Bend in the Road (The) by Kelly K

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The Bend in the Road

Bend in the Road cover

Title: The Bend In the Road

Author: Kelly Keil

Classification: S, MSR

Rating: NC-17—this one isn’t for the kiddies

Spoilers: None, really.

Distribution: Archive anywhere, just keep my info attached.

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, The Lone Gunmen, Skinner, and Maggie Scully do not belong to me. They belong to Chris Carter, 1013, and Fox. Blah, blah, blah.

Author notes: This story has had a long and difficult birth, and I would like to thank three people for their invaluable help. First, thanks Alicia, for being patient and reading seemingly endless revisions of this story. Secondly, I must thank Sabine for giving me encouragement when I needed it. Lastly, a big thank you goes out to Meg. You helped me to finally make up my mind and convinced me to unshelf this baby. That, and you send vastly entertaining e-mails.

Feedback: I promise to promptly answer all feedback sent my way. You can contact me at


The Bend in the Road by Kelly Keil

I have always known
That at last I would
Take this road, but yesterday
I did not know that it would be today.

Kenneth Rexroth, from One Hundred Poems from the Japanese

PROLOGUE

Even as a child I didn’t believe in fairy tales. It was Missy who wanted to be a princess when she grew up. I knew better: princes are overrated, castles are drafty, and ruling a kingdom is hard, thankless work. My analytical brain picked apart the tales that my sister loved with ruthlessness. How, I demanded, could shoe size determine your true love? How could legumes gauge how good your pedigree was? How could edible houses keep out the rain and wild animals? Missy said I lacked romance in my soul, and perhaps she was right.

Here I am, a grown woman, and no princes loom on my horizon. I am trained to be a forensic pathologist, which is about as unromantic as you can get. Still, it seems that the fantastical, unbelievable, and downright impossible dog my every move. After all, look where I’ve ended up—Spooky Central. If only Missy were still alive. Things intangible and metaphysical were her stock in trade. These messy feelings I’ve been dealing with lately are things that she would have had no trouble at all sorting out. She was the one who believed that love conquered all.

I’m not sure that true love exists. The kind of love between a man and a woman—a prince and a princess—that overcomes all barriers, wins against all odds, and is perfect in every way just doesn’t seem possible to me. Perhaps I do only see through a glass darkly, noticing pain and hurt but not happiness. I wish I could envision a happy ending for myself. I wish I could envision any ending at all that wasn’t grim.

Still, there is a small part of my heart that yearns for what my mind cannot acknowledge. I want what is impossible. I want my Prince Charming. I want Mulder.

The only thing that gives me any comfort at all is that the impossible is what he does best.

***

Sunday August 22 11:30 p.m. The DC Beltway

Driving on the Beltway at night is peaceful. The road is surrounded by so much dense forest that you might not realize that you were driving in a circle around our nation’s capitol if you didn’t look at the highway signs. I come here sometimes to escape. Out here I can think with no distractions—my phone is turned off, I’m not looking at the signs, and all I can see are trees, road, and cars. I could be anywhere; I could be anyone. I find the anonymity soothing.

I am angry right now. I’m not sure what galls me the most—that Mulder left and made me worry about him, that he ditched me to be with Diana Fowley, or how I reacted when I learned that he hadn’t been alone on his little hiatus. At first I was just angry with Mulder, but now I’m also angry with myself. I’ve behaved foolishly and I’m not sure how to retreat. I have fallen in love with Mulder and I don’t know how to stop.

I always thought falling in love would be neater, somehow. I imagined that my jagged edges would fit into his jagged edges and we would be joined forever like two pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. I’ve found that what I feel for Mulder isn’t tidy. I feel like I’m being consumed from the inside out and I don’t know what to do. I’ve had my entire life mapped out for as long as I can remember. I’ve always known where I was going and what I would be doing. I had no plan for this situation, however. Before I could always see my future in front of me like a straight highway stretching toward the horizon. Now my road is bent, and I don’t know what lies around the corner. This terrifies me more than I like to admit even to myself.

As much as I’d like to right now, I can’t drive forever. If nothing else, I’m getting low on gas. I need a destination but I’m not sure where to go. A sign announcing the turn off for Langley Air Force Base gives me an idea. I can’t imagine the guys turning me away, and I don’t think they’d balk at hiding me, at least not for a little while. I need time to think and plan. I need to decide what I should do.

I’ve asked myself a thousand times, “Why Mulder?” I don’t know when it started, but I finally admitted to myself that I was having very un-partner-like feelings for Mulder when he invaded my dreams. By that time he was imbedded in my sub-conscience and there was nothing I could do about it. I dream about him every night now. If neuroses were contagious then I certainly would have gotten this one from him. Most nights I make love to Mulder. Some nights I have to watch him die. On the really bad nights I kill him myself.

I had one of the really bad ones the night after our fight. The fight was stupid—they almost always are. Mulder was gearing up for one hell of a wild goose chase. I wasn’t in the mood. I was still filing paperwork from our last trek into the great unknown. My cuts and bruises were just beginning to heal, my poison ivy was still not quite gone, and I was in the middle of an expense account trying to justify our destruction of not one, not two, but three rental cars. In short, I was in an evil frame of mind.

So when he proposed that we drop everything to go ghost busting, I lost it. I started a grand mal fight and said a lot of things that I wish I could take back. Mulder said a lot of things I wish he could take back as well. We were standing nose to nose (with Mulder hunching down to my level, of course) when the phone rang. Mulder flinched then answered it.

After a brief conversation he grabbed his coat as if to leave. Still eager to fight, I snagged his sleeve and asked, “Where do you think you’re going?” I sounded like a jealous wife.

“I have a lead. Diana just called and told me that she may have uncovered some information about Samantha.”

“Do you want me to—”

“No.”

He jerked out of my grasp and left, just like that.

I went home myself not long after. I ate about half a container of Ben and Jerry’s before falling into bed, hoping that for once my sleep would be dreamless.

No such luck, of course. That night I dreamed of shooting Mulder in the heart.

I expected a call from him the next day, telling me where he was and asking my advice about something, but the call never came. I had an entire week of very bad dreams.

***

Monday August 23 2:32 a.m. Residence of The Lone Gunmen

I think Scully’s really pissed at Mulder this time.

Scully never comes to see us by herself unless Mulder’s in trouble. Either she comes to enlist our aid to save his ass or she complains bitterly to us about what an ass he is. Whichever reason, it spells trouble for Mulder.

Scully hasn’t been this upset in a long time.

She’s seething with hurt and anger. I’d be surprised if the corner of the room she’s sitting in isn’t at least ten degrees hotter than it is where I’m perched on a high stool by my worktable. God, I hope she doesn’t fry the computers. Especially Frohike’s. It’s so sensitive to fluctuations in temperature that it’ll start to malfunction in weird ways if Frohike downloads too much porn in one sitting. I find this endlessly amusing.

