Puppets Trilogy by M Partous

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Puppets Trilogy

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From: (M Partous)
Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 13:09:09 -0500
Subject: NEW: Shadow Puppets

SHADOW PUPPETS

by M Partous email:

It’s a long one, folks, filled, hopefully, with all the X-Files goodies we know and love: actual plot, character stuff, UST, yada yada yada. Maybe it’ll get graphic later on — I’ll warn ya.

WARNING: Many many spoilers ahead, particularly third- season. The case itself involves the reappearance of Krycheck and an exploration of what the silo was really all about (the Piper Maru two-parter). SOME PROFANITY AHEAD.

Please let me know what you think about this one — it’s the most serious, complete story I’ve tried so far.

Thanks to Shalimar for her invaluable advice: Glad I found you!

DISCLAIMER: Main characters property of Chris Carter and/or Fox. Used without permission, but lovingly, with no Machiavellian intent. So sorry. This story circulated for entertainment purposes only. Long live Free Speech.

“You’re so consumed by your personal vengeance against life, whether it be its inherent cruelties or its mysteries, that everything takes on a warped significance to fit your megalomaniacal cosmology.”

— Quagmire

SHADOW PUPPETS (1/10)

FBI HEADQUARTERS
FOX MULDER’S OFFICE
MONDAY, 9:22 AM

The office was lit in shadows.

It made Fox Mulder feel secure. He liked it when reality was delineated in blacks and greys, when faces could only be half seen, as though the thoughts men hid in shadows were made flesh that way, every man’s heart hidden, the darkness revealing more than the harshness of the light, which sterilized everything it touched. Everyone seemed to glitter brightly under overhead lighting, and Mulder had seen enough to know this illumination was a lie.

Everyone lived in shadows, of their own making, or crafted by circumstance — it didn’t really matter. Mulder himself died a little in sunlight. Mulder trusted almost no one.

He trusted Dana Scully. He trusted her as much as he trusted anyone, despite the fact that she was enslaved to the false gods of science, nice gods, really, and it was a shame they were just constructs of human insecurity, of muddled minds in search of meaning.

Science. It was a cliche, of course, but there was no getting away from the fact that science was the 20th century’s desperate substitute for religion. And, when all was said and done, Fox Mulder was more of a mystic than a Puritan. But he respected Scully’s integrity, her ability to state categorically that she had no answers when none of the pat ones applied. He also respected the fact that many of her answers were, in fact, right on the money — and that even when he hated to admit it, science seemed to answer many of the questions he raised.

These days he also trusted Walter Skinner, to a point, which was more than he’d ever dreamed possible. Except that he knew Skinner’s days were counted. The A.D. was too highly placed to benefit from the luxury of paranoia; if he didn’t give in, he would be removed — one way or the other. And Mulder knew Skinner well enough to know that the A.D. would never cave in to the invisible powers who lived in the shadows. Because of this tragic flaw, this hubris of his, he would be destroyed. All that still needed to be determined was when.

In the meantime, Mulder had to move. He didn’t want to use Skinner, hated to do it, but he knew there wasn’t much time.

“The investigator said something about how Skinner kept signing off on your asinine assignment requests,” Scully had told Mulder when the A.D. was finally cleared of all charges in the prostitute death. “They’re after him — make no mistake.”

But Mulder already knew.

He also knew that Scully had stood by him steadfastly, had stood by both of them, even though it meant she was burying herself to save them, that she’d added another nail to the coffin of her career in the eyes of the men who’d paired her with Mulder to expose him in the first place. But the men had lost. They’d lost her and unwittingly given him a powerful ally. Now she was as lost as he was, and in as much danger. And this was something he couldn’t bring himself to dwell on for very long. But she’d made her own decisions, and Mulder had no illusions about his or anyone else’s ability to influence the Enigmatic Dr. Scully when she’d made up her mind.

What Scully didn’t know was that Skinner had told him all about her defense of them both during that hearing, yet another hearing that Mulder had been “unable” to attend. She was ruthless, his Scully, his avatar; he pitied anyone who tried to hammer her into a place of their own choosing. Scully, in her own way, was devoted only to the truth, just as he was. It made her redoubtable. It made her dangerous. It forged a link between them, one that no one could understand, affect, or compromise.

What was still unclear was exactly when the sense of paranoia they’d both cultivated, he deliberately, she inadvertently, had changed into an unmistakable, ominous reality. They were no longer simply paranoid, or, as the old joke went, the fact that they were didn’t mean someone wasn’t out to get them.

Now, as Mulder poured over blurry photos of the silo where they’d gone to find proof during the oil creature case, as he affectionately called it, he realized that requesting this assignment would only put them in greater jeopardy. He smiled grimly. As if they weren’t already in great jeopardy…

A faint knock heralded Scully’s arrival.

Funny how she still knocked after all these years, even though she spent only marginally less time in the basement than Mulder did. It was another thing he loved about her, the respect she had for his space. He invaded hers constantly, on the other hand, both physically and emotionally, because he needed to, because he’d shrivel up without it.

It was a mystery; she had to be as alone as he was, and yet she remained defiantly aloof, thoroughly private. She was stronger than he was, that was certain, but he occasionally wondered what the cost of this strength might be in the long run.

“Hi.” A sparkle of teeth before her head lowered again. “I got your call. What’s up?”

“This,” he said, gazing at the top of her head, willing her to look up. She did. He gestured at the mess on his desk.

“You want me to clean up, is that it?” she asked innocently.

Mulder grinned, and waved at a file balanced precariously on an ancient volume about medieval possession.

“No, that.”

She leaned over his desk and gasped, turning to stare at him, her face in shadows.

“The silo.”

“Yep.”

“Mulder, it’s too dangerous.”

He gave her one of those defiant stares he knew made her crazy, and looked away, shrugging. He’d recognized the expression on her face. It was the same look she’d had when that stupid dog she’d inherited from Bruckman’s neighbour had vanished without a trace, chomped by an alligator, or a sea serpent, depending on who you asked. The childlike sadness, combined with an utter lack of sentimentality. It had taken his breath away, still did, whenever he thought about it.

He looked back up at her — her gaze hadn’t shifted.

“I know there’s something there.” He waited, hands on hips, rocking, looking away.

“What, Mulder?” She looked tired, suddenly, and leaned a hip against his desk.

“I dunno. But it’s something they don’t want us to know about.”

“They, Mulder? Who are they?” She shook her head. “The truth at any cost, Mulder. Even if it’s their truth, one that has nothing to do with anything that matters?”

She sounded exasperated as she crossed her arms over her chest.

“I say so what, Mulder? So what if they’re hiding a whole squadron of UFOs and alien fighter pilots in there. Who cares?”

Mulder’s eyes widened. “I care.”

“Why?” He had to strain to hear her.

“Because I need to know.”

“Even if they kill you for it? Even if they kill me?

There — she’d finally said it. He wondered what had taken her so long.

“I won’t let them touch you.”

He knew how hollow it sounded. She was in danger; they both were. And he knew that the only way she could save herself was to leave the X-Files behind, leave him. It was pure selfishness on his part, but he couldn’t let her go, not altogether, anyway, even for her own sake. Except that this time, he was determined to protect her. Despite herself.

Scully shook her head and chuckled lightly. Of course she saw through it. She always did.

“How are you going to stop them? You can’t even save yourself.”

“I don’t care about myself.”

“That’s the problem, isn’t it. Isn’t it, Mulder?”

He said nothing. This wasn’t where he wanted to go at all.

But she was relentless. “Has it occurred to you that maybe your death would matter more to me than my own?”

His breath caught and he felt the humiliating sting of tears behind his eyes. He swallowed.

“No.”

“My death would matter more to you than your own, wouldn’t it?”

He nodded, once, suddenly shy, still fighting inexplicable tears.

“But I’m not allowed to feel the same way? Why, Mulder? Because you’re a martyr? Because you’re not worthy of anyone’s love?”

She sounded furious, but he wouldn’t look at her. He wasn’t prepared or equipped to deal with this. Not now. Maybe not ever.

“Don’t psychoanalyze me, Scully.” The words came out more harshly than he’d intended, and he regretted them instantly. “Please. It doesn’t help.”

She just looked at him, her face smothered in shadows.

“Anyway,” he said as lightly as he could, “It doesn’t matter what you say, not anymore. I think you need to know just as much as I do.”

Scully stared at him, searching his face. She sighed, and lowered her head. “Maybe.”

Mulder smiled. He couldn’t help it.

She looked up once before turning back to the file. “You think you’re alone, Mulder. That doesn’t mean you are.”

THE PAPER CHASE BAR
WASHINGTON, DC
MONDAY, 4:16 PM

“You want to do what?

Mulder gazed at the A.D.‘s stony face as they sat in the noisy lounge; he shrugged and smiled in what he hoped was his most disarming manner. “I just think there’s something there, and I want to make sure it isn’t anti-American.”

“Like hell.” Skinner steepled his fingers and glared at Mulder. “You must think I’m an idiot.”

“No, sir.” Mulder shook his head earnestly. “Never that.”

“You have got to know that piece of property is out of bounds.”

“To a government agent, sir?”

“To everyone I have any control over.” Skinner sighed and looked down at the assignment request. “Mulder, you must realize that both our asses are on the line these days.”

“I heard someone cry out in that silo.”

“So what?”

“You and Scully should talk more. You have the same point of view.”

Skinner gazed at Mulder for a moment. “Maybe we’re right.”

“Maybe.” Mulder shrugged. “But I have nothing to lose.”

“Are you sure?”

Mulder said nothing. Of course he had something to lose. Everything he had left.

“That’s why I’d like to do this alone. Unofficially.”

“I see. And you want to leave me with an armful of ballistic Scully, is that what you’re telling me?”

The mental image made Mulder smile ruefully.

“Anyway,” Skinner continued, “if you want to do it unofficially, why let me know? It’s very unlike your usual methods.”

“Because I want you to know where I’ve gone if I don’t come back.” Mulder took a breath. “I owe you that much.”

They sat in silence. Skinner finally looked up, close-lipped, his eyes like two bits of obsidian behind the deceptively merry twinkle of his glasses.

“You’re going to fuck it all up, Mulder. Aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

“I want the truth, sir.”

“Whose truth, Agent Mulder?” Uncanny, how he echoed Scully. A spasm of doubt raked through Mulder’s mind. Could it be that he was the only one who saw this thing as bigger than all of them?

“I’m no fool, sir.”

Skinner sighed. “No. You may be many infuriating things, but `fool’ isn’t top of the list.”

“Then let me go.”

Silence reigned again, until Mulder felt himself fidget under the table. Finally, the A.D. looked up.

“Do what you have to do,” he said tersely. “But do it in your own time. If you can’t find a suitably inane x-file to mask it, pay for it yourself. But if you can find a way to work a double shift…” he trailed off.

“Yeah?”

“I’ll look the other way.”

That was all. When Mulder looked again, the A.D. had disappeared into the shadows.

-x-

SHADOW PUPPETS (2/10)

by M Partous email:

“Will work for feedback”

FOX MULDER’S APARTMENT
MONDAY, 11:21 PM

“You’re going where?

Scully’s voice on the other end of the line sounded tinny, thin, shrill. Mulder winced.

“I told you. I’m going back to the silo.”

“Without me?” There was no mistaking the anger.

“At least I’m telling you first.”

“So I should be grateful, is that it? Grateful that you’re running off with a warning this time? That way, when your body shows up at the morgue, at least I’ll know where you’ve been.”

He could hear the frustration in her voice, the unmistakable huskiness of restrained tears, and he knew she was seconds away from hanging up on him.

For good, this time.

“Scully,” he hissed, “listen to me. Please!”

There was silence, but at least no click. She was still there, and he could hear her breathe.

“That’s why I’m calling. I need you. But I don’t want you there at the beginning. If we’re both there, they can kill two birds with one stone. Sorry about the cliche,” he finished lamely.

“Go on.”

“So I want to keep in touch with you. So you can come when the time’s right. I need you this time, Scully.”

He waited. “But I’ll need you to move fast.”

She said nothing.

Mulder took a deep breath. “When I call you, you may have to save my life.”

Nothing.

“Scully?”

“And I’m to understand you’ll actually call?”

“Yes.”

“Shouldn’t I be in the vicinity?” Her tone was sarcastic.

Mulder gaped. He’d forgotten all about the fact that it would take her hours to reach him if she stayed in DC. Unbelievable. He’d hoped to ward her off somehow. Protect her. Keep her from harm.

Right.

But as she spoke he knew he couldn’t run off again, that it hurt her too much, that by doing so, he was driving her away. He’d kept her at arm’s length, for her sake, he thought, and only realized when it was almost too late that this was the only way he could really lose her, that no abduction could achieve what he could achieve by shutting her out. Now he had to live with the consequences of what he knew, even though all his instincts screamed against it.

He ran his fingers through his hair and bit the bullet.

“You’re right. I wasn’t thinking.”

She actually chuckled. “You’re a big jerk, Mulder; you know that?”

He smiled into the receiver. “Yes. Yes, I do.”

“So when are we leaving?”

Mulder sighed, but he felt lighter already. “Tomorrow morning. I’ve trumped up an X-file some ways away from the site, so we’ll have to drive awhile. Skinner may figure it out, but I don’t think he’ll stop us.”

“What time?”

“Eight. I’ll pick you up.”

“Okay.” She was about to hang up, and something in him panicked.

“Scully?”

“Yeah?”

“I still want to go in there alone. At first.”

Silence.

“I still want you to come and rescue me, you know? Like a knight in shining armour.”

Silence.

“I’ll do my best, Mulder.”

He breathed.

“Scully?”

It was her turn to sigh. “What?”

“I—I…”

“I know, Mulder.” His heart was pounding as he found himself listening to the dial tone.

-x-

SHADOW PUPPETS (3/10)

by M Partous email:

“Will work for feedback”

Mulder swore under his breath and kicked the front tire of the Taurus. Why did the Bureau insist on using them as rentals anyway? He hated fucking Tauruses. They were middle-class cars for fucking middle-class has-beens with fat bellies and too many kids. And the automatic transmission made him want to fuck…

Scully chortled; he turned a baleful eye on her as she leaned out of the passenger’s seat, grinning at him.

“You should see your face.”

He choked down the expletive on the tip of his tongue — Mulder never could swear in front of Scully — and stared at her for a moment before turning back to the offending tire, his shirt sweat-soaked and clinging to his back in a particularly irritating way that made him want to scream and rip it off before kicking it around in the dust for awhile.

“You’re not exactly helping, your highness,” he said. “Afraid to dirty your dainty little hands? What happened to women’s liberation, anyway?”

“I never bought it,” Scully said serenely.

“Right,” he muttered, and crouched down, poking at the tire with a finger.

“It’s flat, Mulder.”

“I know that! Since when do radials get flats? They’re supposed to blow out and send you careening into the ditch to face a bloody, mangled death.”

“Sounds like you wish it had.”

“At least I wouldn’t have to deal with this.” He stood, wiped his hands on his shirt and kicked the tire again, for good measure.

Scully laughed outright and opened the door, joining Mulder on the road as the torrid sun beat down mercilessly, causing the pavement to swim in the heat.

“You have no idea how to change that thing, do you?”

He glared at her. “Do you?”

“Nope. But I told you — I’m a lady.”

Mulder leaned close, casting a shadow over her, but Scully didn’t budge an inch. He absolutely wanted to wipe that smug smile off her face.

“Really?” he murmured sweetly, his mouth suddenly inches from hers. “Well, I hate to break it to you when we’re miles away from civilization, but I’m no gentleman.”

It worked. Her eyes widened and she backed away skittishly.

Mulder chuckled.

“If it’s not too much to ask, Milady, do you think you might consider sullying your pristine fingers and picking up your cellular? Perhaps a quick call to the rental company, before we die of thirst out here?”

Scully tossed her head and reached into the car for her purse. “Sure. Fine. Whatever. The Great Fox Mulder, Conspiracy Buster and all-around hero for the paranoid ’90s, flattened by a flat. I can see the field report now. ‘We wanted to expose that nefarious plot, sir, we really did, but the rental company just took forever to get to us, and what could we do? They got away with all that alien technology. But we almost had them this time, sir, we really did…’” She snorted.

“You think you’re pretty funny, don’t you?”

“Believe me, Mulder; anyone working with you for any length of time had better develop a sense of humour.”

The car rental company had apparently mastered the art of passive resistance. Scully had finally managed to make the whinny voice at the other end promise that help would arrive within the hour, but only after she’d used some rather unlady- like language involving her firearm and how she’d hitchhike back to the rental office, find the guy she was on the phone with and personally insert it in a very private place. Then she’d book him and put him away for life.

Mulder laughed out loud.

They sat together in the car, the air conditioning going full blast in a futile attempt to counter the heat of the midwestern day. The contrast made them sweat more, and Scully sighed, fidgeting against the seat as her blouse stuck to it, and she swiped at her neck for the umpteenth time.

Mulder tried to ignore her, even though it cost him everything he had not to stare at her chest as the thin shell she wore became increasingly translucent with perspiration. He fitfully tried all the AM stations he could find, but eventually gave up as one born-again preacher after another filled the airwaves with messages of easy but obviously expensive salvation.

He sighed, and leaned back against the seat, fixing his eyes resolutely on the swimming asphalt in front of the car.

“What time is it?”

Scully squirmed. “About three minutes past the last time you asked.”

“I can’t believe we’re just sitting here.”

“Aren’t you even hot, Mulder,” she moaned, throwing him a withering glance.

“Yes, I’m hot, Scully.” He glanced at her and hastily averted his eyes before they dropped below her neck. “Believe me. And please stop wiggling around — it’s just making me hotter.”

Scully froze as she tried to interpret his remark. Mulder screwed up his eyes and stared up at the blistering sky as innocently as he could. She shot a few suspicious looks at him, cleared her throat nervously and sat perfectly still.

Finally, she turned to him.

“You don’t really expect to find anything in that silo, do you?”

Mulder shrugged. “I dunno. Probably not.”

“I mean, they’re bound to have cleared the place by now.”

“Probably.”

“These guys are pros, Mulder. They’re not sitting around waiting for you to show up at the door.”

“It’s pretty unlikely,” he agreed.

“So why are we going?”

“You mean why am I going.” He was suddenly serious.

Scully said nothing.

“You agreed.”

“I only kind of agreed.”

“Scully…”

“Okay, okay. The point is, why would anyone go there?”

Mulder tapped on the steering wheel.

“Because I think he expects me to go back.”

“What? Who expects you to go back?”

“I think that black-lunged asshole thinks I’m stupid enough to do it.”

Scully gaped at him. “So you’re going to prove him right?”

“That’s right.”

“Oh, come on, Mulder, for Christ’s sake. He knows enough to know you’d see through it.”

Mulder shrugged again. “Maybe. And maybe he knows I’ll go anyway. Think about it: the first thing you said when I told you about the silo was that it was too dangerous. Why, Scully?”

She said nothing.

“Because you know that just showing up there is asking for trouble.”

He waited.

“And Skinner freaked out on me too. Why? Why would he react like that if there was nothing there?”

“I don’t know.”

“You do know. The site is off limits. I’m not supposed to go there; no one is. I’m breaking the rules yet again. Kill me, or ruin my career and throw me out of the Bureau; at this point, that tar-ridden bastard probably doesn’t even care which. He’s waiting for me, Scully. I feel it. He’s waiting right now.”

Scully exhaled sharply.

“You’re saying,” she said, exasperated, “that Cancerman’s sitting in there just waiting for you to show up so he can get rid of you? That’s ridiculous, Mulder!”

Mulder shook his head.

“Not him. One of his… creatures.”

“Who?”

Mulder carefully wrapped his hands around the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white.

“Krycek.”

“Krycek?”

Her eyes were wide, disbelieving. For once, she was speechless.

“They’ve done something to him, Scully. I don’t know what. But I don’t think he’s human anymore.”

She looked away, chewing her lip.

“He killed my father, Scully. And I want to know why. I have to know how involved my father was in all of this.”

Mulder drew a deep breath. “I have to know whether my father had anything to do with Samantha’s disappearance. Because if he did…”

“What, Mulder?”

He looked at her, even though he knew his eyes would frighten her. Then he leaned back against the seat and closed his eyes as he felt a bead of sweat travel erratically down the side of his face.

“If he did, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

-x-

SHADOW PUPPETS (4/10)

by M Partous email:

NOTE: Well, somewhere along the way I seem to have dropped the titles describing time and place. So sorry — but as it happens, I can’t remember where most of this stuff happens anyway. Oh, well…

Thanks for writing, and please keep the comments coming, including criticisms — it’s hard to do this stuff in a vacuum…

MP

*** WARNING: Profanity ahead

Mulder had remained silent until the tow truck arrived, an old Ford that shimmered like a mirage as it approached from behind. He watched its slow progress in the rearview mirror, its diseased muffler belching so loudly they could hear it through the closed windows over the hum of the air conditioning, and he wondered whether it would make it in this heat.

“Looks like he’ll need a tow himself any minute,” he said amiably.

Scully started. Evidently, she’d been immersed in a reverie of her own. He’d felt her looking at him periodically; from the corner of his eye, he could see the concern etched plainly on her face. But it was another one of her great attributes that she knew when to keep her thoughts to herself. Mostly.

He’d shut up because he didn’t want to talk about the silo anymore. He also didn’t want to give Scully the opportunity to resume her analysis of his deep dark secrets. It wasn’t her fault, but he knew all that crap already, he really did. It was a little humiliating that she knew it too, but then again, it made subterfuge difficult, which was actually a relief.

The problem was that he was tired, and he was frightened; he knew that he was heading towards the big face-off, the one where good and evil would be sharply defined. He felt like Luke Skywalker as he confronted his demons in the forest, and in his case too, it looked like the mother of all demons would turn out to be his father.

But he didn’t feel like discussing archetypes with Scully, nor did he particularly want to deal with the hilarity he’d cause if he told her his life was about to mirror “The Empire Strikes Back.” Anyway, Scully was more inclined to think that Freud, not Jung, was behind everything he did.

But the real problem was that he was tired, and he was frightened, and that always made him lonely, and that usually made him want Scully, want to wrap himself around her, want to disappear inside her, where he’d be safe. He ached with the need of it, and it immobilized him.

He could feel her next to him, smell her sweet sweat and her perfume; he could feel the tension in the air, and he knew she could feel it too, but she probably attributed it to his anxiety, and to her own, and to the fact that communication often broke down between them, particularly when words were not enough. At times like these he knew the only way to deal with it would be to pull her to him and risk the repercussions.

But he couldn’t do it.

He just couldn’t face the rejection. He wasn’t sure what he had with Scully, but whatever it was, he couldn’t afford to lose it.

Anyway, Mulder had got used to wanting Scully. He’d learned to live with it and he didn’t let it interfere with anything. Mostly.

The tow truck fizzled to a steaming stop in front of them. He sat and watched as Scully slipped out of the car, exchanging silent movie dialogue with the young guy who stepped out and leaned against the door of his truck defensively, looking warily at her as though he’d been warned about this woman and her gun.

Mulder smiled.

Scully was five foot two, but this lean towering hayseed cowered in front of her like a virgin about to be sacrificed to ruthless gods.

It was hard not to feel sorry for him.

Meanwhile, the silent movie scenario was a welcome distraction from his lust, and he couldn’t help trying to fill in the blanks as he watched their lips move.

Scully: “Quickly! The tire is flat!”

Tow Truck Man: “Horrors! You will die!”

Scully: “No!”

Tow Truck Man: “I will save you!”

Scully: “Thank God! We are so thirsty!”

That was when Mulder realized he was really, really thirsty.

In the office of the spectacularly sleazy motel he’d booked them into for the night — stunning even by his own demanding standards, Mulder thought, as he gazed with awe-struck admiration at the moth-eaten moose head and plastic Yellowstone Park plates on the wall — he gulped down the can of freezing iced tea Scully had handed him and stood there, gasping.

“Really, Mulder.” Scully glared at him and gestured vaguely at the cork walls.

“Hey, we’re talking Americana at its finest here, Scully. Don’t you have any appreciation for history?”

“History takes a hundred years. This is just old. I say forty years, tops.”

“Forty years ago, Elvis was a vital young thing.” He grinned at her. “You can’t dismiss that kind of stuff, Scully. And besides,” he added, leering at her, “we’ve got connecting rooms.”

“Oh, joy.” She focused her gaze on the clerk, who hurriedly bowed his head and kept writing.

“I’m still thirsty, Scully.” He tried a pout on the off-chance it might work.

“Here’s a quarter — call someone who cares.”

“At least, get us some ice.”

He ducked.

That night Mulder fought off his agitation by watching local farm reports on television and wondering what Scully was doing in her room. He heard her shower, heard her walk around, then he heard nothing. She slept like an angel, like a baby. It was something he’d never understood. Apparently, she worked off her angst during the day. Maybe he could take lessons or something.

They’d had a quick supper at the only restaurant in town, the kind of place that took pride in the vintage of its grease. He’d had a couple of beers, which she’d teased him about.

“It’s the alcohol in your blood, Mulder. That’s why you can’t sleep.”

“Two beers?”

“You’re a bad drinker — that much is obvious.”

“Unlike you, Milady,” he sneered. “I’m sure you scintillate after a couple of whisky sodas.”

“I’m Irish, Mulder,” she said. “When you’re Irish, you don’t take up drinking unless you mean it.”

“I’m Jewish, Scully. We don’t drink unless the goyim abduct our children.”

It wasn’t funny. She looked at him.

“What was it like, Mulder, growing up Jewish in a place like the Vineyard?

“You didn’t talk about it.”

“Your parents?”

“They didn’t talk about it.”

“You?”

He shrugged. “I still don’t talk about it.”

“Did the other kids tease you?”

“Yeah — but mainly about my nose.”

Scully put down the french fry she’d been holding. “Well, I think you have a great nose.”

“Do you?”

“Yes.”

“Does your mother?”

“Mulder!”

He chuckled.

Scully shook her head. “I’ll have you know my mother really likes you.”

“She’s a devout Catholic.”

“So? She’s evolved, Mulder. A person’s religion doesn’t mean she wouldn’t…” she suddenly stopped talking.

He looked at her as she studied her plate furiously. “Wouldn’t what, Scully?”

“You know. She doesn’t care about that kind of thing.”

“You mean she’d welcome someone who wasn’t Catholic into her family?”

Scully raised her head and stared at him evenly. “Something like that.”

He’d said nothing and ordered another beer.

The local sheriff, Tad McCain, looked as perplexed by Mulder’s rambling explanations about cattle mutilations as Scully did. It was fairly obvious from the looks McCain gave her that he questioned Mulder’s sanity, but to her credit she just nodded knowingly, as though everything her partner said actually made some kind of sense. Finally the sheriff waved them away tiredly with a warrant giving them permission to investigate whatever they wanted to investigate, as long as they stayed the hell away from him — or at least that was the subtext.

Mulder was triumphant.

“See, Scully? All you have to do is babble until they glaze over; then you can do whatever you want.”

“You know, you should run for Congress, Mulder; you’d fit right in.”

Mulder dragged Scully around to a few ranches in the area, where he regaled crusty, wind-burnt and visibly alarmed farmers with tales of UFO sightings, mutilations and abductions gleaned from his vast repertory. He also made all of these events sound as though they’d happened to their very own neighbours just a few days ago.

“Um, Mulder?” Scully finally said as they drove along yet another bumpy rural route.

“Yeah?”

“Don’t you think it’s a little… well, unethical, to spread all those rumours?”

“They’re not rumours, Scully. I’m sure these things happen all the time.”

She sighed.

“Anyway, Scully, we just have to make it look like we’re working on a real case before we — before I head out to the silo.”

Scully let that one go. “But all they have to do is talk to each other and they’ll know you made the whole thing up.”

“These guys don’t talk, Scully. They just stand there, squinting grimly into the sun.” He smiled at her. “Besides, by the time I’m finished with them, they’ll be telling everyone that they saw it with their own eyes.”

The last ranch they stopped at was the closest inhabited land to the silo, about an hour and a half away. Denton Alistair, according to the mail box, anyway, was the living proof that cloning was, in fact, a perfectly common reproductive technique — he looked exactly like the last four ranchers they’d seen. Scully refused to leave the car.

The rancher had ambled up to the fence, gazed at Mulder’s badge for a full minute, and looked up with what, if it could have been described as an actual facial expression, would have been withering disdain.

“You call that a name?”

“Well…”

“Just another federal faggot. Hey, Mabel! Come look at this! It’s another fairy from Washington!”

“Uh, sir, if you don’t mind…” he could hear Scully guffawing in the car and he turned to give her a don’t-get-me-started look.

“Mabel! His name is Fox! Ain’t that the best?”

“Sir, you…”

“Hurry down here, Mabel. Maybe he’ll do your hair!”

Enough was enough already.

“May I remind you that you’re speaking to a government agent, sir.” His tone was suddenly no-nonsense, verging on dangerous.

It got Alistair’s attention.

“Discrimination based on sexual preference is illegal in this state, did you know that, sir? That includes verbal abuse intended to humiliate or discredit the victim.”

The rancher gaped at him.

“What?”

“Just answer a few questions, sir.”

It turned out that Alistair’s comments weren’t particularly personal. He thought all government employees were “faggots,” and apparently included the military in his assessment.

“They been crawling around all over the place for two years now,” he said, pointing towards the horizon. Towards the silos. “You couldn’t fart around here without knocking over a G-man.”

Mulder hastily tried to ignore the image, but it was too late. He winced.

“And the fuckin’ army, they’re the worst. Comin’ in here like they own the place, hangin’ around town gettin’ drunk and actin’ like goddam rednecks.”

Trying to picture what would constitute a redneck in Alistair’s eyes quite took Mulder’s breath away.

“Are they still here?”

“Nah. They took off ‘bout four months ago, and I say good riddance to ‘em too.”

“Did they take a lot of stuff with them?”

“Christ, yeah. It took ‘em two days to drive all that shit outta here. Went right past my ranch, right there. Big motherfuckin’ flatbeds, all covered up with tarps.”

“You ever go there?”

Alistair eyed Mulder as if trying to weigh whether yes or no was the riskier answer.

“Nope. Ya wouldn’t catch me dead around that fuckin’ bunch of fag — uh, guys.”

“I mean, since they left.”

“Why would I?” He sounded defiant.

“Because I’m just wondering whether you saw anything move out there.”

“Waddya mean, anything?”

“Like a person.”

“What is this, some kinda manhunt? Did some psycho get loose? We gotta right to know — we pay taxes.”

Mulder shook his head, which was beginning to pound dully.

“No, no. Just someone who may have lost his memory.”

“Oh. Well, why are you askin’ me all this crap anyway? I mean, they’re your fuckin’ people, aren’t they? Don’t you guys talk to each other?”

“Thank you for your time, sir.”

Mulder climbed in the car and leaned back against the headrest. Scully smiled at him beatifically.

“Find out everything you need?”

“Gimme some aspirin, Scully.”

-x-

SHADOW PUPPETS (5/10)

by M Partous email:

“Will work for feedback”

**** WARNING: Rated “R”. Disturbing imagery ahead. ****

They’d turned the air conditioning back on. The blasted landscape, moon-dead in the fiery afternoon sun, sped monotonously by as they bumped along the increasingly rough road, leaving Denton Alistair and his invisible wife in the dust. They were headed west. Towards the silos.

Mulder felt sweat pool in his armpits and wondered vaguely how anything could possibly stay alive out there in midsummer. No wonder everyone seemed so grumpy around here.

Meanwhile, his headache kept getting worse, and Scully wasn’t helping.

“Laugh all you want, Milady,” he grumbled, “but you’ll be sorry when I die of an aspirin overdose.”

“Your kidneys would fail first, and you’d go blind; although considering your porn habit, I’m surprised you haven’t already.”

“Ha ha.”

“I told you not to drink so much booze.”

“Three beers, Scully,” he muttered weakly.

“So where are we going now?”

“I want to… I think we should check out the silo from a distance.”

“You okay, Mulder? You look pale.”

“I’m fine, Scully.”

Mulder’s head really hurt. He almost never got headaches — maybe it was the pay-off for everything else that was wrong with his life.

A sudden lance of excruciating pain tore through his head, and he moaned, hitting the brake. The car screeched to a stop in the middle of the road.

“Mulder?” Her voice was high, alarmed. He could barely see through the red haze of pain.

He rested his head on the steering wheel.

“God, Scully.” His voice was strained.

Mulder felt her hands on him just as the first wave of nausea roiled through his stomach and caught him by the throat. He pushed her away.

“Jesus…” He scrabbled at the door and only just managed to get it open and lean out before agonized retching wracked his body. The spasms ripped through his head — Christ, he couldn’t believe anything could hurt so much — and he vomited until there was nothing left. He gasped, his head throbbing.

Slowly, it dawned on him that Scully’s arms were around him, one delicate hand supporting his forehead, the other holding his chest. Despite the agony in his skull, he felt a shudder of embarrassment run through him.

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Don’t be shy, Mulder” she murmured next to his ear, sending a shiver down to his groin. “I’m a doctor, remember?”

He almost laughed. Here he was, leaning over a pool of his own vomit, shaking with pain and almost blind, and she still managed to turn him on.

She pulled at him gently and he went with her, leaning back against the seat.

“Your head really hurts, huh?” Her voice was soft.

He nodded.

“Can you open your eyes?”

Mulder tried, but the light stabbed through them and he turned his head away. He could hear the rustle of her clothes and then felt a gentle weight on his nose. His sunglasses.

He felt suddenly weepy, like a sick kid, and leaned his face into her cool, smooth palm. She was so gentle. No one else in his life had ever managed to disarm him so utterly, render him so vulnerable so effortlessly. He surrendered to it with an almost sexual sense of release.

