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Dance in the Dark

Chapter Text

 

 

 

In order for the light to shine so brightly,

The darkness must be present.

-Francis Bacon

 

 

5:45 PM, July 10th 1999

Ivy City, Washington DC (Old Industrial Park)

 

                The sun had been out for hours, beating down on the rough, blistered pavement in the former bustling, industrial neighborhood. It had rained off and on since the first of the month in heavy bursts, replaced only by heat lightning and equally potent thunder that rocked the area. DC wasn’t prone to flooding but the less maintained streets looked more like creeks than drivable streets in places and had become breeding grounds for the mosquitoes as the puddles stayed in large surface areas for days. The cracks in the cement were filled with weeds and tall grasses in spots depending on where one traveled along the fences that poorly protected the abandoned, isolated structures that stood like tall ghosts in the light of day. The sun was starting to crest along the edges of buildings as it became half hidden by the taller structures, peeking out along broken windows and partially decaying walls that once stood, proud like soldiers on an untouched frontline readied for a war that hadn’t begun. The years had not been kind to this neighborhood, the signs of urban sprawl and decay clear along with a plethora of graffiti that was best left unseen by the younger eyes.

                It was the seedy underbelly that parents tell their older kids not to look at and pretend that it isn’t there when every teenager is considerably wiser to it, knowing exactly what it is and even why it is there.

                Summer was supposed to be fun but the crimson and velvet purple haired teenager with a Sailor Moon hairpin affixed to the center of her hair, pulling her nearly chin length bangs away from her face, wasn’t exactly thrilled with spending her evening trapesing through the old loading yard alone on any given day let alone doing it alone for the umpteenth time since school had gotten over for the break. She wasn’t used to the least interesting events but had settled for such when everyone decided to ditch her, leaving her to make her way home through the worst part of her. It was the path she knew the best. This was a typical, most well-worn direction that the group took, but taking it alone wasn’t something that anyone would do unless they had a death wish or enjoyed the mentally unhinged, homeless woman with about fifty cats screaming at them. The Simpsons must have gotten their inspiration from somewhere, the neighborhood kids had all concluded, even after having at least three kittens thrown at them while obscene words and gestures were hurled their way by the woman.

                This was the life that their parents never intended on giving them but it certainly provided the most amount of adventure, even under the most frightening of circumstances, and kept every parental figure’s blood pressure skyrocketing over the worry. She was used to this kind of daily discourse but not after a summer rain as she was purposely avoiding soaking her pants and boots in the fresh mud and standing water that lay outside of every building in her way. She nearly biffed it climbing over the fence to cut through the old shipping yard that had experienced a resurgence of overgrowth caused by the absence of the once blossoming industry that resided there, once upon a time. She kicked a few of the stones at her feet and watched them bounce across the deeper cracks and fly across the uneven surface, leading up to the remaining steps that went into a run-down out building that had lost one of the walls to overgrowth, a fallen tree, and a couple of manmade incidents that left the once upright spilling over in a heap like a storybook description of the entrance to the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.

                This certainly was no fairy-tale life.

                A nearby car horn’s loud, quite sudden, blaring had her plugging her ears for a long, irritation filled moment as she slid the headphones onto her head and jacked the volume up until she could no longer hear anything but the sound of “In Your Room” by the Bangles echoing in her ears. She tapped her hands on her hips, enjoying the rhythm for a long moment as the subtle bass beat and drums thudded in her ears. It was an escape from the ordinary and she certainly didn’t fall into the category of anything that could be categorized as average and that fact was without a doubt, unquestionable. She took a certain delight in straying from the status quo, even to the type of music that she sought out—most girls her age weren’t actively listening to the Bangles or any other 80s ladies. It was part of her charm, she had decided, as she pulled herself from the moment of contemplation and continued forward with the melody keeping her moving.

                She had walked this path at least a hundred times to cut ten minutes from the walk as she climbed through the pile of bricks at the entrance and ducked under the fallen branch that had been struck by lightning years earlier. It had become oddly routine as she could predict some of the hindrances in the way of the path that a normal person might’ve been encumbered by, but she wasn’t. She treated them like they were nothing more than an extra thing to hop over or duck under with a delicate ease. She wasn’t shy, however, about reflecting on the overall wear and tear on the building as she took a moment to stand still, looking up at the oddly high ceilings, noting the chaotic level, complete mess that had been left of the once prominent storage facility. She inhaled against her better judgement and held back the urge to gag as the odor left behind from years of decay tickled her nostrils in the wrong sort of way. The smell certainly wasn’t doing any favors to the overall vibe on the inside of the building as the stench only seemed to become thicker with time, adding to the general unease that it instilled in the faintest of hearts.

