RETURN TO MAIN “THE FIELD WHERE… SERIES PAGE”
The Field Where… Series by Ginef
From Sun Nov 03 22:39:32 1996
First off, I must say that I awaited this episode with trepidation. And all for naught! I found TFWID to be one of the best episodes in a long time. It opened all kinds of doors and closed none. Kudos to Morgan and Wong. Welcome home, guys.
Summary: Scully reflects on her relationship with Mulder and how the events of the episode TFWID will change things. This is not a pretty story, nor does it have a happy ending (but it does leave the potential for one).
Warnings: TFWID spoilers. Scullyangst alert in effect. Enter at your own risk. It’s been a rough week between worrying about this episode, the whole Fox/website fiasco (Free Speech Is Out There!), that pesky little thing called real life and the stunning realization that I will not be able to raise the additional $34,999 I need to buy my very own life-sized X-wing fighter from the Neiman Marcus catalogue. This is a first for me— an entire story without one feeble attempt at humor! I must be growing. But seriously, this is a real departure for me and I’d love to know what you think.
The legal stuff…. I have borrowed the characters and situations of the television program “The X-Files” and will be returning them no worse for the wear. They are the creation and property of Chris Carter, Fox Broadcasting and 1013 Productions. I have used them without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thanks to the usual list of suspects, the sainted Darin Morgan, and Gil for all he’s done to promote fanfic and the X-Files.
“The Field Where I Lied”
“Dana… if over the four years we’ve been working together, an event occurred or somebody told you that we’d been friends together, in other times, always… would it have changed some of the ways we looked at one another?” His voice had been hollow and haunted, as he asked me the one question I didn’t want to answer. Not even to myself. So I lied. I lied to him for the first time in our partnership, just as I know I will lie everyday for the rest of my life.
But now, tonight, is for the almighty truth. I am sitting here in my darkened apartment drinking Irish whiskey to steel my resolve. To purge a man who will never be mine from my heart. I down shot after shot. Straight. Ahab would be so proud. “…would it have changed some of the ways we looked at one another?” The words ripple like a stone tossed in a lake, spreading in perfect symmetry, reaching out forever with no resolution. I close my eyes to hold back the tears. If only I could change everything. I laugh, bitter and short. Regrets have become my bosom buddies, my constant companions. They dance unbidden like the headlights of passing cars on my walls. They come. They go. They are ever present.
My phone is ringing again. I know it’s him. I don’t answer.
I look for the whiskey and think of Melissa. Not Mulder’s so-called soul mate, the one he’s destined to love in place of me. No, I think of my sister. I wish she was here instead of cold and rotting in the ground. My ultimate regret. As much as I tell Mulder and myself that he and I aren’t to blame for her death I know in my heart of hearts that we are. I am. He is. The bastard. Some days her absence is like a huge, gaping maw sucking me into the abyss with such force that I can barely pull myself from my bed. Some days I don’t think about her at all. I don’t know which is worse. When I was a kid I wanted to be Melissa so badly. Wearing make up and a bra. Fighting with mom and Ahab. Missing curfew. I couldn’t wait. Now I want nothing more than to be ten years old again and able to crawl into bed between my parents, safe and warm and loved. I am none of those things now.
The phone rings again. I ignore it.
They must have known that eventually we’d destroy each other. It just took a little longer than expected. I will not leave him. I will not leave the X-Files because, Goddamn him, the truth is addictive and I’m as hooked as any junkie. But, so help me God, he won’t have my heart, my soul. They’re mine again. Mine alone. He can lament about his lost soulmate. He can go to hell. I don’t want to hear it.
There goes the phone again for the third time in five minutes. I don’t answer. I have nothing to say to him. I need to freshen my drink. There’s something to be said for this drinking. Makes everything so much clearer. Every mistake, every regret, is a tin can lined up on a fence waiting to be shot down. Joining the Bureau. Bang. Agreeing to be assigned to the X-Files. Bang. Not transferring the hell out of there as soon as possible. Bang. Falling in love with my totally self-absorbed partner. Need a shot gun for that one. BANG. Oh well, the bottle was almost empty and I need to paint that wall anyway.
My door flies open, kicked in again. My landlord will be thrilled. Mulder is standing there, gun in hand, ready to protect my virtue, my honor, my life. I laugh. He must have been calling from downstairs. I drop to my knees shaking with hysterics. He’s so damn handsome even with his unwashed hair and tattered jeans. I roll onto my back. Now I am a turtle. I can’t get up.
“Scully, you’re drunk,” he observes, helping me to my feet. I shake him off and wrap my arms around myself, a cheap and worthless protection against the power of his touch. As effective as a Band-Aid on an evisceration.
“Crack investigator, that Fox Mulder,” I sneer as I stumble over a corner of the rug on my way to the couch. He catches me. I cannot have him touching me, weakening my defences. I steel myself and shove him away. “Get your hands off me,” I hiss.
He releases me and takes a seat on my couch. “What’s going on, Scully?”
I take the chair. “Dana, my name is Dana.”
He sighs, passing his hand over his eyes. He looks like he hasn’t slept since we returned to Washington two days ago. I try not to care. I fail and I hate myself a little more. “What’s going on, Dana?”
“Nothing.” I get to my feet and stumble towards the kitchen. “You want a drink?”
“Then get the hell out.”
“No?” I challenge, stopping in front of him, pinning him to the couch by the shoulders.
“No,” he replies evenly. I can see from the look in his eyes that he’s not going anywhere. “You look like you need a friend right now.”
“Is that what you are, Mulder?” I ask leaning in closer, my lips nearly touching his. “Just a friend?”
He swallows hard and won’t meet my eyes. “Of course,” he whispers.
I slap him across the face with all my might. Unfortunately, I’m drunk and the impact isn’t what I hoped. But I have succeeded in making him angry. I watch the muscles in his jaw tighten. I resolve to make that pouty lip fatter. I make a fist and take aim, but he easily catches my hand, deflecting the blow. I struggle to escape his grasp and end up on my back on the couch. He is on top of me, pinning me down. I struggle with all the vehemence of a badger caught in a trap. His breath is warm on my face. I realize that he’s been drinking too. Funny how he of the Russian Jewish background turns to vodka even as I find my way to the whiskey. “Scully, Dana, what the hell is going on here?” he whispers.
I stop struggling. Can he really be that obtuse? A man who can sniff out a conspiracy, a secret from ten miles away really not notice what’s been right in front of him for the last four years? I grab him by the hair and brutally pull his mouth to mine. At first he resists, but soon relents with a passion that surpasses even my own, his hands tear at my skin begging to be let in. I feel his heart beating through my bones. I feel his soul touching mine. I am swept away in the moment and just as suddenly in a wave of pure anger. I shove him away and roll to my feet, staring down at him in contempt. “You really are a whore,” I whisper.
He sits up, dragging an arm across his mouth as if it can wipe away the evidence of our kiss and feelings long buried and now exposed. He will not meet my eyes. I feel my defences weakening, his pain is a card pulled from the bottom of my house. It must be stopped before the delicate structure of my psyche collapses. Before I become an unrecoverable wreck.
“Your soulmate,” I spit out the words, “isn’t even in the ground yet and you kiss me like that?”
He stands slowly, like someone who has walked this earth too long. “I’m going to leave now,” he manages evenly, but his body betrays him. He is shaking. He stumbles to the door and uses the knob to steady himself. “I came here to tell you… that in this life my soul must have chosen you.”
I do not say a word. I do not tell him that I love him. Another lie. A lie of omission. The door closes behind him. I am alone. I am safe.
The Field Where She Lied
It was the longest silence of my life though it lasted less than a heartbeat. “Even if I knew for certain I wouldn’t change a day…” I drew a shaky breath and knew she had just lied to me for the first time in our partnership. Lied to make me feel better… to help me make sense of this craziness I’d gotten us into. At the door she turned and quipped, “Well, maybe that Flukeman thing, I could have lived without that.” Dana Katherine Scully is the only person, in any lifetime, who could have made me smile at that moment.
I pick up the picture again and run my finger gently along the strong jaw line. The eyes are earnest, veracious, strong… and so painfully familiar. I fill my glass and let the vodka burn its way down my throat before I flip the snapshot over and read the name on the back for the hundredth time… Sergeant Jack Fletcher, 1863… Scully… oh captain, my captain… I laugh scornfully, oh sergeant, my sergeant doesn’t quite pull the same punch, but the sentiment is there. I spent two desperate hours hunting down this picture in the tiny county archive. I knew she wouldn’t look. I knew she couldn’t. I let the photo slip from my fingers and fall to the floor, just out of my reach, like the tattered remnants of my soul. I’ve had too much to drink. Or maybe not enough.
I set my glass down on the battered coffee table and consider the bottle and the holes in what I have learned over the last few days. I am many things— self-centered, arrogant, and obsessive spring immediately to mind— but stupid is not one of them. So, of course, I realize there is no way that the Cancer Man’s soul could have occupied an officer in the Gestapo in 1940s Poland. No, he would have been too busy pulling the legs off spiders and torturing puppies stateside. But can I use this one inconsistency as a catalyst to nullify everything else?
I gather the torn pieces of another ancient photograph and brush them gently past my lips. I breathe deeply of the musty smell and try to force the image of her body, cold and limp, from my mind. Melissa… Sarah… my soulmate… my destiny… I am tired. So tired. I drain the vodka from my glass and try to imagine what the poison felt like as it travelled down her throat on its journey to stop her heart. Did it burn or was the taste hidden by the sweetness of the Kool Aid and the knowledge that this tortured incarnation was finally at an end? Did she think of me as she slipped away? Is she waiting for me even now?
I pick my Sig Sauer up off the table and caress it like a lover. It’s weight is heavy and satisfying in my hand. It is an option. A choice. I place the gun to my head. The cold metal barrel digs into my hairline and sends a tingle of anticipation down my spine like the last inning of a one run ball game. I hold my breath. My finger dances lightly on the trigger. I have the power now. I decide if I live or die. I decide whether to free my soul to go in search of her. I close my eyes and gently tighten my grip. It feels so good, so entirely different from when Modell forced me to do the same thing. I am standing on the edge of this existence, my toes curling over the dock, the unknown waiting, beckoning for me below. I struggle for my final breath, ragged and desperate, and beg a God I can’t quite bring myself to believe in for guidance. Scully’s tortured face appears in my mind’s eye. I know she will be the one to find my body. I picture her using her key to gain entrance only to find what remains of me sprawled out on the couch, my brains adorning the wall like some surreal painting, my eyes staring lifelessly into hers… I fling the gun across the room. It hits the baseboard with a thud that renews my tenuous grasp on life. Confirms my decision to live.
I bury my face in my hands, sobbing and gasping for breath. It is the first time I have put Scully’s needs ahead of my own. She somehow sees worth in my existence, and so I return from the dead again to continue with her, united in dangerous purpose. I laugh bitterly. Sometimes I’m so fucking melodramatic.
My next door neighbor is playing the Macarena again. Usually I counterattack with one of my records from the Oxford days— Sex Pistols, DOA, The Dead Daalas— but it seems too much of an effort to bother. I need to get out of here. I need to see Scully. I grab my keys and my gun and head out in search of a cab.
I am in luck. I manage to catch one just around the corner. I slink into the back seat and give the driver Scully’s Annapolis address. He looks at me like I’m an extraterrestrial, or worse, a tourist. “Very expensive, you realize,” he asks, his voice a wonderfully sing-songy English. “I don’t usually go so far.”
I whip out my ID and say, “FBI business.” Maybe Skinner will save me the trouble and kill me himself. We pull away from the curb post haste. I watch the city whipping by. I open the window and stick my head out in an effort to clear the cobwebs from my mind. The wind rushes by with the speed of my thoughts. Could I have been so desperate to embrace extreme possibilities that I used an obviously mentally disturbed young woman to tap into my own neurotic needs? Am I Pavlov’s dog? Suggest a paranormal experience and I salivate? I must admit this is entirely plausible. I cannot deny that I felt a tremendous pull towards Melissa, like a man lost in the desert finding an oasis. I drank deeply, greedily, only to choke on my own sandy mirage. Was it love? Was it real? Was this my soulmate or just another attempt on my part to rescue someone who didn’t want to be saved?
I need reassurance. I need logic. I pull my head in and roll up the window before retrieving my cellphone. I dial Scully’s number. There is no answer. I turn my gaze to the driver, who is eyeing me nervously in the rearview mirror. “You know anything about reincarnation?”
He grimaces. “Because I’m East Indian, you assume I know something about reincarnation?”
“No… I— I guess. Yeah,” I admit with no small amount of shame.
He eyes me again, enjoying my discomfiture and finally smiles somewhat ruefully. “My wife is convinced she was Mary, Queen of Scots. Why do you ask?” I close my eyes and ride along on his words, deciding I would like to trade in my Massachusetts nasal for his more melodic intonation.
“What exactly is a soulmate?”
“You mean in the one true love sense?” he asks as we pull off the Beltway.
“It’s a myth.”
“It’s my experience that myths are usually derived from a truth.”
“Perhaps misconception is a better word.”
“Despite popular belief, a soulmate has nothing to do with love,” he pauses, searching for the words. “It’s about wanting to travel through a series of incarnations with another soul or souls.”
“Really?” I bite my lower lip and consider this.
He nods. “My wife says we travel together as long as we want to and have things to learn from each other. The dynamics and relationships are always evolving… changing…”
I lean forward, resting my elbows on the back of the seat. “You mean we don’t necessarily have to mate with the same soul time after time for all eternity?”
“What would be the fun in that?” the man says, eyes twinkling. I rest my head on my arm. I swear I feel Melissa release her grip on my heart, my mind, my soul and drift slowly away. The cab pulls up in front of Scully’s building before I have the chance to follow this thought into dangerous territory.
I drop back in my seat and pull out my wallet, handing over my Visa. “Do you believe?”
His eyes meet mine in the mirror again as he deftly runs my card through his machine and hands it back. “I have yet to amass the scientific evidence to either prove or disprove it.”
I give him an outrageously huge tip and climb from the car laughing. Skeptics, skeptics everywhere. I pull my cellphone out again and call my favorite one. Damn. Still no answer.
I look up and see movement in her darkened window. I take the stairs two at a time. From down the hall I dial again, her long ago cries for help howl through my mind like a banshee across the moors. No answer.
I creep slowly down her hall, pulling my gun as I go. As I near the door I hear glass shatter and my mind dances with images of Duane Barry coming through that window. Without a second thought I kick the door in, forgetting that her landlord threatened to ban me from the building if I did it again.
Scully looks at me, stunned, and drops to her knees. She rolls on to the floor shaking. Laughing or crying, I can’t tell, but alive and in one piece. My heart begins to beat again. I can breath. I reach down to help her to her feet.
“Scully, you’re drunk,” I say, somewhat amused.
I am surprised when she pulls away. “Crack investigator, that Fox Mulder,” she sneers and stumbles again. I catch her in my arms and don’t want to let go. When did she get under my skin? When did she become essential, like a speedball to an addict? She did it so subtlely, with such characteristic grace, that I didn’t even notice.
“Get your hands off me,” she snaps, shoving me roughly away. The door to her soul slams shut. I am a soldier locked out just before the big battle, left pounding on the huge wooden door, splinters digging into my hands. I scramble for a seat on her couch just before my knees give out. I take a deep breath and ask her what’s going on.
She takes the chair. “Dana, my name is Dana.”
I look at her. Really look at her for the first time in months. My heart clenches in my chest. When did she get so thin? Almost painfully so. How could I have not noticed? And she looks tired, she hasn’t been sleeping. I recognize the telltale signs, the puffiness, the dark shadows on her eyes. “What’s going on, Dana?”
“Nothing,” she lies, without ease, and gets to her feet. I feel suddenly adrift. An astronaut on a broken tether. I feel her floating away from me. Forever out of reach. “You want a drink?”
“Then get the hell out,” she orders, gesturing to the door, and nearly knocking herself over with the effort. I notice the broken bottle against the wall and conclude that she’s had more to drink than I thought. I look back to see her weaving in front of me. She braces herself on my shoulders. “No?” she questions.
“You look like you could use a friend,” I mumble and pray, please Scully, I want to be that friend. Let me in.
“Is that what you are, Mulder,” she whispers, leaning so, so close to me. Air is becoming a scarce commodity. The effort to breath an Olympic event. “Just a friend.”
“Of course.” I realize with a start that I’m lying and that I want so much more than friendship. Where did that come from? Has it been here the entire time? A skeleton locked in the closet. Reality returns in the form of her hand slamming into my face. What the hell was that for? Before I can ask, she starts in with a right. I grab her fist and roll her over, pinning her to the couch with my body. “What the hell is going on here?” I demand.
Hurt and confusion echo in her eyes. She grabs my hair and for a moment I think she’s going to head butt me. What she actually does shocks me even more. She presses her lips to mine with an urgency that nearly sends me into cardiac arrest and brings down the floodgates. My hands explore her body savagely. I want to possess her. I want to claim her breath as my own. I want to be the blood that flows through her veins. I feel her soul touching mine… and then she’s gone. On her feet staring down at me. “You really are a whore,” she whispers.
I feel myself die a little and wish I’d pulled the trigger on that Sig. I brush the back of my hand across my mouth, an attempt to savor the memory of her lips. I cannot look at her. If I do, I will lose control. I will come apart at the seams, a sweater unraveling. And then she drives the stake into my heart. “Your soulmate isn’t even in the ground yet and you kiss me like that?”
Her contempt is a living entity. I cannot fight it. At least not now. I climb to my feet and head for the door. I pray she cannot see me trembling. I grip the knob and lay my heart out, an ace on the table. “I came here to tell you… that in this lifetime my soul must have chosen you.”
She says nothing and so I close the door behind me. This is not over. It has just begun. I settle myself in on the floor across the hall. I’ve waited countless lifetimes for her. I can wait one more night.
The Field Where Max Fenig Arrived
Classifications: A, X, MSR
Timeline: Starts after “The Field Where I Died” and then jumps to after “Memento Mori” and ends before “Tempus Fugit/Max”. It’s Spoiler City, folks.
Summary: Mulder and Scully are asked to assist Scotland Yard on a case involving a series of murders and possible alien abductions in Southern England while struggling to cope with their changing relationship.
Disclaimer or “This bucket of bolts will never make it past the copyright attorneys.”: I have borrowed the situations and characters of the television program “The X-Files” and will be returning them with only minor cuts and bruises. They are the property of Chris Carter, Fox Broadcasting and 1013 Productions. I have used them without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
Speaking of infringement, I have borrowed liberally (and shamelessly) from sources as varied as Shakespeare and Joy Division. A list of my transgressions can be found at the end of this story.
Thanks: Muchas gracias to all my beta readers for their endless patience and wisdom. PG, Ghits, Kelly, Marlene, Tracey, Lala, Holo, there’s a piece of all of you in here. All errors, leaps in logic and scientific inaccuracies are mine and mine alone. Darin, your picture as Flukeman still graces my wall as inspiration, but it’s about to be joined by one of Vince Gilligan. He’s writing some pretty amazing stuff… you better get back there and defend your title as Deity of the XF Writers.
Notes: This story is a sequel of sorts to my previous stories “The Field Where I Lied” and “The Field Where She Lied.” I had originally thought to make this a cross-over with the books of the wonderfully talented Elizabeth George. Those of you familiar with her intriguing characters will note that mine have been heavily influenced.
I started this story over a year ago and then merged it with something else I was working on. When I found out about “Tempus Fugit/Max” I tried to finish it in time for Stef’s Max Returns challenge but events and computers conspired against me. Sorry, Stef.
All comments and suggestions are welcome! I will write for feedback <g>.
This one is for Gheorghe2, gone but never forgotten. Split concentration exercises will never be the same… Rest in peace, my friend.
“The Field Where Max Fenig Arrived”
Near Avebury, England
November 29, 1996
The sun was rising in the east over the semi-sleeping form of a man sprawled out in the middle of a corn field. As one no longer accustomed to natural light, he was attempting to use his hands as protection from the glare invading his tender eyes. He was cold, oh so cold, his tattered jeans and light wind-breaker hardly serving as adequate protection against the biting winter morning. And he was hungry. He was most definitely hungry, and it was this need for food that finally drove him unsteadily to his feet and out in search of food…
Apartment of Special Agent Dana Scully
“Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.” —William Shakespeare (1) Scully peered through the peephole and felt her stomach drop at the sight of her partner still slumbering on the floor across from her apartment. He was on his side, back braced against the wall, knees pulled up with his arms wrapped around his ribs as if this would somehow protect him from the dangers of the world. Scully laughed bitterly and the sound reverberated through her throbbing head. She could clearly see the imprint of her hand on his face and couldn’t help but take a small bit of satisfaction in the fact that she’d hit him harder than she thought. At the same time she couldn’t stave off the large dose of guilt she felt for having hurt him, for the things she’d said and done. Her relationship with Mulder was certainly a paradox, she mused as she allowed her head to fall forward. The cool wood of the door against her throbbing forehead was the only good thing in her life at the moment, but it held off the effects of last night’s overindulgence for only a moment. Well, you’ve certainly opened up a can of worms, Starbuck. She jerked her head up at the sound of her father’s voice echoing around in her mind. She paled as her stomach revolted and ran for the bathroom. She heaved time after time as if giving birth to the meager contents of her stomach, a cold sweat breaking out across her brow until she was empty. Until she had nothing left to give.
She wished she could purge Mulder from her system in just such a way. She rested against the cold toilet seat, pulled the handle and watched her illness spiral away. She wanted to go with it, to follow it into the depths and escape this mess she’d created. But with her luck, she’d run into the Flukeman, she mused as she climbed unsteadily to her feet.
Not one to be easily intimidated, she forced herself to take a long, hard look in the mirror as she brushed her teeth and was nearly ill again. Red rimmed eyes stared back at her from the canvas of her pale, splotchy face. If you drink like your brothers you’re going end up looking like them, Dana, she scolded herself as she fired up the shower.
The water burned her skin like Mulder’s hands had only a few hours before.
She couldn’t help but close her eyes and remember the way his lips had felt on hers, the way they’d possessed her and commanded her. The way his body dominated her physically as effortlessly as he did spiritually. She despaired for ever having a weapon in her arsenal powerful enough to ward him off.
