Title: The Wish I
Author: ViXen
Classification: SRA
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance, alternate universe
Rating: NC-17
Timeline: Takes place on March 17, 1996. No Season 4 stuff here.
Disclaimer: I don't own Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. They belong to CC, 1013 and Fox.

Summary: On St. Patrick's Day, Scully is given the opportunity to see how life could be different had alternate paths been chosen.


*How can he keep doing this to himself?*

Dana Scully let those words from her mind hover over her like a fine mist, wishing her skin could absorb them like water droplets and have them nourish her body with understanding.

*How was it that he was able to put himself through this time and time again, feeling he had never been closer, only to find he had never been farther away.*

She shook her head knowingly; she was watching the inevitable downfall of the one person she most admired, most respected, and yes, most loved. She was forced to observe in silence as more of her partner's strong foundation was chipped away.

She stayed because she knew she could never leave him. It was too late to walk away, their lives forever entwined in the strong vines of conspiracy and unanswered questions. So she watched and waited, hoping he would let her help drive away the pain. Sometimes he did, and other times, like tonight, he faced his demons alone.

*Alone. Why always alone, Mulder?*

Scully found the rear exit leading outside the hotel complex and pushed through the door. She was hungry and tired, but refused to return to her room. She needed fresh air and open space, and time to think.

Mulder was strong, she knew that. His strength and courage astounded her on a daily basis. A weaker man could never go through the pain and mental torture her partner had gone through and still be alive to agonize over it. A weaker man would have ended his life, ended the suffering. Not Fox William Mulder. For some reason, Scully thought, Mulder felt he deserved the suffering. Maybe he thought it was appropriate punishment for not doing more when his sister was taken, or for being a failure in his father's eyes.

Whatever the reason, she firmly believed he would never take his own life, not willingly, anyway. Subconsciously he put himself in dangerous situations, knowing he had a fifty-fifty chance of surviving. Deep down inside, she knew he liked it that way; Mulder got off on the thrill of danger and the anticipation of release. Not as some perverse sexual release, but as a mental release. A release that was not necessarily life threatening, but life affirming. Certainly not the healthiest way of looking at life, but it was his way of coping and it got him through each day to live the next.

Scully strode into a small field behind the hotel building, the crunching sound under her feet telling her the field had long since been neglected by the property's owner. The sun was just setting over the horizon, casting an eerie reddish-yellow glow against the smattering of pregnant clouds in the sky. She came to a stop near the middle of the field when her gaze fell upon a splash of green in the yellow and brown landscape. Curious, she approached the green patch, her head tilted to one side.

*How could something grow here?* she wondered as she stopped a few inches from the green rectangle's edge. She squatted down and plucked a tiny piece from the patch. She raised it to her face and smiled.

*Clovers.*

Her smile soon gave way to laughter, short bursts of child-like giggles bubbling up from her throat. Moving to her hands and knees, she crawled into the patch, resisting the urge to lay down among the clovers and settling instead for sitting with her legs tucked under her. Running her hand lightly over the tiny plants, her mind leisurely traveled back to her youth.

Her father had told her so many stories, home-spun fairy tales mostly, but some were folk tales from his youth. Her favorite was the tale of The Wish. According to Irish folklore, or at least Ahab's version of it, the four-leafed clover was special not only for its rarity, but because of its powers. Most people, Irish or not, knew the myth of how finding a four-leafed clover brought good luck, but few knew about the legend of The Wish.

She remembered he had told her that story while the two of them sat in the middle of a clover patch, much like the one beneath her now. Ahab had whispered the story to her as if eavesdroppers were nearby, ready to steal his valuable secret. A four-leafed clover, he had explained, was nothing more than a shamrock with a fourth leaf, but it was the fourth leaf that made it so special. That fourth leaf was actually a wish in disguise, put there by a leprechaun, and if you plucked the correct leaf from the clover, The Wish was yours.

Scully's smile widened as she recalled her reaction to the story. Even at the tender age of six, Dana Katherine Scully was a skeptic. She raised one tiny eyebrow at her father and firmly stated, "Sure, Daddy, a leprechaun and a magic leaf. I may be a little kid, but even _I_ don't believe that."

She remembered the lion's roar of laughter from her father, shocked that such a grown-up sentiment had come from his baby girl. With soft, loving eyes, he looked at his daughter and said, "Well, Dana Katherine, the only way to find the truth is to find the four-leafed clover."

So she tried. For the four St. Patrick's Days her family lived in the house with the robust field of clovers behind it, little Dana faithfully plopped down in the middle of the greenery and searched for her four-leafed clover for hours.

She never found one.

Looking down at the clovers under her hand, Scully brushed a few to the side, counting their leaves. *One...two...three. One...two...three.* Her father's words played in an endless loop in her head: "The only way to find the truth is to find the four-leafed clover."

Scully brushed her hand over a few more clovers and counted their leaves. When she finished with those, she counted another cluster. And another. On some level, she knew what she was doing was foolish. She was a grown woman - an FBI agent, no less - sitting on her hands and knees in the middle of a clover patch in Mississippi on St. Patrick's Day, counting the leaves on each little clover.

But she couldn't stop. She was consumed by the need for a Truth, any Truth, even if it was the Truth that revealed her father's story was nothing more than that: a story.

She had heard so many lies in the past few months. She had to have a Truth.

A few renegade tears escaped her eyes as she pawed at the clovers, quickly counting and moving on to the next group. She could see the sun's light fading fast, so she stepped up her efforts, desperate to cover the entire area before the natural light was gone.

Just before the sun had completely disappeared, she cried out. Carefully, she grasped one clover at its base and pulled it from the ground. She raised it to her face, counting the four leaves again.

It had taken her twenty-two years, but little Dana finally had her four-leafed clover.

The Wish. She couldn't help but laugh. Dr. Dana Scully, Skeptic Extraordinaire, wanted to believe a silly little story told to her when she was a child. At that moment, she wanted nothing more than the story to be true.

She raised her other hand to the clover, lightly stroking the leaves. *It's now or never, Dana. Choose a leaf.* She stared at clover carefully, seeing two large leaves, one slightly smaller leaf, and one tiny, malformed leaf. Smiling, she gave the misshapen leaf a tug, separating it from its home. She placed the baby leaf on her fingertip and closed her eyes.

"I want...oh, I want so many things," she said wistfully, her voice barely above a whisper. "I want happiness, normalcy, love, the Truth..."

*Mulder.*

She smiled thoughtfully. "I want him to be happy, _truly_ happy. I want him to leave behind the ghosts from his past, to free himself from his self-imposed prison. I want to stop him from destroying himself, for it serves no purpose other than to further seal our fate." She paused, her mouth dry as cotton. "I wish that this whole vicious cycle had never been started."

