Blizzard & Transfers by L C Brown

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Blizzard & Transfers by L C Brown

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Blizzard by L C Brown

My version of the standard disclaimer is to bow profoundly in Chris Carter’s direction. He thought these characters up, Ten Thirteen owns them, and FOX does something with them (but I’m not sure of the legalities). I’m borrowing Mr. Carter’s characters and am trying to keep them as true to his vision as I can. Of course, he doesn’t want them to be romantically involved, but I’m just going to ignore that little temporary aberrance for the time being. He’ll come to his senses eventually. 🙂

Please don’t distribute this without my permission (I’ll probably give it if you ask and say pretty please with sugar and whipped cream and a cherry on top). And, as every other author does, I’m looking for comments —good and bad — about the story and whether you want to know what happens before and next (say next because that’s what I’ve got).

On with the snow…I mean show.


by L.C. Brown ()

The snow was falling faster now, thicker every minute. Glancing up briefly, hoping for a glimpse of sky, all Scully got was another faceful of surprisingly weighty snowflakes that clung to her eyelashes and stung her cheeks. She pulled the fur-lined hood of her parka a little closer around her face. In Aspen, this weather would be great. But this wasn’t Aspen.

Her boots weren’t high enough and with every step she could feel the snow packing around the top where her jeans were tucked down into the fur lining. These boots were supposed to be weatherproof, but she had a feeling they hadn’t been made for this type of extreme condition.

“You want to play the Your Fault game, Mulder?” she asked, deceptively calm, plowing doggedly on through the knee-deep snow.

“If it’ll make you feel better, sure,” came the immediate response from the tall man beside her. “I’ll even let you go first.”

“Oh, good.” She knew there was an edge to her voice and didn’t care. “It’s your fault, Mulder, because you’re the one who accepted this stupid Bigfoot assignment in the back of freezing nowhere. Assistant Director Skinner said we didn’t have to go if we didn’t want to.”

Mulder shook his head. “It’s your fault for missing the first plane. We’d have been holed up at the ranger station three hours ago if it wasn’t for that.”

Scully hoped he couldn’t hear her teeth grating together over the racket they were making as they crunched and crashed through the deepening snow and drifts. “It’s your fault,” she said finally, “for picking the rental car that broke down.”

She couldn’t see his face inside the hood of the navy blue parka he was wearing, but his voice sounded tart when he answered her after a moment’s pause. “Well, it’s your fault for suggesting that I keep trying to restart the damn rental car when it quit.”

“I told you I could hear something wrong in the engine and if you had listened to me in the first place….”

“Hey, stick to the game,” he protested, putting out a hand to keep her upright as she stumbled into a deeper drift.

“Sorry,” Scully apologized somewhat breathlessly. The footing was getting increasingly unstable here, and she was so tired now that it was hard to keep moving without staggering. “Okay, then, it’s your fault for opening the hood when I told you not to. I told you there was smoke coming from the engine and you didn’t believe me.”

Mulder took a deep breath of the frigid air and puffed it out again in a chilly cloud. “It’s your fault for not letting me put the engine fire out. If I had, at least we’d have had the car to shelter in, even if the motor didn’t run.”

“It’s your fault for wanting to walk the rest of the way to the ranger station. We could have stayed with the burned out car.”

“You didn’t have to agree to come,” Mulder pointed out, then stopped as Scully’s next step took her hip-deep into a hidden hole. Watching her flailing arms as she struggled to free herself, he schooled his face to lose even the hint of a grin before he stepped around in front of her to help.

She looked up into his face suspiciously before finally reaching up a mittened hand. He obligingly hoisted her out, holding onto her for a minute so she could get her feet under her again while he looked around, trying to get his bearings on where they were. With his arm around her, steadying her, he could feel her trembling with fatigue. He was tired, too, but it was clear that Scully couldn’t go on much further.

There were no landmarks. The woods were quiet except for the insidious whisper of the snow as it continued to fall. An occasional breeze swirled the snow into eddies and lifted the heavy evergreen branches in a gentle wave.

Scully sighed finally. “You know something? I think it’s my fault for not ditching the FBI recruiter and becoming a wealthy and respected plastic surgeon to the stars.”

Letting her go, Mulder rubbed an impatient hand across his eyes to clear the snow from his brows and lashes, turning slowly around in a full circle to survey the area. “It’s actually my fault for joining the Bureau to profile serial killers instead of becoming a serial killer. I’d probably have gotten more respect.”

“No doubt,” Scully said dryly. “But you’re right. It is your fault.”

He shot a quick look at her, then grinned and shrugged. “Whatever. Anyway, I don’t think we’re on the main road anymore.”

Scully nodded. “I think we’ve been off it for ten minutes or so. The snow feels different here, not as well packed or something. Maybe this is a logging road we’re on now.”

“And you didn’t want to say anything?”

“No point. You wouldn’t have believed me anyway. Ten minutes ago you were still too mad about the car to listen to anything I had to say.”

His silence was tacit acceptance of her reasoning.

“Mulder, how far was it to the ranger station from where we broke down?”

“A little less than three miles, according to the map.”

“Well, I think we’ve covered nearly a mile, and we’ve taken our sweet time about doing it. This snow is getting worse.”

“I know,” he nodded. “And we’re off the main road now. Ergo, we’re not going to make it to the ranger station.”

They both turned around and looked at the tracks where they’d blundered through the snow and then both looked up at where the sky should have been. The ceiling was low and heavy with snow, and the sun was going down fast. Under the trees it was already twilight.

“Should we try making it back to the car?” Scully wondered out loud when the silence had gone on too long.

“It’ll be too dark to see before we get halfway back,” Mulder told her truthfully. It wouldn’t help to point out that Scully would never make it that far with the snow getting deeper all the time. She already knew it. “I think it would be safer to stay here for the night and work our way back to the car in the morning.”

Scully didn’t bother suggesting that he go back without her and direct help to her from there when it came. She didn’t believe in wasting her breath.

While Mulder cut evergreen branches with his utility knife, she walked a wide circle around the area he’d chosen for their shelter, noting its physical features automatically while she tried once more to find a way to get her cellular phone signal out of the dead air pocket of these mountains.

“Still no luck with the phone,” she reported at last, coming back to the large, low-branched evergreen beside which Mulder was piling cut boughs. “And the wind’s changing, I think.”

Her partner didn’t say anything, just shifted the pile of boughs to a different location beside the tree, where they’d be sheltered from the wind if it picked up during the night.

Scully ducked under the low branches, snow powdering down on the hood and shoulders of her white parka as she brushed against the laden branches, and reached out a hand for an evergreen bough. Mulder was too tall to stand up inside the branches of the tree so, with him passing branches in to her, she did her best to construct their shelter, keeping it as small as possible for heat conservation, weaving cut branches vertically with live branches to form a windbreak and what might loosely pass for a roof.

“It’ll keep the snow out for the most part,” she said as she crawled out some time later, shaking clinging needles off her mittens, “but my Girl Scout leader would not be impressed.”

“Neither would mine,” agreed Mulder, on his hands and knees as he scooped and shoved and packed down snow over the base of their construct to strengthen and insulate it. “Good thing they’ll never know.”

“You afraid of losing your survival skills badge?”

“No. My Homemaking pin.”

Scully smiled faintly and bent to look inside the opening of the shelter. “We’re going to need more branch ends for flooring in there, something between us and the snow to minimize heat conduction.”

Straightening, she watched Mulder take out his knife again and look ruefully at the blade in the near darkness. “It’s never going to be the same again. These branches are as tough as old roots.”

“I’ll get you a new one,” she promised.

“You gave me this one last Christmas,” Mulder reminded her, crunching off into the trees to begin hacking at branches.

“So this time I’ll think ahead and give you a machete. Or would you prefer a sword – the samurai kind, maybe, like that Highlander guy on television?”

“No, thanks. Too big to carry easily.”

Scully smiled. “Well, you could keep it wherever he keeps it,” she suggested.

“I don’t think so,” he grimaced over his shoulder at her. “I figure that carrying a concealed sword around is the reason he can’t have kids.”

By the time Mulder was back with an armful of branch tips, she’d put their backpacks safely inside the shelter, up against the trunk of the tree to make a headrest. She’d also packed down the snow floor as much as possible, and was satisfied when the addition of the branch ends softened the hardness of the floor and hoped the new resin-scented additions would keep their body heat from being leeched away into the ground.

The problem was that the shelter was almost invisible from the outside. The only indications of their presence was the trampled snow and the scars on the trees where low branches had been stripped away. Search and Rescue wouldn’t be able to make it up here until tomorrow, though, she reasoned. Time enough to worry about making themselves more visible tomorrow. Right now her legs were shaking so badly that she could hardly stand up.

It was dark enough now that she barely saw Mulder’s old-world gesture at the shelter. “Ladies first.”

“It’s going to be tight quarters in there, Mulder,” she warned, easing herself inside.

“I’m counting on it.”

“What?” came her muffled question.

Mulder shouldered his way carefully through the doorway and stretched out full length beside her on the bed of evergreen branches, careful not to disturb the construction of the sides or roof. “I said I’m counting on it being tight quarters to keep warm. I don’t think we’ll freeze to death tonight, but the temperature may drop tomorrow if the storm doesn’t blow itself out tonight. Do you have room to sit up?”

“I think so,” Scully said, suiting action to the words.

“Can you prop those branches outside over the doorway? We need to keep out as much weather as possible.”

Scully maneuvered her way past him as he made himself as small as he could. The entrance effectively protected, she made her way back and eased herself down beside him again. The darkness inside the shelter was almost tangible now.

“So, Mulder, did you bring any food?”

“Sunflower seeds?” he offered.

“Not food,” she said decisively. “I brought trail mix, raisins, a couple of apples and a candy bar….”

“Chocolate, Scully?” He raised his eyebrows. “Is that for medicinal purposes?”

She ignored him. “And I brought a bottle of Evian.”

“Anything else?”

“A peanut butter sandwich.”

“What, no caviar?”

“All right, Mulder, what did you bring?”

“A banana, a box of raisins, and a bottle of water. How come all the food, Scully? You packed like you knew this was going to happen.”

He couldn’t see her at all in the dark, but he could feel the briefest hesitation before she answered.

“Mulder, when I go into the forest with you, I’ve learned to prepare for the worst.” Her voice sounded deliberately light. “So what now?”

“You hungry?”

Not really, just cold and tired.”

“Me, too. Then we’ll wait to savor that sandwich until tomorrow. In the meantime, unzip your parka. I want to feel the zipper mechanism.”

Scully heard the twin sound of her zipper descending and in a moment she felt Mulder’s hands at her parka opening and heard his satisfied grunt.

“Compatible?” she ventured.

“Yeah. Let’s get our arms out of the sleeves. Then get closer and hold still a minute.”

Scully obediently performed the necessary contortions in the restricted space to free herself from the parka, leaned toward him, then held still while Mulder zipped their parkas together. When he was finished, he drew her hood well up around her face, pulled her close to him, and relaxed with a sigh, his arms around her.

“Okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, I think so.”

“You should feel better soon. Right now, it’s like holding onto a popsicle,” he complained, but his voice was smiling.

“I know. I’m frozen.” A shiver ran through her as some of the snow packed in the top of one of her boots melted in an icy trickle down her ankle. “But you’re warm,” she commented in some surprise, hugging him a little tighter in an appreciative embrace. “Feels nice.”

Mulder frowned into the darkness, his hands absently moving up and down her back, trying to rub some warmth back into her. She shouldn’t be this cold.

“Scully, what are you wearing under your sweater?” he asked finally after a few minutes.

“Hmm?” She sounded half asleep. “Um…a flannel shirt, a T-shirt, and a bra. Why?”

“And no pantyhose or long underwear under your jeans?”

“No. Why?”

“Because I think you’re losing too much body heat. You brought plenty of food but you didn’t wear enough layers. You should be okay tonight with me, but tomorrow….” He hesitated.

“Yes?” she prompted sleepily after a moment when he didn’t go on.

“Tomorrow we’ll work something out,” he promised, holding her a little closer when he felt her shiver again.

They’d have to get out of here tomorrow, he thought grimly. Scully wasn’t standing up to the cold well, and without a thermal shirt next to her skin to wick away the perspiration from their trek through the snow, she had undoubtedly taken a chill. How much more snow were they going to get tonight? he wondered.

His hands tightened unconsciously against her back and she turned her head slightly, pillowing her cheek against his shoulder. “You okay, Mulder?” she murmured, automatically checking to make sure he was all right.

“Yeah, Scully, I’m fine,” he said quietly, reassuring her. “Feeling warmer?”


He smiled at the lie. “Go on to sleep.”

He spent a few minutes silently reviewing their options – and there weren’t many – until he was sure that she was asleep. Shifting his weight to a more comfortable position evoked no response from her, so his hands moved down her back to her hips and pulled her even closer into a more intimate embrace, letting her natural, unconscious motion complete the movement by pushing her leg easily between his.

Their closeness was both comfortable and uncomfortable for him, Mulder realized wryly, and his hold on her relaxed a little as she burrowed her face into his throat in her sleep, still seeking more warmth. In the past he had deliberately tried to avoid thinking of Scully in a sexual way, not wanting to wreck their friendship, their partnership, with sex. He hadn’t always succeeded in keeping his mind away from the physical, he had to concede, uneasily remembering a dream or two he’d had, but he had kept working at it.

At the moment, though, he was too tired and too cold to be stirred by anyone or anything. But he had to admit privately that she felt very good in his arms, lying so closely.

She sighed against his throat, her hold on him tightening briefly before she relaxed once more. This time the movement of his hands as they stroked her back was less warming than it was caressing, comforting. After a moment, her breath came evenly again and he let his hands rest against the small of her back.

With her body so close to his, he was reminded anew of how small his partner was. He could almost enfold her and make her disappear in his arms, he thought, but when they were working he rarely noticed her size. Her competent, professional, unemotional demeanor encouraged one to forget her size and sex. He wondered sometimes about what price a woman like Scully had to pay in order to be taken seriously as a federal agent, the equal of any male agent. He wondered sometimes if the price was too high.

He had firsthand experience of the strength in her that he had relied on, trusted in, and sometimes taken for granted during their partnership. Scully worked hard to be a partner to him, in every way an equal. He knew that she didn’t want him to have to feel that she needed to be protected. He agreed that she could definitely take care of herself, didn’t need his help; he didn’t have to worry about her more than any other agent. And although he had been there for her a few times, he always felt that his support had been somehow lacking. But he had the feeling that because she was a woman working in what was essentially a man’s world, she would never let herself appear more vulnerable than she could help. She wanted some kind of control of whatever situation she was in and always wanted complete control of herself and her emotions. He knew she hated being vulnerable in front of him or any other man.

And yet she’d supported him so many times that he’d lost count. She just didn’t want his support in return. He felt like Scully was always giving and he was always taking.

Didn’t want his support, he wondered sleepily, or was afraid of it? Was she afraid of what would happen if she dropped her guard? Afraid of what would happen professionally – or personally?

He smiled to himself in the dark and rested his cheek against the top of her head, inhaling the scent of her. Scully would have some pretty sharp remarks to make if she knew the direction of his thoughts. Still, he wanted to be able to give more to her, and not just physical support -that was always easy for a man to give – but a more difficult kind of support. Something she would be willing to accept. Maybe more verbal…?

Mulder shrugged mentally and closed his eyes. He didn’t have the answers to the question of his relationship with Scully. He wasn’t even sure there was a question. He was more concerned with what to do about their situation in the morning, and whether she would be able to make it out of here with him. He was tired and tomorrow’s problems were all too close. Sleep would help. He hoped.

– + –

Scully woke once in the night, like rising out of deep water, not sure where she was, her mind cobwebbed and confused. It was too dark to see anything, but she knew that the scent in her nostrils, the even breathing near her ear, and the arms around her were Mulder’s. She didn’t know why these things were, had only a dim feeling of being cold now, but she knew Mulder was there holding her.

She was content to let the waters close over her head again.

– + –

When she woke again it was with a start out of a half-remembered dream.

“Scully?” Mulder’s voice in her ear was husky with sleep. “Scully, what is it?”

“Nothing. Just a dream,” she murmured after a moment, the memory of their problem seeping back into her mind slowly. Just for a second she didn’t want to move from where she was. She knew the necessity of their sleeping so intimately close, but she felt a secret, guilty pleasure at the weight and warmth of his body against hers, even with so many layers between them. She didn’t want to lift her head from where it was tucked under his chin, her face buried warmly against his neck….

These were dangerous thoughts, she told herself sternly, opening her eyes and turning her face away from him resolutely. Nothing would be gained by dwelling on them. She had already decided that, hadn’t she?

When she glanced up at him, Mulder was looking at her thoughtfully, his face only inches away. Scully kept her expression neutral, as if being this close was no big thing, just part of a need to survive.

“It’s light outside,” she commented, noting the daylight seeping into the dimness of the shelter.

He apparently accepted her comment at face value. He merely said, “Hold on a second.”

They withdrew from each other slightly and Mulder unzipped their parkas, then they both hastily thrust their arms into their respective sleeves, zipping up again.

Scully sat up stiffly and crawled over Mulder’s legs to get to the shelter entrance. The covering branches were heavy with snow when she pushed them aside, and she stared out, blinking at the whiteness, unable to find words.

It was beautiful, white and smooth as the icing on a wedding cake. Heavily frosted branches festooned the level surface of the deep snow, and some of the smaller trees were bent and bowed by cloaks of white. Their tracks were gone as if they’d never existed. The forest was silent and gave no hint of which way the path lay. Every direction looked alike now.

And the snow was still coming down. And what sky she could see was still heavy with it.

“Oh, God,” she breathed fervently.


She glanced over her shoulder at him, her face pale and her eyes huge, then wriggled her way out of the shelter, knowing that he would be right behind her.

Her feet felt like blocks of wood. She didn’t think that she would be able to feel them anymore, but she bit her lip with the pain when she finally stood up. She thrust the pain away from her as much as possible and used her arms to push the drifted snow away from the entrance so that they could stand. She had cleared a small space when Mulder exited the shelter feet first.

He was silent when he saw how much it had snowed during the night, and reached out to rest his gloved hands on her shoulders, drawing her back against him, as if he would keep her from plowing out mindlessly through the deadly snow.

“They’ll find the car,” he said at last. “Someone should have spotted the smoke from the fire.”

“Yes,” agreed Scully, but she knew she was echoing his conviction to try to convince herself. “The ranger station knew we were coming, too. They’ll have notified the local Search and Rescue team.”

His hands tightened on her shoulders. “Even without tracks, they’ll figure out where we are,” he reassured her. “Stay here a minute.”

It took a little while for him to wade through the snow, thigh deep on him, to clear an easier way for his smaller partner to a spot of relative privacy behind an evergreen. When he came trudging stiff-legged back down his path, pushing snow to the side with his boots, he waved to her to go on.

“Make it quick,” he said briefly. “And call me if you need help,” he added, watching as she moved down the path, her steps uncertain and obviously painful. He knew that she wouldn’t ask for help. And he knew that she wouldn’t be able to hike out of here. And he wouldn’t leave without her. They were effectively trapped.

While she was gone, he quickly stripped off his parka, then his oversize sweatshirt, his flannel shirt, and the turtleneck under that. The cold-weather long-sleeved thermal silk undershirt came off, then, leaving him with his white T-shirt. Rolling the silk undershirt up, he held it between his knees while he put the rest of his layers back on, the cold cutting through him as he lost most of his accumulated warmth.

He was zipping his parka again, shivering, when Scully came stumbling back down the path he’d cleared.

“Here.” He put the rolled shirt into her hands. “Go inside and put that on, over your T-shirt, under your flannel shirt.”

“But, Mulder —”

“Don’t argue with me, Scully. Please. I wore more layers than you did. So either you put it on, or I’ll put it on for you.”


“Please, Scully.”

His partner’s gaze was very blue in this light as she looked at him from under her hood, but after a moment she turned and dropped to her knees, pushing her way back into the shelter.

He hunched his shoulders inside his parka and looked around their campsite. It was still snowing in a sluggish sort of way, enough to prevent a rescue; anyway, the trees grew too closely for anyone to see them from the air. When rescue came, it would come from the main road.

The logging road in. Where was it?

Mulder closed his eyes for a second, visualizing the scene from yesterday, seeing his position, Scully’s position…. He turned slowly to his left, his eyes still closed. When the movement and the scene in his mind came together, he opened his eyes, and found himself looking at a gap between the trees that looked like half a dozen such gaps around their shelter.

He took his glove off, feeling the cold bite at his bare hand before he shoved it in his pocket and brought out a small can of fluorescent orange spray paint. Don’t leave home without it, he thought wryly, turning to the entrance and moving the can in an arching sweep as he marked their location for the searchers.


“Yeah?” she responded after a moment, her voice muffled, apparently by his shirt as she pulled it over her head.

“Break out some food, will you? I’ll be right back.”

“Mulder, don’t go out of sight of the shelter,” she said sharply.

“I won’t. I just want to mark as much of the trail as I can see.”

He sprayed as many of the trees as possible with an arrow pointing in their direction before the increasing snowfall and the cold drove him back to the shelter. He was careful to brush as much of the snow from himself as he could before he insinuated himself inside once more.

Scully was dressed again, her hood tied tightly around her face, hiding the brightness of her hair. She silently offered half a sandwich and an apple to her partner when he had finished settling himself beside her.

“Everything’s marked,” he commented, starting on the sandwich. “They shouldn’t have any trouble finding us.”

Scully made a noncommittal noise and bit into her apple, her eyes on his face.

She didn’t say anything, but he saw her gaze drifting thoughtfully over his face. Frostbite, he thought, the answer coming to him suddenly. She was looking for the telltale whitening of nose and cheeks.

“Not yet,” he answered her unformed question. “We slept too close last night for facial frostbite, and we weren’t out long enough just now. But our feet….” He paused.

She nodded, nibbling her apple core, trying to appear at ease. “The biggest danger is thawing then refreezing,” she told him. “And swelling. So we shouldn’t take our boots off even to check.”

There was silence for a few minutes, each of them busy with thoughts of what would happen if they weren’t found soon.

“The temperature’s falling again, isn’t it,” she said finally.

Mulder nodded, finishing his own apple core.

“More snow coming?”

He nodded again, looking at her steadily in the dim light inside the shelter.

“Any chance of making a fire?”

“I looked for wood while I was spray painting the trees. The snow’s too deep and what downed branches there are look too green and too wet.”

Her gaze met his and didn’t waver, refusing to admit to fear.

She took a deep breath. “Want to help me work a logic problem?” she asked at last. “It’ll give us something to do.”

Mulder’s eyes shifted to her pack as she delved into it and extracted a tattered puzzle book, a pencil, and a flashlight. He knew she was wanting to distract herself, to keep their minds occupied as long as she could, before the effects of the cold sapped their energy, their ability to think clearly.

“Even here I can’t escape,” he said aloud, mock hollowly.

“I’m up to level three,” Scully assured him lightly, pressing the book into his hands with a smile that warmed him more than a fire would have.

Mulder looked down at the turned-back page in the light of the flashlight she held and read aloud. “‘Ten friends, each of whom has moved to a different city —’ Scully, come on….”

“Go on, Mulder.”

He sighed and continued. “‘Five of them sent e-mail messages to the other five. The first five are three men and two women, the second five are three women and two men. Determine from the six clues given the senders, the recipients, and the city for each.’ Scully, if the cold doesn’t kill me, the boredom will.”

“The first clue,” she began, ignoring his grumble, “is ‘Rebecca, who sent a message to a man, isn’t the one who sent a message to Reno, Nevada.’”

– + –

The day passed slowly, with Mulder doggedly working his way through the puzzle book with her, letting Scully enjoy herself by prodding him onward. They had made it to level four before they stopped for the night.

Though she was disinclined to go out into the storm, he ventured out briefly to make sure that his paint wasn’t being covered by the blowing snow. This had to be the height of the storm, he decided optimistically. It couldn’t go on much longer.

They couldn’t go on much longer.

When he crawled back inside the shelter, he dug the candy bar out of her pack and gave it to her wordlessly, his expression in the reflected light of the flashlight warning her not to argue about eating it. She ate it without protest, blinking slowly to hold off sleep, looking up at the crystalline ceiling of their shelter. Their breath had frozen on the branches laced above them and the accumulated frost glittered like tiny diamonds before he switched off the flashlight.

“I don’t feel as cold as I did,” she told him matter-of-factly, knowing what it meant.

He nodded, still silent, and helped her get her arms out of her parka’s sleeves before he shrugged out of his own and zipped their parkas together for the night. This time he tucked her hands and forearms under the front of his sweatshirt, sandwiching her hands between their bodies when he pulled her to him. She was asleep almost before he finished fitting their bodies together to share as much warmth as possible.

Without being taxed for it, his photographic memory was busily bringing up various bits of pertinent information to disturb him.

‘Frostbite is the body’s way of preserving heat by shutting down circulation to an extremity. Unfortunately, as you develop frostbite you might not even know you have it because of the numbness.’

‘The mildest stage of hypothermia begins at a body temperature of about 96 degrees. Symptoms include shivering, lethargy, slow pulse and a general decrease in alertness.’

Mulder held her close throughout the night, the wind keeping him awake as it whined and occasionally howled through the trees. It sounded like the storm was alive, like it was looking for them. He was afraid that it had found Scully.

– + –

He had a hard time waking her in the morning. When he finally dragged her back to consciousness, he didn’t bother trying to make the attempt to get out of the shelter. He knew that they weren’t physically capable of it any longer.

Instead, to keep her awake and as alert as possible, he worked more logic problems with her, sharing the trail mix until it was gone, and the hours crept by. They were up to level six when he finally stopped, his gloved hands too numb to hold the pencil any longer, and he looked down at Scully lying beside him.

Her eyes were still open, still blinking, but her responses to his questions had been forced since noontime, and for the past hour she had been answering him in non-sequiters, when she answered him at all.

His movements too controlled, Mulder put away the puzzle book and pencil, and his mouth was tight with anger at their helplessness as he pulled his arms out of his coat sleeves with restrained violence. Scully didn’t respond , didn’t try to help him, when he eased her out of her parka and zipped their coats together for what he knew would be last time.

His hands were gentle as he drew her into an intimate embrace once more, trying to soothe the periodic tremors that shook her. He knew he wasn’t far from that state himself; he had stopped feeling the cold, too.

They weren’t going to be found in time. He knew that, now.

And all of this over a Bigfoot sighting by two park rangers, he thought bitterly. Even he only half believed in Bigfoot. Most of the physical evidence was non-persuasive and nearly all of the photographic evidence was flatly unconvincing and obviously faked.

So why had he dragged Scully into the back of freezing nowhere, as she had so poetically put it, to investigate a phenomenon that he didn’t believe and a teenage boy’s disappearance that had the classic hallmarks of a family spat or a kid’s prank? Because one of the rangers had a brother in the local Bureau field office who had requested Mulder by name, which had made Skinner snide, which in turn had pissed Mulder off.

Scully was right. It was his fault, Mulder admitted.

He lifted his head for a moment to look down at her in the murky light of the shelter. Her face was very pale, the veins blue beneath the translucent skin at her temples and eyelids. She looked like she was made of cold, white marble.

He tucked her face into his neck and tightened his arms around her, holding her closely, protectively, as if the storm outside could physically pull them apart. He accepted that the intimacy of their embrace was as much emotional now as physical. But it was coming too late; she couldn’t feel it.

There were things that he wished he had been able to say to her. He was sorry he hadn’t been able to verbalize them, but he hoped that she knew what they were. Scully had always been so good at second guessing him. He hoped she knew.

He wasn’t thinking any too clearly himself, he thought, smiling faintly, his mouth touching her hair.

As he felt himself drifting off to sleep, he wondered if this overwhelming feeling of helplessness and impotent rage was what Scully had felt on the ship in the North Sea as she watched him fall asleep, knowing that he wouldn’t wake, and there wasn’t a thing she could do to help.

– + –

There was light on his closed eyelids. Diffused light, he realized dimly, and knew that he should wake, but he was warm and sleep was too comfortable to leave just yet.

“You okay, Mulder?” Scully’s voice wanted to know, a hint of a smile in her tone.

His eyes snapped open. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he said automatically, not really believing it yet.

He was sitting upright on a comfortable couch with Scully beside him in what looked like a hospital waiting room. It was clean, impersonal, with no windows, and a source of light that he couldn’t pinpoint. The open door showed a long, empty hallway that disappeared into dimness. There was a scattering of chairs, tables and couches around the spacious room. But he and Scully were the only people there: no doctors, no nurses, no patients, no waiting family – not in the room, not in the hallway. From the lack of activity, it must be the middle of the night, he thought vaguely.

Memory of the storm returned with a suddenness that surprised him and he got up quickly, flexing his fingers and taking a tentative step or two. He didn’t feel cold or numb. In fact, he felt pretty good. He wasn’t hungry, he wasn’t tired, he wasn’t…. His natural caution kicked in, then. Why did he feel this good after almost freezing to death? he wondered. There should be aftereffects even if they’d been rescued shortly after he passed out. He looked around the room, but his parka and gloves were nowhere to be seen, and when he pushed back his sleeve to check his watch for the time and date, it was gone.

“My watch is missing, too,” Scully offered. “I woke up here a little while ago. You were here on the couch with me but you were so deeply asleep that I couldn’t wake you up. No one responded when I called out, and I didn’t want to leave you to check out that hallway.”

Mulder looked down at her thoughtfully. In her heavy cotton sweater, jeans and boots, she was only missing her parka and her mittens to look just as he’d seen her…how long ago? Her pallor was also missing, he realized, replaced by a healthy, blooming color, and the unvoiced fear in her eyes had disappeared, too. She looked calm and a little amused at his bemusement.

“Okay, I’ll bite,” he said finally. “Where are we? What happened?”

“I’m not sure what happened, and I only have a vague idea of where we are.” She hesitated before going on. “I’ve been somewhere that had a similar feel to it. After my abduction, when I almost died. I think this is some kind of a waiting room, Mulder.”

He didn’t say anything for a moment, trying to remember that he was the one who believed the unbelievable. “You think we’re dead?” he asked finally.

“I don’t think so,” she answered slowly, sounding uncertain. “Not yet. On the threshold, though, hence the waiting room.”

Mulder considered this, his eyes on her face without really seeing it as he thought the situation over. “So you think we’ve gone into a hypothermic coma and it’s just a matter of time until we’re actually dead, non-recoverable.”

“As far as I can tell,” she nodded. “I can’t come up with a more plausible explanation.”

“Hmmm. So this is a near death experience, then,” he mused, looking around with more interest. “I’ve read a lot about it, but this experience — a waiting room of sorts — isn’t documented in anything I’ve read. There are mostly out-of-body sensations and experiences, a bright light to move toward, encounters with loved ones — those sorts of things.” He turned his attention back to her again, his gaze sharpening as he eyed her. “I’ve always wondered what you might have experienced when you were unconscious all that time. Just now you said you were someplace that had a similar feel. What did you see, Scully?”

“I don’t remember all that well,” she said evasively, shifting her position on the couch and taking the opportunity to look away from him. She was reluctant to tell him any more, but there wasn’t any reason to keep it from him now, was there? Wherever she had been before, she was there again. Only this time Mulder was with her.

“What things do you remember?” he asked patiently. “A light? Being outside your body in the ICU?”

“Like I said, I don’t remember much,” she responded with equal patience. “I felt very disconnected from everything. I can remember a light, but it wasn’t the classic bright light at the end of a tunnel, just a light shining down on me and making me warm. And I know my father was there with me. And then I woke up.” The images had started to fade almost immediately, she remembered. It was an effort now to conjure up anything at all. And she knew that there were other things that she had heard and seen that she couldn’t remember after she woke up.

“So you did experience a light and encountered a loved one,” he frowned thoughtfully. “Then why aren’t we having that same sort of experience? And why are we experiencing whatever this is together instead of separately?”

Scully shrugged. “I have no idea, Mulder. I’m not an authority, despite some slight familiarity with the subject.”

“It’s possible,” he said slowly, “that this has happened to other people, but they don’t remember it when they wake up.”

“Maybe they don’t wake up,” she pointed out. “Maybe they just go on from here.”

He looked at her for a moment, then began to prowl the room, explore, feeling the seamless walls carefully. “I don’t think so. I think there’s still a possibility that we can go back.”

“How? If you can think of a way to get our bodies out of that damned snow and thawed out safely, just let me know, Mulder.” She paused, waiting for a response, but he was silent. “I don’t think we’re going to be rescued in time. Our bodies are going to die. There’s no sense in going back when there’s nothing to go back to.”

“We don’t know that,” he said stubbornly. “People have survived worse conditions….”

“Yes,” she agreed. “But they make the headlines because there are so few that survive.”

Her partner came back to the couch slowly and sat down again, a crease between his brows.

“There’s nothing back there for us, Mulder,” she continued gently.

“Other people will take our places, do our work, follow your leads. Life will go on. So will we. Just someplace else.”

He pushed his fingers through his hair impatiently, not wanting to hear her talk like that, but it made sense. He didn’t know how to get out of here. They were as trapped here as they had been in the snowstorm. But he didn’t feel ready to die. He wasn’t ready to go on.

