Light from Shadows by Writergal2000

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Light From Shadows

Light From Shadows cover

Light from Shadows

Rated: NC-17 (References to rape, graphic language and scenes. Not trying to be crude, just factual. Such is police work sometimes.)

X-File, M/S friendship (hints of more). “Not everything dies.” You’ll find a character back to life; in my world he never died. Also, a character who turned out to be bad, is not bad in my story. Deal with it.

This is a little in the future where everything has happened BUT REQUIEM — sorry, not ready to call it quits yet. The X-Files goes on.

Disclaimer: Respects to Chris and all the gang who gave us these great characters. While you may not see this on TV, you certainly would in real life, where there are no censors!

Summary: Waking up in a deserted park in the middle of the night, Mulder’s mind is a blank. As he and Scully struggle to put the pieces of his memory together, evidence builds into a criminal case against Agent Mulder. While the partners search for the truth, Mulder begins to doubt his own innocence. (I know, reminiscent of Demons, but too great an episode not to parallel. This is different in its own right — trust me.)

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (1 of 19)

January, 2001 Dana Scully’s Apartment 9:25 p.m.

The two agents sat at the kitchen table, papers and receipts spread out before them. Dana Scully punched in a series of numbers on a hand-held calculator then announced the read-out to her partner.

“Two-fifty-seven, twenty-nine,” she said casually, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

Fox Mulder eyed her suspiciously. “For three meals?”

“Do you remember dinner?”

“Nnnnnn… not exactly.”

Scully snorted, “Now that’s got to be a first! Okay, you decided we would — in your words — ‘blow this joint in style.’ So we went to a popular seafood restaurant where you ordered the catch of the day, for both of us, which happened to be lobster.”

“Don’t they catch that every day?” he asked sheepishly.

“Yes, they do,” she answered matter-of-factly. “A fact you were not willing to acknowledge at the time. Then you proceeded to order me a birthday cake — even though we weren’t even in the right month — which, you explained, was simply to emphasize how each day should be a celebration of life. The ice cream cake was $30, by the way …”

Mulder cringed as his partner went on. “But you didn’t stop there. You also ordered a cake for a couple of senior citizens sitting at a table across the restaurant, making sure the waitress expressed the same sentiment to them about celebrating life and all that … crap.”

Mulder heard the edge sharpening in Scully’s voice, realizing that she had been waiting for just this opportunity to fire her cannon.

“But let me continue,” she said with exaggerated sweetness. “Even the waitress was not immune to your happy-to-be-alive public declaration.”

“I didn’t …?”

“No. Fortunately, before she could be the benefactor of yet another cake, I whisked you out of your chair and out the door, leaving behind a roomful of applause.”

Mulder closed his eyes and let his forehead sink to the table. But Scully wasn’t through.

“And aren’t you the least bit curious as to how this very uncharacteristic behavior of yours came about?”

Without lifting his head, he shook it, but Scully wasn’t about to let him off the hook yet.

“Well, this is just a wild guess, but in my professional opinion, I think the two $29 bottles of wine during dinner and your three ‘must-have-cognac-with-dessert’ drinks after dinner, might have had something to do with it.”

Scully waited, but there was no response or reaction from her partner.

“Mulder …”

Realizing she expected an answer from him, he slowly raised his head. He squinted his eyes as if it were painful to look at her, anticipating the verbal assault he knew was coming. Instead, he was met with an expression of barely contained amusement.

“Mulder, we received a complimentary breakfast at the hotel. Detective Harmon paid for lunch. Dinner was …” She dramatically looked at the calculator again. “Two-fifty-seven, twenty-nine. Including tip.” She gave him a brilliant smile.

Mulder moaned, and his head once again dropped to the table. He heard Scully chuckle. “But all was not lost, partner. I made a profound scientific discovery.”

“Mmmm?” he asked, his disinterest clearly apparent.

“Two bottles of expensive Cabernet completely negate the effects of an eidetic memory.”

“Hooray for science,” he mumbled into the table.

Scully touched his arm, causing him to reluctantly sit up again. She shrugged and clicked off the calculator, tossing it on top of the papers.

“Well, we used our frequent flyer miles to get a free rental car. Maybe Skinner will write off an even deal,” she remarked, trying to be encouraging.

“Yeah, and maybe I’ll be selling Kirby vacuums next week. Scully, is there anything else I should know about that night that I don’t remember? Cause you’ve really caught me off guard here.”

“Hmmm,” she said, her eyes narrowing in thought. “Well, there was …” She stopped abruptly.

“What?” he asked, suddenly alarmed.

She sighed heavily. “Nothing. Just that …” She cleared her throat. “We’re partners, right?”

“Uh-huh,” he answered fixedly.

“Well, without going into description, let’s just say that when I told you I’d still respect you in the morning, I kept my promise,” she stated bluntly.

Scully wished she could have frozen that rare moment in time as she witnessed Fox Mulder speechless and mentally disoriented. But she couldn’t hold back any longer. She began to laugh uncontrollably, and although Mulder tried to be stern for being the brunt of her joke, her laughter was contagious and he began to chuckle with her. After several minutes, they settled back comfortably, both feeling the reinforcement of the bond between them.

Mulder shook a finger at her. “I’m starting to rub off on you and it’s not a pretty sight. Now I know why I don’t have any friends like me.”

A flash of lightning through the curtains followed by a crack of thunder momentarily drew their attention.

“It’s going to storm,” Scully remarked.

“We need it. I better get going if I’m going to beat the rain,” Mulder said, standing and taking his jacket off the back of the chair. “We can finish this expense report tomorrow after I log on to Monster-dot-com to find out what jobs are available.”

She snickered. “I’ll cover your ass. I always do.”

Mulder surprised her by affectionately touching the end of her nose. “I know,” he said softly.

“Get out of here,” she said with a warm smile. “I’ll see you at the office tomorrow.”

“I’ll bring cappuccino if you promise to hold that report for one more day, let me get my will in order.”

“Deal. Two-percent milk, no whipped cream, drive safely.”

He nodded and winked, and then went through the door.

--

Dana Scully’s Apartment 3:05 a.m.

She awoke abruptly, wondering for only a split second what had disturbed her sound sleep, when a flash of lightning filled the dark room followed by booming thunder. But as she settled back on the pillow, her phone rang and she realized that’s what had awakened her. Fumbling for the lamp switch, she squinted against the sudden light, then picked up the phone on the next ring.

“Hello,” she said hoarsely.

There was a pause on the other end, but she could hear rapid breathing.

“Who is this?” she asked, sitting up in the bed.

“Scully, it’s m-m-me.”

Even though the voice was barely a whisper, she could recognize panic in her partner’s voice.

“Mulder. What’s wrong?”

“Scully … oh, Scully,” his voice trained off, and she could hear the fear.

Fear started to grip her as well, as her mind quickened with alarm. “Mulder, what’s happened? Where are you? Are you hurt?”

Those words rushed back at her from another time, another phone call in the early morning hours, and she brushed off the feeling of deja vu as another series of lightning flashes and thunder resounded through the apartment.

“Scully, c-c-can you … come g-g-get me?”

Now she knew his tremulous voice was due to the cold. It sounded like he was shivering. She talked to him even as she tossed the covers off, jumped out of bed, and threw open her closet doors.

“I’m getting dressed as we speak. Where are you?”

“Patriots P-P-Park. Near the … the entrance.”

His words were barely discernible due to his shivering.

<The park?>

She wanted to ask questions, but there was no time now. Balancing the phone between her ear and shoulder, she yanked a sweats outfit off the hanger.

“Mulder, don’t hang up. Keep your cell phone on.”

“I d-d-don’t … have my c-c-cell.”

<He must be in a phone booth!>

“Okay. I’m grabbing my cell phone. Can you call me back on it?”

“Scully, I d-d-don’t like s-s-standing here in t-t-the light. Not in an e-e-empty p-p-park. I don’t h-h-have my g-g-gun.”

“Okay. I’m on my way. Hold on.” There was no response. “Mulder?”

“H-Hurry, Scully.”

She threw the cordless phone on the bed and grabbed underwear from a drawer. Dressing quickly, she picked up her gun and cell phone from the nightstand then ran into the living room where she retrieved her coat from the closet. As she slipped one arm in the sleeve, she reached up on the shelf and pulled down a blanket. Within one minute she was out the door.

--

Fortunately, the drive to the park was a short one, but in that time she contemplated dozens of possible scenarios. The temperature had dipped to the low 30’s and it was beginning to sleet.

<If he’s in a phone booth, he’s out in the weather. Where is his car? Why doesn’t he have his cell phone? What the hell is he doing there at three o’clock in the morning!> Scully peered through the windshield as the icy rain pelted the glass and the windshield wipers worked to remove the slush. Her hands tightened on the steering wheel as gusts of wind shook the car. It took all her willpower to keep her foot from flooring the accelerator, but the roadway was too slick.

Ahead, she saw the entrance to the park and she slowed the car. Right away she spotted her partner. He was sitting on a bench, barely illuminated by a streetlight. As she pulled closer, he stood up and jogged to the car. She noticed he had no coat — only a thin long-sleeved turtleneck, and his arms hugged his chest for warmth. She reached over to help him open the door and he slid in the front passenger seat.

Instantly she began to assess his condition, both as a doctor, and as a concerned friend. He was soaking wet, his hair plastered to his head, his face pale. He was shaking uncontrollably. Scully pulled him toward her. She was surprised to discover the smell of alcohol on him.

“Lay down, Mulder. Put your head on my leg.”

He responded automatically, laying his head on her thigh as she spread the blanket over him, then turned up the heater, directing the vents downward. As she drove back through the storm, she rubbed up and down his arm, trying desperately to warm him. Gripping the steering wheel with one hand, with the other hand she moved up from his arm to brush his wet hair off his forehead.

“It’s okay, partner. I’ll have you in a warm bed in no time.”

No comeback from the Innuendo King. Not a good sign. With the back of her hand, she felt his forehead, his cheek. He was ice cold. It took all of her concentration to focus both on the slippery highway and her shivering partner. His body was desperately trying to create inner friction to ward off hypothermia.

“Mulder, how long have you been out in the rain?”

“Hmmm ….” he mumbled.

“How long were you in the park? Think, partner. An hour, two hours?”

“D-D-Don’t … know.”

His answers increased her ever-growing apprehension. She heard him gasp and both his arms wrapped around her knee, as if trying to get as close to her as possible.

<He’s going into shock.>

She rubbed the back of his neck, knowing that until she could get him inside and out of his wet clothes, her ministrations were ineffective.

Finally, she reached her apartment. Getting Mulder out of the car took all her strength, and she also got soaked in the process. The minute his warming body hit the cold, wet air again, his muscles constricted and he doubled over. Scully had covered his head with the blanket. She held it closed under his chin, her other arm wrapped around his waist, as she led him to the door.

It seemed like an eternity before they got inside, where she headed straight for the bathroom with him, shutting the door behind them. Leaning Mulder against the sink, she reached over and turned on the shower. As the bathroom started to steam, Scully threw the blanket aside, and began to pull his soaked shirt over his head. When his head came up, she got a quick look at his eyes. They were glassy, his lids drooping.

Then she noticed something else. Reflected in the mirror above the sink she saw several long, thin scratch marks down his back. She didn’t question him on it right then.

“Mulder, can you slip your shoes off?”

He didn’t seem to understand the question, so Scully quickly bent down to untie his tennis shoes. He had leaned forward slightly, resting one hand gently on her shoulder for support.

“You’re not helping out here much, partner. And I thought you were like this only when you were drunk,” she jested, trying to downplay her anxiety.

Briefly, Scully recalled their discussion just hours ago and recognized the irony of the situation.

Now that his shoes and socks were off, Scully didn’t even hesitate unsnapping his jeans and unzipping them. With some effort, she pulled the heavy, wet denim, along with his boxers, over his hips and down his legs. She reached back and checked the temperature of the water. Glancing briefly at her partner leaning unsteadily against the sink, she heeled off her shoes at the same time she pulled her sweatshirt over her head. In two more seconds, she had shed her sweat pants as well. She stood in front of her partner wearing only yellow lace panties and bra, but he was only slightly aware of what planet he was on.

“Come on, Iceman, time to thaw out.”

He offered no resistance as she pulled him into the shower with her and closed the curtain. Placing him under the stream of warm water, facing her, Scully used her hands to rub vigorously from his shoulders down to his wrists. The violent tremors continued, and Mulder’s head sank onto Scully’s shoulder, his arms wrapping around her waist. She gave in to him, putting her hands behind his neck, holding him close as his body spasms ran their course.

Although worried about her partner, she was fully aware of her own sensations as she held a very wet, naked Mulder. The minutes passed, as she spoke softly in his ear, trying to get him to relax. Gradually, the shaking began to subside as his body began to respond to the warmth — and to the almost-nude woman in his arms.

Finally, Mulder lifted his head, gazing into intense and questioning blue eyes. He blinked and managed a weak smile. “Hi there.”

Scully watched as his eyes took in every inch of her, down to her toes and back up.

“Hey, no fair,” he said, his eyes again falling to the parts of her body that were scantily covered by her thin, wet underwear.

“Welcome back,” she said, dropping her arms to her sides. “Show’s over, partner.”

Reaching behind him, she turned off the water. In one smooth motion, she slid the curtain back and took a thick cotton towel off the towel rack

“Put this around you. I’ll be right back,” she said, tossing him the towel.

Mulder watched her retreat from the bathroom, and his body released a shudder, but not just from the chilly air. When she came back in, she was wearing a soft blue terrycloth robe and had another blanket. Draping it around his shoulder, she led him out of the bathroom and into the living room, pushing him gently down on the sofa. She disappeared again, but he caught a glimpse of her carrying his clothes in a bundle as she headed for the laundry room.

Mulder’s mind began to sink again into that unknown place, the place where the last few hours of his life lay buried in a deep, dark hole. He was so caught up in trying to put the pieces together, he didn’t even notice Scully standing near the couch until she spoke to him.

“Mulder …” she hesitated, waiting for him to look at her. “There’s blood on your boxers.”

He wet his lips. “I know,” he answered, the tone of dread in his voice.

“Come on, stand up. It’s too late to be modest. Let me examine you.”

“I already did. It’s not my blood,” he whispered, a look of terror in his eyes.

<God, are we destined to repeat fate?>

“Are you sure? What caused you to find the blood in the first place?”

“When I woke up, I was on the ground. My pants were unbuttoned and unzipped. And I was …” He stopped, his face a mask of embarrassment and perhaps apology. ” … sore,” he finished, looking away from her and down at the floor.

Gently, she eased herself down on the sofa next to him. She could see him beginning to shiver again, and she too felt a chill suddenly in the room.

“Mulder, there are scratches on your back also. Do you know how they got there?”

His look of surprise turned to a shake of his head.

“Did you fall?”

He didn’t answer, but his expression indicated he didn’t have an answer.

Scully patted his knee. “I’m going to make a fire. I want you to go back to the beginning, where you think this started. Okay?”

He nodded and she could see that his mind was already busy with the task.

Scully not only built a fire, but made each of them a mug of tea. She knew Mulder preferred coffee, but she was out of decaf, and the thought had crossed her mind that he might have been drugged. The less stimulant in his body, the better. He seemed to appreciate the hot drink, regardless, as she again sat next to him, reaching over and pulling the blanket closed a little tighter. Her silence was his cue to begin.

“After I left here last night, I went to the store for a couple of things. It was about a quarter to eleven when I got home. When I listened to my phone messages, there was a call from Skinner. He was meeting someone at the Blue Den at 11:30, and he thought I might be interested in the information. He was adamant about not bothering you with it until we had some clear picture whether we wanted to pursue this lead or not.”

“Did he order you there?”

“No. It sounded purely FYI. But you know, I figured if Skinner asked me to come in on it, it must be something. I had to hurry, so I looked up the address, and drove over there. I was a few minutes late, but he wasn’t there when I arrived. I waited until about 12:15 then I tried to call him. He didn’t answer at home, his cell, or at the office. I waited about another half hour, then I started feeling a little sick.”

“Were you drinking during that time?”

“Only Club Soda.” Mulder snickered. “You know what alcohol does to me. After all, I expected Skinner to come through the door at any minute.”

His answer was not what she expected, considering that she had detected the odor of alcohol when he got in the car. But now was not the time to question him to any length, so she only nodded. “Then what?”

“I paid my bill, and went outside to drive home. But … I … didn’t get in my car. I took a cab.”

He acted surprised at his own admission.

“Why would you take a cab if you weren’t drinking?”

He shot her a look as if she were doubting part of his story. Then he realized she was just trying to help him fill in the gaps. “I don’t know. Like I said, I wasn’t feeling well.”

Scully saw him face the fireplace, the flames dancing in the black of his eyes. She was patient, but he seemed to have drifted off. She put her hand on his arm to draw him back to their conversation.

“Mulder …”

This time when he looked at her, the confusion and apprehension were raw, etched in his face like the cracks in a parched desert. “That’s all I remember before I woke up in the park, Scully. I don’t even remember the drive there.”

“What’s the very last image you have?”

“I pulled open the door of the cab, and it stuck a little, so I had to pull harder. That’s the last thing I remember.”

Scully pursed her lips, a question still tugging at her. “Are you sure you weren’t drinking?”

Mulder knew she was recalling their conversation just hours ago, when it became apparent that large amounts of alcohol affected his memory.

“I’m positive. I was still reeling a little bit from what you told me about the night I had too much to drink. As I sat in the bar, it was on my mind, Scully.”

“So you didn’t order any cakes for anybody?”

He recognized her attempts to humor him, to lighten his burden somewhat, and he managed a wry smile as he shook his head.

She nodded, believing him completely. When Mulder picked up his mug, his hand was shaking so he wrapped both hands around it. Scully watched him sipping the tea, a million questions popping into her head, but she forced herself to keep a pace Mulder was comfortable with.

“You had no coat, and no phone when I picked you up. Did you take your weapon with you?”

“Of course,” he answered, a little cocky.

“So your coat, your phone and your weapon are missing.”

“And my ID and my wallet.”

There was a glance between the agents. Both realized the risk to the public of someone having possession of a federal badge and identification, along with a powerful firearm.

“What happened when you woke up in the park?”

Before Mulder could answer, the firewood shifted in the grate, sending off a shower of sparks. It was a momentary reprieve for him, but then he pulled the blanket tighter and shifted more toward Scully on the sofa.

“I was completely disoriented. At first, all I could remember was leaving your apartment. But then things started to come back. But only to the point I just explained to you. I spotted the pay phone just outside the gate, and that’s when I called you.”

Mulder could see the facts being added up in his partner’s head. A few times in the past he had been forced to completely rely on her judgment and expertise in getting him out of trouble. Now he knew he had to do it again.

<When will her patience with me run out?>

“Mulder, we need to find out which cab company picked you up?”

“I did that. I found the cab driver.”

“How?”

“I called from the park, when I was waiting for you. I charged both calls to my home phone. Anyway, the cab company only got a few calls in that area at that time of night, and they located the driver that picked me up at the Blue Den. According to his log, I got in the cab at 1:10 a.m. … with a woman …”

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (2 of 19)

“You got in the cab with a woman?”

Mulder nodded, trying not to react to Scully’s shock.

“And you told the cab driver to drop you off at the park?” she asked.

Mulder found it hard to look Scully in the eye. “He made a notation that we were both drunk. I guess that was to cover his ass since he was leaving us at a deserted park in the middle of the night.”

“Did he relate any conversation that you supposedly had with the woman?”

“Well, I didn’t speak to the driver directly. It was through the dispatcher who had called him.”

Mulder saw Scully look over at the fire, her face troubled. He was afraid to ask what she was thinking. When she looked back at him, her mouth was tight, her eyes penetrating.

“Mulder, you need to tell me the truth about the woman.”

“Scully!” he blurted incredulously. “There was no woman with me! I don’t know how you could even —”

He stood from the couch, still clenching the blanket tightly, his anxiety beginning to get the best of him. He closed his eyes and his head dropped back, his face toward the ceiling.

Seeing his reaction, Scully went to him. “Listen, let’s start at the beginning again.”

He saw her pick up the cordless phone from the coffee table.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Calling Skinner.”

She was startled when he quickly took it from her hand, hanging it up. He shook his head at her.

“Mulder, we need to find out if he’s okay, since he never showed up at the bar.”

She watched him shift awkwardly from one foot to the other, as if not sure what to say to her. When he did speak, he stammered. “I’m … I think … I’m pretty sure he’s probably okay.”

Scully was too confused to answer him. But then she understood what he was implying.

“Let’s go back to my apartment first and confirm the message again. I didn’t delete the voice message. And I need to find out if my car is still at the bar.”

“All right. But sit back down and finish your tea while your clothes are drying.”

As Scully turned to walk away, Mulder took her by the shoulders and turned her around. He brought his face close to hers, bending slightly to lessen his height advantage.

“I didn’t do anything. I swear.”

“I know you didn’t. I just thought maybe you left there with a woman and —”

He was shaking his head, but for just an instant Scully thought she detected a flash of something else darken his expression, a flicker of painful realization that was too vague to even question him about.

Mulder reacted angrily to her assumption. “Is that what you think of me! Of our relationship? That I pick up women in bars? You think I left here last night and — !”

“No, of course not. I was just trying to … what I was trying to say is that you can tell me anything.”

“Yeah, well, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to hear that from you.”

--

There was no conversation between the two agents as they drove carefully in the storm. The swish/click of the windshield wipers was somewhat soothing, a welcome object to focus on when Mulder found it becoming increasingly more difficult to look his partner in the eye. Scully respected his silence, hoping that maybe his eidetic memory could be nudged a bit by the calm she tried to project.

When they got to Mulder’s apartment, Mulder realized that along with everything else he’d lost that night, he didn’t have his keys either. Scully used her key to his apartment to unlock the door. Then they both hesitated before opening it, recognizing the danger they had faced before when circumstances were spiraling out of control. When Mulder glanced at her hip, she drew her gun, nudging him aside, out of the doorway, as she pushed the door open and peered inside.

The lights were on, and nothing seemed amiss. Mulder instantly went to his answering machine and hit the rewind button. Scully felt his tension as well as her own as the tape began playing the last message. It was a call placed by his dry cleaners reminding him he had two suits to pick up. The time was 5:40 p.m. Scully bit her lip as she watched Mulder stab at the rewind button again, and then replay the same message.

“DAMMIT!” he shouted.

Scully saw his fingers trembling as he again tried to find the message on the tape. There was no message from Skinner. She saw his shoulders sag.

<We’ve been here before.>

Slowly Mulder dragged his eyes up to hers. “Scully, I swear there was a message here from Skinner.”

“I believe you. Let’s go back to the bar and pick up your car. Maybe someone is still there that we can talk to.”

“It’s an all-night cafe.”

“Then maybe the bartender is still working.”

Mulder nodded, but had a sinking feeling that something was being orchestrated and tracks were being covered. As they drove in the car once again, she glanced over at her partner. His eyes were riveted to the passenger side window glass. His focus seemed to be on the fat water droplets that defied gravity, traveling upward on the glass by the wind whipping around the car. But Scully knew he was desperately searching his extraordinary memory for a clue. And he was scared.

“Mulder, you said you were feeling sick, dizzy at the bar. Do you think it’s possible someone slipped something in your drink?”

“Anything’s possible, but why would someone do that?”

Scully raised her eyebrows at the question. “You have to ask? You’re the key figure in a global conspiracy and you think it’s questionable that someone would set you up?”

All she got from him was a sigh. They had reached the bar and Scully pulled into the back parking lot where Mulder said he parked his car. It was sitting right where he left it. They both exited Scully’s car and she tried the driver’s door. To her surprise, it was unlocked, and she opened the door. Immediately she detected the strong odor of perfume. The keys were in the ignition and she tossed them to Mulder.

“Not my brand of perfume, Mulder,” Scully said, not meaning for her words to sound as harsh as they came out.

Mulder’s head dropped and he sagged against the car. He felt Scully’s hand briefly on his neck and her voice was reassuringly strong. “Let’s go see if anyone is still working.”

As Mulder turned to exit down the alley, she grabbed his arm. “No, let’s go in this way,” she said, indicating the door facing the alley.

Scully’s actions signified that she was in charge, and it was exactly what Mulder needed right now. He nodded and she knocked loudly on the back door. After the second round of knocks, they heard a voice.

“Go around to the front!”

“FBI, sir. Please open the door,” Scully said, holding her ID up to the peephole.

There was a brief hesitation, then it opened. An older, balding man peered closely at Scully’s ID, but gave only a cursory glance at Mulder before stepping back to allow them to enter.

Scully turned to Mulder and spoke softly, “Is this the man who served you?”

“No.”

Scully turned to the bald man. “Is your bartender still here?”

“Yes. Come on back.”

They were pointed toward the front of the bar where cleaning up was going on. Only a few patrons sat quietly at tables near the far wall. Mulder spotted the bartender and they approached him. Scully refrained from showing her ID yet, as Mulder addressed the man.

“Excuse me. I was in here earlier tonight.”

“Yeah,” the man chuckled, ” and I see you’ve sobered up quite a bit.”

“No, you’ve got me confused with someone else. I wasn’t even drinking alcohol.”

The bartender looked at Scully, but she was silent. He immediately misinterpreted their relationship.

“Oh, I see,” the older man said, “trouble with the missus, huh? Hey, if you want me to say you were drinking lemonade, then so be it Fresh squeezed,” he said humorously.

Scully, making it obvious that she was not amused, reached in her coat pocket and pulled out her ID, holding it up in front of his face. “Sir, I’m with the FBI.”

He looked surprised. “Whoa. So now drinking’s a federal crime?”

She ignored him, turning to face her partner when she felt his hand on her arm.

“I paid cash for the drinks. There won’t be any —”

The bartender cut in. “No, you ran a tab on your credit card … for both you and the lady.”

“What!” Mulder exclaimed.

The man went to the register and took out a wad of rubber-banded credit card receipts. “What’s your name?” he asked Mulder.

“Fox Mulder,” he answered softly, realizing that everything was falling apart, and sensing that he was about to see one more disturbing piece of the puzzle.

The man looked through the receipts, then pulled out one and handed it to Mulder. Scully turned it slightly to look at it. The receipt totaled almost $70 and consisted of 12 drinks — vodka Collins and whiskey and soda. Mulder’s signature was at the bottom.

Mulder shook his head. “No, there’s some mistake. I didn’t drink any of these. I never even showed you my credit card.”

Scully saw the man look to her for help in answering this obviously bewildered man. She picked up the questioning.

“Sir, was there a woman sitting with this man tonight?”

“Boy, you must have really been out of it, buddy.”

“Please answer the question,” Scully said tersely.

“He was buying her drinks, then he joined her at her table. Then they left together. That’s all I know. If I’ve gotten choir boy here in trouble, well sue me.”

Scully was disgusted by his sarcasm. “I think we’re finished here.” She took Mulder by the arm.

“No, wait —” he protested.

“Mulder, come on.”

He wanted to try to clear up the misunderstanding, but Scully was right, it seemed useless. They walked back outside and Mulder leaned against the building, putting his head in his hands. Scully put her hand on his shoulder, tugging slightly.

“Come on, get in my car. We’ll get your car later. I don’t want you driving yet.”

As if in a trance, he did what she asked. They both sat there in her car, silent for several minutes, trying to analyze what was happening, and more frighteningly, where it was headed. Although the pieces of this puzzle were new, the puzzle itself was just another variation of the lies and manipulations that the two agents had become so accustomed to in their work with the X-Files. And that’s what scared them. For right now, their fears were unspoken — there were too many loose ends that couldn’t be tied together to form any coherent picture. But they knew all too well that it was only a matter of time before the lights were turned on, and the nightmare would begin.

“Scully, can you drop me back at my place?”

“Mulder, maybe you shouldn’t be there tonight, not alone anyway.”

“You’re offering to be my alibi? I think it’s too late for that.”

“Something is happening here, Mulder. It wouldn’t hurt. Let’s get your things and you can come back to my place. We’ll figure out what to do later this morning, after you’ve gotten a little more sleep, when we call Skinner.”

“I … no, Scully. I shouldn’t be involving you in this.”

“I’m already involved. I think it started with someone assigning me to the basement office,” she said with a weak, but encouraging smile.

Mulder’s return smile was brief when he saw Scully look up into the rearview mirror. He turned in the seat as a police car pulled up behind their car. Scully put the car in gear, but just as she released the brake, the police car turned on its top lights. She put the car back in park.

“Mulder, stay here for a minute.”

She took out her ID and with hands in the air, exited the car, cautiously approaching the two police officers.

“I’m with the FBI, Special Agent Dana Scully. Is there a problem?”

They ignored her and walked to the passenger side of the car. Mulder, who had seen them approaching, started to get out. To Scully’s alarm, she saw both officers put a hand on their holstered gun. Trained to react to such actions, Mulder stopped, putting his hands out in front of him to show that he had no weapons.

The younger officer addressed Mulder. “Sir, put your hands in the air.”

Puzzled, Mulder did as ordered. The older officer stepped closer. “Are you Fox Mulder?”

“Yes, I am.”

Suddenly, the older cop grabbed Mulder by the shoulder and spun him around, twisting his right arm behind his back and slamming him hard into the wall. Scully heard him gasp as his head bounced off the brick.

“Wait a minute!” she yelled.

She grabbed the arm of the older cop, but the younger one gently, but firmly, pulled her away from him. Not only had their sudden actions surprised them, but the officer’s tactics were bordering on brutality as she saw her partner’s hands being roughly handcuffed behind his back. Blood was running down the side of his face from a cut over his eyebrow.

Furious she turned to the two officers. “What the hell are you doing! He’s an FBI agent!”

The older officer standing behind Mulder, yanked upwards on the handcuffs, causing Mulder to bend over to avoid his shoulders being dislocated as he let out a hiss of pain. The officer turned to Scully, rage apparent on his face as he screamed at her.

“FBI AGENT OR NOT, IT DOESN’T GIVE HIM THE RIGHT TO COMMIT RAPE!” he spit vehemently.

Shocked, Scully looked to see Mulder’s reaction and she saw him go so pale she thought he would pass out. He was jerked by the collar of his shirt and thrown into the side of the police car, the force of the impact almost knocking him off his feet.

“You touch him again,” yelled Scully, ” and I’ll arrest you myself for brutality!”

“BRUTALITY! YOU WANT TO SEE WHAT HE DID TO THAT YOUNG GIRL!” the older officer screamed.

The younger officer stepped up and with a look, settled the older man down.

Mulder turned to both officers. “I didn’t do this.”

The younger officer took a small card from his breast pocket. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say …”

Mulder closed his eyes and his head dropped. He didn’t hear another word of his Miranda rights until the older officer got right in his face and he opened his eyes to see fury glaring back at him in the form of bulging eyeballs and veins.

“He said ‘do you understand these rights as they’ve been read to you!’ ANSWER THE FUCKING QUESTION!”

Mulder nodded, then began shaking his head. “I didn’t do this,” he repeated.

“Shut up and get in the car,” the younger officer demanded.

Scully saw her partner look at her beseechingly, his eyes wide with fear and disbelief, and she felt helpless. As he was shoved into the back seat, she leaned in the window of the front passenger seat. “I’ll find out what’s going on.”

She tried to give him a reassuring look, but was as scared as he was. The two officers got in the car and drove away. Scully got back in her car, slumping against the seat, feeling like her world had been turned upside down.

<Now what?>

--

8:45 a.m. GEORGETOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT

Mulder had been booked on two felony counts — rape and assault. He had been physically examined, and it was humiliating as well as unbelievable. After his arraignment he was moved to a private cell because of his law enforcement position. Not having slept all night and traumatized with shock, he was exhausted.

He heard his cell door being opened and looked up wearily. He didn’t expect who he saw. Walter Skinner entered the cell, and the guard put a chair in for him, then re-locked the cell, leaving them alone. Skinner took a hard look at his young agent. He saw the swelling and discoloration around his eye. But it was the haunted look, the look of sheer abomination on Mulder’s face, which convinced him that either he didn’t do what he was accused of, or, as Scully had reported, he couldn’t remember it. A man with that kind of look is not lying.

Mulder dropped his head, ashamed to even look Skinner in the eye.

“Agent Mulder, did anyone take a look at that cut?”

Mulder hesitated, as if not understanding the relevance of the question. Then shook his head.

“Has anyone told you anything” Skinner asked.

Again he shook his head, not looking up. Skinner leaned forward, closer to him. “Mulder, listen to me,” he whispered.

Mulder looked up and blinked slowly.

“I spoke briefly with an attorney this morning.”

“Someone you know?”

“Um, Scully arranged it. Actually it’s a close friend of her mother’s.”

Skinner stopped when he saw Mulder groan and roll his eyes. “Her mother …?”

“Now is not the time to worry about that. The attorney told me that because you weren’t represented at the arraignment, he can schedule another one, and he’s confident you’ll be released on your own recognizance. But it might be a few days.”

Mulder nodded absently, as if what Skinner just told him was not high on the list of concerns. Mulder’s private thoughts were finally voiced. “Why did Scully involve her mother?”

“You think she wasn’t going to find out? This is not going to be kept quiet. You’re an FBI agent.”

Mulder’s head fell back and he looked up at the ceiling, conceding that he had to allow decisions to be made for him.

“There’s something else,” Skinner said reluctantly. “The girl you’re accused of raping is the niece of the police officer who arrested you.”

Mulder’s head snapped forward and his expression was one of disbelief.

“Be glad he didn’t shoot you.”

To Skinner’s surprise, Mulder laughed, but it was humorless, the kind of laugh that says

“I wish he had.”

“Shot you? So you’ve already given up?”

Mulder’s voice was angry now. “This is a set up! And you and I both know who we’re probably dealing with here! They’re very good at what they do! If they want me out of the way, then I’m as good as gone!”

“No one can cover all the bases. There will be holes, and we’ll find them.”

“Did Scully tell you that I was at the bar because you left a message for me to meet you there?”

“Yes. I’m sure the voice sounded like mine, but I don’t know how to explain it.”

“Other than me being mistaken,” he said sarcastically.

“You don’t make mistakes like that. Someone obviously got in your apartment and tampered with your phone. Mulder, I was home all night.”

“Sir, I called you several times. There was no answer. Nor on your cell phone.”

“I didn’t have my cell phone on because I was home. I don’t know what to tell you. My phone never rang. But that shouldn’t surprise you.”

Mulder rubbed his eyes. “What’s their motive this time? What the hell did I stumble across that I’m so dangerous to them.”

“Maybe it’s preventative. Something in the planning stages. Who can explain any of what they do? But you’ve got to have faith in us and in law enforcement to clear you.”

“Sir, GPD isn’t going to solve this case.”

“I agree. Georgetown Police specialize in barking dog complaints. But it doesn’t matter, because that’s where your partner and I come in.”

The remark by his AD was unexpected, and achieved the purpose of calming him down. “Sir, this could be bad for both of you.”

“So what do you expect us to do? Leave you here at their mercy? Is that what you would do? No. You’ve put your own job, and life, on the line for both of us. They’ve gone too far this time, Mulder,” he said, his voice harsh.

“And as the evidence builds, which I’m sure it will, you’ll still swear this allegiance to my innocence?”

“As long as you swear you didn’t do it,” he said, seeking an affirmation.

Mulder’s eyes locked with Skinner’s and his voice was blunt, direct. “I couldn’t have done this, sir. Even drugged out of my mind, I could not do something like this. What are the facts?”

“I read the police report. Scully will fill you in when she gets here later.”

“Has anyone talked to the girl?”

“She’s going to try to see her, but, you know, it’s touchy — the questioning agent being the partner of the accused.”

Skinner saw Mulder stiffen. “Scully went to see her?” The anxiety in his voice was unmistakable.

“It’s okay. She knows what she’s doing.”

As the AD watched his agent for a few seconds, he thought he was seeing a side of Fox Mulder that was rarely revealed: panic. But that seemed unlikely. He knew Mulder trusted Scully explicitly and regarded her competence as an FBI agent to be unequalled.

Skinner decided to change the subject. He pointed to the bandage on his arm. “They took blood for what substance?”

“Alcohol, maybe drugs. Want to wager a guess as to what will show up? Sir, I know I passed out at some point. What was done to me or anyone else during that time is virtually without limits. I have no defense.”

“We’re your defense. But you need to understand something, and this is the second reason I came here,” he said, lowering his voice again. “I can’t rally in your corner without doing you harm. If I’m to find evidence, then it has to be from the vantagepoint of appearing to distance myself from you. In other words, if I look too hard, and am too obvious, they’ll be too careful.”

“I do understand. What about Scully?”

Skinner breathed deeply. “I think she might cause suspicion if she didn’t back you 100 percent. But it’s not going to be easy for her.”

“I know. But I need you to promise me something.”

The AD waited expectantly. Mulder wet his lips and took a deep breath. “Don’t let Scully go too far. If it looks like it’s impossible to prove my innocence, then you have to persuade her to back away.”

“Mulder …” Skinner said, shaking his head.

“Sir, you have to. You can’t let her ruin her career over something she can’t change. I would never forgive myself. So you see, you wouldn’t only be saving her, but me, too.”

“Your partner will quit the Bureau before she ever concedes or backs away from believing in you. She will not compromise for the sake of her career, and you know that as well as I do. Come on, Mulder, you know Scully. You wouldn’t do what you ask her to do, not in a million years. She’s in for the long haul, just like you are.”

“Then to save both of us, you have to find the truth.”

“I don’t think this game has all the players you might suspect. I have a hunch I can get some answers and some help somewhere.”

“Then I give the same advice to you that you gave me once: be careful where you get the answers.”

Skinner nodded and stood. He felt awkward walking out and leaving his agent. “There’s something else you should know. Scully’s trying to get you out of here. Your bail’s pretty high for her, but not impossible.”

“No,” Mulder said gruffly. “Don’t let her do that. Tell her what the attorney said.”

“She’s not going to leave you in here, even for a few days.”

“Then talk to her. Just … handle it,” he said, irritated.

“Right. Handle Scully. Then I’ll make it stop raining.”

Mulder realized the improbability of the task and he nodded his understanding. He knew Skinner would do his best.

“Try not to worry,” Skinner reassured. “Trust us.”

“I do,” he said simply.

Skinner smiled faintly, then yelled for the guard. He turned to look once more at Mulder before leaving the cell. “Agent Mulder, there’s just one more thing. Did you have any suspicion that I might be involved in this plot?”

Mulder stood up to face his Assistant Director, but he didn’t take any steps toward him. “I did, sir. Briefly. But only for the purpose of tapping into my instincts, for which I have the utmost confidence. And my instincts were telling me we’re on the same side.”

Skinner nodded, knowing that no words were needed to convey his gratitude for that endorsement. The iron door slid open and Mulder watched him step through it before it slammed shut again. He saw Skinner’s black coat flapping behind him as he took long, hurried strides down the corridor.

--

(THIS CHAPTER IS SEXUALLY DESCRIPTIVE)

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (PART 3 OF 19)

2:15 p.m. GEORGETOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT

Mulder was taken to a holding room. The handcuffs were left on him and he was seated at a table. He didn’t know who he was waiting for. He had already met and spoken to the lawyer earlier in the day. He heard the door being unlocked and looked up. Relief flooded him and was exuberantly apparent in his face as he watched his partner enter the room. She smiled and the darkness seemed to lift with that one reassuring gesture.

As Scully sat in the chair across the table, Mulder put his hands in the center of the table. She covered his hands with hers and saw him close his eyes, savoring the comfort of her touch.

“I’m sorry it took so long,” she said. “You spoke with Jack Randolph?”

“Yes. Tell your mother thank you very much. I have all the confidence in him.”

“Good.” She looked him over. “Oh, Mulder. You’re exhausted.”

“Comes with the territory. You look pretty wiped out yourself.”

Scully hesitated, looking down at their hands intertwined. She ran her thumb over the back of his hand.

“I spoke with the girl.”

Mulder froze, instinctively clutching Scully’s hand tighter.

“She was … well, cold and unresponsive would be an understatement. And that was before Detective Bensima told her who I was. She answered his questions, though. She’s not what I expected. She goes to college, majoring in business. She has a steady boyfriend, a part-time job at an accounting firm.”

“This is the woman I supposedly picked up in a bar at one a.m.?”

Scully shrugged, puzzled by the facts as well. “She’s a … pretty girl,” she admitted with difficulty.

“Looks can be deceiving,” he said bitterly. “How did she identify me?”

“Well, that was kind of secondary, considering she had your wallet and ID. No sign of your gun or cell phone. But she was wearing your jacket when the police found her.”

Scully berated herself at the ludicrous idea of feeling jealous because Mulder gave another woman his coat. “Anyway, she described you as very good looking and that’s what initially attracted her.”

Mulder took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “What’s her name?”

“Mandy Morrison.”

Scully saw him close his eyes and swallow hard. “So you find her story believable?” he asked softly, not looking at her.

“Of course not. I just don’t know how to explain it yet.”

He opened his eyes and glared at her as if he expected to see doubt. “Scully, these people are good. You know that. She’s not what she appears to be. They could use one of their own and falsify school records, employment records, make her look like a model citizen when in fact she’s part of the conspiracy.”

“Mulder …”

“We’ve seen it before, Scully!” he said harshly.

Scully wondered who he was trying to convince, her or himself. “Those kinds of things can and will be checked out. Mulder, there will be some truth to the lies. That’s why it works so well, why it’s hard to figure out. We’ll have to sift through the lies.”

“She’s not what she appears to be,” he said softly, looking at their clasped hands.

When there was silence from his partner, he met her eyes and saw that she was perplexed at his last statement, not knowing how to respond to it.

Mulder shook his head. “I just mean that she has to be part of this. I … believe that.”

That nagging feeling in the pit of Scully’s stomach was back, the feeling that she got when she thought Mulder was withholding from her. But she shook it off. This was no time to try and analyze her partner. “We’ll see, Mulder.”

Scully saw his look of disappointment and knew he was feeling less secure about how she perceived all this. She squeezed his hands.

“We’ll find the answers. Skinner is outraged that this is being done to you.”

“Yeah, a bullet would have been more merciful.” Mulder sighed heavily and closed his hand tighter around hers.

“What is it, Mulder?”

He looked around at the cell, the locked door, the handcuffs on his wrists. Then he looked at Scully. “I’m scared,” he whispered.

She would have given anything to hold him, but all she could do was squeeze his hands in return.

“This is so humiliating, Scully. And it could get so much worse.”

“I know. But you have to keep the faith.”

“It’s not that. This is not going to be easy for you. There will be questions — maybe even about us.”

“We have nothing to hide, Mulder.”

He raised an eyebrow to her, but made no comment.

“Please don’t fall into this hole. Once I get you out of here, you’ll feel more positive.”

“My bond is $150,000. I’m not going anywhere.”

“You let me worry about that.”

Scully’s hand slid up his wrist, over the handcuff, and she tenderly rubbed his arm. “I need to go,” she said, dreading the anxiety that would bring him. “I’m meeting Skinner. Detective Bensima has agreed to let us interview the cab driver in exchange for some kind of Bureau favor. We have to record the interview and give him the tape. And there can be nothing off the record.”

Scully felt him tense. “I don’t want you there,” he said.

“Look —”

“No, Scully! I’m asking you to please let Skinner handle it alone!”

“I can’t help you if I don’t know the facts!”

“Skinner can give you the main points later. Please, honor this request.”

As always, she could not refuse him, at least face-to-face, and she nodded reluctantly. But then her gaze fell to the table because she was sure that if he looked into her eyes, he would see she had no intention of missing that interview.

“Thank you, Scully,” he said, grabbing her hand again, holding it tightly and closing his eyes. Scully knew how much he needed her with him, that he was in a deadly free-fall. She hated more than anything to leave him.

“I’ll see you in the morning. We’re going to get you out of here. By the way, is your head giving you any trouble?”

Mulder shook his head hardly hearing the question. Scully raised her hand and gently placed her fingers on the cut, as if her touch alone could heal it. Then she dropped her hand and stood up.

“Please try and sleep. Let us do all the work for a change.”

Scully’s eyes lingered on him a long time and then he watched her walk to the door where the guard waited for her to finish. When Scully turned back to look at him, she saw him staring quietly at her as if he would never see her again. Scully walked through the opening, then winced when she heard it slam shut behind her, locking her partner in.

--

She met Skinner across the street from the cab company. He motioned her into his car and she hurried out of the rain.

“How is he?”

“Very low. I’m worried about him.”

“Then let’s find something positive to report to him. But first, what about the bond? Have you decided what —”

I didn’t decide. It was kind of taken out of my hands, if you recall,” she said coolly. “But yes, my mother accepts your offer of splitting the bond.”

“That’s good. Let me make some phone calls so I can take care of that first.”

“Yes. I want to get him out of there.”

--

CITY CAB COMPANY 3:00 p.m.

Assistant Director Skinner and Special Agent Dana Scully met the cab driver in a private office. Skinner didn’t even bother with introductions, other than to tell him they were with the FBI. Both agents formed the same impression of the man — low intelligence, as dedicated to his job as he was of his hygiene. It had been decided that Skinner would direct all the questioning. Scully pulled a chair away from the table and settled back against the wall, as if she were more of a passive observer. She knew the questioning would call for blunt answers, and she wanted to appear as disinterested as possible so the witness would be forthright with the facts.

“Mr. Venetti, do you mind if I tape record this interview?” Skinner asked.

“I guess not.”

“State your name, and how long you’ve worked at this particular cab company.”

“Anthony Venetti, and I’ve worked here about 2 months.” Seeing the question in Skinner’s eyes, he elaborated. “Cab drivers usually move around a lot.”

“Do you remember a call to pick up a customer at the Blue Den early this morning around 1:00 a.m.?”

“Yeah. Turned out to be a man and a woman.”

“Describe them please, sir.”

“The man was about six foot, brown hair, long sideburns. Good looking, for a guy … I guess.”

“And what was he wearing?”

“Clothes,” he joked. He sobered up when he saw Skinner was not amused. “I really don’t recall. I remember a brown leather coat. Seems he had on jeans.”

“And what about the woman?”

“Ah …” he said, a lurid smile on his lips. “She had on a very short, very low cut dress. Black.”

“Describe her physical appearance.”

The cab driver looked confused. “Didn’t I just do that?”

Skinner contained his impatience. “What did she look like? Height, hair color …?”

