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You're Not Alone II

Chapter Text

Dana Scully smiled demurely as she descended the front steps of her church, the bells ringing on the crisp early-February air. 

Across the street was her partner, leaned against the side of his car. He was dressed casually, jeans and a light sweater, a comfortable pair of boots and that sexy, black leather jacket. He was giving her the little half-smile of recognition and fondness that always comforted her.

He pushed away from the car and walked toward her once her feet hit the sidewalk. She met him at the curb.

“I feel like I’m in a Molly Ringwald movie,” she said, looking up and up at him.

He smirked. “I’m no Jake Ryan.”

Of course he picked up on which one. 

She leaned around him to look at his car. “And that’s definitely not a red Porsche.”

“And I’m not wearing a sweater vest,” he grinned.

“Thank God,” Dana said, her eyes taking him in, head to waist. His coat hung open and she reached and tugged at the zipper tab. “You look better than Jake Ryan,” she flirted, shamelessly, despite the parishioners milling about.

He laughed and she smiled up at him.

“Not that I’m complaining but what are you doing here?” she asked, curious. He had never showed up at her church before. In fact, he tended to avoid churches altogether unless a case or research was involved. “Did we catch a case?” she asked.

“I thought I’d take you to lunch,” he said and she raised an eyebrow at him. 

It had been a week since they’d done anything remotely personal together, not since their walk on the National Mall. They’d had one case out of town but otherwise, he’d been giving her space to deal with the fallout of the failed IVF, which she’d appreciated, and to think about them. 

She’d missed their personal connection and now here he was, unexpectedly, his very presence delighting her and her warm, playful welcome clearly affecting him similarly.

“That’s sweet of you,” she said, “But–”

“Hello, Fox.” 

“–I’m with my mother,” she said on the tail end of her mother’s greeting.

Her partner looked a little crestfallen, but he was gracious when her mother joined them. He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek and received a kiss in return. 

“Are you here to take her away?” her mother asked and it wasn’t an accusation.

“No, I’m actually here to take her to lunch,” he said and did that smooth little stammer that people often overlooked when he added, “Both of you, if you’d like to join us.”

Dana smiled up at him. He hadn’t really wanted to invite her mother but he was, despite what people might believe, a gentleman when it came to social niceties outside of the FBI. Especially with her mother.

“That’s very sweet of you,” her mother said.

The near-echo of her words amused Dana, and Mulder, although he also looked a little nervous and she knew why when he spared a slight glance in her direction.

He thinks I told her. And he looked on the verge of blushing. She gave a little shake of her head to let him know she hadn’t and watched him relax.

“It will be my pleasure,” he told her mother. 

“It would be mine to accept, but I’m afraid I have plans,” her mother said and Dana looked over at her in question. She wasn’t aware of any plans. In fact, her mother usually tried to include her in any after-church plans. 

Now her mother cast her a little glance and she fought the urge to roll her eyes. 

And she has her matchmaker hat on today.

Dana supposed she shouldn’t complain. Her mother had at least stopped inviting her to Sunday dinners with eligible bachelors from the church – of course she hadn’t done that in years. It was a relief, too, to know that her mother continued to support Mulder’s place in Dana’s life and acknowledge that far more than a job lay between her and her partner.

“But you and Dana should go,” her mother said.

“You’re sure?” Mulder said, all politeness. Relieved politeness.

Her mother reached up and touched his cheek affectionately. “Yes, Fox,” she said then looked at Dana and repeated the gesture. “Enjoy your lunch, Dana.”

“I will, Mom.”

Dana watched her mother go then glanced up at Mulder.

“She knows,” he said. 

“She suspects,” Dana corrected. She would know if her mother really knew. “She’s suspected for years.”

Mulder almost looked dismayed. “Years?”

Dana shrugged with a smile.

“So where are we eating?”

His smile returned. 

“Lady’s choice.”

Chapter Text

“Oh God.”

The rushed, thready exhale softly pierced the Sunday afternoon quiet of Fox Mulder’s bedroom. He smiled and looked up over the flushed body of his partner. 

Sunlight fell across her body in stripes created by the window blinds. Her neck was arched, her chin thrust upward, lips parted and swollen from his kisses. She had her hands curled under her breasts. One beautiful nipple stood in the full glory of the light, the other in shadow. Her red hair was spilled across his pillow

A beautiful tableau.

Mulder swept his tongue around her clitoris and watched her body undulate in response, the gentle slope of her abdomen flexing as she pushed her hips toward his mouth. 

This was the first time he was doing this for her. He’d been thinking about it for weeks now – more so this last week, since they had crossed into lovers’ territory – and he was relishing the privilege.

Frankly, he’d been surprised when she’d suggested they eat in. His plan had been for them to eat out somewhere but he was eating her out instead, also at her suggestion. Lunch finished, he had just turned on the TV and kicked back next to her on the couch when she’d leaned over and whispered in his ear.

“Do you still want to do that something?”

He had just smiled and watched her head to the bedroom. 

“You keep me guessing,” he’d murmured as followed her, more than happy to indulge in dessert.

Since, he had been devoted to her pleasure, licking, probing, sucking, fingering. Whatever made her feel good, he wanted to do it and did.

She was stunning as she writhed in his bed. This was the first time for them here and he liked it as much he liked being in her home and her bed. The possessive part of him liked it even more. 

What he loved, though, was how she was giving herself up to the pleasure. She’d had a moment of reluctance when he’d declined to close the blinds, wanting to see her in the light. When he’d told her, she’d smiled almost shyly then she’d seductively spread herself out before him. 

That had been one of the most beautiful things he’d ever witnessed, seeing Dana Scully offer herself up to him without an ounce of timidity. But he wasn’t shocked. Reserved as she could be, she was also the boldest woman he’d ever known.

He was discovering that she was just as dauntless in her passion, if somewhat quiet in this act. 

She did not scream or yell or utter obscenities or profanities. She sighed contently instead, or gasped, or let out soft cries. When she said his name or vocalized her pleasure, the words came out on hushed, almost reverent breaths, which filled him with reverence for her.

Feeling her hand touch his, where it rested on her abdomen, he looked up to see her looking at him. He took her hand and their fingers laced. She held tight, her gaze dark and wanting.

“Close,” she whispered, then pleaded, “Don’t stop.”

He didn’t. He watched her as he drove her to the edge of the little death, la petite mort, the French called it. A brief surrender of consciousness to bliss.

Her mind was like his, overactive, making such a break in thinking rare and precious. Especially this kind of break, accompanied with pleasure and contented joy and satisfaction waiting on the other side.

He would give those to her and watched as it happened, the rise and fall of it. How her body tensed, her back arching sharply. How she shuddered and her legs shook when he continued to rub his tongue against her, drawing the pleasure out as much as possible – like a long, almost-plaintive note on a violin. He didn’t stop, as she requested, until she squeezed his hand tighter. 

Enough.

Turning his head, he pressed a kiss to her thigh before resting his cheek there. He watched her gradually come back to herself, her body slowly easing, still trembling now and again, before she fully relaxed with a satisfied sigh.

She still held his hand. His other, wet with her, was caressing her hip now. 

When she opened her eyes again, she smiled at him, a sweet, sexy smile that filled him with a similar satisfaction to what he knew she was feeling now.

“Thank you.”

It was a delicate whisper. He squeezed her fingers in reply. 

“You’re welcome.”

Chapter Text

It was rare that Dana Sully woke up gently.

Most of the time, she woke to the shrill sound of an alarm while disquieting dreams usually took care of the rest. But every now and then, she had the sheer pleasure of waking up because her body said it was time, without being required to get up right away.

Just now, she lazed in the day’s waning sunlight, her eyes on the dust particles that danced in the beams that warmed the air in Fox Mulder’s bedroom.

His mattress was incredibly comfortable and she was loathe to move. A situation that wasn’t helped by the fact his bedding had a thread-count higher than her own. The sheet thrown haphazardly across her legs felt almost like silk. It caressed her sensually when she shifted just the slightest bit beneath it.

Laying on her stomach, her arms folded beneath her head, Dana smiled. She rarely slept like that but her lover had been rubbing her back when she’d drifted off and apparently hadn’t moved.

Yes, he’s my lover now, she thought. 

It was impossible to deny considering he’d spent the better part of an hour edging her to orgasm with his mouth and fingers. She’d forgotten how good oral sex could be with a partner who liked it. And Mulder clearly liked it.

Dana put that on her mental list of things to do again, along with afternoon naps. 

God, she was so tempted to drift off again, the air in the room just warm enough to entice not stifle. It would be easy, so very easy, 

“You going to lay there the rest of the day?”

She smiled at the question, although she probably should have been startled. She hadn’t heard him in the room, making her wonder how long he’d been watching her. And from where. She didn’t turn over to look but suspected he was by the door.

“I was thinking about it,” she confessed.

“It is tempting,” he said. 

She heard his footsteps across the carpet then felt the mattress dip. A warm, masculine body sidled up behind her. She felt a pang of disappointment that he was dressed but welcomed his arm around her and the soft kiss pressed against her shoulder. 

Now she really wanted to go back to sleep. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, letting her body relax with it. Sleep dialed her up again and she was answering the call when she felt him smile against her skin.

“What?” she mumbled. 

“What would you have done today if I hadn’t showed up?” he asked. His voice was soft with a gentle rasp.

She took another deep breath and tried to answer his question. Her brain wasn’t much into thinking at the moment.

“Probably had lunch with my mother,” she sighed and rambled, “Do laundry, the usual chores. Hot bath before bed. Read a little maybe.”

He pressed another kiss to her shoulder. “The wild private life of an FBI agent.”

She snorted softly. 

“So wild,” she murmured and rubbed her cheek against the bedding beneath her. “What about you?” she asked.

She felt him shrug. “Probably fall asleep on the couch to some really bad movie.”

“You mean porn?” she smiled.

He chuckled softly. “Maybe.”

She bowed her back slightly as she stretched. A large hand settled against her lower back and pressed into the muscles there. 

“Oh, that feels good,” she breathed and rolled her shoulders forward into the mattress, stretching her upper back, too. She felt the release of tension all along her spine. 

A trail of kisses followed the path, from the back of her neck down to the small of her back. His breath was humid there. And one of his hands was sliding between her legs. She parted them and was cupped. His other hand pressed against the base of her spine again and she pressed into palm with a soft moan.

She hadn’t thought things were going this direction but apparently they were and she didn’t resist when he urged her to continue rocking her sex into his broad hand. 

It felt good and was terribly erotic. She could feel his eyes on her, although she wasn’t quite sure where he was looking. That in itself was erotic. She thought she could come from just the thought of it and then thought about her last question.

“Am I your Sunday afternoon porn?”

He massaged her pussy gently, making her moan. 

“You’re better than porn,” he whispered in the curve of her spine then dropped several kisses there. “You’re interactive.”

She laughed and thought maybe she should be offended. If it were anyone other than Mulder, she probably would have. But this was Mulder, who she probably knew better than she knew herself. And this intimacy was new for them.

She had thought about that over the week, and how much she wanted them to take their time and explore on another. To just enjoy the freedom to touch one another when they were alone and not try to force what they had into a traditional mold. She didn’t think they’d every fit into what other people deemed normal and set as relationship goals. Their lives were too different. Danger lurked around practically every corner, in some form or another. They could rarely string more than a few days together where they kept normal office hours or even a few minutes where they interacted socially with others. They had been doing better at finding downtime together, though, and now there was this. This beautiful, blissful this

“What are you thinking?”

She answered honestly. “That I’ve really missed this.”

“Sex?”

“Having a lover,” she said and roughly shoved away thoughts of the past that came out of nowhere, of the first man who had been truly that. That had been what seemed like a lifetime ago and she didn’t want to think about him or anything else. She only wanted to think about the man in bed with her now. His bed. 

His hand was doing delicious things between her legs, but it was the soft kisses across her back that were driving her desire higher. His devout gentleness as they lay in the last of the day’s sunlight was intoxicating, as alluring as sleep had been just minutes ago.

As he slipped a pair of fingers inside her, she breathed his name and told him she wanted him. 

He eased away and she turned and moved over him as he lay back. The way he looked at her made her heart flutter. A mixture of love and respectful lust beamed out from those hazel eyes. She wasn’t sure anyone had ever looked at her quite like that before.

Their first two times had been intense and grief-laden, and gut-wrenchingly beautiful. The second had started out a purely carnal endeavor on her part, a distancing from the painful emotions that had dominated the day, but he had turned that loving and she’d let him, and they’d made love slowly, tenderly. There had been the shower that following morning to curb the awkwardness, and then this afternoon, here in his bed.

Each time, he’d given her what she needed, or what they’d both needed, or what she’d requested. So far, he’d asked for nothing for himself. Nothing. And this was a man who asked the world of her in all other aspects of their lives. His demands on her time outside of work were sometimes irritating, but her trust and loyalty she gave without question, no matter what reckless path he set them on. But he’d never asked her to love him beyond what she was willing to give. 

As she sat astride him now, she saw he was waiting for her to let him know what she wanted. She adored him for it, but what she wanted wasn’t what she wanted. It was a paradox and she knew he would appreciate it, so she told him in hopes he would understand what she was saying. 

But just in case he didn’t, she bent down and whispered in his ear.

Chapter Text

Tell me what you want.

Mulder contemplated Scully’s words from earlier as he lay awake in his bed. Moonlight had replaced sunlight through the blinds, casting the room in its pale glow, accenting the blue fabric of his sheets. 

His eyes were on the wrinkled area of the bedding where she had lain much of the day, up until about an hour ago when she’d kissed him good night and went to her own home.

“I would stay,” she’d told him, “But I don’t have anything here to wear for work.”

It hadn’t been a lie, but the other half of the truth had gone unspoken: They had enemies who would happily exploit the new aspects of their relationship. Although he was beginning to wonder at the validity of the observation. Becoming lovers had not made him cherish or love her any more than he already had, and did. He would have to discuss that with her, thinking there was no reason to deny themselves the company of each other through the night, if that’s what they both wanted. 

He knew he could have asked her to stay and probably could have seduced her to do so, but he hadn’t wanted to take advantage of the power she’d given him that afternoon. 

“I trust you to take what you want and see us both satisfied,” she had told him that, too. Right after she’d stretched her arms above her head and crossed her wrists in invitation. 

He’d been right when he’d thought she might let him take her. And he had, hard and throughly after she’d assured him, “I won’t break.”

Delicately fierce is what she’d been, submissive but by no means passive. She had fucked him as hard as he’d fucked her. And it had been fucking. Passionate, loving fucking. And they’d laid side by side afterward, heads turned, looking at each other and grinning like fools.

That had been a long time coming.

He’d been afraid at first because she was so much smaller than him, but he needn’t have worried. True to her word, she hadn’t broken, but he knew she would carry bruises for a few days. He’d frowned when he saw the beginnings of them as she dressed to go. He’d apologized for getting carried away. 

She had just smiled at him. 

“I would have told you if I’d wanted you to stop,” she said then touched his shoulder where she’d bitten him. “Besides, I think I gave as good as I got,” she’d added as he winced.

He hadn’t been able to argue with that, and definitely not after he’d gotten a look at his chest in the bathroom mirror. He had more than a few hickeys. His back, what he could see of it, wasn’t unscathed either. The sting of the hot shower he’d taken after she left had confirmed it and he could feel those marks now against the fabric of his t-shirt. 

His eyes caught a glint of color in the moonlight and he reached over and touched the curling hair on the sheet. Red but not as red as that fiery mane that caught his eye no matter where they were, closer to the color it had been when they first met. 

He smiled. It wasn’t from her head. He didn’t know if made him smitten or perverted that he liked that. He was pretty sure it meant he was old-fashioned to admit he liked that she wasn’t shaven smooth. Just meticulously groomed, like the rest of her.

He left the curl where it was and reached for his phone when it rang.

Casa Mulder.”

Chapter Text

Mulder had waited until morning to call Scully, until after he’d booked flights, packed his own bag, and contacted Skinner. He’d known the case would upset her but he had not expected things to end like this

Not with Donnie Pfaster dead on her living room floor, dropped cold by sixteen rounds from her service weapon. Not with Mulder watching and standing in almost exactly the same spot he’d been in when he told her the killer had escaped from prison three days earlier. 

Scully was looking at him now, her expression wavering between awareness of her actions and confusion. She still held her gun, still had it half-aimed at where Pfaster had been standing. Her nose was bloodied, her lip was split and bleeding, her hair was mussed, a twisted strip of fabric was knotted around her neck, and a similar ragged strip hung from her left wrist – all evidence that she’d been bound and gagged at least part of the time. There were also two buttons undone on her wrinkled pajamas, which might mean something or nothing at all. 

She looked like she’d been through hell and back and was gazing at him as if just becoming consciously aware of his presence.

“Mulder.” 

Her tone wasn’t the questioning one he might have expected. Neither was her gaze as she stared at him then looked down at Pfaster, lowering her gun as she did.

Mulder watch emotions flow over the features of her face, micro-expressions changing faster than he could read. Then, slowly, so as not to startle her, he eased around the body and pooling blood to reach her side. 

She was visibly trembling and he felt the shivers coursing through her when he gently touched her hand. She surrendered her weapon to him without protest or question then fixed him with a haunted gaze.

“You’re trembling,” he said softly.

“Shock,” she diagnosed and he watched her a cracked version of her clinical mask settle into place. “I need to stay warm,” she added.

Mulder turned to go down the hall to her bedroom for a blanket but she stopped him. 

