Catalyst

by Donna

Title - Catalysts
Author - Donna
Email address - donnah@donnas-stories.com URL - http://www.donnas-stories.com/
Rating - NC-17
Category - MSR, angst, attempted rape
Spoilers - None
Keywords - MSR, angst, attempted rape
Summary - What would push them into new territory with each other? Feedback - Please
Archive - Anywhere, just let me know so I can visit

Disclaimer - Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner all belong to Chris, 10-13, and Fox - Bless them for it!! No infringement intended.

Catalysts

She turned, though she would never know why, in time to see the piece of wood come down on
Mulder's head. He crumpled like a sack of potatoes. "Mulder!" Before she could reach him, she felt a meaty arm go around her and a cloth stuffed into her face.
"Mu . . . " Her eyes rolled back in her head.


When she woke, she was lying on her stomach on a scratchy blanket. She was nude and . . . and
she was bound spread eagle. She became aware of the gag in her mouth. She pulled on her arms
and whatever was binding her cut into her skin.

Then she felt the hand on her buttocks. "Finally awake, huh Red?" The hand, calloused and
meaty, caressed her and she flinched, trying to move away. It was the farmer they'd been sent to
investigate, Junior Ambrose. They'd obviously been right to be suspicious.

"Now come on, a purty little thing like you must get lots of attention from men. But I bet you ain't
had anyone like me."

He reached under her and roughly kneaded her breasts. He leaned closer to her ear, "I'm gonna
fuck you like you've never been fucked before, Red."

She tried to scream her fury. Mulder!

"Oh, don't look for your partner, Red. I kilt him good. Couldn't have a couple of FBI agents
looking around the place. Just wanted to have me a little ride before I got rid of you."

No! Mulder wasn't . . . NO! She tried to jerk away again. His hand was back on her hips and one
large finger ran up her, probing at her anus. She bucked to get away from him and he smacked her
butt cheek hard.

She snarled and his eyes narrowed. He bent over and gave her rump a long lick, then bit her
savagely. Her shriek was mostly absorbed by the filthy cloth in her mouth. She knew he'd drawn
blood.

Mulder, he wasn't coming. He was out or . . . or dead. She turned her head to look back at this
man. The tears in her eyes were from fury as much as fear, but she refused to let them fall.

His finger probed her again and she closed her eyes. This was really going to happen.

She heard him unbuckle his belt and shuddered. She refused to look back at him again. She was
aware he had pulled his pants down, but not off and he settled himself between her legs.

Oh Mulder. She closed her eyes, and tensed as she felt his cock press against her.

There was no warning, no 'freeze', no 'federal agent, I'm armed'. Just the sound of the gunshot
blast at close range, then the collapse of the heavy man half on, half off of her body.

She turned to see Mulder, standing behind her, his gun held steady in both hands.

Then he was kneeling beside her. He used the man's knife to cut the bailing twine holding her
wrists and gently removed the gag from her mouth.

"Scully." It was barely a whisper. He turned away and cut the twine from her ankles. She rolled
over covering herself with her arms.

He rose unsteadily to his feet, "Did he . . . did he hurt . . . "

She shook her head, "No, no you got here - "

His knees gave away and he dropped beside her. She looked at him then, really looked at him. He
was white as a sheet; the blood from his head wound was only oozing now, nearly dried. Actually,
he looked like death warmed over and she'd never seen anything so beautiful in her life.

He let himself lean back against the nearest bale of hay and his eyes closed for an instant. Then
they were open again and he was pulling her to him.

Her nudity was a non-issue as she made herself comfortable in his lap. He was in shock and pain.
She slipped her arms around him inside of his coat. "Scully."

"I'm right here, Mulder."

They sat that way for a short while, then his hands seemed to realize she wore nothing at all. He
released her, not sure where to touch, but wanting to touch her everywhere, wanting to make sure
she was really okay.

"You, uh, here, take my shirt." He moved her from his lap and removed his coat. Then he began to
unbutton his shirt. His fingers were clumsy, so she took over and removed it for him. He held it as
she put it on. He slipped his coat back on as she rolled up the sleeves.

Now that she was covered, the fact of her nudity seemed more real and she rose to her feet.
"Scully?"

"I'm not going anywhere." She didn't look at the body, not yet. She moved over to her clothes,
which she'd finally spotted on the other side of the bale against which Mulder sat.

Every item had been sliced from her. Not a single piece was intact. She shuddered. That bastard
had enjoyed doing that. Finally she turned to look at the man who had done this to them.

Mulder's shot had caught him dead center of his back, his sixth and seventh vertebrae had
disintegrated. The man had been dead before the pain had registered. In fact, with the spinal cord
severed, he'd never felt the pain. She felt an instant of regret at that, then looked over at Mulder.

He was watching her silently.

"He's, uh, he's dead."

Mulder nodded, then winced. She moved quickly back to his side. "Let me see - " Her head came
up to examine his wound, but he caught her hand, stopping her.

"I'm okay."

"No, you aren't. You're lucky he didn't fracture your skull. I need to get us out of here." She rose
again and turned toward the door.

"Scully."

"I'll be right back." She turned away and stepped outside. Their car was there, with four slashed
tires and the hood up. She saw the wires and entrails spilling out. Great. They weren't going
anywhere in that. She spotted both of their phones near the car door, smashed. She pulled a bottle
of water from the car and looked for anything else they could use.

Thank God Mulder carried a second gun and that Neanderthal hadn't thought to look. It was going
to be dark soon; if she was going to make them comfortable for the night she needed to hurry.

"Mulder, we're not going anywhere tonight. He destroyed the car."

Mulder just watched her as she found a rag and placed it over the dead man's face. She wanted to
pull him away from where they sat, evidence be damned. Instead she sat down next to Mulder and
grimaced as she accidentally sat on the wound where Ambrose had bitten her.

"Scully?"

"I'm okay." He let his hand drop. "But you're not." Her voice betrayed her concern. His color
was no better and he was still unsteady. She knew he had a concussion, but there was nothing she
could do about it.

Finally he leaned forward and held his face in his hands. "Mulder?" She put her arms around him
and her voice shook slightly.

"I almost . . . I couldn't - " He looked up then, "You swear, he didn't - "

"He touched me, he . . . but he didn't get the chance. You were here, you saved me. You saved me
from . . . " The tears came then finally, and he pulled her against him, holding her painfully tight
against him. She didn't protest, her own arms clutching him just as tightly.

His tears falling brought her back to herself. The guilt was eating him alive. "Mulder, I'm okay,
thanks to you."

He swallowed, struggling for composure.

"Let me check your head, clean off the blood."

"I don't deserve - "

"Mulder. Hush. It's going to be dark soon. Come on." He fell silent. She cleaned him up and had
him drink a little, then at his silent insistence, drank some herself.

"Do you think you can walk?"

"What?"

"I don't want us to sleep here, next to . . . let's go to the car."

He nodded, but refused her aid to stand. When he stumbled, her arms went around him and she
wouldn't release him.

She helped him into the car's back seat, then crawled in beside him.

"Lie down Mulder."

He murmured a protest.

"You're in shock Mulder. Come on." She pulled him down, placing his head in her lap. Again he
protested, "Just be still. Mulder, let me look after you."

Tears welled up in his eyes, but he didn't fight her any more.

"Rest Mulder. We'll be okay." He didn't answer, would they ever be okay, could she be okay
after that?

She stroked his hair and he couldn't keep his eyes open.


He pushed himself up from the ground. His head felt about four sizes too big. What had hit him?
And where was Scully? His feet were leadened, but he staggered toward the only structure around,
the small barn they had parked beside. Why couldn't he move any faster? She was in trouble, he
knew that. In what felt like slow motion, he pulled his revolver from his ankle holster. Where was
she?

He stepped into the doorway and saw him. Her assailant had Scully bound, lying on her stomach.
He was behind her, pounding into her, raping her. She was gagged but he could read her muffled
cries.

He was raping her, he was raping Scully! Everything turned red then, a murderous red and he
aimed the gun at the man's back. He didn't hesitate but he was late, too late - the bastard had raped
Scully. Mulder dropped the gun and threw back his head - his grief overwhelming him.


He jerked awake, disoriented and his head hurt. Where the . . . he was in the car, his head in
Scully's lap. Her hand was on his chest, slightly tangled in his chest hair.

He forced himself to relax, it was a dream. It hadn't happened. He had gotten there in time. The
bastard hadn't . . . she said he hadn't hurt her.

Mulder sat up carefully, so as not to wake her, and pulled her against him. It had been a dream, she
was okay, safe in his arms.

"Ummm, Mulder?"

"Shh, go back to sleep." He took her into his lap and she curled in. "I love you Scully. I love you.
I won't let anything happen to you. Do you hear me? I swear."

She pressed her face into his warm skin and smiled slightly in her sleep. Her warm breath against
his chest was soothing. She was alive, she was, she was okay. He allowed himself to believe that
and finally reclined again, with her cradled against him.

What could possibly cause a smile? He must have misinterpreted it in this light. Damn Kersh.
He'd sent them out here on shit detail again. Well, if Ambrose had been planning any bombings,
they wouldn't happen now. But that hulk didn't seem capable. God, five minutes alone with
Kersh. Yes, his career would be over, not that it wasn't already, but the damage he wanted to do to
that SOB.

