Old Friends by McKab

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Old Friends

Old Friends cover

Title: Old Friends

Author: McKab

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Summary: ‘He looked up at her, his expression unreadable. “Ever wonder why things happen?” At Scully’s confused look, he continued, “I mean, why things happen at specific times? Why people show up when they do?” Mulder leaned in toward her as he spoke.’

Category: M/O (Past) MSR, Scully Angst, Story, Casefile, New Characters.

Rating: Usually R, for Cussing

Spoilers: Up to and including season seven

Disclaimer: I don’t own Mulder and Scully, and I do not have permission to use them. I also don’t have permission to use any landmarks I have mentioned or will be mentioning in this story. I do, however, own Susan and Michael, but they probably wouldn’t like me saying that. I have no money, and suing me would get you nowhere.

FEEDBACK: Yes, Please? Since this is my first fanficiton, I really want to hear what you think of it.

Distribution: Yes, just please let me know

Time line: Takes place just before ‘all things’.

Cast: Susan Halloway: Terry Farrell, Agent James Loper: Matthew Broderick , SAC Williams: Armin Shimerman , Paddy O’Sullivan: Carrol O’Connor

Start Date: January 14, 2000

End Date: August 17, 2000

On with the show…

PART 1

***

April 3

5:08 PM

Commack Road, Central Islip, NY

It was starting to drizzle again when Mulder and Scully pulled up to the crime scene. The glow of the road flares reflected in the puddles on the ground. Mulder stepped out of the car, looked around and then walked over to the yellow crime scene tape.

“Special Agent Fox Mulder”, he said to the police officer blocking his way. “This is my partner, Agent Scully”. Mulder motioned to Scully who walked up behind him.

“Oh, yeah. Halloway said ya were comin’,” the cop said in a thick Long Island accent

Mulder perked up for a second and had a look on his face Scully couldn’t quite decipher.

“Agent Halloway is on the scene?” Mulder asked.

“*ASAC* Halloway is in charge of the investigation. Damn FBI,” he muttered. No offense,” the cop said with a smirk on his face.

Mulder’s eyebrows nearly hit his hairline when the cop stressed ASAC.

“ASAC?” Mulder mumbled under his breath.

Scully just stood there looking from the cop to Mulder. Neither man had so much as looked at her during the conversation.

“Over dare,” the cop pointed towards a crowd of men and women standing around a body. Kneeling next to the body was a pretty woman with reddish brown hair darkened by the rain. She looked up, feeling eyes on her and frowned. She removed the gloves she was using to examine the corpse, stood up and brushed her hair out of her eyes. She was tall, almost as tall as Mulder, about 5’10” with fair skin, dark hair that curled as a result of the moisture in the air, and blue eyes. She was wearing a tailored Armani black pants suit. Scully suddenly felt uncomfortable in the skirt and blazer that was more than a little rumpled from a 4 hour flight and 3 hour car ride to the crime scene.

The woman said something to one of the men standing near her and started to walk over to Mulder and Scully. Mulder walked toward her with Scully silently following.

With only a few feet between them, the woman and Mulder stopped and stared at each other. Scully noticed that the woman was even prettier close up.

“Well, if it isn’t Spooky, Pain in the Ass, Mulder.” The woman said in a melodic voice, as she put her hands on her hips. She did not look happy to see him.

“Halloway,” Mulder paused for a beat and added, “I hear you’re moving up in the world. ASAC, not bad for the biggest bitch I’ve ever met.”

Halloway didn’t react then tilted her head to look at Scully.

“Oh, how rude of me,” Mulder said in a condescending tone of voice.

“This is my partner Special Agent Dana Scully.”

Halloway looked at Scully then back at Mulder. “Screwing her yet?”

Scully’s jaw nearly hit the ground, but Mulder just kept staring at her.

Scully was about to say something when Mulder interrupted her.

“Can I speak with you for a moment?” he asked Halloway, Taking hold of her elbow, he motioned her to the right.

Halloway gently removed her arm from his grasp, then walked towards a van parked at the edge of the crime scene. Mulder followed her as Scully just stood there with her mouth hanging open.

“Coming?” Mulder stopped and turned to Scully.

“Sure,” she replied quietly. She didn’t understand why he was putting up with this crap.

Halloway walked behind the van, obviously in an effort to afford them a bit of privacy, then suddenly stopped and spun around. Mulder just kept walking until he was so close to her that she had to tilt her head a little in order to look him in the eye.

“Might I remind you, *ASAC* Halloway, that it is against Bureau policy for partners to become intimately involved and you know how I feel about bureau policy,” Mulder said.

Scully silently cheered. Mulder wasn’t going to take any shit from this woman. Who the hell did she think she was?

“Oh, yeah. I know how you feel about bureau policy,” Halloway said with the beginnings of a smile on her face.

“Susan.”

“Spooky.”

Mulder leaned down and wrapped his arms around her, hugging her so hard he lifted her off her feet. Halloway let out a peal of laughter as Mulder spun her around and put her back on the ground.

She reached up and grabbed Mulder’s head and kissed him. Nothing major, but Scully could tell that they were more than just old friends.

PART 2

The kiss was quick, but it held meaning. Halloway pulled away and drew her hand from Mulder’s hair to his cheek.

“It’s good to see you again, Mulder,” she murmured with a smile that lit up her whole face making her even more beautiful.

“It’s been too long, Susan,” Mulder replied mirroring her actions.

They stood silently staring at each other with little smiles, completely unaware of their surroundings in the increasing rain.

Scully quietly cleared her throat.

Susan reacted first by taking a step back from Mulder, a faint blush rising on her face.

“I’m sorry for that little scene, it’s just been awhile,” Susan said to Scully. “Mulder does that to me. I go from one extreme to another”.

Mulder’s smile broadened.

“Susan Halloway, nice to finally meet you, Agent Scully,” she said as she extended her hand.

Mulder’s smile disappeared.

“Uh, Susan,” he said trying to get her attention. But she ignored him and continued to extend her hand. Scully, raised to be polite, even though she wanted to deck her instead of shake her hand, took Susan’s hand.

“ASAC Halloway, nice to meet you. I’ve read a lot of your work,” Scully said. A funny feeling suddenly came over her, making her a bit uncomfortable.

“Susan. I can’t stand titles if that’s OK,” Susan said as her smile changed a bit and her eyes narrowed just a fraction. She released Scully’s hand and looked at Mulder, who was frowning, and returned her eyes to Scully. Her original smile returned if not a bit brighter.

“Besides, it feels as if I already know you.”

“Susan; all right, then it’s Dana,” Scully said as a smile began to form on her face. It felt like Susan’s smile was infectious. She didn’t know why, but she had a good feeling about ASAC Halloway. Even though she didn’t want to, she found herself liking this interesting woman.

“Good, then we’re all on a first name basis.” She paused and glanced at Mulder. “Well, almost.” Susan said with a smirk.

Just then, a large man walked up behind Scully. “Susan. They’re all finished here, they want to know if they can take the body to the ME’s office,” he said in a deep, rich voice.

Scully turned around to face him, well his chest anyway. He was dressed in the standard FBI uniform; a black suit that hugged his broad chest. He was tall, taller than Mulder with black, wavy hair, blue eyes and smile lines around his mouth and eyes. He was very attractive and had an air of authority. Scully guessed he was in his mid 30’s. She found herself looking him up and down. He stood with his hands on narrow hips showing off his weapon. His white dress shirt was stretched tight across his chest. It was clinging a bit as a result of the rain and she could see well defined muscles under the cotton.

Scully looked away quickly when she realized she was checking him out and he had noticed.

“Sure, Mike, just a sec,” Susan responded. “Do you want to look at the scene first, Mulder?”

“No, it’s OK,” Mulder said to Susan, but he was looking at Scully. All right, then. Mike, this is Fox Mulder and his partner, Dana Scully.

And this,” Susan paused for a beat, “is my partner, Michael O’Sullivan.”

Michael nodded toward Mulder and shook Scully’s hand. Mulder leaned in close to Susan as Scully and Mike exchanged pleasantries and whispered in her ear. “He’s a bit big isn’t he?”

Susan smiled and whispered back. “I like ’em big.”

Mulder grinned and laughed out loud. Mike and Scully looked at him as if he’d lost his mind.

“Dana, is it safe to assume that you would be doing the autopsy?”

Susan asked.

Scully looked from Susan to Mulder. “I’ll get right on it.”

“No, no, I didn’t mean tonight, it’s late. I’m sure the body will still be there in the morning.”

“Late?” Mulder said as he looked at his watch. “It’s only 5:30.”

“Mulder, you and Dana just got here from a long flight and I’m sure she would rather wait until morning. Besides, I’m hungry and so is she.”

Scully frowned, she *was* hungry and didn’t feel like spending the rest of the night on her feet.

Since no one responded, Susan took this as approval and motioned towards Mike.

“Tell ’em to go ahead and take the body. And make sure you tell them Dana is doing the autopsy. I don’t want Hodges touching anything.”

Hodges was the Suffolk County Medical Examiner who had performed the previous postmortem, Scully remembered it from the case report she read on the plane.

Susan began to walk toward the crowd that had gathered around the crime scene with Mulder and Scully in tow.

“And get these God damned people out of here,” Susan said over her shoulder to Mike.

When they finally reached the edge of the scene, Susan stopped and turned towards Mulder.

“Do you have a place to stay?”

Mulder opened his mouth to respond.

“Good,” Susan said before Mulder could get a word out. “I reserved two rooms at the Marriott for you both. That’s where Mike and I are staying. It’s a hell of a lot better than anything you would pick.”

Scully couldn’t help but laugh.

“You haven’t changed have you?” she asked Mulder.

He responded with a sly smile. “Why fix what ain’t broke?”

“Yeah, right.”

“Susan? Why are you staying at a hotel? Don’t you live around here?”

Mulder asked.

Scully wondered why he knew where she lived.

“You know, everyone who lives outside of New York State thinks everything is close together; that the Empire State Building is right next to the Montauk Lighthouse.” Susan said sounding exasperated. “The Marriott is in Islandia, I live in Mattituck. I don’t feel like having to get up at 4 in the morning to avoid rush hour on the LIE. Besides, our UNSUB hasn’t ventured out of C.I. so I don’t see the point of being so far away.”

At Mulder’s blank look she added, “Central Islip. Damn it Mulder, I would think you would have read the report.”

“I was hoping you would fill me in.”

“No, you fell asleep on the plane and had Dana read the report, hoping that *she* would fill you in before you had to answer any questions about the case.”

Scully let out an unlady-like snort. How did she know him so well?

Mulder smiled at Susan. He sure is smiling a lot, Scully said to herself.

“Like I said, why fix what ain’t broke.”

Susan looked at him for a second and turned to face the cop who had suddenly appeared behind her. Scully didn’t even notice his approach.

“Headin’ home, Susan?” The cop asked.

“I wish, Rob. How are the wife and kids?”

“Great, she moved out last week and took the kids. Now we can have the place all to ourselves,” he said as he lifted the crime scene tape up so that she and Scully could pass under it.

“In your dreams, Rob,” Susan said sweetly while she and Scully waited for Mulder to lift the tape and cross under himself.

“Every night. Every night.” Scully heard him say under his breath.

Mike rejoined them and they continued towards their cars. Susan and Mike had the ugly Ford Taurus every FBI agent seems to be given.

“Why don’t you get settled and we’ll meet at the hotel restaurant for dinner. We can go over the report you didn’t read and then we can catch up on old times. I’m sure Dana wouldn’t mind hearing some stories about the Great Spooky Mulder,” Susan said and leaned towards Scully to whisper, “and boy do I have some good ones.”

Scully laughed at Mulder’s panic stricken face.

Susan chuckled too.

“Don’t worry Mulder. I’ll be good.”

Mike, who was standing quietly by the driver’s side door, tapped on the roof with his keys to get Susan’s attention.

“Come on Susie, we’re getting drenched here,” Mike said.

Scully noticed Mulder’s eyebrows go up.

“Susie?”

Susan, who was looking at Mike, turned towards Mulder with her finger pointed in his face.

“Don’t!”

PART 3

***

The Marriott

Room 1121

6:45 PM

Mulder placed the last of his clothes in the dresser when there was a knock on the door to the adjoining room.

“Yeah, Scully. It’s unlocked.”

Scully entered the room dressed in black slacks and a gray cardigan.

“This place is so much nicer than anything I’m used to. I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to those dumps you always pick. I can actually take a bath without worrying if something’s going to crawl up out of the drain,” Scully said as she went over to sit on Mulder’s bed.

“Yeah, well. Susan has good taste,” Mulder said as he turned to look at her. Scully looked good, relaxed. She wasn’t looking at him though, she was playing with the clasp of her watch. He could tell that she wanted to ask him about Susan, but didn’t know how to start. So he saved her the trouble.

“I met Susan when I worked in the VCS, we dated for awhile, we broke up years ago, but still keep in contact. That’s it, nothing more.” He sounded as though he was trying to convince himself.

Scully looked up at him. “It didn’t look that way to me,” she said with a small smile on her face. “You were pretty happy to see her.”

“We’re still pretty close, but I haven’t spoken to her in over a year.

I was a little busy and apparently, so was she.”

“Did you know she was going to be here?”

“Did it look like I did?” Mulder said a bit more harshly than he intended. “Look, I’m sorry,” he said quickly seeing the hurt look on her face. “I know you have no reason to believe me, especially after Diana, but Susan is a good person. As you get to know her, you’ll see that.”

“I do believe you Mulder, it’s actually none of my business, but it’s strange.” She took a deep breath. “I don’t know her, I know only what I’ve read about her, but I can’t help but like her. I don’t know what it is, but…” she trailed off.

“Susan has a way with people,” Mulder said quietly. A small smile crossed his face.

***

Marriott Restaurant

10:13 PM

“…so, Mulder’s standing there with pig shit, literally, up to his elbows trying to look casual when Myers and I show up,” Susan said.

She was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes.

Scully had to force down a swallow of water so she wouldn’t spray it across the table. She couldn’t remember having so much fun. It had been awhile since they had dinner with other agents, especially ones that actually liked them.

“That’s when Mulder got his nose broken.”

“Susan,” Mulder warned.

“No, no, Mulder, I want to hear this. Susan, please continue,” Scully said. Mulder just sat back in his seat and stretched his arm across the back of the booth, his fingers just touching Scully’s shoulder.

Scully was grinning from ear to ear and he loved seeing her like this.

Susan looked from Mulder to Scully, an evil sparkle in her eye. “Myers said something like ‘the golden boy’s lost a bit of his shine’. I can’t exactly remember what Mulder said, but he pissed Myers off so badly, he hauled off and clocked him one.”

This time, Scully couldn’t keep from spraying the contents of her mouth across the table. Fortunately, it was only a few crumbs.

“Yeah, but that wasn’t the best part. Myers hit him so hard, Mulder fell back into the pen and sat up spitting out clumps.”

“I wish I could have been there to see that!”

“Me, too. Then you could have waited in the emergency room listening to Mulder whine and complain about his nose and stinking to high heaven. He smelled so bad no one would sit near us!”

Susan took a sip of her wine and sat back. Mike who had been silently enjoying the conversation mirrored Mulder’s previous action and stretched his arm back behind Susan, straightening the collar of her shirt. At the contact, Susan turned towards him and smiled.

He grinned back.

“God, Mulder. Maybe it was a good thing I didn’t know you back then.

You seemed like a real asshole,” Scully said.

“I had my moments.”

Just then, the waiter came to get the dessert orders. “Can I get you anything else?” He asked.

“No, thank you. I couldn’t eat another thing,” Scully said putting her napkin on her plate.

“Uh, uh, Dana. I let the healthy dinner go, but I saw you eyeing that cheesecake on the way in. As the superior Agent, I’m pulling rank,” Susan said to Scully and then turned to the waiter. “She and I will have the chocolate covered cheese cake with a coop of vanilla ice cream. Mike will have apple pie, and Mulder will have the brownie sundae.”

“I don’t know if it’s the wine or the company, but what the hell. I’m feeling good tonight, better than I’ve felt in a long time,” Scully said to no one in particular. Mulder was happy to see that grin again.

“Good. It’s settled then.”

The waiter returned and with the eagerness of children, they attacked their desserts. When Scully put the first forkful in her mouth, she closed her eyes and uttered a sigh of contentment.

“It’s good, huh?” Susan said.

“Oh, yeah,” Scully said with her mouth full.

Susan glanced at Mulder and caught the look he gave Scully. She was glad everyone was having a good time.

PART 4

***

Marriott

Room 1122

11:46 PM

After saying goodnight to Mulder, Scully slid her card key into it’s slot and entered her hotel room.

God, she was tired, but too wound up to go to sleep. She had a good time. ~I don’t think I have laughed so much in my life!~ Her face hurt from smiling. Susan was a riot! She had only known her for a few hours, but it felt like a lifetime.

Scully eyed the huge, comfortable looking bed and then looked towards the bathroom. The bed was calling her, but so was that tub. Knowing that she wasn’t going to get to sleep any time soon, she decided to grab her newly purchased copy of ‘Exit to Eden’ and headed towards the jet powered tub.

Room 1121

Mulder, spread eagle on the bed, was flipping through channels when he heard the water run in the next room. He wished he could find a way to relax the way she did without the help of a porn video. Too bad he wasn’t in the mood for that tonight. So, he decided to watch an episode of “The Crocodile Hunter” instead.

After an hour of watching that weird Australian guy and then another hour of “Emergency Vets”, he couldn’t take it anymore and got up to take a walk.

***

Marriott

April 4

2:10 am

Mulder found himself standing in the middle of the restaurant where he had spent an enjoyable evening reminiscing.

He had forgotten what a good time Susan was. It felt great to be sitting and laughing with her again. He loved the way she got Scully to relax and enjoy herself. And he realized he had missed her. He also realized that they had forgotten to talk about the case, but Susan didn’t really care much about that. She was too busy telling ‘Golden Boy’ stories. His pride was worth sacrificing for Scully’s laugh, and when Susan got her mind set on something, there was no stopping her.

The Marriott’s restaurant was obviously closed for the night. All the chairs were up, and the cleaning crew was mulling around while someone sat at the piano, playing for invisible guests. That’s when he saw Susan sitting at a table in the back.

She noticed him right away and sat up straight in her chair.

“Hey,” he said as he pulled a chair over to sit next to her.

“Hey, yourself. What’s the matter, couldn’t sleep?”

“When do I ever sleep? What about you?”

“When do I ever sleep?”

Mulder smiled and leaned back. “It’s good to see you again.”

Susan returned his smile, “Yeah, you too. Haven’t heard from you lately. I guess you’ve been busy. I was a little hurt when you didn’t come to say hello the last time you were in New York, but I can’t blame you, your mind was obviously elsewhere. I see that she has completely healed,” Susan said, mentioning his horrific visit to New York to see Scully in the hospital after she was shot.

“She’s a trooper,” Mulder said quietly. “The X-Files have been all consuming, lately. I don’t get a lot of time for a social life.”

“That’s too bad,” Susan said and drained the rest of her glass.

“But, I see that I’m not the only one whose been busy. ASAC, not bad.

Soon you’ll be running the Bureau.” Mulder grinned.

“If it doesn’t kill me first. But it’s not that big a deal. I got lucky. The Ripley case is what did it for me.” Susan looked down at her hands as she ripped her napkin into tiny pieces.

“God, I heard about that one. That was awful. But your profile caught him,” Mulder said as he reached out to stop her from ruining another napkin.

“Yeah, but not before he raped and murdered four little girls.” Susan removed her hand from under his to push her hair out of her face.

Mulder noticed that it had gotten lighter; highlights of red shined in a mass of brown.

“But you caught him,” he returned, stressing every word. “He would have continued to kill if it wasn’t for you.”

Susan let a half-hearted smile cross her face. “Sounds familiar.”

Mulder sat back again and ran his hand through his hair. “So, how have you been?” he asked, trying to change the subject.

“Pretty good, I just moved into a new house, got a dog. Ozzy can’t stand him.”

“You still have that cat? How old is he now, 100?”

“Almost. So, how have you been?”

Mulder looked at her, and instead of answering, he picked up her hand and placed it on his cheek.

Susan sighed and closed her eyes, opening herself to the flood of emotions. Mulder always felt things strongly and when they did this, sometimes it was a bit overwhelming for her.

After a minute, she opened her eyes and smiled at him. “I’d forgotten how deeply you feel.”

“Mmmm,” he said with a sleepy look on his face. “I’d forgotten what that felt like.”

She started to remove her hand from his face when he grabbed it and pulled her to her feet. “Dance with me, Susan.”

“Mulder, the room is empty. There’s no one around,” she objected.

“That’s OK, less to concentrate on,” he said as he moved away from the table toward the center of the room. “Stay here,” he said as he went over to talk to the piano player. Mulder said something and gestured toward Susan. The guy nodded and started playing again.

“What did you say to him?” She asked when he returned.

“Nothing important, just that he would get a big tip if he continued to play.”

He reached out for her hands, placed the left on his hip, and kept the other clasped in his right placing it over his heart. He put his free hand on her lower back when she stepped closer to put her head on his chest as they started to sway to the music.

After what felt like an eternity of comfortable silence, Mulder leaned down to rest his face on the top of her head and whispered, “I’d forgotten how tall you were.”

Susan took a step back, tilted her face up and scrunched her eyebrows together. “I’m 5′ 10″, Mulder, how could you forget that?”

He shrugged. “The last woman I danced with wasn’t nearly this tall.”

“Well, you’re shorter then the last man I danced with, so I guess we’re even.”

“Ok.” Mulder drew her closer, leaned his head down and brushed is lips against hers. Before he could pull away, Susan returned the kiss. They stayed that way, gently kissing, making no moves to deepen it, until Mulder skimmed his tongue across her bottom lip. Susan moaned and closed her eyes tighter as she opened herself to him.

At the initial contact, Mulder was flooded with images. As his tongue slid across hers, in his mind he saw his hand move up her naked thigh, remembering how it felt when he moved inside her. He groaned and pulled Susan closer to him.

Susan had flashes of Mulder suckling her breasts; his hands and mouth bringing her to the breaking point. She was completely lost in the memories and feelings.

Mulder broke away first and placed kisses around her face. He was breathing heavily, as he moved to kiss her neck and suck on the spot below her ear. She gasped when she felt him slightly graze his teeth across her skin.

Susan moved her head to the side to allow him better access. Her hands tangled in his hair as he nipped her right ear lobe. “God,” he sighed, his breath tickling the fine hairs on her neck. “I forgot how powerful that first contact was.”

“Mmmm,” Susan moaned as she brought his mouth back to hers. The flashes became more erotic, the feelings stronger. This time, they saw the same visions. ~He was hovering over her, a look of concentration on his face as he slid in an out of her. Head was back, her eyes closed as her hands moved over his back, her nails tearing into the skin. Her legs wrapped high around his waist in an effort to bring him closer, deeper; his hands on her breasts, roughly rubbing her nipples.~

Mulder moved his hands down Susan’s back and pulled her hips to his erection.

Susan gasped and released his mouth. She looked up at him with wide eyes, a dazed look on her face. She took a step back and put her hand on his chest to stop him from stepping forward.

“Mulder, no. We can’t do this.” She was breathing heavily.

Mulder looked confused for a second, then his eyes cleared and he was back in the present. “Oh, God, what were we about to do?”

“Cruise memory lane.”

“Susan, I’m sorry. I lost control there. I…”

“Mulder, don’t apologize. I got lost in it as much as you did. If anyone’s at fault, it’s me. I should have more control over this.”

Susan wouldn’t meet his eyes. “I just can’t seem to control it when you’re involved.”

Mulder put his hand over Susan’s which still rested on his chest. “You can’t be expected to control it all the time.”

“But I should, damn it!” Susan shouted. “I’ve had this ‘gift’ my whole life! Jesus, I’m 37 years old. I should be able to control it by now!”

She sat down heavily at a table next to the dance floor.

Mulder knelt down and grabbed one of her hands. He reached up and brushed a tear from her cheek. She had not even realized she was crying.

“Is it the case?” He asked quietly.

“I’m not talking to you about it until you

read it.”

“OK, I can understand that.”

“I’m just so tired. I feel so alone. You have no idea what it’s like to see the horrible things I’ve been seeing from this case.” Susan started to cry again.

“But you have Mike.”

Her head shot up at the mention of her partner. “Yes, I have Mike,” she smiled.

“He’s a great guy. The strong silent type. He’s perfect for you.”

“Because I can’t seem to keep my mouth shut,” Susan added, her smile widening.

“That’s one of your best attributes. Besides, the fact that you’re a great kisser,” he quickly added when her smile drooped.

“You’re biased in that area.” Her grin returned.

“True.”

“I can’t tell you how he makes me feel, Mulder. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before. He has completely opened himself to me and me to him. Every time I touch him, I feel how he feels. And because of this, when he touches me, he knows how I feel. It’s as if we’re linked. The only time I sleep well, is when he’s lying next to me. I have never been as comfortable with anyone as I am with him. I have nothing to hide from him. He loves me with his whole being. I can’t describe how that feels.”

Mulder slid his hands down her arms and held her hands. “Show me,” he said quietly.

Susan looked at him for a brief moment, wondering if she should let him in again. It was decided when she brought her hands to the sides of his face and showed him.

Mulder felt a great sense of peace wash over him as soon as Susan’s hands touched his skin. She was right, it was indescribable.

Mulder and Susan were so caught up in each other, that neither noticed Scully entering the restaurant. Mulder was kneeling on the floor in front of Susan with a look of euphoria on his face as Susan brought her forehead to rest against his.

Scully’s hand went to her mouth and she quickly left the room.

Susan pulled away and looked into Mulder’s eyes. “My God, Susan,” he breathed, “Thank you.”

Susan continued to look at him; a blank expression on her face.

Suddenly she came back to herself and said, “you haven’t told her, have you?”

“What?” His thoughts were a bit foggy.

“You haven’t told her you love her.”

PART5

“What are you talking about?” He said as he sat back on his heels, his head down.

“You know what I’m talking about. I didn’t scramble your brains that much. Or at least more than they already are,” she said with a frown.

“And what’s with your being married to Diana?”

At that, Mulder looked up, now he was truly lost.

“I saw some flashes of you and Diana married, and her pregnant. Then I saw Diana in a coffin, you lying in bed about 80 years old and then some fleeting images of you playing in the sand with some little kid?

What the hell’s that all about?” Susan was sitting forward in her chair, a look of complete confusion on her face.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Mulder had to laugh.

“It’s complicated.”

“It sure the hell is. It didn’t really happen did it? I mean, HER?!

God, you would never, at least I hope you would never.”

“No, it didn’t happen. And, no, I would never, you should know that,” he said, smiling as a look of relief washed over her face.

“Good, I never liked her. She always gave me the heebee jeebees. I did my best not to touch her.”

“Why?” he asked and then quickly added, “Why didn’t you ever like her?” He really wanted to know.

“She was a very selfish person, I picked that up right away. There are some people out there that are just not nice people. That’s the only way I can describe it, and that’s what I got from her. She would say one thing and mean another.”

Mulder looked defeated.

Susan picked up Mulder’s hand from where it was resting on his thigh.

“She did love you, though, in her own way.”

“I know. It’s just that…”

“What?”

“She’s dead, Susan. She was murdered.” Mulder’s shoulders slumped.

“Really? I’m sorry Mulder. But I must admit, I’m not that upset. By what I read from you, she hurt you very much.” Susan said quietly and squeezed his hand tighter.

“Just forget it. Honestly, I’m not really that upset, either. I think that’s what bother’s me the most,” he said, turning his head to look at the piano player in the corner.

Susan sat silently, giving him a moment with his thoughts.

“Is that what you really feel every time Michael touches you?” Mulder said, looking at her once again. When she nodded, he added, “How do you guys get any work done?”

A huge smile spread across Susan’s face. “We manage. You get used to it after awhile, but when we’re working on a case or I’m writing a profile and seeing those things, it’s an enormous comfort knowing he’s there. When the images are really horrific, Michael doesn’t even have to touch me to pick up my feelings. He says it flows off me in waves,” she said with a wry grin. “That’s when he comes up behind me and just lays his hands on my shoulders. We usually stop and leave to get something to eat or find a quiet place to just sit and talk or…” Now it was Susan’s turn to look toward the piano player, a wistful expression on her face. She turned her head abruptly back to look down at Mulder. “But you’re purposely trying to distract me, and doing a pretty good job. Now back to my original question.” Still holding his left hand, she brought her free hand up to tilt his chin so she could look into his eyes. “Why haven’t you told Dana that you’re in love with her?”

Mulder was still, not saying anything.

“Come on Mulder, you know you can trust me.”

“I know.” His eyes cast down, not looking at her despite the firm grip she had on his chin.

When she jiggled his chin, he looked up at her again.

“I have told her,” he said whispering so low, that she had to lean in to hear it.

“When?”

“When I was in the hospital.” He looked down again when she released his face and sat back.

“Mulder, you know sometimes you can be a real schmuck.”

A look of pain passed over his face. “Do you know what that really means?”

“Mulder I’m a native New Yorker, of course I know what it means and you know what I mean. You can be so dense at times. Weren’t you on painkillers?”

Sometimes her ‘gift’ annoyed the hell out of him. “So?”

“Mulder, even *I* wouldn’t believe you when you’re high on morphine.

Why would she?” She actually looked exasperated with him.

“You remember my telling you about what I said to her before she was taken last time right outside my door in the hallway?”

Susan nodded.

“I poured my heart out to her, and it got me nowhere.”

Susan sighed. “You really don’t understand women do you?” At Mulder’s confused look, she continued. “That was a very emotional moment. They just split you up, she was quitting, you thought she was leaving you, and you would do anything to get her to stay.”

He sat up and interrupted her, “But I meant every word of it!” he practically shouted and sat down when she winced.

“Sorry.”

“How was she supposed to know if it wasn’t a declaration of love or an attempt to make her stay? Huh?” She sat forward. “Did you ever mention it again?”

When Mulder didn’t respond, she continued. “You didn’t say anything again, because she didn’t. Am I right?”

Mulder nodded looking down at the red carpeting.

“Look,” she breathed, and put her hand on his bent head. “Dana is a very guarded person. She puts up these walls to protect herself, but it also blocks out the rest of the world. She’s afraid, she’s afraid of getting hurt. You mean a lot to her.”

Mulder’s head shot up, his eyes were questioning.

“I picked it up when I shook her hand. I noticed how you tried to stop me, though. What were you afraid I’d see?”

“It’s like you said, Scully is a very private person and she wouldn’t like you invading her in that way.”

“I can understand that.”

“Can I ask you what you saw?” He asked apprehensively.

“Mulder,” she said sternly. “Even if she wasn’t such a private person, you know I wouldn’t tell you.”

He nodded. “It’s just that she keeps her emotions so controlled and she tries so hard to separate herself from me, that I really don’t know how she feels. When I ask her, she just says ‘I’m fine, Mulder’.

You have no idea how much I hate that phrase now. She even did it when she had cancer. She thinks it’s a sign of weakness to let me in and it frustrates the hell out of me.” He pushed himself up and sat down next to her at the table. “You tell me to open up to her, but when has she opened up to me?”

This time Susan sighed loudly. “Mulder,” she said softly, “she’s tried, but you can be so blind sometimes. You have been so busy chasing that elusive truth, you haven’t realized that the truth is standing right in front of you.”

She put her hand on his to get his attention. “Mulder, she’s not stupid, she knows you care about her, but she feels that she comes second to the X-Files. And you’ve proven it time and time again when you ditch her to chase a lead. You have no idea how much that hurts her.”

“Sometimes I wish I had your ‘gift’.”

“No you don’t, but you don’t have to be empathic to see it. Tell her, and tell her soon.”

Mulder continued to look at their hands clasped tightly on the table.

“You know I still love you, don’t you?”

“Of course I do, and you know I love you, but you are *in* love with Dana.”

He was very quiet, breathing deeply. “I’ll tell her, I promise.” When she sat back and removed her hand, he looked up at her. She didn’t believe him! “Susan, I will! I just need some time to process all of this. I think I’m still a little high

from before.” He smiled.

“Ok” she said returning his smile. “I’ll give you that, it’s been a while for you.” Her smile widened.

“I don’t know how Mike can keep his hands off you. I probably would have lost my job and been arrested for lude conduct by now,” he finished with a huge grin and a laugh.

“No, you would never let me out of the house,” she had to laugh, too.

“Remember that weekend? I don’t think I ever walked the same again.”

Now, she was laughing outright.

“How could I ever forget? I think you ruined me for all other women.

That’s how I got addicted to porn. I was never the same again.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

“Hey, don’t blame me, that was definitely something I couldn’t control. I said you have an effect on me. It’s not my fault that it rubbed off on you.” She stressed ‘rubbed’.

“Yeah, well. I never had any complaints from anyone after you. The only problem is that it just seems to pop up at the wrong times, now.”

“Yeah, that’s probably because you haven’t had good sex since Bush left office.” Now, she was crying she was laughing so hard.

“Hey! Yes I have!” He protested.

“I said GOOD SEX, Mulder!”

“Yeah, well.” He didn’t find this all that funny anymore.

“Ok, look Mulder,” she sobered, sensing that she bruised his ego. “Why don’t you get some sleep and think about what I said tonight.” She took his hand once more.

“Sleep? Are you kidding me? After what you did to me? I might not sleep for weeks now!” He recovered quickly. “I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time. It’s like you gave me a jump start. I should keep you around. You can keep my

battery charged.” he winked at her.

Susan gave him a lopsided grin and stood up to leave. “Ok, but at least go back to your room and lie down for a bit. You have a lot of reading to do tomorrow.” She walked past him, headed toward the piano player and handed him some bills.

Mulder groaned and got up as well.

PART 6

They rode the elevator in comfortable silence, standing next to each other, just slightly touching.

When the doors opened on their floor, they exited, headed down the corridor and stopped outside Mulder’s door.

“I must admit that I had a very interesting evening tonight,” Mulder said as he searched his pockets for his key card.

“Me too.”

Mulder paused as he went to unlock the door and turned to look at Susan. “Thanks,” he said, suddenly finding his shoes very interesting.

“It’s nice to talk to someone so openly, not having to worry about appearances. I missed that about you.”

Susan stepped closer to him and reached up to give him a peck on the lips. “Thank you, Mulder. I missed you, too. I think that when this case is over, we should all take some time off. You and Dana can stay at my place for a few days. I definitely have the room, and it might be fun to hang out and relax for awhile. Mike and I can show you Billy Joel’s old house,” she said, her eyes bright.

“I don’t know Susan, Scully and I are really busy with the X-Files and all.”

“Oh, come on. A few days won’t kill you. Besides, you need some time off, and for that matter, so does Dana. Please?”

“Billy Joel?”

Susan nodded, “He used to live near me. Of course his house is a hell of a lot bigger than mine. Maybe I can introduce you.”

“You know him?” Now, he was interested.

“We’re like this,” Susan said as she raised her hand, her index and middle fingers crossed.

“All right, I’ll talk to Scully about it,” feigning annoyance.

“Good, it’s settled then.” She was practically beaming.

Susan gave him another quick kiss, said good night and continued down the hall. Mulder watched her stop in front of room 1129 and pull out a key card.

“Uh, Susan?” Mulder called quietly.

She turned to look at him.

“Is that your room?”

Susan suddenly looked very sheepish. “Mulder, I have to get some sleep tonight,” she said quickly.

Mulder just nodded knowingly and proceeded into his room.

***

The Marriott

Room 1122

4:43 am

Scully was interrupted from her study of the ceiling when she heard voices in the hallway. She recognized Mulder’s right away and assumed the female voice was Susan’s.

She rolled over to look at the clock, 4:44. It had been over an hour since she got back to her room. She was lightly dozing when she heard Mulder leave earlier. She suspected that he was just as wired as she was and was going to run off some excess energy. He did that often when he couldn’t sleep. She wondered if he intentionally went out to meet Susan or if it was just a coincidence. She remembered Mulder saying once `if coincidences are coincidences, then why do they feel so contrived?’ She quickly admonished herself. It really isn’t any of her business. She and Mulder are partners, albeit close partners, but partners none the less. She has no hold over him. Sitting up quickly she whispered, “but he has a hold over me.”

She couldn’t get the image out of her mind of Mulder kneeling on the floor in front of Susan while she sat with her hands on each side of his head and her forehead resting against his. She didn’t know what to think of the expression on his face. He looked completely at peace; like a calm had come over him. It was an expression she would expect to see on a pilgrim who was just been blessed by the Pope. She felt as if she was intruding on something extremely private. Susan looked as if she was focusing all her attention on Mulder; that what she was doing was very important to her.

Scully turned to swing her legs off the side of the bed and used both hands to push her hair off her face. She was frustrated and exhausted.

She been up since six o’clock the previous morning hadn’t had any sleep since the drive from Kennedy

Airport, and it wasn’t very restful, Mulder did not know how to drive in New York traffic.

Despite all that she saw, she still had a good feeling about Susan.

She wanted desperately to not trust her, but she couldn’t seem to do it. `Trust No One,’ that was her motto, but she wanted to give Susan the benefit of the doubt. Ever since she shook her hand, her feelings had been confused. Another woman from Mulder’s past requests them to assist on a case, she obviously didn’t call Mulder to ask him to come, she went through official channels. And in spite of the other ex’s of Mulder’s, she genuinely liked Susan. Why hadn’t he ever spoken of her?

He said they kept in touch, but he hasn’t spoken to her in a year. He truly seemed pleased to see her, why did they split up? Did she request his presence to start things up again? No, Susan didn’t seem like that kind of person.

Scully groaned and got up out of bed. It was apparent that she wasn’t going to get any sleep tonight, and from the sound of the TV next door, neither was Mulder. A fleeting thought entered her mind. Was he alone?

***

The Marriott

Room 1122

6:45 am

Scully was silently staring at her reflection in the mirror, contemplating the circles under her eyes when she heard the phone ring in Mulder’s room. She was just walking out of the bathroom when Mulder knocked on the adjoining door.

Scully sighed. “Mulder, you know I never lock that door.”

Mulder pushed the door open and stuck his head in. “Oh, I’ll have to remember that when you take a bath. Maybe I’ll drop in and see if you need someone to wash your back.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

“Well, aren’t we chipper this morning.” God, she even sounded tired.

Mulder walked completely into Scully’s room, leaving the door open behind him. “I feel pretty good, but what about you? Jesus, Scully, you look like shit.” He sat down on the bed, noticing that she hadn’t made it yet. Scully didn’t like to leave the bed a mess for house keeping.

“Gee thanks, Mulder, you sure know how to make a girl feel special.”

She turned away from him to finish getting dressed. She stepped into brown pumps, raising her height about 3 inches and shrugged on a matching blazer. Mulder watched her move about the room finishing her morning routine.

He was caught staring when she quickly turned to face him again as she put her gun in the back waist band of her brown slacks. She gave him a strange look and asked, “Who was on the phone?”

“Huh?” he broke out of his trance and looked up at her. “Oh, that was Susan. She wanted to let us know that she and Mike are stuck in a conference call with her SAC. She said that they won’t be able to meet us for breakfast and that they’ll catch up with us in the lobby at eight. So, it seems that we are on our own,” he said and then smiled at her.

Scully gave him another curious look and turned to retrieve her badge and key card off the night stand. “OK, let me just get my stuff for the autopsy together so I don’t have to come back up later, and I’m set.” She went to get her suitcase from under the bed when Mulder got up quickly, intending to go back to his room to get ready. He didn’t anticipate that Scully was about to kneel down in front of him to reach under the bed. Her head connected painfully with his, causing her to fall back, her arms behind her to stop herself from banging her head on the floor. Mulder landed with his hands on her shoulders as a result of losing his balance, their faces inches apart.

Scully stared at him, her mouth open and her eyes wide. Mulder’s heavy breathing fanned the hair on her forehead. Scully broke the silence with a snort. Mulder looked bewildered as Scully began to laugh uncontrollably. A slow smile spread across his face. He sat back as he watched his normally

resolved partner’s face turn red as tears ran down her cheeks from laughing so hard.

“I’m glad my pain could bring some joy into your life Agent Scully,” he said sarcastically.

“Oh, my God, Mulder,” she said trying to get herself under control and failing miserably. “You should have seen the look on your face. I just wish I had a camera.” Now, she was laughing, but no sound was coming out of her mouth, and she was still crying. He was worried that she was going to pass out if she didn’t get her breathing in order, fast.

“OK,” she said. Taking a deep breath she sat up and rubbed her head.

“Damn, Mulder, what the hell is your head made of, cement?” She winced when she found the sore spot.

“You always said I was hard headed,” his leer was back.

“No, I said you were thick,” she said in a deep voice and smiled back at him.

Mulder’s mouth hung open.

“Careful, Mulder, you might catch flies,” she said as she pushed him out of the way to get to her suitcase.

***

The Marriott Restaurant

7:51 am

“Mulder?” Scully suddenly said, but her mouth was full and it sounded like she said “Molfer”. She swallowed, “Are you all right? You look preoccupied.”

Mulder looked up. “Yeah, I was just thinking.” He looked back down at his eggs and bacon and decided that he wasn’t hungry any more. He put his fork on the plate and pushed it away so he could put his arms in front of him on the table.

“About the case?” She asked and shoveled in the rest of her pancakes.

There was something about this place, she hadn’t eaten like this in ages.

“No,” Mulder responded quietly, “Just about stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?” Now she was really interested. Mulder looked a bit uncomfortable, seeming to want to tell her something, but didn’t know where to start.

He looked up at her, his expression unreadable. “Ever wonder why things happen?” At Scully’s confused look, he continued, “I mean, why things happen at specific times? Why people show up when they do?”

Mulder leaned in toward her as he spoke.

“You mean why Susan asked for us to come here?” She also leaned in.

Mulder looked surprised. “She requested us?”

“You didn’t know? She didn’t tell you?” Now she was the one to look surprised.

“No, she didn’t, but Susan does that, she likes to make me work for my answers, even if I didn’t know I was asking a question.” A wry smile appeared on his face. “I guess she’s waiting until I read the case report. You read it though didn’t you?”

Scully nodded.

“You have any ideas?” He asked hopefully.

“I have a few theories,” she said and leaned back in her chair. “But I think I’ll side with Susan on this one and make you work for your answers.” A soft smile lit up her face.

Mulder picked a piece of pancake off of her plate and tossed it in his mouth. “I guess I should have known that was how you would respond.

You never made it easy for me,” he said smiling at her.

They continued to look at each other, silently keeping eye contact until Mulder was distracted by the waiter.

“Would you like more coffee, ma’am? Sir?” He asked holding up a coffee pot for emphasis.

“No, thank you,” Mulder sighed. “We have to get going, we’ll just take the check.”

The waiter reached in his pocket and handed the check to Mulder.

While Mulder was busy talking to the man, Scully continued to watch him, wondering what was wrong with him.

***

The Marriott

Lobby

7:59 AM

Susan and Michael were already in the lobby when Mulder and Scully entered. They didn’t see them though, it seemed they were having a bit of an argument.

Scully noticed that even though she looked visibly tired, Susan was still very neatly dressed. She wore a navy blue suit with a skirt that ended just above her knee and she obviously ran, telling by the shape of her legs.

“Susie, you know I don’t like him,” Mike said as he leaned in close to her. His voice was low, but the anger was easily recognizable. He looked like he was about half a foot taller then Susan and she had to tilt her head back to look at him. Scully wondered if that was how she and Mulder looked.

“I know you don’t, but I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself,” Susan said in a calm voice. She put her hand on the center of his chest and Michael relaxed considerably. He sighed loudly and stepped back.

“OK, Susie, but the next time he lays a hand on you, I’m breaking it,” he warned. Susan smiled indulgently at him and removed her hand. She turned toward Mulder and Scully when Mulder almost killed himself tripping on the rug.

“Hail Mulder, full of grace,” Susan said sarcastically.

Mulder looked behind him at the floor, “There was a small animal there, I swear.”

Scully raised an eyebrow at him and looked at Susan. “Sorry to interrupt.”

“Don’t worry about it, Mike was just playing `Oh Mighty Protector’

again. He can be a little over protective sometimes.” She smiled sweetly at Michael, who suddenly looked very uncomfortable and shoved his hands in his pockets. Scully almost laughed. If he said ‘aw shucks’, she would have.

“Don’t I know the feelin'”, Scully said dryly and looked at Mulder who was doing a great impression of Michael.

“So, what’s the plan for today, boss?” Mulder said.

“You …,” Susan said as she bent down to pick up an extremely large box on the floor, but stopped when Michael picked it up for her.

Straightening, she continued, “are going to be doing quite a bit of reading.” With that, Michael shoved the box into Mulder’s chest, nearly knocking him over. Mulder let out a loud “Oomph” and took the box, almost dropping it. It was a lot heavier than it looked.

Mulder eyed the box warily. “What’s this?”

“That,” Susan said pointing, “is the case notes we and some other agents have put together. You are going to figure out why you are here.” She stood with her hands on her hips suddenly looking like Mrs.

Millard, his fourth grade teacher.

Mulder groaned, “See Scully, I said she would make me work for it.”

“You wouldn’t have to if you had read the report when you got it,” Susan said. “Dana? Would it be all right if I dropped you off at the M.E.’s office and Michael takes your car? He has to interview some witnesses and family members and I have to go to the field office in Melville to speak to my SAC.”

“Sure, I don’t see a problem with that. Mulder obviously isn’t going to need it.” Scully said. Mulder gave her a look and shifted the box.

***

Veteran’s Memorial Highway, Hauppauge, NY

En Route

8:15 AM

Susan had the radio on and the man talking had a heavy New York accent. “OK, everybody ready?” A crowd in the background screamed.

“Then let’s,” the crowd joined in, “KISS THE WEEK GOOOOOOOOOOOOD BYE!!!!” Everyone in the studio was screaming, “MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY, FRIIIIIDDDDDAAAAYYYYYY! THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY!!!!” Music started to play as Susan reached out to turn the radio off.

“I love Scott and Todd,” Susan said as she down shifted to pass a Honda that wasn’t going fast enough for her.

“I didn’t know a Taurus came with a manual transmission,” Scully said as she tightened her seat belt.

“I requested it when I was promoted. I can’t stand driving an automatic. All my cars have been stick since I was in college.”

“Where did you go to school?” Scully asked in an attempt to distract herself from Susan’s driving. She was scaring the hell out of her.

“I went to High School on Long Island and went to college in Maryland.”

“Yeah? Where?”

“I got my BA from The University of Maryland.”

Scully looked surprised. “Me, too.”

Susan took her eyes off the road to look at Scully. “Really?”

“Yeah, I got my B.S. in Physics there, what about you?”

Returning to watch the road she answered, “Psychology, then I went on to Widener University in P.A. and got my JD/PsyD.”

Scully looked confused. “That would be 10 years of schooling, but from your dossier, you entered the bureau in ’88 and you’re only 37, that means you entered the bureau when you were…”

“25,” Susan said quickly. “I know, the math doesn’t add up.”

Scully stared at her.

“I graduated High School when I was 16, got my B.A. in 3 years and got my JD/PsyD in 5. I worked at Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital for a year, and was recruited in 1988.”

Scully was flabbergasted. “Why are you working for the FBI and not as a Forensic Psychologist? You sure as hell would be making more money.”

“I thought that was what I wanted to do, but when I worked at Pilgrim, I had a very hard time being around the mentally ill all day. I was overwhelmed.” Susan said, remembering how it felt to feel what they were going through. “One day an agent came in to talk to a forensic patient of mine, we got into a conversation about the bureau, he said I would love it, I looked into it and here I am,” she finished with a sweep of her hand.

“Wow, what did your parents say? I mean, my father did not like the fact that I gave up medicine,” Scully said, her eyes still showing her surprise.

Susan frowned. “My parents were killed when I was 6, I don’t remember them much,” she said matter-of-factly.

“I’m sorry,” Scully whispered.

“No, it’s OK. I was raised by my aunt, my father’s sister. She wasn’t very happy about my choice, but she supported me.”

Scully was looking out the window, watching the rain run down the glass. Susan reached over and touched her arm. Scully suddenly felt very warm.

“It’s OK, Dana. It happened a long time ago. It really doesn’t bother me.”

Scully looked at Susan’s hand, she felt strange for a moment and then relaxed.

Susan quickly replaced her hand on the steering wheel. “We’re here,” She said sounding distracted.

***

Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office

Hauppauge, NY

9:02 AM

The two agents approached the front desk. Susan spoke to the woman who was just hanging up the phone. “Special Agent Susan Halloway,” she said holding up her badge, “and this is Special Agent Dana Scully.

We’re here to speak to Dr. Hodges.”

“Of course, he’s expecting you,” the woman responded. “He’ll be right out. You can wait over there,” the woman finished by pointing toward a row of seats against the far wall.

When they were seated, Susan leaned in toward Scully. “I just want to warn you to watch your ass,” Susan said so low that Scully almost didn’t hear her.

Scully frowned at her.

“I mean literally, watch your ass. Hodges is a male chauvinist prick and he doesn’t know how to keep his hands to himself.”

Scully didn’t verbally respond, but Susan saw her eyes widen a bit.

“He doesn’t get the fact that he’s not as charming as he thinks he is.

I almost pistol whipped him when he put his hand on my knee the first time I met him. I had to physically restrain Michael from breaking his neck.”

Scully laughed. “Is that what that was about in the lobby this morning?”

“Let’s just say that if Michael had his way, the man would be laying next to Jimmy Hoffa right now.”

Susan looked over Scully’s shoulder and stood when a man approached them. Scully stood as well.

“Well, if it isn’t the beautiful Susan Halloway,” the man said.

This had to be Dr. Hodges, Scully thought to herself. He wasn’t much taller then Scully with balding hair and a white mustache. He put his hand out to shake Susan’s. Looking very uncomfortable, Susan took his hand and released it as quickly as she could. He didn’t notice her wiping her hand on her skirt because he had turned to face Scully.

“And, who is this lovely lady?” he asked as he ran his eyes over Scully, pausing briefly at her breasts.

“This,” Susan said loudly. “Is Special Agent Dana Scully, she will be performing the autopsy on the body that was brought in last night.”

“You’re a doctor?” He had the gall to look surprised.

“I’m a forensic pathologist,” Scully said through clenched teeth.

Hodges continued to stare at her.

Susan took a deep breath. “Agent Scully, may I speak with you for a moment?” she said, pulling her over to the corner so they could talk privately.

“I really hate to leave you alone with that letch, but I have to go.”

“It’s OK,” Scully said and looked over her shoulder at Hodges who was now flirting with the woman at the front desk. Poor woman, Scully thought. “I’ve met these kinds of men before. They’re usually harmless, I’ll tell him I’m gay or something.”

Susan laughed and quickly put her hand over her mouth. “I don’t know if that would work. He might see that as a challenge,” she said with a grin.

Scully rolled her eyes, she was so glad Mulder wasn’t like that. “I’ll figure something out. But thanks for warning me.”

“I just wanted to make sure you knew what you were up against.”

Looking at her watch, Susan added, “look, I really have to go, but I should be back by one, two the latest. I’ll pick you up, we can have a late lunch and go over your findings, OK?”

“I’ll see you later, then.” Scully watched her go, suddenly feeling very alone. She turned to look at Hodges who was watching her. She felt like a virgin being sacrificed to the gods.

Part 7

***

The Marriott

1121

12:32 PM

Mulder was sitting cross legged on his bed, papers scattered around him and on the floor. He was about half way through the box when he put down the printout he was reading and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. He reached for a folder on the end of the bed.

Flipping through crime scene photos, he found the one he was looking for, it was from the first murder.

The photo depicted what the printout described. He wasn’t sure if reading about it or actually seeing it was worse. The woman was lying face up on the asphalt. Her eyes were open, the pupils were dilated and a ring of blue surrounded them. The whites of her eyes were filled with blood as a result of strangulation, the bloody rope still around her neck. There were stab wounds on her chest, eight of them, according to the medical examiner, but the rope was the cause of death, she was alive and aware while he stabbed her.

Mulder’s eyes traveled down her naked stomach to her pubic area. The picture didn’t show it, but the printout stated that there was vaginal tearing, not from rape, but from the insertion of a blunt object; a screw driver. Mulder flipped through the photos again, finding it’s picture. The suspect left it laying next to the body along with the knife. Forensics lifted prints off of both, identifying the perpetrator as one Marcus Townsend.

He put down the folder and reached for Townsend’s file. It described him as a 6’2″ black man in his forties. He had previous arrests, mostly drug related. He was, however, convicted of attempted murder in ’92 and was recently released on probation. He was religious about attending his meetings with his probation officer until 8 weeks ago, one week before the murders started.

Mulder sighed as he put down the file. It didn’t add up. These murders were extremely violent and premeditated. It depicted the signs of an organized killer who stalked his victims selecting them for a particular reason. He took them to an unknown place, tortured and brutally murdered them and then dumped their bodies on a busy road. No witness reported seeing a black man anywhere near the area.

Townsend was tested while in prison and was found to have an IQ of 80.

A person of that intelligence could not have committed these crimes.

Besides the fact that he was black. Serial Killers are known to stay in their own ethnic group. All the women are white. Mulder was stumped.

He was interrupted from his thoughts by a loud knocking on his door.

Mulder stood up slowly, his legs protesting from being bent in the same position for hours. He opened the door just as Michael was about to knock again. He stood with his hand raised, his fist level with Mulder’s face.

“Hey,” Mike said cheerfully. “I thought you might want some lunch. You could probably use a break right about now.” Mulder’s stomach growled loudly and Michael chuckled. “I see I guessed right.”

“Yeah, well. I don’t think I have much of an appetite though,” Mulder said gesturing to the bed.

Michael looked easily over Mulder’s shoulder and nodded. “I can understand that, but a change of scenery might do you some good.”

“Are you sure the boss lady won’t get angry if she found out you let me out of my room?” He asked as he went to retrieve his jacket.

Michael smiled. “Don’t worry about Susie. I’m sure she didn’t intend for you to starve in here.”

Mulder closed the door behind him, the automatic lock made a soft snick in the empty hallway.

“I can’t believe she lets you call her Susie,” Mulder said with a shake of his head.

“Yeah, but you should hear what she calls me,” he responded with a soft smile.

Mulder looked up at the large man and laughed. “I can imagine.”

***

Medical Examiner’s Office

1:22 PM

Scully removed her gloves and tossed them in the red pail. She moved her neck from side to side. Loud cracks echoed in the room.

“Neck bothering you, Dr. Scully?” Hodges said. He had remained in the room during her exam, saying that he wanted to see a professional at work. Scully almost forgot he was there. He was quiet the entire time.

She jumped slightly. “I’m fine,” she said a bit harshly.

“You sure? I could rub it for you,” he said as he approached her.

“No, thank you. I’m fine,” she said again.

“Sure?” he said reaching to touch the back of her neck.

Scully moved quickly away. “Yes, now if you’ll excuse me I would like to finish my notes and get changed.”

Without waiting for an answer, Scully grabbed her things, left the room and headed toward the women’s locker room.

Turning on the lights as she entered, Scully sighed and leaned against the wall. Not only was she tired, but her back hurt from standing, her neck hurt from looking down for so long, and Dr. Hodges was a royal pain in the ass. She was sick of being polite and professional.

She pushed herself off the wall and walked over to her locker. She pulled out her things and took off her shirt. She was returning from the laundry basket when she heard the door open. Figuring it to be nothing, she reached to untie the string of her pants when she heard a low whistle behind her.

“Nice tattoo,” a male voice said.

Scully spun around and came face to face with Dr. Hodges.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN HERE!?” she shouted, her hands still holding the pants string.

“I just wanted to ask you a question,” he said quietly. “No need to get upset.”

Scully suddenly realized that she was standing there without a shirt on when Hodges eyes darted to her breasts covered by almost transparent lace. Refusing to give him the satisfaction of looking uncomfortable, she put her hands on her hips and gave him a dirty look.

“It couldn’t wait until I was finished?” Her voice caused the temperature to drop 20 degrees.

“No.” Dr. Hodges took a step forward while Scully took an involuntary step back. Her legs connected with the bench, stopping her.

“It was really important,” he said as he reached an arm out to touch her.