“It’s a crime scene,” she said so matter-of-factly that a chill went down his spine. Remembering the buttons on her top, he wondered if–

“He didn’t,” she said and shook her head, anticipating his thoughts. She turned then and went over to the sofa. He set her gun on the end table, followed her, and helped her wrap a pale yellow blanket around her shoulders.

“You should call the police,” she directed as she sat on the couch.

And Skinner. And the U.S. Marshals. 

Mulder did all those things from his cell phone while watching her just sit and stare at nothing. 

“I have a suspect down and a federal agent injured,” he said into the phone after giving his name and badge number. When they asked if paramedics were needed, he told them to send them instead of angrily reminding them that an agent had been hurt. He knew Scully might not consent to an exam but Mulder wanted them present regardless.

The police and marshals arrived within fifteen minutes, Skinner a few minutes later. 

“What the hell happened?” their boss asked, scowling around the disheveled state of Scully’s usually immaculate apartment. “Where’s Agent Scully?”

“She’s being checked out by the paramedics,” Mulder told him. “As for what happened … Donald Addie Pfaster. He was waiting for her when she got home.”

“You shoot him?” Skinner asked, looking over the body.

“She did,” Mulder answered and watched Skinner fume.

“How is she?”

“She’s Scully.” It was the only answer Mulder ever had for that question when others near, which is why Skinner just stared at him to try to divine what Mulder wasn’t saying. After a moment, the man sighed.

“I’ll arrange for a hotel. They’ll be processing through the morning.”

“Through tomorrow,” Mulder corrected, remembering what he’d seen in her bedroom and bathroom. He took Skinner back to let him see. Might as well since he’d see the photos sooner or later.

“Jesus,” Skinner said surveying the room from the doorway. He’d only looked at the bathroom in disgust but the state of her bedroom earned a dark, deep scowl.

Side table toppled, bedcovers rumpled, some of her clothing from earlier a wadded mess by the closet door. A broken lamp, a metal-frame bookshelf bent and leaning halfway to the floor, its contents smashed and scattered across the bedroom. Shards of mirror everywhere, the frame that once held it hanging at a slant, a few jagged pieces of the silver-backed glass looming over the room like a malevolent, snaggletoothed grin. 

Scully told the cops Pfaster slammed her into it several times, which meant the man had picked her up to do it. She had fought the bastard tooth-and-nail.

“She wasn’t going down without a fight.”

Mulder turned to see the marshal who’d worked with them in Illinois. He was scanning the room, too.

“She’s a trained FBI agent,” Skinner said in response and sounded almost affronted. He turned and squared up beside the marshal, “And just where were your people in all this?”

Before the marshal could answer, Mulder saw Scully at the end of the short hallway, blanket draped around her torso. It bothered him that she’d come back. He’d hoped she’d stay in the ambulance until he came to get her or at least until they moved Pfaster’s body out of her living room. She’d had to pass by the corpse to get to where she was standing.

With an inward sigh, Mulder joined her and noted that the paramedics had cleaned up the cut on her lip and the blood from around her nose. Or they’d given her the means to do it herself.

“I’m fine,” she said when he reached her.

Before he could question that assertion, their boss approached them.

“Agent Scully?” 

Scully met Skinner’s concerned gaze while the marshal squeezed past Mulder on the other side.

“Sir,” she said, her voice as strong as Mulder had ever heard it. Her armor was intact and in place, and he knew it wasn’t going to be shed so long as they were here.

“Are you all right?” Skinner asked.

“Yes, sir,” she said, but Mulder noted she pulled the blanket fractionally tighter around her. 

Skinner didn’t look like he believed her but he kept to business. Anyone who worked with Scully for long, knew that’s how she wanted it – until she let you know otherwise. The first time Mulder remembered that happening was in the motel in Oregon on their first case. The second had been after Pfaster kidnapped her the first time. Not even after her abduction had she allowed that armor to slip.

When Skinner mentioned hotel arrangements to her, Mulder watched her reaction, to see if it was something she wanted, or if she wanted to go elsewhere – her mother’s home or even his place. He didn’t care where, frankly, so long as she was safe.

She accepted Skinner’s offer with a polite “thank you” then glanced at Mulder to make sure he understood. He did. A strange place might be better for what was coming.

Skinner gave a curt nod then began dialing his phone with an equally polite “Excuse me, agents.” As he moved out of earshot, Scully spoke softly. 

“I can’t go to your place, Mulder. I don’t want to take this to your home.”

Mulder nodded. 

“I know.”

Chapter Text

I won’t break.

Dana Scully’s words from days ago again echoed through Fox Mulder’s mind as he watched her slowly remove her pajama top and reveal her back.

She was standing in the hotel bathroom and he was just outside it. He didn’t mean to spy but when she’d been in the room with the intention of showering for five minutes and he hadn’t heard the water start, he’d grown worried. Now he was looking and…

Jesus, Scully.

Broad red areas marred her pale skin and were clearly going to be bruises within days, possibly hours. The fingertip bruises he’d left on her hips after a round of enthusiastic sex had been nothing compared to what was going to show up across her shoulder blades and ribs and flanks.

If Pfaster wasn’t already dead…

“How bad?”

Mulder met her gaze in the mirror. Her clear blue eyes were resigned. 

“Do you have anything for pain in your bag?” he asked by way of answer.

“Yes,” she said. “And the shower will help.”

He paused a moment then asked tentatively, “Do you want me to run the water?”

She shook her head. “I’ve got it.”

He nodded and decided to make himself useful and give her a little privacy. 

“I’ll get some ice,” he announced.

He heard the water turn on before he stepped out into the hall, ice bucket in hand. He sighed in frustration when he looked left and right for signage pointing him to the vending room and saw nothing. Since they hadn’t passed one on the way to the room, he went the opposite direction from where they entered and eventually found the machine at the far end of the hall. The damned thing was around a corner and he’d only found it because the compressor on the machine came on. He scowled at the useless signage for the room; it mounted flush on the wall and only visible when looking when looking straight at it.

He hated big hotels. They cost more and they weren’t exactly visitor friendly when it came to ordinary things, like finding damned ice machines. His mother would be shocked to know how much he preferred the little hotels he and Scully stayed in when out in the field. There was no hide-and-go-seek to find the ice or elevators and so long as the rooms were clean, he could live with shabby. Scully rarely complained about it so he assumed he she was okay with them, too.

Of course, she rarely complained about anything, even after nearly dying at the hands of a psychopath. Not once had her guard dropped in front of the crime scene crew or detectives. She hadn’t raised her voice, thrown things, or run way screaming into the night.

But something had to give soon. She needed to cry. She needed to scream or do something, anything, to let out what he knew she had to be bottling up. But with Scully, he figured exhaustion would force her hand before anything else and her subconscious would do the rest when she finally slept.

Mulder just hoped she wouldn’t push him away when hit happened, especially after his less-than-supportive reaction to her declaring Pfaster evil and worry that something other than her god had her guided her to pull the trigger. 

Her faith was an aspect of her that he both accepted and mocked, and all too often he forgot to tread sensitively around the subject. He didn’t think she needed him to believe what she believed in religious terms, but that he needed him to believe her. She deserved at least that from him, especially now.

With another sigh, Mulder dipped the scoop into the ice and began filling the bucket.

Chapter Text

A wave of nausea struck as Dana watched water fill the hotel tub. Her traitorous mind steadily supplied unwanted images of the sacrificial altar her own bathroom had become just hours ago.

Donnie Pfaster. He had been pure evil. Mulder might be skeptical of the nature of evil and its ability to take residence in a person, for that person to embody it but she knew. She’d seen what inhabited Pfaster’s soul and she’d ended that evil in a hail of bullets.

She still did not know if she acted under the guiding hand of God, something darker, or her own desire for vengeance. She knew she had fought for her life but that her life had no longer been in danger when she’d killed him. Mulder had been there, with Pfaster in his sights and a hand on his shoulder. He would have shot Pfaster himself if it had been required but she’d shot anyway.

The way Pfaster had looked at her there at the end, his eyes cold and empty of all but malevolent glee…

The would have killed again and again and again and again but Dana didn’t remember deciding to kill him. She didn’t reminder choosing to pull the trigger. She didn’t remember her finger curling around the smooth metal. Hell, she’d been only peripherally aware of Mulder being there until after it was over. Everything around her had been a blur, only Pfaster in focus.

Dana suspected Mulder was as shocked by her actions as she was. Maybe even more so. But he had shielded her with his statement, telling the detectives that she’d had no choice. She wasn’t so sure of that and hated that he’d possibly lied and would uphold that lie on his report to make sure she felt no further ramifications, at least not legally, from Pfaster’s second intrusion into her life.

As for the rest of it, she would have to live with it and she was grieved that she would once again have to reclaim her home from violence and death. A clean-up crew would take care of the surface mess and she could replace things that were broken and get rid of things that reminded her of those moments of rage and terror. What couldn’t be so easily done was the invisible damages inflicted on her soul. The unseen troubled her now and she knew it would take time to square things away but she wanted to start by washing Pfaster off her.

Except that she couldn’t move as the images continued. All she could do was watch the water rise in the tub and fight her rising gorge.

It was only when water hit her feet that she came out of her stupor. The tub was overflowing and Mulder was with her. He was shutting off the faucet and pulling the drain. And he was saying something. Maybe her name.

She looked at him and saw his worry. His mouth was moving. She thought she heard him but he sounded far away. But that was wrong. He was touching her. She could feel his hands on her shoulders and then her face. 

He looked worried. No frightened. 

She tried to shake her head but he was holding it. She focused on his eyes and found herself.

“Dana? Dana?”

His voice was thick with the worry she saw.

“I’m okay,” she said. “I’m okay.”

She was damned sure she wasn’t but she said it for his comfort not her own. Then she turned and vomited into the toilet.

Chapter Text

Hearing his partner audibly wince, Fox Mulder reached for her hips and gently guided her down into the tub. 

She’d scared the hell out of him when he’d returned from getting ice and found her in a fugue state and water spilling over the side of the tub. Post-traumatic stress response had been his immediate diagnosis but he hadn’t patted himself on the back for it; a baboon with internet access could have made the same one. 

For the first thirty-seconds or so, though, he’d been afraid she might collapse but true to Scully form, she’d found her way back and immediately sought to reassure him. Mulder would have laughed had he found any humor in the moment. She was the one who’d been been terrorized in her own home and yet it had been her worry for him that brought her to the surface, the need to fix him more important that fixing herself.

He could have shaken her until her teeth rattled for doing that and yet he knew he’d been letting her do it for years. She always put him first and the few times she hadn’t, he’d been confused and pouted. 

I’m an unmitigated dick. 

It was an observation long overdue and yet it fell to the wayside as he got a closer look at her back. Pfaster deserved to burn for an eternity in her god’s hell.

She winced yet again and her arms threatened to buckle when the water hit her back. That level of sensitivity concerned him. He voiced it.

“I pulled a few muscles,” she said. “I’m okay.”

She was not okay. They both knew it, but he let her have the lie as he helped her settle down between his legs. When she didn’t immediately lean back with him, he wondered what she wanted him to do, if anything.

He was actually surprised she wanted to bathe and not shower, as she’d originally planned. After seeing her bathroom, he wasn’t sure he’d ever want to sit in a tub again, much less her. But here they were, the room silent except for the sound of water lapping at the basin and an irregular drip from the faucet.

He saw before he heard the first of her soft sobs. She wrapped her arms around her knees and bowed her head. Then her entire torso began to shake. She barely made a sound and he questioned his usefulness when she curled her body tighter, making herself even smaller than she already was.

Then he remembered a similar moment in his living room not so long ago. 

Gripping the side of the tub, Mulder pulled himself closer to her, erasing the distance between their bodies then slowly wrapped his arms around her. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t do anything but just hold her gently, loosely, afraid he might hurt her if he held her as tight as he wanted.

He just let her cry until she put herself back together.

Then he helped her bathe.

Chapter Text

Dana Scully’s mind drifted into that place where thought is dream, untethered from reality and independent of sleep. It’s an unfocused plane that is neither light nor dark, neither loud nor quiet. It was a place to exist. To just be.

She had never visited there out of choice. Exhaustion took her there from time to time but it was usually coupled with a stressor, a trauma to the body or spirit. Or in this case, both.

“The water’s getting cold.”

The words were murmured against her ear and she stirred against the man who spoke them. His body was warm and solid against her aching back but the water around them was cool.

We should get out, she thought as her mind returned to the world without any particular enthusiasm. 

“Okay,” she said and with his help, she was able to get to her feet and step out of the tub. She thanked him by rote when he handed her a towel. She wrapped it around herself and padded into the other room, aware with every step of where exactly her body had been worst abused.

When she sat on the side of the bed, she knew she wasn’t going to be able to sit much longer without taking something. And if she was going to take something, she needed to eat.

“Can you order us something?” she asked when Mulder came out of the bathroom, towel slung around his hips. Her mind drifted a moment, registering the muscled length of his torso and the arms that had held her so gently for however long they had been in the tub.

He was perfectly built. And perfectly compliant to her wishes, ordering up soup and toast and tea.

They were in the middle of eating quietly when someone called Dana’s cell. 

Mulder wiped his mouth with a napkin and retrieved the phone from the dresser. 

“It’s your mother,” he said looking at the screen and her stomach sank like a stone.

“I forgot to call her,” she said, suddenly felt sick again. She set aside her fork and took the phone from Mulder. “She probably saw the news.”

“That’d be my guess,” Mulder said.

Dana accepted the call and immediately told her mother that she was okay and not in the hospital. 

“I have some bumps and bruises, but I’m okay,” she told her mother then spent another fifteen minutes reiterating that before telling her where she was and that Mulder was with her.

“You should come stay with me,” her mother said.

Dana declined for the same reason she hadn’t gone to Mulder’s apartment. The ugliness of Donnie Pfaster was going to shadow only one home and it would be hers, not those of the people she loved. She was absolutely exhausted by the time she soothed her mother enough to end the call.

She set the phone on the dresser again and trudged over to sit on the side of the bed nearest the bathroom. She watched Mulder clean up their food then get something out of his bag. He joined her then, sitting on the other bed, just across from her.

“Lose the robe,” he said as he held up a little jar of natural balm and explained, “I use it for muscle pulls and cramps.”

“My lucky day,” she said and only meant it half in jest. She was lucky, blessed, or something. This day could have ended a dozen different ways, few of them good, but here she was, alive if battered, and in the company of her partner.

Mulder’s smile was understanding and he watched her quietly as she unbelted her robe then slowly shrugged it off her shoulders. She stood and let it drop to the floor. 

He was a red-blooded male, he looked at everything but he didn’t say or do anything that could be construed as sexually motivated when after she lay down, he moved to sit beside her. She was touched when he just picked up the robe and draped it across her behind and legs then began applying the liniment to her back. 

She was sore and his caresses revealed exactly where and how badly. She was glad she’d taken the ibuprofen earlier and wished she had a heating pad. If she mentioned it, she knew he would go out and get one, but he predicted her needs anyway. Once he was done applying the salve, he went to wash his hands and returned with several hot, damp cloths and laid them across her back.

“Thank you,” she said, meeting his gaze when he sat on the opposite bed again.

His eyes were gentle and assessing. “You should try to sleep.”

She should but her brain wasn’t ready yet. A glance at the clock pegged it at three o’clock in the afternoon. She had been up about thirty-six hours. 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

She looked at her partner again. Not really, but there was something she wanted to say to him.

“I’m sorry you had to cover for me.”

He frowned. “I didn’t cover for you, Scully. Everything I said was the truth and all they needed to hear. The rest is between you and me.”

She considered adding God into the mix but decided that would probably net her a tolerant  look. Religion was rarely a safe topic for anyone. For them, it was the one place they had yet to meet. He would believe in most anything without evidence but wanted proof of God’s existence before believing. She accepted God’s existence on faith but wanted proof of everything else. Surprisingly, it was a balance that had served them well over the years in their work, and she would truly worry if they ever stopped butting heads and challenging one another.

On a personal level, it wasn’t something they focused on overly long, at least not in terms of her faith. She had never asked him to take up her beliefs, but he had continually lobbied her to become a believer in the paranormal and unexplained.

Over the years, she had come to believe in many things that her younger self could never have imagined. She had been woefully naive but her eyes had been opened. The discoveries had changed her and affected her faith, leaving her with questions no priest could answer and answers no priest would believe. 

Reconciling her faith with the things she witnessed and experienced was not always easy, but she was certain of one thing as she lay now looking at her partner, his hazel eyes watching her with curiosity, God had been sending her signs in regards to this last case. She didn’t know if those signs had been meant as a warning to stay away from it or of what was coming. She still did not know if God had ultimately guided her hand in taking Donnie Pfaster’s life, or if was something within herself, but she wasn’t sorry he was dead.

“I need to go to confession,” she said, feeling the need as she processed the latter.

Mulder eyed her carefully. “Do you believe you need absolution?”

She would have shrugged had she been sitting up.

“I don’t know,” she said honestly, “But I killed a man in my home today, Mulder, and I don’t know if I can tell my priest with any confidence that I didn’t execute him. I don’t know what to tell myself.”

“You tell yourself the truth, Scully,” he said softly but emphatically. “Pfaster broke into your home with the sole intent of killing you. You weren’t wrong to defend yourself.”

“Can you say for certain that I was defending myself when I actually pulled the trigger?” she asked.

“After everything that has been taken from you, Scully, I would say God owes you this one, however you see it,” Mulder said. 

Dana loved him for thinking that way, for saying it. “It doesn’t really work like that,” she said with the hint of a smile and tears. “But thank you.”

He moved then and knelt at her bedside. She watched his face when he gently smoothed her hair back from her brow. His expression was tender and so were his eyes.

