Losses and Gains

by Donna

Title - Losses . . . and Gains
Author - Donna
Email address - donnah@donnas-stories.com URL - http://www.donnas-stories.com/
Rating - R
Category - MSR, angst
Spoilers - Amor Fati
Keywords - MSR, angst
Summary - She's not the one taken this time, can she find him?
Feedback - Please
Archive - Anywhere, just let me know so that I can visit

Disclaimer - Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.

Losses . . . and Gains

He stirred; waking to the familiar, albeit unwelcome, smell of antiseptic. Hospital? Shit, what had happened? Scully, she would know. He opened his eyes and shifted in the bed. Big mistake, the simmering aches he'd felt flared into pain at his movement. Damn, he hurt everywhere.

He forced himself to survey the room. She wasn't beside him. Where was she? Okay, that was a little arrogant, to think she'd be at his side automatically. He might have just arrived . . . wherever he was.

He couldn't focus on a case. Maybe she didn't know he was here. At least he was confident he hadn't ditched her. He didn't do that anymore.

The door opened and he turned expectantly, ignoring the pain, but it wasn't Scully. Just a nurse.

"Mr. Mulder, you're awake. I'll let Dr. Collins know."

"Do you know where Scully is? Is she here?"

"Scully?"

"My . . . my partner. She's a redhead."

"I'm sorry, I haven't seen her." She took his vitals, then checked his IV straightening his tubing and checked his oxygen. "I'll page Dr. Collins." She smiled at him and let herself out.

Scully hadn't been here? What had happened? And when?

He heard voices in the hall, but neither voice was Scully's, so it didn't really matter. Where was she anyway?

Mulder opened his eyes when the door opened. "He's awake, I need to talk to him." The older man was speaking to what was obviously a doctor by the white coat.

"Mr. Mulder, I'm Detective Tanner. I have some questions for you."

Mulder's brow furrowed, what the hell had happened? And why was a cop questioning him? He needed Scully. He opened his mouth to make that request but Detective Tanner kept talking, flipping through his notebook.

"A Vivian Long and an Edna Earle saw you at Ms. Scully's apartment Friday evening. Both are positive about their ID. They say you're there a lot."

"What's going on? I - "

"Then Ms. Long heard an altercation in Ms. Scully's apartment. She looked out in time to see you approach again and then break down the door to Ms. Scully's apartment. She ran to call 911."

Mulder's eyes were wide now, an 'altercation' at Scully's? He'd arrived . . . twice? Oh god! The Bounty Hunter? Was she hurt? "Where is she?" He demanded harshly. "Where is Scully?"

"When the police arrived, you were unconscious on the floor from what looked like a severe beating. You were clutching Ms. Scully's calf as though she were trying to get away from you."

"Where the fuck is Scully?" Mulder forced himself up, his muscles screaming.

"Why did you kill her, Mulder? Did she refuse you? Did you just mean to rough her up? Explain it to me, Mr. Mulder." The detective's voice was cold, hard.

Mulder looked at him, the words not making sense. What was he saying? Mulder looked over at the doctor. "Scully?"

Mulder tensed immediately at his expression, his chest tightening. "I have to see her." He started to rise, but Dr. Collin's hand on his shoulder stopped him.

"Mr. Mulder, her injuries were extensive. I'm sorry, but they weren't able to save her."

Mulder was frozen, unable to move.

After a pause, the doctor tried again, "Mr. Mulder, Miss Scully died in the ER. They did everything - "

Died? No. Nooooo! It had become a moan, then without warning, his hands shot out and entangled themselves in the doctor's labels. Ignoring the pain that generated throughout his body, he jerked the doctor down to him. "No! Scully's not dead! Where is she!"

"Nurse!" the startled doctor tried to pull away. The detective shoved him down and Mulder felt his arm grow warm as something was added to his IV. He let go of the doctor to rip the needle out, but it was too late. Darkness engulfed him.


The military had taught him to wake instantly, alert. It hadn't taught him to be prepared for her voice.

"Sir, I'm sorry to bother you at home."

"Scully? What, what time is it?" He glanced at the clock by his bed. Six a.m.? On a Saturday?

"Please."

He sighed; it was so much easier to blow off Mulder. "What's wrong?"

She didn't waste time. "Mulder's missing."

"Missing?"

"Yes sir."

Skinner rolled his eyes. They didn't even report to him anymore. "Since when? Have you spoken to Kersh?"

"No. He's been gone since last night. After work he was going by his place to pick up a few things for the weekend and then he was coming over for dinner."

"Scully, the man doesn't recognize weekends. Maybe he got a lead and ditched you. He's famous for it."