***

Medical Examiner’s Office

2:06 PM

Susan scanned the lobby searching for Scully. Not finding her, she approached the woman at the front desk.

“I’m Agent Halloway, I’m looking for Agent Scully,” Susan said.

“I’ll buzz Dr. Hodges and let him know you’re here.”

“Thank you,” she said as she sat down to wait.

She didn’t have to wait long, though. Scully came out about a minute later, followed closely by Dr. Hodges. Susan stood when they came up to her.

“Sorry I’m late, the meeting took a little longer than I expected,” Susan said.

“It’s OK. I only finished up about a half hour ago,” Scully said. She turned to face Dr. Hodges.

He quickly extended his hand towards Scully. “It was a pleasure working with you, Dr. Scully.” Before she took his hand, Susan noticed it was slightly shaking.

“I’m sure,” Scully said, a smile on her lips.

Susan frowned looking from Scully to the small man. She did a double take when she saw a little indentation on the man’s forehead. She could easily read the name `Smith’ even though it was backwards.

She averted her eyes when Hodges looked at her.

“Agent Halloway, it was good to see you again. I hope we can work together again in the future, both of you,” he finished with a nod to Scully and literally scurried away.

The two women stood silently staring at the swinging door Dr. Hodges ran through.

Susan turned to look at Scully, “What the hell was that about?” she asked.

Scully grinned and headed towards the door. “I’ll explain it over lunch. Let’s go I’m starving.”

Susan stared at the retreating woman’s back.

***

The Courtyard Caf

Veteran’s Memorial Highway, Ronkonkoma

2:45 PM

“He did not!”

“He did!”

Susan laughed and put down her water. “I can’t believe he accosted you in the women’s locker room!”

Scully nodded and continued to review the menu. She really was hungry.

“So, what happened?”

Deciding on the shrimp, she put down her menu and looked at Susan.

“I’m standing there with only a bra and pants on when he waltzes in.

He made a comment, stepped towards me and started to put his hand on my shoulder,” She paused to take a sip of her water.

“And?” Susan asked eagerly.

“I reacted. I grabbed his wrist, spun him around, pulled his arm behind his back as far up as it would go and shoved him into the lockers. With my free hand I held his head against the number plate.”

“That’s explains `Smith’.”

“Smith Locker Company,” Scully said. “Then I leaned in close and whispered in his ear `If you try to touch me or Agent Halloway again, I will remove your testicles with a dull scalpel and shove them up your ass.'”

Susan laughed so loud that the other patrons in the restaurant turned to look at her.

When she had herself back under control, Susan said dryly, “Dana Scully, Warrior Princess.”

Scully snorted, “Yeah right, her boots would come to the top of my thighs and her breastplate would hang around my waist.”

Susan grinned. “Yeah and that would make Mulder your sidekick. I can just picture him in a halter top and leather skirt.”

Scully was crying when the waitress came to take their orders.

As they waited for their food, they made small talk about this and that.

A few minutes after the food arrived, Susan looked up from devouring her chicken when Scully said her name.

“Humm?”

“May I ask you a personal question?” Scully asked not looking at her.

Susan put down her fork and took a sip from her ginger ale. “What’s on your mind?” She asked.

“You and Mulder used to date.” At Susan’s nod, she continued. “You seem to still get along, can I ask what happened?”

Susan smiled to herself, she was wondering when Scully was going to ask.

“I’d have to tell you the whole sordid story for it to make sense.”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” Scully said picking up the last shrimp. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear it.

“No, you have a right to know, and I don’t have a problem talking about it,” Susan said reassuringly. “As you know, I entered the FBI in ’88. I had a knack for profiling and kept getting compared to some guy they called Spooky Mulder.”

Scully smiled at the mention of Mulder’s nickname.

“I was pursued by John Douglas when I left the academy to join the ISU. He didn’t like the fact that I turned him down, especially since they didn’t accept New Agents. It was a real honor, but I just couldn’t be tied down to a desk. I was eager and wanted to be in the field, so I was assigned to Violent Crimes in Washington. I was a little unhappy because I wanted to go back to New York, but I had no control over that.

“I was reviewing some files one day when this tall, lanky guy walked past me. He was gorgeous and I was smitten. I asked the woman across from me who had also noticed him walk by, who he was. She told me that he was Patterson’s golden boy, Fox Mulder.” Susan paused to eat some of her chicken, while Scully silently waited for her to continue.

“I was trying to come up with a way to introduce myself to him when I was handed a file to review from my ASAC. It just so happened to be the same case Mulder was working. It seems that they hit a standstill and they needed some fresh ideas. I consumed the report and found how I was going to finally meet him. He was sitting in the bullpen when I approached him. I dropped the file right in front of him and said `You’re wrong’. He looked up at me like I had six heads and asked who the hell I was. I extended my hand, smiled and said `I’m Special Agent Susan Halloway, and your profile is wrong.’ I intrigued him and he asked me to sit down and explain myself. I told him that he was missing some important details about the position of the body, and that’s why they hadn’t caught the guy yet. We wound up being the last people left in the building when we realized the time, we were so wrapped up in the case. Because of our collaboration, we caught the guy. After we got `im to confess, Mulder asked me out to dinner. We dated for about a year and a half, and the rest is history.”

Scully was sitting in rapt attention when Susan finished. “What happened? It obviously ended on good terms,” Scully asked.

Susan leaned her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her joined hands. “I had put in for a transfer to New York when I was first assigned to Washington. March of ’90 it came through. It was pretty hard on us, we tried to maintain a long distance relationship. He told me that he was going to try and get transferred to New York, but Patterson wouldn’t let him go. I had given him my father’s wedding band and he wore it as a symbol of his commitment to me, I wore his academy ring around my neck, as if I was in high school. We saw each other about twice a month, then about once every 2 months, the time growing between meetings. When he met Diana and discovered the X-Files, we broke up. I understood, we had already grown apart. We made a point to keep in touch, though, and we did until about a year ago. I was promoted and was swamped with work, and you and Mulder were monopolized by the X-Files.”

Scully was about to ask another question when the theme from the Lone Ranger started playing. Scully looked at Susan with a confused expression on her face.

“It’s my cell phone,” Susan explained as he reached for her jacket which was slung over the chair next to her.

“Halloway,” Susan said and then listened to the voice on the line.

“Where?,” she asked. “We’ll be right there,” she said and hung up the phone.

“FUCK!” she said under her breath.

“What?” Scully asked.

“That was Mike, they found another body.”

PART 8

***

Route 111

Central Islip, NY

4:38 PM

Scully was slammed forward in her seat when Susan pulled the parking brake causing the car to come to an abrupt stop. Susan was up and out of the car before Scully had a chance to unfasten her seatbelt.

The crime scene was like something out of a movie. There were flashing lights, cars and people everywhere. Emergency personnel and police officers were putting up barricades to keep the press and curious bystanders away. It was total chaos. Mulder and Michael were on their way over to them, meeting Susan first.

Scully caught up with them just as Michael started to talk. “Susan, Williams is here and he’s pitching a fit.”

“Shit!” Susan swore. “I don’t need this right now!”

“Agent Halloway!” a man shouted.

The group turned towards the voice, seeing a small man in his fifties walking in their direction.

“Damn it!” Susan muttered and walked over to him.

“What the hell is going on here?” he said when Susan approached him.

She was about to respond when someone shoved a microphone in their faces.

“Are you in charge of this investigation? This is the 9th murder in 7 weeks. Is this the work of a serial killer?” A woman demanded.

“We have no information at this time, now if you’ll please get back behind the barrier and let us get to work,” the man said. Two police officers came over to `help’ the woman and her camera crew out of the area.

“SAC Williams…” Susan started before he interrupted her.

“Don’t give me any bullshit, Halloway,” Williams said. He reached out, took hold of Susan’s upper arm and tried to roughly pull her away from the crowd.

Mulder put his hand on Michael’s arm when he took a step forward.

Susan wrenched her arm from the man’s grip, “Don’t you touch me,” she snarled. “Sir,” she added.

“Over there!” Williams pointed to a spot under a group of trees.

Susan turned to look at Michael, Mulder and Scully and gave Mike a curt nod. Michael nodded in return and started to walk to the growing crowd in the center of the crime scene, presumably where the body was.

Mulder and Scully paused to watch Susan walk away and then turned to follow Mike.

Susan spun around when they reached the trees. “What the hell are you doing here? I thought I told you I had this all under control this morning!”

“It sure looks that way!” he said dryly. “You said that fuckin’ freak from Washington was going to help out!”

“He’s not a freak, sir. And he and his partner just arrived last night! What the hell did you expect?!” she parried.

“I expected some results. I can only let you go so far Halloway, the brass is breathing down my neck!” Williams shouted, bits of spittle flying from his mouth.

Susan tensed. Taking a step forward, she jabbed her finger into the man’s tie. “Now you listen to me you sanctimonious son of a bitch! The only reason you’re still in this position is because of me! I have the highest solve rate on the East Coast and you and I both know the only reason you haven’t been transferred to Iowa is because I turned down a promotion for SAC in Queens. Now instead of standing here with your dick in your hand playing who’s got the bigger balls, you will stop interfering and allow me to continue this investigation!” She finished with a strong jab, causing the man to take a step back. Susan stalked off, leaving Williams slightly stunned and rubbing his chest with his fingertips.

Scully was kneeling in front of the body when Susan approached.

Michael came up next to her and gave her a questioning look. Susan put her hand on his forearm and shook her head.

Michael sighed. “Mulder went over to talk to the guy who found her, but I doubt that he has anything new to tell us. It’s the same as the others. There’s no need for you to do this.” There was concern in his voice.

Susan smiled up at him. “You know I have to, don’t worry, I’ll be OK.”

“I just hate to see you suffer when there is no need for it!” his voice starting to rise.

“Michael,” Susan started, then looked down. “I know how you feel, you know how I feel.” She looked up at him. “I have to do my job. This man is butchering these women. I have to stop him!”

“You are not alone on this! Please let me help you!” He leaned down and put his hands on her shoulders.

Susan slumped a bit. “I know, I know. If you want to help me, let’s catch this bastard!” She put her hands on his chest, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Your being here is the only thing I ever need,” she whispered.

Michael nodded and stepped back. He reached into his pocket pulling out two pairs of latex gloves. He handed a pair to Susan and walked over to the other side of the body. With a dejected look, Michael said, “Forensics already photographed the scene, so let’s get this over with.” With a bit of difficulty, Michael stretched the gloves over his large hands and started to examine the body.

Susan stood holding the gloves still watching Michael and then squatted down next to Scully. “Well?” she asked.

Scully was pulled out of her examination by Susan’s voice. “Huh?” she asked. “Oh, sorry. She’s been dead for about 12 hours. It looks the same as the others, but I only did a cursory exam. He left the knife, but it seems the other item has changed.” Scully picked up an evidence bag holding a hammer.

Susan shuddered. “He must own a lot of tools. We have gone through a wrench, vise grip, chisel, pliers, socket wrench, awl, round file, a screw driver and now a hammer.”

“Maybe he’s a mechanic or wood worker?” Scully suggested.

“That’s not the impression I’m getting,” Susan said. “I think he’s just toying with us. This guy is all about dominance and control. The tools are just that, tools.”

“How do you know?” Scully asked.

Susan looked at her, then over the body. She looked up when Michael picked up the woman’s hand, examining the fingernails for evidence.

Looking at Mike, catching his eye, she said, “Call it a feeling.”

Scully stared at her.

Susan stood when Mulder approached, as did Mike and Scully. “The guy had nothing new to add,” Mulder said. “He was on his way to work when he saw something sticking out of the woods, turned out to be a woman’s foot. Suffolk Police identified the woman as Jennifer Rosenberg. She was a Journalism student at CW Post.”

Susan looked down at the body and kneeled again. She reached out toward the woman’s face. “Some people believe that when a person dies, the last thing they see is burned onto the back of the retina, kind of like a photograph,” she said as she ran her hand over the woman’s eyes, closing them. “This poor woman was a witness to her own death.

Can you imagine what that must have been like? To know that you will never achieve your dreams? That you will never see your loved ones again? To know that this man who is torturing you has control over your life and death and there is nothing you can do about it?” She stripped off her gloves, threw them on the ground and stood.

They were all quiet, looking down at the woman.

Susan cleared her throat, “Dana?”

Scully looked up at her, her face an expression of anguish. “I’ll go with the body and do the autopsy tonight. My findings of the one from this morning are in the car. I should have the lab results back later.

I’ll call you when I get them.”

“Thank you,” Susan said.

“Agent Halloway?” a woman from the coroner’s office shouted. “We’re ready when you are!”

Susan walked over to the woman, Scully alongside her.

“Janice, this is Special Agent Dana Scully. She’s going back with you to perform the autopsy.”

The two women shook hands. Scully turned to Susan, “I’m going to need a ride back to the hotel.”

“I’ll send Mulder over to pick you up later, OK?” Susan asked.

“OK.”

Scully watched Susan go back to Michael and Mulder, waiting for the coroner’s crew to load the body into the van. When they were ready, she climbed in the passenger side and rested her head against the glass.

The Marriott

Room 1130

6:06 PM

Susan put the phone down and walked over to the bed. Sitting down, she removed her shoes, tossed them in the general direction of the closet and laid back.

Michael emerged from the bathroom, a towel low on his hips, his chest damp from the shower. “Who were you on the phone with?”

Susan rolled over on her stomach, resting her chin in her hands. “I was checking my messages. The vet called, Ruffus is due for his shots.”

Mike sat down next to her and ran his hands over her back, massaging the tired muscles. “I miss that dog.”

“Mmm, me too,” she said as she put her arms down at her sides, allowing Mike access to her shoulders.

Michael inched closer to her and started to massage in earnest. Susan groaned, her fingers playing with the edge of his towel.

“I love your hands.”

Michael smiled, pushed her hair away from her neck and leaned down to kiss her. “Is that all you love about me?” he said, his mouth close to her ear.

Susan tugged on the towel then moved onto her back. “Not even close,” she said as she reached up to put her arms around Michael’s neck.

Bracing himself on one hand, Mike moved to unbutton Susan’s jacket and allowed her to pull his head down. He stopped before she could kiss him.

“I love you,” he spoke against her lips.

“I know, I love you, too.”

He kissed her, his hand moving from the last button on her jacket to her thigh, slowly inching her skirt up.

Susan ran her tongue along his lips and he opened himself to her.

They kissed quietly, enjoying the sensations, the flood of images and feelings overtaking them.

Michael shifted, resting his weight on his hip and moved his hand to pull her shirt out of her skirt in order to put his hand on her stomach, then her breast.

Susan moaned and moved her hand down his back. She pulled the towel away and threw it somewhere near her shoes. She smiled against his mouth when she drew her hand around his hip and he shifted against her.

PART 9

The Marriott

Room 1121

7:34 PM

Mulder looked up from the notes he was reading when there was a knock at his door.

Pulling himself up off the bed, he got up and opened it.

“Hey,” Susan said. “I ordered dinner and told them to bring it up to your room so we could go over Dana’s notes.”

“Sure. No problem. Come on in.” Mulder stepped aside to allow Susan to enter. “Were you outside?”

Susan looked at him, “No, why?”

“Your hair’s wet.” Mulder said, pointing to her slicked back hair. She was dressed in a pair of gray sweatpants, a white tank top and no shoes. Mulder noticed that the muscles of her upper arms were defined.

She must work out constantly.

“Oh,” Susan smiled, “No, I just got out of the shower.” She went over and sat on Mulder’s bed.

“Where’s Mike?”

“In the shower,” she smiled again, “He’ll be here in a minute, he’s just rinsing off.”

Standing in front of her he said with a leer, “OOOhhhhh, that’s why I’m feeling heat radiating from you.”

Susan swatted his leg, “Shut up, you are not!”

“OK, maybe it’s that smile that’s plastered to your face!”

“Maybe.”

Mulder sat down next to her. “OK, I was lying before, but there is something radiating off you.”

Susan gave him a concerned look, “Really?” she asked.

Mulder put his hands up close to her, but not touching. “It’s… could it be?” Mulder paused dramatically, “the afterglow of good sex? I guess I really did forget what it’s like.”

Susan groaned and flopped back on the bed. “Go to hell, Mulder.”

Mulder flopped down next to her, laughing. “I’ve been there, it’s nothing like the brochure.”

“Maybe you should ask for your money back.”

“I’d bankrupt the place. What did you order for dinner, by the way?”

he asked as he turned on his side, resting his head in his hand.

She looked at him. “Your favorite, a cheeseburger, french fries, onion rings and coleslaw.”

He wrinkled his nose. “Coleslaw? EEEWWW!”

Susan laughed. “If you don’t want it, I’m sure Mike will eat it. He eats like a horse.”

“He has to, look at the size of him! “How big is he anyway?” Mulder asked.

Susan turned on her side, her face level with his, “What’s the matter, Mulder? Jealous? I never actually measured him, but if you have a ruler, I’ll be right back.” A wicked smile formed on her face.

“Ha, ha. You know what I mean.”

“He’s 6’6″ and weighs 250 pounds.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“And praise the Lord.”

About 5 minutes later, Michael knocked on the door and their dinner arrived right behind him.

Susan sat on the bed, her legs crossed, eating a BLT, while Mulder sat at the desk. Michael sat on the sofa, his paperwork on the coffee table. The men were eating cheeseburgers and fries, Michael was also eating Mulder’s coleslaw.

Mulder was almost finished with the box Susan gave him that morning when he noticed something was missing.

“Susan?” Mulder asked.

“What?” she responded, sounding distracted. She was engrossed in Scully’s autopsy results.

“There’s something missing from this box.”

“You’re just now picking that up?” she said as she put down the notes, stretching her legs out in front of her.

“Where’s your profile?”

“Haven’t you figured out yet why you’re here?”

“I think so, you want a profile from me.” Mulder turned in his chair to look at her. “But I don’t understand, you’re better than me at this, why haven’t you written one?”

Susan smiled at him. “Mulder, that is a real compliment you just gave me, do you realize that?”

Mulder actually blushed.

“And to answer your question, yes I did do a profile, but I didn’t want you to read it before you did yours.”

“You don’t want to bias me.”

“Exactly.”

“Susan, I must admit, I’m a little confused. If all the evidence points toward this guy Townsend, why are you asking me to redo a profile? And why me? This is doesn’t seem to be an X-File.”

Susan sighed and glanced at Michael who was silently watching the exchange. He sat back, put his feet up on the table and shrugged his shoulders.

“That seems to be the 64 thousand dollar question.” Susan said. “My SAC keeps asking me the same thing.” She stood up, walked over to the food cart and poured herself a glass of ginger ale. “I asked you here,” she paused to take a sip of her drink, “because I trust you and because I know you’re good.”

Mulder grinned. “Thank you, Susan, you have no idea what that means to me. But I’m still confused.”

“Mulder,” Susan sat back down on the bed. She fluffed the pillows and leaned against the headboard. “Just use that sexy mind of yours, review the information, and develop a profile. And do me a favor, ignore the forensic evidence.”

Mulder looked at her.

“Trust me, just look at the crime scene and act as if we have no suspect.” Susan suddenly looked very tired. He didn’t see it before, but this case was draining her.

“You’re the boss.”

Susan gave him a lopsided smile.

The Marriott

Room 1121

8:41 PM

“She looks like she’s dead.”

“I know”

“Does she always look like that?”

“Not usually, but she hasn’t been sleeping well and today has been a long day.”

Susan was lying on her side. Autopsy results were hanging off the side of the bed and a few had drifted to the floor. Her reading glasses were perched on the end of her nose, about to fall off, and her mouth was slightly open.

“We should move her to her room,” Mulder said.

“No, I think we should leave her there until you’re ready to go to bed. The second we touch her, she’ll wake up. She’s become really sensitive when she sleeps,” Michael said.

Mulder moved to sit next to Mike on the sofa.

“Really? She didn’t used to be like that. I could move her from the car to the bed without her waking.”

“She’s been under a lot of stress lately. This case is really getting to her and that sixth sense of hers or whatever it is, has been on high alert.” Michael reached over and took a sip of his coffee.

“Does it bother you?” Mulder asked.

Michael looked at him, his brow furrowed.

“Does it bother you that she and I used to be together?” Mulder turned towards him.

“No, not at all,” Michael answered. “I have no reason to. I know exactly how she feels about me, I have no reason to doubt her.”

Mulder looked over at the sleeping woman. “It must be nice to have that bond, never having to doubt, always knowing she loves you.”

“It is.”

Suddenly the phone next to the bed rang. Mulder shot up from the sofa, as did Michael. Mulder tripped over his sneakers and Michael tripped over Mulder, landing on top of him.

Susan was startled out of a deep sleep when Mulder let out a loud squawk because Michael knocked the wind out of him.

She reached out and grabbed the phone before it could go to voice mail.

“Howway,” Susan said into the phone, sounding very groggy.

“Susan?”

“Yeah, Dana?”

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I thought I dialed Mulder’s room.”

“You did, what’s up? Are you finished?” Susan said sitting up, she removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes.

Scully paused before she answered. “Yes, and I received the lab results from this morning. There was nothing foreign in her bloodstream, but there were high levels of adrenaline. That’s to be expected, though. She was conscious when he sodomized and stabbed her.”

“That son of a bitch.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

Susan was quiet for a moment and looked at Mulder when he sat down next to her. He put his hand out for the phone.

“Let me hand you over to Mulder, he’s getting a constipated look on his face.”

He gave her a pinched smile and took the phone from her.

“Hi, Scully,” he said. “Hey! Watch it!” Mulder exclaimed when Susan pushed him so she could get off the bed.

“Then move your ass out of the way!”

“Mulder, what the hell is going on?” Scully asked when she heard the bickering on the other end.

“Nothing, Susan just tried to push me off the bed.” Mulder explained.

“You ready to be picked up?”

“Yes,” she said and hung up the phone.

PART 10

Medical Examiner’s Office

Hauppauge, NY

9:20 PM

Mulder knocked on the door to the women’s locker room. The woman at the desk said that Scully would be in there. When he got no response, he stuck his head in.

“Scully, you in here?” he said with his eyes closed.

“I’m in the back,” Scully shouted. “And you can open your eyes.”

Mulder followed the sound of her voice toward the back of the room. He found Scully fully dressed and leaning over her bag in the process of pulling out her shoes.

“Hey,” he said, “I brought you some dinner. You have to be starving by now.” He held up a brown paper bag with dark stains on the bottom.

Scully looked up at him and frowned at the bag, “I’m afraid to ask,” she said dryly.

“It’s your favorite,” Mulder said, “Spare ribs.”

Scully tried not to smile and turned away to grab her jacket, but Mulder saw it.

“See, I knew it was your favorite.” Mulder said, grinning like a fool.

Scully stepped into her shoes and smiled at him. It disappeared when she took in his missing tie, open collar, rumpled clothes, and spiky hair.

She sighed, “So, get a lot of work done tonight?” She said sarcastically as she picked up her bag and headed toward the exit.

Mulder stood glued to the floor, confused about her change in mood.

Catching up to her, he said, “Actually we did. I found out why Susan requested us.”

“Oh, really?” She asked not sounding very interested.

“Yeah, she needs a profile from me. That was before she passed out on my bed, she was really tired. Mike and I had to tiptoe around her until you woke her up when you called.”

Scully stopped abruptly to look at him. She opened her mouth to say something, changed her mind, then frowned.

“W…Why…?” Scully stuttered.

“Why what? Why did she pass out or why does she need a profile?”

Mulder asked, his brow furrowed. Scully was confusing the hell out of him.

Scully was quiet for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip. She tilted her head up at him. “Both,” she said.

Mulder handed her the bag and put his hand on the small of her back to guide her to the car.

When they were settled, he said, “Something is bothering her about this case. She either won’t or can’t tell me. I think she needs me to figure it out.”

Mulder started the car and headed toward the Long Island Expressway.

“Do you have any ideas?” Scully asked.

“I don’t know. This a strange case.”

“Stranger than our normal work?” she asked after a moment. “Do you think this is an X-File?” She shifted in her seat to look at him.

“I don’t think so, my ears aren’t burning.” Mulder took his eyes off the road to smile at her.

“You mean your spidey sense isn’t tingling?” She smiled back.

“It’s not my sense that’s tingling.” He narrowed his eyes at her.

“I’m sure.”

The Marriott

Room 1122 & 1121

10:18 PM

Scully was puttering around in her room while Mulder set the table for her dinner.

“Come on, Scully, it’s gonna get cold,” he whined. He put the ribs in the microwave the hotel provided, but that was 10 minutes ago.

“I’ll be there in just a second,” she said from behind her bathroom door.

Mulder had changed out of his wrinkled clothes into his sleeping attire; sweats and a T-shirt.

Scully stood leaning on the door frame, wearing something similar, watching him move about the room. Sometimes he acted as if she was the only woman in the world; other times he treated her like a piece of wood. He was a constant contradiction.

“Come on Scully!” he said loudly and jumped when she appeared next to him. “I should put a bell on you. I can’t hear you when you don’t have shoes on,” he said to her.

Scully lifted an eyebrow.

“Dinner is served, Madame.” Mulder gestured to the ribs on paper plates, and canned soda dinner he set for her. He was very proud of himself.

“Susan said this place makes great ribs, you should really like them.

At least they probably tasted good before I had to nuke them.”

Scully sat down, put a napkin on her lap, and watched as Mulder sat opposite her.

“Aren’t you going to have any?” she asked.

“No, I ate earlier.”

Scully nodded then reached down and very delicately picked up a rib.

“You can’t eat ’em like that,” Mulder chastised.

“Hey! They’re mine, I can eat them any way I please,” Scully said.

Mulder sat back and put his feet up on the chair next to her, “Go ahead, suit yourself.” He said with a wave of his hand.

Scully brought the meat to her mouth with Mulder watching her like a hawk. He smiled when she closed her eyes as she tasted the barbecue sauce.

“Oh. My. God, Mulder,” she moaned.

Mulder shifted in his chair.

“I take back every horrible thing I said to you,” she said as she picked up another piece, not so delicately this time. By the time she was finished, she had sauce all over her hands, her chin and a drop on her shirt.

The Marriott

Room 1122

11:32 PM

Scully was tired, her back hurt and the smell of her hair was bothering the hell out of her. She performed two autopsies and all she could smell was death. She had taken three showers; one after the first autopsy, one after the second, and another after the ribs.

She was also feeling very anxious. She had been inside for most of the day with only a cadaver to keep her company. Usually it didn’t bother her, but her emotions have been all screwy ever since she arrived in New York – no, since she met Susan.

Susan, she thought to herself. Now there’s a puzzle. Scully was angry with herself for the way she reacted this evening. When Susan answered the phone sounding as if she had just awakened, which she did, Scully assumed the worst. She was acting like a jealous girlfriend.

Standing in front of the window watching Friday night traffic on the LIE was just making her even more anxious. She decided she needed some air.

She changed out of her sweats, put on a pair of jeans and sneakers and headed out the door.

The Marriott Bar

11: 52 PM

Staring at a vending machine just inside the bar, Scully suddenly had an overwhelming urge for a cigarette. Quickly reaching into her pocket for her wallet, she put a five dollar bill in the machine (damn, these things have gotten expensive) and punched the button for a hard pack of Morleys.

She scanned the room, taking in the appreciative glances she was receiving and saw Michael in the back corner. He was sitting in a booth, facing her and with a wave of his hand, signaled her over. She was about halfway across the room when she saw Susan was sitting opposite him. She realized she was still holding the cigarettes in her hand and feeling like a guilty child, she stuffed them in her back pocket.

Susan was still dressed in her tank top, but had traded her sweats for a pair of jeans. She still had no shoes on, though. Michael was wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, too. Scully noticed that both were a bit tight when he stood as she approached the table. He towered over her and Scully felt very small.

“He’s a bit big, isn’t he,” Susan said, echoing Mulder’s words from yesterday.

Scully looked uncomfortable and Michael blushed.

Michael gestured for Scully to sit down. When she did, he picked up his water and drained it.

“Look, Susie, I’m beat and I didn’t get to take a nap this evening, so I’m going to hit the sack. You two have fun,” he said. And to Scully’s surprise, he leaned down and kissed Susan on the lips, lingering longer than what would be considered just friendly.

“Night,” he said, his mouth inches from hers.

“Night,” she said and moved to give him another peck.

When he left, Susan smiled at Scully who was looking in every direction, except hers.

“Dana?” Scully looked up. “You can smoke in here.”

“How did you….”

“I saw you stuff them in your pocket.”

Scully shifted and put the Morleys on the table. She looked very guilty.

“I don’t usually smoke,” she said, her hair hiding her eyes.

“Neither do I,” Susan said. “May I have one?”

Scully opened the box, took out two cigarettes and handed one to Susan.

“I don’t have any matches.”

“That’s OK,” Susan said as she put out her hand and caught the waiter walking past their table by the belt loop on the back of his pants. He turned to look at her, a surprised expression on his face.

“I’m sorry, but do you have a light? We seem to be all out,” she said, pointing toward Scully with her cigarette.

Scully was amused at how the guy practically pulled his apron off trying to get a pack of matches for her.

“Thanks,” she said, smiling at him when he gave her a handful of matchbooks.

“Welcome,” he said, grinning so wide his face almost split in half. He stood staring at her as she struck the match, put the cigarette to her lips and lit it. She took a deep lungful and held it for a few seconds before she released it.

“Mmmmm, it’s been awhile,” she said.

“Can I get you anything else?” the waiter said, in a tone hinting at what he wouldn’t mind giving her.

Susan gave him a seductive smile. “I’ll have another glass of ginger ale and my friend will have…”

“A cup of coffee,” Scully said adding her own smile.

The waiter shifted his weight back and forth on his feet, looking from Susan to Scully.

“Coming right up,” he said with another grin. Turning on his heels, he headed toward the bar, apparently forgetting he had just ended his shift.

Susan laughed. “God, we’re bad!”

Scully lit her cigarette, “Nah, he deserved it. He has no right looking as good as he does. What is he, 10?”

“They just keep getting younger,” Susan sighed.

“And we just keep getting older,” Scully finished.

When the waiter returned with their drinks, he got the message that they weren’t interested in a threesome when they just said thank you and ignored him. He walked away feeling a little broken hearted; he had some good ideas for that redhead and brunette…

Susan took a long drag of her cigarette. “I think I need to apologize,” she said, breathing out the smoke as she spoke.

“For what?” Scully asked before she brought her cigarette to her lips.

“For this evening, for misleading you. I’m sorry.” She said.

“No, I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions,” she paused, looking Susan in the eye. “How did you know what I was thinking?”

Susan put her cigarette down and rested her hand over Scully’s on the table.

She was quiet for a moment before she responded. Scully felt a tingling sensation in her stomach, like butterflies.

Susan’s eyes narrowed, and a curious expression crossed over her face.

She quickly removed her hand and looked away.

“Call it a gut instinct,” she said in a faraway voice.

Susan turned to look at her again. Scully looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

Susan laughed and picked up her cigarette. “Dana, I’m a woman. Of course I know what it sounded like. Me, answering Mulder’s phone after being jarred awake from a dead sleep when Mulder woke me up screeching like a banshee because Mike tripped and fell on him.”

Scully was quiet and then erupted in laughter, “I just got a mental picture of Mulder trapped under Michael, probably being squished to death,” she said, still laughing. A few chuckles escaped, “I wish I could have seen that.”

Scully’s laughter died suddenly and her expression sobered.

“What?” Susan asked, picking up on Scully’s mood shift.

“Mulder told me *I* woke you up and I felt really guilty because he said you were so tired.”

Susan snorted, “Typical.”

Scully smirked, “Yeah, but you don’t have to apologize. I had no right to think what I did, besides, you’re both adults and by what I saw about 20 minutes ago…” she trailed off.

“Of course you have a right, it probably would have crossed my mind, too. But do you think that if Mulder and I were sleeping together, he would have acted so nonchalantly about it if you caught us?” she asked in a smartass tone.

“No, I guess not, besides, it’s none of my business who he spends his time with outside of work,” she said, looking down into her coffee.

She stubbed out her cigarette and pulled another from the box.

“Sure, it’s not,” Susan said sarcastically as Scully lit her Morley.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Scully asked harshly.

Susan waved her cigarette in front of her. “Nothing, forget about it.

I mean, I just met you. How could I know how you feel about Mulder?

Right? Isn’t that what you were going to say?” She said in a tone Scully didn’t recognize.

Scully frowned. What the hell is going on here? One minute they were laughing, the next minute things had gotten out of control.

Susan fidgeted in her seat, looking uncomfortable. The tension was bothering her. It wasn’t a fun feeling to pick up, among other strong emotions.

“Look, Dana, I’m sorry. My behavior was inexcusable,” she said, looking very sad. “I’m tired, I know that’s not an excuse, but this case is really starting to get to me and I haven’t had more than 3 hours sleep a night since this all started. I think I’ve about had it.” She stubbed her cigarette out in the ashtray.

“Susan, if you want, I can give you something to help you sleep,” Scully said in a soothing tone.

Susan looked her in the eye. “I don’t respond well to sleeping pills,” she said with a lopsided smile.

“What is it about this case that’s bothering you?” She put her hand over Susan’s.

Susan jerked away. Scully mentally grimaced at the movement, but said nothing.

Finishing her drink Susan put her elbows on the table and spoke with her head in her hands, “I feel like I’m losing my mind.”

Part 11

Scully was quiet, not sure what to say.

Susan looked up from her hands, “Do you have any idea how it feels to know something absolutely and have no one believe you?” She picked up the Morleys and pulled out another cigarette. Scully noticed her hands were shaking.

“I can imagine how it feels,” Scully said softly.

Susan smirked. “You have no idea.”

“Why don’t you try to explain it to me?” Scully asked.

“Because if I do, I will never know if I’m right or if I *am* losing my mind. I need you to find it for yourself.”

Scully was confused. “Are you talking about the case?”

“Yeah,” she said and took a long drag of her cigarette, held it for a moment, and released it.

“You need us, Mulder and me, to come up with a theory, and you want to see if it parallels yours?”

Susan smiled. “Right.”

“But you won’t tell us your theory?”

“No.”

“You need us to come up with it on our own.”

“Give the woman the prize, Monty.”

Scully frowned and sat back in her seat. “I’m confused.”

“So am I.”

“Why?”

Susan sighed loudly. “I know something about this case no one else does and my SAC doesn’t believe me. He says I’ve finally cracked. I need you to help prove I’m right.”

“Why us?” Scully remembered she was holding a cigarette when the ashes dropped on her jeans. She put it in the ashtray.

“Because I know Mulder, and I trust him, and you, I trust you. I also know what kinds of cases you deal with, and this should be right up your alley.”

“But Mulder doesn’t believe this is an X-File,” Scully replied.

“Neither do I.”

Susan reached into her pocket, pulled out a twenty dollar bill and placed it on the table.

“I’m going to try to get some sleep,” Susan said as she stood. “I suggest you do, too.” And with that, Susan turned and walked out of the bar, leaving behind a very confused Scully.

The Marriott

Room 1122

April 5

2:04 AM

Scully unlocked her door and stepped inside. The light from the hallway briefly illuminated the dark room. If she were looking up, she would have noticed that someone was sitting on her bed.

Scully kicked off her sneakers and ran her hand through her hair. She moved her neck from side to side, sighing when she heard it pop.

“Neck bothering you?” a male voice said.

“Jesus Christ, Mulder!” Scully shouted, her hand had reflexively gone to the holster at her back. “What the hell are you doing in here?” She walked over and turned on the lights, temporarily blinding them both.

“You’re lucky I didn’t shoot you!”

“Again.”

Mulder was perched on the bed, his legs hanging off. He obviously had had some sleep, his clothes and hair were in disarray. He had dark shadows under his eyes and he wouldn’t look at her.

“Mulder, are you OK?” Scully asked, walking over to him, her anger forgotten.

“Yeah, I just couldn’t sleep.” He scooted over so she could sit next to him.

“Why? What’s the matter?” She reached out to lay her hand on his forehead. He felt warm.

“I… I, uh. It’s nothing forget it.” He started to get up, but she put her hand on his arm, stilling his movements.

“Mulder, what is it?” she asked in a soothing tone.

“I had a dream, it felt so real, and when I went to see if you were OK, you weren’t here.” The words spilled out of his mouth before he had a chance to think about what he was saying.

“Oh, Mulder. I’m sorry. Was it bad?” she asked.

Mulder nodded and looked down at the floor. “I could hear you screaming… screaming for help, but I couldn’t get to you,” he finished in a small voice and sniffed loudly.

She moved her hand from his arm and ran it through his hair. She turned to face him and gently tugged his head down to rest on her shoulder, her other arm wrapped around his waist.

He circled his arms around her and moved his face to nuzzle her neck.

She closed her eyes at the sensation of his breath on her throat. His left hand went to her hair, he buried his nose in it and took a deep breath.

Scully could practically hear her heart beating and was sure he could, too. She suppressed a groan when he moved away to look at her face.

She opened her eyes.

“Were you smoking?” he asked incredulously.

Scully sighed, the mood was broken. “Yes, Mulder. I was.” She wouldn’t look at him.

“Why? You of all people should know how bad it is for you.”

Scully got up and walked to the other side of the room. She sat down on the sofa, clasped her hands and let them dangle between her legs.

“I don’t know, I just wanted to. Sometimes I feel like I really need a cigarette – like now.”

Mulder sat quietly on the bed looking at her. He wasn’t sure what to say.

“Mulder?” He didn’t respond, so she forged ahead. “How well do you know Susan?”

“Why?” He turned to face her.

“How well do you know her?” she asked again.

Mulder took a deep breath.

“Mulder, please answer the question,” aggravation was setting in.

“In some aspects, I know Susan very well. In others, I know her as well as she lets me.” That wasn’t so bad.

“Do you trust her?” she asked, looking at her hands.

“Yes.”

Scully’s head shot up, a hurt expression on her face.

“I have no reason not to. Susan is a very straightforward person.”

Scully looked down again.

Mulder got up and sat next to her, his shoulder just touching hers.

“What is this all about?” Mulder asked.

“I’m not sure, she’s confusing the hell out of me.”

“How so?”

“She requests us to help on this case, but won’t tell us why. She knows things about me I’d rather she not know. You and she have this connection I don’t understand. I trust her, but I don’t want to. She’s an enigma.” She slouched back into the cushions.

“That’s Susan,” Mulder said with a smile.

Scully looked at him and asked the question she had been wanting to ask since she got here.

“Mulder, how do you feel about her?”

Mulder was sitting forward and had to turn in order to look at her.

“I love her.”

Scully closed her eyes and tried to keep her face neutral.

“But, I’m not *in* love with her.”

She opened her eyes to find him looking at her with such intensity she almost closed them again.

“It’s hard to explain, because there are things you don’t know about Susan, and it’s not my place to tell you. But if it helps you understand,” Mulder paused. “I, we… we almost got married.”

Scully sat up, she wasn’t expecting this. “What happened?”

Mulder looked down at his hands. “She was transferred to New York. I tried to get transferred, too, but that prick Patterson denied my request.” Mulder looked at Scully who was staring straight ahead. “We had discussed marriage and were seriously considering it when the paperwork went through. She had no choice; either transfer or leave the bureau. I had considered quitting so I could go to New York with her.”

The room was eerily quiet.

Suddenly Scully turned to face him, “Why didn’t you?” she asked, her face a mask of composure.

“We tried the long distance thing, but it didn’t work. When we were apart, work consumed us, and when we were together, we consumed each other. Neither of us wanted to quit. We loved our jobs. We were torn, but then I started having flashbacks about Samantha and Susan started getting a reputation as a fantastic profiler.” He paused to take a deep breath. “She was submerged in work, we saw each other less and less. And about a month before we split, I discovered the X-Files. I also met someone who supported me through the difficult process of my hypnoregression when Susan couldn’t.”

“Diana?” Scully asked quietly

Mulder looked at her. “Yeah, and now that I look back on it, it was stupid. I mean Susan wanted to help me, but she was so busy, she was on the way up. It’s actually my fault, I never told her about the nightmares.”

Scully put her hand on his back and made soothing circles with her palm. “She knew, though, didn’t she?”

Mulder gave a self deprecating smile, “You can’t hide anything from Susan.”

Scully nodded. “I’ve noticed that.”

“She was angry at first, more hurt that I was trying to keep something from her, but after awhile, she understood. She knew I didn’t want to burden her while she was already bogged down, and at the time, I needed someone who could be there 24,7 and she couldn’t. We broke up on good terms, promising each other we would always keep in touch, that if one of us ever needed anything, the other would be on the next plane out. I found out later that she was keeping tabs on me, asking about me. She never trusted Diana. After you were assigned to the X-Files, she came to DC to see me. She said she walked into you in one of the halls.”

Scully’s hand stilled. “I don’t remember meeting her.”

Mulder smiled. “She said that you were walking out of the elevator carrying some books and dropped them. She came over to help you pick them up and read your name off your badge.” Mulder tugged on his shirt to indicate her clip-on badge.

Scully just shook her head. “Susan didn’t mention it to me.”

“Well she mentioned it to me. She said that you smiled at her, shook her hand and thanked her. You never asked her name, though. Susan said you were in a hurry, and that she got the impression that you were a very honest, loyal and intelligent woman, that I should trust you.”

Mulder grinned, “But I already knew that.”

Scully smiled and looked down, her hair shielding her eyes. “How would she know that, she only had brief contact with me?” Scully asked.

Mulder grinned again, “Susan is a very good judge of character. She had you pegged right away.”

“I don’t know if I like that,” she said.

“Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.”

“When did this happen?”

Mulder smiled. “After the Tooms case, the first time around.”

Scully nodded and turned to look at him. “When was the last time you saw her?”

Mulder frowned. “When you and I were apart, Krycek and I had that case in New York, I took a few days off to visit her.”

“What happened?”

Mulder chewed on his bottom lip, Scully unconsciously did the same.

“We, ah, we, ah.”

“It’s OK, Mulder. I understand.”

Mulder looked at her. “We were both under a lot of stress,” he implored.

Scully looked away. “Did you know about her and Michael?” she said carefully, afraid that he was hoping to rekindle things with her.

Mulder smiled. “Yeah, she told me about him when they were first assigned together, about three years ago. She said that her boss was trying to discredit her by giving her a HUGE distraction.” He laughed.

Scully smiled. “How long have they been ‘together’?”

“About two years,” Mulder said.

“Aren’t they worried about the bureau splitting them up?” She asked.

“Not really, they love each other so much it’s scary. They also have such a high solve rate, her SAC needs the statistics. Besides, I think he’s a little afraid of her,” he smirked.

“I don’t blame him. I would hate to have her pissed off at me,” Scully said as she sat back again.

“Don’t I know it. I’ve seen her pissed and it’s not fun.”

Mulder turned toward her.

“Where did all this come from, anyway?” he asked.

Scully looked down at her hands again, “I was feeling anxious tonight, needing a change of scenery so I decided to go downstairs. I ran into Susan and Michael at the bar. Michael went to bed and Susan and I started talking,” Scully explained. “She’s under a lot of stress, I’m not sure what it is, but it’s really starting to get to her. She told me she felt like she was losing her mind.”

“Did she tell you why?” he asked, concerned.

“She wouldn’t go into specifics, but she asked me if I knew what it was like to know something absolutely, and have no one believe you. Do you know what that means?” she asked him.

“I know what it feels like,” he smiled at her and she returned it.

“But I don’t know what it means.”

“It has something to do with this case,” Scully said through a yawn.

“Mmmm.”

The room was quiet until she yawned again.

“Hey! Stop yawning!” he said, then yawned. “You know those things are contagious!” he chastised.

Scully laughed, “Sorry, partner, but I’m about dead on my feet,” she said as she started to get up, but didn’t quite make it.

“Need some help?”

“No, I can stand by myself!” she said petulantly as she tried again, but didn’t succeed.

Mulder stood and put his hand out for her. “Here, let me help you up.”

She put her hand in his and he hauled her to her feet. She wavered a bit and he put his arm around her to steady her.

“Come on, it is way past your bedtime.” He guided her to the bed, sat her down and dropped to his knees to remove her socks. “Do you need me to help you undress?” he asked with a wiggle of his eyebrows.

“Thank you, Mulder, I think I can handle it from here.” She put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed it before he stood to leave.

He reached the adjoining door when he turned around to look at her.

She was lying back on the bed, not having enough energy to finish getting undressed.

“Good night ,Scully,” he said and turned out the lights.

She didn’t answer, so he started to close the door. He stopped when she spoke.

“Leave it open, Mulder, in case you have another dream.”

He smiled into the darkness. “I will, thanks, Scully.”

“Your welcome,” she said in a sleepy voice. “Good night, Mulder.”

The Marriott

Room 1129

2:52 AM

Susan tried to sleep in her own room, but knew it was futile after 40 minutes of trying to get comfortable.

She stood in the doorway, watching Michael sleep. He never had a problem, he always slept so soundly.

“Stop staring and come to bed,” or at least she thought he did.

Susan smiled to herself and walked over to the bed. Michael rolled and lifted the covers for her.

She slid in facing him. He put his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. Resting her head on his chest, her hand played with the wiry hairs there as he slid his hand down her side to her thigh and tugged on it. She brought her leg up over him so that her knee rested almost on his groin.

He made a noise in his throat and kissed the top of her head. “You should just sleep with me and forget about protocol. You always wind up here anyway.”

“Mmm, I guess you’re right,” she said as she nuzzled his chest and turned her head to kiss his neck.

“OK, stop now, you need your sleep.” He moved causing her knee to come in contact with something solid.

“Oooooo, sorry,” she grinned and shifted, brushing against him again.

“Cut it out.”

“Maybe you can help make me more sleepy?” she asked innocently, then placed an open mouth kiss on his chest, her hand moved down the muscles on his stomach.

He grabbed her hand and brought it back to his chest, holding it there.

“Go to sleep.” his voice was rough.

“OK, OK.” She closed her eyes and listened to the beat of his heart, the rhythm lulling her to sleep.

PART 12

The Marriott

Room 1129

9:02 AM

Susan woke to the sound of Michael’s voice on the phone in the other room. She couldn’t hear what he was saying, he was speaking low in an effort not to wake her. She stretched her arms above her head and turned to bury her face in the pillow next to her. Mmmm, she could smell the lingering scent of him.

She felt rather than heard him enter the room, it was like a cool breeze washed over her. The bed dipped under Michael’s weight. His hand went to her hair, slightly massaging her scalp. He brushed a few strands off her face and leaned in to kiss her behind her ear.

“Come on Susie, I know you’re awake,” he whispered, his breath warm on her skin.

She mumbled something unintelligible and burrowed deeper into the pillow.

He smiled, “That was Mulder on the phone, they’re going to meet us in your room in an hour.” He kissed her throat. “I suggest you get up and get your ass in the shower, you’re hair stinks of cigarettes.”

“It’s too early,” she whined into the pillow.

“It’s nine o’clock.”

Michael reared back when Susan suddenly sat up.

“What!?” she asked, her eyes wide.

“It’s nine o’clock, “he said again with a smile.

“Why didn’t you wake me sooner?” She tossed the blankets back and tried to get off the bed, but Michael put his hands on her shoulders, keeping her in place.

“Hey,” he said softly. “Relax. It seems Mulder and Dana got off to a late start today, too.”

She relaxed against him.

“Besides, you were out cold, I didn’t want to wake you.”

“I was exhausted,” she said.

“Yes, you were.”

He released her shoulders and cupped her jaw with both hands. Tilting her head back he kissed her soundly on the lips. She brought her hands to his hair and deepened the kiss; he tasted like toothpaste.

She groaned when he pulled back and rested his forehead against hers.

“You can’t keep doing this to yourself. You need more sleep.”

She looked down. “I know,” she murmured.

Michael grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. With a gentle shove, he directed her to the bathroom.

“Go take a shower and brush your teeth! I’ll get some comfortable clothes for you.”

She staggered into the bathroom, not bothering to shut the door behind her.

Susan stepped out of the shower and caught a glimpse of herself in the full length mirror on the far wall of the bathroom. Her whole body seemed to look refreshed, six hours of sleep can sure do wonders for the body, she thought. That, and a night with Michael sleeping next to her. Speaking of which, a subtle feeling of arousal suddenly ran though her, she turned to see Michael watching her. He was leaning against the door jamb, openly admiring her nude body.

“You know, sometimes I really hate that I can’t sneak up on you or watch you without you knowing,” he said as he approached.

She smiled, “Well, if you weren’t so obvious or had control of those hormones of yours…,” she trailed off when he was standing so close she could feel the heat radiating off him.

He reached out and placed his hand on her shoulders, she gasped when a flood of warmth traveled from his hand through her body.

Sagging against him, she moaned and rested her head on his chest. “You have the worst timing.”

He chuckled and stepped back. “Here,” he said tossing her the clothes he was holding in his other hand.

The Marriott

Room 1130

10:03 AM

Mulder and Scully were already there when Susan walked through the adjoining door to her room.

Mulder smiled at her as she walked past him toward the food cart.

“Don’t you ever wear shoes?” he asked.

Susan stopped her inventory of the breakfast tray to look down at her feet. “Not when I can manage it,” she said.

Mulder walked over to sit next to Scully on the sofa, placing his coffee and donut next to her coffee and cream cheese bagel. She slid over to give him more room.

Susan frowned. “Mike did you order any…” she stopped when a glass of orange juice suddenly appeared before her.

“The rest is over there,” Michael said gesturing to the table where a decanter and corn muffin sat waiting for her. She smiled her thanks and sat at the table.

Scully paused, the bagel inches from her mouth, “Aren’t you having any coffee?” she asked Susan.

“I don’t drink caffeine,” Susan said.

Mulder smirked, “I think you are the only law enforcement officer I know who doesn’t drink coffee.”

“I never could get used to the taste. Besides, I don’t need the extra stimulation.” Susan said. “I have enough energy on my own.”

Mulder nodded. “I can see that.”

Susan smiled.

The Marriott

Room 1130

12:34 PM

The morning passed in comfortable silence. Mulder and Scully continued to work on the sofa, while Michael and Susan had moved to sit on the bed. Michael was leaning back on the head board with Susan sitting slightly in front of him. His left hand unconsciously traced invisible patterns on her lower back while he reviewed his notes from yesterday’s interviews.

Mulder was crouched over the coffee table working on his profile. He stretched and looked up. He found himself watching Michael and Susan and suddenly felt very isolated. He glanced over at Scully who was diligently transferring her autopsy notes onto her laptop. Feeling his gaze, she gave him a questioning look. He just smiled and nudged her leg with his. She smiled and nudged him back. Her eyes lingered on him before returning her attention to her notes. He took a deep breath and continued his work.

During their silent interaction, Susan looked up and smiled to herself. She wasn’t sure what took place, but Mulder was sending out waves of contentment. She truly wanted to see him happy again.

Susan was pulled out of her thoughts when Michael’s cell phone rang.

He grimaced and got up to retrieve it off the table.

He looked at Susan, “You’re the only person who calls me on this thing,” he said before he answered. “O’Sullivan.”

He kept his eyes on Susan as he listened to the voice on the other line. She frowned, something was wrong.

“But, sir,” he started. He glanced at his watch and sighed. “I’ll be there as soon as I can,” he ended the call.

Michael rubbed his eyes and slammed the phone on the dresser.

Mulder and Scully jumped, but Susan didn’t move.

“That was Williams,” she said.

Michael nodded. “He wants to see me.”

“Just you?” she asked.

He nodded again.

“Why?” Scully asked.

Michael looked around for his shoes, when he found them, he answered.

“He wants to talk to me about the case, and about you,” he said to Susan.

“What’s going on?” Mulder asked.

Susan ran her hands through her hair. She swore under her breath but didn’t answer him.

“Susan?” Mulder asked.

She continued to ignore him, seeming lost in her thoughts.

“Damn it, Susan!” Mulder shouted and started to get up, but stopped when Scully put her hand on his arm.

“Mulder, relax,” she said quietly.

“Yeah, relax, Mulder,” Michael warned, his protective side reared it’s ugly head.

Mulder started to stand again, he didn’t like Michael’s tone of voice.

“Hey!” Susan shouted, “Everybody just calm down a minute!”

The men visibly backed off. Scully wondered what the hell just happened. They acted like two dogs fighting for the alpha position.

Susan got off the bed to stand in front of Michael, her back to him, he stared at Mulder over her head. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Michael, cut it out!”

He stepped back and turned to sit down on the bed to put on his shoes.

She approached Mulder, put her hand on his chest and leaned into him.

“Mulder, do you realize why you just reacted the way you did?” she asked quietly.

Mulder looked down at her hand, his eyes widened, “Shit, I can’t even remember the last time that happened.”

Susan smiled. “June ’89, my cousin’s wedding.”

He suddenly looked very sheepish, “That waiter cornered you and I nearly killed him.”

Susan nodded. “We’ve been in a lot of close contact, lately.”

“And I’m picking up your tension.”

“And adding it to your own. That innate quality you have to protect and that male need for dominance can get you into a lot of trouble.”

She grinned, “Damn testosterone.”

“Hey, don’t blame me,” he said with his hands up. “Not my fault.

You’re the cause, Michael reacted the same way.”

She nodded, then added with a smile, “not true, it’s partially your fault, all those years ago, if you hadn’t…,” Susan started, but was interrupted when Scully stood.

“Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on here?!” She said, sounding extremely aggravated.

They turned toward her.

“That was my SAC, Agent Williams. We’ve been expecting that phone call,” Susan said.

Michael approached Susan, still looking a bit ruffled around the edges. He looked down at Mulder. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

Mulder nodded. “I understand.”

“What’s so important about this phone call?” Scully asked.

Michael picked his coat up off the chair by the bed. “Williams is unhappy about the direction this case is going,” he said. “He’s been threatening to pull Susan off.”

“Can he do that?” Mulder asked.

“He can threaten all he wants, but if he knows what’s good for him…,” Susan said.

Michael touched Susan’s elbow. “He said you’re acting unstable,” he said quietly. “He mentioned the argument you two had yesterday.”

Susan sat down hard on the bed.

“He didn’t say anything about pulling you off just yet, but he did mention something about a separate investigation,” Michael said sounding confused.

Susan put her head in her hands.

“Did you know about this?” he asked.

Susan nodded.

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me!?” He shouted and took a step towards her, he was still a bit pumped up from before.

“Because it’s a waste of time!” She quickly stood. If she could get nose to nose with him, she would. “He doesn’t agree with my profile!

He’s going to start a manhunt for Townsend! And we’re running out of time!”

Michael took a step back. “Susie, you should have told me,” he said sternly.

Susan sagged, “I know, I don’t know why I didn’t.” She looked at him, “What are you going to tell him?”

Michael sighed, “The truth.” He went to his room and grabbed the key card off the night stand. Everyone was still standing when he returned.

“I’ll do what I can,” he bent down to give her a quick kiss. “This isn’t over,” he said before he closed the door behind him.

Susan sat back down on the bed.

“Susan?” Mulder asked carefully.

She didn’t respond right away. “Sit down,” she said.

“Why is Williams starting a separate investigation?” he asked.

“Because he thinks I’ve flipped my lid.”

“Why?” Scully asked as she sat down at the table.

“Because I don’t believe that Townsend is responsible for these murders.”

Mulder looked confused. But Scully spoke his thoughts.

“How can you say that when his fingerprints are all over the murder weapons?”

Susan looked pleadingly at Mulder as understanding washed over him.

“He doesn’t fit the profile.” He whispered.

Susan nodded.

“And you don’t see him.”

She nodded again.

“Holy shit,” he said, “Why didn’t I see this right away.” He sat down on the coffee table.

“Mulder, what are you talking about?” Scully asked.

Susan got up and went over to the closet. She pulled out a leather briefcase, opened it and handed a manila folder to Mulder.

“That’s my profile.”

Mulder scanned it quickly, ‘Disorganized, extremely violent, obsessed with control, low self esteem, abusive childhood, history of animal mutilation, sadistic fantasies, history of a sexual paraphilia,’ it went on and on. He continued to scan until he found the defining characteristics; ‘white male in his late 20’s, early 30’s.’

“She’s right,” Mulder whispered.

“What?” Scully asked.

“She’s right,” he said again, stronger this time. “I was having trouble with my profile and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

Townsend doesn’t fit.”