Byers is flitting about Scully like a mother hen and Frohike is doing his best to try and make her smile. Of all of us I think he has the best chance of working her out of this snit. If nothing else there is the possibility that she will become more pissed at him than she is at Mulder.

As for me, well, I’m trying to stay out of the way. It’s bad enough that Byers and Frohike are hovering so close to her that I’m surprised there’s still air for her to breathe. She doesn’t need me adding to the general confusion. Besides, I’m not sure what I would say anyway. I’d be far too likely to blurt out something stupid like, “Why don’t you and Mulder just go find a room somewhere so the rest of us can go to bed and get a decent night’s rest?” That would go over really well, I’m sure.

I’m probably just tired. I just got home from a gaming convention— the almighty and powerful GenCon, where geeks everywhere feel safe enough to leave their mothers’ basements and join what we like to think of as society. We know that we’re not popular. We don’t care. At the Con, all that matters is the game. No one sleeps during GenCon. Not the serious gamers, anyway. And most of the people who appear to be sleeping are really passed out from too much beer and pizza. I feel like I could sleep for about three days straight.

Luckily these circuit boards I’m working on don’t require a great deal of concentration on my part. Otherwise I would’ve burnt my hand on the soldering iron hours ago.

That’s the problem with circuit boards—too boring. They leave you lots of time to think, and all I can think about is Mulder and Scully. Scully and Mulder. To hell with the both of them! What I’d really like to think about is Vanessa, that cute Vampire player I met at the Con, but I can’t concentrate on her with Scully and Mulder pinging around my head. God I hope those two get together soon. Worrying about them is giving me one hell of a headache.

“Guys,” I say. “I’m beat. I’m going to bed.”

What I get in response is one apathetic look and two glares.

Of course Frohike and Byers don’t want me to go to bed. If I go to sleep then Scully might realize what time it is and leave.

Scully surprises us all, however, by asking, “Can I stay here tonight, guys? I’m not in any mood right now to confront Mulder. I just need some time alone to think.”

I can sympathize with the need for sanctuary, so I open my mouth and say, “I’ll make up the futon. Just take a minute.”

This time I get two grateful looks and one scowl. The latter is from Frohike who was probably having fantasies about having Agent Scully in his bed, whether he is in it or not. Dream on, pal. She belongs to Mulder, even if she won’t admit it.

“Thanks, Langly.”

“No problem,” I reply, which is a load of bullshit. That fucking futon feels like it weighs a ton. I wrestle it into what Byers optimistically calls the spare room. What it contains is a lot of shit we’re not working on or with at the moment. I shove various electronic detritus aside and step on something sharp. I pick it up. A four-sider. I throw the die over my shoulder. It’s no wonder it ended up here, completely useless piece of plastic that it is.

I make the futon up with fresh sheets. It’s been a hot August and I’m pretty sure that she won’t need a blanket. I go to my room and dig out a clean T-shirt for her to wear. I lay it on the futon and go back into the main room. “Futon’s in the spare room. Night, guys.” I don’t hear if anyone replies as I make a beeline for my bed.

I wake up about noon the next day with an irresistible craving for pancakes. I know Byers is gone. He had some sort of appointment or other this morning. As I walk down the hall towards the kitchen I can hear Frohike’s sonorous snoring. That’s two down. I see the spare room door is open and the futon is empty, the sheets neatly folded on top of it. I guess that means pancakes for one. So much the better, as this means more for me.

I’m just about to pour pancake batter on the hot griddle when the phone rings. Three guesses as to whom this is going to be and the first two don’t count. Warily I answer the phone.

“Langly, is that you?”

“Yeah,” I sigh. It’s Mulder. Who else? So much for breakfast. Reluctantly I turn the heat off of the griddle and put my pancake batter in the fridge.

“Where is she? She’s not answering either of her phones.”

“She who?”

“Don’t fuck with me, Langly. Where’s Scully?” I can hear the raw edge of desperation in his voice. I’m really torn here. On one hand I feel an obligation to protect Scully; she came to us for shelter. It seems inhospitable to rat her out. Besides, I’m pretty sure she vamoosed this morning. She could be anywhere right now. On the other hand, Mulder, despite being a dick and the occasional clueless fool, is my friend. And it’d be just like him to do something stupid if he were worried about his partner. Especially if he knew how upset Scully is.

So I compromise, as best as I can. “I don’t know where she is, Mulder. But she’s been in communication with us recently and she was safe then. She’s a big girl. She can take care of herself.”

He draws in a ragged breath. “If you hear from her again, have her call me. Anytime of day or night.” He pauses, then draws another deep breath. “I really need to talk to her.”

“I’ll let her know if I talk to her. What’d you do, anyway?”

“Langly, I don’t want to get into it right now.” Meaning, keep your nose out of my business, Langly.

“Okay, whatever. Good luck, man.” And I hang up.

“Thanks again, Langly.”

I turn around and there’s Scully standing right behind me. She’s wearing the jeans she was wearing last night and the T-shirt I gave her to sleep in. She’s also barefoot, which is pretty foolhardy in this place.

Seeing my look she smiles. It’s a small, wistful smile but it’s an improvement over the seething anger of last night. “Thanks for the loan of the T-shirt.”

“How’d you know it was mine?”

She gives me this look like I’m an utter moron. I wonder if she gives that look to Mulder. If so, no wonder she scares the shit out of him. “I kind of guessed it was yours by the ‘Gamers do it by the numbers’ logo.”

I blush. I can’t help it. To hide my embarrassment I turn towards the fridge. “Want some pancakes?”

“Sure. Look, Langly, I want to thank you for not telling Mulder where I am. I really appreciate it.”

I just nod as I get out the batter and turn the heat back on the griddle. While the first batch is cooking, I dig in the fridge for my jug of maple syrup. Frohike likes Mrs. Butterworth, but that stuff makes me gag.

“You’ve got to go back sometime,” I say. “Mulder’s already searching for you. He’s probably going nuts.”

“Sometimes he treats me like I’m a child. I really hate that.”

I shrug, not knowing how to respond. “He sounded upset on the phone. How long are you going to make him suffer?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

“I hope you don’t leave him hanging too long, Scully. Revenge is going to be harder on you than it is on him and that’s saying a lot.” I put three pancakes on a plate for her and hand her the butter and syrup.

“I know. It’s just that…he makes me so…and I just want to kill him sometimes…” She puts her fork down, pancakes barely touched.

“Hurting someone you love is just going to make the pain worse.” I pile pancakes on my plate and sit across from Scully at the kitchen table.

“I don’t love Mulder.”

“Of course you don’t,” I reply neutrally.

“I don’t.”

I nod.

“I really don’t. We’re friends. Just friends. Good friends. He’s like family.”

I just look at her.

“I suppose you could say I love him like a brother. When he doesn’t make me furious enough to kill him.”

“Mmm hmm,” I reply, mouth full of pancake.

“What?” Scully asks huffily.

“I was just thinking,” I reply, “that I hope you don’t look at your brothers the same way you look at Mulder.”

“I do not—”

“‘Cause if you do, then I would suggest relocating in West Virginia.” I give her a big, shit-eating grin.