“What’s wrong with me, Scully?”

“How many aspirins did you take, anyway?”

“Three.”

“Hmm.”

Mulder felt her body draw back and he tried to follow it. She caught him and straightened him against the seat.

“Have you ever had migraines before, Mulder?”

He shook his head, then cried out as slivers of pain sliced through it.

“Don’t move your head.”

Right.

“It’s unusual to develop them at your age, but it’s not unheard of. Food poisoning is another possibility. Or sunstroke. But you weren’t out in the sun for any length of time, and you’re not hot…” she trailed off.

He couldn’t think at all. Through the blood-red haze that settled around him, he felt her body move over him, heard the driver’s side door shut with a muted click.

Her body pressed against his as she squeezed under the steering wheel. He leaned into her as he heard the engine burst into life, and then he abandoned himself to darkness.

When Mulder opened his eyes, the car was rolling to a stop in front of a dilapidated building with a peeling, sunburnt sign over the door. He could just make out the words “emergency clinic” in faded red letters.

He sat up gingerly. Scully had driven all the way here, wherever that was, jammed up against the driver’s door with his entire weight against her.

He turned his head slowly to look at her.

Scully was staring at him, her face drawn with worry.

“Hi.” Mulder smiled faintly.

“How’re you feeling?”

“Better.” It was true. He felt drained, exhausted, but his headache was gone, replaced by a kind of giddy light- headedness.

“Really?”

She scrutinized his face, drinking it in, relief and anxiety playing across her features.

“Really and truly.”

Mulder removed his sunglasses with a shaky hand.

“See?”

He didn’t even flinch when the sun hit his eyes.

Scully didn’t look convinced. Her eyes welled up suddenly, and she looked away.

She took a deep breath.

“I thought you’d had a brain aneurism or something. You passed right out, Mulder.”

“I know.”

Before he could stop himself, his fingers brushed her face. Aneurisms were sudden and deadly. He didn’t know how long she’d been driving, but he was sure it hadn’t been a picnic.

“The headache’s completely gone, Scully. In fact, I feel kind of… well, happy.”

She studied him, expressionless, her control firmly in place once again.

“Migraine euphoria. It’s often reported by sufferers after an episode.”

“So it was a migraine?”

She shrugged. “Like I said, late-onset migraines can happen, but they’re pretty rare. And I’ve never heard of anyone losing consciousness. We need to get you checked out.”

“But I feel fine.”

She just gave him a look. It was the kind he knew better than to argue with.

Mulder sighed.

“Okay, okay. Lead on, Milady.”

Janice Andersen, the emergency physician on duty, found nothing wrong with him. At Scully’s insistence, she ran whatever tests she could, but Mulder’s brain, such as it was — Scully’s words — seemed in perfect working order.

“You’ll have to go to the city if you want more exhaustive testing,” Andersen said, rubbing her eyes. Mulder felt for her — it wasn’t easy to satisfy Scully. “We just don’t have the equipment here.”

“What do you think it could be?” Scully still seemed restless.

“Well, I think you’re probably right. Late-onset migraine. And you said you’ve been tired, Mr. Mulder?” Her eyes ran over him appreciatively.

She was flirting with him, just a little.

He nodded, and couldn’t help wondering how such an attractive, obviously sophisticated woman dealt with life out here in Hicksville.

“He’s always tired,” Scully snapped, causing both of them to look at her. “Why would this suddenly happen right here, right now?”

Mailer shrugged. “Who knows? Cumulative fatigue can lead to sudden system breakdowns. Then there’s the heat, whatever anxiety this case of yours is causing… it could be any number of things.”

Scully shook her head. Andersen threw a glance at Mulder.

“Look,” Andersen said. “We know it’s not an aneurism, or a stroke, or anything related to the heart. When something like this happens, we all want to believe it’s for a reason…”

“Don’t patronize me, Dr. Andersen.”

Mulder’s eyes widened as he watched Scully actually bristle.

“I may be more familiar with corpses, but I’m still a doctor, and believe me, I know all about how people deal with denial. That’s not what I’m talking about here…”

“Right,” Mulder interrupted. “Well, I’m only the patient, but I think what I really need is to go lie down for awhile.”

His eyes moved from one to the other.

“Okay? Would that be all right?”

Scully smiled thinly.

“Sure, Mulder.” She looked at Andersen and shrugged.

“Sorry about that. I’m a little edgy. Guess the whole thing just rattled me more than I like to admit.”

Andersen grinned. “Don’t worry about it. Most of the nurses here won’t even talk to me these days. Must be the heat.”

The heat.

Right.

They’d said little in the car, although Mulder kept shooting little side glances at Scully from the passenger seat. Her lips were tight, and she stared straight ahead.

Back at the motel — they were the only guests, and more than anything, the fact that they’d want to book another night seemed to startle the front desk clerk — Scully followed Mulder into his room.

“I’m fine, Scully. Really. I’m not like you: when I say it, it’s true.”

She didn’t even smile.

He sat on the edge of the bed and looked at her.

“I just need to lie down.”

“So lie down. Who’s stopping you?”

Mulder felt an inexplicable rush of anger.

“What the hell’s wrong with you, anyway? I’m the one who almost…”

That did it.

Scully whirled around to face him, her face livid.

“Almost what, Mulder? Almost died? Again? Is that it?”

Anger rose in him, licking hotly at his cheeks.

“What do you want from me, Scully? You want me to apologize for the migraine? For throwing up? For passing out? Fine! I’m sorry! Is that enough?”

In one smooth infuriated motion, she picked up the empty ice bucket and threw it at the wall.

Mulder gasped as he felt fury, his and hers, wash over him.

“Nothing you do is ever enough!”

She looked around the room desperately, her eyes finally landing on his travel alarm clock next to the bed.

She grabbed it and wrenched it from the wall, flinging it against the door.

“All you do is put yourself at risk! Why are we here, Mulder? Why are you here? On government time, government money? So you can exorcise your devils? How often do you think I can stand to see you put yourself through this? You don’t care about anything else, do you? DO YOU!”

Mulder stood.

“Is that what you think?”

He wanted to hit her, desperately, and fought it down with everything he had.

It terrified him.

He just wanted to hit something.

And she was there.

“You bastard! You selfish, fucking bastard!”

She’d never used that word in front of him.

“What do you want from me, Scully?”

“I want you to admit once and for all that what you want more than anything in the world…”

Her face crumpled.

“…is to die.”

His nerves sang.

This, he thought.

This is the cold, metallic taste of absolute madness.

“But you’re too much of a chickenshit to kill yourself, aren’t you, Mulder? You want someone, or something, to do it for you.”

Something inside him shattered.

He stood there, reeling, as the shards of it spiralled through him.

He wanted to hurt her.

He wanted, at all costs, to stop her from hurting him.

He had to stop the hurt.

Please, sweet Jesus, Yahweh, Dad, Samantha, if anyone was listening, please — make it stop.

Baruch atah adonai…

Please.

Barouch atah adonai…

Make it stop.

Barouch atah…

Please.

He finally realized the room was filled with silence.

Scully stood in the middle of the room, breathing heavily, her fiery hair dishevelled, hanging over her face.

“Get the hell out of here, Scully.”

She didn’t move.

“I never asked you to put yourself on the line for me. Never.”

She breathed.

Mulder closed his eyes as a wave of exhaustion swept over him.

“Go. Go home.” His voice was low.

She didn’t make a sound.

“This is my battle, Scully. Not yours.”

Nothing.

“I can’t save you, Scully. It’s like you said: I can’t even save myself.”

He heard her breathe. And he realized dazedly it was the only sound he still cared about.

“Fuck you, Mulder. I’m not leaving.”

He swayed on his feet.

“Please go.”

“No.”

“Go, Scully. Before it’s too late.”

“I’m not leaving, Mulder.”

“Scully…”

“It’s already too late, Mulder.”

So that was it.

He couldn’t fight it anymore. He had nothing left. Nothing.

His arms reached out blindly.

And she was there.

From its home in the darkness, it stirred.

One arm reached out lazily, seizing a living thing, a rodent it had found earlier and kept alive, fresh, fresh. The creature squealed as the thin neck snapped. It raised the warm carcass to its lips.

“Mulder,” it breathed.

It was waiting.

It had been patient.

But the time for waiting was over.

-x-

SHADOW PUPPETS (6/10)

by M Partous email:

“Will work for feedback”

*** WARNING: Rated “R”: M/S sexual references: If you hate that kind of stuff, head for the hills ***

For a long time he clung to her, his body shaking against hers, his face buried in her hair. For a long time there was nothing but the sound of his pulse pounding through his head as his mind hazily registered that her arms were wrapped around his waist, her breasts soft against his solar plexus so that her heart seemed to beat in his belly, like stage fright.

He was painfully erect and Scully knew it; he could feel her stomach pressed firmly against his cock. He’d been hard since she’d thrown the ice bucket against the wall, despite himself, despite the fact that he knew he was aroused by her rage, by his own violent impulses.

Scully knew this too.

And still she forgave him.

She always forgave him.

The tears broke at last, and he cried as he had cried only once before, one night when he was 12, a night just like this one when it was already too late, great wracking sobs that shook him as he rubbed his face in her hair.

For a long time, all he could hear was the sound of his own hoarse voice sobbing the same words over and over again.

“I’m sorry.”

For Samantha.

“I’m sorry.”

For his father.

“I’m sorry.”

For his mother.

“I’m sorry.”

For Melissa.

“I’m sorry.”

For Scully. Especially for what he’d done to Scully.

For that damn dog, even, because she’d loved it.

For the mess he’d made of both their lives.

He was so tired.

At long last he realized that he’d stopped crying and was drifting in and out of sleep, swaying against her.

From far away he felt her guide him to the bed, half supporting his body with her own. His arms tightened around her and he heard the sheets rustle as she laid down beside him, felt her move his head gently onto her chest, felt her fingers in his hair. He buried his nose in her shoulder.

Mulder slept.

When he awoke it was the middle of the night. Something was missing, and he realized it was Scully.

He sat up with a strangled cry. There was a whisper of bed sheets and a soft murmur in the dark.

“I’m here, Mulder.”

“Where?” he whispered. His heart was pounding.

“Right here.” He felt the brush of her hand on his arm. “Lie down.”

Relief flooded his body, and a strange elation.

“I’m wearing all my clothes, Scully.”

Her heard her chuckle sleepily.

“So am I, I’m afraid.”

“And now the ice bucket’s broken.”

“Shut up and lie down, Mulder.”

Mulder knew better than to disobey a direct order. He sighed and reached for her.

“No.”

It was too dark for a puppy-dog look.

“Why?”

“Because I say so.”

“I thought I was the one with a headache, Scully.”

“Say good night, Mulder.”

“Good night, Mulder.”

She snorted, and he laughed delightedly, the sound strange to his ears, like the laughter of a child, the child he should have been, once…

He’d never felt this free.

“Scully?”

“What?”

“Did you set the alarm?”

Both of them dissolved in a fit of giggles.

“Just go to sleep, Mulder.”

And, incredibly, he did.

When Mulder awoke, the sun was throwing slats of golden light against the floor and he was alone.

He groaned. He missed her.

At some point she’d removed his jacket and his tie, but still his pants were bound around his legs and his shirt smelled like stale sweat.

He had a mother of a hard-on, too, but he was starting to get used to it.

He caressed himself through the fabric of his pants, and arched his hips, moaning. He stretched.

Then he curled up into a ball and stared at the motel room door, where the detritus of his digital alarm clock lay, slain by Dana Scully, Fearless Timekeeper Killer.

Speaking of which, he had no idea what time it was.

Mulder made a puppet of his right hand and stuck it up to his nose.

“So,” he said conversationally, “are you ready to take care of our little problem?”

“Sure,” he continued in a falsetto, flapping his thumb and fingers together. “You need it bad, huh?”

“You got that right, my friend.”

“That’s why I’m your right-hand man, buddy.”

“I’ll get her one of these days, you know.”

“Yeah, well, even if I had lungs instead of a shitload of fingers, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.”

He grinned, rolled out of bed, and headed for the bathroom.

-x-

SHADOW PUPPETS (7/10)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback”

*** WARNING: Rated “R”: Sexual and homoerotic references ahead. ***

His inevitable orgasm was devastating, almost painful, intense like a teenager’s; it left him shattered, gasping, sated.

The funny thing was he’d hardly touched himself; no convoluted erotic scenario had been required to release him. All he’d done was realize that Scully had been lying next to him all night.

“Mulder, my man,” he muttered as the warm spray of the shower ran over his body, “she’s making a boy out of you.”

Which was fine.

For now.

But something had changed between them last night, something the cool Dr. Scully could do nothing about.

She knew.

And he knew that at least at some level, she approved.

Even though it was against regulations, even though they were partners and friends, she had to grasp somewhere that there was something more than just a little strange about the fact that neither of them seemed to need anyone else. That neither of them seemed to spend any time with anyone else. That her jealousy, his own, too, if he’d ever let her see it, was illogical in light of their so-called “professional” relationship.

When all was said and done, it boiled down to this: she’d felt his erection and she hadn’t run away.

So.

When the time was right, he’d make sure she’d get a chance to confirm what a big boy he really was.

Assuming, of course, that he survived the confrontation he could feel hurtling towards him.

But what she’d given him last night was one damn good reason to try.

Mulder put on his jacket and picked up the cell phone.

“Scully.”

“It’s me.”

“You’re up.”

He choked down a giggle.

“Yeah. What time is it?”

“What’s wrong with your watch?”

His watch. Where the hell was his watch?

“I can’t find it.”

“It’s 10:30.”

“Sheesh.” Mulder parted the blinds and squinted out at the deserted parking lot; it was already swimming in the heat. “You shoulda woke me.”

“I figured you needed the sleep.”

Her voice wasn’t cold, exactly. Just businesslike.

He smiled.

“Whatcha been doin’?”

“Looking over the files, mainly. Alex Krycek has a pretty interesting history. A real Bureau golden boy, isn’t he?”

“Yeah. Did you eat?”

“No.” He heard her sigh. “Mulder, I’d kill for a cappuccino right now.”

He chuckled.

“Well, I’ll certainly grant your capacity to kill for next to nothing.”

The phone fairly radiated humorous disapproval.

“Tell you what, Scully. I’ll buy you a bottomless cup of rotgut coffee if you’ll meet me at the car in 10 minutes.”

She sighed again. “Whatever.”

“And… Scully?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks.”

Silence.

“Scully?”

He distinctly heard a low, throaty laugh. “It was good for me too, Mulder.”

He gaped at the phone as the dial tone buzzed.

Twenty minutes later, Mulder was shovelling down a cholesterol-laden plate of ham and eggs while Scully sipped bad coffee and resolutely chewed a ponderous blend of packaged granola, probably the only concession made by locals to the America-wide health kick.

“Fresh orange juice in the Midwest, Scully?” he said between forkfuls as she grimaced through a glass of concentrate. “What were you thinking?”

She stared pointedly at his plate. “Never mind what that’s doing to your arteries. It’s hardly kosher, Mulder.”

“What can I say? I’m lapsed.”

“You can say that again.”

“You know, Scully, that’s the kind of meaningless statement that makes me wonder why you hang with anyone as fabulously incisive and witty as me.”

“Well,” she said sweetly, “it must be because the sheer amount of bullshit you shovel makes me feel breathtakingly clean in comparison.”

He batted his eyelashes at her.

They sat in companionable silence for awhile; apparently, she was as unwilling as he was to broach the topic of the silo.

“You know,” she said finally, “I thought the way you handled that Alistair guy yesterday was pretty impressive.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, most straight men I know would’ve gone on about how they weren’t homosexual. You didn’t even flinch. In fact, you let him believe you might actually be gay.”

“I don’t particularly care what Denton Alistair thinks about my sexual orientation.”

“I know.” She smiled at him. “And you’re right not to. It’s just that most men don’t think that way.”

“Are you saying you think I’m gay, Scully?”

“Just because a guy’s gay doesn’t mean he’s not a man, Mulder.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

She looked at him. Her eyes were unreadable.

“I think it’s fairly obvious you’re not gay, Mulder.” She paused with a ghost of a smile. “At least to me.”

“Good.” He bit into a piece of toast. “Because you’d make one hell of a pathetic fag hag.”

In the end, Mulder was forced to bring up the subject himself as they waited for the check.

“So now that you know all about Krycek, what do you think?”

She shook her head. “His record is flawless. Everything about it says he’s a model agent.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s hard to believe from what I’ve read that he’d be involved in anything this sleazy.”

His eyes widened. “I saw him, Scully. He as much as admitted his role in all this when we were in Hong Kong.”

“I know, Mulder. I believe you. But that means they’re covering for him big time.”

“Shocking.”

Scully gazed at him sympathetically. “You feel betrayed by him, don’t you?”

“No.” He met her eyes. “In the end, I never trusted him.”

“Why not?”

Mulder shrugged. “He never gave me any reason to.”

“He was your partner.”

“No. Never that. He was someone I worked with, that’s all.”

The check arrived and Mulder flashed one of his patented bedroom smiles at the waitress as he ran his eyes down her impressive physique. She tossed her head and arched her back before sauntering away. He turned back to Scully, just in time to catch a scathing look, and smiled apologetically.

“Besides,” he added quickly, “I think he’s a faggot.”

“What?”

“Sorry,” Mulder grinned. “I used the word for your benefit. But actually, I think it’s true, that he’s gay, that is. And I think maybe he kind of had the hots for me.”

“You really think you’re irresistible, don’t you?”

“No, not especially. But a guy can tell these things, Scully. I think he thought I was fighting my true nature or something.”

“Really?” She seemed completely fascinated.

“Yeah. Looks like you came back in the nick of time.”

She blinked. “What do you mean?”

“Hey, a guy gets lonely, Scully. And it’s not like he wasn’t attractive…”

He took a look at her expression and burst out laughing.

“You know how it is. A couple of drinks, and before you know it…”

“Really, Mulder. You’re not helping your cause as a bastion of heterosexuality.’

“It’s always flattering to be wanted, Scully. You should know that.” He gave her an innocent smile.

She said nothing, but there was a glitter of something in her eye he’d never seen before.

“Anyway,” he added, “he was out of the picture before it became a problem.”

Scully took a deep breath.

“So why do you think he’s waiting in the silo?”

Mulder picked up his napkin and began folding it into an intricate pattern.

“I could’ve sworn I heard his voice when we were in there.”

“Are you sure?”

“No. I just heard a cry. But it sounded like him. And don’t forget, Scully: when I last saw him, he was playing house with the oil creature.”

“You don’t have any proof of that.”

“Except for the fact that I was with him for hours and he was acting weird as hell — even for him. I mean, all traces of the perfect little Agent Krycek had vanished, Scully. He was like a robot.”

“But you never saw how the other hosts acted when they were under the influence of the creature, Mulder.”

It was true. He shrugged. “All I know is he wasn’t the same guy I used to know. And anyway, why was my car driven off the road? Who were those two men I saw coming towards the car? And why did Krycek disappear without a trace while I was unconscious? “

Scully tapped a spoon against her cup.

“That’s not even the point,” she said tersely. “What I want to know is why you were left there — alive. If Krycek was hosting the oil creature, why didn’t it kill you like it did all the others?”

Mulder stared at the napkin. He’d thought about that one too, long and hard. And he wasn’t sure what to do with the only answer he could come up with.

“Maybe Krycek really did have the hots for me, Scully.”

She stopped tapping and looked at him.

“So you’re saying he spared your life because he’s attracted to you?”

“I dunno. I just can’t come up with any other explanation.”

“And you think they caught him and stuck him in that silo?”

He said nothing.

“Why, Mulder?”

“Maybe Cancerman just couldn’t bring himself to kill a valuable operative. Maybe he didn’t know how.”

“So they stuck him in that silo for no apparent reason and then just left him there?”

“If he’s hosting the creature, they may not have known what to do with him. I mean, it survived under gallons of water for decades. It can’t be easy to kill.”

“How could Krycek have survived in that place all this time, Mulder?”

“I told you, Scully. I don’t think he’s human anymore.”

They stared at each other across the table.

Finally, Scully sighed. “So what are we gonna do?”

“I want to go and see if he’s there. I have to find out what he knows.”

“You realize I’m going with you.”

His eyes closed for a moment.

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

“That’s too bad,” she said pleasantly. “You’re not leaving me behind. Not this time. Not ever again.”

Mulder smiled.

“Okay, Milady. But you have to do what I say once we’re there.”

She glared at him.

“Either we agree, Scully, or we’re heading back to Washington right now. And believe me: I’ll find a way to sneak off on my own later.”

Her eyes were like two chips of blue ice.

“Don’t make me pull rank on you, Scully…” All the light banter had left his tone.

She laughed harshly. “Yeah, right. At the rate you’re going, Mulder, you’ll be taking orders from me before you know it.”

All he could do was to look at her. He knew she could read his eyes, and he knew what she saw there.

Fear.

Pain.

Worry.

And something that looked like love.

The anger drained from her face.

“Okay, Mulder,” she said grimly. “We’ll play it by your rules. This time.”

He nodded. He wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that, but it would do for now.

“Let’s go.”

It moved.

He was coming.

It could feel him.

But he was bringing that other with him. It could feel the steel of her mind, her iron resolve, the humidity of her, of her love for him.

It had told him to come alone. It had even sent pain to warn him.

Now he would have to be punished.

To punish him, it would hurt her.

And then it would destroy him.

That was what it had been ordered to do.

But the cigarette man had promised it could have him first…

It would have him first.

It moaned in the darkness.

-x-

SHADOW PUPPETS (8/10)

by M Partous email:

Thanks to everyone who’s suffering through this thing with me. I appreciate all the feedback, guys — I really do. If you feel like it, keep it coming, pro and con. Keeps me greased.

WARNING: Rated “R”

As they bumped along the road, past the ranchers’ houses — they’d become something of an event around the place, two close-lipped overly dressed FBI agents, one of whom got ill for no reason, both of whom were clearly engaged in orchestrating yet another coverup that was bound to be featured on “Sightings” early next season — Mulder couldn’t help wondering what the hell they were doing out here, really.

Even the man at the cash register in the greasy spoon had given him a knowing look as he rang up their breakfast. Mulder had bitten down the urge to ask him what he knew that Mulder himself didn’t know, because quite honestly, he felt like he was taking Scully into the First Circle of Hell.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

He was very frightened.

He wished, more than anything, that Scully wasn’t sitting next to him.

He knew that was part of the problem.

She was his partner. She had every right to be there.

But he’d used the fact that an intimate relationship between them would give their enemies greater power over them to skirt the issue of how much he wanted an intimate relationship with her.

And somewhere along the way, he’d missed the fact that they’d crossed that particular line a long time ago.

He worried about her as much as if they were actually a couple.

He wanted to protect her. Keep her from danger.

Which was precisely the reason partners weren’t allowed to “fraternize.”

Because when that line was crossed, there was no way either partner could stay objective. Both would inevitably spend all their time trying to save each other. At the expense of the case itself, even.

Except that Mulder wondered how any human being could avoid falling into that trap.

It had nothing to do with sex.

Hell, he’d panic about the safety of a pungent, balding middle- aged male partner if he was a nice enough guy.

And how could you help caring for a person you trusted with your life over and over again?

It was unavoidable.

It was the system’s fatal flaw.

Mulder pursed his lips.

The fact was that the Bureau had insured their loyalty by taking everything else from them except each other.

They were as good as married.

And the FBI had performed the ceremony.

Under the circumstances, he mused as they rattled by Denton Alistair’s spread, why shouldn’t they consummate the damn thing if they felt like it?

He just hoped they’d get the chance.

“Mulder.”

He glanced over at her. They were about 20 minutes away from the silo site.

Her freckles stood out in sharp relief on her skin. Funny; they weren’t usually that obvious. Then he realized they jumped out at him because she was deathly pale.

He pumped the brake. “What’s wrong, Scully?”

He saw her throat move as she swallowed.

“I don’t feel well.”

The car stopped. He hit the seat belt clip and turned to her.

She was pressed up against the door. Her eyes were wide, terrified. A sheen of fine perspiration had broken across her forehead.

“Mulder…”

He reached out and squeezed her shoulders, drawing her towards him. She tensed, resisting him; her hands flew out and pushed against his chest.

“No…” Her voice was shrill. “Don’t…”

He let her go. She drew up against the door and buried her face in her hands.

“What is it, Scully? Please? Tell me.” He stopped trying to hide the panic in his voice.

“There’s… There’s someone in my head.” Her voice was muffled.

“Who?”

“A man,” she whispered, looking up at him. She was shaking; her eyes were filmed with fear, but there was outrage there too, good clean anger. “He hates me, Mulder. God. So much hatred…”

She moaned and shoved her fists against her eyes as she began to rock against the seat.

“Scully…”

“God. Oh, God.” He could hear her strain to maintain control.

“Don’t give in to it, Scully.”

She rocked.

“Fight it,” he hissed. “Fight back. Don’t let him win.”

Her breath sobbed in her throat; she moaned and cried out as she swayed back and forth, her head lolling back, her face streaked with tears.

She looked like a woman riding a man at the height of her passion.

She looked like a woman utterly given over to the agony of labour.

She looked like a woman ripped apart by the loss of a child.

Mulder was transfixed by the sight of her struggle.

He felt a blind, primitive rush of desire as he stared at her. He wanted to take her, rape her, claim her, save her. He wanted to wrench her away from whatever was doing this to her.

And part of him, the coherent part, knew that some of this was his own impulse, his own need, his own lust, his desire to protect her at any cost.

But that same part of him recognized that the violence he felt did not belong to him.

It was a violence that tainted all that was noble in him.

It belonged to another.

“Krycek,” he whispered.

At long last she was still. When she raised her head, he saw that she had won.

This time.

“You okay?” He’d sat and let her duke it out, but it had taken every ounce of control he had.

Her voice was raw. “It was him.”

“I know.”

“He’s there, Mulder.”

“I know.”

“You felt him too, didn’t you? That migraine.” She took a deep breath, but he was stunned by how normal she looked.

“There’s something about this equation he doesn’t like, Scully.”

“You mean you and me.”

He nodded.

Scully leaned back against the seat and closed her eyes. Strands of her hair, made a deep brown by her sweat, stuck damply to her forehead. He fought the urge to smooth them away.

“He wants you there alone, Mulder.”

He nodded again.

“Well,” he said calmly, “it looks like he’s in for a big disappointment.”

Her eyes snapped open and she turned her head to gaze at him.

It was hard to acknowledge.

But he needed her. He couldn’t do it by himself.

When had he forgotten that Modell had already shown him that?

He couldn’t protect her. It wasn’t even his place to try. She’d fought Krycek off just fine, better than he could’ve himself, probably.

If anything, he needed her to save his sorry ass.

“I think maybe the combination of the two of us is our greatest strength.”

“He hates me, Mulder. It’s you he wants.”

“Hey. Love me, love my partner, Scully.”

She smiled, fully. It was such a rare and infectious sight that he couldn’t stop himself from smiling back.

“Not literally, I hope.”

“Who knows?” Why in God’s name did he suddenly feel so carefree when they were poised at the brink of disaster? “The night’s young, and so are we.”

He grinned.

“You’re a lunatic, Mulder. You know that?”

He shrugged.

“Takes one to know one, Scully.”

The car roared to life as he turned the key.

-x-

SHADOW PUPPETS (9/10) *** NC-17 ***

***NC-17 WARNING***: This chapter is rated NC-17. Contains sexually explicit material, profanity and disturbing imagery which may be shocking and/or offensive to some. Please read only if you are over 18 years of age and have understood and accepted this warning.

The silos wavered against the washed-out blue of the sky as the car crested a slow rise.

It was a forlorn, ominous sight, despite the brightness of the day.

“They look just the same,” Mulder said. He had the beginnings of a headache, but this time he was pretty sure it was just tension. If Krycek was waiting for them, he was being quiet about it.

For now.

“Yeah. Except the trucks are gone.”

She was right. The site looked stripped of all life, although it was hard to explain how, and Scully’s almost imperceptible shudder told him she shared the impression. Mulder half expected to see tumbleweed roll by, brambles snagging on the dust-smothered skulls of long-horn steer. He sighed. Too much bad late-night TV.

He glanced at Scully.

“How’re you feelin’?”

“I’m fine, Mulder.”

Those words again. He studied her surreptitiously.

She actually did look fine. In fact, Mulder suspected she looked better than he did.

Of course, she almost always looked better than he did.

“Mulder, why d’you stop the car?”

“Me?”

She looked at him.

“Aren’t we going down there?”

Mulder smiled sheepishly and gave her his best between-the- sheets pout. He needed a couple of minutes to get his courage up.

“What’s the rush, Scully? Let’s just sit in the car and neck for a while.”

She knew exactly why he’d stopped the car.

“Are you saying we’ve run out of gas?” Her face was incredulous but her Irish eyes were smiling.

“Are you nuts? The air conditioner wouldn’t work if we’d run out of gas. Believe me, even if you agreed to take all your clothes off, it still wouldn’t be worth it.”

“Thanks a lot, Mulder.”

“It would almost be worth it, you understand.”

“Well, now it’s too cold in here for me to take all my clothes off.”

He stared at her. She smiled mischievously.

“You know, Scully, I could blast the heat for a minute or two…”

She sighed. Then she met his eyes seriously. For a long moment, their gazes locked. Mulder didn’t quite know what expression he was wearing, but whatever it was, she seemed to understand it. She reached out and touched his hand briefly.

“Drive the car, Mulder. We don’t want to keep Krycek waiting – — he doesn’t seem in the best of moods.”

Mulder laughed. He could feel her tension and his own, their mutual apprehension, but what he also felt, maybe for the first time, is that they were completely together on this one. It had happened before, a couple of times, hints of a robust solidarity when it mattered most, but this time he could feel the intensity of the link between them as if it were a physical thing.

Why was it he couldn’t stop thinking it was the only thing that might save their lives?

“Use the force, Mulder,” he muttered.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

The car lurched towards the second silo on the right.

They stood on either side of the rusted, peeling door, guns up and ready, as they had once before, all those months ago. Mulder could feel his heart pounding through his arms, his legs. Scully’s eyes were cold, intent, already at home in those dark empty hallways.

He swallowed.

He wished he wasn’t this frightened; he rarely was.

But he’d understood from the moment he’d reopened this case that there was something here he might not be prepared to deal with.

Something terribly personal.

He didn’t know how he knew, but he knew.

Mulder wasn’t scared of Krycek. He wasn’t even scared of dying.

Scully was right. In a way, he’d always wanted to die. Although now he wasn’t so sure.

Still, it didn’t scare him.

The truth was, he was scared of the truth.

He was terrified that he just might find it, and that it would turn out to be unbearable.

“Now.”

There was no point in breaking down the door; Krycek, whatever he’d become, already knew they were there.

Scully left it ajar; he understood her impulse. A single ray of sunlight carved a slice to the ground.

Mulder snapped on his sodium flashlight and saw the brilliant beam from Scully’s intersect his own. It was an eerie light, too bright by far, and it made everything around it seem darker still. But it exposed whatever it hit, and at this point they couldn’t afford to let anything skitter away into the shadows.

“Should we split up?”

Scully’s whisper seemed deafening in the silence. Little eddies of dust, raised by the searing air they’d let in, twisted and glowed white in the light of their beams.

The dust was the only thing that moved.

“No,” he breathed. “Not this time.”

Their eyes adjusted slowly in the uniform black, and the flashlights didn’t help. Mulder was tempted to turn them off, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.

They walked softly, on the balls of their feet, both of them, in silent agreement. For the first time in all the similar situations they’d faced over the years, Mulder had to fight off an almost overwhelming urge to reach for Scully’s hand.

Great, he thought. Just like a prime-time movie of the week.

They’d entered the complex of tunnels under the silo. Their beams searched the walls, the ceilings, bouncing off corners and revealing just in time where corridors branched off in new directions.

Mulder really didn’t want to come up suddenly on any corner.

A sound.

He drew up with a sharp intake of breath, and Scully bumped into his back.

Mulder turned his light to his face quickly and pressed a finger against his lips.

It came again.

An impossibly moist sound in all this brittle dryness.

Mulder shot a glance at Scully and saw her eyes gleam wide in the glow of her light.

It sounded exactly like a wet towel being slapped against a wall.

Then he heard a damp gurgle, as though air was being forced through an encrusted pipe, and then, incredibly, the grotesque parody of a voice, a voice that might have been human once, a long time ago.

It was trying to sing.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are…”

Something in Mulder’s mind reeled.

“And meet the young fella…”

A long rattling breath was suddenly drowned out by what had to be a cough, except it sounded exactly like the sound a piece of decaying meat might make if you dropped it to the floor.

“Who fell from a star…”

Another wet cough, followed by what, if interpreted by a raving madman, might have been described as laughter.

Mulder heard a moan. He turned wild eyes on Scully to comfort her before he realized it had come from him.

He spun forward again.

“Krycek.” It came out as a harsh whisper.

The wet towel sound was getting closer.

Mulder cleared his throat; it felt smothered in dust.

“Krycek? That you?” His voice sounded shockingly normal.

“Hey.” A wet hiss. “Hey, Mulder. Old buddy.”

Another rattling breath and a breathless giggle.

“Hey. Nice of you to drop by.”

Mulder found himself backing up. Scully moved to his side and followed him. He could hear her laboured breathing next to his shoulder.

“But really.” The sound was almost at the corner, just beyond Mulder’s line of sight.

“Really, Mulder.”

A smell like raw sewage and rot assailed his nostrils, and he choked, slapping a hand to his nose and mouth. Mulder felt his bladder constrict. Please don’t let me piss myself, dear God, please. Anything but that right now. He heard Scully gag as her hand clutched at his jacket. Her hands reached out and for a moment he didn’t know why.