She stirred in his arms, picking up his tension, so he forced himself to relax. He'd take care of this
later. She was here against his chest.

That's how they woke the next morning, her hand at his waist, but his hand was inside of the shirt
she wore, cradled around her breast. They both seemed to realize that at the same time. He jerked
away from her, almost pushing her to the floor in his haste to retreat, hitting his head on the side of
the car.

He stifled a groan, but couldn't look away from her. "I'm . . . I'm sorry. I, I - "

"Mulder, we were asleep. It's okay, it's - "

"It's not okay. I . . . Scully, I'm sorry." He looked as devastated as he had last night.

She reached for him, but he pulled away, not seeing the hurt in her eyes. He let himself out of the
car and after a couple of steps, was steady enough to walk without holding onto the car.

"Mulder, wait, I'll - " She reached for him, but he waved her away and moved carefully toward the
barn, and around behind it. She waited; she would need the same privacy in a minute.

When she had returned to the car, he tried to rise from the seat he had taken on the passenger's side
of the front seat. She moved forward to help him, but he brushed her aside.

"Mulder?"

"I'm sorry. I can't believe I . . . "

"What? What's wrong?" He'd thrown up a wall she couldn't even see over.

"I, I was groping you. I - "

"Mulder, you were not - " He turned away from her. "Look at me. I did not feel groped, I felt . . .
held." She knew he couldn't hear her, wouldn't hear her and her heart sank.

He did rise then and turned from her. "I'm going to walk back the way we came, there was a farm
house a couple of miles - "

"You're not leaving me here." She interrupted.

"Scully, you don't even have any shoes."

"Well I'm not staying here." She snapped. "Come on."

They walked slowly toward the road; he kept just enough space between them so as not to brush
against her accidentally. When she stumbled, his hand came out automatically to steady her, then
immediately dropped back to his side.

She stopped then, looking up at him. He took a couple of steps, then turned to see what was wrong.

"What? You can't bear to touch me now? After what he did, you - "

She saw his face drain of color, "You said, you told me he didn't - "

"He didn't finish. I don't know what he did while I was unconscious."

Mulder bit down hard on the moan he felt rising within him and swayed slightly. He caught
himself, both hands on his knees as his stomach clenched. He knew that if he had eaten anything,
he would have lost it.

He heard her, saying his name from what sounded like a long way away and forced himself from
reliving the dream of last night. He could feel her hand on his arm.

"We need to get some help." He managed to say and started her walking again, after moving away
from her hand.

They hadn't walked far when a pickup drove past them, ignoring Mulder's upstretched arms.
Almost immediately they heard tires squealing as the man behind the wheel processed what he'd
seen. He backed up toward them, and exited the truck.

"You folks okay?"

Mulder displayed his badge, "No. We need to get to a phone."

"Uh, yes sir, Mr. uh, Mulder. Get in. I'll take you to my place. You can use the phone there."

"Thank you." Scully spoke and the man glanced at her, taking in again her apparel. Something
made him glance at Mulder and he immediately looked away.

Mulder opened the passenger door and let Scully in. This man wouldn't bother her now. He
climbed in and sat beside her.

"I'm Peter Lathan." He glanced over at them, then back at the road.

"Agent Scully. We appreciate the lift."

"Yeah, no problem. Amy, my wife, can patch you up a little."

Scully nodded, not bothering to discuss her credentials.

In just a few minutes they pulled into the gravel driveway of a neat, white, two story farmhouse.
Peter led them to the backdoor. "Amy!"

"Peter?" A young woman hurried into the kitchen, "What are you - " She stopped at the sight in
front of her.

"There was some trouble. This is Agent Scully and Agent Mulder." Peter offered his wife by way
of explanation. "I'm gonna call Bain."

"Of course. Miss . . . ?"

"Scully." Scully nodded to her.

"Why don't you come with me. You can freshen up and I have something you could wear. It'll be
too long . . . " She motioned toward the back of the house. Scully nodded her thanks and followed
her after a quick glance at Mulder.

Peter hung up the phone and turned back toward Mulder in time to see the man's expression as his
partner disappeared through the door. "There's a half bath through the laundry room." He pointed.

"Thanks." Mulder swayed slightly as he turned. He moved away with no life in his step. Peter's
forehead furrowed but he kept quiet.

Mulder was sitting at the table, sipping some exceptionally good coffee when the two women
emerged. He wanted to smile, if he could still remember how, at the sight. He'd never seen Scully
dressed quite like that. The blue shirtwaist dress had tiny flowers all over it and it was too long, but
Amy was slim, so it fit fairly well. She was wearing flip-flops on her feet. She shot him an ironic
grin which faded when he didn't reciprocate.

"Bain's on his way. He's the sheriff." Peter poured Scully a cup of coffee.

They sat in silence then, until they heard the crunch of tires on gravel. Peter met the sheriff at the
back door. "Bain, these are Agents Mulder and Scully."

The older man shook hands with the two agents. "Sheriff Hickman. Looks like you had some
trouble."

Scully looked over at Mulder. He didn't look like he was going to speak. "We had an
investigation at the Ambrose farm."

Peter, Amy and the sheriff exchanged a glance. "You had problems over there?" There was no
immediate answer. "I'll get my deputy to bring him in."

"Send the coroner instead." Mulder spoke finally.

"Excuse me?" The sheriff leaned forward, his cup of coffee half way to his lips.

"I killed him." Mulder looked the man straight in the eye.

"Self-defense?" Hickman asked.

"Justified." Was Mulder's only comment.

"Okay. There'll have to be an investigation. We need to get you to my office." Hickman rose.
"Thanks Pete, Amy. I'll be in touch." He held the door open.

Scully turned back to Amy, "Thank you again. I'll get these things back to you."

"Don't worry about it, please." Scully nodded and followed the two men out.

This time Mulder opened the door and had Scully sit in the front seat. He climbed into the back
alone. She looked back at him, but they couldn't really talk.

Hickman pulled out onto the paved road, then picked up the microphone of his two-way radio.
"Angie, you there?"

"Yeah Sheriff, go ahead."

"Find Paul, send him out to Junior's place." Hickman spoke to the woman.

"Not the house." Scully spoke. "We were at a barn."

Hickman nodded. "Angie, send him to the barn over on State Road 612 and send the coroner."

"Sheriff?" Angie asked.

"I'm on my way in. Have Doc Moss meet me at the office."

"You got it." Angie signed off.

They were downtown in less than fifteen minutes. Mulder winced as the bell went off when the
door opened. Scully looked up at him but before she could speak, a white haired man came out of
the inner office.

"You needed me Bain?"

"Doc, yeah." Hickman made quick introductions.

"Okay." The doctor nodded, "Why don't I check you out in the sheriff's office." He looked at
Mulder first, obviously the more injured of the two.

"Her first." Mulder spoke quickly.

"Mulder - "

"Check her out first." Mulder turned to the doctor. It was an order and judging from the look on
his face, not one up for negotiation. Doctor Moss nodded to Scully and held the door open for her,
then shut it.

Mulder sank into the nearest chair, no longer able to stand. "Agent Mulder?"

He didn't look at the sheriff, just shook his head. The man backed off. Now wasn't the time for
questions.

Mulder had checked his watch three times before the door opened again. The doctor stepped
outside shaking his head. Mulder was on his feet instantly, but he had to grab the desk to keep
from falling. He was struggling to keep the coffee he had drunk down, but managed to get the
words out through gritted teeth, "Is she okay?"

Doc Moss saw the look of terror on the younger man's face. "She's fine. She's getting dressed. I
didn't mean to worry you." He looked over at the sheriff, "Bain, I don't know what you have to do
legally, but I'll be happy to testify on these people's behalf."

Sheriff Hickman nodded. Mulder's face went carefully blank.

"I need to check out that head wound, Mr. Mulder." Doc Moss turned to the agent now. "Come on
in here." Scully came out of the office then and looked at Mulder. He saw the redness around her
eyes and wanted to touch her, hold her, but now wasn't the time. Having been the cause of this
latest trauma too, would it ever be?

The doctor shut the door behind him and touched his arm to get him to sit in the wooden chair in
front of the desk. Mulder ignored that. "Is she really okay? She said he didn't . . . "

The doctor met his eyes quickly, "He didn't. She really is fine."

Mulder's eyes closed and he more collapsed into the chair than sat. The doctor observed him
closely for a moment, then moved closer and checked out the cut on the man's scalp. "You need to
be in a hospital, I can't do the x-rays you need in my office. You've got a concussion and could
use a couple of days flat of your back."

"I'll take some time after I get back to DC."

"You shouldn't be traveling. A couple of days won't - "

"Sorry. We need to file our report. Then I can see about a leave." Mulder wouldn't face him.

"So you're one of those patients."

Mulder gave him a grim smile. "That's why I always travel with my personal physician."

"I bet you give her a workout."

Even the meager smile vanished then. "Yeah, I do. Can we get out of here?"

The older man scanned him again. He'd seen the connection between these two 'partners'. As
long as he was with her, he'd be okay. Finally he nodded and Mulder got back to his feet.

Scully looked up immediately as the door opened and moved to his side. "Hospital?"

"DC, as soon as the sheriff releases us."

