Hidden Things

by Xenith

     Title: Hidden Things
     E-mail: xenitha@yahoo.com
     Website: http://xenith.freeservers.com
     Disclaimer: The X-files belong to Chris
     Carter and 1013 Productions, not me. I'm only
     borrowing the characters for now. I'll put
     them back when I'm done.
     Rating: NC-17 (smut, graphic violence later,
     maybe more smut...)
     Category: SA, MSR
     Keywords: Muldertorture, Mulderangst,
     Scullyangst, character death (trust me!)
     Spoilers: all things
     Archive: Sure, but e-mail me first.
     Feedback: Love it! Love it! E-mail me!! I
     WRITE FASTER for e-mail!
     Discussion List: Yes!!! Yes!!!
     Summary: Mulder and Scully's new romance is
     interrupted when Mulder is asked to profile a
     serial killer, with results that will change
     their relationship forever. This story takes
     place right after all things.
     Author's Note: First, thank you to my
     wonderful betas, Obfusc8tor and
     Truthwebothknow. I would be terribly
     ungrammatical without you two! A special
     thanks to the wonderful folks at Mulder's
     Refuge and a great big HELLO to Mulderache,
     aka Gail. Does this meet your challenge?

Hidden Things

Chapter 1

The lawyer straightened up in the hard wooden chair and eyed the prisoner shuffling toward him. This guy was tall but very thin, his dark hair hung uncut over his eyes but the prisoner didn't trouble to push it out of the way. Oh, the lawyer noted, he couldn't because of the cuffs.

"You can take the cuffs off. I don't think he'll hurt me," the lawyer said.

"They ain't on to protect you," the guard said. "It's to protect him from himself." The guard unlocked the cuffs and the prisoner silently stretched his arms out, relieving the kinks.

The guard made a gesture toward the prisoner. "Hey, you! Let him see your wrists!"

The prisoner spared an ironic glance at the guard and held his forearms facing the lawyer. Long jagged scars ran down each arm, lots of them, some barely healed.

"We don't know where he gets `em from, but he always finds a razor or a shiv. He's been on suicide watch more times than I can count, but the doc says he's sane enough to be tried, so he's your problem now." The guard went to the door and looked back over his shoulder. "I'll be just outside if you need me."

"We'll be fine," the lawyer tried to inject confidence into his voice. Oh well, it was hard starting a law practice fresh out of school, so he took whatever clients the Defender's office couldn't handle. Besides, this was a paying client, such as he was. This client was so quiet he was almost comatose. Better introduce himself and break the ice. "Hi, I'm Josh Zatkovich, your new lawyer. You must be Fox Mulder. Should I call you Fox?"

The prisoner smiled wryly. "No, call me Mulder, just Mulder."

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Mulder," Josh opened his folder. "I know you've been here quite a while. I understand that you've been released from treatment?"

Mulder shrugged. "They decided it's worth trying me after all. The doctors say I'm sane now." He looked around the room, eyeing the two way mirrored wall. "For what it's worth."

"Your first lawyer" Josh said, flipping through the pages of the file. "Ahhh...Mr. Carlton...persuaded the court that you could not assist in your own defense... It says here that you've been psychotic but none of the drugs had any effect." Josh closed the file again. "How are you feeling now?"

Mulder's eyes flickered toward the wall, the ceiling, anywhere but at his listener. "Can't I just plead guilty now and get it over with? Carlton wouldn't let me do it before, said I wasn't competent. But I know what happened and it was my fault. All my fault."

"Then you admit that you did rape and murder Special Agent Dana Scully?"

Mulder hunched into his chair, his voice a low monotone. "Yes. Yes, I did. I must have."

"Mr. Mulder, I don't like to allow my clients to plead guilty until I've heard everything they have to say. I can't properly advise you until I know all that happened. Why don't you tell me about it."

Mulder shrugged. "What is there to tell? They found Scully's blood in a pool in her apartment.." He twitched and shifted his gaze to the wall, then rubbed his nose nervously. "Her...they found her blood and my semen on the bed sheets. They found her blood and hair in my car's trunk." His voice trailed off.

"They never found a body, is that right?" the lawyer said softly.

"That's right," said Mulder, shifting his weight in the chair. "The evidence says I did it. And she hasn't been seen since." He still couldn't meet the man's eyes.

"And you, Mr. Mulder? What do you say?"

"I...killed...her." Mulder's voice fell away into a gravelly whisper. "But...all I remember is broken up...little flashes...bits and pieces...there was a fight of some kind....I don't know."

The lawyer picked up the folder again. "The tox screen says you had a level of Ketamine in your blood and that you have a history of abusing the drug. Were you shooting up with it?"

"I used it once, to try to regain some memories. I don't know why I'd be using it again. I remember making love to her at her apartment. I...think it was consensual, I'd never hurt Scully in my right mind." His voice trailed off and he looked miserably away from his lawyer.

Josh scanned a sheet in the folder. "I understand from your medical history that Ketamine makes you hallucinate. And gives you partial amnesia? You were unconscious when the park rangers found you."

Mulder nodded. "They say I was lying next to my car in the Rock Creek Park ... with Scully's blood on me...and that I had a bloody knife with my fingerprints on it and her panties next to it. They found my bloody footprints at her apartment. They figure I killed her there and dumped her later at the park." He drew a shaky breath.

"Do you believe that you did it?" The lawyer was pulled up short by the agony in Mulder's eyes.

"She's gone and the only explanation is that I ki...did it...I remember a struggle but I can't see a face..." Mulder's voice faded as he stared into space.

Months Earlier

Mulder woke, conscious that his bed was empty. He stretched out an arm and found a hollow where Scully had lain. She'd really been there, hadn't she? It wasn't just a dream? He spotted an auburn hair on the pillow and smiled. It hadn't been a dream, she'd really spent the night in his bed and made love to him. He checked the clock. Five a.m. and her side of the bed wasn't even warm. She must have gone a while ago.

Sudden worry made him sit up. She didn't regret last night, did she? He'd just come back from England, looking for those nonexistent crop circles, only to find a completely changed Scully. Well, maybe not changed. More like she'd finally given in to the truth about their relationship that she'd been fighting against for so very long. Mulder shook his head and grinned at the memory.

He got out of bed and padded into the living room. She wasn't here either; she hadn't left him to sleep on the couch after all. The Indian blanket he'd tried to cover her with last night was where she'd left it, neatly folded. He looked around and stopped when he saw the note taped to the front door.

He snatched it and opened it quickly. It said: "Mulder, I'm sorry I couldn't stay the whole night, but I need to change into fresh clothes for work. We'll have our full night together, I promise. I'll see you in the office."

He smiled and remembered the unexpected night before.

After he'd left her sleeping on the couch he'd gone to bed himself and tried to sleep. To his surprise he heard a footstep in the doorway.

"Scully? Is that you?" he'd asked sleepily.

"Yeah, it's me Mulder. Okay if I come in?"

"Sure, come on in," he patted the bed next to him. She sat on the side of the bed and then seemed to make a decision. She lay down next to him, resting her head on an elbow.

"Mulder, have you ever fought so hard against something that your battle consumed you and you forgot your original goal?"

Mulder was silent for a moment. "I've had moments like that," he finally said dryly. "Did you have anything specific in mind?"

She smiled a little. "You. Me. We've worked together for how many years now and I've yet to tell you how I feel about you." She eyed him calmly. "You do know how I feel, don't you?"

"Ummm, you like having me as your partner?" Mulder supplied weakly. This was going fast. Way too fast. He wondered briefly whether he was dreaming all this.

"I've always been drawn to powerful men, men like my father," she sighed and caught Mulder's eye. "But they were always men who were unavailable somehow. Daniel was married. Jack Willis was my teacher." She laughed. "Mulder, did you ever wonder why I got that tattoo?"

"You would never talk about it and got mad at me when I mentioned it," Mulder said, gently moving a strand of her hair from her face.

"I...the whole thing with Ed Jerse...I felt like I was repeating the same pattern all over again, with you. When I was dating Daniel, and later, Jack, I was always the student, the child being mentored. I subsumed myself in them. I only broke away from Daniel when I found out he was married. I couldn't break up a family..." She sighed and was silent for a moment. "I still caused damage unwittingly. And all this was because I needed somebody else to validate me, to tell me that I was bright, competent, capable..."

"And then you got assigned to the X files," Mulder prompted.

"And then I met you. Mulder, you were so brilliant, it was frightening. I wanted your approval so badly that I'd have turned handsprings for you if you'd asked," Scully said softly.

"Really? An opportunity missed..." Mulder replied. "But I don't understand. You questioned my every theory, debunked my science, demanded hard proof for any proposition I supported."

"Would you have respected me if I hadn't? You've said it yourself, I kept you honest. And you did respect my opinion, no strings attached." She nudged herself a bit closer. "Mulder, you're the only powerful man I've ever been able to resist."

Mulder leaned back, eyes on the ceiling. "Great. I'm the only one you can resist. Nice to know I'm that desirable a friend."

"But that's the point, Mulder. You didn't want an adoring acolyte. You've always wanted me to be myself. When Ed Jerse happened, I was finally rebelling against the male authority figure in my life. You were in charge of my days, I spent all my spare time with you. Mulder, I felt like I was losing myself in you. I had to break the pattern if I could."

"Was I that bad?"

"You were every bit as demanding as my father ever was. Finally when you wanted me to investigate that ridiculous..." She stopped and looked embarrassed. "Anyway, all I wanted to do was rebel. And then Ed presented himself..." She sighed. "Mulder, every minute I was with Ed, I wanted it to be you. And there hasn't been anybody I could be interested in since I met you."

"Really? You really...? Then why didn't you ever say anything, Scully?" Mulder looked tenderly into her eyes to find her gazing steadily back.

She took a breath. "Mulder, I've kept you at a distance since then because I didn't trust myself not to make the same mistakes of the past. But in the last two days I've had to confront the person I was, and I discovered that I've changed. I've grown into my own person. I'm not the pliant student I was when I fell in love with Daniel. Now I want a partner, not a teacher." She searched his eyes and whispered. "I'm not too late, am I?"

"No...of course not!" Mulder gathered her into an embrace and began planting kisses on her neck, cheek, chin, anywhere he could reach. Finally he worked his way down to her lips and held there for the sweetest kiss of his life.

They both broke away, gasping for air and Mulder found himself laughing aloud. "I never thought this day would come, Scully. I've...well, tried to keep the possibilities open, let you have your space and not push. But I'm glad you've finally come to realize the truth we've both been dancing around all this time." He lay his left arm out and let her snuggle up against him.

"You mean the fact that I love you?" Scully said flatly. "I do. I have for years. You've dominated every romantic thought I've had...um...for a long time..." She trailed off, her face flushing.

"Why Dana Scully, you're blushing!" Mulder said with a smile and raised eyebrow. "What you mean to say is that I'm featured in your sexual fantasies?"

Unable to meet his gaze, she just nodded. "And...um...I wouldn't mind trying a few of those fantasies if you're willing."

"Scully, are you coming on to me?" Mulder said gleefully. "You are!...My God...Scully" He drew her close and kissed her forehead. "I want to make love to you, anywhere, any time you ask." He searched her face. "You don't have any doubts about my feelings for you, do you?"

Her face became unreadable for a moment. "There were times when I wondered whether you and Diana would rekindle the flame. I was ready to step away if I had to, until I found out what she was." She gave him a determined look. "I'm still your partner and I've got your back."

"You've got the rest of me, too. Diana and I were over a long time ago." He picked up her right hand and kissed her palm. "You're my today and my tomorrow."

Keeping her eyes focused on his, Scully sat up and began pulling off her shirt. He helped her release the catch on her bra and remove her skirt and underwear. When she was naked, she got up unselfconsciously and carefully folded the clothing, setting it on the dresser. She turned to Mulder with a solemn look. Mulder was drinking her in with his eyes. He'd seen her naked before but never like this. She smiled. "Like what you see?"

Mulder just nodded and pulled the covers open. He'd gone to bed with pajama bottoms on but quickly shrugged them off while Scully was climbing into bed.

"It's been a while since I did this..." Mulder began nervously, trying to decide where to put his hands.

She smiled. "Me too. We can both be almost-virgins together, I guess." She grabbed Mulder's right hand and gently put it on her breast. "You could start there..."

"Oh. Okay," he smiled and applied first his fingers, then his lips to her nipples. She lay back, her eyes half closed, breathing hard.

"You like that?" he whispered. Gasping, she just nodded. Encouraged, he moved his fingers lower while his tongue still teased her nipple. Her skin was soft and warm as he caressed her abdomen and moved further down. When he touched her clitoris she jerked and he pulled away.

"You okay?" he asked anxiously.

"Fine. Do what you were doing!" She grabbed his hand again and moved it back. He smiled and lowered his mouth to her clitoris and his fingers into her vagina. He continued until she was writhing and moaning, her cries soft and, he thought, restrained. Must improve that. Scully is way too inhibited, he thought. But Dana Scully moaning... He'd never thought he'd hear that sound. He bent to his task again and remained focused on her until she gradually lost all inhibition her cries growing louder until she was keening. She came, clutching at his head, running her hands through his hair in jerky desperate movements.

While she was still spasming he moved himself over her then slid into her warm wetness. He stopped, savoring the moment. Home. He was home at last. Scully had stilled too, a quiet smile on her face.

"Go for it, G-man," she said hoarsely. He grinned at her and did just that.

There was a spring in Mulder's step as he opened the office door. As he expected, Scully was already there with coffee in hand. She looked up at him and smiled secretly. He grinned back like an exuberant puppy.

"Sleep well?" Scully asked, putting the coffee down.

"Oh, very well," Mulder said blandly. "But there was some woman making an awful lot of noise. I couldn't sleep through that."

Scully giggled. "You certainly didn't."

Scully giggled. He'd never heard her giggle before. And was that a new dimple on her cheek? Come to think of it, he'd never seen her smiling so broadly. He was just leaning over to kiss her when the phone rang.

"Damn!" Mulder hissed as he grabbed the phone. "Mulder...oh, yes Sir. Uh huh. We'll be right up." He put it down again. "Skinner wants to see us in his office right away. Another department has requested our services." Regretfully, Mulder opened the office door, waiting for Scully to precede him. She gave him a sympathetic smile as she passed.

"Don't worry, Mulder. We'd better focus on the job while we're at work. But remember, there's always later..."

Mulder smiled back and followed her to the elevator and the new case.

Scully tapped at Skinner's half open office door. "Sir? You asked for us?"

"Oh, Agents Mulder and Scully, please come in," Skinner motioned from his desk. "Have a seat."

One of the office chairs was already occupied by a tall, fair haired man in a dark suit.

"Agents Mulder and Scully, this is Agent Pargeter from the Behavioral Science Unit," Skinner gestured toward the seated agent.

Pargeter smiled and stood up. "Agent Mulder, I've read about your work in the BSU and never thought I'd ever have the chance to meet you."

Mulder was nonplussed. "I see." He turned to Skinner. "And this is a BSU case?" He could see Scully frowning from the corner of his eye.

Skinner looked vaguely uncomfortable. "Please be seated and I'll go over it with you." Avoiding Scully's accusatory glance, Skinner pulled a file off his desk and handed it to Mulder.

Mulder flipped it open and held it so that Scully could read it too. Finally, Mulder set the open folder on his knee. "I don't see why you need us. This looks like a garden variety serial killer." He shot an inquisitive look toward Pargeter.

"It's garden variety except we can't catch him," Pargeter said simply. "He kills, then leaves no evidence behind. It's like he disappears into the woodwork."

"No epithelials? DNA? Nothing?" Scully asked.

Pargeter shook his head. "He seems to choose a victim, then stalks her until an evening when he knows she'll be alone. He breaks into the house, rapes her in her bedroom, then slits her throat leaving a pool of blood behind. May I?" Pargeter pulled a photograph out of the file. "He removes the body and later dumps it in a remote location. His current preference seems to be Rock Creek Park, now a favorite dump site because Chandra Levy was found there."

"He wants to hide them away from the light, keep them from being found," said Mulder tonelessly.

"What?" asked Skinner.

"He doesn't leave the body behind. It's important to him in some way and when he does dispose of it he leaves it in a place where it won't be found right away." Mulder turned to Pargeter. "How many intact bodies have you found?"

"So far only three of the seven were reasonably fresh. The other four were skeletal. We linked them to the UNSUB by the pools of blood left at the scene." Pargeter sighed. "We aren't even sure how he's getting into the homes. There's no sign of forced entry. We think that he may be someone the victim trusts, so she'll open the door to him."

"And why do you need Mulder's help?" Scully asked coldly. "You should know by now that he's out of the BSU. He doesn't profile anymore."

"Agent Mulder, I've come to ask for your help for the simple reason that we've come to a dead end and you were the best." Pargeter shook his head. "I've been working this case for over a year. I've seen seven families grieve over their loved one and haven't been able to get close to this guy. Like I said, it's like he's invisible. You're known to be unorthodox and you like to handle unusual cases."

"And there's another reason for the BSU to request your services," Skinner said. "The latest victim was the niece of a Senator. Her family wants the killer found."

"I guess we're on the case, then," Mulder said. "Can I keep this?" He gestured toward the folder. Pargeter nodded vigorously.

"We've preserved the last two crime scenes if you'd like to take a look at them. I can't tell you how glad I am that you've decided to help us out, Agent Mulder."

"Why don't you come downstairs to the office and give us some more background," said Mulder. "Sir? If you'll excuse us?"

Skinner nodded and watched as Mulder opened the office door and motioned Pargeter out. Scully waited until Pargeter had left the room before confronting Skinner.

"Why? You know what'll happen to him!" she hissed.

"You heard me, I didn't have any choice." Skinner took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "This has become a high profile case and they specifically requested Mulder."

"This will destroy him. He almost lost himself the last time..." Scully glanced toward the door.

"They don't care, Agent Scully. As long as that Senator has his justice. I insisted that the BSU appoint a liaison agent and I understand that Pargeter is well seasoned. He'll help you keep Mulder balanced."

"He knows Mulder's history?" she asked.

"He does. I briefed him myself. You aren't alone in this. I'm sorry, Agent. This is the best I can do."

Scully slowly approached the door, then turned toward Skinner. "I just hope it's good enough."

Chapter 2

Dana Scully entered the basement office to find Mulder and Pargeter huddled over an open file on the desk. On the floor next to it sat a box filled with folders and evidence. "Did you bring everything with you?" she asked wistfully, eyeing the already overcrowded small office.

Pargeter smiled ruefully. "Only what was portable. You can't imagine how relieved I am that Mulder decided to take the case." Pargeter pulled the chair closer and motioned for Scully to sit down. "There's no reason for a lady to stand while we all look over the evidence," he said gallantly.

Scully felt her face flush and quickly sat down. "What more can you tell us Agent Pargeter?"

"Tom. Please call me Tom," said Pargeter. "I brought the basic information with me: case files, scene photos, notes and profiles. The bulk of the stuff is back in my office but I'll have it brought over." He removed a file from the box."This is the latest crime scene. Ashley Williams disappeared two weeks ago. Her body was just found yesterday in Rock Creek Park."

He placed a photograph on the desk. It showed a bedroom with a carpeted floor covered with a large circular red stain. "The bed was disarranged, as though it had been slept in but there are no obvious signs of violence. The pool has been identified as the victim's blood. A tox screen found Ketamine in the bloodstain. This is also consistent with the blood found at other crime scenes and for those victims we could test, which would be two bodies. Four were already skeletal when found and Ashley Williams' tox screen hasn't come back yet. We theorize that he may use the drug to subdue the victims before assaulting them. We found no other pertinent evidence on scene."

At the mention of Ketamine Mulder and Scully exchanged glances.

"Is that significant?" Pargeter asked, perplexed.

"No, not really," Scully hastened to tell him. "We're familiar with the drug and it's effects, that's all. I can see that it would be very useful to him."

Mulder nodded. "Since Ketamine largely renders its victims unconscious it may indicate that the UNSUB is not a sexual sadist. A sadist would want a fully conscious victim." Mulder picked up the photograph and studied it closely. "And you say that Ashley's body was found? What condition was it in?"

"Surprisingly good. A jogger's dog found it in the underbrush, partially buried. There was some evidence of predation; a wild animal had unearthed her somewhat. She was sexually assaulted before she was killed; her throat was slit from behind but it's curious..."

"Yes?" asked Mulder.

"Well, her body seemed to have been almost totally drained of blood, probably just before death. But there wasn't enough blood found at her apartment to account for it. It's almost as though someone drained her body at the time of her death." Pargeter laughed a little. "I don't want to imply that we suspect a vampire, though..."

"Why not," Mulder asked seriously. "It's a possibility."

"Or at the very least," Scully added. "An individual who believes himself to be a vampire might act out the fantasy by collecting the blood of his victims." She frowned. "It also implies that the UNSUB has some kind of a medical background."

"May I look at the crime scene photos for all of the murders?" Mulder asked. Pargeter nodded and removed them from the various files, laying them in a row on the desk. Mulder leaned forward and studied them silently.

Pargeter stood by alertly until it became apparent that Mulder wasn't going to say anything. Minutes passed, and Mulder remained absorbed in the photographs. Scully stood to one side chewing her lip, a look of dismay growing on her face. Finally, after ten minutes or so, Pargeter cleared his throat.

"Ahhh, Agent Mulder, do you see anything significant in the photos?" he asked hesitantly.

Mulder ran his fingers lightly over the surface of each picture, chewing his lower lip and scanning the photos again."Blood. I see blood, carefully poured onto the carpet. You see how symmetrical the stain is? No footprints or droplets. It's very important to him to be neat. The blood is important...but how?...." His eyes looked glassy and he focused on the pictures again.

"Agent Mulder?" Pargeter began, then Scully took him by the elbow.

"I'm sorry Agent Pargeter, but Mulder gets like that when he's profiling. When he's reached a conclusion, he'll discuss it with us." She eyed Mulder with thinly disguised concern, then turned to Pargeter. "In the meantime, it's lunch time. Why don't we pick up some sandwiches at the deli? Mulder may have some opinions for us when we get back."

Pargeter glanced at the still rapt Mulder and nodded. "Okay, but please, would you call me Tom?"

"Then I'm Dana," Scully replied and quickly pushed him out of the office. "Mulder, we're getting some sandwiches. We'll be right back, okay?" she asked loudly.

Mulder waved an absent hand as she closed the door. She shut it with a sigh and went to meet Pargeter at the elevator.

"Is he always like that? Kind of...." Pargeter searched for a word.

Spacey...obsessed...a variety of terms ran through Scully's mind before she found a more palatable word for it. "Focused? Yes, he takes profiling very seriously. I don't think he'll be paying much attention to either of us for the next few days. He immerses himself in the evidence," Scully punched the first floor button, wishing it were the face of the anonymous FBI supervisor higher up who had assigned them to this damned case.

At the deli they ordered three sandwiches. "Say, Dana, why don't we just eat ours here and take the other one back to Mulder. He'd probably like to be alone with the evidence for a while," Pargeter smiled pleasantly and gestured toward a table.

Scully accepted uncertainly. She was starting to regret that they'd left Mulder behind but, realistically, she had to let him do his work. She couldn't mother-hen him. "All right," she said, bringing her sandwich over to the side table and sitting down. Pargeter sat next to her and cheerfully began unwrapping his sandwich.

"So...Tom...what brought you to the FBI?" she asked, taking a bite of hers.

"The usual, I guess. My career was less than satisfying to me, and I had some law enforcement training in my background. I was working as an EMT at the time," Pargeter smiled. "It was rewarding enough but I wanted something more challenging, so I applied to the Bureau and was accepted. I worked out of the Tulsa Field Office for four years, then moved to the Behavioral Sciences Unit." He took a bite from his sandwich. "I thought it might be interesting."

"That's one word for it," said Scully absently. She wondered vaguely whether she should call Mulder and check on him, then realized that Pargeter had just said something. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that.." she said.

"Oh, I was just wondering why you're in the FBI, Dana?" Pargeter enquired.

Men, thought Scully, I'm here because of men. I joined because of one man, Daniel, and stayed because of Mulder. Damn them. I hope Mulder is all right. "I decided that I didn't want to practice medicine, and this offered a way for me to use my scientific training to make a difference," she said, then checked her watch, absently wrapping her sandwich back in its paper. "I think I'd like to go back to the office and see how Mulder is doing."

Pargeter nodded and tossed his half-eaten sandwich into the trash bin, then followed her out the door.

Back at the office, Mulder sat where they'd left him, seemingly frozen in place. He continued to study and lightly stroke the pictures, sometimes muttering quietly to himself.

"Mulder? We brought lunch," said Scully and put the wrapped sandwich on top of the photos.

Mulder jerked and started to push the sandwich away, then caught a glimpse of Scully's face out of the corner of his eye. "Uh... Hi. Scully and...and...Agent Pargeter. Uh...thanks for lunch," he said absently, his eyes straying back to the pictures while he unwrapped the sandwich.

"See anything?" asked Pargeter with interest.

"Maybe," Mulder said around the sandwich. "I'll know more when I see the crime scenes. I think I'd like to take some more time today to go over the files. We can look at the scenes and any bodies you have tomorrow."

"That sounds fine with me," Pargeter said. "I'll leave you to it, then. Shall I stop by tomorrow, about 10:00 a.m.?"

Mulder nodded, his attention already drawn back to the photographs. Scully flashed Pargeter an apologetic smile as he let himself out of the office.

7:00 p.m.

Fox Mulder's Apartment

"Scully, I wish you wouldn't treat me like a child," Mulder held the door open for Scully. She flicked the interior light on, making her usual quick glance around for intruders before entering. With Mulder's apartment, you never knew.

"I'm not treating you like a child, Mulder," she replied calmly, setting her overnight bag down on the floor. "I just think it's a good idea for me to stay with you while we're working on the case. For one thing, it'll be a lot more convenient. And for another," she smiled and turned toward him. "I want to spend some romantic time with my man, while I have the chance." She walked up to him and, standing on tiptoe, kissed him on the chin. "Or do you really want me to go home?"

Mulder was jolted from any thought of the case by that kiss. Scully kissed him. He couldn't remember the last time she'd just kissed him. Out of nowhere. "Um..." He looked down and saw her face upturned to his, clearly wanting him to kiss her back. Well, who was he to argue? He bent down and gave her a slow, warm kiss, wrapping his arms around her, deepening it until they were both breathless. When he pulled away her eyes were still closed.

"Was that acceptable?" he asked softly.

She silently nodded and opened her eyes, then smiled."Very acceptable. So, having me as a houseguest isn't all that terrible, is it?"

Remembering last night, Mulder grinned. "I think I could put up with it. But Scully, you know how hard we'll be working on this case. We may not have much time or energy for a good horizontal lambada every night."

"Who says I want one? I get tired too, Mulder," she replied. "That doesn't mean I don't like snuggling up to you and just sleeping." She moved into his arms again and put her head against his chest. "And, Mulder, I worry about you. When you profile, you tear down your own personality and replace it with the UNSUB's. You almost lost yourself the last time." She looked up and met his eyes. "I only just found you. I don't want to lose you now."

"I've been in danger before; I've almost died before," Mulder reasoned. She shook her head vigorously.

"That was different, Mulder. Then, you were my partner and my friend. I cared about you, loved you, but now I've come to realize that you've become a part of me. If anything happens to you, something inside me dies too. This time, it's different." She caught her voice trembling and stopped.

Mulder drew a breath. "I can't drop this case, Scully. From what Pargeter told us, I'm their best hope for catching this guy. If someone else dies because I quit, I'll feel responsible. I just can't. And besides," he added, "this time it is different. I'm not alone. You're with me, really with me. I think I'll be okay."

She shot him a skeptical look.

"Really. I'll be fine," he said, then remembered who'd used that phrase last. Hastily, he moved away from her and toward the file box he'd left in the hall. "I'd better get to work on the rest of these files. I'm getting a sense of our UNSUB and I don't want to lose momentum."

She sighed and nodded, helping him unpack the materials.

2:00 a.m.

Scully yawned and pried her eyes open. My God, what time was it? She checked her watch and saw that it was well past midnight. She stretched and sat up on the couch. Mulder sat at his desk, as he'd been all evening. He had a different stack of photographs in front of him now: the victims.

"Mulder, do you know what time it is?" she demanded. His only reply was a mumble. She got up and laid her hand on his shoulder, then shook it slightly. "Mulder? It's late. Go to bed. Come on."

He glanced at her briefly and shook his head, then turned back to the photos. She stood there frowning and quietly resolved to use some dirty pool. She went into the bedroom and took off her suit, carefully hanging it up in Mulder's closet. Her other work clothes had been unpacked and hung there already. She took off her blouse, bra, panties and nylons, but replaced her pumps on her feet. That ought to do it.

She marched back to the living room and stood behind Mulder's chair. "Mulder?" she said.

"Yeah..." he mumbled, still looking at the pictures.

"Mulder, turn around and look at me," she started to fold her arms across her chest but realized that would be self defeating, so she stood, arms akimbo and waited for him.

"Scully, I know it's late, so if you want to go to bed, I..." Mulder caught sight of her and gulped.

"Are you sure you don't want to join me in that bed?" she asked with a smile, then reached over and shut the desk lamp off. "Come on, Mulder. I'll tuck you in."

She led a dumbfounded Mulder into the bedroom and had him half undressed before he could say anything.

"Scully...um...this is new for you," he said as she unbuttoned his dress shirt. "Not that I'm complaining, you understand."

"Shut up and kiss me, Mulder," she said and leaned toward him. He bent down and gave Dana Scully the longest kiss of her life. When she pulled away, his eyes were still closed. "Come to bed with me, Mulder?" she asked. He slowly opened them and nodded. She led him to the bed and pulled the covers aside, then shucked her shoes and climbed in. Mulder quickly stripped off the rest of his clothing and joined her.

"You did that on purpose," he said, snuggling close against her body.

"What?" she replied, then gasped as he began sucking on a nipple.

He pulled away briefly. "Dragging me away from those files and into bed. You're determined that I get a good night's sleep, one way or another." Then he returned to her nipple, suckling it with his tongue and teeth.

"I...completely deny...that I had...ohmygod...any ulterior mo....tive...god, ohmygodMulder..." She stopped when he covered her mouth with his own and began running his hands over her body, nails lightly teasing her skin just enough to make her tingle.

While she was still gasping for air, he laughed and said, "Scully, I don't mind. Do you know how long I've had this fantasy? Now, why don't I show you what comes next?"

2:00 a.m.


Thomas Pargeter unlocked his apartment door and tiredly switched on the light. He riffled through his mail, then dumped the majority into the nearby wastebasket. The marketers were getting more persistent every year.

He yawned and pulled off his suit jacket, slinging it across a chair, then loosened his tie. He wandered across the sparsely decorated living room and into his den, the most important room in the place. He turned on the desk lamp and booted up the computer, then pulled the digital camera from his pants pocket, plugging it into the computer. As the photographs flashed across the screen he found the one he wanted and grinned. He hadn't expected to get a shot this good to add to his collection. He printed it out almost gleefully, then grabbed a thumbtack and tried to find a spot on the wall to put it. No, he needed more light.

He went to the light switch and turned the overhead light went on, flooding the room with brilliance. Although the wall was covered with pictures of various sizes, he saw a good spot right in the middle, dead center. Yes, he'd put it there. He tacked it down and smiled again at his luck.

All the other photographs of Dana Scully showed her fully clothed; he'd always known she was hot underneath that suit. Now he had proof of it. Great body, and those shoes! He'd suspected she had a naughty streak in her. Too bad she was only getting naked for Mulder, but that would change...

Chapter 3

Mulder woke early and wondered why he felt so...comfortable. Then he heard a soft snore and grinned into the early morning light. Scully was lying on his left arm, her head resting on his chest. He looked down at her fondly, then remembered the task at hand. He'd agreed to do that damned profile but hadn't counted on profiling's usual effect. This time it was different; he wasn't alone now. He had Scully to consider. What had to happen was going to hurt Scully and he couldn't see any way to avoid alienating her.

He frowned. When he'd worked for Patterson, it had been understood that when Mulder was profiling, he isolated himself. The other agents had just shrugged and let him get on with it. He'd never been in a relationship with anyone while he profiled. He could only guess what it would be like for Scully to live with a man who had two personalities, one of them murderous.

He'd send her home if he thought she'd go. She wouldn't, of course. Her staying here was proof that she wanted to protect him, try to keep him sane. When he had profiled Mostow, she had been really pissed at him for ignoring her calls; this was her obvious attempt to keep a closer eye on him. He sighed. The last time had been bad enough, but he hadn't lost himself in the killer. Not quite, anyway.

With Patterson in the Behavioral Support Unit, he'd felt vaguely like he was somehow channeling the thoughts of the killer, but then laughed at the supposition. Now, he wasn't so sure. He ran his right hand over the spot on his scalp where the scar lay hidden under his hair. He hadn't heard anyone's thoughts since C.G.B. Spender had had his way with him. That didn't mean anything, though. For years he'd been quietly reading distant thoughts, probably on a subconscious level deep enough that it didn't trigger the life threatening effects that had put him in the hospital before. He had no proof that he'd lost that ability and rather suspected he hadn't.

All those profiles weren't just logic or intuition. He'd been truly channeling those slimy minds, experiencing their thoughts and plans. He drew in a shaky breath. Now that he knew how he did it, the prospect was like volunteering to swim in a sewer. Reassurances to Scully aside, he just wasn't sure how safe he'd be for someone in close quarters with him. No, not just someone...to a woman in close quarters with him.

He closed his eyes and considered. Scully was a trained FBI agent and a crack shot. She'd been able to shoot him before and she could shoot him now if she needed to. And the simple truth was that he needed her, wanted her there. She

kept him grounded and he felt lost without her.

Listening to her quiet breathing, he felt helpless in the face of it all. He'd never been able to protect her from the experiments and the cancer. Still, Scully was stronger than he was. If she had to shoot to kill, she'd survive it and probably be better off without him. At least she could get on with her life without being trapped by endless conspiracies.

He carefully slide away from her, then tucked the blanket more tightly around her. She muttered a bit but didn't wake. That was his Scully; a sound sleeper to the end. He padded over to the dresser and pulled out a t-shirt and boxers, dressing himself silently. A quick stop at the bathroom and he was ready for the day. He quietly closed the bedroom door behind himself and sat down to work.

Beginning a new profile was always rough. He had to absorb every fact of the case, no matter how miniscule, as quickly as possible. After the process started, he became obsessed with the case, excluding everything else from his consciousness. Once he reached critical mass...well, something happened. He began to think like the killer and his own personality receded into a shadowy background. God, he hated this...this...absence of self. He hated even more that once he was in his profiling trance, the loss of self didn't bother him anymore.

The other risk, the real one, he didn't like to think about. When he channeled the killer, thought his thoughts, he got the urge to kill, to hurt, even to torture. He'd laughed it off before and controlled the impulses. Now that he knew where the thoughts came from, he was frightened for the first time. He'd never spoken of them to anyone, especially Patterson.

Besides, he could control it. He was a past master at it. The goal was to think like the killer only to a point, then predict what the bastard was going to do and catch his sorry ass!

Mulder glanced back at the closed bedroom door, then turned toward the pile of photographs and composed himself. Time to dive into the sewer.

He began taping crime scene and victim photographs to the walls, studying them closely. He could already see some of the UNSUB's characteristics. He planned his attacks very carefully. The reports said that surfaces in the victims' bedrooms had been wiped down. The lack of fingerprints also implied that the killer wore gloves. There were no fibers, no hair, nothing. That meant the killer was careful.

He was also compulsively neat. Mulder ran his fingers over the picture of Ashley Williams' bedroom. The circular puddle of blood on the floor bothered him. There was no splash back, even though Williams had had her throat slit in her bed. Yet this perfectly circular puddle lay on the floor. "He poured it, like a libation to his gods," Mulder whispered. He looked at the other scene photos. All had the same neat circle of blood.

Yet there was more than that. He had raped, then taken most of his victim's blood adn when he had enough, slit her throat. He'd removed her body from the bed, and had then made the bed! "He's covering the mess. He doesn't like a mess, so he buries it, covers it, hides it... But the blood, the blood is important..." Mulder focused on the pictures, squinting a bit. He hadn't put his contacts in this morning and didn't have time for glasses. "The blood..." He couldn't shake the thought that this was important.

"Mulder, do you know what time it is?"

Mulder jumped, then looked over his shoulder to see a naked Scully standing in the bedroom door. He smiled at the unexpected sight. "Just getting a start on the day. I couldn't sleep."

Scully yawned. "After last night? God, Mulder, you had enough stamina for three men and you couldn't sleep after that?" She grabbed up the Indian blanket and, wrapping it around herself, approached him. She eyed the taped up photos with a carefully neutral expression. "Any progress?"

"Some. I think that the UNSUB stalks his victims and plans his attacks down to the finest detail. He's very organized, almost dispassionate in his planning. He's also compulsively neat. How many killers do you know who make the bed after they kill the victim?"

"He makes the bed? Pargeter didn't mention that." Scully picked up the topmost file and began riffling through it.

"It was buried in a couple of police reports; the techs were more interested in getting samples than in the ritual arrangement of the room." Mulder pointed to a sentence in the Williams police report.

"He has a ritual then?" Scully asked.

"Oh yes," Mulder handed Scully the crime scene photo. "He's poured out her blood onto the floor, like an offering to the gods...onto the floor...her life draining out onto the floor...." Mulder's eyes went slightly unfocused while he thought.

Scully waited a moment for him to go on, then put the photo down and left him to work while she went into the bedroom to dress.

A half hour later she'd made eggs and toast. Getting Mulder to the table to eat it was a different challenge. Finally, a threat to have Skinner pull him off the case got him grudgingly to the table. He kept looking back at the files until she wondered whether they were talking to him somehow... She shook off the thought and put a plate in front of him, then sat down to her own breakfast.

"So what's the plan for today?" Scully asked, delicately buttering her toast.

"I thought we could go see the body dump sites and the Williams crime scene. I'd

also like to see Ashley Williams' body." He looked up to see Scully looking at him searchingly. "What?" he demanded.

"What kind of detail do you hope to get, that a score of crime scene and forensic analysts haven't already turned up? Some of those dump sites are a year old." Scully sat, waiting for Mulder's response. When there was none, she added defensively, "I don't really know what you do or how you do it."

Mulder shrugged uncomfortably. "If I could, I'd train up a bunch of replacements and then they'd leave me alone. All I can say is that I experience the killer's reality as much as possible; get into his head. This is part of it." It was hard to lie to Scully but this was necessary. If she thought he was going telepathic in any way, shape or form she'd haul him off to the hospital and off the case.

Scully nodded sadly. "I know. That's what worries me. Mulder, if you feel like you're losing yourself, you'll pull back, won't you?"

Mulder nodded slowly. "By the same token, if you ever feel endangered by me, shoot. Don't hesitate."

"You can't mean that, Mulder," she said, aghast. "If it's that likely, then you need to be off this case right now!"

Mulder shook his head. "Scully, I've always been able to control it, but I've never been in a relationship while doing this before. I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you...I'm serious. If it looks like I'm dangerous, take steps to protect yourself."

She nodded her head slowly. "All right, Mulder, if that's the way you want it. But if I begin to suspect that you're in trouble, I call Skinner and pull the plug. Immediately."

"Fair enough," Mulder said reasonably, then got up. "I need to get back to the files. There's something I want to go over before work." He wandered back into the living room.

It wasn't until after he'd left that Scully found he'd been pushing his eggs around the plate. He hadn't eaten a thing.

J. Edgar Hoover Bldg.

Pargeter was in the office when Mulder unlocked the door. "Hey, what....oh, it's you Agent Pargeter," Mulder said, laughing. "For a moment there I thought we had an intruder."

"Who would want to break into your office?" asked Pargeter, putting down the file he was scanning. "I got in early and Skinner let me in. And please, call me Tom." He stood, to let Mulder take his place behind the desk. "I have more scene photos for you. These have measurements in them as well."

"Okay, Tom," said Mulder, sitting down and taking the papers Pargeter handed him. "These holes were deep..."

