Anamorphosis by Eponine119

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!Numerous content warnings apply: child sexual abuse, recovered memories, rape (not described), suicidal ideations, dissociative disorder.

You should know: This story contains adult material including sexuality, child abuse, and murder. Sensitive readers may want to be on the lookout to skip parts that may be offensive. Things do get graphic.

Category: Scully angst

Summary: Assigned to find a horrifying serial murderer, Agent Scully

discovers things about herself and her past that she never suspected.

Anamorphosis – Greek, to form anew. “the unfoldment of destinies follows …upon the fall of outer circumstances…[a] substantial event was actually but a veil, a tissue of circumstance, conjured forth or the realization of a plot already formed.” [Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology]

Comments appreciated more than you know.

begun July 30, 1998; finished September 28, 1998

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Anamorphosis

by M Reilly

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-1-

The first time it happened, she was alone. Headache touched her forehead, so she’d closed her eyes for just a second. The black behind her eyelids was so quiet and comforting.

When she opened her eyes one second later, thirty minutes had gone by.

The holidays used to be her favorite time of year. The ritual of Thanksgiving dinner. She remembered from the time she was a very small child, sitting on one of the tall stools so she could see her mother over the kitchen counter. Cooking wasn’t all women did in those days, but it was what her mother did. Even when she was in school with medical books piled higher than her eyebrows, she picked up her feet from wherever she was and headed home.

For turkey. For family. For home.

A light drizzle was falling. It wouldn’t have been so bad except it was seven thirty at night in the last week of November and the wind chill was less than twenty degrees. She wasn’t wearing a coat and her sweater had somehow become unbuttoned. It was ripped and she was freezing. A tree branch above her head was channeling water to drip directly down the back of her shirt in torturous rhythm.

It seemed even colder as fog began to roll in, obscuring the beam from the flashlight she was holding. “Hey!” Mulder yelled, but when he turned to look at her, the fog was too thick for her to see his face.

“Got it!” one of the other officers yelled. Cooperatively, the fog drifted away to reveal a child’s body, fully exposed and perhaps a few hours dead. Blood had congealed in the most terrible places.

Mulder said her name as she took a step in closer, trying to catch her with hands she ignored. But he was right to have tried to protect her. Her eyes seemed to bulge and she couldn’t turn away fast enough. The knife handle was still stuck up into the girl, blood pooling on her thighs. Femoral artery compromised. Scully didn’t know where to put her hands – over her eyes or her mouth. Her lunch, long forgotten, rushed up and answered the question.

“Crime scene sullied by agent with pathology degree.” Her face burned in shame imagining the report even as she retched. Then she had to meet Mulder’s solemn, sad eyes. She didn’t know why they were there.

She was trembling in the locker room. Even indoors, she hadn’t been able to get warm. Not even wrapping herself in Mulder’s body- heated coat at the scene had helped. Nothing would. A girl was dead, horribly. Now she had the task of incurring further injury to the body in order to try to find the monster who had done this.

And it was a monster. There was no mistake. Just as terrible a monster as she had ever faced.

The clock had pushed past midnight and she had hours of work ahead of her. Standing there shaking did no one any good. She didn’t know why this affected her so deeply. She had seen other cases; even other cases of child abuse or sexual abuse. None of them had been like this.

She forced herself through the heavy door into the other, colder room. Her hands shook too badly to peel back the sheet that covered the girl’s slight form. It took several minutes of deep, concentrated breathing to coordinate the movement.

Thank god they’d removed the knife.

Her vision started to buzz a little around the edges. Blood was fighting for access to her brain and losing. I’m going to faint, she thought, with quite a bit of surprise.

She didn’t even feel herself fall.

She didn’t know how much time had passed. She was sitting on the bench in the locker room, dressed. She didn’t remember changing out of her scrubs. The fear of not remembering overwhelmed the calm she had felt when she’d opened her eyes.

“Someone else will have to do the post mortem,” she told the ‘assistant’/lab guard. Her hands had stopped shaking. Scully had never refused to do something before. Never, in her entire FBI career. She wondered if there would be repercussions. They wouldn’t be enough to change her mind and go back into that morgue.

An hour later, she lay in bed, eyes open wide, listening to the drizzle pound into the street. She couldn’t sleep. Why did she feel this way? Inside, she felt as cold and closed off as ever before, but at the same time, she felt like the fortress around her was about to collapse. She didn’t want that to happen, but she didn’t know what she could do to stop it.

It was morning before she realized the night had passed.

“I thought you said you didn’t do the autopsy.” He sounded almost accusing when she walked into the office the next morning. A glance at his puffy, tired eyes confirmed he hadn’t slept any more than she had. She got weary; Mulder got cranky.

She shook her head, sipping her coffee. It tasted terrible and she didn’t want the caffeine. But she wasn’t sure she could survive without it.

“Somebody did,” he told her. His eyes didn’t leave hers as he sat down across from her. “I know there are elements of this case that disturb you,” he said diplomatically. Trying to begin a discussion.

Elements? She could have laughed. He’d taken his sympathetic listener mode, folding his hands and opening the conversation, tilting his head and waiting patiently for a reply. She wondered if they taught that in psychology classes.

If she didn’t let him inside, she would crack.

“I…kind of…blanked it out,” she admitted with difficulty, trying to make what was crazy sound casual. She waited for him to make a judgment, to confirm her worst fears and tell her she needed to seek help immediately.

But he nodded, like he understood. She thought that he did. Maybe what she was feeling was normal. Maybe there was nothing wrong with her. She had hared out, the way Mulder did sometimes. Maybe everyone did that sometimes.

“You don’t have to push yourself,” he said.

She didn’t want him to go this alone. She also knew this case had the very real potential to destroy her. She didn’t know why, but she knew that it could. She looked down at the report, filled out in her own neat handwriting and worried that she didn’t remember filling out the form, didn’t remember the incisions or the weights or the stitches when she was finished.

“That’s why you can’t be a doctor. I can read your writing,” Missy, teasing her, that Christmas she’d joined the FBI. Missy had tried to be supportive. She was the only one.

She pushed the report at her partner. “I’m leaving for San Diego at noon.”

He didn’t say anything. Just nodded with his eyes on the pages. He’d told her she could walk away from the case, and now he was disappointed because she had.

“Maybe…” she stopped. He looked at her. What was she thinking? Was she really about to suggest he go to California with her? Even her mother couldn’t buffer the animosity between Mulder and Bill. And it wasn’t her place.

“Maybe you should step away, too,” she finished lamely.

He shook his head.

“Have a happy Thanksgiving,” he told her at noon.

“See you Monday.” She took a long time putting on her coat, hesitant to leave. She had a bad feeling hanging over her. She’d thought it was about the case. Now she wasn’t so sure.

The plane was packed and turbulent. The attendants couldn’t even get drinks served. Scully didn’t want anything to drink anyway, because then she’d have to careen down the long, jouncy aisle to the toilet. She was already mildly ill from the turbulence.

When she put her head against the window and closed her eyes, the plane jumped. She could hear the woman next to her breathing. Scully’s teeth clacked together as the plane lost several more feet of altitude.

Across the aisle, she noticed a little girl. She had a long blond ponytail and sweet blue eyes, but she looked sad. Scully wished she had some gum to give to the child – she probably looked sad because the pressure in the plane hurt her ears. It made Scully’s ache.

The girl made Scully feel sad. Going back to San Diego made her feel sad. Matthew was a year old. She wondered if he’d be walking or talking. Her class on childhood development in med school had been at 8 am; she hadn’t learned much.

She glanced at the girl, who was still staring at her plaintively. Next to her, a smaller blond boy began to squirm and wail in his seat. The sound was loud enough to perforate Scully’s ears even before the boy’s father slapped him, which only amplified the screaming.

Scully flinched, but then grew even more horrified as the father replaced his hand back on the little girl’s upper thigh.

Her heart was beating much too fast.

It doesn’t mean anything, she told herself.

Doesn’t it?

You don’t know.

And yet she did.

The headache was back. She couldn’t do anything about it, so she closed her eyes and hung on to the armrests, anxious for the plane ride to end. Maybe a rest was just what she needed. A vacation. It might do her good.

She wasn’t going to rest at Bill’s. Things were awkward, worse than before. Hadn’t she written enough letters? Called frequently enough? No, probably she hadn’t, when she thought about it, which she hadn’t done before.

Her mom didn’t even hug her. Margaret Scully was holding her grandson Matthew. I’ve finally fallen out of favor with them all, Scully thought, lugging her suitcase out to the car. At least she didn’t have to ride back to the house alone in the car with Bill.

“You look terrible.”

“Bill!” Trashy Tara slapped his arm.

“Well, she does. Doesn’t she, Mom?”

She wanted to tell them. She wanted to tell them where she’d been the night before, what she had seen. The words seemed to bubble up, filling her until she had to grind her teeth and concentrate on keeping them inside.

“Are you all right, Dana?” her mother asked, ever concerned.

She nodded. “Headache. Jet lag. I didn’t sleep last night.”

“Ginseng for energy!” Tara proclaimed.

Tara was a kook. Scully knew she didn’t need ginseng; what was wrong with her couldn’t be cured so easily by a bottle from GNC. She remembered Bill’s wedding to Tara. It had been meant to seem whimsical, but failed. Tara would never look like fairy tale princess, given all the flowers and satin in the world. She was a California princess and it was all she’d ever be.

Her father had been alive then.

She didn’t want to go in the house. It felt like she was repeating the previous Christmas. She was repeating so many old days, not all of them good. They had lived a fair portion of her childhood in a house identical to this one, on this same military base. Five years.

Bill looked older. Worry lines. The product of fatherhood? Or had he simply heard the same rumor she had, that this would be the next California base to close?

“Go to bed,” her mother told her and gratefully, she did.

The nightly ritual didn’t comfort her. The face cream, the toothpaste, the initial slick slide of silk pajamas…none of them really seemed to reach her. Her head was getting worse. A soak in the tub might have helped, she thought, but she didn’t want to take off her clothes. There was something uncomfortable about bathing in other peoples’ houses.

So she drifted, lying in the dark, trying not to be conscious of the time that didn’t pass and the family she didn’t feel a part of. Her mother spent most of the winter in San Diego now, helping Tara with the baby and enjoying the sunshine and warmth. It was doubtless only a matter of time until Margaret moved to California permanently.

Scully knew the sun would shine the next day. Maybe it would be a relief.

After she heard everyone go to bed, she got up again, sneaking through the quiet house like an intruder. She just walked through the rooms, discontent and remembering.

She jumped, reaching for a gun that wasn’t there when the light in the kitchen came on. Bill chuckled and she felt small. “You are tense.” His smile was cold. “You jumped a foot.”

“Milk,” she said, opening the refrigerator. There were two gallons housed inside. Both full fat. Whatever.

“So tell me about the FBI,” Bill commented in the same tone he’d used the ridicule her from the time they were children. Her hand slipped on the milk and it plopped back to the shelf. Tara shopped at Ralph’s.

“Dana.”

She wanted to tell him. She wanted to spit every word in his smug, bullyish face. She wanted him to be her father and hold her just because she was scared. She wanted Mulder desperately.

“There…” her voice shook and the pain in her head was suddenly breathtaking.

“Tell me about your partner.”

“Knock it off.” Bill looked shocked, standing there in his sweatpants as she pushed past him. She’d never done that before. She could defend herself now.

It occurred to her it was a strange thought to have. Then she lay down in bed and sleep engulfed her quickly.

Tara was cooking. There was no joy in slipping into the kitchen and popping morsels into her mouth. The Scully torch had been handed down…to Tara. Bill was lost in a football game on TV and her mother was playing with the baby.

No room for Scully.

“I’m going for a run.” If there was any pleasure in wearing shorts in November, it was lost on her.

“You don’t weigh enough already.”

She tugged at the hem of the shorts. She didn’t want Bill looking at her body and judging her. He wouldn’t understand. Some exercise wouldn’t hurt his wife any, either. She didn’t care about calories. She wanted release. She wanted escape.

“Dinner’s at fourteen hundred.” Another military command. Maybe Bill’d get to be Admiral yet. Show up Dad. That might make him happy. Scully only got more annoyed.

She ran slowly, her muscles unwilling and unhappy. Even with her blood flowing, a hint of headache threatened. She couldn’t stop thinking about the case. It had been twenty four hours. That was a long time in an investigation.

Bill would disapprove, so she stopped outside a deserted Circle K store and used her phone card. “Mulder, it’s me.”

“Scully?” He sounded so shocked.

“How are you?”

“There’s been another one.”

Her knees buckled unexpectedly, leaving her clinging to the receiver and leaning against a stone wall that had been painted over with graffiti. “Should I come back?” she asked.

“No. Look, I got to go.” He hung up on her.

She replaced the phone. She was crying. It didn’t even feel good. It certainly didn’t make any sense. She stood there, taking deep breaths but the tears kept falling, sobs coming from somewhere too deep inside to identify.

“Lady, are you okay?”

She raised her head. Concerned citizen. She closed her mouth and nodded and he hurried into the convenience store. She was a crazy lady at the Circle K.

She walked back to Bill’s. Her eyes still felt red and puffy so she walked around the block again. She didn’t want them to know she’d been crying. Ever since she was a child, there was shame in tears. Boys didn’t cry. She remembered being afraid when Melissa would cry. Melissa cried regularly, but Scully never did.

Maybe Dana cries.

The thought startled her. Coming crisp and clear like a voice in her head. She was Dana, wasn’t she? If she wasn’t, when had she stopped being her and where had Dana gone?

The voice didn’t answer. That was probably a good thing.

Scully went into the house.

“Where the hell have you been?” Bill jumped on her the instant she opened the door. She froze, startled by his anger. “We were going to go looking for you.”

She looked blankly at him.

“It’s almost four o’clock, damn it!”

“I lost track of the time.”

“Bill,” Tara tugged at his arm. “It doesn’t matter.”

“She always does this!”

Tara glared at her husband and reached for Scully’s hand. Scully jumped back and realized it was the wrong thing to have done when she saw Tara’s eyes. Tara liked touching people. Scully didn’t like being touched uninvited. “Dana, have some supper.”

“She doesn’t get any!” Bill roared.

“Bill,” Tara said gently.

“I’m not that hungry,” Scully mumbled. “I’m sorry.” She headed up the stairs to the room she was using, wondering if she could get a flight back. She’d already ruined the holiday, what more was there to do?

The shower felt good. Hot, stinging spray and so much steam it would have set the smoke alarm in her apartment to beeping. She didn’t want to open the bathroom door and let the warmth out of her cocoon, but she did.

They were fighting about her.

She couldn’t stand in the hall, dripping in her towel, listening to them argue about her. But she could still hear them in the room with the door closed.

“Dana’s just tired. She’s got a very stressful job.”

“I’ve been to war! Dana is an irresponsible bitch.”

“Bill.”

“It’s true. She hurt your feelings by missing dinner -”

” – I don’t care about dinner -”

” – and she did this last time!”

Scully closed her eyes and leaned against the door, listening to Tara defend her to her own brother.

“This can’t be easy for Dana after -”

“She has always been selfish. What about our problems. Did you whine to her about the miscarriages? Did I whine to her about the Gulf? No, but it’s all about Dana, isn’t it, and I’m so sick of this!”

“Bill, don’t go up there.”

Please, Bill, don’t come up here. There was no lock on the door.

“Calm down. Dana’s not worth it.”

The funny thing was, they were talking about Scully. If she was Dana, they’d be happy. Dana was always good and dutiful. Dana didn’t zone out and even when Dana was stressed, she managed to be pleasant.

She wasn’t Dana anymore. She was Scully. Her family didn’t like Scully.

Scully wanted to call Mulder, but there wasn’t a phone in the room. Kids didn’t have their own phones in her family. If she went downstairs, Bill would yell at her more and she didn’t want to hear it. She knew she was acting weird. She couldn’t help it.

But in Washington DC, there was another little girl dead. Had he done it the same way?

She dug through her bags, searching for her cell phone. She didn’t have it. Who would Mulder call if he needed help? Scully was unreliable. When had she started to be? The same time she got to be “Scully”?

She watched the sun go down. Even once it was dark, she didn’t turn on a light. Once, she heard light footsteps pause by the closed door. Her mother. But she didn’t say anything and walked away just as quietly. They all thought she was asleep.

After a while, she was.

A sonic boom woke her at a little past one. It woke Matthew, too, and he cried. She could feel those cries inside her empty, barren body. Her blood seemed to ring with them.

Was no one going to comfort him?

She lay there for five minutes, gritting her teeth and feeling her muscles knot. Bill and Tara were terrible parents. Knowing she shouldn’t, but unable to listen to that sound for another second, she slipped out of bed down to the baby’s room.

He wasn’t wet and he didn’t stop crying when she fingered his cheek, trying to reassure him that someone cared.

Gingerly and reluctantly, she picked him up. What next? He fit in her arms. She almost dropped him as his head sought her breast.

Then he only cried harder because she clearly was not his mother. “Let me take him.” Tara. Finally. Scully handed him over and she took him to her breast, unembarrassed. Scully could only stare.

“Is it common to breast feed so long?” Scully asked.

“In the olden days, women nursed their children for two years or more.” Tara looked at her. “I thought you were a doctor.”

“Out of practice.” The silent felt awkward. “Excuse me.” She slipped back into the room she was using, feeling more empty and scared than she had before.

-2-

“How did you sleep?” her mother asked pleasantly at breakfast the next morning.

“Okay.” A lie. Scully was a liar. Was there ever a time she hadn’t lied out of necessity?

Her mother nodded, accepting the answer. It amazed Scully that they had nothing to say to each other.

“Mom, have I changed?” She blurted the words out suddenly, the only way she could ask about herself and Dana that would make any sense.

“You’re just tired,” her mother assured her. It wasn’t reassuring at all. “I’m going out to the sales, do you want to come?”

She knew she should buy a big gift for Matthew to put under the tree and a hostess gift for Tara, but she didn’t want to go to the mall and face thousands of mad shoppers. “No, it’s okay.”

Her mother nodded. More distance. Scully barely noticed when she slipped out of the kitchen.

The house was quiet. Too quiet. Tara and Matthew must have gone shopping as well. Tara seemed the type to skip breakfast, Scully thought. Or maybe she was just overweight from nursing the baby.

The house felt empty and quiet and foreboding. Silence like this raised gooseflesh on her arms.

They were putting up the tree tomorrow. She could do them a favor, she figured, and bring the ornament boxes up from the basement. Since she didn’t have anything else to do, and they were all mad at her and out doing useful things like holiday shopping.

She got as far as the basement door and couldn’t go in. Bad things had happened down there. She’d hidden Bill’s rabbit down there, the one that she loved but he didn’t really, when she was mad at him. He said he was going to kill it, but it had died anyway.

Why had Bill threatened to kill the rabbit? Why had he been so angry and she been so angry back? It seemed very strange to her to remember the result but not the reason for the argument, when was so clear in her mind and the other not clear at all.

Bill told her there were dead bodies down there. In the basement. Buried under the floor, like in Edgar Allen Poe. This had been right after her grandmother died when she was eight and he was eleven. Missy hadn’t believed it, at ten, and called her a baby for being scared. She’d tried not to let it show.

Dead bodies in the basement. She shivered. Bad little girls.

She went upstairs to call Mulder, pausing a moment so she would sound normal when she spoke to him. But he didn’t answer the phone. Her heart rate increased as she hit the redial button, but it continued to ring, unanswered. Her palms were sweating as she misdialed his home number twice. Even when she got it right, it rang and rang as his cell phone had done.

If he were hurt, someone would have called.

Except she didn’t have her cell phone with her and Bill was angry with her. He wouldn’t have given her any messages about work or Mulder. She imagined Skinner, reticent to say too much.

She couldn’t call Skinner.

She went down to the basement to find the ornaments. The entire time she was down there, she felt like someone was watching her. The eyes of the dead were trained on her back. Every few minutes, she glanced up to the top of the stairs to make certain no one had locked her in.

Such an irrational fear, she told herself. Had she been locked in the basement accidentally as a child? She couldn’t remember anything like that happening, but it was odd the way childhood memories became like photographs – individual moments of time with lots of black space in between.

She startled Tara when she went upstairs. The other woman screamed and jumped and grabbed at her heart overdramatically. “Sorry,” Scully said sheepishly.

“I thought you’d gone out.”

“I thought you were shopping,” Scully countered. “I brought up the ornaments.”

“Thank you.” Tara helped her put them in the corner that had been cleared for the tree. Then Tara went back to her soap opera and Scully sat down in the chair, pulling one of the photo albums from the shelf into her lap and opening it. She didn’t know what she was looking for. Memories, she supposed.

She was looking for the moment she’d stopped being Dana.

But there wasn’t a photo of that. She knew, though. After her abduction, after she’d been kidnapped. Scully didn’t get hurt the way Dana did. And she wasn’t soft, anywhere. Her hair was shorter and redder and straighter and Scully weighed less than Dana, because Dana had a weakness for Mrs. Fields’ and iced mochas. Scully never ate cookies and she ran like she could outrun the devil and she fought with her partner.

There was only one picture of Scully in the album. A photo at the hospital after Matthew’s birth. Everyone was smiling but her. Her daughter had just died.

It was silly to call Emily her daughter. She wasn’t in any sense but the biological.

“What’re you looking at?” Tara asked. Scully just shook her head, going back to the beginning to look at the pictures of Dana.

Dana was a sturdy little girl with red ringlets and an ever present smile. Dana had been an ugly, fat teenager for a while. Dana had been a little bit wild later on.

Then she joined the FBI and there were no more pictures until the one from last year. She closed the book.

“Find what you were looking for?”

She shrugged, not knowing. She felt drained, joining Tara on the couch and slumping in front of the TV. A woman, dressed conservatively, was having a conversation with her evil, dark wigged twin in the mirror.

Tara felt the need to explain the inane soap opera plot. “See, she’s got a split personality but nobody knows yet except for her illegitimate brother her father had with her best friend when she was young, because her personality and his personality are dating each other. The father used to, you know, abuse her when she was little. First she had these dreams…”

“Please,” Scully said and Tara looked at her. “The case I came here to get away from…” Was that any excuse? Tara was still staring at her.

“Had a split personality?”

Scully shook her head. The show returned from commercial and Scully thought about Melissa Ephesian. At the time, she’d dismissed the woman’s every claim. But after she died, Scully had wondered. Maybe the woman had genuinely had a disorder. Clearly, she was disturbed…abused by her stepfather and her husband…

She wanted to call Mulder.

“Why is Bill so angry with me?” she asked Tara.

Tara’s eyes slid away.

“I shouldn’t come for Christmas,” Scully said mildly.

“No,” Tara said, looking at her, becoming more animated. She was disagreeing with her. “We have to bring this family closer. Heal the ties, not break them.”

Scully knew she was right. “Is it okay if I use the phone?”

Tara nodded.

“Are you happy?” She stopped to ask her sister in law.

Tara nodded again.

Scully went to call Mulder. He still didn’t answer and worry gnawed at her. She walked out of the house, walking down to the PX on base to find a present for Bill, Tara and the baby.

“Baby’s First Christmas.” It was cheesy and ugly and sent a dagger into her own heart, but she bought it anyway.

Tara loved it. Scully went with them to buy the tree. The entire experience felt wrong without snow, buying from a lot next to a busy car wash. California Christmas. She’d grown to used to the east coast. And it was too early. Their dad only let them have a tree for three days, and by then the good trees were usually gone.

She never bothered any more. Not since her father’s last words to her had been a chastisement over the tree. She envied Mulder a little. Being alone was honest. Being alone with your own family was just pathetic.

Tara squealed with at the gift and showed it to the baby, who tried to eat it. The kid was going to be fat. Scully just knew it. Oh, well.

“Mom, did I ever get locked in the basement?” she asked.

Her mother shot her an odd look. “Not that I know of.”

Scully shrugged. “I just had the weirdest feeling when I was down there yesterday.”

“Half the time I couldn’t keep track of where you all were.” Her mother smiled. “My rambunctious ones.” Scully smiled, too, but it felt forced. “Bill -”

“Mom!” She didn’t want her to ask Bill. It was silly. A silly feeling.

“Did Dana ever get locked in the basement when you were kids?” her mother continued anyway.

Bill’s eyes changed. Dark and hard. Scully’d seen eyes like that before. Killers. Liars. That came as a jolt to her.

“Why do you ask that?” His voice was light but she could feel that gaze.

“When I was down there, I thought I was remembering something,” she explained, embarrassed.

“Don’t lock the door!” It was her voice screaming in terror. “Don’t lock it!” Her voice when she was a child.

At that exact moment, Bill said, “No.”

He was lying.

“Dana never got locked in the basement.”

He was lying!

She felt sick and scared and didn’t know why. Why would he lie? What had happened? Mom knew about the rabbit. But maybe he didn’t want to remind her. Scully felt herself calming down.

When the tree was decorated, she went to bed, glad she was leaving in the morning. Going home. Her family wasn’t home any more. And that made her sad.

Bill glared at her all the way to the airport. It was four o’clock in the morning. Her mother had bid them a sleepy farewell and gone back to bed. Bill had to work at six.

“Why did you ask Mom that yesterday?” he demanded as her flight was called to board.

Scully looked him straight in the eye. “Why did you lie?”

He took a step back. “Have a nice flight.” She watched him walk away. Then she shook her head and let the attendant take her boarding pass.

Mulder met her plane. It was cold in the airport and even felt rainy. She’d gotten used to California weather awfully fast. She spotted him lurking to one side of the gate area, looking grim. She walked over to him quickly. “What happened?”

His eyes were velvety as he wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. “Mulder, what happened?” she demanded. This was weird, really weird. She didn’t like it at all.

Finally, he let her go and looked down at her. “I needed that.” His voice was low and ashy like he’d been crying.

She frowned, her brows drawing together painfully, but she’d needed the hug herself. He took her bag from her shoulder and carried it for her. “How’s the family?” he asked.

“It’s not home any more,” she said after a thought.

He nodded.

“How’s the case?” There was no reaction. Not even a shrug. “Mulder.” Her voice was warning. It was cold outside. She stared at him, waiting. “Something did happen. You weren’t answering your phone.”

“I shot him.”

Her first thought was, I leave you alone for three days and this is what happens? But she said, “I’m sorry.”

“There’s a copy cat.” He tossed her bag into the back of the car. She felt like she’d been punched in the stomach.

“How do you know it’s not…” She turned to him as she buckled her seat belt.

“PCR.” His voice was still low.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Laryngitis,” he replied. He started the car and pulled out into the rain-slicked post holiday mess.

Mulder had spent three days wondering if he’d shot the wrong man. He’d hard to wait for DNA results to come back to know it was a copycat and not the same killer. She wished she’d stayed with him.

It was a quiet drive until he pulled up in front of her apartment building. “I’d like to get married at Christmas,” Mulder said. His eyes were fixed on an object through the windshield.

“To who?” she asked.

He looked at her and she knew. He was serious.

“This Christmas?” Her voice turned high and small, a great contrast to his illness-damaged one.

“Can I come inside?”

“All this to get to come inside?” It wasn’t much of a joke. He got wet in the rain retrieving her bag from the trunk. His hair flopped down in his eyes and droplets collected on his eyelashes and lips.

She threw the bag on the bed and grabbed a towel for him, rubbing his hair dry as he bent his head low enough for her to reach. She was worried about him. She tossed the towel down and went for the hot cocoa in the kitchen – the real kind, made with milk. When she carried the mugs into the living room, he had the towel pulled around him like a blanket.

“When did you get sick?” she asked, touching his clammy skin. He didn’t jerk away. She wanted to check his throat.

“The night it happened. The night you left.”

“I’m sorry I went. It was a terrible visit.”

“Terrible how?” he asked, leaning back and relaxing.

She shrugged. Terrible in vague ways, ones she couldn’t define. The dreams and the weird feelings and the isolation.

“You haven’t answered my question.” He pressed the hot ceramic mug against her skin like he was branding her. She shivered because she liked it.

“You haven’t asked me a question,” she pointed him out. Why wasn’t she scared? Maybe it was being on her own turf again, so she didn’t have to be scared of her own shadow.

He looked stricken. Why? He hadn’t really been asking, had he? Now she looked stricken. She couldn’t leave it there. So she said, “I’ve always enjoyed fall weddings.”

A light went on in his eyes.

“Are you still on the case?” she asked, snuggling her cold feet between the couch cushions.

He shook his head, picking up her foot and rubbing it between his hands. She closed her eyes and practically purred with the sensation. His hands were hot and masculinely rough against her tender, travel swollen feet.

When she opened her eyes, he was staring at her. Kiss him, said that voice in her head. The Dana voice. Dana would kiss him. Dana wouldn’t be scared.

I can’t, Scully argued, he’s sick.

Shut up, Dana ordered and Scully would likely be having laryngitis too.

“Sweet Dana,” he mumbled, mussing her hair as he hugged her, post-kiss. She felt herself stiffen.

“Do you want me to be Dana?” she asked him.

He looked surprised. “I just…thought…” he sputtered.

She’d confused him. She was confused herself. When had all this happened? Dana, Scully, did it make a difference? He could call her “ugly” in that tone and it would still mean he loved her.

If she married him she’d have another name.

If?

“Maybe I should go.”

“It’s still raining,” she protested.

He looked at her with plain longing. “I don’t want to mess this up. Not yet anyway.” He kissed her softly on the head and walked away. It was cold without him, and worse than that, it was lonely.

Skinner gave her the autopsies to go over. They were waiting, piled up on her desk. Mulder wasn’t there. He’d been suspended for a month for shooting the killer and sentenced to counseling. It was routine. She missed him.

The crime scene photos turned her blood to ice. The autopsy photos were worse. No woman should have to suffer such horrors. And this had been done to little girls.

The copy cat’s victim had red-gold ringlets and a Catholic school uniform.

The meeting with Skinner was very odd. She could hear herself talking but didn’t know where the words were coming from. Clinical and detached, while somewhere deep inside, she was crying.

“There’s no report here on the shooting,” She managed to break through to say.

Skinner’s face tightened. He took off his glasses and placed them carefully on the desk. He looked at them for a second to verify that they were just so. Skinner was like that. OCD or paranoia or a little of both, everything in Skinner’s world was Just So. His eyes when he looked at her were startling.

“Were you there?” she asked.

“Agent Mulder did nothing wrong.” A hesitation. It was wrong to shoot an untried man. “The perpetrator did not respond to commands to desist.”

This bothered her. “He was…?” her throat closed around the words so tightly she couldn’t get them out.

She didn’t need to. Skinner nodded. She spent a long time sitting down in the basement that afternoon, staring at nothing. Looking at the picture every so often. Deadening herself to it, she hoped. She would be no use to anyone if she couldn’t face this madman. Carelessness cost lives.

-3-

It happened again that night as she was lying on the couch in her fireplace warmed living room, overheated from making out with Mulder.

They were acting like teenagers, kids afraid to take the final step. They were getting to know each other, slowly, certainly. She was caught up with his mouth.

Mulder was more interested in her breasts. One hand scooped down into her shirt, rubbing and exploring her firm flesh. Excitement traveled a quick path through her body, the connections being made with sweet intensity. Mulder was hard.

His skin was soft under her fingers that slid along his temple to grab at his hair. His hips began to rock against hers, mimicking the what he wanted to do even though they were both fully dressed.

She couldn’t get enough of him. But even as she wanted more, fear was building along with need. It was a vague feeling of dread within her; unspecific. Her heart was beating out a panicky rhythm.

For a second, everything seemed to fade into a void. Her breathing calmed, but she had to force her eyes to open.

“Mulder, we can’t do this.”

It didn’t sound like her voice. She was scared again. When had she pulled her knees up around him? Things had gotten out of hand. “Mulder.” She struggled to sit up and when she did, he looked at her.

She hated that look. “D.K, you’re such a tease.” A mocking, angry voice from her past. She’d almost forgotten the nickname.

It was no more than a second before Mulder’s expression changed to understanding. “The case,” he sighed as he sat back against the couch. His hair was stick up every which way and his eyes were still dark. His arm around her squeezed her shoulders in an awkward side-to-side hug. “It’s okay.”

She just looked at him. “Is it?”

He nodded. She knew he was remembering the shooting. She wanted to comfort, but how could she without physically inviting him? Not being able to do anything frustrated her.

That was their problem, she thought. If they couldn’t touch, there were no words. At times it also seemed to be their strength. She didn’t know what to make of it.

They sat there together for half an hour or so, each lost deep in their own thoughts but comfortable in each others’ presence. Then Mulder kissed her on the forehead and told her to sleep well, ready to leave.

“Dream of me,” she said and didn’t know why she’d said it. It only made her feel that much worse. Mulder had wanted to make love to her. She had wanted to make love to him just as badly. That was where things broke down – she didn’t know what had happened.

Scully ran a steamy bath and poured in an extra helping of scented bubbles from Bath and Body. Aromatherapy, it said on the bottle. It had been an impulse buy. Maybe it would work. She sunk in deep hot water and let go.

D.K…when had they started to call her that? She smiled at the thought, but not at the memory.

They’d moved back to California when she was thirteen. She was skipping eighth grade and going straight on to high school. Her mom said she should be proud, but it made Melissa glare at her. Now there would only be one grade between them.

She’d decided on D.K. the weekend before school started. The day her mother went into labor with Charlie. She wasn’t going to be the youngest any more. The day was swelteringly hot and no one else was home. Dad was at the hospital with Mom. The kids weren’t invited. She didn’t know where Melissa had gone off to. No one ever knew.

The cement steps burned the backs of her thighs and the sun burned on the top of her head and her nose. More freckles. Her mouth twisted. Oh well.

She lit one of the Morley lights she’d stolen from the gold and white hard pack in her mom’s purse, unaware she was under observation. They tasted like shit but she liked the way it felt between her fingers. Elegant. Grown up.

Her mom and dad had gone to the hospital after dinner the night before. That was a long time ago. Almost a whole day. She wouldn’t have admitted it, but she was worried. How long did these things take?

“Those things will kill you.” Melissa plopped down on the step next to her, pulling a pack of Camels from the pocket of her ragged too- short cutoffs and lighting one of her own.

Dana barely glanced at her. “Hypocrite.”

“Geek.”

“Bitch.”

“Maybe,” her sister continued. “They’re not gonna let you get away with that anymore, you know. You’re not a baby.”

“No, really?” Dana snapped.

“You’re so immature,” Melissa retorted, getting up to go away, but she stopped, dropping the cigarette from her fingers quickly and casually.

Dana was too shocked to move. Her cigarette burned her fingers but she still held it. Their father was walking toward them. His shoulders were slumped and his skin was grey. She had never seen her father look like that.

“Daddy?” asked Melissa.

“What happened to Mom?” Dana breathed.

He just walked into the house, into his study, and locked the door.

The water was cold. She’d almost fallen asleep. Scully felt unsettled as she rose, pruny, out of the bath. She pulled the plug, but didn’t bother with a towel or pajamas. She got straight into bed. Freezing, she wound the covers around her body. She didn’t want to think about this. And her head ached again.

The memories didn’t oblige.

She and Melissa sat silently in the living room past sundown. “What happened?” Bill Jr. demanded when he walked in and turned on the light.

“Dad went into the study,” Melissa said.

“He didn’t say anything?”

Neither girl responded. Bill Jr. sighed, assuming responsibility. He knocked on the door and went into the study, returning a few minutes later. He sat down on the couch next to Dana. Without looking at him, she got up and moved. It was habit. She wanted to sit by herself.

“Is Mom okay?” Melissa demanded.

Bill Jr. nodded. “The baby was a boy. Charlie. He has Down’s syndrome. They’re still running tests, but it’s bad. They think he’ll have to be institutionalized.”

Dana walked out.

“Dana!”

She wasn’t going to cry in front of them.

“Dana!”

Bill Jr. sounded angry. She didn’t care. She didn’t shout back that it was D.K. now.

Scully turned over, pulling the covers closer. She was exhausted, but she couldn’t sleep.

Serious blue eyes in the mirror. D.K. was nothing like Dana. She combed her curly hair until it was straight. It looked better straight. She had breasts poking into her white uniform blouse. They seemed too large for her small frame and had appeared what seemed like overnight, but that was okay. She had braces on her teeth, but that was okay too. She didn’t have to smile.

D.K. didn’t smile.

D.K. gave excellent blow jobs but she didn’t let the boys from St. Christian’s touch her in return. It didn’t make her the most popular girl in school, but it didn’t take much time away from studying, either.

No, D.K. was nothing like Dana.

Why was the phone ringing? It was dark. Scully fumbled for the light. It was one in the morning. She picked up the receiver. “Scully.”

“He didn’t kill her this time.”

Skinner’s words made her sit up in bed. Would they catch him this time? “I’ll be right there.”

She flung the covers back, surprised to remember that she’d gone to bed naked. The dreams…gooseflesh rose on her arms and she dressed quickly.

Shame met her in the mirror. Brushing out carefully cut hair. Her teeth were straight now, but she never smiled. Being wild was a phase in high school. It was something to do when she felt lost. But how much of that time had stayed with her, even though she didn’t think about it?

The case, she reminded herself as she started up the car. But Mulder was on her mind.

He wouldn’t approve like her brother hadn’t approved.

But it was all so very far behind her.

Or would Mulder approve too much?

She arrived the same time as the paramedics. The girl was small and thin, Hispanic, in worn clothes. Her nose was bloody and she was screaming, clawing at her skin.

Her legs were soaked with blood.

Seven years old. High on crack. Ripped open. The paramedic caught Scully’s eye and shook his head.

“There’s no evidence,” Skinner told her. Her eyes followed the ambulance as it screamed away. “Scully -”

She looked at him. “None?”

“The wind and the rain,” he said and she noticed for the first time that the streets were wet. It was like a photograph snapping into focus.

“Maybe we’ll get something from her.” So steady, so sure…she didn’t feel that way on the inside.

“It doesn’t look good,” Skinner told her. “Who could do such a thing?”

He wasn’t really asking her and she knew it. “Lots of people,” she said, matter of factly. It made Skinner stare at her. But there were witnesses who had to be questioned so she couldn’t care too much that he was staring at her.

Whitney Garcia was an A student, when she went to school. Her mother was a drug addicted prostitute and they lived in a by-the-week motel room. Scully let Skinner harangue the mother. She would question the girl, who was often left playing outside late into the night while her mother worked.

What kind of life was that for a child?

It would be sometime yet before the girl would be out of surgery.

Mulder’s apartment was closer than Scully’s was.

She plucked nervously at a thread on the outside of her pants while she waited for him to answer the door. He’d been asleep. She knew it even before he opened the door in sweatpants and a T shirt. His sleepy gaze quickly turned to fear when he saw her and realized what it would take to bring her to him in the middle of the night. “Scully, are you okay?”

She nodded. “There’s another one. Alive.”

He took a deep breath. “That’s good, you can -”

She shook her head. Not good, not good at all, to survive something like this. “It’ll be a few hours before she’s out of surgery.” He let her walk in and sit down on his couch. It was dark. Cold. She felt like she didn’t know where she was.

Mulder sat down next to her, not touching, not talking. Just being. Waiting for her to be ready to tell him. She thought that was what she needed as she stared at the poster of a typewriter on the wall. Why would he hang a picture of a typewriter? Yet, it blended in.

“Did anyone run a tox screen on the other victims?” she asked finally, not looking at him.

“No.” He waited for her to tell him why she was asking. It was a long wait.

Time passed. She was tired. She would just lie down, just for a moment. She wouldn’t sleep, she would just close her eyes. Mulder’s head was tipped back and his eyes were closed. He wouldn’t mind. She curled up.

“Scully, it’s morning.” A gentle hand touched her shoulder. She opened her eyes, confused for an instant, then everything rushed back. There was no time to enjoy the waking. She jumped up from the couch, pulling her shirt down from where it had risen in her dreamless sleep.

“I have to go.” He stood aside as she hurried to the door. But she stopped and looked into his eyes. “Thank you.”

He nodded solemnly. “You can walk away, Scully,” he told her. “If it’s too much, it’s all right.”

She didn’t say anything. She’d taken advantage of him somehow and she didn’t like it. He let her and she thought she liked that even less. No one had tried to call, so it was probably all right that she’d slipped away from her responsibilities at the hospital. It was still early. She turned away from Mulder.

“Whitney Garcia,” she requested, flashing her badge at the doctor at the hospital. A nurse had summoned him for her. What had he thought, she wondered. Had he ever seen anything like this before?

She started to say she was there to question the girl, but the doctor spoke before she could. “I’ll release the body to you.”

He walked away to get the papers and Scully stood there. Stunned. She was dead. Whitney Garcia was dead. It was a relief for her suffering and for that Scully was grateful, but she felt a stinging disappointment at the same time. She’d needed to question the girl, to keep this from happening again. The doctor returned and put the papers into her hands, the papers that would arrange for the body to be transported to the FBI facilities.

Scully was barely aware of what she was doing. A post mortem examination was methodical, all procedure to be followed. How many had she done over the years? Too damn many. But her auto-pilot was knowledgeable and in this case, she was glad. She didn’t want this death to permeate her.

But it did, even though she didn’t want it to. She threw up twice before she was finished and she couldn’t stop her hands from shaking as she stitched up the incisions she had made. Even thinking of Mulder didn’t help. Except his words kept returning to her. She could walk away.

Before she killed someone.

She could walk away.

Before she killed herself.

That thought, the one that made her pause, was what made the decision for her. Scully didn’t want to die. Not of this. Not by her own hand. She already was falling apart, and this case would only get much more difficult. With a little work, she would come back together. If she stopped now.

“You wanted to see me, Agent Scully?” Skinner looked pleased to see her until he actually saw her. She was aware that she was tired and unkempt, though she didn’t know the details. Judging from Skinner’s expression, the details weren’t very pretty.

She’d forgotten no one had ever seen her unkempt. Not even dying had she been sloppy. Things had gone in the other direction, to being supercontrolled during her days in the hospital.

“There must be someone in Violent Crimes qualified to take on this case,” she said in a low voice. She wasn’t qualified. She couldn’t handle it. What her father – her brother – her classmates in medical school and in Quantico had said about her. Finally they were right. She was weak and emotional and a girl and she was giving up.

“Of course.” She wondered what that look on Skinner’s face meant as he said the words.

The next words were more difficult for her to say. “Sir, I…” Breathe, Scully. She was glad of the voice prompting her from within. “I’m requesting a leave of absence.”

Skinner smiled. How could he when he knew how hard this was for her? “I know,” he said. “I don’t want to see you or Mulder until after the first of the year.” He clapped her on the shoulder, his mood lightened. Scully moved away. Another moment and he would have winked at her.

What did Mulder have to do with it? She was halfway home to another attempt at a warm bath and a soft, solitary bed when she remembered. Embarrassment tinged her cheeks at having forgotten.

She’d really agreed to marry him. In the middle of a conversation about something else entirely, he’d actually asked. It was too strange to get her mind around, but her body understood. She felt excitement – and fear. There was something she had to do before she could even try to relax.

Skinner knew about the wedding. Mulder had to have told him. Making good use of his suspension, she thought, uncertain of how that made her feel. But she knew one thing. Her boss shouldn’t know before her family. Since he did, she would have to rectify the situation.

Scully tried to think of words to say, to try to explain. Her brother would be furious. He’d never approved of any man she’d ever dated, but this would be worse. Her mother might be angry. Then again, her mom sort of liked Mulder. Scully sometimes believed it was her whom her mother hated.

After a second, she picked up the phone, but her fingers kept slipping off the keys, just like in a nightmare of frustration where nothing at all goes right. When the call connected, she asked for Maggie and only got a spattering of Korean in reply. At least she’d probably managed to dial California’s area code, she thought.

Her knuckles were white holding the phone as she dialed again. As it rang on the other end, she asked herself why this was so scary. She’d never done this before. She had hardly ever even brought her boyfriends home. And they knew about Mulder. This was more of a surprise to her than it would be for them.

She was afraid of them judging her, but uncertain why that should matter. She wasn’t ambivalent about marrying him. Like so many other things in her life, this was not a choice. It just was.

“Hello?”

“Mom!” she said, a second before realizing it was Tara.

“No yours, no,” the other woman chuckled, probably looking at her son. “Is this Dana?”

“Yeah. Hi, Tara.” She didn’t want to talk to Tara.

“Hold on.”

“Dana, what’s wrong?” her mother asked a moment later, reminding her just how infrequently she called. Something would have to be wrong, she thought.

“No, nothing’s wrong.”

There was a pause. “Then what is it, Dana, because I know you didn’t call just to talk.”

Ouch. “I’m um, I’m not going to make it out there for Christmas.” She could feel anger coming through the phone. “Is Bill on the extension listening?”

“Dana, this is disappointing, but I can’t say I didn’t expect it. What is happening to this family?”

“I’m getting married,” she said. “To Mulder.”

“Damn it, Dana, how can you?” Bill was listening, and he wasn’t too embarrassed about it to yell at her.

“Bill -” her voice was strained, but she found she had nothing to say. ‘Shut up’? It wasn’t worth it.

“When?” her mother asked carefully.

“Christmas.”

“Where?”

“We…haven’t decided.”

“I hope you’ve thought about this,” her mother said, sounded faintly damning.

“I thought you were on his side, Mom.”

“I’m not on anybody’s side,” Maggie said and Scully knew she was lying. “I just want what’s best for you.”

She didn’t want to fight. So she just said, “Okay.”

“Dana, this is stupid! The man’s insane and dangerous -”

She hung up the phone, not caring about what Bill thought. After a moment’s pause, it began to ring, but she was walking away toward the bathroom to draw another bath. Her skin was doing to dry out, but she had to relax, or try to. It was a good thing she was out of razors.

She had a wedding to plan.

Her mother hadn’t said she would come.

At least they knew it wasn’t a shotgun wedding. She lay back in the water and her stomach growled. It meant nothing to her. She wasn’t hungry. She was empty inside.

A little girl died.

There was a rusted out Daisy razor on the shelf. She didn’t think a razor would do much. And it would hurt Mulder. So she stared at it awhile, not seriously considering it, but toying with the notion of death and rubbing her wrist.

When she looked down at her arm, her skin was red from rubbing. But closer…there was a faint mark there. A coward’s line. She sat up suddenly, dripping and cold in the hot water. Where had that line come from?

She didn’t know. Thin and white. Another mystery about herself unsolved. What else didn’t she know? It would fill a book.

“Let me go, Mommy.”

“Your sister’s been shot.”

“Dana, honey, we lost your father…”

Mother. Sister. Daughter.

Lover, wife, partner?

Doctor.

Lawyer, Indian chief, she sighed. Did everyone have so many roles to play in their lives?

The mark was still there.

Patient, victim, survivor.

She wanted to cut to make the mark go away. The tattoo above her hipbone felt itchy. Branded. Who had she been that day? Scully pretending to be Dana? Her family wanted her to be Dana, and she suspected Mulder did too.

If only she could be Dana again…she closed her eyes and poured more hot water into the tub.

She was Scully long before she met Mulder. Skipping grades made her the youngest in her medical training program. Of course the others studying forensic pathology were men. Jennings and Morimoto. They called her Scully to dehumanize her.

She’d had to dehumanize herself to get through it. She’d cried the day she shot a snake in the woods with Bill and one of his friends, wanting to will it back to life. When she learned she couldn’t, she chose pathology.

Jack had called her Scully, too. He was her instructor at the Academy. Firearms. A hard son of a bitch who told her that she couldn’t. That was what she’d needed, someone to please. To show. She’d thought she loved him, but she know now she hadn’t. He’d called her Scully until it got halfway affectionate. Told his wife Scully was a male student who couldn’t shoot straight. It had probably worried his wife more than if he’d told her the truth.

They’d had their tender moments. Jack had been her greatest champion when she needed one. He’d had to work hard because of his diabetes, just as she had to overcome her height and her sex. He was impotent…sometimes that brought out the better in men. And he was older. An approving father.

She missed her dad.

There was a bottle of wine in the cabinet somewhere and she was going to find it, to stop all these useless memories. The past never meant anything to her, she told herself as she stood naked in the kitchen searching for the bottle. There was so much of her past she couldn’t remember anyway. Most of her childhood had been written off as dull. The months she’d been gone…if she added them up, how much of herself was she missing?

Crazy thoughts. She drank, and it wasn’t so cold anymore. She went back to pull the stopper out of the tub and watched the water drain in its neat little circular vortex. Some things never, ever changed. Even though science said differently. Atoms detached; metals decayed; someday the earth’s axis would shift and the waterspout would go the other way.

People pretended science was reassuring but it wasn’t.

She was so drunk she called Mulder. “What’re you doing?”

“Scully, you sound drunk.”

“I am, a little.” She looked at the bottle in her hand. How quickly it was becoming empty. “Hurry, Mulder, or it’ll be gone,” she whispered.

“What?”

“Your voice sounds better.”

“Did something happen?”

Did it? “I’m off the case. Skinner says congrats on the big day.” She gulped more wine, not tasting it, not wanting to. “I told my family about us.”

“Are you okay?”

“Is Fox there, Mulder? I want to talk to Fox.”

“I’m here.”

“No, Mulder, Fox. I’ll let you talk to Dana.”

Mulder was silent for a long time.

“Fine,” she pouted.

“Scully, go to sleep.”

“Scully doesn’t drink.”

“Okay. Do you want me to come ov-”

“No!”

“Okay,” he sighed. He wasn’t going to let her talk to Fox.

“Bye,” she slurred and managed to hang up the phone. She didn’t feel good. She felt out of control. Infused with will, she rose and stomped over to the sink to pour out the rest of the bottle. The effort made her lean on the counter. She didn’t like being drunk.

She thought Scully should go for a drive to sober up.

-4-

The sun hurt her eyes even before she opened them the next morning. she shouldn’t have drunk. But she sat up, getting up anyway. She saw the empty bottle in the trash. No wonder she didn’t remember anything.

She looked terrible, even after she got out of the shower, her eyelids thin and purple and her sinuses puffy. She didn’t have a damn thing to do.

Except plan the wedding. She wasn’t up for it. She and Mulder should talk, but the entire thing seemed too bizarre. Married? Them? She imagined life the same as it was: her in her apartment, him in his.

Separate boxes.

There was mud on her good shoes and she didn’t know how it had gotten there. She didn’t remember the rain, even when she went outside and saw the streets glisten in the morning sun.

The mud was in the car, too, which had an empty gas tank. She’d filled it only the day before. At least I didn’t kill anyone, she thought, unable to believe she would have driven drunk. Wondering if Mulder knew anything about this, but definitely too embarrassed to ask, she headed for the mall.

She’d never spent a lot of time shopping. She’d never had the time to spend. Sometimes she ran by to get a new suit or shoes when one had been damaged or lost, but she’d never given much attention to clothes. Her teenage years were spent in the late ’70s – and she hadn’t seen much point in fashion then, either. At least people saw her for who she was and not what she wore.

Funny how she’d never left the uniform behind. Catholic school or college denim to doctor’s scrubs to the FBI’s uniform. She bought a small coffee at Cinnabon and sat down to try to remember the wedding she’d pictured for herself when she was a little girl.

Did they even have a name, those folded pieces of paper guaranteed to tell the future? She’d never learned to fold them herself, but she remembered them from 4th grade. Invariably, she picked the name of the geek. The one who had cooties.

Mulder definitely had cooties. Although she was pretty sure he hadn’t in grade school.

The coffee was gone. She hadn’t noticed. It was time to move on, to do what she had come to do.

“May I help you?” a pleasant white haired saleswoman asked in the better dresses department.

Scully looked at her blankly. “I, uh, yeah.”

The woman nodded. Scully imagined she was the perfect customer, in jeans and a Tshirt. Scruffy, but name-brand. She needed help and she could afford it.

“Are you shopping for an occasion? A holiday party, perhaps?”

“A wedding.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” the woman smiled, touching a flowered dress. “Day or evening?”

“It’s my wedding.”

The saleswoman quashed a celebratory look. The jackpot. “We have a catalog for special order formal dresses.”

“No,” Scully said, stopping the woman from retrieving the catalog from behind the counter. “It’s not a big deal. I mean, not the whole wedding thing. I want something simple.” If she showed up looking like the foam off someone’s drink, Mulder would turn and run in the other direction, terrified. “It won’t be in a church or anything.” Bill had talked Tara into a Catholic wedding. A big affair that had annoyed Scully at every turn.

“Okay,” replied the saleslady, as though she loved a challenge. “White?”

Scully shrugged. “I guess.”

The woman put a concerned hand on her arm. “Are you sure you want to do this, dear? Marriage is forever, and -”

“Yes,” she said, surprising herself with the fervor of her tone. “It’s just, sort of, sudden.”

“How long have you known him?” The woman’s tone had turned gossipy.

“Five – uh, six years.” Yeah, real sudden, Scully thought.

“You have no idea what you’d like?”

“Si -”

“Simple,” the woman laughed. “What’s your usual style?”

“I’m an FBI agent.”

“Oh my.”

“He’s my partner.” Is this why women shop, she wondered. This silly notion to share way too much information with complete strangers?

“Oh, dear!” said the woman. “This is lovely.”

“Um,” said Scully. She just didn’t know.

Several hours later, the saleswoman, Midge, was done. They’d looked at everything in the store and tried on half of it. Scully still didn’t know what she wanted.

“We’ll have more dresses in two weeks, for Christmas,” Midge suggested.

“Let me take your card.” Scully felt bad for monopolizing her when she probably worked on commission. “I’m sorry.”

Midge had a comforting pat for her shoulder. “It’s too early to shop, dear. You don’t know any of the details. But I do love a wedding.”

Scully headed back to Cinnabon, needing more coffee. Some grade school girls were there, stuffing pudgy faces and playing MASH. She remembered that game from school, too. Invariably she ended up living in a shack with the grossest kid in school. Missy generally claimed a teen idol from a selection of many.

The girls giggled and Scully looked away. Midge was right. She needed to talk to Mulder about all this. She’d left her cell phone at home. After a second’s debate over heading home, she used the change from her coffee to call him from a pay phone.

“Mulder, it’s me,” she said. “I need to talk to you.”

“I need to talk to you, too,” he agreed, surprising her. As usual, that was the end of their conversation – how much did they save in phone bills by never saying goodbye? – but she stood there for several moments with the phone in her hand. He needed to talk to her? About what?

She drove to his apartment, thinking she should be relieved he was calling the wedding off. But she wasn’t relieved. Not at all.

“How are you feeling?” he asked when he opened the door. He was casual, too, in jeans and a softly faded T shirt. His eyes were genuinely concerned. Her face flushed.

“Fine. I – ah – don’t remember a lot about last night.”

“I’m not surprised,” he smiled gently. The expression died slowly, becoming an insincere mask before fading from his face. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

“I think it hinges on what you wanted to say to me,” she remarked, taking a seat on the couch. “So you go first.”

His eyes sparkled startlingly. “I knew it!” he cried, sitting on the coffee table opposite. His knees stuck out on either end of hers. She expected him to solemnly grasp her hands and tell her he’d changed his mind. “Something’s been troubling me about the case.”

“The case?”

He nodded and she felt like laughing. “I think the ‘copycat’ is the killer’s partner. The partner of the man I shot.”

“Method’s different,” she pointed out. “And killers don’t work in pairs. Especially not killers like this.”

“There are exceptions.” There always were if Mulder wanted there to be. “I think Scott Strader did all the killing until I caught him.” And killed him, was what he didn’t say. “This guy, the copycat, had access to the girls somehow. Maybe he just wanted to watch.”

“And liked it so much he had to start killing them after his friend died because of what they’d been doing?” It was her duty to knock down his theories.

“Compulsion.” His eyes found hers as though to imply they both knew how strong that could be.

“It’s possible,” she admitted and he grinned before she finished, “but unlikely. If he was just watching, why wasn’t he at the scene when you caught Strader?”

“I had him with evidence, not at the scene. He was following me.” Her eyes widened. He hadn’t mentioned that before. Her mouth closed in a firm line and she waited for details. “People close to Strader who have access. He’s there, Scully, I know he is. But I’m on suspension and you’re only on leave.”

Leave because she couldn’t handle this case! She couldn’t say that, however. Refused to. “I’ll look into it,” she agreed. It wouldn’t hurt her to drop in and use the computer. See if Skinner rented out their office while they were gone.

The prospect of looking further into the case turned her stomach and she couldn’t understand why. A good reason to face it again, she told herself.

“What did you need to talk about?” he asked, his eyes excited again. “You had another thought on the case?”

She shook her head. “This…wedding.”

“You say that like it’s a bad word.”

Her expression didn’t change and he started to look scared, like a butterfly pinned under glass. “I looked for a dress this morning,” she told him.

“Already?”

“You said Christmas, didn’t you?” she pointed out. “You meant this year?” He nodded. “We need to plan -”

“I don’t want to plan. I just want to do it,” he told her. “Here, now. Have it done. You’re a doctor, you can verify the blood tests, we could go tomorrow.” She must have looked surprised because he stopped. “You weren’t picturing anything elaborate?”

“A judge. Justice of the peace. As you were,” she agreed. “Who’s going to be there?”

“You said you told your family last night -”

“I’m not sure they can make it.” She didn’t feel compelled to make excuses for them.

“Then what is there to plan?” he asked, his eyes searching. He did love her, but he wasn’t meticulous and she was feeling overwhelmed. She jumped when he touched her and felt guilty. “You don’t need a dress. I’ll marry you in blue jeans.”

She smiled, not wanting to. “It’s a ceremony.”

“So it should be ceremonious?” he smiled. “It’s okay.” He crossed the gulf between the table and the couch to sit near her. “It’s okay,” he said again, tucking her hair behind her ears and leaving one hand resting on her head. She wanted to relax against him, but she couldn’t allow herself to.

“Where are we going to live?”

“It doesn’t matter.” He was staunchly refusing to think this through. In a few minutes, she was going to be very angry.

“One answer,” she told him.

“Where do you want to live?” he asked seriously.

“My apartment,” she answered, and couldn’t help being stubborn.

“I want to live here,” he told her mildly. “We’ll work it out.”

“How, if you won’t discuss it?”

“We’ll live apart.” He wasn’t serious. He chuckled at her and wrapped her in his arms. “We’ll buy a place. A house.”

She pulled away, heading for the door. Had enough. He rose and took a step after her. “You’re leaving?”

She belted her trenchcoat a little too firmly. “To the office,” she reminded him. “Your idea.”

“Did we just have our first fight?” His voice wrapped around her like silk. Did he have to do that? she thought, feeling angry. Smug bastard.

“We’ll talk later.” Her tone was barely civil. He said her name and she closed the door between them.

She lost it as soon as she got to the car. Anger was a safe emotion in Scully’s world; love was not. It all came down to fear. He would understand, she told herself, turning the ignition key and preventing herself from running back to apologize. He was too confident. That angered her even more because he had every reason to be – she would marry him, no matter what.

Angry because he was more certain and secure with her love than she was with his.

It was late when she reached the office. She got a terrific parking space, since most of the other agents were on their way home. The office was quiet and comforting as she booted up the computer and pulled out the reports.

She could identify no one in the crime scene photos or questioned in the reports as a likely candidate. She searched endlessly though Strader’s record. He was clean until Mulder killed him. There was evidence in his residence, but she found something in his work history worth checking.

Strader was a delivery driver for a copy service. But three years before, he’d driven a school bus.

It was after 5 pm, and she dialed rapidly, feeling a hurried rush as though speed in dialing would catch someone just locking up for the day. The phone rang only twice before it was answered in a Southern drawl. “Standard Services.”

When she identified herself as a federal agent, the gum chewing in her ear stopped immediately. “You ain’t the one who done it, are ya?” the woman asked in hushed, awed tones.

“Done – did – what?” But she knew, before the woman asked. “No.” She hadn’t killed Scott Strader. “You knew Mr. Strader, then?”

“Yes’m. Personable boy, that one. Who knew it’d lead to this. Lord! No idea, no idea. Never a fathom.”

“Could I get his personnel record faxed to me?” This woman had probably never heard of a subpoena, but it could be useful.

“No’m.”

Scully was surprised.

“We ain’t got no fax machine. We just drive the buses, the U.S.P.S. is good enough for us. You got an address?”

Scully told her. “Is there anything you can tell me about Mr. Strader? Any friends he might have, that you remember?”

“LittleJoe Wilder. Poor LittleJoe was so shook up after it happened. But he was right back on the job on Monday. Right like clockwork. Right as rain.”

Scully jotted a note for herself. “Is he there now?”

“Shoot, no. I’m the only one here. Dispatcher, janitor, whatever you wanna call me,” the woman told her.

“Thank you.” Her gratitude was sincere.

“You just catch that one, you know? Parents’re keepin’ their kids out of school’n it’s only gonna get worse.”

“I will.” She had no idea of the public reaction. She’d had no idea there even was a public reaction. She started a doodle on her notepad while she dialed a new number.

“Records.”

“Tammy, this is Scully.”

“Hey!” the other woman sounded pleased. “Long time, no hear. You wanna go for drinks? I got a new ‘do and I am a man magnet! You can have my leftovers.”

She smiled. “Thanks, but I’m okay. I need an address.” Because Tammy worked at the DMV and they were old friends, she could help.

“All work and no play, Dana. Dull girl.”

“I know.”

“You never gonna get you a husband that way. What’s the name?”

Scully told her and didn’t say a word about Mulder. After she put down the phone, she stared at the address on her yellow sticky notepad. Near where they’d found the live girl, who died. The used to be alive girl. The now dead like the others girl. She had a feeling about this LittleJoe Wilder.

She knocked at Skinner’s door on her way out, surprised to see he was still in. He rose, smiling. “I didn’t expect to see you.” He opened the door and ushered her inside his office.

“I didn’t expect to be in.” She juggled the notepad between her hands, looking at it for a few moments. “What’s the press coverage been like?”

“Pretty awful.”

“And public reaction?” she asked.

“Even worse,” he answered honestly. “Parents are panicky. These crimes are terrible. And school’s about to release for the holidays.”