"Mulder - "

The door opened then and the young deputy entered. Hickman came to attention. "This is Paul
Haas, my deputy. What did you find?"

Paul nodded to the two agents. "Junior was in the barn, dead. He's over at the funeral home now.
I took lots of pictures and I think I know why he was so spooked about having federal agents out to
his place."

Hickman looked over at Mulder, then nodded to Paul. "Yeah?"

"Found a great patch of marijuana growing near the barn."

"Mari - that son of a bitch nearly killed us over some damn weed!" Mulder was staring at the
younger lawman.

Paul took an involuntary step back, but Scully put a calming hand on Mulder's arm. "That makes
sense. Our presence set him off." She turned back to the sheriff. "Could we get a lift to our
motel?"

"Of course. Where are you staying?"

"The Simmons Motor Court out on the highway." She answered quickly. "And is there anywhere
we can get another rental car? Ours is pretty much out of commission and if we are going back to
DC . . . " She looked Mulder over once more but didn't argue with him here.

"Paul can take you over to the motel. You get freshened up then I'll find you a ride to the airport.
I'll take care of the rental car." Hickman spoke.

"It's over an hour to the airport, Sheriff - " Scully started.

"Thank you." Mulder interrupted.

After a quick look at him, she backed down. He needed to get away from here. Hell, so did she.
"Yes, thank you. Please let us know what you need for your investigation."

"I think I can handle that internally. There's a lot of belief in this county that Junior was behind a
lot of bad things. Both of his wives died under unexplained circumstances, but we could never get
the evidence we needed. I'll be in touch with you if we need anything."

Scully nodded and touched Mulder's arm again. Paul took that as his cue and moved toward the
door, holding it open for them. Scully turned back, "Uh, can I leave Mrs. Lathan's dress with
someone?"

"Sure, just leave it with whoever I get to drive you." Sheriff Hickman assured her.

Again Mulder took the back alone and they traveled the few miles in uncomfortable silence.
Scully thanked the deputy for the ride as Mulder stood there mute. He walked her to her room and
waited as she unlocked the door.

"Mulder?"

"I'm gonna shower. I'll meet you here."

"Mulder, we could stay. If there's an investigation, Kersh would expect - "

"No. We're going."

She was dressed and feeling almost human again when he knocked on the door. He looked more
like himself, though not his usual Armani. He'd dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, not able to even
think about a tie. The appearance was deceiving and she knew it. He wasn't himself and he was in
a lot of pain. Those lines around his eyes were new. She was also pretty sure it wasn't just from
the blow to his head. She stepped back to let him in.

"You ready?" He asked, not quite looking at her.

"Nearly. Did you call Sheriff Hickman?" She asked as she returned to the bed to finish packing.

"Not yet. I wanted to talk to you a minute first."

"Mulder?"

"When we get back to DC, I want your resignation. As ranking - "

"You what?" She broke in harshly.

"Your resignation - from the Bureau. Your skills can get you into any hospital in the - "

"Damn it Mulder, how many times do we have to have this conversation? I am not leaving the
Bureau, my career, you."

"Your career." He huffed slightly, ignoring the rest. "I've already taken care of that. You don't
really have one anymore. Shit detail, background checks. No Scully. You're so much better than
that. This isn't like before. We're not going to get it back. I've earned this assignment, you
haven't. Go now."

"Mulder, I - "

"This isn't a discussion Scully. Think of it as an order."

"An order?" But he had already turned away and was moving out of the door. "Mulder!" He shut
the door behind him. She stood there is shock, unable to make herself follow him.

She didn't see him again until the knock on her door forced her to open it. It was a young man who
strongly resembled the deputy.

"Miz Scully, ma'am? I'm Nolan Haas, Paul's brother. The sheriff asked me to drive you to the
airport." She looked past him to see Mulder place his suitcase in the open trunk and let himself into
the back seat again.

She dragged her eyes back to their driver. "Thank you."

He stepped into her room and picked up her suitcase before she realized his intentions. "I can - "

"My momma would get me if I let a lady carry her bags." He smiled at Scully, who managed to
give him a small smile and nod. It wasn't worth the fight. She was too tired for that.

Nolan could obviously feel the tension, but he respected their silence and seemed content with his
own thoughts on the drive.


Scully thanked Nolan when they arrived; then moved into the terminal, not waiting for Mulder. His face was impassive when he joined her. No hint of whether or not their last conversation had scarred him. His psyche was scarred enough. Even alone he didn't want to speak to her. Inexplicably she felt tears stinging her eyes. She turned away quickly.

He saw, but made no comment. There was nothing he could say.

The plane wasn't full, but he took his customary seat on the aisle beside her. During the takeoff, the change in air pressure brought his headache back with a
vengeance. He
barely had his eyes open when he felt her slip two pills into this hand, then her water bottle.

"What's this?" He asked unnecessarily, his voice scratchy from disuse.

"Pain medication. I got it from Doctor Moss because I knew you wouldn't." She said dryly.

He didn't respond, but he did down the pills without further comment. That told her how bad the pain was.

"Mulder, why don't you move to an empty row and lie down?" It was a doctor's question, not personal, but he couldn't make himself leave her. Not yet.

"This is fine." He reclined the seat and closed his eyes.

Scully turned slightly away from him, still angry at his decision on her behalf, and began making handwritten notes for her report.

She refused to look at him until he jerked in his sleep, moaning slightly.

"Mulder?"

"Late . . . " his body stiffened and he moaned again.

He wasn't hearing her. "Mulder, wake up." She touched his arm but that had no effect either. Finally she let her hand touch his face.

He grabbed it, breathing her name, "Scully." Then he seemed to realize he was gripping her like a lifeline. "Sorry." He let go immediately.

"Mulder, I - "
"I'm okay." He rose from his seat and headed for the restroom. He tried to hide that he had to grab hold of the seat after two steps. She kept quiet; he didn't want her help, or her for that matter.

No, she shook her head. He was shaken by what had so nearly happened to her. When he got like this it was impossible to reach him. He had the strongest guilt reflex she'd ever seen. She shook her head; he'd done this before. Eventually he would calm down, or they would stumble on a case . . . no, no more cases. Kersh had seen to that. But time . . . that should help.

Scully looked up as he returned to his seat. He'd obviously splashed some water on his face, but he didn't look good. He should be flat of his back in a hospital, not at 35,000 feet. She kept quiet; he knew this.


When they landed he followed her to his car. She automatically moved to the driver's side, pulling out her own keys. "I'll drive." He said abruptly.

"Mulder, I can - "

"I'll drop you at your place and then go home to bed, like a good boy."

"I'd need to see that." Her eyebrow was high.

"Next time. Get in Scully."

She sighed, as long as he went on home, she couldn't say too much.


He pulled up in front of her building but didn't park. "Mulder, why don't you come in. We need to talk."

Mulder shook his head. "There's nothing to talk about. You need to get some rest."

"Mulder - "

"I could use some rest too." It was a clear dismissal and she drew back, then nodded and opened her car door. She wasn't going to be able to change his mind. By the time she reached her apartment, she felt like crying. That was stupid, but she felt alone, abandoned.


She took a second longer shower, scrubbing herself vigorously. She was unpacking when the phone rang. "Hello?"

"Agent Scully, I need to see you in my office as soon as possible."

"AD Skinner." She acknowledged slightly confused, not Kersh? "Yes sir. I . . . I can be there in thirty minutes."

"Thank you. I'll see you then."

"Uh, Sir, will Mulder - " She realized she was speaking into a dead phone. Well hopefully Mulder had taken the phone off the hook and couldn't be disturbed. She quickly changed shoes and slipped on a blazer.

By the time she got there, Kim had left for the day. She tapped on Skinner's door. "In."

"AD Skinner?"

"Agent, come in." She entered and closed the door behind her. "I realize you've just returned from an assignment, but I felt you should go over these files tonight so that we could meet tomorrow morning." He slid three files across the desk to her.

"Yes sir." She reached for the files. "Sir, will we be reporting to you for this assignment?"

He looked up, startled. "These are personnel files Agent. As the ranking agent in the X-Files, I felt you should have some input."

"Ranking . . . what are you talking about?"

"I . . . I assumed - " Skinner cleared his throat. "Agent Mulder submitted his resignation to Kersh."

"Mulder did what?" She rose to her feet. "He . . . he re . . . Kersh accepted it?"

Skinner looked away. "Kersh was still doing his happy dance when he called me in, black eye not withstanding."

Her hand flew to her mouth, "Mulder . . . " Skinner saw her bandages then.

"Were you injured?"

"I'm fine."

She was lying and he knew it. "What about Mulder?"

"He has a concussion. I thought he was home in bed."

"There was apparently quite an altercation. Kersh isn't filing charges because of the resignation."

"Mulder wasn't responsible this time. He has a head injury. This is because of me."

"Because of you?"

Scully closed her eyes; when he'd realized she wasn't planning to quit, he'd done this. "I need to find Mulder."

"Scully, he won't be coming back, not after this."

She straightened up. "I need a short leave."

Skinner just looked at her for a long moment. "Scully . . . three days. Be in touch."

She was already moving toward the door; Skinner forgotten. Three days, plus the weekend. They'd be able to figure out something by then, couldn't they? God, Mulder, what have you done? How the hell are we going to fix this? The halls were empty, so she broke into a run to the elevator.