"Yeah," said Pargeter, sipping his coffee. "He buried his vic's an average of six feet down. We only found Williams because the hill gave way in that big rainstorm and the predators helped with the rest."

"That indicates advanced planning," said Mulder absently, examining the pictures. "I'd like to see the Williams site and as many of the other dump and murder scenes as we can get to today. Then I'd like to see Williams' body."

"That sounds fine to me," said Pargeter. "My car is parked in the garage, should we go now?

The first two dump sites were buried deep inside the park and the agents had to climb down hillsides covered with brush to get to them. By the time they'd reached the third, Scully was getting irritated. First, she was angry at herself for dressing inappropriately. She should have worn old jeans and hiking boots, since the bushes and brambles kept snagging her wool suit. And her shoes! Heels weren't made for muddy hillsides. And then there was Mulder. He simply climbed down the hill until he got to the grave and looked at it. He said nothing, touching an occasional branch or staring into the trees. She had no idea what he was getting from this. The sites they'd seen so far were on opposite ends of the park and had no features in common except their remoteness and difficulty of access.

While they hiked to the third scene, she questioned Pargeter. "If it's known that this killer dumps the bodies in this park, why hasn't it been staked out?"

Pargeter eyed her muddied pants suit sympathetically, then put out a hand to help her up the steep trail. Mulder was far ahead, rushing to the next scene oblivious of his companions. "The place is just too big and the force too small. Even if you add the FBI agents, we can cover only so much ground. We can't predict when he'll kill and we don't have the manpower to stake out the entire park 24 by 7. All we can do is ask the park rangers to keep their eyes open and report suspicious activity."

"That's logical...damn!" The heel of Scully's shoe had caught in a root and she tripped. Pargeter caught her before she could land on the muddy trail, then easily put her back on her feet again. They exchanged a long glance in the process and to her surprise, she found herself blushing. "Thank you...Tom. I was foolish to wear these shoes today, but I haven't been planning well lately." She looked wistfully down the trail for Mulder.

"Anything you want to share?" Pargeter asked. She glanced at him and hesitated, then explained. "Mulder, when he profiles, gets obsessed with the UNSUB. The last time, he stopped eating, stopped sleeping and avoided phone calls. I'm...ah...staying with him right now, trying to keep him together, but it isn't easy." She shook her head. "I'll be glad when this is over."

"Skinner told me to expect this and asked me to support you in any way I could," Pargeter said seriously. "If there's anything I can do to help, let me know."

"Thanks, Tom. I appreciate the offer." She craned her neck, trying to find Mulder. "He's almost out of sight....damn!"

Pargeter cleared his throat. "Dana...I...um...also wanted to take this opportunity to ask you...I mean, I've admired your work for some time and I'd take it as a great favor if you'd let me take you out to dinner."

"What?" she stopped in her tracks. "I'm sorry, are you asking me out?" She softened her voice. "On a date?"

"Well, yeah. I've heard about the brilliant Dana Scully for years and always wanted to meet you. Imagine my delight when I found out I'd be working with you both. I'd love to take you out whenever you're available. We can wait until this case is over if the timing is bad for you." Pargeter blushed and looked abashed. "I hope I haven't offended you."

"No. No, you haven't at all. I'm just surprised," she said. "I'm very flattered to be asked, but I'm already in a relationship right now."

Pargeter's eyes narrowed. "With him?" He gestured up the trail toward Mulder.

"Yes, Mulder and I are a couple, although we aren't making an issue of it. But thank you for asking me, I really am very honored that you've admired me." She looked at him searchingly, trying to discover whether he was upset or just embarrassed.

Pargeter gave her an abashed smile. "They always say that the good ones are taken, don't they? Well, if you and Mulder ever go your separate ways, please look me up..."

"You'll be the first one I call," Scully said with a smile.

They soon caught up with Mulder, who stood on the trail and peered through the underbrush at the Williams dump site. Without waiting for the other agents to say anything, he began carefully making his way down yet another hillside until he found the hole surrounded by police tape. Again, he stood and examined the area meticulously.

"See anything?" Scully asked breathlessly as she finished making her way down the hillside.

Mulder just shook his head, then began to climb down into the hole.

"Mulder? What are you...? Damn it..." She moved as close to the crumbling edge as she could. "The hole could collapse on you! Why are you doing this?"

"I want to see what he sees, know what he knows. This is the only way I can do that," Mulder said quietly. After ten or fifteen minutes in the grave, he carefully climbed out and dusted himself off. Without saying a word, he led the way back up the hill.

They spent the rest of the day looking at the various dump sites. To Scully's chagrin, they hiked from one end of the park to the other. She stubbornly refused to complain that her feet hurt and her suit was ruined and, with difficulty, made Mulder stop at the rare public bathrooms to let her empty her bladder. He'd never been this oblivious before on any of their cases. In fact, he usually was overly solicitous of her comfort, rather than completely entranced.

When the sun began going down, she and Pargeter persuaded Mulder finish up. They stopped for dinner on the way back and she glumly watched Mulder take two bites of his steak and stare into space for the rest of the meal. Pargeter got the check and had her and Mulder wait at the front of the restaurant while he brought the car around to save Scully's aching feet. Scully insisted that she wanted them to go straight to Mulder's apartment, rather than back to the Hoover Building.

Mulder turned around in his seat, craning his neck to see Scully in the back of the car. "There's more to look at back at the office, Scully. We should at least go back and pick it up..."

"No. It'll still be there tomorrow and you have the original files in your apartment. You hadn't finished going through them yet, anyway," she said pleadingly. For the first time, Mulder really looked at her and saw the splashes of mud on her face and the snagged and dirty suit she wore. He had the grace to look guilty.

"I'm sorry, Scully. You're right. It's been a long day. Okay, Tom, go ahead and drop us off at my place."

Tom, looking at Scully in the rear view mirror, nodded. "Will do, Agent Mulder. Meet you at the Hoover Building tomorrow at ten?"

He pulled up to the curb on Hegal Place.

"That sounds fine," Scully said, following Mulder out of the car. Mulder nodded, already headed for the entrance and more files.

When Scully got out of the shower, Mulder was still in his dirty clothes crouched over the files on his desk.

"Mulder, the shower's available if you want it," she began, then stopped as Mulder, without turning to look at her, shook his head and dug more deeply into the files.

She sighed and shrugged, then picked up her own file and sat down to review it.

The evening was quiet, with both of them going over the reports closely. Mulder didn't seem disposed to conversation and Scully didn't force him. At ten she moved to go to bed and, to her surprise, he followed. She settled into the bed with a sigh of relief and watched as Mulder undressed.

"Mulder? Are you okay? Really?" she asked.

He took off his shirt and folded it neatly, putting it on the chair. She watched in bemusement as the slacks were similarly folded and the shoes soldiered up in a row. Judging from the rest of Mulder's room, he was less neat with his other clothes.

He stripped off his undershirt and boxers, then climbed into pajama bottoms. Then he turned and gave her a compassionate look. "Scully, I should have warned you about this, but you were around me on the Mostow case. I thought you would already know."

"Know what?" she asked.

"This is the way I get. I...stop being human for a while. I exist for the profile, to get into the killer's head. I don't pay attention to anything unrelated to that." He climbed into the bed next to her and moved to take her in his arms. "I'm sorry if I've hurt you."

"You haven't hurt me, you've worried me. I look at you and you're..not there." She propped herself up on one elbow. "I'm afraid that one day soon I'll look at you and somebody else will look back at me."

Mulder sighed. "I can't guarantee that won't happen, Scully. That's why I usually stop seeing people while I'm profiling. When I finish, I'm myself again. But until then....I do what I have to do."

She shot him a doubtful look, then decided to lighten things up. "Well, you're not the only man with an interest in me, Mulder. Today Agent Pargeter asked me out on a date."

"And did you accept," Mulder asked with a smile.

"Of course not. It's not fair to lead the man on. You don't want me to go out with him, do you?" she said in mock horror.

"Oh no, Agent Scully. I have thoroughly captured you with my famous Mulder charm. You're mine forever," he said, leaning in to kiss her.

She smiled with relief. For the time being, at least, she had her Mulder back. They fell asleep in each other's arms.

Dana Scully was never sure what woke her, but she was instantly awake. It wasn't morning yet and where was Mulder? She got up and went into the living room.

The desk light was on but Mulder wasn't there. Maybe he was in the kitchen getting a snack. Good. He hadn't been eating much lately. She padded into the kitchen and stopped.

He sat at the table, his back to her. "Mulder, are you hungry? I can make you a sandwich..." she got closer and saw the red pool of blood covering the table in front of him. He sat, his left arm elevated over the table, watching the blood fall, drop by drop into the expanding pool.

"My God, Mulder! What happened? You're cut?" She ran to the kitchen sink for a towel.

As she returned with the towel, he briefly looked up at her and blinked, then focused his attention back to the pool of blood. She saw a bloodied razor blade sitting next to Mulder's right hand and tried to catch Mulder's gaze without success. He continued staring vacantly at his own blood.

She grabbed his bloody arm and roughly wrapped it with the towel. Seeing that he was making no move to help her, she forcibly pulled Mulder's right arm up and wrapped his hand around the towel to hold it in place. Crouching down next to him, she grabbed his chin and made him look at her. His gaze kept wandering back to the table and she couldn't be sure he had even noticed her. She tried to get through to him anyway. "Hold the towel in place, Mulder. I need to get dressed, then we'll take you to the hospital. I'd better call Skinner."

Chapter 4

Georgetown Hospital

Bob Brown looked up sullenly from his soda. In a room filled with people, he was alone. A group of four co-workers had sat down next to him at the table. Although he had smiled at them hopefully, not one of them had noticed him. But then, nobody ever did.

He put his half-eaten twinkie down onto his plate and straightened it carefully. All his life he'd been colorless, invisible. In high school he hadn't been voted most anything. His teachers hadn't called on him. He had made no friends. Even his name was dull. A "B" average student, he'd never distinguished himself. Any girl he'd ever met had stared right through him.

It had taken a while before he'd understood that it wasn't his fault. People really didn't see him; they often bumped into him in crowds or stepped on him in the Metro. Bland seemed to be his middle name. As a teenager he'd tried to get attention by being a very successful shoplifter, until he had realized that nobody was going to catch him. The shopkeepers didn't notice him, neither did the store detectives. Even the damned store alarms didn't react when he blithely walked through with an armload of merchandise. Nobody was going to arrest him, even if he stole the store blind. Fed up with the pointlessness of it, he'd given it up.

When the nursing school accepted his application, Bob had been jubilant. As a male in a female-dominated profession, surely he'd stand out. It hadn't worked out that way. Now he was ignored by doctors, patients and other nurses.

But things were changing. For the last two years he'd finally found something that made him visible, put him on other people's radar.

He sighed and patted his pocket where the ketamine was. He'd first tried the drug for it's reputed mind-blowing effect. His mind had been blown, all right. While he was using it, he felt real...solid...like a person of substance. The trips had been great until that special one. He shook his head and sipped his Jolt Cola. The voices had been strange, but they'd been right.

While he was floating under the drug, he'd heard voices. He had turned his head and then seen Them. Tall, gray and misty looking, they had elongated bodies as insubstantial as fog. The voices told him they were his friends. No, better than that, they were the elder gods and they had chosen him to help. But they would only help him if he gave them something in return.

"You called?" The voice spoke just next to his left ear. He looked up but saw nothing.

He whispered, "I can't talk here."

"I know. The blood is wearing off, isn't it? Feel your virility dropping? You know that nobody is ever going to notice you without it."

Bob ducked his head and muttered into his chest. "Yeah, I know, but the cops are investigating them...all of them..."

"The cops won't catch you. They don't see you. Nobody does."

"Yeah," Bob sighed. "People look through me and step on me all the time." He stood up and moved briskly to a storage closet he knew. He'd shot up in it a time or two.

Once inside and the door closed, he said, "Okay, I can talk now. What do you want?"

"What we always want. We want to help you. You need the same thing we need."

"Blood, yeah I know," Bob said, folding his arms over his chest. "I can feel my energy dropping, but I need to wait longer or they'll catch me."

"You plan everything so well, they'll never get you," the voice said reasonably. "We're your gods, and we should know." The voice paused, then added in a friendly voice, "haven't you noticed that people are seeing you less? At that staff party two weeks ago, Mimi Snow smiled at you but today she walked all the way across the lunch room and you could have been wallpaper."

"Yes, I know," Bob said and licked his lips. "I want it. You know that. When I drink it, it's like drinking fire....But I thought you said the sex-charged stuff would last longer." He glanced around the room.

A gray, spindly form materialized in front of him. Its eyes were dark pits in a shapeless elongated face. "But we need it too. It has energy in it, special energy. It has life force in it, her life plus what you add to it before she dies. That's what you taste and why it lasts so much longer than the blood bank blood. That's why you have to get more."

"If I do this too often, they'll catch me," he said flatly. "I read in the paper that the FBI has some special experts working on it now."

"Do you want to be invisible for the rest of your life? Since we've been helping you, they promoted you twice..." the voice wheedled. "Before that, you worked here for years, ignored."

"Okay," he sighed. "I'll keep a look out for somebody new. I'm on duty till 8 a.m. today, then I'm at the blood bank. I'll find someone."

"Good. Make her stronnnggg..." The voice wisped away.

Strong, they wanted a strong woman. Bob shrugged. They had a preference for educated women, ideally women with strong personalities. They told him that the blood was sweeter, then. He couldn't argue with that. Since they'd turned him on to the charged blood, the old stuff he stole from the blood bank seemed flat and useless. And since he'd used the charged blood, more people had been noticing him. Two people had even said hello to him last week. All he knew was that he wanted a victim who didn't weigh too much. He'd thrown his back out the first time he had to haul one off to be dumped and didn't plan on doing it again.

He slipped out of the closet and wandered back to the ER. "Hey, Bob," said a passing intern. "They've been looking for you in Treatment 1."

"Uh, okay," he said and trotted over to the designated room. Dr. Michaels stood next to two people, a man and a woman. The man wore only blood-stained pajama bottoms and blood was pouring out of his arm. The woman, a petite redhead, was explaining something to the doctor. Bob surveyed them closely before they saw him. The blood drew him, of course. Somehow he could tell when it flowed from someone with a strong personality, and this man's fairly sparkled. He wiped his mouth surreptitiously.

"Anyway, Agent Scully, I think it'll need stitches," Dr. Michaels finished. Agent. She was a Fed, then. Bob drew back away from the doorway to watch. Dr. Michaels looked around for his nurse, then shrugged. "I'm sorry, Agent Scully, you'll have to fill out the paperwork at the front desk. I'd hoped to have someone here to help you, but it looks like they're all busy."

She nodded and looked back over her shoulder at the bleeding man. He never responded, but continued staring off into the distance at things only he could see.

Bob ducked back from the doorway, momentarily fascinated by the very redness of the blood running down the man's arm. His blood coursed with energy, better than his best victim. He started to move forward hungrily, then reminded himself that he had to keep a low profile here. Besides, the gods had told him to get female victims, not males.

Without seeing him, Agent Scully walked right past him and toward the reception desk. Bob divided his attention between Agent Scully and the injured man.

"How are you feeling, Agent Mulder?" Asked Dr. Michaels genially. When he got no response he repeated it more loudly. Mulder looked up, as though waking from a dream. "Uh...Excuse me, but where's Scully?" Mulder asked hesitantly.

"She's gone to fill out some paperwork. She'll be right back," the doctor said. "Agent Mulder, do you know what day it is?"

Mulder hesitated, then said "Tuesday?"

The doctor nodded and continued his work, then asked. "Do you know where you are?"

"By the smell, I'd say hospital," Mulder said. "But...I'm not sure which one."

Over at the reception desk, Scully bit her lip and focused on writing Mulder's name and address without her fingers shaking. Damn him. He'd promised he'd be careful!

"Agent Scully? How is he?" Skinner's voice came from behind her. She turned and gave him a tremulous smile.

"He's getting stitches now. He lost about a pint of blood, roughly the equivalent of a blood donation. They don't need to admit him. Not to the trauma wing, anyway." She sighed and fell silent, glancing back to the treatment room.

"Are you suggesting that Agent Mulder is in need of psychiatric care?" Skinner asked softly.

"I...would never suggest that," she said. "I don't think he should be on the Williams case any more, though. This time around the profiling is affecting him even more dramatically. He's not eating, not speaking, barely sleeps...he goes away somewhere that I can't follow. And now this....Sir, he nicked an artery with that razor blade. If I hadn't found him when I did, he could have bled to death." She turned her white face up to his.

Skinner nodded. "Will they be keeping him overnight"

She shook her head. "No. They're releasing him when the stitches are in. I'll get him home and make sure he sleeps."

Bob backed away from the doorway before they could catch sight of him. Sometimes being invisible was an advantage. The Williams case! They were the ones chasing him, then. And that man inside? Must be one of their profilers, the 'expert' who'd been called in.

The agents moved back into the treatment room, where the doctor had finished stitching Mulder's arm closed. Mulder looked more awake now, but very very tired.

"I think you're done, Mr. Mulder," the doctor said. "You're updated for your tetanus shot, so you can go."

Seeing Scully and Skinner approach, Mulder slowly levered himself off the table and stood shakily to face them.

"How are you feeling, Agent?" Skinner asked with concern.

"I'm okay," Mulder said. "Scully, you shouldn't have stopped me. I was getting close."

"Close to what, Mulder?" Scully asked with barely concealed exasperation.

"Him. I was close. I could almost understand his motivation, what he needs...wants..." Mulder's voice trailed off.

"What is that, Agent Mulder?" Skinner asked sharply.

"Blood. He needs blood. It's gone beyond wanting it; he has to have it. That's why he drains his victims, then kills them when they are no longer of use to him. Then he pours out a libation to his gods. "

Bob stood quietly just outside the room, listening carefully. He was unnoticed, as usual. So, they really were the ones investigating him, and Agent Mulder knew. Somehow, Mulder knew... He had to find out what more this Mulder knew...

"He needs the blood, as an offering but for something else too..." Mulder swayed and both Skinner and Scully moved forward to steady him.

"Mulder, you make it sound like you're somehow in contact with him," Scully said dismissively.

"How do you know I'm not?" Mulder asked bluntly. "This isn't exactly new for me, is it?"

Scully's eyes widened and she met Skinner's concerned glance. Nobody remembered better than they did what happened the last time Mulder could read minds.

"Maybe we should go back and talk to your neurologist, then," Scully said.

"No," Mulder shook his head. "It isn't like that. I've always been able to hone in on the UNSUB's motivations. I've only just figured out how it is that I do it. This isn't logic, Scully, it's insight."

Scully just stood and looked at him, then said patiently, "Mulder, you could have died tonight. Doesn't that matter to you?"

Mulder shook his head. "I can handle it, Scully. I always have. You're just the first person to be close to me when I do this."

The three of them walked down the hallway toward the exit. Bob stayed back in the shadows, watching them go. When the door closed behind them, he went over to reception to look at Agent Mulder's file...

Skinner met them both at Mulder's apartment. His eyebrow raised when he saw the photos and charts plastered all over the apartment wall.

Scully helped Mulder over to the couch and sat him down. "It's okay, Scully, I'm not an invalid," he complained weakly.

"The hell you're not," said Skinner, pulling up a chair opposite. "Agent Scully tells me you almost died tonight."

"She's exaggerating," Mulder mumbled. "I can handle this."

"I don't think so," Skinner said with compassion. "Agent Mulder, I can't allow you to work on this case any more. And I apologize to you. I shouldn't have given in to pressure and assigned you to this case. As of this moment, you're on medical leave till further notice. Agents Scully and Pargeter can carry on the investigation."

"Sir, that's unreasonable. I have the best chance of getting into this guy's mind than anyone else involved in the case," Mulder said, fighting for composure.

"That's precisely why I'm taking you off the case, Mulder. I don't want to have to visit you in another psych ward. You're off and that's final." Skinner turned to Scully. "Will you two be okay?"

She nodded tiredly. "I'll stay with him."

An Hour Later

Mulder's Apartment

"Scully, I can't believe you let him do that!" Mulder exclaimed.

"I told you that if I thought you were in any danger I'd call Skinner and have you removed from the case. I just did that," Scully said calmly. She'd never seen Mulder on the verge of hysteria and it worried her. "You never wanted to

profile this case anyway."

"It's too late. I'm already involved. I can't just drop it now. I'm too close," Mulder closed his eyes as if willing her to understand. "I almost have him!"

"Then we'll get him. I have your reports to date. We'll work from them," she said in what she hoped was a soothing tone.

"Then you may as well pack your bags and go back home," Mulder said with despair. "I can't believe you did that. You busted me to Skinner!"

"You could have died!" She shouted back. "You need someone to stay with you, tonight at least..."

"No, I don't. Scully, you're right, I did bring this onto myself but it was my choice. You have to respect that. I just want to be alone for a while, okay?" Mulder slumped back in the couch, looking incredibly weary. "I think I'd really prefer it if you went back to your own place for now."

"I'll leave if that's what you really want, Mulder," she said more quietly.

"I think that would be best....I need some time alone," Mulder said.

"Mulder? Are you sure about this?" She asked hesitantly.

He nodded. "It's better this way. No temptation on my part to butt into a case I've been thrown off of. You can check on me if you have to. I know that Skinner would expect it." He moved toward her and touched her cheek gently. "Scully, I just don't think I can be around you right now, not with all this boiling inside me."

Looking worried again, she nodded and moved into the bedroom to pack her bag.

Mulder silently watched her pack and then leave.

Georgetown Hospital

Bob finished his notes and quietly returned the chart to the file. Agent Mulder didn't live far. It sounded like this man already knew too much about Bob and his gods. He couldn't be allowed to get in the way. And his blood...how it had sparkled in the treatment room tonight... Time to kill two birds with one stone.

Chapter 5

Bob anxiously finished his shift. He'd put his notes on Agent Mulder in his pants pocket and felt compelled to check and make sure it was still there periodically. How much did he know? Bob didn't remember ever seeing the man before, so he probably hadn't been watching him. At least, he hoped not.

But the blood...the blood. He smiled in satisfaction. He'd never seen such powerful blood. Even when he'd charged up his female victims, their blood never glowed like that. "Stop drooling, you'll get it all over the instruments." Bob looked for the voice, then realize it was one of the grey ones. He didn't need the ketamine anymore to talk to them. He looked around furtively, then walked to the nearest bathroom and locked himself in.

"So, I'm looking forward to this one. Is that a crime?" The stringy gray shape materialized in front of him.

"No, nothing wrong with that at all. Just remember, he's a Fed. He has a gun, he's taller than you by five inches and outweighs you by at least twenty pounds." The grey man stopped and snickered. "He has more hair than you, too."

Bob shrugged, hunching his head between his shoulders. "Okay, so I'm bald and I'm short. It never stopped me before. I'll use the ketamine on him too."

"Use more," the grey man said. "The quicker he goes into a K-coma, the easier for you. And," the thing fairly smacked its lips, "the sooner we all eat."

Bob went over to the sink and carefully washed his hands, scrubbing his fingers."Will people start to notice me then?" he asked.

"Why should you care about being seen? With your gift, you can go anywhere, do anything," the grey man remarked conversationally.

"Yeah, and nobody notices. Say I break a bank and steal it blind. Who is there for me to spend the money on? Women literally don't see me! Think I can buy me a blonde for some arm candy? She'll forget my existence as soon as she turns her head. Forget it." He dried his hands. "I want to be normal. The blood has helped a lot so far, but I need more."

"Well, then, go get it. His will last you a while..." With that, the grey man faded away. Bob smiled with satisfaction and unlocked the door, ready to face the world.

Mulder's Apartment

After Scully left, Mulder went to bed and tried to sleep. He couldn't believe he'd just sent Scully away. He'd waited for years for her to come around and see him as a lover and he'd just sent her away.

He shifted position, then groaned as his bandaged arm hurt. There'd been a reason to get her out of the apartment. If he was off the case, and Skinner had sounded pretty definite, Mulder knew that he would never accomplish anything while Scully was breathing down his neck.

He needed to get some sleep, he was exhausted. In that much, Scully was right. He closed his eyes and willed himself to slumber.

His sleep was fitful, full of strange dreams haunted by stringy grey figures with burning pits for eyes. He could feel Scully's absence from the bed even though he knew he was sleeping. Her loss felt like an ache in his soul. He tossed and turned, occasionally starting awake when his arm twinged. Finally, toward morning, he decided that it was pointless to try any more. He looked blearily at the alarm clock. It was 8:30 a.m., by this time he and Scully usually would be in the office, starting work. Damn. Well, just because Skinner wouldn't let him into the Hoover building, it was no excuse to slack off the case.

He got up and dressed in boxers and a t-shirt, then went into the kitchen. He briefly considered, then ruled out breakfast. He was never hungry when he profiled. He'd take Scully and Pargeter out for pizza when they caught the killer.

The kitchen table sat as it had when Scully found him except that the blood had dried onto its surface. He sat down in the chair and stared at it, willing it to talk to him. He didn't dare open a vein and let any more pool onto the table. Scully had been right, he probably would have bled to death if she hadn't found him. He yawned and wandered to his desk in the living room.

She hadn't taken the file or the scene photos. Great. He took several down and brought them back to the kitchen, propping them up on the clean part of the table with coffee cups. He'd been so close when Scully found him! He reflected on what he already knew.

First, the killer had to have a medical background in order to drain blood from his victims so efficiently. He was detail oriented and intelligent. That was obvious from the sheer lack of evidence at any of the murder sites. He wore a condom when he raped the women, that showed both a desire not to leave DNA and also care for his own health. You could never tell what one of those strange victims might be carrying. Yet the sex wasn't consensual, the vaginal bruising showed that...

The women were all petite and weighed no more than 100 pounds. Personal preference? Or was the killer small himself? Mulder pondered. Each victim was a professional woman, aged between 25 and 40. Was he looking for young, attractive victims? Or for young and healthy ones? If blood was the goal, it could be health that concerned him. That also tied in with a medical background and his general concern for his health.

Healthy blood. He was drinking it. But the pool he always left on the crime scene floor. Mulder remembered reading about the ancient practice of pouring a wine libation to the gods before drinking it. He was certain that this was what the killer was doing. Otherwise, why waste such a valuable substance? First, he fed his gods, then he took it home and drank it. Why? What does blood do? What symbolism does it have? And how does the UNSUB know that these women are generally healthy? Mulder leaned his head onto one arm and meditated, then the conclusion burst in on him.

"That's the connection," he whispered aloud. "We need to find out whether these women visited a doctor or any other health professional recently. Our killer is some kind of health care worker; probably associated with blood. He doesn't want unhealthy blood because he takes it into his own body and doesn't want to catch anything. We know that he stalks his victim beforehand, so he probably KNOWS that she's healthy because he's read her medical file. Maybe he reads the reports on her bloodwork..."

Mulder heard a noise behind him and twisted in the chair. He saw nothing...no, wait...He saw movement in the doorway. "Who are you?" he demanded, getting up.

The movement shifted, backing out into the living room. Mulder followed, realizing with consternation, that his gun was in the bedroom on his dresser. "What do you want?" he added, in a more soothing tone of voice.

"You know too much," a light-toned, slightly nasal, male voice said. "I bet you can't see me either." The movement stopped and he saw a short man, very thin and fine boned with absolutely no hair.

"I see you," Mulder said. "You're wearing scrubs. I was right, you do work in the medical field."

The man nodded. "Call me Bob. Yeah, nobody notices me unless I'm actually talking to them. I just don't show up on the radar, unless I take my special medicine for it." He began moving closer to Mulder.

Mulder backed away a little, then raised hands in a blocking gesture. "Your 'medicine', as you call it is blood, isn't it? You have sex with your victims as a kind of ritual to energize it, then you take as much as you need and kill them. And then you pour out some of the blood as an offering to your gods."He raised an eyebrow and continued. "I would think that the alopecia would make people notic you more." Mulder backed a bit more, angling for the attack. The guy was small, he shouldn't be hard to take down. "But why are you here?"

Bob snorted. "I could be painted green with orange polka dots and nobody would notice me. You're absolutely right," Bob moved a little closer, one hand in his pocket. "The gods showed me how it works, I have to pay them back for their help. When I drink the blood, I'm more real for a while. People notice me." He stopped, then looked sadly at Mulder. "But then it wears off, after a while. That's why I'm here."

Mulder raised an eyebrow. "I'm not your usual type of victim," he commented dryly.

Bob grinned. "I'm not planning to rape you, if that's what you're thinking. But you do have nice blood. Very nice. I saw you at the hospital. And you know too much." He lunged forward, bringing the loaded hypodermic out of his pocket, and jabbed the needle into Mulder's chest.

Mulder yelled and then staggered a bit. "Wha....wha's in this?" he demanded as the room began to spin and change shape. He abruptly sat down, unable to feel his feet or hands. Suddenly he felt nauseated and began to retch. He was

grateful he hadn't had breakfast or much to eat in the last 24 hours. After a few minutes, the retching subsided, leaving him feeling weak and still slightly nauseated.

"That's ketamine, but you should know that," said Bob conversationally. He reached into his other pocket and pulled out some tubing, attached to a large-bore needle on one end and a bag on the other. Mulder blinked. He'd seen a similar setup the last time he'd donated blood.

"You can't do this," he started to say, but the words came out sounding garbled. Then he could see his words, floating in the air around him. Oh yeah, ketamine was a hallucinogen, but this trip was going to be permanent unless he did something. "Lemmmee go!" he moaned and thrashed as Bob approached him with needle outstretched.

"You can't win," Bob said reasonably. "I've given you an extra large dose, too, so you'll be out shortly. You have to understand. I need this."

Mulder tried vainly to get up again, but just fell back against the living room carpet. He could vaguely see each of the threads as an independent, glowing light erupting from the floor. "No...you can't do this. They'll catch you," Mulder garbled out. "I've written about you in m'reports." He closed his eyes and his head fell back against the floor. Suddenly he realized that he could see, even though his eyes were closed.

"I've got to admit," Bob said conversationally as he tied a ligature around Mulder's good arm. "I do like the sex part of the ritual. The ketamine boosts sexual arousal, you know, so the women are enjoying it too." He tied it good and tight, watching for Mulder's veins to bulge. "I'm pretty good, if I say so myself. They get a lot of pleasure before.."

"Before you kill them," Mulder supplied, realizing without surprise that his lips weren't moving.

"I'd have said, before they die," Bob shrugged and tapped a finger against Mulder's vein, then pulled an alcohol wipe from his pocket and ripped the paper open. The cold bite of the alcohol felt like a ball of ice lodged against the inside of Mulder's forearm.

"How'd you pick me? How'd you find me?" Mulder asked, feeling the prick as the needle slid into his vein.

"You came to my hospital tonight. What was the chance of that?" Bob giggled. "You have the best blood I've ever seen. The gods told me to be sure to give you extra ketamine, just in case. You should have a pretty good trip."

Mulder dimly watched his blood flow through the tube, glowing more and more brightly. He could sense the sheer life force contained in it and suddenly he understood what Bob needed and why his gods wanted it. "They feed on life, don't they?" he whispered weakly. "They want a body's 'chi', for lack of a better term."

"I did right to come here and get you," Bob said shrewdly. "You're too bright."

"Yeah, most people say that," Mulder said, his eyes closing despite himself. He could feel the life flowing out of his body through a narrow glowing channel. Soon it would all be gone. The blood he'd already lost tonight wasn't helping any. His body was leaden; he couldn't feel his arms or legs anymore. The room began to darken around him until there was just a glowing spot of light in the distance.

He must be dying if he was going toward the light. This was just like the researchers described it. Out of the corner of the darkness, he saw a long stringy gray body; its eyes watching him.

"What do you want?" he demanded. "You belong to him, don't you?"

"He belongs to us," said the grey man. "Now you do too."

Hoover Building



Dana Scully arrived at the office to find Pargeter there already. He looked up from Mulder's desk, where various papers were spread haphazardly. She felt vaguely irritated that Pargeter would usurp Mulder's space like this, then realized that since there was only the one desk he was only being efficient.

"Hi, Dana," said Pargeter cheerfully. "Where's Mulder?"

"Skinner has removed him from the case," Scully said carefully, putting her purse down in its usual spot. "Mulder had a medical...incident...last night. He's taking a medical leave for now and is no longer profiling."

Pargeter frowned. "Then maybe you have the rest of the file? I wanted to go over the scene photos again in light of Mulder's last report."

Scully stopped short. "Damn!" she swore under her breath. "I must have left them at his apartment. I'd better go get them." She checked her watch. "He's usually up by now." She went to the phone and dialed his number, raising her eyebrows when it wasn't picked up.

"I'll try his cell." She hit his speed-dial number and waited again. "No answer. I think I'll go over there and pick up the file," she said with forced cheerfulness to Pargeter.

He got up. "I brought my car today, I'll drive you."

"No...no need," she said hastily.

Pargeter shook his head. "It's okay if you don't want to tell me what's wrong, Dana. I know that you and Mulder are tight. But I'd feel more comfortable if somebody had your back. Please. Let me take you over?"

She sighed and nodded. "Okay. But it'll just be a quick trip. You'll be sorry you wasted your time."

Mulder's apartment

9:15 a.m.

>>From the floating darkness, Mulder heard a loud clanging sound. "What's that?" he asked dreamily.

"Your phone is ringing," Bob answered, watching the filling plastic bag closely. "Sounds come through kinda strange, don't they? I always liked the effect."

Mulder hung in the black nothingness, contemplating the void and the glowing bright light moving steadily closer. "We've been waiting for you," said the grey man, shifting shape until he became an angular woman with slightly bulging eyes. "Don't you remember Mrs. Paddock, Agent Mulder? We've known you for quite a while." The woman's shape writhed until it became a formless black mass, darker than its surroundings. "When the Calusari drove us out, we saw you and knew you."

The black mass shifted until the grey man floated in front of him again. "You're very well known to us. Your blood will taste very sweet." The grey man eyed the white light then turned away. "We'll feast on you before you're released from your pitiful existence."

Horrified, Mulder tried to fight back but his body didn't respond. He was trapped inside it, somehow.

He dimly heard a hollow pounding sound and a familiar voice. "Mulder? Mulder! Are you okay? It's me, Scully! I'm coming in!"

Scully was here. He had to warn her. With all his strength, he fought the darkness trying to engulf him and tried to yell. "Scullleeeeee....!" his voice rang out. Exhausted, he fell back and the world began spinning deeper and harder. Lost in the maelstrom, he spun far far away.

Hearing Mulder's call, Scully turned her key and pushed the door open. Mulder was collapsed on the floor with a line in his arm, feeding blood into a half-full blood bag. She saw a flash of movement next to Mulder as she rushed over to his side. "Pargeter, watch out! There's somebody in here, but I think he's invisible! I can't see him!"

"What?" Pargeter shouted in startlement, but quickly recovered. "Wait, I got him!" He pulled his weapon and followed the flickering shape crossing the room. Somehow, he couldn't look directly at it, only from the corner of his eye. Suddenly he felt something push hard against him and rush out the door. "Damn!" he yelled, getting his balance. "Stop! Federal Agent!" he shouted and ran after it down the hall.

Scully knelt next to Mulder and checked for a pulse. Still alive, thank God. She saw the hypodermic projecting from his arm and gently removed it, then disconnected the needle and tubing. She ran to the bathroom and grabbed a wad of toilet paper, jamming it against Mulder's arm. "Mulder? Mulder? Can you hear me?" There was no response.

She grabbed a fold of skin on his arm, then on his chest and pinched him hard. No reaction. She peeled back an eyelid and found his pupils dilated. She heard a noise behind her and turned, gun in hand.

Pargeter stood panting in the doorway. "I lost him. I just couldn't SEE him, he kept flickering. Damn!" He leaned down, hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. "I thought this wasn't an X-File....How's Mulder?"

"He's in a drug-induced coma; ketamine, I'd guess. I'm calling 911."

Pargeter nodded. "I'll call Skinner and get a forensics team out here? We finally have a break in the case," he said almost cheerfully.

Chapter 6

The void swirling around him, Mulder heard Mrs. Paddock's laughter, then it, too, went away. He was left with nothing but darkness.

Even the light had disappeared. He saw nothing and no one. He tried to decide whether he was relieved that the grey man was gone and concluded that it's absence was an improvement.

He could hear sounds, though they were warped and distorted. He heard a loud voice, female he thought, but the words were indistinguishable. His body had gone somewhere, but he could vaguely feel a jostling sensation, as if he were being carried. Maybe Scully had brought help?

"Scully!" he tried to call but heard and felt nothing. Desperately he tried to feel his arms and legs, any part of his body but there was nothing. He just floated in the dark, bodiless. He started to look around his prison in panic, wondering how long he'd be trapped here...or whether it would be forever.

10:00 a.m.

Georgetown Medical Center

"Agent Scully?" She looked up to see Skinner's tired face. "What's happened now? Two hospital trips in 24 hours is excessive, even for Mulder."

He sat down in the plastic chair next to her. She sighed and stretched the kinks out of her neck. "He's still in with the doctors. We're all waiting for the results of Mulder's blood tests and the analysis of that syringe I found embedded in his chest." She shifted. "They're also taking a look at the blood that was drawn from him, looking for any preservatives that might have been added."

"So it's true? The UNSUB tried to drain him?" Skinner glowered. "I stopped by Mulder's apartment. They haven't found anything yet. The hair they've recovered looks like Mulder's own, or yours, but we won't know until the lab looks at it."

"That would fit the pattern. But the killer has given us some valuable clues nonetheless," Scully looked wistfully toward the treatment room where Mulder was, then continued. "The UNSUB clearly has a medical background, as we suspected. He also has access to medical materials. That was professional phlebotomy equipment I saw in there. It remains to be seen whether the ketamine is street-grade or medical."

Skinner shook his head. "Enough medical grade ketamine gets onto the street that its presence is only significant if it's been cut with other chemicals. All the victims had pure ketamine in their bloodstreams, arguing a steady source, though."

"Too bad we can't track it through the UNSUB's supply," Scully sighed, eyes still focused on the treatment room. "None of the local medical centers or veterinary hospitals have had any reported losses. He probably just has a very good source." She got up and began to pace. "Mulder said he was onto something when we brought him here before. He was close to the killer, he said."

Skinner nodded, realization dawning. "Someone overheard him. Our UNSUB must work here." He craned his neck and looked around. "This is a busy hospital and the ER is on the ground floor. It could be anyone from the cleaning lady to one of the doctors." Skinner stopped when he saw Scully's expression. She abruptly got up and began striding toward Mulder's treatment room.

"Agent! What...?" Skinner quickly stood up and ran to follow her.

"If the UNSUB is on staff here, Mulder shouldn't be left alone until the killer is caught or we can get him away from here. Mulder could be dead before we even notice an assailant." Scully got to the treatment room door and Skinner could hear her arguing with the nurse at the entrance, a short man who was completely bald. Skinner shrugged and decided to let her handle it.

He unpocketed his cell phone and put through a call to Pargeter. "Agent Pargeter? Any progress?"

"No," Pargeter said glumly. "They took samples of everything, but aside from snide comments about Mulder and Scully's sex life, they don't have anything obvious yet. Still, they'll process everything and let us know."

"Okay, Agent," Skinner replied, watching the treatment room door. The snubbed nurse stood fuming outside the doorway. Skinner shook his head and focused on the call. "What? What did you say, Pargeter?"

"I'm sorry sir, bad reception," Pargeter replied. "I have a dentist appointment this morning. Okay if I go off the clock for a few hours?"

"Fine," said Skinner. "Everything is under control as far as I can see."

"Great. Thanks Sir. I'll check in when I'm out of the chair," Pargeter said cheerfully and put the cell back into his shirt pocket. He looked up to make sure that the curtains in Scully's bedroom were drawn and pulled the new video cam out of the shopping bag. Thanks to the bogus dental visit, nobody would be checking on him for a few hours. Besides, from what he'd heard about Mulder's other hospitalizations, they wouldn't be able to pry Scully away from Mulder's bedside for hours. He had free reign.