She nodded. “Agent Mulder had some ideas.” Out came the notepad. “This man worked with Scott Strader driving school busses.” He looked even more interested, waiting. “This could be him.”

“Do you want to handle this?” Skinner asked.

“I’ll do the initial interview,” she agreed, as though bargaining.

“You don’t have to.”

“I know,” she nodded. “I want to.” She hadn’t realized until that moment. “He needs to be caught.”

“And Mulder?”

“He thought it best in light of his situation and what’s happened, that I…” she stopped. Skinner was smiling.

“I meant, when’s the big day?”

She shrugged. “We haven’t entirely decided. It’s going to be a small ceremony.” Did he want to be invited? She couldn’t invite him without asking Mulder. Even if she wanted to, and she found she kind of did.

“Everyone around here swears you’ve been secretly been planning this since the day you met.”

“In some ways, we have,” she agreed quietly. Skinner nodded and she felt quite caught up and trapped. “I’ll speak to you tomorrow about Wilder.” She stood from her chair.

“You’re going tonight?” he asked. She met his eyes as she nodded. It could mean another girl’s life. Or death. Morning was not an option.

-5-

Joe Wilder’s neighborhood was run down. He didn’t live in the same motel as Whitney Garcia, but it might as well have been. Dingy, flaking paint and broken parking lots were characteristic. An entire group of kids whose moms didn’t know or care ran like wild things between the parked cars. She was heartsick before she even knocked on the door.

“Joe Wilder?”

This was the moment she always dreaded. When every word escaped her. The moment they said, “Yes?”

She fumbled for her badge, to explain her presence. “I’m here about Scott Strader.”

“He’s dead.”

“I know.”

“He didn’t do it.”

“How do you know that?” she asked, but LittleJoe was silent. Scully had the idea he could remain silent for as long as it suited him, so she continued, “Did you ever see Mr. Strader hurt a child?”

“No.”

It hit her like a fist. He was lying. She knew it. But that wasn’t proof, or even probable cause. She needed something she could take to Skinner. “You’re not lying to me, Joe?”

“No.” Stone serious.

“What route do you drive, Joe?” Conversationally. Mulder would just rip the bastard’s throat out.

“High school. Plus football.”

Not a lie. It could be verified. Kids too old for their suspect to be interested in. But she still knew her instincts weren’t wrong. “How long have you driven that route?”

“Couple weeks.”

She nodded. She’d had a bus driver when she went to grade school. He picked up all the kids from the base who went to Catholic school. He’d always seemed so nice. One time she dropped her homework and he hurried after her to give it back to her. He didn’t have to do that. She would have trusted him implicitly.

She had no idea what kind of person he had really been.

“Anything else?”

She paused just a moment, to intimidate him. She didn’t have anything she could use. “Nope.” She put her badge away. Careful to show him her gun when she did. He smelled like a child molester.

She didn’t know how she knew what one smelled like. It raised gooseflesh on her arms that was hard to ignore.

Rather than call Skinner when she got home, she turned on her computer to email him. It was easier. There was a message in her box. When was the last time she’d checked? She had no idea, but its date was yesterday. . Bill.

Scully wrote her email to Skinner first, aware of that message waiting for her while she typed.

Sir,

Joe Wilder seems suspicious.

Call it a hunch. Investigate

fully.

Thanks,

Scully

That was it? She proofread the short note. Wilder hadn’t said or done anything she could report on. It was a hunch and a weak one at that. A part of her wanted to follow up. To nail him to the wall. A greater part of her was happy to leave it to someone else.

PS Keep me informed?

If she hit send, she’d have to read the message from Bill.

She hit send.

To delay, she opened a new message to Mulder. No salutation needed. They emailed like they called each other.

You may be right. Former

coworker – school bus driver.

Bad feeling about him. Left

it to Skinner to follow up.

She bit her lip. What else to say? She typed her name and hit send.

No more stalling. She clicked on Bill’s message. It seemed to download forever, or was time standing still?

No salutation or paragraphs. He was venting. Damn.

Do you understand what marriage

is? What it entails? How can you

do this? Think about it for once in

your life for gods sake are you

stupid? The man is trouble. He’s

crazy and he’ll hurt you. He’s not

good enough

She hit delete and sighed. A little “!” had appeared in the corner of the screen and she wondered if it would be part two from Bill.

But it was from Mulder.

You check your email b4 your

ans machine? Call me. Please

I love you.

Her head turned sharply to the machine, which was blinking its one red light slowly, over and over. She pressed the button to disconnect and turned away from the computer.

“I’m sorry,” Mulder-on-her-machine said. “Call me when you get in. We do need to talk.”

She couldn’t continue to think that he was going to call it off every time he said that, could she? He was on her speed dial and answered after half a ring. “Sitting by the phone?”

“I’m sorry.”

“No, you were right. It doesn’t matter.”

“It does matter,” he told her. “We’ll do whatever you want to do. Your apartment is lovely.” He was trying so hard.

“Yours is closer,” she pointed out.

“That wasn’t our first fight, was it?” he asked.

“Mulder, our first fight was years ago.”

“Want to go house hunting this weekend?”

She laughed.

“You’re not changing your mind, are you?” He was trying to sound casual, but she realized he was as scared as she was.

“No,” she said quickly. The truth. “It’ll happen. I promise.”

“Good.”

She smiled and knew he was smiling too.

“You saw one of Strader’s friends?” Mulder asked.

Her back stiffened. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Did anything happen?”

“No. I just…not now.” She could hear the strain in her own voice.

“Want me to come over?” he offered.

“No,” she said. “I think I need to go to bed.” Wilder had bothered her a lot. She was freezing and she wondered if her down comforter would be able to fight the chill.

“Sure you don’t want me to come over?”

That was another thing unresolved between them. This was anything but a normal courtship. Maybe they were kidding themselves that it would be a normal marriage. “I’m tired,” she said. It was true. She had been right to take some time off. She was too stressed, too tense, too far past the edge of exhaustion. She needed to come back.

“Breakfast?”

“Sure,” she said softly.

“Goodbye, Scully.” He said it like he loved her.

“Goodbye, Mulder.” She responded much the same way. It was something she’d never thought they’d say to each other. Especially when it meant, “I love you.”

She turned out the light and crawled into bed. The blackness was wonderfully accommodating.

Dark…damp…she was being smothered. She fought to suck in air, finding it humid and rank and thick. No…something bad…she was being smothered.

“Uh!” She got her hands under her pillow and heaved it to the floor. Breathing hard, she sat there. In her bedroom. In the dark. Alone. Fine. It had just been a dream because her pillow was over her head.

She lay down again to sleep without it. But she couldn’t, uncomfortable. Her pillow didn’t smell like that. Her sheets didn’t smell like that. She thrashed for a while, unable to close her eyes.

Finally she gave in, getting up and grabbing the pillow, holding it to her nose. It smelled like detergent and dust, but not the pungent smell that lingered in her nose. She put down the pillow but remained sitting, chilled.

Joe Wilder smelled like the pillow in her dream.

Child molesters smelled like basements? It had to be a culmination, the sum of several fears, meaning nothing. So why wasn’t she convinced?

A soft touch on her face roused her to a brilliantly sunny morning. She heard herself groan as she approached wakefulness. Scents of bacon and eggs and toast roused her further until her eyes opened.

“Hey.” Mulder sat back on the bed. There was a tray between them filled with a breakfast feast. What a sight to wake up to.

“What’s this?” she asked, sliding up to sitting and yearning to run for some Scope and her hairbrush.

“You said breakfast,” he reminded her.

“I was thinking out.”

“I was thinking in,” he said, grinning. He picked up some bacon and tried to force feed her. She ended up laughing and taking it from him.

“You always sleep in your clothes?” he asked.

“I was tired.”

“You look tired.” His hands were in her hair again.

“Thanks,” she murmured, leaning in to his touch for a second. She turned her head and kissed the base of his wrist. He smiled. “Eat,” she said, picking up a piece of toast.

“That’s not what I’m hungry for.” He nipped at her fingertips as she pushed the toast towards his mouth. She felt a little jolt of sensation and curled up her toes.

“Hey, I need those,” she said playfully.

“I need them more.” He was licking her fingers now.

“I don’t -” She didn’t get the words out because he kissed her. He tasted salty and sweet. She guessed she did want to, after all. But she put her hands on his shoulders because she didn’t want breakfast in her bed.

He gave her a questioning look and she shoved some toast into her mouth as though nothing had happened. After a second, Mulder dug in as well. They ate together in silent companionship. Is this what it’s going to be like? she asked herself. Him and her and the quiet everyday for the rest of her life? It wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was kind of nice…comforting.

Her stomach was wonderfully full and she sat back, sighing. He grinned at her. “Hit the spot,” she added.

“Put some meat on your bones,” he leered, pinching a tiny amount of skin on her arm. She looked at him, mildly concerned. Did he think she was too thin? What else did he think of her body? Didn’t he like the way she looked?

“Yours too,” she came back, making a grab for him. He winced as she encountered a bicep that was solid. It surprised her. “Working out,” she said.

He nodded. “Nothing else to do.”

“You overdid it,” she said and he nodded again. He was starting to look embarrassed so she ran her fingers lightly over the muscle and smiled. “What else have you been doing?”

He shrugged. “Reading. Keeping busy. Go get ready.”

“Ready for what?”

“Aren’t we going to look at houses?” he asked, and gave her a hard look when she didn’t get out of bed immediately. “Unless you’d rather stay here.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” she said. “I just…”

He looked scared. Maybe he wasn’t as confident about their relationship as she thought. “What?”

“Nothing,” she murmured, knowing it was unfair. The idea was taking longer to adjust to than she’d realized it would. “Gonna take a shower.” She tossed back the covers and got out. It had been warm and snuggly in bed, comfortable. The floor was cold.

The worry didn’t lift from his brows as he quipped, “Want some company?”

She didn’t answer. It was cold in the shower and she couldn’t get the water hot enough, so she rushed because she wanted to get warm. A cold shower in the winter was such a waste of time. And there was a lot for them to do…give notice on her apartment, buy a dress, set a date and time and place for the wedding, get the bloodwork and the license…

Mulder was washing dishes when she stepped out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel. Her robe was waiting in the hamper to be washed – she’d spilled coffee down the front. She paused a moment, listening to the hum of the running water and the clink-jostle of the dishes. He’d cooked breakfast for her in her own kitchen.

He turned her head as she started for the bedroom, keen senses telling him he was under observation. She stopped, surprised at the way he looked at her. Her breath caught oddly and he looked away fast.

They hadn’t discussed sleeping together before the wedding. Maybe they should, she thought as she pulled on a fisherman’s sweater and scraped her fingers back through her wet hair. It fell back in her eyes as she tied the laces on her boots and she left it alone.

He looked uncomfortable sitting on the couch but he smiled when he saw her. He rose to put on his coat. Wearing boots instead of her usual heels, she felt short next to him and the moisture of her hair on her neck made her feel shivery and vulnerable. “You should dry your hair,” he said.

She shrugged while shaking her head. “I’m fine.”

He pulled a knit cap out of his pocket and tugged it down over her head until it covered her ears. She hadn’t worn such a hat since childhood. “Where’d you get that?” she asked, her head warm.

“Be prepared,” he informed her and opened the front door.

She stopped, stunned by a brilliant sun glinting off feet of untouched snow. It was beautiful. “You drove here in a blizzard,” she said.

“After a blizzard,” he corrected. His car was the only thing not covered in snow.

“To see me.” Surprise had settled in her tone. He looked pinkly embarrassed, but she couldn’t stop looking at him.

“I kinda love you, Scully,” he reminded her.

God, he was beautiful and insecure. “Kinda?” she grinned and he opened the car door for her, closing it soundly once she got inside. There was a folded newspaper lying on the dash and she picked it up. “Where are we looking?”

“Where do you want to look?”

“What’re we looking for?” she countered.

“So many questions,” he teased. They sat as the car warmed up.

She looked down at the paper. “Five bed, one bath…oh, that’s in Maryland. Four bed, two bath, fireplace…they all sound so big.”

“Might as well do it right,” he replied. “House, garage, yard.”

“What do we need bedrooms for?” she whispered. This was it. She was probably already a yuppie, but here was the proof. Childless couples used to seem selfish to her. She’d never imagined the heartbreak behind it. “Bucars, no dog…a condo would do.”

“We could get a dog,” he told her.

She nodded tightly and they set off. She felt emotionally fragile. She hadn’t thought looking at houses could make her feel like this, bring back the feeling of failure and the emptiness and the loneliness…she grabbed his hand. “Do you want a dog?” Damn the tears in her voice!

“Do you want a condo?” he asked and she shook her hand violently. She took deep breaths, deciding to be okay. She had Mulder. That would be enough.

They drove around awhile, just looking for signs. They only found one, on the lawn of a house both prissy and abandoned. Mulder looked at her and she shook her head, but they got out of the car anyway, stretching and breathing crisp air, sullying the snow with their feet.

“Well?” he said.

“No.” She almost laughed, it was so wrong for them.

He smiled, agreeing. “Big yard though.” He turned around, checking it out.

“What kind of dog do you want?” There were icicles in her tone.

“We can have kids, there are ways,” he said in his most stubborn yes-there-is-a-Santa-Claus voice.

She didn’t say anything because she didn’t trust her voice. Couldn’t trust herself not to cry, or be sarcastic and hurtful. He picked up a snowball and threw it at the house. He didn’t have much of an arm, she thought, but baseball had never been her game anyway.

“Maybe we should try a realtor,” she said finally. Telling him it was time to go.

Forty minutes later, she was sweating in a bright, calm realty office. She still couldn’t feel her fingers but the rest of her was hot and she had hat hair. Mulder whispered it to her as the woman in the sweater vest showed them pictures of houses.

“This one has a fireplace,” she said, pointing to a small house.

“It’s white,” Mulder said.

“What’s wrong with white?” she demanded.

“This one’s in town,” he showed her a listing.

“Urban decay,” she reminded him. “Oooh.”

“Too fancy,” he said instantly.

They bickered on until the realtor finally intervened. “What do you want?” she demanded.

“A place that’s home,” they said at the same time, looking at each other, surprised.

“How long have you been married?” asked the realtor.

“We’re getting married this month.”

“Looks like a perfect match.” She meant it, too.

“Too bad she couldn’t find us a place,” Scully remarked once they’d gone back to her apartment.

“She showed us everything they had,” Mulder reminded her.

Scully leaned back on the couch and put her hands through her hair. It felt thick and dead against her scalp, icky and still damp in places. “Hat hair,” Mulder called her again.

“What are we going to do about a place to live?” she mused, about to go after his hair.

“What do you want to do?” he asked diplomatically.

“We could trade off apartments depending on our mood,” she suggested, joking.

He wasn’t in the mood for levity as it turned out.

-6-

“Dana,” he said, turning to look at her with eyes full of a quietly burning fire. It was that voice that made her ache deliciously for him. “You’re – we’re going to sleep together after we’re married.”

It wasn’t a question, but she answered, “Yes.” Was that relief in his eyes? Something locked up in her stomach. He thought she was an icy bitch, she thought. “We -”

He nodded curtly, squaring his body to hers. “Because I want you in my bed every night for the rest of my life,” he admitted quietly, forcefully.

She nodded, her stomach turning over and over.

“This means forever to me, Scully,” he said honestly. Did he think she would disappoint him?

“I know.” Her mouth was so dry. She felt so scared and didn’t know why.

“I meant what I said about kids,” he added.

He was determined to have a conversation and all she could say was, “I know.”

“There are ways.”

He was wheedling now, or close to it, too reassuring. She snapped at him. “Please, Mulder, leave it alone. It’s not meant to be. If you want children, marry someone who can have them.” He grabbed her before she could make it off the couch, his fingers digging painfully into her waist as she struggled for escape. Her kicking foot connected with his knee and he threw her down on the couch with an angry cry of pain.

His eyes were angry and he was breathing hard. So was she. She raised her head to nip a kiss from his lips but he pushed her back. “Okay?” he demanded.

“Okay?” he said again louder. This was making him hard. She could feel him against her. She wanted him to drag her off to her bedroom and fuck her and end this mindnumbing tension once and for all. She pushed him off her and he didn’t grab her, but she wasn’t going far.

“Don’t -” He groaned as she began to undo the buttons on his fly. She’d seen him without clothes, but not like this. “D -” Whether he was going to call her Dana or tell her, “Don’t,” he seemed to forget. His hands went from pushing her away to pulling her in closer.

He came fast. Just like the boys behind St. Christian’s. She sat back on her heels, wondering what to do now, looking at his sated, kitten- closed eyes.

She was nervous. Suddenly. When he sighed and sat up, she couldn’t meet his eyes. “Scully -” he said, half embarrassed. His cheeks were pink. She’d never seen that before.

He was embarrassed for her. There was a new look in his eyes. He had to be wondering where she’d learned that and why she’d done it and why she hadn’t done it before.

Why the hell they were waiting for a piece of paper to define their relationship?

“Scully -” he tried again, reaching for her this time, but she moved back, her arms crossed. She didn’t want him to touch her. She didn’t want him to return the favor.

“It’s okay,” she said.

“Thank you,” he said and she found it odd. She couldn’t watch him fasten his jeans back up, so she turned away, searching for somewhere else to look.

A light touch on her shoulder as she stood in the dim kitchen made her jump. “It’s been a long day,” he said as she turned to face him. A way of explaining why he was leaving.

“Friday,” she said.

“Okay,” he replied.

She didn’t turn, but she knew what he was gone. Alone, she could let her knees shake and she could gnaw on a fingernail. Dana wouldn’t have done that. Now Mulder knew about her.

He knew about her.

She was bad.

She still wished she could go back in time and be Dana again.

She wasn’t sure how long she remained in the dark, so when the phone rang, it roused her as though from sleep. Her eyes focused and she looked sharply around. “Scully.” She noticed something strange when she answered the phone – her nails were bitten all the way down.

“This is Walter. Walter Skinner.”

“Hi,” she said, distracted. She was staring at her fingernails. She’d chewed the nails off both hands. Without noticing.

“How are you?”

“Fine, sir, and you?”

“Good.”

The silence was terrible. “Mulder and I decided on Friday,” she offered because she had nothing else to say.

“That’s good news.”

“You have bad news.” Scully picked up on it instantly.

“Another killing.” Skinner said.

“Oh God,” she cried before she could stop the words.

“You asked to be kept informed,” Skinner reminded her.

“Thank you,” she said. “No leads?”

“Just yours.”

“It’s a tenuous one,” Scully said.

“Do you believe the bus driver is the one?” Skinner asked.

“I have a feeling,” she admitted. “I couldn’t say for certain.”

“This girl is older. Twelve or thirteen.”

Scully winced. She wanted this conversation over with. She couldn’t listen to any more. “Thanks for…” Where had her voice gone? She had to try again. “Thanks for, um, telling me.”

“Scully?” Skinner sounded concerned.

“I’m okay.” Tears rolled down her cheeks. They were cold as they dried on her face and she left them alone.

“Friday?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Get some rest, Scully.” Skinner hung up quickly and she put the phone down, still horrified over the torture and death of a twelve year old girl. Another one.

She jumped when the phone rang again.

“Dana, it’s your mom.”

“Mom, what’s wrong?” She remembered the first time she had answered the phone “Scully.” How angry her mother had been with her.

“I can’t get a flight.” Her mother sounded pissed. Matthew wailed loudly in the background.

“It’s okay.” She comforted her mother automatically. They’d switched roles in the last year or so. Since the cancer.

“Can’t you and Fox wait?”

“No, Mom, I don’t think we can.” Scully responded strongly, although if she’d been pressed for reasons, she couldn’t have supplied any.

“You haven’t…?”

“Not yet, no.”

There was a long pause before Mrs. Scully said, “I guess it’s time for us to have that mother-daughter chat.”

It was a joke, but Scully didn’t laugh. “Look, I should go.”

“Is he there?”

“No, I’m just tired.”

“Is that her?” She heard Bill ask her mother near the phone.

“Dana?” Bill must have grabbed the phone. “Don’t do this to yourself.”

Why did he care? she wondered, gently depressing the disconnect button. Bill wanted to tell everyone how to live. She went into the bedroom and lay down, mentally touring the houses she and Mulder had walked through that day. None of them were right. None of them had that elusive quality called “home.”

When she was twelve, she spent a lot of time alone. The girls were boy crazy and she wasn’t and the boys were suddenly less tolerant of her. She’d been the only one of her close friends to get cramps because all her other friends were boys. Such were the problems of a tomboy. Boys were lucky, she thought, and stopped being friends with them as much as they stopped being friends with her.

Had the girl who died today been like her? Or poor and stupid and a little scared? On drugs or hooking…or just an innocent little girl?

The killer was escalating.

She felt like she was being watched. It made her sick, and she stumbled out of bed, walking unevenly, staggering from side to side. The light in the bathroom was too bright as she unscrewed the cap from the bottle of cold medicine. It made her gag. It always did. When she stuck out her tongue in the mirror, it was green. But she didn’t care. She was going to sleep.

Scully slept late the next morning, the sleep of the drugged or the damned. The murder was all over the news when she turned on the television for company. Parents feared for their children, newly released on winter holiday from school.

The girl had been discovered in a shopping mall parking lot. The killings were taking a visible toll – it was Christmas and Scully had no trouble finding a parking space when she went to the mall later that day. A deadline had been set. She had to make some purchases.

It could have been one of the girls playing MASH while she drank her coffee the other day. She shivered.

She didn’t find a dress. There are none, she thought, dismayed because she didn’t want to go to a bridal shop. Nor did she want to be married in her two year old white suit. It doesn’t matter, she told herself as she walked into Victoria’s Secret.

This doesn’t matter either, she tried to tell herself as she walked through, looking at the overpriced silk scraps and slutty, frilly garments. Her nose was filled with cloying perfume. Then she saw it on a rack in the back. Steel gray silk, it was meant to be a nightgown, but it flowed like an evening dress from spaghetti straps. When she slid it over her head in the dressing room, she loved the way it felt against her skin. It didn’t look like a nightgown. It looked beautiful.

And for one moment in her life, Dana Scully turned this way and that, holding her hair up on her head, elegantly posing for the mirror.

She still felt like she was being watched. Even in a sealed, ultra- private dressing room with the door locked.

Scully allowed the saleswoman to talk her into stockings and scented lotion and a matching pair of panties. She didn’t care. She was only getting married once. When she walked out of the store, she felt she’d won some sort of victory and wanted to call Mulder to celebrate. But she didn’t.

She would surprise him.

She still felt odd about the way she’d surprised him the night before.

It felt like someone was watching her. There was a weight, almost a presence, between her shoulder blades. She couldn’t be imagining it.

She turned and walked into the beauty supply store, where she found some tiny silk flowers she could weave into her hair. A softly shaded lipstick. She was going to be a blushing bride.

She had to buy Mulder a ring. The mall had an endless supply of jewelry stores and gold bands, but she didn’t know what he would like. She had never seen him wear jewelry of any sort. Her feet and head were starting to ache and she wanted desperately to run from the shopper’s palace, but she had to finish this. The antique store drew her in.

The perfect ring was there under glass. It twinkled in the display light, winking at her. I’ve been waiting for you, it said.

The word “LOVE” was engraved on the inside of the circle. Scully bought it without a second’s hesitation, feeling her Visa card bending under the weight of the purchase. The clerk had a kind smile and put the ring in a box, but Scully was afraid it might get lost somehow, so she slipped it on her finger to keep it near.

Love.

It had gotten dark outside, and the mall was even more deserted. A couple of girls in bright polyester and paper hats waited sullenly near the door for rides home after their shift and Scully wanted to warn them to be careful.

She even turned once and looked behind her, but she saw nothing. It didn’t calm her nerves and she didn’t pause to put her packages in the trunk, feeling too vulnerable and threatened. She tossed them into the passenger seat instead.

She was out of gas.

She swore she’d just filled the tank.

She had to go back out to use the pay phone to get some assistance. She didn’t have any cash on her, though she had thought there was another $20 in her purse. It was gone now.

It was dark and cold outside. She didn’t want to return to the mall.

She couldn’t stay where she was.

Coward, taunted that voice in her head. When had she started to be afraid?

Scully pushed on the door handle and started for the mall. The creepy feeling didn’t leave her as she trekked back. The fast food mall employees were gone. Lucky them. She didn’t see a phone, either. They must have used the ones at their job to call for their rides home.

Missy and Bill had both had jobs in high school. Getting good grades and studying four hours a night had exempted her from her dad’s requirement. It would have exempted them, too. While she knew she would have hated working in fast food like Bill or a department store as Missy had, she also knew they would have hated studying.

“Phone?” she asked of the first mall employee she saw.

“By the restroom,” the girl told her. Scully’s look must have been blank because she added, “Upstairs. Food court.”

“Thanks.” She headed back through, glancing at employees who stared, bored, back at her. Where are all the customers? Waiting for Christmas Eve, when they would have traveled to someplace safer than the nation’s capital, where young girls were brutalized and murdered?

The restrooms and a bank of phones were down a long hallway off the food court, deep in the bowels of the mall. The floor was tiled as far as the doors to the restrooms. Beyond that, it was cement and unpainted and dirty looking. The prickly feeling in the back of her neck hadn’t abated.

She should have brought her cell phone with her.

Screams began to resonate from inside the women’s’ bathroom. The happy sounds of toilet training, she thought with an evil smirk. Why was it that little kids hated the transition so much? She was sure Mulder would have a psychological answer, but she found it patently bizarre.

He wasn’t home. “Mulder, it’s me. I’m at the River Point Mall and my car’s out of gas in the parking lot. Can you bring me a can of gas? Please? I’ll wait for you in the mall, outside Sears. It’s a little after six now.”

She hung up, looking at her watch, wondering where he was. He probably didn’t have his cell phone with him. He never did. She dialed the number anyway and listened to it ring.

She was going to have to buy a book to read while she waited. And get her car inspected. She hadn’t seen a puddle, but a hole in the gas tank was the only explanation.

The nature of the screaming changed. She froze, feeling ice down her back. It was no stubborn toddler, it was someone in pain and horror. The sound also wasn’t coming from the restroom, but from down the hallway.

She didn’t have her gun. She was off duty. She couldn’t not help.

“Who’s there?” she yelled, walking quickly but carefully, scanning the names of stores stenciled onto plain doors. “Ring bell for service.” Locked doors. Music blared from the back of Contempo Casuals. There was no one to offer to help.

“Federal Officer! Stop at once!” She didn’t have her badge either.

The only thing more terrible than the screaming was when it stopped. She broke into a run, stopping when she saw the blood. Scully didn’t pause or crouch. It was obvious the girl was dead. One of the two who had been waiting for a ride. Had her friend gotten away safely?

Would she get away safely? This killer was become desperate. The girls were getting older. The need to kill was growing stronger than the desire for children.

A door swung closed at the end of the hall under the green glow of the EXIT sign. Scully ran for it, catching it before it latched, pushing on it. “Stop!” she screamed.

The door swung in and thwacked her in the face. She tasted blood as her vision wavered, then turned to a black cloud that washed over her eyelids.

-7-

She came to in pain. It radiated from the center of her forehead, she thought. The pain was too intense for her to be sure.

A bright light in her eye was blinding her as a hand – not her own – pulled at her eyelids. Not gentle. She tried to protest, but the light was too bright and painful.

That smell….

“Concussion. No skull fracture.”

“Mulder?” The spots dancing before her eyes were growing transparent now that the light had been taken away.

“I’m here.” His hand closed over hers. Reassuring. She felt better already.

She was sitting on a cement floor surrounded by garbage. She could taste blood – old blood. Paramedics milled around and a camera flash kept firing. Crime scene. “What happened?”

“I was hoping you’d tell me,” Mulder answered, looking grim.

It was all blank.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” he prodded gently.

“My car…wouldn’t start.”

“You called me more than an hour ago.”

“I was unconscious for an hour?” Her tone betrayed her alarm.

“You were lucky,” he told her. She discovered it hurt like hell to try to raise her eyebrows at him. She lifted her hand and felt a knot thickening on her forehead. It was sticky, too, with blood. Ouch. This was lucky?

“There’s a girl dead up the hallway.”

“What?” she cried.

“She worked in the mall. It’s our killer,” Mulder told her. “You must have found him.”

“Why didn’t he kill me?”

Mulder shook his head.

“I hit my head and he just walked away?” Scully demanded, her voice rising.

“There’s blood on both sides of the door. We suspect he hit you with it.” Mulder reported.

Feeling wild and more than a little sick, she got to her feet. Her knees were really weak. “Why didn’t he…” she began again. Her shirt was stiff with blood and she noticed a large circle of it on the floor where she had been lying. “He thought I was dead,” she realized.

“You lost a lot of blood.” When had Mulder taken her hand again? It was like watching a very strange movie, she was missing every other frame, the action jumping ahead in fits and starts.

“I saw him and don’t remember.”

“He saw you,” Mulder agreed.

“I felt like someone was watching me,” she remembered.

“Damn it!” Mulder cried and she looked at him. “This wasn’t coincidence. He’s been trailing you, like Strader followed me. Waiting and watching.”

“No,” she said, but at the same time, she believed him. His arm was around her shoulders, possessive and protective. She didn’t like it. Pulling away, she walked over to the paramedics. “Am I done?” she asked, and they nodded, still staring down at the dead girl.

She’d been strangled. The killer was improvising. No blunt objects or obvious sexual trauma, either. Scully looked away.

“Do you have the gas for my car?” she asked Mulder.

“You’re coming home with me.”

“I’m fine. He thinks I’m dead. I can defend myself. I’m an FBI agent,” she informed him.

“He surprised you once.”

“Only once.” She could see Mulder growing angry with her, but she couldn’t help that.

“I need to question you,” Mulder tried.

“You’re off the case!” she reminded him.

“Not anymore.” He shook his head.

She didn’t want to argue. She didn’t want him to be like this, even though Mulder was always like this and it was one of the things she liked about him. “I’m going home,” she informed him, walking away. And this time he let her go.

The first thing she did when she got in the car was look in the rearview mirror. With the blood washed away, the bump on her head wouldn’t look bad at all. A little swelling and a bit of bruising. She was fine. She thought she was fine.

If he’d touched her…

She didn’t think he had.

Why hadn’t he?

The bags in the front seat jerked her memory. The dress she’d bought. The ring…

It wasn’t on her finger. Why had she ever thought to put it there, she thought. Frantically, she checked the box and her pockets. No ring. The murder and the pain in her head weren’t enough to make her cry, but this was. Maybe the paramedics had picked it up. Or Mulder. Her tears gave way to fury. Her head hurt and she wanted to go to work. She wanted to get this bastard. Murder him.

Mulder had put gas in her tank and she went home to sit and not sleep. Concussion. She knew better than to sleep. Although she supposed she could set her alarm to wake her every two hours, but then who would take her to the hospital if she didn’t wake up?

Part of her didn’t care if she died. That part bothered the rest of her a lot. She saw down with a mug of coffee and debated whether it would make her head feel better.

It would if she drank it with aspirin. In the bathroom, she discovered there was still a Tylenol-4 in the prescription bottle. She’d written it for Mulder. Somehow the bottle had ended up back in her possession. She’d probably taken it away from him at one time or another.

She swallowed the pill as the phone began to ring. “Yeah?” She picked it up.

“Scully?” Mulder sounded shocked by her lack of formality. “How’s your head?”

“Okay. I just took a pain killer.”

“Do you remember anything else? About the man who attacked you?” he questioned.

“It’s gone. The memories are not there. That happens sometimes with head injuries.”

“Memories don’t just disappear,” he told her.

“No,” she said instantly, answering the question she knew he was about to ask.

“Scully, we can catch this guy.”

“No!”

He talked right over her protest. “And we know that you’re susceptible to hypnosis.”

“It doesn’t work!” she cried. “It’s an unproven, unreliable method!”

“Don’t you want him caught?” Was it his voice that seductive or the words? She did want him caught, so badly she could feel the anger bubbling up inside her. “Don’t you want him in prison where he’ll get what’s coming to him?” They both knew what happened to child molesters and child murderers in prison.

She didn’t say anything, but her silence was agreement enough. “I’ll pick you up in thirty minutes.”

“Tonight?” she cried.

“Skinner arranged it,” Mulder said before he hung up. Mulder and Skinner had discussed her? She didn’t like it. But she washed her face again and straightened her hair anyway. Mulder was a steamroller when he had an idea.

She didn’t want to be hypnotized. The two times she had been before, she was left more unsettled than before the hypnosis. People shouldn’t be forced to remember things they aren’t ready for, she thought. She wasn’t feeling emotionally well even with the medicine she’d taken making her head feel physically better. She sat, tense, in front of the TV watching a newsmagazine until the knock came at the door.

No one was standing there. A blast of cold wind hit her hard. This wasn’t Mulder playing a joke on her. The wind howled through the barren trees as she stared out, willing herself to see something in the dark.

Nothing.

Except the glint that caught her eye as she turned to go back in. Gold. Scully stooped down to look closer at the snow and found the ring she’d purchased to give to Mulder. It burned her hand with cold and evil intent. Someone had knocked on her door and dropped it on the step, hurrying away.

He knew where she lived.

They had to catch him. All the same, she went back inside and bolted the door, putting on her holster and checking her gun. Its weight in her hand made her feel safe. She’d never depended on a weapon to make her feel safe before. The jacket she slid on to hide the gun warmed her. This time, she was ready for the knock at the door.

“Who is it?”

“Mulder.”

She opened the door. “He knows where I live,” she said.

“He was here? You saw him?” Mulder was furious.

She shook her head. “I dropped something at the mall, when he knocked me out. It was just left on my doorstep.” Her tone gave nothing away, but the set of her mouth was hard. “Let’s do this.”

If he was surprised by the change in her attitude, he didn’t say so.

The office was small and decorated in dark colors that made it look even smaller. It wouldn’t be bright in there even at noon. “Hi.” Wade Tomlinson was a certified hypnotist the Bureau used occasionally to improve or verify testimony. He had a wide-open face and white teeth. His hand was warm when he shook hers.

She hated this. It came from giving up control, she knew, and at that moment her control was waning badly enough even without entrusting herself to someone else. She felt vulnerable, ugly and uncomfortable as she put up her feet and closed her eyes under Mulder’s watchful gaze.

Tomlinson began to walk her through the relaxation process. She concentrated on her breathing and her inner mind, but she felt like she did on nights when she couldn’t sleep. Her mind wouldn’t let go.

“This isn’t -” She didn’t even get the words out to say she didn’t think it was working before her mind detached.

It was dark. She was confined in a small space. All she was aware of was her mind. Trapped. She didn’t like it, but they wouldn’t let her out.

Sunlight. She blinked in the brightness after the dark. It hurt her eyes. She was upset but felt a new calm. Blood stained a homespun uniform. The smell of death was upon her.

His death.

His eyes were different. Blue. But always the same. She knew him with her soul. Except it was too late. Those eyes were unseeing now. A musket ball had ripped a hole in his chest. The heart he hadn’t loved her with was exposed, stopped. Forever.

Sarah was crying like an idiot, sobbing uncontrollably as though it would bring him back, as though she were the younger sister.

Other men needed them more than he did. Men who were still alive, who would stay alive if the two nurses got to work. If they remained calm and saved their grief for another, more private time. She walked away, leaving Sarah to her hysteria. Sarah was like that. People who got what they wanted could be.

She never let what she felt show. Especially not when she came to the front to work and fell in love with her sister’s fiance. Who was dead now on this field in Apison, Tennessee.

Dirty jeans. Dirty shirt. Flannel, red and black. Quilted lining. Oil underneath his fingernails. Smells like excitement and sweat. An evil glint in his eyes. Blood on white canvas tennis shoes. No lines in his forty year old face. A hint of curl in blond hair.

Yes, it was Joe Wilder and yes he had shoved a door into her face. Funny how it didn’t hurt now, remembering it.

A scratch on his face. From the sharp edge of her bitten down fingernails. A faint line from eyebrow to hairline.

Dana wanted to come out, but they wouldn’t let her. A bump on the head told the darkness to come, and it did.

Her eyes opened. “I told you it wouldn’t work,” she said, except she didn’t feel relaxed. Her stomach was wrenched, sick and upset from emotion or its suppression.

“What?” she asked. Mulder had the weirdest look on his face. Bemused and unhappy. She had gone under. “What did I say?”

“You identified him. The school bus driver,” Mulder answered, still staring hard at her face. She could feel her skin flushing under his scrutiny. What could she have said to make him look that way?

“Is it enough to go on?”

“You don’t remember,” he said, “even now?”

Tomlinson intervened. “These are memories Dana has tried hard to forget.”

She wished he wouldn’t call her Dana.

It was a second before Mulder answered her question. He said, “You scratched him. It’s probable cause. We’ll find evidence when we search his house. It’s over.”

The way he got up and walked out of the room, she wondered if they were over, too.

“What did I say?” she asked Tomlinson. Her nerves were fluttery because she didn’t know. How could her unconscious mind know things that she didn’t? And now these men knew more about her than she did.

“Fascinating,” said Tomlinson, handing her one of the two identical cassettes he’d recorded the session on. She accepted it, wanting him to tell her.

Mulder still looked freaked out. He was pacing up and down the hall. His expression didn’t change when he saw her. “What did I say?” she asked. He shook his head. “Did I say something about us?”

“Sort of,” he admitted uncomfortably.

“Mulder, I love you,” she said, because she thought he needed to hear it. He nodded uneasily. What had she done? “Are we still getting married?” Her voice came out worried.

“Yes,” he replied immediately, pouring a world of passion into his tone. She nodded solemnly. He looked like he wanted to touch her, but he didn’t. His denial only made her worry more.

The drive back to her place was silent and cold. She was beginning to feel the thwack on her head again and the lateness of the hour. “Call me after you’ve listened to the tape,” Mulder said. He didn’t offer to come in and he didn’t kiss her goodnight.

She didn’t want to listen to the tape. It felt cold and alien in her hand. It even looked weird as she stared at it. She didn’t want to, but she had to.

She put it into the cassette player and pressed play, sitting down before her voice flooded from the speakers.

She hated the sound of her voice on tape. Too high, too flat and did she really breathe that loudly and slur her S’s so badly?

“It’s dark and it’s cold. I’m trapped. It’s just me and they won’t let me out. I can’t….do…anything about it. I’m powerless against them…”

She had to turn it off. Her breathing had become so rapid she couldn’t pull in any oxygen. Pure, supreme terror, the nerves that had plagued her magnified millions of times.

Her abduction? she thought, but it wasn’t like the other half memories she’d gained previously. Those were like hospitals, with an antiseptic odor and bright lights.

She had to listen to the rest. But what if it was more like this? The darkness and the fear? No wonder Mulder had wanted to get away from her.

She couldn’t bear it. Her head was throbbing and sleep had never seemed to inviting. She set her alarm and turned out the light.

They didn’t discuss the tape. Scully saw Wilder’s apprehension on the news. It was just the right amount of distance, she thought. He wasn’t going to hurt anyone else. Unfortunately, she knew there hundreds of men out there just like him, who didn’t kill but fed on the terror and innocence of their students, their daughters, their sisters.

They didn’t discuss much. Thursday morning they went to get the license. A judge Mulder knew agreed to perform the ceremony for them on Friday. Skinner had asked to attend, as had the Lone Gunmen. Scully hadn’t realized those guys actually liked her.

“Frohike wanted to give you a bridal shower,” Mulder offered, and she’d laughed. It felt good to smile.

She had to give Mulder the license to hold because she couldn’t stop staring at it. Her name and his name joined in fancy type on a piece of paper for as long as paper lasted.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said with a light in his eyes.

“I love you,” she replied, wanting to cling.

He nodded and hugged her quickly. She smiled and hugged him back.

“Sweet dreams tonight.” He kissed her on the forehead where makeup covered her fading bruise, and she watched him walk away, hail a cab, and then he was gone.

Instantly she felt alone. But it was the last time she would be alone. She turned and walked the other way, heading home to perform her rituals. Her lonely-life rituals.

The bath with rose scented bath oil.

The shaving and plucking and trimming. She was too chicken to trim her hair, though, and her nails were ragged, but she painted them with pale pink. Her toenails matched. She doubted Mulder would notice.

She eyed herself critically in the mirror both nude and in the dress. She still loved the dress.

She went to bed early for a full night of sleep. No puffy eyes or dark circles for one day of her life. The bruise on her forehead was easily covered. She managed to shut off her thoughts and sleep.

She would be a different person before she slept again.

When she woke up, she realized she had a thousand things to do, all of them mundane. She realized they hadn’t even discussed a honeymoon, although it was probably impossible to get away on short notice with the holiday looming over them.

She washed dishes and changed the sheets. They hadn’t even discussed whose apartment they were going to afterward. They had chosen a cozy restaurant instead of a champagne reception.

She decided the white sheets were ugly and changed the bed again, trying to decide if she had time to purchase a new set of sheets. She knew in her heart she was worrying about nothing.

A new problem set in: her hair. It wouldn’t go up, and when it did go up, it wouldn’t stay up and when it did stay, she thought the bruise on her forehead showed too much. The flowers looked pretty, though, and she put on her makeup.

That left her with an entire hour to kill, in her pajamas since she didn’t want to wrinkle her dress. She was going to go mad with an hour to fill, sitting and thinking about the thing she was about to do. Anticipation was a killer.

The door bell rang. She frowned slightly, walking to the door. “Mulder?”

“No,” came a flat male voice. She pulled the door open. A delivery man stood there with a bouquet. It was understated and beautiful. She hurried to get the man a tip, reassured that she was doing the right thing. Mulder was sending her flowers on their wedding day.

Closing the door, she sat down on the couch to smell them. Springtime, she thought happily. It seemed like such a long time since spring. There was a card tucked into the bouquet and she savored the moment, wondering what words Mulder would’ve for her.

“Don’t ruin your life.”

The flowers weren’t from Mulder. They dropped from her hand, tumbling onto the floor. The phone began to ring and she grabbed it, feeling trapped in a horrible movie that couldn’t possibly be her life.

“Scully,” she said, pulling herself back together.

“Dana, please don’t do this.”

“Bill, you asshole! You sent the flowers, didn’t you!” Furious, she picked them up and hurled them against the wall. “How could you do this? How could you!” she screamed.

“How can you do this, Dana?” Bill demanded.

“I love him. He loves me. Why…” She felt bereft. Why couldn’t he just leave her alone?

“He killed our sister! He tried to kill you! He is the reason you can’t have kids, Dana,” Bill listed.

“What’s that got to do with you?” she snapped.

“I care about you,” Bill whispered. “You’re my family. You’re my sister.” His voice fell into a soothing note and she felt the same panic she’d felt in the basement.

She’d hidden the rabbit because she was mad at Bill.

“Don’t tell. I’ll hurt the bunny if you tell, Dana.”

If he’d kill the bunny, he might kill her. Wasn’t that what he was really saying?

Tell what?

“Bill, what – how did I get locked in the basement when I was little?” she asked.

“You didn’t.” He was lying.

“You were going to kill the bunny if I told.”

You killed the bunny, Dana!” Bill shouted at her, as though she were being unreasonable.

“What was I going to tell, Bill? Why are you still scared?”

“Don’t marry him, Dana.”

“You can’t tell me what to do,” she said, feeling sick. Her head ached and she let the phone slide into the cradle. She pressed both hands against the pain in her head, trying to make it stop, then picked up the bouquet and dropped it into the trash. She thoroughly pounded it with the broom until the delicate flowers were in shreds. She didn’t feel rage. She felt a little sad, but mostly she felt nothing.

Things she didn’t want to remember, said the hypnotist.

Trapped. Was it her abduction?

She had to start over with her hair and makeup. It didn’t take long and turned out perfectly this time. All but the empty, longing look in her eyes.

Scully was nothing but a cold and empty vessel. Mulder wouldn’t want to marry her. He wanted Dana. Dana who was warm and loving and gone so far away.

Had she ever been Dana?

The dress slid over her head and she stared into the mirror. Her last moments as a single woman. She smiled. She would smile for Mulder.

She vacuumed up the flower petals and picked one up. She didn’t need flowers to get married.

She didn’t need Bill’s approval.

She was going to get married and live happily ever after.

So why couldn’t she get it out of her mind? The cab ride was strange, sitting in the back of well beaten car, overdressed for it. The driver wasn’t making much conversation. Or if he was, she didn’t notice. The cab smelled like bananas.

The images of the dead girls were floating through her mind, with their blue lips and unseeing eyes. The blood, the mortis and the lividity. Their butchered parts.

“Here we are, lady.”

She was beginning to hear screams in her head. Whose screams? She didn’t know. Had she witnessed the murder of the victim in the mall? Had she stood by, listening to her scream as she was being tortured?

Or were they someone else’s screams?

Her own?

She was scared. Down into the core of her being, she was scared. Mulder was waiting for her in the hallway outside the judges’ chambers with a brilliant grin and an entourage. He kissed her cheek and she couldn’t say anything, just grin happily back. He filled her with happiness and warmth and courage.

Frohike also kissed her on the cheek. He was wearing his weird ’60s style tuxedo. She suspected he had Kevlar on under it. Was he scared of her, or did he always wear it? Byers shook her hand and managed to smile. He’d also, apparently, managed to lend a suit to Langly, who looked like he was waiting for a flood.

Mulder was still staring at her with an enraptured expression. She was too shy to look at him, and too nervous. A movement caught the corner of her eye and she turned her head. Skinner. She smiled and he took her hands. “Congratulations.” She’d never seen him smile like that.

“Thank you, sir,” she said, turning to Mulder. He nodded, and then they all went into the judge’s office.

The tile floor seemed cold and the wooden chairs forbidding, but for a second it was the most beautiful place she’d ever been. It would be a new life. Her thoughts wouldn’t slow down, and at the same time, they seemed to stop. She shed her coat and Frohike took it like a dutiful bridesmaid.

The air was cool on her bare arms. They weren’t marrying in the tropics, or a church. His mother should have come. Her sister should have seen her married. She should have signed Charlie out to attend. Her mother should have tried harder.

There was much sadness on this day of new beginnings.

Mulder held her hand as the judge spoke. His eyes were earnest on hers as he repeated the traditional vows. Would he really obey her, she wondered.

Her voice sounded strong as she repeated the same words, but it didn’t seem to come from her. Did everyone have this strangely disembodied feeling when important things happened to them?

She felt like she was hiding from something she’d already realized and didn’t want to acknowledge. She was losing control of herself, giving it to someone else. Was that what marriage was about?

Or another self? He called her Dana. “I, Fox, take you, Dana…” Was this what being Dana felt like? Was this how she had longed to feel?

“I now pronounce you man and wife.”

The kiss was celebratory. They’d snapped the tape at the end of the race. Her head tipped back and Mulder kissed her. It was the first time he’d kissed her in public. They were going to be lovers very, very soon.

A delicious ache started in her belly as she saw the ring on his finger. The grin on her face felt wonderfully, freely ridiculous. The ring on her own finger was beautiful.

“Let’s party!” Langly cried, pulling loose his tie and shaking free his ponytail.

“I’ll drink to that!” Frohike agreed and even Skinner smiled. The judge waved good bye as they trooped out the door.

Mulder’s friends were kinder than her family.

Rain had began to fall outside and everything smelled damp as the snow had begun to melt. A dead flower petal fell from the folds of her coat and she paused for a second.

It was from the bouquet Bill sent to her.

The pale pink petal was caught on a stream of water rushing against the curb to the gutter. Washing away, washing away.

Like innocence.

She knew she should grab it, but only stared as the whirlpool snagged it and finally, the petal disappeared.

She knew what happened in the basement.

Everything faded dreadfully away.

–— PART II

-8-

She’d been quiet since the ceremony. This worried Mulder a lot. He kept looking over at her, trying to catch her eye, but she didn’t really look back. Every once in a while she’d squint or move her head slightly, the way people did when they were lost in thought.

He wanted to know what she was thinking about.

There was laughter and talking all around him – who’d have ever guessed Skinner and the Lone Gunmen would get along so well? Maybe they could have an effect on each other, he thought, but he knew the Gunmen would never be able to trust someone so high up in government. They preferred anarchy to order and rules.

He didn’t want this. Neither did Scully from the way she’d completely zoned out. “It’s time for us to go, I think,” he said, getting up. He had to grab Scully’s arm to get her attention and her eyes were blank. The Gunmen yukked it up but Mulder couldn’t take his eyes off his wife.

His wife.

He’d seen that glassy stare before.

Not in her eyes, though. On patients. In the ward where he’d interned in college. His stomach was churning. Maybe he was imagining things. Nerves?

“Scully?”

She blinked and her eyes focused for a second. “I’m okay,” she said in a quiet voice and managed a tight smile.

He was too scared to ask. It was him, he knew, she was having doubts and regrets about marrying him. She could do better. She deserved better. Why hadn’t she realized this before the wedding? He was almost resolved to this. He’d barely been able to believe it that she’d agreed. It had felt like humoring him when they looked at houses, but he’d wanted to hard to believe.

Wanting to believe things that were ridiculous or impossible had long been one of his strengths.

He could feel the tension building in the silence as the ride home stretched long in front of them. He opened his mouth to relieve the pain in his clenched jaw and it popped painfully. In the passenger seat, Scully seemed oblivious. Even that made him feel worse.

“Did I do something wrong?” His knuckles were white on the steering wheel, but his words didn’t break through her fog. Expressions still crossed her face, but none of them took hold. She was ignoring him, he thought. What had he done, or was marrying her enough? He stole another glance at her noble profile, her eyes fixed out the window.

Once in her apartment, she sat down on the couch. Maybe it was always this awkward after weddings. He didn’t know. Maybe that was the purpose of receptions and parties and expensive trips. To avoid this moment, where things settled quietly at home, when he felt he should do anything other than what he desperately wanted to do.

He sat down on the couch and her eyes darted up to his face. “Did I do something wrong?” he asked quietly.

Her eyes turned away and she put her head down. This time she heard him at least, even if it made her go inward more than she had been. Her mumble was so low and almost unintelligible. He had to strain to understand. “He hurt me.”

“Scully?” Her words struck his body like lightning.

“Why’re you calling me that?” Her face drew up, in a childish frown.

“What should I call you?” he asked carefully, adding to her tone and expression her slumped posture and legs that drew together at the knees and then splayed out, toes pointing in.

“Starbuck.”

Oh, shit.

“Who hurt you?” he asked, finding it difficult to draw air into his lungs. Something was very wrong. This didn’t happen after weddings, he knew. This was not normal. Why the fuck couldn’t things ever be normal? he asked himself, just once?

“Billy,” she said in a teeny, tiny voice.

Mulder could only stare at her in horror. “How?” he asked.

She shook her head again, more turning her face away from him than actually shaking it to indicate “no.” “Didn’t happen yet.”

“When did it happen?” he asked. She didn’t respond. “Scully?” What the hell was going on here? He was scared, as scared as he had ever been. His stomach was pure acid in the middle of his body. He could face aliens or killers, but this…he had an inkling what this was, and that frightened him all the more. “Starbuck?” he prompted gently.

The look on her face made him jerk away involuntarily. “It didn’t happen yet,” she mumbled. Scully, who never mumbled.

Horror was beginning to blossom into realization. This was not Scully. This wasn’t Scully! “How old are you?”

She looked at him as though he was silly. “Four.”

He bolted up from the couch and paced around the room in a loopy circle. This could not be. Her eyes followed him with interest as he returned to her side. This could not be happening! He wouldn’t let it. He couldn’t let it. She was stronger than this. She flinched at the gentle hand he placed on her shoulder. “You’re not playing a game with me?” He searched her eyes with his, flicking from one eye to the other. He didn’t find any merriment in her irises, which seemed to have turned a darker blue than he’d ever seen them. She didn’t even look like Scully any more. There was no hiding the desperation in his tone. He already knew Scully wouldn’t joke around, not like this. Scully didn’t joke. She didn’t scare him on purpose. This was not funny, not in the least.

“What kinda game do you wanna play?” she asked, eyes bright.

Oh, shit.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked slowly.

She nodded after a second of thinking. “You’re married to Dana.”

He couldn’t deal with this. He wanted to shout at her, knock some sense into her. Most of all, he wanted to wake up from this, go back to the morning and start again. She couldn’t be referring to herself as a child and talking about herself in the third person. Talking about them in the third person when they were both right there. Either she didn’t know what was real or he didn’t. He didn’t care which. “Where is Dana?”

“Dana doesn’t know. But she’s scared anyway.”

He knelt in front of her. “Could I speak to Dana?” Please, please, oh god, please.

She shook her head vigorously.

“Is there anybody else…” It sounded so incredibly crazy. Anyone else he could talk to? What was this, the phone company? A customer service line? Phone sex? This was a woman, this was his wife and something terrible had happened between their wedding vows and their arrival in the apartment. Something to make her flinch and turn away from everything she knew.

She shook her head and put her thumb in her mouth and he died a little, trying not to show it to her. A second later she removed it, making excuses to him. “Mama says not to. She says it’ll ruin my teeth.”

“I don’t think it matters now,” he told her, walking away again. He couldn’t deal with this. “Scully?” he asked again, and she seemed to ignore him. She didn’t put her thumb back in her mouth. He could feel her eyes on him as he tried to figure out what to do. What was going on.

He knew what it looked like.

But it was too impossible.

It was pretty damned ridiculous, in fact. He’d rather hear about her meticulously made up under hypnosis past life with him and Melissa Ephesian where she’d been in love with him and he’d never noticed. How much more telling could that scenario had been? Her unconscious mind knew he was listening. Even though they were engaged and about to get married, how many insecurities about their relationship had that revealed? How many of her worries about being his soul mate, his lover, his friend and lifetime partner?

He was not worthy of her.

But this was too ridiculous. And yet, what if the reference to that damaged, troubled woman had been some kind of a warning from her inner mind.

Inner mind, what a load of crap.

But he was standing in front of a different facet of his partner – his wife – than he had ever seen before. A different personality. One he certainly would have noticed before this.

Maybe she there was no before this. Maybe the stress of marrying him made her crack.

His fault. His fault.

He didn’t know what to do. Unfortunately he knew more about this from watching “Sybil” than from school. Dissociative identity disorder was virtually unheard of in Europe. None of his teachers had believed in it, except as another hysterical phenomena born of American soap opera plots. He knew this was what Scully herself would say if she were there to have this conversation.

But he only had to remember Melissa Ephesian to know how this could ruin a life.

He shuddered.

Not to mention that he only had coursework in psychology. Okay, he’d been a good student, but being a good student was easy. He could have mastered anything he’d been interested in. He had a degree in psychology, and even though he had a knack for uncanny jumps of logic and a track record as a profiler, that didn’t make him right.

Multiple personalities? There had to be a logical explanation.

“Mister?”

He jerked around. She looked at him. “It’s past my bedtime.”

He nodded, expecting her to go to bed. Maybe this would be over in the morning. Maybe it was temporary, maybe he would wake up.

“My daddy would read to me and my mommy would tuck me in,” she told him. He couldn’t say anything. “Why are you here instead of my mommy?”

Maybe he should give her mommy a call.

“Your mom’s on a trip.”

She looked doubtful. “You’ll take care of me?”

He nodded. A promise he’d already made. Sickness or health. It was funny because he’d always been sure he was the one who would lose his mind.

Not lost, he thought furiously. Not lost. He would get her back. Somehow.

This could not be happening.

She slipped off to bed and he put his head in his hands, allowing himself a moment of fatigue. Two moments and he would have burst into tears.

This couldn’t be happening.

He needed information.

He thought about what had happened in the few weeks that predicated this strange turn of events.. The case overwhelming her. The attack and the hypnosis.

Which had been his idea.

It went beyond that, though. She’d seemed exhausted and headachy since her visit to San Diego.

Not cancer, he prayed. What if she had another brain tumor because of what they’d done to her? What if it was pressing on some vital area of her brain, relieving her of blood pressure and memory? What if four years old was all there was left?

Oh, god.

It didn’t explain what she’d said about her brother hurting her. He assumed it was her brother; while her father had the same name, she’d called him Ahab. Especially if she was thinking of herself as Starbuck. She wouldn’t have called her father Bill. She didn’t call her mother Margaret. Her parents wouldn’t have stood for it, just as his wouldn’t have.

He still didn’t know what to do. His empty hands sought something to munch on, drawing him into the kitchen. A bag of fresh popcorn would do. Scully didn’t have any sunflower seeds, his favorite food for thinking difficult thoughts. He picked up the bag of pre-popped corn and noticed something odd in the trash.

A mangled, ruined bouquet.

Why would she…?

He found the card under the couch in the living room. “Don’t ruin your life.” Signed by Bill. Her brother.

Why did Bill hate him so much?

“He hurt me,” the four year old aspect of his wife had whispered.

Virtually all cases of multiple personality disorder hinged on brutal childhood sexual abuse.

Rage blurred his vision. He was going to kill the fucking bastard if it was true. And while he had no proof, he had no reason to doubt her. She was his wife and she had never lied to him.

He wanted to be wrong, but he knew that he wasn’t. He could feel it. He didn’t know who to call or who to trust. He knew he could trust her. Cautiously, he slipped into her darkened bedroom. “Are you still awake?” he asked softly, not wanting to use that name so foreign to him.

“Uh-huh.” The utterance trembled. When he turned on the light, she sighed.

He remained in the doorway. “Are you afraid of the dark?”

“Maybe a little.”

He nodded. “I used to be scared of the dark,” he admitted, crossing the distance to the bed. She was looking up at him with eyes wide and round. She looked like a little girl, tucked up tight in the bed, the buttons on her pajama top fastened wrong. Her arms lay limp over the covers. This was not the wedding night he’d dreamt of. Not by a long shot. “Why do you think the dark is scary?”

She didn’t answer for a long time, staring past him at the wall like she’d turned herself off, like some kind of a robot or something. “Cause it’s dark,” she answered, as though that summed it all up for him.

Maybe it did.

“You said Bill hurt you.”

She glared at him instantly.

“Bill your brother Bill?”

“What other Bill?” she asked, her lips drawing tight, almost a pout, but not quite. Angry, but scared too. She was a tough little kid. Or, um, whatever. Sitting here, talking to her, seeing her, was too convincing. It scared him. He accepted this because it was real. This wasn’t like talking to Scully. This wasn’t like talking to someone who was pretending. This was like talking to a very smart, scared little girl.

Who happened to inhabit the body of a beautiful thirty five year old woman, that was the confusing part.

“How did he hurt you?” Mulder asked, dredging up every aspect he could remember of those torturous visits to clinics and patient wards. He’d detested them. The goal might not have been to convince him against becoming a psychiatrist, but that had been the desired effect. He’d chosen to be the one who locked up the insane, the disturbed, not the one who tried to heal them. Sometimes without any encouragement or success.

She wasn’t talking.

“Did he hit you?”

A limp shouldered shrug.

“Did he say mean things to you?”

No response.

“Did he pretend to be a big purple dinosaur?”

She didn’t laugh. There was no response. He was learning. No response meant it hadn’t happened. So he’d hit her? Maybe. Mulder pressed on. “Did he touch you somewhere you didn’t want to be touched?”

That was too much for her. “Go away, I want to sleep,” she demanded, flopping over in the bed. But she didn’t close her eyes and she didn’t turn her back on him. She didn’t trust him.

“What did he do?” Mulder asked.

“Nothing yet.”

“When did he do it?”

“Leave me alone!”

He was getting at something here, but he didn’t want to push her. She was going to cry and he didn’t want to see her in pain. Whatever this was, it was a reaction to pain, to try to drive it away. He had no idea what he could do to her psyche if he forced this. Obviously she remembered. But she wasn’t ready to tell it.

“I’m here, Scully,” he said, and she lay rigid in the bed, breathing shallowly. He felt rage coming off of her body, controlled ultimately. That was Scully, he thought, but he walked out of the room, leaving the light on.

How could that have not been real?

He still didn’t want to believe it.

But something had happened. And that wasn’t Scully in there. He wanted to ask her more questions, but he was too afraid. He knew that Dissociative Identity Disorder didn’t have a cure. Years of intensive therapy could still leave a person splintered.

Pretty bleak.

Mulder slammed his fist against the wall. He didn’t want to believe it. They’d lived through so much. This was ridiculous.

He felt angry and betrayed. He didn’t want to feel that way about Scully. He loved her. But he couldn’t help feeling she’d abandoned him to this.

He fell asleep in the chair, his fists angry and his jaw tight.

Only a few hours later, the sun was up and so was his wife. He opened his eyes to find her staring at him eerily and he just stared back, praying she was his wife and that whole weird experience was over He hadn’t even considered the scarier possibilities – what if she was possessed by the devil? He didn’t believe in the devil, but he did believe in the purity of evil because he’d seen it too many times. What if that had invaded her soul?

There was a darkness in her soul, but he had a feeling the evil beings responsible were mere mortals.

“Scully?” he tried hopefully.

“I want my mother.”

Starbuck again. He sighed. “How -” he faltered. What could he ask her? “Do you remember Skinner?” he tried.

“I want my mother,” she repeated stubbornly.

“Scully -”

“I want my mother!” she screamed at him. Her face started to turn red. “Where’s my mother, I want my mother!”

“Ssh,” he suggested. What did he know about little kids? Adults who thought they were little kids?

“Mommy,” she cried, sinking into tears. He could only stare at her. It was bizarre that he was feeling happy to have averted a temper tantrum. She could have thrown herself on the floor and thrashed and screamed like he saw a little boy do once in the Safeway when his mom wouldn’t buy him a squirt gun. At the time Mulder had felt a certain envy for the ease with which the child relieved frustration. Maybe he’d been wrong to stop Scully. Maybe she needed that childish release, maybe that was what this was about.

“I’ll – ah – call your mom,” he said, inching away form her toward the phone. It was morning and this wasn’t better. It was a game he’d played with himself often as a boy – was he too sick to go to school the next day? Most of his symptoms were psychological, but he hadn’t wanted to see a doctor. So he waited until the next morning. If he still felt bad in the morning, he could tell his mother. This was still bad and it was morning. She wanted her mother and he’d be damned if he wouldn’t give that to her. She deserved anything in this world he could give, and he wanted her better. Maybe her mother could provide some comfort that he couldn’t. Maybe her mother could get Scully back. Scully had run to her mom before when she’d felt threatened. Did he threaten her? The smile at seeing he was #1 on her speed dial faded quickly. He didn’t want to think about her crying. He pressed the keys to get #3.