Scully raised the leaf to her lips, tears now flowing freely down her cheeks. She'd had so many possibilities for her wish, but she had chosen the one thing she knew could never come true.

As she sat in the field, lightly stroking the clover leaf between her thumb and forefinger, she wondered what her life would be like had she never decided to take the paths she had chosen. She wondered what Mulder's life would be like had his paths not been narrowed by deceit.

Wiping errant tears from her face, Scully rose from the ground, one hand still holding the clover leaf, and walked back to the hotel's back door.

A blast of hot wind slammed into her when she opened the door. At first she thought the building was on fire, but she saw no flames in the darkened hallway. She took one step inside then cried out as a sudden jolt of searing pain ripped through her head. The tiny clover leaf fell from her hand, and she unwillingly descended into darkness.


Scully awoke with a start, a musty smell filling her nostrils. Her head and arms were on a hard wood surface. She lifted her head and dizziness hit her like a tidal wave, silver flecks swimming before her eyes. She groaned, holding her head in her hands. Several minutes later, when the pain lessened to a nearly tolerable level, she opened her eyes.

She had to blink twice to make sure she was really seeing what she was seeing. She was in an office, seated behind a large wooden desk. Sitting on the floor and desk were cardboard boxes filled with books, folders and other office supplies. In a box across the room, she could see photo frames peeking out and what looked like diplomas tucked under the glass.

Whose office she was in was the question tormenting her as she fought the migraine-intense headache beating its way back into her skull. How did she get from a hotel in Mississippi to this office? More importantly, _who_ moved her here, and why?

She saw a black leather purse on the corner of the desk and reached for it, pulling it by the strap until it sat directly in front of her. She emptied the contents: wallet, checkbook, compact, lipstick, keys, daytimer, two pens and a barrette.

She took the wallet and opened it, finding various credit cards and $45 in cash. She removed one of the credit cards from its pocket and read the name: Dana Katherine Scully.

That couldn't be right. She didn't own a Gold Mastercard. She turned the card over, looking at the signature. It was hers, no doubt about it. When did she get this and why had she forgotten about it?

Her brow furrowed as she moved to another compartment of the wallet. She found the driver's license and pulled it from the wallet. Her name and photo graced the card, but the address was wrong, listing her place of residence as Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania.

Curiosity and confusion soon overpowered the throbbing in her head, and she continued examining the wallet, rifling through every nook and cranny. She found more credit cards she didn't remember having acquired and business cards of people she had never met. The last compartment, a zipped pouch on the back, held just one item: a laminated card. Her eyes grew wide when she realized what she was holding in her hand.

Her picture sat in the bottom left corner of the faculty ID card for the University of Pennsylvania. Above her picture were the words: Dana K. Scully, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

*Pennsylvania?*

*Biophysics?*

Scully's stomach tightened, her confusion escalating into panic.

*What the hell is going on?*


Three sharp raps on the door sent Scully's heart into overdrive. She thought about not responding, pretending not to be there, but quickly dismissed the idea. There had to be a logical explanation for all of this and the person behind the door might help shed some light on the subject.

"Come in," she said in a wavering voice as she stood and walked around the desk.

The door creaked open and in stepped a gentleman who immediately reminded Scully of her father. He was taller than Ahab, had a bit more hair and a ruddier complexion, but he had a pleasant yet commanding presence about him. His ample belly was covered in a tan cardigan, the hint of a white dress shirt and burgundy tie peeking out from beneath the wool sweater.

"Dana, so glad you're here," he said in a thick Bostonian accent. He extended a chubby hand, which Scully grasped and shook firmly.

"Thank you," she replied hesitantly.

The man surveyed the room, his blue-gray eyes moving from box to box. "Again, dear, I apologize for having to stick you down here. The new wing of our building will be completed by July, so there should be plenty of time for you to move in before fall semester starts. We were lucky to find an empty office on campus." He paused, clasping his hands together. "So, are you ready for the grand tour? It's four o'clock now. We should be able to catch one of the biochem labs in action."

Scully forced an enthusiastic smile. "Sounds great." She figured she could scout out the surroundings, maybe finding a clue as to why she was in Pennsylvania with a teaching job.

She had decided that either she was having the most realistic dream of her life or this was an obscenely elaborate hoax perpetrated by someone who was after more than just a laugh. Neither prospect sat well in her queasy stomach.


Scully strolled down the long sidewalk winding through the campus, trying to enjoy the lush landscape and university atmosphere. Her love for being outdoors was overshadowed by anxiety and utter exhaustion.

The tour had been pleasant. Thanks to a student's passing greeting, she discovered her 'tour guide' was Dr. O'Brien, presumably the head of the biophysics department. She found herself getting wrapped up in O'Brien's enthusiasm for the department's future, but the euphoria was wearing off.

She arrived at the building housing her office and spotted a side entrance. Outside the door sat a newspaper kiosk filled with the campus newspaper. She picked up a copy, ignoring the headlines and searching for the date. She found near the top of the page.

March 17, 1996. *Right date, wrong Dana Scully.*

She tossed the newspaper aside. "This is stupid," she mumbled under her breath. It had to be a dream. It was physically impossible for her to walk through a door and end up in another life. She smirked as a familiar voice wove its way in her head, concocting some outlandish, unbelievable explanation:

<<"You know what it is, Scully? By walking through that door, you've teleported yourself into a parallel universe. This is your life, and this is you, but in another universe where everything is different. Just like Superman and his parallel self, Bizarro.">>

Her smile faded as she thought about the possibility of it being a drug-induced hallucination. If that was the case, chances are she was being held somewhere. Which meant Mulder was out of his mind with worry. After all that had happened over the past few months, this would tear him apart.

She swung the door open and entered an unfamiliar hallway. The entrance had led to a row of offices, twelve to be exact, six on either side of the hall. She knew she was in the correct building, but must have entered on the opposite side from her office. She headed down the hall, the click of her heels echoing off the drab white walls. She soon discovered the hall was a dead end.

Miffed, she turned on her heel and headed back. The office door on her immediate right was ajar, and she could see boxes and books stacked like little towers leaning precariously against an already-overstuffed bookcase. It reminded her of an office she had become quite familiar with over the past four years.

Her eyes fleetingly glanced at the black metal nameplate hanging inconspicuously next to a paper-crowded corkboard. Her hand flew to her mouth when she read the name:

DR. F.W. MULDER ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY

*Bizarro Scully, meet Bizarro Mulder.* She would have laughed at the thought had she found it amusing. A shiver of uneasiness traveled up her spine.

In one of his more open conversations during a stakeout, Mulder mentioned he had considered going into teaching. He claimed it had never been a serious consideration, but something he could fall back on had he not found Bureau life to his liking.

Raising her hand to the nameplate, Scully traced the letters, her fingertips brushing over the indented plastic. Mulder, a teacher...

