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The Lone Hand

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"You want to tell me what happened out there?"

Diana drew back, stifling a gasp. She clutched her towel closer on reflex, but Jeffrey was facing away from her, looking out the window at the rising sun. She relaxed a little.

"You'll read it in my report, just like everyone else, Agent Spender," she said, walking to the bed with studied casualness and sitting down to put on her underwear. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of hurrying. Besides, it would give her time to regain her composure. She was still on painkillers, and she wasn't in peak form. "What are you doing in my hotel room?"

"I've been waiting for you. I'd have thought, so soon after being shot, that you'd be more careful. You didn't even turn on the light before you got in the shower."

She fastened the clasp of her bra. "I'm decent. You can turn around." She pulled on her shirt, smoothing her hand instinctively over her scar. "We were at a nuclear power plant with documented technical difficulties overnight, Agent Spender. I just wanted to be safe."

"Jeffrey. And I notice that didn't stop you from taking a four hour drive after Mulder was apprehended."

"I was restless, Jeffrey," she said, stressing his name a little. "Gunplay does that to me."

"Well, while you were off being restless, I was questioning Mulder. He says he was there trying to rescue Gibson Praise. That he was in a locked room."

"It's possible. I didn't see him. Pass my trousers?" she said, nodding to the chair beside him.

Jeffrey complied. "Mulder may be many things - deluded among them - but he isn't a liar. He likes shooting off his mouth too much. I think Gibson was there. And I think someone took him away."

Diana made a noncommittal sound and buttoned her trousers. She rose. "Coffee?"

"Sure." He followed her to the side table. She inspected the hotel cutlery critically and decided it would pass. "But you see my problem, Diana," he said, watching her. "You were out there with him. And you were gone for hours afterwards. If I put this theory of mine into my report, that makes trouble for us."

"I suppose it does." She handed him his coffee and poured her own.

He took it and drank a little. "I've done some digging. Agent Scully admitted a boy fitting Gibson's description to Phoenix Samaritan Medical Center yesterday. She was performing tests on him. Tests that weren't medically indicated. There were signs of prior brain surgery." He shook his head. "They just got back from Antarctica. Mulder paid for that out of his own funds. Their zeal worries me, Diana. They're extremists. I don't give a damn about the X Files, but their presence exposes everyone. They exploit the victims and they expose the FBI to all kinds of problems."

She considered defending Fox, but decided against it. "You're worried that they have Gibson - that I handed him over to Scully while you were with Fox."

"You and Mulder go back a few years. You can't blame me for wondering."

"I didn't," she insisted. "They don't have him. You have to trust me, Jeffrey."

Jeffrey frowned. He leaned against the windowsill, looking out. "I believe you, Diana. You took a bullet for that boy. But I feel like we're working at cross-purposes here, and that's not how I want this to pan out."

Diana's tone was conciliatory. She took his arm. "We're more alike than you think, Jeffrey. I don't want to make waves any more than you do. I want to get back to basics. Hard cases, by the book. That's how it was when Fox and I found the X Files, and that's the way I want it now."

"Is that why you took Gibson away?"

"If I took him," she said deliberately, "it was because he was at risk from people who wanted to know what was in him. People within the Bureau. And because we couldn't have kept him safe ourselves."

"You mean he was at risk from Mulder and Scully."

"You said that, not me." She looked past him, out at the horizon. "There are a lot of extremists out there, you know."

He frowned a little. "Yes, there are."

"Sometimes it's better to play a lone hand. I think you know that already."

She felt him watching her. Wondering how much she knew, probably. "I suppose."

"We can do this, Jeffrey. But we have to trust each other. We have to watch each other's backs."

Jeffrey nodded. Slow. Thoughtful. He wondered, "Does that mean I'll have your support when I have Mulder and Scully censured?"

She hesitated. She liked to stay neutral, and Fox had liked that back when they were together. She'd saved his ass a dozen times. She was good cop to his bad cop against the Bureau. She hadn't bargained on being against him.

But Jeffrey was her partner now, and she had to live with that. She had her loyalties, and Fox was among them, but sometimes you just had to play a lone hand.

She inclined her head. "Of course." She set her cup down, and his, and took his hand. "I'm glad we had this talk, Jeffrey."

"So am I, Diana." He shrugged her off and went to the door, and she wondered if she'd overstepped the mark - she was tactile, but a lot of people weren't - but he turned, and said awkwardly, "Look, why don't we make it an easy day today? Go back to bed, get a later flight out, maybe go down to purchasing when we get back to the Hoover and pick out the rest of the furniture for the office. You can pick your desk, we can order our nameplates. That kind of thing. What do you think?"

That was his version of an olive branch, she supposed. "All right. I'd like that."

"I'll call the airline." He opened the door. "Sleep well, Diana."

She followed. "Thanks." Closed it behind him.

She leaned against the door, frowning. Her stomach twinged. She touched her scar with her fingertips, wincing a little. She'd thrown in with Gibson the moment she refused to hand him over, and she'd survived her punishment for a reason. She thought now that it was so that she could do it again. The school she'd taken him to was far away, and it would keep him safe. At least for a while.

"I'm sorry, Fox," she murmured. "But sometimes you have to play a lone hand."

 

END