“Yeah.”

It was Bill. Mulder’s knuckles cracked with the force of his anger. She said Bill had hurt her. Even though she hadn’t been able to give details, Mulder believed her. He knew the power of repressed memories, having been haunted by them most of his life. Not remembering didn’t make it not real. “Margaret Scully, please.”

“She’s asleep, who’s calling?” Bill’s anger was thinly veiled. A glance at the clock told Mulder it was 5:30 in California.

“Fox Mulder. Wake her up,” he ordered.

“Fuck you,” Bill told him.

“If I ever get my hands on you, I’ll break your fucking neck. Let me to talk to your mother.”

“You think I’m going to let you talk to her that way, you goddamned psychopath?”

“I’m going to tell her what you did to your sister, you fucker.” Mulder’s voice was quiet with sinister fury, playing his hunch that Scully was telling him the truth, even through whatever dementia she was suffering.

There was a frightening silence from the other end of the line. “I didn’t do anything.” Bill’s voice had changed to ice. A coldness Mulder had heard in the tones of murderers denying conclusive evidence. For Mulder, it was only more proof. Mulder waited for the dial tone, but he heard the phone gently click against the surface of a table. Mulder waited. He’d scared himself with his outburst.

“Fox, what is it? What’s the matter with Dana?” Mrs. Scully’s voice was frantic and sleepy.

“She needs you.” He couldn’t keep the desolation out of his tone and he watched the crying child of a woman he loved while listening to her mother cry 2,000 miles away. He had no words for either of them.

The woman who couldn’t get a flight for her daughter’s wedding arrived almost immediately. Mulder was exhausted when he got her at the airport and his mother-in-law seemed to have aged twenty years. He’d never seen the gray in her hair or the lines in her face before. “Did you marry her?”

He picked up her suitcase and saw her eyes track down to his ring. “Yes,” he answered.

“When?” Mrs. Scully’s eyes were filled with fire.

“Yesterday.” He led her through the holiday crowds to the meter where he’d left the car parked.

“When all this began.” She didn’t accuse him. She didn’t have to. “Bill was right.”

Bill was never right. Mulder wanted to scream it at her. He was angry with Bill and angry that Mrs. Scully would chose Bill over him. True, Bill was her son so Mrs. Scully probably couldn’t see the truth, but Mulder knew he was good for Scully. He loved her with his entire being. So he spoke with ill-considered words, unable to stop once he’d begun. “I have some bad news about your son, Mrs. Scully,” Mulder said, trying to contain his anger for her sake, but at the same time wanting to hurt her because she hadn’t been there for Scully. “I think he abused your daughter.”

Mrs. Scully didn’t say another word the rest of the drive. He saw her face turn white and wondered if he’d done the right thing in telling her that. Maybe not, he thought, pulling out onto the expressway, hurrying back to Scully.

When he opened the door to Scully’s apartment, it was like entering the monkey house at the zoo. The TV blared a live action cartoon. Scully’s face was smeared with makeup and her hair was tied into two ponytails. Langly was almost a mirror of her and the two of them scrambled across the hard wood floor with die cast metal cars. Byers was uncomfortable as he maneuvered a plastic police helicopter above them. Frohike was at the kitchen table considering the measurements of an unclothed Barbie doll.

Mulder closed the door and waited for Mrs. Scully to fall apart. He’d underestimated her strength because she walked over to Scully. Byers and Langly backed off, leaving Scully looking confused. “Dana, honey?” said Mrs. Scully.

Scully bit her lip and started at her mother for a long time. Then she seemed to close off, clutching the shiny purple car in her hand. “Dana says you’re my mommy.” Mrs. Scully managed a forced, faltering smile. “You’re too old to be my mommy.” She pouted and turned her full attention to vrooming the car.

Mrs. Scully looked crushed. She shot at look at Mulder. “She talked to these ‘others’?”

“Just Dana,” Frohike spoke up. He didn’t raise his eyes from Barbie’s rack.

No one said anything and Mulder sat down in a chair, exhausted. He didn’t want this. It couldn’t be real. He would wake up. He had to. Something jolted his foot and he opened his eyes. Scully, on the floor with her toy car. “Sorry mister.” His look must have been harsh because she crawled away from him quickly.

Mrs. Scully looked as lost as he felt.

Frohike got to his feet. “Mulder, come on.” Mulder looked at him, not moving. “Come on.”

“I can’t leave -” Mulder’s voice cracked.

“She’s in good hands,” Frohike informed him, pushing him out the door. The drive to Mulder’s apartment in Frohike’s ancient VW was silent but for the put-put of the motor.

“So talk,” Frohike ordered once they were at Mulder’s. He took the couch and Mulder paced the floor, needing to get back to Scully.

“This can’t be real,” Mulder stated, raking his hands back through his hair. It was dirty. He needed to shave, shower. “It can’t be happening. It’s a dream, a nightmare -”

Frohike’s face as he absorbed was what broke Mulder. He sat down on the coffee table and put his head in his hands, crying unashamedly. “I can’t do this. I can’t help her. She’s always been the strong one. For this to happen to her – after everything – why do I have to lose everyone? Why can’t someone just love me? Shit, this isn’t about me,” he stopped himself. “It’s about her. How can this be real?”

Frohike patted him on the back. “What can you do to help her?”

Mulder shook his head. Nothing, there was nothing…

“You can take care of yourself,” Frohike said. “You can find her the best doctors, you can read the literature and you can support her.”

Eventually Mulder nodded. He had to stand by her. He owed her his life. He loved her, he was nothing without her. He raised his head and looked at Frohike. The man was amazing. “So who are the best doctors?” he asked.

They went back to Scully’s. “Where is she?” Mulder demanded when he walked in to find Mrs. Scully reading a magazine while Byers and Langly played Old Maid.

“She’s asleep,” Mrs. Scully said without looking up.

“She didn’t…change?” He wanted Scully back. Now. He wanted Scully back now. Mulder wasn’t patient, especially where she was concerned. He’d thought her mother could magically cure her.

All three sadly shook their heads in unison. Mulder felt his shoulders slump. “How did this happen, Fox?” Mrs. Scully sounded like his own mother as she folded away her Better Homes and Gardens and waited for an answer.

Mulder took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts. “It’s possible this is a spontaneous regression and she’ll naturally get over it. But the way she talks about Dana as someone separate from herself…I think she’s dissociated. She meets the criteria for multiple personality.” Clinical was the only way he could get through this. It was too laughable and painful otherwise.

“Have you called a doctor?” she asked, doubtful. Like her daughter.

“I called you first.”

“Call if you need us.” Langly offered, seizing the first opportunity to escape. Mulder nodded and waved his thanks to the guys.

“Odd friends of yours,” Scully’s mother commented.

“Scully’s friends too,” he insisted. “They gave me a list of local doctors.”

“I want to take her back with me to San Diego,” Mrs. Scully said as he went to get the cordless phone from its base. The remainder of her words were unspoken. Away from this, way from you. She thought he was causing this.

“No,” he said, staring at her. She had the same stubborn look he’d seen Scully get. “No,” he said again.

“She needs to be with family.”

“I am her family!”

“It was marrying you that did this to her!” Mrs. Scully shouted back.

Mulder had no response to that. It was very likely true, he thought, just as he’d caused her cancer and her sister’s death. He blamed himself. He picked up the phone and dialed the first doctor on the list, aware of Scully’s mother watching him, waiting for him to fail.

“I don’t deal with that.”

“I don’t have time.”

“We would love to have her come to our facility, but we don’t deal with multiples. Entirely too disruptive. You do understand…”

“We can’t…”

“No, sorry…” The doctors had a million excuses.

There was only one name left on the list. Mrs. Scully was looking over his shoulder. Waiting to take Scully away from him, for good, back to Bill where she would never get better.

“Dr. Callaway, you’re my only hope.”

The light female voice on the other end of the line laughed pleasantly. “I am?”

“I didn’t mean to say that,” Mulder blurted.

“What did you mean to say?”

He liked her. “I think my wife has dissociative identity disorder. She’s taken on the characteristics of a small child. I mean, I don’t want to believe that, but something’s wrong. Something’s terribly wrong.” He stopped. He was letting his fear show. He couldn’t give in to that.

“May I ask a few questions?” He heard her rattling for paper and pencil.

“Of course,” he said, feeling relieved. She hadn’t turned him down. Yet.

“Good,” she said, “Can you be here by five?”

“Tonight?”

“Yes,” said Dr. Callaway. “I need to meet her if she is to be my patient.”

“We’ll be there,” Mulder promised, ignoring the look Mrs. Scully gave him. He went to the bedroom, struck by sudden caution at the door. What would he find when he awakened her? After a second, he walked into the room.

She was lying in bed with her eyes open as though she’d been waiting for him. “Scully?” he asked, almost daring to hope.

“Starbuck,” she reminded him. She sat up and he saw the fear in her eyes. “Were you and Mommy fighting?”

He couldn’t lie to her, although he wanted to. “Yes.”

“It was about me. You hate me. You want me to go away. So does Mommy.” Her mouth pursed, upset, but she didn’t cry.

“That’s not true,” he said, calmly lying. He did want Starbuck to go away if it meant it would return Scully to him. “We want you to come with us to see someone. A doctor.”

“I’m not sick,” she told him.

“I know. We just want to make sure. Come on,” Mulder said and waited for her to get up. She did, finally, struggling to put on Scully’s sneakers. She looked at the soles several times before putting them on the wrong feet.

“Are your shoes on right?” Mulder asked her.

“They’re fine,” she drawled, sounding like a miniature version of Scully. Except it already was Scully.

He decided not to think about that. “I’m going with you,” Mrs. Scully informed him. There was nothing he could say about that.

-9-

At five o’clock they sat in Dr. Callaway’s office. Starbuck swung her feet and looked uncomfortable. She knew she was the focus here. Mrs. Scully looked drawn and tired. Dr. Leslie Callaway was lovely – tall and slim with her hair gathered into a clip at the top of her head. She smiled at Mulder and at Mrs. Scully, but most importantly, at Starbuck, introducing herself.

Scully said nothing.

Dr. Callaway turned to Mulder with her questions.

“Has she complained of frequent headaches?” She looked at Scully, who wasn’t acknowledging her.

Mulder nodded. “She’s had a lot of stress recently.”

The doctor nodded and made a note on a purple legal pad. “Has she ever experienced what’s known as ‘missing time’ – a period of time that she blacked out, that she could not later recall?”

Mulder didn’t need that explained to him. He felt Mrs. Scully’s eyes hard on his face. Like he’d been lying to her. “Yes,” he said, “But it’s always been associated with alien abduction missing time.”

Dr. Callaway’s eyebrows went up and Mulder wished he could disappear. “She believes she’s been abducted by aliens? From space?”

No, little brown men from beyond the border, Mulder thought sarcastically. Or worse yet, Canadians. He knew sarcasm was a defense mechanism and he was only trying to live through this very abnormal situation.

“Mulder believes she’s been abducted by aliens. Dana doesn’t believe in them,” Mrs. Scully spoke up harshly.

“You don’t believe this then?” the doctor turned to her.

At least she’s getting a good idea of the family conflict pulling at Scully, Mulder thought.

“Something happened to my daughter,” Margaret stated. “I don’t know what. Neither does she, as far as I know.”

“How long to these alien episodes last?”

“The longest was three months,” Mulder replied.

“That’s unusually long for an alien abduction, isn’t it?” Dr. Callaway asked evenly, sounding as though she’d been informed on the subject. Maybe she too read the Weekly World News, Mulder thought.

“Yes,” he had to admit, feeling like he’d been nailed by his own lawyer while on the stand.

“Was she abused as a child?” Just as smoothly as the alien question.

“Never!” Margaret cried.

“She may have been,” Mulder said.

“No she was not,” Margaret insisted strongly.

“She said, to me, last night, that her brother hurt her.” Mulder knew he should drop this. Mrs. Scully looked furious.

“Okay,” Dr. Callaway interrupted. “Does she behave in strange, bizarre or unpredictable ways?”

Neither of them said anything.

“Maybe a little,” replied Mulder. “Since Thanksgiving.”

“Does she have any sexually related disorders?”

“She may,” Mulder mumbled.

Dr. Callaway gave him a direct look. “You said you’re her husband. Don’t you know?”

“We didn’t…get a chance…” How red was his face?

“The marriage is unconsummated.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“I know this is difficult,” Dr. Callaway said. “We can stop here. There’s a couple more questions, but we can stop.” She put the notepad aside. “I’d like to talk to Dana.”

“Starbuck.” Terribly, they’d forgotten she was listening. Mulder had hated that as a kid, and as an adult, when people talked around him as though he couldn’t hear or understand what they were saying.

“Starbuck.” Dr. Callaway smiled at Scully, then included Mulder and Margaret in the expression. “There’s a coffee place downstairs if you’d like to come back in half an hour.”

Mulder shook his head. He wasn’t leave her there. Dr. Callaway escorted them to the office door. He spent the next thirty minutes staring at the paintings in the lobby. So did Mrs. Scully. They didn’t speak to each other.

It was the longest thirty two minutes and five seconds of Mulder’s entire life.

The door creaked open a moment before it opened – the handle needed grease, and so Mulder and Mrs. Scully were both on their feet by the time Dr. Callaway appeared in the doorway. Her face was wonderfully neutral. Mulder hadn’t really considered utilizing his psych degree in a practicing capacity, but he hoped that if he had, he would have been a doctor like this one. Calm. Cool.

“Well?” Mrs. Scully was anxious.

“This is very delicate ethical ground,” Dr. Callaway said. “Even though my patient believes she is four years old and depends on the care of others, she has the right to privacy.”

Mulder’s gaze didn’t relent and neither did Mrs. Scully’s. But Dr. Callaway didn’t speak. It was their turn to talk.

“What’s the next step?” Mrs. Scully asked finally.

“I’d like to use hypnosis. If this is a regression to a time when she felt safe, we may be able to bring her back to her current age.”

“If not?”

“Dissociated personalities usually emerge under hypnosis,” Dr. Callaway answered gravely.

Mulder’s stomach became a hard, sick knot. “She was recently hypnotized – could that have brought this on?” He could barely get the words out. She hadn’t wanted to go under. He’d pushed her, so she would remember. What if she’d remembered other things, too? What if this was all his fault? Of course it was.

“Hypnosis can’t cause anything,” Dr. Callaway answered. “This probably would have emerged anyway.”

“Can you do it now?” Mulder couldn’t keep still, rubbing his hands together, moving from foot to foot. He wanted this over.

“She’s been through a lot,” replied Dr. Callaway. Mulder’s eyes slid to the figure huddled on the floor in the corner, drawn into herself. She seemed to be physically shrinking until she would finally be as large as a four year old child. “Tomorrow morning is soon enough.”

Mulder nodded and they prepared to go. He didn’t want Starbuck for another day. He wanted Scully. He wanted his wife. Dr. Callaway’s hand caught his arm. “It’s going to be a long road back,” she cautioned.

He couldn’t take a breath. “I know,” he said quietly, wishing it wasn’t true. He was working to accept it as best he could. He had hoped the doctor would cure her, or prove that he was wrong. Her serious manner only confirmed his worst fears.

Mrs. Scully insisted on sitting next to her daughter on the drive home. This meant Mulder spent most of the drive glancing in the rearview mirror to look at them.

Scully – or what seemed to remain of her – had her feet up on the seat. Knees drawn up under her chin. Her cheek rested on her crossed arms and her eyes sought comfort from the passing scenery. Her expression never changed from its fixed look of dreamy and sad.

Mrs. Scully kept trying. She toyed at fixing Scully’s hair. He’d never seen her as a fussy mother before this. Maybe she hadn’t been. Maybe she felt some compulsion to make up for it now. Scully made little jerks with her head, away, wanting to be left alone.

“There’s not a lot of space…” Mulder said to Mrs. Scully back at his wife’s apartment. Scully went off automatically to prepare for bed. Neither of them coaxed a word about the session from her. What she had discussed with Dr. Callaway was a complete mystery.

“I’ll take the couch,” Mrs. Scully replied.

“That’s where I’m sleeping.” He was willing to be territorial when it came to Scully. He knew what was best for her. He was not going to leave her.

Mrs. Scully gave him an authoritative look. “You have your own apartment, Fox.”

“I’m her husband.”

“I’m her mother!”

“And I’m not sure that’s what she needs right now,” Mulder stated as calmly as possible.

“I’m not sure you’re what she needs right now.”

He glared and his tongue ached from his teeth biting in to keep back the angry words. He wanted to vent, to rage at her. She glared right back. Margaret Scully was a force to be reckoned with, as was her daughter. Finally he managed to say, “You have your house in Baltimore.”

He went into Scully’s room. She was kneeling by the side of her bed, her hands pressed together and her face turned up to god. He paused a moment at the sight of her. She was beautiful. An innocent. He loved her so much.

She sensed him and lumbered clumsily to her feet, then got into bed. He pulled her covered up to her chin. “Did you like meeting Dr. Callaway?” he asked.

“She’s not like a regular doctor.” It was almost a question. Mulder nodded. “We drew pictures and played with dolls.”

Mulder nodded again. Play therapy was an effective tool in learning from children as they acted out their problems. “Did you remember anything?”

“How can I remember what didn’t happen yet?” she asked. “I just want to play.” Her eyes closed for a second. It seemed a profound and important statement.

“What do you like best about being four, Starbuck?” he asked her.

“No one hurts little girls when they’re just four,” she said quietly. More insight from the future, he thought. He had to wonder if that was normal, or if she was trying not to remember.

He almost made himself laugh. Was any of this “normal”?

Mrs. Scully had gone while he was in with Scully. He felt guilty relief. He knew she would be back. He lay down on the couch, fully clothed, dreading what the morning might bring. No longer did he believe a night’s sleep would bring his Scully back to him.

He couldn’t sleep for remembering her words. All little girls should always be safe.

The next morning, Dr. Callaway prepared to hypnotize Starbuck to see what would come out. “Is she easily hypnotized?” she asked Mulder, turning away from her patient, who sat in her chair with her eyes closed, feet swinging back and forth in casual circles.

“Yes, very,” he replied, thinking of the times before. But she doesn’t believe in hypnosis, he thought.

Dr. Callaway nodded. “They usually are,” she said and he wondered what she meant by that. “You should go,” she suggested.

“I’m staying here,” Mulder insisted. He wasn’t leaving her alone. Not with anyone. Not while vulnerable under hypnosis, especially. She was too fragile, too open to being hurt.

Besides, he needed to know.

“I’m staying too,” Mrs. Scully declared. Mulder glanced at her. Did she need to know as badly as he did? Or did she need to know more, to be told of what had gone on in her own house? Why hadn’t she noticed? But he couldn’t blame her, he knew. That was unfair.

He didn’t know how he felt. But he knew he shouldn’t blame her.

“I want you to breathe deeply,” Dr. Callaway said to Scully, turning her back on the observers to focus fully on her patient. “And then think of a time and a place -”

“I don’t need this crap,” Scully informed her coldly, opening her eyes.

Mulder’s shoulders tensed painfully, ready to snap. Starbuck was gone instantly, replaced by someone he didn’t know at all, someone who seemed not at home in her own skin. And angry.

“And neither does she. The kid doesn’t know anything, it didn’t happen to her.” Her eyes narrowed, focusing on Mrs. Scully. “Don’t you understand anything?”

Mrs. Scully’s face was frozen with horror and shock. Scully-but- not slumped down in her chair, her feet hitting the floor. One hand casually strayed up to wind a strand of her hair between her fingers.

“What should we call you?” Dr. Callaway asked carefully, but there was an aura of excitement radiating from her that Mulder reacted badly to her. This would be exciting to a therapist, he thought, but not to the people who were living it. This was hell and he was not pleased about it at all. He just wanted Scully back.

“DK,” Margaret breathed while Scully sulked in the chair. “I’d forgotten.”

“Yeah. DK.” She confirmed, sounding for all the world like a sarcastic teenager. Her eyes found Mulder and he tried to gaze back while his stomach snarled into knots that felt irreparable. “So you’re here,” she said to him as though she didn’t care at all. “Scully’s been worried about you.”

Scully? Did she know what was going on in her own body and mind? If she was so worried about him, why was she doing this?

Mulder was instantly ashamed of himself and it didn’t do anything for his stomach. Scully was the victim in this, and no matter how abandoned he felt by her…this was not her fault. He was so tired of trying to be strong; he’d spent his entire life dealing with blow after blow.

This wasn’t about him.

He was terrified now that Scully was just another personality, one that had been out when she was with him. What would he do if he learned he loved a woman that only partially existed? A fragment of a whole person? And if that was true, what would happen if she became integrated, as he’d read was the goal of therapy in cases like this one. Would she still love him when she came through this?

“Does Scully want to talk to us?” Dr. Callaway asked. It annoyed Mulder that she sounded like a medium calling on spirits from somewhere beyond. Everything was annoying Mulder. He got this way when he hadn’t slept.

DK jerked her head back and forth. “She’s scared. That’s why she let Starbuck out. Selfish brat. I didn’t think I’d ever break through.”

Dr. Callaway waited for more.

DK went on. “She’s had her chance. Like that Scully. Man, what a number. Never has any fun. You know this.” DK’s eyes found Mulder, to his surprise.

“Is that what you want to do, DK? Have fun?” Dr. Callaway’s guidance was firm.

“Well yeah,” DK shrugged. “I never really got my chance, y’know. By high school, she was starting to forget. Deal with it. Cope.”

“Who would you say is the strongest of you?” the doctor inquired. “The best able to cope?”

Another careless shrug peeled off DK’s shoulders. “It’s kind of open to discussion now,” she reported. “Dana’s been gone for a while. Scared. Scully can’t deal with this right now. She’s too shocked. They want to come out, but they don’t know it yet. Scully was in charge for the longest time…” She shrugged again.

He couldn’t accept them as separate entities. There had never been anything wrong with Scully. Not the Scully that he knew. She had been whole, he thought. A little damaged, maybe a lot damaged, but she was what was real. He was clinging to that, praying to get her back. And if the reality turned out to be different…he didn’t know what he would do.

“Do you remember everything that happened?”

DK shrugged again.

“Okay,” Dr. Callaway said. “I guess that’s enough for today, Dana.”

She grinned. But it was a sneaky grin. “It’s still DK,” she informed them, springing up from the chair, ready to leave instantly.

“Please wait for us in the lobby,” Dr. Callaway suggested and DK slouched out. Mulder watched her go, amazed at the physical transformation between this woman and Starbuck and Scully.

“Well?” He turned anxiously to the doctor, searching her face for answers. He found few and only felt his frustration grow.

“The personalities don’t seem to be completely dissociated,” Dr. Callaway responded. “Most multiples have different names and different histories and don’t know about each other. The way she speaks…”

“She’s faking,” Maggie said and sounded almost hopeful.

“No,” said Dr. Callaway. Mulder didn’t know which answer he had been hoping for. Either would have been bad news. If she wasn’t faking, she was really sick. If she was, she was really sick to pretend such a thing. But Mulder knew with dread that what he’d seen was real. “It may be a good sign. The final break may be recent and incomplete. So we may have a better chance to cure her.”

Mulder wondered if he dared to hope for that. For a cure. What if he was lost in the reassembly?

He could not think of her in that way. She was not broken.

“It’s fascinating,” the doctor said, putting a sour look on Maggie’s face.

Mulder knew she was trying.

DK and Maggie fought all the way home. “I want a nose ring,” DK said, flipping through the magazine she’d stolen from the lobby of the doctor’s office. She’d found a terrible picture of a heroin-waif model with too much eyeshadow and a ring in her nose.

“No,” snapped Maggie, who’d chosen to sit in the front seat next to Mulder, leaving DK in the back like a child. He jumped at the force of her word.

“Why not? It’s sexy,” DK said, tilting her head to consider the photo from another angle. She aimed this appeal at him and he knew it.

“Ick,” he contributed, hoping there weren’t any eyebrow, tongue or nipple rings in the magazine.

“It’s not your body,” Maggie argued.

“It’s mine as much as hers,” DK snarled. “She doesn’t even know what to use it for. You think she hasn’t done -”

“Shut up!” Maggie screamed, her face a scary shade of white. Mulder could see she couldn’t take this any more.

DK pouted in the back seat. Mulder watched her in the rearview mirror because Mrs. Scully had begun to cry and he couldn’t look at her. He didn’t know what to do with either of them. He felt responsible. He felt he should be doing something. There was nothing he could do and he felt helpless. ” I just want my daughter back,” Mrs. Scully sniffled.

“You got her,” DK muttered with a cold gleam in her eye. The look of the unloved. Mulder recognized it from his own teenage self. Maggie jumped out of the car as soon as they reached Scully’s apartment, hurrying for her own car, not even offering to come inside. DK was not someone she wanted to spend time with.

Mulder knew it was hard for her.

It was hard for him.

DK flopped down on the couch when they went inside. She propped her feet up on the back of the couch, splaying her jean-covered legs wide. Mulder tried not to notice her pose, which thrust her breasts purposely out and angled her hips provocatively at him.

“Wanna fuck?” DK asked, moistening her lips with her tongue.

Mulder was reviled. “How old are you, DK?” he asked, reminding himself that this was not Scully.

“Fourteen.”

She acted it, with her less than subtle or effective attempts at seduction. “Let’s watch TV,” he suggested, intrigued by the easy sexuality of this not-Scully. He wondered if she had ever openly behaved this way when she was fourteen. He couldn’t imagine it. He figured DK was some hidden away fantasy she’d had.

“You have a tattoo,” he said to impress her when he caught DK looking covetously at a navel ring on MTV.

“Where?” she jumped, sounding genuinely excited. She looked down at herself, unfamiliar with her own body, her arms and legs moving in different directions at once in a very young-seeming way.

“Here.” He got up and curiously she followed as he led her into the bathroom. She looked into the mirror with impossibly earnest eyes. He lifted her shirt with a finger and touched the ink painted flesh he found there. Pointing it out to her.

When she turned to peer over her shoulder in the mirror, she was practically in his arms. He tried hard to think of other things The coldness in her eyes as she judged the painting on her skin.

A girl in a woman’s body. This is sick, Mulder, he told himself.

But she looked just like the woman he loved. Was, in some oddly connected way, the woman that he loved.

She realized their positions and lost interest in the tattoo instantly, moving to press up against him, rubbing her body against his like a cat.

He couldn’t do this. His heart was pounding, scared, and he took a step away.

“You liked it when I sucked you off the other night,” DK said coyly, her finger reaching threateningly for the buttons on his jeans.

He took another step back, blood fighting its way through his ears with a loud sound. “That wasn’t -”

She grinned. “Dana thought I should.” It occurred to him she could be lying. “You liked it. More even than the boys at school. You’re my first real man.” She lowered her eyes in an imitation of flirting.

She was lying. “Stop it!” Mulder ordered. “I don’t like it when you do this.”

“It scares you,” she murmured and he realized that was what she wanted. To scare him. How much must she hurt inside to behave this way? If only he could touch that.

“No. It scares you. So badly you have to lie,” he told her firmly.

Her face changed and something ugly came into her expression. “I hate you!” she screamed, ran to her room and slammed the door.

He sighed and leaned against the wall.

She did scare the hell out of him. He sat down in the living room, staring blindly at the TV, knowing he had caused this. It was all entirely his fault. He would give anything to get Scully back.

He had to do something.

Finally, reluctantly, he gave in and knocked softly on the door to Scully’s room. When there was no answer, he swallowed back panic – what if she’d done something to herself? – and pushed the door open. Scully was sprawled on the bed, her eyes open, red but dry. She’d been crying and stopped. Because of him.

“Hey,” he said gently.

“I’m not her. Go away.”

“You don’t have to be her.”

“It’s her you want,” DK said roughly, wiping her nose on her hand. “Nobody ever wanted me.” She said the words to herself. Reminding herself of past injustices, perhaps.

He sighed. This was so hard. Talking to a fourteen year old when he only knew the wonderful, bright adult she had become. “I know it feels that way at your age,” he said carefully.

She looked down at her bitten fingernails, feigning indifference.

“Maybe if you talk about it…” he tried. Wanting her to open up.

She looked at him. “I know you’re a shrink, too. Dana told me.”

“Dana talks to you?”

DK shrugged.

“Does Scully?”

It was the wrong thing to ask. She rolled her eyes and made an angry noise in the back of her throat. “What is it with you and Scully? She’s a cold, angry, unemotional, unfeeling bitch.”

“That’s not true,” Mulder said.

DK looked him in the eye. “We all are. Remember that.”

“Thanks for the warning.” He descended into sarcasm himself. Protection. There was no point in trying to talk to her, he thought, but questioned his own motives as he returned to the living room. Did he really want to talk to DK, to understand her – or was she right, was he merely looking for Scully?

He missed her. He missed her so much. Talking to her. Her skepticism. Her manner, her way. He loved her so much it hurt. And he was terrified that by helping her, he might be losing her permanently.

Which was the only thing scarier than the notion he’d already lost her.

-10-

Morning brought another session with Dr. Callaway. Mrs. Scully attended, too, looking as though she hadn’t slept. Mulder could understand that, but wondered if she had resumed her life. What did she do all day? As far as he knew, she didn’t work. Or had she sat home all night, watching and wondering the way he did?

“Is there any one of you who remembers everything?” Dr. Callaway asked.

“No,” DK said, even as she was transforming. Mulder had seen a man shape-shift – a man who had assumed his own form – and this was almost more disconcerting. The process was similar, a series of subtle, almost unnoticeable changes that left an entirely different person behind.

Dr. Callaway knew it, too. She leaned forward. “What’s your name?”

Scully didn’t speak. Her body seemed heavier, more deeply tied to the earth. Her eyes didn’t quite focus. But she heard.

“Is there a name I can call you?” the doctor pressed, her eyes darting across Scully’s face in an almost nervous way that made Mulder’s stomach ache. This woman had to know what she was doing. She had to. The alternative was too frightening to contemplate.

Scully shook her head. “I don’t like being out here,” she said slowly. Her voice sounded huskier.

“You’d rather be inside? Where it’s safe?” Dr. Callaway zoomed in, but Scully didn’t respond, sinking into that deep, troubling silence again. “What have you seen?”

An even, weighted shrug.

“You need to face this.” The doctor sounded so convincing. “So you can help. The others accept it. Do the others know?”

What the hell is she talking about? Mulder asked himself, but he knew he was angry because he felt like he should be doing something, or protecting her from these questions, and there was nothing that he could do. If he spoke up, the doctor would make him sit outside and he wanted to stay. He wanted to know. He wanted to believe his mere presence could be a comfort to Scully.

“Scully. Dana. It scares them,” Scully-but-not admitted. “So they’re hiding. Don’t want to face it.”

“Yet you’re able to accept it.”

She didn’t say anything. Mulder wondered if this was another personality. If maybe these personalities went deeper than they seemed to. They seemed almost superficial, aspect-oriented. Starbuck was the child; DK the teenager; Scully the adult. He’d studied Freud in college. Now he had to think of the id, the ego, and the superego. He looked at Scully again, wondering if this -person- speaking now was some embodiment of her inner mind.

It gave him chills and made him sick. His mind felt it had to bend to get around the concept. He was uncomfortable with it.

She sat back silent for many minutes, completely blank, almost catatonic. She didn’t move, didn’t blink. She didn’t even seem to be breathing.

Mulder could hear the clock ticking, beating like thunder in time with his heart. What if no one came out? What if she slipped away from them for good this way? What if no one could reach her? He wanted to shake her, to force her eyes to focus. He wanted her to look at him and yell at him for doing so. But he could only sit back and wait, like a game show contestant who didn’t know the answer as he waited for the time to run down.

“Is there anyone else who knows what happened to Dana, who can help her to understand?” the doctor asked.

“Mom?” Scully’s change was instant. Her body convulsed and she was in tears, her voice coated with their moisture.

The change in Mrs. Scully was almost as strong. She’d been doing her best to remain calm, clenching the arms of the chair she was sitting in. But no mother could keep from reacting to a daughter who cried out for her.

“Mom, I’m sick.”

“We’re here to help you, Dana,” Mrs. Scully’s tone was even, strong. More so than Mulder would have been able to manage if she had called for him. But she never called for him, did she?

“Are you going to put me away…like you did Charlie?” Scully looked small and afraid. Her voice was reedy, high, almost painful to Mulder’s ears. He looked at Mrs. Scully. This was the first he’d heard of anything like this concerning Scully’s younger brother.

Mrs. Scully drew back as though she’d been struck. “No,” she whispered fiercely.

Mulder stared at the older woman, trying to come up with any kind of an answer until he heard Scully say his name. Had it really been so long since she had? She sounded surprised, like someone in a dream. “Mulder. You’re here too.” Was she happy to see him? He couldn’t tell.

“Yes,” he said and his throat was impossibly tight.

“It’s been a while.” Her smile was embarrassed. Sweet. She was happy to see him. His heart lightened a little.

“How long has it been?” he asked.

“Since they took me…since Duane Barry.” She whispered his name and shook her head slightly, fighting against something in her head associated with that man. “I…couldn’t…” She shook her head, pressing her lips together in a vain attempt to hold back the tears.

“What happened to you, Dana?” Dr. Callaway’s voice was low. Unobtrusive.

“I don’t know.” Her face crumpled with pain and distress. “It’s all so weird…I called but no one came. And it was so dark…so very dark.” Her brows pulled together and her voice rose. “I woke up in the hospital. But I didn’t want to…I wasn’t strong enough…no one knew I was there at first. It’s all mixed up.”

She looked at Mulder, her gaze bold enough to make him shift positions in his chair. “You wanted me to be Scully,” she said.

He didn’t know what to say to that. He didn’t know if it was true, or even, really, what it meant. Maybe it was something he should apologize for. “Scully, I -”

“Mulder?” It was her panicked voice, her wide-eyed panicked face. “What’s going on? Mom? How did I -?” She looked around frantically, moving tensely to the edge of her chair. “I don’t know how I got here.” She saw the psychiatrist and seemed to recognize her as a mental health professional. “Oh,” she said, sounding ashamed.

“Do you know what’s been happening?” Dr. Callaway asked.

“I was…was I -?” The words were too hard for her to say. A hand went to the back of her neck, touching the microchip she knew was implanted under the skin there. “Did I -?”

“Scully, what’s the earliest memory you have?” Dr. Callaway asked, before Scully could get her bearings or put up any defensive walls.

She frowned, working hard. Scully tried to please people. “I don’t remember a lot of my childhood. Sorry.” She said the words as though they were ordinary. Did other people remember?

The doctor didn’t let her off so easily. Mulder cringed, knowing where this would lead. He wanted to stop this, to let Scully gather herself together into the poised woman he knew. “Why do you think that is?” Dr. Callaway continued.

Rather than answer the more difficult question, Scully replied to the first. “My father. Reading to me before bedtime. Leaving the night light on.” She frowned again, then looked at Mulder. “I forgot I was afraid of the dark.”

“Why were you afraid?”

“Aren’t all kids?” she asked, but didn’t look like she believed it. And Mulder knew that to Scully, belief was everything. If she didn’t have faith in her own words…it scared him. “I think I got locked in the basement when I was five.”

“Scully,” Dr. Callaway began gently, “You’ve given a specific age for something you only think happened. Why is that?”

“I did get locked in the basement when I was five,” she said more firmly, but she was staring down at her hand. The wedding ring. She touched it like she couldn’t believe what she was seeing was real. She raised her head and looked at Mulder. “Why don’t I remember?”

“You’ve been having blackouts and missing time.” Mulder hated that Dr. Callaway answered for him. He was having his heart ripped out. He wanted to pull Scully away and keep her safe, but he couldn’t. That wouldn’t help her. “Do you know why?”

“There are some things you just don’t ask yourself.” Her voice was iron and it gave Mulder chills.

“Have you ever heard of dissociative identity disorder?” Dr. Callaway pressed onward.

Scully looked at Mulder. “Like Melissa Ephesian.” He didn’t know what he heard in her tone. Sadness? Pity for that woman? For herself? Acceptance, so easily? Not Scully.

He could only sadly nod. Just like Melissa Ephesian, a woman he’d once believed to be his soulmate. His regression to a former life had been a load of crap, he knew, because Scully had proved it to him. But now his real soul mate, his other half, the woman who made him whole again, had that same disorder.

For once Dr. Callaway looked confused. She didn’t understand the shorthand between them. “When did the split occur?” she asked.

“Only a couple of days ago.” DK announced her presence by beginning her incessant hair twirling again. “When Scully started to remember. Before that, we were different but all the same.”

“Why don’t you tell Scully what you’ve remembered?” Dr. Callaway suggested.

“Here?” DK shook her head and retreated inside. Again, it seemed there was no soul inside Scully’s body for several agonizing seconds and Mulder felt himself growing tense. DK finally returned to report, “She won’t listen. She’s scared.”

“Scully, what happened in the basement?” Dr. Callaway asked.

The frown lines cut deep into her face. She was straining – but to remember or to forget? Mulder pressed his hands together to keep from reaching for her. “The rabbit died. Like Grandma did. I thought I could keep her safe. He said he’d kill me if I told,” she babbled.

“Who would.”

“Bill.” Starbuck bit her lip and looked pleadingly at Mulder. “I don’t want to…”

Dr. Callaway once again responded for him, controlling the session. “Keep trying,” she said, but sat back in her chair. “You must keep trying.” It was a suggestion, to end the session with. The look she shot toward Mulder and Maggie dismissed them.

Mulder’s knees were weak as he got to his feet. He felt oddly exhausted by the session. How must Scully feel? She was the one who had been through a realm of experiences and emotions in the last hour. He rushed to her side, wishing he had more to comfort her with that his hand on her arm.

He felt her flinch and saw her force her smile. She was making herself endure his touch. That hurt him deep in a place that he didn’t want exposed to pain. He liked touching her and he liked to be touched. Touch was a vital sense in bonding and loving and living. Now she was denying that. He didn’t want to lose her. He released her arm. “How are you feeling?” Such a formal question. He hated it. It was something you could ask a stranger.

“I’m fine.”

At least there was no doubt to her identity, he thought. Scully was back. But for how long?

“Mom, why are you here?” She turned to the older woman. “I thought – you didn’t make the wedding.” Mulder looked at his wife. Did she or didn’t she remember the ceremony? Did she consider herself bound to him? He hated himself for wondering.

“I’ll never forgive myself for that,” Mrs. Scully told her daughter. “I should have been here. For you.”

“No, it’s fine,” Scully said, but Mulder could read her eyes. She was scared and desperately trying to hide it. What was wrong with her was serious enough to make her mother come to her side.

Scully was oddly quiet for most of the afternoon, but Mulder was relieved that she remained Scully without any maddeningly sudden leaps into DK or Starbuck. She even went into the bedroom to lie down for a nap, exhausted. Mulder could have used one himself. The tension between Scully and her mother was unbearable and filled the air. It barely decreased when Scully left the living room to lie down in her bedroom.

“Do you need to talk?” Mulder asked Margaret.

“It’s all so hard to accept,” Maggie told him. “She’s always been the strong one. For her to act like this now…”

“She’s not crazy. She’s not acting. She’s hurting,” Mulder told her.

“I know that, Fox,” she snapped.

“It’s Mulder,” he retorted.

Mrs. Scully gave him a long, hard look that reminded him of his own mother. Then she rose from the couch. “Tell her to call me, Mulder.” Her tone said it all. He’d now severed whatever tenuous crisis- built friendship they’d once had. The door closed and he turned on the television, waiting for Scully to wake up.

He’d been the one to call her mother from Allentown, Pennsylvania when Scully’s cancer had been diagnosed. She’d asked him to call and he’d done so without question. He’d had his feet knocked out from under him, but he knew he had to do whatever he could to help her. Scully’d been so complacent, so calmly accepting, as though she had already known of the cancer attacking her body.

Margaret Scully had been furious. Not only because her daughter was ill and she was terrified, but because it was Mulder who told her. He supposed that perhaps it was because he’d scared her more. She’d probably waited years for this call to come, the one from Mulder to tell her she’d lost her other daughter.

He knew she’d been angry with Scully when she arrived. He didn’t know what passed between them then, didn’t want to know. But he knew it had been angry and blameful. Just as they had remained at odds throughout Scully’s cancer. When Scully didn’t want treatment, Mrs. Scully tried to thrust religion on her as some sort of a miracle cure.

Mulder knew Mrs. Scully blamed him. She’d never said it, but he felt it radiating from her. He’d seen it in her eyes before. Once, he’d retrieved Scully from her home, delusional and wild. He’d thought she was dead, raped by the side of the road, and all the while Mrs. Scully had been hiding her daughter from him. Thinking he was to blame. Which he probably was.

Water under the bridge, he thought, wiping his hands down his face to try to clear it from his mind. He wasn’t going to think about the sad family reunion when Scully had been cured. He’d sat in a hard plastic chair in the hallway, unwelcome. Unwanted. Not a part of any family Scully would ever have.

Shut out.

To blame.

One sorry son of a bitch.

This was all his fault.

Thank god Scully wandered back into the living room at that moment, sheepishly smiling at him, her hair flattened on one side. “I couldn’t sleep,” she admitted.

He smiled back at her as she plopped down on the other end of the couch. Scully. He’d never been so happy to see her. She glanced at the television and changed the channel casually, at ease in her own home. She found a channel she liked and looked at it for a few seconds, ignoring the way he was staring at her. He loved that she could ignore him when he couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

“Pizza?” she asked, rising to phone in the order. They didn’t speak while they waited, just companionably watched a repeat of an ancient Tic- Tac-Dough episode until the pizza arrived. Scully paid the delivery boy and doled out portions on milk white china, handing one to him. ” What’s really happened to me?” she asked as casually as she would have asked him what program was on next.

“Only you know that for sure,” he answered. He knew it was lame. He wanted to tell her, to help her, to give her the answers she sought, but he was tired of talking about it. But mostly he knew that this was her journey and if she didn’t make it herself she would not be able to recover. Now that she was back, he wanted their life to return to normal.

He wanted to believe she wouldn’t go away again.

It would be so easy to forget.

“I don’t have to go back,” she told him. Obviously having the same thought he was having. He stared at her, knowing he should tell her she had to continue to see Dr. Callaway. “I’m fine now, aren’t I?” she asked.

Her eyes searched his, looking for answered and keeping him from looking away. There was still an edge of panic to her, held carefully at bay but making her wiry muscles taut.

“Yeah,” he whispered, damnably agreeing with her. He wanted so badly to forget.

“Where are we going on our honeymoon?” she asked him.

His heart started going again, fast, in a crazy fit. Uneven beats. Could he be so lucky? She was his wife and she was safe again. He pushed away doubts he rationally knew he should hold on to. She was his. Finally. “Where do you want to go?” he asked.

“Up the coast,” she said decisively. She’d thought about it. “A little bed and breakfast. I don’t care where. Just be with you.”

“You don’t care?” he teased lightly, feeling joyous. Pure, amazing, light as air joy. He wasn’t sure he’d ever felt it before. This was Scully and she was better. His mind told him he was having a stress reaction, but it didn’t prevent him from kissing her lightly on the lips – wishing to linger but not allowing himself to because it was a testing kiss. She passed – or was it he who passed? He ordered her to go and pack.

He dialed the Lone Gunmen from her phone. They weren’t travel agents, but they were the next best thing. His best resource. Sometimes he would swear they were magicians. Having Scully safe and in love with him made him believe there was magic in the world.

“How is she?” Frohike sounded desperate for news.

“You promised to keep us updated,” Langly reminded him, his voice tinny through the speakerphone.

“I’m hoping you don’t need a babysitter.” Byers’ remark was telling.

“She’s better,” Mulder said. Did he dare to believe it? He had no choice. He had to believe it. “We’re going on our honeymoon. That’s where you guys come in.”

Frohike’s “We do?” drown out Langly’s “Uh, Mulder?”

“Know of any bed and breakfasts snowy and perfect -”

“I don’t think you should do this,” Frohike said seriously.

“What?” Mulder asked in a low voice.

At that moment, Scully walked into the room, carrying just a tiny purse. “Packed,” she said with a smug smile, sitting down to wait for him.

“I’ve been doing some reading,” Frohike said. “This could push her past the brink, Mulder. She has a lot to deal with and this can’t -”

Mulder was silent.

“Are you still there?” Frohike asked.

“Yes,” Mulder said, looking at Scully.

Frohike sighed. “Just don’t push her,” he advised and hung up.

“Looks like we’re on our own,” Mulder said, feeling unsettled. He wanted to think that she was better. That she wanted this. Wanted him. He had to think everything would be all right.

He also knew, in his heart, that Frohike was right.

-11-

In the end, they didn’t go far. They traveled up the highway a ways to a little inn Mulder remembered from his wilder, younger days. Not that he’d had all that many of them. The inn was suitably quiet and romantic, with soft decor and equally soft upholstery.

Scully sat down on the bed, looking nervous but trying not to. She didn’t want to let it show. “Nice,” she said, the word almost meaningless. She took in the bounce of the mattress and the silkiness of good cotton sheets. A floral picture hung on the wall over the dresser. There was no television.

There was only one reason why anyone would be in this rented room. And it wasn’t to sleep, though it involved the bed.

Mulder sat down next to her. “This is awkward,” he said, ruffling her hair. He thought it best to get their feelings out into the open. The same weird feeling he’d had on their wedding day, of not knowing what to do or how to proceed. Now that their goal was fixed, it seemed so strange to be focused wholly upon it.

Their relationship had never, really, been a sexual one before.

Maybe they should have dated before marrying, he thought.

She nodded, unable to say anything. Her stomach unfolded as his fingers threaded through her hair. This felt safe. Mulder was a gentle man with her. He always had been. He would never do anything to hurt her. “I trust you, Mulder,” she said. The words surprised her. She’d meant to say love. She loved him.

He nodded seriously. Her trust was a large responsibility. “If you don’t want -” he offered.

“I do,” she said quickly.

They sat on the bed and waited. For what? She realized the first move was hers. She turned her head and met his eyes. Their color and expression changed under her gaze. Communicating. At that moment, she felt she could feel his thoughts inside her body. She gave in, threw the last vestige of caution away, and pressed her lips against his.

He let her explore slowly before he returned the kiss. He didn’t touch her with his hands, just teased her with his tongue and his lips and his teeth. She could feel the inner core of steel that she relied on for strength melting deep inside. She didn’t need it any more. She didn’t need to be strong to be in love with him.

She let it go and allowed him to lay her gently against the bed beneath his body. He touched her face as he kissed her, a touch that meant something to her. He’d stroked her face before with the same look in his eyes. He released her lips and drew back, memorizing her face.

His eyes were dark with desire and his breath was fast. So fast. She could feel it resonating through her body. Her breath was just as fast, rushing through her ears. He slipped his hand under the shirt she was wearing, watching her.

His fingers were cold against her stomach. Or was her skin that hot? She could feel her face reddening and his hand slipped around her breast inside the soft cup of her bra.

She felt the shock all the way through her when he began to unbutton her blouse.

The lower button was okay. The next higher was fine. Her shirt was still closed. He was looking at her body now and she lay there. Waiting for what he would do. Not participating. Another button and there wasn’t enough air reaching her brain. In, out, she had to remind herself but all she could manage was the in-in-in of panic. Didn’t he see? She didn’t know why she was so terrified suddenly, why her blood was pounding through her head. Something about having her clothes removed for her. When she closed her eyes, the memory almost came to her. This had happened to her before. The last button opened and he pushed her blouse apart.

There was nothing pushy in his hands or his movements, but she was unable to control her reaction. A dark, animal place in her mind remembered before when someone hadn’t been so gentle as Mulder. She couldn’t see the face, didn’t want to. Something terrible had followed. Something that wasn’t love at all. Ripping her shirt off, exposing her…it had been a violation. Only a small fraction of a violation yet to come.

She couldn’t handle this. The terror was too much. It threatened to suck her under and she knew there were others, much more capable, begging to take over. To take her control from her. She couldn’t lose this experience and she couldn’t lose her control. To have either lost into the darkness, the missed time, would be terrible.

She flailed up, scurrying away from him like a startled spider. Her knee coming up whacked him in the jaw, but she didn’t notice as she curled into the corner. Where it was safe.

Where it was safe?

This was Mulder and she trusted him so why on earth was she acting so crazy? She wanted to stop, wanted to kiss him. She desperately wanted to make love with him. But she couldn’t. Like when she’d been younger, a small child, dealing with the frustrations of the adult world, the things she couldn’t reach, the skills she didn’t yet have. The same kind of couldn’t.

There was pain in Mulder’s eyes, and tears, she saw after she pulled her blouse closed and looked at him, aware that she was acting crazy, aware that there was no reason for her to behave this way. She was shaking again. “Mulder?” What was happening to her, why couldn’t she control herself? Why was so she terrified? Even scarier was the realization that it wasn’t rational and it didn’t make any sense.

“I’m sorry,” he said. A few flecks of blood appeared on his lips.

“You’re bleeding.” She didn’t understand. Where had the blood come from? She hadn’t hit him…she realized she had, accidentally, in her need to separate her body from what her brain told her was danger.

“I bit my tongue.”

Blood in her mouth. She could taste blood, feel its coppery bitterness on her tongue. Not now, but sometime in the past. When? She didn’t know. It scared her not to know.

“I -” She didn’t know what to say. It didn’t make sense to her, and there were no words. “I don’t know why -”

“It’s okay,” Mulder said. He seemed sad but resigned. “I’ll take you home.”

“No,” she said. “I want to -”

He shook his head. Why was he shaking his head? Why did he know more than she did? Her stomach was weak and trembly, still recovering from desire as well as fear. “It’s okay,” he said, trying to convince her. His hand reached out to her, and stopped.

He didn’t want to touch her.

She looked down, ashamed, absorbing herself in buttoning her blouse. Once before she had done so. Mulder hadn’t unbuttoned it then. A suspect, a creep. Another man who exerted power over her sexually. He’d used her for his own needs.

Mulder had rescued her then because she hadn’t been able to fight for herself.

She loved him so much.

“Come on,” he said, waiting for her at the door of the wasted, rented room.

She wanted to cry in the car on the way back, but she couldn’t. It would have been a release and she was too afraid. Too afraid of losing her hard-won control. She’d wrapped its iron fingers more tightly around herself and was determined not to let it go.

“Your mother’s here,” Mulder said, recognizing the car as he parked on the street in front of Scully’s red brick building. He had planned to drop her off and go home. He couldn’t take this. Not right now. But seeing her mother’s car, something told him to go inside with her.

Bill and her mother were sitting in the living room, grim and silent. Mulder felt his blood boil that they would be lying in wait for her this way. Before Bill could even rise from the chair, Mulder attacked him, throwing the first hard, satisfying punch.

Bill Jr. was bigger and stronger than Mulder and fought back, but Mulder had blind fury on his side. He threw more punches, but Bill’s solid blow to his jaw made his ears ring. Bill glared and Mulder’s rage faded. Violence felt good but it wasn’t the way. Mrs. Scully was yelling. But what penetrated his red fog was Scully’s quiet voice saying one word: “Stop.”

“What did you do to her, you sick bastard!” Mulder shouted. Bill had punched him where Scully’s knee had struck him earlier. He could feel his jaw begin to swell.

“Mulder, stop,” Scully’s voice was calm and strong. Mulder took two steps back away and watched as Scully walked over to her brother and extended a hand to him to pull him up. He couldn’t believe she was doing that. Unwary, Bill accepted her offer of assistance. “I know what you did,” she said to him in an icy voice.

Bill looked stunned. Scared. He looked at his mother to see her reaction and recovered. “I didn’t do anything,” he said. “This is false memory syndrome. Don’t you see that, sis?”

Scully was watching him, alert, as he moved in closer to her. “He’s been filling your head with crap and lies,” Bill continued. “First little green men and now this?”

Scully didn’t look at Mulder. She continued to stare at her brother. If she watched him, he wouldn’t be able to surprise her. Her look was ice. There was fire in rage, but this was much more powerful.

“There are doctors who can help you recover from this,” her mother said. “You can help you to see the truth again.”

Her mother believed Bill over her. The realization was a blow and for a second, she lost her breath. If her father was alive, he would hate her for this. For breaking apart the family. Because it hurt, she held it deeper inside, unwilling to respond to the pain.

“I think you’d better go now,” she said in an ugly strong voice. After a second, Bill nodded and looked to her mother to leave. Mulder made a movement toward the door. “Mulder,” Scully said. Her mouth trembled with the effort it took not to cry. She held out her hand to him. “Please stay.” He couldn’t leave her now. She needed him. Mulder took her hand and she clung to him until the door closed behind her family.

“I can’t believe -” Mulder began. Scully sank into the chair and covered her eyes. His words stopped. She didn’t need to hear this right now. “I’m sorry.” It couldn’t convey how sorry he was.

She had to do something to stop the voices in her head. The ones that told her she was stupid and weak and most of all, wrong. She was already beginning to pick apart every detail, every action of the evening. The one she kept coming back to was the one where she jerked away from Mulder’s touch when she had wanted him to touch her. She needed to know that someone loved her right now. She needed to cancel the negative experiences with positive ones. She had, in her life, turned her back on too many things due to fear. If she walked away from this now, she would not be able to return. Her sexuality was something she needed to reclaim for herself. She wanted it for herself. To prove it hadn’t been taken from her along with her innocence and her trust and her faith. She wanted to be Mulder’s wife.

She needed to be.

“Mulder,” she said, raising her head. “I’m ready now.” He didn’t know what she meant until she led him into the bedroom.

She didn’t turn on the light, but a streetlamp leaking in around the blinds and provided all the mood lighting they needed. She began to remove her clothing, purpose in her every movement. She undressed herself, she chose what she would do with her body.

When she faced him, she was naked and unafraid. He had stripped down to his shorts and gave her a questioning look. He didn’t understand the difference between this time and what had happened in the motel. She couldn’t explain it to him in words. There had been too many words. She helped him to take off his shorts, measuring him with her hand and helping him spring to arousal. She was not afraid. She knew what she was doing. She knew that he loved her.

She looked into his eyes, eyes that had seen and experienced so much. He would never hurt her or humiliate her or make her do anything she didn’t want to do. Her love for him filled her chest so much it hurt to try to breathe.

“Are you sure about this?” he asked, pulling away from her slightly. His chest heaved with rapid respiration and she could see him trying to calm himself. In case she wasn’t sure.

“I’m sure.” There was no doubt in her voice or in her mind.

“What’s changed?” he asked, gruff.

“Nothing,” she answered. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” And she touched him so he would know she meant her words.

She was ready for him. The satin sheets were still on the bed, as they had been since their wedding day. Waiting for them. The fabric was cool and slippery against their skin. Her hips slid a little when he entered her. She bit her lip at first, feeling the pain of time and residual fear. But he was impossible not to open up to.

He wasn’t a particularly great lover, but he was tenacious and tender. His love for her made his hands gentle and his touch sweet. He knew what to do to drive her to a place she’d rarely been, a red hot place deep inside that turned to an icy white heat.

She didn’t make a sound as he moaned sensually above her. His voice was rough, involuntary. She could feel it resonating in her skin. Her mouth was open as she strained for air and sensation and release.

Release.

She turned her head away from Mulder’s cries as the convulsions came, shaking her unexpectedly from the safety of her world into uncontrollable sobs.

Breathless, shattering sobs she could not control. She shouldn’t be crying like this. Another thing she couldn’t explain, couldn’t stop, could only submit to. Sometimes even her own body betrayed her. Mulder was staring at her and she felt him limp within her before he withdrew. “Scully -?” She could hear it in his tone that he was afraid, again, to touch her.

“I’m okay,” she said, covering her teary eyes with her hands.

“Did I hurt you?” his voice was so careful.

“No.” She only cried harder. Now he thought she hated him. “I don’t know why… I don’t know why…” She hiccuped. “I love you.”

He looked at her, unsure, for a long second, before wrapping her in his arms and petting her hair, murmuring soothingly to her. Her skin was still fever hot and sensitive.

“I love you,” she said quietly, again, so that he would know it. She loved him. He was asleep before she wiped the final tears away. A line between his eyebrows spoiled the perfect bliss on his face. She tucked back the hair from his forehead and kissed him. He was too good for her, she thought as she went into the bathroom to clean up.

Something had changed.

She was different.

Men, she thought, walking nude from the bathroom and looking casually at the one who was sleeping in the bed. She didn’t recognize him immediately, but she judged his bedroom as too feminine. She picked up his T-shirt from the floor. It was stretched out and smelled like him, but she slipped it over her head anyway. If she’d opened any of the drawers she would have found it was not his bedroom but hers. But she didn’t open any of the drawers. There was still a tingle of excitement in her body as she drew up her panties and trousers across her thighs. There was a jacket on the chair.

She had to get out of there. It was the only driving thought in her brain. She had to get away. She didn’t know what had happened. Couldn’t remember. Damn. This had happened before. She frowned, but tried not to let it trouble her. The past was all darkness.

The jacket was big and smelled deliciously of old leather. She looked into the mirror, barely recognizing herself. She looked into her own dark eyes. No answers came to her.

She had to get out of there and fast. There was something acid burning in her stomach; a terror, a warning of danger. She knew she’d fucked him and didn’t know why. She knew it had been consensual, could feel with her body that she’d enjoyed it, but didn’t remember the act. Didn’t remember anything. Damn.

She slipped out the door, not hearing the latch catch behind her.

Outside, it was night and cold and she didn’t know where she was. That had happened to her before. The last time she opened her eyes to darkness and silence, not only in the present but in the past. She turned her head and saw a bus lumbering in the distance bore the destination of Georgia St. She knew an address on Georgia Street. The memory jumped into her mind. Not her address. She didn’t know where she was, but Georgia St. was address that would do. She could get help there. An old friend. One who’d helped her before. When the past was darkness. He’d been kind to her. Taken care of her. An old, grandfatherly figure. They had taken care of each other for a time. Before the darkness intervened. Thankful to find money in her pockets, she flagged down the bus and paid the driver, sinking into one of the seats.

Her thoughts couldn’t help lingering on the man she’d just left. She knew his name, but couldn’t recall ever having met him before. Mulder. She was surprised she had been in his bed. But she knew it had to relate to the reasons why she couldn’t remember.

Watching the scenery carefully, she pulled on the bell cord. A light at the front of the bus flashed, indicating it would stop at the next exit. It smelled musty, humid and gassy. She felt dirty just sitting on the seat. She rose and walked to the front of the bus, pausing before she started down the steps, indicating her wrist and getting the driver to show her his watch. Midnight. She smiled her thanks and gave a jaunty wave. She thought she heard him say something, a deep mottled sound oozing through the silence of the world that surrounded her. She didn’t know what it was.

Only midnight, she thought, walking along the deserted street until she reached a familiar rundown brownstone. She didn’t know why he didn’t clean it up. The key was still on the ledge above the door but she knocked and stood back, jamming her hands into her pockets as she waited for him.

He was dressed, but he’d been sleeping. He looked grumpy and then he looked at her. He opened his mouth and she could see his lips moving and shook her head vigorously, holding up both of her hands in a motion to indicate he should stop. Frustration filled her. If she had ever known sign language, it had disappeared into the void of her past. She gave him an eager look and a smile, raising her eyebrows. “Remember me?” her expression intended to say. There was no notepad in the jacket pockets. Maybe it wasn’t hers after all.

Realization dawned slowly over his face. Had it been so long? Had he been able to forget about her so quickly and completely? He seemed to be straining to remember the fingerspelling of her name. But he managed it with fingers grown clumsy and she grinned, nodding.

He motioned her inside and they went together.

It hadn’t changed at all. She took in the beaten doctors waiting room style couch and the desk with the now-antique typewriter on it. No manuscript by its side and she tweaked an eyebrow at him.

He tapped his watch and shook his head. No time to write. She made her hand look like she was holding an invisible pen and wrote on an invisible sheet of paper. He jumped into motion from where he had stood, watching her, finding her several sheets of typing paper – the top sheet coated with dust – and a ballpoint pen. She looked at it. He’d stolen it from the United Nations. Wow.

Then he took the pen from her and scribbled on the paper: “It is good to see you again, Diana. It is Diana, isn’t it?” He looked anxious, almost scared, as he examined her face.

Why wouldn’t it be Diana? she wondered, sitting down on the couch and stretching out her legs.

“AMNESIA,” she scribbled. She always wrote in capital letters. Once she’d read a book about graphology and it told her that indicated she wanted to be heard. She’d found it to be ironic.

Will nodded, lighting a cigarette. He offered her one and she took it, but didn’t light it, just rolled it between her fingers. There weren’t any nicotine stains. She hadn’t smoked in a while. How long had she been gone?

She nodded seriously. “YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE I’VE BEEN?” she asked him.

He shook his head.

“THERE WAS A MAN IN MY BED. BEFORE I CAME AWARE. BUT IT’S OK THIS TIME.” Not like last time. Last time she’d been put into the trunk of a car and awakened later, raw and hurting. Will had been there. He’d recognized something in her. She didn’t know what. She couldn’t even hear. Being smart was her only real value to the world. She had the notion Will was the first person who had ever recognized that in her. She looked up at him through strands of tumbled red hair.

He was puffing on his cigarette almost nervously.

“HOW LONG?” she asked, a little afraid to know. It had been a long time. She could feel that.

He held up four fingers.

She nodded, feeling cold. “YEARS?” She already knew. He nodded and she looked down at the tattered couch. He patted the couch and mimed sleep, walking to the cabinet and withdrawing a flattened pillow and a worn gray blanket. Looked army issue. She wasn’t concerned with comfort.

She had to look up to see him nod his head in approval. He walked into the bedroom, shutting the door firmly.

That was what she got for showing up unannounced. She lay down on the couch, feeling much too lost to sleep.