“Is it that obvious?” she asks glumly.

“To me it is. To the rest of the world, I couldn’t tell you.”

“God, this is so embarrassing.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I promise not to breathe a word to anyone.”

“Thanks.”

“So, you want to talk about why you’re so upset with Mulder?”

“No.”

“Okay.” Far be it from me to force information from Agent Scully. All I wanted this morning was pancakes.

“What are you two talking about?”

Frohike in the morning (actually afternoon, but who’s keeping track?) is not a pretty sight. Poor Scully. At least I’m used to it and know when to brace myself.

“Nothing,” she replies glumly, chin on hand.

Frohike takes this in stride. “Say, Langly, can I have some pancakes?”

“Here, Frohike, have mine,” says Scully. “I’m no longer hungry.”

Heaven forbid Frohike should ever turn down food, especially food touched by “the delectable Agent Scully.”

“Okay. Say…where’s the Mrs. Butterworth?”

***

Monday August 23 12:36 p.m. Residence of The Lone Gunmen

I can’t believe that I just spilled my guts to Langly. I told him things that I can barely admit to myself, let alone my mother or therapist.

Yes, that’s right, Dana Scully has a therapist. A damned expensive one, too. Not that she’s helping much. Last session she told me that she sensed some “issues” between Mulder and I. She suggested that I bring him along to a therapy session so she could meet him. I cannot, in a million years, imagine telling Mulder that I want him to meet my therapist so she can determine what to do about my unresolved feelings for him. I’d rather eat my gun.

I resolved the issue of my uncertain feelings for Mulder by telling my therapist in so many words that she was barking up the wrong tree. I assured her that Mulder is more like my brother than my lover, which is true. I stressed that I am like Mulder’s sister, which is truer than I’d like to admit. I allowed that I have feelings for Mulder, but that they are strictly platonic, which is a lie. She bought the lot, and told me we would spend next session dealing with my feelings of abandonment.

Which is ironic considering how things turned out.

I definitely need to get a new therapist. All Langly has to do is feed me pancakes with real maple syrup and I crumble like a sand castle in the rain. Maybe pancakes at kitchen dinettes are more comforting than leather couches in high-rise offices. Maybe homely guys with long blond hair are more approachable than beautiful women who, even in their bare feet, are miles taller than I am. Mulder’s type of woman. He likes them brunette and lanky, I’ve noticed. He’d probably love my therapist. They could psychoanalyze themselves silly.

***

Sunday August 22 3:40 p.m. Mulder’s apartment

I walk in the door to my apartment and the first thing I do is to go to the answering machine and check the messages. I am like Pavlov’s dog in this respect. There are twenty-one messages, and seeing how I was gone for a week, this isn’t too bad. Only one is from Scully, though. It is the first message I hear, and the call was placed while I was standing in line at the airline with Diana beside me, arguing with the girl behind the counter.

“Mulder, it’s Scully. I just wanted to say…um…never mind. Just give me a call when you get in. Bye.”

I listen to the other messages but do not hear them. All I can think of is her voice. I sigh and play the messages over again, this time taking notes when necessary. The last call is from Diana.

“Fox, I just wanted to know that you made it home okay. I know that this past week was rough. Call me if you want to talk.”

I do want to talk, but not to her. I want to talk to Scully. Even if she doesn’t always understand me, it’s still her voice I want to hear. Maybe she can help me make sense of what happened in Florida. I wish I understood how we manage to get more done with disagreement than Diana and I ever did with perfect harmony. Well, maybe not perfect harmony, but still without the constant clashes that Scully and I seem to have. It doesn’t make any sense.

I had hoped that taking Diana with me would be more profitable than taking Scully. This is assuming, of course, that Scully would have come with me, which I seriously doubt after the fight we had before I left. I thought it might be nice to not have to fight for every idea I had. I should have remembered that fighting for ideas makes me work harder; makes me sharper. Diana made everything too easy and I became mired in the Florida sand. I let important details slip though my fingers. I was sloppy.

Another lost opportunity to find my sister, but this time I was the one who fucked things up.

I need to apologize to Scully. I shouldn’t have run out of the office like that. It’s just that I was getting to the point where I wanted to just shake her. Or maybe kiss her. I’m not sure which, and I had to get away from her before I did something that I’d regret. We needed this time apart, I think. It isn’t healthy to always be on top of each other. So to speak.

I clamp down on where my thoughts are headed. “Behave,” I tell my baser self. My baser self just chuckles to himself and thinks impure thought about my partner. I do my best to ignore him.

I lock my fingers together and stretch. Oh, my back is killing me. I can’t wait to take a hot shower, but first things first. Time to check in with Scully.

Scully picks up the phone almost immediately. “Hello?”

“Hi, it’s me. I just got back.”

“Oh. So you finally decided to call. It’s only been what…a week?” Sarcasm drips like acid from her words.

“Skinner cleared my time off. I needed to use the vacation time anyway.” I notice that thirty seconds into the conversation, my voice already sounds defensive. How does she do this to me?

“Mmm hmm. Well,” she says brightly. “As a matter of fact, I’ve got a week cleared with Skinner, too. And with you back, it goes into effect immediately. Oh, and by the way, I left something for you on your desk.”

“Scully, are you mad at me?”

“Mulder, this hasn’t been a good week. I didn’t know where you were. You, Mr. I-have-to-have-my-cell-phone-or-I’ll-die, could not bother to give me a call. You know I hate that. Of course I’m mad.”

“Look, Scully, I had no idea you’d get this upset. We just had an argument about going away on another trip so soon after the last one so I thought you’d rather opt this one out. I had to check out the lead on Samantha.”

“Did you learn anything?” Her voice goes from slightly shrill to a more business-like tone and I relax. This sounds more like the Scully I know.

“No, but I did get to talk to some women who’d been abducted—”

“Really? If I could meet with them, maybe I could—”

“No. They’re dead. They were all killed.”

“How, Mulder?” Her voice catches.

“I don’t know. The bodies just vanished, and Diana and I couldn’t find any trace of them.”

“So you weren’t gone by yourself.” The accusing, almost shrill voice is back. I feel my neck muscles tighten but forge ahead anyway.

“Diana and I used to work together, Scully. You know that. And this wasn’t an FBI matter. She was just helping me.”

There is silence on her end. “Scully? Are you still there?”

“Mulder, I’ve got to go. I’ll call you later.”

She hung up on me. What the hell is going on? Scully is not acting like herself. On the phone she sounded almost…jealous. Maybe she thinks that I want to replace her with Diana. God, all I wanted to do was give Scully some space. After our argument last week I thought that she was sick of seeing my face and hearing my voice so I gave her what I thought she wanted: a vacation from me. Now she seems pissed that I left. I feel like Alice down the rabbit hole. Black is white and up is down. Shit. Maybe I should just call her back and ask her what the hell is up.

I let the phone ring until the machine picks up. “Scully, it’s Mulder. I’ll try your cell phone.”