A half an hour later, as she stood in the kitchen downing (drinking being far too delicate a word) her second cup of coffee, she started to feel guilty about her partner sleeping out in the hallway, not to mention the fodder for the rumor mill it would generate. She was well aware that she was the number one topic of discussion among her neighbors. And why not? She and Mulder had single-handedly managed to bring down the property value what with all the abductions, murders, stretch arm-strong mutants in the airducts, break-ins, spies, and she noted wryly as she approached, kicked in doors. She examined the damage. Better get it fixed before the landlord saw it and had an aneurysm.
She silently opened the door and looked down at her sleeping partner. His face carried an innocence in slumber he never allowed during the light of day. She kneeled down next to him, fighting back the wave of emotions swirling around inside her and brushed back the hair falling over his forehead. “Come on, partner,” she said softly. “We have a funeral to go to.”
He opened his eyes with a start and looked around frantically trying to figure out where he was. Then it all came back to him. “Scully,” he breathed, and reached for her without thinking.
She deftly ducked his advance with all the grace of Joe Montana in the glory days. “Coffee?” she asked, entering the apartment. He stumbled to his feet, feeling every moment of his 36 years, and followed.
He found her in the kitchen pouring him coffee and popping a couple of pieces of bread into the toaster. “Scully, we need to talk about last night,” he ventured.
She shook her head, keeping her back to him. “No. No, we don’t,” she replied, pouring herself another coffee and stirring in the creamer with a little too much vehemence.
Mulder moved toward her slowly and boxed her in by placing a hand on the counter on either side of her. She froze. “Yes we do,” he whispered, his mouth next to her ear.
Scully swallowed hard, like she was trying to force down a bowling ball. She willed the phone to ring, a neighbor to come to the door, an explosion, the atomic bomb, anything. Instead she got Mulder’s lips brushing gently over her neck and the reaction in the pit of her stomach was almost as powerful as that of a splitting atom. She felt her knees weaken, her eyes involuntarily close, as she leaned her head back.
Mulder encased her in his arms, pulling her tightly against him. He gently tugged at her earlobe with his teeth. Her body relaxed against his, surrendering. “Scully, I want you,” he breathed and felt her stiffen in his arms.
She forced her way out of his grasp with a smartly placed elbow and turned on him. “I’m nobody’s second choice,” she said, her voice like steel. “And now we have to go to the funeral of your first.” With that she snapped up her keys and headed for the door before Mulder could even fathom a retort.
* * *
They’d barely spoken a word on the long drive to Tennessee. Mulder had tried in earnest to tell her about his discussion with the cab driver, but knew he hadn’t gotten through. Now they stood beside the grave, not speaking, and not touching. The minister had said a few words and left them to their reflection. The workers, who were waiting for them to leave before filling in the grave, were wishing they would hurry it up. No one else had come to wish Melissa Ephesian a safe journey into the great beyond. Mulder hoped that she found the peace there that she couldn’t find here. He was somehow absolutely certain, although he couldn’t say how, that this was their final good-bye. He would not encounter her soul again. They had different lessons to learn. He stared into the empty hole so reminiscent of his heart and thought of Scully.
In how many other lifetimes had he watched her move on without him? How close had he come in this incarnation? He closed his eyes and exhaled sharply. Too damn close to even contemplate.
Scully flinched at his short out-take of breath. How could he grieve like that for someone he barely knew? What was she doing here? Always the long suffering Scully. What had happened to her self-esteem? Her pride? The cornerstones of her personality, vanished in the night like Mulder’s sister.
God, even her analogies were connected to him. How pathetic could she be? She turned and walked away, heading for the relative safety of her car. Mulder caught her by the elbow. “Scully,” he began.
She jerked her arm away from him. “Take all time you need, Mulder. She was your soulmate after all,” she spat.
“Scully, listen to me. There are many kinds of soulmates—,” he started to explain again.
“Right, according the cab driver you had a heart-to-heart with while drunk,”
she scoffed. “Your scientific methodology never ceases to amaze me.”
He closed his eyes and sighed as she again headed for the car. Everything he was trying to tell her was coming out wrong. “Scully, I—”
Scully whirled back around and cut him off with the slash of her hand.
“That’s just it, Mulder. It’s always ‘I’ with you. It’s always your quest.
Your sister. Your search for the truth. Your soulmate,” she paused, her voice had dropped to a whisper. Mulder felt his heart shriveling up with the truth of her words. As she continued, the customary strength returned to her voice.
“And now *your* new found desire for me. Did you ever stop to think that I don’t want you?”
The challenge in her voice snapped Mulder out of his funk. He grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her close. “Do you,” he questioned. “Want me?”
“No,” Scully said too quickly, and looked away.
“Liar,” he whispered. She stared back at him, trapped in his gaze like a snake by a charmer. His lips were nearing hers and her eyelids started to close. She welcomed his touch even as she dreaded it. It was like dying, inevitable, but something you held off as long as you could. The backhoe dumping dirt onto the coffin of Melissa Ephesian echoed unnaturally loud like a bass drum in a Mardi Gras parade and they both turned to the sound. Mulder loosened his grip on her and Scully took the opportunity to flee, running to her car and driving off without a look back. For once, making Mulder the one left behind.
* * *
Apparently he did find his own way home, because he was sitting at his desk going through slides when she arrived the next morning. “Morning, Scully,” he said, but didn’t look up.
“Morning,” she replied in kind, hanging her coat on the rack and dropping her briefcase on what served as her desk. She quickly booted up her computer and checked her e-mail. She flinched at the message informing her that the remains of another child had been unearthed in Home. It was waiting for her in the lab. Wonderful, just what she needed to get this day off to a rosy start, she thought. “Another Peacock baby waiting for me,” she said, getting to her feet.
Mulder looked up sharply. “You’re going to the lab then?” he questioned.
“Uh, yeah,” she replied. “Unless of course you’d rather I brought it back and performed the post-mortem on your desk, that is.”
“No, no, that’s fine.”
“Well, thanks for giving me your permission to do my job, Mulder,” she said, as she made her way to the door.
Mulder rose quickly, blocking her way with his arm. “Scully, wait. About yesterday…”
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment before speaking.
“Mulder, we’re at work, on Bureau time, I really don’t think this is the time or place to be discussing this.”
“So just where is the time and place then, Dana,” he challenged.
“I don’t know, *Fox*,” she shot back and he flinched at her use of his given name. “Maybe there isn’t a time or place.”
His arm dropped from the door and she slipped out quickly. Mulder waited till the count of five before pounding his fist into the file cabinet.
* * *
If she were in the mood to be honest with herself, which she wasn’t, Scully might have admitted that she was stretching this autopsy out as long as possible. The idea of facing Mulder again was even more unpalatable than the post-mortem on this poor, tortured child. So, when the door to the lab opened and Mulder entered she had to fight the urge to run for her life. He dropped a bag from her favorite deli on the table by the door and then added a diet coke, pulled from his coat pocket, to the bounty. “I thought you might be hungry,” he said by way of explanation.
She glanced briefly at him and then returned to the microscope. Why, why, why does he have to be nice to me? It makes justifying his homicide that much more difficult.
He settled himself on the table by the door and sighed. When Scully didn’t bite and ask about his obvious discontent he said, “I got a memo from Human Resources saying I had to start burning some of my vacation time or lose it.
I’m going over there in a while to try to get out of it.”
Without turning her attention from her work, Scully replied, “You know, Mulder, most people don’t consider taking a vacation that much of a hardship.”
“But I’m not most people,” he said as he got up and moved toward her, a strained attempt at being casual and looked over her shoulder. “Find anything unusual?” he asked.
She frowned. “He’s missing several major organs and appears to have three lungs,” she paused. “It’s a miracle he was even carried to term.”
Mulder grimaced and settled himself down the edge of the desk. “I double checked with the sheriff’s departments within a 1000-mile radius of Home while you were down here. No sign of Ma and Pa Peacock… yet.” He smirked and added, “And I thought my family was messed up.”
Scully couldn’t resist a half smile of her own. Finally, a Mulder she could handle. She fought a sigh of relief and felt herself slip into her own familiar role with the ease of pulling on a pair of worn 501s. She continued working for a moment, seemingly like she hadn’t heard him. “I don’t know Mulder, I think I might see a family resemblance,” she finally responded.
He leaned closer, his breath warm on her ear and whispered, “You think?”
Normalcy was abducted by aliens. She shrugged and moved away. “Mulder, I’m not a suspect, please don’t invade my personal space that way,” she replied calmly.
Mulder followed her and leaned a little closer. “Why? Afraid you can’t resist me?”
Scully moved away again, sliding the tiny body back into the refrigeration unit and closing the door firmly. “Trust me. I can resist you,” she said, frowning slightly.
“I believe you’re lying, Agent Scully.”
Scully stopped and stared at him. He was breaking the established rules of their banter, but two could play the sexual innuendo game. She walked toward him, slowly, tugging off her latex gloves. They snapped unnaturally loud in the silent room. Caught off guard, Mulder backed up a couple of steps, before regaining his composure and standing his ground. “If I didn’t know better I’d think you were coming on to me, Agent Mulder.” She moved even closer so that her face was mere inches from his. “Are you?” she challenged, the smell of her perfume making him lightheaded.
“Always” he pledged, trying to regain a grip on terra firma.
Scully grabbed his tie and pulled his face close. “If we’re going to continue working together you’re going to have to respect my wishes,” she purred.
“Which are?” he managed, nervously licking his lips.
“That you and I remain partners and,” she paused for effect. “Partners only.”
February 2, 1996
The light. The blinding light. He could feel his brain being pulled, sucked out through his nose, his ears. He could feel his nerve tissue uncoiling. The pounding was deafening. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t breathe. They were back. They were coming to take him… and his new-found friends. “NOOOO!!!”
he screamed before the darkness took him.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Washington, D. C.
A fragile truce of sorts had been negotiated. Special agents Mulder and Scully dealt with the latest strain on their partnership as they had so many times before— by not dealing with it. Instead, they pretended everything was “fine,” each taking turns stitching pieces into this crazy quilt they called their partnership. It had been an extremely busy couple of months what with sentences served in a Gulag and contempt of Congress respectively and the entire Roche fiasco. Then, of course, there’d been what Mulder called her “excellent tattoo adventure” and… the cancer. Since that early morning in the hospital hallway after Penny Northern’s death, Scully had silently declared the topic off-limits, except when they were following a lead. Even then, the matter (the CANCER he wanted to scream some days) was discussed only in the most scientific of terms. Scully had said she’d find a way to live with the disease and she had— by denying it. In doing so, Mulder was able to forget for seconds at a time that she was sick, that he might lose her and that it was his responsibility to find a cure. They *had* to find a cure because losing her was a possibility he simply could not, would not, accept.
All said, it had been a hell of a couple of months. They needed a break and Mulder was ecstatic that Skinner had provided them with one. It’ll be a nice trip to the old country, he mused.
“Hey, Scully,” he called as he flew into their basement office, nearly scaring her out of her skin. “Is your passport up to date?”
She looked up from the report she was typing, annoyed to see he hadn’t brought her lunch. “Of course. Where’s my salad?”
“How can you think about food at a time like this? We’re going to England!
And everyone knows the food there is terrible.”
“England? The scene of your impetuous youth?” Scully asked, intrigued.
“Well, London actually.”
“Oh, the home of your incredibly scary ex-girlfriend.” Mulder’s face dropped at the mention of Phoebe and Scully felt a little guilty for having brought it up. She never had gotten him to tell her what had happened before she arrived at that Cape Cod house, but whatever it was, it must have been horrific. So, she asked the one question that she knew would cheer him up.
“What’s the case? I’m assuming there’s a case.”
“Of course there’s a case,” he said with just a hint of a roguish grin.
“Seems Southern England is experiencing a bizarre series of murders…” he said, the glimmer returning to his eyes.
“…and — you’re going to love this, Scully— these murders may involve alien abductions.” Scully rolled her eyes. “According to Skinner a certain Detective Inspector at New Scotland Yard heard from a friend of his at Oxford, one of my former professors, that… well, that I, we, had experience in this area.”
“Great,” Scully said, injecting every bit of sarcasm she could into her voice.
“Hey, it’s not often that Scotland Yard asks for help,” Mulder said, feigning hurt.
“And I guess when they do even the FBI jumps,” she sighed. “When do we leave?”
“Tomorrow at 7:30 AM. I’ll pick you up at six.”
American Airlines Flt. 342
Mulder attempted to stretch his legs within the cramped confines of his seat, the only thing he hated about flying was the lack of space. There was something slightly appealing to him about being out of control, of knowing that at any moment they could fall from the sky and crash to the Earth. He knew it was this very reason that Scully hated to fly. She simply could not tolerate being out of control. It never ceased to amaze him that they could be so fundamentally different and still make such an incredible team. He attempted to find more room for his legs again and ended up kicking his partner for the effort. Scully glanced up from the case file she was reading and gave him her infamous “stop fidgeting” look. She really would make a great mom, Mulder mused, able to strike fear into her kids with the simple lifting of an eyebrow. The smile faded as he remembered what that hybrid had told him. Infertile and invaded by cancer. On some level he simply refused to believe it. Perhaps that was why he hadn’t told Scully the entire truth yet.
Refusing to travel on this train of thought, he reached into his briefcase and pulled out his Walkman. Maybe a little Pearl Jam would do the trick, he thought slipping the headphones over his ears. He pushed the play button and got… nothing. Damn! Forgot to replace the batteries again. He removed the Walkman and was in the process of returning it to his briefcase when Scully said, “I forgot to remind you about the batteries. Sorry.”
He shrugged and grabbed the book he was allegedly reading out of the pocket in front of him and cracked it open. Scully looked at the title and lifted that eyebrow again. “Jedi Academy?” she asked.
Mulder blushed a bit. “Yeah. This Kevin J. Anderson… basically I hate him.
He’s ruining the characters, especially Luke. I don’t know why I keep buying the stuff.”
“Oh?” she questioned.
“I’m just glad there aren’t books written about our lives, with my luck we’d end up with this hack.”
Scully smiled. “I’m more of a Zahn woman myself.”
Mulder’s jaw dropped, he couldn’t imagine her reading Star Wars novels, but then again Dana Scully was full of surprises. Before he could reply, Scully plopped down a copy of a London tabloid with a report on the first murder onto his lap. It was open to a picture of a shirtless woman in a hard-hat.
“Well, I can certainly see why you lasted three years in England, Mulder,”
“Ah, yes, the Page Three Girl…the only reason to read the Sun—” he was stopped mid-sentence as Scully’s elbow made contact with his ribs.
“They really have a woman in here every day?” she asked incredulously. Mulder nodded. Scully shook her head. “I don’t know whether to be appalled or amused. Here, let me out. I need to go to the restroom.”
“What’ll you give me for safe passage?” he teased.
“Mulder, let me out or I’ll hurt you like your favorite beast woman,” she said trying to force him out with her shoulder. He moved his legs aside so she could exit. As she moved by him, her short jacket rode up a bit and he caught a quick glimpse of the tattoo on the small of her back. He inhaled sharply and bit down on his lower lip, fighting the urge to grab her and run his mouth over the mark that so inflamed and aroused him. His mind projected images of Ed Jerse doing just that in case the pain wasn’t acute enough.
Scully turned to him and said, “Sorry. Did I step on your toe?”
Mulder shook his head quickly. No, just my heart, he thought. Just my heart.
Scully shifted her carry-on bag from one hand to the other for the third time, finally dropping it to the ground with a sigh. The line at Customs and Immigration seemed to snake on forever. A young couple joined the line behind them. “Is this where we que up?” the man asked Scully, his accent sounding amazingly like Ringo Starr.
“Excuse me?” she replied, having no clue what he was talking about or even what he had said.
Mulder laughed, at her expense she could tell. “No,” he replied. “E.U.
citizens can clear Customs over there,” he said, pointing to a much shorter line. The couple thanked him and moved on.
“Don’t suppose there’s a shorter line for exhausted FBI agents?” Scully whined. Mulder shook his head sadly.
After another twenty minutes it was finally their turn. “Purpose of your visit,” the middle-aged woman asked without even looking up.
Scully put her passport and FBI identification on the counter. “Business. I’m Special Agent Dana Scully of the Federal Bureau of Investigations here to work with New Scotland Yard.”
Still without looking up the woman pointed to her left. “Secondary,” she replied.
* * *
Another half an hour later Mulder and Scully finally trudged out of secondary inspection, having been relieved of their guns for the duration of the trip.
“I can’t believe they don’t even allow law enforcement officers to carry weapons,” Scully was saying as Mulder scanned the crowd looking for their ride.
“Agents Scully and Mulder?” They heard the crisp English voice behind them and turned to see an attractive man in his early forties, dressed in an elegantly-tailored suit, headed toward them. Scully self-consciously tried to brush the wrinkles out of her jacket. “I’m Detective Inspector Nigel Spencer,” he said extending his hand. Scully and Mulder took turns shaking it. “Welcome to Great Britain.”
“Thanks,” Scully said.
“How’d you know it was us?” Mulder asked.
“Let’s just say you had that G-man look, Agent Mulder,” the man replied, warmth and humor clear in his voice. “The car’s this way.” He picked Scully’s bag and headed off.
Mulder leaned over and whispered, “Come on, G-woman.”
Mulder, Scully and Spencer stood outside the King’s Arms having just enjoyed a dinner of fish and chips. “Detective Sergeant Smith wanted to join us tonight, but she had a prior engagement, actually what you Americans would call a hot date,” Spencer was saying. “I must remember to give her hell about that tomorrow,” obvious affection reflected in his voice.
Scully and Mulder laughed. Neither of them really liked working with others, after what they not-so-affectionately called the Mis-Adventures of Ratboy, but this Spencer seemed all right. “Mulder specializes in psychological terrorism,” Scully said, gesturing at her partner with her head.
“That just might come in handy,” Spencer laughed. “Now, you’re sure you remember the way back to the hotel?” Scully and Mulder nodded in unison.
“Right, then. We’ll ring you in the morning.”
The three shook hands and parted ways. “Well, Scully, should we head back?”
“How about you show me some of the sights?” Scully asked.
It was the first time since Tennessee that she’d made any overture toward spending time together outside work and he felt an involuntary smile tug at his lips. “Scully, I’ll take you anywhere you want.”
“Anywhere?” she challenged.
* * *
Mulder hadn’t expected Scully’s “anywhere” to be Buckingham Palace. They climbed out of the cab and Scully stood rooted in her tracks. Mulder waited patiently while her eyes examined the legendary home of the “merry” Windsors.
Even he had to admit it was pretty impressive. He closed his eyes and took the moment to let his senses register his return to England. It hadn’t really changed. The cold dampness still invaded his bones even as the combined smells of diesel fuel, mildew and neighborhood fish and chip shops did his nose. For the first time in twelve years he desired a cup of tea. With milk.
He opened his eyes and remembered the last time he’d stood in this exact spot. He’d been newly graduated from Oxford, raw and fragile. His future before him, the world his oyster, or so he’d been told. Everyone had been so proud of him— his professors, his few friends, his mother. Everyone except the one person who’s approval he needed most. Dear old dad had been unable to attend because of work. Yeah, right. His mom had flown over for the ceremony and they’d spent a week in London seeing the sights before returning to the States together. Mulder had eagerly anticipated and dreaded the challenge of the position waiting for him at the FBI while his heart had broken at the prospect of leaving Phoebe behind. True, she’d dumped him over a year before, but that hadn’t stopped her from sneaking into his flat the night before graduation for a frantic romp on the couch with him, while his mother had slept not 30 feet away in his bedroom. He remembered vividly the fear and excitement at the prospect of being caught in the act, the way her teeth had dug into his palm as he’d forcefully covered her mouth to keep her from calling out, and the small morsel of hope that she’d come to ask him to stay.
He would have, without a second thought. But then she’d stood, dressing silently, quickly, and left with a jaunty, “See you around, Mulder.” He shook his head, returning himself to the present. He silently prayed that she was out of town on a case or even a holiday. Or that by some miracle she wouldn’t know he was here. For a bright guy he certainly was a slow learner. To think he’d almost fallen for it again in Boston. He almost laughed out loud at his näiveté and turned his attention to Scully, who was still scrutinizing the palace.
She seemed to sense his return to the land of the living. “That’s it, isn’t it? The balcony?” Scully asked, a weak attempt at being nonchalant.
Mulder grinned. “Yeah, that’s it.”
Scully nodded and continued to stare at the balcony. She savored memories of being sixteen years old—hopelessly naive— and witnessing, live through the magic of television, what she’d thought was the most beautiful wedding followed by the most romantic kiss she’d ever seen. Proof that truth is stranger than fiction. “I was holding out for Edward,” she finally said, wistfully.
Mulder laughed. “Scully, I’d never have taken you for romantic.”
“Romantic?” she scoffed, slowly tearing her eyes away. “I wanted the clothes.”
He laughed again. “Come on, I’ll show you where the Queen Mother lives,”
Mulder said, presenting his arm like a proper escort. “Maybe she’ll have us in for tea.” Scully smiled and took it as they headed off in search of Clarence House.
* * *
First thing the next morning, Mulder and Scully climbed into the back of Detective Inspector Spencer’s Jaguar. Mulder was practically drooling and Scully could just imagine that he’d use about any excuse to get to drive it.
Scully examined the detective’s graying curly brown hair and ruddy cheeks.
Checking out another of the older man’s obviously expensive suits, she wondered idly if law enforcement paid better over here or if this detective was part of the so-called noble class. “Nice car, Inspector Spencer,” she heard Mulder say.
“Why, thank you, Agent Mulder.”
“He never lets me drive it, does he?” said Detective Sergeant Jane Smith, from her spot in the front, laughter clear in her voice.
“I don’t even let my wife drive it, as you know, Jane,” Spencer returned lightheartedly.
“And shame on you for that, Nigel, shame on you.” They both laughed. Mulder took in the pretty woman’s features. Brown hair, blue eyes, hairstyle and dress very similar to that of his partner… except for her shoes. He’d seen Scully make some pretty impractical shoes choices, but nothing like Smith’s.
Before they’d all climbed in the car, she’d been out smoking a cigarette. As they’d approached, he’d been stunned to notice her impossibly uncomfortable strappy high heel shoes. He was just dying to see her walk in them, let alone run. Before he could follow this fantasy to fruition, Scully’s voice brought him back to reality.