She wasn’t sure how she’d come to know Will in the time before, either. Something had just…clicked. She thought she reminded him of someone. Maybe she looked like a girl he’d known before his face had become lined and his expression sour. She didn’t know, and had no real way to ask. It was too personal a question to write on a piece of paper and expect an answer to be written for all the world to see. When people made noise with their mouths, it faded, but papers could be folded and put into pockets and saved forever. There were so many things she could not ask.

She remembered the amnesia. The terror of the black hole opened in her memory, extending all the way back as though someone had turned a spotlight on her. She knew how to read but didn’t know her name.

Will told her the amnesia had been brought on by the rape, which she did remember. A man at the window in the rain. She remembered the feeling of the screams scraping against her throat, but maybe no one had been able to hear them. No one had helped her. Sometimes she thought she heard the screams in her nightmares, but knew it was impossible. The bad man smelled – schizophrenic, she learned later, though she knew he was crazy at the time. Crazy and savage. A handful of her hair had been ripped out of her head. And the blood on her thighs…

He’d hurt her again in the woods after he’d thrown her in the trunk of his car.

Will told her the man had been killed. She’d been glad to hear it, but at the same time, sorry she hadn’t killed him herself. Will helped her pick the name Diana for herself – it was the name of a strong woman in mythology, a huntress. Will knew about mythology. It was in a book, with stories and beautiful pictures. One of the few things Will treasured; one of the few nice things in his apartment. Hidden behind a dingy stained cloth cover were such magnificent tales and drawings. Will was like that.

All Diana knew about was science.

Will let her stay with him and work on his top secret government project. She’d taken to the work as though she’d been born for it. After all, she couldn’t tell anyone about it.

She wondered about the project’s progress and decided it was time to sleep.

Mulder woke and she was gone. Her clothes were gone and his T shirt and jacket. her purse was still there. “Oh, god,” he said, immediately alert and remembering Frohike’s cautionary words.

It had been too soon.

Her sobs rang in his ears.

He had hurt her.

He was such a despicable bastard.

He had to find her.

She made Will breakfast in the morning. Of course, it didn’t take that much effort to pour our a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, which was all Will had. She held off on the milk since she didn’t know when he’d be up.

Not much had changed in his apartment. The walls were more yellow, tinged with more smoke. She went through his drawers. A couple more obituaries in the scrapbook. Edward, gone in a car bomb over the summer. Damn. He would have hated that. He’d always been so prissy and well manicured. Being blown into a thousand bits would have pissed him off.

She felt sadness though.

A new picture of Mulder in the drawer. The frame was cracked and the glass gone. Mulder was related to Will in some way. Diana didn’t know how. Will pretended not to be obsessed with Mulder. In the photo, he looked maybe 15 with a girl who looked twelve. Probably his sister – Susanna, Cynthia – whatever her name was.

A touch on her shoulder. A smile. Will was up. He appreciated the breakfast. She put the photo back in the drawer and sat down at the table with him.

She motioned to her belly and he stared at her. When she realized there was no way to make him understand, she wrote the words down. “CAN I STILL NOT GET PREGNANT?”

He looked surprised. It was hard to surprise him.

“LIKE BEFORE.”

“I don’t remember saying that.”

He was lying. She thought back. It didn’t seem like four years ago to her. “Wouldn’t,” she recalled. She could see the writing in her mind’s eye. He’d told her, after the devastating rape, that she would not get pregnant.

“Why?” he scrawled on the paper, frowning at her.

“THE MAN LAST NIGHT. NOT CAREFUL.” She thought she could still feel his semen burning inside her like acid. It was disconcerting not to remember the act. “YOUR FRIEND MULDER.”

Now he was very surprised.

She nodded vigorously.

He didn’t say anything more. She suspected he knew more than he was saying.

“Call Skinner,” said Byers.

“You were right, Frohike,” Mulder said. His head ached and he was scared. “This is my fault.”

“What was she wearing?” Langly asked, hacking.

“Call Skinner,” Byers said again.

“Black pants. White T shirt. My leather jacket.”

“Shoes?”

“I assume so. I’ve got to find her.” Mulder couldn’t sit still. This wasn’t helping.

“Call Skinner.”

“She could be anywhere,” Frohike said.

“Damn straight she could be anywhere,” Byers said irritably. “A couple of days ago, she thought she was five years old and now she’s missing? You have got to call Skinner.”

“If I call Skinner, her career is over,” Mulder shouted. “As a mental health risk she’d be kicked out of the Bureau and she doesn’t deserve that! This is not her fault!”

“He’ll find out anyway,” Byers said.

“No,” Mulder insisted. “She’s getting better. She’s fine. She’s going to be fine! I just have to find her!”

Byers and Frohike exchanged a look. Mulder was almost hysterical.

“No trace.” Langly pushed back from the computer.

Mulder walked out.

The other two looked at Langly like they blamed him.

-12-

She followed as Will led the way to the labs. She wondered what she would be working on. More with hybrids and cloning? She hoped not. The experimentation had grown too much for her to bear, before. She wondered if they had to do with her amnesia.

He opened the door to a sterile white lab marked BioHazard Level 5. He walked to a scientific freezer and withdrew a tube half filled with frozen black liquid. It began to thaw instantly and when he set it on the table, it oozed toward her almost curiously.

She took a step away, alarmed by the strange substance, looking around wildly for a blue hazard protection suit. There were none.

“You’re immune,” Will took her notepad to tell her and she shivered, wondering how she had become so. “Like Krycek,” he elaborated.

She looked at him, not certain what he was talking about. “WHERE IS KRYCEK?” she asked. She liked Krycek. He had a nice mouth. She hoped she would get to see him.

He shook his head, looking at her for a second. She wondered what he was thinking. Sometimes she wished that she could hear; then people might tell her things, things they were hesitant to write down. After a moment, he walked away, leaving her alone in he lab with the black oil. She looked at it, hoping this wasn’t going to turn out like the cloning and hybridization experiments had.

Mulder had a recent photo of Scully in his hand. And he walked, knocking on the doors in her neighborhood. He heard more than one peephole slide shut and footsteps recede from the door without its opening. He must have looked like a madman, but he was determined. He was going to find her. And if he had to be mad to do that, he didn’t honestly care.

Out came his FBI badge, even though this wasn’t official business and he was on suspension. She couldn’t be gone again, she couldn’t just disappear in the night. Not like this. He would not let this happen.

“Have you seen this woman?”

Invariably, the answer was no.

It was cold and a freezing rain was beginning to fall, lightly, like icy needles penetrating his skin. What if she was out in this, alone and frightened and unable to care for herself?

“Have you seen her?”

“No.”

She was gone. He slumped onto a wet bus stop bench, thrusting his head into his hands. His hair, damp from the rain, was crisp in the freezing temperature. His eyes burned, but he didn’t feel the cold blowing through his clothes. This chill came from inside.

Aliens hadn’t even crossed his mind, or government conspiracies. All he could hear were her broken sobs in the night as he held her. She’d said she was okay and he’d wanted to believe her and now he knew he’d damaged her in some new and terrible way.

This was his fault.

She was running from him now.

A jogger in triple layer Goretex sped by, her red ponytail swinging with every step. His head shot up even though he knew it wasn’t her.

“Have you seen her?” He offered the photo like a very old man.

“Yeah,” said the runner. Mulder just stared at her. Unable to believe. Not knowing what to do next. The woman continued, “This morning.”

“Where?” he demanded. She took a step back and returned the photo. “Did she look all right?”

“Fine,” said the runner. “Didn’t look mad, either. You have a fight?”

He did not answer.

“I think she got on a bus.” The woman shrugged. “Hope you find her,” she offered, and jogged away.

So she was probably okay. At least sort of okay. If she was able to take care of herself. But on a bus, she could have gone anywhere. Damn it! And he didn’t know what was in her mind, or where to begin to look.

He didn’t know which was worse – believing DK or Starbuck were out there, alone, or believing that she, Scully, hated him.

The black oil was fascinating, but yielded few answers. It seemed to be plain old diesel fuel, yet was sentient and alien. It had no inherent radioactivity, yet left isotopes on everything it touched.

Really weird, she thought, alone in the lab. She looked around, feeling the loneliness all around her. A glance at the clock told her night had fallen. She wasn’t tired – she felt like she’d been asleep for four years – but the memories were beginning to come. She couldn’t block them, couldn’t make them leave her alone.

She went to Will’s and the memories followed her. He wasn’t there. She made dinner, but he never showed up to eat it. She knew he could be anywhere and she ate it herself. Alone.

She sat there for a long time in the TV-less room, trying to recover her distant past and forget the portions she remembered. Nothing. She could have been in a coma for four years for all she knew, except her body was strong. She’d had some awareness, but now she couldn’t remember.

Finally she gave up and let the memories come to her. She closed her eyes and she was back there. Memories were like that for her – almost more real than real life. The few memories she had. So many of them were terrible. She wondered, sometimes, what would happen if she had a full set, thirty years or more of such strong memories. And if they had sound. Like an outdated computer, would her brain overload and shut down under their weight?

Maybe that was why she couldn’t remember.

But she remembered that day. The last day.

The last day she remembered before arriving at Will’s that morning, she’d been in the lab, working on procedures. She was trying to find a way to make the harvesting easier, to create more hybrids from fewer materials, or none at all.

She was troubled over what she was doing to these women and she hated herself for it. They were experimenting on live women. In so many terrible ways, they were doing to them the same thing that crazed man in her apartment had done to her. They were stealing these women’s lives and medically raping them. She was taking part in that. She was hurting them the way she had been hurt.

A woman went into arrest, the monitor flashing until it caught her attention. Diana went to her, but it was too late. The woman had begun to hemorrhage and as Diana watched, horrified, her life just slipped away.

Diana hadn’t cried. She had walked into the hallway, but there was no one about. She looked at the telephone, but it would not do her any good. So she sat there, with the dead woman, thinking about what she had done.

That was when she realized she was not serving the good of mankind. They were not using noble methods. They were inflicting pain and suffering. Will assured her these women would not remember what they had gone through, but Diana knew they would on some level, or else the amnesia they would suffer to cover the time they were missing would drive them slowly mad.

As it was driving her slowly mad.

The scalpel had been wonderfully silent as it slipped through the thin skin on her wrists. It hadn’t hurt. She had not watched her blood drip vividly on the white tile floor for very long before everything went dark and she fell into the void.

She shook her head in Will’s apartment, clearing the memories away. It didn’t matter where the time had gone. She’d wanted to die in that moment but she wasn’t dead now. She had the feeling she’d been subjected to an experiment after her attempt and that had produced her amnesia. That the same thing that she had done to those women had, in some terrible irony, been in turn performed on her. She was back now. And while she was curious as to why she’d been with Mulder, it didn’t matter to her.

The research did matter, which was why she headed back to the lab at midnight. It was the only thing she knew and she felt less alone when she was working. It took her mind off things. So far as she knew, testing the black oil was not hurting it or anyone else. That was the sort of work she was striving for.

Mulder lay awake in her bed in her apartment. It was all so quiet, so foreign. It didn’t even smell the same as his apartment. It was so wrong.

Mrs. O. should be screaming at her husband in the apartment next door. The streetlight should be blazing through his living room window and casting a glare on the TV.

He should be doing something to find Scully.

But he could only lie there and wait for her to find her own way back to him. And hope against hope that she was safe.

The door to the lab opened abruptly. Diana looked up, instantly aware of the draft, uncertain of how many hours she had been working. The man inserting himself into her workspace had interrupted what might have passed as a trance, a period of intense concentration. Now she was realizing her feet hurt and her lips were dry.

She watched him as he moved, not knowing she was there. Lean and graceful limbs, moving in conjunction as easily as a cat’s. His fingers stroked down one panel of a glass cabinet with a mixture of curiosity and awe.

Even though she remained completely still, something changed and he sensed her. Not her specifically, but a person, a danger to him. He turned, ready to defend his life.

He jumped when he saw her. She smiled, happy to see him.

He stared at her like she was a ghost, his eyes roving wildly and rapidly over her face. She nodded toward him.

His mouth was moving. Quickly. She did not know how to lip- read and she watched him, completely blank, feeling a strange queasiness in her stomach at his anger and at not understanding. She frowned and waited. Didn’t he remember she couldn’t hear him? She just shook her head, vigorously, then reached for the notepad.

When he saw her hand move for the paper, his eyes changed. She saw surprise there, as though he was seeing someone he had long believed dead. He said her name in sign language, frowning, his eyes searching hers, as though it was a test, as though he could not believe it.

She wondered why he was so incredulous.

His hand came up to touch her, to confirm that she was real.

She grabbed that hand, feeling torn open inside. Her eyes met his and he tried to pull away, but her grasp on the latex remained firm. “WHAT HAPPENED?” she wrote quickly, holding it in front of his eyes, impossible to deny. She hurt for him. Hurt that she hadn’t been there for him.

His eyes turned away. He didn’t want to answer. She pulled on the prosthetic, insistent, getting his attention. “Long story,” he signed to her. Krycek knew American Sign Language. He had begun to patiently teach her, before. Before, how much she hated that word, that thought. The notion of the time lost.

She waited.

“In Russia. Stupid people,” he signed quickly, irritatedly, as though it didn’t matter any more, like it hadn’t happened to him, like it wasn’t a part of his body they were talking about. It was awkward for him, signing with one hand and it distracted her often, looking at the hand and arm that hung dead from his shoulder. She was only missing her past; she was better off without it. She couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be dissected alive.

“WHEN?”

“Two years.”

A long time. She nodded. He’d adjusted. It was an impossibly long amount of time. There was an angry light in his eyes that never really faded. A product of history, another reason she knew she didn’t need her own past. “I’m sorry,” she signed passionately, putting her entire body into it. His expression didn’t change and she could feel the tension radiating from him. She moved, relaxing one knee so she could lean in closer to him.

She saw his little sigh at her nearness. She could feel the change in his body. He’d missed her. But he was not giving in to his feelings. “We have to go,” he signed urgently.

“Why?”

“Danger.”

She didn’t have the capability to say what she wanted to with her hands, not in sign language or gesturing or her odd combination of the two. It made her feel like a child with no language to try to communicate that way. “DANGER FROM WHAT?” she scribbled. “JUST WORKING IN THE LAB.”

“Like before?” God, not that word again, she thought at his signs. Her brain had to race to translate. She felt out of practice, not only in her mind but in her hands. With his good hand, he grabbed her arm to force her from the building.

Self-defense training kicked in automatically and she shoved him away, stopping short of knocking him to the floor. “No!” she signed emphatically, shaking her head. Very rarely did she wish that she could scream, or yell or shout. This time she wished she could.

His grin was ironic and playful. “You used to like that,” he suggested, his hands then moving to touch her hand. Something happened in her stomach. She had loved his touch. Before. When he used to mold her fingers, teaching her with infinite patience. Krycek could speak and he could hear, so she didn’t know why or where he had learned to sign. Maybe he wasn’t as proficient as he seemed to be, to her inexperienced eyes. She thought there had been someone in his life, someone he had cared about. She suspected that was why he displayed some softer feelings toward her. Because she reminded him of the person he had cared about before.

She shook her head, even though she could feel the blood rushing low in her body. On some level, she had had feelings for this man. “Where?” It wasn’t a real sign. A jerk of her thumb and a shrug. A question.

He didn’t acknowledge her and they walked out of the lab, down the twisting white corridors, pausing to pass through frequent security checkpoints. At one of them she twisted, spelling Will’s name and beginning to write on her notepad, an explanation to him for her disappearance. Will pretended not to care, but he would worry…

Krycek yelled at her. She could feel his breath hot on her face. She frowned at him and he softened his expression, wrestling the notepad from her hand. He wrote in bold, economical strokes. “Will is not your friend. He’s responsible for everything that happened to you.”

She shook her head. She didn’t believe that.

He spoke to her again.

Her frown deepened and she shook her head angrily, grabbing back the paper. “I CANT HEAR YOU!!!!!!! STOP TALKING TO ME!!!!!! WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT????”

His eyes flicked over to a security guard who wasn’t paying attention to them. He made the sign for outside.

She followed him to a big, black Volvo. She couldn’t help her grin, catching his eyes and raising her eyebrows. This was his?

He rolled his eyes, getting in and unlocking her door for her. She looked at him. He’d shelled out his own money for a top of the line car with heavy duty bulletproofing. He’d been fearless when she knew him. Things did change.

“WHATS GOING ON?” she wrote, and passed the paper over to him.

“I know who you are.”

She looked at him like he was stupid. Of course he knew who she was.

“I know who you usually are,” he wrote and then sighed. She was watching him closely, absorbing every letter as he crafted it. She frowned, urging him not to hesitate, to write more. Finally, he did. “Your name isn’t Diana. You, right now, are only a small part of someone else. A full, warm and rich part of her, but a part nonetheless that has no reason to see the light of day. You run away when she’s been badly hurt.”

She sucked in a breath. It was absolutely unbelievable, but the pain and panic in her gut suggested it was true.

“And she can hear,” Alex added.

The final blow. How was that possible? How could she hear when she was someone else? Her ears didn’t work! Was he stupid?

Then why did she think she knew he was telling the truth? Why did she feel like she’d heard his voice? Heard other voices? Why did she think sometimes that she heard voices in her dreams? In her mind?

“HURT BY WHO?” she asked. “WILL?” She couldn’t believe that.

“He used you.” Alex’s tone was hard.

“Why?” She didn’t need to grab back the pencil, using her hands and her face to express her meaning.

His hand touched the side of her face, his fingers snaking into her hair and catching hold, digging in like ht was attempting to claw through to her skull. It hurt but she endured it. Liked it. His eyes burned. “You’re brilliant. He wanted to harness what’s inside here.” He had to hold the paper up in front of her eyes because she couldn’t move her head when he touched her that way. His fingers clenched and she let out the tiniest gasp. Instantly his grip slackened and trailed away.

He took a deep breath and looked out through the window. She was shaking her head. Finally he noticed.

“He wanted you to die,” Alex told her, writing the words. They were so ugly. So horrible. Such things shouldn’t be expressed on paper. They shouldn’t exist at all, she thought. “Duane Barry was supposed to murder you, not rape you.”

She nodded, biting her lip. She’d wished at the time that he had killed her, but he hadn’t been able to. The pain was still vivid in her mind, every moment of his attack wretchedly clear.

“But you didn’t die, you changed. Into someone he could use. For a while.” Alex looked at her seriously. “They did to you what they did to the others.” She nodded, not entirely surprised and uncertain of how to feel about this confirmation. “Then they poisoned you. You were supposed to die.”

She was only shaking her head. She couldn’t believe it.

“Mulder saved you,” he wrote.

“Mulder?” she spelled with her fingers.

Gently he picked up her hand from where it was lying in her lap and brought it up in front of her eyes. She hadn’t seen the ring before.

She jerked her hand away, staring at it like it was a foreign thing. It was a wedding ring. He wanted her to believe it bound her to Mulder, a man she did not know. This was too much. She shook her head, so hard it hurt her neck. She wasn’t going to cry. She looked at him, wanting help, wanting this to stop. She looked at him, wondering where he fit into this.

He wrote the words slowly. With shame creeping up into his eyes. “I helped them to hurt you. I was part of that.”

She only stared at him. Sad. Not wanting to believe it.

He nodded again. ” In your real life -”

She grabbed the paper away before he could finish writing about her “real” life. Wasn’t this her real life? Wasn’t she alive now? The past was not real to her. She tossed the paper away and reached for the pen to throw it away too.

He started the car. Determined. She was going back. She reached for the door handle, to jump out, but there wasn’t one.

She only stared at him.

He touched her hand. He was taking her to Mulder. A man she did not know. Whose bed she had been in, in a time she could not remember.

He should protect her.

He picked up the paper and used the pen he had kept possession of. “You belong with him,” Alex said. “He would never hurt you.”

“YOU’D NEVER HURT ME.” She was crying now, damn it, and she didn’t ever cry. How could he give her to a man she didn’t know? She wanted to stay with him. The man she did know.

“There’s so much you don’t know.” The soft whisper of a touch against her skin and then he pulled away. Putting on his armor. Preparing to leave her behind. Driving her back to Mulder.

He couldn’t talk to her as he drove, with one hand on the steering wheel and the other, horrible limb tucked against his thigh. When the arrived in front of the brick building, she wouldn’t look at him and he finally he stopped looking at her, got out of the car, and opened the door for her. “I’m sorry,” he signed, crouching in front of her. If she didn’t get out of the car, none of it would be real. She recognized the building. He was taking her back to Mulder. Dumping her like used goods no one wanted any more.

She frowned, stomped her feet, and tried to plant herself. Grabbing onto the car door.

He looked at her, waiting. She felt like a child throwing a tantrum. For the same reasons children threw tantrums.

“Don’t make me.” The words were signaled with force. She meant them. She saw in his eyes how he felt about her, he couldn’t shove her into another man’s arms, another man she didn’t know or even like…

He shook his head again and she went with him into the building.

They went into the building, walked into the apartment where she’d awakened the day before from her four year sleep. She didn’t ask why or how Krycek had the key. He had lots of keys. They were silent as they strode through the dark apartment. She didn’t have her paper.

He turned on the light in the bedroom. Mulder, asleep in his clothes as though he’d fallen, unconscious, onto the bed, didn’t react. “You’d better get up, Mulder,” Krycek ordered.

Mulder’s eyes shot open and he jumped up, his hand reaching for his gun. He saw Krycek first. “What are you -” he fell into silence when he saw her. When he spoke again, his voice had changed. “Where did you find her?”

She wished they wouldn’t talk because she didn’t know what they were saying.

“I don’t know what you did to her, but you’d better take damn good care of her in the future,” Krycek threatened. He didn’t have his gun like Mulder did. He didn’t need one to make his threat real.

“Mulder, what’s going on?” Scully asked, and jumped at the sound of her own voice. She felt as though she were waking from sleep, but her eyes were already open and she was standing up and Mulder had his gun out. Terror started coursing through her again. She was wearing Mulder’s jacket. Time had passed without her.

“It’s okay,” Mulder said, odd when he was holding his gun on an assassin.

“I meant what I said,” Krycek said. Why did he look at her like that? Like he knew her? Goosebumps rose as he turned his back on Mulder’s gun and walked out of her apartment.

“Mulder, what just happened?” she asked, sliding into the desk chair as her knees buckled.

“What do you remember?” he asked.

“Making love with you.”

“Nothing between that and now?” he demanded.

She shook her head, feeling fearful. She hated to cry. “Did I get…taken…again? Is that where the time went? Is that why Krycek was here?”

“I don’t think so,” he answered. “You know you’ve had some problems.”

She nodded.

“And you know why.”

“I’m remembering things I’d tried to put away, and while I’m remembering those things, I’m forgetting other things.” Her voice sounded so weak. She wondered if a person could shake apart from fear. She felt as though pieces of herself were going to drop away onto the floor. Everything sounded too loud, like her ears had just popped. She put her arms around herself to stop that, to hold herself together. “Where have I been, Mulder?”

“I don’t know.” His voice was rough. He was scared, too. She saw now the signs of worry on his face. The lines, the stubble, the circles like bruises under his eyes.

“Krycek found me,” she reasoned out. “He brought me back. He’s not bad, Mulder.” Why was she so cold?

He nodded. He knew.

“Why did Bill come here and say you’d brainwashed me?” she asked, her voice thin. Fighting tears. She didn’t want to feel this way, but it was night and it was dark and she was so tired and scared and she knew she had to feel it before it would go away. She didn’t know where the time had gone. She didn’t want to lose anything else. Mulder was safe. He’d tried to keep her safe. Even after all the times she hadn’t believed him, fought with him over faith versus truth, he believed her. “Why did he lie? He knows what he did.”

“What did he do?” Mulder asked, knowing this was what she needed. She hadn’t transformed or reverted. Scully was facing it.

“Don’t make me say it,” she whispered. Mulder looked at her. Almost imperceptibly moved his hand on the bed. An invitation. She ran to his side and he put his arm around her. Waiting for her answer. She had to say something. “He hurt me.”

“How?”

“He made me feel small and scared and worthless.”

“Do you feel that way now?” He was being so careful. But she wasn’t fragile. She had never been. She was getting stronger.

“Sometimes,” she admitted. “And I don’t want to feel that way, but I don’t want to disappear either. I like who I am, I like being me.”

“Good,” he said. Such a weak word. So useless.

“What do I do now?” she asked him.

“I don’t know,” he replied honestly.

“Does Skinner know I was missing?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t tell him.”

“Am I going to be able to go back to work?” she asked.

“How do you feel?”

“I feel fine. But I felt good before…” she trailed off. Before. Before she’d started deconstructing. Before the time dissolved. How could she live like this? Never knowing when or where she would just disappear. How many days had she lost this time? How many more? Not having the answers made it hard for her to breathe. When was this going to end?

“Why did you cry?” he asked in a soft voice. She realized when she saw his hand move that he was afraid to touch her.

She shook her head, sealing her lips. “I think that’s something you shouldn’t have to hear.”

He nodded, but she knew he didn’t understand.

“Mulder,” she said. “It’s not something anyone needs to hear. I don’t want to pull you down into the details.”

“What if I want the details?” he asked, his voice breaking in the middle. Caring.

“You don’t,” she told him. She was keeping her mind closed to the memories as she spoke to him. They were too strong. Even that scared her, as she wondered if holding them separate would make her go away instead of making the pain go away.

“What if I need them?” he asked quietly, caressing her with his eyes.

“No one needs that,” she whispered, wiping her eyes on the back of her hand. “No one.” She indulged in a sniffle and pushed her hair back. “What time is it?” She turned her head and saw the clock. It was almost five a.m. “Oh god,” she laughed, “And I’m so tired.”

“Come to bed.”

“I’ll feel worse if I sleep.” She stood. “You sleep. I can take myself to Dr. Callaway’s.”

“You don’t have to,” he said and then after a second added, “Unless you want to.”

“No,” she said, finally. She would need the support.

-13-

“I feel like I’m getting better,” she told the doctor later that morning. “Because I’ve remembered myself and dealt with it. Or thought I had, until…what exactly happened to me?”

“You had a dissociative fugue,” Dr. Callaway said, as though it was perfectly normal and happened every day.

“Someone else came out.” Again. She was so frustrated. She just wanted to be better.

The other woman nodded. “I suspect this may be what happened during what you call ‘your abduction’ as well. Often this sort of thing happens to normal people who feel for some reason that they need to escape.”

“But I didn’t feel that way,” she murmured, struggling to understand.

The doctor waited, as though challenging her: maybe you did need to escape. Scully didn’t say anything, feeling manipulated. “You mentioned that you have remembered things.”

“It’s embarrassing to talk about,” Scully demurred.

“I’m not going to judge you. What happened to you was not your fault,” Dr. Callaway said. “But it may help you to talk about it.”

Scully thought for a moment. Then she began, “I remembered…” Her heart was racing because the memory was vivid, maybe because it had been locked inside for so long it had not had the opportunity to wear away with time. In the basement. Again. With him. Mommy was with Missy. She didn’t know where. She just knew no one would help her. She also knew he’d kill her if she made a noise. Like he said he’d kill the bunny.

She was wearing her day of the week underpants. But it was Sunday and she was wearing Thursday. She hadn’t thought anyone would see. He’d hurt her more if she made any noise. More if she cried.

But she didn’t want to cry. What he was doing down there with his finger felt good. It also felt dirty and squirmy and sick. And hurt. A lot. But good. Like riding the merry go round at the fair. Funny and warm. Even though she was scared and it was wrong and shouldn’t be.

Scully choked, forcing herself back to the present. Leather chair. Her feet were on the floor. Torn panties were not around her ankles. Dr. Callaway’s office. “I couldn’t have,” she said, horrified at herself and what she’d just confessed. “I couldn’t have wanted him to do that.” She felt sick. She could taste the acid from her stomach burning up in the back of her throat.

Dr. Callaway patted her hand and it only made her feel sicker. “You didn’t. You weren’t enjoying his abuse. Your body reacted in a normal way to stimulation. Even little girls…”

“I know,” she said through the tears that always damnably seemed to come.

Dr. Callaway waited patiently for her to stop crying. They were mild tears and stopped relatively quickly, to Scully’s relief. “Have you ever had a normal sexual experience?” she asked.

“If I hadn’t burst into tears with my husband…” It felt so weird to refer to him as her husband.

“That happens to people who’ve gone through what you went through.”

She nodded. She knew. She wasn’t sure it made her feel better.

“Do you please yourself?”

Scully looked at her in horror, feeling her face flushing.

“You feel guilt about doing so,” Dr. Callaway said.

Scully looked down. She could feel her gold cross weighing heavily against her skin. Burning her.

“Why do you feel guilty?”

She shrugged, but silence awaited her, pressing for an answer. “It should be with a man,” she said.

“Even married women -” the doctor began gently.

“I know.”

“You’re uncomfortable.”

Extremely, Scully thought. She nodded and raised her eyes. “If it will help me,” she conceded.

But the doctor backed off. “Think about it on your own,” she suggested.

“I don’t think that’s why I ran away,” she said. “Before, he came to my apartment. With my mother. My mother brought him to my house to say she believed him and not me.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“Scared.”

“Why scared?”

“No one will believe me. They all think I’m crazy. That I made this up, that I made this happen. Why would I lie?” Her eyes were wet again. “Why doesn’t she believe me?”

“How does that make you feel?”

“Mad. Angry. But I can’t be.”

“Why not?”

“There’s no proof,” Scully said. “I wouldn’t believe it myself.”

“Isn’t the way you feel proof? Aren’t your memories proof?” the doctor asked.

She shrugged. She couldn’t put her hands on a memory. And she’d always required tangible proof in the past.

“What you feel is valid. What happened to you is real. You need to cope with that,” Dr. Callaway said. “I think that’s enough for now.”

She opened her mouth to protest, but she knew the doctor was right. It couldn’t all happen in one day. She had a lot to think about as she got up and walked out of the office. Mulder jumped up, happy to see her when she opened the door. The man was as good as a puppy when it came to unconditional love. She pulled his arms around her and squeezed him tight, safe and warm for all of a second before she broke away.

“I hate crying,” she said, slipping out of his arms again.

“It’s okay to cry when you’re injured,” he told her. “Good session?”

“Things to think about,” she said, staring out the car window and not seeing the scenery as he drove back to her apartment.

She couldn’t be angry with her mom for not believing something she wanted to not have to believe herself. But her mother had always, always been there for her – or had she? Why hadn’t she noticed this was happening during her childhood? Where had she been then?

Scully was terrified that her mother had known she was being abused and had looked the other way. And now she was lying just like Bill. She didn’t want to believe it.

Everyone lied to her.

She drew in a sigh and thought about the doctor’s other advice. About touching herself. Did she have issues there, too? She didn’t know what normal was – was she normal? She didn’t do it very often. She didn’t use a vibrator or anything. She used her fingers and they always felt dirty afterward. And she was always guilty after. It was for release, nothing more. Fast and only when she needed it.

“Can we stop for a second?” she asked, suddenly panicky, feeling trapped in the car with her thoughts. Her bad thoughts. Mulder looked a bit worried but pulled into a gas station as she’d requested.

She jumped out of the car a second before it came to a complete stop. She sucked in as much freezing air as she could, but it wasn’t enough as her feelings overwhelmed her and she was desperately sick into a nearby trash can. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to keep her stomach down.

A hand lay against her back.

She flinched away. “Don’t,” she said, even though she knew it was Mulder. She hated the look she saw on his face when she turned around, hurt but trying to understand.

This could not be allowed to become an excuse for her to hurt the people she loved. The people who loved her. Even if the things they did made her uncomfortable. “I’ll get used to it,” she told him. She’d been fine with his touching her before.

He nodded.

“Temporary sensitivity,” she said.

He nodded.

She nodded. Who was she trying to convince, anyway? She needed something to get the taste out of her mouth. She couldn’t get the scent of vomit out of her nose, but she could get the bile off her tongue.

She’d fully intended to buy a Snapple or diet soda, but she walked directly to the counter. The clerk had been watching them through the window, wondering about the crazy people. She was crazy now, wasn’t she, she thought. “Morley Lights. Hard pack,” she mumbled, letting her hair fall across her face as she searched through her bag for money.

“Matches?” the clerk inquired.

She shook her head and scooped her choice from the counter. The box felt odd in her hand, covered in its crinkly plastic wrapping. Mulder was waiting for her in the car. Alarm lit his eyes when he saw the box in her hand. “DK?” he asked.

She shook her head. DK was the smoker, though. She placed the box between her palms.

“Scully.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Don’t smoke those in here,” he requested.

“I wasn’t going to.” It was about control. How long could she hold the box without opening it. How long could she wait after she opened it before pulling one out.

They tasted worse than puke.

She had to prove she was strong. She had to prove it to herself.

“Was it DK…in Comity?” Mulder asked delicately, as though he worried the question would upset her.

She almost laughed. She hadn’t thought of that case in ages. Why would he think of it now? she wondered.

“I could smell them. In your hair,” he answered the question without her speaking it.

Of course. The cigarettes.

“DK is who I was when I was thirteen or fourteen. She’s not a different person. She is me, in high school. When I felt hurt and lost.”

“I felt the same way,” he offered. They’d reached her apartment and got out of the car. She thought of Mulder as a boy. In high school, such a short time after his sister’s disappearance, an event that had shattered his entire life. An event he had only recently begun to heal from.

Maybe it takes twenty years, she thought, or thirty, or thirty five. Maybe it takes a lifetime.

They sat down in her living room on opposite sides of the couch. “Would you -” she began. He looked at her curiously and she had to stop. How could she ever ask him such a terrible thing? But she wanted to know.

“How was it between you and Samantha?” she asked.

He picked up on her meaning immediately. “Are you asking what it is to be normal or are you asking if I abused her?” His eyes were demanding.

She didn’t know.

“I was four when she was born. I loved her. Like she was a puppy. Like she was mine. I was in awe of her existence. We all were. She was all the things in the rhyme – sugar and spice. A spoiled little princess, but wonderfully kind. I resented her for being their favorite but I knew why. Everything fell apart without her. Like she was the glue.” Mulder fell into silence, thinking.

Who had been the glue in her family? No one. all of them together. Or did they never know because the glue had never been gone? Just dried and disjoined, like pages out of an old paperback. Missy to the northwest, Bill to the navy, her to the FBI, Charlie always separated.

“What do you want to do?” he asked her. “I get so bored not working.”

She nodded. It was a compulsion they shared. If they could lose themselves into work, they wouldn’t have to consider the rest.

“I want to see my brother,” she said.

“Scully.” His tone was halting. Wanting to tell her no, but with no idea how to say so.

“I want you to meet Charlie,” she said, smiling. Mulder was silent. Once again, she’d surprised him. A good surprise, she hoped. Mulder got up from the couch. Willing to make a start. Suddenly fear flooded her stomach. “Uh, Mulder?” He turned and looked at her. What if he didn’t understand? What if he didn’t want to go? “Charlie’s…special.”

Mulder nodded.

Scully only gaped at him.

His gaze was clear. “You mentioned, before, about being put away like Charlie. I assumed there was something different about him…” He waited, leaving the door open for her to explain.

“Mom had him when I was thirteen. She was over thirty five,” she said. Mulder waited. “He’s got Down’s syndrome. His mental capacity will never be greater than that of a very small child.”

“I’m sorry,” Mulder offered, reaching for her hand. She let him take it. It felt good. Acceptance.

“He’s been here his whole life?” Mulder asked as they sat in the car, waiting before they went into the nursing home.

She shook her head. “Since Mom and Daddy moved to Virginia. I guess he was five.” And now he was twenty. It was easy to forget the passage of time in someone who in many ways remained ageless.

“How did he feel?” Mulder asked.

“He was sad,” she recalled. “He wouldn’t talk. Sometimes he had tantrums.” They sat a moment longer. Mulder was waiting for her to be ready to go in. “I wonder what it feels like,” she admitted. “Being here, isolated. No one visits as much as they should.”

“But you love him.”

“He’s family.” She nodded, and pushed on the door handle.

The home resembled a home for the aged in some ways: comfortable furnishings and colors designed to soothe, activity rooms and nurses. But there was a vitality. It wasn’t a scary or horrible place. The Scullys had chosen well.

“Hey Charlie.” Scully waited at the doorway to his room for him to come to her. He looked like any boy in khakis and a flannel shirt until he raised his head. His hair was an orangey red and he bore the telltale features.

“Dana!” Charlie’s eyes brightened. He ran to her and clung in an everlasting hug. She patted his shoulder, smiling. Hugging felt good. Unconditional love felt good.

She noticed Charlie sneaking looks at Mulder. He was shy to the extreme. “Charlie, this is my husband. His name is Mulder.”

“Mulder?” Charlie threw his head back and laughed.

Mulder looked embarrassed, but he grinned painfully. “Fox.”

“In socks,” Charlie said, dropping to the floor to examine Mulder’s ankles. Mulder stood still.

“I’m sorry,” Scully said, trying to distract her brother. “Charlie – I don’t know why – Charlie -”

“Seuss,” Mulder explained. At her blank look, he said, “Fox in Socks, Dr. Seuss. The great philosopher of our time.”

She looked at him doubtfully.

“You’ll see,” he said. After Charlie had satisfied his curiosity over Fox’s socks, the three of them sat down together to explore the adventures of the mischievous Sam I Am and the Cat in the Hat, who came back several times that afternoon.

“At least it wasn’t Babe the pig,” Scully commented as they walked out that night. She had no right to complain, as light with laughter as she had become. But leaving always made her feel sad, since she never knew when she would make it back for another visit. “I wonder how much he understands,” she said, knowing her brother’s intelligence was about the level of a three year old child.

“He’s amazing,” Mulder said quite honestly as they joined in the rainy rush hour.

“Mom was thirty five when she had him,” Scully said after a little while. She herself was thirty five. The age her mother had been when she’d had three mostly grown children. “If I could have kids, they probably wouldn’t be normal,” she said. Not considering normal as good or bad, but as a scientifically determined range.

“Testing,” said Mulder.

She nodded, wishing she could think about something else.

“If you were carrying a genetically damaged child, would you abort it?” Mulder asked her.

As much as she craved a baby in her womb and in her arms and at her breast, she had to answer, “Yes.” It saddened her incredibly. “What kind of life could I make for a special child?” she asked him.

He didn’t say anything.

“Would you?” she asked, wondering if it was an absurd question. Did men think about babies at all the same way that women did?

“It’s possible high or genius level intelligence is a birth defect the same as retardation is,” Mulder said.

He wouldn’t, she interpreted.

Someday he would leave her for a young, beautiful woman who would bear him children. And she was scared.

They ate a quiet dinner together in her kitchen, spaghetti and bottled sauce, cooked by Mulder. Scully was exhausted and prepared for bed after eating.

“Do you want me to leave?” Mulder asked her.

She shook her head.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked.

She shrugged.

“What do you want to do?” she asked him.

He didn’t say anything. So much for communication. She slipped into bed and found she wanted him there with her. But he’d gone back to his apartment. She mourned that, and couldn’t sleep for a long time, certain she would lose him.

She knew she was dreaming but she couldn’t make herself wake up, which only added to the terror of the nightmare. What, is it real? What if she wasn’t going to wake up?

She was looking for her doll. She didn’t like dolls much but Ahab brung her this one from Russia. It was missing. She wanted it.

Bill said he threw it in the basement. Bill was mean to her. She didn’t know why. She wished he’d stop being so mean. She was in kindergarten so she got to stay at home in the morning with Mommy. This was after school, though. She already knew her letters so that part was kind of boring, but she liked playing with the other kids.

It was dark in the basement and she didn’t like the dark. She wasn’t scared, just didn’t like it. But she wanted her doll back. It was magic. Ahab told her not to believe in magic, but she knew it was true.

The light came on. “Bill, where’s my doll?”

He picked her up and set her on the work table. “Bill?” She didn’t like it when they treated her like a baby.

“Shut up,” he said. Why was he mad? But he was mad so she was quiet, trying to sit still and looking around for her doll. It was on one of the shelves. Staring at her with eyes that looked weird. Magic.

She could almost reach.

He reached under her dress, warning her with his angry eyes. “Bill?” she said as he pulled down her underwear and he raised a hand and pushed it over her face, holding her down against the rough surface of the table.

She squealed and kicked him and he punched her in the face. Hard. Tears filled up her eyes but she wasn’t gonna cry. She didn’t move. She saw people get punched on TV sometimes. It hurt. She didn’t know why he punched her.

Her feet dangled and she looked down. They seemed so far from the floor. She wasn’t sure she could get down because she was just little.

Her tongue found blood on her lip. “Ow, Bill.”

“You want your stupid doll?” He grabbed the heavy wooden figure and it sort of slipped out of his hand and it hit her.

It hurt too much to cry.

Blood poured from her lip. It got on her tongue and went down her throat. Her lip felt ripped. She felt sick. She saw her tooth that had been a little wiggly on the floor. Her head hurt.

He’d stepped back to keep her blood off him. She put her hand up and blood went on her fingers. Why wasn’t he helping her?

Why couldn’t she wake up? She had bad nightmares before, but she always woke up before it hurt.

“MOM!” Bill yelled, backing away as she slid down from the table, winding up on the floor. “Dana hurt herself!”

Mom came when Bill yelled but not when she yelled. She didn’t realize she hadn’t yelled. “I think she ran into the table down here.”

Stupid bad magic doll. She left it there. Mommy yelled at her for climbing on the table and Mommy made her get needles in her mouth from a doctor to make the bleeding stop. But it was Bill who was mean because the magic doll made him lie.

-14-

Her lips felt swollen when she woke up. Nightmare. But she knew she’d had stitches and she remembered the doll. She’d always thought she hit the table, though. Memory, she thought, rolling over in the bed.

She had to still be dreaming because Bill was sitting in her bedroom chair. She scrambled up in the bed. “What the hell are you doing here?” she demanded.

“Mom wanted me to speak to you.”

“You broke into my house!” she cried.

“Dana, it’s ten a.m. I knocked. I was worried,” he said calmly. Rationally.

“I can take care of myself.” The gun was on her nightstand. By the clock that read 10:15. He was lucky she hadn’t shot him.

Part of her wanted to. It would be so easy to pick the weapon up and claim he’d surprised her. But that wasn’t what her service weapon was for. It would be wrong. As wrong as what he’d done to her.

“Dana,” he said, taking a step closer.

“Don’t take another step,” she ordered.

“You’re completely irrational,” he said in that jovial good guy way he had. “I have never done anything to you.”

“That’s not how I remember it,” she said, fighting the urge to finger the invisible scar on her lip. She remembered the stitches. She knew it had happened.

“Can’t you see these memories are not memories? You’ve been brainwashed. By him. Because he knows what he’s done to you. He is the only one you shouldn’t trust, Dana.”

She could feel the walls breaking down inside. She didn’t want to cry but she couldn’t fight or scream either. Only she could help herself this time. Scully didn’t know how to cope with this. Her body shook with the effort of trying to retain control.

“You hurt me, Bill, and I don’t want to see you right now.”

“We have to talk about this,” he urged, moving closer. He sat down on the edge of the bed. Scully, who didn’t know what she was supposed to do and only saw her childhood abuser coming closer. She blacked out.

But Starbuck smiled at her brother. “It’s okay, Bill,” she said.

He looked surprised.

“You want to play?” she asked brightly, putting her thumb in her mouth.

Bill backed away, horrified at her. What did she do? she thought, watching him. He just turned and walked away, leaving her alone. She’d never been home by herself. But if she pretended Mommy was upstairs where she couldn’t see her, it would be okay.

She slid out of bed. The weird house again. She couldn’t make the TV turn on. It didn’t have a big turny knob like the TV at home did. The phone started to ring. She wasn’t allowed to answer the phone by herself. When it kept ringing, and when Mommy didn’t answer it, she remembered that Mommy wasn’t there and she was by herself.

Maybe when Ahab went away this time, Mommy went too. Maybe that was why Bill was scared. She was scared too. She felt little and helpless and most of all lonely. She was hungry too.

So she sat there and waited for someone to come. Mommy always told her if she got lost, to stay where she was and not move till Mommy found her.

Mommy was taking a long time.

When the pounding on the door started, she raised her head and looked at it. Very slowly she began to scoot away from it. She wasn’t allowed to open the door for anyone, ever. And this person was angry, she could tell by the way they were pounding on the door. It made her scared.

“Yeah, all right already,” DK called, getting up, but the door was swinging open. Mulder stood there.

“Why didn’t you open the door?” he demanded.

“Obviously, you have the key,” she said. His shoulders slumped as he recognized her. DK. Fine, she thought, walking into the kitchen. She was starving and didn’t really care that nobody liked her.

“What brings you out?” Mulder asked, taking off his coat and tossing it on the couch.

“You,” she snapped, pouring nonfat milk [ick] over the Special K [double ick] she’d found in the cabinet. Taking a bite, she wished she could pour about a pound of sugar on the cereal. She winced but kept eating.

“Who was here before?”

He never wanted to talk about her, she thought. Always that boring, straightlaced Scully. “Starbuck,” she said. “When you knocked, she was scared he’d come back, so I came out.”

“Scared who’d come back?” Mulder frowned. He frowned all the time, DK thought.

“Oh, Bill was here,” DK felt the tears burn in her eyes. She didn’t want them.

“He was?” Mulder cried angrily.

“Who was what?” Dana asked, calmly wiping tears away.

Mulder just stared at her. She stared back. Neither of them knew what the question was. “Scully?” he asked.

She nodded mildly, wondering if she’d ever get used to him calling her by her last name. It was so much nicer to be called by her actual name. But he only did that during times of crisis, like when he held her in Donnie Pfaster’s house. “What’re you doing here?” she asked.

“It’s Christmas,” he said. He looked older. And tired.

“It is? Happy Christmas.” She didn’t see a tree. He sighed heavily. It made her sad, but Mulder was so often depressed. She understood that because she’d struggled with dark thoughts after her abduction. But she had to stay positive. If she let the darkness take her…

“Mulder, what happened?” Scully asked, he only shook his head like he’d been defeated. There was a blank space in her memory.

“Damn it,” she whispered to herself, realizing it had happened again. Mulder raised his head to look at her. Recognizing her. Not realizing it hadn’t been her. “I can’t do this,” she said. “I thought I was better!” The coffee cup she’d brought down from the cabinet in the kitchen rattled in her hand so she decided against caffeine. Mr. Coffee was unplugged anyway. And why the hell was it Mr. Coffee, anyway? Why not Ms. Coffee?

“You’ve been flipping channels since I got here,” Mulder said dryly.

“When was that?”

“Fifteen, twenty minutes.”

“I feel like they’re taking memories away from me,” she confided. “I had a bad dream and something happened and now I don’t remember any of it. Including the dream. Just that it was bad.”

“She said someone had been here,” Mulder passed along.

“Bill?” Scully asked.

“Why would you guess that?” Mulder questioned, searching her eyes.

“He was in the dream. I think. God, I hate not knowing.” She turned and saw the clock on the microwave. “It’s so late.” The morning was practically gone.

“Merry Christmas, Scully,” Mulder told her.

She tensed. “It’s Christmas?” she cried, astounded at having lost track completely of what day it was.

“Yeah.”

“I only have a week,” she lamented. They were due back to work the day after New Year’s. How could the days have slipped by so quickly? They’d been married an entire week. Seven days. A lifetime slipping through her fingers like grains of sand. She didn’t feel married. She didn’t feel crazy. She didn’t feel anything.

“Are you going back to work?” he asked her.

“I want to,” she replied. “Do you want me to?”

“I don’t think you’d pass a psych screening in a hundred years,” he replied honestly after just a second’s hesitation.

“Would you?” She was serious.

He laughed. It wasn’t a happy sound. Like rust on a gate. Like he’d rather be crying, but it hurt too much.

“Who’s going to test me?” she asked, but already felt defeated. “You don’t want me back.”

“Not if you’re going to flip out on me when I need you,” he said almost inaudibly. Like he knew he shouldn’t say it, so tried to say it like a joke, but it didn’t sound that way at all.

He didn’t trust her any more.

She didn’t trust herself.

She’d thought she was strong enough. But this was the first time in her life she had no idea what to do.

“Maybe you should go,” she said. Without trust between them, what was there? She’d never been what he wanted and now maybe she never could be. All she wanted was to feel better and she didn’t know how to do that.

“Are you punishing me for being honest?” he looked like a green- eyed, suspicious little boy.

“No,” she said softly. “I don’t know what to do with you here.”

“What would you do without me here?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Let’s do that together,” he suggested, settling comfortably into the couch. He let her ease into him until they were lying together. She pulled his arm cross her stomach.

“Do you want to remember?” he asked finally.

“I feel like there was nothing good in my childhood. Every incident now seems tied to the abuse. It permeates everything…and yet no one ever noticed,” she told him. “I want to remember the good parts. I want to be able to move on.”

“I think remembering brings them on,” he said of her other selves. “Like you said, they steal your memories.”

She nodded, concentrating on his breath against her skin. The heat of his body. The texture of his jeans through her thin pajamas.

“We should make new memories,” he said.

“What do normal people do at Christmas?” she asked. Last year she’d tried to do normal, to see her family and she’d discovered a dead child that belonged to her. That was as normal as it got for her. And for him.

“Go to the movies,” he said sarcastically.

“We could do that.” She strained to be agreeable, but she knew that wasn’t what he wanted, either.

“We could go to my mother’s and you could experience my hell for a while,” he said. She shifted to look at his face, sensing that was what he really wanted to do.

“Should I pack?” she asked.

He gave her a long, measuring look before he agreed. “Don’t bring the cigarettes,” he said as an afterthought. “She can’t stand smoke.” He flashed her a grin like it was a joke.

As she tossed jeans and a sweater into an overnight bag, she thought of Mulder. He’d taken ketamine and shocks to try to remember fragments of his lost past. Did he still harbor that much desperation inside him? Would she come to understand such extreme behavior? Accept them? Try them herself?

“Would you still do anything to remember?” she asked in the car as he drove.

He shook his head. “There are so many versions of that night in my head… I know that I will never know the truth.”

“What about her?” she asked. He was tense at the wheel, but she had to know.

“I guess it’s the same,” he said. “In a world where cloning is commonplace, how do you really ever know?”

“Does it matter?” she asked.

He shook his head. “But sometimes I want to talk to that girl I grew up with. To ask her if she ever played Stratego again.”

“Did you?”

“Constantly.” The look on his face betrayed the figurative nature of his statement. They had been playing a game of strategy for the past six years. One that was unwinnable.

“What’s next?” she asked. The alien war, the oil, the planned invasion…it was all so very far away at that moment.

“Mom,” he said. “Mom’s next.”

Scully tried not to let that intimidate her.

“Fox?” She came out of the house, drying her hands on a dish towel, surprised. Scully hung back as son embraced mother. She’d seen those two have differences, but never once had Mulder forgotten his love for his mom.

She wanted to be a mother forty years in the future and have raised a son as terrific and loving as Mulder.

“Mom, you remember Scully,” Mulder said, turning to include her. Mrs. Mulder’s sharp blue eyes found her. Scully couldn’t read the other woman’s expression. “My wife.” Mulder’s words fell like bullets into the silence.

His mother was surprised and Scully watched her struggle not to show it.

She’s disappointed, Scully thought.

Then Mrs. Mulder closed the space between them and shook her hand warmly. “Do you have a first name?” she asked.

She nodded, but didn’t want to add to her own confusion. “Call me Scully, though,” she suggested, finding it incredibly odd. Asking her mother in law to call her by her maiden last name. That her mother in law didn’t know her name, though they had met before, although not under the best of circumstances.

“Do you like oatmeal cookies?” Mrs. Mulder asked.

Scully could feel Mulder’s eyes on her. He was wondering if cookies could turn her into a child. She didn’t want that to ever be a question in his mind. She was under control. She could do this. She could accept an offer made by a woman almost as ill at ease as she felt. “I love them,” she smiled warmly.

“Chocolate chip for you, too, Fox,” his mother added and they went into the house together.

“She knew we were coming,” Scully whispered to him, taking his hand behind his mother’s back. There was so much comfort and reassurance in his hand.

“Are you saying there’s something spooky here to investigate?” he smirked. She hedged and he grinned. “I called her.”

She squeezed his hand and they reached the kitchen at the back of the house. It was warm and smelled of vanilla, a scent she remembered from the winter days of her own childhood. They had had happy Christmases when she was young, hadn’t they? “Oatmeal was my daughter’s favorite,” Mrs. Mulder said, catching Scully shoving an entire cookie into her mouth. It had looked smaller on the plate. She started to wonder if she was bringing up memories the other woman wanted to forget. She didn’t know what to say. But she noticed that Mrs. Mulder didn’t use Samantha’s name, the way Mulder didn’t. As though it hurt too much.

Mrs. Mulder had never struck her as the cookie baking type, so when she swept a telltale blue Pillsbury wrapper out of the way and smoothly into the trash bin, Scully caught Mulder’s eye and they both laughed.

“How did this come about?” his mother asked, pinning Mulder down with those blue eyes.

“I love her, Mom,” Mulder said. It made warmth spread through Scully’s chest. Love.

Mrs. Mulder nodded as though she’d known that already. “And she loves you.”

Scully nodded, and didn’t miss the I-told-you-so look mother gave her son. Scully wondered what that was about – had they discussed her at one point? What had they said? She didn’t speak to her mother about Mulder.

“I’m sorry we didn’t let you know before,” Scully said.

“Fox knows I don’t travel since my stroke. And you’re here now.”

“I’m surprised it doesn’t bother you,” Mulder stated hesitantly. Scully could see him cower slightly, as though afraid he was going to start and argument.

“I don’t let things bother me any more,” she replied. “The past is very long gone and not worth talking about. I know this now.” His mother contemplated a perfectly round cookie. “I hope some day you’ll learn the same thing.”

“Maybe I have,” Scully heard Mulder breathe.

“Did you have a honeymoon?” his mother asked.

Scully looked away. They’d only shared one night together. How could it be so few? She was guilty. Ashamed.

“We will,” he swore. “Any suggestions?”

“Your father and I went to Montreal,” she said. “The two of you should go somewhere tropical.”

“Tropical,” Scully repeated. She’d never been the beachgoing type, even as a child growing up in San Diego. She burned too easily, even though she enjoyed the feeling of the sun against her skin.

“The Bermuda Triangle,” Mulder said.

“Easter Island,” Scully counted.

He nodded like she was on to something. “Or maybe somewhere normal,” he volunteered.

“Ah, love,” his mother said, sending all three of them into chuckles. “Have you seen the photos?” she asked Scully.

So much for forgetting the past, she thought. But Scully followed her in silence to the stairwell wall, decorated with photographs. Mrs. Mulder began to identify the people in the captured moments, but Scully barely listened to the narrative, seeking out pictures of Mulder. There weren’t many from his adolescence. After Sam. He stood with an awkward grin and a basketball trophy in one. The other appeared to be his graduation.

So much about him she didn’t know. She knew his life of the past six years and his family history intimately. In between…did she really know him at all, this man she had married?

She missed her mother with a physical ache. She didn’t want to have to cut the ties between them. But she didn’t know how she would handle the fact that her mother did not believe her.

She wasn’t going to think about that.

Mulder ambled out of the kitchen finally to join them. “Look how gorgeous you were,” Scully said, clasping his hand as she indicated the basketball picture.

He shook his head.

“I bet all the girls loved you,” Scully said to him and he shook his head more. “I would have.”

“I was shy,” he informed her brusquely. “You’d have scared the hell out of me, honestly.”

She wanted to tell him she wasn’t always like D.K, who she knew he had met. But she knew he wouldn’t believe her. By her senior year, she’d been more like herself. She’d finished her acting out phase. Back then, senior year, she’d been more free than she felt now, but essentially the same person.

His hand crept up on her back, between her shoulder blades. Incredibly light, more a presence than a touch. “Do you want to head home?” he whispered softly into her ear.

She hesitated.

“Stay,” Mrs. Mulder encouraged, but her tone seemed sharp somehow. Scully glanced at her, knowing that was how she was going to become. Sharp, even when she didn’t mean it.

“I am tired,” Scully admitted, not feeling up to a long ride back in the car. She wasn’t certain Mulder was up to driving back.

“You could sleep in the car,” he said as she’d known he would.

“You’re tired.” She could see it in his eyes. She didn’t want to say that she wanted to stay. There was something wrong, to Mulder’s eyes, in wanting to stay in this Connecticut home, wanting to be near his family, who he’d fought so hard to walk away from.

“The guest room is set up,” Mrs. Mulder told them and Scully looked at her with sudden insight. It was made up not because she’d known they were coming, but in case Samantha found her way home. It made Scully feel sad.

“Thank you,” Scully said graciously. Was it uncomfortable for her, letting someone stay in her daughter’s room? Just in case, hope against hope…? Mrs. Mulder closed the door behind them, leaving Mulder and Scully alone in the bare room. The sheets were cold and smooth like glass.

Mulder was oddly staring. “Scully -”

Was he too scared to sleep in the same room with her? Too scared of what she might do? “I think it’s too cold to lie in this bed alone,” said Scully who was never coy.

He got in next to her. She’d brought a nightgown so her undressing for him would not be an issue between them. It had been more than a handful of years since she’d put any effort at all into seducing someone.

All it took was kissing, to her delight. Mulder really liked kissing. The thought made her stomach flipflop. It was a good thing, since she felt she’d been severely deprived of kissing him up to that point.

She didn’t dream that night. She wasn’t sure she even slept. Lying under Mulder’s arm in the body-warmed bed, she could see the stars in the crystal, smog free sky. The shade on the window was up.

Stars.

It made her implant itch. The back of her neck. Burning with stimulation just under the skin.

If they could receive information through the chip, couldn’t they send it too? Couldn’t they make her feel this way? Believe anything they wanted her to believe?

They knew more about her than she did.

The itching became almost unbearable. She closed her eyes but couldn’t sleep. It stung and she concentrated on blocking out the sensation before she tore the alien object from her flesh with her own fingernails.

She slid out of the bed as soon as the sun rose. The itching feeling was subsiding as the rays of light grew stronger, leaving the darkness and the stars behind, but she still felt tortured, haunted, by it.

Mrs. Mulder was in the kitchen, even though it was early. She smiled mildly at Scully and poured her a cup of coffee. “I used eggnog for cream,” she said.

“Good thinking.” Warmth flooded through her insides. “Thank you for your hospitality. I realize this is sudden.”

“I meant what I said. Any woman who can make my son live in the here and now rather than the past…” She sounded almost bitter. “It’s harder at the holidays.”

Her mouth was dry and she wasn’t sure if she should say anything because the loss of Emily was so different from the loss of Samantha, but she thought this woman might understand as no one else could. “I lost a daughter last year,” she confided softly. “At Christmas. I’d only just found her.”

“We lost Sam at Thanksgiving. So many years ago.”

Scully nodded, not certain the other woman had really heard her. It hurt but this time it was a good hurt. Until Mulder got up, rumpled and in love with her. It was all over his face and she blushed at the sight of him.

“We’re going now, Mom,” he said.

“Don’t be strange,” she said, then stopped, momentarily confused. “Strangers.” She forced the words out.

Mulder paused, struck by the urge to care for his mother. Then he nodded and they went out to the car. “I’m glad this went well.”

Scully nodded, wondering if she should mention the restless feelings she was having. Then he turned on the car and the radio came up.

“…Hundreds of sightings of an unidentified flying object over the nation’s capital last night, much too late for Santa Claus…”

Mulder’s hand moved to change the station. She put her hand on his wrist, harder than she’d intended. She met his eyes with all seriousness and fear. “It’s starting again.”

He paled and changed the radio station. Celine Dion’s nasal heart would go on. Scully changed the station, not wanting to think about the chills in her body. Despite the radio, it was a quiet drive home.

-15-

There was a note taped to her door when they walked into her apartment building. Scully pulled it off to read it, handing her keys to Mulder so he could open the door. She hesitated a moment before splitting the tape and unfolding the sheet of paper.

“Dana, please don’t do this to the family. We love you.” It was signed by her mother and Bill. Her mother had written it.

She balled it up violently in her hand. Mulder gave her a mild curious look but didn’t ask. He nodded at the answering machine’s flashing red light. Scully walked over to the phone and dialed her mother’s house without listening to the messages.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Where are you?” Maggie demanded.

“Home.”

“Where were you?”

Scully was stubbornly silent. If she told her mother that they had gone to visit Mrs. Mulder on the holiday, it would hurt her terribly. Scully didn’t want it to be this way in her family. Her family had always seemed so nice and normal, and safe. This hurt. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Your brother is leaving for California in two hours. He has to get on a ship to go to the Middle East as soon as he arrives. He came here to face this, Dana, and so should you. Please come here and make your peace with him.” Her mother was straining to remain patient, but her voice was filled with tension and anger.

“I can’t.” She was scared again, feeling the acid pour into her stomach as she tangled her fingers into the loops of the phone cord, as though they would hold her where she stood.

“Dana, please.”

“I’ll think about it. Bye, Mom.” She put the phone down and met Mulder’s eyes, taking a deep breath. “Bill’s leaving.”

Mulder was cool. “How do you feel about that?”

“Mom wants me to make peace.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I should do as she says.”

“You don’t have to,” Mulder reminded her.

“I know.” She looked down. The floor needed to be swept. She was wearing jeans and a sweater. She didn’t know why it was important. “I’ll be back in an hour or two.” She picked up the car keys and took a step forward, and then rocked back on her foor. Hesitating.

“Want me to go with you?” Mulder offered.

Mulder had punched Bill.

“I’ll be okay.” She slipped through the door, feeling insubstantial, driving quickly to her mother’s house. She hadn’t been behind the wheel since all this began. It felt strange, but the act of driving made her feel more powerful.

When she faced them in her mother’s living room where she had often sought solace, she felt weak. She was a soldier for justice and the truth, but it was different with her family. They didn’t see her as strong, and she knew they never would. To them she would always be a little girl. Hurt, stubborn, unwilling to cooperate. “You’re here,” her mother said without a trace of triumph.

Scully nodded.

“We were just about to leave.”