All I get from her cell phone is, “We’re sorry, but the cellular customer you wish to reach is not in the service area.”

Damn. Did she turn off her cell phone? What the hell? I try her phone again. Nothing. Damn. In a fit of frustration I slam down the phone. It makes a satisfying crashing noise. Unable to help myself, I begin to pace the floor of my apartment. Fish tank, door. Fish tank, door. Fish tank, wait a second. No dead fish. Quickly, I take a head count. Yep, all there. Who’s been feeding my fish? My mind lines up the suspects and fingers one: Scully. She’s the only one with a key besides me. Why the hell was she feeding my fish? I mean, it’s a nice gesture and all, but…

I begin to picture her in my apartment by herself. She unlocks the door and comes in. Checks the machine for messages. Opens the window to let in some fresh air. Feeds the fish. Sits on the couch. Then what does she do? I wrack my brain for possibilities. Does she watch TV? No. Look at a magazine? Definitely not. Leave right away? No, that doesn’t feel right. Maybe she just sits here and thinks. What does she think about? Does she think about me? Did she actually miss me? Miss me enough to use my fish as an excuse to come over to my apartment? My eyes snap open. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions. I’ve been accused of it before. My fish, however, are testament that Scully made a trip that was very much out of her way to do a small, unasked for service for me. The pangs I’m beginning to feel in my gut seem suspiciously like guilt.

I try to call her and apologize but her phones are still not being answered. Why the fuck isn’t she answering her phones? I begin to call around. Someone must know where she is. She can’t just disappear on me.

***

Sunday August 22 4:20 pm Margaret Scully’s residence

“Hello?”

“Hello, Maggie? It’s Fox Mulder. I’m looking for—”

“I don’t know where she is, Fox.” I know why he’s calling. Dana already called to warn me. In a way I don’t blame her for her anger. Dana has always been very self-contained. She dislikes anything that she can’t directly control. It eats at her soul. Every time Fox leaves her and goes off on his own, she chafes at not being able to aid him should he need it. I believe that she thinks she’s his personal guardian angel, and she hates getting her wings clipped. I think Fox has ditched her one too many times.

“You sound pretty frustrated.”

He ignores my words. “Is she safe?”

“Is there any reason why she shouldn’t be?”

That stumps him. “No…I…don’t know.” He sounds like a lost child and my heart does go out to him, but I promised Dana that I would not give her away. I won’t tell him where she is. This doesn’t mean, however, that a mother can’t help things along a little.

“I imagine that Dana must be like this when she doesn’t know where you are. I wonder if she phones your mother to interrogate her.”

He barks out a laugh. “No, I doubt it.”

I try and think of a way to point him in what I think is the right direction. This has to be done just so. As much as I’d love to just come out and say, “She’s in love with you, you fool,” that just doesn’t seem like the right approach. Some things have to be done delicately. Especially when a mother is meddling in her child’s life.

“Fox, more important than finding Dana is discovering why she isn’t talking to you.”

He is silent, as if in deep thought. “She fed my fish.”

Yes, yes, you’re on the right track. Follow through, Fox. Use that vaunted brain of yours.

“I know. She went every day. I suggested that she just get one of those weekly feeders but she refused.”

“I was puzzling over that earlier. Did she want to have an excuse to see if I’d returned?”

The old saying about leading a horse to water is so true. Maybe I should just spell it out for him. “Dana requires control in her life, Fox. She requires neatness, and order, and routine. That’s one of the reasons I think that her work with you is good for her despite its dangers. She needs to be rocked out of her orbit a little now and then. But when you take away that control from her she becomes very upset. Almost claustrophobic. So she fed your fish because it was the only part of your life she could affect in any way.”

There is silence on the other line. “The more you push her away, Fox, the more you wrap her in cotton wool and try to keep her protected, the more frantic she’ll become.” I’ve said too much, but that can’t be helped now. “If I talk to her I’ll tell her you called.”

“Thanks, Maggie. I…there’s something I need to check out.”

“Don’t worry so much. She’ll talk to you when she’s ready.”

“Thanks,” he says again, sounding distracted. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Good bye, Fox.”

I like to think that one day he’ll call me with good news. Of course I have the optimism of a mother with an unmarried daughter— we never give up hope.

***

Monday August 23 8:15 am FBI Headquarters Mulder’s office

Sick fear roils in my gut as I look at the “present” Scully left for me. On my desk is a request of transfer form signed by Skinner but not her. There’s a note paper-clipped to it.

Mulder—

I am taking a week to reassess our partnership. When I get back we’ll discuss whether or not I should continue my work with you and the X-files.

Scully

No, this can’t be happening. Some part of me knew this day might come but I never truly thought it would. I’m not sure how things have come to this. Have I pushed Scully into this corner? Is it my fault?

I’ve taken her for granted too much. I don’t deserve her loyalty, but I need it. I didn’t realize how much I needed her until the fiasco in Florida with Diana looking for Samantha. It was a nightmare, and all I wanted was Scully’s voice, injecting sanity into chaos. Why didn’t I call her? I wanted to so badly. When did my pride become so important?

“Agent Mulder. I see you’re back.”

I look up to see Skinner looking in the office. The overhead lights glint on his glasses, hiding his eyes.

“Why did you sign this?” I toss the offending document his way. Skinner bends to pick it off the floor then puts it back on my desk.

“I sense that Scully is becoming frustrated as your partner. I don’t want to see the two of you crash and burn. I’ve seen it happen before with agents as close as the two of you are. Agent Scully needed a vent for her frustrations so I signed the form. I doubt she’s really serious, but regardless, you needed a wake-up call. It’s pretty obvious that you need Scully to function. Maybe it’s time to show her your appreciation.” He pauses. “You do appreciate her, I assume.”

“Was there anything else, Sir?” I ask stiffly. I feel like I did in elementary school being scolded by a teacher for teasing the girls too much. Is this how others see me, as some sort of ogre who lives to belittle, scorn, and terrorize the innocent Ms. Dana Scully?

How did things get this bad without me noticing?

Yes,” replies Skinner. “I would appreciate it if you could convince Agent Scully to change her mind about taking her vacation now. I have a case for the two of you that I’d rather not put off. I’ve tried to contact her but have been unable to do so.”

“There’s a lot of that going around,” I mutter. “I haven’t spoken to her since yesterday. I don’t know where she is.”

“Then I think you’d better start looking. I have complete faith that you’ll find her.”

He leaves the office and I ponder his words. If I look hard enough, I’ll find her, but only if she wants to be found. Does she want me to find her? If I do find her, what will I say? All I can think about is the pain I feel when I imagine my life without her. I always thought that only death could take her away from me. I never thought she’d just leave.

I’ve got to find her. I’ve got to convince her to stay.

Somehow.

***

Monday August 23 1:14 p.m. Residence of The Lone Gunmen

I’ve been waiting here in the dark for nearly half an hour. Thirty minutes can seem like a very long time when there’s nothing to do but think. I’m not sure why I chose this place to search for her first. Maybe I came here because it seemed an unlikely place to look, and I always seem to bet on the long shot. Maybe it was Langly’s voice, which sounded like it wanted to tell me something. Maybe I’m just one lucky bastard.