“So, why don’t you fill us in,” she’d asked, her mind turning to the business of the day. She felt Mulder’s hand brush up next to hers on the car seat.
Color rushed to her cheeks and she quickly moved away. She looked out the window at London speeding by as the detective spoke.
“Quite a nasty business, this,” Spencer replied. “Seems the first bloke was out with his mates Saturday a couple of months ago at a local Oxford pub.
They hooked up with an American chap. After last call they all decided to head up into the nearby hills for a bit more party. His friends claim they saw a bright light come down from the sky and essentially suck him and the American up into what they described as a flying saucer. The boys admitted they were right pissed…”
“…drunk…” Mulder leaned over and whispered to Scully, who was still adjusting to this familiar yet foreign language they also called English.
“… when his body showed up a few days later we assumed they’d killed him and concocted this alien story as a cover.”
“But then the same thing happened in Hertsfordshire two weeks ago,” Smith interjected. “But no body has turned up…yet.”
“No sign of the American? Any description?” Scully asked.
“No sign of the him and only the most basic description,” Spencer replied.
“Mid-thirties, blonde pony tail, blue eyes, glasses, your basic American sixties reject,” Smith added. “We seem to attract them over here. They come looking for Cat Stevens, I think.”
“Missed the Peace Train by a decade or two, I’d say,” Mulder deadpanned, then added. “Did anyone else in either area report seeing any suspicion lights or anything at all?”
“No one except the boys saw a thing in Oxford,” Spencer replied.
“But in Hertsfordshire, the victim’s neighbors reported seeing strange lights around his place. When one of his farm hands showed up for work he discovered he’d gone missing,” Smith finished up the story.
“We’re on our way to Hertsfordshire now, by the way,” Spencer added.
“Perfect,” Mulder and Scully said in unison.
“And then there was the American chap he had working for him,” Mr. Gracie, added to his wife’s description of the recent happenings around the Miller farm.
“Quite right, I’d nearly forgotten,” Mrs. Gracie agreed.
Mulder’s ears perked up. “How long had this American been working for Mr.
Mr. and Mrs. Gracie looked at each a moment, considering. “No more than a couple of weeks,” the man finally answered.
“Mr. Miller had a habit of taking in the needy and giving them a few weeks work here and there,” his wife added.
“Did you ever meet this man or get his name,” Scully asked.
“I saw him a couple of times, said good day, but I don’t recall a name, do you Bess?”
She shook her head. “He was very polite, but quite shy really.”
“Would you consent to working with a police artist to help us create a composite picture?” Spencer asked.
“Certainly,” Mr. Gracie replied. “Anything to help bring Mr. Miller home safely.”
“Splendid,” Spencer said. “I’ll set it up with the local constable.”
“Now about those lights you described…” Mulder started.
Detective Sergeant Smith fussed with the hem of her skirt and then looked out the window at the quaint dairy farm before returning her attention to the attractive American detective, uh, agent as he interviewed the Gracies. He was so attentive and encouraging you’d almost think he believed this alien abduction rubbish. Who knew, with a first name like Fox he could be one of those crazy California types. Maybe he was even a vegetarian. That thought made her smile so she turned away and pretended to take a sip of her tea. It had been Nigel’s idea to bring in these two, who were purported to be experts in the field of unexplained phenomena. She’d gone along with his idea because, frankly, she couldn’t think of a reason not to. She liked to think her mind was open to extreme possibilities. But extraterrestials? That was a bit of a stretch, wasn’t it? Speaking of beings from other worlds, she’d run into Phoebe Green at the Yard yesterday and the dreadful woman had been full of questions about these two. Seems Phoebe and Mulder had been “friends” at Oxford. You’d think he’d have better taste. Well, perhaps it had improved with age. He seemed quite taken by his partner these days. And Jane liked what she’d seen of Agent Scully so far. She was intelligent, forthright and hardworking. Not one to get by or ahead on her feminine whiles.
By all appearances the interview was over, Jane noted silently. Mulder was thanking the old couple and heading for the door, followed closely by Scully.
Jane smiled and added her thanks, then hurried to catch up. She didn’t want to miss what the Americans were saying. “Mulder, I know what you’re thinking.
Just promise me you’ll at least consider a rational explanation,” Agent Scully was saying when Jane got within earshot.
Mulder was leaning back on the car calmly popping a sunflower seed into his mouth. He discarded the shell before speaking. “Hey, it’s me.”
Scully shook her head in either disgust or frustration and looked away.
“Where to next?” she asked as Smith and Spencer approached the car.
“Well, that was the last of the witnesses,” Spencer said. “So I guess the Miller farm.”
“The scene of the crime, so to speak,” Jane added, climbing into the car.
Before the car even pulled up Scully could tell Mulder was in full investigative mode. His eyes scanned the tree line and the roof of the tiny farm house. Scully’s eyes followed and she sighed as she noticed the scorched tree tops. She *knew* what was going on in that little mind of his. Spencer parked the car and they all got out and began examining the scene. Scully, shivering in the damp English cold, decided to by-pass the outside and head right for the house. She nodded to the constable on duty and flashed her FBI ID. He waved her in. She wandered around the livingroom finding nothing that seemed out of place and then headed up the stairs to the bedroom. She took in the pale blue walls, the orderly dresser and quilt-covered bed. In fact, the quilt and sheets folded back were the only things out of place in the immaculate room. There was no sign of a struggle. Who ever had taken John Miller had been a friend or at least someone he didn’t take as a threat. She walked over and picked up a photograph of a border collie off the dresser.
She wondered where that dog was now and what it could tell them if it was around. Suddenly Mulder was behind her, his breath warm on her neck. “I’m having a vivid fantasy about you and me living on a farm like this…”
“I don’t know, Mulder, don’t think you’d get the Playboy channel out here,”
she said, moving away.
“A hole in my master plan,” he said, peeking in the closet. “So where do you suppose the American was staying?”
Scully pursed her lips a moment. “Good question. Maybe we better find out.”
* * *
Forty-five minutes later they all seemed to end up on the porch. “So, the American was staying in the guest room next to the victim?” Scully repeated.
Spencer nodded. “And I noted no sign of a struggle nor any indication that anyone had slept there.”
Jane nodded her agreement. “Seems the American must have somehow lured poor Mr. Miller out of his house, doesn’t it?” she added, taking out a cigarette and lighting it.
“But his clothes were still in his room. He didn’t even put on his slippers or robe,” Mulder pointed out.
“Are you saying that he disappeared into thin air out of his bed, Agent Mulder?” Smith asked, taking a long drag off her smoke.
“Or was taken,” Mulder said, spitting out another seed shell.
All eyes turned to him. “Mulder,” Scully warned. His eyes went to the tree tops. “I know, Mulder, I saw it too, but that doesn’t mean what you think it means.”
Spencer and Smith’s eyes moved to the trees for the first time and noted their burned appearance. “Maybe you could fill us in,” Smith said, releasing a lung full of smoke.
“A low flying, hovering craft could generate enough heat to cause that kind of damage to the tops of trees,” Mulder said evenly. Scully sighed and crossed her arms, knowing that there was no way she could stop him.
“So could lightning,” Spencer pointed out.
“True, but that wouldn’t explain the singe marks around the top of the roof.”
“What are you saying, Agent Mulder? That you actually think ET swooped down here and took this poor little dairy farmer?” Spencer asked.
“I’m saying it’s a possibility.”
* * *
It was nearly 8 o’clock by the time Spencer dropped them off at their hotel with a promise to ring them first thing in the morning. They hurried through the lobby and into the elevator before Mulder’s rumbling stomach broached the subject of dinner. “How about another round of fish and chips, Scully?” he offered as they exited the elevator and headed for their respective rooms.
She lifted an eyebrow and considered a moment. “I don’t know, Mulder. I don’t think I can face any more food fried in lard,” she paused a moment and Mulder felt his heart sink at her apparent refusal, “but take me for Chinese and I’m yours.”
“Deal,” Mulder grinned, biting back any number of sexually laden comebacks that her comment inspired.
“Just let me change,” she said opening her door. “I can’t believe these rooms,” she added, shaking her head.
“A far cry from our usual dumps,” Mulder agreed. They’d been surprised the night before to find themselves ensconced in what could best be described as mini-suites with the customary adjoining rooms separated by a small common sitting room.
“Guess we should have gone to work for the Yard, huh?” she said as she entered her room and closed the door.
* * *
Having gorged themselves on one of their best Chinese meals in recent memory, Mulder and Scully sat hunched over the table discussing the case. Mulder was busy attempting to flatten out the paper that had contained his chopsticks.
“Mulder, all I’m saying is that they don’t know you like I do and your theories can… well, be a bit alarming to the uninitiated.”
“So, you’re saying they think I’m nuts?” he grinned.
“Mulder, I think you’re nuts, but I just don’t want them not to take you seriously,” she stopped. “Oh, I don’t know what I’m trying to say.” She picked up her empty beer and looked at it mournfully.
“Want another?” Mulder asked, looking around for their server.
“No, I’m fine.”
He looked back at her, not wanting this evening to end. They were actually having fun. He felt like a kid at Christmas. “So, want to go see if the Queen is up for her audience with us?”
“Nah,” she replied, something in her eyes and her smile spelled trouble. “I want to go dancing.”
Mulder squinted through the smoke and crowd of the trendy little night clublike so many others that came and went along King’s Road— looking for his wayward partner. This was a side of Dana Scully he’d only heard rumor of…
flirtatious, wild and a little bit tipsy. The kind of woman who went on a date and got a tattoo; or who seemingly popped a live cricket into her mouth.
She called it her second wind. He called it hilarious. Until he caught sight of her on the dance floor again, with another man, her fiery hair moving with the sound of the blaring punk music.
The outfit on the stage was certainly interesting, looking more like a bunch of computer junkies than a punk band, but they definitely had a loud and vocal following. So far they’d covered a number of old Ramones songs, but currently were doing some sort of send up to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Scully was enjoying them immensely and had barely left the dance floor.
Mulder leaned up against the bar, ordered another pint of Guinness and settled back to wait. Scully wasn’t the only one who had caught a buzz. The man she was dancing with leaned down and whispered something in her ear.
Scully laughed and gently pushed him away. Mulder considering sticking his head into the path of the ceiling fan rotating overhead, but settled for softly bashing his head against the wall as if that could drive Dana Scully out of his mind. When he returned his gaze to her he saw that she was hanging on the arm of her dance partner and was headed his way. Mulder took in the other man’s shoulder-length brown hair, John Lennon glasses, tattered jeans and “Dead Daalas” T-shirt and was struck by the impulse to deck him. “Mulder, this is James. James, this is my partner, Mulder,” she said, releasing his arm and reaching for Mulder’s beer. “Could I have a sip of this?”
Mulder nodded and handed her the glass. The two men shook hands. “Mulder, tell him I am so a doctor,” Scully said with a slight slur in her voice.
“She’s a doctor.”
“I told you,” she said, favoring James with one of her radiant smiles.
That urge to deck the guy returned, but instead he said, “She’s fixed me up more times than I can count.” He took his beer back and had a long drink.
Scully giggled, “I even shot him once and had to fix him up.” Then she turned serious. “Did I ever tell you I was sorry that I shot you?” she asked Mulder, taking his beer once again.
“Now that I don’t believe,” James said, a smile spreading across his face.
“I did! I did! I shot him,” Scully said, indignation reflected in her voice.
“Show him your scar, Mulder.”
Mulder sighed and looked from Scully to James and then pulled the collar of his shirt over his shoulder to show the man his scar. James was taken aback, finally realizing this wasn’t a joke. “Why did you do that? Is it some crazy American dating ritual?” he asked.
“It’s a long story,” Mulder and Scully said in unison and started laughing.
James backed away slowly. “Well, it’s been nice meeting you, but I have to find my mates…”
Scully laughed harder and snuggled up to Mulder. “I think I scared him away.”
Mulder handed her his beer. “Well, telling potential dates that you’re a mad woman with a gun probably isn’t the best way to meet men.”
Scully shrugged and finished his beer. “He was boring anyway. But since you chased him away—”
“—I chased him away?—”
“— you have to dance with me,” she finished, grabbing his hand and pulling him to the dance floor.
Scully returned to Mulder’s side bearing two more pints of Guinness. “That was last call,” she said handing him a glass.
“So, let’s drink to the Scullys of Cork, once again.”
“And the Mulders of where?”
“How the hell should I know…let’s just drink to all of Ireland,” he said.
They clinked glasses and locked eyes. After a moment, they both looked away, sipping their beers in slightly awkward silence. Mulder looked back at Scully and noticed a small bit of foam from her beer just above her lip. He tentatively reached out and brushed it away with his thumb, lingering a bit longer than necessary. Scully met his eyes again and froze.
Just when he thought she was going to say something, challenge him, a new song started and her eyes lit up. “Come on.”
This is exactly what the doctor ordered, and I’m the doctor, Scully laughed to herself as she and Mulder moved in time to the music. She couldn’t believe how good it felt to be away from Washington, away from the X-Files, away from the cancer… NO! She wasn’t going to think about that now. Instead, she started to look up into Mulder’s eyes, but got sidetracked by his broad shoulders. She’d always liked the way this particular black mock turtleneck outlined his lean body and tapered down to tuck into his jeans. She felt the walls she’d spent years fortifying threatening to buckle and fought the urge to rest her hands where Mulder’s shirt met his 501s… It was time to get out of here. Time to go back to the hotel and pass out before she said or did something stupid. “Mulder,” she said. “I’m not feeling so well.”
* * *
Within moments they were pulling on their coats and were on the sidewalkwhere they were confronted by pouring rain. Mulder laughed, “Now this is the England I remember. Wait here and I’ll get a cab.”
Scully stepped out into the onslaught, spinning around, arms outstretched.
“No, let’s walk.” Mulder grinned and shook his head before following her.
Two blocks later and soaked to the skin, Scully was trying to remember the words to the second verse of “Singing in the Rain.” Unable to do so, she was repeating the chorus for the third time. “Hey, Scully, don’t quit your day job,” Mulder laughed.
“I know, I have a dreadful voice, just awful. Sister Mary Francis used to tell me not to really sing, to just mouth—” something caught her attention.
“What’s that?” she asked pointing to a large building across the street.
Scully’s raised an eye brow. “Let’s go!” She checked for traffic, but looked for it coming in the wrong direction, something Mulder’d done all too often during his first couple of months in England.
“Scully! Wait,” he called as he saw that she was about to step out into the path of an oncoming cab. Time seemed to slow down as he heard the cab sound its horn frantically. He lunged forward and grabbed her around the waist, stumbling back on to the pavement. He landed firmly on his back with Scully on top of him. Her face was so close to his that he could feel her short, uneven breath on his face. He reached up and brushed away a drenched strand of hair that was stuck to her face, not sure how she would react to the physical contact. He wanted to kiss her so badly… but he didn’t want to breach this fragile truce they seemed to have fashioned… he had to get away from her or… He started to push her away even as Scully was lowering her lips to his in a gentle, exploratory kiss. He froze, a thief caught in the act. Before he had a chance to respond she was on her feet and halfway across the street, this time having looked the correct way for traffic. He caught up to her just around the front of Harrods.
He grabbed her arm, spun her around and then pinned her to the wall by her shoulders. “What the hell was that?” he demanded.
She looked away, shivering, and hating herself for it. “Nothing.”
Mulder tightened his grip on her shoulders. “For weeks you put me off. Deny everything, say you just want to be partners, push me away…” He trailed off, feeling his rising anger surrounding him like a shield. “Dammit, Scully.
You accuse me of playing head games.”
Scully’s chin dropped to her chest. “I’m sorry, that was…” She looked up at him, her composure more or less returned. “It won’t happen again.” Scully was still talking although he could no longer hear her words. They were drowned out by the driving rain and the pounding of his Guinness-soaked heart. He was completely enthralled by her mouth, by her slightly smeared lip stick, by the way her lips grazed her teeth as she spoke. The way they beckoned to him, begging him to fall into her depths again. And he went, willingly and against his will, silencing her with his mouth. In that moment the rain ceased, the world stopped turning and his entire universe consisted only of her.
How could what had seemed to be so right in the middle of night and in a haze of Guinness, seem not nearly so wise in the morning light? Scully asked herself for the tenth time. “Mulder, wake up,” she said, giving him a short poke in the ribs.
The form beside her slowly rolled over, his hand making a futile attempt to smooth down his unruly dark hair. “Hey, don’t I know you?” he asked with a wry smile.
Typical Mulder. “This is no time to joke!” she said, hitting him with a pillow.
Mulder removed the offending cushion and then stretched his body over hers as he reached for the phone and dialed. She had to fight the urge to stroke the taut skin of his stomach. “You’re right. It’s time to eat,” he said to her.
And then into the phone. “Yes, I’d like to order two continental breakfasts…and coffee….great. Thank you.”
Mulder rolled back over, taking Scully’s hand in his. He gently kissed each of her fingers. “The thing is Scully, what happened last night. It was fate—”
“No,” her brows furrowed in thought. “No. It was a drunken hormonal reaction.
Really, not all that unusual if you consider it rationally…”
“Scully, if you want me to say I’m sorry it happened, I can’t. Can you?” he asked, gently fingering her chin with his other hand and forcing her to look at him.
She still managed to avoid his eyes. “I… don’t know. I need some time to think about this.”
“That’s your problem. You think too much,” he laughed.
“And you don’t think enough,” she shot back sharply.
Mulder pulled her chin, bringing her toward him until her face was mere inches from his. “I’ll give you something to think about,” he said softly, and put his mouth to hers.
Scully meant to resist. Really she did, but the feel of his lips on hers was too strong a drug. She had no idea how long she let her thoughts and her hands wander before something her mother had preached all through her adolescence popped into her mind. Think with your brain, not with your hormones. She used every bit of her strength to push Mulder away. “This is a bad idea,” she said firmly.
Mulder reached out and stroked her hair. “Why?”
“We just got our friendship back on track after…” she couldn’t bring herself to end the sentence so she concluded by brushing his hand away.
“You’re still my best friend,” he said softly.
“And your partner,” she added.
“—and your lover.”
“Which is frowned upon by the Bureau.”
“And I’ve always let that stop me as you know,” Mulder said dryly.
She flopped over onto her back and covered her eyes with her arm as if it’s weight could somehow drive her desire for him away. He leaned over and kissed her again, his hand brushing her cheek. His touch was like quicksand, the slightest contact and she was lost. A knock at the door sounded, a lifeline just before she went under. Mulder pulled away and slipped out of bed and into a pair of jeans that were strewn over a chair. “Be right back,” he said, flashing her that lopsided grin of his as he headed out into the common room of his suite.
Scully took the opportunity to make her great escape into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. She grabbed one of Mulder’s sweatshirts off the floor and pulled it on, grateful for the moment that he was such a slob. It smelled like him, and she found herself shamelessly inhaling his scent, as addictive to her as that of freshly baking bread. What a tangled web we weave, she mused as she settled herself down on the edge of the tub to consider her options. She lifted her head and eyed the phone on the wall.
When she’d first checked in she thought the idea of a phone in this room was crass, but now it seemed like a lifeline. But who to call? Her mom? Ellen?
No. Who she really wanted to call was her best friend. She reached for the phone and dialed.
* * *
Mulder was just finishing paying the person from room service when he heard his cell phone ring. He searched around for the overcoat he’d been wearing the night before, finally finding it flung behind the couch. The first thing out of the pocket was Scully’s underwear (he didn’t have time to think about that now as much as he wanted to) which he tossed to the floor. He grabbed the phone on the sixth ring, hoping it wasn’t Detective Inspector Spencer.
“Mulder, it’s me.”
“Scully, where are you?”
“I’m in the bathroom.”
“The loo,” he corrected, laughter in his voice.
“I’ve locked you out.”
“Okay…” Mulder said uncertainly.
“I need to talk to you about what happened last night…”
Mulder sat down on the couch. “And you can’t do that face to face?” he asked.
“I don’t trust you to just talk,” she said.
“Don’t trust me or don’t trust you?”
“What if we’ve ruined everything…” she went on ignoring his question.
“We haven’t. Scully, we haven’t,” he said as he got up and wandered back into the bedroom and sat on the floor, back up against the bathroom door. “I’ve been thinking about this—”
“How can you say that? How can we still work together? You know it’s unofficially against Bureau policy—”
“So, we won’t tell them.”
“How are we supposed to keep it a secret, Mulder?”
“In the time honored tradition of our enemies, we’ll just deny everything.”
She laughed at that one. “Scully, please come out. Breakfast is here. Just friends… for now. Deal?”
There was silence on the other end of the phone for a long moment and then he heard the latch unlock and the door open. He got to his feet and looked at her standing there in nothing but his sweatshirt, her hair mussed up and he knew he couldn’t keep his end of the bargain.
He pulled her into his arms and tilted her head up, looking deeply into her sleepy blue eyes. Scully reached up behind his neck and pulled his mouth to hers, the words to an old Blue Rodeo song echoing in her mind… “one look in your eyes and all my resolution goes…” (2)
Their kiss deepened as Mulder’s hands slid under the sweatshirt Scully was wearing and explored her muscled back while Scully’s fingers moved to the top of his 501s and slowly started undoing the buttons. And then the phone rang.
Scully pulled away as a pained moan escaped Mulder. “Can’t we just ignore it?” he pleaded. Scully shook her head. Mulder turned and moved toward the phone, grabbing it on its sixth double ring. “Mulder,” he said, sounding none too happy. “Good morning, Detective Sergeant Smith… Of course, we’ll be there in an hour….” Scully moved to the other side of the bed, intent on listening in. “You’ll pick us up. Even better. We’ll be out front. Thanks.”
Mulder turned toward her and said, “Duty calls.”
* * *
Forty-five minutes later Scully sat on the edge of her bed nibbling on a piece of toast and reading the paper. She could hear the blow dryer running next door, waging a losing battle against Mulder’s anarchistic hair. She smiled as a collection of Mulder’s past hairstyles paraded through her mind.
She wondered what he’d look like with a Jean-Luc Picard as she idly scanned the front page. “American sought in disappearance of Canterbury man,” the headline caught her eye, but what sent her pulse racing was the composite of the suspect. The man staring back at her was unmistakably Max Fenig, UFO buff extraordinaire and supposed abductee.
Before she could call out to him, Mulder poked his head around the door.