"Can I help you?"

Scully jumped, yanking her hand from the nameplate. Her breath caught around the lump forming in her throat.

That voice. Low and steady, with a hint of roughness, like honey dripped over sandpaper.

Slowly she turned around, her best attempt at a pacific expression firmly in place. Her eyes rose to meet his gaze, taking in his appearance as they went. He was about fifteen pounds heavier, but the extra weight agreed with him, filling out his normally sallow cheeks and adding more definition to his chest, which was covered in a turquoise polo shirt that hugged him in all the right places. His tan chinos sat low and loose on his hips, something she had always silently enjoyed about him.

His hair was longer, past his collar in the back. The silky chocolate brown was laced with highlights the color of brushed gold, and instead of one, several stubborn locks of hair fell forward in his eyes.

Copper wire frames sat comfortably on his face, a glare from the overhead fluorescent lighting concealing the one part of him she most wanted to see. He moved his head an inch to the right, releasing the glare's hold on his eyes. She sucked in a long breath. They were the same intense shade of light brown he reserved for their 'skeptic vs. believer' debates. She knew he enjoyed those verbal sparring matches far more than he let on, and the evidence was in his playful eyes.

Somehow, she managed to find her voice. "I...I'm sorry. I entered through the wrong door and now I'm lost," she said weakly, unable to tear her eyes away from him. He looked so different, yet so familiar. Butterflies took flight in her stomach when he smiled that devilish lopsided smile.

"No need to apologize," he replied, the slightest hint of a leer in his eyes. "It's not often I get to see a beautiful woman fondle my nameplate."

Scully's eyes widened as she felt a blush flooding her face. *Well, I see the sense of humor is the same,* she thought, fighting to regain her composure. She could see amusement in his smug expression, and as always, that sent a surge of defiance to her brain. She never did like being one-upped by a Fox Mulder innuendo.

She raised her chin and blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "I recognized your name."

His eyebrows shot up. "Oh really? From where?"

Scully mentally kicked herself. One of these days she was going to learn how to lie convincingly. "I...don't recall," she murmured behind a sheepish grin.

He chuckled. "Ah, bad case of Reagan-itis. Happens to the best of us."

Shrugging, she returned the laugh, her eyes still tethered to his by some invisible cable. They stood in the hallway, oblivious to their surroundings, simply looking at each other. She felt perfectly comfortable drinking in the sight of him, and she sensed he was at ease with it as well.

With seeming reluctance, he lowered his eyes briefly, then brought them back to hers. "I'm sorry to stare, but there's something very...familiar about you. Which is strange because I don't even know your name."

"Dana. Dana Scully," she offered quickly. "I'm new on staff in the biophysics department, but my office is here for the next few months."

He smiled, then offered his hand. "Well, then. Welcome to the neighborhood, Dana."

She took his hand, grasping it as firmly as her shaky hand would allow. "Thank you..." She stopped when she realized she didn't know what to call him. Mulder? Dr. Mulder? Fox? F.W.?

He must have read her mind. "It's Fox. And please, no small furry animal jokes. I've heard them all."

She smiled and opened her mouth to speak when they were interrupted by a shrill ringing. He glanced in his office, then back at Scully. "I should probably get that. Why don't you come in? It's probably just a student. Won't take too long." He gave her what she deciphered as a 'please stay' look, then closed the distance to his desk in three giant steps.

She hesitated, but her curiosity was worse than a cat with all nine lives to live. She followed him into the office and lowered herself to the chair opposite his, the cluttered desk between them.

"Hey, I thought you were coming to Philly this weekend," she heard him saying into the receiver. She watched as his expression softened, every hint of tension draining from his face. He smiled and laughed, then hummed a closed-mouth "umm hmm" followed by "I miss you, too."

His eyes were lowered to the desk, a goofy grin plastered on his lips. Scully was beginning to feel like a third wheel. Deciding she would be better off exploring her new surroundings than listening to Fox Mulder whisper sweet nothings into the phone, she rose from the chair.

She took two steps to the door, then stopped dead in her tracks when she heard him say, "Hold on a sec, Sam."

She turned back to him, her eyes wide in awe. He wasn't talking to his girlfriend; he talking to his _sister_. He was talking to a living, breathing Samantha Mulder.

"Dana, don't go," he pleaded, his face wearing that Mulder expression she had nicknamed the 'You Just Smacked Me On The Nose With A Newspaper' look. Regardless of what she called it, she had to concede it was effective.

She walked back toward the chair she had just vacated, but chose to remain standing and placed her hands on the back of the chair.

"No, I have a few minutes." He paused, then grimaced. "I wish you wouldn't have told them I would be there tonight. I can't make it." Another pause, then a sly smile, this one directed at Scully. "No, as a matter of fact, I already have dinner plans. With a new colleague."

Scully tilted her head to one side, an auburn eyebrow arched high. He shrugged, then grinned. She nodded and smiled, then pointed to her watch. Cradling the phone between his ear and shoulder, he held up seven fingers. She nodded again and reached for a pen and paper on his desk, scribbling the address she had read over and over again on her driver's license. He read the paper, gave her an 'OK' sign and a devastating smile, then turned his attention back to the conversation with Samantha.

Leaving his office, Scully stopped a few steps down the hall. They had just made a date without speaking one word. Two people, who had met less than fifteen minutes ago, spoke an entire conversation with their eyes. Had anyone told her of an experience such as this, she would have thought them a fool. But this wasn't about two strangers. This was about her and Mulder.

She shook her head, then continued down the hall in search of Professor Scully's office.


Scully arrived at her Chestnut Hill condo at five-thirty after an uneventful twenty-minute train ride. She silently thanked the big man upstairs that this version of Dana Scully was just as organized as her, leaving a train schedule in her briefcase with the exact route highlighted.

The two-bedroom unit was modest but tastefully decorated with beiges and muted blues and greens, accented with oak and smoked glass. One room had a small oak desk and an exercise bicycle. *The den,* she deduced. The other was the bedroom, complete with a queen bed, two oak side tables and a beautiful antiqued oak armoire.

*Wonder if I can take this back with me,* she thought as she stroked the smooth wood of the armoire.

Shaking her head, she let her hand drop to her side. "What the hell is going on? Why am I here? And what is 'here'?" She let her words hang in the air. For one fleeting moment, her mind reached out to the one thing she had refused to consider.

The Wish.

"No. Absolutely not," she said in a raised voice. "That was a fairy tale, an impossibility. This is just a very vivid, very realistic dream that has me so confused that I'm arguing with myself."

She sighed and plopped down onto the bed. The fluffy, overstuffed mattress felt like heaven. She stretched out on the bed, her forefingers rubbing her aching temples. The headache from earlier had subsided somewhat, but a dull throb continued to pound out an even rhythm behind her eyes. Pinching a spot at the bridge of her nose, she squeezed her eyes shut, a tiny voice in her head teasing her with the thought that when she opened her eyes, she would be back in her hotel room in Mississippi, keying in a field report on the laptop. Her eyes fluttered open and her gaze settled on the textured ceiling.