I think…I think I love her. It’s like someone flipped a switch and a light bulb has lit up above my head. I love her. Right or wrong doesn’t matter. I love. Foolish or wise is irrelevant. I love her. I’m amazed I didn’t realize it before. It’s like going through your whole life with your head down and then suddenly one day looking up and realizing that the sky is there.

I don’t know how long I’ve loved her but I do know that I’ve desired her from the moment I first saw her. I need to know if she wants me back, because one way or another, this ends today. Scully was right. We do need to talk about our partnership.

***

Monday August 23 12:40 p.m. Residence of The Lone Gunmen

“Langly,” I ask, “do you think you can control Frohike long enough for me to take a shower?”

Langly starts cackling with laughter. Frohike just looks hurt.

“Just kidding, Melvin.” He loves it when I call him Melvin.

“You must be feeling better, Scully.”

Well, the red-hot edge of my anger has cooled off. Maybe I do need a vacation. Somewhere warm where the drinks all have umbrellas in them. Ha, who am I kidding? What I need is to get over Mulder.

“Maybe it was the pancakes.”

As I leave the kitchen I hear Frohike ask, “Why’d she make that crack about controlling me?”

“She’s probably worried that naked pictures of her in the shower would end up on the Internet,” replies Langly, still laughing.

The shower momentarily frees my mind from obsessing with Mulder. It’s just the hot water and me. The bathroom is surprisingly clean. I suspect Byers’ influence. Or maybe Langly. He’s handy with a spatula; maybe he’s also handy with a toilet brush. As for Frohike, I can’t imagine him cleaning anything other than a hard drive.

After showering, I get dressed and towel dry my hair. I pad towards the room I slept in last night. I think I left my shoes in there. As I make my way down the hall, I scan the floor for sharp objects. This place is like one big booby trap. Thank goodness I had a recent Tetanus shot. Once I get to the spare room, I start to search for my shoes. Where the hell did I leave them?

Suddenly, there is a noise behind me. Reflexively I let out a yelp, which is smothered by a man’s hand. By Mulder’s hand. That son of a bitch. I bite it.

“Ow! Dammit, Scully, I think you drew blood!”

He lets me go to nurse his wounded hand. I consider yelling the house down, but Frohike and Langly would probably just show up with a first aid kit. I sigh and grab his hand. He tries to snatch it back but the patient in him recognizes the doctor in me and he lets me examine it.

“You big faker. I did not draw blood.” In disgust I let his hand fall. “How did you find me?”

He gives me that lopsided smile and I command my insides not to melt. “Shot in the dark. Scully, why are you hiding from me?”

I don’t want to answer him. This was why I was hiding in the first place, obviously. I turn away from him so he can’t see my eyes. Mulder comes up behind me and stands so close that I can feel his breath stir my hair. “Care to tell me what this is?” He dangles a crumpled piece of paper in front of my eyes.

I grab it and uncrumple it. “It’s a 138-4-B,” I reply.

“It’s a goddamned request for transfer form! You didn’t even have the guts to give it to me in person.” His voice has not become louder, only more intense. “I would have thought you had more respect for me than that.”

I turn to face him. Mulder’s face is livid. He is furious and I don’t give a damn. “Respect! How dare you talk to me about respect? I have followed you to ends of the earth and what thanks have I gotten from you? You say you respect my opinions, but you still turn to Diana Fowley every time you need someone to believe in you blindly. Don’t you see how she’s using you?”

“Scully, that’s uncalled for. I can’t believe you don’t trust my judgment. I thought…I don’t know what I thought.”

“Trust is a two way street, Mulder. You need to see that every time I disagree with you is not a betrayal. I can’t give you blind devotion. It’s not in me.”

“Scully, do you want to transfer out of the X-files?”

“No, not if I don’t have to. If I stay I need to know that you respect and trust me as much as you say you do.”

“What are you talking about?”

“No more jaunts into the great unknown without me. If you absolutely have to leave to follow a lead, you will phone me at your earliest convenience and tell me where you are. You will allow me to find you, if necessary. I’m serious this time.”

“What are you trying to do? Put a leash on me?” His voice is raw with hurt and anger.

“Not exactly, Mulder, but I can’t live though the agony of not knowing where you are anymore. How can I protect you when I don’t know where you are? I need to be with you to keep you safe.”

Conflicting emotions flit across his face—fear, annoyance, incredulity, and I think even amusement. “You want to keep me safe. You are unbelievable, Scully.”

“Mulder, will you swear to me that you won’t make me needlessly worried again?”

“I can’t swear the impossible, Scully, but I can try. You know, I didn’t take you with me because I didn’t think you would have wanted to come. After our argument in the office I thought you didn’t want to even look at me, let alone spend a week in Florida with me doing work you wouldn’t even be paid for.”

“Mulder, are you going to punish me this way every time my opinion doesn’t match yours?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re punishing me, perhaps subconsciously, for having the gall to not to agree with you. I’m beginning to see a pattern: we have a disagreement and you run to Diana, the one person who always agrees with everything you have to say. It’s hard to respect a man who only hears what he wants to.”

“How dare you? I did not take Diana with me to punish you.”

“Then why? Why did you leave me behind, Mulder? Is it that I’m not good enough? Am I sub-standard in some way?”

“No. Just let it drop.”

“I will not let it drop. Tell me why, Mulder. Tell me why or so help me God I will walk out this door and out of your life forever.”

“What has gotten into you?

“Dammit, Mulder, just tell me the truth!”

Mulder’s eyes are wide and full of some emotion that I can’t readily identify. “I didn’t take you with me because you scare the hell out of me.”

The wind goes out of my sails. “Mulder? I scare you?”

“It’s hard to explain. I didn’t understand it myself until a few hours ago.” He looks at me sheepishly. “I’m not sure if you want to hear this, but sometimes I have feelings for you that are hard to control. I just needed some time apart from you to step back and regain my perspective. I think the same is true for you, too. We’ve been fighting a lot, lately. Have you stopped to consider why?”

This discussion is getting out of control. I don’t know if I want to hear what kind of feelings he’s talking about. Part of me does, is in fact clambering to know, but the rest of me is as scared as Mulder just claimed to be. I struggle for equilibrium.

“Well, I’ve been tense, lately, Mulder. True, I was upset over having to deal with the fiasco our last case turned out to be. But Mulder, hunting down a ghost in Ohio is one thing. Trying to find your sister is another. I should have been with you.”

Mulder slumps and sits on the futon. “You’re right about that. You should have been there. Maybe you could have learned something from those women before they were killed. Maybe you could have determined how they died before their bodies disappeared. I’m so tired of dead ends, Scully.”

I sit down beside him. “We’ll find her one day, Mulder. We will.”

