Distortions by Liz

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Distortions by Liz

Distortions cover

From: (Liz)

Subject: New: Distortions 1/?

Date: Sun, 03 Sep 1995 00:12:49 GMT

Not sure if this is postable material but, anyway… — I suppose this story warrants a warning. What can I say but that my mind twists once in a while ;-D If you are sensitive, have a weak stomach, or just hate me and my bizarre stories don’t read this. Names are fictitious, any resemblance to actual persons, places, etc. are strict coincidence.

Summary (added by x-libris) : Mulder and Scully are sent to a small town in Colorado to investigate what appear to be ritualistic killings.

Rating (added by x-libris): PG-13 for horror situations

Disclaimer- the usual. The X-Files and characters belong to CC, 10/13 and FOX. Absolutly no infringment is intended.

Comments and constructive feedback accepted at (my apologies for typos and format probs) Please direct flames to the elves that whisper story ideas in my ear whilst I sleep. Be gentle, I’ve been on vacation.

____________

Part 1

11:55pm Somewhere in Colorado

“No, please!” she was being dragged into the inner circle. The others were collecting from all over the large clearing in the woods. The drums pounded, the chanting grew louder as she was forced to her knees in front of the fire. This isn’t happening… she thought desperately. But it was. They were turning against her. “Let me go!” Her panic rose as the tall man approached. His painted face and body loomed above her, haunting.

“Youv’e betrayed us.”

“No!” Must deny everything. “No! I haven’t done anything! I swear!” Tears streamed down her face. This can’t be happening, not to me, I’m one of them!

“You aided those who would destroy us! That is unforgivable. You will redeem yourself.”

“Nononono!” Her eyes widened. A man and a women knelt by her side carrying earthen bowls covered with black symbols painted with soot, and red ones painted with…

She screamed and wretched her arms free, intending to make a run for the trees. Her captors caught her instantly and held her so firmly she felt she could hardly breathe. Her mouth was forced open and burning liquid from the two bowls poured amply into her mouth. She couldn’t help swallowing. There was just too much.

Her arms released, she clutched her her hands at her throat. She felt light-headed. She knew this feeling, but not so strong. Suddenly, everything was huge. Large and menacing, unreal. She blindly stood up. There was something in the flames, glowing, beckoning. She smiled. She wanted to go home. She spread her arms wide and fell forward into the dancing flames.

____________

FBI headquarters Washington DC

“There!” Fox Mulder slapped two tickets onto the desk. Dana Scully looked up from the field reports she was typing up on her computer. “I’ve accomplished the impossible. Two tickets to a sold out Knicks game. Want to go?” Dana smiled, raising an eyebrow.

“Oooh, Mulder, a date?” She leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms.

“Concider it a break from the everyday.” he grinned.

“I don’t know. I might have things to do next Saturday. “

“Thar’s okay. I’ll ask somebody else.” Mulder couldn’t hide the slight catch of disappointment in his voice.

“Oh like who else would go with you?” She took her glasses off and folded them in front of her, a twinkle in her eye. Okay, I’ll bite. she thought.

“Scully, I’m hurt!” he scooped up the tickets into his pocket. “Actually, Agent Jameson from forensics has been giving me looks in the cafeteria.”

“You probably had some brocolli between your teeth.”

“Is there a hint of jealousy in your voice?”

“Mulder,”

“Come on.” Mulder purposely gave her his best puppydog face.

“Oh alright I’ll go. But you better be entertaining at games or I’ll leave.” Scully turned back to her computer, and Mulder went back to his desk. He looks a little too happy there. Dana felt herself blushing.

There was a knock at the door. A secretary poked her head into the room.

“Skinner wants to see you both in his office right away.”

“Oh joy.” Mulder muttered under his breath.

“What did you do now?” she dodged a flying paper clip.

“Funny, Scully.” They left the office.

____________

State Police Station Denver Colorado

“Hi, I’m Detective Don Rossi.” The short, slightly balding man shook the two agents’ hands, “I’m glad you could make it on such short notice. Have a seat.” They tried to do so in the squeaking seats opposite the detective. “The, uh, local FBI recommended you. They say you have experience with this sort of thing?” He looked nervous. Mulder shot a look at his partner who arched an eyebrow. Oh yes we’re very aware of our reputation.

“We read the file on the plane here, but it really told us nothing.” Mulder opened the white folder he carried, it held only two sheets of paper. “The name, Catrina Witmann, age, sex, not even decent description of the body. ‘D.O.A.’ isn’t too helpful.”

“The autopsy report just came in, along with some other information, just before you got here.” Detective Rossi handed it to Scully. She flipped through the contents briefly. Crime scene description, toxic analysis, wittnesses…

“Mulder.” There were several pictures of the body found in the woods, both at the scene and the collected remains. There wasn’t much left. Only the wrists, hands, lower legs and feet were fairly undamaged by the fire. One photo depicted the palms of both hands of the woman, showing bloody symbols.

“This looks like a ritualistic killing.” Commented Mulder. The detective grimaced slightly.

“Yes. The body was found about an hour out of the city. It’s the forth one found in the area in three weeks. We beleived that some new satanic cult or something has been doing the killings. We’ve been monitering the area.” He now looked thouroughly distressed, rubbing his temples. “Catrina, we called her Kat, was an informant of ours. She contacted us four days ago. Said she knew what was happening, who was doing the murders in the woods. Strange girl, wouldn’t tell us how she knew, we figured she was or knew someone involved, on the inside. She didn’t get her chance to say much though, damn bastards got to her first.” Scully interrupted.

“I’d like to see the body, and the other three as well.”

“Yeah, sure. They’re all on ice in the morgue.” Detective Rossi massaged his temples. They all stood.

“Do you know where Kat lived? I’d like to take a look around.” Mulder headed towards the door of the office.

“Her house is 311 29th avenue.”

“Thanks. Scully, I’ll pick you up here in a couple hours.” Mulder headed down the hallway.

____________

“Hmm.” Scully replaced the sheet over the last of the four bodies and turned to Detective Rossi and the white clad coroner. “It’s curious. The toxicology report said there was a variety of chemicals in her bloodstream, some concoction of pharmaceutical drugs and local plantlife. Alot of it, she must have been taking it in regularly for at least two weeks.” Scully pulled off the rubber gloves with a snap.“All the the others ingested it, whatever it is, I’d like some more tests, only recently, just before they died.” Scully adopted a grim expression as she turned back to the bodies. “Interesting,” she added thoughtfully. The other two in the room exchanged sideways glances.

____________

Mulder pulled into the driveway of Kat Witmanns house, a small, neglected looking two story building. The door was unlocked. He stepped inside shaking the rain from his coat.

The house seemed pretty normal. Mulder searched each room on the first floor carefully one by one, then proceeded up the stairs to the next floor. The first door on the right was to the master bedroom. Nothing strange here at first glance either. The room was messy, the bed unmade, clothes and books everywhere. Mulder smiled at one particular book on the bedside table, the spine saying “UFO CONSPIRACY: What the goverment is hiding from the public”. Mulder made a mental note Haven’t read that one, better check it out. He swung open the door to the closet.

Kneeling down, he examined a few objects on the floor of the closet. There were bundles of dried plants tied with rubber bands and plastic bags of suspisious looking powders, but what caught his attention the most were several thick candles, staffs, and small pieces of cloth covered with black and red symbols, some same as the ones on Kat Witmanns palms. He carefully collected the items into evidence bags he had in his pockets, and turned his attention to a small portable cooler in the back of the closet. Might as well check out everything while I’m down here. He lifted the lid. Inside was a metal thermos. Mulder twisted the lid of thermos, a sick feeling growing in the pit of his stomach. No… A nausiating odour hit him in the face.

____________

“Blood?” Dana Scully screwed up her face, imaging it. “She keeps blood in her closet?” They stopped at a red light.

“Yeah.”

“That’s really sick.”

“Tell me about it. Hey, look out the window on your right if you can actually see. The hotel should be coming up any minute.” Dana shifted in her seat to get a better view.

“The rain is getting heavier.” It was hard to move without upsetting the pile in her lap. The car jerked forward in the stream of traffic. “Anyway, It would make sense that this stuff in her closet were the ingrediants to the drug or potion of some kind that she and the other victims had in their systems. Whatever the case, she definatly looks like she was involved in this. I’ve ordered a few tests to be done over night in the lab. Oh, turn here.” Mulder turned to the left, pulling into the parking lot of the hotel.

They collected the room keys from the front desk and split apart in the hall to their neighboring suites.

“Good night Scully.”

“Good night Mulder. ” She watched him vanish into the dark room. “Sweet dreams.”

“You too.” Yeah sure. Mulder knew what he’d be dreaming about, what he’d been dreaming about every night since he was twelve. He locked the door behind him half-heartedly.