She was aiming her gun. Badly.

“You shouldna brought the bitch.”

And then what was left of Krycek turned the corner.

SHADOW PUPPETS (9b/10) *** NC-17 ***

*** NC-17 WARNING***: This chapter is rated NC-17. Contains sexually explicit material, profanity and disturbing imagery which may be shocking and/or offensive to some. Please read only if you are over 18 years of age and have understood and accepted this warning.

Mulder’s eyes were tearing with the smell, but as overwhelming as it was, it paled in comparison to what he saw on the floor in front of him.

“Don’t shoot, Scully,” he whispered harshly.

“What?” Her voice was shrill, shocked.

“Not yet.”

“Always the gentleman, huh, Mulder?” A ruin of a head, blistered, running with open sores that glistened dully in the light he’d turned on it, lifted itself unsteadily from the floor where the rest of the shapeless mockery of a human form lay. Unimaginably, a ruin of a mouth seemed to be emitting words. One huge milky white eye bulged down over a swollen cheek; the other was yellow but still an unmistakable pupil glittered. Sausage-like hands oozed a kind of clear pus as they pushed against the floor for leverage.

Mulder almost whimpered. There was an actual goddam trail of fucking slime behind the thing.

Only matted black hair and that one eye revealed that this wreck before them was, in fact, Alex Krycek.

And that one eye made it clear there was nothing remotely sane left in there at all.

Then the yawning mouth opened hugely, strands of saliva or pus or something which didn’t bear close examination running between cracked lips and teeth.

It laughed again, wetly.

Scully moaned, dropped her gun and fell to her knees, clutching her head.

“Mulder…”

He reached for her, crouching. “Leave her alone, Krycek.”

“Shouldna brought her, man. Toldya.”

She screamed suddenly and he tried to grab her gun as it fell, but his flashlight knocked it off into the shadows.

He reached for his own.

“Do it and she dies.”

Scully cried out and threw her head back. Trickles of blood were seeping from her nose, the corners of her eyes.

“Stop it, Krycek.” His voice was high as he clutched her; he knew he sounded frenzied, helpless, but he didn’t give a shit what the fucking thing thought of him.

“Hey. Anything for an old friend.” A low wheeze sent another mindnumbing miasmic wave of sewage smell towards them.

“Just don’t use the gun, okay?”

Mulder nodded, his eyes pleading.

Scully moaned and leaned against him, breathing harshly.

“Awwwwwww.” That smell. “So touching.” It actually managed to drawl.

“So you see, old man,” it continued. “That’s how they left me. Bummer, huh?”

“Who did this to you, Krycek?” Anything to buy some time.

His arm had snaked around Scully’s shoulder and he tugged at her. It was impossible to stay down near the floor at this thing’s level. He’d go out of his mind if they did.

She rose with him, shakily.

He didn’t know how badly she was hurt, but the fact that she could stand sent a rush of relief through him. He’d pay later for the guilt.

“Oh, you know. Aliens, FBI — the usual suspects. That thing in Hong Kong… pretty nasty number. It went away, finally, but you might say it left me a little worse for wear.”

It chuckled thickly.

“And you know those G-men, Mulder. Boy, talk about fleeting loyalties. And after everything I did for them, too.”

It grinned again, laying its head back on the ground with its good eye up. Mulder closed his eyes.

“What’s the matter, Mulder? Did all this time underground ruin my good looks? Come on, you can tell me. I’m man enough to take it.”

Mulder shuddered and turned to Scully, murmuring nonsense words to her, touching her face, and leaned her against the wall.

“Try to stand there, Scully,” he whispered. “I’ll get us out of here.”

He could feel her strength. She was still with him.

“It’s too bad, because I think you kinda used to like me a little.” Its breath rattled.

“I know I liked you.” His suety voice was trying vainly for seduction.

Mulder leaned a hand against the wall.

“Hear that, princess?” Scully raised her head. “In the old days, before my little accident, your boyfriend and me coulda been a pretty hot item.”

He shook his head. “It’s not true.”

“No, no, no. Because you’re not like that, are you?”

“No.”

“Well, under the circumstances, I can sympathize. If it’s her you want…” Krycek’s breathing became more laboured.

“Then by all means, have her.”

Mulder gasped as a red-hot river of lust ran through his body. It stabbed through him and pooled at his centre. His erection was so sudden, so unequivocal, that he groaned and bent double, clutching himself.

“See? You want it, Mulder.”

“You…” he spat the words out through his teeth. “You’re doing this to me.”

“Hey, what are friends for?”

It raised it head again, a strand of something clinging to the floor.

“Now take her. Although I can’t say much for your taste.”

“No…”

“I said, take her.”

Searing white-hot pain cut through his head.

He couldn’t think. He couldn’t think at all.

Anything. Anything to make it stop.

The flashlights lay askew on the floor, sending crazy beams against the wall. Mulder, still doubled over, grabbed one and pointed it at Scully. It caught her as she stood. Her hair hung over her face.

He looked up at her through a lock of his own hair and heard her gasp when she saw the look in his eyes.

“Please…” he hissed. “Scully. Help me…”

He rose up and leaned against her.

He could feel her gasp against his chest as his lips caressed her hair. He pressed his hips against her, rotating them slowly.

He couldn’t think. He just knew he had to have her.

“Mulder, don’t.”

“Mulder, don’t. Mulder, don’t.” Krycek cackled.

His hands roamed over her body, clutching her breasts, her groin. He pressed his lips against her throat, darting his tongue against her flesh, bone white in the spotlight. Then he moved his face up over hers, licking her eyebrows, her hairline, her cheeks. His breath sang in his throat.

She pushed at his chest and turned her face away, towards the creature that had once been Krycek. Mulder’s tongue was hot in her ear, lapping, his hips moving against her as he groaned.

Then she stood stock still and looked at the thing on the floor.

“No.”

Mulder moaned, still thrusting against her, but something in her tone slashed through the madness.

“I won’t let you do this to him. Or to me.”

The shape on the floor moved wetly, propping itself up on its hands once again to fix her with its good eye.

“Try stopping me, babe.”

“You can make him do this, but I won’t allow you to turn it into rape.”

Mulder nuzzled against her ear, his hand rubbing her breast. She arched against him as she stood calmly, her eyes bright.

“He can have me.”

Her smile was triumphant.

“Because I say so.”

The wreck on the floor seemed to wobble for a moment.

Scully turned back to Mulder’s and wound her fingers in his hair. She was still smiling. He stared at her, whimpering. She reached up and found his mouth with her own.

His tongue plunged through her lips, his teeth clashing against hers. He gasped in her mouth as he felt her unbuckle his belt. He heard the sound of a zipper — his, he realized dazedly, and another, hers. Her jeans and panties dropped to the floor and she kicked them off almost lazily.

“No.” It was Krycek. Suddenly, its voice sounded completely ineffectual, as though it came from a great distance.

She held Mulder’s cock in his hands and he cried out, clutching her to him. Her hands guided his larger ones to her buttocks, and he raised her off the floor in one motion.

“No! Stop!” The rattle grew louder and there was an agitated sound like a mop flipflopping against the floor. Mulder barely noticed.

He was inside her. Her eyes closed and he shuddered as he felt her give herself to him, body and mind. She was wet. He pushed against her desperately, his lips curled against her throat. It seemed impossible, demented in this setting, but they were one, absolutely one, defiantly one, and nothing could come between them.

Nothing could tear them apart.

“Stop it or I’ll kill you! I’ll kill her! Do you hear me, Mulder?”

He felt her rise and he followed. Their life force seemed to merge, the sheer power of it drowning out Krycek’s presence in his brain, until he knew he was alone, alone with Scully, at last.

She cried out sharply as she came, and he gasped in her ear, pumping wildly as all his fear, his madness, his self-hatred, drained out of him.

After a moment, he raised his head shakily and looked into her eyes. They were as filled with wonder as he knew his had to be. He kissed her once, softly, chastely, and lowered her to the ground.

Mulder bent and raised his pants, buckling his belt. He turned to the thing on the floor. It had crawled closer.

He wasn’t scared of it at all.

His mind was closed to it now. Both their minds were.

It was just a wreck of a human being, pathetic, lonely, hurt. It had meant well once, in its own way; it had loved, and it had been betrayed.

Mulder could get behind that.

“You’re right. I feel much more relaxed now.” He heard Scully chuckle as she pulled her jeans up.

Mulder smiled. What a woman.

The look on the creature’s face was baleful as Mulder crouched in front of it.

“Now you’re gonna tell me why you killed my father.”

“But Mulder,” it said ingratiatingly, almost conversationally.

It knew it had lost, somehow, but it didn’t know how, and it wasn’t sure what.

“Don’t you know?”

It smiled with its gash of a mouth.

“You’re father’s not dead.”

Scully touched his shoulder; he turned to her as she sniffed the air.

It was hard to believe that anything could cut through this thing’s odour, but above it all, Mulder caught an unmistakable, familiar whiff.

Sweet Jesus.

It was the smell of a burning cigarette.

-x-

From: M Partous <> Newsgroups: alt.tv.x-files.creative Subject: NEW: Shadow Puppets (10a/10) Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1996 09:50:04 -0700

SHADOW PUPPETS (10a/10)

*** Some profanity ahead. ****

Mulder froze.

He felt Scully tense beside him and heard the Krycek thing slither backwards. It gurgled miserably.

Oh, God. Mulder flinched. How much had the bastard seen?

A hot flush stole up his neck and claimed his face, and he thanked God for the darkness. Scully rubbed her eyes; he could sense her embarrassment, her fear, the quickening of her pulse. In fact, he realized that he could feel everything she was feeling, as though she’d remained an extension of him. It was positively uncanny.

Right now, he was grateful for it.

A low chuckle came from the shadows.

And then the unmistakable sound of clapping.

Mulder grit his teeth as Scully expelled a sharp breath.

The man they called Cancerman emerged from obscurity into the pool of light cast by Scully’s flashlight.

He was still clapping, a cigarette held tightly between thin smiling lips, tendrils of smoke coiling up towards the ceiling.

“Very nice performance, Agent Mulder. Agent Scully.”

He nodded in her direction.

“Actually, I think you deserve all the accolades, Doctor. He…” the older man gestured at Mulder “…was just doing what he was told.”

He smiled and grasped his cigarette in a thumb and forefinger.

“You, on the other hand, acted above and beyond the call of duty. Very impressive.”

Scully fixed him with a stare, but Mulder could feel her body press against his.

“You know,” she said coolly, “I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you say in one sitting.”

The man smiled again. “Ah, but that’s because you’ve never been privy to the conversations between Agent Mulder and myself. I’ve talked a lot to you, haven’t I, son?”

“Don’t call me that,” Mulder said thinly. He tensed forward just as Scully’s hand landed on the small of his back, clutching his jacket gently. He swayed back and clenched his fists.

There was the wet sound of Krycek slurping against the floor, and a gasping, pleading sound. Amazing how easy it was to ignore the poor pathetic son of a bitch now. Mulder threw a quick glance over his shoulder and hurriedly turned forward again.

Looking at it didn’t get any easier.

He jabbed his head towards the wreck behind him.

“So that’s how you reward the people who help you?”

The man shrugged.

“He received many, shall we say, perks for the chances he took. He knew what the risks were.”

Scully snorted. “I’m sure he wasn’t anticipating this kind of send-off in his worst nightmares.”

The thing moved wetly behind them. Mulder cringed at the sound.

“We all have to pay, Agent Scully.”

He slowly raised his cigarette to his lips.

“We’re all just puppets here. You. Krycek. Even me. Puppets in the shadows. We’re just playing the parts we’ve been assigned. Even this bond between the two of you, this thing you have…”

He gestured vaguely towards the wall. Mulder blushed hotly and threw a glance at Scully. Her eyes never wavered from the sallow face in front of her.

“… is all part of the program. All of it was planned before you even met.”

Scully breathed in. “That’s not possible.”

“Oh, it’s more than possible, Agent Scully. It’s the truth.”

“Who’s pulling the strings?” Mulder’s voice was tight.

The man shook his head, dropping his cigarette to the floor and grinding it out with a heel.

“I think you already suspect the answer to that, my boy.” He looked up, his eyes suddenly cold and glittering in the half light. “You were chosen before you were born. So was your sister.”

Mulder lunged forward suddenly, his hand fumbling at his hip for his gun.

“You bastard. What are you implying, you fucking son of a bitch?”

“Temper, temper.” There was no trace of fear in him. “She was taken for a reason. You were left for a reason. That’s all.”

Scully leaned against him. He was shaking, but he could feel the blaze of her will through his skin.

“You see? You’ve been given something in return. Something you may not even deserve. But it’s the only thing that can save you. The only thing that can save either of you.”

The man drew another cigarette out of a crumpled pack and tucked it leisurely into his mouth. He smiled at Scully. Unimaginably, his smile was warm, even tender.

Mulder’s mind screamed.

It was Scully’s turn to tremble against him. She moaned softly and turned her face against his shoulder. For a moment only. Then she was facing the smoking man again, her spine straight.

A match flared in the shadows.

“So what you’re saying,” she said curtly, “is that despite regulations, no one’s going to come between Agent Mulder and me?”

He laughed, expelling a cloud of smoke. “Come between you? My dear, this is what we’ve been waiting for! It’s too funny, really. I mean, what does it take?”

His eyes actually twinkled. Mulder’s shoulders knotted. He wanted to shoot the bastard so badly it actually hurt.

“Who are you,” he hissed, moving forward a step. “What’s your name?

The man looked at him calmly. “What would you do with my name if you had it, Fox?”

Mulder blanched. “Don’t.”

“Would you use it to access files about me? You’d find nothing. The name means nothing to you. It means something to a handful of people, that’s all. When all’s said and done, Fox…”

Mulder felt his stomach coil.

“…it’s not what I’m called that matters. It’s what I do.”

There was a sudden flurry of movement. Three shots rang out in quick succession, so swiftly that Mulder only had time to throw Scully against the wall and cover her body completely with his own. He wrapped his arms around her, rocking against her, waiting for the hot lead to rip through his back, his head. There was a moment of orgiastic surrender as he smothered her against him; she was safe, oh God, she was safe, no bullet could reach her through his flesh. She fought him, tearing at his shirt, hissing in his ear.

“Let me go. Mulder! What’s happening?”

He pressed against, her, waiting.

Slowly it dawned on Mulder that he was still alive. He drew back and took in Scully’s withering look before an appalling sound registered in his ear.

It was the death rattle of something.

Something behind him.

It was Krycek.

It lay in a pool of blood, its shapeless frame quivering, flailing against the floor.

Mulder had absolutely forgotten about it. About him.

He turned to the cigarette-smoking man, his eyes wide.

The gun had already vanished.

The man’s face was expressionless, except for the damn cigarette he still had stuck in his maw.

“He’d done his job, Agent Mulder. I put him out of his misery.” His eyes settled on Scully for a moment before travelling back to Mulder’s face. There was something indescribable in his expression.

Sorrow.

Loss.

A plea.

“I only hope, when the time comes, that someone will do the same for me.”

He lowered his head for a moment and crushed out his cigarette.

Mulder was on him in a flash, his hands around his neck. He threw him against the wall as he had in the hospital what seemed like years ago.

The man just looked at him, his head rolling against the wall.

“Mulder! Stop.” Scully was against him, grasping his arms. He shrugged her off.

“Tell me, you bastard,” he spat. “Who are the puppet masters?”

The other man’s voice came out in a gasp, but once again there was no fear in him. None at all.

“You’ve already seen them.”

Who are they?” His hands tightened around the older man’s throat so that he choked, spittle bubbling to his lips. “What power do they have?”

Vaguely, as though from a great distance, he felt Scully’s fists against his back.

“They have all the power.”

Mulder shook him.

“It’s colonization, Mulder. They’re masterminding the whole damn thing.”

Mulder let him go. He clenched at his throat, coughing.

“And what about you? What’s your place in all this?”

“I’m just a puppet,” the man gasped, but his eyes were clear, collected.

Mulder stared at him, his face inches away.

“My father?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Are you my father?” Mulder lay one hand against the other man’s throat.

“None of it matters now. Now there’s only you and Agent Scully. And Samantha.”

Mulder’s fingers tightened.

“And that’s only if you can find her in time.”

“What about Skinner,” he whispered through his teeth.

The man laughed shakily. “Skinner? His only role was to keep you alive.”

“Who tried to stop him? You?”

“The line is blurred, Mulder. Some mornings I’m not even sure whose side I’m on.” His eyes were lit with laughter.

Mulder’s lips came dangerously close to his. It seemed to get his attention.

“Where’s Samantha?” Mulder could smell the stale smoke, the rotten odour of him. But no fear. Still — no fear.

“She knows it all.” Mulder felt his rancid whisper against this lips. “She’s been altered. But she knows everything.”

“Altered how?” His breath was silken.

“Find her, Fox. I don’t know…” the man’s ashen jowls shook for a fleeting second. “I don’t know where she is. I only know she’s alive. I saw her.”

“I should kill you…”

He felt Scully’s arms wrap themselves around his elbow, felt her tugging at him, felt her head against his shoulder.

He drew back, but their eyes remained locked.

“Are you an enemy?” His words echoed in the vast, empty space.

The man stayed against the wall. His hand reached down into his pocket and Mulder felt Scully’s hand snake under his jacket, followed instantaneously by the sound of a safety being drawn back.

She was pointing his gun right at the other man’s face.

He smiled. His hand withdrew, holding a pack of cigarettes.

“Yes.”

Scully’s hands were absolutely steady. “Are you a friend?”

Mulder looked at her.

The expression on the man’s face was soft.

“Yes.”

She kept the gun pointed at his head.

He smiled faintly.

“Leave now. Before they find that.” He pointed at what was left of Krycek.

Mulder’s eyes had never left her. She met them and raised the gun.

“Let’s go, Mulder.” She bent, picked up a flashlight, and headed down the corridor the way they’d come.

The man had lit another cigarette. His eyes were unreadable.

Mulder turned on his heel and followed his partner out of the silo.

-x-

SHADOW PUPPETS (10b/10)

by M Partous email:

Well, folks, this is the last instalment. Unfortunately for all of us, I’m afraid a sequel’s coming.

Thanks to everyone who kept in touch — it really helped. Feel free to tell me what you think of the damn thing now that it’s over at last. Closure. You know.

*** WARNING***: This chapter is rated NC-17 for M/S sex within an actual viable — I hope — plotline.

Mulder wordlessly handed the keys to Scully.

Dear God, how did she manage to stay so strong? He felt deconstructed, as though he’d been taken apart piece by piece.

Right now he couldn’t think. He couldn’t afford to.

As long as Scully acted sane, he knew he’d be all right. She’d help him find a centre in the midst of all this madness.

Wouldn’t she?

After a while, she reached over and drew the seatbelt over his chest, buckling it. He felt her hands brushing lightly, efficiently, over him.

He leaned his face against the window as she started the car.

The now-familiar landscape rolled by, parched and sun- gnawed, but he barely saw it. The passenger side window reflected Scully’s tense profile and Mulder’s own inner landscape, a place he wouldn’t want to sell any tickets to right now.

Puppets in the shadows.

Shadow puppets.

Why wasn’t it a big surprise?

Manipulated. All of them. All the way. And for what?

Colonization.

He’d asked the question of X, before he’d realized X was working for them.

X had been using him all along.

X had been trying to recruit him.

Mulder was valuable to them in some way, but he didn’t know how.

He shuddered. Cancerman. Cancerman was their friend?

It seemed impossible. It went against his instincts, against everything his gut said was the truth.

But he couldn’t help remembering how X had been instrumental in trying to keep him away from Scully during that TV brainwashing case.

When Scully had turned against him.

When Scully had thought that Mulder was the enemy.

When Scully had tried to kill him.

And X, that son of a bitch, had sent a minion to distract him from her.

“You’ve been given something in return,” Cancerman had said. “Something you may not even deserve. But it’s the only thing that can save you.”

The only thing that could save him and Scully.

And he’d already had a taste of it.

X had wanted to stop this thing at all costs. He’d tried to rip them apart.

Because that was the only way he could win.

The only way they could win.

The puppet masters.

Mulder came back from a great distance and glanced at Scully. She stared at the road in front of her, her face blank.

Guilt washed over him, and regret. He still felt the bond between them; it was stronger than ever. But what had he done?

“Where are we going?”

She said nothing.

“Scully?”

She stared at the road.

Mulder felt tears against his eyelids again. Jesus Christ, why did he always feel like crying these days? He took a deep breath.

“I never wanted it to happen like this.”

Still she said nothing.

“You know how I feel, Scully.”

His eyes were fixed on her elegant, chiselled profile. The same woman who’d writhed in his arms less than an hour ago. The same woman who’d climaxed with him in front of a creature, in front of…

Mulder closed his eyes.

He’d wanted to undress her slowly. To see all of her spread before him. To kiss her. To test the resilience of her breasts. To taste her. To see her open for him like a flower in the desert.

He’d wanted to feel her gentle hands on him as they quickened in passion. Her face buried against his naked chest. Her moisture against his thigh.

In her own time.

He’d wanted it to take the time it took.

And now he had only this. This undeniable bond, ripped from the hands of horror, from the face of death. This thing between the two of them.

“I know, Mulder.”

He started, and looked at her.

She smiled at him, her eyes brimming as they had when they’d faced Modell, a thousand years ago.

She turned back to the road.

“We’re going back to the motel.”

She’d left him at the door to his room.

She wouldn’t look at him.

“Take a shower. I’ll be waiting for you.”

He wandered through the tacky little space, dropping sweaty clothes as he went, his mind in a daze.

As he stood in the shower, he felt the water pressure drop and yelped as the stream ran suddenly cold.

Scully was in the shower in the other room, right next to him.

He sucked in his breath and leaned his dripping head against the tiles.

They were all that separated him from her.

He moaned against the cold white tiles, his breath leaving a faint mist as he exhaled.

Right next to her body as she showered.

He’d come twice that day, once alone, once with her, but despite the chilly water, he felt himself hardening once again.

His lips caressed the tiles.

“Scully,” he whispered.

“Scully. I’m here.”

He didn’t own a bathrobe, so he tested the door between their rooms stark naked, still dripping, and erect.

He was shy.

But he owed her this moment of vulnerability.

The door was unlocked, of course. He pushed it open.

She was sitting on the bed, nude. The shower had left a sheen of moisture on her skin.

She was unbelievably beautiful. Her hair was damp, curling in reds and browns around her face. She wore no makeup. Her hands were folded modestly in her lap, revealing only a faint shadow of tawny pubic hair. Her breasts…

Mulder bit his lip.

Her breasts were full, firm, nipples rigid and pointed out towards him.

He knew she could see that his eyes were caught by them, and they trembled against her chest a little, causing his cock to leap. He saw one hand raise for a moment, as if to cover herself, and then it dropped back to her lap.

He looked up into the astonishing blue of her eyes.

They were electric.

He stood in front of her, letting her eyes roam over his body, his face, his neck, chest, arms, legs, the hungry rise of his cock against his belly.

His mouth opened to say something, and she shook her head.

“No.”

He closed it.

“Don’t talk, Mulder. Not now. There’s nothing to say.”

Her arms reached for him so that all of her was exposed before him.

“We’ll talk tomorrow.”

He took a few steps and knelt before her. One hand smoothed the hair from her face as he trailed fingers down her cheek.

His lips brushed against hers and she gasped sharply. He smiled at her.

“Take me,” he breathed against her mouth.

Her legs parted, and he fell between them.

Mulder awoke as the full midwestern moon spilled down over the bed through the venetian blinds.

His arms were wrapped around Scully, and he watched, enthraled, as the slices of moonlight slid over her body.

She stirred and molded herself against him. He adjusted his arms, his legs, so that she could nestle closer.

They had been left alone, as Cancerman had promised they would be, in so many words.

Tomorrow, they would be back in DC.

They were part of somebody’s agenda. This thing that we have, he thought, as he rubbed his lips against her hair, was part of someone’s plan.

But whose? And why?

At one time, Mulder believed that he would have known.

Now he had no idea.

Certainly he’d never thought that anybody would tolerate their coming together.

But it was true he had an inkling about who was pulling the strings. He’d even met one of them.

At least one.

But what were they? What did they want?

Colonization.

Somehow, Scully and him, together, were key. That much he knew. Along with one other.

Samantha.

His arms tightened around Scully; she moved and murmured against him.

Samantha was out there, somewhere.

He would find her.

They would find her.

His eyes closed.

END

COMING SOON: “The Puppet Masters”

–-

From: M Partous <>
Newsgroups: alt.tv.x-files.creative
Subject: NEW: The Puppet Masters (Preface/Disclaimer) Date: Thu, 13 Jun 1996 11:51:19 -0700

THE PUPPET MASTERS

by M Partous email:

PREFACE/SUMMARY/DISCLAIMER

Hi! Sorry to go on like this, but it’ll take care of everything in one fell swoop.

This is the sequel to “Shadow Puppets,” the second in a three-part series, the third of which will be called “Colonization.”

In “Shadow Puppets,” I tried to explore the idea that a physical relationship between Mulder and Scully didn’t need to mean a lack of UST, clever banter, or an actual X-File — all the things we love about the series. As it happens, I’m a firm believer in the lack of a relationship on the show proper, but I definitely do not see M & S as having a brother/sister relationship — sorry.

So what I’m continuing to explore here, between friends, is “what if” their relationship was actually a strange kind of mystical strength, one that frightens the powers that be, one that could actually help them in their quest for the truth?

DEDICATION: For Shalimar, for her support and patience, and for all the people out there who wrote to me and actually got me hooked on my own story.

RATING SYSTEM: I rate my stories rather ruthlessly, for safety’s sake: “R” is used if I feel that anything in the section might be disturbing based on standard North American WASP mores, regardless of the reader’s age. NC-17, for me, includes anything with graphic or semi-graphic sexual descriptions or “perverse” — and I use the term loosely — points of view which may be shocking to certain sensibilities and unsuitable for younger readers. I’ll also commit to posting warnings, when appropriate, that specify the kind of material the reader or guardian can expect to find. If no warnings are present, readers should assume that what follows is PG-13, in that nothing I write here is particularly appropriate for prepubescent kids…

Sorry to go on at length about this, but I just want to ensure there are no misunderstandings, because things may get weird along the way.

SPOILERS: There are many, and I’m not even sure what they’ll be at this point. Expect at least a slew of third-season spoilers, with possibly a few references to the first and second season.

“SHADOW PUPPETS” SUMMARY: It’s not crucial that you read “Shadow Puppets” to understand what happens next, although it sets the mood, fleshes out the characters and establishes the scenario in a big way. For those who can’t be bothered — and God knows I sympathize — here’s a summary of events so far: Mulder, driven by a need to understand what really happened to his father, decides to head back to the silo (Piper Maru) to find Alex Krycek, who he’s convinced he heard crying out when he and Scully were there.

While he and Scully are fairly certain no evidence is still lying around, Mulder feels that Krycek, who was inhabited by the “oil creature,” may have been left there because no one really knew how to deal with him — after all, the creature managed to survive for decades under water.

It turns out Krycek is calling to him, and we surmise it’s partially because Krycek was attracted to his former partner, which is also the reason he spared Mulder’s life when their car was driven off the road (Piper Maru). Krycek has been altered by the presence of the creature in him, and although the thing has left his body, it’s also left him in a shocking state of disrepair with psychic powers to boot, which he uses to get to both Mulder and Scully.

Meanwhile, the attraction between M & S continues to grow, and Mulder gradually realizes that he can’t keep shutting Scully out because that’s ultimately the only way she’d leave the X-files. He struggles with this because he’s consumed with a need to protect her, even though he knows this isn’t appropriate in light of the fact that she’s his partner.

He finally breaks down, admitting his own self-destructiveness and guilt. It becomes clear to him that the link between Scully and himself is their single greatest strength.

A confrontation with what’s left of Krycek in the silo leads to a potential rape on Mulder’s part — Krycek’s doing — which is transformed by Scully into an affirmation of the bond between them. It’s their first sexual encounter and, as it turns out, is witnessed by Cancerman.

Cancerman shoots Krycek and states that all of them are just shadow puppets being manipulated by a higher force, the “puppet masters”. He implies that Mulder and Scully — along with Samantha — are the only ones who can stop the alien colonization that’s already well underway. He doesn’t reveal how, or why, except to say they have to find Samantha, who knows the truth. He goes on to suggest that even the relationship between M & S was orchestrated before the two of them met, as was the very conscious decision to abduct Samantha and leave her bother behind. Mulder tries to get CM to reveal whether or not he’s his father, to no avail. When confronted, he admits only to being both an enemy — and a friend.

Mulder is left with the idea that Cancerman might actually be on their side while X, on the other hand, is one of the real enemies.

The story ends with M & S “consolidating” their relationship, but with Mulder wondering how they’re going to deal with what they’ve learned.

DISCLAIMER: All main characters are the property of Chris Carter and Fox. They have been lovingly borrowed, with no money-making intent, just because it’s summertime and the living is easy. Thanks to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson for making them as irresistible as they are.

-x-

THE PUPPET MASTERS (1/7) *** NC-17 ***

by M Partous email:

“Will Work For Feedback”

*** WARNING ***: This chapter rated NC-17 for profanity and explicit M/S sexual descriptions.

Dana Scully had dropped him off at his apartment; it was her turn to renew the rental on the car.

Fox Mulder hadn’t particularly wanted to leave her there. He’d opened the trunk, shouldered his bag and slammed the door down almost angrily. From where he’d stood on the street, he could see her hair and the straight line of her back against the seat.

They hadn’t discussed any of it.

Not the case, not Krycek, not Cancerman, not his sister, not even the love they’d made.

And they’d made love — Jesus. He wasn’t a sexual neophyte, and he was the first one to grant that maybe his own attraction to her had clouded his judgement, but none of that really mattered.

He’d actually screamed.

In the past, with other women, Mulder had moaned, groaned, grimaced, gasped. He’d said the word “love” at the moment of orgasm, even when it wasn’t true — which was almost always. He’d talked dirty and he’d bit a neck or two.

But no one had ever made him scream.

He’d thought he’d lose his mind inside her.

And the thing was that the cool collected Agent Scully had climaxed louder than he had.

She’d come again and again, under his tongue, his lips, his hand, his hips, his nose even, once, or at least that’s how he remembered it. She’d wrapped herself around him and howled her pleasure, her head tossing against the sheets, her hips a blur against him.

There’d been nothing cool about her then.

They’d made love all morning, without condoms because she’d told him she was on the pill, which had sent a sliver of jealousy through him until she’d explained that her periods were difficult and this was the only way she’d found to control them, that she’d been on the pill for years, for no other reason, and she’d laughed, touching his face.

And he’d thought thank you God, because that means I didn’t knock her up against the wall in front of the Krycek beast and that chain-smoking son of a bitch, and we don’t have to deal with the advent of a love child conceived amid that particular horror.

He’d told her without words how miraculous it was to flood her without latex between them, just her flesh tight around his, her tissues absorbing his anxious offerings without fear, without trepidation, the two of them united by their fluids, their sweat, their passion, their love.

Then they’d awakened and she was already far away, without denying what had happened but without acknowledging it either. She’d murmured some words and sent him back to his room to pack, something about how they had to get back, that Skinner would be expecting some kind of report by now.

He’d left obediently, although his mind kept saying but isn’t that more or less what men are always accused of saying the morning after?

And now, hours later, she sat bolt upright against the seat, not cold, exactly, but distant, distracted, her eyes far away. He’d tried to talk to her and she’d looked at him politely, nodding, smiling, but her eyes were thinking about something else, and he’d felt like someone in a line at a supermarket being told by the cashier to have a nice day.

He held his bag over his shoulder and looked at her through the window of the car.

At least she’d lowered it.

“So…”

Her hand was already on the ignition.

“Uh… can I call you?”

It worked, after a fashion. She stared at him.

“Mulder, we’ll be in the office less than 12 hours from now.”

“Right.” He shrugged.

And then she actually smiled, and he saw her in there, Scully herself, the real thing.

She shook her head.

“Mulder…” She actually laughed.

He looked at her.

“I just need to be alone for a few hours.”

“Okay.”

He stood there, clutching his bag, feeling like Anne of Goddam Fucking Green Gables.

She got it exactly and laughed again.

“I need to think about this, Mulder. In the best possible way.”

“Okay.”

She chuckled and turned the key.

“And for God’s sake, Mulder,” she said as she checked her mirror for oncoming cars.

“Get a bed. For both our sakes.”

He stood and watched as she drove away.

Jesus, he thought, when had he become such a wuss? As he headed for his building, he realized he couldn’t stop grinning like a complete idiot.

Scully was already at her desk when he arrived the next morning.

“Hey.” He shot her a quick smile.

“Hey yourself.” She looked up, her reading glasses glinting in the shadows; her eyes lingered on his form for a moment before she turned back to the keyboard.

Oooooo, Scully, he thought. See anything you like?

“Aren’t you done?” was all he said as he threw his jacket on a pile of files and watched with a kind of clinical detachment as the towering mountain of paperwork leaned over slowly and collapsed to the floor, taking his jacket with it.

Scully started, threw a glance at the heap on the ground, sighed and kept typing.

“Nope.”

“That’s hardly the efficient Dr. Scully I know.”

“I wasn’t in the mood to write up a field report last night.” Her fingers flew over the keys.

“Hmm.”

“Anyway, why is it I’m always stuck doing these damn things?” She scowled at him.

“You’re not.”

“I write most of them.”

“That’s just because you don’t trust my ability to do them myself.”

“I trust that you’ll do them. I just don’t trust they’ll make any sense.”

“That’s because you think I’m a flake. You were sent to spy on me, remember?”