                “Smells like Uncle Joey’s sweaty butt crack up in here,” She didn’t realize she was yelling as she made a face, standing in the middle of the wet floor. “Wait, no, dead road kill and Uncle Joey’s sweaty butt crack…gross.”

                She gagged a little, her late lunch begging to come back up with every passing second, pulling her coat up by her face as the smell was a little overwhelming as she passed by one of the old conveyor belts that had collapsed on itself and tipped on its side. The odor was incredibly pungent and took the literal breath away from her as she tried to simply ignore it, but it became heavier with every step she took toward her normal exit point. She wasn’t used to having to avoid new wreckage but hadn’t been in this particular building after a heavy downpour in ages—and things weren’t exactly as they had been as she shifted her weight over the top of new obstructions. This was not how she wanted to spend the evening and she was already praying that the odor wasn’t the kind that lingered on your clothes long after you’ve left since she could already feel it burning the inside of her nostrils with every inhale. She was starting to feel as though she had been rubbed up on by Pepe Le Pew and his skunky aroma was hanging around every little crevice that he had been touching. To complicate the stinky little situation, the puddles from the rain water were making each, wobbly step a little less comfortable and secure. She felt everything slide underneath of her feet as she took a slightly wide berth toward the hole in the bricks and found herself nearly knee deep in dirty, standing water.

                “Oh my God, it smells like a toilet, it smells like a toilet, it, smells, like, a, toilet!” She flailed and unintentionally splashed water further up the wall and all over her only way out as she reached for the bricks, pulling herself from the stagnant, foul smelling scum she had stepped into.

                The urgency to remove herself from the building was paramount but so was getting her coat off as she perched atop the stack of bricks and tore off the soaked denim jacket with the Sailor Moon logo iron on across the back, the glittery edges all soggy with water. She groaned as it finally came free of her wrists, splattering water and mud all over the place in the process. It was a mess in there and she was completely taken aback by the odor alone, not even factoring in the lack of appreciation for the fluid that now plagued her clothing, as she tossed the jacket over the top of the hole in the wall, letting it land in the grass outside, the dry, feathered tousling noise invading the loud music as she dragged her headphones down to her neck. She had done her makeup that morning, opting for some light sparkles and pink gloss, but the pretty exterior had been completely betrayed by the splashes of thick, dark water as she wiped her face instinctively, doing her best not to make the smell any worse.

                “What in the…” Her peripheral vision focused as she calmed down, the sounds of water dripping off of her elbows and the music vibrating against her skin as she turned her head completely toward the fallen conveyor belt and table, the horror written across her face. “Oh, my God…”

                It took a moment for what lay before her to fully sink in as she looked at the spot and related it back to the smell as the pile of material was so much more than broken down old parts of a machine. She shook her head in disbelief and nearly tumbled backwards, the visceral sight of torn flesh, the quantity of spilled blood, and the entwined bodies with their eyes opened toward the ceiling had her nearly hyperventilating within an instant. The two figures were shrouded by a poorly set up canvas cover, arms entwined, emphasizing that they must have been a couple. Beyond the canvas cover, they were both completely absent of their clothing, with words scrawled into their wounds that she couldn’t stand still long enough to make out as she held back another heavy gag, the bile rising in her belly. No one expects, nor wants, to find something as horrific as this when taking the shortcut through the buildings as the complete terror of the discovery had become thoroughly etched into her brain, making it that much more difficult for her to take her eyes off of them.

                “This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening,” There was genuine terror in her voice but she was becoming less concerned with a discovery of the bodies and more with the realization of how pissed off her Mother was going to be that she was, once again, messing around in condemned facilities. “I’m going to be in so much trouble!”

                She was shaking, the inner need for denial coursing through her as she pressed her fingers to her forehead and groaned audibly, realizing that she would have to report this. This all lead straight down the path for the severe reaming that was in store for her once her mother had to pick her up from a police station…again. She wasn’t looking forward to that fate but there wasn’t an alternative without looking and feeling like a total jackass by leaving these poor people to be snacked on by whatever wild little creatures might happen upon it. She couldn’t do it, even if it meant hearing, for the millionth time, that she was going to be shipped to Switzerland for the trouble she was in.

                “What is that?” The dripping on her face from her hand went into the curve of her nose and down her lip, the color catching her full attention as she held her breath and wiped her face again.