____________

Mulder collapsed on the creaky bed, tired. Another wonderful day serving mankind. The sound of rushing water in the pipes over his head mingled with the hard patter of rain on the window glass. Scully or another nieghbor was probably taking a shower. Man the FBI are cheap. This place is going to fall apart! He thought irritably, Oh, well, it’s not as if I’ll be spending much time on this trip sleeping.The sound grew louder. Mulder covered his head with a pillow.

Scully unpacked some pajamas and lay out an outfit for the next day on a chair. She decided to have a shower.

Dana stood under the hot water for a long time. She did this alot at home, it was sort of a release, relaxing as the soapy water poured other her head, reveiwing the day in her mind, thinking about a case she was on. She turned the knob higher to rinse the shampoo out of her hair. Her thoughts turned to her partner in the adjoining room. He’s probably snoring away already. Probably didn’t even bother to unpack or even take his tie off. She smiled, stepping out of the tub and wrapping herself in a towel. Those ties. There was a knock at her door. Speak of the devil. That’s probably him. She hastily grabbed a robe.

<Crash!> <Bang!> Mulder was suddenly awake.

“Scully..?” He muttered. The sounds had come from the direction of her room. He threw a shirt over his head and stumbled out into the hallway. Scully’s door was slightly ajar. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door the remainder of the way open.

“Oh no.” his breath released in a rush. He felt like he’d been shot. There was furniture toppled over, the water from a now empty glass was soaking the carpet. The bedsheets were on the floor. But no sign of her. He stepped inside.

“No, not again!” Memories of that night overwhelmed him. How he’d come to her house to find the glass in the door smashed in, flashed through his mind. He shook his head but they wouldn’t go away. Her voice had been so frightened, the blood on the table, I couldn’t save her, I wasn’t there. He wasn’t thinking straight. Maybe she was here. He had to at least look, just to see.

A dripping sound was distracting him, dazing him further. A leaky tap in the bathroom sink. He silently stepped onto the cold tile, his heart pounding in his chest. He didn’t stop at the sink but kept right on moving. He had a feeling.

The walk just across the bathroom alone seemed to take centuries. It felt like his limbs were moving under water. Finally, he grasped the shower curtian and threw it to the side so hard it nearly ripped off it’s rings.

“Oh God.” his voice caught dry in his throat.

Dana Scully lay sprawled in the bathtub in a shallow pool of blood, an evil looking line of red flowing out of the corner on her mouth, down her pale chin.

____________

Part 2

Fox Mulder wanted to cry, to faint. He wanted to scream, he wanted to die. Emotions started pouring into him. Scully,…dead? He was rooted to the spot, his thoughts were jumbling. What about the things I never got to say…How can this be happening again?

The body in the bathtub stirred. Mulder blinked his eyes, Please let me not have imagined it. No, she moved again. She wasn’t dead. Immediate relief washed over him then instantly he felt anger at himself as he quickly dropped to her side. Dammit, you didn’t even check her pulse or anything! Just stood there like an idiot assuming you’d lost her. You’re an FBI agent, you of all people should.., Scully moaned, interrupting his train of thought. He concentrated all of his attention on her. Scully seemed okay, nothing broken. But she was the doctor.

“Mulder?”

“Yeah, I’m here Scully. Everything’s going to be alright.” She winced and touched a spot behind her ear. Mulder saw a large bruise that was quickly swelling. She started to sit up. He took that as a good sign.

“Come on, I’ll help you.” Scully wound her arms around his neck and let him lift and carry her to the hotel bed. He gently lay her down and adjusted a pillow behind her head.

She was convulsing suddenly, like she was choking, and she turned her head, spitting blood. Mulder worried if she had internal injuries.

“Dana, listen to me, how do you feel?” She looked at him, at everything, strangely. Her pupils were dilating and contracting irregularly. It was enough to make him uneasy.

“I, I feel,” She shuddered and buried her face in her arm, spitting sideways again. She touched her cheek, and looked at her fingers, the tips glistened.

“Mulder I’m not bleeding.” He didn’t understand. “I’m not hurt. This stuff isn’t my blood.” she insisted. Mulder stood.

“I’ll be right back.” He ran, almost tripping over things into the bathroom, grabbed a washcloth and ran it under the tap. His eyes flicked over to the tub. Hastily, he threw the curtain shut again.

Tears were streaming down Scullys face when he returned. Mulder sat on the edge of the bed and started to wipe the stuff off her face and arms.

“Shhh, it’s okay.” He stood to wash the cloth out again when he heard a sniffle.

“Fox.” Paused at the sound of his name.

“Don’t leave me.” He turned and looked at her. She was still crying, her clothes and hair were mussed up, she looked alone and isolated, like a lost child. In need of a hug. He quietly dropped the washcloth onto the bedside table sat back on the bed, wrapping his arms around her. She buried her face in his shoulder, and he softly rocked her, murmering in her ear.

“I’ll never leave you.” he stroked her hair, “I’ll always be here for you.”

____________

Dana cried herself to sleep.

She’d assumed it was Mulder knocking on the door. Who else so late at night? She’d opened the door wide, without the chain in place. She’d been careless, she could have avoided this. God, it wasn’t him. That’s all that went through her mind when she’d seen the four dark figures in the hallway. And still the only thought when the tall one had reached to grab her. Barry all over again Terrifying deja vu.

Her last waking memory had been of toppling furniture, wrestling someone stronger than her and losing. She winced at the remembrance of the hard club or stone behind the ear that had knocked her out.

After that, nothing until she’d found herself in the bathroom staring up at Mulder’s frantically concerned face. And everything was strange. Everything looked strange at that moment. Huge and imposing, distorted. She looked up from the bottom of a huge well at his face far far away. His arm seemed to stretch and reach impossibly to grasp her shoulders and lift her. She clung to him like he was her only anchor to sanity, the closest thing to coherent in this strange new world.

God, she felt high, euphoric, but confused. She wasn’t floating or numb, just the opposite. Her senses were hightened, it was coming at her in all directions. And she was alone. Mulder was right there, wiping her face tenderly with a washcloth but he wasn’t with her. Not here. But it was as close as he could be so it hurt when he started to walk away.

It was dawn when she woke again, the sun casting shadows through the curtains onto the face of her friend. Mulder was sleeping soundly on the bed, his arms still around her. Dana was tempted to stay but the pounding of a killer headache became unbearable. She tried to stand up but toppled over, the room spinning. Clutching her head with a gasp, she crawled her way to the bathroom avoiding or colliding with toppled furniture. Her hand made a dull splashing sound when it contacted a wet patch of carpet soaked with water from a glass nearby.

The shag met the tile and she gripped the edge of the sink, pulling herself to her feet. A face contorted in pain stared back at her in the mirror. I look like hell. Her hair was stringy, matted to her head and in need of, at the very least, a good brushing. Dark circles were under her eyes and a torn, dirty shirt completed the effect. I wonder what he sees in me. If I were facing this, I’d run away.

Her breif, almost affectionate smile vanished when she saw the bathtub. The curtain was hanging funny as if it was hastily thrown back in place, which did nothing to hide the stains on the wall. Dana tore the shower curtain away behind her, revealing everything. A murky pool of red liquid. So much… But if it wasn’t blood, then what?

Tentatively she knelt by the tub and reached her hand in. Her fingers skimmed the surface and snapped back in reflex. She clasped her wrist in shock. It…it’s so warm. She stared at the tips of her fingers, glistening. The pounding in her head was unbearable, the squeezing in her chest making her breathing laboured. It was all she could do to keep from screaming.

Of their own volition, her fingers traced a path through the air to her lips. She closed her eyes. Her headache was… was momentarily gone! But then it returned slightly worse than before. Her lashes flew open. Scully licked her fingers tasting the strange substance, then lapped it up ravishly from her hands. God… The pain was going away, the constriction, the tightness, dissapating. It was like a release. She scraped under her nails with her teeth, determined to get every drop.

“Dana…?” She whirled around to face a sleepy Mulder standing in the doorway with a shocked and almost frightened look on his face.

____________

Part 3

“Skinner, I want Scully off this case now!” He looked around himself in the police station to make sure she wasn’t around to listen in.

“Mulder, I’m sorry but I just can’t do that. The weather isn’t cooperating, there aren’t any flight’s leaving Denver until the storm clears.”

“Well, can’t you send a helicopter or something?” he pleaded.

“Right. A helicopter.” A sigh. “Mulder I wish I could help. I really do, but I’m stuck here.” He knew very well that A.D. was telling the truth. One glance showed buckets falling from the sky and besides, he knew Skinner wanted her back in D.C. after this attack as much as anyone. Except me. Mulder blinked. Where had that come from? His thoughts seemed down right possessive. He folded his cellular and tucked it in his pocket.

“Who were you talking to?” He jumped at the sound of her voice behind him..

“Geez, Scully don’t sneak up on me like that!” She just smiled. Something about that smile made the hair rise up on the back of his neck for no particular reason. Mulder swallowed.

“Scully we have to talk.” The smile vanished into serious frown.