She guffawed. “Right. I doubt even Cancerman’s senile maiden aunt would consider me a reliable informant these days.”

“What about Skinner?”

His face was serious. She looked at him.

“I think Skinner’s as clued out as either of us. If anything, you’re one of the few people he still has any faith in.”

“You too.”

She shrugged.

“By extension, maybe.”

“No.” Mulder shook his head. “I think he always trusted you.”

“Whatever. But he’d do well to reconsider. These days, I see conspiracies in shadows.”

“That’s where they live, Scully.”

She said nothing and kept typing.

Mulder sat on his chair and took a breath.

“So. Scully.”

Taptap. “Yeah?”

“It’s the morning. Do you still respect me?”

The typing stopped. She turned and looked at him thoughtfully. Despite the smile that played around his lips, his eyes were solemn.

“Well, as it happens…”

She hit the save button.

“I never respected you, Mulder.”

She grinned.

The phone suddenly brayed, and he grabbed it.

“Mulder.”

“You’re back.”

He looked up at Scully and mouthed the word “Skinner”.

“Yes, sir.”

“And?”

“You haven’t heard anything?”

There was a pause on the other end of the line.

“Should I have?”

“I was just wondering.”

“I’m expecting a report, Agent Mulder.” The A.D.‘s voice was tight.

“We’re wrapping it up now, sir.”

“When can I get it?”

Mulder glanced over at Scully; she was leaning forward, looking at him.

“You know, sir, it’s been ages since we’ve had lunch.”

“What?”

“I think we should have lunch, sir. Just you, me and Scully.”

He smiled at her. She rolled her eyes.

Another pause.

“All right, Agent Mulder. Today.” It wasn’t a question.

“Great idea, sir.”

“I’ll meet you outside at 12:30.”

Mulder heard a click.

He glanced at Scully as he hung up the receiver.

“Don’t say I never take you anywhere.”

-x-

THE PUPPET MASTERS (2/7)

by M Partous email:

*** Rated “R” ***

They’d spent the rest of the morning arguing about the “facts” in the bogus field report.

Mulder had read it and clicked his tongue, shaking his head.

“Nope, Scully. This won’t do.”

“What do you mean, it won’t do?”

He’d glared at her. “You’re making me look like a complete asshole.”

What was driving Mulder especially crazy was the fact that they had to talk about it as though it were a real case instead of something he’d concocted to get out to the silo in the first place. There was little doubt that their office was bugged; for as long as they’d both tacitly agreed to trust no one else, they’d got into the habit of speaking for an audience when they were down there.

In this case, it was making him ballistic. She’d written up the damned thing as if he was a space cadet on Ecstasy.

“I’m not making this up, Scully. There’ve been reports of cattle mutilations all over the area.”

He slid his hand behind the antiquated slide projector and flicked the switch. A familiar hum filled the office, and the smell of burning dust.

Scully groaned and clutched her face.

“For Christ’s sake, Mulder, anything but the bloody slide projector. I’ve seen those damn slides a thousand times.”

He stood up, his hands on his hips, and started rocking from foot to foot.

She glared at him.

“And stop rocking! Why do you always have to rock back and forth like that?”

He froze.

“I do not rock back and forth.”

“You always rock back and forth, Mulder, and you always get that same defiant look on your face when you do it.”

She pointed at his hands. “And you always do that.”

“Do what?”

“You always put your hands on your hips exactly like that just before you start rocking back and forth.”

He pursed his lips and ran a hand through his hair.

“That’s a load of crap.”

She stared at him. “You’re the psychologist, Mulder.”

He expelled an explosive breath and leaned over her.

“Look, Scully. Just because we didn’t find any sign of mutilations this time around doesn’t mean they’re not out there. Those guys were covering something up.”

He looked at her beseechingly, thrusting his chin towards her computer screen.

“Big time.”

She just looked at him.

He pointed silently to the screen.

“It was so obvious, Scully. Even you said so.”

“Me?” Her eyes were beginning to twinkle.

“Yeah. Don’t you remember? You said Mulder, these jerks are obviously trying to hide something.”

I said that?”

“You did.” He was close enough to smell her.

His eyes closed for a moment as he allowed himself to breath her in. When he opened them again, she was gazing at him with a very strange expression which, until a couple of days ago, he would have had a hard time recognizing as desire.

He smiled sweetly.

“Of course, you were pissed out of your mind at the time.”

“What?” Her eyes widened, then blazed.

“I warned you not to drink all that bourbon, Scully. Especially not in a bar like that one with all those cowboys giving you the eye.”

She seemed incapable of speech. Her lips parted — oh God, it made him want to go in there — and curled in a way that managed to convey both amusement and extreme danger.

He shuddered.

Her eyes travelled down his body to his crotch, and he made no effort to hide what was going on down there.

He slowly put his hands back on his hips and jabbed his crotch at her with an evil grin.

She smiled as her eyes fluttered back up to his face.

“Well, I had to do something, Mulder,” she murmured innocently. “I mean, I figured I may as well get some relevant information out of these guys while you tried to negotiate a deal with that $20 hooker.”

Mulder choked. She leaned back against her chair and looked insufferably smug.

He stopped coughing and stared at her as she licked an index finger and swiped it at the air, her eyes glittering.

Finally, with hand gestures, muffled giggles and shameless double entendre, they’d managed to hash out something that Mulder felt he could safely present to Skinner. The whine of the printer came just in time; it was 12:23.

The A.D. was waiting for them outside the building.

Mulder took him in; he looked haggard, shrunken, he’d been looking drawn for months, since before that bizarre prostitute case. And although he was now apparently reconciled with his wife in that his wedding band glittered on his left hand once again — Mrs. Skinner was still in the hospital, still frail, although out of danger, according to Skinner — Mulder sensed that the incident had proven intolerably humiliating to him, irrevocably damaging in some way.

There was something tragic about the A.D. these days, as though he were already being haunted by the ghost of something that hadn’t quite died yet.

Skinner’s eyes raked over both of them quickly, dropped and then rose again. He fixed Mulder, then Scully, with a speculative look.

Mulder felt his stomach tighten. He glanced at Scully just as she turned to him for a split second.

You really couldn’t fool the bastard.

He knew.

He’d looked at both of them and figured it out in a flash.

The A.D.‘s face was absolutely without expression.

“Sir.” Mulder avoided the older man’s eye. Scully moved restlessly next to him.

“Where are we going, Agent Mulder?”

“Someplace busy, sir.”

Scully cleared her throat. “Someplace far.”

The A.D. nodded.

“We’ll take my car.”

With a sudden rush of panic, Mulder realized he hadn’t discussed with Scully how much they’d reveal.

He trusted her. He just didn’t know how far he trusted himself.

They drove out to Alexandria, not far, in fact, from where Mulder lived.

He guided them towards a busy pub he was fond of, a place he’d spent many a Saturday evening when he’d felt the need for the press of people around him, anonymous faces and bodies involved in lives other than his own.

He’d found sanctuary there many times, even a few encounters here and there over the years, women who he’d realized even at the time, through a haze of slow beers, looked a lot like Scully.

His default type tended to range along taller, lankier, blonder lines, but when his soul and body ached he’d been finding himself increasingly drawn to tiny women with hair the colour he’d learned to identify as Scully’s, what people who weren’t colour-blind called red, what for him was a dazzle of rich amber-dappled browns, alive with light.

He’d gravitated only to those with tailored suits and full, pouting lips, and none of them were Scully, but in the twilight of their rooms, he’d made love to them with eyes half closed, so that from certain angles they took his breath away.

And he’d tried as best he could to bring them to the same release he craved himself, because he’d recognized their loneliness, their own incalculable sense of loss.

But now, at midday, the place bustled with Yuppies and Gen-X geeks whose rapid-fire speech hung like a frantic cloud over the place.

There was enough noise to drown out their conversation, and they were far enough away from the habitual FBI haunts to feel that they might actually say what they were thinking for a change.

Mulder had never taken Scully there, and he fought the discomfort he felt at bringing her to a place where he’d spent quite a few evenings looking for her twin. It was bright there now; the sun streamed through the windows as a haze of dust motes danced in the light.

They ordered sandwiches and drinks — Skinner asked for bourbon, which led to a chortle from Scully, although she recovered quickly and coughed delicately into a cocktail napkin.

“Something funny, Agent Scully?” Skinner peered at her through his glasses.

“No, sir.”

The A.D. turned to Mulder. “I thought you were going to do this alone.”

Scully stiffened beside him.

Mulder poked at his napkin and shrugged. “It seemed… unwise.”

He felt her relax, and Skinner actually smiled tightly.

“Yes. I’m sure you’re right.”

There was something on the A.D.‘s face which Mulder, if he hadn’t known better, would have described as affection.

“So. Did you bring the report?”

Mulder nodded and looked at Scully. She handed it to the assistant director, who pored over it for a few moments.

Finally, he raised his head.

“What monumental crap.”

Mulder looked away and shrugged.

“No more than usual, sir. At least I’m sure that’s what some people would say.”

“You mean the people who can’t tell when you’re doing good work or not.”

Mulder met his gaze evenly.

“Something like that.”

Skinner peeled his glasses from his face and rubbed his eyes with one hand. As he hooked them behind his ears once again, he turned to Scully.

She tensed.

“Agent Scully. Tell me what really happened.”

Mulder opened his mouth to protest, then shut it again.

He could certainly understand why the A.D. would focus on Scully. For one thing, she was incapable of lying. Her eyes gave everything away.

It was her only weakness, and it was a dangerous one.

It was also one of the things he loved most about her.

She glanced at Mulder for a brief moment before turning back to Skinner.

“Krycek was there, sir.”

The A.D. nodded.

“He was… changed by his encounter with whatever was lying under the sea.”

“What happened?”

“He… it tried to take over our minds.”

Skinner’s face was stone. “It tried to hurt Mulder. To hurt me.”

“So what did you do?”

Scully looked at Mulder, smiled, and deliberately traced his lips with one finger.

Mulder drew back and sucked in a breath.

He shot a glance at Skinner, but the A.D. was staring at Scully, mesmerized.

“Mulder.” Her voice was soft.

She wanted Skinner to know. She wanted him to know everything, although he still wasn’t quite sure why.

He owed her much more than this.

He breathed and turned to their superior.

“We whipped his ass, sir.”

The A.D.‘s eyes met his, reluctantly, it seemed.

“Together. You’re together now.”

Mulder nodded.

“And Krycek’s dead.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you kill him?”

“No.”

“Did you?” His gaze returned to Scully.

“No, sir.”

“Then who?”

Mulder found himself echoing Cancerman, even though it appalled him.

“I think you know who, sir.”

Skinner closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair.

“Jesus.”

Mulder waited.

The A.D.‘s eyes opened. They were brittle.

“Sweet Jesus.”

“Who is he, sir? What’s his name?” Mulder leaned across the table.

“I already told you, Mulder. I don’t know.”

Skinner shook his head.

“All I know is he’s in serious trouble. He’s been in serious trouble for some time.”

“Why?”

“Because he does what he wants. And more and more, that’s unacceptable. More and more, no one even understands what that is.”

They were silent.

Finally, Mulder spoke. “Do you?”

“No.”

Mulder leaned back, his arm instinctively reaching around Scully’s chair.

“Whose side is he on, sir?”

Skinner played with the fork in front of him.

“Whose side are any of us on, Agent Mulder? “

He looked up.

“And how do we know?”

-x-

THE PUPPET MASTERS (3/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback”

**** Rated “R” ****

They’d eaten half-heartedly, picking at their food in almost complete silence.

Mulder knew that the silence was produced by fear, by a realization on all their parts that what lay ahead could rip apart the very fabrics of their lives, of everything they’d held sacred, each in their own way, until now.

Samantha was alive.

He’d seen her. He’d believed that what he’d seen was her, and then, with time, he’d believed that what he’d seen was a cunning replica.

Now there was no way of knowing whether even this had any bearing on the truth.

How could they possibly have found a way to clone viable sentient reproductions of living human beings?

Living. Or maybe dead.

And if so, how would he ever know the difference?

Did it even make a difference?

Who was Samantha, now?

Even if he found her, the original model, the mold herself, what would she have become?

When she’d been ripped from her family, she’d been too young to have much of an identity.

Except that he’d known who she was.

He was her older brother.

He’d known her better than anyone.

His little sister, a big pain in the ass, butting in when he wanted to play with his friends, always hanging around, getting in the way.

But he’d loved her.

He could never please the adults, but with Samantha, he didn’t have to do anything, anything at all. She just followed him around, her eyes wide with adoration, her little hand reaching out for his…

“Foss.” She hadn’t been able to pronounce his name until she’d started school.

The quick brown fox…

“Foss.” He could hear her, even now.

“Don’t call me that, Sam.”

“Foss?”

He’d smiled despite himself, even though he was only eight, because even though she made him crazy, even though the other boys made fun of him because she was always there, she’d been the only thing he’d had.

His father lived in silence.

His mother, over the years, had retreated into another corner of the same silence.

He was supposed to protect her.

He’d tried to protect her, until that night.

Until…

………..* a flash of light he couldn’t move oh god he couldn’t reach her he tried he tried he tried he couldn’t and then she rose up in the air no one can do that mommy her nightgown hanging floating backlit in the light the incredible light the searing light he hated light just shadows and darkness he sought shadows and darkness anything to fight the light and then the window opened but then the peace the incredible feeling of everything was okay she was safe she would be returned to him in time she would be okay oh god………..*

And although no one had ever accused him, no one had ever actually said they blamed him, he’d known.

He’d failed.

The silence had grown, had settled around him, an only child, the only one left, but his childhood had been taken away from him, and no one, not his parents, not his teachers, not his friends, had ever told him why, had ever told him he was forgiven.

“I even made my parents call me Mulder,” he’d told Scully when Tooms was up to his old tricks again.

Not true. A lie. His parents had just stopped calling him anything at all.

He lay his head in his hands.

Mulder felt their eyes on him, their question.

“A bit of a headache,” he said, because it was the first thing he could think of, and he felt Scully’s body against him, her hand brushing quickly against his forehead.

He drew up and looked at them.

“It’s okay. Really. Residual Krycekism.” He forced a smile.

He saw Skinner look at Scully and just missed the expression on her face. Whatever she’d done, it worked. The A.D. turned away from him.

The woman he’d seen had claimed to be Samantha.

Mulder had studied her face, her form. When she’d first vanished, she’d had no defining shape, no texture.

She was a child.

He’d been a child. At one time, he’d been a child too.

But this woman before him had had something that echoed his mother…

Mulder’s mind skittered away from memories of his mother.

She’d had something of her father.

Hadn’t she?

Mulder could hear threads of a conversation between Scully and Skinner, something about Krycek, about what the Cancerman had said, about Mulder himself. He felt Skinner’s eyes on him, sensed his concern like a slap against his chest, but most of all he felt her presence, her electricity.

Scully.

His hand convulsed and reached for hers under the table, clutching her thigh until her fingers landed on his, stilling them, grasping them, until his hand was quiet against her.

There was no escaping it.

She’d had his nose, his features, even his manner of speech.

Mulder’s eyes closed.

His nemesis, that Cancerman.

That black-lunged bastard was Samantha’s father.

That’s why he wanted her saved.

That’s why his own father had allowed her to be taken away.

She wasn’t his.

That was the real reason behind the silence in his house.

Maybe the cigarette man had orchestrated the whole thing himself.

Dear God — maybe his parents had known all along where she’d been taken.

Cancerman might have wanted to have something to say in the fate of his daughter. Maybe he’d even raised her.

But something had gone terribly wrong. He’d felt it in the silo, when he’d held him in a vice grip against the wall.

Cancerman lost track of her along the way.

Mom.

That bastard had loved his mother. And maybe, because of his mother, he’d tried to protect her husband’s son. Her son.

Mulder tried not to let his face show anything, but his hand gripped Scully’s and he knew she knew.

It was too bizarre, too depraved.

The same man who’d seen him take her against a silo wall had fucked his mother.

He’d made Samantha.

But he hadn’t made him. Mulder knew he hadn’t made him.

Whatever else the Cancerman was, he wasn’t his father.

But he was the father of his quest.

Oh, God.

For the first time in a long time, at least consciously, he was glad his father was dead.

-x-

THE PUPPET MASTERS (4/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback”

**** Rated “R” ****

Finally Mulder realized that the other two had stopped talking and were looking at him.

“Are you all right, Agent Mulder?”

“Sir?”

He glanced at Scully. She didn’t look as worried as the A.D. did, but that was because she could read him like a book.

When had that started to happen?

“I’m fine, sir.” He shrugged. “I just can’t think and talk at the same time.”

The older man blinked at Scully.

“You’ve certainly demonstrated that a number of times, Agent Mulder.”

“Samantha’s alive, sir.”

Skinner’s eyes settled on him again.

“I know you think so, Mulder. But what makes you think that man told you the truth?”

Mulder said nothing.

“I mean, what if he was just trying to get to you? To send you on another fool’s errand? Surely you’ve considered the possibility.”

He hadn’t.

It had never occurred to him.

But that was because he’d seen Cancerman’s reaction, the expression on his face. He believed she was alive.

And at this point, that was good enough for him.

“I have to find her.”

“I don’t think so, Agent Mulder. Not on Bureau time.”

The A.D.‘s eyes were cold, but there was a shadow of something else behind them.

“Then I’ll do it outside business hours. Or I’ll quit. Whatever it takes.”

“I won’t accept your resignation. I didn’t before and I won’t now.”

Mulder slammed a hand against the table; Scully jumped and the A.D. eyes turned wary.

“Dammit, sir. You can’t force me to stay. And you can’t stop me from looking for her. I have got to do this. And I’ll do it with or without your permission, with or without a badge.”

Skinner looked down and shook his head.

“Look, sir.” He reached across the table and lay a hand on the A.D.‘s own. The older man tensed and Mulder expected him to pull away.

He didn’t.

“I don’t really know what that man knows. I don’t know if he was telling me the truth, or whether he’s just a lunatic living out some paranoid fantasy. But I’m convinced that he believes it’s the truth. And on the off chance that what he says is actually true, that Samantha is out there, that she’s tied into all this in some way, and if all of it is as sinister as he would have us believe, then I have to pursue it.”

He paused.

“It’s the X-file to end all X-files, sir. It could solve hundreds of cases in one fell swoop.”

Skinner was silent for a moment as Mulder brought his hand back to his lap.

The A.D. raised his head.

“What about you, Agent Scully? What do you think? And I have to have an unbiased answer. You need to tell me now if you’re incapable of giving one.”

She glanced at both of them before staring at her hands.

“Nothing that I can think of, sir, nothing at all…” she looked up at him pointedly, “…would ever lead me to give you an assessment coloured by my personal feelings. My conclusions, whether they’ve suited your purpose or anyone else’s, have always been based on a rigorous adherence to scientific method.”

The A.D. nodded.

“And?”

“People are often unwilling to accept what’s at the heart of scientific method, sir, and that’s the obligation, the responsibility, to let go of comfortable theories if they don’t fit the facts. This also entails a willingness to consider unorthodox hypotheses when they’re the only ones that seem to work. And that’s always been Agent Mulder’s strength. In this case, sir, I have to remind you that I saw and heard what he saw and heard.”

She paused.

“Under the circumstances, I have to agree with him. Regardless of what the truth may turn out to be, there’s no doubt in my mind that this man absolutely believed he was telling the truth. He believes in a hidden agenda. He believes it’s being implemented by a higher authority, the puppet masters, as Mulder calls them. He believes in colonization. He also obviously believes it’s happening right now. And as far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a shadow of a doubt that he thinks Samantha Mulder is still alive.”

Mulder gazed at her determined profile, amazed for the thousandth time at her effortless authority, her precise eloquence. She said so little otherwise.

At least to him.

Hadn’t they talked all the time at the beginning? Mulder remembered laughter and late-night conversations when they’d sit in her motel room and tell each other their lives, their fears, she lying in bed, he sitting on the floor with his head back against the mattress, a pattern they’d established on that very first case almost five years ago.

When had they stopped talking?

Scully used to laugh. Her face used to light up all the time. Now he barely ever saw her smile.

The abduction.

The abduction had changed her.

She’d come back closed, cautious somehow, her young FBI agent eagerness tempered. She was more efficient than ever, better at what she did, and she’d already been very good at it.

But the joy seemed to have gone out of it for her.

She’d closed herself from him, hiding her fears, her dreams, even, while at the same time they grew closer in a mysterious, non-verbal way he couldn’t define or entirely understand.

United by their loss.

It was his fault. He’d done it to her. He’d taken everything from her until she’d had nothing left except him. Just so he wouldn’t have to be alone. Just so he wouldn’t have to face each morning without her.

Wasn’t that what had really happened?

She should have left him then, right after she returned, turned her back on the madness of the X-files and gone back to her Quantico buddies.

He could hardly bear to dwell on what she’d given up, both professionally and personally, to stay with him in that basement.

And now they were lovers, and the fact that she seemed to want him took his breath away, but he wasn’t sure he understood it.

He wasn’t even sure it was good for her.

He closed his eyes.

He had to talk to Scully.

He had to get her to talk to him.

“Agent Mulder.”

His eyes snapped open. Jesus. He had to stop doing that. Skinner was starting at him with a strange expression.

“He’s just tired, sir.” It was Scully. “We both are.”

Skinner nodded.

“We’ll talk about this again tomorrow. Don’t do anything until I’ve had a chance to check up on some things.”

“We may not have much time, sir.” Mulder fought to keep the anxiety from his voice.

“One day more won’t make much of a difference, Agent Mulder. If you want my support on this one…”

He stood.

“…then don’t act behind my back. If you do, I’ll wash my hands of you.” He looked down at Scully for a moment. “Both of you. Is that clear?”

Mulder and Scully exchanged a look.

“Yes, sir.”

“Are you coming?”

“Agent Scully and I need to talk about this, sir, and we can’t discuss it at the office. Last time I looked, there were at least five bugs around the place.”

The A.D. nodded and tucked the report under his arm.

“I can’t wait to explain my way out of this one. It’s a good thing they already think you’re a crackpot, Mulder.”

Mulder smiled ruefully.

“One more thing.”

They looked at him.

“I’m not going to dwell on what’s obviously happened between you two. You know the regulations as well as I do.”

He felt Scully shift uncomfortably in her chair.

“Quite frankly, I’m not even sure I disapprove.”

Mulder’s eyes widened.

“Be discreet, for all our sakes. If word gets out, I won’t be able to help you. Understood?”

Mulder swallowed and nodded once.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t thank me yet. If I see any sign, any at all, that your work is suffering because of this…” he trailed off.

“We understand, sir.” Scully.

The A.D. turned without another word and wound his way through the crowd towards the door.

“That man is full of surprises.”

“Mulder…”

He took a deep breath.

“Scully, we have to talk.”

“I know.”

“I need to know how you feel.”

She looked up at him.

“You already know how I feel, Mulder. You just don’t trust it.”

He knew he looked stunned. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t believe it’s possible. You’re so embroiled in your own little unhappy universe that sometimes you don’t even see what’s going on in front of you.”

Still he said nothing.

“It’s strange, because you know everything about me. You know me better than anyone. You can anticipate my every move, what I’m about to say… unless it concerns you. Then you can’t read me at all.”

She paused.

“They broke something in you. And now you’re incapable of accepting that anyone could love you,”

His heart was pounding. Why was his heart pounding?

“You think you don’t deserve it. Even though you’re just a poor confused schlep, a talented schlep, mind you, trying to make his way through life, like the rest of us.”

His eyes began to fill with tears and he wiped at them angrily with the back of his hand.

“You haven’t done anything wrong, Mulder. Not to me, not to Samantha, not to anyone. In fact, you’ve saved dozens of lives. Your guilt has made you noble; it’s made you a tireless defender of the little guy. But now it’s time to see that your guilt isn’t helping you anymore. It’s blocking you, cutting you off from other people. From me.”

She lay a hand on his arm.

“I’m here, Mulder. That’s all. Don’t expect flowery speeches from me, or endless declarations of eternal love, because that’s not the way I am.”

She smiled.

“I’m afraid I’m not terribly romantic.”

He stared at her lips. He desperately wanted to touch them.

“But you shouldn’t be so surprised that I care for you. If you gave yourself the benefit of the doubt, you might even start to understand it. From my point of view, you’re incredibly brilliant, extremely funny, profound and sensitive to a fault, tormented, it’s true, but that goes with the territory, and anyway, it’s sexy. You’re kind to strangers and children, tall, dark and handsome, and now it turns out you’re a great lover. I mean…”

He waited, mesmerized.

“…what’s not to like?”

Mulder just looked at her.

“Then you factor in how we spend all our time together, how much we’ve shared over the years, heavy stuff, not the kind of crap you sit chitchatting about over a cup of tea, and it’s not surprising we’re drawn to each other.”

He finally opened his mouth. “You’re logical about everything, aren’t you?”

Scully graced him with a rare smile, the kind that showed her teeth.

“I yam what I yam, Mulder.”

They were quiet for a minute. He could feel the pulse of her through her hand on his arm.

“So,” she said at last. “Did you get a bed?”

Her question went straight to his groin.

“I’ve always had a bed, Scully. I just don’t use it much.”

“I brought a change of clothes, just in case.”

God. She always thought of everything. He could feel himself stirring already.

“My apartment sucks, Scully.”

“I like your apartment. It’s a lot like you: oddly impersonal and totally weird.”

“If you like that, you’re the one who’s weird.”

“How come you’ve never shown me your bedroom, Mulder?”

“It’s a non-event. I hardly ever go in there.”

She gave him a mischievous look.

“So maybe it’s time we put a little life into it.”

He shifted a little and let her see what this kind of talk was doing to him. She grinned.

“I certainly hope you didn’t dandy the place up on my account, Mulder.”

“Me?”

“No flowers, no champagne chilling?”

“Uh… I did change the sheets.”

“Good. Because I really hate mushy stuff.”

He laughed. “You’re the perfect woman, aren’t you?”

“I like to think so.”

“So you’re suggesting we go back to my place and fool around during office hours, Agent Scully?”

Scully suddenly looked serious. “You’re right, Mulder. It’s not a habit we should get into.”

“What habit, Scully?” He did not want her to back out now. “This is brand new. The novelty’ll wear off soon enough.”

Her eyes glittered. “You’re probably right. Actually, I think I’m beginning to feel a little bored already.”

He smiled and leaned towards her until their lips were almost touching.

“I don’t believe you,” he breathed.

She shivered.

“In fact, I bet you’re sitting in a pool of your own liquids as we speak.”

“Mulder…” she murmured, leaning her forehead against his.

He chuckled, brushing his lips against her cheek. Her breath was silk against his ear.

He drew back reluctantly and arranged the front of his pants. “You’ll have to walk in front of me, Scully, or they’ll never let me in here again.”

She rose and looked down at him. “I don’t know. I kinda like it.”

“You’re biased.”

“Mmmm. Can we get there in five minutes? Otherwise you’d better have money for a cab.”

-x-

THE PUPPET MASTERS (5/7) NC-17

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback”

*** WARNING ***: Rated NC-17 for explicit M/S sexual descriptions.

It was already dark when they came up for air.

Mulder slid out of bed and padded naked down the hall, picking up bits of Scully’s clothes as he went.

He smiled. Her things were scattered like a trail of breadcrumbs. He folded them carefully and placed them on his sofa.

His suit. He should at least hang up his suit. Finally, he located his jacket and pants, stared at them for a moment, and threw them over the back of a chair.

Mulder yawned. The streetlight was streaming in through the cracks his blind. He wandered over to his living room window and raised the blind a few inches.

He picked up the roll of tape that lay on the table next to his computer, ripped a piece off with his teeth and stuck it against the pane on the lower right.

Then he did it again.

X.

His bedroom was a desolate sight, just a futon, a large one, a dresser and one chair up near the window. It looked a little like a prison cell, except for the size of the bed.

But as he leaned against the door frame, he found that he actually liked the room for the first time in years.

For one thing, it smelled alive, musky with the odour of sex and sweat, the rich sea scent of semen and juice.

For another, he could see her sprawled across the futon, utterly relaxed in sleep, her hair mussed, glinting in the light from the street. She lay as though he were still next to her, her arms curled around the indentation in the sheet where he’d been lying a few moments earlier.

Scully stirred, as if she realized he’d gone, as if she knew she was being watched.

“You already looked for bugs, Mulder,” she murmured sleepily. “Come back to bed.”

He lowered himself onto the futon and pulled her into his arms, wrapping his body around hers and burying his nose in her hair.

Even her hair smelled like him.

“Aren’t you hungry?” His voice was muffled against her.

She snuggled tighter. “Yeah. I just assumed you wouldn’t have any food.”

He propped himself up on an elbow and looked at her as she muttered and reached for him.

“I’ll have you know I can offer you a fine selection of microwave frozen dinners.”

“How fabulous.” She nuzzled against his chest.

“I also have iced tea, one beer, and a bottle of ketchup.”

“A veritable cornucopia of culinary wonders.”

“You mock me, madam.”

“I knew we should’ve stolen some of those meal shakes from Modell’s fridge.”

“Those things can kill you, Scully.”

“Maybe. But you’d die healthy.”

He sniggered and pushed her down to the bed with one hand on her shoulder.

She brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes and looked at him.

“I must say you’re remarkably energetic for an old man, Mulder.”

He growled and lowered his mouth to a nipple, squeezing it gently, rhythmically, between his teeth.

She moaned and clasped his head.

He looked up at her. “Must have something to do with madam’s apparent insatiability.”

“Shut up and keep doing what you were doing.”

“What’s the magic word?”

“You bastard.”

He smiled and drew his fingers down her belly.

“That’s two words.”

“Jerk.”

“Very true, but that’s not it.”

He ran a finger along the line of her pubic hair. She shivered and arched her hips.

“Mulder!”

“That’s my name, Scully. I’m touched you think it’s magical.”

He made an “o” with his thumb and middle finger and began softly, lazily, flicking her clitoris.

“Oh, God…”

“Gee. Now I’m really flattered.”

“Mulder, please…”

He smiled and rolled over between her legs, sliding his arms under her knees to part them further. Her eyes were closed and she bit her lip. He lowered his mouth to her as his hands claimed her breasts.

His tongue danced and he watched, spellbound, as she writhed under his hands and mouth, her moans filling the room.

He could get used to this.

Scully saw the x on the window the following morning.

“Mulder.”

She was standing at the threshold of the livingroom in one of his shirts. It went down past her knees and Mulder thought he’d never seen anything sexier in his life.

But she wasn’t smiling.

She pointed at the window and fixed him with blazing eyes.

“What’s that?”

He’d poked his head out of the bathroom as he wiped the last bits of shaving cream off his face.

“You know what it is, Scully.”

“You heard what Skinner said. What the hell is wrong with you?”

He shrugged and stepped out into the hallway. Suddenly he wished he was wearing something, because the look she gave him shrivelled his balls.

“Skinner doesn’t know the extent of my communication with X.”

“He’s vowed to kill you. He almost killed you last time.”

“I pissed him off, Scully. But for some reason, I don’t think he’s ready to kill me. Not yet, anyway.”

“Why not?” Her arms were crossed over her chest.

“I don’t know.” He rubbed his wet hair vigorously. “To be honest, I don’t even know how I know. And anyway, it’s fairly unlikely the tape on the window will work this time.”

She exhaled sharply and stared at the floor.

“I don’t know if Cancerman’s right, Scully. All I know is that the last few encounters I’ve had with X have raised a lot of questions. He’s become ominous, somehow. Before, he felt like he might’ve been on my side, even though he always acted like a bastard. There’s an edge to him now.”

She looked up. “What do you mean?”

Mulder shrugged. “I dunno. It’s as if the plan’s speeded up and he’s fallen behind. There was something desperate about him the last time I saw him, like he wanted me to do something, to play a role of some kind. I never gave him a chance to tell me what it was.”

She studied him coolly.

“Maybe it’s all happening faster than he anticipated, Scully. I just want to see if he’ll come to me. And if he does, I want to hear what he has to say. I want to ask him about the puppet masters.”

“What if he shows up just to shoot you?”

“You know and I know that he could’ve killed me already. I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who’d wait around politely for an invitation.”

She lowered her arms and glanced at the clock on the VCR.

“I have to take a shower.” She sighed. “And I’m starving, Mulder. But this conversation is far from over.”

“I’ve got cereal.”

“Whatever. Just pour it in a bowl for me, will you?”

“Anything you say.”

She smiled fleetingly. “Milk?”

“No problem.”

“I made some coffee while you were in there.”

“Great.”

As she walked towards the bathroom, she reached up to pat his face with her hand.

“You’re a nice boy.”

He smiled down at her.

“Thank you, m’am.”

“That’s why I’d like to see you survive until the weekend.

“I know. I promise I won’t do anything without you.”

“Cross your heart?”

“Yeah. But I can’t say hope to die, Scully, because I don’t. Not these days.”

He kissed the top of her head quickly.

She shook her head and walked into the bathroom.

“Next time we’re staying at my place,” she said as the door clicked shut behind her.

-x-

THE PUPPET MASTERS (6a/7)

by M Partous email:

(You’ve gotten quiet. Is this still working? I mean, at this point, I’m hooked anyway, but still…)

**** Rated “R” for violence and profanity ****

It was 8:20. They sat shoulder to shoulder in a taxi as it weaved its way through traffic towards downtown DC.

“You think anyone’s bugged the cab, Scully?”

“I’m sorry. I’d love to answer the question, but I’m still reeling from the fact that you’re willing to spring for a ride all the way to work.”

“You really think I’m cheap, don’t you?”

She shrugged and looked out the window.

“Not cheap, exactly. Just… parsimonious.”

“Don’t try to blind me with big words, Scully. I know just as many as you do.”