“I guess you didn’t take my advice,” Susan said.

“What advice?” Scully asked. It was like they were speaking in code.

Mulder stood and walked over to hand her the folder.

“Susan asked me to write a profile, ignoring the forensic evidence.

She told me to write it as if we didn’t have a suspect.”

“But we do,” she replied.

“But he didn’t do it.”

“How can you say that?” she asked.

Mulder glanced at Susan.

“Dana,” Susan said. “I haven’t been completely honest with you.”

Scully frowned. “What haven’t you told me.”

Susan looked out the window, wincing at the brightness of the sun. It had finally stopped raining. How ironic, she thought.

“Susan,” Mulder prompted.

“Do you know what she’s talking about?” Scully asked Mulder.

He nodded.

“Will someone please fill me in,” she was getting aggravated again.

Susan turned her back to the window. “I know Townsend is not responsible for these murders, the same way I know you saw your father in your living room the night he died.”

PART 13

Scully paled considerably and sagged back in her chair.

“What are you talking about?” Mulder asked, looking from Susan to Scully.

“She knows what I mean.”

“Scully?” Mulder asked softly.

Scully opened and closed her mouth a few times before she could respond. There were tears in her eyes. “How do you know that? I never told anyone,” she said in a small voice, her eyes wide.

Susan slowly approached the table. She spread her hands out in front of her and spoke as soothingly and as carefully as she could. “The same way I know your favorite color is red, but you don’t wear it because you don’t like the way it clashes with your hair. That your first real kiss was at 16 with a boy named Chris.” She smiled. “You had a huge crush on him.”

Scully didn’t move, Mulder silently watched.

“That you still wonder if your father approved of your decision to join the FBI and give up medicine. Why you guard your feelings so fiercely; you don’t want to be hurt the way Ethan hurt you. How you cried the entire weekend after Emily died. Why you acted the way you did in Philadelphia. Why you didn’t like Diana Fowely.” She paused to look at Mulder. He was staring at Scully.

“I know you never told Mulder how much pain you were in before your cancer went into remission.” Susan leaned close and spoke so softly that only Scully could hear her. “And how you feel about Mulder.”

Scully reacted as if she had been slapped.

“Who the hell are you!?” She yelled.

Mulder placed his hands on her shoulders, trying to calm her down.

“Scully, it’s OK.”

“It’s all right, Mulder, I knew she would react this way.” Susan said.

Redirecting her attention to Scully, she put her hand out. “I couldn’t understand what I felt each time I touched you, but I think I finally figured it out.”

“What are you talking about?” Mulder asked.

Scully looked down at Susan’s hand as though it was the most vile thing she had ever seen.

“You felt it,” Susan explained. “You felt me each time I touched you.

No one has ever done that before.” Her hand was still extended.

Scully looked up, her eyes cleared briefly.

“That’s right,” Susan said. “That sense of warmth you felt, the feeling of butterflies in your stomach, that’s me. You know what I’m talking about.”

Scully didn’t respond.

“What do you mean she feels you?” Mulder asked.

Susan looked at him out of the corner of her eye, she didn’t want to take her attention away from Scully.

“You’re more open than you think you are,” she said to her.

Scully started to shake her head as she rose out of her chair.

Susan took a step forward.

“Don’t come near me,” Scully warned.

“Dana,” Susan cried. “I know you believe me, you’re just afraid to open up to anyone.”

Mulder extended his hand toward Scully. “It’s OK, Scully, I freaked out the first time, too.”

Scully looked at him, betrayal written all over her face.

“You knew about this and never told me!” Her voice started to rise.

Susan slumped down in a chair, she rested her forehead on her hand and rubbed her face.

“I couldn’t tell you,” he pleaded.

“Why not!?”

“Because she trusted me,” he implored.

Scully was speechless, the fight flew out of her. She looked over at Susan who suddenly looked like a defeated woman. She was sitting forward in her chair, resting her head in the cradle of her arms.

Scully sat down again.

The room was so quiet the only noise was the sound of traffic from the LIE. No one moved or spoke for several minutes Scully hesitated before she asked carefully, “do you get that kind of information with every one you meet?”

Susan raised her head, her eyes were tired as she responded slowly.

“Only with people I have had contact with. If I don’t touch you I only get faint vibrations. I can tell what you’re feeling; whether or not you’re telling the truth,” she explained. “I can also show others what I see.”

Scully nodded considering Susan’s answer. “But not everyone can feel you?” she asked.

“I only know of two people who can sense my emotions,” she glanced at Mulder, “And that’s because I let them.”

Mulder looked down. Scully wasn’t lost on their exchange.

“But I don’t feel what you are feeling,” she said, confused.

“No, you don’t,” Susan responded. “But you sense my energy.”

A small smile formed on Scully’s face, Susan smiled as well.

“You sound like Melissa,” she said.

“Thank you,” Susan said softly.

Scully reached across the table and rested her hand close to Susan’s.

Mulder looked up at the movement. Susan watched her, but Scully’s attention was focused on her hand.

“That warmth, that feeling of static electricity,” Scully asked and looked up. “That’s you?” Her voice was full of wonder.

Susan nodded, but didn’t speak.

“If no one has ever sensed that without your letting them, why do I?”

she tilted her head in question.

“I said, I only know of two people who can sense what I’m feeling.”

She let out a breath. “You are the only person I know who can feel *me*.”

Scully crinkled her eyebrows in confusion.

“Everyone has their own electrical current, right?” Susan asked.

Scully nodded.

“Some believe it is the soul, or aura,” she glanced at Mulder, returning her eyes to Scully, she continued, “That’s what you feel.”

“I feel your aura?” Scully asked skeptically.

Mulder laughed.

Scully gave him a look and he sobered quickly.

Susan chuckled.

“I don’t know what to call it,” Susan explained. “You feel my energy.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

Scully picked up her hand and held it over Susan’s. She paused inches from contact, suddenly uncomfortable.

Susan sensed Scully’s apprehension and looked over to Mulder, then behind him to the clock on the night stand. It read 4:13. Susan stood and Scully pulled her hand back.

“Mulder,” Susan said. “Why don’t you go in Mike’s room and order an early dinner for us.” It wasn’t a question.

Mulder appeared momentarily confused, but rose anyway. He glanced at Scully and realized Susan was asking for privacy.

“You’re entrusting your health to me?” he asked with a smile.

“I’m sure you’ll make the appropriate choices,” Susan said. She approached Mulder and shoved him through the doorway.

He turned suddenly. “Be gentle with her,” he said with affection.

“I’m always gentle,” she said mischievously and closed the door in his face.

Susan leaned back on the door, looking at Scully. “Dana?” she asked, “Do you want to get more comfortable?”

Scully turned in her chair to face her. A smile crossed her lips. “Why does that sound like a line?”

Susan smiled and let her head hang down. She snorted. “It did sound like that, didn’t it?” She looked up. “I just meant that…”

Scully interrupted her. “I know what you meant.” She got up out of her chair, slipped off her shoes and sat cross legged on the bed.

“Mike and Mulder are the only ones who know about this,” Susan said as she slowly stepped toward her.

Scully looked uncomfortable again.

Susan sat down opposite her with one leg bent and the other hanging off the side.

“I feel like I’m 19 again and on the couch with Tommy Hamilton,” Scully said with a nervous laugh.

Susan gave her a lopsided smile. “In some ways, this can be more intimate than sex.”

Scully took a deep breath and released it.

“If it makes you feel better, you’re the first person I told this way,” Susan said.

“How do you mean?” Scully asked.

Susan clasped her hands, cracking her knuckles. “Well,” she said.

“Mulder was my first,” she paused, looked up and smiled. “I mean, not my *first*, but he’s the first person I ever told.”

“And you were in love with him,” Scully added.

“Yes, and it turned out to be a very interesting weekend.” Susan grinned.

Scully looked at her hands. “Have you told him?”

Susan frowned.

“Mulder. Have you told Mulder how I feel about him?”

Susan shook her head. “I never tell anyone what I read from other people.”

“Why?”

“It’s not right,” she said simply.

Scully nodded. “Why was Mulder your first?”

Susan turned to look at the closed door that led to Michael’s room.

“It felt right, I loved him, and trusted him completely. I still do.”

Scully continued to look at her hands.

“Mulder feels things very deeply, deeper than anyone I’ve ever met.”

“And you let him feel what you’re feeling?” Scully asked.

“Well, that was something I had no control over.”

Scully looked at her.

A self deprecating smiled crossed Susan’s face. “Let’s just say that I lost complete control of myself that weekend.” She paused to rub her forehead. “And it, ah, left some residual side effects in Mulder.”

“What kind of side effects?” Scully asked curiously.

Susan squirmed. “I don’t think I should tell you all of them, but I will tell you that because of it, he is a tad empathic. If someone needs help, he feels obligated to help them, because he can feel a touch of what they’re feeling.”

“That’s why Mulder’s drawn to lost souls?” Scully asked.

Susan nodded.

“You won’t tell me what else you did to him?” she asked with a smile.

“Hopefully you’ll find out for yourself.”

Scully looked up.

“With Michael it was a conscious decision,” she said ignoring Scully’s reaction.

“How so?”

“It’s different with Michael,” Susan said. “Mulder can only sense my stronger emotions. Michael senses everything, but only when he touches me. But when I’m upset, he can pick up my emotions from the other side of the room.”

“Why?”

“Because I opened completely to him.”

“Why?” Scully asked again.

“Because I knew right away that he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”

Scully nodded.

“Why are you telling me all this?” Scully asked.

“First, it’s only fair,” she said. “Second, and most importantly, I trust you.”

Scully quietly considered her words.

“Look, you’re tired and you’re hungry.” She patted Scully’s leg as she got up. “Let’s see what Mulder ordered for us and talk about this later, besides, we seemed to have gotten a bit side tracked.”

Scully got up and followed Susan to the door. “We did kind of forget about the case, didn’t we.” Scully said.

“Yeah, sorry,” Susan said with a smile. “I have a tendency to be easily distracted. It’s a bad habit.”

Scully opened the door, finding Mulder sitting at the table with enough food to feed four hungry lumberjacks.

“Jesus, Mulder, who are you trying to feed, the Dallas Cowboys?” Susan said eyeing the food.

“No, just the cheerleaders.”

“I don’t cheer for you anymore, Mulder, you’re going to have to be your own pep squad,” Susan looked at Scully who was trying to hide a smile.

The Marriott

Room 1129

5:56 PM

“Holy Christ, Susan, you ate the whole thing,” Mulder said amazed.

Susan leaned back in her chair and propped her feet up on the table.

“Hey, I like pie,” she said.

“Yeah, but you ate the whole thing!”

“I like chocolate cream pie, besides, Dana ate all the ice cream!”

Scully paused, the spoon inches from her mouth. “Hey, don’t bring me into this.”

“But I really wanted some of that,” he whined.

Susan looked down at her plate, there was a glob of chocolate left.

She scooped it up with her finger and presented it to him, daring him to take it.

Mulder’s smile vanished. He eyed her finger warily, but made no move to take it. Next to him, Scully shifted and placed her spoon into the empty bowl. She suddenly wanted to be someplace else.

Susan’s eyes darted to Scully. She returned her gaze back to Mulder, smiled and put her finger in her mouth.

She got up to go to the bathroom. As she passed Mulder she put her hand on his shoulder and leaned down to speak into his ear. “Smart move, Mulder.”

When she returned, she found Mulder and Scully cleaning up the remains of their dinner and dessert. They were moving around comfortably.

Susan stopped to observe them.

Scully picked up the empty ice cream bowl and placed it on the food cart. She turned to go back to the table, but Mulder blocked her path.

She stepped to the right, so did he. She stepped to the left, but he did, too. They both stopped and smiled. Mulder placed his hands on Scully’s shoulders and gently moved her to the left. Scully bowed her head and smiled shyly. Mulder walked past her, his shoulder just touching hers. Scully brushed her hair back from her face to tuck it behind her ear, she was still smiling when she reached for the pie plate.

“Mulder, I never knew you liked chocolate cream pie,” Scully said, dropping the plate on the cart.

“Sweet Potato pie is my favorite, but chocolate cream runs a close second,” he responded.

Scully looked down at the smear of chocolate Susan left on the plate, a strange expression on her face. Mulder came up behind her.

“Hey, you OK?” he asked.

She turned around to face him. “I’m fine.”

He frowned.

“No, really,” she assured him. “I’m feeling pretty good.” She rested her hand on his forearm.

Mulder nodded. “Did everything go OK in there with Susan?”

Scully wet her lips in a nervous gesture. “It went…” she trailed off. “It’s just unnerving to have someone know you so well.”

“I know,” Mulder said. “But Susan’s a good person. She would never betray a confidence.”

“For some strange reason, I know that; I trust her.”

“Good,” he said. “I want you to like her.”

“I do.”

Mulder smiled and reached out to finger her cross, then moved to straighten the clasp. “Can I ask what she told you?”

Scully looked at him, pondering his invasion of her personal space, then smiled. “She told me she left, what did she call it? ‘Residual side effects’ in you,” she said coyly and reached out to fix the collar of his shirt.

Mulder released her necklace and swallowed audibly. He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “What did she tell you?” he croaked.

Scully grinned at his discomfort (so did Susan). She patted his cheek.

“Don’t worry Mulder, she wouldn’t tell me the sordid details,” she said and walked back to the table.

Mulder sighed, turning to face her he asked, “did anything happen?”

Before Scully could answer, Susan strode further into the room. “It’s OK, Mulder, I left her a virgin.”

Scully snorted.

Mulder looked confused.

“I didn’t show her anything,” Susan clarified. “I didn’t want to dump everything on her at once.”

“Thank God for that,” Scully said under her breath.

The Marriott

Room 1130

20 minutes later…

“He’s been gone a long time,” Mulder said looking at his watch.

“I know,” Susan responded.

“He was a little pissed,” he added.

“I know that, too.”

Mulder dropped Susan’s profile and ran his hands through his hair.

“Why is Williams starting a separate investigation?” he asked.

“I thought you were in charge of the investigation,” Scully said from her place at the desk.

Susan carefully placed her pen on the table and looked up from her paperwork. “He still believes in orthodox police work.”

“The horror,” Mulder laughed.

“Shut up Mulder,” Scully chided.

“He believes that because Townsend’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon, then he must have committed the crimes,” Susan said.

“But you don’t,” Mulder said.

“Didn’t we already cover this?” Susan asked a bit annoyed.

“OK,” Scully said as she rose from her chair. “You said he wants to start a manhunt for Townsend, but it’s a waste of time.”

Susan nodded.

“And Mulder, you said he doesn’t fit the profile.”

Mulder nodded.

“Why?”

“Well, first of all the profile is for a white man in his late 20’s, early 30’s. Marcus Townsend is a black man in his 40’s,” Mulder said sarcastically.

“Profiles have been wrong,” Scully said.

“But I haven’t,” Susan said.

“Yes you have,” Mulder pointed out.

“Three times! I’ve been wrong three times!” Susan said, her voice starting to rise. “And each time it was because someone was suppressing the evidence!”

Scully sat sideways on the bed. “OK, Susan. Calm down,” she said.

Susan removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes. “Sorry, I’m just *really* tired of having this conversation.”

“How do you know you’re right?” Scully asked.

“I don’t see Townsend,” Susan said quietly.

“What do you mean you don’t see him?”

“I mean, that when I pick up the evidence or touch the body, I don’t see Townsend.”

“Do you mean you see a picture of another man?” Scully asked.

“It’s not like that,” Susan said. “I’ve touched things Townsend has touched. He has his own signature, his own residue. Everyone does. And when I touch the evidence from this case, I don’t feel Townsend’s signature.”

“What do you feel?” Scully asked.

“I’m not sure, it’s hard to explain.” Susan got up to refill her glass of ginger ale. “It’s all kind of jumbled. I’ve never had that happen before.”

“What do you mean?” Mulder asked.

“It’s not clean. It’s like there’s a buffer between him and me.”

“Do you think he’s like you?” Mulder asked.

“I told you, Mulder, this is not an X-File,” Susan said sounding annoyed again.

“All right,” Scully said slowly. “Can you explain the buffer? Maybe it will help us understand why you are having such trouble.”

“I *can’t* explain it, that’s the problem.”

Susan sat next to Scully, drained her glass then placed it on the night stand.

Scully extended her hand to Susan. “Can you show me?” she asked.

Mulder stood. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Scully.”

Susan looked at Scully’s hand. “I don’t know, Mulder,” she said.

“Because she’s never done it before, she might get a clearer vibration.”

Mulder shook his head. “It’s too dangerous, you don’t know how she will react to it.”

“I’m in the room,” Scully said irritated. “And I can make my own decisions, Mulder. I want to do this.”

“And you are a bit more open,” Susan said to Scully before she glanced at Mulder. “Besides, you’re tainted,” she said.

“Tainted how?” Mulder asked.

“Residual side effects,” Susan reminded him.

Mulder frowned.

Scully bumped Susan’s arm with her elbow. “Will you show me?” she asked again.

Susan shifted so that she was facing her. “This can be a little intense,” Susan warned.

“I’m ready whenever you are,” Scully said with false bravado.

Susan raised her hand palm up. She looked at Scully, then at her hand.

“It will be easier if you come to me. You will know when you make contact.”

Scully started to place her hand in Susan’s.

“Wait.” Susan put her other hand up, halting Scully’s movement.

“Mulder, sit behind her” He complied. “Now, if you start to feel uncomfortable, just pull back,” she said to Scully. “Mulder, don’t touch her until she releases my hand or until I tell you to.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Just do it. When it’s over you will help ground her.”

“OK”

Susan lowered her hand and gestured for Scully to continue.

Scully took a deep breath and put her hand in Susan’s.

PART 14

Susan tenderly gripped Scully’s hand.

“I don’t feel anything,” Scully said.

“I know.”

“No, I mean I don’t feel *anything*, not even what I felt before.”

“I know, that’s because I’m consciously blocking you,” Susan explained.

Susan took a deep breath and relaxed a little.

Scully stiffened. “OK, I felt that.” A sense of warmth flowed through her and ended at the pit of her stomach where it intensified.

“Shhhh, be quiet and relax,” Susan whispered, closing her eyes. Scully closed hers as well.

Susan slowed her breathing as she mentally visualized one of the knives from the crime scene. She turned it around in her mind and focused on the handle of the knife, concentrating on the images it invoked in her.

Susan’s gripped tightened.

Scully grimaced.

Mulder watched the exchange with fascination. He had never seen it, only experienced it. He knew it could be highly erotic if Susan intended it to be that way. But what he was observing still seemed extremely intimate.

Scully’s eyebrows dipped as she frowned. A bead of sweat formed above her upper lip and her mouth opened slightly, her breathing quickening.

Mulder found himself becoming slightly aroused.

The rest of the room disappeared to Susan as relaxed completely.

A moan escaped Scully’s open mouth. Suddenly Susan’s hand clamped tightly as the muscles in her arm flexed.

What felt like a bolt of electricity flowed through Susan’s hand into Scully. Pain radiated up Scully’s arm into her chest. A white light flashed before her closed eyes as all the muscles in her body cramped.

She gasped. It felt as if all her neurons were firing at once. Scully remotely wondered if this is what a seizure felt like before all conscious thought left her.

Suddenly images flooded Scully’s mind. She saw impressions of a knife coming down imbedding itself in the chest of a body. She physically reacted. It came down again and again. Each time Scully’s back arched as if it was stabbing into her. She cried out in pain.

Mulder stood. Scully’s body was reacting violently as if she were being tortured. His heart pounded. Susan was pulled forward each time Scully pulled back. Susan’s knuckles were white with tension, her face a painful grimace. Her teeth clenched.

Susan was aware of what was happening, but couldn’t stop it. Her whole body was rigid. It was as if she were being electrocuted. Her limbs would not respond to her commands. She tried to mentally pull back, but she couldn’t.

Scully stopped moving and started making strange sounds in her throat.

In her mind, she saw a rope being tightened around a woman’s neck. The woman was begging for her life, pleading for sympathy. It was answered with a laugh.

Mulder’s panic grew as Scully stopped breathing, her body flaying. He started screaming for Susan to let go, but she didn’t respond.

He reached a hand out, remembering Susan’s warning not to touch Scully, but her lips were starting to turn blue from loss of oxygen.

“SUSAN LET HER GO!!” he yelled.

Susan let out a groan but didn’t physically respond.

Scully started to convulse. Her eyes fluttered open, but only the white was visible, her eyes were rolled back. Her free hand went to her throat, trying to pull off an invisible binding.

Mulder ignored Susan’s warning. Reaching out, he grabbed Scully’s wrist and then Susan’s. He pulled with all his strength, but he couldn’t get their hands apart.

Susan cried out as her eyes opened. Mulder released his hold on their wrists and Susan’s hand finally relaxed. Susan fell back, falling off the bed as Scully fell back against the pillows.

Mulder jumped on the bed cradling Scully in his arms. He searched for a pulse and found it beating rapidly. Her breathing was labored and she was wheezing slightly. Her eyes were open, but her expression was blank.

“Scully,” Mulder spoke softly. “Come on, come back to me.”

He ran his hand down her cheek, but he got no reaction.

“Come on! Scully!” He shook her gently, but still nothing.

Susan laid sprawled on the floor. Her mind cleared and the room swam before her eyes. She moaned and sat up. Bad move. The movement caused the room to spin faster. Distantly she heard Mulder’s voice, but the words wouldn’t register. Her head pounded violently. She moaned again.

Slowly her senses came back and the furniture stopped moving. She reached out for the bed and pulled herself up to her knees. What she saw before her almost killed her.

Mulder was cradling Scully’s non-responsive body in his arms. His head was buried in her neck and he was sobbing. She heard him murmuring `Scully’ over and over.

“Mulder?” Susan said as she reached out to get his attention.

Mulder pulled back before she could touch him.

“DON’T TOUCH HER!” he screamed, his face wet with tears.

“Mulder? What happened?” Susan asked, as she started to panic. She couldn’t remember what just took place.

“DON’T TOUCH HER!!” he yelled again.

“MULDER, WHAT HAPPENED?!” She shouted.

Mulder crawled back on the bed away from her, pulling Scully with him.

“YOU!” he screamed. “YOU DID THIS!”

Instantly, her memory flooded back. Her face drained of its blood as she sputtered. She fell back, dragging the comforter with her. She drunkenly tried to stand and slammed into the dresser, knocking over the items on top. The bottle of perfume Michael had given her crashed to the floor.

She tried to speak, but nothing came out of her mouth. Susan finally regained the ability to stand as she started to cry.

“I..,I..” she stuttered. “I don’t know what happened.”

Mulder pulled Scully closer to him, she was still non-responsive, but her breathing was even.

“I, I lost control.” She took a step forward.

“Don’t come near her,” he growled, his eyes were wild.

His hatred hit her like a bullet.

Susan stumbled back. She slipped on the broken glass and fell, shards slicing her left hand. She yelped and brought her hand to her chest, soaking her shirt with blood.

Mulder didn’t move, his attention focused on Scully.

“Dana?” he asked, hoping the use of her first name would bring her around. It didn’t work. He was caressing her brow, crying uncontrollably.

Susan struggled to stand and backed away.

“I’m sorry,” she said. Mulder didn’t respond. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.” She said over and over until she reached the door. She flung it open and fled down the hall.

Michael turned the corner and Susan collided with him. The impact knocked him against the wall. Susan scrambled to her feet, still cradling her hand against her chest. The front of her shirt was now completely soaked red. Michael reached out to grab her, but she reacted by slamming him against the wall. Michael’s eyes widened at her strength.

“DON’T TOUCH ME!” she bellowed.

She took off down the hall so fast that she was already at the stairs before Michael brought himself to his feet. He tried to run after her, but when he opened the door to the stairs she was gone. Michael pulled open doors on three floors before he started back up the stairs.

His feet thudded down the hall to his room. He ripped the door open and hollered at Mulder.

“WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED HERE?!”

Mulder was rocking Scully back and forth in his arms. “She won’t wake up,” he said, his voice laced with tears. “She won’t wake up.” He brought his face back to her neck and he sobbed.

Michael was glued in place.

Suddenly, Scully groaned.

Mulder’s head shot up and Michael ran to the bed.

“Scully?” Mulder pleaded.

Her face scrunched and she groaned again.

“Mulder, let her go,” Michael commanded.

Mulder ignored him.

“MULDER! LET HER GO!” He commanded again and grabbed Mulder’s shirt to pulled him off of her.

Mulder started to fight him. “LET ME GO!” He brought his fist back and punched Michael square in the jaw. Michael’s head snapped back, but he didn’t release him. He tightened his grip and lifted Mulder off his feet. He stepped forward until Mulder’s back connected roughly with the wall. The force caused Mulder’s head to smack the wall, but he continued to struggle.

“MULDER!” he yelled. He did it again, finally getting his attention.

“You have to let her come back by herself. You can’t touch her, she doesn’t need the extra stimulation!”

“HOW THE HELL DO YOU KNOW!!” he shouted, struggling again.

Michael slammed him against the wall again.

“Because the same thing once happened to Susan!”

Part 15

He continued to struggle until Michael’s words sunk in. After a minute of thrashing around, Mulder stopped moving, his eyes widened and he raised his hands in surrender. Michael released him, letting him fall to the floor.

Michael walked over to Scully who was lying prone on the bed, her breathing was steady. She looked as if she were sleeping.

“We should take her to the hospital,” Mulder said as he picked himself up.

“And tell them what?”

“I don’t know, but she needs medical attention.”

Michael turned suddenly and Mulder stepped back. “What the hell are they going to do? They won’t even know why she’s unconscious.”

“We have to do something!” Mulder shouted.

Michael took a step forward as he spoke. “The best thing for her is rest and to be left alone. Her system has been overloaded. She will come around on her own. Now tell me what the hell.” He stopped abruptly when he heard a crunching sound under his shoes. He looked down and saw glass all over the carpet and a lot of blood. His eyes scanned the floor until they rested on Mulder’s shoes. He looked up at him and Mulder stumbled back, terrified. Michael’s expression was one of barely contained rage.

“What the hell happened here?” he said slowly, his voice a low growl.

“I…, I…, I don’t know,” Mulder stuttered. The back of his knees hit the coffee table, forcing him to sit.

Michael approached and loomed over him. “That’s Susan’s blood.” He pointed behind him, the tendons on his neck clearly visible.

Mulder was breathing quickly, his heart was pounding. The fight or flight instinct was starting to take over.

“She knocked into the dresser, I think she fell and cut her hand,” he explained.

Michael leaned down, his breath fanned Mulder’s face. “What happened,” he asked again. “And I want the whole story.”

Mulder gulped. He tilted his head back so he could look at his face.

“She was telling us about the problems she’s been having with the case,” he said quickly. “Scully suggested that Susan show her what she was seeing. Then it all went to hell.”

Mulder stood, causing Michael to stand back. He watched Mulder pace as he relayed the events leading up to Michael’s arrival. His body language was erratic; he was pointing and gesturing wildly.

Mulder paused and looked at Michael, his face pale, mouth open. “I yelled at her. I told her it was her fault. I hated her for it,” he finished in a small voice.

Michael stormed forward; Mulder scrambled back. “I was upset! Look at her!” Mulder yelled, indicating Scully.

Michael grabbed him by the shoulders and slammed him so hard into the sliding closet doors that they fell off their tracks. Mulder grunted in pain.

“YOU THINK SHE MEANT FOR THIS TO HAPPEN!?” Michael screamed. “YOU THINK SHE MEANT TO HURT HER!?” He tossed him to the floor like a rag doll. Mulder had enough sense not to fight back. If he did, he knew Michael would surely pulverize him.

Mulder stayed on the floor, looking up at him. “NO! NO!”

“WHERE DID SHE GO!?”

“I DON’T KNOW, SHE TOOK OFF!”

Michael reached for him, but stopped when Scully groaned. Both men froze. Michael backed off and went to Scully’s side, Mulder quickly followed. Her eyes were open, but the pupils were dilated.

“Scully?” Mulder asked.

She murmured, but didn’t respond.

“Hey, Scully. Can you answer me?” Mulder reached out to stroke her cheek, but Michael caught him before he could touch her.

“Don’t,” he said quietly.

“Mulder?” she asked, her eyes looking from side to side as if she were searching for him.

“I’m right here, Scully.” He sat down next to her on the bed.

She finally found him and she smiled, then frowned.

“What?” Mulder asked. “What’s the matter?”

“Why am I in bed? And why do you look so frightened?” she asked sounding very sleepy.

Mulder glanced at Michael who shook his head.

“It’s OK, you just relax,” he said trying to keep her calm.

She stared at him in confusion, then grinned. “OK,” she said then passed out.

The Marriott

Room 1121

10:01 PM

“Good evening. I’m Jeff Feldman. And I’m Lisa Scott. And this is Channel 12, Long Island News, Evening Edition. We open tonight’s program with what is hopefully a break in the case of the Long Island Slasher. At a press conference held this evening, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Melville Field Office, Andrew Williams, said he has identified the perpetrator as Marcus Townsend of Commack.”

“Yes, Lisa. Tonight the FBI released a photo of Marcus Townsend, a convenience store clerk at the 7-11 behind me. He is on probation for attempted murder of this man, Roger Gunther, a known drug dealer in Commack. Townsend shot Gunther in what was described as a drug deal gone bad in 1992. Special Agent Williams describes Townsend as a black male, 43 years old, 6’2″, and weighing 190 pounds.”

“Marcus Townsend is a violent man and if you see him, call 911 immediately. Do not try to approach him yourself. He is armed and considered extremely dangerous.”

“If you have any information about Marcus Townsend, please contact your local precinct or you can call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-555-TIPS, all information will remain confidential.”

Mulder muted the television and tossed the remote on the coffee table.

He leaned his elbows on his knees, rubbed his face and ran his hands through his hair. The light from the TV was the only illumination in the room.

He glanced over at Scully, who was resting peacefully in her own bed.

Michael and Mulder had moved her when she came around again. Michael thought it would be wise for her to wake up in her own room. She was still a bit out of it, but she knew who she was and who they were.

Mulder rose from the couch, his knees popping slightly. He stood looking down at her, rubbing his tired eyes. He looked up when the door to his room opened and closed quietly.

“How’s she doing?” Michael asked when he walked to the adjoining door.

“She’s sleeping. She woke up again about a half hour ago looking for Mr. Wubby,” Mulder responded as he approached Michael who stepped back to allow Mulder to enter.

“Who’s Mr. Wubby?” Michael asked.

Mulder shrugged. “Beats the hell out of me.” Mulder closed the door behind him and switched on the light. “Any news?”

Michael sagged onto the bed. “Nothing.”

Mulder sat on the coffee table, facing him.

“I found blood in the stairway and some in the parking lot.” Mike stood quickly. “And she took your car.”

“My car?” Mulder asked, “Why’d she take my car?”

“She wouldn’t be able to shift our car,” Michael explained.

“How’d she get the keys?”

“You got me,” Michael paused. “I have no idea where the hell she went, either. I checked the house; I was only greeted by the dog. I even called her cousin, Mary, in East Hampton, but she hasn’t heard from her.”

“Has this ever happened before?” Mulder asked, watching Michael pace.

“Which part?”

“Both.”

“No,” he quickly responded. “You and I are the only ones she has ever shared with,” he said as he sat down again.

Mulder nodded.

“And she’s not one to take off,” he said, shrugging off his jacket.

“Susan loves a good argument.” He smiled. “Besides, she also knows how pissed off I would get. Like that would stop her,” he finished quietly.

“Was she bleeding badly when you saw her?” Mulder asked.

Michael sighed. “Enough to soak the front of her shirt. It’s a wonder her feet aren’t cut as well.”

“Maybe she went to the hospital.”

“She would have called me.”

“Maybe she couldn’t,” Mulder suggested.

The two men sat quietly, contemplating the carpet. Michael reached into his pocket for his cell phone and called all the hospitals in the area. No one remembered seeing a woman of Susan’s description.

“She’ll come back on her own,” Mulder said as Michael threw the phone down on the bed.

“She’d better.”

“You said that what happened to Scully once happened to Susan,” Mulder asked, trying to distract him. “When?”

Michael sighed and stood. “It’s not exactly the same thing, but it happened when she was six. She doesn’t remember it. Her aunt told me,” he said. “You know her parents were killed in a car accident, right?”

Mulder nodded. “Hit by a drunk driver.”

“Well, Susan was with her Aunt Cathy when a cop came to tell them. He had just come from the scene. From what I’ve learned, it was pretty gruesome.” He leaned on the dresser and crossed his arms over his chest.

“As he was talking, Susan started to cry. The cop, thinking he could calm her, leaned down to hug her.” Michael stopped and chewed on the inside of his cheek. He looked at the floor as he continued. “As soon as the cop touched her, she started screaming ‘NO’ over and over. She was hysterical. She started to struggle against him, trying to get away. He thought she was reacting to what he’d told her and held on tighter. He could never have known that she was probably seeing the accident through the cop’s eyes.” Michael’s voice cracked on the last word.

“Oh my God,” Mulder whispered.

“Yeah,” Michael said, clearing his throat. “Her aunt told me that she tried to calm Susan down, but she wasn’t responding to anyone. She was screaming for her mother and father, flailing around. It was horrible.

Finally, she passed out from exhaustion. She was completely gone for five days. Nothing, it was like she was in a coma.”

Mulder was silent. He never knew. He couldn’t even imagine what that must have been like. What he remembered of his sister’s abduction paled in comparison. For a six year old to see how her parents died.

Jesus! Thank God she doesn’t remember it. He suddenly felt very ashamed about the things he said to her.

“She woke up when everyone backed off; left her alone,” Michael continued. “Her doctor couldn’t explain it. He said she must have had a seizure. There was tremendous brain activity; it was like she short circuited.”

“That’s probably what happened,” Mulder said. “She couldn’t handle what she had seen and her body reacted the way it did in order to protect her. That’s probably what happened to Scully.”

Michael nodded. “That’s what I think, too.”

“Susan doesn’t remember anything?” Mulder asked.

“Nope,” Michael replied. “She thinks she was sick and unconscious for a few days. I don’t want to tell her.”

“I don’t blame you. But she can’t pick it up from you?”

“Maybe she unconsciously doesn’t want to.”

Mulder reached over, grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. After a few minutes of channel surfing, he clicked the mute button.

“Williams held a press conference tonight, he released photos of Townsend.”

“I know,” Michael said. “That’s one of the reasons why he wanted to see me. I tried to convince him to give us more time, but he wouldn’t listen to a word I had to say. I don’t even know why he asked to see me.”

Mulder shook his head.

Old footage of Present Clinton appeared on the television.

“Hey,” Michael said pointing to the TV. “Did Susan tell you we met him?”

“No,” Mulder said. “When did that happen?”

“It was during the Flight 800 investigation. Susan and I were involved. Actually, I think every agent in New York took part in it.”

“Were you involved with the recovery?” Mulder asked.

“Hell, no, I refused to let Susan anywhere near the actual site. I think that was the only argument I ever won with her,” he said with a wry smile.

“What happened with Clinton?” Mulder asked after a few minutes.

“He came down to Grumman to look over the wreckage, acting like he was really interested in the reconstruction.” He paused to rub his cheek.

The stubble made scratching noises. “He was prancing around, playing the part of the good politician, shaking everybody’s hand.” Michael suddenly grinned.

“What?” Mulder asked, smiling in spite of himself.

“Susan refused to shake his hand.”

Mulder’s smile widened.

“He offered his hand to her and she looked at it like he just stuck his dick out.”

Mulder laughed. “Might as well have.”

Mike chuckled. “Yeah.”

“Boy, I could just see you getting pounced by the Secret Service, because you decked the President,” Mulder said laughing harder.

Michael was laughing, it was a deep, full, belly laugh. “I would have, too. I have a tendency to get a little overprotective when it comes to Susan. I don’t care who you are.”

“I know how you feel,” Mulder said, his laughter dying down.

Michael quieted. He looked over to the closed door then back to Mulder. He raised his eyebrows in question.

Mulder shook his head. “It’s not like that.”

“Sure it isn’t,” Michael responded.

Mulder pretended he didn’t hear him.

Michael pushed himself away from the dresser and reached for his jacket and cell phone.

“I’m going to look around again, check my messages. Maybe she called me.”

Mulder watched him.

“Let me know when Dana wakes up. I want to talk to her.”

Mulder stood to walk him to the door. “I’ll call you.”

“Thanks,” Michael said, grabbing his arm before Mulder could close the door. “I’m sorry I roughed you up before.”

Mulder smiled. “Believe me, I understand. Besides, I think I should apologize for that bruise on your jaw,” he said indicating the purple mark in front of his ear.

“This?” Michael said, touching the spot. “I’ve had worse.” He turned to walk down the hall to his room before Mulder could respond.

Michael pulled his card key out of his pocket, slid it into the lock and opened the door. Leaving the lights off, he glanced at the phone as he passed it, he had no messages.

Michael pulled off his tie and emptied the contents of his pockets on the dresser. He ran his hands through his hair and sighed loudly.

After tossing his shirt on a chair, he sat down on the bed and removed his shoes and socks. He laid back, covering his eyes with his hands, doing his best to relax.

He was lost. He had no idea what happened or why Susan lost control.

He was sure Mulder didn’t help much by reacting the way he did, but he couldn’t really blame him. He knew he would have probably reacted in a similar way. God, he almost killed him.

“Damn it!” he yelled to the empty room. He didn’t know what to do; where to look. She had better come back soon, or he was going to go out of his mind.

He sat up looking around in the dark and settled on the closed door to the next room. He saw that there was a light coming from under it.

He stopped breathing, and realized the noise he heard was not the blood pounding in his ears, but the sound of the shower running.

He practically ripped the door off its hinges opening it and peeked inside. He pushed it further when there was no sign of Susan. The room still reeked of perfume, but the remains of the broken bottle had been cleaned up earlier.

Her clothes were strewn about the floor in front of the bathroom. He picked up Susan’s shirt. It was covered in dried blood. His heart was in his throat when he opened the door to the bathroom.

What he saw made him sag against the frame.

Susan’s form could be seen through the frosted doors of the shower.

She was leaning under the spray, one hand against the wall, the other clutched against her chest. Her head was hanging forward and she was sobbing.

PART 16

Michael slowly walked into the bathroom. He glanced at the counter.

Various first aid supplies were haphazardly thrown on it, along with the remnants of a plastic bag.

As he reached to open one of the shower doors, Susan’s head rose.

Michael was blasted with steam when he looked in.

Susan was trying to get her crying under control, but she was failing miserably. Michael unbuttoned his trousers, pulled them and his boxers off at once and joined her in the shower.

“Mike,” Susan said, her voice hoarse from crying. “Could you please just give me some time to myself.” She was still facing the wall.

“I think you’ve had enough time,” he replied in a soothing tone.

She turned to him, looking down at the floor. Her tears were mixing with the spray from the shower. Michael took a step towards her and put his hand out to touch her face. She looked startled and took a step back.

“Please don’t,” she said. “I don’t want to hurt you.” Her back connected with the wall and she suddenly looked like a trapped animal.

Michael knew enough not to push her and dropped his hand.

“You’re not going to hurt me. You could never hurt me.”

She shook her head, “I hurt you in the hall.” He had a hard time understanding her, she was crying in earnest again.

“No you didn’t,” he said, chancing another step forward.

“I DID!” she yelled.

“I’m fine. See?” He reached out to touched her cheek. “Just fine.” He slid his hand down her neck to her shoulder and pulled her to him. She fell into his arms, sobbing into his chest. He wrapped both arms around her and cradled her head against him, rocking her gently.

He murmured soothing words into her hair and held her as her body shook.

“I almost killed her,” Susan said, her voice muffled.

“No, she’ll be OK,” he rested his cheek against her hair.

She shook her head.

“She’s OK,” he said again. “She just needs some rest.”

“God, Mike,” she said as she looked down. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. “He hates me,” she whispered.

“No, Susie, he doesn’t hate you,” he caressed her check.

“Yes he does,” she rested her forehead on his chest. “I felt it.”

Michael sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “He doesn’t hate you,” he said again. “He was just upset. You can’t blame him for reacting.”

She pushed herself back. “Yeah, he reacted to something I did! I almost killed her! No wonder he hates me!” She was crying again.

“No, he doesn’t!” He stressed every word. “She’s going to be OK. If you want when we’re out of here, you can go see her.”

She wrapped her arms around him again. He held her as she cried. After a few minutes Susan took a few deep breaths and stepped back. His hands were at her waist.

She sniffed loudly and looked up, she frowned when she saw the bruise on his jaw.

“What happened?” she asked, caressing the spot with her right hand.

“Mulder and I got a little overzealous,” he smirked.

“Oh, Mike, you didn’t hurt `im, did you?”

He shrugged. “He’s all right.”

Michael took hold of her left wrist. It was wrapped in gauze and covered in a plastic bag. He looked at her.

“It’s OK. I only had 7 stitches.” She wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“You went to the hospital!?” His voice rose on the last word.

Susan winced.

Michael did his best to calm himself. “Why didn’t you call me?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t want to face you.” She looked up, starting to cry again she said, “I’m sorry.”

Michael closed his eyes and tugged her to him. “Jesus, Susie. You scared the hell out of me.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Just don’t do it again.”

She nodded.

“Which hospital did you go to? I called every one around here and no one remembered you,” he asked when she pulled back.

“Stony Brook.”

“I called there.”

“It was pretty busy and I paid with my credit card. I didn’t want it to get back to the Bureau.”

He nodded. “What did the doctor say?”

“He said it could be worse. And you know how I bleed.”

“Are you OK?”

She sniffed. “I will be. Dana?”

“She woke up a few times. She was coherent, but Mulder told me she asked for Mr. Wubby once.”

Susan smiled through her tears. “Mr. Wubby was her security blanket when she was little. She used to sleep with it. It kept the nightmares away.”

“Makes sense why she asked for it.”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s get out of here. We’ll talk more when you’re dry.”

Michael reached out for a towel while Susan turned off the shower. He quickly dried himself off and slipped on his boxers. Susan started to step out, but Michael stopped her.

“Wait,” he said.

“What?’ she asked, confused.

“Come on, it’s not very often you let me do this, but let me take care of you,” he pleaded.

She rolled her eyes and smiled. He smiled back and she laughed. “Oh all right, if you must.”

He grinned like an idiot and she laughed again.

“Good,” he said. He put his hand out and she moved to put her right hand in his, but he shook his head.

She frowned.

“Give me you’re other hand.”

Susan gave him her wounded hand and he examined it closely.

“Why did you cover it with a plastic bag?”

“The doctor told me not to get it wet.”

He nodded. “When do you have to get the stitches out?” he asked as he picked up the scissors she left on the counter and proceeded to cut the surgical tape that bound the bag to her wrist.

“I don’t, they will dissolve on their own. I have to see my doctor as soon as I can for a follow up.”

“We’ll get you there as soon as we get things back to normal.”

She snorted. “As normal as things can be for us.”

He finished cutting off the tape and the bag, then very delicately removed the gauze covering the stitches. He winced.

“Jesus, that must hurt like a sonofabitch.”

“I don’t feel anything yet, I got four shots of lidocaine.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah, now *that* hurt like a sonofabitch.”

He replaced the gauze and re-wrapped her hand. Then he picked a towel off the rack and dried her. She laughed when he threw it over her head to dry her hair, then yelped when he picked her up and carried her out of the bathroom.

“I can walk, Mike.”

“I know, indulge me.”

Michael unceremoniously dropped her on the bed and she bounced a few times. He searched her drawers and pulled out a T-shirt and underwear.

“Here, put these on and I’ll call for something to eat. I’m starving.”

“Trying to cover me up?” she asked as she pulled the shirt over her head.

He grinned. “You know I would rather have you naked, but I want you to tell me what happened and I don’t want to be distracted.”

He didn’t hear her reply as he walked into his room to order a late dinner for himself and a light snack for Susan.

When he returned, Susan was sitting cross legged on the bed and combing her hair.

He sat opposite her. “OK, now tell me what happened.”

She sighed and dropped the comb. “I’m not exactly sure what happened.

We were discussing the case…”

He cut her off. “Mulder explained that much to me. Why did you lose control?”

She frowned. “I didn’t lose control so much as I was distracted.”

“Distracted how?”

“You know how I skim your memory as I’m showing you something, like a pebble skipping on the surface of a lake?”

He nodded.

Susan played with the cuticles on her fingernails as she spoke. “Well, Mulder told me a while ago that Dana had some gaps in her memory, so I was expecting to hit a few snags on the way.” She paused to move some pillows behind her so she could lean back. She was about to continue when there was a knock at the door, indicating Mike’s dinner had arrived.

He held up his hand. “Hold that thought.”

He came back carrying a tray with a pitcher, two glasses, a huge sandwich for himself and a bowl of dry cereal for her. He set it down in between them and he motioned for her to continue. He couldn’t speak, he had a mouth full of food.

She stared at him. “Hungry?”

He nodded vigorously. “I haven’t eaten since breakfast,” he said around his food. He swallowed. “Keep going.”

She continued to stare. “You’re a pig, Mike.”

He smiled. “Yeah, that’s why you love me.”

She exaggerated a sigh. “Anyway. Mulder told me that Dana had some periods of memory loss, so I had prepared for that before I met her, just in case.”

“OK, but if you already knew, then what happened?” He poured a glass of water for himself and Susan.

She took a sip. “I hit some gaps that were relatively small, but they didn’t really affect me. I just adjusted accordingly. As I started to relax and concentrate on what I read from one of the murder weapons, I hit another patch of memory loss. I expected the same thing to happen as with the others, but this one was different.”

“Different? How?” Michael asked. She had to interpret what he said.

Fortunately she understood the language of `talking with your mouth full’.

“I can’t really explain it. Some people remember more than others, thus they have more locations for me to skim, some don’t remember much at all, so the process is quicker. But with Dana, I hit a gigantic void.”

“A void?”

“Yeah,” she said, frowning. “It’s hard to describe. The memory gaps visually appear as black spots. When I skim past them, it’s like that rock skipping, I just bounce over it, but with this void…” She stopped speaking for a moment to collect her thoughts. She looked up at him. “It was awful.”

“How?”

She shook her head. “Instead of just bouncing over it, I got caught and what I felt was so powerful.”

Michael put down his sandwich. “Caught? I don’t understand.”

“Mulder told me a few years ago that she was abducted, that she was missing for about three months and remembers nothing which is partially true. She remembers bits and pieces, but that’s not what screwed me up.”

“What did?”

“It was the feelings during it.” She rubbed her face. “God, Mike. The things that she felt, they…, they were horrible.”

“I don’t understand, if she doesn’t remember that period, how does she remember the feelings?”

“I don’t know, but.” She looked up with tears in her eyes. “It’s what nightmares are made of.”

PART 17

The Marriott

1:58 Am

April 6

Room 1122

The light flashed green on the lock as Susan pulled the key card out and put it in her back pocket. She gently turned the knob and slipped inside the room.

She kept the lights off as she walked to the sleeping form on the bed.

She noticed that the adjoining door was wide open and smiled to herself about his concern.

The light from the window was enough for her to see that Scully was resting peacefully as Susan stood next to the bed looking over her.

Scully’s face was relaxed and her breathing was regular. She was lying on her back, the blanket pulled to her chin.

Susan sat carefully so as not to awaken her and placed her hand on Scully’s forehead. She closed her eyes and concentrated. Images flashed through her mind as she ran through Scully’s current thought processes. Visions of memories merged with recent events indicating to Susan that Scully was dreaming. She reached further into Scully’s consciousness looking for any damage to her thinking. She didn’t move and barely breathed for many minutes. Finally, Susan slid her hand to Scully’s cheek, opened her eyes and smiled.

“She’s going to be all right,” she said looking over to the adjoining door where Mulder was silently watching. He was standing with his arms crossed over his bare chest, a worried look on his face.

Susan removed her hand and stood.

“How did you get in here?” His voice was even.

As an answer, Susan reached into her back pocket and held up a key card.

“How did you get that?”

A glimpse of a smile appeared on Susan’s lips. “From the guy at the front desk. You should know by now that I can be extremely persuasive when I want to be.” She slowly walked towards Mulder as she spoke, stopping a few feet before him.

He looked down and jerked his head toward her hand. Susan raised it so he could see it.

“It’s not that bad, I’ve had worse.”

Mulder nodded. He looked behind her to Scully, then back to Susan.

Susan turned to look over her shoulder. “Dana has quite a bit of fight in her.” She turned back to Mulder. “It’s going to take more than a mind fuck to break her.”

Mulder stared at her for a few moments before he moved back into his room. Susan silently followed him, closing the door behind her. Next thing she knew, Mulder grabbed her upper arms and pulled her into a fierce hug. He held her so tight her back cracked causing her to grunt. Susan wrapped her arms around his neck, and rested her head on his shoulder, her face against his skin. Mulder kissed her temple and rested his cheek against the side of her head. They swayed back and forth comforting each other with their presence.

No words were spoken, they were not necessary. Mulder didn’t have to say how he felt, Susan already knew and Mulder sensed Susan’s deep regret for the events that occurred.

Susan absently wiped her eyes, catching the stray tears that rolled down her face as Mulder did the same.

“OK, Mulder, cut it out. You know that I could never stand it when you cried.”

Mulder chuckled. “I was about to say the same thing to you.”

Susan stepped back so she could look at him. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Ever since you came here, I’ve been crying a hell of a lot more than I usually do.”

“I have that effect on women.”

Susan laughed, but her expression changed when she noticed the large, purple mark on Mulder’s right shoulder. She touched the spot and looked up at him.

“Michael?”

He nodded.

“Mulder, I am so sorry.”

“We just got a little rough. Remind me to never play football with him.”

Susan smiled. “He was a Linebacker for Notre Dame. Won the Heisman trophy in his junior year, uses it as a paperweight.”

“Jesus, Susan, you should’ve warned me! Talk about your Fighting Irish,” Mulder exclaimed.

Susan laughed and flopped down on the bed. Mulder followed her. His face grew serious when Susan winced as he brushed her hand.

“Susan?” he asked. “What the hell happened?”

Susan sighed and sat up. “That seems to be the big question.”

“Is Scully going to be OK?”

Susan nodded. “She’ll be fine. She might be a little sensitive to me for a bit, but it won’t last long.”

“No side effects?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t share anything with her other than the impressions I received from one of the knives. I didn’t open to her.”

“If you didn’t show her that much, then why did she react the way she did?”

Susan scooted around so she was facing Mulder as he rose to a sitting position.

“Remember when you spoke to me about her abduction?”

Mulder nodded.

“Well, her memory loss is more profound than I anticipated and the little bit she remembers contains intense feelings. They were overwhelming to me and I was blinded.”

Mulder looked confused.

“I didn’t want to show her everything I picked up from the murder weapon because I wasn’t sure how she would react to it. The visions I get sometimes can be quite horrific and if you’re not used to it…,” she trailed off.

“So she was blasted with images from the murder?”

“No, she became the victim.”

Mulder’s eyes widened.

“She now knows what it’s like to be stabbed and strangled to death.”

Her voice cracked slightly.

“Oh, my, God.”

“I lost my grip when a piece of memory emerged. Combine that with the emotion I was getting and I slipped entirely.”

Mulder didn’t know what to say.

“I heard you yelling but it was as if I was lost in a fog, I couldn’t tell what direction your voice was coming from and I was getting so bombarded with her emotions from her abduction and from what she was experiencing from the murder, that I started to panic. I don’t really remember what happened after that.”

Mulder rubbed his eyes. “I tried to pull you apart, but it didn’t help. Suddenly you opened your eyes and released her hand. I think you fell off the bed.”

Susan nodded. “That explains the lump on the back of my head,” she said as she rubbed the spot. “The next thing I remember is…” She looked up at him, tears pooling in her eyes. “How much you hated me.”

A tear rolled down her cheek.

“God, Susan,” he said reaching for her. “I’m so sorry.”

She pulled away. “NO, you had every right to feel that way! I mean, you had no idea what happened!” She stood up. “All you knew was that Dana was unconscious and I was fine.”

“But I know that you would never intentionally hurt her.”

Susan dropped back on the bed, looking up at the ceiling.

“Now, you said that the memories and the emotions during her abduction are what threw you?” he asked after a few moments. “Does that mean that she remembers more than she thinks she does?”

She nodded.

“Could you help her remember more from her abduction?”

“I could help her remember all of it.”

Mulder was about to respond but was interrupted by a quiet knock on the adjoining door.

Mulder jumped off the bed and ran to the door. Scully was standing with a blanket draped over her shoulders.

“I heard voices,” Scully said.

Mulder grinned and hugged her. Scully stiffened and made no attempt to return the embrace. Her eyes were wide and she looked shaken. Susan’s eyebrows raised and a small smile spread across her face.

Mulder pulled back, keeping his hands on her shoulders. His brow was crinkled with concern.

“Are you OK, Scully?” he asked. She didn’t respond, just continued to stare at him.

Susan quickly got up. “It’s OK, Mulder.” She peeled his hands off of her. “She’s just going to be a little sensitive for awhile.”

Mulder released her and stepped back. Scully relaxed considerably.

“How do you feel?” Susan asked.

Scully’s expression returned to normal. “I’m f…,” she started. “I feel a little strange.”

Susan nodded. “That’s to be expected. It’ll go away,” she said. “How much do you remember?”

Scully pondered her question for a moment then responded. “I remember all of it.” She absently rubbed her neck.

Susan lead Scully back into her room and sat her down on the bed.

Mulder silently followed.

“Do you remember asking for Mr. Wubby?” Susan asked.

Scully blushed and looked down. “No, I don’t remember that. But I do remember what happened to that poor woman.” She looked up at Susan.

“Do you get that with all murder weapons?”

Susan nodded grimly.

“How can you live with that?” Scully asked.

“I’ve gotten a little used to it.” Susan sat on the coffee table. “As used to it as I can.”

Scully wet her lips and scratched her forehead. She looked over at Mulder. “Are you OK?”

Mulder laughed. “Yeah, Scully. I’m OK. Now.”

Scully continued to look at him. Susan fidgeted and Scully returned her attention back to her.

“What happened to your hand?” She asked as she got up to kneel in front of Susan so that she could examine her hand.

“I cut myself.”

“Did you fall on something?”

“Yeah,” she gasped when Scully touched a tender spot. Scully dropped her hand as if she was burned.

“Sorry,” Susan said. “The lidocaine has worn off.”

Scully frowned. “It felt like *I* was in pain.”

Susan glanced at Mulder. “You will be a little in tune with me for awhile. It will go away when you can get some more rest.”

“I don’t have to worry about side effects?”

Susan grinned. “No, that won’t be a problem. I didn’t share with you what I shared with Mulder.”

Scully nodded, understanding.

Mulder cleared his throat, looking uncomfortable. Susan chuckled.

Scully sat back on her heels. “Why was I in bed?”

Susan opened her mouth to respond, but Mulder beat her to it. “We think you were overloaded and your body needed to rest so that it could catch up with what you saw.”

Susan frowned.

Mulder glanced at her. “At least that’s what Michael and I think.”

Scully rose, returning to her place on the bed. “I guess that makes some kind of weird sense.”

Mulder smiled. “It’s not one of my stranger theories, but it works for now.”

Scully looked at Susan who appeared to be lost in thought. “Susan?”

Susan’s head snapped in Scully’s direction. “Huh?”

“Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

Mulder shook his head. The uncomfortable silence was broken by the ringing of the phone in Mulder’s room.

“Excuse me,” he said as he went to answer it.

Scully leaned in and spoke softly to Susan. “When Mulder hugged me,” she paused to look towards Mulder’s room. His voice was muffled. “I felt strange.”

Susan smiled.

“What the hell was that?” she asked urgently.

Susan moved forward so that her face was inches from Scully’s. Her eyes were bright and her smile widened. “That,” she said. “Is how love feels.”

Part 18

“SHIT!” Mulder slammed the phone down and stormed back into Scully’s room. He stopped abruptly. Scully and Susan were inches apart from each other, looking like girls sharing a secret, except that neither of them was speaking. Susan had a smug grin on her face and Scully looked as if she had just seen an alien herself.

“Susan?” Mulder asked timidly.

Susan broke eye contact with Scully and slowly turned her head in Mulder’s direction. Her smiled vanished.