“You’re right. I think we need to re-evaluate the bodies. Maybe I missed something. I want a chemical analysis of…”

“That’s not what I mean. Scully,” he couldn’t think of any words that would make it easier, “I’m pulling you off the case.” Her eyes darkened.

“What?”

“You heard me. I couldn’t find a flight leaving in this weather so you’ll have to just stick around here and wait out the storm.”

“You can’t do this.”

“Technically, as the senior agent in this division, I can. It’s getting too dangerous for you to stay involved.”

“Mulder, they broke into my hotel room.”

“Exactly! I…”

“Mulder!” she stared up at him defiantly, “I said, they broke into my hotel room. Do you think I’m going to sit back and watch while you find them for me? I remember!” she glanced away, emotion flickering on her face. “I remember this time. Don’t take this away from me.” What could he say? How could he possibly respond to that?

“I’m sorry Scully.” Scully smiled to say it was okay, apology accepted. “But I can’t let you stay on the case.” She visibly did a double take.

“What?!” Mulder turned away to go in search of a phone book. He needed to look up the number for another hotel, they certainly weren’t going back to the other one. Scully pushed herself in front of him.

“Oh no, you’re not doing this without me.” He freezed at the hostility in her voice. “I’m your partner and you need me.” he flinched but followed through.

“Skinner backs me up. He wants…”

“Oh fuck Skinner.” Mulder’s eyes widened. Something was wrong. This was not Scully behavior. Several police officers were hanging around, interested. “You can’t do this to me!” That final burst seemed to drain everything from her. She shrank away from her offencive stance and into herself, physically smaller, looking at the floor.

“Scully.”

“Just, fine. I’ll stay in the hotel room, I’m off the case, you got your way. You won. Just leave me alone. I don’t want to talk about it.” She walked away. Mulder stood watching after her, unable to move and rooted to the spot. He was afraid he’d hurt her somehow. Did he do the right thing?

A ruggedly built cop ventured near the mistified FBI agent.

“Talk about your mood swings. Is she gonna be okay man?”

“Yeah.” he replied hoarsely, following in Scully’s footsteps out the door. God I hope so.

____________

Dana Scully leaned back in the driver’s seat with her arms crossed, biting her lower lip. She couldn’t beleive she’d screamed at him like that. What’s wrong with me? No, I refuse to cry. It was just so confusing. And the pain was returning. The all consuming physical pain that squeezed her insides and made her feel like she was constricting.

She could understand why he’d pulled her off the case, almost. She’d felt this raw burst of anger come bubbling to the surface, magnified from deep inside. She’d wished at that moment she’d been right in Skinner’s face as well as Mulder’s. Scully shook her head. Sure she hated being lectured by Skinner, and the fact that he held the future of the X-files in the palm of his hand, but the vile thoughts that were going through her mind in that second…

A tap on the window shook her. Mulder opened the door letting in some of the rain. He looked at her nervously.

‘Um, Scully, don’t take this the wrong way, but I think I should drive.” A flash of her rage returned Now I can’t handle driving? but she suppressed it and shifted to the passenger seat sullenly. Her partner got in, immediately sliding the seat back so he could sit comfortably. He ran a hand through his dark hair, now damp from the rain. She smiled to herself, not really knowing why, especially since she’d been angry a split-second ago. Gawd he looks cute when he’s worried, explained a a little voice in the back of her mind, shocking herself to look away.

They sat in silence, each waiting for the other to say something. Mulder cleared his throat.

“We have to go back to the hotel to get our bags and check out. I found another place closer to the station.” So you can check up on me during lunch break, huh? her eyes darkened. Mulder turned on the ignition before she could respond. The car backed out of the parking space.

____________

Fox had hastily bid the police detective goodbye and circled the first hotel in the phone book in the area. He then braved the wind and rain outside, almost turning back when he saw Scully in the car. Her face shifted through several emotions, anger, guilt, then she looked like she was about to cry. He hesitantly tapped on the glass. When he asked her to move over, she looked like she was going to throw a fit. Releived that she complied, he climbed in, always keeping watch in the corner of his eye. She didn’t seem stable enough to drive. Quickly he pulled the rental’s keys from his pocket and shook some of the water from his soaking hair with his free hand. She was looking at him strangely now, smiling with a glint in her eye that looked like…*No! She’s your ‘partner’, and she’s not feeling well.* Never the less, he felt his pulse quickening. If she keeps staring at me… He inwardly sighed with releif when she’d turned her peircing stare to the window. Plus, she was about to rip your head off a second ago. Amazing how worry could sober you so fast.

He couldn’t get used to this. All of Scully’s emotions were layed out on display, she was holding nothing back, totally unlike her usual constrained proffessional self. He could read her like a book, little things people hold back, like when she winced whenever the car bounced on a speedbump. Or when an attack of nausea hit when he asked if she wanted some coffee from a drive through, it was written so clearly on her face he almost felt like throwing up himself.

They pulled into the designated spot for one of their rooms and he stepped out of the car. Even though the seat was pushed back as far as it could go, his long legs were cramped. He looked up to see that Scully had already went inside the building.

____________

Dana clumsily aimed the key at the lock, ashamed of how hard she needed to concentrate to just open the damn lock. When it was finally accompished, she shoved the door aside with considerable force. She blinked upon entering.

The pastel room was as clean as it had been when she’d first checked in. Of course, a little voice nagged, you straightened up before you left. Dana knew it was true but she vaguely remembered it. Basically, she’d mindlessly complied to what Mulder suggested she do, not actually thinking about what she was accomplishing, so much else being on her mind. A hotel employee had obviously fine-tuned the details while they’d been gone.

She walked over to the closet to gather her things. Pulling pant suits and blouses off the hangers, the pounding in her head painfully made itself more apparent. Her mind flashed back to the previous night. The tall figures not being Mulder, the falling furniture, being knocked out, waking up in the bathtub. The tub… The cream colored silk blouse dropped to the carpet unnoticed and stepped on as it’s owner passed by towards…

The room was sparkling, having been scrubbed twice, once crudely by Mulder, and again by a hotel maid. There were some of her things beside the sink, a hair brush, toothbrush, floss, and a scrap of paper she’d never seen before. Her hand dropped to pick it up. Maybe it was some latent evidence she’d misplaced, but no. Her hand haulted in midair. It was stained by drops of red. The tub… The maid had rescued it from some corner of the bathroom.

Dana held it up in the dim light with trembling fingers, remembering the feeling of the red liquid on her lips…

“We know what you want, you know what you need, we wait with open arms to give. 44 west at midnight.” She quoted the message scrawled in surprisingly ledgible black ink. Reading it over and over. It was morbidly poetic and terrifying, the written words. She couldn’t see it clearly anymore she was shaking so hard. A footstep clinked on the tile behind her. She yelped, thrusting the note behind her and whipping around.

“Scully, it’s okay!” Mulder spread his hands apart, like he was proving to a crazy fugitive teetering on the edge that he was unarmed. Scully was frozen on the spot, in shock from the sudden jolt. He stepped forward and grabbed her shoulders. Her body was tense, numb, but she slowly relaxed against him until she was hugging him tightly, crying. He mumbled encouraging whispers in her hair and wiped away the tears tracking down her cheeks, and she felt somewhat better, as opposed to what she was feeling before.

“Are you going to be okay?” She tucked the note in her back pocket.

“Yeah. I’ll be fine.” she sniffed. He gave her disbeleiving glance.

“Are you sure?” She looked up in his face and backed away.

“Why can you never just accept what I say? Why do I always have to question my answers?” she was aware that her voice was rising in volume and intensity with every word, “Why do you always second guess me? Why do you always want to protect me? Why can’t you leave me alone?” Mulder’s baffled look and mouth dropped open in protest made her intensly angry. “Don’t play innocent with me! You know exactly what you’re doing!” She turned on her heel and walked away.

____________

Part 4

Fox squinted, trying to see through the torrential downpour bombarding the car. A look at any watch would show that it was only late afternoon, yet the sky was dark with black clouds. The miserable weather was a perfect compliment to his mood.

Looking to his right, he glanced at the woman in the passenger seat watching the storm with some sort of fascinated awe. At one point Scully placed her hand on the glass, tracing with her fingertips the path of a bead of water sliding down the inside of the window cracked open at the top. She made some sort of murmer, as if seeing it all for the first time.

Not allowing his eyes to linger, Mulder concentrated on the road ahead, watching for signs of the new hotel.

They hadn’t said a word to each other since they left, even though the angry look had long since vanished from her face. He was full of things he wanted to say but that no words could truly describe. He had no idea he was effecting her like this. Okay, he admitted that he’d been acting a little more protective since her abduction, well, maybe more than a little, but if he’d known she felt this way…

Mulder switched on his turning signal as a luminescent sign by the road side proclaimed “The Midnight Inn.”

____________

Dana watched the rain fall, feeling his eyes on her. She didn’t mind the attention, or rather, wasn’t thinking about it all.

