Title: RECLAIMING WHAT WAS LOST
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
Feedback: Please, to the above address!
Archive: Please contact me for permission
Spoilers: FTF -- This was written in the gap before the start of season six, so now goes entirely counter to canon -- No wonder I gave myself the deadline to finish this before "The Beginning".
Keywords: rape, Scully/other, Mulder/Scully
Summary: Our heroes spend a couple of harrowing days apart, and finally come back together.
DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and the whole X-Files gang, not to me. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.
WARNING: I got miffed at some things said to the press awhile back, and promised to get revenge. BAD things happen to Scully in this story, but I still love her, honest. Everything will be okay by the end, really. Have faith...
COPYRIGHT: (C) November 8, 1998, Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, email@example.com
Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.
There are people pulling strings behind the scenes of whose existence most people are never aware. Then there are people who make the mistake of being curious about those string-pullers, and by stirring up still waters, make themselves targets. But since the string-pullers work behind the scenes, the targets never see them take aim, and the injuries they inflict are more difficult to repair...
Fox Mulder was scratching his head and studying some notes when Dana Scully walked into their newly-appointed office. She shut the door solidly, making him look up from his papers.
"Hey," he greeted her.
"Hey, yourself. Thinking hard?" she chuckled as she sat at her new companion desk, then glanced up as a passing bird appearing in their tiny window distracted her attention briefly.
"Not really. I'm just not looking forward to flying to the African rainforests on this missing senator case. It wouldn't have been so bad just going to the big cities, like in the original plan. But, since they updated my orders when I stopped into the infirmary this morning: jungle, here I come!" He closed the file and sighed, scratching idly at his shoulder. "It would really be nice if you could be there with me, Scully. Just picture it: you and me, lying side by side in an itty bitty tent, so close that we're in each other's dreams, the humidity so high the clothes practically melt right off of your body..." He grinned wickedly.
"I can't tell you how much I regret not being able to come along..." she began.
"Because you don't," he finished her sentence for her.
"Nope, not a jot!" She laughed, but noticed that he was smiling rather than annoyed. "At least I didn't have to get shots against every kind of parasite known to man."
"Not to mention take this lovely rainbow of assorted preventative medications in advance," he added, waving a plastic zipper bag of colorful capsules and tablets at her. "I guess now you can do absolutely *anything* with me, and you won't have to worry about catching a thing!"
Scully rolled her eyes, wadded up a sticky note, and threw it at his head.
"Hey," he protested, his laugh cut short. "I *knew* it was a bad idea to give you your own desk and office supplies!" He brushed his tie out of the way to scratch at his chest.
Scully looked a little more critically at her partner. "Mulder, are you okay?"
"Sure, I'm fine, Scully. Why?" he asked, unbuttoning his shirt cuff and rolling up his sleeve to scratch at the inside of his wrist.
"I mean, you seem to be scratching a lot all of a sudden... Are you allergic to anything?"
"Just Yanni... Geez!" he exclaimed as he scratched harder at his arm.
Scully's medical training started to kick in, and she circled the desks towards him. She grabbed his outstretched hand and looked closely at the arm he had been scratching. "Hmmm, no welts or anything... Are you having any trouble breathing?"
"No. There's nothing wrong with me. What are you looking for?" he whined.
She tipped his head back, grabbed a pen, and stuck it in his mouth to hold down his tongue while she peered down his throat. "You could be going into anaphylactic shock, maybe a reaction to the drugs you were given." Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, she took the pen out of his mouth and reached for the phone. "I'm calling an ambulance."
"Gahhh," Mulder gagged a little once the pen was out of his mouth. "I told you, I'm fine..." He looked down at his fingers scratching at his arm. He lifted his hand to find that there was blood under his nails. "I think..." he finished his thought, turning a bit pale.
Scully's eyes grew large as she saw the gashes he'd made in his own arm. Into the phone, she barked, "Yes, I need an ambulance to office number, uh, 812. B!" she shouted as a hasty afterthought. She thanked the receptionist and hung up. "What are you doing, Mulder?" she shrieked, as he kept scratching his head with both hands.
"I don't know, Scully. It's like there's little electric currents running under my skin..." He looked at her helplessly as his bloodied fingernails scraped at his scalp.
She grabbed his wrists to keep him from hurting himself further. She held them in one hand while examining the top of his head, finding no rashes or other causes for his furious itching. She put her free arm around his shoulders and squeezed him to her. "Calm down, Mulder! They'll be here soon. I know you're scared: so am I."
He struggled in her grasp and screamed out in pain. Sweat beaded on his forehead, and he began panting raggedly.
"Oh, God, Mulder! I wish I could do something!" She hugged him tighter, trying to still his shaking.
After what seemed like an eternity, uniformed paramedics burst through the office door. They quickly strapped him to a wheeled stretcher and bound his wrists at his sides. As he was rolled out into the hall, his eyes wildly hung onto hers for a sign of reassurance. "Come with me, Scully. Please!" he begged.
"Sure," she replied, turning to shut the office door. When she turned back, there was Agent Spender, blocking her way.
"Assistant Director Skinner asked me to come get you right away," he snapped.
"What? Now? But Agent Mulder..." she trailed off, watching the stretcher being wheeled towards the elevator.
"Now." It was not a gentle request. It was a statement of fact.
Before the elevator doors slid closed between them, she shouted after Mulder, "Call me!"
He nodded resolutely as he disappeared from sight.
Scully was ushered into Skinner's office, and she stood before his desk as he finished scribbling something on a pad. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes, Agent Scully. I wanted you to use your influence to stop Agent Mulder from going to Africa. I've been informed that the senator is on a covert mission and has checked in with his contacts there."
"My influence has nothing to do with his not going, sir. An ambulance just took him away."
"Agent Spender refused to bring you the message, sir, but Agent Mulder was overcome with some kind of allergic reaction just half an hour ago, and I had to call paramedics to rush him to the hospital."
Skinner fell silent for a moment. "Allergic reaction to what?"
"I don't know, sir, but I suspect that it was to some of the anti-parasitic injections he received this morning."
"*What* anti-parasitic injections? According to his file...," he said while thumbing through a well-worn folder, "all of his anti-malarial boosters were up to date, and he hadn't been scheduled to travel anywhere that would require anything else."
"But... but," Scully stammered, "he had a whole bag of pills he was supposed to take... I didn't recognize any of them, but it seemed reasonable for someone traveling into the rainforest."
"That's just it," Skinner hissed, "he wasn't supposed to go to the rainforest!"
Moments later, the two of them were searching Mulder's desk for any sign of the bag of pills.
"Boy," sighed Scully as she straightened up from the kneehole of the desk, "those guys were thorough. I guess they grabbed his jacket, and he must have had the bag in his pocket. Either that, or they took it along as a possible cause."
"Or they were hiding the evidence..." muttered Skinner.
"What?" blurted Scully, stopping in her tracks.
"It's not like you haven't heard of bogus paramedics before, Agent Scully," he said, looking her straight in the eye.
"Oh, my God..." she murmured, a new and even more serious concern knitting her brows.
"Wait! What's this?" he interrupted, picking up a small green tablet from beside Mulder's forgotten cup of coffee. "Is this anything that Mulder would ordinarily take?"
Scully rolled the tablet around in her open hand. "It doesn't appear to be anything for a headache, or an antacid, or anything I've seen him take. There aren't any distinguishing marks or manufacturer's numbers. It sure isn't a sunflower seed, either."
He gave her a mock-threatening glare, then took the pill from her. "I'll have someone in Pharmaceuticals give this the once-over. I'll let you know the minute I hear anything." He turned to leave the office.
"Thank you, sir. I'll do the same." He nodded to her and left her alone with her wildly racing thoughts.
Scully banged out a report carelessly on her computer, every nerve set to respond to the ringing of the phone. It had been two hours since Mulder had been carted away, and she had to do something to occupy her hands so she wouldn't destroy her nice, new office in sheer frustration. She jumped when the phone on her desk whirred, rather than the cellphone that was waiting silently beside her keyboard.
"Scully," she answered.
It was Skinner. "It's a narcotic, with hallucinogenic properties," he stated simply, and she knew he was referring to the small pill he'd removed from Mulder's desk.
"Oh, my God! He's been drugged!" she whispered frantically.
"Have you heard anything from him yet?"
"No," she started to say, only to be stopped by the bleep of her cellphone. "That must be him!"
"Leave this line open. I want to hear what's going on," ordered Skinner.
She set down the receiver in her hand and picked up the small device. "Hello?" she answered.
"Hey, it's me." The voice sounded strange and slurred, but it was unmistakably Mulder's.
"Mulder! Thank God! Where are you?" she cried out, scrabbling for a notepad and a pen, overlooking the fact that it was the same one she'd previously used as a tongue depressor.
"I don't know for sure, Scully," he slurred. "I think we may be close to the ocean. I'm pretty sure we passed Camden Yards on the way here."
"You're in Baltimore? Are you in a hospital there?"