“Oh. Tall, about five foot nine, slender, long black hair. Long legs.”

“What age would you estimate her to be?”

“Maybe 25, 24.”

Scully shuddered inwardly. She had seen Mandy Morrison. Just what she considered Mulder’s type. Skinner kept his eyes on the cab driver.

“Who made the call to you? A man or a woman?”

“The man.”

“Do you know where he made the call from?”

“The bar.”

“No, I mean was it a pay phone, a cell phone?”

“Wait. No actually it was the bartender who made the call for them. Now I remember.”

Skinner shot Scully a quick glance. “Did the man and woman come out of the bar together?”

“Yep.”

“Tell me what you observed.”

“Well …” The man looked pensively at Scully. “When they approached the cab they were laughing, obviously drunk.”

“How could you tell?”

“ESP,” he said sarcastically.

“Did the woman appear to be going willfully?”

The driver laughed to himself. “Oh yeah. The man, uh …” The driver stopped, looking at Scully, obviously hesitant.

“Mr. Venetti, I need to know exactly what you saw and heard, no matter the content. This isn’t new to me.”

<The hell it isn’t!> Scully thought. The expression on the driver’s face made the agents realize that he wasn’t uncomfortable talking about the subject matter, he was merely dramatizing it.

“The guy had his arm around the girl’s shoulder and his hand was … inside her dress.”

“Where inside?” Skinner asked blandly.

“At her left breast.”

“Did she appear to be objecting to it?”

“Hell no.”

Skinner’s voice inflected no emotion as he continued the questioning. It was as if the suspect in question was unknown to him, when in fact he felt torn inside by the answers of the witness. And he could only imagine what Scully must be going through as she sat silently in the chair across the room. But her face appeared stoic, her demeanor detached as though she had no connection with the suspect either, as if Fox Mulder was just a name to her. Skinner admired her courage.

“Was the girl wearing a coat?”

“No. Just as they started to get in the cab, he took his coat off and put it around her shoulders. Then he told me to drive them to Patriots Park. I said it would be closed and the guy laughed and said something like, ‘That’s the idea my man.’”

“In 25-degree weather?” Skinner asked skeptically.

“Hey, I’m not Mother Theresa. I’m just the driver.”

“Were they visible to you in the back seat?”

“I was curious, you know, so I kept glancing back in the mirror. But I heard everything that was said.”

“Tell me what you heard and saw.”

The driver clasped his hands and leaned on the table. The agents had no doubt that he had very little difficulty describing what he saw. And he obviously didn’t care who was in the room to hear it.

“I could hear them rustling around back there, laughing. Then the guy says, ‘No underwear. I like women who plan ahead.’ Then a few minutes later the woman is kind of moaning and he whispers to her, but I could hear.”

“What did you hear,” Skinner asked, his voice seemingly void of interest.

“He says she’s wet. Very wet.”

Skinner avoided looking directly at Scully, but he saw her shift slightly in the chair. He knew it wasn’t the nature of the questioning that was bothering her, but that the subject in question was her partner.

“Is the woman objecting in any way?”

“Nope.”

Skinner nodded for him to continue.

“It was kind of quiet back there. They were whispering, or rather he was.”

“What was he saying?”

“Just asking her if it felt good, if, you know, that was the right spot. Then … well, she was pretty verbal when he made her come. Want me to go on?”

<No. I want to put my hands around your throat and squeeze until that shit-faced sneer is gone!>

“Yes, go on,” Skinner said calmly.

“I looked up and then only the guy was visible in my mirror. From what he was saying, I knew the girl had gone down on him.”

“So she was giving him a blow job?” Skinner asked matter-of-factly.

“Pretty obvious. Yeah.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, I heard his pants unzip for one. Now he’s the one moaning and plus, I can hear her sucking him.”

Scully showed no reaction, her outward demeanor strictly professional, but on the inside she was feeling nauseous. She caught Skinner glance at her once or twice, but how much he knew this was bothering her was only a guess. Scully knew that Skinner was keeping a tight restraint on his own emotions. Although she was churning inside, she was impressed at his cool.

The driver spoke again, eager to continue on. “We had reached the park, but they weren’t ready to get out of the cab yet. The guy tells me to go around the block again. So I did and I could hear the woman speeding up, talking to him a little bit, encouraging him. Finally the guy jerks off.”

“Did he say anything?”

“Yeah, when he jerked off, he called out her name. Or I thought it was her name, a nickname.”

“What name? Skinner asked, suddenly more curious.

The driver thought a minute, then remembered. “Scully. Like that baseball announcer.”

Skinner instinctively cut his eyes at Scully, whom he could tell was stunned, even though she tried to mask her expression from the witness. Scully’s eyes met Skinner’s and they each saw the first real sign of fear there.

“Go on,” Skinner said dully.

“The girl asked him who he was talking about and he kind of laughed and said it was just a sexual fantasy he was experiencing. And then, you know, we got to the park. The guy paid me and they got out and walked through the gates. That’s all I know.”

“She went with him willingly?” Skinner asked pointedly.

Scully suddenly realized Skinner’s direction of questioning. She clenched her jaw, trying to hide her displeasure. Her only question during the interview was directed to her boss.

“Can I see you outside for a minute?”

Skinner shut off the recorder. “Mr. Venetti, I think that’s all we have for now. If you think of anything else, please let us know,” he said, handing him his card.

The two agents walked across the hall and into an empty room, shutting the door. Skinner could see right away how frightened and confused Scully seemed. He was soon to realize there was anger there as well.

“Sir, this interrogation sounds like you’re headed in the direction of proving it wasn’t a rape. But you believe Mulder had sex with that girl!”

“Scully —”

“Whoever listens to that tape is going to realize that you have doubts!”

“I don’t have doubts! I’m —”

“And what if Mulder hears it! He’s already scared to death and worried that when all this evidence starts coming out against him, we’ll back down. You’re proving that now!”

“Listen to me and listen good!” he said harshly. “The purpose is to poke holes in anything and everything we can. If we start by weakening the rape accusation, then before you know it we’ll have a confession that he’s not even the right guy!”

“What’s the purpose in proving consent! Just because the driver claims the woman consented to sex in the car doesn’t give any man the right to force himself on her later on. It’s not an invitation to rape.”

“Come on, Scully. Use common sense! There’s a huge discrepancy here. What jury is going to believe that a woman allows a guy to go between her legs, then gives the guy a blow job in a taxi, then willingly goes with this stranger she just met to a deserted park, and ultimately decides she doesn’t want intercourse! Does that sound logical to you? What I’m saying is that if this driver is telling the truth, how believable is the charge of rape? There is no rape.”

“Then how do you explain that she was beaten?”

Skinner didn’t answer yet, and it angered Scully all the more.

She snapped at him. “I choose to believe that Mulder did not do any of those things! And yet you seemed to ask the questions that led down that very path!”

“Then how do you frame the questioning, Scully? Do I not point out that it didn’t sound like she was being forced from the beginning?”

Scully sat wearily on the edge of a table. What she had heard had put terrible pictures in her head. She discovered that even lies could bring her immense pain. Skinner took a deep breath and braced himself for what he was about to tell her.

“Scully, I believe Mulder was drugged. It might have been cocaine, or crack, or any type of hallucinogen which could have caused something to happen.”

He saw her shocked look, but he went on. “Something that Mulder never would have done otherwise. I told you that I absolutely believe he didn’t rape that girl.”

Now she understood what he was saying and she felt like someone was tying her stomach into a knot.

“But you think it’s possible that Mulder was with her, that it got out of control, but that he shouldn’t be held responsible for some kind of drug-induced psychosis?”

“I think it’s possible, yes. And I also believe 100 percent that he’s telling the truth about what he remembers, or doesn’t remember. Even if he did this, he may never remember it.”

“Sir, I think that with some kind of mind-altering drug, Mulder could make advances to a woman and have sex with her. But I cannot believe for even one second that he would beat her up.”

“I don’t either. Do you want to hear what I think?”

She nodded reluctantly, hating to see any relevance in what he was saying.

<God, please wake me up from this nightmare.>

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 4-19)

Skinner tried to make his voice as soothing as possible. “If Mulder was drugged, and if he had sex with that girl, then I think the setup continues with someone else beating her. I think he was led up to a point where whoever did this knew he wouldn’t go that far. For the sake of argument, let’s say it happened. He was drugged, maybe he drank some alcohol and can’t remember. Whatever, he wasn’t himself. The girl, who is part of this, comes on to him.”

“Mulder’s not that easily manipulated. I’ve seen women come on to him before.”

“You’ve seen him react after he’s been drugged?”

When Scully couldn’t answer, he continued. “She probably came on pretty strong, Dana. But the question is, did ‘she’ even know what she was doing? There are two possibilities. Either she had a job to do and probably was being paid a hell of a lot of money, or she was drugged and manipulated into making advances on your partner. Either way, she picked him up and they had sex.”

Hearing those words, Scully felt her heart being pierced. Skinner saw that she was shaken and he felt for her, but they had to start somewhere in figuring out what happened.

Skinner went on. “According to the cab driver, it was mutual between the two of them. But here’s where your partner is taken out of the picture. Mulder passes out, and maybe the girl does too. It makes more sense that they’re both drugged. Look at her background. It seems out of character for her as well. But then someone else comes in and beats her. When she wakes up, naturally she believes that the man she went to the park with was the one who assaulted her. She’s still got his ID, so it’s not hard to find him. She’s pissed at the brutality, so she screams rape.”

Scully rubbed her eyes. Her mind refused to accept the visions she saw of Mulder and the girl. But there was something she was holding back that she wasn’t prepared to tell Skinner. She couldn’t reveal the effect that large amounts of alcohol had on Mulder’s memory. Scully had been witness to two separate occasions when Mulder’s consumption of alcohol prevented him from even ‘remembering’ that he drank alcohol, let alone remembering what he did under the influence.

So she wondered if maybe it was more the alcohol than the drug mixture that contributed to his memory loss. Or perhaps the combination helped to create a completely different personality in Fox Mulder. The possibilities were looking more and more dire.

Skinner saw the pain in her face. “It’s just one theory, Scully. But if we exclude everything for the sake of only believing he had nothing to do with it at all, then we may help convict him.”

“Sir, have you considered what will happen to Mulder if he has to admit that he may have done this?”

“Scully, as much as it hurts you — and don’t bullshit me, I know it does hurt — we’re only talking about consensual sex. Regardless of whether he was drugged or not, or whether he remembers or not, it was still just consensual sex …”

<Just>

“… because I totally agree with you that Mulder could not have hurt her. But there’s another angle the police may have, especially with the theory we’ve just posed. If Mulder is enticed by a drug to commit sex with a stranger, could another drug have been given him to induce violence?”

Scully pushed up hard from the table and started to brush by him. “I can’t believe you’re saying this to me!”

Skinner caught her by the arm and spun her around more forcefully than he intended. He saw her surprised look.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. But if you turn away from me instead of helping me anticipate the questions the police might ask, then you might as well kiss Mulder goodbye for good. You’re of no help to him then.”

Skinner saw her eyes close slowly, having one more devastating possibility to consider, one she realized she had pushed out of her own mind. She felt Skinner’s hand lightly on her shoulder.

“We must consider every possibility, no matter how difficult or revolting. It’s what Mulder would expect us to do. Dana, we have to show him that we’re not afraid to uncover the truth, because at the base of that truth is the man we know as Fox Mulder.”

He waited until Scully looked up into his eyes before he went on. “There’s more I need to say to you. But not here. Much of this discussion needs to be with Mulder present. It’s going to be hell, we know that, but more than ever, Dana, we all need to be totally open and honest.”

“This is going to kill him, sir.”

“That’s why it’s vital that we’re standing next to him. My initial belief has not changed. Whatever happened, it is not his fault.”

Scully’s cell phone rang. She hesitated, considering Skinner’s words, then answered the phone. “Scully.”

“Scully, it’s me. I’ll be through here in about 20 minutes. Can you pick me up?” His voice was strained.

“Yes, of course.”

“And Scully … who the hell put up this bond!”

“Mulder, I’m on my way,” she said refusing to answer his question right then. She put her phone back in her coat and turned to Skinner. “Are you coming?”

“Yes. The three of us need to talk. The sooner the better.”

Scully put her hand on his arm. “Wait just a second, sir. There’s something I need to tell you,” she said, her voice trailing off.

Skinner frowned. “What is it, Scully?”

She hesitated, taking a deep breath. “About how alcohol affects Agent Mulder.”

--

GEORGETOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT 5:55 p.m.

The cold rain fell heavier. Scully and Skinner were waiting in the lobby of the police department. The door opened and Mulder walked in. He had showered and shaved, but he still looked like hell. He nodded to Skinner, then looked over at Scully, raising his eyebrows and questioning how she would confront him. Scully instantly opened her arms and Mulder embraced her, shutting his eyes and pressing his cheek against her hair. Scully felt his arms tighten and she pulled him even closer. Skinner stood quietly, never having seen this kind of exchange between his agents, but knowing it existed. Finally, when they broke away, both men saw Scully blink back tears. Mulder faced both of them.

“How did I get out?” he asked.

Scully glanced at Skinner, who put his hands in his coat pocket. “Mrs. Scully and I split the bond. Mulder, don’t look like that. Unless you bolt, we’ll get it back.”

“You didn’t need to do that.”

“It’s done,” Skinner answered flatly.

“Scully, how much does your mother know?”

“Do you think I had to talk her into this? That it wasn’t her idea?” Scully asked him, ending the question.

Mulder turned to Skinner. “Thank you, sir. I never expected —”

“I owe you more than this. For all the times you’ve saved my ass.”

Mulder forced a smile and they headed out of the building, quickening their pace as they stepped into the pouring rain. They had started down the steps of the police building when suddenly a man came out of nowhere, charging into Mulder and knocking him hard into the iron railing. His chest impacted with the metal bar, knocking the wind from him as he fought to stay on his feet. Before Skinner could get a firm grip on the man, he had hit Mulder again. His lip split open, spraying blood across the steps and he fell to the ground. Then Skinner had the stranger by the arm, twisting it behind him and pulling his handcuffs out of his waist. Scully helped Mulder up, seeing that he was stunned and wheezing, still trying to get his breath.

Finally Mulder took a gulp of air and saw who his attacker was. Scully also recognized who the man was before he started screaming at Mulder.

“YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH! YOU THINK BEING A FEDERAL OFFICER IS GOING TO GET YOU OFF!”

Before Scully or Skinner realized what was happening, Mulder lunged for the man, but Skinner was between them. As Mulder fought to get to the man, Skinner tried to push Mulder away with one arm while holding the stranger back with the other. Scully grabbed Mulder’s arm and the back of his shirt, also trying to pull him back.

Skinner was totally confused. “Who are you!” he demanded.

“I’m the uncle of the girl he destroyed!” The man turned his rage on Mulder once again. “HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF!” he yelled, his face red, his fists clenched and his whole body shaking with rage.

Mulder continued to struggle out of Scully’s grasp. “YOU’RE A FUCKING LIAR!” Mulder screamed as more blood dripped from his mouth. “YOU’RE PART OF THIS!”

“MULDER!” Scully yelled, pulling harder and still getting resistance.

Skinner turned awkwardly to Mulder. “Back off, Agent Mulder! NOW!”

Mulder hesitated only an instant. He didn’t back off, he just stopped struggling against Scully, which allowed her to jerk him away from Skinner and the man. Seeing that Mulder had succumbed to the force of his partner, the officer tried once again to get past Skinner. The AD shoved him roughly against the step railing.

“Swing at him again and I’ll put you under arrest!” Skinner threatened.

Scully hurried Mulder down the sidewalk, past onlookers who had stopped to see what was going on. A few seconds later, Skinner was beside them, opening the car door. Scully got in front with Skinner. When they had quickly pulled away from the jail, Skinner looked up in the rear view mirror, making eye contact with Mulder.

“What the hell was that all about!”

Scully was watching her partner as he slumped against the back seat and shook his head. When Skinner heard no answer, he looked over at Scully to see if she might have some clue. But he could tell she was just as baffled.

Scully turned to Mulder, reaching over the seat to hand him a tissue for his mouth. “Are you okay? You’re really bleeding.”

“Just my lip. It’ll be okay,” he lied in a muffled voice against the tissue. His partner was concerned enough. He didn’t need to tell her that he had felt something crack in his chest when he hit the railing, and now he was in tremendous pain and short of breath.

Scully addressed Skinner. “Let’s just order Chinese from my place instead of stopping.”

“Good idea,” the AD answered.

Scully looked back at Mulder again to see him staring silently out the window. She could tell he was a million miles away. Words were an intrusion into his thoughts, and she could offer little comfort anyway, so she remained silent.

--

7:30 p.m. Dana Scully’s Apartment

The three agents carried on small talk while they ate dinner. Both agents noticed that Mulder hardly touched his food. His lip had swelled, and along with his black eye, he looked like he had picked a fight with George Foreman. But the more serious injury to his rib he had been able to hide. So far.

Scully went into the kitchen to make some coffee. Mulder went to the fireplace and put another log on the fire. Skinner didn’t miss noticing how comfortable Mulder was in Scully’s apartment.

<Well, it has been seven years.>

He often wondered many things about his two special agents and now he had the opportunity to see sides of them they only revealed to each other. But they realized they needed to bring Skinner into their world, to make him understand how they worked together. When Scully finally came back in with a tray holding the coffees, Mulder sat on the sofa next to her, Skinner in an armchair opposite both of them.

“Mulder, is there anything more you’ve remembered about the other night?” Skinner asked.

“No. That’s all I’ve thought about. There’s just nothing after I got in the cab.”

“Let’s go back a little, to the bar. Do you recall a young woman sitting at the bar?”

He shook his head. “There probably were several women at the bar, but I just don’t recall any one of them specifically.”

“Mulder…you’re a pretty good looking guy.”

“Thanks, sir, but I’m taken,” he kidded lightly, winking at Scully who forced a smile.

Then Scully saw it again, that pensive look he gave without realizing she noticed, that caused him to look down at his hands and purse his lips. Scully watched him closely, wondering if there might be some spark of memory after all. She didn’t want to think about which parts he might be recalling.

She looked closely for the reaction to her question. “I find it a little hard to believe that not one woman in that bar made any advances toward you.”

Mulder thought a minute, then looked up. But his expression was again unreadable. “There was one woman who asked if she could buy me a drink. I said no, and she left.”

“What did she look like?” Skinner asked.

“She looked like … I don’t know. A girl in a bar,” he said shortly.

“Describe her,” said Scully.

Her tone of voice surprised him and she saw it reflected on his face.

“Well, tall, slender, long black hair, about mid-twenties, maybe. Not exactly dressed for a cold night,” he said with a shrug.

Mulder saw the two agents look at each other and he knew what they were thinking.

“That’s her, isn’t it?” Mulder asked. “That’s the one I supposedly raped.”

Mulder and Scully exchanged quick glances. Skinner cleared his throat. “You don’t seem very surprised.”

Mulder stood up and closed his eyes, letting his head roll back.

“Mulder …” started Scully.

“Why would it be anyone else? She’s the only one I talked to.” Then he said softly, more to himself than his two friends, “I should have known.”

Both Skinner and Scully shared the same confusion over Mulder’s remark. They looked at each other, trying to gauge whether the other of them might have a clue as to what he meant by that.

Mulder sat back and took a deep quivering breath. “What do you make of this, sir, Scully?” he asked, as if fearing their answers.

Skinner shot a glance at Scully. “We have a theory. Actually, there are a couple of possibilities.”

“So you have some evidence?”

“Yes,” Skinner answered. “Have you been told what forensic evidence has been gathered?”

“Not yet. The attorney was getting that today and said he’d call me tomorrow.”

Skinner looked at Scully, relaying to her that this was her area of expertise. She picked up the conversation. “I was given a copy of your physical exam.” Scully caught Mulder’s glance at Skinner, realizing that he was uncomfortable with what he expected from the findings.

She again went into professional mode, which is what she knew her partner would expect from her. “There were scratches on your back and some bruising on your left shoulder as well as the knuckles of your right hand. There was also quite a bit of bruising in the area of your testicles, and the physician’s evaluation concluded that you were probably kicked repeatedly.”

Mulder showed no reaction but he didn’t look away from his partner. Scully went on.

“I was also allowed access to the evidence they gathered both from you and the victim. They took skin scrapings from under her nails and of course blood from both of you to see if it was her blood on your underwear. It was. Your blood alcohol was just over the legal limit.”

Hardly able to comprehend the words he was hearing, Mulder shook his head.

“Mulder, they also got semen from her underwear and inside her vagina.”

Mulder found it hard to read Scully’s expression, but her voice betrayed how difficult this was for her. She was trying to be professional, detached.

“The DNA test will take about ten days,” she added.

“It’s not mine,” Mulder said flatly.

“There is only one way to explain how it got there if it is yours.”

Mulder’s eyes widened in surprise. “How can you even say that to me!”

“Mulder,” interrupted Skinner, “if this is a rape set up, the hardest evidence to plant would be semen residue, yours. It would be virtually impossible. Blood can be obtained anywhere by the slightest prick of a needle, but semen is totally different. Knowing that, how could this set up possibly work without them somehow being able to provide your specimen? Why go to all this trouble to have it all be blown out of the water when the DNA comes back?”

Mulder narrowed his eyes and when he looked at Scully, she looked away. Skinner was staring at a spot on the table.

“What else?” Mulder asked. “What is it you’re not telling me?”

He saw his partner and his boss exchange glances, and somehow their silent communication determined that Scully would answer him.

“There weren’t any drugs found in your body. Only alcohol.”

Mulder experienced a multitude of emotions in a brief instant: shock, confusion, disbelief, anger. Most disturbing of all was that the two people sitting at the table with him, the two friends he trusted most in the world, didn’t know what to say. They hadn’t jumped in with explanations.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “Are you telling me you don’t think this is a set up? That I really raped that girl!”

“We believe it was definitely a set up,” Skinner admitted.

“But …? Mulder prompted. He didn’t miss the exchange of glances between his two friends.

He began to search frantically for answers. “Look, maybe they used some undetectable drug. Something that … don’t FUCKING look at me that way, Scully! If your goddamn strict science won’t allow for that possibility, then get the FUCK out of this investigation!”

She was startled speechless by his sudden rage. Skinner, shaken as well, was able to react more quickly.

“Agent Scully and I have discussed the possibility of an undetectable drug. It’s not that she doesn’t believe it,” he said cutting his eyes at her to see if she had any objection to his speaking for her. “We just don’t know how we’re going to prove it.”

Scully tried to remain calm in the face of his outburst. “Mulder, do you remember a few years ago, when I came to get you at Ellens Air Force Base? Something had been done to you, to your memory. I even found the IV site and puncture wounds to physically prove it. But there was absolutely no trace of anything in your blood work.”

Mulder scrubbed his face with both hands. He was balancing on a tightrope.

Scully picked up her spoon and absently stirred her coffee. “A lot is going to depend on how we explain the toxicology of your blood, if there are any drugs that might dissipate from the alcohol,” Scully answered vaguely.

“I DIDN’T HAVE ANY ALCOHOL!” he snapped.

She forced her voice to be as smooth as silk. “The blood work says you did. That’s what they’ll go on,” she said evenly. Then she took a long, deliberate breath, letting it out slowly, knowing there was no way to temper her next remark. “Mulder, the night I picked you up in the park, I could smell alcohol on your breath.”

He stared daggers into her eyes and Scully felt the piercing pain. But confronting him with knowledge was the only way of obtaining answers.

“So, now I’m a liar,” he said gruffly.

“Did I say that? Have I ever called you a liar? But we’re not talking about alcohol that was spilled on your clothes to make it look like you’d been drinking. It was in your bloodstream, Mulder. Not a lot, but enough.”

Her words hurt her as much as they did him. She could almost see him flinch at the accusation.

Scully tried to soften her words. “You know what alcohol does to you. Maybe you did have a few drinks and maybe it’s the combination of that and whatever drugs you were given that have caused the memory lapse.”

“I see,” Mulder said, containing his anger. “In other words, what happened isn’t my fault, but it happened none-the-less. Both of you think I raped her.”

In tandem, Scully and Skinner shook their heads and answered, “No.” Skinner explained further. “You may have had sex with her. We don’t believe it was rape.”

Mulder was astonished. He left his eyes on Scully until she finally looked up to meet his gaze. “How can you think that?”

“Because you know as well as I do what certain drugs can make you do! Mulder, you almost shot Alex Krycek in cold blood one night.”

“It’s not the same, Scully, and you know it!” he snapped back.

“Mulder,” she said quietly, trying to calm him down, “it was not you who got into that cab.”

Mulder shook his head again. “If I —” he stopped and looked at Skinner.

“Go on,” Skinner said.

Mulder hesitated only an instant. “If I was feeling the way you suggest, then I wouldn’t have picked up a girl in a bar. I would have come here.” He looked his partner in the eye. “I would have come to you.”

Skinner felt like he had walked in on something private and Scully didn’t know quite how to react.

She put her hand on his arm. “But you weren’t thinking like Fox Mulder. That’s what we’re trying to say.”

“And what —? She decided to resist so I beat her up and had sex with her anyway! Is that what I did on some kind of drug!”

“No,” Skinner said sharply. “Whoever set you up in the first place was responsible for the assault. We suspect that you probably passed out after having sex, and so did the girl. Someone else beat her up to make it look like you. It’s perfect, Mulder. If the forensics turns out to show you did have sex with her, then who in the world would believe the story we just suggested. But we know who we’re dealing with where the X-Files are concerned. This is exactly something they’d do.” Skinner explained.

In a voice lowered to a mere whisper, Mulder leaned toward Skinner. “And would you like to be the one to explain to such worldly sophisticates as the Georgetown Police Department about the tactics of government men whose aim is to conspire against those who threaten to expose the truth about alien colonization!”

Mulder looked at Scully, who was silent. He saw the pain on her face and wished he could melt right into the floor.

“I can’t believe you think I might have had sex with that girl. Have you even considered the possibility that she’s lying?”

Mulder caught the furtive glance between Skinner and his partner. Then neither of them made eye contact with him.

“What else are you not telling me?” he asked harshly.

Skinner took a non-verbal clue from Scully that it was his turn to answer him. “Mulder, the girl described a scar on your leg, running from the top of your thigh to almost your groin.”

Mulder’s eyes went instantly to Scully, who looked like she could be knocked over with a feather. Aside from the implications of the girl’s statement, he knew the case in Raleigh had terrible memories for Scully. Having just lost her father, she was more emotional and vulnerable than he had ever seen her. She never should have been on the case. But if she hadn’t, Mulder would probably have died. She responded to the sound of gunfire that night to find her partner down, bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound to his upper femur. Frantically, she applied pressure both to the gaping wound, and the pressure point in his groin, trying to slow the flow of blood, while hearing Mulder screaming in pain and begging Scully to stop. It was one of the worst nights of her life. The injury required the surgeons to cut open the wound from mid-thigh all the way up his leg in order to repair the shattered bone. Scully was the only one outside the medical personnel who had seen the extent of the damage to Mulder’s leg. After he was released, she continued to care for him, cleaning the wound and changing the dressing. It had been a turning point in their relationship, considering they both had to get past the fact that the sutures extended into a very private area of his body.

Mulder seemed to read every thought in her head. He shook his head in disgust, but offered no explanation.

“Who interviewed the cab driver?” he asked bluntly.

“Director Skinner,” Scully said quickly, throwing a warning glance at her boss.

“I want to hear about it.”

“Mulder …” started Skinner.

“I have a right to hear one of my accusers. I want to know what I did. I have to know.”

Skinner looked at Scully, who nodded reluctantly.

“All right,” the AD said, “but let me make a copy of the tape and I’ll give one to you tomorrow. I’m going on home and make some notes, call some people. I’ll see both of you in the morning,” he said, standing wearily.

Mulder walked him to the door, then stepped outside in the hall with him, closing the door behind him.

“Sir, how is Agent Scully dealing with all this?”

“She’s scared for you.”

“But … what else?”

“It hurts, Mulder. What do you think? Very candid questions have to be asked. The answers are not pretty. But she is on your side 200 percent, and so am I.”

Skinner watched him lean heavily against the door. “Maybe hearing the interview with the cab driver will spark something in your memory.”

“I don’t want Scully hearing all this. It makes this ten times harder. The less she knows, the better.”

Skinner started to admit that Scully was there, but then only nodded in agreement. His agent had had enough for one night.

Mulder touched him on the sleeve. “Thank you again, sir. I don’t know what to say other than that.”

“Nothing more needs to be said. I’m sorry this is happening to you. I’m sorry for a lot of things that have happened to you.”

Mulder nodded and forced a smile to show his appreciation. He saw Skinner hesitate, a gesture he recognized as a prelude to asking a difficult question.

“Mulder, I need to ask you one more thing. And I don’t want to explain right now why I’m asking it. But I need you to tell me the truth,” he said, looking hard into apprehensive hazel eyes.

“What’s the question?”

“Are you and Scully having sex?”

Mulder was caught off guard, never expecting Skinner to question his relationship with his partner. He expelled a deep breath and shook his head. “No, sir.”

“Have you had sex at any time since you’ve been partners?”

Mulder leveled his eyes at him. “No.”

“Foreplay?”

“Jesus ….”

“Mulder …?”

“NO,” he said sharply.

Hazel eyes locked with brown. Skinner thought he knew Mulder well enough to detect whether he was telling the truth. But there was nothing he could read in Mulder’s expression.

“No, sir. We haven’t had sex of any kind,” he said softly, but distinctly.

Skinner was dismayed to discover he felt a hint of uncertainty in Mulder’s denial.

Mulder expected to see relief on his AD’s face, but he was puzzled when he detected just the opposite. Before he could question it, Skinner took two steps backwards.

“We’ll talk tomorrow. You and Scully get some sleep.”

As Skinner walked down the hallway, Mulder wondered if he realized the irony in his last statement.

<He knows I’m lying.>

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 5 of 19)

8:25 p.m.

When Mulder walked back into Scully’s apartment, he found her seated quietly on the sofa. She had turned off all the lamps but one and lit two purple and white candles on the coffee table. The bright fire crackled and popped, and the wind was beginning to howl outside the windows. The darkened room was warm and cozy, and he wished he didn’t feel the heavy burden of despair that practically consumed him.

He saw that Scully had poured him another cup of coffee. He sat beside her, not knowing what to say next. Finally, he felt her hand on his arm, her delicate fingers running lightly along his sensitive skin.

“Mulder, I want to talk to you about something.”

He stiffened, hearing the tone in her voice.

“And where I’m coming from, partly, is a science background, experience.”

He nodded, understanding, and she went on.

“Ever since the bombing in Dallas, you and I have had our relationship redefined. We’ve grown very close. The first moment that ever expressed how we felt about each other was in your hallway, when we almost kissed.”

Mulder groaned and shut his eyes, trying to block out the sudden horror of everything that transpired in the seconds after their lips brushed each other.

“Mulder, I know you can’t talk about all that. You have it all locked inside of you, eating away at you, and all I know is that the nightmares still haven’t gone away. But with all that’s happened with us, we still maintain boundaries. And I can’t speak for you, but at times, I just …” she stopped and Mulder saw her eyes tear up, her lip quivering.

“Scully …” he said softly, putting his hand on her knee.

“There are times I need you in more ways than just a partner … or a friend. I am, after all, a woman,” she said with a sad smile.

He realized what she was saying and he was surprised that she had admitted it to him. He was speechless, and listened closely.

“We crossed the line, Mulder. Just a few weeks ago —” She stopped, not needing to remind him.

“Do you regret that?” he asked, anxiously.

“No, no. But I’m scared to ruin what we have. I’ve wondered whether you feel the same way.” She saw him shaking his head, and she continued. “But then I know you feel that way. You risked everything to find me. So I know, Mulder. And that means you must have the same frustration and needs that I have at times.”

Scully’s finger traced up his arm, toying absently with a fold in his sleeve. He was momentarily distracted until she started speaking again.

“Awhile back, I started to wonder if maybe our denial of certain things might finally be hurting us instead of protecting us.”

“Say what you mean,” he said bluntly, suddenly sensing that he would not like where she was going with all this.

“It’s human nature to need sexual contact. When two people are together as much as we are, in compromising situations — a lonely stakeout, a long, empty stretch of road, a deserted house, a hotel room — and given the depth of our feelings, it is unnatural to adhere to limits. Eventually it becomes unhealthy. Do you see the paradox? That in trying to be ‘good’ and go by the book, and pretend that we’ve got all our emotions under control, we are actually breaking down.”

He was hearing the truth in everything she said. How many times had he thought exactly the same things.

“Now listen carefully. A hallucinogenic drug often exacerbates that trait in a person, which is lacking, or unfulfilled. In other words, someone who’s been on a diet for a long time, maybe they take a drug and go on an eating binge; or someone who is lonely and insecure will suddenly be dancing with everyone at the party.”

Mulder broke in harshly. “And someone who’s sexually repressed will attack an innocent woman in the park?”

“No, not attack. But maybe, with the help of the drug, his restraints, which he hates in the first place, are gone. He is allowed to satisfy his desires without the benefit of guilt or even common sense. It’s a welcomed respite. A purely physical release.”

“Is that how you describe ‘rape’ in scientific terms? The third person narrative added a nice touch, too.” He saw her blink slowly at his brash sarcasm. “Is that what you think happened to me? My sexual drive was so bottled up that it just —” He couldn’t help but laugh dolefully. “Excuse the pun — blew? You don’t think that as I felt the change, I would have jumped in my car, or grabbed the first cab and come to the very source of that repression? You. But I didn’t. I went off with a stranger?”

“There is no absolute logic to this. I’m not talking about you rationalizing. I’m talking about an instinct that was motivated by drugs.”

Mulder leveled his eyes at her. “There weren’t any drugs in my system. Remember, Scully?” His voice was colder than she was used to.

“There were no drugs detected in your system,” she emphasized.

“Oh cut the crap!” he shouted. “Why don’t you just admit that you and Skinner believe that I had a few drinks and when the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it! Or should I say, grabbed her ?”

“Because we don’t believe that! The voice mail from Skinner—”

“There is no proof of any phone call from Skinner that night! You have to take my word for that!”

“Your word is good enough for me.”

“Oh, really,” he said sarcastically. “Since when?”

Scully flinched as if he’d pinched her. “Mulder, don’t do this.”

“Why don’t you just be fucking honest with me!”

“I’m always fucking honest with you!” she threw back. How many times have I openly disagreed with you! More times than you’d like to admit, even though two seconds ago you did just that!”

Mulder wasn’t used to being bested in an argument, even though he knew his partner was more than capable of it. But it still made him angry.

Mulder stood up quickly from the sofa, gritting his teeth at the pain in his ribs from the sudden movement. But he had his back to Scully, so she didn’t notice. He walked over to stand in front of the fireplace. Suddenly he had never felt so tired in all his life. He rubbed his eyes, put both arms up on the mantel and leaned against them, staring into the dancing flames.

Scully felt her energy draining. She felt like she had been holding Mulder up the last 24 hours — trying to be positive and supportive. But she couldn’t take on his anger. She didn’t have the strength it took right now to settle him down.

They stayed in their own space for several minutes, not speaking. Their thoughts were on each other, but they were too confused to verbalize.

After the long agonizing silence, Mulder turned again to face his partner. Flashes of memory assaulted him. He had found this woman at the end of the world and brought her home — brought her back to him. Any other woman would not have survived. But Scully was strong, determined. Yet now, as he watched her, watching him, he saw her vulnerability like a tangible aura. He realized he was taking his frustration out on her and he was truly sorry.

“Scully, if it were you telling this story, it would be tearing me up. I can’t even imagine what it’s doing to you.”

“It’s hard,” she said softly. “I never realized it could be this hard.”

He walked back over to her, sitting closer to her, putting his hand on her cheek. But she pulled away.

“Mulder, you need to go,” she said, her voice unsteady.

“Your being with me now is only reminding you of me being with her isn’t it?”

He saw the pain cross her face and he wanted to die. “Scully, I have no memory of being with that girl. The only person I’ve even kissed with any affection in years, is you. If part of the reason you’re hurting is that I didn’t come to you the night I ended up in the park, then it’s because, like you said, it wasn’t Fox Mulder. It was Mr. Hyde. And if I was Mr. Hyde, then I did beat that girl. And I never, ever want Mr. Hyde to be with you.”

She blinked slowly and a tear slid down her cheek. Again, Mulder slowly touched her hair, but she leaned away a second time.

“Scully, please, especially now, don’t pull away from me.”

“I just need some time alone. I’m not pulling away from you. I’m just very tired. And you need to get some sleep.”

He knew there was nothing he could say. He felt defeated, like he had just fallen overboard and the ship was sailing away, leaving him alone in a cold, dark sea. He wanted so desperately to put things back where they had been. But it couldn’t’ be done. Not tonight.

Slowly he stood and picked up his coat. “Is it okay if I call your mother? I want to thank her.”

“Of course.”

He walked to the door and Scully stayed on the couch. He turned and looked at her for a long time, and she kept her gaze on him. In the shadowed light of the fire, he could see the sparkle of tears in her eyes.

“Scully … I love you,” he whispered. Then he opened the door and was gone.

She sank into the cushions of the sofa and began to cry.

--

MARGARET SCULLY’S RESIDENCE 10:10 p.m.

Margaret Scully answered her phone just as she was getting ready to get into bed.

“Hello.”

There was a brief pause. “Mrs. Scully, it’s Fox Mulder.”

Mulder braced himself. He wasn’t sure what to expect. He thought he heard a sigh of relief.

“Fox! Thank god you called. I’ve been so worried about you.”

He was more relieved than he ever thought possible under the circumstances.

“Mrs. Scully, I … don’t even know what to say. I wanted to come by, but —”

“Where are you now?”

“I’m on my way home. I just left Dana’s.”

“Why don’t you come by now? I’d like to talk to you.”

“Are you sure? I know it’s late —”

“Fox, I know how uncomfortable you are with this. I can hear it in your voice. That’s why I want to talk to you. I have a feeling you need to talk.”

She heard him pause again. The reassurance in her voice almost made him break down.

“Yes, ma’am, I do,” he said softly.

“I’ll put some tea on. Drive carefully. It’s starting to snow.”

“I’ll be there in about ten minutes.”

--

10:25 p.m.

He was apprehensive all over again when he pulled into the driveway. She opened the door almost immediately when he knocked, so he knew she heard him pull up. She hadn’t bothered to get dressed again, so she was wearing a thick burgundy-colored wool robe with matching slippers. The minute she made eye contact with Mulder, she saw his apprehension. Instantly, she pulled him into the warm house and put her arms around him. He hadn’t expected it, and he needed it so much. He wished he could have felt that from his partner as he left her apartment. Maggie felt his need, as he tightly wrapped his arms around her, and sagged just a little, succumbing to the comfort he so desperately needed, while trying to ignore the slicing pain in his chest. She let him stay that way for a long time before he finally stepped away from her. She took him by the elbow and led him into the living room.

Let’s go sit by the fire. Your hands are cold. Get comfortable and I’ll get the tea.”

He sat in a wingback chair in front of the fire. When Maggie came in with the tray, he quickly rose and took it from her, setting it on a small table between his chair and another matching chair, which she sat in. As she handed him the cup and saucer, she saw his hand trembling.

<God, what he must be going through.>

Maggie stared into the fire, the closeness with Mulder stirring old memories. She smiled. “Dana’s father and I used to sit here together when there were things to talk out, decisions to be made. A crackling fire seemed to calm his mood.”

Mulder knew she was opening the door for him. When she sat back and gave him her full attention, he began. “Mrs. Scully, I’m so sorry for all of this. When Skinner told me you helped put up the bond money, I was stunned. I still am. I don’t know why you would do that.”

“I had my reasons, just as Director Skinner did. Besides, I can afford it more than Dana, and she was on her way to the bank.”

She could tell by the expression on his face that he was struggling with his composure.

“I don’t even know how to talk about this. I’m so ashamed,” he said softly.

“Did you do it, Fox?”

Her direct question was a hard blow and Maggie saw him instantly pale. Before he could answer, she leaned forward, putting her hand on his knee. “Of course you didn’t,” she answered for him. “So why in the world should you be ashamed?”

“You’ve talked to Dana?”

“After you were released, yes. And briefly this evening.”

“Mrs. Scully, Dana and Director Skinner suspect that something happened. I swear to you that I didn’t rape that girl. I barely remember seeing her in the bar.”

“Fox —”

“Hear me out, please. They are convinced that I was drugged; that’s why I can’t remember anything. But the drugs may have contributed to … being with that girl and not being myself.”

“What are you saying, Fox?”

He looked over at the fire and she could see the cup and saucer still shaking slightly in his hand. He looked back over at her when he heard her put her cup on the table. He was surprised when she reached over and took his cup and saucer from him, also setting them on the table. Then she took both of his hands in hers.

“Fox, honey, listen to me.”

Her kind voice hit a nerve with him and he felt his control slipping even more. She saw it instantly in his face and held his hands even tighter.

“You need to be frank and honest with all of us who are close to you. We need to know what you’re thinking and feeling. That’s the only way we can all help each other with this terrible incident. I’m a Navy wife,” she said with a smile, “so I’m about as tough as they come. I want you to speak candidly with me. If you want to show your appreciation for helping you get out of jail, then open up to me, allow me to be there for you. Trust me.”

She knew those words were the link between him and her daughter. Mulder bent his head, and the tears began to fall. Too much had happened too quickly. He already felt alienated from the woman he needed most in the world, a woman he was hurting terribly. Maggie knew all this. She knew how overwhelmed he was. He looked up at her and she saw him drowning in pain.

“Mrs. Scully, I may have been with that girl. I may have done things. I can’t even explain what things. But Dana and Skinner believe they will find proof that I was with her. They don’t believe I hurt her, that I probably passed out and whoever set me up, then hurt her. But trying to prove that is going to be almost impossible. I know this. These people are too good at these things. If they want me to go to prison for the rest of my life, then I probably will.”

“You must have faith in your friends. You and Dana have beaten almost impossible odds before.”

“Yes, but this time I feel that her heart isn’t in it. She’s devastated by all this. And no matter what she says, she must be wondering if there is just some inkling of memory that I have. I can tell you most definitely that there is not. But it doesn’t matter what I think.”

“How Dana feels today, doesn’t reflect how she’ll feel tomorrow. This has been a shock to both of you — all of us. You need time to step back and figure out where to go from here.”

Mulder looked at her quietly for a minute. “Did you talk to her after I left her apartment?”

“Yes. She called me right after you left.”

“She was upset.”

“Yes, Fox. She was very upset.”

“Was she crying?” he asked, needing to know.

Margaret paused, then nodded. She saw fresh pain cross Mulder’s face. He put his head in his hands. “She doesn’t deserve this.”

“Neither of you do. Fox, Dana called me because she was worried about you. She knew you felt her distancing herself and she felt miserable for it. She’s confused, just as you are, but you’re both in a different place with this.”

He was shaking his head and she again put her hand over his.

“She knew that if you stayed and saw her pain, it would be worse for you. She just needed to adjust, get stronger, so she could help you.”

“I’m not sure I want Dana involved in this.”

“Now wait a minute, Fox.”

“If this situation were any different, I wouldn’t feel this way. But …” he stopped, not knowing how to explain without bringing up personal feelings he had. But Maggie was too attuned.

“If you and Dana were strictly partners, if you didn’t feel the way you do about each other, then there wouldn’t be these emotional complications, would there?”

He was silent.

“How are you going to stop her, Fox?”

He nodded, knowing she was right. Maggie was direct with him. “Tell me what you’re thinking. I asked you to be straight with me. I can’t help my daughter either if you hold things back.”

He hadn’t considered that aspect. He had to agree with her, as difficult as it was to admit the truth.

He took a deep breath. “As part of this investigation, Dana is going to have access to all the sordid details. I can’t even admit or deny anything because I don’t remember a thing. Some of what’s reported may be the truth. It would be different if I could tell Dana that I didn’t do this, or that, but I can’t. So she’ll wonder. And it will be painful to hear these things. I know how I’d feel if I heard them about her.”

“Then maybe she shouldn’t be helping you on this,” she said, reversing roles with him.

“But if she doesn’t, then people are going to ask why my own partner has deserted me. They’ll think one of two things: either she thinks I’m guilty, or there are personal reasons that make it too difficult. As you might guess, there’s been talk for a long time about our relationship.”

“Yes, I can imagine.”

“Well, none of it is true. Nothing has happened that would confirm any of those rumors. No one can possibly know how we feel. They can only speculate.”

“You know that she would never do that, leave you over this.”

He stood up and walked over to the fireplace. Maggie let him think, and talk.

“Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. I look at what I’ve passed up for this crusade.” He turned to face her. “Not long ago, Dana and I were driving somewhere. It was dark, and as we drove through a neighborhood, she asked me something that struck me all of a sudden. She pointed out that behind those lighted windows there were families who were raising kids and dogs, and didn’t I ever think about that kind of life.”

Maggie waited for him to answer his own question.

“I kind of brushed it off, skimmed past it and said something smart, like I usually do when I don’t want to really think about something. But I did think about it later, because I knew it must be on her mind more than she admits to me. And so it’s times like this that I question the struggle.”

He sat back down and his expression took on a disposition of calm. “When I think about another life, a normal job and normal routine, I picture it with Dana. I can’t see it with anyone else. I think about my future, when I’ve retired, and I still see Dana in my life. And … it scares me, Mrs. Scully.”

“Why, Fox?”

“Because I dare to hope and dream,” he said with a slight smile. “Because there has to be more for me, sometime and somewhere, than this. I’m finding it more difficult to cope with the sacrifices I’ve made in my life. And my greatest fear is that something will happen to change what Dana and I have. If that happens, I see no future for myself.”

“Sometimes anticipating and fearing change can be the very catalyst for change. Do you realize that?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Have you ever talked to Dana about these feelings?”

“No.”

“Do you know how she feels?”

“I think I do. She’s more demonstrative than I am. I’m a jerk sometimes; a typical man.”

Maggie smiled. “Dana has talked to me about things, just as you are now. I’m not sure what she would want me to reveal, but I would guess that you’d rather me keep this conversation between us confidential. So I won’t divulge to you what she’s told me. But I can tell you that Dana’s always been the independent one. She’s very kind, and sensitive, but she looks out for herself and if a decision is not in her best interest, no one can persuade her otherwise. But I’ve seen a change in her where you’re concerned. I’ve seen her sacrifice more, question more, and allow herself to get hurt.”