Fortunately rush hour had diminished, enabling her to race to his apartment. There was no answer to her pounding, so she used her key, desperate to see him, find out what he thought he had accomplished.

The apartment was empty. It even felt empty, not just that he wasn't there, empty. She moved into his bedroom and after a slight hesitation, opened his closet. His suitcase was there. For some reason the sight of it still there in the closet made her cold.

She retreated from the bedroom and ducked into his bath. The clothes from the plane were on the floor. There was blood splattered on the shirt, though not a lot. From Kersh? She closed her eyes, shaking her head. He had been here, where the hell had he gone?

She returned to the living room and after a moment, picked up the phone and dialed. "Lone Gunmen."

"Have you heard from Mulder?" She didn't bother to identify himself.

"Scully?" Langly responded. "Uh, yeah, he called a little while ago."

"Did he say where he was going?"

"I, I didn't speak to him. Hold on." Something about her voice upset him. He put his hand over the receiver. "Frohike! Did Mulder say anything about going anywhere?"

Frohike picked up the phone, "Ahh, Scully. You need to come over and we can-"

"Frohike, where is Mulder? What did he say?"

"Uh, well, uh actually I thought he was drunk."

"What. Did. He. Say?" Her tone left no doubt that she would not tolerate anything but a straight answer.

"He was . . . he didn't make a lot of sense. I know he said he was going back to his first mistake and do what he should have done."

"Oh my god." She barely breathed the words.

"Scully? Scully!" But the line had been disconnected.

First mistake? He'd always blamed himself for losing Samantha, even though there was nothing a twelve year old could have done. Do what he should have done? She was barely aware that she was running to her car. She was moving on pure instinct, but she was right. She had to be.

She was aware that she should be amused that she wasn't pulled for speeding. Perhaps the sheer audacity of her speed kept the highway patrol away. She had thrown her FBI parking card in the window, but was driving too fast for it to be seen.


It was nearly midnight, but she was finally here. That was his car. She'd guessed correctly. The house where John Lee Roche had slipped up on his story. The engine was still warm. Well, he probably hadn't stayed fifteen to twenty miles over the speed limit the whole way.

The door wasn't locked, so she entered quietly, flipping on a small lamp near the door.

"Go away Scully."

She jerked at the sound. Her eyes hadn't adjusted to the gloom of the house enough to realize that
the dark form
against the wall was actually Mulder.

Scully moved in that direction now, taking in his posture, his attitude. Instead of obeying, she sat beside him on the floor.

He had his back to the wall, his knees bent and his forearms resting on his knees. Now that she was closer, she could see his gun in his right hand, dangling between his knees. He wouldn't look at her, staring straight ahead.

"I thought we should talk." She sat beside him, hugging her knees to her chest. Stay calm, Dana, get him to answer you.

He made no comment.

"I heard you resigned this afternoon." She tried, he was the psychologist.

Still silence.

"And that you assaulted Kersh in the process."

There might have been a small shrug of his shoulders then, but no sound.

"We should have talked about that Mulder."

"Nothing to talk about, Scully. Just correcting what should have been done years ago, before anyone else got hurt. Could you leave now?"

"Nope." He glanced at her and quickly away. "I was just thinking on my trip up here, how very alike you and Bill are."

"Wha - " That escaped before he could stop it. He didn't want to talk to her, or listen to her. He couldn't do what he needed to do with her here. Why didn't she understand that and how much better off the world would be for it.

"Yes." She responded as thought he'd asked. "You two are so similar. I don't mean in appearance, it's your attitude. Both so in charge and sure you're always right. How you both think I should be a doctor and married with 2.3 kids and a dog. It's the same with your selective memories. You know, how neither of you seem to be able to remember that I had left medicine and joined the Bureau before I'd ever heard of Fox Mulder or the X-Files. Neither of you seem to remember that I could have requested a transfer just about any time and left the X-Files. Hell, I've been thrown off of them three times at least, but I request," she thought about that for a moment, "no, I fight to return. And you two absolutely agree that I'm an idiot for doing that. Both of you think I'm too stupid to make such a decision for myself." "Scully - "

"Yes," she nodded, "I think the two of you must get together and rehearse this stuff when I'm not looking."

He cut his eyes to look at her but didn't move his head. How had she found him? He didn't want to talk to her, he definitely didn't want to see her or have her here. He had wanted this clean, releasing her finally.

She stretched her legs out then, looking at the same wall he faced. "So, do you have a full clip?" She asked conversationally.

"What?" He did look over at her now.

"A full clip? How many rounds do you have?"

"What are you - "

"Because I want to make sure you leave one for me."

His eyes narrowed. "Funny Scully."

"What's funny about it? I need to know if I should get my gun from the car."

"You wouldn't do it. It's a mortal sin." Why had he responded? He didn't want to talk to her.

She shrugged, "What would you care, you'd be dead."

He shuddered slightly at the flat tone of her voice. "Stop it. Just go."

She shook her head, "It'll be easier to clean up if both bodies are here together."

"Stop it!" His voice was harsh, and she heard his fear.

Now she was the silent one.

"Scully, you're not serious. You would never . . . Damn it Scully, stop this."

"Stop what, Mulder? Following your lead? Sorry, it's ingrained now."

His eyes widened as he looked at her, really looked at her. She . . . she looked serious.

"I'm . . . I'm not going to do anything, Scully."

She met his eyes then, pinning him like a bug to a slide. From the corner of her eye she saw him thumb the safety back on and then lay the gun in her hand. After a long moment she rose to her feet and stood in front of him. "Let's get out of here." She held out a hand and helped pull him to his feet.

"And go where?" He offered, noting for the first time how late it was.

"Anywhere. I don't like it here."

Mulder nodded and let her lead him to the door. He stopped just inside the front door. "Scully, promise . . . promise me that you won't ever . . . "

She looked up at him, waiting but not helping him.

"Scully, promise me that you won't ever . . . ever hurt yourself."

She met his eyes and her chin came up. "If you don't."

He blinked once at that, but then nodded.

"Okay. Let's get out of here. We can take my car; it's already on the street."

They walked out together, but not touching. She climbed in and waited for him to take the passenger's seat. She saw that his hands were shaking, but made no comment. She didn't know what to say now anyway.

She left the island, wanting to put distance between them and the house. When she pulled into a hotel finally, in Falmouth, she was trembling with exhaustion and emotion. He followed her inside, but hung back as she checked them in.

He made no comment when she only took one room. She was probably afraid to let him out of her sight. Well, he wasn't going to argue.

She opened the door to the room and he saw the king size bed. He kept quiet. He had no idea what to say to her. He was in no shape to have the conversation they needed.

She wouldn't come close to him, but then he wasn't exactly all over her either. She lay her purse on the bed and he saw that her hands were shaking. That got his attention.

"Scully? Are you . . ."

The sound of his voice finally did it. She snapped. Her head came up and her eyes flashed at him. "Am I okay? Am I okay?" He jerked at the shrill tone of her voice. "I'm just peachy, Mulder. Let's see, over the last couple of days I see the man I love get his brains bashed in and think he's dead, I'm nearly raped, this man rescues me, then we get home where he ditches me, but I try to relax. Without warning I'm called into the office by my former boss and handed personnel files to find a new partner, because mine just quit and assaulted our current supervisor to ensure that he can't come back. Then I get a cryptic message from Frohike and race to the Vineyard in time to almost see this man blow his brains out. How much better do think I could be doing, Mulder?" She was shaking all over now.

He took a step toward her, holding out one hand. 'The man I love?' Had she said that? Her eyes blazed up at him and without warning she slapped him hard across the face. Then she was pummeling him, her fists striking his chest and shoulders.

He did nothing to protect himself.

Just as suddenly she stopped and, before he could catch her, collapsed to the floor.

He dropped to his knees beside her, scared to touch her and terrified not to. "Scully?" His hand came out as, on hands and knees, she rounded the end of the bed to escape him.

No! He crawled after her, cornering her on the far side of the

bed. "Scully, please."

She was crying now, though she didn't seem to notice. She made no move to wipe the tears away.

"Scu - "

"You said you loved me, in the car. You thought I was asleep, but it was a lie. You don't even love me enough to stay alive with me." She faced him now, her back against the wall.

He stopped in paralyzing shock. His face drained of color. Her eyes narrowed watching him. He was the color of old parchment, even his lips had no color, only his eyes still looked alive. They were the darkest brown she'd ever seen.

"Mu-Mulder?" His pallor, his look of utter horror, shaking her from her own trauma. "Put, put your head down." Doctor mode was surfacing, she could move on auto-pilot. She scooted to him and forced him to recline on the carpet and put his knees up.

He obeyed like a large doll, doing what she pressed him to do. "Mulder?"

His lips moved but she couldn't hear him. She leaned over, moving closer to hear him. "You would have done it." "What? What are you - "

"You would have killed yourself if I . . . "

She sat back, leaning against the bed. "With you gone, why wouldn't I?"

He closed his eyes shuddering, blocking her out for a moment. "You think I don't love you?"

"You seem to want to get as far away from me as ppossible."