Until the cramping started, and a migrane like headache began forming in her temples. She rationalized it as stress, this case was bearing down on rather badly. It’s not my case to worry about anymore. She groaned a little at a sharp jab behind the eyes. Suddenly the door opened letting in a chilly breeze.

“Scully, are you okay?” Mulder held two room keys with bright red numbered tabs in his hand. She hadn’t even noticed when the car had stopped and Mulder left.

“I got some coffee from the lobby, if you want any.” He offered a styrofoam cup nervously, even… guiltily? She shook her head no. Some aspirin maybe. But she had a nagging feeling that it wouldn’t help.

Stepping out of the car, her knees almost gave out from under her from a sudden wave of dizziness. Mulder was at her side in an instant.

“I’m fine.” She shrugged him off, her voice sounding dry and hoarse. Taking one of the keys from his hand she shoved it into her pocket and walked through the rain to the hotel entrance, hugging herself tightly.

She barely had time to look up and react when she suddenly heard the sound.

____________

Mulder watched her walk away, trying to think of what he could possibly have done wrong.

Then he saw the car, a flashy sports model coming in from the right. It was driving onto the lot, not quite slow enough for someone not too alert standing in it’s path.

“Scully!” He broke into a run, grabbing her arm and yanking her out of the way. She stood expressionless, blinking. The car which had only traveled on a couple yards reversed to where they stood and Scully suddenly snapped awake. Her hands clenched into fists and she stormed around the back end of the as the driver opened the door.

“What the hell are trying to pull?!” The driver, a stocky man with massive tattoos along his arms stared up from the seat at the fierce redhead shouting at him. “You nearly hit me, you asshole! I ought to have you arrested!” Scully turned with a huff and brushed by and through the automatic sliding lobby doors. The driver got out of the car and glanced at Mulder quizzically. He muttered an apology and went back to the rental car to collect the luggage.

____________

Scully left a wet trail of footsteps in her wake to the elevator and again on the carpet on the way to her room. She fished for the key in her pocket, pulling a whole lot of other debris with it. She stared down at her feet for a little while, looking at the gum wrappers and wisps of lint. She bent over picking a stray wad of paper off her shoe. Unlocking the door and letting it close behind her, she slowly unraveled it, her heartbeat quickening.

She read it again, the printed words simple but having some sort of powerful meaning she couldn’t ignore. Or maybe it was just the red staining around the edges of the paper that locked her attention. What is it?

“44 west at midnight. 44 west at midnight.” She repeated it over and over like a mantra, the suggestion building until she couldn’t deny it. She was going to go.

There was a sharp knock at the door, making her jump.

“Scully?” More knocking. She crumpled the note and stuffed it under her pillow, then tentatively walked to the door. She didn’t unhook the chain. Mulder’s face peered back at her through the opening.

“Scully it’s me.”

“What do you want?” She felt a pang of guilt when she saw the hurt look flash in his eyes but only for an instant. Mulder lifted a brown case off the floor.

“Your luggage.” Damn. Slowly she closed the door and unhooked the chain, backing away. Relax Dana , it’s just your partner. Mulder walked in setting it down against a wall and just stood there watching her. Just your partner… He cleared his throat.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.” And she smiled. He flinched uncomfortably.

“Well if you need anything I’m right next door. Good night.”

“Will do. ‘Night Fox.” She held her breath as he paused glancing back, searching her face. Dana did her best to beam a reasuring smile.

The door closed.

Dana immediatly turned to the clock. It was 11:21. She snatched up her purse. If she hurried, she could make it before twelve.

____________

Mulder stretched out on the bed, hands clasped behind his head and staring silently into space. Details of the case flowed randomly through his mind like jigsaw pieces attaching themselves to each other to make a complete picture.

He sighed, frustrated. Mostly everything fit except for the odd thing. Some sort of cult was assembling on the outskirts of the city performing ritual sacrifices of human beings, members maybe or chosen individuals based on the fact that they all had the same chemicals in their systems for some time. He just had to find these people.

But experience showed that the little nagging things overlooked could be key. Why did Kat come to the police? Rossi had figured she was involved, so why come forward? Why didn’t they have more information? There were no names, no clear places. Cases like these bored him to tears, obviously dumped on him by someone else figuring, “Here’s another strange one I don’t even want to read. Send it to the basement.” But now this was personal. He had to know why.

Fox sat up and sat on the edge of the mattress. The patter of rain against the building had lightened. He thought of Scully sleeping in the next room. What was happening to her, be it stress or whatever, it wasn’t helping that she was stuck here under the circumstances. He wanted her back in familiar surroundings, back with friends and family, getting more medical attention than the short hospital visit after the break in, getting back to her old self.

Suddenly Mulder realized that it wasn’t just the overprotectiveness he’d learned to accept talking, he was angry for selfish reasons as well. Suddenly he couldn’t even picture not having her to work with every morning. Not seeing the usual dissaproving skeptical look that he said he hated but that had yanked him back from over the edge so many times. The thought that this wasn’t just a temporary illness caused him to break out in a cold sweat.

“Stop it!” Mulder shook himself. Come on, happy thoughts, happy thoughts. It wasn’t going to happen. He needed her and she was in trouble. That, for the moment, was all the inspiration he needed to go on.

Quietly moving out into the empty hallway, he watched Scully’s door for a few minutes as if expecting to see her materialize in it’s place.

“Well, it’s now or never.” Mulder gathered up enough strength to knock.

____________

“Pop quiz Dana Katherine.” She accelerated to a hundred and ten down the freeway. “Why am I doing this?”

Special Agent Scully replyed that she was following a lead that could break the case. Dr. Scully commented that she was going alone and without backup. A still bitter part of her screamed that her that she’d been kicked off the case by her own partner, her ‘friend’. The reasonable Scully explained that Mulder had done the right thing and she should be back in Washington recouperating, and the skeptic thought she was nuts and this wasn’t happening, especially to her.

So who was she now or even supposed to be? She didn’t know. Not anymore.

Consulting the map stretched across the passenger seat and satisfied that she was in the right part of town, she drove along checking road signs. The houses along the roadside stopped abruptly and series of empty lots followed, then nothing but trees.

She stopped the car. This was it. Presumably the address on the note. Dana stepped out of the car and looked around. There was nothing here, empty darkness and trees. The rain slowed to a trickle but the extended vision provided nothing more.

Freeing her gun from it’s holster she cautiously ventured from the car, every step rattling her already aching body. She started to shake uncontrollably, dizziness swarming around her in waves. No, no, keep it together.

Suddenly in the corner of her eye she saw a flicker of light, so brief she almost doubted it was ever there. Then again. A steady source of light was barely visible between the trees.

She advanced, using the light as a guide, eyes still peeled for anything else just as she was trained to do.

She wasn’t alone.

There were tall dark figures in the trees behind her. The woods were all around her now, all sense of direction lost. Dana desperately tried to smother the fear bubbling up from inside.

“F..Freeze, FBI!” But she couldn’t keep her gaze level, the world starting to spin at a sickening pace.

And still the dark figures came closer like evil shadows closing in and enveloping her. It was too much to take.

Dana sank to the ground, screaming.

____________

Part 5

Mulder pounded on the door some more, still not getting any answer after five minutes.

“Scully, we need to talk.” A door down the hall opened instead, a bleary eyed eldery woman plodding out in her slippers giving him the evil eye.

“There are other people trying to get a decent night’s sleep!”

“I’m sorry, I’ll be quieter,” he apologized, embarrassed.

“Maybe you should try sending flowers.” The lady disappeared irritably.

He returned to knocking, a little more softly than before.

“Scully, are you there?” A pang of fear hit him suddenly. What if something’s wrong, what if they came back? “Dana?” he knocked a little more urgently.

His cellular was beeping inside his jacket pocket.

“Hello?” Mulder’s eyes darkened as he listened. “What? She was where?!”

The door down the hall opened again. Some people are just so rude! She stepped back when a whoosh of air caught her off guard.

“Humph!” The lady shook her head in disgust as the tall young man in the trench coat tore around the corner.

____________

She shivered, instinctively curling into the fetal position, her arms and legs scratching against the rough ground. She winced as something sharp jabbed into her side.

Suddenly she was afraid. The shadows… the light… Images came back to her. I must have blacked out. Slowly Dana allowed her eyes to open, trying to see where she was. She tried to concentrate on the nearest object to her face until the world stopped moving, but her head hurt too much, so it only helped a little. But a little was enough. Dana paled.

A human skull was just in reaching distance from the tip of her nose, blackened, the parts still white and gleaming reflecting flickering light from a fire. She recoiled from it in horror, gasping as sharp points dug into her arms and into her side as she did so. Looking down she saw the cause; the ground was covered with peices of bone, all charred and broken jaggedly. A particular large bone had knifed into her side and lower back which she must have landed on directly when she was …moved? No question, she wasn’t here before. The light in the woods…

There was heat at her back and when she turned she was facing a huge bonfire. Mentally, she tried to convince herself that she had noticed it before. She clenched her teeth as the knot in her head tightened. It hurt too much to even think.