*Damn.*

She thought about taking a short nap, but the need for a hot shower won out over exhaustion and she reluctantly left the bed's comfort. As she strode to the bathroom, she passed a full-length mirror hanging on the almond-colored wall. Her eyes swept over the reflection staring back at her. The fitted black business suit was tailored to accentuate her slim body. Her auburn hair was considerably longer, hitting just below her shoulders. The ends curled slightly but were beginning to straighten, probably the remnants of being sacrificed to the curling iron god that morning. Her face had a youthful, healthy glow. Gone were the fine lines around her eyes and mouth, leaving skin as smooth as porcelain, lightly dotted with reddish-brown freckles.

*So this is Bizarro Dana,* she mused sarcastically. As her hand reached out to the mirror, she half-expected the glass to liquefy at her touch and her fingers to disappear into the silvery pool. She closed her eyes and laughed when her fingernails clinked against the mirror.

She walked into the bathroom, finding the tub and turning on the hot water. The thought of a shower was soon forgotten when she spotted a row of scented bath gels.

A nice, long soak in a hot bubble bath had a nice ring to it...


"So, I went off to Oxford, even managed to get a scholarship." He stopped, taking a sip of chardonnay.

Scully sat listening, completely enthralled in the accounts of his life story. So many things had changed; namely, his sister had never been abducted. The omission of that one event had literally changed Fox Mulder's life.

"But you said you got your doctorate from Harvard," she said casually, smoothing the sapphire blue slip dress she had found hiding in the back of the bedroom closet. "What happened to Oxford?"

He swirled the wine around in the glass, pink-tinted light reflecting onto his white dress shirt. "I _finished_ my doctorate at Harvard. I was...forced to come back to the States." He paused, placing the glass on the table. "My parents were killed in a car crash during my second year at Oxford. All of my dad's family, save for a sister who was wheelchair-bound, were all dead, and Sam was only fourteen."

Scully saw the pain in his eyes as he spoke, the sight nearly breaking her heart. "But what about your mom's family, Mu...uh, Fox?" She'd had to make a conscious effort all evening to call him 'Fox' instead of 'Mulder'.

"My mother's family...wasn't interested," he replied coolly.

Lowering her gaze to the lasagna still in front of her, she pushed the food around with her fork. "I...I'm sorry. I don't mean to pry."

"No, it's OK," he said, a faint smile flirting with his lips. "I feel very comfortable with you, Dana, like we've known each other for years. I just hope I'm not boring you."

She returned his smile. "No, not at all. Go on," she urged.

"See, my dad was Jewish. When my mom's family found out she was marrying a Jew, they not only chastised her, but they disowned her, cut off all social and financial contact. So when Mom and Dad died, they refused to take Sam in."

Scully's jaw dropped. "They refused? Why?"

"Why else?" he snorted. "She was half-Jewish, which was full-Jewish in their book. They had refused to acknowledge my and Sam's birth in the first place, and they didn't want any part of us. Period. Even if it meant Sam had to become a ward of the State."

He took another sip of wine before continuing. "I was over eighteen at the time and a lawyer-friend of the family managed to convince a judge I was a fit guardian for Sam. So I left England. Some of my Oxford profs had friends at Harvard and they helped set me up there, scholarships and all. Between the money from my parents' insurance policies and a part-time job on campus, we made it. It took me a few years longer, but I got my degree. The rest is, as they say, history," he added with a soft grin.

Scully nodded, her mind trying to absorb the information. His sister's abduction had never taken place, yet his life was laced with threads of pain and betrayal. Family members had still managed to narrow his paths for him.

Gathering the courage she had been saving all evening, she asked the one question she wanted - no, _needed_ - to know: "Are you happy, Fox?"

He seemed taken aback by her question. "What do you mean?"

She swallowed, but remained determined to pursue the topic. She couldn't back down on this. She had to know. "Are you happy with the way your life has turned out? Are you happy with the paths you've chosen?"

His brow furrowed, obviously pondering her question. He opened his mouth to speak, hesitating briefly. "I...I guess I should be, shouldn't I?" He added a shrug before continuing. "I'm happy with my career, with the work I do in helping young minds reach their true potential. Teaching is very satisfying for me, I find it rewarding. I thank every day I have Sam and that has a good life. She's married to a good guy, has a little girl. She's all the family I have left." His expression darkened, but he didn't continue.

"It sounds like there's a 'but' in there," she said quietly.

He smiled thinly, his gaze piercing her. "But...I don't know. There seems to be something missing."

Her stomach fluttered. No matter how hard she tried to ignore it, the air around them was electrically charged with a low-lying sexual tension that had been steadily building all evening. His eyes had bored straight to her soul when he said something was missing in his life. He had success, his sister, a life free of conspiracy, yet there was still one element that kept him from being truly happy. She smiled inwardly; she wanted to think that one element was her.

Her cool exterior melting fast, she quickly changed the subject, asking his advice on sights to see and things to do in the area. He comfortably settled into a detailed list of 'must-see' places, offering his services as a tour guide as well.

Glancing at her watch, she was surprised to see they had been talking for almost three hours. The wait staff hustled around them, clearing tables and preparing to close the restaurant for the evening.

"Look, Dana," he said softly, "This place is closing soon, and I really don't want to call it a night. Maybe we could get some coffee or something. I live a few blocks from here, and there's a nice quiet cafe right around the corner."

Her brain was unable to stop her mouth in time. "You live near here?"

He nodded, never taking his eyes from hers. "We could go to my place if you want. No strings attached, of course," he added quickly.

She smiled warmly. "I would like that."

Grinning, he called the waiter to the table. After paying the check, they left the restaurant, his hand comfortably taking its place at the small of her back. As they walked to his car, Scully realized she was no longer apprehensive about knowing if she was in a dream or some form of an alternate reality.

Deep down inside, she was rooting for reality.


Scully's first reaction to the apartment was the vast contrast to its D.C. counterpart. The living room was open and airy, not brightly lit, but very homey. Decorated in dark wood and earthtones, it had a decidedly masculine feel. Bookshelves lined two of the living room walls, and more books, mostly psychology volumes, littered the coffee table. The furniture looked worn but very comfortable and had a bachelor air to it. A television remote sat on the coffee table, and the television, just a few feet away from the couch, was nestled in a dark wood entertainment center. A fishtank sat in the far corner of the room, no sign of life in its murky depths.

*Very Mulder,* she thought, deciding the apartment wasn't so different after all.

"Would you like something to drink?" he asked, motioning for her to sit on the couch.