He finished unscrewing the electrical outlet in the wall nearest the bed and...shit...somebody else was already bugging her? Military grade, too. He carefully reinserted it into the wall and tried another outlet. Damn! An older version, but still effective. He rubbed his nose and began to look for other options. The ceiling smoke alarm...both audio and video pickups WITH booster. Shit. He hadn't taken all that tripe about shadow conspiracies seriously before. Maybe he should.

Well, he was small potatoes. Maybe if he didn't interfere with their bugs, they'd let his alone. He spotted the trap door to the crawlspace and pulled over a chair to boost himself up. The door opened easily and once inside he found...yes, another bug. He whistled in admiration. Talk about having backups. These guys didn't miss a trick.

He carefully drilled a tiny hole and inserted his camera and booster next to the more highly powered one already installed in the overhead light fixture. Like the older bug, his camera would be powered by the apartment's own electricity. It was a wonder that she hadn't noticed a surge in her electric bill with all this crap installed. They probably spent all their time de-bugging Mulder's place and forgot about hers. Okay, it was in, and if the online brochure was correct, the booster should send the signal up to ten miles to the receiving unit in his home VCR. He grinned. It even had infrared, so if she undressed in the dark, he'd still see everything.

He carefully backed out of the crawlspace and onto the chair, dusting his footprints off the seat. He placed the chair back where he'd found it and made sure that all the outlets had been replaced. He wore a double pair of latex gloves, so fingerprints shouldn't be a problem. He'd worried that the neighbors would notice him, so he'd taken care to dress in a blue coverall, ready to pretend to be a maintenance man. Hah! Given the evident traffic in electronics already in Agent Scully's bedroom, he could be a one-man band with organ grinder's monkey and nobody would notice!

Still grinning, he gently half-closed the bedroom door and made his way out of the apartment, carefully relocking the door behind him. Wouldn't do to let in burglars or perverts, now would it?

Georgetown Medical Center

Mulder was near panic, trapped inside the formless darkness, when he began to understand the sounds around him. The discordant noise had gradually faded to a set of voices.

"How much longer will he be out?" a soft female voice asked.

"Ketamine is fast acting, but fortunately wears off fairly quickly. While a trip may last up to 5 hours, I think he'll be coming around in an hour or two," a male voice said. "I think we'll keep him overnight, given that the blood losses he's had in the last 24 hours have intensified the drug's effects. Bob, would you get Mr. Mulder ready to be moved into a room?" A rustling sound. "Agent Scully, this is Bob Brown, Agent Mulder's nurse."

"I'm pleased to meet you, Bob," Scully said.

"Sure, Doctor. Agent Scully, you might want to take a seat outside until I get Agent Mulder set up in a room." The voice was high pitched and had a whiny undertone that grated on his nerves. Mulder shivered at the sound. It was familiar somehow, and not in a good way, but he couldn't quite place it.

"No, I'd like to stay with him; I'm a doctor and I know the drill. Just work around me," the female voice said. Unaccountably, Mulder felt comforted. As his body was jostled, he let himself float away again.

11:00 a.m.

Bob fairly trembled with frustration. Agent Mulder was here and he couldn't get anywhere near him. That lady agent, Agent Scully, wouldn't leave the room and she watched everything, everything he did! He'd traded shifts to be here while Mulder was still drugged and now he'd be stuck working 24 hours straight through thanks to that. Damn them. And he hadn't even gotten any blood.

"Sorry for yourself now, aren't you?" a dry voice whispered.

Bob looked around and ducked into a bathroom, locking the door behind him. "Of course I feel sorry for myself. He keeps getting away from me." He slowed his breathing down. "He knows about me, about us."

The grey man just smiled, showing pointed teeth. "He knew about us. The ketamine will fix him. So get a different one and leave him to us. No point in going hungry."

Bob cast the grey man a hopeful look. "You'll protect me?"

"Don't we always?"

Mulder's dreams, at least he thought they were dreams, were confused and frightening.

He was in Mostow's secret room, looking at the hundreds of pictures which depicted only one face. The face of the demon, Mostow had said. Suddenly Mulder saw its eyes move and realized that Mostow had been right. The demon did see him, and it knew him. The demon smiled and moved toward Mulder, leering.

Terrified, Mulder folded himself into the thick darkness until he found another piece of his life. He was in a high school biology class, but it didn't look like his old school. He was alone behind a desk with a fetal pig in a tray on the table in front of him. The bitter tang of formaldehyde bit at the back of his throat and he picked up the scalpel handed to him.

"After you've removed the heart, dissect that too," a dry female voice said. Obediently, he drew the scalpel across the pig's flesh, only to see blood welling up from the cut. Startled, he lunged away from the table and saw Mrs. Paddock watching him with amusement on her face.

"What's the matter, Agent Mulder? Blood bother you? Not everyone finds dissecting very easy. Just try again." Still holding the bloody scalpel, Mulder looked back at the table. The dissecting tray was gone and Scully lay there instead, her throat slashed. Horrified, he dropped the scalpel to the sound of Mrs. Paddock's laughter.

"Mulder? Mulder can you hear me?" Scully's voice cut across the laughter. He forced his eyes open, grateful that the darkness had parted at last.

"Scully?" he asked, then saw that he was in the hospital. "Scully," he sighed and lay back, noticing without surprise that he'd been put into restraints.

"How do you feel?" she asked, then saw his glance. "You were on a ketamine trip since early this morning. You've been very agitated for the past several hours, so you had to be restrained." She began to remove the restraints. "Anything you can tell us about your attacker would be helpful. We're hoping for a break in the case."

Mulder frowned. "Ketamine trip? I thought...aren't I here because of my arm?"

She looked worried. "What's the last thing you remember?" she asked.

"You found me at the kitchen table and were going to take me to the hospital...that's...where it all goes fuzzy." Mulder looked up at her with a frightened look, suddenly remembering his last nightmare. "What happened? Did I hurt anyone?"

"Oh no! Not at all. Apparently our UNSUB followed you home, either from the hospital or from one of the crime scenes. He had attacked you with ketamine and was in the process of draining your blood when we arrived." Her face twisted with distaste. "He left behind a large bore needle, tubing and bag. Very professional."

Mulder closed his eyes, trying to remember. "I don't recall a thing. Nothing. Just darkness...and confusion...images I can't make sense of."

"Well, this turns out to be an X file after all," she said. "We weren't able to catch your assailant because he was either invisible or the closest thing to it. He got past Pargeter and disappeared."

Mulder's eyes popped open, his expression full of interest. "Invisible? That would explain how why he hasn't been caught. Have you found any evidence on scene? Fingerprints?"

She shook her head. "Nothing on either the syringe or the tubing. I spoke with Skinner earlier today and he wants you in a safe house of some kind for the time being. If you're being targeted, you shouldn't go home." She gave him an unreadable look. "I'd like you to stay with me."

"Are you sure that's wise?" Mulder asked slowly. "I don't want to hurt you."

She sighed. "Mulder, the only one you hurt is yourself and, as of last night, you're off this case. Anyhow, we can't go back to the way we were before. I can't just leave you alone in your apartment and hope I'll find you alive the next time I visit."

"I don't need you to protect me!" Mulder said angrily.

"From the world? No. From yourself?" She smiled ruefully. "I don't think that's possible. At least if you're staying with me I know you're eating meals and not those science experiments you call frozen pizzas."

"They're perfectly good food, Scully, they've just aged a bit," Mulder said. "Okay, I'll come and stay with you. Has Skinner said when I'll be back on duty?"

She frowned. "On the Williams case, not at all. The doctor is releasing you from the hospital tomorrow, but you should stay off work for the rest of the week. He'll release you to work as of Monday, but how long you're out of the office is really up to Skinner. You'll be working on our regular caseload. Will you stay with that?" She met his gaze.

He looked her straight in the eye and prayed his poker face held. "Yes. I'll stay away from the Williams case."

Mulder's sleep that night was broken with nightmares that he never could remember upon awakening. After the third time he sat bolt upright in his bed, he quietly decided not to try sleeping any more.

He lay in bed, flogging his memory for some hint of what had happened to him. He was the only one to have seen the UNSUB; somewhere in his subconscious there must be something useful. When morning arrived, he arranged a bright expression on his face and prepared to be released. He couldn't remember a thing, just a general sense of foreboding.

Still, he didn't necessarily have to be in the office to work the case.

Scully came for him at 8 a.m. and drove him to her place. "I packed a bag for you, Mulder. I don't think it's safe for you to go back yet. Skinner has your apartment staked out but judging by the way that...suspect...moved last night, I wouldn't give much for their chances of catching him."

Mulder looked into the satchel she handed him and grinned. "You got my New York Knicks t-shirt! Thank you!"

They arrived at the apartment shortly and Scully carefully unlocked the door with a formal gesture. "Welcome to my apartment, Mulder."

"Hey, Scully, I have been here before, you know," Mulder walked in casually, then stopped. "Um...Where do you want me to leave my stuff? Am I sleeping in the guest room?"

"I'd really rather you didn't. I..ah...like sharing a bed with you, Mulder, if it's okay with you." She stopped and caught his gaze with pleading eyes.

Mulder sighed. The distance he'd put between them was purely for Scully's protection but he couldn't stand the thought of keeping the walls up.

Hearing the sigh, she forestalled him. "Look, Mulder, I know you hate to be left out of things, but we both know that this case is nowhere near to being solved. It will probably die down for a while and they'll finally catch him without the help of either of us."

Mulder gave her a troubled look. "He'll kill again, Scully. Soon."

"How do you know?" she asked.

"I don't know. I just...know," he paused, then began again. "Scully, I was shutting you out. I know that and I'm sorry, but the only concern I ever had was for your safety."

"You threw me out of your apartment because you were planning to finish the profile, one way or another," she finished. "Mulder, I can't tell you how angry I am that you did that. We're partners and that hasn't changed just because we've become lovers. I expect you to respect me and my abilities as much as you ever have." She folded her arms across her chest.

"I do, Scully," he mumbled. "I knew you'd stop me if you knew what I was trying."

"Oh Mulder," she whispered and walked into his embrace, burying her face in his lapel. "Don't try that again. I can't lose you now."

He wrapped himself around her in a tight hug and set his chin atop her head, but said nothing.

Three weeks later

Mulder had adapted to Scully's apartment very comfortably. She had to admit that she liked having a warm body to cuddle against during the cold nights. They woke up and ate breakfast together; she suspected that he was eating better since she'd been feeding him.

He'd never lost the haunted look that had dogged him after the suspect attacked him, but he refused to discuss it. The most he would say was that he had bad dreams but never remembered them.

She could vouch for the nightmares. At least once a night, Mulder woke with a cry. He never remembered the dream, or at least wouldn't admit to any knowledge of it.

Mulder's apartment had been monitored for three weeks without so much as a nibble. The UNSUB seemed to have lost interest in him; at least she hoped so. Skinner had approved Mulder moving back in today, so they'd begun packing up his things. She had to admit that she'd miss him, even if he did forget to lower the toilet seat three times out of four.

She got out of bed, smiling down at Mulder's still-sleeping form. She hated to wake him, he got so little sleep these days. She glanced at the clock; it was almost 9 a.m. Better get him up for the day.

She leaned over and kissed him, then ran her lips across his stubbly cheek.

Mulder smiled. "Mmmmph?" He opened his eyes and took in her smiling face. "Good morning, sunshine."

"Hey, you're missing breakfast," she replied. "All the cholesterol you can eat."

"Yum," yawned Mulder, levering himself out of the bed. He followed her into the kitchen and was placidly buttering toast when the phone rang. He raised an eyebrow while she went to answer it, then padded out into the living room to hear the call.

"Yes Sir, we're both here. What? Where? I'll be there right away. Agent Mulder? Oh...I'll tell him." She hung up the phone and turned a troubled face to Mulder. "That was Skinner. A fresh body was found this morning. You were right, he is escalating."

Mulder nodded and headed for the bedroom. "I can move back into my apartment later. Where are we going?"

She bit her lip. "You aren't going anywhere. Skinner said specifically that you are to remain away from the crime scene or the body dump site. He....he recommended that you finish moving back into your apartment, then go to the X files office at the Hoover Building and work on cases unrelated to the Williams matter."

"And you?" Mulder asked quietly.

"I'm to continue working with Agent Pargeter on the case." She caught sight of his face. "I'm sorry, Mulder."

Mulder just nodded and watched silently while she got ready to go. She left him standing in her apartment, still silent.

Mulder watched the door shut with an impassive exterior hiding his internal rage. That his ability as an investigator should be questioned by Skinner, of all people, grated. And now the fact that Scully was going monster-hunting with that...that...brown-noser Pargeter was intolerable.

Mulder had felt a continued connection to the killer, even after the ketamine wore off. The killer's need for blood was accelerating and he wasn't going to stop, Mulder knew with every fibre of his being.

He had tried to tell Scully and Skinner, whenever he could get him to listen. Unfortunately, since he had nothing more concrete than a vague intuition, he'd been ignored. He'd spent weeks trying to recapture the memories he knew were still in his mind.

There was only one thing left to do; contact the monster again. He looked at the clock. Scully would be gone for hours and nobody would miss him.

He picked up the phone and dialed the Lone Gunmen.

"You want what?" Byers demanded.

"I want 100 milligrams of ketamine, preferably medical grade. Now can you get it for me or not?" Mulder tried hard to keep his impatience from showing.

"Whatcha gonna use it for?" Langley's voice broke onto the line. "I mean, not that WE can get anything like that for you, but I may have a friend..."

Mulder smiled. "I'm not addicted, if that's what you're worried about. I'm profiling a killer who uses ketamine on himself and then restrains his victims with it. I need to walk in his shoes for a while."

"Scully already told us you'd been down the rabbit-hole and couldn't remember anything," Langley said coolly. "How do you know this won't be the same?"

"Because I wasn't trying to remember during the experience. From what I've read about ketamine, you might forget the details that led to the trip but you can remember the trip itself as well as what you've learned."

He could hear the indecision on the line. Finally Langley said, "Okay, stop by in an hour and I'll have the stuff for you. You want liquid or powder?"

"Liquid. And I'll need a hypodermic needle, too."

Frohike broke in. "Have you told Agent Scully about any of this?"

"Uh...of course she knows. She's my partner, isn't she?" Mulder hated to lie again, but if Scully knew, she'd stop him. "The guy struck again today and he's escalating. I need to find out as much as I can about him as quickly as I can. How about it, guys?"

"All right, one hour," Frohike said, doubtfully.

Ninety minutes later

Mulder's apartment

Mulder lay down on his couch, gratefully feeling its familiar contours on his backside. It was good to be home. The Gunmen had been very reluctant to give him the drug, but had finally given in. Langley had managed to find medical grade, so this trip should be similar to the last one. Hopefully he'd pick up some memories, or at least insights, on the way.

Chapter 7

Mulder lay back on the couch, filling his mind with what he knew about the killer. Bringing that personality to the forefront was a little like assembling a difficult jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing, but he'd make do. He'd done this before a hundred times, although never with chemical assistance. Still, it was his one hope to retrieve the memories of his last trip. Hopefully he could retain what he learned long enough to write it down in the notebook he'd left on the coffee table.

He closed his mind and ran through the murders in sequence. He savored the crime scenes, each with its ritual pool of blood poured out, glistening in his mind's eye. He reached for the monster, just as he'd always done before...

Mulder picked up the filled syringe. The 100 milliliters should guarantee him an eventful but harmless trip. His internet research indicated that he could give himself an intramuscular injection, so he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and then stabbed his thigh with the needle, depressing the plunger.

He fell, deeper and deeper into the darkness. As he flew he could hear the sounds of traffic outside gradually fading into a general background buzz. Focus on the killer, he remembered and flooded his thoughts with murderous intention and blood. More blood. His reality was tinted red and rang with the cries of his victims. Oh yes, more than blood and killing there...he'd raped his victims too. He charged the blood that way, but he did more than that, he reaffirmed his power, his virility by raping the women.... Mulder dimly recalled learning in his Latin classes long ago that the root word for virility was 'vis', or power. "That's what this is all about, isn't it?", he asked the Other. "Power...power..." he whispered into the darkness, listening for the response.

The cries of the murdered women died back to a soft wail and were gradually replaced by a hissing sound. First, it was low and barely audible, then louder and louder. He'd heard the noise before, but where? The redness cleared away until he looked again into the cold reptilian eyes of Mrs. Paddock.

She smiled at him with sharply pointed teeth and her forked tongue flicked out, tasting his rising fear. "Come looking for the monster, have you, Agent Mulder?" she rasped. "I'm surprised, especially since you know that you're channeling the killer's own thoughts and personality." She peered at him through cold, lidless eyes. "Knowing that, why would you want to take that inside yourself?"

Mulder tried to close his eyes against the chaos he

was seeing, as her shape shifted and writhed. "I'm here looking for my memories, just memories. The killer was here and I know he spoke to me. I need to know what he said." He paused, then squinted against the riot of colors assaulting them. "You were there, too."

"I have always been there. I see you, Fox Mulder." Her words hissed into silence, and then he heard his own voice: "To know an artist, you have to look at his art. It really meant, if you want to catch a monster, you have to become one yourself."

She shifted into the shadow of a giant snake, and then blurred until she became a gentle looking older man. "You failed the test the last time, and yet you come back for more?" Reverend Samuel Mackey smiled with gentle malice. "You really want to meet this bloody rapist and 'walk in his shoes for a while '?" He gestured to the swirling chaos behind him. "Become the monster, then."

Mulder's memories of the other ketamine trip suddenly returned, along with the overwhelming realization of just how stupid he'd been. He frantically clawed away at the darkness, fighting the drug for consciousness, without success, while his soul slipped deeper and deeper into the howling maelstrom.


Hoover Building

Dana Scully picked at her salad and reviewed the same sentence in the case file for the third time. She sighed and put down her fork. Mulder was safely at her apartment and was probably watching Jerry Springer right now. Pargeter had gone back to Quantico to work on some paperwork but he'd be back later in the day.

She yawned and stretched. What a week this had been. She hated to admit it, but Pargeter's very normalcy was restful. He had no bad habits, was quietly respectful of her abilities, and never argued. She had a sneaking feeling that he left the toilet seat down, too. Mulder could learn a thing or two from him, she decided.

She heard a tap at the doorway and turned to find Skinner poking his head in. "Agent Scully, am I interrupting anything?" He stepped into the office. "Where's Pargeter?"

"Gone to Quantico for the afternoon. He'll be back later. Do you want me to call him?" she asked, eyeing the manila folder that Skinner carried.

Skinner shook his head. "No, actually I'm glad we have some privacy. This concerns Agent Mulder." He lifted the folder and handed it to Scully. "These are the medical leave forms for Agent Mulder's signature."

She opened the folder and glanced inside. "You have him requesting an eight week leave, sir. Surely that's too long. He doesn't even take vacations for that length of time."

"He needs it," Skinner said grimly, shaking his head. "He's overdue. The problems he's been having on this case are only symptoms of the wider issue. Mulder is overworked and has been for some time. If he won't rest voluntarily, then I'll make sure he does."

She frowned at the forms. "This requires his signature, sir."

"If he didn't voluntarily 'request' it, then I'd have to request one for him based on mental instability. It could ruin his career." Skinner grimaced. "What's left of it, anyway."

She looked at the forms with a troubled expression, then closed the folder. "I'll take it to him. It's a slow afternoon, I might as well make him some lunch and make sure he eats."

Skinner nodded. "You do that. Let me know if you have any trouble persuading him."

Dana Scully's Apartment

She knew that the apartment was empty the minute she opened the door. The place had the absent feeling of too much unpeopled space. Still, she checked every room with weapon in hand, alert to any sign of a struggle. Finally she gave up. There had been no struggle, but he wasn't here.

She picked up the phone and first dialed Mulder's apartment, then his cell phone, with no answer. "Why the hell do you carry a cell phone if you keep it turned off?!" she muttered under her breath. One more place to check before she panicked, she decided. She holstered her weapon and made her way to Mulder's apartment.

He writhed in the darkness. He was hungry, so hungry for warmth, for life, for power...In the distance he heard laughter, a woman's throaty chuckle transforming into a man's guffaw. The voices sounded familiar, but he couldn't remember where he'd heard them before.

He was Bob. That's right. He worked in a hospital and nobody saw him, nobody ever noticed him. That was how he managed to kill so many women. He smiled. He was in the newspapers every time they found a body; they noticed him then. He smiled more broadly. Best of all he got the power that the killing gave him...and and and better than the killing was the woman.

Women had never looked at him. Even when they saw him, they were repulsed. He'd been born with alopecia, body-wide baldness, and had always looked different. Even the wigs he had worn as a child couldn't hide the differences. He'd learned how to disappear so that people wouldn't notice him. Trouble was, he'd forgotten how to reverse it, how to be seen...until the grey men showed him how the blood increased his power and then how the sex, the violence of it, charged and sweetened the blood that much more.

It was hard to think, almost as though his thoughts were alien to him somehow. The noise was confusing, too. He heard shouting, somebody yelling and shaking him.

Scully let herself into the apartment, weapon at the ready, in case Mulder had been attacked again. Then she spotted Mulder sprawled on the couch.

"Mulder!" she cried with relief. "Why aren't you at my apartment? You can nap there..." She spotted the empty hypodermic on the floor and moved in quickly, reholstering her gun. She peeled back his eyelid, then began shaking him. "Mulder! Wake up! Mulder, can you hear me? Dammit, Mulder, what the Hell do you think you're doing?"

Mulder's eyes slowly opened and focused on her, his pupils dilated. Puzzled, she backed a way a bit. She saw...something...moving in the back of his eyes. Mulder's face had an expression she'd never seen, vaguely repellent. "Mulder?"

His eyes widened and took her in with a quick up and down glance. He grinned and lunged forward, grabbing both of her wrists with a grin. "I couldn't have asked for a better awakening, could I? I promise, I'll make it good for you."

"What? Mulder, are you joking?" She looked deep into his eyes and didn't like what she saw there. "Mulder?"

"My name is Bob," Mulder said. "Mulder isn't in, just now. Or at least, he's only partly here." He stood up, her wrists still firmly held in his big hands, twisting her arms uncomfortably upward.

Now she understood what the hypodermic was for. Ketamine had retrieved memories for him before; he was using it again to help profile the killer. "Bob..." she said nervously. "Bob, where is Mulder?"

"Gone. It's just us." Still holding her wrists tightly, he began backing her toward the bedroom. She kicked out, trying to trip him, but only succeeded in losing her footing as he yanked her off the floor by her wrists.

"Let me go!" She struggled, to his evident pleasure. When she saw that he was enjoying it, she stopped and tried another tack. "Bob, I've never met you before. Wh...where are you from?" Making eye contact with him, she tried to find a weapon using her peripheral vision.

"You wouldn't care," Mulder said desultorily, stopping in the bedroom doorway, Scully's body held firmly against his. "Nobody ever notices me."

Scully heard his heart beating a mile a minute and struggled to stay calm. She had to try to talk him down, somehow. "I..I'm noticing you. You seem to know a lot about drugs. Are you a doctor?" She tried to make her muscles limp, to try and slip away from his grip, but he just held her more tightly.

"Nah, I'm a nurse over at Georgetown. Thought people would notice me then, look up to me. Didn't work," Mulder said, looking around. "To do this right, I need ketamine but it looks like I'm out. Oh no you don't," he said as she began to struggle again. "We'll just have to do this without it. I guess I can find a kitchen knife..." he said thoughtfully.

"The blood," Scully whispered.

Mulder nodded, his eyes gleaming. "The blood, and the sex. It makes the blood work better." He wrapped both arms around her in a parody of a bear-hug and nibbled her ear. She flinched but was held tightly against him.

She felt a bulge growing against her hip with a kind of panic. "You mean, rape and murder," she exclaimed. "Call it what it is. Mulder, you aren't a murderer or a rapist. You're still in there, and you can stop this...Mulder? It's me, Scully...Can you hear me?"

Mulder blinked, his expression changing to recognition and horror, then something else took over and the strange gleam was back. "I don't know who you're talking to, chickie, but I'm Bob. Mulder's gone down where you'll never find him." He began to drag her roughly toward the bedroom again.

Frantically, she twisted and bit him on his bandaged arm, trying to break his hold long enough to reach her gun. He laughed and grabbed it from its holster, tossing it across the living room, his blood sparkling after it. The ketamine must be giving him an anesthetic effect, she realized with horror. He wouldn't feel any blows to his extremities because of the drug.

While she was distracted, he quickly maneuvered her into a chokehold. She fought for air and felt him throw her onto the bed. He landed on top of her, driving what little air she had, out of her lungs. This is wrong, she thought dimly, not Mulder...not Mulder....this can't be Mulder...

Still pushing one arm against her larynx, he used the other to tear off her blouse and bra. Seeing dark spots in front of her eyes, she managed to free one hand and rake her nails across his face.

"Goddamn bitch!" he yelled and backhanded her with his right hand. While she was still reeling, he got her slacks off, and then yanked her panties off as well. He discarded his sweats and shorts in quick bursts of movement, not allowing her a chance to work her way free. Meeting her gaze with a leering grin, he forced her legs wide apart with his knees and positioned himself at her entrance.

Ohmigod, this isn't happening, ohmigodholymothermary...she silently prayed as she found herself held immobile by the weight of his body. The first thrust caught her unawares and she gasped aloud. She heard Mulder chuckle and ram into her again. "Told you I'd make it good, didn't I? Nice and hard the way you women all like it. Powerful." He grunted with the effort and began thrusting in earnest.

He pounded into her, pressing her deep into the bed and, with his every movement, he slammed her head into the headboard. She held onto consciousness with all her strength, wondering vaguely why she was bothering.

Lying across her lungs and abdomen, his weight oppressed her. She was choking, couldn't breathe, couldn't think of anything but the pain and the burning in her lungs and between her legs. She could hear herself sobbing and the sound of his grunts, along with the slapping sound of the waterbed.

After a million years, he stiffened and moaned, then collapsed on top of her. She looked up into the face she'd loved for so long and wept.

Chapter 8

The helpless tears running down her cheeks, she lay there with head averted. She couldn't stand to look at his face. She felt him slip out of her and then the bed dipped. Through slit eyes, she saw Mulder as he went through the bedroom door and into the living room.

If he was following the UNSUB's pattern, he'd be looking for a knife. Cautiously, she levered herself out of the bed, hyperaware of every noise. She moved softly toward the bedroom door. Her foot stubbed against fabric and she eyed the pile of her shredded clothing. She wrinkled her nose and kicked it away in disgust. She hid herself behind the bedroom door and peered through.

The living room looked empty but there, under the coffee table lay her gun. Taking one last careful look, she sprinted toward the table and grabbed it, grateful for its comforting heft in her hand.

She heard a noise from the kitchen and froze again. Gun cocked, she stepped silently toward the kitchen door and carefully glanced inside.

Mulder or Bob or whatever that monster was, stood near the kitchen sink rapidly searching through the kitchen drawers. He was as naked as she and, she was glad to note, he looked bruised and scratched. She must have inflicted some damage on him in their struggle.

He turned in profile and she watched him open a final drawer, and then smile with satisfaction. He reached in and pulled out a filet knife, holding it in front of his face to study it more closely. She shifted into a shooter's stance, taking aim at his abdomen, then paused. The avid expression on Mulder's face had abruptly shifted to one of bewilderment and the hand holding the knife began to tremble violently. The knife slipped through his nerveless fingers and dropped with a clang as Mulder fell to the floor after it.

She watched and waited for him to move, but he lay still. Finally, she went forward and knelt next to him, feeling for a pulse at his neck. It was strong but fast. The drug must have finally knocked him out.

He lay, face down on the linoleum floor, the knife a few inches from his hand. She picked it up and threw it back into the drawer, then stood there with her gun trained on his still body. Finally, she pulled a kitchen chair out from the table and sat down, her eyes never leaving him. What now? she wondered.

If she called the police, it would be a death knell to Mulder's career. Bad enough that he was using recreational drugs, but he'd raped a fellow agent. This couldn't be explained away and no amount of pleading on Skinner's part would save his job. Did she want to save him? Scully sighed and rubbed her free hand over her eyes. She didn't know how she felt. Violated. Betrayed. Angry; yes, very very angry. How could he take such a chance? Hadn't it occurred to him that he might hurt himself, much less others?

She shivered, suddenly remembering her nakedness. Picking up the gun, she made her way into the bedroom. She didn't want to touch the clothes he'd ripped off her, so she rummaged through Mulder's dresser. As she held one of his t-shirts against her body, she found herself dropping it back into the drawer and backing away. She just couldn't bear to wear anything that smelled of him. At last she found a small basket of freshly laundered clothes and pulled on a t-shirt and baggy sweats from it. That would have to do.

She cast a glance at the bathroom door, feeling dirty, both inside and out. She turned away. No time, now. But later she'd scrub this day out of her body, if she could.

>>From the living room she grabbed the Indian blanket and a cushion from the couch, tucking the pillow under Mulder's head and throwing the blanket over him.

She sat on the kitchen chair and drew her legs up to her chin. Wrapping her hands around her knees, with gun in hand, she sat down to wait.

Two hours later

The gray mist faded away from around Mulder and he began to wake. The shreds of a nightmare faded away from him; he sensed that it had been about something terrible, but couldn't recall what it was.

He lay on a hard, cold surface with what he thought was a blanket thrown on top of him. He opened his eyes and found himself looking down into grungy linoleum that appeared vaguely familiar. His own apartment?

He sighed and coughed, feeling every bone in his body ache. He realized that the floor was cold because he was naked. He couldn't recall feeling this bad since the last time he'd spent the evening at the Gunmen's drinking margaritas. He creakily sat up and looked around him.

A very battered Dana Scully watched him silently from a kitchen chair, legs tightly drawn up against her body in almost a fetal position. Her gun was trained at his head.

"Uh...hi Scully," he smiled crookedly, eyeing the gun. "Must have been some party." She didn't smile, so he continued. "I did something stupid, didn't I?"

She didn't lower the gun." What is the last thing you remember, Mulder?"

He started to stand up, then stopped as she moved swiftly to her feet, aiming the gun at him. "Stop where you are," she said softly. "Don't move or I'll shoot you."

"Scully? What...? I don't understand?" She gave him no answer and no clue about what was going on. He sat back down and racked his memory, trying to recall the past 24 hours. "Um...I...Skinner took me off the case, I remember, after the UNSUB attacked me." He started confidently, then his voice trailed off. "I...um...I got some ketamine from the guys and thought..." His voice trailed off and he looked at her doubtfully.

"You thought you'd try to channel the killer, didn't you? Even though you were taken off this case, you decided to complete your profile. And the best way to profile the killer is to become him, isn't it? Isn't that what Patterson taught you to do, Mulder?" Scully demanded tightly.

"I don't remember...I was just suddenly here...I think I dreamed about a fight or something....or...someth.." He finally looked at her and mentally took in the bruised jaw, split lip and swollen nose, then gulped. "Scully...what...did I do?"

She pursed her lips and looked him straight in the eyes. "The legal term is sexual assault but the general term is rape." Her voice trembled with emotion and she lowered the gun a bit. "Mulder, you raped me."

"I...Oh no...Scully, my God....I don't remember anything..."Mulder turned pale and he fell back, his voice wavering into silence. "I did...all that...to you?" he choked out, taking in the split lip and bruises. He put a hand up to his cheek, finally feeling the sting of the nail marks she'd put on his face. He looked down at the bruises and scratches on his own body and felt the stickiness around his genitals. His hands were bruised, the nails broken and torn. The enormity of it all finally sank in. He closed his eyes and tried to swallow the nausea.

"Yes, Mulder. You did it. All of it." she replied, pinning him with an accusing stare, her gun still at the ready. "Skinner took you off this case, and for good reason," she said inexorably. "Didn't it ever occur to you just how dangerous your actions were? Did you ever think about the effect it might have on others? Have you ever?" She turned her face away, eyes filling with tears. "Mulder, I found you passed out on the couch. When you woke up...you were someone else. You dragged me into the bedroom and..." her voice trembled, "you s..s..sexually assaulted me there. Then you went into the kitchen where I found you hunting for a knife...You were going to fulfill the killer's entire agenda, Mulder. That's when you passed out." She turned back and looked at him with burning eyes. "You've always known the risks you take when you profile, Mulder."

Mulder froze when she mentioned the knife and went even paler. He glanced around the kitchen, looking for it.

"I put it away, Mulder. It was the filet knife I got you for Christmas. You remember? The only decent knife you own?" Scully asked. "If you hadn't passed out, I'd be dead and buried in a park somewhere."

His mouth worked, but no sound came out. He closed his eyes, trying vainly to shut out the reality. "Scully...my God Scully, I am so sorry...I..I..I never intended to hurt you..." Tears clogged his voice. He drew a deep breath, then forced himself to look her in the eye. "You're right, Scully. I caused this. I did this, through my own stupidity and arrogance. I was trying to..to find my memories of the killer and I...I didn't want you to know what I was doing because you'd have stopped me. That's why I came here...I...I don't know what to say to you. I...it's okay if you want to shoot me. I deserve it...I...I don't know how I can live with this."

Scully slowly shook her head. "Not good enough. That's the feeblest excuse I have ever heard from you, Fox Mulder. Do you realize just how irresponsible this was? You never intended to cause me any harm; I know that. But I also know that, by doing this, you recklessly disregarded your own safety and the safety of anyone around you." She paused and glanced at the ceiling, trying to control her voice, then continued. "You became the killer, Mulder. You had his personality, his goals. If not me, then who would you have hurt and maybe killed?"

She lowered the gun. "Did it ever occur to you that, by taking these stupid risks, you hurt the ones who love you? How many times have I waited next to your hospital bed, wondering whether you'd live or die? I had thought that you were becoming more responsible, that you were beginning to share your plans with me instead of going off alone. Mulder...I can't do this...I don't know what I feel..." Scrubbing her arm across her eyes, she turned her face away from him.

Instinctively, Mulder moved forward to comfort her and was startled when she jumped back in panic, raising the gun again. "No. Don't touch me, Mulder. Just...don't touch me right now."

He stopped, his hands in the air. "Scully, I won't do anything you don't want. I don't know what to say...I can't tell you how sorry I am for this...I don't remember... I don't..." His voice fell away in a whisper.

"You did it, Mulder. We both have to live with this," she replied softly.

Mulder bowed his head, eyes closed. "You're right, Scully," he said in a monotone voice. He looked up again, with a lost expression on his face. "I'll call the police and you can file a report. You need to go to the hospital...so they can treat you for what...what I did to you...I'm so very sorry, Scully."

She shook her head. "No, don't call the police, and don't tell Skinner either. That would ruin your career, hands down. As it is, while you were under the influence, you let slip some identifying information on the killer." Wordlessly, she turned away from him and went to the telephone.

"Sir? Yes, it's Agent Scully. I may have some more information. Agent Mulder thinks he can remember some details of what the killer said to him. The UNSUB identified himself as 'Bob' and said that he works at Georgetown as a nurse. That should be enough information to pinpoint a suspect and maybe get a search warrant for the man's locker at work. I have to stop by my apartment but I'll be in the office in an hour or two, Sir." She hung up the phone and then whirled around, training the gun on Mulder as he approached her.

He put both hands up in a warding off gesture. She slowly lowered the gun again. "I...I think I need to leave, Mulder. Will you be okay here alone?" She glanced toward the couch and the empty ketamine syringe.

"I won't take anything else, Scully," Mulder sighed. "Not so much as an aspirin. Are you sure that there isn't anything..?"

She shook her head. "Not...not right now, Mulder. I think it would be best if we checked you into a hotel for the time being; at least until we arrest the suspect. I'll call you when we're close to an arrest."

Mulder nodded dumbly as, without taking her eyes off him, she gathered her purse and all but ran from the apartment. As the door closed, he realized that she hadn't even bothered to find her shoes. She was going barefoot to avoid being in his presence a moment longer.

Feeling cold, he went into the bedroom looking for clothing and stopped dead at the doorway. The bed was a rumpled mess, with spots of blood and semen dotting the sheets. He swallowed hard and, tears streaming down his face, stumbled to the chest of drawers. In front of the chest, he found Scully's shredded clothing on the floor.

He bent slowly and picked them up, holding them carefully in both hands. Then he separated his fingers and let the clothing fall away.

20 minutes later

Dana Scully's apartment

Scully carefully locked the door behind her, checking the deadbolts a second, then third time. Then she leaned her head against the cold wood, finally letting the tears go.

How could he do such a thing? It wasn't Mulder, it wasn't him. It was the killer he was profiling that had taken over the man she knew. But she also knew how Mulder profiled and so did he. He had known the danger but had taken the risk anyway.

She couldn't escape the truth of it. Mulder had known the risks and had chosen to take them anyway. Pulling off his t­shirt and sweats, she blindly made her way to the bathroom. She needed a hot shower and a long scrub, then maybe a bath.

She was caught by her image in the full length mirror. Makeup wasn't going to hide this. She felt the split lip, then gingerly pressed her fingertips against her swollen nose. The other bruises could be hidden by clothing, but the face...

She dimly heard the doorbell ring and stiffened. Mulder? Could he have followed her here? It was possible. She shut off the water and wrapped herself in her bathrobe. She grabbed her weapon from the toilet seat where she'd left it and went to answer the door.

"Damn," she whispered when she looked through the peephole and realized who it was. "Agent Pargeter, is this important?" she called through the door.

"Dana, we got a warrant to search Bob Brown's locker. I thought you'd want to be in on it. Open the door!"

Mentally cursing Pargeter and efficient judges, she tightened the robe and opened the door.

"Dana, this is great! There's a guy at Georgetown that matches his descrip...Dana? What happened to you?" His eyes narrowed as he took in her nose and lip.

Sighing, she opened the door and let him in. "I fell down a flight of stairs. Nothing serious, but I thought I'd take a shower before I went back to the office."

Scrutinizing her carefully, he followed her into the living room. "Here's the warrant, Dana. We're searching in 45 minutes. Do you feel up to coming along?" He handed her the warrant, then gently grabbed her wrist as she took the paper.

Scully reflexively pulled back in panic, exposing more of her wrist from the sleeve. Pargeter tried to meet her glance, but she avoided him in shame.

"You didn't get this bruise falling down a flight of stairs. Somebody grabbed you." He caught her other hand and brought the wrist up to the light. "I'd say that somebody held you by your wrists, to cause bruising like that." Pargeter paused, his lips thinning. "Who did this?"

Scully tried to turn away. "It's nothing important, Tom, honestly. I'm fine."

"No, you are not fine. Who did this to you? Mulder?" Pargeter demanded. At Scully's jerk, he nodded and went on more gently. "What did he do to you, Dana? Did he rape you?"

She didn't answer and looked away.

"I'll call the police department," he said opening his cell phone.

"No. Don't, Tom, please. He didn't mean to do it," she pleaded. "He was trying to finish the profile on the killer and he used ketamine to try and retrieve his memories." She handed him the warrant. "That's how he got the information that made this possible."

"You walked in on him while he was the killer, didn't you?" Pargeter asked. "I'd heard about what profiling does to Mulder but I didn't believe it. Shit!" Pargeter looked at the warrant, then stuffed it into his pocket. "He's dangerous, Dana. That stuff can cause flashbacks, you know?"

"He was never a danger before," she insisted. "When I left him, he was fully conscious."

"He's not going to be staying with you anymore, is he?" Pargeter demanded.

Scully shook her head. "He's going to stay in a hotel for the time being." She drew in a deep breath. "Can you wait for me? I...I need to shower and change."

His eyes meeting hers, Pargeter nodded. "I'll tell the guys that there's been a delay. Meet me at the office in two hours and we'll do it."

"You aren't going to tell Skinner, are you?" she pleaded.

Pargeter shook his head. "No. Not if you don't want me to. But if Mulder lays a hand on you again, he'll answer to me!" He softened. "Dana, if you ever need me for anything, all you have to do is call. Okay?"

She gave him a lopsided smile. "Okay."

After he left, she relocked the doors and windows, checking them three times more before she was satisfied. After locking the bathroom door behind her, she wedged it shut with the chair she'd dragged inside and started the water again.