Maggie knew that would hit home with Mulder, but he needed to hear the truth.

“But I’ve also seen her happier than she’s ever been in her life. She loves her job, and she has a friendship with you that is very rare. It has given her hope for the future as well, Fox. That’s about all I can say to you, and I know it’s not much. I’m sure this is not exactly what you wanted to hear, but the fact that Dana is so hurt by this should tell you how she feels about you.”

Mulder reached for his tea and as he sipped it, he thought about Maggie’s words. She allowed him the quiet contemplation. When the tea was half finished, he set the cup down again and leaned forward, his forearms on his knees, and looked deeply into Maggie’s eyes. He felt a familiar link, almost the same blue eyes he was so accustomed to gazing into. When he spoke, his voice was subdued, as if the weight of the world sat on every word.

“Right now, I feel more lost than I’ve ever felt in my life. I hate the thought of what is going to come out of all this. I’d rather be accused of murder. Mrs. Scully, I don’t even know how I’m going to face each day. I’ve always felt secure knowing that Scully was beside me. But now, I don’t want her there because of how much this is going to hurt her. It’s a no win situation for both of us. What should I do?” he asked in quiet desperation.

“Take each day, one at a time. Let Dana guide her own way. Don’t push or pull. As for yourself, have faith, Fox. You are a kind, honest man. You have done a world of good in your lifetime so far, and you will be rewarded for that. Believe it. It may be down the road a ways, but I know in my heart that you will prevail. The people who know you best believe in you, and really, that’s all that counts. They will find the truth that you have dedicated your life to, and it will save you.”

<The truth will save you. I believe it will save both of us.>

When Margaret stood Mulder followed, once again taking her in his arms. As they held each other, she said a silent prayer to give him strength and peace. Then she let him go.

“I can see myself out. Thank you. You have given me more than you can imagine. I will fight, Mrs. Scully, because I won’t let down the people who are standing by me.”

She smiled and watched him walk out of the room.

It was so easy to understand how her daughter could be in love with him.

__________________________

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 6 OF 19)

NEXT DAY 4:35 p.m. Fox Mulder’s Apartment

Mulder had been given paid leave from the Bureau while the investigation was going on. He was spending the day at home, alone, and not talking to anyone. There was a knock at the door and a messenger handed him an envelope. He saw it was from Skinner. When he opened it, he found a mini cassette. Written on the label was ‘Interview with cab driver.’ Taking the tape recorder from under his desk, he put it on the table and put the tape in.

Forty-five minutes later, as the interview came to a close, Mulder sat there, numb with shock. Just as he swore to himself that he would do everything possible to see that Scully never listened to the tape, he heard a female voice at the end of the interview.

Stopping the tape, he sat for a moment, his body suddenly breaking out in a cold sweat. With a quivering finger, he hit REWIND for just a few seconds, turned the volume all the way up, and then played it again.

<Can I see you outside for a minute?>

<Mr. Venetti, I think that’s all we have for now.> We

When the tape ended, Mulder sank back against the chair, the silent hiss of the reel continuing to play in the silent room. He closed his eyes.

<Oh fuck.>

--

SAME DAY 6:02 p.m.

Scully was working at home. She was on her computer, doing a background check on the girl when there was a knock on her door.

“Scully, it’s me,” Mulder said before she could look through the peephole.

She opened the door and without looking at her, he briskly entered

“Mulder, what …?” she said, surprised, as she shut the door.

When he faced her, his eyes were hard, strange. He pulled the cassette out of his pocket and held it up close to her face.

“This is the interview yesterday with the cab driver. Is that your voice at the end of the interview?” His question sounded like an interrogation.

She was silent. She anticipated this reaction when he heard the interview, and the distress was clearly apparent.

“Were you there! Scully!” he asked impatiently.

No response from her. Mulder’s whole body was shaking. “Did you hear what happened in the back seat of that car – what I did! Did you hear all that! Were you there, Scully! Answer me! ANSWER ME DAMMIT!”

“YES!” she finally screamed back at him, not sure whether her anger was because of the content of the interview, or the fact that Mulder made her confess to being there.

Mulder grabbed his head and bent over, as Scully heard his cry of anguish. Her concern for her partner was greater than her own pain and she went to him, but as she touched him, he jerked away from her.

When he stood up, his face was pale, his eyes red-rimmed with worry and lack of sleep.

“I ..am .. so .. sorry,” he stammered.

Scully was overwhelmed by his pain. “Mulder, it’s okay.”

“I did it, didn’t I?”

She didn’t answer him. His voice broke into a strangled cry and he staggered back against the sofa.

“Mulder, please …”

“I can’t be innocent of this whole set up because no one but me would know that I’d call out your name! No one but me would know that I fantasize about us! Only I would know that!” His eyes seemed to glaze over and his voice was barely audible. “I did it! I raped that girl! I may have beaten her up!”

“No!”

Mulder was losing control. He screamed at Scully and thrust his hands out in front of her.

“Look at my hands, Scully! They’re bruised! That’s from hitting her! OH GOD HELP ME!”

He was so grieved and distraught that he crumpled to the floor in a heap, his body heaving with sobs. The sharp throbbing pain in his side only added to his agonizing torment. Scully instantly kneeled beside him, putting her arms around him and pulling his head to her chest. He melted into her embrace, letting her hold him. Scully, crying with him, realized that he really had no idea what he had done. She tried to quiet him, knowing that his pain was far worse than hers and feeling terrible for putting herself before him.

“Shhh, it’s okay sweetheart. It’s going to be okay.” Scully’s words of comfort came pouring out before the rational part of her could relay that this was her partner she was speaking to. But having him trembling with fear in her arms, hardly able to speak coherent words from his brilliant mind, she succumbed to her impulsive, maternal, emotion-wracked instincts. Her partner, this man whom she loved more than life itself, was in dire torment and needed her help desperately.

She kissed his forehead. After a minute, he was quiet but he still held on to her tightly. Scully kissed his forehead again, then after only a split-second decision, she lifted his chin and without hesitation, put her mouth to his.

Mulder reacted instinctively, first startled, then responding to her by parting her lips with his tongue and kissing her passionately. But then, as reason brought him to his senses, he realized what he was doing and he pulled back, once again crying out.

“No, Scully, how can you — !”

“Because you’re my friend and I love you! I love you, Mulder. And I don’t know how to take your pain away!” she sobbed.

Mulder pulled out of Scully’s arms and stood up, his arm instantly clutching his chest, attempting to brace his rib. Scully saw what he did, but Mulder had plunged ahead.

“I don’t deserve you! I don’t deserve anybody! I don’t care what drugs were given me, I acted from what was inside me!”

Scully also got to her feet. “No you did not! What you were given could have completely changed you!”

“That’s BULLSHIT and you know it! I was sexually repressed and the drugs allowed me to act on that! Subconsciously I knew that if it were you I went to, it might destroy us, so I forced myself on someone else.”

“I’ll never believe that! I know you too well!”

Suddenly Mulder grabbed her roughly just above her elbows and pulled her into his body. “Do you?” he snarled. His eyes were blazing with an intensity Scully had never seen before. She watched his face as his eyes traveled longingly down to her breasts, then back up to meet her eyes. His face had broken out in a sweat, but she didn’t know it was from trying to suppress the pain. When he smiled, it was dark, menacing, and Scully felt her heart flip-flop.

“Don’t you want to see the other side of me, Scully? The part that you and Skinner believe is lurking behind my armor of restraint? My dark side,” he droned with a smirk.

“No, Mulder …”

He pulled her even closer and she could feel the heat emanating off of him, feel his fingers digging into the soft flesh of her upper arms. She wasn’t afraid of him, but she knew that the wrong move from her could have disastrous consequences. Mulder’s hands moved slowly up her arms to the top of her shoulders, then across to rest on either side of her neck. She could feel his heart racing against her chest. Scully was too shocked to react when she felt his left hand slowly begin to slide down her neck, his fingers continuing to trace an agonizingly slow downward path. His eyes were pools of black as they catalogued her reaction.

“Mulder, please …,” she urged, hoping to reach her friend and partner, whom she knew would never intentionally hurt her.

When his hand purposely brushed across her left breast and reached for the top button of her sweater, she was catapulted from her stupor. Flinging his hand away, she slapped him hard enough to snap his head to the side.

“STOP THIS!” she shouted at him.

The slap, which jerked his body to the side, almost took him to the floor. The pain in his ribs was excruciating. He somehow managed to stay on his feet and regain his senses.

When Mulder’s head slowly pivoted back around, Scully saw his features again transformed into the man she knew as her caring, sensitive partner. Realizing what he had done, he was even more engulfed in guilt and regret. Gently, he placed his hands in her hair, then stepped back from her as if his touch would burn her. She tried to take his hands, but once again he pulled away. She prayed his calmer state would give her the chance to reason with him before any more damage was done.

“Look, I’m a doctor, I know what I’m talking about. Certain drugs cause an entire chemical change. There wasn’t any decision to be made, Mulder! There was no rationale involved in this! It’s like giving someone crystal meth. It completely changes their personality and even their physiology. They become violent and super strong, not even remembering later what they did. That’s what happened to you! You did not do this!” she pleaded, trying everything in her power to reach him.

Mulder’s eyes narrowed with anguish as he stared into the ice blue eyes of the woman he loved. Scully saw him blink slowly, his eyes seeming to be weighted down as his lids raised halfway. She knew she had to reach him, had to console him with words he had never heard her speak before.

“You didn’t do this, honey. Your physical reaction, your anguish and indisputable abhorrence of what happened is proof that Fox Mulder couldn’t have done this terrible thing.”

Carefully, Scully approached him, as if saying or doing the wrong thing would shatter him into pieces. Gently she took his hand in hers, getting no resistance this time.

“I made a mistake last night, Mulder. I let you walk out of here when you needed me so much,” she said, her voice cracking. “I let you go because I didn’t think I could handle it. I didn’t even consider what you were going through. I let you down.”

He closed his eyes, with one shake of his head, as if he wouldn’t even hear of such a thing. But Scully went on, trying to reach him.

“I know you so well. Better than anyone in the world, and I should have seen what was happening to you. I’m the one who should apologize.”

Mulder’s emotions were spent. As if in a trance, he seemed to be looking straight through Scully. She became afraid of his blank stare.

“Mulder ..?”

“There’s only one way to make this right,” he said, as if talking to the wall.

“Yes. Find the truth. And we will,” she answered desperately.

“No. This is going to get worse, and I can’t take it getting worse. I can’t go beyond this point. Don’t you see that?”

She felt a stab of panic course through her. She knew Fox Mulder too well, and the implications of what he was saying turned her blood cold. Her voice was strained as she fought for control.

“You think this is painful for me now? Do you have any idea what it would do to me if I lost you? I would never recover. Do you want to do that to me? I’ll overcome this, and so will you, and so will we. This is a blink of an eye in our lifetime. We have a whole future ahead. They won’t win, Mulder. There are too many people on your side. But if you give up, we don’t have a chance.”

“It would be better in the long run. You just can’t see it now.”

He turned and picked up his jacket off the edge of the sofa. He had to get out of there. He had hidden things from her, and now he was hiding his injury. Between his devastated mental state and the lightheadedness and nausea he was experiencing, he knew he could collapse with his next step. He didn’t want to put Scully through any more tonight, but he no longer felt in control.

Scully held on to his arm, scared now. “Don’t go. Stay here with me.”

“Stay with you? Aren’t you afraid?” he said quietly, drained of any further emotion.

“I trust you with my life. We need each other tonight, just to hold each other. Please.”

“Being together tonight won’t fix anything. How are you going to feel next week when you find out that was my semen inside that girl! I forced her to the ground, forced her legs apart -”

Scully’s anguish was too much for words as she leaned back against an armchair for support. Mulder’s emotions were roller-coastering and she was becoming dizzy from the ride.

“You read the medical report! There were bite marks on her breasts! Her clitoris was almost bitten in half! I would never, NEVER -” Mulder broke down again and Scully reached for him, but he brushed past her and went to the door.

Scully grabbed the sleeve of his coat as he tried to put it on. “No, Mulder. Don’t go. We’ll just sit here on the couch, no more talk. Please. Please,” she pleaded.

“You never should have gotten mixed up with me. You should have left a long time ago when you had the chance. I’ve destroyed my life, my career, but you have everything ahead of you, Scully. Quit the FBI. Go be a doctor. Meet someone nice and live in that neighborhood you talked about. You deserve it. Forget about me.”

When he pulled away from her, she lunged for him again, but he shoved her back roughly, slamming the door behind him. Scully knew it was futile to go after him, he would only push her away again.

Hurriedly she went to the phone and dialed Skinner’s number. As quickly as possible, she told him how distraught Mulder was, especially after listening to the tape and learning that she had participated in the interview. She admitted to him that she was afraid he would do something crazy, that he couldn’t accept what he believed he had done.

Skinner didn’t need to hear the words, he could hear the despair and the absolute terror in Scully’s voice. He reassured her he would find Mulder, but he couldn’t mask the concern in his own words. They both shared the same unspoken fear that Fox Mulder was being pushed beyond his breaking point …

… the same point his mother could not come back from.

--

12:22 a.m. DANA SCULLY’S APARTMENT

The hours dragged by as Scully stood by the open blinds, her attention alerted to every passing car. She had called the Lone Gunmen hours ago. She explained what she could to them, more than Mulder probably would have wanted, but she was desperate. She trusted them, knowing how much they cared about Mulder and would want to help him in any way they could. They understood that he might have been involved, but they also believed that Mulder would not have acted that way without some extreme drug in his body.

Scully was sick with worry as Mulder’s friends searched relentlessly for him.

--

At 3:30 a.m., there was a knock at Scully’s door. Frantic that it was Mulder, she didn’t even check to see first, but flung the door open. She was shocked to find a tall, dark figure in the doorway.

Mr. X glanced nervously down the hall. “I need to talk to you, Agent Scully.”

She hesitated only long enough to realize that his visit was not a coincidence.

<He must know something about my partner.>

She opened the door wider and he stepped in.

“Is there any word on Mulder yet?” he asked.

“How did you know we’re looking for him?”

“Answer the question.”

“No, we haven’t found him. What do you know about all this?”

Mr. X saw her fatigue, her worry. She looked like she had been crying.

“I can tell you this: Agent Mulder didn’t do what he’s accused of.”

Mr. X was even more shocked at Scully’s reaction, or rather non-reaction. “You believe he did,” he said, incredulous.

“There is a lot of evidence. When the DNA comes back —”

“It will show that he didn’t have sex with the girl.”

“Then why this elaborate set up if in a week he’s proven not guilty. Why go to the trouble if they can’t prove that.”

“Because the plan is to beat him down so much, make him believe he did these things, that he’ll crack. Maybe even take his own life. At the very least, ruin your partnership. Think about that. What are you doing right now? You’re not busy proving he didn’t do it, you’re trying to prove it wasn’t rape. You believe he’s capable of this act. Even when it’s proven to be a lie when the tests come back, the fact remains that you and Skinner think he did it. What you had in your partnership will be changed for good. The trust you proclaim absolute in each other will be shattered. This will always hang between you. A lot can happen in a week, Agent Scully.”

It had to be true. But she still looked doubtful, mainly because the source was so unfamiliar to her, a shadowy giver of partial truths.

“How do you know he didn’t do it?” she asked.

“Because I know who did. By the time I heard what was happening, it was too late.”

“Do you know who’s behind this?”

Mr. X gave no response.

“DAMMIT! How do we stop this if we can’t give Mulder any proof that this whole thing is a lie.”

“Oh, it’s not entirely a lie. Someone did have sex with that girl, and someone did beat her.”

“And you know who?”

“I’m here to help your partner. The other will be taken care of.”

“I don’t know where Mulder went. Several people are out looking for him.” Scully eyed him again. “Are you telling me the truth? That my partner did not have sex with that girl, or –”

X narrowed his eyes, his glare boring through her and Scully realized the truth of his words, that she in fact was questioning her partner’s innocence. The realization made her queasy. But she had to question, because she wanted to hear him tell her again that her partner had been framed.

“He didn’t lay a hand on her. He was unconscious the whole time. You found alcohol in his system and there was an unknown substance. You won’t identify the unknown, but if you could, it would make good argument that he might not have been able to … perform. Their only little mistake.”

“But he got in the car with her from the bar. The bartender —”

“Quit last night and left town.”

“The cab driver?”

“Same thing. Gone. If the police ever find them, their stories will be that Mulder threatened them. All part of the game. Agent Mulder never got in the cab with any girl.”

“And what about the girl?”

“That’s another story, one I’m not prepared to explain right now.”

Scully could see X’s disgust regarding the doubts she had about her partner. His voice was cold. “Your partner did nothing wrong.”

Scully was dumbfounded, and she knew that X was right; the breakdown between them had already started because Scully believed it had happened, regardless of the reason. And also, after less than 48 hours, Mulder was so ravaged with guilt that Scully did fear for his safety.

“When we find him, you need to explain this to him,” she said.

“No. He’s being watched. I can’t be seen going to his apartment, nor can I call him. His apartment could be wired, his phones bugged. It’s risky even coming here. You need to find him. Tell him and Skinner the truth. Then you must investigate this separate from the police. That’s the only way you’re going to get ahead of the ones who did this — if they don’t suspect that you know. Otherwise they’ll be covering their tracks in front of you.”

X looked hard at her, and Scully nodded that she understood. He put his hand on the doorknob, then stopped, his glare on her unwavering.

“Tell Mulder to tell you the whole truth.”

When she frowned, he merely nodded, then without another word, he slipped quietly out of the apartment.

--

Half an hour later, keeping vigil by the window, she was jolted by the ringing of the telephone.

<Please let it be Mulder.>

“Hello,” she answered anxiously.

“Scully, it’s Skinner. I’m with Mulder,” he said shortly.

“Thank god,” she breathed with relief.

“It’s not all good news. There’s been an accident.”

Scully braced herself and gripped the phone tightly.

“He was crossing the street and got hit by a truck.”

Scully’s heart quickened. “How bad is he, sir?” she said, trying to steady her voice.

“I don’t know yet. But he was able to tell the hospital personnel to notify me.”

Skinner’s remark wasn’t lost on Scully. In any other situation, Mulder wouldn’t hesitate having his partner called. But this time he had them contact his boss. She knew at least he was cognizant of what had transpired earlier between them — a bittersweet realization.

“Which hospital, sir?”

“Bethesda.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Scully felt her conflicting emotions were tearing her apart. Her mind was a jumble of confusion, relief and dread. She dialed the Lone Gunmen’s number, but there was no answer, so she left a message. She knew they were out looking for Mulder as well.

When she got to the hospital, she instantly found Skinner in the waiting area. He saw her anxiety and took her quickly by the arm, pulling her into a private room where he shut the door.

“How is he?” she asked anxiously.

“The doctor will be out any minute, but I’ve been told he’s conscious.”

“Do you know what happened? Was it a hit and run?”

“It wasn’t a hit and run. The driver of the pickup is in the lobby waiting for news also. He says he didn’t see him as he came around the corner. His left headlight was out, so when he turned the corner, Mulder wasn’t in his beam of light.”

“So it could have been an accident?”

“It looks like it was an accident.”

There was a knock on the door and the doctor walked in. “Is this the person you were waiting for?” he asked Skinner.

“Yes. Agent Scully, this is Dr. Green.”

They shook hands and Green motioned for them both to sit. Skinner preferred to stand next to Scully, who sat on the couch with Green beside her.

“Mr. Mulder, or I guess it’s Agent Mulder — is your partner, I understand?”

“Yes.”

“Well, he’s very lucky. Apparently he saw the vehicle at the last minute and kind of threw himself on the hood as it hit him. He bounced off the windshield and rolled over the top of the truck into the street. He slid several feet, scraping the skin off his forearm and fracturing his wrist. Looks like he also cracked a rib but there’s no sign of lung puncture. His head received a minor skull fracture when he either hit the windshield or the pavement. Other than that, he’s got multiple cuts and some pretty severe bruising, but nothing serious. We’ll cast his arm in the morning and then I’m going to keep him a couple of days. Tomorrow he’s going to feel like … well, like he got hit by a truck. He’ll recover, but he’s going to feel like hell.”

“Can we see him?” asked Scully.

“I’m sending him down for a CAT scan, then he’ll be taken to a room. The nurse will let you know when he’s finished.”

“Thank you,” said Skinner.

The doctor walked out. Skinner sighed with relief, “Well, that was the first piece of good news we’ve had in two days.”

“Not necessarily,” she said quietly, a faint smile touching her lips.

Skinner frowned and Scully motioned him next to her on the couch.

“Sir, you’re not going to believe this.”

____________________________

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (PART 7 of 19)

5:18 a.m. BETHESDA HOSPITAL

Scully walked softly into the hospital room. The lights were off, and the blinds were open to the darkness. Through a thick cloud cover, sleet hit the windowpanes. She went to the bed, looking down at her partner as he slept quietly. A heavy bandage covered the scrape on his right arm, and his left arm had a temporary cast. There were numerous cuts on his face and a large bruise on his forehead. Scully sat gently on the side of the bed and put his hand in hers. She saw him open his eyes and blink slowly. Bending over close to him, she smiled.

“Hey. You ever heard of a crosswalk?”

Mulder, groggy from medication and beginning to feel the soreness in his body, gradually turned on his side, moving his body closer to Scully, resting his hand on her thigh. She brushed his hair off his forehead and kissed him.

“Scully, it was an accident,” he whispered.

“I know.”

“I wasn’t looking.”

“I know that. You tried to get out of the way of the truck, and you probably lessened your injuries.”

She saw his eyes close and his breathing was deep. For several minutes she just watched him, a millions thoughts going through her mind. He looked so peaceful, as if he hadn’t gone through hell the last two days. She thought again about what Mr. X had told her, that her partner hadn’t done anything wrong. She ached remembering his pain and absolute bewilderment. Scully laid her head against his cheek, thinking he was asleep, but she felt a light squeeze of his hand in hers. With her lips against his ear, she whispered softly to him.

“Everything is going to be all right. I want you to go to sleep now.”

He opened his eyes, “Scully …”

She sat up a little, her face inches from his. She saw how heavy his eyelids were, trying to keep them open. “I need you. Help me fight this.”

Scully blinked back tears, smiling at him. “We have some new evidence, Mulder. I’ll tell you later when you’re more alert. But for right now, I’ll tell you that you did nothing wrong. We were wrong.”

She could tell that he wasn’t understanding what she was saying. She pulled the thin blanket up over his chest.

“I want you to close your eyes now. Go to sleep. I’ll be right here.”

“I’m sorry.”

Scully leaned over and tenderly kissed the corner of his mouth. “There’s nothing to be sorry for, partner. Go to sleep.”

He closed his eyes.

--

11:22 a.m. BETHESDA HOSPITAL

Through the early morning hours, Mulder slept. A winter storm had moved into the Washington area, bringing snow flurries and bitter winds.

When a doctor and nurse came in with the casting materials for Mulder’s arm, he still slept. So Scully took the opportunity to go to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee and a bagel. She hadn’t been there long when a familiar figure in a long coat come around the corner. AD Skinner caught her eye and smiled, approaching her table. He pulled out a chair to sit down, but his face looked stern.

“I’ve been looking for you,” he said.

“Did you just come from Mulder’s room?” she asked, suddenly alarmed.

“Yes. He’s still asleep.”

Skinner leaned over the table toward her and his voice was barely above a whisper. “Scully, I got a surprise visit a short while ago at my apartment.”

“Mulder’s mysterious contact?”

“Yes. It was disturbing.”

“Why? What did he have to say?”

“Huh? Oh, no, I mean it was disturbing that he knew where I lived. “

Scully nodded and waited for him to continue.

“He told me everything he told you yesterday. He was upset by his encounter with you.”

“In what way?”

“He suspected you didn’t believe your partner.”

Scully dropped her head back and expelled a breath. Then she faced Skinner again.

“Well, let’s face it. Although we both believed Mulder incapable of what he’s accused of, we certainly had our doubts about him not being involved at all. Now I can see why he gets so frustrated with me when I conclude theories based simply on hard evidence. Hard evidence can be deceiving.”

“Agent Scully, you’ve just described the very essence of the X-Files. How could you not keep that foremost in your mind?”

She shook her head, more to herself, and mumbled, “I don’t know.”

“Mulder’s contact was very explicit on one point. We cannot let anyone know that we have this information. Mulder’s life depends on it. We have to prove him innocent through our own investigation. Now that we know there’s another angle, we can pursue other avenues. We’ll have to make it look like we simply trust and believe in him.”

She nodded, agreeing with him so far. Skinner absently picked up Scully’s coffee spoon and tapped it lightly on the table.

“Mulder’s going to have to be as patient as he can be. It’s going to be tough. There’s a polygraph set up for tomorrow afternoon. Many of those questions will be based on statements the victim made. She seems to be corroborating the story the cab driver made to the police — pretty much what he told us.”

“What a surprise,” Scully mumbled flatly.

“I know. Right now I’m concerned about how Mulder’s reactions will register.”

“What do you mean?”

“Scully, he doesn’t remember anything. If he admits to that, he’ll be answering truthfully. But if we tell him what we know, and emphasize that he has to keep it to himself, it could skew the polygraph. Do you see what I’m saying. He will be confused trying to answer truthfully.”

Scully’s expression fell. “Oh, god. I see what you mean. You’re right.”

“Did you tell him anything yesterday?”

“I … simply said that there was new evidence, that I knew he didn’t do anything. But I don’t think he’ll remember even that, sir. He was heavily medicated and in a lot of pain at the time.”

“Good,” he answered quickly, then recanted. “Well, not good that he was in pain.”

“Sir, Mulder’s emotional state is very precarious right now. You know that. Imagine what he must be feeling and thinking — look at what we even thought with the evidence at hand. To keep the truth from him —”

“Scully, I know,” he said distinctly, but still softly, his eyes burning into hers. “But his life is in danger if he learns the truth too soon. Is there any way to speed up the DNA test?”

“Not likely. The time factors involve the specimen cultivating. There’s no way to speed that up.”

“Then there are two things we can do to keep Mulder safe — both from them, and …” Skinner hesitated. ” … from himself. We can convince him that without question we believe he’s completely innocent, that he was set up. It’s what the conspirators would expect us to believe any way.”

“What’s the other thing?”

Skinner hesitated, turning the spoon over a couple of times on the table. Then he looked up at Scully. “There is one sure place where Mulder will be safe until the tests come back and he’s exonerated.”

He waited to see if she would understand what he was saying and he saw her eyes widen.

“Jail!”

“Scully, the district attorney wants to lock him up. The Bureau — mainly me — has been standing in the way. “

She was angry now. “Bending to political pressure is not in Mulder’s best interest right now!”

“No, the political pressure has been on Mulder’s side, keeping him out of jail.”

Skinner leaned even closer and kept his voice low. “Something’s going on, on Capitol Hill. I don’t have any hard facts, I just know that this case has somebody’s interest.”

Scully was curious, but didn’t question him on it. She was aware that her partner had some pretty impressive contacts.

“Then somebody must know something, sir. If the political pressure is on Agent Mulder’s side —

“I’m talking about public pressure against the Bureau protecting one of its own. Mulder needs to believe in the system, let it work for him.”

Scully rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. You expect Mulder to believe in a system that has constantly put walls between him and the truth?”

“Then how do we protect him?” he said, sitting straight in his chair, challenging her to give him an alternative.

She felt caught in the web. She slowly reached across the table, taking the spoon away from Skinner and absently stirring her coffee. When she looked back up at Skinner, her face was pale.

“How do we convince Mulder we believe him, then allow him to be thrown in jail?”

“No matter what he feels, Scully, at least he’ll be safe.”

She rubbed her eyes wearily. “God, I hate this. We can’t even tell him that we know of his innocence.”

“Not yet. Not before the polygraph. You have to be patient, too.”

Slowly she shook her head. “No. There is another way. A legitimate way. Mulder’s not well due to his injuries. He can be put back in the hospital under a guard.”

“I’m not as secure with that.”

“I’ll be with him most of the time. Sir, this is one instance where I have to take Mulder’s emotional state into consideration. I just can’t let him go back to jail. As a physician, I fear for his physical health — but as his closest friend, I fear for his mental health.”

Skinner saw the determination in her face. He nodded. “All right.”

Scully started to stand, but he put a hand on her arm. “Scully, finish your meal. You need to eat.”

“I’ve lost my appetite. Besides, he should be waking up soon. I want to be there.”

Skinner stood with her. “I’ll call you later.”

“What are you going to do?”

He stuck his hands in his coat pocket and fixed her with a look. “I’ll call you later,” he answered, walking away..

--

2:42 p.m.

Mulder still hadn’t awakened when Scully was called to the phone at the nurse’s station. It was Danny, at the Bureau, who had been checking some references for her. Scully went to an empty waiting room and used a pay phone to call him back. Their conversation lasted for about 15 minutes before she returned to Mulder’s room.

He was awake when she entered, a nurse standing over him taking blood. As Scully moved closer to the bed, Mulder’s eyes shifted immediately to her and she saw his look of relief. Neither said anything until the nurse had finished.

“Mr. Mulder, do you need anything?” the nurse asked.

“Just another blanket.”

“I’ll be right back.” The elderly nurse winked at Scully. “See that he stays put,” she joked.

“If you only knew,” Scully whispered under her breath.

Scully took her place at Mulder’s bedside. Lowering the bed rail, she gently sat on the mattress, putting her arm on the opposite side of him and leaning over him. “Hey, partner,” she said, offering him a tender smile.

“Hi,” he answered softly.

“Are you cold?” she asked, taking his hands. They were icy. “You’re freezing,” she said, surprised.

She knew that part of it was still shock. Mulder thought he was hallucinating when Scully raised his hands to her lips and blew a warm breath over them.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“It hurts to move anything.”

“Then don’t move anything,” she teased lightly. “Can I see?”

She took hold of his gown, and carefully raised it above his chest to check his injuries. She found the whole right side of his body bruised, the discoloration extending from underneath his armpit to his waist. Being as gentle as possible, she carefully hooked her thumb in the elastic of his underwear and pulled it several inches down, where more of the bruising was exposed. As she pulled his boxers even further down, she saw that the skin was scraped almost to his groin. She tried to mask her emotion, but Mulder saw her cringe.

“Jesus, Mulder,” she whispered. “Apparently this is where you took most of the impact.”

“Yeah, kind of turned the pavement into a slip and slide.”

Mulder saw her trained eye taking in every aspect of his injury, but there was no clinical detachment there, only concern. Finally she put his clothes right again and covered him with the sheet. “You were lucky, partner.”

She saw his lids lower and he pursed his lips, but didn’t voice his thoughts. Scully could guess from his expression what he was thinking.

“Mulder — She stopped when the door opened and the nurse stuck her head in.

“Mr. Mulder …”

Scully instantly saw that although she held the blanket under one arm, she hesitated entering the room and looked uncomfortable.

“There’s a man from the police here to see you.”

Scully avoided looking at Mulder. She went toward the nurse and took the blanket from her. A tall, heavyset man in a dark suit pushed the door open and brushed past the nurse, but Scully stepped between the man and Mulder.

“I’m Special Agent Dana Scully, Agent Mulder’s partner. And you are?”

“Don Blass. Special Investigator.”

“So you’re not really a cop,” Scully insinuated with a slight sneer. “Agent Mulder has an attorney. You should be speaking with him.”

“No need. I came down here to pick up a copy of Mr. Mulder’s blood test. I guess you know that a polygraph has been scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Looks like the big Oxford grad is going to be put to the test.”

<So there is it again> Scully thought. Some hotshot wanna-be had learned of Mulder’s impressive background and was determined to see him fall. She tried to remain passive.

“Agent Mulder may not be out of the hospital.”

“I’m told he will be.”

“He’s not able to drive downtown to —”

“That’s why he has a partner,” he said smartly.

“Look —” she started, her tone threatening.

“Scully …” Mulder said softly.

Glaring at the man who seemed smug about his mission, she finally turned to her partner.

“It’s okay,” he said to her, then to the investigator, “I’ll be there. When and where?”

Scully didn’t let on that she already had this information.

“Two-thirty. State Attorney’s Office, 2nd floor, room 211,” Blass answered curtly.

Satisfied, Blass started to turn, but Scully took a step forward, not willing to concede. “Wait a minute. Just because he’s being released doesn’t mean he needs to be walking around town. He can barely move without pain.”

“Then he should have watched where he was going. If your boss hadn’t pulled strings to spring him, he would have been safely in jail and you wouldn’t need to worry your pretty little ass —”

Scully’s eyes widened in rage and vaguely she heard her partner behind her.

“What the hell…!” Mulder shouted.

Scully leveled her eyes at the man and although he was more than a foot taller, her stature could be deceiving when she was angry. “I want to see some I.D. right now!”

She had assumed he was working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, or maybe the D.A., but his behavior demonstrated otherwise.

With a smile on his fat face, he pulled a flat wallet from his coat and flipped it open. Scully’s face reddened with rage as she read the badge and I.D. card.

“You’re not a Special Investigator! You’re a private investigator! For whom!”

“The victim’s uncle hired me.” He pointed the wallet at Mulder. “Hope you’ve got some big bucks!”

Scully fought to keep her gun holstered. “Listen you bastard, you get the hell out of this room right now, and if you EVER make another remark like that to me, I’ll file charges against you. And don’t believe I won’t. I’ve dealt with men like you who only wish they had the brains and the background of that man right there!”

“I know about psychological profiles,” Blass said smartly. “I’m well aware that there’s a definite link between high intelligence and the propensity for sexual deviance. And as I understand it, your partner’s IQ shoots off the scale, which puts him at the top of the chart for sexual perverts.”

Scully would have gone for the man herself if she hadn’t heard her partner behind her, grabbing the tray table to try and pull himself up. Instantly she went to him, easily restraining him in his weakened condition with a hand on his shoulder. She turned back to confront the man, but he had gone out the door. She turned her attention back to Mulder.

“Lay still. It’s okay. He’s a scum, Mulder. Don’t let him get to you.”

She unfolded the blanket and laid it over him, tucking in one side under the mattress, then walking around the bed to tuck in the other side.

“What he said is the truth, Scully.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Are you insulting me?”

“What?”

“I have a high intelligence. So does Skinner and three-quarters of the FBI. We’re not perverts, and neither are you. He lashed out at you because of jealousy, and your intelligence was the only target he had. I’m filing a complaint. He had no right to say any of those things.”

“Forget it. It’s not worth it.”

“He can’t treat you that way! Mulder, you’re so far above him—”

“Scully, he’s not the one accused of rape and assault!” he shouted back at her.

Suddenly Mulder gasped and stiffened, his body going rigid against the pillows as his eyes closed. Scully saw his face pale immediately.

“Partner …?”

“I think I’m going to be sick.”

She grabbed the bedpan just as he leaned over, retching, but there was nothing in his stomach but fluids. As Mulder spit into the basin, Scully saw a little blood. She put her hand on the back of his neck, rubbing gently, trying to calm him down as his stomach tried to empty of whatever drugs were left. Scully leaned over quickly and punched the call button for the nurse. Mulder’s breathing increased as he laid his head against Scully’s chest. Supportively, her arm went around him. Seeing that he had control of the vomiting, she set the pan down and laid her hand on top of his head.

“Sorry about that,” Mulder whispered.

“Hey, don’t be. I’m glad I was here. Take deep breaths and just lay against me for a minute.”

He quietly did as she suggested. The door opened and Scully turned to the nurse. “Can you get a wet cloth and a 7-Up?”

The nurse nodded, knowing immediately what just transpired, and knowing this patient’s partner had control of the situation. Scully laid her chin on Mulder’s head and felt his good hand fall upon her upper thigh. He rested quietly against her, his body aching and his stomach cramping. He became aware of a cool cloth pressed against his cheeks and forehead. He heard mumbling, Scully and the nurse obviously talking, but he didn’t use the energy to concentrate on what they were saying. A cup was placed to his lips and he heard another voice, not Scully’s.

“Mr. Mulder, take a sip to wash your mouth out.”

He obeyed the voice, opening his eyes and spitting once again into the basin. Then he heard Scully’s voice, soft, at his ear.

“Partner, drink some of this 7-Up. The nurse is going to give you a shot for the nausea, but it’ll take a few minutes to work. Come on.”

He drank out of the cup that Scully held to his lips. As she laid him back against the pillow, he winced. Gently she soothed his face with the damp cloth.

“Just relax. It’ll be okay,” she whispered, running her fingers back through his hair.

“Scully, you don’t have to be here.”

His remark surprised her, but she knew that he wasn’t just referring to this moment.

“You’re here. Where else would I be,” she answered matter-of-factly.

“You don’t deserve this. I know how much this hurts you.”

“Mulder —”

“I know how you feel about me, Scully. If this were reversed, I’d be dying inside. I can’t stand doing this to you.”

“Mulder, please stop. We’ve been through all this.”

The pressure and now the pain were becoming too much. The reality of the situation was breaking him down once again.

She leaned even closer to him. “Honey, don’t do this to yourself. I made a terrible mistake. Skinner and I both did. We looked at the evidence instead of the man. It’s you who need to forgive us. You didn’t do this thing you’re accused of.”

“How do you know?” he asked, doubtful of her words.

“I know it in my heart, and in my soul. Mulder, you’ve always told me to look between the lines, to go beyond the evidence, to see what isn’t there. This time, because I believe in you, I have. And now I see the truth. I see you.”

Mulder looked deep into her eyes, searching for the full meaning of her words. It was all reflected there for him to see. He saw her eyes fill with tears as she continued to soothe him with her words.

“We almost pushed you over the edge, and that’s something I may never forgive myself for. I know how your trust in me faltered. And Mulder, I am sick with regret,” she admitted, her voice cracking.

He raised a weak arm and touched her cheek. His eyes closed briefly and when she saw a tear slide from under his lashes, it almost broke her heart. He opened his eyes to meet hers.

“Scully, I’m so scared.”

“They won’t beat us. There are too many people on your side. This has brought your allies to the forefront. And not one believes you could have done this. Have faith in us.”

She saw a faint smile tug at his mouth, and she laid her lips against his forehead. “Close your eyes and sleep. I’ll be right here.”

He wasn’t even aware, several minutes later, of the nurse returning to insert a hypodermic of medication into his IV.

--

Mulder slept most of the rest of the day. When he did wake, he seemed to only be cognizant of the fact that Scully was with him. That reassurance allowed him to go back to sleep. Later in the evening, Skinner threatened to suspend her without pay if she didn’t go home and get some sleep. She knew he had no authority to do that, but he’d made his point.

Although Skinner agreed to fill in, Scully called her mother, who had been hoping for the invitation to help out. Maggie Scully sat for several hours with Mulder, twice having to quiet his confusion when he woke and was too disoriented to know who was with him. Upon realizing it was Scully’s mother, he immediately relaxed, allowing her to slip her fingers around his good hand. He remembered her whispering to him — so much like his partner that he was able to drift asleep for the rest of the night.

--

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (8 of 19)

8:55 a.m. MULDER’S OFFICE

Scully was working on Mulder’s computer when she looked up to see Skinner enter the room, closing the door behind him.

“I thought you were at the hospital,” he said, sitting across from her.

“I was. Mulder’s with his attorney right now. They’re going over the questions he might be asked on the polygraph.”

Skinner sighed heavily. “We did the right thing. He can only answer truthfully.”

“Which means no answers at all.”

“He has none, Scully. He was drugged and unconscious. And that’s exactly how he needs to answer … for now.”

“So when exactly do we tell him what we’ve learned. When is it safe?”

“We may need to talk to Mulder’s contact again, but I don’t know how to reach him.”

Scully hesitated, being scrutinized by Skinner. He knew she had probably had another sleepless night.

“I do. I know how to contact him.”

Skinner only nodded. Then his expression turned grim.

“I talked to the D.A. The wheels are in motion to have Mulder returned to jail after the polygraph.”

“No …” she croaked.

“Two reasons. One, that this lapse in memory could lead to a physical fugue.”

“Running away?” she asked, astonished.

“It’s an excuse, Scully. We went through the reasons last night.”

“I know!” she shouted, startling Skinner as she stood up, shoving her chair hard against the wall. “But having to keep this from him when he’s being torn up inside — sir, he’s sick. He should be in a hospital. Not jail.”

“Scully —”

“You haven’t seen him at his worst, sir. He hasn’t broken down in front of you. He’s not just scared. He’s terrified. He’s afraid his demons have found form. And all I can do is sit there and try to reassure him with words that he must have faith! With what he knows, I’d doubt myself, too!”

“What choice do we have! Are you willing to put his life in jeopardy simply to reassure him! We can undo what we’ve done, but we can’t bring him back if they kill him! Think hard about that, Agent Scully!”

His words sunk in, the very thoughts she herself had, but wished could be different. Sinking back into the chair, she put her elbows up on the desk and buried her face in her hands. Skinner felt like a shit. How many times can these two fight back against the greater conspiracy, he thought. He knew Mulder treasured his partner more than life itself, but it was a double-edged sword. While strengthening him in countless ways, Scully’s presence as his partner gave the opposition leverage against him. They knew, where she was concerned, he would compromise.

Skinner watched Scully’s silent, unmoving form for a moment. Her aura radiated with torment. But she was watching him as well, and when she saw him flex his left hand into a tight fist, then stretch his fingers, she recognized the nervous gesture as his way of releasing tension. And he usually did that just before he broke some bad news.

Scully’s voice was clipped. “You said there were two reasons why he’s going back to jail. What’s the second reason?”

Skinner’s face fell and his posture was one that Scully was all too familiar with — like someone had dealt him tragic news and it was his turn to pass it on. She waited for the blow, watching him briefly turn inward as if drawing on a stored reserve of strength.

“I don’t know how to tell you this.” Skinner’s purpose in hesitating was not so much to prepare Scully, as to prepare himself. He saw the anxiety in her brilliant blue eyes, but he saw a familiar determination there, also. “Scully, the semen specimen taken from the girl is missing.”

Scully blanched and her fists involuntarily clenched. “WHAT! What do you mean missing!”

“It’s gone. It was taken from the refrigerator in the evidence room two days ago. They discovered it missing when they went to transfer it to the lab. The police were afraid to tell me, hoping it had just been misplaced and they’d find it.”

Skinner watched as Agent Dana Scully reacted in an emotional outburst much like he had seen exhibited by her frustrated partner at times. She grabbed the first object in front of her on the desk, which happened to be a heavy stapler, and threw it with so much force that it broke into pieces upon hitting the wall, leaving a good-sized dent in the plaster.

“GOD-DAMMIT!”

She shot out of her chair, looking for something else to throw and Skinner quickly was in front of her, firmly grabbing her shoulder. But he said nothing, knowing she needed to vent the emotions that had been building inside her like a geyser, ready to explode from the pressure.

Her voice shook with rage. “Is there no security anywhere! Why the hell even lock the doors! Let’s just give them keys! Or better still, let’s just hand everything over and save them the trouble of stealing it! GOD-DAMMIT, sir. Where does this ever end!”

“Scully —”

“FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!” she screamed.

Skinner knew there was a side to Scully that came out only under extreme circumstances. Her partner had attested to that. But Skinner was seeing it first-hand. His grip tightened on her arm.

“Dana …”

She made eye contact with him, but her furor was still on the loose.

“How can a case be made against my partner when witnesses disappear, evidence is missing! Doesn’t that look just a LITTLE BIT FUCKED, sir!”

He tried to reply, but Scully wasn’t really asking for an answer.

“Those bastards just stomp on our lives like we’re ants under their feet! Where’s the justice in the world! When is it our turn to win!”

Skinner leaned into her. “Hey,” he said softly.

Somehow his soft but deliberate voice and his strong compassion calmed her. She sank down on the corner of the desk, shaking her head.

“How does Mulder do it? How does he keep bouncing back?”

“Because he has you,” he said bluntly.

She bowed her head, taking the moment he was giving her to regain her balance. When she looked up, Skinner was faced with that too-familiar look of battle fatigue. He was surprised, but said nothing when Scully absently reached over and ran her fingers down the front of his tie, a gesture of habit that signified how much she missed her partner.

“Sir, does this change what we tell Mulder?”

“No. But we don’t tell him about the missing specimen. Not yet.”

“Why? If what Mr. X said is true and the semen doesn’t match Mulder’s blood type, then the only way to prevent him from being cleared is to steal the specimen.”

“You and I know that to be true, as does Mulder. All this time we thought this set up was a long shot to break you two up. We should have known it goes much deeper than that. From the beginning they had an accomplice who had access to the evidence room. But the police are ignorant of any global conspiracy, Scully. They could just as easily point the finger at Mulder, a federal agent with countless inside men, who had everything to lose if the specimen matched.”

“They cover all the bases, don’t they?” she snapped. “Right now all I care about is letting my partner know that he’s innocent. I think he’ll believe Mr. X.”

“How can you be sure?”

She paused, a smile of sad reminiscence on her lips. “Light from shadows,” she said softly.

Skinner frowned. “What?”

“It’s what Mulder calls it when he stumbles onto something in a place he didn’t expect to find it. Light from shadows.”

Skinner thought about it. He nodded, agreeing with the contradiction in terms.

“It’s time for the truth, sir,” Scully said bluntly.

“Then we’ll tell Mulder tonight. No matter what. We’ll tell him the truth tonight.”

She looked up, relief spreading across her face and saw Skinner smile and nod. He leaned one hand on the table and, surprising her, reached over and placed the back of his fingers against her silky hair, barely touching the reddish-gold strands.

“Mulder belongs to us, Scully. They can’t have him.”

With that said, he turned and walked out of the office.

--

1:30 p.m. BETHESDA HOSPITAL

The storm had not let up all day. Where the snow slacked off, the wind picked up, and vice versa. Mulder had spent all morning with his attorney, then the man left to prepare for their meeting later at the State Attorney’s Office. Scully had not talked with him yet. She checked with his doctor, confirming that although the physician disagreed with releasing him so soon, he was scheduled to leave at 2:00. Scully had assured Skinner that she could handle him by herself after he offered to help. But deep down both agents knew that it would be better off for Mulder if Skinner kept a low profile.

Scully started to enter Mulder’s room when a nurse called out to her.

“Ma’am, you might want to wait. A nurse is helping your partner get dressed.”