Mulder just sits beside me in morose silence. I never meant for my revolt to go this way. I’m not sure how I expected things to turn out. Of course a big part of me wanted him to find me. I didn’t do a very good job of hiding myself. What did I want? For him to sweep in, haul me up into his arms, and kiss me senseless? To fall to his knees and pledge his eternal devotion? I’m throwing temper tantrums and believing in fairy tales. How have things come to this? I am a grown woman. Life does not work that way.

Mulder turns his head to look at me and asks, “Are you still mad at me?”

“A little.”

“I’m sorry.”

“What?”

“I said, ‘I’m sorry.’ Take a note. I know I don’t say it often. I’m sorry I left and didn’t call. I thought I was doing you a favor.”

“A favor? How?”

“By letting you have time away from me. I thought that constantly being together was beginning to wear on our nerves, sparking that fight we had. I thought a week apart would help. I was wrong. Apparently it made you even angrier.”

“Mulder, I was worried sick about you.”

“Scully, that is the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

“I know you’re trying to butter me up so I won’t stay mad.”

“Are you still mad?”

“A little.”

“Anything I can say that would help?”

“I don’t know.”

“What if I look at you like this?” Mulder gives me the whole puppy dog bit, with big eyes and a pouty mouth. I can’t help myself. I start to laugh.

“Mulder, you look like a dyspeptic Labrador retriever.” I take my hand and wipe it over his face. “Stop looking at me like that. I can’t stay mad when you look so ridiculous.”

He takes my hand and presses a small kiss in the palm. “That’s the idea.”

My hand feels as if it’s been burned by his touch. I can still feel his lips on my palm. “What did you do that for?”

“I’m trying to make you feel better.”

“Well, kissing my hand isn’t going to make me feel better.”

“Why not?” He leans towards me, invading my space. This always puts me slightly on edge and also has the unfortunate effect of derailing my train of thought. “How about if I kiss the top of your head? I’ve done that before without any complaints from you.” Gently he pulls my head towards him and brushes his mouth against my wet hair. Why is he doing this to me?

“Mulder…” My tone has a slight warning note to it.

“Why are you so worried about what happens to me?” he asks me and very lightly touches my temple with his lips.

What kind of foolish question is that? Why is he kissing me? “I… you’re my friend, Mulder. Of course I care about what happens to you.” I have to put space between Mulder and myself. It’s dangerous for me to be feeling what I’m feeling right now. I wish I knew what Mulder’s game was. I stand up and walk around the room, which isn’t easy for me because of all the shit the guys keep in here.

“What did you think about while you were in my apartment?”

I whirl around. “What?”

“When you went to my apartment to feed my fish, what did you think about?”

“That someone had to do it, so it might as well be me. I was doing your paperwork, I might as well feed your fish, too.”

Mulder ignores my flare of anger. “So you just went to my apartment, fed the fish, and went home.”

“Well, yes, actually. Except once or twice when I got Chinese food from that place down the street from you. I love their food and it would’ve gotten cold if I’d have waited to eat it until I got home. Do you have a point, Mulder? Are you afraid I raided your panty drawer or read your diary?” He can’t know the fantasies I had while in his rooms. I wore his clothes. I breathed in his smell. I pretended that he was mine. In short, I acted like an infatuated schoolgirl. There is no way he can know this.

“No, I was just wondering if you thought about me. Because I thought about you, believe it or not. I almost called you about a hundred times.”

My heart lurches at his admission. “I wish you would have. I would’ve been spared a lot of worrying about your ungrateful ass.”

Mulder gets up and stands in front of me, blocking my path. I am trapped, surrounded by wall, castoff equipment, and him. “But I am grateful,” he says.

Slightly off guard but undaunted I look him in the eye and snort. “Nice way you have of showing your gratitude, Mulder. First you leave me all alone, then you come in here and scare me half to death. Now I’m getting the third degree.”

“Would this be better?” he asks, and he kisses me on the tip of my nose. We’re drifting out into dangerous waters, Mulder.

“Probably not.” But my voice sounds doubtful even to my ears.

“What do you want from me, Scully?”

A loaded question if ever there was one. I can’t tell him what I really want from him, and I can’t lie. He always knows when I lie. “I don’t know…honesty, trust, respect.”

“I’m already doing my best in those departments, and I promise to try even harder in the future. Anything else?”

“I’d like to be able to drive more often.”

He grins. “Is that it?”

“I’ll have to think about it.”

“Would you like this?” His hands cradle my head and he looks into my eyes. Slowly, he lowers his lips to touch mine. His lips are so soft and I could easily kiss him for an eternity, but he pulls back from me and anxiously scans my face.

He kissed me. He kissed me. Oh my God, he kissed me.

These words run on an endless loop in my mind as I look into Mulder’s hazel eyes. I’ve never seen that look directed at me before. It’s the intense passion that I’ve always seen when he’s following his quest. It’s never been for me. Never.

Is this really happening? I feel the need to pinch myself. But if this is a dream, then I hope this one doesn’t end with me shooting him. I don’t think I could take that right now. No, this isn’t a dream, because I can feel the voice of reason coming out of my mouth. “Mulder, we shouldn’t do this.”

“Do what?”

Isn’t it obvious? “This.” I use my hand to indicate the both of us. “You kissing me.”

“You kissed me back.”

“Whatever.” He is leaning in toward me. I try to move back but can’t. He has me trapped here.

“Why can’t we do this?”

“It’s unprofessional. It’s dangerous. It’s…”

“Forbidden?” He purrs the word sensually in my ear.

I nod. That seems to sum it up pretty well for me.

“Forbidden fruit is always sweetest.”

“Mulder,” I sigh. Oh, you rebel. You are every boy my mother ever warned me about. You break all the rules you can. Why should this one be any different? Why do we always want what we cannot have?

“Yes?” he whispers in response. His lips are touching my ear they are so close. I feel his tongue dart out to touch my earlobe and I shudder involuntarily. I have never been so tempted in my life. Eve’s apple had nothing on Mulder’s lips. I want to taste them more than I have ever wanted anything in my life.

Will the consequences, should I pluck this apple, be as disastrous for me as they were for Eve? The FBI isn’t exactly Eden, but expulsion from its ranks would feel every bit as catastrophic.

“I’m afraid.” I hate admitting I’m afraid of anything but I seem to be running out of options here.

“Of me?” I hear and feel him say against the column of my neck. “Of this?” he asks as he licks the pulse in my throat.

“Yes, no…I can’t think when you do that.”

“Good. It’s time we both stopped thinking. We think too much. I want to just feel.” His hands are cupping my breasts and I am pressed up against the wall. All I can see, smell, and feel is Mulder. I helplessly let my head roll to the side and Mulder takes advantage of this opening to bite at the rigid cords of my neck. It’s an adolescent’s dream come true. To bad I’ll never see sixteen again.

“All this time, I never dreamed, I never realized…”

“Wha…” I’m finding it difficult to talk as he grazes my jaw and cheekbones with kisses.

“That you want me.”