“Whatever you believe, Scully,” he spoke low and soft, “I believe you did what was right.”

She frowned. “How do you know, Mulder?” she asked quietly.

His expression softened further and he looked at her with undisguised love. He smiled gently.

“Because you always do.”

Chapter Text

She was soft under him, body moving slowly with his, in defiance of the soreness of her back.

She was hot and wet around his cock, clenching and releasing, a silky grasp that felt so good he could barely breathe. But he was breathing and she was breathing in soft pants in the space between them.

She had asked for this after waking from a nightmare. He’d been dozing on the other bed when she’d bolted up from hers, breathing labored, eyes wide and wild, and a sob in her throat. He’d closed the distance to her and sat next to her on the bed. That had almost been a mistake as she took a swing at him that he barely managed to deflect. But she stilled when he said her name.

“Scully, it’s me,” he’d said.

“Mulder,” she’d replied then collapsed against him, much like she had after her first encounter with Donnie Pfaster. She’d cried softly for a few minutes then excused herself to the bathroom.

When she’d returned, she told him she wanted to make love.

So they were making love. 

Her eyes were open and on his. The fear of earlier was gone and in its place was desire and affection. Her hands were moving randomly from caressing his face to his bare chest, sometimes his back, but always coming back to stroke his cheeks or brow. Almost as if she were reassuring herself it was him.

“It’s me,” he repeated his words from earlier when she ran a thumb across his bottom lip.

Her eyes flickered with recognition and affection.

“I know.”

Her hand moved to the back of his head and drew him down. She kissed him gently and he stilled to enjoy the soft, slow caresses of her lips, each one longer than the next. Loving and almost sweet, no sign of grief or fear. Even passion was at bay. He felt only love in these kisses and lost himself in them, swept up in his mirroring love for her.

This is Dana again, he thought. This is the woman she hides from the world. The woman she has hidden from me, too. 

Dana was as equally passionate as her daytime self but was also tender and quietly expressive. She was the softer side of the strong, driven, power-suited doctor and FBI agent who stood toe to toe with arrogant men who regarded her with disdain and psychopaths bent on taking her life.

I won’t break, he remembered her words, spoken days ago under far different circumstances, for very different reasons, but they were no less true an assessment of her inner strength.

Pfaster had battered her body. He had fucked with her mind. But he hadn’t broken her spirit or corrupted her heart. He hadn’t touched her soul. That remained pure. 

Maybe her God had directed her hand.

With a whisper of his name, she eased her mouth from his and stared up at him. 

“Where did you go?”

He looked at her in confusion.

“You left me there for a second,” she said, smiling a little, both thumbs now tracing the line of his mouth. 

A smile emerged in the wake of her touch. He hadn’t realized his thoughts had affected how he was kissing her, but apparently they had.

“Sorry,” he said in apology and let his eyes move over her. The light from the lamp on the nightstand made her skin seem almost golden and highlighted the angles, curves, and planes of her face; the dusting of freckles. Her sensual lips were swollen and wet from kissing.

He held her gaze and began moving again, with deliberation, plumbing her depths with his length, not stopping until his hips were firmly locked against hers. 

She let out a soft sound and sucked in her bottom lip.

“Hurt?” he asked, easing the pressure.

She shook her head. “Just … full.”

He tried not to let that go to his head but he didn’t have much luck – what man wouldn’t love to hear that? – as his smile no doubt turned stupid, like it always did when she said things like that. He wondered how much of that reflex had to do with his rather limited, in-person experience with the opposite sex.

Of course, she laughed at him. Then she drew him back down into a kiss, whispered teasingly against his lips, “You jerk.”

He agreed and gently eased his arm beneath her head, until her his forearm cradled the back of her neck. He began a slow, steady rhythm then, eyes locked on hers. His other hand reached under and palmed her ass, pulling her into his thrusts. 

“Oh,” she let out rather inarticulately and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

She moved with him, dusky blue eyes locked on his. Her breasts were concealed beneath his t-shirt, which she wore to keep the liniment from the sheets, but he could still feel her hard nipples. Her breaths came faster as they moved faster. His own respiration kept pace. The feel of her sex clenching the length of his cock was so perfect that he almost forgot to breathe altogether. But he remembered when she somehow leveraged her slight frame and rolled them until he was under her. 

He watched her sit up and looked for any sign of pain or discomfort in her features, fearing the move might have hurt her back. But he saw none and when she began to ride him, he did not ask. Instead, he grasped her hips and thrust up into her. 

“Oh God … Mulder,” she gasped rather loudly and he felt stupidly proud of himself for having drawn that from her. He wanted her to do it again but surrendered control to her when she touched his hands with a gentleness that sat in direct contrast to the lust surging within him.

She laced their fingers and brought their hands to rest against her thighs.

“Let me,” she breathed then closed her eyes and tilted her head back.

He watched her in awe as her body moved above his in a leisurely, erotic dance. Every move she made was echoed inside her, around him … inside him. He rose when she rose, fell when she fell.

“That’s it,” she praised and he felt like he’d been given a box of gold stars for attendance. 

Her fingers tightened around his then slowly drew his hands up to her breasts. He squeezed them at her direction. He welcomed the feel of her palms cradling the backs of his then smoothing down his forearms and back up. Her thumbs aligned with his and they stroked her nipples in tandem through the soft cotton covering them.

She was making him her partner in her pleasure – and his own, he realized when she guided one of his hands down between her thighs to grasp the base of his cock. His dick jerked at the unexpected contact, at the feel of her hand tight around his, encouraging him to pump his shaft. And he couldn’t see anything because of the tail of his shirt had bunched around her waist and draped down just enough to block his view. Something about that was…

Oh fuck, that was going to do him in, feeling but not seeing. He was going to come, hard and fast. In desperation, he looked up at her and saw her watching him with hooded eyes and a seductive smile.

“It’s okay,” she said on a breath and that was all the permission he needed.

Chapter Text

“How did you know?”

Mulder turned his attention from the flickering images of an old movie playing on the television to the woman laying with her head in his lap. He was leaned against the headboard, pillows behind back while she lay crosswise on the bed, still wearing his t-shirt.

He had been waiting for that question as he gently drew his fingers through her hair, which he had been doing for the last hour. She was wearing it shorter these days and less harshly styled. He liked the sleek softness of in its unadulterated state.

“I was setting my alarm,” he said softly, gently brushing his fingers from her temple to across her cheek. “And I heard that song.”

As he’d expected, she shifted and turned her head to look up at him.

“You heard it?”

He nodded then confessed what he didn’t really want to, knowing it made him seem like a jerk, especially considering what happened, both out in the field and in her home.

“I tried to write it off as coincidence again,” he said, his hand stilling as he gently cupped her chin and brushed his thumb across her lips, “But when I called and you didn’t answer and I didn’t get the machine…,” his voice drifted off but he resumed, stronger, “I checked mine and had a message from the marshal. He said Pfaster had been upset that the call girl didn’t have natural red hair.”

Mulder watched her eyes drift shut and emotions flit across her face. He had trouble reading them from the angle and without her eyes for cue, but he’d known it would bother her that he hadn’t believed right away, that it had taken the marshal’s message to spur him to action. He said nothing and hoped to hell she wouldn’t get up and leave the bed, or the room, or him.

She did none of those things, though, but he wouldn’t deny that it hurt when she looked back toward the TV – but probably a whole lot less than his confession had hurt her. 

For several minutes the mood in the room was tense and so was she and he just rested his hand on her upper arm, rubbing his thumb there, along the curve of her shoulder. Then, just as suddenly as she’d tensed, she relaxed and reached a hand to him. He took it without hesitation.

“Thank you for coming,” she said with a squeeze to his fingers.

Forgiveness. Always forgiveness. He didn’t deserve her.

“Come up here,” he said softly and helped her move up and astride him.

He took her face in his hands. “I should have come sooner, Scully.”

She shook her head, her expression almost anguished when she scolded him, “Don’t do that. Just don’t.”

He tried to swallow the swell of guilt he felt when she pressed a gentle kiss to his brow. “We are who we are, Mulder,” she whispered against his skin. “I wouldn’t change that for the world.”

“None of it?” he asked, when she leaned her brow against his.

She gave a soft little laugh. “Maybe some negative tendencies we both have, but no, I wouldn’t fundamentally change you or me, or who we are to each other.”

Blue eyes met his then, guileless and filled with the affectionate fondness.

“I love you,” she said and his heart skipped a beat. It was the first time she’d said the words. It wasn’t a declaration of passionate or romantic love but it was delivered in true Scully fashion, as a statement of fact. 

She loved him. He loved her. Empirical truths that neither of them could escape. That neither them apparently wanted to escape.

“I love you,” he told her and watched her smile.

Then slowly, she leaned her body against his and laid her head on his shoulder.

“You’ll stay tonight?” she asked softly and he remembered the first time she’d said those particular words. His response was the same now as then.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

Chapter Text

Karen Kosseff watched the woman across from her with compassion. 

Dana Scully was one of the strongest, most put-together people she’d ever met. She didn’t visit often, but when she did, she was usually profoundly troubled or had been through something terrible. The latter seemed to happen all too often to this young woman and her partner and it was the reason she was present today. 

Dana had shot and killed a man a little over a day ago, an escaped prisoner, a serial killer who had broken into her apartment with the intention of killing her. As Dana recounted details about the killer and the events of the case that led up to the attack, the hairs on the back of Karen’s neck raised. Her stomach plummeted when Dana said it was the second time she’d been brutalized by the man – the first having been just after Dana’s first visit with Karen nearly five years earlier.

The new information gave Karen a different perspective on that earlier discussion and Dana’s disquiet then. The agent had withheld the details that had frightened her, but not this time. 

They were harrowing and Karen was struck by the strength of body and mind Dana possessed to have survived such an encounter without obvious physical injury beyond the small cut in her lip and make-up covered bruise to her cheek. The physical injuries were elsewhere Karen concluded, seeing Dana wince briefly when she shifted in the chair. The psychological ones Karen had yet to gauge.

While it was not uncommon for agents to experience regret over taking a life in the line of duty, even if the deceased was guilty of truly heinous crimes, Dana didn’t seem troubled about having ended Donnie Pfaster’s life. That might be a temporary situation, or it might not; time would tell.

For now, Karen was trying to determine what was troubling the agent. The meeting was mandated by FBI regulations after an agent-involved shooting of any sort, but Dana didn’t have the demeanor of an agent present solely out of obligation. There was maybe something else on her mind.

Karen tried a question to see if it would jog something loose.

“Do you blame Agent Mulder?” 

Dana had expressed several minutes earlier that her partner had been reticent to accept her premonitions regarding the killer, and even his own experiences. It was clearly not a description Dana used lightly – she seemed confused by her own definition – and although she had not made an accusation against her partner, there was something she wasn’t saying about him.

“No,” Dana replied with a slight tilt of her head, which Karen had learned to interpret as a sign of bewilderment. “If anything, Mulder’s timing is probably what saved my life.”

She has already assessed that, Karen realized. And her partner’s hesitation has already been forgiven, assuming she’d ever truly felt betrayed at any point. 

Where her partner was concerned, Dana played things very close to the vest. She would reveal only what she felt she needed to or what she was comfortable sharing, and absolutely no more. Her protectiveness was well beyond what she usually saw between partners and Karen would worry about it if Dana weren’t so well-adjusted in every other respect.

Though Karen had never counseled Agent Mulder, she knew from talking with Dana and from witnessing their interactions from time to time, that the partners had a particularly close relationship. Considering the work they did, Karen was not surprised. She had assisted them on one case and witnessed enough to know that they handled things far outside anything the average FBI agent would be comfortable with.

Agent Mulder’s interests in the paranormal and unexplained were well known and he operated under a cloud of Bureau ridicule. Dana operated under the same cloud but her interests remained something of a mystery, as did the reasons for her unswerving loyalty to a man most in the Bureau considered something of a joke. 

Rumors certainly abounded about the pair, including some rather lurid explanations for the partners’ closeness, but Karen put no stock in them. What Karen saw in her interactions with Dana indicated a deep trust and respect for her partner. Yes, there was affection, but nothing sordid. 

But Karen noted something different today: Dana had referred to her partner by his surname only. She had never done that before with her, making Karen wonder if things had changed between them in some way. They had been together nearly seven years, longer than most Bureau partnerships, and it wasn’t impossible that they’d grown apart. It happened, the stresses of the job eventually taking their toll on even the best of pairings.

“Dana, how are things between you and your partner?” Karen asked, after seeing Dana suddenly frown.

To her surprise, Dana seemed to startle at the inquiry. She shouldn’t have; the question was a routine one in a counseling session and a required one after what Dana had shared today. She wasn’t surprised, however, when the agent quickly schooled her features and began an assessment of Karen herself. It was a common response of field agents, who are both inquisitive and suspicious by nature.

Consequently, Karen knew how to react. She kept her expression placid but did not hide her concern, and patiently gave the agent time to formulate a response.

Chapter Text

Dana Scully was exposed and she knew it.

She had not been prepared for that question and she should have been. It was standard and she should have had an answer. She did have one. She always had one, but her mind had drifted after the counselor’s last question to memories of a vivid nightmare she’d had in the early morning hours.

She’d been assailed by images of being trapped in her closet. Of peering under the door to see Mulder laying in a pool of blood on her living room floor. Of his dead eyes looking directly at her. Of Donnie Pfaster standing over him with her gun and a kitchen knife. Of the closet door being snatched opened. Of looking up into the face of evil and holding her arms against her abdomen protectively, hoping to conceal the budding life there.

This morning, the dream had ripped a shout from her throat and had her surging out of bed. Only Mulder’s arms had kept her from clambering across the room for her backup gun. Only his voice had drawn her back from the brink of panic and rage. She had cursed her subconscious for adding that fuel to the fire of Mulder’s phantom death and cried silently for hours afterward before sharing the content of her dreams with him.

With some distance from the dream, it wasn’t nearly as distressing but she knew she’d given something away to Karen Kosseff in those few unguarded moments. It made her nostalgic for the shadows of the confessional.

“We’re fine,” Dana said after a moment.

Karen accepted the answer but she sat expectantly, clearly waiting for more of an answer. Dana understood why – problems between partners put people in danger in the field – but she really wished the counselor would let it go.

Looking way from the woman, Dana slowly began sharing some details of her dream and how she believed the timing of Mulder’s arrival had been the best possible moment to get there.

“Any sooner or any later and the outcome could have been dramatically different,” she said.

The counselor’s expression indicated acceptance of her explanation but her next question again caught Dana off-guard again, making her realize that her subconscious had betrayed her once more. Her hands were currently laid protectively over her womb; there were very few ways to interpret that.

“You were pregnant in the dream?”

“Yes,” Dana answered as she moved her hands to her lap and clasped them. “Although I don’t know why I would dream that.”

Well, she did, sort of. She had at one point last night very briefly wondered what might have happened had she been pregnant, considering that she could have lost a child in the violence of the attack.

“There’s no chance you are?” Karen asked.

“No,” Dana said solemnly and weighed whether or not to say more. She had never discussed her inability to have children with a counselor. Her doctors knew only what they needed to know. Her mother knew some things but Dana had not told her about the IVF. Only Mulder knew everything and yet he was involved, and they were involved. He was a great source of strength, as always, to the point that she had never really felt a need to seek professional counseling. She didn’t really feel she needed it now but she could not discount the therapeutic benefit of validation from an outside source.

Karen Kosseff had been an invaluable sounding board in the past. She knew as much as anyone about Dana’s personal and professional concerns and fears, and it would not be difficult to open up to her again, even about this particular heartbreak. 

So Dana did.

“When I first talked with you five years ago, you said that my file mentioned I had been very sick,” she began. “But what my file won’t tell you is what happened to make me sick.”

Chapter Text

Karen was stunned at what Dana was telling her. 

Abducted and missing for months. Subjected to medical experimentation without consent. Experiments that gave her cancer, subsequently cured by an implant, and robbed her of her ability to have children. Her sister murdered in her own home by a bullet meant for her. Finding a daughter that she did not give birth to only to see her die days later, just a little over a year ago.

And that was only part of the story. 

Dana had told her she would withhold some details. “For your safety,” the agent had prefaced her tale.

For a moment, Karen considered the possibility that Dana had descended into clinical paranoia. The story she was telling could certainly be interpreted as that, but this particular agent was more than an FBI agent; she a doctor and forensic pathologist. The medicine was verifiable even if the other was not.

“I know it sounds like paranoid ramblings,” Dana said then as if reading Karen’s mind. “You would be well within your rights to question my sanity, but documentation exists, in my personal medical records and in the X-Files.”

Karen studied the agent who was staring at her hands, clasped in her lap once more. The young woman swallowed and nervously licked her lips as she blinked back the moisture pooling in her gaze.

She’s awaiting judgement, Karen thought. And she’s afraid of what it might be.

But she needn’t be as far as Karen was concerned. The events she’d relayed were both extraordinary and terrifying but Karen could not in good conscious declare Dana Scully mentally unfit. The agent’s demeanor was as candid as it always had been with no signs of paranoia or out of the expected range of anxiety. She offered only direct, clinical honesty through a mist of tears.

“I had a brief ray of hope,” the agent continued unexpectedly and Karen watched her swallow visibly again. She looked up and met Karen’s gaze. “My ova were recovered. And my doctors said there was a chance. So I tried in-vitro fertilization.”

Oh no.

“But it didn’t take,” Karen said.

“No,” Dana said softly with a slight shake of her head. “It was my last chance.”