This was foolish, she knew. Mulder wasn't going to climb through her window and hurt her again. It wasn't Mulder, she reminded herself. It was the killer's personality that did it, not Mulder. Mulder was the gentlest man she had ever known. She stepped under the spray of water and while she scrubbed, she wondered if she'd ever be able to stand the sight of him again.

Mulder's Apartment

Mulder sat in the dark. There didn't seem to be any point in turning on the lights; he seemed to belong in a dark place after all.

The apartment was silent and he knew that he would be sleeping on the couch tonight. He couldn't stomach the thought of sleeping in the bed where...where... He closed his eyes and wished that it had all been a dream, but he knew that his luck had never been that good. He wasn't going to bother with a hotel. If the killer came back for him, Mulder would be waiting happily for his knife. Of course, there might be a faster solution. He walked over to his desk and opened the drawer where he kept his ankle holster and gun. He lifted the weapon, stroking the smooth gunmetal with his hand.

"I'm so sorry, Scully..." he whispered.

Chapter 9

Mulder held the gun against the parallel scratches that ran down his cheek. It would be so easy to take himself out of Scully's life right now. She'd be better for the loss. If he died now she'd close down the X files and probably go back to Quantico. She'd find a man and marry, get that suburban home she'd always dreamed of.

He opened his eyes, letting the tears run freely. He'd been a jinx for her from the first day they'd met. If he died now it would all die with him. And what then? What then? He stared at the gun, hefting it in his hand, suddenly seeing Scully in his mind's eye saying "Not good enough" to his feeble excuses.

If he died, she'd be left to deal with the aftermath: the investigation that would inevitably follow. She'd be forced to disclose the details of the rape whether she

wanted to or not. She might even become a suspect in his untimely death. In any case, she'd be forced to heal from all this alone.

He frowned, then closed his eyes again, letting the pain flood him. He couldn't let her face that. He couldn't die yet, not while she might still need him. He'd stay alive and cause her no trouble; stay away from her if that was what she wanted. Go willingly to jail if she wanted to prosecute. Stay alive and face this down and accept the consequences of his choices. That would be the best decision he could make for Scully. For now, at least.

So what was the use after all? Mulder remembered that he was still naked and felt suddenly vulnerable and afraid. He started for the bedroom to get some clothing, only to be pulled up sharp by the pile of Scully's shredded clothing and the tousled bed.

He gently lifted the clothing and lightly stroked it with one hand before neatly folding each item and setting it on top of the dresser. The shoes he placed carefully inside his closet, then went into the bathroom.

He avoided looking at himself in the mirror and ducked into the shower stall. Turning the hot water on full, he turned his face to the wall and let it wash over him. The grime on his body was nothing to the foulness he felt inside himself. Planting his elbows on the tile, he leaned forward and closed his eyes but couldn't escape Scully's accusing face.

She'd never been this angry with him before. She'd looked at him as though she hated him. If she did hate him, he could hardly blame her. He'd been stupid. Stupid! He supposed that he'd been pushing his luck over the years. Every time he had ditched Scully to bend or break the rules, he'd managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat and both solve the case and survive doing it. This time, in his arrogance, he'd destroyed what he valued most in this life. He was only grateful that he'd passed out before she died from his arrant stupidity.

He let the noise of the pounding spray hide the sound of his sobbing.

The water was running lukewarm when Mulder heard the phone ring. He turned off the water and sprinted into the living room, snatching the phone out of its cradle. "Mulder," he replied, hoping and fearing it would be her.

"Mulder, it's me," came Scully's familiar voice. "We just finished searching Bob

Brown's locker at work and found two pairs of women's panties, a syringe of ketamine and a credit card issued to his first victim. Skinner's getting the arrest warrant and we'll be picking up Brown at his home in about forty five minutes."

"I'm glad to hear it," Mulder said, then drew in a ragged breath. "Scully...I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry about what happened. I don't expect you to forgive me..."

"Mulder," she interrupted tensely. "I don't want to talk about it now. I said I'd call you when an arrest was imminent, and so I have."

Mulder jerked, as though he'd been hit. "Okay, Scully," he finally replied quietly. "What's the address for Brown's home? I'm on my way."

Scully paused, then replied, "Mulder, Skinner put you on a medical leave. I don't think you should be active on the case right now. I think you really need to stay home and rest."

"Scully, I'm the one who came up with the information that led us to Brown! I have a right to be there!" Mulder declared, then softened his voice. "Unless you don't want me to be there."

"Mulder, I...I'm not sure what I feel these days. Seeing you is complicated. I don't know...whether our relationship can be saved and that frightens me."

Mulder closed his eyes and rested the receiver against his temple. He drew in a shuddering breath then said, "Scully, I know that I hurt you terribly, but please...please just think about the seven years we've known each other. Think about what you know about me, about the kind of person I am; whether I'm likely to allow last night to happen ever again. I won't hurt you again, Scully. You're the most important thing in my life."

He could hear her sardonic smile. "Even more than the truth you've always been seeking?"

"Scully, you ARE my truth and you have always been. All I ask is a fair hearing from you. Please? Just think about it."

"How can you guarantee that last night won't happen the next time you profile another killer? You'll be pressured again and you'll feel obligated to help out," Scully's voice sounded sad. "I couldn't stand to see your personality disappear again into something so monstrous."

"Not if I never profile again, Scully, and I won't. They can't force me," Mulder said

firmly. "Will you think about what I've said?" he asked anxiously.

"I'll...think about it Mulder. I..it might take me some time..."

"As much time as you need, Scully. If there's anything that I can do...please...please call me."

He set the phone down gently, his head hanging and sat on the couch. What happened next was her decision. Suddenly exhausted, he lay down on the couch and stared at the blank ceiling.

An Hour Later

Dana Scully rode with Pargeter to Wilmington Street, where the suspect's apartment building was. She could see the other agents gathering around the corner from the apartment house.

She'd done what she could with makeup to repair the damage, but she knew too well how bad she looked. Her nose had doubled in size and one of her eyes was starting to purple. She squared her shoulders and carefully got out of the car, moving stiffly toward the cluster of agents. Pargeter seemed about to offer help but she quelled him with a glare. She was going to face down the whole damned group if she had to.

Still, she heard the whispers behind her: "Hey, look at Mrs. Spooky! Looks like she lost a fight, doesn't she? Suppose they had a lover's quarrel?"

"Yeah, where is old Spooky, anyway? Isn't he the one that came up with the lead?"

"Yup, it was Mulder all right but Skinner put him on forced medical leave. The way I heard it, Spooky was close to being locked up so Skinner took his badge..."

She pursed her lips and said nothing, pretending not to hear. They'd always told lies about Mulder, why should it change now? "Hello Sir," she said to Skinner. Skinner turned and his eyes widened when he saw her condition.

"Agent? What happened?" he asked, taking in her injuries with a practiced glance.

She smiled crookedly. "I lost a fight with a stairwell, Sir. I slipped and fell down stairs. I'll be more careful next time."

Skinner frowned suspiciously. "If you feel unwell, let me know. We don't want anyone at less than their best for this. Agent Pargeter!"

Pargeter came over eagerly. "Sir?"

"You're with me. We'll engage the suspect at his front door. The rest of you, do it like we planned."

The other agents dispersed in a perimeter around the apartment house. Scully hung back, deliberately not making eye contact with any of the other agents. The passed her with smarmy grins and took up their positions.

She couldn't decide how she felt about it all. She hadn't had time to absorb everything that had happened the night before. She knew that Mulder hadn't attacked her; the suspect's personality had. Did the personality come from inside Mulder's own mind or from somewhere else? She couldn't face Mulder yet. She sighed. She'd loved him for so long before deciding to take the relationship to it's next level but now regretted it a bit. If she'd never become Mulder's lover, she wouldn't be hurting him like this now. She had heard the pain in his voice but felt powerless to do anything about it.

She was jerked out of her reverie by the sound of the doorbell. She forced herself to focus on the matter at hand.

When there was no answer, Skinner drew his gun and tried the door. It opened easily. He and Pargeter ducked inside the house. Scully moved forward to the outside walls, followed by the other agents, and watched the front windows.

While she watched, she saw one window slide open and a flickering human-shaped form clamber out. She blinked but couldn't get her eyes to focus on him as she rushed forward. "He's gone out the front window!" she yelled and tried to follow him. He seemed to melt from her view and she looked around helplessly. She spotted the grass being flattened on the lawn in the shape of footsteps and ran after them, trying to tackle the suspect. She launched herself forward but contacted only the ground. He'd slipped past her somehow.

She was just getting up when Skinner and Pargeter arrived, panting from the exertion. Pargeter helped her up the rest of the way, pulling her jacket sleeve taut in the process. Skinner's eyes noted the purple finger-marks on her wrist. She met his glance, flushed and pulled the sleeve quietly down again.

"What was that?" asked Skinner, searching vainly for the suspect.

"Our suspect. We can't see him unless he wants us to," said Scully sourly. "He's all but invisible. I saw a kind of heat shimmer in the window, then the window opened and I saw the shape climb out and run."

"How do you track someone like that?" Pargeter asked.

"We could try tracking dogs," said Skinner thoughtfully. "He may not be able to disguise his scent."

Five hours later, after sealing off the neighborhood and making a house to house search without a sign of their suspect, Skinner finally called a halt. "Brown seems to have vanished. You know the most about our suspect, Agent Scully. Do you have any suggestions as to how we should proceed?" he asked tiredly.

"This is clearly how he's managed to commit so many murders without getting caught. Nobody can see him." She paused, considering. "And that's the problem for him, I think. He believes that the blood can make him visible."

"An invisible man who wants to be seen?" asked Pargeter. "That sounds like one of Mulder's theories."

Scully flushed. "It is," she said. "But that doesn't make it wrong."

"Well, he's certainly left this area. Even the dogs haven't found him. We need to figure out where he's gone and how to apprehend him when we do find him," Skinner said. "Damn! I don't like this."

The other agents shook their collective heads, gathered their equipment and drove away. Scully was one of the last to leave.

"Dana, do you need a ride home?" Pargeter asked solicitously. "No offense, but you look pretty thrashed."

She smiled wryly. "Thanks for the compliment, but no, I'm fine. I can drive myself home." She made her way to her car and carefully seated herself behind the wheel, pulling away from the curb with care. As she drove, she felt a tear splash onto the steering wheel, then another. She realized that she was crying and had no idea why.

Mulder's apartment

Mulder stared straight at the ceiling and fell into a light doze. The ceiling faded and disappeared, confronting him with another view that seemed to waiver and bounce as though he were running.

He seemed to be in a neighborhood with apartment houses, being chased by men with guns. They wore jackets with lettering on them and he vaguely recognized them somehow. He wasn't going to let himself be caught. He chuckled. They'd never catch him. Maybe nobody never saw him when he wanted to be noticed, but they certainly didn't see him when he wanted to be invisible! He faded into the underbrush in front of the startled eyes of a red-headed female officer. She chased him and made a lame attempt at a tackle, but he just laughed and sprinted away.

As he kept running, he could hear her shouting something to the others. He ran right past them all and around the corner. He knew a few boltholes where he'd be safe until he could make another life for himself...

The dream(?) faded out, leaving Mulder lying dazed on the couch. He sat up and put a hand to his head but it didn't ease the pounding headache. What was that? A flashback? What had he seen? He thought it over and realized that he'd seen Scully, Skinner and a flock of FBI agents and had been running from them. Or was it somebody else who had been running?

"I'm channeling his thoughts," Mulder said. "I've got some kind of link to that bastard. The ketamine must have done something to make a kind of connection between us." Then he thought over the full ramifications of that. Could he assume the killer's personality again, even without the ketamine? He couldn't let Scully be near him until he was sure; couldn't let anybody near him without warning them...

But first, he owed it to Scully to warn her.

Scully's apartment

By the time she reached her apartment, the tears had dried but the lost feeling hadn't subsided. She let herself into the apartment, then pulled her weapon and made a quick survey for intruders. Finding no one, she double locked the door and kicked off her shoes. The message light on her answering machine was blinking, so she hit the 'play' key. Mulder's voice flooded the room.

"Scully, I know you're not there, so I'm leaving this message for you. I hope you'll listen to this entire message. I know that you lost the suspect today; he climbed out a window. I could see it through his eyes while he was escaping. He slid right through your perimeter because nobody could see him.

This afternoon, the world faded out and I was just suddenly there, at the killer's house and saw Skinner and you and Pargeter trying to arrest him. He was right in front of you, when he just faded out and ran away. Scully, I could hear his thoughts. He was laughing at you all, confident that this ability of his would let him get away again. He's going to hide out until he can build up a new identity and start the whole thing all over again. Somehow, I'm hearing thoughts again but it's restricted to his alone. The ketamine must have done something to me that forged a connection between the killer and me. I've been getting bits and flashes of his thoughts all afternoon.

What happened last night WASN'T me. It was the killer, somehow acting through me. I don't know how it is, but I seem to have some kind of connection to him. At first I thought it was more of the ketamine fog, but when the images began to make sense I realized that I was 'hearing' his thoughts.

I think I have extraordinary insight into this suspect; I may be the only one who can see him without visual distortion. I'll stay away from you; I don't ever want to hurt you again. But right now, we can use this to catch him. Please let me help. Call me... Please."

Scully collapsed onto the couch, her feet giving way beneath her. Mulder...what could she do? What should she do? She wrapped her arms around herself and rocked with pain. "Mulder, I do love you, but I don't know if I can trust you," she whispered.

She was unwilling to believe that Mulder was somehow channeling the killer's thoughts, but that was the most logical explanation. She shook her head at the bizarreness of it all. Mulder's telepathy had seemed to clear up after the operation he had suffered at the smoker's hands. Maybe it hadn't cleared up entirely, or maybe it needed a trigger to become active. The ketamine might have been the trigger this time.

The ketamine, combined with Mulder's usual submersion of his personality when he profiled, could have given him a direct line to the killer's personality. Maybe it really hadn't been Mulder last night after all. Maybe it had been the killer, in Mulder's body.

She sighed. She'd love to believe this theory but she still doubted. She loved him with all her heart, regardless. Could she trust him? How far? And, assuming Mulder was right and somehow the killer had used Mulder's body, how safe was Mulder? Would he attack somebody else?

She picked up the phone and dialed Mulder's number. He picked up on the first ring. "Mulder? It's me," she said. "I got your message."

Mulder answered, "Scully, I was a stupid arrogant fool to try that stunt with the ketamine. But I didn't rape you; it wasn't me, it was my body with the killer's personality inside. Just...try to forgive me if you can." He drew a breath. "And I think I can help you find him. I'm still getting bits of his thoughts"

Scully closed her eyes. "Mulder, it could be argued that you're distancing yourself from the guilt by dissociating from what you've done...I don't know what to do, Mulder. If it really was his personality last night, you can't be sure he won't take over again. You're a danger to others."

"I know," Mulder said quietly. "And I don't know when or how this will end. I hope it'll fade away over time if the ketamine was what triggered it."

"Or you might die of it, like you almost died before," she replied.

"Which would solve all my problems," Mulder in a matter of fact tone of voice.

"Mulder, don't joke about that! You aren't going to die and this killer isn't going to rule your life. I won't let that happen to you!" She said sharply.

"We'll have to assume that I'm a danger to others," Mulder said. "At least until we're sure that this is temporary."

"What do we do, then? Take you to the hospital? You could see your neurologist," Scully began, when Mulder interrupted her.

"No, Scully, we can't. Put me into any public hospital or facility and old Smokey will find me. His last attempt to become telepathic failed; he might try again. I can't let him have that kind of power."

Scully nodded and sighed. "You're right, but you shouldn't be alone..."

"I think I have a solution," Mulder said. "I could stay with the Gunmen for the time being. They outnumber me and there's always somebody there. If something happens and I do get out of control, one of them can phone for an ambulance."

"That would work...and Mulder...I haven't given up on us yet. I just..need some time to work this out."

The Lone Gunmen's Place

"We're really sorry about this," said Langly, handing Mulder another slice of pizza. "My..ah..friend's source is usually reliable. That must have been a bad batch of ketamine you got."

"No, that wasn't it," Mulder said and took a bite. He paused, gathering his thoughts, then laid down the rest of his slice uneaten. "I think the problem is with me as much as the drug. I'm...telepathic...at least at a low level. That explains my success while I was profiling. Those leaps I made weren't leaps of logic at all. I was reading the criminal's mind and interpreting his thoughts."

"You can't do that now, can you? Can you read us?" Frohike looked alarmed.

Mulder shook his head. "No, it looks like it's selective. Most of the time I'm not aware of any special ability. It was the ketamine that's activated what seems to be happening now."

"All that Scully told us was that you had a bad reaction to the ketamine and needed to be monitored for a while in a safe place. She said that you got violent," Byers put in anxiously. "Just what did she mean by violent?"

Mulder gave them a twisted half-smile. "She didn't describe it, did she? I can't blame her. Let's just say that I became the killer for an evening and...and...I hurt Scully; almost killed her before I passed out."

"And you're afraid that you might become him again, is that it?" Frohike asked, glancing at Mulder's uneaten pizza. "If you like it better with anchovies, we got those too."

"No, the pizza's fine, I'm just not very hungry today," said Mulder with a smile. "Scully was concerned that it might happen again and we needed a safe place for me to be just in case there was a problem. After the last time I had telepathy, you can see why going to a hospital doesn't thrill me." He sighed and pushed his plate away, leaning his head in his hands. "I just hope that this thing wears off naturally."

The Gunmen exchanged glances before Byers spoke. "And if you do go off the deep end, what should we do?"

Mulder straightened and his smile faded. "If you can, dial 911 and call an ambulance. But if I threaten your safety or anybody else's, shoot me." He looked away from their aghast faces. "I don't want this to happen again," he said simply and, setting his gun down on the table, pushed it toward Frohike. "My conscience won't take it."

Chapter 10

Six Days Later

3:00 a.m.

The scream cut through the darkness, loud and terrified. Langly, hunched over a computer screen, jumped with startlement, then scrambled out of his chair and ran down the hallway. Two side doors opened and a bleary Frohike and Byers lurched after him. Langly got to the door at the end of the hallway first, and pounded on it.

"Mulder? Mulder are you okay? Unlock the door!"

"Here, let me," Frohike sighed and pulled the lock-pick kit from the pocket of his robe with the ease of long practice. He knelt at the doorknob and quickly got it open. Langly hit the light switch while Byers and Frohike ran into the room.

Mulder lay in the sofa bed, tangled in a mass of sheets and blankets, struggling. Frohike, the first at the bed, grabbed his arms and began shaking him. "Mulder! C'mon, wake up! It's another nightmare, man!"

The screaming stopped and Mulder slowly woke. He blinked when he saw the three anxious and unshaven faces above him. "Hey," he said sleepily. "I'm not in Kansas anymore, am I?"

"You know it," said Frohike sourly. "What was it this time?"

Mulder closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "I was reliving his last two rape and murders. You know what he does with the blood? He drinks it. And he likes the flavor."

"This has to stop," Byers said. "Mulder, I know you hate going to the doctor but you need help."

Mulder's eyes stayed closed. "Only one doctor for me and she doesn't make house calls." He opened them and smiled wryly, then sat up slowly. "I'll be okay."

"Yeah, but will we?" asked Langly. "This is four nights in a row, Mulder. Every time, I'm convinced that some guy is killing you in here. My D & D scores are falling and the other guys in the MUD are starting to laugh at me."

"I'm sorry I'm killing your scores, Langly," said Mulder tiredly. "Look, I'll pick up some sleeping pills in the morning and see if they help. Or I can go back to my place; I'll know if the guy targets me, anyway."

"No," Byers shook his head. "It isn't safe for you or for other people. You said so yourself, until you know that you aren't going to lose control of yourself you need to be monitored."

"Guys, I'm making your lives as hellish as mine is right now. That isn't fair. Maybe I should go home after all. Anyway, I won't hurt Scully because she won't come near me." He turned his gaze away from the questions in the others' eyes. Frohike, Byers and Langly exchanged glances and, at Frohike's nod, the other two filed out.

Frohike pulled a chair over to the sofa bed and sat down. "Why don't you tell me what happened between you two? I'd expect Agent Scully to be here visiting you every day, but we haven't seen her at all this week. What's going on?"

Mulder, sitting on the side of the bed, hands clasped between his knees, mumbled something softly. Frohike leaned forward. "What?" he asked.

"I raped her," Mulder said softly, still not meeting his eyes.

"What?" Frohike exclaimed.

Mulder looked up at last with the remnants of the nightmare on his face. "I guess I'd better explain..."

2:00 p.m. The Same Day

Hoover Building

Dana Scully sat back in her chair, reflecting on the case. She frowned, then leaned forward to scan Brown's personnel file, yet again. Pargeter was working at Mulder's desk, completely at home. He caught her glance and smiled, then bent to his task again. She flushed and looked away.

Pargeter looked out of place in this office, sitting in Mulder's chair. Mulder. She missed him. Pargeter was a good office-mate, no question. He had no bad habits, didn't argue with her ideas, didn't float far-fetched theories. He even brought her a daily bagel with light cream cheese, just like Mulder habitually did. Pargeter had taken to inviting her to lunch ever day. She had to stop that or she'd start gaining weight, for sure. She had a sneaking suspicion that Pargeter had already asked Skinner about assignment to the X files if Mulder's absence proved...permanent. She sighed. This time, it was serious.

She worried about Mulder. She'd spoken with him a few times by phone and he'd opened each call with a new plea for her forgiveness. Try as she might, she couldn't tell him the words that would release him. Nor could she bring herself to see him in person.

She'd gone from being enraged at him to...what? She didn't hate him.... That night, Mulder had been under the influence of both a powerful hallucinogen and a twisted personality. That he'd put himself in harm's way was stupid, but predictable for anyone who knew Fox Mulder. She should have suspected that he'd try something so lame-brained.

Am I blaming myself for the rape? she wondered. She knew that guilt and shame were common reactions in rape victims. No, she didn't think she was accepting blame; blame was firmly in Mulder's court. Then what did she feel? It was pretty uncomplicated, after all. She loved Mulder. She knew in her mind that what happened had nothing to do with Mulder's motivations and everything to do with the combination of ketamine and profiling. No, she didn't feel blame for the rape. What she still felt was rage, rage at his incredible carelessness in allowing it to happen in the first place. She was furious at him because..because...because she'd finally been able to surrender and trust him with her heart and he'd royally blown it. Okay, she was pissed at him.

She pursed her lips. Her mother had always complained that Dana could hold grudges. She didn't often get angry enough, but when she was, she hung onto it with all the tenacity of her stubborn nature. She wondered whether that was what she was doing? Holding a grudge? She'd trusted him with her heart and he was what? He was a man. He was...just Mulder. Impulsive, obsessed, socially inept. She sighed as the phone rang. Pargeter picked it up and spoke a few words, then held it out to her.

"Dana, it's for you," he handed her the phone.

"Scully," she said.

"Agent Scully, this is Frohike," a familiar voice said.

"Frohike? What's wrong? Is Mulder all right?" She swiveled her chair away from Pargeter's interested look.

"I'm really not sure how to answer that question," said Frohike. "I was hoping that I could talk to you whenever you stopped by this week, but you haven't been over to see Mulder at all..."

"It's...complicated," Scully said slowly. "I've spoken with him by phone and he sounds fine. What's going on?"

"To start with, he's not eating. I'm not the greatest cook in the world, but when he turned down cheese-steaks I knew he was in trouble. He's lost about ten pounds so far. And another thing, he's woken us all up with nightmares for the past four nights. He's seeing the killer's memories of his kills, in living color. Mulder's starting to look like an escapee from 'The Night of the Living Dead'."

"Frohike, I didn't know," she said softly. "Has he seen a doctor?"

"He won't see any doctor, except you," exclaimed Frohike impatiently. "Which makes sense, since I think half of his problem is that he's pining for you."

"There's a good reason I haven't," she started, but Frohike interrupted her.

"Yes, I know about the reason. Mulder finally told me about it this morning. You know him as well as we do. It wasn't Mulder that attacked you; he doesn't have it in him to hurt you."

"Not intentionally, anyway," she agreed absently. "Is he awake? Can I talk to him?"

"No, he's sleeping off the tequila shots we gave him this morning. It seemed to be the best way to calm him down. But I thought you should know about all this," said Frohike.

"I'm glad you told me," she said quietly. "Will you tell him I called and invited him to dinner tonight at Enrico's? At 6:00 p.m.?"

"I'll tell him that, Agent Scully," said Frohike. "And Scully, don't give up on him. He's fighting this, you know."

"I know, Frohike, I know," she said and set the receiver in it's cradle.

Pargeter looked up from his file. "Are you okay, Dana? You were talking about Mulder, weren't you? What's Mulder done now?" Pargeter asked with concern and then frowned. "If you need any help from me, just ask."

"No... I mean, yes, it was Frohike, calling about Mulder, but no, there's no problem at all." He talks about Mulder as if he were an axe murderer, she decided. This had to stop. "Agent Pargeter, Mulder has been my partner for seven years and I trust him implicitly. The...incident...that happened the other day won't be repeated. Please stop worrying." She stood and plucked her car keys from the desk top. "I think I'll do a few rounds at the firing range, then go home early. I'm tired."

Pargeter stood too and walked over to her side of the room, coming to a stop very close to her. "Dana," he said softly. "I worry about you, especially since I know what Mulder is capable of. Don't you see that you need to cut yourself free of him?"

She frowned and moved away swiftly. "I have nothing but respect for Agent Mulder; he's saved my life more times than I can count and I have no intention of changing partners. I'll see you later!" She stormed out of the office and was halfway to the basement firing range before she slowed down.

Damn that Pargeter! He had been overly solicitous all week, as though he had a right to worry about her. She snorted to herself. Did Pargeter think that they were married or something? No, not possible. She dismissed the thought and checked her belongings into her locker. She would focus on some target practice.

With every shot she squeezed off, she saw Bob Brown's face: his watery blue eyes bulging out of hairless eyelids. He'd started this damned thing and she'd be glad to finish it and the sooner, the better.

6:00 p.m.

Enrico's Restaurant


Dana Scully checked her watch. Good, she wasn't late. She scanned the crowd but didn't see Mulder...no, wait...was that him? She eyed him carefully, glad for the anonymity that the crowd gave her. Her eyes widened as she saw the changes in him.

He was too thin. Already a slender man, he was clearly not eating enough to keep a bird alive. He must have lost ten pounds, she estimated to herself. But it's only been a week since... Her eyes narrowed. Guilt had always ridden Mulder hard. The attack and its aftermath clearly had had its effect on him.

His wrists were thin and tinged with blue, sticking out of his oversized shirt cuffs. The leather jacket he wore hung slackly on him. He was scanning the crowd for her with such a look of hopeless longing that she could have wept for him.

Even though Mulder had deserved every word she'd said to him, she wondered whether she'd be the one to finally break him. "Mulder," she called and raised her hand.

He looked up and a smile lit up his hollow cheeks. "Scully!" he shouted, making his way through the crowd. He stopped in front of her and looked her over closely. "You look well," he said with obvious relief.

"I'm doing okay," she said. "How about you? Is Frohike's cooking that bad? It looks like you've lost some weight."

Mulder frowned a bit and looked away. "I'm...not sleeping well these days. I mean, the guys put me in their guest room and loaned me their porn collection and everything. They've been great, but I'm having nightmares." He looked down at the floor. "I'm starting to remember what I...what happened that day at my apartment.." He swallowed hard and fell silent.

"Mulder, it's okay. We'll get through this, too," she said softly. "I'm sorry I've stayed away this week. I know intellectually that it wasn't really you. I just need to reconcile my mind with my emotions, but I never stopped loving you."

He finally met her eyes with his. "Will we get past this? How can we? That damned rapist is still living in the back of my mind. I can't escape his thoughts, even when I sleep. I'm never sure, when I dream, whether I'm remembering what I...what happened to you or whether I'm seeing his memories of some past murder. The faces are blurry." He rubbed his eyes. "I'm sorry, Scully. I promised myself I wouldn't burden you with this."

"I'm glad you chose to," she said. "I think that we have to share these things with each other or they WILL destroy what we have."

Mulder nodded and looked to one side. "It looks like our table's ready."

She caught his glance again and smiled before giving him her arm. "Let's have dinner, Mulder."

Early the next morning

5 a.m.

Dana Scully heard the phone ringing dimly and clawed out of it's cradle next to the bed. "Yeah?" she muttered.

"Scully? It's Mulder."

Her eyes opened. "Mulder? What time is it?" She flicked on the bedside lamp and looked at the clock. "It's 5 a.m."

"Is it? I'm sorry, Scully, but you have to know this. The killer...he's picked a new target. He's stalking her." His voice sounded desperate.

"What? How do you know?" She sat up.

"I can see it. He's parked in front of her house right now, watching her. He's watching to see when she leaves home and when she returns. He plans to make his move in the next day or two. And Scully," he said. "I think I know where he is."

She got up and grabbed a pad of paper and a pen. "Where is he and how do you know?"

"I saw a street sign. He's in Vicksburg, staying in an old house. It looks pretty dilapidated."

She paused, thinking. "He grew up in Vicksburg. This might be his family home. The information is in the file. Meet me at the office?"

She heard the joy in his voice as he replied. "I'll be there in half an hour."

Mulder was already there when she arrived, with Brown's personnel file open on the desk. He gave her a brilliant smile as she opened the door. She found herself returning it, lumen for lumen. Mulder was back.

"Scully, you're right. He lived in a house in one of the older suburbs. I called local police and they drove past. The house doesn't belong to his family any more, but it's been up for sale for about six months. It looks like he just moved in; the cop saw lights inside. They're waiting for our instructions."

Scully nodded. "Good. I'll call Skinner and get things moving."

Chapter 11

Skinner arrived at the office 20 minutes after the phone call to find Mulder and Scully studying a street map of Vicksburg.

Skinner frowned when he saw Mulder, neatly dressed in suit and tie. "Agent Mulder, I thought I put you on medical leave."

Mulder flushed but stood his ground. "You did, Sir, but you need me on this. Since he attacked me with the ketamine, I've been able to read the killer's thoughts, albeit indistinctly. I know his thoughts and his plans. He's selected his next victim and he's going to move on her soon. And Sir, more importantly," Mulder pleaded. "I'll be able to see him, even if he tries his disappearing act. He won't slip past you this time with me acting as your eyes."

"You're hearing thoughts again?" Skinner looked at him hard. "Have you seen your doctor?"

Mulder shook his head. "It isn't like it was before. He's the only one I hear; I'm not bombarded by thoughts like I was. I feel perfectly fine." He smiled wryly. "Or as well as you can feel with a murderer in your head."

Skinner paused, thinking hard. "Agent Mulder, I won't deny that your...ability...would be helpful in this case, but the reason I pulled you off in the first place is because of the way it was affecting your health." Skinner took another long look at Mulder. "Truthfully, you look worse today than you did a week ago. I don't want to have to visit you in another hospital, much less a psych ward."

Skinner turned to Scully. "Agent, what's your opinion? Is it safe for him to do this?"

Scully looked away. She hadn't told Skinner about the rape; the most he knew was that Mulder had gone overboard while profiling. How much could she tell him without getting Mulder benched permanently? She glanced at Mulder and saw the pleading look on his face. He wanted a chance to make up for what had happened.

"Agent Scully?" Skinner prompted.

"I think he'll be okay, sir. He's already committed to this case and should be allowed to see it to its conclusion," she said slowly.

Skinner said "All right, Agent Mulder, you're in.

Four Hours Later

Police Headquarters

Vicksburg, Virginia

The tech finished tucking the wire inside Mulder's shirt and stood back. "Okay, Agent Mulder, say something and let's see if I catch you." The tech inserted an earpiece and gestured to Mulder. "Okay, now!"

Mulder positioned the small mike directly in front of his lips and said "Testing...one...two...three...I'd rather be at a baseball game..."

The tech nodded. "Okay, coming through loud and clear."

Skinner, wearing a windbreaker marked "FBI" approached the tech. "Well?"

"He's ready to go, sir. Every cop on this channel within a one mile radius will hear every word he's saying." The tech frowned a bit. "But I don't understand why you're doing this. He's not in command of the operation."

"Our UNSUB is very good at camouflaging himself. Agent Mulder may be the only one who'll be able to see him, so he'll be tracking the suspect if necessary.."

"I'm the bird-dog," said Mulder blandly. "If he gets out of the house, I can follow him and direct others to him."

"But why...?" the tech started, then paused. "Oh, you're THAT Agent Mulder, aren't you? I should have expected something like this." He finished packing tools into his kit and moved away as quickly as he could.

"My reputation precedes me," Mulder commented and Skinner shrugged.

"That's to be expected. Your special ability in this case isn't easy to explain. But it's still damned useful," Skinner looked around the milling crowd of agents. "Where's Agent Scully?"

"She's talking to Pargeter, I think," Mulder said with studied casualness.

Skinner eyed him thoughtfully and said, "I don't suppose you'd care to tell me what's happened between you two in the past week or so?"

Mulder looked up too quickly and then away again. "Nothing I'd like to discuss. It's for Scully to talk it over with you if she wants to." He tapped the microphone. "This thing is off, isn't it?" He found the switch and turned it off.

Skinner went on, "When Agent Scully filed her transfer request four days ago, I asked her why. She just said it was for personal reasons and that she felt it was time to move on." Skinner stopped sharply. "Mulder? Come over here and sit down...put your head between your knees..don't pass out on me, now...She never told you about her request to transfer to Quantico, did she? You two have been inseparable for seven years. What happened?"

Mulder looked up at Skinner with a look of quiet despair. "I've told you all I can," he said in a low monotone. "It's something...between us...Now I'd like to get this operation started if we can."

Skinner frowned. "Mulder, if you don't feel well enough to go forward with this..."

"No, we have to do this," Mulder interrupted. "He's targeting another victim and there's not time. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine..."

Skinner shook his head and walked away. He'd seen that expression before, on the faces of dying Marines. But Mulder was right, they had to catch this killer, somehow. Skinner just had to trust that Mulder would survive somehow, like he always did.

Skinner was waiting when Scully arrived. "Agent Scully, You never told Agent Mulder about your transfer request," he said baldly.

Scully looked around for Mulder but didn't see him. "That's right, sir. I didn't want to jeopardize his state of mind until I knew whether it would be approved or not."

"And you still don't want to tell me what happened between you two?" Skinner queried.

"Sir, this isn't really the place or the time to discuss it," she said desperately. "Shouldn't we be assembling for the operation?"

"Agent Mulder will be in the front line today. Brown has already targeted him as a victim. If anything in Mulder's state of mind will make him less likely to keep his personal safety in mind, I need to know what it is," Skinner said, meeting her eyes.

She avoided his gaze and flushed. "I...can't Sir...But I'm glad you brought up the transfer request. I've been thinking about it and would like to withdraw it. The...the...situation that gave rise to my request is resolving and I want to stay on the X files."

Skinner frowned in puzzlement. "You won't tell me why you wanted the transfer in the first place and now you want to withdraw it..." He glared at her.

She glared right back. "I've told you all I can, Sir. I'm sorry, but I do want to remain with the X files."

"You should know that Agent Pargeter has also put in a transfer request. He's asked to be assigned to the X files should Agent Mulder's disability prove permanent. Did you know about that?"

Her eyes widened. "No, Sir, I didn't know it. But Agent Mulder will be back to work in a few weeks at most. There isn't some kind of plan to replace him, is there?"

Skinner shook his head. "Not at this time. So, your transfer request had no connection to Pargeter's?"

"No, sir," she replied. "There's Mulder...If you'll excuse me, Sir?" She made her way over to the truck, where Mulder was tucking the wires into his Kevlar vest.

"Mulder?" she asked breathlessly.

He looked up with distant expression. "Hey, Scully." He fiddled with the wires a bit more, then continued in a flat, lifeless voice. "Skinner tells me you want to go back to Quantico. I can't say that I blame you. You should get as far away from me as you can."

She licked her lip and began, "Mulder..."

The SAC yelled from the central truck, "Okay everybody, we're ready to go. Find a seat in a cruiser or an SUV. Agent Mulder! You're in first, so you're with me."

Mulder gave her a quick, sad glance and said. "I guess this is it, huh Scully? I'll see you afterwards and we can say our good-byes." He began striding toward the SUV.

"Mulder, wait! I..." But he was too far away to hear her. She'd talk to him later and explain; try to set everything right if she could. She adjusted her own Kevlar vest and found a seat in a cruiser.

Twenty Minutes Later

816 Elm Street


The house was large and dilapidated. It was the sort of house that large, prosperous families had built for themselves in the early 20th century with a long, sprawling veranda and bay windows.

They parked the vehicles a block away and made their way on foot, quietly surrounding the house. Skinner moved toward the front door, Mulder and Scully following, when Mulder suddenly jerked. He turned his head and looked hard at a spot on the sidewalk fronting the road.

"Mulder? What is it?" Scully followed Mulder's gaze to the sidewalk and saw nothing but heat shimmer above the white pavement.

"That's him!" Mulder broke and sprinted toward the sidewalk. Abruptly, she saw the shimmer move and take the shape of a man, running.

"Your mike, Mulder! Turn it on!" Scully shouted, trying to catch up with him. "Sir! Mulder's spotted him!"

Mulder ran across the neighboring lawn and into a stand of trees just off the road. The bushes closed behind him and Scully lost sight of him.

"Mulder! Where are you?" she cried and, with half a dozen agents, went crashing into the underbrush.

"Spread out!" Skinner called. "You can't see the suspect but you will see Agent Mulder. Sing out when you do!"

Mulder raced after the running man. To his surprise, he could see Brown clearly without any blurring at all. Brown was a fast runner; Mulder could barely keep

up with him. He'd lost the sound of any other pursuers what felt like a mile back.

"You can't get away," Mulder called after him, panting. "I can see you." He drew his weapon and pointed it in Brown's direction.

"I know," Brown panted back. "But you aren't going to lock me up." Brown skidded to a stop and backed against a tree trunk, his eyes wide. He fumbled in his jacket pocket and pulled out a pistol, pointing it at Mulder. "Drop your gun. Go on, drop it!"

Focusing on Brown's face, Mulder carefully laid his gun on the ground and stood again, hands raised.

"Once you're gone, nobody else can see me and I'll be safe. The voices told me that." Brown said, a trembling finger on the trigger.

"They lied to you," said Mulder. "If you shoot me, they won't ever stop hunting you. I know what the voices are like, but they aren't telling you the whole truth. For one thing, the blood doesn't work. It feeds them, not you."

Brown's eyes widened further. "You know about the voices? You've heard them?"

Mulder nodded. "I've heard them. They tried to lie to me too, but I don't believe them. Bob, you don't have to go on like this..."

"But I like it," Bob said. "You know that, too." He licked his lips. He moved his left hand into his jeans pocket and pulled out a switchblade. He flicked it open, smiling when Mulder started at the snick it made. "I have to kill you, but I want to try your blood first."

Mulder thought he heard a rustle in the underbrush but, although he looked vainly with his peripheral vision, he saw no sign of the other agents. Damn. Even though the mike was live, there weren't any landmarks to lead searchers to them. But they must have heard enough to know that Brown was armed. "I suppose you'll have to decide whether to shoot me or carve me with that knife of yours," Mulder said conversationally. Still nobody around. Damn, that was taking a long time...

"I'll shoot you and then cut an artery," Brown said helpfully. "You won't feel a thing." Mulder could see Brown's finger moving on the trigger and dove desperately at Brown's knees.

At the same moment, a red spot blossomed and grew in Brown's chest as the slug tore through from behind. Fountains of blood spattered Mulder as Brown's body collapsed on top of him. A moment later all was still.

"Mulder!" Scully clambered through the underbrush from where she'd fired the shot. "Mulder, are you all right?" She felt for a pulse at Brown's throat and found none. Her shot had gone through his heart, then. She pushed Brown's body off Mulder and found her partner face down in the dirt and covered with blood.