"No." She shook her head. "That's not . . . "

Skinner heard the hitch in her voice. Oh. So finally. It had certainly taken the SOB long enough. If it had been him . . . he could feel the barely controlled panic in this woman's voice. No, it could never have been him. It could never be anyone but Mulder. "Where are you?"

"His apartment."

Skinner sighed, "Let me get dressed. Have you called the police?"

"No." He nodded though she couldn't see it. "You might want to contact that trio of geeks."

"I will." She said faintly.

"Try not to worry. This has happened before Scully."

"No. Not like this." That last had been whispered and still her voice shook. Skinner had leaned in to hear her. He couldn't remember hearing that tone before. His hand tightened on the receiver.

"Call the guys. It's going to be okay."

"Thank you."

Her gratitude threatened to topple him. Instead Skinner straightened up and cleared his throat. "I'll be there shortly."


He woke to the feel of a hand on his arm. Scully? That brought memory and a wave of pain and grief engulfed him, threatening to drown him.

"Mr. Mulder." A deep voice, but female. He tried to jerk away, but something held him. Restraints? He opened his eyes to see the flat, broad face of an older woman. Her hair was short, semi-styled around her face and the color of straw. Obviously not her natural color. Scully would have made some comment about the color of her hair. Would have? No! He struggled against the restraints again. Scully wasn't dead. He didn't know why they were telling him lies, but she wasn't gone. He would know, he would . . . he would feel it. They were together now. The God Scully believed in wouldn't allow them to finally be together, be one, and then take her away. No! They were keeping her from him, but she was alive. He could feel her.

"Mr. Mulder? Can you hear me?"

"Let me go. I have to - "

"Mr. Mulder, you're in restraints because you became a danger to yourself and others."

"No. No, I just need to find Scully."

"Mr. Mulder, you've been told what happened to Ms. Scully. You've not been arrested at this time, but - "

"She's not dead. "

"Why do you say that? Do you want to tell me what happened? Talking to me is privileged communication." Uncertainty stabbed him, was she accusing . . . He had caused Scully's . . . He missed the tiny look of satisfaction that came to the woman's face as new pain showed on his.

"I'm sure as your partner and friend you need to mourn her. But you can't begin to heal until you face the truth."

His breathing was shallow, trying to avoid the pain. Friend? Scully, just a partner or friend? If she was gone he would never heal. There would be no reason to try. He had to get out. "Who are you?"

"I'm Dr. Lavinski."

"A shrink?"

"They asked me to talk to you."

"You have. Now could you please cut me loose? I need to get out of here."

"Even if you were physically able, Mr. Mulder, you've been placed under observation. That's forty-eight hours minimum. If you cooperate."

"Forty-eight . . . Skinner, I need to talk to Walter Skinner."

"No visitors, I'm sorry."

"You can't hold me prisoner!"

"I'm sorry you feel that's what we're doing, but it is for your own good. It's my job to keep you from harming yourself and others, at least for a little while. Why don't you tell me about Ms. Scully?"

He looked at her for a moment, then away. Suicide watch, he knew the euphemisms. He closed his eyes and immediately felt less bereft, somehow closer to her, to Scully. His expression brought a frown to the large woman's face, but she waited in silence.

After a few minutes Dr. Lavinski spoke again. "Fine for now, Mr. Mulder. But we will have to talk." She rose and touched his arm. He tried to pull away again, but only jerked at the cuffs. The feeling of closeness shattered.

"I'll have the nurse bring you a sedative in a little - "

"No! I don't need a sedative. I need to get out of here." His eyes had flown open.

"We'll talk in the morning."

"Wait. What time is it? How long have I been here?"

She glanced at her watch, a small jeweled piece on a gold chain around her neck. "A little after six. You slept through dinner. Would you like a tray?"

He shook his head, the very thought nauseating. She watched him a moment, then silently moved away. He was surprised at how quietly she moved for such a large woman. She would be able to sneak up on him. There was something wrong about her. For a psychiatrist, her bedside manner sucked. He had to get out of here.

He looked around the room, to orient himself as well as forestall thinking about the only thing on his mind. There were no windows. That was strange, and . . . and it didn't feel as late as she said. It felt no later than early afternoon. He had assumed it had been evening when he talked to Dr. Collins. What time had it been? Hell, what day was it? The blinds had been pulled, as well as the curtains around his bed. They were lying about Scully, they had to be. Why not about this too? But why?

Scully. She was not dead. He refused to accept that.

When he'd been affected by the artifact, no matter how out of it he was, there had been a . . . a spark in his mind that was Scully. She'd been with him, sometimes closer than other times but always there. That spark was still there in his mind. Would it be if she were . . . were truly dead? Again his body shuddered.