In her years as a counselor, Karen had seen plenty of heartache and tragedy. She had seen people at their absolutely worst. She had witnessed the gamut of human emotions on display. But she had never heard a more forlorn uttering of five words.

It was my last chance.

As the words replayed in her mind, Karen was struck with the realization that this wound was fresh, not a years’ old one.

“This was recently?” Karen asked.

“Last month,” Dana said, her voice a little stronger. “I hadn’t really wanted to accept that I would never had children. I knew the medical reason it was impossible but I wasn’t ready to acknowledge it fully to myself. So the opportunity was unexpected,” she said, almost clinically now. “And almost cruel in retrospect.”

Karen could understand that. 

“Have you confided in anyone about this?”

“My mother knows some things but I don’t think she’s prepared to hear everything,” Dana replied.

“And Agent Mulder?” Karen asked.

“He has been with me through all of it,” Dana said.

That didn’t surprise Karen but that Dana was still working the X-files was somewhat confounding. After paying such a high personal cost most people would have left the FBI altogether but Dana seemed to have gone and remained all-in. Karen wondered why.

“Dana,” Karen began softly. “I’m not recommending a course of action but considering all that has happened, all that you’ve lost, have you at any point thought about requesting reassignment or returning to the Academy to teach?”

“Or leaving the FBI altogether?” Dana added, indicating she clearly had.

“It would be understandable,” Karen said.

“I know,” the agent replied. “And I’ve come close a few times.”

Karen tilted her head. “What stopped you, Dana?”

“There are still questions to ask and truths to seek.”

Karen considered the cryptic response and Dana’s steady blue gaze that held as many secrets as answers and decided that that part of their conversation was closed. To probe further on what those questions and truths were would yield nothing.

“Do you think,” she tried instead, “that there will come a day when those don’t exist or aren’t as important?”

The agent’s gaze flickered. 

“I think there will come a day when I don’t need to be the person seeking the answers,” she said softly. 

“And Agent Mulder?” Karen asked.

Dana’s gaze darted down to her hands then back up to Karen. 

“I hope so.”

Chapter Text

Margaret Scully watched her daughter from the kitchen. She was currently on the sofa with her partner sitting close, but not too close, talking quietly. There was an ease in Dana that she was glad to see, especially after the things she had told her earlier in the day.

God, I could have lost her!

Just the thought that she might have been planning a funeral right now was enough to make Margaret’s blood run cold. Only looking at her beautiful daughter, red hair shining in the warm lamplight of the living room kept it from freezing in her veins.

To Margaret’s surprise, Dana seemed no worse for wear. She had assured Margaret that she was fine other than some bruising and that she had already talked to an FBI counselor about the attack. And she’d even patiently answered Margaret’s question when she’d asked if Dana had considered a less dangerous assignment.

“I’m where I’m supposed to be, Mom,” her daughter had said. “Mulder and I still have things to do.”

Margaret didn’t know what those things were, but from watching Dana and Fox interact, she knew that Dana wasn’t ready to walk away from their shared journey. If anything, she seemed more involved than ever – even more so than at New Years’ when Bill–

No, she wasn’t going to think about that, not now. Later she would weigh whether or not to tell Bill about Dana’s latest brush with death. He would want to know, of course, but she feared he would react poorly and that it drive another wedge between them. She loved her children and wanted them to find their way back, like they’d done when they were small. 

Tears gathered as Margaret watched and heard her daughter giggle – actually giggle. She had memories of that delightful sound blending with Melissa’s own unique laugh in the middle of the night, when they were supposed to be asleep. She listened now as she had on those nights, a secretive smile emerging as she thought about their happiness. 

Dana was happy now, she realized, watching her daughter lean her head in her palm, elbow propped on the back of the couch. Then she saw Fox’s fingertips touch her forearm.

Oh.

It was an intimate gesture and one that Margaret would chalk up to one of friendship if Dana weren’t looking at him with such openly intimate regard. And if Fox hadn’t gently cupped his hand around her elbow and let his thumb gently caress back and forth.

Oh.

Margaret watched Dana visibly tremble then glance down, a shy smile curling her mouth. When Dana looked back up at Fox from beneath her brow, Margaret saw something deeper there in her daughter’s eyes. Fox’s hand slid up her arm and she gave him her hand when he reached it. Their fingers interlaced and he drew them to him. When he bowed his head and kissed her hand…

Oh Dana.

Margaret had observed them in the past and known they were close. She’d had suspicions at times but this was different than anything she’d witnessed before between them. She was certain they would not allow themselves such a display if they knew she was watching, making her both happy at witnessing her daughter’s happiness and ashamed at intruding.

Dana had rarely talked of her personal life since leaving for college. Margaret knew she’d had boyfriends, had met a couple of them even, and that she’d had at least one intense affair that she’d said very little about. But Margaret didn’t think Dana had dated more than a few times since being partnered with Fox. Their friendship and partnership had seemed to fulfill her without the need for more. But apparently there was more now. Or perhaps it has been there all along and just hidden. 

Either way, Margaret now knew it was why Dana had tried so hard to politely refuse her request that she stay here tonight instead of the hotel. She didn’t regret asking but she now understood the conflicted emotions that had flickered across her daughter’s face during that conversation. She hadn’t been trying to avoid Margaret’s mothering but wanted the company of the man she so clearly loved, if in secret.

Were they lovers? Margaret couldn’t tell exactly but that wasn’t really her business. Her daughter was happy and for now, that was all she needed to know.

Chapter Text

“Did you tell her?”

Mulder asked the question once her mother had turned in for the night, having ascended the stairs moments ago. Dana smiled at him. Her mother’s invitation for him to take one of the guest rooms had caught them both off guard but she’d only needed one look at her mother’s face to know that her suspicions were intact, just barely. 

“No,” she said. “She wouldn’t have specified a room if she knew for certain.”

Mulder’s eyebrows raised. “You mean she would let me sleep with her daughter?”

Dana smiled. “I’m almost 36, Mulder.”

“And she trusts you not to disrespect her home,” Mulder added. 

Dana laughed. She couldn’t help it. He could be adorably old fashioned in his thinking sometimes, more so than even her mother. He would not be the first man she’d had sex with under her mother’s roof – but he didn’t need to know that.

“What?” he asked, half-chuckling and clearly confused by her reaction.

“Mulder, anything I would do with you would not be disrespectful,” she said softly, reining in her mirth, “And I would make love with you right here, on this couch, without feeling the slightest bit guilty or fearful of shocking or offending my mother.”

His eyebrows raised again. “You’re serious?”

“She would be relieved, I think,” Dana said, recalling how many times her mother had tried to set her up over the years. “She worries that I’ll miss this part of life while on my adventures with you.”

“She’s said that?” Mulder asked.

She hadn’t in so many words, but Dana knew her mother well and her mother’s hopes for her underpinned every conversation they had about family and the future. With the possibility of children lost, the most traditional thing her mother could wish for was that Dana would meet a nice man and settle down to have normal life. Dana had long ago given up on having what most people considered normal, but she already had a nice man and she wasn’t interested in making room for another.

“Not directly, and she doesn’t begrudge me my path. But she is my mother and traditional enough to want those kinds of things for me,” Dana said.

His hazel eyes searched hers. “Do you want them?”

Dana smiled at him. It was similar in some ways to the question Karen Kosseff had asked her earlier. Did she want more than the FBI? Of course she did, some days more than others, but she didn’t want to give up what she had to have it. But one day, maybe…

Moving quietly, Dana got to her feet and held her hand out to Mulder. He took it and rose when she tugged. She looked up at him and let him see her longing.

“What I want,” she said softly, “is to go upstairs and take a hot shower, with you. Then, if you’re inclined, maybe make love before going to sleep, in the same bed.”

He eyed her with gentle amusement. “Your mother might hear,” he teased.

She smirked and placed her other hand on his chest, loving the crisp feel of his starched, if a bit rumpled button-down. His tie was thrown with his jacket over the back of the couch. She wasn’t sure why it aroused her that he hadn’t changed before picking up her things from the hotel and bringing them here – but it did.

“Only if you can’t contain yourself,” she teased back, “You’re the loud one.”

He smiled, hazel eyes bright and gentle as he owned the accusation. “What can I say, Scully? You turn me on.”

She flushed, loving the way he said it, and that he said it out loud, in her mother’s living room. He wasn't as nervous about staying as his words might have indicated. That was a turn-on for her.

“I don’t even have to touch you to turn you on,” she said then eased away from him. She reached to switch off the lamp on the end table. She looked back over her shoulder at him as she twisted the knob. “All I have to do is talk about witchcraft, unidentified flying objects, ancient legends, or urban myths,” she teased and caught sight of a bright grin before the room dimmed.

“I’m easy that way,” he replied.

Dana smiled and slowly made her way to the front door. She secured the deadbolt and chain then turned to see Mulder waiting for her at the foot of the stairs. She took his outstretched hand and warmed exponentially when his other hand came up and gently cupped her cheek. 

As he looked at her, she thought he might ask her if she was sure, but he didn’t. Instead he gave her the sweetest, gentlest smile and whispered softly, “Lead the way, G-woman.”

Chapter Text

Fox Mulder walked slowly up the stairs behind his partner, wondering what he would do when he saw Maggie Scully the next morning.

He hadn’t had to deal with that aspect of a relationship since high school, and he found himself daunted at the prospect of the woman knowing what he’d been down the hall doing to her daughter the night before. 

What I’m about to do, he thought then smiled when his partner reminded him that he wouldn’t be alone in the doing, in what had once been her room. He barely had time to register that her bags were in the floor near the bed before she shut the door and reached for his belt.

Her room, he thought, all concerns about her mother falling to the wayside as Scully’s fingers  unbuttoned his shirt in efficient little motions. The brushing of her knuckles against his chest was arousing, as was the sound of her soft breaths in the dark. 

He found himself matching them and his hands moving to the hem of her light sweater. Her eyes sought out his when he began gently drawing the fabric up. She lifted her arms and he stripped the garment off and tossed it toward the bed. She pulled his shirt from his trousers then smoothed her hands across his chest then up to push the fabric back off his shoulders. It was a bold, sensual touch, almost possessive, and her gaze underscored the sentiment. 

So fucking bold, he thought. Her mother just down the hall and she was seducing him as if they were the only two people in the world. He sort of wished they were.

Mulder reached for his partner, his hands sliding around her hips and down to grasp the backs of her thighs. He lifted her slowly, relishing the feel of her arms automatically sliding around his shoulders and her legs hooking around his waist.

He looked into her eyes. “You want to–”

“Yes,” she nodded then pressed her mouth to his.

The kiss was sleek and smooth as he carried her to the bed. He set her there and laid her back, leaning over her while her hands sank into his hair. He cradled her face between his palms before moving his touch down along her body, mapping dips and curves until he reached the waistband of her jeans. He kissed her while his fingers deftly unbuttoned them and lowered the zipper.

She caressed his face when he eased his mouth from hers then let him go as he divested her of her shoes and socks, then the jeans. He pressed as soft kiss just below the navel as he drew her panties away. He caught her scent and took a steadying breath. She made his mouth water and his cock ache.

“Scully,” he whispered against her skin and nuzzled his way downward to delve his tongue into the nest of soft auburn curls and taste her.

She was wet. So fucking wet. Already. 

He ate her joyfully, loving that she wanted him so much. Loving it in a way that went beyond the superficial ego, reaching into the essence of who he was, not just as a man but as the man she allowed this distinct privilege and pleasure. It made him want to merge with her in every way imaginable; in ways that would necessitate opening an X-file.

With lips, teeth, and tongue, he worshipped her pussy the way he adored the rest of her, listening to her labored breaths and the soft sighs and moans. He looked up occasionally to see her writhe in the faint light from the night-watcher outside. 

When she came, he watched her and heard his name on a rushed breath. He caught her hand when she reached for him, not surprised that she had. Every time he went down on her, she’d done it, as if wanting to make sure he was still with her. He returned her grip and slowly moved up. He wiped his mouth on his t-shirt sleeve then leaned over her and kissed her cheek. He nuzzled her neck and whispered softly, “I like seeing you like this.”

Her hands found his face and he raised enough to meet her gaze. Her thumbs drew slowly across his cheeks and she looked on the verge of tears.

“I want you, Mulder,” she said, her voice strained with emotion. “Don’t make me wait.”

He was humbled in the face of her need for him and suddenly, acutely aware of his need for her.

“I won’t,” he murmured then kissed her softly.

Chapter Text

He was beautiful. Tall and lean, muscles taut but not obscenely defined. 

They were observations Dana had made before, since they’d begun a sexual relationship, but she could not help making them again as she ran her hands over his wet skin. Chest and abdomen, hips and ass, up over his back, and along those arms that she’d held onto as he made love to her just a bit ago.

Over her, moving slowly, deeply, his kisses all but branding her mouth and neck, he had become her whole world, albeit not for the first time, in those long, intense minutes of pleasure.

It felt so good to touch and be touched. She had told him that same thing that night in Hapless, Arizona, and she did not regret her confession or their moving forward to meet those needs for one another. She hadn’t realized how much she’d needed the contact, with him.

All human beings needed touch in some form, eventually, and she had long denied her own need for it, engaging only in ways considered proper with colleagues or strangers, and the expected ways with family – a kiss on the cheek or hug. Physical intimacy had been a stranger with all except her partner, and even that had been limited to touching hands, the occasional caress to the shoulder or cheek, his hand gently guiding at the small of her back. Sometimes a kiss to the top of her head, or his, if he was sitting.

But this, being able to just caress a wonderfully male body, from head to toe, had been so long absent from her life that it was almost as if it were the first time. Of course it was always like that with a new lover, she mused even as she admitted to herself that this time was different. Because it was Mulder.

Sliding her hands downward still, she let one move gently along the length of his penis and the other cup his scrotum. She assessed his girth and weight and thought about earlier and…

“Enjoying yourself?”

Dana smiled boldly up at him. “Yes, actually,” she said. “You?”

“Oh yeah,” he chuckled softly. 

She hummed her own amusement as she began stroking him slowly. As he grew, she smiled outright and had a naughty thought.

“Ever play doctor, Mulder?”

“Should I turn my head and cough, Dr. Scully?”

She smirked and raised an eyebrow. “Or bend over and spread your cheeks?”

“In your mother’s house?”

She laughed. “That’s still bothering you?”

“Hey, you may get a pass but I have to face the woman in the morning with her knowing I deflowered her daughter down the hall,” he said. 

She laughed again. “My deflowering was a long time ago, Mulder. And I smothered your screams of ecstasy if you recall, so I doubt she heard you.”

She’s smothered them all right, guiding him down to her breast when she saw his orgasm was imminent. Her body bore the evidence of his climax in the form of a bite mark that didn’t break skin but left an impression. He’d frowned when she saw it. She’d caressed him and told him it was okay.

He didn’t look so sure, though, which is why it didn’t really surprise her that before he laid down and slept, he put on his pants, t-shirt, and socks, then opened the bedroom door. She laughed when he lay on top of the covers behind her, on his back.

“You think that’s going to fool her?” she asked as he settled.

“Do you?” he asked, and sounded amused at himself.

She snorted. “If you really want to keep her guessing, you should sleep in the other room.”

He laughed low and soft in the dark. 

“Probably,” he conceded then sighed in a precursor to sleep. But he didn’t go to sleep, not right away, and neither did she despite being tired.

“Did you see your priest?” he asked softly after a while.

“I spoke to Karen Kosseff,” she murmured.

“You’ve gone to her before,” he said. 

“Yes. I like her,” she said softly, recalling her various talks with the counselor over the years and today’s. Despite having been caught off guard a few times, she appreciated the woman’s gentle demeanor and guidance.

“I told her some things that I haven’t before,” she confessed softly. “About my abduction and cancer. About Melissa, and Emily and my inability to have children.”

“You told her about the IVF?”

That question was whispered no louder than a breath and she appreciated the discretion it implied. And the somber reverence.

“Yes,” she whispered and felt him move. It wasn’t but a moment before he was spooning her, his chin propping against her shoulder as his arm came around her. His hand found hers and their fingers laced loosely.

“Are you okay?”

Touched by the question, she smiled and drew their hands closer, tucking them beneath her chin.

“Yes,” she said and she was. It was a painful subject and reality, and would be for a time, but she had already found herself turning introspective and making peace with it in the last week. 

Pfaster was a different matter. She might still talk to her priest but for now, she was committed to not thinking about him or what happened. That would hit when she returned home, to the scene of the crime, as it were.

“She asked me if I had considered another assignment or leaving the FBI considering all I’ve lost,” she said softly, although she couldn’t say why she told him.

“What did you tell her?”

She heard both apprehension and curiosity in his voice. She hoped her answer appeased both. It was essentially the same as she’d had for Karen, and her mother.

“We have things still unfinished,” she said softly, and they did, chiefly discovering the fate of his sister.

A gentle kiss to her cheek came just before his quiet reply, “The truth is still out there,”

“And questions,” she agreed and turned her head toward him. He shifted and they kissed gently. 

“Get some sleep, Mulder,” she whispered when their mouths parted.

He just smiled then settled down behind her once more. 

They slept.

Chapter Text

“Chicken.”

Mulder looked up from the folder in his hands to see his partner standing in the doorway to their office, briefcase in one hand, the other hand on her hip. Her expression was smug and amused and he knew why. He’d left her mother’s house before her mother rose for the day, avoiding any awkwardness about which bed he might have spent the night in. Yeah, he was chicken.

“Guilty as charged,” he admitted freely.

“I told her you had to go home to change for work,” she said, moving into the room and setting her briefcase on the floor next to his desk.