"Yeah, with a view of a church with a dome. There's nuns all over the place."
"Okay, it's affiliated with a convent. That should narrow it down a little. How do you feel?"
"Like a pincushion. They keep sticking me with needles and taking blood and stuff. They won't even tell me what's wrong with me. Come see me when you can, won't you, Scully? I need to see you."
"I don't know if I can, Mulder... We think you've been drugged. Somebody must be trying to get you out of the way for awhile."
"Did you hear that?" They both fell silent for a moment and listened.
"What, Mulder?" she whispered.
"I think this line isn't, um, working properly. I've got to go. Tell Horace P. Moore, Sr., I'll be thinking about him." The line clicked off with Scully mystified on the other end.
She picked up the receiver of the desk phone once she was sure that the cellphone wouldn't ring again. "He hung up. I think he thought the line was bugged."
"Didn't you say he was in Baltimore?"
"Isn't wiretapping illegal in Maryland?"
"Very funny, sir. Do you know someone by the name of Horace P. Moore?"
"It's a name Mulder mentioned. Maybe it's some kind of code. He's in some Catholic hospital with nuns everywhere, or someplace that they want him to believe is a Catholic hospital."
"I'll bet it's St. Julian's. My brother-in-law is an internist there. When you get there, ask for Dr. Robert Fleming. He should be able to help you. Now get going!"
Scully smiled ruefully to herself. "Is that an order, sir?"
"You know damned well it is! Remember, Agent Scully, I don't want you trying any heroics. Just survey the situation and let me know what's going on. We'll send in the big guns after him once we know what kind of ammo to use. Think you can handle that?"
"I'll do my best, sir." She hung up and took a deep breath. The task before her could be a lot harder than it sounded, but Mulder's safety was of the utmost importance to her. Just so that didn't get in the way of her doing her job...
The traffic to Baltimore was heavy, and Scully's drive took twice as long as she expected, and twenty times longer than she would have liked. She made note of Camden Yards as she passed, then started looking for a church with a dome, glancing at her map marked with a penciled star indicating the location of St. Julian's Hospital at every stoplight.
Finally she turned onto a hilly street, on top of which stood a tall brick building. Sure enough, nestled at its foundation was an imposing-looking cathedral with a high silver dome. She parked her car on the street in front of it and looked for the main entrance on the ground level of the brick edifice, hoping to see a cross, red or otherwise. The door was marked with neither, but bore a sign that sent a chill through her: "The Julian Corporation -- Your Partner in Mental Health".
Had Skinner known that the hospital was no longer part of the church, and apparently a mental institution, at that? She didn't have time to wonder about that right then, however, as she wanted to find Mulder, and fast. Scully walked as nonchalantly as she could into the lobby that would have looked at home in any ordinary office building and past a nondescript directory posted on the wall. There was no Horace P. Moore listed, but she didn't expect to find one there. There *was* a Robert Fleming, though, and rather than draw attention to herself, she made a mental note of his office number and strode purposefully to the elevators behind the reception desk. No one stopped her, so she boarded a car that would take her to Fleming's floor.
When the elevator reached her desired floor, she was the only person who disembarked, so she took a moment to get her bearings. There was no sign of a nun or anyone else in the area. With one hand firmly on the pocket that held her weapon, she strolled down the empty hallway in the direction opposite to the one the numbered doors suggested that she wanted. Temporary name signs with raised white letters had been affixed to the wall next to each door. She glanced at each as she passed it, stopping dead in her tracks before one bearing the name "Horace P. Moore, Jr.". The door was plain brown veneer with no window in it, and no sounds behind it. Choosing not to knock on it, she turned its knob as quietly as she could and slipped inside. The room was dark, as a thick blind was blocking most of the afternoon sun from the window. As her eyes adjusted to the lowered light level, she was able to see a hospital bed in the middle of the room, on which lay Mulder in a striped hospital gown, out cold. The telephone on the nightstand near his head looked as if it had been hastily dissected and reassembled, with a few leftover pieces lying next to it.
Scully's heart fluttered near her throat as she watched her partner. His breathing was shallow, but was the only movement he made. His wrist had been bandaged where he'd broken the skin with his scratching. She reached to touch his hand, which was oddly cool and damp, and drew back her hand sharply when he did not react, even involuntarily. It suddenly struck her as peculiar how easy it had been to find him, and how surprising it was that he was not more closely guarded, whether this was some kind of mental ward or possibly a kidnapper's hideaway.
Skinner's warning not to attempt heroics here rang in her head. She could not be sure how safe Mulder was here, but it gave her some slight reassurance that he was still alive. Maybe that Fleming fellow could help her, whether he was a doctor or not. With one last longing glance at Mulder's inert form, she stepped gingerly back into the hall that had seemed dimly lit before, but now felt like it was bathed in sunshine in comparison to the room.
Scully carefully moved to Fleming's door, which was marked with a permanent sign, giving her some hope. She knocked on it, and heard a man's voice invite her inside.
Behind the door was a small, book-lined office. A huge desk sat before a window, and the only other occupant of the room sat in a tall chair facing that window, so that his face was obscured from her view.
"Are you Dr. Fleming?" she asked, hesitantly.
"I am Robert Fleming," the man replied, without moving to face her. "Why are you here?"
She licked her lip nervously. "I was wondering if you could help me. My name is Dana Scully. Agent Dana Scully, F.B.I."
"Yes," said the man in the tall chair, "I know." His hand rose from the arm of the chair, making a small signal, whereupon a large figure grabbed Scully from behind and placed something over her face, making it difficult for her to breathe.
She squawked in fear and surprise and tried to fight off her attacker, but he held her arms tight, and the object that covered her face smelled sweet and sleepy and comfortable, and her eyelids began to droop. Just before she lost consciousness, the figure in the chair turned, but his entire head was enveloped by a cloud of cigarette smoke.
Dana awoke with a headache from the anesthetic. She tried to raise her hand to rub her eyes, but found her wrists tied firmly with clothesline to the corners of the small bed on which she lay. Her ankles were similarly tied to the foot of the frame, but Scully was most alarmed to find that she was naked. The mattress under her smelled of mildew and stale bodily fluids, but seemed free of six-legged residents.
She took note of the other details of the dank, chilly room: ugly, peeling wallpaper framing a single old three-paneled door with a brand-new knob mechanism; a boarded-up window; water-stained ceiling with a bare light fixture operated by a long string; a three-drawer dresser painted a muddy shade of green; and a plain, wooden chair with an arm missing. She surmised that Mulder wasn't the only one that someone wanted out of the way for awhile.
She had no way of knowing what time it was, or even if it was the same day. She decided to exercise the one freedom she had left: she started to yell for help.
After a few seconds of hollering, she paused to listen. Footsteps on a creaky floor began to sound somewhere beyond the shut door. She threw in a couple more supplications until a key could be heard scraping at the outside of the lock. The door opened, and in walked a heavy, imbecilic-looking boy with a big bunch of keys. "You gotta pee?" he said, by way of introduction.
Not one to turn down an opportunity, and unsure that this fellow would have any useful information, Scully merely answered, "Yes." She tried unsuccessfully to ignore his leering gaze at her nudity until he tugged an old bandanna from his pocket and blindfolded her with it. He loosened her restraints and let her up from the bed, leading her out the door into the unknown beyond.
She was ushered into a small room where she felt around and found a toilet and a washbasin. Her guard did not shut the door, and may have been watching her, but her need for the facilities outweighed any embarrassment she might have felt. She wished she could have sneaked a peek under her blindfold, but she decided that she preferred not to see the condition of the plumbing, and went about her business by touch.
When she had finished, the boy grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her back to her room. She trod carefully, trying to count her steps to determine the length of the hallway down which she was led. Upon entering her lodgings, her escort quickly slipped her hands and feet through the rope loops and tightened them, spread-eagling her once again on the smelly bed and removing the bandanna from her eyes. Dana thought about trying to fight against being held, but realized that the boy was much stronger than she, and even if unarmed, still could have hurt her with the heavy keys. Her fears for her safety, which she'd gingerly held at bay while in Key-boy's care, returned abruptly when he grabbed her breast and squeezed it hard, laughing grotesquely. "I'll tell 'em you're ready," he announced as he left and relocked the door.
Scully didn't want to alert any more attention than necessary, so she kept as quiet as possible, but once alone, burst into silent tears. She felt angry and frustrated, but mostly afraid of what might happen to her next. She didn't have long to wait.
Soon two sets of footsteps echoed toward her door. Dana swallowed her tears as best she could. Her door was unlocked again, and Key-boy wordlessly allowed in a quiet-looking man with salt-and-pepper grey hair, dressed in a worn raincoat. The door was shut, but not locked, behind him.
"Who are you?" Scully asked of the stranger, hoping he could give her some further information.