No. No, it wouldn't be. She was alive and being kept from him. Why? And how did he reach her? He was being held prisoner. He knew it. Was she? Scully.


"How is he?"

The woman calling herself Dr. Lavinski sniffed, "He does not believe us. I do not like this role you have cast me in. I'm not comfortable with the clinical side. Research is my field."

"It's too bad we do not have the luxury of personnel. We've lost too many people. You have the clearance for the job."

"Clearance." She looked as though she wanted to spit. "What you are postulating is ridiculous. This is the kind of work for that annoying man with the cigarettes."

"Spender." He snorted the name. "Even if I knew where he was, I couldn't trust him with this. He was able to save himself when so many of our colleagues died. His 'explanation' left much to be desired. That isn't important. Why do you think he doesn't believe us?"

She shook her head, "I'm not a clinician, but his eyes; he did not believe she was dead. He refuses to believe that she is dead."

"He is in contact with her."

"That's ridi - "

"Can you prove it?"

"Prove it?"

"I thought you understood the assignment."

She looked away, "I'm not sure what would constitute proof."

"If he's already convinced she's alive, we need to work fast."

She sighed.


Skinner tapped on the door and was only mildly surprised when Frohike opened it. Scully hurried into the room from the kitchen. "Do you have any - " she stopped at the shake of his head.

Scully looked away, her shoulders sagging.

"Look, it's not been that long."

"Fourteen hours, and we don't have a clue. It's like he fell off the face of the earth. There has to be - "

"Scully, we're just getting started. I'm saying . . . " He paused as she rubbed her forehead, between her eyes. "Are you okay?" Now that he really looked at her, she looked like hell, and she'd been rubbing her head where the tumor . . .

"It's nothing, just a headache. I haven't slept."

"Okay, but we need you on this . . . this investigation. I want you to look after yourself. Why don't the guys and I check out a couple of things and you take a few minutes for yourself."

"No, I - "

"We'll meet back here in a couple of hours. Two hours, Dana. Let me use these guys that long."

After a moment she nodded. Her acceptance with so little resistance frightened him on some level, but the three friends moved toward the door. Skinner turned as well. She touched his arm. "Two hours."

"I promise."

She looked into his eyes then, "I'm scared." She spoke low, so the others wouldn't hear.

That admission caught him by surprise. "Of what? Is there anything specific that frightens you?" He was watching her closely.

"He's been taken, and I don't know why. We haven't been on the X-Files. Kersh has had us doing background checks. But it's something else. I don't remember being this scared before, not like this."

Skinner nodded, he was aware of their 'assignment'. The fact that she couldn't explain her anxiety was unsettling. "Okay. At least try to rest."

She nodded and let him out without another word. She did as he asked then, moving toward his bedroom. The headache was rapidly growing worse. She was nauseated now.


She woke in the darkened room, his name on her lips. How long? She glanced quickly at her watch. 4 p.m., she'd slept almost exactly two hours. It only seemed later because the curtains were pulled. Had Skinner found anything? Mulder, she thought to herself, I will find you.

The men arrived in less than five minutes and congregated around Mulder's couch. Skinner was beside her; Langly had turned the desk chair around and straddled it. Byers and Frohike dragged a couple of chairs over and resumed their discussion.

She was only half listening, her headache surpassing the ones she had experienced when she'd had cancer. It spiked suddenly and she moaned, "Mulder, stop it."

All four of the men stopped and looked at her. Her hand was massaging her brow again. She rose and took a step toward the kitchen, intent on getting some medicine, but staggered. Skinner moved to her side immediately.

"Scully, what is it? Come here, sit down." He looked over at Frohike, "Get her some water."

Frohike nodded and hurried to the kitchen, returning quickly with a glass.

"Scully, Dana, did you hear what you said?"

"Um?" She forced herself to meet Skinner's eyes. He could see the pain she was in.

"You said, 'Mulder, stop it'. Stop what? The pain?"

She shook her head carefully.

"Dana, why did you want Mulder to stop?"

"I didn't, I didn't know what I was saying."

"Didn't you? I agree, Mulder was taken, but it makes no sense. He's not on the X-files. He's not a danger to the people that you've worked against all these years."

"Why do you think it's them?' Frohike asked.

Skinner glared at him for an instant without answering, then turned back to Scully without answering. "Are you . . . do you 'feel' Mulder?"

"Feel?"

"Are you aware of him, like . . . like he's trying to communicate with you?"

"Whoa, when did you take your Spooky pills, Skinman?" Langly chortled.

Skinner's hand closed on the front of his t-shirt before he could move. "You want to shut up, Blondie?"

"Hey, let's all calm down." Byers started to rise as well.