“Well, it wasn’t a lie,” he said, sitting back in his chair.

She cocked her jaw to conceal what he thought was a growing smile as she sank into the chair on the opposite side of the desk. His eyes fell to the wine-colored turtleneck she had on. She didn’t wear high-neck shirts all that often, making him wonder if she was concealing his handiwork. If she was, had her mother seen it?

He wasn’t sure why he was making such a big deal of her mother knowing, frankly. It’s not as if she would object – he didn’t think. Although Scully’s brother would be an issue if Maggie were to tell him. 

Maybe that’s it, Mulder thought. Or maybe I fear her judgement. Or maybe I’m just an idiot.

Whatever the reason, he needed to get over it. They couldn’t keep it a secret from Maggie forever, even if they kept the FBI in the dark. Scully actually had a good relationship with her mother, unlike him and his mother. He wouldn’t dream of letting his whatever interfere with that or take it away from her. Besides, Scully’s mom always seemed to like him.

When he looked back up at Scully, she had an eyebrow raised and still looked amused. He gave her a sheepish look and apologized. She smiled at him and crossed her legs.

“Potential case?” she asked, eyes darting to the folder in his hands. 

He leaned forward and held the file across the desk to her. “What do you know about drowning?”

She gave him an annoyed look as she took the folder. “Wet or dry drowing?”

He smirked. 

“How about drowning in a solitary confinement cell at a correctional facility in the nation’s heartland … in pig’s blood.”

Her brow crinkled. “Pig’s blood?” she said with the expected note of skeptical bewilderment before looking down to the file.

He watched her flip through the papers to find the autopsy report and felt the familiar thrill of introducing her to a case. He liked revealing details and watching her absorb them, waiting for her to begin asking questions or throwing out plausible explanations or possibilities, or trying to head off one of his unique theories.

“The deceased is one John Allen Dubrek Jr., sentenced just last week to life in prison for the murder of 37-year-old Lincoln grocery clerk Ruby Ann Marmount last year. Guards found him dead three days ago at bed-check, a small pool of blood beneath his head. Lab results show blood was that of a pig. The state medical examiner found a quart of it in his lungs. As you can imagine, no one knows how it got there,” Mulder said, watching her intently read the file. “Dubrek had been in solitary for five days,” he continued. “Apparently for his own protection after he received death threats believed to have come from Ruby Ann’s friends.”

Scully looked up at him. “Her friends?”

“Seems Ruby Ann was a practicing witch with a coven whose members took exception to Dubrek’s life sentence,” he informed her, watching her reaction to his words. “The night before Dubrek was found dead, robed figures were reportedly spotted outside the prison fence performing some sort of ritual. Forensics found no blood in the area but tower guards report hearing the squeal of a pig before these people disappeared into the night.”

“So you think Dubrek’s death is the result of a curse put on him by vengeful witches?” she asked with not quite the same amount of incredulity she would have in the past, but skeptical all the same.

“That’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question, Scully,” he said, “But can you tell me how a man with no visitors or contact with other inmates ends up dead with his lungs full of pig blood?”

“It’s possible a guard or guards forced him to inhale the blood?” she said, beginning their unique dance of intellectual give and take.

“The prison monitors the confinement cells via closed-circuit video and there appears to be no tampering with the tapes.”

“Are you having the Quantico labs review them.”

“The tapes are already on the way there. As for forced inhalation,” he said with a little tip of his chin toward the file her hands, “The autopsy report indicates there were no bruises or marks of physical trauma on the body which you might expect if someone were making him inhale a quart of liquid of any sort.”

“He could have been incapacitated or even deceased and the blood placed in the body rather than inhaled in the traditional method of drowning. Some sort of tubing or a large-bore syringe could have been used to flood the lungs in either condition,” she suggested. “It wouldn’t be difficult to conceal those within clothing or a lunch sack or box. All that would be required then was a pause in the recording to get the job done.”

It was plausible and possible, Mulder thought although the autopsy report did not indicate physical evidence of either method. He was just about to ask his partner if it was possible the coroner hadn’t checked for it when the phone rang.

They were on a flight to Nebraska three hours later.

Chapter Text

“Find anything?” 

Dana Scully was just stepping away from the body on the stainless steel autopsy table when her partner entered the bay. She shook her head as she stripped off her gloves then pulled down the mask covering her nose and mouth. She still wore the protective glasses.

“A whole lot of nothing,” she said with a sigh. “I could find no evidence of anything having been inserted through the nasal passage or the mouth. Nothing in the soft palate, esophagus, or trachea.” She tossed the gloves and mask into the biohazard bin and made her way over to the counter where a chart lay. “I checked his chest, neck, and back for any punctures or injection sites but there’s nothing.”

She wasn't frustrated with the lack of evidence but she wasn’t happy about it either. Something definitive would have been nice. It would at least give them something to work with over his witchcraft angle. She didn’t really object to the idea of it being witches doling out curses if she could find evidence that pointed to a more traditional method of execution, so to speak. Without physical evidence, finding and prosecuting the culprits would be impossible.

Picking up the pen next to the chart, Dana made several notes of her non-findings. Her partner joined her, leaning back against the counter and filled her in on his day.

“I reviewed a copy of the surveillance tape at the police station,” he said and seemed as disappointed as she did. “I saw nothing anomalous but I’m having them send last weeks’ recordings to Quantico, too, for comparison to the ones from that day,” he said. 

“Did you send a copy to Chuck?” she asked, knowing Mulder had sought the odd man’s help before. Chuck had a curious set of skills and hobbies that had come in handy in the past.

“Yep, on the way,” he said.

Hearing an odd note in his voice, she looked up from the chart and saw him staring in the direction of the corpse, but not really looking at it. She took off the protective eyewear and set it beside the chart.

“What?” she asked, seeing the distance in his gaze. 

When he looked at her, she recognized the concern he projected in her direction.

“You’re sure you still want to go?”

To the prison. That’s what he was asking. They had discussed it in the car during the three-hour drive from the airport out to the prison in Waterloo. He was worried that being inside the facility might trigger her memories about Donnie Pfaster. 

As a doctor and FBI agent, she admitted that her partner’s concerns were legitimate. She had shot and killed Pfaster in her home not three days ago. According to regulations, she shouldn’t even be in the field and was there only by virtue of a positive report from Karen Kosseff and the emergence of this case, which now included an apparent threat to the judges on the sentencing panel.

It didn’t help that he was aware of her nightmares, which were happening nightly. She’d even had one on the flight out, which is obviously what had prompted him to suggest that he visit the prison alone. In response, she’d assured him that she was ready to do her job, and that she would. He had conceded but now he was bringing it up again. She sighed.

“I’ll be fine, Mulder,” she insisted and turned back to the chart. She made a few more notes while he waited patiently next to her.

Once done, she excused herself to change back into her suit and they drove to the prison, just outside of town. Her eyes scanned the barren fields as they passed them and she focused on managing the tension that grew as they neared the facility. She had expected it and wasn’t going to let it manage her.

At the prison, they showed their badges to the guards at the gate and again at the guard station just inside the main building. They checked their guns and the warden led them to the solitary block. 

The inmates made catcalls as she passed, as usual, but she ignored them and kept her expression stony. They didn’t scare or intimidate her. When one threw out a particularly vulgar suggestion, Mulder looked over at her. She just raised an eyebrow at him and kept walking. He turned back ahead but let her precede him through the next checkpoints until they reached their destination.

She wouldn’t admit it to him or anyone else for the world, but she was appreciative of the gesture and was particularly relieved once they were away from the main cell blocks. Being the focus of caged testosterone with a history of violence might not frighten her but it didn’t mean it was a pleasant experience. If anything, it spawns a need to wash. 

When they stood in the doorway to the solitary cell, Mulder opened the folder he’d brought with him and held it so she could look at the crime scene photo at the top of the stack. It showed the body in situ, where the guards had found it.

Dana’s eyes automatically sought out that area of the room and began to take it in. She knew her partner was doing the same, looking for anything out of the norm, that other investigators might not have seen or saw and dismissed as irrelevant. But she was seeing nothing. Not on the floor or on the walls or ceilings.

As one, she and Mulder slipped further into the small room, stepping to the right and left respectively, and were just inside now. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him kneel. While he checked the floor, her eyes sought out the ceiling and walls.

It was ridiculous considering their heights and should have been the other way around.

The ceiling was solid, she noted. There was no smell of fresh paint or signs of spackling on the walls. There were no punctures or visually evident splatters of blood or any other substance, making her wonder if the crime scene team had used luminol to look for any trace fluid evidence in less than obvious places, like the ceiling. She didn’t recall seeing any results from such an examination and couldn’t smell the chemical on the air.

Although neither she nor the coroner could find conclusive medical evidence that John Allen Dubrek, Jr. was conscious at the time of “drowning”, or even that he was alive, either was possible, which made crime scene forensics invaluable. Along with the security tape, which she had yet to see. 

She chided herself over having not done that yet, clearly more distracted than she had realized. She must have made a sound because when she glanced at Mulder, she saw him gazing up at her with a questioning look.

“I need to see the security tape,” she told him

The warden responded before Mulder.

“I thought you might,” the man said. “I had them get it ready at the security desk just in case.”

“Thank you,” she said and followed the man out of the cell and back to the block guard station. She watched over the shoulder of a young corrections officer as he put the tape in a machine and hit play.

She took a quick look at the timestamp on the grainy video, verifying it was what she’d read in the report: It was.

The tape showed Dubrek sitting on the side of the bunk and staring at the wall in front of him. He stood and paced the length of the cell a few times before sitting again. Then, after a few minutes, his body violently jerked and he slumped forward onto the floor. A dark fluid began to pool under his head. The quality of the video precluded her seeing exactly where the fluid came from, but she could surmise from the crime scene photos and autopsy report, that it had come from the corner of his mouth. It was the logical conclusion. 

As for sounds, she heard only a sudden inhalation but not gagging or coughing. Other than lurching forward, he had been unnaturally still.

He should have at least coughed, she thought. Unless his lungs were empty of air and filled with blood. 

But that made no sense based on what she was seeing. He was just alive one second then dead the next, without warning or any of the normal, visible physiological signs of drowning or suffocation.

“See anything?” Mulder’s voice came soft from beside her.

“No,” she said and conceded that his theory of vigilante witches was becoming less absurd by the moment. But she didn’t say that aloud for a number of reasons.

When his phone suddenly rang, she had the strangest sense of deja vu. He answered and his eyes sought out hers, telegraphing the news without saying a word. 

There was another death.

Chapter Text

It was late and his partner’s motel room was dark save for the light coming from her computer. 

Standing in the shadows, near the door that joined their rooms, Mulder observed her as she sat at the small table in the room, within the halo of the screen. The bluish light reflected off her glasses as she typed away, head slightly bowed and gaze fixed on the words. She had on headphones and her small tape recorder lay beside the computer.

They had driven back to Lincoln upon getting the call about the untimely death of Judge Charleston Ritter, ditching plans of staying the overnight in Waterloo so that Scully could do the autopsy.

Considering what a long day they’d had, he had thought she would delay the exam until morning but she’d insisted on doing it tonight. He hadn’t tried to stop her, seeing the look of determination in her eyes.

Looking at her now, he wondered how long she’d been back at the motel. He had eaten and turned in hours ago after talking with baffled case detectives who had reached out to the FBI, who’d informed Skinner, who’d called Mulder.

In the initial call, Mulder had been informed that Ritter was one of two judges on a three-judge sentencing panel that voted against the death penalty for Dubrek. He had been found dead yesterday morning in chambers, feathers protruding from his mouth. Crows’ feathers. There was no video of his death but with Scully having gotten first crack at the body, Mulder hoped she’d found something, anything, to advance the case because local detectives had nothing so far.

Either way, they would be interviewing members of Ruby Ann Marmount's coven tomorrow to see what they might be able to stir up. He wasn’t hopeful. They didn’t really have to say anything and what he, Scully, and the investigators had in terms of a case was useless to a prosecutor. The entire thing could very well end up in the X-Files as unexplained. It happened more often than not, despite their best efforts.

Mulder felt a bit guilty as he watched Scully blindly reach for the recorder, back up the tape, and play the last bit again. She resumed typing in a span of seconds and he leaned against the door jamb, thinking about how often this particular scenario had played out for them over the years: him finishing up the day at a decent hour while she burned the midnight oil slicing and dicing or running some lab test or another.

She had always had the lion’s share of work, autopsies and then filing medical and scientific reports on top of standard investigative records, but she rarely made a fuss about it. In fact, at the moment, he couldn’t recall a time that she had. Well, maybe once, during that bizarre vampire thing in Texas.

She would argue with him ’til kingdom come but she rarely complained about anything. Not even when she probably should. He had been worried about her yesterday, still was, knowing that the encounter with Donnie Pfaster was desperately fresh for her. Just days ago she’d been standing in her living room and pulling the trigger to end the life of a man who’d terrorized her for hours, for the second time.

She had proven to be incredibly resilient over the years, but she wasn’t impervious to trauma. Her nightmares were enough evidence of that even if she kept everything else hidden behind a near-impenetrable professional facade when out and about. 

He had seen it slip only once today, as they were exiting the prison and one of the heavy doors was shut and locked behind them. If he hadn’t been behind her, he would have missed her startled glance back. But she’d betrayed nothing else, anywhere else. She betrayed none of it now. She looked tired but equally intent and studious, fingers flying across the keys. 

His eyes leaving her, he scanned the table to see if there was any evidence of her having eaten. She sometimes skipped meals on days like this, too wrapped up in work to think about it. She would eat if he ate with her. She had a healthy appetite even if she had begun to favor salads over steak more often in recent years.

Spying nothing in the shadows, although he was far enough away he might not be able see everything, he waited while she worked, just watched and listened. As he did, he suspected it was her voice that had woken him from a light sleep. It had been barely audible through the open doors but the cadence of her dictated autopsy findings clearly familiar and recognizable.

He’d waited a while before rising, just listening until he hadn’t been able to stay in bed any longer, guilt driving him to the doorway where he now stood. He waited still, until her recorded voice officially announced the completion of the exam, then entered the room. 

Mindful of her likely sensitivity to sounds and movements, he was quiet but not too quiet and said her name softly with his first step to avoid startling her.

She startled anyway, but not bad enough for her to reach for her gun, which he noted lay on the other side of the computer, unholstered. That was telling of how keyed up she was. Whether she would admit it or not was another matter.

He didn’t bring it up as he settled into the other chair at the table.

“Can’t sleep?” she asked.

“I got a nap in,” he said and didn’t bother to hide the guilt he felt with the admission.

She smiled tolerantly. 

“Did you eat?” he asked, looking again into the deeper shadows behind her computer. He thought he spied some sort of wrappings.

“A sandwich from the vending machine,” she said and he frowned. She hated vending machines, considered it digestive Russian roulette. She must have been starving to brave it.

“I have some pizza,” he said, knowing she’d probably turn it down.

“Thank you, but I’ll skip it,” she answered. “If this comes back up, it won’t need company.”

He smiled in spite of himself and watched her turn her attention back to the items on the table. She set the recorder aside, slipping it behind the computer, then picked up the folder next to it.

“You want to know what I found?” she asked.

He heard both bewilderment and frustration in her voice and would have known the answer even if he hadn’t been eavesdropping as she transcribed her notes.

“Nothing conclusive,” he said.

“Bingo,” she said with a sigh and passed him the folder. “I examined a guy with lungs that could pass for pillows but no evidence whatsoever indicating how the feathers got there.”

Mulder turned on the lamp so he could see the notes. He wished there were pictures, but photos wouldn’t be available until tomorrow afternoon.

Blinking at the sudden change in illumination, he perused her handwriting, looking at the anatomical chart with no markings beyond notations of a birthmark and a small, healing cut on his jawline, likely from shaving the notation said.

If this were a run-of-the-mill Bureau case, he would be beating his head against a wall but he’d worked too long on the X-files to let the lack of evidence completely frustrate him – yet. This kind of thing wasn’t uncommon in their work and required an extraordinary degree of patience, which explained why Scully was still working with him after all these years, and why she put up with him personally.

What he didn’t know, even after all of these years, was why she did what she did, specialty-wise. The ranks of medical examiners around the world weren’t exactly littered with women but then again neither was the Bureau – although he’d noticed that was gradually improving. 

But in all honesty, she could have utilized her medical and scientific skills in almost any capacity she wanted. She had taught at the Academy before joining him and would have been a prime pick to join the staff of any hospital in the country. Her research skills would be prized at any lab in the world. She could be doing anything other than traipsing around the county with him, moving from seedy motel to seedy motel, battling conspiracies, chasing monsters, ghosts, and little gray men. But here she was, eyes glued to the screen of her computer again, reviewing her transcribed notes.

“Why forensic pathology?” he found himself asking and netted a curious look.

Chapter Text

He’d never asked that question before. 

Actually, she couldn’t think of anyone who had, not so directly. Not Missy or her parents, and certainly not Bill, nor any of her past lovers, even Daniel Waterston, also a doctor. All of them had questioned her joining the FBI, except Mulder, who was now asking why she’d chosen her speciality.

She wondered what prompted him to do so now, in the middle of the night, in a shabby Nebraska motel, while on a case that appeared poised to thwart even their vast experience with the unexplained.

“Why do you ask?”

She watched him set the folder on the table then slouch down in the chair, making himself comfortable.

“You could have chosen any medical or research specialty and excelled at it,” he said softly.  “You could have made a lot of money at any one of them but you chose perhaps the least glamorous and least financially lucrative career path in medicine. I’m just curious as to why.”