“I…”

“Tell me you want me.” At my hesitation he kisses each of my eyes. “I see it in your eyes. Don’t lie to me. Never lie to me.”

I sigh, and look into his burning eyes. I do want him, but I can’t say it.

“Make me feel alive, Scully. I need to feel you.” I need him to stop talking before I go insane so I shut him up by putting my lips on his. I can taste his unspoken words and they are sweet.

I feel Mulder start to take off my borrowed shirt, his hands grazing my ribs. My world is spinning away from me and I am left adrift on an unfamiliar ocean of emotion. I search for something stable and sane but find only desire and confusion roiling within me. If I do this, I’m afraid I’ll lose myself in him, and that I will never be same again. Am I ready for this? Always beware of what you wish for.

“Mulder, I’m not sure I can do this. Not now. I need to think.”

His hands caress my hardened nipples through my bra. “Don’t think, just feel.”

“Mulder, no. Stop, just stop. Now.”

He pulls away from me like I have burned him. His hands are trembling. I take one in both of my own and squeeze it hard. “Mulder, look at me.” He does, and I flinch at the anguish I see in his eyes. “I’m not trying to hurt you. I think we just need to take a step back and consider the ramifications of this. I don’t know what to do and I need to sort out how I feel about this.”

He closes his eyes and I see two tears squeeze out and trace patterns down his cheeks. Dammit, Mulder, don’t cry. “Do you want me to leave you alone?” he asks.

I sigh. “Mulder, I just need time. Can you give me that?”

He nods stiffly. “What choice do I have?” he asks bleakly.

***

Thursday September 2 3:30 p.m. Outside O’Hare International Airport

“Scully, why don’t you drive?”

She looks at me and smiles the first genuine smile I’ve seen from her in days. “Sure, Mulder. Are you tired?”

“Yeah. I didn’t get a lot of sleep on the flight.”

“Maybe you should try to sleep at the motel. We don’t have to start investigating until tomorrow.”

“Yes, Mom.”

Scully looks at me oddly for a second then mercifully returns her eyes to the road, giving me the opportunity to study her profile. Her jaw is set as she drives, like she sees the road and the other drivers on it as a personal challenge to be overcome. Driving with Scully behind the wheel is always an adventure. I close my eyes and hope for the best.

Dana Scully is the most difficult, contrary, and impossible woman I have ever known. Of course I would fall in love with her. How could I not, poster boy for lost causes that I am?

Besides, I don’t think Scully is a completely lost cause. Now that my eyes have been opened I can see the desire in her eyes when she thinks I’m not looking at her. She wants me. What she doesn’t want are complications. She’s afraid that acknowledging the feelings we have for each other and acting on them will crumble her neat little world. She feels the control she has on her life slipping through her fingers. She is frantic when she doesn’t know where I am. She is uncomfortable and edgy when we are together. I think she’s on the verge of collapse and I’m not entirely sure what to do about it.

She can’t decide where to jump—the frying pan or the fire. I know what I want her to do. The trick is getting her to do what I want without making her feel maneuvered. Having tasted her once I’m slowly going mad spending time with her and not being able to make love to her. My body constantly aches for her. I can’t take much more of her indecision, which is why I’ve decided that she’s had enough time to think. It’s my turn now, and I don’t intend to play fair.

***

Thursday September 2 6:14 p.m. Glenda’s Home Cookin’ Madden Falls, Indiana

I am plagued by indecision. My id and ego are fighting over Mulder and I don’t know who’s winning. I did fire my therapist, so at least that’s one step in the right direction. Now if I could only figure out what to do.

It comes down to need and want. We all want things. It’s part of our humanity. Wanting things and not getting them is part of life. Need, on the other hand, is an entirely different kettle of fish. Not getting what we need can kill us. We need air, and water, and food. To a lesser extent we also need human interaction. We need love. Or at least we think we do.

Do I need Mulder? That’s the heart of the matter, right there.

Need is a funny thing. Junkies, for instance, need their fix. Without the heroin that his body craves, the addict is the victim of terrible physiological symptoms that can kill him. He needs the heroin to live, even though it will very possibly kill him in the end.

I wonder, sometimes, if Mulder is like heroin.

But I’m being too cynical, I know. I wish I could take leaps of faith like Missy could. Like Mulder can. What would it be like to believe things blindly, to just trust to fate? To love, and be loved in return?

It might feel like flying. The ultimate high.

I said I trusted him. It wasn’t a lie. It’s me I don’t trust. Mulder chases after rainbows while I sit back and analyze the spectrum of light. Somehow, some way, I’m going to break his heart. I don’t think I could live with myself then.

“Penny for your thoughts.”

Mulder puts his finger on the top of my menu, pulling it down towards the table. I look at him and smile, not able to help it. He has that power over me, making me smile despite myself. “A fool and his money are soon parted,” I quip.

“Touche, Scully.”

“Actually, I was considering the concepts of want and need.”

“Oh, really? I kind of figured you weren’t looking so serious because you couldn’t make up your mind between the chicken fried steak and the chicken fried chicken.”

“On the contrary, Mulder, I was thinking that I want the fried chicken but my arteries don’t need the cholesterol, so I will have the chef salad. Minus the cheese.”

“You should learn to live a little, Scully. Have the chicken. What will it hurt? We only get one life.”

“Do we? I thought you believed in reincarnation.”

“Well, if we are reincarnated then we’ll start out with a fresh set of blood vessels to clog.”

I consider this. This place looks like a restaurant known for its fried food, not its fresh produce. Maybe Mulder is right.

When the waitress comes I do order the fried chicken. Mulder smiles hugely at me, like I’ve just bought him a new toy. When our food comes I don’t regret my decision. The chicken is the most delicious thing I’ve tasted in months, it seems. It’s greasy and horrible and wonderful. I eat every piece, plus the cole slaw and home fries. Mulder watches me eat, fascinated, but I just ignore him. I’ve had an epiphany, and I want to savor it.

Sometimes, I realize, what you want is what you need. It doesn’t have to be either or. Sometimes it’s both.

True, it’s human to want things you can’t have. To yearn for the unobtainable is a universal. But sometimes you do get what you want. Sometimes dreams actually come true. I now realize that occasionally getting what we want is something we need to live. It’s as elemental as breathing. If wishes didn’t sometimes come true then what would be the point of wishing?

Besides, Mulder was right the first time. We do only get one life, like it or not. I think it’s time I learned how to fly.

***

Thursday September 2 7:45 p.m. Somewhere along Route 2 in Indiana

“We need to talk.”

Both of us say this at the same time. Jinx. We’re in the ubiquitous rental Taurus, driving back to the hotel. I’m behind the wheel and Scully is seated beside me. This is good for purposes of digestion, as Scully’s driving often makes me queasy.

“You first.” Double jinx. We’ve got to stop this.

Scully laughs. “I insist, Mulder. You go first.”

Okay, here goes nothing. “Have you made a decision yet?”

“A decision?”

“You know. About us.”

I glance at her quickly and see her lick her lips nervously. “I need to know, Mulder, aren’t you afraid that I’ll break your heart?”