Skinner took a deep breath and released the younger man. He resumed his seat beside Scully. "Listen to me for a minute. When Mulder was . . . affected by that artifact, I observed him. He was incoherent 99% of the time. The only word he said that was intelligible was your name and that was when you were physically there. He knew you were there. It could explain where the fear's coming from. Could he be trying to reach you, an SOS?"

Scully's eyes widened but she didn't speak. Instead she rose and moved toward Mulder's bedroom. Skinner leaned back watching her until she closed the door. He moved to stand then, but Byers put a hand on his shoulder and shook his head.

Byers rose instead and followed her into the bedroom. He tapped on the door, but didn't let it stop him.

She was sitting on the bed, her face in her hands. She finally looked up when she felt him in front of her, "Sir, I - John?"

He squatted in front of her, looking up into her eyes. "Mulder can feel you. We've all seen it. I guess we just thought it was because he's in love with you. Maybe Skinner's hit on something."

"John, he can't read minds."

"But he could, and it nearly killed him. You saw it, Dana. Something you can't explain brought you back from Africa. You found him, you saved him."

"Diana - "

Byers shook his head, "You found him. You got him out of there. I think you're going to have to do it again."

She met his eyes then, hers flooded with tears. "I don't know how." She whispered and a couple of tears escaped.

He smiled sadly, "Neither do we, but we need to try. Now I'll admit I didn't see this coming from Skinner, but he obviously saw something that made an impression. Do you think you could at least try - for Mulder's sake?"

She hiccupped a laugh, "He's infected us all, hasn't he?" She seemed calmer somehow.

"Yeah. We're all kind of Spooky now. Come back?"

She nodded as he rose and held out his hand. She let him help her to her feet and allowed him to lead her back into the living room.

They were all waiting for her in tense silence. Skinner rose when she entered the room. "I'm sorry, I - "

"No, you're right. We have to look at 'extreme possibilities'." She managed a small smile.

"How's your headache?"

She met his eyes, surprised. "Better."

"You're not resisting anymore."

She looked down, but didn't dispute his words. "What do I do?"

Skinner glanced at the other three, but they knew no more than he did. "Just relax. How about a little wine and . . . and stretch out here on the couch. Close your eyes and . . . "

Again that little smile, but she nodded. Frohike got the wine and she thanked him, taking a sip. When the wine was gone, she reclined on the leather couch and closed her eyes.

"Just say anything that comes to your mind, Dana."

"Free association?" She opened her eyes and looked at him, partly in amusement and partly in fear.

"Yes. Don't worry."

"Right." She closed them again and everyone was silent for a long moment. Then her breath hitched. Skinner glanced at the other three, then back at her afraid to speak and break her concentration.

"Confused."

Skinner's brow furrowed. What? Was she confused?

"He's confused and . . . and scared." She stiffened then, but didn't open her eyes. "Oh God, he's scared!" Skinner took her hand and she grasped his tightly.

"Scared of what?" He asked softly. Langly and Frohike exchanged glances.

"That he's wrong." She shook her head, confused herself now. Again they all waited in silence for her to speak. "Oh God! He's terrified and . . . and . . . no! He's . . . he'll kill himself if he's wrong. Sir! We have to - " She jerked upright, her chest heaving in fear.

"Dana, relax. We're going to find him. He's not going to harm himself, not while he knows you're looking for him."

"But does he? He was so scared, so alone."

"Lie back down. Close your eyes and try to let him know you're looking for him." He could feel the incredulous looks he was getting from Langly and Frohike, but they hadn't seen what he'd seen at that hospital. Mulder had felt her before, maybe he could again.


The strain around his eyes eased and the muscles in his arms relaxed as he ceased his struggle with the restraints. It was as though he had felt her hand on his cheek. Was she alive? Was she looking for him?

He couldn't help. Dr. Collins had said he was in Alexandria, but that meant nothing. He was convinced now that they were lying about how long he had been here. And as for an altercation in her apartment . . . it was a cover story. For some reason they were trying to drive him crazy. If Scully were . . . no! He'd have to play along, get some freedom of movement. Then he'd find her, hold her.


Langly looked up from the computer. "I found it."

"Found what?" Scully returned from the kitchen with Frohike. They were at the Gunmen's place now, the computer equipment was better. She put the plate she was carrying on the table and hurried to his side.

"Uh, Rouch. They've changed the name, hidden the connections, but it's Rouch."

"Why were you looking for them?" She looked over at Skinner.

"We found out that they owned the building where you found Mulder last time. Where they performed the surgery on him."

Her eyes widened, "How did you find that out?"

"Unofficial channels." The irony in Skinner's voice was thick.