She gently rolled Mulder over and frowned when she saw his face pale, his eyes closed. "Mulder?" She felt for his pulse, but had to hunt to find it at his throat. His entire torso was covered in blood, but she couldn't tell whether it was his or Brown's. "Mulder...wake up. It's me, Scully!" His skin felt cold and clammy to the touch. She pulled off her jacket and lay it over him, turning around as Skinner crashed through the bushes behind her.

"Call an ambulance! Officer down!"

"What? Mulder?" Skinner took in the scene in a quick glance.

"Brown's dead and...and... I think I shot Mulder," she said in a trembling voice. "Get that ambulance here, NOW."

Chapter 12

Eight Hours Later

"What do you mean he wasn't shot? He was covered with blood!" Skinner exclaimed, then lowered his voice, remembering that he was in a hospital room. He cast a guilty look at Mulder, lying quietly in the bed, the only noise coming from all the monitors they had hooked up to him.

"Don't worry Sir," Scully said in a small voice. "You won't wake him. The blood we found on him was all Brown's. None of it was his. They can't find a mark on Mulder, Sir. They've checked for head trauma, but the x-rays and CT scans show nothing. We just don't know why he won't wake up." Leaning forward in her chair, she reached for Mulder's hand and held it gently.

Skinner shifted uncomfortably. "Well, Brown has been confirmed dead. We found a cache of photographs in the house depicting what we believe was to be his next victim. It turns out, she's the clerk at the grocery store he's been frequenting."

Without taking her eyes from Mulder's face, Scully nodded. "That makes sense. He tended to select convenient victims."

"You won't have any trouble with Internal Affairs. You clearly shot in defense of Agent Mulder." Skinner eyed Mulder, then Scully anxiously. "Are you sure there isn't something I can do to help, Agent?"

She shook her head. "I'll just stay here with Mulder for a while."

Mulder floated in the darkness. He could see and hear nothing. He raised his hand in front of his eyes, but nothing happened. He swung his arms around him, contacting nothing. He felt weightless, as though he had no body. Maybe he didn't have one anymore? No, he wasn't ready to concede that he was dead yet.

Wait, if he focused carefully, he there was a lighter patch ahead of him. He somehow reached forward and began to move toward it. For a miracle, he seemed to be getting closer. The light patch grew brighter and brighter as Mulder drew near.

Finally, he came to a stop near a ball of incandescent white light. No, it wasn't a ball at all. It looked like a tunnel. If he squinted, he thought he could see something on the other side. It looked like green grass, the kind that lawn fertilizer companies always promise but never deliver. Well, there sure looked better than here. He began to move toward the tunnel, then stopped himself. Wait a minute... Tunnel of light? He looked around the darkness and focused on the tunnel again. Shit. That meant he was dying, didn't it?

Scully was probably having a conniption right now. Certainly she was trying to save him. Save him from what?

"Aren't you going to go down that tunnel, Agent Mulder?" A female form detached itself from the darkness and floated near him. Mrs. Paddock gave him her best benign smile and Mulder shuddered.

"You! What do you want?" he asked and tried to back a way.

"Let's say that I take an interest in your progress. I'm more involved in your life than you know," she replied, her smile broadening. "But it's all over for you now. You're finished; the task is completed. It's time to rest now." She gestured toward the white light.

Mulder looked around wildly. "I'm not done. The aliens are still going to land. I can't just leave Scully alone to face that. I have to be there!"

Mrs. Paddock shrugged. "That's somebody else's worry, not yours."

"Wait a minute," Mulder's eyes narrowed, remembering. "I don't belong here. Scully shot Brown. I could feel him get hit and...I felt him die. It was him, not me. I shouldn't be dying."

"You're right, you weren't injured. Not physically, anyway," Mrs. Paddock explained patiently. "But you were linked psychically to dear Bob at the moment of his death. He's pulling you in." She smiled again. "Except that Bob didn't go through the tunnel of light. No, he went somewhere else..." She gestured to her left.

Mulder saw a formless blob of darkness, even blacker than the vacuum surrounding him. It seemed to devour any light that approached it. It grew larger in his view and he suddenly realized that he'd been slowly drifting toward it during his conversation with Mrs. Paddock.

"You could have gone through the tunnel of light, you know," she said conversationally. "You lost that chance, however, through your usual, interminable questioning. I'm looking forward to enjoying many more conversations with you, Fox. It isn't often we get someone of your caliber."

Mulder tried to swim back toward the lit tunnel but felt the dark one pulling him inexorably forward. "Where...does the black tunnel go?" he panted as he tried to get away.

"Where do you think it goes? Where do all the murderers and rapists go? You'll find lots of old acquaintances there; they're just dying to see you and settle some old scores!" She snorted and drifted to a point next to the black hole, waiting near the entrance.

"John Lee Roche wanted me to say hello." She paused, then added. "And Eugene Tooms says he's especially looking forward to seeing you again."

Trying frantically to stop his slide into the darkness, Mulder cried out. "No! I don't deserve Hell! I haven't done the things they have!"

She quirked an eyebrow. "Really? What about your recent...encounter... with Agent Scully? She can't wait to get away from you. Going to Quantico, is she? She's the one good thing you had in your life and you've lost her," she sneered. "And you're trying to tell me you don't belong with the likes of Donnie Pfaster?"

Mulder paused, remembering. He'd felt like someone had punched him in the gut when Skinner told him. And Scully...she'd never said a word about the transfer She truly couldn't stand the sight of him.

"She only tolerated working with you at the end because you could find Brown," Mrs. Paddock said. "She's always been professional about these things. Look at the way she handled Luther Lee Boggs." Mrs. Paddock smiled slightly. "And you'll be doing her a favor, ridding her of your presence for good. She can get on with her life. Get married, maybe even that nice Agent Pargeter. Agent Mulder, in your heart you know where you belong."

Mulder, speechless, began to feel the darkness slowly closing in.

Forty-Eight Hours Later

Skinner cautiously entered Mulder's room. Dana Scully sat where she'd been for the past two days. She looked as though she hadn't slept. It looked like the same suit she'd worn when they took down Brown, too. Skinner could see some faint blood spatters on the jacket.

Skinner watched Scully in silence for a bit, then said hesitantly, "Agent Scully? How is he? Any word?"

She stood up, shaky with exhaustion. Carefully supporting herself with the back of the chair. "He's slipping away. If his breathing gets any worse, they plan to put him on a ventilator."

Skinner looked helplessly at Mulder, then back again at Scully. "Then you still have no idea why he seems to be in a coma?"

She shrugged. "Scientifically, no. But...I do have a theory, although I can't prove it. Mulder was experiencing Brown's thoughts and even said that he felt connected to Brown somehow. When Brown died, I think that Mulder's soul, for lack of a better word, was so entangled with Brown's that Mulder was forced down too...into that cold, dark place..." She bit her lip and turned her face away from Skinner.

Uncomfortably, Skinner cleared his throat. "Well, I'll be at the office if you need me, Agent. You'll let me know if...anything...happens?"

She nodded sadly, "I know. I'll call you, Sir, if I need anything."

Skinner nodded back, grimly, and left the room. Scully sighed and took her seat again, closing her eyes in prayer.

She replayed her last conversation with Mulder endlessly in her mind. Why, oh why hadn't she told him that she'd rescinded her transfer request? She forgave him. She loved him and only now was realizing just how much. Was any of this caused by Mulder just giving up?

There was a soft tap on the door and Pargeter slipped into the room. To Scully it seemed that Pargeter exuded health and vitality in comparison to the dying Mulder. Pargeter's face was tanned and handsome, every hair on his head neatly groomed. For an instant she hated him, then sighed and turned back to Mulder.

"How's he doing?" Pargeter asked.

"Not well. We still don't know what's causing this, but he's fading. Unless we can come up with a solution..."

"He's dying," Pargeter said baldly and with...was that satisfaction in his voice? Surely not.

"He's not going to die, not if I can prevent it," she said stolidly, clinging to Mulder's hand.

"Dana, you need to face facts," said Pargeter softly. "Mulder was a good agent and a brave man, but he may not make it."

He pulled a chair next to hers and sat down. "Dana,Mulder will be gone soon and the X files needs two agents covering them. I hope you don't still plan to return to Quantico." He paused, then went on earnestly," I want you to know Dana, that you're the reason I requested transfer to the X files. I have some strong personal feelings for you..."

"Mulder isn't going to die!" she snapped. "There's no opening in the X files, since I'll be staying." She reined in her anger and went on more calmly. "I am honored and flattered that you have feelings for me, Tom, but I already have a relationship. With Mulder. I don't think I'll ever want anybody else."

"So if he survives, you're going to keep dragging yourself down with this...this failure? He believes little green men, for God's sake! I'd thought you had more sense, Dana. He'll be lucky if he lasts another two years in the Bureau and doesn't take you down with him!"

"If that's you're real opinion, then you don't belong in the X files!" she said frostily. "You might as well go, Tom. I'm not the woman for you and I don't see myself ever being!"

"I'm sorry you feel that way, Dana. We could have been good together. Still could. Think about it." Pargeter silently got up to leave. He pulled open the door and gave Scully a last look. She was completely focused on Mulder again, he noted. He frowned at him, then at her, and began to plan.

She was relieved to hear the door shut behind Pargeter. She could feel herself still quivering with rage. He'd been trying to make a play for her ever since they'd joined the Brown case. Pargeter would be just as glad if Mulder died and left the field free for him. She pursed her lips. Well, it wouldn't be free because Mulder wasn't going to die.

She stood up and removed, first her shoes and then her jacket. Moving carefully to avoid dislodging the monitors, she climbed into bed next to Mulder. Wrapping her arms around him, she lay with her head on the pillow next to his ear and began to talk.

"Mulder, I know that you can hear me wherever you are. Missy would say that your soul hears me even if you don't and I have to believe that or I'll lose all hope. Mulder, I didn't get to talk to you. I didn't have a chance to tell you that I'm not going to Quantico. I'm staying here, with you on the X files. I don't want you to think that I'll ever leave you." Her voice trembling, she paused to calm herself.

"Mulder...I'm sorry I was avoiding you. I had to come to terms with what happened between us. Now, seeing you in this bed, I understand. You were so closely entwined with Brown that you took on part of his soul. That's what's got you into this bed right now. But Mulder, you aren't Brown and I know that. You're Mulder and I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you..."

Was it her imagination or had his heart-rate changed? She listened, but heard nothing different, so she went on. "I forgive you for your carelessness, Mulder. That's what lovers do, they forgive each other. Can you forgive me for the pain I've caused you? I hope so. Please come back to me, Mulder. You don't belong in the darkness with Brown. You should be here, in the light, with me."

She heard it, his breathing was changing. He was listening. With renewed hope, she continued. "Mulder, you can't die. It isn't your time. You can detach from Brown; leave him behind and come back. I forgive you for any hurt you caused me just...please...come back to me." She could hear her voice trembling but no longer cared. "Mulder, I don't want to live without you."

She felt his chest move under her hand as he took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. The sound of the heart monitor sped up. "Mulder?" she whispered.

His eyes slowly opened a crack, then a tired smile crossed his face. "Hey, Sunshine," he said. "Miss me?"

No longer trying to fight back the tears, Scully just nodded. She snuggled in closer and wrapped her arms tightly around him. "I missed you," she said into his chest.

"I was in a very dark place, Scully and I couldn't find my way. Then I heard your voice," Mulder said solemnly. "When I was lost, you showed me the way home."

Chapter 13

"Mulder, we're supposed to be celebrating your getting out of the hospital, but you've hardly eaten a thing. Don't you feel well? Or is my cooking that bad?" Dana Scully smiled at Mulder over the candle-lit table in her apartment. She'd taken pains to dress up the dining area and had worn what she hoped was her most seductive dress. So far Mulder hadn't commented on it, but then that was typical. But he'd been very abstracted since she'd picked him up at the hospital.

"Huh?" Mulder put his fork down onto the plate and tried to smile. "I'm sorry, Scully. I'm lousy company tonight, aren't I? And this is even real food," he pointed down at the lasagna on his plate.

"So what's wrong?" Scully asked. "Brown is dead, Skinner has agreed to put you back on the X files, you're feeling better..." She scrutinized him closely. "Is it us?"

"You might say that," Mulder admitted, looking down at the table.

"Mulder, I thought you understood. I forgive you, I want to leave that whole incident behind, in the past with Brown." She leaned forward, studying his face, then reached her hand across the table to clasp his.

"I do understand, Scully. I just....I haven't told you about what I experienced while I was in the coma," he looked up at her hesitantly. "You've heard about near death experiences..."

"Yes," she said, puzzled. "People see a tunnel of white light and experience heaven or God, before being revived."

"Did you know that not all near-death experiences are positive ones? Some people experience Hell before they're revived. They wake up convinced that they are damned and had they died, they'd have gone to Hell." He watched her face. "That was the kind of experience I had."

Scully blinked. "Mulder, whatever you hallucinated while you were unconscious..."

"It wasn't a hallucination. I was being sucked down into a bottomless black pit. I saw a demonic old friend of ours, too. Mrs. Paddock was the mistress of ceremonies. She was just itching to welcome me to the neighborhood," Mulder reached for his glass of red wine with a trembling left hand, keeping Scully's other hand firmly clasped in his right." Specifically, Mrs. Paddock thought I was a great candidate for her jurisdiction because I raped you."

"Mulder," Scully said softly. "This...vision...doesn't mean that you're damned. It was an _expression of the guilt you felt about what happened. And in any case, you didn't die. You're still here."

He gave her a crooked smile and went on, moving his left hand to join his right in cradling hers. "It gave me something to think about, Scully. Did you know that for seven years I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop?"

"I...don't understand," she said.

"Before I met you, there were only two women I was ever serious about: Phoebe Green and Diana Fowley. Both of them dumped me, saying that they could only think of me in a brotherly way, as a friend. I lost my sister when I was very young. My mother has died. Every woman who was ever important to me has been taken from me or left. I've...been waiting for you to realize that you deserve a life outside the X files and do the smart thing and get the Hell away from me!" Mulder's voice ended on the quiet monotone that meant he was trying not to cry.

"All these years, you were waiting for me to leave you?" she asked.

He nodded. "Then, when you didn't leave and...and...you actually loved me, I thought that maybe I had a chance. Maybe this time..." He stopped and cleared his throat, then met her glance with a look of unfathomable pain. "Then...I attacked...raped you and you couldn't wait to get away from

me. I knew that you were justified." He drew in a long breath. "Mrs. Paddock just spelled it out for me and I couldn't disagree with her. I belonged with the monsters like John Lee Roche." Mulder grimaced. "According to Mrs. Paddock, he can't wait to see me again and compare notes!"

"You think that because no one has loved you, that you're unworthy of love?" She fought to make him meet her gaze. He reluctantly looked up at her steady blue eyes. "Mulder, I've never known a gentler, more humane man than you. You are deserving of love, and I'm grateful that I'm the one who gets to love you and be loved by you." She paused, finally understanding. "You gave up. That's why you were dying."

"I didn't think I had anything to come back for and Mrs. Paddock's logic was inescapable."

"There's a reason that Catholics consider despair a sin, Mulder. When you lose hope, you've lost everything, even the chance for redemption." Scully said. She gave him a compassionate look and went on. "But you reached for the light when you found it, didn't you? You don't belong there and that's why the darkness couldn't hold you."

Mulder solemnly reached a hand forward to touch a curl of her hair. "Oh yes, I know the light when I see it, Scully. I hope that one day you know just how much I love you. But I don't know what you see in me." His look of hopeless longing stabbed her to the heart.

She smiled back. "Mulder, you deserve to be loved and I do love you. I always will. No matter what." She eyed him narrowly. "Still don't believe me, do you?"

Suddenly she leaned forward across the table and, grabbing him by the ears, gave him a long, slow, luxurious kiss. He sank back into it, his eyes blissfully closed. When she finally let him come up for air she asked smugly, "Still have any doubts about how permanent this relationship is?"

Dumbly, he shook his head 'no'.

"Good. Let's continue this conversation elsewhere." She grabbed the bottle of wine and headed for the bedroom. Bemused, Mulder blew out the candle and followed.

At the bedside, she lit a group of small votive candles on the night stand, vanilla scented, Mulder thought. Trust Scully to come up with an uncomplicated fragrance.

She reached the bed first and began fumbling with the catch on her dress. "Scully," Mulder asked, catching one hand. "Are you sure you're ready for this?"

Her eyes large in the darkness, she nodded. "I'm ready, Mulder. I almost lost you and I'm not going to waste any more time." She unhooked the catch and the dress slipped off.

Mulder quirked a brow and smiled. She had been planning this all along; she wasn't wearing any underwear. He was suddenly glad he'd put on clean skivvies under his suit. He began to loosen his tie, when he discovered that he had help.

"You're moving too slow, G-man," she said crisply. "Let me help." Before he knew it, she'd winkled him out of all his clothing, leaving it in a pile by the doorway.

He stood hesitantly, waiting for a cue from her. She smiled, understanding his concern. "It's okay, Mulder," she said and moved in to kiss him, holding his face in her two hands.

The kiss deepened as they maneuvered toward the bed and fell in. His eyes closed, Mulder felt her running her hands down his body in long delicate strokes. In her gentle touch, he knew, now, that she really had forgiven him, had moved past the trauma.

He felt her move toward the foot of the bed and was surprised when she took him into her mouth. "Scully...you...don't have to do that...if you don't want to..."

He felt the cold air on his penis as she pulled her mouth away to reply. "I want to make love to you, Mulder. Let me?"

"O...Okay..." Mulder grunted and surrendered to the experience. She had done this for him before, but it had never been like this. Trust Scully to know what would mean the very most to him...

My God what was she doing now? Her tongue was playing with the head of his penis, wrapping around it delicately while she applied suction. "My god..." he gasped. "Where did you learn that? Shit!..." He drew in deep, ragged breaths.

She pulled her lips away briefly. "I read a lot. Now shut up, G-man."

"Yes ma'am," he muttered and prepared to be incoherent for a while. With her tongue and teeth she brought him to the verge of what promised to be the most spectacular climax of his life, but it wasn't quite enough. Something was missing.

"Scu...lly...gonna come soon. Want to be inside you..Okay with you? Uhhh" She gave him

a little nip and climbed forward on top of him. "Sounds good to me, Mulder," she said breathlessly.

She settled herself on top of him and, sliding her body across his, made him beg for it. Finally, when he couldn't stand it any more, she guided him into place and slid him inside. She paused, and then began moving up and down with exquisite slowness.

Mulder groaned and his body arched upward, his hands reaching toward her, but he forced himself not to clutch at her hips to make her move faster. Scully was in charge here, he had to let her make all the decisions.

Her breath deepening, she moved faster and faster, sliding her breasts against his chest, back and forth.

"Scu..lly...love you..." he panted as she reached for him and hung on, slamming her hips against him. She said nothing, but he could tell she was getting close. When she stopped suddenly, clutching at him and whimpering, he thrust against her hard and heard her bite back a wild cry. He held her while she rode down her orgasm. When he felt her begin to relax, he let his own overwhelm him.

Afterward, they held each other close, panting and sweaty. "Was that okay?" Scully asked sleepily.

"Okay? You were spectacular," Mulder said.

"Good," she said and snuggled into his chest and fell fast asleep. Amazed and pleased, Mulder drifted off to sleep, grinning.

Miles away, Pargeter watched the video from Scully's apartment with a murderous frown on his face. He should be the one sharing a bed with her, not that bastard Mulder. If only he could get her away from him, he was sure she'd see what a loser Mulder was and give him up for him, Tom Pargeter.

Sourly, he took another long pull on his beer and set it down on the table. Well, he'd made a plan for this contingency but had hoped she'd come to her senses before she made him do this. He had everything ready. It was about time he took charge of the situation. He'd dispose of Agent Mulder while he was at it.

He got up and went to the closet, pulling out a large plastic garbage bag. First he removed the box of latex gloves and donned two pairs. They could get his fingerprints through just a single pair.

He opened a Walmart bag and took out sweatpants and a long sleeved shirt and removed the tags before taking his old clothing off and donning the new.

He retrieved a box of quart-sized zip-lock plastic bags and pulled half a dozen out, stuffing them into his jacket pockets. A handful of rubber bands followed.

Next, he removed a clear plastic bag containing a large bore needle, tubing, blood bag and bandages, all never-used. To this bag he added a syringe and vial of ketamine, the most potent he could find on the street.

He pulled a Wal-Mart bag from the back of the closet and removed out a small flashlight, tucking it into his pants pocket. He then removed the nylon carryall bag he'd recently bought, cutting off the tags. The plastic bag with needle and tubing went into the carryall, along with a loaded dart gun with ketamine filled darts and a ski-mask, courtesy of Goodwill, a knife and a roll of duct tape.

A syringe, capped and pre-loaded with a stiff dose of ketamine went into his breast pocket, along with a vial with more ketamine. All items were new and wiped down for prints. None of them had so much as touched the floor of his apartment. He was almost ready.

He loaded the items into the car and drove out to the park. He found the lot he was interested in, near where the other bodies had been found. Smiling, he moved his car to a secluded side road away from the lot and left the car unlocked. Putting the ripstop bag on his shoulder, he began his hike back to the main road. All this planning might take longer, but in the end it would be worth it to have Dana under his control at last. And even better to see that jerk Mulder on ice. Oh, they'd love him in prison!

He found the rental car where he'd left it outside the park. Slinging the bag into the passenger seat, he made his way to Georgetown.

Dana Scully's town-house sat in a quiet, tree lined street. They should trim some of this underbrush, he thought to himself with grim amusement. He made his way to the back of the building and began to pick the lock. At the very least they really should put in modern locks. Why any criminal could just waltz in here. There! The door clicked open and Pargeter slipped quietly inside.

Once inside the door, he took off his shoes and put the plastic bags over his stockinged feet, securing them at the ankles with the rubber bands. The shoes went into another plastic bag and into the nylon carryall.

At Scully's, he put on the ski mask, then used the key he'd already made to open the door. He knew her apartment better than she did herself, given all the equipment he'd installed and maintained here.

He set the carryall down outside the bedroom door and had removed the dart gun when he heard a noise inside the room.

Pushing the door open a bit he could see that they were at it again. Damn! Were they rabbits or something? Why couldn't Mulder keep his damned hands off her?

The door swung open with a slam and the couple froze, trying to see who'd entered the room. Pargeter deliberately aimed the flashlight into their eyes. Mulder yelled something and began to climb out of the bed. Pargeter calmly took a bead on Dana Scully and fired, hitting her in the shoulder with the dart. She wilted away, unconscious.

"What the...Scully?" Mulder looked back anxiously. While Mulder was distracted, Pargeter got him with another dart. Mulder lurched forward, plucking the dart from his skin and throwing it to the floor. "Who the fuck are you!?!!" Mulder yelled, then stumbled forward to his knees, falling unconscious at Pargeter's feet.

Pargeter grinned and reached into his pocket for the capped syringe. He uncapped it and exposed the inside of Mulder's left arm, then jabbed the needle into it and depressed the plunger. Mulder would be out for a while. He smiled and recapped the syringe, tucking it into his pocket for later.

Pargeter moved over to Scully, who lay face up but unconscious on the bed. He assembled the large bore needle, tubing and bag, grateful that as an EMT he'd learned how to draw blood. When he'd gotten a pint, he could move her to the car.

Pargeter moved over to the pile of Mulder's clothing. He'd noted where it landed while watching the couple on the video. He picked up Mulder's car keys and pocketed them, then put Mulder's shoes on his own plastic-bagged feet. He grabbed Mulder's clothing and tucked it under his arm, then slung Mulder over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. Pargeter took him downstairs, throwing him into the back seat of Mulder's own car.

Returning to the room, he cut lengths of duct tape and wrapped it around Scully's wrists and ankles, taking time to also cover her mouth with another strip. Her dose of ketamine was lighter than Mulder's; he didn't want to chance her getting loose. He left her on the bed, ready to be taken downstairs.

He located Mulder's dart and the one he removed from Scully, dropping both into the nylon carryall. He inventoried the nylon bag, confirming that darts, gun, duct tape and knife had been put away. He made a trip downstairs to put the nylon bag into Mulder's car.

Returning upstairs he found that the bag had collected a sufficient supply of blood for his purposes, so he removed the needle from Scully's arm, allowing her wound to bleed a bit onto the sheets.

One last thing to do... He poured a circular pool of blood onto the floor next to the bed, a la Bob Brown. He tucked the needle, tubing and blood bag into it's ziplock plastic bag, sealed it and put it into his pocket. He scanned the room and found Scully's panties, which he tucked into a pocket. He wrapped Scully in the bedspread and, hoisting her over his shoulder, he carefully walked Mulder's shoes partially through the pool, leaving a bloody trail to the door.

Downstairs, he threw Scully into the trunk of Mulder's car. With a farewell grin, he got behind the steering wheel (taking care NOT to adjust mirrors or seat) and drove away.

No one noticed a thing. That was the nice thing about good neighborhoods like Scully's. People liked their privacy and, he suspected that, given Scully's history, nobody wanted to know anything of what was going on at her place!

Arriving at the park, he put Mulder's car in the parking space he'd planned and cut the engine. Mulder's clothing he'd piled in the passenger seat. He pulled on the pants and shirt, glad that he and Mulder were about the same size, down to the shoes. He pulled Scully out of the trunk, but left the bedspread there.

His flashlight finding his pre-planned route, he carried her away from the car, taking care to walk through the underbrush, snagging Mulder's shirt with leaves and branches along the dirt and gravel path. leading into the park.

When he thought he'd left enough footprints, he turned around and returned to the parking lot, taking care to walk on the pavement where he wouldn't leave tracks. He took Scully back to his own car. She was starting to get heavy. He was glad to be able to stow her, still unconscious, in the trunk, on top of the old blankets he'd laid there. He carefully covered her with the blankets and closed the trunk.

Returning to Mulder's car, he hauled Mulder out of the back seat and sat him in the car's front seat. He removed Mulder's blood-stained shoes, put them onto Mulder's feet, then dressed him in the pants and shirt. Pargeter had left the underwear and socks back at Scully's apartment; a nice touch, he thought.

Very good, he thought, as he dropped Mulder's keys onto the car's floor. He uncapped the syringe and put it into Mulder's right hand, wrapping Mulder's left hand around the vial, before dropping it onto the floor of the car. He pulled the knife from his carryall and took it over to the open trunk.

He held the knife over the bedspread while he poured some of Scully's blood over the blade and haft. He took the knife back to Mulder in the car. He dropped Scully's panties onto the floor, then folded Mulder's right hand around the bloody haft of the knife. He then dropped the knife next to the panties.

Pargeter returned to the trunk and scrubbed the blood into the bedspread to prevent splatter marks.

He left the car door half open so that the park rangers would be sure to see it and made his way, in plastic covered stocking feet across the parking lot and to his own car.

Once inside, he started the car and drove out of the parking area with headlights off. He quickly found himself back on the highway, turned the headlights on and sped toward the place he'd prepared for his Scully. She might protest at first, but she'd see eventually that this was the best thing that could have happened to her.

Chapter 14

5:40 a.m.

Mulder felt something cool and hard pressing against his forehead. He brought his right hand up and found that he was leaning against the steering wheel of his car. Pushing himself back against the seat, he took a deep breath and fought the nausea down. Man! He felt like shit... He pried open gummy eyes and looked blearily around. The sky was gray with early dawn but he could see that he was in a parking lot in the middle of a forest somewhere.

He pushed the car door open a bit further and stepped out onto the tarmac, swaying as he stood up. Where the hell was he? How did he get here? He lifted his right hand to scratch his nose and noticed that his fingers were covered with a rusty brown substance. He stopped and held the hand in front of his nose, then sniffed his fingers. He smelled a familiar scent of old iron.

Suddenly afraid, he turned around and looked at the inside of the car. He saw a bloody knife, a syringe and vial and a pair of women's underwear lying on the floor.

He thought he recognized the underwear; she'd always loved silk undies, no matter how much he teased her about her champagne tastes. No. It couldn't be Scully's. It couldn't. He looked at his bloodied hand as the world began to spin and blur around him. He never felt it when he hit the pavement.

Mulder woke slowly, conscious of the sterile, antiseptic smell that met his nose. Hospital? He wasn't sure. He tried to remember what might have happened to put him here but his memory was so fuzzy....He hated hospitals, but if he was hospitalized, Scully would be there, next to his bed, waiting for him to wake up.

He opened his eyes and was vaguely disappointed to see a tired-looking Skinner there instead of Scully.

"Agent Mulder? How do you feel?" Skinner asked guardedly. Huh. Usually Skinner showed a little bit more emotion unless, yes, there he was, a uniformed cop stood in the corner.

"I...feel okay, I guess sir," Mulder looked around the room more carefully. "Where's Scully? She's usually here when I'm in the hospital."

Skinner's face turned even more wooden and Mulder could see that he was clutching a large manila envelope tightly.

"Sir? Why isn't she here? Has something happened?" Mulder asked, suddenly anxious.

Skinner took a breath, then asked. "Agent, what day is this?"

Mulder cast him a puzzled look. "Today is....um....I don't know...The last thing I remember is Wednesday, Wednesday night. What's wrong?" He tried to sit up until the headache hit him. Lying back down again, Mulder begged. "Sir, what is going on?"

Skinner sighed and glanced at the cop, before opening the manila envelope. "Mulder, today is Thursday, about 5 p.m. You were found this morning at Rock Creek Park by a pair of park rangers. It looks like you drove there. You were found on the pavement, next to your car. Remember anything more now?" Skinner flashed a glance at the cop, who stared impassively back.

Something was going on and Mulder was beginning to get a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Where? I was in a parking lot, wasn't I? I think I can remember getting out of the car and my hand...there was something wrong with my hand...How did I get there?" Mulder shook his head, trying to make the sense of confusion go away.

"What's the last clear memory you have?" Skinner asked.

"I...My memory is really fuzzy, sir. I...uh...I was at Scully's apartment and we...we were eating dinner and...um..." Mulder stopped and flushed as he remembered vague flashes of going to bed with Scully and doing the naked pretzel.

"Did you and Agent Scully have intercourse that night?" Skinner asked relentlessly.

Mulder blinked owlishly at Skinner, a horrible truth beginning to dawn. "What happened to her? Where is she? Is she hurt?" He began to climb out of the bed, but found himself nose to nose with the cop.

"You might want to stay in the bed, Agent Mulder," the cop said mildly. "The doctor hasn't released you yet and Mr. Skinner has a few more questions for you."

"What happened to Scully? Skinner, you know something! Tell me, damn you, or I'll take you apart! Where is she?" Mulder shouted and lunged forward, fighting the cop. Surprised, the cop fell backward and Mulder almost got to Skinner, but Skinner was quicker. Mulder soon found himself wrestled back into the bed and cuffed to it.

"Please...please tell me what this is about," Mulder begged as Skinner released his hold. Skinner waved off the cop and adjusted his rumpled suit.

"Agent Mulder, this isn't standard procedure, but I owe you an explanation." Skinner stepped back to his chair and picked up the manila envelope. He moved his chair closer to Mulder's bedside and swiveled the side table until it was on Mulder's lap.

"I mentioned that you were found this morning in Rock Creek Park, next to your car. You were dressed in pants, a shirt and shoes but no socks or underwear. You had traces of blood on your clothing and your hand. DNA tests are pending, but we know it wasn't yours because the type doesn't match." Skinner gave him a searching look, then pulled a stack of photographs from the envelope.

"When the rangers found you, they checked your ID, and called the police, especially after they saw the inside of your car. There was a vial of ketamine on the floor, along with a used syringe and a bloody knife. And a pair of women's underwear." Skinner eyed him closely. "Do you know how they got there?"

Mulder shook his head. "I don't remember ...not since dinner on Wednesday and a bit after....I...I was going to spend the night at Scully's, I think. I didn't have any plans to drive anywhere and certainly not to a park." He looked around, white-eyed. "I...I remember being in bed with Scully and...uh...making love to her and I...I think I remember a struggle of some kind...and then...nothing...." He flashed Skinner a look of pure panic.

Skinner gave him a look of compassion, and removed another photo from the envelope. "Do you recognize this bedspread?"

Mulder looked at it closely. "It looks a lot like the one Scully has on her bed; I always told her that the floral was overdone." Mulder handed it back to Skinner. "What about it?" he asked tensely.

"This was found in your trunk, stained with blood, but we don't know whose. Also, human hairs have been recovered from the blanket. Red ones."

"You can't think I'd do anything to Scully," Mulder said, shocked.

"There's more," Skinner said in a patient voice. "After you were hospitalized, I tried to call Scully and got no answer. Concerned for her safety, I had the manager open the apartment door. This is what I found in the bedroom." Skinner placed a third photo on the table.

Mulder looked at it closely, then swallowed hard and glanced up at Skinner. "This looks like one of Brown's crime scenes. Is this dark stain...is it..."

"It's human blood but we don't know whose yet. The bed looked slept in and the lab tells me that they found both semen and blood stains on the sheets, again, no DNA results yet. The footprint has been matched to the shoes you were wearing when they brought you in."

"You think that I...I hurt Scully?" Mulder whispered in shock, looking at the photo. "I couldn't...I..." He paused, thinking hard. "Did you say you found a vial of ketamine in my car?"

"With your prints on it, as well as on the syringe. Your blood tests at the hospital show that you had a pretty stiff dose of ketamine about twelve hours ago. When you were brought in, they decided to let you sleep it off." Skinner cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Were you...ah...and Agent Scully using Ketamine recreationally?"

Eyes wide, Mulder just shook his head. "She'd never touch anything like that and you know me, I don't use drugs....I..." Mulder paused as a terrible thought surfaced. He had a sudden memory of Scully's angry face saying "Mulder, you raped me!"

He felt the blood drain away from his body.

"Agent Mulder? Are you all right? Mulder?"

Skinner's anxious face swam before his eyes. He shook his head and closed them tight. "I'll...I'm not all right, sir...I...No, don't get a doctor. That won't help," Mulder ended wearily. "She's dead, isn't she?"

"We don't know that. We're searching the woods near the parking lot where you were found. Do you have an explanation for all this, Agent Mulder?" Skinner still looked worried.

"She's dead and dumped in the forest," Mulder said in a flat voice. "I must have raped her and killed her, reenacting Brown's pattern."

Skinner blinked. "Is that what you remember happening, Agent? I thought you said you couldn't remember."

"I can't," said Mulder. "But the blood in the apartment is Scully's. Her blood is on my hands." He lifted his right hand and studied his long fingers. Although they'd cleaned him off, the blood was still embedded in the creases of his fingers. Her blood. He closed his hand into a fist.

"If you don't remember, how can you be so sure of what happened, Mulder? Why don't we wait and let the evidence come in," Skinner said quietly.

"You don't understand, sir," Mulder said desperately. "I know I must have done it because...because...I raped her once before."

"What?" Skinner exclaimed.

"I was trying to pick up on Brown's thoughts, so I took some ketamine to get into his mind set. While I was Brown, Scully came by my apartment." Mulder closed his eyes against the memory of Scully's angry face. "I woke up later on my kitchen floor with Scully's gun pointed at me. She told me that...that...I raped her and would have slit her throat like Brown, if I hadn't passed out first. The ketamine completely took over. She decided not to report it, to save my career. And...for a miracle...she forgave me later."

Mulder gulped and opened his eyes again, the pain in them terrible to see. "She shouldn't have. She shouldn't ever have trusted me again. I don't know how I got the ketamine or why, but when I take it I get violent. You might as well arrest me. She's dead."

Three hours later

DC County Jail

Mulder passively let them strip search him, welcoming the indignity. It was no less than he deserved for what he'd done and could never undo. They dressed him in orange pajamas. High risk, that's what he was, and they were going to house him in the special block, the one for child molesters and cops. He snorted. As soon as the other prisoners found out he was a Fed, his life expectancy would drop to zip.

Not that it mattered. Scully was dead and he'd killed her. He'd follow her just as soon as he could.

Dana Scully wrenched at the duct tape again. Her wrists were already bruised and bleeding from prior attempts. She was ready to bite with frustration.

She'd woken up from some kind of foggy nightmare to find herself naked on the floor of an entirely bare room. The room itself was ten feet by ten feet as she'd paced it off. The walls were tan plaster without windows, the door fit flush to the wall and locked securely. As far as she could tell, it was a solid metal door intended for high security installations. The floor was a low-pile carpet in a dull brown color. A fluorescent light lit the room from a recessed part of the ceiling about fifteen feet up.

There were no blankets or clothing she could use to keep the cold out. Worse yet, she was having trouble keeping the panic at bay. This was too close to her abduction by Duane Barry. She'd never remembered much from the experience, but she did recall feeling cold, naked and helpless. Much like now.

What was the last thing she remembered? Mulder. She was with Mulder at her apartment, busily seducing him to her bed. Where was Mulder? What had happened to him? Was he alive? Maybe held somewhere else?

"Good morning Dana, how are you feeling?" Pargeter stood in front of the closed and locked door.

"Agent Pargeter, thank God you're here! Quick, get this tape off me! Where's Mulder?" She held out her wrists and was taken aback when he didn't move. He only stood there and smiled.

"What's going on?" she demanded. "Pargeter?" Light began slowly to dawn. "You. It was you, wasn't it. You're why I'm here..."

"Absolutely right, Dana. You're going to be my guest for a while. I'm sorry about the duct tape, but until I secure your cooperation, you'll have to live with it."

"What do you want, you bastard?" she snarled.

"You, Dana. I tried and tried to get your attention, but you never looked at me. You spent all your time and energy on Mulder. But don't you see, we belong together. We're soul mates. I could tell, the first time I saw you." He set the plate down. "Eat up, Dana, we have a lot of work ahead of us."

"Work? What work?" she demanded.

"Why, your training. You've picked up a lot of bad habits from Mulder. If you're going to be my woman, you need to learn how to please me," Pargeter smiled at her benignly.

"You're going to rape me, you mean," she said bluntly.

He held both hands up. "Oh no, that's what men like Mulder do! I'd never do that. No, Dana, you'll make love to me because you want to. You'll be pleading with me to give you pleasure in every way that a man can, you just have to learn how to reach your true feminine instinct."

She was speechless. He took it for encouragement and went on. "I know how bad it was for you after Mulder raped you. I can't tell you how angry that made me! If you'd said the word, I'd have hunted him down and shot him like the animal he is. Although," he admitted, in a conversational tone, "I have to admit that watching you fuck him last night was pretty arousing. I'm looking forward to making love to you myself..."

"Watching...How? How did you know about what Mulder did..?" She sputtered.

"Dana, you and Mulder are about the only ones on the planet who don't know that your apartment is bugged. I just installed my camera right next to the other ones already there. And I know that Mulder raped you because I was listening. I was always listening or watching over you. I want to keep you safe." He frowned. "I'm sorry, Dana. I should have intervened sooner, but you can be happy now. I've gotten you far away from Mulder."

"Mulder...Where is he? What did you do to him?" she demanded.

"Mulder? Just a little ketamine, a bit more than you got. But best of all, they think you're dead and Mulder did it! You're finally free of him. It's a pity that DC doesn't have a death penalty, but he'll be in prison for the rest of his life. They've stopped looking for you alive; by now they're looking for a body."

She was silent, shocked. He removed a bottle of water from a jacket pocket and set it next to the ham sandwich. "I hope you enjoy your meal. There aren't any sanitary facilities, you'll have to earn them. Oh, and you'll have to earn clothing and food too. Just remember, cooperate and you'll be rewarded, rebel and you'll be punished. I'll see you later, Dana."

Pargeter slipped out the door just before Scully launched herself at it, screaming.

Chapter 15

Mulder bent over the sink. It wasn't much, but at least he had a cell to himself now. He ran cold water over the wad of toilet paper and gingerly applied it to his new black eye. He'd been lucky this time, he supposed. His former cellmate hadn't been able to kill him, although he'd left bruises all over Mulder's body. Didn't matter, though. Nothing mattered any more.

"Well, you're where you belong now, aren't you Agent Mulder?" Mrs. Paddock's sharp voice cut across Mulder's consciousness.

He whirled around to find her sitting on his bunk, smirking.

