?"

"Sometime in December." he wondered how much of her cheer was because she thought that meant he was available. His rumored relationship with Scully had often protected him from women in the past. But she had sounded sincere. "She and Agent Dancer are very excited."

It still surprised him how easy it was to say that. Shouldn't it at least bother him that another man was claiming his child?

Roddy turned her eyes to him again, taking a longer look this time. He needed to say something, self-defense.

"So what have you got?" the words were normal but his voice was twenty degrees colder. She blinked. What had she said?

Well, she had been warned. Spooky Mulder was *weird*.

"How's the moving going?" his call that night was a welcome break.

"Not bad. Ru works like a dog, Mulder.'

In his hotel room Mulder smothered a laugh.

"Mulder? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Scully." he said, and meant it just about as much as she ever did. "How are you feeling?"

"Both of us are fine." she was teasing him now, gently. A sudden, sharp wash of happiness flooded him. "We should have everything packed by noon tomorrow, that's when the moving guys get here."

"Big burly guys in overalls? Oooo, Scully."

"I may as well get it while I can. Pretty soon I'll be too big to turn anyone's head."

"My head will spin just for you." he promised solemnly. "Did you get the paperwork?"

"I'll go over it in bed." she answered, then he winced as she shouted. "Ru! Put me down..." she pulled the phone from her ear and he didn't hear the rest.

"Scully?" he wanted to say something sweet, something loving, but her phone was probably tapped...and he didn't know how anyways. "I'm going to let you go now. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Mulder? What -?" she came back on the line just in time to hear it click.

"Bye." she stared at the receiver in her hand. Beside her Ru grimaced and took a step back.


"You big jerk." she said it so affectionately he knew he wasn't in real trouble.

The knock on the door startled both of them. With a glance he turned and ducked into the kitchen.

Opening the door Dana forced a smile.

"Mom. What are you doing here?"

Margaret Scully looked past her daughter to the mess of stacked household items and open boxes.

"Dana?" she sounded doubtful. "Are you moving?"

Her daughter sighed. She hadn't talked to her mother since she found out...what was she going to tell her...and *how*?

"Come on in." she led her to a recently emptied chair and sat on the arm beside her. Ru stayed in the kitchen, making packing noises. "I'm sorry I haven't called in a while. There've been some things going on..."

Cool in a linen suit, calm and strong, Margaret studied her daughter's face, their blue eyes a perfect match. To hers Dana looked tired and pale and thin.

"What's wrong?" she could feel something tugging at her intuition, but wanted Dana to tell her.

"I'm pregnant." Dana's smile was real and Margaret relaxed. She was happy about it, so it was okay.

"That's wonderful, dear. So you're moving?" it took a tremendous effort not to ask the question, the one uppermost on her mind, but Captain Scully's wife had long experience minding her tongue. Dana would tell her when she was ready.

A movement caught her eye as a man stepped into the hall. His body blocked part of the light, putting his face in shadow and Margaret dared to hope, hope that was quickly dashed as the man came closer. Too short, too blocky, the walk was wrong, cocky.

This wasn't Fox.

Dana stood with a soft smile and took the tray Dancer offered her, setting it on the coffee table.

"Mom. This is Ruarke Dancer. Ru, this is my mom, Margaret Scully. Ru's going to be my new roommate."

Aware of Dana's hesitancy, Margaret stood and offered her hand. She got an impression of dark hair, restrained strength, and big gentle eyes.

His hand was warm and large and heavily calloused.

"I'm glad to meet you, *Ru*?" she fumbled over the name. "Where do you know Dana from?"

Dana calmly poured tea, passing her a cup and smiling as Dancer shook his head.

They sat again, Dancer on the sofa beside Dana, his hand on her knee.

"We met at that conference a couple of months ago." His cheerfulness was a pleasant change. "I'm another *federale*. As soon as Dana told me the news I transferred up here from LA."

California. That explained the tan.

No one spoke and the silence became awkward. Margaret watched the couple. Ru was at ease, smiling, but Dana seemed uncomfortable.

"Dana." her words were soft and filled with love. "I'm not upset about this, you know. Truly. I've always known you wanted children." their eyes met and Margaret smiled. "I'm ready to be 'granny' again. Bill Junior is so far away I'm hardly a part of Billy and Sue's lives."

"We'll be right here, Mom." Dana was trying not to cry. she'd been so worried that her mother would be disappointed in her. That weight lifted now, and Dancer squeezed her knee, understanding.

"I know it's getting late, but we could run that load in the car over and show your mom the new place." he suggested. His grin was irresistible.

"You're haven't been carrying boxes?" Margaret's voice took on a familiar scolding tone.

"My department." Dancer hopped up and heaved a large box strapped with ductape into his arms. The door was shut, but he balanced precariously on one foot to turn the knob with the toes of the other, letting himself out.

Margaret watched her daughter.

"He's very sweet, Dana."

"Ru's one of a kind." Dana's smile seemed forced again. They got up and she stopped her mother, giving her a brief hug. Surprised at this from her aloof child, Margaret began to worry again.

"I need to tell you something about the apartment, Mom..." Dana said as they went out the door.


Mulder raised his hand to throw his notebook but restrained himself, lying it gently on the table instead.

Roddy and her partner hadn't arrived yet, he'd wanted to get here early. Scully was going to be calling to tele-conference.

But he wanted to talk to her first.

But he didn't know what he wanted to say.

*Fuck it*.

He picked up the phone and dialed.

"Scully." she answered first ring, sounding good this morning. The new medicine was really making a difference.

"Did you go over the data?" he was all business.

Sitting at her desk in the half-empty apartment Scully sighed. "I'm fine, Mulder, and how are you?"

"You sound rested." there was something in his voice she didn't recognize.

Roddy and Drew Smith walked in at that moment, rescuing him.

"Let me put you on hold for a minute, Scully." he said and then did it before she could protest.

"Morning." Smith was surly. He didn't appreciate Mulder's presence, felt it was a criticism of his methods. Roddy was friendly enough, but her interest of the day before was gone. He'd taken care of that last night when she'd driven him to the hotel, he'd been rude and distinctly unfriendly.

And dow he was going to pay for it. She didn't even greet him, just sat down and opened her file.

"Is Agent Scully on the line?" her tone implied incompetence on his part.

"Scully." he hit the speaker button and spoke her name.

"I'm here, Mulder."

"Agents Smith and Rodriguez are with me. What have you found out?"

Setting herself to business Scully spoke dispassionately.

"Aside from the fact that the bodies were autopsied prior to recovery, which we already knew, the most interesting item is the state of the infant brains." it was hard to remain detached but she was an expert at it. "The local pathologist, Dr. Hoover, didn't think it was significant, but I've gone over all the reports several times and correlated the data and the similarities are striking."

"You're talking about the frontal lobe discrepancy." Roddy sounded bored. Scully wondered what Mulder had done this time.

"That was dismissed as a fluke. It was only found in three of the fetuses."

"I found it in all of them." Scully spoke firmly. "It was originally found in the three seven-month fetuses. Hoover didn't factor in the prenatal age. I projected the rate-of-growth for the other four infants up to the seventh month and believe that the discrepancy would be as marked in them at that time as it was in the three older ones."

Roddy was sitting up, looking interested in spite of herself.

"What could cause that?" she asked.

"I don't know of any substance that would cause extreme brain growth during prenatal development." Scully answered. "And this is extreme. The right frontal lobe is nearly three times the size of normal. There is no disease, no maternal infection that I know of that would cause this result. I couldn't find a single report of anything remotely like this and I searched the archives back thirty years."

"What would it do to the babies, Scully?" Mulder asked suddenly, jumping ahead of her. "If a child survived to term with that deformity, what would it do to them?"

"That's highly unlikely, Agent Mulder." Smith rebuked him. "We wouldn't be finding them dead if that could happen."

Scully answered him seriously.

"The area affected controls speech, logic and reasoning skills. It has been theorized that it is the area responsible for quirks of intelligence like yours, Mulder, the home of eidetic memory. If someone were born with that part of the brain this disproportionate, they would have the potential to be brilliant, perhaps beyond anything we've ever known. Or they could be non functional in the extreme, unable to cope with the level of information they get. Or it might not make a difference at all, just more dead space."

"A superman." Roddy shook her head. "That's science fiction, Agent Scully."

"I'm only theorizing." Scully said quietly.

Mulder was thinking. Brilliant. Beyond human. His childhood love of science fiction prompted the next question.

"Scully. If humanity as a race was going to develop telepathy, where would it start?"

Smith groaned aloud and Roddy shook her head again. *Spooky* indeed.

"The odds against that are so phenomenal I wouldn't know where to start." Scully scolded gently.

"Could it start there?" he pressed.

"It is one of the places such an evolution has been speculated could occur." she didn't say no. She'd seen so many impossible things, this didn't seem so far-fetched as it once might have.

"You found no evidence of drugs or other unknown substances in the bloodwork." Smith decided it was time to take control of the conversation.

"None. Neither did Hoover."