"The building?"

"It's still owned by them, but it's hidden." He looked over at Langly. "Can you find out anything?"

"That's what I'm checking on now. Give me a couple of minutes."

Skinner nodded and took Scully's arm, leading her back to the table. "You should eat a little. You haven't all day."

"I can't." She shook her head.

"Yes, you can. I don't know what it's going to take to get him, but I do know you're the key to it. We can't have you collapsing on us."

"I won't collapse." She looked up at him, but he didn't back down. Hell, he knew how to use the eyebrow too. She closed her eyes and felt his arm go around her and seat her in a chair. "Who made you the boss?" She muttered.

"The Bureau."

That actually brought a smile to her face. It didn't last. "He doesn't know where he is." Scully spoke in a small voice, as though a whisper would make the words less strange. Byers glanced at her, then away. He could see the depth of concern in Skinner's eyes. Any doubts about the man's loyalties seemed misplaced now.

"Can we get in?" Skinner asked the men in front of him.

The other two looked at Byers, who cleared his throat. "Not legally."

"That's not what I asked."

"We don't know that he's even there." Langly pointed out.

"Fine, Scully and I will check out the place, see if . . . You can check out how we can get in if he is there. Scully," he looked over at her, "Are you up for this?"

"Of course."


Skinner pulled to the curb around the corner from the entry. Why was an armed guard at the entrance to an empty building? Skinner gave a grim smile, they were subtle as a bulldozer.

He looked over at Scully. That line between her eyes was gone. She looked more relaxed. "Scully?"

"He's in there. He's a prisoner and . . . they're playing with his mind."

"Drugs?"

After a moment she nodded, 'Yes, but just enough to keep him off balance."

"Do you think you could find him, once we were inside?"

"Yes." She didn't hesitate and Skinner hid his smile. Well apparently he was now officially in Mulder's camp. He had been for some time, but after this, he could probably get Frohike to teach him the secret handshake.

"Scully, we can't break in. The guys might be able to hack us something to get us in the gate, but we need to look like we know what we're doing."

"If anyone can do it, it's the guys."

They hurried back to the Gunmen's lair to see what Langly had been able to hack. Skinner tried not to think about the legality of the situation.


"You might not be known to them." Byers looked up at Skinner, "But we can't be sure about Scully. We can make IDs, but Roush . . . any redheaded woman probably sets off the bells and whistles. We think she needs a disguise."

"Disguise?" Skinner looked over at her.

"Well, we have a wig." Frohike looked over at him.

"A wig? Do I ask why you have a woman's wig?" Skinner asked dryly.

Frohike ignored him, pulling the short brown wig from the box beside the desk. "We can take your picture and print up an ID in just a couple of minutes."

She nodded and took the wig, heading for their bath. When she returned, Skinner had to agree it was a reasonably good idea. The short brown curls did change her. Hell, if it got them inside, he had no complaints.


The guards passed them through, with Scully standing slightly behind Skinner. Once they were buzzed into the hall, Scully immediately turned to the right. Skinner followed, it was obvious she had homed in on Mulder.

Her steps were determined and she never hesitated in her direction. When she stopped at a door near the end of the long corridor, she looked in the window of the door. She gasped and opened the door as she snatched off her wig.

She was at his side before Skinner could blink. Her hand caressed his cheek exactly where he had felt it earlier.

"Scu . . . " His voice broke then.

"Sssh, it's okay."

He nodded and glanced at Skinner.

"We're getting you out of here." She had unfastened one wrist and motioned for Skinner to get the second. "Do you think you can walk?"

He nodded, not willing to try his voice again, or take his eyes off of her. He'd taken hold of her hand and he had no intention of releasing her.

They all came to attention when the door opened. A swarthy man and large masculine-looking woman walked in. "Excuse me, you have no authority - "

Scully turned to look at Mulder, he was telling her something. implicate her!

She didn't hesitate; her eyes nodded. She turned back toward the couple. She looked the older woman in the eye. "Thank you for calling me."

The woman jerked back, her eyes wide. The man looked over at her his eyes narrowed. "What are you talking - "

"We'll take him now. Thank you for keeping him safe." Skinner spoke this time, taking his cue from Scully. He released Mulder's other hand while Scully smoothly removed the IV. Skinner's arm went around Mulder and lifted him to his feet. Supporting him, they rounded the bed and Scully put Mulder's other arm around her shoulders.

"You can't - " The woman started, moving toward them. Her companion's hand reached out and stopped her. His face was cold, hard. The woman's face showed real fear at that. She turned to the man, "I didn't, you don't think that I - "

"Quiet." He spoke only one word, but she froze.