"You! You aren't real!" Mulder exclaimed.

"Oh, aren't I?" She stood up and walked over to him until they were nose to nose.

"I'm quite real, to you. And, I repeat, you're right where you belong. In jail with the other rapists and murderers."

"I didn't kill Scully," Mulder said.

"That isn't what you told Skinner and the police. That isn't what you think. You know, in your heart of hearts, that you raped and murdered the only person who's ever loved you. Just like you destroy everything good in your life."

Mulder turned away, tossing the wad of toilet paper into the toilet. "That isn't fair," he said. "I love...loved..Scully."

"No, but it's true. Still don't think you belong with John Lee Roche or Lucas Henry? How are you any better than Luther Lee Boggs? At least he saved Scully's life before they executed him." She moved around so that he would have to see her. "You've always seen Scully as an extension of yourself, a sounding board, a support system. When did you ever appreciate her as a human being, separate and apart from you and your goals?"

"It wasn't like that," Mulder cried.

"Scully was the best thing that ever happened to me. I loved her. I'd give my life to bring her back, to undo what happened."

"But that isn't an option, is it? She's gone and you did it. Now her family grieves for her and it's your fault. Poor Mrs. Scully, two daughters gone now and all because of Fox Mulder. I imagine Bill would like to kill you himself."

She smiled broadly. "Still, you're in luck. I understand that in the District of Columbia they don't believe in the death penalty. You'll just be in prison for the rest of your life. You're a healthy man,

you should live a long time in there." Her smile grew wider and he noticed how pointed her teeth were, like a serpent's. "And who knows, you might find love again. One of the more powerful prisoners might find you attractive and want you as his cellmate."

"Shut up! You aren't real!" Mulder cried, clapping his hands to his ears and backing away.

"What do you mean I'm not real? You got a visitor Mr. Mulder," said a voice from the doorway. Mulder looked up into the face of a puzzled guard looking through the viewing window.

Mulder looked around, but Mrs. Paddock was gone. He sighed with relief. "Visitor? Okay, let's go," he said.

Walter Skinner took his seat in the visiting room with a sense of discomfort. He didn't like prisons and jails; he'd almost ended up in one once. But thanks to Mulder's persistence, Skinner's innocence had been proven. Now it was time for Skinner to return the favor if he could.

The door opened and Mulder shuffled in behind the bulletproof window. He wore a 'carrot' suit. Skinner wasn't surprised that he'd been placed in the segregation unit for his own safety. Cops didn't do well in prisons. Mulder sat, his eyes fixed on the floor, refusing to meet Skinner's gaze.

"Agent Mulder, how are you doing?" Skinner asked with forced cheerfulness.

Mulder looked up and smiled ironically. "How would you be doing if you'd murdered your best friend? Just peachy."

Skinner noted the deep purple bruise spreading throughout Mulder's left eye-socket and frowned. "Where'd you get the black eye?"

Mulder touched the bruise gingerly. "My roommate didn't like Feds." He shrugged. "It doesn't matter. Goes with the territory."

Skinner bit back what he wanted to say, realizing that Mulder was right. There wasn't much more he could do to protect him if Mulder was already in the segregated unit. "We have to get you out of here. Your arraignment is this afternoon and I'll try to make bail for you. The Lone Gunmen are contributing, too."

Mulder shook his head. "Save your money. They won't let me out and you know it. They have no way of knowing I won't do it again." In a lower tone of voice he said. "I have no way of knowing..."

"Mulder, you aren't under the influence of ketamine any more," Skinner said reasonably.

"I'm having some kind of flashbacks," Mulder said with quiet despair. "I'm...seeing things and hearing things that weren't there before. Things I saw when I was on ketamine. I don't...know...what I'm capable of right now. Jail is the safest place for me."

"But Mulder, you don't even remember what happened. Scully may not be dead. For all we know, she's unconscious in the woods somewhere," Skinner protested.

"You've searched the woods," Mulder said flatly. "What did you find?"

Skinner looked uncomfortable. "We found footprints leading from your car into the forest. They disappear from the trail and we haven't found a dump spot."

"Yet. You haven't found a dump spot yet," Mulder finished. "The clothes I was wearing. They were snagged with vegetable matter, weren't they?"

Skinner nodded.

"The twigs and leaves were from the same kind of plants as those you found on the trail, aren't they?" At Skinner's reluctant nod, Mulder went on. "And my clothing. I was found wearing shirt and pants but no underwear, shoes but no socks, right? Just the sort of way a drunk or drugged man would dress if he were anxious to dump a body quickly."

Skinner took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Mulder, I can't dispute that the evidence makes you look bad. The only thing that isn't in yet is the DNA. But I'll repeat, we have NO PROOF that Dana Scully is dead. There just wasn't that much blood."

Mulder shook his head. "There wouldn't be. It wasn't Brown's pattern to leave too much blood at the scene. He took it with him. I...probably dumped that with Scully's body...Skinner, I know what I did to her once before and I know how it happened. This time, I don't know why I was using ketamine, but the rest of it fits. If Scully hadn't trusted...me..." He stopped and scrubbed at his eyes, then went on. "If she hadn't trusted me when I told her it couldn't happen again, she'd be alive and safe."

Skinner looked at him with compassion. "Mulder, of all the people I've ever known, you are the person least likely to murder someone. And I'll stand by that judgment. If you need anything, give me a call."

Skinner gave the guard a look and reached down into his pocket, drawing out a pack of cigarettes with some bills wrapped around it. "This might help make your life more comfortable." The guard nodded and opened the drawer in the divider. Skinner dropped the pack inside and Mulder retrieved it.

Mulder's eyebrows raised when he saw the amount rubber banded to the pack. "That's a lot of money, sir. Five hundred bucks is a lot, even on an A.D.'s salary. Thanks. " "Sometimes you need it, on the inside," Skinner said and got up to go. "Take care of yourself, Mulder."

Mulder nodded and let the guard escort him from the room. He was passed to a new guard, a woman this time. She was that new one, the one who cried a lot. The other prisoners doubted she'd last a month, she was so emotional. What did they call her? A 'new boot'. Strange, how this place had its own vocabulary.

She took him to the cell and opened the door, watching while Mulder went inside. As she was closing the door behind her he was startled by a flash of movement. A man clambered out from underneath the bed and launched himself at Mulder. Shit! He had a knife.

Mulder backed away as far as he could but the space was small and the man was fast. He saw a flash of metal in the guy's hand just before he felt the slash across his chest. A knife, then. Somebody was going to kill the prize prisoner. He could hear the guard screaming and crying when she should have been opening the door and using her baton or something.

Mulder felt the blood begin to seep down his coveralls and wondered how deep the wound was. Did it really matter, after all? Why not let the guy take him out? It would only save Mulder the effort later. No, that tiny knife wouldn't do the job. He'd just end up in the prison infirmary. What was that blade, four inches? Only useful for slitting wrists and that was about it.

"You don't have to do this," Mulder panted, dodging aside.

"Stop talking," the other man grunted.

"I'll buy the knife off you," Mulder replied. "You want to kill me? This isn't the way to do it. You'll only put me into a hospital, at best. I can do the job right."

The other man's eyes narrowed. "That's a first," he snorted. "You want me to sell you the knife so you can commit suicide with it?"

"Sounds stupid the way you say it, but yeah," Mulder replied. "When I go, I want to be sure it's permanent. No offense, but I don't know if you're qualified."

"Why not just stand still and I'll finish you off if you want to die so badly," the prisoner asked and took a lunge at Mulder. "That knife is what, four inches tops? Sorry, man, but they'll be here before long and at most, you'll wound me. Takes longer than that to bleed to death and that's the only thing that knife is good for: slitting wrists. It can't work," Mulder replied patiently, still dodging the inmate.

Mulder edged against the bed and pulled out the cigarette pack and money. "I got five hundred dollars here and some smokes for you. That's the best deal you'll get today." He held the pack out in his hand.

The inmate stopped, eyeing it closely. The guard's screaming had stopped and the door was rattling now. "Better make your decision fast," Mulder said. "They'll be in here in a minute."

The inmate grabbed the pack from Mulder's hand and shoved the knife handle against the palm of his hand. Mulder quickly tossed it into the toilet just before the door opened and guards boiled into the room.

The guards were startled at the satisfied look on the faces of both the inmate and Mulder as they separated the men and took the one back to his cell, the other to the infirmary.

Dana Scully slumped against the locked door. She'd been pounding for what felt like hours with no response. She'd eaten the sandwich long ago and could feel her stomach growling. The water was gone, too, although she'd husbanded it as long as she could. Was Pargeter planning to abandon her here?

She looked toward the far corner of the room and her nose wrinkled. He was right. There were no sanitary facilities, so she'd done the best she could by designating that corner as her privy. That didn't keep the odor from carrying, though.

How many days had it been since he'd been here? One? Two? It would be a fine thing if Dana Scully, FBI Agent were later found dead of starvation.

No, she amended, thirst would kill her first. The human body could live about a week without food but only three days without water.

She'd finally managed to peel the duct tape off her wrists, though. That was a plus.

She got up and made yet another circuit of the room. She'd found the light switch and decided that she preferred the room lit to pitch black, so she'd left it on. Ten feet by twelve feet, that was the size she'd paced out.

After hours of sitting silently, quieting her breathing, she hadn't heard any noises from outside. This might be a basement room, possibly not in the city, although it was hard to tell. Similarly, her yelling and pounding at the door hadn't brought anyone. They probably couldn't hear her.

She sighed and sat down again. She was cold. She'd been cold for as long as she could remember, although being naked wasn't as traumatic as it had been. Not that there was anyone here to see her. Or was there? What was that over on the wall over there? She moved toward it and, standing on tiptoe, identified it as a camera lens. Pargeter had been watching her the entire time.

"You bastard! Come and face me!" She yelled at it until she was tired. Then she smiled. She went back to the pile of duct tape and removed a small piece which retained its sticky back.

With the biggest smile she'd worn in days, she returned to the lens. "Here's one for you, Pargeter! Take this!" She shoved the duct tape across the lens and went back to the other side of the room. At least she'd had this tiny triumph against him.

She leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, conserving her strength. She was so thirsty. Hopefully, deactivating his camera would draw Pargeter. She might be able to overpower him, or at least get water from him. Until then, don't think about it. Think about other things...

She didn't remember much from that night but she was pretty sure Mulder had been with her. What happened to him? Did Pargeter hurt him? Or kill him? No. If Mulder were dead, she would know, she was positive of that. He was probably out there right now, trying to find her. She'd bet he was harassing police detectives and otherwise ticking off anyone he came in contact with if it would push a search forward.

"Mulder, where are you?" she whispered into the silence.

"Mr. Mulder, it's time for your court appearance," the guard said through the viewing window.

Mulder had been to the infirmary and back to bandage the shallow scratch the knife had inflicted. He knew that there was a happy con out there somewhere who'd made five hundred bucks today. Well, at least he'd brightened somebody's day. Mulder stood, creakily, and waited for the door to open.

Two guards stood there with shackles and chains. So, he was getting the 'dangerous-serial-killer' treatment. He calmly stood up and let them put the shackles on his ankles and cuff up his wrists with a chain attached to a belly band. He couldn't take more than tiny steps, but the guards were used to that.

The other inmates in the bus jeered at him, but Mulder stayed silent, looking out the window. It was overcast today, he noted absently. The weather matched his mood.

He waited patiently until his name was called in court. He'd sat through a few arraignments before, but always on the other side of the table.

The judge studied him for several minutes before speaking. "Agent Mulder, I can't say how unhappy it makes me feel to see you sitting at that table. The crime of which you are accused is very serious. Both you and Agent Scully have testified in this court many times."

Mulder nodded. "I'm sorry to be here too, Your Honor. The...things...that bring me here are a shock to me too, but I'm ready to make what restitution I can."

"Mr. Mulder," said the judge. "Are you represented by counsel?"

Mulder shook his head. "No Your Honor, I don't need a lawyer. I intend to plead guilty."

The judge's eyebrows raised. He picked up a document and read it briefly. "You are being charged by the District Attorney with the first degree murder of your partner. Do you understand the ramifications of that?"

"Yes sir, I do. But the only restitution I can make to Dana Scully's family is to not drag this out. This is the only thing I can do, in justice," Mulder's voice softened and trailed off.

The judge examined Mulder carefully, then put down the document. "Nevertheless, Mr. Mulder, I won't accept your plea at this time. The circumstances of this crime make me doubt your state of mind. I am ordering that counsel be appointed for you from the Public Defender's office. We'll see you back here when you've had an opportunity to meet with your attorney. Good luck, Agent Mulder," the judge said sympathetically.

As he was escorted back to the bus, Mulder comforted himself with the knowledge that tonight he'd end this farce, once and for all.

Chapter 16

Two hours later, a freshly bandaged Mulder was escorted to a conference room.

"Your attorney's waiting for you," explained the guard. "You sure you're ready to meet him? You look kinda pale."

Mulder smiled wryly. "It'll be a short meeting."

The guard shrugged and opened the conference room door. "Here he is, Mr. Carleton."

As Mulder sat down, a short, squat man in a rumpled suit stretched out his hand. "Pleased to meet you Mr. Mulder. I'm Michael Carleton from the P.D.'s office. I'll be representing you."

The guard nodded to both and closed the door.

"I bet I'm your first FBI agent," Mulder said.

"As a matter of fact, you are." Carleton said and picked a folder up off the table, removing a police report. "I understand your partner is missing."

"My partner is dead," Mulder said flatly.

"And how do you know that? I don't see enough evidence here for the murder one charges the DA filed against you. Even assuming you did kill her, you were under the influence at the time and operating under diminished capacity." Carleton cocked an eyebrow at him. "It's possible that I could plea bargain this down."

Mulder shook his head. "He charged it right. I know what ketamine does to me, but I obviously took it anyway. Again." Mulder looked up and saw Mrs. Paddock standing next to the table. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.

She smiled, baring pointed teeth. "I'm here to see that you get what's coming to you."

Carleton tried to follow Mulder's gaze and saw nothing but empty air. "I'm here to defend you, Mr. Mulder," he said, perplexed.

"I'm not talking to you," Mulder explained, never taking his eyes off Mrs. Paddock. "I'm talking to Mrs. Paddock."

"Ahhhh, and who is Mrs. Paddock?" Carleton asked quietly.

"Probably the devil, or at least a minor demon, she's never specified," Mulder answered, gaze fixed on empty air.

Mrs. Paddock smiled. "You know very well what and who I am, Agent Mulder. And I'm here to collect what's due me. You belong to me, you know."

Mulder's expression grew serious. "I know," he whispered and turned his eyes away.

"And she talks to you?" Carleton continued. "How often."

"Since the start of this case. It's hard to shut her up lately." Mulder gave him a faint smile. "She's been dogging me ever since I started working on the Brown case. I was profiling him; had a kind of telepathic bond to him; heard his thoughts, felt his feelings." Mulder grimaced. "Heard his voices. They told him to kill."

"I...see," said Carleton. "And what do they tell you?"

"Ketamine makes them stronger. I was probably acting out Brown's compulsions while I was under the influence of ketamine. I k..killed Scully under their direction." Mulder turned to Carleton. "I know that ketamine makes me violent. It made me...violent toward Scully once before."

"How?" asked Carleton.

"I raped her while under the influence of ketamine, self-administered. I didn't remember a thing afterward, she told me what I'd done." He looked at Carleton, despair in his eyes. "That's how I know. The evidence points to me, Brown is dead, and I've reenacted Brown's patterns before." He gestured toward Mrs. Paddock. "And SHE's here. I don't know how I ended up with ketamine in my system. I can only assume I did it to myself, for a reason that seemed perfectly logical at the time." He drew in a deep breath. "There's always a logical reason when I do something incredibly stupid." Mulder leaned forward. "I want to plead guilty and get this over with."

"I don't think that's a good idea, Mr. Mulder. The evidence against you is suggestive but fairly weak. There's no body, for one thing." Carleton took a closer look at Mulder's feverish expression. "You want to atone, I take it?" Carleton said. "If you're looking for the State to execute you, Mr. Mulder, it isn't going to happen. At worst you'll get life in prison."

Mulder's smile bared all his teeth in a feral grin. "I'm a Federal agent. Just how long do you think I'll last in here? Justice will be served in the end. Plead me guilty, Mr. Carleton." Mulder looked at Mrs. Paddock, smirking quietly to herself. "Okay, Mrs. Paddock, you've won," he said.

Carleton shook his head, his eyes following Mulder's stare into nothingness. "Agent Mulder, I know that extended use of ketamine can effect your judgment. I'm having some concerns about your ability to assist in your own defense and doubts about your state of mind the night Agent Scully disappeared. Even if you did kill her, I think you have a potential diminished capacity defense. I'd like you to talk to a psychologist friend of mine."

Never taking his eyes off a preening Mrs. Paddock, Mulder said, "Sure. Fine. Whatever."

Dana Scully woke with an abrupt 'snap' as the door opened. She moved uncertainly to her feet, hunger and thirst battling for control.

Tom Pargeter shut the door behind him and smiled genially at her. He had a large paper grocery sack in one hand. Her eyes followed it as he set it down behind him. "Dana, how are you today?" he asked.

"How long...?" she rasped.

"About two days. I thought you could use some time alone," he replied.

She moved a step toward the paper bag before she could stop herself. "Did you bring water?" she asked, hating the weakness that made her ask.

"As a matter of fact, I have," Pargeter caught her movement and lifted the sack, pulling out a gallon jug of water. He set that on the floor, then removed a paper package. Scully could smell the onions on the hamburger even from the distance she stood. She could feel herself start to salivate and purposely drew her eyes away from it and back to Pargeter.

"I'm sorry it's just fast food, but it's still hot," Pargeter said apologetically.

She moved toward him, hand reaching out for the food only to find a gun in Pargeter's hand, the sandwich in the other.

"Oh no, Dana. As I explained before, you have to trade for anything I choose to give you."

"What do you want?" she asked dully.

He carefully dropped the sandwich back into the paper grocery bag. Then, one-handed, he unzipped the fly to his trousers. "Suck it," he said.

She recoiled. "No," she said.

"As you wish," he said and zipped himself up. He carefully reached behind himself for the sack, keeping the gun trained on her. "Because I'm feeling kind, I'll leave you the water. But don't expect food until you can pay for it."

"Can I..." she said hesitantly.

"Yes?" Pargeter asked.

"Can I use the bathroom?" Scully asked in a low voice.

"It is getting a bit whiffy in here, isn't it?" Pargeter said. "You know what the payment is," he pointed toward his crotch.

Scully looked away and shook her head.

"When you're ready to deal, just say so," he gestured with his chin toward the duct tape-covered lens across the room. "That isn't the only camera in here, Dana. You'll never find them all. Oh yes, and Dana, I brought you some reading material." Pargeter pulled a newspaper out of the sack and tossed it to the other side of the room. "I thought you'd like to know what Mulder is up to these days."

Pargeter opened the door behind him and had slipped through before she had a chance to rush him. The door was firmly locked when Scully got to it.

She turned and grabbed the gallon jug of water, opening the cap with trembling fingers. Thirsty as she was, she took careful sips, reminding herself that she didn't know how long it would be before he returned.

Her thirst partly satisfied, she carefully capped the jug and went over to the newspaper. Unfolding it, she saw the headline in bold type: "FBI Agent Still Missing; Parter/Paramour Charged with Murder."

Later that evening....

Mulder leaned against the wall of his cell, eyes focused on the narrow window. It was late and the noise of the other prisoners had died out.

Carleton was trying to do his best for him, but it couldn't bring Scully back. Nothing could. Mulder shifted and leaned toward the window, trying to see the stars through blurry eyes.

Partner, companion, lover, she'd been all those things to him and more. He smiled a bit as he remembered giving her that Apollo key ring. She'd understood immediately what he had been trying to say, even though he hadn't articulated it himself. The two of them together were worth more than either of them alone.

Alone. He was alone again. For seven years, she had been his second self, always there to challenge him, comfort him, save his life a couple times. When his mother had died, he'd felt truly bereft. Bad enough that Mom had committed suicide, but she was the last of his family. Sam was gone, his father dead, now Mom. Both parents were only children and they had no extended family. Mulder had huddled in his apartment, realizing that at last, he was truly alone in the world.

Then Scully had hugged him and reminded him that he would never be alone as long as she was there. She'd always been there and he'd known she always would be, even when he was pushing her hardest to run away and save herself.

He felt the tears running down his cheeks and closed his eyes against them."Scully," he whispered, "I am so sorry for what I've done to you. You were my life. I never told you how much you mean to me, I just assumed you'd know. Please, Love, wait for me. I'll be there soon...."

He ran a hand across his nose and checked the viewing window at the door. Nobody there. Good. He knelt in front of the toilet and reached his arm down into it, retrieving the small, insignificant knife. It was short, but sharp enough to do the job. He smiled, a look of contentment crossing his face.

Miles away, Dana Scully lay huddled in a nest of newspapers. They weren't much protection from the floor, but they offered some insulation. She moved restlessly, muttering in her sleep. "Mulder...no...don't do that, Mulder! Mulder...don't...You can't...put the knife down, Mulder, I'm here! I'm alive, you don't have to do this. Don't hurt yourself, Mulder...Mulder STOP!!!" She sat bolt upright, her eyes wide in the darkness.

Chapter 17

Dana Scully huddled on the floor, remembering the vivid dream that had awakened her. Mulder was in terrible trouble. She'd seen him with a knife, felt his blood draining away and the darkness descending. Nonsense, she told herself, this was just a bad dream brought on by the newspaper article Pargeter had provided.

She considered turning the light back on, but since Pargeter had told her about the multiple cameras, she'd decided she'd rather sit in the dark than give him any entertainment. Still, maybe she'd missed something in the newspaper article about Mulder.

She fumbled her way to the switch and blinked as the white light flooded the room. She'd set Mulder's article to one side, not crumpling it like the other paper that had made her bed. Yes, there it was. She read closely. The paper said they thought she was dead and Mulder had murdered her. Mulder arrested and in jail. Skinner's statement to the press that all charges were being thoroughly investigated.

"Pargeter set us up," she muttered angrily. "My God! How long did he plan this? He knew about Mulder's attack on me and he built on that...that bastard!" She put the paper down and looked absently at the duct-tape covered camera lens, wondering where the others were hidden.

This was Pargeter's way of removing Mulder from the scene and getting Dana Scully to himself. And so Mulder was sitting in jail, waiting for his trial. Were they even still looking for her? Certainly they weren't looking for a live Dana Scully; according to the paper they were searching the park where Brown had dumped his bodies. That was logical if you assumed that Mulder was imitating Brown. Logical, except it was all wrong!

She wrapped her arms around her knees, resting her chin on them and rocked back and forth. She couldn't fight the feeling of oppression. Something was terribly wrong with Mulder... She knew that he was in danger somehow, but there wasn't a damned thing she could do about it. He must believe that she was dead; Mulder always blamed himself first for anything bad that happened to her. This isn't your fault, Mulder, she said silently. You didn't do anything. Mulder, you have to believe that!

What do I do now? she wondered. She'd explored the room and there was no easy way out. No tools to break out with, no window and only one door. And she was getting weaker. She'd never had any body fat to spare, and she hadn't eaten in days. She had to eat, to keep up her strength. She didn't like to think about what she'd have to do to get food, but it was inescapable.

She had to survive and use every ounce of energy she had to get out of here and there was only one way to do that: she had to play along. Since that was what he clearly wanted, she had to convince Pargeter that she was becoming a properly brainwashed little sex-doll.

She sighed and closed her eyes. She felt dirty even contemplating it, but there was no other way. She needed to stay healthy and strong and keep her eyes open for her chance.

For Mulder's sake, if for nobody else's, she had to survive this. And when she did get out of here....when she got out...Pargeter would regret this for the rest of his miserable life.

Eyes, accusing eyes were all he saw in the familiar grey void. The eyes faded into faces. There was Samantha, looking at him mournfully.

Mulder pleaded with her accusing face. "Sam...I tried. I tried to find you. But you died before I could help you. I tried to keep them from taking you, but there was nothing I could do," he said brokenly to her image. But she said nothing, just stared at him until she finally faded into the mist.

A pair of ice blue eyes riveted on him. "Fox..." A familiar voice said querulously and Teena Mulder materialized as a vague shape, looking at him with disapproval.

"Mom?" Mulder tried to smile, but her expression didn't change.

"Mom? Why are you so mad? What did I do, Mom?" He gulped, then bowed his head. "I know, I didn't call you when you needed me to. There was something you needed to tell me, wasn't there? Maybe...if I'd been there and spoken to you, you wouldn't have died. You wouldn't have felt a need to take your own life. I should have helped you and I didn't, did I?"

Still looking at him, she slowly nodded, then faded away.

"Fox, you always were a disappointment to me," William Mulder floated into view. "Of course, you never were my child, so I don't know why I even bothered."

"Dad? I..." But Bill Mulder was already gone.

"You've disappointed everyone who's ever depended on you, Agent Mulder. Or can I call you Fox? Surely we know each other well enough by now...Fox." Mrs. Paddock said, emerging from the mist.

"You again. Why don't you go and haunt a belfry somewhere?" Mulder said glumly.

"They why do you listen to me if you don't want me here?" She cocked her head to one side. "It's because you know that I'm right that you listen. I see you've taken justice into your own hands...or should I say, wrists?"

Mulder held up his arms and watched with fascination as the blood welled and dripped from the wounds. He gave Mrs. Paddock a quizzical look.

"Your spirit reflects your body," she explained. "In reality, you are bleeding your life away on a cell floor. It won't be long, now." Her eyes glistened with satisfaction.

"Then I go with you?" Mulder asked in resignation.

"Then you go with me," she replied. "And all the things you would have done on Earth will be left undone."

"No, he doesn't." A small, red-haired figure appeared

"But Scully," he turned to her and said reasonably. "I killed you. I belong...with my own kind."

"Mulder, I'm here! I'm alive, you don't have to do this. Don't hurt yourself!" Scully spared a glance at Mrs. Paddock and tried to approach him, but was held back by the mist. He knew he must be fading.

"It's too late. He already has," Mrs. Paddock said.

As the world dissolved into nothing, Mulder hear Scully's cry, "Mulder STOP!"

Mulder saw white and hoped that it was the white light they were always talking about, but when he opened his eyes he knew disappointment.

"Dam'," he whispered, seeing the man in a white lab coat next to his bed. "Didn' work, did it?"

"If you mean, did you succeed in killing yourself, no, it didn't," the man said calmly. "Agent Mulder, I hope that if you feel that bad again, you'll tell someone."

Mulder closed his eyes against the daylight and tried to move his legs. Yes, they had him in restraints. "Why should I tell anyone my plans? They'd only try and stop me."

"You don't have to feel that kind of pain alone," the doctor said kindly. "Nothing is so bad that suicide is a solution. You're just lucky a guard thought to check on you."

"Not lucky and there's no solution," Mulder muttered. "She's gone and you can't change that."

"You mean Agent Scully? I'm sorry about her," the doctor said.

"Yeah, so am I," Mulder replied. "Look, we both know the drill. You're duty bound to make me promise not to try this again, or if I feel suicidal I'm supposed to promise to tell you and let you talk me out of it. Let me make myself clear. I'm going to off myself and there isn't a goddamn thing on the face of this earth that you can do about it, so stop wasting your time and go treat somebody you can help!"

The doctor blinked. "I'd forgotten that you were a psychologist, Agent Mulder. Then why don't we leave that behind and talk for a while," he pulled a chair up to the bed and sat down, clearly planning to stay.

Mulder eyed the shrink with increasing dismay. He was trapped in a hospital bed, in restraints, with a psychiatrist eager to pick his brains apart. Yes, he must be in Hell....

Skinner was waiting as the doctor locked the hospital isolation room behind him. "Can you tell me anything?" Skinner asked anxiously.

The doctor frowned. "You tell me, Mr. Skinner. Mr. Mulder is quite definite that he plans another suicide attempt at the earliest possible opportunity. If he feels suicidal he says that he will not notify staff and will do his best to, as he puts it, 'do it right this time'."

Skinner grimaced. "Sounds like Mulder."

"I'm ordering some anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medication for him, hopefully that will help somewhat." The doctor folded his arms across his chest and shook his head. "I've never met anyone quite like him. Has he had any prior emotional or mental disturbances?"

Skinner snorted. "You're talking about Fox Mulder. He's a walking emotional disturbance! Look, Doctor, all I can tell you is that this man is incapable of murdering anyone. It is true that profiling makes him behave...oddly. If, and I do mean if, he did anything to anyone, it's a direct result of the profiling he did on the Brown case. It isn't his fault....I'm the one who assigned him to it..." Skinner's voice fell away into a mutter.

"Has he told you about his hearing voices? He talks about a...Mrs. Paddock."

"Mrs. Paddock? The name sounds vaguely familiar; I might have seen it in one of their reports a long time ago....but no, he hasn't mentioned her to me. The voices...well, that's another thing. Doctor...ahh...how willing are you to believe in extreme reality?" Skinner's voice sounded ragged and a bit embarrassed.

"I'm not sure what you mean, Mr. Skinner. I'm a scientist, I generally believe in what I can measure."

"What happens in the X files doesn't have much to do with science as you understand it, Doctor. Let's just say that Mulder has some unusual perceptions from time to time, something akin to telepathy. He uses it as part of his profiling process; tries to get into the thoughts of the UNSUB."

"So he does hear voices. He hears thoughts that he doesn't identify as his own. That's often a sign of schizophrenia."

"In him, it isn't a sign of illness. It's more of a...a talent," Skinner said desperately.

The doctor eyed him from under bushy eyebrows. "I saw in his medical chart that he was hospitalized for an undetermined neurological condition."

"He had an illness earlier this year. The doctor had trouble diagnosing it," Skinner said hesitantly. "He's been fine since then."

"That's not what I'm seeing here," said the doctor. "His neurologist wasn't sure what brought about Mr. Mulder's apparent spontaneous recovery. He was following him for possible brain tumor. Is Mr. Mulder on any prescription meds? Anti-psychotics or antidepressants?"

Skinner replied, with an uncomfortable shrug. "No...no, not that I know of...I mean we didn't discuss his personal life that much. The Bureau doctor cleared him to return to duty." Skinner cleared his throat. "What's going to happen to him now?"

"Between his suicidal depression and the voices he's hearing, I think that he has no real connection to reality. Agent Mulder certainly isn't competent to stand trial. I'm recommending to the court that he be hospitalized in a secure ward until his mental state shows some improvement."

"How long will that be?" Skinner asked, unsure whether to rejoice at this news or not.

"Until he recovers his grasp on reality. He could be hospitalized for the rest of his life."

Mulder heard the sound of a door opening and closing, then the sound of Skinner's voice, sighing as he sat down next to the bed.

Mulder opened his eyes and looked at Skinner sympathetically. "Is this the part where I say 'there's no place like home'?" Mulder asked hoarsely.

"Mulder, how are you feeling?" Skinner asked quietly.

Mulder smiled wryly. "Disappointed. It didn't work."

"That was quite a stunt you pulled," Skinner said mildly. "Your doctor is ready to lock you up in the psych ward for the foreseeable future. And this..." He gestured toward Mulder's bandaged wrists. "Do you know how much blood you lost before they found you?"

"Not enough," Mulder sighed and looked away. "Look, Sir, I appreciate your caring and all, but you can't help me. Nobody can. And the sooner you realize it, the happier you'll be."

"Just like that, huh?" Skinner remarked. "You're giving everything up. Seven years with Dana Scully, everything you achieved on the X files."

"Have you got any better options?" Mulder challenged. "From where I'm laying, it looks like the end of the road. I'd just as soon leave under my own steam before somebody else does the job for me!"

"You could help me prove that you are innocent," Skinner said roughly. "Quit wallowing in self-pity and guilt, Mulder. Until they find Dana Scully's body AND trace the cause of her murder to you, I will continue to believe in your innocence."

Mulder lay back and closed his eyes. "Great. The one time somebody believes in me....Useless..." He took a breath. "Sir, please understand. I want to die. Does that spell it out clearly enough for you? She's dead and I have nothing. I am nothing. Just leave me alone and don't try to rescue me." He turned his face away, but Skinner saw the tears running down his cheeks.

Skinner got to his feet. "Too late for that, Mulder. I'm not letting you check out on me. Understand? I WILL NOT allow you to kill yourself."

"And what happens when you discover Scully's body and find out that I really did kill her?" Mulder whispered. "Gonna try to save my life then?"

"Go to sleep, Mulder. It's been a long day." Skinner cast him a sympathetic glance and got up to go.

Scully woke when she heard the door unlock and open. She lifted herself slowly from the pile of newspapers, focusing on Pargeter's clean face. She felt grimy and slow and terribly hungry. The water was half gone and she didn't have any to spare for washing. She didn't know much time had passed since his last visit, but it felt like a long time.

"Dana, how are you?" he asked cheerfully as he shut the door behind him. He didn't bother to hold a gun on her, she noted dully. That made sense. She was no danger to him, not now.

She smelled a mouthwatering odor from the sack he held and couldn't stop herself from staring at it.

"Hungry?" he asked.

She nodded, eyes still fixed on the sack.

"Are you ready to pay for it?"

She took a deep breath and nodded slowly, then stood up. With all the dignity she could muster, she walked over to him until she stood about a foot away. "What do you want?" she asked in a rusty voice.

"The payment is the same," he said steadily, excitement rising in his blue eyes. Fixing his gaze on hers, he unzipped his pants with one hand. "Suck it," he whispered.

She bit her lip and slowly got to her knees, steadying herself with her hands. This is for survival, she reminded herself. He's going to pay.... She pulled open the fly of his pants and he shrugged them down his hips with a movement. His boxers followed.

He was already half erect when she cupped him in her hand and put him in her mouth, then began to move her tongue. She heard a click and saw that he'd drawn his gun and was pointing it at her head. "A little insurance, in case you get any ideas," he said, then gasped as she pulled against him with her tongue. He stiffened but kept watching her with half-lidded eyes.

Stolidly, she continued working him, fighting the urge to just bite it off but conscious of the gun at her temple.

He took a long time, or maybe it just felt like forever. He stiffened and gasped, then her mouth flooded with salty liquid. "Swallow it," he instructed. She fought down the nausea and obeyed.

She sat back on her haunches, her eyes dully fixed on the floor. He set the sack down next to her. "Okay, here's your lunch," he said.

She looked up at him with the hatred smoldering in her, then picked up the sack with a trembling hand. As she removed the hamburger from its wrapping, the smell of the food revived her ravenous hunger.

Hunching away from him, she tore into the burger and stuffed it into her mouth, chewing as fast as she could. She heard him chuckling low as she choked down the last piece and searched the bag, looking for more. Then she looked up again at Pargeter, pants duly fastened again, leaning easily against the wall and swore that some day, somehow, he'd pay for this.

Chapter 18

Dana Scully sat back on her haunches, glaring at a calmly smiling Pargeter. "You set us up," she accused. "Why? What did we ever do to you?"

Pargeter squatted down until they were eye to eye. "You never did anything to me, Dana. That bastard Fox Mulder was monopolizing all your time and attention. I had to get you away from him, that's all."

"Like this?" she asked.

"It was the only way," he said reasonably. "And you feel much more cooperative, don't you?" he smiled and pointed toward his fly. "Things are progressing nicely."

She stopped herself before she launched herself at him. He had a gun and he could still use it. No, this had to be handled with finesse. "You're right, Tom, you are in control here," she said carefully. "What is it you expect of me?"

He cast her a measuring look. "I just want you to be my woman, to be here for me when I visit. Just like you were for Mulder." He eased himself into a sitting position, back against the door. "You and Mulder were so close; I envied that."

She kept her eyes focused on his face, trying to radiate honesty. "I see, and that's what you want for...us?"

He nodded. "Yes, Dana. You're finally starting to understand. I had to get you away from his influence, so you can learn to love me. I hope you aren't thinking about trying any of those hostage negotiation tricks they taught us at Quantico, because I'll spot them."

"I'm not playing any tricks on you, Pargeter. I just want to know what the rules are. When I've learned to love you, you'll let me go?" Oops, Dana, she thought, don't push too fast...

His eyes narrowed. "You'll be rewarded every time you obey. Maybe, someday, if I'm convinced you really are my woman, I'll let you out. You won't want to run from me, then. But until then, remember," he cocked his gun. "I could kill you and nobody would ever know. They already think you're dead." He rummaged in his suit coat and produced a newspaper. "I have another paper for you, there's some news of our friend Mulder." He put it on the floor in front of her.

Still feeling nauseated by what he'd forced her to do, she took the paper with reluctance and Pargeter watched her face while she read it. No matter how she tried to keep her expression impassive, she couldn't quite control her reaction to the story. Pargeter was using her feelings for Mulder against her, she knew, but that didn't stop her from begging him for news.

"Do you know anything more? How is he?" she asked quietly, putting the paper down.

Pargeter shrugged. "Not much. He survived and Skinner's in a snit about the whole thing. There's word that they may not try him 'cause he's psychotic. He's supposedly on a waiting list for the nuthouse." He smiled, "Which is where he should have been for a long time."

"That satisfies you, doesn't it? You just can't stand the thought that Mulder had what you couldn't get," she replied angrily.

"Why should I envy Fox Mulder? I have what I want now, and look what he's got? Nothing but a knife to the wrists!" Pargeter got to his feet and Scully struggled to stand and face him. "No, stay down. On your knees." He pointed the gun at her. "I'll get more out of you than Mulder ever conceived of, Dana. You're mine, now. You have to please ME or you'll die, as fast or as slow as I want, so you'd better work on making me happy." He glanced at his watch. "I have to go. They're having a task force meeting in the investigation of YOUR disappearance. I'll be back later, Dana, to check on you." He opened the door and slipped out before she could reach it. She was left standing at the open door, head leaning against it in frustration.

She grabbed up the newspaper and began combing it again for details. Mulder had slit his wrists the night before, but a guard had found him. He was in the jail infirmary and expected to recover. She closed her eyes. She could imagine Skinner's reaction, all right. "Oh, Mulder, why?" she whispered, but she already knew the answer. Maybe her dream had been real. She'd always discounted the dreams that seemed to predict the future, assuming that it was mere coincidence. But now she wasn't sure. She'd always suspected that she had some kind of connection to Mulder. But to know that he was trying to kill himself and be powerless to prevent it...The only thing she could do, she would. She'd remember him in her prayers and try like Hell to get out of here.

Well, she had confirmed exactly what Pargeter wanted. Cooperate and have the possibility of freedom or die. No, more than cooperate...she'd have to convince him that she was a willing participant. He was fixated on his 'plan' to make her his pliant Stepford-wife. What was she thinking? Pargeter didn't dare let her out, did he? Maybe he would and maybe he wouldn't. At the very least, he might lower his guard enough for her to get away. She slid her back against the door until she was sitting against it, arms folded against her chest.

If she tried an attack on him, it would have to be one of surprise; he outweighed her by at least a hundred pounds and she had no weapons.

She leaned her head back against the door and looked up at the blank ceiling, imagining the sun and sky beyond. Pargeter was smart but he was also obsessed. She'd considered before that the best way to survive was to cooperate, but she'd also thought that she could at least let him know what a shit he was.

As a trained profiler, Pargeter had some psych background. He'd be expecting Stockholm Syndrome to kick in about now, after she'd been imprisoned a few days. He'd certainly set up the appropriate environment for it: a victim, threatened with death by her kidnapper, isolated from the outside world, all benefits like food and water flowing from the kidnapper, random acts of "kindness" from the kidnapper...

That's probably what he's banking on, she decided. Well, I'll give him Stockholm Syndrome, if that will get me out of here. She frowned at all that it might imply. He wants a sex toy, she argued with herself, I'd be submitting to whatever he asks. I'd have to behave as though I enjoyed it. She wrapped her arms even more tightly against her chest. But this is the only way out; the only way to survive. He'd believe that I'd succumbed to the Syndrome, because that's what he intends. He's forgotten that I'm a trained agent, too, and one with a medical degree.