"And there was nothing to explain the premature deliveries?" Roddy added.

"Aside from the frontal lobe discrepancy, these seemed to be perfectly normal, healthy babies."

Mulder caught the fear in her voice and wished he could talk to her privately, vowing to himself that he would call her that night and they would talk about it. Their baby was fine, he *knew* that.

The meeting was essentially over. He thanked Scully and told her, gently, to get some rest, seeing Roddy watching him out of the corner of her eye, hoping she wasn't getting more ideas.

"So what now?" Smith asked when Scully was off the line.

"I'm going to investigate the reports of lights and sightings." Mulder said shortly.

"That's bullshit." Smith snorted. "No little green men stole those babies."

"They're grey." Mulder looked up in surprise as Roddy defended him, met his eyes with a smile. Oh, hell. She liked him again.

"I am aware of the -- remoteness of this hypothesis." Mulder said sharply. "So I suggest you begin an investigation of research facilities in the area, particularly ones dealing with infertility or genetics."

"Yes." Roddy seemed surprised. "That would make sense."

Meaning his theory didn't. That was okay, he didn't want any help anyhow.

"We'll meet you downtown for dinner at eight, okay?" Roddy was smiling at him again. "Jacala's. Mexican food. You'll like it and it's easy to find."

He left without answering her.

It had been a long, frustrating day. Uncooperative witnesses, witnesses with no memory to speak of and conflicting reports of what was seen. Typical.

Sitting in his hotel room in the dark, Mulder glanced at the clock. 9:23. He wasn't going to make dinner and Roddy would be pissed. Enough to leave him alone, he hoped.

The cigarette glowed, a bright spot in the dark, the orange of Halloween. The drag filled his lungs, made him choke, and it glowed brighter.

Three agonizing holes. Deep and red, in a neat triangle.

Burns were good because they didn't bleed much, hurt a lot and took a long time to heal, especially if you irritated them regularly.

He pulled his shirt sleeve down without bandaging them, wincing, stubbing out the cigarette on the bottom of his shoe.

Even better if they got infected.

He looked at the phone. His mind replayed Scully's voice from the morning, the fear he'd heard even clearer in his memory.

He'd told himself he would call her. If he didn't call her she would call him.

He couldn't talk to her now. He'd proven again how unworthy he was, snapping at her and pushing her away. Someday she was going to realize it and she would be gone, his baby with her.

Better never to have them. He couldn't protect, them couldn't help them, couldn't even claim them.

He would become his father *now*, before he had a chance to hurt anyone. Before they got close enough for him to leave them.

The baby would never know the pain he had felt when his father rejected him, because the baby would never know him.

It was easy to think these thoughts, in this dark room, his arm aching.

"Agent Mulder!" Roddy called to him as he walked in, after ten Monday morning. "Your partner called. She wants to talk to you."

He looked bleary-eyed and rumpled. She made a face.

"I see you found something else to do last night. Don't worry, I won't try again." she turned her back on him.

Smith was waiting in the cubicle they had assigned him. There was a *huge* pile of folders and files on the battered desk.

"Here's your *data*." he sneered. "Have fun."

He left with a malicious grin.

Mulder closed the door and sat down.

His cel phone was turned off. With a hard movement he yanked the receiver off the phone and turned it upside down to keep it from beeping.

His original theory wasn't panning out. So now he would have to work on the other one.

He opened a file and began to read. One hand slipped into his jacket pocket and pulled out a bag of sunflower seeds, set them up and to the right, and he popped one into his mouth distractedly.

Crunch. Warm and salty, just like blood.

"Has he gone out?" he heard Roddy's voice outside the door, but not the answer. He ignored it, just as he ignored the time.

He read for thirteen hours, and no one bothered him.

No one offered him coffee or suggested he eat.

But that was okay. He hadn't called Scully, he didn't *deserve* to eat.

"Damn him!" Dana slammed the phone down for the tenth time. On the other side of the loft Ru stopped piling Mulder's boxes into the storage room and loped to her.

"Dana?" he stopped as he got close, watching her carefully.

"He is such an *asshole*." she hissed. "I know he's not happy about the baby, I *know* he's afraid he'll turn into his father, but he *can't* cut me out of a case like this!" she was shouting now. Ru took a step closer, held out a hand.

"It's late." he said softly. "Let's go down and get some sleep. I finished putting up your bed hours ago."

She recoiled but he stood patiently, hand in midair, smiling gently.

"I'm going to hate him." she said simply. "I love him, but I can see that I'm going to hate him. Maybe he's right..." she sounded defeated.

"You didn't eat much dinner." he was still speaking softly. "Why don't I go out and get you something Italian? With lots of garlic."

"Nah..." she smiled, small and tired, but a smile. "I've had this feeling all day, that I wanted something, but I don't know what it is..."

"Rest." he teased. "You need to *rest*."

She shook her head. "I'm used to being tired."

"Not like this."

He took her hand and she let him lead her down the narrow stairs.

The lower apartment looked like a scene from the movie 'Twister'. Dana groaned as she slumped on the sofa.

"Don't you need to run tonight?"

"I can skip a night, once in a while."

Ru sat carefully beside her. He didn't want to step over any lines, but she looked so miserable...he picked up the remote and channel surfed, stopping at a flash of black-and-white.

"The Maltese Falcon! This is my second all-time favorite movie." he declared, leaning back. She looked at him, surprised.

"I wouldn't have figured you as a Bogie fan."

"What? You thought I was the Lon Chaney Jr type?" his grin was infectious and she had to chuckle. It was a relief just to sit and rest, and she leaned back as well and they watched the movie.

It was a marathon. Next was 'The African Queen' and then the topper, 'Casablanca'. Halfway through African Queen Scully sat up.

"I'm too tired to sleep."

"It's not like we anywhere have to go in in the morning." he pointed out. They had three days' leave to move.

"I've figured out what I want." she was grinning at him, confident. He was almost afraid to ask.


"*Twinkies*. And Ding Dongs. And Hostess Cupcakes..."

His eyes grew comically round.

"Dana! All that junk food..." he scolded as he got up and padded to the door, barefoot in T-shirt and cutoffs. "I'll be right back."

"And Kool-Aide. They won't taste right without Kool-Aide!" she called after him, and got his loud laugh as a reply.

She woke the next morning still on the sofa. Ru was sitting beside her and she was leaning on him, her head on his chest. His arm was around her and a blanket was over her, carefully folded away from him. He was watching Good Morning America.

She sat up, award. He pulled his arm away without looking at her.

"Did Mulder call?"


"I think I'll go to bed now." she got up and walked to her bedroom, the big one, trailing the blanket. Behind her Ru curled over on the sofa and closed his eyes, asleep between one breath and the next.

part#2 - and a hard place

The room was full of pregnant women. All glowing and smiling and waddling. He couldn't imagine Dana waddling.

The nurse hadn't been happy to see him, but had said she would find a few minutes for the doctor to talk to him. Now he was waiting patiently, arms crossed, the fingers of his right hand rubbing repeatedly over the open burns on the inside of his left arm. So he was calm. Cool. Professional.

Dr. Peterson was offended by his very presence. She quoted him statistics, their success rate, their excellent professional reputation and he listened with one ear as he studied the office and requested the names of patients who had recently lost their babies.

"We haven't had a miscarriage here in six years!" she was infuriated.

With a jolt he realized that he believed her, thanked her, and left her in mid-tirade.

This wasn't working. He was doing something wrong, going at this from the wrong angle. He wished he could talk to Scully about it, but she probably wasn't speaking to him after yesterday.

He almost broke his own neck as he slammed on the brakes, ignoring the horn that blared behind him.

*Or she was on her way here*.

He'd better call her before she *did* get on a plane.

He stopped at the next payphone.


"Mulder." oh, she was pissed.

"Sorry about yesterday...I got caught up in some research." Like she was going to believe that.

Dana glanced at Ru, who was watching her from the sofa, face behind crossed arms, his eyes glowing over them, predatory. The phone had woken both of them.

"Scully? You sound tired." he hoped she hadn't waited up all night for him to call.

"I just got up, Mulder." let him chew on that. "Did you need something?" the only thing that might save him now was if he asked her to join him.

"I just wanted to tell you that I have everything under control, in case you were worried. You can stay and finish moving."


"I'm pretty much done moving, Mulder."

Ru's eyes caught hers, he raised his head and she saw him whisper.


"But I did decide the place needs painting..." why was she letting him off the hook like this? Because Ru said to? How scary was that?

"Not my place." he actually sounded alarmed.

"You're not here to stop me..." she meant it to tease, but it came out like a threat.

"Oh. Okay. Whatever you want, Scully."

Now he sounded like a lost little boy again. Damn.

"How's the case coming?"

He told her all about it. The lack of good witnesses, his second theory and the trouble he was having digging up information, his feeling that he was missing something...she listened and sympathized and critiqued and suggested. Just like she always did. His Scully, all sense and sensibility.

When he got off the phone he felt better, but then his arm began to hurt again and he remembered.

But she'd given him some ideas to work with.