“Um, that was Michael,” he said pointing his thumb over his shoulder.

“He got a call.”

Susan’s head sagged down. “They found another one.”

Mulder didn’t respond. He was too busy watching Scully. She still hadn’t moved.

Mulder approached her. She was starting to scare him.

“Scully?” He went to touch her shoulder with his fingertips but before he could make contact, Scully moved back. Mulder frowned and took a step forward. “Is everything OK?”

Scully stood up so quickly, her blood pressure didn’t have the chance to catch up and it caused her to stagger. Mulder grabbed her shoulders trying to steady her, but Scully reacted violently and lost her balance falling on the bed.

“MULDER!” Susan wrenched Mulder’s arm, turning him around. “Go get dressed. Michael and I will meet you back here in 10 minutes.”

Mulder didn’t move.

“DO IT!”

He hesitated for a second. Chancing a glance at Scully, who was now standing and straightening her clothes, he nodded and stalked into his room, slamming the door behind him.

Susan turned to Scully. “Dana, you can’t react like that. It’s just going to make him hover and I don’t think you could handle that now.”

“Are you serious?!” she asked incredulously. “How the hell do you expect me act?”

“Look, Dana,” Susan sighed. “I know this is a lot to take in at once, but we have a job to do.”

Scully stared at her, mouth open, her chest raising and falling rapidly. She blinked a few times, mentally shook herself and stood up straight.

“You’re right. I’m sorry,” Scully said.

“Good,” Susan said. She smiled, looked at the closed door leading to Mulder’s room then back to Scully. “Just try to act normal.” She sighed. “I promised him I wouldn’t say anything. Man, he’s gonna kill me.”

Scully watched her pull the door open and leave. She jumped when Mulder knocked on the adjoining door and peeked inside.

“Can I come in?”

Scully put her hand on her brow, massaging her temples.

“Yeah, Mulder. You can come in.”

Mulder pushed the door open and stepped inside. He was wearing black jeans, a gray T-shirt and a black leather jacket. His hands were stuffed in his pockets. He gave her a questioning look.

Scully shook her head. She picked up her ID and gun from the nightstand, then moved to get her jacket.

“Scully what are you doing?”

She stopped in the middle of putting on her jacket and frowned. “I’m getting ready to go?”

“No, you’re not.”

“I’m not?”

“You need rest. You are in no shape to go anywhere.”

“Mulder, I’m fine and I’m going,” she said in a tone that left no room for argument.

The Marriott

Room 1130

Susan had removed her sweats and was in the process of pulling on her jeans. She was struggling with the zipper. “Dammit!” She walked into Michael’s room holding her sneakers. Michael was shrugging on his shoulder holster.

“I can’t zipper my jeans with my hand like this.”

Michael stopped what he was doing and gave her a strange look.

“Don’t say it.”

“Susan, there’s something I didn’t tell you.”

“Uh, Oh. Why do I suddenly feel that what you have to tell me has nothing to do with keeping my zipper down?”

Michael smiled in spite of himself. “We can talk about keeping zippers down later. Right now I have something important to tell you.”

Susan sat on the bed. Her jeans gapped open revealing black lace.

Michael was momentarily distracted. He put his hand out and indicated for her to stand. When she did, he knelt down.

“When I was called into Melville yesterday, Williams had some news for me.” He zipped her up and snapped the button. “Sit.”

She quietly complied.

He took the sneakers and proceeded to slip one on. Tying the laces, he continued. “He wanted to tell me that he is taking an active part in this case.” He put the other sneaker on. “And that you are no longer in charge.” He finished and looked at her.

“He pulled me off the case.”

Michael nodded.

“Then why are you helping me get dressed?”

He smiled. “Because I know that wouldn’t keep you away from the crime scene.”

Susan reached out and cupped Michael’s jaw with both hands. She leaned in close to him. “Damn right it won’t,” she murmured before she kissed him.

Michael pulled away after a few moments. He licked his lips and stood.

“Come on, let’s get going.”

“Let me just go grab my hat and jacket,” Susan said. She went in her room and returned wearing her FBI windbreaker and a tattered, old New York Mets hat.

“I don’t know why you still wear that thing,” Michael said holding the door for her. “The Yankees, now there’s a team.”

Susan walked past him. “Don’t mess with my Mets or you can sleep with Ruffus when we get home.”

Michael laughed. “Yeah, but he sleeps with *us*.”

William Floyd Parkway

Ridge, NY

Enroute

3:45 AM

The car sped past the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Michael and Susan were in the first car with Mulder and Scully following in theirs.

“Are they sure this is our guy?” Susan asked.

“Rick said it matches our M.O.”

“But all the other murders took place in C.I. Ridge is about 15 miles east. I wonder why he decided to change towns,” Susan said, thinking out loud.

Michael didn’t respond. He was too busy watching the road, making sure he didn’t hit any deer. William Floyd Parkway is pitch black at night.

“Maybe he’s getting bored,” Susan said.

“Maybe.”

There were lights up the road. It looked like something out of a bad sci-fi movie. Complete darkness surrounded a ball of bright light.

“That must be the crime scene,” Michael said.

“Is it me or does that look really weird?” Susan asked.

Michael nodded. He pulled up next to a patrol car and cut the engine.

They quickly exited.

Mulder and Scully joined them as they passed under the crime scene tape.

They headed directly for the body that was laying in a patch of wild flowers the town planted. It was a shame that such beauty was marred by the gruesome sight.

“What have we got here?” Susan asked the young agent standing near the body.

“ASAC Halloway,” he sounded surprised to see her. “What are you doing here?”

“Jim, just tell me what you’ve got.”

Jim looked behind Susan at Mulder and Scully. Michael was standing off to the side looking around. “It looks like the others, Ma’am,” he said looking down at the body. “Stab wounds to the chest, strangulation by a rope.”

“Did he leave anything?” She asked, never once looking at the body.

“Yes, ma’am.” He reached down. “We found a knife and this.” He held up a large object wrapped in plastic.

Susan put her hands out and Jim gave it to her. At closer examination, she realized it was a crowbar. “Jesus Christ!”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Jim agreed, taking it back.

Scully came up beside her, glancing at the offending tool. She shook her head grimly.

Susan turned to the body. She couldn’t be more than 25. “Do we have an ID?”

“No Ma’am, not yet.”

All of a sudden there was commotion at the edge of the crime scene. A man’s voice was yelling and he sound extremely pissed off. Susan groaned and rubbed her eyes.

“HALLOWAY!!!” SAC Williams was marching in their direction.

Susan shoved her injured hand in her pocket, clenching her teeth in pain. She pivoted on her heel and came face to face with a very angry Williams.

“What the hell are you doing here!” he demanded. “I thought I told that partner of yours you were off this case!”

A condescending smile appeared on Susan’s lips. “You did sir, but I just wanted to hear it myself.”

The innocent tone seemed to make him more angry. “Fine, then, you heard it, now get the hell out of here!”

“Sir, you have no right to remove me from this case!” Susan said taking a step toward him. The innocent act vanished.

“As your superior, I have every right.”

“Just because I am not investigating this case the way you see fit does not give you cause!”

“So, I should just let you go on your hunches?!” he shouted. “You are completely ignoring the evidence!”

“Because the evidence is wrong!”

“Where did you get that from? A feeling?”

Susan silently counted to ten. “Sir, Townsend is not the man we are looking for! You are wasting your time!”

“Halloway, I am not having this conversation with you again. I have taken over this investigation and am relieving you of duty.”

“You’re suspending me?” Her voice betrayed her disbelief.

“Damn right I am.”

“Under what grounds!?”

“Under the grounds that you have forgotten how to investigate a crime and your unprofessional conduct with your partner!”

“YOU SON OF BITCH!” Susan shouted. Her voice reached Michael and he started toward them.

“My relationship with Agent O’Sullivan is not an issue here and you know it!”

“Then I suggest you get your pretty little ass out of here before I make it an issue!” Williams countered. “Now be a good girl and do as you’re told,” he finished in a condescending tone.

“You megalomaniacal bastard!” Susan reached for him, but Scully grabbed her arm. Susan pulled her arm free. Out of the corner of her eye she could see that Mulder was doing his best to keep Michael from Williams. Susan glanced at Scully who was clearly agitated, but doing her best to keep herself under control. Susan took a deep breath and returned her attention to Williams. Her voice was like ice. “If you continue this avenue of investigation, you are never going to catch this bastard and his victims’ blood will be on your hands.”

“Agent Loper,” Williams said to Jim. “Could you please make sure Agent Halloway finds her car?”

Jim gulped and nodded.

Susan leaned into Williams. “I just have one question, sir,” she said softly. Williams tilted his chin up. “Whose dick did you have to suck to get promoted?”

Williams’ face turned red. Susan smiled sweetly at him and allowed Jim to take her arm and lead her away.

“That’s it, Halloway! You are suspended without pay!”

Susan turned suddenly, causing Jim to lose his grip on her arm. “FUCK YOU!” She shouted loud enough for everyone at the scene to hear and stormed off. Scully quickly ran after her.

Williams faced Michael who was now being hugged by Mulder in an attempt to keep him from killing the man. “O’Sullivan you are still on this case and I expect you to assist as I see fit.”

Michael stopped struggling with Mulder. He squared his shoulders. “Go to hell…, Sir,” he growled and walked away. Williams watched him go.

“And you!” he said to Mulder. “You’re career is already in the toilet, I suggest you go back to Washington before you make things worse for yourself.”

Mulder looked at him. “Sir, you are not my superior and I have been threatened by men much bigger than you,” Mulder said calmly. “Agent Scully and I have some vacation time saved up, so as the lady said, Fuck you!”

Susan was almost at her car when an EMT knocked into her right arm.

Her hand brushed against him, and she gasped.

“Excuse me,” he said looking at her for a moment then heading toward the body.

Susan halted and spun around. Her face was ashen. Her heart was pounding and she couldn’t catch her breath. Finally her body caught up with her brain and she started to run after him, but was stopped by Scully.

“Susan, no!” she said quietly.

“Dana, let me go! That’s him!” she said, trying to get Scully to release her.

“You can’t go after him now, you have no proof.”

“I don’t need proof, I know it’s him!”

“If you approach him now, Williams is not going to let you take him into custody, he’ll go underground and we’ll never find him,” Scully said, sounding very much like the voice of reason.

“What’s going on?” Michael asked as he and Mulder caught up with them.

“That’s him!” Susan said.

The men turned, scanning the crowd. “Who?”

“That EMT!” Susan said, pointing toward the crowd around the body, but the man was no longer there. “Where the hell did he go?” She said breaking free from Scully and running in the direction she last saw him.

Michael, Scully and Mulder quickly followed her, but Susan stopped suddenly.

“He’s gone,” she said looking around frantically.

“ASAC Halloway,” Jim said, walking to her. “SAC Williams has instructed me to remove you from the crime scene or arrest you for interfering with a federal investigation,” he said pleadingly.

“Williams can go to hell!”

“Ma’am, please don’t make me arrest you!” Jim looked as if someone had just killed his dog.

Susan stopped looking around and turned to him.

“Come on, Susan,” Michael said. “He’s gone. We can work from your description.”

Susan reluctantly nodded. “OK, Jim,” she said.

“Thank you, Ma’am,” he said sounding relieved. He looked around. “If you need anything, call me.”

Susan smiled, “Thank you, Jim.” She patted his arm and walked to her car.

Part 19

Diner

Mastic, William Floyd Parkway

8:46 AM

Susan eyed her plate of pancakes. Her stomach rolled with nausea and she pushed it away. She was not in the mood. She didn’t want it in the first place, but Salvator, the owner, insisted she looked too thin.

Susan had gone to high school with Salvator’s son, Carlo and whenever she went to this diner, Salvator took it upon himself to fatten her up. He was a kind man in an overbearing, protective way.

“Sal’s not going to be happy when he comes back and your plate is not cleaned,” Michael whispered in her ear.

Susan smiled and shoved him playfully. He was trying to lighten her mood. She hadn’t spoken more than two words since they arrived at the diner, about 2 hours ago, and it was making him uneasy. She wasn’t one to keep quiet and her silence was a sure sign she was on edge.

Susan knew how Michael was feeling, but didn’t do anything about it.

She hadn’t slept in over 24 hours and she was feeling over sensitive.

Mulder was getting frustrated from being on hold for the last half hour waiting for Skinner. Michael was waiting to hear from Jim, who was supposed to call him back with information about which fire and ambulance companies were dispatched to the crime scene, and was getting antsy. And Scully was just annoying the hell out of her. She was watching her constantly and when she wasn’t, she kept trying to get Susan to take something for her hand, which now was throbbing incessantly. Combine all of this with her own frustration and she was *this* close to pulling out her gun and taking out the breakfast crowd.

“Susan, *please* take something for your hand,” Scully practically begged.

Susan looked at her, but didn’t raise her head. Mulder recognized that expression. It was Susan’s `if you don’t leave me alone, I’m going to rip off your arm and beat you with it’ look. He had been on the receiving end of it more than he would like to remember.

“Dana,” Susan said slowly. “I have told you five times.” She raised her hand, spreading her fingers. “That I do not like the way that medication makes me feel.”

“Then at least take some Tylenol or something.”

“Why are you so concerned about how my hand feels?” she snapped.

“Because *MY* hand is killing me!!!” Scully raised her hand for emphasis.

Susan slumped down in her seat. “Fine, I’ll take some Tylenol,” she mumbled.

Scully smiled triumphantly while she reached in her briefcase for the Tylenol.

Michael leaned in to Susan. “I’m going to have to remember that.”

Susan narrowed her eyes at him.

“Guilt seems to really work with you,” he said smiling seductively.

Her eyes danced, but her face remained neutral.

Michael concentrated on Susan’s favorite sexual position as he rested his hand on her thigh. He knew that if this didn’t bring her out of her funk, nothing would.

Susan’s back straightened and she closed her eyes. Scully suddenly felt very uncomfortable. Susan opened her eyes. Taking in Scully’s flushed face, she swatted Michael’s hand away. She looked across the table at Scully. Her hands were shaking as she gave Susan four Tylenol. Susan had to laugh.

Michael was silently proud of himself. Susan smiled at him and shook her head.

Mulder watched the exchange while he listened to chamber music on his cell phone. His thoughts were interrupted by Kimberly, Skinner’s secretary.

“Agent Mulder?”

“Yeah, I’m here.”

“Assistant Director Skinner will speak to you now.”

Mulder heard a click, then Skinner’s voice.

“Agent Mulder.”

Mulder sat up in his chair. Susan was watching him.

“Yes, Sir.”

“What can I do for you.”

“I would like to request that Agent Scully and I stay here in New York, I think we may have found an X-File.”

Scully frowned at him. Susan smiled.

“What’s it about?”

“I don’t really want to get into it on the phone, but while we were assisting ASAC Halloway on her case, Scully and I may have stumbled onto something.” He wiggled his eyebrows at Scully. She rolled her eyes.

“Did you say ASAC Halloway?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“*Susan* Halloway?” Skinner asked.

Mulder gave Susan a questioning look. She just shrugged her shoulders and leaned back. Michael put his arm on the seat behind her.

“Yes, Sir. Do you know her?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Did?”

“Yes, but that doesn’t matter. You and Agent Scully may stay in New York to pursue your case. I expect a full report on my desk when you return.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Mulder pushed the `end’ button and put his phone back in his pocket.

Mulder looked at Susan. “You know Skinner?”

Susan nodded. “I met him on one of my visits to Washington. I had dinner with him once.”

“Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Mulder said, sounding betrayed.

“Because there really isn’t anything to tell. We went out once, nothing more.”

Mulder turned his head toward the window, clenching his jaw.

Susan looked at Michael, then Scully, who both shrugged.

“Mulder,” she sighed. She put her hand over his. “Nothing happened.”

Mulder glanced down at her hand. He knew she was telling the truth, but didn’t understand why it was bothering him so much. They weren’t involved then and she was a beautiful woman. There had to be more men in Susan’s life other than him and Michael.

“He’s a good man, Mulder. He’s just stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Mulder didn’t answer.

Susan squeezed his hand. “I’m sorry I never told you.”

Mulder could see her reflection in the window. There were dark circles under her eyes, her body language indicated how tired she was.

He sighed and turned to her. He returned the pressure to her hand, trying to let her know he wasn’t really upset.

She smiled.

Michael’s phone rang, his hand shot out to answer it.

“Yeah?” he said into the phone.

“Agent O’Sullivan?”

“Yes, Jim. What’ve you got?” Susan handed him a pen as he turned the placemat to the blank side. He wrote as he listened.

“Thanks, Jim. You’ve really helped us out.”

Michael could hear the grin in Jim’s voice as he answered and hung up.

“OK, we’ve got three fire departments and two ambulance companies,” Michael said.

“I’ll take the ambulances, you guys divvy up the fire departments,” Susan said reaching for her phone.

Everyone passed around the menu as they dialed. It looked like a table full of lawyers; they were all on the phone.

Susan finished with her first call, finding nothing. She dialed the second number as Michael hung up and shook his head.

“Shirley Ambulance Company, Rich speaking, can I help you?” He sounded friendly.

Susan decided to use a different tactic. She pitched her voice a notch higher than her normal alto.

“Hi. I hope you can help me,” Susan said. “My name’s Susie and I’m lookin’ for somebody.”

Mulder hung up in defeat, watching Susan, the great manipulator.

“Somebody in particular?” Rich asked flirtatiously.

Susan giggled. Mulder put his hand over his mouth to suppress a laugh.

He had never heard that sound come out of her before.

“Yeah, but I don’t know his name. You see, I was in an accident and this really nice guy helped me out. I just wanted to send `im flowers or somethin’.”

“Do you know what he looks like?” he asked, hoping it was him.

Scully hung up. She joined the rest in watching Susan.

“I only got a glimpse, and my memory is a little foggy, but I think he was tall?”

“Could you be more specific? There are a lot of tall men here.”

“OK, he had short, light hair? Kinda thin and I think he wore glasses?”

“Did he have a mustache?”

“Yeah! Yeah he did!”

“That’s Rob.”

Susan moved her hand in the air, like she was writing. Michael picked up the pen.

“Robert?” Susan asked excitedly.

Mulder dialed his phone quickly. “Danny, could you help me find an address in Suffolk County, New York?” He paused. “First name Robert…”

“Yeah, Robert Andrews,” Rick said.

“Robert Andrews?” Susan asked.

“Last name Andrews,” Mulder said. He indicated for her to stall while he waited for Danny to get back to him.

“Are you sure? I really want to thank him for helpin’ me out,” Susan said.

“Yeah, he’s the only guy with a mustache in the place.”

Mulder listened. “There are four Robert Andrews’ living in Suffolk County,” he whispered.

Susan nodded. Her heart was pounding adding a nice rhythm to her hand.

“Hey, does he have a middle initial? I might want to send him a monogrammed somethin’ or other.”

She could hear Rich asking someone in the background.

“C. His middle name is Charles,” Rick said.

“Charles?”

“Middle name Charles,” Mulder said. He waited a second then nodded vigorously. He scribbled an address on the menu.

“Thank you so much, Rich, you’re a life saver!” Susan hung up and looked at Mulder.

Mulder held up the menu. “Robert Charles Andrews,” he said. “27 River Road, Mastic, New York.”

Susan snatched the menu from him as they all stood.

“No more coffee?” Salvator said, coming over to the table.

“No thanks, Sal,” Susan said. “We’ve gotta go. Can I owe you this one?”

Salvator waved his hands. “Don’t worry about it little Susie, I know you’re good for it.”

Mulder smirked.

Susan kissed Salvator’s cheek. He blushed.

“Thanks,” she said, then rushed out the door.

Residence of Robert C. Andrews

27 River Road

Mastic, NY

10:13 AM

Susan took her hat off, finger combed her hair and tossed the hat in the car along with her FBI jacket. Mulder and Scully pulled up behind them.

The neighborhood was quiet, since it was Monday morning. They parked across the street from Andrews’ house, in front of a fenced off wooded area. It was a part of Southaven Park’s campgrounds.

Susan pulled her shirt out of the waistband of her jeans to cover her gun. Michael came up beside her. They took a deep breath and joined Mulder and Scully as they started across the street, looking like an eclectic group of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Susan was wearing a white v-neck T-shirt and jeans, while Michael was in a dark suit, looking as if he could be going to a corporate meeting or a funeral, if there was a difference. Scully was wearing her normal black slacks, white shirt with a few of the top buttons open and a long dark blazer and Mulder was dressed in black jeans, gray T-shirt and a black leather jacket.

They walked in sync up the drive.

The house was run down. There were slats missing from the fence, no curtains in the front window, only a once white, gray blind that was hanging haphazardly. The gray paint was peeling from the shingles and the shutters were dangling, ready to fall. The yard was overgrown, in desperate need of the rusting lawnmower on the side of the house. It looked as though no one was home and hadn’t been for a long time. It was an eyesore compared to the rest of the houses on the road.

They continued up the walkway to the front door. Mulder knocked. Susan already knew no was going to answer. She tried to peer through the window, shading her eyes so that she could see more clearly. It didn’t help, though. The window was too dirty to get a good view.

Susan started around the side of the house to the gate. She pushed it open and looked around the backyard. Michael came up behind her.

“We’re trespassing,” he stated.

Susan looked up at him. “So?” she asked with a smile. “Like we haven’t done this before.”

Mulder and Scully joined them as they entered the backyard.

It was pretty much like the front yard. The grass was overgrown and dandelions grew unencumbered. The trees looked dark and foreboding.

The yard was empty except for rusted lawn furniture and a broken down shed in the back.

Scully walked purposefully down the path, while Mulder kept looking over his shoulder, as if he was expecting someone to jump them.

Susan noticed his apprehension. “Mulder?” Susan stopped to look at him. “I guess it’s been awhile since we’ve done this together.”

Mulder frowned, confused.

“I would know if someone was around ready to kill us,” Susan said sarcastically. “There’s no one here, just relax.” Susan looked at Scully. “You could learn something from Dana.”

Mulder looked over to Scully. She was trying to hide a smirk.

“She only feels relaxed because you are,” Mulder whined.

“Hey!” Scully protested.

Susan rolled her eyes and pulled open the shed door. She was momentarily overwhelmed by the smell of chemicals.

“Whoa,” Michael reared back.

They entered the shed, the door closing behind them. Susan pulled a chain hanging from the ceiling, illuminating a bulb hanging above them. The light allowed them to see clearly.

There were tables along the walls lined with strips of leather and hide. There was also various knives and cutting tools. Scully picked up a nasty looking hooked knife, examining it more closely.

“Tanner,” Susan said under her breath.

“What?” Mulder asked.

“He’s a tanner,” Susan said louder. “These are tanning tools.”

Michael crouched down to get a better look at some chemical barrels on the floor.

“These are tanning chemicals,” Michael said as he stood.

“Is that what we smell?” Mulder asked. “I don’t think I’ll have to worry about my sinuses for a while.”

“No, these are still sealed,” Michael said.

Susan wandered toward the back of the shed where an old iron, claw footed tub covered with a tarp was sitting on the dirty wooden floor.

Scully came up behind her as Susan lifted the tarp. They staggered backward when they were assaulted by an intense chemical smell.

Susan regained her composure first. “Well, we can tell Williams to call off the manhunt,” Susan said dryly.

Michael and Mulder came up behind them.

“Looks like we found Marcus Townsend.”

Part 20

Marcus Townsend was fully submerged face up in the tub. He was tied with his arms behind his back, obviously dead.

Mulder put his hand on Scully’s shoulder and looked over her head.

Scully stiffened, but didn’t react otherwise.

“How long has he been in there?” Mulder asked.

Scully stepped forward causing Mulder’s hand to fall. She pulled a latex glove out of her pocket and slipped it on.

“It’s hard to tell,” she said as she poked Townsend’s cheek. “The tanning chemicals have done a good job preserving him, but his skin has gone soft, rigor mortis hasn’t set in, but it’s been awhile.” She turned to the group. “I can’t be sure without an autopsy.”

“Well, we don’t need to know the cause of death, I think that bullet wound on his forehead is enough,” Susan said.

“I don’t understand. If he’s dead, how are his finger prints on the murder weapons?” Scully asked.

Susan took a deep breath. “I think we should check out the house.”

“What about Townsend? Shouldn’t we call the police?” Scully asked.

Susan shook her head. “The last thing we need right now is radio cars all over.” Susan walked over to Michael who had opened the door to allow in some fresh air. “Besides, I don’t think he’s going anywhere.”

Scully reluctantly obliged and followed them out of the shed with Mulder silently following.

Mulder pulled an automatic lock pick out of his pocket and opened the back door to the house. The hinges creaked slightly as Michael held the door for Susan and Scully.

The back door led to a small kitchen. It was dark and had a coldness about it. A carton of orange juice sat forgotten on the light green Formica counter. The sink was filled with old crusty dinner dishes.

“God, this guy’s a pig,” Mulder whispered as he passed the kitchen table. It’s entire surface was covered in some kind of grease.

“Yeah, makes you look like Martha Stewart,” Scully said wryly.

“Nobody touch anything,” Susan said as she handed out latex gloves to Michael and Mulder. Scully had her own supply. “And Mulder, wipe off the door. I don’t want anything disturbed.”

“Will you still be able to get a vibration with your hands covered?”

Scully asked Susan.

“I get it all over. And yes, I can still feel it through the gloves.”

The group moved to the living room. It, too, was dark and messy. A tattered sofa sat under the windowsill; a scratched coffee table in front of it.

“I think we should split up,” Susan said as she wandered down the hall.

Scully glanced at Michael. “I’ll stay with Susan,” she whispered.

He nodded and followed Mulder into another room.

Susan ran her right hand along the wall as she walked. She stopped in front of a door and opened it. A darkened stairwell opened before her.

“Basement,” Scully stated from behind her.

“Hmmm,” Susan responded. She reached inside the darkness trying to find a light switch. She was rewarded after a moment with a harsh brightness.

“This would be the part when the audience starts yelling at the actors, telling them not to go down into the basement,” Susan remarked.

“Yeah, but in the movies, the lights don’t work,” Scully replied.

“Good point. I guess we don’t have to worry about getting slashed by some guy in a ghost mask.”

“Better to be safe than sorry,” Scully said as she drew her gun.

Susan put her hand on the banister and started down the stairs.

“There’s no one down here,” Susan said.

Scully didn’t respond as she descended.

Susan stepped off the bottom stair. Her foot connected with the concrete floor and her knees gave out as she was overcome with images.

She grabbed the end of the banister, trying to steady herself, but landed hard on her knees when Scully stumbled down the stairs, knocking into her. Susan put out her good hand, stopping her forward movement. She felt the roughness of the floor cut into her latex covered palm as Scully landed beside her.

Scully remained motionless, her eyes screwed shut while Susan tried to gain control. Gruesome visions danced before their closed eyes as voices screamed in agony in the silence of the basement.

Susan was breathing rapidly, groaning in agony, as she saw the latest victim struggling with her captor. He held her down as he sodomized her with a tool. When she lost consciousness, he masturbated in the corner, his eyes never leaving the woman.

Susan gritted her teeth, drew in a deep breath and opened her eyes.

The images vanished. Scully relaxed and sat up.

Susan stood and helped Scully to her feet. Her face was covered in perspiration and she wobbled on unsteady legs. Susan kept her hand on Scully’s arm, hoping to calm her. Scully closed her eyes briefly, she nodded when she felt like herself again and holstered her gun.

The entire basement was empty, nothing indicating the horrors that took place down there.

“He sure doesn’t treat this room like the rest of the house,” Susan said.

“There’s nothing in here.”

“Yeah there is,” Susan said cryptically as she started back up the stairs. Scully watched her retreating form disappear into the hall.

She shuddered and practically ran after her.

“Where the hell have you guys been?” Mulder asked when Scully joined Susan at the top of the stairs.

“We went down into the basement,” Scully replied.

“Well, we’ve been calling you two for the last five minutes,” Mulder said with a bit of anger in his voice. “Why didn’t you answer?”

Scully and Susan exchanged glances.

“We didn’t hear you,” Susan said.

Mulder looked from Scully to Susan, “Come on, I think we found something.” He turned and walked away expecting them to follow.

Mulder led them into Robert Andrews’ bedroom. Michael was standing by a dresser that was littered with small trinkets.

“What do you make of this?” Michael asked as he handed a delicate looking bracelet to Susan.

“It’s Jennifer Rosenberg’s,” she said, putting it down.

“And this?” He gave her a gold hoop earring.

“Elaine Weisman.”

“This?” It was an ornate crucifix.

“Joan Sorrentino,” Susan sighed. “I think we get the point.” As she put the crucifix back on the dresser, her hand made contact with the wood and she froze.

“What is it?” Scully asked.

Susan shook her head. She moved her hand back and forth on the surface. Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Do you feel that?” she asked Scully.

Scully nodded, but Susan wasn’t looking at her.

“What do you feel?” Michael asked.

“I don’t know,” Susan said. She pulled open the top drawer of the dresser. Her breath hitched in her throat.

Scully moved next to her so that she could see inside the drawer. She gasped. Scully reached in and pulled out a dark brown object. She held it up for the men to see.

“It’s a glove,” Mulder stated.

Scully shook her head. She slipped it over her latex covered hand.

“It’s Marcus Townsend.”

“What?” Mulder asked.

Scully turned on the lamp on the dresser and put her hand near it. She pointed to the finger tip of her gloved hand.

“This is Marcus Townsend.”

Mulder just looked at her, completely lost. Michael’s mouth opened as he started to understand.

“He worked Flight 800,” Susan said to no one in particular.

“Huh?” Mulder asked, still not understanding.

“The plane exploded in the air,” Susan explained, “And when they hit the water the impact was so strong that when the passengers were recovered, not all of the bodies were whole. We found many limbs not attached. The only way we could identify them was through fingerprinting.”

“But,” Scully interrupted. “When a body has been submerged in water for a long period of time, the tissue swells, making fingerprinting impossible.”

“So,” Susan continued. “The technician makes incisions around the wrist, and because the tissue is so bloated with water, the skin literally slides off the hand.”

“Then,” Scully said, “He can slip the skin over his hand like a glove, and fingerprint it.”

Mulder felt a little dizzy, but suddenly his eyes widened in understanding. “This is Marcus Townsend’s hand.”

Susan and Scully nodded.

“Robert Andrews killed Marcus Townsend, submerged him in water, and pulled his skin from his hands and made gloves,” Mulder said.

Susan nodded. “Think about it. He’s white, Townsend is black. Andrews is a tanner, so he cures the skin into leather in order to keep it from decomposing. It’s the perfect cover.” She paused. “While we’re out looking for a black man, Andrews is hiding in plain sight watching all the confusion.”

“But he didn’t anticipate you,” Michael said.

Susan smiled. “This is why I have been having such a hard time.”

“Townsend’s skin was acting as a buffer between Andrews and the weapons, blocking you,” Mulder added.

Susan nodded.

“But why didn’t you pick up Townsend?” Scully asked.

Susan shrugged. “Maybe it’s the tanning chemicals. He changed the skin into leather, virtually removing all traces of Townsend.”

“We have to call Williams,” Scully said.

“No,” Susan said strongly. “We are all officially off this case, we have no reason to be here. Me, especially. I don’t feel like losing all the evidence because of an illegal search nor do I look forward to going to prison.” Susan headed toward the doorway. “Let’s watch the house and wait for Andrews to come home. We know he kills his victims here, so we have some time. We’ll confront him when he returns and use the information we obtained today against him. Maybe we can get him to crack.”

“That’s kind of weak,” Michael said.

“It’s the best we have right now,” Susan said as she opened the back door. “I can’t call in any favors for a search warrant because we have no evidence and we’re not on the case.”

As they approached their cars, Mulder turned to Susan. “Look, you guys go get some sleep. Scully and I’ll take the first watch.”

Susan nodded. “OK, but we’ll go get something for you two to eat first, then head out.”

Mulder got into the driver’s side and tilted the seat back so he could recline a little and still see the house. Scully shifted and stared out the window.

They sat in comfortable silence.

About 20 minutes later, Michael and Susan pulled up next to Mulder and Scully’s car. Susan handed Mulder a brown paper bag.

“We’re going to head home, it’s about a thirty minutes from here. You have my number?” Susan asked.

Mulder nodded.

“Good, call me if anything happens. If not, we’ll see you back here at six to relieve you.” She rolled up her window and Michael drove away.

Mulder looked into the bag and handed Scully a bottle of water, a turkey sandwich and a bag of pretzels.

“How’d she know what I wanted to eat?”

Mulder looked at her like she was an idiot.

Scully smiled self-consciously. “Right. What did you get?”

Mulder showed her a bottle of Snapple Iced Tea, Scully smiled, and a Reuben sandwich. He stopped before he brought the last item out.

“She remembered.”

“What?”