“I don’t feel dead,” he said out loud. “I still feel alive.”


“So I think I’d feel…different…if I were going to die.”

“Did somebody fax you information from the Great Beyond when I wasn’t looking?” she asked, smiling. “Mulder, you don’t know any more about an afterlife than any of the rest of living humanity. We can’t possibly know what to expect.”

“Maybe not. But there are certain things that I had expectations about,” he said stubbornly.

“Like what?”

“Just certain things.” It was his turn to be evasive, he figured. He didn’t think that now was the time to discuss comparative theologies or concepts of life after death, with or without religious connotations. But life — if it could be called that — in this waiting room was different from what he had expected an out-of-body experience to be. For one thing, he could still feel his body. He could feel his own weight shifting as he walked. He breathed. He blinked. He could feel muscles tightening when he clenched his fist. He was experiencing too much sensation to be dead, even nearly dead.

And he most certainly was not ready to give up on life. There were too many things that he still wanted out of life to passively accept what this waiting room seemed to mean. And it wasn’t his work that he wanted to go back for. He knew that without having to think twice about it. It wasn’t even Samantha that kept him from accepting this situation, and that surprised him a little. The need to find Samantha had lost its urgency here. His obsession with her, with his work, had disappeared as if it had never existed. It was pointless to worry about those things when there was something of much more concern for him to think about.

But what that something was was hovering just beyond his mental grasp. He could feel its importance, even feel anxious about it, but he couldn’t quite….

“Mulder?” She was looking at him curiously as he struggled with his thoughts.

“In a second,” he said briefly, shaking his head, trying to bring his thoughts back into line.

It was something that he had been thinking about before, back in the shelter during the blizzard. He went over their time together there carefully, sifting his memories for what had felt so important then that now it even outweighed his obsession with finding his sister.

He shut his eyes in order to remember better, shutting out the sterility of the waiting room in order to better feel the echo of the cold, smell the resinous scent of the evergreen branches that formed their shelter. And he could feel….

He opened his eyes suddenly and got up. He knew what he had felt then. He could remember now what the unfamiliarity of their present surroundings had temporarily driven from his memory.

The warmth of that memory didn’t fade, either. Even here, apparently away from his body, waiting to die, he could feel that warmth. His strongest memory was of holding Scully in his arms as closely as he could, trying to warm her with his body, the fear that she wouldn’t survive focusing all his attention on her. Despite the life-threatening situation, he knew that part of him had enjoyed her closeness to him, had enjoyed holding her. And he remembered wanting to give her back the support she had been giving him since their partnership began. And now he wanted to give her more than that.

But they were here, waiting to die. And that didn’t seem to concern her, he realized gradually. She was ready to die? That wasn’t like her at all.

“Scully, why are you so quick to accept all this?” he asked abruptly, turning to look down at her. “Why don’t you want to go back?”

She looked taken aback for a moment. “Well…because I guess there’s nothing I really need to go back to. I wish my mom didn’t have to go through all this again, but….” She trailed off, searching for words.

“Back when the doctors had given up on you, when it seemed certain that you’d die when they took you off the respirator, you kept fighting to live. You didn’t give up then. Why now?” he demanded. “What’s different about this situation?”

“I…I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Mulder. There isn’t a way back….”

“I’m not saying that there is a way back now. I just want to know why you came back then.”

“I don’t know,” she said uncertainly. “Maybe it wasn’t really my time. Maybe I wasn’t ready. I don’t know.”

“Don’t you?”

“No,” Scully told him more firmly, wondering where this was taking them. She was uneasily aware that she did know why she had come back, she had thought about it quite a bit during her recovery. She just didn’t want to dwell on it. And she definitely didn’t want to discuss it with her persistent partner. “I don’t see any point in discussing it now,” she added with finality.

“Because it may have a bearing —”

“Mulder, why can’t you just leave it alone?” she wanted to know, her voice sharp, getting up and walking away from him. “We’re here. We can’t go back.”

“Can’t or won’t?” he asked. “Or is it ‘don’t want to?’”

Scully turned back to him quickly. “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that you don’t want to go back. Even if you could, you don’t want to go.”

She recovered her cool facade with an effort. “And can I infer from that that you do want to go back?” she asked as impassively as she could.

He thought about his answer for a moment, looking at her as she worked to keep any emotion out of her expression and voice. “Yes, I want to go back,” he told her finally.

“But why, Mulder? There’s nothing there….”

“Yes, there is,” he nodded, his voice quiet. “Or at least, there was. For me.”

Scully hesitated for a moment, her gaze held by his, then went back to the couch to sit down. Mulder let her avoid eye contact, watched her put up more barriers. Her arms were crossed across her chest, her legs were crossed, her face was turned away from him.

“I think that we…” he began, knowing that he wasn’t going to get far before she interrupted him.

“Mulder, I don’t think that I want to continue this conversation,” she broke in. “We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, and I think we should drop it.”

“Drop what?”

“This conversation, this topic.”

“What topic, Scully?”

The look she gave him should have frozen him to the bone. It was one of her better efforts, he nodded mentally, except that he was immune by now to those icy stares of hers.

“Why don’t you want to talk?” he persisted. “We’ve always been able to talk about anything and everything. We’ve disagreed in the past. We’ve argued, we’ve been pissed, then we got over it. But we always talked.”

“I don’t feel like talking.”

“How come?”

“Because I don’t think that the…the topic you’re going to bring up is something that we need to discuss. Not anymore.”

“And what topic is that?”

“I know and hate that particular psych game, Mulder,” she said evenly, “so put that technique away. Why can’t you just accept what’s happening here and go on?”

“Because I don’t want to go on. And I don’t think that you do, either.”

Scully pressed her lips together against a retort and stayed stubbornly silent.

“Look,” he offered, “if we’re dead, then talking about it won’t matter. Right?”

She concentrated her gaze somewhere on the wall beyond him, refusing to look at him.

“Well, I’m going to talk,” he shrugged. “There’s no place you can go, so you have to listen.”

“Even if I don’t want to hear it?” she asked bitterly. “Don’t you care that I don’t want to hear it?”

“I want you to hear it because I care,” he told her quietly, sitting down on the couch again as she took a step or two away from him, half turning away. “Scully, I want to go back because of you. You don’t belong here. You’re not ready for this yet.”

“Who made you an authority on what I’m ready for?”

He brushed aside her question. “Why did you come back before?” he asked again, his voice very quiet in the stillness of the room. “When I sat beside your bed that night, you were dying. I could see it in your face. It hurt so much to sit there and watch you slipping away. I couldn’t hold onto you. I couldn’t bring you back.” She still had her back to him, her shoulders braced a little under her sweater against his words. “Why did you come back, Scully? Did you come back because of me?”

His question was so quiet that it was almost a whisper, but she heard it clearly anyway. It was something that she hadn’t wanted to think about, hadn’t wanted to answer even when she herself had first posed the question. Answering that question would open doors that were better left closed. For her own peace of mind, those doors had to stay closed and locked.

“I don’t know why I came back,” she said finally, hoping that she sounded more convincing than she felt. “Of course I enjoyed working with you, Mulder, but I don’t think that —”

“Bullshit,” he interrupted her abruptly. “Don’t lie to me about this, Scully. After everything we’ve been through, after all the time we’ve been together — working or whatever,” he added sarcastically, “I think I deserve the truth from you.”

She forced herself to face him again. He was sitting on the couch, leaning forward, watching her intently.

“I don’t know what the truth is,” she said finally, deliberately. “Unless someone hands me a cosmic answer key to my life’s questions, I’ll never know what ‘the truth’ is. But for what it’s worth, I don’t think that it was my time. And just as I was being made aware of that, I…I knew somehow that you were sitting with me — with my body. I couldn’t see you. I could just feel you. And I couldn’t let you feel the kind of pain you were experiencing because of me. I knew that I needed to come back to stop that pain. That’s all. I have a vague memory of waking up sometime later in the ICU, but I don’t remember anything else.” She stopped, looking away from him at the lovely impressionist landscape print on the wall behind the couch where he was sitting. “So I guess the answer to your question is that I did come back because of you.” Her gaze, still impersonal, moved back to his face again. “Is that what you wanted to know?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, getting up. “It answers another question for me, too.”

“And what question is that?”

“Why you’re not wanting to go back now.”

Scully closed her eyes for a moment, gaining control of her temper, then opened them again, taking a deep breath. “Mulder, I’m not going to talk about anything else of a personal nature. And I’m not going to listen to you any further. This discussion is over.”

“What are you going to do? Put your fingers in your ears? I want to know why you don’t want to talk about anything personal.”

“Because there’s no point,” she said curtly. “The personal aspects of our lives were left back there. That part’s over.”

“I don’t think it is. We’re not dead yet.”

She shrugged. “Next door to it.”

Exasperated, he combed his fingers through his hair, beginning to feel as if he’d like to start tearing it out. His partner could be maddeningly stubborn. “Scully, don’t you want to go back and have some kind of a life? A real life? Something that you might have imagined before you got buried up to your eyebrows in X-Files?”

She shook her head, resigning herself to the inevitable. He just wasn’t going to shut up. If they stayed here for a hundred years, he would pester her until she talked to him about these personal matters. At least, it might not actually be a hundred years; it would just feel like it. Maybe this wasn’t a waiting room after all, she reflected. Maybe it was purgatory.

“Don’t you want a life, Scully?”

She eyed him curiously. “What kind of a life do you think that might be, Mulder? A nine-to-five husband, two point five children and a house with a white picket fence? Is that what you imagine I want? Well, I don’t. Maybe I thought about something along those general lines at one time, but people change, you know. I changed,” she shrugged. “It might surprise you to know that I was more or less happy with my life the way it was.

“I don’t know what kind of life I wanted for myself in the future, but I know now that I’m too used to discussing cannibalism or giant bloodsucking worms over meals eaten at four in the morning. I’m too used to picking up the phone and hearing your voice say, ‘Scully, it’s me.’ I know that I don’t want to talk insurance or diaper rash over a normal meal at a civilized hour. I know I don’t want to anyone else’s voice on the phone saying, ‘It’s me.’ And I don’t want to disentangle myself from your bizarre, overcomplicated life. And work.” She looked up at him, smiling faintly. “I’d be bored to tears by any man who didn’t know how to carry on an intelligent conversation about mutants.”

Mulder didn’t say anything for a long minute, just looking at her, then returned her smile wryly. “I guess I’ve spoiled you, huh.”

She shrugged a little, wandering toward the hallway door, standing just inside to look down its length. “Maybe. I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m not as unhappy with this situation as you seem to be.” She glanced over her shoulder at him. “What about you, Mulder? You needed to get a life worse than I did. Is that why you want to go back? To try to get a life? Sort of a second chance?”

Shoving his hands into his jeans pockets, he shook his head slowly. “No, not really. The way things were going, with the background I had, I wasn’t ever going to get a life. In searching for Samantha, I pretty much made a decision to sacrifice everything else in my life. Especially relationships. I just didn’t have time for them. Finding my sister and working on the X-Files were the only important things in my life for a long time. Nothing else mattered.” He paused, looking past her down the corridor to the darkness at the far end. “And then you were assigned to work with me. As ticked as I was at the time, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. You poked holes in my theories, questioned them, made me question them, and generally grounded me in reality again. I didn’t always agree with you,” he added, smiling, “but I was never bored.

“I’ve never been closer to anyone than I am to you, Scully. You listen to me when no one else does. You try to understand me when no one else does. I trust you when I don’t even trust myself, much less anyone else. I rely on your judgment, your intuition, your strength. You fit into…into what passes for my life,” his mouth twisted a little, “as if you were a piece of me that I didn’t know was missing until it was taken away from me.”

She looked over at him when he fell silent. They both knew how important each was to the other, and had had good reasons for not verbalizing it and acting on it in the past. And, really, the words had never been necessary. They lived it every day.

“We need to go back,” he said at last, turning away from his contemplation of the hallway to look down at her at his side. “We don’t belong here.”

“How do you know that? We’re here, and there isn’t a way out,” she reminded him wearily. “We’re all but dead. I don’t know why you keep insisting that we need —”

He interrupted her with a gesture, reaching out suddenly to take her hand in a grip so tight it made her wince. “Can you feel that?”

“Yes! Mulder, that hurts!”

His hold loosened, but he continued holding her hand. “You can feel that, Scully. Feel it. Once we’re dead, that kind of sensation will be gone forever. We’re not dead. Not yet. And we’re here together, not separately. There must be a reason for that. There has to still be a chance that we can make it back.”

Scully tried to pull her hand out of his but he refused to let it go. “Back to what?” she almost yelled, struggling to free her hand. “I thought we’d gone over this! I don’t want to go back! There’s nothing —”

It happened so quickly. A quick tug at her hand pulled her off balance and, as she stumbled against him, he pulled her even closer, his free hand cupping her cheek, tilting her chin up. And then he was kissing her, his mouth moving over hers hungrily, demanding a response that she couldn’t help giving any more than she could stop breathing. Her breath caught in her throat as his arms tightened around her, and the pressure of his kiss coaxed her lips apart. Her eyes tightly closed, all she could feel was Mulder, all she could taste was him. Without conscious thought, her hands moved up, over his shoulders, behind his neck, holding him there, not wanting this to stop.

She dimly heard her own faint moan of appreciation as he explored her mouth thoroughly, taking his time, and could feel his mouth curving against hers, feel his pleasure, as she held him closer and began her own exploration of his. His fingers were tangled in her hair and they were both breathless by the time he reluctantly lifted his head, ending the kiss for the moment. He didn’t release her, though, and didn’t show any inclination to do so, touching his lips to the corner of her mouth briefly.

“Feel more alive?” he wanted to know, his voice a little hoarse.

Scully nodded wordlessly. She didn’t think she could form a coherent sentence, but she certainly did feel alive, a little too alive for comfort, if the truth be told.

“We’re not dead, Scully,” he whispered, his lips brushing her ear.

“Not if we can feel all of this. And if we’re not dead, there’s got to be a way to go back.”

She cleared her throat, closing her eyes briefly in pleasure at the sensations his mouth was stirring in her. “Okay, let’s say we can find a way back. Should we go back?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that, assuming we make it back, we either remember this experience or we don’t. If we don’t remember it, we’re right back where we started from, lack of a life and everything. If we do remember it, then that poses a whole new set of questions.”

“I hate to be trite, Scully, but questions are there to be answered.”

“We might not like the answers,” she said, suddenly serious, gently pushing him away.

Mulder straightened with a sigh and looked down at her, reaching out to smooth her hair where his fingers had tumbled it. “I know what you mean.”

“What is it that we want?” she gestured helplessly. “A one-night stand? A relationship? A commitment? And how will any of those affect the way we work together? Will getting involved with each other affect our friendship? Will it be worth it?”

Mulder shrugged. “I don’t know, Scully. I really don’t. But although I may not know what the hell I want to do about us, I sure as hell know it can’t be done when we’re dead,” he reminded her pointedly, breaking her gaze to look around the room, hoping for inspiration, his eyes finally lighting on the big landscape print on the wall behind the couch, for lack of a better focus.

“I’d say there’s no doubt about that,” Scully agreed dryly.

“Offhand — and assuming that we remember any of this, and despite how much I enjoyed what happened just now — I’d say that we shouldn’t get physical too quickly. I’ve seen a lot of friendships wrecked by sex. I don’t think that’s where we are right now.”

She nodded her agreement. “Then the question becomes ‘where are we?’”

“Right now? Stuck in this damn waiting room,” he answered almost absently.

“Mmm,” she grimaced, looking up at him.

But Mulder wasn’t paying attention to her any longer. His eyes were fixed on a point behind her head. When she turned, all she could see was the framed landscape print, a garden of some sort done in an excellent impressionist style, with a large, elaborate gate pictured slightly off center. A very nice picture, but nothing to earn her partner’s sudden interest.

Frowning, Mulder pointed at the picture. “Scully, look!”

“At what?” she asked, looking obediently, if blankly. “I don’t see anything. Just a print.”

“No, no. Look at the reflection in the glass.”

Scully refocused on the reflected light in the glass of the picture. It only looked like a reflection of themselves standing in front of the painting, like a mirror, with the corridor behind them, the bright light from the hallway overheads showing the two of them almost silhouetted.

“Do you see?” Mulder demanded.

“See what? I see us, the room, the hallway….”

An arm around her shoulders, he turned them both suddenly to face the hallway before she could complete her litany.

The hall stretched out in front of them, only three or four overheads relieving the darkness that crept nearer the waiting room door.

Mulder’s hands released her and she half turned to look over her shoulder at the reflection in the glass again. Light. She turned her head to look at the hallway. Dark.

Light. Dark.

“It’s not the same hallway,” Scully said slowly.

“This one,” Mulder pointed at the print, “is the classic light-at-the- end-of-the-tunnel hallway.”

“And this one,” Scully gestured at the real hallway before them, “is…what? If that one is the corridor…onwards, let’s say…then you think this dark hallway is the road…back?”

“Must be. Has to be.”

“You really think we should try to go back?” She felt oddly reluctant to say those words, now that there was a real possibility that they really could go back.

“Don’t you?” he asked, looking down at her. “We might be able to pick up where we left off,” he reminded her, his arm around her shoulders tightening a little, pulling her closer.

It was a tempting thought, but Scully hesitated, glancing away from Mulder to look at the reflected corridor, at the warmth of the light that flowed down on her upturned face. She had left it once before, gone back to her world, gone back to Mulder. But Mulder was here and this time she didn’t want to turn her back on that warm, welcoming light. It would welcome them both. Warmth enfolded her at the thought. They’d be together here in the light, never have to be separated again. And it wasn’t just white light, either, she saw, but the most beautiful colors, delicate shades….

– + –

“Don’t look at the light, Scully,” his voice whispered urgently in her ear, but dimly, as if he wasn’t quite beside her any more.

But the light was so attractive…. He’d follow her. She knew he would. And the warmth was reaching out for her….

“Scully….” His voice was further away.

His voice? Whose voice?


She felt suddenly disoriented, confused, the brightness coming and going…and his voice was louder, calling her name, calling her back…to him?

In some surprise she realized that Mulder’s hands on her shoulders were hurting her as he shook her hard, her head snapping back on her neck.

“Stop,” she gasped. “Stop it, Mulder. You’re hurting me.”

With a heartfelt, thankful sigh he hugged her close, holding her face against his shoulder, away from the light. “Oh, God. Don’t do that to me, Scully. Stay with me.” He ducked his head to look into her face. “Are you okay now?”

Her head moved slightly against his shoulder. “No.”

He eased her away from him slightly and his breath was warm on her face as his lips touched hers gently. “I can’t make up your mind for you, Dana — but I can try. I want you to stay with me. I want us to try going back. Together. But you’ve got to come willingly or I don’t think this will work.”

She didn’t say anything for a moment, looking up at him. He smiled a little, his fingertip caressing her cheek for an instant before pushing a tendril of hair away from her face.

“I want to go home, Mulder,” she said at last. “Do you think we’ll make it?”

“We can only try. Just don’t look at the light.”

He turned her carefully, keeping his back to the lit corridor and his body between Scully and the warm light flowing from the print. “You’ll be ready for that someday,” he promised her. “Just not today.”

“Why isn’t it affecting you the way it is me?” she wanted to know.

“Can you feel it?”

“Oh, yes. I’m not immune, Scully,” he said feelingly. “I’m just concentrating on something else, that’s all.”


“Yeah. I keep thinking how good it felt to kiss you. And I keep thinking of how I want to be able to do it again. And I keep reminding myself that if I give in to the temptation to stay, all of that will disappear.”

“But, Mulder, if we don’t remember any of this —”

“If we don’t remember what happened here, I have faith that our relationship will work itself out eventually,” he said firmly, his arm around her encouraging her to keep up her pace as he felt her beginning to slow down. “We can’t ignore what we feel forever. We’ll do something about it someday.” I hope, he added silently.

The hallway seemed endless to Mulder as he shepherded Scully into the darkness. He could feel the warmth of the light on his back and knew that Scully felt it more strongly, even though he was shielding her from it as much as possible. Her steps were still slowing, beginning to drag.

“What is it?” he asked. “What’s wrong?”

“I think we’re near the end of the hallway,” she said faintly.


“I feel cold and I’m hurting. I wasn’t before.”

Mulder stopped, his hands on her arms. “This will be your last chance, Dana. I don’t want to offer you an out, but I have to. Do you want to come back with me? Is that what you really want? Or are you wanting to go back to the waiting room – and go on from there?”

She looked up at him, trying to see his face in the near darkness.

“Why are you asking me that, Mulder? I said I’d go back with you.”

“You’ve got to be sure. If you’re not really sure you want to go back, I think that you might not make it back with me.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Because I don’t feel the cold you’re feeling. I’m not hurting. I think it’s a barrier of some kind and it’ll keep you from making it back because you’re not one hundred percent sure that you want to go.”

Scully hesitated, turning slowly, deliberately, to look past Mulder at the light at the far end of the hallway. Mulder shifted, his body blocking her view. But the light flowed around him, silhouetting him in its strength and warmth, forcing her to see both her choices at once.

She had no sense of time passing, but was startled out of her continuing bemusement into a sudden sharp awareness of herself by the fleeting touch of his mouth on hers. And then, suddenly, she was kissing him with a passion that was edged with desperation, her hands holding onto him, anchoring herself to him.

This was what she wanted, she realized finally. She wanted Mulder. She wanted to argue with him, theorize with him, work with him, laugh with him, be with him. Love him. The light wasn’t an option if Mulder wasn’t going to be there with her. Just like she had before, she would go back because of him. This time, hopefully, she would come back with him, to him.

She drew back a little from his embrace, finally, her lips clinging to his for another second before she opened her eyes. He was smiling at her, that warm, special smile that she didn’t often see.

“Please tell me you’re coming back with me.”

The light would always be there. But Mulder needed her now. And she needed him.


“Let’s go, Mulder. I’m freezing standing here.”

His hands tightened on her shoulders and he kissed her once, fiercely, briefly, before he straightened, taking her hand to lead her on.

“I want to make sure we don’t get separated,” he explained.

“Don’t worry,” Scully smiled, holding his hand a little tighter as a shield against the dark. “I won’t lose you that easily.”

And there was no warning. One moment their feet were on solid ground, the next moment they were falling.

Scully couldn’t feel Mulder’s hand, if indeed she was still holding it, and she couldn’t tell if she cried out as she fell. She could see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing. Nothing except the cold, and she closed her eyes against the piercing chill of it.

– + –

Dim memories swirled around him like the water in which he was immersed. A painting on a wall. Diamonds winking on the ceiling. Holding her tightly to keep the storm from taking her away from him. ‘Did you come back because of me?’ A waiting room. Waiting to die. Wanting to live. Holding her tightly, kissing her until he was dizzy. ‘Feel more alive now?’ Spraying the doorway with orange paint. The light was so beautiful, so warm. The snow was so cold. They were dying. She was freezing in his arms as he held her.


“His eyes are open.”

Were they? He hadn’t noticed.

“Mr. Mulder, can you hear me?”

He lifted his gaze from the water in front of him with an effort. A woman he didn’t know was looking down at him. Wading his way through the confusing memories, he felt them beginning to slip away as he focused his concentration on the present with an effort of will. He knew that clinical, assessing look. A doctor.

“Can you hear me?” she repeated.

His lips and tongue worked to form a word. “Yeah,” he croaked, then cleared his throat with an effort. They’d had him on a respirator. He could feel the residual tightness in his chest and the invisible hand clenched around his throat that he associated with it.

Becoming more aware of his surroundings, he could feel the pain, now.

His body was on fire. That was his first halfway coherent thought, the scalding pain in his hands and feet making him gasp involuntarily. His second thought, when he could push the pain to the back of his mind, was that he was in water. Water? A metal tub of some kind? The water felt boiling hot after the coldness of that long fall…. No, not a fall, he frowned. They hadn’t fallen. It was the storm. They’d been trapped in a blizzard. Why did he think he had fallen?

Slowly, he became conscious of other things. Low-voiced conversation, orders and responses. Movement around him. Subliminal whirs and clicks and beeps of machines. The soft sound and feel of the water lapping around him, nearly up to his chin.

“Core body temp ninety-eight, doctor,” said another voice from somewhere behind him..

“Okay, he’s stable for now. Let’s get him out of the tub. Move him up to moderate care and begin frostbite therapy. Monitor vitals—”

“Wait,” he managed to get out as he was lifted, the air on his wet skin cooling the false sense of heat in his extremities. “Scully — my partner. Where’s Scully?” He was ignored for a moment as he was wrapped warmly, transferred to a gurney, and covered by a heated blanket. “Where’s Scully?” he repeated, trying and failing to inject authority into his hoarse voice.

The dark-haired nurse strapping him in securely smiled reassuringly at him and tilted her head briefly toward the other side of the large, professionally cluttered trauma room. “Don’t worry, she’s over there.”

“…She…Is she okay?”

“Her core temperature isn’t rising as fast as yours did. They’re working to stabilize her now.”

When they turned his gurney slightly to navigate it out of the trauma room, he caught a quick glimpse of his partner’s face above the metal sides of the tub she was in. She looked bloodless, whiter than the snow that had nearly killed them, her lips forced open by the respirator tube. He had seen her like that once before, her life dependent on the technology around her, and he hadn’t liked it then, either. It didn’t seem right that someone who wanted to be in control of her life so much should be so helpless, or that someone so full of life should look so lifeless.

She had needed him to get her back. Back from the cold? Or back from…. He frowned as the gurney paused for the nurse to murmur something to a colleague. Back from….? He groped desperately for the fading memories. There had been a room, he remembered. A waiting room. And Scully’s body had been warm — not cold — against his as she promised to come back with him. Where was she now? he wondered, feeling suddenly cold — cold that had nothing to do with his physical temperature —mentally picturing her lost between worlds, unable to come back. What would he do if she didn’t…. His thought, his imagination, couldn’t progress any further.

Even as he was being maneuvered out of the doorway, though, his attention was caught by a harsh gasp against the rhythm of the respirator and when he turned his head to look, he saw that the orchestrated movement around Scully had increased. Then his gurney was through the doorway and his view was cut off.

But he had seen enough. Scully had found her way back, he smiled to himself, relief flooding through him.

The gurney continued moving and he closed his eyes against the overhead lights that shone down mercilessly, letting himself drift. It was too much effort to hold onto the memories right now. There was no need. Scully would be all right, he assured himself tiredly. That was what was important. She was going to be fine. They both would.

– + –

“If the doctors and nurses would leave me the hell alone, I’d feel better faster.”

“Quit complaining, Mulder,” Scully said unsympathetically, watching her partner sit on the side of his hospital bed and rotate his ankles in the precise, even movements prescribed in their physical therapy. It was not an interesting or inspiring sight. “At least we’re alive. And we’re going to keep our toes, even if we’re not enjoying the process of frostbite reversal.”

Almost against her will, her gaze was drawn back to the curtained window that made a frame for the beautiful view of the mountains, green frosted with bridal white, just touched with lavender shadows as new storm clouds moved in gradually to dim the pale sunlight. They had barely survived the last storm, and the new one would erase all traces of their presence from the mountain, she thought. As if they’d never been there. As if it had never happened.

Mulder lifted his eyes, watching her with the sense of unease, uncertainty, that had been wrapped around him like a garment since he’d awoken, fully conscious and aware, in this hospital room four days before. Scully was too quiet, too distracted. And she’d been strangely elusive during their recovery, not spending any more time with him than necessary.

Something had happened out there on the mountain. He knew that. He couldn’t drag the specifics out of his uncharacteristically uncooperative memory, but he could feel the tension between them. And that hurt almost more than the damned frostbite did.

“They don’t leave you alone,” he reiterated, knowing that his voice was too sharp, but wanting to make some kind of impression on her. Anything to make her the Scully he knew again. “They wake you up in the middle of the night to find out whether you’re sleeping okay. They…”

“They do it in my room, too,” she reminded him, turning away from her contemplation of the scene outside. “Look, we’ve only got a couple of more days here. Just put up with it for a little longer. Have you heard anything about the assignment we were on? Has anyone else been put on it?”

Mulder sighed, suppressing a wince as he began flexing his toes as best he could. He was in a rotten mood and bitching at her wasn’t going to make him feel any better; it would just piss her off and drive her back to her room, leaving him by himself again. And he didn’t want her to leave him.

Mulder,” she tried again, her voice just a little softer. “If something’s bothering you, tell me what it is. Maybe I can help. Is it the case?”

He looked over at her thoughtfully. She was sitting on the empty bed opposite, her head slightly tilted, waiting for his response. She always listened to him, no matter how “out there” his theories were, no matter how painful the memories, she was always there to listen to him. He owed her better than silence after half-killing her in the snow.

“You’re more likely to kill me than help me,” he told her finally. She was not going to like what he had to say. “I got a call from the local field office,” he continued. “The missing kid we were after turned up again — he’d been staying with a friend in Seattle after an argument with his father. And those two rangers who said they saw something in the forest? Well, now they’re disagreeing on exactly what they saw. A bear. No, a mountain lion. Or maybe it was just the weird shadow from some bush or something.”

For a moment, she couldn’t think. She could only feel. For one brief moment, she wasn’t an FBI agent, she was just a woman — and for just a second she wanted to wrap her hands around Mulder’s neck and squeeze until he was an attractive shade of blue. He’d hauled them out here into a blizzard for nothing. They’d almost died over his stubborn insistence —

She pulled herself together after a long minute, thrusting the fantasy of violence against her partner back into the little closet that it peeked out of once in a while, and shook her head. She had chosen to come with him on this wild goose chase. Wild beast chase, she corrected herself with a mental smile. It wasn’t entirely his fault.

Scully let the wry smile work its way out to curve her lips. “So what you’re trying to tell me is that we came all the way out here and nearly froze to death…for nothing. No missing kid. No Bigfoot. Just us on ice.”

“That pretty much covers it.” He looked down at his feet, absently curling his toes. “Scully, I’m sorry. Really. There wasn’t enough evidence to justify us coming all the way out here and my temper nearly got you killed. I let emotion win out over professionalism and this is what comes of it. And I’m mad at myself for screwing up so badly this time.” He fell silent, waiting for the stinging response that he felt sure was coming…and that he deserved.

“Guess I win the Your Fault game, then,” she shrugged, still smiling as he glanced up, surprised, then shook her head. “No, Mulder, that’s not true. It was my fault as much as yours for coming with you, for giving validity to a case that I knew didn’t have enough evidence to begin with. If I’d protested strongly enough, made my case well enough to you — or to Skinner — then we wouldn’t be here.”

“You are supposed to kind of keep me in line, aren’t you,” Mulder agreed, relaxing a little, a smile of his own beginning to tug at the corners of his mouth. Scully wasn’t mad. She had every right to cut him into little pieces, but she wasn’t mad.

“I’d need a whip and a chair to keep you in line,” she told him dryly, getting up, easing her weight onto her feet carefully.

“Leaving so soon?” he asked, something in his chest tightening at the thought. “I’ve got a chair, and I can arrange for a whip. Might be fun,” he forced a grin.

“I’ve had enough fun with you for a while, thanks. I’d better get back to my room. Lunch will be arriving soon.”

“Or what passes for it.”

Scully hesitated. Mulder didn’t want to be alone; she could feel it. And she couldn’t stop herself from wanting to stop whatever it was that was disturbing him so. Maybe she could coax it out of him…. Keep it casual, she told herself. “You could always join me for lunch,” she suggested after a moment.

As much as he didn’t want her to leave, he was half afraid to be with her. He didn’t know why, but memories moved sluggishly in his mind, just out of his grasp, fueling his uneasiness.

“No, thanks,” he managed to respond, equally casual. “I’m waiting to see if that candy-striper took me up on the bribe I offered her for bringing me a couple of hot dogs.”

“Suit yourself.” He was scared, Scully thought. “If you change your mind, you know where I am. The lunch cart’s coming,” she finished, heading for the doorway slowly.

“Yeah, be sure not to miss it,” Mulder agreed sardonically, not looking forward to being alone with his thoughts after she left, yet oddly unsettled with her in the room with him. He didn’t like this sense of fear he’d been experiencing, along with flashes about the cold, about a warm light. And ever-present was that lurking, nagging fear.

Fear of losing Scully.

But she was here, he argued with himself. She was warm and alive and HERE. He could see that. He shouldn’t be wanting to take her hand, just to make sure she was okay. The urge to reach out for her baffled him. His need for her frightened him.

Mulder watched his partner shuffle across the floor to the doorway. Her progress looked painful and he knew from personal experience that it was. It felt like walking on hot coals, sometimes.

Wouldn’t that be what he would be doing with Scully now? Walking on coals? He didn’t want her to see how he felt—

Reaching the doorway, she paused, half turning to say something to him, but Mulder never heard her words. The sight of her silhouetted against the light of the hallway brought him off the bed and halfway across the room before the pain of his half-healed feet caught up with him.

“Scully….” Mulder stopped, stumbling, hesitating. His memories were patchy, disjointed at best. By no stretch of his excellent imagination could he call them coherent. But the door in his mind had opened for him and he just…knew. He remembered the waiting room. He remembered how she felt in his arms, how her mouth tasted.