All right, I can dissociate if I need to, if that's the only way to survive, she determined at last. I'll use every scrap of opportunity that flows my way and I'll make him think that he has me 'trained' to be whatever he wants me to be. But I won't forget what he's done to me...and to Mulder.

Two Months post-kidnapping

Dana Scully pulled the gauze away from the wound, wincing with every tug. At last she had the old bandaging off and was able to survey the bite marks on her left nipple. Pargeter had bitten her in the throes of passion during his last visit and, although he felt enough remorse to provide gauze, disinfectant and sterile wipes, he hadn't felt guilty enough to let her go.

The human mouth was notoriously filthy and germ-laden and Pargeter's was no exception. She'd been fighting the infection since then with cold water packs, waiting grimly for his next visit to demand antibiotics. It was the least he owed her.

She pressed lightly against the wound and began to clean away the blood and pus. She pondered what she knew so far. Pargeter obviously didn't live here. Although he clearly enjoyed her favors, he didn't come daily. There was usually a gap between visits. He brought food and water each time he came, demanding 'payment' for every item. She had begun by being hesitant, then gradually feigned more and more enthusiasm for his requests.

Periodically he'd bring a newspaper, generally one with an article about Mulder or the investigation. She didn't know exactly how long she'd been here, but according to the last newspaper, it must be something over a month.

Without windows, it was hard to tell what time of day it was or even the season, but occasionally she heard some faint sounds from the outside. Although she hadn't given up yelling, nobody from the outside had ever heard her.

She sighed and finished fastening the gauze to her breast.

The trouble was, she reflected much later, there just wasn't much she could do but play along. She glanced around the room, which had a few comforts in it, all purchased dearly.

She now had a chemical toilet in the corner and a regular supply of water. Pargeter hadn't liked having sex with a woman who smelled rank and dirty, so he'd finally provided extra water and baby wipes, even a small bottle of shampoo. As a child on family camping trips, she had learned how to wash her hair in a bucket, so she'd managed.

She flushed, remembering the day he'd brought the toilet, along with cleanser and cleaning supplies. He'd sat and watched her scour out the privy corner, then wash herself, deriving some kind of twisted pleasure in it.

Since she'd had the opportunity to wash, he hadn't complained that she stank, but little did he understand how thoroughly she tried to scrub off his touch after their every sexual encounter.

She didn't like to think about how she'd 'paid' for the toilet and the blankets and pillow that made up her bed. She suspected that he'd given her a bed of sorts because he himself found the floor too hard when they had sex.

She'd begged Pargeter for some clothing, something to cover herself. After he'd extracted 'payment', he'd produced a red negligee, surely an example of how adolescent his sexual fantasies were. Instead she simply wrapped a blanket around herself and put the negligee on only when forced, generally when Pargeter was there.

Bandaging done, Scully continued her morning routine. She had decided that the only way to stay sane was to create a routine and stick to it.

She rummaged in the paper sack in the opposite corner and took out an apple. Pargeter now supplied her with a couple days worth of food, provided her payment was sufficient. She could only be grateful that she wasn't likely to get pregnant. It would be a nightmare to have to bear Pargeter a child. The 'cost' for this sack of groceries was, as Pargeter put it, "fucking me like you fucked Fox Mulder."

"What do you mean?" she'd demanded.

"Like you did him. I want you to do me," Pargeter had replied. "I have you on tape. I want you to go down on me, then get on top and fuck me like you did him."

"I still can't believe that you were watching us!" she'd said, breathless with outrage. "Why?"

Pargeter had grinned and started taking his clothes off. "Like I told you before, Dana. I liked to watch you undress. Imagine my disappointment when you started entertaining Fox Mulder in your bed. I wanted you, then. You deserve a real man, not a wimp like him." He pulled his underwear off and stood naked before her. "So, do you want to eat or don't you? And you'd better show me the same enthusiasm you did for Mulder or you're gonna go hungry."

She had complied, then, forcing back her rage. She had to stick to the plan or all was lost. She couldn't exact revenge if she starved to death.

Her apple finished, she tucked it into the trash sack and returned to her bed pallet. She had put it as far from what cameras she could locate as possible. She'd found at least three and hoped that was all, but knowing Pargeter, couldn't be sure.

She knelt, crossed herself and began her morning prayers. Not having a rosary, she had remembered how many prayers there were and in what order. She prayed a rosary a day, now, begging God first, for her freedom and then to watch over her mother, her family, and especially Mulder.

Pargeter hadn't been forthcoming about him since Mulder's suicide attempt and she hadn't dared to press him about it. But that didn't prevent her from commending Mulder to God's care. Thinking about what Mulder would say if he knew she prayed for him made her smile. He, the man who believed in ghosts and aliens, had always had trouble believing in God. She could only guess what was happening in Mulder's life right now, but she had no doubt that he needed God's help as much as she did.

Mulder gnawed nervously at a hangnail, wishing he could have just one packet of sunflower seeds. But they carry them at the jail commissary. For that matter, you couldn't call what they did serve food, although he had no doubt it was nutritious.

He'd been here two months now. Although the doc had decided that Mulder needed professional help, there were thirty five names on the hospital waiting list ahead of his. He had shrugged when he heard the news. Here or there, it didn't matter much.

After he was released from the jail infirmary, he'd been put on suicide watch in the special cell. That meant a week of wearing paper clothing and sleeping with indestructible blankets. He'd calmly accepted it and lied through his teeth the next time they asked him if he felt suicidal.

He was grateful that none of the drugs the doctor had prescribed ever got to him. He didn't know whether they were dispensed and then stolen or just never were dispensed. He didn't want his mind clouded by psychotropics anyway, although he wouldn't mind a shot of bourbon just now...

He'd been told that he had a visitor today: Mrs. Margaret Scully wanted to see him. When she'd written to him, he hadn't known what to say. Scully's death had devastated the entire family, but especially Maggie. Mulder pulled her letter out of his pocket and unfolded it carefully, delicately smoothing out the creases in the crumpled paper.

It said:

"Dear Fox,

I find it hard to believe that you are capable of hurting Dana in any way, but they tell me that the evidence against you is very strong. Do they allow you visitors? If they do, please let me know how I can get on the list of your approved visitors. I need to see you. I need to look you in the face and find out what happened to Dana. You are both very much in my prayers.


He examined Maggie's handwriting, then traced it with his finger. It was very much like Scully's writing, maybe Maggie had taught her daughter her first letters. He refolded it and replaced it in his pocket.

When he'd first received it, he'd still been in the observation room after his last suicide try. Hadn't worked, they were watching him too carefully and had caught him before much blood had flowed. Two more weeks in the observation room wearing paper clothing. He had been back in his own cell now for a few days. He was in the segregated section, with the molesters and pedophiles. They didn't dare put him into the general population; he'd hardly need a suicide try, there.

It was almost two o'clock. Time for Maggie's visit. Mulder got up and began to pace. He didn't know what he'd say to her; he hadn't answered her letters. He just didn't know how to explain himself to her, but she had the right to see him, better than anybody else.

"Mr. Mulder, you have a visitor," the burly guard opened the door and let him out. A second, equally burly guard, waited outside. They weren't taking any chances. Fox Mulder had already embarrassed this fine institution with two suicide attempts and they didn't want any more.

They stolidly walked him out to the visiting room. Maggie sat forlornly in a plastic chair. She stood up when Mulder approached. He couldn't meet her eyes as he took a seat opposite her, the glass between them.

She gave him a long look, noting how much weight he'd lost and sighed. "You haven't replied to any of my letters, Fox."

Head bowed, Mulder replied in low mumble. "I didn't know what to say to you."

"Fox...They say you don't remember anything about that night but I had to see you. I had to ask you to try to remember. Try for me, please. I can't stand the thought that Dana is out there in an unmarked grave somewhere. The family is distraught...I've lost both my daughters, but only been able to bury one of them. I...I need to know. Where is she? Can't you tell me?" She leaned forward and forced him to look at her.

"I can't say, Mrs. Scully. I don't know. I don't remember anything...not anything at all. If I knew, I'd tell you but I just...just can't remember. I don't remember that night." Mulder wiped away tears with his sleeve. "If I could do anything...anything to find her, I would," he said in a low voice. "I hope you can believe that I would never consciously do anything to hurt your daughter."

"I understand that, Fox. I just hoped... I know they say you don't remember anything, but I thought that if I spoke to you in person you might recall something that might help us find her." Maggie's voice began to tremble and cut off. Tears swimming in her eyes, she looked down at her lap.

"I know," Mulder said desperately, his voice wavering too. "I've brought too much anguish to your family to want to prolong it in any way. Please understand that if I knew, I'd lead them there myself."

They'd talked a little more before Maggie, mercifully, took her leave. She could undoubtedly see how shaken he was by her visit. Before she'd left, she'd pressed her hand against the glass and said, "Fox, I think you're going through Hell for what you've done. I just want you to know that I forgive you and I'll add you to my prayers."

All Mulder could do was nod dumbly and watch her leave. He got up slowly to go but the guard stopped him. He had another visitor.

Mulder scrubbed at his eyes, wondering who it could be now. He was surprised when the guard escorted him to a conference room, the kind they used for prisoners meeting with their lawyers. He hadn't seen Carleton since his first court appearance and didn't expect him today.

Of course, since his incarceration he hadn't seen many people. The Gunmen usually tried to stop by once a week, but this wasn't their day for a visit. He followed the guard back to the conference room and took his seat expectantly. Maybe it would be his lawyer telling him that they had decided he was competent after all. Then they could get on with it. If he could just plead guilty and avoid a trial he might be able to give least the Scully family some closure, even if it wasn't the kind they wanted.

The door opened and a familiar tall, blonde figure marched in. Mulder stood up and put out his hand. "Agent Pargeter, what a surprise to see you here."

Pargeter shook Mulder's hand firmly, then eyed the guards. "I was able to swing a conference room; give us a little privacy. Are they necessary?"

Mulder shrugged. "They seem to think so."

"Hey guys, can we have some privacy here? I'm a Federal Agent and I'm armed. I'm in no danger from my old friend Mulder, here, am I Mulder?" Pargeter flashed his badge at the guards, who were duly impressed.

"He's safe with me," Mulder deadpanned and controlled his grin as each man left the room with a fifty from Pargeter tucked in his pocket.

Pargeter sat back down and his smile faded. "So how are you, Mulder? Really?"

"How should I be? My partner is dead and I'm in jail. I've reached the pinnacle of my career." Mulder glanced back at the two way mirror where he knew they were probably watching. "We aren't that close, Pargeter. So why are you here?"

"Hey Mulder, I worked with you and I respect you as a fellow agent. Can I help it if I think you're being given a bum rap? I mean, the DNA evidence is damning, but they still haven't found a body. I thought you'd like to see a friendly face."

Mulder's face grew still. "What DNA evidence? Skinner hasn't mentioned that the DNA came in. He told me that the lab was really backlogged and that's why it's taking so long..."

Pargeter cast him a sympathetic look. "They found your DNA on the bed sheets, in the semen samples. The blood on the floor, in the bed and on you was matched to Dana Scully. And several strands of Dana's hair were found in the back seat of your car. I'm afraid it looks pretty damning."

Mulder said nothing, clearly trying to control his emotions. "Well," he said finally. "If I ever had any doubts about what happened, this clears it up pretty well. Has anything else turned up in the case? And what's happening to the X files since I'm...away?"

"The X files have been closed for the time being. Skinner can't find any volunteers willing to take it on. Nothing much is new on the case. They've combed the park but haven't found anything. Tell you what," Pargeter fished a pen and a scrap of paper out of his pocket. "I can't get out here very often, but I can send you updates regularly if you'd like me to. What's your address here?" He flourished the pen and held it ready over the paper.

Mulder sighed and said, "I don't know. I haven't been getting much mail, if you catch my drift. You'll have to check that at the reception desk. But I appreciate the offer and I hope you will keep me updated. It looks like Skinner's been censoring the info he gives me. I haven't seen my lawyer since the hearing."

"I'll do that," Pargeter stood to go and stuck out his hand to shake Mulder's again. "I'm sorry to see you here, Mulder. You're too good an agent for this. But if anything breaks on the case, you can be sure you'll hear from me." Pargeter went to the door and tapped on it. While Pargeter's back was turned, Mulder surreptitiously slipped the pen up his sleeve and reached out his hand to shake his. "Thanks, Pargeter. I appreciate that."

Mulder stood impassively while the guard frisked him outside the conference room. If you had ever been a junior magician, slipping a sharp object from one part of your body to another was a snap. That pen Pargeter had left was metal. Sharpened, it would yield a very nice edge. He couldn't find the body for the Scully family, but he could give them justice...

Chapter 19

"I'm getting very tired of this," Skinner muttered as he was ushered into the infirmary.

Fox Mulder lay, in full restraints, on the hospital bed. His face looked white and bloodless. Skinner could see two IV's attached to his arms, one feeding blood back into his body and a second with clear liquid. Glucose, he supposed, so to counteract shock. He shook his head in disgust. He'd been in too many of Fox Mulder's hospital rooms over his career, he decided. He was starting to learn the lingo.

He took a seat and fumed quietly to himself. Why Mulder wasn't in a psych hospital was inexplicable. Every time he'd tried to approach the jail doctor about it, the man was either out or unavailable. It was also pretty obvious that whatever meds the psychiatrist had prescribed had never made their way to Mulder. He'd called the psychiatrist's office but his receptionist told him that Mulder wasn't regarded as a regular patient. The doctor had only been there to evaluate Mulder for competence. Other than that, the psychiatrist relegated Mulder to the tender mercies of the prison system.

Some mercy...Skinner looked away hard, to bite back the emotion, then heard a groan from the bed. Mulder's eyes opened a crack, then focused slowly on Skinner.

"Unless you're an angel, I blew it again," Mulder whispered hoarsely. "Bet you're really pissed at me now."

"That's one word for it, Mulder," Skinner replied mildly. "So what brought this on? And where did you get the weapon? I understand you made a shiv out of a pen."

Mulder's face took on a haunted expression. "What brought this on? Oh, the usual. Life. The universe. Everything. You never told me about the DNA. Why didn't you tell me?"

Skinner closed his eyes and focused on breathing deeply. "Because I didn't want to have to sit in another of your hospital rooms, that's why," he said.

"You undoubtedly found her vaginal fluid on my genitals," Mulder said baldly. "And the semen was fresh." At Skinner's hesitant nod, he went on. "How much more clearly do you need it spelled out, sir?" Mulder gulped and looked away from the other man. "Why do you keep showing up at my bedside? Forgive my asking, but don't you have a job to go to?"

Skinner stilled, then answered. "Mulder, the DNA doesn't change anything. You and Scully were lovers. That's well known. And regarding my job, yes, I do have a job to go to. And since this investigation is ongoing, you are part of it." He leaned forward in his chair, fixing Mulder with an inescapable stare. "But that isn't all. I keep 'showing up', as you put it because, in default of Agent Scully, I consider myself your next of kin. I'm on the list of persons to be notified in the event of emergency. You aren't quite alone in the world, Mulder, no matter how much you'd like to think so."

"Oh," Mulder said, in a small voice.

"And one more thing. Where did you get that pen you tried to kill yourself with? You've been in isolation since your last attempt and you've only had contact with guards," Skinner demanded. Mulder turned a silent face away and refused to look at him.

"Mulder, if you keep doing this, pretty soon they won't be able to repair the damage you're causing to your wrists."

"So I should maybe change methods, ya think?" Mulder asked ironically.

Skinner, about to deliver a sharp, reply was stopped mid-word when the door opened and the jail doctor strode in.

Skinner stood up, turning his attention on the doctor. "Ahh, Dr. Hemings, I've been wanting to talk to YOU," Skinner said with a wolfish grin as he escorted the doctor out of the room.

Outside, in the hall, Skinner cornered him against a wall. "Dr. Hemings, I've been trying to talk to you for the past two weeks. I had understood that Agent Mulder was to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital for treatment and that in the interim he was to be given medications. I don't see any indication that he's being treated for anything but his recurring suicide attempts and, as you can see, he is STILL HERE." Skinner spat out the last words and inched closer to the increasingly nervous-looking doctor.

Dr. Hemings looked from side to side, searching for a guard, an escape, something but found nothing but two hundred pounds of angry Assistant Director. "Prescriptions? I didn't...that is to say we haven't...I need to see his file to...." He tugged at his collar. "Mr. uh...Skinner...if you could back up a little?"

Skinner moved cautiously back six inches but didn't change his glare. "I expect to hear, the next time I check, that whatever medicines Fox Mulder has been prescribed are getting to him and aren't being stolen by your staff. And why isn't he out of this place?"

"We're perfectly able to take care of him here..." The doctor saw the expression on Skinner's face and backpedaled. "There is a 35 person waiting list for Saint Elizabeth's. Mr. Mulder is number 36. Unfortunately, the mental healthcare establishment is flooded and he'll just have to wait his turn." He raised his hand defensively as Skinner intensified his glare. "I have absolutely no control over the waiting list. The hospital won't even discuss it with us. He goes when he goes and we do the best we can for him until then."

Skinner grunted. "And hope that damned hospital isn't too late."


Mulder lay on his bunk and pretended to sleep. He was on almost constant observation; he'd tried to suicide too many times for the guards to feel relaxed about him. He had more than a sneaking suspicion that Skinner had put the fear of God into them. Probably told them that they'd live just as long as Agent Mulder did.

He shifted position and sighed. He hated the drugs. They made him take the antidepressants, standing too close for Mulder to just palm the pills and avoid them. The anti-psychotics made him feel drugged and logy. What was he becoming? A happy zombie, that was it. You'd think that the pills would at least silence Mrs. Paddock, but it had no effect on her whatever. The pills just papered over the great big Scully-sized hole in his universe. The hole he could feel his soul trickling out through....

"Feeling sorry for yourself again?" Mrs. Paddock's voice cut through the darkness. Mulder didn't dignify her question with an answer. If he wasn't heard talking to people that weren't there, they might take the damn drugs away and let up on him.

"Not going to answer, huh? Well, I'll talk instead," she said companionably and sat on the opposite bunk. "I see you haven't succeeded in taking yourself out of this life. You always were a failure." While Mulder watched, she morphed into Bill Mulder.

"Son, I can't tell you how disappointed your mother and I were in you. We had hoped for better things..." His father's voice trailed away but the mournful look he gave his son lingered.

Finally, Mulder couldn't stand it anymore. He covered his ears and huddled into his bunk, face to the wall. He would just have to ride them out. The guards had said another, different shrink was going to evaluate him in a few days. Maybe he would decide Mulder was 'cured' and ready for trial. Then Mulder would insist that his lawyer plead him guilty. Then, he figured, a few weeks in the general prison population and all the pain would be over with.

Dana Scully sat quietly on her pallet and tried to meditate. Before she was.....she had been reading books on eastern Indian mediation techniques, promising herself that she'd try them when she had time. Now she had nothing but. She had refined her daily routine to include a meditation session after her morning rosary. Then she usually exercised, alternating calisthenics and self-defense moves, followed by jogging in place. Whenever her chance came, she'd be ready.

Pargeter had added an air mattress to the bed, queen-size, no less. Now she was sure that he found the floor too hard. He shouldn't complain, she decided. He wasn't the one lying on the bottom.

She was becoming inured to his demands, dare she say, bored? She should be grateful that he wasn't any kinkier than he was. She was beginning to understand a quote from one of the Nuremburg judges who talked about "the banality of evil" when faced with average people who committed atrocities. Pargeter didn't have any of the more grotesque sexual appetites she'd seen professionally, Donnie Pfaster for example. She'd been afraid at first that Pargeter would escalate into that. Fortunately for her, to Pargeter sex was simply and purely about power.

He was also extremely well organized. Given the effort that had apparently gone into her kidnapping, Pargeter had been planning for some time.

After their last bout of sex, she had coaxed him into describing how he'd accomplished it.

"Why is it that everyone is so convinced that I'm dead?" she'd asked, toying with the hair on his chest. "You must have planned everything with intricate precision."

He had laughed. "You got it, baby." He stretched, listening to his muscles pop, the wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. "I knocked you and Mulder out with animal tranquilizer darts loaded with ketamine. Then I copied Brown's pattern by drawing blood from you while you were out and poured most of it onto the bedroom floor."

"But what about DNA?" she prompted.

"I was wearing brand new clothes from Wal-Mart and had double plastic bags over my feet when I put on Mulder's shoes and tracked up the place. I also left 'his' footprints in the park before I put the shoes back on his feet. The clothes are

long gone: donated to Good Will four months ago."

"But why set up Mulder?" she asked. "Why not just take me?"

Pargeter snorted. "Do you think that Mulder would've just stood by and let me take you? If he were free, he'd have knocked down buildings to find you. No, he had to be neutralized in the process. So now he's in jail for your 'murder' and he's convinced he did it, too." Pargeter grinned proudly and looked down at the woman in his arms. "I knew about the way profiling affects him, and counted on the ketamine to fog his memory. I'm just sorry he hasn't succeeded in killing himself, despite the help I gave him."

"Help? What help?" Scully fought to keep her voice nonchalant. She hid her face against his chest so that he couldn't see her expression.

"On my first visit I left him a silver Cross pen. I knew he'd be able to sharpen it down and put it to good use. Too bad he didn't succeed. But he will. I saw him just the other day, you know."

"You see him?" Her voice was muffled.

He gave her an affectionate look."I go regularly, to check on him, see if I can help. He looks forward to my visits, now."

"You go to help him kill himself?" she asked, her voice level.

"Ultimately, yes. If I can help him do it, I will. And I want to be sure his memory doesn't come back." His head sank back onto the pillow. "Why don't you start stroking me again? Yes...right there...keep going...Word is, he's on more or less permanent suicide watch these days..ow...not so rough...Anyway, they can't get him into the mental hospital. Not enough beds or something, so Skinner is running this poor jail doctor ragged trying to get Mulder treated."

Scully began kissing her way up his chest. "And is it working?" she breathed.

"Maybe," he said languidly. "But I know Mulder...He's planning something. Maybe he'll outfox the psychiatrist and finally succeed in killing himself." He shifted and sought her face. "Do you care?"

"Oh no, I'm just curious about him because I used to work with him. You're all I want," she said earnestly. "I was always attracted to you, Tom, but I couldn't just drop Mulder. You're right, he does get over-emotional about things and he might have caused trouble for me when I finally left him." She yawned lazily. "You saved me the trouble of breaking it off." She reached for him again and whispered," Why don't we stop talking about Mulder? He's not important. I don't see why you should bother with him anymore."

He snuggled her back against him. "You're right, baby, I shouldn't let a loser like that get to me. I'm glad you're coming around. See, didn't I tell you that you'd love me once you got to know me?"

"You were right, Tom," Scully said softly. He didn't see the clenched fist she held at her side.


Mulder read over the letter he'd gotten from the Public Defender's office for the third time. Carleton had retired and a new attorney had been appointed to represent him, a Josh Zatkovich. What a name. Even worse than Fox Mulder. Well, at last things were moving.

The shrink he'd seen last week had decided that, not only was Fox Mulder sane, he'd never been psychologically impaired at all. Nope, the doc said, Mulder had been shamming, using the system to avoid trial.

Mulder snorted. He'd met some professionals that lacked empathy, but this guy took the cake. He had a feeling that the prosecution, knowing that Carleton was out of the picture, had rushed into this evaluation with a doc of their own choosing. They'd known that the temporary attorney sent to represent Mulder didn't know or care about Mulder or his case.

Mulder yawned. Nothing like being railroaded in the direction he wanted to go anyway. The shrink had ordered all the meds stopped, over Skinner's vociferous protests. Mulder hadn't tried a suicide attempt in four months and had seemed to be settling down. Skinner knew better, but Mulder knew how to give all the right answers to the psychiatrist.

Now his new attorney was here to meet with him. Great. Things were finally moving. He could get this new guy to plead him guilty and quietly draw this farce to a close.

"Mr. Mulder, your attorney is here," the guard opened the cell door. Mulder stepped forward obediently to be shackled. They kept him in a stripped-down cell and never let him out with his hands free. Despite the new doctor's pronouncement, they still didn't trust him.

The lawyer straightened up in the hard wooden chair and eyed the prisoner shuffling toward him. This guy was tall but very thin, his dark hair hung uncut over his eyes but the prisoner didn't trouble to push it out of the way. Oh, the lawyer noted, he couldn't because of the cuffs.

"You can take the cuffs off. I don't think he'll hurt me," the lawyer said.

"They ain't on to protect you," the guard said. "It's to protect him from himself." The guard unlocked the cuffs and the prisoner silently stretched his arms out, relieving the kinks. The guard made a gesture toward the prisoner. "Hey you! Let him see your wrists!"

The prisoner spared the guard an ironic glance and held his forearms facing the lawyer.

Long, jagged scars ran down each arm, lots of them, some barely healed.

"We don't know where he gets 'em from but he always finds a razor or a shiv. He's been on suicide watch more times than I can count, but the doc says he's sane enough to be tried, so he's your problem now."

The guard went to the door and looked back over his shoulder."I'll be just outside if you need me."

"We'll be fine." The lawyer tried to inject confidence into his voice. Oh well, it was hard starting a law practice fresh out of school, so he took whatever clients the Defender's office couldn't handle. Besides, this was a paying client, such as he was. This client was so quiet he was almost comatose. Better introduce himself and break the ice.

"Hi, I'm Josh Zatkovich, your new lawyer. You must be Fox Mulder. Should I call you Fox?"

The prisoner smiled wryly. "No, call me Mulder. Just Mulder."

Chapter 20

"And that's why I think you have a valid defense," Josh smiled hesitantly at a stubborn looking Mulder.

Mulder sighed. Why couldn't everybody just leave him in peace to atone for what he'd done? "And what would that buy me? Diminished capacity will get me a shorter prison sentence, but what about the Scullys? I owe it to them to give them justice of some kind."

"I understand from Assistant Director Skinner that you've been trying to execute yourself," Josh said slowly. "To tell you the truth, Mr. Mulder...Mulder...I've never had a client like you. Most of my clients want to be out of the prison system just as fast as they can." He straightened in his chair. "I think I agree with A.D. Skinner. You don't strike me as a murderer, no matter the provocation. And the evidence is certainly shaky. No..." He held up his hand silencing Mulder's protest. "Hear me out. Has it ever occurred to you that there might be other explanations for Agent Scully's disappearance? She might have some kind of mental condition due to ketamine use and have wandered away. She might even have been kidnapped by somebody. Maybe you were set up by someone who knows forensics."

"And she's been held for four months?" Mulder growled. "Where? By whom? Why?"

"It's been known to happen," Josh said patiently. "The name Elizabeth Smart springs to mind, for starters. The point is, the evidence is consistent with a variety of things, including but not limited to, your innocence. That's enough to give a jury a reasonable doubt. I certainly have mine." The attorney stood up and pushed in his chair, then picked up his folder. "They'll be setting a trial date at our next hearing in three days. Just think about it, Mulder. That's all I ask."


Mulder was surprised when he found out his visitor was Pargeter. Tom usually visited on Thursday and today was a Saturday.

Mulder was taken to his usual conference room and told to wait for Pargeter. As usual, Pargeter handed out two fifties and the guards made a discreet exit.

"Tom, it's great to see you, but if you don't mind my asking, this isn't your usual day?" Mulder shook Tom's hand and raised an eyebrow quizzically."Is there something new on the investigation?"

Tom sighed and straightened his tie. He was dressed in a somber black suit, another oddity for a weekend. "You're still the prime suspect," Pargeter said with a shrug. "But then, you expected that." At Mulder's nod, he continued. "I...ah...I attended Dana Scully's memorial mass today. I thought you'd want to know about it."

Mulder flinched as from a blow and lowered his eyes to the table. After a long pause, he said in a flat and barely audible voice, "Yeah, I'd like to know. If Mrs. Scully can stand attending, I can stand hearing about it."

"Some old priest named Father McDonald or McHugh or something gave a eulogy. Talked about what a devout woman Dana was, and what an exemplary life she lived. Then her brother Bill spoke." Pargeter cleared his throat. "I don't think he likes you much, Mulder. I wouldn't open any packages he sends you."

Mulder smiled ironically. "I might open one at that. He has his reasons for his feelings. But go on, tell me more." He paused and licked his lips. "How was Mrs. Scully? How did she hold up?"

"Pretty well, under the circumstances," Pargeter replied. "Skinner was the one who broke down. I think he feels guilty about Dana. Mrs. Scully barely spoke a word but she did stop me and asked me to give you this." Pargeter reached into his pocket and retrieved a small card, the size and shape of a small bookmark. "She called it a 'mass card'. I think it's supposed to be some kind of a keepsake." He handed it to Mulder.

Mulder took it and held it up to the light. Printed on shiny paper, the card had a royal blue background with a simple gold cross superimposed on it. Underneath were printed words. Mulder read them aloud: "'Dana Katherine Scully...Beloved daughter, sister and friend...'" His voice began to tremble, but he continued to read. "'And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. John 8:31-32.'"

Mulder traced the gold cross with a trembling finger for a while, saying nothing more.

"I can see you need some time alone. I'll stop in on Thursday, like usual Mulder." Pargeter got up, leaving a stunned Mulder still at the table, staring at the mass card.

The guards escorted him back to his private cell where he sat in the darkness on his bunk, fingering the mass card. He'd felt pain before in his life, but it had always been bearable somehow.

When they took Scully from him, it had been bad. Her cancer had been worse. But at least none of that had been laid directly at his door, regardless of how responsible he'd felt. This time...this time...he put the mass card down and rubbed his face with his hands. This time, the pain went so much deeper that he couldn't express it. This time he couldn't escape it, even his attempts to escape into death had been failures. There was nothing left but to embrace it.

His mouth opening in a rictus of anguish, he let the tears boil from his eyes and down his face. Making no sound, he fell to his knees in agony. He never knew how long he spent on that cold cement floor but he heard a soft noise as the card slipped off the bunk and landed next to him.

Catching his breath on his sobs, he picked up the card and felt the raised engraving of the cross with his forefinger. She had believed and been comforted by her faith. Maybe she was somewhere now, in a safer and better place. He hoped so. He held the card delicately in one hand and remembered.

"Scully. Oh my Scully," he moaned and hunched over as though he'd been punched. "I'm so sorry...so sorry...God, if I could only take it all back..." Behind his closed eyes she was vivid: the last time he'd seen her, laughing up at him from her bed, her eyes sparkling. He remembered her sleeping on his shoulder during a hundred stakeouts. He had always told her that she drooled, just to watch her blush. He'd never told her that she snored too. She had always been the strong one; that was an unspoken understanding between them. And because she was strong, Mulder had been free to take those intuitive leaps that made them such a good team. He supposed that he'd always counted on Scully to save him from himself, to be his balance.

"The truth will set you free, huh Scully?" he muttered. "I hope you're free, wherever you are. I know you had the Truth in you." He picked up the card again and ran his fingers over the cross, careful to wipe them dry before touching the paper.

He remembered words he'd penned after participating in the exorcism of a young boy by the Calusari. Indeed, neither innocence nor vigilance had been protection against the howling heart of evil, either for Scully or himself. He didn't know how he could keep facing it all alone.

"I see you're wasting your time on the icon of an outmoded religion," Mrs. Paddock said from the corner of the room. "That never really was your style, Fox."

Mulder looked up at her, his face streaming with tears."She believed in that outmoded religion," he said angrily. "And who's to say she was wrong? You?" He stood up, the card still in his hand. "I know you. I know what you are. Long ago, the Calusari warned me that I should be careful because you knew me. I didn't take them seriously. I suppose that you do know me, after all."

"Of course I do, Fox," she said soothingly. "You failed the test, you've always failed the test. But it's time to let go now. The struggle is over, for you. You can die in peace and leave the battle for someone else to fight."

"The battle," Mulder whispered, looking up at her. "That's what this is all about, isn't it? One less warrior for the battle, whenever it comes? When the aliens finally land...Brown led you to me." He snorted ruefully. "And I let you in."

"You invited me in," she corrected. "We've been watching you for some time, waiting for an opportunity. Then you came to us. You sought to know Brown's thoughts, to hear his voices. They're familiar ones, aren't they? And we've been right all along." Her voice became many voices. He thought he heard an overlay of Reverend Mackey's honeyed tones. "You will die by your own hand. If not tonight, then tomorrow or the next day. It's the only way to escape the pain, Fox." She bent over his crouching form. "And it hurts, doesn't it Fox? Knowing what you've done?"

"And what did I do? I loved a woman more than life itself. I still do," his shout ended in a whisper. "Scully once told me that despair is considered a deadly sin in her faith. I think I know what she would say if she knew what you've been telling me. And what I've been believing..." He looked down at the card, shining a bit against the dark linoleum floor. Oddly enough, he could see Mrs. Paddock very clearly. She brought her own sickly green glow with her. Corpse lights, that's what they were called.

"Oh, I know what you are. You're the Serpent, the Deceiver. You've been there all along, lying to me, feeding me despair and waiting for me to kill myself."

Mrs. Paddock's smile gleamed, her pointed teeth set out in relief. "You know that you belong to me, for what you've done. You're a murderer, a killer," Mrs. Paddock said. "You're no better than a Luther Lee Boggs or a Eugene Tooms. Justice demands it."

Mulder smiled shakily. "Maybe I'm not any better than they are." He rubbed his thumb across the card. "But I think I finally realize the truth. Scully wouldn't want me to kill myself...not for any reason and certainly not for her. Where there is justice, isn't there also forgiveness? And redemption?" He drew in a deep, shaky breath. "She would want...no, she'd demand that I live my life out and keep looking for the truth."

He climbed slowly, so slowly to his feet and, picking up the mass card, walked over to Mrs. Paddock until a bare six inches separated them. "That's the difference between you and I. I have always valued the truth but there is no truth in you. I'm not afraid of you." Her eyes widened as he edged a bit closer.

"You couldn't kill us before at Milford Haven. You have no power to hurt me and you never did." He held up the mass card, cross side facing her. "Get away from me!"

"You aren't a believer, so the cross won't work," she hissed, but backed away.

"I believe in the Truth," Mulder said steadily. "And I believe in Scully's belief. She didn't belong to you and neither do I. Go away and don't come back!" He lunged forward and soon found himself standing in an empty corner of his cell. The air felt...cleaner somehow, and emptier than it ever had before.

Mulder rubbed his eyes, went back to his bunk and sat down. Something had changed tonight; he didn't know what it was. Maybe a bit of Scully's spirit was here with him after all. He smiled at the thought of being haunted by his very conventional partner. "Scully, if you're there, feel free to hang around," he said into the darkness. But even if she wasn't, somehow he felt comforted by this little piece of cardboard. Tucking it under his pillow, Mulder lay down and had his first real night's sleep in four months.


"Hi Tom," Scully uncoiled herself from the lotus position as Pargeter unlocked the door and entered. "Did you bring the water?"

Pargeter grinned ruefully. 'Darn! Sorry, Dana, I forgot. But I brought you a treat." He opened one of two paper sacks he held and showed her a bag of loose lettuce. "You said you missed salads. I also got some salad dressing. Italian's your favorite, isn't it? And I got bacon sprinkles."

Scully nodded. Damn. She hated it when Pargeter acted like a normal human being. It made him almost...likeable. If she started seeing him as anything but the enemy, she was lost. Fixing a smile on her face, she accepted the sack from him. "Thanks, Tom. That was very thoughtful of you."

He ducked his head and smiled. "I'll get the water for you tomorrow. Do you have enough?"

"I have a half liter left. It's enough to drink but I won't be able to wash," she said ruefully. "I guess I can last till tomorrow if you can stand the smell of me."

"Good," said Pargeter, setting down the small Taco Bell sack he'd brought with him. Dinner, no doubt. She was getting tired of fast food meals. Hiding her disgust, she kept one eye on him as she arranged the blankets on the air mattress.

"Penny for your thoughts, Dana." Pargeter's voice cut through her reverie. He had tucked the Taco Bell away in a corner and started towards her.

"Oh, nothing much," she forced a laugh. "Just wishing these blankets were on a green lawn and not a cement floor. I miss the sunlight." She sat down on the bed and sighed.

He sat down next to her and reached an arm around her shoulders. "Treat me right, and you just might," he said tenderly. "You're very important to me, Dana."

She looked up at him briefly, then down again. "Tom, please...Let me go. I know you want to have a relationship with me and that's great. I'd like nothing better. We can have a normal boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Date." She looked up at him hopefully.

Pargeter gave her a patient look. "Dana, we've been through this before. You're an FBI agent; you know that the minute I took you I committed myself. I can't give you back or I'll end up in prison myself."

"Just like Mulder," she muttered darkly under her breath.

"Huh?" Pargeter asked.

"I said, I'd also love a bath," she said, running her fingers through unbearably greasy hair. "Baby wipes and bucket baths just don't cut it. The way I smell has to be bothering you. This is an old house, isn't it? Isn't there a bathroom upstairs I can use? You can supervise me if you want."

Pargeter shook his head. "No, I don't think that's possible. It's a quiet neighborhood, but there are still people outside. The place belongs to an old college buddy of mine. He got a job in California but didn't want to be an absentee landlord, so I look after the place for him. I cut the lawn, check on the place. There are too many windows upstairs. It's too dangerous." He got up. "I'll try to get you something to use as a bathtub."

"And take the used bathwater with you, like you do for the chemical toilet?" She asked scornfully.

"Whatever I have to do," he said."I bring you everything you ask for, don't I? And I'm going to the health food store tonight for that bee pollen you asked for." He grinned. "What does it do to the taste of your yogurt?"

"It's nourishing and I don't get much vitamin D here," she said shortly."Are you seeing Mulder today?"

"Today, Sweets, right after my visit here with you." He looked at his watch. "Uh oh, I better get going. I don't want to miss visiting hours." Pargeter kissed her hair. "Anything I can bring my girl? Anything special?"

"No, just come back soon, Tom," she said coquettishly, running her fingers through her long red hair.

"I will," he breathed and leaned in for the kiss. He didn't see her pull a small handful of hair from her head and then flatten her hand against his shoulder, planting several loose strands on the lapel of his dark suit coat.


"So I understand you have a trial date. What happened to your plan to plead guilty?" Pargeter leaned back in his chair, watching Mulder with careful eyes.

"My lawyer and I are still arguing about it. Josh is pretty stubborn about it, he thinks I may have a defense."

"Well, he's your lawyer, I guess," Pargeter frowned. "But even if a jury acquits you, the Bureau won't be so forgiving."

"Without Scully, there is no X files anyway," Mulder replied. "I'd probably just continue my research alone. But what about you? You're lookin' awfully pleased with yourself today. What is it? Win the lottery?"

"Just the love of a good woman," Pargeter replied with a broad grin.

"Oh, new lady in your life, huh? That's great," said Mulder wistfully.

"Yeah, she's bright, she's funny and she's crazy about me," Pargeter said fatuously. He shook his head. "Women sure are strange about food, though, aren't they? They're always on some kind of health kick. After I see you, I've gotta go to a health food store for her."

Mulder nodded. "Yeah, Scully always looked at me cross-eyed whenever I ate red meat, as though I were going to turn into a huge clot of cholesterol. What does she want you to get?"

"She wants to add bee pollen to her yogurt. Organic, of course."

"Of course," Mulder said, frowning a bit.

Pargeter's grin got bigger. "Well, I'm just glad I found her. I think she's the one, Mulder. I'll never let this one get away. But I'd better get going, bro. I have to get to the store before it closes." As Pargeter leaned forward across the table to shake Mulder's hand, Mulder saw some strands of long hair on the man's lapel. Red hair.

Mulder kept his face a blank while he plucked a strand off Pargeter's suit with his left hand, then shook Pargeter's hand.

"What's that?" Pargeter asked.

"Just lint. You want to look good for the health food store people," Mulder said, tucking the strand into his pocket.

Not until he was back in the privacy of his cell did Mulder take the hair out of his pocket and hold it up to the light. It shone like copper in his hand.

It couldn't be. She couldn't be. There must be other women who ate bee pollen with their yogurt but he couldn't think of any...