“Actually, Ma, we should go,” Bill said, switching his suitcase to his left hand and edging toward the door. Scully was very aware that he hadn’t looked at her since she’d walked in the door. He looked thinner. But maybe he’d been thinner at Thanksgiving and she hadn’t noticed.

“Dana, don’t you have something to say to your brother?” Mrs. Scully prompted, effectively making her feel six years old.

“Like?” she asked without a pause, wondering just what she had walked in to.

“No, Mom, it’s okay. She doesn’t have to apologize. She’s sick; she can’t help it,” Bill said.

Fury flooded her. She was so angry. She blocked his exit with her body, ready to take him on. This time she knew she would win. “I think it’s you who’s sick, Bill. It’s you who should apologize to me.” His name in her mouth made her want to vomit. She was trembling with rage.

He just looked at her like she was a pathetic, attention hungry little girl.

“You raped me,” she said in a low, animal tone.

“You have no evidence,” Bill informed her. Taunting her.

“Dana, stop this,” her mother pleaded. Crying. Couldn’t she see?

They didn’t believe her. What evidence did she have to show them? What tangible, physical evidence did she have that they could hold in their hands and know that this had happened to her? The sort of evidence she used to demand from Mulder on a regular basis. The sort of evidence she was now learning to live without.

She knew. That was her evidence.

It was going to have to be enough. She stepped aside, pushing out of the house, striding briskly back to her car, not certain she would ever see or speak to either of them again.

“I missed Christmas with my family to be here for you, Dana,” Bill called after her in his oh-so-weary tone.

Your choice, she thought and burst into tears as soon as she slammed the car door. She knew she couldn’t drive until she stopped crying and she couldn’t make the tears stop. The sound of her little gasps sickened her.

A tap at her window made her jump and she looked up to see a patrolman standing in the street next to her car. She cranked down the window and he asked kindly, “Everything all right, ma’am?”

She nodded, unable to find her voice.

“Well, you take care then,” he said and walked away, looking back at her over his shoulder twice. She took a deep breath and turned the key, starting the car to return to Mulder. It might take years for her family to heal, but Mulder was always there for her.

She would have to take comfort in that.

XXX

She went to therapy on the morning after the New Year, knowing she had to be in a meeting with Skinner in less than an hour. Mulder had already gone to the office, ready to make an early start on his first day back.

“I feel like he doesn’t want me back,” she confided to the doctor, sitting back in the now-familiar chair. They had made some progress in the days since her family had gone home, but most days she felt like she was climbing a mountain and sliding back every night, never getting any closer to the top. “He’s scared they’re going to come back.” They, her other selves. She’d managed to hold them at bay since Christmas. Her one and only triumph.

“They could,” Dr. Callaway suggested gently.

Scully shook her head, stubborn. She could control them. She hadn’t had an incident in a week. She wasn’t going to let them come back. She couldn’t. She had to work. She had to be strong and put all of this madness behind her.

“You need to accept that some things are simply beyond your control,” the doctor told her.

“No!” barked Scully, angry. “Things are not out of my control. I was helpless and vulnerable then, when this happened to me, but I was a child. I am not a victim now. I have control over my life and what happens in it.”

“That’s a very empowered point of view,” Dr. Callaway nodded. “But perhaps if we can just coax them out…here…where it’s safe, we can work to integrate them…”

Scully shook her head. She wasn’t letting them out for a second. She wasn’t going to lose control or another minute of her life. She’d already lost enough.

“You need to deal with this. And the abuse.”

“I have,” she said softly. She’d gone over the incidents in her conscious memory. She understood that she hadn’t caused what had happened, that there was nothing she could have done. So many things she had learned to accept in her life, and this was another. “I don’t want to talk about it any more.” She just wanted to get past it.

“Denial will not help you.”

“There is a difference between denial and wanting to move on, isn’t there?” Scully asked. The other woman didn’t answer. “I believe these aspects came out to deal with the returning memories of the abuse, not the abuse itself. So now that I have remembered -” She didn’t need them any more. she didn’t want them any more.

“What about when you are reminded? What happens when a new memory surfaces?” the doctor prodded.

“I have to go to work,” Scully said, shaking her head, her eyes on the clock. She got up from the chair and walked out of the doctor’s office. Damn doctor, Scully thought as she hurried to the car. She doesn’t understand anything.

She was shaking, but she drove to work.

Mulder saw the tension on Scully’s face when she walked in for their meeting with Skinner. The lines around her mouth were deep and she was drawing shallow, angry breaths because her chest was tight. He wished he could put his hands on her shoulders and tell her to relax. Instead, he looked at Skinner. Their boss didn’t seem to notice anything wrong with Scully.

“Nice holiday?” Skinner asked pleasantly.

Neither of them answered. It had largely been hell. Mulder had to speak up if they were to keep her affliction a secret, as was Scully’s wish. “Fine,” he said.

“Good. You’re going to North Dakota,” Skinner said, handing them a pair of plane tickets for a noon flight accompanied by a thick case file.

“It’ll be a nice honeymoon,” Mulder quipped, feeling anything but jovial. He hadn’t expected it all to start up again so soon.

“Congratulations again, agents,” Skinner said as he dismissed them from his office.

“I’m fine,” Scully said to Mulder in a tight tone the instant they walked out into the hallway, cutting him off before he had a chance to say anything, to ask about her session or her feelings. Mulder paused for a moment. This confirmed his feeling that she was anything but fine.

“What happened?” he asked her, caressing her face with his eyes, wishing he could follow with his touch.

“Nothing.” Even giving him a neutral face, she couldn’t mask the anger that burned in her eyes. “I’ll be fine on the assignment. Don’t worry.”

“I don’t give a fuck about the assignment,” he told her and instantly realized he’d been too loud. He could feel the looks he received from the other agents milling in the hallway. Typical Spooky Mulder behavior, though, he thought. “I care about you.” He dropped his voice to a whisper, leaning closer to her so she could hear him. One hand on her arm brought her to face him. “What about your sessions? How will you handle this while on the road?”

“I’m not going any more,” she told him, addressing his tie.

“Why not?” His tone demanded the answer that he knew she did not want to give.

“Not helping,” she replied vaguely. They’d reached the parking garage. He didn’t want to leave her, but they’d come in separate cars. He opened his mouth to ask her more questions, but she staved them off. “I can get through this, Mulder,” she said and managed to sound almost convincing. Then she turned and walked away, to her car.

His tough Scully was back. More insular than ever, not letting him close. He didn’t know how to help her and he hated the feeling of utter uselessness. He didn’t follow her to her apartment where his belongings were beginning to accumulate, but returned to his own.

It smelled musty from abandonment. Like his apartment missed him. Mulder went about, slamming things into his overnight bag, trying to breathe through his frustration. He took his things to her apartment like an unwelcome lover. He wanted to make himself permanent so she couldn’t push him away.

He hadn’t realized it would be such a strain on them going back to work. It probably would have been difficult even without her illness.

He felt like he was blaming her again and he knew that was inappropriate. It made him feel dirty.

He was scared for her sake that she didn’t want to go to the doctor any more. He wanted to believe she knew what was best for herself, but it was hard. He pulled the strap of his carryon over his shoulder, knowing he would have to help her through this. Hold her up when she wouldn’t admit she was about to fall.

He also knew he was on dangerous ground because she did not want to be helped.

The flight was turbulent. Scully almost missed it and Mulder stood at the gate, refusing to board without her, his mind unfurling all sorts of terrible situations, each more dire than the one before. His heart turned over when he saw her walking toward him, determined.

“Sorry. I, uh, hit all the reds,” she explained as she hurried past him without stopping, striding up the ramp. He followed and the attendant closed the door behind them.

The flight was less than full and Scully left the middle seat in their row open between them, laying her coat across it. Mulder looked at the coat on the narrow chair. She had done it before, on countless other flights through the years. But it didn’t feel right now. “Why did you do that?” he demanded.

“Because I thought elbow room might be nice,” she retorted in the same tone he’d used.

“How much elbow room do you need, Scully?” he demanded, and they both knew they weren’t talking about the plane any more.

“You’re the one with the sharp bony elbows,” she accused. “How many times do I have to show up before you stop wondering if I’m lost?”

It was two points for her – she’d caught him. He couldn’t help worrying about her and he didn’t know how to tell her so without infuriating her. She was already angry. He just cared about her. He didn’t understand why that made her angry.

“I am in control,” she told him firmly. The plane dropped as it punctured a bubble of air and she grabbed at the armrests. He wished she were grabbing at him. He tried not to let it bother him and opened the paper he’d purchased, flipping through to the real estate section.

“Where do you want to live?” he asked her.

She was silent and he lowered the paper to look at her. “What’s wrong with where we live now?”

“It’s not home to me,” he answered.

“It is to me.”

Impasse. “I want to make a fresh start,” he told her. When she didn’t say anything, Mulder continued. “I want us to come together as two people and join to become more than that. To be stronger together than we are apart.”

“You want to give birth to a house.” Her voice was flat.

He shook his head. Wasn’t she listening? He loved her. Was that automatically terrible because she had been molested as a child? She accused him of not trusting her, but she didn’t trust him either.

“In a relationship, both parties’ wishes are important,” he said.

“Why do you talk as though I don’t know anything about life or love?” she demanded, eyes flashing. “I can handle this. I don’t need your advice.”

“Sounds like you don’t need my love, either,” he snapped and looked out the window, into a thunderstorm. Its fury was beautiful. He clenched his teeth as he heard her begin to cry softly. That was the only thing that had noticeably changed – now Scully cried. Often, and usually for no reason. He knew it was stress and she could not help it. Yesterday she’d cried over a magazine article.

He looked at her. She thought this was another thing she had to make up for. He shouldn’t have said what he’d said. He yearned to hold her but knew she would find it condescending even if it was because he hated to see her cry. She was so beautiful and so strong.

“Don’t withdraw your love because you’re angry,” she sniffled.

“I’m only angry because you push me away.” He softened his attitude. “I know this is excruciatingly painful for you -”

She closed back up. “I’m fine,” she said. When he was a boy, he’d poked at pillbugs with a stick to watch their immediate protective response. Scully’s was equally as automatic. If he touched her, she was turn to stone in his arms to prove she was strong enough to survive this.

He flipped open the file Skinner had given them. “Oh goody,” he cracked, “Poltergeist.”

She didn’t even say, “They’re here.”

It was really, really cold in North Dakota. So often they forgot that winter in DC was tempered compared to the rest of the country. The car rental agent assigned them a battered Ford with a cracked window. Scully could not contain the chattering of her teeth.

“It’ll warm up in a second,” Mulder said to her, hoping. But the air from the vents did not warm at all during their hour long drive to the Tintner residence.

“Are poltergeists really covered under FBI jurisdiction?” Scully asked. Mulder looked over at her. Her lips looked blue. He could barely feel his fingers and he’d been asking himself the same question. How did they get some of these cases? Who in their right mind associated the FBI with ghosts and weird things? Maybe it was local law enforcement. She flipped through the folder and found the referral. Befuddled cops. She sighed. As usual.

The Tintners were startled to find the FBI at their door so it was good that she had looked. She made the introductions, holding her badge up by her face for comparison as Mr. Tintner stared at her. “It’s dinnertime,” he said.

“We were referred by Sheriff Hern regarding the recent violence in your home,” Scully stated.

“But it’s dinner time,” the man repeated, although he let them into the house. As they walked through the worn living room to the dining room, the overhead light flickered.

Scully’s eyes locked with those of a pale young girl seated at the table. The mother at the head of the table, began to duck, cowering away from whatever she thought the lights precipitated, but the lights returned to normal.

When she glanced at Mulder, his eyes were shining. He really loved this stuff. Scully wasn’t quite as impressed. “Does that happen often?” she asked.

“Oh goodness yes,” replied Mrs. Tintner in a nervous voice, her fingers creeping up along her throat. Scully watched the girl, who was very still, her eyes large.

“Have you looked into the house’s history?” Mulder asked. Scully rolled her eyes at him. He couldn’t possibly believe this was a ghost. The family looked at him blankly as though ‘research’ was not a word they knew.

“Have you checked the connections to the lamps?” Scully asked and got the same blank look. “How old are you?” she asked the daughter more gently. The file had said her name was Veronica.

“Eleven,” she replied in a soft voice.

Scully nodded. “When did all this begin?”

“Last year. When we moved here.”

Scully could feel all eyes on her. “Has the disturbance ever harmed anyone?”

Veronica’s eyes darted away and Scully leaned back, away from her slightly. “It throws things,” Mrs. Tintner answered Scully’s question. “But it’s only hit Wayne.” She nodded to her husband, who was holding back his hair to display a fresh wound to Mulder, who nodded appreciatively.

“Does the ghost have a name?” Scully asked. Three heads shook no. “How do you know it is a ghost?” she asked.

“What else could it be?” demanded Mr. Tintner. Scully looked noncommittal and backed off.

“Maybe we should go,” Mulder said quickly. “Come back in the morning.” His arm went out, his hand seeking Scully’s back. But he stopped himself before he touched her. It reminded her that Mulder was always aware now. She walked with him through the door.

“What was that?” he asked her out in the freezing car.

She fastened her seatbelt and tried to think warm thoughts. “What?” she asked.

“It’s not a ghost?” he reminded her.

“I saw no evidence -”

” – the lights? -” he suggested.

” – and besides, poltergeist activity rarely has to do with disembodied spirits,” she explained. “More often, it is a disturbance of energy associated with the budding sexuality of adolescents.”

He mouthed the words “budding sexuality” in an amused way, sending her anger soaring even though he was secretly impressed by her knowledge. She felt he was mocking her.

“Or their need for attention,” she finished, looking at him. He’d stopped the car.

“Motel,” he said.

“I noticed,” she replied, waiting.

He hesitated a moment longer before he sighed and asked, “How many rooms?”

She could only stare at him.

He sighed again and got out. She could feel the spots of high color burn her cheeks as she watched him walk to the motel office. They were married, she thought, shocked, why would he ask her that?

He doesn’t want you, the voice in her head was quick to tell her. You disgust him.

She knew the voice was right.

When he returned, she fully expected him to hand her a key. But he put the car in gear and pulled around to the back of the motel and got out of the car.

Weird, she thought, picking up her bag to follow him. Never had they stayed in the same room while on a case. Is this how it’s going to be? she asked herself. Would their marriage take place in dozens of uniform motel rooms across the country for the next twenty years, until it was time for Mulder to retire?

“Weird,” Mulder said, sitting self consciously on the queen sized bed in the center of the room.

“I was thinking the same thing,” she confided, striving for normal behavior. Should she sit down? If she did, would it be an invitation? Shouldn’t they discuss the case? She sat down carefully, on the edge of the bed, half expecting him to grab her.

“Dinner?” he suggested.

She shook her head – not hungry – but then looked at him. Was he saying he wanted dinner?

Oh god, was she going to have to spend 24 hours a day with him? It shouldn’t have been such a horrifying prospect. But she’d grown used to all the time she spent alone.

He turned on the TV, flipping past laugh tracks until he found the soft tones of a documentary narrator. He pulled off his dress shirt and his shoes and stretched out on the bed in his T shirt and socks.

She looked at the screen. Young girls in Africa being sold as goods. The hard knot of her stomach turned to queasiness.

“Mulder,” she said and he turned his head, but his eyes remained on the television. He was watching the show. She couldn’t ask him to turn it off. “Shouldn’t we discuss the case?”

“You don’t think there is one,” he said with a shrug.

Was that hurt or anger in his tone? She didn’t know, couldn’t decide. And she didn’t know what to say because he was right. “It’s a bullshit assignment and you know it,” she said.

“So?” he asked mildly, his eyes meeting hers.

Words failed her for a second. “So?” That was all he had to say? “It’s a waste of our time.”

“Maybe Skinner wanted us to ease back into things,” Mulder suggested.

“Why?” she demanded.

“Why not? We’ve been on leave. If we can figure out how the kid’s doing it, it’s an easy solve.”

He didn’t think it was ghosts either. “It’s a waste of our time when we could be working on -”

“You sound like me,” he said, tilting his head and studying her.

“I do?” That had to be a first.

He nodded. “When I’m hiding from something in my work and it isn’t consuming me like I want it to. Don’t lose yourself in the work, Scully.”

“I’m not!” her anger spoke the opposite of her words. He was right and she knew it. But there was no harm in escaping back into her career. What she did was worthwhile and important.

“I’ve felt the pain, Scully,” he said in a velvety voice. “I know. But you have to face it or it will never go away.”

“You don’t know,” she snapped. She thought his sad look was pity. “You don’t know anything!” The rage was building and it felt good to feel something. “No one’s ever locked you in the dark or poked you with things to taken away your will and your dignity and your power over your body!”

“No,” he said slowly and calmly. “But I’ve had pieces of my life stolen. I’ve lost my hope and my will to survive. When they took Sam, when they took you, my world did shatter and to see this, now…I was angry and hurt for a long time before, but I -”

He was being too reasonable, too rational. She didn’t want to listen to it. “You don’t understand,” she cried, jumping up from the bed.

“Tell me,” he pleaded. “Then tell me, make me understand.”

Words were too weak. She didn’t want him to know. If he knew how scared…how little control over herself she felt she had…how madness seemed to threaten and she felt a gash had been torn through her heart, he would walk out that door and never come back.

He had left her before.

She could not lose him when he was the only thing in her life. But she knew it was inevitable he would see the ugliness in her soul. Better if she pushed him away first.

When did she start to care what he thought?

She was going to scream or cry or both.

“Scully.” His voice saying her name pulled her out of it. She looked at him. “Sit down.”

She wanted to, but couldn’t. She felt her knees shake with the indecision and hoped he couldn’t see that. When she didn’t move, he went to her.

She steeled herself for his touch. She wasn’t going to like it. She jumped but his fingers sent warmth through her, pooling in her melting stomach.

She was so weak.

He was going to see her for what she really was – weak and filthy.

She wanted him to put his arms around her and suck the pain out through her flesh, make her forget that way.

She’d wanted it when she was younger. She’d enjoyed it. She’d asked for it.

What would he say about that?

She would gouge out her eyes if she thought she could reach the voices in her head through the holes they left. Her body ached. His fingers were trailing down her arm from her throat where they’d begun and he was absorbed in her. She could feel his heat and his need for her. She could feel his concentration.

“Don’t,” she said to see if he would listen.

His fingers fell away from her skin.

Power.

She could hear him breathing. If she told him to start again, would he?

What is this, you bitch, a twisted game of red light green light? Mother may I?

She hated herself.

Tease. Bitch. Slut. Whore.

She was worthless. She didn’t deserve him. She’d never keep him.

You could touch him, you know.

Shut up, all of you! Scully thought angrily. She couldn’t stand this any more.

“Hey.” She looked at him when she heard his voice. His eyes touched hers. “You spaced out again. What’s going on in there?”

A war.

“Just tired,” she mumbled.

He nodded, still watching her carefully. “We need to be up bright and early,” he said. “Poltergeists like the morning.”

She couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. He moved away from her, returning to the bed. “Take a bath and relax,” he told her.

She was going to have to take her clothes off. Would every action inspire this insane fear in her heart? She didn’t want a bath but he would notice if she went to sleep in her suit. He would ask. Be strong, she told herself. She managed to pick up her bag and take it into the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind her.

Mulder wouldn’t look at her when she came out. He was watching a new documentary – this one about baseball – and she lay down on the bed next to him gingerly.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Indulge him. The voices hadn’t gone. Even if you don’t want to, indulge him. She couldn’t ask him if he was disappointed because he wanted sex.

It was a husband’s right. If you don’t give it to him, he’ll take it. Maybe not today, but someday. When he’s tired of waiting for you.

She knew that voice was lying. Mulder wouldn’t do that. He would just go elsewhere. Someone pretty without problems. He hadn’t waited for her all this time. There had been others.

It was so stupid to be scared when she loved him so much and he knew he wouldn’t hurt her.

She moved closer to him but he didn’t seem to notice.

She wanted a cigarette. The box was in her bag. A test of how strong she was. She wasn’t going to change. She was going to remain calm and in control.

Even though things were just as screwed up then. She wanted to cry but knew she’d spent too much time on tears already so she held them inside, trying to sleep.

Some time much later, she woke. The lights and the TV were still on, but Mulder was asleep. She couldn’t believe he slept with the lights on. She closed her eyes but it annoyed her now that she knew it was on. Would he noticed if she slipped out to turn it off?

Maybe if she went quickly. The carpet was cold on her bare feet as she shut off the TV and flicked the lightswitch. Mulder made a noise in the darkness. A decidedly male noise, back in his throat, a struggle not to awaken.

It was so dark. There were no streetlights to waft in gently through the picture window. Just a complete absence of light.

How many horrors had waited for her in the darkness?

Get over it, she told herself firmly, returning to the bed. When she closed her eyes, she was able to drift off again.

-16-

The phone was ringing. It jolted her out of a nightmare which she forgot, thankfully, when she grabbed it. “Yeah,” she was breathless from being startled.

“Wake up call for room 131. It is now 7 am. Have a pleasant day.”

She rolled her eyes and let the phone slide back into its cradle, looking at Mulder. The phone right next to his head hadn’t roused him. Rough night for him, she thought, stroking his hair. He was a sound sleeper. She wasn’t afraid of him. He was her darling. She smiled as she played with his hair, waiting for him to wake up. She was afraid of things more dark and vague that lived within herself.

She whispered his name, nudging his hip with her knee.

He was aroused and the bottom dropped out of her stomach for no good reason. Healthy males got aroused several times a night. So did women. So did she. It happened.

Of course, that was when he opened his eyes, confused at first to be looking into her eyes. She saw the embarrassment taint his gaze at being observed. He shifted his legs away from hers. “I’m sorry,” he said, sliding away.

“Mulder,” she said.

His face was bright red now and she was certain hers was too. Normal people would have laughed over this. Under other circumstances, they would have ignored it – as they had always managed to ignore all but the barest physical attraction between them.

“I’ll take care of it,” he said gruffly and went into the bathroom. The water in the shower began to flow.

Go in there, the voice in her head ordered, but she didn’t move. She could feel her blood rushing downward, gathering with every hard beat of her heart. Closing her eyes only made the image of him in her mind more vivid.

Go in there.

She would die of embarrassment if he walked in on her touching herself.

He shouldn’t have to, she thought, getting up and moving toward the bathroom, her mind fixed on the picture of him in her mind, stroking his penis with his hand, his eyes closed and brows drawn together.

The water stopped and she jumped back. A few moments later, he emerged, toweling his damp hair. “Cold water. Felt good,” he told her with a lopsided grin.

She wanted him to advance upon her. For intimacy, for closeness, to extinguish the heat in her body that she detested.

Instead, they returned to the Tintner’s.

Mulder was amazed by Scully. She was always cool and calm and collected. He’d marveled at it before. She always knew what she wanted. Even when what she didn’t want, was him. It made him upset, scared even, but he had to understand.

It was such a small price to pay for having her back with him. He’d been so afraid she would fall to pieces and never come back.

He knew she thought the case was silly and maybe it was, but it was the same old routine. He wasn’t sure he believed in any of it himself, but he was happy to be with her.

Even if he had to take cold showers every morning for the rest of his life, he wouldn’t care. He’d join the Polar Bear Club. He loved her.

“What’re you grinning about?” Scully demanded and he instantly pulled his lips back in line.

“Nothing. How much I love you,” he replied, switching off the car’s engine since they’d reached the “haunted” house. Her eyes narrowed and went dull. Annoyed.

He annoyed her.

She got out of the car and he followed, stumbling over a pile up of snow. She didn’t notice and he hurried after her feeling big and clumsy and like loving her was a weird thing, something he shouldn’t do because she didn’t want him to.

Mrs. Tintner seemed more nervous than the previous night, letting them inside after three “Oh goodness!” -es. She was blond and her thin body seemed ill-designed to handle the freezing temperatures.

“Is your daughter here?” Mulder asked her, glancing around, hoping he would not become the unsuspecting victim of a suddenly animated anything.

“She’s at school,” the woman replied and looked slightly relieved.

“Things don’t happen when she’s not here.” It wasn’t a question because Mulder already knew the answer.

“Only when Veronica and Wayne are here together,” she admitted.

Mulder glanced at Scully, who returned the look. Thinking the same thing. It excited him to be on the same wavelength with her – sent his heart into a rapid patter of beats. Testosterone meets young estrogen in this house, he thought. A hormone cocktail. He was thinking psychokinesis. If only they could prove it…

“We’d like to set up cameras. Catch the action as it happens,” Mulder said energetically.

“Cameras?” Mrs. Tintner had fixated on the idea, staring at him with wide, owlish eyes.

“The cameras will help us determine if your daughter has rigged things,” Scully said.

“Oh no, there’s no way she could,” Mrs. Tintner cried.

“Likewise, if it’s a ghost, we’d love to get it on film,” Mulder replied, full of energy. He didn’t wait for her to agree, just said, “I’ll go and get them,” and headed back for the car.

He heard Mrs. Tintner begin to tell Scully her story as he closed the door behind him. “It started last fall in the basement…”

The wind had begun to blow and Mulder discovered he’d left his gloves someplace. As usual. Very quickly his fingers turned from bitingly cold to numb and he dropped the keys as he reached the trunk of the car. He fumbled for them in the show and finally pulled the small equipment case from the trunk.

He bounced to attempt to be warm while he waited to be let back into the house. He hadn’t realized he’d locked the door behind him. It was cold and his good mood was quickly disintegrating. Why would anyone live in such a place? What the hell was taking so long for her to answer the door?

Mrs. Tintner was pale and shaking when he opened the door, backing away without a word. Mulder’s eyes fastened on Scully instantly. She was dwarfed by the huge green leather chair she sat in, holding her head in her hands. “What happened?” Mulder demanded with a wild glance at Mrs. Tintner, barreling for Scully’s side.

“I’m all right,” she murmured, although her shoulders were heaving.

“I think the ghost did something to her,” Mrs. Tintner said, her voice shrill with fear.

Scully shook her head, pressing her forehead before straightening her spine. She looked drained. “I’m okay,” she whispered, but the edges of her lips were white with strain.

“I’ll just set up the cameras,” Mulder said, having trouble taking his eyes off his wife. “Where does most of the activity occur?”

“Like I was telling her, it started in the basement. Wayne had some ice skates fly at his face. Cut his hand real bad fending them off. Since then, though, it’s mostly been in the kitchen.”

Mulder nodded, opening the bag. It was mostly used cameras and listening devices, too out of date to serve the white collar and organized crime guys anymore. They’d be no match for a kid, though. He started to find places for them around the kitchen to cover the entire room.

“Sometimes he gets scratches, too,” Mrs. Tintner confided softly. “They just appear without his noticing. Sometimes bruises.”

Mulder looked to Scully, but she was staring. “Will it be all right if we drop by later – after dinner – to speak with Wayne and Veronica?”

The woman shrugged. “I guess. Wayne’s not happy, but what else can we do? We couldn’t go on like that.”

“Your husband didn’t want you to contact the police?” Scully asked.

“No. Thought I was silly. I said what, did he like to get hurt?” Mrs. Tintner elaborated. “Eight o’clock will be fine.”

Mulder was finished, so he picked up the equipment bag and looked at Scully. Her coat was buttoned and her gloves were on. She wanted out of there. “What did the ghost do to you?” Mulder asked once they got outside.

Scully shook her head, suddenly interested in something on the ground. “Nothing,” she told him.

He didn’t believe her and didn’t know how to say so. “When you’re ready to tell me, I’m here to listen,” he suggested and bore the full force of her angry look. She slammed the car door and he wondered what he’d said that was so wrong this time.

“Where are we going?” she asked, breaking the silence on their drive.

“Town library and historical society is on Adams Road,” Mulder said, making a right turn. “If there is a ghost -”

“There isn’t,” Scully replied as though she’d never seen a ghost before.

“There might be information at the library,” Mulder continued. She gave him a sour look as though he was ignoring her. He stopped in front of a small brick building that looked like a former schoolhouse. The only other car parked was a homely station wagon.

It belonged to the beak-nosed Walter Crowell, curator and librarian. “It’s not haunted,” he said as stubbornly certain as Scully, crossing his arms and standing back to appraise them.

“So you’ve heard about the house,” Mulder said, leaning against the desk.

“Not the house, just the goings-on,” Crowell told him. “It’s a tract home, built less than 5 years ago. Nothing wrong with one house that’s not wrong with all of them. City people bring their evil with them. Even out here.”

Scully looked like she agreed. They were going to have to talk about what she wasn’t telling him, he thought. “What about the land?” he asked.

“You want me to tell you it’s some ancient sacred land or burial ground like in that movie,” Crowell said dismissively. It wouldn’t have bothered Mulder so much if he hadn’t felt like Scully was sneering at him too.

“Warm welcome,” Mulder remarked as they returned, unwelcome, to the car. Scully graciously didn’t say a word. Sometimes he was glad she didn’t say, “I told you so.”

He pulled into the parking lot of a diner that looked straight out of a movie, complete with red booths and chrome. His stomach growled as he smelled the meat. The sizzle of frying grease was like homecoming to him. Scully didn’t look happy. They both usually ate healthy, but he figured they could both use some warm comfort food in such a cold climate.

Maybe he should have asked what she wanted, he realized later. He ordered a bacon burger, cheese fries and a vanilla shake. Freezing your ass off burned a lot of calories.

Scully shook her head when the waitress looked at her.

“Eat something,” Mulder prompted.

Her look was dark but she requested, “Hot cocoa. Please.”

The waitress sauntered away.

“What’s going on?” Mulder asked her, laying his hands on the table. “What happened in the house while I was outside? Talk to me.” He felt so helpless when she closed up this way.

She shook her head.

“Please tell me,” he pleaded, wishing she would just take his hand.

The waitress slid their drinks in front of them. Scully sipped the cocoa, avoiding the creamy melting whipped cream that sat on top.

“Scully,” Mulder said.

“I remembered something,” she said as though it was unimportant. As he waited to hear what it was, it became clear she had no intention of telling him. She pushed the cup away and gazed out the window into the barren winter. He could see her slipping back into her own world.

Was that where healing would take place? he wondered. Or did he need to pull her back? The waitress delivered his meal, but worry over his partner made the much-coveted food taste like sawdust. It was hot and impossibly dry on his tongue.

“Talk to me.”

She shook her head sadly. “You don’t want to know.”

“I do.” He caught her eyes for a second.

“You don’t,” she repeated. He decided to let her know best for a little while and kept eating, allowing her silence. She slipped out and returned a few minutes later, the clinical washroom soap smell clinging to her.

“Don’t let this eat you inside,” he cautioned her.

“I won’t,” she answered. He just watched her. Holding everything so deep inside even she couldn’t reach it. He worried she wasn’t going to make it.

They headed back to the motel to take care of administrative crap, since they weren’t returning to the Tintners’ until eight. Mulder booted up Scully’s laptop to contact Skinner and she lay down on the bed. First she put her arms over her eyes to block out the light, but then she clasped them across her abdomen.

He couldn’t help thinking it was unconsciously protective. Like men who used their knotted hands as a fig leaf when their photos were being taken.

She got up twice to use the bathroom and wash her hands thoroughly. The third time, he asked, “Are you okay?”

She stopped in her tracks and looked at him. “Of course,” she said, reversing her direction and shaking some change from her handbag. “I’m hungry,” she said before she slipped out of the small room.

He was worried. He tapped out a message apprising Skinner of their lack of progress, guessing they would need one more day. Apparently no more pressing matters had come up.

How would Scully handle something more pressing? Was it this case, or would any case set her on the edge? Or was it him?

She smelled like chocolate when she walked in, even though the Twix in her hand was sealed. If he kissed her, would she taste of candy on the sly?

Was it too much for him to hope for that this was all just PMS? he wondered. He’d rarely known Scully to be so intensely moody. But she was under a lot of pressure.

The Twix disappeared in thirty seconds flat and she looked like she wanted more. “Come here,” he invited, setting aside the computer. She realized he’d been watching when she looked at him and wiped the corners of her mouth. She sat down next to him on the bed.

He felt like a teenager, seeing how far he would get. His hand rested on her shoulder and crept up the side of her face. Her jaw felt fragile in his hand. “Can I kiss you?” he breathed, close to her lips.

Her sigh and her mouth opening was his answer. She did taste deliciously of candy, he found, exploring. Sweet. Her hair was soft against his fingers and she seemed to like it when he pulled on it gently.

He could lose himself in her.

Her skin was cold underneath her shirt and he could her nipples already tight. Her breath caught with a reedy sound as he worked to make them warm.

They lay down together and he kissed her again. She unbuttoned her shirt and trousers as he did the same. An invitation. Her skin was impossibly smooth as he ran his worshipful hands down the length of her torso. He was ready, deepening their kiss as he prepare to enter her.

A quickie. He was more excited than he’d realized and came quickly, before he could give a thought to pacing or her pleasure. She didn’t come at all. Not even close.

He sighed.

She rolled on her side, turning her back to him.

Back means trust, he thought, then cursed his head for being full of pop psychology crap. Had he just forced her?

She’d kissed him. She would have said no. Wouldn’t she?

Feeling like a heel, he said her name. He was scared to put his arms around her. She wasn’t crying. “Scully, talk to me.”

“It’s okay,” she mumbled. He sat up and leaned over her, looking into her eyes. “It’s okay,” she said again, more strongly. Like she meant it.

He put his hand between her thighs.

“Don’t,” she said. Saying no.

“I want to,” he said, but didn’t move his fingers.

“I don’t,” she waited for him to take his hand away and he did. She lay there looking up at his face.

“I didn’t hurt you?” he asked.

“No.”

“I didn’t…make you?” His words were ginger. Fearful.

“No,” she said again.

“Can we talk about what you’re feeling?” he asked.

“I didn’t want to come,” she said frankly and jumped up from the bed, going into the bathroom to wash herself.

Wash him away.

He felt terrible and he wasn’t sure it was all his fault.

Come on, Mulder, of course it was your fault. He picked up the computer and felt callous. What was he supposed to do? He looked up as she emerged from the bathroom. She pushed her hair out of her face with wet fingers. “I’m going to take a nap,” she told him, climbing again onto the bed.

Was he supposed to move? Was it a warning to leave her alone? He didn’t know what do to. He wanted to help her but everything he did seemed to be wrong. Finally he closed the laptop and settled into the chair, letting her sleep.

-17-

She was already feeling nervous on the way to the Tintners’ home about eight o’clock that evening. Her stomach was jumpy, but mostly she was on edge. She felt like something bad was about to happen. She couldn’t say why or what was bad, it was just a feeling of something bad.

She felt like the bad thing had already happened. Not just in the half remembered pieces of her childhood that continued to haunt her, but that afternoon in the motel room. Between her and her husband. She was ashamed of the way she’d behaved. He was her husband. She loved him. Why was there nothing that she did that could make him know that? She glanced over at Mulder. He’d been introverted since she got up from her attempt at sleep. She’d been terrible to him when he’d only been trying to help. He’d only been acting like he loved her.

It was all so difficult. She wanted to apologize, but how was she supposed to do that? What were the words? She continued to look at him, and she could feel him blaming himself. He always did, but this time it was not his fault. It was her fault. It was no one’s fault. It was her fault for letting her damaged life affect her.

She wished she could just get over the whole damn thing.

She would just have to try harder.

“What can we do for you?” asked Wayne Tintner when they reached his home. He wasn’t pleased to see them at his door and he kept them standing on the step, outside in the cold, windy night. She wondered at the negative attitude present in his tone and his eyes and his posture. It was he who was the target of the mysterious attacks. She thought he would be the happy one if they could stop a crazy poltergeist from trying to kill him.

“We have some questions for your daughter,” Scully said.

“She doesn’t have to answer to the police when she hasn’t done anything,” Tintner told her. Angrily.

“We’re just trying to get to the bottom of this, sir,” she stated. Backing off and being polite to try to maintain the situation. She wanted to know why Mulder was being so silent. Why wasn’t he backing her up? She wanted to look at him, but she couldn’t take her eyes off Mr. Tintner, she couldn’t lose her staring-down advantage in that way. They didn’t teach that in the FBI academy – she’d had to learn it on her own. In the field. It wasn’t even something Mulder had to do. But she did, because she was small and a woman and hard for men to take seriously. Tintner was big and ruddy faced like the men in her family.

“We haven’t done anything,” he snarled so fiercely she took a surprised step back. He moved to one side and returned, his face red with barely controlled anger as he began to hurl their camera equipment at them. “The federal government has no right to put cameras in my home!” He’d disassembled their work and kept it there by the door. Waiting for them to show up. Waiting to toss it back at them.

“You’re the target of these attacks,” Scully continued, feeling rage boil up inside her, much more than was called for. The degree of her fury startled her. She wanted to hurt him. She wanted to hurt him. Badly. Her calm began to shatter. “Why is that? Does your daughter hate you so much?”

“She’s done nothing!” he screamed, his face a deeper shade of red, betraying the truth of his words.

“Scully -” Mulder’s tone was warning, but she ignored him, standing her ground. She had to do this.

“What did you do to her? Did you touch her? Did you hurt her?” Scully asked, wanting the man to react. Mulder grabbed her as Mr. Tintner lunged for her. She didn’t struggle, just gave Mulder a hard push and he let her go. Shaking it off, she walked back to the car and got in without looking back. She was breathing hard from the confrontation, her blood rushing. She wasn’t sure if it was anger or fear. She should feel fear, she knew. It was odd that she didn’t. She felt excited. Anger wasn’t supposed to be exciting. The thrill she got from telling him off wasn’t supposed to be so exciting.

“What the hell were you doing?” Mulder yelled at her when he got into the car. He hadn’t bothered to pick up the equipment that lay strewn across the snowy lawn. He’d just followed her.

She didn’t say anything. Sense was returning and waves of anger receded, leaving her head throbbing. She made herself sick. Mr. Tintner made her sick. She knew what was going on in that house. And because she’d become angry, they wouldn’t have any proof. She hadn’t been able to do anything about it.

“Don’t ever do that again!” Mulder shouted at her. “Don’t ever – what were you thinking!” His anger pissed her off. Who was he to tell her what to do? Her irrationality returned. Scully never acted like this. He glared at her as she pulled away from the curb. There wasn’t any traffic on the narrow street and her foot lay heavy on the gas.

“Just because it happened to you doesn’t mean it happened to everyone! You have no proof, no evidence! What is going on in your head? You know better than this. You never just believe things!” Mulder continued to yell at her.

She didn’t say anything. Just pressed her lips together, ignoring him as best she could, and sped on through a stop sign without slowing. There was no car for miles, why would she bother to stop? The air was clear and she could see. She didn’t care.

“Stop the car,” Mulder ordered. She didn’t. She didn’t care. She was driving this car, not him. She was in charge. “STOP!” She’d never heard him sound like that. So loud and so forceful and so…scared? She braked hard, giving him what he wanted, and he jolted forward in his seat. It didn’t make her feel satisfied. She didn’t know what she was supposed to feel, or do. She was just trying to feel better. This didn’t seem to be the way. He untangled his locked seatbelt and jumped out of the car.

Leaving her.

She deserved it.

Why did she feel so pleased? Was that what she wanted? For him to leave her? Save himself from being dragged down by her crazy behavior? What was she going to with him? What was she going to do without him?

But he was at the driver’s door a moment later, his face drawn in anger. The angry face through dark clouded glass…she sprang back, seeing Duane Barry for a second. When he opened the door, she slipped past him, running fast with light feet, thinking only of Duane Barry and knowing that he was going to hurt her in unspeakable ways. They were not going to take her again. Mulder bellowed her name and she didn’t stop. She heard his feet slap against the pavement behind her and as she turned her head to look back, her feet skidded on a patch of black ice.

She went down on her face and it knocked the wind out of her. Falling was so sudden. She could feel him standing over her, menacing in the darkness. She couldn’t lift her head. Too afraid.

Afraid of Mulder? She knew it didn’t make sense. Mulder would never…could never…

None of it made sense.

“Scully -” he said gently. He reached for her hand and she jerked to her senses, leaping to her feet. “Don’t do this.” His eyes were wild, begging, and he addressed her like she was a wild bird that might fly away at any second, with no warning.

“Stop yelling at me!” The tears burned her cold skin as they fell. The fight went out of her. She hated crying. She hated feeling so humiliated and dirty. She hated the look in his eyes most of all. He didn’t know what she was going to do. She was unpredictable and crazy. How could he trust her when she was acting like this?

She wanted him to trust her.

“Come on,” he said, reaching for her. She sidestepped his arm and returned to the car, docilely sliding into the passenger seat. She was going to behave. She looked out the window, away from Mulder, as he moved the driver’s seat back and sighed. She couldn’t face him.

“Scully,” he said heavily. “I’m sorry I yelled at you. I was scared. I still am.”

The words weren’t easy for him. She knew this. She didn’t say anything. She couldn’t. There was no way to apologize.

“You’re being self destructive.” He was trying so hard to be patient. Too hard.

“There’s no need to address me like a child,” she snapped. “I’ll do better. I’ll keep control better. It won’t happen again.” Why did she feel like she was begging now? Begging for forgiveness. She shouldn’t be doing any of this. If only she could feel like herself again…

“Why did you run?”

She was determined to be honest. Her only chance was if she could make him understand the turmoil within her. “I saw you in the window and I thought…” She had to stop. Swallow back the pain. She had to tell DK and the others to stay away from her, if they could even hear her, if they would even pay any attention. “I thought you were him.”

“Bill?” Mulder asked, not understanding.

She choked. She couldn’t say the name. She shook her head. God, she didn’t want to think about this any more. Duane Barry. Was what he had done to her worse than Bill? Bill had betrayed her trust, but Barry had stolen a part of her life. Months she would never remember, months she could have better spent with someone else. With Mulder. He’d robbed her of time and security and her future. She did not want to talk about it.

“Someone else?”

Was this charades? She nodded, praying he would leave it there. She didn’t want to talk about it.

“God, Scully, how many people have hurt you?” He wasn’t asking her. He was marveling. She was a marvel. Twice appeared in the X Files. It embarrassed her. She sniffled pathetically and he started the car. Finally.

The tension was unbearable. She didn’t want to cry. She’d promised herself that she wouldn’t cry ever again. She would be in control and things would start to get better. She would start to be herself again and then she would feel like herself again. But Mulder was mad at her. She was mad at herself. He was right, she was acting crazy. Believing in things without any proof or evidence. She never would have done this before. She never would have guessed things would end up like this, either.

There wasn’t any proof of what had happened to her, except what she felt and what she remembered. In fact, there were adamant denials. Her eyes sneaked over to Mulder. Since there was no proof, did he believe her?

She wanted him to believe her. No, she needed him to believe her. But without proof, why should he? She shouldn’t believe it herself. There were no answers, and she thought maybe that was what would drive her mad in the end. The need to know and the impossibility of knowing for certain.

The drive was long enough to freeze her muscles around the way she’d twisted her knee when she’d fallen on the ice. She could feel Mulder’s eyes heavy on the limp she couldn’t help when they reached the motel. She clenched her teeth against the pain. Her knee was definitely twisted. Maybe torn. She couldn’t deal with this right now, except unfortunately she couldn’t stop her life and wait until she was ready. The others could, but she refused to let them take the time and pain away from her. They weren’t going to come back. Ever. She would not let them.

Mulder dialed Skinner and she glanced in the mirror. She looked like one of the Furies, with too-bright eyes, abrasions on her face and hands, and bruises on her arms from being grabbed.

She remembered suddenly all the bruises she’d never been able to explain while she was growing up. Were they proof? Or was she just a fragile-skinned person, clumsy as she’d thought at the time, as everyone had said about her?

“Yeah, we had some problems,” Mulder admitted to their boss over the phone. Scully could hear Skinner yelling at him from across the room. “Apparently local law thought -” Cut off again. More shouting. This was her fault. She was very cold and very small. She’d always been afraid when her dad yelled, and Skinner should be yelling at her, not at Mulder. Mulder was protecting her again. She shouldn’t need protecting.

Oh, she was very low. She should stand up for herself. Face Skinner. Admit to what she’d said and done and suspected.

“Intuition,” Mulder was saying to Skinner. “A woman knows -”

Such a lame excuse. He knew it. But it was all she had. He stopped.

“Scully isn’t feeling very well.” He glanced at her. Skinner wanted to talk to her, but Mulder didn’t want her to talk to Skinner. That was okay. She didn’t want to talk to him. She couldn’t tell him anything except her dirty little secrets.

The pain in her knee was making her sick. She focused on it, feeling the throb in the joint, somehow churning her stomach. There was only Midol in her bag and she didn’t think it would have any effect on a twisted knee, but she took it anyway, covering her eyes with her hands to try to ward the tears off. She wasn’t going to cry again, because if she let herself begin, she was not going to be able to stop.

Mulder was drained after his conversation with Skinner. It was so much work to be honest but not tell his boss too much. There was no reason for Skinner to know about Scully. She didn’t want him to know. He stopped and looked at her wife and sighed. He and Skinner had managed to agree that the case here was ultimately unimportant. There was a difficulty with the child murder matter and Skinner wanted them back on an early flight. He wouldn’t elaborate, and that told Mulder it was bad.

Scully was sitting up in the chair when he turned toward her. Her head was propped up on her hands, eyes closed. He could hear her soft, even breathing. She must have been completely exhausted because she’d fallen asleep in the chair.

Mulder had slept sitting up in more than one chair in his life and he remembered the poor rest and sore neck he’d woken with in the morning. He couldn’t let her wake up sore and cranky. He nudged her and she mumbled but didn’t open her eyes. After a second, deciding whether he should touch her while she was sleeping, knowing she was sensitive to being touched right now, Mulder made a decision and pulled her up onto her feet. It was only a few steps across the room and he lay her on the bed.

She yelped, eyes still closed, and his heart clenched. He’d done something wrong. He shouldn’t have touched her. Not breathing, he watched. Her frown eased as she shifted her legs. He remembered her limp and the way she’d fallen and decided that he hadn’t hurt her. He turned off the light and lay down next to her, marveling at what a day it had been.

Things with Scully never got boring.

He hoped, however, that they would get easier. Her running away from him had been heartbreaking and terrifying. He didn’t want that to ever happen again. He turned to lie on his side, facing her in the bed. Her body was heavy and limp. She was completely out. He watched her and worried about the meeting with Skinner. He didn’t think he’d slept at all until she woke him several hours later.

Hard fists beat at his chest, rousing him. His eyes opened and he was disoriented for a moment. Then he saw he’d sought Scully’s body in his sleep, tangled his legs with hers, pulled her close. Still asleep, she’d taken offense. She struggled against him, to push him away, as her eyes darted in dreams. Her chest rose and fell impossibly fast, laboring.

He moved away from her quickly, but it didn’t do any good. She began to scream – animal cries of pain that eviscerated him. He froze, feeling his heart stop. He didn’t know what to do. He just knew he had to help her. He said her name but she was too deeply asleep to hear him. Not able to bear the sound any longer, he put his hand over her mouth.

Her eyes opened and after a start, her body went completely limp. “You were screaming,” he said. He was drenched in cold sweat, he realized, removing his hand. She’d scared him. Scared them both.

“Maybe I needed to scream.” Her voice was weak. She didn’t remember the dream exactly, but remembered the terror she had felt. She could feel the dream – memory? – in her body. Mulder stared at her, with her skin so pale. “Excuse me,” she said calmly, rolling out of bed. He saw her knees wobble before deciding to hold her weight. He heard her violently wretching a moment later when she reached the bathroom. Whatever she’d been remembering, or dreaming, that made her scream with such terror, made her sick. All because he’d touched her? Was this his fault? He leaned against the wall, feeling responsible. He wasn’t doing anything right. His instincts were terrible.

How the hell was he supposed to know what to do?

“He used to put his hand over my mouth so I wouldn’t make any noise. Because he hurt me,” she said, trying to explain when she returned. Mulder looked at her but she wouldn’t meet his eyes. She didn’t say anything more, putting her teeth into her lip. Stopping her words. He didn’t think he’d ever seen her do that before.

Mulder nodded. Trying to understand. It was the most communication they’d had all day, which didn’t say much. God, it had been a terrible day. He wanted to sleep. He wanted to know she was all right and safe. His body felt so cold. Did she get this cold?

“So if you could not -” she trailed off, seeing him nod, knowing he understood. Not to put his hand over her mouth again. Even if she was screaming. She sighed, not wanting to say anything more than “Nightmares.”

He didn’t have any words. Words couldn’t make this better. He wished he could heal her, but he couldn’t. He didn’t know at that moment if anything could. The green glow of the clock indicated it was four am. “Our flight’s at six,” he said, looking at her. After a second, he headed for a hot shower. She looked like she could use one too, but he didn’t know how to suggest she join him. He wanted to know her body was warm. He wanted to make her soul warm with his love, but he didn’t know how to do that.

“I’m going to be fired,” she said when he emerged from the bathroom. She was fully dressed in a charcoal suit with her packed bag sitting at her feet.

He toweled off and began to dress, not knowing what to say to her. “You might need more time.” He knew that she wasn’t going to lose her job – she might need a longer leave of absence, to be easier on herself – but she wasn’t going to be fired. She did a good job of covering, so good that even he probably would not have known what she was going through if he wasn’t so closely involved with her. She held things inside and he wanted her to share them with him.

“I can’t believe this,” she said.

“There is something going with that family on that local law didn’t want to deal with, that’s why they gave the case to us. But it’s not an FBI matter,” he stated. “I think Skinner knows you don’t act without a reason.”

“I never knew you could be so diplomatic.” She choked out a laugh. Trying to defend her crazy behavior. She wanted to scream it at him: I’m crazy, Mulder, can’t you see it? But she couldn’t say it because she was ashamed.

“I’m trying,” he told her. He had no choice but to be diplomatic and strong like her and keep them going even when it seemed like they were going to fall. Wanting to be close to her, he picked up her hand and caressed the skin on her finger around the gold wedding band. It felt especially soft and smooth. She shivered.

“I’m a pain in the ass,” she said quietly, looking away from him. Pulling away, not wanting to deal with him or the facts of his love and their marriage. “I’ll understand…this isn’t what you signed on for.”

When he realized she was telling him to leave her, it shocked him and wounded him. He heard the words and didn’t want to believe them. Why would she do this? “I love you, Scully,” was all he had to say to that, bewildered. He had never thought he would have to be the strong one, and now he was learning that it was hard. How had she borne his burdens for so long?

“Nights are hardest,” she said, neatly avoiding the subject as she made a final sweep of the motel room, not turning up any forgotten belongings.

He had to agree, but he wished she’d said she loved him. Maybe she couldn’t do that right now, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. He could only hold onto the hope that if they made it through the days all right, things would become more normal and the nights would stop being so hard.

Skinner was very, very grim when they met with him late that afternoon, still grimy and exhausted from their travels. The plane had been delayed and got in late so they met with Skinner straight from the airport, still lugging their gear.

“What the hell happened out there?” Skinner demanded the instant they walked into his office, even before the door was closed. Mulder pushed it shut and Skinner continued. “Wayne Tintner says he’s going to sue for invasion of privacy and slander.”

Neither of them said a word.

“Well?”

Scully knew she had to take responsibility. She was letting her personal situation cloud her judgment and there was absolutely no excuse for that. “I said some things I shouldn’t have, sir,” she admitted.

“Such as?”

“I suggested these phantom attacks were directed at him because he had been abusing his daughter.”

Skinner sucked in his breath sharply. “I assume there was some sort of evidence to support your allegation?” he asked. Scully was a fine agent; he didn’t think she would be as careless as Tintner had described her.

“It was intuition,” Mulder answered for her. He was amazed, watching her. His old rational Scully had returned. His heart surged with pride and excitement; for the first time in a long time, he felt good.

“And as such, I shouldn’t have said anything,” she continued. Hating herself and the ground she stood on and the way everything she touched seemed to crumble into dust. As strong as her belief was, as certain as she was that she was correct, that was not what they had been sent to investigate. She’d blown their chances of investigating the poltergeist hoax whether she was right or not.

Skinner nodded. She could feel his dark brown eyes studying her as he decided to accept her statement. He knew she was right. “We’re having problems with the Wilder prosecution. Problems that involve both of you and question your conduct on this matter.” Skinner said. “A lot of issues have been raised.”

Scully couldn’t find her voice to ask for an elaboration. She wasn’t certain she wanted to know what kind of issues.

“The OPC wishes to sit in on your depositions, which have been scheduled to begin tomorrow,” Skinner continued. The older man removed his glasses and looked at his agents point-blank. Scully focused on the red marks on either side of his nose from his glasses. “Is there anything you’d like to tell me?” The question wasn’t asked by their boss, Skinner, but by Skinner who was concerned for them personally and professionally. Did everyone wear so many guises? Scully thought suddenly. Maybe it wasn’t only her.

After a long pause, Mulder said seriously, “I have no doubt that the OPC will find our conduct appropriate.”

“I sure as hell hope so,” Skinner said, his words a dire warning. He put his glasses back on and shuffled some papers on his desk, dismissing them.

Scully was perfectly calm as they walked out of the building, until they reached the basement parking level where their car waited for them. Then everything seemed to change and she clutched at Mulder’s arm. “He knows, Mulder,” she said.

He looked at her and found her eyes cold and hollow. “You don’t – ” he began.

“He knows,” she said again, removing her hand. Mulder could feel her withdrawing from him and knew he hadn’t responded properly. Sometimes he wished she would give him a clue. “That’s what the problem is. My career is over.” She sounded convinced.

“You haven’t done anything wrong,” he told her. He wished he could say he’d seen weaker agents overcome more, but he had vowed never to lie to her. They both knew this was a battle, and war was never easy. He wanted to tell her that her career was not as important as her health, but he thought she would think he was making light of the situation.

He got in on the driver’s side to steer them to her apartment. Her message light was blinking when they walked in, but she ignored it, wandering from room to room as though looking for something she had lost.

Her soul, was his chilling thought as he dialed his home number and keyed in the digits to retrieve his messages, all the while looked at the red light blinking on her answering machine. It was mesmerizing.

“Mulder. Got a lead on a place for you guys. Brief us.” Frohike’s was the only waiting message. He dialed the number, wondering what Scully was doing.

“Frohike,” the phone was answered cheerfully.

“I can’t believe you answered the phone like that,” Mulder said. Maybe the world was ending, if the even Gunmen weren’t paranoid any more.

“We finally convinced Langly that Caller ID is not the spawn of Big Brother era telecommunications monopoly,” Frohike replied cheerfully. He enjoyed his conspiracies, and Mulder suspected he enjoyed springing them upon him. “Knew it was you. How’s Scully?”

“She’s fine.” His friends hadn’t even seemed this concerned about her cancer. By marrying him, she had become one of the inner circle. He was happy to think that they had finally accepted her. It surprised him that she had become his measure of how important people were to him – and his wanting them to like Scully told him how much he valued the Gunmen in his life.

“Good. We got a line on the perfect house for you two. It doesn’t hit the ads till tomorrow, so if you go tonight, you can steal it.”

“I don’t know…” Mulder hedged. With the noose of the OPC over them, they had more pressing concerns than their living arrangements.

“Let me give you the address,” Frohike insisted and Mulder waited patiently as his friend recited it for him. “Are you going to go?”

“I don’t know,” Mulder said honestly. “I need to talk to Scully.”

“How are things between you?” Frohike asked, turning serious.

“I don’t know,” Mulder answered. He wished he did.

“Marriage is hard,” his friend confided. Before Mulder could ask him what he knew about that, a dial tone sounded in his ear.

Mulder replaced the phone, wondering why Frohike had ended the conversation so abruptly, staring again at the red light on the answering machine. He sighed and stood. “Scully.” He walked through the apartment, looking for her.

He found her in the bathroom, dewy eyed, with a bottle of pills in her hand. “Scully?” he asked, frowning as he walked closer.

“I was thinking of sleeping,” she said and set the bottle down. Sleeping pills. “I’m so scared.” With the simple statement, she put herself into his arms, pressing her face against his chest.

“Scully -” She didn’t feel strong now. She felt soft, so easily injured or punctured or broken. Her hair smelled sweet when he inhaled and he felt its scent travel through his body.

“Dana,” she whispered a correction and it made his heart glow. He called her Dana in the past when he wanted to reach past her professionalism to her emotions. She’d never asked him to call her by her first name before.

“Dana,” he confirmed and the name felt odd in his mouth. “The boys have lead on a house they swear we’ll love. Do you want to go and look at it?”

She nodded, slipping from his embrace. How could she look so vulnerable and radiant at the same time? he wondered. Love, he decided, it must be love. He held her coat for her as she slipped it on and they headed out to the car.

Dana’s eyes were watchful on the darkness and the trees and the night. She was afraid of what they might be hiding. Fear pervaded through her and she hated it. Always cowering, even away from love. Had Mulder really loved her all this time and she had never noticed? What had she been paying attention to, then, if not to him?

She had to be very good to him, she reasoned, for fear of losing him.

But fear of loving him and fear of losing him were both so big and scary. She had to watch, to make sure to please him. She wanted to be happy. Dana often did what other people wanted so they would be happy. It was a drive that had begun in her childhood. If she could just be perfect, people might like her. And not hurt her.

Mulder almost missed the turnoff. The house was old and stood beyond some tall trees that separated it from a nearby subdivision. “Isolated, but close to town,” Mulder remarked.

“In ten years this will all be built up,” Scully said with sharp practicality.

Dana watched to see how he would react.

Mulder grinned. “We’ll have to buy the land too,” he said as though it was already decided. The house was charming – small enough for two people but with airy, clean lines that hinted it would suit children and a dog.

Inside, its combination of country charm and modernity continued. It was like nothing Mulder had ever seen before. He could picture her furniture here. He could picture his furniture as well. When he closed his eyes, he could see it all laid out as though he was already there. Her couch against the wall with his typewriter poster over it. His bookcase next to her entertainment armoire. One of the three bedrooms could become a den with his couch in it.

“I love it,” he stated, feeling full of contentment.

She was nodding.

“Say you want to buy it.” He hoped that she would.

“It’s perfect,” Scully conceded and began to smile. She reached for his hand and squeezed it as they looked out the window at the hill and the trees and their bureau car parked in the driveway.

They were home.

-17B-

“We’ll have to call…” Mulder began, reaching for his cell phone as they stepped out onto the back porch together. He trailed off when he saw the playhouse in the yard and looked at Scully, worried about her reaction. Honestly, he expected her to burst into tears since they were planning their life together and her view of that life did not include children.

She dropped his hand and started for the tiny house. He followed, afraid her determined look was not her own. It had only been a short time since she declared the others wouldn’t be back, no matter how much he wanted to believe they were gone. “Scully?”

“Dana.” Her grin was happy in the dark playhouse and her body against his invited more than an embrace.

“What’re we doing in here?” he asked.

“Make love to me,” she requested with all the spunk of a romance novel heroine.

“Here?” he cried. “There could be spiders or -”

She kissed him hard to silence him. “Now,” she whispered, pressing her hand against him. He was ready. She tipped her head and looked at him, her hair swinging from where she’d tucked it behind her ear. So beautiful. She pulled open her coat and nudged his head to her breast.

He thought she murmured, “I will have your children,” as she was consumed by their passion and it stilled him.

She continued their leisurely kissing and toyed with his hair as he moved away from her, taking his hands away, but her words weighed heavily on his mind as he led her from the playhouse, back to the car. “Did you say you can have children?” he asked, worried. If she wasn’t Scully…if she’d gone delusional…again…

“My ovaries weren’t removed,” she told him once they were in the car. Her pitch and modulation assured him that she was Scully. Flushed and disheveled from making out, but Scully. “A woman is born with millions of ova because so many are defective. Reproduction has never been a science of exaction. The statistics go as high as 70% of pregnancies spontaneously ending before they’re ever realized.”

Numbed by her recitation of fact, he wondered what her point was. “Scully?” he asked, as he often did when she was losing him to minutiae. “What are you trying to say?”

“I don’t think all my chances are gone,” she stated.

He’d never realized his partner was an optimist.

“I didn’t experience any of the symptoms woman experience when they lose their ovaries. My doctor never noticed anything wrong with me. I bleed, Mulder.” Her tone was too high. Too desperate. “Maybe the ova that are left are immature or damaged beyond viability, but I know my body, Mulder, and I know you have only the word of men who worked on the project. Men we can not trust.”

“I know how seductive the need to believe is -” he began.

She just shook her head, closing up and crossing her arms low over her belly. It was a gesture that made his throat itch. She was staving off pain. The pain of his disbelief?

Or was she trying to tell him something more normal? Like she was emotional because it was a certain phase of the moon?

“There’s always IVF. And surrogates. And cloning.” He added the last because he was overwhelmed and sarcasm had always been his defense against pain.

“Why did you say that?” she demanded, hurt.

He shook his head, unable to explain. He pulled up in front of her apartment and she got out. He trailed after her, following in silence through the doorway. He saw her head for her answering machine and he went into the bathroom to wash up and give her privacy, but his timing was off – she’d hesitated, and the message was just beginning to play.

The quiet, controlled voice of a woman. He stopped to allow Scully her space. “Dana, it’s your sister in law.” A long pause. “I don’t know what to say to you. We have tried…we’ve been good to you. These accusations…you can only be a very disturbed person. Very disturbed. My husband, your brother, has been nothing but gentle with me and with our son. If you’ve been hurt by someone else, I am sorry, but please don’t sicken me with these falsehoods designed only to get my sympathy and our pity. You need help. Professional help.”

The tape clicked off and whirred to rewind. She didn’t move.

Mulder moved away, to pretend he hadn’t heard, and she saw him. “No one believes me,” she said, her voice thick. “Do you believe me?”

“Scully -”

“Oh, God, even you don’t believe me!” She looked like he’d injured her physically.

“I do believe you Scully,” he assured her.

“But there’s no proof and I – sometimes I can’t even believe it myself. And I don’t know how to live with that.”

“You’ll live through it. You’ll fight and you’ll win.” He hugged her. “Get some rest. It’s been a long day and tomorrow will be longer.”

“Where are you going to be?” she asked.