"I didn't pay for a conversation," the man said, bluntly. "Just keep quiet and let me get my money's worth." With that, he removed his shoes and his coat, revealing a poorly made suit and a stained shirt. He took off his trousers and jacket, folding them and hanging them on the chair. Scully watched him with wide, terrified eyes until he turned his gaze on her, and a slow, greasy smile formed on his face. He rubbed his hand on his crotch through his underwear, then slid them off to expose a huge erection. He crawled between her spread knees and lay down on her naked body. She tried to look anywhere in the room but at this crude figure whose intentions were becoming clearer by the moment. "No!" he barked, grabbing her chin with his other hand. "I want you to look at me while I fuck you." He held her head steady, his seemingly mild-mannered eyes boring into hers as he guided his engorged penis between her legs and into her vagina. Horrified, she bit her lip at the pain of his forced entrance, and new tears trickled from the corners of her eyes. The man only smiled and plunged into her again and again, seeming to enjoy her fear and helplessness. Silently, Scully prayed for unconsciousness, but she was awake and aware of every thrust of the stranger's sex into hers.
After what seemed like hours, the stranger climaxed inside her, then quickly stood to locate his clothing. As he stepped into his trousers and bent to tie his shoes, he raised his head to fix his eyes on hers one last time. "You're good. I'll make sure to ask for you again next time." He smiled at her as he adjusted his coat and opened the door, which was quickly shut and locked when he stepped outside. As soon as the pair of footsteps had faded down the hallway, Scully began to cry again, sobbing aloud, not caring who heard her, which apparently no one did.
Dana woke again, wishing it had all been a bad dream. She noted with resigned dismay that was still in her ugly room, tied to the disgusting bed. She assumed that she had cried so long that she had exhausted herself and fallen asleep.
A newly familiar scraping sounded on the lock outside her door. There was Key-boy, holding a tray bearing a bowl, a mug, and a spoon. He did not speak as he set the tray on the floor next to her bed, then took a familiar-looking gun from his pocket before untying her arms and legs. She understood the warning to stay where she was, until he set the tray beside her on the bed and gestured for her to get up. She sat up and looked at the tray, rubbing at her chafed wrists, as he carefully moved the chair nearer to the door and sat in it, gaping and training the gun on her. "Eat," he commanded, gesturing with the gun toward the tray.
In the bowl Dana found lukewarm soup, and the mug held scalding hot coffee. The soup was nearly the color of the wallpaper, which would probably have tasted better, but she had no idea how long it had been since she had eaten, so she spooned it up greedily. By the time it was gone, the coffee had cooled marginally, so she tasted it, finding it the consistency and flavor of ink, but better than nothing at all. She drank it quickly so that she didn't have to taste it for too long.
As soon as she put down her mug, Key-boy reached in his pocket for his bandanna. Once again, he tied it around her eyes, then nudged her with the barrel of his pistol to get up. "Come on, wash up," he drawled, an offer that Dana eagerly accepted. She went with him timidly, still hurting from the strange man's violation, and afraid of what torture awaited her upon her return.
She found herself in the bathroom and quickly made use of it. Suddenly, a phone rang nearby. "Don't move!" demanded Key-boy. She heard him shuffle away from the bathroom door and answer the ringing phone, but the conversation was unintelligible. Stealing a moment to herself, she lifted her blindfold. The bathroom was poorly lit, but she could still see her reflection in the cracked mirror over the sink. She noticed that her hair was matted and awry, and her cheeks were chapped from crying in the chilly room. The memory of the attack flooded her mind, and she was momentarily swept with a wave of nausea. She briefly thought that she might vomit, but she swallowed hard, not being sure when she might next receive any food. Instead, she grabbed a grimy bar of soap on the washstand and tried to wash away the dried semen between her legs, drying herself with the faded towel she found hanging on a hook.
Noticing that she could no longer hear Key-boy's voice into the phone, she listened intently for his approach, but heard nothing. Cautiously, she peeked outside the bathroom door. The hall was empty, and there was an unattended wall phone mounted several yards down the forbidding, narrow, door-lined corridor.
Scully tiptoed out toward the phone, whose promise of escape girded her courage. She hesitantly lifted the receiver and listened for a dial tone. Somewhat assured that she might be able to dial out, she pushed the buttons for the first number she could remember: Mulder's. She closed her eyes and prayed that he would still be alive and able to save her, having hidden his phone somewhere that he could reach it, but she was startled to hear a familiar noise behind the closed door of a nearby room: Mulder's cellphone!
She froze at the sound, her eyes wide. Her thoughts raced to explain this phenomenon. Maybe it was just a coincidence, a similar-sounding phone that had just happened to ring at that moment. Maybe he had forwarded his calls to her, and the tone of her confiscated phone resembled that of his through the barricade of the door. Whatever the circumstances, she knew better than to hope that it actually *was* his phone, or, more importantly, that he was here, too. Curiosity finally got the best of her, and she let the receiver dangle as she listened carefully at the suspect door. She tried the knob, but it was locked, so she turned back to hang up the phone.
A bullet whinged above her head, and she immediately fell into a crouch, searching her naked body for nonexistent weapon pockets.
Key-boy stood near the opposite end of the hall, casually training the gun on her. "And here I thought I told you to behave. No more privileges for you!" he announced, approaching her and looming above her as she remained crouching on the floor. He grabbed her under her nearest arm and yanked her to her feet. As if she weighed nothing, he dragged her back to her room and threw her on the bed. There he re-tied the blindfold around her eyes, then pulled her arm out to the bedpost, affixing it there with handcuffs. He repeated the procedure with her other arm, and similarly with her ankles at the foot of the bed. For once, Scully regretted having such small feet and ankles that fit so neatly in the handcuffs he used. The door slammed and locked moments later.
Noting the reduced movement that the cuffs allowed her, Dana wondered which other "privileges" she had lost. She wished that she had chosen to call Skinner, or the police, or even her mother: anyone who she assumed had some degree of freedom and could do something to help her, even if it was only to offer her a kind word of reassurance.
But she knew why she had tried Mulder, even if it had made no sense at the time. He was her life, the one person on whom she felt she could always depend. She hated his penchant for sexual innuendo, but she was secretly enticed and aroused by it. After the romantic disappointments of her young life, Mulder was the only man she knew whose attentions she actually craved, who could make her braver and stronger with just a sly smile, and who made her feel that as long as they were together, they could conquer any conspiracy the unnamed corporations could throw at them. Without him, she knew that she was truly alone, and could truly trust no one at all.
At that moment, a lumpy parcel was dumped on a side street in the seamier part of the District of Columbia. The black car from which it had come did not wait, instead spinning its tires on the wet pavement and disappearing down a nearby dark alley.
The parcel, which to the casual observer was just a pile of old clothing, shook itself and rolled to a sitting position on the curb. Mulder, unshaven and disoriented, poked his head up and gave it a gentle shake. This only made him dizzy, so he made a vow not to try that again. He tried to stand up, but stumbled and fell face first on the sidewalk, though in his overly relaxed state, he did no worse damage than bruising his cheek.
A pair of grubby, inebriated men huddled in a nearby doorway and watched his display of precision sloppiness with amusement until red flashing lights rounded the corner. Muttering to themselves about the cops making a routine sweep for vagrants, they scurried away, leaving Mulder crumpled in a heap without an audience.
A spotlight from the car fell on him, and a voice through a loudspeaker called, "Hey, you! Get up!" He made no move except to raise one eyebrow warily. The voice continued, "I said get a move on! Washington law states that you cannot block the public walkway! Go on! Get on home!"
Mulder continued to sit, apparently befuddled. A policeman emerged from the squad car and approached him cautiously. He called to Mulder, "Are you okay? Can we give you a ride home?"
Taking a long moment to consider this question, at last Mulder replied, groggily, "Sure. Where's home?"
Dana Scully lay in darkness, chained fast to her filthy bed. The slight flexibility allowed her by the clothesline restraints had been remarkably comfortable compared to the stiffness of these metal cuffs. She had had three or four more customers (as she chose to think of them), but, being blindfolded, had a hard time distinguishing between them or keeping an accurate count in her head. She tried to concentrate on her own thoughts, to block out the painful sensations of the men parting her gruffly and taking their comfort inside or on her body.
Her thoughts when she was alone swirled inescapably back to her missing partner. She wondered if he was being hurt, wondered if she'd ever see him alive again. She pictured his face, how intelligent he looked when he frowned deep in thought, how beautiful his smile was. Even though she had refused to admit it before, he did have the most marvelous eyes: dark and brooding much of the time, but revealing a magical twinkle whenever they caught her glance. Did he know how often she thought about him when she was alone? Was she herself even completely sure of her feelings about him?
The door opened, making her realize that she had been so swept up in her mental imagery that she hadn't even heard footsteps outside. Wordlessly, her new visitor was let into her room, and the door was shut behind him. As he drew close, he exhaled, and her nose was assaulted by the smoke of a cheap cigarette. She could only assume that he'd taken one last drag outside her door, holding the smoke in his lungs as long as possible. She wondered if the still-lit butt was somewhere nearby, as she might have given over her favors gladly for a single puff. She immediately chided herself for valuing her body so cheaply, realizing at the same time how this ordeal must certainly be changing her. She wondered to herself if anyone would still want her after she was released, if she were *ever* released.