                It wasn’t simply normal wetness and instead was thick, almost gelatinous, viscous mixture as she withdrew her hand and stared at the red and brown discoloration all over her skin, shining up at her as the faint light hit it, her awareness heightened as she looked down at the pooling water around her feet. She followed the liquid toward the bodies and realized that their blood had been seeping into the stagnant, standing water and she had unintentionally wiped it all over her face. She wanted to vomit but the only thing that she could do as she stared, blankly, at her own, blood covered hand was begin the start of a lung straining scream that everyone within a one mile radius would’ve, without a shadow of a doubt, heard.

 

 

 

 

Monday, 8:15 AM, July 12th 1999

FBI Headquarters, Washington, DC

 

                Scully flipped the lights on in the basement level office and tossed her purse, keys, and cell phone into the closest chair before setting her coffee down on the desk, her frantic expression already in full bloom as she popped the buttons apart on her business jacket, the sigh filtering through her teeth. She ran her fingers through her hair and glanced down at the poorly buttoned, light purple silk shirt and the realization of why everyone was smiling so big at her when she put creamer in her coffee was painfully obvious as she saw the top of her flesh colored bra sticking out like a sore thumb. She muttered a few expletives under her breath as she redid the buttons while poorly searching through the paperwork, desperate to find the vouchers for the meeting that Mulder and she were due at in just over twenty minutes. She pushed the last button back into place and slid a section of paperwork out of the piled high, poor excuse for an inbox, nearly knocking over her coffee in the process, hoping she had discovered the vouchers as their typical pink color coding stuck out but it was the set she was missing from last month.

                “It’s like a fucking hurricane hit this desk and ate half of the documents before spitting them back out in a random, haphazard order,” Scully picked up the coffee and took a quick sip, nearly dribbling it on herself in the process. “Lets not make a mess before I have to walk into a room full of people, Dana, Christ almighty.”

                Scully picked up the old vouchers and tossed them on top of the filing cabinet while she continued to sip her coffee, her eyes scanning through another stack of files that had been rammed into a partially closed drawer that typically contained the middle alphabetically listed classifications. She put the coffee on the desk and pilfered through each file, putting each one back into the desk where they belonged, growing increasingly irritated with the prospect of not finding the paperwork for the second month running. Her ass was already preparing for the monumental chewing from the review board over their expenditures as she leaned across Mulder’s swivel chair and leaned down toward the little pile of papers that had fallen from the top of the desk, secretly praying that they were the missing papers.

                “I either need longer arms or a flat chest,” Scully grunted as her breasts awkwardly squished against the armrest while she leaned down, her knees sinking into the soft, leatherette cushion.

                The timing couldn’t have been more inopportune, or perfect depending on whom you asked, as Mulder’s big, muscular arms slid around her at the waist, pulling her backwards, coaxing a throaty yelp out of her as she didn’t even hear him come into the room. He stayed silent for a long moment as he kept her knees in place on the chair and swiveled the wheels just enough that they spun backwards, the squeaking of the mechanism nearly as loud as she was as his right hand maneuvered perfectly to cup a breast, firmly squeezing until her back was all the way against his chest. Mulder already had a little hint of sweat forming at his hairline despite the slightly heavy odor of body wash emanating off of him, his hands just as hot as his chest as he slid his thumb down her cleavage, finagling a trail of goosebumps. Scully inhaled sharply, her eyes shutting as she held back the urge to moan and felt the unmistakable heat of his crotch against her backside as he gave her the gentlest of thrusts to let her fully experience what she had clearly inflicted earlier in the morning.

                “Is this what ‘I’ll be right back’ meant, Scully? Ditching me so you could come to the office and leave me naked, all alone, in the shower?” Mulder used the tip of his nose to nudge her hair away from her neck and ear, nibbling and licking the space below her earlobe until he could hear her panting in spite of herself. “What’s wrong? Doesn’t feel good to get teased right now, does it?”

                Scully was already halfway to the point of falling, the back of the chair tilting all the way back as it teetered underneath of her from the extra weight pressing against her, pushing her off balance as she held onto the back of the chair and onto him at the same time, her breaths coming in short spurts. “Mulder, I can’t keep coming into these meetings smelling like sex, sweat, and your shower gel—and we started in at 5:30 this morning. What’s gotten into you?”