Holding his gaze, she felt a familiar, comforting warmth blanket her with the realization they were about to have one of those intimate, middle of the night talks that she had loved with him, from the very first one in Oregon. But she wanted it to be dark, or mostly so, so she reached and shut off the lamp he had turned on only moments ago, ignoring the pain that radiated across her still-bruised back. She caught sight of his half-smile before dousing them in near darkness again. 

“I know you did not just insinuate that I should have gotten into medicine for money and fame,” she teased and settled back into her chair, pulling her feet up into the seat. She wrapped her arms around her knees and again ignored the pain the movement caused.

His chuckle was soft and low. “I wouldn’t dare.”

No, he wouldn’t, she thought, but a few others had certainly suggested that those should be the reasons and therefore her goals. But she had known then, as she did now, that medicine had been a calling for her. She had just been called in a direction no one else had expected, including herself.

“Some did,” she told him, adding honestly, “But that was actually the last thing I considered.”

“I know,” he said.

“How?”

“The story about the snake,” he reminded her. 

Yes, that had been a watershed moment for her in terms of seeing the fragile and fleeting nature of life and understanding the profound wrongness in taking it. Her desire to restore life to the creature she had killed had been the first brick in the foundation of her eventually pursuing medicine. Her interest in science had cemented it as she grew older.

Unlike so many of her classmates had confessed, she had not lost anyone close to her to some incurable or horrible disease or condition that ultimately instilled in her a need to declare any particular illness a mortal enemy for eradication. Because she was a doctor and a human being, she universally wished that everyone was able to live full, happy, and healthy lives then die peacefully in their sleep of old age. She wished everyone had access to healthcare to hopefully ensure that end. But neither of those wishes would logically lead a person to work with the dead.

One thing she learned very quickly in medical school was when it came time for hands-on in the cadaver lab, not many people wanted to do it. Some were squeamish. Some were afraid. Some just wanted to get it over with and move on to the living. A few, like herself, were considered ghouls for their untempered enthusiasm in exploring the biological mysteries and learning opportunities the dead presented.

But that wasn’t the beginning or end of her fascination. 

She always wondered about who they were, who they had been, who had loved them, who hadn’t, even as she methodically dissected her way through their flesh to grow more familiar with human anatomy, to study the havoc of diseases, to understand how they died, and to sometimes discover the why.

Her zeal had led her to make a discovery in one cadaver that doctors and surgeons had missed. Evidence of wrongful death, gleaned from physical examination, patient charts, lab results, and a little digging she’d done on her own at the newspaper archives at a library.

Her initiative had impressed her instructor and, eventually, authorities, and she’d felt something she’d never felt before: a true sense of purpose and direction in her medical career.

Previously, she’d thought to become a surgeon or researcher and had been open to exploring whichever suited her best. But that one case had sealed the deal for her, pointing her in a direction she’d never considered before. 

She’d dedicated herself then to forensic pathology, keeping it from everyone for fear they might try to talk her out of it. There was so much crossover in classes for medical specialities that no one noticed. Not until the FBI came knocking, offering her the chance to pursue her medical and scientific passions from within the most respected investigative forensics organization in the world.

Science, medicine, and justice. The perfect aphrodisiac for a young, ambitious, idealistic Dana Scully, fresh out of med school. And for the older, wiser, if a bit worn, Dana Scully who sat across from Fox Mulder just now. Her choice had led her to him and discoveries both amazing and confounding. 

Smiling gently in the darkness, she shared with him the case of Albert J. Boyers of Bresthaven, New Jersey, and his untimely death at the hands of his wife and her lover, his best friend.

Chapter Text

Mulder shut off the engine of the rental car and looked over to his partner. 

She was asleep, head leaned back against the headrest, face turned toward him. She was exhausted. More than. She had barely turned in for the night when he received a phone call saying the second life sentence judge was dead.

He’d hated to wake her but they’d had little choice.

The scene had been just like the others: a body on the floor, no sign of disturbance around it. Emergency personnel hadn’t been certain of what killed him, just that he was definitively dead and had been for some time based on the lividity of the corpse.

It was only after he and Scully arrived and were surveying the scene that the connecting signature made itself evident: snakes. Live snakes.

When the medical examiner and his assistant had moved the body to bag it and take it to the morgue, dozens of small, black snakes slithered from the man’s mouth, sparking pandemonium.

Mulder had snatched Scully up and set her atop the nearby coffee table then joined her as the police officers took care of the situation. She had just looked at the floor for several moments then glanced at him with an eyebrow raised, an expression so familiar that it made his heart ache. He’d lost count of how many times had he seen that look of incredulous wonder over the years but he clearly remembered the first time, in Bellefleur, Oregon, on their first case together.

After the serpents had been corralled, Scully had left him to handle the scene and gone with the medical examiner to conduct the autopsy. Three deaths in less than three days necessitated thorough expediency and she was always the person for that job.

She had finished up just a half-hour ago and informed him that samples had been sent to both the Nebraska State Crime Lab and Quantico, and that she’d ordered them to make them a top priority. She also told him she’d called Skinner so he could back them up and make sure things didn’t get set aside. Mulder had done the same with the other evidence in the case and was expecting a courier packet any time now.

In the meantime, he had taken Scully back to their hotel to put her to bed before she dropped completely. He’d figured she would crash out on him on the drive there and he clearly hadn’t been wrong. 

She didn’t complain when he woke her to go inside, nor when he took her room key and opened the door. She headed straight to the bathroom and he stepped into the room behind her. She turned on the water in the shower, just as he’d expected. 

He went back out while she bathed and returned a short bit later with a sandwich and some juice. She was just coming out of the bathroom in a towel when he came in through the adjoining doorway.

“Got you something to eat,” he said, taking it over to the table where he’d watched her work the night before, where they’d talked far too late into the night. 

Mulder had listened to her tell the story but was hardly stunned that she, as a med student, had ferreted out a crime that no one but the perpetrators knew had been committed. He had chalked up his lack of surprise to years of seeing her in action. He’d known she was good, from the start, but he had been duly impressed to know what she’d done to get on the FBI Academy’s radar. Her personnel file had said she was directly recruited out of medical school but it hadn’t included that juicy bit of information.

“That definitely got the Bureau’s attention,” he had observed, probably needlessly.

She had snorted. “I had to fight to get someone to listen to me,” she said. “As you can imagine, doctors don’t like medical students questioning their judgement or findings.”

He could imagine and he knew a great deal about fighting to get people to listen.

“What happened?” he’d asked. 

“They refused to look, even after my instructor supported my findings. So I went to the dean and threatened ethics complains and that I would call the attorney general and the media if someone qualified wasn’t brought in to at least look. The dean called in the state medical examiner, who was a friend, and he confirmed my findings.”

“Tenacious,” he’d said with a smile

“That’s what the dean said,” she’d countered and he’d heard a hint of personal pride in her voice. It wasn’t often he heard that – confidence, yes, but not her just plain being proud of herself. She should be, as far as he was concerned. He’d benefited from that tenacity from the moment she walked into the basement office they now shared, whether in solving a case, keeping the X-files open, or saving his ass.

She had out done herself these last few weeks. So much had happened. So much could happen. They had yet to interview a single person or possible suspect, but they planned to do that this afternoon, after she got some rest. He would go without her but she would be furious if he did. There was a time he wouldn’t have thought about that, would have just gone, but something made him refrain this time.

“Thank you,” she said as he unpacked the sack, setting out the sandwich and napkins, and the juice. Still wrapped in a towel, her hair wet and slicked back, small drops from the ends down on her shoulders, she ate by rote and asked him what he found.

“Just what you saw. They’re running prints and other trace evidence but until we have results from all this, we’re down to interviewing witches.”

Anyone else would have scoffed, she just nodded as she chewed a bite of sandwich.

“We’ll go this afternoon,” he said, “After you get some rest.”

When she didn’t protest, he had a good gauge on how tired she was. Under normal circumstances, she would tell him it was stupid to wait considering they had little – well, nothing actually – to build a case on. 

The only evidence they had was the connection between the victims. He was positive they’d been targeted. The chance of it being coincidence was astronomical. The local authorities were proceeding as if it was a serial case, putting the third judge and even the jurors and prosecutors under watch. He thought the precaution wise but his spooky sense was telling him the murders were at an end.

It was now a wait-and-see game on the evidence and what panned out in interviews of Ruby Ann’s friends. He was finding it difficult to not be discouraged at this point. Witches didn’t exactly leave personal physical evidence behind and even a confession would be of little value without that physical evidence. But they would follow the case to whatever end.

Chapter Text

The hair on the back of Dana Scully’s neck stood on end as Mulder backed the car away from the deceptively normal looking house.

The woman in the doorway was staring directly at them with a look that was anything but friendly. She hadn’t necessarily been hostile during their interview but their presence had clearly irritated her. She had divulged little after they’d introduced themselves as FBI agents, acknowledging only that she knew Ruby Ann and that she’d heard about her death.

At the first mention of witchcraft, the temperature had seemed to drop a dozen degrees and it didn’t go back up. Dana wanted to chalk it up to the weather, but the thermometer on the porch, next to the door, hadn’t changed the entire time they were there. 

Her medical training reminded her that lack of decent sleep was also a potential cause for a chill that hit and lingered but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something wrong. Not necessarily evil, but definitely darker than she cared for.

She wondered if it were just an overreaction on her part, related to her recent encounter with Donnie Pfaster, who she remained convinced was pure evil. It was possible even if she didn’t like to contemplate the vulnerability it spoke to.

Still, she voiced her thoughts to her partner once they were well away from the woman’s property.

“There’s something not right here, Mulder,” she said, looking over at him. 

“I know,” he said then glanced her way, “But we knew that already.”

She hummed and looked forward when he did. They were driving through a nice suburban neighborhood, heading to the house of another of Ruby Ann’s friends, the last on their list.

“Even if we get one of them to confess,” she said when he stopped at a sign, “there’s not a prosecutor in the world who would take them seriously. We have nothing to give them but theories that any sane person would consider laughable.”

“Are you diagnosing your mental status or mine?” he asked and sounded almost playful.

“It’s not a joke, Mulder,” she said even though she knew he wasn’t making light of the case. But she was tired and frustrated and angry. She wasn’t in the mood for his usual banter, not today. “Three people are dead. More may die and these women are probably going to get away with it.”

“There’s always a high probability of that in any X-file, Scully, you know that,” he said with far more patience than she herself could muster.

“That doesn’t make me feel any better,” she groused. “Not when two of those dead are judges.”

“Your sense of institutional justice is offended,” he observed.

He wasn’t wrong but it wasn’t everything on her mind. For her, Donnie Pfaster was a part of it whether she wanted him to be or not. It was too fresh for her to shove aside completely when she wasn’t actively involved in the case, autopsying, processing evidence, or interviewing suspects. It was in the in-between that thoughts of him surfaced. In her dreams. And now this.

He had nothing to do with this case and the women might not be evil and might be doing what they were for reasons they found justifiable, but she sensed a related darkness that set her teeth on edge. She shivered at the thought and realized that she still felt as cold as she had on the porch despite the car’s heater having warmed the air around her.

“You’re thinking about Pfaster.” 

Another astute observation, she thought, not unexpected but disturbing. She really didn’t want to talk about it but she knew Mulder wasn’t going to let it go.

“It’s not the same,” she said.

“But there’s something,” he prodded. 

She glanced at him again. “I don’t like how it makes me feel,” she confessed. “It’s wrong to take a life, Mulder, no matter who it is or the reasons why.”

And it was wrong what I did, killing Pfaster.

She didn’t say it aloud, but he clearly heard the self-condemnation loud and clear. He pulled the car into the first neighborhood park they reached. He didn’t shut off the engine but he parked under a tree as rain started falling.

“Scully–” he began but she sent him a pleading glance, begging him to not say what he was going to say. His absolution, while appreciated, did not really absolve her. Not with God. Not with her own sense of right and wrong as a person and law enforcement officer. Not with her medical oath.

It was a trifecta she couldn’t escape without giving up her identity.

“Please don’t say it,” she said.

“It’s not the same, Scully,” he threw her words back at her. “As much as these women aren’t like Pfaster, you’re not like them.”

She shook her head, unable to shake the guilt that was suddenly overwhelming her. What she’d felt before, in the hours after, was nothing compared to what was swelling inside her right now. She felt the sting of tears.

“How is my taking justice into my hands any different than these women taking it into theirs? Who are we to subvert the law?”

“John Allen Dubrek was tried in a court of law, Scully. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for his crimes. These women are subverting the law with their own ideas of justice and have taken the lives of representatives of the court as part of their vengeance,” he said firmly. “You didn’t seek out Pfaster. He broke into your home. He physically assaulted you, bound and gagged you, and shoved you in a closet. He had initiated his ritual with the express intent to kill you and mutilate your body after death. And he would have, Scully.” 

He reached for her hand. She let him take it as she tried to stave off tears.

“The circumstances are not the same, Scully,” he said, his hazel eyes radiating conviction and compassion, for her. “And you are not them.”

“I’m an officer of the law,” she said, hating how tight her voice was with emotion.

“And you acted in accordance with with what the law allows in regards to an intruder in your home, as a private citizen and an FBI agent. You did not break the law,” he said. “Maybe it was a sense of personal vengeance that guided your hand. Maybe it was God. Maybe, Scully, you reacted to the trauma in the moment,” he continued. “Whatever the motivation, I know you and your sense of justice. And justice was served, for every woman who suffered at his hands, for every one that would have had he succeeded that night in ending your life.”

God, she did not want to cry. Not now, not here. She wanted to lock herself in her hotel room, turn on the shower and cry until she was exhausted enough to sleep without dreams. But he was sitting there, holding her hand, looking at her with more love than anyone else ever had. Deep and abiding love, of a friend, a partner, and a lover.

“Will you take me back to the motel?” she asked, surprising herself with the request. She didn’t usually ditch him on a case when she was free to help, but she had with Pfaster the first time, needing the distance from the disturbing nature of his crimes, from the implications of them and who could do such a thing. Apparently she needed it again.

“Of course,” Mulder said and gave her a reassuring little half smile. “We’ll finish up the interviews tomorrow and barring any revelations from forensics, we’ll head home Friday.”

“And the case?” she asked. 

“Open and unexplained,” he said, gently sweeping his thumb across her palm. “It won’t be the first one.”

“Skinner won’t be happy with jurists dead.”

“No, but much as I would love to conjure prosecutable evidence into existence, we can’t. The locals can handle the case from here and call us if things change,” he said then brought her hand up and pressed a soft kiss to her knuckles. “And, if I’m being totally honest here,  the only person’s happiness I care about right now is yours.”

“Mulder…” she chided softly.

He just smiled, put the car in gear, and set course for their hotel.

Chapter Text

Mulder juggled two take-out cups of coffee as he used his key to enter Scully’s apartment. 

It was Saturday. They’d arrived in D.C. late last night after the frustrating case in Nebraska and were going into the office to write up their report for Skinner, who, as Scully predicted, hadn’t been happy with leaving it open. Neither she nor Mulder was any happier with the outcome but when none of their suspects had confessed and forensics hadn’t panned out, there’d been nothing more for them to do. 

So they’d come home.

Since it would be her first night in her home since Donnie Pfaster’s attack, Mulder had offered to stay with her. Not surprisingly, she’d declined.

“It’s not that I don’t want you here, Mulder. But I have to do this sometime and it might as well be tonight,” she’d said then kissed him goodnight at the door a few minutes later.

Mulder hadn’t wanted to go, of course. She’d rested little while they were away and had been plagued by nightmares, which he expected to continue for a while yet, and especially the first night back. Still, he’d respected her choice to confront her demons on her own because it was just how she handled the tough personal things, head-on and alone. He didn’t like it any more than she liked him ditching her and running headlong into potentially perilous situations, but both were long-established foibles and not likely to change anytime soon, or ever completely.

Of course, if he hadn’t deferred to her wishes, she would have just thrown him out. Scully was always stubborn and determined but, at times, she was utterly unmovable. He’d sensed last night this was one of those times so he’d resisted the temptation to try and talk her out of it. 

He’d worried about whether or not she’d be able sleep and lay awake several hours wondering if she might call him. Eventually, though, he’d drifted off into a sound sleep. So sound, he’d slept through the alarm this morning. He’d called her earlier to let her know only to find out she’d slept through her own. She’d told him she was going to shower and to just let himself in when he arrived.

He’d placed that call half an hour ago, which is why he was surprised upon entering her apartment to still hear water running. He felt a flare of worry, remembering the overflowing tub incident at the hotel mere hours after she’d killed Pfaster in her living room.

Mulder moved through her apartment, pausing to set the coffees and his keys on her kitchen table before making his way to her bathroom. He hesitated outside the partially open door and listed to the water run in a strong, steady stream with no change in pattern or intensity.

Either she’s standing still or in the tub.

The thought of the latter had Mulder gently touching the door and push it open. His heart sank when he saw her wrapped in a towel and sitting atop the toilet seat. Her hair was still sleep-tousled and she was leaned forward, her hands clasped together tightly, elbows on her knees as she stared blankly at the tub, which clearly wasn’t stoppered. The lack of steam indicated her hot water heater had probably been depleted. 

“Scully?” 

He said her name softly and she looked up at him but her expression was so withdrawn he wasn’t sure she was actually seeing him. He didn’t ask her if she was okay because her answer would be the same lie it always was. He spared them both that and eased into the room with her. He walked to the tub and shut off the water and the action seemed to break the spell that held her.

“Mulder?” 

She looked and sounded confused.

“Yeah,” he said and watched her gaze immediately clear. 