As she felt the smoky-smelling man begin his session, an image of Mulder flashed into her head. She had never really dared imagining Mulder naked, putting aside her sexual fantasies in the interests of professional conduct. Instead, little unbidden thoughts of making love to him had quietly snaked their way into her subconscious, and they suddenly came together and congealed into a full-fledged illusion, coming between her and the odoriferous stranger. As hard as she tried to damp down the vision, it kept coming back, persisting in shielding her from the full brunt of his assault. She almost found herself pretending that the man's fingers were Mulder's fingers, that his pudgy knees were Mulder's knees, that his sweaty cock was Mulder's cock. In spite of her best efforts, she heard a tiny sigh of pleasure emerge from her lips, but the grunting pig on her showed no signs of having noticed it.
Horrified and sickened at her own reaction, she fell entirely silent and patiently endured the encounter, not daring to feel or even to think again until he was finished and had gotten up from her bed. He knocked on the inside of the door, and keys jingled abruptly as the door was opened again to allow his exit. Scully inhaled deeply once the man was gone, but a strange scent wafted to her nose before the door was completely shut. It was not cigarette smoke, but something, somewhere, was burning.
The lights hurt. The chairs were hard, the room was stuffy, and the constant buzz of voices and electrical objects was almost unbearable. Mulder sat in a dingy police station, his jacket thrown over his head. He was certain of very few things at that moment, except for the fact that he was almost absolutely sure that this was not home. Those guys in the car had lied.
He had an idea, which hurt as it popped into his head. He decided to rifle his pockets. He found a handkerchief and a five dollar bill, on which the ink stuck from his smudged fingertips, but nothing useful, like anything with his *name* on it.
"Excuse me, sir?" A voice: maybe it was speaking to him. He gingerly lifted the coat from his head and looked for the person who had spoken. There was a pretty police officer looking at him like he might explode. "Do you remember where you were earlier this evening?"
"Whatever I did, I was blinded by your beauty. I'm sorry if I said something I shouldn't have said." He hoped that she would accept that apology, if that's what she had been looking for.
She smiled and shook her head, lowering her jet black eyes appealingly. "No. I'm just trying to determine how you got here. You're not one of our usual guests..." she trailed off, as if embarrassed at having to treat him, disheveled and grungy, but still fairly easy on the eyes, like an ordinary street-dweller. "Can you remember anything before being here right now?"
His brain cascaded through several mental images that he could not quite fit together. There was a man sealed in a newspaper cocoon; a white, globby ghost with a round, toothy mouth; tiny, green dots that glowed in the dark; a huge object covered with lights emerging from the snow; and a girl who floated out of a window, leaving him sad and afraid. "I don't know. I think something's out there that I can't quite put my finger on..."
"Out where?" asked the policewoman, trying to be helpful.
"Wait a minute..." he hesitated, his life's mission drifting just beyond his mental grasp, "why are you asking me? Are you with them?"
"What? Who?" she replied, newly puzzled.
"You know who!" he snapped, suddenly belligerent. "It's them... uh, those people who did something with the aliens and made the monsters and tried to keep the secret so everybody felt safe, but I knew that they were trying to make... um, somebody else a monster, too!" The details of his career smeared together into a frightening, confusing mess, obscuring the names and the important details and leaving the paranoia and suspicion clearly in his mind. He looked frantically around him, trying to locate a familiar face on which to focus, but finding none.
The policewoman placed a calming hand on his arm. "It's going to be all right. We'll get you sobered up and you'll remember your name and address and you can go home, okay?"
"I'm not drunk! They've taken my memories away! And I don't want you finding my home, if it's all the same to you!" With that he bolted out of his chair and tried to escape through the crowded office.
"Stop him!" she called to the uniformed cops who milled about the squadroom. Two middle-aged patrolmen looked up in time to be nearly bowled over by the attempted escapee. Another tried to stand in his way, but he just doubled back and headed for a different exit. Finally somebody took a flying tackle at his knees, bringing them both to the floor and scattering papers and chairs in every direction. Before he could scramble from his grasp, the burly man sat on the wild-eyed lunatic.
The detective at the desk in front of which the pair had fallen thanked someone over the phone and hung up the receiver. He chuckled at the pair before him. "Good job, Robinson. You're sitting on an F.B.I. agent."
Officer Robinson looked at the agitated face of the apparent drunk on the floor. "F.B.I?" he asked. "Are you sure?"
The detective nodded, bemusedly. "Yep. His prints are on file with the bureau." He leaned over and addressed the figure still writhing under one of his best officers. "Well, Agent Mulder, you're in luck: it seems that you've got a friend who's been very worried about you."
"Ssss... she has?" he asked, fighting fruitlessly to find a name in his spotty memory.
"Yep. I've been ordered to keep you here until a Mr. Skinner comes to pick you up. Do you think you can stay put until he gets here, or are you planning on running my squad through any more workouts?"
Mulder, docile at last, thought hard to place a face to that name as uniformed policemen cautiously helped him into a chair. He briefly recalled that there would be a woman who was worried about him, but then he remembered the nice policewoman, resolving the mystery for the moment and making his worries fade from his murky consciousness.
Somewhere, in a drab room, Scully still lay alone and naked, blindfolded and chained to a bed. She no longer idly wished that she could die and be free of her ordeal. Now she urgently wanted to live, if only just another moment. Only one thing had changed to alter her point of view: she most definitely smelled smoke. She couldn't determine where in the building the fire was burning, but she knew she'd be a goner if her torturers had escaped and left her behind.
It was not yet difficult to breathe, but she was terrified and knew that if she began to hyperventilate, she would effectively ruin her chances for survival once the oxygen dissipated, even if anyone did bother to free her from her prison. It had been at least an hour since she'd noticed any signs of life outside her door, so she made a last-ditch attempt to protect herself, or at least change her fortunes.
The bandanna around her eyes was fairly tight, and the knot was surely caught in her hair. In her desperation, she struggled to push her head against the mattress and slide the cloth down over her face. She jerked her head with such force that the hair that had caught in the knotted fabric broke, sending a sudden jolt into her scalp that she gladly ignored. Rolling her head from side to side to ease it past her ears, she nudged the bandanna lower onto her face, where it pushed painfully against the bridge of her nose. At last, her nose sprang free, reducing the pressure of the blindfold. She had hoped to position it over her nose or mouth, filtering the air a little, but she was startled to look at the ceiling and see a fine layer of thick smoke hanging above her head. She strained to hear the crackling of approaching flames, but at that moment, heavy footsteps echoed somewhere in the building below her.
Scully shrugged the cloth past her chin and began to scream, to yell, to caterwaul, making as much noise as she could to attract attention. Tears streamed from her smoke-irritated eyes, making it difficult to see, but she definitely heard steps coming closer and closer. She shrieked when an axe-head abruptly pierced the old, locked door and swiftly shattered it into ragged shards.
A tall man in a heavy-duty slicker, boots, and a face-shielded helmet stepped over the broken wood and stared at Scully in a horrified split-second. He made a quick inventory of the tools on his belt and selected a large metal-cutter. Gently he held her hand away from the chain, which he chopped gingerly in two. The other three chains followed, and he scooped up her small body in his powerful arms. Scully held onto his neck as best she could with arms weakened from being bound and wrists still wearing handcuff rings.
As he lifted her through the door, being careful not to catch any splinters in her bare flesh, she sighed and nestled against his chest. "Oh, Mulder," she murmured, confused with exhaustion and relief, "I knew you'd come save me!"
The fireman wrinkled up his blonde mustache quizzically and continued carrying her to safety.
Dana had started recognizing the floral arrangements by the shop that had sent them. She stood at the window of her hospital room and looked over the cards again. Every time she found herself recuperating from ailments life-threatening, or just plain weird, there were always flowers from the same people, assembled at their favorite shops. There was the standard corporate bundle from office staff people whose names she never recognized at the bureau, ordered by fax. There was the fresh assortment, fitting to the season, selected from the neighborhood florist with a hand-scribbled cheery note from her mom. A slightly beat-up fistful of roses and carnations picked from a supermarket display by her ardent admirer, Frohike, battled for space next to the neat potted ivy that was a trademark of the greenhouse favored by Skinner's secretary (who knew that he hated sending flowers). But there was one missing...
Scully had had the best medical care: exams to check for viral reminders of her ordeal, discreet surgery to patch up damage to parts she had been hoping to use later, psychological support to reassure her that she was a precious, irreplaceable woman, much more than just the label of "rape victim". She had cried angry tears with her mother and made a verbal report to Skinner, realizing that evidence to convict anyone of her kidnapping and assaults was sketchy to nonexistent. She had everything and had done everything that she needed to make her recovery complete. But something still wasn't right...