She quickly held the paper up. “Mulder, I think we’ve found our mysterious American.”
“Oh, my God,” he said, his wide eyes slowly raising to meet hers. “He’s back.”
“Mulder, chances are he never left,” Scully said, shaking her head.
“I know what I saw,” Mulder said, fluttering around and pulling on his coat, all manic energy, then pausing. “Coming?”
Scully closed her eyes and took a deep breath before nodding.
* * *
Spencer and Smith were hunched over the newspaper in a tiny coffee shop near the hotel. After a long moment Spencer looked up and said, “You two know this man?”
They both nodded, Mulder with much more enthusiasm than Scully. “This man is an abductee. I witnessed him being taken.”
“Taken? How?” Smith asked.
Mulder pursed his lips. “I’m not entirely certain. We were in a warehouse together. He’d been injured and I was staying with him while Agent Scully went for assistance. Anyway, one moment he was there, the next he wasn’t.”
Spencer stirred more sugar into his tea. “Couldn’t he have just given you the slip?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Mulder paused for effect. “But the building was surrounded by approximately 150 military police at the time.”
Spencer stopped stirring. “Perhaps you should start at the beginning.”
“I met him in a military confinement facility in Townsend, Wisconsin. We were both being detained for attempting to breach a quarantined area where there were reports of a Fallen Angel.” Mulder was speaking quickly now, hands flapping, eyes darting around in excitement. Scully decided to switch him to decaf and was grateful she had the outside seat on the booth or he’d probably be pacing by now.
“Fallen Angel?” Smith questioned. Both the English detectives had suddenly lost interest in their breakfasts.
“A downed UFO,” Mulder continued quickly, not noticing the look of skepticism that passed between Smith and her partner. Scully didn’t miss it and silently wished that one of Mulder’s many gifts was that of subtlety. “I got pretty close. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. Definitely not a derailed train like the government reported.”
“Did you see this as well, Agent Scully?” Spencer asked, taking a sip of his tea.
Scully hesitated. “Well, not exactly. I—”
Mulder cut in. “She wasn’t there. I went in alone.”
“I bailed him out,” Scully added.
“Again,” Mulder finished, a wry grin gracing his face.
Scully turned to her partner. “And I’m not doing it again,” she said, poking his chest with her finger. “Next time you’re on your own.”
He took her hand, pulling it away from his chest and encasing it in both of his. “I’ve heard that threat before.”
“Consider it a promise, Mulder,” she said, reluctantly yet quickly pulling her hand from his.
He smiled again. “Ah, Scully, you just can’t bear to be left behind.”
Smith and Spencer watched this exchange with a combination of amusement and horror, unsure just how much was in the truth.
“So, I guess we put an APB out on one Max Fenig and then head for Canterbury,” Spencer said, signaling for the bill.
Mulder, Scully, Spencer and Smith approached the ancient cathedral via Christ Church Gate and Scully couldn’t help but slow her progress a bit to examine the wonderfully ornate architecture and breathe in the tangy slightly salty air. It was only with great reluctance that she was able to tear herself away and catch up with the others. She was glad she did. Mulder was just beginning to share his ideas with the local constable assigned to work with them, but by some miracle that even she had to admit bordered on paranormal Mulder had found an ally in constable Morgan. “Been up ‘round Silbury Hill, have you?”
the man was asking, as he pulled his hat more firmly upon his sandy-blonde head.
“Not since I was at Oxford,” Mulder admitted sadly. Oh Lord, we’re in for a trip to this place, Scully realized.
Fumbling with his rather large ear, the young man (no more than twenty, Scully guessed, and somewhat reminiscent of Agent Pendrell in demeanor and sheer earnestness) leaned forward and said, almost conspiratorially, “Been quite a lot of activity up that way over the past few weeks, I’ve heard tell.”
Mulder nodded. “I’d heard that too.”
“Members of my MUFON group—”
“You’re with MUFON?” Mulder interrupted.
“These past five years,” he nodded, blue eyes serious, as if he were talking about a matter of national security. “We’ve been following the recent activity very closely.”
Mulder pulled out a business card and handed it to the younger man. “Here’s my card. My cell number is on it. I’d appreciate hearing about any information you might find.”
The constable looked at the card in awe. “Certainly, Agent Mulder. We’d be honored to assist you in any way.”
With a start, Scully realized that he knew who Mulder was. That his reputation had preceded him across the Atlantic. Smith must have come to the same conclusion because she caught Scully’s eye and smirked before speaking.
“Constable Morgan, perhaps you could fill us in on the poor bloke who’s gone missing.”
“Certainly, Detective Sergeant,” Morgan replied, straightening up. “Rory McDonough’s been a ringer here since I was a boy,” he stopped and considered a moment. “At least twenty years, anyway.”
“Ringer?” Scully asked.
Morgan looked at her a moment like she’d grown a third head and then quickly covered. “Rings the bells at the cathedral, doesn’t he.” The constable paused as they reached the entrance to the church. He opened the doors motioning the women to go in first.
Scully and Smith exchanged an amused glance, but neither commented as they entered. But Scully’s slight smile turned to a dropped jaw as she walked into the interior and surveyed the cathedral. It was simply breathtaking with its high vaulted ceilings, the stained glass capturing the sun and displaying it like colored angels across the walls and floors. She followed a strip of blue to her feet and stepped back quickly when she realized she was standing on someone’s grave. Stepped back straight into Mulder. “Sorry,” she breathed, moving away.
“Scully, are you okay?” he asked quietly even though Morgan and the others were still talking to the man who collected admission at the back of the church.
“I’m fine, Mulder,” she replied without thinking, still staring at the name engraved in stone. “There’s someone buried in this floor.”
Mulder chuckled. “Lots of somebodies. And if memory serves, Henry IV is around here somewhere,” he said looking around. He paused when he noticed she wasn’t finding humor in this revelation. “Does that bother you?”
“No. No, it’s just… no.” How could she, a forensic pathologist, explain to him that since she’d been diagnosed with cancer cemeteries made her tremendously nervous? That they were a painful reminder that she’d be spending a lot of time in one, possibly in the very near future. She was saved from further explanation by the return of the rest of their party.
“Father Smith will be joining us straight away,” Morgan said.
“A relative of yours, Detective Sergeant?” Mulder asked, displaying a wry grin.
Smith laughed. “From our lot? My grandmother could only dream, I’m afraid.”
A voice from behind interrupted them. “Hello, I’m Father Smith. How can I be of assistance?”
Spencer stepped forward. “Detective Inspector Spencer of New Scotland Yard, Father,” he said, shaking the elderly priest’s hand. “This is Detective Sergeant Smith and Special Agents Mulder and Scully of the Federal Bureau of Investigations in the United States.” More handshakes and pleasantries were exchanged before Spencer continued. “And I believe you know constable Morgan.”
Father Smith nodded. “Haven’t seen you in church in quite some time, young man.”
“Been sneaking in late,” Morgan assured him. “Sitting in the back. Must have missed me.”
“A likely story, to be sure. I expect to see you front and center next Sunday,” the priest said, a small smile gracing his face.
“Yes, Father,” Morgan replied, looking down and gripping the hat he held in his hands even harder.
Turning his attention to the others, Father Smith gestured to the nearby pews. “Why don’t we sit down. I’m guessing this has to do with the disappearance of Rory McDonough.”
Scully and Smith took a pew with Mulder, Spencer and Father Smith taking the one behind them. It was a slightly awkward way to conduct an interview, with everyone twisting about to face the old man, but it would do. Morgan remained standing, still nervously fiddling with his hat.
“What can you tell us about the disappearance, Father?” Spencer began.
The priest took deep breath and steepled his arthritis-ridden hands. “Rory, God bless him, was a lonely man. No wife. No family. Just his friends and the bells. And his love affair with the bottle. I’m afraid it’s finally brought him to harm.”
“How’s that?” Mulder asked.
“He’s an incredibly trusting individual. Too trusting on occasion,” he paused a moment and brushed a lock of gray hair off his forehead. “He’d recently befriended a rather odd American chap. A wanderer—”
“The same man who’s composite appeared in the paper?” Scully asked.
The priest confirmed her question with a short nod. “He appeared maybe a fortnight ago here at the church. Scared, dirty, dazed, not sure what had happened to him. We assumed he’d been in an accident but when we wanted to call the authorities he was adamant that we not.” The man sighed, obviously wishing he had. “Naturally, we took him in, fed him, gave him a place to sleep out in the old caretaker’s cottage. Rory took a liking to him. Showed him the bells. Max was fascinated—”
“Max?” Mulder exclaimed.
“Yes, Max. Never did get a last name out of him. Why?”
“It would seem to confirm our suspicions as to who this man is,” Spencer replied.
Mulder reached into his coat pocket and hastily pulled out the photo he’d had Danny modem Canterbury CID. “Is this the Max you encountered?” he asked, passing it to the elderly man.
Father Smith examined the picture closely, squinting his eyes for a better look. “That’s him to be sure.”
* * *
Twenty minutes later, found Mulder and Scully examining the charming but tiny stone cottage that Max had briefly called home. Scully prowled around opening drawers until she felt Mulder’s breath on her neck. “What?” she asked.
“Just wondering why this investigation keeps tossing us into these idyllic little homesteads. Do you believe in karma, Agent Scully?” he asked, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close so he could kiss her neck.
She snorted. “No, but I believe you’re incorrigible,” she replied, elbowing him gently. “Stop that.”
“Why? Are your hands dirty?” he whispered and she cursed herself for ever telling a man with a photographic memory that her favorite movie scene of all time featured Han and Leia’s first kiss in “The Empire Strikes Back.”
“Mulder,” she warned.
“Come on, Scully, tell me I’m a scoundrel,” he said softly, while his mouth continued its exploration of her neck.
Scully tried to wiggle away. “I’m more likely to tell you you’re an idiot.
Now let go,” she said firmly. With that, Mulder released her. Scully struggled to catch her breath. Max Fenig. Right, that’s why they were here.
“Mulder,” she said, turning on him. “Don’t ever do that again. We’re working.
We’re on the clock. You should know better.”
Mulder nodded, contrite. She was right. He did know better. Difficult as it was, he was going to have to find a way to keep their working relationship separate from their personal one. “You’re right, Scully. I’m sorry.”
Scully held his eyes a moment. “Okay,” she finally replied, turning her attention back to their investigation. Unlike his camper, a veritable cache of bric-a-brac, Max’s cottage held almost nothing save a change of clothing.
“I think we should have taken the bell towers,” Scully said, hoping her voice wasn’t as shaky as it felt.
“I don’t know, Scully,” he replied, holding up the tattered piece of a newspaper classified.
“What is it?”
“The time and location of a local MUFON meeting,” he paused. “But it was scheduled to take place the day *after* Max and Rory McDonough disappeared.”
“And that proves what?” Scully asked as she took the scrap of paper from Mulder’s hand, careful not to make contact.
“Why would he pull this from the paper if he didn’t intend to be here for the meeting?”
“I don’t know. Why?”
“Because he wasn’t expecting to be taken—”
“Find anything?” The arrival of the British detectives putting an end to their verbal sparring. Mulder and Scully sighed in relief.
Mulder pulled a hooded sweatshirt over his head as he hurried through the sitting room and then knocked on the door adjoining Scully’s room. Finally, he was going to have her alone again. After the Cathedral, they’d taken their investigation to a local pub called the Kings Head to speak to Rory McDonough’s fellow ringers. Unfortunately, they really had nothing to add to the official story. Rory and Max had been last seen leaving the pub three nights prior, headed for the local football field in spite of the dark. Seems Rory had been teaching Max, the eager student, how to play. They hadn’t been seen since. Mulder frowned. He hated an unsolved riddle and he was worried about Max. “Come in,” he heard Scully call and felt his heartbeat quicken at the sound of her voice. After their run, maybe they could pick up where they left off this morning… or maybe before their run. He nervously fingered the box he had hidden in his pocket. He found her hunched over the desk, her face the picture of concentration. He knew that look. It meant she had discovered something. Thoughts of romance forgotten (or least at pushed aside for the moment) he moved to look over her shoulder. “Did you find something?” he asked, studying the calendar she was working on so intently.
“Yeah. My fertile dates.”
“What?” That wasn’t what he was expecting and the feelings of guilt for not having told her all he’d learned returned like long lost friends.
“We weren’t exactly the poster people for safe sex last night.”
“I didn’t really think we needed to worry—” he stopped just short of giving himself away and then added lamely, “the first time.”
Scully turned on him, jaw dropped in shock. “Mulder! What are you? In high school?”
“No…” her blue eyes boring into his was turning his cheeks red.
“I…uh…well, were we?”
“Safe. Or did we create uber-Scullys.”
Scully finally turned her eyes away from him with a sigh and returned to the calendar, pointing to a date for emphasis. “Well, according to my calculations, I should be ovulating next Tuesday. We should be okay.”
Mulder nodded. He slowly removed the box from the pocket of his sweatsfurther proof that he hadn’t entirely believed the hybrid’s words— and dropped it on the desk. “Just so you don’t think I’m totally irresponsible…”
Scully eyed the package of condoms, struggling to think of the appropriate response. “A little presumptuous, wouldn’t you say?”
Mulder sat on the desk facing her. “Is it?” he questioned, gently placing his palm on the side of her face. Scully felt gravity failing as he touched her.
It would be so easy to let go. To give herself to him again… but if anything, Dana Scully was logical. And logic demanded that they didn’t do this. She pulled away and stood up. Mulder groaned and fell over on the desk, hamming it up like he’d taken a shot to the heart.
“I’m going for that run. Wanna come?” Scully asked.
Mulder opened one eye. “Sure.”
* * *
Scully and Mulder were making good time as they ran from their Knightsbridge hotel down to the banks of the Thames. The ancient architecture combined with the lights bouncing off the water were playing tricks on Scully’s mind, making her feel like she was in fairyland. She stopped suddenly when she saw what looked like a castle looming in the distance. “Is that what I think it is?” she asked.
Mulder stopped next to her and nodded before resting his hands of his knees.
“Tower of London,” he said, between heavy breaths. “Wanna spend some time on the rack?”
“Very funny, Mulder. Do you realize what they did to people in there? It’s reprehensible. Torture as a tourist attraction—” Mulder interrupted her with a kiss. Scully wondered if this was what it felt like to be burned at the stake…it must be something like this she thought as the heat of raw passion raged through her veins. She pulled Mulder closer, dragging her hands through his hair. What was it about this man that could turn her brain and will to mush? Reluctantly, she pushed him away and turned away from him. “Why do you keep pushing me away,” his voice came husky against her ear.
“I don’t want us to change,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.
“Everything changes, Scully.”
“I couldn’t bear it if I lost your friendship.”
“You won’t,” he said and paused. “You once said you trusted me with your life. Why can’t you trust me with your heart?” She didn’t say anything. She didn’t move. Mulder slowly turned her around by her shoulders until she was facing him. He lifted her chin forcing her to look at him. “I… I think it might be remotely plausible that I’m in love with you.”
Flukemen. The Peacock family. Fat sucking vampires. All these creatures paled in comparison to Fox Mulder standing in front of her telling her he was in love with her. “Mulder, we had sex once. Let’s not make it more than it was—”
“Actually it was three times,” he said wryly.
Scully closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Okay, we had sex three times.
A totally understandable physical release considering all the stress we’ve been under lately—”
“No,” Mulder interrupted sharply, taking her by the shoulders and fighting the urge to shake her. “It wasn’t just sex. It wasn’t.”
His eyes bored into hers, a challenge, leaving her little room for deception.
But she knew she had to deny everything or hand him an e-ticket to her soul.
Mulder and his needs would devour her, more insidious than the cancer she was battling. She would cease to exist. And so she lied with an ease that startled her. “Mulder, I just don’t feel that way about you. I’m sorry.”
Of course she didn’t. What had he been thinking? Add delusional to his list of mental ails. He forced himself to look at her a moment longer and then his hands fell away. “No, I’m sorry for being presumptuous,” he whispered, before turning and running off into the night.
Scully was lying in bed pretending to sleep. What she was really doing was waiting for Mulder to return. She was fairly certain she would be able to hear him on the other side of the wall. She felt terrible about what had happened. But love? Mulder in love with her? Of all his hare-brained theories… She gave up her charade in disgust, sitting up and turning on the television. There wasn’t much to choose from. Gardening or gardening. She settled in on the show featuring the best way to grow healthy tomatoes.
Eventually she drifted off to sleep, entirely missing Mulder’s return.
* * *
Mulder closed the door and leaned up against it. He was exhausted, having just spent the better part of the night running aimlessly through the streets of London. Idiot, he cursed himself for the millionth time. He knew she loved him in some way, but how could he have thought— well, he didn’t think, which was the whole problem, wasn’t it? He knew she deserved better than him, but he’d fooled himself into believing that maybe, just maybe, he’d lucked out.
He tugged his sweaty sweatshirt off and threw it across the room. Of course she deserved better than Spooky Mulder. What would she want with him and his U-Haul full of emotional baggage? What had he been thinking? He flopped down on the bed, grabbed the remote and flipped on the television. Tomatoes, he hated tomatoes…
* * *
Mulder was awakened by knocking on the door that separated him from Scully.
His heart froze as he removed the pillow that was covering his head. He didn’t know if he could bear to face her. “Mulder, we’re supposed to meet Spencer and Smith in the cafe downstairs in ten minutes.” He opened his mouth but he couldn’t speak. “Mulder,” her voice came again, like lemon juice on an open wound. “Are you okay?”
Finally he found his voice. “Yeah. I’ll meet you down there.”
“Okay,” she replied.
Mulder slowly rolled out of bed and headed for the shower, wishing the hand of God would appear and strike him down, putting him out of his misery.
Mulder adjusted his green and blue tie, one he’d selected specifically because he knew Scully would approve of how it looked with his dark blue suit. He glanced around the cafe, easily spotting her auburn hair across the room where she was seated with Spencer and Smith. He hurried over and took his seat next to his partner. “Sorry I’m late.”
Scully looked up from her breakfast of fruit and toast and smiled shyly. She couldn’t help noticing the puffiness around his eyes, a sure sign he hadn’t slept much, and felt guilty.
“Quite all right,” Spencer replied. “I know how those cross-Atlantic trips can throw off the system.”
Mulder nodded as he poured himself a cup of coffee from the carafe on the table and picked up the menu. He could tell Scully was staring at him, wanting him to look up and assure her that everything was all right. But he couldn’t bear to look at her, to see the pity reflected in her eyes.
“Mr. Miller’s body showed up last night,” Spencer said.
Mulder’s head snapped up. “Where?”
“In the woods near his house,” the inspector replied. “His dog found him and alerted the neighbors.”
“He wasn’t discovered in the preliminary search?” Mulder asked.
Spencer shook her head. “According to the local constable the body wasn’t there the first time through. Seems he was dumped there sometime in the last twelve hours.”
“Or was returned,” Mulder said without looking up. There was an awkward moment of silence.
“We were just discussing today’s agenda,” Smith said, pushing her unfinished plate of eggs and bangers away from her. “Agent Scully has indicated a desire to sit in on the medical examination, which I’m sure can be arranged.”
“And I thought the rest of us would head back to Hertsfordshire. Check out the scene of the crime again, so to speak,” Spencer added.
The server came over and Mulder quickly ordered a bowl of cereal. “Sounds like a reasonable plan of action. Any chance we can talk to the witnesses to the abduction in Oxford? I have a couple of questions I’d like to run by them if I may.”
“Of course, we’ll go to Oxford first thing tomorrow, better plan on staying over a night. Scotland Yard and Oxford CID don’t exactly have the best working relationship,” Spencer replied. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just place a call to Forensics and arrange for someone to come and collect Agent Scully.”
“And I’m just going to pop out for a quick fag before we head out. Don’t allow smokers in here, do they?” Smith said as she headed off after her partner. Scully stared after her in amazement at the shoes the woman had selected for today. They were even higher and strappier than the previous pair. And I thought the British were so sensible, she mused, shaking her head. She ventured another look at Mulder who seemed engrossed by his bowl of cereal. Wheetabix. She recognized them from his apartment. He had told her it was the one eating habit he’d brought home from England. “What? No steak and kidney pie?” she’d asked. “No, I left that for Eugene Tooms,” had come his reply. “I thought he liked liver.” “Kidney, liver, what’s the difference,”
he’d said doing his best Groucho Marx. Scully brushed the bangs off her forehead and wished they could go back to being like that.
“Mulder,” she finally started.
Without looking up from his cereal he said, “Be sure they check for an attendant reduction in the lympocide population and the release of gluco-corticoids.”
“Of course,” she replied, irritated because he thought she’d forget such a thing. If he wanted all business, he’d get all business. “Be sure to ask if there’s a plausible explanation, other than little green men.”
Mulder finally looked up, anger reflected in his cold hazel eyes. Scully matched his glare. Before he had the chance to reply, Spencer returned. “It’s all set, Agent Scully. Someone will be round to collect you at half nine.”
“I appreciate it, Inspector Spencer. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I think I’ll head upstairs to go over some notes. Good luck in Hertsforshire.”
Both men rose briefly as she left and then returned to their seats. “Quite a brain on that one,” Spencer commented, watching Scully walk away. “A doctor you say?”
Mulder nodded and finished his coffee. “Forensic pathologist. Taught at Quantico for a while.”
A soft whistle escaped the older man’s lips. “Well, I guess we ought to hunt up Jane. We’re within the Harrod’s danger zone. We’re likely to lose her forever in the shoe department if we don’t hurry.”
Scully pulled off the net that was holding back her hair and shook her head.
Her fingers went idly to the back of her neck to massage the tight muscles there as she scowled down at her autopsy notes. It seemed that the victim had simply wandered into the woods in the middle of the night and suffered a severe epileptic seizure which had caused his death. The fact that he’d never reported any seizures before was unusual, but certainly not unheard of.
Further, she had discovered no implants, no imbalance in his white blood cell count and no increase in his gluco-corticoid levels. There was nothing to suggest that Mr. Miller had left this planet. Mulder would be disappointed.
But even she had to admit that something didn’t sit right. For a man of over sixty he’d been in amazing health. His body had shown almost no internal signs of aging. Must have eaten a lot of yogurt, Scully mused. Then there was the issue of why he’d been in those woods in the middle of the night? And why hadn’t his body been discovered during the first search?