Mulder held up a large bag of Davis sunflower seeds.

~~~

Part 21

4:35 PM

Mulder was sitting with his head back against the headrest, his mouth open slightly, sound asleep.

There had been no movement at Robert Andrews’ house and Scully was bored out of her mind. She glanced at Mulder and smiled. He was exhausted. A few sunflower shells were scattered across his chest and on his lap. Scully reached out to wipe the shells away and froze when he shifted, her hand grazing his. A strange sensation passed through her. She quickly pulled away and looked out the window. Her breathing had quickened. He was dreaming and it was interesting.

Scully looked at him and slowly extended her hand again, carefully resting it on his. Feelings of arousal washed through her and she closed her eyes. She ran her tongue over her lips. Mulder let out a sigh and Scully groaned.

Oh, shit, she said to herself, was that as loud as I thought that was?

She slowly opened her eyes to find Mulder staring at her intently.

She started to pull her hand away, but Mulder grabbed it before she could.

“What are you doing?” he asked, his voice a lot deeper than she was used to.

Scully was having a hard time concentrating with her hand in Mulder’s vice-like grip. She opened and closed her mouth a few times but nothing came out, her brain having lost the ability for speech.

“I Uh, I Uh,” she stuttered.

“Are you doing what I think you’re doing?”

Scully tried to pull her hand away again, but Mulder held on tighter.

“Is this why you freaked out when I hugged you?”

Scully finally succeeded in getting her hand away from Mulder and moved closer to the door. The handle dug into her side.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, her voice wavering a bit. She straightened out her jacket, her hands shook slightly.

“The hell you don’t, you were reading me!”

Scully wouldn’t look at him.

“Dammit, Scully! I’ve had it done to me enough times to know how it feels!”

“Look, Mulder,” Scully said, sounding a little stronger. “I’m sorry I invaded you. I had no right to do that.”

Mulder was having a good time watching her squirm. He sat up straighter and turned toward her. He leaned in and spoke into her ear.

“So, find anything interesting?”

Scully stiffened momentarily, but recovered quickly. “I don’t know Mulder, I never knew you had such an affinity for the spin cycle of a washing machine before,” she smiled sweetly at him.

Mulder blushed, but refused to back down. “But did you notice who was sitting on top of that washing machine?”

Now it was her turn to blush.

Mulder decided to strike while she was distracted and grabbed her hand and placed it on the side of his face.

“What do you feel now?”

Scully’s eyes fluttered closed and a soft moan escaped her.

Mulder concentrated on all the times he tried to tell her how he felt.

Without knowing it, Scully had turned toward him and placed her other hand on his face.

Her hand ruffled his hair in the darkness of an underground garage.

She squeezed his hand as he half listened to a guy talk about a lap dance. Mulder sat in helpless agony as he listened to her scream for him. His hands around Duane Barry’s throat, wanting to kill him for taking her away. He sat crying on a hilltop watching a house burn to the ground, her cross in his hand. Mulder walked into her hospital room not able to look at her, afraid he would fall, overcome with relief from her return. He held her close as she cried, not looking at the monster named Pfaster. Trading his `sister’ for Scully. Waking up to her brilliant smile, his pain fading. Hugging her in an elevator after his return from the dead. Secretly loving her jealousy over Bambi and Detective White. Feeling her hand squeeze his while he looked down at Robert Patrick Modell. Joking about having a peg leg.

Telling her she is the only one he trusts while she pointed a gun at him. Wrapping her arms around his head as he rested his cheek against her stomach. Feeling his heart skip a beat when he saw the surprise on her face when he walked into the congressional hearing. Watching her walk into his office, her face and ego bruised. Not knowing if she did or didn’t. His heart hitting the floor when she told him she had cancer. Holding her in a hospital hallway, kissing the top of her head, trying to be strong for her. Seeing her smile over a cupcake with a sparkler sticking out of it. Not knowing how to react when he saw himself leaning over her, inches from kissing her. Almost collapsing when he saw her laying in another hospital bed, knowing she might never leave it on her own. Crying at her bedside, her hand against his cheek. Feeling her around him, joking about raining sleeping bags. Dancing at a Cher concert. Seeing her holding her daughter, wishing she was his as well. Seeing a tuft of red hair sticking out of a body bag, not feeling guilty that he’s happy it’s someone else. Her cheek against his chest, Mulder not able to move as he looked around his flame-ruined office. Almost kissing her in his hallway, then almost losing her before his eyes. Telling her he loved her, then running his fingers over his bruised eye. Wanting very badly to dance with her at that high school reunion. Taking a peek at her body in the decontamination shower. Reaching for her in an ambulance.

Telling her that she is his touchstone, his constant, then the feeling of her thumbs on his lips.

Mulder and Scully were both breathing heavily when they finally opened their eyes. Scully had tears streaming down her face.

“Oh, Mulder.” Her voice was scratchy. She ran her hands down his face and mimicked the last vision. Mulder kissed her finger tips. Her hands stopped at the back of his neck.

Mulder put his hands out and cupped her jaw as she leaned into him.

Their lips met tentatively at first, then stronger as they became more sure of themselves. Mulder wound his hands through her hair, Scully shifted trying to get closer to him, but the seat counsel got in the way. Mulder tilted his head and gripped her tighter. She deepened the kiss, tasting him for the first time. He tasted remotely like sunflower seeds and something she couldn’t quite decipher. She was quickly becoming addicted to that taste.

Scully ran her hand down his back, clenching and unclenching his jacket.

The only sounds in the car were sighs and the occasional moan.

Mulder slid his hands down her side, his knuckles grazed the side of her breasts and she gasped, releasing his mouth. Mulder kissed her face, her neck. She gasped again when his teeth closed over her earlobe.

Scully pulled his head back so that she could look at him. He smiled at her and kissed her forehead.

“Every time I did that I was telling you I love you,” he smiled again.

Scully smiled and tilted his head down. Her lips met his forehead.

She looked him in the eye. “Great minds think alike.”

Mulder laughed. He leaned into her.

Suddenly the back door opened and Susan slipped in.

Mulder and Scully jumped apart.

Michael joined Susan in the back seat.

Susan looked from Mulder to Scully, a ridiculously huge grin on her face.

“Jeez, guys. Did you know the windows are all fogged up?”

Part 22

Susan patted Mulder’s shoulder. “Good going, stud,” she laughed again.

Mulder and Scully hadn’t reacted, they just stared out of the rapidly defrosting windshield.

Michael wiped some steam off the window as a van pulled into Andrews’

driveway. He waved his hand in Susan’s direction, whacking her in the head.

“Ow, Mike. What the hell’s the matter with you?” She looked over at him then past him as Andrews got out of the van. He had a woman with him.

“Shit!” She quickly got out of the car. The rest of them joined her.

Andrews turned to the sound of car doors slamming and instantly recognized Susan from the crime scene. He took off.

“Dammit!” Susan cursed and took off after him. Andrews hopped the fence and ran into the wooded camp grounds.

Susan reached the fence, but couldn’t get over it one handed. Michael came up behind her and boosted her over. She chased after Andrews, not waiting for the rest of them to join her.

She could see him in the distance. He was crashing headlong through the brush. She pumped her legs harder, dodging trees and jumping over fallen logs. She pulled out her gun as she ran. Her heart pounded, her breathing raced, the adrenaline coursed through her veins. The thrill of the hunt was on.

Michael and Mulder ran after her. She was way ahead of them in hot pursuit. Then they lost her completely.

Scully stayed behind to attend to the shaken woman and to call the police.

Susan lost sight of Andrews and quickened her pace. All of her energy was focused on running faster. Tunnel vision was creeping in.

Suddenly Andrews stepped out from behind a tree. Susan saw him after it was too late. He stuck a log out. It contacted with the bridge of her nose and she went down, the back of her head hitting a tree on the way. Her gun flew from her hand, landing a few feet away in the brush.

She hit the ground hard.

Her vision swam before her eyes, but she could see Andrews searching the ground for her gun. She kicked her leg out, hitting him just behind his knee. He cried out.

She tried to get up, but her head was pounding.

Andrews turned, his face a mask of pure rage. He pulled his fist back and punched her in the ribs. He did it again.

Susan drew her knees to her chest, trying to block the blows. She felt something snap and her breathing became labored.

Andrews turned her onto her back. She tried to fight him, but the pain was too much.

He straddled her, his weight pushing against her ribs. She fought him unsuccessfully. He wrapped his hands around her throat and squeezed.

Susan groped at his face, trying to inflict some kind of damage, but she was too weak. She felt a tearing in her hand and distantly realized she had ripped her stitches when her hands slipped off his face, it was wet with blood. Spots appeared before her eyes and she knew that she was losing consciousness.

Scully was doubled over as the police arrived. She was having trouble breathing. The woman Andrews arrived with was leaning over her, trying to help.

The officers ran up to Scully, thinking she was the one in trouble.

“It’s OK, miss,” one officer said trying to soothe her.

Scully shook her head, gasping for breath. She was frantically pointing towards the woods.

“Woods,” she gasped. “They. Went. Into. The. Woods.”

Scully fell to her knees.

Susan was fading fast, tears running down her face. She started to lose her vision and tried again to get a grip on Andrews’ face finally succeeding.

She did the only thing she could think to do. She concentrated on the horrors she had seen in her career and directed them at him. His body stiffened as her hands clenched.

He saw a bullet whizz through the air hitting a man in the chest.

Andrews’ body jerked. A golf club struck the side of someone’s face.

It came down again, and again. Andrews’ head flailed back.

His body shook uncontrollably as a woman was thrown to the ground, her attacker punching her repeatedly as she begged for forgiveness.

Then he saw what he did to those women from their points of view. He cried out in pain as he saw himself brutally sodomize a woman with a crowbar. The rope tighten around her throat and he started to choke.

It ripped into his skin as he stopped breathing.

Susan kept her hands glued to his face as he struggled against the invisible bindings. Suddenly, all of his movements stopped and he collapsed on top of her. Her hands released him and dropped lifelessly to her sides.

Scully was able to breath again when all feeling of Susan left her.

“Oh my, God.” She ripped her arm free of the man trying to help her stand and started towards the woods.

“CALL AN AMBULANCE!!” She shouted as she clambered over the fence. She ran in Susan’s direction, with two police officers following. Scully knew instinctively where she would be.

Mulder and Michael reached Susan first. Michael threw Andrews off of her. He was limp and his face was bloody, as was Susan’s coral blouse.

The area around her eyes was swollen and she had the beginnings of bruising around her throat. He also noticed that the wound on her hand was bleeding freely.

“SUSAN!” He yelled as he dropped down to his knees.

She didn’t respond, she was unconscious.

He searched for a pulse and was greeted by the steady beating of her heart and warmth, but wasn’t getting anything else from her. It was if he was touching a stranger.

Their connection was gone.

“Come on, Susie, talk to me here,” Michael begged, his hands holding her face gently, trying to rouse her.

Mulder finally was freed from his paralysis when Scully and the police came running up behind him. He turned toward her.

“SUSAN!” Scully dropped down beside Michael, ignoring Mulder.

The officers tended to Andrews.

“She’s unconscious,” Michael said tensely.

“I lost her,” Scully said as she pulled the cloth belt from her coat and wrapped it around Susan’s hand, trying to stop the bleeding.

When Scully finished, Michael picked Susan up. She was limp in his arms, her head falling back. Michael hitched her up, so that her head was resting against his chest. Her right arm dangled, bouncing with his steps. He was almost running by the time he reached the fence.

Mulder and Scully climbed over first, wanting to help Michael get Susan over if he needed it. Michael carefully moved Susan so that she was slung over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and started to climb the fence. When he reached the top, Mulder stepped forward, reaching for Susan. Michael hesitated momentarily, then reluctantly transferred Susan to Mulder. It was as if they were moving fragile crystal.

Mulder turned slowly, holding Susan the same way Michael did and was instantly bombarded by paramedics. He carefully set her on a gurney as Michael jumped down next to him.

The next few minutes went by in a blur of movement as they assessed Susan’s condition and loaded her in an awaiting ambulance. Scully jumped in after her, barking out orders to the technicians. Michael put his foot up and started to join them but was stopped by a hand on his chest.

“I’m sorry Sir, but there’s no more room!” a man shouted to him.

He looked as if he was going to throw the man out of the ambulance to make room, but was halted by Scully stepping forward.

“You go, Mike,” she said quietly. “Mulder and I will be right behind you.” She gently laid her hand on his arm, then hopped out, not waiting for his response.

He watched Mulder and Scully yell something to a cop, then run toward their car as the doors to the ambulance were closed.

Brookhaven Memorial Hospital

One Hour later

They were moved to a private conference room across from the emergency wing because they were the center of a three ring circus called the press.

Someone had leaked word to reporters that they found `The Long Island Slasher’, and that an FBI agent was wounded. They swarmed into the hospital like a cloud of locusts.

Michael sat with his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands, looking down at the floor. Across from him, Mulder sat in the same position.

Scully burst into the room, slamming the door quickly behind her, accidentally catching a reporter’s hand on the way. Scully ignored the cry of pain from the other side of the door.

Michael and Mulder stood, staring at her expectantly.

“Andrews is dead,” she said without preamble.

“What!?” Michael shouted.

“How?” Mulder asked.

Scully looked at the two of them for a movement before she answered.

“He flat-lined twice on the way over. They resuscitated him, but he crashed in the ER, and they couldn’t revive him. They think he had an aneurysm, but they can’t be sure without an autopsy.”

Mulder looked at her.

She shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Susan?” Michael asked timidly. He stood with his hands at his sides, looking so much smaller than he was.

Scully shook her head again. “No word. All I know is that she is stable, but unconscious.”

Michael turned away from her, his arms crossed in front of him. He paced back and forth a few times with Scully and Mulder silently watching. He had removed his jacket, his gun resting securely on his hip. The sleeves of his shirt were folded up around his biceps, looking like the seams were about to burst. The shirt was drawn tightly across his back.

“GOD Dammit!!” he shouted. He picked up a chair and flung it at the wall violently.

“WHY THE HELL COULDN’T SHE HAVE WAITED FOR ME?!!” He asked no one in particular. He turned to Scully. “Why couldn’t she have waited?” He had tears in his eyes.

Their conversation was interrupted by the door opening behind them.

“Is one of you Michael O’Sullivan?” asked a woman dressed in surgical scrubs.

Michael crossed the room in three long strides.

“That’s me.”

“I’m Doctor Yellon.” Michael shook her hand. “You’re listed as her next of kin?”

Michael nodded grimly. “Is she…?” He couldn’t finish the question.

“NO, no” she answered quickly. “But she’s unconscious. She took quite a blow to the back of her head and it looks as though she has a concussion. She has a lot of swelling along the bridge of her nose, but nothing’s broken. She will have two black eyes, though. She also has bruising around her throat and a few bruised and cracked ribs. We re-stitched her hand. She pulled out many of the internal stitches as well as the external. It was pretty bad.”

“How bad?” Michael asked, confused.

“She tore a ligament and will need extensive physical therapy in order to regain full use of her hand again. She must have been in a great deal of pain.”

“She didn’t tell me it was that bad,” Michael said quietly.

Mulder sat down heavily in the chair next to Scully. He ran his hand over his face.

“The concussion may be why she is unconscious,” Scully offered, stepping forward and laying a hand on Mulder’s shoulder.

“We don’t think so. Her pupils are responsive and she reacts to pain.”

She paused. “We ran a preliminary EEG,” Pausing again, not sure if she should address the rest to Scully or to Michael.

“And?” Scully asked, knowing what she had to say next wasn’t going to be something any of them wanted to hear.

“Well,” Dr. Yellon rubbed her brow. “It seems that only her autonomic systems are operating.”

Scully’s mouth fell open.

“What the hell does that mean?” Michael asked.

“We can’t be sure until we run more tests, but it means that she has no higher brain functions.”

Michael didn’t physically react, but all the blood drained out of his face.

“How is that possible?” Scully asked for him.

Michael swayed slightly on his feet and Mulder got up quickly to help him sit down.

“We don’t know,” she answered. “Has she ever had anything happen like this before? Has she ever had any neurological scans in the past?”

“She had an episode when she was six where she was unconscious for five days, but she had tremendous brain activity,” Michael said into his hands.

“Nothing recent?”

Michael shook his head.

“Any recent neurological scans we could compare to?”

Michael shook his head again.

“Yes,” Mulder answered.

Michael and Scully looked at him.

Mulder looked down. “They’re not *that* recent, they were done about nine years ago.”

“Where they conducted because of a trauma?” Dr. Yellon asked.

Mulder shook his head. “No, she was testing a hypothesis.”

Dr. Yellon looked confused. “What kind of hypothesis?”

“It’s not important, but I could get the file faxed over to us.”

Dr. Yellon nodded. “You can fax it to that machine over there,” she said, pointing to the fax machine in the corner. “The number is 631-555-2873.”

Mulder nodded and took out his cell phone.

“I’ll be back when I have more to tell you,” Dr. Yellon said.

“When can I see her?” Michael asked, standing to walk her to the door.

She smiled. “Soon. I’ll let you know.” She walked out into the sea of reporters.

“Frohike. Turn off the tape,” Mulder said into his phone. “I need you to do me a favor.” He paused, and looked at Scully. “Yeah, that was us on the news. Look, I need to you go to my apartment.” He was quiet for a few moments.

“I know, I know. But this is important. Good, I need you to look in my closet for a file. It’s on the top shelf. The name on it is Elizabeth Harmon, it’s kind of thick.”

Michael was watching him intently.

“When you get it, I need you to fax everything in it to me at 631-555-2873 right away. Thanks, Frohike, I owe you one,” he said, then hung up.

“What is this all about Mulder?” Scully asked.

Mulder put his phone away, not looking at her. “Back when we were…,” he glanced at Michael. “I kept bugging her about trying to find the origins of her `gift’. She finally gave in and had some neurological tests done.”

Michael still didn’t say anything.

“Well?” Scully asked.

“Nothing, they were inconclusive.”

Dr. Yellon came back into the room. “Mr. O’Sullivan?” Michael stood.

“You can see her while we’re waiting for her tests. As long as you don’t get in the way, you can wait with her.”

Michael followed her to the door. He looked back at Mulder.

“Tell her I said `Hi’,” Mulder said.

Michael nodded and walked out the door and was instantly surrounded by reporters. He ignored their questions as he pushed his way through the crowd.

Dr. Yellon led him into the emergency wing and away from prying eyes.

He followed her down the hall and into a small room.

Susan was laying on a gurney in the middle of the room. She was wearing a hospital gown, her face turned away from him. He could see the purple marks on her throat. As he slowly approached, he watched her chest rise and fall. He reached out and touched her face, turning her towards him. He winced when he saw that her eyes were black and blue and swollen shut. He ran his hand down her cheek, tears welling up in his eyes when all he picked up was warmth. He never felt so alone.

Part 23

Brookhaven Memorial Hospital

9:45 PM

Mulder sat in a black office chair, crouched over with his elbows on his thighs, his chin in his hand. He stared in the direction of the fax machine with a blank look on his face.

“You can stare at it all you want, Mulder. It’s not going to make it work any faster.” Scully said from the other side of the table as she stretched her arms above her head, arching her back. She sighed when she felt something pop.

Mulder gave her a rueful smile. “I’m just hoping the file might be helpful.”

Scully looked at him thoughtfully. “What exactly is in that file?”

Mulder sighed. “Brain scans, EEGs, CAT scans, MRIs, neuroelectrial scans, blood tests. You name it, we did it.”

Scully smiled and looked down at her hands. They were clasped together tightly.

“She really didn’t want to have the tests done, but I kept annoying the hell out of her and she finally gave in,” Mulder said as he turned toward her, laying his arms on the table. “When the technician read the data, he said that the machines were malfunctioning and that they needed to do the scans again, but she refused. No matter how many times I asked, she wouldn’t do them again.”

“Did she say why?” Scully asked, looking up at him. He had removed his jacket and tie a few minutes ago. She watched him as he opened the first two buttons of his shirt.

Mulder shrugged. “Nope.”

Scully looked down again. “Mulder?” she started.

“Mmm?”

She hesitated, “Can I ask you something?” She wouldn’t meet his eyes.

Mulder leaned back in his chair. “You can ask me anything,” he said seriously.

She glanced at him before she continued. “What,” she paused. “Can you…” her tongue darted out, touching the corner of her mouth, indicating she was nervous.

Mulder watched her as she struggled. He found it very charming.

“Scully?” he asked softly.

She looked up at him.

He reached out to cover her hand with his own. “Spit it out.”

She smiled and squeezed his hand, then rubbed the back of her neck.

“It’s just that, I don’t understand this bond you and Susan seem to have.”

Mulder closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “It’s hard to explain.”

“Can you try?”

When he opened his eyes, he found himself on the receiving end of a curious look from Scully.

“You really want to know?”

She nodded.

Mulder closed his eyes then ran his hand through his hair and blew out a breath. “You’ve experienced a bit of her charms, and I’m not talking about the `link’ she accidentally established.”

She frowned in confusion.

“Have you realized that no matter how much you didn’t want to, you couldn’t help but like her?”

Scully didn’t respond.

“If she likes you, she unconsciously sends out these vibes that instantly make you comfortable. You relax around her, let your guard down.”

“OK, I’ll give you that.” She smiled at him. “I feel like I’ve known her forever.”

“Now, imagine that you’re male, and she’s interested in you.”

Scully leaned back in her chair.

“You’re instantly attracted to her.”

“She’s very beautiful.”

Mulder sighed, “Yes, she is, but it’s not that.”

Scully shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

Mulder chewed on his bottom lip. “She’s biochemically attractive.”

Scully arched an eyebrow, “Biochemically attractive?”

“Remember that case about the pheromones?”

Scully nodded. “Unfortunately, yes.”

“That guy touched you and you just about hopped into the sack with him.”

Scully gave him a look.

“It’s almost the same thing,” he said, ignoring her expression. “She emits these pulses, that attracts people to her, male and female.”

“So, what? Everyone wants to be her friend?” Scully asked incredulously.

Mulder nodded. “In simple terms, yes.”

“But what about Williams?” Scully asked. “He can’t stand her.”

“It’s probably because she can’t stand him. You should have seen how much Diana hated her.”

Scully frowned and looked down. “But that doesn’t explain your connection with her,” she said, playing with a paper clip on the table.

Mulder sighed. “No, it doesn’t.”

Scully still wouldn’t raise her head to look at him.

“Susan is a very guarded person, has been her whole life.”

Scully looked up. “She didn’t appear that way to me.”

Mulder reached across the table to steady her hand. “That’s because she trusts you.”

Scully glanced down at his hand. It was so much larger than her own.

She missed the sensations his touch caused when she was experiencing Susan’s `gift’. Scully silently laughed to herself. `Gift’. Because of Susan, they opened up to each other. Susan opened their eyes. That was quite a gift.

“Scully?” Mulder asked.

She looked up.

“I lost you there for a minute.”

“I was just thinking about how it felt to experience what Susan receives.”

“It can be overwhelming sometimes,” Mulder said softly.

Scully looked at him quizzically. “You’ve had it happen to you as well?”

Mulder leaned back, removing his hand from hers, physically and emotionally distancing himself. He slowly nodded. “Not to the extent you did, but that’s one of the `side effects’.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I was the first person Susan truly relaxed around. She trusted me enough to tell me about her `gift’, and to allow me inside.” He rubbed his eyes. “We had been dating for about a month when she showed me.”

Mulder smiled. “Damn near scared the hell out of me.”

Scully smiled, remembering how she reacted when she found out.

“But, I calmed down and discovered the up side of her opening to me.”

Mulder suddenly looked nervous.

“What?”

“Well,” Mulder started. “Now that Susan was relaxed around *me*, *she* let her guard down.”

“What happened?” Scully asked, leaning forward.

“We wrapped up a case that I had been working on for awhile, actually, she found the missing piece and used her little power to get inside the guy’s head and got him to confess. It was pretty amazing to watch.” Mulder scratched his arm. “Anyway, we both decided we needed a break, so we went up to Vermont, rented a cabin, it snowed a lot, neither of us ski…”

“I get the point, Mulder.”

“OK, well,” Mulder fidgeted, “We made love only once before we went away, it was good, but I sensed Susan was holding something back.”

Mulder glanced at the fax machine, hoping Frohike would send the damn file so he wouldn’t have to tell Scully about this. He looked back at her and found that she was watching him intently.

“Mulder, you don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to,” she said reassuringly.

“No, as you said, I owe it to you.” He gave her a small smile.

“Well, for someone who doesn’t hide his interest in porn, you seem very uncomfortable talking about sex,” She said, trying to lighten the mood.

Mulder winced. “That’s a whole other topic,” he said under his breath, but Scully caught it.

Scully frowned and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Curiouser and curiouser.

“We spent four days up there, never leaving the cabin,” he said. “That thing that Susan was holding back?”

Scully tilted her head, indicating for him to continue.

“She showed it to me that weekend.”

“What was it?”

“Imagine what it’s like to make love to someone and feel what they are feeling as well as what you are feeling.”

Scully drew in a breath.

“It was incredible. I never knew women enjoyed sex as much as they do,” Mulder said, looking to her for confirmation.

Now Scully looked uncomfortable.

“It was the first time Susan didn’t hold back during sex. We both got a little carried away and Susan lost control.” Mulder licked his lips.

“It wasn’t like what happened with you, this was a religious experience.”

“I thought you didn’t believe in God,” Scully said sarcastically.

Mulder laughed. “I sure as hell wasn’t doubting his existence then.”

Scully smiled in spite of herself. She looked up at him. “So, what happened?”

“When she lost control, she left a tag in me.”

“What kind of tag?”

“I can feel her stronger emotions, I get upset when she’s upset. There was this one time when we went to her cousin’s wedding and one of the waiters had a thing for her. I don’t know how he did it, but he cornered her in the coat closet and started groping her. He had her hands pinned behind her and his hand on her breast when I came looking for her.”

Scully’s eyes widened. “What did you do?”

“I went ballistic,” Mulder replied. “In a normal situation, I would have punched him, then arrested him. But this time, because Susan was so terrified, I almost killed him. I pulled him off of her, and started pummeling him. It took four men to pull me off of him. Later I found out I broke his jaw, his nose, one of his cheek bones, knocked out a few teeth, cracked a few ribs, fractured his sternum and ruptured his spleen.”

“Oh my God.”

Mulder nodded. “He was in the hospital for months.”

“Did he sue you?”

Mulder nodded again. “Yeah, but he didn’t win. Apparently there was a warrant out for his arrest. He raped three women.”

Scully gasped. No wonder Susan was terrified. She probably saw what he had done to those women and thought he was going to rape her, too.

“I’m now a little sensitive to everyone, nothing like Susan,” Mulder continued. “But I can sense when people need help; are at the end of their ropes. Why do you think I react the way I do?”

Scully nodded.

“I can be in a crowded room and know instantly when Susan walks in.”

He reached out to tilt her chin up, so that he could look into her eyes. “The same thing happens with you,” he finished in a whisper.

He slid his hand up to rest it on her cheek. He would have kissed her if the table wasn’t so wide. He settled for running the pad of his thumb over her bottom lip.

Scully blinked rapidly, trying to stop herself from crying.

“It happens to me, too,” she said in the same tone Mulder used.

He gave her a wide happy smile. She returned it.

Mulder was distracted from his study of Scully’s eyes when the fax machine came to life.

Scully was disappointed, but pushed it back.

Mulder stood over the machine for ten minutes, watching the pages of text and scans emerge. When it was finally finished, he called Frohike to let him know he got it.

He collected the data and laid it out on the table for Scully to examine. Twenty five pages total.

Scully glanced over the text, but was drawn to the scans.

“There are three of each scan, if you noticed,” Mulder supplied.

Scully looked up.

“One is of her relaxed, one is of her blocking, and one is when she emits.”

Scully went back to the report. After a few minutes of silence, she spoke.

“You said the machines were malfunctioning?”

Mulder leaned over her to see what she was looking at. “Yeah, the guy said they’d been having problems all day, why?”

“Because in my younger days, I would have said the same thing, but now, after Gibson.” She didn’t finish.

Mulder looked her. “Gibson!?”

Scully nodded. “Mulder, look at this.” She stood and laid out three neuroelectrical brain scans.

“What am I looking at?”

Scully pointed to the shades of gray on the photos. “These would normally be in color.”

Mulder nodded.

“This is Susan in a relaxed state. From what I am seeing, her brain is highly active. Almost as active as Gibson’s.”

Scully picked up another photo. “And this is her brain when she’s blocking. It looks like a normal electrical output.”

“OK, what does all this mean?” Mulder asked excitedly.

“Wait, look at this!” Scully grasped the last sheet. “This is when she is emitting.”

Scully held up a scan. Almost the entire brain was black. “If this was color, it would be red.”

“So, what does it mean?” He was starting to lose his patience.

Scully turned to him. She looked excited. “Mulder, a normal person only uses about 10% of their brain capacity.”

Mulder nodded.

“If this is right, she uses about 90%.”

Mulder’s mouth dropped open. “How does this help her now?”

Scully’s shoulder’s slumped. “It doesn’t. All it shows us is what she looked like before she was attacked.”

Mulder turned away from her, rubbing his hand over his jaw. He turned back when the doors opened and a nurse entered.

“Agent Mulder? Agent Scully?” she asked.

They approached her. “I’m Agent Mulder,” Mulder said. “This is Agent Scully.”

“Agent O’Sullivan asked me to let you know that Susan Halloway has been moved to a private room and you can see her now.”

Mulder and Scully exchanged glances and followed the nurse out of the room.

Part 24

Brookhaven Memorial Hospital

Room 113

Neurological Wing

8:19 AM

April 7

Mulder sat on an old vinyl couch in Susan’s room, his arms spread out, his head back, and his mouth open. He was dead asleep. Scully sat curled up next to him, her feet under her, her head on his chest, also dead asleep. Michael wasn’t so lucky, though. He was sitting next to Susan’s bed, bent over, quietly studying her face. The swelling had gone down considerably since last night, but the bruising around her eyes and throat was still very visible.

Michael brushed the hair off of Susan’s forehead and leaned over to kiss her.

“Susie, you’re missing all the fun, we were on the news last night,” he whispered. He moved closer and nuzzled the side of her face, murmuring softly. “They did an expo on you.” He kissed her cheek.

“You’re quite the celebrity. You’d hate it, but from what I’d heard, Williams is pissed.” He rested his head next to hers on the pillow.

“God, Susie. You know I could never stand it when you wouldn’t speak to me,” he implored. He closed his eyes, his hand resting on her collar bone. “Please talk to me.”

He was quiet for awhile, watching the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest. During the night they had done every test known to man, and still came up with nothing. The doctors could not figure out what had happened. All they knew was that her autonomic systems, cardio, pulmonary, digestion, and reflexes, were functioning normally, but anything above that, was not. Her higher brain functions were simply not there. Dr. Yellon said that she was in a vegetative state, and would likely never come out of it. Her body was fine, but her mind was lost.

Michael shifted, ran his fingers down her arm and picked up her right hand. He placed it on his cheek, slid it up and down his skin, then kissed her palm. He had become so used to her touch, the stimulation it caused, that he took it for granted. He would do anything to get it back. It was as if he lost a bit of himself when their connection was severed. But he would gladly give it up just to see her open her eyes and smile at him.

Scully had awakened a few minutes ago and was silently watching Michael. She carefully extracted herself from Mulder, trying not to wake him. Michael jumped when she came up beside him and touched his shoulder.

“Sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

He gave her a sad smile. “It’s OK.”

They both spoke in hushed tones, so as to not wake Mulder and out of respect for Susan.

Scully sat down next to him. “Have you been up all night?”

Michael slowly nodded and turned back to Susan. “There was no way I was going to be able to sleep.”

Scully quietly studied him. He looked completely worn out. He had traded his dress shirt and tie for a scrub top one of the male nurses had given him. Dark stubble covered his face, giving him a haunted look. His eyes were a darker shade of blue than normal and his black hair was tousled from running his hands through it too many times.

Scully noticed a glint of gold hanging around his neck and realized it was a St. Michael’s medal, the patron saint of law enforcement.

Michael caught her watching him.

Scully pointed, indicating the medal.

Michael smiled and fingered the charm. “Susan gave it to me for my birthday. She said it would protect me.”

Scully smiled.

“I told her she needed it more than I did, but she shook her head. She said that’s why she has me.” His voice trembled. “I did a great job of protecting her didn’t I?” He rubbed his eyes with the heals of his palms and took a deep breath.

“Michael,” Scully said softly. “You can’t blame yourself for this.”

He studied his hands, but didn’t speak.

Scully rested her hand on his back. “In these last few days, I have come to know Susan pretty well, and I know that she would not blame you for what happened. She loves you.”

Michael looked up at her and gave her a small smile, then past her, noticing movement at the door.

Agent Jim Loper hesitantly walked in holding a bouquet of flowers, looking very sheepish. He gave a sidelong glance to Mulder, who had moved to his side on the couch.

He handed the flowers to Scully who went to place them in water.

“Jim, what are you doing here?” Michael asked.

“I just wanted to see how Agent Halloway was doing, to let you know that if you needed anything…,” he looked down at his feet.

“Williams let you come out here?” Michael asked incredulously.

“Well,” he rubbed his neck. “Not exactly.”

Scully came out of the bathroom and placed the flowers next to Susan’s bed.

Jim watched Scully sit back down next to Michael.

“I was suspended.”

“What!?” Michael shouted.

“Yeah, he found out I gave you that information yesterday morning.”

“THAT SON OF A BITCH!” Michael quickly stood, banging his knee on the bedframe in the process.

Michael’s outburst caused Mulder to wake up abruptly and practically fall off the couch. He looked around the room confused for a moment, before he realized where he was.

“I would watch my language if I were you, Agent,” a voice said from the doorway.

Everyone turned to see SAC Williams standing just outside Susan’s room.

Michael squared his shoulders, making Scully feel as if she just stepped in a hole. Mulder jumped off the couch to stand next to Michael, looking as if they were making a wall between Williams and Susan. Jim and Scully took it as their cue to move out from between them.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Michael asked in a voice that must have originated in his toes, it was so deep.

Williams eyed him. “I came to see how my agent was doing.”

Michael stepped forward. “You are not wanted here.” His eyes darkened.

“You’re the reason this happened.”

Williams laughed. “She’s here because she doesn’t know when to do as she’s told.”

Michael took another step forward. “Get out,” he said through his teeth.

“You know,” Williams said conversationally. “I would never think that a man like you would follow a woman around like a puppy dog.” He leaned in toward Michael and whispered. “Is she that good?”

Scully gasped.

Mulder flinched.

Jim’s eyes widened.

Michael lost it. He lunged at Williams. Grabbing him by the lapels of his jacket, Michael slammed him against the wall, brought his fist back and punched Williams square in the face.

“MICHAEL!” Mulder yelled as he reached out trying to stop him from killing the man, but Michael shoved him.

Blood ran freely down the SAC’s face, his head rolled to the side. The only reason he stayed on his feet was because Michael was holding him.

Mulder stumbled back and would have fallen on Susan’s bed if not for Jim grabbing him.

“YOU MOTHERFUCKER!!” Michael started to bring his hand back again.

Scully grabbed his arm and suddenly found herself being lifted off the ground. Not thinking, Michael held her by the front of her shirt and lifted her off her feet intending to toss her out of the way, but when he saw the look in her eyes, all the fight went out of him.

He slowly lowered her back down. He turned his attention back to Williams who was starting to come around. He shoved him toward the open door.

“Get the hell out of here!” Michael pushed him through the doorway and slammed it shut as Williams tried to get back on his feet, but he slipped and landed on his ass.

Scully fingered a tear in her silk blouse where a button had been ripped off.

The room was quiet, except for the beeping of the machines.

“God Dana, I am so sorry,” Michael said softly, sounding defeated.

Scully looked up at him and smiled. “It’s only a blouse.”

Michael turned to her. “I’ll buy you a new one.” He reached out to her, but Scully stopped him, noticing the blood on his knuckles.

“You’re hurt,” she said, grabbing some tissues and wiping the blood.

“We should get some disinfectant for that.”

Michael gave her a small smile, “I’ll be OK.” He looked at Mulder, “Are you all right?”

Mulder nodded.

“Oh God,” Michael groaned and ran his hands over his face. He collapsed bonelessly onto the couch.

Scully gave Mulder and Jim a look. Mulder nodded and backed away to give them some room.

Scully carefully approached him. “Mike,” she said soothingly. “Why don’t you go home and get some rest.”

He looked up at her as she crouched down in front of him.

“I can’t leave her,” his voice broke.

“You need to get some sleep,” she squeezed his shoulder. “Mulder and I will be here. We’ll call you if anything happens.”

He looked at her for a few seconds, his face blank. Suddenly his whole body crumbled and he started to cry. Scully reached for him as he fell forward, catching him before he fell on the floor. She grunted with the effort and pushed him back on the couch. He clung to her, sobbing into her shoulder.

Brookhaven Memorial Hospital

Neurological Wing

10:53 PM

The elevators opened and Scully walked out holding two cups of coffee.

She paused outside of Susan’s room, hearing Mulder talking to someone.

He couldn’t be on his cell phone, they’re not allowed in here, she thought. She carefully pushed the door open a crack and peered inside.

Mulder sat next to Susan’s bed, apparently having a one-sided conversation with her.

“I burst in the room and saw myself leaning over her, just about to kiss her.” Mulder laughed. “It was the most surreal moment of my life.” He picked up Susan’s hand. “If she could have crawled into the cushions on the couch I think she would have.” He laughed again.

Scully smiled at the memory, then frowned. It wasn’t funny!

Mulder was quiet for a few minutes. Scully was about to enter the room when he started speaking again.

“You know,” he started. “This is really weird, having you here and not feeling anything.”

Mulder placed her hand on his cheek, unknowingly copying Michael’s actions from earlier that afternoon. “I can just imagine what Michael must be going through.” He spoke so softly, Scully could barely hear him. “When Scully was sick.” He took a deep breath. “It almost killed me to see her, but I would go nuts when I couldn’t.” He wiped his eyes. “If she would have died…,” he paused. “Let’s just say that if you don’t survive this, I think we’re going to have to take Mike’s gun.”

Scully heard enough. She took a shaky breath and pushed the door open with her shoulder.

“Hey Mulder,” she said brightly.

Mulder dropped Susan’s hand and stood. Scully handed him a coffee and sat down on the couch.

“I called Michael while I was down stairs,” Scully said.

“Yeah?” Mulder took a sip of his coffee and joined her. “How’s he doing?”

Scully swallowed the hot fluid a little too quickly, and it burned all the way down to her stomach. “Well,” she gasped. “He said that he was going to try to get some sleep, but doubted he could.”

Mulder nodded, staring off into space.

“He said that he would be back early tomorrow morning.”

Mulder glanced at her, giving her a small smile. “It looks like we have the night shift.”

Scully smiled and took another sip of her coffee. “I also called Skinner.”

“Mmm! What did he say?” He asked interested.

Scully leaned back, making herself comfortable. “He sounded very concerned.”

Mulder tilted his head in question.

“He told me that we could have as much time as we needed and that when he got a free day, he was going to come up.”

Mulder’s eyebrows rose.

Scully nodded. “He was very agreeable on the phone.”

Mulder leaned back and stretched his arm behind her. “Gee, he’s never that nice when I’m sick,” he whined.

Scully laughed. “That’s because you’re such a pain in the ass.”

Mulder pouted. “I think it’s because I’m not as pretty as she is.”

Scully drained the rest of her coffee and tossed the empty cup in the trash. “I wouldn’t say that,” she said coyly.

Mulder looked at her, surprised. “Are you saying I’m pretty?”

Scully chuckled. “I think I should plead the fifth.”

“Oh, come on. You know I think you’re hot.”

Scully shifted on the couch toward him, “And when you have told me this?”

Mulder glanced over at Susan then back to Scully. “When we first met the Lone Gunmen.”

“Why don’t I remember that?”

“Remember you were telling me how paranoid they were, that I shouldn’t take them seriously and I said I thought you were hot.”

“That’s not what you said.”

“I thought you didn’t remember it?” Mulder asked as he leaned in to her.

Scully started to respond, but Mulder interrupted her.

“You were fishing for complements, weren’t you?”

Scully looked at him innocently. “Me? Never.”

“Uh, huh. Sure.”

With that, Mulder leaned in and kissed her. Scully started to respond, but pushed him back.

“Mulder, we’re in a hospital.”

Mulder looked around. “Yes, we are.” He leaned in again but she stopped him.

“Mulder, we are in a hospital,” she said sharply. “I don’t think we should do this here.”

Mulder looked confused. “Why not?”

Scully chanced a glance toward Susan. “I don’t feel comfortable, given the circumstances.”

Understanding washed over Mulder’s features. “You’re right.” He looked over to Susan. “I’m sorry.”

Scully breathed out, toed off her shoes and propped her feet up on the table in front of her. “I think I’m going to try to get some sleep,” she said. “I suggest you try too.”

“Yeah, sure,” he responded.

Brookhaven Memorial Hospital

Room 113

Neurological Wing

1:13 AM

April 23

Lightening flashed, momentarily illuminating the room. A low boom of thunder rumbled in the distance. The wind blew and the rain started.

Susan opened her eyes. She picked up her left hand to brush the hair off her forehead, but her movement was halted by something attached to her arm. She brought her arm closer to her face and saw an IV sticking out of her forearm. She also noticed that the gauze around her hand was gone, replaced by an ace bandage. She carefully wiggled her fingers. She was stiff and there was a little pain. She frowned in confusion.

She tried to move her right hand, but it was encased in something warm and heavy. She rolled her head to the side, her vision swam and the faint pounding behind her eyes became a rhythmic tribal dance.

Susan groaned, pulled her hand away from it’s bindings and pressed the heal of her palm into her temple.

“Susan?” she heard a male voice ask, muffled by the hammering in her ears.

She didn’t know anyone was in the room “Michael?” she moaned.

Suddenly a lamp turned on above her.

She put her hand over her eyes, trying to block out the blinding light.

“Oh, God. Turn it off!” she groaned.

It was quickly turned off.

She removed her hand and opened her eyes, but only saw the afterimage of the light. She heard movement next to her, then the door opened.

She heard someone shout something, but couldn’t make out the words.

Her vision slowly cleared a bit and she saw a person come back to her side.

“Michael?” she asked again, she had no idea who it was.

The person sat down close to her.

“Mulder!?”

He smiled at her. “Morning Sunshine,” Mulder said sweetly.

Susan tried to sit up, but the effort caused her head to spin again.

Mulder put his hands on her shoulders to keep her steady. Susan jumped at his touch. He pulled away quickly.

“What the hell is going on here? Where’s Michael?” Susan asked, rubbing her eyes.

“Michael went home a few hours ago and you’re in the hospital. You’ve been unconscious for almost three weeks,” Mulder explained.

“What!?” she asked incredulously. She tried to sit up again. Mulder didn’t stop her.

She closed her eyes, willing the pounding to subside.

“What do you remember?” he asked carefully.

Susan looked at him for a moment before she responded. “I remember going home,” she paused. “Going back to you guys… Andrews came home,” she stopped speaking.

Mulder watched her struggle as she realized what happened.

“Oh, God,” she groaned and hid her face in her hands.

The door burst open. Two nurses and a rumpled looking intern entered.

“Don’t turn on the light!” Mulder shouted.

Susan moaned.

“And speak softly, her head is killing her,” Mulder whispered.

Mulder backed away and allowed them to tend to Susan. He walked quickly down the hall to a pay phone. He dropped in three quarters, just in case, and called Michael. He answered after two rings.

“Yeah,” he said sounding groggy.

“Mike, it’s Mulder. She’s awake!”

“Is she OK?” he asked excitedly.

“Yeah, she’s asking for you.” Mulder was grinning into the phone.

“I’ll be right there.”

Mulder hung up and called Scully.

Michael slammed down the phone, pulled on the jeans he wore earlier that day, slipped on a pair of sneakers and almost tripped over the dog as he ran down the stairs.

Brookhaven Memorial Hospital

Room 113

Neurological Wing

2:04 AM

Michael decided to take the stairs. There was no way he could wait for the elevator. Taking the steps two at a time, he bounded through the doors in full stride.

Mulder and Scully were leaning against the wall outside Susan’s room when Michael ran up to them.

“Whoa, Mike, slow down,” Mulder said.

“I got here as fast as I could,” he said out of breath.

“It’s OK, Dr. Anderson is in there with her right now,” Scully explained.

Michael nodded. “Have you heard anything?”

Scully shook her head.

“I know she’s got quiet a headache,” Mulder said.

“YES! God dammit, I FEEL THAT!!” They heard Susan shout through the closed door. “NOW CUT IT OUT!!”

They laughed.

“She’s fine,” Mike said, smiling.

The door opened, the doctor and nurse stepped out.

“Mike,” Dr. Anderson said. He looked very tired. “Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. She seems to be just fine, aside from being in a bad mood and having a bad headache. She’ll also be a little photo sensitive for awhile. We’ll run some tests in the morning. You can see her now, but not for too long.”

Michael nodded quickly. He glanced back at Mulder and Scully, but they made no indication that they were going to follow him.

Michael slowly pushed open the door. It was dark in the room, but he could see Susan was lying on her side, the blankets low on her waist.

They had removed the IV, at her request, and her arms were wrapped around her middle. She was watching the rain run down the window. She looked up when she heard the door close.

Susan smiled and turned towards him. He had never seen anything more beautiful in his life.

“Hey Susie,” Michael said as he walked over to the side of her bed.

“Hi,” she said, the smile fell when he sat next to her and picked up her hand.

Michael threaded their fingers together, his eyes on their hands.

When she didn’t say anything, he looked up at her. Tears pooled in her eyes.

“What is it?” he asked concerned. He reached out to cup her cheek, but she jerked away. He let his hand drop. “Susie?”

Silent tears ran down her face. “You’re gone.”

“I’m right here, Susie,” he said softly.

Susan wrenched her hand away from his and placed both hands on his chest. “You’re gone,” her voice trembled. “I don’t feel you.” She turned away from him. “I don’t feel anything.”

Michael’s head fell forward. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I know.”

She looked at him.

He raised his head. “I knew the moment I touched you in the woods.”

Susan didn’t say anything.

“God, Susie,” he hitched in a breath. “I thought,” he sniffed. “When I saw you there, blood all over, Andrews laying on top of you.”

She watched him struggle.

“And then, when I didn’t feel you.” He was trying not to cry, and failing miserably.

Susan put her hand over her mouth, swallowing back a sob.

“I thought you were dead.” He stopped, no longer able to form words.

“Oh, Michael,” she breathed. She reached for him, pulling him to her.

She hid her face in his neck as he put his arms around her. Susan shifted on the small bed so that Michael could lay down next to her.

He wrapped his body around her trying to bring her closer to him.

Susan burrowed into him, and cried into his chest. Michael nuzzled her hair and cried as well.

Brookhaven Memorial Hospital

Room 113

Neurological Wing

2:04 PM

April 24

Susan sat in a chair next to the window, watching the rain. Her legs were drawn up and her arms were wrapped around her knees. She looked so small sitting there.

Michael watched her for a moment unnoticed before he made his presence known.

“Hey,” he said as he came up next to her. He leaned over to kiss her briefly on the lips before he pulled a chair up next to her.

“What is that wonderful smell?” Susan asked, peering over her knees to get a better look at the white bag Michael was holding.

Michael looked around the room, then put his index finger to his lips.

“Shhh,” he said. “I know how much you hate hospital food, so I made you something.”

Susan’s eyes lit up and she straightened in her chair. “You didn’t!”

she gasped.

Michael nodded.

Susan grinned and lunged for the bag, but Michael moved it out of her reach.

“Uh, uh, uh,” Michael waved his finger at her. “Not until you tell me how the tests went.”

Susan pouted.

“Come on, Susie,” he taunted. “I know you want it.”

Susan smiled. “Why does that sound familiar?”

Michael waved the bag in front of her.

“Oh, all right,” she said. Susan got up and walked over to the bed.

Currently, she was dressed in a pair of silk pajamas that Michael brought for her that morning. It wasn’t her usual sleepwear, but under the circumstances…

“He said that the headaches should go away in a few days and that they are probably the result of the trauma, although there is no swelling or any indication that there is anything wrong with me.”

Michael got up to sit beside her.

“That’s great!”

Susan tilted her lips up. “Yeah, great,” she sighed.

Michael frowned.

“He said that they can’t explain what happened. One minute I was a turnip, the next minute I’m yelling at him to stop poking me with that damned pin.”

He smiled.

“And it’s not like I can ask him why I lost my gift.”

Michael sighed and picked up her hand. He traced the small bones on the back of her hand with his thumb. He gave her a tight squeeze.

“We’ll figure it out. It might only be temporary,” he said, trying to look on the bright side.

“Temporary,” she grunted.

“Hey,” Michael reached out and held her face, forcing her to look at him. “I’m just happy you’re here talking to me.”

Susan gave him a weak smile.

“I miss it, too, but we’ll adjust,” he implored. “We’ll discover each other again, together.” He moved to kiss her, but she stopped him with a hand on his chest.

“I love you, so much,” she said, the tears starting again.

Michael smiled. “I love you, too.”

He leaned in towards her and she met him halfway. She ran her hands up his chest to his hair, loving the texture of it between her fingers.

She pulled back, a look of wonder on her face.

“What?” He was slightly out of breath.

“I never realized how soft your hair is,” she said.

He smiled. “See, we’re starting already.”

Susan smiled and nodded. She leaned in to him again, but stopped when she heard someone clear his throat behind them.

Susan tilted her head to see past Michael. Mulder and Scully were standing in the doorway with shy grins on their faces. Mulder was carrying a large bouquet of flowers, while Scully was holding a basket.

Michael sighed and moved so that he was facing them.

“What’s this?” Susan asked. “You guys already got me flowers.”

“These,” Mulder said, placing the very large, very beautiful bouquet of tulips next to the vase holding the 2 dozen multicolored roses Michael gave her this morning. “Are from Byers, Langly and Frohike.”

He handed her a small card.

She opened it, looking at him warily. She was silent as she read it.

She snorted, then grinned.

“What’s it say?” Michael leaned over trying to read it, but she placed it against her chest so he couldn’t see it.

“It’s personal.” She said simply, giving him a small smile. She put it in her breast pocket, then patted it for emphasis.

“Do you think putting it there will stop me from reading it?”

She smiled at him.

“This,” Scully grunted, holding a gigantic basket of fruit. “Is from your office.” She dropped it on the hospital table next to the bed. It practically groaned under the weight.

“Oh, my God,” Susan gasped. “What the hell am I going to do with all that?”

“Feed a starving country?” Mulder asked sarcastically and plopped down in the chair she vacated earlier. Scully sat down next to him.

Michael laughed. “You never know how much people like you until you’re in the hospital.”

“What is that wonderful smell?” Scully suddenly asked.

Susan perked up. “That’s my lunch!”

Michael reached over to retrieve the bag he placed next to the bed.

“It smells really good,” Scully said.

Susan nodded, bouncing up and down on the bed in anticipation.

Michael pulled a rectangular container out of the bag and handed it to Susan along with a knife and fork.

Susan ripped the lid off, revealing a delicious looking chicken parmesan. Susan licked her lips.

“It might be a little cold,” Michael explained.

“It’s OK,” Susan said, digging in.

“And I made it really fast.”

“Doesn’t matter,” she said, bringing a forkful to her lips. She closed her eyes and sighed. “Mmmmm.”

“I take it that it’s good?” Michael asked.

Susan opened her eyes and nodded. “Mm, hmm.”

“You can cook, too?” Scully asked surprised.

Mulder shot her a look. Susan laughed and Michael looked embarrassed.

Scully looked away.

“Dana, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted this man’s cheesecake,” Susan said, in between shoveling food into her mouth.

Michael smiled at her.

“Oh, which reminds me,” she looked at Mulder. “Did you ever give any thought to that proposition I gave you?”

Mulder looked uncomfortable.

Susan rolled her eyes. “I meant about taking some time off and staying with us, schumck.”

Mulder’s mouth formed an `O’. “How did cheesecake remind you of that?”

he asked.

Susan waved her fork at him. “You never asked her, did you?”

Mulder shifted in his chair.

“Ask me what?” Scully asked.

“I asked Mulder if you two wanted to take a few days off when the case was over. Stay at my house in Mattituck.”

Scully glanced at Mulder.

“I don’t know, Susan. Skinner already gave us so much time off,” Mulder stalled.

“Take as much time as you want, Agent.”

Everyone turned to see Walter Skinner standing in the doorway.

“Does this man know how to make an entrance or what?” Mulder whispered to Scully. She ignored him.

Skinner walked into the room holding another bouquet of flowers to add to Susan’s collection.

“It’s been nice and quiet in Washington,” he said, a smile almost crossed his lips.

Susan gave the empty container to Michael so she could take the flowers from Skinner.

“Hello Susan, how are you feeling?” he asked sincerely leaning down to kiss her cheek.

Susan smiled. “I feel pretty good, not 100% yet.”

Skinner nodded.

“It’s good to see you again, Walter,” she said. “How have things been?”

Skinner glanced at Mulder who was studying him.

“As well can be expected when you’re his,” he pointed at Mulder, “supervisor.”

Susan smiled. Mulder nudged Scully with his elbow and winked at her.

Scully gave him a look.

“Walter,” Susan said. “This is my partner Michael O’Sullivan.”

Michael reached out and shook his hand.

“Nice to meet you, sir,” Mike said. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Skinner smiled. “The same could be said about you.”

Michael looked at him questionably.

Skinner sighed. “You’re one of the reasons why I’m up here.”

“Why’s that, Sir?” Mulder asked.

“I came up to talk to AD Kallstrom about your little incident with SAC Williams,” Skinner told Michael.

Susan looked at Michael. “What incident?”

Michael looked at his hands. He mumbled something.

“What was that?”

“I broke his nose.”

“YOU WHAT!?”

Michael turned to her. “I broke his nose,” he said again.

“Why the hell did you do that!?”

“It’s not important right now,” he said. He looked at Skinner. “What did Kallstrom say?”

“Well, there will be an OPR meeting next month about Williams’ request for your termination.”

“WHAT!?” Susan started to get up.

“Susan,” Michael said.

She glanced at him and relaxed.

“But,” Skinner continued. “In light of recent events, I doubt that they will take him seriously. Besides, he’s not even going to be there.”

“Where will he be?” Scully asked.

“Iowa,” Skinner stated.

“Iowa?” They asked in unison.

Skinner nodded. “Iowa. He’s been transferred and demoted.”

Susan’s mouth dropped open.

“It’s obvious he can’t handle the responsibility of the office.”

They all sat, stunned.

“Which brings me to the next order of business,” Skinner said. “There will be letters of accommodation placed in each of your files.”

“First time for everything,” Mulder said dryly.

“And,” Skinner ignored him. “Since Williams has been transferred, there are some openings.” He looked at Susan.

She looked nervous.

“I have been given the honor of asking you if you would like the position of Special Agent in Charge of the Melville Field Office,” Skinner said with flare.

Everyone looked at Susan who was looking out the window.

“Susie?”

Susan turned to Michael then looked at Skinner. “I,” she started. “I don’t know what to say. I’ll have to think about it.”

Skinner nodded. “Take all the time you need.” He looked at Michael.

“If she takes it, how do you feel about ASAC O’Sullivan?”

“It’s a mouthful,” Mulder said.

Scully looked at him. “Will you shut up, Mulder.”

Mulder narrowed his eyes at her. He knew she was joking by the smile in her eyes.

Michael glanced at Susan. “It will split us up,” he said.

Skinner nodded. “Yes, it will.”

“Then, no.”

Susan looked sharply at him. After a moment she said, “I’ll take the position, Walter.”

“Well,” Skinner said. “In that case, you get to pick your successor.”

Susan smiled and looked at the small cactus Jim Loper gave her. “I think I have somebody in mind.”

Brookhaven Memorial Hospital

Room 113

Neurological Wing

10:24 AM

April 25

“What time does your flight leave?” Susan asked.

“1:30,” Scully said.

Susan nodded. “What time do you arrive on Thursday?”

“9:06 AM,” Mulder said.

“OK, well, I’m probably not getting out of here until at least 2, so you guys will have to let yourselves in. You remember how to approach Ruffus?”

Scully nodded.

Michael gave Mulder a key. “This is for the front door, and this.” He gave Scully a small black box. “Is the garage door opener. Push the last button on the right, it will open the right door.”

Scully nodded.

“You can park your car in there.”

“And, I fully expect you guys to look around, explore,” Susan said.

“Susan,” Scully said.

“Hey, I know you’re going to want to do it.” Susan said grinning. “I have no secrets from you. Feel free to open drawers, snoop.”

“Susan, I don’t know if I’ll feel comfortable doing that,” Scully said.

Susan waved her hand at her. “Don’t worry about it. I have nothing to hide. Besides, I know what’s in your nightstand drawer, so you should know what’s in mine.”

Scully’s eyes grew wide. “That was a gag gift!”

Mulder choked on a sunflower seed.

Susan laughed. “Yeah, sure. That’s why you need new batteries.”

SECTION II

“Discovery and Rediscovery”

Part 26

Long Island Expressway, Shirley, NY

En Route

11:21 AM

Thursday, April 27

Mulder risked another glance towards the sleeping woman in the passenger seat for about the hundredth time that morning.

Scully had fallen asleep the moment they got off the Van Wyck Expressway and merged onto the LIE, an hour and a half ago. He had the radio on low, so as not to disturb her, and he was starting to get tired of the quiet in the car. He returned his eyes to the road when he noticed her begin to stir.

Scully’s eyes slowly blinked open, taking in her surroundings. She stretched, as much as she could in a car and turned to Mulder.

“Where are we?” she asked, her voice husky from sleep.

Mulder glanced at her. “We’re on the Expressway,” he stated.

“Still?”

Mulder nodded. “She told us to take it to the end, which is past exit 74, we just passed 68.”

Scully groaned and rubbed her neck. “I didn’t realize Mattituk was so far out there.”

Mulder grunted. “It’s on the north shore past where the Island forks, in Riverhead.”

Scully sighed and looked out the window. “You know Mulder, we could be anywhere. This isn’t how I pictured Long Island.”

“I know, I didn’t think it would be so…” He moved his hand around in the air, looking for the word he wanted. “Green.”

Scully nodded, still looking out the window at the passing trees.

Suddenly the dense foliage gave way to bare blackened trees. It stretched for miles in each direction. It looked like an old battle ground.

“What the hell happened here?” Scully asked.

Mulder looked out the window.

“It looks like there was a fire,” Scully said.

Mulder nodded. “Don’t you remember about 5 years ago there were those horrible fires out here?”

Scully nodded. “Yeah, but I can’t believe it’s taking so long to grow back.” Scully looked at him. “These look recent.”

Mulder shook his head. “They didn’t call it the `Great Long Island Wild Fire’ for nothing.”

Scully looked back out the window.

“Hey look, Scully,” Mulder said pointing. `Water Park’ a sign said.

“Maybe I’ll be able to see you in that bathing suit I saw you put in your bag when I picked you up this morning.” Mulder wiggled his eyebrows at her.

Scully smiled. “Gee, Mulder, you sure don’t aim high do you?”

Mulder gripped the steering wheel so tight his knuckles turned white.

They finally reached the end of the LIE and proceeded north on to Route 25. They were on that for another twenty minutes before Mulder started to recognize the names of roads Susan had written down for him.

“Can you get that map Susan gave us?” Mulder asked.

Scully reached in the glove compartment and pulled out a handwritten map. She told him what roads to turn down, the streets getting narrower as they continued. He thanked his photographic memory.

Otherwise he would never be able to find his way out of this place, they made so many twists and turns.

“Turn right on the next road,” Scully said.

Mulder turned the car onto a road so narrow it was barely large enough for the Taurus they were driving. The road was lined with trees, making Mulder feel as if they were in Vermont instead of New York.

Little dirt roads were the only breaks in the trees.

“She said to look for the red mail box with 347 on it,” Scully said looking up from the paper she held in her hand.

Mulder nodded. “It’s just up ahead.”

Mulder turned off the street onto a gravel road. Scully rolled down her window and took a deep breath.

“Do you smell that?” She asked.

Mulder rolled down his window and sniffed the air. “It’s the Sound,” he said.

“She must live pretty close to the water.”

Mulder nodded. “She said she did.”

They continued up the gravel road, going about 5 miles an hour. It felt as if they were going on forever.

“Is this her driveway?” Scully asked. “It’s about the length of a football field,” she said noticing a clearing ahead.

“I would hate to have to get the mail in the rain,” Mulder commented.

He glanced at Scully and suddenly slammed on the brakes. Her eyes were wide, her mouth was open and her face was completely white.

“Scully are you OK?” He reached out to her, but she smacked his hand away, never taking her eyes away from whatever had her so entranced.

Mulder looked in the direction she was looking.

“Oh, my God,” Mulder said. His mouth hanging open taking in the sight before him.

The gravel road had opened up to a house that looked like it had been transported from the Civil War Era. It was huge, with tall casement windows and a balcony above the front door supported by two iconic columns, it had four chimneys on the outside walls and a smoke stack in the middle of the roof. It also had a widow’s walk. The whole house was white with a flat black roof that was lined with wrought iron left catchers. It looked like an old whaling house, built in the federalist style. Surrounding the house were woods so dense, privacy was not anything to worry about. Behind it was just sky and Mulder could hear waves crashing in the distance.

“Jesus, how much do they pay their agents out here, and how do I transfer?” Scully asked.

Mulder didn’t say anything, he just continued to drive up the gravel road leading to what looked like an old converted carriage house, that was now a three door garage. It was off to the right, so not to take away from the beauty of the house. Scully pulled out the garage door opener Mike gave them and pushed the right button. The last door on the right of the garage opened and Mulder pulled inside, the door closing behind them.

Mulder and Scully remained quiet in the car for a few moments, still a little shocked from what they had seen.

“Maybe she rents?” Mulder asked.

Scully just looked at him.

Mulder popped the trunk.

Scully met him on his side of the car, wondering why he didn’t come around to the trunk.

“Mulder?”

“You know, I can’t see Susan driving this,” he said indicating a black Suburban with black tinted windows parked next to their car.

Scully shrugged. “Maybe it’s Michael’s?”

Scully walked to the other side of the truck, stopping when she came across something hidden under a tarp next to the Suburban. She approached it slowly and peeked underneath it, then quickly dropped it.

“Mulder,” she said calmly.

“What is it,” he said, pulling the last of the luggage from the trunk.

“I think this is more like Susan,” She said as he came up next to her.

“What is?” he asked looking at the tarp covered object.

Scully gave him a wide smile and gripped the end of the tarp. Acting like one of those women on the Price is Right, she pulled the tarp away.

Mulder’s jaw nearly hit the floor.

Scully nodded. “I would say this is more like Susan,” she said again.

“Oh, my God Scully, that’s a,” he started, but Scully cut him off.

“1967 Shelby Cobra.”

Under the tarp was just as Scully said, a red 1967 Shelby Cobra convertible, fully restored.

Scully walked up to it, caressing the metal as if it was alive.

“This is one of the fastest cars ever made,” she said sounding out of breath. “It’s got a 442 cid side oil V8 engine with 550 horsepower, going from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds. It’s a two seater with a 4 speed transmission, dash mounted review mirror, wing windows, leather interior, wooden steering wheel, mahogany dash, keystone rims…” she trailed off.

Mulder blinked. “I just got incredibly turned on.”

Scully turned to him. “Do you know how much this is worth?” she asked excitedly.

Mulder nodded, but didn’t say anything, he wanted to hear her say it.

“Three hundred and fifty thousand dollars!” she squealed.

Mulder blinked again. She squealed? He was enjoying watching her more than looking at the car.

Scully walked to the driver’s side door and finding it unlocked opened it and sat down. Her head fell back onto the headrest as she let out a very arousing moan.

Mulder started to mentally go through his finances trying to determine what he would have to sell so that he could buy one of these cars for her. It would be worth it just to watch her reactions. He never felt jealous of a car before.

“Jeez, Scully, I never knew you were so into cars,” he said coming up next to her.

Scully smiled, running her hands across the leather seats. “I have brothers, Mulder,” she said. “Besides, this isn’t a car, it’s a work of art.”

Mulder smiled. “Come on, Scully lets go take a look at that house.”

Scully pouted as she got out the car and followed Mulder out of the garage.

They walked what had to be a hundred feet to the front door, Scully carrying the lighter bags.

“Don’t you half expect Scarlet O’Hara to answer the door?” Mulder asked pulling out his keys.

“Mulder, this is the North,” Scully said. “We’re Yankees.”

Mulder smiled. “Go team.” Mulder held the door open for her.

Closing the door behind her, Mulder dropped their bags onto the gray tiled floors, the sound echoing off the walls.

“Be careful,” she admonished.

“Sorry.”

The interior of the house looked nothing like the exterior. It was as if they walked into a portal from the 1860s into the 21st century.

Suddenly they heard a low growl coming from the end of the hallway.

Mulder quickly switched on the light next to the door, illuminating the foyer. At the end of the hallway, Mulder saw where the noise had originated.

“Holy shit, that’s a wolf,” he whispered.

“No it’s not, it’s a dog, a malamute,” Scully corrected. “That’s Ruffus,” she said, slowly approaching the dog.

“Scully, what are you doing?”

“Shush, Susan told me how to approach him.”

Mulder watched as the dog moved further into the room, he’s eyes on Scully. Mulder carefully placed his hand on his gun, just in case.

Scully stopped moving and slowly went to her knees. The dog stopped moving as well. She extended her hand and the dog’s ears perked up. He tilted his head at her questionably.

Scully pitched her voice up and as sweetly as she could and said, “come here, big guy.”

The dog continued to stare at her for a beat, then lowered his ears and walked up to her, his tail wagging so forcefully that his whole body moved back and forth. Scully laughed as Ruffus licked her face.

Mulder sat down on the bench on the left side of the foyer, next to an antique table.

The dog looked at him and growled.

Scully scratched his ears. “It’s OK, Ruffus, he’s my friend.”

“Who names a dog Ruffus?” Mulder asked.

The dog growled again.

“Mulder, I think he understood that,” Scully said.

“How could he, he’s just a stupid dog,” he reached out to pet him, but stopped when Ruffus growled even lower this time, his lip going up.

“I don’t think he likes you,” Scully said, standing up.

“Whatever,” Mulder said, standing as well.

Suddenly the dog moved in between Mulder and Scully, still growling at Mulder. Mulder went to step around the dog, but he moved not letting Mulder go past the table.

“He won’t let me come in,” Mulder said with astonishment in his voice.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have insulted him,” Scully said casually, walking further into the house, stopping in front of a sliding wood door on the left.

Mulder looked at her. “But he’s just a dog.”

Ruffus growled again.

Scully smiled at him. “I guess you’ll just have to wait there until Susan and Mike come home.”

At the mention of Susan and Michael, the dog whipped his head around to look at her.

Scully looked at Ruffus. “Yes, Susan’s coming home today.”

The dog wagged his tail.

Scully laughed and slid open the door, the laughter dying in her throat.

“Scully?” Mulder asked concerned.

“My God, Mulder, you should see this room.”

“I would love to,” he said sarcastically.

Scully stepped into the room, her shoes clunking on the hardwood floor. Again she had gone from the 21st century to the 1860’s. Before her was a restored civil war parlor, blue velvet drapes and all.

Scully looked around the room in astonishment, feeling extremely underdressed. She should be wearing pantaloons, a corset, a petticoat, and a grand floor length dress and boots. At the end of the room was a fireplace with a painting above it. The painting is what caught her eye. It was a man and a woman of the times in a wedding picture. The woman had dark hair, white creamy skin, and ice blue eyes. She looked exactly like Susan.

Scully moved closer to see the writing on the bottom of the frame.

`Joshua and Elizabeth Halloway, 1862′. These were Susan’s Great, great, great, great, grandparents. Scully couldn’t get over the resemblance.

Tearing her eyes away from the painting, Scully looked around for a minute longer before she closed the sliding wooden door behind her.

She glanced at Mulder who was still sitting in the foyer, looking like a lost little boy.

She heard a car in the distance and turned to see a black sedan pulling up the drive. It was Susan and Michael.

Scully looked at her watch. 12:28. They were early.

“Susan’s home,” Scully said.

Ruffus’ ears twitched and he bolted out of the room. Mulder and Scully looked at each other then went out to greet Susan.

Michael parked the car next to the garage and Susan quickly got out.

She waved to Mulder and Scully who were standing in the door frame.

“Good, you guys made it!” Susan shouted.

“Yeah, no problem!” Mulder said.

Suddenly, Ruffus ran out from the side of the house in full gallop toward Susan, his tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth.

“Susan, look out!” Mulder shouted.

Susan turned to the dog and smiled. She got down on her knees and opened her arms. “Hey big guy!!”

The dog didn’t slow down as he ran up to her, knocking her over in his excitement. Susan hit the ground with a loud “Oufgh.” She tried to get up, but the dog wouldn’t let her. He just kept licking her face.

Michael understood the dog’s excitement.

“Jesus,” Susan said trying to push the dog away. “OK, knock it off.”

Finally, Michael pulled Ruffus away and allowed her to get up.

“He’s just happy to see you,” Michael said laughing.

Susan gave him a dirty look and dusted off her red turtleneck. “Thank God you don’t greet me like that,” she said taking her bag from him.

Michael smiled. “Oh, but how I want to.”

Susan didn’t hear him, she was already heading toward Mulder and Scully.

“It’s good to see you guys again,” Susan said giving them both hugs.

“Yeah, it feels like ages,” Mulder said sarcastically.

Susan entered the house and frowned at their bags. “Did you guys just get here?”

“About twenty minutes ago,” Mulder said.

“Ruffus wouldn’t let Mulder past the table,” Scully blurted out.

Susan laughed. She patted Mulder’s cheek.

“Sometimes he doesn’t like strange men,” she said. “and I don’t think any are stranger than you. Come on, I’ll give you the guided tour.”

Part 27

Michael came up behind them as they moved into the parlor. Susan turned to him and extended her hand, he quickly took it.

“This room is absolutely beautiful, Susan,” Scully said.

Mulder was staring at the painting.

Susan nodded. “It is, isn’t it? This is nothing like how we originally found it. The house itself was in a major state of disrepair.”

“How the hell can you afford this place?” Mulder asked, still looking at the painting.

Susan followed his eyes. “It’s uncanny isn’t it?” she asked.

Mulder nodded.

“We found it in another room and had it cleaned up. Mike thought it should be in here,” she said glancing at Michael. “That’s Elizabeth Susan Halloway.”

Mulder looked at her. “Susan Elizabeth Halloway,” Mulder stated her name.

“Weird, huh? Considering that my parents never knew she existed.”

Mulder frowned.

“Come on, I’ll explain,” she said waiting by the doorway with Michael.

She closed the sliding doors once everyone was through and took Michael’s hand again. Ruffus was waiting in the hallway for them and proceeded to follow them around the house.

Susan led them across the hall into the den.

“Watch your step,” she said as she descended down three steeps into a sunken den.

“Susie, I’m going to take their stuff upstairs,” Mike said. “Then I have to go out for a minute. I forgot to pick up something for dinner.”

Susan’s face betrayed her disappointment, but covered it up quickly.

“OK,” she said as she reached up to give him a quick kiss. She leaned into him and whispered in his ear, “Hurry back.”

Mike grinned and kissed her again. “You won’t even notice I’m gone.”

Susan watched him leave the room, then looked over to Mulder and Scully who were entranced by the entertainment system.

Susan walked up behind them. Mulder was caressing the 40 inch flat screen television hanging above an entertainment center that contained a stereo, VCR and DVD player.

“Michael says this is my room,” Susan said.

They turned to her.

“If you look closely, you’ll notice speakers around the room,” Susan added. “It’s got stereo surround sound.”

Mulder looked like a little boy with a new toy.

“And, no,” Susan said. “We do not have those kinds of movies, at least not in the den,” she said smiling.

Scully laughed and Mulder ignored her as he plopped down onto the sofa. “So, are you on the take?”

“Mulder!” Scully chided.

“How the hell can you afford this house? Water front property? This place must have cost you a fortune.”

Susan smiled and sat in one of the chairs next to the sofa. She propped her feet up on an ottoman. She looked very much at home, considering that she was.

“Well, It’s a long story.” Susan said.

Scully sat down next to Mulder on the couch.

“When I was 21 I received a letter in the mail stating that my parents had left me everything they owned,” Susan said. “I was going through a stage in my life where I was pretty angry at my parents and didn’t want anything to do with them, so I tossed the letter.”

“Why were you angry with them?” Scully asked.

Susan took a deep breath. “It was completely irrational, but I was mad at them for leaving. And shit, I was a psych. student at the time, I should have recognized it.” Susan looked around the room. “I didn’t think about it again until about two years ago when a Realtor called me and asked if I would be interested in selling this house. I had no idea what she was talking about so I looked into it.” Susan smiled.

“Actually, Michael pushed me into it. We had just started dating when the woman called. He was curious and practically begged me to look at it. When we saw this house, there was no way we could sell it. It was in horrible shape, don’t get me wrong, but it gave off these vibes,” Susan frowned, looking sad all of a sudden.

Mulder and Scully glanced at each other, but didn’t say anything, silently urging her to continue.

Susan rubbed her temples, feeling a headache beginning to build behind her eyes.

“Anyway,” she sighed, dropping her hand. “We found out that my parents knew about the house, but never lived here. We fell in love with it, restored the outside and the parlor back into it’s original state and had the rest of the house redesigned. Michael’s brother, Ryan, is an architect and he worked from our notes. It turned out pretty nice, huh?”

Scully nodded. “It’s beautiful.”

“But,” Mulder said.

“How did we afford the renovations?” Susan asked.

Mulder nodded.

“Apparently when my parents died, they had a few bucks, not Kennedy money, but enough. They had bonds and also dabbled in the stock market,” Susan said. “When we found out about the house, I examined their bonds and stock holdings. Because they were just left alone for about 30 years, they had gone through the roof.”

“How much money do you have?” Mulder asked.

“Enough,” Susan said with a smile.

Mulder and Scully were quiet.

“Come on, let me show you the rest of the house,” Susan said, getting up from the chair. “You know, you guys are our first real guests since the house was finished.”

Susan led them across the room, up the steps, across a hallway and into the kitchen.

“This is Mike’s room,” Susan said. “He got to design it anyway he pleased.”

The room was huge with a gigantic butcher block island in the center of the room. It had a stainless steel sink and a two burner gas stove on the surface with a copper pot rack hanging above it. The counter tops were black granite and the cabinets were stained wood. In the far right corner of the room was a grill and a four burner gas stove. The room also had a breakfast nook that divided the kitchen and the dining room and a stainless steel refrigerator and double oven. There was a pantry by the basement stairs and a half wall that divided the kitchen and sunroom. Sitting atop the half wall by the stove were dozens of plants.

“These are Mike’s herbs,” Susan explained as Scully stepped forward to take a closer look. “He doesn’t like to use anything other than fresh ingredients when he’s cooking.”

Scully nodded and followed them into the dining room.

“The table was already here, but we got the chandelier when we were in Ireland last November,” Susan explained.

On the far end of the room was a fireplace and above it was a mirror that helped to light up the room when the chandelier was lit. The wall facing the backyard was one large floor to ceiling window and there was a doggy dog to the left of the window. Scully gasped at the view.

The house was built on a bluff overlooking the Long Island Sound and all you could see was blue skies.

“I couldn’t get over the view, so we made it so that we could sit and eat dinner and still enjoy the beauty of the Sound.

Mulder turned to her. “You keep saying `we’.”

Susan nodded. “I had everything changed into Michael’s and my names.

It’s no longer mine, it’s ours.”

“When did you do that?” Scully asked.

“A few months after we discovered this place.”

“But what happens if you two break up? Won’t he get half of everything?” Scully asked.

Susan smiled and shook her head. “Once we admitted how we felt to each other, we confessed that the moment we met we knew were meant to be together, we complete one another.”

Mulder smiled and gave a meaningful look to Scully. Even though Susan was no longer empathic, she recognized the feeling behind that look.

Susan clapped her hands to get their attention. “Come on, I’m sure you’ll love what I have to show you next.”

***

2:43 PM

Susan removed her clothes as she moved across her bedroom toward the bathroom, leaving a trail in her wake. She could hear the television blaring from downstairs. She smiled, knowing that she was going to have a hard time getting Mulder away from that thing.

What she really wanted was to take a bath, but she was afraid that she would fall asleep in it, not that she hasn’t done that before, but this time she would be alone. So, she opted for a shower.

Susan opened the door to the double shower stall and stepped inside.

When she turned the knobs, a steady waterfall fell from the top of the stall. She flipped a switch and jets on both sides of her turned on.

She sighed as she stepped under the stream. The jets massaged her whole body and she felt herself relax for the first time since she woke up in the hospital.

Michael opened the door to their bedroom and smiled. It’s been awhile since he saw Susan’s clothes strewn about the floor. He was about to pick up after her when he heard the shower shut off. He carefully snuck into the walk-in closet next to the bathroom and closed the door, leaving it open a crack so he could watch her without her being aware of him.

After drying herself off and combing her hair, Susan padded naked into the bedroom and dropped her towels next to her clothes on the floor.

She felt the headache that was bothering her earlier start to reassert itself behind her eyes. She sighed as she rubbed her forehead.

Susan walked over to the closet door, intending to get dressed and go downstairs, but as she passed the bed, she stopped. `How long has it been since she slept there?’, she asked herself. `Too long’, she answered.

The bed was a handmade canopy bed with lace around it like a curtain, which was currently tied back. They had the bed custom made to fit Michael’s large frame so that his feet didn’t hang off the edge.

She stood at the foot of the bed for a moment, then proceeded to lay down completely sprawled out thoroughly enjoying the softness of the comforter against her skin. She grabbed Michael’s pillow and held it against her chest as she borrowed her nose in it inhaling deeply. She sighed and stretched out. Maybe if she took a brief nap, the headache would go away, she thought to herself. She was just drifting off when she felt something touch her ankle.

Michael watched Susan reacquaint herself with their bed, but couldn’t stay away for too long. He quietly opened the door and silently walked over to her. Part of him liked the fact that he could watch her completely unnoticed, while the rest of him missed the sensations she caused in him. He reached out to caress her ankle, but the second he touched her, she freaked out.

Susan nearly jumped out of her skin when Michael touched her. She would have kicked him in the groin had he not gripped her ankle in a tight fist.