"Oh...no thanks. I'm fine." The last two words had almost caught in her throat.

He must have noticed her change in moods. He sat down beside her, poised on the very edge of the cushion. "Are you OK? If you want me to take you home..."

She raised her eyes to his, drowning herself in pools of green and brown. "No, no. I don't want to leave. My...former job didn't allow much time for a social life. I guess I'm just a little nervous."

His lips curved up into a grin. "You should be," he mumbled.

"Why do you say that?" she asked cautiously.

He looked at her, his eyes hooded with an expression she was unable to read. His tongue flicked out, wetting his lower lip, the sight of which sent a shock wave through Scully's body and settled somewhere south of her waist.

Running a hand through his hair, he sighed. "I think I'd better take you home." He moved to stand, but her hand on his arm stopped him.

"Fox, did I do something to upset you?" she asked, an edge of anxiety coloring her normally smooth tone.

He lowered his eyes to his lap. "Remember when I said that in coming here to my apartment, there were no strings attached?"

She sucked in a breath. "Yes."

He raised his eyes, holding hers in a hypnotic gaze. "I lied," he whispered. His Adam's apple bobbled as he swallowed hard, then quickly averted his eyes, kneading his hands together in his lap. "Dana, I...I don't want this to sound like some cheap pick-up line. Somehow...it's like I knew I would meet you. We just met a few hours ago but there's something...powerful between us, something that just clicked into place right away. I..." He turned his head toward her, their eyes locking.

And then she saw it. Something behind those brownish-green circles reached out to her, surrounded her, caressing the inner recesses of her mind. He knew. About their partnership, the pain and suffering they had been through, the unspoken bond that forever intertwined their lives...

He knew everything. This was Mulder. _The_ Mulder.

_Her_ Mulder.

On impulse, she inched closer to him, her eyes giving him silent permission. His hand moved to her cheek, his palm cupping her skin. She closed her eyes and leaned into his hand, letting the warmth envelop her. She heard a rustling on the couch, then felt his other hand brush her hair back from her face. Despite her urge to open her eyes, she kept them closed, relying on feeling alone. The anticipation was an exquisite torture.

Finally, she felt his breath on her face and she let out a hushed whimper when his mouth found hers. His lips were soft, just as soft as she expected them to be, and the kiss was tentative, almost chaste. Scully brought her hands to his chest, rubbing her fingers over the smooth cloth of his shirt. She could feel the heat rising from his skin through the thin material. She wanted more.

Her tongue lightly brushed against his lips. He moaned into the kiss, and the sound traveled straight through her, liquefied her need. He opened his lips, allowing her entrance and she wasted no time, plunging in and tasting every ridge and plane.

The sensation of their tongues clashing and dueling caused something inside Dana Scully to snap, releasing raw passions for this man buried so deep, she hadn't dared acknowledge their presence before now.

Using his shoulders as leverage, she climbed on his lap, her knees straddling his hips. His hands went to her waist, steadying her as her hands found his tie, deftly loosening the knot. His head fell back, hitting the back of the couch with a dull thud, which he punctuated with a grunt. She continued working on the tie until she had the knot free. He lifted his head back up and his eyes found hers.

"Dana, you're killing me here," he whispered. "If we don't stop now, I can't be responsible for my actions. You're about ten seconds away from having that dress ripped off your body."

Scully had to smile. She was touched by his chivalry. Despite his desire - the outline of which she could see straining through his slacks - he was giving her the opportunity to back down if she chose.

Too late. She had already made her choice.

"So what's stopping you," she replied in a breathy alto as she undid the top two buttons of his shirt. She moved forward and placed a lingering kiss on his throat. "I want this. I want _you_," she whispered against his skin.

She moved back to look in his eyes, their color changing rapidly from light hazel-green to dark emerald. Those eyes, coupled with an exhaled hiss from his lips, told her all resistance had left him. He cupped her face in his hands and he pulled her to his mouth. There was no innocence in this kiss; his lips were bruising, demanding, his tongue thrusting into every corner of her mouth. One hand moved to her back; the other tilted her head to deepen the kiss.

Scully felt a hunger deep inside her body, something she knew could only be satisfied by his touch. Reluctantly, she pulled back, her lungs crying for air. His respiratory situation wasn't much better; he was panting like a dog on a summer day in Phoenix. He gulped air for a few seconds, then pulled her back toward him. She resisted, then with a coy smile she rose from his lap to stand before him. She reached for his hands, urging him to stand. He did, quickly taking her in his arms and holding her, their eyes communicating every word, every thought.

He lifted her with ease, laughing as she let out a yelp in surprise. After claiming one more fiery kiss, he carried her to the bedroom, her head comfortably snuggled against his neck as her tongue tasted the salty skin just below his jawline. Once inside the doorway, he released her legs and she slid down his body, smiling at his sharp intake of breath. She reached up to tangle her fingers in his hair but he grasped her wrists, tenderly kissing the inside of each.

"Turn around," he whispered.

She tilted her head to one side, silently questioning him. He kissed her forehead, the tip of her nose, finally her mouth. She returned the kiss wholeheartedly, grabbing his tongue between her teeth and suckling, thoroughly enjoying the rush of power as she swallowed his moan.

He broke the kiss as his hands went to her shoulders, turning her so her back was facing him. Pulling her against his body, he ran his hands along her arms, then back to her shoulders. Moving her hair away from her neck, he began kissing her sensitized skin, his hands leisurely moving to her back. He unzipped her dress, then peeled the dress open and slowly moved it down her arms. She let her arms hang lifeless at her sides, and the dress slipped down her body, landing in a pool of blue silk at her feet.

She gasped harshly and arched back into him when he found an especially sensitive spot just below her ear. She felt him smile against her skin, and he lightly nipped at the spot, his efforts eliciting something between a whimper and a purr from her lips. His mouth found the spot again, and he opened his lips, sucking hard. She cried out as her knees turned to jelly, forcing her to lean back against him. He caught her with an arm around her waist and pulled her closer while pressing his rock-hard arousal forward into the small of her back. She smiled. Obviously, his ministrations were having the same intoxicating effect on him as well.

A sudden need to feel his lips upon hers sent a surge of adrenaline through her veins and she whipped around in his arms, grabbing his head and pulling him down into a brutal kiss. With shaky fingers, she made short order of the buttons on his shirt. One rough tug freed the front of the shirt from his slacks and he shrugged it off his shoulders. Her hands and lips roamed his chest, feeling every inch of skin, memorizing every curve and dip, every wiry hair. If she really was in a dream, she wanted as precise a memory as her mind would allow. She wanted every detail of Fox Mulder's lean, beautiful, aroused body permanently etched like a hieroglyph on a special wall in her brain.