Scully never broke stride. She didn’t give a damn what anybody thought about her walking in on her half-dressed partner, as she pushed open the door to his room and boldly entered. The nurse had just eased off his hospital gown and Mulder sat on the edge of the bed in just his underwear. Surprised, they both looked up as the door swung open. Scully didn’t catch the expression on the nurse’s face; she was too concerned with seeing her partner. His relief was immediately apparent. She quickly walked to his side and before the nurse could reply, Scully took Mulder’s suit from her.

“I’ll take over. Thanks for your help,” she said, laying the suit on the bed.

The young nurse looked a little confused, or maybe it was disappointment, but the expression on her patient’s face assured her of who he wanted in the room with him. Scully waited until the nurse left before she kissed Mulder on the cheek.

“How you doing, partner?”

As she said that, she bent to examine the bruises more closely. They looked even nastier than the day before.

“Oh, Mulder …”

She looked up into his eyes and saw his weariness. But he managed a weak smile.

“I’m glad to see you,” he whispered.

There was a long moment of silent contemplation between the two partners. Then Scully gently put her hands behind Mulder’s neck, bringing her cheek next to his. He felt her hand comb through his hair and he closed his eyes, enjoying her soft touch. She heard a contented sigh from him, and she held still for as long as he needed. Then she felt his hand on the back of her neck and he whispered her name. In that brief span of time, she imagined what he was about to go through and the strength he would need.

As she held him, she said to herself, <This is the man who would die for me, whom I know better than any other in all the world. Oh god>, she thought with heartache, <how could this be happening to him?> Scully pulled her cheek away slightly, and instantly her lips went to his, kissing him deeply. He stiffened in surprise, then sagged with relief as his hand tightened behind her neck, holding her mouth to his little longer. When their lips finally parted, Scully pulled his head into her neck and her arms went around him.

“Stay strong, honey. We’ll beat this.”

Nothing was said while they held each other a little longer. Then Scully, her voice strong, put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him back a little.

“Let’s finish getting you dressed.”

She picked up his tee shirt, finding that it was extremely painful for him to lift his arms. It was all he could do to keep from doubling over as she finally got the shirt on. Both her hands went on his shoulders as he leaned into her.

“Take it slow, partner. Can you stand up?”

Gingerly he eased off the bed. She helped him get into his pants, then took his dress shirt off the hanger. He was extremely limited with the casted arm, so she buttoned the shirt for him, leaving the left sleeve cuff open over the cast, then began tucking the shirt into his pants. She hoped he was aware enough of what she was doing to throw her his usual innuendo. He didn’t disappoint her.

“Scully, can you tuck my shirt in a little farther down in my pants?”

“If I do that, I may have trouble zipping them up,” she said coolly, keeping her eyes on the task.

“Scully!” he remarked with quiet emphasis.

She smiled at his surprise, then zipped up his slacks and fastened his belt. She took the tie off the hanger and started to put it around his neck when she felt him sway. Gently she eased him back on the bed.

“Sit down. Let me do this.”

Mulder bent his head down and tried to stifle a gasp. Scully knew they had taken him off the pain medication because of the polygraph. Silently she cursed them. She got his shoes and socks out of the closet and put them on him, then stood in front of him to put his tie on him.

“You’re pretty good at this dressing thing,” Mulder quipped.

“Well, you’re a little easier than my squirming nephew.”

She saw that he was trying hard to find any humor in her attempts to relax him.

“Hey,” she said, trying to lighten his mood with her voice inflection. He looked up at her. “Is this domestic or what?”

She got a smile out of him. “Where’d my suit come from?” he asked.

“I got it from the cleaners. Remember the message on your answering machine? Then I went to your apartment for the rest of your clothes.”

“Did you feed my fish while you were there?”

She nodded. “Who shaved you?” she asked, feeling his soft cheek.

“A nurse-in-training.”

“Oh …” Scully said, trying to sound jealous, having seen some of the young female students around the hospital.

“Yeah, a real babe. But kind of a late bloomer as nurses’ aides go. She told me her youngest grandson just started shaving.”

She laughed out loud, still amazed that his sense of humor could be intact.

“Ready, partner?”

It was a loaded question. He chose not to answer, but stood slowly with her help instead. The nurse appeared with a wheelchair and Mulder immediately started shaking his head.

“No.”

“Mr. Mulder, we have rules -”

“Yes, and I could probably recite them to you word for word. But I’ve got a lot of walking to do, so I better start trying to get some strength back.”

Scully nodded to her that it was all right, then she and Mulder started out of the room.

He waited for her in the lobby entrance while she brought the car around. By the time he was fastened in the seatbelt, Scully could see the toll it had already taken on him.

“Damn them! You shouldn’t be doing this. I’m calling Skinner.”

Mulder quickly took hold of her hand as she picked up her cell phone.

“Scully, let’s get this over with. I can’t drag this on.”

She understood, even better than he did. They drove in silence. Just as they rounded the corner from the station, her phone rang.

“Scully… yes, sir, we’re about a block away.”

Mulder, knowing who it was, didn’t look at her so he missed her glance at him.

“Agent Mulder is … not well, sir. This is an insane idea.”

When Skinner reminded Scully that the polygraph was the only thing standing in the way of telling Mulder the truth, she then became anxious to get it over with.

“Yes, sir, you’re right… We’re almost there.”

She hung up.

“Scully, pull over a minute.”

Alarmed, she looked over at him, but he remained calm.

“Just pull over, okay? he said more calmly.

She pulled into a parking lot, shutting off the car and turning to look at him. She waited patiently as he watched wet snowflakes splatter on the windshield. When he looked at her, she noticed again how pale he was.

“Scully, I don’t want you there, I don’t want you on the other side of the glass.”

“Mulder …”

“I don’t want to have to think about you hearing my answers every time I’m asked a question. Please.”

“All right. But I know Skinner will be watching. As your Director, he’s required to.”

“I realize that.”

She saw him holding tenuously to a thread of sanity as he struggled not to be overcome. She took his good hand and kissed his fingers.

“Don’t lie to yourself, Mulder. Tell them the truth, that you don’t remember.”

“Scully, I’m not scared of the questions they’re going to ask about the assault. I’m scared of what they’ll ask me about us.”

“We haven’t done anything wrong.”

“No, but as you well know, simply answering yes or no can be very misleading.”

“You’ll have a chance to expand on your answers later. Just get it over with as quickly as possible.”

“Then what? Do I go back to the hospital.”

“We’ll see how you’re doing,” she said, avoiding an answer. “Come on, Skinner’s waiting for us. We’re going to talk for a few minutes before your attorney comes to get you.”

He sensed she wasn’t telling him something, but his pain was increasing, and he didn’t feel up to asking any more questions. He simply nodded and turned to look out the window.

Skinner came down the steps when he saw Scully’s car pull up out front. He opened the door for Mulder and took an arm, helping him out as Scully went to park the car. Although Mulder quickly shunned the assistance, Skinner felt him trembling. He stayed close by the young agent, ready to help.

Mulder carefully climbed two ice-covered steps before reaching for Skinner’s arm to brace himself. The Director heard his soft gasp with every step that he made. If he had had any idea Mulder was in such bad shape, he would have pulled strings to get this appointment delayed. Skinner was silent, not wanting his words to make Mulder feel any more self conscious about his situation.

Scully entered the lobby and took the elevator to the second floor, finding Skinner pacing in the hallway. She frowned as they advanced toward each other.

“Mulder’s in the restroom throwing up,” Skinner explained softly.

Scully glanced at the closed door, her face registering concern. No words were spoken between the two of them. Scully saw her boss glancing toward the door every few seconds, knowing he wanted to go in and help, but realizing that Mulder would be uncomfortable being seen that way. A few minutes later, Mulder walked out, unsteady, and both agents helped him to a chair. Not even Mulder could mask his condition. He was white as a sheet and his skin was clammy when Scully took his pulse.

She bent down in front of him. “Mulder, take slow breaths.”

Suddenly enraged, Scully looked up at Skinner, whispering vehemently, “He can’t do this!”

They were both surprised to hear Mulder’s hoarse voice, “Yes, I can.”

Scully looked squarely into Skinner’s eyes. “He needs to get back to the hospital after this is over. Are you hearing me …sir?”

“Yes. I couldn’t agree more.”

They realized someone was approaching from down the hall, and they looked up to see Mulder’s attorney. He looked closely at Mulder.

“God, you look awful. We should have put this off. I can go in there and demand they re-schedule.”

“No,” Mulder answered, “let’s do it.”

Seeing that he was trying to stand, Skinner again helped him, and his attorney also reached to support him. Mulder instantly turned to Scully and took both her hands. She felt the warmth radiating from them, a symptom of fever. Skinner discreetly looked away.

She smiled confidently at him. “I’ll be waiting right here. Remember, stay strong.”

He nodded, his eyes dilated from the pain. Then she watched her partner walk gingerly down the hallway between Skinner and the attorney.

Mulder sat quietly, almost in a trance as the electrodes were hooked to his fingers and around his chest. He was vaguely aware of the prosecutor and an armed deputy standing a discreet distance from him, next to the door. His attorney sat next to him and the polygraph operator took the chair opposite Mulder, where he then ran a length of paper through the machine. Mulder glanced up at the one-way glass directly behind the operator and knew Skinner would be observing. He trusted Scully, knowing she would honor his request and not be present. Mulder didn’t realize he had closed his eyes until the operator spoke to him.

“Mr. Mulder …?”

“Yes,” he said, looking up.

“Are you ready?”

He nodded.

“All right. I’m going to ask you some preliminary questions to establish a base. You – well, you know the routine.”

Mulder was asked to verify his name, address and date of birth. He acknowledged that he worked for the FBI. Then he was asked to make an untruthful statement.

Mulder hesitated for only a moment. “This is fun,” he said dryly.

The operator made some written marks on the paper. Watching from the observation room, Skinner silently praised Mulder for keeping his wits about him through his sense of humor.

With a pen poised above the paper, the operator nodded. “Okay. Let’s begin. Are you under the influence of any drugs or narcotics at this moment?”

“No.”

“You’ve been hospitalized. Were you given pain medication?”

“Yes. But it was discontinued last night because of this polygraph.”

“Are you in pain now?”

Skinner saw Mulder hesitate. “Yes, I am,” he said very softly.

“Can you continue?”

“Yes.”

“Do you remember being in a bar on the night of January 18th?” he asked, reading from a list of prepared questions.

“Yes.”

“Were you with anyone when you got to the bar?”

“No.”

“Were you meeting someone there?”

“Yes.”

“A woman?”

“No.”

“Assistant Director Walter Skinner?”

“Yes.

“Did Director Skinner show up?”

“No.”

“How many drinks did you have in the bar, sir?”

“Two, non-alcohol.”

“Did you charge the drinks on your credit card?”

“No.”

“Paid cash?”

“Yes.”

“Did you eventually meet a young brunette at the bar?”

“Briefly.”

“Did you speak with her?”

He thought a minute. “Maybe.”

“Did she speak with you?”

“She tried to buy me a drink.”

“What was your answer?”

“I said no thanks.”

“Did you at any time drink alcohol that night in the bar?”

“No.”

“If the bartender states otherwise, would he be lying?”

“Mistaken.”

Skinner stood with his arms crossed over his chest. He saw Mulder move slightly in the chair, obviously in pain.

“What time did you leave the bar?”

“I don’t recall.”

“You don’t recall what time?”

“No.”

“Did you leave alone?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Did you leave with the brunette?”

“I don’t remember.”

The operator paused while he read over the page, and made some more notes. Skinner and Mulder knew what was coming by his hesitance and body posture.

“Mr. Mulder, did you leave your car and take a cab?”

“I did … but I don’t remember why.”

“Did you get in the cab with the brunette?”

“I … don’t remember.”

“If the cab driver states that you did, would he be lying?”

Mulder paused, his gut instinct wanting to answer yes, but his memory failing him. “I don’t know.”

“Did you engage in sexual foreplay in the cab with the brunette?”

Skinner’s grip tightened on his crossed arms as he saw Mulder swallow hard and blink slowly.

“I … don’t know, sir.”

“Did the brunette give you a blow job?”

Skinner saw Mulder’s eyes close and he saw the operator watching the monitor closely and marking down results. He glanced at the prosecutor who was leaning against the wall writing on a yellow tablet.

“Mr. Mulder, did the brunette give you a blow job?” he repeated.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you remember directing the cab driver to let you off at Patriot Park?”

“No.”

“Were you let off at the park with the brunette?”

“I don’t recall that.”

“Did you ask the girl for sex?”

“No.”

Skinner was startled by the answer and the operator looked up.

“No? So you remember?”

“I don’t remember. My instinct was to say ‘no.’”

“Did you tear her clothes off when she refused?”

“I don’t know.”

<Oh, god>, Mulder thought, .

“Did you make the bite marks on her breasts?”

“No.”

“Is that an answer?”

“I don’t remember doing that.”

“Did you have oral sex with her?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you bite her clitoris?”

Once again Mulder’s eyes closed and Skinner saw his struggle to maintain his composure.

“Mr. Mulder, do you need the question repeated?”

“No. I don’t remember anything with the girl,” he answered, his voice cracking.

“Do you know how you got the scratches on your back?”

“No,” he whispered.

“What is the first thing you do remember?”

“Waking up on the ground.”

“And what did you do then?”

“Found a pay phone and …” he stopped.

“Who did you call?”

“My partner.”

“And your partner’s name?”

“Special Agent Dana Scully.”

“You were disoriented and bloody. Why didn’t you call the police?” Or the FBI?”

“In essence, I did call the FBI when I called my partner.”

“And did she report your condition to the authorities?”

“No. She was -”

“Did you tell her what happened?”

“No. I didn’t know what happened.”

Mulder watched the prosecutor walk over and take a seat at the table. He tore off the top sheet from the tablet and slid the paper over to the operator, who paused as he read it to himself. Then he read it out loud.

“Agent Mulder, we have a statement from your partner that you weren’t well that night. Prior to leaving to question the bartender, did you and Agent Scully sleep together?”

A nerve twitched in Mulder’s jaw. He may be weak and sick, but a verbal attack on Scully would make him rally.

“No,” he answered forcefully. “Agent Scully and I don’t sleep together.”

“Not even for a short time that night?”

“No.”

“Have you ever slept together, Mr. Mulder?”

<Fuck> Mulder thought. <How do I answer this question?>

There had been numerous times when he was sick, or having a horrendous nightmare, that Scully would hold him tightly in bed until he fell asleep. And he reciprocated following her nightmares. No one except Skinner could know what they had been through with the X-Files.

“Have you ever slept with Agent Scully, Agent Mulder?”

“Yes … but not for sex.” It sounded weak and he knew it.

“But you have slept in the same bed?”

“At times when we needed each other?”

“And were there times when you, or she, or both of you, were undressed?”

Mulder remembered the night his father was killed. In shock and running a high fever, he had let Scully undress him and put him in her bed. She had crawled in next to him, fully clothed, but he was not. And then there was a time following a briefing about their ordeal in Antarctica, where they had to detail their experience. They both held up well in front of OPR, but later, alone together in Scully’s apartment, they both broke down and sought each other for comfort. They undressed down to their underwear and held each other all night in order to keep the demons in their heads away.

How could he explain that?

Skinner closed his eyes, knowing exactly what was going through Mulder’s mind. He had no idea what his answer would be, but he knew that to keep sane, the two agents had to resort to unconventional, less restricted behavior. But it was the nature of the X-Files, which made those situations necessary. And he knew Mulder couldn’t offer the explanation.

Skinner’s eyes popped open when he heard the next question.

“Have you and Agent Scully ever slept in the nude?”

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 9 of 19)

STATE ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

Skinner watched Mulder fighting to keep his partnership with Agent Scully private. As he stood there, helpless to the barrage of personal questions, he tried to reason where this line of questioning fit into the case. Then suddenly, as if a light went on in Skinner’s head, he knew. He saw the polygraph operator reading questions that the D.A. handed to him. Each new question was precipitated by Mulder’s previous answer.

Skinner’s hands clenched into fists and he felt his blood pressure soar. Silently his lips moved as he mouthed the words.

<Now I know why. You goddamn fucking bastards.>

Skinner was ready to bolt from the room when he heard Mulder’s attorney raise his voice.

“I think we’re getting way off base here. Regardless of what his answer is, you can’t ask incriminating questions which could jeopardize his federal position if he answers them.”

The prosecutor stepped forward. “What we’re conducting here is nothing more than an electronic deposition. You can make your objections in court. He can answer the question.”

“The question — your whole line of questioning! — has no relevance!”

“We’re establishing a parallel motive here, counselor.”

“And what might that be?”

“Repressed sexual tension which led to assault.”

“These questions are directed at his partner, sir!”

“Yes, his female partner. His young, brilliant, beautiful female partner whom he’s worked with for 7 years.”

The attorney looked at Mulder. “Don’t answer the question.”

“But -” Mulder started, not wanting it to sound suspicious by not answering the question.

The attorney looked at the prosecutor. “I want a 30 minute break to confer with my client.”

The prosecutor hesitated, then nodded. Mulder’s attorney stood, and seeing that Mulder was having trouble standing, he took his arm, lending support. Skinner hurriedly went from the observation room into the interrogation room. When Mulder looked up at him, the Director saw a look of near panic in his pained face. No one said a word until the three of them were alone in another room.

Mulder finally let down his defenses, no longer able to pretend he wasn’t hurting. Sinking into a chair at the table, he leaned forward on his arms, breathing with difficulty, trying to mask the gasps that came between breaths.

“Should I get Dr. Scully?” the attorney asked.

Before Skinner could answer, Mulder grabbed his arm, “No!” Mulder leaned forward, putting his head in his hands. He was trying desperately to control the pain, but both men could see his body trembling.

Mulder looked up at his attorney and his eyes were veiled. “Would you mind if I spoke to Director Skinner alone for a minute?”

“Of course not. I’m going to get you some water. Try and relax,” he said, barely touching his shoulder.

Skinner pulled the chair closer to Mulder and sat down, leaning across the table as if closeness could emphasize his support.

“Agent Mulder, we can stop this.”

“No. The worst is already out. Where is Scully?”

“Waiting downstairs.”

“She’s going to read this transcript, isn’t she?”

“Mulder …”

“Then I need to explain something to you. Right now.” His voice was becoming hoarse from the pain.

“You don’t need to explain to me.”

“Of course I do! I as much as admitted that Scully and I have slept with each other in very little clothing. That is true, sir. There are times that —”

“Fox, for god’s sake, I’m the last one you need to explain to.” His voice lowered to a whisper. “I know the dilemma. You can’t reveal the facts of the X-Files. You can’t explain the horrors you and Scully have endured. But you don’t need to explain to me.”

“Sir, Agent Scully and I are not in a sexual relationship. But we have …” He stopped trying to find the words, and when he couldn’t finish, his face gave Skinner the answer.

The AD looked like he was trying to mask his surprise. “Mulder—”

“We have comforted each other beyond what would be allowed because there was no other way to separate ourselves mentally from the anguish, except to step beyond the restrictions.”

“I know. In all honestly, Fox, I hoped you did that. I knew your relationship with your partner would be the only thing keeping the two of you sane.”

“But I can’t explain that. And I know how it looks for Scully. I don’t care about me, but it’s not fair to her. My answers do not reflect the real truth.”

Mulder’s head again sank into his hands and his voice was barely audible with anguish. “What do I do? Dear God, haven’t we gone through enough trying to do what’s right,” he said, more as a prayer to himself.

Skinner hesitated only briefly, then laid a gentle hand on his young agent’s shoulder. “Mulder, listen to me. Don’t give them what they want. Be as vague as you possibly can. They’re only touching the tip of the iceberg where you and Scully are concerned. It’s going to get worse. I know that the prosecutor’s case is to counter the anticipated drugged defense. To prove not that you and Scully are lovers, but to prove that you could be, but you’re too dedicated to your job. Which leads to the motivation, perhaps aided by the drugs, to commit this crime. Do you follow me?”

“So if I tell them Scully and I are having sex, it shoots their theory of repressed sexual desire down the drain. But Scully and I are finished as partners, and so are the X-Files. And if I deny the sex, then they shoot me down with their little theory, which is supported by just enough of what I have already admitted regarding our relationship. So I’m dammed if I do and dammed if I don’t.”

“Just tell the truth. If they don’t like your answers, then they’ll force you to expand on them later. That’s when you can turn their twisted truths back around.”

Skinner caught a glimpse of hopeless desperation on Mulder’s face.

“I know how unfair this is.”

“Is it! If I raped and beat that girl, is this unfair!”

Skinner leaned farther across the table and his voice was a hushed exclamation. “You didn’t commit this crime!”

“The evidence -”

“EVIDENCE? How many FUCKING times have you seen the manipulation of evidence, Agent Mulder! Is that not the very nature of the X-Files – hide the truth, fabricate and confabulate! Your very words. And now, just because you can’t remember, you’re ready to accept all the presented facts! Bull shit! You’re more of a fighter than that!”

Skinner realized the portent of his own words and his voice softened as he saw the stricken look on the young agent’s face.

“You’re more of a fighter than that,” he repeated barely above a whisper.

There was long eye contact made between the two men until they were interrupted by a knock on the door. As they looked up, Scully stuck her head in, wishing to be invited before entering.

“Mr. Randolph thought I should take a look at you, Mulder.”

She saw him nod and motion her in. Scully pulled a chair over in front of him and sat down. She gently turned Mulder’s face toward her and leaned close, going into doctor mode, her eyes searching his. She could see that his eyelids were puffy and dark crescents were forming under his eyes. His cheeks were flushed even more than when they’d left the hospital. She laid the back of her hand against his forehead, then his cheek.

Abruptly, she turned to Skinner, who was watching with interest and concern.

“Sir, he’s burning up. Could you have someone get my medical bag out of the car? It’s parked in front of the building.”

“Yes. But I need to say something first. Mulder, can you hold on a minute?”

“Sure,” he said pensively, wondering <what now?>

Skinner sat on the edge of the table, making both his agents look up at him. It wasn’t intentional, just an unconscious act of authority. He needed them to listen to him.

“We talked about what the purpose of all this is, if what Mulder’s informant tells us about the outcome of the DNA tests is true. I know now what the reason is. The rape charge is a way to get Agent Mulder to admit any sexual liaison with his partner. The rape charge is a means to an end. That particular charge justifies the type of questions they need to ask regarding your relationship with Agent Scully. They know you could be exonerated of the rape. But in the meantime, information that will come out about the two of you as partners will have the Bureau higher-ups scrambling to split you up so they can preserve Bureau dignity.”

Scully looked indignant. “Sir, that’s quite a risk. No one could know for sure what relationship Agent Mulder and I have. When we’re in the field, we’re the ultimate professionals. And when we’re not in the field, we’re careful. We know we’re watched.”

“What do you mean by careful?” Skinner asked, his eyes narrowing.

Scully shook her head, realizing he had misinterpreted what she meant. “I mean we don’t do anything that would cause suspicion or add fuel to the rumor mill.” Scully’s voice rose in pitch. “Maybe we’d like to go to a movie together sometime, or drive to New York to watch a ballgame together. We are friends, you know? But we don’t. We don’t do what any other partners have the luxury of doing because we’re male and female partners. Every time Mulder even smiles at me the tongues start wagging.” Her voice softened as she looked at her partner, who seemed surprised at her remarks. “That’s not our fault.”

Skinner removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. He kept his glasses in his hand.

“Sir …” Scully said, waiting for him to look at her. “What do you think about our relationship?”

Skinner avoided looking at Mulder, who had just divulged more than Scully might have approved of. “It doesn’t matter what I think.”

“It matters to me. And I think it matters to Mulder.”

Skinner took a deep, troubled breath. “I’ve known agents to get involved before. And it always affected their job performance. That was often the first clue that they were involved. I haven’t seen that with you two, so I have to think that you haven’t mixed work and pleasure. But to be honest, I don’t know how you do it. To be as successful and productive in your work as you are, you have to be close. And you have to be monogamous. That means no third or fourth parties in the equation. That’s the part I find impossible. How can you ? … When ? … I would rather believe you’re experts at being discreet, rather than think you’re not interested in each other.”

Mulder’s voice was strained. “That’s the assumption, isn’t it? That’s why they took the risk, because the odds were greater that there would be something they could use against us.”

Scully’s voice was sad. “That’s the purpose in all this. To break us up, but to have it done by the Bureau. To discredit both of us in the process.”

“And to stop Agent Mulder’s work,” said Skinner, getting to the heart of the matter.

Mulder was silent for a minute, then he surprised them. “No. That’s not all. There’s something more.”

“What do you mean?” asked Scully.

He dismissed it as if he’d never spoken.

<There it is again> Scully thought. <Just when I think he’s going to confide in me, he closes up. What was it Mr. X said — ‘tell him to tell you the truth.’>

Scully took Mulder’s hand in hers. “Mulder, is there —”

But Mulder’s reserves were losing ground. Before Scully could finish, he had dropped his head to her shoulder, and she heard him wheezing with pain. Putting her other hand on the back of his neck, she turned to Skinner.

“I need my bag out of the car.”

Skinner instantly rose to leave but Mulder quickly grabbed the sleeve of his coat. Fully aware that he was overstepping the boundaries with his boss, he stammered an apology.

“Sorry, but sir, stay here. Let someone else -”

“Mulder … it’s okay,” Scully said, somewhat aggravated that they were all in this predicament.

Skinner nodded stiffly, in agreement with Scully, and left the room. When Scully looked at her partner she saw such an immense look of despair that it almost broke her heart. Before she could speak, he lowered his head onto his outstretched arms over the table and Scully saw his body shaking from the sobs he was trying to keep inside. She knew that because of his intense emotional pain, his physical pain was unbearable. Scully put one arm around his shoulders and the other lightly on his head. She rested her head against his, whispering to comfort him.

“Mulder, please. Don’t let this tear you up. We’ll get through it. I’m still here. I’ll never, ever leave you. If you’ve ever trusted me to believe in you, know that trust now.”

Scully felt Mulder’s hand reach up and cover her hand on his shoulder. She thought briefly about what she wanted to say, and took a deep breath.

“Mulder, listen to me. There are things I can’t tell you yet. Truths that Skinner and I know, but it’s too dangerous for you to know until after this polygraph is over.”

She felt his body quiet, knowing he was listening.

“If we tell you what we know, it won’t be what you remember, and the results of the polygraph could be tainted. Do you understand what I’m saying, honey?”

Mulder’s head slowly raised and Scully scooted to the edge of her chair, closer to him. She was shocked at his pasty complexion, the look of hopelessness in his eyes.

“Scully,” he whispered desperately, “did I do this?”

Scully wanted more than anything to tell him the truth, trying to weigh how he could answer the questions put to him if he really didn’t remember.

“Mulder, I can’t give you answers for the polygraph. The only way for the truth to be revealed is if you admit that you don’t know what happened. I can’t help you yet. Please understand.”

Her answer seemed to comfort him somewhat and he nodded slightly. Then she saw his eyes close briefly as his body shuddered with pain. Scully took off her suit jacket and folded it, putting it on the table. Gently she put her hand on the side of Mulder’s head.

“Put your head down. Rest for a few minutes.”

He did without objection. Scully’s mind was totally consumed with comforting him as she ran her hands soothingly through his hair. When Skinner came back in, he instantly saw Mulder and almost at the same instant, saw Scully motion him to be quiet. Mulder hadn’t moved, nor did he when Skinner softly closed the door, handing Scully her bag. Skinner motioned with his head for Scully to follow him outside for a minute. Trying not to disturb Mulder, they quietly slipped from the room.

“How’s he doing?” Skinner asked.

“Terrible. Worse than terrible. I don’t know how he can finish.”

“Scully, he has to. We can’t tell him the truth until the polygraph is over.”

Feeling the anguish, Scully brought both hands up to her eyes.

“Dammit, sir …” she said, starting to turn away from him.

Skinner put a hand on her arm stopping her. “I know. We have to tell him something. Something!”

“I already have,” she said lightly.

“What?”

“Just that … you and I know things, but we can’t help him manipulate the polygraph. I just told him to trust us. That’s all.”

“Did he hear you?”

“I think so. I think it helped him fall asleep.”

They saw the prosecutor coming down the hallway. Both of them stepped apart from each other and assumed a detached stance.

“I think your boy has stalled long enough. Let’s get this over with.”

“I need 5 minutes to check Agent Mulder further,” Scully said briskly.

“No. If that’s the case, then you should have been in there doing that instead of out here conspiring with your boss.”

“You son of a -” Scully started, but Skinner silenced her with a hand on her arm.

“We gave Agent Mulder a few minutes to sleep. He’s in tremendous pain. I just brought Dr. Scully her medical kit so she can better evaluate his condition.” Skinner said.

“I’m not going to allow this game playing. I’ll go straight to the judge.”

“Go ahead. We’ll be glad for the postponement,” Skinner countered sharply.

“You can’t cover for him. He’s going to face the music like any other scum rapist on the street.”

“It’s beginning to sound like you have a personal problem. Maybe we should look into your background a little bit.” Skinner added.

“Are you threatening me!”

Skinner’s voice was calm, but dripped like ice water. “Not at all. But you’ve already pre-judged a man guilty and have resorted to name-calling. This is a federal agent you’re talking about, a man who has not been found guilty of any crime. I’d advise you to keep your opinions to yourself and simply seek the facts. I’m not afraid to take you down. You’re a little man trying to make a name for yourself in a big world. And if you decide to use Agent Mulder as your platform, I’ll be there to crush you like a bug. Count on it.”

Scully was only half as stunned as the prosecutor as Skinner turned sharply and took her by the arm.

“Agent Scully …”

Snapping out of her trance, she followed him back into the room. Mulder was still sleeping.

“I’m sorry we have to wake him up,” Skinner apologized.

Scully bent close to his ear, brushing it lightly with her lips. “Mulder, wake up. We have to finish this.”

Slowly his head raised and he blinked a few times, his eyes drooping and wanting to close. Scully had taken out the thermometer.

“Mulder, let me take your temperature. Mulder …”

She thought he was looking at her, but when she moved out of his line of vision, his eyes remained locked in one spot. She heard Skinner leave the room.

“Mulder …” His eyes were still glazed. She knew he was shutting down. Scully brushed the back of her hand along his cheek. “Come on partner. .”

She saw him blink again and focus on her, and the film over his eyes seemed to lift.

“Open your mouth, put this under your tongue.”

He obeyed. Scully then took his wrist pulse, and took a stethoscope out of the bag. She unbuttoned his shirt and placed the stethoscope against his chest. Listening carefully, she moved it around, and then to his back. Finally, she put it back in her bag, and re-buttoned his shirt. Then she removed the thermometer. It was just under 104.

“Shit,” she whispered.

Just then Skinner came back in. He saw her holding the thermometer and his eyebrow arched in question. She handed it to him without answering. As he read it, his face registered even more concern.

“Sir, let’s get this over with. He’s not going to last much longer.”

The door opened and Mulder’s attorney came back in with a glass of water. Scully took it from him and put it in her partner’s hand.

“Drink this, Mulder. It’s water.”

He seemed to be thirsty as he downed almost the whole glass. His attorney sat next to him.

“Fox, I’ve seen the questions they’re planning to ask you. You don’t have to answer them, but they’re going to ask them regardless. It might look worse if you refuse to answer. This is just a polygraph. None of this is admissible in court.”

Skinner and Scully exchanged looks. <The people we deal with don’t go to court.>

The attorney continued. “Just answer the best you can. Try not to look uncomfortable, as if it’s no big deal. Okay?”

Mulder nodded. Skinner put his hand under Mulder’s arm to help him stand. Mulder saw that Scully looked worried and helpless. She smiled at him.

He smiled back. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 10 of 19)

STATE ATTORNEY’S OFFICE 3:15 p.m.

The interrogation resumed. It was obvious to all parties in the room what condition Agent Mulder was in, and the operator conducting the examination was concerned.

“Agent Mulder, do you feel you can continue with this polygraph?”

“Yes, sir. How I feel is not going to affect whether I tell the truth or not.”

“Very well.”

Skinner was back in his place, standing on the other side of the glass. There was a soft knock on the door, and he opened it, surprised to find Scully standing there.

“Sir, I know Agent Mulder doesn’t want me present during this questioning, but I think under the circumstances of his medical condition, my presence is necessary.”

Skinned agreed, and nodded, stepping back to allow her to enter. “I think the worst is over for now anyway. Besides, you’re just going to read it later in the transcript.”

Scully pulled up a chair, looking closely at her partner. Skinner, his eyes also on Mulder, spoke without looking over at her.

“He looks like he’s going to collapse at any moment.”

“I almost wish he would.”

The interrogator asked the first question. “Agent Mulder, you and your partner have been together for 7 years?”

“Yes.”

“Were you happy about her being assigned to you?”

“Not the first day, no.”

“How long did it take for you to accept her as your partner?”

“The second day.”

Scully glanced over at Skinner and saw him hiding a smile.

“Do you trust your partner?”

“Yes,” he answered immediately.

“Do you believe she trusts you?”

To Scully’s dismay, there was a split second of hesitation before he answered.

“Yes.”

“Would you be willing to die for your partner?”

“Absolutely.”

The interrogator paused. “Agent Mulder, are you in love with Agent Dana Scully?”

Scully was shocked at the question, but Mulder showed no reaction. Scully turned to Skinner. She saw him still watching Mulder, but he had clenched his teeth.

“They’re trying to ruin him in case he gets off the charges,” Skinner said.

“You were right about the questioning. It’s being orchestrated outside this room.”

The interrogator spoke again, “Agent Mulder, are you in love with Special Agent Dana Scully?”

Scully, clenching the arm of the chair, saw him look up at the one-way glass as if he knew she was sitting there. When her partner answered, it was definitive.

“Yes.”

“You love her as a friend?” the operator asked.

“Yes.”

“Do you love her as a sister?”

“No.”

“Do you love Agent Scully as a lover?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Have you and Agent Scully ever had sexual intercourse?”

“No.”

“Have you ever had oral sex with a woman? Any woman.”

“Yes,” he answered hesitantly.

“Have you ever had oral sex with Agent Scully?”

“No.”

Scully stiffened, shooting a quick glance at her AD She became more anxious when she saw the polygraph operator make a notation on the paper.

“Have you and Agent Scully ever engaged in sexual foreplay?”

When Mulder hesitated, Scully thought her heart would stop. But then his voice was unusually calm.

“Define foreplay.”

Thrown off guard, the operator looked to the DA to know where to go from there, but the DA was also snagged in the trap. Skinner smiled to himself. “Touch=E9, Mulder,” he said loud enough for Scully to hear.

The DA pointed to the writing tablet and the operator asked the next question.

“Have you and Agent Scully ever kissed?”

Scully saw him look down at the table and there was the faintest hint of a smile on his lips.

“Yes.”

The interrogator looked down at a pad of paper.

“Have you and Agent Scully ever slept together in the same bed?”

“You’ve already asked me that question.”

“I’m asking it again.”

“Yes.”

“Do you desire a sexual relationship with Agent Scully?”

Mulder’s attorney spoke up quickly, “Again, there’s no relevance to that question,” he said with annoyance.

The prosecutor immediately jumped in. “We feel there is. We’re alleging that because of the sexual repression experienced by Agent Mulder, he could have committed this crime of rape and assault. And we believe that his feelings for Agent Scully have led to that repression.”

Mulder had vowed to practice a controlled detachment, but there was a limit to that control, and it had just been breached. Despite his pain, Mulder, enraged, jumped from his chair.

“THAT’S A FUCKING LIE!”

“Agent Mulder …!” his attorney said, quickly standing and placing his hand on his arm.

“THIS ISN’T A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION! IT’S A WITCH HUNT AND YOU KNOW IT!” Mulder screamed.

“Fox,” said his attorney, “sit down.”

“Sit down, Agent Mulder, or I’ll have contempt charges brought against you,” the prosecutor warned.

Mulder turned to face the prosecutor, and Scully flinched, knowing that look in his eye. “Who paid you off!” he accused.

Scully and Skinner both heard the uncomfortable laugh come from the prosecutor and knew instantly that what Mulder implied was true.

“Agent Mulder …” the attorney warned again.

But Mulder’s eyes were riveted to the prosecutor. “He got to you, didn’t he! What did you get in return!”

Mulder’s attorney was attempting to pull him out of the room and Scully saw him staggering under the pain. When Skinner saw Mulder being handcuffed, he tossed a chair out of his way and bolted for the door. Scully also headed for the door as she saw Skinner enter the interrogation room.

Skinner was livid. “Let him go! He’s no threat to anyone here!”

The deputy was intimidated by the Assistant Director of the FBI. “Sir…” started the deputy.

Skinner didn’t even hear him; his attention was locked on the prosecutor, his eyes cold and piercing.

“Let my agent go now or so help me you’ll regret it,” he threatened, inches from his face.

There was hesitation, then the prosecutor nodded to the deputy. Before Mulder’s hands could be freed from the cuffs, he started to sink to the floor. Skinner grabbed him, as did Scully who had rushed up to his side. They eased him to the floor. The deputy moved in to remove the handcuffs.

Skinner stood up in front of the prosecutor who raised up on his heels, still putting himself a head shorter than the AD.

“I want him locked up!”

It was all Skinner could do to keep from breaking his nose. He balled his hands into fists at his sides, glaring at him and speaking through clenched teeth. Scully was afraid he was going to hit him.

Skinner jabbed a finger into the prosecutor’s chest, wishing it were a pointy stick.

“This man is going straight to a hospital! If you stand in his way and he suffers consequences from it, so help me you’ll be cleaning toilets next week!”

“On whose say so does he go to a hospital!”

“MINE!” Scully shouted, leaving her partner’s side temporarily, standing face-to-face with the prosecutor, but matching his height a little closer.

“I’m his doctor! He never should have been released in the first place, and I’m not so sure I won’t discuss the ramifications of that with Agent Mulder’s attorney!” she seethed.

The prosecutor looked over at the attorney, who narrowed his eyes and nodded.

The prosecutor finally stepped away from Skinner’s glare. “Fine. But I’m putting a guard on him.”

“Like he’s going anywhere,” Scully said under her breath as she kneeled back down next to her partner. “Mulder …”

“Agent Scully …” one of the deputies spoke as he clipped a radio back on his belt, “paramedics are on the way.”

“Good. Thank you.”

Mulder opened his eyes and looked up at her. Passing out seemed to have given him a temporarily respite and he felt a little better.

“Scully, what are you doing here?”

She realized that he had asked her not to attend the polygraph. She dipped her head but lifted it when she felt his hand slip into hers. When she looked into his eyes, she saw pain, but also understanding.

“Guess my little secret is out,” he said softly.

Scully leaned closer and put her lips to his ear. “It’s no secret to me, Mulder,” she whispered with a smile.

She saw the relief on his face as he once again closed his eyes. Scully felt someone brush against her leg and she turned and looked up to see that Skinner had moved in closer, as if to put himself between his two agents and everyone else. He could read the question in her eyes, and he nodded slightly.

He mouthed the words, “We’ll tell him.”

--

7:40 p.m. BETHESDA HOSPITAL

Mulder was once again settled in a hospital room. There was concern that his high fever was due to an infection. But the question was what was causing it. He had undergone another CAT scan and more x-rays. Blood was taken to check his counts because he was so weak and pale.

Now that he was back on pain medication, he was feeling better. Scully was relieved to see that his spirits had lifted a little. She knew it had partially to do with the polygraph being over.

She walked in the room to find him chatting with one of his nurses. He had teased her about her resemblance to Rosie O’Donnell. The nurse took it as a compliment. She was amused that Mulder was starting to call her Rosie by name.

“Well, thank goodness you showed up,” the nurse said to Scully. “He sort of monopolizes your time, don’t he?”

Scully grinned. “Yes, he does,” she said, sitting in the chair next to the bed. “Do I dare ask what he’s been filling your head with?”

The nurse straightened the blanket over her patient. “I got a sister that manages a hotel in New Orleans. She swears a ghost haunts the place.”

Scully rolled her eyes at her partner and he waggled his eyebrows at her. The nurse checked his water pitcher. “I’ll get you some more water,” she said to Mulder. “Anyway, your partner was telling me ways of … ways of …” she looked to Mulder for help.

Just as he opened his mouth to answer, Scully beat him to it.

“Calling them out. If you can identify the spirit, and perhaps use a familiar object, usually placed on a mirror or an old picture frame that once held a photo of the specter in human form, then there could be communication with the spirit. But it might only be a telepathic communication which would mean the seeker would have to possess a certain sixth sense, which is why most people can’t communicate with spirits.”

While the nurse’s interested gaze was on Scully, she chanced a look at her partner to see him mouth the words at her <Marry me.>

When Scully chuckled, the nurse looked back over at Mulder, but he just shrugged.

“Well,” nurse Rosie said,” looks obvious to me who the expert is here,” she said, winking at Scully.

“Without a doubt,” Mulder added. “I’m just along for the ride.”

The nurse finished checking equipment and picked up the water pitcher. “I’ll be back in a little while.” She pointed a finger at Mulder. “Thank your lucky stars.”

“I do every day.”

The nurse smiled at Scully and walked out. Scully frowned at her partner who patted a spot on the bed.

“What was that all about?” she asked, sitting next to him.

“Haven’t you ever heard of nurse/patient confidentiality?”

“No, no, I haven’t.”

Scully took the pause in their conversation to look him over. She felt his cheek. “How you doing, partner?”

“Better.”

“You’re still very warm. Your tests will be back tomorrow morning and hopefully then we’ll know what’s going on with you.”

He nodded, then lightly touched her knee with his fingers. “Are you okay?” he asked.

<Am I okay?>

“Oh, Mulder,” she said, her eyes melting with appreciation for his concern. “Yes.”

She saw his hesitation, his eyes wandering to a point over her shoulder, then back to her face.

“Anything new on the case?” he asked.

“Hey,” she said, gently turning his cast over to check his fingers for swelling. “Not tonight.”

Their eyes locked and a thousand thoughts passed between them. Years of hope, disappointment, joy, sadness, confusion, understanding — it was all there in a blink, a smile, a tear. No one had shared with them what they had shared together. And now, for one of them, the truth was told. How ironic that years of practicing a confession of love would be preempted by a forced admission made in the harsh light of an interrogation room in front of strangers. He wondered how Scully interpreted his answers. Of course he loved her; of course he desired a sexual relationship — what healthy man wouldn’t? But what did it really mean to her? He didn’t have long to wonder.

Scully gently ran the tips of her fingers across the back of his bruised, swollen fingers.

“Mulder, you lied on the polygraph,” she said softly.

“I will lie to protect you,” he said simply, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

“What happened to ‘the truth will save you’?”

“The truth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

“I know you’ve been hurt by it, but we’re no better than they are if we resort to lies.”

“Scully, when the truth can be used to destroy you, what good is it? Where do you draw the line?”

“That’s the question, isn’t it?”

“Sometimes it takes a lie to get to the truth. You and I know that better than anyone.”

She couldn’t argue with that. Mulder had an uncanny way of justifying everything he did.

“Mulder, does Skinner know the truth?”

“About …?” he asked, knowing full well what she was referring to.

“About us.”

“Skinner knows the truth whether I tell him or not,” he said quietly.

Scully thought back on the inquiry into her partner’s feelings. She had never imagined a one-sided declaration of love. If ever there came a time for the two of them to bare their souls, they would do it together, as they did everything together. But now, because Mulder had been the target again, his most private thoughts and feeling had been manipulated and coerced. Well this time, Scully decided, she would turn it around on them. Just like 7 years ago when the same manipulative forces assigned Agent Mulder a partner.

What Scully and Mulder both knew was that never could their love for each other be used again them. Theirs was a power nothing could match. The two agents were at their strongest when something was pulling them apart. What they saw now in each other was reinforcement of an unbreakable bond.

Very slowly they moved together, their eyes on each other’s lips, their hands intertwined. Heartbeats quickened and eyelids fluttered closed as their lips brushed, warm, tender. Mulder placed his hand on the back of her head, pulling her lips into a deeper kiss. He swore he heard Scully moan when suddenly the door flew open.

Startled, both agents jerked apart to see who had entered the room.

“Well, well, well. That’s some bedside manner, Dr. Scully.”

Scully let out a sigh, not embarrassed, just disappointed. “Frohike.”

He was followed by his two compadres, Langley and Byers.

“Sorry to interrupt. But we’re responding to a distress call,” Frohike explained.

“A distress call?” Scully asked, turning to her partner who feigned innocence.

Frohike set a duffel bag on the empty chair and unzipped it. Byers and Langley moved closer to the bed.

“How are you doing, Mulder?” asked Byers.

“I’m okay.”

“You look like shit, man.”

“Thanks, Langley.”

Scully tried to peer into the bag, but Frohike dramatically covered it with his hands.

“Okay guys, what gives?” Scully asked.

“Hey, we came all this way through snow and sleet —”

“Cut the crap,” Mulder said. “Did you bring it?”

Frohike grinned, then reached into the bag. In a swift move, he pulled out a pint-sized carton of ice cream.

“Here you go G-man. Ben and Jerry’s infamous Cherry Garcia,” he said handing it to him.

Scully gave him a mock frown. “Frohike …”

Suddenly he held up another carton, a silly grin on his face.

Scully cocked her head. “Is that what I think it is?”

She looked back at her partner. He was the only one, besides her mother, who knew her favorite flavor. She read the carton.

“Chocolate Skinny Dip,” she said dreamily.

Frohike winked at Mulder. “She’s yours now,” he teased.

When Frohike handed it to her with two spoons, she almost squealed with delight.

“Mulder, you’re forgiven.”

“What about us?” Langley whined.

“We’ll see,” she said, taking the top off the carton for Mulder and setting it on the bed so he could hold it steady with his casted arm. “What else is in the bag?” she asked.

Langley saw Mulder throw him a warning look. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” the blonde Gunman replied.

“Mulder, did they bring your magazine collection?”

He opened his mouth to speak, but she stuck in a spoonful of ice cream. “No. Never mind. I’d rather not know.”

As Scully dipped into her own carton, she missed the look that passed between her partner and the three Gunmen.

For the next hour they visited, discussing conspiracy theories, new UFO sightings, and which major company the Gunmen planned to hack into next — to which Mulder and Scully both interjected a demand to remain ignorant of that little escapade.