                “Say, ‘coming’ again, Scully,” Mulder bit down on a tender spot at the curve of her neck where it met her shoulder, nibbling on her collarbone until he could hear a low, frustrated groan leave her trembling lips. “You’re not going to take ownership for any of this, are you? Who showed up at my apartment last night when I let them know I had dinner ready, in nothing but a pair of high heels, nylons, and their overcoat?”

                “Coming…” Scully couldn’t help but smirk and bite down on her tongue to soften the onset of laughter as she tilted her head to look at him, feigning innocence. “I don’t know what you’re talking about—I would never do that, Mulder.”

                Mulder’s left hand found her outer thigh and had already hiked her skirt enough that the strips of her garter belt attached to her thigh highs rubbed against his eager fingers, earning a significant grin as his mouth found her earlobe again. “So, Scully, would you be all that innocent if you are now wearing your thigh highs and the garter belt at work knowing that you were intending on leaving me as amorous as I was this morning? Hmmm?”

                “Oh…fuck,” Scully couldn’t hold back the moan as she slipped her right hand over the top of his, digging her finger tips along his skin until her fingers were half laced together with his against her own breast.

                “That was the intention, Scully,” Mulder’s fingers were like heat seekers as he had her skirt nearly high enough to more than discover that she was radiating heat in waves and had started to encourage the risky, easily discovered sexual romp in their office. “Regretting that mean little maneuver leaving me high and dry, aren’t you?”

                They had more than taken their relationship to the next level since the hell that nearly cost them everything; the recovery had been difficult to the point that sleeping at each other’s apartments had become an expected routine that neither could live without. Messing around at work had gone from a strictly forbidden idea to something that was limited to the office, in small, infrequent bursts that often involved shutting the door. Work was no less important but the flirtatious looks were sporadically mixed between stolen kisses, embraces, and heated groping that eventually led to long nights for both of them. Getting caught was something that they did not take lightly and Skinner had stood at the door clearing his throat more than a few times prior to knocking, as if he just knew, deep down, that the touching had gone south.

                A few times he may have been right but it had never seemed to be an issue as long as they were looking the other way.

                “Mulder, please, we don’t have time for this right now,” Scully’s words were conflicting with her actions as she held onto him, rubbing her ass against him with more than a certain amount of intent, licking his bottom lip as she made eye contact.

                “More than enough time to guarantee you won’t pull another ‘be right back’ stunt,” Mulder would rather have kept this at home but he was settling for the chair as he nibbled on her jaw, caressing her a little lower against her abs.

                Scully had known that leaving Mulder in the shower the way that she had was risky but she didn’t think he would be this worked up after the morning had started awfully early. Her choice in attire was certainly a visible mistake, though, as she was wearing one of his favorite combination of undergarments in the thigh highs and garters. It drove him nuts. The way that it made her feel when he was like this with her was nearly as invocative of the amplified passion that he was doing a poor job of harnessing. The other problematic portion of the way that she abandoned him, in a state of undress, ready for round two in the shower, was that she was secretly just as amped up as he was and she was inches from telling him they should have just called in sick today.

                They had strayed that far from reason on certain days and this was one of those days.

                Mulder had become thoroughly enthralled with her mouth as he nudged her lips apart with his bottom lip, sliding his tongue past her teeth until he could create a near perfect meeting between them, his eyes closing as his right hand moved higher, caressing her neck.  Neither one of them were the most convincing when protesting the sexual advances of the other and the heat was at a whole different level for them as the usual line that they had drawn for messing around in the office was trampled completely with the tugging of Scully’s shirt from the careful tuck of her skirt. Scully was a little less capable of moving as Mulder’s hand slid underneath of the thin, soft material of her shirt, groping her through her bra.

                Scully’s range of motion was limited but she reached behind her head and ran her fingers through his hair as she pulled her mouth from his, panting desperately into the air. “Go close the door.”

                “If I close the door, we’re going to be late for that meeting,” Mulder licked her earlobe again, loving the feel of her fingers running through his hair as he manhandled her a little, sliding her thighs backward just enough to where her heels were on either side of his, knees pushed apart.

                “Jesus Christ, Mulder,” Scully gasped as she held onto the chair’s armrest and felt one of her heels slide with an undignified thud to the floor, completing her already perfunctory look with her skirt hoisted almost high enough for her modest, comfortable but cheeky panties to start peeking out.