“I have to call about the house,” he said. She sat down and waited for him. They went to bed together and just held each other close for the longest time. Mulder was determined to see her safely asleep and finally he felt her relax against him and allowed his eyes to close as well. Trying not to think about the hearings they faced in the morning.

-18-

Scully’s OPC hearing was at nine and his wasn’t scheduled until noon, so in the morning he went to the Lone Gunmen’s office after she’d gone to the Hoover building, wearing the demure black suit she reserved for occasions when she felt like she needed to impress people with everything she had, including her clothes.

“Mulder!” Langly greeted him at the door, alerted by video surveillance. “We’ve got to get this issue to the printer’s by two.” Together, they walked into the cramped, dim office. Byers had a yellow pencil behind each ear and was typing rapidly into one of the many computers. “Wanna proofread?” Langly shoved several pages into Mulder’s empty hands.

“Where’s Frohike?” Mulder asked.

“Darkroom.” Byers’ tone conveyed that he was too busy to waste words or even turn his head to greet his friend.

Mulder stood, setting the pasted-up pages on the counter. He didn’t want to bother the guys when they were working. He knew he should probably head to his own office to go over his case notes before his questioning by the OPC and whatever lawyers were going to be present. He’d killed a man, and even though he was right, he was not proud of that fact. “I just wanted to thank you guys for the tip on the house,” he said.

His mind wandered to Scully, wondering how she was getting along with the OPC. He reminded himself, again, that she didn’t need his protection and that if he ever implied that she did, she would be furious. She might even leave him.

“You liked it?” Byers looked at him, a pleased grin lighting up his face.

“Yeah,” said Mulder. “I don’t know where you get your info, but it was great.”

“A friend of mine is the marketer,” Byers said. Mulder noticed his friend wasn’t wearing a jacket or a tie. He wasn’t sure he had ever seen Byers out of uniform. Or relaxed. Mulder couldn’t keep the corners of his mouth from turning up. Byers had a girlfriend. “And my sister’s the estate agent,” he added, looking more annoyed and returning to the article he was working on.

“Wow, Mulder,” said Langly. “A wife, home…you’re settling down.”

Mulder nodded. “I don’t want to keep you. Tell Frohike I said hello. We’ll have to get together.”

“Wait, I know he wanted to talk to you.” Byers dropped a third pencil onto the table and Mulder wondered what the hell he needed pencils for when he was typing. Byers walked to the black door of the darkroom and knocked. “Frohike?”

“Not now!” came the reply.

Byers shrugged.

“I’ll call you. Thanks again,” Mulder said, heading for the office to face what he’d been delaying.

“Tell us again how you determined it was Joe Wilder who brutalized and murdered these innocent little girls.”

Scully stared at her interrogators as she gathered her thoughts. She disliked the way they were attempting to introduce emotion into their questions. A trio of lawyers as shiny and identical as though they’d been freshly poured from a mold only that morning looked back at her, waiting for her answer. Her stomach was queasy with worry they would learn her dark, dirty little secret. “He was associated with Scott Strader,” she said finally.

“Who never had the benefit of a trial,” said one the one in the pinstripes.

“What do you know about Strader?” asked the one in the glasses.

“Virtually nothing beyond what’s in the report.” She’d taken a mini-seminar on testifying in court while she attended medical school. Presenting evidence was an important role of the pathologist. She followed all of those rules now – remaining calm and neutral; meeting the lawyer’s eyes; saying only what she needed to say.

“And yet your partner is the one who shot him.” Why did the gray haired one sound so accusing?

“Yes, sir.” There was nothing for her to add.

“Where were you when your partner shot Scott Strader?”

“Visiting my family. It was Thanksgiving.” She could feel the tension that accompanied defensiveness leaking through her and taking hold. She knew she couldn’t let them win and that if they got her on the defensive, she would no longer be in control.

“Is that usual?”

“I had requested the time off in advance -”

“In fact, you had a problem with this case, didn’t you, Miss Scully?”

The questions were becoming more rapid and adversarial. And she hated being referred to as “Miss” and wondered suddenly if her agent status was at stake here.

“Weren’t you on a leave of absence at the time of Joseph Wilder’s arrest?” The gray haired one leaned in too close to her and she could smell his breath, the faintly putrid odor of a breath mint masking sour coffee. She wanted to run.

“I was.” She knew it was impossible for them to hear her heartbeat, but it sounded deafening to her own ears. Why wouldn’t he back off? She knew he was doing it to intimidate her and it made her angry to know that it was working.

“How do you explain your apprehension of him, then?” The gray haired man finally leaned back, smugly crossing his arms. Like he’d just been handed his shiny gold victory trophy.

“I came upon him -”

“Luck?” She could see the laughter in his eyes.

“A girl was murdered!” she cried. “He was at the scene and physical evidence -” Her hand stabbed the air, making her point.

“None was collected.”

“What?” It took a second for her shock to fully register.

All three of them shook their heads, as though they were controlled by the same string.

“It should have been collected,” she said.

“You don’t know?” The blond one’s question was a condemnation.

“I was assaulted. By Joe Wilder. I had a concussion and as you say, was not assigned to the case. I left the matter of evidence in the hands of the other law enforcement personnel on the scene.”

“Your partner,” the one with glasses supplied. Scully was getting tired of turning her head to look at all of the men asking her questions. They were circling, doing it on purpose to unnerve her. Had she ever treated suspects this way? She knew that she had. But she was not a suspect.

“My partner and other officers,” she confirmed.

“Your partner was on suspension -”

“Mulder was on mandatory leave,” she corrected stridently. She would always come to Mulder’s defense. “Any time an officer fires his weapon, some period of mandatory leave and counseling is required.”

“Why did you ask for leave from this case?”

“I -” She shook her head, searching for the words. “Children – girls – murdered in this way…” She searched the man’s onyx eyes, looking for understanding. She found none and it astounded her. How could they not be emotionally affected, or understand why she had been? “It was very difficult for me,” she finished quietly, feeling scorn and shame for becoming emotional.

“And Joe Wilder was not apprehended at the scene of the murder and this assault.”

“No.”

“You were the only one who saw him, is this correct?”

“Yes.”

“And you were able to identify him under hypnosis?”

She said nothing, knowing her silence was damning. “I had trauma-induced memory loss from the concussion.”

“It’s possible that facts revealed under hypnosis could be incorrect?”

She raised an eyebrow at him.

He used his finger to underline words as he read them from one of the many sheets of paper in front of him. “‘It is a rare individual who cannot be induced to say or do anything under the care of a skilled hypnotist.’” He tossed the paper at her. “Your words, Miss Scully. Published in a forensic journal in 1996 -”

Her face flushed and she hated her body’s betrayal of her humiliation and anger. “Corroborating evidence was found in Joe Wilder’s home linking him to all of the crimes.”

“Found by an agent suspended for murder, operating without the benefit of a search warrant.”

She hadn’t known.

“You’re married to your partner, Agent Scully?”

“That has no bearing on this matter.” She said and felt even angrier as he looked at her with disbelief.

“It does if you married him so that you wouldn’t have to testify against him,” the one with the glasses informed her savagely. Her mouth dropped open in shock because they couldn’t think… She scanned their faces. “That will be all,” he said, dismissing her.

She got to her feet quickly. That they hadn’t asked about her mental health was a relief, but one quickly overshadowed by her other worries. Mulder was waiting his turn in the hall, but she walked past without looking at him, unwilling to give the lawyers any more ammunition. In her mind, they had enough already.

Mulder turned and watched Scully walk away. She hadn’t acknowledged him at all. His chest tightened and he turned to the three lawyers waiting to question him. One of them he recognized as working for the bureau. “Did you upset her?” he asked them.

“Your concern is admirable,” the gray haired man said, not answering his question. They went into the conference room and sat down.

“Why did you shoot Scott Strader?”

Hey, don’t start with the easy questions, Mulder thought. “He was pointing a 45 caliber semi automatic at my head.”

“What became of that weapon?”

“It was turned in as evidence,” Mulder replied with total confidence.

“Where is that weapon now?”

Mulder’s eyes widened. Damn it! They’d lost the gun. And since Strader had never registered it, there was no record of him ever having owned a gun. They’d lost it or someone had stolen it, to make him look bad.

The lawyers accepted it as a point conceded by him. 1-0. He was losing.

“Why did you pursue the case while on administrative leave?”

2-0. Shit. He couldn’t answer that question.

“Agent Mulder?”

“Scully – my partner – Agent Scully required my assistance.”

“Even after she walked away from the case?”

Mulder slapped the table with his hand. “You can’t just turn it off and on! An investigator digests the facts of the case slowly, working on them as he pursues other matters.”

“You were obsessed?”

“I didn’t say that! I don’t like your tone or your attitude,” Mulder snapped.

“A man is dead and another is incarcerated, Agent Mulder. This is a very serious matter.”

He only stared. Angry. Already aware of its seriousness.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” The gray haired man asked, self assured, as though he were scolding a child. It was that bad.

“The evidence in this case will prove true.” He was getting hoarse.

“The improperly acquired evidence?”

3-0. They sank his battleship. “If you let him out, he will kill again and that will be on your head!” He pointed at them, rising from the table.

“You may go.”

“Good!” He stormed out and the door slammed behind him. His anger collapsed the instant he hit the cooler air in the hallway.

He’d fucked up.

“Damn it!” he cried again, knowing he could have handled that better. He shook his head and went downstairs to his office, seeking Scully.

She wasn’t there.

He couldn’t continue to worry every time she wasn’t where he expected her to be. She was holding herself together and he had to give her credit for that. She hadn’t switched and daily he saw less moments of pain and uncertainty plaguing her.

Scully was getting better.

As he sat in his desk chair in his empty office, he felt himself growing irritated with her for not being there for him when he needed her support. Wasn’t he there for her? Hadn’t he given her everything she’d needed?

But he couldn’t let himself feel that way. He knew that, and guilt followed with his next breath.

He needed her. Why was that so terrible?

He shook his head again. So many things had changed since their marriage, in their expectations from each other. On the job and not. He let out a breath and opened the file, ready to go over his mistakes for the thousandth time.

Why hadn’t Scully even looked at him in the hall? It must have gone badly for her too. Maybe she was angry with him. She probably needed some time alone. So did he. He settled back in the chair, putting one foot against the desk, to try to find one thing he had actually done right.

The blue-gray light from the TV was the only light in the room, flickering and highlighting Scully’s bone structure when Mulder walked in late that evening. Her eyes were wide and fixed, staring at the muted set. She didn’t look at him when he walked in and closed the door.

“They let him out,” she said in an odd voice. She closed her eyes and he saw her nose and lips move as though fighting tears. She forced her eyes open and turned her head, focusing on Mulder’s face.

“No,” he said.

She nodded, eyes shiny. “Back on the street.” She punched the couch with her fist. “Because we did a bad job.”

He felt the same way she did, and couldn’t say anything.

She sat in sullen silence. This had happened because she had put her own problem before her job and other people’s lives. She had been weak and she had been wrong. Now, because of her, other girls would be hurt and tortured and killed.

She had never hated herself as strongly as she did at that moment. Mulder sat down next to her, his face upset. When he touched her, she knew it was because he needed her reassurance. She couldn’t bear it because it was her fault. How could he turn to her when she was so worthless?

“If you’re going to touch me, don’t be gentle and don’t be kind,” she said quietly. “I don’t deserve it.” If she could save one girl…if she could absorb the pain so another girl wouldn’t have to…She wanted the punishment. She knew she deserved to suffer.

A soft sound came from Mulder’s throat. Horrified. What was she asking him to do? He didn’t know. All he could do was stare.

He couldn’t deal with this.

He couldn’t cope with Scully’s guilt and blame when he couldn’t handle his own. He didn’t know what he’d expected to find waiting for him when he opened the door, but it wasn’t this. Commiseration, planning, love…but not this.

He walked out of her apartment.

Scully returned her eyes to the screen. Waiting for the news of a girl injured because of her utter incompetency. She couldn’t let herself think about Mulder walking away and leaving her alone without a word.

Joe Wilder knew where she lived.

Mulder drove for what seemed to be endless hours, around in the dark, losing his way only to find it again, almost playing a game with himself to see if he could actually become lost. Driving wasn’t calming. He’d thought he needed the time to think and now he knew that thinking was the last thing he wanted to do.

He wanted to go home to his wife, to Scully, to the only person who he knew understood the way he felt. He wanted to lie with her, he wanted to talk to her, he wanted to lock himself inside and never have to leave.

She was hurting and she was scared. That much had been written all over her face and he’d left her there. His foot pressed harder on the gas pedal. He should not have left her alone like that. But damn it, what about him?

He felt selfish for having those thoughts. But running was not the answer. In the past, running had always been his immediate reaction – he walked away when she didn’t understand him, rather than trying to explain, because it was easier.

He couldn’t do that now that they were married. They needed to talk about this. He made a right turn, heading back to her apartment.

She stared at the door when she heard someone trying to get inside, torn between opening it for Mulder and pointing her gun at the murderer who was bound to come after her. She waited to see which it would be.

“What?” Mulder asked, seeing her startled expression as he walked through the door. He closed it and locked it, feeling uncomfortable and not certain why.

She shook her head. He sat down near her on the couch and turned on the light. Scully recoiled from its brightness, having sat in the dark too long. Mulder turned off the television. “We should talk,” he said.

She nodded, waiting. He didn’t know what to say – “I know you’re in pain but what about me?” just wouldn’t do. He sighed.

“How do you feel about this?” she asked him.

“Angry at myself. To blame. I should have done a better job.”

“That’s funny,” she said. Mulder looked at her like she’d gone completely insane since it was anything but funny. “I feel the same way,” she finished.

“We have to believe Violent Crimes will get him.”

“How many girls will have to die before that happens?” Scully demanded.

There were no answers. He wished he had some for her, but he didn’t. She leaned against his shoulder and he put his arm around her. “I shouldn’t have gone back to work,” she said and he could feel the tiny shivers running through her body. He tightened his arm. “How many other investigations will I ruin?”

“You’re getting better.”

“Am I?” She picked up her head to try to get the truth from his eyes. He hoped that she saw it there. “This must be hard on you,” she realized. “Not what you expected from marriage. Not what you wanted.”

“You’re what I wanted.”

“Not like this.”

“Scully, if this had happened to me – if I were suffering would you walk away from me?”

She shook her head. He was glad to know.

“I love you, and you infuriate me as much as you always have and I might feel helpless or need some time away -” He stopped when he saw her face. “We’re going to get through this. We’ve come through so much already. But we have love and trust and that’s more than some people will ever have. Now we’re buying a house and building a life together. Maybe we’ve spent enough time on the past. Maybe it’s time for us to focus on our future.”

“But the past is all we have.”

“The future is ours, Scully.” Mulder pressed his forehead against hers, touching her nose with his. “It’s ours.”

“I guess you’re right.” She pulled back, sounding so low. Her eyes were dull and he wondered if she’d even heard him.

“Cheer up.” The words were so pathetically weak as to be inappropriate and he wished he could do something else to make her feel better. He touched her gently. He wanted to make love to her. He wanted it to be safe for him to make love to her, emotionally safe, for both of them.

He stared at her with dark eyes until she noticed. Her breast rose and fell in a slight sigh. Like an old wife already tired of her husband’s needs. That hurt. While their partnership had in many ways been marriage-like, they hadn’t actually been married. The matter of love had never been involved.

He withdrew, walking away from her and grabbing his jacket from the chair where he’d dropped it when he came in. “Where are you going?” Scully asked as he tried to zip it up.

“Home. I don’t know.” You can’t keep running, he reminded himself, and he knew he should listen to his instincts.

“What just happened here?” she demanded. “Why do you tell me you love me and run for the door?”

“Why do you sigh when I tell you I love you?” he replied and her expression changed, softening into embarrassed understanding.

“I have a lot to deal with, Mulder.”

“So do I, Scully,” he threw back, being selfish maybe but he didn’t care.

“Is it a crime that sex doesn’t excite me right now? The idea of the act terrifies me. I can’t erase that. I wish I could. But I love making love with you, I love the way you make me feel. If I were in the moment I think I’d be okay but thinking about it is so hard.” She raised her arms and took a step toward him. “You can take what you want.”

He could only stare. What kind of sick invitation was that? She wanted him to take her? Force her? No one wanted that and the notion that she thought she did turned his stomach.

She lowered her eyes and then met his. “I give you my permission.”

“Your body is yours, Scully.” Couldn’t she see how much she was scaring him? Was this his insight into how truly her abuser had fucked her mind?

“But love…” she said, trailing off, walking over to him. She took his hand and kissed his fingertips and looked up into his eyes. “I want this.” She pressed his hand lightly to her lips – “and these -” running his hand awkwardly down to her breast. Her eyes were burning. She moved his hand lower.

Mulder could only stand there his hand palm against her crotch and wonder what the hell was going on. “I will always ask permission,” he promised her.

She raised an eyebrow at him. “Even when I’m telling you what to do?”

He was the one who had wanted to turn things to the sexual, so he didn’t know why he hesitated now. “Mulder,” she urged. He looked at her face. “It’s not intercourse. But it’s something.”

He nodded and his stomach turned over. Finally hearing what she was saying. “Sit down,” he said.

“I don’t want to talk any more,” she told him and he backed her into the easy chair, pulling her down low in it and kneeling in front of her. His submission to her. She put her hands on the armrests just as she did on airplanes, preparing for a difficult ride.

But this is going to be an easy ride, Mulder smiled to himself as he stripped her from the waist down and pushed her knees apart. Scully’s eyes closed at the first touch of his fingers and he saw her hands clench on the chair.

He lowered his head to kiss her intimately. She put her feet against his shoulders and he could feel the tiny flexings of muscle that affected her entire body. If he’d raised his head, he would have seen her flexing thighs and tight belly and the way her neck arched as her head went back. But he didn’t raise his head.

Until she shouted “Stop!” The command was harsh and her voice was too controlled for a woman in the throes of passion. It froze him. Maybe he’d misunderstood. She pushed him with her feet and he fell back, ashamed.

She crossed her trembling legs and they stared at each other. The look in her eyes was unfamiliar and he knew something had gone wrong. Her hand snaked up, seeking the gold symbol at her throat, seeking protection. Then she crossed herself, something Mulder had never seen her do.

“Scully?” His voice shook.

Her eyes were flat and snappish. “Who’s Scully?”

“Oh, God,” he moaned and she flinched. It was another one. One that, unlike DK or Starbuck, didn’t know about Scully. She’d been getting better! He felt betrayed and he felt like it was his fault. But he couldn’t give in; he had to roll with the wave and fight this. “My wife.”

“I am sorry if you have mistaken me for your wife, sir,” she said coldly, “But I am no man’s wife. What I mean is, I am wedded to our lord and savior Jesus Christ.”

Mulder only stared. He would have understood her better if she’d spoken Greek.

“You have violated a sister of the Holy Order.”

He was going to laugh or throw up. He couldn’t decide which. He wished she was playing a joke, but Scully was not this cruel. “You’re a nun.”

“Sister Bernadette.”

-19-

“This is not happening,” Mulder said.

She raised a familiar eyebrow at him. This could not be happening. Scully had faith, sure, but not like this. He had to remind himself that this was not Scully, not really. Or was it? He had no idea how to cope.

“Will you excuse me?” She nodded coolly at her clothing, puddled on the floor at her feet. Mulder turned his head and shaded his eyes with his hand, filled with horrible shame as he listened to the whisper of her clothes against her skin. “Now, what is going on here?” she demanded.

“You’re a nun?” He couldn’t keep the stupid words from coming out of his mouth. He felt sick.

She glared at him for his thickheadedness and fixation on that fact. “Yes, Sister Bernadette. Bernadette had visions, you know. That was why she became a saint. I am named after her because I am like her.”

He stared. “You have visions?” he asked, careful but curious. He knew how strongly Scully took her Catholicism when she allowed herself to believe, which was not very often. Had she splintered further to have a place to send those beliefs that so often did not correspond to anything else in her life?

“I hear the voice of God. And there are miracles that I have witnessed.”

“Miracles,” Mulder said, trying not to anger her with his cynicism. He didn’t believe in miracles. As he’d once said to Scully, he waited for a miracle every day. That was just as true now, but it would not take a miracle to cure his wife. She had to heal herself.

She was nodding. “A boy, a stigmatic sent to me for protection. A boy with special powers, sent down from heaven with a special purpose. God allowed me to see what others could not to keep the boy safe.”

Mulder knew Scully had had a certain feeling for that boy, Kevin Kryder, but miraculous?

“A four faced demon. An apparition of a child born to a virgin mother.” She looked at him and her eyes were scary. “I can sense your doubt. You don’t believe. There have been other, smaller signs along the way. A cure for the incurable, wrought by prayer and simple faith. But you do not believe.”

“Joan of Arc heard voices.”

She nodded. “Voices from God.”

“Schizophrenia,” Mulder disagreed. “What do the voices in your head tell you?” He could barely breathe for the fear of what she would tell him. He didn’t want this to be real, he didn’t want her to be mentally ill, but he thought he would be even less able to handle it if she began to prophesize, to tell him that God really was speaking to her.

“Different things,” she answered. “They say that I’m wrong, that science can explain what faith purports. The voices are here to test my faith and my strength.”

“Listen to the voices, Scully,” Mulder said, hoping he could bring her out of this.

“Why don’t you believe me?”

“Why should I?”

“Otherwise, your soul will be consigned to Hell.”

“I don’t believe in hell,” he told her. He’d never had this discussion with Scully. Why hadn’t he? he asked himself. He was afraid of the faith he could not understand in someone who was otherwise so rigidly scientific. He did not want to hear her reject him.

“Why not?” she asked.

He shook his head. He didn’t want to talk about it, didn’t want to talk to her. He wanted Scully so badly he ached. Just to look in her eyes and know the woman that he saw there.

They stared at each other for many minutes. “We should go to the church,” she said, looking about the room for her shoes.

“No,” he said, finding his voice. He did not want to go. But he couldn’t let her go alone – he didn’t know what could happen to her out there alone. He didn’t want her to leave and never return.

“You have sins to confess and so do I,” she informed him. He didn’t budge. “The faithless voices in my head say you should go.”

The voices in her head didn’t come from god, they came from the essence of Scully, he thought. He’d taken a course in religious delusions back in college, but it didn’t really help now. All he wanted was Scully back.

How many more personalities hid within her? He looked at her, wishing this would all just stop. He didn’t want to know about more. She wasn’t the only one who practiced denial.

They went out to the car together and Mulder moved toward it, but she took his hand. He’d never noticed there was a church down the block from her apartment building. It was small, with a lovely stained glass window.

As he stared at it, he realized he had been there before. Years ago, distraught and seeking hope over Samantha’s disappearance. He hung back, feeling wrong and out of place. He did not belong.

They knelt in the back of the empty church. Mulder didn’t know how to do this, what he was supposed to do, and he could feel her watching him with eyes as sharp as a hawk’s. He folded his hands and closed his eyes.

She began to murmur a prayer, fast, under her breath, repeating the words when she reached the end.

I just want her back. I want her cured. What were the promises he used to make to an angry, silent god as he lay in bed at twelve or fourteen? I’ll be good. I won’t swear, I’ll never sin, I’ll never have another thought about…if you just heal her of this. I can’t find a cure for her. I need help here. I need help…

He couldn’t believe he was begging a deity he’d ceased to believe in, who had never done anything for him. He opened his eyes to check on Scully, hoping against hope she would be blinking with confusion, once again the woman he was married to.

Her lips were moving and her eyes unseeing in prayer. Her hand moved as though over an invisible rosary.

Please, God, if there was ever such a power…

A bright light accompanied by stark silence began to flood through the stained glass window, too blinding to cast the colors across the floor. “No,” Mulder said, trying to get to his feet, but he was frozen, unable to move. The silence was profound and he did not hear his own voice. The woman beside him did not raise her head but looked eerily radiant in the unnatural light.

He opened his eyes, not remembering having closed them, and looked immediately at his watch. The glass was cracked and the hands had stopped. Scully lay on the floor next to him and he was relieved to see her. Relief turned to panic because she was unconscious and he put his hands on her. The pulse in her wrist was strong.

An older man rushed in. The caretaker? Mulder barely glanced at him. “Are you okay?” the man cried. “I think it was lightning.”

Lightning, the hand of God, a UFO…did he really care who Scully thought she was as long as she was safe? Her eyes opened and she looked around, dazed.

“Scully?” he cried, helping her up from the floor, cradling her with his arms until she was able to hold her balance.

She opened her mouth, moving her lips without sound. Then she blinked and took a breath. “Mulder?” she said.

He hugged her so tight she couldn’t breathe. He almost couldn’t breathe himself. He thought he felt her ribs crack under his arms but he was never going to let her go. “I love you,” he said, kissing her face.

“It happened again,” she said, pulling back, worrying. He had to nod, to confirm her statement. “Why are we here?” Her eyes flicked over to the stained glass window and back to his face.

He didn’t want to tell her. Were there words for what had brought them to the church? He gripped her hand and led her out of the building. Rain was not falling and the night was clear, though there was a sick smell of ozone lingering in the air. “Mulder, tell me,” she ordered.

“A new one,” he said with a broken note in his voice. “I prayed.” It has hard to admit that to her. He looked at her face. “I prayed, and you came back.” He wanted to fall against her, to allow himself to cry from fear and frustration, relief and grief.

She sniffed the air and turned her eyes up to the sky. “We’d better go in,” she said. “There’ll be lightning.”

Maybe it had only been lightning.

She made coffee in her kitchen as he stood in her living room, falling apart. She put the ceramic mug into his hand and forced his fingers to close around it. “This happened while you were making love to me,” she said.

He let out his breath, sagging toward the floor. The cup slipped through his hand. Coffee burned down his leg and he barely felt it. The mug shattered, small white pieces sliding across the floor. He joined them, hugging his knees, unable to deal with any of it any more.

“Come on, Mulder, you’ll cut yourself,” she said, her hands working to pull him up. Now she had to be the responsible one.

“I can’t… I can’t…” he hiccuped. Tears were running down his face and it hurt too much to even think about stopping them.

“I know, Mulder. I feel that way too, but don’t fall apart on me now.” She patted his back. “We’re going to get through this. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” If she started to cry too, they would both drown. He was tired and that was affecting his judgment. She knew she’d hurt him but there was little she could do to make up for that. By focusing on him, she didn’t have to think about herself, the fact that she thought she’d been under control and another personality had popped out.

She guided him up from the floor and he leaned against her. She accepted his weight and put him into her bed. His hand clung to hers, keeping her near. “I’m sorry,” he said hoarsely. “I shouldn’t have…” Guilt tainted his eyes.

“No, Mulder, I know,” she said. “Just sleep now. It’ll be better in the morning.”

“Where are you going?” he asked, sitting halfway up in the bed.

“To clean up. I’ll be right back.” Scully removed his hand from his and retreated into the living room. Shattered glass lay on the floor like the pieces of her life. No longer nurturing Mulder, it hit her hard that she’d lost more time and hurt Mulder badly. She was going to lose him. She knew this as certainly as she knew her name or her birthdate or that the sky was blue. After losing herself, she was going to lose him.

Every time she thought it was better, that she was going to make it, it only got worse. This was never going to end.

She went into the bedroom and crawled in next to Mulder without touching him. He didn’t move, but she could hear his uneven breath, still crying, and she tried to sleep. They had work to do in the morning.

Mulder woke and Scully was still asleep. The sun was not up yet and it was damnably cold. His mouth was dry and his eyes were swollen from the previous night’s tears. He hated to cry. He got up and went running, pounding the pain and thoughts away until his thoughts dissolved into his heart, his breath, his muscle, bone, cartilage…

The sun was breaking over the horizon when he returned to Scully’s apartment, frozen, drenched with sweat, but better. A sealed brown envelope lay in front of Scully’s door. He picked it up and saw his name written on it in thick block letters of marker.

Frowning, he opened the door and went inside, gulping two glasses of water from the pitcher in the refrigerator. He wiped back his sweaty hair and slid his finger under the envelope’s flap and stopped, suddenly needing to walk into the bedroom to check on Scully.

She was still sleep, with her hair over her face and her mouth open. He loved her so much.

Creeping back to the living room, Mulder sank down in the armchair and opened the envelope. Several enlarged photographs greeted him. He turned them over and then sideways, not certain what he was seeing.

Scully.

Scully?

And the Cancerman.

In a lab full of tanks.

Scully. That was Scully.

He jumped and inspected the pictures more carefully, holding them close to the light coming through the window. There were no signs, no clues. They didn’t seem to be doctored and some of them were horribly recent. They could have been taken yesterday.

The one in the lab was older. Her hair was longer, lighter. Her body was heavier. Years ago.

What was going on? He couldn’t make his brain work. Think! he ordered himself.

The only explanation was that she was a spy and always had been.

He refused to believe that.

Had her illness…? But back then?

He had to find out. He turned the envelope over again and picked up his keys, driving to the FBI building and striding through the labs in his dirty, sweaty running clothes. It was early but most of the techies were already there.

“I need to know everything about this envelope and these photographs,” he demanded. Lucy, the lab tech, just stared at him. “Now, I need to know as soon as possible.”

She accepted the envelope from him and slid the photos out. Lucy frowned and looked at him. “Isn’t this Agent Scully?” she asked, picking up a sheet of paper from her desk. “What case does this pertain to?”

He stared at her, feeling for certain that the entire world had gone mad.

“We need to keep track. You know that there have been some misuses -” Lucy told him.

He grasped her arm, desperate. “Dinner, anything, Lucy, I need the information. Quietly. Quickly.”

“It is Agent Scully,” she said softly, looking at the gold ring he wore on his finger. She was a bright girl and she understood. She closed her mouth firmly and met his eyes. He waited for her response. “I’ll do it as soon as I can,” she promised.

“Thank you.”

“Agent Mulder,” she called, stopping him as he careened out of the room with the same haste with which he’d entered it. “Go home and change.”

He looked at himself as though waking. He could smell his body odor and feel the layers of grime laying on his skin. “Thank you,” he said again, this time like a human man. He almost managed to smile before he turned.

He walked into the hall, hoping he could sneak out of the building and back to Scully. But luck was not on his side. “Agent Mulder.” The gruff voice called after him and he had to stop and wait for Skinner to catch up with him. “What happened to you?”

“What can I help you with, sir?” Mulder asked, ignoring the question because he didn’t have a very good answer and he wanted to go home.

“OPC is not happy. Not happy at all. They have some ugly assignments in mind for you and Agent Scully,” Skinner warned. “Where is she?”

“It’s barely seven a.m. She’s still in bed.”

“Are the two of you having problems?” Skinner asked, his eyes searching, as always.

“No sir,” Mulder answered.

“Keep a close eye on your partner,” Skinner advised and started to walk away.

“What are you talking about? What does that mean?” Mulder demanded, following.

“I’m hearing stories. Reports,” Skinner said. “Through unofficial channels.”

“What sort of stories?” Mulder asked, feeling his pulse race. Not stories about Scully, he hoped. Anything, as long as it’s not about Scully.

“Faceless men. Burned bodies. It’s happening again, Mulder. I don’t want to see it happen to your partner.” Skinner softened the hard-ass routine for just one second to add, “Your wife.”

Mulder was stunned. “This happened last night?” He remembered their weird experience, the bright light he had been trying to convince himself had been lightning. Skinner nodded gravely. “I will get right on it, sir,” Mulder told him woodenly, worried and upset. This could not happen again. Was there anything he could do?

Skinner shook his head. “You’ve been assigned to another case. A woman who claims she was raped by the devil. Possibly a case of satanic ritual.”

Mulder frowned. There were no real satanic cults, the Bureau had determined that in a study some years ago. And Scully couldn’t…he didn’t want to expose her to a rape case. “There is little evidence of the veracity of satanic ritual -” Mulder began, hoping he could talk his way out of the assignment.

“I know,” Skinner said.

“I don’t think Scully -”

“Scully’s been assigned elsewhere,” Skinner informed him.

What? “Where?”

“Babysitting. A plea bargaining scumbag.” Skinner looked like he was displeased about it.

“No,” Mulder said. Without someone to watch over her, what would happen to Scully? But this thoughts spiraled back to the previous night. Maybe if he was away from her, she would actually do better.

“I’m sorry.” Skinner patted Mulder’s shoulder and walked away. His brain once again numbed, Mulder took the elevator down to the garage and headed for home. His cell phone rang before he even reached the expressway. “Mulder,” he answered, tucking it between his shoulder and his ear as he continued to drive.

“Mulder, where are you?” Scully sounded foggy, scared and more than a little vulnerable.

“I had an errand,” he said. “It took me by the office, but I’m on my way home now. What happened?”

“Nothing,” she said. He waited, certain there was a reason she had phoned, a greater reason than his not being there when she woke up. “I had a bad dream,” she confessed. “And when you weren’t here…after last night…”

“I’ll be home soon. I love you.” Mulder said and hung up so he could drive. He pressed on the accelerator, wondering if he should worry about her safety. She was all right, wasn’t she?

Was she? He wouldn’t know until he got home.

The apartment was still when he opened the door, but his eyes found Scully sitting on the couch in her bathrobe with a cup of coffee in her hands. She smiled at him for a brief moment and he sat down next to her. He should ask her about the pictures he’d received. He should tell her about his conversation with Skinner. He couldn’t.

“What’s up?” he asked finally.

She gave a tight smile and shrugged. “What’s up at work?”

He felt the bottom drop out of his stomach, not wanting to say the words and confirm that what Skinner said was going forward. “Skinner’s assigned us to different cases,” he said. She didn’t respond. “Scully?”

“It’s his right,” she said gently. “We fucked up on the Wilder case. We don’t have to work together on every case. We’ve consulted on other matters before.”

He continued to watch her carefully. Her voice had gone flat as though she didn’t really believe what she was saying, but had to say it, had to convince herself that it was true. “I – I’m worried -” How could he say it without offending her?

“I’ll be fine, Mulder.”

He nodded and she got up from the couch. “Where are you going?” he asked mildly.

“To get dressed,” she said like it should have been obvious to him. She plunked her cup down in the sink and ran some water into it, wondering what went on inside Mulder’s head sometimes.

He hadn’t been there when she woke up. Maybe it explained the dream she’d had about something dear and important being torn away from her. She’d tried to hold on, but she just hadn’t been strong enough.

He hadn’t even asked about the dream, and now he was being clingy. She hadn’t expected to spend every hour of every day with him. She loved him, but he annoyed the hell out of her sometimes and she needed her time spent alone.

Maybe the professional separation would be a good thing. Just for a little while. Except it meant she would have to worry about him, whether he was getting into trouble without her there to watch his back and tell him to be practical and not take stupid risks.

After all, look what happened when she left him alone for a few days at Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving seemed like a very long time ago and part of her longed for the innocence of those days. Before she knew all of these new and terrible things about herself.

She really wasn’t much of a wife to him, she thought, looking closely into the mirror. Fine lines and dry pasty skin greeted her. She felt ancient. If only she could get one good night’s sleep, she thought, then everything would be better. She would look good and he would love her and she would be able to relax and control her life and do the things she was supposed to be doing.

She sighed. It wasn’t worth thinking about. It wasn’t going to happen any time soon.

Mulder knocked on the door. “Are you okay in there?”

How long had she been standing there to make him ask that? Was he being overprotective again or had she blanked out? She didn’t think she’d done anything more than space out. No one else had come to take over.

Checking her expression in the mirror to insure that it was perfectly calm, she opened the door. “Fine, Mulder,” she assured him, playing that old broken recording again. She never wanted to hear or say the word “fine” as long as she lived.

He must have felt the same way, because his eyes turned flat like dark stones when she said it. He looked like she’d hurt him. How could she hurt him by being okay unless he only wanted her when she was broken and damaged.

“Ready to go?” he asked her.

“Yeah,” she responded and they went out to the car. Mulder performed a hesitant little dance around the car – his way of offering her driving privileges. She smiled and let him take his usual place at the wheel. For once she didn’t care; didn’t want to drive.

Had he somehow sensed that something was wrong? Was that what had motivated his marriage proposal in the first place? She knew her confidence and competence scared a lot of people off. Especially men. To some degree, that was part of her plan.

She didn’t think it scared Mulder off.

“Are you going to be okay working on your own?” he asked as he slid into the line of brake lights on the expressway.

“Of course. I’ll miss you but I can handle myself,” she assured him, trying to sound like she was okay. Did he need her to say no, to validate him? She looked at him, trying to figure it out. Did he?

Mulder was not a control freak like her brother Bill or her father or herself.

“What’ll you do if you…y’know…start to change?” He was scared and trying to pretend he wasn’t.

“I won’t,” she declared and he glanced at her. “I mean it, everything’s fine.” Fine, fine, fine, she was going to be sick in a minute.

He looked at her then, finally, a long look to remind her she’d lost that control as recently as the previous evening. It wasn’t a look she could meet and she turned away. “Traffic’s moving,” she said.

He stepped on the gas and the car lurched forward. It wasn’t really progress, but it was something.

-20-

“Are you okay?” Skinner asked when she walked into his office, sat down in her usual chair across from his desk, and crossed her legs.

“Yes, fine, sir, why do you ask?” The words were too light in her mouth, despite how sick she was of being asked that question. Her response had become a recording that she’d played once too often. Someone was going to go looking for the string in her back and catch her one of these days.

“You seem tense,” he replied off the cuff, and then leaned across the desk to address her personally – not as her boss, but as her friend. Rarely did she think of Skinner as a friend, but he was. He’d always been there for her when she needed support. Through her cancer. When she’d believed Mulder to be dead. “Marriage is hard work. And neither you or Agent Mulder are easy people.”

She nodded, not wanting to let it show that her stomach had suddenly turned panicky. Like he was prodding her with the truth. “Thank you,” she said.

“Are you comfortably not working with him?” Leaning back, returning to his position as her boss. And sounding just like Mulder.

“I am more than merely Mulder’s partner,” she pointed out. “I have more to offer the Bureau than backup and babysitting.”

“I’m sorry to report that this assignment is going to be largely babysitting,” Skinner told her. “Dr. Donald Irving has decided to testify for us rather than be prosecuted. The trial is in two days and I need you to be on his protection team.”

“To make sure no one kills him, or to make sure he doesn’t run?” she asked.

Skinner’s silence was answer enough. Both.

“So where’s the file?” she asked.

Skinner pushed a sheet of notepaper toward her. She looked at him and then looked at it. It was the address of the safehouse, neatly handwritten. The address was about 45 minutes away, out in the boonies of Virginia.

“Agent Whitaker will meet you there at ten for your first 12 hour shift.”

She nodded and got to her feet, not pleased, but unwilling to complain. “Thank you sir,” she said.

He nodded sharply and she headed out of his office. Mulder was waiting on the couch in his outer office. Their gaze met and touched, remaining intense as they moved on opposite paths until Skinner’s office door closed behind Mulder.

Scully noticed Kim watching her and felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment at having been caught. But Kim smiled. She knew. The whole damn Bureau knew – Scully wondered if they’d announced it on the PA system, or if she and Mulder had always been so pathetically obvious.

“So, demonic rape,” Mulder said to Skinner when he was handed the file. It was thick, and had pictures. Goody. Mulder tweaked it with his fingers and looked at his boss. “I’m not happy about being split from Scully.”

“Just be glad it’s temporary,” Skinner retorted, responding to the hostility he heard in Mulder’s tone.

Mulder blinked. “What does that mean?” he demanded, his ire rising along with the volume of his voice.

“People are not pleased with you, Mulder. Neither of you.”

Mulder glared back.

“I suggest your check your attitude,” Skinner suggested. “You have been on shaky ground since last spring. I’d say you should be more easygoing now that you have her at home.”

Skinner’s tone had softened in the guise of friendly advice but even that managed to annoy Mulder. Did Skinner think about his wife? “Except you’ve sent me off to Kansas or someplace.”

“Close,” Skinner said tightly. “Kalamazoo.”

Mulder sighed. Quietly, checking his attitude before he did so.

“You knew this could happen,” Skinner said, trying to make it better but it was only more salt in Mulder’s wound. “Your flight leaves at noon.”

Mulder got up, realizing he hadn’t kissed her. And he wanted to. Kiss her good morning, hello, I love you, I miss you, see you soon, and be careful while I’m gone. He needed to feel her lithe body in his arms before he left. He hurried down the steps to the basement, taking them two at a time and skipping the last three altogether. He flung open the door to the office.

The empty office.

“Damn!” he fell into his chair, even though he had a file to read and a bag to pack and a flight to catch. He used to leave his overnight bag at the office, ever ready to leave on a hot tip at a moment’s notice. Now it was at Scully’s.

He pulled the phone from his pocket and dialed Scully’s cellphone. “Scully,” she answered and he could hear road noise coming through the phone.”

“Hey,” he said softly, smiling at the very thought of her. “You left before I could get a kiss.”

She made a small sound, like she hadn’t realized it until he said it and now she was distressed. “What are you up to?”

“Little case in someplace called Kalamazoo.” He didn’t know why he was reluctant to tell her what the case involved.

“Michigan,” she said. “What’s the case.”

He was going to have to tell her. “Demons. The usual weirdness,” he said, trying to skirt the issue. He didn’t want to have to say that word to her. He was glad Skinner wasn’t making her go on this case, although he’d have liked to have her with him.

“Demons doing what?” she asked, acutely aware that there was something he was shielding her from.

“I haven’t looked through the file…”

“Mulder,” her tone was a warning.

“Like I said, I haven’t looked through the file, but…Skinner said the demons were raping people.”

“Women,” she corrected.

He shrugged. They’d spoken so often on the phone that he had no doubt she could sense it when he shrugged or made faces.

“I’m off to Virginia to babysit a stool pigeon,” she said. He could hear a quirky smile in her voice as she added, “Two pairs of agents trading off, two days before the trial. It should be a piece of cake.”

“Good,” he said. “I hope mine won’t take long.”

“Check the basement for mushrooms,” she advised, reminding him of a demon case they’d solved some years ago. “And don’t forget to look around for Elvis. I hear he lives up there now.”

He laughed out loud. “I miss you,” he said and he would never admit that there were tears in his eyes as he said it.

“Miss you too,” she said and silence hung between them. “I’d better go,” she said finally. “I hate people who talk and drive.”

“Me too,” he said and heard her chuckle softly. He put his phone away and headed for her apartment to pack for his flight.

She tossed the phone onto the seat but didn’t put her right hand back onto the wheel. She was stopped in traffic anyway. Talking to Mulder wouldn’t have caused any danger to anyone. She didn’t know exactly why she’d gotten off the phone, except she didn’t just know what to say to him.

“It’s okay, Mulder, it’s okay.” That’s what she should have said. He’d only called her for reassurance.

Or maybe he just called because he loves you, she told herself, and sighed again, not knowing why that hurt. Because she loved him so much? Because he loved her? Or was it because she knew she didn’t deserve it?

Oh yes, she had issues, didn’t she. A hole opened up and she changed lanes quickly. As soon as she sped past the stalled car with its flashers on, traffic moved swiftly and she reached the secluded safe house quickly.

Another bucar was parked in front. She took a second to remember what Skinner had told her, trying to remember the pigeon’s name. Irving. Doctor Irving?

Doctor? Well, doctors always had stories to tell, she thought, but took the pack of cards out of the glove box anyway. If she was lucky, the pigeon could tell Whitaker about all the appendixes he’d removed or noses he’d put his fingers into and she could play solitaire until it was time to go home.

And think? Did she really want hours of uninterrupted thinking, even if it might do her some good?

She walked into the house without knocking. “Why isn’t the door locked?” she asked the blond man who sat inside, staring at her. He was wearing a very nice, expensive suit.

“Heard you pull up,” he told her.

“What if I wasn’t FBI?” she demanded, withdrawing her badge and displaying it to him.

His eyes flicked over to the window. “Bucar,” he responded.

“Where’s the guy?”

“Oh, he’s here,” he told her, sitting back down at the table with a defeated air and retrieving his book of TV Guide crossword puzzles. She’d have been worried at his choice of activity if he hadn’t had such a disdainful air for the book, sighing as he picked up his pen to go to work.

The door to the bathroom opened and the sound of a toilet flushing filled the tiny house, accompanied by the smell of Lysol and sickness. She looked at the tall handsome blond man who hung on the doorway. “Hey, Scully,” he said.

She stared at him for second, then glanced quickly at the man working the puzzles. The man she had wrongly assumed was Agent Whitaker.

She felt stupid. Worse than stupid, because stupid in this situation could lead real fast to dead. He raised his head from the book and met her eyes. “Gotcha.”

“I thought he was you,” she said to Whitaker, feeling her cheeks turning pink.

“We look alike.” Whitaker’s posture was careful, like he didn’t want to accidentally move too much. “Think they did it on purpose.” He sank into a chair.

“What’s wrong with you?” she asked, turning her body toward him.

“I’ll be okay,” Whitaker said. Obviously, he didn’t realize the pale green cast to his skin would undermine this statement.

“You didn’t lock the door,” Irving piped up in an annoying voice, demanding their attention.

Scully jumped up and threw the bolt. When she sat down, she scooted her chair a little closer to Whitaker’s. “Food poisoning?” she asked, looking closely at him.

He shook his head.

“You’ve got a fever,” she diagnosed. He was sweating and his eyes were unfocused. “Have you taken any aspirin?”

“I’ll be okay,” he repeated, stopping her from getting the small tin of pills from her bag.

She looked at him a moment longer, then nodded. Male pride. Agent’s pride. She opened the pack of worn cards and began to lay them on the table. They’d been her present from Jack when she graduated from the FBI academy. “You’ll need them,” he’d told her.

And she had. Not badly, but to kill the time between bodies arriving when she worked at Quantico, and on flights sometimes when Mulder was asleep. But mostly, she’d needed them to the long, lonely nights spent in motel rooms, trying not to think of death and destruction or her partner.

“Maybe you should lie down,” she suggested, not looking at Whitaker. If she’d looked at him, he’d have thought she cared and he wouldn’t have taken her advice. She listened to his steps scuffling to the couch. He groaned as he stretched out.

They were blessed with perfect silence.

It was eerie.

She shuffled the cards. Noise. Whitaker dashed across the open living space to the bathroom. Poor guy.

Irving scraped his chair across the floor as he turned to her. “What was the name of David Cassidy’s sister on the Partridge Family?” he asked.

She rolled her eyes but he didn’t get the message and turn away. Irving’s gaze remained focused on her, waiting for an answer. “Um, Dew. Day. Susan Day,” she supplied.

“On the show. Six letters.”

Scully thought for a second. “Laurie.”

“Thank you.” His tone was bitingly sarcastic as he inked the letters into the page. He had a nasty attitude, she thought. She wondered what he’d done to end up here, but continued to lay down cards, pick them up, and rearrange them.

“What’s the name of the kid from the Hardy Boys?” Irving asked.

“Frank or Joe?” She’d found a lot more solace between the blue covers of the Hardy Boys novels when she was eight, and they’d also been easier to come by in her house than Nancy Drew. She didn’t think her sister had ever read an entire book in her life.

“In real life,” Irving said in a short tone. Like the puzzle was important. “Well?” he demanded.

“I was thinking. Parker Stevenson.”

“Shawn Cassidy,” Irving said a second later and started to scribble again. “How old are you, Scully?”

She didn’t like the way he said her name. “Why?”

“You don’t look like an FBI Agent.”

“You don’t look like a stool pigeon.”

“So judgmental,” he remarked, but left her alone.

Whitaker emerged again and lay down on the floor near the bathroom with a loud groan. Scully looked at him. He wasn’t brave enough to cross the room, uncertain he’d be able to make it back in time. That was a bad sign.

She tried to ignore it and went back to her cards, already tired and annoyed and bored. And incredibly aware of Irving’s eyes burning into her skin.

Mulder read the file on the plane. Scully would have hated this case, he decided. A young wife who volunteered at her local church claimed she had been molested by demonic spirits. Not the invisible kind – the ugly kind.

Mulder would put cash money on the odds of the real rapist being the priest. He sighed. He didn’t want this case. Scully would be impressed that he didn’t believe it was a paranormal occurrence.

Here it’s not even abnormal, is it? Happens every day – incest, date rape, marital rape, prostitution, child molesters, everything. Everywhere. Everywhere.

He couldn’t believe it had happened to his wife. To Scully. He didn’t trust his feelings about that. The hurt was sharp, but okay, but the anger…his anger…he had always carried a lot of anger, so much that he couldn’t always control it.

He wished, thinking back, he’d ripped Bill’s head off. But he knew it wouldn’t have done any good. It wouldn’t have made Scully any better.

He was worried.

Finally the plane landed. For once Mulder was grateful for the holding pattern. With the additional time, he thought he could trust himself not to kill the priest on sight. Now he could give the man a fair investigation before he hung him.

He wished Scully was there to ask him, “What about the truth?”

“So,” Scully said sharply when she grew tired of listening to Whitaker’s rapid, wheezy snores. ” What’d you do?”

Irving turned around. ” You don’t know?” He was surprised, and he looked happy about it.

She should have already known. Why hadn’t Skinner told her? “They didn’t tell me.”

“Then it’s not important,” he said. She raised her eyebrows and went back to her cards. She started to put the cards in order to test her shuffling ability. She ached to look at her watch but she wouldn’t let herself. Time passed so slowly when there was a clock to watch. She didn’t want to subject herself to that.

“You’re sure you’re FBI?” Irving asked her.

She was determined not to let him bother her. “Unless I look like someone sent to kill you?”

“You want to. I’m annoying you.” He was proud of it. She could tell.

“You don’t bother me,” she informed him, still sorting the cards. She heard his book his the table with the soggy sound of a used up notebook. She felt her shoulders tense because she knew he was coming. Then he slid into the seat next to hers, much too close.

“You look like a kid,” he told her.

She gave him a bland look and made the effort to turn the conversation away from looks and lame pickup lines she’d heard before. “What kind of doctor are you?”

“Gyno,” he replied with a vigor that made her skin crawl. “Or I was. Until I lost my license over this crap.”

“I’m a pathologist,” she said.

“That must be even more fun than sticking your hands into women’s parts,” he said distastefully.

She wondered what would happen if she started puking like Whitaker had been. She swallowed hard and looked up to find Irving’s eyes close on her, not missing a thing. “Fridge is fully stocked,” he mention. “Sodas, water…crackers in the cabinet.”

She pushed her chair back and relished the opportunity to stretch and put some distance between them. What the hell, she thought, and allowed herself to look at her watch. One pm. Back up would be coming in about nine hours. She popped the tab on a 7-Up and took a long swallow. She hadn’t realized she was overheated until she held the cool can in her hands. After a second, she closed the refrigerator door.

Before she could turn, Irving’s hands fell heavily against her hip bones. “You’ve got good hips,” he told her.

“Get your hands off me,” she ordered, breaking away from his disgusting touch.

“You do. I can’t help but notice it in a woman. It’s one of your best qualities,” he said. He was the kind of man women usually found charming. She could tell from his tone and the way he moved and expected her to like him. And then there was the bleached hair.

“I’m married,” she informed him, thrusting her ring bearing hand up in his face like an insult.

“Congratulations,” he said. “So was I. Things don’t last.” He sprawled back in his chair, blue jean clad legs spread wide. He started toying with the cards on the table like they were his. She slid into her chair, stiff. She knew he’d see it or sense it and know he was succeeding in making her uncomfortable and that would make him happy.

“Can tell fortunes with these, you know,” he said, tossing the cards down. King of Spades, one of hearts, 10 of diamonds, Queen…

“Is that why you’re here?” she asked him, her voice more shrill than she’d expected.

“Want to know your future?” he asked, drawing her palm into his hands. He had delicate, gentle fingers. Surgeons’ hands, soft and unworn by work. Not good hands for a man.

“I thought you used cards.” She was fighting to remain cool. That was her role here: cool FBI woman.

“Interesting life line,” he said, tracing it, and then looking into her eyes. “Are those aqua contacts?”

“No, they’re real,” she snapped.

“Something’s making you uptight,” he said and began to massage her hand. “Amazing the tension you can carry here,” he said. “Are you having marital problems?”

“No!” She pulled her hand away and began to gather the cards. In another second, she was going to wake Whitaker or start working TV crossword puzzles herself.

“I could examine you,” he offered. At her horrified look, he added, “Free of charge, of course. See if anything’s wrong…”

She started to laugh. This puzzled him and she only laughed harder. His confidence began to wither before her eyes. Did he really find that an effective come on line? As though she was going to drop her drawers and lay down so he could have a look!

Traci Lynn Turned lay on an examining table in front of Mulder. Two nurses flanked his sides as her white-coated doctor poked a latex covered finger between her raised knees. “See that?” she asked.

Mulder nodded and glanced away quickly. This was wrong. To bring this girl in here and further expose her injuries and make her remember…

“Force trauma,” the doctor concluded.

Mulder nodded again wordlessly.

“I wanted you to see for yourself. Thank you, Traci.” The doctor said, bringing down a blue paper sheet. Mulder looked at Traci’s face for a moment. He had no comprehension of how she must feel.

“Was there any fluid retrieved as evidence?” he asked once he was out in the hall with the doctor.

“Wasn’t any.” The doctor was an elegant brown haired woman, matter of fact and forty. “No evidence of that sort at all. I’ve never seen a case like this.”

“Brutal,” he said.

The doctor nodded. “She didn’t speak for three days after it happened. We kept her in hospital the whole time. Traumatized.”

“So traumatized she could have blocked the rapist from her mind and crafted a ghost story instead?” Mulder asked.

“The mind does have many strong defense tactics,” the doctor offered, but didn’t sound as though she believed his theory. “But wouldn’t she have remembered – and fought – when it began to happen again?”

“Do you believe a spirit caused these injuries?” he demanded.

“My first instinct says no,” she replied, suddenly sounding like Scully. “But if she says it happened -”

“A spirit remains blameless. Irresponsible. Not like a person,” he mused. “And also can’t be stopped.”

“No woman wants this!” cried the outraged doctor. “I don’t know what kind of chauvinistic garbage they indoctrinate you frat boys with back at the FBI but -”

“I know,” Mulder said fiercely. “But at the same time, if she didn’t want to face her attacker’s identity – and she is a profoundly religious person -”

“She did not ask for this, Agent Mulder,” the doctor insisted.

“I know,” he said again. “I know.” He walked back into the exam room, aware that he had completely alienated the doctor. She thought he was some prick brained little asshole.

Traci was in the act of dressing. He hadn’t knocked and stopped, shocked and shamed, in the doorway. She only stared at him, seemingly uncaring about her nudity. She had impossibly small breasts and an impressive set of large bruises. She slipped her shirt over her head.

All of the questions he’d been about to ask her zoomed right out of his head. She couldn’t have been more than 19 years old. “Are you okay?”

She nodded.

“Where’s your husband?”

“Traveling. He, um, works in Chicago. Commutes on weekends. It’s hard.” Her hands raked through her hair and he saw for the first time that it was ragged, like she’d hacked it all off herself, just eager to be rid of it.

“What does he think of this?” Mulder asked.

She shrugged unevenly.

“Who did this to you, Traci?”

“It wasn’t a person.” Her lower lip began to tremble. “It was a demon. Sent by the devil.”

“Couldn’t a man have been sent by the devil?” he asked her. “Why would the devil single you out like this?”

“I’m a good person.”

“No one thinks you aren’t, Traci. Just because this happened to you, doesn’t make you a bad person,” Mulder assured her.

“My husband said it’s because I love the church more than him,” she stammered.

“Your husband is out of town?”

She nodded.

“Do you blame him for not protecting you?” he asked, afraid, because he was asking the question about himself and his own wife.

“No,” she said in a strangled voice. “I blame God.”

-21-

“Gin,” Scully said, laying down the cards.

“You’re cheating!” Irving cried. “I don’t know how, but you must be.”

She grinned at him.

“So how does a pathologist become an FBI agent?” he asked, staring again at her face in the same way Mulder did. Scully didn’t mind it when Mulder did it because he was safe and he loved her. Irving, on the other hand…she had little patience for.

“Filled out the application. How does a doctor become a stool pigeon?” she retorted.

“Tell me about your husband,” he countered and she felt like she was playing tennis.

“Having met you, I assume it wasn’t money laundering,” she continued her own conversation.

“You really want to know?” he asked, like this was something he was so proud of he didn’t tell just anyone. She nodded. “You really want to know?” Or was he warning her? “And you won’t think less of me for it?”

Because they were such good friends already, she thought sarcastically, waiting. She knew he wanted to tell her, to impress her. All she had to do was wait, steeling herself for stories of experiments or misuse or something terrible and common.

“I videotaped my patients, their exams. Sold the tapes. Sometimes I’d make them hot and they’d beg me to fuck ‘em,” he bragged.

She jumped back so quickly she upset her chair. She grinned at her horrified look. “And we offered you a deal!” she cried.

“I wasn’t the brains of the operation. I think you got him on video piracy, and that’s a big deal. I just did what I was told.”

“You’d better be more convincing than that for the jury,” she advised.

“Oh, I will be,” he said casually. She stared at him, disgusted, wondering what she was supposed to do. She was about to move to sit on the floor near Whitaker when her phone rang.

She grabbed it. “Scully,” she answered.

“I may be home tonight.”

“Mulder,” she smiled, relieved to hear his voice. She sneaked a glare at Irving and turned away from him, not wanting to look at his ugly face while talking to the man she loved.

“How’s it going?” he asked.

“Okay. I miss you.” She hoped he couldn’t hear the lie in her voice. “So things are going well?”

“I think so. I want to come home,” he said, letting his longing bleed through over the long distance line.

“I have to work here again tomorrow,” she said, feeling the strain through her limbs. Another day with Irving. Maybe Whitaker’d be better. Or he’d send a replacement.

She listened to Mulder breathe, just feeling his presence and knowing he was there.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you,” she replied. Wanting him.

“I have to go,” he said and paused a long moment before he hung up. She waited another second, desperately missing him, and then put her phone into her pocket so it would be close. If she needed to call for help, she thought darkly.

Irving’s own aqua contacts looked like a snake’s eyes, flat and sneaky. “Sweet,” he said, mocking her. Because she was a woman and because she loved someone. Irving didn’t love anyone. Maybe himself but probably not, not if he victimized people for fun.

“So why do men rape?” she asked him coldly and waited for an answer.

“Why not,” was his answer. Two words that made her want him dead.

It was cold. He could see his breath vaporize in front of him as he stood on Todd Foster’s porch. Who could take a priest named Todd seriously? Mulder wondered. He was glad he’d talked to Scully. He had to nail this asshole to the wall for her. Because he hadn’t protected her before.

If he could make a difference here, for one person, for Traci Turner, it might be worth it.

He pounded on the door.

Todd Foster was young, younger than Mulder, perhaps 30 years old and already losing his hair in the front. His body was slender and almost girlish. “What can I do for you?” he asked in a voice so meek it put Mulder’s teeth on edge.

“I’m here about Traci Turner,” Mulder said, displaying his badge and walking into the priest’s modest home. It looked as though it had been recently inhabited by an old man and Foster hadn’t redecorated. He was a new priest.

“How long have you been in town?” Mulder asked, inspecting the diplomas and credentials hanging on the wall. He could investigate schools for circumstantial evidence, see if there were any unresolved matters Foster might have had a hand in.

“Five months.”

“And you’re the one who put this demon idea into Traci’s mind,” Mulder said, still using an annoyed tone. He hoped he could push Foster into a confession, or a mistake.

“No, I – what’s happened to her is a tragedy,” Foster responded. “Would you like some tea?”

Mulder shook his head. He already felt too wired. And he never accepted food from people he didn’t trust. He changed his tack and sat down in one of the rough, uncomfortable chairs. “How did you and Traci meet?”

“She and her husband Damien came to me for counseling and asked me to perform their marriage.”

“Counseling?” Mulder asked. He wanted it to be the priest. The priest was easy. But he knew he’d be a fool if he discounted the husband.

He felt like a cynical, lazy detective – jumping to conclusions without any evidence. But that was his specialty, using psychology and human nature as his evidence in order to narrow the field. That was why they’d sent him on this case.

“Premarriage counseling regarding the nature of the covenant and the commitment. We’ve found that only a few hours spent in counseling reduces the incidence of divorce,” Todd said eagerly. He had a high, whiny voice. What made a man become a priest, Mulder wondered, especially in this faithless day and age. Was it belief, or what?

“Is that something all Catholics do?” he asked, curious as to why Scully hadn’t made him go. She had not been strong in her faith in the time he’d known her, but he also knew she’d renewed her relationship with God and the church as a result of her illness. But they hadn’t married in the Church, he thought.

“Many people do. I see you are married yourself.” Foster looked at his ring. Mulder wondered if they taught priests that annoying sentence construction in school.

He didn’t say anything. He was not going to discuss his wife with this creep. “Did you think Traci and her husband made a good match?”

“I married them,” Foster answered.

“What do you think about all this?” he asked him.

“It’s terrible.”

“Do you think it’s the work of the devil?” Mulder asked, watching him closely. He didn’t say anything, didn’t react at all. “Who do you think did it?”

“Does it matter?” Foster asked.

“It’s my job to find out,” Mulder responded, “And punish the person responsible.” He got to his feet. “I may have more questions tomorrow.”

Foster nodded. “Anything that would help.” He escorted Mulder out, still looking smug and frigid.

Mulder left angry. He’d wanted this to be easy. He should have known better. Now he had to keep working for it, and get the goods on the husband.

First he’d have to face Traci again, though. He wasn’t looking forward to that in the least.

Scully walked into her dark apartment that night, feeling drained. It had been such a long, hard day. She rubbed her neck with one hand, wishing Mulder was there waiting for her.

She did miss him. It was so nice to have someone to come home to, someone to talk to. She had the idea that had been their entire reason for marrying, to continue their closeness after hours and stave off the terrible loneliness.

Or Mulder had just wanted to sleep with her.

She felt dirty from breathing the same air as Irving all day and there was a tension and a chill that wouldn’t leave her, even now that she had driven all the way home.