At 9:00, Mulder saw Scully yawn behind her hand. He put his hand on her arm. “Scully, I want you to go home and get some sleep.”

“Mulder, I don’t —”

“I’d like you to be here first thing tomorrow to explain the results of those tests to me.”

Mulder glanced over his shoulder to see the Gunmen looking uncomfortable. He looked back at Scully. “These guys can stay a few minutes. They were going to show me some satellite photos they downloaded.”

He saw that she was apprehensive. “Scully, I just need to get my mind on something else.”

That was something she could understand, and when he saw it in her face, he almost lost his nerve. He knew what the Gunmen were thinking and he addressed all of them.

“Boys, can I have a minute?”

They nodded and started out the door but Scully’s words stopped them.

“Guys,” she said, indicating with a nod of her head toward the duffel bag. “It’s probably not a good idea to get his blood pressure up.”

They said nothing, but by the way they shuffled out the door without looking at her, she detected a note of gloom.

<Oh well, they are the Gunmen. Go figure.>

Mulder was accustomed to Scully staying with him during hospitalizations. She usually made sure he was asleep before she went home. It always helped him to relax and sleep, knowing she was with him. But tonight he needed her to go home, and he hated himself for it.

“Come here,” he said softly, moving over slightly in the bed so she could sit next to him. He took her hand, kissing her fingers. She was soft and warm. Inside he was wracked with guilt and self-loathing.

“Scully, there’s really nothing I need to say. You know my heart. You know me. I’ve never meant to hurt you. Never. No matter what happens after tonight, please, please know that you are all that matters to me.”

“Mulder —”

“No, don’t talk,” he said softly. “Listen. I will make things right. Trust me as you’ve never trusted me before.”

She glanced down at the blanket before meeting his eyes again. “Mulder, there’s something —”

“Shhh. Say it. That you trust me. Please.”

Her eyes were like burning embers. Mulder wondered briefly how so much heat could emanate from orbs so blue.

“I trust you,” she answered, a little puzzled.

Mulder nodded and smiled his gratitude. “Kiss me,” he whispered.

She smiled at the way he said it, so simple a request, like when they were in their office together and he asked her to hand him a paperclip. Just that simple. He expected it, and she gave it.

This time their lips met without interruption. But what started out slow and sweet suddenly turned desperate, as Mulder seemed to lose control. He kissed her hard, almost painfully, holding her tightly against him. For an instant, she expected to hear a sob from him, but he broke their kiss, breathing deeply into her shoulder.

She attributed it to everything that he had been holding back all day. He almost let go, but then was back in control. Scully held his face in her hands, but it took seconds for him to drag his eyes up to hers.

“Mulder, never be afraid to let go in front of me.”

<She’s got it all wrong. God forgive me. Scully, forgive me.>

“Hey,” he said, forcing a smile that felt like a rip across his face. “Go home. Get some sleep. Do it for me.”

She nodded and when Mulder saw tears in her eyes, he almost grabbed her and confessed everything. No longer could he speak without betraying his motives. He simply pointed to the door and she stood up.

As if everything were moving in slow motion, Mulder watched her retrieve her coat from the closet and pick up her purse. She glanced at the duffel bag and Mulder felt a surge of panic. Then she looked at him with that twinkle in her eye that only Scully could give.

“Remember your blood pressure.”

<If you only knew> he wanted to say. He nodded instead. His mind was screaming contradictions.

<PLEASE GET OUT OF HERE!>

<NO! DON’T GO!>

Scully paused at the door. Not taking her eyes off her partner, she kissed the tips of her fingers, then extended them toward Mulder. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

The pain in his soul was so agonizing that he had to close his eyes, hiding the tears trapped behind his lids.

When he opened them again, she was gone.

Mulder waited anxiously for the Gunmen to re-enter. He suspected that Scully was warning them about keeping him up too late and tiring him out. When they came back in, their behavior was constrained.

“Mulder —” started Frohike.

“Save it!” he snapped. He knew what he had to do and if he spent one more second weighting the consequences, he wouldn’t go through with it. “Is there a guard outside?”

“No,” said Byers.

“Good. Give me my clothes.”

He saw them hesitate.

“Look,” Mulder said, “I hate this with every goddamn fiber of my body. But it’s got to be done.”

Langley stood by the door, peeking through a narrow crack. Frohike stood still, so Byers opened the duffel bag. He pulled out a set of clothes for Mulder, tossing them to him. Then he took out a pair of tennis shoes and set them on the bed.

Frohike still didn’t look at Mulder. “Bastard,” he said under his breath.

Mulder nodded sadly, knowing that Frohike’s anger toward him was because of the friendship Frohike had with Agent Scully. Mulder knew that each of the Gunmen had grown to love her in their own way. It was one of the reasons Mulder was so loyal to them, because they had accepted his partner, and he knew, without question, they would be loyal to Scully and protect her as they protected him.

Mulder continued to look at Frohike until the older man finally met his eyes. Frohike saw what he hoped to see in the young agent’s eyes — sorrow, regret, apology.

Byers had moved to the side of the bed, helping Mulder with the buttons of his shirt. They all saw him wince when he slid out of bed.

“Byers, can you help me with this thing?” Mulder asked, indicating the I.V.

Byers closed the ringer on the tube, then shut off the machine. Mulder extended his arm, but turned his head as his friend withdrew the needle.

“Mulder, what are they …?” Byers started to ask what medication he was being given, then turned the I.V. bag over. He looked alarmed. “Mulder, this is morphine. You’re in that much pain?”

Mulder saw Frohike’s expression turn to concern. He ignored Byers’ question.

“Were you able to get me a gun?”

Frohike reached in the bag and pulled out a weapon similar to his service revolver.

“Thanks,” Mulder said, checking the clip awkwardly with one hand.

With some difficulty he got his jeans on and fastened them, but tying his shoes was another story. Frohike finally helped him after watching him trying to hold the laces with painfully swollen fingers. It was also apparent that bending over was causing Mulder considerable pain.

Finally dressed, he stood upright, sticking the gun in the waistband of his pants. Byers took off his jacket and handed it to him. Mulder thought of something else. “Did you remember to bring —”

“In the pocket,” Byers said.

Mulder reached in the pocket of the jacket and pulled out a tiny tape recorder. He nodded his thanks, then sat back down on the edge of the bed.

“Guys, I’m sorry. I know how difficult this is going to be with Scully. That’s why I’m not telling you where I’m going. It’s one less lie you have to tell her. She knows lies when she hears them.”

“Yeah, all but yours,” Frohike said coldly.

“Melvin,” cautioned Byers, “this is hard enough for him.”

“For him! How’s Scully going to take this when she get a phone call telling her he’s gone?”

Mulder shook off the remark. He couldn’t go there right now. “Byers, you have the checks and the account numbers?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. First thing tomorrow morning. Please.”

“I will.”

Mulder gingerly put his feet to the floor. He swayed for an instant and Frohike instinctively grabbed his good arm.

“Mulder, you’re really pale,” said Langley.

“I’m okay.”

They watched the agent move to the door and wait for Langley to signal that all was clear.

“Guys, I’ll make this up to you. Tell Scully … ” Mulder couldn’t finish the sentence. He just shook his head.

“Now, Mulder,” said Langley, peering through the doorway.

With one final look of regret at his friends, Mulder walked out.

Frohike rubbed his tired face and sank onto the corner of Mulder’s empty bed.

“The shit’s going to hit the fan,” he whispered.

--

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 11 of 19)

11:25 p.m. DANA SCULLY’S APARTMENT

Scully had just fallen asleep when the phone rang. She let it ring a couple of times to allow herself a few seconds more to wake up. She smiled to herself. It had to be Mulder.

<Guess he can’t sleep.>

“Hello,” she said, sleepily.

Seconds later she was upright in bed, fully awake, her heart pounding in her ears.

“What!” She shut her eyes, listening to the confused, frantic voice of the night nurse. “I’ll be right there!”

Scully threw the covers off, angry tears blurring her vision. “Goddamn you, Mulder! GODDAMN YOU!”

--

3:10 a.m. LONE GUNMEN’S HEADQUARTERS

The pounding was incessant. It continued as Langley quickly worked to open each and every lock on the door. They knew who it was. As Frohike pulled the door open, he almost tumbled back as the door was pushed from the other side. A whirlwind of black flapping coat and copper hair shoved past them.

All three men joined Scully in the center of the room. Her features were drawn, her eyes red and weary. She looked not just enraged, but scared.

“WHERE IS HE!” she demanded.

Langley and Byers looked to Frohike who stepped a little closer to Scully. “We don’t know. He wouldn’t’ tell us.”

“You’re lying!”

“No,” said Byers. “He didn’t want us to have to keep that from you, so he didn’t tell us where he was going.”

Scully closed her eyes, rubbing her forehead. The Gunmen looked at each other. Something else was wrong. Not just Mulder missing. Something else. They waited. Scully dropped her hand and took a deep breath.

“Mulder’s in trouble. His test results came back. A piece of his rib splintered off and punctured his lung. We couldn’t see it at first because it had completely broken off and moved behind another rib bone.”

She ignored the shocked look that passed between the three men and went on. “The puncture is causing an infection, which is why he’s running such a high fever. But worse than that, he’s bleeding. His hemostat count, which should be around 15, is at 7.8. That means he has less than half the blood volume in his body that he needs.”

“Oh god,” said Byers.

“He was discovered missing when the doctor went in to prepare him for a transfusion.”

Scully sank into a chair. She had prayed all the way over in the car that the Gunmen would know where he was. Now she didn’t know where to begin looking for him and time was running out.

Frohike knelt beside her. “Scully —”

“WHY! Why did you do it? He’s officially under arrest. He’s released under my custody. That means I have to inform the court that he’s missing!”

When Scully’s voice broke, all three men felt crushing guilt.

“Dana,” said Frohike, “he begged us. He said he knew of only one way to clear this up.”

He surprised Scully by taking her hand, but she jerked it away.

Frohike’s voice was strained. “He said he had to do it because it was the only way to find out if he …”

“If he raped that girl? He didn’t,” she said, lowering her head.

“He doesn’t know that. He’s not sure. He thinks …”

When he stopped mid-sentence, Scully looked at him.

But it was Byers who continued. “He thinks he did it, Scully.”

She closed her eyes. <We should have told him. He’d be getting blood right now if … we’d only told him.>

The Gunmen watched a tear slip from her closed eyelids.

“We’re sorry. It’s just that Mulder was so scared. And he lied to us about his medical condition,” said Langley.

“He was on a morphine drip!” Scully shouted, trying to blink back more tears. “Did you see that when you unhooked him — and I know you did because Mulder’s afraid of needles! He would never do it himself unless he was alone!”

“I saw it after the fact,” Byers admitted.

Scully ran her hand down her face. “God, could this get any worse? It’s snowing harder, the police will issue an arrest warrant, and he’s bleeding to death!”

“Surely he’ll realize —” started Byers.

“How sick he is? Has that ever stopped Mulder before? Did a gunshot wound to the head prevent him from trudging through an ice field on the other side of the world.”

“That was different,” said Frohike. “He was going after you.”

She couldn’t dwell on that fact. “His red blood cells are horribly depleted. Those are the cells that carry oxygen to the brain. He will become more and more confused and disoriented, until he finally lapses into a coma. And if he’s alone … NOW WHERE IS HE!” she screamed.

Their silence finalized their answer. With what she just told them, she knew they would lead her straight to Mulder if they knew where he was.

She stood, wondering for a minute if her legs would hold her up. The Gunmen moved with her to the door.

“We’ll start making calls,” said Frohike. “Hundreds of people know Mulder’s face. We’ll see if we can find him.”

Scully knew the attempt would be futile. Mulder was too good at hiding. But they had to do something besides just standing around waiting for news.

She was overloaded with emotions right now, bone-tired, and scared to death. She was in no position to judge anyone when her own action — or rather inaction — contributed to Mulder’s taking matters into his own hands.

Scully reached for the door. “Call me with any leads,” she said, speaking as if no one was listening.

Then she turned to face them, her words burning through them like acid. “If you hear from Mulder and don’t notify me or AD Skinner, I swear I’ll put a bullet in each of you.”

She walked out, slamming the door behind her.

--

4:35 a.m. Fox Mulder’s Apartment

Scully stood motionless in the center of the living room. How many times had she looked past so many familiar objects in the room — the pictures on the wall, the odds and ends filling his bookcase. And how many mornings had she come in to find their empty pizza box from the night before still on the table, or a trail of Mulder’s clothes lying in the hallway.

Scully’s cell phone rang and she angrily pulled it from her coat pocket. “Scully,” she answered shortly.

“Where are you?”

It was Skinner. Wearily, she sat on the edge of Mulder’s desk. She took a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down.

“I’m at Agent Mulder’s apartment.”

“Is he there!” Skinner asked anxiously.

“No. I’ve been trying to find something that might give me some idea where he went. I thought he might have come back here when he left the hospital last night, but it doesn’t look like it.

In the silence that followed, Scully sensed that her AD had some news for her. When she heard him clear his throat, she knew it was coming.

“I need you to meet me at an address.”

She leaned over and grabbed a pencil and piece of paper off the desk. “Go ahead, sir.”

“Two-eleven Cherry Park Road. It’s the home of the police officer who arrested Mulder.”

Scully’s throat tightened. “The rape victim’s uncle?”

“Yeah. He’s been murdered.”

--

Scully drove down icy streets and thickening fog toward the scene of the homicide. She didn’t even want to think of the implications of the twist in the case – if you could so boldly call murder a twist. She knew time of death would be a critical factor in proximity to when Mulder left the hospital. There was no doubt in her mind that her partner had nothing to do with the crime, but it terrified her to think that this could be one more piece to the frame up.

But how likely was it that Mulder’s unexpected disappearance was known with enough time to suddenly plan a murder? Scully shook her head.

<Get the facts first. Stop speculating.>

She pounded her fist on the steering wheel. <Mulder, where are you?>

--

Cherry Tree Apartments Cherry Tree Road

Red and blue lights twirled in the misty fog. The Coroner’s wagon sat at the curb. As Scully exited her car, a gust of cold wind rattled the bare tree branches and picked up a tin can, blowing it noisily down the street. Curious onlookers milled in the street and huddled in front of the apartment building.

Scully showed her ID to a police officer at the curb, and he raised the yellow crime tape so she could duck underneath it. Entering the apartment, she immediately grabbed a pair of latex gloves from a box on the coffee table. Again she showed her ID as a plainclothes detective came toward her.

“Agent Scully, this way,” he said, obviously having been told to watch for her.

She followed him into the bedroom of the apartment. Skinner was in the corner with another plainclothes officer that she recognized as Detective Bensima, the chief investigator for the case against her partner. She glanced briefly at the body on the bed then went up to her boss.

“Sir, Detective,” she greeted.

“Agent Scully,” the detective replied.

They turned their attention to the body. It was face down in the bed. There was a small hole at the base of his neck, and Scully leaned over to see the exit wound. It wasn’t hard to find. The throat of the victim was blasted away, leaving a mangled mass of torn, bloody flesh. The pillow and bed sheet were blood-soaked.

The two men both saw her wrinkle her brow and cock her head, as if trying to see it from a different perspective.

“At first, it appears that he was shot in his sleep. But the body’s laying at an odd angle across the bed,” she stated.

Having said that, Scully looked up at the wall behind the headboard. There was a blood spatter pattern on the wall, which obviously could not have been made if the victim was laying down with his face against a pillow.

Skinner saw her frown, as she began to draw on her expertise as a pathologist to gather the facts at the scene. He was impressed when he saw her walk over to the window. He also saw the surprised look on the face of the detective.

She ran her fingers over the frosty glass pane until she found the neat round hole in the lower corner of the window. She turned to point it out to Skinner and Bensima, but she could tell by the look that passed between them that they had seen where the shot came from. The detective walked over and placed his fingers on the glass next to Scully’s, using a circular motion to wipe away the condensation. Peering through the window, Scully followed his gaze to another apartment building across the parking lot where she saw several officers on the second floor landing.

“Scully …” said Skinner. “I need to show you something.”

She followed him and Bensima back into the living room and over to the kitchen counter. Skinner picked up a large, clear evidence bag. Scully could see sheets of paper inside. The AD opened it and handed the papers to her. She immediately saw the document title printed on the top page: SHADY OAKS PRIVATE HOSPITAL.

While she was reading, she was peripherally aware that another officer pulled Detective Bensima aside. Realizing what she was reading, she looked up at Skinner in surprise, then continued reading, speaking to him at the same time she took in more information.

“Sir, Mandy Morrison was committed to a mental institution for two and a half years.”

He nodded. Scully went to the next page.

“It says she was committed in lieu of criminal charges being filed. ” She looked up at him. “What charges?”

“I don’t know.”

“I did an extensive background check on her. She had no criminal record. None of this showed up.”

“Curious, isn’t it?”

Scully lowered her voice. “What does Detective Bensima think of this?”

“He admitted it’s looking like there’s more to this case than he first thought. At least it’s apparent that Miss Morrison was not who we thought she was. But Detective Bensima still believes Mulder is somehow involved.”

“Sir, where did you find these papers? Not just lying in plain view, I assume.”

“That’s exactly where we found them. On the dresser in the bedroom. The only thing missing was the flashing neon arrow saying ‘Look Here’.”

Scully watched Bensima approach them again, nodding to indicate he had heard Skinner’s last remark and that their thinking seemed to be along the same track.

Bensima’s attention was drawn to another individual who had entered the residence. Scully recognized the person as a pathologist, and upon catching his eye, they nodded to each other as he proceeded to the bedroom.

Scully held up the papers in her hand. “Someone made sure we found these,” she said.

The Detective was quick to answer. “I agree. I think whoever murdered Officer Femino wanted this information about his niece made known, but I think he was killed to keep him from saying more than someone might want him to say. They didn’t want him talking.”

“Talking about what?” Scully asked harshly, picking up an accusatory edge to his statement.

“That’s the question, isn’t it? It would certainly benefit your partner to have doubt cast on the credibility of Miss. Morrison, wouldn’t it?”

Scully glared at him, and Skinner, seeing the fire building in her eyes, tried to pull her away from the detective, but she held fast to the spot.

“Why did you call a pathologist to the scene? The only time that’s done -” she started.

“Is when we want to get a liver temp to determine time of death. It’s only a back-up measure. We know when he was killed. And it doesn’t look good for your partner.”

“What do you mean?” she asked defensively.

“Agent Mulder was discovered missing from the hospital at 10:25 p.m. At 2:08 a.m., several residents made a 911 call after hearing a gunshot from this location.” The detective ignored her blank expression. “That’s a three-and-a-half-hour window, so we’re not looking at an O.J. timetable here.”

Skinner knew from her demeanor that she was holding her tongue. Again he pulled her away from the detective, this time with more force and she relented, wanting to distance herself from him as well.

“Scully, any idiot knows that Agent Mulder would have to be completely out of his mind to sneak out of a hospital — with numerous witnesses who could verify the time he left — and then murder a key figure in the case against him.”

“We’ve seen stranger things believed.”

Skinner saw her let down her guard for an instant, revealing her exhaustion and worry. He leaned closer, bending slightly to keep his words only between them.

“We’ve got to find Mulder.”

“If we don’t find him soon, sir, I’m afraid we’re going to be following a blood trail. His.”

--

6:30 a.m. ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA

Mulder shivered in the back seat of the cab. The day dawned just like the previous one — cold, wet, and gray. Heavy snow clouds hung in the sky and a brisk breeze sent the wind chill factor plummeting. His thoughts were as gray as the day. Constantly he thought about Scully — how had she taken the news? — Where was she? — What was she doing to find him? Guilt ravaged him like a hungry vulture. He had to think about Scully to keep from spiraling into a depression so deep he’d never climb out. And he had his friends, who were no doubt taking their own amount of grief right now, no thanks to him.

He was grateful that the Gunmen, per his instructions, had given him $300 in cash and two of his credit cards — extras that he kept in a drawer at home.

The cab turned the corner and he knew he was close. He closed his eyes, fighting the nausea caused by the movement of the vehicle. Finally it pulled to a stop in a circular driveway. Peering through the foggy window, Mulder stared up at the stately brownstone manor, sitting in the middle of an immense estate. He asked the driver to wait for him, then painfully got out of the car.

Pulling the collar of the thin jacket up to cover his neck, he carefully navigated the flagstone steps, slick from a coverlet of ice. At the front door he waited for an answer to his ring. Wind gusts swirled dead leaves around his legs. The cold penetrated his clothing, causing him to shiver more. He dragged a hand across his forehead, feeling hot and cold at the same time. He felt the heat radiating off his skin, and instantly thought of Scully touching him with her cool fingers. She had a way of calming the storm within him, whether it be from sickness or depression.

He was startled back to reality when the front door swung open. He was surprised when instead of a servant answering the door, the very man he came to see stood before him.

“Senator,” Mulder greeted quietly.

--

6:30 a.m. DANA SCULLY’S APARTMENT

The apartment door flung open and Scully stepped in quickly, slamming it closed behind her. Right now she didn’t care who she woke up at this early hour of the morning. She stood for a few seconds on the doormat, stomping the snow off her boots, then leaving them in a wet puddle. Yanking her coat off, she wadded it up in frustration and threw it across the living room to land momentarily on the sofa before it slid to the floor. Then she tossed her keys across the room to the dining room table and watched them also slide across the waxed surface, bounce off the wall, and land on the carpet.

Her body was relying on reserves of adrenaline to keep her going, but Mulder’s disappearance was draining that reserve. She was worried out of her mind, while at the same time furious with him for putting her through this.

It had been the night from hell — beginning with the phone call from the night nurse.

Then she’d had to notify Skinner.

When she met him at the hospital, he was in a rage. Who exactly he was enraged at wasn’t clear. Or, more precisely, who he wasn’t enraged at wasn’t clear. Most definitely Special Agent Fox Mulder was at the top of the list. Mulder also held the top position on the worry list. Skinner didn’t care about the concerns or anxieties of anyone else — he was just plain mad. Scully knew a big part of that was guilt, the same guilt she was feeling — that they should have told Mulder what they had learned about the rape. The other part was simply that everything was going down the drain more quickly than a paper boat in a swift current.

And Skinner hadn’t been able to stop it.

Now Scully was exhausted with worry, and just trying to think had become a challenge. Just as she started into the kitchen, there was a knock on the door. After peering through the peephole, she unsnapped the strap on her gun holster. Then she opened the door and stepped back.

Mr. X entered, obviously having been in the building for awhile since his coat and shoes were dry. He saw that Scully was in worse shape than the last time he spoke with her.

“It’s no easy task having a partner like Agent Mulder, is it?” he asked.

“Do you know where he is?” Scully asked, her anxiety causing a slight tremor in her voice.

Her question caught him off guard, and she found herself surprised that he didn’t always have all the facts.

“What are you talking about?” X asked.

“Mulder left the hospital last night. No one can find him.”

The look on X’s face was more disturbed than Scully would have anticipated. In fact, he looked more troubled than news about Mulder being missing would normally cause. Most people who knew Mulder, got pretty accustomed to his disappearing acts.

“What’s wrong?” she asked nervously. “Why are you here if you didn’t know that?”

“No, I didn’t know he wasn’t still in the hospital. This complicates things.”

“What things?”

X looked her in the eye, as if saying <brace yourself.>

“Officer Femino, the so-called uncle of Mulder’s alleged victim, was murdered tonight,” he said coolly.

For once, Scully felt like she had the upper hand, that X was the late arrival at the party.

“You’re losing your touch!” she snapped.

Scully’s quick retort caught him off guard. He actually looked momentarily shaken. If the circumstances were different, she would have enjoyed pulling the ace out of her sleeve.

Scully searched his face, and although X quickly composed himself and tried to keep his features bland, she saw a flash of something she recognized. Her eyes widened with fire.

“You had him killed!”

I didn’t. “

“But you know who did!”

“He was working against Mulder. They got to him too, Agent Scully. He and his partner were the ones that apprehended Mulder behind the bar that night. You think that was a coincidence? What do you think Agent Mulder’s chances would be if you now add a police officer to the list of those framing him?”

“Is a District Attorney on that list as well?”

X’s only answer was that maddening non-verbal stare-down that made Scully want to cold cock him. She sank down into a chair and X boldly took the opposite chair.

“As long as Mulder was in the hospital, he had an alibi. But now —” he started.

“You did this to help save him?” she asked, trying to keep up with the psychotic merry-go-round.

“How did he get out of the hospital? I thought he was guarded.”

“No. The DA was convinced that due to the seriousness of his injuries, he couldn’t go anywhere,” she said, her words almost laughable if not for the critical circumstances.

Scully watched him staring blindly out the window. “Why are you here?” she asked.

“Because it’s time Agent Mulder told you the truth.”

“About what?” she snapped.

“About the girl.”

She felt her heart skip a beat and there was a tightening in her throat. X saw her try to hide her anguish. The disguise came out in the form of fury.

“You first came to me to tell me my partner didn’t do anything to that girl, now you tell me that’s a lie!”

“I didn’t say it’s a lie. But Agent Mulder isn’t telling the whole truth. And if you’re going to help him, you have to know.”

“Well, Agent Mulder isn’t here!” she spat at him. “So why don’t you tell me!”

When X stood out of the chair, Scully jumped up, pulling her gun and pointing it at him. “You’re not going anywhere! This is a police investigation, and you have information! So sit down!”

X looked appalled. “Do you really think I’m going to sit down and let the police take a statement from me? Have you lost your mind?” he said calmly.

“I wouldn’t be surprised!” she said, feeling her sanity slipping away.

“I can’t give you answers. In the years I’ve known your partner, I must have told him that a hundred times.”

Scully knew it was futile to threaten him. Her main concern was how to find her partner and to find him quickly. She lowered the gun, and as much as she despised begging, her partner’s life was more important.

“Please. My partner is walking around, burning with fever and slowly bleeding to death. Tell me where to start.”

“I may know where Agent Mulder went. But to get that information, you need to go talk to someone.”

“Who?”

“Agent Mulder’s contact on Capitol Hill.”

“But I don’t know who —”

“Yes you do,” he said bluntly.

--

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 12 of 19)

6:35 a.m. SENATOR MATHESON’S HOME

Matheson didn’t seem surprised to see Fox Mulder at his doorstep.

“Fox, come in,” he said, quickly pulling the young man in by the arm.

As Senator Matheson closed the door behind him, he looked down to see why Mulder’s arm had felt strange when he grabbed it. He now saw the cast under the opened sleeve of his shirt. And when he looked up into the agent’s face, he saw much more.

“I heard you’d been hurt. Come into the den where it’s warm.”

Mulder followed him, his pace much slower than the Senator’s. Matheson shut the door, giving them privacy, then motioned for Mulder to sit on the leather sofa by the fireplace. He watched the agent settle gingerly on the cushions and he took an armchair across from him.

“Would you like something to drink?” He looked him over again. “Aspirin?” he asked.

“No. You know why I’m here.” His voice had become strained. His discomfort was apparent in the way he held his body. “I want to know why this is happening.”

“I don’t know,” he said sincerely. “I would imagine it’s to discredit you, destroy your work.”

Mulder used his profiling skills to appraise the man he had worked in the shadows with for years. “Why her? How did they ever find her?”

Matheson sighed deeply and stared into the fire for a minute before trying to answer. “They are constantly looking for ways to slow you down, or stop your work all together. They know you have sources on Capitol Hill. They know where I stand as far as funding for the space program, and SETI projects. So they look closer. I’m not the only Senator who supports those things, so they look at all of us because they don’t know who you talk to.”

Matheson saw Mulder brace his chest before he coughed. Mulder nodded for him to go on.

“Somewhere, someone found the link between you and Mandy. It’s unfortunate that you met, coincidentally, at my Christmas party. She liked you, Fox.”

“She’s a disturbed girl, Senator. I knew that five minutes into our conversation that night.”

Matheson shook his head. “You should have brought your partner to the party, as I suggested.”

“That was a long time ago. I wasn’t sure … well, things were different then. But yes, I should have. It might never have happened if I had.”

“Did your partner ever find out?”

“No. She had been sick at the time,” he said softly. “It wouldn’t have been good for her. It was kept quiet.”

“Well, it wasn’t buried as deep as we thought because after the connection between the three of us was made, someone did some digging and found the proceedings.”

“I never saw her again after the competency hearing. Did she continue to hate me?”

“It was a love/hate. She loved you but you wouldn’t reciprocate, so she hated you. Then to make matters worse, you testified against her.”

“I had to.”

“I’m not disputing that. You did what should have been done a long time ago.”

“When did she get out?”

Matheson didn’t answer right away. He was watching Mulder closely, seeing a weakness he had never seen in the young agent. In a way he felt responsible, even though what had happened was far beyond his control. He was even more disturbed at the far-reaching arm of the conspirators, which controlled people’s lives.

“About six months ago. She enrolled in school, supposedly had a boyfriend —”

“You don’t suppose he had one arm, do you?”

Matheson had to smile. Even in obvious pain, Fox Mulder was the sharpest individual he had ever known.

Suddenly, Mulder coughed again. His hand went quickly to his mouth, and when he pulled it away, there was blood on his fingers. He could taste blood in his mouth, and Matheson was alarmed to see his lips tinged red.

Quickly the Senator stood and went to his desk by the window where he grabbed a box of tissues. He went back to Fox, pulling one from the box and handing it to the agent, then setting the box on the sofa.

“Fox, this isn’t good,” he said, watching him wipe the blood off his lips. “I need to get you some help. Let me call your partner.”

“No. Senator, let me finish. Please.”

Matheson took a seat at the opposite end of the sofa, facing Mulder. Mulder tried to ignore how closely he was being scrutinized.

“Sir, they obviously got to her. They made some sort of deal — they promised her something.”

“I don’t know.”

Mulder’s voice was agitated. “Do you know what I’m charged with, sir! Do you think I did it! Are they capable of manipulating me to go that far!”

Matheson suddenly looked bewildered. “You have doubts? You think you could have done this?” he asked, incredulous.

Mulder ran a shaking hand through his hair. “I don’t know. What I went through when Scully was sick — what Mandy put me through — I didn’t need it then. I had to deal with that instead of being with my partner. And I had to lie to Scully. I resented Mandy more than I could ever admit. I made sure she was put away, sir.”

“So you think she’s not the only one that carried that hatred around all these years?”

“I don’t have the disturbed mind she does. I never considered revenge. I used justice instead and for me the past was the past.”

“Until you saw her again that night in the bar and she had the nerve to come on to you. Isn’t that right?”

Mulder looked sick. “Oh god. Could I do it? I know I was set up. But with the help of a drug, with the sheer contempt I felt for her, could I have wanted to hurt her? Would they have simply made it easy for me?”

Matheson saw terror on the agent’s face. “Fox, I don’t think so. Your emotions were running higher at the time your partner was sick, and you kept your wits about you. You did the right thing. I don’t believe what you feel about Mandy today is as extreme as you think. Not to the point of actually doing what you’re accused of. That’s why they used this against you, don’t you see? They’re masters at seeing into people. And they’ve studied you. They planted the doubt, and now they’re feeding on it. Don’t let them win.”

“Then tell me where I can find her.”

Matheson clasped his hands in his lap and bent his head.

“Sir, if I go to the police, I have to admit to things I’ve covered up. Where does that leave the truth? Lost between lies.”

Matheson looked up. “That’s not what you’re worried about,” he said bluntly.

Mulder was silent, waiting for his explanation.

“You’re worried about how this will affect your partnership. That’s more important to you than going to prison for 20 years.”

“I never meant to lie to Scully. But when I realized who I was accused of raping, I didn’t know what to think. I had to find the truth before I could admit to her that I knew this girl.” Mulder rubbed his eyes with one hand, fatigue and pain slowly wiping him out. “Now, it’s so confusing. I think I’ve just made one mistake after the other. But there’s no way to reverse it; I have to go forward.”

Mulder’s eyes pleaded with the Senator. “Senator, where is she?”

“And what will you do if you find her?”

“I was able to convince her once to give herself up. When she’s not with me, she’s strong against me, but she’s weak when she’s with me. I’ll get a recorded confession. Sir, I know she’s left town. Where did she go?”

Matheson looked long and hard at the FBI agent. He remembered the many times Fox Mulder followed up on leads or obtained information for him, sometimes at the risk of his life or career. He owed Mulder at least what he asked for.

The Senator walked over to his desk and opened a drawer, taking out a pad of paper and a pen. He wrote for a minute, then tore off the sheet and folded it. He walked back over to hand it to the agent, but when Mulder stood, he lost his balance. Matheson caught him as Mulder doubled over and coughed again. This time there was more blood.

“Jesus! Fox, you’ve got to get to a hospital!” he said, trying to steady him. Matheson could feel the warmth of Mulder’s skin right through his shirtsleeve.

Mulder wiped his mouth, then took the folded paper out of Matheson’s hand. “I will. Later.”

He unfolded the paper and saw that Matheson had drawn a map. At the top of the page he had written an address.

“She’s here in Virginia?”

“Yes. In Manassas. Her parents have a home at Jackson Lake.”

“Thank you,” Mulder said, refolding the paper and putting it in his coat pocket.

“You’re going alone?”

Mulder nodded and started for the door. He walked slowly, feeling each step jolt his broken rib followed by a piercing pain in his chest. He was breathing heavier, but shallower because taking a deep breath was so painful. Matheson walked him to the front door.

“Fox, I wish you’d let me call Agent Scully.”

“No. She’d just haul my ass back to the hospital,” he said, forcing a weak smile.

“That’s where you should be.”

Mulder opened the door and when the cold air hit him, he instantly started shivering. Again Matheson put his hand on the agent’s arm.

“Fox, please …”

Mulder was fighting the urge to cough so he didn’t dare speak. Instead he waved the piece of paper as his thanks to Matheson, and walked to the cab.

Once he was settled in the back seat, he started to cough. He had stuffed his pockets with tissue, and now removed one to wipe more blood from his mouth.

“Hey, buddy?”

Mulder looked up to see a pair of eyes in the rearview mirror.

“You okay back there?”

“Yeah,” he said hoarsely. “Can you drive me to this address,” he asked, handing him the piece of paper.

“Sure,” he answered, reading the map. “It’s about an hour drive, a little longer on icy roads, so why don’t you relax.”

Mulder nodded and leaned back against the seat, closing his eyes. His pain and his breathing difficulty made him think that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Then he thought of Scully. She had come so far with him. She was the reason he kept finding the strength to keep going. She was his rock, yet he had seen the last few days take a toll on her. Even with all his own self-doubts, she held fast to her belief in him.

Mulder had made up his mind that he would not face her again until this was over. And if it couldn’t be over, then he’d rather be dead anyway.

--

SHADY OAKS PRIVATE HOSPITAL 7:30 a.m.

Scully parked her car in the pebbled drive of the stately old hospital. Pink marble pillars lined the expansive front porch. She could see where the hospital got its name. Large, mature oak trees lined the drives and paths and dotted the grounds. The branches of the trees were now bare, frosted with snow, but in the spring and fall, in full foliage, they must be beautiful, painting the landscape with color and giving cool shade.

Scully watched patients and staff hurrying under umbrellas between the main building and what appeared to be a residence building.

She had tried to contact the only government official that she knew for certain had worked with Mulder. But Senator Matheson’s answering service advised her no one would be in the office until 8:00 o’clock.

She debated with herself whether to let Skinner know about the conversation with Mr. X. Her reluctance was in admitting to him that her partner had not been completely honest with them. X had implied that Mulder knew the girl. Scully tried not to think about the descriptive scene in the back seat of the cab. It was hard to believe her partner had a relationship with the girl because it had only been three years ago — a time when he appeared to have no interest in anyone but Scully.

She had been struggling with her cancer then, while at the same time trying to comfort a guilt-ridden partner whom she mistakenly told was the reason for her cancer. Scully found it almost inconceivable that Mulder could have been with another woman during that time.

But then she thought back to instances over the last couple of days when she felt a nagging suspicion that Mulder was withholding something. In seven years, she had learned to read him like a book. His silence often conveyed much more than words. He had a way of fixing Scully with a gaze that spoke volumes. But lately, he seemed to turn that gaze away, knowing she could read the truth in his eyes.

She realized the snowfall had let up a bit. Jumping out of her car, she hurried up the porch steps. Just inside the front door was an information desk. An elderly woman looked up expectantly, her smile friendly.

“Can I help you?”

Scully took out her ID, holding it at eye level so the woman could read it.

“Oh my,” the woman exclaimed, “I suppose you want to see Dr. Waterman.”

“If he’s the Director, yes.”

While Scully waited, again she considered whether to call Skinner. Mulder’s medical condition was her priority. They could deal with the consequences later, after he was safely back in the hospital and had been given blood. A shudder passed through her as she considered her personal oath to protect him to the death.

<But not ‘your’ death, partner.>

“Agent Scully?”

She turned to see a middle-aged man in a golf shirt and baseball cap walking toward her. In one hand he held a file folder. He reached out his other hand and she shook it firmly.

“Dr. Waterman?”

“Yes. I just got the call to expect you. I’m sorry I wasn’t here to meet you.”

“That’s all right. Sir, I’m in rather a hurry.”

“Then let’s step in here,” he said, motioning to a small, but comfortable conference room.

Each of them took a soft leather chair. As Scully quickly assessed the man, she found she liked his casual nature, his warm smile. Hopefully he would open up to her with the answers she needed.

“I also apologize for not being available to speak to you on the phone this morning. We have a staff meeting every morning at 6:30.”

“Every morning?”

“Because patient medication changes daily, so we need constant updates.”

Scully was trying to look interested. No doubt there was a high price tag on treatment at this hospital. Scully had noticed Officer Femino’s name on the admittance papers as the financially responsible party. How was it that a police officer was able to afford to keep Mandy Morrison here for three years?

“Sir, the patient we’re concerned with is Mandy Morrison. She was released about six months ago.”

“Yes. I have her file right here. I hope you understand that I’m very limited in what I can tell you.”

“I do understand. I’m a doctor. And as a federal agent there are things I can’t divulge to you, as well. I can tell you that we’re investigating a case where Miss Morrison is the alleged victim of a sexual crime.”

Scully was quick to detect the quirk of an eyebrow. Maybe if she kept feeding him information, he would reciprocate. But she needed to appear detached. The least effective method of obtaining answers was to seem too eager.

“Some of the facts don’t add up.” Scully considered quickly her next remark, then plunged forward. “The accused in this case is a federal agent.”

This time there was no masking his surprise. “A federal agent?”

Scully suddenly felt goose bumps crawl over her skin and she couldn’t explain why. But her experience with witnesses told her that Dr. Waterman had just jumped way ahead of her questioning, probably due to knowledge that he had not yet disclosed.

She glanced at her watch, anxious for someone to arrive at Senator Matheson’s office. Her heartbeat seemed to be keeping time with every tick of the clock. Time was getting shorter for her partner and she needed answers fast.

Perhaps she could get those answers easier if she used an indirect approach.

“Doctor, I understand your reluctance to talk to me, but time is critical right now. Miss Morrison’s life could be in danger unless you give me some information about why she was here.”

He contemplated her statement for a moment, weighing the ethical obligations. Finally he settled back in the chair and peered over his glasses at her.

“I’m assuming you mean a danger to herself.”

<Good enough> Scully thought, nodding slightly. Her acknowledgment wasn’t completely untruthful. She had known from the start that once Mandy Morrison’s role was finished, she would be a liability to the conspirators. That had been proved by the murder of her uncle.

“Agent Scully, an incident of rape is highly probable in my opinion. I assume we’re talking about rape?”

When she didn’t deny it, the doctor went on. “Mandy is a borderline schizophrenic. One part of her appears extremely normal – happy, intelligent, confident, but very, very … flirtatious.”

Scully again tried to dismiss the images of her partner with that girl. She had mixed feelings over the information she was getting. Dr. Waterman went on.

“The other side of Mandy completely rejects the attention brought on by the flirtation. In other words, she teases – and I’m talking about serious teasing — and then she puts a wall around herself. I was afraid one of these days some guy wasn’t going to stop.”

Scully knew that wasn’t what happened with Mulder, but Mandy’s behavior disorder made her the perfect patsy.

If there was one aspect of her FBI training that Scully valued more than any other, it was the ability to extract a key answer from a reluctant witness. Now was the time to put all her training, experience and psychological skills to use. Leaning forward slightly, looking pensive, yet professional, her clasped hands on top of her crossed knee, she implored him with her eyes to help his former patient.

“Doctor, why was Mandy Morrison committed to this hospital in the first place?”

Instantly she felt the defensive barrier go up between them. She continued on, not wanting to give him precious seconds to fortify his stand.

“I promise you I will do everything in my power to protect any confidential information you give me. But I can’t help Mandy if I don’t know what I’m dealing with. We will find her eventually, but it could be too late then. I’m a federal agent, sir; I have the authority to refuse to disclose certain facts in the name of ‘constitutional rights.’ But at the same time, knowing those facts allows me to help her. Right now, Mandy is alone. Protecting her by withholding information is not in her best interest. And that is the ethical issue in a nutshell.”

The doctor looked long and hard at Scully. He glanced away only briefly enough to watch the snowflakes pelt the windowpane. Then he absently lifted his ball cap off his head, smoothed his hair back with the same hand, and then snugly replaced the cap.

“Mandy was being prosecuted for assault. She had gotten involved in an obsessive relationship with a man. And apparently this wasn’t the first time. But this time when the boyfriend rejected her, she began stalking him. It almost goes hand in hand with her disorder. She plays this sexual game, but there’s never any score – if you know what I mean – so the guy ends up leaving her. I don’t know all the details in the case, just that she assaulted him. The boyfriend was convinced to drop the criminal charges in lieu of her being committed here.”

Scully tried to keep the anxiety out of her voice, her words cool and even. “Do you know who the boyfriend was?”

“I have no idea. His name was never mentioned to me or put in any records. But …” he hesitated, expecting a reaction to his next remark. “I heard he was a federal agent.”

Trying to slow down the spinning wheels in her head, she nodded.

<Mulder dated her?>

In the span of just a few seconds, Scully’s mind raced through a maze of dreaded thoughts. For a brief moment, she even questioned the truth told her by Mr. X. But accepting that it was all a lie was too painful. It was her own insecurity that was waging battle with her better judgment. For now, she had to get past her emotional turmoil and focus on the facts.

There was probably no way to find out who the man was. Scully had performed extensive background checks on Mandy Morrison, so evidently the criminal complaint was purged when she was committed to the institution. But somehow, with her past mental history being discovered, she became the perfect victim for the perfect framing.

“Let me ask you a question. Could Miss Morrison be talked into believing something happened, that didn’t happen?”

“Let’s get more directly to your point, shall we?” he said with a genuine smile. “You mean if someone told her she was raped, but she really wasn’t?”

“Exactly.”

“That more closely describes her disorder. In paranoid schizophrenics, a person already anticipates some type of aggression toward them. They misconstrue the most innocent remark. And because of frequent lapses in memory, they will either create a fantasy to explain the lost time, or become highly susceptible to suggestion.”

“Isn’t it true that schizophrenia is usually accompanied by an obsessive disorder?”

Dr. Waterman looked impressed, quickly ascertaining that FBI agents must have some psychological training.

“You are correct. In Mandy’s case, her obsession was with sex.”

“But not in the physical sense.”

“Correct again. She acted out in a fantasy what she couldn’t act out in real life. My guess is that the man who raped her – if in fact he did – did so out of anger. Mandy cannot have sex with a man. It repulses her. And yet she will make all the moves that indicate she wants sex. I know this may sound a little strange, but — you hear about those real-life dolls you can order out of adult magazines? Well, that’s the perfect answer for Mandy — an inanimate object that she can make advances on and pretend with sexually, but can’t return them. And because she has this dysfunction, she creates a sexual fantasy in her head that she believes is real.”

Scully nodded, trying to make sense of all the facts and fit the pieces together that would point to a set up.

“Can you tell me about the assault on the boyfriend?”

He shook his head. “I know nothing about that. Perhaps I can give you a better picture by describing an incident here not long after Mandy was committed. She made advances on one of the other patients, using some pretty obscene language and gestures to encourage him. But the instant the man touched her, she went into a frenzy — scratching, hitting, kicking —”

The doctor’s words faded out as Scully thought about the bruises around Mulder’s testicles, the scratches on his back.

<Is that what happened when Mulder tried to …!>

Then she stopped in mid-thought, horrified by her returning doubt.

“Doctor…” She realized she had interrupted him. “Sorry.”

Scully’s mind was quick-flashing through collected information. It naturally returned to the distasteful scene in the back seat of the cab. But if what the doctor just said is true …

“Sir, you said the instant the man touched Mandy, she flew into a rage. Is that true of any man?”

“Absolutely. A man’s touch repulses her.”

The doctor paused, staring quietly at Scully as if considering whether he should go on. Then he relaxed in the chair, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Mandy was sexually abused as a child by her mother’s first husband — who was not Mandy’s father. It went on for quite awhile before the mother found out. She was a photographer and traveled a lot, leaving Mandy with the step-father.”

“Did Mandy talk about this with any of her doctors here?”

“No. She won’t even admit it.”

“How do you explain the link between Mandy’s current aberrant behavior and her childhood trauma?”

“It’s a reversal of control. When she’s making the advances, she’s in control. Now she’s the one who is able to sexually dominate. Through her teasing, she has a sense of power over the man. That power is ripped away the instant the man responds, thus he becomes, in her twisted mind, the aggressor. And usually at the onset of Mandy’s hysterics, the man stops. This only fortifies her control.”

“And if he doesn’t stop?”

“Her mind reverts back to her childhood, except that now she can defend herself, so she responds with violence.”

Scully recalled the cab driver’s statement and then she knew that her partner could not have done any of the things the driver stated. Even though she had believed Mr. X, she now realized, with shame, that there had been some doubt still lurking in the back of her mind. But this reaffirmed her partner’s innocence, and inwardly she sagged with relief.

Fortified with renewed determination, she continued her questioning.

“Doctor, how well did you know Tim Femino?”

“Who?”

“Mandy’s uncle. The one who admitted her into the hospital and paid for her care here.”

Scully saw a look of total confusion on the doctor’s face. He stammered a bit. “There was … let’s see … who are you talking about?”

Suddenly, Scully felt like she had plunged headfirst into ice water. <Of course.> The old familiar yellow-brick-road-to-nowhere stretched out behind her, the well-traveled path showing two sets of footprints. Hers and Mulder’s.