Skinner had pulled a few strings and managed to get her into the same hospital as her partner. The day she first felt strong enough, he had even volunteered to wheel her down to his room so she could pay him a visit. Mulder had smiled at her kindly and inquired after her health, but didn't show any signs of recognition at all. Scully had just managed to keep smiling until the door had closed behind Skinner as he took her back, whereupon her heart broke utterly, and she wept, not with the pain she had endured or the futility of their endeavor, but with grief at the loss of the one person without whom she did not want to face another day.
They had scurried back to her room, where Skinner shut the door and turned off the phone. He turned to Scully, whose cheeks were pale and streaked with tears as she faced the windowsill that was full of color and life.
"He doesn't even know who I am!" she had wailed to her boss when she was sure no one else would hear.
He crouched beside her wheelchair and stroked the back of her hand, ineffectually trying to offer comfort without overstepping any bounds. "He's been detoxed for a week. They can't identify just what combination of drugs he's been given, but they're out of his system now. There's just no way of knowing what kind of damage they've left behind. The amnesia may just be a defense mechanism to protect him from fully recalling some of the hallucinations he's been having. Chemically, he should be back to normal."
"But he isn't!" interjected Scully. "What am I going to do if Mulder isn't Mulder anymore? I almost feel that some of this is my fault: that I should have yanked him right out of that bed when I found him and run back to D.C., instead of poking around in Baltimore and getting captured myself..."
Skinner interrupted her, staring intently into her eyes. "Don't blame yourself. Somebody had a plan to get you two out of the picture, and it would have proceeded in some fashion no matter what you had done. There were so many shady figures mobilized in that operation that one woman couldn't have done a lot to circumvent them. As you know, Dr. Fleming is still missing, and no one is sure if he was in on the deal or was eliminated as a front. We're just lucky that we were able to find each of you so quickly and bring you home. If that house hadn't caught fire, you might still be there, and if a neighbor hadn't noticed from across the street and called the fire department, you might not even be alive now. I'm just thankful that neither you nor Agent Mulder had to lose your lives."
"No, but Mulder seems to have lost his mind, instead. That should "get him out of the picture" anyway, as you say, with regard to the X-Files, so who knows what could be going on out there while we're not there keeping an eye on things?"
A slight smile played behind Assistant Director Skinner's eyes. "Your dedication to duty is admirable, Agent Scully. It's heartening to see that although they may have been successful in breaking Agent Mulder's sanity, they did little to break your spirit, which I think they also may have been trying to do. Maybe that will come in handy in helping your partner come back to his senses. Am I mistaken, or do you have a higher stake in this than just making sure that someone is available to try to solve an X-File or two?"
Scully's eyes dropped to her lap, and the color returned to her cheeks. "No, sir, you're not mistaken. I have to do whatever I can to help Agent Mulder regain his sanity, because he's become particularly, um, *important* to me over the years that we've worked together."
One corner of his mouth turned up as if he were actually smiling. "You've fallen in love with him, haven't you?"
Her shoulders fell about an inch, more in relief than in resignation. She looked Skinner in the eye at last and quietly answered, "Yeah. I guess it was that obvious, huh?"
He squeezed her hand and nodded slightly. "Don't worry, Dana," he almost whispered, "I won't tell anyone. In fact, it might help."
"Help with what?"
Skinner stood and looked past Dana out the window, as if he couldn't bear to watch her expression. "I've got an idea about how we..., well, *you*, might be able to bring Mulder back." She could almost see the sentences being abandoned and reformed in his head as he tried to select the right words for what he wanted to ask. "The psychiatrists here feel that what might finally break through his shell is some connection to something really important to him. I don't mean like work or his sister, or anything that might stir up his paranoia even further. I was thinking of something he liked to think about away from work, something basic, almost primal."
Scully eyed him suspiciously. "Why do I get the feeling that you don't want me to take him to a Knicks game?"
He spun to face her. "I'm sure you've seen the videotapes that he kept in the bottom left-hand drawer of his desk down in the basement office."
"Oh, those..." she recalled with a bemused grimace. "You think some blue movies might get through to him?"
"Not quite..." he began, crouching before her again with his hands on the arms of her wheelchair. He searched her eyes to fill in the words that he was apparently reluctant to say aloud.
She tried to read his thoughts, not quite believing her first instincts. "What? *Me*? You want me to throw myself at him or something? Why do you think that sort of thing might work?"
"He loves you, too, you know..."
Her mouth nearly dropped open in shock as her brain fought to come to grips with this concept. "But..., really? Did he tell you that?"
She could have sworn he chuckled to himself. "No. He didn't have to. It was obvious with him, too. Now, I'm not telling you this to convince you to do anything you don't want to do, but you did say you felt that you had to do whatever you could to bring him back. I wouldn't ordinarily suggest such a thing, except I'm at the end of my rope, and I would hate to reject an unconventional approach that might keep us from losing a very valuable agent. So if we've got to use to physical contact to make mental contact, I'm hoping that you can turn some of your devotion to duty toward that end."
"Wait a minute," Scully stalled. "Let me get this straight. Are you saying what I think you're saying? Are you ordering me to fuck Agent Mulder?"
Skinner looked away, but his face took on an expression of hesitant resolve. "I don't really want to say it like that. I mean, it's such an ugly word. Let's say I'm strongly encouraging you to fuck Agent Mulder."
Dana had offered feeble protest at the Assistant Director's suggestion, and had eventually agreed to think about it. As she stood now before her window, every argument she could pose to herself against such a wild notion ran up against a very basic fact: she loved Fox Mulder, and wanted to do anything in her power to help him. She understood that it was unprofessional, but Skinner had given her his blessing, besides having given her the idea in the first place. She didn't know if she was ready either physically nor emotionally to allow a man to touch her again so soon after her attack, but it wasn't just *any* man: it was Mulder, the one she trusted and loved so completely, the one who'd put his life in danger for hers more times than she cared to count. Maybe he *did* love her as much as she loved him: was now the time and was this the place to act on that knowledge, to affirm it and to consummate it? But if now wasn't the time, when would she have the opportunity again, especially if he never got his memory back, if he never remembered what they had once been to one another? She understood that Skinner cared about her welfare, too: that he wouldn't allow her to do anything willingly that would endanger her wellbeing, so maybe he thought it could be a healing experience for her, too.
The last brick in her wall of protest fell the next morning. She had been dreaming about Mulder, as she often did, and the action had become vaguely steamy in some setting or another. The details of the dream itself fell away as she slowly awakened. Something felt strangely comforting and familiar, and when she moved, she realized that she had been masturbating in her sleep. Rather than pull her hand away in disgust, she probed her own folds carefully, checking to see if she had pulled any stitches, or if they had dissolved as planned. She found nothing that hurt, and closed her eyes to enjoy the safe, gentle pressure of her own touch. She finally had to accede that maybe she should try to "get back on the horse", so to speak, at least as long as that "horse" was going to be her dear Mulder.
She phoned Skinner's office on his private line to ask him to arrange a tryst for her with the man who had up until very recently been her partner, hoping silently that if she were able to stir his memories, he would still want to be that partner.
The only room that was private enough for Skinner's plan to work was the hospital's therapeutic swimming pool, located in the basement. There were no windows to the outside, and it was only accessible by a single door at the end of the physical therapy gymnasium. A time late in the evening was selected to work around scheduled events in the nearby spaces, and Skinner himself stood guard outside the door.
Scully stood in the shallow end of the pool, bouncing slowly from the ball of one foot to the other. She had stood in front of the mirror on her door for an hour looking at herself from every angle in the plain black tank that she had asked for her mother to bring her from home. She had explained that she was wanting to visit the hospital's pool, hoping that mom wouldn't ask why. There were still slight bruises on her ankles and wrists, and a shadow under her shoulderblade where Keyboy had wrenched her to her feet. Luckily, the lights in the pool area were low, so perhaps Mulder wouldn't notice her bruises.
At last, Mulder was wheeled into the room, and Skinner parked the chair near the door before helping him off with his hospital-issue terry robe. He left the robe in the seat of the chair, gave a small smile and wave to Scully, and shut the door behind himself as he left.
Oh, God, thought Scully: not the Speedo! She had seen it once before hanging on a hook in his bathroom, at the time making her bite her lip as she imagined the tiny red garment clinging to him provocatively. Now, she only wanted to look anywhere but at that spandex target, which outlined every curve, showing her the outward differences between the male and the female of the species. Unconsciously, she cowered against the wall of the pool, almost hoping he wouldn't notice her.
His powers of perception, however, had not been damaged by his ordeal, and he made a beeline for her. He stood at the edge of the pool and stared straight down at the top of her head. "Hi," he began.
Scully shyly tried to look into his eyes, but a distinct red bulge came between her gaze and his face. "Hi, Mulder. How are you?" His psychiatrists had recommended that his friends address him by name a lot more than usual, to get him used to it again. "It's good to see you, Mulder. Do you remember me?"
"I'm not sure. You're not one of the nurses, are you?" He sat on the edge of the pool and dangled his feet in the water on opposite sides of her head.