Mulder glanced over at Scully but kept quiet. He just wanted out of here; he wanted to be alone with her.

Skinner's neck was tingling as they walked down the hall, but no one approached them. He helped Mulder into the back seat of the car as Scully hurried around to the other side and joined Mulder in the back. Skinner let himself into the driver's seat and took off.

He could hear her murmuring to Mulder, but couldn't make out the words. The man looked like he'd been through hell. It was obvious he'd been tortured, at least mentally, and that IV in his arm had to have been drugs.

"Scully?"

"Yes sir?" She looked up at him, but was aware that Mulder's grip on her hand tightened slightly.

"I don't think you should go back to your place tonight. His either. I can arrange a safe house, but it'll take - "

"My mother's house."

"What?"

"Mom is in California. Her house is empty. We could stay there."

Skinner thought about that for a moment, then nodded. "That could work. Why don't you call the guys, have them meet us there with your things."

She pulled her cell phone from her pocket and dialed quickly. "John? Yes. He will be. Look could you get my overnight bag from my closet and pick up some things for Mulder? Then meet us at Mom's house? Yeah, I'll tell him. Thanks."

She broke the connection quickly; even with their gadgets you couldn't be too careful.

Mulder still hadn't spoken and she stroked his face. "It's okay. The guys say hi and they'll meet us at the house."

He just watched her and her fear of his mental state went up a notch.

"Scully, maybe we should take him to a hospital. We don't know - "

"No." His voice was harsh, hoarse, but adamant.

"Okay, we'll start out at Mom's." Scully agreed quickly.

Mulder didn't say a word on the way to her mother's house, didn't ask a single question. Scully kept an eye on him. Obviously he'd been drugged, but his silence frightened her. She knew Skinner was taking a circuitous route, but still breathed a sigh of relief when they pulled into her mother's driveway. "Mulder, we're here."

He glanced away from her face long enough to take in their location. He nodded once, then allowed the two of them to assist him out of the car.

Scully quickly unlocked the door and shut it firmly behind them.

"Scully, where . . . " Skinner looked over at her.

"Mulder, do you think you can handle the stairs?"

Again he only nodded. Skinner glanced over at Scully, but made no comment. He tightened his grip on the man and they slowly made their way upstairs and into the room Scully indicated. Skinner helped lower him onto the bed. Mulder's eyes immediately found her.

Skinner touched her arm. "Scully, are you going to be okay? I can - "

"We'll be fine, but thank you."

"Okay. The guys should be here with some things for him and groceries. If you're sure . . . "

"I am. I'll let you out." Before she could turn, they both felt Mulder tense. She immediately stepped back to him. "Mulder?"

"I'll let myself out Scully. Just stay with him. And call me if you need anything."

Mulder seemed to relax another notch with Skinner out of the room. She sat beside him on the bed. "Mulder, are you dizzy? In pain?"

"A little sore." He croaked, "But better."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

He shook his head. After a beat, she nodded. "Well, if you're sore, what about a hot bath to soak in?"

"Okay."

Just okay. She needed Mulder, the wise-cracking, innuendo throwing man she'd fallen in love with. He was anything but okay. She had to make sure he would be. She rose from the bed and he grabbed her hand. "I'll be right in there." She pointed to the door that led to the bathroom, and squeezed his fingers, releasing him.

When she stepped out of his sight, he spoke immediately. "Scully."

"Yes." She looked back.

"Keep talking."

She met her own eyes in the mirror and saw her fear. "Okay. You know you're in big trouble with me, don't you? I don't like being stood up. My candles burnt down to nubs."

"Sorry about that. I'll get you some new ones."

"I'll hold you to that. At least you have an excuse this time."

"Yeah, I should have had them write me a note."

"I'll demand that if they're stupid enough to try it again." She stepped back into the bedroom. "Ready?"

"Yeah." He managed to stand on his own, but she took his arm anyway, to steady him. He shed the two flimsy gowns and stood nude before her. "Where . . . where will you be?"

"Right here, washing your back."

She thought for an instant that tears had formed in his eyes, but he turned away, so she wasn't sure. He put one hand on the wall as he stepped into the very warm water, then eased himself in gradually.

"Gonna par-boil me?" He had a ghost of a smile now.

She shook her head, "I think you're tender enough. Just sit back and relax."

He did allow her fingers to massage his scalp as she washed and rinsed his hair, then let her hands rub the soreness from his body. She stayed right beside him and when the water cooled, helped him from the tub. She handed him a towel to wrap around his waist and he took it, watching her.

"Are you hungry? I could - "

"I'm not."

"Okay, but soon." She didn't want to argue with him. "I want the rest of the drugs out of your system. You should lie down. Did you sleep?"