She waited, standing in the doorway, her eyebrows raised enquiringly at the sudden note of urgency in his voice.

He stood barefoot, in hospital-issued pajamas and robe, in the middle of the floor, his face intense, his eyes on hers, but his sight focused on something inside himself.

Maybe it had been an hallucination, he cautioned himself. Maybe he had conjured her up out of his own subconscious, projecting his own repressed thoughts and desires onto the simulacrum. What if it hadn’t been real? What if he had experienced it…and she hadn’t?

He had to ask. He had to know. “After we passed out in the shelter,” he finally said slowly, licking dry lips, “while you were unconscious, did you…dream…or something?”

Scully pushed her hands into her robe pockets and leaned a shoulder against the door jamb. “Or something,” she agreed cautiously after a long minute.

As the silence between them stretched further and further, becoming nearly tangible, a third party in the room.

He needed to know, he thought fiercely. He had to know if…. He couldn’t put it into words, even in his mind.

“What…what do you remember?” he asked finally, simply, hating the edge of uncertainty in his voice.

He watched as Scully hesitated for a long moment, that distant look back in her eyes. He reminded himself to breathe, wondering what he would do if she remembered what he did, if she verbalized it. If she remembered, would it change their partnership as it currently existed, possibly put an unbearable strain on their friendship? Maybe some truths weren’t meant to be spoken out loud, he thought, feeling suddenly cold. Not yet. “What do you….” His throat closed and he couldn’t continue.

But Scully was smiling faintly, now, one hand pushing the hair back from her face. “I remember enough, Mulder.”

He nodded slowly, his eyes on her face, and said nothing when she turned and disappeared down the hallway, beginning the short shuffle toward her room. Shutting his eyes, he could feel the tension melting out of his shoulders, his neck. Her words had eased the tightness in his chest.

So today wouldn’t be the day that they made the giant leap, he smiled a little whimsically. A small step was more than enough. With the way he felt about Scully, it was all he could handle right now.

Until they both needed more. Until they were ready to take another step. Or two.

Feeling suddenly better — and hungry — Mulder opened his eyes, looking around at the spartan room, noting the lunch tray that someone had left for him — oh, great, while he had been standing there in the middle of the floor, eyes closed, smiling to himself. Psych evaluation, here I come, he grimaced, retrieving the tray.

His own company in this cheerless room was less appealing now. Lunch with Scully — even the hospital’s food — was sounding better and better.

Mulder was smiling again as he began his own shuffle down the hall to his partner’s room.


Blizzard 1/11/96

– + –


From: (XFF SciNut)


Subject: NEW: “Transfers” (“Blizzard” series) 1/10

Date: 24 Mar 1996 14:29:12 -0500

Okay, here we go… I am not the author, just posting on her behalf. All Comments to L.C.Brown at

All parts posted 3/24/96

– + –

Insert clever intro here. (I can never think of anything clever to say. My characters get all my best lines) I guess, in lieu of something clever to say, I’ll just tell you that this story takes place some time after Blizzard and in the same universe. There’s another story or two between them that hasn’t been written yet, but trust me. There is. The relationship continues to build from Blizzard. (Remember, I’m writing at least a 9 story arc, and Transfers is about #7.) This story, Transfers, also has a sequel that I’m currently working on that picks up *immediately* after the story ends. So if you want more after this, you’ll have to email me () and give me serious ego-boo so I can get my TOS together and get the thing finished. 😀

Insert standard disclaimer here. (I’m not clever with this either.) The characters belong to Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen Productions, FOX and whoever else has a piece of this wonderful pie. I’m borrowing Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Margaret Scully and whoever else I’ve forgotten to mention here — and I’m borrowing them without permission, but am promising to give them back when I’m finished.

Please don’t distribute this story without my permission. I’ll probably give permission if you ask. Honest.

And, last but not least, ROMANCE ALERT! PG-13 situations. Nothing graphic…but you’ll definitely get the idea of what’s going on. 😉 Caution: Non-con elements.

Enjoy, and let me know how you like it!


“TRANSFERS” by L.C. Brown

Part 1

Scully leaned back in her chair, pushing her shoe tip under the desk drawer so she wouldn’t overbalance, and squinted at the x-ray she was holding up. The fluorescent lights on the high ceiling of Fox Mulder’s cluttered basement office weren’t much better than the desk lamp at her elbow, but their slightly brighter light enabled her to finally see the hairline fracture that the coroner’s report mentioned.

Even a fracture this small would take some force, she mused, especially on a bone of this type….


Only the foot she had wedged under the desk drawer saved her from going over backwards and she shot an irritated look at Mulder, who had apparently materialized in the middle of the room. She certainly hadn’t heard him come in.

“Sorry,” he apologized insincerely, working to keep a straight face. “I guess you were miles away when I came in.”

She straightened with what dignity she could muster and slid the x-ray back into its folder. “I was concentrating on a case.”

“Uh huh. Dirty pictures.”


“It was a pelvis you were looking at, wasn’t it? There you are. Dirty pictures,” he grinned. “I’m finally having an influence on you.”

“Okay,” she signed resignedly, not in the mood to play games with him. “I’ll bite, Mulder. What’s in the file you’ve got that’s got you in such a good mood? Don’t tell me,” she interrupted him before he could speak. “It’s an X-File, right?”

“You said not to tell you. But,” he paused for a moment while he extracted a long, slim packet from the file and tossed it onto her desk, “don’t say that I never take you anywhere but backwater motels in sleazy towns. Or is it the other way around?”

Scully ignored him, but her eyebrows shot up and her eyes widened as she glanced at the packet and then picked it up to look more closely. “Bermuda? Mulder, this is a plane ticket to Bermuda!”

“That’s right, Scully. Sunshine, pink beaches, tropical drinks with umbrellas in them….”

“What’s the case?” she asked cautiously. “It must be something really disgusting if they’re sending us to Bermuda to investigate it.”

Mulder gave her the file without answering, then took off his suit jacket and hung it over the back of the chair behind his desk before sitting down to prop his feet on the corner of his paper-strewn desk.

Scully didn’t have to read far before she sat up suddenly, her eyes still on the notes. “This isn’t an X-File, Mulder. This is a psych case.”

“Involving a senator and his wife,” he reminded her.

She looked over at him suspiciously. “You hate working with VIP’s, Mulder. What’s going on?”

“I’m not sure, but I think it may turn out to be an X-File after all. Keep reading, Scully,” he gestured at the file. “There have been two more incidents like the one the senator’s wife describes.”

“Mulder, the woman is clearly disturbed. She claims her husband attacked her, then says he isn’t really her husband, and that he’s poisoned her in some way. She also admits to trying to stab him. I don’t call that an X-File.”

“She has no past history of mental or emotional problems, Scully. She and her husband met during his campaign and were married last year and, since then, they have given every appearance of being happily married. The senator thinks that his wife might have been poisoned, so when Skinner saw that there had been two similar cases involving tourists, he gave the case to us.”

“Why would anyone poison two tourists and a senator’s wife?” she asked blankly. “And how do you make the jump from psych case to X-File?”

Mulder just smiled at her mockingly. “I’ve got a feeling.”

She had a sneaking suspicion that he knew the case was no X-File. Exasperated, Scully shook her head as she got up and collected her briefcase and the x-ray folder. “Never mind, Mulder. Look, I’ve got to turn these films in and file a second opinion so I’ll meet you tomorrow at BWI.”

“Want me to pick you up on my way?”

“No, thanks. I’m off tomorrow morning anyway. Dentist appointment.”

He grimaced. “Better you than me. Have fun.”

She paused in the doorway to look back at him. He was evidently very pleased with himself over this Bermuda business.

The corner of his mouth quirked as he caught her look. “Don’t worry, Scully. Even if this is a straight psych case, as you said, we’ll have three or four days in Bermuda to make up for any interest the case might lack.”

“If this turns out to be one of those cases the thought of which will whiten my hair for years to come, you’d better start working up a nice non-provable ghost X-File in one of the great houses of Europe to make up for it. Paris will be acceptable,” she told him tartly, shouldering her purse before she disappeared down the hall.

– + –

A methodical person by necessity, Scully checked off each item she packed in her suitcase on the list she had printed up when she got home. She had long since created a standard list of types of clothing and items to take on an out-of-town assignment, complete with options, depending on the climate and the length of the assignment.

The swimsuit that was neatly rolled inside a beach robe and already tucked into a corner of her suitcase wasn’t on her standard list, but neither was the sunscreen in her toiletries bag. If she was lucky, there might be one afternoon to spend on the beach. Her portable computer was freshly charged and she could take it to the beach if she wanted to salve her conscience.

A knock at the door distracted her from the list and, surprised, she glanced at the bedside clock. It was almost 10:30. Mulder would be at home packing, so it wouldn’t be him.

She came out of the bedroom quietly, taking her weapon out of its holster. “Who is it?” she asked sharply, standing slightly to one side of her front door.

“Skinner,” came the reply.

Scully stood in stunned silence for a moment before pulling herself together and unlocking the door. She recognized the voice, but she still held onto her gun as she opened the door.

Assistant Director Skinner looked larger than he usually did as he loomed in her doorway, regarding her mildly.

“Very wise,” he said, glancing at the gun. “Sorry to bother you this at this hour, Agent Scully.”

“No trouble, sir. Please, come in,” she invited, automatically, suddenly conscious of her well-worn bathrobe and comfortable slippers.

Her supervisor stopped at the entrance to the living room, looking around with interest, then moved slowly into the room, taking in the muted colors, the artwork, the books — the things that said something about the person who had chosen them. The room was well-furnished, well-appointed and comfortable. It was obviously a woman’s residence, but it wasn’t overly feminine. He approved silently.

“Won’t you sit down? I can get you some coffee,” Scully offered, unobtrusively holstering the weapon and putting it on the mantel.

“Not for me, thanks,” he said, seating himself on the couch. “I can only stay a minute. You’re leaving with Mulder for Bermuda tomorrow.” It was not a question.

Scully perched on the edge of an easy chair, trying to keep her face expressionless, but knowing Skinner was probably reading her like a book. “I was just finishing my packing,” she nodded.

“Mmm.” He was watching her thoughtfully. “First of all, I want you to understand that I’m not here.”

That didn’t surprise her. “All right.”

“Your partner, Agent Scully,” he began deliberately, leaning back against the cushions, “is a very talented man. Very talented at getting himself into trouble.”

“What has he done now?” Scully asked, resigned but cautious, racking her brain for some way Mulder could have put his foot into it again.

“On a case he completed a couple of months ago, he didn’t pull any punches in his report about how the investigation had been handled prior to the case being assigned to him. The agent that was first assigned to it is…connected. His handling of the case was reviewed, the results were buried by his connection, brought to light again by Agent Mulder, and the end result was a spotlight turned on the connection, much to his annoyance.”

“I see.”

“Mulder has been a serious thorn in this individual’s side for some time now. And so, through channels, your record came up for review.”

Scully blinked. “Mine? Not Mulder’s?” she asked, surprised.

“That’s right. Mulder’s record doesn’t bear thinking about, much less examining closely,” he said dryly. “But you, personally, have an excellent record, Agent Scully, and you’ve done sterling work in this office for several years.”

Skinner stopped, giving her a direct look, making no indication that more was forthcoming, but Scully was already putting the pieces together.

“This…individual can’t get at Mulder directly without exposing himself to further embarrassment,” she said slowly, “so he’s going to punish Mulder by having me promoted. And transferred?” she hazarded.

Skinner nodded. “Oakland. It’s a real plum assignment, Scully. You’ll be training for the assistant directorship of pathology/forensics. That will put you in line for further promotion, in a few years, in Oakland, Seattle, or even L.A. They’re good offices. And this is a good promotion.”

She was watching him closely, trying to read him for clues, for more information. “And this is a promotion that I can’t refuse?”

“Not without an extremely compelling reason. And I do mean compelling,” Skinner said emphatically. “Refusal of a promotion of this kind would almost certainly kill any future hope of advancement for you. And I don’t think that you want to work with Mulder so badly that you’d be willing to teach first-year pathology classes at Quantico for the rest of your professional life.”

Scully nodded her agreement slowly.

Skinner got up. “I wanted to let you know about what would be happening before you left. The paperwork will be on your desk when you get back. You’ll have thirty days from that date before the transfer takes effect.”

“I appreciate this, sir,” Scully said sincerely. “I hope it’s not a problem if I let Mulder know,” she added, following him to the door.

“I was counting on it. Agent Mulder can be very…creative at working out seemingly insoluble problems. Between the two of you, you may be able to come up with something. If not,” he shrugged, “you at least had some warning.”

“I’m sure we’ll think of something,” she smiled faintly as she opened the door for him.

“I hope so,” he said, glancing at her. “Oh, and one final piece of advice. Don’t tell Mulder until you’re airborne. He’s going to be pissed, but even Mulder would hesitate to make a loud scene in front of a hundred and fifty interested tourists.”

“I’m way ahead of you there, sir,” she assured him wryly. “I know Mulder pretty well.”

“You, Agent Scully, are the only person I know that can make that claim,” he said, quite serious. “Goodnight.”

– + –

Mulder was pacing, waiting for her on this side of the metal detector at the airport when she arrived, breathless, with her carry-on and briefcase. He started to make a comment about her lateness, but there was something in her expression that stopped him. She was avoiding his eyes and her mouth was tight.

“Did you drop your suitcase at the curb?” he asked instead, and received a curt nod in reply.

“Did everything go all right at the dentist?” he wanted to know, fishing for the reason for that look on her face.

“Fine,” she said briefly. “Just a cleaning. Let’s go.”

She sent her carry-on and briefcase through the machine while he offered his Bureau weapons permit to the senior guard at this station. Scully produced her paperwork and they both waited while their weapons were examined to ensure that they matched the description on the FBI documents and that their names were listed in the most current catalog of individuals authorized to carry firearms on commercial flights.

Mulder carefully refrained from talking to her all the way to the gate, trying to figure out what could have happened today to upset her. She had been fine yesterday.

They were, as usual, in aisle seats across from each other and Mulder automatically put her carry-on into the overhead compartment for her and was surprised when she asked him to put her briefcase up there, too, but stowed it without comment. Scully wasn’t necessarily a good air traveler and she usually liked to do some work to occupy her mind. Giving up her briefcase suggested that she already had something to occupy her.

Thoughtful now, Mulder sat down in his seat and fastened his seatbelt, looking at his partner unobtrusively.

Everything was in place — hair, make-up, clothing — but she somehow gave him the impression of someone who had dressed quickly. It was nothing obvious, nothing that would be apparent to someone who didn’t know her as well as he did. But her low-heeled shoes weren’t the ones she usually wore with this lightweight pants suit. And she seemed pale beneath her makeup, paler than was usual for Scully, and her eyelids looked heavy.

“Too little sleep and then you overslept,” he mused out loud. She ignored him. “Hot date?” he asked with mock interest.

Scully gritted her teeth silently. He knew something was wrong and he was prepared to pick at her until she told him what it was, but she wasn’t ready to talk. She didn’t know what to say yet.

“Mulder, please don’t start with me. I’m not in the mood.”

“But I am right, aren’t I? Not about the date,” he added hastily as he caught the fiery look she shot at him, “but about the sleep.”

The volume of engine noise increased slowly but steadily, indicating that they would be leaving the gate momentarily and, knowing that conversation would be all but impossible during their departure, she leaned across the aisle and lowered her voice for Mulder’s benefit in order to give him something to think about for a change.

“Okay, I give up. You were right about everything,” she admitted, a little too sincerely. “I had a guy over last night and subsequently got very little sleep, so I overslept this morning and everything went downhill from there.”

The sound of the engines ascended from a muted roar to a mild scream and the plane jerked backwards away from the gate. Through the process of taxiing to the proper runway, waiting in the queue for takeoff, and through the takeoff itself, Scully had the satisfaction of watching Mulder pondering her words with a frown, working out whether her story was true.

The Fasten Seatbelts sign had just been turned off and the flight attendants were getting the beverage carts ready before Mulder turned to look at her speculatively, obviously having come to some sort of decision. Scully raised her eyebrows slightly under his scrutiny but said nothing.

“I’m not buying it,” he said at last.

“Why not?”

“You want the truth?”

“That is what we’re always looking for.”

Mulder shrugged. “Sorry, Scully, but you don’t look like a man kept you from getting any sleep for all the right reasons,” he said bluntly. “You look like you lost sleep — guy or no guy — for all the wrong reasons.”

The attendants moved the rear section cart down the aisle past them, and Scully wondered briefly how Mulder thought she might look after a night of illicit passion. Apparently he didn’t think she would look like this. Admittedly an hour’s restless sleep and a session in the dentist’s chair didn’t do much for a woman’s looks, but….

“Scully?” his voice interrupted her thoughts. “I know something’s wrong. Let me help with whatever it is.” His voice was quiet and had lost its faintly mocking edge.

Leaning back in her seat, she tilted her head to the left to look at him while she marshaled her thoughts and her words. The pale brown suit he was wearing lightened his hazel eyes that looked at her steadily.

She sighed and gave up trying to choose the right words. There were no right words.

“Assistant Director Skinner stopped by my apartment late last night.”

Mulder’s eyes widened and he leaned toward her, turning in his seat. “What’s happened?” he demanded quietly.

“One of your high level admirers arranged for my record to be reviewed.”

“So? There’s nothing adverse in your record.”

“Not a thing,” she agreed. “The review board was very impressed, so when I get back from Bermuda, Skinner warned me that there would be thirty-day transfer papers on my desk. I’ll be training for the assistant directorship of pathology/forensics in Oakland.”

Her partner looked at her speechlessly for a moment, before his brows snapped together and his mouth opened to voice his opinion of his high level admirers, but had to swallow his remarks and his rage as the beverage cart pushed between them and a sweet young thing asked him in a businesslike voice what he cared to drink. He knew what he would have liked to say, but settled for orange juice.

By the time the cart and its satellite attendants had passed, he had finished half the juice absently as he considered what Scully had told him, and carefully put his anger away from him. It wouldn’t help them right now.

He glanced over at Scully. She was watching the bubbles rising to the surface of her gingerale, turning the cup in her hands slowly, a nervous habit that indicated her uneasy state of mind.

He knew what would happen if she refused the transfer. The Bureau had definitely not conquered its old boy system yet, and a female agent who refused an advantageous transfer like this could not expect to go any further. A man might get a second chance, but a woman never would.

On impulse, he reached across the aisle and touched her arm, smiling when she looked at him, startled. “We’ll think of something,” he assured her with more confidence than he actually felt.

“Skinner hoped so.”

“Skinner knows a good team when he sees one. We may be a pain in his butt, but we have a higher closing ratio than anyone else he’s got.”

Scully half turned in her seat to look at him. “Mulder, I was up most of the night trying to figure out a way out of this. There is no way out. I went over every reason I could think of for not accepting — and Skinner said it would need to be a very compelling reason — but I can’t see getting hit by a bus or contracting HIV just to get out of going to Oakland,” she said, her mouth curving in a faint smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Both solutions seems so permanent.”

There has to be a solution, he thought. Every problem has a solution.

“Let me work on this for a while, Scully. I’ll find an answer.”

“Good luck,” she murmured, leaning back in her seat again.

– + –

Part 2a

Mulder didn’t move and didn’t speak for almost an hour. Scully was half dozing finally when the woman on her right apologized and edged past her to make her way to

the back of the plane. Mulder nudged his partner’s shoulder almost immediately.

“Move over for a minute,” he said.


“Move over one, Scully. I’m too tall to crawl over you and I don’t want to shout what I have to say across the aisle.”

Scully nodded and obediently moved over into the momentarily vacated seat and Mulder took her place.

“Okay. I’ve thought of a way out,” he announced, keeping his voice down and keeping a wary eye on the elderly woman in the window seat on Scully’s other side. Elderly women loved to overhear conversations.

Scully didn’t feel any desire to begin celebrating right away. She knew Mulder’s ideas. “You have, huh? What?” she asked cautiously, her head turned toward Mulder so the old lady would have a harder time eavesdropping.

“It’s a little radical,” Mulder admitted. “But it is as compelling as Skinner needs it to be, and it ties up some loose ends at the same time.”

“What loose ends?”

“Well, like the way we worry that one of us will be transferred to the boonies because of something I’ve done, or that the X-Files will be closed again and we’ll be rotated away from each other inside the Washington office.”

Scully dropped her eyes to the arm of the seat between them. “Is it really so important for us to continue working together?” she asked almost inaudibly.

“Yes,” came the answer back, quietly but emphatically. He paused for a moment and then continued. “Well, yes *and* no. This plan I’ve got should cover all the bases, whether we’re working together or not.”

“All right. What is this plan?” Scully prompted.

The elderly woman was not listening a little too obviously, so he bent his head so that his lips practically brushed Scully’s ear. “I think we should get married,” he whispered.

Scully’s bright head came up in a hurry and she glared at him, outraged. “You…. You think…. Mulder, you have finally lost your mind,” she told him, her teeth clenched against what she really wanted to say. Ladies didn’t use words like that. “Get out of my seat.”

“Hear me out, Scully….”



“Excuse me, but I think you’re in my seat,” Scully’s seatmate said, and moved out of the way as the tall young man went back to his own seat while the pretty red-headed woman, clearly angry with her friend, took her own seat again with a mumbled apology.

A short time later, the Fasten Seatbelts sign came on for their descent and the two women in Scully’s row were disappointed that there was nothing further to overhear. To be sure, the man did try to speak across the aisle to the young woman, but after several attempts was told in no uncertain terms to save it for later, and he subsided, apparently taking the rebuff philosophically.

– + –

It was pleasantly warm outside the airport terminal, the air freshened by the balmy ocean breezes that blew almost constantly. The air was nothing like the energy-sapping heat and humidity that lay on D.C. like a blanket and Scully found her irritation with her partner slipping away.

Mulder gestured with a tilt of his head toward the taxi stand and carried their suitcases over while Scully followed with her carry-on. Rental cars were almost non-existent on the island due to stringent regulation and, although the streets teemed with mopeds and bicycles, Mulder felt that Scully wouldn’t be keen on that most common mode of transportation. Therefore, a taxi was their only alternative.

The driver threw their bags into the trunk haphazardly, remarked on how pretty Mulder’s wife was as Mulder held the back door for her, accepted the address of the hotel that Mulder gave him and, after cursing a sulky carburetor in an uninhibited but good-natured fashion, they were off.

“It’s really too late to begin our interviews this afternoon,” Scully remarked, looking at her watch.

“Yeah, by the time we get checked in at the hotel and get our stuff to our rooms, it’ll be almost time for dinner. I’ll contact the senator when we get there and set up an appointment to talk to his wife tomorrow morning.”

Except for the unintelligible comments by the driver to other drivers, moped operators and pedestrians that interacted with his cab, there was a strained silence in the car that Mulder didn’t care for. Scully was clearly pissed at him, and she didn’t get mad at him often enough for him to ignore it.

“Why are you angry?” he wanted to know finally, not looking at her, trying to keep his tone neutral.

“I don’t know,” she said after a pause, looking out the window. “I guess you took me by surprise. Maybe I thought you were making fun…having a joke…. I don’t know, Mulder.”

“Are you still mad?”

“It’s wearing off,” she admitted, smiling a little. “But I don’t want to talk about it right now, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure, whatever you want. But time is kind of limited and we’re not working tonight. Want to talk about it over dinner?”

“I’m not sure,” she said finally after a long pause.

“My treat,” he coaxed, leaning over to look into her face, to make her look at him.

She let out a long breath and then shrugged. “All right. We’ll talk over dinner.”

– + –

The hotel was a nice-looking mid-rise structure, not on the beach, but the upper floors had a nice view of the water. From the outside, the white stucco looked as if it had been washed with pink as the sun began to go down and, from inside her hotel room, Scully could see the waves on the bay being burnished by the dying light.

She was too familiar with various anonymous hotel rooms to be impressed by one more, but the room was clean, the two double beds covered by attractive spreads in a muted tropical motif, the lamps were good, and the towels were well laundered and fluffy.

Unpacking quickly with the ease of habit, she put her things away and stowed the empty suitcase in the closet before setting up her laptop computer on the small desk. The room wasn’t home, but it was adequate for a few days and it was several notches above some of the places that she and Mulder had stayed.

Mulder had said that he had some calls to make and would meet her downstairs for dinner at 8:30. With half an hour to kill, Scully extracted her logic puzzles book from her carry-on and tried to give herself up to the pleasure of frittering time away, justifying to herself that Mulder still had the case file so she couldn’t look it over anyway.

But the logic problems were hard to concentrate on with Mulder’s crazy idea pushing its way into her mind, demanding attention.

Their relationship was a good one, something that had been worked out between them without words or conscious direction. They depended on each other. They trusted each other. This insane idea of his would destroy all of that.

She had seen too many of her college friends enter into a passionate relationship with what seemed the perfect man only to watch both people change after the marriage. A couple of years. A few years. The result was the same, and she valued what she had with Mulder too much to wantonly destroy it simply in order to avoid a transfer.

She would take the transfer, she decided. At least she might be able to keep Mulder’s friendship that way.

– + –

The hotel bar where she was to meet Mulder was crowded and Scully had to stand, looking around for a minute or two, before she spotted her partner sitting at a table talking with a good-looking blond man she recognized as Senator Allingham.

Glad she had taken the time to change out of the crumpled pants suit into a sage green suit with scalloped edges to the jacket and short skirt, Scully made her way between the tables toward the two men. It didn’t hurt to look her best when meeting a senator.

Although she had worn the suit because she knew she looked good in it and the knowledge would give her the necessary backbone to tell Fox Mulder that she had made up her mind to accept the promotion — and then stick to her decision — she also knew that he liked this suit on her.

Mulder saw her before she got to the table and both men stood up, Mulder taking in the suit, the white lacey shell under it and the heels in a single comprehensive glance. His smile told her that he understood perfectly her motives for wearing it tonight.

“Senator Allingham, my partner, Special Agent Dana Scully. She’s going to be working with me on this.”

“How do you do?” The senator’s famous charm was tempered tonight by his worry for his wife. “I was telling Agent Mulder that I hope that you’ll be able to…. Well, my wife’s been in the hospital for four days and I’m anxious to get her home for treatment.”

“I understand. We’ll do everything we can to resolve things as quickly as possible, Senator,” Scully smiled noncommittally.

The senator hesitated for a moment, his dark eyes on hers, before he turned back to Mulder, holding out a hand that Mulder shook automatically.

“Thank you for listening, Agent Mulder. Agent Scully, enjoy your dinner, and have a pleasant evening. I’ll be seeing you both tomorrow morning at the hospital for your interview with my wife.”

Scully stood for a minute, watching the senator make his way out of the room through the maze of tables, before she became aware that Mulder was holding a chair for her.

“Thanks.” She sat. “What was that all about?”

“He was pumping me to find out what we already knew about the case. I think he’s concerned that the media will get hold of the story and wanted to make sure we’d be discreet.”

“Well, we don’t usually advertise our investigations,” Scully pointed out.

“Politicians are always concerned about that type of thing,” her partner shrugged, leaning back in his chair a little to give the waiter room to put down their drinks.

Scully looked at the two wineglasses. Mulder was drinking a white wine tonight, and had ordered her the zinfandel blush that she preferred.

He picked his glass up and lifted his eyebrows. “What should we drink to?”

She eyed him narrowly, picking up her own glass. “How about power suits?” she suggested, her gaze taking in the light gray pinstripe he wore, one of her favorites.

Mulder smiled broadly and touched his glass to hers, accepting her toast, before he sipped.

Scully drank, too, then tilted her head a little to one side. “Are you wearing that suit for the reason I think you are?”

“To psych you out of the reason you’re wearing that suit? Absolutely. I need every advantage I can get.” He looked at the wine in his glass consideringly and then back at her. “You’ve decided to go ahead and take that transfer, haven’t you.”

Scully leaned forward, rotating the wineglass in her hands slowly, her eyes on the precise movement. “What else can I do — your novel suggestion aside, of course. I’ve made up my mind, Mulder. You’re not going to change it this time,” she said firmly, hoping she sounded more convinced than she felt.

“So, if you’re that decided, then it won’t matter if I go ahead and try to convince you otherwise, will it.”

She shrugged. “I can’t stop you.”

“All right. Where would you like me to start?”

“How about explaining how you think this…solution of yours is going to solve more problems than it creates.”

“First, and most obviously, you couldn’t be transferred to Oakland. They’d have to transfer us as a pair if we were married. Marriage would be a no-fault reason for not accepting that promotion and, with the EOC breathing down the Bureau’s neck and what with the lawsuit over at the CIA, it would be…impolitic to shelve you from promotion in the future.”

“Okay, but that’s a pretty drastic solution for a relatively small problem in the greater scheme of things.”

“It works for future transfers, too,” he pointed out. “Even if they closed the X-Files again and separated us professionally, they couldn’t separate us personally.”

Scully finished her wine, remembering too vividly those few months she and Mulder had been separated when the X-Files were closed. She remembered how miserable she had felt, how frustrated Mulder had been, meeting covertly only when necessary. Could she deal with a more permanent separation? Could he?

“It just wouldn’t work, Mulder,” she made herself say finally. “It *would* solve certain professional problems. I’ll agree that it would do that. But it would never work on a personal basis.”

“Why not?”

The hovering waiter took advantage of her hesitation in answering to let Mulder know that their table was ready.

Mulder followed her through the tables as she followed the waiter’s lead. As a party near the door got up from their table, Mulder’s hand on her elbow steered her around them, his other arm shielding her from the oblivious couple that threatened to back into them.

Scully smiled to herself. One reason to accept Mulder’s crazy suggestion was that he was the only man she had ever known who was able to treat her like a woman without making her feel that she was being treated like a little girl because he was also perfectly able to send her into a house to flush out a suspected murderer while he covered the back. It was a nice feeling to know that she was a partner and a woman at the same time to him, that he accepted it without thinking twice about it.

But she wasn’t looking for a reason to accept, she reminded herself.

By unspoken mutual consent, conversation over dinner was limited to strictly neutral topics. They had plenty of mutual interests, but although they took their time over dinner, their places were cleared and dessert served far too soon for Scully.

“I’m not going to let you weasel out of this discussion,” Mulder told her matter-of-factly when the waiter was gone.

“I didn’t think for a minute that you would, Mulder,” she said mildly, beginning on her key lime pie.

“Then tell me why you don’t think we should be involved personally.”

“I’ve been thinking about that. It’s hard to come up with a coherent answer.” She touched her napkin to her mouth and sipped at her wine. “Putting everything professional on the side for the moment and concentrating purely on the personal, I have very strong feelings about marriage that you might not share.”


“Like marriage being an extremely serious commitment to another person that should be entered into, as the service says, advisedly and soberly. I just can’t marry someone and hope vaguely that it all works out.” Scully looked at him over her wineglass. “After I graduated from college, before I went into med school, I was the maid of honor at a good friend’s wedding. Before the service, while I was helping her dress, she was talking to me about her last minute doubts about going through with it. Just before we went upstairs to the chapel, she said, ‘Well, if it doesn’t work out, we can always get a divorce.’ That’s one of the most appalling things I’ve ever heard anyone say. Her marriage to a man that she said was her best friend lasted three years exactly. By the time the divorce went through, they hated each other.”

“I’ve known a lot of couples who have traveled that road too. That doesn’t mean that we will,” Mulder said quietly.

“It doesn’t mean that we won’t. If I ever make those promises — the marriage vows — I intend to keep them and stay married until I die. I expect the man that I marry to feel the same way.”

Mulder finished his own pie without saying anything, obviously considering what she had said before answering.

“I can accept that,” he said finally. “Marriage should be that way, a permanent commitment without any loopholes to wiggle through when the times get tough. I’d like it to be that way with you,” he said honestly.

“A lifetime is a long time, Mulder,” she warned him.

“I hope so,” he smiled at her. “Finish your wine and I’ll order coffee. So what else besides the permanence and seriousness of marriage do you see as an obstacle? Do you think we wouldn’t get along?”

“Frankly, I don’t know if we could. Living with someone is pretty different than working with them.”

Mulder frowned. “Scully, we practically live together now. We wake, shower and dress separately, but we breakfast together, work together most of the day, sometimes into the night, sometimes through the night, say goodnight and then sleep separately. We call each other on the weekends. We see each other on the weekends.”

“But our apartments at least give us the illusion of privacy,” she protested.

“Illusion is right,” snorted her partner. “We have keys to each others places, the passwords to each other’s personal computers, you know where my Cheerios are, and I can always figure out where you’ve stashed the Hershey bars this time.”

Scully sighed. “Well, I’ll concede that point. Maybe we do live pretty closely. But we always see each other under work-related conditions.”

“That can be remedied; we are in Bermuda, and we can’t work twenty-four hours a day. But that doesn’t mean that personal things haven’t crept into those work-related conditions before. Our interests, likes and dislikes overlap in enough areas that we share personal things about ourselves all the time, even at work or on assignment.”

“Name one personal thing I’ve shared with you on assignment,” she challenged him. “And I don’t mean a food preference.”

“Think I can’t?” he lifted his eyebrows mockingly.

“Go ahead, Mulder.”

“All right. I like your taste in underwear,” he smiled slowly.