She turned to face him, relieved that she could see his face unimpeded at last. "No, Mulder. I'm Dana. Mr. Skinner brought me to see you a few days ago."
"Mr. Skinner? Oh, you mean Walter!" She grinned inwardly at his casual use of Skinner's first name. "Oh, yeah! You were in one of those things!" he exclaimed, pointing at the wheelchair over by the door. "How are you feeling now?" he asked, showing what seemed to be an innocent interest in her.
"I'm a lot better, Mulder; thanks. I wanted to ask you, Mulder, do you recall ever seeing me anywhere else?" She continued bobbing in the pool from one foot to the other.
"I don't know. Was your name Dana then?" He looked puzzled, but interested in continued questioning.
She smiled at her mistake. "I know what's wrong, Mulder. I've always been Dana, but you have always called me Scully. That's my name, too, Mulder. Can you remember ever calling anybody Scully?"
He rolled the name experimentally around on his tongue. "Scully. Scully! Scul-leeee. That's a good name. I like it."
Scully gave a twisted smile. "I'm so glad you like it, Mulder. After all, it *is* my name. I like your name, too, Mulder. Mulder and Scully. Those names sound pretty good together, don't they?"
He looked thoughtful. "Mulder and Scully. Yeah - they sort of go together, don't they?"
"I'd like to think so, Mulder."
"So, Scully, how's the water?" All of this name recognition had almost made her forget why they were here in the first place.
"Fine, Mulder. Kinda cool. You should come on in. I seem to remember that you like to swim."
He slid into the water right next to her, splashing her head more than she liked, and she squealed a little, startled. "You okay, Scully?"
"I'm fine, Mulder," she replied, the words at once sounding familiar yet hollow. "Why don't you try a lap or two and see if you like it?"
"Sure," he agreed, after ducking his head under and bobbing back up next to her. "I know I like it. I've done it all my life, I think..." He suddenly looked puzzled again.
She pushed at him playfully. "If you've done it all your life, Mulder, show me!"
He took off down to the far end of the pool, turned perfectly, and swam up beside her. "See? I told you I liked to swim. I used to do it in high school."
Dana found herself thrilled at this recollection. Maybe she wouldn't have to go through with this crazy plan after all. "Do you remember if you did it in college, Mulder?"
"I don't know, Scully. I'm not sure I went to college." Great, she thought. He'd forgotten Oxford. "C'mon! I'll race you!"
"No, Mulder. You go on ahead. I'll just float over here." He swam off like a teenager who wanted to impress a cute female stranger on the beach. This line of question and answer was getting nowhere fast. She let her feet rise from the bottom of the pool and settled on her back, floating within reach of the side wall. Maybe she could just sit here and relax and tell Skinner that the plan was a complete failure.
Mulder turned again at the opposite end of the pool and sped back to her. However, instead of stopping beside her and coming up to talk, he dove down to swim directly under her, making her rock about on his wake. He popped his head up next to hers with a huge grin on his face. "How'd you like that, Scully?"
Humorlessly, she answered, "Very funny, Mulder. Are you through playing games?"
He gave her a look like a kicked puppy. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to annoy you. I thought we could have fun. Do you want to have some fun, Scully?"
She set her feet back down and looked critically at this adolescent version of the man she needed and loved. It was hard to see the haunted, driven investigator in this silly boy before her. She decided to try another tactic to get through to him, no matter how loopy it sounded in her head. "Sure, Mulder. I'd love to have some fun. Except I like a different kind of fun. I think it would really be fun to kiss you, Mulder. Would you like to kiss me?"
He looked at her, frowning in concentration. "I don't know why, but something tells me that that would be dangerous."
"Why, Mulder?" she asked. "What could be dangerous about a kiss?"
She could tell he was putting together fragments of their past in his head. "Because if I kissed you, it would hurt you, and someone would take you away, and I'd never see you again. I want to see you again, Scully, so I shouldn't kiss you."
"Is that what happened before? Do you remember trying to kiss me before, Mulder?"
"Yeah, Scully, I do. We were in a hallway, and I wanted to kiss you more than anything else in the world. Except when I went to kiss you, something came out of the dark and hurt you, and men came and took you away from me." His face held such loss and hurt that she was afraid she might cry and blow the whole plan.
"You know what, Mulder? I remember that, too. Except now there's nothing that's going to hurt me. I remember that night in that hallway, and I really wanted to kiss you then, too. Can you kiss me now, please? Nothing bad can happen to you right now. I promise." She tried to put the thoughts of that poisoned bee out of her mind and held her mouth to await Mulder's kiss once again.
Mulder stood before her, the water making tiny waves between them. His eyes drifted from her gaze to watch her lips intently. Cautiously, he took her in his arms and pressed his mouth to hers. No insects, no sounds, no other sensations in the world seemed to exist at that moment, just his arms encircling her and their lips moist and firm clasped together as the pool held them gently in place.
They pulled apart reluctantly, their eyes shining and a little misty. "See, Mulder," began Scully, "nothing bad happened."
"No, it didn't. Something else happened, though."
"What?" she asked, somehow not quite wanting to know the answer. "Did you remember anything else?"
"No. I just thought of something else fun we could do."
"Like what, Mulder?"
"Like this." His hands found her breasts, which bobbed nearly at water level. He kneaded them hesitantly through the light fabric of her swimsuit, bringing his head close to hers and breathing heavily in her ear. "Do you like that, Scully? Do you want me to do that some more?"
Her spine stiffened as she remembered the strangers who pawed at her as she lay handcuffed and blindfolded in her wallpapered prison. She knew that it was just Mulder touching her like this, but in a way, he was as much a stranger now as those men had been. She took his wrists in her hands and held them away from her. "Please, Mulder, don't. I'm sorry, but I don't want you to do that right now."
"That's right... I never get to touch your breasts..." More kicked puppy.
Scully quickly put two and two together. "No, Mulder, that's not it. You've never touched my breasts before because we didn't do these things together before. Do you remember wanting to?"
"Yeah. All the time, if I recall correctly..."
Dana rolled her eyes, hoping Mulder didn't see. "Well, maybe now that I've kissed you, you might get to touch them sometime again. Is that okay, Mulder?"
"I guess so," he grumbled, looking every bit like a boy who didn't get a coveted bike for his birthday.
"Don't make it sound like that," she chided him, lifting his chin with a finger. "I've been in trouble recently. There were these men... They raped me, Mulder. They grabbed my breasts and hurt me. I think when you touched me just now, it reminded me too much of them. I'm sure that after some time has passed, I'll want you to touch me like that, but right now, maybe it isn't a good idea. Do you understand?"
"Yeah," he answered, stepping back, just out of her reach. "Maybe it isn't a good idea for me to be here with you right now. I thought maybe you wanted to do more than kiss, but I guess I was wrong." He tried to look tough as he said it, but she could see tears in the corners of his eyes.
She knew he wasn't himself, but his words stung her anyway. "Are you disappointed in me, Mulder? Are you angry that I made you stop touching me?"
"I don't know what I'm feeling, Dana. I'm confused. On the one hand, I would very much like to make love to you. On the other, I'm furious that anyone could hurt you enough that you would make me stop if you really wanted me. Who was it who raped you, Scully? Was it the same people who screwed with my head? It's like somebody's run an eggbeater in there - the parts are all there, but I'm having a hell of a time trying to fit it all back together."
She watched in awe as Mulder tried to sort through the muddle and find himself. "Mulder, if it's any consolation, all the time those men were hurting me, I kept my sanity by thinking of you. I don't know if we'll ever catch the ones responsible, so I don't know that it will be very productive staying angry at them. All I know is that I kept myself alive by believing that you were still out here and would care about what happened to me. Is it true? Do you care what happens to me?"
Moving as quickly as he could standing chest-deep in a swimming pool, Mulder strode to Scully and grabbed her in a fierce hug. "My God, Dana, after all of these years, after all of the crap we've been through together, how could you ever doubt that I care what happens to you? Dammit, I love you, Dana Scully!"
Now it was Dana's turn to be confused. She peered over his shoulder as he crushed her in his arms and replayed that sentence in her head. Was this authentic? Was Fox Mulder back from wherever he'd been the past few days? How could she be sure?
"Mulder, wait a minute... Are you sure? Do you really remember?" She broke from his grasp and held him at arm's length studying his eyes. "Do you remember Samantha?"
"My sister, who disappeared when we were just kids."
"Was it him? Was he the one that made this happen? I thought he was dead! But he's not, is he?" Mulder's eyes were on her, but they were focused inward as his thoughts swirled, making an obvious effort to snap back into place.
"No, I don't think so. Is this really you, Mulder? Is it coming back to you?"
"I think so. It's been so hard to remember what was real and what was just a fantasy to me since we were in our office together that last day. And you know what? The fantasies were nothing compared to the horrible things that we've really seen!"
Scully gently slid back into his arms, hugging him to her. Her Mulder was back.