Their remaining clothing flew to different parts of the room as each article was hastily removed and carelessly tossed aside. The need to feel skin upon skin was first and foremost in her mind, and judging from the animalistic sounds coming from the man before her as their bodies met, she knew it had been high on his priority list as well.

He finally pulled away and scooped her up in his arms, gently placing her in the center of his bed. He stepped back for a moment to look at her, and she did the same.

This was Mulder, all right. A few pounds heavier, but undeniably the same man. She had seen him, _all_ of him, only one other time. In New Mexico, when he lay unconscious on the hotel bed with a bullet wound in his shoulder, she had undressed him, bathed him with a washcloth and basin of water, then redressed him in fresh clothes. Her 'doctor' instincts had kicked in almost immediately, but that didn't stop her from enjoying one sweeping glance at his naked form, her eyes drinking in every ounce of flesh.

Of course, the Mulder she had seen then had not been in a state of arousal. The Mulder standing before her now, his body taut with desire, glistening with a thin sheen of sweat, was quite a different sight, one that literally took her breath away.

She reached out to him, her inviting smile acknowledged on his lips. He took her hand and lowered himself onto the bed, moving over her, distributing his weight in a way that allowed maximum contact without crushing her. Their lips met in a slow, sultry kiss while one of his hands wandered down to her chest, caressing her, giving each breast equal time and attention so as not to make one feel neglected.

Each meeting of their lips grew more urgent and each stroke sent her closer to oblivion. She could feel him, hot and swollen against her leg, and she knew neither one of them would be able to hold out much longer.

His hand traveled lower, fingers splayed wide across her midriff, lazily sliding down until he found her center. His slow, sure strokes drove her mindless as she instinctively pushed herself into his palm. His mouth created its own magic, each kiss reaching through her skin and touching her heart. The last bit of rational thought flowed out of her in a hoarse gasp when his tongue flicked at her nipple, then followed up with a light nip with his teeth.

He slowed his strokes, turning his concentration to teasing her breasts, and she took the opportunity to do some exploration of her own. Placing her hand on his chest, she lightly dragged her fingernails down his body, fingers blindly searching. She found what she had been seeking and closed her hand around the solid heat of him. He lifted his head from her and moaned deeply. Moving her hand down to the nest of dark brown curls, she tightened her grip and covered the length of him in one slow stroke, delighting in the sound of a second moan erupting from his chest. His eyes, two chips of coal surrounded by thin rims of emerald, told her he was at the point where the pleasure was fast becoming pain. She had reached that point as well.

Her hand went to his hip, an unspoken signal understood by both. He turned away from her, his hand reaching for the side table drawer. She smiled and closed her eyes as she heard frantic digging, then heard the sound of foil ripping. The bed shifted again and she opened her eyes, finding him poised above her. Their eyes locked, a silent conversation ensuing:

*Are you sure?*

*Yes.*

*Are you ready?*

*Now.*

A brief kiss, then pure ecstasy as he gently slipped into her. Their moans combined in a breathy duo, and his head dropped to her chest.

"Jesus, Dana" he whispered hoarsely. He had stopped moving, allowing her muscles to adjust before sheathing himself completely in her warmth.

Her hands slid down to his hips again, and she pressed him down while pushing up with her own hips. The movement inched more of him inside. She tried it again, but he resisted, locking his hips in place.

She pressed again. "More," she whispered.

"Dana, you said that it's been a while..."

She shook her head violently. "I don't care what I said," she exhaled. "I want all of you in me now."

His breath caught. "I don't want to hurt you."

One of her hands left its sentry on his hip, moving up to cup his smooth face. "You won't hurt me, Fox."

A loud rush of air flew past his lips as his eyes squeezed shut. She closed her eyes as well. He shifted slightly above her, then drove into her, filling her completely with one long thrust.

She lifted off the bed, his name a strangled cry in a voice she didn't recognize as her own. Her body screamed at her; it _had_ been a long time, and he was certainly above average in the size department, but she filed the pain away. The feel of him buried deep inside her now was worth a few sore muscles later.

He started to move, teasing her by almost pulling out completely, then slowly thrusting forward. He chuckled lightly as she squirmed underneath him, coaxing him to speed up his undulations. She circled her legs around him, locking her ankles around his waist and angling herself for him to penetrate even deeper. His hands went to her hips, holding her still as he pulled back and pushed into her again. Their voices collided in a cacophony of guttural moans and gasps. He repeated the same move again. Then again. And again. And again. Each one more frequent, more powerful.

A volcanic pressure rumbled within her as their lower bodies met in a forceful rhythmic dance. Every nerve ending was on fire from his touch, and the sensation of him moving in and out of her was creating a friction that threatened to consume her from the inside out. She could feel his finesse lagging as he slammed into her with a controlled violence, the tip of him hitting her cervix, the impacts reverberating through her mind, body and soul.

Finally reaching the apex of her control, she gave herself to the explosions with a throaty gasp. Pleasure overwhelmed her, rippling through her body like the waves of an angry sea, the sheer intensity of it all causing her to nearly black out. Off in a distance, she heard him shout her name, and through her own contractions she could feel him pulsing inside her, the stream of his warmth shooting into her, filling her, her essence clutching his as they became one in mutual release.

She was vaguely aware of his weight collapsing upon her, but she was beyond movement or speech. The only act she was able to perform was breathing, and even that was an effort. His body covered hers with a warmth she had been seeking for so long. Not just the heat emanating from his sweat-soaked skin pressing her into the mattress, but an inner warmth that filled her with a sense of utter completeness.

Slowly, she came back to herself, her hands running up and down the length of his back, lightly brushing over the lean muscles. He stirred above her, but she tightened her legs' grip around him.

"No, don't move," she purred in his ear, flicking her tongue at his earlobe.

"I'm too heavy for you," he said drunkenly, his voice muffled by his face being buried in her neck.

"No, you're fine," she assured him. "I'm stronger than I look."

He chuckled, then started placing gossamer-light kisses along her neck, nipping and licking at her skin. She let out a half-sigh, half- moan as his mouth reached her ear. He pulled her earlobe into his mouth as his hands tangled in her hair.

"I can't get enough of you, Dana Scully," he whispered, his breath feathering her ear. "I can't explain it, but the more I touch you, the more I taste of you...it's not enough."

His words swirled around her head as she felt him kissing her collarbone, then moving lower to her breasts. He nipped and suckled her, his teeth lightly grazing her sensitive skin, bringing each rosy tip to a hardened peak. He continued down, kissing and laving her hips and stomach, dipping his tongue in her navel.

She sucked in a quick breath and grabbed for his hair when she realized where he and his mouth were heading. He raised his head to look at her, his dark eyes questioning.

"I...I've never..." she blurted out before a lump forming in her throat cut off her ability to speak. She had never allowed herself the experience of having a man pleasure her in that most intimate way. For to allow herself that level of ecstasy meant to give up total control of her body, something Dana Scully never permitted. Losing some control every once in a while was something she wanted, even needed, but total loss of control scared the hell out of her.