“Yeah, but most of the ones you know are positions.”

He leaned over her.

“You weren’t such a smartass last night. In fact, as I recall you weren’t exactly exhibiting a… how shall I put it? A rigorous adherence to scientific method.”

She smiled at him. “That’s where you’re wrong, Mulder. What I demonstrated last night was the basis of the scientific method, which as I explained earlier is the ability to put aside rigid hypotheses for the sake of a bizarre theory that fits the facts.”

“I’m to surmise from all this that the bizarre theory you’re describing is me?”

“I didn’t actually say it.”

“Meanwhile, I don’t remember hearing any complaints at the time about my rigid hypothesis.”

She actually tittered.

“There was nothing particularly theoretical about your hypothesis last night, Mulder.”

He stretched dramatically and casually dropped his arm around her shoulder.

“Mulder. This isn’t a movie theatre.”

“All the world’s a stage, Scully. Don’t you read anything besides medical journals?”

She chuckled and leaned against him.

He sat and relished her warmth for a moment.

“Scully.”

“What.”

“We never talked about what happened at the silo.”

He felt her tense, and then relax.

“What’s there to talk about?”

“What I did.”

She moved against him.

“I think what you did isn’t nearly as fascinating as what I did, Mulder.”

He brushed his lips against her hair.

“What you did was phenomenal.”

“Exactly.”

His eyes squeezed shut as he pressed her against him.

“How can you forgive me?”

“That’s precisely your problem, Mulder. You’re always looking for forgiveness.”

It was his turn to tense.

She pulled away from him and caught his hand as he drew it from her shoulder.

She held it in her lap.

“There’s nothing to forgive. I accepted you. It’s true the circumstances weren’t ideal, but quite frankly, Krycek was dripping slime and crawling around in his own refuse at that point, so it was hard to feel particularly bashful in front of him.”

Mulder shook his head and looked at her. She was unbelievable.

“Anyway, he instigated it, Mulder.”

“He didn’t entirely instigate it.”

“Fine. Whatever. I still prefer to believe you would’ve taken me out to dinner first if it hadn’t been for him.”

She looked at him before moving her mouth to his ear.

“And I also choose to believe you’d never rape me,” she murmured.

His breath caught in his throat. He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“What about Cancerman?”

She snorted. “Give me a break. It’s probably the most exciting thing he’s seen in years. Anyway, I don’t think anything can shock that guy.”

“Did you give any thought to what he meant when he said they were waiting for us to do this? To get together like this?”

She looked at him gravely. “I’ve thought about it a lot. And I don’t think I like any of the possibilities I keep coming up with.”

He nodded. “It’s like way creepy.”

She smiled. “Way.”

Mulder suddenly stuck his jaw out and gave her a defiant look.

“Fuck the bastards, Scully.”

He bit her palm, his eyes still locked with hers.

“I want this anyway. I want you.” It was barely a whisper against her wrist.

She said nothing.

He continued to mouth the words against her wrist, her palm, her fingers.

She closed her eyes.

“Excuse me. I hate to interrupt such a touching moment, but the lovebirds have landed.”

Mulder stared at the cab driver, who was leaning over the seat, grinning.

“You’re a funny guy.”

“Yeah, well, driving people like you around kinda makes ya cynical in a fuzzy kinda way. Oh, and let the lady pay, buddy. From what I understand, you’re parsimonious.”

“You think that guy was legit, Mulder?” She said as they collected their things after the security check.

He looked over at her. “Jeez, Scully. You’re getting more paranoid than I am.”

“I’ve learned from the best.”

“I think he’s a cab driver. Period. As important as we are,” he continued as he helped her on with her jacket, “even I wouldn’t infer that everybody in DC is out to get us.”

The security guard was looking at them. Mulder nodded at him, clipped his badge to a lapel and put a hand on the small of Scully’s back.

“Let’s go.”

She turned her head to look behind them.

“What?”

“Nothing. You’re paranoia’s catching.”

“How can you possibly catch a disease you’re already dying from, Mulder?”

“Let’s just go downstairs.”

As they approached the corridor near the A.D.‘s office, Mulder suddenly stopped in his tracks.

“Shit.”

“What is it now?”

“Gimme the car keys, Scully. I left some files in the trunk.”

She fished through her purse and pulled them out.

“Back in a flash.”

“You’re gonna let me walk by Skinner’s office alone?”

He turned back, grinned and waved.

“I know you can handle it, Scully.”

She sighed and kept walking.

His footsteps echoed through the garage as he peered through the half light in search of their Taurus.

Jesus. Everyone who worked here had a fucking Taurus.

Finally he recognized the dregs of burger wrappings against the back seat, a couple of plastic cups.

He reached into his pocket for the key.

The blow to his back happened so fast that he slammed against the side of the car before he knew what had happened.

By the time it sank in, his gun was gone.

He put his hands in the air instinctively just as he realized he couldn’t breath, and he turned slowly.

A familiar dark face loomed in front of him.

X.

“What is it with you and underground parking,” Mulder gasped, keeping his hands up.

“You have a lot of nerve, Agent Mulder.”

Scully.

His mind reached out to her blindly.

The other man’s fist connected with his chest. Mulder folded, his breath whistling, fingers of agony racing along his ribs into his lungs. He pulled himself up as fast as he’d gone down, and swung.

Scully…

The other man ducked him easily. His hand wrapped itself around Mulder’s chin as he shoved him brutally back against the car.

“Foiled by the element of surprise…” Mulder wheezed.

“How dare you try to summon me, you little shit?”

The man’s hand tightened around his throat, causing a rainbow of colours to explode against his eyelids.

“You’re a crazy man, Mulder. A crazy, very dead man.”

His fingers wrapped around Mulder’s nose and twisted.

Mulder heard the snap of bone seconds before blinding pain shot up his sinuses. He saw only blackness for a moment before he registered something warm running down his face.

He tasted it, metallic against his lips.

Blood.

Mulder’s lips parted as it slowly dawned on him he still couldn’t breathe.

“I…” His gasp bubbled through blood.

Mulder watched as the man’s red hand pulled away from his face. He felt him wipe it against his shirt, felt as it rubbed against his nipple. He moaned. Jesus.

“…need to talk.” He wasn’t sure how the words got out.

Scully… please.

X slapped his nose.

He screamed and clutched his face.

The other man grabbed his hands away and slapped his nose again. Mulder felt bile rise to his throat and retched.

X shoved his head to the side and held it. Mulder continued to heave as he tried desperately to see.

The informant had always been edgy, but this time it looked like he’d finally snapped.

Mulder really was a dead man.

This was it.

The bastard had him.

Scully was right. He’d been waiting for an excuse to kill him.

And Mulder had invited him in.

He could feel the man’s palm against his face, pressing, and then a sensation around his testicles that felt at first like pleasure.

Then distress.

Then appalling, mindnumbing pain.

The son of a bitch had his balls in a grip. Through a kaleidoscope of flashing lights, he felt a hand lift him up by his crotch against the body of the car.

He wanted to vomit, to pass out, to die.

“How’s that, Mulder? Does that feel good?”

He moaned.

Oh God. Scully.

“Please…”

“Are you begging, Agent Mulder?”

The grip tightened and Mulder could see nothing at all, could just feel nausea move through his belly as the pain rolled through his body.

“I said, are you begging me, Mulder?”

“Let him go.”

Through the whiteness Mulder heard an unmistakable voice, a high, husky voice.

He gasped.

Scully.

He felt the hands tighten around him as X swung around, his palm against his face, his other hand still gripping his groin. Mulder moved with him helplessly, clutched against the other man’s body.

He couldn’t see her. He could only feel the other man’s hand against the mass of pain that had once been his nose, teasing it, sending shards of excruciating agony through his head.

“Don’t get involved, Agent Scully.”

“Let him go or I’ll shoot.”

“Through his body?” Mulder cried out as he felt the other man lift him like a rag doll.

Humiliation stung his eyes.

He felt degraded, helpless, lost.

“If I have to.”

Consciousness blurred.

“I swear it. I’ll kill you, you bastard.”

Mulder felt the man’s laughter rumble in his chest.

“Kill me? I’m dead already. So is he. So are you.”

He laughed again, and this time, even through the sheer red curtain of his pain, Mulder could hear the insanity ring.

“It’s too late. Too late for all of us.”

The death grip on his groin eased and he slid down, then moaned as the man propped him against his stomach by his face. Through a haze he heard the sound of a gun being pulled from a holster, then the click of a safety.

He knew X was pointing his gun at Scully, but he couldn’t move.

The pain was all there was, and he slowly collapsed against the other man’s body until he lay, doubled over, at his feet.

“Don’t you see, Scully? We’re all dead. He wants to find the puppet masters? Believe me — they’ll find him. They’ve already found both of you. And now they’re on their way.”

Mulder barely registered a kick to his ribs, although he coughed and felt a spray of blood leave his lips.

As his consciousness slipped away, he heard a shot in the darkness.

No.

Scully…

-x-

THE PUPPET MASTERS (6b/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback”

*

The first thing he saw was a cold round sterile light. He’d seen it many times, and he recognized it.

Hospital.

He turned his head as fingers of pain shot down his neck. He was breathing through bandages.

The second thing he saw was Scully.

Scully.

He breathed.

He was breathing through his mouth. His lips were dry and tight.

She sat next to him, her eyes dark.

Slowly he realized that the solid warmth he felt in his hand was her own.

His lips cracked as they spread in a smile.

“Guess I’m still not dead.”

She bowed her head for a moment before she shook it, her hair stirring. Her hand tightened around his.

“What happened?” He said it this time.

“I killed him.”

Mulder looked at her.

“It’s okay. Skinner took one look at you… But we still don’t know who he was.”

He waited.

“He was nuts, Mulder.”

“Interesting choice of words,” he said with a weak smile.

Her eyes closed for a moment.

“Meanwhile, are mine okay?” He wanted to know. He felt nothing through the haze of painkillers.

“Fine,” she murmured. “You’re fine. A few bruises. No permanent damage. Two broken ribs. Your nose, on the other hand…”

“Yeah?”

“It looks like you’ll finally have the classical profile you’ve always wanted.”

“How do you mean?”

“He broke it so badly that you had to undergo reconstructive surgery just so you’d be able to breathe through it again.”

“I got a nose job, Scully?”

She smiled at him. “I told them to make it beautiful.”

“Jesus. Just tell me I won’t look like Michael Jackson.”

“No. I gave them a photograph of you and told them to match it.”

“That’s beautiful?”

She squeezed his hand.

“It is to me. I told you, Mulder — I think you have a great nose.”

He groaned.

“My big chance, Scully.”

“Don’t worry. I’m sure they weren’t able to match it perfectly.”

He turned his head and gazed at her.

“You had a picture of me?”

“Mulder…”

He laughed, even though it hurt.

When they removed the bandages, all he could see was a mass of blue and black.

“Christ, Scully. I look like a professional boxer.”

“It’s the swelling. It’ll go down.”

“And then what?”

“Then we’ll see.”

He leaned back against the bed.

“When can I leave?”

“They’re releasing you later today.”

He stared at his hands. His balls still felt tender, compromised, empty somehow.

“They still hurt, Scully.”

She knew what he meant.

“They’ll heal. Don’t worry.”

“But I…”

She smiled and shook her head. “You’ll have to wait.”

His eyes pleaded with her.

“Not long. You’re still very much a man, Mulder.”

He relaxed against the headboard.

“I don’t particularly feel like one, Scully.”

He meant it on more than one level, and she knew it.

“I’d love to prove it to you, Mulder,” she said, patting his arm, “but it would only hurt you right now. No fooling around. Doctor’s orders.”

“That’s a tall order when you’re in the vicinity.”

She lay a finger against her lips.

Right. Shhh.

Is that what they had to look forward to? No word on the subject in public places for the rest of their lives?

He wasn’t sure he could bear it.

Although God only knew that the rest of their lives might not be very long at all.

“Scully.”

She met his eyes.

“How did you know? How did you end up in the garage in the nick of time?”

Scully looked at him as she reached for her purse. He opened his mouth and stopped as she shook her head.

She fumbled around and finally pulled out a notepad and a pen.

“Just a coincidence, Mulder. A lucky one, as it turned out.” As she spoke, she scribbled hurriedly.

“Really? Wow. What are the odds.”

“Yeah. I know. I was looking for a sweater. You know, the beige one? I thought maybe I’d left it in the car.”

He looked at what she’d written.

**I heard you calling out to me.**

“Why in God’s name would you need a sweater in the middle of this heat, Scully?”

He took the pen from her.

**How?**

He handed the pad back to her.

**I just heard your voice in my head.**

“They crank the air conditioning, Mulder. You know that.”

“Poor baby.”

**I did call out to you. In my head. Many times.**

“Oh, right. You’re too big a man to even shiver, aren’t you?”

**It was like physical pain, Mulder. I felt sick. I could even see parts of it as it happened.**

“I’m a country boy, Scully. I’m used to cold.”

**See it how?**

“You think you’re tough, don’t you?”

**I could see X. I saw him break your nose.**

He gaped at her.

**You saw that?**

“Actually, no, Scully. Not these days.”

**It’s like we’re linked somehow.**

“Take my word for it, Mulder. You’ll be dating again before you know it.”

**I didn’t feel you, Scully. I didn’t see or hear you.**

“You know my only passion is my work, Scully.”

**Maybe I’m linked to you.**

“Yeah, right. That doesn’t explain your video library.”

He lay the notebook on his lap and looked at her for a long moment.

“You know there’s no one else but you, Scully.”

He said it aloud and meant it.

Mulder didn’t need a piece of paper to read what her eyes were saying.

What now?

He just kept looking at her.

They’re coming.

And he knew by the expression on her face that she’d heard him.

-x-

THE PUPPET MASTERS (7a/7)

by M Partous email:

They’d lost four days because of his little sojourn in the hospital, but Mulder couldn’t help thinking it made no difference anyway.

Whoever the puppet masters were, wherever they were, and however they were coming, they weren’t about to show up in a busy downtown DC hospital.

Mulder knew, as he packed up the things Scully had brought him, that leaving the hospital was the best way to call them.

He could feel them coming; the air crackled with it.

The time had come.

Samantha.

He knew, somehow, that he was finally going to see Samantha.

His sister.

The real one.

But the thing that grabbed at his throat, his heart, was the guilty feeling that he didn’t care about it nearly as much as he once did.

She’d been his quest, his only obsession, for more than 20 years.

Because she’d been all he had.

And now, he thought as he gazed at his discoloured face in the mirror, that was no longer true.

He had other obsessions now.

Mulder knew he wasn’t exactly the most courageous guy on the planet, and that under the circumstances it was ironic, even revealing, how often he put himself in situations to get the crap beat out of him.

But today, for the sake of these other obsessions, it was time he put his need for punishment aside and become a man.

He remembered his Bar Mitzvah, which he’d undergone for his parents’ sake, his parents who seemed even more embarrassed by the whole thing than he was.

In actual fact, if left to his own devices, he would’ve found nothing embarrassing about it.

There was something beautiful about the idea of a rite of passage into manhood. He’d kind of liked it. He’d liked the idea that his circumcised cock stood for something in the end, that he himself stood for something ancient, primal, enigmatic, some ancient pact to appease a wrathful God.

Less than a year after the disappearance of his sister, he’d needed all the help he could get.

He’d studied for it and delivered his lines flawlessly, with feeling, even, because he’d understood what he recited, the grandness of it, the freedom of it, so that even the Rabbi had come up to him in the rain of candies afterwards and grasped his shoulder, shaking him, repeating “mazel tov, Fox; today you are a man,” and meaning it.

He’d liked the order and ritual of his ancestral religion, despite the fact that his parents, though unwilling to turn away from it altogether, had also tacitly taught him it was archaic, unacceptable, mortifying in a contemporary American setting.

So he’d turned to Jung, in the end, because Jung had taught him that spirituality lived inside the self, that the universe was filled with constants that didn’t immediately meet the eye.

Archetypes. His world was built around them. They were what had given him a freedom he’d only dreamt of as a teenager.

They were what had opened his mind to the vast range of possibilities he saw as prosaic today, but which most people considered outrageous, flakey, futile.

They were what gave him his particular edge as an investigator.

They’d also shown him that faith was the key, regardless of where he might decide to place it.

Mulder believed anything was possible. Anything at all.

And now he had two obsessions. The truth. And Scully.

Little Irish Catholic Scully, with her gold cross around her neck, the cross he’d worn against his own skin during her interminable absence.

He liked the order and ritual of Scully, her precise adherence to meaning in the face of chaos.

Even the importance of the truth faded in comparison.

And he’d wanted for so long to lose himself in her, it was the only place he wanted to be, dammit, and now it seemed she’d wanted it too, and when all was said and done, that was all that mattered.

Everything else was secondary.

Even Samantha.

“Take me to your place.”

Scully glanced at him as she wound her way through the rush hour traffic.

He lay his head back against the headrest and caught a glimpse of his misshapen nose in the rearview mirror.

“Please, Scully. Take me home.”

She adjusted the mirror and said nothing, but Mulder saw that she took the turnoff towards Maryland.

Her apartment was so cozy, so warm. It smelled like her. She shut the door behind them as he felt a surge of pain and pleasure through his groin.

She saw the strained expression on his face and didn’t mince words.

“Don’t even think about it, Mulder,” she whispered. “You’re still badly bruised.”

He nodded and limped to all the places where listening devices generally lay.

He explored the lamps, ripped off their backings, tipped over tables and pulled frames off the walls, his fingers probing. He could feel her eyes on him as he went through every object in the room, disappearing into shadows like a hungry ghost.

It took him half an hour to comb the whole apartment. By the time he got back to the kitchen, everything was back in place and she’d made a pot of tea.

“They don’t even care what we’re up to, Scully.”

“You didn’t find anything.”

He shook his head.

“Why am I not surprised?”

“I think what we talk about, what we know, is irrelevant to them, Scully. It’s us they want.”

“So we’re just going to sit here and wait for them. Is that it?”

“Yes.”

She looked at him. For a moment, he saw terror in her eyes, and then it was gone.

“Shouldn’t we try to get away?”

“They’d find us wherever we went.”

“And you think they’re coming tonight?”

“I know it.”

They sat together on her couch in silence. At one point she’d curled up next to him and wrapped her arms loosely around his neck, laying her head against his shoulder.

He’d pulled her close and said nothing.

They waited.

His senses were alive, filled with the smell of her, the feeling of her body against his. He could hear the clock tick in the kitchen, the slight hum of the lights, the rustle of their clothes as they shifted. Even his fingertips seemed to pulse with life, and he focused on his breath, the pulse of blood through his body, through hers.

Every object in the room seemed fraught with meaning, with a deeper significance.

They were part of a complex ritual, he could feel it. It was a rite they couldn’t see, but it was unfolding around them.

And it was getting closer.

“I’m scared, Mulder.” Her breath stirred his shirt.

His hand caressed her hair.

“Me too.”

And then there was a soft tapping at the door.

Mulder froze, gripping Scully to him. He looked down at her pale face and suddenly laughed.

She stared at him, wide-eyed.

“I never thought they’d knock first, Scully.”

He gently removed her arms from his neck and rose.

“Mulder.”

“Shhhh. It’s okay.”

He heard the sound of her gun. It was useless, but he knew she needed to have it.

The tapping came again, a little louder this time.

“God, Mulder.”

He limped to the door and swung it open.

She was standing there in the hall’s half light, looking altogether normal, completely ordinary, as though they’d said goodbye that very morning.

She smiled.

“Foss?”

He made a little sound as his eyes filled and the tears spilled over. This time, he didn’t try to stop them.

“It’s really you.”

“Yes. What happened to your nose?”

He pulled her to him and held her fiercely, his face against her neck as she wrapped her arms around his waist.

Then she drew away and he saw her smile at Scully.

“Agent Scully. I’ve heard so much about you.”

Scully just sat on the couch with her gun in her hand and an indescribable expression on her face.

He laughed and Scully looked at him incredulously.

It was too bizarre. He laughed again, but he wasn’t sure how sane it sounded.

“There isn’t much time.” Samantha looked at them both. “We have to go.”

“Go where?” Scully’s voice was tight.

“Just between us,” his sister said amiably, “sitting around waiting for them isn’t such a great idea.”

He chortled.

“Mulder, stop that.”

“He sent you, Sam. That…. Your father.”

She looked at him evenly.

“Believe it or not, Fox, he’s trying to help.”

He shrugged. “So where are we going?”

“Come on. I’ll explain on the way.”

-x-

THE PUPPET MASTERS (7b/7)

by M Partous email:

This is it for part two. The real horror, in case you didn’t read the preface to this one, is that it’s a trilogy. I’m afraid so. Sorry. Thanks for your ongoing support. Feel free to comment, criticize and advise; it can only help improve the inevitable.

*** Rated “R” for Violence ***

Mulder drove. His sister sat next to him to direct him, and Scully shifted uneasily in the back.

As they’d walked to the car, he’d looked over at Scully to see how far this link between them went.

He’d tried to concentrate as he touched her shoulder, and she looked up at him.

Do you trust this?

She looked down again for a moment.

Then she shook her head. Mulder felt his pulse speed up. My God. She could really hear him.

It had started after they’d had sex in the silo, hadn’t it?

Telepathy, but only in one direction. He broadcast, she received.

My God. That meant she knew everything about him.

And he knew next to nothing about her, comparatively.

How ironic that it should happen to her. He believed in it. He believed in all of it. So why did these kinds of experiences always seem to happen to her instead of him?

She was almost always the one who saw things, heard things, brushed up against the tangible unknown.

He believed. She didn’t.

He wasn’t remotely psychic. It turned out she was. Big time.

What kind of justice was that?

It had to have something to do with the implant. With the thing they’d stuck in her neck.

It had left a residual trace, had given her some kind of power.

And the most ironic thing of all was that he’d kill for that power and she’d probably do the same to have it taken away.

As he unlocked the back door for her, he thought grimly that he’d do almost anything to have access to her head.

The last thing anyone sane needed was access to his own.

As Mulder swung the car onto the highway, he stole glances at the woman next to him. The street lights strobed across her body, showing flashes of her in a way that seemed almost ominous.

His mind turned away from the thought. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was Samantha. His sister. The one and only. The original, in the flesh.

She would never do anything to hurt him.

Mulder cleared his throat.

“Your father said we had to find you, but it would appear he didn’t need to worry. You found us.”

She said nothing, and he could feel Scully tense up behind him.

“I’m just wondering why he didn’t seem to know where you were.”

“Don’t you trust me, Fox?”

He shrugged. “Well, you know. You never call, you never write. Judging by how easily you tracked me down and the fact that you showed up at Scully’s door without so much as an escort, it seems to me you might’ve contacted me before.”

He fought the faint stirrings of resentment in the pit of his stomach.

“I mean, I’ve been kind of worried about you for, oh, say, about 23 years.”

“I couldn’t contact you before. Now I can.”

“What about the clones, Samantha? Do you know anything about them?”

She looked at him. “We’re in danger, Fox. All of us. The first thing to do is to get to safety. Then we’ll talk.”

“You said you’d explain it on the way.” Scully’s tone was curt.

“I’ve come to help you as best I can. Why won’t you believe that?”

Scully lay her hands against Mulder’s headrest and peered at his sister.

“A guy we knew told me just before he died that we should trust no one. It’s nothing personal.”

She leaned back warily.

“As it happens,” Scully continued, “he was double-crossed by the puppet masters, I assume, shot in cold blood and left to die on a rainy stretch of road. I figured he knew what he was talking about.”

“They’re ruthless, Agent Scully. They know what they want and they’ll do anything to get it.”

“What do they want, Sam?” He glanced at her quickly.

“And how do you know so much about them?”

Mulder frowned and focused his mind on the back seat. Don’t push, Scully. She’s still my sister.

Scully was silent.

“You wanted the truth, Fox. Well, you’re in for a treat. But you know the old saying: be careful what you wish for — you just might get it.”

“Is that a threat, Ms. Mulder?”

“Call me Samantha. Please.”

“Is it?”

His sister sighed and closed her eyes.

“I guess I can’t blame either of you for being cautious.”

“No.” Scully’s voice rose. “After all, how many times does your brother have to see women who look and sound exactly like you get snuffed before he finds one that isn’t a Xerox?”

He sucked in his lip. Scully, don’t. He couldn’t quite block his anger, and she flinched.

“Where are we going, Sam?”

“To a place where there are others like me.”

“What does that mean?”

“Others who were abducted and never returned.”

“Alive?”

“Yes. Most abductees are eventually found near the place where they were taken. Not all, but most of them. You know that, Fox.” She turned a fraction and looked into the back seat. “You too, Agent Scully.”

“So I’m told.”

Mulder heard the edge of sarcasm in her voice and was appalled by a sudden urge to stop the car and slug her.

Jesus, you asshole. Get a grip.

She was mistrustful, rightly so.

She was just doing her job and he was letting his personal feelings get in the way. As usual.

“Scully was abducted too, Sam. She was gone for three months.”

“I know, Fox.” Her voice was soft.

“Know anything else about it?”

Her voice was sharp and this time Mulder exploded.

“Dammit, Scully, shut up!”

A stunned silence greeted his outburst. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. His hands tightened on the steering wheel.

He took a deep breath and threw a look in the rearview mirror.

“You’re right. Scully’s right, Sam. There are too many unanswered questions.”

“You’ll get the answers you’re looking for. Both of you.”

“May I speak, Mulder?”

He winced. That tone could chill a six-pack in 30 seconds flat.

“Of course. Of course you can, Scully.”

“I’m just curious about why you can’t give us answers right now… “she paused for a split second, “uh, Samantha.”

“I’m not…”

“Authorized?”

Mulder’s shoulders knotted.

“Programmed? Willing?”

“Scully…” He said it through clenched teeth.

“No. I’m not the one with the answers.”

“Who has the answers?”

“Soon. You’ll know soon, Agent Scully.”

She insisted. “Why can’t we know now?”

A blaze of lucidity suddenly burned through Mulder’s growing fury.

The thing was, she was right.

It was true that Scully was being a bitch. But she was often a bitch. It was one of the things he actually found exciting about her.

As long as she was doing it to someone other than himself, preferably a man, preferably a man with delusions of grandeur.

As long as she wasn’t doing it to his sister.

It was also true that Samantha was being the complete opposite: gentle, understanding, conciliatory.

But the words. The words were the important thing.

Samantha’s words didn’t ring true. If she was there to help them, her unwillingness to explain what was going on didn’t make any sense.

And Scully’s words were trying to cut through that, to expose it.

He knew it.

But he couldn’t deal with it right now.

Not with his sister.

Not when he’d just found her again.

“That’s enough.” Both women turned to look at him.

“You sound like Daddy, Fox.”

He glared at her and just managed to close his mouth before he said “whose?”

But Scully heard him. He could feel her eyes on him. Jesus.

It was starting to give him the heebiejeebies.

No. No no no. So she could read his mind. But he could invade her just as thoroughly in other ways, claim her, make her his, and he was willing to bet it was a lot more fun than his innermost thoughts could ever be.

He loved her. They’d find a way to deal with this thing, whatever it was.

He looked at her for a moment as she flickered like an old movie in the light from the street.

Hear that? I love you, Scully. There. He’d said it, hadn’t he? Not out loud, but it was a start. Anyway, she’d never said it to him.

As a finger of streetlight touched her lips, he saw her smile.

“We’ll talk about this later,” he said. “Now both of you — behave.”

We’re already committed to this, Scully. Drop it. For now.

He heard a rustle as she disappeared into the backseat shadows.

Samantha told him to stop the car near an abandoned factory a few miles outside Annapolis.

Mulder was sick to death of abandoned factories.

“You know, I think if we ransacked all the old factories across the country, we’d expose every conspiracy in America. I mean, think about it, Scully. With enough agents, we could do it in a weekend.”

She chuckled. Samantha just looked at him.

“You really think so?”

“Mulder always makes jokes when he’s nervous.”

“I know. I remember. He used to do it when we were kids. But I was too young to get them in those days.”

“Looks like you still have the same problem,” Scully muttered under her breath.

Mulder smiled sweetly. “Did your father raise you?”

She nodded. “More or less. When he was around.”

“Certainly explains the lack of humour.”

“Scully,” he murmured dangerously.

“Who took care of you when he wasn’t there?”

She shrugged. “Other people.”

Mulder felt his stomach lurch.

There was something wrong here. She was inaccessible, somehow; flat. Almost as if she’d been…

“Programmed?” He jumped as Scully’s voice came close to his ear. Jesus, he wished she wouldn’t do that.

He could barely bring himself to think about it.

The bottom line was, he had no idea what his sister would look like if she were alive.

It was true that this woman looked like a combination of his mother and the chainsmoker. Probably many people did.

But the real problem was, he felt it in his gut.

His gut told him this was Samantha.

What made him feel almost nauseated was that he believed his gut was telling him the truth.

And in that case, there was something very wrong with his sister.

They followed Samantha towards the dark looming shell of the main building. His groin muscles sang and his ribs were starting to ache.

“Your gun, Mulder.”

He nodded and took it out.

Samantha turned. “You won’t need those. You’re among friends.”

“I guess I’m just shy,” Scully said coolly.

Mulder shook his head. She was never this flippant. What the hell had got into her?

They stopped at the entrance, just as Samantha slid open the door and stepped inside.

He put a restraining hand on Scully’s shoulder and she looked up in surprise.

“Uh, no. I don’t think I want to go in there, Sam.”

She looked at him.

“Come on, Fox. It’s me!” For the first time, she actually seemed animated.

“I know. But I’m still not ready to go in there. Scully’s right. We don’t know what’s going on here.”

“I’m trying to help you, dammit! At one point, you have to trust someone. I did, and that’s the only thing that saved me.”

“Who?”

“Come and you’ll find out.”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Agent Scully, you’ve got to make him understand… you could both be dead in a matter of hours.”

“But I agree with him.”

“Fools!” she hissed. Mulder stared at her, feeling his pulse race in his throat, and thanked God he was too numb to feel much of anything at all.

She tossed her head contemptuously. “Frankly, I don’t understand how you’ve managed to survive this long.”

“I think maybe we’ll leave now,” he said.

There was the unmistakable sound of a rifle bolt being pulled back.

Judging by the loudness of it, Mulder calculated that the business end of the gun was about one foot away from the back of his head.

Scully almost turned, but he wrapped his hand around her neck and kept her looking forward.

“Drop your weapons.” A deep voice, male. He didn’t recognize it.

Scully’s gun landed with a clatter moments before his own hit the asphalt.

He wondered tiredly why people always managed to sneak up on him like that.

Samantha stood and looked at them. Her eyes glittered, iron cold.

“I’m sorry, Fox.”

She didn’t particularly look like she meant it.

“I guess you’re father wasn’t our friend after all.”

“What I said was true. He’s trying to help.”

She rapped briskly on the metal door of the building.

“But I, on the other hand, am not.”

Mulder looked up as a shadow yawned through the doorway. A few precise steps later, he was staring at the elegant man from Central Park.

The British gent with the perfect nails and immaculate hair.

“Well, Agent Mulder. Agent Scully.” He nodded politely at his partner.

“How unfortunate that you wouldn’t cooperate. I hate to use force; it’s so vulgar somehow.”

Mulder smiled thinly. “Been awhile. How the hell are ya, anyway?”

“I’m fine. Unlike you.”

Mulder nodded.

“You’ve been brought here because you’re needed. Both of you. Your sister assured us she could get your full collaboration.”

He said nothing.

“She has a soft spot for you, Agent Mulder. Quite frankly, it’s the only thing that’s kept you alive.”

Mulder refused to look at Samantha.

“You wanted to meet the puppet masters, as you so picturesquely call them.”

“Yeah. But I’m a little disappointed. It’s pretty much what I expected and you know how much I love a surprise.”

“Well, as it happens, we’re mere employees, in a manner of speaking. Actually, there’s only one puppet master.”

“Who is he?”

“You mean she, Agent Mulder. And you’ve already met her.”

Mulder’s stomach flipped over as he heard Scully inhale sharply.

Samantha.

She smiled at him before covering the few steps that separated them. She stooped over and picked up his gun, weighing it thoughtfully in her palm.

“You’ve embarrassed me in front of these gentlemen, Fox. I told them you were a good boy and now they think I’m a liar.”

She shifted the gun from hand to hand.

“I need your help. But you’ve never been very good at helping me, have you?”

He stared at the gun, paralyzed. Heat climbed up the back of his neck.

Oh God. Not this. Anything but this. He’d go completely insane if she did this.

“I mean, I was only eight, but you just sat there cowering, didn’t you?”

She gazed at him.

“You let them take me, Fox.”

“Stop. You know that’s not true. Don’t do this to him.”

Scully.

Samantha studied her with the same analytical, oddly kind expression Mulder had seen on her father in the silo.

Then with lightening speed she slapped her. Hard.

He heard her cry out.

Mulder lunged and felt his arms pinned suddenly behind him. He looked desperately at Scully. As she looked up at him, her hand against her cheek, Mulder bit his lip.

The look of her face had nothing to do with her own pain and everything to do with his.

Jesus. What was she hearing? What was he saying?

Samantha’s eyes drifted back to his face.

“Would you hit me, Foss? Your own baby sister?”

She was mocking him. She was making fun of him.

Not this. Not her. Not now.

He felt something bend inside his mind.

The quick brown fox quick brownfoxbrownfoxfoxfox…

“Take them inside.”

END

COMING SOON… PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION

–-

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION

by M Partous email:

DEDICATION: For Shalimar, Pat, Connie and Gerry.

“Colonization” is part 3 of a trilogy which includes “Shadow Puppets” (part 1) and “The Puppet Masters” (part 2). It’s not strictly necessary to read the first two parts, although both help to define what happens next.