“Agent Scully, how nice to see you again.” The hair on the back of Scully’s neck raised at the sound of the sickenly sweet and prim English voice. She’d hoped to make it through this entire trip without running into Phoebe Green.
She’d been kidding herself.
Scully looked up at the tall, slender woman and raised an eyebrow. “Is it?”
Phoebe ignored her question. “Where’s Mulder? I’m dying to see him.”
I bet, Scully thought. “Mulder’s in Hertsfordshire with Detective Inspector Spencer and Detective Sergeant Smith.”
“Tragic,” Scully countered and returned her eyes to her notes. She could feel her cheeks turning red, the curse of being Irish. What had Mulder seen in this woman? Well, okay, forty foot legs, but what else? And who was this little green monster nipping at her heels?
“Well, tell Mulder I said hello and that I’ll ring him later.”
Scully nodded without looking up. “Sure thing.” As the woman walked away, Scully cursed the fates that caused her to run into the impeccably dressed and incredibly beautiful woman dressed in scrubs and fresh from an autopsy.
Mulder was silently going over the day’s interview notes trying to keep his frustration in check. It had been a wasted day on his part. A day that may have cost someone else their life. Scully’s day hadn’t been much better. Her autopsy report on Miller had turned up nothing unusual except for his exceedingly excellent physical condition. Cause of death had been an apparent epileptic seizure. He wondered it there was a possible connection to Max?
Scanning through the papers again he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was missing something really obvious. That the answer was just out of reach. He took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. The phone’s sudden and shrill ring broke his concentration. He grabbed it and barked, “Mulder.”
“Mulder, darling?” came the all too familiar voice on the other end.
Oh God, not her. Not now. “Hello, Phoebe. How are you?”
“Terribly hurt that you’ve been in town for two days and haven’t called me.”
“We’re on a case,” he replied, running his hand through his hair.
“So I heard. I ran into your partner at the Yard today,” she said, and then laughed. “She still hates me.”
He thought about saying, what’s not to hate, but managed to bite back the words in time. “So, what’s up?” he said instead.
“That’s what I was just about to ask you,” she purred.
“Ha, ha,” Mulder replied, not amused.
“Would you like to get together for dinner and a little reminiscing?”
He was relieved to hear a short knock at the door. “Come in,” he called.
Scully peeked her head in the door. “Hey, Mulder, you busy?” Her voice was light, an attempt at being casual he suspected. He motioned her in and returned to the phone.
“Thanks for the invite Phoebe, but Scully and I have to work. I gotta run.
Nice talking to you.” He hung up after barely giving her time to say good-bye.
“God,” he sighed and looked up to see Scully wearing jeans and a jade green turtleneck which highlighted all the areas of her that he was fighting so hard to keep out of his mind. He quickly looked back at the papers on the desk.
“Oh yeah, I ran into Phoebe today. She said,” Scully switched to her best Phoebe imitation— which was pretty damn good, “tell Mulder I’ll ring him later.”
“Well, thanks for the warning.”
“No charge,” she replied, secretly happy that he wasn’t rushing out to meet her and then chastising herself for the thought. “Jane’s coming by and we’re going to Harrods and then out to this East Indian restaurant she likes for some dinner. Do you want to come?”
“No, thanks. I want to finish this up and then go for a run,” he replied, pleased that he was able to match her casual tone with his own.
Scully moved closer to him, examining what he was working on. “Anything I can help with?”
“No, but have fun. Oh, and don’t let her talk you into any unwise shoe purchases.”
He almost sounded like the old Mulder, but not quite. Scully was reluctant to leave him behind. “You sure?” she asked. Mulder nodded, but couldn’t bring himself to look at her. Swallowing hard, Scully put one hand on his shoulder.
Before she could even finish speaking his name he jerked away. “Please don’t touch me,” he whispered.
Scully backed away a couple of steps. “Why?”
Mulder focused his eyes on a stain on the carpet. He figured if he could just concentrate on that one spot he could get through this. “Because I’ll want to touch you back,” he said and paused. “And if you push me away again…,” he trailed off, unable to find the words.
Scully took a step towards him, wanting to comfort him, but he got to his feet and fled around the other side of the desk. His tortured eyes met hers for the first time. She’d seen that depth of pain before but she’d never been the cause. She didn’t want to have this kind of power over him. And she knew for certain she didn’t want him, or anyone, to have it over her. “Mulder, I—”
He looked away. “Please just go.” Scully took another step towards him.
“Dana, please…” he pleaded. Scully fled without another word.
* * *
Scully rushed through the lobby of the hotel and into the cold February air.
She pulled her black leather jacket tighter around her to fight off the chill. But deep down she knew it wasn’t the temperature that made her shiver.
It was all she could do to keep herself from going back to him. She was ready to say or do anything to alleviate his pain. “Dana!” she heard Jane’s sunny voice call out. “All set?” Scully nodded and smiled. “Where’s that delicious partner of yours?” the sergeant asked.
“I don’t think Harrods is his idea of a good time,” Scully replied, hoping her voice didn’t betray her conflicting emotions.
“Men!” Jane laughed and rolled her eyes. “Well, then, shall we carry on?”
Scully nodded and surprised herself by smiling.
* * *
Twenty minutes later there was a knock at Mulder’s door as he was changing to go for a run. He went to answer it, T-shirt in hand, fully expecting Scully.
He knew he wasn’t going to get away with that little scene. He knew she’d be back and ready to battle it out. He just hadn’t expected her this quickly. He pulled the door open and said, “Scully, I— oh, Phoebe, hi.”
“I just couldn’t take no for an answer,” she said, pushing past him and entering the room.
“Come in,” Mulder said with a smirk.
“Where’s your little partner?”
“Oh, uh, she went out for a bit. She’ll be back soon.”
“Brilliant. That’ll give us a chance to visit,” Phoebe crooned, moving a little closer and placing a hand on his bare shoulder. “We never did get to say a proper good-bye in Boston.”
Mulder felt himself beginning to panic. He didn’t want her touching him. Then he wondered why not? It wasn’t as if Scully wanted him. And he had to admit, it was nice to be wanted, no matter what the twisted reason. He closed his eyes as Phoebe’s face moved towards his.
* * *
Scully found herself in the shoe department of Harrods, surrounded by about 15 boxes of shoes. “Oh, Dana, you simply must try these,” Jane said, holding up the ugliest pair of platform heels she’d ever seen. They looked like something out of the “Saturday Night Fever.”
Scully smiled politely, and said, “I couldn’t bear it if I had to add another pair to the decision process, but thanks.”
Jane laughed and sat next to her, trying the shoe on herself. “Oh, Dana, you’ve gone into the wrong field. You really should be a diplomat. ” Scully smiled and said, “Sometimes I feel like I am a diplomat.”
Jane laughed again. “Your partner, is he always this,” she struggled for the word and finally settled on “colorful?”
Scully grinned at the choice and filed it away in her mind for future use.
“He’s on his best behavior for you.”
“Oh, my,” she paused. “Well, he’s quite obviously brilliant.”
“Brilliant and certifiable,” Scully said, picking up the pair of shoes she’d selected. “I think we have a winner.”
“Splendid,” Jane said, thoroughly enjoying this little fishing expedition. It wasn’t that she was nosy, just curious. And she found the dynamics of the agent’s bizarre relationship nearly as interesting as the possibility of an extraterrestrial serial killer. Besides, Nigel would be expecting a full report with his cuppa in the morning.
* * *
Mulder opened his eyes as Phoebe’s lips touched his, so cold, so hard, so calculating, so utterly unlike Scully’s. He practically leapt away. What I am thinking? Kissing this woman, wishing she was Scully. He quickly pulled his T-shirt on and struggled for the courage to look at Phoebe. Instead he settled for saying, “I’m sorry. There’s someone else now.”
Phoebe seated herself on the end of his bed, leaning back on her elbows and crossing her legs. “It’s her, isn’t it? Agent Scully.”
God, am I that transparent? he wondered. “No. It’s someone… else.”
“You’re a pathetic liar, Mulder,” she laughed. “And judging from that puppy dog look I’d say your feelings aren’t reciprocated.” She waited for a response, and continued when she didn’t get one. “You’ve always been such a fool for women. Why is that?”
“I don’t know,” he replied honestly.
Phoebe laughed again and stood up, moving to the door. “Well, she hardly seems worth it. Bit of a cold fish, isn’t she?”
He finally looked up, fire in his eyes. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She laughed. “Well, I’ll leave you to brood. It’s what you’ve always done best,” she said and closed the door loudly behind her.
* * *
“So, how long have you been working on these X-Files?” Jane asked Scully over their dinner of curry and rice.
Scully took a sip of her beer before replying. “Close to five years. I spent two years teaching at Quantico before that.”
Scully nodded. “It’s never dull. How about you? How long have you been with Scotland Yard?”
“Five years. This is my second as a detective. Oh, I’ve been meaning to mention that I ran into a friend of yours, Phoebe Green.”
Scully rolled her eyes. “She’s no friend of mine.”
Jane laughed. “She is dreadful, isn’t she?”
“We worked on a case together in the US and, uh, didn’t quite see eye to eye,” Scully laughed, pushing her chana masala around on her plate.
“Well, you and any other woman she’s ever worked with. She’s definitely not one for sisterhood as it were. Certainly seems to have taken a shine to your partner though,” Jane said and watched Scully closely for reaction. She wasn’t disappointed. For a brief moment there was a flash of emotion in those normally calm eyes.
“Phoebe and Mulder dated when they were at Oxford,” she managed evenly.
“Oh, I see,” Jane said, getting the server’s attention and holding up two fingers. “You’ll have another, won’t you?” she asked gesturing at Scully’s empty beer.
“Uh,” Scully considered a moment. “Sure.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you, what’s with the last name thing?”
Scully laughed, “Guess we just got used to it. He started out calling me Scully, I think as a way of testing me. And he doesn’t like his first name.
He told me once even his parents called him Mulder.”
“Fox,” Jane seemed to consider the name. “Interesting. Does he have a sister named Deer?” Scully’s face paled. “What? Did I say something wrong?”
“Uh, no. It’s just… he had a sister. She disappeared when he was twelve.
It’s not a good topic with him.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. What happened?”
“I don’t know all the details,” Scully lied. “He doesn’t like to talk about it.”
“Understandable, I’d say.” The server returned with their beers and they were both grateful for the chance to change the topic. “So, tell me all about life with the Bureau…”
* * *
Mulder’s feet pounded down the cobblestone streets of Knightsbridge. His breath was increasing rapidly with his pace, all in an attempt to exorcise Scully and her blazing red hair from his mind. His Walkman was blasting, eliminating the possibility of concise thought. Or so he thought until the lyrics seemed to reach into his mind and pull out exactly what he was thinking… “I could never be enough, give enough, have enough, be enough, you could never stand to stay…” (3) His left foot caught the corner of an upturned cobblestone and sent him sprawling, his forehead making contact and his Walkman shattering across the pavement. He rolled over onto his back, panting and staring up at the tapestry of stars in the English sky. Blood mixed with tears pouring down the right side of his face. He didn’t care. An older man leaned over him and asked, “Are you all right?”
Mulder started laughing and said, “Just fine and dandy, thank you.”
The man moved on mumbling, “Crazy Americans,” under his breath.
Mulder laughed even harder. Crazy something is right.
* * *
Scully returned to her room and tossed her packages from Harrods on the chair. She’d certainly spent more than she intended to, but then again Harrods was the true Mecca to the shoppers of the world, so it could have been worse. Still, she’d finally understood a criminal’s compulsive desire to return to the scene of a crime. As she and Jane had passed the spot where Mulder had kissed her, she’d ached to fall against the wall and recapture the feeling of Mulder’s lips on hers, of his body pushing hers into the wall, shielding her from the driving rain even as he pulled down the barriers she’d carefully constructed around her desire. Instead, she’d given herself a good mental shake and hurried on. She’d done a lot thinking as the evening progressed and now it was time to talk to him about this whole mess. She crept over to the door adjoining her room to Mulder’s. An ear to the door provided no evidence that he was there, so she knocked softly and opened the door. He obviously wasn’t back from his run. Fine. She could wait. Leaving the door ajar she went to her dresser and selected a pair of sweats and a T-shirt and changed quickly. She went to the sink and started to brush her teeth. There was no way she was going to let one night ruin over four years of partnership and even more importantly, friendship. True, the sex had been…well, amazing. And she certainly wasn’t going to deny that it stirred some long buried feelings in her. But those feelings were locked up for a reason. They were partners. If they were to get involved and word were to get out it would be all that black-lunged monster and his pals would need to shut down the X-Files once and for all. She’d never forgive herself if Mulder lost the X-Files because of her. If Mulder couldn’t see that then it was her job to assist him in that end. That was how their partnership worked. He acted on instinct and guts, she on logic and science. This wouldn’t be the first time she had had to step in to help them advert disaster. Scully returned her toothbrush to the proper place and left the bathroom.
In a fluid movement developed from years of observing her partner, she scooped up the remote control and hopped onto the bed. A quick scan of the channels revealed nothing too promising. She eyed the open door to Mulder’s room and finally settled on a show about two chain-smoking, alcoholic women.
She found herself laughing hysterically at their antics despite the sexist overtones. Toward the end of the program she heard the sound of Mulder rattling around in the common room. She held her breath, now suddenly afraid of the confrontation for which she’d been waiting. Before long she saw his form silhouetted in the darkened doorway and wished her television wasn’t the only illumination. She couldn’t see his face, and hence couldn’t read his mood. She decided to start out lighthearted. She took a deep breath before saying, “Hey Mulder, come here. You have to see this. I think I found just the girlfriends for you.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she realized how wrong a thing that was to say. Idiot! Two months ago, yes.
Now… God, Dana.
“I think I’m just going to call it a night,” he said. “But thanks.” He started to close the door.
“Mulder, please, wait…we need to talk,” Scully said, looking down at her hands. She hadn’t felt this nervous around him since the first time she walked into their basement office and couldn’t check the small smile that tugged at her lips with the memory of that encounter.
He hesitated and stepped into her room. “Okay, talk,” he said as he pulled up a chair and settled himself at the end of her bed.
Scully looked up and was stunned to see Mulder’s bleeding forehead. “Mulder!
What happened?” she said as she went to get her med kit. Traveling with Mulder had taught her never to leave home without it.
“I tripped running. It’s no big deal.”
Scully stopped by the sink on the way back and dampened a washcloth. “What did the pavement look like?”
“Well, it put up a valiant fight, but it was no match for this hard head of mine,” he replied, each of them unconsciously slipping into the traditional roles in their relationship.
Returning to his side, Scully quickly cleaned away the blood and assessed the damage. “Well, I think the pavement will have to be replaced, but luckily your head won’t. A couple of stitches should do it,” she said, reaching into her bag and pulling out the necessary materials.
She deftly threaded the needle and used gentle force to push it through his tattered skin and had to concentrate on steadying her hands as she realized she was standing between his thighs and his knees were almost touching hers.
He had that Mulder-just-returned-from-a-run smell of sweat and something she could never name but could always recognize and she fought the desire to bury her face in his neck. She noticed that the television had started playing rock videos, “… is it you? I wonder, and still it makes me laugh… is it you that I’m looking for, don’t turn away so fast…” She aimed the needle again and Mulder took a sharp intake of air as she plunged it though his skin, bringing the ragged edges back together. “… is it you who whispered into my hazy soul? Is it you who makes the flowers bloom on the tenement window sill…” Mulder released the air he’d been holding in his lungs and it felt silky smooth against the skin of her collarbone. As she tied off the stitches she noted that Mulder’s hand, which was resting on his knee was trembling. She grabbed an antiseptic pad and ripped it open, shaking like a first year med student herself. She used the pad to clean off the remaining blood and to sterilize the wound. Without realizing it, her motion turned to one of a gentle caress. She dropped the pad and softly traced his hairline from his forehead down behind his ear to the back of his neck. Mulder closed his eyes, lost in her touch. “… in a hotel room the TV glows and souls are exchanged, drunkenly chasing the ghost of eternity…” the TV sang. As she went to repeat the motion, Mulder reached out and grabbed her hand, his eyes snapping open. He looked deeply into hers, like he could see all the way to her soul. “Don’t start something you can’t finish,” he said.
Scully jumped away, pulling her hand with her. She was completely unable to find her voice. Mulder got up quickly and fled the room, closing the door firmly behind him. Her heart broke when she heard a click, knowing that a lot more than a locked door stood between them. The band on the television was singing, “…with this buzz of electricity still ringing in my head, I wonder is it you?…” (4) She grabbed the remote and savagely pushed off the power button.
* * *
Another sleepless night, another awkward breakfast. Mulder stared out the window of Spencer’s Jag at the driving rain and passing landscape. Today’s jaunt would take them to Oxford, scene of the first mysterious death.
Coincidentally, it was also a place full of memories of Phoebe. He’d had enough of England and its bloody tea, its bloody rain and its bloody women trashing his heart. Well, Scully wasn’t technically English, but her family had come from Ireland and at this point he was willing to go with it. “Quite a cut there, Agent Mulder,” Spencer commented. “Your partner do that to you?”
Mulder could see the man’s twinkling eyes in the rearview mirror. He’d had about enough of that dry English wit too. “I had an altercation with a cobblestone when I was running last night. Scully here fixed me up.”
“Ah,” the older man said, noticing the auburn-haired agent bristle at Mulder’s mention of her name. He had to admit that professionally the two made a hell of a team. Her logic perfectly balanced his more wild speculation. But he wondered how long this lover’s spat would continue. As of yet he and Jane had detected no more telltale marks like the one that had adorned Mulder’s neck just below his collar shortly after their arrival.
Spencer had to admit to a certain perverse pleasure imagining the seemingly pragmatic Dr. Scully driven to create such a mark. Still, he was glad he and Jane had no such sexual politics to contend with. He also wondered if such conduct was permitted by the FBI. Somehow he doubted it. And then it all became clear! The other night’s “activities” had been a first! He chuckled under his breath, looking forward to sharing his conjecture with Jane.
Mulder looked slowly around at the commons. In typical English fashion the weather had cleared and the mid-day sun streaked down from the sky casting shadows on the old buildings of the university… it seemed so familiar and yet so foreign at the same time. It was here that he had come to escape the intolerable pain of his family. It was here he had come to put the unbearable memories of his sister’s abduction behind him. It was here he had met Phoebe.
He looked across the road at the pub, the one where she’d dumped him, where she’d systematically decimated the little world he’d so carefully reconstructed with her as its axis, and winced, remembering her cold words of farewell. He’d spent days locked in his room, not eating or sleeping, listening only to The Clash and Joy Division over and over, sprawled out on his bed waiting to die. When he finally determined that he was going to survive despite his best efforts to the contrary, he’d emerged ten pounds thinner and eons wiser. After his sister’s disappearance he’d been slow to trust, but it was after Phoebe that he’d become downright paranoid.
It was a miracle Scully had ever gotten inside his barriers and now it looked like she’d be leaving him too, just like Phoebe. The pain was palpable and he took a deep breath in an attempt to quell it. He looked over at her. She was talking softly with Jane, who was pointing out a rowing crew on the Thames.
“I could be arrested for the thoughts I get in this head of mine when I see young blokes like that in shorts,” Jane was laughing. Scully smiled and then looked over at him. He could read the question in her eyes…are you okay? He nodded and looked away. She was nothing like Phoebe. How could he have even thought that? Just more irrefutable proof why Scully was wise to steer clear of the likes of him. She was his partner and his best friend. His feelings for her beyond that were inappropriate and he’d just have to find a way to deal with them… and hope she’d stay.
“Well,” Spencer was saying. “We’re not scheduled to meet with Oxford CID for an hour. How about we get lunch at the pub across the street?”
Scully and Jane nodded their agreement before Mulder had the chance to object. He lingered a moment as the others started out. Scully turned around and then walked back to him. She reached out to touch his arm, but stopped herself. “Mulder,” she said softly. “Are you coming?”
He shook himself out of his stupor. “Uh, yeah. Let’s go.”
* * *
Once settled inside the pub, not at the table, thank God, Mulder had the chance to look around. The place hadn’t changed at all. The same guy even manned the bar, his hair a little grayer, his face a little longer. His eyes kept returning to the table, like a scab he couldn’t help picking, opening the wounds to the agony of a 21-year-old’s unrequited love. Strangely enough it didn’t feel all that different at 36. “Mulder?” Scully’s voice brought him back to the present.
“Huh?” he asked.
“Jane asked if you used to hang out here as a student,” Scully said.
“My niece tells me it’s quite the happening place on Friday nights,” Jane added.
“Uh, yeah. I used to study here,” Mulder said, hoping Scully wouldn’t pick up on the pain he was feeling.
“Study? You? Yeah, right,” she teased, leaning over with her shoulder to give him a friendly push. Then she turned to Spencer, “So, tell me about this ploughman’s lunch…”
Mulder looked at his partner, his best friend, eternally grateful to her for turning the attention away from him.
“So, you’re certain that no one besides the young men reported seeing anything out of the ordinary?” Scully asked the constable for the third time.
Looking into the man’s sleepy blue eyes, she couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t telling them the entire truth. Jane had warned them over lunch that there might be some resistance from local law enforcement. Seems they didn’t appreciate Scotland Yard swooping in from London and sticking their noses into local business. Scully and Mulder had nodded sympathetically, knowing the feeling. Still, that didn’t stop it from being frustrating. “Constable?”
she repeated when the man didn’t reply.
The officer swallowed and stated the facts yet again. Scully closed her eyes in frustration. She’d heard it twice before. “Peter Milner. Age 20. Studying at Queen’s College. No parents. One brother, his twin, identical according to the report, currently traveling in India—”
“We’d like to speak to the other boys,” Spencer interrupted the recitation.
The constable turned his dull eyes to the detective. “We’ll set something up for first thing tomorrow morning.”
Spencer pursed his lips, biting back his frustration. “That would be fine. In the mean time, we’d appreciate directions to the site of the incident, please,” he said, his voice clipped.
“Certainly,” the constable replied reaching for pen and paper. Scully fantasized about snatching the writing utensil from the man and jamming it through his hand, but before she could make her dream a reality, the officer handed Spencer the directions.
“Thank you, constable,” Smith said, sarcasm dripping. “You’ve been ever so helpful.”