Maintaining her composure was worthy of an award performance. She was surprised at how cool her voice sounded. “Who admitted Miss Morrison into the hospital then?”

The doctor opened the file folder and leaned forward, keeping it on his lap. He turned the folder around so Scully could read it, then tapped his finger at the bottom of the first page. The information section for responsible party was blank except for one word: ANONYMOUS.

So the papers retrieved at the murder scene on Cherry Road were fakes. Someone had filled in Officer Femino’s name. But why? And more importantly, who was it that was being protected?

“Agent?”

Scully realized he said something to her, but she had missed it. Her quizzical look prompted him to repeat it.

“Are you aware that there is a trust fund?”

“No. Is that how the account is paid?”

“Yes. There’s no paper exchange. It’s an electronic transfer, so I don’t even know where the money comes from. I guess you would have access to that information.”

Scully only smiled briefly. She needed to ask the question that was foremost in her mind at the onset of this interview. But first she needed to balance the sides a little bit while at the same time making it appear that she was willing to go the extra mile if he would.

“Doctor, the man I just asked you about, Tim Femino, was a Georgetown police officer. He was found murdered last night.” Scully talked through his surprise. “We know there is a link between him and Miss Morrison. That’s why we need to find her.”

Scully knew that as sharp as the doctor was, he might have figured out where her questioning was leading. He looked down at the folder of papers, thumbing through them as if looking for something.

“You need an address for her?”

“No, sir. We know where she lives. But she hasn’t been there since … for several nights. Is there some other location that you have in the records that would indicate where she might go?”

He continued to flip through the sheets, shaking his head each time he turned a page.

“I’m afraid there’s nothing here. She was committed here by the State, remember. It’s not like most of the other residents who could periodically leave on a weekend pass. She was not allowed to leave at all.”

Scully nodded patiently, avoiding looking at her watch. “In the time that she was here, what about any friends or family that visited. Surely —”

She stopped seeing him shaking his head. “Agent, any visitors that she might have had would probably be anonymous.”

Irritated, as well as frustrated, Scully’s shoulders hitched with a sigh. She was careful not to sound critical, but she knew her annoyance with limited facts was becoming obvious. She hoped it would be understandable.

“Doesn’t that appear just a little bit cloak and dagger?” she asked.

“Not at all. We treat patients from some of the richest families in the country. Not only is our security on par with Fort Knox, but our refusal to disclose information puts the White House to shame.”

The doctor was trying to be helpful in spite of his own lack of knowledge. “Mandy took some correspondence classes in business and she had a tutor for awhile. That was the only visitor I’m aware of. But that was over a year ago and I believe the student moved out of state. All Mandy has ever said to me is that the only family she has lives overseas. I assumed the way the trust is set up to pay all the expenses, that must be true.”

“Where did she go when she was released? I know the State requires temporary supervision.”

“Yes, they do. She went to a halfway house for six months.”

“So she just recently left there?”

He nodded. “But I’ll save you some leg work. Once her time is done there, she’s free to go where she wants without notifying anyone.”

Even though Scully believed the doctor was being honest and straightforward with her, she again felt that nagging tug of doubt. The mystery was too contrived. It seemed that Mandy Morrison was intentionally shut away, not primarily to get help, but to keep her from being an embarrassment, or keep her quiet, or both.

Scully looked across at the doctor and smiled. “I do appreciate what you’ve told me about her diagnosis. It’s been helpful.”

They both stood and Scully shook his hand again. “If there is anything more you think of that might assist us, you can reach me at the Washington Bureau.”

Scully knew they were empty words. She didn’t even bother to give him her card because she knew there was nothing more he could tell her.

“The storm is worsening. Let me grab an umbrella and walk you to your car.”

“That’s not necessary. I parked close. Thank you again.”

He opened the door for her and she walked past him out into the corridor. It was all she could do to keep from sagging under the weight of defeat. The information she received pointed even more to a set up, but it would not help her find her partner. And Mulder would be growing sicker by the minute.

There was one more place to go, and she was more determined than ever that this time she would get answers.

--

(THIS CHAPTER IS SEXUALLY DESCRIPTIVE)

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 13 of 19)

Manassas, Virginia 8:10 a.m.

The cab driver dropped Mulder in front of a sprawling Cape Cod-style house. The gray wooden siding was in need of fresh paint, but the grounds looked tended. The house was single-story with a full front and side porch. Mulder knew someone was there the minute he pulled up. There was a car in the driveway.

Coughing again into a bloody tissue, he grit his teeth against the pain and forced his weak legs to climb four narrow steps up on the porch.

<God, I don’t want to do this. I wish you were with me, Scully.>

He rang the doorbell, hearing the chimes from inside the house. Leaning heavily against the doorframe, he waited. Almost a minute later, he caught movement at the window — the beige lace curtain moving slightly. Then he heard the lock sliding open on the door. Straightening up and bracing himself both mentally and physically, he watched the door open and then he faced the true vision of his nightmares.

He expected surprise from her — but then again, that would have been a normal reaction. This woman was anything but normal. She cocked her head, her eyebrows raised as if she expected a question from someone who was lost. But he knew she recognized him. Slowly, her mouth curled into a smile and she casually tossed her long black hair back over her shoulder. Then she opened the door wider.

“Come in, Fox,” she purred.

He hesitated only an instant, realizing that he was willfully stepping into the snare. But he thought again about Scully, closing his eyes briefly at her image, knowing he had to do this for her, for them. Then he walked inside. She closed and locked the door behind her.

Mulder felt himself sway, and he headed over to the sofa in front of the fireplace. His vision was graying out from standing just for a few minutes, and he shook his head once to clear it. He was disturbed to see that she sat close to him on the sofa, turning slightly to face him. The smile was still planted on her face.

Mulder inventoried her quickly. He studied the bruises on her face, her blackened, swollen eye. Glancing down at her hands, he saw purple marks on the backs of her wrists that to a trained investigator were indicative of a restraining hold. In spite of the fact that he had little or no sympathy for her, he was sickened by the thought that he might have inflicted those injuries.

Had he not known what lay behind those long-lashed brown eyes, that flawless pale skin, the perfect figure, he would have found her beautiful. But in his eyes, events of the past had marred her for life. He felt pity for her, but at the same time, he despised her. He was surprised at his own reaction to her, the loathing he felt as their eyes met. But he saw none of that in her eyes. He saw the same blank, disturbed gaze that was there three years ago.

Despite the chill in the house, she was wearing long black stretch pants, no shoes or socks, and an orange satin tank top. It was obvious she wasn’t wearing a bra, and she leaned back against the sofa, emphasizing that fact, trying to draw his eyes downward. But he wasn’t playing that game. His eyes stayed fixed on hers.

Mulder could feel the heat radiating from his body. His skin was pale, his cheeks flushed and his eyes burned. He could taste blood in his mouth, occasionally wiping it from his lips. But the woman sitting next to him saw none of that. As usual, she saw only what she wanted to see.

She smiled sweetly. “Would you like a drink, Fox? I’ve got a bottle of spiced rum. As I recall —”

He cut her off. “It’s not even nine o’clock in the morning.”

“Vodka and orange juice then?”

Mulder couldn’t tell if she was trying to be funny. He had never been able to figure her out. Profiling a psychotic was one thing, but with a personality disorder, there was no consistent behavior pattern. With Mandy it was as if you started out down a long tunnel, then found yourself totally lost in a complex labyrinth.

He wiped the back of his hand across his hot forehead. “Mandy, I could use a glass of water.”

“Anything for my Fox.”

She hopped up off the sofa and disappeared from the room. Mulder reached inside his jacket and flipped on the tape recorder hidden in the pocket. As Mandy came back into the room, he looked up at her, taking the glass from her hand. Then he saw her expression.

<Oh boy, here we go.>

It was as if leaving the room caused a sudden transformation. Her mouth was a tight, thin line as she drew her lips in. Her eyes were cold, accusing. When she sat back down, it was not like the first time where she eased herself on the cushion. She plopped down as if she simply surrendered to gravity. The jostling caused Mulder to wince, and he thought he detected a gleam in her eye.

<So she’s noticed I’m injured after all.>

He took the glass from her and carefully swallowed the cool water, trying to wash out the coppery taste in his mouth. Her icy words startled him.

“So, did you come to apologize, Fox?”

He was cautious, keeping his voice moderate. “Apologize for what?”

Her expression changed again, this time looking coy, slightly embarrassed. “You know. You didn’t have to beat me up to have sex with me.”

“Mandy, I’m having a little trouble remembering that night. I was hoping you could clarify for me what happened.”

“Don’t play games with me, Fox. You know perfectly well what you did.”

“No, I really don’t.”

Mulder watched in morbid fascination as her face contorted into rage. Her long fingernails punched into the sofa cushion, making fine slits in the leather.

“YOU’RE A FUCKING LIAR! Look at my face! Would you like to see what else you did!” she screamed, hooking her thumb into the waistband of her pants.

“No!” he answered quickly. He forced his voice to remain calm. “Mandy, listen to me.”

“You asked me to meet you at the bar, then you get me drunk!”

Mulder started to shake his head, but the dizziness came in waves, making him nauseous and weak.

“I never invited you there. Think, Mandy. Think hard. What do you really remember?”

“I remember you telling me that you’d made a mistake years ago, that you could never get me out of your mind.”

“No. Those things night have been told to you, but not by me.”

“LIAR!” she spit the words out.

Mulder was beginning to feel the futility of trying to reason with her. Nothing about her had changed since the first night he met her. But he couldn’t give up. He had risked too much to come here. If only he could record one slip up, one contradiction.

A violent cough erupted from him suddenly, and he tasted more blood in his mouth. As he wiped his lips, he felt Mandy rise from the sofa. His eyes followed her as she silently walked down the hallway and entered one of the bedrooms. He tensed, wondering if she would return with a gun and shoot him. Mulder reached around to the back of his jeans where he’d stuck his gun. The movement almost caused him to pass out.

<Yeah, right. I’m going to tell the police that I just came over to talk to the girl I supposedly beat up and raped but for no reason she pulled a gun on me so I had to shoot her. I’d be better off letting her shoot me.>

Mandy reappeared with a blanket under one arm. She sat back down on the sofa and tried to cover Mulder, but the gesture reminded him too much of Scully so he roughly pulled it off.

“Fox, you look sick or something.”

He ignored her remark. “Why did you even let me in here if you believe I assaulted you?”

“Because you were drunk that night, and you lose control when you’re drunk.”

He shook his head, his frustration making him feel more and more helpless, like he was driving in circles. “You talk like you know me. You don’t know me at all. We talked for about 15 minutes at the Senator’s party.”

“What about our night together,” she said, smiling shyly.

“There was no night together! Not ever! You’ve let your fantasies become reality. And you’ve let others manipulate you.”

She had tuned out his words.

Mulder flinched when Mandy moved closer to him. He knew he had to do something that would prove how unstable she could be and how her behavior could alter so radically. But he also knew that it was potentially dangerous, especially in his weakened condition. He was extremely defenseless and using his weapon was out of the question.

“Fox, we can start again.”

Mulder was appalled at her suggestion. She reached over and fingered the top button of his shirt. Mulder didn’t move, feeling more repulsed when he saw her running her tongue seductively along her bottom lip, then top lip. He looked away, not wanting her to see him watching her. Slowly, her fingertips trailed down his shirt and when he felt them at the zipper of his jeans, he grabbed her hand roughly.

“Stop it!” he demanded.

She tried to free her hand from his, giggling like he was intentionally teasing her, while still trying to slip inside his pants.

“Let me taste,” she said, wetting her lips again.

Mulder had never in his life wanted so badly to hit a woman. In light of the circumstances, that thought scared the hell out of him. As hard as he had worked to control his anger, he now lost it. She had put him and his partner through a living hell the last few days. His job was on the line, not to mention his freedom. Yet here she sat, trying to seduce him, acting as if nothing had happened.

While her apparent forgiveness of the alleged attack might seem suspicious to a normal person, the undisputed fact remained that Mandy Morrison was disturbed. That could explain her willingness to forgive and forget — much as a battered wife continues to stay with the abuser. Mulder knew it wasn’t enough. He had to push her into revealing how really sick she was and what she was capable of doing.

“Why were you committed to the institution? Think! What did you do that you had to be locked up!” Mulder prompted.

Finally he saw the flash in her eyes that signaled he was treading on forbidden ground.

“Why, Mandy?” he repeated.

“Because you broke my heart! You promised me we’d be together always, then you dump me with no warning!”

“That’s not what happened and you know it! Locked somewhere in your head is the truth!”

“You wanted me out of the way so you and your little partner could be together!”

She was now shaking with rage, her fists clutching the blanket. Mulder knew if he followed this path, he needed to divert her anger away from Scully.

“You’re wrong again. My partner and I work together. We’re friends. The fact of the matter is that I wasn’t interested in you and —”

“SHUT UP!” she screamed.

” — you couldn’t handle it!”

She jumped to her feet, leaning over him, her fists raised, threatening. “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

Mulder had to go forward. This was one more time added to the list of risks he took for the truth. Her display of erratic behavior was not a confession.

He moved to the edge of the sofa, trying as best he could to be alert, but his own display of emotion was taking its toll. His breaths were shorter, almost a wheeze.

He spoke as if he was walking on rice paper. “I didn’t hurt you either time — three years ago, or the other night. Maybe you can’t remember what happened after you left the bar, but I think if you try, you can recall what happened before you left.”

“You came on to me! You couldn’t’ keep your hands off of me. The bartender threatened to throw us out!”

<The first contradiction.> Mulder knew from the statement the bartender made that he was only aware of Mulder and the girl leaving together.

He pressed on. “No. You sat down next to me and I moved to another table. Then you followed me there and I told you to leave me alone, that I was expecting someone.”

“Yeah, that whore of a partner you were fucking!”

“I was waiting for my boss, and I told you that.”

Mulder saw tears in her eyes, but they were tears of anger. She quickly grabbed the water glass off the table and her arm went back. Mulder threw his hands up defensively, as the glass sailed past his ear and shattered against the wall behind his head. His sudden defensive movement caused him to start coughing. Wrapping his casted arm around his abdomen, with the other hand he clutched the arm of the sofa to keep from falling forward.

“LIAR! LIAR!” she accused him repeatedly.

Mulder was trying to focus on her, but his vision went from a single blurred image to a double image. The dizzying effect it caused along with the blood he had swallowed made his stomach recoil, and he fought not to throw up. He couldn’t give in now; Mandy was close to hysterical.

“Mandy, I can’t have a relationship with anyone. My work is dangerous. It would endanger whoever was with me.”

She’s with you!”

“She’s my partner. It’s her job.”

“Bull shit! I saw the two of you together!”

“When?”

“You fucked her the night after you raped me!”

Mulder snapped to attention in spite of his rapidly deteriorating condition. She was following the path of her fantasy and he was glad to feed her the breadcrumbs.

“You saw that? Where were we?” he asked.

“Her apartment. I watched you, just like before.”

Mulder was silent, hoping she would keep talking. He was with Scully and AD Skinner the night after Mandy’s alleged rape, so he had a documented alibi.

Mandy’s eyes were wide, her voice loud and shrill. “YOU BASTARD! I SHOULD HAVE STUCK HER INSTEAD OF YOU!”

“She’s done nothing.”

Mulder guessed her reaction to his defending Scully. Again he raised his hands in defense when he saw her lunge for him. But the cast limited him, and weakness had affected his coordination. Mandy’s fist glanced off the side of his head. The impact stunned him as he tried to grab her arm. But she was quicker and she caught him again, this time a full hit to the ear. She was a fury of flailing arms as she tried to land blows anywhere on his body.

Mulder knew he had to try to get out of the way, despite the excruciating pain of standing up. But the minute he stood he knew he’d made a mistake. He had only given her more of a target to hit. He tried desperately to protect his side.

“Mandy, stop please,” he pleaded.

“I HATE YOU! YOU’VE RUINED MY LIFE!” she cried.

Just as Mulder staggered backwards to put distance between them, she shoved him by the shoulders. The added push threw him off balance and into a small table. Trying desperately to catch himself, he turned to grab the table when suddenly he felt exploding pain on his right side below his armpit. White-hot agony gripped him, as a gray film seeped over his vision. He was barely conscious as he crumpled limply to the hard floor. He laid there, oblivious to all his senses except the screaming torment he felt in every cell of his body.

Then he felt a warm liquid surging up his throat, temporarily choking him, before vomiting a mouthful of blood. Just as darkness enveloped him, he silently mouthed a one-word prayer.

<Scully>

--

SENATOR MATHESON’S HOME 9:21 a.m.

Scully pulled her car up in front of the brownstone just as a black Mercedes began to back out of the garage. Gunning the accelerator, the tires spinning on the wet gravel, she drove her car up behind the Mercedes. Then she hit the brake and skidded her car to within inches of the Mercedes’ bumper. The black car had only pulled about three feet out of the garage, so essentially it was trapped by Scully’s car.

By the time she exited her car, a very angry U.S. Senator was approaching her. Matheson slowed his steps when he saw who it was, but he was still mad.

“What the hell are you doing!” he shouted at her.

“Senator, I’m sorry. I’m Agent Dana Scully.”

“I know who you are!”

“Do you know why I’m here?” she asked sharply.

“My office said you wouldn’t tell them.”

Scully stepped under the eave of the garage to get out of the snow. “Sir, I have to talk to you.”

“I’m late for a meeting. Please move your car.”

“Not until you tell me what you know about my partner and Mandy Morrison.”

“I don’t know what you’re —”

Scully got right in his face. She was at the point of desperation. Her rigid stance and the fury in her eyes were unmistakable.

“Don’t insult my intelligence by denying it!”

“Agent Scully, you’re interfering with the business of a U.S. official.”

“And you may be withholding information from a federal agent!” she threw right back at him.

There was a long moment of standoff. Matheson could see that Scully wasn’t about to back down. He knew as much. He was aware of the close partnership she shared with Fox Mulder. She would go to the ends of the earth for him, just as he had done for her. He also suspected that Scully knew Mulder was sick — just how sick, he wasn’t sure.

“Senator, I know that you’ve fed leads to my partner at times. But don’t think he’s confided that to me. In the seven years we’ve worked together, Agent Mulder has never revealed any of his sources. The ones I’ve found out about either came to me on their own, or dropped hints about the others.”

Scully saw Matheson softening. She needed to appeal to that side of him. If the Senator was anything like the informants she knew about – Deep Throat, Mr. X., and even the Lone Gunmen, then he, too, cared what happened to Fox Mulder.

“Sir, Agent Mulder left the hospital just before it was discovered he had a punctured lung. He’s bleeding internally. I have to find him … soon.”

Matheson put his hand under Scully’s arm. “Let’s go into the house where it’s warm.”

They went in the same room Mulder had been in less than two hours before. Matheson didn’t mention the irony of watching Scully sit in the exact spot on the leather sofa where her partner sat.

“How much do you know?” Matheson asked, sitting in the same armchair as before.

“Mandy Morrison was committed to a psychiatric hospital in lieu of criminal assault charges. Her anonymous guardian is someone whom I believe is a family member. But for whatever reason, perhaps embarrassment, Mandy has been shunned by her family. And I think somehow you’re the key to this.”

There was no response from him.

“Are you aware that a man claiming to be her uncle was murdered last night?”

There was genuine surprise on Matheson’s face. Scully went on. “And that same man was listed on false papers as Mandy’s guardian?”

“No. I didn’t know that.”

“There’s more. This murdered man, Tim Femino, was coincidentally the police officer who arrested Agent Mulder.”

Scully saw a look on Matheson’s face that was more than puzzlement, and it gave her pause. It was as if he was contemplating a decision. So she waited.

Finally, Matheson nodded to himself, as if answering a question he didn’t ask. “Agent Scully, Fox Mulder trusts no one – no one but you. For anyone who’s known Fox through the years, that’s the highest compliment he could ever give. So I must trust you as he does.”

His statement was more a question, and Scully nodded affirmatively. Matheson cleared his throat, then looked her in the eye.

“About three years ago, I gave a Christmas party here at my home. During that time, I had been lobbying for private funding to re-open the SETI project in Arecibo. I had invited a few of the financial hopefuls to the party, and I decided it would be beneficial to have them meet Agent Fox Mulder.

Scully smiled faintly. There was no match for her partner’s natural charm and brilliance. The Senator chose the perfect spokesperson for his cause.

“You were also invited, but …”

When Matheson stopped intentionally, Scully realized what time frame he was referring to.

“I was fighting my cancer then.”

“Actually you had just gone into remission. Fox wanted to make it kind of a victory celebration, but he was afraid you weren’t quite up to it yet. So he came alone.”

Matheson stopped to see if Scully could add a puzzle piece or two, but he realized she had no clue where he was headed. Apparently she was hearing this for the first time.

“Fox met Mandy at the party. Realizing she had latched on to him, I tried to get him away. I could tell his mind was in one place only that night,” he said, his gaze holding Scully’s.

She blushed a little.

“But the damage was already done. With Mandy, all it takes is a ‘hello’ and you’re doomed.”

“How did she come to be at the party?”

Matheson hesitated, his expression regretful. “She’s my niece.”

“So you’re the uncle!” Scully said in surprise. “Why such an elaborate cover up to hide her?”

“It was no such thing. It only seemed that way when others began to manipulate the circumstances. My brother, Mandy’s stepfather, is a U.S. ambassador living in Peking. For obvious reasons, he wishes to remain anonymous. He set up the trust for Mandy and I oversee it. I have very little to do with her.”

“Yet you invited her to your Christmas party.”

Matheson let out a sigh. He nodded. “Mandy came with her parents to Washington five years ago. When Dan got the reassignment to Peking, they left Mandy behind.” His voice turned bitter. “Unfortunately they neglected to tell me about her medical condition. She’s a beautiful girl. But I learned rather quickly that her beauty is skin deep – as they say.”

Despite what she was being told, Scully found a tug of jealousy at the idea of her partner innocently being attracted to a beautiful girl. When she turned her attention back to Matheson, she realized he was scrutinizing her reaction and his assessment couldn’t have been more on target if he had read her mind.

“It’s not what you think, Agent Scully.” He went on with the story. “I thought that meeting people her age would help her. I really had no idea how sick she was. The invitation to the Christmas party was simply ‘the family thing to do,’” he said with a shrug. “Then I saw her with your partner. I saw him try to walk away from her and she physically grabbed his arm. He was trying to be polite, knowing she was my niece. Fox was quite uncomfortable when I took Mandy aside. And she was furious. At that point, she left the party and I assumed that was the end of it.”

“So that was the extent of her communication with Agent Mulder?”

He nodded again. As he waited for Scully to assemble the facts so far, he straightened his tie and checked his cufflinks.

“Senator, how long after the party that night before Mandy assaulted her boyfriend?

Matheson’s face went blank. “Boyfriend?”

“How did Agent Mulder get involved in that? Did you ask for his help somehow?”

She hoped that the Senator couldn’t detect that she dreaded hearing the answer that she already suspected.

The Senator’s silence was accompanied by a look of confusion. “Who told you that?” he asked.

“Dr. Waterman stated that Mandy stalked and assaulted a former boyfriend.”

Scully watched him look down at his hands a minute, then take a deep breath before starting again.

“Agent Scully, the ‘boyfriend’ you speak of was your partner.” He carried on past her shocked reaction. “But he wasn’t her boyfriend. Only in her mind.”

Scully folded her hands in her lap, hoping he didn’t notice that they were shaking. Although she trusted her partner, some deep part of her – the part that tried to caution her about getting too close to him – expected sooner or later to be crushed by disappointment. The last few days had been a roller coaster of good news/bad news. Now was no exception. Scully could only hold her breath, letting her intuition restore her faith in the outcome.

“Fox met with the financial backers, then he went home. But Mandy hadn’t exactly left the party yet. She waited for Fox to leave, then she followed him.”

“I find that hard to believe,” she said, playing the devil’s advocate. “Agent Mulder not only looks for someone following him, he expects it.”

“Well, maybe that night he was preoccupied,” he said, again implying something without coming right out and saying it.

Scully brushed aside the remark. “Why did she pick Agent Mulder from every man at the party? Why him?”

“You’re a woman. You figure it out. I can tell you that every female at the party had eyes on your partner.”

Scully could believe that. She’d seen Mulder in a tux and he was breathtaking. And then once you’d realized there was a brilliant mind to complete the incredible package, a woman could be instantly infatuated.

“Agent, what I’m relating to you is what both Mandy and your partner put in the police report.”

“I see. Go ahead.”

“Fox contacted me to tell me that Mandy was calling his office numerous times a day, and he had seen her on many occasions around his apartment. It erupted into a confrontation when he spotted her outside your apartment. Within earshot of several people, as if to bring public attention to their nasty argument, she accused him of adultery. Fox came to me again and I really felt for the young man. But I didn’t know where Mandy had gone. He was really exhausted – still worried about you but hesitant to take matters into his own hands for fear of offending me. But I think his real concern was the possibility that Mandy might retaliate against you.”

“Agent Mulder kept all this from me. I had no idea this was going on.”

“That surprises you? I think he kept hoping it would finally just blow over. But instead, it got worse – much worse.”

Matheson stood from the chair and walked over to a large picture window. He opened the blinds wider and stood silently watching a light snowfall outside. Scully wondered how many times her partner had been in this very house working with the Senator on clandestine projects. She was aware that the man standing in front of her had powerful allies, and powerful enemies. He and Mulder were alike in that respect. And she also could see that Matheson was clearly disturbed by the current circumstances, perhaps feeling a little responsible.

Scully waited politely, but anxiousness finally got the best of her. “Sir?”

Matheson turned around as if just remembering he wasn’t alone. There was a vague sadness in this features.

“It’s actually getting darker outside. Did you hear any weather reports of heavier snow?”

He had momentarily separated himself from thinking about Mulder’s ordeal. Scully just shook her head, pursing her lips to emphasize her impatience. Matheson took the hint and walked back over to sit in his chair.

He made eye contact with Scully. “Mandy again followed Fox to your apartment. She waited outside for him … all night.”

--

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 14 of 19)

SENATOR MATHESON’S RESIDENCE

Scully tried to think back to the time he was referring to, right around Christmas, but there were many occasions during that time in her recovery that her partner spent the night – on the couch.

Scully recalled the affection and humor that Mulder had given her, underscoring the relief they both felt at her sudden remission. She remembered his tenderness one particular night when all her withheld tension and fear finally broke loose. She cried for hours, as Mulder crawled into bed with her, holding her tightly and reassuring her until she fell into a peaceful sleep.

Now, she agonized over that night, knowing that it was one of the intimate moments referred to in the polygraph. It would be impossible to explain that Mulder’s depth of compassion was far greater than his sexual desire that night.

Scully noticed that Matheson had stopped talking, perhaps waiting to see if she wanted to explain why her partner spent the night with her. But he saw that she had no intention of doing so, as if justifying their actions was a ridiculous waste of time.

“So Mandy saw Agent Mulder leave my apartment the next morning?”

“Actually she left ahead of Fox, knowing he would be on the lookout for her around your apartment. She waited at his apartment building for him to return, which was about two hours later. When the postman arrived and Fox went to the mailboxes, she slipped upstairs and into his apartment. She hid in the hall closet until he got in the shower. Then she attacked him with a butcher knife.”

Scully gasped. “In the shower?”

“Remind you of a classic horror scene?”

“On my God,” Scully whispered.

“She cut him superficially in the shoulder. Fortunately his reflexes were good. But he slipped and she came at him again. He had no choice but to try and grab the knife, and she cut him deeply across his forearm. He did manage to get the knife, but she had sliced the artery and he was bleeding badly. She was fighting him, screaming. Fox said she had the upper hand because he was beginning to lose consciousness. And then, she just let him go and left. He said all he could figure was she was afraid the neighbors heard the screaming.”

Matheson gave her a minute to process the grisly facts. Her horror was apparent on her face. Scully remembered now.

Mulder had left her apartment that morning and she tried to reach him several times later that day. When he finally answered his phone at home, he admitted that he’d had a minor accident while running – he’d tripped and fallen on a broken bottle. Scully recalled clearly that something in his voice alarmed her so much that she immediately drove to his apartment.

She found him groggy from medication, his face slightly bruised, and bandages covering his left shoulder and right forearm. She was surprised that her refusal to leave upset him so much. So she suspected there was more to the story than he was telling her. He was already feverish and when she went into his bathroom for a cool cloth, she was stopped dead in her tracks at the amount of blood. Mulder claimed he was close to home when it happened and he rushed upstairs to stop the bleeding. But he couldn’t explain the blood in the bathtub, nor would he let her see either of the cuts.

Scully finally gave up, realizing she was getting nowhere and only upsetting him more. She could have gotten hospital records and at least found out more details about the injury itself, but she didn’t. Going around her partner to get answers would not be worth it in the long run if he ever found out. The fact that she never got answers bothered her for a long time, until she finally let it go.

Now she understood how much pain he must have been in, how difficult it was for him to hide it from her. Her heart ached that she wasn’t able to care for him when he needed her, as he had done so long for her. Once again, Fox Mulder suffered the consequences to protect her.

Remembering the incident, and putting together current facts, Scully suddenly realized something else.

<Shit, Mulder.>

She rubbed her eyes, determined that she would not succumb to worry and exhaustion. She looked at Matheson. “Was it Agent Mulder who called the police?”

Matheson snickered and shook his head. “No. Foolish boy that he is, he decided to take a cab to the hospital and call me from there. His neighbors had in fact been alerted by the screams and several of them were standing in the hallway when he passed out at their feet.”

“So the police did become involved. There was a police report.”

“Yes, but …”

“But it was covered up.”

“Not exactly. It never reached the papers, if that’s what you mean. I assured Fox, that if he didn’t press criminal charges, I would have Mandy committed. He readily agreed, number one, because Mandy was obviously very sick, and two, he just wanted it over.”

“So I wouldn’t find out about it?”

“What would be the purpose? It had been very hard on Fox after what you had been through, and the whole conspiracy thing with Blevins and the FBI, to suddenly have a crazy woman stalking him … yes, I would say one of his main reasons was to avoid bringing that stress to you.”

“But did Mandy know of Agent Mulder’s part in having her committed?”

“Oh, yes. Fox had to testify at a formal hearing. It was the assault on him that put her away.”

Scully again thought back to that time. It wasn’t that difficult to remember the days and weeks following her remission. She had been aware of her partner’s severe fatigue, but there were plenty of reasons for that without ever considering anything so extreme as a psycho’s fatal attraction.

<God, Mulder, why didn’t you tell me?>

Matheson saw her face cloud with sympathy and regret. “Your partner’s an amazing man.”

She squared her shoulders. It was time to face the music. “My partner is very badly hurt right now, and I must find him. I suspect he’s gone to talk to Mandy.”

Scully didn’t see Matheson physically pull away, but she felt it. She was afraid there would be a limit to his cooperation.

“Senator, I need to know where Mandy is. I don’t doubt for a second that you know.”

He leaned back in the chair, figuratively putting more distance between them. Scully resented the gesture and her voice was razor sharp as she perched on the edge of the sofa to counter his movement.

“These charges against my partner have devastated him. I can’t even begin to describe what he’s been through. Our partnership, our relationship has been questioned. They’re trying to break us up. It has looked worse for him because he didn’t tell the whole truth.”

Matheson stood abruptly and turned toward the window, his back to Scully. But she was as quick on her feet and she grabbed his upper arm, spinning him back around to face her again.

Deep within herself, Scully had found the strength she needed. Her voice was strong, her gaze penetrating. “Goddamn it! You’re going to listen to me!”

Recounting the last days’ events magnified the gravity of the situation. Scully felt she had a tenuous grasp on her emotions, but she was determined not to show any weakness to the Senator. She was terrified, however, that she could be wrong about him knowing her partner’s whereabouts.

“I want to tell you something about a man you think you know,” she said curtly, releasing his arm.

She had his full attention, and she sensed his eagerness to hear her out.

“In Mandy’s statement to the police, she described a scar my partner has from a bullet wound, a scar that only someone intimate with him would know about. But she wasn’t intimate with him; she saw it when she attacked him in the shower. And yet Agent Mulder said nothing. He gave no explanation to the police, or us. Why? Because he was still protecting you. What do you think it did to him knowing what AD Skinner and I must have been thinking about that, wondering how Mandy could know about that scar? But as much as we all hurt, in spite of the hell he was going through, he still kept quiet! Where integrity and trust are concerned, there is no gray area for Fox Mulder. You either keep your word, or you don’t!”

Scully’s words were meant to strike some weak point in Matheson’s resistance, but they were having a momentous effect on her as well. From the point where she began to realize her partner was keeping things from her, she was consumed with the question, why? But now, hearing herself explain that Fox Mulder can only be true to his character, she felt ashamed.

She knew better than anyone that because of the lies and deceit, he had to stand for the truth. But if getting to the truth meant compromising, then he would find another way. And that’s what he was doing right now. That’s why he left the hospital. Keeping her and Skinner in the dark wasn’t his choice, but his nature. And he could no more change his nature than he could fly to the moon.

Scully closed her eyes, letting the impact of emotion wash over her. In her mind’s eye, she saw her partner in his office, sitting across from her, leaning back just to the point the chair wouldn’t tip over, his feet propped on the desk, tie loosened, shirt cuffs rolled up, giving her a dazzling smile as she walked in.

Scully felt the prickle of tears behind her closed lids. Her throat tightened from the effort of holding them back. But then she felt slight pressure on her arm and it startled her out of her thoughts.

Matheson saw her liquid eyes, felt the tremor under his hand. But he also saw that she made no extreme attempt to recover. She allowed him to see what Fox Mulder meant to her.

“Scully,” Matheson said, leaving his hand on her arm, “there’s a thing or two I’ve learned from Fox Mulder.” He smiled, emphasizing his point and trying to get her to relax a little. “You’re right about Fox’s integrity. As much as we might try to emulate it, it can never be matched.”

He dropped his hand, but moved half a step closer to her. “My reluctance to help you was not to protect myself, or even my brother, but to keep my word to Fox.”

It only took the span of a heartbeat for Scully to understand what he meant. Her eyes grew wide, her mouth opening slightly. Then she let out the breath she was holding.

“He was here, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” Matheson said, turning around to his desk and picking up the same pen and note pad he had used earlier.

Scully’s first reaction was anger, but she was too drained to expend any more energy, and besides, it would serve no purpose. She silently watched him writing quickly across the paper.

Matheson continued to write as he spoke. “If he went straight there, he arrived some time ago.”

“How was he?” she asked, keeping her voice sturdy.

He finished what he was writing and tore off the sheet. He looked up into a worried face.

“Not good. For what it’s worth, I did try to persuade him to call you.”

He handed the paper to Scully and she glanced at it, seeing he had drawn a map. As she started to turn toward the door, she again felt his hand on her arm.

“Agent Scully,” he said, returning to her more formal title, “Fox Mulder is willing to die for a cause. I, however, am not willing to let him do that.”

She nodded. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Quickly the two of them walked outside and back to Scully’s car. She said nothing more as she slid behind the wheel and started the engine. She looked through the glass over at Matheson standing still next to her car. His hands were in the pockets of his black wool overcoat, his shoulders hunched against the brisk wind and the snow falling around him. He continued to stand, motionless, as Scully rolled her window down.

“Senator,” she said, pausing as he leaned down slightly. “That night at the Christmas party — did you get your funding?”

He smiled at her. “Yes.”

As the car maneuvered out of the driveway, Senator Matheson continued to stand in the snow watching, until it finally disappeared down the winding roadway.

--

The snow had let up a little, but dark, heavy clouds hung low in the sky, making morning seem like dusk. The icy road was mostly deserted; the landscape that stretched out before her a breathtaking winter white, but Scully saw only landmarks and road markers. She heard only the windshield wipers clicking off the precious seconds it was taking to reach her partner.

She jumped slightly at the sudden ringing of her cell phone laying on the seat.

“Scully,” she answered.

“Dana?” said the familiar voice.

“Mom?”

“Where are you, honey? I called the hospital, but they wouldn’t put me through to Fox’s room. There seemed to be some confusion there.”

“Um, Mom, I can explain everything later. But right now —”

“Dana, I got a strange phone call a few minutes ago.”

Scully’s hands tightened on the wheel. “From who?”

“My bank. They informed me that an electronic deposit was made into my account this morning — for $75,000.”

“What! Who made it?”

“They didn’t have a name, only an account number. But they wouldn’t give it to me. Dana, that’s the amount of money I contributed toward Fox’s bond. Did it have anything to do with that?”

<Of course it did.>

Scully hadn’t even considered that Mulder’s disappearance could jeopardize his bond release. With all that was happening, he managed to think about how the consequences of his actions would affect Maggie Scully. Both women’s unasked question was where he got the money.

“Dana, how did he get my bank account number?”

The answer came instantly to Scully. <The Gunmen.> A ripple of renewed anger coursed through her upon realizing that Mulder had organized this so completely and they had helped carry out his secret plan. But then in the next breath, she remembered her conversation with Senator Matheson. She knew that Mulder had chosen his friends because of their commitment to him, and whether they agreed with his actions or not, they should be true to their word.

“Honey?” her mother broke the silence.

Before Scully could reply, her other line beeped and she saw on the readout it was Skinner. “Mom, I’m getting another call and I have to take it.”

“Don’t keep me in the dark. I’m worried about both of you.”

Scully smiled to herself, touched that her partner had made his way into her mother’s heart as well.

“I’ll call you later, Mom. I promise.”

Scully accessed her other call. “Hello, sir.”

“Scully, how close are you?” Skinner’s voice sounded anxious.

“I’m about 10 miles from the turn off. How about you?”

“About 20 minutes behind you. I’ve got a medi-vac helicopter on alert at Richmond General. They’ll transport Agent Mulder to Bethesda.”

“Good. Sir, did you happen to get a call from your bank?”

“What?”

“I just talked to my mother. A $75,000 deposit was made anonymously into her bank account this morning.”

“Oh.”

“Oh? You don’t even sound surprised. Did you also receive such a deposit?”

“No.”

Scully knew there was an explanation behind his reply, but Skinner was quiet.

“Sir, is that money from you? Are you making sure my mom doesn’t worry about losing the bond money when she finds out about Mulder?

“No, it’s not from me.” He debated whether to tell the truth, but his conscience won out. “It’s from Mulder.”

“It can’t be. How would he come up with that much money so quickly?”

“Scully —”

“First of all, my mother will not accept it when she finds out. She’ll insist on splitting it with you.”

“Scully —”

“And second of all, Mulder’s not running away. He’ll make his court appearance so no one’s going to lose anything.”

“Agent Scully …” he said sharply.

She was silent, all too familiar with that tone of voice.

“Listen to me a minute, and hold your tongue until I’m finished.”

Scully glanced down at the map and squinted up at a road sign. “Yes, sir.”

“Knowing Mulder as we do, when he plans something he leaves nothing undone. He knew that by leaving the hospital without telling anyone where he was going, that there was a chance things could go wrong. The last thing he wanted to do was have your mother think he had so little regard for the money she put up for him.”

“I know that.”

“Scully,” he warned.

“Sorry.”

“As for splitting the money, there’s no reason to do that because I didn’t put any in.” He heard her take a breath. “Wait. When the bond was set, Mulder and I talked about it. He knew from what the attorney told him that he might spend only a few days in jail, and then he’d be released O.R. He was willing to wait it out rather than going to so much trouble to put up that much money. But your mother was afraid he’d be in jail until the trial and she wouldn’t hear of it. She planned to put up all the money. When Mulder learned that from his attorney, he called me. He asked if I would post the whole bond so your mother wouldn’t put out any money.”

“Mulder asked you to do that?”

“Let me finish. I called your mother to tell her I was putting up the $150,000. She flatly refused to accept that. She said it was absolutely imperative to prove that she stood behind Mulder one-hundred percent and to show how important he was to your family.”

Scully felt a rush of immense gratitude toward her mother, as well as for Skinner.

“But there’s something I couldn’t tell you or your mother. I didn’t put up a cent. Mulder has the money, Scully. A lot of it.”

“From where?”

“His grandparents on both sides were very wealthy. His parents inherited all their money. Didn’t you ever wonder how a State Department employee afforded a half million dollar home, a summer home, and sending a son to England for three years?”

“I thought maybe they sold Amway.”

Skinner brushed over her remark. “When they got divorced, he retired and Mrs. Mulder bought a quarter million dollar home … and never worked.”

“I wondered more about how Mulder afforded his Armani suits.

“Well, Mulder got an enormous amount of money when his father died. He got the rest of his inheritance when his mother died a few months ago. But let me get back to the story. Your mother would only compromise so far as splitting the money with me, so we had her believe I put up the $75,000. But it was Mulder’s money. He was forced to put up half when your mother refused to let him sit in jail. I swore not to tell your mother the truth. The only stipulation was that your mother not suffer any hardship or lose a penny of interest by paying her share. Mulder hated doing it, accepting her money, but there was no way without exposing his wealth.”

Scully couldn’t believe it at first, but it all made sense. There were still loose ends.

“Why didn’t Mulder want me to know?”

She heard nervous laughter from Skinner. “This is crazy. Mulder keeps things from you. I keep things from your mother. I promise to tell you if you don’t tell Mulder. This is ridiculous.”

“I give you my word I won’t let Mulder know about this conversation.”

“His money, Scully. You can’t know about the money.”

“All right. Just tell me why.”

“All those times the Bureau denied certain things on the X-Files’ expense reports — the unauthorized trips, special equipment, lost cell phones — you thought Mulder successfully appealed them.”

“He paid out of his own pocket?”

“Insignificant, believe me. But that’s not the real reason. When … you had your cancer. The 20% the insurance didn’t cover — you never got a bill for that, did you?”

He heard Scully gasp in surprise. “No! Wait a second. I got a letter from the insurance company notifying me that when I first signed on with the Bureau, there was an automatic rider attached to the insurance policy that covered all unpaid expenses incurred by cancer. The additional cost would be included in the premium. If I didn’t want the coverage, I would have signed an exclusion. And of course it was so long ago, I didn’t even remember. The letter explained that when I signed for the insurance, I was automatically enrolled in that coverage.”

“No. There is no such coverage. The Bureau offers a completely separate cancer policy.”

“But I got a letter …”

No sooner had she said the words, she understood what Mulder had done. <The Gunmen again.> She wasn’t sure if she wanted to hug him or slug him.

“Sir, it must have been tens of thousands of dollars.”

“It’s still insignificant. It was one less thing for you to worry about. You know that Mulder felt — and still feels — that he was responsible for everything that happened to you. Being able to just do that much helped him hold on to a thread of sanity.”

Tears came to her eyes when she realized the magnitude of what her partner had done. But she couldn’t think about that right now.

“Scully,” he said softly, knowing how hard it would hit her, “please don’t let him know. He really needs to do this.”

“I gave you my word.”

The urgency to reach her partner was greater than ever. When she felt the car slide gradually on the ice, she realized she had pressed harder on the accelerator. She let up, looking for another street sign and spotting her turn off.

“Sir, I’m just turning on to Burning Leaf Road. I’ll let you know if I find Mulder before you get here.”

“Be careful, Agent Scully. Use your head.”

“I will.”

She punched the phone off and put it in the pocket of her coat.

The street made a sharp left turn where the asphalt ended and became a dirt road. Previous tire tracks made when the ground was muddy left deep grooves in the now-hardened surface, making for a very bumpy ride. The houses were spaced several hundred feet apart. Oak trees and tall hedges provided additional privacy. The neighborhood looked deserted except for lights shining through some of the windows and smoke curling from chimneys.

Scully slowed the car to a crawl, looking at house numbers. She spotted the house near the end of the street and noted the car in the driveway was not Mulder’s, nor a rental. Pulling the car past the house she parked at the side of the road. She drew her gun from her holster and then exited the vehicle.

The snow was just a few inches deep but in places there was a foot to two-foot drifts. Crouching low, Scully crept alongside the edge of the property, with the house being on her right. There was a row of windows on the upper half of the wall on the side of the house facing Scully. Shutters in the windows were open. She had a feeling someone was in the house, but there was no way to know exactly where. There was no choice but to take a chance and peek inside.

She decided to move around to the back. Skinner had ordered her to wait for him, and she would, but she couldn’t just sit there, not knowing whether her partner was inside, hurt, maybe even unconscious by now. She made up her mind and moved forward.

--

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 15 of 19)

MANASSAS, VIRGINIA 10:07 a.m.

Mulder fought his way up through the darkness. He immediately felt searing pain starting on the right side of his body and radiating around to his back and down each extremity. He was cold, the kind of cold that felt like ice water was pumping through his veins. His body was shivering, trying to generate heat, but it was agony for Mulder. He moaned softly, then felt a hand on his forehead. He struggled to take a deep breath, but his lungs felt closed up, as if they were full of water.

The hand on his head moved down his cheek. Relief seeped through the layers of pain. Unable to open his eyes, his mind foggy, he presumed to know who soothed his fevered brow.

His lips parted slightly and his voice was a mere whisper. “Scully.”

The soothing touch he expected suddenly jerked his head up by the hair and he almost screamed. His throat constricted and he lost his breath, as his eyes popped open in fear. His vision at first was like looking through frosted glass. Hovering just above him was a face, but it was framed in dark hair, not the burnt copper he had prayed for.

“NOT SCULLY, YOU BASTARD!” the voice shrieked at him.

Mulder blinked and his eyes cleared a little. He was laying on a bed in one of the bedrooms. As far as he could tell, he was fully clothed, but he had no idea how he got there.

His head was shoved back on the pillow and he moaned again. Then the voice softened and the hand returned to rest on his forehead.

“Fox, I have a surprise for you.”

Mulder swallowed, willing his voice to speak. “Mandy,” he rasped, “I need help.”

When she giggled, he realized she was lost in her own head. Reasoning with her would be impossible and for the first time, Mulder was afraid he would not make it out of the house alive.

Mandy bent over and kissed his cheek. “Ready for your surprise?”

It was all Mulder could do to keep from passing out. He said nothing, concentrating on breathing.

In one swift motion, she pulled her tank top over her head and threw it across the room. Mulder was aware of what she’d done, but for once he felt thankful that his vision was so impaired. From what he could tell, she had tiny breasts, about what you would expect to see on a fat man. Mandy laughed, envisioning a response from him that was purely a product of her imagination. But in his mind he was seeing his partner, more endowed for her petite size than one would expect — soft, shapely, perfect.