"I am not going to accost pregnant women in front of doctor's offices." his cubicle was small for one person, claustrophobic for three.

Roddy was staring at him. She didn't just think he was crazy, now she thought he was certifiable. Why was this man running around loose?

"*Somebody* gave birth to these babies." Mulder snarled.

"I bet it was *Arnie*. He was doing research for Junior; the sequel." Smith did a creditable Schawerznegger impression.

Mulder ignored him.

"I don't need you on this." he warned Roddy. "I was just giving you a chance to be involved. You back out now and I won't be letting you in on anything I find out."

"Have at." Smith stood and walked to the door. "Roddy?"

She was frowning. Sure, Mulder was a jerk, but he had a high clearance rate. Maybe he was just reacting to working alone...

"Okay, I'll help, but only for one day."

"It may take more than that."

Smith made a sound of disgust and left.

"One day, Mulder." she was firm and he rewarded her with the first real smile she'd seen from him. It made him damn beautiful. But she'd already decided to drop that idea, and resolved to stay decided.

"What do they do here?" she was wondering what made him suspect this place.

They were on stakeout, in the parking lot of Southwest Research, one of the biggest and most exclusive private genetics research facilities in the country.

"The lead team doctor here, Mr. Antonio Tomas discovered a clever way to detect certain genetic deformities in embryos in the first twelve hours." he explained, crunching a sunflower seed and spitting the shell out the window. "When the egg and sperm meet they split their genetic complement so a baby gets half from each of them..." he glanced to make sure she was following him,

"Everybody knows that." she was irritated.

"And the extra DNA gets sacked up and pushed out the side like leftovers. It's called the 'polar body'. With some diseases, like Cystic Fibrosis, you either have the gene or you don't. If you have it from both parents you get the disease. If you have it from only one you're a carrier and have to face this dilemma when you want to have children. If you don't get either you don't have it and your children won't either."

"So if the genes for it are in this 'polar body'..." she smiled in understanding.

"Then the fetus doesn't have it. It's a complicated procedure, they have to go through the whole in-vitro mess and the problems with that, but for people who want a kid that's not going to die or need constant medical care, it's a miracle."

"You really are smart." she sounded surprised.

"I read a lot." he blew it off.

"So why are we here?"

"Lots of reasons. They do cutting-edge work, so they're willing to push the limits. A couple of the other team doctors were reportedly unhappy with Tomas getting all the credit but couldn't leave because they're under contract."

"Is that common?" she felt like a student. Teacher's pet, maybe, but still a student. But she *was* learning something.

"Whenever there's the possibility of a new procedure or drug that could be patented, yeah, it's the rule. There have been several lawsuits over supposedly 'stolen' advances in genetic therapy."

"Any more reasons?"

"Several members of the board are wealthy and make regular contributions to certain politicians I keep an eye on, people I know have participated in --" he hesitated, decided not to go into it -- "And most importantly, Tomas made a philanthropic gesture three years ago and began offering his services -- and the clinic's -- free to select lower-income cases. Unfortunately those records are confidential, protected under doctor-patient privaledge and we've got no evidence to get them."

"So we want evidence."

He sat, waiting for her to comment, spitting two more shells out the window.

"If he has low-income clients we should be able to pick them from the rich ones." she said slowly, and he nodded. "And they would be the ones most likely to let him get away with something for lots of reasons...He probably picks them very carefully."

She looked at him suddenly, her eyes wide.

"You're sure about this. Not just guessing, but *sure*."

"Not positive. But if you can see it too, then I can't be far off."

"Wow." he was as good as his record said. He might be nuts, rude, and unfriendly, but he was *good*."

"I guess I can spend a day waiting with you."

"Mulder? How's it going up there?" she'd dialed the number - swearing to herself that she wasn't going to get upset. She missed him, it had been several days. They were almost never apart this long, even before they were lovers.

He sounded more relaxed.

"I have a lead, I'm just waiting for it to pan out." he said. "Roddy's good company on a stakeout. She likes the Stooges."


"An agent on the case. Her partner is less than helpful, but she's a trooper."

Probably tall and brunette, Dana thought, glancing down at herself. She had a little tummy now, a small outward curve in her shape.

"I'm glad you have somebody you can work with." she wished she could say what she wanted to, but he didn't trust phones, and his paranoia was rubbing off.

"Scully, I'm worried about this case. If these people are doing illegal genetic experiments *and* they're connected with other people we both know and love...I'm afraid I'll find out something about what happened -- to you." it was hard for him to even talk about it.

"Not every case can be about me or Samantha, Mulder." she said softly. "If you find any evidence that these guys know what happened to me, great. If not it probably means they weren't involved."

"But those dreams you had...where you were pregnant, while you were in the coma..."

"Were just dreams." she said, telling herself that she believed it, she *had* *to* believe it. "Truly." she projected that desperate certainty into her voice for him to hear.

"It would be so like them to give me this case..." he couldn't let it go.

"Mulder." her voice cut across his thoughts. "If you find something we'll talk about it. Not until then."

"If that's what you want." he wasn't hurt by her statement, relieved, really. These weren't possibilities he was comfortable considering either. So he said the next thing that came to mind.

"I don't think I'll make it back in time for the appointment." matter-of-factly.

"What?!" she hadn't heard him right. He knew how much she wanted him there. Dancer had even found a case he *had* to go take care of out of town to give them an excuse.

"I don't think this is going to wrap up quickly..."

"Give them your lead and get back here!" she shouted into the phone, her words ringing in the silence of the empty office. "They can do the leg work!"

"That wouldn't look...right." he was trying to talk without saying anything incriminating and couldn't. "Scully, you're a big girl. You don't need me there holding your hand."

*Damn you, Mulder*. He was using this situation to dump his responsibility on Ru. She wasn't going to let him do this.

"You'd better get here, Mulder, or you won't like the consequences." it wasn't a threat, but a warning.

"I'll do my best, Scully, but maybe you better talk to Dancer, just in case..."

He didn't tell her that he'd tracked a connection between Tomas and one of the politicos they suspected of being part of Cancer Man's group. A poor Mexican immigrant from non-english speaking parents Tomas would have had no chance to get into or afford the prestigious schools he'd attended without influential help, help that had been provided by a private charity that the politico founded. How much influence did they have over him now?

"There's some things about this case..." Mulder hedged. "I need to be here, Scully."

If she hadn't been so mad she might have heard the pleading in his voice. The note of fear, and the desperately unhappy tone that he only took when something had to do with Samantha. Or her abduction. But she was angry, and didn't.

"You're being a real bastard, Mulder." she snarled. "Don't call me unless you change your mind."

She hung up the phone abruptly, and sat looking at it, stunned. Then she started to cry.

Dancer came in a few minutes later, wanting to take her to lunch. Seeing her shoulders shake he held back, waited a few minutes, then finally handed her a tissue from the box on the filing cabinet, and stood beside her quietly.

She didn't want him to see her cry. No one saw her cry.

No one but Mulder. The thought brought fresh tears.

Dancer considered. She wasn't hurting herself, though it bothered him to listen to her stifled sobs. It was probably something she needed to do. So he didn't sooth her or console her, just let her cry it out. When she was done they would go to lunch and talk about it or not, as she wanted.

Mulder was an asshole, he knew that. But he did love her.

Remembering his older brother's divorce, which had hurt Richard deeply, he also knew that love wasn't always enough. His sister- in-law had loved Richard well enough until she learned what her children could be. That had done it, but they never stopped loving each other. Her fear just overrode it.

At least Scully and Mulder didn't have to deal with that.

"She's one." Mulder nodded at her words.

"Well dressed but she looks uncomfortable in it." he agreed.

The woman in question got into an older Buick and they pulled away to follow her.

She drove to a mall and they got out to follow her in the parking lot, walking quickly. Roddy didn't have to stretch her legs to keep up with him the way Scully did.

"Ma'am. Ma'am!" Mulder called quietly as they approached, and she turned. She looked wary as they stopped in front of her.

Mulder studied her carefully. She was young, late twenties, maybe, and probably pretty when her face wasn't swollen and her eyes red. Had she been crying? What did she have to cry about?

"I'm Agent Fox Mulder and this is Agent Sandra Rodriguez of the FBI." he said gently, holding up his badge clearly. Roddy startled to see this side of him. "We'd like to ask you some questions."

"You're not immigration?" her accent was heavy but she sounded fairly bright.

"We're investigating Dr. Tomas..." Roddy said and the change was remarkable.

"I do not speak about the doctor." the woman said firmly, but she wasn't hostile.

"Que es su nombre?" Rodriguez asked softly.

"Mercedes Garcia." the woman answered uncertainly.

"We just want to ask you a few questions, Mrs.Garcia. You could help us find out what's happened to some babies."

"The ones in the newspaper?" she was curious now.

Mulder nodded, letting Roddy take it. The woman had responded to her.

"I signed a paper saying I wouldn't talk about the doctor or what he does."

"Would you talk about him if he was doing something bad?"

The woman glanced around and then looked back at them.

"Dr. Tomas is a gift from God."