The flames danced in twirling spirals licking at the sky.

Dana felt a presence, someone near. She turned and gasped. Oh my god. A small child, a girl, no older than six, stood looking down at her, watching silently. She was wearing only a simple frock, decorated with black symbols that also travelled the lengths of her arms and legs, dried flowers in her dirty hair and a bundle of more in her hands. She stood watching the stranger intently with wide eyes, as if seeing more than what would normally be seen.

The sharp sound of a tight drum shocked her and apparently the girl also, who snapped from her stare and stepped closer to flames. Dana’s instinct was to reach for the girl, to pull her safely away from the fire, but she didn’t move. The drum, joined by the sound of another, deeper one, started a steady rhythm. The girl stood so that her toes touched the rocks that encircled the entire, now even more humongous bonfire. She called out something indecipherable to Dana’s ear in a clear, hard voice and threw the dried herbs in the fire. A cloud of white smoke exploded in the air and suddenly there were more drums, pounding everywhere and chanting.

Dana pulled herself to her feet oblivious for an instant to the cries of protest from her aching body parts. She turned in a slow circle, her heart pounding in her chest like it would break through her ribs. She was surrounded by faces of all ages, races and walks of life. So many people… They chanted and hit sticks together along with those at intervals who had drums, seated in masses a couple yards from the blaze. It hit her suddenly that this wasn’t a small group of individuals with bizarre rituals, that there were more people involved than she or Mulder ever imagined. Even children. A bone crunched under her foot, jolting her system.

Four rose and separted from the crowd. Three tall men and a woman, nearly nude and tattooed from head to toe in the strange, symbols, red and black. Dana, even in her state, noted that these were probably the ‘leaders,’ for lack of a better word, by the way they were decorated much more fancifully than most of the others. Great, now maybe I can get some answers. They stopped very close to her, watching in the same manner as the girl had, attentively like there were words between the lines.

And then came an internal blow that knocked her to her knees.

She was crumpled in a heap, her insides turning inside out with pain. And they stood there, the four of them, watching. Waiting. But waiting for what?

Scully moaned. She couldn’t take it anymore. She couldn’t feel anything but pain, she couldn’t do anything but suffer.

“Help me…” She was going to pass out, her eyes started to close.

Then one of them, the tallest man, stepped towards her and pressed something to her lips. Something liquid started to flow down her chin, something warm and thick.

And she swallowed.

And the pain was gone.

And she straightened, staring at the fire with new eyes.

And words. We only want to be understood…

____________

No one could get out of the way fast enough from the path of the stern faced FBI agent who plowed through the Denver PD and didn’t stop until he reached the corner office. Detective Rossi was ready for him though, well, more ready than most.

“Where is she?” The sound of laughter floated in from an ajoining room. Mulder was through his office before the detective could blink an eye let alone answer the question.

Agent Scully was leaning over the length of the desk, one shoe hanging off her foot, whispering in the ear of an officer listening with rapt attention. Until his boss came in with another FBI, and he immediatly sat back.

“Hi Mulder.” Scully took her time, slinking back into her chair like a cat and crossing her legs. She sent a meaningful look back to the young officer who tensed, trying to keep a straight face.

“Jesus Scully.” Her eyes followed him as Mulder walked in front and knelt in front of her chair.

Her clothes, what was left that wasn’t ripped or torn away, was encrusted with dirt and spotted with brown, bloody stains. Tentatively, he reached and touched the side of her face, lightly brushing away flakes of dried blood mingled with soot in an odd circular symbol painted on her cheek. She grinned, her pupils fluctuating. Fox pulled away, never taking his eyes off his partner, speaking in a soft voice to anyone who’d listen.

“What happened?”

____________

Part 6

He was driving on the dark, deserted street to the hotel from the police department with Scully, yet again. Mulder looked up at the sky, at one of the few patches where he could see the stars. Well at least it’s dry.

He reran the last two hours over and over in his memory, trying to find the answers he wanted.

____________

“We pulled her over for drunk driving. She was speeding and winding in between the traffic on both sides of the road. The officer on duty said that he took one look at her and decided to bring her in. Easy to see why.” Scully was standing.

“Excuse me, but is this going to take much longer? I told you I’m fine. I’ve got to get back to the hotel before Mulder knows I’m gone.” Mulder looked at the detective sharply. “Oh, oops, there you are!” she hit him in the arm, “Silly me, I didn’t recognize you for a second.”

“Agent Scully, do you mind if we ask you a few questions?”

“Shoot.” She was tracing the lines on the fabric of the chair with her fingertips.

“Why were you trying to sneak out without me?”

“Agent Mulder, if you don’t mind,” Rossi received a nasty look for his trouble, “Agent Scully, where did you go after you left the hotel?”

____________

Dana squirmed in her chair uncomfortably. Why were they interrogating her like some criminal? Or some drunk for that matter? She was perfectly sane and perfectly sober. Not to mention a federal agent. She didn’t like being under their scrutiny. She watched her partner instead, a definatly more interesting focus object. Mulder was leaning against a beige cabinet looking like a lost soul with his pained, worried expression and sad eyes. It made her want to give him a hug and say everything was okay. In fact, that’s what she was going to do…

“Agent Scully, where did you go?” God doesn’t he ever give up? She looked at the detective, her glance locked suddenly on his face. The frames of the glasses he had just donned gave the most fascinating glint when the light struck them. Dana stood transfixed until he squirmed uncomfortably. Okay Dana, stick to your plan.

“I was following a lead.”

“A lead.”

“Uh huh. Gosh it’s late,” she looked at her wrist, even though she realized her watch was missing, “let’s go now Fox, we can stop for a snack at an all-night coffee shop.” She purposely ignored their sideways glances and headed for the door. Wow, neat wallpaper… A melodic sound caught her attention.

“Hey, hear that? Somebody’s got a radio on out there.” She left humming, with Mulder hot on her heels.

“Scully, I want to talk to you.”

“I love this song…”

“Scully I don’t hear anything. Now listen…”

“I saw you dancing, and I’ll never be the same again for sure, I saw you dancing, say…”

“Scully!” They walked out of the building. Now she could see a guy with a stereo standing at the bus stop across the street. Mulder stopped.

“How did you hear that from inside?” She shrugged off his odd stare, pointing down the block.

“There’s a Starbucks. My treat.” _

___________

Mulder turned the corner, using the excuse to eye his partner again. Why do I need an excuse? To convice yourself you’re not a nutcase. But God, she was worrying the hell out of him. She wouldn’t talk even when they were in a nice quiet corner of a coffee shop. He grimaced, remembering.

Scully had ordered three cappucinos with different toppings and a cafe mocha, ravishing each like she’d never tasted anything like it. Then the guy at the counter mentioned something about ice-cream and she insisted they rush out and buy some. Scully was sitting in the passenger seat right now polishing off a litre box of french vanilla hazelnut. He didn’t know what happened to her or where she’d been tonight but she seemed even more distant and far away than before.

After the break in.

That’s when it had all started.

The bastards.

Fox chose this moment to pull an envelope out of his coat pocket and toss it to her. She picked it up with sticky fingers.

“Oooh, an airline ticket. Is the Bureau finally letting us take a paid vacation?”

“Not likely.” She pried it open.

“Ugh, Washington. I’ve been there already. Let’s go to the Bahamas.”

“Scully..”

“Oh come on, Mulder, lighten up. Hey, don’t you ever think about it..?” He didn’t say anything. She sucked the melted ice- cream off her fingers noisily.

“The plane leaves tomorrow night at 11:30,” He swallowed, “It’s the earilest flight leaving Denver in the next few days. I guess we’re not the only ones in a rush to leave.”

“We?” She hissed. He was shocked by her sudden hostility. “There’s only one ticket in here, and I know the case isn’t finished yet. You’re sure in a hurry to get rid of me aren’t you?”

“Scully, I…”

“Stop that! That, right there.” She pointed at his face accusingly, “You keep giving me those sad puppy dog eyes and stop making me feel guilty, when I shouldn’t! You’re trying to ditch me.”

“I just think that in your present condition…”

“I’m fine Mulder.” He pulled in front on the hotel. “I’ve never felt better. Now help me get these ice-cream cartons out of the trunk.”

____________

Scully sat down on the bed next to her partner, running a finger down a card listing of the television programs on for the week. He watched her search around for a remote control.

“Aw, shit. They got it nailed down to the night table. I hate that.” Mulder stood and plodded off to the washroom, coming back with a damp towel. Scully was busy surfing through channels, a phone in the other hand.

“Yes, I’d like a cheeseburger and some coffee, with sugar, two chocolate…” Mulder couldn’t beleive she was still hungry enough to order room service and he said so. She hung up and laughed.