"You are more important to me than life itself, Scully. Nobody told me that you had been attacked. I guess that they were trying to keep from upsetting me. Maybe if somebody had actually told me what had happened to you, I'd have been able to put the pieces together again a lot sooner. If I'd only known, I would have moved heaven and earth to protect you. You know that, don't you?" She nodded up at him, her eyes shining. "Now I think we got distracted somewhere. Let me start again." He looked into her eyes again and whispered, "I love you, Dana Scully. Have you got anything to say to that?"
"Yeah," she answered, blinking back tears. "I love you, too, Fox Mulder. Did you think I could have gone through all of this if I didn't?"
They held each other close for a long time, Dana's feet dangling gently with her body supported by nothing but the water and Mulder's strong arms.
He finally broke the silence. "You're crazy, you know..."
She broke away from him, treading water, and tried to suppress a guffaw, without much success. "Well, *you're* the one to talk!"
He blessed her with one of his thousand-kilowatt smiles. "Hey! Speaking as one who's been there..." He grabbed her wrist before she could splash at his head. "No, really. What sane person follows a crazy person around, trying to prove that the crazy stuff he believes is real? Do you really put up with all of this, the danger I put you in again and again, just because you love me?"
Scully bobbed in place and thought a moment. "Not just that. I care about the work, too.."
"I don't doubt that. But I keep leading you into things that hurt you, and I just wonder if it's worth it. You know, you'd be a lot safer if you had never met me."
She gazed into that still slightly confused gaze, into those eyes she'd been afraid she'd never see again, and shook her head in amusement. "Safer, maybe, but a lot less interesting. You and the quest have changed me, Mulder. All of the crises and tribulations are nothing next to the pursuit of the truth. My life means something now. Maybe I need that danger in my life to remind me how dull I could have been. I don't think I'd recognize me now if I ran into the Mulder-free version of myself. Face it: I don't think you'd love that version of me. And I doubt very much that she could love you as much as I do." Once again, she swam into his arms, kissed him, and clung to him tightly.
He stroked her wet hair and smiled. "Maybe you're right. Maybe we need the madness so we recognize the sanity when it returns. I think I push myself a little harder because you're there, challenging my assumptions and checking up on me. All the years we've been running after lord knows what, I've always had you to back me up and slap some sense into me if I needed it. I may have forgotten my address and my name, but I'd like to believe that I was able to remember that somebody wonderful like you would be here waiting to pick me up and set me on my feet again when I came back."
Once again, Mulder bent his head to press his mouth to hers. He was surprised to feel her lips part beneath his, allowing his tongue access. They kissed as if the only source of oxygen in the room was the other's mouth. A stirring within his Speedo brought his attention back to where they were. He broke away and said, "We really shouldn't be doing this here, unless you want to..."
Scully looked as if he had turned down a party invitation. "Well, why not? I mean, you're here; I'm here. Nobody else seems to want the pool right now..." Her voice faded as she looked toward the door where Skinner must have stood to turn away any intruders.
"True, it does seem a shame to waste the room... And besides, Skinner did drag me down here to see you. I was thinking all the way here that he must have figured getting us together half-naked would produce *some* kind of result..."
"Wait: you knew this was a setup?"
"I must admit that I was starting to figure it out. What was the plan: to fuck me back to my senses?"
Dana looked more sheepish than she had since high school. "Actually, yeah."
Mulder let out an amused harrumph. "I wonder what the hell Freud would have had to say about that one... It almost feels like the plan worked, even though you didn't apply it quite right. I'm not going to be the best judge on this, but I think I'm going to be okay. I could probably stand a little more downtime and fine-tuning, but I don't think I'll be needing your, uh, therapy, after all." He fixed her with his gaze and let her face imprint on his mind for a long time. A tiny smile drifted across his lips again. "You would have done that for me?"
"Sure. Always ready to go beyond the call of duty," she replied, joking as if to cover her nervousness.
"That's a pretty big step, even if we were both running at one hundred percent."
Internal arguments pushed aside, she squared her shoulders as best she could in a swimsuit. "Well, I would have done it just to help you remember what was important to you. Now you've told me something that I don't think I ever expected to hear, though I'd dreamed of it for a very long time. If you really do love me even half as much as I love you, I'm pretty sure I would really like to try it anyway." She lunged up to press his lips again with hers.
He cut short her kiss and pushed her away gently. "Wait a minute. I don't know if that's really what you want to do right now. I mean, are you ready to have a man touch you like that already?"
She searched his face imploringly. "It's not like you're just any man, Mulder. You're Fox Mulder, the man I love; the man I have loved for years, even though I may not show it all the time. I was more or less ready to make love to you even when you weren't quite that man yet. Now that you're that man again, and you tell me that you love me, too, I don't want the opportunity to pass me by."
He continued to hold her close, watching her eyes for more than a slight hesitation. "But are you really sure that this is the right opportunity? We could wait for awhile, until we can be alone, maybe in your own safe, comfy bed in your own home..."
"I've thought about this a lot," she countered, cutting him off. "Maybe my reasons for doing it have changed, luckily becoming *good* reasons, but I'm afraid if I don't do this now, I may never want to do it again." Her eyes dropped, and she seemed to be searching the water for the right words. "It's been awhile since anybody has made love to me, and it may be a long time before anyone does again." He started to protest, but she held up her hand to stop him. "Even if we did promise to get together the next chance we got, how can I be sure that it wouldn't get postponed indefinitely because of our work, or because I get cold feet, or because you still don't think I'm ready yet? I don't know why I'm still in this hospital, except to make sure that I'm not released until I'm completely healthy. Well, I may be getting healthy physically, and even psychologically, but emotionally I'm not so sure. If I walk out of here tomorrow without doing this, I'll be back in one piece as far as the doctors are concerned, but there'll be something that I'll still know is wrong."
"What's that?" he interjected, dipping his head to try to make eye contact again.
Her mouth was open for several seconds before words came out. "It's like it's not mine."
"What's not yours?"
She swallowed hard and closed her eyes, then met his gaze again. "My vagina." She ignored his nonplused look and continued. "It's like that part of me was sold without my permission. The last several men who've used that part of me paid for the privilege. If I walk away from this chance right now, my very sex will still belong to someone else. I want to reclaim it. I want to give it to the man I love. I can't bear the thought of going home and pretending like everything is back to normal while the last man who had his cock inside me was some faceless stranger who violated my body for a price. I want to make it right, to take my body back and share it with somebody who loves me and wants to make me happy, somebody who understands that that sharing *means* something... I want to walk out of here knowing that the last man who had his cock inside me was you."
Mulder inhaled audibly and answered, "Whew! You drive a hard bargain, Scully."
Suddenly, it was as if she had become aware of what she'd asked. "Is that all right, Mulder? Is that asking too much? Can you do that for me?"
He quieted her frantic questions with another smile. "I think I can handle that. I love you, and want to help you with your therapy just as much as you were willing to help with mine. Since you put it that way, I guess that here and now is as good a place as any. Care for some water sports, Agent Scully?" He took her brilliant smile as an acceptance to his invitation, and once again engaged her lips in a long kiss. When he broke for air, he whispered, "Now you feel free to let me know if you don't like something, okay? I don't want to hurt you any more than you have been."
"I know that," she said, smiling. "I also know that we may have to cross some barriers along the way. What if I need to shift gears or want you to stop what you're doing?"
He thought briefly. "Got it. We need safe words," he suggested, hoping that she wouldn't ask where he'd heard of them.
"Yeah - words that we agree you'll say when something gets to be too much for you. Words that have no emotional content at all, so we both get the message that we won't take anything personally if we get stopped short. How about two words? One to say if you need me to change my approach but keep going, and one to signal that you want us to stop completely. That should cover all our bases. I suggest that we use "Pittsburgh" to signal that I should stop what I'm doing and try something else. Is that okay?"
"Pittsburgh? I don't know why not..."
"Good. Why don't you pick a "stop now" signal word?"
She pondered that a moment. "Alcatraz."
'Yup. Alcatraz. If I'm freaked out enough to want you to stop, I'm pretty sure I could wrap my mouth around that many consonants at once."
Mulder chuckled aloud. "It sounds like we're going to San Francisco. If we find ourselves in Pittsburgh, we've taken a wrong turn somewhere, but we're still going the right direction. If we land in Alcatraz, we've gone too far. Works for me. And you?"
"Put away that road map, Corrigan. Let's get this plane off the ground before I chicken out." Once again she let her feet float, and gestured for Mulder to do the same. As soon as they floated side by side, she reached for his hand. Slowly she began to kick the water to propel them across the pool, and he followed suit. They cruised along wordlessly, hands clasped tightly, until they reached the deep end.
"Now what?" asked Mulder.
Scully righted herself and kissed him slowly. With her eyes half closed, she replied, "Race ya!", and took off splashing to the other end.