"Then we won't ask about the doctor." Mulder said, shaking his head slightly at Roddy when she looked like she was going to object. Scully would have known where he was going and followed up. "Can you tell us about any of the other patients you know in Dr. Tomas's special program?"

"I only know a few."

"Have any of them had their babies recently?" Roddy was glaring at him now.

"No, none that I can think of."

"Have any of them stopped coming to appointments lately?"

She thought about it.

"Mrs. Gorleski, I haven't seen her in a few weeks. She used to come every Thursday, just like me. I thought she just started coming another day."

"You come in every week?" From recent experience Mulder knew that wasn't normal, not even in high-risk pregnancies, at least not until the last month.

"Every week, si." she said. "Sometimes twice."

"What does he do every week?" Roddy asked and Mulder could have *thumped* her. His hand actually twitched thinking about it. Garcia clammed right up.

"I can't talk about this any more. I am meeting my sister to buy baby clothes." she said, taking a step away.

"Do you know what you're having?" Mulder tried to mend the damage, but her eyes were wary now, she glanced at the nearest door several times.

"I will have a baby girl." she said at last. "Her name will be Tiffany, and she will not get the disease that killed my mother and grandfather. That is all I know, Mr. Mulder and Miss.Rodriguez."

She turned and walked away from them.

Mulder turned on Roddy.

"Great job. Scare her off when I had her talking."

"I thought she was distracted enough that she might let something slip..." she was confused by his anger. "I thought that was what you were trying to do."

"I was *trying* to get the names of women in the program who had lost their babies recently, and she was going to give them to me if you hadn't stuck your foot into it!" he got in the car.

"How was I supposed to know that!"

"It's called intuition, Rodriguez, and you ain't got it!" he shouted in the car and her ears rang. She slammed her door and yelled back.

"Take me back to the office. They're all right about you, Mulder! You're a creep and a cretin! The rest of us aren't *spooky* the way you are!"

They drove in silence.

Mulder dropped her off and left without telling her where he was going. But she didn't care anyhow.

Dana finished her sandwich with something less than enthusiasm. Dancer was watching her with concern.

"I'm okay, Ru." she said, sounding so tired. "I just get so frustrated sometimes."

"I know." he smiled a little, his normal enthusiasm tempered by her mood.

"It's hard. I always thought that being pregnant would be like one long birthday, everybody happy about it, the man I loved treating me like a princess..." she trailed off as he stood, taking her hand. "What are you doing?"

"We're going birthday shopping." he said, his eyes lighting up with inspiration.

"It's not my birthday, Dancer." she couldn't help a smile as he pulled her out of the pub.

"Sure it is, for another six months." he grinned now, helping her into the car. "That's what you want, right?"

"Not exactly..."

"You don't have any maternity clothes or baby toys and you haven't even looked at furniture..." he scolded. "There's nothing you can do at the office until Mulder sends more information ...now, have you decided on a theme for the nursery?"

With a resigned smile Scully sat back and listened as the tough little agent debated the virtues of Winnie-the-Pooh versus Beatrix Potter.

"And there's always the Muppet Babies, and Disney..." he was trying so hard.

He took her to one of the expensive baby stores that had everything.

"My God. That's more than I make in a month." Dana giggled as they looked at the round designer crib in the window display. It had a canopy and specially designed mattress.

"It is pretty, though." Dancer teased. It was extravagant, ridiculous.

The saleswoman, wearing a pastel suit and carrying a planner, came over after they had browsed for a few minutes.

"Hi. Shopping for yourself or a friend?"

"Us." Ru said with just the right touch of masculine pride. Dana had to choke back a laugh, covering it with a cough.

"Do you know what you're interested in?' her cheerfulness might be a match for Dancer's, Dana thought.

"We've just started looking." she admitted. "I'm not due until December, it seems like we have so much time.

"Not that much." the woman grinned, looking human. "That crib has to be ordered at least a year in advance. They are hand made in Russia."

Ru glanced at Dana.

"That would explain the price tag."

"Yup. A little out of our budget." she agreed.

"So, I'm Sally. Why don't you tell me what you do and what you're looking for today and we can gather some ideas for you to think about."

They began walking through an area filled with cribs of all shapes and sizes and colors.

"We're FBI agents." Dancer said. He almost sounded as if he were flirting, Dana thought, amused.

"I guess you could put us in the middle-middle class." she added with a teasing look at him. He winced.

"Then this will probably be the sort of thing you want." Sally stopped in an area that held eight or nine cribs. "All of these are very nice, very sturdy, and very affordable. No particle board, but no hand-carved bleached yew, either."

"Normal stuff." Ru observed.

"Yeah. Normal stuff." she agreed, looking him over with friendly appreciation.

"We'll look around. I don't think we're going to get anything today." Dana said, warning him, but he just grinned at her.

"I'll be in the clothing department if you need me." Sally agreed. "Here's my card." she slipped it -- engraved linen -- out of her planner and Ru took it.

"This is the sort of thing I imagined." Dana said, stroking the soft shine of a traditional Jenny Lind crib, made of a light- colored wood. "I want him to be able to look out between the bars and see his room and everything."

"To prepare him for prison life?" he was teasing.

"So he'll be comfortable when he visits you." she retorted. They stepped into another area and she smiled widely, moving quickly.

"Ru, *look*."

"Oh, no." he shook his head.

"This is perfect." Dana was fingering curtains, checking prices on pillows and sheets and toys. "Ru, what could be more appropriate?"

Hopefully: "Pooh?"

"Pooh on you." she said, holding up a blanket. "I didn't know Warner Brothers had done a 'baby' version of the Looney Tunes."

"They're called 'Tiny Tunes'." he admitted reluctantly.

"Mulder will *love* this." she took a stuffed Mortimer Martian -- Marvin's nephew -- and shook him, listening to the eerie squeak with delight. "I have to get this."

"Whatever you want." he agreed, not wanting her to be sad again.

She took a pile of things to the counter -- curtains and wall border and a fluffy throw rug and the stuffed Mortimer. Sally saw them coming and met them with a smile.

"You made up your mind fast."

"This is great." Dana was almost giggling. "This is just what I wanted."

Sally rolled her eyes and Dancer noticed.

"I wanted Pooh." he said wistfully.

"I have to have him, I get to choose."

"You're having a boy?" Sally asked.

"It better be." Scully said and the saleswoman didn't understand the sudden sadness in her voice.

"What else would you like today?" she began gathering Dana's untidy pile into a neat stack.

"Clothes." Dancer spoke up. "You're going to get big pretty quick, Dana. A couple of suits maybe?"

"I hate buying clothes."

"I'll pick them." he offered, leading her to the big section in the back.

"They better have a petite section..." she let herself be led, Sally trailing after.

"What *are* you doing?" Roddy finally spoke to him after ignoring him for hours. He'd only come back in because the modem link on his laptop seemed to be screwed up.

"Contacting a source." he said flatly, turning off the screen as she walked in.

"Are you withholding information from me, Agent Mulder?" she sounded angry.

"Would you recognize it if I *did*, Agent Roddy?" he taunted, wanting her to leave so he could get on with it. He crossed his arms and the burns began to hurt even before he touched them.

"I'm filing a complaint against you." she said harshly. "Sexual discrimination. You obviously won't work with me because I'm a woman."

"I won't work with you because you're not Scully." he snapped back. That as all he needed. A discrimination suit. That would be just *dandy*.

"The *Ice Queen* doesn't qualify as a woman." the rumors had spread further than he'd thought, but those words infuriated him.

"Then why is she the one having a baby while you're alone?" he threw back, wanting to hurt her, to hurt *somebody*, tired of hurting himself.

Her face paled. That one had hit home.

"That's it. I won't work with you."

"I never asked you to." he turned his back on her, fingers digging into the open wounds on his arm, the pain coming in a wave, waiting for her to leave.

He had to finish this case and get out of here...back to Scully and the pain he understood. Just don't let there be any connection to Samantha, he prayed to a God he didn't believe in as he turned the computer back on, hearing her soft footsteps as she left. Don't let me recognize any of the names they might give me...

The information was downloaded quickly, the Gunmen didn't like to be on an official line very long and they were using a multi-link remote hook-up for this. They wouldn't have done it at all except he'd sent email *begging* for their help...he scanned the file and then shut down, wanting to get to the privacy of his hotel room to go over it.

Several other agents glared at him in anger or disgust as he left. Roddy hadn't wasted any time spreading the news.

Spooky Mulder was a jerk.

Big surprise there.

"That's perfect." Ru smiled, giving the scarf a final twitch.

Dana looked in the mirror. She usually avoided scarves and hats, they made her look even shorter, but he'd been right. With her hair pulled up and the thin touch of color at her throat she looked...different. Not taller, but sophisticated. It made the plain black pantsuit a statement, not simply a decision.

It made her hair glow dark copper.

"I'll have to take you shopping more often." she agreed, slipping it off. He had steered her to three outfits, two ensembles and one suit, all adjustable for the days to come. Sally had warned her that none of them would fit by December, but they were good for now.

And there wasn't a bow to be seen. No bows, no ruffles, nothing pink. He had known she wouldn't like fussy stuff without asking.

They sat down on the sofa, the TV on. It was late, but her hours were turned round now and she wasn't tired.

The kitchen was separated from the living room area by a tall counter and Dancer went behind it, opening a cabinet. She couldn't reach half of them, they went almost to the high ceiling.

He came out with a plate and two glasses of purple liquid. She grinned at the expression on his face.

"You really don't like sweets, do you?" she asked as he set it down and she picked up a cupcake, licking the frosting off the top.

He took a sip of the grape-flavored sugar-water and grimaced.

"Meat. I like *meat*." he picked up the remote. "Anything good on?"

"Not as good as Casablanca." she said. "How about Arnie?"

"Which one? I'm too old to enjoy Conan the Republican anymore."

"You're only 26, Ru."

"I *feel* too old for it." it was his usual lazy grin.

"Kindergarten Cop and Twins."

"That'll do."

They watched the movies, Dana eating way too much junk food but not feeling bad about it. During commercials she glanced at Ru, sitting there like he belonged, his company comfortable, undemanding, just there.

This is the way it's supposed to be, she thought. Will it ever be this way with Mulder again? *Was* it ever this way with him?

Ru looked at her and smiled, as if he had heard the thought.

He reached for her hand and she let him take it, his fingers aimlessly tracing soft patterns.

Dana sighed, closed her eyes.

After a few minutes he let go of her hand and stood, stretching, his shirt pulling out of his jeans, revealing thickly furred stomach.

He looked down at her and shrugged.

"I don't want to leave you alone."

She opened her eyes with a smile.

"I'll be okay."

"I woundn't go if I didn't have to."

"I know."

Dana was briefly tempted to ask what would happen if he didn't, but knew that deep down inside she didn't want to know. Not really. Dancer was Dancer and that's all there was to it. She didn't need the details.

"I'll be back by dawn." he touched her face, a feather stroke, his skin so warm.

"I won't wait up." she promised.

He went out the window into the fire escape and she was alone.

She wished Mulder would call.

He sat on the rumpled bed, reading though his eyes hurt. Touching his arm he was startled to find his shirt wet. He'd made it bleed this time. That wasn't good, that was too noticeable. He'd have to be more careful.

He had names to call, files to search, something to go on. With a sigh he began correlating the data into something an average person could make sense of.

He hadn't found any names he recognized and he was grateful.

The clock said 2:34 a.m. when he looked at it. Too late to call Scully. He'd have to do it in the morning. She was going to be pissed, but maybe when he sent her this information she'd forgive him...who was he kidding.

He rubbed his arm. There was no one here to see it.

part#3 - rockslide

Dana sat beside him in the car silent. She wasn't looking out the window or anything. If her eyes hadn't been open he would have thought she was asleep.

But her eyes were open and shining with unshed tears.

Releasing the steering wheel with one hand Ru reached over and took hers, giving it a friendly squeeze.

She glanced at him but wouldn't meet his eyes. He reached into the storage thing between the seats and pulled out a tissue, holding it out to her, putting his hand back on the wheel, trying to watch the road and still see her out of the corner of his eye.

"He's doing what he thinks is right, Dana." he said softly.

"Stop defending him." it was flat and desperately unhappy. "He's avoiding me...and our baby. He doesn't want this."

They were passing out of the city, the landscape was suburban, cheerful, normal. Scully stared at it, seeing a landscape once familiar, now as alien as the surface of the moon.

Ru glanced at the sky, wishing briefly for the moon to show itself, give him strength. There was nothing he could say, or do to make this better.

"All we've gone through..." the tears were rolling slowly down her face now. They both ignored them. Unspoken is unseen.

She couldn't find anything else to say. Dancer was torn, unable to sort his feelings. he always tried to avoid human entanglements and here he was, torn between his compassion for and his anger at Mulder and his affection and fear for Dana.

Sometimes he just couldn't find the words.

Hesitantly he slid his large hand across the seat and wrapped her much smaller one in it, giving it a gentle squeeze and holding it tenderly on the seat between them.

Dana didn't look at him or change expression. But she did squeeze back, once.

By the time they got to the doctor's office her tears were gone and she had found a tremulous smile to celebrate this milestone.

"Mrs. Hernandez?" the door of the tiny house opened, revealing a latched chain and a dark face. "I'm special agent Fox Mulder with the FBI. I'd like to ask you a few questions, if you can spare the time." he flipped up the folder he held ready.

"Questions about what?" her deep voice sounded reasonable.

"I'd like to ask you about Southwest Research and Dr. Tomas."

The chain slipped and she opened the door, a matronly woman in her late thirties, clean, her very long hair in one thick braid over her shoulder. She smiled tentatively.

"I would like to talk about them, but I can't. I'm sorry." she began to close the door again and he stuck a foot in it with a wry grin.

"Is something or someone preventing you from talking to me?" he sounded very serious and she responded in kind.

"I haven't been threatened, Mr. Mulder. But I signed a paper when I was a patient there promising never to talk about what they did. They said it was so nobody could steal their technology."

"Do you think they had any technology worth stealing?" when she shook her head he held up a hand. "Hear me out. You're not talking about the technology itself, just your *impression* of it."

She thought about it for a minute.

"I've been treated for infertility at several clinics across the US, and Tomas had, he *did* things I've never heard or seen of before."

"Did Tomas help you have a baby, Mrs.Hernandez?" he said it very quietly, very sympathetically.

"It didn't work for me." the sadness was obvious, but he could see the resolve, too. This woman had dealt with her disappointment and would get on with her life.

"Thank you for your time." he left, thinking that "I'm sorry." would really just rub it in.

Celia Gorleski was next.

"Here's the head..." Dr. Hall was standing beside Dana, pointing at the small screen while the white-coated technician slowly rolled the receiver across her belly, just a little bump now, the jelly cold and slimy on her skin. Dancer stood by her head, a hand on her shoulder, watching her face and not the screen.

"And the heart. Everything looks fine, Dana." Hall smiled at both of them, catching Dancer looking pensive.

"Can you tell what it is?"

Dana didn't sound very excited.

"It's really too early to tell, but we'll know after the amnio next week." Hall said, turning to study the screen carefully. "No, too early. I'm going to print this for you so you can it to the grandparents..." she grinned at them, "But you'll have to get the copies yourself."

Dana watched in fascination, feeling a thrill run through her as she watched the image move on the screen.

That was her *baby*.

Standing beside her, a hand on her shoulder, Dancer watched with undisguised awe, then looked at Dana and saw the sadness still visible on her pretty pale face.

Mulder should have been here, Scully thought wistfully. Maybe he would act differently once he saw his child growing within her. She had to believe he would.

Maybe that was why he wouldn't come.

This once-in-a-lifetime moment of joy was marred by his absence, and she hurt so much.

But as bad as it hurt she couldn't tear her eyes away from the screen.

"Hello, little one." she whispered beneath her breath, unaware that Ru was listening. "I'm so glad you're here. I can't wait to meet you."

She was going to be okay, Dancer thought. He removed his hand from her shoulder, awkward with her in these circumstances. But that was probably okay, he figured this made a lot of expectant fathers nervous.

"Mr. Dancer." The doctor didn't call him Ru. Something about him just made her uncomfortable and her respected that. His father would call it racial memory, from when their species hunted one another. "We still need to get those blood samples from you, we're running out of time here."

His eyes flew to Dana's, mild panic in them, his hand suddenly clutching her shoulder hard, and she understood without asking.

"We have to get to another appointment pretty quickly..." she tried to think of something.

"Why can't Dana take it?" he blurted suddenly.

"Hmmm?" Hall was looking at him suspiciously.

"We're always so busy..." Dana appeared thoughtful. "I could just draw it myself when we have time and drop it off here when I get the chance."

"It will only take a minute..." Hall was ready to insist, but decided it really wasn't her business. "Sure, you're a doctor, Dana. I'll give you the works and you can take it." Was he just afraid of needles and worried what people would think if they knew? She'd seen tougher guys become wimps over a little needle stick. If he wanted to do it in private, what did she care?

"So, get dressed and I'll have this picture ready for you." she stepped out. Dancer followed her quickly, giving Dana a chance to dress in private, getting outside where he could breathe without the nasty smells that were making his head hurt.

Leaning on the car, he decided that he owed Mulder for this. If only for the headache.

"Mr. Gorleski? I need to speak to Mr. Paul Gorleski."

The voice on the other end of the phone was polite but unfriendly.

"Mr. Gorleski is on the floor right now and can't come to the phone."

"This is federal business." he was getting angry, and afraid of losing control. Everything seemed right on the edge, ready to spill over into rage. "I would like to meet with him in private but *I* *will* come down there and disrupt everything if you insist!" he was snarling. A tiny corner of his mind thought that he must sound like Dancer just now, but he ignored it.

"I'll try to get him for you, sir."

Mulder was on hold again, listening to country music. If it could be *called* music.