“I’m not really, it’s just for taste. How about this show? It seems like your style.” He looked at the screen.

“Red_Shoe_Diaries. Sorry, never heard of it. My cable canceled out and I never bothered to renew it. Um, didn’t you say the remote was screwed down?” She blinked, looking down at the black shape in her hand, then giggled.

“Yeah. Well, if you pull hard enough it comes out.” Fox looked at the table and the twisted metal and broken wood that used to be the corner of it. Her laughter was infectious.

“There’s no way you’re going to be able to claim that on an FBI expense account report.”

“I guess not.” The next few moments were spent laughing so hard he couldn’t think of a response. I tiny bit out that comfort they had around each other was coming back. Suddenly he remembered the towel.

“Here. I thought you might want to get cleaned up a little.” Scully took it from his hand, never leaving his gaze. Her clear blue eyes were unreadable, detached, like they could be a million miles apart and staring through glass rather than sitting on the same bed in the same room. When she had been gone she could very well have been a million miles away experiencing horrors she’d never dreamed was possible and he could do nothing. Nothing but pray for her return and it had been his fault that she’d been taken in the first place. He hadn’t been there for her. He’d failed.

Something must have showed in his expression because Dana suddenly gave a little reasuring smile and raised a hand to touch his face. It was like a little flash of the old Scully he thought he knew so well, before all of this.

Ever so slowly she was leaning forward closer and closer until they were nearly nose to nose. As she paused he could feel her breath and his heart began to pound in his chest. Then the gap was bridged and their lips met.

There was a knock at the door.

____________

“Coming!” Dana pulled away and stood up. She caught a glance in the corner of her eye of Mulder still looking dazed. It had been a spur of the moment action, something she suddenly felt like doing. He turned towards her.

And it happened.

A sharp stab shot through her midsection. Shocked, Dana froze. Maybe I imagined it.

“Scully.” A throb in her temples. No. Maybe if she ignored it it would go away. There was another knock at the door. Each strike against the door was like a smack with a hammer on the inside of her head.

“Scully, are you okay?” Mulder was coming towards her. No, I don’t want to.

“Room service,” said the voice behind the door.

“Coming.” She croaked, stumbling towards the door. She threw it open. “Yeah?” The kid stared at her, his eyes growing wide. He snapped out of it quickly.

“Uh, you ordered the cheeseburger, coffee, and two donuts, Ms., ah, Scully?”

“Yeah. Thanks, charge it to the room.” She pulled the wheeled cart into the room, slamming the door. Leaning against the wall she held her head in her hands.

“Scully, what’s wrong? Tell me!” I don’t want to take them, no. It hurts…

“I n-need a shower. I look like crap.” But I have to… There was a little something in the bathroom drawer that would help the pain. She wasn’t moving, something was holding her back. Mulder. He was holding her arm and lifting up the back of her shirt. A raw pain scorched across her back and she had to bite her lip to keep from screaming.

“Christ Scully, you’re bleeding.” She felt the towel on her side and this time she did cry out.

“Why didn’t you tell me? Where did you get this cut? It’s huge, and it looks infected. Dammit Scully you’re a doctor.”

“Leave me alone!” She started to cry, pushing him away. Dana propelled herself towards the bathroom and locked the door. She sat on the toilet sobbing until she couldn’t hear him knocking anymore.

____________

Part 7

“Agent Mulder.” He looked up from where his chin was resting on an open casefile to Detective Rossi’s sympathetic face. “I don’t mean to be offending but you look like shit.” He sighed.

“None taken. I guess I just didn’t get any sleep last night.” Some excuse, he never got much sleep anywhere. Fox had tossed and turned in bed, his last thought before finally falling into a fitful nightmare ridden sleep was of her.

“You’re killing yourself over this case. You’ve been poring over that file since lunch.”

“I keep thinking I’ve missed something important.”

“Do you want some more coffee?” he offered.

“No.” He glanced at his wrist, “It’s almost eight, I should be getting back to the hotel soon. Call me if anything comes up.” The detective and the others watched as the tall man left, again.

____________

The door locked with an audible click as Fox left his hotel room, meanwhile tucking his cellular phone into his coat. He hastily made his way down the empty hall pausing only at the next door by a sudden itch in his fingertips to turn the knob and see if everything was alright. If she was alright. But he stopped himself. He had just been in there for an hour and a half. I’d like to live long enough to see my next birthday thank you very much. Besides, he had an excuse. Rossi had called a second ago with a new lead.

____________

Scully could hear every footstep that ventured near her door in startling clearity, and for the last twelve hours in this room she had unconsciously memorized the pattern of Mulder’s steps she heard them so often. She heard them now again, first quickly, then slowing down in front of her room and then quickly again. She never left during the entire day, opting for room service, and once in a while Mulder would come in breifly like he just had a few moments ago, comuting between the station and the hotel asking her for advice and such, she was still his partner after all, but she wasn’t spending her time alone working. And she wouldn’t talk about it either. She just listened and either said nothing or talked about anything and everything except work, and the case, and the way it was making her feel. And…

Dana peeled herself from her languid position on the bed and walked to the window. Parting the curtains she could see the rental car turn off the street, blurred by light new rain that swished across the glass. The police station was only two streets over from this hotel, practically in walking distance. Suddenly Dana looked down to see that her hands were gripping the pleated fabric, her knuckles turning white in rage. Quickly she released, practicing some techniques to get herself relaxed, specifically, letting her mind go blank and dropping like dead weight onto the bed. Flopping like a beached whale, all her muscles went slack and she thought of nothing, opening her eyes to stare at the ceiling, tracing nonexistant patterns in the uneven spackle.

This was the only way to stop it from getting to her. She just laid back, and let it all wash over her. This way she could handle it. This way she was in control.

A sudden stabbing in her chest made her wince.

“No no, it’s only been a few hours, not so soon! It can’t be so soon.” she mumbled turning on her side, doubled over. Her eyes scanned the digital face of the clock radio. 10:13. Her flight was supposed to leave at 11:30. “Not too soon…” But it was happening whether it was convenient or not. Her insides felt like they were turning inside out, constricting her breathing. To hell with it! I have to! Dana rolled off the bed and wrenched open the drawer on the bedside table with one hand, the other searching. Her eyes grew wide in panic. *It’s not here! Oh my God it’s not…” Her fingers closed around a familiar object. She sighed with releif. Sitting back on the bed she held the plastic bag up so she could see it’s contents. Only two left. Two red capsules against the light. Two pills.

Scully cringed. Normally she’d down them both with a glass of water but then she’d have nothing left for tomorrow, and it was always worse in the mornings, the pain. But she needed something now! And soon she would have more…

Carefully, almost lovingly, she took one out, just one, and placed it on her tongue. She swallowed a gulp of stale leftover coffee to wash it down and fell back on the pillows, closing her eyes.

She hated these things, they tasted strange when they accidently broke open before she took them. She’d never have touched them before this all happened, why now? What was left of her conscience was trying to reason with her. *But that’s my fault.* said the other part of her. When they gave me the stuff, I was too much in pain and too hasty to shove it into the plastic capsules properly. What about the pain? It’s been getting worse since you’ve been taking it. The throbbing in her head was lessoning already. So what? It gets better! This is working. It’s like I’m taking aspirin or something. Look at you, you lie all day in your room in front of the TV like a vegetable. What’s… But now she could feel the full effects, the brighter colors, the sharper senses, the euphoria. Dana stood up and walked around feeling better already.*See?* said her other self, smiling through victoriously yet again. Complete control.

____________

“What is it?”

“Phone tip from a reliable unnamed source. Some sort of gathering of the cult members is going to be happening in the west side of town in the woods at midnight.” The room was bustling with activity. Fox easily shifted into working mode, plans formulating in his mind.

“We should get there as soon as possible, set up teams and surveillence of the area.”

“Already on it. We’ve commandeered an empty house in close proximity to set up in and people are ready to go.” Fox pulled out his cellular and dialed the local FBI office. He snapped it closed.

“SWAT team is on the way. Let’s go.” He whipped around but found himself stopping in the doorway. “I have to drive Scully to the airport.” For the first time, in as many days, the short man in the glasses showed any hint of impatience.

“Agent Mulder, this meeting could make or break this case and you’re the only one who has a grip on whatever the hell is happening to those innocent victims out there. Now I want to catch these guys in the act. You have to be there.”

“I will. Before midnight, definately. But I have to do this. I have to see her safely on a plane. Give me the address of the house and I’ll meet you there.” Rossi sighed and gave him a sheet of paper. He barely glanced at it before taking off again but what he saw made him pause. “This is Kat Wittmann’s address.”

“Yes.” They looked at each other.

Mulder left.