"Release you Scully. Let you live a more - "

"Bill's words again." She spat as she leaned back away from him. "I can hear Bill's voice coming from your mouth." She looked completely exhausted. She shook her head. "I can't . . . I've got to sleep, or try to." She glanced at the door, then back at him.

He was rising to a seated position again and saw her concern. "I'm not going anywhere, Scully."

After a moment she nodded and made it to her feet with the help of the bed. She walked to the bath with a heavy tread. When the door shut, his head dropped to his chest. *You don't love me enough to stay alive with me.* Didn't she realize it was because he loved her so much that he wanted to give her a life. He knew he was the reason she'd been out there, the reason she'd been nearly raped. It just hadn't occurred to him that she would ever think about . . .

He didn't move until he heard the door open, afraid to look at her. When she was covered and settled, he hauled himself to his feet wondering if the nausea came from the headache or her fury. He took his turn in the bathroom. Neither of them seemed to have anything with them, like suitcases - he hadn't thought he would be needing one.

She watched him as he returned, wearing only his boxers. He slipped under the sheets, but seemed unable to meet her eyes.

After a few minutes he turned to her. "You're exhausted, Scully. Close your eyes. I'll try not to do anything monumentally stupid for a few hours."

She looked at him, "Do you think you can hold out that long?" Her tone was not bantering, just hostile.

"I can try. Scully, go ahead and sleep."

After a long moment, she turned her back to him and closed her eyes.

He didn't even try to sleep. He lay there, listening to her breathe. He was still reeling from her words. She would honestly have, have harmed herself. He did believe it now, but what had possessed her?


Her breathing had changed and she'd grown restless. He turned his light on the lowest setting to check on her. She was dreaming, her eyes darting back and forth beneath the lids. When she moaned, he reached for her.

"Scully? Scully, wake up. It's just a dream."

She didn't hear him, lost in whatever horror she was seeing in her sleep. He realized tears had slipped from her eyes. It had to be the assault again, reliving it in her sleep as he had. His heart broke for her and he carefully took her into his arms.

"Scully, please, wake up. You're safe here."

She jerked awake. Startled, she pulled away, then realized who was holding her. She relaxed for an instant, then memory returned and she did move back.

"Scully, it's okay. You were dreaming."

Her eyes grew shuttered as she remembered the dream.

"Can you talk to me?" Before she could shoot him down, he continued, "It might help."

"A little late to act the psychologist." She automatically refuted his statement.

"Trust me."

"Can I?" She asked tersely.

He closed his eyes to try to hide the pain that statement sent through his body. When he opened them, he looked deeply into her eyes. "Yes. I swear it, Scully."

He wasn't sure she believed, but her body did relax slightly.

"What was the dream?" He steeled himself to listen to her talk about Junior, looming over her. She needed to get it out and he desperately wanted to help in some way - no matter how inadequate he was.

Her eyes flickered away, then met his again. "I was too late. You'd already shot . . ." Her voice trailed off.

Him? She'd dreamed about him? "You saved me again." He said simply. "Scully, you weren't really serious." He still couldn't grasp the fact that she would
do something like that,
for any reason. "Tell me you wouldn't have . . ." he stopped, staring at her suddenly. His mouth had fallen open in shock.

Her hand came up to his face, "Mulder, what?" Concern colored her voice.

"You . . . you're in love with me." It wasn't a question.

The sheer wonder in his voice brought tears to her eyes. "You're just now figuring that out?" She managed to say.

"No, I mean, you're in love with me. You . . . Oh god." He looked so shaken it frightened her.

"Mulder, did you honestly not know? Did you think I was just . . . just hanging around because of all the fun we were having?" She couldn't help the bitter note.

"No one's ever . . . I can't . . . " He couldn't look away from her.

"Mulder, other women have - "

"No, Scully. I've been tolerated, and, and used, but no one had ever . . . Scully you wanted to, to die because I - " His hands were shaking as he touched her face.

"Mulder, we're both alive, we're both reasonably healthy, for us. I have your promise and you have mine." She moved closer. How could he not have known? "Maybe it was time you got hit over the head. Mulder, are you in love with me?"

"Of course." There was no hesitation at all.

"Of course? But it's inconceivable that I could be in love with you?" She shook her head.

"Yes."

She blinked. "Mulder - "
"I almost got you raped because I screwed up your career and got us stuck on that assignment."

"Don't! Mulder, do not go over our entire history again. I didn't fall in love with you this morning, or yesterday. It's grown. It started with fascination, then respect, then affection. Now I need you, damn it. Ambrose told me that he had killed you. I knew he was going to kill me as well. That didn't frighten me, what he was planning to do to me, yes, that scared me, but not dying. I would be with you. "

He shook his head, "You don't believe we'd end up the same

place." He tried to smile.

"I don't think I've earned Hell, Mulder and that's where I'd be without you." She moved into his arms, hers twining around him. "Yes, I'm in love with you. I guess it's okay to confess now that we don't work together any more." He didn't respond, just holding her as though she was as fragile as spun glass, the feel of her body was too much to absorb.

Finally in a low voice he spoke, "I'll live forever if you're with me."

A sob escaped her. "Promise me."

He just pulled her even closer against him.

"Mulder, close your eyes. We're together and right now we both need some rest. We can talk in the morning. A lot has happened to us in twenty-four hours, things that have thrown us into a new place. Neither one of us can handle it now, but together we will. Now close your eyes."

He obeyed her, not letting his grip slacken. She was right; too much had happened to even process.

Was it possible that these things had brought their feelings out in the open? A catalyst to a new relationship - a personal relationship, admitted and explored? Whatever, she was alive and in his arms. The rest would fall into place. She loved him.


She woke to find him lying on his side, watching her. When he saw she was awake, he spoke quietly, "Have you changed your mind?"

She knew immediately what he was asking. "Did you?" She rejoined.

He shook his head, "I'll live forever if you're there."

She gave him a long look then. "So you're planning to hang around?"

"Definitely. So, what do we do now?" He asked, giving her the control. Her eyes seemed to scan the ceiling, but he knew she wasn't seeing it. She was automatically making and rejecting plans.

"I guess we need to get back to DC and we need to pick up your car."

"No," Mulder stopped her, "I don't mean anything practical. What do we do now?"

"Oh." She glanced around the room seeming to see it this time. "I suppose most couples would hop into bed together. But we're already here."

"Yeah, we are." He leaned in then, and kissed her. He felt her arms go around his neck, pulling him closer.

When he broke the kiss, he moved slightly away from her. "This is gonna sound stupid, but I don't want to rush you."

She looked at him, uncertain, but waited.

"Scully, I want our first time . . . I don't want to have a concussion and I want you to be . . . sure."

Her eyes lightened then and she nodded.

"And not in some no-tell motel." She grinned but agreed. "On that note, Scully, I need a cold shower."

That surprised a chuckle from her. He gave her another quick kiss, then slipped from the bed, keeping his back to her.

She lay back against the pillows, adding his to hers and stared at the ceiling. She heard the water cut on and closed her eyes. She'd been honest with him last night, she'd admitted she loved him. He had a good question, what now? He was unemployed, and she had no idea what she'd be doing. They needed to talk and that would be better done dressed. She took a deep breath and rose from the bed. She dressed quickly in yesterday's clothes and was combing her hair when the water cut off.

He came out, dressed, toweling his hair. One look at her and he stopped in his tracks. "You okay?"

"I guess I'm a little . . . uncomfortable."

"Did I - "

"Mulder, you've done nothing wrong, this morning."

"But?"

"We do need to talk." She sat on the side of the bed and after a moment, he joined her, but not close enough to touch her accidentally. He waited, confident that anything he could say would make things worse.

"Mulder," she turned to face him, "I've never told a man that I loved him before."

His eyes widened, "I'm your first?"

"My only. Remember, one in five billion."

He nodded and forced himself not to touch her or pull her to him.

"I need to know . . . I have to know what you were thinking. Why were you going to kill yourself?"
He blinked, then swallowed. "I . . . you won't accept a head injury?" He tried for a light note.

"Mulder."

"I don't, I'm not sure I can explain it now. I don't feel the same way." He slumped slightly beside her. "It was my fault we were out there, on that assignment." He held up his hand, to stop her. "Scully, I'm the one that screwed up your career. I'm not going over our whole history, I swear, but I got us assigned to Kersh. I got us on shit detail. You were, you are an exemplary agent. You've done your best to keep me in line." He gave her a sad grin. "It didn't work. And still you stuck with me. I saw your face when I ordered you to turn in your resignation."

"I don't take orders well from you, Mulder."

"I know. I handled it wrong, but I was . . . I wasn't doing too well. When I saw Ambrose - "

"When you saw him, you handled the situation. You saved me."

He ignored the second part of her statement completely. "There shouldn't have been a situation to handle."

"Bullshit!"

He drew back at her vehemence.

"I have been your partner, equal partner, for seven years. You have made decisions that affected us both, but so have I. We've both made good and bad decisions. If you'll recall, I was ready to leave the Bureau once, when they threatened to separate us. They didn't, they couldn't. But you almost did, permanently."

"I'm sorry." She couldn't doubt his sincerity. The look on his face was enough to convince her.

"Have you ever . . . " She looked away, the question itself too hard to ask.

"Have I ever thought about suicide before?" He finished for her. "Yes. After Samantha, and during the divorce. I've never acted on it."