He should have gone to the factory to meet the man, but felt just a tad bit paranoid today. Although they often didn't mean anything, once in a great while these feelings were based in fact. Considering the power of the people he might be dealing with, better safe than sorry. There was no one at the house, Mrs.Gorleski didn't work and had no close relatives. He'd watched the house for four solid hours this morning -- if she was shopping wouldn't she have come home by now?

"This is Gorleski. Can I help you?" the voice was heavily accented and wary.

"My name is Fox Mulder, Mr. Gorleski, and I work for the FBI. I'd like to speak to you and your wife, if that's possible."

"My wife is unavailable." the man snapped. "What do you want to know?"

"I'd feel more comfortable if I could meet you someplace." Mulder said. "When do you take lunch?"

"Noon." he said it like 'you idiot'.

"Can you meet me? I'll buy."

There was silence on the other end as the man thought it over.

"Is this about the baby?" he sounded angry.

"I'd rather not talk about it on the phone."

"We signed a paper."

"I don't want to talk about Dr. Tomas's procedures or techniques. I want to know what happened to your baby." Mulder stressed the last. "Don't you want to know, Mr. Gorleski?"

"Stanley's Barbecue on North 11th. Can you find it?"

"I'll be there." Mulder promised, hanging up abruptly, afraid he'd said too much already.

He'd have to ask for directions, fast.

Dana had a quiet day at the office, doing paperwork and research, alternately missing Mulder and being pissed at him all over again.

Websurfing brought some interesting articles on Southwest Research and Dr. Tomas that she downloaded to send to him the next time they talk...whenever that would be. Their baby might graduate high school first, and finish college before they slept together again. Personally, Dana wasn't willing to go *that* long without sex.

She doodled idly on a notepad and realized that she was writing names...baby names.

William. And Wolf. (Wolf? Where had she gotten that one?) And *Fox*. Like he was going to let her name him *that*. He hated it.

He probably wouldn't like Wolf, either, but she had a feeling Ru would.

Alexander. She'd always liked that one. Joshua, Adam. Strong names.

Okay. She thought about it, seriously, for the first time, surprised she hadn't before. It was a long cry from her junior high days when she scribbled the names of her future children across the margins of notebooks. Of course their last names had all been the same as the boys that wouldn't date her, a pale, short, skinny redhead. Mulder would have been one of the geeks she was 'just friends' with while she pined for the attention of a football player.

God. Last names. Of course it would have to be Dancer. How was that going to make Mulder feel?

Probably about as bad as he felt now, letting Dancer claim his baby. It hurt her when he acted this way, but that didn't mean she didn't understand. Unfortunately, after her initial dismay, she agreed with him. It protected their job so they could still work together, even if she wasn't sure the baby was in as much danger as he thought.

She rubbed the back of her neck, which itched occasionally. *What she was thinking?* Of course the baby, any baby of hers or Mulder's, was in danger, doubly if it was the child of both of them.

They were doing the right thing. The *only* thing they could do under the circumstances.

Sighing, she stood and stretched, checking the clock. It wasn't quite six, but who was going to say anything?

She was going to drag Dancer to dinner and then get to bed early...she was so tired all the time now...

"Mr. Gorleski?" Mulder walked into the diner with a grimace. The plain man sitting at the first table jumped at his low tone.

"Can we walk outside?" wearing a nice suit, a bit rumpled, Gorleski stood, not offering his hand.

"Whatever you want." he was going to get information from this guy, Mulder could afford to be generous.

They walked several blocks. It was a run-down neighborhood, didn't look at all like this man's usual haunt.

"Celia went to visit her sister in Alabama." Gorleski said at last. "I'm not sure she's coming back."

Incapable of sympathy at this point, Mulder held his tongue.

"She thinks it's my fault, I guess." the man paused, turned to Mulder, his eyes begging for understanding. "She didn't want to go to Tomas, said he gave her a creepy feeling. But I wanted a baby...a son of my own. I know we could've adopted eventually. But I wanted *my* child."

Mulder nodded, noncommittal.

"She was so happy to be pregnant. We signed all the papers...they said they were just routine, that nothing would really happen."

"What did the papers say, Mr. Gorleski?" Mulder tried to be sensitive.

"Lots of things." he shrugged. "They could sue me for talking to you. But with Celia gone that doesn't seem to matter anymore."

They stopped walking again and Mulder prodded gently.

"Did you give Tomas permission to run tests on your wife and baby?"

"He performed 'viability enhancing' procedures. That's what he called them. I don't know what any of them actually were, but I know Celia would come home crying about them. And after her eggs were harvested and I donated my part, they waited three weeks before they implanted them. Other clinics wait four or five days, at the most. I've wondered since then what he was doing to our baby when it was just a cluster of defenseless cells. If I had protected it, it might have lived."

"Your wife miscarried." Mulder could barely say it. Despite all the pain, the fear, the anguish Scully's pregnancy was causing him, he couldn't imagine the pain and guilt of losing that baby now.

"She started to bleed and we called the doctor. He said to come to the clinic and not the hospital...I didn't want to. I was afraid of losing Celia too. But she insisted, said she wanted to save her baby...they wouldn't let me in the delivery room..."

"How far along was your wife?"

"Six-and-a-half months."

"What happened after the baby was born?" they stopped again, now standing in the opening of an alley, the too-sweet smell of rotting cabbage strong in the air.

Gorleski lowered his head and wouldn't meet Mulder's eyes.

"One of the papers we signed...it said they got to keep the body and perform an autopsy if it didn't go to term. Celia swore they could have tried to save him...it was a boy...but that they refused...that was right before she left me. They kept the body and we didn't even have anything to bury."

"Do you know what they did with the body, Mr. Gorleski?" Mulder leaned close, invading personal space.

Gorleski shook his head.

"They didn't tell us. They just reminded us that we'd signed those papers and sent us on our way."

They were both quiet, Gorleski reliving the trauma, Mulder considering his next action.

He decided he wanted to try to make this man feel better, if only because Scully would have expected it of him.

"Call your wife, Mr. Gorleski. Tell her everything you told me about wanting a child. Then tell her that the FBI is investigating Tomas and you're cooperating. Perhaps she'll listen to you and you can talk about the hurt you've both suffered."

Gorleski frowned at him.

"What are you, some kind of shrink?"

"Yeah." Mulder answered as he turned to walk away. "Some kind."

She was sleeping so soundly, he hated to wake her. But he had to go out tonight, and she was sleeping on his arm.

"Dana." he shook her shoulder with his free hand. "Honey. Go to bed, you're exhausted."

She sat up with bleary eyes.

"Ru? Huh?"

He pulled his arm and flexed the stiffness out of it.

"Go to bed. I need to run, and you need to sleep."

"Oh. Yeah." she stood unsteadily and he reached to help her balance, his hands on her waist.

Their eyes met and he removed his hands quickly.

"I'll be back in the morning." he said softly, getting up and heading for the window.

"Ru?" he turned at her voice, sleepy and curious.


"You don't really run, do you?"

He grinned, the expression covering his face with half-glee.

"Sure I do. Just not the way you would."

He was out the window before she could ask anything else.

Dana changed out of her suit and into Mulder's boxers and T- shirt. She missed him, but this helped a little bit. Enough to let her sleep alone. Curling under the covers she clutched the phone in one hand, determined to make it ring...she slept again.

"Thanks, Frohike." Mulder breathed in a whisper as the gadget his subversive friend had given him a year ago proved itself again now.

The security system was on hold momentarily, giving him just enough time to get to the console and adjust it to accept his presence...this wouldn't work for just anyone, they would have to have his memory and intelligence...*there*. He was in safely.

The lobby was just the way it had looked the last time he was here, but his time he wasn't interested in the small Monet and Botticelli originals on the wall. Tonight he was looking for proof.

He was a little beyond legalities here. He knew that. But this was too important. He had to see if there were any names in Tomas' files that he recognized. He had to *know*.

If he was caught Skinner would throw him to the wolves.

He just hope Dancer was the one that caught him.

The thought made him grin and he shook his head as he attached the keycode device to Tomas' office door.

Good thing Roddy wasn't here. She'd have a fit.

"He's in." Roddy sat back and sighed. She didn't like using Mulder this way, no matter what a jerk he was. If he was caught they wouldn't claim him, but if he found anything they would have an excuse to get a search warrant and clear the place out. Because she thought he was right, something unsavory was going on here...now they just had to see what he did next.

It took a few tries, but the backdoor on Tomas's computer was pathetically easy to guess. His mother's birthday and the license plate number of his Porche. Predictable, and boring.

The menu presented many choices, none of them sounded like what he wanted.

"Where did you hide it...?" he went for the most unbelievable of the entries, 'Politics for Fun and Profit', which turned out to be a list of lobbyists paid on the clinic's behalf, complete with success rates and perks given.

'The Hope of the Future' proved to be the jackpot. The password was harder, he had to use the codebreaker. This was a handy little gadget. Langley had said that another semi- secret group, this one composed of hackers and ex-military men, had brought it to them for safekeeping several years ago and hadn't shown up since. The leader had been tall and blond and good-looking, a Robert Redford-type.