“The bra and bikini panties matched — oyster colored satin, plain, no lace,” he reflected.

Scully’s face flamed suddenly as she remembered what her partner was referring to.

“And on our first case, too,” Mulder continued thoughtfully. “I’d hate to tell you what went through my mind when you came to my room and dropped your robe.”

“Mulder, that’s not funny.”

“Well, not at the time,” he conceded, “but it is now, Scully. Isn’t it?”

Her blush was fading now, and a reluctant smile curved her mouth. “Your face must have been something. I can’t believe I did that. I must have been out of my mind.”

“Just scared.”

“Too scared to even put on some clothes? You could have seen those marks if I’d pulled my shirttail out of my jeans.” She shook her head. “No, I was definitely out of my mind.”

“I’d been pouring abduction stories into you until you came down with a bad case of the willies. But it was a pretty priceless moment.”

“And then you told me about your sister.” Scully was suddenly serious again. “That was very personal for you, Mulder. Why then? Why me?”

“I think I told you about Samantha that night because you half-believed what I’d been telling you enough — your mind was open enough — that you came to my motel room and let me look at those marks on your back. That took a certain amount of trust, Scully, even if you didn’t think about it at the time. A lot of men would have tried to take advantage of that situation.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No, but if I were you, I wouldn’t be that trusting nowadays, Scully.” He was smiling, but he didn’t sound exactly like he was joking.

The waiter cleared their dessert plates and wineglasses and re-set the table with the coffee service. Fragrant steam rose from the spout of the silver pot of coffee that he placed near Scully’s right hand before he departed noiselessly once more.

She poured the coffee with a steady hand into Mulder’s cup first and then hers. At least she was outwardly unruffled, Scully thought thankfully. The coffee wouldn’t do anything for the accelerated beating of her heart, but the familiar ritual gave her hands something to do.

“I suppose,” she said carefully, “that what you just said leads us into the next topic.”

“Scully, we might as well get it out of the way. We both know that it was the first thing that came to mind when I suggested this.”

Scully didn’t bother wasting her time by attempting to deny it. She took a deep breath. “Okay. Sex is a very difficult subject for people to talk about.”

“For us to talk about,” he corrected wryly. “To paraphrase, ‘We build such a mystique around a simple biological act.’”

She was silent, nursing her coffee, waiting for it to cool a little before she drank it, feeling her partner’s gaze on her as he sipped from his own cup.

“Why didn’t you continue to see Jack Willis?” he asked suddenly. “You hadn’t dated in quite a while when he died. Why did you stop going out?”

It didn’t occur to her not to answer him, as private as the subject was for her. “When he had a case he was involved in he became totally engrossed in it. I ceased to exist, became invisible,” she shrugged. “When he finished the case, he was attentive and charming and funny again. He was a great guy, but he was a one-track person — the perfect agent, but not the perfect boyfriend.”

“Anyone since then?”

“No, no one.”

Mulder looked skeptical. “Scully, you’re an attractive woman. You must have had offers, opportunities.”

“I’m not dead, Mulder, just busy,” she replied tartly. “Besides, how could I concentrate on enjoying an evening of wild passion when I keep expecting my pager to go off or my celphone to ring? Getting a call from you would cramp my style.”

Mulder smiled his acknowledgment. “Am I that bad?”

“Oh, yes. You have an uncanny knack for knowing when I’ve just met a nice looking man who is showing signs of interest. I can always count on my cellular ringing as soon as he gets around to asking me out.”

“I hate to point this out, but if you were really interested in someone, a phone call from me couldn’t derail you like that.”

Scully sipped her coffee slowly. “I know that.” Her voice was quiet, her eyes on the swirling liquid in the cup as she tilted it gently back and forth. “I figured that out some time ago.”

Mulder watched her for a moment. “Don’t you want to ask about my relationships?”

“Honestly? No.” Scully smiled faintly. “I don’t think I want to know more than I know now. And what I know is that you’ve been messed up pretty badly by one or two important women in your life, and now you mostly sublimate everything into your work.”

“Mostly,” he nodded.

“That’s as much as I want to know,” she reiterated. “What you’ve done in the past doesn’t concern me as much as what you’ll do in the future.”

“I can promise you that you don’t need to worry on that score. I’ve already said that I plan to take those promises seriously, including the one about fidelity. Honestly, though, if I were married to you, I can’t imagine wanting anyone else. And I know that sounds like some kind of line, but it isn’t, Scully. I mean it.”

There was something in his voice that she had never heard before, something that warmed her more than the coffee, something that kept her gaze locked on her cup, afraid to look at him.

“And there’s a perfectly good reason to be concerned about my past…liaisons,” he continued. “But I’ve never used IV drugs, and I’ve always practiced safe sex. The world is too dangerous not to.”

“I agree.”

Mulder waited for her to say more until it was obvious that she wasn’t going to.

“Something else is bothering you, Scully,” he said at last, pushing his empty cup away and leaning toward her slightly. “Tell me.”

“Do you remember the waiting room, Mulder? What we said there?”

He hesitated. “I can’t remember the details of the conversation any more, but I remember generally what we said — what I felt.”

“We’ve never said it, Mulder. Do you know that?”

Her partner looked faintly surprised. “Said that we care for each other — love each other? There are some things we’ve always been able to say without words, Scully. That was one of them, I thought. Do you need the words?”

Her head inclined briefly, the sweep of her light auburn hair hiding part of her face. “Sometimes. But admissions of love mean vulnerability, and sex involves an intimacy that can’t be taken back. Like most good things, they can easily be turned into weapons. Gunshot wounds heal, but the kinds of hurts inflicted by someone you care about sometimes never heal. I think you know something about that, Mulder.”

He nodded silently, his face expressionless.

“That’s what it comes down to, Mulder. The other stuff — the work, the living space, the living together — we could work all that out eventually. But loving someone, really loving them with your heart and your mind and your body, that’s the most dangerous thing two people can do. There are so many opportunities to inadvertently — or deliberately — hurt the other person, to be hurt in return, to retaliate. I’ve always known that I couldn’t live like that, but it would kill me to see what we have degenerate into that.”

“Scully…” he began, but she cut him off, her eyes raised to look at him now, her voice edged with desperation.

“Leave it alone, Mulder, please. What we have now is good; it doesn’t need to change. There’s one more alternative we haven’t discussed yet, you know. I could quit the Bureau, get another job in D.C. and….”

“Scully, stop it,” he said sharply, then lowered his voice. “This is a serious step we’re talking about here, and I don’t blame you for being scared. I am, too. But you’re wrong when you say that what we have doesn’t need to change. It’s already been changed just by our talking about it. And it needs to keep changing, to keep growing. I don’t want things to stay the same between us. I love you and I want to marry you. That our being married will keep you from being transferred is just a byproduct of what I really want.” His gaze held hers captive. “And we’re both used to carrying weapons, Scully. Just because you hand me one doesn’t mean that I ever have to use it. We have to trust each other. We had that before we had everything else, remember?

“I remember,” she said slowly.

“Then trust me, Scully. Love me. Marry me,” he urged, reaching across the table to remove the cup from her nervous fingers and capture them in a warm, strong grip.

“I do trust you. And I do care for you.” Her fingers curved in his grasp, tightening on his hands. “But I’m not going to give you an answer tonight. I can’t.”

“I won’t push you if you need some time,” he said seriously, “but there’s one more excellent reasons for you to say yes.”

“What’s that?”

“The look on Skinner’s face when we present him with the solution to his insoluble problem,” he grinned.

Exasperated, Scully pulled her hands from his grasp and picked up her purse. “Want me to wait for you while you take care of the check?”

“No, go on up. I won’t tempt myself by escorting you.” His remark was only half in jest and Scully prudently got up, Mulder standing politely when she did. “‘Night, Scully.”

Just for a second, the wine she’d had before, during and after dinner suggested that her room would be a lot less lonely with another person sharing it, but the coffee urged a more cautious response. She bade him a sedate goodnight and left him watching her go, a half-mocking smile on his lips.

– + –

Part 2b

Her eyelids were finally starting to feel heavy. The aftermath of her conversation with Mulder had kept her awake for a couple of hours, tired as she was. The book she was reading was lit only by the nightstand lamp. The rest of the room was veiled in anonymous shadows as Scully glanced at her travel alarm and then checked it to make sure it was set.

It was nearly midnight, and the pages of the mystery she was reading were starting to run together. She yawned and, marking her place, put the book aside, hoping that Mulder wouldn’t want to go for breakfast at the crack of dawn.

She was reaching for the lamp switch when there was a quiet knock on her door, and with a sudden movement she pushed back the covers and was up, grabbing her robe. It could only be Mulder. For him to come to her room this late, something must have happened, that was all she could think as she unbolted the door.

Years of training stopped her before she turned the knob, though, and she asked sharply, “Who’s there?”

There was a second’s hesitation.

“Mulder,” his voice said, sounding surprised. “Expecting anyone else?” he asked when she opened the door.

“No. But I wasn’t expecting you either,” she reminded him.

“Mind if I come in?”

Scully stood back and gestured him in. “What’s wrong?” she asked, shutting the door after him, noting the absence of his jacket and tie, his loosened collar and rolled-up shirtsleeves.

“Nothing’s wrong. Not really.”

“What’s ‘not really?’” she wanted to know.

He didn’t answer, but went to her balcony door to look out at the darkness. After a minute, he slid the door back a few inches to let in the soft night breeze, the scent of the ocean, and the distant boom of the waves.

“I went for a walk,” he finally said, his tone just conversational. “I couldn’t sleep so I went out and walked around for a while, thinking. I was thinking about us. Thinking about you.”

He turned deliberately to look at her, his eyes darkened by the shadows enfolding the room, the color washed out of his face. “I want to stay here with you tonight, Scully.”

She could only stand where she was, frozen, speechless, feeling her heart seem to stop for a moment and then surge to life again, beating twice as fast as before.

“Do you want me to stay?” he asked, approaching her slowly. “If you don’t, I’ll go.”

His hands were sliding behind her waist now, drawing them together, his head bending, his mouth finding hers in a kiss that startled her with its intensity, but that didn’t ask for anything she wasn’t prepared to give.

She was breathless when he finally straightened, his hands inside her open robe, one against the curve of her waist and hip and the other against the outer curve of her breast.

“Do you want me to go?” he asked her quietly, looking down at her.

In the back of her mind, Scully could feel that something wasn’t quite right about this. Something was wrong. Maybe this was going too fast….

Her hesitation must have shown in her expression because Mulder stepped back a little, his fingertips brushing against her breast in a brief caress.

“I’ll go.”

“No,” she heard herself saying immediately. “Mulder, I want you to stay.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes,” she nodded, moving back into his embrace.

He gave her no opportunity to change her mind.

This time his kiss was harder, more demanding, confusing and exciting her senses at the same time. His fingers eased her robe over her shoulders and she shrugged it off, anxious to be closer to him, already working at the buttons of his shirt.

By the time the rest of his clothes and her nightgown followed the robe to the floor, she was trembling with anticipation, more than ready to complete what he had started.

The already tumbled bedclothes were unceremoniously pushed out of the way as she pulled him down with her finally and welcomed the warm weight of his body against hers.

Her head tilted back and her eyes closed in pleasure as his mouth drifted down from her ear, brushed across her throat and began slowly tracing the line of her collarbone to the point of her shoulder, but after a moment she turned her head, kissing his temple to attract his attention.



“Where is it?”

He didn’t say anything for a second, then lifted his head to look at her, his eyes very dark, and his mouth twisted in a wry smile. “Across the hall in my room,” he admitted ruefully. “You want me to go get it?”

He started to push himself away from her, and Scully’s body felt suddenly chilled by the lack of contact with his. She found herself tightening her arms around him convulsively, pulling him back to her.

“No, don’t get up.”

“Scully, we can stop if you want to,” he offered, “but I’d really rather we didn’t.”

“Me neither.”

“You want to take the chance?”

“It doesn’t matter. I just don’t want you to stop.”

“Then I won’t,” he promised, reaching out a long arm to turn off the lamp and let the shadows in the room take over.

– + –

Part 3

The morning sun was already promising to make the day a warm one when Scully went downstairs to meet Mulder for breakfast and she realized that her pale blue linen suit was not going to be cool enough. She had taken a minute to stand on the balcony to look at the view and mentally cursed the fashion czar that dictated appropriate business apparel.

Mulder was waiting to get on the elevator, a paper bag in his hands, when the doors opened for her in the lobby.

“Oh, there you are. I was about to come up and get you,” he said, heading for the lobby door, obviously expecting her to tag along. “The senator called me a little while ago and asked if we could move the interview up. His wife had a bad night or something.”

“In her condition, wouldn’t they have sedated her after a bad night?”

“I’ll show you her med records on the way. They don’t make it clear exactly what her condition is.”

“What’s in the bag?” she asked curiously as they reached the waiting taxi.

“Breakfast. I need my calories and you need your caffeine. Hop in.”

Scully took the bag from him when she had settled herself in the back seat and sniffed at the open top of the bag. Fresh coffee and bread of some sort.

He gave the address to the driver and took the bag back as the car started, fishing inside for something.

“Ah. This one’s yours.” He handed her a large, lidded Styrofoam cup. “Not politically correct, but it does have cream and no sugar. Careful, it’s hot,” he warned.

She didn’t care. If she could have poured it into herself intravenously, she would have. Two nights with almost no sleep were making her feel a little lightheaded, slightly detached from everything around her. She sincerely hoped the coffee would drive some of the mental fog away; she would need to be able to pay attention and make observations during the interview.


She looked up, startled, to find that he was holding out a smaller bakery bag with a couple of croissants and what looked suspiciously like two jelly doughnuts.

“You asleep?” he enquired.

“No, just inhaling the caffeine,” she replied, taking a croissant. She wasn’t a big breakfast eater under the best of circumstances, but this morning she was too tired to be hungry. “The coffee’s great. I may decide to live after all.”

“Yeah. Don’t die; suffer,” he said, eyeing her as he started on one of the jelly doughnuts.

“Those things will kill you before you’re 45, Mulder,” she shook her head, balancing the croissant on a paper napkin on her knee while she extracted her sunglasses from her purse and put them on one-handed. The bright, Bermuda sun was blinding and she was beginning to feel a headache coming on after only a few minutes of exposure to it.

“So who wants to live forever? Besides you’re just jealous.”

Not this morning, she thought, nibbling half-heartedly at her pastry. “You got that med report?” she asked, taking the opportunity to hide the remainder of the pastry in the paper napkin while Mulder’s attention was on not spilling his coffee as he found the report in the folder and handed it across to her, along with his notes so far on the case.

He didn’t say anything while she read through everything, just polished off the second doughnut and, after offering her the second croissant and being refused with an absent shake of her head, ate that, too.

“No physical evidence,” she frowned, “and she doesn’t match any of the psych profiles I can think of.”

Mulder considered that. “She displays limited paranoia, and there are a few schizoid signals, but no signs of depression or mania. She’s not actively belligerent; her normal waking state at the moment seems to be pretty passive. But she displays a marked fear-aggression response when confronted by her husband.”

“*Could* he have done something to her? It says here that she claims that he attacked her and raped on the…mmm…fifth night of their vacation here.”

“No evidence to support it,” he shrugged, “and the senator has offered to take a lie-detector test.”

“That doesn’t mean anything,” she pointed out.

“I know. I’ve got someone checking on his background, although God knows the media does a better job than we can hope to,” Mulder said wryly, putting her empty coffee cup in the bag with his trash and taking the rest of the croissant from her and adding it to the bag without comment. “He’s gotten this far in his political career without anything serious coming out about his past, so I thought I’d put that aside for now.”

Scully frowned down at the picture included in the file, taken only a monthly previously at a White House gala, according to the date recorded on the bottom. Julie Allingham was a lovely blond woman, a bit older than Scully, perhaps, dressed in a dress that Scully frankly coveted, not that fuscia was her color. Mrs. Allingham looked upper class, well-educated, carefully groomed and discreetly expensive. Her sandy-haired, blue-eyed husband looked like her clone. Together, they looked a little plastic, more than a little political, but they looked happy, without shadows in their eyes.

Scully wondered absently how Julie Allingham looked now, automatically checking the details of the photo: the people in the background, the physical location, the light, the shadows. After a moment, she focused more attention on the photo, gathering her wandering thoughts. There was nothing wrong about it that she could see, but something was off nonetheless. Some detail….

She examined it closely until the taxi finally drew up in front of the hospital, but still couldn’t put her finger on the elusive wrongness in the picture, and finally closed the file. She got out of the car with her partner, waited on the broad front steps of the building while he pitched their trash in a nearby receptacle and then accompanied him inside.

“We may have to interview them separately if Mrs. Allingham’s paranoia about her husband extends to men in general,” Mulder was thinking out loud as they climbed the stairs to the third floor, avoiding the overcrowded elevators in the teeming lobby.

“If she believes that she’s been raped, it’s not an uncommon reaction to extend the fear to a fear of all or most men, especially if she’s unstable,” Scully said reasonably. “If she has a problem talking to you, I’ll take care of her interview and you can deal with the senator. No sense wasting time if we don’t both need to be there.”

Mulder nodded his agreement and reached out to stop her before she could open the stairway door to the third floor, and for a second she thought he was going to kiss her — and for that split second she wanted that, needed that, more than anything else. But all he did was give her a quirky half-smile as he took her sunglasses off for her and tucked them into her briefcase.

“Trying out for the Secret Service?” he asked lightly.

She shrugged, embarrassed at her sudden awareness of him, chagrined that she had forgotten the sunglasses. She wasn’t in complete control of herself and she felt it acutely. Scully knew that she needed to pull herself together. She hoped she could.

– + –

From Scully’s point of view, the interview with Mrs. Allingham had not been a success.

First of all, she and Mulder had been surprised to find John Allingham in his wife’s private room on the psych ward. They appeared to be on fairly friendly footing, if restrained in manner, but Scully had only had a minute to observe this. Mrs. Allingham had taken Mulder in sudden violent, vocal dislike that quickly extended itself to Senator Allingham again, forcing the men to retreat, leaving Scully and a nurse with the half-hysterical woman.

The nurse had calmed her and Scully had been shocked by the change in Mrs. Allingham’s appearance as she grew quieter and Scully was able to observe her.

The carefully coifed blond hair was lank and ragged, as if it had been hacked by a knife — “so I won’t be pretty” — and there were angry scratches on her face and throat, self-inflicted, according to the latest medical chart — “he really likes the pretty ones” — and she looked as if she’d lost a lot of weight, thin and haggard-looking — “if he gets tired of me, he’ll move on to someone else.”

Mrs. Allingham had talked about her husband as if he were two different people, had begged the nurse every other minute to close the window curtains, and had made incoherent statements about a poison that her husband had given her, or had caused to be given to her. She also talked vaguely about an infection that spread.

The most startling and puzzling moment had come at the end of the interview, Scully thought, when Mrs. Allingham had reached tremblingly for her hand and told her that the infection would spread to her, too.

“I can see it in your face already,” she had told her. “And don’t be alone with John. He has that other man.”

“You mean Agent Mulder?” Scully had asked sharply.

“Don’t trust any of them,” had come the confidential whisper in the quavering voice. “Not after dark. He could be anywhere. He could be anyone.”

When the nurse indicated that she should leave a minute or two later, as Mrs. Allingham succumbed to exhaustion, Scully felt unsettled and shaken without knowing why. She begged a cup of coffee from the nurses at the central psych station and drank it while she waited for Mulder to finish his interview with the senator. Despite the warmth of the coffee, she felt thoroughly chilled by what Julie Allingham had said. The woman was unstable, ill, and Scully had dealt with such people before without being affected this way. Why couldn’t she handle it now?

Her hand shook as she poured herself another cup of coffee.

– + –

Mulder didn’t seem to notice that anything was wrong when he finished his interview and came to find her. His hand on her back directed her down the hall toward the ward entrance and she found herself walking just a bit faster to escape the awareness of him that his touch engendered.

“Find anything?” she asked, turning slightly toward him to cover her withdrawal.

“Not really,” he shook his head. “The story he’s telling is pretty straightforward. They came here on vacation and were having a good time. No one knew them here so they were enjoying their anonymity. Then his wife woke up one morning with this claim that he had attacked her the previous night after they’d gone to bed. When she started asserting that he had poisoned her, he began to wonder if she had taken something or eaten something at dinner that had caused this reaction, so he took her to the hospital. The doctors agreed that it could be some sort of toxin, but the tox screens didn’t show anything. They fell back on a psychological condition when they couldn’t find anything physical to account for her condition.”

“Yet the medical records did indicate that there was bruising consistent with a sexual attack.”

Mulder shrugged. “The senator said they had naturally been having sexual relations since their arrival in Bermuda. He didn’t think the sex was rough enough to cause the bruising, but said he couldn’t be sure.”

“Do you believe him?”

“I’m not ready to believe anybody yet, Scully. What did you come up with?”

“Well, it’s a good thing I always tape the interview because she was pretty incoherent. I couldn’t understand some of what she was saying, and it was hard to get her to stay with one line of thinking. I’m going to have to transcribe the tape this afternoon and see what I have.” She winced inwardly, knowing how evasive that sounded, and she saw Mulder glance sideways at her curiously.

“We have two more interviews lined up for today,” he reminded her.

“What times?”

“Eleven and three.”

“Okay. Let me have the addresses and I’ll meet you there. I’ve got some things I want to check out back at the hotel. I brought my modem so I could get online.”

Mulder frowned, looking at her closely. “Scully, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Mulder.”

“You don’t look fine. You look wiped,” he told her bluntly. “And you’re acting a little strange.”

“Sorry, Mulder, but you don’t have the monopoly on acting strange in this partnership. But I am beat — maybe I’m coming down with something. I don’t know. But I’m going back to the hotel and I’ll meet you for the other two interviews.”

Scully picked up her pace without waiting for him to answer. She bypassed the door to the stairs that he was going to take and, taking the turn in the hallway, headed for the elevators, leaving her partner standing, staring after her.

She knew that Mulder was going to have a lot of questions for her later, but she couldn’t stay here with him any longer. She had known that changing their relationship could be a costly mistake, but she was only just beginning to realize how costly it could be.

– + –

Scully made it to the first interview by the skin of her teeth. Mulder didn’t say anything when she came in late, but he didn’t have to. It was in his eyes, if not in his face.

Ms. Hess was a tall woman of 38, thin to the point of boniness, but it was the haggard kind of thinness that came from losing too much weight too fast. Her skin almost seemed to rest against her bones like fragile tissue paper. There were dark circles under her eyes and deep hollows in her cheeks. Her fingers twitched nervously, moving restlessly all the time she was talking, touching her limp, half-permed hair, brushing at her shirt, pleating her skirt nervously in the shadowy light seeping in through the curtains.

She was almost at the end of her three week vacation, and claimed to have been attacked by her boyfriend on their second night in Hamilton. She couldn’t remember specifics any longer, except that she’d been drugged by the man, she thought. After a violent argument, he had gone back to the States early, leaving her behind.

According to the medical records from her emergency room visit, her injuries were minor but had been consistent with those of a rape victim, however, she had refused to press charges against the boyfriend, despite her initial acknowledgment of him as her attacker.

She did say, though, that she had talked to her boyfriend on the phone recently, and things seemed to be all right between them. She was hoping to be able to work things out when she got home in a couple of days.

Nothing again, Scully thought, heading out of the motel room at the end of the interview, tucking her recorder back into her briefcase. No direct accusation, no background, no evidence. She already knew that the tox screen done at the emergency room for evidence of drug use had shown nothing unusual.

“Scully!” Mulder’s voice stopped her before she could get into the cab she had hastily hailed.

She turned, one hand on the open door, to look at her partner from behind the safety of her sunglasses.

“Okay, do you want to tell me what’s going on?” he asked quietly, coming to a halt too close for her peace of mind.

She thought about it briefly. “No.”

Mulder frowned, watching her. “Something is wrong, isn’t it.”

She thought about that, too. “Yes, I think so.”

“And you don’t want to talk about it?”

“Not right now. Maybe later. Maybe tonight.”

Mulder hesitated. “You don’t look good, Scully. Will you be all right until then?”

“I think so,” she smiled.

He took a deep breath and let it out again. “Look, I’ll take the three o’clock interview, record and transcribe it. I don’t think we’re going to get anything much from Ms. Soames, but it has to be done for the record.”

“Mulder, this case…. We’re not getting anywhere, are we.”

“Not really,” he admitted.

Scully shook her head. “It has to be some kind of toxin,” she said firmly. “Something they were given. Something ingested or injected. I’ll go back to the hotel and start trying to connect the three women. Or the three men.”

“Or the hotel, the motel, and the camping tent that were occupied by the victims,” he agreed dryly. “I don’t think we’re going to come up with much.”

“Have you got a theory, then?”

“Nothing I want to verbalize yet.”

Scully smiled, feeling more at ease with him than she had since dinner the night before. “Mulder, you’ve never been shy about verbalizing whatever bizarre theory you’ve thought up. You can’t kid me. You don’t have a clue.”

“I’ll go shopping for one this afternoon,” he shrugged with an answering wry smile. “You look beat. Go on back to the hotel, Scully. I’ll see you later.”

– + –

Scully took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes tiredly. The transcriptions of the two interviews were finished, and she had been online for what felt like days.

It was nearly 7:30 now. Mulder had dropped off his transcription notes an hour ago, saying that he had to go make some calls and would meet her downstairs for dinner.

There was nothing in Mulder’s interview notes to cast light on either one of the other two cases. The only reason Ms. Soames was still in Bermuda was because of injuries sustained in a moped accident on her last day of vacation. Her fiance had been traveling with her, but not staying with her. Separate tents. Both of them were religious people, and sex before marriage was something that they both had convictions about. Unlike the other women, Ms. Soames did not claim to have been attacked by her fiance. She said that someone had tried to impersonate him and had raped her when she realized that he wasn’t who he said he was. Although Ms. Soames did not appear to be in good health, her loss of appetite and nervous condition could be attributed to the injuries, although they fit the pattern of the other two rapes. Of the three women, she seemed to be in the best mental shape, and her nervous condition was not as apparent.

The cases shared several features, Scully thought. All three women had claimed to have been attacked by a man who looked like someone who was well-known to them. All three women had suffered similar symptoms of varying degrees: nervousness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, some degree of photosensitivity. All had similar physical injuries sustained in the attack.

Scully frowned at the small laptop screen where she was compiling and comparing information and leaned forward a little. She had seen physical rape trauma before and it was usually a pretty brutal sight. These women had actually gotten off pretty lightly, considering they had been raped. There was certainly evidence of sexual trauma, but there was no real tearing of internal tissue. A lot of external bruising, certainly. But hard, consenting sex could produce the same bruising.

She reached slowly for the photos taken in the emergency room, looking at them from a slightly different point of view.

The women looked drained, empty. They looked as if they experienced a trauma. What they didn’t look was beaten up.

Scully got up and went to the phone. When her partner answered after the first ring, she didn’t waste any time. “I think I’ve found something, Mulder. I need you to come over and get my notes.”

“I’ll be right there.”

She put the phone down and looked at the small ray of light that was slipping through a small gap in the drawn curtains. The sun was starting to go down and the bay would probably be gorgeous, but it was too much of an effort to pull the curtains to look.

She opened the door for Mulder when he knocked and then went back to her desk, leaving him to shut the door.

“Take a look at this, Mulder,” she gathered up the photos. “The medical reports for all three list what could be termed mild, external sexual trauma, and these photos don’t show anything more than a few bruises, none on their faces. Now, rape is a crime of violence, not really having anything to do with sex except as a means of control and as a weapon.”

“That’s what I was taught,” he agreed, taking the photos from her to study. “So there’s something wrong here, then. Not enough force used.”

“I think so. Also, it occurred to me that three rapes by three different men should produce three different MO’s.”

“And the MO is the same in each of these cases,” he said slowly, nodding. “Scully, I think you’ve got something here. If you come at it from the point of view that all these attacks were perpetrated by the same individual, you start seeing a pattern.”

“But the women each identified a different man. Do you think the rapist studies his victims and disguises himself as someone they brought with them? Or the resemblance to someone they know is drug-induced? Or they’re hypnotized?” She trotted out every theory she could think of but knew from the look on his face that he wasn’t buying them.

“Or he somehow changes his shape.”


“We’ve experienced shapeshifters before, Scully,” he interrupted her. “You may not be able to explain them scientifically, but you know it can happen. You’ve seen it.”

“I’d taken a fall — a blow to the head….” she began stubbornly and was stopped in mid-sentence by the look he gave her. She thought about what she’d seen in the hotel room in Hunt Valley and gave up the argument. “All right. I saw it. You think that’s what this is? I thought you believed that guy was some kind of alien agent of some kind.”

“I think shapeshifting is a possibility, that’s all. There are a couple of other possibilities, though, that I’m not going to dismiss yet.”

“What now, then?”

“Well, first of all, I’m going to stand you up for dinner so I can work up a profile on this guy, starting from the assumption that there’s one rapist and see what I can come up with. Tomorrow we can make some calls to see if there have been any similar attacks on the locals.”

“I can get online again tonight and check the local newspaper morgues,” she offered.

“No, hang it up tonight, Scully. You still look tired, so you might as well start fresh in the morning. Let me have your notes.”

Scully handed everything over to him wordlessly and watched him go, knowing that he was already absorbed in beginning the profile that they needed to solve this case. But a minute after the door had closed, she got up and, smiling to herself, went to answer the knock she knew was coming.

Mulder had already put the notes in his room and looked faintly sheepish. “I forgot that I wanted to talk to you about what went on today,” he half-apologized.

“Never mind, Mulder. I’m fine and you’ve got a lot of work you need to do. We can talk tomorrow.”

“Scully, you weren’t fine today,” he said seriously. “Something’s going on with you. And don’t hand me any crap about not wanting to distract me from the case,” he continued as she opened her mouth to reply. He waited for her to speak, but when she didn’t he put his hands on her shoulders and shook her gently. “Talk to me, Scully. What’s wrong? Are you worrying about what we talked about at dinner? About my proposal?”

“That — and other things, too,” she shrugged his hands off her shoulders and stepped back as casually as she could.

“What other things?” Mulder frowned.

Scully sighed, exasperated. This was not a conversation she wanted to have in the doorway of her hotel room, but she wasn’t prepared to let him into her room where things could get more personal fast. His touch had burned her skin through her blouse and weakened her resolve to keep him out of the room.

“Mulder, after everything we talked about, after what happened, and after feeling the way I did today, I feel like my head is being messed with. And I don’t like it.”

“You think I’m messing with your head?” he echoed blankly.

“And doing a good job of it, too. Look, Mulder, I can’t talk about this right now, not with the case still ongoing. I can’t keep doing this while we’re trying to work as well. When we finish the assignment, then we’ll talk. Let’s shelve the personal stuff until then.”


“After we finish the assignment.”


“No, Mulder,” she shook her head, closing the door on him with a certain finality.

– + –

Scully didn’t bother with dinner. The thought of food was unappealing; she was too tired to eat. She thought briefly about going back online to do the newspaper research, but the idea of looking into that computer screen for even five more minutes was even more unappealing than the thought of food.

After a brief struggle with herself, she gave up trying to think of something constructive to do and just took a shower and went to bed.

Right now, sleep was the only thing that held any appeal for her.

– + –

She didn’t know how long the knocking had been going on, but it became part of her dream before it woke her up, confused and groggy. The travel alarm by the bed said 12:30 and she muttered a heartfelt curse as she dragged herself out of bed and went to the door.

“Who is it?” she asked, her voice husky with sleep.

“Mulder. Are you okay, Scully?”

“I was asleep. What do you want?”

“Open up. I want to talk to you.”

“It’s too late and I’m too tired. You can talk to me tomorrow.”

“It’s already tomorrow,” he pointed out. “I don’t want to have to shout through a door at you, Scully. Come on, open the door.”

“No. Go to bed, Mulder.”

The silence from the other side of the door went on long enough that she was beginning to think he had given up and gone back to his room when he spoke again.

“Either you open the door or I will,” he said, his voice very quiet.


“You heard me.”

Scully stared in surprise at the door for a moment, as if she could see through it to the other side where her partner stood. He must be crazy.

“Scully, open the door,” he said slowly and deliberately.

She unlocked and opened it quickly. “Mulder, I don’t want to talk to you right now. I’m tired and I want to go back to bed,” she protested as he moved past her into the room.

“That’s a great idea,” her partner agreed, starting to strip off the polo shirt he was wearing with his jeans.


“You wanted this all day, Scully,” he told her calmly. “Did you think I couldn’t tell?”



A quick movement divested her of her nightshirt and then his kiss was sapping her of any desire to tell him to stop.

– + –

Part 4

The travel alarm read 4:57.

Scully concentrated her attention on the clock, blocking out everything else. She couldn’t let him see her pain, couldn’t let him enjoy it. Her body ached, and the cut on the inside of her lip throbbed, but she pushed the feeling ruthlessly away from her. He would be quick to notice any show of discomfort and act on it.

His attention wasn’t on her at the moment, though. He was dressing, his back to her.

She didn’t want to look at him. He might feel it. It might turn his attention back to her. There was still time for him to come back to her one more time, and a tremor shook her at the thought. She couldn’t go through this again.

She focused on the clock once more.

The sun would start rising in less than an hour. The sky was already beginning to lose its utter blackness. There was a lightening of the shadows in the room.

Keep it simple, Scully thought. Simple thoughts. Simple concepts. Simple words.

No feeling. No expression.


She shot a wary glance at him and quickly looked away, not wanting to hold his attention by holding his gaze.

“Are you all right?”

Her flesh crawled. “Fine,” was all she could manage to say.

His fingertips brushed her cheek as he leaned over her, and she clenched her teeth to keep from screaming.

“Scully, you were holding back on me,” Mulder explained softly. “I told you that you couldn’t do that. Didn’t you believe me?”

“I guess not.”

“You should have.”

“I will now,” she said slowly, meaning it.

“Good. Tonight will be better. I promise.”

Scully shut her eyes to block him out as he bent to kiss her. When the door shut quietly behind him, she could taste blood on her mouth.

Gagging, she shoved the bedclothes away from her and staggered to the bathroom.

When the nausea finally passed, she turned the shower on as hot as she could stand it and stood under the spray. It took a while to summon the energy, but she finally managed to reach for the soap, her hands shaking, and began to wash. She scrubbed herself from head to foot, every inch of her. She washed away his touch, his smell, and his taste from her body. And when she was clean again, as clean as she could ever be, now, only then did she begin to cry.

– + –

It was almost 7:30 and he would be getting ready to go to breakfast.

Scully sat on the side of the other bed, the one that was still made, and looked at the door. Clinical detachment, she told herself. She was a doctor. She was an FBI agent. She had been trained over many years how to view a case with detachment, without emotion, without becoming involved.

She could do this. The sun was up and she was safe for the moment. She hoped.

She had to do this.

Deliberately, she drew her gun from its holster and put it in the pocket of the heavy terry bathrobe that the hotel supplied. Taking a deep breath, she got up and forced her reluctant feet to carry her to the door and then outside to the hallway.

The door to Mulder’s room was across the hall and down a few feet. It seemed like a mile away, and it took a minute for her to gather the courage to knock.

Clinical detachment, she reminded herself.

The door opened suddenly enough that it startled her slightly, and Mulder was there, still buttoning his dress shirt.

“I overslept and you’re early —” he began and stopped when he saw her face.

“Don’t say anything,” she told him, having to work to get the words out. “Just back up. Away from the door.”

He couldn’t move for a minute, his eyes on her face. What the hell had happened to her? Her eyes were red and puffy, her mouth was swollen, and her expression….

“Mulder, move away from the door,” she said again.

He backed up obediently, putting some distance between them, since that seemed to be what she wanted.

She pushed the door shut behind her, making sure that it wasn’t locked in case she needed to get out quickly.

“Scully, what’s going on? What’s happened to you?” He took a step toward her but stopped short as her hand came out of the pocket of her robe with her weapon held ready.

“Don’t,” she said simply, and the even, expressionless tone of her voice would have stopped him in his tracks, even without the gun. “Don’t come any closer.”

“Okay. I won’t,” he agreed, backing up a step or two. “What’s going on? What’s this about?”

“Don’t talk, Mulder. Turn around.”

He did so slowly, moving slightly to one side so he could see her in the mirror over the bureau.

“Now, take off your shirt and your undershirt. I want to see your back.”

“My back?” he echoed blankly. “Scully….”

In the mirror, he saw the gun come up. Her hand was shaking, but her face was calm and controlled, and he knew from the look in her eyes that she was prepared to pull the trigger. And this time she wouldn’t be aiming for his shoulder. The muzzle was pointed at the back of his head.

“All right, Scully.” He unbuttoned his shirt again and took it off, keeping his movements slow and deliberate. “I’m doing what you want,” he told her, keeping his voice low and soothing, trying to buy time as his mind raced. She didn’t look feverish. A drug, maybe? “I’ll do whatever it is you want. Just tell me why you want to look at my back.”

She watched him drape the clean shirt across the back of a chair, relieved that she felt this detached. “I want to see if you’re scratched,” she said calmly. “I scratched him last night so that I could see if it was you.”

For an instant his eyes met hers in the mirror, then he suddenly realized what this was about, what had happened, and the color drained from his face.

“Oh my God.”

He stopped thinking about the gun she held and pulled his undershirt over his head hastily, remembering the way his back had stung in the shower this morning; he had thought the water was too hot. Half turning quickly to look in the mirror, he could see four red parallel lines across each shoulderblade. There was no mistaking them for anything but what they were.

“Oh my God,” he breathed again, looking at the scratches and then at her face. He knew that expression, now. He had seen it the faces of too many rape victims. And she believed that he had done it — and the scratches proved that he had. So though his first impulse was to go to her, he couldn’t — couldn’t try to help her or touch her. He needed to keep a distance between them to keep from inflicting any more pain on her. His mouth was suddenly dry. “It’s not a shapeshifter. It’s got to be some kind of possession,” he said at last, forcing his mind to think, forcing his thoughts away from what she must be feeling.

“Possession?” she said doubtfully.

“Scully, I don’t know what went on last night. I fell asleep in that easy chair while I was working on the profile. I woke up there about half an hour ago.”

“What about the night before? Where were you then?”

“Both nights….?” He swallowed hard. “Scully, I didn’t know anything about it. It wasn’t me.”

She regarded him steadily for a long minute, the gun still held ready.

“His eyes,” she murmured at last. “His eyes were always different. They were dark. Almost black.”

“Good. You’ll be able to tell the difference, then,” he said almost eagerly. “Keep me covered. I’m going to stand in the light from the window. Look at my eyes and tell me what color they are.”

She came forward reluctantly, cautiously, lifting the gun slightly. She didn’t get too close to him, but she looked into his face intently as the sun shone in his eyes, making him blink involuntarily.

“Hazel,” she said. “They’re your eyes again. Not his.”

“That’s right. It’s me, Scully. I’m not going to hurt you. You know that.” Oh, God, how could she possibly believe him. “I’m not going to do what he did.”

She didn’t look convinced, and he couldn’t blame her.

“Look, you don’t need the gun. I don’t want it,” he continued quickly as her grip on it tightened. “I want you to hold onto it. But you can put it away, now.” He kept his voice as quiet as he could; she wasn’t completely back with him yet.

She looked at him mutely. She could no longer trust external evidence. She had to trust her instincts. But she had turned off that part of herself, the part that could feel and be hurt. She had no way now of knowing whether he was telling the truth.

He shrugged, his hands gesturing helplessly. “It’s me.” It was the only thing he could think of to say.

She had heard him say that so many times. The right inflections in his voice. The right words. He was upset, worried about her. He hadn’t known about the scratches. He wasn’t making an effort to touch her, wasn’t making an effort to take anything from her. She had always trusted Mulder. She would have to trust him now and hope she wasn’t making a terrible mistake.

She compressed her lips, careless of the cut, and nodded briefly. Putting the gun back in her pocket, she turned away to sit down in the chair at his desk. Her legs were trembling.

Mulder made a careful detour around her and, ducking into the bathroom for a second, brought out a couple of tissues that he handed to her at arms’ length. “There’s blood…on your mouth.”

Scully pressed the tissue against her mouth. She didn’t know what to say to him now.

“I guess we know now what happened to those women,” she mumbled finally.

“I guess we do.” He sat down on the end of the unmade bed, watching her warily for any adverse reaction. “Scully, when does this possession take place? When did I change? Is this an intermittent thing? Are you in danger now from this thing?”

“I only saw him at night. Late. He would leave just before dawn.” She tried to keep her voice steady.

Mulder nodded. “Then we should have the rest of the day .”

“What about tonight, Mulder?” Her voice shook despite her effort to control it.

He rubbed his hand across his jaw, looking around for inspiration, looking anywhere but at Scully.

“Does he have my memories? Does he know what I know?”

“Oh, yes. Yes,” she said bleakly.

Making himself sit still and not go to her was harder than Mulder would have believed possible. His imagination was reading things into her stark affirmation that he had to make a conscious effort to thrust away from him before they ruined his control completely.

“Then he’ll know what’s happened, that you figured it out,” he said, and saw her head jerk up to look at him, stark terror in her eyes.

He caught her before she was halfway to the door, turning her back, holding her carefully. “Scully! Scully, listen. You’ve got to stay with me here. You’re safe, Scully,” he insisted, allowing her to break his hold on her. “See, I’m letting you go. I’m not holding onto you.”

He watched her gain control of herself again and when she had stopped shaking he said gently, “It won’t happen again. You’ll be okay tonight. We can make sure of that.”

“How?” she wanted to know. “I don’t know how to keep you out.”

“I do,” he said grimly. “We’ll use your handcuffs to immobilize me. You can cuff me to…” he looked around for a likely spot, “…to the handle of the sliding glass door. We both know that I don’t have keys to your cuffs, Scully. You’ll be safe.”

“Mulder, I can’t —”

“Yes, you can,” he told her. “But we’ll worry about that later. First, we need to get you to the hospital.”

“No,” she said flatly.

“You’re obviously hurt — you’ve been raped. You know as well as I do that you’ve got to see a doctor —”

“I said no. I’m not going to have this on record here,” Scully said with finality. “The local police will be involved by the emergency room physician and what am I supposed to tell them — that my partner raped me?” Mulder winced and she continued, her voice hard. “And if you deny it, how are you going to explain the physical evidence — the clothing fibers, the blood, the hair, the semen. I won’t go to the hospital, Mulder. I don’t need it for me and I don’t want it for you.” She wondered if he would realize that she had rid herself of the physical evidence as quickly as she could.

Apparently, it didn’t occur to him. When he found his voice after a long minute, it sounded strained. “How badly are you hurt? What are the extent of your injuries? I can find a private doctor….”

“Like the other women, I’m not seriously injured. It just feels worse than it is. It’s okay, Mulder; the doctors can’t do anything for bruises anyway. I’ll just take an aspirin.” She paused, shoving the bloodied tissue into her robe pocket. “I’m much more concerned about how to get rid of this…this thing permanently. We obviously can’t live like this.”

“It would help to know what it is,” he said thoughtfully. “And if I can figure out how it got into me in the first place, maybe I can figure out how to get rid of it.”

“I think I know that much,” Scully said, surprising him. “I think the senator passed it to you that first night we were here. His wife’s was the last attack, and it started for me that night. If you didn’t know you were carrying it around, he may not have known that he was a carrier either. That’s why I thought there was something wrong with his photo. His eyes were blue in the picture, but they were dark when I met him in the bar. They should have been blue.”

Mulder listened to the controlled anxiety in her voice and wondered how long she was going to be able to hold onto her self-control. Not much longer, he thought. She was exhausted and hurt and talking about it right now wasn’t doing her any good at all.

“Scully, don’t think about it any more,” he interrupted her. “Have you gotten any sleep at all?”

She shook her head. “Not since I talked to Skinner.”

“You haven’t slept for three nights running and you’ve eaten next to nothing since dinner that first night. I’m going to call down for room service and have something sent up to you. Then you’re going to get some sleep.” He was picking up the phone as he spoke.

When he had ordered breakfast for her, he got another shirt out of the closet and finished dressing. “I’m going to do some fast checking around to find out about any local attacks, and I’m going to see if I can find out what this thing is.” He hesitated as he pulled on his jacket. “Will you be all right here by yourself?”

“I’ll be fine,” she said, not looking at him. “I just need some rest.”

“Liar,” he said, a faint smile quirking his mouth. “I’m going to call you later to check up on you. I’ll try to be back mid to late afternoon. Nowhere close to dark,” he assured her.

She didn’t say anything.

“Listen, Scully, if anything happens so that I’m not back by nightfall, you get out of here. I don’t want to know where. And if he finds you somehow, I want you to shoot him.”

She lifted her gaze from the floor to his face, but she didn’t argue. “Don’t be late. Curfews are hell.”

As he left, Mulder didn’t have a doubt in his mind that if he showed up after dark, he’d be greeted with a bullet. He’d make it a point to be on time.

– + –

Part 5a

It was hard picking out the kernels of truth from the stories he was told, but by 3:00 Mulder had some information to go on. Scully would call it subjective and unsubstantiated, but it was all they had.

He hailed a taxi and directed the driver to the hotel, a thirty minute trip, according to the driver, so he took out his cellular phone and dialed the hotel’s number. He wanted to let Scully know that he was on his way back, but the phone in his room wasn’t being answered.

Mulder frowned as his listened to the repeated ringing. He had thought she had understood that she was to stay in his room, not to go back to her own room where everything had happened.

When the call finally switched back to the operator, he asked for Scully’s room number, then sat forward in his seat a little, as if the movement would somehow impel her to pick up the phone.

This time when the call switched back to the operator, she wanted to know if he was Mr. Mulder, Ms. Scully’s traveling companion. If so, the assistant manager would like a word, if convenient.

“This is Mr. Addams-Leigh, the assistant manager,” said a cultured voice after a moment, sounding more than a bit British. “Is this Mr. Mulder?”

“Yes, I’m Fox Mulder,” he said impatiently. “What’s wrong?”

“We are having a problem with Ms. Scully’s room. The plumbing in her bathroom must be malfunctioning,” Mr. Addams-Leigh said carefully. “Our building engineer tells me that the shower in that unit has been running since early this morning, but Ms. Scully has us denied us entrance so that repairs could be effected.”

“I’m on my way there. I’ll make sure everything’s all right,” Mulder said hastily, knowing what could happen if the hotel management entered Scully’s room in her present unstable state of mind. “I’ll take care of everything when I get there.”

He broke the connection and told the driver to hurry.

The narrow coast road back into the city was lined with lemon and orange trees, with sea grapes tumbling over the low fence bordering the road. Mulder looked out the taxi window and didn’t see any of it.

It was almost impossible for him to believe that this thing was inside him. He couldn’t feel it. He couldn’t detect any difference in himself. But the proof was on his back — and in Scully’s face when she looked at him.

Mulder shut his eyes against the thought of what her face had looked like this morning. He had seen that expression over and over again in the eyes of women whose files and photos he’d studied in the Violent Crimes Unit. He had never imagined he would see that look in Scully’s face. Or that he, however indirectly, would be the cause of it.

He *wasn’t* the cause of it, he reminded himself firmly. But it was up to him to keep Scully safe long enough for them to get rid of this…entity.

After that had been accomplished — somehow — then the real problems would begin. There were more problems than he wanted to think about, so he stopped trying. All he could handle right now was one problem at a time.

– + –

When the cab finally arrived at the hotel, Mulder went straight to the front desk.

“I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI,” he told the desk clerk on duty, showing her his ID. “I need the key to Agent Dana Scully’s room.”

“Sir, it is not the policy of this hotel —”

“Yes, I know,” he broke in. “But Agent Scully is my partner and we’re here on business. The key, please.”

The woman eyed Mulder’s ID and then disappeared into the office behind the main reception desk. After only a moment, a tall, distinguished-looking black man came out with her.

“Ah,” the man said, nodding. “Mr. Mulder? I am Mr. Addams-Leigh. Here is the key to Ms. Scully’s room. Please let me know if there is anything else that we can do for you.”

Something in his voice made Mulder look more closely at him as he took the key and pocketed it.

“Mrs. Allingham’s room had similar problems with the plumbing during her stay with us,” the assistant manager continued smoothly. “We hope that Ms. Scully has not been inconvenienced by any such problems.”

Mulder was sure now that the man knew something about what was going on. His tone was a little too pointed, his eyes looking a little too directly into Mulder’s, as if he were trying to communicate something. “I hope so too,” Mulder said slowly. “Look, I may need to talk with you later, if you don’t mind.”

“Certainly, sir. At your convenience.”

Mulder nodded and headed for the stairs, disdaining the elevator. Their rooms were only on the fourth floor.

The hallway on their floor was quiet. Scully’s door was locked when he tried it, but he could hear the water running inside. He started to insert the key into the lock but stopped suddenly, mentally cursing the need for haste that had brought him upstairs without thinking first. If he walked into Scully’s room unheralded, he could count on being dead in short order. He couldn’t use the damn key without her knowing about it — unless she was unconscious, and even then….

A quick investigation of his own room proved that Scully wasn’t there and, in fact, hadn’t stayed long enough to eat the room service breakfast. The tray was sitting untouched on the desk. Pausing long enough to call room service to have the tray retrieved, he took it with him to leave outside the door on the floor, before going back to Scully’s door.

He stood indecisively for a moment, biting his lip as he reviewed his options.

It took several minutes of knocking and calling her name before she responded to the din he was creating outside her door, but he wasn’t stupid enough to use the key unless she was completely non-responsive.

“Is that you, Mulder?” Her voice was so soft that he could barely hear her.

“Yeah, it’s me, Scully,” he told her, leaning against the door. “I’m back. Can I come in?”


He sighed. That was blunt enough. She must really be having a hard time in there if she didn’t want him coming in.

“Okay, no problem,” he said aloud. “Were you taking a shower?”


“Well, finish up, will you? We’ve got some work to do.” He tried to sound as matter-of-fact as possible.

“What kind of work?” she wanted to know.

“I need to ask you some questions. You know the drill,” he said casually, listening hard.

“Mulder, I’m tired….”

“I know, Scully. I know.” He thought fast. “Look, you go on back and finish your shower. I’ll wait in your room until you finish. I can be checking out the notes on your laptop while I’m waiting. It’ll save me some time.” There was no answer from the other side of the door. “Go on, Scully. When I hear the bathroom door close I’ll come in and wait.”

After a moment he heard the door bolt being unlocked and then the sound of a door inside shutting. He slid the key card into the lock and turned the handle when the green light came on.

The curtains had been drawn against the outside light, but the lamps were on, throwing light on the bed that was still demurely covered by its spread and on the other bed. It’s mattress was half pushed off the boxspring, as if it had been pulled out of place when the bedclothes had been torn off and dumped on the floor between the beds.

Mulder’s gaze rested on the bed and bedclothes for a moment before noting the empty holster on the nightstand. He controlled his too-active imagination with an effort and, avoiding the blue tee shirt crumpled in the middle of the floor, went over to her desk. The laptop on her desk was dark and the few notes that she hadn’t given him were stacked neatly beside it, her reading glasses resting on top of the paper.

He stared sightlessly into the blank computer screen. He thought he had a fairly accurate picture of what had happened here last night, as much as the evidence here could tell him.

Scully had finished working on her computer, turned it off, and had probably gone straight to bed. There was no book in sight to indicate bedtime reading. At some point later on, she had opened the door to someone she thought was her partner and that’s when everything had happened. The nightshirt had been discarded some distance from the bed. It must have started when he entered the room. Wrecking the bed was probably something that Scully, herself, had done either this morning or later when she came back to the room.

“Finish up in there, Scully,” he called, prodding her, wondering how long she had been in there. All day? “You’re going to turn into a prune.”

It took another few minutes of patient coaxing to get her to shut off the water. When she finally came out of the bathroom, she was wrapped in the hotel’s terry robe and looked damp and somewhat dazed.

Mulder looked her over briefly but comprehensively and then turned away, going to stand at the balcony door, parting the curtains slightly in a pretense of looking at the view. Scully’s body was there, but that was all. Sometime during the day, she had done what he had seen other victims of rape do — disconnect herself from her surroundings, her memories, her pain. He needed to get her back. He had to give her back a sense of connection, a sense of normalcy, a sense of herself.

“Hurry up, Scully. Get dressed.”


“Work, Scully. Remember? Sorry, but you can’t hang out in your bathrobe all day when we’ve got work to do. Come on. Hurry.”

He could hear her moving around and knew she was probably getting dressed on automatic.

“I talked to a lot of people today. Interesting stories.” He waited to see if she would pick up on that.

“All subjective?” she asked finally, and he felt real relief that she was coming back slowly. “Or could anything be substantiated?”

“You know better than that, Scully,” Mulder smiled. “Nothing I ever investigate has a hope of having substantiation.”

“How true,” she agreed dryly, beginning to sound more like herself. “So what do we do now?”

He shrugged. “Now you listen to my unsubstantiated stories that I have, by now, personally biased, and then I will listen to your entirely subjective, extremely biased evidence, and then we try to figure out what the hell is going on here.”

“We’re inside the case, now,” she said doubtfully. “Maybe we shouldn’t —”

“Shouldn’t what? Investigate it ourselves?” he finished for her. “Absolutely right, Scully. Very much according to the book. We’re both so personally biased by this situation that we don’t have a prayer of being able to stay objective. But investigating it ourselves is slightly more acceptable to me than the thought of calling Skinner and asking for help because I raped you while possessed by an entity of some kind.”

“Hmm. You’ve got a point there,” she agreed. “Okay, I’m dressed.”

“Good.” He turned around and looked her over. The taupe pants suit was the only normal-looking thing about her. Her damp hair was pulled carelessly back to the nape of her neck with a barrette and she hadn’t bothered at all with makeup. Just as well, Mulder thought. Makeup wouldn’t be able to disguise her swollen lip or her puffy eyelids. And there were a couple of dark bruises showing up on her jaw now. They looked like finger marks.

“Get your night stuff together,” he said out loud. “You can stay in my room tonight and I’ll stay in here.”

Scully silently collected what she needed and preceded him across the hall to his room. A waiter was there picking up the tray and Mulder stopped to have a brief word with him, handing his key to Scully and gesturing for her to go on in.

The room was relatively neat again. The queen-size bed had been made and the room tidied by the maid, but the papers, notes and photos scattered carelessly across the desk, the bureau, and even over the laptop keyboard definitely gave Mulder’s signature to the room. His study habits never changed, and that was comforting somehow, Scully thought. Something familiar amid the unreality of what was happening to her.

Mulder watched her as she stood, staring blankly at the litter of paper, and shut the door behind him.

“I ordered you something to eat,” he told her.

Scully looked around, half startled. “Mulder, I couldn’t —”

“I know,” he interrupted her. “But you’re going to.”

“I really can’t. The thought of food makes me sick,” she protested.

“So when you eat it, you can be sick. The bathroom’s right there,” he told her hardheartedly. “Then you can come out, eat some more and be sick again. Eventually something will stay down.”

“You’re not my mother,” she said resentfully.

“No,” he agreed, clearing out the top drawer of the bureau with a sweep of his hand and dumping the contents into the next drawer down. “I’m your partner, your best friend and, if we can ever get out of this hellish mess we’re in, I still have faint hopes of becoming your husband. Put your stuff in here and then have a seat. We need to talk.”

Scully had been dreading this talk all day, but put her overnight things in the drawer and sat down in the easy chair near the balcony door. They would have to go through this some time and common sense dictated that it be while the memories were fresh. She just wished she felt more in control of herself.

Mulder sat down at the desk and extracted a pen and notebook from the drawer before putting on his reading glasses in what he knew was a vain effort to distance himself from the coming interview. It was going to be a waste of time trying to maintain objectivity, but he was going to give it his best shot for Scully’s sake.

“There’s no sense in trying to conduct this by the book, Scully,” he echoed his thoughts for her benefit.

She nodded agreement.

“You were pretty strung out in your room a little while ago,” he observed, looking at her closely. “Are you going to be able to hold it together here?”

“I’ll try. You have to know what happened.”

“Okay.” He took a deep breath. “Let’s start with your physical condition. It’s not too late to go to the hospital if you need to,” he reminded her.

“I really don’t need to, Mulder. Really. The physical injuries are basically superficial — like the other women’s. I’m bruised and I ache, but it’s nothing that a couple of aspirin and some rest won’t take care of.”

“How about your lip?”

“It’s sore, but it doesn’t need stitches. It’s stopped bleeding.”

“All right. Then let’s go back to dinner that first night. I stayed to take care of the check while you went on upstairs. As far as my conscious movements are concerned, I went to my room, looked over the case notes, read for a little while, then fell asleep.” He paused for a moment. These were questions that he didn’t want to ask, answers he didn’t want to know. But he had to ask. He had to know. “Tell me what happened after you went upstairs.”

Scully’s gaze was fixed on something beyond him and she didn’t say anything at all for what felt like a long time.

“I was tired, but I was thinking about what we’d talked about at dinner,” she finally said, her voice barely audible. “And I was reading, trying to stop thinking so I could fall asleep.”

She paused as there was a knock at the door and Mulder got up to answer it. When he came back, he had a room service tray that he put down on the table at her elbow.

“If you eat and talk about what happened at the same time, you really will throw up,” he said matter-of-factly. “Want to eat first or talk first?”

“I’d rather do both,” she told him. “It’ll give me something to do with my hands. I can’t just sit here and do nothing while I tell you these things, Mulder.”

“I know it’s hard to talk about, Scully. It’s almost as hard to sit here and listen to it, believe me.”

She nodded and, turning the chair slightly, she began to spoon up the steaming vegetable soup, one deliberate mouthful at a time. The soup warmed her as she swallowed; that was all she could say for it. The homemade bread with it was still warm, but it tasted of nothing at all. Was this why the other women were so thin, Scully wondered? She forced herself to break off another bit of bread and eat it.

“You knocked on my door,” she picked up methodically where she left off, making her story as objective as she could. “I got up and let you in.” There was no sense in burdening him with her very subjective thoughts and feelings at the time.

Mulder sat down again slowly, listening. It sounded so unreal. She was talking about him coming to her room. It was unreal.

“You had no idea that it wasn’t me?”

“None,” she shook her head. “You were acting kind of quiet, thoughtful. You said you’d been thinking about us and you wanted to stay with me that night.”

Scully put her spoon down and pushed the tray away. Another sip, another bite would choke her.

“It seemed to kind of loosely connect to what we’d been talking about. You kept offering to go. And every time you offered to go, the more I wanted you to stay. I know it sounds crazy. It doesn’t make any sense now, and it was confusing at the time, but…. I don’t know how to explain.

“Things got confused after that. Some things I remember; some things I don’t. If I try to look back as objectively as I can and really think about it, I think I must have subconsciously recognized that something was wrong,”

“What clued you in?”

“Overall? I guess it was the sex,” she said bluntly, her fingers pleating the napkin still in her lap. “We had sex. We didn’t make love. I know it’s a subtle — and subjective — difference, but there is a difference. And after we had just talked about getting married and loving each other, it was…well, it was physically satisfying, I guess, but emotionally jarring. It threw me off balance.

“And there were other things, too,” she continued doggedly. “You told me at dinner that night that you’d always had safe sex, but then you came to my room without a condom.”

Mulder put the empty notepad and unused pen back on the desk carefully in order to keep from throwing them. He couldn’t take notes of this. He couldn’t listen to any more of it. He felt sick.

“What else?” he asked hoarsely.

Scully didn’t look at him, but the corner of her mouth twitched upward in a faint smile. “Well, I have to admit that I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about you in a more personal sense. But I know you as a person, and I did do a little thinking about the subject that night after dinner. I didn’t have a lot of time to come up with expectations before you showed up, but I did have certain basic expectations of what sex with you would be like.” The smile disappeared suddenly. “And you didn’t do the things I expected you to do, or say the things I expected you to say. I think that by the time you left, I knew that I couldn’t have misread you so badly. I just didn’t know what was wrong.”

“No wonder you acted so weird the next day,” he shook his head. “No wonder you said I was messing with your mind. So what happened last night? Why did it become violent?”

Scully pressed her lips together. “Mulder some of it I can’t talk about. I can’t. And there’s no point, because…. At any rate, it would only upset you.”

“Not any more than not knowing at all,” he pointed out.

“Maybe I’ll be able to tell you everything someday. Not now. You’re going to have to settle for what I can give you.” She gathered her thoughts carefully. Talking about this was getting harder. “Most of it is pretty simple, on the surface. You came to my room. I didn’t want to let you in. You became very insistent — uncharacteristically so. You finally said that either I could open the door or you would.”

“What?” he said incredulously. “And you let him in?”

Scully ignored him. “I felt like I had to let you in. And after I did, that’s when the wrongness of the whole thing started falling into place for me. But I felt like I wasn’t myself when I was with you — like I had no willpower. I had to do what you wanted — and I even wanted to do it. But something inside me wouldn’t let go, wouldn’t participate. And that’s when I knew that it wasn’t you. It was him looking out of your eyes, using your hands to touch me.”

Scully stopped with a shudder of revulsion and Mulder swallowed his nausea. He wanted to say something, but he had no words. Nothing he could say would help this, make it better.

“That’s when he knew something was wrong,” Scully said shakily, tears slipping unnoticed down her cheeks now. “When I knew it wasn’t you, I…withdrew. I couldn’t help it. And he kept saying that I was holding back on him. And it was your voice. He said he wanted everything I had. And he kept taking and taking from me until I didn’t have anything left. The rape was only part of it. I felt like…like my soul was being raped too, like he was siphoning pieces of me away. By the time he was finished, there was almost nothing of me left.”

Shutting his eyes, Mulder took a deep breath. Neither one of them said anything for a long time.

Scully finally got up and retrieved a box of tissue from the bathroom and came back to sit down again. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose before she spoke again.

“I scratched him during the night. I still had enough of myself left to be able to think to do that. It was the only thing I could think of to do, and I wasn’t even sure why I was doing it.”

“It was a good move,” he nodded, then hesitated. “Scully, I wish I had something to say. But I can’t find a damn thing to say that will help. I’m just sorry.”

“I know, Mulder,” she sighed, then sat up straighter. “What did you find out today?”

He appreciated the change of subject.

“Your story ties in pretty much with the local stories I heard today. All the women I talked to spoke about the same ‘wrongness’ that you did, but also experienced the same kind of irrational compulsion to continue. It usually took two or three nights for the rape to occur, but it took nearly a week and a half in the case of one woman I talked to.”

“How many women did you talk to?”

“Eight. They were all in the same general neighborhood, and all knew each other, more or less.”

“They know each other?” She stared at him in surprise.

“Sort of. Their kids go to the same school. In one case, there’s a connection through a church. The woman who was attacked last told me that her husband is an assistant coach for a local soccer team. The first tourist that was attacked — Ms. Hess — had been to a soccer game with her boyfriend, who’s a big soccer fan.”

“Eight interviews in six hours?” She raised her eyebrows. “You must have moved pretty fast.”

He grimaced. “Let’s just say that none of those ladies were impressed by my charm. I didn’t exactly use the appropriate finesse.”

“But how did you know where to begin looking in the first place?” she wanted to know. “The islands are only twenty two miles long, but that’s still a fair-sized haystack when you don’t know what you’re looking for.”

“The assistant manager, Mr. Addams-Leigh, gave me a couple of names and a letter of introduction. He knows, Scully. He knows what’s been going on.”

“How does he know?”

“I’m not positive. He wasn’t very forthcoming on the subject, but I got the impression that he’d been a carrier himself and hurt someone he cared about pretty badly. I don’t think he wants to see that happen to anyone else if he’s able to prevent it. He said that he might be able to find someone to help get rid of it permanently. He’s going to get in touch with me tomorrow morning.”

“Mulder, have you figured out what this thing is yet?”

“Well, I’ve narrowed it down. You might not want to hear this, Scully — it sounds pretty incredible.”

“I’m living inside my own personal X-File, Mulder,” she reminded him dryly. “It can’t be more incredible than that. Is it a ghost?”

“That’s one possibility,” he conceded. “Not very likely, though. Possession by a ghost has a different signature — the possessed person behaves very atypically and has difficulty controlling gestures and movements, the theory being that the ghost has difficulty controlling unfamiliar flesh.”

“I think we can safety rule that out. He had no trouble controlling your body.”

“Okay, then. My working theory is that it’s a type of incubus.”

“A *what*?”

“An incubus. It’s a spirit that’s active only at night and it—”

“I know what it is and I can figure out what it does, Mulder. But it’s still something out of ‘The Night Stalker.’”

“There’s been folklore for thousands of years throughout every culture about this type of spirit, Scully,” he reminded her.

“And there are excellent psychological reasons for people thinking that sexual dreams at night are caused by marauding spirits. What happened to me wasn’t some kind of dream.”

“I know that,” he held up a restraining hand. “Let me finish. The incubus can come in different types, depending on what it feeds on.”

“Mulder, that isn’t funny,” she told him, her face whitening. “What do you mean by ‘feeds on?’”

“I’m not joking, Scully. One particular type of incubus, the most commonly discussed type, feeds off of sexual feelings that it generates. It leaves its victims worn out, but alive. Another type carries it a bit further and the resultant exhaustion kills the victim. Some are strictly noncorporeal, some generate a temporary shape, and some use possession of living bodies to get what they want, what they need to feed on.”

“What does it want?” she asked almost soundlessly.

“I think this one uses sex to generate a high level of psychic energy. It seems to have established a pattern of consensual sex until the victim begins to catch on and resist, then the rape occurs, and the entity moves on. Consenting sex would create a certain amount of psychic energy, but rape would generate a whole lot more. Enough to complete a transference to a new host, maybe.”

“That’s why I feel like…why I thought that…. I felt like he was draining me dry.”

Mulder nodded slowly. “You said you felt like pieces of yourself were being siphoned away. In a very real sense, that’s exactly what it was doing. And if, as I believe, it’s able to keep a residual contact with its victims, continuing to get energy from them, then that would account for their continuing conditions.”

“How long does it go on?” Scully asked faintly.

“From what I could tell in my interviews this morning, the connection weakens anywhere from six to eight weeks after the initial attack.”

Scully was quiet, vaguely surprised at herself for accepting Mulder’s incredible theory without any real argument. She could insist that they look for a more concrete reason for her belief in him as her attacker, but it was too much trouble. Besides, it would be a waste of time. Her veneer of skepticism had been torn away, leaving her helpless to apply scientific reasoning to something so bizarre. She knew what had happened to her and she knew what had done it. There was nothing scientific or provable about it.

“Scully?” Mulder’s voice broke in on her thoughts gently.

She turned her head with an effort to focus her attention on him. He seemed far away for some reason.

“Finish the soup,” he told her, and it seemed easier to comply than to argue about it.

Mulder watched her spoon the soup and knew from the total absence of expression on her face, the automatic movements, that she was no longer there. She looked pale and exhausted, her eyes unfocused.

He wondered with a frown whether the entity could actively draw on its victims during the day, and realized that in order to manifest itself when the host was asleep, it would need to use energy drawn from its victim. It was probably draining energy from Scully in preparation for tonight.

– + –


Part 5b

Mulder got up, grimacing. If the entity had his memories when it manifested itself, then it would know tonight that they were on to it and actively looking for a way to get rid of it. He thought he could count on it being pretty pissed.

“That’s enough, Scully,” he said, taking the spoon from her and lifting her, unresisting, to her feet. “I think you should try to take a nap. Are you with me?”

“Yeah. Sort of.”

“Look, sunset is at 8:24 tonight. I checked. I’m setting the alarm to go off at quarter of eight so we’ll have plenty of time to get me immobilized for the night. In the meantime, I’m going to do some work on the laptop and you’re going to take a nap on the bed where I can keep an eye on you. Okay?”

“Okay,” she nodded, letting him guide her over to the bed. “Mulder, you won’t forget, will you?” she looked up at him anxiously.

He sighed. “No, Scully. I won’t forget. Kick off your shoes and lie down. That’s right.” He draped the extra blanket over her and watched her eyes drift closed. Her face looked like marble.

He really had nothing to do on the computer, but he supposed it wouldn’t kill him to start his report, such as it was. It would be the first time he had deliberately altered pertinent data in his report on the case in question, or left information out altogether. It smacked unpleasantly of something that Cancerman would approve of, but Mulder knew that he would talk Scully into altering and excluding certain information in her report, too. There was no need to mention that they, themselves, had been personally involved in the case they had been sent to investigate.

Mulder turned on the laptop and cleared the papers from the keyboard. Setting the computer alarm for quarter to eight, he began putting together his report, keeping half an eye on Scully as she slept.

– + –

Part 6

Scully could hear his voice calling her from a long way off, and it was almost too much trouble to respond. She was still so tired. But Mulder was being insistent.

“All right, all right,” she mumbled, forcing her eyes open. “I’m awake. Stop yelling.”

“Scully, it’s taken me ten minutes to wake you up. Are you okay?”

She frowned up at him. She didn’t want him fussing over her. He was sitting on the bed beside her, his hand turning her face to the light so he could look at her more closely.

Scully pushed his hand away impatiently and sat up. “No, Mulder, I’m not okay. As a matter of fact, I feel worse now than I did before I went to sleep.”

Mulder nodded, getting up. “I wondered about that. There’s about half an hour until sunset and I think the entity will be needing energy to manifest itself tonight. It’s getting that from you, Scully. And there’s not anything we can do about it tonight.”

Scully rubbed her eyes as she stood up slowly. “You know, when I was growing up, I always thought that Mina Harkins was a gutless wimp, but I’m beginning to have a certain fellow feeling for her.”

Mulder smiled his appreciation at the reference, but shook his head. “I don’t think you’re a wimp, but I have to admit that you’re not yourself. Are you ready to go across the hall?”

“I guess so. When do I come back to get you?”

“Set your alarm for 6:15. That’s half an hour or so after sunrise, so I should be myself again, and you should be safe. But make sure before you come near me, Scully,” he warned her, ushering her out and across the hall.

The waiter Mulder had talked to had sent the maid to clean the room, and it looked neat and impersonal again as they came in. The beds were made once more and the drapes were pulled back from the balcony to let in the last rays of the dying sun.

Mulder moved quickly to pulled them closed, seeing Scully’s involuntary wince as she turned away from the light. Her photosensitivity was obvious, now, and getting worse.

With the drapes safety drawn, Mulder dragged the easy chair over to the balcony door. He had changed into a tee shirt and jeans while Scully had slept and, with a book to help him stay awake as long as possible, he was ready to sit out the night.

When he turned to look at her, she was taking her handcuffs out of the bureau drawer, her lips compressed.

“You don’t remember anything at all that happens?” she asked a little obscurely, sure that he would understand the question.

“Nothing,” he replied, holding out his hand for her to put the cuff on his wrist.

“Your other hand,” she gestured. “Left hand.”

He gave her his left hand wordlessly and felt the cool steel enclose his wrist with a click of the lock.

“You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?” she asked, letting him seat himself in the chair before she snapped the other end of the cuffs through the handle of the sliding glass door onto the balcony.

“I think so,” he said quietly. “But at least it won’t be able to get to you.”

She double-checked the locks automatically and then let her hand rest on his shoulder for a second before she turned away.

Mulder appreciated the effort that it took for her to touch him, and watched her hand tremble as she pocketed the key to the handcuffs.

“I’ll be okay, Scully. Get some sleep.”

She nodded silently and retrieved her weapon from the nightstand drawer. “I’ll be back in the morning,” she told him, letting herself out quickly, not looking at him.

The sun was starting to set.

– + –

The alarm went off at 5:30, bringing Scully reluctantly awake. Outside, the sun would just be beginning to edge its way above the horizon, but she had drawn the drapes against its intrusive rays.

She got up and started the coffeemaker in the bathroom before taking a quick shower. Mulder had said to come get him at 6:15, so she had given herself some time to clean up, prepare herself for the day, prepare herself for what she might find when she went to release her partner.

She tried to push all thoughts of him away temporarily as she dried her hair, looking at herself in the mirror. The bruises were showing up blackly against her skin today, she thought clinically, but she didn’t feel as stiff as she had yesterday. A full night’s sleep had helped a little, of course, but she still had circles under her eyes like purplish bruises, and there were hollows in her cheeks. Her collarbones were too prominent and her shoulders looked bony. A part of her deep inside was horrified at the weight she had lost so quickly, but the rest of her didn’t have the energy to care.

Scully sipped her coffee, glanced at the clock and began to dress quickly. The pants suit she had put on yesterday afternoon was a little big on her, she noticed absently.

She finished her coffee before holstering her weapon, gathering up the key to the room across the hall, and checking to make sure that the key to her handcuffs was still in her pocket.

The lamp that had been on the table beside him was on the floor now, its shade dented as if by a blow from a fist. On the floor some distance from him was the book he’d been reading. But he was still in his chair, still handcuffed to the door handle. His face was pale and his lips were tight.

Scully shut the door behind her and turned on the light from the switch beside the door.

“It’s okay. It’s me,” he said, his voice sounding strained.

Not wanting to speak to him yet, Scully looked closely at his eyes before she moved nearer and relaxed a little. It was Mulder.

“Get me out of this, please.” He sat up straighter and lifted his arm with a visible wince.

Scully hesitated for a moment, looking at his wrist, before she unlocked the cuff from the door handle and then, very carefully, from his wrist. The steel ring left an imprint in the swollen flesh as she eased it away.

“My God, Mulder. What did it do to you?” she breathed, her fingers examining his wrist gently.

“It damn near broke my wrist,” he pointed out the obvious, gritting his teeth against the pain her examination, however careful, was causing him.

“Mulder, we’ve got to put some ice on this. It’s too swollen for me to tell for certain, but it may be broken.”

“Great,” he sighed. “All right, let’s get out of here. Is there coffee?”

“Back in your room. I had a feeling you’d be needing it.”

Mulder followed her across the hall to his room, supporting his injured wrist against his body with his other hand. Scully handed a cup of coffee to him before she disappeared out the door with the ice bucket.

He took a quick gulp of the hot liquid before he took the opportunity to visit the bathroom.

When Scully came back with the ice, he was coming out of the bathroom, drying his face and throat with a hand towel.

“Come over here and sit down,” she nodded toward the easy chair at the window. She took the hand towel from him when he did so and immersed it in the ice water in the bucket. Wringing it out, she wrapped it tightly around his chafed, bruised wrist. “We’ll change that every ten minutes or so until we can get to a clinic. If we go to an emergency room, we’ll be there all day.”

“Do you really think it’s broken?”

She drew the desk chair over to the table and sat down across from him. “Your wrist is too swollen for me to be able to tell with a manual exam. It’s got to be x-rayed.”

He thought about that, finishing his coffee. “Well, until I hear from Mr. Addams-Leigh, we’re pretty much stuck here. I guess it won’t hurt.”

Scully ignored that, getting up to pour them each more coffee. She started a new pot brewing and came back to sit down again, handing him the room service menu.

“You’re probably starved,” she commented.

“How’d you know?”

“You didn’t get dinner last night.”

“Oh.” He’d forgotten about that. “Are you going to get something to eat?”

“No,” she said flatly.





Mulder closed his eyes and mentally counted to fifty before he opened them again. “Okay,” he said calmly. “Let’s just take it as given that we have argued this subject into the ground. We’ve both aired our reasons and yelled at each other. We feel much better now and we’ve compromised on a piece of toast.”

Scully glared at him speechlessly.

“Am I pissing you off?” he wanted to know. “I hope so. Anger usually stimulates the appetite.”

She snatched the menu out of his lax grasp and went to the phone to place the order, not bothering to ask him what he wanted. He would eat whatever she ordered or starve, she thought vindictively, all too aware of his smile as she murmured the order into the receiver.

“And an order of toast,” he reminded her thoughtfully when she paused.

“And an order of toast,” she repeated to the phone through clenched teeth. “And would you please pass on a message to the front desk to have Mr. Addams-Leigh phone our room when he comes in? Thank you.”

She replaced the receiver very carefully and turned to annihilate her partner with a couple of well-chosen phrases, but had her immediate anger derailed for the moment by the sight of him unwrapping the towel from his wrist.

“Don’t do that,” she told him, coming across the room to push his hand away. “If you need it changed, just say something.”

He said nothing, watching her soaking the towel in the icy water, wringing it out, and wrapping his wrist again. The cold cloth deadened the ache nicely, he was relieved to discover.

“I am never,” she said conversationally, “ever, under any circumstances, going to marry you.”

“Oh?” He didn’t seem impressed.

“I mean it, Mulder.”

“I don’t think so, Scully.”

“Don’t tell me what I mean or don’t mean,” she said sharply.

It was a start, he thought. She still looked like hell, but she was beginning to sound more like herself.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he said honestly. “But we both know you’re going to marry me sooner or later.”

“I am, huh?” She eyed him resentfully. “Why would I do that?”

“Because I piss you off,” he smiled.

“A lot of men have pissed me off, Mulder, but I’ve never married any of them.”

“You’re going to marry me because I care enough about you to make you eat the damn toast when it gets here so you don’t keel over this afternoon, even if it means pissing you off in the process.” He leaned forward. “Scully, answer me this. Why is it all right for you to take care of me when I’m upset or hurt, but it’s not all right for me to do the same for you? And don’t hand me any crap about me being overly protective because you’re a woman. We both know that’s not true.”

“All right,” she admitted. “Maybe I overcompensate sometimes. I just don’t want you to get into the habit of trying to take care of me. And I don’t want to get into the habit of wanting you to, or expecting you to.”

“Scully, if I ever try to make you stay in the car while I go off after a suspect because I feel it’s too dangerous for you, feel free to kick my butt. And I hope that you would. But offering you an aspirin when you’ve obviously got a headache, or wanting you to eat some toast when it’s obvious that you’re so weak that your legs shake when you stand up does not fall into the category of being overly protective of you because you’re a woman.”

Scully sighed. “Okay, you’ve made your point. I’m sexist and you’re enlightened. When the toast gets here, I’ll eat it. Will that make you happy?”


She renewed the icy towel twice more before breakfast arrived. Neither one spoke.

Mulder watched her set the tray down in front of him and wondered what hellish dish she had ordered for him. Mumbling the order into the phone had tipped him off that he was going to have to pay for making her eat that toast.

She sat down across from him with the plate of dry toast and deliberately bit into one of the crunchy triangles, holding his gaze.

Mulder dropped his eyes to the covered plate in front of him. Whatever was under there, he definitely wasn’t going to like it.

He lifted the cover and looked at the short stack of pancakes that were attractively covered by some kind of fruit preserve. Probably papaya, he thought gloomily. And the syrup, if any, was probably fruit-based, too. Scully knew he hated fruit on pancakes.

He raised his eyes briefly to look at her as she chewed doggedly on a second wedge of toast. Her expression dared him to say a word about the pancakes.

He picked up his fork and began methodically scraping off the preserves, keeping his expression neutral. He would eat the pancakes dry, he sighed mentally. The things one did for love.

Scully got up from the table as he began to eat and went into the bathroom, shutting the door. Over the water she ran to cover the noise, he could hear the unmistakable sound of her losing the toast.

He had finished half his breakfast by the time she came back out, her face nearly as white as her napkin.

“I’m sorry,” he offered quietly as she sat down again and picked up another piece of toast.

“No, I’m sorry, Mulder,” she shook her head. “That was a rotten trick to pull on you when you were just trying to help me. I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay,” he smiled at her. “Sometimes when you’re feeling helpless, it feels good to be able to pick on someone else. I’m glad I could help.”

She returned his wry smile and then got up to answer the phone.

“Yes, speaking. Oh, yes, thanks for returning my call, Mr. Addams-Leigh. Agent Mulder had a…a bit of an accident last night and we need to have his wrist x-rayed. Uh huh. Yes, that would be fine. We’d be very grateful, sir. No, no, everything else is…er…under control. You’ll call us with the information we need? Good. We appreciate your help.”

Scully hung up the phone and returned to the table.

“He’s making arrangements for you to be seen right away at a nearby clinic,” she told him, finishing the half-eaten piece of toast that was still on her plate. “Get a shower and we’ll head out. And no,” she forestalled him, “I am not going to offer you any more help. You can manage a shower one-handed.”

“One day you’ll be begging to take a shower with me,” he grinned, getting up.

“Don’t hold your breath. Move.”

– + –

At least it hadn’t taken all day, Mulder thought philosophically, looking at the splinted elastic glove that was velcroed over his hand and wrist. It reached halfway up his forearm.

“You’re lucky it’s not broken,” Scully said, half-echoing his thoughts as the cab pulled up in front of the hotel again. She paid the driver as he got out and then followed him, sunglasses in place against the bright noontime sun.

Mr. Addams-Leigh had gone out but had left a message for them that he would have the information they required when he returned. Scully yawned involuntarily as Mulder read her the note.

“What now?” she asked.

“Now we go upstairs and take a nap while we wait for Mr. Addams-Leigh’s information. I’m beat.”

“You’ll feel better tomorrow. The anti-inflammatories will help the swelling, which in turn will decrease the pain.”

“Yeah, whatever,” he shrugged. “I just know that we both need to close our eyes for a while.”

They waited for the elevator and by the time the doors opened on their floor, Mulder was smiling over some private joke.

“What’s so amusing?” Scully asked, digging for the room key in her pocket.

“Oh, I was just thinking about the look on your face when the doctor started lecturing you about rough sex games with your boyfriend.”

“You didn’t have to tell him that it was handcuffs,” she protested, going into the room ahead of him.

“Scully, any halfway competent doctor could have guessed how I was injured from the marks on my wrist,” he pointed out. “Did the nurse talk to you some more while I was getting the x-ray done?”

“Oh, yes,” Scully grimaced. “She wanted to talk to me about the bruises on my jaw and neck. I don’t think I explained them well enough. She called another doctor to check me out while you were being seen. I had a lot of trouble keeping them from calling the police when they saw the rest of it.”

“What rest of it?”

“Never mind. Since I wasn’t going to admit to anything more than a kinky sex life, they gave me a tetanus shot and a lecture and let me go.”

Mulder wondered what she had gotten the tetanus shot for, what kind of injury would need that precaution. Scully obviously wasn’t going to tell him. “Well, our reputations are certainly shot in this town,” he said dryly. “Or made, depending on which way you look at it.”

“The telephone message light is blinking,” she prompted him, easing herself down on the newly made bed, pulling the extra blanket over herself.

Mulder sat down on the side of the bed. Lifting the receiver, he studied the instructions, and then punched in the code and their room number to retrieve the message. His eyebrows went up as he listened.

“Who was it?” Scully asked when he hung up.

“Skinner,” he told her. “The senator has been in touch and wants to know what the hell is going on with this investigation. He says we haven’t been near him or his wife since that first day and he’s wanting some answers. Skinner also wants to know how we’re doing since we haven’t apparently seen the need to file status reports.”

“Are you going to call him back?”

“When I’m getting ready to sack out with you? Not a chance,” he smiled, lying down beside her and appropriating half the blanket. “But when we get up, I’ll call the senator and smooth him down with some kind of excuse. I’ve set the alarm so we don’t oversleep, just in case we don’t get a call from Mr. Addams-Leigh pretty soon.”

Scully nodded, already half asleep, her face turned toward him a little.

Mulder looked at her face, pale, but relaxed and sleepy, even with him here beside her. “How are you feeling today?” he asked quietly.

“Better,” she murmured. “The bruises ache a little, but other than that, I guess I’m okay.”

“Want to tell me what the tetanus shot was for?”

She smiled faintly, her eyes still shut. “No. But are you going to pester me until you find out?”

“I think so.”

She drew a deep breath and opened her eyes to look at him. “Mulder, don’t you understand that there are parts of the attack, things that happened, that you’d really be better off not knowing?”

“I know it wasn’t me that did it, Scully, and I know that I can’t fix anything that happened to you. But I want to understand it. I want to know. I need to. I need to know what it is you saw when you looked at me yesterday morning. I need to know why you get this…withdrawn expression on your face sometimes when you look at me today.”

“Mulder, remember the emergency room photos of the other women? I suffered very similar injuries,” she said deliberately. If he wanted to know, she would tell him. She couldn’t protect him when he wouldn’t let her. “I have bruising on my thighs, my genitals, my buttocks and my shoulders — all classic signatures of a rape. I have bruises as well on my face and throat. And I have two bite marks — one on my shoulder and one my breast. My lip is still store from where he bit it.” She looked away again, closing her eyes. “That’s what I was seeing yesterday morning when I came to your room with my gun. And I still see it to some extent every time I look at you. Is that what you wanted to know?”

He didn’t say anything for a minute. “We’ll get rid of this thing somehow, Scully,” he said finally.

“I hope so. Now, go to sleep, Mulder. We both could use some rest.”

He stayed quiet, waiting until she was asleep before he reached out with his good hand and wrapped his fingers warmly around hers. When she didn’t pull away, he sighed and shut his eyes, letting sleep come.

– + –

Part 7

The phone rang just before the alarm went off at three. Mr. Addams-Leigh had the name and address of a person who could help them. Both of them would need to go. A taxi was awaiting their convenience.

“What are we going to do if this person can’t help?” Scully asked, brushing her hair back into its barrette again. “What about tonight?”

“If we have to separate at night until this is over, then that’s what we’ll do. If we can’t get rid of it by nightfall, then you drop me off at the hotel and go on to somewhere else — even if it’s back to the States. Without a victim nearby to drain, this thing will eventually transfer to someone else.”

“But we can’t let it do this to anyone else!”

“If we can’t get rid of it, the only thing that’s going to concern me is your safety. If keeping you safe means passing it on to someone else, then so be it.” He hesitated at the door, holding it for her to pass through. “Scully, what you said before you fell asleep…. Do you really see that when you look at me? Do you see it?”

She went past him into the hallway and nodded slowly. “Mrs. Allingham could see it in you that day we went to interview her. She tried to warn me, but it was already too late.” She looked up at him as he caught up with her down the hall. “I can see it in your face — almost as if it’s a shadow over your face, over your personality. I can feel it in you, too, every time I touch you. Every time you touch me.” She looked away, her voice bleak and empty sounding.

“Let’s go get rid of this thing, Scully,” he said grimly, gesturing her ahead of him into the elevator, carefully avoiding touching her.

– + –

Considering that Bermuda was a relatively small string of islands, the trip to St. David’s Island took a surprisingly long time by taxi. Traffic accounted for some of the time, although it wasn’t always vehicular traffic that held them up. Tourists on mopeds who had no idea how to control them had to be avoided, and friends of the driver in other taxis and on mopeds and bicycles had to be greeted.

It was nearly four thirty when the taxi finally pulled into a little graveled cul de sac at the far end of the island and cheerfully announced the fare. Scully stared at him in outrage, but Mulder handed over the money without a word and got out.

A very old woman came out of one of the houses, wiping her hands on an old-fashioned pinafore apron. Her face was ashen black with age, but still held a trace of beauty in the bones under the finely wrinkled skin.

“You are Mr. Mulder?” She had a deep voice for a woman, very smooth, with a lovely British accent.

“That’s right. Mr. Addams-Leigh gave us your name and address. He said he’d called to let you know we were coming.”

“Yes, he called. This is your young lady? Come inside, both of you. The light’s not good for her, you know.”

Scully went ahead of him into the pleasant shadows of the house and breathed deeply the fragrance of a hundred herbs that mingled and combined in the ocean-scented breeze that drifted through the house.

“There, you feel better already, don’t you, my dear?” the old woman smiled, shutting the screen door behind them. “The herbs cleanse the mind of unhealthful things. Go on…go on through to the kitchen. It’s in the back. You don’t mind sitting in a kitchen, do you?” she asked, looking at their expensive suits doubtfully.

“Not at all,” Mulder said truthfully, following Scully down the dimly lit hallway.

The kitchen looked like any other kitchen, except that it seemed to have a ceiling constructed entirely of hanging herb bundles. There were the usual appliances — a refrigerator, a stove — and there was a central table at which a small girl was eating what looked like a banana sandwich. Everything in the room was spotlessly clean, except for the little girl, who seemed to be wearing most of the outdoors on her clothes and on her small, bare feet.

Her dark eyes looked them over interestedly while her sandwich lost another slice of banana.

“I like mine with peanutbutter,” Mulder told her gravely. “It holds the bananas in place.”

Her teeth appeared whitely in her dark face, then the old woman was there, flipping her apron, shooing her out the back door.

“I swear, I turn my back for one second and these children are always in here. Never knew such children for eating everything in sight. You just go on now, Nicola. Dinner won’t be along and your mama won’t thank me for spoiling your appetite.” She turned back to her two guests apologetically. “My great granddaughter. I made all those children go out to play when I got the call about you, but they’re worse than ants for getting into the house and smelling out food. Did Mr. Addams-Leigh tell you anything about me?”

“Just that you might be able to help us,” Mulder replied. “Can you?”

“That all depends, young man. It all depends. You can call me Miz Gabrielle. Names are important, you know.”

“You mean…magically speaking?” Mulder asked cautiously.

“If that’s what you want to think. There’s power in names, Mr. Mulder. You of all people should know the power of names. What’s your first name?”


“Hmmmm. Fox Mulder. Your name tells me a lot about you. You’d be surprised. And you, young lady? What’s your name?”

“Dana. Dana Scully.”

“Ahhh. I can see there is more to you than you show us, Dana Scully. You have many facets. Faceting can make a gemstone stronger than it was in its natural state. Did you know that? It’s a very interesting fact — about gemstones and people.”

Scully looked at Mulder speechlessly. He just shrugged.

“You are used to communicating without words,” she observed. “Good. Now, sit down, both of you. I will call you Dana, my dear. There are no bad associations in your name for you the way your friend has for his name.” She poured something from a kettle on the stove into a cup and brought it over to Scully, nudging forward a pot of honey when she set the cup down. “Drink this, Dana. It’s just a tisane that will help settle your stomach and give you a little appetite. You’ll need to eat something if we are to work this evening.”

Scully spooned honey into the steaming cup and, after a cautious taste, smiled her approval. “It tastes like flower smell.”

“Yes, it’s one of those things that proves the exception to the rule that medicines that are good for you have to taste vile. Young man, I’m going to be rude and not offer you anything. You shouldn’t eat or drink anything until nightfall tonight.”

“That’s fine. And you can call me Mulder.”

“All right, then, Mulder. Why don’t you tell me why you’re here. I know what Mr. Addams-Leigh told me, but I want to hear what you have to say.” Miz Gabrielle continued puttering around the kitchen.

“Well,” he began slowly, glancing at Scully, “I tend to be a believer in forces and beings that most people dismiss as imaginary. My partner was attacked on two successive nights by someone who looked just like me and, for the most part, acted just like me. Only I don’t remember doing any of what she says happened to her. During the second attack, she scratched her attacker’s back. I had scratches on my back the next morning when she came to see me. Because of the case that we were here to investigate, and because of further investigations that I pursued after I realized that she’d been attacked, I came to the conclusion that her attacker had used a number of men as a host, the latest being me, and that it was possibly a type of incubus.”

“And you don’t shy away from the thought?”

“Only from the thought that it hurt Scully through me.”

Scully smiled. “Miz Gabrielle, Mulder has an extremely open mind to these kinds of ideas. I’m the skeptic in this partnership.”

“And are you a skeptic about this, Dana?” Miz Gabrielle asked, her head tilted to one side enquiringly.

Scully looked down at her tisane, sipping it carefully and letting it warm her, soothe her. “I know what happened to me — and I know Mulder couldn’t have done it. Not even if he was drugged or psychotic or both. He could never hurt me like this thing did. I don’t know what it was. Whatever did this to me used him to do it, and I just want it gone. I want it dead.”

Mulder couldn’t say anything for a moment, hearing the hatred and fear and desperation in Scully’s last low words.

Miz Gabrielle nodded. “And last night, Mulder? What did you do?”

“We handcuffed me to the handle of the sliding glass door in her room last night while Scully stayed in my room.” Mulder indicated his injured wrist. “It knew we were on to it. It wasn’t happy.”

Miz Gabrielle poured more of the tisane for Scully. “Well, it certainly sounds as if you’re dealing with an incubus, here. Of course, we must be sure. The only way to know exactly what we’re dealing with is to wait until after sunset and then force it to manifest itself.”

“How do you do that?” Scully wanted to know. “It only comes out when Mulder is asleep.”

“You have a quick mind,” Miz Gabrielle approved. “Naturally, Mulder is not going to fall peacefully asleep at sunset of his own free will in order to allow this being access to himself. We will have to give him something to make him sleep, very deeply, so that even his subconscious cannot inhibit the manifestation. When the transference is made, we hope that he will wake up.”

“What exactly do you mean by that? I’m a doctor, so I’d be very interested to know what you’re going to be giving him.”

“I’ll give you a list of the ingredients. The combination of herbs and extracts in the drink I give him will put him to sleep and slow his heart rate. He cannot resist the entity taking over, or we will be unable to transfer it from him. He’s young, he looks healthy, so he should have no difficulty waking up. But it has happened in the past that the host did not manage to regain consciousness after the transferrance was made.”

“In the past,” Mulder echoed. “How many of these have you done?”

“Myself, only one other. My mother performed the ceremony and, as a young girl, I assisted. This was many years ago, of course. The man woke up and complained of a headache, as I remember. These ceremonies go back in my family for many generations, Mulder. ‘In the past’ could mean something that happened a hundred and fifty years ago, or more.”

Scully shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I’m concerned about the possible narcotic properties of this drink….”

“Scully, the risk is acceptable to me,” he looked at his partner seriously. “We don’t have a lot of other choices.”

“I know that,” she said slowly. “But it isn’t safe to use narcotics this way, Mulder. You need to think about that before you make up your mind to do this.”

“Hush, now,” Miz Gabrielle patted her shoulder with a small, bony hand. “If you want to to destroy this incubus, risks must be taken by all of us. You could wait, of course, for it to transfer to someone else, which it will do eventually. But that is a much more dangerous path, and you, Dana, will still not be free of its influence if it moves on to someone else. In order to free you both, it must be destroyed. So…you must both decide if you are willing to take the risks in order to see it destroyed.”

“What kind of risks are we talking about?” Mulder asked cautiously.

“This is a dangerous being, but we will take all precautions to guard against anyone being harmed. However, the ceremonies involved in dealing with it are ancient and somewhat complicated to perform, however simple they may look to outsiders. The right attitude must be preserved and the words spoken precisely in order for the transference to be made safely. And even should the transference go smoothly, the ceremony will…how should I explain?…open certain doors and bring us to the attention of other entities that may be here.”

“You mean we could get rid of one, only to find ourselves stuck with something worse,” Mulder said bluntly.

“Precisely. I cannot make guarantees against something like that occurring. In fact, I cannot make any guarantees at all,” she shrugged. “And you must decide if you want to do this.”

“I think we should go ahead and do it,” Mulder said after a long minute. “You said yourself, Scully, that we couldn’t let this thing hurt anyone else. We need to do this.”

Scully couldn’t think of anything else to try. She knew she hadn’t been drugged, she knew she wasn’t delusional — and she knew that there was no such thing as an incubus. But she had no other recourse, and Mulder said they should do it. Whether he knew what he was doing or whether he didn’t have a clue, she would go along with him because there was nothing else to do, she shrugged mentally.

“From what I can tell, Mulder, you’re the one that’s going to be taking most of the risks. If you decide you want to do this, I’ll agree,” she sighed. “And, please remind me in the future to be grateful for any assignments that involve brain-sucking amoebas or mutant liver-eaters. These easy vacation assignments of yours aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.”

– + –

Poison, Scully thought, obediently eating the warm, buttered roll that the old woman had pressed on her before they went outside. The list of ingredients Miz Gabrielle had showned her was amazing — meaning that it was amazing anyone lived after drinking that stuff. There were serious narcotics in it. Miz Gabrielle was right about it slowing Mulder’s heartbeat; it could *stop* his heartbeat.

“Small amounts of poisonous substances are commonly used in these rituals, Scully,” he said quietly, apparently reading her mind. “I’m not going to worry about it, so why don’t you try to relax. The view here is great,” he noted.

Miz Gabrielle’s backyard, in common with the yards of several other houses, backed up onto a small beach. The breeze was soft, the ocean was calm, and the waves were curling lazily onto the pink sand at regular, soporific intervals. As it dropped lower on the horizon, the shot salmon pink streaks across the water, and their shadows stretched to impossible lengths behind them.

Scully turned away from the view impatiently. The whole idea of the drink and the ritual made her uneasy. This situation was way outside her range of knowledge or experience, and she didn’t like not having some kind of control over it.

“Dana,” Miz Gabrielle said from behind them, “why don’t you come in now and watch me prepare Mulder’s drink. It’ll make you feel better if you see what goes into it.”

Scully didn’t think so, but followed her back to the house without saying anything, leaving her partner standing, looking at the ocean.

“You just leave him alone for a little while, child. He has his own worries that he doesn’t want to share with you yet.”

“How do you know things about us?” Scully asked curiously.

Miz Gabrielle shrugged her thin shoulders, beginning to assemble her ingredients. “I’ve lived a long time. With experience comes the ability to read people.”

“Not that way.”

“It bothers you, doesn’t it, Dana? That I know things that I shouldn’t know about you both.”

“Yes, it bothers me,” she nodded.

“I know you’re scared, Dana,” she interrupted. “He’s scared too, dear. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen either, you know.”

Scully sat down at the kitchen table, watching the old woman starting her infusion in a pot of boiling water on the stove. Her body seemed to be nothing but papery skin and fragile bones draped in an old print dress two sizes too big. Her hands were shaky with age, her voice was dry with it, and her steps tottered at times. But this frail old woman knew things she shouldn’t know, and there was something about the way she spoke….

“I can see things,” came the reply without a question having been asked. “I know you won’t understand or believe that right now, but some day you will. I can see a lot of things about you both. Are you going to marry?”

“I’m not sure. We were talking about it before all this started. I don’t know whether I can after everything that’s happened,” Scully said slowly, somehow not surprised that Miz Gabrielle knew that bit of personal information.

“When tonight is over, if we are successful in destroying the incubus, his influence over you will be gone. There will be some aftereffects, but they’ll slowly disappear until the memories of what happened to you will still be there, but distant, like a bad dream that you can remember having. You won’t remember it every time you see Mulder.”

“What about Mulder? Will he remember?”

“Oh, yes. He wasn’t influenced, you see. He will remember what happened to you.” Miz Gabrielle strained her infusion carefully through a piece of fine cheesecloth into a earthenware bowl. “You see, Dana, what happens to you affects you both. It’s always much easier to be the victim,” she said matter-of-factly. “A victim has a set role. The victim experiences the trauma and then experiences the pain because of it. An easy role. The person closest to the victim has a harder time. There’s nothing that he can experience, nothing he can do to help. And in the case of the incubus possession, the host is actively rejected by the victim because of his unwitting role in the attack. It’s very hard for him to deal with. He can’t take away your pain, he can’t vent his anger on the actual rapist; his is an impotent role.”

Scully stared at her. This woman was making a thumbnail psychological analysis of the case. “Miz Gabrielle, who are you?”

The old lady laughed. “Don’t you mean where did an old woman like me learn all this? Don’t mistake age for stupidity, young lady. I graduated from medical school before your mother was born and I earned two more degrees after that, one in psychology and one in botany — the herbs, you know. I stopped practicing medicine over fifteen years ago, when I turned eighty; the kids getting shots were starting to beat me two falls out of three.”

“And with your scientific background, you’re doing this?” Scully said incredulously.

“Science of a different kind, dear.” Her elderly smile was kind. “Something else that you’ll learn one day. And as for you and Mulder, just give it a little time. Things will work out between you, don’t worry.”

“But I wasn’t sure about it before all this happened —”

Miz Gabrielle cocked a knowing eyebrow at her. “Weren’t you? Or was it that you weren’t sure you wanted to give up some control of your life to someone else, even him?”

Scully didn’t say anything.

“He has to give up some control too, you know. Don’t you trust each other?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Don’t you love each other?”


“Then, my dear, it’s a leap of faith. But you’re at a crossroads, now, and if you don’t stay together, you will most certainly be separated. Your lives are going to be changed dramatically, whatever you decide. And it’s been my experience that a walk down any path, however difficult or however easy, is made better by sharing the path with a friend.”

“I’m just not sure if I can ever see him the way I used to.”

The old lady paused in the act of crushing a fragrant leaf that Scully didn’t recognize between her fingers. She looked into Scully’s face for a long minute, seeming to search for something, and then nodded seriously. “Dana, you’ll never see him again the way you used to — not because of what happened to you, but because of what’s been said between you. There’s an awareness of him now that wasn’t there before, but you don’t have to be afraid of that, or of him. And if everything works out tonight, you won’t be afraid of him any longer.”

Scully nodded silently, accepting her words. She had no idea why she believed Miz Gabrielle, but her words carried conviction and provided a reassurance that Scully hadn’t known she was needing.

“Some people are coming over to help out — mostly relations,” Miz Gabrielle said, changing the subject. “They’ll be gathering outside now so let’s go out while this steeps. The men should be building a bonfire on the beach, and I want to make sure they’re really doing it, the lazy things. I don’t want them procrastinating until it’s too late,” she frowned, ushering Scully out of the back door ahead of her. “Ah, good. They’re lighting it already. I must ask someone if they found the chair for Mulder, dear — it hasn’t been used in so long, you know. I’ll be right back.”

Scully watched her shuffle head down to the beach with the aid of a tall, beautiful young black woman. Miz Gabrielle flapped her hands mock-impatiently at the swarm of children that dashed up to her, and Scully smiled. The children didn’t seem to be impressed.

– + –

Part 7b

She looked away from the beach to see Mulder leaving a knot of young men that were hanging out near one of the outbuildings and heading toward her. His jacket and tie were gone, his collar was unbuttoned, and his shirtsleeves were rolled up to his elbows.

“You look ready for action,” she commented mildly.

“The guys have been cluing me in to a few things about what the ladies say is going to happen tonight, so I figured I’d better get comfortable. How are you doing?”

“Fine. How about you? You’re the star of this show, after all.”

“Just a little stage fright,” he admitted, smiling.

“I’m a little nervous, too.” She glanced up at him briefly. The sun was all but gone; only a few minutes of light remained. She knew what she wanted to say to him, despite the involuntary chill his proximity gave her. She wanted to say it to him while he was still himself, before he changed. “Mulder, before all of this starts, I want to know if your proposal is still open.”

His eyebrows rose slowly as he stared at her in the deepening dusk. “You know it is. But I don’t think now is quite the time —”

“I want to accept your proposal,” she said firmly. “I’m saying yes, Mulder. I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight, but I know that come tomorrow I’m still going to want to be your friend and your partner. And I know that I want to be your wife, too. I knew that while we were talking at dinner the other night and I was just too scared to say so.”

“I know,” he smiled down at her. “But being scared together has got to beat being scared separately.”

She nodded, returning his smile faintly.

“We’ll talk about this some more tomorrow,” he told her, looking at the gathering men and women. “Two’s company, but fifty’s a crowd.

“Okay. I think they’re wanting you down on the beach.”

He hesitated, looking at her. “I wish I could kiss you.”

“I wish you could, too,” she said honestly, her mouth quirking upwards wryly. “But you’ll have to settle for a rain check.”

He leaned closer, careful not to touch her. “I’ll collect that rain check tomorrow, Scully,” he promised quietly, then turned quickly and headed off toward the bonfire.

“Dana! There you are,” Miz Gabrielle exclaimed. “You’re worse than the kids for disappearing when my back is turned. Now, we’re almost ready. The men have taken the chair down near the fire and the women are ready to take care of the rest.”

“What’s the rest?”

“It’s nearly dark, Dana. The men can’t stay down there with that being ready to transfer itself. Oh, good. The ladies are going down to the beach. They’ll send the men back up here to take the children away. We’ll take the drink down to Mulder, he’ll drink it, and the women will make sure that he’s safely tied up so he can’t hurt himself or anyone else. Come along.” She sounded appallingly casual about it to Scully.

“What’s my part in all this?” Scully wanted to know, following her back into the kitchen.

“You’re going to identify the incubus when it manifests and then, when it’s established that the transfer is complete, you’ll kill it.” Miz Gabrielle told her, taking an earthenware mug out of a locked cabinet.

She measured out a careful spoonful of the infusion she had prepared into the mug, crumbled the leaf fragments into it, and then poured hot water over both. “See? Not enough poison to kill him. Just enough to put him out for a while.”

“But if the drink puts him to sleep, won’t the incubus — or whatever — be groggy too?”

“The entity is stronger than Mulder is. It can overcome the narcotic for a while. But it won’t be able to manifest at full strength.”

Just as well, Scully thought. The idea of Mulder being able to break out of whatever restraints they put him into wasn’t an appealing one. The gun in its shoulder holster suddenly weighed heavily against her side. If he broke free, she would have to shoot him.

“What do we do now?”

“You’re going to carry this down to the beach for him to drink. Don’t let anyone else touch it. He has to take it from your hands and drink it all. Understand?”

“No,” Scully said frankly. “But I’ll do it anyway.”

“You’re feeling all right?”

“I think so. Tired — but I’m always tired these days.”

“It’ll be dark by the time you get to the beach, Dana. The tisane you drank has helped prevent him from draining any more of your strength from you, but he’ll be waiting for you down there. You’ll feel it.”

“I’ll be okay,” Scully said, picking up the mug. “By the way, I told Mulder I’d marry him. And I want this thing is out of him, the sooner the better.”

“Good for you, child. You hold on to that thought. Remember, your attitude is part of what will rid us of this entity. Now, go on. I’ll be right behind you.”

The men were milling around in the yard, gathering the children to keep them out of the way, but moved aside to create almost an aisle across the scrubby grass and onto the beach. Scully carried the mug down onto the warm sand and made her way slowly across to where the women were loosely grouped around the bonfire.

The nearer she got to the fire, the harder it was for her to move. She felt like she was under water, swimming her way through the increasingly heavy atmosphere. If the sky hadn’t been so clear, she could have believed that a thunderstorm was ready to break overhead.

A chair had been set up in the sand a short distance from the fire, slightly downwind, and Scully looked it over, frowning, as she reached the women. It was a sturdily made straight chair, but it had a thick plank nailed across the back to form a cross bar, and one end of the plank was darkly stained with what looked like old blood.

Mulder had been standing nearby and moved forward to meet her. “Are we ready?”

“I think so,” she said eyeing the chair, the crossbar and its evocative stains. She swallowed. “You’re sure you still want to do this?”


Scully forced herself look at him, and then looked away quickly. It was Mulder, but she had to look hard to see him. The shadow of something else was almost blotting him out.

She held herself together with an effort. “You need to drink all of this, Mulder,” she told him, keeping her voice as steady as she could.

He nodded and took the mug from her very carefully, seeing in her expression the reflection of what she was seeing in him, not wanting to distress her further by touching her. He made no comment when she backed away from him immediately, her face turned away.

“You should sit down in the chair to drink that,” one of the women said, glancing over at them as she sorted the lengths of cord she held.

He sat down agreeably, sniffing at the mug. “How long does this take to work?” he asked Miz Gabrielle as Scully moved away toward the fire, away from him.

“Just a couple of minutes. As soon as you’re finished, the women will tie you to the chair. You’ll be uncomfortable, but you won’t be able to hurt anyone else. Or yourself.”

Mulder tested the temperature of the liquid with a cautious sip, found that it wasn’t as hot as he thought it was, and drank it all down in a few quick gulps, trying not to taste it. Scully’s tisane may have tasted the way flowers smell, but this definitely wasn’t in the same class.

The aftertaste was still bitter on his tongue when the women, one at a time, began a seemingly tuneless humming, broken by an occasional murmur. The sound was almost subliminal, hard to hear, hard to pin down.

Scully had her back to him as some of the older women began binding him to the chair. He watched, and even cooperated, as they stretched his arms out on the cross bars, anchored his torso to the body of the chair, and tied his ankles and knees to the chair legs. They took off the splinted glove to tie his left wrist, but used a soft piece of padded cloth so as not to hurt his damaged wrist. The cords were well-knotted, but they took care not to cut off his circulation.

Very professional, Mulder thought calmly, feeling strangely detached from the scene now. Very neat. It would be nearly impossible for anyone to break out of that kind of position. He hoped he wouldn’t be able to.

>From the way the peripheries of his vision were blurring, he knew that the drugs were beginning to take effect. People separated into parts when they moved, and the flames of the fire were leaping in slow motion. He could feel his connection with reality slipping away. The only thing that he could still connect to was Scully. No one else was real to him.

And Scully still had her back to him. He could see her bright auburn hair shining in the firelight as if it were part of the fire. She looked beautiful. He wished he could see her face, but knew why she wasn’t turning to look at him. He could feel it inside him and now it wasn’t just the drink that was bitter in his mouth.

There was some kind of strange scent in the air — incense, perhaps, that had been thrown onto the fire — that drifted over him in a fog. His fingertips began to tingle and as the sensation spread through his hands and up his arms. More drugs, he thought. More drugs to separate him from himself.

Dimly, at an increasing distance, he could see Scully’s hair glowing in the firelight, burning along with the fire, and its radiance burned higher until he had to close his eyes against the brightness of it.

The darkness behind his eyelids dragged him down into itself before he realized what it was. And then he was gone.

And it was there.

– + –

Part 8

Scully moved slightly away from the fire so that the light breeze wouldn’t blow the incense directly into her face. Between the scent of the incense and what she could feel behind her, she felt sick.

“Dana, Mulder is asleep,” Miz Gabrielle said. “Turn around and look at him.”

Biting her lip, Scully forced herself to move, to turn around to face him.

Bound safely to the chair, he had Mulder’s features, but although his face was well lit by the leaping firelight, his eyes were darker than Mulder’s, almost black. The sense of something else, something alien, looking out of Mulder’s eyes was almost tangible to her, and her stomach tightened against the otherness of it.

But he looked drugged, as if he was having trouble keeping his head upright, keeping his eyes open. He looked so much like Mulder. So much.

“Scully!” He had Mulder’s voice, too, however unsteady. “This isn’t working. Whatever she just gave me, all it’s doing is making me sick to my stomach. You’ve got to get me out of this.”

“Is it Mulder?” Miz Gabrielle asked her, looking over the man in the chair.

Scully opened her mouth but couldn’t find her voice to answer.

“Scully, listen to me, please,” he said earnestly. “That stuff she gave me to drink didn’t put me to sleep. I’m awake. You can see that. You know who I am,” he said earnestly, pulling at the ropes binding his arms to the crossbar. “Untie me, Scully.”

“Who is this, Dana?”

“Scully, please. I’ve changed my mind,” he said, his voice desperate. “You can’t let them do this to me. They’ve already poisoned me. They’re going to kill me.”

“Dana,” Miz Gabrielle said firmly, “you must tell me who this is. Is it Mulder? The Mulder you know?”

“This is what attacked me,” Scully said, her voice sounding strange even to herself, but it held conviction. “It looks like him. But it isn’t Mulder.”

The expression on his face changed suddenly and Scully knew that if she’d had any lingering doubts, the utter malevolence in his eyes would have convinced her instantly. She took an involuntary step backwards, away from the contamination of his look.

“They are killing him, you know,” he told her harshly, his dark eyes fixed on her face. “They don’t have the power to force me to transfer against my will, so they have to kill this body to do it. He’s dying even now.”

Scully looked quickly at Miz Gabrielle. “Is that true?”

“Yes — but don’t interfere, Dana,” she warned. “We know what we are doing; you do not. If you try to save him, you will certainly kill him.”

“Don’t listen to her, Scully.” Mulder was laboring for breath. “I can keep him alive. If you let them destroy me, he’ll die too.”

Scully looked from her partner’s form to Miz Gabrielle, feeling helpless. “Mulder wanted to go through with this,” she said at last, reluctantly. “It was what he wanted. I can’t interfere.”

Mulder’s head dropped forward for a moment and then came up again with an effort. “I hope they can’t revive him,” he said with quiet malice. “I hope he dies. If I can, I’ll see to it that he does.” The intensity of his gaze held her frozen in place. “And if he survives despite me, I can make sure that he remembers what I remember. I can make him remember what I did to you — what we did together, Dana Scully — and I’ll make sure that he knows that this body enjoyed it. And you’ll never know when that memory will suddenly come to him.”

“Gag him,” Miz Gabrielle nodded to a plump young woman standing behind him, ready, and she pushed a gag into his mouth and had it tied in place before he could utter another word. But his eyes spoke volumes to Scully.

“Can it do that?” Scully asked after a moment. “Will Mulder know?”

“I don’t know,” replied the old woman honestly. “I don’t think so, but I’m not sure. But we can’t stop now, Dana. Mulder will die if we do. Danielle, where’s that sack?”

The tall, beautiful black woman brought forward a battered burlap sack and, laying it before the fire, she untied the top and pulled out a large black and white rooster, legs and wings bound against its indignant struggles.

At Miz Gabrielle’s nod, Danielle gave the squawking bird to an old woman waiting to receive it as it protested stridently. She, in turn, gave it to one of two old ladies standing near the downwind plume of smoke from the fire, all of them murmuring soothingly.

Passing it through the smoke of the incense quieted the bird, and it finally lay passive as it was passed from hand to hand, back and forth through the stupefying fog.

Scully tore her eyes away from the bird and looked back at Mulder and was glad she couldn’t see his face. His head was sunk onto his chest and she had to look hard to see that he was breathing. Danielle was standing beside him, her fingertips on the pulse in his good wrist, her face intent as she watched him.

“Quickly,” she said aloud. “Miz Gabrielle, it’s almost time.”

“Stay close, Dana.” Miz Gabrielle told her, taking the quiescent rooster from the woman named Danielle and bring it close to Mulder’s still form.

And it was still, Scully realized suddenly. He wasn’t breathing any longer.

Miz Gabrielle’s deep voice was intoning words that Scully couldn’t understand, but the thickening of the atmosphere seemed to increase with every syllable. It pressed in around her until it was hard to draw breath.

The woman standing beside Mulder moved quickly as Miz Gabrielle inclined her head slowly, continuing to chant. Before Scully could move or protest, Danielle took a knife out of a folded cloth on the ground beside her and deftly applied the sharp point of the blade to Mulder’s wrist. He didn’t move as the blood began to flow almost immediately, but she held the cloth under his wrist, preventing the blood from reaching the ground.

Scully shut her eyes, not wanting to watch any more of it. The smoke from the fire was making her dizzy and the sight of Mulder’s still body was making her sick.

A high-pitched scream startled her into opening her eyes again a moment later.

Miz Gabrielle was beside Mulder, holding the rooster under the steady drip of Mulder’s blood, a stick forcing its beak open so that the blood covered its head, filled its beak. It wasn’t passive any longer, but struggling wildly against its bonds with high-pitched shrieks of rage. Its yellow eyes were black.

“Oh my God,” Scully gasped. “Oh my God. It’s in there? It transferred?”

“It had no choice. Mulder is dead,” Miz Gabrielle said briefly, moving as quickly as she could back to Scully, bringing the bloody rooster with her. “Come with me quickly, Dana. We cannot try to revive Mulder until the entity is destroyed.”

Scully had no idea what to do, but she followed the old woman to the fire.

The women there were ready with a large, sharp knife. It looked more like a machete, Scully thought, taking it when they handed it to her, and there was an oily substance smeared on the blade. An anointing of some kind?

Two of the other women helped Miz Gabrielle to kneel, stiffly, beside a block of wood perhaps a foot long and a few inches wide. It looked very new and raw.

Miz Gabrielle murmured softly to herself as she stretched the neck of the rooster over the wooden block.

“When she stops speaking, kill it,” one of the women behind Scully instructed her quietly. “Then take the head and throw it onto the fire, then the body, then the block of wood. Do it quickly so that your friend can be revived.”

Scully nodded, dropping to her knees, the knife held ready, mentally ticking off the amount of time that Mulder’s heart had probably been stopped. She wished the old woman would hurry.

“Now, Dana,” Miz Gabrielle said suddenly.

The reflection of the flames leaped in the rooster’s dark eyes during the split second that elapsed before she brought the knife down in a quick, professional movement. The blood-filled beak snapped open and closed as its eyes glared, refusing to give in to the finality of death. Scully carefully handed the knife back to the woman who reached for it, then scooped up the decapitated head and tossed it into the fire without a second’s hesitation. The flames leaped higher. The bound, still-convulsing body followed, and then the blood-soaked wooden block. The fire roared upward as if she’d thrown gasoline on it, forcing everyone away from the sudden heat.

Scully ignored the fire, ignored the heat. She stumbled to her feet and struggled through a haze of smoke and stench to get to Mulder.

It seemed a long way to his side. She couldn’t see the way through the smoke, and the sand was pulling at her feet, pulling her down. She could hear voices in the distance but couldn’t find her way to them. She knew she had to reach Mulder, but he was no longer there to reach.

The place she was sinking into was cool and dark, empty of sound, empty of feeling. She was so tired. She would rest for just a moment, then go on to find Mulder. Just for a moment.

– + –

Scully wasn’t aware of waking up; her eyes simply drifted open of their own accord. She didn’t feel quite awake, but she wasn’t still asleep, either. Her mind wasn’t quite together, though. She knew that. There was something that she should be remembering, but….

There was light outside. She could see it slipping through the curtains that weren’t quite closed. And she became aware of a need to go to the bathroom.

Pushing the covers aside, she got up and padded around the wall beside the bed to the bathroom. Long-established habits took over as she shut the door behind her and went through her morning ritual — using the bathroom, washing her face, brushing her teeth, bathing and washing her hair — all on automatic. Her mind wasn’t engaged in any of it, wasn’t thinking at all.

It wasn’t until she was using the blow dryer on her hair that the first memory returned and then, as if a signal had been given, the rest followed in a chaotic rush. Nothing was in order, nothing made sense, and it took her a frozen moment to realize that it wasn’t a bizarre and frightening dream that she was remembering.

She sat down slowly on the toilet lid as she worked through the memories, her fingers lifting without conscious thought to trace the bite mark on her shoulder.


His name came into her mind without warning, and she had a sudden mental image of him tied to the chair, his head fallen forward, barely visible through the smoke. Dead.

Scully looked around the bathroom quickly, her mind noting details now that she hadn’t seen a moment before. His things were there. The glass beside the sink had been used; so had his toothbrush. The light on his electric razor glowed red as it recharged, indicating that it had been used this morning. This must be his room. He must be here. He must be alive.

She started to put on the tee shirt that she’d been sleeping in and hesitated, wondering how long she’d slept in it, wanting something clean. When she reached for the hotel robe instead, there was a tee shirt hanging on the hook behind it, a woman’s tee shirt, large enough to sleep in, but the theme and pictures emblazoned on the front and back was “Great Pubs of Bermuda” and she couldn’t suppress a smile as she detected her partner’s ironic hand in its purchase.

Grateful for his foresight, if not his taste, she pulled the tee shirt on quickly, drew the robe over it, then ventured out of the bathroom on silent feet to peer around the corner at the queen sized bed.

He was there — had been there all the time — on the other side of the bed, half turned on his side away from her, apparently asleep again after being up earlier that morning. He had pushed the bedclothes down a little and the one bare shoulder that she could see moved slightly as he breathed.

He was alive.

Going back into the bathroom slowly, Scully leaned back against the door when it was shut and let the relief she felt drive out the lingering sickness that had come with the memories. He was still alive. That was the only thing that concerned her right now. Everything else could be dealt with later.

Just the physical effort of bathing had started her legs start shaking, she realized. Or maybe it was the relief. Either way, she felt like she was recovering from a bad case of the flu. It took a real effort to make herself finish drying her hair when all she wanted to do was lie down again.

When she was finished in the bathroom, she concentrated on making it back to her side of the bed without making any noise. Leaving the robe at the foot, she slipped under the covers again and lay quiet for a moment to see if she had wakened Mulder. When he didn’t move, she sighed tiredly and shut her eyes to doze for a few more minutes. Just a little more sleep would let her recover from the hardship of having to take a shower and dry her hair, she thought wryly.

When her breathing was even again, Mulder turned his head on the pillow to look at her. He’d been awake since she first got up, waiting and listening to make sure she didn’t have any trouble in the bathroom. He knew she had to be pretty weak; she wouldn’t eat yesterday after he brought her back to the hotel.

Her color was better than it had been, he thought critically, but she was still too pale. Her skin was so translucent that he felt like he could almost see through her, and she must have lost ten pounds during the four days they’d been here. She looked pretty awful, he had to admit, but the faint color in her face gave him hope that she had turned the corner.

She stirred slightly, her sleep disturbed by his continued gaze, and he looked away. She needed to rest some more. When she was fully awake, then there would be plenty of time to talk.

– + –

This time, the waking was more normal. She was still a little drowsy around the edges, but she didn’t feel too bad, all things considered. Not too tired. Not really sleepy. And, surprisingly, she was just beginning to think favorably about food again. The thought of breakfast didn’t make her nauseous — a step in the right direction, she decided, holding the covers in place over her shoulders as she rolled over, and then blinked in surprise.

Mulder was there, on his side, watching her interestedly.

“Going to rejoin the land of the living?” he wanted to know.

She thought about it. “Maybe. I feel a lot better than I did, at any rate.” She had so many questions, she didn’t know what to ask first, but finally settled for asking what day it was.

“Sunday. Everything happened Friday night,” he reminded her. “We were both too out of it to make it home so Miz Gabrielle had us stay with her for the night to make sure we were okay. You don’t remember anything?”

“Should I?”

“Well, you were sort of in and out. I wasn’t sure what you’d remember. You obviously don’t remember the trip back here Saturday morning. You passed out as soon as you hit the bed and you only woke a couple of times to go to the bathroom since then.”

Scully frowned at him slightly. She wasn’t as interested in what had happened to her as in what had happened to him. He looked rested and in his normal good health once more. “What went on with you? They obviously resusitated you, but you were dead, Mulder. I saw it.”

“I don’t remember anything after drinking that rotten-tasting potion of Miz Gabrielle’s, and I only have vague memories of waking up afterwards. I don’t think I was fully conscious until the next morning.” Mulder rubbed a hand across his chin in an absent gesture. “From what I was told afterward, the ‘usual potions’ weren’t working on me, so Miz Gabrielle had Danielle — she’s a doctor, too — gave me a dose of adrenaline. I’m kind of glad I wasn’t awake for that,” he added reflectively.

“If you were dying, you wouldn’t care what they did to revive you,” Scully pointed out callously. “The adrenaline brought you back, then.”

“I guess so. But I had a mother of a hangover yesterday morning, so I didn’t really care about anything except getting us both back to the hotel and into bed. I slept most of the day, and when I finally woke up yesterday afternoon, I felt fine.”

“And then you went shopping.”

He grinned. “You found the tee shirt, then. I thought you might appreciate something clean to wear when you finally woke up.”

“I do,” she assured him.

“After I went shopping for various things, I came back here and you were still out of it. When I finally got tired of hanging out watching you sleep, I went over to your room, packed up your stuff and brought it all over here. I didn’t think we’d be needing separate rooms any more, so I had the front desk check you out of that one and into this one.”

“Well, my reputation was shot anyway after your trip to the clinic,” Scully sighed.

Mulder ignored that. “Was I wrong?” he asked quietly.

“About what?”

“About us needing separate rooms. Do you want another room?”

She hesitated for a moment, looking at him. There was no trace left in him of the other, in his face or in his eyes, as he waited for her answer. This was the man she trusted. This was her best friend and her partner. This was Mulder. And she felt relaxed, comfortable in his bed — no, she thought, not his bed; it had somehow become their bed.

“No,” she said at last. “No, I don’t want another room.”

“Then would you mind if I collected on that rain check?” He still didn’t move, still didn’t touch her.

Scully smiled faintly in answer, stifling inward reservations, closing her eyes as he leaned toward her.

The touch of his mouth on hers surprised her. It was as unfamiliar as anyone’s first kiss would be, but she would have known that it was Mulder in the dark — his touch was that distinctive to her. But she could feel no connection in her mind at all to the kisses she had received from these same lips only a few nights before.


She blinked at him, then smiled at his puzzled expression. “It was so different,” she said simply. “I really didn’t think it would be. But it is.”

He didn’t have to ask her what she meant.

This time when he kissed her, she made a conscious decision to let all the other memories go. They would always be there, but distant now, not so close, not so painful. But they had nothing to do with Mulder.

His lips coaxed a smile from her as they brushed first one corner of her mouth and then the other, then her upper lip, then her lower lip. Nothing but his mouth touched her, and its gentle pressure asked nothing of her, but offered more if that was what she wanted.

“I’m fine, ” she murmured reassuringly when he paused, her hand on his cheek drawing him back again, showing him with the gesture that she didn’t fear his touch any more, that she knew who he was. “You don’t have to worry. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, reaching for her to pull her close to him, wrapping his arms around her warmly.

“About being okay with this? I wouldn’t lie to you about something like that, Mulder.”

“You’ve been through a lot,” he continued, giving her a chance to change her mind, hoping she wouldn’t. “We don’t have to do this now.”

“I know. But I want to.”

He nodded his acceptance of that, one fingertip tracing the curve of her cheek, his eyes on the movement then on her mouth as his fingertip outlined her lower lip. Her mouth quivered for a moment, then stretched into a smile for him as his thumb pushed her chin up gently and his lips came down on hers again.

This time the pressure of his mouth against hers asked for a response and Scully willingly gave it, lifting her face and opening her mouth to him, the muscles of her stomach contracting with the feeling of their breath mingling, her breath catching in her throat when the tip of his tongue stroked her lower lip as if asking permission before beginning to explore her mouth.

There was no sense of urgency; making love was something that couldn’t be hurried. There was a lot of pleasure to be found in taking their time learning to know each other, their hands and mouths exploring, finding sensitive spots, erotically charged places individual to each.

Scully had long since lost all track of time, was only aware of Mulder’s body next to hers, half on hers, skin to skin, when, with a long, deep kiss that promised more, he rolled away from her for a moment.

Before she had time to voice a question, he was turning back to her to her, smiling half-mockingly at her in the light from the nearly-closed curtains. “Forget something?” he asked, pressing something into her hand. “I didn’t.”

She didn’t have to look at it to know what it was.

Her hands brought his face down to hers, her mouth caressing his as she felt his weight settling against her once more. Now they could finish what had begun more than five years ago. It was time.

– + –

Part 9

Scully murmured an almost inaudible protest when he finally got up, but stayed curled up under the covers that he drew back over her, disinclined to leave the warmth of the bed. She felt pleasantly tired, very relaxed, and too comfortable to move.

She must have dozed off because when she opened her eyes again, Mulder was sitting down on the bed beside her, half dressed and faintly damp around the edges.

“You doing okay?”

“Never better,” she said honestly and was rewarded by a quick kiss, his tongue flicking briefly over her lower lip. Her hand slipped behind his neck and pulled him down onto the bed with her, taking him by surprise, the pressure of her mouth forcing his lips apart to kiss him more deeply, then gentling the kiss, communicating emotions too difficult for her to put into words.

When she ended the kiss, he stayed where he was, half sitting beside her, half lying over her, gazing at her as if he were memorizing her features, the expression on his face warming her from the inside out.

“Did I remember to tell you that I love you?” he asked softly at last.

She smiled. “I think I heard it a couple of times in passing. Does this mean that I get to call you Fox now?” she asked, her eyebrows rising slightly with the inflection of the question.

He kissed her suddenly, hard and deeply, before he slid out of her arms. “Only on special occasions,” he conceded with a grin. “You said you wanted breakfast an hour ago, and we’re still here.”

“Whose fault is that?”

“Yours,” he said immediately. “You get washed up and dressed, and I’ll call Skinner.”

Scully stopped in the act of pulling her robe on. “Skinner?” she echoed. “It’s Sunday, Mulder. He won’t be in.”

“I know that. I don’t want to talk to Skinner, just his voice mail.”

“Are you reporting in?” she asked, belting the robe around her.

Mulder hesitated before picking up the receiver, then came back to her, putting an arm around her and sitting down on the end of the bed.

“I’ve been thinking about something — as much as I could think about anything during this past couple of hours,” he said feelingly. “I think we should get married.”

“Didn’t we do this already? I thought I said yes.”

“I mean, I think we should get married now. Not six months down the road. Now.”

Scully looked at him thoughtfully. “Is there a problem with waiting?”

“From a professional point of view, it would be a lot easier to go home and present them with a fait accompli,” Mulder noted. “Personally, I don’t want to mess around for months planning a wedding that costs the earth but that we can’t remember aftewards unless we look at the videos.”

“I know,” she agreed. “I’ve been to a lot of those weddings. So you want to get married here?”

“We can’t get married in Bermuda unless we’re residents, or unless we’ve posted banns in two local newspapers fourteen days in advance of the wedding,” he told her.

Scully stared at him. She was becoming used to his coming up with odd and obscure facts about his extraordinary cases, but this was carrying it too far.

“I didn’t look it up in advance,” he said a little defensively, apparently reading her mind. “I was here with some friends during the Long Vacation at college and I ended up being asked to find out about it for a friend of mine. That’s how I know.”

“Okay,” she nodded agreeably. “So how do we get married now if we can’t get married on Bermuda?”

“Miami’s only twenty-five minutes away by plane, and there’s no real waiting period in Florida — just a twenty-four hour wait for blood test results. We could fly to Miami tomorrow, have the blood test done, stay the night, and get married on Tuesday.”

Scully considered it, looking down at his hand that was holding hers. “And what about birth certificates? Don’t we need those?”

“I think I can arrange to have them waiting for us at the hotel.”

“And where does Skinner fit into all this?”

“We’ve finished the case,” he pointed out. “We should have been on our way home a couple of days ago. Skinner probably expects us in the office tomorrow morning. But I’m going to call him and tell him that you’ve got the flu or something and you can’t fly. I’ll tell him that we’ll be flying back…mmm…next Saturday, after you’ve recovered.”

“Mulder…” she started to protest.

“Scully,” he interrupted, “I honestly don’t think you’re healthy enough to go home yet. Do you?”

She mentally assessed her own condition and was forced to reluctantly agree with him. She needed rest and relaxation. She needed to eat four meals a day and sleep for eight hours every night. She needed some time alone with Mulder before they went back to the office and became caught up in the internal political machine there.

He took her silence for acquiesence and continued. “We both have plenty of leave time accrued, so that won’t be a problem. And we’re going to need some story to explain what you look like when we get back.”

“That’s almost a week away. I should look fine by then.”

“I hope so. But Miz Gabrielle seemed to think that it was going to take his victims a while to fully recover their health. Let’s face it, after what you’ve been through, there’s no way you’re going to walk back into the office a week from now and not have people notice that you’ve been ill. You just aren’t going to recover that quickly.”

She shrugged. “Okay, fine.” Something else occured to her and she looked up at him, frowning slightly. “Will your mom be upset that you’re getting married like this? You’re all she’s got left.”

“I know,” he said steadily. “But Mom lives in her own world. She’ll be happy for me, but I can’t say that we’ve been really close in a long time.” He tightened his hand on hers. “How about your mother? She’ll probably have a fit,” he smiled.

“I doubt it,” Scully said dryly. “If I know her at all, she’ll be overjoyed — even without a wedding to plan. She likes you a lot, and it’s what she doesn’t say about you that speaks volumes to me. You’ve been family to her for a long time now.”

“That’s nice to know. I like her, too. So are you saying that you want to get married right away?”

“I can’t think of a good reason not to.” She laughed suddenly. “And, frankly, I don’t want to. Other than be recruited by the FBI, this will be the most out-of-character thing I’ve ever done.”

“And I’m sure the FBI seemed like a good idea at the time,” Mulder added wryly, getting up. “Go on and get dressed. I’ve got some calls to make.”

Scully gathered up some clothes from the drawers and closet and disappeared into the bathroom as he was placing his first call.

“Hey, Langly,” she heard him say into the receiver. “Yeah, it’s me. Turn off the recorder. Uh huh. I need a favor from you guys, but first I’ve got some news that’s going to break Frohike’s heart.”

Scully closed the bathroom door firmly on the rest of the conversation.

– + –

Mulder had a lot more energy than she did, Scully reflected, digging her feet a little further into the bone-melting warmth of the pink sand. The ocean breeze had been a bit cool after coming out of the water, but she was nearly dry now and enjoying the heat of the late afternoon sun, feeling blissfully lazy. Mulder, on the other hand, had been in the water for a couple of hours now and showed no inclination to come in yet.