But if Scully was alive, then Pargeter was the one who'd had her all these months. And Pargeter was the one who'd set all this in motion. Pargeter who'd given him the pen...

Stuffing his hand back into his pocket, he ran to the door and began pounding on it. "Guard! Guard! I have to talk to Walter Skinner! I have to talk to him RIGHT NOW!"

It took Mulder two hours to wear down the guards, but they finally took him to a telephone.

"Skinner," came the crisp reply.

"Sir, she's alive!" Mulder said. "And Pargeter's got her."

"....What?" Skinner said. "Mulder? How do you know? Pargeter? He's an agent. What proof do you have?"

"A strand of her hair I picked off his jacket and something he said to me today. Look, sir, I know it sounds thin but it all makes sense. I don't remember killing her because I didn't do it. He orchestrated the whole thing. He's trained in forensics analysis, he could do it. And sir.." Mulder cleared his throat. "He's the one who gave me the pen I tried to kill myself with. He's been a regular visitor, trying to nudge me over the edge."

"I see," Skinner said. "I'll be there in ten minutes to pick up the strand. It isn't a lot of evidence, Mulder. It might be hard to get a warrant."

"Then go without one," Mulder demanded. "She's there, I tell you! I don't give a damn about the evidence, you have to get her out!"

"I'll be there soon," Skinner promised.

Skinner was as good as his word. He carefully put the strand of hair into an evidence bag and held it up to the light. "It's auburn hair, all right. It's Scully's shade. I've phoned Judge Halea, he's meeting me in his chambers in about ten minutes." Skinner looked at Mulder in concern. "I hope you're right, Mulder."

"I am right," Mulder said confidently. "And would you call my lawyer? I need to get out of here."

Ten minutes later - Chambers of Judge Joseph Halea

Halea rose from his desk chair as Skinner entered the chambers. Since court was long over, the judge wore jeans and a t-shirt. He was built like a sumo wrestler, at least six feet tall and seemingly almost as broad, but it was widely known that all of it was muscle. Criminal defendants behaved themselves in his courtroom or they'd be wrestled down by the judge as well as the bailiff. The youngest judge on the DC bench, the Hawaiian was a former prosecutor and known to be the most exacting of all the judges. He was also Skinner's sparring partner.

"Walter, it's good to see you," Halea shook Skinner's hand. "I understand you need an emergency search warrant?"

Skinner fished the evidence envelope out of his pocket and put it on the judge's desk with a short pile of papers. "We believe that we've found Agent Scully's true kidnapper and that she's still alive. We think that Agent Scully is being held at his house and need an immediate search warrant."

Halea picked up the application and read it over, quirking an eyebrow when he saw the basis for probable cause. "You don't have enough, here," he said flatly. "This is way too thin for a search warrant to issue." He looked up at Skinner in accusation. "Fox Mulder isn't the most credible of witnesses right now, under the circumstances. And, Walter, you're looking to search the home of one of your own men. What's the story here?"

Skinner had expected this. Halea was known to be fair but he held himself up to a high standard. "Let me explain, Joe....."

Ultimately the judge was grudgingly persuaded to issue the warrant. By this time, the prosecutor and Mulder's attorney had both arrived at the judge's chambers. The prosecutor read the search warrant with consternation and amazement. "You can't really believe this! Fox Mulder is psychotic! This is one of his fantasies."

Skinner shook his head and said forcefully, "No, it isn't. He has physical evidence to back it up, combined with the fact that Pargeter has special knowledge about Agent Scully that he couldn't have unless he had regular contact with her."

The prosecutor considered this a moment, then replied, "Go ahead and execute the warrant, then. But if you're wrong, it's your ass in a sling and not mine."

"You'll dismiss charges against Mulder and have him released immediately if we do find anything," Josh Zatkovich broke in."Tonight?"

The prosecutor and the judge exchanged glances. "If the evidence is exculpatory, then yes, I'll move that the charges be dismissed immediately," said the prosecutor.

"I'll sign the order. Just call me," said Halea

"Good enough," said a relieved Skinner. "The teams are assembled. Let's go."

Chapter 21

Skinner parked his car on the quiet street a few houses away from Pargeter's house. He'd packed his lock pick and a crowbar in case Joe proved uncooperative but was glad he didn't have to resort to housebreaking. He was grateful to have the warrant rustling in his pocket with no risk of an Internal Affairs hearing.

Glancing around, he could see the various FBI agents deployed in the area. Skinner had chosen agents that didn't know Pargeter and came from other departments. Hopefully, Pargeter wouldn't make any of them but this was going to be a difficult operation. Pargeter knew procedures, was armed and obviously not completely in his right mind. And they said that Mulder was unbalanced! Skinner smiled grimly to himself and began to go up the walkway, accompanied by Agent Duffy. "It looks pretty quiet. I don't see any lights on in the house, so wait for my word before you close in," he said into his throat-mike, addressing the wide-spread group of agents.

At the front door, Skinner rang the doorbell. It echoed back with the sound peculiar to houses empty of their people. Meanwhile, Duffy carefully leaned over and tried to peek in the front window, but the shades were down. He shook his head at Skinner. No luck. Skinner tried again, knocking as hard as he could, almost pounding on the door. Still no answer. If Pargeter was in there, he wasn't going to make this easy.

"I'm going to open the door and step inside. Cover me," he said to Duffy. Pulling out the lock-pick kit, he quickly got the front door open and moved quickly inside. The living room was dark, all the windows were blocked up or painted over. They played their flash lights over the room but saw no sign of life. At Skinner's nod, Duffy hit the light switch.

"Holy Shit!," Duffy muttered and Skinner had to agree with him. The room was lined, wall to wall with floor to ceiling shelving containing videotapes, hundreds of them. The only other furniture in the room was an easy chair with a side table, fixed directly in front of a wide screen television set with a vcr and some other equipment attached.

"Check the rest of the house," Skinner said urgently. He didn't like the feel of this. Together, he and Duffy went through the kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms but nobody was there. What they did find were tapes. Lots and lots of vhs tapes lined the walls of both bedrooms. The closets were full of boxes holding more tapes. There was a stack of tapes on the night stand next to the bed in the master bedroom.

They searched the house thoroughly and found no one. There was no basement. A call came in on Skinner's earpiece; they'd checked the garage and it was empty.

"Duffy, tell them it's all clear but keep it quiet. Pargeter may come back at any time," Skinner instructed him. After Duffy left, Skinner examined the master bedroom more closely. A television with a VCR faced the bed. Skinner picked up one at random, annotated with some cryptic letters "S-D" and another "S-DM". He turned on the television, put the first tape into the vcr and pushed 'play'.

He saw a room with plain walls and no windows with two figures in the foreground, writhing in a pile of blankets. When the one on top stopped moving and rolled over onto his back, Skinner felt suddenly sick to his stomach. The first person was Tom Pargeter, the second a very thin and hollow-eyed Dana Scully. Savagely, he punched the 'eject' button, and turned the t.v. off. Then he stood and slowly surveyed the room, eyeing each tape with loathing. A quick survey of the other tapes revealed the same cryptic codes on the spines but no dates. Pargeter definitely had her and she had been alive when the video was made, but how old was it? She could still be dead.

Skinner stiffened at the sound of Duffy's voice. "Sir! Come in here, quick. You need to see this."

Skinner strode back to the living room where Duffy had turned on the television set. "That mechanism connected to the VCR is a receiver for a remote camera somewhere." Duffy turned the television off but they saw only snow. "The camera must be disconnected, sir," he said with a sigh.

Skinner watched the snow in frustration, glanced around the dark house and looked back at the screen, biting his lip. "She's not here. And we'll never find her unless we can catch Pargeter and force the information out of him." He pulled the cell phone out of his pocket and made a call.

"Joe? Yeah, we've found concrete evidence that exonerates Mulder. Pargeter's our suspect. I'm sending paperwork for an arrest warrant. No, we haven't found her yet but we have evidence that he took her. We still have to determine her location. I need Agent Mulder here. Can you sign a release order? I'll call Mulder's attorney. Thanks."

Skinner folded up the phone and replaced it in his pocket. With another anxious glance around the house, he gestured to Duffy. "Come on. Let's get out of the house and take up our stations. Pargeter may get home any minute and I don't want to take any chances."

Tom Pargeter felt the satisfaction of a job well done. He'd stopped for dinner after his visit with Mulder, treating himself to steak.

He always felt good after visiting Mulder. He drew a subtle pleasure in watching the man he'd put away jerking impotently like a fly on a pin. He'd heard stories about "Spooky" Mulder since he was in training at Quantico and relished the chance to best the so-called genius. He, Tom Pargeter, was the one who'd taken little miss prim-and-proper Dana Scully for himself and had an oblivious, ivy-league educated Fox Mulder imprisoned, first to a mental asylum and then to jail with no chance of release short of death.

Pargeter began to whistle as he opened the door of the "Whole Earth Health Food Store". He normally didn't shop in places like this, but Dana had told him that she bought her yogurt and bee pollen here. If that was what Dana wanted, that was what she was going to get. Tom smiled as he pulled a package of bee pollen out of the refrigerator case and went in search of the organic yogurt.

His long-range plan was working. Dana had transferred her affection to him and was getting more demonstrative by the day. It was too bad he could never let her out of there, but he'd do his best to make her captivity comfortable. Provided, of course, that she continued to be this affectionate and amenable.

He heaved two cases of bottled water into the grocery cart. That should keep Dana supplied for a while. When setting things up for Dana, he'd considered running some plumbing into the basement room for a water tap and maybe a toilet, but decided not to do it after all. Threatening to withhold water or food was a much more effective persuader than any physical violence he might offer her. Besides, she had such beautiful skin, it would be a shame to mark it.

Still, maybe it was time to set up some kind of water line and sanitary facility for her. He might propose it to her and see what she was willing to do to 'pay' for it. He ran his tongue over his bottom lip in anticipation and went to look for the yogurt.

He found the dairy case and lifted out a carton of yogurt. As he drew it toward the basket, it slipped out of his hands and the yogurt dumped all over the front of his shirt and slacks. "Damn!" he exclaimed and went to the front of the store, white globules running down his body..

"Is there a men's room someplace where I can clean this off?" he asked, vainly trying to scoop the stuff off his shirt.

"Yeah, we have one in the back. Here's the key, sir. And here's some paper towels." The clerk handed him a roll and pointed him toward the rear of the store. Pargeter began dabbing at the yogurt and was soon, thankfully, in front of a sink in the rest room.

He carefully mopped the yogurt off his slacks, then, with a damp paper towel, began to clean his shirt. Dana would really laugh when she heard about this, he mused. I'm the original butter-fingers... He stopped and looked at his reflection in the mirror. A gleam of something on his shoulder had caught his eye. Putting the damp towel on the counter, he plucked a long, auburn hair from his left shoulder and looked at it for a long time.

He held the hair closer and studied it carefully. There was no question whose it was. He began to realize just what it was that Dana Scully had done. "That damned, fucking BITCH!" Pargeter snarled, ready to stalk back to Dana and leave her whimpering for mercy. But wait, a warning intruded, Mulder had picked a piece of 'lint' off this shoulder this afternoon. Emotional problems aside, he had to admit that Mulder was no fool. Mulder knew. He had to know by now, but had he convinced anybody else?

There was only one way to find out, Pargeter decided. Leaving the paper towels, yogurt, bee pollen and water behind him in the store, he went out to his car and got in. If they had his house staked out, they'd know what the make and model of his car was, so he'd have to be careful.

He went to a gas station and filled his gas can, then drove to the old house that imprisoned Dana Scully. He pulled his car into the driveway and opened the garage door, parking his car next to the car already there.

It was a good thing that Paul had decided to leave his 1968 Mustang convertible stored here. And it was even better that he'd encouraged old buddy Tom to drive it occasionally. All the 'Stang needed was gas to get her on the road.

Pulling the can from his car's trunk, Pargeter poured gasoline into the Mustang. Then he sat behind the steering wheel and started her up. After a backfire or two, she ran smoothly. Pargeter grinned and turned the engine off again while he removed his emergency kit from the back of his car.

When he'd planned to snatch Dana he'd considered the possibility that he might have to make a run for it. So he had a small suitcase containing a change of clothing, fake ID and passport and a wad of cash money. He was ready to go if he needed to, but first he was going to make sure that it really was necessary to run.

He paused, longing to go downstairs and give Dana the beating of her life, but decided against it. If the Feds were in his house, they might have found the camera feeds; they might use them to trace the signal back to him. Disturbed by the possibility, he went quickly into the house and disconnected the cameras' power supply. He'd better get going, fast. They might be on their way right now.

He stopped and remembered the groceries he'd been sent for. She was almost out of water. If he didn't show up to replenish her supply, she could die.

He began to smile slowly. She'd chosen Mulder after all, even after the attention and care Pargeter had given her. His smile grew broader. If he left, she'd understand just how much she needed him after all. He had the power of life and death over her.

He remembered the rule of three from EMT training. A person would die after three minutes without air, three days without water or three weeks without food. And if Mulder hadn't twigged to her little hint after all, he could come back before she was quite dead and make her wish that she had died. It was a fitting punishment for a two-faced little slut like her.

Returning to the garage, he opened the door and backed the Mustang out, carefully closing and locking the house up behind him. It wouldn't do to let burglars in. Then he began to drive back toward his own neighborhood.

Arriving at his own street, he cruised slowly, looking for anything out of the ordinary. He parked in the lot in front of the corner liquor store and hunched down in his seat, watching. There were more cars parked on the street than there usually were, but that could be coincidence. They did look like bu-cars, at that. Maybe they had his house staked out and maybe not. He just wasn't certain...

A dark panel van drove up the street and parked next to Pargeter's house. Pargeter pursed his lips. The van looked a lot like the ones used as center of operations on stakeouts. Still, it could be a coincidence. A man in grey sweats appeared on the sidewalk, jogging casually. Pargeter squinted, trying to catch a closer look. As the man passed under a street light Pargeter saw the coil of a wire trailing down from behind the jogger's ear. Damn! Mulder had made the connection and managed to get someone to believe him. They were there, waiting for him.

Pargeter pursed his lips, grateful that he'd been careful. He eased the Mustang into reverse and pulled out of the parking lot and back into traffic, where he disappeared.

Pargeter's home

9:30 p.m.

"Sir, Agent Mulder's here!" Agent Duffy said to Skinner, opening the van door to let Mulder in.

Skinner looked up from the video screen and scanned his agent briefly. Mulder looked better than he had the last time Skinner had visited him in jail but the time had taken its toll. The suit Mulder wore, which had been a good fit four months ago, now hung on him and the dress shirt was at least two sizes too big. But his grasp was still firm as he shook Skinner's hand.

"Have you found her?" Mulder asked. "Where is she?" Mulder tried to see the image on the monitor, but Skinner stood up and blocked it from view. "She isn't here, Agent Mulder. We've searched the house thoroughly. We are waiting for Pargeter to get back so that we can question him."

Mulder frowned. "He's smart, sir. He's probably considered this option. We have to be careful not to spook him."

"I have my best men out there," Skinner replied. "All we can do at this point is wait."


Dulles Airport

9:30 p.m.

Tom Pargeter, aka William Blaine sat in his tourist class seat on United Airlines flight 363 to Chicago. A central hub, he could fly anywhere from there. Especially if he changed ID when he got to Chicago. He was angry that he had been forced to leave everything behind him. And it was all because of Dana Scully and her bastard partner, Fox Mulder. Well, no matter how hard they looked, they wouldn't find her in time. He leaned back in his seat and put the headphones on, preparing to enjoy his flight.

Pargeter's home

8 a.m.

"He's not coming," Mulder said for the third time. "He's spotted us."

"We took every precaution," Skinner said defensively.

"You did. But somehow he spotted us," Mulder said, getting up. "We need to tear that house apart and find Scully."

Skinner gave the surveillance cameras one last look and sighed. "You're right, Mulder. Okay everybody," he said into the mike. "Relax. He's obviously seen us. He's not coming." Skinner cast Mulder a sideways glance. "You haven't seen the inside of the house."

"You said he had a tape library," Mulder replied. "That's par for the course. He started as a voyeur, then progressed into taking action on his own."

"Come inside and give me your impressions," Skinner said, leading Mulder up the walkway.

Mulder stopped just inside the front door, taking it all in, then began walking through the rooms. They came to a halt in the master bedroom. Mulder picked a tape off the pile. It was labeled "S-D,knky".

"This is what we're dealing with," Skinner said in an anxious tone. "I'd hoped not to have to go through these. It wouldn't have the urgency, had the stakeout caught Pargeter."

"I need to see them, study them," Mulder said, running his eye over a shelf full of tapes.

"You want to profile him," Skinner stated.

"I'm the best you have," Mulder replied, slipping the tape he held into the bedroom's vcr.

Skinner stepped between Mulder and the television set.

"You haven't seen these tapes, Mulder, but I've seen one," Skinner began. "Mulder, she's been his captive for four months. You know what's probably happened to her during that time. From what I saw, I believe that she's probably been affected by Stockholm Syndrome. We might have trouble getting her back even when we find her." His voice gained a pleading tone. "Agent Mulder, I know that you two have a very close relationship. I wouldn't want any of this to harm that. You don't need to see the tapes; some other agent can review them for clues."

"Turn the tape on," Mulder said in a flat voice. "I have a right to see. And nothing would ever change the way I feel about her." Skinner didn't move, standing there as solid as ever. "Besides, unless you find some better piece of evidence, this is all you have. You need me to get into Pargeter's head. To do that, I have to see his...work...." Mulder's voice trailed off, then he continued in a quiet voice. "I need this."

"Mulder," Skinner said in a low voice. "So far we haven't found any evidence that she's still alive. The hair you found could have come from her body. Do you really want to be the one to find her, dead? And besides," he added. "Profiling again might destroy you. You know what it does to you."

"Don't worry, I won't lose myself this time. I'll keep it together to get her back. I want...no, I need justice for her, dead or alive," said Mulder, his voice very controlled. "And justice for me. Do you want to maximize her chances or don't you? I don't think he's killed her, but I don't think she has much time."

They faced off silently until Skinner reluctantly stepped aside.

Skinner watched as Mulder stood in front of the television, viewing the tape in its entirety. His face showed nothing but his hands were clenched tightly into fists. "He played us both," Mulder said softly after the screen had faded to black. He turned to Skinner. "We haven't lost her. She's acting, to save her life," Mulder smiled bitterly. "And here I didn't think she'd paid attention to any of my porn videos." He looked around the walls, packed with tapes. "I might as well get started."

"You aren't going to watch them all?" Skinner asked sharply.

Mulder smiled grimly and popped the old tape out of the vcr. "I'll do whatever I have to do to get her back."

Author's Note: The house at 1245 16th Street, Northwest doesn't exist and is wholly fictitious. If this is your address, I just made it all up but have you checked your basement lately? And loads and loads and loads of thanks to Joi, my Southern California CSI for help with the forensics of framing Mulder! You rock, lady!!

Further Author's Note: Well, this is it, folks. The last chapter. And now I have an opportunity to reply to some of the comment I've heard about this story from a bulletin board which shall remain nameless.

First, I'm told that my dialogue is unnatural. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. This is the way my circle of professional, masters degree holding friends talk. And so I write accordingly, assuming that Scully (an MD) and Mulder (Oxford grad) might use a similar vocabulary.

Second, I'm also told that the situation is completely fantastical, that Scully's kidnapping and extended captivity wouldn't ever happen. Well guess what? It does and it has! I've been an attorney for 15 years and I've read a raft of cases and news reports describing much worse things than what I've painted here. Need more proof? Go to the Chicago Tribune article attached to the end of this story, courtesy of Newsbank.

What I presented in this story was a censored, watered-down version filled with euphemistic descriptions of the real violence that criminals of this kind are capable of. None of it was gratuitous, all of it was necessary to the plot. This is the world that FBI agents live in, especially those who profile serial rapists and killers.

Lastly, to the readers who sent lots of encouraging e-mails. None of the previous is directed toward you. You have enjoyed the story and I've loved writing it for you. I'm sorry it ran so long, but I had to dot my 't's and cross my 'i's. Thank you so much for all your e-mails and keep 'em coming! I love hearing from you. It reminds me why I write.

Xenith, J.D., MLIS

Chapter 22

Dana Scully woke, pushing the blankets aside. She stumbled to the light switch and turned on the overhead, then checked the time on the digital watch Tom had given her. It was 8:00 a.m. and a Tuesday. At least she knew day from night these days, even if it were only in a theoretical way.

Her bladder reminding her of its existence, she wandered to the chemical toilet and plunked herself down. Odd, how even Hell can have a routine, she mused.

She picked up yesterday's newspaper and read the sports page. She had never particularly cared for sports before this, but now she read every inch of the newspaper, even the want ads. Boredom was a constant danger. If she ever got that desperate for company, she'd be lost to Pargeter and his mind games. Finished, she flushed, then sat down on the pallet. She let herself relax and began to compose herself for her prayers.

Her first prayer, as always, was for Mulder. Tom never missed a chance to tell her about Mulder's legal and psychological problems. She'd pretended not to care but heard every word Tom said. She worried about Mulder but had to trust that his innate good sense would save him somehow. He'd had losses before and survived them; he'd survive this one.

What was she thinking? She was assuming that she'd live out the rest of her life in this basement. That wasn't acceptable. Somehow the chance would arise, maybe it already had if Mulder had seen the hair she'd planted on Pargeter's lapel.

Putting the thought from her mind, she firmly concentrated on her morning rosary with prayers for her family, Skinner and again for Mulder. Calmer now, she rose and began her morning stretches, moving easily into yoga poses that had been impossible for her months ago.

From her warm-up, she proceeded into vigorous calisthenics which culminated in standard self-defense moves. She'd decided that she had to keep herself strong and healthy. If she ever had the opportunity to overpower Pargeter, she'd be ready. She was a trained FBI agent and not a coward. She should be able to fight back and not allow herself to be used by a creep like him. She pushed down the feeling of shame and guilt that had dogged her these many months.

Breathing easily, she moved into a defensive stance and began shadow-boxing. Yes, she ought to be able to do something to get out of here, but.... She sighed. She'd gone over and over this for months. Whenever she made her move it had to be decisive. She'd persuaded Pargeter that she was cowed and she wouldn't get the luxury of surprise twice. If she tried something and failed, Pargeter would almost certainly kill her. Hopefully, if it didn't get her rescued, even the hair she'd planted would, at worst, look like something he'd accidentally picked up on his visit with her.

No, she had to wait and see how that turned out before she tried a physical attack. Not that any opportunity had arisen so far. Despite her attempts to lull him into a false sense of security, Pargeter was far too observant and was generally armed during his visits. Her lip wrinkled. Even naked he outweighed her by a hundred pounds and at least a foot. No matter how sated by sex he was, he never fell asleep and never let his guard quite down. Imagining Pargeter's face before her, she thrust a vicious kick into the air and continued the workout until she was trembling with exhaustion.

Finally she stopped and grabbed up a towel to wipe down her face. She'd kill for a shower but had to make do with the package of baby wipes Tom had supplied. She ran the damp wipes over her body and decided it was time for breakfast.

Thirsty from the workout, she went to her improvised pantry and picked up the 1/2 liter of water. She drank two big swallows before she reluctantly put it down. Tom would almost certainly come today with more, but she didn't want to drain the container until she was sure she had more.

She went back to the pallet and picked up a book. Tom had bought her a small stack of books from the local Barnes and Noble. To her surprise, they shared a liking for the same cheesy murder mysteries as well as the works of Steven King. Holding an apple in one hand, she picked up her copy of Cujo and prepared to reread it.

Pargeter would be here this evening with more water and food. She'd keep herself occupied until then.

"Anything, Agent Mulder?"

Mulder pulled gummy eyes away from the screen and took off his headphones. He paused the videotape and leaned back in his chair. "Nothing yet, sir," he sighed, gesturing to the pile of tapes on the floor next to his desk. "I've gone through these in the past twenty four hours but haven't seen anything useful."

Skinner mentally tallied the number of tapes viewed and compared them to the remaining boxes of unviewed tapes and frowned. "I've assigned two agents to help you, Mulder. Aren't they working?"

Mulder pursed his lips. "They're reviewing the tapes," he said carefully, glancing around him at the three agents at their various desks. Skinner had indeed directed three of the newer agents to assist in analyzing the tapes of Scully, trying to find some clue to her whereabouts. The entire stock of videos had been moved into the bullpen because it was the only working area large enough to hold the agents and the tapes. Mulder had reluctantly taken a seat there at Skinner's request. He had to admit that Skinner was only being logical, since Mulder knew Scully better than anyone else. He was the obvious choice to supervise the project and evaluate any information the agents turned up.

Unfortunately, none of the agents had ever met Scully but they did know all the office rumors about Mr. and Mrs. Spooky. He'd caught them sniggering in the men's room this morning. "Hey, d'you think she puts out like this for Agent Spooky?" Agent Owens had chortled. "If she does, I think I understand why he stays in the basement!" "Hell, I'd partner up to a nice piece like that if I had the chance," Agent Horne had replied.

Hearing the laughter, Mulder approached the group, his face white with rage. He had explained very very carefully exactly what he would do to any agent he caught gossiping about Agent Scully again. "And I don't particularly care if I go to jail for it," he had added with a tight smile. "I've been there and it isn't so bad."

"I had to remind them that Agent Scully is a crime victim and is to be accorded respect in that regard," Mulder said quietly.

Skinner glanced at the three agents again and was gratified when they all cringed into their seats. "Have you been here all night, Mulder?" Skinner asked, eyeing the oversized suit Mulder still wore.

When Mulder gave no answer, Skinner shook his head. "All right, just try to eat something every now and then. The rest of the team has been canvassing the neighborhood around Pargeter's house to see if anyone knows his movements. The most we've found out is that he tended to leave the house at about 7 pm, often carrying larges sacks of what looked like groceries."

Mulder nodded. "Bringing her supplies, I'd guess. Anything more? Did the property search turn anything up?"

"No, I'm sorry to say. He owns no property except the house. We have agents stationed there in case he returns," Skinner replied.

"He won't go back. He knows we're after him. We have to find her, fast," Mulder said. "She's running out of time."

"Mulder," Skinner said gently. "She could already be dead."

Mulder looked up and quickly met his eyes. "She isn't," he said simply. "Not yet."

Two days later

Dana Scully lay on her pallet and watched the ceiling, drowsing in and out of consciousness. She'd had the last swallow of water yesterday morning. The food was finished last night. Tom should have been here by now, but he hadn't shown up. Why? Maybe he'd found the hair and realized who planted it. Or it might be something simpler. Maybe she'd offended him somehow and he'd cut off the food and water. But he'd never abandoned her for so long before, even when he was angry with her.

She crawled out of bed and stood on shaky legs in front of one of the camera lenses she'd located. She would try one more time. "Tom?" she said in a hoarse voice. "Tom? Whatever it is that I've done, I'm sorry. Please...please bring water...and food. I..I..I'll make it up to you, any way you want. Please Tom. I know you don't want me dead or you'd have killed me before this. You aren't a killer. Please..."

A wave of dizziness hit her and she sat down hard on the blankets. She tried to cry but no tears came. She was so dehydrated she had no tears. She looked wistfully around the room for some kind of drinkable liquid but found nothing. The chemical toilet held nothing potable. She'd been taking the baby wipes and moistening her face and lips with them. That helped a bit but didn't solve the problem.

She lay back on the pallet with a sigh, remembering a case on the U.S.S. Ardent, when she and Mulder had been so thirsty, dying of what they thought was rapid aging. Mulder had kept her going, although he didn't know it. She'd stayed calm for his sake, writing a journal for anyone who might find their bodies. At least in that circumstance, they were facing death together.

What was happening to him now? She missed his voice, his touch. She grinned, she even missed his sense of humor. She'd waited too long to tell him how she felt; they'd had so very little time together and now she'd never see him again. So many years wasted, afraid to let him love her. What had terrified her so much? The fear that she'd lose herself again? She should have known better; Mulder always insisted that she BE herself. He wouldn't accept anything less. Too late. It was too damned late. If only she could have another chance, she'd make the time count.

Mulder hunched over the screen, unaware that Skinner was watching him. During the past three days, Mulder and the agents tasked to him had spent hours reviewing videotapes. He didn't know how many they'd plowed through but it had to be in the hundreds. They now knew that Pargeter had begun filming Scully at her own apartment, before the abduction. They even knew how he'd done it. The entire incident had been captured in living color. Any last doubts Mulder might have held were dispelled when he watched Pargeter hit Scully and him with tranquilizer darts and carefully create a false crime scene.

Yesterday, a forensics team had gone to Scully's apartment and torn up the ceiling, finding a variety of cameras there. Only one of them could be traced to Pargeter. Mulder's lip curled at the thought. He could guess where the other ones originated. If they could only figure out where she WAS. She didn't have much time left, he knew somehow.

"Agent Mulder, here is your lunch," a sandwich and coffee landed near Mulder's elbow and Skinner stood by with a no-nonsense expression. Mulder grudgingly picked up the sandwich and took a bite. He'd tried to refuse food yesterday and almost succeeded. Until Skinner found out and threatened to hospitalize him and have him force fed if he didn't cooperate. The hospitalization didn't frighten him as much as the possibility of being taken off the case.

Skinner watched Mulder eat until half the sandwich was gone, then gave a satisfied nod and left the room. Mulder promptly put the half-sandwich back down and focused on his work again.

"Agent Mulder! I think I've found something!" Agent Horne called out.

Mulder jumped up and ran to Horne's station, closely followed by the other agents. Horne unplugged his headphones and played the tape back.

As they watched, Dana Scully smiled casually at Pargeter and said, "This is an old house, isn't it? Isn't there a bathroom upstairs I can use? You can supervise me if you want."

Pargeter shook his head. "No, I don't think that's possible. It's a quiet neighborhood, but there are still people outside. The place belongs to an old college buddy of mine. He got a job in California but didn't want to be an absentee landlord, so I look after the place for him."

"An old college friend," Mulder mused. "Where's Pargeter's background check? Who has his file?" It was shoved into his hands and the group huddled around a table while they riffled through it's contents.

"Here," said Mulder. "Jerry Grossman, computer programmer. He knew Pargeter in college and was a personal reference for him when he joined the FBI. He lived at 1245 16th Street, Northwest." He looked up to find Skinner at his elbow.

"What have you found?" Skinner asked tensely.

"I think we've got it," Mulder said, handing Skinner the file. "I just hope we aren't too late. Can we get a rush search warrant?"

"In ten minutes," Skinner said and reached for the phone. "Where are you going?" he yelled at Mulder's departing back.

"I'm not waiting. I don't give a rat's ass whether the evidence is admissible. I'm going to get Scully!"

"Shit," Skinner muttered under his breath, knowing better than to try to stop him. "Horne, Owens and McKechnie! Go with him. He'll need backup."

Mulder insisted on driving, and although the address was only a few blocks away none of the agents ever forgot the ride. Nor would any of them ever agree to let Mulder drive for them again.

The house was a quiet bungalow in an equally quiet middle class neighborhood. The shades were drawn and no car sat in the driveway.

Mulder nodded toward McKechnie and Owens to go around back, then gestured for Horne to back him up. After the two agents melted around the corners of the house, Mulder and Horne went up to the front door and rang the bell.

There was no reply, so Mulder knocked. After a few minutes of silence, Mulder nodded at Horne to step aside, then kicked the door in.

Once in, the agents saw that the house had been empty for some time. The furniture was covered in white sheets and surfaces had a thick layer of dust on them.

"Doesn't look like anyone's been here for a long time," Horne commented, still looking around.

"What about that?" Mulder pointed to a path in the dusty hardwood floor. "Somebody has gone through here. Let's check the rest of the house."

They carefully examined the single bedroom, kitchen and bathroom and were about to open the basement door when McKechnie and Owens appeared.

"The garage is empty except for this," Owens held out an auto registration to Mulder. "It's Pargeter's car, but there's an oil stain next to where it's parked. There used to be a second car here."

"He changed cars. Doesn't seem likely he's here, but watch yourselves anyway," Mulder raised his gun and opened the basement door.

It was pitch black on the stairs but the light switch worked. "Somebody has been here, all right. The power's still on," Mulder commented, leading them cautiously down the stairway.

At the foot, they found a short hallway with two doors. The first was partly open and disclosed a small bathroom with a toilet and a sink. The second door was sealed shut with two sturdy bolts.

Mulder shot back the two bolts, but the door wouldn't budge. It took the combined strength of two agents to kick the door in, but they got it open.

A fetid smell, like dirty laundry, came through the gaping doorway. Mulder poked his head in and made an inarticulate noise, then ran toward a pile of rags in the far corner.

"Scully!" He skidded onto his knees next to the motionless form of his partner. She lay quietly, covered with blankets. He put a hand on her shoulder and shook her gently. "Scully? Can you hear me?" He looked back over his shoulder. "Call 911 and get me some water!"

"Scully?" Mulder said again, gently. She finally began to move under his hand and her shadowed eyes opened slowly. She blinked up at him. The skin hung loose on her face and her eyes were hollow. Mulder flashed suddenly to a memory of her when she was dying of cancer, then pushed it out of his mind. She wasn't going to die. He wouldn't allow it.

"Mul..der?" she said faintly. "'s it you? Or 'r you jus' a hallucination?"

Mulder found himself grinning broadly. "Yeah, it's me. You're not seeing things. You're free, love."

She smiled into his eyes and reaching thin arms from the blankets, patted his face and chest."Y'r real, all righ'," she sighed in satisfaction. "So thirsty..."

"Coming up," Mulder said as Agent McKechnie ran up with a mug of water and handed it to Mulder.

"The kitchen still has dishes in it and the water's connected. The bastard kept her in here without water when there's a tap in the next room!" McKechnie said angrily.

Mulder ran his arm behind her shoulders and propped Scully up, holding the mug to her lips. "Better drink slowly, Scully. Looks like you've been without for a while."

She nodded and took careful sips, finally laying back in relief. "Where's Pargeter?" she finally asked. "Catch him?"

Mulder shook his head ruefully. "No. He never showed up when we staked out his house." His face grew cold and hard. "But we will, Scully, I'll make it my business to see that we get him."

She smiled and shook her head. "Mulder," she said, running her hand down his cheek. "Pargeter doesn't matter. Don't spend your life looking for revenge; let the other agents find him. I want..." She paused, looking for words.

"What do you want?" Mulder asked softly.

"I want to spend every moment I can with you. I don't want to waste another minute of my precious time on Pargeter. What we have, he'll never find, no matter how many women he kidnaps to get it. I've already lost enough and I won't allow him to take any more."

The next day

In her hospital bed, Scully was 'wired for sound' as Mulder put it, but essentially feeling much better. She'd given an extensive statement to Skinner but, it was generally agreed, she didn't need to say much. The films told the whole story.

Skinner worried about her state of mind until she reassured him that she hadn't fallen under Pargeter's spell. "No, sir, I never stopped acting. My plan was to lull Pargeter into a sense of security and take any chance I could to get away or get word outside."

"And you did," Mulder beamed from her bedside, where he'd been the past 24 hours. Skinner privately doubted that he'd slept or eaten but judged that Mulder looked a hundred times better than he'd seen him in the past four months.

"The hair on the jacket lapel was inspired," Skinner admitted.

"It had to be subtle. Something he wouldn't notice and punish me for if it failed," Scully replied.

"I think you deserved an academy award for it, Agent," Skinner said. "Well, I'd better be going. Some of us have to work. I assume that you both will be on leave for another month?"

Scully nodded and reached for Mulder's hand. "I think it's time we took some time and went away somewhere together where there are no aliens, no ghosts, no serial killers."

"Yeah," Mulder said a bit glumly. "Nothing but tourists."

Skinner grinned and let himself out.

"Scully, how are you really?" Mulder asked when they were alone.

"You mean, with the things I had to do to stay alive?" She took a deep breath. "With the sexual assaults? I don't know. I really don't know. I'm still so glad to be free that reality hasn't hit me yet." She reached out a hand and grabbed his, holding it tightly.

"No rush, Scully," Mulder said, clasping her hand in both of his. "I thought I'd lost you, for so very long. My whole universe was empty."

She turned one of his hands wrist-side up, running her fingertips over the raised scars there."Tom...Pargeter told me every time you tried to die."

Mulder looked away from her, suddenly ashamed. "I know, Scully, now. But at the time, you were gone and I was alone. And I was the one who'd killed you."

"I know, Mulder. Pargeter was trying to make you despair with every visit he made to you. I think it'll take us both a while to let the scars heal, but I'm glad we'll be healing together." She turned his wrist back over and interlaced her fingers with his. Then she gave him with a mischievous smile."Did you know that I prayed for you?"

"You did?" Mulder smiled back gently.

"Yes, every day. I like to think it did some good, even if you aren't a believer," she said.

"Oh, I believe, Scully. I believe," Mulder whispered under his breath. "Agent Scully, may I kiss you?"

"Agent Mulder, I thought you would never ask," she replied archly and held out her arms to him.

They soon found themselves both snuggled together in Scully's rather narrow hospital bed. But, Mulder figured, if Scully was comfortable, he wasn't going to complain. Just resting his head against her heart, listening to it beat, was enough for him.

Scully leaned back against her pillow with a smile, then looked down Mulder, running her fingers through his hair. "One thing I am curious about," she said. "Skinner watched all the tapes Pargeter took of us...together. I assume that all the agents on the case saw them?"

Mulder nodded slowly. "I'm afraid so, but don't worry. There won't be any gossip."

"We'll see..." she replied, frowning, then her expression cleared. "But what I wanted to know...Skinner and the others were worried that I'd fallen victim to Stockholm Syndrome and I'd be like another Patty Hearst, fully invested in Pargeter. You insisted to Skinner from the beginning that I was acting." She shifted in the bed and fixed her gaze on Mulder. "When I was...there...with Pargeter, I was doing my level best to convince him of my sincerity. How could you tell I was acting?"

Mulder blushed and fiddled with her hospital blanket a bit. "You really want to know?"

"Yeah. I really want to know," she leaned toward him.

"Um...well, that's not the way you look when we're making love. And when you come, there's a funny little noise you make, kind of a snort that you didn't make in any of the tapes. That's how I knew you were faking."

She leaned back again. "I make a funny noise."

"But endearing. It's a very endearing noise." Mulder cast her a worried look. "Is...is that okay Scully? You're not mad at me or something, are you?"

"First you tell me that I drool on your shoulder, then later you tell me I snore, now I make a funny noise," she said. "Mulder, I think I'm going to have to keep you. Any other woman would have left in frustration." She smiled up at him. "I'm looking forward to a long vacation with you and maybe, just possibly, making that funny noise again."

Mulder grinned back. "It's a plan."

NewsBank InfoWeb
NewsBank Full-Text Newspapers

Chicago Tribune
April 29, 2003

Dungeon victim tells frightening tale
Edited by Chris Malcolm (ccmalcolm@t...) and Michael Morgan (mnmorgan@t...)
Edition: RedEye
Page: 9
Dateline: NEW YORK

Index Terms:

Estimated printed pages: 1

Article Text:

A fifth victim said she was dragged into a vehicle while walking near her Syracuse home, raped at an apartment and held for 10 months in John Jamelske's underground dungeon, police said Monday.

"I cried and prayed every day I was in captivity," the 50-year-old woman said in a statement read by Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh. "But I never cried in front of him again after he slapped me so hard that he injured my ear."

Jamelske, 67, of Dewitt, is being held in jail without bail on charges of kidnapping, rape, sodomy and sexual abuse. He was arrested April 7 for holding a 16-year-old girl hostage for nearly seven months in a two-room concrete bunker he built under the back yard of his suburban Syracuse home. The two small rooms contained a small tub, a bucket for a toilet, a microwave oven and a mattress. Walsh said the woman was chained to a heavy metal grate for the first three months and was sexually abused every day of her captivity. Police, believing there are other victims, released photos of Jamelske for the first time.

Now, investigators are looking at a broader pool of potential victims since the woman is 50 years old. The others, according to investigators, were three teens and a young woman.

Copyright 2003, Chicago Tribune
Record Number: CTR0304300013

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