I’ve also written a short thing about the writing techniques and themes I’ve been exploring in the Puppet series because some people asked me about it; I don’t want to post it or send it out on the list because it’s a big drag for those who just want to read the story, but other fanfic writers or those interested in the creative process might find it interesting. If so, drop me a line and I’ll send it along.

A summary of “Shadow Puppets” can be found in the Gossamer archive (in the Unprocessed section, at this point) at the beginning of “Puppet Masters.”

For those who want it, here’s a summary of events in “Puppet Masters” (disclaimer follows):

After their return from the missile site, Mulder and Scully meet with AD Skinner and give him a bogus report on the trumped-up case Mulder uses to get out to the site in the first place.

Skinner immediately recognizes the change in the agent’s relationship and warns them to be discreet. While it’s clear he doesn’t entirely disapprove, he stresses that he won’t be able to do a thing if the truth comes out.

Over lunch, Scully tells him the details of the real case while Mulder tries to work out what actually happened out there.

Mulder concludes that Cancerman is in fact Samantha’s father, which would explain why he’s so anxious to find her. He also deduces that something’s gone terribly wrong, and that CM has somehow lost track of her.

Mulder tells Skinner that Samantha’s alive and that he has to find her. The AD is skeptical. He explains that CM has fallen out of favour for following his own agenda, one that no one really understands. He forbids Mulder to take any action behind his back. Mulder grudgingly agrees, but points out that CM made it clear time is of the essence.

During the night, Mulder tapes an “X” on his window, which Scully discovers the next morning. She’s irate, but Mulder explains that while he doesn’t expect the informant to actually show up in light of their last encounter, he needs to try to find out what X knows, particularly since he doesn’t know where else to turn for information.

Later, as Mulder looks for the car in the FBI Headquarters parking garage, he’s assaulted by a very disturbed X who’s incensed that Mulder would have the nerve to try contacting him. He beats Mulder badly, breaking his nose and compromising his manhood before Scully arrives at the nick of time. X is clearly insane and terrified, babbling that the puppet masters are coming and that it’s already too late, that the three of them are as good as dead. As Mulder loses consciousness, he hears a shot.

Mulder wakes up in the hospital to discover Scully by his side. His nose has been broken so badly that it had to be reconstructed, his ribs are broken and his testicles have been severely bruised. X is dead, killed by Scully; no one knows who he was. Meanwhile, fearful that they’re being bugged, they exchange notes to discuss the situation and it emerges that Scully heard Mulder cry out to him and even saw X break his nose. Mulder “tells” her that he can’t hear or see anything from her at all, so it would seem the link is unidirectional.

After his release from hospital, M&S head back to Scully’s apartment to wait. Mulder feels the approach of the puppet masters and believes their arrival to be imminent. There’s a knock at the door, which Mulder finds hysterical — “I never thought they’d knock, Scully.” He opens the door to find Samantha standing there, a fact she confirms by calling him “Foss,” a baby-name only Samantha knew.

Mulder is overjoyed but Scully remains wary as Samantha explains that waiting around for the puppet masters “isn’t a great idea.” She insists all their lives are in danger and that she can take them to safety.

In the car, Scully badgers Samantha incessantly for information. Samantha continues to say that they’ll get all the answers they want once they arrive. Scully’s attitude angers Mulder because his gut tells him this is definitely his sister, but he concedes that Scully’s right; there’s something very strange about the whole situation.

They wind up at yet another abandoned factory site, but as Samantha tries to lead them inside, Mulder resists, saying that he doesn’t feel right about it. Samantha loses her cool, calling them fools and sneering that she can’t understand how they’ve managed to stay alive so long. At that moment Mulder hears the sound of a rifle behind his head. He tells her drily that Cancerman obviously wasn’t their friend after all.

“I told you the truth,” she says. “He’s trying to help. I, on the other hand, am not.”

The Well-Manicured Man emerges from the building, stating that they were brought here because their help is needed. He goes on to talk about the puppet masters, explaining that he’s just an employee and that in fact there’s only one puppet master: Samantha.

His sister begins to torment him by bringing up the fact that he didn’t save her all those years ago, intimating that everything she’s now doing is his fault. Scully knows that this is hitting too close to Mulder’s greatest, darkest terror and she tries to come to his defense, but Samantha slaps her. It’s too much for Mulder, and he feels his hold on reality beginning to slip as Samantha orders that they be taken inside.

DISCLAIMER: All main characters are the property of Chris Carter and Fox. They have been lovingly borrowed, with no money-making intent, just because it’s summertime and the living is easy. Thanks due to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson for making our heros as irresistible as they are.

–-

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (1/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback”

*** Rated “R” for Profanity ***

Quickbrownfoxquickbrownfoxquick…

The words roiled through Mulder’s mind as he tried to cling to some semblance of sanity.

Samantha.

He wanted to hum aloud, just to drown it all out.

His body felt febrile, loose, his own footsteps reverberating through him and pounding through his head as he walked down what looked like a corridor, its walls dank and luminescent.

Scully was right ahead of him, her shoulders square, determined, and he wanted so badly to grab her, to pull her to him, just so she could tell him it was okay, that he wasn’t going to lose his mind over this, that he was a grownup and he’d dealt with all of it already.

But he’d never expected this.

Not in his wildest, most twisted nightmares.

Samantha alive? Yes. He’d never stopped believing it.

Samantha used and abused by scientists, government, maybe even aliens? Absolutely. No surprise there.

Samantha fathered by Cancerman, who’d raised her as his own child? Great, no problem; it was bizarre but he could deal with it.

Samantha irrevocably changed by the events of her life, broken by them, damaged, even destroyed? Okay. Okay, he’d come to expect that, even though he’d tried not to think about it.

But this.

Samantha as some kind of mastermind in a conspiracy that ran through all levels of international government?

Samantha, his own sister, running the show somehow, the spider at the heart of the web, the Big Blue Meanie, his final nemesis?

It was appalling.

Worse. It was tacky.

He’d never dreamt that there’d be one person at the root of it all; it was too absurd, too paranoid, too … Star Wars, goddammit.

That was it. George Lucas was hiding around here somehow, waiting to jump out and scream boo at him.

That’s it. Humour. Humour’s the key, here, Mulder old man. Think about it. It’s some kind of great epic movie where everyone’s an archetype.

And I’m fucking wide-eyed Luke Skywalker, interstellar rebel and would-be saviour of the galaxy.

Son of a motherfucking son of a bitch.

Well, daughter of a motherfucking son of a bitch, actually.

But at least he was laughing, a little madly, perhaps, and he was relieved to see that his lips weren’t moving and he wasn’t cackling out loud.

Good. A good sign.

Scully. What did she think of all this? Could she read what was going on in his head?

He dearly hoped not.

With a deep breath, he felt sanity settle around him softly. Laughter. The best medicine.

And maybe all this wasn’t what it seemed to be. Life was too elegant, too subtle. It would never stoop so low.

Maybe Samantha and the Central Park guy were crazier than he was.

That had to be it.

It made perfect sense.

They’d gone off the deep end. They were loopy as a loon, a few sandwiches shy of a picnic, two violins short of a full orchestra.

They were the lunatics. Not him.

And as sorry as that made him, for his sister’s sake, he felt profoundly relieved.

The real world clicked down firmly. He was back. He was okay.

Except he suddenly realized he had a hard-on, inexplicably and inappropriately under the circumstances, and it hurt like hell.

What the fuck was wrong with him?

Was he getting off on this madness?

Insanity. It runs in the family, right? He stifled a giggle as Scully turned her head back quickly.

Her eyes glittered in the muted light and he caught his breath as he saw them.

Christ. Scully.

She was there and her eyes seemed glazed with worry for him.

I’m okay. I think. Scully.

She nodded almost imperceptibly and murmured: “Hold on.”

“Quiet, please.” The man with the perfect nails said it cordially enough, but there was no mistaking the undercurrent of menace in his tone.

Mulder felt his erection subside and the pain ease.

Guess the old man just wasn’t his type.

He grinned in the darkness.

They were led to two small rooms, side by side, separated, Mulder saw, by a wire grill down the middle.

Samantha turned and looked at him.

“We’ll talk later, Fox. For the time being, I’m splitting you up,” she glanced at Scully with a little smile, “because I don’t want Agent Scully here to fuck your brains out all night when we have so much work to do.”

He squirmed.

“Although,” she continued thoughtfully, “from what I understand, you’re not a whole lot of good in that department either these days.”

God, this wasn’t going to be easy. She really knew how to get to him.

Mulder felt sudden tears threaten but he blocked them, reaching for anger instead. It wasn’t hard to find.

No more crying, Mulder. No more.

“Jealous, Sam? When was the last time you got some?”

He felt a blow to his kidneys and folded over, his ribs singing with pain.

“Please…” Scully. Poor old Scully. What could she do?

“Leave him alone.” Samantha sounded irritated. “I’m not that thin-skinned. Just put her in there.”

A man he still couldn’t see passed in front of him and seized Scully roughly, pushing her into the room. He stood shakily as the door shut behind her.

“She can read your mind, can’t she?” Samantha studied him.

He gazed at her. “That’s ridiculous. There’s no such thing.”

“I know she can, Fox. I can feel it.”

He shrugged.

“I’ll tell you my name and badge number, if it helps.”

She laughed out loud. She was still holding his gun and she pointed it at him.

“You’d be making a grave error in judgement if you thought I wouldn’t kill you in a second.”

“You’re a big girl now. Do what you want.”

“I plan to. And you’re going to help me.”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

“Believe me, Fox. You will. In a way, you already have.”

The big man he couldn’t see shoved him through the other door and he turned as it clicked shut behind him.

He looked over at Scully. She stood there, on the other side of the partition, her hand against the grill.

He limped over to her and laid his hand against hers through the metal.

Her eyes searched his face.

“You okay?”

“Yeah. You?”

She nodded. “I don’t think she likes me very much.”

“Judging by the company she keeps, she doesn’t have a whole lot of taste.”

“You really think she’s your sister, don’t you?”

“I know it. Don’t ask me how, Scully, but I do.”

“It just doesn’t seem possible.”

“Believe me. I wish it wasn’t.”

He folded his fingers around hers as best he could.

“You know, the funny thing is,” he murmured softly, “all I really want to do right now is stick my tongue in your mouth.”

She smiled and lowered her head, shaking it in disbelief.

“You’re something else, Mulder.”

“I’m beginning to think so.”

He leaned his body gingerly against the grill. She touched his chest, her fingers lingering on his shirt buttons, brushing them one by one through the wire mesh.

He closed his eyes as he concentrated on the reassuring feel of her fingers against him.

“I don’t know about you, Scully, but I think this is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“I’d have to agree.”

“And we’ve had a fairly illustrious career, weird-wise.”

“Yes, we have.”

“Do you think they’re insane?”

“I don’t know.”

“Because if they aren’t, Scully, that means we have to be.”

“Not necessarily.”

He looked at her.

“I mean,” she said, “maybe they’re just being silly.”

“What?”

“Maybe the big conspiracies we’re always looking for are just the backyard games of misguided individuals who believe in them.”

He drew back.

“What are you saying, Scully?”

Her eyes were serious. “Sometimes I get the feeling we’re all feeding each other. That they believe in their conspiracy because we do, and vice versa.”

“So you’re saying this is all one big circle jerk?”

“I’m just saying it might be.”

“And that nothing’s really at stake here?”

“It’s just that it all feels so ridiculous.”

Ridiculous. That was the perfect word for it.

He’d read a novel with this very premise, “Foucault’s Pendulum,” Umberto Ecco, he thought it was, where all the characters ran around creating conspiracies because they believed they already existed.

But in that book, the main character wound up dying because other people believed in these conspiracies even more than he did.

And they’d killed him for what they thought he knew.

But he’d known nothing. Nothing at all.

“I read it too. Even at the time, it gave me chills.” Scully shifted and looked down at her feet. “It seemed to hit… close to home, somehow.”

Mulder nodded.

“But we don’t know that, Scully. We don’t know what’s going on here at all.”

“At this point, Mulder,” she said, “I’m actually hoping that something is going on. Otherwise, I’m going to be embarrassed as hell.” She smiled.

He touched her body through the grill.

“All I know is I wish you were in here with me.”

“Well, at least we can talk.”

“I’m assuming that’s because they want us to, Scully.”

They were silent for a moment as Scully slowly walked around her cell, examining it, checking the lock on the door. The lights were intense, brutal even. There was a toilet and a cot, an incongruously comfortable-looking one.

Mulder’s heart thumped dully as he watched her. He tried not to think about it, not to frighten her, but he was afraid.

Afraid they’d use her as leverage to make him do something.

But what?

“What do they want from us, Scully?”

She looked at him and shrugged. “I haven’t the faintest idea.”

“I mean, what can we possibly have to offer? They’re making it sound like we’re vitally important somehow.”

She shrugged again. It was obvious she wanted to change the subject, for some reason. “Let’s imagine for a second that we survive this ordeal and get away somehow, and that there really isn’t a conspiracy, there never was, only a handful of people playing with each others’ heads. What would you do?”

It was suddenly clear to him that she did have an idea, but that she didn’t want to discuss it.

Why?

More than anything right now, he wished he could get inside her head.

“Well,” he said lightly, “if we could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were no extraterrestrials, no government coverups, no international cartel trading in devastating secrets, I’d probably quit the Bureau, marry you and get a real job.”

She stared at him. “What did you say right at the end?”

“Get a real job.”

“Before that.”

“Quit the Bureau.”

She laughed. It was a lovely sound to hear.

“But don’t worry, Scully.” He smiled. “I don’t believe we’ll be able to prove any of it.”

The lights went out suddenly with a resounding clang and they were left standing in absolute darkness.

–-

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (2a/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback”

*** Rated “R” for language and scatological references ****

They’d lain down in the end, both of them on their own narrow cots, because there didn’t seem to be much point in standing around in the dark.

The cot really was outrageously comfortable, as cots went. It was thickly padded, the sheets clean and soft, the blanket warm.

Mulder wasn’t sure, but he could swear the pillow was stuffed with real down.

Bizarre.

“They obviously want us to get our beauty sleep,” he’d muttered.

Scully had said nothing. Knowing her, she’d popped off as soon as she’d hit the mattress. Lord, that woman could sleep anywhere.

Mulder badly needed to take a crap.

He’d eyed the toilet warily earlier; open-air toilets were his greatest and most secret phobia.

Mulder had very shy bowels.

He knew he’d have next to no problem taking a leak in front of Scully, but this…

This didn’t even bear close examination.

He’d never be able to do it. He’d die first, clogged up by his own shit.

He could hear the dialogue between Scully and Skinner now.

“It’s a terrible tragedy, Agent Scully. How did he go?”

“That’s precisely the problem, sir. He didn’t.”

“What on earth do you mean, Agent Scully?”

“Constipation, sir. He never stood a chance…”

“My God. What senseless waste.”

“Exactly, sir. He was… sob… carried off by senseless waste.”

Mulder snorted. Christ. On the bright side, he bet he’d finally get a new nickname.

The night seemed endless as he tossed around, wrestling with his colon, the pain in his ribs, his nose, which had started itching furiously a few hours before. His balls, on the other hand, were starting to feel a lot better; he could actually lie on his stomach without screaming.

See, Mulder? The news ain’t all bad.

It was hard not to feel like a complete, pathetic dweeb.

He folded his arms over the pillow and lay his cheek down. The room still looked as dark as it had when the lights had first gone out.

Samantha.

The thought rose unbidden in his mind.

His eyes squeezed shut.

Don’t think about it. Don’t dwell on it.

His little sister. The only person who’d loved him, truly loved him for himself.

Don’t…

He shook his head and almost cried out as his nose came in contact with a forearm.

His eyes began to burn. Fuck.

He knew what this was. He knew the taste of it.

Self-pity.

But this time, he wouldn’t give in to it.

No more tears, remember, Mulder? Today you are a man.

His little sister had come back.

And now it seemed she wanted to hurt him. Badly.

Or maybe she didn’t, but she was clearly willing to do if she felt she had to.

She was being really, really mean.

She’d been the driving force in his life for so long that he’d barely noticed when she’d stopped being the only thing he lived for.

Other things had come up. Other interests. Other obsessions. Most of which, in one way or another, were weaved around Scully, their work together and what she’d come to mean to him.

He’d never stopped looking for Samantha. He’d just stopped looking for Samantha at the exclusion of everything else.

And now, maybe, this was his punishment.

Maybe if he’d found her earlier he could have saved her from all this. From what she’d apparently become.

Maybe she’d been driven to this because she’d stopped believing he’d come for her.

He’d failed her. Again.

Then he heard a soft sob coming from the other side of the grill.

God. Scully.

He sat up so fast that he winced as pain shot through his ribs and down into his groin.

He got up, swore as he bumped his shin on the metal leg of the cot and hobbled over to the partition, his arm reaching out blindly in front of him.

His fingers made contact with cold steel.

“Scully?” He leaned against the grill, straining to see.

He could hear her clearly now, could hear her quiet rain of sniffles.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

“Go back to bed.” Her voice was thick, congested.

“I won’t, so you may as well talk to me.”

There was silence as he heard her move in the cot, the blankets rustle, the sound of sheets against her clothes.

“You wouldn’t cry, Mulder, so I figured I should.”

Jesus.

The link.

She was crying for him. For his pain, his own private self- made hell.

“I’m sorry, Scully.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“Can you hear everything I’m thinking?”

She sniffed. “It’s not thoughts, exactly. Not words. Just… just the gist of it, the emotion, the meaning. It’s hard to explain.

He bet it was.

“You’ve got so much sadness in you, Mulder. I never knew how much.”

He rested his forehead on the grill.

“Scully…”

“Jesus. How can you live like this?”

He shrugged, even though he knew she couldn’t see him.

“You get used to it.”

I wouldn’t.”

She blew her nose.

“Although it looks like I may have to.”

He shook his head fervently. “No. Not that. We’ll find a way to stop this thing.”

“What makes you so sure I want it stopped,” she said softly.

“If you’re that much of a masochist, Scully, it’s time I bring out the handcuffs and blindfold.”

He heard her laugh shakily, quietly.

“I was wondering when you’d get around to them. A girl won’t wait around forever, Mulder.”

His breath caught. She was so unspeakably wonderful.

“Scully, I…”

“Don’t bother. I already know what you’re going to say.”

“Right.” He rocked a little on the balls of his feet. “You know, we’ll get a lot of looks in restaurants if you do all the talking for the rest of our lives.”

There was an unspoken promise there, one which hung between them for a moment or two.

“We’ll just tell people you’re my mute idiot cousin.”

He smirked. “I’ve had it up to here with relatives, thanks.”

“Anyway, the problem isn’t the link. Not really. I’m sure I’ll find a way to control it with time.” Her voice was serious, tearful. “The problem is how messed up your head is.”

“What kind of psychologist would I be if I couldn’t speak from experience, Scully?”

“But this… what you go through must be close to unendurable.”

“How do you know? You’re new in here. I’ve had years to learn how to live with it.”

She said nothing.

“You know, Scully, I’ll bet that if you suddenly had free access to anyone else’s head, even someone who seems completely normal at first glance, you’d be just as shocked as you are right now. I mean, ever think about what it must be like to live inside Skinner’s mind? That place must be a real battlefield, a horror movie. Look at the guy. You’d be swimming in Vietnam memories, feelings of guilt, loss, duty, appalling loneliness… I can’t even bear to think about it.”

“Go on.” She actually sounded interested.

“And I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that your mind isn’t a bed of roses either. Catholic remorse, the navy brat life, moving from place so you could never hold on to friends, the drive to succeed at all cost, the years alone, Pfaster, Melissa…”

“Mulder.”

“I’m sorry, Scully, but I’m trying to make a point. All of us have pain. We all carry it inside us all the time. Maybe some people repress it better than I do. But I actually choose not to repress it because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that repression is what eats away at your soul bit by bit, destroys your ability to feel, to grow. So in me, you’re seeing the mind of someone who really tries to confront these issues, even though it’s hard, even though it hurts. I know it’s not pretty, and maybe it’s true I do it too much sometimes, but I don’t particularly think it’s fundamentally unhealthy.”

He remembered to breathe.

“In fact, if you really want to know the truth, I don’t even think that, in the final analysis, I’m actually that fucked up.”

He stopped.

The funny thing was, he really thought everything he’d just said was true.

He’d just never thought of it that way before.

Scully was quiet and he began to wonder whether he’d pissed her off somehow.

It was so easy to piss her off, and half the time he didn’t know what he’d done.

“You know, Mulder,” she said, her voice thoughtful. “I think you’re absolutely right.”

“You do?”

She laughed. “Yes, I do. I think that’s an amazing analysis. I really do. And it actually makes me feel a lot better.”

“Well, thank you.” He felt insufferably pleased with himself.

“But I shouldn’t be surprised. You’ve always been really good at analyzing psychos.”

“Oh, ha ha, Agent Scully.”

“You’re a big fool, Agent Mulder.”

“Which explains why you can almost follow what I say, Agent Scully.”

“Fuck you, Agent Mulder.”

“Anytime, Agent Scully.”

God, how he loved this woman, the way she could be serious one moment, irreverent the next. He couldn’t think of anyone else who’d be able to fool around like this under these conditions.

“You’re the most courageous person I’ve ever known, you know that, Scully?”

“Hmm. It’s really too bad you can’t read my mind.”

He squinted in her direction.

“Why?”

“Because if you could, you’d feel very, very happy right now.”

He groaned. “Can’t you just tell me?”

“Nope.” He heard her lie back against the sheets.

“Scully!”

“I can’t hear you because I’m asleep.”

He shook the grill in mock anger but his chest felt suddenly light.

Maybe he didn’t need to read her mind after all.

“Good night, Scully.”

She started making patently fake snoring noises.

He grinned, shook his head and limped back to his cot.

–-

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (2b/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback”

**** Rated “R” for scatological references ****

Mulder awoke with a start. The lights had been turned back on. His bowels ached dully, but at least the urge had died down.

He shifted his body gingerly. Ribs still hurt, but not as much. He touched his groin gently under the blanket. A piss hard- on, no surprise there, but his balls felt fine. He slipped his hand into his pants and cupped them, weighing them in his palm. Full and heavy, even.

He smiled. Rarin’ to go, Mulder: attaboy.

He probed his nose. The swelling had diminished substantially, and he rubbed at it gently. Fine. Just itchy and tender.

The body. What a machine.

He swung his legs over the side of the cot. Still stiff, but that was okay. He felt better than he had in days.

Samantha.

The memory of what had happened sank over his psyche like a wet blanket.

He shook his head.

Pee first, think later.

He threw a quick glance at Scully’s side; no movement at all.

He haunched over the toilet, unzipped and threw back his head as his stream filled the bowl noisily.

He prayed Scully was still asleep, because even though he could handle this, it was a fragile compromise.

Christ.

Why couldn’t he be a mensch already?

She’d grown up with two brothers and a father; she knew all about these things, right?

“You know, Mulder…”

He froze, shaking the last few drops and zipping himself up quickly.

“I think there’s nothing sexier than the ragged sound of a man’s first interminable morning pee.”

He turned his head back and saw her standing serenely behind the grill with a big smile on her face.

He flushed and blushed, roughly at the same time.

“I’m kind of shy about these things, Scully.”

“Don’t be. I’m perfectly serious when I say I find it sexy.”

“Well, I have a problem with it.”

She cocked her head. “What you’re saying is, it’ll be a cold day in hell before you sit on that thing in here, right?”

He blushed again and actually found himself shuffling his feet.

“For God’s sake, it’s just me, Mulder. You seem to have no problem discharging other bodily emissions in my presence.”

“This isn’t about you, Scully. Besides,” he thrust his head up vaguely, “other people may be watching.”

“Well, it’s not good for you. I’ve gone twice already this morning.”

He stared at her. “What do you want from me, Scully? A goddamn medal?”

“You’ll have to go eventually, you know.”

“Eventually, I will,” he said tersely, “so please just drop the subject, okay?”

She shrugged.

“Everyone does it, Mulder.”

“Fine. Let ‘em watch each other. Now leave me alone.”

She was looking at him and he met her eyes cautiously. They were dancing with laughter and affection.

And… something infinitely more profound than affection.

No question about it.

He smiled tentatively at her.

“Your nose looks a lot better.”

He touched it absently. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“How does it look?”

“Well, it’s still bruised, but there’s a definite shape emerging.”

“What kind of shape?”

“Rather aquiline, actually.”

“Jesus. Like yours?”

“Bigger.”

“Are you saying I look like a goy, Scully?”

She studied his nose gravely. “What can I tell you? I gave them a picture. Maybe the temptation to give you a perfect WASP shnoz was too great.”

“Oy. It’s a good thing my parents won’t see it.”

“I miss your old nose, Mulder.”

“Don’t start with me, Scully.”

The door to Mulder’s cell rattled and then opened.

He turned and stared, dumbfounded, at what stood in the entrance, holding a serious-looking rifle in line with his head.

As humans went, it was small, fairly slight.

As aliens went, it was huge.

It was dressed in casual clothes — jeans, sweatshirt, Nikes.

Its hands looked human, except for the fact that the fingers were long, tapering towards what looked like pads of flesh.

Its head was sparsely covered in blond wispy hair that struggled to frame a disproportionately large, very round head.

Its features were altogether human.

Except for the eyes.

The eyes were solid black slanted ovals. And huge.

“Mr. Mulder?” it said in a shockingly normal voice. The accent was midwestern American.

“Your sister would like to see you now.”

–-

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (3/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work For Reeses Peanut Butter Pieces”

Sorry. Will work for feedback. That’s it. Please. Call 911… The puppets are eating my brain.

*

Mulder stared for a moment. The being before him gazed back. Its eyes were impossible to read, but it looked like a nice enough guy.

He looked over at Scully. She was gaping at their guest, but otherwise he saw nothing but a kind of scientific absorption on her face.

“Mr. Mulder?” Its tone was polite, even respectful.

“Yeah. Uh…” Mulder rasped a hand over his stubble. “Can Agent Scully come?”

“I’m sorry. Your sister specifically requested your presence alone.” It turned to Scully with a shy smile. “But breakfast is on its way.”

It was utterly disarming.

Scully glanced at Mulder.

He felt the acrid taste of panic in the back of his throat.

“It’s just that I have a hard time cooperating without her,” he said pointedly.

The creature looked at him.

“Don’t worry, sir. She’ll be fine. She’s your mate — we wouldn’t dream of harming her.”

A rush of excitement rose through him, despite himself.

His mate.

He looked at her and almost laughed out loud when he saw the look of disgust on her face.

“Mate?” She sneered her way through the word. “What is this, the Klingon home world?”

Mulder actually guffawed.

“Ah,” said the creature amiably. “I see you know Star Trek.”

“Only the unborn and a few of the dead don’t know Star Trek, buddy,” Mulder said. “At least on this planet. I don’t know about the rest of the Federation.”

Oh, God. This was absolutely unbelievable.

The being nodded, thoughtful. “Well, it’s an interesting show, but from what I understand, it’s a rather optimistic vision of life in space.”

“Figures.”

“I’m sorry, sir?”

“Nothing.”

The creature started as if it had just remembered something and aimed the rifle at Mulder again.

“You have to go now.”

“Don’t I know it.”

This time, it was Scully who guffawed.

As their footsteps echoed down the corridor, Mulder realized that their humour was completely lost on the poor young thing.

The fact that they had become jaded enough to find anything funny about this whole situation was another matter altogether.

Scully had called it ridiculous. It still felt that way.

Mulder was lost among the corridors. There was something vaguely alien about the design of the place; corners seemed to flow into each other a little too seamlessly, and the indirect lighting felt inexplicable as it dodged his eye.

His new friend walked companionably beside him, his rifle down. Mulder was impressed; you don’t fool around with anyone who obviously feels there’s nothing remotely threatening about you.

“What’s your name, if you don’t mind my asking?”

The creature smiled at him. “Not at all. Harold. Harold Spalding.”

“Harold.”

They kept walking as Mulder’s mind tried to wrap itself around that one.

“So. What part of the galaxy are you from, Harold?”

It glanced at him. “Actually, I was born in Boise, but I was raised outside Oklahoma City.”

“I see.”

“I know what you’re saying, Mr. Mulder. You’re commenting on my appearance.”

He shrugged. “Adopted?”

“Not exactly.”

“Abducted?”

Harold smiled ruefully and shook his head. “My mother was.”

“Ah.”

Out of the blue, a cold shiver ran down his spine.

Scully.

Mother of God.

Had they tried to impregnate Scully?

Did that explain the vision he’d had of her bloated, helpless, laid out on a slab?

Had they succeeded?

How long did it take to incubate an alien?

He stopped walking and pressed his fist against the wall.

“Mr. Mulder?”

He ran a hand against his eyes, his foreign nose.

“Um, Harold. Mind if I call you Harold?”

“Not at all, sir.”

Mulder turned to it. It looked genuinely concerned.

“Any idea how long your mother was pregnant?”

The young man stared at him.

“I know what you’re thinking, sir.”

“Do you?” A wave of fatigue rolled over him.

“Yes, sir.”

“How long, Harold?”

It shifted uncomfortably. “There’s no doubt, sir, that as a result of the natural incompatibility of the species, some genetic manipulation is required in order to expedite the procedure.”

“How long, Harold?”

“I’m not really at liberty to speak about it, sir.”

“How long?” Mulder leaned towards the frail-looking creature, his hand resting lightly on the barrel of the rifle as it lay against its thigh.

It froze and stared into his eyes, its own black ovals unreadable, yet liquid, tender, fragile.

Pleading.

Filled with a breathtaking compassion.

Mulder trembled. It knew. It could read him as clearly as Scully could.

He saw the pain in its eyes, the desperation, the unspeakable loss.

It mirrored his own.

The creature lowered its head.

“About three months, sir.”

Scully.

Mulder didn’t know how far the link reached, but he did everything in his power to blot this out, to keep it from her.

Start spreading the news…

Songs. Bits of rhyme. Muffin recipes. Anything.

I’m leaving today.

He hummed inside his mind, blindly, anxiously, his eyes shut as he slowly leaned against the wall.

I wanna be a part of it…

No.

New York, New York…

Scully. Not this.

I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps…

Jesus. Not this.

If I can make it there…

It was okay. Everything would be a-okay.

I’ll make it anywhere…

He moaned.

And then he felt a hand against his arm.

A tentative hand. It squeezed his shoulder, lightly.

“Mr. Mulder.”

“It’s up to you…”

“Mr. Mulder. Please.”

New York, New York!

“Don’t do this.”

He grimaced as he pressed his hot face against the coolness of the wall.

“Please. Don’t. Mr. Mulder?”

“Scully.” He felt his breath, ragged, against his lips against the wall.

“Mr. Mulder.”

He opened his eyes and gazed at the thing before him, its earnest expression, its sweet, open face, its unfathomable eyes.

“She saved us.”

Something inside him screamed.

“She… and others like her. They were our last hope.”

His eyes were wild.

“Shhhh.” He laid a finger against his lips. “Shhh. Shh. She can hear me. Don’t let her hear this.”

Mulder could feel the pads of its fingers against his shoulder, kneading, soothing.

“The quick brown fox, Harold…” He explained reasonably. He felt the ripple of madness behind his eyes.

“Yes, sir.” It nodded, staring at him. “The brown fox.”

“Do, a deer, a female deer…”

“Sir?”

“Re, a pocket full of sun.”

“What are you…”

“Mi, a name I call myself, Fa, a long long way to run.”

“Mr. Mulder.”

“So, a needle pulling thread.”

“Sir, it’s okay. She can’t hear you.”

Mulder stopped abruptly.

“Believe me, Mr. Mulder. I know.”

He looked at it.

His heart thudded dully against his chest as he slowly realized he’d gripped the other by its narrow shoulders.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. It’s typical.” Its eyes were grave. “A link is formed, sometimes, with a loved one. But it can’t reach across any kind of distance. Sir.”

Harold. Its name was Harold.

“She heard me once from our office, a long way away.”

Harold looked at him, his black eyes wide.

“That can happen. If you were in great physical pain, great need.”

Mulder leaned back against the wall, loosening his hold on the other’s shoulders.

“What do you mean?”

“This is too abstract for her to get a clear reading. She can tell you’re distressed, but I promise you she doesn’t know why.”

“How do you know?”

“I’ve been through it, sir.”

Mulder was silent.

He gazed at the creature. Harold.

He was pretty sure he couldn’t say the same for his sister, but he knew that this creature before him, this being, had a purity the likes of which he’d never seen.

It radiated through his eyes, his body, the concern in his uniform dark eyes.

“My distress will make her suffer, Harold.”

It nodded. “She’s suffering anyway because you’re not with her and she doesn’t know what’s happening to you. The price of love, sir.”

Jesus.

That was true, wasn’t it?

That’s what he’d done to her every time he’d fucked off without telling her where he was going.

He’d made her suffer.

She’d loved him already. She’d loved him since the very beginning.

The price of love.

How much had they made her pay?

Mulder looked intently at the slight young man. It gazed back at him, waiting, patient.

Incredibly, Mulder realized he trusted it. Him.

He didn’t know why, or how.

For no reason that made any sense, he trusted this radiant being before him.

Mulder nodded, once.

“Okay.”

He ran a shaky hand through his hair.

Harold smiled. It was a beautiful smile, filled with the innocence of childhood.

Mulder felt oddly blessed by it.

“You have to see your sister now, sir.”

“Okay.”

Anger surge through his veins.

“She and I need to talk anyway.”

His sister.

He’d take it up with Samantha.

Mulder pushed himself away from the wall. “Lead on, MacDuff. *Moritori te salutant.*”

Harold shook his head and laughed.