"Until last night."

"I thought I was doing you, hell, the world, a favor."

"A favor?" Her voice had risen; the outrage plain in her voice. He actually cringed from the look on her face. "A favor." She repeated. "How could you - "

"Scully, I didn't know you loved me. Even in my best fantasies I could only get to 'care about me'. You're my first too."

Her eyes teared slightly, "Don't do me any more favors, Mulder."

"I promise." His tone was somber, "If I had known, if I had even imagined - "

"And I thought I was so damn obvious." She sighed.

"Obvious?" He shook his head. "Let's get out of here."

She nodded and rose. There was nothing to pack, so they headed for the car. She handed him the keys.

"You don't want to drive?"

"No." She smiled faintly as he adjusted the seat.

He pulled out onto the highway, heading north for no particular reason.

"Mulder?"

"Ummm?" He glanced over at her.

"What are you going to do?"

He looked back at the road, but took her hand and placed it on his thigh, caressing it lightly. "Well, if you'll let me, I'll spend the next six or seven decades making this up to you."

"I meant for work." But she squeezed his thigh, giving her support.

"Oh yeah. I'm unemployed." He shook his head slightly, "That's new for me. I'm more used to being suspended." He sighed, "I could write."

"M. F. Luder?"

He glanced over at her, his lips twitching. "He's paid a few bills for me."

"I'm sure he has. Can he keep you in sunflower seeds?"

He looked over at her, then back at the road. "No. Maybe I could be a slum lord."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, I own a couple of houses on the Vineyard, one in Connecticut, the cabin in Quonochontaug and a beach house in North Carolina."

"You what?" She snatched her hand from his leg.

He took hold of it again and brought it back. "Dad believed in investing in land, real estate. He said they weren't making it anymore, so it was a good deal."

"I never thought about you having money. You don't - "

"I don't live like it? It's Dad's money. The rental fees go into an account to keep the properties up. If one of them needs a new furnace or carpet, the company takes care of it."

"So there's not a pile of money somewhere." She nodded.

"Well, actually there is." He shrugged, "but I don't think about it."

She hesitated a moment, "Guess I won't have to 'keep' you."

"You offerin'?" He squeezed her hand. She just rolled her eyes. "What are you going to do, Scully?"

"I'm not sure. I don't even know who I'm reporting to. Skinner called me in to look at personnel files, not Kersh. That's how I found out what you'd done." She watched him. "He wanted my input on a new partner."

The grip on her hand was suddenly painful and she saw that his left hand was white knuckled on the steering wheel. "New partner?"

"I'm a field agent, Mulder. I have to have a partner. I told you about this last night."

"I, I didn't think about - "

"You didn't think through a lot, Mulder." Her voice was deadly serious.

He didn't respond, but he didn't release her hand either, not until he spotted a shopping center. He pulled off the highway.

"Mulder?"

"We need clothes." His voice was somber again; the thoughts of another partner covering her back had sent a chill through him. Look at what had happened in New York without him. God, he really hadn't thought anything through. He parked in front of a large department store.

They got out of the car, both silent now. His hand came up to touch her and she leaned into him. He closed his eyes in relief and led her into the store. He turned immediately toward women's clothing.

"I can handle this, if you want to look for your clothes, Mulder."

"I'd rather help you first."

"Help me, huh?" But she relented and let him follow her toward the slacks. He immediately started flipping through the offerings. "Mulder?"

"Shh, I'm busy."

Her eyebrow rose, but she leaned back to watch him. In just a few minutes he had a couple of pairs of slacks and moved to the tops. Her eyes widened, but followed him.

In short order he turned, "Want to try these on?"

Her mouth dropped open, but she took the clothing from his hands.

"While you're doing that, I've got some other things to check on. I'll be back to see how they fit." And he turned to leave. She didn't stop him; she didn't know what to say anyway. Instead she ducked into the dressing room.

She tried on the first outfit and stood surprised in front of the mirror. It fit perfectly and looked like it was made for her. The thin sweater was the color of her eyes, and the navy pants were cut lower than she was used to. For just a second she wondered how Mulder would feel about a naval ring, to go with her tattoo, then felt foolish at the impulse. When had he paid that much attention to her? Okay, he listened to her but this . . .

She checked, but he hadn't returned, so she tried on the next outfit. This top was green and showed some cleavage, but it was great with her hair. Surely he couldn't fit her in jeans, but when she pulled them up, she swallowed hard. Her mother couldn't possibly have fit her so well.

Once again she looked out and he was waiting patiently. His face lit up at the sight of her. "How'd I do?"

"A little too well." She said dryly. He only grinned and handed her what he was holding. Lingerie. "Mulder, you didn't."

"Just see if it fits and you like it." That cajoling look was almost back to normal. She didn't fight him, just taking the items from his hand. She glanced at the lacy cream bra and her eyebrow rose, but she kept quiet. He was grinning when she disappeared back into the dressing room. The grin slipped away when she was out of sight. New partner. He shook his head and tried to concentrate on what she was doing right now.

She had her lips pursed, looking at herself in the mirror. The man was damn observant.

She slipped back on her own clothes and came out with everything in her arms. He stood and reached to help her. "Aren't you going to model for me?"

"I hadn't realized what a good investigator you are."

His smile grew.

"You're turn. Follow me." She led him toward the men's department and made her own choices. He had to admit when he tried on the clothing she handed him, she was a damn observant investigator herself.

He came out to show her how her choices looked. She was just outside, looking at sweaters, her back to him. Her back. Someone else would have custody of its protection now. A new partner. It was really going to happen this time. He had truly screwed things up. Permanently.

Sensing him, she turned. He was frozen in place. She wasn't sure he was even seeing her, and he was beginning to hyperventilate.

"Mulder?" She pulled him out of the main aisle and he came with her, but he wasn't in control. More than a little frightened, her hand slipped around his neck and let their lips meet.

In an instant his breathing slowed and his arms went around her. When they parted, her eyes searched his. "Let's get out of here. Change, we'll pay and go get something to eat."

She watched him swallow convulsively, then shake his head.

"Okay, but let's get out of here."

He nodded then and her hand caressed his cheek before she gave him a small shove toward the dressing room. He wouldn't need to try on the underwear she had picked out for him, so she piled their additional purchases on the counter and began checking out. When he joined her, he paid quickly and they moved toward the entrance.

"Why don't I drive now, Mulder?"

"Don't trust me?" He had meant to say it lightly, but he failed.

"I could use some control."

He nodded at that and relinquished the keys. He seated himself on the passenger's side and they both adjusted their seats. She saw his hand come up and rub his brow.

"Does your head hurt?"

"Yeah." Was all he said.

Scully dug in her pockets and extracted more of the pain medication Dr. Moss had given her. She handed it to him along with a bottle of water. He swallowed it with no comment. "Do you want to talk about what happened back there?"

He shook his head carefully.

"Why don't you close your eyes, Mulder? Try to rest." When he nodded, she took his left hand and kissed the finger tips, then lay his hand on her thigh as he had done for her earlier.

He met her eyes and nodded, then reclined the seat slightly and closed his eyes. He obviously wasn't hungry and really neither was she, so she returned to the highway. She continued heading north for no better reason than it was the way he had driven.

She knew when he slept; his hand would tighten and loosen on her leg. She didn't know what had happened at the store, but they could talk later. They were together, with no case or definite destination. Surprisingly, it felt good.

He slept for some time and woke to the realization he was gripping her leg in what had to be a painful hold.

"Uh, sorry." He loosened his hand, rubbing her thigh slightly. "Where are we?"

"Maine."

"Maine?"

"Yes. I know it's a little early, but why don't we find a place to stay tonight, then go share a lobster. We missed breakfast and lunch."

"God, I'm sorry Scully. You should have stopped."

"No, it was a good drive, but I'm getting hungry now. Think you could eat?"

He nodded. "Are we, are we getting one room or two tonight?"

She glanced over and he knew he was seeing fear in her eyes. Did she think he would hurt her? Before he could retract the question though, she spoke. "One, please."

He blinked, he had not misinterpreted that look. "Are you

sure?"

She nodded, keeping her eyes on the road. They were quiet until he spotted a sign. "How about a B&B, Scully? It'd be a step up from our regular accommodations."

"A B&B would be an entire flight up from our regular accommodations, Mulder." She said dryly.
"We could see if
they have anything."

He was more confused than before. Did she want this or not? He was in no shape to take advantage of her physically. They'd discussed waiting, hadn't they? He felt very out of his depth.

She took the turn to the house and in minutes pulled up in front of it. "Well?" She looked over at him.

"Looks nice." What was he supposed to say? Apparently that was right, because she nodded and opened her door.

"You're in luck. I had a cancellation last night. We have a lovely room on the second floor. It has a queen size bed and a private bath. The furniture came from an elegant home in Bangor." The hostess was pulling out the key. "I can send Jerry out to get your luggage."

"Can we unpack later? Suddenly I'm about to starve." Scully looked over at Mulder. "Where could we get a lobster?"

"You are in luck. The best lobsters in Maine are just down the road, at the Weathervane. Turn left out here and go three miles. It's on your right." She smiled up at Mulder. "You better get your wife some food."

Mulder opened his mouth to correct her, but Scully took his hand. He nodded his thanks and let her lead him out.