____________

Part 8

Dana giggled for no apparent reason, settling back down into the water. The tub was piled high with bubbles; she’d dumped the enitre bottle in, and a carton of chocolate strawberry swirl was teetering on the rim of the tub beside a can of whipped cream she’d ordered, threatening to fall off. She wondered suddenly what Mulder would think if he came in and caught her goofing off, but scolded herself for feeling guilty. My life does NOT revolve around the FBI, and and least of all Fox Mulder. All of her time was spent catching criminals, saving society from itself. It was about time she took some time out for herself.

“It’s about time!” She giggled again, reaching up from the foam to flick on the radio. Some Alanis Morrisette filled the air and Dana hummed along, picking up the tune quickly.

Anyway, she had time, it was barely eleven, and she was packed and ready to go. Well, actually that wasn’t entirely true. She’d never really unpacked into this room. And you really can’t take credit for something you didn’t do right?

“Enough!” Through with thinking for the time being, Dana closed her eyes and relaxed in the hot water.

Random images flowed through her mind like the water in the tub; happy family portraits, faces of people she’d helped, old friends. Dana sighed happily, watching the little picture show memory was conjuring up. A friend’s wedding, her last birthday when her father was alive, her father’s funeral. Dana frowned. A cabin in the woods, glowing insects, Alaska. Dana’s heart began to pound. Krychek, Tooms, Pfaster, a flash of brilliant light, being strapped to a table, being unable to move. Dana started to sweat, unable to control the information spewing out of her mind. The glint of metal and another flash of light, Mulder unconscious and dying, the little girl standing in front of the fire, walking to the door, opening it, seeing someone other than Fox, waking up in the bathtub…

She shivered, pulling away from the memories. Dana opened her eyes, tensing. Her eyes widened and a scream swelled up in her throat. The bathtub water all around her was a liquid red…blood red.

She launched herself out of the tub, ripping a towel from the rack and cowering by the sink, sobbing heavily. It c..can’t be…

And then she heard the noise. A footstep outside. In her room. Barely keeping her fear in check she pressed her ear to the door. Another step. Her gun was in it’s holster mixed in the pile of clothes thrown haphazardly in a pile on the floor. She wrenched it free, pulling the towel tighter around her body. The intense fear was subsiding to something else, anger. *You aren’t going to get me this time you bastards…” She kicked the door open.

“Freeze!” She didn’t wait for an answer, shoving the tall form against the wall.

“Scully…”

“I said freeze!” She pinned the intruder’s arms behind his back. *Damn assholes even knew her name…*

“Scully!” She stopped. Now that voice sounds familiar. She tried to match name to face. “Scully it’s me!”

“Mulder?” No, it couldn’t be…it was. She let him go and he turned around to face her. Oh my God. If she wasn’t careful she was going to cry.

“Scully are you okay?” That did it. Here she had attacked him and he wanted to know how she felt? One tear traced it’s path down her cheek, and was followed by many more. The gun dropped from her fingers to the carpet. Dana backed into the bathroom, her partner following faster and grabbing her shoulder’s.

“Dana,” he said gently, “talk to me about it.” She turned her head away, looking at the tub. The water was clear, the bubbles were white, with no trace of the blood she’d seen. She had imagined it all. She cried harder.

“I think I’m losing it.” She watched for a reaction. Mulder’s eyes rippled with different emotions, worry, uncertainty, trying to figure out what to do. She sniffled and stared at her toes, bare on the wet tile. Dana glanced up again when she felt him move closer. Mulder pulled her into his arms and just held her for a few moments. She was amazed, and maybe just a little disturbed at how much better it made her feel.

“The plane leaves in twenty minutes.” He whispered in her ear. Dana finally pulled away, with a little smile.

“I’ll be ready in a few minutes.” He stepped out of the bathroom.

“Okay, I’ll be waiting in the car. Scully?” Oh oh. Now it was coming. She lifted her eyes to meet his reluctantly. “Your towel’s falling.”

“Huh…?” Mulder grinned at her mischeviously. She drew her towel closer and tried her best to glare at him, smothering a betraying smile stealing across her face.

“You better wipe that grin off your face Fox Mulder if you don’t want a nasty surprise in the morning.”

“Oooh, you promise?” She threw the nearest object she could find. A bar of soap hit his shoulder.

“Ow, you’re gonna cripple me for life…”

“You should be so lucky. I’ll be down in a few minutes.” She slammed the door, but could still hear him chouckling as he left.

She hesitated only for an instant when pulling the plug on the on tub, watching silently as the foamy water swirled down the drain. She shook herself, grimacing, and hastily gathered her clothes from the floor and pulled them on.

____________

They drove the airport ina an easy silence, reminescent of how comfortable they usually felt in each other’s presence.

For the second time since leaving the hotel, Mulder caught Scully wincing and massaging her temples.

“Are you okay?” She stopped sharply, as if she had been caught doing something wrong.

“I’m fine Mulder.” He regarded her warily. She relaxed. “Okay, so I have a little headache. It’s nothing a couple Tylenols can’t fix.” To prove her point she pulled a pill from her purse and swallowed it.

“That’s not Tylenol.” He stated matter-of-factly. She hesitated.

“They’re prescribed.” I don’t think so. Fox turned back to his driving. Hey buddy, back off. If she says the pills are prescribed, they’re prescribed. He thought, angry at himself for questioning her.

He pulled in front of the main building and let Scully out. He really wanted to see her off but there was no time. He trusted her to get on the plane herself anyway. Really.

They said their goodbyes and he drove off.

____________

Scully was walking towards the terminal when the full effects of the pills started to kick in. She had to sit down on a bench for a moment before it overwhelmed her.

The flight is going to be okay, everything’s going to be fine. But then a wave of panic blindsided her. What if they wear off during the flight? Wait a minute, that was my last one! What am I going to do in Washington?! She hadn’t been thinking ahead. What was she going to do? She staredat her watch. 11:22. She stood up again and walked a little faster, back in the direction she’d come. As she ran out of the building a light rain began to fall from the night sky.

“Taxi!” The meetings were always at midnight. This was one flight she was going to have to miss.

____________

Part 9

“See anything yet Agent Mulder?” He lowered the pair of sensitive night binoculars and turned away from the window.

“No.”

“Damn.” Detective Rossi took them from his hand as Mulder made his way to the kitchen for some coffee. On the way, he examined a couple photographs on the shelves. All of Kat’s furniture and belongings were still here. The police still hadn’t found a known relative who could take care of her stuff and funeral preparations. They also couldn’t find a will and other important documents.

Armed with a styrofoam cup of extra stongly made coffee, Obviously someone around here knows what they’re doing, Mulder returned to the main living room of the house where most of the other people were, set up with various equiptment. He sighed. He really missed having Scully around to talk to.

“Nothing?”

“Nope. I think this was all a hoax. Dammit, I thought we had something!” Mulder nodded, checking his watch. It was quarter to one and not one person had showed up on the street. The woods began two empty lots away from the house and were void of even a dog sniffing around the trees. It certainly looked like they had been mislead.

Rossi was glaring out the window, willing something in his view to change. Others seem equally frustrated. Mulder himself sank into more of a depression. Nothing was happening, this had all been a waste. He could be on a plane…

Suddenly, and officer positioned at another window in the next room called for the their attention. Rossi bussled quickly in, a less enthusiastic FBI agent following along behind.

“Look at that sir.” Rossi peered through.

“I don’t see anything, wait. Does that look like a light to you?”

“Yeah, there. It looks like a fire and it’s growing. It’s behind alot of trees, must be pretty damn big if we can see it from here.”

“I’m sending in a team.”

“No.” Mulder spoke up from behind the two, watching the dull glow flickering through the faraway leaves. The detective turned to him surprised. “I’ll go.”

“Of course.”

____________

Scully asked the taxi driver to drive in a wide circle, skipping the immediate area Mulder had said the police were staked out, which was also the same street she’d been before. She was dropped off a distance away, on a more developed street. Dana had to jump a couple fences and track through someone’s back yard to get to the woods. She ran fast, even though it was painful to do so. The faster she sprinted between the trees, the faster she’d be there.

The faster she’d be feeling like her old self again.

And the quicker she’d be getting back to the airport before Fox saw her. Dana! He’s going to be right there! What if the police move in, assuming the group is actually there. But of course they are! You don’t know that for sure. And how do you expect to avoid him? And what about your flight? It already left! If he calls your house in Washing… I don’t care! It doesn’t matter! Nothing matters! Only this. This is real.

Her concentration momentarily broken, she found herself tripping over a raised tree root and falling head over heels. Dazed, Dana looked up from her sprawled position on the ground. The tree tops swayed in the wind and swooped down towards her like they were alive. Shadows played with reflecting light, casting shapes on the branches and masses of leaves, enhancing the surrealism.

What? Dana groaned aloud at the strain and internal pressure as she stood. Reflecting light? Yes, if she glanced again, the flickering patches of light jumped at her in sharp releif when she focused on them. *Light, but from where?”

From behind her. Dana was facing in the direction she’d come. *And I didn’t see it?!* She turned and there were the all familiar flames. Dana stumbled towards the clearing so close she could see the expressions on the faces of individual faces chanting softly under their breaths.