She rolled onto her back to see Michael standing at the foot of the bed holding her leg. “JESUS CHRIST!!” she yelled. “YOU SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME!” Her heart was pounding and she was breathing heavy. This did not help her headache.

Michael dropped her leg like he was burned. “Oh, God Susie. I didn’t think. I’m sorry.”

Susan turned away from him holding her hand to her chest. She could feel her heart beating against her palm. It was the same rhythm as her head.

Michael kicked off his shoes and laid down next to her. “Are you OK?”

he asked sincerely.

Susan suddenly turned toward him. “You know, that is the first time you asked me that question,” she stated, still slightly out of breath.

Michael looked at her, then brushed her hair off her face. “It is, isn’t it,” he said in a small voice. “I’m sorry I scared you.”

Susan gave him a small smile. “Today is a day of firsts. That’s the first time anyone has ever sneaked up on me. I have to say it’s an interesting experience.”

Michael smiled. “I’m glad I could be you’re first.”

Susan laughed and reached out to touch his jaw. Her smile faded as she slid her palm across his cheek. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“Susie?”

A tear rolled down her check and lingered on her chin. “I miss you so much.”

Michael cupped her face, wiping her tears with his thumbs. “I’m right here, Susie, I’m not going anywhere.”

Susan shook her head. She placed both hands on his chest. “I miss the way you feel, the way you *make* me feel.”

Michael sighed and drew her to him. “I miss it, too.”

Again, Susan shook her head and pulled away. “No, it’s not the same thing,” she said.

Michael frowned.

“I know what you felt, it’s not what I felt.”

“What did you feel?”

Susan ran her hand along his jaw down to his neck. “When I first met you, it was the most intense moment of my life,” she explained, her tears starting anew. “I was never the kind of woman who needed a man to complete me. I was very happy the way I was.”

Michael ran his hands up and down her back as she spoke.

“You go through your life, afraid to let people in, because they always wind up hurting you. My first vivid memory of my gift was the death of my parents.”

Michael raised his eyebrows in surprise.

Susan smiled through her tears. “I know you thought I didn’t remember it, but you can never forget something like that.”

“Oh, God Susie.”

Susan placed her hand over his lips. “Shhh.”

Michael nodded and remained quiet.

“Everything I ever loved was taken from me and because of that, I refused to let anyone else in.” She removed her hand, confident that he wasn’t going to speak. “I dated, aware of the fact that most guys just wanted to get in my pants. It’s not the best thing to know that a guy has no interest in you other than what you have between your legs.” She looked up at Michael, but his expression was unreadable. “I know the effect I can have on men, and I admit that I sometimes purposefully emitted to get what I wanted.” She looked down at the comforter, tracing invisible patterns on the fabric, not proud of that fact. “But in the end, I always knew it was just lust and not love.”

She took a deep breath. “Then when I got out of the academy, I met a man who not only liked the way I looked, but he liked the way I thought, too, and I fell in love. HARD.”

She looked up at him and he smiled at her. She had already explained that Mulder was the first man she ever really loved, and he respected that, but he didn’t know everything.

“I flew down to Washington one weekend to surprise him. We had an agreement that if we weren’t seeing anyone else, we were with each other. I thought it was an unspoken thing that neither of us wanted to see someone else, though. When I found out that he was seeing Diana, it damn near killed me. I thought the breakup was only going to be until one of us could get transferred. But when he started to go through his hypnoregression, Diana appeared out of nowhere and was giving him `support’,” Susan said dryly and wiped her eyes. “What bothered me most was that he was going to try to hide the fact that he was having a pretty hard time with the resurfaced memories. Combine that with Diana, and I blew up at him. I tried to explain to him that I didn’t trust her, but he said that I was taking it personally.”

Susan laughed. “Of course I was, but it didn’t help the fact that I really didn’t trust her. And because of that, he thought that I was just being a jealous girlfriend, he wouldn’t listen to me.” Susan sighed. “It pissed me off so badly that I just left him standing in his apartment and flew back to New York the same day.”

Michael slowly wiped her tears and brushed her hair off her face.

Susan took a deep breath and continued. “I eventually forgave him after he called me a million times to apologize for being such an asshole. I agreed with him and confessed that I was more hurt that he didn’t want my help. He explained that he didn’t want to burden me with his problems when he had been hearing about my accomplishments in the VCS in Manhattan. It wasn’t that he didn’t want my help, it was that he knew that I couldn’t really give him the time he needed without sacrificing my career. Then one day, Mulder shows up on my front step and tells me that Diana left him for a position in the Middle East. It made me not like her even more. We talked for hours and spent time together, but it wasn’t like it was before. I was afraid to let him in again. We still saw each other now and then, but then Dana was assigned to him and he lost a lot of his free time and I was working my ass off. The last time we saw each other was in late 1994. He had just finished up a case and I was in between. He and I,” Susan paused to look up at Michael. He waved his hand indicating for her to continue. She smiled. “We relieved a lot of stress.”

“To put it nicely,” Michael said.

“Yeah,” Susan agreed. “I noticed a change in him, though. He was very depressed and for someone who is empathic, it’s not fun being around someone like that.”

Michael gave her a small smile.

“I think that was when I started to feel that he was falling in love with Dana, but he didn’t know it at the time.”

Michael looked at her.

“I backed off,” Susan said. “All I ever wanted was for him to be happy and I felt that she was the person who could do that,” Susan stopped talking for a few moments. “After that I didn’t hear from him for a few months. Eventually he called to tell me about Dana’s disappearance and her magical reappearance. We would speak again only about once a month. It was weird, but I could actually feel us drifting apart. I started dating other men, but I refused to let them in. Besides, none of them really did anything for me, and like I said, I’m not the kind of woman who needs a man to define myself. It didn’t really bother me that I didn’t have a date every Friday night. I knew if I wanted one, I could get it, but I wasn’t really interested. Then,” Susan drew out the word and gave him a big smile. “My pain in the ass partner decided to retire.” Susan stopped to place her hand on Michael’s face again.

He put his hand over hers.

“I was working a profile when someone knocked on my office door. I was a little pissed because the guys in the squad knew that when my door was closed, they were not to bug me. But when the door opened, my heart stopped.”

Michael smiled. “I remember you looked really pale.”

“In walked a man, in a very form fitting gray suit, a crisp white shirt and pink and white tie. He had broad shoulders and a narrow waist, his shirt was tight across his chest.” Susan ran her hands over his chest. “His dark, wavy hair looked a little unruly as if he had a habit of running his hands through it.” She mirrored her words. “He smiled at me, and he got these little crinkly lines around his blue eyes.” Susan traced her fingers around his eyes. “I had to smile back.

“Suddenly, I felt weightless as this calm came over me. It felt as though all the cells in my body were vibrating and I swear I heard a slight humming in my ears. I never felt anything like it. It was as if this man just flicked a switch and ran electricity through me.

“I must have had a strange look on my face because you asked if you were interrupting me. The sound of your voice turned the electricity up a notch and the humming grew louder.

“I tried to cover my reactions and said, `No, no. It’s OK, it’s just been a long day,’ then pointed to the photos and paperwork on my desk.

“You took a step closer, the humming was almost deafening, and looked down at my desk. You frowned and looked at me, then cocked your head with this curious expression on your face.

“`My God, can he hear it, too?’ I thought to myself.”

Michael laughed. “I think I did hear something.”

Susan smiled. “Then you asked me if I was Susan Halloway. I didn’t physically respond, but my body sure as hell did. Then you said.”

Susan lowered her voice, imitating Michael. He smiled. ” `I’m Michael O’Sullivan. I’m your new partner’. I looked down at your hand then back to your face. I rose from my chair and took your hand. The humming abruptly stopped the moment your hand touched mine. I tried not to mentally scan you, but I couldn’t help it. I had to see what was so special about you. It was the most intense experience in my life. I fell in love with you right then and there and you had only said a few words to me.

“Every one in the world is searching for something, for meaning in life.” Susan started to cry again. “I truly believe that everyone has someone out there made for them and few are fortunate enough to find them. The moment I met you, I knew you were that person.”

Susan moved closer to him and kissed him gently. “You know what I did then?” she asked quietly.

Michael shook his head and kissed her again.

“I never told you this,” she pulled away to look at him. “I blocked you.”

Michael frowned at her. “Why did you do that?”

She smiled. “I wanted you to fall in love with me, not because of my gift, but because of me,” she stated firmly. “And you took so long, it almost drove me nuts.”

Michael laughed. “It did take long, didn’t it.” He pulled her close again. “I knew that I was interested the moment I met you, but I didn’t know how you would respond to me asking you out for dinner the first day I met you. I was afraid that you would think I just wanted to get in your pants.”

Susan laughed, but sobered quickly. “And now, it’s as if I’m blocking you again and I feel like I’m going insane!” She tried to sit up, but he stopped her.

“Susie, please don’t,” he said softly.

She turned to him again. “I feel like someone has died.”

He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.

She spoke into his chest. “I don’t know how to do this. I’m not a normal person.”

Michael smiled sadly. “Then we go slowly. I’m still here, you just have to look more closely.”

She looked at him, her eyes red from crying.

“Here,” Michael said as he sat up and pulled off his shirt.

She watched him warily.

He laid back down, grabbed her hand, and placed it on his chest over his heart. “Feel that?”

Susan was quiet, not knowing what he meant, then she felt it; his heartbeat. She looked up at him.

“Tell me what you feel.”

“I, I feel your heart beating.”

“What else do you feel?”

She studied his chest. “I feel warmth, and I feel muscle.” She smiled.

“I feel strength.”

Michael tilted her chin up and kissed her. She shifted closer to him and moaned when her breasts met his naked chest. Michael took that as an opportunity to deepen the kiss. She groaned softly when his tongue slid across hers. He moved his hand from her face, down her neck to her breast. She moaned louder when his thumb started to trace circles around her nipple. He slid his hand to the slightly rounded section of her lower stomach, the tips of his fingers brushed the wiry hair at the apex of her thighs. He started to move his hand lower when Susan abruptly pulled back and grabbed his hand.

“Michael, no,” she said sounding panicky and slightly out of breath.

“What?” he asked confused. “I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry.” She sat up and used both hands to push the hair off her face. Michael noticed that they were trembling. “I can’t do this.”

She looked at him sadly. “At least not yet.”

He nodded and sat up, too. “It’s OK. I understand.”

She smiled at him.

“No, really. I do. We’ll go as slowly as you want, as you need.”

She leaned over and kissed his throat. “I love you,” she said.

He smiled and kissed her. “I love you, too.”

“Thank you.”

He held her for a few moments, slightly rocking her back and forth. He felt her breathing start to even out and knew that she was getting sleepy.

“Look, why don’t you try to take a nap.” He laid her down and stood.

“I have to start dinner.”

“What are we having?” she asked.

He shook his head. “It’s a surprise.”

“Is that why you `forgot’ to get something from the store?”

He smiled, but didn’t answer her. He opened his night stand drawer and held something small in his hand. He sat down next to her while she was moving under the covers.

“Here, you can put this back on,” he said softly, extending his hand to her.

He placed the object in her palm and she knew right away what it was.

She looked down at a ring. It had a platinum band with two blue diamonds on either side of a larger white diamond.

“I don’t know if it will be able to go on. My hand is still a little swollen,” she said looking down at the pink scar lines on her left hand.

“How does it feel?”

She held her hand up and wiggled her fingers at him. “It doesn’t really hurt, it just feels really stiff. The doctor told me that I would have to work on getting the strength back into it. I have to use one of those squeeze balls. Still, he said that I healed better than he thought I would.”

Michael nodded but didn’t say anything.

Susan took his hand and gave the ring back to him. He looked at her questionably.

“Try to put it on for me?” she asked in a small voice.

He rolled his eyes, but was grinning widely. He picked up her left hand and slid it on her third finger.

“Perfect. I still can’t get over how well it fits you,” he said, his voice betrayed his wonder.

Susan put her hand out, admiring the ring. “It’s as if it was made for me.” She looked at him and tucked her hair behind her ear.

He leaned down to kiss her and pulled away reluctantly to put on his shirt.

“I think it was.” He stood and moved to close the blinds.

He heard her mumble something when he finished with the last window.

“What was that?”

“I said,” she rolled over on to her back. “I’m thinking about cutting my hair. It’s starting to bother me.”

Michael looked at her for a moment before he brought his hand up to his jaw. “You know?” he said. “I’m thinking about growing a beard.”

Susan frowned at him and moved to her side. She propped her head up on her hand. “That’s not fair.”

Michael laughed. “Oh, yes it is.”

She fell back. “Fine, I’ll leave it alone.”

He smiled and clicked off the light. “Good.”

It was quiet in the room when they suddenly heard a boom from downstairs.

“I’ll tell Mulder to turn down the TV.” Michael said when he approached the door.

“I can’t believe Dana is just sitting watching a movie,” she said sleepily.

“She’s not.”

“Huh?”

“It’s just Mulder. The last time I saw Dana, she was heading down toward the beach with Ruffus.”

“Why’d she go alone?”

“I think she hinted that she wanted Mulder to join her, but he was too absorbed in the television.”

Susan groaned. “I’m going to have to talk to that man.”

Michael laughed and opened the door. “Even I wasn’t that dense.”

Susan snorted and mumbled into her pillow. “I would argue with you on that one, but I’m too tired.”

Michael chuckled. “Get some sleep.”

“Love you,” she said drifting off.

“You, too,” he said closing the door behind him.

Part 28

4:39 PM

Susan padded barefoot down the stairs and went into the kitchen.

Michael was working diligently on dinner, obviously enjoying himself.

“Hey,” Susan said coming up behind him and putting her arms around his waist.

“Hey,” he rubbed her arm. “Did you sleep well?”

Susan nuzzled her face into his back. “Mmm.”

Michael turned in her arms and leaned down to kiss her. “Good,” he said when he released her lips. “Now get the hell out of here and let me finish.”

She smiled, but made no move to remove her arms from around him.

“Go!” he said walking her out of the room.

Susan mumbled under her breath and dragged her feet as she left the room.

She found Mulder in the den watching a movie. She knew what is was when she heard Harrison Ford saying `Bobafet? Where?’ accompanied by the sounds of laser guns and light sabers.

“So, have you already watched Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back?”

Susan asked as she sat down next to him on the couch.

Mulder tore his eyes away from the TV to grin at her. “Yeah,” he said still smiling. “Susan? Do you think I could move in?”

Susan gave him a small smile. “I think it would be better if I bought you one of your own.”

Mulder’s eyes sparkled. “You know, my birthday is in October.”

Susan laughed, reached for the remote and turned off Return of The Jedi.

“Hey,” he protested.

Susan tossed the remote on the couch, then patted his thigh. “Come on, Mulder. I want to talk to you.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him up off the couch.

Mulder looked down at their hands when he felt her ring dig into his fingers. He raised his eyebrows at her.

“Come on, let’s take a walk,” she said ignoring his look.

“Why do I feel like you’re going to break up with me,” he said jokingly.

She smiled and led him into the kitchen.

“Mike, we’ll be out back,” Susan said.

Michael didn’t turn around. “I’ll let you know when dinner’s ready,” he responded.

Susan and Mulder entered the backyard via sliding glass doors on the side of the sunroom.

“He’s so domestic,” Mulder said sarcastically when they were outside.

“Cooking is his hobby,” Susan replied.

Mulder nodded. “So, what did you want to talk to me about?”

Susan stopped suddenly. “Where’s Dana?” she asked.

Mulder shrugged. “I think she went down to the water. Why?”

Susan took his hand and led him to a gazebo in the middle of the yard.

She boosted herself up on one of the railings, ignoring the furniture, and watched him look around the structure before leaning against a post opposite her.

“What were you doing before?” Susan asked.

Mulder looked confused. “I think that was obvious,” he stated.

Susan nodded. “So, you were watching television while Dana was down at the beach?”

Mulder didn’t respond.

“May I ask you a personal question?” Susan asked.

Mulder crossed his arms across his chest. The profiler in Susan knew that he was closing himself off.

“When do you ask permission?”

Susan pursed her lips. “Have you two slept together, yet?” Her blue eyes never left his, even though he wasn’t looking at her.

Mulder actually looked shocked when his eyes met hers. “What the hell kind of question is that?” he asked defensively.

“I thought it was a pretty straight forward question. Have you two had sex, made love, fucked?”

Mulder started to look angry.

Susan nodded. “I guess by the way you reacted. I don’t need an answer.”

Mulder started to say something, but Susan interrupted him. “So, what happened while I was tomato puree?”

“Susan, where the hell is all this coming from?” He practically shouted.

Susan found it interesting that he was actually angry with her. He was quite defensive about this subject, wasn’t he? Susan asked herself.

She knew she was purposefully antagonizing him.

Susan took a deep breath. “What are you afraid of?” she asked softly.

Susan watched as the anger drained out of him. He uncrossed his arms and turned his back to her.

His chin met his chest when he answered her. “I don’t know.”

Susan jumped off the railing to stand next to him. She rubbed her hand over his back.

“Mulder, I’m sorry,” she said.

Mulder just nodded.

“She loves you, you don’t have to worry about that.”

“I know,” he mumbled.

“So, what’s wrong?”

Mulder turned to her. “I don’t know how to act around her,” he blurted out.

Susan smiled. “You act normal.”

Mulder shook his head. “This isn’t normal for us,” he said. “I am so used to not knowing how she feels, to having to stop myself around her, that I’m having a hard time adjusting.”

Susan sighed. “You and I are a real pair,” she said, turning and resting her hands on the railing. The ring sparkled in the sunlight.

Mulder stared at it.

“What do you mean?”

She shook her head. “I’m having such a problem adjusting to the loss of my gift that I’m a little scared of intimacy with Michael and you’re having a problem adjusting to intimacy, period.”

Mulder smiled ruefully and took her hand. His thumb ran across the diamond.

“The ring was Michael’s grandmother’s,” Susan said. “It was supposed to go to the oldest boy in his family, but Michael was his grandmother’s favorite, so she sneaked it to him when he left for college.”

Mulder smiled. “When did he pop the question?”

“August,” she responded.

“Have you set a date?”

She shook her head. “We don’t need to.”

Mulder nodded his understanding. He reached into his back pocket and removed his wallet. Susan watched him quietly.

He dug around to the back, having trouble.

“Mulder?”

He finally succeeded and pulled out a gold band. It was her father’s ring. Susan noticed that it had left an indentation in the leather.

“I thought you might want this back,” he said softly. “You can give it to Michael.” He held the ring out to her, but she made no move to take it.

She looked from the ring to his eyes. He looked so sad. She extended her hand and took the ring, but she placed it back in his palm and curled his fingers around it.

“I want you to keep it,” her voice trembled.

Mulder nodded and put the ring back in his wallet. When he was finished, he pulled Susan into a fierce hug.

Susan pulled back and turned toward the water. She saw Scully walking up from the shore carrying her shoes in her hand. Ruffus was walking steadily next to her. She waved when she saw them. They waved back.

“Mulder,” she said quickly. “I’m going to give you a bit of advice about Dana.”

“Uh, oh.”

Susan chuckled. “You need to touch her more.”

Mulder looked from Susan to Scully.

“Try little things at first, like holding her hand or putting your arm around her while you’re sitting on the couch.” She turned to look at him. “She likes things like that.”

Mulder nodded.

“Kiss her hello when she gets up here. Put your hand on her knee at dinner.”

Mulder cocked his head to the side.

“It’s just something I picked up from her.”

Mulder smiled.

“But don’t ever tell her I told you this.”

Mulder laughed. “I promise.”

“Promise what?” Scully asked standing outside the gazebo.

Mulder turned to her. “Nothing,” he said leaning down to her to give her a peck on the lips. Scully smiled widely when he stood up, the surprise evident on her face.

“Come on you guys,” Susan said heading for the house. “I have something important I want to show you.”

Mulder took Scully’s hand as they walked back into the house. She looked at him sideways and smiled to herself.

“Red or white?” Susan asked Michael as she opened the door to the basement.

“Red.”

“Ah, so we’re having Italian,” she said as she started to descend the stairs.

“OUT!” Michael shouted.

Susan laughed.

Mulder and Scully followed her down. The stairs led to a finished basement. The room had a bar to the left and a pool table to the right. It also had a fooz ball table, ping pong and a few pinball machines and arcade games.

“This is the game room,” Susan said stating the obvious.

“This is what you wanted to show us?” Mulder asked.

Susan shook her head as she opened a door on the far side of the room.

“No, what I wanted to show you is down here.”

“Down?” Scully asked.

“Yeah, in the wine cellar.”

“Wine cellar?” Mulder asked surprised.

“It used to be a potato cellar, but we turned it into a wine cellar,” Susan said as she led them down a few stairs. She flipped a switch illuminating a 12×12 room with many floor to ceiling wine racks.

She walked to the end of the room and pulled out a bottle of red wine and handed it to Mulder. She took out three more, giving two to Scully and another to Mulder.

“This is what I wanted to show you,” Susan said kneeling down in the corner. She pushed aside a crate on the floor revealing a safe nestled in the floor. “Sit down,” Susan said.

Mulder and Scully sat down on the cement floor watching Susan carefully. She turned the dial and popped open the door.

She turned to them. “If you guys are ever in any trouble and can’t contact Michael or me,” she explained. “I want you to know that I have some money down here that you can have.”

“Susan,” Scully started, but Susan held up her hand, stopping her.

“Throughout the years, Mulder has explained to me some of the things going on behind closed doors in our government,” Susan explained. “And I think some of his paranoia has rubbed off on me.”

Mulder grinned at her.

“There is almost a million dollars here in cash and negotiable bonds.

Virtually untraceable.”

“Oh, my God,” Scully breathed.

Susan reached in and pulled out a sheet of paper. “There is also a map to a cabin we have in Maine. It doesn’t exist on paper and is only accessible by foot or helicopter.”

“Susan, we can’t accept this,” Scully said, but Mulder took the piece of paper and studied it before giving it back to her.

“Yes, you can.”

“What’s the combination?” Mulder asked.

“67-31-4,” Susan said.

Mulder nodded and stood. Susan and Scully stood as well. “Thank you,” he said taking her into a hug.

Susan nodded.

“If anything happens, we will make sure to take you and Michael with us,” Mulder said, releasing her.

Susan smiled. “Thank you.”

Part 29

9:45 PM

Scully’s head felt like it weighed a million pounds. She tried to lift it up off of Mulder’s arm that was resting on the back of her chair, but it just wouldn’t budge. So, she decided to study the crystal chandelier that hung above her head. The only problem was that her vision was a little fuzzy and it kept swimming in and out of focus.

“Looks like your partner really liked the wine,” Susan said amused.

Mulder glanced at Scully and smiled. “It’s really good wine,” he said taking a sip from his glass.

Michael nodded. “It is. I discovered it when we were in France last November.”

Suddenly Scully’s head shot up. “But I thought you said you were in Ireland in November,” she asked Susan, confused.

Michael looked sideways at Susan, but she wasn’t looking at him, she was too busy fiddling with her napkin. He took a deep breath.

“We were,” he said simply. “Susie had some time coming to her and I had a lot of vacation time saved, so we took a month off, visited my parents in Ireland, then wandered around Europe.”

Susan kept her eyes on her hands, not looking up. Scully noticed that she looked a little uncomfortable with the conversation, but didn’t say anything.

“A month?” Mulder asked surprised, but didn’t push the matter. He also noticed Susan’s reaction.

“Where in Ireland?” Scully asked.

“Wicklow. They were born there.”

“Were you born over there?”

Michael shook his head. “My parents came over when my mom was pregnant with my sister Katherine, settling in Boston. My dad opened a restaurant, then my brother Ryan came along, followed closely by me.

When I joined the bureau, they moved back.”

“You don’t have a Boston accent,” Scully pointed out.

Michael shrugged. “Well,” he started, but Susan interrupted him.

“You should hear him when he gets angry or excited,” Susan said smiling at him. “Especially when he…”

Michael pinched her thigh, stopping her from continuing that line of thought. Susan was sitting sideways with her legs across his lap. She laughed and tried to pull away, but he stopped her. He ran his hand over the sore spot he just pinched.

Mulder smiled at them, then glanced at Scully. He moved his hand from the back of the chair to rest on her shoulder. He gave her a little squeeze and she smiled at him.

“So,” Mulder said to Michael. “Susan said you went to Notre Dame?”

Michael nodded. “Majored in criminology.”

“Why didn’t you continue with football?”

Michael sighed. “I broke my wrist in April of my senior year and blew my chances.” He looked at Susan. “For the best.”

She smiled at him.

“I joined the Boston PD, worked for them for five years, then was recruited by the bureau,” he said to Mulder.

“How long have you been with the FBI?” Scully asked.

“I’m coming up to my seventh year.”

“If you don’t mind my asking,” Scully said. “How old are you?”

“34.”

Mulder looked at Susan, he had a mischievous grin on his face. “Going for a younger man?”

Susan gave him a sweet smile. “Young and virile.”

Mulder laughed. “Hey, I saw that pool table you’ve got downstairs.

Feel like playing?”

Susan leaned back. “I don’t know, Mulder.”

Michael smiled.

“Come on, we can play men against the women. You guys can go first.”

Susan glanced at Scully. Scully raised an eyebrow and a small smile graced her lips. Susan got a glint in her eye and turned to Mulder, she placed both hands on the table and stood. “You’re on.”

***

11:55 PM

Mulder was sulking as he ascended the stairs to the kitchen.

“I think Mulder’s mad at me,” Susan said over her shoulder to Scully.

Scully grinned.

Mulder stopped suddenly, causing Susan to walk into his back. He turned to her. “You know, you could have told me you were good.”

Susan smiled at him. “Mulder, it’s my pool table. Of course I’m good.”

She placed her hand on the center of his chest, giving him a slight shove. “Now, move your ass.”

Mulder frowned at her then continued up the stairs.

“I’m going to bed,” Mulder mumbled under his breath.

Scully yawned. “Mmmm me, too.” She put her hand over her mouth. “I’m exhausted.”

Michael came up behind Susan and wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Sounds like a good idea,” he whispered into her hair.

Susan craned her head around and kissed him on the cheek. “Just give me a minute, I want to do something first.”

He smiled at her. “OK,” he said, releasing her, then followed Mulder and Scully up to the second floor.

Susan watched him go, a feeling of butterflies stirred in her stomach.

Taking a deep breath, she walked down the hall to her office. She pushed open the door and headed straight for her desk. It was piled high with mail and packages. She picked up an envelope that was resting on the top of the pile. It was from the LA County Sheriff’s department. She sighed and picked up her letter opener.

“Good night, Mulder.” Michael said as he closed the door behind him.

Mulder nodded to him, but his eyes were on Scully’s closed bedroom door. He slowly walked over and rapped his knuckles on the wood.

“It’s open,” Scully said from inside.

Scully was standing on the balcony, looking at the stars. The gentle breeze ruffled her hair. Mulder quietly came up next to her.

“Your room is so much nicer than mine,” Mulder said softly.

Scully smiled. “It’s beautiful.”

Mulder nodded.

She glanced at him. “You know, I think that’s Irish linen on the bed.”

Mulder looked behind him at the king size canopy bed. He shrugged. “I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”

Scully smiled.

They were quiet for a few moments, just keeping each other company.

Mulder kept looking at her out of the corner of his eye. She acted as if she didn’t notice.

“I can’t get over the view,” Scully sighed. “I could stay here forever.”

Mulder turned to her. He reached his hand out to push a strand of hair behind her ear. “Me, too.”

She smiled at him and grabbed his hand, giving it a squeeze, then dropped it and turned to look out at the Sound.

“Did you know about any of this?”

Mulder looked at her.

“This,” she spread her arms out in front of her. “Did you have any idea that she had this?”

He shook his head. “I’m just as surprised as you are.”

Scully nodded. “Did you see her reaction when Mike mentioned France?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“I wonder what that was about.”

Mulder shrugged. “She obviously was uncomfortable about it.”

She didn’t respond.

Mulder sighed. “I’m beat.”

Scully yawned and put her hand over her mouth.

Mulder laughed. “And it seems you are, too.”

“Mmm, It’s been a long day,” she agreed

Mulder headed toward the door with Scully following closely behind him. He paused when he stepped out into the hallway.

“Good night, Scully.”

She smiled at him. “‘night Mulder.”

He leaned down to give her a brief kiss on the lips, lingering a bit before he pulled away.

***

12:36 AM

Friday, April 28

Michael descended the spiral staircase that led from their bedroom to Susan’s office and stopped at the bottom step.

Susan was deep in thought, engrossed in the papers in front of her. He cleared his throat to alert her to his presence before he headed towards her.

She looked up and smiled.

“I thought you were only going to be a minute.”

Susan looked down at her watch. Her eyes widened in surprise. “Sorry, I lost track of time.”

Michael cocked his head toward the stairs. “Come on, you must be tired.”

Susan put down her pen and leaned back in her chair, rubbing her neck.

“I *am* tired.”

He extended his hand and pulled her to her feet. She followed him up the stairs and into their bedroom.

“Just let me get ready for bed,” Susan said as she went into the bathroom. When she closed the door, she leaned over the counter. She took a deep breath and looked at herself in the mirror.

“I can’t get over how nervous I am,” Susan mumbled to herself. She continued to stare at her reflection, she had circles under her eyes, and her hands shook slightly when she moved to push her hair off her face.

She sighed and finished getting ready for bed.

When she emerged from the bathroom, she noticed that Michael had turned off the lights except for the lamp on her night stand. She padded over to him and realized he was watching her.

“You look nervous,” he said softly.

Susan smiled self-consciously. “I am.”

“You trust me?”

Susan nodded. “With all that I am.”

“Then don’t worry.”

Susan stood looking over him for a moment, trying to gain the courage to join him in bed. She ran her eyes over him, taking in his naked chest and the look of complete adoration on his face.

`How could she ever doubt this beautiful man?’

she asked herself.

She reached for the bottom of her shirt, pulled it over her head and let it drop to the floor. Her panties soon followed.

Michael silently admired her body for a few seconds before he lifted the covers for her so she could slide in next to him. He put his arms around her waist and pulled her to him.

“I’ve missed having you sleeping next to me,” he said softly.

She smiled and reached out to cup his jaw. He noticed that she was trembling slightly, and took her hand.

“Why are you nervous?” he asked as he ran his thumb over the small bones on the back of her hand.

Susan sighed. “When we made love, I always knew what you were feeling, what you were going to do. I guess I’m a little unsure about what’s going to happen.”

Michael kissed her hairline. “How about I tell you what I want to do?”

Susan swallowed. “OK,” she said, voice cracked.

He gave her a small smile. “You have never just experienced your own pleasure, at least with someone else in the room,” he finished with a full fledged grin.

Susan slapped him on the arm.

He laughed. “Let me give you that pleasure.”

She ran her hand across his jaw.

“Just lay back and let me do all the work.”

She chuckled, then kissed him fiercely. He returned the action, revealing in the tastes and textures of her mouth. Then they relaxed and kissed lazily, each taking turns in reacquainting themselves with the other. Carefully, he settled her onto her back, still kissing her, his hands in her hair. He released her mouth and placed small kisses around her face.

He pulled away and looked at her, smiling. Her face was flushed and she was breathing fast.

She opened her eyes and blinked at him.

“Close your eyes,” he said in a voice much deeper than ordinary.

She did.

“Now, just concentrate on how this feels.” He ran his hand down her face to her neck. He tilted her head and kissed her throat.

She made a soft purring noise.

He nibbled, sucked and kissed his way down her throat to just above her breast. He could feel her heart pounding under his lips. He placed an open mouthed kiss over her heart. Then one hand found it’s way to the other breast as his lips closed over her nipple.

She arched her back in response and wound her fingers through his hair, pulling him closer. She moaned deep back in her throat.

He suckled each breast equally, occasionally nipping, then soothing her with his tongue. Her sighs and moans encouraged him to continue.

After what felt like and eternity, he released her breast, with a whimper from her and moved further down, placing kisses over her stomach, paying special attention to her belly button. He dipped his tongue in her navel and her stomach muscles jerked at the touch. He ran his hands up and down her thighs and he continued his descent.

Susan’s hands were still in his hair massaging his scalp, but when he kissed her just above her pubic hair, he felt her tugging his hair insistently. He glanced up at her and saw that she was looking at him with what could only be described as terror on her face.

He quickly moved back up the bed to her.

“Are you OK?” he asked concerned that he had done something to hurt her. Usually, she’s all for what he was about to do. She was lucky he enjoyed it at much as she did.

She nodded. “Yeah,” she squeaked. She licked her lips. “I just, uh.”

She swallowed. “I just want you to stay up here with me.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry,” he said, kissing her softly.

She shook her head. “No, don’t apologize. I was really getting into it, but then when I realized where you were going, I started to panic.”

He frowned. “Why?”

She caressed his face. “I don’t know,” she said in a small voice.

“Did you like it?” he asked, sounding so unsure of himself.

She smiled and pulled him down for a languid kiss. “Yes,” she said when she released him.

“How about this,” he said suddenly as he cupped her breast, running his thumb over her hardened nipple, then pulling it between his thumb and forefinger, tugging slightly.

“Mmmm.” She closed her eyes.

“And this?” He nibbled her ear lobe.

“Mmmmmmmmmmm.”

“And this?” He ran his hand down her stomach.

She tensed a bit, but forced herself to relax.

“I don’t even have to ask you if you like this,” he spoke huskily into her ear as he moved his hand down further.

She gasped and bent one leg up to allow him better access. She tossed her head back and gave herself over to him. The world disappeared around her as she got lost in the feeling.

***

1:48 AM

Susan watched Michael sleep. His face was completely relaxed making him look so much younger. She leaned over, giving him a brief kiss, then carefully extracted herself from under him.

He mumbled something in his sleep and she froze. He settled back down and she continued to get out of bed. She put on his tee shirt, it was large on her, ending just above her knees and his boxers, which were only slightly loose around her waist.

She padded lightly down the spiral staircase to her office.

***

Same time

Even though Scully was exhausted, sleep eluded her. Probably because the bed was too damn comfortable. After a few minutes of tossing around, she decided to go downstairs and fix a cup of tea, maybe it would help her relax. She threw the blanket aside, picked up her robe from the end of the bed and headed downstairs.

Mulder, who was also having a hard time getting to sleep, heard her door open. Curiosity got the better of him and he decided to see what she was up to.

Scully looked around the large kitchen wondering where Michael kept the tea bags. Knowing her luck, it was up on the top shelf. She searched around as quietly as she could, coming up with nothing, except every kind of cooking utensil and gadget known to man. She opened one of the cabinets above the microwave, and found what she was looking for. But, as she guessed, it was up on the top shelf.

She extended her arm as far as she could, her fingers just brushed the box.

Out of nowhere, a hand came from behind her and grabbed the box. She turned quickly and came face to chest with Fox Mulder.

“Jesus, Mulder,” Scully breathed. “Where the hell did you come from?”

He chuckled. “I heard your door open.” He dropped the box on the counter and placed his hands on either side of her, virtually trapping her in place.

“What are you doing?” she said sounding alarmed.

“Working up some courage,” he said softly as he leaned down and captured her lips with his.

Scully didn’t react right away and he was about to step back when her hands gripped his T-shirt and pulled him closer.

Mulder brought his hands to her hair and tilted her head back so he could get closer to her, but their height difference was becoming a problem. He ran his hands down her back to her waist and hoisted her up on the counter. The movement startled her and she pulled her mouth away.

“Mulder,” she said, her voice breathy.

“Mmmm,” he said, nuzzling her neck. His breath hot against her skin as his fingers played with the knot on the belt of her robe.

“WWWe’re in tttthe kkkitchen,” she stuttered, the touch of his lips and the tip of his tongue hitting that spot just behind her ear, made thinking difficult.

He moved so that he could look her in the eye and smiled at her. “Very observant of you,” he said sarcastically, then kissed her again.

Scully gave up when she felt Mulder part her robe and run his hands up her back under her pajama top. Before she knew what was happening, she wrapped her legs around his waist and had her hands under his T-shirt, sliding over his chest. Her nails scrapped gently over his nipples.

He groaned into her mouth and she answered him by tightening her legs around him.

Mulder ground his pelvis into her and smiled when she was the one to groan this time.

Scully tried to get closer to him, but he held her back.

Now, her groan was one of frustration.

“Mulder,” she sighed when she felt his hands at the front of her top, working on the buttons. She made a sound that was a combination of a moan and his name when he moved the fabric aside and brought his hands to her breasts, the roughness of his palms added to pleasure of the contact.

“God, Scully,” he whispered in awe as he looked down at his hands. He couldn’t believe they were actually doing what they were doing.

Scully grabbed his hair and pulled him in for another long, deep kiss.

***

`The killer is organized, has fairly high intelligence and is socially competent. He lives with someone, his mother or maybe a sister. He is controlled and calculating during the crime and is likely later to follow news of the crime via the media.

His victims are strangers and he maintains his dominance during the execution of the crime. He targets women whom he sees as vulnerable and easily accessible, i.e. prostitutes. He brings the women to a seedy motel that pays by the hour and excepts cash, no questions asked.

His actions are well thought out and methodical. After he finds his victim, he persuades her to come with him. He appears to be a `normal guy’, so she sees no harm in going with him. He is polite and well mannered and seems harmless. When they arrive, they attempt to engage in consensual sex, but he is unable to perform. The woman may laugh at him or act nonchalant about the matter, but either way, he perceives her actions as mocking. He becomes enraged and starts to hit her, enjoying the fear he invokes. He ties her to the bed, blindfolded and gagged. Then, he tightens and loosens a rope around the victim’s throat so that he can watch her fall into unconsciousness, then revive her. He rapes her, her struggles urging him on. He strangles her and can climax only after she stops breathing.’

Susan dropped her pen and ran her hands through her hair. She moved her neck from side to side. The goddamned headache was back. She rubbed her eyes, then picked up a crime scene photo the LA Country Sheriff department sent her. Detective Robert Tinus sent her a package of photos and case notes, hoping that she would be able to come up with something new. His request was one of the many that were currently sitting on her desk.

She sighed and picked up her mug along with the report she was reading and headed toward the kitchen in search of some chamomile tea.

Susan had her nose buried in the report when she walked into the kitchen. She looked up when she heard a grunt. Much to her surprise and horror, she found herself standing in front of an extremely occupied Mulder and Scully. He was standing with her legs wrapped around him. Her head was tilted back, her shirt and robe was off her shoulders and his face was buried in her chest.

Susan stood frozen in place for a moment then spun around quickly.

Too quickly.

In her haste to get out of the room as fast as she could, her shoulder collided with the refrigerator, causing her to drop her mug and fall to her knees on the tiled floor.

The crash of glass and a sharp “SHIT!” forced Mulder and Scully out of their sexually drunken haze and jump apart like a pair of guilty teenagers. They turned to see Susan crawling on her hands and knees out of the kitchen.

Mulder and Scully just looked at each other for a beat, then broke out in hysterical laughter.

Part 30

When Susan’s knees met the carpeted hall, she scrambled to her feet and ran down to her office, slamming the door behind her.

A few minutes later, Scully softly knocked on the door and poked her head inside.

Susan was standing at the window watching the trees sway in the breeze. Her arms were crossed over her chest, tightly hugging herself.

“Susan?”

Susan turned to her.

“Can I come in?”

She nodded and turned back to the window.

Scully looked around the room. She only got a brief glimpse of it when Susan was showing them the house. Her desk was piled high with mail and packages. There was a picture on the corner of the desk of Michael in swimming trunks with Susan slung over his shoulder. She was wearing a black bikini and she was laughing hysterically, as was Michael. It looked as if he was trying to toss her in the ocean, but she had a death grip on him.

Scully wondered if she and Mulder will ever be that happy.

Next to that was a photo of a young Michael in a muddy Norte Dame football uniform. He had his helmet under his left arm. His hair was wet and plastered to his skull and he was grinning wildly.

The women must have been all over him, Scully thought to herself.

“It’s a sight, isn’t it?” Susan asked walking over to stand next to her.

Scully nodded, her eyes still on the photo.

“And you know what’s even worse? He has no idea how good looking he is.”

Scully smiled and turned to her. “Mulder’s the same way.”

Susan smiled, then frowned. “Speaking of which, Dana I am soooo sorry,” she said softly drawing out `so’.

Scully nodded and continued to look around the room.

“Where is he?”

Scully stopped in front of a framed 8×10 on one of the bookshelves.

“He went for a run,” she replied. “He said he needed to go burn off some energy.”

Susan chuckled. “I’ll bet.”

“When was this taken?” Scully asked pointing to a photo of Michael and Susan standing in front of the Epcot Dome with four towheaded children standing around them. They were all wearing Mickey Mouse ears, including Michael and Susan.

Susan smiled. “That was last summer. Those are all Mike’s nieces and nephews. They had never been to Disney World, so we took them.” Susan laughed. “Michael’s brother was so grateful.”

“It must have been an experience,” Scully said dryly.

“You have no idea,” Susan said. “That’s Molly, Ellen, Patrick and Mickey, the oldest is ten. I don’t think I slept the whole time we were there.”

“Are these your parents?” Scully asked, picking up a small black and white photo that was sitting by itself.

“Yes,” Susan said quietly. “That was their wedding day.”

“They look very happy,” Scully replied in the same tone.

“They were.”

Scully moved to the table next to a chaise lounge that was positioned so you could look out the window while lying down.

“What a beautiful baby,” Scully said suddenly, indicating the lone photo on the table.

Susan tilted her head as a sweet smile spread across her face. “That’s Christopher, the newest addition to the O’Sullivan Family. He’s my godson.”

The photo was of Susan and a blonde baby boy. Her head was tilted back, trying to get her lip away from Christopher’s hand. She was smiling and he was looking at her in rapt attention.

“Are you and Michael thinking about having children?” Scully asked.

When Susan didn’t respond, Scully turned to her. She was facing away, her back tense.

“Susan?” Scully asked concerned.

She took a deep breath and turned around. “Do you want to see the widow’s walk?” she blurted out.

Scully inwardly frowned at the change in subject, but didn’t pursue it. She glanced down at herself. “I don’t think I’m dressed for it.”

She said indicating her robe and slippers.

Susan waved her hand in the air. “Neither am I, but we can always stop in my closet on the way up,” she said hopefully.

Scully shrugged. Susan obviously wanted to her to see it. “Sure.”

Susan smiled. “OK, just follow me.” She put her index finger to her lips. “And be quiet, Mike’s sleeping.”

Scully nodded and followed her up the spiral staircase.

At the top of the stairs, Susan grabbed her hand and led her to the closet. It was a lot larger than Scully expected.

The closet was made up of two rooms. The first was a dressing room.

The wall on the right was lined with floor to ceiling drawers and on the left was a vanity and three way mirrors.

“Wow,” Scully said breathlessly.

“Mmm, I have become a bit of a clothes horse,” Susan said as she was pulling on a pair of sweat pants over Michael’s boxers.

“Let me get you a coat. It gets a bit chilly up there,” Susan said walking into the second room with Scully right behind her.

Susan scanned the racks of clothes before she pulled out a long black overcoat. “This might be a little long on you, but at least it’s warm,” Susan said, but Scully wasn’t paying attention. She was too busy admiring a floor length beaded champagne colored gown.

“Michael picked that out for me,” Susan said.

“He’s got nice taste.” She turned the gown around, there was almost no back to it.

“Yeah, I wore it to the FBI gala last year.” Susan smiled. “I think Mike just wanted to show me off.”

“Showing a lot off,” Scully said sarcastically.

Susan laughed. “Come on,” she said putting the dress away. “You’ll love the view up there.”

Susan slipped on a pair of fuzzy slippers and wrapped a coat around her as Scully donned the coat Susan gave to her. She was right, it was long on her, just ending at her ankles, but it was warm.

Susan led the way to the other side of the room. There was enough light for Scully to see Michael sleeping soundly on the bed.

Susan reached the door to the stairs when she realized Scully wasn’t behind her. She turned to see Scully frozen in place looking at Michael.

Michael was sleeping on his back with the sheets low on his hips. One arm was laying on the pillow above his head while the other was resting across his bare chest; his well defined chest. Scully ran her eyes a little lower to his stomach, which was defined in the commonly known `six pack’. Scully’s eyes darted to his face when he shifted his head towards her.

She unconsciously licked her lips. He looked like one of those men from a Playgirl centerfold, not that she had ever read one of *those* magazines. Now, if that sheet wasn’t there… Wait a second!!! What the hell was she thinking!!! She looked up to see Susan grinning at her.

Scully blushed profusely and gave her an embarrassed smile.

Susan padded silently over to her and looked down at Michael, a loving expression on her face.

“He is beautiful, isn’t he?” She whispered.

Scully didn’t respond.

Susan cocked her head toward the stairs leading to the roof. “Let’s go.”

The room was large enough to fit two people. There were window seats around the room and a door leading out to the widow’s walk. If you wanted, you could also walk around on the roof.

Scully opened the door and stepped outside. Susan came up next to her.

“Oh my God,” Scully sighed.

“I love it up here,” Susan agreed.

The night sky was riddled with stars and Scully could hear the water lapping at the shore. There was a full moon, illuminating the land around them.

Scully took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I am just falling further in love with this house, Susan.”

Susan smiled and walked back inside. Scully remained outside for a little while longer, then sat down across from Susan.

Susan brought her feet up under her and rubbed her eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t answer your question before.”

Scully remained silent.

Susan glanced at her, then wrapped her arms around herself. She sighed.

“Does this have anything to do with Europe?” Scully asked.

Susan gave her a sad smile and nodded. “You see,” she paused and licked her lips. “It still bothers me.”

“What does?”

Susan looked out at the moon. “I was pregnant.”

Scully gasped. “What happened?”

Susan scratched her forehead. “I had a miscarriage.”

“Oh, Susan. I’m so sorry.”

She shrugged. “It wasn’t planned. I was on the pill, actually.” Susan gave her a wry smile. “I guess I’m that .01%.”

“Were you on antibiotics?”

Susan shook her head.

“How far along were you?”

“I was in the middle of my second trimester.”

Scully silently took this in, then asked, “What does this have to do with Europe?”

Susan took a deep breath. “I took a leave of absence when I was about two months pregnant. Then went out on medical leave when I lost the baby. Michael was on medical leave already, then took some time and we went to visit his parents. He thought it would help take my mind off things.”

“You went on a leave of absence? Why didn’t you just do desk duty?”

“I had to, I was going nuts.”

Scully frowned.

Susan sighed. “From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was a little preoccupied.”

“I don’t understand.”

Susan shifted in her seat. “I sensed her.”

Scully’s eyebrows rose. “Her?”

Susan nodded. “That’s how I found out.”

“You sensed her,” she stated.

Susan nodded again. “Michael and I were interrogating a suspect when it happened. Mike knew right away something was wrong. I was sitting across from the guy, Mike was talking to him, when suddenly I felt a presence. It was strange. It’s like when you have your back to the door and you know someone comes in.”

Scully nodded.

“Well, I get that all the time when someone’s in the room or just comes in. At least I used to.” Susan gave her a wicked smile.

Scully blushed for the second time that night.

Susan chuckled. “Anyway, it felt like that, like someone walked in, but not into the room, into me.”

“It was her consciousness,” Scully said amazed.

Susan nodded. “I just grabbed my coat and ran out of the room with Michael fast on my heels. You should have seen his face when I told him.” Susan smiled wistfully.

“He was happy?”

Susan snorted. “That’s an understatement. He was overjoyed.”

“But you weren’t?” Scully wasn’t sure why she asked that question.

Susan gave her a strange look. “It’s not that, I loved the idea of having Michael’s child.”

“Then what?”

Susan moved towards her and whispered as if she was afraid someone would overhear them. “Not only could I sense her, but she could sense me.”

Scully’s eyes widened. “She was like you.”

She leaned back. “Like I used to be.”

Scully watched her for a moment. “And this distracted you.”

“To no end. It was like I was schizophrenic.” Susan looked at her.

“And Mike, he just kept getting hurt.”

“How so.”

“He was so preoccupied with keeping me safe, that he kept hurting himself. Our last case was why I left.”

“What happened?”

“We were pursuing an arson suspect through the projects in Hempstead.

I’m a faster runner than Mike, so I was a little ahead. I caught up with him first, but before I could react, he turned and punched me in the stomach, knocking me to the ground. Michael went ballistic when he saw what happened and tackled him. But in his haste, he didn’t notice that the guy had pulled a knife.”

“Oh, no.”

“Yep. The guy stabbed him on his left side, just below his rib cage.

Nicked his large intestine. I saw and felt it happen, rolled and shot the guy. Blew his head off.”

Scully nodded.

“Oh, God, it was horrible.” Susan said remembering the scene. “Blood was all over the place and he was in so much pain. But he kept asking me if the baby was all right. Didn’t care how he was doing. I kept having to reassure him that she was fine.”

“So you went on leave.” Scully stated.

“Uh huh. I was so upset that when he woke up in recovery, I yelled at him for getting hurt.” Susan smiled. “Like it was his fault. When he came home we had a *huge* fight. He didn’t want me at work because he couldn’t be there and he was afraid that something would happen to me and because I was acting like a space cadet. I had no attention span.”

“You can understand why he acted that way,” Scully provided.

“Yeah,” Susan sighed. “Eventually.”

“He must have been happy that you agreed.”

Susan smiled. “He was all over me. I was the one who was supposed to be taking care of him, but he wouldn’t let me do a thing.”

Scully smiled.

“We were going to name her Katherine Elizabeth,” Susan said softly.

“It took forever for us to agree. The day after we finally decided was when I lost her.”

“It was just a coincidence,” Scully said reassuringly.

“I know, but it didn’t help. I was standing over the sink, washing some lettuce. I was just getting used to having her around when she suddenly left me. It’s like when you turn off a sound that you have been hearing for a long time. It was so quiet. Then I got these horrible cramps. Next thing I knew, Michael was on the floor with me dialing 911.”

“Do they know what happened?”

Susan shook her head.

“So, you guys went away.”

“I lost her in the middle of October, we left in November, spent a week in Wicklow with his parents, then went over to Europe.” Susan smiled. “Whenever his parents introduced me to someone, they would say,” Susan put on a very convincing brogue. “`This is Susie Halloway, Mikey’s girl’.”

“Mikey?”

Susan snorted. “I couldn’t get used to hearing them call him that.”

“Mmmm, he doesn’t seem like a Mikey.”

“No, he doesn’t.”

“But you didn’t mind them calling you Susie?”

Susan smiled and shook her head. “I used to hate being called that, but Mike calls me Susie, so his parents thought it was OK.”

Scully leaned so that her back was resting against the window. “Why didn’t you like it?”

Susan sighed and stretched out her legs. “My father used to call me Susie.”

Scully nodded her understanding. “Do you remember much about him?”

Susan didn’t respond right away. “I remember he had a great singing voice.”

Scully smiled.

“He used to sing to me all the time.” Susan paused for a moment.

“There was this one song that he used to sing whenever I got hurt or didn’t get along with one of my friends.”

Scully leaned forward. “What was it?”

Susan tilted her head up and closed her eyes, trying to remember the song. She took a deep breath and started to sing in a rich alto voice: Smile though your heart is aching,

Smile, even though it’s breaking,

When there are clouds,

In the sky you’ll get by,

If you smile through your fears and sorrows,

Smile and maybe tomorrow,

You’ll see the sun come shining through if you, Light up your face with gladness,

Hide every trace of sadness,

Although a tear may be ever so near,

That’s the time you must keep on trying,

Smile, what’s the use of crying,

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile,

If you just smile.

Scully gently wiped her eyes while Susan continued to keep her eyes closed, savoring the memory.

Finally, Susan spoke, her voice a bit husky. “I haven’t thought of that song in the longest time.” She opened her eyes and looked at Scully. “Thank you, Dana.”

Scully gave her a watery smile.

Susan returned it. “So,” she breathed out. “What about your father?”

Scully cocked her head.

“Were you two close?”

Scully turned away from her and looked out the window. “Bill always said I was my father’s favorite.”

“Bill. Your brother?”

Scully nodded.

“Daddy’s little girl?”

Scully smiled. “Daddy’s little Starbuck.”

“Moby Dick,” Susan stated.

She nodded. “He used to read it to me.”

Susan studied her for a moment. ” `Hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple dumpling.'”

Scully quickly turned toward her, surprised.

Susan frowned. “What?”

“Why did you say that?”

Susan shrugged. “I don’t know, it just popped into my head.”

Scully continued to stare at her.

Susan suddenly felt very uncomfortable. “Why? What’s the significance of that line?”

“That,” Scully started. “Mulder said that to me a few years ago.”

Susan frowned.

“He didn’t tell you about it?”

Susan shook her head. “I don’t remember hearing him mention it and I only read Moby Dick once and that was in college.”

Scully pursed her lips. “Maybe you read it from Mulder?”

Susan shook her head again. “I think I would remember that.”

Suddenly a hot pain flared in Susan’s temples. She groaned and squeezed her eyes shut. A bright light flashed behind her closed eyes.

She covered her face with her hands and leaned forward.

Scully was up and kneeling in front of her before she knew what was happening.

“Susan?”

She didn’t respond.

“Susan!?”

Susan continued to hold her hands over her face.

Scully stood. “I’m going to get Michael.”

Susan’s hand shot out and grabbed Scully’s wrist. “NO! I’m OK.”

Scully knelt down again. “The hell you are! What the hell just happened?”

Susan released her wrist and rubbed her eyes, the pain already started to subside. “I don’t know, it’s been happening all day.”

Scully tilted Susan’s head up so she could look at her eyes. “Did it happen in the hospital?”

Susan shook her head. “I was getting headaches, but it intensified when I got home.”

“Do you have it all the time?”

“No. It comes and goes.”

“Is it always this painful?”

Susan nodded. “But it doesn’t last long.”

“It could be a stroke.”

Susan snorted. “It’s not a stroke.”

“Then it could be something else, you should go to the hospital.”

“No, I’m not going back to the hospital. I think my body’s adjusting to the loss of my gift.”

“You should still get it checked out. Does Michael know about this?”

Susan shook her head.

“You should tell him.”

“I don’t want him to worry. He’s so happy to have me home. I don’t want to take that away from him.”

“Susan, you’re sick. He should know!” Scully stood.

Susan stood, too. “No, I don’t get sick!”

“What?!”

“I don’t get sick,” Susan repeated. “I’ve never been sick a day in my life, not even a cold.”

“Susan,” Scully started but she interrupted her.

“No, I don’t even have allergies. My cholesterol is 120, my heart rate is 50 beats a minute, my blood pressure is 110 over 70 and I have a core temperature of 97 degrees.”

Scully looked at her.

“It’s been that way for years, now. I’ve been the same weight since I was 26, I eat anything I damn well please and don’t gain a pound! My only `flaw’ is that I need reading glasses when I’m really tired or stressed out.”

“Susan, that’s impossible.”

Susan shook her head vehemently. “NO! Wait! I gained weight when I was pregnant. And even then I didn’t get sick.”

“No morning sickness?”

“Nothing.”

“Susan,” she interrupted her again.

“And look!” Susan shoved her hand in her face.

Scully stepped back to look at Susan’s left hand. Pink lines covered her palm, they were the only signs indicating that she cut herself.

“It’s only been, what? Three and a half weeks?” Susan almost shouted.

Scully didn’t know what to say. The scars looked much older than that.

“You have no pain?”

Susan shook her head. “Nothing. And I almost have all the strength back.” She squeezed Scully’s hand to demonstrate.

“What did the doctor say?”

Susan snorted and sat down. “He couldn’t explain it. He said that the emergency room doctors must have made a mistake when I was admitted.”

Scully sat back down across from her.

Susan leaned forward, her hands dangling between her legs. “This is all so new for me,” she spoke so low, Scully almost didn’t hear her.

Scully sighed and ran her hands over her eyes. She suddenly felt exhausted again.

Susan sat up. “God, this has been one hell of a day.”

“I hear you on that one,” Scully said dryly.

Susan chuckled. “I wonder what time it is?”

“I think it’s time for you to get some sleep.”

Susan nodded.

When they stood, Susan reached for her, giving her a tight hug.

“Thanks, Dana.”

Scully stepped back and smiled at her.

At the bottom of the stairs, Scully waited for her to close the door before she whispered. “Make you sure you tell him what’s going on.”

Susan sighed. “I will.”

“Good.” Scully squeezed her hand. “Sleep well.”

Scully started to walk across the room, but suddenly felt two strong arms around her waist, pulling her back. She let out a startled yelp and found herself laying on Susan and Michael’s bed with two blue eyes looking down at her.

“You’re not Susan,” Michael said confused, his voice still gravely from sleep.

Scully just looked up at him.

“It’s OK, Love,” Susan said from behind him.

Michael released Scully and turned to Susan. Scully scrambled out of the bed and stood.

“What’s going on?” he asked confused.

“It’s all right, go back to sleep,” Susan spoke softly and turned to Scully. “Good night, Dana, I’ll see you in the morning.”

Scully nodded. “I’ll give you your coat back later.” She moved toward the door and Susan started to follow her, but Michael grabbed her and pulled her down into bed.

“Why are you wearing a coat?” His thinking was still a little foggy.

They heard the bedroom door close.

“We were upstairs.” Susan tried to stand, but Michael held her down.

“I woke up and you weren’t here.”

“I’m sorry, Love.” Susan ran her hand across his jaw.

He grinned.

“What?”

Michael untied the belt around her waist. “It’s been awhile since you called me that.”

“What? Love?”

He leaned down to nuzzle her neck. “Mmm.”

Susan laughed. “Mike let me up so I can get out of this coat.”

Michael tightened his arms around her and kissed her behind her ear.

“Mike,” she whined.

He chuckled and sat up. “OK, OK, just don’t whine.”

Part 31

Friday, April 28

8:54 AM

Michael woke to a familiar feeling of warmth along his left side. It was a sensation he missed. He looked down his body and saw reddish brown hair fanned out over his chest. The sun streaming in from the windows augmented the highlights and the shine.

Susan was sleeping nude nestled against Michael with her leg draped over his left hip and her hand on his other hip. Her face was smashed against his chest, her breath tickling the small patch of hair there.

Slowly, he realized he had no feeling in his left arm. Her body was cutting off his circulation. As much as he didn’t want to disturb her, he had to change position.

Susan sighed in her sleep and snuggled closer. If she got any closer, she would be inside him. She raised her leg a bit, her thigh brushing up against him.

He closed his eyes at the sensation.

She slid her hand up his stomach to his chest, her palm resting over his heart. She tilted her head and buried her face in his neck. She licked her dry lips, her tongue accidentally touching the sensitive area on his throat.

He breathed in deeply and was suddenly overwhelmed by memories. It had been almost a month since he had awakened with her next to him. He placed his arm around her, happy that she was there, and slid his hand down her back to her buttocks, spreading his fingers out, his large hand almost completely covered her cheek.

Susan made a sound of annoyance and sighed.

She was awake and he wasn’t a bit sorry that he had awakened her.

She shifted slightly and became aware of the warmth all along her body. She took a deep breath, and by the sweet smell, she determined that the warmth was Michael.

A sound of contentment escaped her as he moved his hand up and down her back, his fingers running along her vertebra.

Her fingers flexed and relaxed on his chest.

“Mmmm,” she groaned. Not opening her eyes, she placed a soft kiss on his neck, then traced her tongue around his Adam’s apple and gave him a slight nip.

He grunted and he could feel her smile.

She moved to kiss his chest and snuggled against him again.

Michael always loved this time of day when they could lay together and just feel, nothing interrupting them.

Susan shifted again so that she was practically laying on top of him and he wrapped both arms around her.

“Morning, Love,” she sighed. She still hadn’t opened her eyes.

He responded by tightening his embrace.

“You smell good,” she said quietly.

“So do you,” he said, burrowing his nose in her hair, breathing deeply. “I missed this.”

Susan laid her arm over his upper chest, supporting herself so she could kiss him on the lips.

Michael ran his hands up her back and buried them in her hair, holding her to him.

After an eternity of lazy, sleepy kisses, she released his mouth and rested her head back on his chest.

“I don’t want to get up,” she said.

“Then don’t”

“I want to go for a run.”

“Susie, you just came home from the hospital, do you think that’s a good idea?”

“Probably not, but I’m going anyway.”

“You know, you can be a real pain in the ass.”

Susan smiled and lifted her head to look at him. “And you love me.”

Michael rolled his eyes.

She chuckled and rested her chin on her forearm so she could look at him, but didn’t have to move.

“What were you and Dana doing up in the widow’s walk last night?”

“Talking,” she stated.

“About?”

She frowned and sighed. “The Baby.”

Michael hitched in a breath, he wasn’t expecting that. She didn’t talk about it much.

“Are you OK?” he asked hesitantly.

She studied him for a moment before answering. “Yeah, I think I am.”

He gave her a small smile and leaned down to kiss her forehead. “She would have been a beautiful child,” he said against her skin.

She nodded. “She was.”

Michael pulled away to look at her. “You’re right, she was. As beautiful as her mother.”

She gave him a brief kiss.

“Katherine Elizabeth Halloway,” he said in a far away voice.

“No,” she shook her head.

He frowned at her.

“O’Sullivan. Katherine Elizabeth O’Sullivan,” she said with conviction.

He smiled brilliantly and pulled her up for a kiss. He was the first to pull away and she settled back down on his chest. She ran her hand up and down his body.

They stayed that way, quietly caressing each other for awhile until Michael broke the silence.

“Do you want to go away?”

Susan picked her head up.

“Mulder and Dana are only staying `til Friday, that gives us the rest of your medical leave. We can go anywhere you want to go.”

She pondered his question. “But you have to go to work.”

He shook his head. “I’m on suspension, remember?”

She frowned. “You never told me what happened.”

He groaned. “I don’t want to get into that now, let’s just say I was protecting your honor,” he finished with a grin.

She snorted. “You broke our boss’ nose because he questioned my honor?” she asked incredulously.

He nodded.

She gave him another quick kiss. “Thank you.”

“So, where do you want to go?” He asked when she settled back down.

She sighed. “I don’t know, you choose.”

“Bali,” he answered quickly.

She laughed. “Shoulda known you’d pick that.”

“Mmmm, I loved it there,” he sighed.

“It *was* nice.”

He ran his hands along her sides, his finger tips brushing the sides of her breasts.

“Yes, it was,” he said in a deep voice, laced with arousal.

Susan shifted, her knee connecting with the evidence of how much he enjoyed that island. She did it again and he groaned.

“You make the plans, and I’ll pack light,” she said as she slid her hand down his chest to his stomach.

Michael moved to get up and reached for the phone, but she grabbed his hand and pushed him back down.

He chuckled. “I thought you wanted me to make the plans,” he said innocently.

She laughed and placed her hand back on his stomach. She slide her hand lower and he gasped.

“Come shower with me,” he asked suddenly.

“I’m about to go running.” She said as she moved her hand slightly.

“Please,” he begged.

She looked up at him.

“You can take another shower later,” he said in a pleading tone.

She gave him a curious look.

He smiled at her shyly. “I just,” he stammered. “I just want you in the shower with me.” He looked a little embarrassed at his admission.

She smiled and sat up.

He instantly missed her warmth.

“OK, but I get a massage after my run.”

He grinned and sat up, too. “You’re on.”

***

10:03 AM

Mulder was sitting at the breakfast nook when Michael padded shoeless into the kitchen dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt. His hair was wet and he was wearing a slight smile on his face.

Mulder looked up. “Morning,” he said, his mouth full with cereal. He was wearing sweats and a tee-shirt and looked as if he hadn’t gotten much sleep last night.

Michael nodded. “You know, if you had waited, I was going to cook breakfast,” he said. Reaching above him, he grabbed a frying pan from the hanging rack.

“I’ll eat that, too,” he said.

Scully casually strolled into the kitchen, already dressed for the day in jeans and a white blouse.

“Morning, Mulder,” she said, leaning over to give him a chaste kiss on the cheek.

He just grinned at her.

“Morning, Dana,” Michael said, handing her a cup of coffee. “Cream’s in the fridge.”

She nodded her thanks and opened the fridge to take out the cream. She placed her mug down next to Michael on the counter, their backs to Mulder.

Michael leaned in close to her and whispered, “Sorry about last night.”

She smiled and touched his arm briefly. They both noticed Mulder’s head pop up.

“It’s OK,” she said.

Michael glanced at Mulder out of the corner of his eye and looked back to Scully. She was smiling slightly and had a mischievous sparkle in her eyes.

He leaned in again. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?” He asked loud enough for Mulder to hear.

Scully grinned, her eyes flickered with amusement.

Michael was glad Mulder couldn’t see her, he knew she was having fun teasing him. “I know I grabbed you kinda rough and I wanted to make sure I didn’t hurt you.”

Mulder frowned.

“No, I’m OK,” she said in a steady voice even though she was grinning from ear to ear.

“No bruising?”

She placed her hand on the top of her head. “Actually, I think I banged my head on the headboard.”

Michael almost laughed at Mulder’s gasp. He placed his arm around Scully’s shoulder and pulled her in slightly. “Sorry,” he said as he kissed the top of her hair.

Mulder stood up quickly and they turned to him, looking like they had forgotten he was in the room.

“WHAT THE HELL?!” He shouted.

Michael and Scully were laughing hysterically when Susan bounded barefoot down the stairs, her hair pulled back in a pony tail. She was dressed in black spandex pants that ended mid calf and a sports bra.

Mulder looked none too happy slouching at the breakfast nook.

Susan stopped in her tracks. “What’s so funny?”

Michael shook his head, he couldn’t answer.

“Their having fun on my behalf,” Mulder groaned.

Susan smiled. “That’s the best kind of fun.”

He made a face at her.

She leaned down and gave him a kiss on his cheek. “Lighten up.”

He grumbled under his breath and shoved a roll in his mouth.

Scully gave in and walked over to him. Touching his shoulder she apologized. “I’m sorry, Mulder,” her voice betraying her amusement.

“No, you’re not,” he mumbled.

She hugged him from behind and kissed the back of his neck. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

He ran his hand up and down her arm, turning his head as he kissed her. She was instantly forgiven.

Susan watched the two of them and smiled. She looked toward Michael and noticed that he was watching her with a secret smile on his face.

She walked up to him and put her arms around his neck, pulling him down for a kiss.

“Don’t forget you owe me a massage,” she whispered into the hollow of his throat.

He tilted her head back up and kissed her. “I don’t think I could ever forget that.”

She hugged him tightly then pulled away and walked to the refrigerator. She looked over her shoulder as she reached for a bottle of water and wiggled her eyebrows at him.

“Where’re you going?” Mulder asked as Scully sat down next to him.

“For a run,” she said strapping the bottle to her waist.

“Barefoot?”

She nodded. “I always run barefoot on the beach.”

“Do you think that’s wise?” Scully asked.

She shrugged, put her pinkies in the corners of her mouth and whistled, Ruffus came barreling out of nowhere. “I’ll have company.”

***

The water washed away two distinctly different set of footprints in the sand; one canine, one human. The human prints were deep in the sand, with long strides, while the canine’s looked as if they were struggling to keep up.

Susan passed her two-mile marker at a clip with Ruffus running steadily next to her, his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

It had been almost three months since Susan ran on the beach, and her muscles and lungs were paying the price for it. The lactic acid built up in her limbs causing them to scream in pain, but she ignored it.

Her lungs burned from exertion, but she didn’t feel it. She was beyond pain, beyond noticing the suffering she was causing her body. She would feel it later, but right now, all she felt was her feet pounding into the sand, her blood raging in her ears and the clearing of her mind.

Running was her only escape from her life and her thoughts. The wind blowing her hair back, the sand she kicked up, the sweat streaming down her face gave her solace from her constant daily battles. She lived for this time and loved that Michael never questioned it or asked to come along. He knew it was the only time she ever was truly alone. At least it used to be.

Now, she was alone all the time.

She forced herself to speed up, knowing that when she reaches her three-mile marker, she will be far behind her normal time. She was one of those rare individuals who could run a five minute mile and continue the pace for an undetermined amount of time. Usually, it took about fifteen minutes to reach her marker, but today it took about twenty.

She stumbled to a halt when she passed the piece of plywood sticking out of the sand with a white 3 painted on it. The owners of this particular section of the beach allowed her to hammer the wood into the sand as long as it was high and far enough away from the water so that no one would trip over it.

She leaned forward, her hands on her thighs, gulping in air, forcing oxygen into her overtaxed lungs.

Ruffus laid down next to her, panting rapidly, saliva pooling on the sand along with the sweat dripping off of Susan. She could have sworn he was smiling.

“Worked ya hard,” Susan huffed out.

Ruffus licked his face in response and continued panting.

Susan looked down at the timer on her watch and clicked it. 23:38 it read.

“Damn,” she cursed, it took longer than she thought it would.

She wiped her face with her arm and grabbed the water bottle that was suspended from her waist. She downed half of it in one swallow, then took two more slower sips. She snapped her fingers and Ruffus stood as she poured the rest of the bottle out so he could lap hungrily at the stream.

She tossed it into a wire trash can that was about 20 feet from her marker.

“Ready to go back?” She asked the dog.

He yowled at her and she laughed. Malamutes didn’t bark, they kind of howled and whined and usually were very vocal. Ruffus was a quiet dog, hardly making any noise, except when he was happy. She missed the sensations she picked up from him. His feelings were always so pure and uncomplicated. If he was happy, he simply felt happy, no sense of any other feeling and it was always a relief from the rest of the world. That was one reason why she loved to run with him; the fact that he loved it, too and that she knew that he loved being with her.

He was her dog and her dog only.

She ruffled his fur, stretched her arms over her head and started her trip back. She had taken two steps when the pain stabbed in her temples. It was much more intense than the one that struck last night and she fell to her knees, scraping the skin on a jagged shell. Her hands flew to her face, covering her eyes. Suddenly, the sun was too bright and the surging of the Sound was too loud.

She cried out as the pain intensified. Colors flashed before her eyes in rhythm to the searing hot pain that stabbed into her skull.

Then as it began, it stopped.

She was breathing heavily and her heart was pounding so hard she half expected it to burst from her chest. She sat back on her heels and gingerly lowered her hands. What she saw made her gasp.

The world looked as if she had stepped into the negative of a photograph.

Part 32

11:14 AM

Michael glanced at his watch for the third time in as many minutes and he was starting to annoy Mulder.

“Mike,” Mulder said. “She’s only been gone for an hour. Relax.”

Michael paced behind the couch. “She usually doesn’t take this long.”

“Is she still running four miles?” Mulder asked.

Michael shook his head. “No, she’s running six now.”

“Jesus,” Mulder mumbled. “Give her a break, she just got out of the hospital yesterday.”

“That’s what’s making me uncomfortable. This is her first full day back.” He ran his hands through his hair. “I shouldn’t have let her go alone.”

Mulder snorted. “I doubt you *let* her do anything.”

Michael gave him a sharp look.

“Mulder,” Scully said softly from her place on the couch next to him.

“I’m going to look for her,” Michael stated as he walked out of the room.

Mulder chuckled to himself. “God, he’s got it bad.”

Scully narrowed her eyes at him but said nothing as she pushed up off the couch to follow Michael.

Mulder watched her walk out of the room, confused at her reaction. He mentally reviewed the conversation and winced. Shit! No sleep and his raging hormones were starting to affect his thought processes. He groaned and got up to follow

Scully.

***

Michael stepped off the board walk that led down to the water and spied Susan. She was stumbling down the beach, looking around her as if she had never been there before. Her pony tail was askew with bits of hair hanging around her face. Ruffus spotted him almost immediately and howled.

Susan cried out and covered her ears.

Michael took off towards her, reaching her just in time to catch her as she started to drop to the ground.

“SUSAN!”

Susan groaned and tightened her hands over her ears, squeezing her eyes shut. He lowered her to the sand.

“Mike,” she whispered.

“It’s OK,” he spoke softly. “Are you all right?”

Susan slowly opened her eyes to look at him. His normally pale Irish skin was black and his beautiful dark hair was white. But what was most frightening was that his eyes were yellow.

She quickly closed her eyes again.

“Susie,” he spoke a little louder this time and she opened her eyes and clamped a hand over his mouth.

He looked at her questionably.

“Shh,” she said. “Speak softly.”

He nodded and she dropped her hand. He put an arm around her and helped her to her feet. “Come on. Let’s get you back to the house.”

***

Mulder found Scully standing outside on the edge of the patio looking into the windows of the indoor pool that was connected to the sun room.

“Where’s Mike?”

Scully startled slightly and glanced at him. “He went down to the water.”

Mulder nodded. “Hey,” He came up next to her. “I’m sorry about before.”

She nodded and gave him a small smile. “Didn’t get much sleep last night, did you?”

Mulder smiled. “What do you think?” he said taking a step closer to her.

Scully put her hand up. “Hey, don’t blame me, all I wanted was a cup of tea,” she said defensively.

Mulder nodded and took another step toward her. “Sure, that’s why I have scratch marks down my back,” he said as he started to lean down, but stopped when he saw Michael and Susan walking up from the water.

Scully turned to look in the same direction as Mulder and saw Susan leaning heavily on Michael as he helped guide her toward the house.

Blood was streaming down her right knee and she had a hand over her eyes.

***

Michael sat Susan down on one of the wicker chairs in the sun room and darted out to fetch the first aid kit.

Susan shook her head. “You would think I’ve never had a skinned knee before,” she said wryly.

“Susan, what happened? Scully asked as she kneeled down in front of her.

Susan looked at her with a touch of amazement and reached her hand out to caress her hair.

Scully frowned and looked at Mulder curiously.

“Susan?” Scully asked.

Susan didn’t answer, just continued to run her fingers through her hair; her green hair.

“Green,” Susan stated.

“What’s green?” Mulder asked softly as he kneeled down next to Scully.

“Her hair,” Susan said as dropped her hand and looked at Mulder. “Her hair is green.”

“What do you mean it’s green?” he asked.

Susan extended her hand to take a lock of Scully’s hair in between her fingers and showed it to Mulder. “It’s green.”

Mulder frowned. “You see it as green?”

Susan nodded.

“What else to do you see differently?”

Susan stood on wobbly legs. “Everything. Everything is different.

Dana’s hair is green, her skin is black, her eyes are yellow, like Michael’s.”

Mulder glanced at Scully. “Opposite.”

Scully frowned.

“She sees everything in its opposite color.”

“Mulder,” Scully started, but Mulder interrupted her as Michael came back in the room.

“The opposite of red is green, opposite of blue is yellow.”

“What the hell are you talking about!?” Michael snapped.

Susan turned quickly to face him, causing her to lose her balance.

Mulder caught her, then lowered her back down into her chair.

Scully took the first aid kit from him and started cleaning Susan’s knee.

“Michael please speak softly,” Susan begged.

He nodded and sat down next to her, but found that he was too fidgety and had to stand.

Mulder ran into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and took out a green container.

“What color is this?” He asked Susan.

“Red,” Susan stated.

Mulder looked at Scully. “Is she right?”

Scully shook her head. “It’s green.”

“What the hell is going on?” Michael asked.

Mulder turned to him. “I don’t know why, but she’s seeing things in their opposite colors.”

Michael looked at him. “I got that much, my question is why.”

Mulder opened his mouth to answer, but Scully spoke first.

“Susan, what happened right before everything changed?”

Susan took a deep breath. “I got a headache.”

“Then?”

“Then everything got really loud.”

“Was the headache as bad as the others?”

Susan glanced at Michael and shook her head. “Worse.”

“What headaches?” Michael asked as he came up next to Scully.

Susan rubbed her eyes and looked up at him. “Oh, by the way, I’ve been getting these really bad headaches lately,” she said lightly.

Michael frowned at her. “Why didn’t you tell me!?” His voice rose at the last word and Susan clamped her hands over her ears.

He took a deep breath and glanced at Mulder.

“Susan,” he said softly, but she didn’t respond. “Susan,” he said again reaching out to touch her, but she jumped up from her seat and stumbled back before he could.

“No,” she said, tripping over the chair she just vacated. A searing pain that felt as if it started in her toes, worked it’s way up her body slamming into her skull like a sledgehammer.

“Oh, God!” she screamed as she fell, her knees colliding with the floor.

Mulder and Michael dashed toward her, but as soon as they made contact, the pain she was feeling arched off of her and onto them.

They both reared back. Mulder looked at his hands half expecting them to be burned.

“SUSAN!” Michael shouted.

Susan fell to her side and drew her legs up to her chest so that she was laying in a fetal position, her hands clamped on the sides of her head. Eyes squeezed shut and mouth open, she made horrifying keening noises.

Suddenly her whole body shook as if she was having a seizure. Her cries grew louder.

Scully was about to get up to grab the phone, when suddenly the room grew quiet and Susan stopped moving.

No one breathed

Susan sucked in a deep lungfull of air and relaxed.

“Susie?” Michael asked as he slowly crawled toward her.

Her eyes shot open as she watched him approach.

He carefully reached out to her, but she sat up and he drew his hand back.

Susan looked from Mulder to Scully, then back to Michael. Her eyes were slightly unfocused and she was flushed, her hair sticking to her sweaty face. She looked down at herself and noticed that her sports bra was all twisted. She righted it and looked back at Michael. He was watching her expectantly.

Slowly a smile spread across her face, her eyes crinkling. “I’m back,” she said hoarsely and abruptly fainted.

***

Saturday, April 29

3:04 PM

“Where do you keep the knives?” Scully asked Michael.

He motioned toward the sink, his hands greasy with butter. “In the drawer next to the sink.”

Scully reached for the drawer, but Michael stopped her.

“No,” he shook his head. “On the other side.”

Scully nodded, opening the correct drawer, she pulled out a knife.

Scully reached for a carrot and started cutting, trying to help Michael with dinner. He had been on edge all day, anxious about Susan.

She had not woken up since the morning before. Scully had checked on her regularly but couldn’t find anything wrong. It seemed that she was simply resting.

Mulder walked into the kitchen and grabbed a stool from the breakfast nook. Placing it next to Scully at the butcher block, he sat down and quickly stole a piece of carrot.