She blanched, then blushed, then stood and quickly padded past him with a barely audible, “I’m fine.”

And there’s the lie, unsolicited.

Mulder followed her, stopping when he saw her standing on the opposite side of her bed, looking out the window. She was visibly trembling and he didn’t think it was because she was cold. She would be soon, though, he realized, as her body experienced the physiological fallout of the post-traumatic response. The flush she probably felt now would turn into a chill. 

Of course, she would be able to explain the biological response in detail if he were to ask and for a moment he considered mentioning it to see if he could engage that part of her mind. Her consummate sense of reason and logic was often her anchor when weathering emotional storms so it made sense that it might help her find her way out of Donnie Pfaster’s shadow. 

But Mulder didn’t bring it up. Instead, he said something that would either come across as irrelevant or borderline insensitive, or possibly, colossally stupid.

“I thought you were going to shower.”

She briefly glanced over her shoulder at him and he saw anger in her gaze but it didn’t seem directed at him.

“I was going to,” she said, her voice flat despite the emotions she was projeting. “But I looked at the tub and all I could see was his … altar … I wanted to wash it away,” she said then in the same breath, “Which is insane. I know it’s been cleaned. I know the clean-up crew sanitized it, and my mother…” 

Mulder watched her take a shuddering breath. 

“Look in the closet,” she directed. 

Where Pfaster had lain in wait for her…

Mulder glanced over and saw the door was open and the light on inside. He felt a swell of admiration for his partner’s mother when he peered around the jamb. She had dry-cleaned her daughter’s entire wardrobe. Every stitch of clothing was encased in clear plastic bags with tags still hanging from the necks of the hangers. Scully’s shoes were neatly arranged and had clearly been polished. 

Mulder would wager Maggie. Scully had cleaned the entire house, floor to ceiling, determined to give her daughter back her home, not just from Pfaster but also from the paid professionals who had cleaned up the initial mess.

A mother’s desire to protect and comfort her child, he thought and was dead certain his mother would never think of doing such an elaborate thing for him. The clean-up crew would have been enough for her.

“She did the drawers, too … the kitchen … everything,” Scully confirmed.

She loves you, Scully, he thought but didn’t say it aloud. She didn’t need him to tell her that. The evidence was quite literally right in front of them both.

“But he’s still here,” she said. Then, after a moment’s pause, she dropped the towel from around her. 

For a split second, he was reminded of their first case, a thin red robe dropping down to reveal alabaster skin and entirely practical undergarments. 

That rainy night, by candlelight, he had inspected the small bumps in the dip of her back. Today, in mid-morning light, his eyes inspected the lingering evidence on her body of Pfaster’s brutal attack. The bruises had darkened in the last few days but the borders were starting to show the tell-tale sickly yellow of healing. He winced, just as he had the first time, at seeing the mottling that marred her fine complexion.

It bothered him that she hadn’t said a word about them while they were away. It bothered him even more that he hadn’t asked how she was recovering. 

She had to still be incredibly sore, especially considering the less-than-comfortable mattress she’d slept on and the hours she’d on her feet, either traipsing after him through crime scenes or conducting autopsies. He could only imagine the pain she endured while standing on hard, tile flooring for hours on end, bent over corpses, removing and lifting out organs to weigh before returning them to the body.

Fuck, he was an asshole for not asking. For not doing something other than what he had. He was an asshole for not doing something now, but he wasn’t sure what to do when she didn’t move.

“I know he’s dead, Mulder. I know it,” she said then let out a scoffing laugh, “And yet I still slept with the closet open, the light on, and my gun in hand.”

Her confession pained him. He wished he could protect her from her own mind but one of the first things he learned in psychology training was that professionals could only serve as a guide; the patient still had to do the work needed to heal. And she knew that, too, which is why she’d wanted to be alone last night.

It’s also why she always tried to help him when he was in similar circumstances, why she tried to correct the course of his self-destructive emotions and thoughts toward less dark, more logical and reasoned ground. Her logic was failing her now, though. Not because it was flawed but because her emotions didn’t align with the acknowledged reality of her safety. 

Fear was the most primitive and powerful emotion and hers was apparently being more stubborn than she’d expected. Or at least had hoped.

As Mulder watched her quietly, she turned her head again, this time looking in the direction of the wall where the large mirror had once hung. He followed her gaze to see a painting had replaced it – her mother’s idea from the look of it. 

“It’s not my taste,” she said, clearly trusting him to follow her train of thought. 

Not even close, Mulder thought. The serene pastoral scene was basically an upscale version of the typical wall decor of the ramshackle motels they stayed in on the road.

“Are you going to keep it?” he asked even though he couldn’t imagine her doing so, at least not for the long term. Scully needed order in her personal spaces. That painting was as out of place with the rest of the room as a poster of the Full House cast.

“I don’t know,” she said and he looked back in time to see her shrug and wrap her her arms around her chest. Her fingers pressed deeply into her toned triceps, the skin whiting beneath her fingertips. 

She was still shivering and that prompted to him to action.

Moving quietly, he picked up the throw blanket that hung across the footboard and took it to her. He carefully draped the soft fabric around her shoulders then braved easing his arms around her. When she didn’t pull away or protest, he embraced her gently, his chest just barely pressed to her back in deference to her still-healing injuries.

“I won’t leave my home, Mulder,” she said after a moment, her voice soft but undergirded by her usual determination and the stubbornness that matched and counterbalanced his own. 

“I know,” he said then propped his chin atop her head and joined her in looking out the window.

Chapter Text

They were holding hands. 

She was barefoot and wearing jeans and a light blue, long-sleeved shirt. Her pant legs were rolled up into cuffs that skirted just above the ankle. He was wearing jeans and sneakers, and a similar shirt, albeit dark blue … or maybe black. 

With the distance and the moonlight, Bill Scully couldn’t make out the exact color – not that he cared what the hell Fox Mulder wore, or even his sister for that matter. It mattered that they were clothed and walking side-by-side away from the shore and toward the hotel where they were staying.

Bill didn’t like it. 

He never liked seeing his sister with the tall man at her side. He had every reason to despise the man for what he’d cost their family, for what he had done and continued to do to Dana’s life. It pained him to see her smiling up at her partner with an expression their mother would certainly call beatific.

Bill would rather be just about anywhere other than where he was but his mother had called and told him Dana was own in Santa Monica on a case and that he should go see her and they should talk. He’d tried to tell his mom that he didn’t know what they had talk about because his  opinions and concerns hadn’t changed. But then she told him Dana had been hurt again, this time in her own home, and had killed the man who’d attacked her.

The news had sickened and infuriated Bill. He had filled with a burning rage to dig up the bastard and kill him again. Whatever Dana thought of him, he did love her. She was still his little sister even if he some part of him sometimes blamed her for Melissa’s death.

He wished she’d get out of the FBI, do something less dangerous but he was honestly worried Dana had been brainwashed to some degree or was at least too easily swayed by her crackpot partner. He had to keep reminding himself that his sister was a doctor, logical, rational, and reasoned, not easily convinced of anything without evidence. At least that’s the way she’d been in high school and medical school, and their mother had assured him that hadn’t changed.

“Dana’s not a blind believer in anything, Bill,” his mother had said. “Not even God.”

Growing up, Dana had spent more time with him and Charlie doing boy things than she’d every played dress-up and tea party with Melissa. She’d been as tough as him and even punched him in the nose more than once when he picked on her and got her good and mad. That hadn’t stopped until he’d gotten too tall for her to reach. Then his gut had become the target.

Beyond that toughness, he remembered she’d also been serious, studious, and tender-hearted. He’d picked on her a lot over those particular traits, but not quite to the point of cruelty. She had been fun to tease and goad and he suspected the childhood joy he’d gotten out of that might be playing a part in her current frustration with him.

Dana wasn’t frustrated now, though, at least not with the man Bill felt was going to get her killed one day, or worse.

From his car, Bill watched her dip her head shyly at something her partner said then glance back up all flirty. Then she smiled and threw her head back with a peal of laughter when he said something else. Then her partner was laughing and watching her with a sense of wonder that Bill recognized with unsettling clarity because he looked at Tara like that sometimes and knew the emotions that came with it.

Love and desire. 

Bill clenched his jaw when Dana’s partner suddenly swooped down and kissed her, just as her laughter was tapering off. It was just a quick meeting of their mouths, but it was enough to make Bill’s blood boil.

There was nothing partner-like in that gesture, not a damned thing, null and voiding her assertions that she and her partner weren’t lovers as far as Bill was concerned. That Dana didn’t protest in the slightest only further irritated him. His irritation turned to anger when his sister just smiled at the man then tugged on his arm and picked up the pace toward the hotel.

It took everything ounce of self-control to tamp down the urge to open the car door and stop her from dragging the man to her hotel room. Bill knew that’s where they were going because he recognized the look on her face now. He’d seen it on Tara’s and it unsettled him to no end to see it on his baby sister’s. Because she was his sister, and because the man she was clearly committed to bedding was Fox Mulder.

Fox. What a stupid name.

To Bill’s immediate relief, her partner cut short her advance, stopping after a few steps. She looked back at him in apparent confusion then willingly followed him over to a shallow seawall. He lifted her up and set her atop it then hauled himself up to sit next to her. 

And they talked. 

For a long time.

Long enough that Bill was feeling pretty stupid for just sitting in the car. He could get out at any time, go over, and tell Fox to take a hike so he could talk to his sister. He wasn’t sure why he didn’t except that there was something in Dana’s body language that told him it would compound their estrangement in ways unwise.

She looked vulnerable, huddling close to her partner and turning her head every now and then to look up at him. Whatever they were talking about was serious, their expressions shifting from frowns and looks of concern before eventually dissolving into lingering gazes and secretive little smiles. 

After a while, Bill watched Dana rest her head on her partner’s shoulder and her partner lean his head against hers.

Something shifted in Bill’s gut at the sight of them together like that. Something that made him simultaneously ashamed and angry at feeling ashamed.

The anger he understood but he could see no reason to feel shame. He had every right to be upset with how Fox Mulder’s quest had claimed Missy’s life and consumed Dana’s. He felt within his rights to also resent the closeness his sister shared with the man, especially when it had distanced her from her family. Family had always been important to her before.

Bill put his hand on the car door handle with the intent of bringing an end to his voyeuristic torture and talking things out with Dana but he stilled when he saw them moving again. He watched Dana lift her head from her partner’s shoulder and tilt her head in clear invitation.

Bill didn’t need to look at his hand to know that his knuckles were white. He could feel the tendons and muscles in his fingers and palm stretch and tighten as he watched his sister accept a kiss from Mulder. A kiss that became several lingering, sensual kisses in which she was a full participant.

Disgusted, Bill yanked his hand away from the door handle and reached for the keys dangling from the ignition. He started the car but the sound didn’t startle the couple apart. It hadn’t been a conscious goal but he would have welcomed it.

He white-knuckled the steering wheel now and reached for the gear shift, ready to get the hell out of there as shame washed over him again. But he didn’t actually shift out of park right away. Instead, he watched Dana press her brow to Mulder’s then tell the man she loved him.

The words were easy enough to make out. As were her partner’s when he drew back and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear.

Bill didn’t stick around to see what happened next. He knew what was going to happen and he’d be damed if he’d witness that again because there was no way Mulder was going to stop her this time. 

Slamming the car into reverse, Bill backed out of the space and headed back to San Diego. As his mind replayed what he’d seen, he remembered his mother’s words at New Year’s.

She’s happy, Bill. Let her be happy.

That’s what she’d said when he’d expressed his displeasure with Dana’s behavior with her partner, rolling around in the snow, hurling snowballs, laughing and smiling.

She’s happy, Bill.

Yes, she was. But that was the biggest part of the problem for him. 

Dana was happy. But Melissa was dead because of the certifiable lunatic who made Dana happy. There was something wrong with that. But as Bill considered that he was trying to force unhappiness on one sister because of the other’s absence, he found the source of his shame and it made him sick.

“Goddamn it,” he groaned and pulled over on the first roadside shoulder he reached. 

He then scrambled out of his car and puked his guts up on the side of the PCH.

Chapter Text

“Are you going to see your brother while we’re out here?”

The question was soft in the dark of her hotel room. Dana wasn’t sure she liked it but she liked the man who’d asked it.

“I don’t know,” she said and she really didn’t. She hadn’t talked to Bill since New Year’s or replied to the two letters he’d sent in the weeks following, unable to think of what to say.

“You can if you want. I can take care of the paperwork on the Amazing Maleeni and accomplice,” came Mulder’s voice again, still the same carefully modulated tone, probably to reassure her he wasn’t making it a suggestion or dictate. She didn’t take it either way and smiled a little when he added, “Besides, I owe you one after Florida.”

“You do. But I don’t know if I want to call in the marker just yet,” she said, sliding her hand across his chest. The sweat from their earlier exertions had dried and the blazing heat of his flesh had faded. She missed both but this steady warmth was perfect and she snuggled tighter against his side. He gently squeezed her shoulder in response then slid his hand down to her elbow and back up. She shivered.

“Cold?”

“No,” she hummed and lightly traced her fingers along his clavicle, an erogenous zone for him. He shivered, just as she’d wanted him, too, and smiled.

“Oh that,” he snarked and she couldn’t stop the giggle that bubbled up. 

It was an urge she’d had to suppress much of the week as she and Mulder had teased one another with lame magic tricks and illusions while they worked their case. Her participation had surprised him, much to her delight. She liked keeping him on his toes and wondering what other unexpected things she might reveal to him one day.

Just those evening, she’d showed him a new thing or two and earned a very loud “holy shit” and an even louder “holy fuck” that she’d found flattering, arousing, and amusing. She would never have guessed he’d never had a proper prostate massage. 

Afterward, he had announced that he was benefitting from her medical knowledge in new and unexpected ways, and that he was enjoying these ways a lot more than the other ways, although he appreciated those, too. It had been a tongue-twister and brain-bender of a declaration by the end and she’d been left laughing and rolling her eyes before succumbing to the desire to kiss him stupid.

Now they were just laying quietly in the dark and she felt more at ease than she had in what was probably years.

Did she want to trade that sense of peace for an encounter with her brother that she had no hopes of being any different than the last? She loved Bill but no, she wasn’t ready for that, not when she felt like she was finally getting her footing back after everything that had happened since.

“I’m staying here,” she said softly.

“You’re sure?” her bedmate asked.

“Yes,” she said then suggested, “Maybe we can have supper tomorrow at a nice place.”

“You wanna explain that expense to the bean counters?”

“I don’t have to,” she said, tilting her head to look up at him. Technically he was head of the X-Files division.

“Well, I’m not doing it,” he said, smirking. “It’s your idea.”

Dana smiled, teased, “You could just pick up the tab?”

He shot her a feigned scowl. “I thought you were a feminist?”

“Beast woman, Mulder,” she reminded him and watch the corner of his mouth twitch in the shaft of moonlight that fell across his face. “But we can split the check if it makes you feel better. I would just be nice to eat somewhere that serves more than soda and beer, and that isn’t takeout.”

Or maybe it wouldn’t, she reconsidered as she looked at him. 

Wine and candlelight wasn’t really them. Them was shabby, roadside motels, barbecue and beer, bad takeout and tea in wax-coated cups, movies on VHS or cable and feet up on the coffee table. Them was lengthy discussions of the existential, philosophical, supernatural, and sometimes deeply personal. 

Earlier, out on the seawall, their conversation had been a deeply personal one. About things that had happened since New Year’s and the failure of the IVF. They had finally broached the subject of what they were doing and where they were going as partners and more. Not in depth, but enough for them to communicate the desire for things to continue, to let it develop on its own and not try to force anything, both personally and professionally. 

They hadn’t put a label on anything – not she believed traditional labels would apply to them, ever –– and they’d made no formal promises, but the commitment was there. Just as it always had been.

“Or,” she said, returning to their conversation with a smirk, “We could just grab some corn dogs and cotton candy, and ride the ferris wheel.”

“We could make out on the ferris wheel,” he suggested.

“We could fuck under the boardwalk,” she countered with a saucy grin and watched his smile widen. 

“Ooo, Scully, you naughty federal agent, you, ready for a little public action in one of the most cliché places on Earth,” he teased.

“I wouldn’t be the only naughty federal agent in that scenario, Mulder,” she said, “Unless you feel you’re not up to it. I can always grab a random stranger to–”

Before she could finish her sentence, she was on her back and he was over her, his weight pinning her to the mattress. He was grinning ear to ear, happier than she’d seen him in some time.

“I’m surprised at you, Agent Scully, willing to put an unsuspecting citizen in harm’s way for personal gratification,” he said with a grin. “Your conquest would end up needing medical attention before he even started.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Who said it would be a man?”

His eyes widened then darkened, but not for the reason she might have thought given his predilection for porn.

“You know I don’t play well with others, man or woman,” he said with a possessiveness that was clearly playful, but not entirely so. His compulsion to claim her was often annoying professionally and sometimes personally, but there were times, like now, that she didn’t mind being his, desired it even. The fluttering that had begun south of her navel was evidence enough that.

“No,” she said on a quickened breath then reminded him, “But neither do I.”

She didn’t mean just sexually. The disruption of their partnership by Diana Fowley’s return to his life had hurt her deeply. And he knew it.

Above her, his expression gentled. “You have nothing to fear,” he said softly and something inside her eased, some unrealized remnant of doubt maybe. She didn’t stop to examine it as she smoothed her hands over his chest and found his heart with the right. She pressed her palm against him and felt the organ beating strongly beneath. Feeling it made her ache deep within, with a need that she’d let go unmet for far too long and now only wanted him to meet.