“‘We who are about to die salute you?’ I don’t think so, sir.”

“Where’d you learn Latin?”

“I know many languages, sir.”

Mulder smiled grimly.

“To each his battlefield, Harold. You don’t know my sister.”

*

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (4/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback”

*

Harold pointed left with his rifle; Mulder preceded him into a corridor that was wider and more brightly lit than the ones they’d just walked through.

He squinted as his stomach suddenly rumbled.

“I’m hungry, Harold.”

“You must be.”

“So does only Scully get to eat around here?”

The slight young man laughed and shook his head. “You’re a remarkable man, Mr. Mulder.”

“I’m not sure how that answers my question.”

“Someone’s bound to feed you eventually.”

“Great. Welcome to the monkey house, ladies and gents: feeding time’s in 15 minutes.”

Harold suddenly looked serious. “We’re almost there, sir.”

Mulder examined the little guy. “No laughing matter, huh?”

Harold shook his head quickly.

“You scared of her too, buddy?” Mulder’s tone was deceptively light.

The young man shrugged.

“Okay. I’ll pretend I’m meeting the President.” He stood up straight and furrowed his brow, frowning. “How’s this?”

A helpless chortle. “Honestly, sir. Be careful. Your sister’s very efficient, but she’s not known for her sense of humour.”

“I’d already gathered that. Scully’s right; it’s all the fault of that chain-smoking bastard.”

As it happened, Mulder didn’t much feel like laughing either. Making inappropriate jokes in tense situations was a nervous tick he’d had since childhood. It was a shame, because over the years it had made him waste a lot of great one-liners on unappreciative audiences, including himself.

Now that he thought about it, Scully was the only one who’d ever found any of them remotely amusing.

Well, he’d managed to coax a giggle out of Harold, which wasn’t bad at all; maybe he could make it big on the standup scene in Alpha Centauri.

They’d stopped walking. Mulder glanced at Harold, who looked even more nervous than he felt himself.

Judging by the morale around the place, the employee benefit package couldn’t be anything to write home about.

“Harold?”

The young man swallowed and pointed to the door in front of them.

“In there.”

Mulder waited, shifting a little.

“Okay. So, like, take me to your leader, dude.”

Harold smiled ruefully and reached a slim hand towards the handle.

Mulder was feeling cocky. Somewhere, he just couldn’t bring himself to believe his own sister would do anything to hurt him.

Unfortunately, he also suspected it was a dangerous assumption.

They entered a cavernous room draped in sprawling shadows pierced here and there with diffuse beams of yellow light from large round lamps suspended from what had to be at least a 40- foot ceiling. Pipes and conduits ran along the walls before disappearing into the obscurity overhead.

Mulder couldn’t tell where the room began and where it ended; it seemed to stretch out endlessly in all directions, probably a trick of the shadows.

Vague hulking objects were scattered around the floor — consols, large units, all of them vaguely familiar and totally incomprehensible. He could hear electronic humming, faint clicks and whirls, all the accoutrements of a lab busily engaged in its own mysterious pursuits. Pinpoints of light flashed here and there, and judging by how muddy they looked to him, they were probably red and green.

It felt like a factory. A very modern factory, but a factory nonetheless.

He could see no living thing move amid the technology.

Harold cleared his throat.

“This way.” He began weaving his way through the consols and what looked like large refrigerators, leaving Mulder to trail along behind him.

Funny how the little half alien didn’t seem at all worried that he’d try to escape.

Probably because he knew Mulder had been after the truth for so long that he would’ve fought tooth and nail if they’d grabbed him and dragged him to the door.

Probably because he knew Mulder would never leave without Scully.

Which was certainly why they’d left her in the cell.

Leverage.

He followed, peering at test tubes, elaborate chemical installations which actually bubbled like something out of a ’50s movie. He tried to read the precise lettering and numbers on the flasks, but the characters were illegible to him, like an alien language.

Klingon? He almost smiled; then his eyes widened.

No. Navajo.

That was it. He’d seen it at the Reservation, written in dust and sand on the rocks around him when he’d awakened after the ritual that had saved his life.

The same language which had been used phonetically on the DAT tape he’d found and lost.

The one they’d concluded had all the answers. The one with Scully’s name on it.

Scully had recognized the language at the time, saying it was used as a code during WWII because it was the only one the Japanese couldn’t break.

But as codes went, surely it had no useful function now. Any rookie codebuster would be able to decipher it in one sitting these days.

So what was the connection? How were the Navajo, or at least their language, tied into all this?

Mulder shook his head.

Wait a minute.

He squinted at the vials and reached automatically for his glasses in his breast pocket. Christ. When would he learn to carry the damn things with him?

Navajo.

Or Anasazi?

Albert Hosteen, the Navajo elder who’d helped him in New Mexico, had talked about the area’s earlier inhabitants. He’d insisted at the time that the tribe had been abducted by “visitors,” aliens who still came to earth on a regular basis.

The Anasazi had vanished without a trace 600 years earlier.

They were the ancestors of the Navajo, at least in part, weren’t they?

And while the history books maintained that the tribe had been exterminated by the Spanish, Mulder knew that Albert didn’t buy it. It had happened too quickly.

Could there be a similarity between the two languages, as there was between the tribes?

Mulder had no idea what the Anasazi language looked liked.

All he knew was that the men who’d saved his life had had access to an incredible source of power.

He’d been dead. Hell, he’d known it even at the time.

And they’d brought him back whole.

It wasn’t possible, at least not by any medical means available on earth.

No known means, anyway.

On earth, anyway.

Mulder straightened and sucked air in through his teeth.

Could it be the Anasazi were coming home at last?

Harold disappeared around a large steel unit. Mulder followed and stopped in his tracks with a gasp.

Water tanks.

Jesus. Row after row of large aquariums.

He’d seen them before.

Harold turned and looked at him quizzically.

There was a form at the bottom of each tank. A naked human form.

And they moved, stretching as if in sleep, turning, clutching restlessly now and again.

Living human forms, both male and female, wired in some way to outside consols and completely immersed in some sort of liquid.

This time he could see umbilical-like cords bulging out of navels over fully developed adult genitalia.

He stared, fascinated, at a female whose labia fluttered delicately in the eddies she stirred up as she shifted.

“I’ve seen these,” he said tersely. His voice echoed hollowly.

“Yes, I know. As a result of your visit that time, we had to move the entire facility in a few hours. But this is only one of many. That way, if something happens to one, we won’t lose everything.”

“What are they?” He looked at Harold.

The young man shrugged. “You know what they are, Mr. Mulder.”

“Remind me.”

“They’re hybrids. Half human, half… alien, as you put it.”

“But they look completely human.”

Harold’s expression was unreadable, but his eyes were huge in the half light.

“You’ve seen them. They look human but their blood is… different.”

“Green. Caustic to humans.”

The slight being nodded, looking away.

“And the only way to kill them is with a puncture to the base of the skull with a particular instrument.”

Harold winced. “We’re hoping that doesn’t become common knowledge, sir. So many people would want to kill us if they knew.”

“Why is it that only a certain type of tool works?”

The other shook his head.

Mulder stood bolt upright as it dawned on him.

“It’s an alloy of some kind, isn’t it, Harold? Some metal that probably doesn’t originate on earth, one that reacts toxically with their blood.”

“Please, sir…”

“That’s it. That’s why both humans and…” he waved vaguely at the tanks, “…these guys are desperate to find the stilettos.”

His father had had one. And his mother had known about it. It was so precious that he’d hidden it in a lamp in the middle of nowhere.

And that’s why they’d killed him.

They’d been looking for the fucking thing.

But why had his father had it? And for how long?

Mulder almost laughed. And to think he’d once thought that facing Krycek would be the ultimate horror.

His eyes found Harold and he was shocked by the fear he saw there.

“Don’t worry. I’d already figured a lot of it out.”

“Mr. Mulder, your sister’s waiting.” He sounded desperate.

Mulder’s eyes searched his face. “What happened to you?”

Harold obviously knew what he meant.

He looked down for a moment before meeting Mulder’s eyes again. “I was a prototype, you might say. Along with a few others who…”

“Who what?” Mulder said softly.

“Who… those who are still alive.”

“Were the others killed?”

Harold shook his head. “Not exactly. Not most of them. Just a very short lifespan.”

“How old are you, Harold?” His voice was almost a breath.

“Nine, sir. I’m very old, actually.”

Mulder nodded. “So what happened?”

“We were seen by your government as too… too alien.”

“Can you change your shape?”

“No. If I could…” He shrugged his shoulders.

Mulder nodded again.

“Can they?”

“Yes. My people…”

He stopped.

“Go on.”

“Well, I’m half human, as you know, sir, but the other half belongs to a shapeshifting race.”

“Humanoid?”

“Yes.”

“And they can assume any shape they want?”

“No. Not at all. They could alter their shape somewhat to adapt to their surroundings, that’s all. It’s a long story, sir.”

Mulder gazed at him. “But the introduction of human DNA has somehow resulted in real shapeshifting capability?”

Harold nodded. “Something like that. In the later… models. And to a point. They can’t become objects or anything, not like Odo.” He smiled fleetingly before lowering his head again. “They can change their appearance, how big or small they look, but they can’t suddenly look like an endtable, with corners and everything.”

Mulder chuckled. Then he sobered.

“One of them pretended to be me. One of them almost killed Scully.”

Harold nodded. “It’s a talent that can make them dangerous. The bad ones. But you have to understand, sir: most of them, most of us, are very very good, very kind. We wouldn’t dream of hurting anyone, particularly not the species that’s helped us to survive. We’re… my ancestors were a gentle race.”

Mulder waited.

“It’s just that… it’s just that a lot of it depends on the DNA that’s introduced, and under the circumstances it’s been difficult for any of us, my people, yours, to be overly discriminating.”

“You took what you could get.”

“Yes.”

Mulder felt a sudden blinding rush of anger. Scully. They took Scully, didn’t they?

He refused to think about it. Not now.

He’d deal with it later.

“My sister?”

Harold started and a look of absolute panic ran over his features.

“We have to go.”

“As much as I hate to say it, she doesn’t seem either good or kind, Harold.”

The other was already walking away, gesturing him to follow.

“That’s the thing, sir. She’s very good… at what she does.”

“What do you mean?”

“She gets results. Right now, that’s all that matters.”

“But…”

Harold spun around and pointed at him furiously. It was so unexpected that Mulder skittered backwards.

“That’s enough, sir. I’ve already said enough. I’m not supposed to talk about any of this.” He rubbed a hand across his face.

“Anything else you want to know, you’ll have to ask your sister.”

Almost as an afterthought, he raised the rifle and pointed it at Mulder’s head. The barrel shook minutely, but there was no question that if he pulled the trigger right now, he’d blow half of Mulder’s face off.

And Mulder suddenly realized he didn’t want to die before he’d made love to Scully again, at least once.

“Is that clear, sir?”

“Crystal.”

Harold nodded.

“Come on.”

–-

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (5a/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback or Large Amounts of Cash”

**** Rated “R” for Disturbing Imagery ****

They arrived at a harshly lit area where a few curved consols twinkled and hummed on the outskirts. A double row of plain plastic chairs, all of them empty, were set up in a semi-circle. A podium stood near the front of the area, along with three high-backed wooden chairs a little to the right.

A dais of some sort.

Those chairs were empty too.

As they emerged from the shadows into the bright circle of light, Mulder saw his sister turn from a consol where she was talking quietly to an attractive blond woman.

The woman looked human enough.

So did the man behind Samantha, except for his height. From where Mulder stood, he looked to be at least 7 feet tall, probably more. He was holding a rifle against his chest, barrel up.

The top of Scully’s head would come about waist high to this guy. Mulder suddenly had a pretty good sense of how she must feel when she looked up at him without heels on.

Except he was fairly certain he didn’t look nearly as dangerous.

Samantha turned towards them as they approached.

“It’s about time.” She gazed at Harold.

“Sorry, m’am.” His little friend shuffled and backed away into the shadows.

Her eyes turned to Mulder.

“Were you giving poor little Harold a hard time, Fox?”

“I’m afraid so. Didn’t want to leave my room; it’s like a Hilton, Sam. Thanks a bunch.”

She looked at him evenly.

“Plus I was kinda hoping for breakfast and told him I wouldn’t go anywhere until I got it.”

She laughed. It surprised him.

“Caroline. Get him some food.”

The blond woman melted into the shadows.

Samantha shook her head. “You men. Food and sex. It’s all you care about.”

“Actually, I also like a good Knicks game every once in a while.”

She smiled at him. He felt a hand close around his heart; this was the Samantha he remembered.

His little sister. He’d cared about her so much. He’d loved her with the fierce love of an older brother, of someone who’d had nothing else to call his own.

He’d have killed for her, died for her.

Is that what she wanted from him now?

And if so, would he be able to refuse her?

“You know, I’d only seen pictures of you as an adult, Fox,” she said, walking towards him. He saw the big man tense and aim the rifle at his head.

Mulder was getting sick and tired of having rifles pointed at his head.

“You can tell your gorilla I won’t do anything to hurt you, Sam.” He kept his tone jovial.

She studied him. “Put it down, Fritz.” She didn’t even bother to look behind her as the monster hesitated for a moment before bringing the gun back to his chest.

Mulder stared at her incredulously. “Fritz?”

Samantha shrugged and smiled again. “What can I say? His mother was German.”

“Honestly, Sam…”

Her eyes twinkled. My God. She had a sense of humour after all.

He looked down at her face as she gazed up at him. A whirlwind of emotion raced through him as he struggled against the urge to wrap his arms around her and pull her close.

His sister. Samantha. She couldn’t have forgotten everything about him. Could she?

She reached up and touched his nose gently. He winced.

“I must say that nose makes you look a lot like a movie star. Although I kind of liked the old one. It had character.”

Her hand stayed on his face, caressing his cheek, smoothing the stubble. She traced the line of his beard, over his lip, across his other cheek. Then her finger trailed down and brushed the dimple in his chin.

He closed his eyes.

“You’re a handsome man, Fox.” Her voice was silken as she touched his lips, lingering.

His eyes flew open and he caught her hand. She gasped softly and he realized that the rifle was pointed at his head once again.

“Don’t, Sam. Don’t make this into something I can’t deal with.”

Her eyes were cold, as cold as the last Circle of Hell.

“You were my sister.”

“I still am, Fox. Half of me, anyway.”

He let go her hand and took a step back.

“But I’m a woman and you’re a man, Fox. The last time I saw you, we were children. Now…”

She was still smiling, but there was something wrong with it now.

“Now we’re not.”

Sweet Jesus. He felt his own arousal and fought it with every ounce of his strength.

No. Not this. God. This was sickness.

“No, Samantha.”

She shrugged. “Your loss.” She turned and walked back to the consol.

His shoulders sagged. Jesus. What was she? What had she become?

Scully. Christ. If he’d ever needed her strength, he needed it now.

“It doesn’t matter anyway.” She looked up as the blond woman reappeared with a tray. “You and me aren’t the issue here. You and Agent Scully are.”

He tensed.

She turned and looked at him brightly, pointing at the tray.

“Breakfast, Fox. Hmm? Goodie num nums.”

Mulder felt pain lance through his head. It was the term he’d taught his sister to use for treats when they were kids. Just because it was silly and it made him laugh when she said it.

He shuddered.

“I’ve lost my appetite.”

“Too bad.” Her voice was ice. “Who knows when you’ll get to eat again?”

“What do you want from me, Samantha?”

She crooked a finger. “Come here, Fox.”

He stood motionless. Suddenly he felt a hard shove against his back. It startled him so badly that he flew forward, falling. His ribs sang.

He twisted around just as another large man vanished into the shadows.

He turned towards his sister again. Fritz was still there, his rifle against his chest.

“Fritz II?”

“You could say that.” Samantha crouched in front of him, reaching for his face.

He jerked away.

She arched and slapped him so hard that his head snapped back.

His nose stung.

He rubbed his face and looked at her. “First Scully, now me. It’s starting to feel like a bad episode of ‘Dynasty’.”

He flinched as he waited for her to hit him again.

She sat down instead and crossed her legs.

“I hate rejection, Fox.”

“Don’t we all.”

She smiled.

“I guess that’s true.”

He gazed at her.

She was completely insane.

Surely he wasn’t the only one who could see she was totally off her rocker.

His eyes burned and he blinked.

“Samantha.”

There was no room left in him for this.

He was full. Stuffed to the gills.

There was no room left to mourn for this.

That was when he realized he’d mourned for her already. Years ago.

He’d already buried her and cried over the grave. And in his own way, he’d gone on with his life.

He was looking at a spirit, a ghost from his past.

Not even that — he’d never known her like this.

This was some other thing, something that had nothing to do with him.

She sat and gazed at him, rapt, her eyes scrutinizing his face as he looked back at her silently.

He’d thought he was looking for Samantha because it had become a habit to look for Samantha.

In fact, he’d stopped looking for Samantha around the time Scully was abducted.

Since then, he’d looked for no one but Scully.

Always.

Even when she’d come back to him.

And he’d found her, finally, in that silo.

Up against the wall in that silo when they’d become one, their energies fused so that a link had been forged between them that no one could break.

And Cancerman had known it, despite how sordid the whole thing seemed on the surface.

He’d called it a gift that Mulder probably didn’t deserve but that was the only thing which could save them both.

Mulder had assumed the link only went one way.

He’d been wrong.

Scully could read his mind but that was only the half of it. She’d become a part of him.

Her strength. Her will. Her determination.

He carried it inside himself now.

And the irony was that it was a result of what they’d done to her somehow. She’d always been psychic, in a way; she’d seen her father after his death, her sister, she’d even felt Mulder’s pulse when everyone had given him up for dead.

It was too funny; his little skeptical Scully.

But without meaning to, they’d given her power.

The implant. Or maybe what she’d undergone, giving birth to a new race.

And the strength, the sheer force of their union, had awakened it in her. In both of them.

“Fox? A penny for your thoughts.”

He looked at his sister. Underneath it all, he could feel her love for him.

Her blind, desperate 8-year-old’s love for him.

She’d protected him over the years, kept him from serious harm.

Well, maybe not from serious harm, but at least from death.

Harold had said that she was good at what she did. She got results, and right now that was all that mattered.

Maybe that was why they were willing to put up with her madness.

But maybe this madness was why Cancerman had practically begged them to find her. Maybe it explained why he’d fallen out of favour.

Maybe Cancerman was just a father desperate to save his daughter.

“Now there’s only you and Agent Scully. And Samantha,” he’d said. “And that’s only if you can find her in time.”

In time for what?

“She knows it all,” Cancerman had said. “She’s been altered. But she knows everything.”

She’d been altered.

Something had gone terribly wrong, hadn’t it?

But what?

–-

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (5b/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Feedback or Large Amounts of Cash”

**** Rated “R” for Disturbing Imagery ****

He took a deep breath. Samantha was still looking at him, waiting.

“You wanted Scully and me to get together, Sam. That’s what your father said. He said that they’d been waiting for it to happen, that it’d been planned all along.”

“It was.”

“Why?”

She shrugged and looked at her hands.

“Samantha. Why?”

Her eyes met his. “Believe it or not, Fox, I wanted you to be happy.”

He stared at her.

“I knew what you’d sacrificed in your search for me. I thought Agent Scully would be good for you. That’s why I had them assign her to you.”

She laughed.

“I told your bosses she’d be great at discrediting you. She was scientific, no-nonsense, professionally ambitious, apparently by-the-book and loyal to her employers. But I knew. I knew she’d help you find yourself.”

He said nothing.

“I’d studied her profile. She was loyal by nature, but she was also scrupulously honest. And more than anything, she was interested in the truth. I knew she’d be seduced by your own unerring commitment to the same cause, even when she didn’t agree with your conclusions or even your methods.”

She paused.

“And I knew she was innocent enough, gentle enough, to break through your barriers. I knew that in some ways, she’d remind you of me.”

He closed his eyes.

“And she’s known all along what most of us have always known about you, Fox. That you’re almost always right. That your conclusions, as outrageous as they may sound, are virtually always right on the money.”

Mulder shook his head, once.

“You’ve torn the veil between the rational world and the real one, Fox. And most people aren’t prepared to see what lies in the real world, precisely because it’s not rational, and it isn’t always pretty. You’ve done it over and over again, even when you’ve solved cases that don’t matter much to the world at large. But what you’ve done is wear away, bit by bit, at the conceits and rationalizations which hem humanity into a comfortable view of the universe that has nothing to do with the truth.”

He opened his mouth. “Sam…”

“The truth shall set you free, Fox. But who out there is willing to pay for this freedom, especially when it feels at first like chaos, like madness?”

Mulder looked at her beseechingly. It was everything he’d come to believe, but it was too much at once.

And consider the source. A madwoman calmly discusses madness: Today on Oprah.

“What do you want from me, Sam? From us?” It was a whisper.

She rose and held her hand out.

He didn’t take it.

She smiled and let her arm drop to her side.

“The human race is evolving, Fox. It’s a brave new world, one where reality roams free, unfettered by human constructs. And you, both you and Scully, are a part of it.”

He got up unsteadily.

“Scully. You used her.”

“We needed many women. She was a perfect candidate.”

A flicker of something played behind his eyes.

“She had a child.”

“Yes.”

“Where is it?”

Samantha laughed. “Not here. I assure you.”

“Girl? Boy?”

“A boy.”

A boy. Scully had a half-alien son.

He shot a glance at Fritz. Dear God.

“A man, Samantha. Their development is accelerated, isn’t it?”

She nodded, looking at him with amused eyes.

“There’s no time for sandboxes and primers, Fox.”

“What does he look like?”

She shrugged. “Anything he likes. But I’m sure you got that out of Harold already.”

He heard a rustle in the shadows.

“She doesn’t know, Sam.”

“It’s better that way, don’t you think? Although,” she looked at him speculatively, “I suspect she’s going to find out, thanks to this link of yours.”

God.

Maybe she already had.

“Does he know who his mother is?”

“They receive a certain amount of background information, a photograph. That’s all. Just so they can feel grounded in some way. It’s sweet. Most of them carry the photos around.”

Mulder brushed fingers across his lips.

“But they’re strictly forbidden to make contact.”

He felt anger swell. “If you sent her to me for my sake,” he snapped, “why’d you let them take her, Sam?”

His sister reached towards the breakfast tray and popped a grape in her mouth.

“She was a prime candidate, Fox. I already told you that. Besides, I figured her absence might make your heart grow fonder.”

He froze.

“You needed a hobby besides me. It worked. And remember, Fox; I knew she’d be returned safe and sound.”

He stared at her. God, she’d planned the whole thing.

She’d done it to give him his life back.

But at what cost? At what cost to Scully?

“I want her here with me.”

“Even if it means she’ll find out what you know?”

“She deserves to know the truth.”

Samantha studied him for a moment, then nodded.

“Harold.”

A whisper of cloth in the shadows.

“Bring her.”

–-

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (6a/7)

by M Partous email:

“Will Work for Shtrudel on de Noodle”

*** RATED XXX FOR GRAPHIC SEX INVOLVING M, S, SKINNER, CANCERMAN, SAMANTHA, ME, MY UPSTAIRS NEIGHBOUR, A TRAVELLING CIRCUS AND SEVERAL COMMON BARNYARD ANIMALS ***

No, no, I’m kidding.

Actually, rated “R” for language.

Forgive me. I’m getting punch drunk.

Mulder heard Harold’s light footsteps echo in the darkness behind him.

“What about him, Sam?”

She turned. “What about him what?”

“Harold’s a gentle soul. How’d he get caught up in all this cloak and dagger stuff?”

She looked over his shoulder towards the dwindling sound.

“He was part of the experiment. A part that failed. Now we take care of him, him and the few others like him who are left.”

Mulder waited.

“None of them live past the age of 10 or so; he was one of the last to be born.”

“So you just use ‘em until they drop dead, is that it?”

Samantha shrugged. “He’s weak, Mulder. They all were. Too weak for what lies ahead.”

“Which is?”

“You’ll find out soon enough. Now be a good boy and let Sis work for a minute.” She leaned over the console, pointing at a clipboard and murmuring in hushed tones with the blond.

All of a sudden, Mulder felt like an afterthought. Which was kind of a relief.

He also felt the slow burn of anger in his belly.

And the cold taste of outrage. It made his testicles crawl.

Hell. He could get behind the survival of an alien race.

No problem there.

But this — this heartless manipulation of both humans and aliens.

They were using people.

They’d used Scully.

And she was one of, what, dozens of women? Hundreds? Thousands?

They were fooling around with complex genetic manipulation and, from what he could tell, they answered to no one for the actions they took.

He felt of spasm of horror.

Or maybe they did. Maybe they did this with the full approbation of someone.

Who? The U.S. government? The United Nations?

Jesus. Could it be that the powers that be were no longer fully human?

He stopped.

The military. Of course. Shit.

It was the military, wasn’t it?

That’s why he kept running up against them.

The UFO technology he’d seen, the endless coverups, the times he’d been taken into their custody and released, his memory in tatters.

The Pentagon.

It worked with its own agenda, far removed from the visible corridors of power where the media milled about, making it difficult for dirty little secrets to remain hidden for long.

But the press never really touched the military.

Who — or what — was running the Pentagon these days?

And what about the FBI? How was the Bureau tied in to all this?

His bosses. Skinner himself. Christ.

He gazed at Fritz, who’d remained standing in the same position since he’d arrived. He smiled.

The huge man stared down at him.

“I knew a friend of yours,” Mulder began conversationally, ignoring the anger behind his teeth. “About your size, except he looked a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger on a bad day. Didn’t smile a hell of a lot either.”

Fritz said nothing.

“Tried to kill me in the Arctic, actually, and then he just kept showing up all over the place. A mean motherfucker, if you want to know the truth. No fun at parties. Know him?”

Silence.

“You know, you can talk to me. I’m a psychologist. It’s probably something that happened in your childhood. Oops! Forgot. You didn’t have one, did you?”

Silence, although he got the distinct impression the guy was glaring at him.

“Oh, well. That means you should be well adjusted. It’s generally childhood that fucks we human types up. Just ask your boss.”

Nothing.

“No? You’re not well adjusted? I see. You’re afraid I might try to pierce the back of your skull, is that it? Well, don’t worry; my sister made sure I didn’t hold on to the stiletto. Pity, really; it was a bit of an heirloom. But you know how it is; blood runs thin these days.”

He saw murder in the thing’s eyes. Which was just fine; it was exactly how he felt.

Mulder smiled tightly. “You know, Sam, it wouldn’t hurt if you gave these guys a few social skills.”

A sound caught his attention and he turned in time to see two shadowy figures pushing a water tank towards what he supposed was another part of the lab. As it disappeared behind a row of large units, he caught a glimpse of a male writhing in the liquid.

Rage flared behind his eyes.

“Hey, Sam! An aquarium’s giving birth. A bouncing baby man. I hope someone’s called his mom; seems like she’s always the last to know.”

No question about it: he was getting the silent treatment.

Mulder grinned, but there was no humour in it.

Just before he jumped the huge fucking bastard out of sheer frustration, he heard footsteps and felt his heart begin to race.

Scully. God.

He could smell her.

She was here.

She emerged from the shadows; he saw Harold for a second before he withdrew into the darkness.

As improbable as it seemed, she was immaculate, every hair in place, her outfit smooth and unwrinkled against her body.

Her eyes were on him, concerned, wary, questioning.

He’d never seen a more beautiful sight.

Jesus. He’d never fully realized how alone he felt without her.

He swallowed past the sudden lump in his throat.

Mulder turned to his sister. She was studying both of them with a curious detachment.

“You wanted this,” he hissed, “so let me touch her.”

Her lips smiled at him. “Who am I to stand in the way of true love?”

He was against Scully in seconds, pulling her to him, his mouth against her hair, her ear, his arms tight around her. He knew, vaguely, that his hands were running up and down her back, her waist, clutching the place where her hips flared into buttocks, pressing her against him desperately, breathing her hair, her skin.

She gasped and resisted for a moment before enfolding him in her own arms, her palms against his shoulder blades, squeezing, settling around his waist at last, pulling his hips to her as she nuzzled his chest.

She looked up at him from their embrace and his lips touched her forehead, her eyes. He tucked her head under his chin, rocking her as he had a hundred years ago when Pfaster had almost made her worst nightmares come true.

Her worst nightmares then.

He was about to give her a whole set of new ones.

“Scully,” he breathed.

He felt her tense against him as he opened his mind to her.

She had to know.

“I’m so sorry. Dana…”

He didn’t want to use the name. He didn’t like it. It didn’t suit her, it was too nasal, too whiny for her. But he needed to reach her, and he knew it would startle her enough to shatter her resistance.

She moaned against his chest.

He flooded her with what he knew, as gently as he could.

Her body sagged against him and he held her. She shook her head back and forth against his chest as her legs gave way.

“No. Please. Mulder…”

He gripped her to him, murmuring endearments against her hair, my darling, my angel, my light, my love, Scully, ScullyScullyScully, gasping, breathless, like the time he’d aimed his gun at her with Modell raping his mind…

She collapsed and he followed her to the floor, still murmuring, still rocking her as she wrapped her arms around his neck, her tears wet against his face.

“No. No. No.”

He turned his head towards his sister, his eyes murderous.

“Is this it, Sam?” His voice was high, ragged. “Is this the legacy of your little stint as creator? You like playing God, Sam? You like what it does to people? How does it make you feel, huh?”

She was looking at them, fascinated.

“Or can you still feel anything at all?”

“Don’t be so hard on her, Agent Mulder.”

A voice. From the shadows.

A familiar voice.

He shuddered as he looked up in its direction.

A man stepped out from the darkness, his face gnarled but warm, compassionate, thoughtful. He cocked his head.

“Your sister’s just doing her job.”

Scully leaned her head against his chest as she followed his gaze. He could feel her body shake against his.

Deep Throat.

It wasn’t possible.

“You’re a shapeshifter,” Mulder rasped.

The older man smiled. “Of course. But that doesn’t mean I’m not who you think I am.”

He walked into the circle of light.

“A word of advice for precarious times, Agent Scully. These days, don’t leave the body until you’re sure it’s dead.”

He looked at her, and Mulder could see the kindness in his eyes, the gentleness there.

“I saw you get shot.” Scully. She took a deep rattling breath.

“Ah, but bullets don’t always work, my dear. You should know that by now, hmm? Anyway, I’m sure Agent Mulder here will fill you in on all the details.”

The man’s eyes shifted to his own.

Mulder’s breath caught. They were filled with an unimaginable tenderness.

“I’m sorry, my boy. But we’re dealing with stakes here that are bigger than both of you. Than all of us put together.”

“It’s you…” Mulder whispered. “It’s always been you.”

He shrugged and smiled.

“What about Samantha’s father?” Mulder’s voice was tight.

“He’s only beginning to understand. At last.”

“He’s human?”

“Oh yes. Quite thoroughly so, in fact.”

“But you…?”

The man leaned back against a console.

“What do you want to know, Agent Mulder? Who I am? May as well ask who I’ve been. I’ve been a lot of people, some of whom you’ve met over the years.”

“But I thought…”

“You thought your sister was the puppet master.” He smiled at Samantha, who smiled back shyly.

Christ.

“Well, as a matter of fact, she is. As far as it goes.”

The man walked over to them and held out his hand.

“Agent Scully. Agent Mulder. Welcome to the next level.”

–-

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (6b/7)

by M Partous email:

“Only a Few More Chances to Give Me Feedback”

*

This time, it was Scully who refused to take the proffered hand.

Mulder felt her body vibrate as her muscles clenched.

But she didn’t draw away from him. If anything, she pressed against him more.

He didn’t dare move. That she should show such vulnerability at a time like this…

Part of her was far away; he could feel it. And in the past, she’d always shut down, turned away, withdrawn into herself.

I’m *fine*, Mulder. How many times had those words filled him with a vague sense of foreboding, of helplessness?

But for the first time, she wasn’t excluding him from her pain.

She wasn’t fine at all. And her body against his was her way of acknowledging that she was prepared, at last, in her own way, to share it with him.

All of it.

She wanted to deal with this herself. She always had.

But this time, she was letting him be a part of it.

Dear God. She trusted him.

It broke him utterly.

He gasped as a wave of anguish rolled over him.

Not his. Jesus. Not his.

Scully’s.

Mulder’s eyes rolled back, his eyelids fluttering.

God, she was in him.

The link had been a two-way thing all along.

She’d kept him out because she hadn’t been ready to let him in.

His mind was flooded by images, faces, snatches of memories he recognized from stories she’d told him over the years, other ones unfamiliar, darker, secret, but all with a taste of her, of the world he’d come to know intuitively as her own.

And behind it all the taste of him, the smell of him, the feel of him, like deja vu. Him as she saw him, as she experienced him.

Her love for him.

It sent blood rushing through him to his core.

In the midst of it all was her anguish, her loss for a child she never knew she had, the warm moist instinct of it, my son my son my son, blind and needy, a keening for the pain of it.

Mulder moaned as his face dropped to her hair.

He was vanquished, annihilated, swallowed by her anguish and her love.

And suddenly, like a beam of light amid the chaos, he heard her speak to him.

No words. Just… the meaning of it.

The link was always there, Mulder. You just weren’t open to it.

Scully.

I could hear you all along. Remember?

He cringed. Scully…

I didn’t keep you out. You wouldn’t let me in.

I love you, Scully.

I know.

What changed?

You felt my trust.

I’ve always trusted you, Scully.

Yes. But you never believed that I trusted you too.

His arms tightened around her convulsively.

“So.” A voice cut through their connection like a knife.

The man he’d called Deep Throat was studying them, his eyes twinkling.

“It’s happened at last.”

Mulder felt his scalp crawl from the energy of her, his arms still tight around her. He stared at the man, his eyes wild.