He hesitated, as if trying to read her thoughts, then nodded at her. "It's OK, I understand. Not until you're ready."

The tenderness in his voice curled her toes. He planted a soft, lingering kiss just above her auburn curls, then resumed his mouth's exploration of her hips and abdomen.

The few men in her past that had shown interest in performing that act responded to her reluctance with everything from disappointment to anger, one telling her she needed to 'lighten up'. It had nothing to do with her being frigid or inflexible in the bedroom; she was neither and she knew it. What it all boiled down to was trust. The act of sex itself, by definition, meant she had to relinquish some control, entrusting her body to another, but for her, both physically and emotionally opening herself that fully to someone was out of the question.

Until now.

She felt his skin rubbing against hers as he started to slide his body back up toward her. Biting down on her lower lip, she shook her head and pushed his head back down toward her thighs. He raised his eyes to hers, and drawing strength from his compassionate gaze, she whispered, "I'm ready."

She wasn't sure if the growl came from her chest or his. She didn't care. Closing her eyes, she relaxed every muscle, willing the tension to leave her through an exhaled breath.

Her skin came alive as he placed delicate kisses along her upper thigh. Before she knew it, he had moved her leg out to the side. He did the same with the other leg, then moved his hands and mouth to her inner thighs, delicately nipping and laving her skin. His fingers moved to her center, parting her, opening her to him.

The first contact of his tongue on her sent her arching violently off the bed, a harsh gasp tearing from her lips. She was completely unprepared for the sensation, and embarrassment flooded into her body, manifesting itself in the form of a light red flush on her skin. He lifted his head from her, and gently grasping her hand, he brushed it with his lips. Reluctantly, her eyelids fluttered open and she found him staring at her with desire-darkened eyes.

"Relax, Dana," he whispered. "Let me take you there."

She nodded as her eyes welled with tears, embarrassment quickly replaced with an all-consuming need. When he finally reached out again with his tongue, she gave herself fully to his tender seduction. She gave Fox Mulder control.

_Total_ control.

Before long, she felt the waves growing within her, but with an additional edge that was primal in nature. Her breathing came in short pants, in between the continuous keening moans that escaped from unknown caverns within her body. She was in a tornado, emotions whirling around her, impacting and melding with her, only to be ripped away and replaced with another. Love, desire, joy, gratitude, fear, passion, pain, pleasure...all mixed together as he took her to both Heaven and Hell with one last stroke.

She screamed his name as she shattered into a thousand tiny particles. Flashes of light danced behind her closed eyelids, a miniature fireworks display for only her to see. Tiny prickles of electricity tapped on every nerve ending from her head to her toes, not that she had any idea where her head or toes were at the moment.

Slowly, very slowly, she began to come down. Strong, gentle arms surrounded her, moving her and placing her head on something soft and warm. She could hear the low, smooth melody of his voice as he spoke, but none of the words made sense, randomly mixing together in a lullaby of soft murmurs.

She wanted to open her eyes to show him the emotions he had uncovered in her. She wanted to tell him how deeply her love for him went. She wanted to send him soaring to the same heights he had unselfishly sent her to just minutes before. She had to tell him, she had to see him, but her sated body's demand for rest overruled her most basic functions, and she curled up in a blanket of darkness.


As her mind struggled between sleep and consciousness, Scully was aware of a rhythmic thumping under her left ear. A heartbeat.

Her eyelids fluttered open and her vision focused on an arm draped protectively over her, soft fingers brushing against her forearm. She shifted and stretched, and the arms tightened around her.

"Hi there." She felt the vibrations of his voice through his chest.

She smiled. It wasn't a dream. She was still here. _He_ was still here. Her smile faded when she realized what she had done.

"Oh, Fox. I'm so sorry," she said in a tremulous voice.

His hand resumed stroking her hair. "What for?"

"I...I fell asleep..." She stopped before her voice betrayed her completely. She was mortified. This man had given her a pleasure she had never known, he had made her feel more like a woman than any man before him, and how did she repay him?

"Hey, look at me," his velvety voice called to her. When she hadn't lifted her head, he tried again. "Dana, look at me." His hand went to her chin, coaxing her to move.

Reluctantly, she lifted her head from his chest. She kept her head down, her hair fanning around her face like protective auburn veil. His hand remained insistent at her chin until her eyes met his.

"There is nothing for you to be ashamed of," he said gently. "I know that was a difficult decision for you, and the fact that you let me be the one..." He paused as he raised a hand to her face, brushing a few strands of hair behind her ear. "It was incredible, and not just for you, you know."

She raised an eyebrow playfully. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah." He grinned. "It was beautiful. _You_ were beautiful."

His words entered her ears but traveled straight down, refueling her desire as they went. She leaned forward until her mouth touched his, her lips and tongue wordlessly expressing her gratitude and love to him. Breaking the kiss slowly, she leaned back, her forefinger trailing down his chest.

"Besides," he continued, "it's a good thing you fell asleep. I needed the time to...uh...recharge my batteries." He flipped his eyebrows and added a sly grin.

Her hand continued its descent down his body. "So, have you recharged yet?"

"I'm not sure. Why don't you find out." His eyes darkened as he spoke.

A soft grin formed on her lips as her hand disappeared under the top sheet, her eyes never leaving his. He gasped as she teased his inner thighs with light caresses and he fought to keep his eyes locked with hers. He lost the battle, his eyes shutting in time with a raspy moan from his mouth, as she wrapped her hand around him and began stroking him. She lowered her head to his chest, planting a feather-soft kiss at his collarbone. With each stroke she added another kiss, each kiss lower down his body than the first, until her mouth was nestled in the crisp hairs below his abdomen.

His hands move to her head. "Dana," he groaned. She expected to feel his hands press her closer to her intended goal, but she felt him trying to pull her head back toward him. Smiling, she took his hands and moved them to his sides.

"It's your turn now," she whispered as she darted her tongue across the tip of him, licking away a salty bead of liquid.

His laugh came out more like a pained cry. "You really _are_ trying to kill me, aren't you?"

"Yes," she replied in a low alto. "But what a way to go."

His response was lost in a growl as she took him in her mouth. She was determined to make up for falling asleep earlier. If his incessant moaning and his hands' death grips on the bed sheets were any indication, she was forgiven.

Not long after she started her assault, he reached for her head again. "Dana, please..."

She could hear the pleasure-pain in his strained voice and she knew she had brought him to that dangerous edge. She crawled up his body and he grabbed her head, pressing his mouth to hers, his tongue forcefully brushing across her lips and teeth.

She broke away breathless and rose to a sitting position over him, straddling his stomach. Leaning over to the bedside table, she grabbed for a foil packet and ripped it open. His hand reached out for the packet's contents, but she shook her head.

"Allow me, Fox," she purred as she scooted herself back toward his thighs. He squirmed under her as she took her time covering him in the latex. She moved forward again, lifting her hips until they were directly above his. Strong hands encircled her waist as she reached for him, aligning their bodies. Their gazes locked as she took a deep breath, then released her leg muscles.

His moan was matched by her own as their bodies joined. He was the first to move, his hips pushing up while his hands pressed her down. Scully's head fell back and she sang out with a very unlady-like grunt. He repeated the motion, and she repeated the grunt.

Her head lolled forward and she opened her eyes to find him grinning devilishly at her. "Proud of yourself, aren't you?" she asked.

His grin widened. "Very," he said smugly, punctuating it with another thrust.

He let her set the pace after that and she kept it at a slow burn, lifting herself then grinding her hips down, finding that one angle that sent shivers through her body. Her eyes never left his face. She watched the changes in his expression, memorizing the moves and caresses that brought him the most pleasure. When she finally heard him cry out her name, she stopped moving and just watched him, denying herself release in order to see his face contort then relax as he went over the edge. She couldn't remember seeing anything more beautiful.

Lowering herself to his chest, Scully let out a content sigh. They were still joined, and she had no intention of moving. She was perfectly comfortable being stretched out over his long body, her fingers lazily making a circular pattern on his chest. She stifled a giggle when she heard a sharp rumbling from the vicinity of his stomach.

"Sorry," he chuckled. "I'm always hungry afterwards."

She raised her head, laughing. "Well, I guess you did work up an appetite. Why don't you go find something for us to eat?"

He nodded, then pulled her into a slow, thorough kiss before releasing her. She climbed off the bed and padded to the bathroom, closing the door behind her. She flipped on the light and turned on the faucet. A few splashes of water helped relieve the heat on her face and neck. She raised her eyes to the mirror, looking at her reflection. What she found surprised her.

Her hair was full and mussed, forming a reddish halo around her face. Her skin was flushed and had that shiny glow that only lovemaking could bring. Wide eyes stared back at her, her pupils still dilated. She looked...erotic. It was the only word she could use to describe it.

Scully jumped when she heard a knock at the bathroom door. "Dana, you OK?"

She swallowed, forcing her breathing to normalize. "Uh, yeah. Why?"

"I just asked you if you wanted me to open a bottle of wine, but you didn't answer."

Stealing one last glance at her reflection, she opened the door. "I'm sorry. Yes, wine would be..."

Her voice faded when a thick, hot wind hit her in the face. The bedroom was pitch black.

"Fox?" she called out. No answer. She took one step forward, and a stab of pain pierced her head.

"FOX!" she screamed as she clutched her head and slipped into deep, black sleep.


"Fox!"

What was meant to be a scream escaped as a hoarse whisper from Dana Scully's lips.

Her eyes flew open and focused on a shadowed ceiling. She turned on her side, her hand grasping the comforter below her. The outline of her garment bag on the empty bed next to her was all the proof she needed.

"No," she cried with more force, fighting back the tears welling in her eyes. It was a dream, all of it.

"Scully?"

She jerked up to a sitting position, blinking back the silver flecks flashing before her. Turning her head, she saw a figure emerge from the darkened bathroom. As he approached the bed, his tall body awash in soft light, she recognized him. Mulder.

Not Fox.

Mulder.

"How are you feeling?" he asked, forehead scrunched in concern.

Scully closed her eyes and leaned back against the headboard. She felt the bed dip, then a soft touch on her arm. Her eyes snapped open.

"Do you need me to take you to the hospital?" His fingers began stroking her arm.

"No, I'm fine. Just a little dizzy," she forced out. She wanted to yank her arm away but his touch brought forth memories still fresh in her mind.

"Are you sure? You've only been out for a few minutes but you really gave me a scare. Your pulse was strong and your breathing was a little fast but regular, so I figured I'd just keep an eye on you..."

"How did I get here?" she interrupted.

His brow furrowed. "I was in the hallway, heading for the back exit to go for a walk, and I saw you come through the door. You took a few steps then clutched your head and fell to the ground. After I checked your pulse, I carried you back here." He stopped, waiting for her to reply, then continued. "What happened, Scully?"

She found the courage to move her arm away from him, placing it across her lap. "I...I don't remember," she whispered. She lowered her gaze to her lap, unable to look at him.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw his hand moving toward her neck. His long, tapered fingers brushed against the skin below her ear. She tensed, a collage of images, sounds and feelings flashing through her mind. The sight of his naked body over hers, the sound he made as he exploded inside her, the feel of his mouth on her skin...

"Don't," she pleaded in a whisper-soft tone.

Mulder lowered his hand. "I'm sorry. Does it hurt?"

"Does what hurt?" She forced herself to look at him.

"The bruise. You have a nasty bruise right below your ear."

Her hand went to her neck. The skin was tender. "I must have gotten it when I fell."

Mulder shook his head. "You didn't hit your neck, just the back of your head. I saw you fall..."

He kept talking but she wasn't listening. She had to see the bruise.

"Mulder, I'm fine. I...I must have passed out from not eating." She shifted on the bed, waiting for him to move away, but he stayed.

"Scully, you don't look so good. Maybe we should have you checked out..."

"No," she said harshly, immediately regretting her tone as she saw him flinch. Her face softened. "Why don't you order us some food. I want to take a look at this in a mirror."

He nodded and moved away from the bed, walking to a phone on the nearby desk. She rose from the bed on shaky legs. She noticed her stomach muscles were sore, as if she had done too many sit-ups. Other muscle groups were sore as well, all of them residing below her waist.

She stumbled to the bathroom and shut the door. She leaned against the bathroom counter, her heart beating frantically. Could her aching muscles be psychosomatic pains brought on by her vivid dream? It was possible. She knew of cases where the alleged victim's imagination created such a realistic image, they were convinced the injuries occurred though no physical evidence existed. That had to be the case with her. The pain was a product of her mind.

Then she remembered the bruise.

She stared into the mirror and turned her head to the side. Just below her left ear was a quarter-size bruise, the flesh a mottled purplish- red tone. Mulder was right; the bruise was at so odd an angle she couldn't have received it from a fall to the ground.

Scully could still feel his soft lips on her neck, and the incredible sensation as he sucked hard on her delicate skin. She shuddered and dropped her head, letting her neck go limp. It didn't happen. It couldn't have happened.

Pennsylvania, what they had done, the heights he had taken her to...all of it was a dream.

Here, the shabby hotel in Mississippi, with her partner in the other room...this was reality.

Like steel to a magnet, her hand was drawn back to the spot below her ear. *Nothing happened, Dana. It wasn't The Wish. It was just a fantasy.*

Wasn't it?

THE END

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