As the foursome left, Mulder leaned close and whispered to Scully, “I’ll be sure to send him a bundt cake on behalf of Detective Sergeant Smith.”
Scully stifled a laugh and rejoiced at this small glimmer of hope that their partnership could be saved. Now she just had to figure out how.
A late afternoon rain storm was gently blanketing the crime scene when the intrepid investigators arrived, so they climbed slowly and reluctantly from the warm confines of the car, shielding themselves with umbrellas and buttoned coats. Mulder led the way and lifted the yellow tape still marring the clearing and slid gracefully under it, holding it up for the others.
“Students like to come here to party, after hours,” he said, looking around slowly, his mind obviously traveling in the past.
“Sounds like you speak from experience, Agent Mulder,” Smith teased, as she made her way under the tape.
Mulder smiled briefly. “I take the Fifth on that,” he said, then added quickly. “As in the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, so as not to incriminate myself.”
Smith laughed. “I’m fully aware of what ‘taking the Fifth’ means. We did get LA Law over here, didn’t we?” She turned to Scully, who was close behind.
“And perhaps, Dana, at some later date, after we’ve managed to ditch our male counterparts, we can discuss Harry Hamlin’s briefs.”
Scully grinned, but kept her eyes fixed on her partner as he reached the top of a small hill a few feet away. She saw him stop short and stiffen visibly, a dead give away that he’d discovered something.
“And Mulder and I will be sure to discuss the social relevance of Baywatch,”
Spencer tossed out. “Never know when you might need those important life saving tips, eh, Mulder?”
“Huh? Uh, sure,” the agent replied vaguely from where he was bent down examining whatever it was he’d uncovered. “Hey Scully, check this out.”
Scully was already on her way. When she reached her partner she was amazed to see him examining a perfectly formed circle of flattened grass perhaps six feet wide. “Just what am I looking at?” she asked as she felt Smith and Spencer arrive behind her.
“I’d say it’s a small crop circle,” Mulder replied, examining the area closely.
“The crop circles have been proven a hoax, haven’t they?” Smith asked. “Those two crazy blokes admitted to it.”
Mulder shook his head and stood, moving around the other side of the circle.
“They couldn’t have possibly been responsible for all of them.”
“Mulder, I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation,” Scully said.
“Such as?” he questioned.
“I don’t know… descending atmospheric vortices for one,” Scully countered.
Mulder shook his head again and dug a sunflower seed from the pocket of his coat. “The pattern is too precise to be a random atmospheric anomaly. Note how the grass is bent, but not broken,” Mulder paused, bending down again to pull on a strand. “And it’s continuing to grow at an angle.”
“Normally, a plant would return to it’s upright position,” Spencer said, conceding the point, but Mulder and Scully were completely enthralled in their debate and didn’t even seem to hear him.
Spencer looked to Smith and raised his eyebrows, both barely managed to hold back the laughter inspired by the verbal tennis match between these American partners.
“Okay, how about a small tornado,” Scully ventured.
Mulder laughed out loud at that one as he began scouting the area for any other circles. “Who ever heard of a stationary tornado, Scully?”
Scully pursed her lips. He had her there. “Well, I don’t know, Mulder. I just think there has to be a less fantastic explanation than space craft from outer space.”
Mulder turned and faced her. “Okay, I’m willing to listen to any that you can suggest.”
“Why don’t we take this discussion somewhere out of the rain and where we can get a nice cup of tea,” Spencer interjected.
“Brilliant idea, Nigel,” Smith chimed in.
Mulder and Scully remained facing each other, eyes locked, challenging the other to give. “Sure,” Mulder finally replied. “Just as soon as I get some photographs.” With that he headed for the car in search of the camera.
Banks of the Thames
Scully sat on a bench at the edge of the Thames waiting for him. She’d seen him leave on a run just after midnight and knew he’d make his way along the river. She could almost see the route he’d take in her mind, he’d told her about it often enough. And so here she was, lying in wait for him. It was time for the air between them to be cleared once and for all. She pulled her legs up and rested her chin between her knees. In the distance she could see him coming…
Mulder’s legs ached from running. Just being in Oxford again was more painful than he’d expected. It wasn’t the memories of Phoebe that were getting to him, it was the memory of what life had been like before Scully. It was the thought that his feelings for her would ruin what they had together. He was terrified that he’d destroyed everything. That as soon as they returned to DC she’d ask for a transfer. He didn’t know how he’d bear it. Dana Katherine Scully was, without a doubt, the best friend he’d ever had. He’d known it the moment she’d stood laughing with him in the rain in that Oregon cemetery on their very first case. She was heads. He was tails. She was yin to his yang.
He didn’t know if he could go on without her. He didn’t want to find out. But he was afraid he’d created an impossible situation for her. He’d declared his love, a love that was one-sided. Even if he never spoke of it again, would she be able to work with him? To trust him again? He noticed a lone figure sitting on a nearby bench and recognized the slope of her shoulders, the angle of her head instantly. He stopped in front of her, resting his hands on his knees and attempting to catch his breath. “Hey, Scully,” he said, unable to think of anything more original. She smiled and pulled a water bottle off the bench and handed it to him. He took it gratefully and drank deeply.
“Sit with me a while,” Scully said. He nodded and sat down, but not too close she noted with relief. They were silent for a moment, watching the reflection of the moon bounce off the water. And then they said each other’s names at the same instant.
“You go first,” Scully said, smiling awkwardly.
“No, you,” Mulder insisted.
“I… uh… God, this is hard.”
“Scully, it’s just me,” he said softly.
With that she looked him in the eye and said, “I’m sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for.” Then he looked down at his feet. “I’m sorry I behaved inappropriately and unprofessionally.”
“Mulder, you weren’t alone in your actions.” Mulder looked up at her, waiting for her to finish. “It’s just… if things were different…” she paused, struggling for words. “This is just the type of thing they could use to close down the X-Files. We can’t risk it. I won’t risk it. We have to find the truth. For your dad, for Missy, for Samantha… and for ourselves.”
“You’re not going to ask for a transfer?” he asked.
“No. Not unless you want me to.”
“Partners, then?” she asked, extending her hand.
“And best friends,” he replied, shaking her hand. The smile that lit up her face was almost enough to kill the pain he felt knowing he’d never kiss those beautiful lips again. Almost.
St. Giles Cafe
Mulder, lost in thought, moved his coffee cup around on the paper placemat in front of him, leaving a series of coffee ring stains in its wake. It was only after observing him for a few minutes that Scully realized he was creating a common crop circle pattern and wondered if he was even conscious of his actions. She dismissed the thought almost as soon as it entered her brain, Mulder always knew what he was doing. She sighed and took a sip of her coffee and marveled at how good it tasted. First decent cup she’d had since she’d arrived in England. She allowed her eyes to scan the others at the table, all sullen and engrossed in their own thoughts and cup of Joe. When they’d arrived at Oxford CID that morning, they were greeted with the news that the boys involved in the incident had declined to speak to them on the advice of their legal council. So, they’d retired here to plan their next move.
“Mind if I join you?” a voice said softly at Scully’s right. She looked up to find a young man in standard student garb— jeans and flannel shirt, his chestnut-colored hair falling haphazardly over his sad, dark eyes.
Before Scully could answer, her partner replied. “Why don’t you pull up a chair. Can we get you a coffee?”
The young man dumped his heavy backpack to the floor and hauled a chair over from a nearby table. “Coffee would be splendid,” he said, his eyes darting around nervously.
Mulder signaled the server for another cup and turned his attention back to the newcomer. “You were there, weren’t you?”
The young student’s eyes widened in surprise a moment, but then he nodded.
“I’m not supposed to be talking to you. If my parents find out—” he stopped.
“But Peter was my best mate, wasn’t he…,” his voice trailed off.
Smith pulled out her cigarettes and set about lighting one, the young man watched like a heroin addict one day short of a fix. “Mind if I bum a fag off you?” he finally asked.
The sergeant smiled and slid the pack and matches across the table to him. He fumbled for one quickly and lit it up. “Thanks,” he said, after inhaling deeply. “I’m supposed to have quit, but what’s the point, really?” He took another drag before speaking again. “Can we keep this off the record?”
Mulder and Scully looked to Spencer. It was his call. He hesitated a moment and acquiesced. “What’s your name, son?” he asked.
The server arrived with the coffee and they fell silent as she refilled everyone’s cup. When she left, the man replied, “Geoff Asprey.”
“What can you tell us?” Scully asked softly.
Geoff stirred sugar into his coffee, splashing an alarming amount over the side. “Not much, I’m afraid. It was almost as if…” he paused and his cigarette slipped from his fingers. He quickly snatched it up. “I know this sounds mad, but it’s as if time stopped.”
Scully could sense Mulder straighten up on that comment. He leaned across the table to the man and said, “How much time did you lose?”
“How can you be sure,” Smith cut in before Mulder had a chance to voice another question.
Geoff held up his arm, displaying an Eddie Bauer watch. “I received this for my birthday a couple of days before it happened,” he explained. “I was rather fond of the light function.” He pushed a small knob on the side of the watch, ashes flittering down his arm, and the face was bathed in a soft green light.
“I checked the time, it was 23:14, just before the… light came. Next thing I knew it was 23:20,” he paused again and swallowed nervously. “And Peter and Max were gone.”
* * *
That afternoon found the investigators slowly making their way back toward London, each quietly reflecting on what Geoff Asprey had told them. Talking to the young man had been a lucky break. He’d stayed just under an hour and smoked nearly three quarters of a pack of cigarettes while filling in many of the sketchy details of the incident, including how the group had befriended Max over a game of darts. He even had a few ideas on where Peter’s brother was in India. Smith had volunteered to investigate that further through a contact she had at the Embassy in New Delhi.
Traffic was crawling and Scully could feel Mulder’s barely checked nervous energy. He was anxious to get to the central library to research recent UFO and crop circle activity, hoping he’d be able to discern a pattern and possibly locate Max. As traffic came to a stop again she was half afraid that Mulder was going to climb out of the car and walk the rest of the way. She had to admit, she was tempted to join him. They’d probably make better time.
Scully fingered the envelope in her hands. She was looking forward to studying the complete autopsy report on Peter Milner which they’d managed to acquire from the medical examiner in Oxford. She glanced out the window. It was going to rain.
As the car began moving sluggishly forward again, their collective musings were interrupted by the shrill ring of a cell phone. Everyone reached for his or hers and the winner was… “Spencer.” He listened quietly a moment and then spoke sharply, “You must be joking. We’re in the middle of a murder investigation…,” more silence followed and finally, “Yes, sir. Good-bye.”
He disconnected and turned to Smith. “We’ve been called by the defense to testify in the Nichols murder case.”
“What?” Smith replied, her tone no less irritated. “They can sod off.”
““fraid we don’t have a choice,” Spencer sighed.
Smith blew out a heavy breath of frustration. “When?”
“Are they mad?” she exclaimed, her voice going unnaturally high at the end.
“It would appear so, but we’ve been ordered to attend with the assurance it’ll only be one day.” He turned his eyes to his passengers in the back via the rearview mirror. “And I’m afraid that leaves you high and dry tomorrow.
We can’t have you investigating without us, I’m afraid.”
“Of course not,” Scully replied.
“I’m sure we can find a way to amuse ourselves… we can do a bit of research or something,” Mulder assured the detective. Scully eyed her partner and knew they were in for trouble.
“Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement’s…” Scully was running through darkened streets, lost and alone in the fog, her feet pounding along to the rhythm of the nursery rhyme Mulder had taught her. “… you owe me five farthings, say the bells of St. Martin’s…” “Mulder?” she called, her heart thundering in her chest, even louder than the whipping wind biting into her skin and the church bells echoing through her head. “… when will you pay me, say the bells of Old Baily…” With a sudden flash of light she was inside a dank church, heavy with the stench of rotting bodies. She moved slowly, taking care not to tread on the graves of those buried beneath the floor. “… when I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch…” “Mulder?” she called again. “… when will that be, say the bells of Stepney…” She stopped in front of a stone so large she couldn’t hope to skirt around it and was compelled to look down at the name adorning it. Her heart seized at the sight and she turned to run, but found herself rooted in the spot as a partially decayed arm shot up through the floor, ancient stone shattering like a glass geyser. Duane Barry staked his claim on her ankle and pulled her toward death with more strength than the cancer ravaging her body. “… I’m sure I don’t know, says the great bell of Bow…” Air rushed out of her lungs with a whoosh as she landed without ceremony on her stomach. “… here comes a candle, to light you to bed…” She clawed blindly at what remained of the frigid stone floor and tried to kick her foot free. “… and here come the chopper to chop off your head…” She felt her nails being pulled out, tearing, breaking, as she struggled desperately, her blood flowing freely.
“… chip chop… chip chop…” Barry’s maniacal laughter served as a bizarre accompanist to her anguished screams as he pulled her under. “Mulder, I need your help,” she managed to cry one last time through dust-filled lungs. “…
and now you are dead…” (5)
* * *
In the next room, Mulder’s eyes flew open when he heard Scully’s cries. He sprang out of bed, searching for his gun before he realized it wasn’t there and ran through the common area before busting into her room. His head sagged in relief when he saw her alone in bed, in the throes of a nightmare. He went to her and reached out to touch her shoulder. “Scully, I’m here,” he said softly. “It’s okay. I’m here.” Scully sprang up as if returning from somewhere dark and deep, gasping for air and pulled him into a tight embrace.
He held her close, stroking her hair even though having her this near was killing him. “You’re okay,” he repeated. “I’m here. I’ll always be here.”
Scully breathed deeply and willed her heart to slow as she tried to piece together the scattered threads of the dream. “Do you remember anything?”
Mulder whispered, as he continued to caress the back of her head.
Scully shook her head, not trusting her voice as she inhaled the smell of Mulder’s neck where it met his shoulders. He’d been out for a run and hadn’t showered yet. She could taste the salt of his sweat on her lips. So real, so sweet… and so very alive. She inhaled again. His scent was an intoxicant to her, more powerful than opium. She was so tired of fighting it, fighting him, fighting herself. What if her time was running out? What if this was her last chance? Almost against her will, Scully’s lips began moving, exploring the flesh of his neck. She slowly kissed her way up his throat until her lips encountered his ear. She traced its rim lightly with her tongue. “Ah, Scully, please don’t do this to me,” he moaned, unable to deny her. Scully’s mouth continued its campaign across his jaw, stopping to explore his unshaven cheek. She gently kissed the mole she found there. Her hands joined in the exploration, finding their way to his shoulders and pushing him onto his back. Her finger ran around the scar where she’d shot him and was joined a moment later by her lips. Mulder laid there, somewhere between ecstasy and despair as Scully continued her ruthless pilgrimage down his body and across his soul. “Scully, stop,” he said, abruptly sitting up and pushing her away, his voice shaky.
“We agreed on friendship. I can’t… I need…,” he started then stopped as he ran his hand through his hair. Scully sat up, moving near, but not touching him and waited for him to continue. He stared at his hands. “That night after Tennessee… when I thought I’d lost everything, I came to see you because,” he paused for a long moment, returning his eyes to hers, “because I had my gun to my head, Scully. I wanted to end it, the pain, the not knowing, all of it, so badly and the only thing that stopped me from pulling the trigger was you,” he finished in a whisper, gently running his fingers over her cheekbone.
Scully blinked fiercely and pulled back from his touch like she’d been shocked. Her mouth moved, but formed no words. She couldn’t breathe, a weight as heavy as a truck descending on her chest. How dare he even consider leaving her behind? How dare he consider ending his life voluntarily when hers was being snatched away against her will. That this had occurred before her diagnosis did nothing to soften her anger. She got up and ran into the bathroom only to return a moment later. She threw her pink Daisy razor at him. “Go ahead, finish the job,” she hissed.
Mulder stared up at her, unmoving. “Go on,” she ordered, picking the untouched razor up off his lap and breaking away the protective plastic casing, not caring about the damage she was doing to her fingers and thumb in the process. When she was finished, she forced the exposed blade into his right hand. She grabbed his left hand and flipped it over exposing the smooth, unmarked flesh on the inside of his wrist. She slapped it a few times in quick succession, leaving a splattering of her blood on his pale skin and bringing his veins to the surface. “Be sure to make the cuts vertical and deep.”
He continued to look up at her, unable to speak. His eyes misted with tears before he looked from his blood-smeared wrist to the weapon she’d placed in his hand. For a moment Scully hoped even as she feared he might actually do it, but instead he flung the blade away and grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her fiercely. “Why,” he demanded.
“I can’t be your only reason to live,” she said. “It’s too much responsibility.”
“Scully, you’ve been my reason for years.”
She shook her head. “Samantha,” she muttered, even as her mind swam with images of Mulder, dead on his couch by his own hand. She shuddered. She would have died with him, spiritually if not physically. God, she loved him, despite her most ardent intentions to the contrary.
“Samantha isn’t enough.” Scully closed her eyes, trying to hold back the tears threatening to escape. Mulder tightened his grip on her shoulders. “I’m sorry, Scully, but I love you. Despite my best efforts not to. Against my will.”
Scully laughed shortly, hysterically, a single soldier against a foreign army. All that was left was to wave the white flag. She leaned her head into the space under his chin. ” ‘I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will,’” she quoted.
Mulder held her tight and felt a small smile pull at his lips. ” ‘In spite of your heart, I think: alas, poor heart! If you spite it for my sake, I will spite it for yours.’” Scully could feel his words vibrating through her hair.
He paused and lifted her chin with his forefinger until her eyes met his. ” ‘For I will never love that which my friend hates.’”
Scully returned his smile before she kissed him.
* * *
Later, Scully rested her head on his chest and gently fingered the hair that grew there. He was softly stroking the skin of her shoulder. ” ‘And I pray thee now, tell me for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?” (6)
“Love? Who said anything about love?” Scully giggled.
Mulder flipped her over and pinned her the bed, laughing. “Tell me,” he demanded.
“Your bad jokes and tacky ties.”
“Not that. The other,” he ordered. “And my ties are not tacky.”
“I love you, Mulder,” she said softly.
“Tell me again.”
She tilted her head up and brushed his lips with hers. “I love you.”
He rolled on to his back, pulling her with him and squeezed her tight, still unable to believe it. “Again,” he whispered.
“I love you, Mulder,” she whispered back and then they both drifted into sleep.
* * *
The next morning Scully reached out for Mulder only to find an empty spot next to her. She slowly opened her eyes and lifted her head. “Mulder?” she called out. His head popped in from the next room.
“Morning,” he said, as he stepped all the way in and returned to the bed. He was clad only in a towel, his wet hair curling to his head. Scully eyed him and knew what she wanted for breakfast. She reached her hand out to him and when he took it she pulled him down on top of her. She ran her fingers through his damp hair and continued down his back. Mulder gave her one of his evil smiles and said, “Ah, no time for that Agent Scully. We have to get on the road.”
“The road! This is our day off. I’m not getting out of this bed.”
“We’re going to Stonehenge…”
“… which you believe was built by aliens, I suppose,” she said sighing and trying to suppress a smile.
“Would you expect anything less,” he asked.
“Certainly not, Agent Mulder.”
He smiled and gave her a quick peck on the lips. “Hurry up, I want to stop by Silbury Hill and Avebury on the way,” he added and then noticed that her hands were exploring places that would indeed make him forget Stonehenge and everything else in England for that matter.
* * *
Two hours later they were on the M3 heading southwest toward Salisbury.
Scully sat nervously in the passenger seat, not able to shake the feeling that she was in the driver’s seat and that she had no steering wheel. Mulder had offered not to be “the big macho man” and to let her drive, but she was all too happy to sit this one out. “God, I think I like riding in the back better,” she said, closing her eyes.
Mulder laughed and spit another sunflower seed shell out the window. “You get used to it.” Scully looked out the window at the emerald fields and thought, yeah, I could get used to it. The green, the clean air, no Bureau, no Cigarette Man breathing down their necks, Mulder so relaxed and happy…
As if he could read her mind, Mulder reached over and took her hand. “It’ll be fine, you know.”
“How? As soon as they find out, that’s it. They’ll separate us. Maybe even send one of us out to a field office.”
“They won’t find out.”
Scully nodded, but wasn’t entirely reassured. “This little outing. Does it have anything to do with the case?”
Mulder popped another sunflower seed into his mouth and spit the shell out before replying, “I have a hunch.”
Scully rolled her eyes. “So, relax and hold on for the ride?”
Mulder laughed. “Yeah, something like that.”
Even Scully had to admit, as she stood in its midst, that there was something almost supernatural about the stone circle at Avebury. Though not as impressive in size as the one they’d seen earlier that day at Stonehenge, this circle was much wider— encompassing nearly half the town— and more intricate. It was also far more accessible. Mulder had been keenly disappointed that the public was no longer allowed anywhere near the formation at Stonehenge, instead being forced to take in the spectacle from a safe distance. In typical Mulder fashion he’d laughed it off, blaming the travesty on that pesky Griswold family and their “European vacation”. Scully grinned at the memory. God, how she loved his sense of humor. She’d never known anyone who could lighten a mood like him. It had seen them through on more than one occasion (even in their darkest hour) and she suspected it would do so in the future. Dana Scully wasn’t one to kid herself. She knew this new relationship with Mulder would not be without its pitfalls. She’d entered into a union with a man so damaged that he’d made angst an art form.
There was no doubt that his guilt and insecurities would compete for leading roles. She just hoped they wouldn’t be their undoing. She shook the thought from her head and continued her slow perusal of the circle, stopping in front of a large overturned stone. She reached out and ran her fingers over it idly. How long had this stone been here? And how long would it be after she was gone? She’d never thought much about time before, now she thought about it constantly. It was always there in the back of her mind. How much time did she have before the cancer in her sinus cavity pushed its way into her brain, putting an end to her life, her work, and her time with Mulder? Would they find a cure, a miracle in time? If she could be saved, she believed it could be accomplished by the two of them. She’d never had faith in anything like she did in their partnership, like she did in him. She turned her head and watched the people of this tiny village coming and going, busy living. She didn’t want to die. She wanted a chance at what they had. Her eyes closed against the tears threatening to fall.
She was pulled abruptly from her thoughts by Mulder leaning against the stone in front of her. He crossed his arms over his chest and gave her a half grin.
“Barber Surgeon Stone,” he said, gesturing his head to indicate the rock holding him up at the moment. “So named for the poor medieval barber who got squashed underneath it. Flatter than a pancake and more effective than the abdominizer.”