He hurried to turn and overtake his quarry, who was giggling ahead of him. He caught up to her just at the far wall, which featured a series of broad steps set into the tile. He swept her back and sat her on a step, wrapping his long arms around her small, laughing body and settling beside her. He placed a kiss on her forehead, on each of her cheeks, on the tip of her nose, and finally on her lips, which opened for him, inviting his tongue inside again. They spent a long time like this, exploring each other's mouths as if to learn their secrets and memorize the good parts for later. Eventually, reluctantly, they pulled apart, watching each other's eyes for any danger signals, of which there were none. He smoothed her wet hair away from her face and grasped the back of her neck, pulling her face in for more kissing. His thumbs stroked her ears' intricate, delicate structures, while his fingertips tenderly petted the scar left from the computer chip at her nape.
She was so involved in his kiss that it took her a moment to notice what he was doing. She broke away from his delicious mouth to complain, "Don't do that."
"What?" he began, then saw where he'd been tickling. "Oh, sorry. Is that sensitive there?"
"No, Mulder. It's just annoying to be reminded of it just now. Maybe next time you can just keep your fingers still back there."
It was Mulder's turn to look sheepish. "I'll try." He bent to kiss her again, but stopped himself. "Next time? Are you saying you think you're going to want a next time?"
"If you play your cards right," she began. Noticing the frown of worry playing about his eyebrows, she softened her tone. "Of course there's going to be a next time. I love you, and that's not going to change anytime soon. Now shut up and get down to business here!" she teased.
"Aye, aye, Captain!" he barked in reply, ducking down to place a kiss beneath her ear. He hooked his fingers under the straps of her tank suit as if to pull them down. "Can I do this? Do I see the exit to Pittsburgh?"
"Go ahead, Mulder. We're not even in Pennsylvania." He grinned and tugged her suit free from her shoulders. She obligingly lifted her arms to remove them from the nylon fabric, then eased it past her breasts on her own.
His lips found her pulse point at the side of her neck, and traced it down her throat with a line of soft kisses. He let himself slide off of the step where he sat and drifted before her, hugging her naked chest to his own. Suddenly he stood slightly and lifted her up from her step, making her voice squeak sweetly in surprise and letting her buoyancy carry her back to the next step so that she sat barely waist-deep in the water. "How's that?" he asked.
"Not bad," she replied.
"You still want me to leave those alone for now?" he checked, glancing down at the breasts he'd yearned for since he first saw them in silhouette, free of a suit jacket but with soft silk grazing their contours, long ago in the half-light and half-memory of the basement office.
"Maybe another time, okay?" she offered hesitantly.
"As soon as you're ready," he agreed. "Do you want me to go further?"
Quietly but confidently, she said, "Please?"
He slid his hands under the swimsuit that still clung to the lower half of her body, watching her eyes close and her shoulders shudder slightly at the touch of his fingertips on her rosy pink flesh. She raised herself from the step, balancing on her toes, and let him roll the suit past her smooth bottom and down to her knees, where she could kick it free. He took the dripping wet suit and draped it over the handrail at the end of the stairs, then sat on the step beneath her and looked at her comely form. She opened her eyes and watched him expectantly, licking her lips unconsciously. He reached for her head and brought it to his mouth for another tender kiss, then slowly ran his fingers over her soft belly. His hand crept down to the triangle of curly red hair, pausing frequently as he waited for any signal to stop. His middle finger shyly plunged lower, making contact with her clit. She shut her eyes tight and inhaled sharply, but slowly opened her legs, allowing him easier access to her inner darkness. He circled her clit again and again with his finger, letting himself become familiar with the feel of her body just there, and letting her become comfortable with his touch.
"I could do this all night if you wanted," he whispered.
"That would be nice," she nodded, not opening her eyes, "but I am going to need to feel your hard cock inside me tonight. Is it hard, Mulder? Is doing this to me making you hard?"
He never thought he'd hear language like that coming from his partner, but then again, he never thought he'd be doing this at all. He figured he'd play along. "Yes, Scully, touching you like this is making my cock hard. It makes me want to fuck you with my nice, hard cock, because I love you so much. Do you want me to fuck you, Scully? Would that make you come? I want to make you come, Scully. Do you want that?"
"It's been a long time since anybody has wanted to make me come. I love you, too, Mulder, and I want you to make me come. Can you do that?" she sighed, finally opening her eyes and fixing them on her partner, her friend, and her lover.
"I'll sure try, Scully." He took his hand away from her cleft and guided her to lie down on the length of the tile step. He stood and slid off the red Speedo, freeing his erect penis from the stretchy material. He waited over her, sliding his hand up and down his shaft, raising an eyebrow and asking, "May I?"
Her languorous "Yes" wound up from her, snaking into his ears and falling straight into his gut, stiffening him even further. He lay on the step with her, placing a knee between hers, which she opened for his approach. The water of the pool was cool around her body, but felt incredibly hot as it lapped at her opening. He paused, the tip of his penis quivering at her heat, and questioned her assent again with a look.
She gave him a nod and a half smile, then closed her eyes as he penetrated her for the first time. He moved to caress her body inside slowly and carefully, making the water splash sensuously against her clit. She sighed and whimpered, slowly becoming accustomed to Mulder's size and girth entering her and filling her. She didn't even seem to mind the hard tile of the step beneath her head, so intently was she focused on the motion and friction of his cock within her, making the two of them as a single shape, each pushing the other harder and harder, striving for mutual release.
His voice murmured, "I love you, Scully... I love you, Scully," with each rhythmic thrust, and he listened hard for any protest from her. Just then, her voice began as a roar deep in her throat, and her mouth made words desperate, cruel, and uncontrollable. Unearthly swearing came from her in a keening wail, though she seemed only vaguely aware that the sounds were coming from her. Her fingers became like claws, and she scratched at Mulder blindly, her nails marking his arms and chest with red lines, not quite breaking the skin. He kept pounding into her, praying that she would recall the word that would make him stop if that were what she truly wanted. All at once, her sex tightened around his, sending him past his limit and making his juices explode into her like liquid fire, and her voice caught in a series of wracking sobs as she screamed and bawled and swore, beating his chest with her fists, at first hard and fast, and then slowing and becoming soft, childish punches.
"Goddammit, Goddammit, God damn you, Mulder," she shouted. "I love you so much!" she cried finally, gripping his body to hers as her spasms stilled, and weeping softly against his muscular chest.
He was just able to ease his arms under her neck and cradle her close, rubbing her back to quiet her tears. He lay with her for as long as she needed to cry, petting her hair and purring, "Shhh... shhhh..." into her closest ear.
Eventually, she snuffled loudly and said in a very small voice, "I'm sorry, Mulder."
He cautiously sat up and gathered her close to him on the step. "Sorry for that?"
"Uh-huh," she intoned, hiccuping slightly.
He grinned and tucked her head under his chin. "Why? I think it was something you needed to get out of your system."
"I guess so."
"You didn't want me to stop, did you?"
"No." Again the very small voice.
"That's why I suggested we use safe words. You knew what you had to say to make me leave you alone if that's what you had wanted. I figured that since you didn't say it, you wanted me to keep going. Are you glad I did?"
She merely nodded, bumping her head softly against his throat and cuddling into his arms more tightly.
"Are you going to be okay? Do you think that that was what you needed?"
"Yeah, it was. I'll be okay," she muttered, not sounding like she felt very sure about it. They sat silently like that for a long time, until she coughed and sighed sadly. "I'm sorry if I hurt you, Mulder. I love you, and I didn't mean to hurt you."
"You lashed out," he soothed. "Somebody hurt you, and you needed a safe place to react to it. You were tied down when they attacked you, weren't you?"
"Yeah, I was." She straightened up to look into his concerned face. "How did you know that? I never told you about that?"
"You were fighting with your hands, like you finally were free to do so."
"Oh... I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize. It was something you needed to do. I'll bet they didn't let you talk, either, did they?"
"No. I had to shut up and take it."
"Yeah, I could tell..."
"With all the screaming and swearing and stuff, I'll bet you could!"
"Not just that," comforted Mulder. "Even the naughty pillow talk right before. I'll bet that was part of it, too. Unless you like that sort of thing..."
She smiled, embarrassed. "I don't know. I never have before, but I might decide I do. It helped for me to hear that you wanted me."
"But I thought you knew that..."
"It never hurts to hear it, Mulder. Remember that for next time."
"There's going to be a next time?"
She leaned up and kissed him firmly. "I sure hope so. How about if I cut my nails first?"
"Sounds like a good idea." He hugged her firmly, then began to climb out of the pool and search for his Speedo and a towel. "Are we going to be okay, partner?"
"Yeah... I think we are." She suddenly remembered something that seemed like it happened very long ago. "Oh, yeah. You don't have to go to Africa anymore."
"What?" He scrabbled to remember. "Oh, yeah -- something else I had forgotten about!" He rubbed his hair down with a towel. "Unless you want to get away together in a tiny tent in the rainforest..."
"No thank you!" she barked. "I think home will be just fine!"
"Yours or mine?"
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