He gaped at the small prehistoric monster they sat on the table between them. "Scully?"

"Come on." She twisted a claw.

"You've done this before." He observed.

She nodded, "Last time I was in Maine."

He couldn't help himself, his finger reached out to wipe the butter from her chin. She smiled her thanks and pulled out a large chunk of the white meat from the claw.


He carried their bags inside and let her open the door. He followed her in, then stopped. The room was nice, and he had no doubt the antiques were authentic, but the bed dominated the room. He looked over at her, but she didn't seem disturbed by it. He put their packages in the larger chair.

"So do you want to go back downstairs and have some wine?" He offered.

"No, I'd rather stay up here, maybe go ahead and get ready for bed."

He nodded, he'd prefer the same thing.

She sighed and he looked over at her. "I forgot to get something to sleep in."

"Here." He handed her a small bag from within the larger one.

"What?"

"I, uh, I picked this up while you were trying on . . . "

She took the bag, her eyebrow rising. He shrugged, a slight grin on his face. She turned then and headed for the bathroom. His smile vanished along with her. He needed to know what had scared her earlier. At least when he focused on her, he could forget about himself for awhile.

She came out wearing the dark forest green gown and matching robe and she'd removed the bandages from her wrists. "Mulder, this isn't just a night gown. It's a penoir set. You - "

"I know what it is."

"It's too expensive."

"A good slum lord can afford this stuff occasionally." He met her eyes, not backing down.

"Mulder."

"What?"

"I bought you something to sleep in too."

His eyes widened as a smile grew on his face. "Are you kidding?" The blush on her face was adorable. She did love him, as crazy as that was. He took the bag and looked inside, then pulled out the pajama bottoms. "Uh, where's the top?"

Her blush grew. "I didn't think you needed one."

He felt like the wind had been knocked out of him. She wanted to sleep against his chest, feel his skin. Oh god. He forced himself to back away, toward the bathroom.

He emerged, wearing the bottoms she had selected. They were cotton with a small blue and gray plaid design. They fit well, even long enough. And she had chosen them.

She was already in the bed, propped up on the pillows. She'd found a book in the room and was reading. He joined her in the bed and tried not to show his pleasure that she had taken a good look at his chest.

"What're you reading?"

"It came with the room." She said dryly, showing him the cover with the pirate and buxom maiden. The rakish rogue had long flowing dark hair. He was dressed in leather pants and nothing else. He was dipping the redheaded woman in the yellow gown, her breasts threatening to explode from the top.

"Maybe I should let my hair grow out." He mused, not releasing the book back to her.

She gave a sound that he could only describe as a huff and slid down under the covers.

"You don't think that would be a good look for me?" He asked her, trying to sound innocent. She turned her back to him and snapped off the light from her side of the bed. "Scully, you can read as long as you want."

She flipped over to put him in his place, verbally, but the twinkling of his eyes caught her off guard and she struggled to keep her face impassive. "Go to sleep, Mulder."

He nodded, and pulled her against him. His eyes closed and after a moment, so did hers.


She stirred, lying on her stomach, but found she couldn't move. Something or someone was pinning her down. Ambrose? She panicked and began fighting; forcing whatever was holding her down to release her.

"Scully, Scully wake up. What? What's wrong?" He moved, releasing her from beneath his leg.

Mulder? But he'd been killed . . . Mulder! She twisted then reaching for him.

"Scully, it's okay. It was just a dream."

"I, I was being held down." She raised a shaking hand to her face.

He realized then what was wrong. In his sleep he had tucked her under him, one of his legs holding her in place. "Oh god, it was me. Scully, I'm sorry. I . . . I'm sorry." He moved away from her but she followed, needing to feel him now that she knew it was him.

"It's okay Scully, I'll move to the chair. It'll be - "

"No."

"I don't mind."

"Please. I . . . I don't want to sleep alone."

That stopped him. In an instant he realized that she had slept with him, in his arms, every night since that night. She'd drawn comfort from him as she'd given it to him.

"Scully?" She managed to meet his eyes. "Talk to me. Please."

"You won't leave me."

God he was a fool. He'd hurt her as badly as Ambrose had. No, he'd hurt her worse; she had trusted him. "I won't leave you." He pulled her against him again. Damn, she was shaking.

"Promise." Her voice trembled.

"Scully, I could never leave you."

Her tears started then and she was lost, sobbing against his chest. He held her tightly to him, stroking her back and murmuring to her. "Let it out, Baby. It's safe here, I have you."

He didn't know how long she cried, but he knew it was what she needed. She'd been strong for him too long. When her hiccupping breaths eased out, he realized she was asleep. Her hands still clutched him and her head rested over his heart as though she needed the sound to reassure her.

It struck him then why she had bought him pajama bottoms but no top. She had wanted to feel him, hear his heart beat.

He never wanted to hurt this woman again.


She woke to his eyes on her, his arms around her. "Scully?"

"Thank you." She said softly.

"My pleasure." His eyes locked on hers, searching for some clue as to how she really felt.

She smiled and placed a small kiss on his chest, over his heart.

He swallowed, hard, and cleared his throat. "So, why don't you take first shower? I'll run down to the lobby and see if I can rustle us up some coffee."

"You don't mind?"

"Nope, go on." He watched her walk toward the bathroom, "Hey, Scully, wear the green top." She chuckled and he noted her cheeks seemed heated. He waited for her to enter the bathroom before attempting to rise. He took a deep breath and found his pants. When he returned with the coffee he heard the water cut off and found himself visualizing what was going on in the next room.

When she emerged, wearing the green top and the jeans he had chosen, he smiled. Then without a word, handed her the coffee. He knew she needed her caffeine before too much conversation.

She took it gratefully and sipped. Just the way she liked it. "Thanks."

He nodded, "Can I get in there now?"

"All yours."

She was sitting at the window when he rejoined her, staring off into the distance.

"Scully? Everything okay?" She looked over at him. "You want to head home."

"Would you mind?"

"No." He sat on the bed facing her. "Why?"

"I guess I just need the familiarity. I know things have changed, a lot of things and, and I need to go home."

"Then let's go home."

She nodded gratefully and stood from the chair to gather her things.

"Scully, when I woke up this morning I thought of something else I could do, I mean in addition to slum lording." He folded his dirty clothes to put in the bag, not facing her.

"Yes?" She stopped, waiting.

He finally turned. "I was thinking I could ask you to marry me."

Her eyes widened, "Marry you?"

"Yeah. Seems fitting, I ask you every time you're in Maine."

She blushed then, "Come on Mulder, I had just dazzled you with my knowledge of witchcraft. You were kidding around."

"No. I let you laugh it off."

Her mouth dropped open but she didn't speak.

She didn't speak for so long he felt his gut twist. "Scully?"

"I . . . Mulder, I can't deal with this, not right now."

"Uh, yeah. Sorry."

"Don't apologize, Mulder. Let's, let's head back to DC."

"Now?"

"We still have to stop and get your car."

"Oh shit." He muttered. He'd forgotten that little detail. When she'd hustled him off the Vineyard after saving his life, he'd been in no shape to drive. They'd be separated for hours on the way home. He looked around the room; she'd packed everything else. Without another word, he gathered up the bags and moved toward the door.

"Mulder," Scully turned to him once they were back in the car. She lay her hand on his leg, like yesterday. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."

"I know that."

"What . . . what were you expecting, really?"

"Well it would have been nice if you'd thrown your arms around my neck and said yes." He couldn't hide the hurt entirely.

"Mulder, I . . . I just don't think I'm ready for . . ."

"Yeah, okay. I should have kept my mouth shut." He turned away, but her hand tightened on his leg.

"I can tell you . . . Mulder, there's no one else I would even consider spending my life with. You need to know that."

He nodded, relaxing slightly.

"And there are other ways we can show that we love each other." She added softly.

He glanced over at her but kept quiet. Her hand caressed his thigh.

She did seem . . . approachable. "Scully, without getting myself in too much trouble here, have you ever thought about . . . I mean, if we ever got together, I . . . a place like we stayed last night or maybe one of those dives we're more used to. Did you ever . . . "

"Your couch." She said it without thinking. It wasn't until the car swerved that she realized what she had revealed. She knew her cheeks were burning.

"My couch? At my apartment?" He sounded a little choked.

"Mulder - "

"No, really. You've actually thought about . . . "

"Of course I have." She responded quickly.

"Of course? I can't have this conversation and drive, Scully. Would you mind an early lunch?"

"Okay." She spoke softly, reluctantly.

"Scully?"

She met his eyes then and nodded. He found a diner not far down the road and pulled in. They were quiet over their meal. He wanted to ask more questions, but he had told her he wouldn't push her. He was startled when she reached over for his hand.

"We're okay Mulder. When we get back to DC we could meet - "

"Yeah, we are. I'll follow you." Like he could let her out of his sight.

She nodded. "I'll have my cell phone on if you - "

"Scully, I didn't bring my phone."

She looked away, "Oh."

"Scully - "

She met his eyes then, "I didn't think about that. I'll just keep you in sight and if you want to pull off, just pass me."

"Yeah." Damn, he hated that she'd have all that time alone, to change her mind about him, about them. "Let's hook up at my apartment, okay?"