Scully laughed. “I bet. Maybe I should try it.”
“Don’t you dare,” Mulder said, as he reached out tentatively looping an arm around her waist and pulling her to him. “You’re perfect just the way you are.”
“Flattery will get you lucky, Mulder,” Scully replied, as she tested the new waters of their relationship by reaching out to brush her fingers over that maddenly seductive mole on his cheek.
Mulder smiled again and took her hand from his face, kissing her palm. “Your hands are cold. How about we head over to that pub for a cup of tea? Or,” he leered, pulling her closer, “we could always try another method to warm you up.”
“Umm… Sounds like heaven,” she replied, planting a light kiss on his lips, “but I think we better settle for the tea.”
* * *
The Red Lion pub was quite crowded for a weekday afternoon, but Scully wasn’t complaining as she wrapped her hands around her cup of tea and took in the unusual mix of patrons. Most of them were farmers she suspected, with a few of the good townsfolk thrown in. The thing that struck her most was how everyone seemed to know everyone else. It was almost as if they’d stepped into the middle of a private family gathering with everyone huddled in among the crowded tables and low-beamed ceiling, shutting out the dangers and strangers of the world. “Were you happy here?” she asked, out of the blue.
Mulder, who’d been busy casing the room, turned his eyes to her. “No,” he admitted, knowing with that weird sixth sense they shared that she meant when he’d been at school in England. “I don’t think I could have been happy anywhere…” he stopped and refilled their cups from the teapot on the table.
“I was running, and this was as far away as I could get.”
She nodded and stirred more sugar into her cup. She knew all about running.
She felt like she’d been doing it her whole life, and sprinting since Leonard Betts had said those awful words to her. The words she’d known instantly to be true. But last night, when she’d kissed Mulder, she’d finally stopped. She reached over and took his hand. “I don’t want to die, Mulder. Especially not now, but I may not have a choice in the matter—” she said softly.
Mulder’s hand tightened on hers. “I refuse to accept that. We’ll find a way.”
Scully brought his fingers to her lips and kissed them softly and stared at the table as she went on. “I just need some assurance that if… if something happens to me, that you’ll be okay. That you’ll find a way to continue,” she said softly, raising her eyes to his and was heartbroken to see a misting of tears.
“I… I can’t promise you that, Scully,” he said, his voice catching, dropping his hands to the table before she could feel them shaking.
Scully covered his hands with hers. “I’ll be counting on you to find the answers for our sisters, your father and,” she whispered so softly he could barely hear her (although he felt her words all the way to his bones), “…
That he could promise, he thought as the muscle in his jaw tightened. If something happened to her, he would not only find the answers, but extract revenge on those responsible. He’d hunt down the cigarette man again and nothing— nothing— would stop him from putting a bullet through the bastard’s skull this time.
Scully watched his eyes harden into a pale, steel gray. “I mean justice, Mulder, not vengeance,” she said.
The harsh look on Mulder’s face softened and he took both of her hands in his, eyes holding hers in silent communion.
“Can I get you another pot of tea?” the server’s words nearly scaring them out of their skins.
Mulder tore his eyes from his partner’s. “Please and some tea cakes as well, I think,” he replied. “Would you mind taking a look at this picture,” he added, pulling a photo of Max from his pocket.
The young woman brushed her long blonde hair behind her ear and took the photo.
“Have you seen this man around here?” Mulder asked and Scully couldn’t help smiling. So that was his “feeling.”
The server stared intently at the photo a moment before replying. “You coppers?”
“No,” Mulder replied, since they weren’t officially supposed to be working on the case today. “Just friends of his. He’s gone missing and we’re worried about him.”
The young woman nodded, still staring at the picture. “I haven’t, but I can pass it round the pub if you like, see if anyone else has.”
“That would be great. Thanks,” Mulder said as she left. He returned his attention to Scully, who was gathering up her purse.
“Just going to make a quick trip to the loo,” she said, smiling slightly as she used the colloquialism. “Be right back,” she added as she saw the concern on Mulder’s face.
* * *
When she returned less than five minutes later, Mulder was sharing the table with what appeared to be a farmer, not that she would want to make that assumption based on his attire of overalls and work boots. But then again, if the shoe fits, she thought as her partner introduced her, “Dana, this is John Smith. He owns a farm near here. He’s seen Max.”
Scully extended her hand, which Smith shook as she wondered just how many ‘Smiths’ lived in England anyway. “Nice to meet you, sir,” she said, as she took her seat.
The man nodded and continued his story. “Would have been late November or early December, wouldn’t it,” he said. “Chased him out of my barn, I did.
Bugger was trying to milk one of my cows!”
“And you haven’t seen him since?” Mulder asked.
“No, sir, I haven’t. I warned me mates here, of course, to be on the lookout for him.”
“And no one else has seen him?” Scully asked.
The farmer shook his head. “Not that I heard,” he said, waving his hands around to indicate the pub, “and I would have heard.”
* * *
After a quick look around Smith’s farm and a driving tour of the surrounding fields, they had made their way back to London to find a message from Spencer waiting for them. Apparently, Paul Milner had returned from India and would be coming up to London the next day in order to speak to them. With a little time on their hands, Mulder and Scully had opted for a quiet dinner and were now enjoying a stroll along the banks of the Thames. Mulder reached down and gingerly took her hand. She looked at him sheepishly and gave him a little half smile. For both of them this recent permission to act upon urges formerly squashed was heady business. And it was so nice to be out in public like a normal couple. They both knew once they returned to Washington they would never be afforded such a luxury. “Mulder, it’s beautiful here,” Scully said, pulling her hand from his and walking over to the stone railing. She stood, her back to him, looking out over the river at the party boats going by. Mulder came up behind her, encasing her in his arms.
“No more beautiful than you,” he whispered into her ear. Scully felt a tingle run down her spine. She’d never realized that he could be so sweet, so romantic. He gently brushed back the hair on her neck and began to kiss the silky skin behind her ear. Scully closed her eyes and leaned her head back onto his chest, moaning softly. He slowly broadened the scope and intensity of his kisses until Scully felt her knees weaken as his teeth grazed the back of her neck. She reached her hand down and gripped the front of his thigh and began rubbing the strong muscles she found there. She heard Mulder’s breath catch in his throat and then continue on unevenly. “Oh, Scully,” he sighed as he turned her around. She looked up into his glazed eyes and smiled. He placed his hands on her waist and easily sat her up on the railing, bringing her almost to eye level. Scully draped her hands around his neck and pulled him into a kiss. His mouth was hot and inviting, tasting like the red wine they’d shared at dinner. He pressed his body closer to hers and she could feel that she wasn’t the only one thinking about breaking public decency laws. She snaked one hand up underneath his shirt and jacket, digging the pads of her fingers into his back as he pulled her even closer.
Someone cleared his throat behind them. Scully and Mulder froze, mid-kiss.
Scully opened her eyes to discover a police officer standing behind them, his head cocked to one side. “I think perhaps you should take this home before I’m forced to arrest you,” he said.
Mulder released his grip on Scully’s waist and moved back a bit. “Uh, yes, sir,” he said, his voice a little ragged. Scully was pleased to see that his cheeks were as red as hers.
“All right, then,” the officer said and moved on. Scully and Mulder burst into laughter and collapsed into a hug.
“I think that’s what Skinner would call conduct unbecoming federal agents,”
Mulder said, then taking her hand he added, “Let’s go back to the hotel before I do something to get us thrown in the slammer.”
Scully jumped down and said, “Let’s take a cab.”
Mulder smiled. “I knew there was a reason I loved you.”
Once safely in said cab, Scully found that she couldn’t keep her lips or hands to herself. Pretty amazing for someone who didn’t even believe in public displays of affection. But here she was shamelessly making out with her partner as the lights of London sped by. She could feel the skin on her chin being rubbed raw by the late evening stubble on Mulder’s face. Under his touch every sensation seemed to be magnified by ten. She felt his full lips brush by her ear and his raspy voice whisper, “Scully, God, what you do to me.”
Somehow they managed to get to the hotel, pay the poor driver and make it through the lobby to the safety of the elevator. When the doors closed and they were alone, Mulder kissed her savagely. Scully bumped her head against the wall and clung to his shoulders. His fingers went to her cardigan and started undoing the buttons. She couldn’t believe she was letting him do that but she felt like if she didn’t feel his hands on her skin immediately, she’d die. His lips moved to her collarbone and were about to slide lower when the elevator finally stopped at their floor. Mulder grabbed her hand and ran with her down the hall to his room. He managed to drop the key on the floor twice before he got the door open and pulled her inside. He immediately pinned her to the back of the door with his body while continuing to undo her sweater.
Coats were quickly discarded, tossed with abandon to the floor. His teeth knocked against hers when he went to kiss her and he used her hair to tilt her head back so that he could do so even more deeply. Scully worked her hands up under his shirt, breaking their kiss long enough to get it over his head. She ran her hands down over his broad shoulders marveling at the power of her desire. Mulder was trying to finish unbuttoning her sweater and succeeded only in ripping one of the buttons off. They heard it ping as it hit the wall on the other side of the room. “Oops,” he said.
Scully laughed. “It’s okay, not one of my favorites.” Mulder yanked the garment off her shoulders and tossed it on the floor. He kissed her shoulder and ran his hands up her back looking for the hook to her bra. “It’s in the front,” she whispered into his ear. Mulder’s kisses continued until he reached the front of her neck. Scully went to work on the buttons on his jeans as Mulder slipped off his Rockports. She slid her hands down his back and pushed the offending Levis until they fell around his ankles. Mulder pulled her close again, lost his balance and fell, bringing Scully with him.
Together they crashed through a small table. Scully lifted her head to survey the damage. “How are we going to handle that on the expense report,” she asked, lifting an eyebrow.
Mulder reached up and pulled her back to him, his fingers threading through her hair. “I don’t care,” he said before kissing her.
Moonlight was pouring through the window when Mulder jerked awake from where he slept across Scully’s back. He looked at his partner, taking in her soft red hair and feeling her back rising and falling as she breathed. It was a miracle. This incredible woman loved him. She wanted to be with him. Wanted to share her life, her bed, her soul… with him! What the hell was wrong with her? He almost laughed out loud as he rolled over onto his back and covered his eyes with his arm, hoping to hold back the gut wrenching knowledge that there was no way he could possibly live up to the trust she’d given him. He was destined to fail her. Destined to let her down. Somehow.
Some way. As her partner and friend he’d been able to hide the worst of his battered soul from her. He’d been able to keep her at arm’s length, sarcasm or desertion, whether it be physically or emotionally, being his weapons of choice. But now… he didn’t know if he had the strength to push her away when she got too close. His heart, his soul were open to her like a department store where she had a credit card with an unlimited balance.
Anything she wanted was hers for the taking. And that scared the shit out of him. He had to get away from her. Find a way to protect her from himself.
Slowly he got up out of bed, pulling on a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt. He silently found his shoes and socks, put them on and went for his Walkman. He absentmindedly grabbed a tape out of his bag and headed out the door, closing it quietly behind him.
Scully woke when she heard the latch of the door catch and immediately reached for her gun, which she quickly realized was some twenty miles away at Heathrow Airport. “Mulder,” she called quietly only to be greeted by a looming silence. He was gone. Not just in the other room, but gone. She could tell. She could feel it in her bones just like when he’d run off to Puerto Rico, when he’d taken off to Alaska. “Mulder,” she called again, hoping to prove herself wrong. More silence. Damn him, she thought, idly rubbing her shoulder which was tender from crashing through that table. She got up (pulling the blanket with her even though she knew that no amount of covers could quell this naked feeling) and went to the window, looking out just in time to see him round the corner. She dropped into the overstuffed chair behind her and settled into wait.
* * *
Once out into the cold London night he started to run, popping the tape he’d grabbed into the player and turning it on. Brilliant. Joy Division, he thought, adjusting the headphones. Just what I need to be listening to, the mad ramblings of a guy who blew his head off before he was thirty. But something in the lyrics caught his ear and tore at his heart… “love, love will tear us apart again…” (7) Somehow he had to wonder if there was truth in those words.
* * *
At 7:30 Scully gave up. They were due to meet Spencer and Smith for breakfast in an hour and a half. She reluctantly dragged herself off the chair and headed toward her own room and the shower.
* * *
What am I doing? Mulder wondered from where he sat perched on the wall overlooking the Thames, the exact spot where they’d kissed the night before.
I must be crazy, Scully is the best thing that ever happened to me. She trusts me. Why can’t I trust myself? Because Samantha trusted me. And— Oh God, stop thinking. Music. Music is good. He pushed the play button on his Walkman and prepared to start running again, the music from his headphones seeming suddenly unnaturally loud “… if I’m unclear, can I get out of this thing with me and you…” (8) He yanked his Walkman off and threw it into the Thames with all his might.
* * *
Scully was attempting to apply eyeliner without too much success as she alternated between being furious with and worrying about Mulder. She knew exactly what he was doing, what had happened. He was panicking, giving into his fear of failure, and running. Pathetically trying to put some physical and emotional distance between them. Fine, if he wanted distance, he had it.
She went and sat on the edge of her bed, gnawing on the inside of her cheeks until they were raw and sore, as she took a mental inventory of the clothes she had with her. Angry as she was, she couldn’t entirely blame him. He had, after all, entered into a relationship with a woman who was likely to be dead inside of a year. She just wished he’d pulled back sooner, realized his mistake, before she’d given him her complete trust. It may have been painful, but it would have been nothing compared to the huge, gaping emptiness currently threatening to swallow her whole.
After what seemed like an eternity, she settled on the simple black pantsuit.
She was rummaging through her suitcase looking for a pair of black tights when her cell phone rang. She scrambled for it, knowing it was Mulder.
“Scully,” she said.
“It’s me,” came the unmistakable voice on the other end of the phone.
“Mulder, where are you?”
“I…uh…shit, Scully. I got scared.”
“Scared?” Scully said, playing along for the moment. “Of what?”
“You,” he replied so softly she barely heard it.
“Mul—” she started, exasperated.
“What if this is a mistake…” he interrupted and trailed off.
“Dammit, Mulder. Don’t you dare. You were the one who wanted this so badly, remember?”
“I know. I know—”
“Look, we’re due to meet Smith and Spencer in half an hour. Work, remember?
Now, get back here and get ready. We’ll talk about this later.”
He knew she right and nodded his head. “Yeah, I’ll be there.” He hung up and started looking around for a cab.
* * *
Scully left her room, barely remembering to grab her briefcase, as she heard him entering his. He could meet her in the restaurant. Damn him. Damn her for trusting him. Damn Blevins for ever assigning her to X-Files in the first place. And while she was at it, damn Dr. Cartwright for giving her a B in organic chemistry. She hurried through the lobby, a woman with a mission— to find a cup of coffee and a large chunk of her self-esteem. Once settled in a seat at the cafe, with a cup in her hand, she finally let herself think about what Mulder had said. “…Scully, I got scared…” Join the crowd, she thought, idly flipping through the case file. Intimacy wasn’t exactly her forte either, but he didn’t see her running off like a phantom in the middle of the night. She groaned softly in frustration and forced her mind off her partner. She hadn’t been pleased with the autopsy report on Peter Milner for much the same reason she was uneasy about the post-mortem on John Miller.
They were too perfect. No congenital defects, no chronic health problems.
Hell, not even a need for corrective lenses. She wished they had more information on Rory McDonough as she spread the paperwork across the table to examine the DNA results and nearly dropped her coffee. The patterns strongly suggesting a familial connection. She dug quickly through the file looking for the blood work-up on Rory McDonough provided by his physician, and immediately confirmed another match.
* * *
Mulder made his way across the cafe toward Scully. She was sitting alone, her head down, case file fanned out across the table. Her hair was tucked behind her ears and her brows were furrowed in concentration. She was so beautiful and he was such an idiot. He ran his hand through his still damp hair and took a deep breath before sliding into the booth next to her. “Hi,” he said, lamely, trying to reach for her hand.
She quickly pulled it away and shoved a series of papers at him. “Mulder, take a look at these DNA results.”
He studied them intently for a moment. “What am I looking at?” he questioned.
“The DNA patterns of what I suspect to be a grandfather, father and son,” she replied quickly.
Scully reached into the file folder and pulled out the photos of the victims and tossed them in front of him. “You’re looking at three generations of the same family. Now we just have to find out why someone wants them dead.”
They locked eyes for a moment, considering the implications. Mulder reached into the file and quickly jerked out a map, spreading it across the table. “I think we can safely assume that Max arrived in early December near Avebury,”
he said, pointing out the tiny village on the map.
“Uh huh,” Scully agreed, not entirely sure where he was going with this.
“And no one was killed there.”
“Right again,” Scully said.
Mulder pointed to another location on the map. “Next stop, Oxford, where we have a dead student. Then it’s on to Hertsfordshire,” Mulder continued, pointing to the map again. “Where we have a dead dairy farmer.”
Scully nodded, moving her finger across the map to the next location. “And then Canterbury, where we have a likely to be dead ringer.”
They both grinned at that turn of phrase. “Seeing a pattern, Scully?” Mulder asked, his eyes aglow.
“I’m seeing a big, albeit lopsided, circle,” she admitted.
“With one missing piece.”
“A twin brother,” he said, reaching for the case file. “Where is Paul Milner from? Do you remember seeing that anywhere?”
Scully joined him in searching through the file, finally finding a sheet containing Peter Milner’s vital statistics. She quickly located the address of his brother. “Marlborough.”
Mulder pointed to the map again. “Which is less than five miles from Avebury,” he said as he started packing up the case file. “I think it’s a pretty safe bet that’s where Max is headed.”
“Which makes it a good thing that Paul is coming in to London today. We’ll have to see about arranging protective custody…” she trailed off as Mulder looked down at his watch.
“Where are Smith and Spencer anyway?” As if on cue, Mulder’s cell phone rang.
“Mulder… uh huh… okay, we’ll be there as soon as we can.”
“What?” Scully asked as soon as he hung up.
Mulder started gathering up the file. “I’m not sure, but it doesn’t sound good. They want us to meet them at Scotland Yard.”
* * *
Three hours later, Mulder and Scully finally climbed out the cab in front of their hotel. Scully went straight to the little convenience store in the lobby to get a bottle of water. She hoped Mulder would continue on to his room without her. She was too tired, and frankly still to angry, to deal with his little scene from this morning. And now that Scotland Yard had mysteriously been pulled off this case, and they had been asked to return to the United States, she didn’t want to deal with his paranoia or his temper tantrum. When she re-emerged she saw that there would be no such luck. He stood leaning against a post wearing his best hang-dog look. As she walked past him, he fell in along side her. “Scully, I just don’t get this. I didn’t think that *he* could reach this far.”
Scully knew that “he” was the one formerly known as the Cancer Man. Mulder had stopped referring to him as that immediately following her diagnosis.
Scully sighed. “It’s not our problem anymore, Mulder,” she said, repeatedly pushing the call button for the elevator, as if her sheer will could summon it more quickly. When it finally arrived she stepped inside. “Feel free to wait for the next one.”
Mulder jostled his way in, ignoring her remark, then reached out to push the large red stop button, which immediately brought the elevator to a halt. The tension in the air was a marked contrast to the passion of the night before.
“Scully, can we at least talk about it.”
He wasn’t speaking about the case anymore. It alarmed her how they could move so smoothly from topic to topic with no segue. “No, we can’t,” she said, attempting to reach over and release the lift.
“Look, I’m sorry. I…” he struggled to find the words and failed.
Scully crossed her arms in front of her and raised an eyebrow. “Is that right? You’re sorry. How typical.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“God, Mulder, you’re so predictable. You pursue what you want with total abandon, and in this case it happened to be me, then when you get it…you don’t know what to do with it. Then typically you leave it to me to clean up the mess.”
“That’s not true.”
“Oh?” she stared at him until he looked away. Vindicated, she reached over and pushed the button, setting them in motion again. “I’ll call the airline and book us flights home as soon as possible.” The elevator stopped and they walked quickly down the hall to their rooms. Since Mulder had failed to respond, she decided to state the obvious. “Mulder, this case is over. You realize that, don’t you?”
He turned, his eyes capturing her and pinning her like a bug to a swath of cotton. “Aren’t you even the least bit curious about what’s happening to Max?
Aren’t you the least bit worried about him and Paul Milner?”
Scully closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Mulder, we have no jurisdiction to continue this investigation.” When she opened her eyes, he was still staring at her.
Finally he sighed and turned toward his door, key in hand. “Um, I’m gonna shower, I’ll pack and then we can get out of here,” he said entering his room and closing the door firmly behind him.
* * *
In her own room, Scully quickly changed into jeans and a sweater (no need to dress-up for the plane trip home) and reached for the phone to call the airline. She was on hold, her mind wandering in time to the muzak on the wire as she pondered over why Mulder needed to shower again. Where had she heard that one before? She flew bolt upright. The Bastard! Scully dashed for the lobby, not even remembering to hang up the phone.
* * *
Mulder pulled the rental car around the corner of the parking garage and had to slam on the brakes to avoid running over his partner. She stood, larger than life in the center of the driveway, arms across her chest, eyes ablaze.
He swallowed hard and reached over to unlock the passenger-side door. Scully walked slowly forward, never taking her eyes from his, and pulled the door open and climbed in. “Mulder, if you ever try something like that again, I will shoot you again and this time I’ll aim lower.”
Mulder grimaced at the mental picture that produced. Definitely not a Kodak moment. “Scully, I—”
“Save it,” she cut him off.
“Just drive,” she ordered. And he did.
Polly’s Tea Room
Mulder nervously eyed the door again. So far there had been no sign of Paul Milner, despite his agreement to meet them in this quaint tea room at 4 o’clock.
“I think these men may have been genetically engineered,” he said suddenly.
“Mulder,” Scully reasoned. “John Miller was over sixty years old. The technology to do what you’re suggesting simply didn’t exist in the 1920s.
It’s questionable that it even exists today.”
His jaw tightened as he nodded and turned his attention to the door again, waiting. Scully watched him and considered the quagmire she’d gotten herself into. If she were smart, she’d demand they get back into the car and head for London and the safety of the airport. If she were a genius, she’d hit Washington running and keep going until she’d put a few thousand miles between herself and the man she feared was her soon to be former partner.