Mandy sat on the bed beside him, scooting up to sit next to his shoulder. Then she bent over seductively, placing her forearms on the pillow above his head. Mulder felt one of her breasts brush his cheek and when she slowly dragged her nipple toward his mouth, he turned his head in the opposite direction. Angrily, she took hold of his chin, trying to force his head back around, but his own anger gave him a reserve of strength. He fought her, knowing it would antagonize her more, but repulsed by the thought of touching her. Sitting up slightly, ignoring the blood that bubbled up his throat, he grabbed her hand.

“Mandy, I just need to rest a little bit. And I’m a little hungry,” he lied. “Would you fix me something to eat?”

He understood Mandy’s mood swings enough to know that if he could calm her down, get her busy with some routine domestic task, she might fall back into that very narrow realm of normalcy. It was his only hope of getting out of there.

“What do you say, Mandy? Could you do that for me?” he asked hoarsely.

She contemplated him a minute. “Since when did you ever want food over sex, darling?”

Mulder cringed. “I need some strength before we …” he stopped, thinking she would be pleased at the inference without him saying the words.

She giggled again. “Fuck?” She wrinkled her brow, her eyes growing cold again. “Say it, Fox. Say it!”

To Mulder, the words meant nothing, but this wasn’t the woman he wanted to say them to. He wasn’t worried about what Mandy expected of him because her teasing would only go so far. He also knew from reading the evaluations on her that she had to be the aggressor and if he so much as touched her, she could snap.

<Play the game, but don’t touch.>

She was waiting for his answer.

“Yes,” he whispered, swallowing more blood. “Before we fuck.”

In a fraction of a second, she brightened again. “Why don’t you get your clothes off while I’m in the kitchen?”

He nodded. As she casually walked topless out of the bedroom, Mulder pondered how he could have gotten so deeply into this unthinkable situation.

<God, Scully, I’ve messed up this time.>

Sliding his hand inside his jacket pocket, he found that the small tape recorder was still there. Quickly he removed it and turned the tape over, then put it back in his pocket.

When he heard her in the kitchen, he got off the bed. Dizziness made him grab the bedpost to keep from falling. His vision was filled with white stars and he squeezed his eyes tight. Soon the vertigo passed and he began to make his way down the hallway, his hand against the wall for support.

He heard a metal drawer slide open and the rattle of pans. Taking advantage of the noise, he quickened his step, but a severe cramp seized his chest and abdomen, doubling him over as he leaned sideways against the wall. His fists clenched and he grit his teeth, trying not to cry out. This time he couldn’t stop the blood that surged up into his mouth and he coughed it out. Another spasm seized him and he started to slide down the wall, almost giving in.

The brightness of the room faded into muted gray and darkness began to overtake him, when suddenly he saw a vision appear before him, an angel with sparkling blue eyes and copper hair. He knew it was an hallucination borne out of his delirious need, but he didn’t care. He locked his knees, refusing to go down. He knew his mind was seeing what he wanted to see, but the vision of his partner was so real that he took a step to move closer to it.

That’s when he realized that the vision was real. Scully was watching him through the open shutters in the first bedroom off the hall. Her hand was on the glass as if trying to reach out to him and he saw the look of fear on her face. She had just seen him cough up a lot of blood, so he knew why she was worried. She motioned with her gun for him to go back down the hall into the bedroom he just came from, but at that moment, he heard footsteps coming across the wood-planked floor. He quickly looked away from the window as Mandy came around the corner. She must have gotten cold because she had put on a shirt, but didn’t bother to button it.

“Fox, good. You’ve come to help.”

She was completely oblivious to his condition. Mulder was fading fast but he had to keep her distracted and her attention away from the window.

Once again he leaned against the wall, wrapping his other arm around his chest, as if he could squeeze more air into his lungs. He glanced up at the window and Scully wasn’t there. She would have to come in either the front or back door, and he remembered that Mandy locked the front door. Scully had no doubt seen Mandy in the kitchen. If the back door had been unlocked, she would probably already be in the house. The front door was the best entry because the glass pane in the door could be broken to reach in and unlock it. Mulder had to use that intuitive link that existed between him and his partner to formulate a plan.

<How ironic. I’ve got to get Mandy in the bedroom.>

If it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable.

“Do you want to help me get my clothes off?” he asked.

Her face contorted in anger again and Mulder stiffened. He realized that she had indeed started to return to a diminished state of normalcy, and in doing so, she would know that Mulder’s suggestion would be bogus.

<Dammit to hell! I can’t figure you out?> he screamed in his head.

“You came here with one thought in your mind, didn’t you, Fox?”

“No, Mandy. Listen —”

He stepped back but she grabbed the open front of his jacket. “I don’t think you could harm a fly right now, so I’m not afraid of you,” she said.

“You’ve no reason to be afraid of me,” he replied.

Looking over her shoulder he saw a shadow pass by the living room window. Mulder had to keep Mandy’s back to the door.

“Look,” he said, “I think if we just talk we can clear some things up.”

“Talk,” she said bitterly. “In the bedroom.” It was not a question. She turned away from him. “I don’t think so.”

Before she could walk away from him toward the living room, Mulder caught her arm. He knew it would be a mistake, but he had to, because Scully was at the front door.

Mulder tried to brace for her attack, but in his weakened state he would have trouble defending himself. Unfortunately this time his impromptu profile was right on target. She spun around and launched at him, shoving him in the chest with her fists and knocking him into the wall. He gasped for air, falling to one knee and lowering his head to keep from passing out. He was vaguely aware of her running through the living room and into the kitchen. He froze for an instant, realizing what she was going after.

A knife.

Mulder got to his feet just as he heard the glass break at the front door.

<Scully!>

Propelled by the instinct to protect his partner, he rushed down the hallway just as Mandy was headed to the front door. Mulder saw the flash of a silver blade in her hand, and Scully reaching in to unlock the door. Mulder threw himself at the crazed woman, grabbing her around the waist and tackling her to the floor. The impact drove the bone splinter further into Mulder’s lung and he gasped in agony. He rolled to his back, unable to move, as blood bubbled from his lips.

Scully had burst through the door just as Mandy and her partner hit the floor. She swung her gun in their direction, but they were a tumbling mass of arms and legs and she couldn’t shoot for fear of hitting her partner. When Mulder was still, Scully pulled the hammer back, ready to fire, but Mandy had shielded herself behind Mulder’s prone body. Scully took two steps closer then stopped dead still. Mandy had Mulder’s gun pressed to the temple of her unconscious partner.

“Drop your gun!” Mandy screamed, still lying flat on the floor next to Mulder. “DROP IT OR I’LL SHOOT HIM!”

Mandy’s shout awakened Mulder enough to understand what was happening. He felt the knife piercing his skin just above his hip and knew Scully couldn’t see it because it was between their bodies.

“Scully, no,” he whispered.

He felt the point of the knife go in deeper and felt a wet warmth on his skin, but his body was so weak it could no longer respond to pain.

“SAY GOODBYE THEN!” Mandy shrieked, cocking the gun.

Scully instantly raised the barrel in the air and slowly let the hammer slip forward into a safety position.

“All right,” Scully said, her voice unsteady. “All right.”

Scully’s gaze went to her partner. An intense sense of d=E9j=E0 vu hit her. Why did this scene seem tragically familiar — her partner lying prone on the floor, eyes staring upward, gasping for breath as blood pooled around him.

“Mandy —” Scully started.

“LAY THE GUN ON THE FLOOR!”

Scully saw Mulder flinch at the screaming woman next to him. Immediately she crouched down, laying her gun on the floor, then slowly stood up again.

“Mandy,” Scully said, forcing her voice to be calm and quiet. “You don’t need to yell.”

“He could have loved me!”

Scully’s mind was racing a million miles a minute trying to analyze the behavior of the dangerously disturbed woman holding a gun to her partner’s head. She had to say all the right things or Mulder would pay dearly for her mistake.

Suddenly there was the sound of gurgling in Mulder’s throat and his body convulsed once.

“He’s choking!” Scully shouted.

Instinctively she took a step toward Mulder but the gun was leveled at her and she stopped. Not because she feared being shot — she was willing to take a bullet for her partner — but because if she died, Mulder would surely die also.

“Mandy, he’s choking! Let me help him! Please!” she pleaded, watching blood bubble from his lips and run down the corner of Mulder’s mouth.

“STAY AWAY FROM HIM!”

“Then turn him on his side! Mandy, you have to help him. Only you can save him!”

Scully felt hot tears burning her eyes as she stood, helpless. Then something caught her attention and she glanced quickly through the wide crack in the open front door to see Skinner run toward the house and crouch behind a thick tree trunk. His gun was drawn, and she assumed he must have heard the screaming from inside the house.

But her immediate concern was her partner. He was trying to cough as blood sprayed in a fine mist from his lips. Scully decided that if Mandy did nothing to help him within the next 10 seconds, she would take matters into her own hands. If she continued to stand and watch her partner’s suffering, then he would die anyway. And if she let him die without taking any action, then Mandy might as well kill her, too.

“Mandy, he came here because he cared. If he had wanted to hurt you, would he have told me where to find him?”

“Why are you here!”

“Turn him on his side,” she said quietly.

Mandy hesitated, then keeping the gun on Scully with one hand, she put her hand under Mulder’s right shoulder and rolled him on his side. The movement caused him to convulse again and throw up an alarming amount of blood.

Scully could not see the knife lying on the floor behind her partner.

She had to try and talk Mandy down and hope that Skinner didn’t come charging through the door.

“We want to help you, Mandy.”

When Mandy looked up at Scully, the crazed frantic expression was replaced with sorrow. There was a hitch in her voice as she spoke.

“He never wanted me. He apologized to me at the Christmas party last week.”

<Last week?> Scully thought. <She’s referring to the Christmas party three years ago!>

“He said he was already involved with someone.”

<Already involved?> He said that three years ago? Scully felt like someone had reached in and clenched her heart.

“We were supposed to get married! And you don’t even love him!”

She had directed the remark to Scully who was caught off guard.

“What?”

“He told me tonight that you only care about him because you work together!”

The fist around Scully’s heart squeezed tighter. She hoped to God that wasn’t what Mulder believed — that he said it to calm Mandy down.

<Well, two can play this game.>

“That’s partially true. I do care about my partner, but I don’t love him. We just work together.”

To her horror, Mulder’s eyes opened and found hers. She saw more than pain there, she saw hurt. But there would be time to fix that later. If she didn’t get him to a hospital, there wouldn’t be a ‘later.’

Scully gathered up all the false compassion she possibly could. “He does care about you.”

“No he doesn’t. He walked away from me in the bar just like he did at the party.”

Scully froze. She tried to give her attention to Mandy but it was impossible to keep her eyes off Mulder. He was having trouble breathing and even from the distance she stood from him, she could see his body shivering from loss of too much warm blood. She hoped that he was understanding that finally the truth was coming out.

“What do you mean he walked away from you in the bar?” Scully asked, trying not to sound anxious.

Mandy sighed, as if irritated with having to start over. “The man that told me to go to the bar that night said that Fox would be waiting for me. But when I saw Fox sitting at the table and I sat down next to him, he got up and moved to another table. When we walked outside, he got mad at me and left. Just like last week.”

“Last week?”

“At my uncle’s Christmas party!” she yelled, exasperated.

“Okay,” Scully said calmly, seeing her partner startled again by her loud voice. “Mandy, what man told you to go to the bar that night?”

Mandy’s thoughts were wandering, but Scully’s question dragged her back to the conversation.

“Huh? Oh, I don’t know his name. He said he was a friend of Fox’s. The police officer.”

<Femino!!>

Scully shut her mouth quickly to keep from gasping.

“I thought that man was your uncle!”

“No. He was just pretending. He said Fox had a lot of money and that he would pay us if I finally agreed to drop the charges.”

“Is that what you’d planned to do?”

“Maybe. I’m still pretty mad at him for raping me.”

Suddenly Scully felt like someone had thrown her in quicksand. Just when she believed Mandy was finally lucid, the rape accusation emerged again.

“Mandy, why do you think Fox raped you? According to the police report, you can’t remember what happened after you got out of the cab at the park.”

“You’re pretty stupid for an FBI agent!” she snapped. “I tried to fight him! He had the bruises to prove it!”

Scully looked away from Mandy long enough to see how her partner was doing. Mulder’s eyes were closed, his breathing irregular. She knew time was against him and his suffering was unbearable. But Mandy was finally talking, so Scully was trying to give her a few more minutes. Her partner’s freedom might depend on it.

“Mandy, why didn’t you want to have intercourse with Fox? Didn’t you have oral sex in the cab?” The words almost burned her throat.

Mandy looked confused for an instant, then smug. “Yes, we did. But he didn’t have a condom with him. I told the police that!”

“You were worried about a condom when he had just come in your mouth?”

As Scully said the words, she looked again at Mulder. His eyelids fluttered open, but he didn’t look up from the floor.

<Mulder, I’m sorry.>

Scully carefully continued. “You told the police that you and Fox were dropped off at the park. But a few minutes ago you said you and Fox went outside the bar, he got mad, and left.”

Mandy’s face went blank. Scully had effectively challenged and discredited her memory. Her eyes were like chips of ice, her voice harsh and cruel.

“You just can’t accept the fact that Fox is fucking me!”

Scully was shaking inside, but kept her voice steady. “You’re confused. You’ve been told things.”

Mandy’s rage was back in full force.

“I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS ANYMORE!”

Scully nodded slowly and kept her voice calm. “Okay. Okay, we won’t then.”

Mulder closed his eyes again and moaned, trying to roll to his back. Scully knew that lying on his side had to be excruciating.

Mandy looked down at him. She was still kneeling beside him, resting the gun on his shoulder. Her wild-eyed look changed to one of concern and Scully prayed she would remain in that state long enough to surrender the weapon. She didn’t know where Skinner was, but hoped that he would be patient a little longer.

“Mandy, can you see that Fox is hurt?” Scully asked carefully.

The young woman tenderly put her hand on Mulder’s cheek. “He’s hot,” she said surprised.

“He needs to get to a hospital right away.”

Watching another woman trying to comfort her partner disturbed Scully in more ways than would be expected from the obvious circumstances.

“Poor Fox,” Mandy said, reaching over him to grab the front of his shirt.

Roughly she pulled him over on his back and Mulder cried out, arching his body against the pain. Scully was losing the battle over her tears.

Mandy had laid the gun on Mulder’s chest, the barrel aimed at his chin. But although she no longer had it in her hand, Scully still felt it was too risky to move quickly against the woman.

“Mandy, please,” Scully said, her shaking obvious. “He needs your help.”

Scully wasn’t even sure Mandy was listening to her as she caressed Mulder’s cheek, whispering words in his ear that Scully couldn’t hear. She realized Mandy vacillated between the real world and her fantasy world which consisted of only her and Mulder. The moment-by-moment change was like flipping a switch. The difficult part was trying to reason with her when Scully wasn’t sure which world she had jumped back into.

She watched as Mandy picked up Mulder’s limp hand and put it inside her open shirt, pressing it over her breast. Her eyes rolled with pleasure. “Oh, yes, baby,” she said, as if Mulder’s actions were his own.

Since it was obvious to Scully that she had once again retreated into her fantasies, she remained still and quiet. But that proved an agonizing decision when she saw Mandy drag Mulder’s hand down and inside the front of her pants. Sitting back on her knees, Mandy spread her legs apart. As Mulder’s hand was forced down, the front of her pants was pulled down with it.

Scully clenched her jaw, willing herself to look beyond the sight that was before her — her partner’s hand in the crotch of another woman, resting on a patch of curly black hair.

Then, to her surprise, Mandy looked straight at Scully and smiled demurely. “He likes to do this. He likes to curl his finger around mine and bring both of them inside me.”

<No he doesn’t.>

Scully didn’t care to look close enough to see whether Mandy had pushed Mulder’s finger up inside her, but she could tell that Mandy was manipulating Mulder’s hand.

“He gets me good and wet, then he licks me. His tongue goes deep inside me and he loves it when I scream as I reach orgasm.”

Scully couldn’t bear to hear more, but she was afraid to interrupt. She knew her partner was conscious because she saw him blinking. She could only hope that Mulder would keep quiet during Mandy’s lurid fantasy and not worry about what Scully was seeing him do with another woman.

“His hands are soft. He uses them to caress my neck, to get me to relax my throat muscles so I can take him deep in my mouth, all the way in. Sometimes it’s just too much,” she said with a giggle, “and he can’t hold back. It’s so incredible to watch him pull that long, thick cock out of my mouth, and then slide back in, pushing so deep that my lips are against his balls. He screams my name when he comes, and I suck him dry, swallowing every drop of him,” Mandy said, rolling her tongue around her mouth. “Then he plays with me until he’s hard again. Then we fuck. First I’m on top, bouncing up and down on his cock, then he enters me from behind, which really turns him on. And then he throws me on my back and spreads my legs and slams into me. He likes it hard and fast. He’s so beautiful when he comes.”

Mandy was looking hard at Scully, as if anticipating her breakdown, or some reaction to her sexual escapades with Fox Mulder. Scully almost felt like applauding the narrative. It sounded like a chapter from a smutty book.

She felt a surge of reinforcement that came from self-affirmation — affirmation that she was the only person in the world who really knew all aspects of Fox Mulder. But even though Scully knew Mandy’s sick sexual recitation was pure delusion, the imagery none-the-less nauseated her.

Getting no reaction from Fox’s partner, Mandy leaned over, her eyes never straying from Scully’s, and pressed her left nipple against Mulder’s lips. Scully saw him shut his eyes, trying to block everything out. Making sure Scully was still watching, Mandy pressed more firmly against him and moved her nipple over his lips, trying to get him to open his mouth.

Scully saw a muscle tighten in Mulder’s jaw; he knew what was happening and he wasn’t about to give in. The disturbing knowledge Scully shared with her partner was that if he complied with the sexual advances in any way, even by simply opening his mouth and taking her breast, Mandy would take that as aggression. And that’s what triggered the violence.

Scully felt Mulder’s humiliation. She could not even imagine what he was thinking, knowing that she had to endure this sadistic show. She wanted to look away, but refused to give Mandy that satisfaction. It was taking tremendous effort for her seriously injured partner to maintain control. Scully fought back angry tears as she silently praised her partner’s fortitude. But his endurance was short-lived.

Mulder was consciously slipping away again.

Then Scully saw what she feared most, and she was defenseless to stop it. Mandy’s hand traced the same familiar path up through Mulder’s thick hair, and she lowered her lips to the place on his forehead marked only by Scully’s kiss. Mulder’s eyes opened and they were glassy, unfocused. Because of his severely disoriented state, and the position of the woman leaning into his face, his instinct and longing told him who was above him. And there was only one woman he wanted to feel in that way. In his fevered delirium he was responding to touch and desire, not sight.

Scully watched helplessly as his lips parted, he took the hard nipple between his teeth and closed his mouth around it, sucking lightly.

Just as the panic registered on Mandy’s face, Scully saw him open his mouth again, drawing in just enough air to speak.

<MULDER, NO!>

His soft murmur was unmistakable. “Scully.”

The panic reflected in Mandy’s eyes turned instantly to fiery hatred. She sat up, at the same time flinging Mulder’s hand out of her pants. Seconds became hours as simultaneously Scully reached down for her gun on the floor and Mandy lifted Mulder’s weapon from his chest.

<PLEASE GOD!>

<PLEASE GOD!>

Scully screamed in her head as it became a dual to the death to see who could pick up the gun first, pull back the hammer and fire. Mandy’s target was practically underneath her.

<ONE MORE SECOND!>

<ONE MORE SECOND!>

< NOOOOOO !!! >

--

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 16 of 19)

Maybe God did intervene because the young woman’s hands were shaking so badly that she fumbled with the gun, giving Scully a split-second advantage. But the shot Scully had to take from the angle of a crouched position on the floor would put her partner almost in the path of the bullet. There was no room for error.

Aiming quickly but with a steady hand, she fired just as Mandy placed the gun to Mulder’s temple. Scully’s bullet hit Mandy high in the right shoulder. The impact jerked her back, but not off of her feet, causing instantaneous muscle damage, which impaired her right hand. But the gun was in Mandy’s left hand. Because of the angle of Mandy’s body, Scully had taken her best sure shot, which — because she was firing a millisecond after struggling to get a grip on the trigger — was a full body shot and not the less accurate head shot.

Scully stood upright, her gun still trained on Mandy. She didn’t want to shoot her again. She could see the young woman was stunned, the gun wavering in her hand. There was no way to determine whether Mandy had enough strength to pull the trigger.

“PUT THE GUN DOWN!” Scully ordered. “PUT IT DOWN!”

It was then that Scully realized Mulder was awake and trying to move away from Mandy. His movements were sluggish and uncoordinated, as he tried to rise up on an elbow. His face looked panicked. If he raised up, he would be between the two women and Scully wouldn’t have another shot at Mandy.

“Mulder! Lay still!” Scully yelled, holding Mandy in the sights of her gun.

But he was determined to move away from her. Something was happening that Scully couldn’t’ understand. Mandy was showing no sign of surrendering, despite her wound, and her attention was still fixed on Mulder. Time had now speeded up, as Scully tried to figure out why things seemed so wrong. Her mind was spinning with life or death indecision.

<SHOOT HER!>

<WAIT!>

<SHOOT HER NOW!>

She saw an awkward arm movement from Mandy but when Scully started to step forward, she was startled by a booming gunshot blast. Before she could turn away from Mandy to seek out the cause, she saw a neat crimson hole appear in the center of Mandy’s forehead and a quick spray of blood fanned out the back of her head. With eyes still open in surprise, Mandy fell flat on her back — dead before she hit the floor.

Scully was caught temporarily in a web of confusion, panic and horror.

<What just happened?>

Catching movement, she looked to her right to see Skinner lowering his gun. Behind him, uniformed officers began to fill the room. He gave her a quick, cursory look to make sure she was okay, then took rapid strides toward her partner.

Scully snapped out of it, holstering her gun and rushing to him. Mulder had collapsed forward, his forehead resting on the floor. His body was shuddering and both Scully and Skinner could hear him whimpering in pain.

As both agents kneeled on either side of him, Scully looked down at Mandy’s body and saw the long knife in her hand. From her position, she hadn’t been able to see it, but Skinner, coming from the kitchen, saw her pick it up off the floor.

Skinner spoke to two police officers, indicating with a flick of his head toward Mandy.

“Get her out of here,” he said with revulsion.

As they removed the body, Scully shot Skinner a look of immeasurable gratitude. Then Mulder became their only concern.

As Scully put her hands on Mulder’s shoulders, ready to raise his head off the floor, Skinner put his hand over hers.

“Scully, wait,” he said.

He leaned closer to the floor, then put his hand under Mulder’s body. “He’s bleeding … he’s cut.”

They both felt his body spasm and he moaned again. Scully put her hand on the back of his neck and her lips against his ear.

“Mulder, it’s me. It’s over, partner. You’re going to be okay.”

She listened to his breathing. The end of each breath was followed by a wheeze. He wasn’t getting enough air. Scully placed her hand over Mulder’s ear so he wouldn’t hear her, then she spoke to Skinner.

“Sir, he can’t get enough air! We need oxygen! Now!”

Skinner turned to an officer on his radio. “Where are the paramedics?” he asked harshly.

“Five minutes away. The helicopter will be here in ten.”

He nodded.

“Sir, we need to turn him over and elevate his chest so he can breathe. And I’ve got to stop the bleeding,” said Scully.

Skinner sat on his knees and put his hands on Mulder’s shoulders, ready to lift him. Scully put her cheek next to Mulder’s again and took the fingers of his casted hand in hers.

“Mulder, can you hear me? Just squeeze my fingers.”

She waited, worried. Then heard a faint, raspy whisper.

“Scully.”

Knowing that Skinner and other officers were there, she pressed her lips against his temple, not quite a kiss.

“Partner, we’re going to move you so you can breathe better. Okay?”

This time he squeezed her fingers. Scully nodded to Skinner. Gently Mulder was lifted up. A police officer rushed over to help so he could be moved slowly. But it was too much for Mulder. They all heard the gurgle of blood that rose in his throat. Skinner tightened his grip on his shoulders as Scully held his head against her chest. Mulder threw up a shocking amount of blood, coating both Skinner’s and Scully’s arm. Skinner, sickened by his agent’s suffering, looked to Scully to gauge how serious this was. He saw what he expected to see. But Scully knew right now that her partner needed her more as a doctor than concerned friend and partner. So she held her emotions in check.

“Help me lay him back, sir.”

As gently as possible, Skinner pulled Mulder’s shoulders and head into his lap. Mulder cried out, squeezing his eyes shut and grabbing Skinner’s shirt sleeve as if trying to stop him from moving him. Skinner slid his arm up, taking Mulder’s hand in his.

Scully heard him gasping for air, but there was very little rise to his chest. Forcing her will to keep a rein on her panic, she tried to focus solely on what she needed to do to save his life. She unsnapped his jeans and started to remove his jacket, but then decided to let the doctors cut it off him at the hospital. Carefully she pulled his shirt out as Skinner opened the shirt buttons. A police officer knelt down with a handful of towels and gave one to Scully. Tenderly, she first cleaned his mouth.

The cut to his side was deep but only about half an inch in diameter. In Mulder’s already depleted condition though, any more blood loss was catastrophic.

Scully folded the hand towel and used gentle pressure against the wound, watching Mulder’s face as she did so. Skinner looked down to see that his entire right side and abdomen were dark purple. The cut Scully was working on was on the same side, just above the waist of his pants.

Mulder gasped again, trying to get air and his eyes found Scully’s. He was scared. She bent over him, so close that her lips brushed the side of his mouth as she spoke.

“I know you’re afraid, honey. But I’m here. Skinner’s here. You’re safe and help is on the way.”

An agonizing cramp of pain seized Mulder again and he tried to stifle a cry but as the pain continued to build, spreading throughout his body, he could no longer contain his torment. Skinner felt Mulder’s trembling hand squeeze his and he returned the pressure.

“Mulder …” Scully said, her voice quivering. She brushed her fingers along his cheek, trying anything to take his mind off the pain.

Mulder was losing it and they both knew it. Any other human would have passed out long ago. As the pain consumed and overwhelmed him, he finally broke. Crying softly, his tears mixed with the blood that seeped from his mouth. Skinner watched Scully struggling not to break down herself as Mulder lay in his arms. He could see the helplessness in her face. He knew she wouldn’t speak until it was with the strength and assurance that her partner needed to hear from her. So for right now, Skinner would be her voice.

“Mulder, hold on. This is the worst of it. Just hold on to us,” he said, pressing his fingers lightly around Mulder’s.

Skinner heard commotion and looked over to see the paramedics rush in with their equipment and a stretcher. He listened as Scully quickly apprised them of his injuries and what treatment was needed. An oxygen mask was placed over Mulder’s nose and mouth and the relief was immediate. Although his breathing was easier, he still had to be elevated because of the blood in his throat.

The paramedics worked quickly and effectively, inserting IV’s, hooking him up to a heart monitor. He was ready to be moved to the stretcher once the IV’s were all in place. Scully spoke softly to him again.

“Partner, we’re taking you to the hospital. I want you to close your eyes and stop fighting. You can let go for a little while.”

She trailed the tips of her fingers over his lids and they closed. Then she and Skinner let the medics take over.

Standing side by side, the two agents were exhausted. Skinner glanced over at the body of Mandy Morrison lying under a sheet. Scully saw that Skinner was deep within himself. She put her hand on his arm, but he only acknowledged her with a dishearted sigh.

“Sir, you had no choice. You had to shoot her.”

“But now the truth may be hard to prove.” He leaned closer and lowered his voice. “We know that Mulder’s DNA won’t be a match, but how do we prove it? How do we prove any of it?”

“Sir,” Scully said in an equally hushed voice, “I heard her. She said that someone told her to meet Mulder at the bar. Her stories contradict each other, sir! Officer Femino isn’t even her uncle! <That> can be proved!”

“Oh really! With all that’s been done so far to implicate Mulder, would it surprise you if a document surfaced proving he was Mandy’s uncle? But that’s the least of our problems. We’re going to have a hell of a time explaining why Mulder was here and how we knew it. And then there’s this little problem of justifying why we broke into the house of a rape victim and shot her instead of her alleged attacker, who was <also> in her house!”

Scully’s voice was hushed, but emphatic. “I heard <everything>, sir!”

“Scully … ” he said, shaking his head.

“Femino was the one who told Mandy to meet Agent Mulder in the bar that night!”

“And who’s going to prove that!”

“I’m a federal agent! Now my word isn’t good enough?”

“Scully, he’s your partner.”

“Does that mean I would lie!” she whispered harshly.

“It doesn’t matter what I think. Mulder’s been on a hit list for a long time.” He rubbed his eyes. “And I just eliminated his best chance to prove his innocence.”

“You saved his life.”

Although Scully was engaged in conversation, she had kept an eye and an ear to what was being done to her partner. When she heard the paramedic she looked over.

“Sir, you need to keep the mask on.”

Mulder had lifted the oxygen mask from his face. She heard him weakly whisper her name and she and Skinner were instantly at his side again.

“Partner, keep this on. It’ll be easier to breathe.”

At the sight of his pain-filled eyes, protocol and will power collapsed. As far as Scully was concerned, she and Mulder were the only two people in the room.

Without hesitation she leaned over and kissed him firmly on the lips. Skinner was surprised — not that Scully had kissed Mulder; he had a feeling it wasn’t the first time — but that she was so bold about it. It was no feather kiss.

When she pulled away, she heard her name whispered softly again. She didn’t want him talking, but there was an urgency that, in her experience with him, couldn’t be ignored.

“What is it, Mulder?”

Speaking was difficult and he had to concentrate on timing his words with his breathing.

“J-jack … et,” he rasped.

She didn’t understand what he said and she watched his lips as he tried to form the word again. It took a long time to find the strength and she could see that he was becoming agitated. Scully smiled reassuredly and pushed his hair back.

“It’s okay.”

She felt the paramedic touch her arm and she knew there was a dual purpose: Mulder needed to be back on the oxygen and the helicopter was landing. Not taking her eyes off Mulder, she nodded.

Mulder weakly cleared his throat and the fingers of his casted arm tapped the front of his jacket.

“Pock-et,” he forced.

At first she frowned, looking at Skinner, but then they both seemed to understand at the same time. Skinner gently put his hand inside Mulder’s jacket and could feel an object in his pocket. He reached in and pulled it out.

After he opened his hand, it only took a second for the surprise to register simultaneously on their faces. The tape recorder was still running. For the first time in days, Scully’s face brightened and Skinner looked at Mulder with renewed respect. She looked down at her partner and there was no need for words. Mulder’s eyes closed slowly as she put the oxygen mask back in place.

--

BETHESDA HOSPITAL 8 days later, 6:40 a.m.

It had been a long, difficult week. Mulder’s medical progress had been slow — two steps forward, one back. His immediate treatment had been at Roseland Medical Center in Richmond. He had been flown there, rather than Bethesda, when he stopped breathing in the helicopter just after take-off. Skinner and Scully had driven halfway back to Washington when they received the call that Mulder was at Richmond. When told the reason why, the quiet drive to Roseland was agonizing for both agents.

After his first surgery, it had been touch and go for 24 hours. Mulder survived seven hours of surgery, only to be set back by post-operative bleeding. To make matters worse, Roseland was a small hospital and did not have enough blood supply to handle Mulder’s rare type. Emergency blood supply was flown in from Georgetown and Bethesda hospitals. The inclement weather had delayed flights, thus causing many panic-filled moments waiting and pacing.

Then there were further complications from an infection. It probably started the day his rib was broken when he was thrown into the steel railing at the police station. In Mulder’s weakened condition, the infection ravaged his body. His platelets had diminished by two-thirds, leading to the severe hemorrhaging, which required a second surgery. Then for two days his fever raged.

Scully never left his side, bathing his face with cool water and sponging his body with a mixture of alcohol diluted with saline. Three times his temperature spiked over 105 degrees, sending him into convulsions. Yet through his delirium, somehow he knew she was there and he held on to her, whispering her name as a plea not to leave.

As if she could.

During Mulder’s most critical time, Skinner drove down. He tried to relieve Scully, but when that failed, he settled for bringing her food and coffee. Then he hovered in the hall in between the short visits he was allowed with his agent.

At one point, Skinner entered just as Mulder went into a convulsion. Laying his arm across Mulder’s collarbone, he put the palm of his other hand on his forehead, holding his head to the pillow. He flashed back briefly to another time when he helped Mulder ride out a seizure — one that he might have caused.

Skinner shook off the thought, as doctors filled the room, injecting medication in the IV’s and hurriedly taking vitals. They worked around Scully, who had crawled up on the bed next to Mulder, talking gently to him the whole time. But what surprised Skinner was that the doctors worked around him, too, probably because Mulder had a death grip on his hand. When Mulder finally calmed down, he did something the AD would never forget. Skinner had released his hand, but Mulder laid his fingers over the back of Skinner’s hand, squeezing slightly as he looked up at his boss. There was no mistaking the message of extreme gratitude that shone through Mulder’s eyes, and so intense was Skinner’s reaction that he had to look away. For the first time, he truly understood the power of non-verbal communication that was the trademark of his two most ‘special’ agents.

Before quietly slipping out the door, he glanced back at Scully. She was watching him, but she said nothing. She knew what he was thinking. She simply smiled.

Following Mulder’s second surgery, the bleeding was temporarily controlled by transfusions, but until the infection was treated, it was like continuing to bail water out of a sinking boat instead of plugging the hole.

After five days at Roseland, Mulder was flown by a medi-vac jet to Bethesda Hospital where he was placed in a hyperbolic chamber to fight the infection. Until he improved, he would remain comatose in isolation. Scully used the M.D. behind her name — and, Skinner suspected, probably her weapon — to gain access to her partner.

She had a story to tell Mulder when he woke up, one that she knew would amuse him: when she insisted on being with her partner, the doctors tried to convince her that there was no way he would know she was there. <You should know that, you’re a doctor!> She argued bitterly with them, accusing them of being too closed minded and had they never heard of extreme possibilities? She vaguely recalled using the term ‘conventionally handicapped’ at some point.

<I’ve come a long way with you, partner.>

On the fifth day of hospitalization at Bethesda, Mulder was taken out of isolation and the medication decreased to allow him to wake up — gradually. Scully should have remembered that nothing is gradual with Fox Mulder. But fatigue and worry attributed to her taking the word of the doctors, so she went home to sleep.

Then at 2:48 this morning, she was awakened by a phone call. Her immediate response, so ingrained over the past week, was panic. Time stood still between her hello and the voice on the other end.

It was a weak, wisp of a sound, unrecognizable in content, but purely defined by familiarity.

“Scully.”

That one word was all he could manage, but it answered a volume of prayers. Scully found herself weeping with relief, not the least bit embarrassed to reveal the depth of feelings to her partner.

The only other sound she heard out of Mulder was a “Shhh,” as roles reversed and he tried to let her know everything was all right.

She sped to the hospital and practically ran down the hall to his room, only to find that he had fallen back to sleep. Lowering the bed rail, she eased on to the mattress and took his hand. Gently rubbing her thumb over the back of his palm, she waited to see if he might wake up. But just the few minutes he had been awake, while the nurses checked vitals and tried to ask him questions, had worn him out.

Scully learned later that throughout the nurses’ ministrations, he had asked them to call his partner. Claiming it wasn’t in his best interest, they had refused. In more or less a joking manner, they asked him with whom did he think his federal position carried weight. He met them head-on, with his short but definitive answer.

“I.R.S.”

--

Now it was two-and-a-half hours later. Scully wasn’t sure what had happened, but the nurses couldn’t seem to do enough for her — getting her coffee and a danish, verifying that what they were doing to her partner was satisfactory to her. It was weird.

Skinner had dropped by briefly with the pretense of delivering a file to her. But after firing a barrage of questions at her about Agent Mulder’s condition, he started walking away with the file under his arm, smiling sheepishly when Scully gently reminded him of it.

She had been reading the report when Mulder’s head turned slightly on the pillow. Laying the file in the chair, she again took her place next to him on the bed. He was facing the wall when his eyes opened.

“Hey,” Scully said softly, a smile in her voice.

When he turned his head, his eyes met hers and he was bathed in that glowing smile. He tried to smile back when she kissed him on the cheek, but he was again consumed with pain. Scully’s relief that he was awake was quickly overshadowed by his obvious discomfort.

She felt a stab of guilt cut her like a knife. She had agreed with the doctor that Mulder’s pain medication be reduced to allow him to wake up, and to begin weaning him off the heavy narcotics. Neither she nor the doctors were sure what dosage to cut him down to, so they decided to establish a baseline at halfway. If he couldn’t handle that it could be increased, or vice versa. But now it was obvious that it was far too little to handle his pain.

“Mulder, we’ve cut your morphine in half. While you were in the coma, we had to continue the morphine or you would have fought your way right up through the pain. And since you can’t take Demerol, there was only a weak substitute. I know you have a high pain tolerance, so we’re hoping the lower dosage will help you get your strength back.”

“Y-your call … Dr. Scully,” he breathed heavily.

Mulder suddenly saw the lines of worry in her face as she stared at the overhead monitors, and he knew she was waging her decision against the possible outcome. So he guessed he might be in for a pretty hard time.

Still holding her hand, he tapped the bed twice to get her attention. “Scully … trust you,” he said softly, using as few words as possible to convey his message.

She moved closer to him. “I’ll be here whenever you need me, and in between.”

She saw him straining to look around her at the closed door.

“What is it, partner?” she asked.

“Guard …?” he whispered.

Even under layers of pain she heard the apprehension in his voice. She didn’t know what he remembered of his last few hours before she and Skinner found him.

She took his good hand in both of hers and kissed his fingers and before she even spoke he knew there had been a change.

“No,” she answered. “No guard. It’s over.”

She saw his relief, but confusion as well.

“Mulder, I could tell you everything that happened, but I’d have to repeat it twelve times. Let’s give it a few days. For now, there is only one thing I will joyfully repeat: it’s over and you’re cleared.”

“And … Mandy?” he said with undisguised distaste.

Scully paused, but figured that it was one answer that he might subconsciously remember later.

“She’s dead.”

“Did you …?” he stopped.

“Skinner and I both shot her. But Mulder, let’s talk about this later. The important thing now is to get you well.”

The nurse came in and removed the empty bag from the IV stand. Mulder was pleased to see it was his previous nurse, the one he called Rosie.

“Hey, Foxy,” she kidded.

“Hey,” he whispered in a raspy voice.

Scully saw her take a quick but thorough visual inventory of her patient as she checked her clipboard for new orders.

“Hmmm, Foxy, no pain meds for you until later tonight. Guess it’s time to hand the job over to your endorphins.”

It almost sounded like a joke until she fixed her eyes on Scully and her voice was tight with concern. “You’ll be here tonight with him?”

It wasn’t so much a question as a statement. Mulder felt a little anxious at her inference as Scully nodded, naturally.

<Whoa> he thought, <what are they not telling me?>

Rosie leaned closer to the bed. “Well, I’ll be on until eleven p.m. — pulling a double shift so I can go to a wedding next weekend. So I want you calling me if it gets too bad. You hearing me, bright boy?” she directed to Mulder.

Again in a whisper, “Yes, ma’am.”

“Good.” She turned to Scully. “Oh, and my grandson is bringing some burgers in for dinner. I’ll have him pick one up for you, Dana… Hey, don’t give me that look, Foxy. I can’t see a perfectly good burger being barfed up in a wastebasket.”

“Thank you for that,” Mulder said weakly, scrunching up his face.

“But I will get you a vanilla shake if you promise to give me the real scoop on Area 51.”

Scully laughed. “That’s like saying ‘I’ll pay you if you let me wash your car.’”

Rosie chuckled and gently raised Mulder’s gown to inspect the bandage around his chest. Scully wasn’t worried; she had already done that half a dozen times, checking for bleeding. Satisfied, Rosie pulled the gown back down and the blanket up.

“I’ll see you in about an hour,” she said, pointing a finger at her patient.

Mulder smiled and nodded, but just before the door closed behind her, Rosie stuck her head back in the room.

“By the way, hotshot, the hospital brought in a pair of bloodhounds in case you try that disappearing act again.”

Scully laughed as Rosie winked at her again and left. Mulder was not so amused.

Finally alone again, Scully saw Mulder’s eyelids droop. He had been awake longer than at any time over the past eight days. He needed as much sleep as possible for his body to recover from the trauma.

Exhausted, Mulder dragged his eyes up to meet Scully’s intense gaze. Her blue eyes sparkled like sapphires. He wanted so much to just lay there and look into those beautiful eyes, but his body was not cooperating. He felt his eyes slipping closed and before he could open them barely halfway, he felt soft fingertips upon his eyelids.

“Go to sleep,” Scully whispered.

“Scully …” he whispered back.

This time her fingers were on his lips and the message was repeated. “Shhh, sleep, Babe.”

Her words were like a tranquilizer and he drifted off to the touch of her hand through his hair.

--

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 17 of 19)

BETHESDA HOSPITAL 7:40 p.m.

Mulder had slept off and on during the day. When Rosie came in on her break at 6:00 to bring Scully the promised hamburger, they sat quietly chatting, while Mulder slept the entire time.

He awoke about 6:30 and Scully forced him to drink about a third of the vanilla shake. But she could immediately see his discomfort again. He was given a Vicodin tablet, but the real test was yet to come. So Scully warned him about hiding the pain, explaining that it would do more damage than the drugs themselves. He was scheduled for a second dose of Vicodin at 10:00 o’clock p.m., but if the pain was unbearable they would consider another shot of morphine.

When he fell asleep at 7:05, Scully didn’t think he would wake up any time soon, but she didn’t want to take any chances, so she had her mother sit with him. She just wanted to make a quick trip to her apartment so she could shower and change into fresh clothes.

Now at 7:40, his eyes opened and he was immediately in the throes of immense pain. His gasp brought Maggie Scully out of her chair, her book dropping from her lap to the floor.

Mulder closed his eyes, willing the pain to a tolerable level, but his body had other ideas. Again he gasped as white-hot pain coursed through him and he felt a hand on top of his, and another on his forehead.

He whispered without opening his eyes, “Scully.”

The voice was soothing and familiar, but not his partner’s.

“Fox, it’s Maggie, sweetheart. I’ve called for the nurse.”

He didn’t open his eyes but turned his hand palm up, curling weak fingers around Maggie’s gentle grasp. He took a shuddering breath as a small whimper escaped.

Maggie moved closer to him, bending over the bed to smooth his cheek with the back of her hand. The gesture was so familiar as he leaned into it slightly. She was speaking softly to him but he was too consumed by the pain to understand her words.

The door swung open and briskly Rosie entered with another nurse. Instantly she was on the other side of Mulder, her hand on his shoulder, quickly assessing his condition. His cheeks were flushed, his skin cool and clammy. There was a slight tremor in his body from the effort of fighting the pain.

“Hey, handsome, can you open those beautiful eyes for me?”

Rosie’s voice was all business as she spoke quickly to the other nurse. “Call his partner.”

She looked back to see two pain-filled eyes looking up at her.

“Hey, Foxy. I know it’s pretty bad, sweetie, but we’re going to decide real quick what to do. Can you hold on for a few minutes?”

Mulder wet his lips and swallowed. “Hurts.”

“I know, Fox,” Rosie said sympathetically.

Maggie gripped his hand tighter. She knew what it took for Fox Mulder to confess he was hurting. Her attention was so focused on him that she didn’t realize a cup was being handed to her until she saw it in her line of vision. She took it, putting the straw in Mulder’s mouth. As he drank the cool water, another nurse entered to help Rosie take his vitals.

Mulder was fractionally aware of conversation carried on between the two nurses and Maggie, and he felt hands on him, but the pain had taken away any ability to concentrate.

The voices in the room blended into white noise and time drifted away until he heard one distinct voice at his ear. “Fox. Hey handsome. Open your eyes for me.”

He had been conscious the whole time, but his awareness and perception of time blinked on and off. The voice that kept repeating his name wasn’t Scully’s, but maybe the hand caressing his hair was hers.

He opened his eyes, trying to focus. “Scully?”

Maggie’s voice spoke at his ear, but he didn’t think it was the one urging him to wake up.

“She’s on her way, Fox, if you don’t’ mind her hair being a little damp.”

He couldn’t see Maggie’s smile, but he could hear it in the words she used to try to relax him. Then he felt a hand gently cup his chin and turn it to towards the other voice he heard.

“Hey Foxy, can you listen to me for a minute?”

Mulder nodded slightly as the hand moved from his chin to his shoulder.

“Good,” Rosie said. “Dr. Green is on his way. And let me tell you, the staff here is in shock because the Knicks are on TV, and nothing short of a train wreck pulls that man away from the tube when the Knicks are on.”

Maggie smiled at Rosie. She knew the story behind the friendly nurse’s celebrity name, and had even taken to calling her that. She was touched by her calm, soothing ministrations toward her pain-wracked patient. But Maggie knew also that this particular nurse had taken a special liking to Fox Mulder. They possessed a similar sense of humor, which was a definite attribute when having to deal with people who were in distress.

Maggie’s heart ached seeing Mulder hurting so badly. After all he’d been through, it just wasn’t fair. She turned her attention back to Rosie when she heard her explaining to Mulder what they were doing.

“Dr. Green is trying very hard to keep you off the heavy narcotics. You’ll be able to return to work faster if your body can work on its own. You got that, handsome?”

Mulder nodded again. Rosie gently squeezed his shoulder and continued. “Dr. Green may decide the Vicodin is not enough tonight, so he’ll give you another shot of morphine, but probably a much lower dosage. Okay, G-man?”

“‘Kay,” he whispered.

“I’ll be right back. I’m going to have those meds ready to go when he gives the word.” Rosie looked at Maggie, then back to Mulder. “You’re in good hands, sweetie.”

She gave his shoulder another gentle squeeze and walked out. He and Maggie were alone and he turned his head to face her, seeing her worried smile.

His voice was weak and raspy but he forced the words out. “Scully …”

“She’s coming, Fox.”

He shook his head once and briefly shut his eyes. Maggie understood there was something else he wanted to ask.

He took another shuddering breath and tried again. “She … okay?”