“What took you so long, son?” The older man’s face was wreathed in smiles.

“Tell us your name.” Mulder was shocked by how hoarse his voice sounded. “Please.”

The man cocked his head again.

“Yes. You’ve dealt with too many nameless faces, haven’t you.”

Mulder nodded, his eyes riveted on him.

He smiled and looked up thoughtfully, considering.

“Call me… Ishmael.”

Scully drew up. “What?”

“I’ve had so many names, my dear. None of them my own. Ishmael is as good as any. It’s even appropriate, given your situation. And I like it, which is more than I can say for most names I’ve been plagued with.”

The opening line of “Moby Dick.”

How does he know, Mulder?

Her inner voice trembled with wonder.

Mulder shook his head.

“All of us are Ahabs in a way, Agent Scully.” It was as though he’d heard her. “We search our whole lives, hellbent on destroying the so-called demons on the outside we see as the enemy. Even when they’re not. Even when the demons reside only in ourselves.”

He reached a hand out once more. This time, she took it.

He pulled her up. “That’s what destroyed Ahab in the end, you know.”

“I know.” Mulder could barely hear her.

“Ahab believed the monster lay outside himself. And all the while, the whale was just a whale.”

The man looked down at Mulder. “Just a creature like any other, trying to survive.”

“The horror lay within Ahab all along. And it killed him in the end, Agent Mulder. His own fear. His own loathing. Do you understand?”

Mulder was transfixed by the other man’s eyes.

“I think so.”

Their eyes remained locked for a moment as he kept Scully’s hand in his.

Then the man smiled cheerfully.

“Good. Let’s go.”

He reached down, squeezed Mulder’s forearm affectionately, and hauled him up.

Mulder looked at Samantha. Her face was serene, peaceful, open.

She smiled at him.

“I still think you’re crazy, Sis.”

She shrugged. “Maybe I am. Maybe you are. Who can tell these days?”

Ishmael — why the hell not? — turned and looked at him.

“Come on. There isn’t much time.”

They walked down yet another corridor, the pace hurried this time, their footsteps resounding hollowly.

“We have questions.”

Ishmael looked at Scully. “Shoot.”

“My son.”

“He’s not yours. Not anymore.”

“I want to know how he is.”

“He looks about 20. He also looks a lot like you, red hair, blue eyes… when he doesn’t look like someone else, that is. He’s not a tall fellow, 5′7″ tops.”

Ishmael smiled as he looked at Scully’s rapt face.

“But consider his roots, Agent Scully.”

“You haven’t told me how he is.”

“He’s fine. Very well. Very nice. Very earnest and hard- working.”

My God. He’s had no life at all.

Mulder heard her.

We spent years without lives, Scully. Look at us now.

His mind registered a ripple. Faint laughter. God.

“I want to see him.”

“That’s not possible.”

She stopped in her tracks.

“You used me, you bastard!” Mulder spun around. Ishmael simply stood, waiting.

“You used my body for this. And now you say I can’t see him?”

She stood, her arm out, pointing at him.

“He’s my son, dammit!”

“You know, Agent Scully, I’ve never really understood why human parents think they have a right to own a child.”

She glared at him, her eyes blazing, her lips pursed tight, in that way that took Mulder’s breath away. He stood and watched her.

“You’ve helped keep a race alive, Agent Scully. Few people can claim as much. But now he’s a person in his own right. And he’s needed. Here. With us. Thanks to you, he brings unique gifts to the work at hand.”

She shook her head. “Quite frankly, I don’t give a damn.”

“I think you do.”

“I want to see him.”

“Scully…”

She whipped around and flashed her eyes at him.

“Butt out, Mulder.”

He wrapped his lips over his teeth.

“All right, Agent Scully.” Ishmael dug his hands in his pockets and nodded. “All right. I’ll see what I can do.”

“That’s not good enough.”

“If you cooperate…”

She waited.

“…it’ll be the least I can do.”

She continued to study his features for a moment. Then she lowered her head.

“Blackmail,” she muttered.

Ishmael shrugged. “The price of attachment.”

“Funny. Harold called it love.” Mulder looked at him.

“Love. Hatred. They’re part of the same attachment, part of what keeps humanity enslaved.”

“Is that the price of freedom, Ishmael? No love?”

“And no hatred, Agent Mulder. You’d do well to remember that.”

Scully made an impatient sound. They turned to her.

“Enough philosophizing. Let’s get on with it.”

Ishmael laughed. “She’s right, Mulder. We have a lot to do.”

“I have a couple of questions too, as it happens. Scully?”

She looked at him. “Go ahead.”

Ishmael sighed. “Can we keep walking please?”

Mulder shrugged. “Sure.”

They resumed their route.

Mulder cleared his throat. This was a very strange way to get answers.

“Is this how you really look?”

“No.”

“Who does Sam’s father work for?”

“Right now I’m not sure he even knows the answer to that.”

“What do you mean?”

“He was a double agent for years. Worked for the military and for us, although we knew that his loyalties, such as they were, lay with them.”

“Is that still true?”

“No.”

“Are you working for the military?”

“No. They’re trying to stop us.”

“Why?”

“They want the technology but not the survival of the race.”

“Explain.”

“They promised the Ancestors that they’d be cared for in exchange for their technology. They lied.”

“Who are the Ancestors?”

“You’ll find out very soon. Their world was dying. They came here for help. Your military promised to help and then tried to destroy them. They only wanted their machines.”

“I gather the military’s plan didn’t succeed.”

“Not entirely. Almost.”

“How did these Ancestors survive?”

“You’re familiar with the Holocaust.”

Mulder shivered.

“A few survived because a very few people were willing to hide them, to help as much as they could. Not many. But enough to keep the race alive.”

Ishmael threw a glance at him as they turned a corner.

“They were a beautiful race. Gentle and evolved to a point that humanity can only aspire to.”

“So I’ve heard. But I’m not sure how much I like a race that doesn’t believe in love.”

“Don’t be so quick to judge, Agent Mulder. Love is a tiny word with a vast meaning, and you humans only use a minute part of it. Are you sure you really understand all that it entails?”

They reached a doorway. It was incomprehensible in design, a mass of interlocking geometric shapes, completely alien to Mulder’s mind.

Ishmael palmed a control on the side and the door slid open.

They forked the sill and entered a vast space. It yawned in all directions, making the lab look claustrophobic in comparison. Lights flickered here and there, and Mulder could just see vague shapes looming in the distance, scurrying here and there in subdued indirect lighting.

He reached his hand out blindly and felt Scully’s small fingers wrap themselves around his. He could still hear the background of her mind playing against his.

Suddenly, it felt incredibly seductive.

He moaned and pulled her to him.

I want you.

Now?

Always.

He could feel the ripple of laughter again in a complex dance of pain, confusion and fear.

What is it with you and inappropriate circumstances?

He laughed and released her, running his hand along her face. He drank in her features.

“Sorry.”

“Well, I suppose it’s flattering in a way.”

She smiled at him but he could see the tightness of loss around her eyes.

“We’ll find him,” he whispered.

She looked at him.

“We’ll try, Scully.”

And if we don’t succeed?

We’ll make another. Yours and mine. It’ll be half alien too, but at least it’ll be my half.

He wasn’t sure what she’d heard, but she smiled at him as tears glistened for a brief moment.

“You idiot.”

She was all Scully again.

He grinned and turned back to the man he now called Ishmael.

*

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (7a/7)

by M Partous email:

*** Rated “R” for Language ***

Ishmael looked at them and shook his head.

“Really, you two. Focus, focus!” He smiled.

He started walking towards the interior of the space.

“This link of ours,” Scully said as they followed. “Is it common among abductees?”

“Not common, no. But it happens. It’s an incredibly powerful gift; you’ve only just begun to discover why.”

“I don’t think it’s worth what I paid for it.” She didn’t even try to hide the bitterness in her voice.

Ishmael shook his head.

“You don’t understand yet.” He looked at her kindly. “But you will, Agent Scully.”

I doubt it, you smug son of a bitch.

Mulder smiled.

I still like him better than X, Scully.

X.

“Ishmael. The informant who came after you… left. We called him X. Whose side was he on?”

“Whose do you think, Agent Mulder? Although the funny thing is, he saved your life once.”

Mulder looked at him. “How do you mean?”

“That boxcar incident. You were unconscious, weren’t you? We couldn’t get to you; your sister was frantic.”

“So what happened?”

“We’re not absolutely certain, but we have reason to believe he was the one who got you out of there in the nick of time.”

“But why him?”

Ishmael stopped for a moment and looked at him.

“We don’t know, Agent Mulder. Honest to God. We have no idea.”

Great. Another mystery.

“It doesn’t make any sense, Ishmael.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“And you’re sure he worked for the military?”

The other man shrugged. “These days, Mulder, how sure can we be of anything?”

“He’s dead now.” Mulder felt a sudden thrill of fear. “Isn’t he?”

“Oh, yes. There’s no question. He was fully human.”

More or less, Mulder thought, rubbing his nose.

His nose.

He glanced at Scully. “I haven’t seen my nose yet, can you believe that?”

“It’s very nice, Agent Mulder. But I kind of liked the old one.”

“Yeah, I know. It had character.”

The other man looked at him distractedly. “Yes. That’s it.”

Ishmael ushered them into a makeshift hallway framed by instruments and the same large refrigerator-like units Mulder had seen in the lab.

He stopped so suddenly that Scully bumped into his arm, swearing softly.

A light shone on the metal face of a unit in front of him. Not quite as good as a mirror, but still… Mulder peered at himself.

“Holy fuck.”

The face that stared back at him belonged to someone he’d never want to meet at a party.

The bruising was minimal now and the swelling completely gone. He recognized the eyes, the pouting lips, the dusting of stubble across his face.

But what the hell was that?

The nose was absolutely perfect. Straight to a fault. Noble. Roman.

Christ. He was fucking beautiful.

It was the kind of beauty stupid chicks love and smart guys hate, and the cold intelligence in his eyes just made him look even more haughty and arrogant than the nose did.

Before he’d always looked a little goofy.

It had allowed him to act a little goofy.

He liked being a little goofy, dammit.

Now he’d look like a complete asshole if he so much as cracked a smile.

This was a face that should be sitting on top of Armani and London Fog while the body helped some long-legged vacuous vixen into the passenger seat of a Lexus during some interminable photo shoot for a glossy magazine.

This was a face with no wisecrack potential whatsoever.

Mulder moaned.

“Scully. Jesus. What have they done to me?”

“Agent Mulder, maybe we can deal with this stunning new development in your life a little later.”

“You don’t understand…”

“No, you’re wrong. I just don’t care. Now come on, both of you. Please.”

Mulder gave Scully a withering look as she chuckled beside him.

“I don’t know, Mulder. How can I complain when I’m dating a total babe? I mean, the girls at the office are gonna be green with envy.”

“That’s all you women care about, isn’t it? What about my mind?”

She shrugged. “Hmmm. It has its uses, I suppose.”

“Shut up, Scully.”

Just can’t think of any right off the bat.

I said shut up, Scully.

He was still hearing her laughter in his head when the room exploded into light.

Mulder shoved Scully up against a unit and covered her eyes with his hands, burying his face in her hair.

The light was shattering; he could see nothing but white even with his eyes closed.

“Mulder, let me go. Stop doing that all the time!” Her voice was muffled but dangerous.

He felt her hands push against his chest but he didn’t care.

Just don’t knee me, Scully. If you do want kids someday, I can’t afford any more damage down there…

“Mulder…”

He turned his head to the side.

“Ishmael!”

“Here, Agent Mulder. It’s all right.”

The light winked out as suddenly as if it had never been.

He backed off her with his hands up, grinning ruefully.

She glared at him, smoothing her jacket.

“One more like that, Mulder, and I’ll…”

“What was it?” He said hurriedly, turning to the other man.

And then he froze.

The ceiling had vanished. A few stars twinkled faintly overhead, and Mulder could just see the glow of the full moon off to one side.

Most of all, he saw an immense black-on-black saucer shape hover in the night sky as it began a slow descent towards the gap where the ceiling had been.

The only reason he could tell it was saucer shaped was because of a circle of blinding lights around the perimeter of the thing.

When in God’s name had it become night again? Hadn’t he just been offered breakfast?

Missing time.

But here? He thought he remembered everything that had happened since he’d awakened.

Didn’t he?

He threw a side glance at Scully, who was standing next to him, head thrown back, mouth open, staring at the thing.

“Ishmael…”

The older man looked at him calmly. “Relax, Agent Mulder. We just let you sleep in while we worked on a few things.”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, son, you don’t sleep nearly enough. It’s not good for you.”

Mulder stared at him, agape.

“You let us sleep in?”

“Well, it was almost dawn by the time we got you settled in.”

Settled in? Now that was a euphemism worthy of the President’s own press secretary.

He watched the saucer as it entered through the roof. Other than a low hum, it made no sound at all, as though someone had hit the mute button on a TV remote.

These guys are weirder than we are, Scully.

No one’s weirder than you are, Mulder.

There was something oddly comforting about standing shoulder to shoulder with Scully as she insulted him in his mind while they watched an alien craft land a few hundred yards from where they stood.

They really had become a little jaded, hadn’t they?

The thing sank to the ground with a hydraulic sigh. It farted a dry-ice kind of steam which billowed around their legs for a minute as the lights around it dimmed.

It was a huge motherfucker.

Mulder couldn’t be sure, because there were few reference points in the space to give it scale, but he thought it had to be bigger than a football field.

He also thought he’d seen it once before.

Once before as it had sailed majestically overhead against a jet-black sky before disappearing behind a building.

He’d seen it or something very much like it before.

Which raised the question of whether there might be more than one of these things.

He watched, enthraled, as a hinged door separated from the body of the object and lowered itself slowly to the ground, light spilling out from its interior.

It’s so… Close Encounters, Scully.

You oughtta know, Steven Spielberg.

But he could feel her excitement, her awe.

“Ishmael…” he whispered.

He turned to him and gasped as he watched the older man’s face run together, change, reshape and settle at last.

Jesus.

The man’s smile was intact, but the face…

“Albert…” It was a whisper through clenched teeth.

The Navajo elder stood before him in Ishmael’s clothing.

“Yet another meaningless name, young Fox.” The man continued to smile as he reached out and cupped Mulder’s cheek in his hand, tapping gently.

Mulder felt his body begin to shake. “But it’s you?”

“Yes. I swear it, from one old Indian to a quick brown fox… eh, Mulder?”

He could feel Scully’s arm tighten around his, the sound of something in his mind that belonged to her — wonder, amazement, shock, even a strange kind of happiness.

You’re a crybaby, Mulder.

It was his own voice in his head, and it was true. Tears filled his eyes and stopped against his lashes.

Why did he feel so moved?

Maybe because, at one level, it seemed to make perfect sense.

Maybe because, when all was said and done, everything would be okay somehow if the Navajo was involved.

As Mulder gazed at the elder, he could feel the richness of meaning flow between them, just below his grasp.

The elder nodded. “My quick brown Fox. Albert is me. The one you called ‘Deep Throat’ is also me. Many more have also been me. You’ve even met some of them.”

“You…” Mulder breathed.

“I have been your father, your teacher and your friend.”

“My father?” Terror tore at his heart and he felt Scully tense beside him.

Albert nodded. “Your father chose to come with us some time ago. The man you saw killed…”

“You.” Heat rose up his neck and flooded his face.

Mulder closed his eyes.

God. How many times had this man let himself get shot?

“Too many to recall.” Albert could hear his thoughts.

Scully.

I’m here. Shhhh.

“Why did you take his place?”

“Because his death was the only way to ensure his safety.”

Oh, God. Dad.

The elder’s eyes were warm.

“And I’m glad to see you’ve mated at last.”

He felt Scully shift restlessly beside him.

“To a worthy one. More than worthy. Agent Scully: Among my people, you would be immortalized in song and legend as a saint.”

“He’s not that bad when you get used to him,” she said, smiling faintly.

Albert threw his head back and laughed. “Yes, but how many women would have the patience to wait for that to happen?”

Mulder couldn’t think. He reached out blindly and took the elder’s hand in his, holding it, grasping it like a lover.

He felt a current flow through him, ancient, dry and spare like a searing wind over plains, clean, whole, filled with timeless patience and the promise of new hope.

“Anasazi.”

The old man nodded.

“You already know this, Fox. You’ve known it longer than you know. I taught it to you when your spirit roamed free, when you circled like a hawk between life and death.”

“You’ve come home.”

“We took our home with us, son. We took it to help a people in need. A race came to us from the sky and asked us for our help. They were beautiful, and to us they felt like a manifestation of the gods. How could we refuse? In return, they gave us unimaginable gifts, great power. But now our people need us here.”

“It’s true that Native Americans still aren’t being treated fairly, Mr. Hosteen…”

He turned and looked at Scully. Mulder could feel her reaction to his even gaze, the boundless compassion she could read there.

“Native Americans, as you call them, Agent Scully, are one thing. It’s true they’ve been mistreated, but then, human beings hurt and kill for no good reason at all. They’ve always done so. When I speak of our people, I speak of you. All of you.”

He looked at them both.

“We’ve returned because the time has come for humanity to understand its birthright. The development of the human race has been blocked, somehow; your people have lost touch with the essentials.”

“Birthright?”

“Feel the spirit, boy. It’s everywhere, the same one for all of us. It flows through everything you see, everything you can’t see. It unites us all.”

“The Force…” Mulder muttered.

Albert laughed again. “If you like. It’s not a term with a lot of heart, but it’ll do. If that man George Lucas understood a third of what he’d talked about in those films, I’d follow him myself.”

He pulled gently at Mulder’s hand. “Come. We need you.”

Mulder wrapped his arm around Scully’s shoulders and for once she didn’t complain.

Where we going, Mulder?

I don’t know.

You trust him, don’t you?

A pause.

I think so.

Why?

I’m sentimental, Scully.

A laugh rippled through his mind.

This is it, isn’t it?

I think so.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you.

What?

I love you too, Mulder.

He squeezed her shoulder and brushed his lips against her hair as they followed the elder.

I know.

They headed towards the mouth of the ship.

*

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (7b1/7)

by M Partous email:

**** RATED NC-17 FOR EXPLICIT M/S SEX. NOT APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER READERS ****

Well, guys, this is it. I won’t have access to my email between July 7 and 14, but do write anyway if the spirit moves you. I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m back. I’m writing this on the 4th of July. Happy day to all my American buddies. Thanks to everyone who supported me during this ordeal (200 pages, folks; who knew?). You really did keep me going; as selfish as it sounds, I couldn’t have done it without you all.

When Mulder awoke, he was lying in Scully’s bedroom.

In Scully’s bed.

In Scully.

They lay on their sides, facing each other, his arms wound around her loosely, his face in her hair, one of her legs draped across his hip. He was soft but inside her still, evidence of their recent passion cooling on his thighs, the smell of sex pungent in the air.

He moved his hips a little and she moaned, tightening around him.

She smelled like sleep.

He nuzzled against her, feeling himself harden, then gasped suddenly and pulled out and away, scuttling backwards as he stared at her.

She whimpered and reached out for him.

God. How the hell had they ended up here?

“Scully,” he whispered. “Scully. Wake up.”

He didn’t want to scare her but he had to talk to her.

The last thing he remembered was the two of them, Albert in tow, walking towards the spaceship.

She stretched luxuriously and made a long, satisfied “mmmmmm” sound that under different circumstances would’ve FedExed him back into her arms.

“Mulderrrrrrr.”

Oh, God. His penis swelled despite his panic. Jesus.

“That was incredible,” she purred.

“It was?”

She opened her eyes sleepily.

“Mmmmm.”

“Are you saying you remember what we just did?”

She sat bolt upright so abruptly that he yelped and almost fell off the bed.

She stared at him.

“Mulder. I don’t. Not at all. There was a spaceship…”

He nodded, grimacing.

She probed between her legs with her fingers and brought them to her nose.

Mulder shivered. So clinical, yet so arousing somehow.

“Definitely semen.”

“I know it’s semen, Scully. And I’m fairly certain it’s mine; I was still inside you when I woke up.”

She looked at him wonderingly. “The thing is, I feel incredible.”

“So do I.”

“Are you saying we just had the best sex of our lives and we can’t remember any of it?”

“Are you saying the other times we’ve had sex didn’t constitute the best sex of your life?”

“Mulder…”

He leaned over her to turn on the light and almost had a stroke when she screamed in his ear.

“God, Scully! What?”

He cowered at the foot of the bed where he’d landed and stared at her. She was hugging her knees with one hand and pointing mutely at… at what?

“Your nose.”

His nose. He touched it.

It felt completely familiar.

“Scully?”

“It’s your old nose, Mulder,” she whispered.

“Really?” He felt relief flood through him as he prodded it. His good old goofy nose. It didn’t hurt at all; in fact, it felt as though it’d never been broken.

He crawled over to Scully until his face was inches from hers.

“Look at it.”

“Look at it do what?” She’d leaned back against the headboard in alarm.

“I can’t feel any scars.”

She studied it and touched the sides gently, peering.

“There aren’t any.”

He kneeled back, his knees on either side of her legs, and rested gently against her thighs.

“You’re the doctor. Shouldn’t there still be some evidence of surgery?”

She shook her head in disbelief. “It looks like it’s never been broken.”

They gazed at each other for a long moment.

“What the hell’s going on here, Scully?”

God. The link. Did they still have the link? For some reason, he dreaded the loss of it more than anything else.

Scully?

She looked up.

Thank God. She could still hear him.

Talk to me.

Okay. What about?

He exhaled. We’re still connected, Scully.

Of course we’re still connected. I felt it the second I woke up. Didn’t you?

He thought about it. Something was definitely different between them. They were… together somehow. He’d felt it too, but it simply hadn’t registered as anything out of the ordinary.

Jesus. I’m already taking it for granted.

Men. You’re all the same.

“Maybe it’s just that it’s already a part of us. Natural, in a way. I don’t notice my liver all the time either.”

“That’s because you never came this close to having it ripped out, Mulder.”

He laughed and shook his head. “Since when did I become the straight man, Scully?”

“Personally, I’m glad you’re straight.”

He laughed again and rolled over onto his back, taking her with him.

“You’re getting too witty for your own good, Milady.”

“So punish me.”

He started to kiss her forehead, then stopped.

“Wait a minute.”

She looked up at him.

“Why are we acting like this, Scully?”

“Because we’re naked and we’re in bed, Mulder. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten how to do this too. Should I look for a manual?”

He shook his head and propped himself up against the headboard. “You know that’s not what I mean.”

She sighed and leaned back next to him.

A sudden chill ran down his back.

Scully. My God.

The shapeshifters.

He tried to stop the mad rush of scenarios as they spilled through his mind. Drugs. Hypnosis.

Maybe he’d just inseminated an alien.

“Get a grip, Mulder. I’m sure they’ve got better ways of extracting sperm from humans than setting up an elaborate hoax like this one.”

He looked at her.

She suddenly shuddered.

“Oh, Jesus.” She scrambled back against the headboard, her eyes wide.

“What?” He tried to reach for her but she flailed at him.

“If anything, you’re the alien. They use human females; they already used me once.”

His heart began to pound. Christ. She was right. She had every reason to doubt him.

“Scully, don’t. Please. It’s me. I know who I am.”

She relaxed pointedly and studied him.

“So do I. I’m me. And I know who you are. What happened to trust?”

The link. Of course. He’d have known in an instant if she wasn’t who she seemed to be.

“It’s so comfortable, this thing between us. I keep forgetting it’s there.”

She lowered her head for an instant before meeting his eyes soberly.

“I don’t. You were never this close.”

“Neither were you, Scully.”

“Really.”

He looked down for a moment.

“So I’m an insensitive asshole. You knew that when you married me.”

He looked up just in time to see her smile. She touched his hand.

“We’re all insensitive assholes in one way or another, Captain. Remember what Albert said? It’s the human condition.”

He smiled back.

“Besides, we’re not married.”

He grabbed her left hand and studied it seriously. “Are you sure? I mean, we’ve forgotten everything else…”

“You’d buy me a ring, Mulder?”

“No. But I’d come help you pick it out.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Like attracts like, my angel.”

She guffawed as he grabbed her and pulled her to his chest.

“You know, Mulder, I don’t want to get married.”

“Hmm.”

“Not yet, anyway.”

“Okay.”

He felt her love wash over him and he shivered against her.

You don’t mind?

He tightened his arms around her.

As far as I’m concerned, Milady, we’re married already. Who needs more paperwork?

The Bureau would want to split us up if we were married.

I know.

It’s just not worth it.

“Scully,” he breathed. “You don’t need to justify this. Since when did I strike you as the marrying kind?”

She stirred. “I know you better than you do.”

“So what? So does my couch.”

She chuckled throatily. “Your couch knows you better than any inanimate object has a right to, Mulder.”

“And anyway,” he continued.

“Anyway what?”

“Maybe you’re less of an enigma to me than you think, Mrs. Mulder.”

She inhaled sharply and punched him in the chest. “Don’t ever call me that.”

“Dr. Scully.”

She snuggled against him. “Better.”

His cock throbbed to full erection against her stomach.

He rolled her over, gently, his hands taut on the sheets next to her head. She went willingly, her eyes intense, deep, serious.

He gazed down at her face as he slipped into her.

She gasped softly and closed her eyes for a moment, arching against him in welcome.

He felt her open. He thrust against her once, twice, as he abandoned himself to her.

And then, as they became one, the past came flooding in.

*

PUPPETS 3: COLONIZATION (7b2/7)

by M Partous email:

**** RATED NC-17 FOR EXPLICIT M/S SEX. NOT APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER READERS ****

They stepped onto the ramp of the ship, the light washing over them.

Mulder squinted.

“Aliens must all be afraid of the dark,” he muttered. Albert laughed and squeezed his hand.

They entered and felt the welcome like a wave.

Mulder gasped, clinging to the elder’s hand like a child. His own arm was still wrapped around Scully and he felt her febrile against him, wary, alert like an animal.

It was almost impossible to see anything in all the light.

He could smell an incredible sweetness in the air, like flowers after a morning rain, just-mown grass, warm breezes off the sea.

He thought he caught the brisk yeasty smell of baking bread, the deeper fumes of gasoline, the heady way it used to smell when he was a kid, and then the sweet sexual odour of burning ozone as he ran his electric train.

He smelled Samantha, her little girl smell, and the musky scent of his father as he sat in his chair in the evenings when Fox would sit next to him on the floor with his Tonka trucks, his father silent but loving him in his way, oh God, loving him after all.

Through the link he could feel Scully’s childhood, the warmth of her mother, the chaos of her brothers and sister running, screaming, her father silent, regal, always the captain at the head of the table, but tolerating all of it, revelling in it in his way.

There was the smell of sun on the sandbox, the lazy bump of Junebugs against the screen, the Vineyard ocean shushing against the beach as he walked along it, thoughtful already, thoughtful too young, his sister taken, gone, a stick of driftwood in his hand as he hit it against the debris on the shore, hit it again and again, harder, until the stick in his hand splintered, rotted through, rotten to the core, until he collapsed on his knees and pounded the soft sand with nothing but his hand, his tears streaming, but big boys don’t cry, so he was alone, alone now, alone always.

Mulder shook his head. No. Old. All of it’s old. He looked up into his father’s face.

“Fox.”

It was the face he remembered, the harsh, lined face Albert had shown him in the end when he’d taken on his father’s body, his father’s life, to save him.

But it was softer now, bathed in the intolerable light of the place, his body nebulous, the white of his shirt blending with the light until it was impossible to see where one ended and the other began.

His father smiled at him.

“Fox.” All he could see was that face, transfigured, lit from within. Then hands were on his shoulders, drawing him close, and he collapsed against him, sobbing, his hands clutching at his back, his face buried in a collar that smelled just like his father before the fear, before the rage, before the booze.

“I’m sorry, Dad.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Fox, listen to me. None of it was your fault.”

“Dad…”

“You don’t know what’s coming, son. You have no idea how incredible it’s going to be.”

“Baruch atah adonai…”

“I’m sorry, Fox. I was angry. Scared.”

“Baruch atah…”

“It’ll be okay, son.”

Mulder rocked against his father’s body.

Then he was alone, alone but surrounded by an ocean of love he couldn’t begin to fathom.

He turned and saw Scully in the arms of a slight young man.

His hair was exactly the colour he knew was a deep dark red.

His breath caught as the man turned his face and met his eyes. They were the bottomless blue of Scully’s, his nose was Scully’s, his lips, his chin.

The young man smiled at him. Mulder was taken aback by the confidence in his eyes, the sense of purpose.

“Take care of her, sir.”

Mulder nodded, once, but he felt her anguish through the link.

“She needs you. You’re her son.”

The man shook his head. “She needs you.”

He drew away from her, touching her face, her eyes blind with pain.

“I’m needed here.”

He vanished into the light.

The rest was a blur of images, impressions, memories, faces, human and almost human, the faces of all those who’d vanished and chosen to stay, to help, and the faces of an ancient people, and love, so much love, a tapestry of teachings without words. Finally he found himself sitting next to Scully in a pool of light, Albert crosslegged before them in soft Navajo leathers, his expression peaceful.

Mulder realized dazedly that he was as naked as a jaybird. Moisture beaded his body; the room, if that was what it was, was as muggy and hot as a sweat lodge. The faint whiff of mesquite teased his nostrils.

He felt Scully stir against him and turned to her. She was naked too, her body covered in a sheen of sweat that glistened in the light.

Her eyelids were lowered and she sat perfectly still.

And then Albert spoke.

“We need you to teach us this thing you share.”

The link. “How can we teach you anything about that?” His voice was hoarse.

Albert shook his head, smiling. “No, not that. You received that from us.”

Mulder nodded.

“We’ve forgotten this thing you call love. Love for another being. What we now call love…”

He seemed to search for words.

“…is on a different scale than what humans experience. We love… in a complete way. There’s nothing else for us. Love is what we do.”

He paused.

“But this thing, this connection between two people, we no longer understand. There are no such barriers between selves in our world. It’s no longer part of our vocabulary. Still, if we’re to survive here in order to do our work, it’s essential that we remember what it means to your people.”

Albert’s eyes turned to Scully.

“We must now learn to reproduce on our own if we’re to survive on this world. Our new home. Our old home. The time has come for us to turn to each other for this purpose instead of to you. We’ve hurt enough of you already. But in order to do this, we have to understand the motivation behind the act.”

He leaned towards her.

“What is this love you feel for him alone?” He looked at Mulder. “And you for her? It feels limiting to us now, but there is a certain… ancestral memory, you might say.”

Mulder found it hard to breath.

“A memory of something extraordinarily intense, which I suppose we’ve lost through the diffusion of it. Our love reaches everywhere, young Fox, if you can understand it, but perhaps as a result, it doesn’t have the one-pointedness required for procreation.”

Unbelievably, Mulder could feel himself begin to harden.

It was primitive and embarrassing.

The elder smiled. “Good.”

He lay his hand for a moment against Mulder’s nose. It made him feel a little like a Golden Retriever, but with it came a sense of release, an acceptance of his own unavoidable animal nature, his rightful place in an evolving universe.

I yam what I yam.

He was only human, dammit. Whatever that was. One day, he’d love by default. For now…

“As a small token of my appreciation,” Albert continued, “I’ll give you your real nose back. It had…”

“Character.”

Albert smiled.

“And me? What do I get out of all this?” Scully.

He looked at her. Her eyes were cold.

“Agent Scully. That was a little joke.” He laughed. “A — how do you call it — a metaphor for something much deeper. His real self. And yours. With time, you’ll understand all that we’ve given you.”

He knew that she could feel him through the link, his arousal, his desire for her, his absolute need to find himself in her amid all this confusion.

He knew she could feel his love for her, as Albert could.

He turned to her once more and she looked at him. There was a feeling of desperate need in the air, not his own, a need to know, and beneath it all this fathomless love which defied description.

“We are what we are, Scully,” he whispered as he opened his heart to her.

She touched his cheek.

His lips reached tentatively for hers as she buried her hands in his hair.

And now he was groaning against her mouth as he pounded into her, her legs wrapped tightly around his waist, her hips thrusting up against him, hands clutching at his back, nails gouging his skin.

Mulder could feel her pleasure through the link, the way he felt inside her, oh God, the way it felt to be filled at last.

And he knew she could feel his overpowering need to disappear inside her, to go deeper until he was gone, returned to the place of his origin.

He propped himself up again, gazing at her under his eyelids as he pushed against her, jabbing deeply, feverishly, submitted to an ancient ruthless rhythm.

“Do… you… remember?”

“Yhhhessss.”

He felt her contractions begin as her eyes squeezed shut and she moaned, rocking.

Her climax ripped through him.

“Sculleee…”

“I remember…”

Oh God he groaned I love you I’m coming Jesus I’m here I’m coming Scully…

I’m here, Mulder.

They lay together, limbs entwined.

They remembered.

The only thing that wasn’t clear was how they’d wound up in Scully’s bedroom, still joined, before this last coupling had reawakened their memories.

But now they were quiet, inside and out.

Inexplicably, he knew that something had changed.

Something primordial in the balance of the world.

Mulder didn’t know what and he didn’t know how.

But as he’d approached orgasm, he’d distinctly heard the sound of drums.

An ancient rhythm which echoed the very act they’d been enacting.

The Anasazi were remembering.

Was it the birth of a brave new world?

Right now, it wasn’t his problem; Scully was almost asleep in his arms, and right now she was all that mattered.

He sighed as drowsiness overwhelmed him and he curled himself around her.

“You’re so consumed by your personal vengence against life, whether it be its inherent cruelties or its mysteries, that everything takes on a warped significance to fit your megalomaniacal cosmology.”

— “Quagmire”

*

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