“Mulder,” she chided.

He gave her a smile.

“You know, you could at least help.”

Mulder smiled wider. “The last thing you want is me to help out with dinner.”

Scully gave him an exasperated look.

Mulder was about to say something, but was interrupted by a faint knocking on the glass door of the sun room.

“Come on in,” Michael said as he put down his knife and wiped his hands on a towel.

Mulder and Scully glanced at each other.

A tall, thin girl in her late teens or early twenties walked in the room followed closely by a blonde boy who couldn’t be more than ten.

By the resemblance, they had to be brother and sister.

“Hey, guys!” Michael exclaimed.

The girl gave him a dazzling smile. “Hi, Mike!”

Michael smiled at her and Scully noticed a blush grow on the girl’s cheeks.

“Guys,” Michael said, putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder so that he could turn him toward Mulder and Scully. “These are friends of mine and Susan’s.” He motioned to Scully. “This is Dana and this” he indicated Mulder, “is Mulder.”

Mulder and Scully nodded and said `Hi’.

“This is Keith,” he tousled the boy’s hair, making him laugh. “He takes care of Ruffus while Susie and I are away.”

“Hi, Keith,” Scully said.

He smiled at her.

“And,” Michael said, “This is Becca,” he put his other hand on her shoulder. “They live next door.”

Scully smiled when she saw the girl look down shyly.

“She helps take care of the house, basically cleaning up after Susan.”

Mulder snorted, Scully glanced at him.

“Not much work,” Becca said, still smiling slightly. “But it pays well.”

“I bet,” Mulder said sarcastically.

“Which is why you guys are here. Just give me a sec,” Michael said as he walked out of the room and down the hall to his office opposite Susan’s.

There was an uncomfortable silence in the room while they waited for Michael to come back until Ruffus walked in and saw Keith. The dog practically knocked him down in his excitement.

Keith laughed and ran out into the sun room with Ruffus following.

They could hear the boy laughing and an occasional yelp from Ruffus.

“So,” Scully said to Becca. “you go to school?”

The girl nodded. “I’m a sophomore at St. Joseph’s College.”

“What’s your major?” Mulder asked.

“Political Science.”

Mulder’s eyebrows rose. “Really? What do you want to do with your degree?”

Becca shrugged. “Go to Law School? I’m not sure.”

“How old are you?” Scully asked.

“Twenty.”

Mulder and Scully nodded. “Well, you still have time to make up your mind,” Scully said.

“That’s what I tell my mom,” Becca said. “I’m in no rush.”

Michael walked back into the room carrying his wallet and checkbook.

“Keith?” The boy poked his head around the corner. “I’ve got your money,” Michael said as he withdrew five twenties from his wallet.

He cheerfully took the money. “Thanks,” he said. “Is it OK if I take Ruffus out to the water?”

Michael smiled. “Sure.”

“Thanks, Mike!” Keith shouted, smiling gleefully as he ran out of the room with Ruffus chasing after him.

Michael looked at Mulder and Scully. “His mother won’t let him have a dog, so we let him play with Ruffus whenever he wants.”

Scully smiled. “That’s very nice of you.”

He shrugged and turned to Becca. “I don’t have enough cash, is it OK if I write you a check?”

Becca smiled. “Sure.”

Michael leaned over the counter to fill out the check.

“Oh,” Becca started. “Is Susan around?”

Michael looked up. “Uh,” he glanced at Scully and Mulder. “She’s, uh, sleeping right now.”

Becca’s smile fell. “Is she OK?”

Michael nodded vigorously. “Yeah, she’s just resting.”

The girl nodded. “Oh, OK. Can you just tell her my mom was asking about her? She wanted to come over, but she didn’t want to intrude or anything. She wanted me to ask Susan to give her a call when she’s up to it.”

Michael smiled and handed her the check. “I’ll make sure I tell her,” he said as he walked with her into the sun room. When he returned, Mulder was the first one to speak.

“She’s got a crush on you,” Mulder said in singsong.

Scully laughed.

Michael smiled. “I know, Susie told me.”

“It’s sweet,” Scully said. “And you’re nice to her and her brother.”

He shrugged. “How else am I supposed to act?”

“You could treat her like I piece of wood,” Mulder said, “I don’t think it would matter.”

Scully slapped him playfully.

Michael sighed. “I think I alarmed her when she asked about Susan. I didn’t know how to respond.” He ran his hands through his hair.

“You said the right thing,” Mulder responded. “She’s doing exactly what you said. She’s resting.”

Michael nodded.

“Scully said that Susan thought she was getting the headaches because her body was adjusting to the loss of her gift,” he glanced at Scully.

“But I think it was working on getting it back.”

Michael looked at him.

“I mean, think about it,” he paused for effect. “She’s had this gift her whole life. Her body’s made for it.”

“I don’t understand,” Michael said leaning on the counter opposite him.

“You studied those brain scans we did,” he said to Scully. She nodded.

“She uses over 90% of her brain.” Scully nodded again. “You also said that she doesn’t really get sick and has been in perfect health as long as she can remember.”

“Mulder what are you getting at?” Scully asked.

“What if she’s like Gibson?”

“Mulder,” Scully warned.

“No, hear me out, Scully.”

“Who’s Gibson?” Michael asked.

They looked at him like they had forgotten he was in the room.

“Gibson is a boy from an X-File,” Scully explained. “There was an attempt on his life.”

“And he can read minds,” Mulder added.

Michael stared at him for a beat before he answered. “But Susie can’t read minds.”

“No, but she can read emotions and can skim your memory, that’s pretty close.”

“So, what does this all mean?” Michael asked.

“We theorized that Gibson is more advanced than the rest of us, the next step in evolution.”

“You theorized,” Scully reminded him.

Mulder frowned at her, but didn’t respond. He looked back at Michael.

“I think Susan is like that.”

“She’s more evolved,” Michael stated doubtfully.

Mulder nodded. “She’s extremely intelligent, she never gets sick, she’s in perfect physical health, has a memory almost like mine, learns things faster than anyone I have ever met.” Mulder paused to breath. “Think about it, can you imagine a world where everyone knows how the other is feeling, no one can lie?”

Michael didn’t respond.

“Have you ever tried to lie to Susan?”

A slow smile spread across Michael’s face. “It’s impossible.”

Mulder returned the smile. “Tell me about it.”

Suddenly Michael laughed.

Mulder and Scully exchanged confused looks.

“I just imagined a world where everyone was like Susan.” He looked at Scully. “One person in a bad mood would set off mass suicides and murders everywhere.”

“Yeah,” Mulder chuckled. “And one bout of good sex would cripple the world.”

Michael let out a loud belly laugh and Mulder joined in.

Scully watched them amusingly.

Suddenly, they both stopped laughing and looked up at the ceiling.

“What’s the matter?” Scully asked.

Michael and Mulder looked at each other. “Susan’s awake,” they said together.

Scully frowned. “How do you know?”

“We can feel it.”

***

Susan slowly ascended into consciousness, just resting below the surface. She allowed her mind to focus on her surroundings, relishing in the familiar sounds and impressions. She determined that there were three distinct identities downstairs, probably in the kitchen and knew immediately they belonged to Mulder, Scully and Michael.

She smiled and opened her eyes when she felt them laugh, then sighed contentedly when Michael and Mulder sensed that she was awake.

It was as if she had just woken from a long nightmare.

She rolled to her side and suddenly picked up a presence she hadn’t felt since before this whole mess started. She made a kissing noise and a cat hopped onto the bed.

“Hey, Ozzy,” she said softly.

The cat responded by chirping at her, greeting her as if she was another cat.

Ozzy was about ten years old and was graying a bit around his face. He had the coloring of a Siamese and Windex blue eyes that crossed just enough to be amusing. But, his fur was a little thicker and a littler furrier and he didn’t have the deep meow of a Siamese. When he made a noise, which wasn’t often, he squeaked. He also had white booted feet and a white mark on his lip.

The cat rubbed his face against Susan’s hand and she lowered her head so he could butt his forehead against hers. She ran her hands over his body vigorously knowing he loved the way she massaged his coat.

He was now purring earnestly.

Susan kissed the top of his head and sat up. Pushing the covers aside, she noticed that she was dressed only in her sports bra and panties.

Michael must have removed her running pants, knowing she would be more comfortable.

She stretched her arms over her head then wrinkled her nose. God, she needed a shower.

Swinging her legs over the side, she stood and immediately lost her balance. She grabbed the bedpost, righting herself. As she stumbled across the room to the bathroom, she figured a bath would be safer.

***

Michael found her reclining in the large tub, head back and eyes closed. A slight smile touched her lips.

“You can breath now.” Susan raised her head, her smile growing as she opened her eyes. “I’m alive and very well, aside from a touch of jet lag,” she finished dryly.

Michael breathed out, but didn’t speak.

Susan wrinkled her brow. “How long was I out this time?”

Michael glanced down at his watch. “It’s 4:30,” he stated.

She frowned. “I’ve only been out a few hours? Why does it feel longer than that?” She asked herself out load.

Michael smiled. “Today’s Saturday.”

“Tomorrow?”

“You’ve been asleep since about noon yesterday.”

“Why does the back of my head hurt?”

“You cracked your head on the floor in the sun room,” Michael explained.

Susan nodded and rested her head back, staring up at the ceiling.

“What are you cooking?”

Michael smiled again. “Your favorite.”

She jerked her head up to look at him. “How did you know I would be up for it?”

“If that couldn’t get you up, nothing would.”

They both heard her stomach growl in the quiet of the room.

Michael laughed. “The faster you’re washed, the faster you can come down and eat.”

Susan grabbed the bath sponge from the basket at the foot of the tub.

Michael took a step forward. “Want some help?” His voice was low.

Susan smiled at him. “How is that supposed to get me out of the tub faster?”

Michael knelt down in front of her so they were at the same eye level.

“Dinner won’t be ready for another hour.”

Susan reached a soapy hand out to caress his jaw. A tingling sensation traveled from her hand, down her arm, to the pit of her stomach where it liquefied.

Michael closed his eyes as he breathed in deeply.

He opened his eyes to see her looking back at him with such an expression of openness and adoration that he had to close his eyes again. After a moment, he felt a slight warmth of pressure on his lips. His surroundings faded as he could only concentrate on the touch of the tip of her tongue on his bottom lip. The world disappeared completely when he opened himself to Susan’s mouth and the sensations passing between them.

He screwed his eyes shut as the physical boundaries separating them crumpled entirely. Before all conscious thought left him, he fleetingly noted that he was still dressed as she pulled him into the tub with her.

***

Part 33

***

6:08 PM

Susan bounced down the stairs, a contented smile on her face.

“Hey!” Mulder shouted from the couch. “Good to see you up and about.”

Scully turned to her from beside Mulder. “Yeah, how are you feeling?”

Susan glanced at Michael as he walked out of the kitchen and her smile broadened. “Good! I feel very, very good!”

Mulder looked from Susan to Michael and gave them a knowing smile.

“I’ll bet you do.”

Michael ignored him. “Dinner’s ready.”

Susan jumped off the last step of the stairs and practically skipped into the kitchen. On her way to the dining room, she grabbed two bottles of wine.

“Susan, I don’t think you should have anything to drink,” Michael said from behind her.

She turned and rolled her eyes at him. “Mike, you can’t expect me to eat duck without at least one glass of wine.”

He shook his head and continued past her so that he could place the platter he was carrying in the middle of the table.

“So,” Mulder said as he sat down. “What’s so great about this dinner that has you almost salivating?”

Susan sat opposite him. “Mulder, you know how much I love duck, but nothing compares to the way Mike makes a Long Island Duck.”

Scully reached for her napkin and placed it over her lap. “What’s so special about Long Island Duck?”

Susan gave her an astonished look. “Long Island is famous for its ducks.”

Scully glanced at Mulder as if she was asking ‘Did you know that?’

He Shrugged.

“Long Island is well known for it’s ducks, potatoes, beaches and wine, like this wine.” Susan picked up one of the bottles. “This is a bottle of 1996 Pellegrini Vinter’s Pride ‘Finale’.” She poured a glass for Scully.

Scully took a sip and nodded approvingly. “It’s good.”

“It’s my favorite,” Susan poured a glass for herself and Michael.

Scully speared a piece of lettuce with her fork. “What else do you know about Long Island?”

“Oh, No,” Michael groaned.

Susan grinned.

“What?” Scully asked confused.

“Mike doesn’t want to get me started.”

“Susan can talk forever about the history of Long Island,” Michael said as he stood to carve the duck.

“I want to hear,” Scully said to Susan.

Susan took a deep breath and started her speech.

“Long Island, as I said, is well known for it’s ducks, potatoes, beaches, wineries and history.” She took a sip of her wine. “We have revolutionary war battle sights, historic whaling towns, the William Floyd Estate, he was a signer of the declaration of independence.” She counted off the points on her fingers. “The Brookhaven National Lab, that was Camp Upton in WWI and WWII. It was the first choice for the Manhattan project.”

“Really?” Scully asked around a mouth full of rice.

Susan nodded. “That’s why William Floyd Parkway is as large as it is and why it starts from Smith Point Park. The government was going to ship the parts to Smith Point Beach, then drive them up from the beach to the lab.”

Scully nodded.

Michael leaned back, resting his arm behind Susan.

“We have Sag Harbor and Riverhead which are historic Whaling Towns. My great, great, great, great grandfather was a whaler.” Susan paused to eat a bit of her duck. She closed her eyes at the taste. “Mmm, of course, we have the Hamptons where Steven Spielberg and the Baldwins live. And Jerry Sindfeld just bought Billy Joel’s old house. Billy Joel now lives in Oyster Bay by Teddy Roosevelt’s house.”

Michael sat forward. “We also have the Amityville Horror House,” he said in a spooky tone of voice.

“Ooo, I want to go see that,” Mulder jumped in.

Susan shook her head. “There is no way in hell you could get me into that house.”

“Don’t tell me you actually believe that story,” Scully asked.

Susan sighed. “I don’t believe the events of the movie, but a man *did* murder his entire family in that house.”

Mulder leaned forward. “What’s the matter Susan? Afraid of a few ghosts.”

She took a sip of her wine. “Mulder, you know my standings on ghosts.

But those were horrific murders, you know how I would react to that.

The vibrations the house would emit, would drive me insane.”

Mulder nodded and leaned back. “I still want to see it.”

“The house doesn’t look the same anymore. If you didn’t know where it is, you wouldn’t be able to find it.” Now Susan leaned forward.

“Besides, I would think you would be more interested in the Montauk Project.”

Michael groaned.

Mulder sat up, his dinner forgotten. “What’s the Montauk Project?”

Susan smiled. “You’re losing your touch, Mulder.” She drained the rest of her glass, then spoke in a conspiratory tone of voice. “You’ve heard of the Philadelphia Experiment….”

Mulder nodded. “It has to do with time travel.”

“Well,” Susan started. “Out east more, by the Montauk Lighthouse, which was commissioned by George Washington, by the way, there is a state park called Camp Hero. It was named after Major General Andrew Hero, Jr. He was the Army’s commander of coastal artillery.

Originally, the site’s purpose was coastal defense, to head off an invasion during World War II. In 1957, the army removed the weaponry and in 1962, a five story tower was built that contained a 75 foot radar dish.”

Michael interrupted. “You can see the radar dish if you go up to the top of the lighthouse.”

Susan nodded. “It’s huge. It was used in part of our coastal defense warning system.”

“But what does this have to do with the Philadelphia experiment?”

“Relax, Mulder,” Susan said. “I’m getting to it.”

Scully smiled as Mulder leaned back and tried to act as if he wasn’t that enthralled in the story.

“Supposedly, the base was closed in July of 1981 during the Reagan Administration and the site and surrounding areas were sold to New York State as undeveloped land.”

“It’s now a state park,” Michael added.

“Why do you say ‘supposedly’?” Scully asked.

“I say that because, there is still electricity running through the buildings, you need a special permit to enter the area, and it’s patrolled by State Troopers who either arrest or fine trespassers.”

Susan smiled. “I speak from personal experience.”

“Why, what happened?” Scully asked.

“Susie and I were horseback riding around that area with a few friends of ours, when we wandered into the ‘forbidden area’.” Michael laughed.

“Even though there are millions of signs that say ‘No Trespassing’.”

“We tied up the horses and looked around,” Susan explained. “The buildings are in extensive disrepair. Mickey, one of Michael’s cousins, almost fell through the floor in one of the buildings.”

“The wood is all rotted, the paint’s peeling…” Michael trailed off.

“So, how does this all have to do with the Philadelphia Experiment?”

Mulder asked again, he was starting to get exasperated.

Susan laughed. “Ok, Mulder, I’ll explain.” Susan finished the rest of her duck and put down her fork. She leaned back in her chair, tucking her legs under her, she continued. “In the 1940’s the Philadelphia Experiment or officially known as The Rainbow Project was a group of experiments government scientists were conducting in hopes to render ships invisible to radar; it was the groundwork for stealth technology used today.”

Mulder interrupted her. “I already told you that I know that. The US government tested it’s theory about manipulating electromagnetic waves using huge generators on the USS Elderide in the Philadelphia Naval Yard. When they flipped the switch, the Eldridge not only became invisible to radar, but it became physically invisible as well.”

Mulder pause to drain the rest of his wine. “When the ship returned, they discovered that most of the crew had gone mad. Others, who were moving around the decks during the ship’s disappearance found themselves fused into parts of the hull. These unpredicted side effects caused the Rainbow Project to be shelved in order to place all attention on the Manhattan Project.”

“Yes, the project was stopped, but it was started up again,” Susan said. “In the 50’s, the original members of the Rainbow Project decided that they wanted to continue the work. But this time they didn’t want to just study the effects of manipulating radar, they wanted to study the human factor, too.”

Mulder frowned not quite following.

Susan leaned forward. “They wanted to know why the men went loopy.”

Scully raised an eyebrow. “Loopy?”

Susan smiled. “Wacko, cuckoo, nuts, crazy, lost it, insane.”

“Are those the official terms, doctor?” Mulder asked.

Susan laughed. “You’d be surprised at some of the terms used, Mulder.

I worked in a mental institution for a year, remember?” Susan sat back and placed her hand on Michael’s shoulder, playing with the short curls that rested at the nape of his neck. “Anyway,” she continued, not removing her hand. “After a few more tests, the men went to Congress for their approval to continue, but were denied, so they went to the military who, of course, jumped at the offer.”

Michael grabbed her hand, her touch were starting to tickle, and laced their fingers together on his lap.

She smiled at him. “Because,” she directed her attention back to Mulder. “Because they were turned down by Congress, they needed a remote base of operations. The military agreed and wouldn’t you know it, they were in luck. There was this old radar station on the tip of Long Island that would be perfect for their base of operations.”

Scully nodded. “Camp Hero.”

Susan nodded back to her. “Right. Montauk was still a very small town back then, so they didn’t have to worry about Congress snooping around.” Susan took a deep breath. “Everything was going well, until it was realized that they weren’t really studying the effects of electromagnetic fields, but mind control.”

“Mind control?” Scully asked dryly.

Mulder glanced at her. “You have nothing to say on that matter,” he said smiling.

Scully ignored him, motioning to Susan to continue.

Susan laughed at Mulder’s faux hurt expression. “Give it a rest, Mulder. It doesn’t work on her.”

Mulder turned toward Susan.

“And it doesn’t work on me, either. Do you want me to continue?”

Mulder’s expression morphed radically into one of overly interested.

“Go right ahead.”

Susan rolled her eyes. “They discovered over time that by aiming the radar dish on a `Psychically Sensitive Subject’ and by manipulating the power and frequency of the waves, they could make a person behave any way they wished. PSS’s, apparently were trained to be able move to an alternate state of awareness. Some could invision an object or idea and have it materialize out of thin air.”

Scully sighed, but held her tongue allowing Susan to continue.

“The scientists discovered that when they interlaced the Philly Experiment with the mind control project, they could not only manipulate the human mind, but time as well.”

Michael got up, having heard all of this before, to clear the table with Scully helping out. Susan and Mulder remained at the table.

Susan glanced at Michael, then back to Mulder. “It was during all of this that they started abducting young boys to use as guinea pigs.

They would submit them to excruciating periods of both mental and physical torture in hopes of `breaking their minds’. Then they would reconstruct them to suit their needs.

“According to the story, in the 80’s, the project reached an all time high when the work at Montauk linked with the original Rainbow Project from the 40’s, becoming so interdependent on each other, that neither could be terminated.”

“What happened?”, Mulder asked.

“A group from within deliberately crashed the project.”

“How?”

Susan shrugged. “I don’t know, but after that, they decided that the work was too hazardous and ended the project, abandoning the site.”

Mulder studied her momentarily before speaking. “How do you know all this?”

Susan smiled. “I have my sources.”

Mulder’s eyes brightened. “Scully!” he shouted. “We have to check this out.”

Scully walked out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel.

“Mulder,” she pleaded. “We’re on vacation.”

“Mulder, nothing is there,” Susan said. “I’ve been there, nothing’s going on.”

“It could be underground.”

Susan shook her head. “I would have sensed people. Even if they weren’t there at the time, I would have known if anyone had been there recently; any residue was old and fading.”

“Maybe they use another entrance and they were so deep underground that you couldn’t sense them.”

“Mulder, you know I don’t work like that,” she said exasperated. “I’m not like Superman, lead doesn’t block me. You know that. We conducted our own experiments. We couldn’t find any substances that blocked my senses.”

“Well, OK,” Mulder started. “Then why don’t you let me talk to your sources. Let me come to my own conclusions.”

Susan sighed. “Mulder, my source is the Internet.”

Mulder frowned.

“I was surfing one day, put in Montauk in a search engine and came across the Montauk Project. I thought it was interesting so I looked into it.”

Mulder continued to frown at her, then crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair. “I still want to check it out.”

Susan shook her head. “You’ll never change will you?”

Mulder didn’t answer.

“Michael and I wanted to take you guys to see the lighthouse tomorrow.

You can see the radar dish from there.” She glanced at Scully. “And Mulder, I doubt Dana wants to spend the rest of her vacation in the hospital because you broke your leg falling through the floor in one of the buildings.”

“Mulder, I have to agree,” Scully interjected. “We don’t really know what’s out there and I just want to spend this week relaxing and in the company of friends.”

Susan smiled.

Scully kneeled down next to Mulder’s chair and took his hand. “How about we look in the X-Files for anything related to this when we get back?”

Mulder just looked at her.

“I’ll even help you.”

At that, Mulder had to smile. She was practically begging him to wait.

He looked down at her kneeling at his side. All she wanted was to have a normal vacation without mutations and government conspiracies interrupting them.

He sighed loudly. “Oh, all right.”

Scully beamed at him and leaned up to kiss him briefly on the lips.

Susan stood. “Good, I’m glad that’s settled.” She walked into the kitchen to give them a moment to themselves, returning after a few minutes wearing her Mets hat and holding a set of keys in her hand with Michael following closely behind.

“Where are you two going?” Mulder asked.

Susan shook her head. “Not we two”, Susan indicated her and Michael.

“We two,” she gestured to Scully.

Scully looked at her, confused. “We’re going somewhere?”

Susan nodded and walked into the foyer. Picking up Michael’s Yankees cap, she yelled back to them, “Yeah, I want to go for a drive and I have a feeling you really like my car.”

Scully magically appeared before her, her eyes bright. “In the Cobra?”

she asked excitedly.

Susan handed her the hat. Scully looked down at it as if she didn’t know what it was.

Susan explained. “It gets pretty windy, and your hair will bug the piss out of you.” Scully took the hat. “And since I only have one Mets hat, this will have to do.”

“My woman wouldn’t get caught dead wearing one of these.” Mulder flicked his fingers on Susan’s hat.

Scully turned to him, both eyebrow’s raised. “Your woman?” she asked slowly.

Mulder had heard that tone before. He gulped. “Well,” he stuttered.

“You know…”

Susan saved him from embarrassing himself further. “Shut up, Mulder.

Let’s go Dana.” She turned to give Michael a kiss before she stepped out into the night air.

Scully gave Mulder a quick peck then scampered after Susan.

Mulder watched them leave then turned to Michael. “Why do I feel like we’ve just been ditched?”

Michael laughed. “Because we have.”

***

8:35 PM

To say that Scully was disappointed, would be an understatement as Susan drove the Cobra toward Route 25A at a breathtaking 30 miles an hour.

Scully sighed as another car passed them.

Susan stole a glance in Scully’s direction, smiling to herself.

“Everything OK, over there, Dana?”

Scully squared her shoulders and sat up in her seat. Giving her a fake smile, she answered, “I’m fine.”

Susan chuckled. “You are such a liar.”

Scully frowned. “I…,” she was going to say `I am not’, then remembered who she was talking to. Scully sighed again. “I was just hoping we could go a little faster.”

Susan shook her head. “Just wait until we get onto the open road.”

Scully nodded and watched a VW Bug pass them.

Susan stopped at a light and glanced at her again. “Dana?”

Scully turned her head towards her. “Mmm?”

The light turned green and the car started moving again.

Susan hesitated before she spoke. “I, uh.”

Scully cocked her head.

“I, I just want to say thank you.”

Scully looked confused. “For what?” she asked.

Susan kept her eyes on the road. “For what you said before about just wanting to relax and spend time with friends. It means a lot to me,” Susan took a deep breath. “I don’t have many female friends.”

Scully nodded. “Well, if it means anything, I don’t have many friends, period. At least anymore.”

Susan chanced a look at her, giving her an understanding smile. “This work can do that to you. You lose touch with the rest of the world.”

“Yeah,” Scully breathed, then fell into silence watching the darkened landscape go by.

Susan kept quiet, allowing her a bit of introspection.

Suddenly, Scully let out a small chuckle.

Susan looked at her, smiling. “What?”

Scully shook her head, laughing. “I just, I never imagined that I would be friends with one of Mulder’s ex’s.”

Susan grinned. “I never thought I would like Mulder’s girlfriend.”

Scully snorted. “Girlfriend,” she said under her breath.

“You know, I never understood it.”

“What?” Scully asked.

“He went from Phoebe to me, then to Diana, then to you.”

“I don’t understand.”

Susan laughed. “It’s like the Star Trek movies; only the even numbered ones are good.”

Scully chuckled.

“He went from a bitch, to me, to a bitch, to you.”

“Hopefully he won’t go to another a bitch.”

Susan grew serious. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Scully didn’t know how to respond to that, so chose silence as an answer when they stopped at another traffic light.

Scully glanced to her right as a black Mustang convertible full of twenty somethings pulled up next to them. The driver leered at her.

Scully rolled her eyes and looked straight ahead.

The engine next to them roared.

Susan craned her head to look past Scully.

The Mustang roared again.

Susan snorted and rested her palm on Scully’s arm.

She looked at her.

“It seems that we are being challenged.”

Scully looked from Susan to the guy next to them. “Are you kidding me?”

Susan shook her head.

“Do they know what kind of car this is?”

“Obviously not,” Susan answered as she took her right foot off the brake and answered the challenge with a roar of her own.

Scully went from chagrined to frightened in a matter of seconds.

“Susan, NO!”

She gave her a mischievous smile. “You were the one who wanted to go a little faster,” Susan said, putting the car in first gear.

Scully’s response died in her throat as she was slammed back into the seat when the light changed.

Susan popped the clutch and the car jumped.

Scully held on for dear life.

Susan didn’t go as fast as she could, not wanting this to be over before it began. She would allow the punk in the `Stang, a bit of false confidence before she really creamed him.

The two cars raced side by side along Route 25A, toward the Long Island Expressway, the Mustang slightly in the lead. As they approached the ON ramp, Susan overtook him, cut him off and merged onto the LIE, the other car close behind.

On the open road, Susan again, allowed him to gain on her, riding next to them on the three lane highway.

Scully was starting to hyperventilate and she was distracting Susan.

Susan’s eyes darted to look at her.

Scully’s hands were gripping the leather seats, probably leaving nail marks on the upholstery.

Susan winced at the image.

She needed to calm her down. Susan reached a hand out to rest on Scully’s white knuckled fist. She instantly felt it relax.

Scully looked at her incredulously as she felt all the tension drain out of her.

Susan snatched her hand away, placing it back on the steering wheel, swerving to avoid a car that wasn’t going nearly as fast she was.

Scully took a deep breath, excitement replacing the fear. She looked at the speedometer, they were going about 110 miles an hour, the Mustang still keeping up with them.

Weaving in and out of traffic, Susan was thoroughly enjoying herself.

It had been a while since she’d been able to take the car out, let alone stumble upon some poor schumck who dared challenge her.

As she passed a blue Mazda, Susan grinned at what lay before, completely open road.

“Ready?” Susan shouted over the screaming of the wind in their ears.

Scully clamped a hand over her/Michael’s hat and nodded.

Susan tightened her grip on the wooden wheel and let her foot go to the floor.

The car lurched forward as they excelerated. Scully could see that they were rapidly approaching 180 miles an hour. She forced her head to look behind her as the Mustang grew smaller and smaller.

She threw her hands up over her head and let out a long scream of complete pleasure.

Susan echoed her.

The wind blew over them at hurricane speeds and Scully felt her/Michael’s hat start to give, the bill fighting against the current.

She tried to grab it, but was too late, it flew off her head, disappearing into the night behind them.

“HOLD ON!” Susan yelled.

Scully clutched the hand grips on the door as Susan slammed on the brake, spinning the wheel wildly.

The car turned suddenly onto a dirt strip on the median, narrowly missing a no U-turn sign.

The car fishtailed. Scully could hear the metal clanging of a hub cap as it rolled away from the car onto the shoulder of the road.

Dust clouded the air around the Cobra that was now going in the opposite direction.

They passed the black Mustang on the other side of the road. Susan waved a hand at them.

“SEE YA!”

Scully laughed and threw her hands up again, letting the wind whip her hands and hair around.

They drove steadily on at about 150 miles an hour until they passed a white streak that was parked on the divider.

The red, white and blue lights of a Suffolk County Highway Patrol Camero came to life.

“Shit!” Scully swore. “That’s a police car!”

Susan glanced in the dash mounted rear view mirror, but didn’t let up on the gas.

“Aren’t you going to stop?” Scully asked.

Susan shook her head. “I’ll wait until he catches up with me a bit.”

Scully felt the car slow down, but didn’t go under 100.

“Do you have your badge?” Scully asked?

Susan looked at her. “Our badges won’t help us, we passed him at 160.”

“We could just keep going, a Camero can’t keep up with a Cobra,” Scully couldn’t believe what she just suggested.

Obviously, neither could Susan. “You mean run? Are you shitting me?

We’ll stick out like a sore thumb.”

Scully didn’t respond.

Susan patted her leg. “Don’t worry,” she said, letting the car slow down further as the police car approached. The car slowed down completely as they came to a halt on the shoulder.

Scully started rooting around in her jacket for her ID.

“Stop that!” Susan admonished. “And put your hands on the dashboard.”

The clicking of the Gestapo like boots of the High Patrol Officer grew louder as he came up next to Susan.

“Ma’am, can I ask you to step of the car?” the officer said.

Susan turned to Scully. “You stay put!” she said and got out of the car.

“What can I do for ya, Charlie?” Susan asked, sweetly. Crossing her arms over her chest, she leaned against the door of the car.

The officer removed his hat. “Susan! Do you know how the hell fast you were going!”

Susan shrugged.

Scully was confused. They obviously knew each other.

“This has to be the hundredth time I’ve pulled you over. I *have* to give you a ticket!”

“Charlie,” Susan sighed.

“NO, don’t you `Charlie’ me! I should arrest you! Giving you a ticket is letting you off easy!”

Susan extended her hand, putting it on his shoulder. “Charlie, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

He opened and closed his mouth a few times, sputtering. His shoulder’s sagged and Susan removed her hand. “Does Mike know you’re out here?”

he said weakly.

Susan crossed her arms again. “When does Mike not know where I am?”

Charlie shook his head and looked down. He mumbled something.

“What was that?”

“If I were him, I would take this car away from you!”

Susan laughed. “If you were him, you would know better than to think you could!”

He shook his head again. “You are one piece of work, you know that?”

Susan grinned.

He returned it. “Get out of here!”

Susan patted his arm. “Thanks, Charlie.”

“Yeah, whatever,” he said turning away from her, walking towards his car.

Susan vaulted over the closed door like a guy from the 50’s jumping into a muscle car.

Scully looked at her. “How’d you do that?”

Susan wiggled her eyebrows at her. “I have many skills.”

Part 34

Saturday, 10:05 PM

Susan passed the turn that would take them toward her house and continued on into the business district of Riverhead.

Scully looked at her querulously. “Where are we going?”

Susan glanced at her. “I told a friend that if I was in the neighborhood, I would stop by.”

Scully nodded and watched the old style buildings pass.

“You know,” Susan said. “This town, back in its day, didn’t look much different than it does now.” Susan swept her hand out in front of her.

“Except of course, for the cars.”

Scully smiled, trying to imagine how the town looked during the days of big ships and whalers. It must have been a sight.

Scully was slammed against the door when Susan made an extremely illegal U-turn in the middle of the street, tires squealing, and parked in font of a No Parking sign.

Scully shook her head as she unbuckled her seat belt and got out of the car. It was then that she noticed that they had parked in front of a busy looking pub. She tilted her head back to look at the marquee.

‘O’Sullivan’s’, it read. She gave Susan a confused look.

Susan smiled and motioned for her to follow as she opened the door, setting off the jingle of a bell from above.

At the sound, the crowded room fell silent and heads turned in their direction, making Scully feel very uncomfortable. Susan ignored the looks and headed toward the bar. The room roared again, obviously not interested in them.

Out of the corner of her eye, Scully saw a small round man with a slightly flushed face making his way towards them. Susan turned to him, a wide, happy grin on her face.

“Paddy!” she exclaimed, spreading her arms out.

“Ah, Susie!” he answered in a thick Irish brogue, enveloping her in a bear hug. When he released her, holding her hands, he gave her a quick once over and shook his head. “You’re still too thin.”

Susan smiled and looked down shyly.

Scully watched the two of them, amused.

“So, how have you been?” Paddy asked.

She shrugged. “As well as can be expected.”

Paddy snorted. “The life of a Secret Agent.”

Susan sighed. “*Special*. Special Agent.”

He waved his hand in the air, “Whatever,” he muttered.

“Besides, it’s now Special Agent in Charge,” Susan said, sounding very proud of herself.

He looked at her with astonishment.

She grinned, nodding. “Yeah, I got promoted!” she said, acting as if she had brought home a report card full of A’s.

“Oh, that’s great, Susie!!” He wrapped his arms around her again, squeezing her. “But didn’t you just get promoted?”

Susan stepped back. “Yeah,” she said. “About a year ago.”

“If you keep this up, you’ll be Director before you’re forty.”

Susan smiled.

“Hey,” Paddy started. “Where’s that nephew of mine?” he asked looking around, his eyes falling on Scully.

Susan looked at her. “Mike’s at home.”

He nodded absently, studying Scully. “And who is this beautiful colleen?”

Susan slung an arm around Scully’s shoulders. “This is a friend of mine, Dana Scully.”

His eyes narrowed. “Scully?” he asked.

Scully nodded.

He took a step closer to her. “You wouldn’t happen to be related to Bill Scully? Would you?”

She nodded again. “He’s my brother.”

Paddy frowned. “Brother? No, can’t be.” He paused. “Captain William Scully?”

Recognition dawned on her. “Oh, that’s my father.”

Paddy smiled. “As I live and breath,” he extended his hand to her.

“You must be Starbuck.”

Scully stood stunned for a moment before she took his offered hand.

“Hhhow, how did you know that?”

A bright smile lit his face. “I served with your father a looooong time ago,” he said, pumping her hand. Scully noticed an anchor tattoo on his forearm. “I knew you when you were this big.” He released her hand, holding his hand next to his waist.

Scully looked at Susan asking if she had known about this.

Susan shook her head, a slow smile spreading across her face. “I had no idea,” she said.

“How is he doing these days?” Paddy asked Scully.

Scully’s smile fell. “He died a few years ago,” she said softly.

“Oh, Dana,” Paddy sighed. “I am so sorry.”

Scully nodded mutely. “We had his ashes spread across the water.”

“Then he is forever with his love; the sea.”

Scully gave him a small smile.

“How is your mother doing?”

“Well, she’s doing well.”

He nodded. “Hey Bridget!” he shouted over his shoulder to a tall willowy woman standing behind the bar. Her long graying black hair was held off her face with a low ponytail. “This is Bill Scully’s little girl!”

Bridget put the glass she was cleaning down and walked over to them.

“Bill Scully?” she asked Paddy, her brogue wasn’t as thick as her husband’s. “As in…” she trailed off.

Paddy nodded. “The one and only,” he said smiling.

Bridget looked amazed. “This can’t be Missy.”

He shook his head. “No, it’s Starbuck.”

She clapped her hands over her mouth. “Oh, my!” she exclaimed, placing her hands on Scully’s cheeks, tilting her face up to get a better look at her. “What a beautiful woman you have turned out to be.”

Scully smiled in spite of herself.

“I remember when you used to chase your brothers around,” Bridget continued, “crying that you couldn’t run as fast as them; unhappy that you were a girl.”

Susan snorted and Scully gave her a look.

Bridget stepped back, releasing her. “And she’s a friend of yours?”

she asked Susan.

Susan nodded.

She shook her head. “It really is a small world.”

Susan smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I half expect Will Smith to show up somewhere,” she said looking around.

Bridget looked confused, obviously having not seen ‘Six Degrees of Separation.’

Susan waved her hand in the air. “Forget it.”

She looked at Susan for a moment longer, then turned to Scully. “Come, sit,” she commanded, indicating the table to their right.

“HEY PADDY!” a man yelled from the far side of the room.

He turned to the man. “Just hold your horses!” he said, then finished in a mumble. “Ya drunkard.” He shook his head. “Susan, you sure picked a busy night to drop by.”

Susan smiled. “It’s OK, go take care of your customers. We’ll come back during the week,” she said giving him a hug.

“Love ya, darlin’,” he said, then reluctantly pulled away. “It was good to see you again, Dana. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more of a host.”

Scully smiled. “It’s OK.”

“Well, make sure you drop in again, I’ll tell you stories about your Da that would make your head spin!”

The man yelled again in a slurred voice for Paddy and they watched him walk toward the rowdy crowd in the corner, grumbling under his breath.

“Sit, Susie, I’ll get you two something to eat,” Bridget said.

Susan shook her head. “No, it’s OK. We had a pretty big dinner.”

“Nonsense, you two could use some more meat on your bones.” Bridget smiled. “And I know just the thing,” she said in a tone that left no room for argument, then hurried away.

Scully turned to Susan. “You really didn’t know about this?” she asked.

Susan shook her head. “I swear to God.” She held one hand over her heart and raised the other. “I had no idea.”

She looked at her suspiciously.

Susan laughed. “Really!” She extended her hand. “If you don’t believe me, just take my hand.”

Scully looked down at her hand. “I don’t know if I want to, I remember what happened to me last time I took your hand.”

Susan laughed again.

Scully leaned back in her chair, “I guess I will just have to trust you.”

She suddenly became serious. “You can always trust me.”

Scully studied her, then nodded. “I know I can.”

Susan nodded, a serious expression on her face. “Thank you,” she said softly.

Scully looked over at Paddy who was trying to talk a man out his keys, saying that he had too much to drink and that he shouldn’t drive home.

“Really, though,” Susan said. “Don’t you think that it’s a strange coincidence?”

Scully turned her head to her. “How so?”

“Well, I dated Mulder and you wind up with him. Michael’s uncle knew your father and you, and I wind up with Michael.”

“Mmmm,” Scully hummed.

A smile worked it’s way over Susan’s features. “It’s like we just completed a circle.”

“What, that we were all meant to meet; to become friends?”

Susan leaned back in her chair, not responding, allowing Scully to come to her own conclusions.

Scully considered Susan’s words and turned back in time to see the man reluctantly hand over his keys. She smiled to herself, impressed by Paddy’s gift of the gab. As he clapped the man on the back, good naturally, Bridgett came back to the table carrying a tray loaded with different kinds of desserts.

“Jeez, Bridget.” Susan watched her unload the plates onto their table.

“What are you trying to do to us?”

Scully eyed the items being set down in front of her with wide eyes; a plate of cheesecake, a bowl of vanilla ice cream, a slice of apple pie, chocolate mousse, an apple turnover, and some chocolate dish that you could gain 30 pounds just by looking it.

“Dana, you look like you are in a state of awe,” Susan stated.

“It all just looks so good.”

“Well, dear,” Bridget said. “It’s all homemade, right on the premises, by me, so I can vouch for just how good it is.” Bridget dug her elbow into Scully’s side. “I have to test it before I can serve it, if you know what I mean.” She gave Scully a wink.

She laughed.

“Now, eat up you two and whatever you don’t finish, we can just pack up for you to bring home.”

“Thanks Bridget, all I need is more food in the house.” Susan tasted a piece of the apple pie. “Mmm, and with this, you might give Mike a complex.”

Bridget chuckled. “Michael has nothing to worry about. He’s a fantastic cook.” She smiled. “Takes after his aunt.”

Scully picked up her spoon and hesitated for a moment.

“What’s the matter, Dana?” Bridget asked.

“I, I just don’t know where to start.”

“Try this,” Bridget pointed to the chocolate thing. It’s to die for.”

Scully brought a spoonful to her lips, closing her eyes in pleasure.

“This is, is, I can’t even describe it!”

“Knew you would love it!” Bridget said then gave Scully a pat on the back. “I have to get back to the bar. Do you want anything to drink?”

“Wawfer,” Susan said around a mouthful of pie. “Peas.”

Bridget laughed. “Water, coming right up.” She turned to Dana.

She just nodded, not daring to talk.

“Two, then. I’ll be right back,” she said, then left the two of them alone again.

Susan dropped her spoon and took off her hat, combing out her hair with her fingers. “I am really starting to get annoyed by my hair.”

“Why don’t you just cut it?” Scully asked.

Susan sighed. “I would love to, but Mike and I have an understanding.

If I cut my hair above my shoulders, he grows a beard.”

Scully wrinkled her nose. “I can’t see Mike with a beard.”

“No, neither can I. He has such a beautiful baby face, especially when he smiles.”

Scully nodded.

“I mean, stubble can be really sexy on him, but nothing more than a five o’clock shadow,” Susan said as hung her hat on the chair next to her.

“That reminds me,” Scully pointed to the hat. “I’m going to have to buy Mike a new hat.”

“Nah,” Susan waved her spoon at her. “It’s just a Yankees cap.”

Scully smiled. “How do you get yours to stay on?”

Susan lifted her hair off her forehead, revealing a red indentation.

“I keep the hat really tight, so that not even a tornado could get it off my head.”

Scully chuckled. “How long have you had it?”

Susan grinned. “Since the Mets won the World Series in ’86.” She took a bite of the cheesecake. “Haven’t washed it yet.”

She made a face. “That’s gross, Susan.”

She shrugged.

“Here you go, girls.” Bridget put two glasses of water down in front of them. “Sorry I can’t stay and chat, but it seems Paddy has his hands full.”

“It’s OK, Bridget.” Susan stood to give her a hug. “I told Paddy we’d stop by in the middle of the week.”

Scully stood as well.

Bridget turned to give Scully a hug. “It was good you see you, Dana.

You really have become a beautiful woman.”

Scully looked down shyly.

“And must be one hell of a person for Susie to call you a friend.”

Now, Scully grinned.

“Go, eat up. Make sure you say goodbye when you leave.” She turned to Susan again. “I have some stuff for you to take home to Mikey.”

Susan smiled. “Thanks, I’m sure he’ll love it.”

At that, she took off again in a wind of hurried movements.

“Mikey,” Scully stated flatly.

“Yeah, doesn’t that sound weird?”

Scully nodded, then sat down. “It seems you and Michael’s family are pretty close,” Scully observed, digging into the apple turnover.

“Mmm,” Susan mumbled around her cheesecake. “They couldn’t have children, so they kind of adopted me and since I lost my mom and dad pretty early, they’ve taken on the role of the parents I never had.”

Scully didn’t comment, just nodded.

Susan continued, sensing that Scully didn’t want to broach the subject. “His whole family has accepted me. It’s kinda strange.”

“How so?”

“Well,” she said. “When Mike took me to meet his parents, they made it a huge family event. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a family that large before.”

Scully smiled.

“I came from such a different kind of background, having been brought up by my father’s sister and only having my cousin Mary for company, that when I met all of the O’Sullivans, it was kind of intimidating.”

“I can imagine,” Scully commented.

“When we got to his parent’s house, I was greeted by his mother first, and the moment she saw the ring, she just put her arms around me and said `Welcome to the family’.”

Scully smiled, a smudge of chocolate on her chin.

Susan pointed to her own chin. Scully got the hint and wiped it off with a napkin.

“Everyone kept saying `She’s got the ring’.” Susan ate the last of the cheesecake. “Then I found out that I was the first `girl’ Mike brought home to the family.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, Michael never stayed in a relationship longer than six months.”

Scully was surprised. “And you guys have been together over two years?”

“Mmmhm.”

“Wow, he doesn’t seem like that type of guy.”

“I know, I guess it was just fate; he was waiting for me,” she said brightly, half serious.

Scully laughed. “You don’t strike me as the type that would believe in fate.”

“I didn’t before I met Michael.”

Scully moved the contents of her plate around with her spoon. “I don’t know how I feel about the idea of predestination.”

Susan cocked her head. “Why?”

She dropped her spoon. “I believe that everyone has free will and can control their own future.”

“But you believe that God has a plan for everyone.”

Scully sighed. “Yes, I believe that God has a plan for all of us.”

“But we can choose to follow that plan or not,” Susan stated.

She nodded.

“Then how do you know that your free will isn’t just God giving you a nudge to get back onto the path?”

“A nudge?” Scully asked wryly.

Susan smiled. “I truly believe that all things happen for a reason and when I met Michael, I wasn’t nudged, I was pushed.”

Scully didn’t respond but instead studied her hands that were clasped in front of her on the table, pondering Susan’s statements. She remembered a time back when she was talking to a priest about something similar. `What if God is speaking, but no one is listening?’

What if the `nudges’ Susan was talking about were just that, God helping us when we had been led astray? We meet the people in our lives for a specific reason; hoping to find that one person. But how do we know who that person is?

“You knew right away that Michael was `the one’?”

“My whole body hummed,” Susan replied quickly, without any hesitation.

She was trying to determine why Scully suddenly had such a mood switch without reading her. Scully seemed to be able to sense whenever she scanned her and she didn’t think now would be such a good time to invade her like that.

Scully looked at her. “That must be something to know that definitely, not having any doubts,” she said, her voice flat.

Susan nodded. “It is.” OK, things are getting too serious here, she needed to lighten things up. “But you had a taste of it when Mike and I walked in on you and Mulder in the car,” she said grinning widely.

Scully blushed, still looking down at her hands. “Yeah, well. It was all a little overwhelming.”

Susan narrowed her eyes at her, an idea worked it’s way from the depths of her mind.

“I would have liked more time to…”

“What?” Susan leaned forward, anticipating what Scully was about to say.

Scully’s blush grew. “Indulge.”

Susan let out a bark of laughter. “Indulge?” she asked, really laughing now.

“Susan,” Scully said quietly, looking around the room at the patrons who had turned their heads at Susan’s guffaws. “Susan,” she said a little louder. “It’s not funny.”

She quieted down a bit. “You’re right, it’s not,” she said still chuckling. “I’m sorry.” She got herself under control, wiping at her eyes. “I just didn’t expect you to say that.”

Scully pressed her lips together and watched the ice cream melt.

“I’m sorry,” she said earnestly. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you. It’s not every day someone surprises me.”

Scully gave her a lopsided smile.

“Look,” Susan stood suddenly. “I’m going to go use the lady’s room, then do you want to get going?”

Scully looked at her for a moment, a little confused about Susan’s abrupt urge to leave, but nodded anyway.

“All right, I’ll be right back.”

When Susan was out of sight of Scully, she pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed the first number in its memory.”

“Hello?”

“Mike, it’s me.”

“Susie, where the hell are you guys?”

“We stopped by to see Paddy,” she said as she entered the bathroom.

“How’s he doing?”

“Good, but that’s not why I’m calling.”

“Why? What’s up?”

“I need you to be ready to go when I get home.”

“OK,” he said hesitantly. “Where do you want to go?”

“How about the boat?” she said, smiling into the phone.

“Sure.” She could hear the grin in his voice.

“Good, here’s my plan………

***

11:41 PM

Residence of Susan Halloway and Michael O’Sullivan “What the hell are you watching?”

Mulder craned his head so that he could look at Susan who was hanging over the back of the couch.

“Hey,” he said cheerfully. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

Susan came around and dropped down next to him. “Yeah, Dana and I decided to go around the back.”

He nodded. “Where is she?”

Susan stared at the television, confused. “She’s upstairs, talking to Mike.” She pointed to the TV. “What the hell is this?”

Mulder turned back to face the television. “It’s about this guy who was lying on the ground in the woods. A tiny snail crawled into his ear, worked it’s way up the ear canal, through the ear drum and into the guy’s brain where it grew.”

“Eww,” Susan cringed. “That gross, Mulder. How the hell can you watch that?”

An x-ray flashed on the screen. “Look how big the sucker got.”

“Oh, God,” Susan groaned. She reached across Mulder, grabbed the remote from his right hand and clicked off the TV.

“Hey!”

He tried to get the remote from her, but she leaned back, holding her hand away so he couldn’t reach it. He lunged again, but he lost his footing and fell heavily on top of her.

“Oomph!” she let out. “Get off me, you clod!”

Mulder ignored her protests and reached again for the remote. He finally decided that his plan of action wasn’t working, so he straddled her, pinning her to the furniture and proceeded to tickle her.

After many futile attempts to get out from under him, laughing her head off, she dropped the remote, then placed both hands on his chest and pushed with all her strength. He landed hard against the opposite arm of the couch.

They both stared at each other, breathing heavily.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “That was a dirty trick.”

He laughed and leaned down to pick up the remote. “All’s fair in love and who has control of the remote,” he said as he turned the television back on.

Susan smiled when she noticed that a commercial was on.

“Oh, man!” he cried.

“Serves you right,” she said then took a deep breath, trying to regulate her breathing.

Mulder flipped through the channels, settling on the Sci-Fi channel. A blue woman dressed in a blue robe was talking to a man that looked like a cross between a Klingon and a lion.

“So,” Mulder turned to her. “You girls have a good time tonight?”

“Mmm,” Susan nodded as she slipped her shoes off and folded her legs under her. “But I think I blew the transmission in my car.” She winced. “I let Dana drive on the way home and she does NOT know how to drive stick.”

A small smile spread across Mulder’s face.

“Don’t say it,” Susan moaned. “Please.”

A mask of innocence fell over his features. “Me? I wasn’t going to say anything.”

“Sure.”

After a few moments of watching the television, they determined that the Klingon Lion guy was named Dargo and he was a member of a crew that were aboard a living ship named Moya. Currently he was talking to a muppet that sat in a floating thing.

Susan glanced sideways at Mulder when she saw his arm move. She watched the movement of his hand go from a bag of sunflower seeds next to him, to his mouth, then to the table in front of him where he just dropped it on the wood.

Her eyes widened when she took in the growing pile.

“Mulder,” she said quietly, trying to hold back her anger.

He looked at her, his hand stopping just before his mouth. “Yeah?”

She spoke through her teeth. “Do you realize that you are dropping sunflower seed shells on my 18th century table?”

Mulder looked at the table mutely. “I saw you put your feet up on it, I didn’t think you’d mind,” he said with a shrug.

“MULDER!” Susan stood. “My feet on the table is completely different than salvia-soaked sunflower seeds!” She stormed out of the room and returned a few moments later with a paper towel, a paper plate and a paper cup. Holding the paper towel with her right hand, she swept the shells onto the paper plate, then wiped up the remnants of the mess.

“Jeez, Suz,” Mulder mumbled. “I’m sorry.”

She spun around. “No, your not! And don’t call me that! You know I always hated being called that!”

Mulder tried not to smile at her as she stood there with her hands on her hips glaring down at him. God, she reminded him of his mother.

The corners of Susan’s mouth lifted slightly and she shook her head.

She sensed his amusement and as in the past, it was infectious. No matter how pissed she was at him, as soon as he found something humorous, all the anger drained from her. It was an extremely strong power he held over her and he knew it, the bastard.

She sighed and dropped down again next to him. Reaching for his bag of sunflower seeds she mumbled under her breath at him. “You are the biggest pain in the ass I have ever met, Fox.” She looked him in the eye as her mouth twitched into a grin, then stuffed in a handful of seeds.

He grimaced at the sound of his first name. “I could never get past how you ate those.”

She smiled around the items in her mouth and proceeded to spit the empty shells out one by one into the paper cup.

“It’s how the baseball players do it,” she said.

“Yeah, well, you’re not a baseball player.”

She shrugged, then tossed a few more in her mouth.

Mulder shook his head.

“What?”

He smiled. “I was just thinking about how you reacted before. It was so…” he trailed off.

“So, what?”

“I don’t know,” he said honestly. He looked down at his hands. “You just seem to have made a life for yourself.” He gestured to the television. “This room, this TV, this house. It’s so you, but it’s not.” He sighed. “It a perfect combination of you and Michael.”

Susan studied him. She knew he had more to say and she didn’t want to interrupt him.

“I was sitting here tonight, talking to Mike, watching TV and it got me to wondering.”

“Wondering what?” She asked softly.

“Wondering how things would have been if you had never been transferred.”

“Oh, Mulder,” Susan sighed.

“No,” Mulder said. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.”

Susan shook her head. “No, Mulder.”

He looked at her querulously.

“We can’t start thinking about `what ifs’.”

He nodded and looked down at his hands again.

“Mulder,” she said as she moved closer to him on the couch. She touched his cheek turning his face toward her. She wanted him to look at her. “To be honest,” she said hesitantly. “I think it was a good thing that I was transferred.”

Mulder didn’t respond. He watched her eyes watch him. For the first time, he found himself comparing her eyes to Scully’s. They paled in comparison; Susan’s were not as vibrant, not as blue, but equally compelling, equally piercing. However, Susan’s eyes were a bit softer, more relaxed. He blinked and looked at her again. She gave him a small smile. She could always know what he was thinking. He looked away toward the windows.

The clock over the fireplace in the dining room chimed twelve times.

“It’s the witching hour,” Mulder whispered, not wanting to disturb the quiet.

“Mmm,” Susan agreed. “They say that this is a magical hour.”

He smiled in response.

“Mulder?” Susan asked.

“Yeah?” he replied, not looking at her.

“You don’t really wish that I was never transferred.” It wasn’t a question.

He took a deep breath and turned his whole body to face her. “Not any more.”

She gave him a sad smile.

“I did for a long time, even when I was with Diana and for a while after Scully was assigned to me.”

She licked her dry lips and nodded.

“Then I resented you.”

She looked at him sharply. “Why?”

“Remember the last time we were together?”

She tilted her head to the side, not following his line of thought.

“At the time I didn’t know what it was,” he stopped speaking.

“I don’t understand,” she said frowning at him.

“There was something different about you, I couldn’t grasp it.”

She sighed and looked at the wall behind him.

“We were on our way back together. I sensed that you wanted it, but you pushed me away.” He cupped her jaw, making her look at him. “Why?”

She took a shaky breath. “Because deep down inside, you didn’t want it.”

“What are you talking about!” His voice rose. “Of course I did!”

“NO!” She stood. “No, you didn’t! You thought you did, but you didn’t!”

“Susan!” He stood and grabbed her arms roughly.

She wrenched herself from him and put her hand out, stopping him from coming closer. “No, Mulder. You’re right, I did push you away. But I did if for you!”

“Me?” he asked incredulously. “I needed you then, but you shut me out!

I was going through hell with Scully’s abduction, but I couldn’t talk to you!”

“Mulder,” she pleaded. “Please let me explain.”

He dropped down on the couch and spread his arms out. “Please,” he said sarcastically. “Enlighten me.”

Anger rumbled inside her. “You son of a bitch,” her voice growled.

He tried not to look surprised.

“YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I WAS GOING THROUGH!” She crossed to the other side of the room, putting more space between them. “I had never loved anyone the way that I loved you,” she almost whispered, looking down at the carpet. “And when I found you with Diana, it tore me apart.”

She wiped at her eyes. “Then when she left you, you came crawling back to me, begging for my forgiveness, your heart broken. And because I loved you so much, I took you back.” She looked at him, he looked away.

“I know you loved me, still do, but when I saw you that last time, I knew it was just that, the last time,” she explained.

He leaned forward, his elbows on his thighs. “Why?”

She moved closer and sat down on the table across from him. Her knees in between his. “Because I knew that you weren’t *in* love with me anymore. Your love had changed. You were falling in love with Dana.”

He sat back and scrubbed his hands over his face.

“I knew it, but you didn’t.”

“So you pushed me away,” he said, his hand still covering his face.

She reached out and took his hand so that she could see him. “All I wanted was for you to be happy.”

“You damn near killed me when you told me that we couldn’t see each other again.”

She swiped a tear away annoyingly. “I know it hurt you. I know you didn’t understand. And you have no idea how many times I had to force myself not to call you, just to hear your voice.”

He sniffed.

“Those first few months were horrible for me.”

He nodded. “Me too. I was so afraid that you were going to hang up on me when I called you about Scully.”

She squeezed his hand. “I could never do that to you.”

He smiled.

“And I fought to get on with my life.”

“And you did.”

“Not for a long time. I immersed myself in my work, eventually going out on the occasional date. Did you know that the first date I really enjoyed after we split was with Walter Skinner?”

“Really?” He asked, surprised.

“Yeah,” she laughed. “He can be quite charming when he wants to be.”

“But you only went out on the one date.”

She nodded. “I was in town assisting on a case, I was only there for a few days. Besides, he was in the middle of being separated from his wife. That’s never a good time.”

He nodded.

“He’s a nice man, but I knew nothing would come of it.”

“Why?”

“Because I he didn’t make me feel the way you made me feel,” she said simply.

He gave her a smile “What about that guy,” he paused for a minute trying to remember his name. “Nick?”

“Oh, God,” she groaned.

He laughed. “I often wondered what the hell you were thinking.”

She smiled. “What about that chick, Bambie?”

He dropped his chin to his chest.

“Who the hell names their kid Bambie?”

He mumbled something under his breath.

“What was that?”

He looked up. “She was pretty and had a nice chest.”

She stared at him blankly then laughed out loud. “Christ, Mulder.

Sometimes you are such a guy.”

He laughed. “And I never went out on a date with her.”

“Yeah but you sure as hell wanted to screw her.”

“I wouldn’t talk if I were you. The only reason you dated Nick was because I quote, `He’s cute and has a nice ass’ end quote.”

She doubled over with laughter. “I said that didn’t I?”

He nodded, grinning.

She leaned back, her hands behind her on the edge of the table, supporting her weight. “He was such a simple man,” she said with amusement. “And he was good with his hands.”

“I’ll bet.”

She frowned at him. “That’s not what I meant, he was a carpenter.”

“Uh, huh.”

She smiled.

Suddenly Mulder yawned. “Jesus, I’m tired.”

“Mmm, me too.”

“Come on,” he said as he stood and grabbed her hand to pull her to her feet. “We should really hit the sack.”

She gave him a coy smile. “Are you coming on to me Agent Mulder?”

He laughed and started up the stairs, still holding her hand.

“Mulder,” Susan said, following him into his room.

He turned to her, in the process of removing his shirt. “Yeah?”

She moved towards him. “I have come to a decision.” She stopped a few feet from him. “Our connection,” she paused for a movement. “I think it’s time I broke it.”

He frowned. “Why?” He stepped closer to her. “Why would you do that?”

He sounded panicked.

“Because it’s not fair,” she said.

“Not fair?”

“Yes, Mulder.” She placed her hand on his chest then slid it up to his jaw. Everywhere her hand touched, felt like fire. He couldn’t help but become aroused. “That’s another reason why.”

“But…”

She shook her head. “This thing between us, is not fair to Dana and to Michael; it’s not right.”

He put his hand over hers that was still resting on his face. “I don’t know if I could handle losing you that way,” he choked out.

She gave him a sad smile. “You’ll manage, we both will.”

He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her furiously. He held her for a few moments, absorbing as much of her as he could, hoping that his photographic memory would be able to remember how she felt in his arms.

“What about the side effects?” he mumbled into her hair.

She chuckled and stepped back. “I’m not really sure what would happen with that, but you’ve always been a bit in tune with the world, so I doubt you will lose your empathy toward others. Remember, you are a great profiler, you had that before you met me.”

He nodded. “But what about the other thing?”

She smiled. “Hopefully, for Dana’s sake, with our connection severed, it will put a damper on it.”

He laughed. “I never heard you complain,” he said.

She shrugged. “And hopefully with Dana around you can chuck your videos.”

“Hey, some of those are classics!”

She snorted.

“And you’re the reason I had to get them in the first place.”

She put her hands up. “Don’t blame me! If you hadn’t forced me to lose control, none of this would have happened.”

He smiled at her suggestively. “I didn’t have to force you to do anything, you were more than willing, if I remember correctly.”

She blushed and looked down. “It was a great relief to finally let go.”

“And I am extremely honored that I was the one you chose.”

“I loved you more than I ever loved anyone and you were the first person I let see the real me,” she said. “I had never relaxed completely around anyone before, so it was a bit new to me. When I allowed you in, both figuratively and physically, I was unaware of how it would it affect you.” She turned away from him to sit on the bed.

She took a deep breath. “I had no idea that it would affect your, ah, hormones.”

He laughed. “You had no idea that it would make me extremely easy to turn on?”

She smiled. “You were already easy for me, but I didn’t know that it would pop up at the most inappropriate times,” she laughed.

He sat down next to her. “I learned to control it after awhile. But when it started to happen even when you weren’t around, I started to get concerned.”

“No Viagra for you!”

“God, never!”

“When did you figure it out?”

He sighed. “When I met Scully.”

Her eyebrows went up. “Really?”

“Yeah, what I think happens is that unconsciously, my body senses something that reminds me of you; a smell, a sound, a look, a woman with blue eyes…”

“Ahh,” she nodded.

“Yeap, I also would have a problem if I saw a crime scene that resembled something we worked on together.”

She grimaced. “God, Mulder, you would get a woody at a crime scene!?”

“No,” he said quickly. “But it would start me thinking about sex.”

“I don’t know if that’s better.”

He shrugged, there was nothing he could do about it.

“Well,” she said as she stood. It was time to get the rest of her plan rolling. “We were going to take you guys out to the lighthouse tomorrow, but I don’t think we’ll be able to.”

“Why?”

“There’s been a change of plans.”

He frowned. He knew she was up to something.

“But if you’re up to it.” She smiled. “I would like to go to this restaurant in East Quoge called The Pine Barrens Inn for dinner. The place isn’t much to look at, but the food is spectacular.”

He nodded. “You know these things better than I do.”

“Good,” she smiled. “It’s settled then.” She walked to the door, stopping just before it. “Oh.” She turned around to face him. He stayed where she left him sitting on the bed. “I have a gift for you.”

He tilted his head.

“Consider it a `break away gift’.”

“A break away gift?”

“Yeah.” She walked back to him. “Do you want it?”

“What is it?”

She moved to stand in between his knees. “I can’t tell you.”

“Why?”

“Because, you have to trust me.”

He looked at her suspiciously.

“You do trust me, don’t you?” she asked.

“You know I do.”

She smiled. “So you accept it?”

He considered her for a moment before he responded. “I guess so.”

Her smiled widened. “It’s not just for you, but for Dana as well.”

“OK,” he said slowly.

“And you have to use it quickly, I’m not sure how long it will last.”

Now she was scaring him, but he still trusted her. “All right.”

She took a deep breath, steadying her nerves and cupped his face.

“Good bye,” she said softly, her voice full of emotion, then tilted his face up to her as she leaned down to kiss him.

Part 35

Her lips grazed his, then pressed firmly against him. His eyes widened at her actions, not expecting her to kiss him.

Susan felt his surprise and held his face tighter afraid he might try to pull away. She smiled inwardly with a sense of satisfaction when she felt him relax.

Mulder closed his eyes and pressed back against her mouth as a feeling of detachment wound through him. Suddenly it was as if he no longer had a body. He could not feel his arms or legs or any other part of himself except where Susan touched him. His whole body was dead expect for his face and lips. His thoughts were starting to fog over and thinking became difficult.

Somewhere, in the depths of his mind, he was frightened. He was losing parts of himself, but the curious side, the side of him that ruled his life, that kept him investigating the unknown, the side that lived by the motto `what if’, took over. He trusted her and knew that she would never hurt him. Besides, he wanted to see what would happen next.

Then he got his wish.

She deepened the kiss.

He groaned, but not out of pleasure, but of pain. Colors blended together like a cubist painting behind his closed eyes as what felt like jolts of electricity tore through his brain occasionally augmented with blinding flashes of light.

Susan gripped him tighter, her hands moving from his face to his hair where she grabbed tufts of hair, pulling slightly in an effort to hold him to her. She felt his pain which added to the pain she was experiencing. She knew how this would end. He would no longer be able to sense her, to feel her; and she, him. She wasn’t only removing herself from him, but him from her. This would be the last time she would know how he was feeling; whether he was happy or sad, intrigued or disinterested and it felt as if she was losing parts of herself.

She had great love for his mind, that sexy mind she always called it.

She would mourn it’s loss like a death of a lover.

Mulder’s hands reached out of their own volition to cradle Susan’s face. Deep inside, he was aware of her pain.

Mulder’s muscles flexed involuntarily as the flashes of color and light blended together to form pictures. Images of his life with Susan flickered by his eyes like an old silent film. In a state of disembodiment, he watched as her essence was ripped from his consciousness starting with her lips touching his and ending on that fateful weekend in Vermont.

Susan tensed, then released him.

Mulder fell back onto the bed, his legs bent and his feet still flat on the floor. His breathing was irregular and his body was covered with a sheen of sweat.

Susan gazed at him as tears ran down her face, watching his chest rise and fall frantically. She sniffed quietly and wiped her face with a trembling hand. She turned away from him when she noticed that his breathing had started to even out. She knew that he would become aware of his surroundings again at any moment and that she had to get out of there or this would all be for naught.

She took quick stumbling strides out of the room and across the hall to Scully’s room. She took a shaky deep breath and banged on the door.

It took Scully a few moments to respond; she was just about to take a bath. She wrapped a satin rope around herself and got to the door just as Susan started pounding on it again.

“Susan?!” Scully said, the concern evident in her voice.

Scully frowned as she took in the woman before her. Susan’s eyes were red and swollen, her face was flushed and tears streamed down her cheeks unnoticed.

Susan didn’t answer her right away and Scully started to panic. The sight of Susan crumbling, obviously extremely upset and failing to get hold of herself was a frightening vision. The pain radiating off of her was not lost on Scully.

She grabbed Susan’s upper arm. “Susan!” she said, shaking her. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

Susan gently removed her arm from Scully’s grasp. “Mulder,” she croaked out, not looking at her. “Mulder needs to talk to you.”

Scully almost didn’t understand her; Susan’s words were overshadowed with sobs and hiccups like a child trying to explain how the window got broken.

The panic started to rise higher. “Is he all right?”

Susan nodded. “He, he just needs to talk to you,” she said as she started to back away from her.

Scully didn’t move. Her brow was furrowed as she watched Susan retreat down the hall toward her bedroom.

Susan turned suddenly and gave her a magnificent smile; her blue eyes shined with tears. “I am so happy he found you.” Her smile grew. “You are his one in five billion.”

With that, Susan stepped inside her bedroom and closed the door behind her.

Scully stood rooted to the floor unable to move. The groan coming from the opened door across the hall spurred her into action.

“Mulder!” Scully shouted as she hurried into his room. She stopped just inside.

Mulder sat on the bed stooped over, his elbows on his thighs and his fingers tangled in his hair. His head hung down. Scully could see that he was crying by the movements of his shoulders.

“Mulder?” she asked gently, taking a step closer to him.

He slowly lifted his head to look at her. His eyes were red rimmed and his lower lip quivered slightly.

She took another step towards him. “Are you OK?”

He stared at her, his eyes boring into hers so intensely, she had to look away.

“Scully?” he asked, his voice breaking on the last syllable.

She looked up at him, but didn’t move closer.

He looked so lost. “She’s gone,” he said quietly. His breath hitched in his throat.

“Mulder, what happened? Who’s gone?” she asked, not quite following him. She started to breach the gap between them but stopped when he shot up from his seated position.

She flinched.

“SUSAN!” he shouted. “SHE’S GONE!!” He gestured wildly with his hands.

“Mul…,” she started but he interrupted her.

“Susan! She said goodbye!” he stared at her begging her to understand what he was saying, but he wasn’t making any sense to her.

She shook her head. “I don’t understand. Where did she go?”

He flopped back onto the bed taking the same position he was in when she entered and started to sob.

Scully moved to stand in front of him and kneeled done on the floor so that they were at the same eye level. “Where did Susan go?” she asked softly.

He looked at her with tearstained eyes as he placed one hand over his forehead and the other over his heart. “Here,” he croaked. “She left me here. She said it was a gift.” He dropped his hands. “She said goodbye.”

“Oh, Mulder,” she said, finally following what he was saying. “She broke your connection.”

He nodded mutely. “She said it was for us.”

Scully frowned. “Us?”

He nodded again. “She said she had a gift for me, but it was for you, too.”

She gave him a small smile. “She gave you your freedom from her,” she said. “It *is* a gift.”

Now he frowned.

“Don’t you understand?” When he didn’t respond she continued. “She no longer has an influence over you. You can move on.”

He sniffled. “She set me free.”

She smiled and nodded. “She set you free,” she said reaching out to lay her hand over his clasped hands, hanging between his thighs.

As her skin made contact with his, a tingling sensation started in her hand and worked it’s way up her arm and into her chest. The same happened for Mulder.

They looked at each other, an expression of wonder forming on their faces. When their eyes met, the tingling grew into a flutter, almost like their entire bodies were filled with butterflies.

They smiled broadly.

“A gift,” Scully whispered.

He nodded. “A gift,” he agreed as he moved his head closer to hers. He could hear her take a quick breath before she closed her eyes and touched her lips to his.

When their lips connected, the stirring inside metamorphosed from butterflies to birds. Scully had to break away. The sensations were a little overwhelming and were causing her to have a difficult time forming thoughts.

“Scully,” Mulder breathed.

She didn’t respond, she just looked at him.

“Scully,” he said again as he brought his hand up to cup her face.

Scully gasped as intense emotions ran through her; desire, need, lust, and love. Oh, God, could she feel the love. Not only was it in his touch, but in his eyes.

She moaned and closed her eyes. It was too much all at once.

“Scully.” It seemed that it was the only word he could say.

She opened her eyes and looked at him – really looked at him. That’s when she saw it. She was not only feeling him, he was feeling her as well.

He smiled as if he knew she just realized this.

Suddenly she felt claustrophobic. This was nothing like when she had the lingering effects of Susan’s mind screw. He could feel her this time, know exactly how she felt about him; how much he had become an integral part of herself. He would know her very essence.

Could she trust him enough with this? She trusted him with her life, her heart, but could she trust him with her very soul?

As she was waging her internal battle, Mulder continued to hold her face, his thumb slowly caressing her cheek. He knew that she had to make the decision to give herself to him.

He had given himself to her a long time ago.

She looked into Mulder’s expressive eyes. He was completely open, he had laid his entire being before her and it was up to her whether she was going to walk away or take him in.

Scully thought about the conversation she and Susan had at Paddy’s bar. Susan believed that God occasionally gave people nudges when they needed to be put back on the path. Was this such an instance? Susan said she knew immediately that she and Michael were meant to be together. Did Susan feel that the same was true for her and Mulder? Is that why she broke the connection now and not years ago? Was she looking for Mulder’s other half? Is that why she said what she did in the hall? Is she Mulder’s one in five billion? Is he hers?

Scully couldn’t lie to herself. She honestly believed that he was.

Susan had given her one of the most precious gifts anyone could give someone. And by God, she was going to take it.

She took a deep breath and gave Mulder a bright smile.

He returned it.

Scully brought her hand to his face and ran her thumb over his bottom lip, then moved forward to brush her mouth against his. He stayed very still, allowing her this bit of control.

“I love you,” she said against his mouth as she brought her other hand up to his face and took the last step.

She opened herself to him.

The End

~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~x~ The Epilogue

4:55 AM

Sunday

Mulder woke alone in bed with the blankets twisted around his waist.

He moved his arm over to the side where Scully should be sleeping and found the sheets were cold. He picked his head up slowly, his hair sticking out in all directions and squinted as he looked around the room.

The sun was just starting to stream in through the windows. He started to wonder if the events of last night, actually a few hours ago, were just a figment of his imagination.

He groaned and dropped his head onto the pillow next to him. Then he smiled into the fabric. He could smell her, not only on the pillow, but all around him. He sniffed his arm and his smile widened. He could smell her on his skin.

Mulder pushed himself up and turned so that he could sit with his back against the head board. That’s when he noticed that he was nude.

He smiled again and rested his head back. Closing his eyes he allowed himself to indulge in the memories of her, of Scully. The feel of her skin so fair and soft against his golden, callused hands, her body arching under him and the sensations he experienced were unlike anything he had ever imagined. He’d have to remember to thank Susan the next time he saw her.

Suddenly he opened his eyes and looked straight ahead. Susan! This is all because of her. As she was removing herself from him, she gave him the most fantastic gift anyone could ever have given him. He got to *feel* Scully. And oh God, she was beautiful.

Mulder got up quickly and searched for his boxers. He chuckled to himself when he found them across the room. Scully was so impatient trying to get the damn things off that she almost tore them. Mulder was greatly pleased when he discovered that Scully wasn’t wearing anything under her satin robe.

He hastily pulled on his boxers, hopping around a bit on one leg until he got his limbs to cooperate, then put on a gray T-shirt. As he crossed the hall, he noted that Scully’s door was open. He also noticed that Susan and Michael’s wasn’t. He padded quietly down the hall to their room and cracked open the door. The bed looked as if it hadn’t been slept in. He closed the door and took a deep breath. He had no idea if Susan was in the house or not, but if he knew her as well as he thought he did, he would guess that Susan took off leaving him and Scully alone.

He smiled and shook his head. There was no way he could thank her for this.

Mulder entered Scully’s room and scanned his surroundings. She wasn’t in there. He frowned and took a few steps further in. That was when he saw that the doors to the balcony were open. The curtains swayed gently in the breeze. He silently walked toward the door and paused at the threshold.

Scully stood sideways leaning against the railing of the balcony with her head tilted up toward the rising sun. Her eyes were closed and a small smile graced her lips. The sun reflected off her hair causing Mulder to curse his color blindness. What he wouldn’t give to see her in full Technicolor.

Mulder silently approached her and wrapped his arms around her from behind.

“Mmm, `morning,” she said lazily.

He kissed her temple then rested his chin on the crown of her head and swayed back and forth. “Morning,” he mumbled. “You weren’t there when I woke up.”

She rubbed her hand over the fine hairs on his forearm. “I wanted to listen to the birds wake up.”

He tightened his grip around her. “Why didn’t you wake me?” he asked softly.

“You were sleeping so peacefully, I didn’t want to disturb you.” She still hadn’t opened her eyes.

He nodded against her. “You wouldn’t have bothered me.”

She smiled. “I’ll remember that next time,” she murmured.

He grinned. “Next time, eh?”

She laughed. “God, I hope so.”

He kissed her neck. “Mmm, me too.”

She tilted her head to allow him better access to the skin of her throat and hummed happily when he started to nibble on the area where her neck and shoulder met.

“Mulder,” she groaned when his hands untied the knot of her robe and started caressing her stomach. “Mmmm?” he responded into her hair.

“Mulder,” she said louder now with more strength in her voice and caught his hands as they started to venture south.

He got the message and stepped back so she could turn around to face him. He internally pouted when she retied the belt on her robe.

“Mulder,” she said, then stopped. She wasn’t sure what to say.

“Scully,” he said, saving her. “I know what you’re afraid of, I’m afraid of the same things, but nothing has changed.”

She arched an eyebrow at him and he smiled.

“OK, some things have changed, but you know what I’m saying.”

She slowly nodded and crossed her arms in front of her.

“I have loved you for a very long time. Now I get to show you,” he said simply.

“But we no longer have Susan’s gift,” she said rather urgently.

“I don’t need Susan’s gift to know how you feel about me. And you don’t need it to know how I feel about you.”

She looked over the balcony toward the water.

“Scully,” he said.

She turned her head back to him.

“All you have to do is trust me.”

“I do,” she said with conviction.

“I know,” he said with a smirk.

She smiled.

“I know everything there is to know about you.”

She looked down shyly.

“I used to curse my photographic memory, now I cherish it,” he said as he tilted her chin up so he could see her face. “I will never forget how beautiful you are, not only on the outside.”

She smiled.

“But in here as well,” he said, placing his hand over her heart.

Silent tears welled up in her eyes as she copied him and placed her hand over his heart. “God, Mulder,” she said, her voice breaking. “I love you so much.”

He took her other hand from where it rested on the railing and entwined their fingers. He gave her a devilish smile when he spoke again. “Come on Scully, let’s go back to bed.”

She grinned at him and allowed herself to be pulled toward the bed. As her back suddenly hit the mattress, she wondered if she should thank Susan or send her her chiropractic bills.

The End

***END NOTES***

First, I want to say thank you to my proofreader, my MOM. I don’t know what I would do without you. You listened to me incessantly talk about this story with patience only a mother could have. You also made it so that I didn’t sound like an idiot, especially when I spelled something so badly that the spell checker didn’t even think it was a word.

I also wanted to say thank you to my office mates, Elaine, Eileen, Ellen and Joan (I MISS YOU!) even though most of you teased me about my obsession with everything X-Files, you read my story with interest and even bugged me to get the next session out.

One more thank you must go to my readers. Since this is my first X-Files Fan Fiction, your feedback has been a wonderful gift to me. I don’t think I would have ever finished this without your encouragement. That especially goes to Jenny O., you are my most faithful reader.

I have but one request, please hit that reply button and let me know what you thought of this. It would mean the world to me.

Thank you all very much,

McKab

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Old Friends: An Intermission

Optional Extra. Shipper warning – this is a flashback containing Mulder/Other Romance.

From: McKab ~~

Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000 19:45:16 GMT

Subject: New: Old Friends… An Intermission Title: Old Friends… An Intermission

Summary: Remember when Mulder told Scully that Susan met her after the Tooms case?

Rating: R