Bath. She started for the bathroom and the phone began to ring. “Mulder?” she said breathlessly. She’d run to get it before the answering machine and she wanted to hear Mulder’s voice on the other end of the l line.

“Dana, it’s your mother.”

She felt her heart sink. She gave in to her weariness and pain and said, “Did you decide to believe me, Mom?”

“This didn’t happen to you,” her mother insisted.

Hang up, urged the voice in her mind but she could not do it. “It did,” she whispered.

“If it happened, Dana, where was I? I was always home with you kids. I would have known. I would have kept anything bad from happening to you. It can’t be real, Dana,” her mother told her.

“It is, though, Mom, I know because I feel it. I remember. He used to force me in the basement -”

“I don’t want to hear this,” her mother snapped.

“Maybe it’s something you have to hear.”

“Why didn’t you cry? Or bleed? Or tell me, Dana. You would have said something to me. It would not have been a secret. It could not have been.”

“I know you don’t want to believe it, Mom, but he told me he would kill me and I thought he meant it. I was terrified. I -”

“Dana, it’s not real!” her mother shouted.

“Mom – I -”

“Is he there with you?” Mrs. Scully asked. Meaning Mulder. “He’s the one who did this.”

“Don’t blame Mulder,” Scully insisted. Her mother sounded insane. Was this driving her mother crazy? “This has nothing to do with him. He’s been wonderfully supportive -”

“He has filled your head with lies since the beginning.”

“You used to like Mulder, Mom,” she reminded her, her voice growing smaller. She could feel the upset in her stomach. “What happened?”

“Look how much pain he’s caused you,” her mother said quietly. “And you think you have to prove yourself to him. Still. What is it going to take, Dana? Your death?”

She couldn’t say anything. She wanted to hang up the phone, but couldn’t make herself.

“I want you to leave him, Dana. Just for a little while. Just until you feel better.”

“I’m so scared, Mom,” Dana said. She’d been trembling inside all day. Wanting someone to protect her.

“I’m coming over,” her mother declared. “I can help you get over this.” Mrs. Scully hung up and Dana clung to the phone. Her mom didn’t believe her and now she was scared she would hate her.

But she needed Mulder, too. She was really scared of what would happen to her without Mulder.

Dana was just plain scared. Carefully she placed the receiver down and the phone rang instantly. She cried out, startled, and saw through the window that it was dark. For a moment she was mesmerized by the blackness.

Then she grabbed the phone.

“Scully?”

“Yes,” Scully said. How had Mulder gotten to be on the phone when she’d just been…?

Oh hell.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” she answered carefully, sitting down on the couch. It had happened again, damn it. “How’s it going?” she didn’t want Mulder to know.

“Theory, no evidence,” he reported.

She waited for more. “Did you want to tell me about it?”

“It’s not that interesting. How was babysitting?”

“Aside from Agent Whitaker puking during the entire shift and the witness being a complete fucking asshole -”

“Scully?” his usually playful tone was tinged with worry.

“I’m sorry,” she said. She hardly ever cursed like that anymore, and usually it was when she stubbed her toe rather than when she was talking to Mulder. It had been something of a badge of honor in med school, kind of like cracking jokes while performing autopsies.

“I love it when you talk dirty,” he teased.

“Oh do you?” she asked. “When are you coming home?”

“I don’t know. Do you miss me?”

“Mmm-hmm,” she purred, pulling her feet up and closing her eyes. She loved his voice. She wished he were close enough that she could feel his breath against her ear.

“How much?”

Her eyes opened. He didn’t really want her to do this…did he? She heard him sigh and the groaning of mattress springs as he leaned back. “Mulder -”

“We’re practically still on our honeymoon,” he said, “And it’s safe sex. Just words. Words can’t hurt you.” When he meant sex, he didn’t mean disease free as much as he meant non-threatening.

She’d been trying to remember that words held no power all day. “I’ve never done this before,” she confessed.

“It’s okay, Scully. Just tell me what you like.”

“I like to see you.” She closed her eyes again. “I like it when you’re close and I can hear you breathing. Feel you. And when you touch me -”

“Where am I touching you?”

“On my -” She had to stop. Remind herself. Mulder. Fantasy. Not a memory, not abuse. Not unwanted hands up under her dress. “On my ass. Hard. Rough. You’re so deep in me it hurts but it’s such a good hurt.” She sucked in a deep breath, feeling his phantom in her body. “So hard I can’t breathe, I can’t think of anything but you.”

“What next?” His voice was tight.

“You kiss me. I can feel your heartbeat. Your lips are gentle, still, even as your body is fierce…” She hesitated, feeling ridiculous.

“Don’t stop,” he urged.

“But you’re so far away -” she complained, aware that she was sitting on her couch, alone, in her empty apartment.

“No, I’m close. I’m in you.” His breathing was harsh. He was excited. The power of words. “Deep. And you’re wet and soft and every time I move I can hear your breath catch. I’m going to make you tremble. I can see your muscles straining. And I touch you and -”

She heard a key in the lock. She turned, hoping it was Mulder, playing a game with her because he was on his way home to love her. “Mulder, there’s someone here.” The hand lying between her thighs was heavy. There was no time to go for her gun.

The door opened and her mother walked in. “Dana, hang up the phone.”

“No,” Scully said.

“Scully?” Mulder asked, confused about what was going on.

“You’re coming home with me,” her mother said.

“Mom?” She’d never seen her mother look so angry.

“Scully, what is going on?”

“Put the phone down, Dana.”

“I’ll have to call you back, Mulder,” Scully said.

Alone in his motel room, Mulder listened to a dial tone in his ear. What the hell had just happened?

Mrs. Scully walked in on her daughter talking dirty. He felt guilty, embarrassed for her.

But they were married.

He didn’t think she’d changed – channel flipped – although the fear was still in his mind. Still, he’d thought sexual words would be less scary than the actual physical act for Scully. Although he’d have touched her if he was close enough to.

Now he could only sit and wait for her to call him.

“What are you doing here, Mom?” Scully asked.

“You’re coming home with me.”

“No,” she said firmly.

“We discussed this on the phone.”

“What?” Scully asked.

Her mother’s face turned very white. “I was talking to you.”

Scully’s ears began to buzz. Lack of blood and oxygen in her brain. “Maybe not.” She sank down in the chair. Damn it! This wasn’t supposed to happen any more. She’d told Mulder she could take care of herself, stay in control, and she’d meant it.

“I’m sorry, I can’t deal with this now.” There were tears in her mother’s eyes and Scully lifted her head, searching for words to make it all right as the other woman walked out, leaving her alone and scared. And abandoned. Again.

He couldn’t sleep. He could only lay awake and think about demons. His wife and her demons and the demon in this case. He hated this, hated being so far away from her, hated the snow and the gray sky and the cold that seeped in around the window.

Why wasn’t she calling him back?

What if she’d become someone who didn’t remember him, didn’t even remember she had a husband? What if she left the apartment, like she had before. He hadn’t been able to stand that and she’d only been gone a day. He’d wanted to die.

He opened the case file and started to read, hoping to distract himself by thinking of a profile. A profile of a real life demon because Scully had taught him well. He didn’t believe in ghosts or ghouls that wanted to harm people, not any more.

Was that why Scully had never believed? he wondered. Because she had seen this darkness in people since the time she was a child? Had she always known, somewhere, deep inside…

Was that really any different than him, though? He’d known since he was twelve that the world was bad, that people went away and didn’t come back. But he hadn’t had anyone to blame for that except himself, and he knew that believing in little green men was all that had given him hope.

Did Scully have no hope? His stomach began to ache and his eyes fixed on the phone. Should he call her? No hope at all…he had t be able to do something to help her.

But he’d never been able to help anyone, including himself.

He picked up the phone to call again.

She couldn’t stay there. She didn’t feel safe. Her brother had been in this apartment and her mother came over without warning. She changed in this apartment, bad things had happened in this apartment and she couldn’t stay there. She couldn’t stay.

Where the hell could she go?

If only Mulder was with her. If only her mother hadn’t come, if only she were in control and didn’t have to spend another twelve hour day with the biggest asshole the Bureau was letting off. If only none of it had happened to her in the first place.

They owned a house. She remembered it suddenly. That was going to be their haven. Nothing bad would ever happen in that house. It would be good and filled with love and most importantly, she would be safe there.

They didn’t own it yet, not entirely. They’d signed some papers. Byers’ sister had something to do with real estate and that was how the guys had found the house for them in the first place. They were helping the process along as much as they could.

No one could care or say anything if she went there. They needed to make plans to move. She didn’t know if she loved her apartment any more when all she could see when she sat there alone was Duane Barry’s face.

She had never had a problem being alone before. This new dependence she felt for Mulder scared her.

She grabbed her things and ran to the car.

The phone rang 100 times before Mulder put it down. Where could she have gone? She wouldn’t have gone with her mother, would she?

He was worried because she wasn’t answering. Maybe Maggie believed her now and they’d been able to resolve their differences. He seized the phone again and dialed Scully’s mother’s number. She’d made him memorize it once, “just in case.” Unfortunately, he had had occasion to use it more than once.

Why didn’t “just in case” ever mean something good had happened?

“Hello?” Mrs. Scully’s voice was sleepy. Mulder looked but couldn’t see his clock. It had gotten late without him noticing.

“Mrs. Scully, this is Fox Mulder -”

“I don’t want to speak to you,” she said, but her voice was mild. She didn’t sound angry, just resigned.

“Is my wife there?” he asked.

She sighed. “No, Fox. She doesn’t want to see me. Why do you have to do this?”

“I’m not doing anything but offering your daughter the love and support that she needs.”

“I love her,” Maggie said and now she was beginning to sound upset. Maybe she should be, he thought. “You’re the one who’s breaking my heart.”

“She’s not there with you?” he asked again, feeling guilty and not wanting to listen to this any more.

“I wish she was.”

“Thank you,” he said, knowing it sounded cold, and hung up. His worry was manifesting as anger now. He dialed Scully’s apartment and had the thought to call her on her cell phone. Even if she’d gone out as an alter, she might have it with her. He could only hope that she did.

-22-

The house was dark and cold. We have to get the power turned on, she thought, wandering through pitch black rooms. Her eyes slowly adjusted and she began to envision what her life would be like when she lived in this house with Mulder.

The floor was dirty. Maybe we can take the weekend and clean it, she thought. Or paint. She’d never lived anywhere that didn’t have regulation white walls. As a kid she hadn’t even been allowed to use tape or nails on the walls.

Paint, she thought happily. But damn it was cold. She pressed the button to light up her watch. It was getting late and she had to be at the safehouse early in the morning.

She couldn’t sleep in the house, that much was clear. Not without heat or light. But she did not want to go home. She had a terrible feeling something would happen if she went home.

Mulder’s apartment. The idea blossomed in her mind and she jumped up to go.

Mulder was sleeping fitfully when the motel phone began to ring. For a second, he thought he was at home and reached for his alarm clock, picking it up. When it didn’t stop after several hits to the snooze bar, he fumbled for the phone.

“Yeah,” he sighed, sitting up. It was beginning to occur to him that this could be The Call. The we’ve locked her up in the looney bin or we regret to inform you call.

“Mulder.”

It was her. He didn’t know how to feel, relieved or joyous or irritated at having worried. “I was waiting for you to call. What happened?” he sat back against the headboard.

“My mother…” she stopped herself. He didn’t need to know her mother wanted her to leave him. She was never going to do so. “I’m at your place. I thought you should know.”

“Why?” he asked. “Are you okay?”

“I didn’t feel safe there. At home.”

“Are you okay now?”

“Uh-huh.” There was a long silence. She didn’t know what else to say. “I just wanted you to know in case you called me.”

“Thanks.” He didn’t need to tell her he’d already tried to call, already worried far too much. “I miss you.”

“I miss you too,” she said and slid the phone back into its cradle.

He went to Traci’s in the morning. She looked thin and sick. It was clear to him that she hadn’t slept. “How are you faring?” he asked kindly, and then reached over to touch her. He stopped himself instantly, remembering Scully.

Traci shrugged.

No hope, he thought.

“I’m going to get this resolved. I’m going to catch this guy and put him away,” Mulder said, trying to give her hope.

An odd light brightened in her eyes and her lips curled into a sick smile. “You’re going to arrest the devil?” She sounded almost giggly. Hysterical.

Well, it wasn’t like he hadn’t tried to do it before, he thought. “Traci, I honestly believe it was a person who did this to you. I know it’s a horrifying crime -”

She shook her head. “What could you possibly know?” she said with more fire than he’d ever seen from her. Maybe a little life was not such a bad thing. “What do you know about evil?”

“I’m very sorry, Mrs. Turner,” he said honestly. He knew a lot about evil. He’d looked it in the eyes, and how it lived in his house and slept in his bed. He knew. “Where is your husband?”

“Working,” she mumbled.

“He didn’t come home? To be with you?” Mulder stared at her. The Turners were practically newlyweds, as he was.

“Would you?” she asked sourly. “Would you drop my case and run home if your wife said come?” She glanced at his still-shiny ring.

“Yes I would,” he said. He knew that. He hated being away from her. If she needed him, he would be there. Without question or hesitation.

“‘n get fired?” she continued to challenge.

Mulder stopped and thought. He was committed to his job. That was a commitment he’d proven and renewed. He needed to work on the X files even when the cases were stupid and lame and not what he would have chosen. He knew they were in trouble – in danger of being fired. You only get so many strikes before you’re out of the game.

“See,” Traci said and when he looked at her, her eyes were dead. Completely flat and hollow. The way Scully’s would be if she needed his help and he wasn’t there.

That was the other thing about his wife. She would never ask for help.

Had Traci ever been that strong?

“Where did the attack take place?” Mulder asked.

“In my bed.”

He nodded. A common place to find a woman vulnerable and alone at night. Her husband would have a key. He wasn’t sure he could picture the priest breaking in, though.

“What’re you thinking about when you look like that?” Traci asked.

Mulder blinked. He hadn’t realized he’d spaced out. “May I see?” he asked.

Traci shrugged and led him back. An old, underfilled waterbed dominated the room. He wondered how hard a woman would have to fight in order to puncture it.

“I changed the sheets if that’s what you’re thinking. Washed ‘em,” Traci offered.

Mulder nodded. “May I have your husband’s phone number?” he asked.

She gave it to him. “I have to go to church now,” she said.

“Do you go every day?” he asked her.

“I do now. I don’t want to Devil’s seed to take hold,” she said it like it was so normal, so common. Traci picked up her acid-washed denim jacket and escorted him out.

“Where’s Whitaker?” Scully asked Agents Jones and Donnelly the next morning in the cabin as they made their way out.

“Not coming,” Jones answered with a smug looking smile.

She stopped where she stood, blocking their path so they couldn’t leave. “Why not?” she demanded.

“He’s sick,” Donnelly told her with a kind crinkling of his eyes.

“Who’s his replacement?” she asked.

Jones shrugged. Donnelly shrugged. Scully glared at them as they walked away. Two pairs of agents, she wanted to shout at them as they got into their cars and drove away.

She did not want to be alone with Irving. She pulled out her cellphone and was dialing as Irving threw open the door to the safehouse and grinned at her. “Come on in!”

She put her finger in her ear and requested Skinner from the FBI operator. She could barely hear – it must be all the VA trees blocking her phone. “Where’s my backup?” she demanded.

“We’ve had a big case break open, and we don’t have anyone available,” Skinner said, sounding apologetic and also practiced. He’d been waiting for her call.

“Tell Jones or Donnelly to turn around and come back,” she ordered.

“I can’t do that.”

“I don’t care if they sleep, I can’t be here alone,” she said, lowering her voice to try to keep Irving from hearing her.

“Scully -”

“Then get down here yourself, sir. Protocol dictates -”

Skinner interrupted her angry tirade by laughing. He was laughing at her! “When have you ever followed protocol?” he asked.

She glared.

“I can’t do it. I’m sorry.” A burst of static almost drown him out. “I’m losing you,” Skinner said. The perfect excuse. Then he hung up.

Her back stiff and straight with anger, she walked into the house. “What’s wrong?” Irving purred from the couch. He was sprawled on his back and grinning like a cat. “Afraid to be alone with me?”

“I’m an FBI agent,” she informed him. “I’ve faced killers and honest to God monsters. You don’t scare me.” Her voice was tough to cover the fact that she felt weak.

“Good,” he said. “Did you bring your cards?”

She flung the package at his head. “Play solitaire.” She’d already decided that if someone came to kill him, she’d allow them to. She might even help.

“Sex is a great cure for PMS,” he called to her as he picked up the cards from where they’d fallen.

“No wonder they took away your license,” she replied, opening the novel she’d brought with her to read.

“Hubby not up for it?” he asked. “Oh, that’s right, he’s out of town.” His words had become menacing. “Leave you lonely?”

She kept her jaw locked and closed and looked at her watch. Only 11 hours and 45 minutes to go.

Mulder went back to the motel to call the number Traci had given him. Damien Turned worked in the financial industry. Mulder didn’t understand why they seemed to have so little money. Their small home was filled with shabby things.

“This is Agent Mulder. I’m with the FBI. I’m calling about your wife -” he began.

“Oh god, what’s happened now?” Damien asked with a put-upon groan. It wasn’t the reaction Mulder had expected.

“I was wondering where you were at the time of the incident and if there were -” Mulder asked.

“Buddy, you still lost me, what incident?” Damien had an annoyingly flat Chicago accent. Mulder found himself wondering how Traci and her husband had come to be together.

“The rape…” He didn’t even want to say the word. There was only silence on Damien’s end of the line. “You didn’t know?” he asked.

“No. I didn’t know.”

Something in his voice told Mulder not to believe him. “She didn’t tell you.”

“No, she just started talking about all that church crap and I, kinda, turned out, you know?” Damien said. “She’s gotten worse since we got married.”

“Worse how?” Mulder asked, hoping to get anything at all he could use.

“More into that crap, you know. The devil and god and all that.” Damien said. “Is she okay?”

It had taken his way too long to think of that, Mulder thought. He’d also been way too quick to point out his wife’s religious tendencies. Calling her crazy and blaming it on the devil was easy.

Mulder still thought it was the husband. “Where were you on the afternoon and evening of…”

Damien laughed. “I was working.”

“I don’t even have to give you the date for you to know that,” Mulder said curiously.

“I’m always working.”

“Convenient.”

“What are you trying to imply?” Damien demanded.

“Nothing,” Mulder said quickly. “You were working. Okay.”

“You sound like you don’t believe me,” Damien accused.

“Why wouldn’t I believe you,” Mulder said, making it clear that he didn’t.

“Look, I got to get back to my work.” Damien said and hung up. Mulder looked at the phone in his hand and finally replaced it. He wasn’t going to get any answers out of Damien.

No evidence, he thought. Damn it.

“Why don’t you come over here?” Irving wheedled.

“I warned you once already,” Scully informed him. She turned the page in her book even though she had no idea what had happened. She couldn’t concentrate. She was angry with Skinner. He was supposed to look after the agents in his care.

But you’re not a little girl any more, Scully, she reminded herself. You can defend yourself now. No one is going to hurt you again.

Good thing, she thought as Irving moved to occupy the chair opposite hers, drawing it in close. Almost touching her. The proximity made her incredibly uncomfortable and she worried that it showed in her face. If he knew, he’d get off on it, she knew. She also knew she didn’t really need that.

“You’re so uptight,” he said in an oilslicked tone she imagined he found seductive. Then he reached for her.

She punched him square in the jaw. He recoiled, his eyes full of hated. “Ooo roke eye raw!” he said, a thin dribble of blood trailing down his chin.

“You feel,” she said, ice cold. She got up from her chair and walked away, claiming the couch.

“Oo really roke by raw!” he cried, even more alarmed. She felt a twinge that she hated. Men had hurt women for centuries.

Stooping to their level makes you as bad as they are.

You swore to first do no harm, that voice in her head said. It was quickly joined by other voices, offering her commandments and her own memory to make her guilty.

Mulder would be ashamed of her.

“Awen’t ooo oing to do romething?” She glanced at him, feeling sick. His blood was bright and freely flowing. She couldn’t leave him broken and in agony for hours.

She pulled out her cell phone and dialed.

“There’s nothing I can do here,” Mulder told Skinner on the phone. “Mrs. Turner won’t press any charges since it’s the devil.”

“Mulder -” He could picture the glare on Skinner’s face. He knew that tone of frustration.

“I tried. She believes it was the devil. She laughs when I mention charges. Even if she admitted it had been her husband, I doubt she would do anything about it.”

“You think it’s the husband,” Skinner said.

“Yes,” Mulder answered and prepared to defend his opinion.

“I agree, sir,” Mulder said. There was a tiny click on the line and Mulder flinched. It had been a long time since he’d given any thought to wiretaps. Who would be interested?

“I have another call,” Skinner said. “But I recommend you give it another day.” Mulder groaned and Skinner heard it. “I know you want to be home with your wife, Mulder, but give this case your best regardless of that.”

“Yes sir,” Mulder said. Skinner disconnected their call and Mulder muttered, “Damn.” He hated wasting his time when there was nothing more he could do.

“Sir?” Scully was Skinner’s other call.

“What is it now?” Skinner growled.

“The prisoner requires medical attention,” she reported, glancing over at Irving. He looked harmless and helpless, now. She knew she should not have hit him.

“He’s not a prisoner,” Skinner reminded her. “And you’re a doctor.”

“His jaw’s broken.”

“How did this happen? Was there an attempt?” Skinner cried, concerned.

“I hit him,” she said softly. Irving tried to smile at her admission and instantly yelped in pain. Her stomach turned.

“You what?” Skinner demanded. “You’d better have a damned good reason.”

“He’s a rapist and I’m alone with him and he was about to touch me,” Scully informed him in a flat, unemotional tone.

“I will send someone,” Skinner informed her. “Do you feel safe there until they arrive?”

“Do NOT patronize me,” she snapped.

“We’ll talk later,” Skinner said. It was not an invitation for a meeting. The phone disconnected and she forced herself to put it away calmly. She didn’t want Irving to know. He was smug enough already.

“In trouble?” Irving asked, his eyes lit with hope.

She wasn’t speaking to him.

“I’m gonna sue you!” he slurred.

She had no doubt. Once again fear began to wind through her stomach. She was going to lose her career. They were going to find out and her abuser was going to have the final say in her life.

And she damn well wasn’t going to cry.

“You again,” Traci opened the door, but didn’t step back, not allowing him into the house.

“Are you sure about what happened.” He couldn’t keep the sigh out of his voice.

Her face twisted. “I am so sick of you and your disbelief,” she snarled. “I know what happened! I was lying in bed and someone held me down. Someone I couldn’t see. And I couldn’t move and they violated me.” Her mascara began to run as she started to cry.

Once again he wanted to touch her to comfort her, but he knew he couldn’t. Shouldn’t. He could see Scully there in her pain.

But her story was different. It sounded almost like an alien abduction. Sans abduction and mostly sans aliens. He didn’t need Scully there to know what she would say.

Dream paralysis while not asleep. It happened to a small fraction of the population. At the conference he’d attended almost a year ago, a so- called expert had attributed all abduction phenomena to dream paralysis.

Mulder knew not all abductions occurred while lying in bed. And it didn’t explain Traci’s doctor-verified rape in this case.

But it could explain the presence of the devil.

“I wish you would let me help you,” Mulder said, studying her eyes.

“I wish it would happen to you so you’d know,” she offered cruelly.

It has, he thought of Scully. “I’ll call again tomorrow before I’m scheduled to leave,” he said. She closed the door and he headed for the motel.

Feeling sad.

Feeling he’d failed.

Skinner sent Donnelly and an ambulance. “Thanks, bitch,” Donnelly sneered as he walked past her.

Scully didn’t react. She was used to male agents treating her with acid disrespect. The man had worked 12 hours and had to return because she wasn’t doing her job. She’d be angry too.

“You’re through,” Donnelly informed her. Telling her to leave. He turned to Irving and for a second she thought the two men were about to high-five each other. She was horrified and left quickly.

Skinner was a man. He wouldn’t understand either. What would her punishment be for striking a witness? When guarding the witness had already been meant as a punishment.

Maybe she should quit. It had crossed her mind so many times over the years. She wasn’t a quitter. She’d had something to prove and now that times had grown hard she should only work harder. Except it was so hard.

The only other reason she had was Mulder and they were married now. He wouldn’t feel abandoned. He wouldn’t feel she’d left him because she wouldn’t be leaving him.

She didn’t want to.

She knew it was a steep uphill climb but she didn’t want to quit. Unless it was no longer her decision to make. She sighed. Mulder was going to be disappointed in her.

Mulder was still sad when he reached the motel. He had nothing to do except wait for morning to come so he could ask Traci again. She would say no, again, and he could go home.

He wanted to go home. Even though right now things were hard and painful. Scully was there. She was what he needed for strength.

He had no passion for this work without her. Mulder spread out on the bed and turned on the TV. Maybe he could sleep the time away.

-23-

She sat silent and demur in Skinner’s office, aware of his utter anger. She couldn’t look at him and she hoped that didn’t make her look guilty. Guiltier. She was already guilty.

“Why did you hit him?”

“I told you,” she said quietly. Absolutely determined to remain calm.

“If you were unable to handle the assignment -” Skinner began. Sounding pissed off and condescending.

“I called you and expressed my concerns, which you did not listen to,” she stated. She l lifted her head and they stared at each other.

“What did he do?”

“I told -”

“Tell me again,” Skinner said. She hesitated, recognizing a common interrogation technique – repeating the story until it changed or fell apart. He continued, “I don’t want to put you in front of the OPR twice in the same week.”

“He was scum. Sir,” she added the last absurdly. “He spent twelve hours sneering and leering and bragging about what he did. What he did that the Bureau is condoning by letting him go free. So today when he sat down inches from me and reached out, I reacted.”

Skinner didn’t move. There was no change in his facial expression. “You hit him.”

“Yes, sir.”

“How close was he?” Skinner asked after a short pause.

She just looked at him. He nodded, waiting for an answer. “You’ve got to be kidding!” she cried, rising from her chair.

“It’s your word against his. I need to know you reacted to actual physical danger,” Skinner told her. Sometimes she saw him fight to hide emotion, so she knew he had them. He’d even had a wife; he was a man. But as a boss….

His marine training made him cold and unattached.

“A woman is always at fault for unwanted attention,” she railed. “How short is my skirt?” She knew it covered her knees. “Maybe I invited him. So I could tease him. Forget that I’m married. Just being female is an invitation. Women always want it, isn’t that right sir?” she asked, making her sarcasm tantalize as she moved closer to his chair. His eyes followed her with interest. “If he’d thrown me on the floor and did to me what he’s so proud of doing to those other women, I should have -” her voice broke because her emotions were rising in her chest. The tears in her eyes wouldn’t put her voice above a whisper. “I should have sat back and enjoyed it,” she finished coldly.

“That wouldn’t have happened,” Skinner told her. He had to lean all the way back to see her face because she was standing so close to him.

“No, because I punched him in the jaw,” she said, a touch of smugness tainting her voice. She was overtly aware of how close she was standing. She could smell the Zest soap he’d used in the shower that morning. His splayed thighs were almost touching hers. She leaned in, putting her face near his. “And this is how close he was to me,” she told him, holding her position before stepping away. Her blood still boiled with anger. She watched Skinner to see what he would say.

Finally, he spoke. “I think there are some autopsies awaiting you at Quantico,” he said.

“Thank you, sir.” Her knees were shaking as she walked out of his office. He was bound to notice.

When Mulder woke, he was disoriented. It was dark and he didn’t know where he was. After a moment, he remembered the motel, Michigan, the case.

He’d been dreaming about his father. The man who taught him to fish and track and told him he was stupid. The man who smoked three packs a day and drank after dinner and knocked him out once for swearing.

It had not been idyllic. But back then, parents spanked their kids. Mulder hadn’t thought anything of it. He’d known he was to blame for losing his sister, the way he was to blame for everything. He knew it as surely as he knew his own name.

He’d accepted it, and that had influenced him to use gentle touches and study psychology that told him no one was to blame.

How had her experiences made Scully who she was? Strong and proud… Was getting smacked the same, but different, from what Scully and Traci and so many others felt? It had to be, he thought, so maybe he never would understand.

Everyone is abused as a child, he thought and sighed. Even though it was late, he picked up the phone to call Scully, to tell her that he would be home sometime soon. He wanted to tell her how much he wanted to see her.

He dialed his apartment and then hers and there was no answer in either place. He worried, and what had he to do? What could he do? He worried.

The phone stopped ringing in the instant she pushed the door open. Exhausted, she ran for it, hoping she could catch Mulder leaving a message on her answering machine.

She stopped short. She hadn’t turned the machine on before she left. Her shoulders sagged. She’d wanted to hear his voice. She’d autopsied five victims that day. Two of them she’d done before an audience of trainees. She needed to feel some confirmation of life now, after spending her day with death. The beating of her own heart was no longer enough to remind her.

She couldn’t call him because it was late and what if it hadn’t been him on the phone?

Once Irving gave his testimony, he’d be free. And he struck her as the type who might try to take revenge.

Unlike Joe Wilder, who had been smart and disappeared after his release. After thinking such thoughts, she found the silence and the darkness threatening and in spite of her exhaustion, sleep was hard to come by.

The ringing phone interrupted her sleep. She was still tired and the light burned her eyes and turned her stomach as she squinted against it. “Yeah,” she mumbled through the hair that had somehow come to cover her face.

“I’ll need to see you in my office at eight thirty,” Skinner said.

“Okay,” she managed and fumbled the phone back to its home, thinking only of sleep. She fell back against her pillow.

She was in trouble again. Again, or still? She forced her eyes open. It was seven thirty by her clock. She could hardly believe it. With traffic, she was already late.

Mulder sat in the chair in his motel room, tapping his foot, the TV off, not eating, not reading or sleeping. Just tapping and waiting to ask Traci Turner again what she wanted to do.

If she changed her mind, he wouldn’t be able to catch his plane at noon.

He’d never longed for home as much as he did at that moment. Because home was no longer a place for him – it was a person. Scully.

Marriage gave him ground and roots in a way he had never imagined. He had never imagined that he would like it so much.

The phone rang and he smiled. He was thinking of his wife and she was thinking of him. Sometimes he thought she was the tiniest bit psychic. She’d deny it if he said it to her, of course.

“Hey honey,” he said playfully when he picked up the phone.

“Mulder?”

He almost dropped the phone when he heard Skinner’s voice. He wasn’t psychic. “I’m sorry -” he began.

“I need you back here on the first flight,” Skinner ordered.

“What about the case?”

“We can’t prosecute the devil, you said it yourself,” Skinner said wryly. It almost resembled a sense of humor. “We need you back here.”

“What happened?” he asked, afraid something had happened to Scully.

“We’ve got another dead kid,” Skinner informed him.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Mulder said and hung up, dialing the local bureau to assist him in making new, rush travel arrangements.

The radio assaulted her from the moment she got in the car. “A killer released by the FBI due to lack of evidence has struck again…”

Oh no, she thought. She was definitely in trouble. It would somehow be her fault that Wilder was out to kill again, because she was a bad risk to the Bureau. Another little girl was dead. For a second she couldn’t breathe because it hurt so badly. The radio didn’t give any details, but she knew them well enough from the previous killings.

She remembered her own pain and fear and confusion at what had been done to her when she was a child. She could still feel the skin stretching until it ripped. She shuddered, barely seeing where she was driving, knowing that Wilder had done that to another little girl, but he’d used a knife instead of his finger or a broomstick or his adult penis.

A horn blared and she jerked the wheel. She didn’t know where she was for the moment before she recognized the turn to the parking lot at work. She’d lost the entire drive to her dark and ugly thoughts.

Or had she lost the drive to one of the others? The one who left fear trembling in her stomach, who could drive while she thought. What if one of them came out while she met with Skinner? It hadn’t happened yet, but it could.

But thirty years had passed without her noticing them at all.

She was scared.

Fear was the one thing she could not handle.

Dana parked the car and went upstairs to Skinner’s office. Things had seemed to change since she’d last been there. She didn’t know how or why, but it was different.

Dana was afraid Joe Wilder would be there. He was a mild mannered school bus driver – how could he have killed those children?

“I should probably wait to speak to you until Mulder gets here,” Skinner told her before she even sat down. So she didn’t sit, eager to please him and afraid to disappoint him. Dana always wanted people to be pleased with her.

“The Bureau wants both of your badges for this. If you’d gone by the book before, this kid wouldn’t be dead,” Skinner looked over his glasses at her. “Sit down.”

Scully crossed her legs after she sat down, and Dana uncrossed them. “It isn’t our fault he went free. We identified and arrested the killer,” Scully argued.

Dana was afraid to let her break through even though she was also afraid to stay in the meeting. She had been filled with fear since her abduction. It overwhelmed her and made her completely unable to work. She was more gentle now, although she had always been kinder and softer than Scully.

Even Scully knew that Dana didn’t belong at work. She only knew she was not in control, and control was what she needed at that moment in order to save her job.

Her job and Mulder’s.

“Maybe you’re right,” Scully heard herself say. She looked just as shocked as she felt. “I feel terrible about this,” Dana added softly.

“I don’t think there was anything you could have done differently,” Skinner admitted. “And I will say as much on your behalf.”

She nodded. “Did you get him this time?” Dana asked timidly.

“Yeah.”

Scully didn’t see what the problem was if she and Mulder had identified the right man. If the Bureau wasn’t so desperately out to get them, this murder would not have happened.

“This sucks,” DK declared.

Dana was incredibly embarrassed.

Scully struggled to silence them all, worried Skinner would notice she was completely insane.

To her surprise, he merely nodded. “Keep a low profile until Mulder gets back,” he advised.

“Mulder’s coming back?” Dana and Scully said at the same time. It surprised Scully and it made Dana pull back. What did it mean if she and Scully felt the same way about Mulder?

Skinner nodded. “This afternoon. We’ll talk later.”

Scully nodded. Dana was wondering who was really married to Mulder. She was pretty sure it was her. She’d loved him longer than Scully had. Dana walked downstairs slowly, almost dreamily, thinking about her husband.

Afraid the time away had made him realize that he didn’t need her or love her.

She didn’t like the fear or the doubt, so she let Scully do the expense report so she wouldn’t have to think about it any more.

After a cup of coffee and about an hour of working with the calculator, Scully felt like herself again. It must have been the shock, but it was too easy to blame that. She needed to learn to deal at whatever life came up with and be able to stay in control. Because numbers were straightforward, she returned to the expense report.

Mulder walked in hours later, practically dragging his suitcase along on the floor. The plane ride had been long and his transfer had been even longer. He was pleased to be back, even if he was due to be in trouble. His office felt like home, especially when he saw Scully sitting at the desk, a pencil stuck behind her ear and another in her hand. For a second, he felt normal and carefree and fought the urge to rush at her and hug her tight.

“Hey,” he said instead, hanging back.

She turned and grinned. “You’re back. How was it?”

“I’m a failure without you,” he told her. “What’s going on?”

“There’s been another murder. They got Joe Wilder on it, but they want to get us for screwing it up in the first place,” she said.

“They just want to get us,” Mulder commented.

She pursed her lips and regarded him. “My being completely psycho doesn’t really help,” she added.

“What does that mean?” he demanded, studying her. “You didn’t sound too good last night.”

She shook her head. She hadn’t been too good. “I punched the witness I was guarding,” she admitted, watching him to see how he would react.

It took him a second, but then he said carefully, “I’m sure you had a good reason.”

She smiled. He was a great guy. That was why she didn’t want to tell him she’d felt very tenuous this morning. She had managed to pull herself together and the expense report had gotten finished in the process, another bonus. “We should go see Skinner.”

“Do you want to?” he asked her.

“Of course not,” she said.

“Was he very upset?” Mulder asked her.

“I think he’s on our side,” she told him. “For what that’s worth. One of these days he won’t be.”

“Do you really think so?” he asked, moving closer to her. He’d been dying to touch her since the moment he’d left.

“We’ve got to be such a pain in his ass,” she said. “If you look at it from his point of view.”

“You ever think about moving out of the field?” he asked her, meeting her eyes.

She could stare into his gaze for days, but she had to be honest when she did. “All the time now,” she admitted

“I hate being out there without you,” he said. Her head was tipped back to look at him and he finally dug his fingers into her hair at the temples. “I hate it.”

“What happened to my independent partner?” she asked, her lips twisting in a tiny smile to know he’d missed her and he’d needed her.

“I kept telling myself all the things you would have said.” With his hands still in her hair, he leaned down to kiss her. Finally. “This woman believed so strongly in the devil…”

“What did you think I’d have said?” she asked, her lips still feeling the pressure of his. Her heart was still in her stomach. She wanted him.

“That she couldn’t accept the evil in other people so she attributed it to the devil.” He watched her face. “Is that what you would have said?”

“Probably.”

“Why did you hit someone?” he asked her.

She shrugged. A tight shrug like she was ashamed and didn’t want to talk about it. What had she gotten into while he was away? But he knew that wasn’t what she wanted him to think.

“Was it you?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, mildly irritated. She pulled her face away from his hands. Instantly her expression tempered. “I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. It would be easier to deal with if it was one of the others, in some ways.”

“Are they staying away?” he asked.

She looked away. “I’ve been struggling,” she said, her eyes focused on his poster hanging on the opposite wall. “We should go.” She got to her feet and walked past him, pausing by the door to wait for him.

“I’m so looking forward to this,” Mulder remarked dryly. They both fell into silence as they walked up, thinking. They’d received their disliked assignments in punishment for their previous offenses – what would their punishment be now?

Scully reached to squeeze his hand before they went into Skinner’s office. To assure herself as much as to assure him. He turned and smiled at her. Glad of the support and the strength of their partnership.

Skinner looked even more pissed than usual, an imposing figure behind his desk as the slid silently into the facing chairs like kids in the principal’s office. Oh no, Scully thought and saw Mulder turn his head out of the corner of her eye as though he’d been able to hear her.

“Joe Wilder confessed,” Skinner said. “Everything. Working with Strader, his assault on you.” His eyes found Scully. “You two are off the hook.”

“Good,” said Mulder, and the word was too weak.

“Thank you sir,” Scully replied, finding her voice. She didn’t feel vindicated at all for being right, just moderately relieved.

“Is the expense report finished?” Skinner turned his glare to Mulder.

“Yes. I’ll get it to you later this afternoon,” Scully answered for him.

The three of them looked at each other. “Mulder, you look tired. Did you solve the case?” Skinner asked. Mulder shook his head. “Your solve rate is really getting bad,” Skinner went on, looking from Mulder to Scully and back again. “Any problems?”

He was asking about their marriage again? “Everything’s fine,” Mulder said.

Skinner nodded. “Scully, if I could have a word with you?”

Her eyes widened. “Certainly,” she said. Mulder looked at her as he got to his feet and headed out of the office, his eyes lingering on her. She nodded as though to tell him it was okay. The door closed and she was alone with her boss.

“Is everything all right?” he asked her.

“Fine, sir,” she said, yet again.

“Honestly,” he suggested. “You seem different, since you and Mulder were married. Is everything okay between you two?”

“I love him and he loves me. We’ve bought a house. We are going to have a happy life together,” she said.

“Then is it something else that’s bothering you?” Skinner asked, his eyes searching hers. “I would appreciate your honesty here. In light of what happened this morning. Your reaction was not like you, and you know that.”

She took a deep breath. She had to tell him. It was the only right thing to do, but how to say it? Why did this feel like it was going to be harder than telling her family had been? “I…recently remembered incidents of abuse that occurred during my childhood.” She forced herself to meet his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he said. He wasn’t shocked. “Do you want me to refer you to the counselor?”

She shook her head. “I’m okay,” she told him.

“If it becomes too much for you to deal with…” Skinner offered.

She shook her head. “I’m getting better. Mulder’s helping. It just takes time.” Listen to me, she thought, I sound like I mean it. Like it’s really going to happen.

And he’s not going to penalize me or fire me or say anything. She actually felt lighter inside and smiled. He didn’t smile back, but she felt like she was on better terms.

She felt safe.

“Thank you,” she told him before leaving his office. That changed the look on his face. His eyebrows went up and his expression changed, becoming more open. He’d helped her, just by asking, and now he knew it.

-24-

She slipped out and went back down to the basement office. Mulder was looking over the expense report. “Looks good,” he told her, raising his eyes to her face.

“I can’t believe you’re doing that,” she said.

“Needed to be done. I can’t believe you did this whole thing.”

“I needed something else to think about,” she told him.

He nodded, his eyes clear and focused on her. “What did Skinner want to see you about?”

“I told him,” she said.

“How did that feel?”

“Good. I thought it would be harder. I thought there would be repercussions. But I guess this kind of thing happens to everyone.”

“I was having that same thought,” he said.

She tilted her head and put her chin in her hand, staring at him. “Were you?”

“Not like you were,” he said. She saw a slight flex to his shoulders. He was uncomfortable. He shouldn’t be uncomfortable telling her this. Did he feel like she’d invalidated his feelings? Was she totally and completely selfish? “Not sexually.”

“Tell me,” she urged.

One shoulder went up and then back down but she wanted to hear him answer. “No, Mulder, honestly. We have spent what feels like weeks just talking about me. I want to hear about you.” He continued to hesitate. “I do.”

“It was okay to hit kids back then. You know,” he said. “Mostly it was my dad, mostly when he was drinking, but I never thought of it as abuse.”

She nodded. “You know you’re not to blame for them taking your sister.”

He nodded. “I know that in here.” He tapped his head. “And I remind myself. But when we found those files…it was supposed to be me. I could have saved her from whatever pain they’ve caused her. I wish I could have saved her from that.”

“I know,” she said. “I wonder if he hurt Melissa too, or maybe I kept him from…” She closed her eyes on the tears, then forced them open again. “I wish she was here so I could ask her.”

“It’s okay.”

“I know. And now I’ve turned his around to make it about me again.” She pushed a smile onto her face. “I want to paint our house. This weekend. I went the other night and I want to move in.”

“Of course we’re going to move in,” he said, but he was glad. He was tired of commuting and never feeling like he was home in her apartment. He wanted them to have a home that was theirs, both of them together. “What color do you want to paint it? Should we find someone to do it?”

“I want to do it all ourselves. Together, and make it ours,” she said.

“Why do I have such a hard time picturing you with a paintbrush in your hand?” he asked her.

“I don’t know – why do you?” she asked in return. She knew she radiated an air of perfection – she worked at it – but he knew she was not perfect. He’d seen her at her absolute worse, crying and destroyed.

“You just don’t seem the type,” he offered lamely.

“Sometimes I think we don’t know each other very well,” Scully told him, her mouth turning down unhappily.

He pulled a quick breath but couldn’t let it out, couldn’t relax. “What does that mean?”

Now he was going to make a big issue out of it, she thought. Had she intended to start an argument? Unconsciously. ” We have a whole lifetime,” she told him.

“Are you happy?” he asked.

What could she say?

He turned away, scraping his hands down over his face. “We have a whole lifetime,” he muttered, repeating her answer.

“Are you?” she asked.

He nodded vigorously.

“There are moments that make me happy,” she told him. “But right now I’m living in anticipation of happiness. Our house will make me happy. Getting over all this will make me happy.”

“This isn’t something you get over, Scully,” he told her. From experience. “This is something you live with.”

She nodded, but he could see that she didn’t believe him. She would learn, he thought, and he didn’t want her to learn. He wanted her to be as happy as he felt about simple things – as simple as the knowledge that he was married to her. But now he knew nothing he did could make her feel that way.

Maybe he would have to learn to live without it.

“Let’s go to the paint store,” he sighed and got to his feet.

“Now? Aren’t you tired? Don’t you want to go home and change?” Her eyes flicked over his rumpled suit.

“Not really,” he said. He didn’t care how he looked. If the house was what would make her happy, fixing up the house was what they would do. He only hoped she knew she couldn’t move away from her problems. He’d tried that when he went away to college in England, running as far from his pain as he could get. It had been good for a while, but he’d trusted the wrong people and it had all crumbled in the end.

He always trusted the wrong people. And with that thought he couldn’t help wondering, because he trusted her with his work, what made him believe that he could trust her with his heart? It had all happened so suddenly.

They walked out, stopping to drop the expense report off in Skinner’s office, then got in the car to go and look at paint. “Why did you marry me?” Mulder asked.

“Having regrets?” There was no surprise in her eyes or her tone, and he didn’t know how he felt about that.

“No,” he murmured and it was a few seconds before he realized she’d deflected his question without answering it.

“You’re the only one,” she replied several moments later. He glanced at her because it wasn’t really a compliment. But she meant it. It was the only thing she could say – it defined their relationship so completely for her. He was the only person she could see herself being with.

“What color?” Mulder asked, standing in front of a rack with thousands of paper cards bearing every shade and nuance of the rainbow. He picked one up. Marigold, it said in tiny letters. “Yellow?” He offered it to her.

“It’s yellow now,” she said, her fingers flicking over the numerous shades. Her nails were still so ugly, torn and bitten down. She frowned at them.

“Who could tell?” Mulder asked flippantly, selecting butter, buttercup and buttercream. Softer shades of yellow.

“It is run down,” she admitted, picking up a foresty green.

“I like this one,” he offered her ‘Yield,’ a traffic-stopping shade of yellow.

“Who wants to live in a yellow house?” Her nose wrinkled, drawing his attention to her freckles. He wanted to touch those tawny flecks in her skin.

“Yellow houses sell better because they make people happy. Everyone wants to live in a big yellow house,” he told her, picking out a faintly yellow white.

“Not me.” She was stubborn.

He leaned against the rack, knowing he’d lost. “So what color were you thinking?” Since she obviously already had her mind made up.

She plucked a brown, a green, a peach – offering them to him. Her eyes were wide and waiting. He slid the peach from her fingers. It was orangey, but still too close to pink. The brown was too dark. That left green. He lifted his eyebrows.

“Green,” she said. “Oh, here’s more.” She started flipping through a newly discovered segment of colors.

Mulder was extremely bored. He titled his head and began to look at the reds, ranging from purple to pink. Then he lowered his eyes to orange. With a smile, he picked one out and held it up, closing one eye to compare it with Scully’s hair. His smile deepened as he found the right one, turning to blue to find her eyes.

“What’re you doing?” She turned and caught him in his squinty comparison. She could tell from his smile that he was up to something.

He offered her the orange card. “It matches your hair.”

A crazy laugh of a grin crossed her face. He watched her slide the card into her pocket and recompose her face into a semblance of seriousness. “Blue?” she asked, taking the pale teal from his hand. “Did you like this?”

“I was trying to match your eyes.”

“It’s a nice color.” She leaned past him to pluck a watery confederate gray card from the selection. “Your eyes,” she said.

“They are not that color!” he cried.

She nodded saucily. He grabbed the card. “You’re the one who thinks my hair is tangerine,” she pointed out.

“Better than chartreuse.” He threw a green card at her.

“Can I help you?” An older man with an orange apron and paint under his fingernails approached them to ask. The card Scully was about to hurl slipped to the floor. The man just looked at them. “Paint?” he reminded.

“We’re painting out house. Any suggestions?” Scully asked brightly.

“Yella’s nice,” he suggested.

Scully sighed. But it was the kind of sigh that matched Mulder’s efforts not to laugh.

“I’m so tired,” Mulder declared as he dropped the gallon cans he was carrying and flopped down on Scully’s living room couch, tossing his head back and closing his eyes

Scully walked over the check her answering machine. No messages. A good sign. She joined Mulder in the living room, bending down to inspect their choices. Ice blue. Mulder had convinced her of yellow trim. There was a whole collection of brushes and rollers in a giant plastic bag, new and just waiting to be used. She couldn’t wait to get started. “I want to go now,” she declared.

Mulder groaned, not lifting his head. She looked at him, surprised. Was this what he did? Was this the way he spent his evenings, deposited dead on the sofa, TV on or off?

He was entertaining similarly dark thoughts about her workaholic tendencies. Not that he wasn’t a workaholic himself, but he wanted her to curl up next to him, put her head on his shoulder and settle in for a movie on cable.

She picked up a book and plopped into the chair. Mulder changed channels on the TV at random. They sighed in unison out of boredom.

“Going to read in bed,” she told him, meaning it to be an invitation. He’d been gone for two days and she’d missed him. Not just his presence or his arms around her at night, but as a lover.

They’d had a lot of problems, but she still marveled at how quickly that change in their relationship had come to be an important part of her life. She felt stronger than she had in many nights. Maybe it was the resolution of the Wilder case, or the decisions they’d made about the house, or maybe it was just finally time.

She wanted him.

So she was supremely disappointed, lying in her queen sized bed that she’d come to think of as theirs. Did she have to be more specific or more obvious when she said she was going to bed? She closed the book and tossed it aside, stretching out under the covers, her irritation growing.

Just when she was ready to jump up and yell at him, she heard the TV turn off. Here he comes, she thought with a little pulse of excitement. The sheets made a whispery sound against her skin s she shifted to turn toward him, propping herself on one elbow.

He shed his dress shirt, dropping it, as he moved in toward the bed, falling onto it like a dead man. He moved his arms and legs to get comfortable, burrowing his face into the pillow.

She frowned and moved closer to him. “Mmm, Scully,” he mumbled, welcoming her presence.

He’s tired, leave him alone, the voice in her head advised. But Scully had the feeling that he was avoiding her. Even in the same apartment, it was possible for him to do that – by waiting until she’d fallen asleep. He didn’t want her because she’d been such a freak and she wasn’t going to be a freak tonight, not any more.

She had to prove it to herself as much as to him. “Mulder,” she said.

“Yeah.” He turned his head and cracked his eyes open.

She wet her lips, suddenly nervous. “I want us to make love tonight,” she said softly, moving closer to him, holding his eyes with hers until she kissed him gently.

He responded and his hand slipped under the covers to find that she’d forgone pajamas. He gave a tiny chuckle the sound of which she could feel deep into her belly. She let out the barest sound as she felt the pleasure – actual pleasure! – of him touching her skin.

But when she reached to unfasten his trousers, he pushed her away. “Mulder?” She sat up, not bothering to grab the sheet to cover herself.

“Scully, we shouldn’t -”

“I want to,” she interrupted, reaching for his neck so she could kiss him again.

“Scully, I’m really tired,” he repeated, his voice firm and growing loud.

He didn’t want her.

That hurt.

“But it’s okay,” she whispered, trying to convince him and explain all the things she’d decided. She’d decided to prove she could beat this and prove to him she loved him and prove to them both –

“I’m reallytired_,” he said again.

“But Mulder -” She heard the girlish whine and hated herself for it. She ran her hands along the sides of his torso, working her way down.

“Stop it, Scully, I can’t,” he told her bluntly.

She stopped and stared at him.

“And don’t stare at me.” His voice was rough with anger and self- loathing. “It happens.”

Now she understood the meaning of “really tired” in Mulder-speak.

“I’m sorry,” he added in a sigh that told her he wasn’t, really. He turned over and put his face back into the pillow. She lay on her back with one arm over her head, feeling the cool air on her exposed skin. Listening to the voices in her mind laugh at her.

DK wanted to come out and get his attention. Scully was not going to let her, but sort of wanted to take DK’s advice herself. She could feel her stomach rise and fall too quickly, upset. Mulder we should talk about this, she said.

He groaned. This only made her feel worse.

“I guess we could talk in the morning,” she tempered her statement and he sighed, thrashing around to face her.

“What do we need to talk about?” he asked her.

“You’re avoiding me.”

I’mtired_.”

“Any excuse,” she murmured.

He sighed again, very loudly. Now he was annoyed too. They were both completely annoyed. “It’s been a really long day. I do have off days, Scully, just like you. With as many as you’ve had, I would think you’d understand how I feel.”

She closed her mouth. What could she say to that? He had been wonderfully undemanding – and she had to respect that from him as well. “I’m sorry,” she said finally, chastised.

He mumbled a response that wasn’t meant to be understood.

She lay back, still convinced that he’d decided that he didn’t want her. Even if he said he did, his body had decided she wasn’t worth bothering about.

“Is it okay if I -?” she said after a second.

He said “Yes,” before she finished, so she wrapped her arms around him like he was a pillow and she put her head against his shoulder. Listening to his beating heat, she was asleep quickly.

Mulder lay awake for a long time after. Maybe he had reached the point of being so tired he couldn’t sleep; he didn’t know. He was thinking about them. Her rush to throw her arms around him had seemed almost desperate…all of her behavior had seemed almost desperate. Finally she’d been ready to make love, and all he could think about was the last time, when her other personality who thought she was a nun had dragged him off to church.

This had never happened to him before, his inability to perform. But he was thirty-seven years old, well past his prime, and it had only been a matter of time and opportunity.

She might have had another negative response anyway, even though she’d been eager.

He needed to tell her about her other personality, but he didn’t want to. The hole in the stomach sick kind of didn’t want to. After what had happened in the church, he’d wanted to believe she’d been cured. By god or by some miracle…he didn’t really believe in such things and he knew it was too much to hope for.

As he lay there beating himself up over his body’s betrayal – the only time, it had to be with Scully? Why not with someone he didn’t love? He let his hand drift down into his pants, his fingers daring the flesh there to respond.

It didn’t.

He only felt worse and considered to rub the tender skin, his frustration mounting until he was on the verge of screaming tears because nothing happened.

“Fuck,” he said and Scully stirred. He could feel her breath coming moist through open lips. Closing his eyes and thinking about something else, he finally managed to fall asleep.

He dreamed that he was fucking her, savagely and angrily from behind, with his arm around her neck so she could barely breathe well enough to cry. She was crying and that didn’t stop him.

The dream burst into wakefulness, but he was afraid to open his eyes, afraid he’d hurt her in his sleep. Finally, he opened them.

He’d been thrusting his hips against the mattress.

Wake up, darling, I’m ready, he thought with a sarcastic smile even as his body turned limp.

He made himself sick.

He slid out of bed. The sun was coming up, so he might as well be up too, he thought, even though he didn’t feel rested at all. He’d just opened her cabinet full of food that he didn’t want to eat [he was having a real craving for strawberry frosted Pop-Tarts] when his cell phone rang from somewhere in the living room.

He scrambled for it, not wanting it’s shrill scream to wake her. “Yeah. Hello. Mulder.” He grabbed it.

“You haven’t returned my calls,” a woman said.

“Who is this?” he demanded.

“Lucy. You left some pictures with me…”

The pictures. He’d completely forgotten. His stomach clenched. “Good. Are you in the office now?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“I’ll be right there.” Breakfast forgotten in his rush to gain knowledge about the mysterious photographs, he put on his shoes and slipped into the bedroom for a clean shirt. Scully was still asleep and he felt a pull at his heart for leaving her. Carefully, he pressed a dry kiss against her cheek before he dashed out of the apartment.

-25-

The sound in the dream was off. It got louder and quieter with no scheme or warning and there was a painful pressure inside her ears, like she was underwater. She could feel the pressure inside her nose too. She felt like she was drowning. There was a bright light shining down on her like when she was eight and had her tonsils taken out. Her body felt dead like anesthetic too, but if she was under anesthetic, why was she awake?

Except she was dreaming and maybe that explained it.

Then it was another woman on the table and she stood over her in a pristine white lab coat. It was weird, because when she performed autopsies, she usually didn’t wear a lab coat. But the woman’s belly was open and she thrust her hands inside, digging.

She couldn’t hear anything. Not even the hum of the overhead lights or the squelch of fat and muscle and organ or the smack of the damp blood against her gloves.

She realized she woman wasn’t dead because her eyes opened, pleading with her. She jumped back, seeing the woman’s lips move, but everything was silent and still. Her heart was racing.

She looked down and there was an alien looking fetus dying and turning blue in her hand. She stared at it, dangling from her fingers, and after a second it began to scream. Its thin lips didn’t move and that was why she could hear its horrifying death howl – it was inside her mind, bouncing off the painful walls of her skull and she wanted to die.

She forced herself to wake up from the nightmare and realized the scream was her alarm clock bleating good morning at her. She slapped it off and sat tense in the bed. Listening. Cataloguing the sounds she heard, and there were sounds – her breath, traffic, kids on the way to school, a plane somewhere far away, the tap in the bathroom dripping, her heartbeat. Reassuring sounds.

Mulder was gone. “Damn it,” she whispered. Now he wouldn’t even face her.

Her skin prickled as she thought about the dream. She wasn’t entirely convinced it had been a dream. Her heart rate picked up and she stumbled into the show, rejoicing at the hot, hot water on her chilled skin, telling herself it couldn’t have been a memory because it had been too weird and utterly symbolic.

The part when she’d been lying on the table with the sound screwed up – she’d remembered that before about her abduction. “The procedures” was what Penny Northern had called them.

She rinsed shampoo from her face and lathered her body, inspecting it. Nothing had changed. There were no incision scars, none of the scars that would have to remain if she had been subjected to what she had performed on the woman in her dream. There were no marks on her smooth stomach at all.

Why did she think she had performed the procedures? She’d been a victim, not one of the perpetrators.

She slipped as she stepped out of the shower, barely catching herself before she felt. She couldn’t get the feeling of guts off her fingers. It had all been so real, so horribly detailed. The woman had asked her for her help, begged her for mercy.

Had she herself begged her captors for mercy?

She couldn’t shake the feeling that she had been one of them, that she had been involved, but she didn’t know how to prove to herself that she had not been. She dressed quickly, wondering where Mulder had disappeared to. She couldn’t face breakfast.

Ask the others, Dana told her.

What about you? she demanded. Dana had been the one who had been there for the abduction. She was the one who now lived in fear of seeing Duane Barry’s face at the window again. In order to get through the day, Scully had to believe she would have reached her gun first or overpowered him with a kick. She had to believe that she could have stopped him.

In the way she hadn’t, as a little girl, been able to overpower her brother and say no.

She needed to remember. If she didn’t, she really was going to break down into a thousand tiny psychotic pieces. She thought again of Mulder’s ketamine and electric shock experiment and felt the desperation he must have felt. Finally she understood.

Go to work and find him, she ordered herself. Before anything happens. Unconsciously, her fingers rose to the bony vertebra above the clasp of her necklace, touching the skin under the small metal chip that held all the answers, but also held the power to kill her.

Mulder hesitated before knocking on the door to the lab. He’d completely forgotten about the pictures – or blocked them out because he didn’t want to deal with them or what they could mean.

Can’t deny the truth. He knocked and Lucy unlatched the door. “Early. Precautions,” she apologized for the lock with a shrug. Mulder nodded and stepped inside. It was warm. Lucy pulled off her white lab coat to reveal a camisole and damp skin. Her arms crossed as she leaned against the counter and looked at him. “Why didn’t you call?”

“I was away. On a case. Got in last night, didn’t get my messages,” he replied.

She nodded. “You’re married to Agent Scully,” she said, looking down at his ring. “Did you tell her about these?” She pulled out the envelope he’d given her a few days earlier.

“Not yet.”

She nodded, agreeing matter of factly. Stalling, she put a strand of chestnut hair behind her ear and then her clear hazel eyes fixed on his. “Fingerprints were easy,” she said. “They were the clue that unraveled the rest.” Lucy turned over the envelope to show him the gray powder.

He waited for her to tell him.

“Your old friend Alex Krycek,” she said.

His chest deflated.

“Want to hear the rest?”

He only nodded. Trying to prepare himself for whatever she was going to say. She slid the pictures out of the envelope and pulled out the one he knew was old. “This was taken with an older model surveillance camera. One of the tiny ones, that’s why it blew up so grainy. The Bureau was using this model in late 1994 – about the time Krycek was your partner.”

Mulder nodded. She was good. She’d checked out his personnel file and everything.

“He was never officially assigned such a camera, however.”

“Officially,” Mulder highlighted.

“Officially,” Lucy agreed, whipping out a magnifying glass. Her hip bumped his as she stood next to him, holding the lens over the photo. “That scratch was made after the fact on the negative. The paper was manufactured recently. This is a reprint, just for you,” she concludted.

“No fingerprints?”

She shook her head and pulled one of the other photos. “This was taken much more recently.”

He could tell that from his wife’s appearance in the picture.

“With a spy camera that isn’t supposed to exist. I’d say it’s communist, probably from China. Maybe Hong Kong after its transfer from the British. It’s nice,” she concluded. “Clean, totally clean. Without getting into the stuff you can get from the picture itself,” she went on, “there’s this.”

She moved the magnifying glass.

“I don’t see anything,” Mulder said.

“It’s a residual fingerprint. Our photographer touched the lens of his high tech camera,” she said. “The same print is on all three photos.” She moved the magnifier from photo to photo.

“So you know who took the pictures.”

She nodded. “Alex Krycek.”

“Good thing he used his right hand,” Mulder muttered. Lucy looked at him blankly and he shook his head never mind.

“I’d say you need to talk to Krycek,” Lucy advised.

“Know where I can find him?” Mulder demanded sarcastically.

“Nope, but you owe me a meal.”

He gave in and smiled. He did owe her, big time. And having breakfast with her would put off having to think about the findings for another hour or so. “Where to?” he asked her.

“It gotta finish one thing,” she told him. “Give me fifteen.”

“I’ll be in my office,” Mulder told her, thinking of a book he wanted to look something up in, and it only took her ten.

Scully got to their office and instantly sensed Mulder had just been there. There was a warmth, an essence, that she could feel in the room.

Believing in auras now, Scully? she asked herself ironically, sinking into Mulder’s leather desk chair. It was warm. He had just gone.

Where? She reached for the phone, half tempted to call Kim to ask if he’d gone into a meeting with Skinner, but she knew she couldn’t do that. She scanned his desk, trying to recreate his thoughts before he got up from the chair.

The book open on the desk was a good place to start and she pulled it toward her. It was a book about Nazi experiments. She turned it over and began to read – he’d left it open to a chapter on prisoner physicians.

She frowned and began to read in earnest. She knew about Mengele’s work, of course, and various reports from sketchy sources that Nazi genetic scientists had continued their work here in the US under the guise of Operation Paperclip and the ominous ‘Project.’

It didn’t make sense to her that the xenophobic Nazis would want to work with alien DNA. But they wanted their super race…

Her eyes scanned down the page and she turned to the next one. Jewish doctors and nurses, imprisoned in concentration camps, had been enlisted to help in the experiments carried out there. They had turned against their own people to assure their own survival.