____________

The wind had picked up, Mulder noticed as he advanced across the vacant lot towards the trees, towards the mysterious light. Out of the corners of his eyes he could see several officers and FBI, guns poised and ready, spread out and inching along a few steps behind him. *This is it. I’m going to finally get to them, on their own ground. I’m going to get some answers. They’re going to tell me why.”

The team advanced with trained silence. Fox noticed that the young officer in the house had been right; it must be a huge bonfire. He winced when a particularly huge *crack* sounded when he stepped on a huge branch apparently not as sturdy as he thought. He and the others nearest froze.

The rain started to fall harder. They were getting close now. He could see figures standing out against the red and orange flames. Alot of people. Fox crouched low, moving behind a large tree. The team spread out further behind various rocks and bushes. Fox inhaled a deep breath and took his first really good look inside the clearing. Oh my god. There could have likely been more than a hundred people. This edge of the clearing was deceiving, it stretched out far beyond the fire on the other side to who knows what size. So many people, so many faces. What is this?

It certainly wasn’t like anything he had been expecting. Where were the couple, sick, crazy lunatics he was going to beat the shit out of for hurting her? There were children in this group! And they all sat quietly, whispering, chanting to themselves, some huming rhythmic tunes. It was like some sort of group prayer.

A signal from the FBI SWAT member closest on his left told Fox that they were ready to charge in. But before they could move a muscle, the sound of a drum pounded, and startled, the team halted. The group in the clearing seemed unperturbed however, and opened their eyes slowly as if waking from a pleasant dream. As some of them rose, Fox realized they were organized in a series of rings, not just sitting anywhere. He could also see more clearly, what they were wearing, very little, with many painted symbols all over their bodies in red and black. He recognized a couple that had been on Scully’s face.

There was movement.

There was screaming.

The mob parted like a wave and a group of four had materialized, converging on someone in the crowd. Clearly startled, the young man they’d chosen had yelped in fear and struggled, pleading to others who didn’t even lift their eyes. One of the group, a small girl with dried flowers in her hair knelt and whispered in his ear and he quieted, no longer needing to be constrained. They led him in front of the fire. The federal agents beheld all of this in fascination.

A woman and a man carried forth two large earthen containers decorated elaborately and lifted it to the young man’s lips. A knot formed in the pit of Fox’s stomach as he watched the young man swallow. Red liquid flowed out the corners of his mouth and down his front. I walked into the bathroom. She was there, Dana was there… He shook himself.

The man stood on wobbly knees and suddenly Fox knew what was going to happen. And he had to stop it.

Vainly he tried to catch the others’ attention but they stood like statues, eyes locked in the clearing. He had to do something or that man was going to die! The officers continued to watch mesmirized, oblivious to what was going to happen. They didn’t know. But Fox knew. He was powerless to stop it. The fire seemed to swell under his gaze, taunting, reaching for it’s sacrifice but eminating to those that would prevent it that the fire could not be stopped. The all consuming fire.

The drums pounded.

The chanting grew.

Mulder turned his face away.

And the inhabitants of the woods were less by one.

An officer gasped. Fox heard a muttering of Sweet Jesus on his right as he watched the team suddenly awake from their spellbound stares by the sight of what Fox tried not to think about as he pulled away from the saftey of his oak tree, ready to charge.

The four were pulling someone else in front of the fire now. Someone on the short side, and not putting up as much of a fight as the last person to occupy her spot on the floor. Fox’s lips shaped themselves, but no sound came. The world was silent for all he knew.

Someone wearing a navy pants suit and blouse.

Someone with red hair.

Someone who turned and who’s penetrating ice-blue eyes seemed to focus on every person’s face in the crowd for a fraction of a second before they finally came to rest on the earthen bowls offered.

Fox didn’t even stop to think of who this could be; he knew.

The law enforcment team rushed in with guns raised. The majority of the group scattered in fear, outrunning any agent who chased them. At least twenty, including the tall man, the two with the bowls and the young girl jumped into the bonfire, committing suicide rather than face the law. Fox made a beeline for Scully, the lone figure standing gazing onward as more people plunged in the black of forest or the white of fire.

____________

Dana tilted her head to the side listening to the wind winding around the clearing. It whistled purposefully, as if mourning some great loss, or christening some great triumph. It filled her ears, blocking the noises of the screaming, and shouting, the crash of the underbrush, and the crackle of the fire as it consumed it’s martyrs.

She was confused. She had thought she knew what she wanted, but right before the moment of truth, she’d hesitated. What was her life and what was it she wanted it to become? She didn’t know. And she accepted it, a split second before the raid.

She felt him come into the clearing. Only one person gave her that certain feeling of presence. And he was coming straight for her, ignoring all else, his footsteps echoing in the hollow rustle of the wind.

“Dana.” She didn’t move. She barely felt the tear tracking down her face as the words came back to her. We only want to be understood.

“Dana.” Don’t we all?

“Let’s go home.” She turned to him, his words striking. That’s it? That’s all you have to say? Mulder’s face was a mask of any and every emotion. She knew he didn’t understand but he didn’t need to right now. Maybe someday she could explain it.

The two agents left the scene side by side, each drawing on each other for strengths of a different kind.

____________

Part 10 – epilogue

Mulder walked through the deserted hallway, remarking on how bleached and sanitary the white-washed walls were. He hated hospitals, for more reasons than one.

He wasn’t really headed anywhere specific, only in a general direction, meandering through the halls, avoiding the inevitable. His path ended abruptly in front of a door. He blinked, taking in the room number.

Fox sighed, realizing that he’d traced a path to the very same door again as before. Scully’s door. And yet each time, he hadn’t had the nerve to actually enter. What could he expect to be on the other side? An angry voice bitter over his actions, a tragic face twisted in pain or worst of all, a helpless unconscious body clinging to life like he’d witnessed before? He had no idea. But it doesn’t matter. said an inner voice, It’s Scully. She’s alive and right here if only you’d see. If only you’d open the door. Fox opened it before he could change his mind.

Scully was sleeping peacefully, which was a releif, though the IV lines and such still didn’t sit with him very well. He took up position in a chair by her bedside. Fox just watched her sleep, her slight frame heaving with soft breaths, her eyelids fluttering ever so slightly. He hoped she was dreaming wonderful things.

Scully stirred, opening her eyes drowsily. Mulder leaned in closer as she blinked away the last vestiges of sleep. He smiled at her.

“How are you feeling?”

“Physically or mentally?”

“Both.” Her lips curved in a small smile. “I’m okay. The doctors still don’t know what can be done about my ‘condition.’ I’ve never heard of anything like it myself. They worry about withdrawal symptoms from the um, stuff, I was taking so they have me on a tapering dosage.” Mulder reached for her hand and held it tightly between his own. Scully had admitted several things on their way to the hospital last night. The red pills she had, the previous visit to the woods. Still there was something important she wasn’t readily sharing. But Fox didn’t want to push, Scully would talk in her own time if she ever would. And would she even have these problems, these ripples in her conscience if you didn’t continually lead her onto these cases, continually get her involved in life threatening situations? Anyone else but Dana would be driven mad by now working with you. A part of him thought only that he was proud of her, that she’d pulled through once again. He had respect for her like no one else he ever knew, and loved her as the best friend he ever had.

Mulder felt her eyes scanning his face and sighed.

“It’s all my fault.”

“Mulder, how can you blame yourself? If it were anyone’s fault of us it would be mine. Look at how I was acting. I…” She choked up. Mulder gave her hand a squeeze. “I, I remember everything, I look back and it’s seems like I’m looking back at the last few days of a totally different person.” He nodded. “But it wasn’t. It was me. It’s like I don’t know my own self.” Scully closed her eyes, relaxing into the pillow. “When do I get let out of here?”

“They want to keep you another couple days for observation, then we can fly back to Wahsington. I’ve called Skinner already, he expects us back to work Monday morning.”

“I should call my mother sometime.”

The clouds outside the window parted and the first beam of sunlight in the last several days shone through.

“Hey, the weather’s clearing up.” They sat quietly for a while, enjoying the veiw outside the window.

“You know,” Mulder smiled, “this sure is a pretty elaborate way to get out of a basketball game.” Scully looked at her partner, not comprehending until she suddenly remembered. “If you really didn’t want to go you could have just said so.”

“Aww, poor Mulder. Now he has to go beg busty brunette Agent Jameson at the last moment to go out with him.”

“Hey! I didn’t say I was complaining…”

“Mulder!”

“Come on Scully, you know I wouldn’t rather go with anyone other than you.” she blushed slightly.

“Likewise Mulder.” Scully smiled. “I don’t know anyone else who wolfs down six hotdogs and screams at the players as load as you do.” He groaned, reaching into his coat pocket.

“Maybe I should give Jameson a call…”

the end!!!!!

____________

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