                The halfway unspoken rule about actually having sex in the office was completely falling by the wayside like a New Year’s resolution as Mulder’s fingers slid along the upper band of Scully’s panties, giving them the most unsubtle of tugs in a downward direction. She had completely thrown the white flag, surrendering to the hedonism entirely as her eyes fluttered shut and her teeth bit down on the corner of her lip. Scully wanted Mulder so much more than he wanted her when he arrived at the office, as she reached back, half tearing at his belt while his very eager, ready hands were reaching a point of no return at the curve between her legs, his mouth hovering against her neck. It was hard for either of them to concentrate let alone move properly as they were groping at each other, the chair half squeaking as Mulder struggled with Scully’s panties.

                “Hey guys, you are going to need your…Jesus Christ almighty!” Max’s voice went from standard and unaware to shocked, sending them both scrambling to wrench Scully’s panties back up and tug her skirt back down. “Do you two even think about closing doors before you start screwing around?”

                “Jeez, Dad, we didn’t know anyone was going to just…walk right in,” Mulder was already joking as he watched Scully awkwardly pull her skirt back down and tuck her shirt in, the sweat beads on her forehead shining in the overhead light.

                “I am not Dad, I’m the irritated little brother who doesn’t want to see any of whatever this was and you should definitely stop before my eyes bleed,” Max started waving his hands around, his perfectly tailored suit contrasting with the sour expression on his face.

                Scully was flustered but had a smile hiding on her lips as she double checked all of her articles of clothing to make sure that nothing was hanging out inappropriately as she refrained from making eye contact with Max right away. “You know, I did say to shut the door…did I not?”

                “It’s been over six months since you two made it abundantly clear that you’re having sex—I would’ve thought that you would’ve stopped with the office shenanigans by now,” Max was giving them more of a lecture than Skinner ever had as he crossed his arms, holding the file across his chest that he carried in with him. “People are starting to talk about it and I’m worrying over how it could affect your reputations.”

                “By people, you mean you and Drea when you go home because you keep refusing to walk nice and loudly down the hallway?” Mulder winked at him and noticed the file in his hand as he adjusted his stance to accommodate the still aching erection pressing against his slacks. “Did you bring us a present, Maximus?”

                “I shouldn’t have to announce that I’m walking down the hallway so you two can pry yourselves off of each other,” Max held the file toward Mulder, nodding in his direction. “Chemical analysis of the substance on the case you’re supposed to be talking to Skinner about…gasoline and kerosene.”

                “Certainly rules out spontaneous human combustion,” Scully was finally a little bit more composed as she peeked around Mulder, glancing at the paperwork, nudging him in the back just a bit.

                “I made that suggestion twice, Scully, just twice…you don’t need to keep dogging me over it,” Mulder’s eyes nearly bugged out as he closed the file and swatted her with the manila, making a little slapping sound across the top of her hand. “Yes, we’ll need this and those vouchers that seem to be missing again.”

                “You mean the ones that are sitting right there underneath of Scully’s coffee cup?” Max pointed toward the clearly labeled documents that were sitting in the middle of the desk, directly under the cup of coffee. “By the way, is there any spot in this office that is safe to sit or stand that hasn’t touched naked ass?”

                “Hers or mine?” Mulder didn’t look up from thumbing through the stack of vouchers after Scully picked up her coffee to take another big drink of it.

                She nearly choked on the halfway hot liquid as the question was asked, the idea of it sending a shockwave through her as she held back a laugh. “Mulder, you’re going to make him mad again.”

                “I am quickly regretting even asking that question,” Max sighed and crossed his arms, the sleep in his eyes visible as he glanced at the ceiling for a moment. “Don’t you two have somewhere to be?”

                “Now he sounds like Skinner,” Mulder teased Max as he finished the rest of his own coffee and tossed the empty disposable cup into the trash. “You look tired, Max, are you getting enough sleep? Getting kept up all night? Woke up early?”

                Scully walked up beside Mulder and took a long, scrutinizing look at Max, noticing the little bags under his eyes as well, the visible lack of sleep apparent despite their joking tone. “Wow, you really do look like you haven’t been sleeping, Max…do you want to talk about it?”

                “It isn’t what you think it is and you’re both so disgusting,” Max rolled his eyes, knowing that they were both intimating that he was engaging in a lot of long nights due to crazy romps with Drea, flipping the switch to a considerably more serious topic. “Her night terrors have been pretty bad lately and instead of not remembering them when she wakes up, she’s been recalling every, awful detail. We’re both pretty lucky if we get three hours of sleep a night as a result.”

                “Max, her mental scars are far deeper than mine and I’m still having my rough spots, so I can’t imagine what her recovery has been like. It’ll get easier with time, just keep her talking about it, and don’t give up on her,” