Title: The Wish III: A Dream Is A Wish
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: Mulder and Scully face the implications of their dreams.

Sleep slowly released its hold on Dana Scully, allowing her eyes and mind focus on her surroundings. She was still in the Mississippi hotel room, the same place in which she had fallen asleep. For a moment she was relieved, but the relief proved to be hollow. Empty.


Her eyes found the digital clock on the side table. Five minutes before midnight. The last thing she remembered before drifting off was the sound of the Taurus starting. Mulder had left, presumably to condemn himself to a car ride filled with painful memories and self- blame. Just as she had been doing until she had relented and let sleep take her.

She felt guilty for pushing him away, for not being able to deal with her feelings for him and the severity of her dream. But most of all, she was angry at herself for not being able to keep a rein on her emotions. She let a simple exercise of her imagination foreshadow her image of him. She let some wild erotic dream paint Fox Mulder as her lover, her mind unable to see through those colors to find the real man, the man who was her partner and friend. And nothing more.

Apology is Policy. Mulder had told her that once. She knew he thought apologies were a mockery of those to which they were directed. The words 'I'm sorry' were so trite at times, often spoken with no emotion and even less sincerity.

She knew, however, that her apology was all she had to give to him. She couldn't take back her actions, her snipes and harshness, the distancing of herself from the comfort he obviously wanted to give. She would say the words and he would accept them. Just as he had done with her, so many times in the past.

<<"I'm sorry, Scully.">>

<<"I know, Mulder.">>

So few words but so much meaning. That was how it was with their partnership. Words sometimes got in the way, creating more problems than they were worth. One look told volumes, and always had with them. They could read each other's reactions like a favorite book.

The only exception being the emotions each had buried deep inside themselves, hidden so well they rarely acknowledged them within their own minds. Scully knew what she felt for Mulder was more than a platonic love, more than the love felt for a friend or partner. Much more. But she kept those feelings hidden, and had for quite some time. She knew it was better that way.

So why did it hurt so much?

Scully stretched and rose from the bed, pulling on a cotton robe over her mens-style pajamas. She ran her fingers through her hair a few times and approached the adjoining door. The door was open half-way and she pushed it until she was able to walk into his room.

A light snoring filled the small room, along with the dim light from the lamp by the bed. He was so tired he hadn't bothered to click off the light or to change his clothes. She slowly walked to the bed, engaging in an internal struggle. She hated to wake him, especially after seeing the serene look of sleep on his face, but she needed to talk to him, to make sure things were all right between them.

"Mulder." Her hand brushed against his arm. His hand twitched, his fist opening to reveal a gold chain. His body shifted on the bed but he remained asleep.

Scully took the chain from his hand and brought it closer to the light. Her breath caught as her eyes found the clover charm dangling from one of the links.

Her mom's bracelet. The one Ahab had given her on their first date. Scully pulled on the closed clasp, noting how easily it came loose. How did Mulder get this? Tears threatened in her eyes but she pushed them back.

She shook her partner's shoulder. "Mulder, wake up."

His head snapped toward her voice and his eyes flew open. "Wha...what's wrong? Are you OK, Scully?"

"Where did you get this?" she demanded, ignoring his questions.

"What? Get what?" His mind still foggy, he hadn't realized the bracelet was no longer in his hand. He pushed himself up into a sitting position, letting his back rest against the headboard.

"This." She thrust the bracelet in his face. He reached for it and she pulled her hand back. "Mulder, where did you get this?"

"I found it," he replied vaguely. He knew she couldn't handle the truth as to how he came in possession of the bracelet. He could barely handle the truth himself.

"Where? In DC?" Her voice wavered but she held her ground, standing next to the bed, for once towering over her partner.

"No, here in Mississippi. It was on the ground in the parking lot." Mulder bit the inside of his cheek. Technically it wasn't a lie but he still felt a twinge of guilt for not telling her the entire truth. He saw her nod and back away from the bed, mumbling what he thought was an apology. Like the shutter on a camera, she opened herself to him only to close the connection a split-second later.

Scully found a chair near the end of the bed and lowered herself to it. She had overreacted over a simple piece of jewelry, one that had probably been mass-produced and sold all over the country. There were hundreds, maybe even thousands of those bracelets in existence. The loose clasp was most likely a manufacturing defect. How could she be so narrow-minded?

She had to get a hold of herself. The threads of her sanity were wound so tight she could feel them threatening to snap. The dream was stripping her of her rational thought. Anger and confusion mixed into a frustrating fog in her head. Why wasn't she able to believe it was simply a vivid dream and nothing more? Mulder's voice interrupted her mental argument.

"Scully, why...what's the significance of the bracelet?"

"I'm sorry. It just brought back some memories," she said, her eyes lowered to her lap.

"Good memories or bad?" he ventured.

A sad smile graced her lips. "Both, actually. My dad had given my mom one of these on their first date. Mom loved the bracelet, even down to the loose clasp that kept coming apart. Mom never got it fixed, said it made it quirky and endearing, just like my dad. She lost the bracelet right after Ahab died. She was crushed, losing the one physical momento of him that meant so much to her."

Mulder held his breath as she told the story. Almost the same story she had told him in the dream. Or whatever it was he had experienced. He suspected 'dream' wasn't the right word. He ran a hand over his face.

"Scully, I need to tell you something, something you're not going to want to believe. I'm having a hard time with it myself." He moved to the end of the bed to sit directly in front of her, letting his legs dangle over the side. "If ever I've needed you to open your mind, it's now."

She nodded warily. Her partner looked nervous and that worried her. "What is it, Mulder? You're starting to scare me."

"It's nothing bad, it's just something...ah hell, I'll just tell you." He took a deep breath. "I left earlier, took a drive around town. Only I ended up somewhere else."

Her brow furrowing, she scooted forward in her chair, putting her hands on her knees. "What do you mean 'somewhere else'? In the next county?"

*More like in the next universe,* he thought wryly while trying to find the right words.

"I drove over Rainbow's End Pass, you know, the one we drove over to get to the sheriff's office." He paused as she nodded. "When I drove over it, there was a truck, or what I thought was a truck. It came barreling at me, and the bridge wasn't big enough for the both of us. He was going to hit me, I was sure of it. I braced myself, hoping for the best. I felt the impact, Scully, and I heard the crunching metal..."

Concern flooded Scully's face. "My God, Mulder, are you all right?" She moved to get a better look at him but his hand shot up, stilling her.

"The collision never happened. I'm not sure how he missed me. He _couldn't_ have missed me but he did."

Scully sat back in her chair, considering his story carefully before speaking. "You were pretty tired. You could have imagined the whole thing."

"That's what I thought until I saw you." His eyes went to hers, searching for a reaction. As always, the analytical mask she wore showed no emotion.

"You saw me where?"

"At the scene of a crime, a different crime but here in Rainbow's End. And it was you, but it wasn't you."

Her head tilted to the side but she fought the urge to reach out and put her hand to his forehead. "Mulder, are you sure you're not hurt? You're not making sense."

He chuckled. "No more than usual, anyway. Scully, she was you, but she was a _different_ you. She was the coroner here. That's where I got the bracelet." He pointed to her hand, which still held the piece of jewelry.

Scully's mind went into overdrive. *Bizarro Mulder meets Bizarro Scully.* She knew how crazy it sounded but it was exactly what had happened to her. Her heart pounded in her chest, threatening to burst through her skin. She fingered the bracelet while her free hand went to the bruise on her neck.

Mulder had his momento from his dream and she had hers.

"I thought you said you got the bracelet from the parking lot," she said with a surprisingly steady voice.

He shrugged. "I didn't know I had the bracelet on me until I went to get my room key. It fell out of my jacket pocket."

"Mulder, did you stop to think that what happened was only a dream?"

"Of course I did," he replied with emotion. "I want to believe, Scully, but I'm not about to overlook the obvious. I thought I had been in an accident. When I found that I hadn't, I immediately thought it was a dream." His eyes went to her hand. "Then I found the bracelet."

She refused to believe. Despite the evidence, Dana Scully refused to believe that they both had anything other than a dream. Parallel universes didn't exist. Period. What happened was a coincidence. A tiny part in the back of her brain prodded her to tell Mulder about her dream, but she couldn't reveal it to him. She wouldn't. Telling him would only add credence to his argument.

Mulder reached across the small space separating them, his hand going to her chin, insisting she look at him. "What happened in that dream, or whatever it was, has affected me in ways I never thought imaginable. It's caused me to open my eyes, about my life, about our work, about us." His eyes met hers, speaking silently to her, begging her to listen to his words and take them to heart. "Something happened here, Scully. Something...I don't know, I can't explain it. But I think it is affecting our relationship, or it will."

He paused, trying to collect his thoughts and waiting for her to interrupt. He was surprised when all she did was stare at him, her eyes wide and uncertain. He decided to take a chance and moved from the bed, kneeling in front of her chair. He didn't touch her, opting to place his hands on the arm of the chair.

"Scully, you know how much you mean to me, right? I mean, you're the most important person in my life right now."

"Mulder, you don't have to do this..." Her words trailed off as his hand covered her forearm.

"Just hear me out, OK?" He waited for her nod before continuing. "Our relationship has been a constant roller coaster ride, ups and downs, just like any other relationship. I...I guess what I'm trying to say is that no matter what happens between us, I need you, Scully. I need you to be by my side. I know I've never said it to you before, but I thank The Powers That Be for sending you to spy on me."

"I'm not a spy," she injected, trying to lighten the situation despite the fire sparking in the pit of her stomach.

He flashed her a weak grin. "I know you're not, Scully. I've known that since our first case. I didn't realize it then, but I've needed you in my life for so long. You fill an emptiness in me I never thought would be filled."

She fidgeted on the chair, his words both arousing and unsettling her. "Mulder..."

His hand went to her mouth, his forefinger lightly covering her lips. "Let me finish." He lowered his hand to her arm. "I just want you to know that whatever you can give me, Scully, I'm willing to take and I will do my best to reciprocate."

Her brow furrowed and she opened her mouth to speak but quickly closed it as she saw him shake his head. He was invading her personal space again, the effects of which were beginning to manifest in a low-lying heat underneath her skin.

"I need you here with me, no matter how obstinate I get about wanting or needing to handle things myself. You ground me, Scully. You keep me whole and sane. I need you, in whatever capacity you see fit. Partner, confidante, friend, _best_ friend..."

"Lover," she whispered. Her mouth had betrayed her before her brain could intercept.

"Only if you want it," he replied, his voice dropping half an octave and his stomach rising into his throat. His fingers brushed the inside of her arm but his eyes remained on her lowered head, waiting for her to look at him.

Scully felt panic set in and she was overwhelmed by the burning need to flee. She pushed herself up from the chair and hurried across the room, catching Mulder by surprise.

"I...I'm sorry," she said quietly, her back to him. "I don't know where that came from."

"From the heart, maybe?" He stood and approached her slowly, not wanting to scare her away.

She sighed and ran a nervous hand through her hair. "Mulder, I'm exhausted. I don't know what I'm saying. I think we could both use some rest." She moved away from him, walking toward her room.

"Scully, don't walk away from this," he said firmly. "I've just laid it all out for you. Please, let's discuss this."

She turned to face him once she reached the adjoining door. "I...I can't right now. I'm too tired and too confused. Please, Mulder..."

She didn't need to continue; her eyes told him he would get no further with the conversation. Scully had firmly planted her feet and was not about to budge. She was scared. If he pursued it, she would become more defensive and the walls surrounding her heart would solidify to the point he knew he would never get in.

Sometimes it amazed him how well he could read her. He knew she could do the same with him, so he did his best to hide his anxiety from his eyes and he reluctantly nodded in assent. "OK, we'll talk later. Sleep well, Dana."

Scully felt unwelcome moisture pooling in her eyes. She bit her bottom lip and left his room before the tears could betray her.

Scully tried to sleep, tried to put what Mulder had said out of her head but it held on like a drowning victim to a life raft. For two hours she tossed and turned, his words replaying in the her mind:

<<You're the most important person in my life right now.>>

<<You fill an emptiness in me I never thought would be filled.>>

<<I need you, in whatever capacity you see fit. Partner, confidante, friend, _best_ friend...>>


Did she want that? To be his lover? Her mind drew upon the memories of her dream, remembering the complete love and contentment she felt looking into his eyes as their bodies joined, and the safety she felt being held in his arms in the aftermath of their lovemaking.

Yes, she did want to be his lover. So much so, it caused a rolling wave of pain in her stomach when she realized it was something that couldn't be. Was it possible to make that move to the next level without it affecting their partnership, or jeopardizing their lives? She wanted to believe that, she really did, but she didn't see how it could be done.

Finally giving up the illusion that she would get any sleep, Scully decided to take a shower, thinking the water might help dissolve the film of conflicting emotions surrounding her body. She clicked on the lamp beside the bed.

She should have known better.

Less than two minutes after she turned on the light, a soft rapping started on the adjoining door. "Scully? Can I come in?"

Scully sighed, knowing she needed to face him but reluctant to do so. She felt too vulnerable now. She never did handle 'vulnerable' well.

With a deep breath, she relented. "Yeah, Mulder. Come on in."

The door opened slowly to reveal her partner, looking more relaxed in a pair of well-worn gray sweatpants and a thin white T-shirt. She took in his attire, along with his disheveled hair and stubbled face. It wasn't fair that he could look like he had just rolled out of bed yet still look so enticing.

*This is going to be harder than I thought,* she realized as he approached her.

"Did you get any sleep?" His voice was tentative.

"I slept about as well as you did," she replied with a thin smile.

His returning grin came across as a grimace. "I'm sorry, Scully. I don't want to push you but I really put myself out on a limb and..."

"You're right," she said, interrupting him. "You deserve an answer. I just don't think you're going to like what I have to say."

*Oh boy. Here it comes,* he thought as he lowered his head, trying to hide the disappointment he knew was reflected in his eyes.

"I care about you, Mulder." She paused as she saw him visibly flinch as if she had slapped his face. She took a deep breath, trying to gather her confidence. Despite the pain in her heart, she knew this was the right thing to do. "Mulder, what we have is special, there's no denying that. It goes deeper than any relationship I've ever had. Your friendship means more to me than any other in my life. But that's all it is. A friendship."

"A friendship," he said, mocking her. "That's all you want?"

"That's all I _need_. That's all you should need from me as well. Even if there was the desire to make our relationship more...intimate, _they_ would separate us in a heartbeat. Do you want that?"

He crossed the room, moving toward the wall closest to where Scully was standing. He leaned against it. "No, Scully. I don't want that. But we could do this. We could make this work."

"Not if only one of us wants it," she said, her voice low.

Mulder held his anger in check. He expected this exact argument from her. Sensible, practical Scully, always analyzing the situation. To death. He didn't believe she meant what she was saying. They were doing a hell of a dance number, a routine that would put Astaire and Rogers to shame. But then, he knew that he and Scully were good at dancing around their feelings. Especially for each other. After four years, he had finally taken that bold step. Now he wanted her to do the same.

He approached her, stopping within inches of touching her. His arms remained at his sides and he stood there until she looked up at him.

"So there it is. The truth. You don't feel the same way."

Scully raised her chin defiantly. "Yes. That's what I'm saying."

Mulder fought a grin. Another shining example of The Scully Lie. The light uplifting of her chin, the smooth voice, the unwavering yet guilty look in her eye. He decided to play into her ruse.

"Fine. I can respect that," he said with a terse nod. "I wouldn't want to force myself on you, Scully. I would never want to betray your trust or respect in me."

"Thank you," she replied as she started to back away.

"Just do me one favor." He closed the space between them again. "I'm still curious. Maybe what I feel for you isn't love in the sexual sense. Maybe I'm confusing what I feel for you with an intimate love, when it could be something more...basic."

Scully nodded unevenly. "Yes, there are many kinds of love. Don't get me wrong, Mulder. I _do_ love you..."

"Just not _that way_, right?" he finished.

"Right." Her chin jerked upward with the word.

"I just hate 'what ifs', Scully, so if you'll do me this one favor, I can resolve this issue with myself once and for all. And I promise, I'll never broach the subject with you again."

She didn't like the suddenly dark tone of his voice, or the suddenly dark hue in his eyes. Her head told her to run from the room but her feet refused to cooperate. Something deep within her body came to the surface and spoke. "All right, Mulder. What do you want?"

"Will you let me kiss you?"

Scully's head jerked slightly. "Mulder, I just said..."

"I know what you said," he interrupted, raising a hand in front of him. "You know what your feelings are for me. I'm still wondering what I feel for you."

"I don't think that would be a wise idea," she said with a guarded look.

"Why?" he shrugged. "Aren't you curious, Scully?"

She lowered her head. "No."

Mulder reached out, his hand insistent at her chin. She finally raised her head, her eyes meeting his. Her body stiffened as his fingers traced along her jawline. Her skin was alive under his fingertips, the memory of his touch leaving behind a tingling imprint of the contact.

"Not even the tiniest bit curious?" He stepped closer until she could feel his breath on her forehead. "What could it hurt? If you don't feel _that_ way about me, then it would be just like...what? Like kissing your brother, right?"

"Probably," she choked out, her voice almost nonexistent.

"One kiss, Scully. That's all I need." His face moved closer, his nose glancing over hers. He saw her eyes close just before his lips brushed against hers, lightly gliding over them, moving side to side, back and forth. His breath mingled with hers as he continued his achingly slow seduction of her lips. He took her bottom lip between his teeth and gently tugged. Her whimper hit his ears and immediately headed south, pooling low in his groin.

Unable to restrain himself any longer, Mulder crushed his mouth to hers, feeling how soft and pliable her lips were against the pressure of his. One of his hands moved to the back of her head; the other snaked around her back, pulling her closer. She relaxed into his touch, standing on her toes in an attempt to decrease the height difference between them.

He intensified the kiss, his tongue brushing against her lips, demanding entrance. She gave him permission on a moan, and he plunged his tongue into her mouth. His hand tightened its grip in her hair and he tilted her head back to give him better access. He laved her teeth, the insides of her cheeks, and finally her tongue, roughly lapping at it as she returned the action with equal enthusiasm. Her hands went to his T-shirt and she clutched the cotton material, trying to pull herself up his body and closer to his mouth.

When he finally broke the kiss, he was on the verge of hyperventilation. He lowered his forehead to hers and pulled her closer into his embrace. She went willingly, her own breathing heavily labored.

"Tell me that was like kissing your brother, Scully," he growled. "Tell me it meant nothing to you and I'll walk away."

She lowered her head, placing her forehead against his chest. "That was a dirty, rotten trick, Mulder."

He chuckled, kissing the crown of her head. "All's fair in love and war."

"None of this is fair," she sighed into his shirt. "I want this as much as you do but we can't have it."

"Why?" He pulled away to look at her, seeing watery blue eyes when she raised her head.

"Because this would give them the ammunition they need to bury us."

"Scully, they've already taken so much from us. They took my sister, my childhood, my family, my career. They took your sister, your faith, and for three months, your life. I'll be damned if they're going to take this away from us, too." He released his arms' hold on her, moving his hands to her face. "They already know you're my weakness, Scully. They've used you to bring me down before and they'll do it again. The only way you would be completely safe is for you to leave me and the X-Files. I would send you away myself if I was strong enough, but I'm not. I'm a selfish bastard when it comes to you, Dana Scully. I need you too much."

Scully's eyes filled with tears. She never thought it possible to love someone as much as she loved Fox Mulder at that moment. A man who _never_ opened himself to anyone stood before her, his body clothed yet his feelings naked and unprotected for her to see. What it must have taken for him to say these words to her, for him to swallow his pride and own up to needing someone. Needing her.

Her arms tightened around his waist. "I'm not going anywhere, Mulder. Regardless of what happens between us personally, I _am_ your partner, and I have no intentions of leaving. You can't get rid of me that easily." She placed her cheek against his chest, listening to the rhythmic thumping of his heart. "My major concern is that our partnership will suffer, whether it be by their hands or ours."

"How, Scully? I've felt this way about you for a long time but I've been afraid to admit it, even to myself. I've already been accused of being over-protective where you're concerned." He felt her smile against his chest. "I would put my life on the line for you even if we never get beyond our last kiss. How will this affect our partnership?"

She pulled back to look at his face, her stomach fluttering as she saw how dark his eyes had become. "I don't know. I guess...I guess I'm afraid that if it doesn't work out the partnership will dissolve."

Mulder's hands went to her shoulders. "Scully, you're condemning us before we've even started. Like you said, what we have is special, unique. It's a bond that has yet to be broken despite being dragged to Hell and back too many times to count. We can handle this."

She hugged him tighter. What he said made sense. They'd had every trick in the book thrown at them and it had yet to destroy their relationship. "We'll have to set some ground rules."

A grin of relief spread across his lips. "Of course. No nookie until the work's done."

"Mulder..." she warned. "We have to keep this as secret as possible. Skinner might look the other way if we're discreet, but if they force his hand he would have to reveal it. You know _they_ will make sure we're separated."

"Fair enough," he said into her hair. "What else?"

Scully made a fist and playfully punched his chest. "Mulder, you're supposed to be helping."

"Hey, you know me. I hate rules." His hand cleared the hair from her neck and he began placing light kisses along its creamy expanse. "Besides, you're the sensible one in the relationship."

"Not when you do that, I'm not." She tried to formulate her next thought but all her mind could focus on was his lips and the incredible things they were doing. She tilted her head to the side to give him better access. "We...ah...need to keep separate hotel rooms when...uh...we are in the field and...ohhhh..." She gave up when his tongue traced the whorls of her ear, his breath tickling her skin.

"Go on, Scully. I'm listening," he whispered against her ear before lifting his head to look at her. His groin tightened when he saw the light flush on her skin and her eyes fluttering open to reveal dark blue-green rings surrounding enlarged pupils. He quickly realized it was a good thing he had never seen that particular look in her eyes before. It caused his heart, along with another part of his body, to swell with emotion.

She gave his neck a gentle nudge and he lowered his head, allowing her to take the lead. He groaned as she took his bottom lip between her teeth and pulled it farther into her mouth, suckling lightly.

"Scully," he whispered against her mouth before her lips claimed his. Her tongue darted out, meeting and mating with his as his arms pulled her closer, pressing his lower body into her stomach. He was beyond aroused, both physically and mentally.

Inside. He wanted inside. Inside her mind, inside her heart, inside her body...

*Oh shit.* He broke the kiss abruptly as he remembered one crucial item they both were about to forget.

Mulder stared at her mouth, her lips swollen and moist. He wanted more of those lips, to feel them against his mouth again, against his skin, wrapped around certain parts of his body. He was shaking with desire but he forced himself to release her from his embrace.

"What's wrong?" she asked, her voice threaded with concern.

He let his arms drop to his sides. "We both know where this is heading, Dana. I...we can't continue right now."

Scully's brow furrowed as she tried to understand his logic. "Why? I _want_ to continue, Mulder, if there was any question..."

"No, not that..." His hand went to her mouth, his thumb lightly running along her bottom lip. "I'm not packing."

One Scully eyebrow headed toward her hairline. "Packing? I'm afraid you've lost me..."

"Condoms. I might have one in my garment bag but no guarantees as to the date of freshness." He paused when he saw her nod in understanding. "I think I should find a drug store before we...move ahead. That is, unless Dr. Scully has some spare latex in her little black bag," he added lightly.

Scully pursed her lips. "What would you say if I did?"

*She's kidding, right?* Mulder blinked in disbelief.

"You're kidding, right?"

Her lips formed a coy smile as she shook her head.

"Dare I ask why?" he asked as he returned the smile.

"It's an old medical examiner's trick," she said matter-of-factly. "Whenever I have several vials of blood or other liquid evidence taken from a scene, I put the vials in an unlubricated condom. That way they don't clank together, and therefore, don't break and destroy evidence. The vials manufactured these days are so flimsy, they can break with the slightest impact, even if they're in separate plastic bags. One condom will hold four full-size vials quite snugly."

Mulder was flabbergasted. He couldn't remember ever being flabbergasted in his life. He hated the word 'flabbergasted'. "Why haven't I seen you do this before?"

"Well, first of all, I didn't want to explain to you what I was doing with so many condoms in my bag," she said, shooting him a knowing glance. "Second of all, I don't flaunt the fact that I use them for this purpose. I try to be as discreet as possible. I don't use them very often, maybe once every five cases or so. I've only had to use them three or four times in the past year."

Mulder nodded as he closed the remaining distance between them. One hand snaked behind her head while the other went to the small of her back. "So you've only used three or four. That means you should still have over half a box left."

"You're assuming I bought the package of twelve," she replied, her voice changing in pitch and texture with each word. "Which I didn't."

He groaned and let his forehead drop to her shoulder. He thought back to his dream, the single condom and his nearly unsuccessful fight to keep the word 'control' as part of his permanent vocabulary. But this was reality, the real Dana Scully. He knew once he got started, there would be no stopping him, protection or no protection. He didn't have that kind of will power.

"Please, whatever you do, Scully," he mumbled into her shoulder, "don't tell me you only have one."

Her hand went to his hair, fingering the soft strands lightly. "Pathology buys them in bulk. I took a handful before our last case."

Lifting his head, he smiled at her. "A handful?"

"A _big_ handful," she corrected.

Mulder's grin grew impossibly wide.

Reluctantly leaving Mulder's embrace, Scully moved to her carry-on bag, which was sitting on the vanity outside the bathroom. She unzipped one of the inside pouches and retrieved a strip of condoms. Before she had the chance to count how many were attached, she felt arms snake around her waist from behind.

She lifted her head to see Mulder staring at her in the mirror, his desire-darkened eyes burning through her, stoking the fire already aflame inside her body. Her feelings were so strong for this man, stronger than she had realized. One touch from him sent waves of passion crashing through her. There were times when she could barely contain the emotions she had for him. Now, she could let them break free of the bindings created by her mind, and show him how much he affected her.

His eyes broke contact with hers and he dipped his head to her neck. He placed a tender kiss on the bruise below her ear, eliciting a tight gasp from her. His eyes met hers again in the mirror and he realized the gasp was not one of pain but of pleasure.

He released his hold on her waist and moved his hands up her back, over her shoulders then down her arms. He stroked the length of her arms over and over, the satin from her pajamas bunching and crinkling under the weight of his hands.

"God, you feel so good," he whispered in her hair. "How have I been able to keep my hands off you for so long?"

She smiled shyly. "Force of habit?"

"Stupid habit, if you ask me." He took the condoms from her hand and looking over his shoulder, he tossed them, watching as they landed on the edge of the bed. His hands went back to her waist and he pulled her hips into his, letting her feel his arousal. Dark green met piercing blue in the mirror once again. "Do you know how badly I want you?"

"I think I have an idea," she replied as she pressed her hips back into him.

He moaned as his hands went to her hair, turning her head to the side and capturing her lips with his. His tongue thrust in and out, mimicking the gyrations of his hips. Her fingernails dug into his thighs, the only part of his body she could reach. Releasing her head, his hands started to stroke her stomach through the material, then moved to her waist and ribs, and higher still, always teasing but never quite touching her breasts. Her restless movements only fueled his hunger to make her mindless with desire.

"Please..." It was more of a breath than an actual word but he got the message. Loud and clear. His fingers shook as turned his attention to her pajama top. Cursing as he fumbled with the tiny pearl buttons, he felt her hands join his in the effort and within seconds the shirt was open, hanging loosely from her shoulders.

Scully watched as his eyes raked over her reflection in the mirror. His hands slowly moved up from her waist, his fingers splayed wide across her skin, pushing the shirt aside as they went. His fingertips brushed the underside of her breasts and she sighed, letting her eyelids close and leaning back against him.

"Open your eyes, Scully. Look at me," he demanded, his voice rough like sandpaper against her ear.

Her eyes fluttered open and locked with his as his hands cupped her breasts, raising them and crushing them together. Her breath caught in a sharp gasp and her back arched as her hands reached up and over her head to tangle in his hair. When his fingers flicked over her already taut nipples she thought she would burst into flames from the sensation. Her grip on his hair tightened as she felt the heat increase throughout her body.

His name left her tongue on the end of low moan and he knew he was gone. So far gone he had no hope of ever returning. Hearing his name from her lips in _that_ tone was almost enough to send him over the edge. Almost, but not quite. From somewhere within himself, he found enough control to fend off the explosion waiting to detonate in his groin.

Turning in his arms, she reached for his head again, roughly forcing it down to hers and claiming his lips before he could utter a word. He had dreamt that she was this passionate, this responsive but it was nothing like seeing and experiencing it first-hand. Like layers of paint protecting a cherished wooden chair, he was slowly stripping away the protective layers surrounding Dana Scully's emotions, allowing them to be revealed in their raw, natural form.

Scully could feel herself spiraling out of control. Each of his kisses breathed new passion into her body, each of his caresses made her feel alive, beautiful. Loved. Most of all, loved. He hadn't said the words but she knew. Those words were hard for him to say, harder for him to believe.

She pulled back quickly, her breath rapid and uneven. "Mulder, I want you to know that I..."

"No," he interrupted, placing a finger on her lips. "No more talking, Scully. No more talking and no more thinking." He bent his head to kiss her lightly. "Only this. You and me."

She nodded in understanding. He didn't need the words right now. Neither did she.

He took her hands in his and walked to the bed. He sat on the edge, spreading his legs and coaxing her to stand between them. His head was now even with her chest and he leaned forward, kissing the valley between her breasts while pushing the satin shirt from her body, letting it flutter to the carpet and pool at her feet.

"We'll talk later, Dana, I promise," he whispered roughly, looking up at her rich blue-green eyes. "We'll work everything out and we'll say what we want and need to say. Later. Right now, I don't want to think about anything except what it feels like to be buried deep inside you when you come."

A tiny whimper escaped her lips. His words and voice created an earthquake of desire rumbling through her body. She couldn't remember ever being as aroused as she was standing there before him, naked from the waist up, listening to his naked words. Leaning down, she kissed him hard, telling him what he was doing to her in a way no words could convey.

He broke the kiss and pulled her forward, so quickly her hands went to his shoulders to steady herself. She cried out as his mouth latched onto one of her breasts, tugging at the nipple then laving it roughly before doing the same to the other side.

"God," she gasped as she leaned into him, his arms supporting her full weight as he continued his oral assault on her skin. He fell back onto the bed, taking her with him, his mouth still connected to her breast. Her hands went to his hair, roughly grabbing two fistfuls to get his attention. It worked. He raised his head and she thrust her tongue into his mouth, exploring every line, every surface with the voracity of an eager student desperate to learn a new subject.

He rolled over, covering her with his body for a moment before slipping off the bed to kneel between her legs. Grabbing the waistband of her pajama bottoms on both sides, he quickly pulled them down and off her legs. His hands pushed her legs apart and she felt his stubbled cheek graze her thigh. She cried out, the sensation prickly yet erotic at the same time.

She knew what he was going to do. Something she had never allowed another man to do to her. _For_ her.

"Mulder, no..." she whispered, her voice weak.

"Yesss," he hissed against her leg before planting a kiss on her inner thigh, then one higher and another higher still. "I want you, Dana. All of you. Let me in."

She whimpered and bit down hard on her bottom lip. She wanted this. Her legs shook from how badly she wanted it. Bits and pieces of her dream flashed in her head, one image quickly replaced by another like a slide projector out of control: His mouth kissing her, teasing her, caressing her, stroking her, loving her...

*Give it to him, Dana. Let him take you there. Let him in.*

"Oh God!" Her hands flew to his hair, guiding him to that one place she wanted to feel his breath, his mouth, his tongue.

Starting at her ankles, he dragged his hands up her smooth legs, stopping only after he reached her inner thighs. He brushed his knuckles against the thin scrap of silk, her arousal evident in the sodden patch under his fingers. His control quickly waning, he yanked the panties from her skin and tossed them aside. His thumbs parted her and he let his breath bathe her in moist air as he inhaled in her heady scent. He smiled as he listened to her whimpers and pleadings.

Finally, his tongue darted out and brushed lightly over her flesh, already glistening with her need. He heard a sharp gasp then a moan as he reached out again, laving her like a cat lapping from a bowl of milk.

Had she let any other man perform this most intimate act upon her? Was he the first? From her reactions he guessed he was the first, or at least the first in a very long time. He wanted her to lose control. He wanted to be the one who made her lose control. He wanted to see his professional, analytical Dr. Dana Scully writhing in agonizing ecstasy as she pulsed under his lips. He wanted to make her scream.

He wasn't disappointed.

Her breath quickened into short pants as every sensation in her body converged at the point where his tongue met the core of her need. Too much. It was too much too soon. He had barely started and she could feel the wave cresting, pulling her under. Sounds she never knew she could make erupted from deep within and flew from her mouth. She couldn't stop them, she couldn't control them. She felt the convulsions getting stronger and faster, her release the only thing on her mind. It felt so good, so good. He knew exactly what to do and where to do it. How did he know? Must be fate, must be love. Love. Mustbelove. Ohgod, ohgodohgodohgodohgod...

He took her tiny bundle of nerves between his teeth and tugged once. Her world exploded.


Her hips came off the bed as she bucked wildly against his face. He held her, wrapping his arms around her thighs and he rode out the waves with her, grounding her as she took flight on the wings of a mind-altering orgasm. She gave herself fully to the sensations surging through her body, confident that he would be there to catch her. And he did.

Barely aware of her surroundings, Scully felt herself being lifted and placed on the center of the bed. She sighed softly as his touch left her, and a small frown formed on her lips. She heard the rustling of clothing, then the bed dipped next to her.

She smiled and sighed again when she felt one of his hands on her stomach. Her eyes fluttered open and she saw him lying next to her, propped up on one elbow. His soft smile melted her heart.

"Welcome back," he said as his hand slowly stroked her skin. "Was it a good trip?"

She laughed weakly. "Yeah, the best. I wish you had been there with me, though."

His head dipped as he kissed her forehead, then the tip of her nose. "I _was_ there, Dana. All the way."

Scully's eyes welled with unshed tears. So many emotions surfacing in so little time was beginning to take its toll. She felt her control threatened yet again, this time not by the caress of his hand or mouth but by the caress of his words.

Her hand went to the back of his head, pulling his head down to hers. She kissed him with a ferocity she hadn't realized resided in her body. It wasn't enough to feel his tongue tangle with hers, it wasn't enough to take the breath from him as he did the same to her. It wasn't enough. Wrapping her arms around him, she coaxed him to lay atop her. His hips slid over hers as his arms went to either side of her head. She could feel him trembling with need, the muscles of his arms quaking as he tried to stay in control every bit as much as she had.

He was still fighting to maintain control? No, no, no. She wasn't going to allow that.

Still locked in a kiss, Scully thrust her hips toward his. They both moaned as his erection slid between her legs. She lifted her hips again, creating a friction that sent her senses into overload. She freed one hand and ran it down his back to his hips, then forward, reaching between them to hold him in her hand.

He broke the kiss on a gasp, his forehead lowering to her shoulder. "Ahhh, God. Scully. I..." His voice faded into a moan as she began stroking the length of him, her grip maddeningly tight. He was able to stand less than ten seconds of her slow manual assault before stilling her hand with his own.

Her eyes questioned him and he smiled thinly. "If you don't stop that, we won't need the condom this time."

"Get it," she bit out.


"The condom." She squirmed under his body, her comfort disturbed by her increasing passion, not by his weight. "I want you. Now."

Mulder swallowed hard. Her last word came out as a growl, and a command. Not a request, but an order. He happily obeyed, turning on his back and fishing blindly with one arm, knowing the condoms had fallen to the floor. If he could just reach a little more...

"Ahhhh..." His searching hand went limp as he felt soft, wet lips on his abdomen, kissing a path lower and lower until they came in contact with his painfully hard erection. She kissed the tip, her tongue darting out to steal away the bead of liquid settled there, then took in the head, swirling her tongue around and under.

Mulder suddenly had difficulty remembering his name. He tried to speak but every word came out as an unintelligible grunt or groan. Four years of sexual tension filled in his body, and all four years' worth were now residing in his groin. He had waited this long, but not for a blowjob. There would be time for that later, but this time ** their first time ** he had something else in mind. Somehow his brain issued the command for his hands to reach for her head.

"Scully, I'm serious," he whispered harshly. "I'm about ready to explode and I have every intention of being inside you when I do."

Licking her lips, she nodded and waited for him to find the strip of condoms. His hands shook as he ripped one from the group, and she took mercy on him by swiping it from his hand and opening it herself. She took her time rolling the condom onto his straining flesh, her eyes never leaving his face as she watched the pleasure-pain illuminate his features. His eyes were dark and wild, his mouth full and swollen, his face flush and misted with a thin film of sweat.

Before she had a chance to move, his hands went under her arms and he lifted her, bringing her to rest on his thighs. She took him in her hand again while raising her hips, aligning their bodies. She hesitated, hovering over him, her eyes asking him if he was sure. In answer his hand went to her face, cupping her cheek, the look in his eyes washing away any doubt in her mind. She released her leg muscles, joining their bodies and minds in one move.

Low moans filled the room, followed by complete silence. Both remained absolutely still, allowing the feel of their bodies coming together to sink in and flood their senses. Scully was the first to move, running her hands along Mulder's chest, letting her fingernails linger around his flat nipples.

He startled her by grabbing her wrists and pulling her down, kissing her roughly as her head reached his. Letting go of her wrists, he moved his hands to her waist and he thrust upward while pushing her body down. The feeling was like no other he had ever known. He had been with other women but somehow this was different. The joining wasn't only on a physical level, but on a spiritual one as well. Feeling himself buried to the hilt inside her was like being able to touch her soul. Each thrust was an attempt to fuse their bodies into one. Mind, body and soul, he was hers, and she his. It was a fate decided long ago. He realized that now, and he suspected she knew the same.

Holding her close, he flipped them over, pulling out almost completely then thrusting into her hard, pinning her to the mattress. The throaty gasp erupting from her mouth bypassed his ears and immediately went south. Scully pulled her knees up and wrapped her ankles around his waist, angling herself for his deeper penetration. He continued to pump into her, faster, harder, using her moans and gasps as his guide to tell him how she liked it. His thrusts became frantic, his controlled finesse from before a distant memory. He leaned in and kissed her hard, his tongue imitating his lower body. Breaking the kiss abruptly, he moved his mouth over her ear.

"Come on, Dana. Come again for me."

"I can't," she whimpered.

"Yes you can," he whispered roughly. "I want to feel you close around me, Scully. Let me feel it."

His hand went between their bodies, seeking out her pleasure point. He found it and massaged it like the string on a violin, stroking it back and forth, creating a vibrato throughout her body that sent her low melodic moan escalating into a powerful crescendo, culminating with his name on the end of a scream.

Her body convulsed around him, her muscles squeezing him like a warm fist, forcing his own release and her name shouted in a strained voice. He felt himself pulsing inside her, her body milking him and extending his own pleasure as he added a few thrusts to extend hers. Tiny lights flashed behind his closed eyelids, his orgasm so intense he wavered above her then collapsed, burying his head in her hair.

Labored breathing and contented sighs were the only sounds in the small hotel room in Mississippi. Neither spoke nor moved, choosing instead to bask in the aftermath of a completed journey four years in the making.

"So, was it me?" His finger lightly brushed over the bruise on her neck. They were still joined, his body over hers but supported by his elbows on either side of her head. Despite his gesture to move, her legs remained locked in a vice-like grip at his waist. He wasn't complaining, though. This is where he wanted to be. This was home. The first home he had ever welcomed since his youth.

She stifled a yawn. Her breathing had returned to normal and the lightheadedness dissipated but the euphoria remained. "What do you mean, was it you?"

"This," he said as he bent his head to kiss the mottled purple skin. "It's been a while, but I think I can spot a world-class hickey when I see one." He grinned as he saw the skin on her neck and face flood with a light red flush. "That's what I thought. Are you ready to tell me about your dream?"

She opened her mouth to protest but she could see it was futile. He knew. Somehow he knew she'd had a similar experience but was patiently waiting until she was ready to tell him. She could tell he wasn't angry about her not telling him earlier, but she read something else in his face. Her eyes closed as she realized what it was.

Hurt. He was hurt that she hadn't told him about her dream, that she hadn't trusted him with the truth.

She was given a few moments to collect her thoughts as he separated their bodies. A tiny frown crept onto her lips, her body missing his fullness. He quickly disposed of the condom in a nearby trashcan, then turned back to her and waited with raised eyebrows.

She sighed. He wasn't going to let her get away with it. He knew and now he wanted answers.

"Yes, it was you," she said, her eyes lowered. "In my dream, it was you. I dreamt that we were professors at a university, me in Physics and Biology, you in Abnormal Psychology."

"That's fitting," he said lightly.

She shot him a stern look before continuing. "You were the same, only different, but I still felt the connection to you that we've had from almost the beginning. It was just a dream, of course, but it was vivid and influential enough to make me realize what I had been trying to hide from myself for so long."

He kissed her lips tenderly, lingering just long enough to let her know he understood. "So, Dr. Scully. You say what you had was only a dream. How do you explain this suspicious-looking bruise on your neck?"

She shrugged. "It's the physical manifestation of a psychosomatic trauma, somehow perpetrated by my mind. I've heard of such injuries occurring but I've never seen one in person."

"A bruise created by your brain," he said with a smirk. "Sounds like one of my theories."

"The brain is a mystery, Mulder, you know that," she rebutted, her voice becoming even and professional. "There are functions of the brain for which we have no explanation of how and why they happen. Studies have shown it is possible that with enough provocation, the brain can concoct a scenario so real that a person under severe mental stress would believe it to be the truth. It is also vaguely possible that there is enough untapped power in the human brain to create a physical manifestation of that mental pain."

He nodded thoughtfully as his finger slowly traced around the bruise. "You present a very valid argument for why you have a hickey. Now how do you explain the bracelet? Another 'physical manifestation'?"

Her lips pursed. She had no explanation for the bracelet, other than it was a coincidence. A strange, unexplainable coincidence. She knew he wasn't going to buy that excuse. He wouldn't let her off the hook that easily. Her lips curled into a smile. If she couldn't explain her way out of it, perhaps another tactic would work.

She turned on her side and moved her hand along his arm, tracing the tight muscle of his bicep. She lifted her head from the pillow, her lips making contact with his shoulder. She kissed along his collarbone, across his Adam's apple and to the other side, reveling in the throaty moans she could feel vibrating through his skin.

"You're avoiding the question, Agent Scully," he said, his voice dark.

She smiled against the skin of his neck. "I'm merely taking a moment to formulate a theory."

He gasped as she took his earlobe between her teeth. "Then by all means, take your time. These things can't be rushed."

She laughed, a fluttering, lyrical sound he rarely heard.

"I love it when you do that."


"Laugh," he said, brushing auburn strands from her brow. "You have a sexy laugh. You don't do enough of it."

Her eyes met his. "I could say the same about you."


Her hands went to his buttocks, squeezing and kneading the flesh.

"I said touche', Scully, not touche."

She laughed again.

"That's my girl," he whispered before capturing her lips, his tongue seeking hers with a languid passion. The frantic need that had consumed him earlier was replaced with the contentment of release and the curiosity of wanting to explore everything about his new lover.

His lover. Scully, his partner _and_ his lover. Just the thought of being able to be with her, waking with her in his arms, sent a surge of arousal through his body like a bolt of lightning.

His lover. The thought hit her hard, despite what they had just spent the last half-hour doing. Could they handle this? Could she? She realized it didn't matter. She couldn't turn back now, not after experiencing the feeling of completeness after their lovemaking. He had told her she kept him whole. He did the same for her. She had to believe, for it was the truth. Their truth. Still, doubt floated into her mind like an unwelcome dark cloud.

He sensed the change in her posture and broke the kiss. "What is it?"

"Mulder, is this going to work?"

Seeing fear in her blue-green eyes, he smiled softly. "Of course this is going to work. Why would you think otherwise?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. I just..." She paused as she looked in his eye. "I _really_ want this to work, both personally and professionally, but..."

"But what?" He urged her with his eyes, telling her without words that it was all right to have doubts and that they needed to get them out in the open.

"Can we do this? I mean, can we do the work and this?" She gestured between them.

"Scully, you and I together can do anything," he said as he stroked her cheek. "Look at everything we've accomplished in our work. I could never have done so much alone. We're good together, Scully. Damn good. The physical part is just an extension of what has always been here."

She conceded with a nod. "This won't be easy, you know."

"Since when has anything with us been easy?"

Scully laughed, then turned her head to the side and kissed the palm of his hand that lay on her cheek. A glimmer of gold caught her eye on the side table. Mulder followed the path her eyes had taken and saw the object that held her gaze. He reached for the bracelet, unhooking the clasp before securing it around Scully's wrist.

His finger traced the gold chain. "Are you going to give this back to your mom?"

Raising one eyebrow, she looked at him with amusement. "Why would I give this to my mom? It's not hers."

"Yes it is."

"Mulder, this is not the same bracelet. This is just a coincidence. You must have found..."

He silenced her with a firm kiss, her protests smothered by his lips. He pulled back quickly and raised a finger.

"You said we need to set some ground rules. Here's number one: No arguing in bed."

She pursed her lips, fighting a grin. "I wasn't arguing. I was presenting the only _sound_ theory for the appearance of this..."

His lips crushed hers again, and she batted playfully at his arms. They broke the kiss mutually, both laughing.

"OK, OK, you win," she surrendered with mock protest. "No trading theories in bed."

His face beamed with a victory smile as he lowered his head to her stomach, settling in with a contented sigh. Her hand went to his head and she combed her fingers through his soft hair. He reached for her free hand and took the charm between his forefinger and thumb.

"You're of Irish descent, Scully. So tell me what this symbol means?"

"It means luck," she said as she looked at her clover. "Everyone knows that."

"No, I don't mean that. I mean, what's the story behind it?"

Scully bit her bottom lip as she thought about Ahab and his legend of The Wish. She thought about telling Mulder about it but decided it was best saved for another time. Maybe she would show him the clover patch behind the hotel. *Maybe not,* she chuckled to herself.

She opted for a safer explanation. "I'm not sure what the actual legend behind it is, but my mom told me once that when God created clovers, He made one leaf for hope, one for faith, one for love and He threw in a fourth one just for luck."

Mulder smiled as he continued to run his finger over the charm and along her wrist. A brief silence filled the room before he spoke.

"I guess that would make you a four-leafed clover, Scully."


He put his arm across her stomach and laid his head on his arm, looking at her through hooded eyes. "You're my four-leafed clover. I find all of those things in you." He took her hand, twining his fingers around hers. "With you, I have the hope that I will find the truth as long as you're by my side. With you, I have found the faith to believe in what we do and to continue the search. With you, I have found a love I never thought I would know. And the luck..." He stopped as a knowing smile formed on his lips. "Well, as much trouble as I get myself into, without you there to cover my ass, I'd have been a dead man a long time ago."

Scully swallowed the lump rising in her throat, and she fought the tears that suddenly flooded her eyes. She cleared her throat before she dared to speak.

"Mulder, that is the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me." Her hand went to his face, caressing his cheek. He raised his head from her and moved up her body, claiming the kiss she had waiting for him. A soft kiss, filled with emotions both spoken and silent.

When he broke the kiss, he grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, didn't mean to get sappy on you."

"As long as you meant it, I don't mind. Not at all."

"Of course I meant it." Emotion surged in his voice. "I wouldn't have said it otherwise."

Smiling, she kissed his arm. "You know I feel the same way, don't you?"

"Yeah," he whispered, "I know."

She leaned in for another kiss, her mind in awe of the man before her. She never knew such love could exist, especially in a man whose whole life was plagued with constant reminders of how love could be used to hurt others. She made a solemn vow to show Fox William Mulder every day just how much he was loved.

His lips left hers to kiss the curves of her neck. She ran her hands up and down his back, her nails lightly grazing his skin. She could feel his body stirring with arousal, and his mouth was awakening her body as well.

She couldn't resist getting in one last comment. "Could it be that beneath that cool exterior and that biting humor, beats the heart of a hopeless romantic?"

He raised his head and snorted. "No way, Scully. Not me. You must be dreaming."

"Not this time, Mulder," she whispered as she ran a finger along the contours of his bottom lip. "Not this time."


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