“Kiss me,” she breathed in the space between them.

He did.

Chapter Text

Oh crap.

Mulder stopped in his tracks when he exited the Santa Monica police headquarters. 

In the parking lot across the street, sitting behind the wheel of a blue minivan, was his partner’s older brother. He was wearing sunglasses but Mulder didn’t need to be a crack criminal profiler to know he was in the man’s crosshairs. It made him uncomfortable but his concern was for Scully, who was just behind him. She hadn’t wanted to see her brother and now here he was.

“Mulder, what is it?” she asked as she stepped up beside him. He looked down at her.

“You have a visitor,” he said and glanced back across the street to see Bill getting out of the van. He wore khakis and a white polo.

Scully swore under her breath. “I’ll be right back,” she said, her tone pure steel, easing his worries somewhat. 

Hanging back, his gaze tracked her as she crossed the street, shoulders back and spine straight. Her bearing was every bit that of a naval officer’s daughter, making him wonder, surprisingly for the first time, if she’d learned it as a child by observing and mimicking her adored father’s posture and mannerisms. It wouldn’t surprise him and it didn’t surprise him that she stacked up well against her much taller brother. If anything, her diminutive frame was a better showcase for it. She exuded power and confidence, and her clipped pace sent out a clear message: I’m in no mood for bullshit.

That’s Scully. Ready to kick ass and take names.

A part of Mulder worried for her though. Her family was important to her, even the stubborn bastard on the other side of the street. She wanted to mend things between them, for all their sakes, and Mulder knew she would make the effort. If her brother would remained to be seen. 

Mulder hoped Bill would show at least a little contrition for the pain he’d inflicted. An apology would be even better and go a long way toward making things right. Mulder wanted that for her. He wanted a lot of things for her, wanted to give her everything she wanted and needed, even the things she couldn’t have. He hoped that a relationship with her brother wasn’t one of the latter.

As she neared, Mulder watched Bill remove his sunglasses and for a moment, his arms moved as if he might hug her but he ended up securing the shades in the “v” of his shirt instead. 

Mulder began to feel weird about watching them but he didn’t want to retreat into the building and leave her without an avenue of withdrawal if things got ugly. His memories of her turmoil on New Year’s Day were fresh enough to make him want to hover, just in case.

She had one advantage this time, though: Bill was on her playing field instead of the quasi-neutral ground of her mother’s home. This time she was wearing her professional armor – a black, crisply pressed power suit. This time she was actively packing heat – a SIG-Sauer P228, at the small of her back, just next to her handcuffs in their smooth leather holster.

And those heels. 

She’d taken to wearing boots of late, but the pumps she had on today made a undeniable statement and could be used as a lethal weapon if necessary. He had no idea how she ran in those but she had been doing it for years, whenever a case hadn’t appeared to require more practical footwear.

Of course, now that Mulder was looking at them, his primitive brain tried to convince him they were screaming “fuck me,” at him. It was an unhinged, lustful thought that was somewhat new for him regarding Scully and definitely inappropriate on the job. 

Just thinking about the possibility of Bill hurting her again quickly quelled his libido, however, and set his focus aright. He welcomed the shift and eased into the shadows of a lone ornamental tree in front of the building. There, he sat on a low concrete wall that surrounded a flowerbed and waited to see how things would play out.

Chapter Text

Scully ignored the glare of the sun as she looked up at her big brother. 

Her heart had clenched at the sight of him across the street, memories of their last personal encounter pouring forth from her medial temporal lobe. Pain being the predominant emotion triggered in the flow, she had considered walking away, just ignoring his presence and going to the car with Mulder. But only for a moment. As much as she didn’t want to engage Bill, especially in public, and especially outside a building where her peers were coming and going, she figured she owed it to herself to find out why he was here, and to her mother, who had undoubtedly had told him where to find her.

“Bill,” she greeted, striking a polite but distant note.

He said her name in reply, his tone unexpectedly more conciliatory than her own. He then quickly glanced across the street. 

Mulder.

“Is he just going to stare?” Bill asked and she bit back a sigh. 

“We’re on our way to the medical examiner’s office,” she said but did not tell him it was just to pick up some files to carry back to Washington. She was perfectly willing to let him think she was going there to do an autopsy, giving her an official out if things got heated. She hated the omission but not as much as she hated that she felt the need to do it.

He exhaled heavily then returned his attention to her.

“I saw you last night. With him,” he said

Dana didn’t have to ask where he’d seen them. From the look on his face, it was fairly obvious it had been at the hotel. It wasn’t enough that they had enemies who had been spying on them for years, stalking their every move, now her brother was in the mix. She pinned him with a glare.

“You’re spying on me now, Bill?”

“It wasn’t my intention,” he defended and she saw anger flare briefly before he buried it behind a mask of frustration and disappointment. “I came down to talk.”

“And you what? Indulged in a little voyeurism instead?” she pressed but he didn’t answer the question. He did, however, say exactly what she should have expected.

 

“Mom told me what happened to you.”

Dana rolled her eyes. She loved her mother dearly. She really did. But she felt very much tattled on at the moment, to her brother no less. There was no way her mother could claim ignorance of how Bill would probably respond, not after the holiday debacle and the subsequent letters. It was infuriating.

“I’m fine,” she said tersely.

Bill looked skeptical then shot another irritated look across the street at Mulder. She followed his gaze to see her partner sitting and picking around at something in his hand. Sunflower seeds. She watched him pick one out and crack it open between his teeth.

“Stop worrying about what he’s doing,” she told Bill curtly, drawing his gaze back to her. “And stop blaming him for everything.”

Bill expressed his frustration with a sigh. “I don’t like him, Dana.”

“I’ve never asked you to like him, nor do I expect you to,” she replied. “I’ve only ever asked that you respect him and his place in my life and treat him with a modicum of civility.”

“I can’t,” Bill said, his eyes pained. “Not after what he’s done to your life.”

“Mulder has done nothing to my life, Bill,” she told him. “He is not the cause of everything that happens to me. I bear the responsibility for my choices. I’ve told you, I don’t follow him blindly. I know the risks of the life I have chosen.”

She tried to keep her tone civil, not wanting things to escalate between them, but she was going to give him only so much leeway and endure this for only so long. Why she was bothering with this talk at all was a mystery, though. She’d already told him she wouldn’t have it again.

Bill looked away from her, down to the ground, and she glanced to see him toeing at a tuft of grass growing up between the cracks in the sidewalk. 

“You lied about being lovers,” he said and she rolled her eyes.

Dana had so hoped that since the holidays her brother would have at least spent a little time thinking about the fact she was grown woman, free to choose her career path and who had access to her life. Instead, here he was, again, behaving like a father who couldn’t cope with the idea of a man touching his little girl, never mind her age. She resented it being directed at her and loathed being called a liar. 

“I didn’t lie,” she said and chose to drive her the truth home with a look that she sincerely hoped he would correctly interpret. Or there was going to be hell to pay.

After several long moments, he seemed to accept her answer, looking somewhat relieved, almost as if the possibility of her lying was more troublesome than anything. That was a change and it made her feel a bit better, but she was careful to remain cautiously optimistic.

“You love him,” he said and it wasn’t really a question.

“Bill,” she sighed again. “Mulder is my partner and my best friend, and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love him in some way or another.”

“Partners and friends don’t kiss like–” he started, his tone bordering on sanctimonious. She stopped him right there.

Enough,” she cut her brother off with the sharpness she usually reserved for suspects and out-of-line colleagues, and, occasionally, Mulder. He startled slightly at hearing it and she forged ahead. “How I express my feelings and who I take to my bed is my business, Bill, not yours. If you can’t respect that, then get in your car right now and go back to San Diego.”

His gaze darted away from hers, to fix somewhere over her shoulder. She could see him mulling something, his brow creasing in a deep frown. It was a pained expression that reminded her of their mother but the air around him radiated with the stern disapproval that was entirely her father. Her heart clenched at seeing it, remembering the deep pain of their disappointment at her choice of career path, especially Ahab’s. 

Dana let out a slow, heavy exhale and shoved the memories to the back of her mind. She might examine them later, or not.

“Why are you here, Bill? What is it you want?” she asked when her brother remained silent. 

When he still said nothing after several lengthy moments, she decided she’d had enough.

 “I have places to be,” Dana said then turned on her heel with every intention of rejoining Mulder so they could wrap up the loose ends of their case. She was only a few steps away when her brother finally broke his silence.

“I’m sorry, Dana, for some of the things I said,” he said, sounding as if the words had to be forcibly extracted.

Her initial reaction was shock, then anger. She did an about face so sharply that anyone watching probably would have thought she was the military officer of the two of them. She quickly closed the distance to him.

“Some of the things you said?” she snapped, unable to help herself. 

What he’d said to her over the years had been hurtful, she wasn’t dismissing that, but what he had done and was continuing to do was far more insidious. Either he didn’t realize it or he wasn’t ready to face it.

“Bill, this goes way beyond anything you’ve ever said, about me, Emily, or even Mulder. This is about you trying to quantify the quality of my life by your criteria. This is about you trying to shove me into some mold you’ve decided I must fit in. About expecting me to conform to some ridiculous standard that most every man I meet already tries to apply. Yes, you’ve said some hurtful things, but it is your continued refusal to acknowledge my right to self-determination that is strangling our relationship.”

Exasperation flooded his features and seared his next words, “What do you want me to do, Dana?” 

That was an easy answer. It’s one she’d said before but was more than willing to tell again in hopes it would finally penetrate his thick skull.

“Respect that my life is my own. That my choices are my own,” she stated, then emphatically, “And stop treating me like you’re my father. I neither need nor seek your approval.”

“I’m trying, Dana. I just–”

If he’d just stopped at her name… 

“Try harder,” she stressed then a bit softer, as conciliatory as she could manage at the moment, “I love you, Bill, but I will not live my life on anyone’s terms but my own.”

“Not even Mulder’s?” 

The dig was half-hearted but still a dig.

Dana was beyond weary at this point. His arguments always coming back to her partner.

“I need to know, Dana,” he said when she didn’t reply right away. “You say you don’t follow him blindly, but what kind of influence does he have in your choices?”

Do you let him tell you what to do? That’s what she heard but the question was clearly sincere if she was correctly reading him. He didn’t seem to be just looking to prolong a confrontation, which was fine with her. She had a genuine answer for him.

“Mulder argues his case but never demands that I conform to his way of thinking,” she said softly. “We eventually agree or don’t, or we find common ground. It can be frustrating for both of us at times, but respect is always given and is still there when the dust settles.”

Chapter Text

The early evening wind coming off the Pacific was quite cool.

Fox Mulder suppressed a little shiver as a gust invaded the open lapels of his leather jacket. While San Diego was not nearly as cold as the Northeast at this time of the year, the temperature had dropped off substantially since the afternoon, leaving a distinct chill to the coastal air as the sun sank below the horizon.

He suspected Scully was feeling it, too, as she sat huddled on the beach in her skirt and short sleeves. It’s where she’d retreated to after they’d returned from the medical examiner’s office.

“I’ll be back in a bit,” she’d said with a small, affectionate smile as she handed the the paperwork and her jacket.

He’d nodded and watched her walk down the pathway to the sand, where she’d shed her shoes then strolled toward the water, presumably to reflect on her encounter with her brother.

She hadn’t yet told Mulder what had been said but it had clearly been on her mind most of the day. She’d been quiet and contemplative, making it difficult for him to decide if things had gone better or worse than the holiday encounters. Her lack of upset made him hope for the former but Scully could be hard for even him to read when she wanted.

Standing on the sidewalk near the seawall, Mulder scanned the encroaching night for his partner. He found her after a few moments, just able to make out her silhouette against the near dark horizon. She looked to be halfway between the hotel boardwalk and the water. She was curled into herself, her petite body drawn tight, making her even smaller.

Her leather jacket in hand, he joined her, draping the garment around her huddled form when he reached her.

“You look cold,” he said as he sank down into the sand next to her.

“I am,” she said. He couldn’t quite make out the blue of her eyes but he did catch the flash of a smile. “Thank you,” she said softly.

“You’re welcome,” he replied then propped his arms on his splayed knees. He shut his eyes and took a deep breath of the salt air, loving the sting at the back of his throat and in his nostrils. It was pleasant but cool as it was, it still lacked the crispness of New England that he preferred, that Samatha had hated.

His sister had always preferred any other coast they visited to the one they'd called home. She had wanted to wear a bikini and learn how to surf, all of which her eight-year-old self insisted was impossible to do properly anywhere other than California. They had made one trip to the West Coast before her abduction and she hadn’t gotten to do any of those things. The recollection stirred a deep sadness in him, one he hadn’t dwelled on much in a while. Its arrival sent a shudder through him but he calmed when gentle fingers touched his cheek a moment later. 

His eyes sought the owner of said fingers. She was so fucking beautiful and he thought maybe he should tell her that.

“You okay?” she asked softly before he could formulate the words.

“Yeah,” he replied even as her eyes continued to search his. It took only the span of a breath for her features to shift from a concerned frown into an expression of compassionate recognition and commiseration. 

Having those emotions directed at him didn’t startle him like it once had. He’d spent too many years isolated and the butt of jokes but she cared and he’d come to associate those feelings solely with her. He was grateful for it, and for her unswerving loyalty and affection. He was just plain grateful for her in his life.

“You hungry?” he asked after a moment.

She nodded. “I could eat.”

“Then lets go find some food, G-woman,” Mulder said as he leveraged himself up from the sand. Once on his feet, he offered his hand his partner. She took it and he hauled her up with an ease that always surprised him. Her physical size sat in direct contradiction to the power of her personality, to the point he sometimes forgot how small she was. Until something reminded him.

He was reminded later again when he lifted her and pinned her to the hotel room wall with his body, a position that belied the gentleness of their lovemaking. 

The kisses were soft and lingering, caresses caring and reverent. It was about earlier on the sand, his loss, his pain. She was loving it the hell out of him, soothing him with slow, fluid undulations of her hips to met his thrusts.

Fuck, he loved her. He needed her like he needed air to breathe. Her compassion was intoxicating and he was drunk. Blind drunk to the point he didn’t hear his phone ring. And ring. And ring. 

She was his world, all he wanted and needed. 

And Dana knew it. 

Some part of her mind heard his phone, and then hers, but she resolutely ignored both, dispatching her usually stalwart sense of duty in favor of losing herself in the man her brother so desperately disliked, and she so desperately adored.

Her partner’s usual intensity was gentled just now, focused but tender, sensual, and affectionate. He was kissing her at an almost slothful pace, his lips soft against her own, that bottom one that she’d learned was as sinful as it looked caressing her top one with the deliberate intent to love her. 

She felt loved, desired, and needed. She felt love for him and a need to give him refuge, a place to find distance from the pain she knew he had carried since he was a boy, that had been stirred earlier for some reason.

On the walk back to the hotel, they forgot about food and ferris wheel rides and invested deeply in each other, physically and emotionally, and she wasn’t going to end it because of damned ringing phones.

She moved with him as he held her against the wall, returning his kisses, one hand buried in his dark hair, the other staking claim to his back, holding him as he worked his cock inside her. 

They’d crossed the line more than a month ago and now they were dancing well beyond it. Their rules of physical engagement while on a case had been tossed out the window their entire time here. They’d slept together every night, had sex a few times, and now, just now, they were in that place only people who love each other visit.

She had told her brother she loved Mulder in many ways, but right now, she was his lover, the woman who loved him. She did not think it hubris to believe she was the only one who’d made a place for him, a place that was just his, to forget everything, to feel and be safe. Or maybe it was rampant egotism. But there was something in how reverent he was with her when they were like this, lost in each other to the exclusion of all else. She knew he was the only man who’d given her the same space, carving it out even as he’d invaded her personal space from the start.

He wasn’t a show-off. His ego wasn’t tied the size of his cock or his sinful ability to kiss. It wasn’t tied to his ability to seduce her with his masculinity or the power and intensity of his personality.

He wooed her by simply giving her a refuge to feel the things she felt. He had from the start, even when she was angry or frustrated or terrified. She was safe to be all those things with him. She could lay down the armor she’d painstakingly crafted over the years and just be with him. It wasn’t instinctual to lay it down, but the knee-jerk reaction to put it on was fading, to the point she didn’t want to wear it any more when she was alone with him.

It was so unlike her and yet it is something she could confess, at least to herself, that she’d wanted for years. To be able to trust. To be vulnerable without being seen as weak. 

She had long ago trusted Mulder with her life. Now she was learning to trust him with the rest of her. How could she not when he was willing to make a child with her.

“Mulder,” she gasped softly into his mouth as the emptiness of her womb made itself known, a deep and twisting ache that threatened to overwhelm her. She hadn’t meant to think of it. She really hadn’t.

Drawing back, Mulder caught his partner’s gaze with his own. He saw sorrow and longing and only one thing caused that so profoundly in Dana Scully. Knowing she was thinking about it while he was inside her nearly brought him to his knees. He didn’t think she had since that first night, at least not with the intensity of now. He wished he could give her what she wanted, restore what had been stolen from her.

“Scully,” he whispered and leaned in and kissed her brow. 

Both of them startled when his phone resumed ringing. She let out a thready breath and nodded. He kissed her brow again in gentle apology then lifted her off him. He shivered at the loss of her heat as he set her on the floor. 

She caressed his cheek before he eased away, her fingers maintaining contact until he was out of reach. He shivered again, this time at the memory of a similar contact, when she’d been dying of cancer in the hospital, not letting go of his hand until he she could no longer hold on. He suppressed the chill the came with the recollection and sought out his phone.

He heard the bathroom door shut as he answered the call.