Maggie’s hand slipped tenderly through his hair.

<After all he’s been through, he’s worried about my daughter.>

“She’s good. Worried about you, but she knows you’re recovering. I know you don’t know what happened yet with that girl, but you do know that it’s over?”

“Mmmmm.”

“Then don’t worry about Dana. Everything’s going to be okay.”

Maggie was surprised to see tears in his eyes. The pain gave him little control over his emotions. He moved slightly, trying to lay in a position that would give him some relief. But the movement only caused him to wince.

“Honey, it’s okay,” Maggie soothed.

“I … tell … Dana …”

“Tell her what, Fox?”

“I’m … sorry.”

Maggie wasn’t sure what he meant but she knew he must be remembering something about his ordeal. She wondered if his eidetic memory was affected by pain and trauma, as any average individual’s would be.

She bent over and tenderly kissed his forehead. “Fox, sweetheart, try not to think about that until Dana and Director Skinner can explain what happened. Please, trust me when I tell you it’s okay.”

He nodded once and closed his eyes.

Over the next twenty minutes, nurses were periodically in and out of the room, but they let Mulder rest. Maggie pulled her chair up next to the bed, touching him at all times by holding his hand or rubbing his arm. She wanted him to know that she was still with him.

Rosie was taking his blood pressure when the door opened and Scully rushed in. Her eyes were instantly on her partner. Maggie and Rosie both sighed with relief as she carefully sat on the bed, taking in her partner’s labored breathing and tense face. It was then that she realized he still had not been given painkillers. Scully shot a look at Rosie, who looked apologetic even though she had no decisions in his treatment.

Scully put her hand on Mulder’s neck and leaned close. “Hey, partner,” she said quietly.

Mulder had tried to block all his senses and drift into a cottony haze. The hushed conversations held over him were muted and unrecognizable, as if he were behind a wall.

Until he heard her voice.

It hurt to even open his eyes, but he had to see her. Scully saw the effort it took and she brushed her thumb over his cheek. When his lids raised, his eyes were glassy, his pupils dilated. Scully’s full attention was on her partner, but a ribbon of anger coursed through her at the suffering he was enduring. He wanted to speak but it came out as a moan.

“Mulder, slow your breathing down.” Her words were soft, but with that touch of ‘doctor’s orders’ that she knew Mulder would respond to.

Maggie watched in fascination — as did Rosie, who was changing the tape over the IV site — as Scully took charge. She was gentle, but firm with her partner and he responded by completely submitting to her. The comfort zone between them was obvious as was their natural instinct to give and receive what was needed.

Without a word, Scully rose quickly off the bed and grabbed a yellow plastic basin from the tray table. She hurried into the bathroom as Maggie looked to see how Mulder reacted to her leaving him. He laid quietly, waiting, showing every confidence that she would be right back.

There was the sound of water running from the faucet and then Scully returned to Mulder’s bed as quickly as she had left. She took her place next to her partner again, setting the basin on the tray table.

“Rosie, where the hell is the doctor?” Scully asked as she began opening the front of Mulder’s gown.

“He should be walking in any minute.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Scully saw the nurse writing current information on the chart.

“Can I see that?” Scully asked.

Rosie handed it to her and Scully was in full doctor mode as she read over her partner’s vitals. It was apparent that Mulder’s pain had affected his temperature, blood pressure and heart rate. She handed the chart back. Picking up a washcloth from the bottom of the basin, she squeezed out the excess water. Gently she dabbed the damp cloth over his right shoulder, across his chest, to his other shoulder. Mulder’s eyes closed and his body relaxed a little.

“That’s it partner, take it easy. Just a few more minutes.”

Scully heard a sound from him, something between her name and a moan.

“I know, Hon, I know,” she soothed, re-wetting the cloth again and wiping his face.

Maggie reached through the bed rails and took his hand. She felt his weak but desperate grip.

For the next ten minutes there was no talking in the room as Scully continued to run the cool, damp cloth over his upper body and face.

Finally the door opened and the doctor entered. It surprised Scully to see him in sweatpants and an old navy-blue ‘Chicago’ sweatshirt that was faded and torn at the shoulder. He was wearing tennis shoes and no socks.

Scully’s temper abated when she realized that the doctor must have left home immediately after receiving the call about Mulder, that he didn’t even take the time to change clothes. It must have taken so long because he didn’t live close.

Dr. Green gave a cursory nod to Scully as he picked up the chart with one hand and Mulder’s wrist with the other. He read the update while taking his pulse. What he was most concerned about was whether there had been any blood in Mulder’s urine, which would indicate more internal bleeding. There had been none.

He turned momentarily to the nurse. “Let’s give him the half dose of morphine. The Vicodin isn’t going to touch this pain.”

She nodded and quickly left the room. Green gently sat on the bed, as Scully was doing, with Mulder between them.

“Agent Mulder, this is Dr. Green.” He watched his patient’s eyes slowly open. “I’m going to put a little morphine back in the IV. It probably won’t take all your pain away, but you should be able to sleep. If you want more, I just want you to let the nurse know and we’ll give you more. But if we have to increase it, let’s do it a little at a time. Okay?”

Mulder’s answer was a slow blink. Green watched him for a minute, then looked over at Scully.

“I’m sorry. I know it’s hard to see someone you love hurting so much.”

She tried not to register her surprise at his statement. He plowed right ahead as if he didn’t expect a response from her.

“When you start weaning someone off morphine, it’s a hit and miss. It’s better to have to increase the dosage than to have given him more than he needed. Unfortunately there’s no way to determine that base except through an educated guess. But I can promise you, he won’t go through this again.”

“Thank you. He’d probably live through it, but I don’t think I would.”

Within minutes, Mulder had been given the promised medication. His body was so drained from his struggle with the pain that any relief at all allowed him to drop off to sleep.

The doctor stayed longer than Scully expected. He seemed to hover over her partner, not ready to leave until he was certain Mulder would be comfortable throughout the night. Scully felt gratified that this man was in charge of Mulder’s treatment, because she felt like he genuinely cared about his patient.

With that assurance, and her own belief that this time Mulder really would sleep through the night, she decided to try one more time to get some sleep at home. Mulder would be awake tomorrow, and with the diminished pain meds, he would need her with him more than ever. So she needed rest as well.

--

The next two days gradually became easier for both the agents. Mulder’s increased pain was controlled more by sleeping pills. That course of treatment probably wouldn’t have been as effective with any other patient, but a certain copper-haired female with an unmatched bedside manner seemed to be just the ticket for success.

On the third day, Scully found herself and Skinner giving a final statement to the Shooting Board about the circumstances of Mandy’s Morrison’s death. The Board had been unusually compassionate by postponing the investigation to allow Agent Scully to be with her partner in the hospital until he was out of danger. Although the testimony was extensive, it was a cut and dry case, particularly with the Assistant Director of the FBI as a witness. So today’s meeting was merely a closing formality.

Special Agent Fox Mulder was completely exonerated of any wrongdoing. And although the Bureau’s Investigative Unit could find no apparent reason for framing one of its agents, they conceded that the likely cause was some deep, dark secret within the X-Files.

Even the Bureau had come a long way in their thinking.

The proceedings had been delayed most of the morning, which kept Scully away from the hospital the entire day. When the proceedings were over, she hurried home to change, knowing how much her partner liked seeing her in casual clothes, rather than her all-business power suit.

By late afternoon, she finally arrived back at Mulder’s room to find him awake and very alert. She almost melted to the floor when she swung the door open with anxiety and found him sitting up in bed, a radiant smile greeting her.

Mulder knew the effect it would have on her. He was all too aware of her deep worry and concern the past two weeks, and especially the last few days.

She flashed him her own dazzling smile as she perched on the bed next to him. “Welcome back,” she said, kissing his cheek.

“I won’t even ask where I’ve been,” he said hoarsely, his voice unused to speaking. Mulder looked around the room. “How about where I am?”

“Bethesda. You’ve been here eight days. You were at Roseland Hospital for five days.” Her voice softened. “You’ve had a pretty tough time.”

Mulder looked more closely at his partner. She had on jeans and a moss-green sweater that showed her curves nicely. She looked beautiful, but there were telltale signs that she hadn’t slept much.

“So have you,” he said, raising his eyebrows for her to confirm.

She nodded, her eyes clinically checking him over. Out of habit, she felt his cheek, but to her relief, it was cool. She poured him some water and held the cup while he drank from the straw.

“Thanks,” he said as she set the cup down. “Still snowing?” he asked, glancing at the closed blinds at the window.

“Off and on.”

Scully slid her hand under the thin blanket and sheet, resting it lightly on his chest. Even though she kept eye contact with him, Mulder could tell she was counting his respirations.

“Scully, you’re examining me,” he said.

She smiled brightly. “And I like what I see,” she teased. “How do you feel? Any trouble breathing?”

“Only when I look at you. You take my breath away.”

She faked a scowl. “I think you have me confused with a bone splinter.”

“Want to tell me what happened?”

“Nope. Not right this minute, anyway. Skinner’s on his way down. We’ll both fill you in on everything. Okay?”

He nodded. Then he looked over at a bouquet of bright balloons tied to the foot of the bed. A red and pink one was covered in hearts and a “Get Well” message. Another one was silver and names were signed with a heavy black marker. A purple balloon was filled with yellow moons and stars, and there was a blue and green one with little flying saucers on it.

Scully saw him wondering about the gifts.

“The red one is from me. The Gunmen signed the silver one. I wouldn’t let them come in the hospital with the one they bought at their favorite adult book store,” she said, with mock disdain. “The purple one is from my mother. She says it’s her way of thanking the heavens for bringing you back to us.”

<Us>

“And the UFO one?” he asked, curious.

“Skinner.”

Scully knew she would get a surprised reaction, but she didn’t expect his hearty laugh. It was music to her ears, and she laughed with him.

“As you so adeptly said to me once, Agent Scully, he just keeps ‘unfolding like a flower.’”

There was a beeping sound that both of them were familiar with. Scully reached over and pushed a button on the IV monitor that was signaling his medication needed to be replenished.

The nurse that came into the room was a welcomed surprise.

“Rosie,” Mulder said with affection.

“‘Bout time, G-Man. You’re really milking the insurance company for this one.”

He saw the two women look at each other and Rosie winked at Scully.

“Uh-oh,” Mulder said to Rosie. “Looks like you might have heard some stories.”

“Not to fret. Your ‘partner’ here guarded you like a mother bear with a new cub. It might have been a bit annoying to some of the younger nurses, but secretly I think they all wished they had someone that devoted for a ‘partner,’ she said, stressing the word again with a raised eyebrow.

When Mulder looked at Scully, she dropped her eyes, a little embarrassed at the observation. But he hadn’t heard anything he didn’t already know. Even if he hadn’t been consciously aware that Scully was with him every minute, he unconsciously knew it.

Rosie wrote down some numbers from the monitors on his chart. While she asked Mulder some routine questions, Scully took the opportunity to look her partner over closely.

He was more relaxed than she’d seen him in weeks, but the tiny lines at the corners of his eyes and the slight rubbing of his thumb and index finger together were signs of anxiety. He had the assurances of the people who cared about him, but he needed answers.

Scully wondered how much he remembered of what Mandy forced him to do — and if he did remember, would he even admit it to her?

She saw him smile at something Rosie said and turn to her, so Scully smiled too, as if she had been listening to their conversation.

“Okay, G-Man. You okay on pain meds?” Rosie asked.

Mulder nodded.

“Good.” Rose looked at Scully. “He’s doing good.”

Scully smiled and nodded to her partner, indicating she was pleased with his progress.

Rosie opened the blinds a little. It was already dark outside and the snow flurries swirled in the wind. It reminded Scully of a pillow fight she had with her brothers one night when a seam opened on one of the pillows and feathers danced around the room, caught in the breeze from a box fan.

She watched as Rosie turned to her partner.

“Dr. Green has some new orders for you tonight. He’s cut you back on the sleeping pills and we’re going to see how you do on Tylenol 3.”

Mulder automatically looked at Scully who nodded, obviously having been consulted with and agreeable to that decision.

“So …” Rosie continued, getting his attention again, “no undue activity tonight — no arm wrestling, shooting hoops …”

Mulder turned to his partner, faking a look of dejection. “Now what do we do, Scully?”

Rosie chuckled. “Yeah. Right. Any questions, G-Man?”

He shook his head. “No questions, but can you see that my partner and I have a few minutes alone?”

“You got it, handsome. He’s all yours, doc.”

“Thanks. I’ll try to be gentle,” Scully teased.

Rosie winked at Mulder but as she put her hand on the door handle, Mulder called out to her.

“Rosie, just one question.”

“Shoot.”

“What’s your real name?”

She answered him straight-faced. “Oprah.”

Scully burst out laughing and when she saw her partner stumped for a quick retort, she laughed even harder.

Rosie grinned and pointed a finger at Mulder, <Got ‘cha!> then left the room. Mulder looked up at Scully when he felt her gently poking his shoulder.

“You’ve met your match,” she said.

“For the second time in my life,” he said warmly with a twinkle in his eye.

There was a moment of silence between the two partners. They took the time to re-focus and settle into their familiar pattern. Scully could see that he was gathering his thoughts.

He picked up her hand, running his thumb along each of her delicate fingers. “Scully, we need to talk.”

If his tone of voice was any hint, she dreaded this conversation.

“I know, but Skinner will be here any minute. He’s bringing a copy of the report that —” she stopped, seeing him shaking his head.

“No. We need to talk before Skinner gets here.”

“Okay,” she answered apprehensively.

Mulder gazed into her blue eyes. “How much do you know about Mandy Morrison?”

--

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 18 of 19)

“I think I know just about everything.”

“Tell me.”

She was taken back by his bluntness. It took her a minute to decide where the beginning was. She had made up her mind that if Mulder couldn’t remember his involuntary part in Mandy’s sexual fantasy, she would not tell him.

Squeezing his hand to reassure him, she got off the bed, pulling the chair over closer and sitting down. If Mulder was puzzled at her actions, he didn’t show it. Perhaps he was bracing himself for a difficult discussion as well.

“I know about Mandy’s commitment to the private institution, and I know why she was there.”

Scully had opened the door for his explanation, but he pressed on with his questioning. “Who did you talk to?”

She realized that she needed to go back further in the story. There were so many facts he wasn’t aware of. She took a deep breath.

“Mulder, let me back up a little. I’m sorry, there’s just so much —”

“It’s okay,” he said softly, letting her know he wasn’t about to rush her.

“The officer who arrested you, who claimed to be Mandy’s uncle, was murdered. Only he wasn’t her uncle. But you knew that, didn’t you?”

He said nothing, offering only a slight nod. He wanted to hear everything she knew before he started adding to it. He expected there would be some anger on Scully’s part because he hadn’t revealed the truth. That was why when she moved off the bed, he understood her wanting a little distance from him.

“The officer’s involvement in this makes a little more sense now,” Scully added. “They needed someone who had access to the Evidence Room because their plan from the very beginning was to steal the semen sample. That’s why they weren’t concerned about the DNA match. Skinner ran a check on Officer Femino and found he had heavy gambling debts. So he obviously did it for the money.”

Mulder nodded, but remained silent. Scully had answers he didn’t have, so he allowed her to go on. She saw the slightest twitch in his cheek and knew he was uncomfortable with being confronted with the things he kept from her. A part of her was still upset with him for making her worry.

“I should kick your ass, partner,” she said, not unkindly, but with no humor either.

“I’ll give you a rain check. How’s that?”

“No, maybe I should do it now while you can’t fight back.”

“Or you could just help me to the window and I’ll jump.”

Now that sounded more like Mulder. It was hard to top his own self-punishment. She could see and hear his remorse. She didn’t want to kick him while he was down, but her anger was also a way of expressing concern.

“I had a visitor to my apartment. Twice.”

There was just a flicker of confusion in Mulder’s face, then the creases in his forehead smoothed out.

“What did Mr. Mr. X tell you?”

“The first time was the night you had been hit by the truck. He said that you were completely innocent and that the DNA wouldn’t match. He disregarded my insistence that none of this made any sense if you would be cleared, and what would be gained from that?”

Scully stopped and Mulder recognized the familiar look of guilt. His ability to instantly form a profile from a collection of facts helped him understand where her pain was coming from.

“You didn’t believe him, did you?”

He’d hit on the truth because he saw the pain in her eyes.

“Mulder —”

“I know you too well. I know how you assemble every piece of a case into a puzzle, and if a piece doesn’t fit, you have to assume it’s the wrong piece, not that it’s the wrong puzzle.”

“There was so much evidence,” she said, almost to herself. “I wanted so badly to believe him. And I did.” Scully’s eyes were fixed on his. “I believed him because —”

“Because it was tearing us apart. The doubts you had, the doubts I had. And because aspects of our relationship would be made public to the Bureau. And that would be enough to separate us and shut down the X-Files.”

Scully nodded, realizing that the misunderstanding and guilt had been evenly balanced. They had been attacked on so many different fronts, but never a direct hit to their partnership.

“Scully, I was ravaged with doubt. Why didn’t you tell me what X had said?”

“Because it was before the polygraph.”

She saw him blink slowly, again processing the facts at the speed of light. But she went on anyway.

“You had no memory. If Skinner and I had told you that you didn’t do it, how could you have answered the questions? It would have looked like you were lying either way — if you said you didn’t remember, or you said you didn’t do it.”

Mulder wet his lips and nodded as Scully handed him some water.

“That’s why neither of us pushed to have the polygraph postponed when you were obviously so sick. We couldn’t tell you the truth until it was over. And it was killing Skinner and me as well, believe me.”

Mulder handed the cup back to her and she took a drink herself before putting it on the table.

“You said X came to you twice.”

“Yes. The second time was after you’d …” she narrowed her eyes in consternation, “… made your escape from the hospital. He knew Skinner and I were making very little progress on the case. He told me that …” Scully’s hesitation caused Mulder to frown. “… that you weren’t telling the whole truth about the girl.”

Mulder laid his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes. He could escape seeing the pain in her face, but not from hearing it in her voice.

“For the first time, Mulder, I began to doubt your trust in me.”

Hearing her say that, he lifted his head, gazing again into blue eyes that sparked with unshed tears. He took her hand and she gripped his tightly.

“Oh, Scully,” he said with apology as thick as honey.

She composed herself quickly. “X hinted that you had a government contact that had some answers. The only person I knew for sure that you worked with was Senator Matheson.”

Mulder smiled slightly, not surprised that she paid more attention to scraps of scribbled notes and cryptic phone conversations than he had given her credit for. He could have been totally discreet, but it was the trust he had in her that allowed him to be just a little less careful with his informants.

“But before I could see Matheson, I went to see Dr. Waterman, the director at the institution where Mandy was committed. He was somewhat helpful.”

“He gave you her diagnosis and history?”

“Yes. He emphasized her sexual deviance, her role playing in sexual fantasies.”

“You said he told you why she was there.”

“Yes.”

He waited for her to continue, but she didn’t look like she planned to finish the story.

“Do you want to tell me what he said, or just shoot me right now?”

“I thought about it.”

“Well this time, aim just a little bit higher so I don’t bleed so much.”

She scowled at him. “I thought you didn’t’ remember anything in the back seat of the car when we drove to New Mexico.”

“I recall some things. But I do remember you panicking at some point because I started to bleed too much. So you moved me into the front seat and laid me across your lap as you drove …” he waggled his eyebrows at her, “… I remember that part the best — while you held a bandage against the wound. I think your tender words to me were, ‘Goddammit Mulder you better stop this.’ I don’t know if I was more afraid of bleeding to death, or what you’d do to me if I did.”

“Were you aware of me getting us a motel room?”

His mind did a quick backtrack, but he shook his head.

“Too bad,” said Scully. “You would have loved the look on the manager’s face when I checked us out after three hours.”

They both got a good chuckle out of the implied indiscretion, before settling into silence again. They had avoided the subject at hand long enough.

“You know, Mulder, it took over three years to finally get the truth about what happened to your arm when you supposedly fell on a broken bottle.”

“You had been really sick. What did you expect me … ” he stopped, eyeing her quizzically. “Mandy’s records reflected an assault, but no victim was named. I don’t believe you assumed from such vague information that it was me she assaulted.”

“No, not at first. Dr. Waterman was a little unclear on facts. He kept referring to the victim as her boyfriend, whom he said was a federal agent. So it crossed my mind that you might have been dating.”

“Dating! Scully, that was during the time your cancer went into remission. How could you have thought that I’d even look at another woman?”

She shrugged. “Mulder, you should have told me she was stalking you.”

“No way. Not after what you’d been through.”

“You’d been through it, too.”

He shook his head again, adamant that he had been right in his decision back then. “Scully, when you went into remission, there was … well, for me anyway, a change in how I felt about you. When I almost lost you, I realized how hard it would have been for me to go on.”

She felt her anger evaporating like morning fog. Of course she had known how he felt. Unlike her, Fox Mulder wasn’t afraid to bare his feelings.

Mulder’s mind was racing ahead, linking to things she had already told him.

“I’ve been laying here all day, wondering how in the world you found me in Virginia. Then just a few minutes ago you mentioned Senator Matheson.”

She knew he had already made the connection even before he admitted it.

“You went to see him, didn’t you?”

“Yes. I was shocked to learn he was her uncle. He was the one who told me about Mandy’s fixation on you at his Christmas party, her subsequent obsession, and the assault in your shower. That explained how she knew about the scar on your leg.”

He felt the waves of guilt break over him. He knew at the time Mandy confessed her knowledge of the scar what terrible implications it suggested. Yet he had not eased his partner’s nor his boss’s mind by confessing the truth.

“Senator Matheson then explained that there had been a competency hearing and that your testimony had Mandy committed to the institution.”

The disappointment in Scully’s face was disheartening to Mulder.

“I don’t understand why you didn’t tell anyone who she was from the very beginning. I realize you were trying to protect the Senator, but that seems too extreme, even for you, Mulder. She had a diagnosed psychotic disorder. It was documented that she stalked you, and then assaulted you.”

“And you think that makes it sound like someone put her up to accusing me of rape and battery? I think it sounds like a damned good reason for revenge. If you read my testimony at the competency hearing, it was brutal. I left no room for sympathy. Of course, no one actually realized how fried my nerves were. All I wanted to do was be with you or think about you. And she took that away.”

Scully had never heard him speak his thoughts during that time. He had been her rock to lean on, a shoulder to cry on — when he wasn’t making her laugh. She knew it had been terrible for him, that his fears had been as great as hers. But she had never considered the aftermath. She had been allowed to crash, to expel her feelings, but only because of his strength and support. He hadn’t had the same release. Now she knew that his worry and fatigue had been compounded by the actions of a psychotic.

She realized something else.

“Mulder —”

He cut her off. “She walked up to me in a bar like nothing ever happened. And I knew instantly that she was no better than she was three years before.” Mulder’s voice was cold. “I hated her, Scully.”

She could see that he was disgusted with his own admission. He started to go on, but stopped momentarily, looking apprehensive.

“When she sat at my table the second time, I started to move again, until she asked me if you still lived in the same apartment. It was a threat, pure and simple. And it scared me. So I sat down and bought her a drink. She talked, I listened. It was the same bullshit: the seduction, the delusions that never happened. I didn’t want to anger her by causing a scene. So we walked outside. I really was feeling ill. We argued and I called a cab. You know the rest.”

Scully looked shocked. This was more than he had originally admitted. Mulder could hardly stand to look into her eyes. And he was tiring rapidly, but there was still so much to say.

“I couldn’t tell the truth about her being in my past because I believed it made me look more suspicious. And there was no way anyone could have made her admit the lies, except me. I had to be the one to confront her.”

Scully spoke softly, but there was strength in her voice. “But it was something more than that, wasn’t it Mulder?”

He cocked his head slightly, not quite a frown on his face, as he listened to her explanation.

“You’ve admitted that you hated her, that she was now back making threats against me.” Scully saw him slowly close his eyes, the truth like a blinding light. “You had your own doubts about what really happened that night, didn’t you, partner?”

To her dismay, she saw his bottom lip quiver, and he pursed his lips to keep her from noticing. He opened his eyes when he felt Scully sit next to him on the bed and gently lay her hand on his chest.

He swallowed hard, fighting for composure, but his voice betrayed him.

“The person I am could never do such a thing. But the person I had become through the terrible thoughts that I had about Mandy, was more than capable of such an act. I knew that there really was a message from Skinner. And I also believed that some kind of drug had been given to me. So I knew there was a set up. But I was terrified that the drug, combined with my loathing of her, had pushed me over the edge. I thought it was possible that I did exactly what I was accused of.”

Mulder looked down at her hand fingering the material of his gown.

“This wasn’t just rape, Scully,” he said with a slight tremor in his voice. “It was a brutal assault, as if someone were really angry.”

“And you think you were that angry toward Mandy? Or could have been?”

“If I were to profile the perpetrator, I’d say he used sex to not only injure the victim, but humiliate her. The bite marks on her breasts and … elsewhere, were not just signs of rough treatment. The rapist knew Mandy Morrison. He knew what her psychosis was, and he used that to punish her.”

Scully saw his eyes darken.

“It could have been me. Given all the facts and my instincts as a profiler, I would have picked me as the prime suspect.”

The full impact of his words were frightening.

<How could he have carried all that around in his head without cracking?>

Scully tenderly brushed her other hand through his hair. She heard the catch in his voice as he spoke again.

“Scully, I was afraid that if I told you and Skinner the truth about Mandy and you investigated it, you would find that I did it. And I would rather die than have you be the one to discover that I raped and beat up that girl.”

The full force of his words hit her like slamming into a wall. “Oh, God. Oh, honey.”

She saw him blink a few times, trying to clear his eyes of tears. She took his good hand in both of hers and squeezed hard, getting his full attention.

“But you didn’t do it. No matter how you felt — how hard you were pushed, drugged, seduced — you didn’t do it,” she said, with quiet emphasis.

Scully’s mind raced through the conversation she and Skinner had with Mulder, trying to reconcile with him the fact that he had sex with Mandy Morrison, but didn’t beat her up. Now that Scully knew about their past history and how much her partner despised the woman, she understood his fear: that he could not be guilty of one thing without being guilty of both. Scully felt the tremendous weight of her own guilt for the part she and Skinner unwittingly played.

“Mulder, I’m so sorry.”

“No, Scully. I kept the truth from you. I promised you long ago that I’d never do that again.”

She looked deep within his eyes, at last seeing a calm resolve.

“You know,” she said, smiling at him, “someone said to me once that sometimes the truth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

That eased his tension and got a smile out of him.

“Is Skinner pissed at me?”

“Not as much as Frohike.”

Mulder formed an ‘o’ with his mouth and sucked in air.

“Now might be a good time to offer him your video collection,” she joked.

“He’d rather have your phone number.”

Scully chuckled, then watched as Mulder put her hand to his lips, kissing her knuckles. His eyes took on that far-away look again, signifying that he was organizing his thoughts. There was more he wanted to say to her and she could guess where they were headed next.

“Scully, I recall bits and pieces of being in that house with Mandy.”

“Mulder —”

“Hear me out,” he said softly. “The last thing I want is you wondering what I remember and me wondering what you’re thinking. The only way to put this completely behind us is to be honest and talk about it.”

When he saw her reservation he cupped her cheek with his hand.

“I need this,” he whispered.

Despite what he just said, she saw that he was still apprehensive. She knew that it was up to her to put it to rest. She nodded and took his hand from her face, holding it in her lap.

He took a deep breath and wet his lips. “I know what Mandy said to you about … about what I like. You don’t know me well enough in that way yet to dispute her. But I give you my word upon my mother’s grave that Mandy Morrison could not possibly know what I like about sex.”

“I know that.”

“Do you really? Is there no doubt whatsoever in your mind?”

“None.”

He nodded, as if that were the first hurdle.

“Scully, I had a hard time with reality. It seemed that when the pain got too bad, I slipped into a dream world with you. You were all I could see. And the vision of you was even more real when Mandy’s touch was gentle instead of abusive.”

“I could see what was happening, Mulder.”

If he still weren’t so pale, Scully might have seen him blush. Instead, his chin dropped to his chest. Still holding his hand, with her free hand she again combed her fingers through his hair, causing him to look up at her again.

“Go on. Say what you need to say,” she said.

She saw his eyes narrow as he uncharacteristically struggled with his memory.

“That’s just it. I have too vague a recollection to feel any shame. And yet, I do. So something … must have happened.” He stopped abruptly.

“Mulder, if you can’t remember, why not let it go?”

He hesitated only a fraction of a second. “Because you remember.”

--

LIGHT FROM SHADOWS (Part 19 of 19)

BETHESDA HOSPITAL

Scully didn’t want to do this. Her partner didn’t need any more burdens. But not telling him the truth might be a worse burden.

“She made you touch her, Mulder. You were weak from loss of blood and a raging fever. You hardly had the strength to lift your hand.”

Scully thought, from the devastated look on his face, that he must have been hoping those foggy visions were part of his delusions.

He tried to pull his hand out of hers, but she gripped it tighter.

“No, I won’t let you pull away. And I won’t let you blame yourself for this either, Mulder.”

Ashamed, but unable to distance himself from Scully, he closed his eyes instead. She heard him groan.

“Mulder … look at me.”

“Scully, give me a little time.”

“No,” she said bluntly, tugging gently on the sleeve of his gown.

He opened his eyes, not expecting her hard tone. She was determined to put closure to this.

“I’m not going to let you make more out of this than it was. That’s what she wanted. And I’m not going to give her that satisfaction, even from the grave. If you and I can’t talk about this … this thing that happened with that demented woman, then something has gone seriously wrong with our relationship. You’re not Superman. There are things that happen beyond your control, whether you want to admit that or not.”

She hesitated long enough to let that sink in before she continued on.

“I’ve made mistakes, Mulder, that were purely by choice, not contrived manipulation. You weren’t even there to witness it, and yet I feel guilty simply because it’s in my head. So I understand what you’re going through. But don’t you see — you’re punishing yourself because you think I’ve been hurt. I know what I saw. But mostly importantly, I know you. I’m okay, Mulder.”

She quirked an eyebrow, waiting for his response. So many times their unspoken communication, relayed through body language, gestures and eye contact, spoke so much louder and clearer than words. Scully’s disbelief in the paranormal was a contradiction if she considered the uncanny mental link between herself and her partner.

She was still waiting for Mulder’s response, when she saw a smile tugging at his lips.

“What mistakes, Scully?”

His sudden remark caught her off guard and she snorted, shaking her head at him, finally breaking into a relieved laugh when she saw him grin.

“Don’t look so smug. You still deserve an ass-kicking,” she said.

His eyes softened and he pushed her hair back behind her ear. “We’re okay then?” he asked, squeezing her hand.

“We’re more than okay.”

Their gaze might have turned into more, but just then there was a quick rap on the door and it opened. A familiar face peered in, then smiled when he saw Mulder awake. Scully instantly dropped Mulder’s hand.

“Come on in, sir,” Mulder said.

Walter Skinner stepped into the room. Both agents saw that he was holding a manila envelope. Scully knew what it contained.

Skinner approached the bed, looking closely at Mulder to assess his condition. He was pleased at what he saw. Even though he looked tired and still a little pale, it was quite an improvement over the last week.

“This hospital food must agree with you,” he kidded.

Mulder groaned and Scully chuckled.

“Sir,” she said, “when have you ever known anything to agree with Mulder?”

Skinner laughed when he saw Mulder roll his eyes at his partner.

“Hey,” he said, getting their attention. “You have some visitors who would like to say a quick hello.”

Mulder frowned, looking at Scully, who only shrugged. He nodded to Skinner and the AD opened the door. As soon as the Gunmen walked into the room, Mulder sank back against the pillows, his expression one of gratitude, but also apprehension. Frohike came closest to the bed.

“When you get out of here, G-Man, your ass is grass,” he said lightly.

“Yeah? Well, see Scully on that. She’s making a list.”

“I’m not as pissed as I would have been if you’d gotten yourself killed,” he said with sincerity.

Mulder relaxed hearing him say that, and nodded his thanks.

Langly thumped the silver balloon. “This wasn’t our first choice, Mulder.”

“I heard,” Mulder replied, cutting his eyes to Scully who looked pleased with herself.

Byers reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small book. “Actually, Mulder, we did get a little get well gift — for your partner.”

As he handed it to Mulder, Scully leaned over to read the title. ‘100 Ways to Find Someone Who Doesn’t Want To Be Found.’

Mulder glanced sheepishly at Scully, who had turned to give the Gunmen a look more effective than a warning shot.

“This doesn’t even begin to make amends, guys. You can start with cheese steaks and we’ll go from there,” she said.

They nodded, being careful about showing any premature relief.

And then Scully turned sharply to Mulder. “As for you — if I ever have to even think about opening that book …” she said, indicating Byers’ gift, ” … the very next book I read will be the sequel,‘100 Ways To Get Rid of Someone So They’re Never Found.’”

Mulder winced, hearing the laughter of his friends and even AD Skinner, who mumbled, “Amen.”

There was a pause in the conversation and Mulder looked over at Frohike. His voice was soft, with a hint of apology. “We’ll talk later. Thank you.”

The older man hesitated, clearly seeing in Mulder the brutal aftermath of surviving hell. Then he smiled. “You wouldn’t be ‘Mulder’ if you didn’t break the rules and piss people off.”

Skinner whispered another Amen.

That was as good a compliment as Mulder could expect, and he nodded. The Gunmen said a quick goodbye to each of them, then left the room.

Skinner laid his coat over the back of a chair and slid it closer to the bed. Then he sat down, taking a folder from the manila envelope and holding it on his lap. He saw Mulder’s look of expectation.

“Scully tells me you’re feeling well enough to hear the final report on the case.”

When Mulder realized it was a question, he nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“I brought the police report. OPR should have theirs typed up tomorrow, but it’s essentially the same. Mandy Morrison died from a gunshot wound to the head, fired by me. She sustained a non-fatal gunshot wound to the shoulder, fired by Agent Scully. I shot her because she was about to stab you. Do you remember any of that, Mulder?”

“Yes. It’s not crystal clear, but I recall the shots and that she had the knife.”

“All of her medical records were made available. OPR was not happy to learn about the assault on you three years ago, which you didn’t report to the Bureau at the time.”

Mulder expected as much.

Skinner went on. “But apparently there was an eyes-only document that went to the Director himself. I don’t know who sent it, or what the contents were, but it carried enough clout to halt any further investigation on that assault.”

Mulder and Scully exchanged glances quickly.

<Matheson>

“The doctor at the private institution …” Skinner opened the folder and lifted up the front page. ” … Dr. Waterman, was also helpful. He was pretty clear on Miss Morrison’s psychosis.”

Skinner hesitated, waiting for any questions Mulder might have, but nothing was asked. The AD looked at Scully to see if there was anything she wanted to add, but she also was satisfied to let him continue.

“The tape recording you made pretty much blew their case to hell. The prosecutor wasn’t convinced that the evidence pointed to any type of conspiracy, but I’m sure that doesn’t surprise either of you. But he had to concede that he didn’t have enough to try a case. With two witnesses leaving town, evidence disappearing, well, it was just too circumspect.”

“And,” Scully added, “made more difficult by the fact that the victim was dead.”

As AD Skinner and Scully watched Mulder, they saw that familiar way he had of crawling into himself without ever moving a muscle. His eyes were the dead give-away. It was remarkable the way he could disappear into his mind for a few minutes.

Then he blinked and when he spoke to both of them, his voice was subdued.

“If what I’m remembering is accurate, that tape recording was pretty crude.”

Scully and Skinner exchanged a subtle glance, then Skinner cleared his throat.

“You might say that.”

Mulder only nodded, but Skinner knew he had questions.

“Agent Scully pre-warned Detective Bensima about the graphic nature of the tape, so he allowed only his primary investigators to listen to it — and Dr. Waterman.”

That surprised Mulder, but he knew immediately that Waterman was a vital key to interpreting Mandy’s behavior, thus giving further proof of the contrived case against him.

“The doctor’s explanation and opinion further convinced the police of your innocence,” Skinner added.

Mulder knew who would have insisted that Dr. Waterman be consulted. Looking at his partner, he saw her quietly contemplating him. She knew from the gratitude in his eyes what he was thinking, and she smiled.

<You’re welcome.>

Mulder could feel the uneasiness hanging in the air like thick smoke.

“Well,” he said, trying to lighten the disquiet, “don’t let that tape get in the hands of the Gunmen or they’ll be taking orders over the Internet.”

The tension broke, and Skinner held up the folder. “It’s all in here. This will help clear up a lot for you.”

Mulder’s voice was still hoarse and weak. “What about the polygraph, sir? How did OPR respond to that?”

“Thanks to your attorney, they never saw the report. By the time the results were analyzed and transcribed, Mandy was dead and your guilt was highly doubtful. So he invoked a gag order and sealed all evidence, pending final outcome of the case.”

Mulder looked at Scully, who had been watching him, then back to Skinner. “So it’s over? Completely over?”

“Completely,” Skinner said definitively.

They saw the tension leave Mulder’s body. In spite of Skinner sitting a few feet from his two agents, Mulder felt Scully’s hand take his and she smiled.

“Mulder,” said Skinner, “OPR wants as detailed a report from you as you can give them, as soon as you’re feeling better. In a few days, okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

Skinner stood, laying the folder on the table.

“Sir … I don’t know how to thank you.”

His AD shook his head once, as if to brush off the gratitude. “Don’t, Mulder.”

Mulder disregarded his remark, something Skinner was used to from his agent.

“Sir, you were with me all the way, and I don’t even have the words to tell you what that means.”

“I told you at the beginning of all this how much I’ve regretted all that’s happened to you and Scully. And yet through it all, you haven’t wavered one bit. You’re still as loyal and honest as the day you were assigned to me. So it’s my turn to return the favor. Don’t thank me, Mulder. I owe you. It’s the least I could do.”

Skinner’s ending remark had a finality to it that Mulder was all too familiar with. Translated, it meant End Of Discussion.

Mulder nodded and looked at Scully when he felt her shift on the bed. He saw that she was looking up at the monitors.

<Once a doctor, always a doctor>, he thought.

Skinner stood from the chair and picked up his coat. He put the folder back in the envelope and laid it on the tray table for Mulder to read later.

“Scully,” Skinner said, folding the coat over his arm, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Both of you get some sleep. Mulder, for you I guess that’s a given,” he said, glancing at the IV line. “So I’m talking mainly to you, Scully. I’ve got some cases for you to look over, that you and Mulder need to be ready to go on when he comes back.”

Scully nodded, but she knew that Skinner’s instructions were more for Mulder’s benefit. The prospect of investigating new X-Files would have him back on his feet in record time.

Just as Skinner got to the door, he stopped. He rocked back on his heels a couple of times, chewing on his bottom lip. Then he focused on Mulder again.

“You know, there is one thing you can do for me.”

Mulder waited, ready to oblige anything he asked of him.

Skinner’s eyes narrowed. “You can explain an expense report from Bangor, Maine, with a line item for one meal of …”

“Two-fifty seven, twenty-nine,” Mulder and Scully both answered at the same time.

“Bingo,” Skinner replied, pointing a finger for emphasis before a hint of a smile unmasked his sternness.

Scully glanced at her partner and saw him nodding emphatically, as if that were the least he could do. She felt almost giddy at the realization that they had come almost full circle in the last two weeks.

As the door closed behind Skinner, she turned to look at her partner and saw him watching her closely, his eyes soft, his lips parted slightly.

“What?” she asked, her mouth tilting in a smile.

For what seemed like minutes, he just looked at her, as if he were drinking in every detail of her face and body. She was amused by his scrutiny.

“What, Mulder?”

He opened his mouth wider and took a breath, as if to tell her what he was thinking, then changed his mind. His head dropped slowly to the pillow.

“I’m tired,” he whispered.

It was plainly obvious that he was not only tired, but exhausted by all the talk. This time she would allow him that excuse to avoid her question.

Once again, she felt his cheek, first with the back of her fingers, then with her full palm, leaving her hand there several seconds to determine whether he had a temperature. Still satisfied, she smiled.

“I know you’re tired. I want you to close your eyes and rest while I go get us some real food. And if you’re good, I’ll pop by the video store and pick out a movie.”

She saw his eyes twinkle at her suggestion but he was mesmerized by the fact that as she spoke to him, her hand remained on his cheek, her thumb brushing softly over his lips. Scully was well aware of the effect it had on him. She had discovered this hypnotic technique years ago after one of his nightmares.

She leaned closer, her lips inches from his and whispered softly. “You still owe me big time,” she said in her most seductive voice. “So I get to choose the movie.”

<God I love this woman>.

Scully read his thoughts in his eyes, but before she could move any closer to those temping lips of his, the door opened again. They were startled and Scully pulled back quickly, both of them thinking the same thing — that maybe Skinner had forgotten something.

“I’ve got to work on my timing?” Rosie teased.

Both agents chuckled as the nurse came to the other side of Mulder’s bed. She had a fresh pillow under her arm, which she exchanged for the one under Mulder’s head.

“I didn’t think you could get any more gorgeous, G-Man, but that smile … Lordy, check my blood pressure!”

Scully laughed out loud, squeezing the nurse’s arm in affection and Mulder blushed.

“Keep it up,” Mulder threatened, “and I’ll make this my hospital of choice.”

“Go ahead, I know the cook. He can do some amazing things with green Jell-O.”

Mulder narrowed his eyes at her, accepting the challenge. “So can I,” he purred.

Scully stood up from the bed. “Okay, you two,” she said with amusement, “enough. Rosie, I’m bringing Mulder some waffles from IHOP. Would you like anything?”

“No thanks, Sweetie. Still want that VCR brought in?”

“Yes, please.” Scully cocked her head at Rosie, speaking loud enough to make sure Mulder heard. “Have you ever seen the movie, “The Piano?”

Rosie quickly understood the game being played between the partners when she saw Scully cut her eyes at Mulder to see his reaction, and he blanched on cue.

“Scully … no. You wouldn’t. Rosie, I swear to god, you let my partner bring that movie in here and I’ll be up all night screaming for morphine.”

Rosie laughed and winked at Mulder. “Not to worry. I’m afraid that’s one flick that would have me raiding the drug cabinet.”

Scully shrugged. “Wimps.”

She took her coat from the closet and laid it on the bed, sitting back down next to him.

“Scully, I’ve got some money in the drawer over there,” Mulder said.

“My treat this time. You’ve got a ‘celebration of life’ dinner to pay for, remember?” She leveled her eyes at him. “So I guess after that little extravagance drains the bank account, you’ll be dropping in around suppertime at my place for awhile, huh?”

They both heard Rosie breathe out through her mouth and mutter under her breath. “Lordy, the temperature in this room just jumped ten degrees.” She clucked her tongue at them. “Be back shortly. Behave.”

As soon as the door shut, Scully started to get off the bed, but Mulder reached out for her hand.

“Just a second,” he said quietly.

He looked long and hard into her bright blue eyes. Her beauty and compassion left him speechless. More than anything he wanted to put into words what she meant to him, how his world centered around her. But she was his partner, she knew everything he thought and wanted to say, but couldn’t.

Very slowly, Scully bent over, her lips tenderly kissing his forehead, then the tip of his nose, then finally, his mouth. The kiss was soft and warm, matched in passion only by lovemaking.

When she drew away from his mouth, she kissed his forehead again, then smiled at him.

“Did you want to say something, Mulder?”

He was still overcome by the kiss.

Scully’s smile was radiant. “Then I’ll say it. I love you.”

She saw only the faintest quirk of an eyebrow and a slight twitch of his lips. He drew out the moment, at first unable to speak, then forcing her to wait with anticipation for his response.

His eyes traveled the plains of her face from her hairline to her chin, lingering on her lovely mouth. Her eyes danced as she watched him enjoying keeping her in suspense.

Finally, his lips parted and his voice was a mere whisper.

“Oh brother.”

Scully’s surprise registered at the same time she saw Mulder’s eyes twinkle with mischief and delight. Her fist went back as if she would hit him, but he knew better.

As both agents began to laugh, their arms went around each other, Scully’s hug a little more careful. They separated only far enough that their foreheads still touched.

“You’re going to pay for that, you know,” she kidded.

“Oooh. How, pray tell?” he asked.

“Huh-uh. Can’t reveal my secrets, can I?”

He grinned, then closed his eyes and sighed contentedly. “Oh, Scully.”

She heard the deep resonance of relief and she put her hand on the back of his head.

“I know, Hon,” she whispered.

Still holding him a few minutes later, she felt him lean into her and his breathing deepened. She laid him back on the pillow and covered him with the blanket. His eyes were already heavy with sleep.

Soothing his face with her hand, his eyes finally closed. Gently, Scully got off the bed, pulling the blanket up a little farther over his chest. She watched him sleeping soundly. The lines of worry were gone, his face smooth, but still as pale as alabaster.

“We won to fight another day, partner,” she said quietly.

She looked up again at the monitors. His heartbeat was regular, his respirations and temperature back to normal. It seemed that no matter how many times either of them were taken to the brink of death, they always came back stronger. Perhaps that’s why Mulder never took life for granted — why even at his lowest point of desperation he still held on. Or maybe he felt, as Scully did, that their partnership, their friendship, and perhaps their future, was reason enough to keep going.

Life really was a celebration.

Then Scully remembered something. Looking down at her partner, knowing he was safe and recovering, she smiled.

The door cracked open and Rosie stuck her head in. She looked at her patient fast asleep, then back to Scully.

“He okay?” Rosie asked.

“Yes,” she smiled, getting off the bed and picking up her coat. “Rosie, I’ve got to run an errand. Would you keep an eye on him for a little while?”

“Sweetie, it’s hard to take your eyes off this man,” she grinned, stepping fully into the room.

Scully chuckled. “Thanks,” she answered, obviously deep in thought.

Rosie tilted her head. “Everything okay, doc?”

Suddenly Scully’s smile was like sunshine breaking through storm clouds.

“Oh, yes,” she beamed at the nurse.

Scully lightly touched her partner’s cheek with her fingers. When her eyes met Rosie’s again, they twinkled.

“I won’t be long.”

“Some kind of covert government mission, G-Woman?”

“Not today. This has more to do with new beginnings, celebrating life, and a devil’s food cake.”

Scully laughed and touched the arm of the puzzled nurse as she walked by her and out of the room.

--

END OF STORY.

Let me know if it was worth the trouble. Even so, I had fun. Thanks.

M.

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