She nodded and his hand closed over hers on the table. They were silent then, thinking their own thoughts.


She set a good pace on the way back. He was surprised at her familiarity with the Vineyard, but didn't question it. The quicker they got home, the better. He had to struggle not to pass her, not to race back and be with her again. They had survived a lot over the last few days. He had survived it because of her.

She'd been in his sight the whole trip, but he couldn't wait to touch her when they parked at his apartment. He did notice that she didn't seem to mind when he took her hand.

He stopped just inside and looked around. When he'd left here he had never expected to see it again. Without her, he wouldn't have. He looked down as her arms went around him. "Mulder?"

"It's good to be home." He meant it more deeply than ever before.

After a moment she nodded, "Yes, it is."

"Let me dump this stuff in the bedroom and I'll be right back."

She was on his phone when he returned to the room. He couldn't help the quick glance at the couch but hopefully she didn't notice.

She turned, "I've gotten five messages from Skinner, and the guys have called a couple of times."

"That can wait. Skinner gave you three days and me . . ." he grinned.

She nodded and watched him walk toward her. "How's your head?"

"Kind of swimming." He managed a straight face. Her look turned to one of concern instantly and her hand came up to touch his brow. He caught it and brought the fingers to his lips. "Thinking about what might happen here some day."

He wanted to laugh with joy at the blush that heated her face. "How about you, how are you feeling?" He wanted to touch her, hold her against him. He forced himself to wait. She took his hand and led him to the couch, taking a seat and pulling him down beside her. He realized then that she was as nervous as he was.

"Scully, I want to kiss you."

Her shoulders relaxed at those words. "I was hoping you did."

He smiled and leaned in, letting their lips touch lightly, no more than a breeze. Her smile was welcoming, so he did it again, with more pressure this time. He leaned back slightly to see her.

"See, the world didn't end." She said, trying to keep a straight face.

"Ah, Jesus, Scully, don't remind me how inept I am." He pouted.

"Inept wasn't the word I was thinking." She moved closer, her hand behind his neck drawing his lips to hers. There was nothing chaste about the next kiss.

When they broke for air, they were reclining and he had maneuvered her on top. She realized he was giving her freedom of movement even as he held her to his body. He loved her, he'd do anything for her and he loved her. A small sob escaped her.

"Scully?" Concern and more than a little fear touched his face.

"You love me." She said simply.

"Well, yeah." He looked confused now, "You didn't doubt it, did you?"

She shook her head, "Make love with me."

His eyes widened, now? He'd promised not to rush her. He looked up into those sparkling blue eyes and his hand cupped her face. She turned to place a kiss in his palm.

"I'm sure, Mulder."

The love is his eyes nearly blinded her with its intensity. His head dipped to place a kiss on the cleavage before him. But even with her permission, he needed to slow things down for both their sakes.

His hands on her shoulders moved her to sit up, her ass on his abdomen. She allowed it, watching his eyes. "I want you, Scully. And I want to believe you're really okay with this."

"What would it take?" She asked, her eyes never leaving his.

"I . . . I'm not sure." His fantasies hadn't covered this.

Scully leaned over and brushed a kiss across his lips again, then sat back up. She could feel his erection now, straining the zipper of his jeans. She took hold of the hem of her top and lifted it over her head.

He had no control over his hands as they reached up to cup her breasts through the lace. They fit perfectly in his hands, made for him. His thumbs brushed her nipples and he watched them bud.

He wanted to see her, without the lace. Reluctantly he moved his hands away and unsnapped the bra. He'd chosen wisely; the front clasp made things so much easier. She seemed to arch toward him when the bra fell away and he let it drop to the floor. One of his hands traced the ridges of her spine, lightly pulling her toward him but leaving her with the ability to pull away.

She didn't, watching him with sparking eyes. "What if you lost some of these clothes, then I could show you that I'm serious."

Finally he nodded and watched as she rose from his body. He sat up and yanked off his own t-shirt as he stood. Her hands were at his waistband before he could reach it which caused his breath to catch.

She carefully and efficiently lowered his zipper and pushed his clothing down. She stood for a moment, appreciating what she saw.

"Now you." He let his hands slide down her torso.

She could see his appreciation in several ways and her smile grew as he fumbled slightly with her button. Her hand rested on his shoulder as she stepped out of her clothes. He straightened up and she moved into his arms, their skin meeting, knowing the other. Her hand cupped him, squeezed him. He quit breathing entirely then.

Her eyes widened as he grew even more within her hand.

"Scully."

She nodded and he sat on the couch. He started to pull her down but she stopped him. "Mulder, part of the fantasy is feeling your weight on me, pressing me into this couch."

"But, I - "

"Mulder, I'm okay. I want you and I don't want you to be afraid of this."

"You're important, Scully."

"You make me believe that. Love me Mulder."

He pulled her down then, atop him as he kissed her, touched her. His breathing was heavy again as he met her eyes, then flipped her beneath him. She gasped, then laughed out loud.

He relaxed then, smiling himself. He nuzzled her neck as his hands explored her body. He moved
down and took her
breast into his mouth. She was the one breathing heavily as he moved on down her body. "Mu-Mulder, you don't - "

"Yeah, Scully." He looked up at her, "I've been craving Scully taste for as long as I can remember." The blush that took over her face nearly undid him. He ducked his head down to continue his worship and his tongue began working magic at her core.

His five o'clock shadow tickle scratched her thighs and she pressed her legs closer to feel the sensation even stronger. His tongue pressed against her clit and she gasped, thrusting toward him. "Mu . . ." Then she was spiraling out of control.

He moved back up her body, holding her gently against him. Her arms went around him holding him close. "Scully?"

"I . . . I didn't know. I wasn't really sure that I could . . . but with you, God I love you."

Tears came to his eyes. He might have died and never heard her say those words. He buried his face in her neck. "I love you, Scully."

"I need you Mulder, inside me. Please."

How could he refuse that? She took him back in her hand and guided him to her. She was ready, hot, wet and ready. He entered her slowly, watching for any sign that she wasn't okay but all he saw was desire.

He hesitated, sheathed within her body, fitting perfectly within the cradle of her. He began to move then, with her matching him thrust for thrust as though loath to have him leave her body even for a moment.

Her eyes met his and he saw the tears there, but knew them for what they were. Tears of joy. He wasn't going to last long, but this was only the first of many. He knew that now. When her body tightened around him, he gave himself up to her, losing himself within her, knowing it was the safest place to be.

When he could move, he started to leave her warmth, at least allow her to breath, but she held him to her and he relaxed back, shifting slightly so that she wouldn't suffocate. She protested even that, but his kiss quieted her. "I need you for a long time, Scully. I'm not going anywhere."

She nodded and let her eyes drift close, worn out from the emotion and the lovemaking.


She woke to his hands caressing her body. She stretched and sighed with contentment. His smile, and cock, grew at this sign of her comfort in his embrace.

"You're naked, Scully." He spoke matter of factly, "I like it. It's a good look on you."

"Thank you, but I don't think it's regulation." She managed to keep a straight face, then leaned from the couch and snagged the green top she'd been wearing earlier and covered her breasts. "Isn't that better?"

She caught the sparkle in his eye. "Mmm, nice top."

She actually giggled, "Thanks. My boyfriend gave it to me."

"Boyfriend, huh? Is he your steady?"

"Yep. He's kinda pinned me." She managed to keep a straight face.

"Oh, serious." He commented, she nodded. "Is he cute?"

"I think so. He's also a little insecure." She looked into his eyes then, "I like that about him."

He leaned up then and began placing tiny kisses on her lips. She let her hand trail down his side and cup his butt. He ground himself into her thigh, more than ready for another opportunity to love her.

The knock at the door caused outrage on his face. Who would come here and why the hell now? Scully rose quickly and hurried toward his bedroom, grabbing up her clothes. Mulder took his time getting to the door, slipping on his own jeans and t-shirt, allowing her time.

"Who is it?"

"Skinner."

That brought a pause. Mulder looked back toward his bedroom. She was out of sight. He pulled the door open.

"About time. Did you turn off your machine?"

"Uh, remember, I don't report to you. I don't report to anyone."

"Right. Is Scully here?" Skinner took another step into the room. "Her cell is turned off and I've left several messages."

Before Mulder could answer she stepped back into the room. She was dressed and looked a lot more put together than he did. "Yes, Sir. I thought I was on leave."

"I'm sorry, but we've got a problem. I think it's an X-File."

They both gaped at him. Skinner nodded. "This came down from the top."

"The top?" Mulder didn't try to hide his skepticism.

Skinner nodded. "The Director himself called me. A congressman from Idaho contacted him. He got your name from an old friend, Senator Matheson."

Mulder glanced over at Scully. "My name? And Kersh didn't have an aneurysm?"

"Kersh isn't happy, but this came from above him. Of course, since you're not employed by the Bureau anymore, we have to ask you to consult on this case. I'm hoping your fees, plus expenses of course, won't be too high." Skinner's eyes were dancing with suppressed laughter.

Mulder stood there speechless and looked over at Scully. Her lips were twitching.

Consulting, huh? And on an X-File meant she would be at his side. Maybe he wouldn't have to dip into the slum fund for a little while. A new career, a new relationship - at least a new phase to the most important one. His own lips curved into a smile.


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