He picked a disc at random from the box and authorized the computer to overwrite it, downloading everything in the file...and waited.

But not too long.

"Agent Mulder. Breaking and entering, industrial espionage?" the voice was angry but quiet.

Mulder snapped around as the light came on. He'd been working by the light of the screen.

He'd though everyone had gone home by now.

Dr. Tomas was pointing a very large gun at him.

He smiled with his next words.

"It's too bad I have to shoot you as a trespasser." he pulled the hammer back and Mulder threw himself to the side, scrambling to get behind the desk for the little protection it might offer.

The shot was loud going off.

"We have gunfire!" the voice came clear over Roddy's headset. She and Smith scrambled out of the surveillance car as the clinic lit up like Christmas, the alarms sounding in shrill, strident tones.

"We're going in!" she yelled back as they went through the front door without benefit of a key. With the alarms going off and no need for secrecy it didn't matter that the door didn't survive it.

"This way!" she led Smith at a run down the hall, to Tomas' office, knowing she would find Mulder there....

"Freeze!" Smith yelled and Roddy grimaced even as she disarmed Tomas.

Chastened, Mulder crawled out from under the desk, but, instead of yelling at her for following him, he went back to the computer and found the information was already transferred.

"He was trespassing!" Tomas was screaming, a hint of his native Castilian sneaking into his accent now, under stress. "He threatened me!"

"With what?" Roddy studied Mulder, told him again with her eyes that she desired him, and then gave the now handcuffed doctor a hard shake.

"I brought my weapon." Mulder reluctantly pulled it from the holster and showed it to her. It had not been fired.

"This is manslaughter at the least." now she was getting into someone's face and Mulder enjoyed the sight.

"I didn't kill anybody!"

"You gave false hope. That's worse." Mulder stepped up and shook his head at Roddy. "I think I have enough here to get a late warrant so the real cops can toss the place."

"That would be nice." she didn't smile at him.

"Why'd you bail me out?" he asked as he left the building beside her.

"Because you were right. We might not like your methods, but this saved babies. I'll ignore my personal feelings for that."

Mulder smiled, just a little.

"Maybe I can get you change them."

part#4 - roll like thunder

He got home late the next night. He knew he'd been avoiding it, knew he didn't want to face Scully. So he'd stayed in San Antonio, done all the paperwork he could find related to the case, studied every note Tomas had ever written, even took Roddy to a combination apology/thank-you dinner and was charming feeling guilty the whole time, his fingers digging into the healing flesh of his arm.

But now he was home. It was late, she should have been asleep. He'd called her that night after they'd broken the case. Told her that their names, his parents, his sister's, were nowhere to be found in the clinic computers, unless they were hidden *very* well, and he didn't think they had a computer expert on the payroll.

He put his suitcase on the stairs, determined just to look in at her and then go on up.

"Hi." he jumped slightly as she sat up and turned on the bedside lamp. "I was wondering when you were going to get in. You should have called, I would have come to get you."

Steeling himself for the confrontation, he answered carefully.

"I didn't want to wake you."

She got up, wearing his shirt and boxers again and he felt a thrill run down his body.

"I got some stuff for the baby, I wanted you to see it." she took his hand, smiling, and he had to smile back. She looked so pretty, so young and healthy and happy.

The way she should always look.

The way she didn't look around him. The pain in his gut came directly from his heart...did Dancer make her this happy?

As long as she was happy, it didn't matter, he told himself sternly as she led him down the wide hall to the den, which was going to be the baby's room.

"Close your eyes." she said, and he did, feeling foolish but getting interested despite himself.

She led him into the room and he heard the click of the light switch.

"Okay." she said, stepping behind him, her arms around his waist as she looked around him. "Open them."

He did.

And immediately shut them again.

"What do you think?" she sounded so excited, so pleased with herself, how could he answer? He always hurt her...

He looked again, hoping it wasn't as bad as he thought.

But it was. The walls were sporting the image of a small green martian in a big helmet, his bizarre little dog by his side. They were on the sheets, the mobile, the blankets...

"You don't like it." he'd waited too long to answer.

Mulder bit his lip, hard, felt the blood rush to the surface.

"What are you doing?!" she stared at him and he stopped, startled.

"I don't get it, Scully." it was a snarl born of fear and pain.

"What? If you don't like it, just say so. I can take it back." she had her hands on her hips, facing him down.

He felt the rage rise in him, turned, tried to walk out, but she grabbed his arm and held on stubbornly, shouting at him now.

"Well it's not like you were here to help!"

She jumped back as he turned, took another step when she saw his face, afraid she'd pushed him too far.

"You want him to be comfortable when they take him, Scully?! You want him to *recognize* them so he won't be scared?! Cause I don't think it's gonna work!! I think he's gonna *scream* just like Samantha did, just like you did, no matter how many cute little aliens you put in his room!"

Hearing himself, really hearing the words coming out of his mouth, realizing that, for the first time in his life, he *sounded like his father*, Mulder literally ran out of the room, leaving Dana standing, shocked, to stare at the spot he had stood.

When he got upstairs he pulled out the pack of cigarettes he'd bought at the airport and the lighter with the childproof switch. Clutching them tightly in white-knuckled hands, he sat heavily on the floor under the skylight and waited for the tears to come.

*Prayed* for the tears to come.

And when they didn't, he began to *make* them.

"hey." Dancer slipped in through the door like a shadow. Curled on the couch -- she hadn't wanted to be alone in her big bed -- Dana sat up and rubbed her eyes, looking for all the world like a sleepy child.

But a sleepy child had *never* made him feel like this.

He sat beside her, concerned by the redness of her nose, the puffiness of her eyes.

"He didn't come home?" it was the only thing he could think of offhand that would have made her cry like this.

"He came home." she snorted in painful derision. "And yelled at me for my choice of nursery decor."

"Bastard." he'd had just about enough of this. "I'll talk to him." he got up but her hand on his arm stopped him.

"Leave him be. I'm going to see my mom tomorrow, I'll talk to him after that."

Ru sat back down.

"Maybe he just needs some time alone."

"Yeah." Dana said, slumping back down into the couch. "Maybe."

A triangle within the first one. Then three points around it. Neat. Precise.

It was hard to hold it steady while it burned, but he did, because it had to look just right. The pattern had to be even, perfect.

He didn't even notice the tears that ran down his face as he lit the second cigarette.

But he did remember to put it out before he rolled over on the floor and fell into sleep, the pain a constant song in his body.

He didn't want to do this to anyone else.

"Dana. Honey. I'm so glad to see you."

Margaret Scully ushered her daughter into the kitchen, where she was baking pies. Not for a holiday but just because it was a crisp day and she felt like it.

Dana smiled as she sat at the counter and her mom pinched off a little piece of dough for her before picking up the rolling pin and getting to it.

It was squishy and elastic in her fingers. She rolled it around, made little balls of it, finally formed it into a string of pie-dough pearls, setting it on the cookie sheet beside an already-filled shell.

"I remember how you kids used to beg for pieces of dough so you could make things." Margaret smiled at her, neatly folding a circle in half and quarters before deftly transferring it into another deep glass dish. She reached into the cabinet behind her and pulled out an old spice jar filled with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, handed it to her.

Solemnly Dana shook it over her creation.

"I don't think Mulder ever did this." she said quietly. Her mom glanced at her but began slicing the tart green apples that were lying on a dishtowel beside the sink.

"All the things I took for granted in my childhood. I don't think Mulder ever got to do any of them."

"Honey." Margaret said. "Katherine isn't an ogre. I know she and Fox don't get along, but he did things. He went trick-or- treating, he had sleepovers. Boy stuff." she said, but she didn't sound so sure.

"Not after Samantha was gone." Dana sighed, then stood and went to her mother to hug her from behind. Margaret stood still, pleased by this affection from her so-often stand-offish daughter. "Did I ever thank you and daddy for giving me such a good life?"

"Of course you did, dear." Margaret felt dana pull away and went on as if nothing had happened. "By becoming a wonderful person. That's all the thanks we needed."

"Is that how it works?" Dana sat back down, one hand on the slight mound of her belly. Margaret glanced at her again, trying to decide what to do. Speak up or listen? It was the hardest decision for a parent to make.

Dana made it for her by squeezing off another piece of dough and beginning another creation in silence.

Side-by-side, the Scully women baked.

And eventually they talked.

"Thanks Mom." Dana gave her mother another hug, standing beside her car. The sky was dark, purplish, the moon hiding in the clouds. She didn't usually get home this late, she hoped Ru was okay.

"You bring those fellas of yours out for dinner soon." Margaret smiled at her, including Dancer, accepting that he was a part of her life now. Whatever was going on with her daughter, he was a part of it. "Just give Fox some room. This can't be easy for him, and you know he loves you."

Dana smiled sadly. Her mom thought it was hard because she was having another man's baby. She hadn't told her that, but Margaret was assuming it, like she had known she would. Or maybe she realized the truth but was playing along.