I consider the question carefully. I sense pit traps in the area. “Yes and no. You have the power to crush me, Scully. You have since the moment I realized I loved you. But no man in love has ever thought his heart would be broken. I’m in love with you, Scully, and I can’t believe you’ll ever intentionally hurt me.”

I see from the corner of my eye that she’s nodding. “I thought you might say that.”

“Scully, we don’t know what will happen in the future. We may die tomorrow or live till we’re old and gray. Life isn’t certain or safe or tidy. It’s messy and uncertain and sometimes you just have to take your chances.”

“I’ve already made my decision, Mulder. I made it back at the restaurant. I just had to know how you felt.”

I feel a weight on my chest. I can barely breathe. Will it be the lady or the tiger? “And…?” I hear myself prod, needing to know.

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Yes.”

I swerve to the side of the road. There is no traffic in either direction but I don’t trust myself to drive. My hands are shaking. She said “yes”. Thank God.

Scully takes my hands in hers. “Mulder? Are you all right?”

“I think so,” I reply. I take my hands from hers to cup her face. I lower my lips to hers and am catapulted again into the maelstrom of sensations that I experienced when I kissed Scully the first time. I feel an instinctive need to possess her in every way possible. I want to see every inch of her skin naked before me, and I don’t want to do this in the damn car.

I reach behind me into the back seat and grab my suit coat. Armani, but worth the sacrifice. “Come on, Scully,” I say as I open the car door and drag her after me into the midwestern twilight.

We’re in the middle of nowhere, literally. Beside the road is a meadow ringed by a dense growth of forest. On the other side of the road is cornfield that stretches into infinity. We are alone, except for the cicadas. They chirrup loudly and are the only sound I can hear besides our own breathing. The sky is turning from blue to purple and soon it’ll be too dark to see but right now the light is perfect. The colors around me seem luminous. This moment is pure magic.

“Mulder, what are you doing?” asks Scully breathlessly. She sounds both fearful and excited.

“Don’t you want to feel alive, Scully?” I take her hand and boost her over the low wire fence. We are certainly trespassing but I don’t care. I follow her over the fence, cutting my pants on the wire. I don’t give a damn.

I find an area somewhat sheltered from the road by bushes and trees. I spread my coat on the ground and beckon to Scully. I don’t think she’s realized until now what I intend. Her eyes open wide and she glances back nervously toward the road.

I stand behind her and kiss her neck. “Have you ever made love outdoors, Scully?”

“No,” she whispers. Her eyes are still on the road. “Have you?”

“No, but I’ve always wanted to.” I continue to kiss her neck and run my hands over her shoulders and down her arms. She shivers under my touch.

“Me, too,” she says, and turns to face me. She gives me a little push and I sit down. “I’ve wanted to do this, too.” I look up at her as she begins to undress for me slowly. The sun is setting behind her, turning her hair into a flaming nimbus and casting her face into shadow. Her flesh is revealed to me inch by careful inch. I have never seen anything more beautiful in my entire life. I will remember this vision forever.

Scully sheds her clothes and with it, her inhibitions. She stands before me completely naked and unashamed. She tips her head back, spreads her arms wide and arches her back. “I feel like I’m flying,” she says, and laughs. She is my goddess and I worship at her feet.

Scully looks down at me and is a mere mortal once more. I tug at her hand and she joins me on my coat. She pounces on the buttons of my shirt and I let her undress me. This is her moment, I decide. As much as I want this, this is all for her.

I allow her to push me back into a lying position. She examines me thoroughly from head to toe. It’s both unnerving and arousing. “You are beautiful, Mulder,” she says.

“Scully…” I say. Beautiful?

“Yes, Mulder. Beautiful. Perfect.” She touches the scar at my shoulder lightly. “I’m sorry for this,” she says.

“I think of you every time I see it in the mirror,” I say with a smile.

Reverently she leans down and kisses it. I feel a jolt of pleasure in my heart. She kisses my throat and chest and I have to ball my hands into fists to keep them off of her. I don’t want to rush this.

Scully sees my fisted hands and soothes them out. She takes my hand and places it on her hip. “Touch me, Mulder. I’ve waited forever for this.”

I run my hands up and down the sides of her body. Then I reach forward to encircle her waist. I can hardly believe how small she is. My hands trace upward over her ribs to her breasts. I cup them in my hands and she lets out a pent up sigh. I run my thumbs over her hardened nipples and she shudders.

I draw her down so we are lying side by side. I entwine my fingers in her hair and she places hers on my back, caressing the muscles of my shoulders. We kiss each other until we are breathless and have to pull apart, panting for air. I feel lightheaded, as if I could float away. My lips taste her flesh and learn her body by touch and taste. Every inch of her is better than I had expected. Nothing I’ve ever imagined is this perfect.

“I want you, Mulder. I need you.”

“Then take me. I belong to you.” I lie on my back and she straddles me. Inch by excruciating inch she lowers herself onto me. She is so tight that I can barely think. It is exquisite.

She begins to move her body above mine and the pleasure I felt before is increased tenfold. I hope I survive this. It has been too long for me, way too long, and I know that this isn’t going to last forever. Reaching to where our bodies meet, I stroke her until she clenches her teeth and begins to keen. She bucks wildly on top of me and I let myself go. Silver lightning flashes through my head. “Scully!” I cry, and the sound echoes in the stillness around us. For a moment, everything is black, then sensation returns. My toes and fingers tingle pleasantly. I am completely spent, and don’t think I could lift a finger if the world came crashing down right now.

Scully slips off of me and moves to my side. She shivers, though I don’t know if it is from pleasure or from cold or both. I hold her tightly to me. “I love you,” I say.

“I love you, too. God help us both.”

“Dana Scully, eternal optimist.”

“Love me, love my attitude,” she says. She is only half joking. Underneath her smile is a twinge of worry.

“I do,” I say, kissing her shoulder. “I do. Now let’s get dressed. I’m freezing.”

***

EPILOGUE

I think Mulder and Scully have reached an understanding. They still fight. They still treat each other in a professional, if friendly, manner. Still, there is a certain something about the two of them that makes me think that neither one is sleeping alone.

Maybe it’s because together, they almost seem to glow. Maybe it’s because for the first time since I’ve known him, Mulder seems happy.

They are very careful; I’ll give them that. They still maintain separate addresses. Still, it’s not like they could keep their secret from me. I know everything about them. I have to.

Someone has to try and keep them safe.

I push the button to my intercom. “Kimberly, you can send in Agents Mulder and Scully now.”

The two of them walk in and sit in the chairs opposite from me.

“You wanted to see us, sir?” Scully asks.

I keep my face composed as I detail the assignment that I’m giving them, but inside I feel like smiling. I feel happy for them. Actually happy.

As they leave the office, I call out to them. “Good luck. Be safe.”

Scully looks back at me quizzically. I think perhaps that she might understand the double meaning of my words.

“Thank you, sir,” she replies as she follows Mulder out the door.

The End

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