Even as she cringed at the thought, she didn’t see how they could possibly remain partners after everything that had happened. She exhaled in frustration. Where was Paul Milner? Sitting here alone with Mulder was sheer torture. The last time she’d been in a place like this with him (only yesterday, could it have possibly have been yesterday?) she’d felt so safe, had been so happy. Now— her thoughts were abruptly cut short as Mulder rose and dropped a few pound notes on the table. “Come on, Scully, something’s wrong.”
“Mulder, maybe he just didn’t want to talk to us. He has that right you know.”
Mulder was pulling on his coat, nodding his head like he was listening even though he wasn’t. “Something’s wrong,” he repeated as he readied to leave.
She sighed and got slowly to her feet, grabbed her coat and followed her partner.
The last slice of sun was setting in the west as Scully and Mulder arrived at the Milner farm and climbed from their car. They moved back to back, unconsciously covering for each other, as they took in the deserted homestead. Scully tucked her wind-whipped hair behind ear, in a futile attempt to keep it out of her face. Something was most definitely not right here, she could feel a rising sense of dread climbing steadily from the pit of her stomach. “Mulder—” she started.
“I don’t know,” he replied, shaking his head and rubbing his fingers over the palm of his hand, aching for his Sig. He looked around slowly, unease tickling him like the legs of a thousand tiny spiders. “Hello,” he called out, “Is anyone here?” He thought about adding that they were Federal Agents, but decided against it.
The shot gun blast shattered the eerie silence and Mulder drove for Scully, catching her around the waist throwing her to the ground, covering her with his body. In the quiet that followed they jumped to their feet and ran for cover behind their car.
“You okay?” Mulder asked once they were safely ensconced.
Scully nodded, brushing the dirt from her hair. “Looks like we found Paul Milner.”
“Seems so,” Mulder agreed. “But it looks like a chat over a cuppa tea is out of the question.” He climbed to his feet and called, “Paul, it’s Agents Mulder and Scully, we mean you no harm.”
The answer was another blast echoing through the twilight. Mulder dropped down next to Scully. “Guess he really doesn’t want to share those scones.”
Scully leaned her head back again the car and stifled a laugh. “Suggestions?”
“If we go around the barn and sneak in the back of the house we just may be able to take him by surprise,” Mulder offered, narrowing his eyes to determine a route.
“Here goes nothing,” Scully said, climbing to her feet and making a run for the barn, Mulder hot on her heels.
Another shot gun blast rang out as they rounded the corner to safety, hitting the barn near Mulder’s head, sending wood splinters into his neck and ear.
“Damn,” he cursed softly.
“You okay?” Scully asked.
He nodded swiftly, despite his obvious discomfort and led the way around the barn. At the back door of the farm house he paused and waited a moment, listening. Then, opening the door silently, he whispered, “Let’s do this real quiet like.”
They crept through the kitchen and slowly up the creaky back stairs toward the room from which they’d seen and heard the blasts. Lucky for them the door was open and they could see Paul Milner, shot gun in hand, peering out the window. Mulder held up his index finger and mouthed the words, “One… two… three.” They both leapt on younger man, bringing him down easily and wrestling the gun from his grasp, surprised by his incredible strength, as he fought back like a rabid animal. Finally, they managed to secure him, at least temporarily, with Mulder sitting on his stomach and Scully on his arms above his head. It wasn’t a pretty picture. “Paul, we’re not here to hurt you.”
“They sent you to kill me,” he hissed, dirty brown hair nearly covering his face.
“No,” Mulder said between heavy breaths. “No. We’re not here to kill you.”
“I can assure you, Mr. Milner, we are not here to kill you,” Scully repeated.
“We’ve been investigating the deaths of your brother and grandfather and the disappearance of your father.”
That revelation resulted in yet another bout of struggling from the young man. “If you weren’t with them you wouldn’t know about my father and grandfather.”
“No,” Scully said, fighting to keep control of Paul’s arms. “I’m a forensic pathologist. I studied the autopsy reports of your grandfather and brother.
The connection was easy to make.”
“We’re both agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigations in the US. We’ve been working with the Scotland Yard on the investigation,” Mulder added.
The young man seemed to consider this a moment, his brow furrowing. “Why should I trust you?”
“Because, at the moment, you have no else to trust,” Mulder said, climbing off the young man, and sitting against the wall.
Scully released his arms and moved away. “Because we’re here to help you.”
Paul sat up, pulling his knees close to his chest with his arms. He buried his face in his knees.
“Why are they after you?” Scully asked after a few moments. He was so young, so seemingly fragile. She was surprised by her slightly maternal feelings.
“I would have expected you to have made the connection by now,” Paul said softly.
“Which connection is that?” she asked, moving closer so she could hear him.
“You were puzzled by the autopsies of my brother and grandfather, were you not?”
“Yes,” she conceded. “Especially your grandfather, his physical condition belied that which is normal for a man of over sixty.”
“Perhaps he wasn’t entirely a man,” he suggested, making eye contact for the first time.
“A hybrid! You’re all hybrids. Clones,” Mulder exclaimed as the phrase “hook, line and sinker” flashed through Scully’s mind.
“Impossible. Their physiology was entirely human—” Scully started.
“So, you can see precisely why they’d be interested in us,” Paul cut her off.
“We’ve managed to accomplish what they can only dream of. Hybrids indistinguishable from the indigenous population.”
“That’s not only implausible, it’s against the laws of nature,” Scully snapped.
“Are you so sure about that? You’ve got a human doctor not too far from here cloning sheep. Cloning humans and improving the species are the next logical steps.”
“How does Max fit into all of this? Mulder asked.
“Max?” Paul asked. “Who’s Max?”
“An abductee who was the last person to see your father, brother and grandfather,” Mulder explained.
Paul released a long, slow breath. “I don’t know. The decoy perhaps.”
“Decoy?” Scully asked.
Paul laughed bitterly. “An attempt to distract the authorities. Makes you think you’re looking for a human psychopath.”
“Pretty bad decoy,” Mulder said. “Max hardly fits the profile of a serial killer.”
“I suppose they didn’t have a lot of options,” Paul suggested. “Regardless, it seems to have worked. At least for a while.”
“Then why the crop circle?” Paul cocked his head in confusion, so Mulder continued. “There was a crop circle at the scene in Oxford. That didn’t fit with their scenario.”
“That, I would imagine, was designed to distract you, Agent Mulder,” he said and chuckled. “They don’t have to make crop circles, you know. They do it to mess with your heads. It’s sort of like intergalactic graffiti.”
“You know what I find strange? You don’t seem all that upset about the deaths of your father, brother and grandfather,” Scully stated.
Paul paused a long moment. “I don’t have the luxury of grieving now, Agent Scully. I have to find a way to protect myself… and the others,” he finally said.
“The others?” Mulder started to say when without warning, the room was flooded with a blinding white light. Each instinctively raised a hand in a useless attempt to shield their burning eyes as it shimmered, catching floating pieces of furniture and clothing in its illumination, forcing them to participate in a frenzied gravity-defying dance. Scully reached out slowly with her other hand to touch a piece of floating debris, but before she made contact a sudden flash engulfed them, stopping time and leaving them unconscious.
* * *
Scully awoke with a start sometime later, cold and sore… and completely in the dark. “Mulder?” she whispered tentatively, and started to feel around.
She appeared to be in a concrete room of some sort, with rounded walls and small, hard pebbles of some sort scattered around the floor. A corn silo, she deduced quickly (she had, after all, seen “Witness” 14,000 times).
“Mulder,” she whispered again. Still, there was no response, so she started to crawl along the floor, her knees and palms aching as random pieces of dried corn dug into them as she explored the dark. She stopped short when she encountered a booted foot… which didn’t belong to her partner. It was too small. “Paul?” she whispered.
“Um, no, um….”
“Max?” she tried. “Max Fenig?”
“Who are you?” came the hushed reply.
“That’s the enigmatic Agent Scully to you,” came a voice in the dark from across the silo.
“Agent Mulder!” Max exclaimed as Scully said a silent prayer of thanks.
“The one and only. Scully, you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she replied quickly.
“So, what’s going on here?” Max ventured.
“We were sort of hoping you could tell us,” Mulder shot back.
Max was quiet for a moment. “Last thing I remember, I was in North Dakota.
When did you get here?”
“We’re not in North Dakota,” Mulder said. “Max.”
“… Guess it doesn’t matter. I’m just glad you’re here. I couldn’t contact you because *they’ve* been after me—” Max continued as if he hadn’t heard.
“Max!” Mulder repeated. “We’re in England now. You do realize that?”
“England?” he replied in confusion. “That’s impossible.”
“Max, we’re currently on the Salisbury Plain of England.”
“That can’t be true. I don’t even have a passport.”
“Looks like that wasn’t an issue for your travel agent,” Mulder deadpanned.
“I can assure you it’s true, Max,” Scully said.
“H-how did I get here?” Max replied, a slight tremble in his voice.
Rather than attempting to answer, Mulder asked another question. “This isn’t the first time you’ve found yourself in a situation like this is it, Max?”
There was a long silence. “No.” Which was followed by another long pause.
“But it’s the first time in nearly 20 years— I thought it was over.”
“Did you go to the authorities last time, Max? Did you try to find out why this was happening to you?” Scully asked.
Max giggled nervously. “Why do you think I’ve spent all these years on anti-psychotics?” He stopped speaking. They could hear him stand and start to explore the walls with his hands before tripping over Scully and nearly falling to the ground. “Oops, sorry,” he said, returning to a sitting position. “I hate to ask the obvious question, but where are we and how did we get here?”
“Best I can tell, we’re in a corn silo on the Milner farm in southwest England,” Scully replied, rubbing the sore spot on her ankle where Max had trod.
“So, what now?” Max asked.
“I suggest we try to find a way out of here,” Mulder said, starting his own exploration of the walls with his hands. The others joined in. “I think we may be dealing with rival alien groups here,” he said.
“Mulder!” Scully exclaimed. “I’m not even convinced of the existence of one alien group, let alone rival gangs.”
“Hear me out.”
“Like I have a choice, we’re sort of trapped in here,” Scully pointed out.
“I just love a captive audience,” his voice suddenly right next to her ear in the darkness. She started to move away but realized he had her boxed in.
“I’ve always been fairly certain that the aliens who took Max were not the same ones we so affectionately refer to as the Mighty Morphin Bounty Hunters.”
“And how is that?” Scully asked, turning herself around to face him.
“Different MOs” Mulder stated simply. “With the aliens in Townsend we saw severe burning, but no sign of the retro-virus and—”
“I think you may be right, Agent Mulder,” Max interrupted, his voice full of excitement. “NICAP suspects the existence of at least three distinct alien groups.”
“Great,” Scully said, the sarcasm practically dripping from her voice, and elbowed her way away from Mulder. “I guess that makes it official then.” She concentrated on running her hands along the lower part of the wall, looking for a way out of this silo and this mess, as Mulder and Max continued to babble on incessantly about this alien and that extraterrestrial. Her persistence paid off when she located a small door near the floor. “Eureka!”
she said, forcing it open and climbing out. In her mind’s eye she imagined Max getting stuck, like he had in the hotel bathroom window four years ago, and laughed.
The two men turned their attention from their conversation followed her out through the darkened barn.
* * *
They gingerly made their way out of the barn and into the moonlit night. So far Max had only managed to cause one near international incident with a cow, but Mulder’s quick thinking had saved the day. As they snuck quietly around to the back of the house and in the back door, Scully wondered how Max had managed to survive this long. He was a bit like Buster Keaton, actually. The house could fall down, but rest assured that Max would be standing right where the open window was.
Slight illumination from the parlor lit the kitchen as they moved silently towards the stairs. It was unlikely that Paul was still where they’d last seen him, but it didn’t hurt to check. And it wasn’t like they were overwhelmed with leads at the moment. Scully wondered again why they weren’t on a plane headed home. She bit back a smile as Max tripped over a table leg and sent a stack of pans clattering to the floor.
Max shoved his hands into the pockets of his tattered jeans and giggled, shrugging his shoulders. “So much for the element of surprise,” Mulder whispered, although he didn’t know why he bothered lowering his voice. He might as well have used a bullhorn.
“Freeze, Scotland Yard,” a voice called from the parlor, just out of sight.
“Detective Inspector Spencer?” Scully called. “It’s agents Mulder and Scully.
After a moment’s hesitation, Spencer and Smith stepped into the kitchen. “If I were armed, I’d be tempted,” the detective replied.
“Aren’t you supposed to be on a flight to the states?” Smith added, placing her hands on her hips.
“Yeah, well—” Mulder started but stopped when Scully elbowed him in the ribs.
Scully sighed. Her behavior had been more than appalling, it had been downright Mulderesque. She should have insisted they return the rental car and leave as requested. “Detective Spencer, Sergeant Smith, I’d like to apologize for our behavior. Of course we’ll make a formal apology to Scotland Yard—”
“Scotland Yard doesn’t know you’re still here,” Spencer interrupted.
“Excuse me?” Scully asked.
“As far as they know, you already left.”
“Why?” Mulder asked.
Spencer took a deep breath before responding. “Because we don’t like being pulled off a case anymore than you do.”
“We came by the hotel earlier to apologize again and to take you to the airport only to discover you’d gone,” Smith said. “We didn’t need to be rocket scientists to determine that you were carrying on with the investigation, did we? So we took the liberty of accessing your rooms and studying the case file.”
“Which is how we knew where to find you,” Spencer continued.
“Well, that, and young Constable Morgan rang and alerted us to the reported UFO activity up this way,” Smith admitted.
“Wow,” Max said, from where he’d been lurking in the shadows, “We really are in England.”
“What’d you think? We were in Kansas?” Mulder shot back.
With all eyes on him, Max buried his hands even deeper in his pockets and looked at the ground, his long hair falling over part of his face. Smith stepped towards him, pushing the lock aside and said, “Max Fenig, I presume.”
* * *
Once they had checked the house and confirmed that Paul Milner was no where to be found, they decided to split up and do a search of the farm. Spencer and Smith took the barn, while Scully, Mulder and Max (who, in either a stroke of genius or idiocy was handcuffed to Mulder’s left wrist) took the corn field nearest the house.
“This is ridiculous,” Mulder complained, dragging poor Max behind him like a bad date.
Scully laughed. “You’re the one who wouldn’t leave him locked in the car. He is, after all, the prime suspect in a series of murders,” Scully pointed out.
“I didn’t kill anyone,” Max whined, stumbling over yet another corn stalk.
“I know that,” Mulder assured him and Scully wondered how he could be so certain. “We just have to find out who—” he never got the chance to finish as Max stumbled again, this time falling face first to the ground, pulling Mulder with him. “Damnit Max!” he cursed.
When the other man didn’t respond, or move, Mulder placed his free hand on his shoulder. “Max?” he questioned. “You okay?”
Nothing. “Scully,” Mulder started, but she was already at his side, trying to flip him, which proved difficult because of the way he was connected to her partner. What she did see was blood, and a fair amount of it, leaking from both his ears. She raised her eyes to Mulder’s but before she had a chance to speak they were again engulfed in a bright light and flung, head over feet in opposite directions.
Mulder screamed as he felt his wrist snap and the metal of the cuffs give, only the extreme pain kept him conscious as he hit the ground. “Scully? Max?” he tried to call, but his voice was inaudible over the sudden rushing wind.
He forced himself into a sitting position, cradling his injured limb and saw Max, floating in a luminous blue light overhead, his limp body twitching and convulsing. “Max,” he yelled, for all the good it would do and with a flash the other man vanished as Mulder passed out.
Scully clawed her way slowly toward consciousness for the second time in twelve hours. She groaned quietly when she determined she was again inside the silo, now bathed by a soft morning light streaming in from above. She closed her eyes again to collect her thoughts and became aware of a weight pressed up against her left side. She was fairly certain it wasn’t Harrison Ford. She opened her eyes to confirm that fact and examined her unconscious partner. He was still breathing, a good sign, but his wrist twisted at an unnatural angle. She moved quietly to examine his injury more closely. It was most definitely broken, what remained of the cuff digging into the bruised and swollen tissue wasn’t helping matters. She wished she had the key, but they were Smith’s cuffs. She pursed her lips and decided against waking him, at least asleep, or unconscious as the case may be, he wasn’t in pain. She rose slowly to her feet and brushed the dirt off her jeans.
Mulder opened his eyes slowly, placing his hand to his head. “Where’s Max?” he asked, sitting up quickly.
“Damn,” Mulder cursed, jerking his arm and then wincing in pain. He sprung to his feet, took a moment to steady himself and then began pacing the perimeter of the silo like a tiger in a cage.
“Mulder,” Scully sighed. “Would you please sit down. That wrist is broken and doesn’t need to be jostled like that.”
Mulder nodded, but ignored her direction. “Do you remember anything after the light came again?”
Scully shook her head sadly. “No, nothing. You?”
“Not much,” he replied as he kneeled by the tiny door that served as the entrance to the silo. Pushing, jiggling and finally kicking failed to make it budge, so he returned and sat down heavily next to his partner. “So what now?”
“We wait for harvest?”
“Ha. Ha.” Mulder grimaced. “Don’t these people have to milk their cows or something?”
Before Scully had a chance to come up with a snappy retort, the little door swung open and Detective Inspector Spencer stuck his head in. “I trust you had a pleasant night,” he said, with a wry grin.
“Splendid,” Mulder said, climbing to his feet. “This place is a five star resort.”
“What happened to you?” Scully asked the Brits as they made their way through the barn.
Spencer cleared his throat in discomfort. “We seem to have fallen asleep.”
“In the sheep pen,” Smith added, quietly.
Once outside in the light, Mulder asked the obvious. “Any sign of Max Fenig or Paul Milner?”
Spencer shook his head slowly. “So Max has escaped?” he asked.
Mulder held up his battered wrist, the ruin of the cuff dangling. Smith gasped and pulled out her key, taking care to remove the cuff gently.
“No matter what you think of Max, you can hardly think him capable of this,”
Spencer nodded his acquiesce. “There’s something else you should see,” he said, and started walking towards the top of a nearby knoll. They all paused at the top, awed. Below them, in the newly growing corn was an elaborately ringed crop circle. “What does it mean?”
“I don’t know,” Mulder admitted.
“I don’t think I want to know,” Smith said after a moment and then turned to go. Spencer waited a moment and followed, leaving the agents.
Mulder looked to Scully, their eyes locked for a few seconds before Scully turned away. Mulder remained a moment longer, staring out across the field and then raising his eyes to the sky.
St. Gheorghe Hospital
“You’re free to go,” the resident told Mulder and hurried out of the room before the surly American could give him another piece of his mind.
“Great,” Mulder growled, climbing off the exam table and glowering at his partner, who sat quietly by the window. “Happy?”
“Ecstatic,” Scully replied, getting to her feet and taking a closer look at the soft cast now adorning Mulder’s wrist. “Spencer and Smith came by to say farewell. We have a flight in an hour.”
“Good. I’ve had enough of this country.”
“You’re in luck then, because I’m pretty sure its had enough of you,” Scully shot back as she headed out into the hallway.
Spencer and Smith, stood near the exit, watching over the agent’s luggage.
Scully smiled as she approached. “What can I say, except thank you,” she said, extending her hand to Smith and then Spencer. Somehow the words didn’t seem enough.
“Thank you,” Spencer replied, gripping her hand tightly before turning to Mulder and taking his hand. “I’m sorry about your friend.”
Mulder nodded. “Thank you. Thank you both,” he said, extending a hand to Smith.
“It’s been an honor working with you,” Smith said, and laughed. “Not to mention an adventure.”
American Airlines Flt. 412
Scully just wished they’d had a chance to shower before the flight out and then quickly chastised herself. They were lucky to be on this flight at all, headed home and out of danger. At least for now. Paul and poor Max hadn’t been that lucky. She glanced over at her partner, who was staring off into space. He looked so sad, so lost. She fought the urge to brush her hand over his cheek and turned back toward the window. Who did she think she was kidding? She wasn’t leaving him or the X-Files for that matter. She might not have much time left and what she did, she wanted to spend with him as his partner and best friend. For now that was enough. As for the future, they’d just have to wait and see.
Mulder, for his part, was thinking about Scully and wondering how he was going to find the strength to sign the transfer request he was certain would be crossing his desk immediately upon their return. He wasn’t her superior, but he was the department head, so standard procedure would require his sign off. He closed his eyes and wished he could turn back time and start this case all over again, like that movie “Ground Hog Day.” He’d gladly do it over and over until he got it right. Until he didn’t loose Max and Paul Milner.
And… until he didn’t hurt Scully.
“Mulder, I’m sorry about Max,” Scully said gently, pulling Mulder out of his thoughts. He turned to look at her and nodded, unable to speak, so Scully continued. “We’ll find him again.”
Had she said ‘we’ll” as in us? Mulder wondered, his pulse increasing at the prospect. Not trusting his voice, he gave her a nod and half smile, which quickly blossomed into a full-blown grin when he felt her fingers thread through his.
“I bet we’ll see him before you know it. You know what they say, Mulder, time flies,” she said, giving his good hand a squeeze.
My infringements, in order of appearance:
(1) “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare
(2) “Photograph” by Blue Rodeo on their brilliant “Five Days in July” CD
(3) “Push” by Moist on their amazing debut CD entitled “Silver”
(4) “Is It You?” by Blue Rodeo from Q107’s “Concert in the Sky” CD
(5) This is an old English rhyme I learned while I was in school over there. I’m not sure of it’s origin. I changed the last line.
(6) “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare (I just love this play)
(7) “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division from the “Substance” CD
(8) “Scared,” by The Tragically Hip from the “Day For Night” CD
One of my beta testers (hey, Kel) asked me if could possibly cram one more Star Wars or Harrison Ford reference in this story. What can I say? “I’m an infringer like my father before me.” Thanks for reading.
This file has been downloaded from x-libris.xf-redux.com. It contains work/s of X-Files FAN FICTION and FAN ART which are not affiliated with Ten-Thirteen or The Fox Network. No income is generated from these works. They are created with love and shared purely for the enjoyment of fans and are not to be sold in any format. The X-Files remain the property of Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen and Fox, unfortunately.
Hokey disclaimers and ancient Star Wars quotes are no match for a good MSR, kid.
Individual stories and art remain the property of their talented creators. No copyright infringement is intended. Any copyright concerns can be addressed to