“Oh God,” she whispered.

She felt a sick kinship, an understanding of their dilemmas. She knew now the dream she’d had was real. Perhaps warped a little by her psyche, but real.

She had done to those women what had been done to her. Why? she asked herself, but here were no answers inside, only emptiness.

Penny Northern. Her friend. And the other women who’d died, she’d killed them. Had she been so stupid as to trust the men who operated the Project, had she really believed she would not also become their victim?

There were similar stories in the book and she hurled it across the room with all the strength she had in her arm. It broke the glass on the curiosities cabinet with a tinkling crash.

The crash of glass as Duane Barry launched through the window into her apartment, intending to kill her. She’d kicked as she clawed for the phone, screaming for help.

“They” told him to hurt her. The voices in his damaged brain that he attributed to alien implants. She’d done what she had to in order to survive.

Afraid he would come back for her.

Aware of the evil inside the men he delivered her to. The memories were unclear, but she knew that was how it must have happened. Duane Barry had told Mulder the truth – he’d traded her in his own place.

Just as she’d traded the pain of those women for her own temporary safety. She was a doctor and they had been able to use her skills for their own goals.

Putting her head into her trembling hands, she focused on the woman from her dream and the terrible, dying alien child.

Pain shot like fire through her neck, turning the nerves in her legs to jelly. She gasped and tried to stand, clutching at the desk for a moment, then hurried from the office.

Go home. It was the only thought in her head. She felt like a slave to the notion and knew in the still conscious part of her mind that the idea radiated from the red hot piece of metal next to her spine.

She got into her car and drove. On the expressway, she found the implant telling her that home was in West Virginia, but she forced the car on toward her apartment in Georgetown, her muscles tight and wiry in her arms, straining to control the vehicle, to make it go where she wanted it to, not where they wanted.

If she could just get home, she thought, she would be safe.

Mulder was worried Lucy was going to hit on him. He didn’t know why, but the feeling had been mounting ever since she shed her heavy white coat in the overheated lab to reveal a lovely full figure encased in a lacy tank top and stretchy black skirt. Mulder usually preferred thin women, but Lucy had the lush curves of an Old West prostitute. He would have just enjoyed the view except she kept glancing at him and then looking away quickly.

“What?” he asked finally, dropping his fork back into a decimated plate of strawberry crepes. Not the perfection of Pop Tarts, but damn good.

“I don’t know if you know this,” Lucy began and Mulder fought the urge to stop her words. But she surprised him. “I used to work with Darren. Pendrell,” she specified.

Mulder only stared.

“He told me a lot about the cases you and Scully came to him with. Weird crap.” She doused another pancake with syrup and paused to look at him. “Once he asked me advice on neural nets. Some kind of microchip?”

Mulder nodded, not sure what she was getting at. She looked at him. “What was that about?” she asked directly.

He knew she was thinking of the photographs she’d analyzed for him.

His cell phone rang. Her eyes slid away to give him some semblance of privacy as he answered. “Mulder,” he said, watching her shovel away another whole pancake and sausage.

His eyes drifted down just for a second to her firm cleavage but bounced back up when Skinner demanded, “Do you know where Agent Scully is?”

“I left her in bed,” Mulder admitted, filled instantly with alarm. He tried to swallow and almost choked. “Why?” Lucy was staring at him again.

“Several cars pulled off the road to West Virginia just off the expressway,” Skinner said.

“And?”

“And now there are unidentifiable charred remains and a witness with rag doll stitching on her orifices,” Skinner told him in a pissy tone that only betrayed his worry.

“In broad daylight?” Mulder demanded.

“It just happened.”

“I’ll meet you at the scene,” Mulder said and hung up. Lucy’s eyes followed him as it took three tries to get his arm through the sleeve of his overcoat.

“What’s happened?” she asked, getting to her feet and calmly untwisting his coat for him. He loved scientists. It was January, why wasn’t she cold? he wondered, staring at her for several moments. “Mulder?”

“I have to go,” he said, renewed in his urgency. He dropped money on the table to cover their meal. “Thank you.” Hers weren’t the only eyes on his back as he sprinted to his car, praying that Scully hadn’t been here.

He dialed her cell phone but it only rang and rang and rang.

Home, home. The thought pushed her to drive faster, absorbing her entire mind. She had the feeling she’d left a holocaust behind her. Shivering, she found herself in front of her apartment without much memory of the drive.

She felt the rush of flame up into her head and squeezed her eyes closed, curling into a ball on her living room couch, putting her arms up over her head, trying to shut it out.

She couldn’t.

The memory unfurled like silent movie in her mind. She felt like someone else in her own body. Bruised. She moved gingerly, like she expected to feel pain even when none came. She wasn’t herself, but she was.

Another self. A recovered memory she couldn’t stop, didn’t want. An impossible room with women on tables, looking pregnant. Not pregnant, though. Test subjects. Her patients.

Her own belly was mercifully flat as her hand drifted down. She couldn’t hear the even beeping heart monitors. Couldn’t hear anything. Why couldn’t she hear anything? A flashing red light grabbed her attention. She hurried to the woman’s side, reading the monitor.

There was no time. Like in her dream, she sliced the woman open and plunged her gloved hands in, digging through tissue and gore. She held the child up.

It looked perfectly normal. Pale, with its skin turning blue. The red light flashed more vigorously.

They were both dead.

She lifted her head. It had happened. The memory continued to reel through her mind, unstoppable. That had happened, she’d been there, she’d been a part of it. She was so sad. It filled her like dirty water spilled onto a painting.

She’d done that. During the three months she was missing, she’d violated every principle she believed in and every vow she’d ever taken. How could she have possibly done that?

But she had.

And she was so sad. All of her was sad. Dana especially. And scared. Dana was always afraid of something – the darkness, other people, herself. DK was just angry.

Anger, overwhelming sadness and self-hatred. She dragged herself up from the couch, her movements lethargic.

Then they’d turned around and done it to her.

Her stomach hurt. Burned.

She was supposed to die, too.

How could she have done it?

How?

To try to save herself? She wasn’t worth it.

She couldn’t even cry. All that sadness and she couldn’t even cry. She turned on the taps on the bathtub, running it full of hot water. Sighing.

“Where is she?” Mulder demanded, tearing out of his car when he arrived on the crime scene. Skinner was there in his trenchcoat, looking grim. The stench of burned flesh choked Mulder. This was not clean. The paramedics looked shocked, and Mulder had never seen that before.

Skinner shook his head. What did that mean? Mulder panicked. He’d know it if she was dead, wouldn’t he? He’d be able to feel it.

And he hadn’t even been able to make love to her the night before. He wanted to smack himself in the head, knock some sense into his stupid brain. Treasure every moment of possibly happiness because when you blink, it will be gone. He knew that.

“I don’t think she’s here.”

The magic words. “I tried to call but she didn’t answer,” Mulder said.

“We need to get her here,” Skinner said. “These incidents are escalating. They can not continue.”

Three in one year. Mulder turned and looked again at the bodies of what had been people. Even one incident was too many. “Where’s the witness?” Mulder asked.

Skinner nodded sadly. “With the medics. I don’t know how much she’ll be able to tell us.” He led the way and Mulder followed. Teams of police photographers were clicking through rolls of film. The press was starting to gather on the side of the yellow tape. They wound through the crowd to the ambulance.

It was horrific. A young girl, her face bruised and bloody. Thick black twine served in Frankenstienian stitches. She was completely unresponsive. One of the medics was hanging an IV, but it wouldn’t do much good. If she survived the inevitable infection…

Mulder’s stomach was churning. Gingerly one of the medics moved to snip the stitches out. “Wait,” he said, stepping forward. The girl twitched. The medic’s hands hovered above her, as though threatening with the scissors.

Mulder looked closer and saw tiny threads moving under the girl’s skin. He took a stepback. “This girl needs to be quarantined.” They all stared at him. Were they stupid? He knew Skinner wasn’t stupid. “Now!” he ordered.

“Do it!” Skinner added his voice and authority to Mulder’s command. The medics began to move.

“She’s not going to make it,” Mulder said. “Do we have IDs on any of the victims?” Skinner shook his head. “We have to get Scully out here.” He began to walk back through, looking at cars, making himself look at the bodies. “She’s the only one who can help here.” Mulder pulled out his phone.

“Not the only one.” Skinner’s tone made him look up. Following the other man’s gaze, he saw a familiar figure on the other side of the crime scene tape.

“Let the bastard through,” Mulder hollered, attracting the police’s attention. He motioned with his arm. “Let him in.”

Krycek scurried over like the rat he was. Dressed as usual in black jeans an a black leather jacket. “Don’t you ever change your clothes?” Mulder remarked, itching to hit him.

“Nice to see you too,” Krycek replied, looking around. There was genuine pain in his eyes at the carnage surrounding them.

“What do you know about this?” Mulder demanded.

“Nothing. I swear, I just heard about it.”

“And thought you would come down to offer your help,” Mulder stated. “I know you’re working for the other side, so spill it your scum sucking gutbag.”

“We’ve had a falling out,” Krycek said. “I’ve always been on the side of right and you know that.”

“This is great, boys, but it’s not helping us,” Skinner pointed out.

“He can go in with the witness.” Mulder grabbed Krycek by the collar of his jacket and saw how frayed it was. The seller of secrets had fallen onto hard times. Maybe he was telling the truth.

“I’m immune to the oil.” Krycek jerked away, his false arm swinging awkwardly. He headed for the paramedic truck on his own accord.

“One of these days, you’re going to have to explain all this to me,” Skinner told Mulder without looking at him.

“When I get more facts,” Mulder replied. His hands were already enjoying the ache they would have after he beat Krycek bloody for the answers he had. Not just about the oil.

He stayed outside the ambulance, dialing Scully again. There was still no answer. Damn it. He pulled himself up into the van.

“She’s dead,” Skinner said, sounding angry.

“Where’s Scully?” Krycek asked.

It was too much for Mulder. The last straw. He threw Krycek against the wall, wreaking havoc in the tightly packed van. “What do you know about my wife?” he hollered.

“Not in here,” Skinner suggested, approving of Mulder’s desire to kill Krycek, just not his choice of location.

“We need to talk,” Krycek said, his body tense and ready to defend himself. He didn’t swipe at the trickle of blood from his nose that was pooling at his lip.

“No fucking kidding,” Mulder said.

“She needs to hear it too,” Krycek said. Determined. He wasn’t going to talk.

“What do you know about this massacre?” Skinner demanded.

“There’s only a handful of people who could have done that to the girl,” Krycek said.

“The smoking fucker? His friends? Your friends? I want their names this time,” Mulder could feel himself completely overreacting, but he was so incredibly angry.

“Marita,” Krycek said.

Skinner surprised Mulder by saying, “We were told she was dead.”

“Nobody dies,” Krycek said. “She escaped. Learned the truth. The hard way.” His glance at Mulder spoke volumes.

“Like I’ve had it easy?” Mulder demanded.

“You said it, not me,” Krycek pointed out.

“Save it for recess, boys,” Skinner ordered. “We’ve got to get Agent Scully down here. Maybe an autopsy on the witness will give us a clue.” He looked from Krycek to Mulder. “Scully’s immune to this black…crap, right?”

They both nodded silently. Then Mulder looked at Krycek, wanting to know what he knew about it. “I’m going to get her,” Mulder said, worried about who he might find waiting when he got home if she heard about the massacre. “You’re coming with me.” He grabbed Krycek’s arm.

“Will you quit touching me?” Krycek demanded, throwing him off.

Skinner pulled Mulder aside for just a second. “I don’t have to worry about any killer bees, do I, Agent Mulder?”

“Who the hell knows any more,” Mulder remarked. “Arrange to have to body shipped to Quantico with the highest precautions available.” Skinner nodded. “I’ll call when I know anything.” He moved to rejoin Krycek.

“Don’t kill him, Mulder,” Skinner suggested. “He’s our most valuable informant.”

Mulder nodded, hoping he wouldn’t have to kill the other man, but willing to do whatever was necessary.

-26-

Scully heard the phone ring but it barely registered through the fog of her sadness. She looked at her naked body in the mirror, seeing the body of a murderer and a liar. A traitor.

She was the embodiment of all that she detested, all that had caused her pain and fear.

She could not live with that.

Raising her wrist, she looked at the faint white marks there, the ones she hadn’t remembered making. Now she knew. Death had been her only escape from herself and the things she had willingly done under the guise of the Project. But she hadn’t died.

She didn’t want Mulder to know and she knew she would have to tell him. She didn’t want to see the betrayal in his eyes, more painful than if she had given her body to another man. She had given her soul to the devil. Was his sister one of the woman she’d hurt?

She had to silence the only witness. There were others who might try to use this against him, but if she was gone, so would their power be. She had to protect him.

Dana was scared but told her she should do it. Other voices she recognized confirmed that this was the only way.

She remembered the blood dripping painlessly onto white tile.

The bathwater was getting cold.

She split her thumb on the razor that Mulder used to shave with in the mornings. It stung and she immediately put her thumb in her mouth, the pain zapping her sadness for a second as her survival instinct was activated.

She sucked at her own blood, feeling the cut skin with her tongue. She was a coward. She trembled, sucking harder. This was not the way. She couldn’t let Mulder find her lifeless and bloody.

Memory brought the image of Mrs. Sim, dead in her bathtub.

Mulder would think it was murder.

She put on her bathrobe. Blood brushed onto the old white terrycloth sleeve. She could still feel activity singing through the implant in her neck, like electricity. She raised her eyes to a God who would not love her if she took the life he’d given her.

The awful screwed up painful completed fucked life where the only thing she had to live for was Mulder and he hated her, or would hate her. She did not ever want to see hatred in his eyes.

If only he would come, she thought desperately, crouching on the floor and dipping her right hand into the now-tepid water in the tub. A thin curl of blood spun from her thumb and then stopped.

“Slow down,” Krycek snapped from the passenger seat.

Mulder only pushed his foot harder onto the gas pedal. Something was wrong, he could feel it. “Got the photos you sent,” he told Krycek bitterly. Off the surprise on the other man’s face, he chuckled. “Yeah, I know you were behind them. Tell me where they were taken. Where she was when you brought her home to me a month ago? Abducted, stolen from our bed?”

“Your wife is very sick,” Krycek said gravely.

Mulder stopped, his body humming like a plucked hard string. He couldn’t say anything.

“Dissociative fugue is what it’s called. I did some reading.” Krycek was talking fast. For his life, maybe, or just to save Mulder the long exposition. “Duane Barry was supposed to kill her.”

Mulder’s fingers clutched white on the wheel. Krycek wasn’t blind to how upset he was. “Can we pull over?” he suggested.

“No!” Mulder barked.

“Look, I know you love her -”

“You don’t know anything!”

“This is going to be hard for you to hear,” Krycek said quietly.

“I’m ready,” Mulder informed him.

With his eyes fixed on the orange speedometer needle hovering close to 100 miles per hour, Krycek began to tell Mulder everything he knew.

Mulder wasn’t coming back. She’d convinced herself. He hadn’t left her a note. He must already feel disgust for her and not know why. He would know soon enough. She had to spare him…

No, suicide was selfish. The only person she would be sparing was herself. She’d decided to die before, losing hope in a hospital bed, knowing she had nothing to live for. Mulder had been her only tether and now she would definitely lose him.

End it, the voices advised gently. DK concurred with “Fuck them all.” Starbuck whimpered. They were in agreement.

The bottle of sleeping pills seemed heavy in her hand. I’m scared, Dana said, I don’t want to. But Dana was too scared to live, either, so Scully gave no weight to her opinion.

Such sadness.

She left the bathroom and lay down on the bed, already weary. She knew she should leave a note, some words for Mulder, but she could see him carrying them with him forever. Blaming himself when she wanted him to forget.

She tried not to think of her mother and brothers. If here was something beyond this life, she could be with her father, her sister. She could be free.

She wanted to be free.

Tears burned in her eyes and she thought if only she could cry, she wouldn’t have to do this.

The first pill was so easy. She closed her eyes and swallowed a second, hoping it would all be so easy.

Mulder listened in stone silence. Robotic. Frozen. Not thinking. He absorbed like a sponge but he could not let himself think about what he was hearing. It couldn’t be true, he kept telling himself. Like Scully would. There was no evidence but a liar’s word and some ambiguous photos.

He didn’t wait for Krycek as he jammed the car into an ill fitting parking space and ran to the door. The damn key wouldn’t work. Krycek took it from him and held the door.

“Scully!” Mulder yelled, tearing into the apartment.

She picked up her head. It was so heavy and she’d only swallowed two of the pills. Maybe three, but she thought it was two. And now she thought she heard Mulder’s voice.

“Scully!” He burst into the bedroom.

His face changed when he saw her and her face crumpled with shame. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

“There’s water in the bathtub,” Krycek dashed in to report. The bottle slipped from her fingers when she saw him. Pills rattled across the floor.

Mulder stared at her, his eyes blazing and confused. “What are you doing?” he demanded.

“I remembered something. Terrible.” Her eyes dipped closed and she struggled to open them again.

“Stay with me,” Mulder took her hand and bent to look into her eyes. “How many did you take?” He couldn’t believe this. It had to be one of the others, not Scully. Scully was the strong one, she wouldn’t do this. He needed her.

“Two. Three. Two.” She decided on two. “Tired.” She put her head down against her arm. She had to tell him what she’d remembered. “I hurt them,” she said, “When I was gone, I -”

“I know,” he said, his voice like sandpaper.

“Who -?” When she raised her head, she saw Krycek. His eyes locked with hers and he made a little gesture with his hand. Adrenaline raced through her sluggish body. He knew. He turned and walked out of the room. He had known all this time.

“He told me. It’s not that bad.” Mulder was petting her hair with his hands. “Nothing’s that bad. It was one of the others, not you.”

“It was me.” She felt sick. Mulder sat down on the bed next to her and she leaned against him. “I’m tired,” she said.

“You’re cold.” He put his arm around her.

“Tired.” She closed her eyes and snuggled down into his arms. He loved her. He said he knew but he must not, if he still loved her.

“Scully.” He jostled her, but she was asleep. “Scully,” he said again, shaking her. Her eyes opened a crack. “I think you need to throw up what you took. Just in case.” He lifted her and walked her into the bathroom. She was heavy and limp against his side.

The tub was full. There was blood in the water. His razor was on the sink, not where he’d left it. The realization that she had planned on cutting her wrists terrified him. He would not have been there in time.

She sagged against the wall as he dug through her medicine cabinet, finding a bottle of ipecac. She glared at him angrily as she was sick. “Get you for this,” she mumbled.

She’d sleep it off. He wiped her face with a washcloth and put her to bed. How could she look so peaceful? he marveled. He checked on her twice before leaving her alone to sleep.

Krycek had fled.

Of course.

He didn’t really care. He was more worried about Scully and how to help her. She wasn’t like him, she wasn’t one to give into momentary impulses. He had been there with the gun to his head, smelling the powder that he wanted to end his sorry fucking life. He’d been there before. Because he thought he’d lost her.

No hope. He remembered Traci Turner with her absent husband and empty life.

Would this ever get better? Would any of this ever really end? He’d accepted that he would never know the truth – could Scully accept that too?

The phone began to ring and he swore as he tripped over paint cans in his rush to answer it. “Mulder,” he said and realized it could be anyone on the other end of the line.

“Where’s Scully?” Skinner demanded.

“Sleeping,” Mulder said. “I was just going to call you. She’s gonna be asleep for a while. She took something. Keep the body on ice for her.”

“Done,” Skinner promised. “Is she okay?”

“I think so.” Mulder didn’t sound so certain.

“Where’s Krycek?”

“I lost him,” Mulder admitted.

“Figures,” Skinner muttered and hung up. Mulder sighed and stared down at the cans of paint, feeling the utter stillness in the house. The paint cans symbolized their hope for the future: a happy marriage, a house, a life together. Without all these stupid specters and ghosts.

He knew in his depressed pessimistic heart that they would never be free.

She woke from a sick, dreamless sleep with a headache and a dry mouth. Mulder was lying next to her, dressed, on top of the covers. She looked at his face and felt her skin flame with the memory of the stupid thing she’d done.

Maybe he didn’t know. She got up and went into the bathroom to get a drink of water and saw that the room had been cleaned. Damn it. He knew.

She felt so stupid.

“Are you okay?” he asked, standing behind her. She hadn’t realized he was awake. He hadn’t announced his presence with a touch and she hadn’t even realized he was there.

“Embarrassed,” she admitted, turning to face him. “I don’t know what possessed me.”

“I do.” He tapped the back of her neck and she jumped as he connected with the implant. She reached up under her hair to finger it and looked at him. “A dozen men and women were burned to death earlier today, in broad daylight. Like on the bridge in Pennsylvania almost a year ago.”

“They were after me,” she said.

“Maybe,” he said. “A witness was mutilated at the scene and exposed to the black oil. The body is waiting for you. When you’re ready.”

She nodded and went to get dressed. It was easy for them both to hide behind their work. Mulder took a deep breath and followed her, stopping at the bedroom door. “We need to talk about this,” he said with some effort.

Her shoulder blades stiffened and froze. Her fingers completed the task of clasping her bra and she turned to face him. “You said you knew,” she said and he nodded. Was he encouraging her or agreeing with her? She unlocked her jaw and forced herself to speak. “I remembered working for them. On the other side. On their experiments. I killed all those women…and they turned around and did it to me.” Her confession. She couldn’t breathe.

“Because you had a conscience. Unlike them,” he said. “You didn’t know what you were doing.”

“I did,” she said. “It was me.”

“It was an alter. Named Diana.”

“They’re all me,” she informed him. “I knew you’d hate me and that’s why…” She trailed off, not intending to speak of that afternoon’s incident. She was stronger than that. That was why she’d managed to stop herself after only taking two pills. She’d overcome the need to die.

He made a small sound in the back of his throat when he sighed and enfolded her in his arms. He held on like he would never let her go. And that was exactly what she needed.

“You’ve changed,” he said when he pulled back.

“Is that a good thing?” she asked, trying to keep her face still but it kept contorting to try to hold back both smiles and tears.

“I think so,” he whispered, his eyes warm. “Stronger.”

She nodded. She believed him.

She dressed and they went to the Bureau. Skinner met them there, his eyes checking Scully over. “Are you okay?” he asked her, unable to cover the concern over his usually rough demeanor. She was on to him.

“I’m good,” she said. “What happened this afternoon…I think I was supposed to be there.” As long as they were talking business, she would be all right.

Skinner nodded. Mulder’s hand lying against her back heated her entire body. “I don’t know what to tell you -” Skinner’s eyes went down to her shoulders.

“I know,” she said.

“The body is missing,” Skinner informed them. “It never arrived. We’re checking with the crew that was at the scene, verifying their identities and credentials. But with Krycek gone -”

“We won’t get any answers,” Mulder finished for him angrily. He was the one who had let Krycek go, again.

“The burned bodies are being identified. All of them had implants.” Skinner paused. Scully felt a quiet, unsettling sorrow. “One of them was Cassandra Spender.”

“Oh no,” she gasped, surprising herself with the pain that filled her. Mulder’s hand moved reflexively, comfortingly, against her back. “Damn it!” She broke away from Mulder and took several steps toward the door.

“Scully, wait, there’s nothing you can do,” Mulder called after her.

“I have to talk to him,” she said, meeting her husband’s eyes.

“Scully -”

“I have to,” she added and walked away.

Her eyes searched the cubicles. She didn’t exactly remember the way, peeking around corners. What the hell was she going to say?

She found Jeffrey Spender sitting at his desk, palms up, staring at the blank wall. He already knew. “I’m sorry,” she said softly.

His shoulders slumped and curled in toward his chest.

Being sorry wasn’t enough. This was on her now, she was the one who’d wanted to come down here and talk to him. She moved in closer and knelt next to his chair, putting her hand up on his shoulder. “I know how you must feel,” she said.

She looked up and saw his throat working. “I tried to prepare myself. I tried to tell myself…” His voice broke and he shook his head, trying to hold the tears back, “I tried to tell myself she wasn’t coming back but I never really thought…” He stopped, fighting.

This could be Mulder she was talking to and her eyes were damp. It had been such a terrible day. “Time can make anything better. You have to believe that. No matter how much this hurts, you have to go on.” She patted his shoulder. He looked at her and she waited for him to tell her to fuck off. She looked at his face and saw that this “punk kid” was probably as old as Mulder was. “I know. Such things…” His eyes had found hers and she felt the first of her tears fall. “You know. You lost your father, too.”

His gaze hardened. Several seconds passed before he said, “Thank you.” It was a real struggle for him to force the words out.

She nodded and got to her feet, feeling old and wise. “Call me. If you need to talk.” He nodded and she knew he wouldn’t call. “Any time,” she added.

“Maybe I will,” he said quietly, when she’d almost reached the hall. She turned. She hoped that he would.

Mulder was waiting for her and effortlessly slipped his arm through hers, searching her face. She nodded and blinked back the residual tears. “Byers has some papers for us to sign about the house tomorrow,” he said.

“What about tonight?”

“It’s been a long day. And there are still bodies from earlier -” he stopped short. Acting like he thought she was too fragile to handle it.

She put on her best determined face. “I need to work,” she told him. “I can’t sit around. I can’t live with this eating me inside.”

It was easy to decide that everything was going to be okay from now on, but it was still damned hard, especially with Mulder’s eyes following every move she made. The bodies were horrifying when she looked at them down in the morgue and she remembered how strong the call had been for her to join them. She had almost been one of them, and not for the first time.

Poor Mrs. Spender. Where had she been all the time she was missing? Touring the universe with alien guides? Scully still wasn’t certain she believed in such things. Everything she had remembered supported her belief in a shadowy government substructure. She pushed it all from her mind and turned back to face the bodies. There were tests to be conducted, burn patterns and accelerants to look for. “I’m going to be a while,” she told Mulder. “If you want to go home and get some rest. You’ve also had one hell of a day.”

He hesitated, but then picked up his coat. Trusting her. She had convinced him that she could handle this and it made her feel proud. “I’ll see you at home,” he said.

She nodded and only caught a glimpse of his face as he turned to leave. His odd, closed up expression made her stare after him. What was going on in his head? She wondered. But she didn’t know – couldn’t know – and turned to focus on the death in front of her.

Hours later, her neck and shoulders were screaming with protest and her eyelids were heavy. She noticed her feet dragging but couldn’t seem to do anything about it. A glance at the clock told her it was after two o’clock in the morning.

She hoped Mulder hadn’t waited up.

Sighing, she forced her eyes open, worried about her capability to drive home. She thought for a second about calling Mulder to pick her up, but she knew he was asleep in her living room with the TV on. She didn’t want to disturb him. She’d head over to the McDonalds across the street for some coffee and something to eat before she got into the car.

It was cold at two in the morning- damp, foggy and incredibly dark. The night could be breathtakingly beautiful. She shoved her hands deep down into her coat pockets and put her head down to walk across the street as the light changed in her favor.

Someone fell into step with her. She picked up her pace and the person matcher her. She cleared the curb and turned down the sidewalk. The person continued to keep in stride with her. She turned her head to look and stopped.

Krycek.

Feelings she couldn’t understand welled up in his and she frowned. “What’re you doing?” she asked, aware in one part of her mind that she was standing on a deserted street in a bad neighborhood with a completely untrustworthy man. But she could only stand there. Not arresting him, just watching him.

“We should talk,” he told her intensely.

Her stomach felt odd but she nodded. “I was going to get some coffee.” She raised her hand toward the lighted restaurant.

He opened the door for her and she found herself staring at his arm. She had to pull her eyes away. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

“I’m used to it.” He didn’t touch her as they walked together to the counter. It was strange to have a man standing as close to her as Mulder did but not touching her. He also didn’t consult her before ordering fries and two cups of orange juice, then walking away to select a booth.

“I told your husband today about your abduction,” he said, not looking at her, focused on the application of ketchup to the small selection of fries he’d claimed as his own.

“Why now?” Her voice was devoid of the emotion sweeping through her. “It’s been, what, four years? Why wait? Why tell?”

He didn’t say anything. He’d started this. She said his name so sharply he jumped and a greasy fry leapt to the sticky floor. He stared silently, his eyes fiery on her face, deciding what he should say. It took him a long time and her heart began to race from being stared at.

“Call it therapy,” he said finally in such a soft, uncertain voice she could barely believe it came from the man she knew him to be.

“Fuck you, Krycek,” she said. That was what she thought of his answer. He was an assassin and she was suppose to care how he felt?

He had so much sadness in his eyes. “I used to care a lot about you. But you’ve married him now and I have to let the past go.” He shrugged, aware that it sounded stupid. “How much do you remember?”

“Too much. Not enough.” It was her turn to avert her gaze, to focus on unwrapping the straw to insert into her juice.

“You weren’t yourself. Not really, not you. I did some reading later, it’s something called a dissociative fugue.” He watched her face to make sure she was following him. “Sometimes, some people block out their entire lives and create a new one. When I knew you, you were an amnesiac named Diana.”

Her mouth curled as she felt her self-hate growing again. “And I hurt all those women.”

“Everyone who works on the Project believes what they are doing is right. That’s what you and Mulder are too short-sighted to see.” He stopped, aware she was not going to listen to him. He took a deep breath.

“When I was a boy, I knew a girl who was deaf. She was beautiful, not just on the outside, but her soul. I really loved her. I’ve been thinking about her a lot, since this.” His arm clunked against the table as he flexed his shoulder toward her. “The way she didn’t care about her handicap. It made her a beautiful person.”

He looked at her frankly. “You were like that. Are like that.”

Her mouth opened. “Why are you doing this?” Damned tears were in her eyes again. She didn’t want him to see them but she couldn’t hide any more.

“You needed to know.” He got up from the table and her chin rose as her eyes followed him. He walked over so he was standing next to her and paused for a second. Oh no, she thought, unable to do anything up look at him in silent alarm. His eyes were too gentle. He lowered his mouth to hers in the chastest of kisses she had ever known.

She waited for the attack, but it never came. A whisper soft, moist touch and he was gone.

Leaving her alone and confused in an empty early morning restaurant with a cold mound of french fries. It was a long time before she headed home, having decided not to tell Mulder anything about it.

-27-

He was leaning back on the couch but opened his eyes when she walked into the TV-lit living room. “You must be exhausted,” he said.

She shook her head, keeping her lips closed. Needing him.

“What’s wrong?” He started to sit up and she went to him, burying herself in his arms. He hugged her and pressed his cheek against her hair, waiting.

“Did you sleep here?” she asked.

“Not sleep.”

“You shouldn’t have waited up.”

“I didn’t mean to,” he said.

She looked at his face. His beautiful, ugly face that she loved so much. “I know it’s late, but could we – I mean, if you want to -” She couldn’t get the words out.

He nodded with a faint curl of a smile. “I think that could be arranged,” he said. She stood and he joined her, their fingers entwining as they walked together into the bedroom.

He reached for the light automatically, but she stopped his hand. “There’s enough light,” she told him. It was almost dawn and already bright streaks were beginning to wash the walls. He nodded, watching her as though for a cue.

She felt like this was their true wedding night. She put her hands over his large ones and placed them against the buttons on her blouse. He slid the buttons from their holes slowly, following with his mouth until her skin was hot.

“You look like man in love,” she murmured, looking into his eyes.

“I am.” Greedily, he claimed her mouth and she met him, their desire becoming more urgent with the battle they fought with lips and teeth and tongues. She put her teeth playfully into his lower lip and his hips surged against hers, startling her at first to feel the depth of sensitivity of her own body.

Still, he moved hestitantly, like first time lover or a man carrying a soap bubble, afraid the slightest pressure would burst it. It turned his caresses soft. Too soft. “I want to feel it when you touch me,” she told him, putting her hand over his again to show him. She didn’t know where her boldness had come from. She’d never made an effort before to get what she’d wanted. She’d never known what she wanted.

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Hurt can feel good and I’m stronger than you think,” she breathed, using her fingernails to try to show him. She hadn’t realized they were sharp until he winced.

“Not everyone was initiated into pain,” he told her, withdrawing from her. “It’s not normal.”

“It’s normal for me,” she protested. What was he telling her? That she was tainted and dirty and should be ashamed of herself? That it was his way or no way?

“You don’t know what normal is,” he said, trying to make his words gentle. He started to suck on her neck but she pushed him away.

“Do you really want to do this now?” she asked, pulling the blanket over her body. The sun was up.

“Do what?”

“The sexual history conversation. You can’t treat me like I’m broken and something you can fix, and you can’t treat me like a virgin who’s never been properly loved. I’m a thirty five year old woman and I know how my body responds.”

“All I hear is you asking me to hurt you. Like you want to relive your past so you can hate me too.”

“I’m not.”

“Then maybe we should have this conversation,” he said and waited. “Like two people just beginning a relationship.”

“That’s what we are,” she said.

“Six weeks into marriage. When I’ve loved you for six years.”

“Don’t you want to make this work?” she asked. “I want a real marriage. I don’t want the rest of my life to be a perfect, platonic partnership.”

“Neither do I. Checkmate. We both have a lot to learn.” He sighed, looking at her hard jaw and the blanket that had crept up to her neck. He jumped out of bed and jacked the thermostat from a sensible 65 up to a tropical 80. The heat vent began to blast hot, dry air. “Who starts?” he asked her. Since she didn’t start talking, he figured it was his turn. He wanted to forget the past, since they were the present and the future.

“Age seven. Fox Mulder kisses a classmate after school. She slaps him so hard he doesn’t try again until high school. When he takes a summer romance at sixteen to the next level and she cries and never speaks to him again.”

Scully just watched him.

“She wanted to try it, but changed her mind after, not realizing what it would be like. College, lived with Phoebe for three years. Fucked a lot, even though it should have been making love since I loved her. Should have had a clue when she started bringing home curable diseases. Is this necessary?”

She shrugged. He went on. “Fell in love with Diana after the academy. Then she left. I’ll admit I don’t want to mess this up.” His eyes turned to her. “No diseases or infections or strange proclivities. Just love. Your turn.”

She was slow to find her voice. “When I was kid, I went through a phase when I was a complete slut. I was fourteen and Charlie had just been born and I’d started high school and I was confused and angry. I never let them touch me and it made me feel powerful.”

DK had been telling the truth.

“Then I made friends and got over it. I had a huge crush on my friend Marcus in 12th grade but I don’t think he ever knew it. We went to prom and there was one moment when he looked at me…like he loved me…but then it was like he remembered who I was.” The sound of her voice was plaintive. He’d never seen her regretful before. “He never even kissed me.

“In college, men were the adversary. Competition. I didn’t even have time to sleep. Every once in a while, I’d find someone, but it was temporary.”

He wanted to ask her how often once in a while was, but couldn’t. “In the academy, I met Jack and he wasn’t scared off by me. He was married and I learned a lot from him about being an FBI agent. He couldn’t…he was impotent but that was fine. If you go long enough without it, you start to forget why it ever mattered. For a year all I could think about was how much I wanted you to kiss me, like you were a high school crush, but then it didn’t matter any more because there were other things to do.”

He wanted to know when that had been. “Did telling me that make you feel what you needed to feel?” he asked.

“No.” Honesty. Scary. She looked at him and he looked back.

“What do we do now?” he asked.

She didn’t know.

“Show me what you mean by hard. And rough. Show me what ‘normal’ feels like,” he told her. She stared at him. He held out his hand and met her eyes. She wrapped her fingers around his hand. “We’ll learn together.”

She let the sheet fall to her waist and hesitated. Her skin was pink from the heat. She put his hand on her breast and he waited. She rubbed his hand futilely, then stopped. “This isn’t working.”

“Like this?” He feathered his fingers over her skin, watching her face. Her eyes looked up at the ceiling like this was something she had to endure. “Say when,” he teased, manipulating and squeezing and rolling until she had to breathe through her mouth. He let himself be drawn into her sexuality, listening intently to her breathing, focusing completely. This was intense.

“Uhhh…” Her jagged sound of irritation made his hand fall away.

“Too rough?”

“Too much.”

“Moving on?”

Reluctantly she took his hand again, surprising him with the force she used to press against her own skin. It was pliable – she was right, she wasn’t going to break. His fingers ached under the pressure of hers. Her breath quickened as she used his fingers to massage herself.

“Now,” she told him, glancing into his eyes when she was slick and ready for him to enter her.

“When do I get my turn?” he asked her, molding his fingers around hers and dusting them over his skin.

“God it’s hot in here,” she murmured. They were both sweating, sitting on the winter-made bed, facing each other like study partners. “This is too much like a formula, no spontaneity,” she complained.

“Tell me about it,” he told her and their eyes held a significant gaze.

“Okay,” she said. “I get it.”

“So do I,” he told her.

The tension grew exponentially as they sat there. “So do it already, Mulder,” she ordered.

“Do what?” he challenged.

He was such a pain. A completely irritating annoyance when he was trying to teach her a lesson. “Please.”

“Make love to you?” he asked, kissing her sweetly. “This is love,” he told her as she lay down for him. This time when he started touching her skin, she felt arousal and wondered how their lovemaking would be.

“Is love always this gentle?” she asked like a novice.

“No.”

“What makes you the expert?”

“I’m not. But there a lot of different climaxes,” he told her. “Hard and soft and perfunctory and angry and helpless and urgent.”

“I have come before,” she informed him, bordering on sarcasm.

“I know,” he reminded her.

“Is this another lesson? What’re we going for today?” The sarcasm was getting worse. It didn’t belong in the bedroom…or did it?

“Surprise me,” he said against her mouth as he slammed into her, hard enough to make her gasp. He felt tentative convulsions begin to suck against his body. “Like that?” he asked her.

“Yeah,” she breathed, wrapping her legs around him, trying to pull him in harder and faster, but he didn’t let her. Changing his tactic because he really was teaching her a lesson. He was determined to teach his beautiful, strangely insecure, hurt and inexperienced wife every last thing he knew.

“See how it starts to hurt in a delicious way?” he asked her, barely able to support his body on trembling arms. Her body was rigid with the strain of not letting herself go.

He raised a hand to massage her face and she snarled at him. “Relax and let it happen.”

“No,” she said, forcing her body against his, pushing herself too far. She always had to fight, he thought. He didn’t move, determined not to even though the moment seemed neverending before she stopped, frustrated and tight and tense and confused. “Take a second to enjoy it,” he suggested.

“I want…” It was all she could manage.

“You do?”

“I’m gonna kill you,” she told him.

“But you love me.” He kissed her, feeling his own twitches of oncoming orgasm. He wasn’t going to be able to do this. He could barely breathe when he released her lips, but he’d be damned if she outlasted him.

They were duelling. This had become a battle of wills.

He put his hand between them and began to stroke her clitoris.

“Mulder…” He’d certainly never heard her say his name like that. Her entire body reacted with the force of her climax, shaking and jerking. Her toes curled against his thighs.

He let out a low rolling moan as he came.

She was still shaking when he opened his eyes. “Mulder -” she began and stopped. He got the idea it was meant to be a reprimand but she couldn’t follow through.

“Yes, my love?” He wasn’t really joking.

“I – never – ” She couldn’t even talk.

He kissed her cheeks and held her close, his ego swelling. “Don’t ever try to kill yourself again,” he ordered and she shivered in the too-hot room.

“Those people,” she said into his chest, barely audible. He felt like a bully. Would he really make her cry every time they made love?

“It’s morning,” she said, raising her head and he saw that she wasn’t crying after all.

“The house can wait.”

“The house.” She grinned, still feeling warm wiggles of sensation in her belly and lower. “You’re amazing.”

“You’re amazing,” he countered, then hugged her and closed his eyes. She was already mostly asleep, having found the most profound relaxation she’d ever known.

“I have never slept that well,” she announced when he emerged from her bedroom well after noon. Her eyes were bright and she looked free and happy and in love.

“You’ve never been loved that well,” he pointed out with pride. He needed coffee to get started.

She rolled her eyes the way she did whenever he proclaimed a bizarre theory. “We get a fresh start with every relationship,” she said.

“This is forever.”

She nodded, seriously. “So, painting,” she said, pulling her hair up into the sloppiest ponytail he’d ever seen. She grinned, knowing it was ridiculous. He’d put that grin on her face. It made him grin himself.

Two hours later, there was more paint on the two of them than there was on the house. “We’re not getting anywhere,” Scully lamented, looking at the huge expanse of dingy yellow that still had to be covered.

“It’s going to need two coats,” Mulder told her and she groaned, sitting down on the porch and putting her chin into her hands. Only two seconds too late did she realize there was paint on her hand, which she’d transferred to her face. “I hope this is water based,” she commented, wiping at the sticky blue liquid and only smearing it more.

“Me too, since it’s in your hair,” he said, leaning against the door. “All this painting requires beer,” he remarked. The sun was warm on their faces and they weren’t wearing coats.

“What do you know about it, Tom Sawyer?” she snapped. “You have no paint on you at all.”

“That doesn’t mean I haven’t been working,” he informed her.

“My arm is broken,” she complained, making him start to laugh madly. “It is!” She tried to raise it and stopped with a twinge.

“You’re weak,” he told her.

“Just wait’ll you’re sore tomorrow,” she warned. “You’ll get no sympathy from me. None.”

“We’ll just have to stay in bed tomorrow then,” he grinned.

“In your dreams. We have a house to paint.” She stopped and stepped back to look at it. “It’s going to be beautiful.”

“It already is.” He leaned down and kissed her, recoiling a moment later. “Augh! You only did that to get paint on me!”

She laughed gleefully and he couldn’t remember the last time she’d laughed. She flicked the excess paint from her brush in his face . He stepped back to grab his roller. “Oh, no!” Scully yelled, running. He chased her around the house twice before she fell onto the grass and he rollered over her legs. She sat up and laughed more.

“Scully, are those my grey sweatpants?” he asked a moment later and she gasped, clutching her stomach which ached from laughing.

“Oh, that hurts!” she moaned.

“How the hell are those staying on you?” he demanded, peeking up under her sweatshirt to see the waistband she’d rolled low on her hips. He could see the lavender band of her panties and wanted to touch.

“Mulder, don’t.” She rolled away and got to her feet. “We have work to do,” she added to cover the fact that he’d unnerved her. Last night had unnerved her, because she had completely given up her control over her body. The body that had betrayed her when she was a child by responding to the pain of her abuse.

A few moments later, Mulder joined her and they returned to the toil of painting. She enjoyed the physical activity and fresh air and that it was something they could do together. He began to whistle – thin and tunelessly, completely pathetic.

So she started to sing at the top of her lungs. The look he gave her made her laugh again and they fell into a grinning silence as they painted.

“Do you want to get a dog?” he asked her. She stopped moving, remembering their previous conversation.

“I had a dog and it died,” she said. I also had a daughter and she died. “Do you want children?” she asked.

“Only if they’re yours,” he said and she flinched. “I never thought about it before you found out you couldn’t have any and I saw how strong your desire for them was,” he told her. “I don’t trust the world enough to put children into it. More people I care about that they could hurt.”

She nodded, toying with her brush.

“You said you thought they were wrong,” he reminded her, questioning.

“Like you said before, Mulder. It’s nice to believe things even if they’re not true.” She sighed. “It doesn’t hurt as much as it did. Maybe someday…”

“It won’t stop completely, not ever,” he said.

“I know,” she breathed. “We can still have our perfect life in our perfect home.”

“Perfect is so boring,” he told her. “It’s the flaws that you love.”

She watched him go back to painting, amazed by the wisdom he had sometimes. He amazed her. Life amazed her. She thought about the way his left eye didn’t react to light and his nose and his crooked teeth and how much she loved them all. Less than perfect. Like having a kidnapped sister and a belief in UFOs.

Like having a dark past and a slightly splintered personality. No, she wouldn’t stop striving for perfection in herself.

“I hate painting,” he informed her.

“I love it. You can stop,” she offered.

“I’m looking forward to cleaning up too much,” he admitted.

“Mulder, why do we only talk about sex?”

“Do we?” he asked her.

“We didn’t used to.”

“You’ll have to develop an interest in the Knicks,” he suggested.

“You’ll have to read a book,” she retorted.

“You’ll have to get hooked on documentary TV,” he continued. “Ever see ‘The Civil War’?”

“No.”

Obviously he missed the distaste in her tone because he continued, “You’re in for a real treat. I’ve got it on video. You have to watch it. There’s this one part with this letter -”

“Mulder, the Civil War makes me gag. My dad was a Civil War buff and as much as I loved him…” She shook her head. “I think that’s why he retired to Virginia.”

“He was? That’s cool,” Mulder said.

“He was a cool guy,” she said, feeling warm inside.

“I’m sorry I never got to meet him.” His voice turned quiet.

“I don’t know if you’d have liked each other. I hope so,” she said. A second later, a new spray of paint thwacked against her back. She turned and glared at him. “What the hell was that for?”

“We need to make some happy memories,” he said. “Why’re you looking at me like that?” Her grin was completely evil and before he could blink, he had half a bucket of paint on his head.

“Ooops, look what I did,” she said.

“Bitch,” he teased. “What time is it?”

She had to wipe the paint off the face of her watch to read it. “Four-thirty.” Wow, time really did fly, she thought

“We were supposed to meet Byers at 4:30 to sign the rest of the papers,” Mulder said. He pulled out his cell phone and Scully startd closing up the paint cans. Their day of fun seemed to be over.

Mulder drove so they made it to the office in 15 minutes. Byers’ eyes bulged when he saw them. “What the hell?” he said.

“We were painting,” Scully said.

“Really.” Byers was incredibly sarcastic. She’d always hated his disapproval. She’d never understood why he treated her the way he did. The door swung open and a petite blonde stepped out. Her smile froze in place when she saw Mulder and Scully. “This is my sister, Emily,” Byers said.

Scully’s heart sank and Mulder’s hand found hers. Lots of people had that name, she reminded herself. Even pretty blondes with big blue eyes. “We were painting,” Mulder said, subdued.

“I see,” she said casually. “John has told me you’re very excited about the house.”

“We are.” Scully squeezed Mulder’s hand and he squeezed back. So she squeezed harder and soon her hand was about to fall off.

“We just got married,” Mulder said happily.

“John told me. Let me get the papers and bring them out here,” Emily offered.

“She won’t let us in her office,” Scully said. She caught Byers’ frown on her way to catch Mulder’s eyes.

“You’re completely irresponsible,” Byers said to Mulder. It sounded almost affectionate.

Mulder shrugged carelessly. “Call the guys. We’ll have cheesesteaks tonight,” he offered.

“Aren’t you going to clean up first?” Byers’ eyebrows were almost in his hair.

“We’ll go to our house,” Mulder suggested. “Call the guys. Ask Emily too.”

“Ask me what?” she asked, presenting them with a contract. Scully accepted it and began to read.

“We’re having a new house party tonight. To celebrate. Want to come?” Mulder invited.

“Sure, why not?” Emily smiled and looked at her brother. “Sourpuss,” she told him.

“Am not!” Byers cried, stuffily tugging down his jacket. “I’m gonna go call the guys.” He disappeared into the real estate ofice.

“You look so happy,” Emily told them with a radiant smile. “How long have you known each other?”

“Six years,” Scully said.

“We work together.” Mulder took the contract from her hands while she was distracted and signed it with a flourish before she could finish reading it. Scully gave him a dark look and added her signature.

The house was theirs.

“Congratulations,” Emily said, taking the contract from them. “You now have a mortgage.”

“The guys are on their way,” Byers reported.

“Party time,” Mulder said in his usual deadpan, understated way.

-28-

It turned into much more than cheesesteaks by firelight. Langly brought a boombox and Frohike brought the booze. It was a real celebration.

“Who’d have imagined your friends could actually be fun?” Scully whispered to her husband as they stood shoulder to shoulder, watching Byers boogie to the music, a bottle in one hand and a paintbrush in the other.

It had become an all night painting party and god only knew what the place would look like when the sun came up.

“They love you, Scully,” Mulder told her, utterly serious.

She nodded. “I’m very lucky.”

“Want to?” Frohike approached to ask her, nodding to the stereo.

“She’s married, ya doof,” Langly reminded him.

“So?” asked Frohike.

“So leave her alone!” Langly suggested.

“Shut up, you hippie girl.”

“Munchkin!”

“Boys,” Mulder warned and they wandered away.

“I never thought I would have such a wonderful housewarming,” Scully admitted. She’d never imagined she would have such an interesting husband, either.

“I’ll be you never imagined a lot of this,” Mulder told her, nailing her thoughts and sounding as insecure as ever. She shook her head, agreeing with him.

“Dance with me?” Mulder stretched out his hand to her. Someone had nudged the radio over to a soft rock ballad station. She smiled and took his hand, allowing him to wind her in close to his body. “Look,” he whispered and in four steps, turned her around so she could see Langly slow dancing with Emily Byers.

She turned her head. “Byers isn’t happy,” she noticed, seeing his angry scowl. “Maybe we should go -”

“No,” Mulder said, bouncing her closer to him. “This is our time.”

“It’s all our time now,” she murmured, closing her eyes and moving her feet. They had danced together before this, out on cases, casually flirting around the attraction that pulled between them.

It had all happened so fast.

Six years was not fast.

But the way her arguments had fallen away was fast. She wondered why they’d waited so long. Maybe they were waiting until they truly needed each other.

“You’re tired,” he said, looking down at her.

“Mmm hmm.” She yawned delicately, not even trying to cover it up.

He put her hair back behind her ears and she shook her head until the strands fell free again. “We’re still covered with paint,” she remembered.

“I still can’t wait to clean up,” he told her.

“Is this how it’s supposed to be?”

“I think so.”

She accepted that quietly. “What happens when we’re not like this anymore?” she asked suddenly. He looked at her curiously. “When we’re old like our parents got and don’t have kids to stay together for the sake of?”

“We’ll just wait for that day to come,” he told her, putting his hands on her hips and staring down at her.

A clinking sound filled the air. They both raised their heads to look and saw Langly and Frohike beating beer bottles with ballpoint pens, like at a wedding reception. The boys grinned, waiting for them to kiss.

Mulder gave Scully a big, sloppy kiss, which she returned enthusiastically.

“We’re going home,” Mulder said and Scully jerked as he pulled her up off her feet into his arms. She would have struggled but she was too surprised and didn’t want him to drop her.

“What the hell are you doing?” she demanded. His look was innocent, but he let her down onto her feet. “I am not some submissive, subservient woman for you to marry and dominate.”

“Scully, it’s traditional,” he said. “It was a whim.”

“It’s traditional like men raping their brides is traditional!”

“Scully -” He didn’t know what to say to her when she got like this. “I didn’t mean it that way.”

“I know,” she admitted. They got into the car and he flipped on the lights. “You don’t know what it’s like to be small and have people move you if they want to.”

“No, I don’t,” he admitted. “I’m sorry I made you feel like your will and your feelings weren’t important.”

“God, you’re a great apologizer,” she said with passion.

“Practice,” he told her and put the car into gear, heading down the dark road to his apartment.

“What’re we doing here?” she asked.

“Cleaning up.”

“Why not my apartment?” she asked.

“Why your apartment?” he countered.

“Mulder, I think we’re going to argue again.”

“Why?” He patted her shoulder. “Go with it, Scully.”

She hated it when he said that. “Why do you get to make the decisions?”

“Why do you? We’ve been living in your apartment.”

“That’s why we bought the house,” she said. He looked at her and she gave in. “I don’t want to fight with you tonight.” She opened the door and got out, listening to his footsteps following her.

“First shower,” she called, running her hand through her stiff paint coated hair. Mulder bit his tongue on an offer to share. She saw him and said, “What?”

“Don’t you think it’d be fun to share?” he asked, trying to make it sound like he didn’t really care if she rejected him.

She hesitated. Their mutual decisions never seemed to be terribly mutual. It shouldn’t be up to her to say yes or no. If only Mulder wasn’t so ever-ready…but he loved her and he was trying to show it.

She went into the bathroom without saying anything, leaving it up to him. She began to strip off her clothes and the door opened a crack. “Scully?” he asked. She yanked on the hand that rested on the doorknob and he fell against her. “You have paint under your clothes,” he said. She nodded and started the hot water running. “Scully, are you talking to me?” he asked, frowning until she peeled off the last of her clothes.

He joined her under the spray ten seconds later. She blinked water out of her eyes and looked at his lean body as it grew damp. He was looking at her the same way. His mouth fastened on hers, pushing her head back until she felt like she was drowning. She pushed on his shoulders and he let her go, looking at her with unfocused eyes.

“Water,” she said.

He nodded and poured shampoo into his hand, rubbing it into the crown of her hair with careful fingers. He leaned over her, intent on his work. Then he turned her around and stood her under the water, petting her hair to rinse the suds away.

Suddenly she felt vulnerable. Only he was just as naked and wet as she was. She picked up his cake of soap and lathered it in her hands. He watched her, probably just as she’d watched him. Her fingers were tentative as she reached for him. But she enjoyed having him under her hands. He enjoyed it, too.

He began washing the paint that had soaked through her clothes. She could tell by his body that he wanted to take her there. He pulled at her hips but she knew one of them would get hurt if they tried it in the slippery shower stall. “Not here,” she said and fumbled for the water taps as he began kissing her.

He was in a hurry and stumbled trying to get out of the tub. He tripped but managed to clear the tub. They fell together onto the bathroom floor as much by accident as by design. As soon as he could lift her hips, he entered her. She surprised herself by crying out at the force of his thrust. She kept her eyes open, focused on his face as he strained for release.

This is Mulder, it’s safe, let go. She knew she was thinking more than she should, so she closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on what she was feeling, letting a breath out through her lips.

He said her name and she climaxed suddenly, distracted from all her thinking by the sound of his voice, pulling her into the moment.

They lay there, spent, on the bathroom floor. His lips were teasingly close to hers and his eyes almost closed trying to focus on her face. Her body was still in turmoil and she wished he would just kiss her.

“Did you really daydream about me kissing you?” he asked.

Now she knew he was doing this on purpose. “Yeah,” she confessed. “I know is sounds juvenile, but…”

“Just kissing?” he asked, pulling himself up onto his elbow, his eyes never leaving hers. “Nothing else?”

“It was a fantasy. When we started working together. I knew nothing would ever…” But it had, hadn’t it? The nearness of his lips was driving her mad. “Most men don’t really like kissing, Mulder,” she said.

“And you do?”

She licked her lips and nodded. Why was he always teasing her?

“God, you’re serious, Scully,” he said and pressed his mouth against hers. She met him eagerly, sucking and tasting and caressing until she’d had her fill.

No, she would never have her fill. She knew kissing was safe. She knew it was because Bill had never kissed her so she didn’t have to worry or fear, but she also had thought it was a lost art. Until she met Mulder. He had a mouth that was made for this and he knew exactly how to do it. He must like it too because he didn’t rush to get it over with.

She sighed and curled closer to him. The steam was beginning to dissolve and she was beginning to be aware that she was lying wet on bathroom tile. “What’re you thinking?” he asked, his eyes fixed on her collarbone, which he was tracing with her fingertips.

“I want to renew our wedding vows in the house when it’s finished.” He looked at her, but didn’t ask her why. She was glad, because she didn’t want to tell him their union was a foggy blur in her memory.

“Okay,” he said.

“I want to invite my mother.” They hadn’t broached the subject of her family. “I don’t know if she’ll come but I feel like…” she stopped, her chest filling with unshed tears at the estrangement.

“Maybe it will be a way to begin to forgive,” he said, understanding. He was thinking of his own mother and wondering if she would be willing to make the effort to attend. Things had seemed better over Christmas. The house would be a new start for them. Their new life. “I love the idea,” he said, turning to wrap her in his arms.

-Epilogue-

The house was painted and fixed up and finished the first weekend of spring. The sun shone and its warmth was beginning to coax life from the barren ground as it did every year. Winter came, but it never stayed.

Scully rose early, needing to spend some time alone. She went on a walk through the house, checking on details that no one would ever notice, but she needed to know that everything was absolutely perfect. She went outside to check the flowers she and Mulder had arranged the day before for the ceremony. Dew lingered on the fresh petals, waiting to be burned off by the sun.

She felt good. Dana and DK and the others had grown quieter in her head. She felt them rather than heard them now, like a normal person might think of herself in the past. It had been so long since she’d been normal that she’d forgotten what it was like.

She had been afraid the nightmares would come. They still did, once or twice a week, sending her back into a helpless child’s body, or into an experiment she was powerless to stop. She was getting more successful at reminding herself that it was in the past and it could only hurt her if she allowed it to. Mulder’s presence helped. She had never had someone so completely in her life. They bickered constantly but his arms were there for her when she needed them, and she was learning how to ask.

She wouldn’t have survived without him and she knew it.

“Hey.” Mulder put his hand on her shoulder and she turned. His hair was sticking up everywhere and he was barefoot and shirtless, his loose pajama bottoms hanging into the mud. His eyes were quiet and serious. “Second thoughts?”

“Never,” she vowed. “I’m so glad we’re doing this.” Hand in hand, they went inside. Their guests would be arriving soon.

At noon, they gathered in the yard. Mulder put on his grey suit and Scully wore the dress she’d purchased for the occasion, a soft floral. The kind she never wore, but looked beautiful in. It was a symbolic ceremony, so no priest or justice was present. Mulder’s mother was frail, suddenly, since Christmas, and Frohike had taken on the responsibility of watching over her. Scully looked at her own mother. Strands of steel gray twined through her dark hair and there were knew lines that Scully knew she herself had caused. She had found a few white hairs decorating her own scalp recently.

Skinner looked out of place even though Emily Byers kept talking to him. She was really sweet and Scully wondered if she would be attending another wedding one day very soon. Langly was wearing a polo shirt, but his long yellow hair hung loose ad he still looked like the same old hacker. It had been hard for Byers to accept his little sister’s attachment to his friend.

Mulder couldn’t believe his good fortune. He had never even dreamed of anything like this. He remembered the cold winter day he’d asked Scully to be his wife – he hadn’t even asked, just expressed a desire. He’d expected her to laugh, to crush his feelings under the pointy heel of her little shoe.

It had been a damn hard three months, but he knew all about cocoons and trials. They’d survived and cemented their lives. He threaded his fingers through hers and she smiled at him. At any other point in his life, he would have been mortified to stand up in the sunshine in front of his friends and family and hers and confess his feelings.

He turned and took her hands in his, probably squeezing too hard, but maybe he was still a little scared. He’d never gotten anything he wanted before. She smiled encouragingly at him.

And there were no words. Everything he’d been practicing in his head for a week disappeared. He felt his grin turn idiotic. “I love you, Scully,” he said and saw the slight color that rose in her cheeks. He hoped he would always see it there. “I’ve learned to take every moment and I’ve learned that every moment can be worth taking, that it’s safe to love and trust and build a life.” His eyes returned to hers. “But mostly, I love you.”

She wet her lips and spoke. “Mulder, you are the most patient and gentle and giving man I’ve ever known. I had lost my hope that life was worth living and I lost myself. You found me. You helped me find me ever since we met.” She’d forgotten the onlookers who were there to witness and celebrate their bond. This was her opportunity to tell Mulder all the things she couldn’t normally say, things that didn’t come up in daily life.

“Kiss her already!”

Mulder and Scully turned, surprised, because the voice belonged to their boss. The top of his head was reddening but all of their guests were grinning at them.

Mulder took Scully in his arms and they made their kiss juicy and showy, until they forgot themselves again. His hands slid down and he tried to bury himself in her mouth.

“Party!” Langly yelled jubilantly.

The lovers’ kiss parted with a soft smacking sound. They had all the time in the world. The stereo was cranked up and the buffet in the kitchen raided as Mulder and Scully hung back from the crowd, lingering alone together.

“We have the rest of our lives,” she said.

“What’re you trying to say?” he asked her.

“Let’s go have some fun with the people who love us.” She tugged at his hand. He didn’t budge, holding her in place with his fingers.

“You’re crazy if you think I’m ever going to let go,” he informed her.

“Don’t you dare.” She put her other hand over his and they went into the house together, where they were greeted with applause from their friends.

THE END!

–––––––––––-

-Author’s Notes-

Thank you so much for reading all the way to the end! I hope you’ve enjoyed the story. I wrote this because I’d read so many stories featuring Scully’s identity problems – Scully vs. Dana. So I wanted to do a story with multiple personality syndrome, and childhood sexual abuse is the main cause of that syndrome.

When I began to do research, I was shocked at how many characteristics of “abused child syndrome” the writers of the X Files have worked into the way they write Scully’s character. For example, the incident with the rabbit that Scully remembers in “Christmas Carol” seemed completely out of place to me until I read “A tactic of some abusers…is the actual or threatned abuse of small animals. In some instances rabbits and other small creatures were destroyed before the eyes of terrified children.” [Secret Survivors, E. Sue Blume, pg. 63]. I don’t know why the writers would make this choice, or if it was even something they decided to do, or if the “symptoms” of child abuse are, as many have thought, so vague and general that they could apply to anyone.

I did a lot of reading because I wanted my story to accurately portray a painful subject. I felt that anything less than a serious portrayal would be in insult to people who have experienced abuse themselves.

Here is a partial bibliography for anyone who might be interested in where I got my ideas or who want to say “That isn’t so – you’re wrong!” I would love to hear from you if you think I’m wrong. I might be. But I have sources. 🙂

MULTIPLE PERSONALITY

1. “Nightmare” – Emily Peterson and Nancy Lynn Gooch as told to Lynn Freeman

2. “Katherine, It’s Time” – Kit Castle & Stefan Bechtel

3. “Voices” – Trula Michaels LaCalle, PhD

FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME

1. “Confabulations: Creating False Memories, Destroying Families” – Eleanor Goldstein with Kevin Farmer

2. “Suggestions of Abuse” – Michael Yapko, PhD

3. “Lost Daughters” – Reinder van Til

SEXUAL ABUSE AND INCEST

1. “Secret Survivors: Uncovering Incest and its Aftereffects in Women” – E. Sue Blume

2. “The Courage To Heal” – Ellen Bass & Laura Davis

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