"They would put me out, I didn't sleep. Scully, how long . . . "

She blinked, it was the first question he'd asked. "Thirty-six hours give or take." She noted the surprise on his face. "I'm getting better at tracking you."

"They told me . . . I thought it was longer."

"They were playing with your mind, Mulder."

He didn't acknowledge that, just letting his finger trace the darkness under her eye. "You didn't sleep much either."

"No, I didn't."

"Lay here with me?"

"Sure."

They stepped back into the bedroom and he let the towel fall to the floor. "I'm not sure I'm capable of a lot - "

Her laugh was broken by a sob. "I just want to hold you, Mulder."

He nodded and slipped under the sheets. She draped her clothes over the chair and hurried to join him. Even in his weakened state, he felt his cock twitch at the sight of her. He folded her against him, struggling against the unwanted tears.

"Mulder, you're safe now. Close your eyes, rest."

He obeyed her until he felt her body relax and slip into sleep beside him, then he opened his eyes and just watched her breathe until sleep overtook him as well.

She was still asleep when he woke a couple of hours later. His bladder was insistent, but he hated to leave the peace her arms gave him. Slowly and carefully he left the bed and used the facilities. He wasn't familiar with the upstairs of Mrs. Scully's home, so he looked out into the hall from the bathroom. She hadn't put him in the master bedroom, and he didn't blame her. He wanted to sleep with her and she would probably be uncomfortable sleeping with him there. There were two bedrooms on this side of the house, with the bath between them.

They were using this place as a safe house. He remembered Skinner saying that at one point, but he'd drifted in and out of the conversation. He'd only been able to really concentrate on her.

He wanted to be back with her now. He was steadier as he returned. He sat beside her on the bed. She had rolled to his side of the bed, but was still mostly asleep. "Mulder?"

"I went to the bathroom."

"You must be hungry. When did you last eat?"

"Lunch with you on Friday."

That brought her wide-awake. "Mulder. Come on, I haven't heard the guys, but I'm sure Mom has something here to eat."

"I don't have any clothes."

She paused, trying to think what he would use to cover himself. "I'll check to see if Bill or Charlie had any clothes here. I'll be right back."

Scully pulled on her own clothes quickly and stepped out into the hall. She remembered that Skinner had let himself out, so she made a quick trip downstairs to check the locks and discovered Mulder's bag in the foyer. A dash into the kitchen revealed that groceries had also been delivered. He'd need something light, between shock and not eating for two days, his normal pizza diet wouldn't cut it.

She grabbed his bag and headed upstairs. "The guys were here while we napped. Should I wonder how they got inside?"

"I wouldn't if I were you." He accepted the clothes she laid out for him and was grateful she didn't leave while he was dressing.

He followed her to the kitchen and watched as she prepared a light meal for them. He ate with increasing appetite and she even allowed him to finish her own early dinner.

When the plates were empty, she started to rise, but his hand on her arm stopped her. "Scully, how did you find me?"

To his surprise, her face colored beautifully. This made no sense to him; surely there was no reason to be embarrassed.

"It's a . . . complicated story."

"Okay. Let's clean up, then crawl back in bed. You can tell me there."

"I'm not sure I can . . ." His eyes stopped her.

"Scully, I'll listen to you recite the alphabet if you'll just talk to me."

Unexpected tears pricked at her eyes, but she nodded. They made short work of the clean-up while discussing Frohike's choice of clothes for him.

Once back in the bedroom, she was a little surprised to watch him strip again. "I need to feel you." Was his only explanation. She nodded and undressed again herself.

"Talk to me, Scully."

She took a deep breath and began her story. By the time she was through, his lips were parted and his eyes incredulous. "You're telling me Skinner . . . ."

She nodded. "Whatever he saw, while I was in Africa, made a hell of an impression."

"You believed him."

"It was to save you."

He shivered though she knew he wasn't cold.

"Can you talk to me now?" She asked, entwining her fingers with his.

"You know everything, more than I do."

"No. I don't know everything. You were . . . Mulder, you were scared. I could feel that. You, you were thinking about suicide. 'If I'm wrong'. You kept thinking that over and over."

He shuddered violently then and she stopped. She hadn't meant to push, but what she had felt from him had frightened her to her core. Later, they could discuss this later. She pulled him closer to her again, trying to warm his body with her own.

"I'm sorry, Mulder. It's okay. We can talk about this tomorrow. Please." Whatever she had brought up was too painful. "I'm sorry, Mulder. Just let me hold you."

His grip on her tightened nearly painfully. It took a long time for his shaking to stop.

What had they done to him?