~~~

The elevator door opened and Scully walked out into the empty hallway.

Her steps were slow because she was holding about twenty pounds of books and files. Her chin rested on the top book in an effort to keep it from sliding off.

Unbeknownst to Scully, a woman was watching her movement down the hall out of the corner of her eye from just inside a doorway.

“We can’t thank you enough,” a male voice said suddenly.

The woman returned her attention to the man beside her and allowed a small smile to trace her lips.

“Don’t worry about it, I was just doing my job.”

The man snorted. “We could never have found him without your help, Agent Halloway.”

Susan Halloway shrugged.

“When are you going back to New York?” the man asked.

“In a few days.”

“Do you have any plans for this evening?” He said, sounding a bit eager.

Susan smiled. “I’m sorry, but I do.”

He nodded. “Well, if you’re ever back this way, give me a call. We’ll go out for drinks or something.” He smiled trying to cover up his embarrassment and extended his hand.

Susan took it, “I’ll do that.”

She started to walk toward the elevators, but was interrupted by a loud crash a few feet behind her. She turned to find Scully crouched over a pile of books and papers scattered around her.

She knelt down to help her.

Scully looked up and was greeted by warm hazel eyes.

“Hi,” Susan said. “Thought I’d help you with this mess.”

Scully gave Susan a guarded smile. “Thanks, my partner asked me to look over some background on our last case,” Scully said. “I never thought there was this much.”

Susan read the cover of the book she was holding in her hand. “The inner workings of the Liver?” Susan said, interested. “Must have been a fun case.”

“Always,” Scully said under her breath.

Susan smiled.

Scully loaded her arms and stood. “Thanks.” She shifted the books so she could hold them with one hand. Susan shook her hand and tossed the rest of the books on top of Scully’s pile.

“Do you need any help carrying these?” Susan asked.

Scully shook her head. “I’m just going down the hall. I’ve got it, but thanks.”

Susan nodded. As she watched Scully walk the rest of the way down the hall, she rubbed the fingers of her right hand together.

She pulled the door to the stairs open and started down. She didn’t feel like waiting for the elevator.

~~~~

Mulder sat hunched over his desk, lost in a Casefile. He heard the door to the stairs open and close, then the sound of heels clicking, becoming louder as they approached. He interpreted them as Scully and reimmersed himself in the report.

Susan paused outside the office door watching Mulder read. He was chewing on his bottom lip and pushed his glasses further up his nose.

Susan licked her lips.

A sensation of heat washed through him as Mulder felt a tightening in his groin. He looked up.

Susan was casually leaning on the door jamb with her arms crossed over her chest. Her dark hair had grown a bit since he last saw her and was now touching the edge of her collar.

He smiled. “Can I help you ma’am?” he asked, removing his glasses.

Susan uncrossed her arms as she approached him. “I think I’m lost. I was looking for this great profiler and I found you.”

Mulder leaned back in his chair and linked his hands behind his head.

“You found me, babe.”

Susan’s eyebrows raised. “Babe? That’s not very professional. I could bring you up on sexual harassment charges.”

She stood in front of his desk.

“If you’re going to bring me up on charges, I could make it for something a hell of a lot better than for calling you babe,” he said.

Susan tilted her head in thought, then moved around the desk, Mulder pushed his chair back to give her room.

She stood between the v of his legs, put her hands on the armrests and bent over him, her face inches from his. “What do you propose?”

Mulder smiled. “I’ll show you a few of my ideas, and you can pick which one you like best.” He closed the space between them, his lips meeting hers.

Susan ran her hands up his chest to his hair, pulling him closer. She smiled when she heard him growl.

Mulder slid his tongue over her lips, forcing them open. He squeezed his eyes closed tightly when his tongue made contact with hers. He groaned in frustration when she pulled back just as the image of her moving down his body rushed into him.

Susan waved her finger at him. “Not very professional, Agent Mulder.”

Mulder grinned. “Fuck professionalism.” He sat up as he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her to him. He nuzzled her breasts through her brown blazer.

“If you leave wet marks, I’m going to make it so you never have sex again,” she said in a teasing tone. “And you know I can.”

Mulder took a deep breath of her perfume and looked up.

“But that would spoil our fun,” he whined.

Susan chuckled and stepped back. Mulder released her.

Susan looked over her shoulder. “Interesting reading?”

“Not really, just something to pass the time.”

“Anything about livers?”

Mulder looked at her.

“I met a certain redhead in the hall upstairs,” she said.

Mulder didn’t respond.

“She’s nice, Mulder. I like her.”

Mulder breathed out. “What did you get?”

Susan smiled. “Just that you can trust her.”

Mulder nodded. “I already knew that.”

“I know, and I know that you are attracted to her.”

Mulder looked over to the slides Scully left on the table by the far wall. He nodded. “She’s very attractive.”

“Yes, she is.”

Mulder turned back to her. She was smiling.

“I’m not upset, Mulder. I have no hold on you. I just use you for sex.”

“You will always have a hold on me,” his tone was serious.

Susan’s smile widened. “And you on me.”

They were silent for a few moments, just looking at each other.

Susan broke eye contact first. “Come on, I’ll buy you some dinner.”

Mulder looked down at his watch. “It’s only 2:30.”

Susan stopped before the door. “Who said we were eating right away. I want to work up an appetite first.”

It took him a few moments to respond. He grabbed a pen and quickly scribbled on a posit. He stuck it to his computer before he followed Susan out the door.

‘Had to go. Something came up,’ it read.

~~~

Hyatte Regency Hotel

5:48 PM

Susan carefully pried her fingers from the headboard and combed her hands through Mulder’s damp hair. His head rested atop her bare breasts, his rapid breathing cooled her perspiration drenched skin.

“Missed you,” he mumbled, turning his head, he kissed her collarbone.

She opened her eyes and looked up at him. He was watching her. She smiled and placed her hand on his cheek. “You too,” she said, her voice sounding hoarse.

Mulder shifted, put his hands on either side of her head and moved some of his weight off of her. Susan relaxed her legs, bringing them down from around his waist.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were in town?” he asked as he brushed her hair off her forehead.

“I only got in a few days ago. Besides, I heard you were busy.”

“Mmmm,” he said, kissing her temple.

“I understand you caused a bit of trouble in violent crimes.”

Mulder brought his head up, grinning at her.

“You could say that.”

“Mulder, you have to learn to play well with other agents,” she said, rubbing her palm across his jaw.

“I play well with you,” his voice was deep.

Susan smiled. “Yes, yes you do.”

Mulder sat up and looked down at her. Her hair was tousled and her lips were swollen. She had a round purplish mark just above her left nipple that stood out from her light skin. She never looked more beautiful.

“I marked you,” he said, running his index finger around the spot.

“What am I a tree?”

“I didn’t know you were into golden showers,” Mulder said innocently.

Susan slapped his arm. “Gross, Mulder.”

“Ahh, so I finally found your limit.” Mulder sat back on his heels, he was sitting between Susan’s bent legs, her knees level with his ribs.

He leaned down and kissed each knee. Susan laughed.

He placed his hands on the inside of her thighs and pushed them wider apart. He reached over to the night stand and grabbed a pen. He took the cap off with his teeth.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Marking my territory.” He crouched over her, examining her skin.

“Mulder,” she protested and tried to sit up, but he put his hand on her stomach, making her lie back down.

“Just a sec. Here it is,” he said when he found the small mole that was hidden in the crease where her left leg met her hip, by her pubic area.

He circled the mole with the pen and drew a line down her leg an inch, then wrote ‘Property of Fox Mulder.’

Mulder admired his work and looked up at her.

“Mulder’s mole.”

She narrowed her eyes at him and sat up. She pushed him down and straddled his stomach. She looked down at the writing on her thigh.

“Very cute, Mulder. But I can do one better.”

Susan took the pen from him and wrote in big letters across his chest.

‘PROPERTY OF SUSAN HALLOWAY. DO NOT TOUCH!’

By the time she finished the exclamation point, Mulder was squirming, the movement of the pen tickled.

“I have to make sure I don’t wear a white shirt for awhile. Do you think you could have made that a little smaller?”

“Nah, I have to protect my assets,” she said with a slap to said asset.

Mulder laughed and grabbed her wrists, pulling her to him.

“Talk about nice assets.” He released her wrists and squeezed her behind.

Susan kissed him hard, exploring his mouth. Mulder was passive, running his hands up and down her back as she controlled the kiss. Suddenly she broke free, placed her hands on his chest and sat up.

“Come on, lets go get something to eat; take in some much needed fuel.”

Mulder watched her walk nude across the room to the bathroom. She stopped and turned around. Mulder loved the fact that she was never self-conscious around him and he could openly admire her body. She actually seemed to like it.

“I’m going to take a shower. Are you coming?”

Mulder knew she set him up and he grinned at her. “I already have.”

He stood and stalked towards her. “A few times already.”

“And by the looks of things, you will again soon,” she smirked and disappeared into the bathroom.

Mulder took a deep breath and joined her in the shower.

~~~

Mulder took a sip from his wine. “So, tell me about this case you were working on.”

Susan paused before she put her fork in her mouth. “I don’t know if this is good dinner conversation,” she said.

Mulder looked around the restaurant. They were sitting in the far corner of the room, well away from everyone else.

“I don’t think anyone will overhear us.”

“Well, it certainly wasn’t as interesting as your last case.”

He raised his eyebrows at her.

“I read your partner.”

Mulder nodded and took a bite of his veal.

“It was just your run-of-the-mill serial killer.” Susan cut her chicken and brought a piece to her mouth. “They asked me to join them a few months ago. I’ve been running around the country since then. It seems that our killer, Gamal Henry had a partner on the West Coast and they were having a bit of a contest. We caught the partner, Brian Tyton, right away, but Henry took a little longer. They were keeping score by sending each other the right index finger of their latest accomplishment.”

“Who was winning?”

“Henry. He had 8, Tyton had 6 when we caught him.”

“How’d you catch ‘im?”

Susan smiled and raised her right hand. She wiggled her fingers.

Mulder smiled and shook his head. “You know that’s cheating, don’t you?”

“Hey,” she said. “You use every resource you can.”

“I could have used your help on my last case. You could have broken him when we had him attached to the polygraph.”

“You mean like Maxwell?”

Mulder laughed. “Yeah, like Maxwell.” Mulder looked at her. “Whenever I think about the look on his face when you asked him about the ring, I crack up.” Susan smiled at him. “That was priceless.”

“I miss working with you,” she said softly, placing her hand over his.

He turned his hand and threaded their fingers together.

Mulder squeezed her hand. The music from the bar reached them.

Someone was playing ‘All of Me’ by Billie Holiday.

Mulder leaned towards her as he tugged her hand. He kissed her softly.

“I love you.”

Susan leaned back and caressed his cheek. “I love you, too,” she said and kissed him again.

Mulder pulled away after a few moments. “Come on, let’s finish this so we can get back to business. We have the whole weekend ahead of us before you go back to New York.”

Susan smiled and continued eating.

A comfortable silence passed as they finished their main course. When dessert arrived Mulder spoke again.

“I never asked how your partner’s doing,” he said with a smirk.

“You mean ‘Mr. Fitness’?” she said sarcastically.

“Rodger’s not that bad,” Mulder said laughing.

“Are you kidding me?” she asked incredulously. “He can down two pizzas before I finish my first piece. And he got really pissed that I apprehended our last suspect because he couldn’t get his fat ass out of the car.”

“Yeah, but you’re a fast runner.”

“Can kick your ass,” she said under her breath.

“I heard that,” he said with a smile.

“I’m just really glad he’s retiring soon. And thank God he didn’t come with me when I was asked to join this case. I hope my next partner is better.”

“Watch it, I’ll bet that when you meet him, it’ll be love at first sight.”

Susan snorted. “That doesn’t happen twice in a life time,” she said looking at him seriously.

“You never know.”

“So, how’s your partner measuring up?” She said trying to change the subject.

“Scully’s an X-File in itself.”

“Why do you call her Scully?” she said, taking a sip of her water.

Mulder shrugged. “It seems to suit her.”

“I would hate it if you called me Halloway all the time.”

“Nah, Susan’s easier to scream.”

Susan chuckled. “And Mulder’s so much better, don’t you agree, Fox?”

Mulder grimaced. “Sure, *Susie*.”

Susan met his grimace and raised him a groan.

Mulder laughed and motioned to the waiter for the check.

They walked out of the restaurant, his arm around her waist, her head on his shoulder. When they approached her rental car Mulder released her.

“Can I drive?” He asked excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to drive one of these.”

Susan looked at the silver Jaguar convertible she rented yesterday.

“But I got this so I could drive it,” she whined.

“Come on, please?” He begged. “Besides, I want to show you this place I found.”

Susan reached into to her pocket and reluctantly gave him the keys.

“What, you want to show me the submarine races?”

Mulder opened her door and ran to the other side. He started the car and sighed in ecstasy when he heard the purr of the engine.

Susan laughed. “This button puts the top down,” she said, pointing.

Mulder swatted her hand away. “Let me do it.”

Mulder’s eyes twinkled like a child’s when the top opened. He looked at her. “Ever had sex on the hood of a convertible?”

Susan ran her hand up his thigh. “First time for everything.”

Mulder took a deep breath. “God, I’m going to miss you when you’re gone.”

The End

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