They had met two other couples at the hotel this morning on their way out and, since they were bound for the same beach for the same reason, the three couples had merged to make one party. Now Bill, Bill’s wife, Ron and Mulder were snorkeling a couple of hundred yards offshore while Rachel, Ron’s girlfriend, and Scully sunned themselves on the beach. At least, Rachel was actually sunning herself in the full sunlight while Scully prudently caught the reflected rays from the ocean under the shade of a beach umbrella, watching the scene from behind dark sunglasses.

Rachel was very blonde, about twenty five, Scully guessed, and was working on keeping an enviable tan. If one could envy a golden, toasted look that would become shoe leather and pre-cancerous skin conditions in just a few years, Scully reminded herself. Rachel was also wearing something that purported to be a bikini, but Mulder had commented privately to Scully upon its unveiling on the beach that it looked more like two Band-Aids and a shoestring. He had already voiced — and demonstrated — his unequivocal approval of her own favorite swimsuit, a bronze-colored two-piece, that morning.

Scully smiled to herself and looked out over the water again, picking out Mulder as he trod water and cleared out his mouthpiece and snorkel before he started out again.

“You guys have only been married since Tuesday?” Rachel commented, interrupting her thoughts. “You guys act like you’ve been married ten years. You don’t act like honeymooners at all. Not like Bill and Lisa.”

Scully turned an amused look on the other woman. “What, you mean them being all over each other? That’s just not us. Not in public, anyway,” she amended after a moment. “Are you and Ron engaged?”

“Kind of. We’ve been, like, living together for two years but just haven’t set a date,” she shrugged. “We’re not in a hurry. Were you and Mulder engaged long? Did you have a big wedding?” Rachel cast an envious look at the wedding ring on Scully’s left hand, watching the five good sized channel-set diamonds sparkling dazzlingly even in the reflected sunlight. In the direct sunlight, Rachel had already noticed, the effect was blinding — and gorgeous.

“Actually, he proposed…let’s see…last Tuesday, I guess it was. And I said yes on Friday, and we got married in Miami on Tuesday. So I guess it took a week, from start to finish,” Scully said thoughtfully. “It wasn’t a big wedding. But we didn’t want it to be. It was just us and the judge and a couple of anonymous witnesses.”

“You didn’t have, like, a dress or anything?”

Although Scully smiled at the dismay in Rachel’s voice, she had to admit to feeling a small pang in some small part of her at having foregone the opportunity of going down a church aisle dressed like a big meringue — as one movie had so eloquently put it. But being the center of attention for five hundred people really didn’t hold any appeal for her. She had been the center of attention for Mulder, and that had been enough.

“No, no big dress. I wore a suit, but I did have a bouquet,” Scully consoled Rachel. She and Mulder hadn’t even considered flowers. The bouquet had been delivered to the hotel early on Tuesday morning — creamy gardenias, sprays of orange blossoms and freesia, and pale roses with just a blush of color — from Frohike, of all people, with his best wishes. The thought behind the small, fragrant bouquet had touched Scully and had surprised Mulder a good deal.

“Weren’t you nervous? I mean, like, getting married and all, and not even having anyone there? Like, was this the first time for both of you, or had you been through it already?”

“No, neither one of us have been married before,” Scully answered, thinking that it was rather a personal question. “And I don’t think we were nervous.” And she hadn’t been, she thought. Marrying Mulder had been the most natural thing in the world to do. And if he had been nervous, it hadn’t showed. His hands had held hers in a warm, firm clasp during his vows — he hadn’t just repeated them after the judge, but had spoken them to her, really hearing the words and making the promises.

“I don’t think I could get married that fast, without anything or anyone, like that,” Rachel shook her head. “Don’t get me wrong, or anything, and I don’t mean to pry, but you’re not, like, having to rush it, are you?”

Scully realized that her fingers were clenched tight on the unopened mystery she’d been holding and forced herself to relax again. “No, nothing like that,” she said as casually as she could. “We just wanted to avoid a big wedding at home, that’s all.”

“Well, I’d like a huge wedding. Ron’s family owns a business in Newport, so he doesn’t have to worry about money. We can have a really big wedding blowout.” Rachel missed Scully’s involuntary wince, her eyes on the heavy gold and diamond wedding band again. “That’s a gorgeous ring,” she said sincerely. “Did you get it here or in Miami?”

“I think Mulder got it here, I’m not sure where. He surprised me with it at the ceremony.” It had been quite a surprise. The light coming in the window beside them had set the diamonds blazing and Scully still wondered a little uneasily if she had looked as open-mouthed astonished as she had felt. Her thumb rubbed the bottom of the band now, reassuring herself that it was still there. She couldn’t feel the delicate engraving on the inside of the ring, but she had finally looked at it that night, after they’d gotten back to their hotel room in Bermuda.

It had been late, and they’d been in bed for a while, lying close and talking quietly about the day. She had idly taken off the ring to look at it more carefully. The heavy gold of the band had been engraved inside. There were her initials, a date, and his initials — very simple, very plain. She had noted out loud, a little puzzled, that the date wasn’t that of their wedding day, but the 18th, two days before. He hadn’t said anything, and it had only taken her another moment to realize that it was Sunday’s date — and to understand immediately why he had wanted that date engraved on the inside of her wedding ring.

When she had looked up from the ring wordlessly, he had shrugged and said simply, “I really felt I was married on Sunday.”

And Scully had shown him how much she agreed with him.

“Where are you guys from? Do you both work? We’re from Newport, Rhode Island. Ron’s business is there; he does big time boat repairs — yachts and things like that. I just hang out at home,” Rachel volunteered.

“We live in Washington, D.C. We…uh…we work for the government,” Scully hedged, wishing she could weasel out of this conversation. She didn’t feel comfortable with so many personal questions from a veritable stranger. And she had a feeling that Rachel had sized up her ring to within a tenth of a carat and could probably tell her the grade of diamonds in it. Was that Mulder heading back for shore?

“Oh, the government. You mean like HUD or something?”

It was Mulder. He was starting to wade through the long shallows now. “No, not HUD,” she said out loud.

“Are you in politics? I heard there was a senator here with his wife.” Rachel was looking at her speculatively.

“No, we aren’t in politics,” Scully said hastily, not wanting her to begin jumping to that conclusion. “We work for the FBI.”

“Oh, God, the FBI! Are you his secretary or something?”

Scully got up and shook out her beach towel carefully. “No. We’re both Special Agents working on field investigations in different departments — Mulder’s usually in the Violent Crimes Section and I’m in Pathology,” she told Rachel, ignoring their X-Files assignments, keeping her voice deliberately even. She doubted this girl could even spell FBI.

“You’re an agent? You both are? With guns and everything?”

“And everything,” Scully agreed, shoving her book back into her carryall and pushing her dark sunglasses back up on her nose. Hurry up, Mulder.

“You mean you guys carry guns? Have you ever shot anybody? I mean, like, shot them?” Rachel gasped, her eyes wide, looking Scully over as if she expected to see a .22 hidden in her swimsuit bra.

“Hey, Scully!” Mulder called, coming up the beach. “You fried yet?”

“Actually, I shot Mulder one time,” she said conversationally just before her new husband came up to them. “Get him to tell you about it some time.”

Mulder dropped his fins, mask and snorkel on the sand and eyed her quizzically as he picked up his towel and started drying off. “Talking about me behind my back?”

“Isn’t everyone?” she murmured dryly, slanting a glance up at him.

“That’s what I hear.”

His grin took ten years off his age and she couldn’t help smiling in response, reminding herself to tell him that she liked his black swimsuit briefs. They weren’t quite Speedos, but they did things for him that they didn’t do for the sixty year old businessmen that usually affected them.

“Are you packing it in?” he wanted to know, looking at her carryall.

“Yeah, I think I’ve had enough…sun.” She put an infinitesimal pause before the last word, enough to clue him in.

“Okay, I’ll go back to the hotel with you,” he said immediately, though she knew he hadn’t originally had any such intention. “Let me turn this gear back in first.”

He slung his towel around his neck and, gathering up the rented equipment, headed up the beach.

“Nice,” Rachel commented, watching him go. “He’s really cute.”

Scully didn’t say anything, but nodded to the others as they came up, dripping.

“I think we’re going to head back to the hotel,” she told them. “I’m not sure what our dinner plans are, so maybe we’ll see you around tomorrow.”

“We’ll probably go over to Cap’n Jack’s for dinner, so if you feel like dropping in, come on by,” Bill said, following Lisa toward the rental kiosk with his gear.

“Yeah, or stop in for drinks,” Ron added. “We’re in 512.”

Scully ignored his surreptitious gaze that followed her movements as she pulled on shorts and a tee shirt over her swimsuit. She had dealt with worse than Ron.

“We’ll see,” she said noncommittally. “I don’t know what Mulder’s got planned.”

“Did you know they’re FBI agents?” Rachel’s voice broke in breathlessly. “With guns and everything!”

“FBI?” Ron’s eyebrows rose. “You?”

“That’s right. Mulder, too.”

“Oh, I’d like to see you handle a gun, honey. You don’t look like you’re strong enough to pick one up,” he smiled, and Scully decided, amazed, that he really thought he was paying her a compliment.

“Oh, Scully’s good with a weapon,” Mulder said, coming up behind him. “She uses a 9 mm Sig Sauer and got better scores with it than I did during our last recertifications. If she targets you, she’ll hit you.”

Ron looked rather taken aback. “You mean you’re not kidding? FBI?”

“Yeah.” Mulder was yanking on his own shorts and shirt, then stripping off the soggy wrist brace he had worn into the water and fastening on a dry one. “Look, Scully’s baking out here, so we’ll see you around. It’s been a great day. Tell Bill and Lisa for us.”

He followed Scully up to the top of the beach where the mopeds were parked without saying anything and tied his carryall onto the back of his moped while she did the same for hers.

“That guy bugging you?” he asked finally.

Scully shrugged. “No, he’s just a patronizing jerk. What bugged me was Rachel asking if I was your secretary.”

“I wish I could have seen your face,” Mulder laughed. “Did you set her straight pretty quick?”

“As much as anyone could. And she all but pulled out a loupe to look at my ring. Between that and the personal questions, it’s a good thing I didn’t have my gun with me. You’d be reading about it in the paper tomorrow,” she said acerbically..

“Well, tomorrow’s our last full day here and we definitely won’t spend it with Rachel and Ron. Any idea what you want to do?”

“Mmm…maybe finish some shopping,” she said, thinking. “And I wouldn’t mind going back to see another cricket match. I’ll see if I can remember what you told me about the rules at the match yesterday.”

“Are you doing this because you think I want to go?” he asked suspiciously.

“No, I am not martyring myself for you. There are some sports that you couldn’t drag me to if you put me in a straitjacket first,” she warned him. “But I liked the match yesterday. The way you explained the rules gave me some insight and made it more interesting.”

“I think the guys in white flannels were turning you on.” Mulder straddled his moped, turning the key to start the little putt-putt motor. “Admit it.”

“Nah. It was the English tea they served,” Scully said placidly, starting her moped. “I like a sport where you can sit around all afternoon looking decorative, cheering infrequently, and stuffing yourself with scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam. Much better than boxing. But not as exciting as hockey,” she added.

Mulder shot her a slightly startled glance but didn’t comment on that. “Want to pick something up for dinner and take it back to the hotel?”

“Sure. I’ll follow you back.” She was privately glad to stay in tonight. A full day in the sun had tired her out more than she had realized. Maybe she’d sleep through the night tonight. Maybe she wouldn’t dream.

– + –

Part 10

The figure on the medical table in the big, empty room looked familiar, but Scully wasn’t sure why until she was suddenly closer. Her face. Her hair. Her eyes looking up at nothing. But she wasn’t dead. Her chest moved up and down steadily above a grossly swollen belly under the white sheet.

And then there were people in the room, talking without her being able to understand what was being said. And she wasn’t an onlooker any more. She was on the table, looking up at nothing.

Something was happening to her; she could feel that, but she couldn’t really feel anything. Something was hurting her, she knew the pain was present, but she couldn’t feel it.

And then she realized somewhere inside herself that she was giving birth, although why she knew that she couldn’t say. She certainly couldn’t feel the birth process. She just knew.

Just as she knew what she was going to see when the anonymous people at the foot of the gurney held up the child, strangely clean and oddly silent. She didn’t see its form or its face. All she could see were its eyes — those dark, almost black eyes looking at her, piercing her. Remembering her.

And when the child reached out to touch her, she screamed.


Mulder’s voice was loud, his hands shaking her back and forth, and for an unreasoning moment she fought against him.

“Stop it! Scully, wake up! You’re dreaming…it’s just a dream.”

When she stopped struggling, stopped gasping, he let her go and turned on the lamp beside the bed, creating a pool of light in the dark room.

Scully blinked at him in the light, then got up suddenly and went into the bathroom. He heard the door close and lock. Then he could hear water running in the sink. He was a veteran of nightmares and knew she was washing her face, waking herself up, convincing herself that it really had been a dream.

Mulder sighed and looked over at the clock. 4:28. Every morning between 4:00 and 4:30 Scully had woken from a nightmare — but this was the worse yet, if her panic was anything to go by.

When she came out of the bathroom a few minutes later, he was sitting up waiting for her, but she bypassed the bed and curled up in the easy chair instead. She still looked shaken.

“Can you remember anything about it?” he asked. She hadn’t been able to remember anything much before, but maybe this one had been vivid enough to make an impression.

“I know what it is,” she said after a moment. “I know what I’ve been dreaming about.”

“What is it?” He had a feeling he knew what it was.

“I’m not on the pill and he didn’t use a condom. What if I’m pregnant?” She had to force herself to say it. Her lips were reluctant to even shape the words, her mind sheared away from the thought.

“Miz Gabrielle wondered about that, too,” he said carefully. “She came by on Saturday afternoon while you were asleep to check up on you. She asked whether you were on the pill. I didn’t know, so I checked through your stuff and couldn’t find anything to indicate you were on birth control. So she left something for you to take twenty four hours before we go home. She said that it was safe, but that it would start your cycle within twenty-four hours. If you were pregnant, you wouldn’t be any more.”

“You’ve known about this since Saturday?” she repeated angrily. “Why didn’t you tell me, Mulder? Did you think it was something that didn’t concern me?”

“You would have thought about it all week, Scully,” he explained. “You wouldn’t have been able to relax or get any rest. You wouldn’t have eaten for worrying about it. If you didn’t think of it for yourself, there was no point in telling you until I gave you the bottle that Miz Gabrielle gave me.”

She didn’t say anything, looking away from him into the shadows of the room.

“If you think I should have told you earlier —”

“Never mind. Forget it. You’re right,” she said tightly. “I couldn’t have known and been able to…. Just never mind.”

He fell silent, watching her sit unmoving in the chair. When he felt that she had been quiet too long, he sighed and extended his hand.

“Scully, come here for a minute.” When she didn’t respond, he added, “Please?”

She uncurled herself from the chair finally and came over to the bed, taking his hand and letting him draw her down to sit beside him.

“Look, I don’t know what you’re feeling right now,” he admitted. “I can’t even begin to imagine it. I wish you’d talk to me, though.”

Scully looked down at their joined hands. “I’m not even sure what I feel. I just know that I’m not ready to talk about it. And I know that if I am pregnant, your chromosomes might have contributed to it,” she said slowly, “but it wouldn’t be yours.”

“How do you know?”

“I just know.”

He looked at her steadily for a long minute, then tightened his hold on her hand. “I’ll stay out of it until you’re ready to bring me into it. If I can help, I will.”

“Just having you here is helping, Mulder. Really.” She got up and went around to her side of the bed to get back under the covers again. “Why aren’t you having any problems with any of this? Or are you? A lot of guys I know would.”

Mulder turned off the light and lay down again. “In case it escaped your notice, I’m not a lot of guys,” he pointed out. “Remember, I can believe ten impossible things before breakfast. And as for having problems with all this, I have to say that I’m only concerned about how it’s affected you. Because I don’t remember any of it, because I didn’t see any of it, I can’t really connect to it. It’s not that I don’t believe it happened to you — I just can’t believe that I had anything to do with it, even unknowingly.”

“Well, you didn’t have anything to do with it. You just got stuck with picking up the pieces afterwards,” she smiled. “I felt better when I figured that out.”

“Good. Keep feeling better,” he murmured, pulling her close and settling down to go to sleep again. “I just hope you stop screaming in your sleep. You’re taking years off my life.”

– + –

The air was especially soft tonight, Scully thought, redolent with the scent of exotic spices, citrus trees, and tropical flowers that released their headiest perfumes at night. The sky was as clear as a pool of deep spring water, with stars shining brightly at the bottom of the pool.

For their last night in Bermuda, they had gone to a good restaurant and lingered over dinner before electing to walk back to the hotel. Scully had a feeling that they both knew it would be the last relaxing meal they’d be having for a while. They would be back at work on Monday and they’d be lucky to find time to sleep, much less eat, until their workload was caught up.

“Don’t think about it,” Mulder said, squeezing her hand warningly as they strolled along.

“How do you know what I’m thinking?”

“You’re looking kind of professional and grim all of a sudden. Doesn’t take too much intuition to know you’re thinking about Monday.”

“And you weren’t this morning?” she countered. “I saw you working on your report when I finished my shower.”

“Only because I needed something to do while you were taking a short forever in the bathroom.”

“I am on vacation,” she reminded him with all due deliberation. “I’m not at work where you can give me ten minutes to get ready before you come over to pick me up.”

“I never do that,” protested her partner.

Scully nodded agreeably. “You’re right. You usually give me five minutes, not ten.”

“I’m starting to rethink this whole marriage thing,” he cautioned her jokingly.

Scully smiled up at him. “Go right ahead. Just keep repeating to yourself ‘No pre-nup agreement, no pre-nup agreement.’”

“You’re pretty cold woman, Scully,” he shook his head.

“Well, from what I hear, the Bureau jury is still out on that; they’re pretty evenly divided over whether I’m too cold or too hot,” she grinned.

“Do I get a vote?”

“No. You’re personally biased now.”

“I always was.”

They continued strolling down the street, occasionally breasting a wave of locals and tourists that ebbed and flowed from the various restaurants and nightclubs they passed. The traffic continued unabated, it seemed, with an imperterbable policeman standing in a kiosk in the center of the street directing the mayhem around him.

“Any idea what we’re going to do when we get home?” she asked idly.

“About what?”

“About where we’re going to be living for the time being. Living in separate apartments would probably be hard on a marriage,” she pointed out. “Your place is closer to work, but it’s too small for both of us. You want to move into my apartment until we can find somewhere else?”

Mulder took a deep breath. “Yeah, that’ll be fine. But I’ve been meaning to talk to you about a place to live.”

“Oh? Is there a problem?”

“No, no problem. It’s just that I sort of have a house.”

“Sort of?”

“It’s rented right now. The guy who’s renting it lost his partner last year and asked me a few weeks ago about getting out of the lease in order to move nearer his family. I was going to re-rent the house, but I think living there ourselves would be a good solution to this problem.”

Scully looked up at him curiously. “Where did you get a house? Where is it?”

“My dad left it to me,” he explained. “We lived there when he worked at the State Department and when he retired, he decided not to sell. I kept it rented for him. It’s sort of located on the edge of Georgetown.”

“Again, sort of? What’s sort of?”

“Near 26th and P.”

Scully stopped walking, forcing him to stop, too. “Dunbarton?” she stared at him. “You have a house in Dunbarton?”

“Only on the edge of Dunbarton,” he said defensively.

“Please tell me it doesn’t have a garage, Mulder,” she said slowly, mental images of some of the stately Dunbarton homes she knew floating through her mind. The property values in Dunbarton were obscene, and a connected garage put a home into the mansion category in that area. Oh, God, please. Not one of those. Mulder wouldn’t do that to her — she hoped. Life among the old money families of Georgetown’s Dunbarton was definitely not her style.

He knew exactly what she was thinking. “No, no. Street parking only,” he assured her hastily. “It’s a four bedroom townhouse, two storeys, with a finished basement and a finished attic that can be used as a spare room. Kind of old, actually, but it’s been taken care of. Hardwood floors. Modern plumbing. Central air.”

“You sound like a realtor,” she smiled, relaxing a little. “When is it available? When can I see it?”

“The guy moved out….” Mulder thought about the date. “Well, I guess he’s moving out this weekend. The cleaning crew will be in on Wednesday, so we could go see it next weekend.”

“Always assuming we’re not working,” she sighed.

“Yeah. Don’t depress me, Scully.” He looked at his watch. “It’s getting late. We’d better get back to the hotel if we plan on getting up early enough to pack. And you still need to drink that stuff Miz Gabrielle gave me for you.”

Scully said nothing, just picked up her pace. She wasn’t sure how she felt about what was going to happen. It was just easier to believe that she wasn’t pregnant. She needed to hold onto that belief for her own sake.

And she was glad that Mulder was with her; she remembered reading about these folk remedies, and what she had read didn’t sound fun.

– + –

Mulder watched Scully drink down the glass of water with the little bottle of pungent potion mixed into it, per Miz Gabrielle’s directions. Her involuntary shudder told him that it tasted as bad as it smelled, and her face became a little paler.

“Uh uh, Scully. Don’t think about the taste,” he warned. “You think about it, you’re going to get sick.”

“I think I’m going to get sick anyway,” she mumbled, half getting up to start for the bathroom.

“That’s all the stuff we’ve got, remember. If you lose it, you end up with a D&C back in the States.”

Scully repressed a groan and sat back down on the bed again, fighting the nausea that the taste of the potion and the volume of water had provoked. She had to keep this down long enough for the taste to dissipate.

Capping the bottle so no more of the noxious odor could escape, Mulder took it into the bathroom and put it in his shaving kit. If anything untoward happened, they might need an analysis of what Scully had taken.

When he came back out, she was even paler, if possible, pacing up and down the room in a vain effort to outwalk the queasiness. She didn’t seem to notice him, her attention taken up by more immediate problems.

After a moment’s thought, he went to the desk and turned his laptop on. He could finish up his report for Skinner, keep half an eye on Scully, and stay out of her hair at the same time. He could remember a few mornings after the nights before when he’d felt something similar to what Scully was experiencing, and he didn’t think she would appreciate his hovering over her. Even when in the pink of health she didn’t like it.

After half an hour of typing and revising, typing and revising, and then more revising, he gave up. Scully was pacing like a caged animal at the zoo and he couldn’t concentrate on a meaningless report while she went through this.

Mulder got up and, after searching through a bureau drawer, pulled a sweatshirt on over his polo shirt and sat down on the bed to put on his running shoes.

“Put some clothes on, Scully,” he said, glancing up at the robe she was wearing. We’re going out.”

“I don’t want to go running,” she protested. “I’m really not in the mood for it.”

“I’m not going running,” he told her, picking up the extra blanket and looking it over critically. The hotel probably wouldn’t approve, but he was taking it anyway. “We’re going to go down to the beach. If you want to walk it off, at least you’ll have better surroundings than a cramped hotel room.”

Scully dressed quickly, not saying anything. The thought of the soft night air off the ocean on her face was suddenly appealing.

The beach was only two blocks away from the hotel, and when they got there, it was pretty much deserted. It wasn’t overly large — they could see from one end to the other. There was only one other couple down at the far end, but it was too dark to see exactly what they might be doing.

Mulder ignored them, guiding Scully to the other end of the beach with a gesture. When he found a spot he liked, he unfolded the blanket and dropped it on the sand carelessly, stooping briefly to pick up the flashlight he’d folded in the middle.

“Here,” he said, handing the flashlight to her. “Don’t trip over anything in the dark.”

She hesitated, looking down at the flashlight, automatically checking to see if it worked. “Do you…would you like to walk with me?”

“I’d be glad to, but I get the feeling you’d rather be by yourself out there,” he observed. “I’ll stay here and keep an eye out in case you need me. Just let me know.”

Scully looked up at him wordlessly and nodded. She always needed him, she thought, unable to verbalize the feeling without making herself too vulnerable. She was no longer completely self-sufficient, completely in charge of her own life, in control of her own feelings.

Reality was creeping up on her again, and flying back to D.C. tomorrow morning would mean re-entering the real world again — this time as a married woman. Married to Mulder.

And after being married to him, after making love with him, she couldn’t tell him that she needed him?

“It’s okay,” he said finally, looking down into her eyes. “I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

His mouth gently brushed the corner of hers before he turned her around and gave her a little push to start her off.

He spread the blanket out and sat down to look for her. Scully was heading down to the water line and, when she reached it and the shallow waves reached lazily for her feet, she turned left and headed down the beach, her flashlight playing over the sand ahead of her as she avoided ocean debris and the occasional higher wave.

Looking at the quiet movement of the water, he found his gaze drawn out to the horizon, and then slowly upward to look at the stars. There were so many more here than one could see at home. They were scattered across the heavens like jewels spread out on blue-black velvet. He’d looked at these same stars when Samantha had disappeared. Then he’d looked at them again from a mountaintop when Scully had been taken from him. She’d only been a little further away from him then than she felt right now.

Something more than the queasiness was wrong with her, Mulder thought. He could feel a reserve in her, like she was holding something back from him.

He shook his head slightly. Why couldn’t she tell him what was wrong? Why couldn’t she let him help? This had happened several times, and he’d never made sense out of it before either. Did she think that if she told him what was wrong that he’d try to fix it for her? Or try to protect her in some way?

Scully had plenty of reason to think he might do either one, he told himself sardonically. He was a man. Too many other men had been misled by her outward appearance. She was a woman, she was pretty, she was young, and she was petite. Even though she was a highly-trained agent, a lot of men tended to forget that when they were in the field with her and a dangerous situation came up. He didn’t forget it. Hell, he counted on it a lot of times.

But she had long ago developed that cool, professional demeanor that kept people at arm’s length. She made it plain that she wanted to do things for herself. She wanted to solve her own problems. She wanted to take care of herself. She didn’t want or need to be sheltered or protected by anyone.

But how could he make her believe that when he did want to take care of her, like now, that it wasn’t because she was a woman, pretty, petite, etc. — it was because she was who she was to him. Some of the things he’d done he wouldn’t do for anyone else — man or woman. Only her. Only Scully.

And now she was shutting him out in order to solve her own problem again. He just hoped that the exile would be a temporary one.

– + –

The nausea was gone all of a sudden, like a balloon that popped unexpectedly. One moment it was there, the next moment it wasn’t.

Scully felt weariness rush in to take its place, and turned to walk slowly back up the beach to where she could see dimly Mulder in the light of the waning moon as it set. She knew from the dark outline of his body against the lighter blanket that he was half sitting up, apparently at ease, leaning on his elbows as he watched her, his long legs casually crossed at the ankle. He didn’t have the appearance of a man who was worried, she smiled to herself tiredly, but she could feel it nonetheless. She had stopped wondering why almost two hours ago; she didn’t have an answer and she was tired of the question.

The tension that had held her for hours now was finally dissipating, and she realized that she was too tired to think clearly. But she had done nothing but think and walk since she got to the beach and she felt that time had been well-spent.

Loving someone made you vulnerable. She remembered saying something like that to Mulder their first night here, before everything started happening. As with so many things, she had believed it without really having experienced it. She had never made herself vulnerable to another person. She had never given all of herself to a man. She had always held something back. Always.

She had married Mulder. He was her husband now as well as her partner. She couldn’t hold anything back from him anymore. Nothing. She had to believe that he wouldn’t act differently toward her. Had to believe that he wouldn’t become overly protective at work. Had to believe that he wouldn’t betray their friendship that way — betray her — just because she was wearing his wedding ring.

She did believe it, she realized suddenly. Mulder had never done anything to make her think that he would change. She knew him pretty well. He was a complicated person with a lot of visible contradictions that he presented deliberately as a type of defense mechanism. Although it had taken a while to get to know him, she thought she knew him better than anyone else.

He tended to be emotionally solitary by choice, not by nature. Yet he had cared for her long before he had told her so with word or gesture. And his feeling for her hadn’t gotten in the way of their working together. He led them both into danger without a visible qualm over and over again.

He didn’t trust easily. But he trusted her. He had absolute faith that she would be there when he needed her. He had told her things that he would never tell anyone else. He trusted her to take care of those secrets. And to tell him hers when she was ready.

“Feeling better?” he wanted to know, sitting up as she stumbled up the shallow dune toward the blanket.

“Not sick any more, at any rate. Just tired out,” she smiled, sitting down beside him, reaching out for his hand. “Thanks.”

“I figure you’ve done about ten miles,” he told her, lying down again and pulling her down with him. “You won’t need the treadmill for a week.”

“I want to say that I’m sorry,” she said, her cheek against his shoulder.

“For what?

“For holding back on you tonight when I should have been talking to you.”

Mulder was quiet for a moment. “When you went out for a while before dinner tonight, you went to church, didn’t you.” It wasn’t a question. He knew.

She nodded. “I wanted to think about what I was doing. I decided that it was the right thing. The only thing.”

“So what were you thinking about tonight, walking up and down the beach?”

“Us,” she said simply. “I didn’t really have time to think much about it before the wedding, and I didn’t want to think about it afterwards. I meant my vows when I made them, and I still mean them. But I needed to get some things straight in my own mind before we went home.”

“I wondered whether it might be something like that.” He shifted his position, turning onto his side and propping himself up on one elbow to look down at her. “Do you know when I started trusting you, Scully? When I started loving you?”


“I don’t either,” he said bluntly. “I have no idea. But one day, I just knew that I did. I could try to come up with some times and dates, but I’d only be guessing. And I could try to come up with some reasons, but I wouldn’t know why for sure. It didn’t happen for me in one place at one time for one reason.”

“But, you —”

“Let me finish. I know what’s bugging you and why you’re having such a problem with it. It’s because you’ve always had a problem with it. But you can’t take what you feel and analyze it to death. Scientific theory doesn’t apply to something as subjective as emotions. You keep trying to think your way through this, Scully, but it won’t work. You’re just going to have to act on instinct and faith and feelings.”

She didn’t say anything, not looking at him.

His hand cupped her cheek, turning her face to look at him, his fingertips pushing through her soft, fine hair in a gentle caress. “Look at it this way, then. The building you’re in right now is burning. It’s too late to get out and everything’s going to be gone pretty soon. You can hear someone yelling from outside, though. They want you to jump out a window. They say they’ll catch you. Now, there’s your problem, since you want to find your own solutions to things. You can either try to find a way out through the fire, or you can jump and hope that you’ll be caught.”

“It would be a pretty emotional situation,” she said slowly.

He nodded, his thumb brushing across the traces of tears on her cheek. He had seen her crying as she walked near the water. “Not much time to think,” he agreed.

“Is it a long way to fall?”

“Long enough,” he whispered, his lips erasing the tracks of the tears on her face. “You have to trust that you’ll be caught. Then you won’t have to worry about the fire any more.”

Scully shut her eyes briefly as his mouth feathered across her lashes. “I’ve decided, then,” she said at last. “I’m going to jump.”

He smiled down at her slowly. “Just trust me, Scully. I’ll always be there to catch you,” he promised.

His mouth caressed hers, kindling a deep emotional response from within her without igniting a sexual passion that was, for the moment, out of place. Scully gave him back the response he was looking for, that she had been looking for, and finally committed herself to trusting him completely with her life — not just to save her life — but to take care of her life, the way she would care for his.

Neither one would be independent any longer, she knew, but neither would they be dependent. Separate people, but one flesh. Their partnership would still be an equal one, but with new dimensions now.

She shivered a little in his arms at the thought of the risk they were taking — at the adventure they were beginning — and he lifted his head, his breath warming her cheek as his lips parted from hers.

“Are you cold? Do you want to go back to the hotel?” he asked, holding her a little closer to keep her warm.

“No, I don’t want to go back. Not yet.” She stopped, looking at the gradually lightening sky, then continued. “The stars are disappearing. I’d like to stay here with you and watch the sun come up.”

A movement caught his eye for a moment, and he saw the other couple that had spent the night at the other end of the beach making their way up to the street, stopping in a pool of light at the beach entrance to shake out their blanket. Then Scully reclaimed his attention, rubbing her cheek against his chest, turning her face to touch her lips to his throat.

There were still promises for Scully and him to seal with word and touch.

– + –

He held the blanket automatically as she shook her end, looking past her down the beach at the two oblivious people that lay entwined there, completely engrossed in each other. His eyes darkened nearly to black in the glare of the street light, before he looked down at the girl he was with.

“It’s almost dawn. Time to go in.”

END Transfers 1/30/96

Sadly that’s all of the series that was written.


This file has been downloaded from It contains work/s of X-Files FAN FICTION and FAN ART which are not affiliated with Ten-Thirteen or The Fox Network. No income is generated from these works. They are created with love and shared purely for the enjoyment of fans and are not to be sold in any format. The X-Files remain the property of Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen and Fox, unfortunately.

Individual stories and art remain the property of their talented creators. No copyright infringement is intended. Any copyright concerns can be addressed to

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I'm getting closer to fixing everything, but there may still be temporary breakages as I'm still doing long-overduebackground stuff. Thanks for being patient.