Despite the nap, they fell asleep fairly early, entwined in each other's arms. His movements woke her at one point, but her murmurs and caresses soothed him without waking him.


When she opened her eyes the next morning, he was on his side, watching her. "Mulder?"

He shrugged and rolled to his back.

"Would you like some coffee? I think Mom only has decaf."

"That'd be fine."

She nodded and rose from the bed. He followed her.

"Mulder, just stay here. I'll make the coffee and bring it - "

"No. I'll come with you."

She stopped and looked up into his eyes then, "Mulder, I'm not the one that was taken this time, but you won't let me out of your sight."

He didn't respond, just watching her.

"Mulder, you know what they did to you. You remember, don't you?"

He shrugged again and looked away.

"I can't help you if you won't - "

"They told me you were dead." He broke in, his voice rough with pain. "They told me I'd killed you."

Her eyes widened, "I'm not dead, Mulder. You didn't hurt me." He didn't speak. "Mulder, you knew that. You spoke to me, you helped me find you."

"What if I'd been wrong?" He asked, his voice flat.

She froze. That's what she'd been hearing in her head when Skinner had her listen and, and feel for him. If he'd been wrong . . . she paled and he reached out for her.

"You wouldn't . . . Mulder, you wouldn't have . . . " She broke off and stared at him.

He looked confused. After a long moment, he nodded. Why would he want to live without her? She heard that thought and her eyes widened in horror as the color drained from her face.

"Scully?" He wanted to reach for her, but held himself back.

"I . . . I need a minute."

He forced himself to let her leave the room.


"He was, he was thinking about, about killing himself if I was dead." She looked over at Skinner, sitting at the corner of the kitchen table. Skinner didn't even look surprised. A look of outrage grew on her face. "What? You think - "

"Did you expect me to be shocked, Scully?"

"My parents were married over 40 years. They were close, they loved each other. But Mom didn't curl up when Dad died. She's doing well, getting out." Scully protested.

Skinner sighed lightly, "Women are stronger. I shouldn't have to tell you that. My father was a 'man's man'. He ran the house with what could be called an iron fist. But he didn't last two years after Mom died. Oh, he didn't eat a gun or anything, he just lost his . . . his center."

Scully shook her head, "No, Mulder, Mulder's young and strong - "

"Strong? Mulder? He's all arrogance and sarcasm. I don't know that much about his personal life growing up, but I know enough to know that's what kept him alive and sane, barely. Then you came. Scully, you're Mulder's strength. You're twice the man he is, " Skinner grinned, "In a more attractive package, of course."

Her lips curved up slightly.

"It was the same with my grandparents." Skinner continued. "He lasted just weeks. I was a kid and didn't put it together until just now. I know I'm talking in broad strokes here, but in my experience it's the couples that mate for a lifetime. People that . . . complete each other." He rose then, "Well, I've stumbled way into none of my business territory. I don't think you need to worry now. The two of you . . . I'm gonna get out of here. If you need anything give me a call."

She rose with him and then on up to her toes, and placed a kiss on his cheek. As she stepped back, they both realized Mulder had entered and was standing at the door. He was still as death and she'd never seen his 'panic' face quite so clearly.

"Mulder, I . . . " Skinner's face was a deep red, but Mulder wasn't looking at him.

"Sir? Why don't you go on home. We're fine." Scully stepped back away from him.

Skinner looked down at her. She nodded reassuringly. "I'll, uh, I'll let myself out. If you need . . ." He let it trail off and moved past Mulder, who stepped back giving him a wide berth.

Scully moved over to Mulder and put her hand on his arm. "Mulder."

"You kissed him."

"Mom's house, Mom's rules. On the cheek, fully clothed, two feet on the floor."

He blinked at her, but didn't smile.

"Come on, Mulder, Let's go upstairs, get naked and I'll explain."


He held her close as she returned to reality after she came the third time. "Jesus, Mulder. That's not what I had in mind when I asked you upstairs. "

"You seemed to enjoy it." He nuzzled her ear.

"I always enjoy loving you, but I didn't expect this. You know, don't you, that I loved you long before we . . . got physical."

"You . . . you said you'd explain."

"Not going to roll over and go to sleep?" She smiled.

"I never - " he protested, but her light laugh stopped him.

"Mulder, Skinner did me a favor, actually more than one. He was a rock when I was falling apart, he came up with the idea that we were communicating. The kiss was a thank you. You are the only man I get naked with."

"Promise?"

She nodded. "Cross my heart. Mulder, did you see that in my mind? Can you see it now?"

For the first time since she'd gotten him back, he seemed to relax. She saw the awe and finally peace in his eyes.

I love you, Scully

She smiled as his thought caressed her mind. "I know, Mulder, I know."


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