"He hasn't changed, Dana." Margaret continued. "He's acted like this before. You can't ask a person to change, not just for you and not so quickly."

It had only been a few weeks. Of course Mulder hadn't adjusted yet.

"I know." she got in her car, waved, and drove away.

Dancer was still there when she got in. Sitting on the floor, painstakingly constructing a tiny red tricycle.

"Hey." he smiled when she came in. "Look what I got."

"He won't be ready to use that for years." she laughed and scolded, then looked around. There was no evidence anyone had eaten dinner. "Did Mulder come down?"

"Haven't seen him since you left." he tightened the last nut and stood, holding it out in front of him. "But I didn't hear the elevator."

The huge freight elevator, which had made it possible for them to get the furniture up here, made an awful clanking noise. She thought it must be terrible for the people on the lower floors, who heard it every time it was used, but up here they only had to listen if they used it or someone took it to the roof, which had only happened once.

She put the pie on the counter top and smiled as Ru came over and made a face.

"It's not for you anyhow." she shook a finger at him. "Mom sent it for Mulder."

"He's welcome to it." Dancer opened a cabinet and pulled out a box of jumbo beef jerky, unwrapping a fat stick and gnawing on it contentedly.

"I'm going to go up and talk to him."

"I'll stay up in case you need me." he sat on the sofa while she went to the back stairs.

She paused before opening the door. This was the first time she had done this, gone up to Mulder's place while he was home, since they had moved in. It was sort of setting a precedent. She'd never been able to just walk up to see him whenever she wanted before.

This was a real change.

She thought about it as she went quietly up the narrow stairs. He'd looked at the place with her, convinced her they should move in. He wanted to live here with her and their baby.

Maybe she was being too hard on him.

It was dark again. But he didn't notice.

All that mattered was the pain.

On the inside.

The pain out.

H knew that he needed the pain outside, to let the inside pain come out. Twisted, convoluted, it worked, better than it had when he was young.

There was a pattern now, on the inside of his upper left arm. A graphic, geometric figure. Hard as he tried, he couldn't see anything in it.

Abstract. Meaningless. Pretty but with no purpose.

Like him.

Still sitting beneath the skylight, his back to the room, he didn't hear the footsteps on the stairs or the floor behind him.

The tip of the cigarette glowed that Halloween-orange that his body had learned to recognize. His stomach rolled, his balls tightened, acid rose in his throat...and he put it to his arm, ignoring the protest of his rational mind, banished behind lock and key in a distant corner of his brain, unwanted, unheeded.

"My God, Mulder, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!"

The scream broke his reverie.

Turning, he dropped the cigarette into his lap, where it burned his bare leg and he flinched -- *it hurt*! -- and jumped up, brushing it from him while Scully approached warily, her eyes wide and astonished.

"Scully?" he stared at her, seeing only a vision...had he finally lost his mind?

"*Mulder*." she came close, grabbed his arm firmly in her hands, twisted it around to the reflected light of a streetlamp floating through the skylight. "What have you done?"


He saw it in her eyes when she looked back to him from the blistered, oozing mess on his arm. The one thing he could not take from her.

He opened his mouth, but there was nothing to say.

So he turned and walked away, to the stairs, and down, Scully following closely.

"Mulder! Where are you going? Are you going to hurt yourself? MULDER!!"

Terrified, disgusted, she was determined not to let him get away without talking to her, without explaining this...

"Dancer! Stop him!!" she yelled as Mulder burst out of the stairs and ran down the hallway. Without questioning the short man stepped in front of her partner, who reached to shove him aside but met brick wall.

Dancer stood firm, grabbing Mulder's arms, smelling the blood and burned flesh, dismayed.

"Fox. Hey, dude, get a grip..." he tried to soothe, but Mulder wasn't hearing him, was pushing and shoving and struggling, some part of him astonished by Dancer's superior strength.

It became a struggle. Dancer held on and Mulder fought him like a man possessed.

Tiring, becoming dangerously angry, on the verge of doing something he *couldn't* control, Dancer threw Mulder to the floor and wrapped him up in a professional basket hold, trapped by his own arms and his own weight, Mulder finally set his tongue loose.

"Get the fuck off me, you freak! Let me up! *Dana*! Get him off me! LET ME GO!!!!" the last of it was a drawn-out scream that faded to silence as he stilled.

Dancer held him tightly, waiting for a rational response. Panting, Dana knelt beside Mulder's head, trying to understand, wanting to talk to him, to make it better...

But Mulder wasn't there.

His eyes were closed and he was breathing in shallow pants. He didn't respond to stimuli, not words or touches or pain when she examined his arm.

She looked at Dancer, her terror written starkly on her face.

He looked back, unable to offer comfort or even assistance.

"I've got to go." he said softly, regretting it more than anything he'd ever said in his life. "The fight...I *have* to get out..."

With a lunge he turned Mulder over and lifted the larger man like a baby with no apparent effort, laying him on the sofa tenderly, turning to Scully, his eyes wide and glittering yellow, hands curling into fists at his sides.

"Don't do anything till I get back..." he begged. "Give him a chance to recover on his own...." he couldn't get out anything else. With a low whine he ran for the window and disappeared down the fire escape.

Stunned, Dana went to the sofa and sat beside Mulder, who slumped like a rag doll.

After a while she got up and got her first aid kit, cleaned and bandaged the burns, spreading pain-killing salve delicately over the raw tissue.

He might need a graft. Some of them were third-degree, burns on top of burns.

How long had he been doing this?

Why hadn't she noticed?

He mind ran over the past weeks, times when she had thought he was moving oddly, acting strangely. She'd chalked it up to stress.

Well, I guess he was stressed all right, she managed a bitter chuckle.

At last she covered him with a blanket, cuddled close to him, and turned on the TV. CNN, chipper voices droning on about things that didn't matter to her if he wasn't okay.

Dancer crept in near dawn. He looked better.

He brought her soup and milk and sat on Mulder's other side.

But Mulder still didn't move. He wasn't asleep, he opened his eyes and stared into space for hours at a time and then closed them again. But he wouldn't talk to them, wouldn't look at them.

"Catatonia?" Ru asked her around noon. They had been trying to watch a movie on HBO.

"Not exactly." Dana brushed her fingers over Mulder's face. He didn't move. "Semi, maybe. Self-induced hypnosis? I don't know."

"He'll be okay." Ru said quietly, firmly. "He just needed to get it out of his system."

But he winced and turned away when she uncovered the arm to spread more antibiotic cream on it.

"That's wrong." he said when she was done. "To hurt yourself that way. I don't understand."

"Neither do I."

The moon rose again but Dancer remained with her. The night before had filled him for a while, he could ignore her silver call tonight.

They were watching Conan after Dave when Mulder finally moved.

Actually, he didn't move much. Just his lips.

"*sorry*, Scully..." his eyes were still closed.

Jumping like she'd been shocked, Dana reined her emotions in and leaned close to whisper by his face.

"Mulder...it's okay. I love you."

Now he opened his eyes and she was surprised to see no tears in them.

"I know." he paused, seeming to search for words. "I love you too...I just don't know what to do with it sometimes."

"Not this." she touched his arm and he flinched. "Never again, Mulder. Promise me."

"Anything, Scully." he sighed and closed his eyes. "I'm so tired."

"Why don't we take a bath and go to bed." she stood, glancing at Dancer, who smiled at them.

He let himself be pulled from the couch and into the bathroom.

Behind them Dancer kept smiling.

It was going to be okay.


She bathed him with gentle hands, sitting cross-legged in front of him in the deep whirlpool tub. He sat up straight, eyes studying her face, wondering.

He laid a hand on the curve of her stomach and she smiled.

"You haven't seen the sono picture yet. He's a great-looking kid, just like his dad." she said lightly.

"I didn't find anything." he said. "Nothing about Mom, about Sam or you."

"So it's okay."

"I don't know." he closed his eyes and leaned forward into her chest, her arms came around him. "I don't know why I did it, Scully. It just seemed easier if the hurt was visible, obvious, where I could reach it. Like then it couldn't sneak up on me."

"And it let you feel things when you were afraid to."

He sat back up.

"The wrong things. I'm sorry I yelled. Sorry I ignored you. Sorry I cut you out."

He offered no excuses, no reasons. Just bald apology.

"I know." she stood, reaching for a towel. "I understand."

He followed, sat beside her on the bed.

"Do you?" his eyes caught hers, still wide and worried.

She leaned close and kissed him gently, his eyes staring into hers.

"Yes." she sighed against his lips.

They didn't need words now. He poured his love and pain equally into their lovemaking, giving everything to her and more, cleansing himself of his fears and leaving him whole in her arms.

"As long as we can talk...as long as we make love." she whispered to him as they lay tight together afterwards. "We'll be okay."

He didn't answer, idly tracing fingers around her stomach, thinking of the child within.

"Do you believe me?" she leaned to whisper, a hand in his hair.

He looked at her. There was a new peace, hard-won, in his dark eyes.


And that was enough.

the end

Return to Bump In The Night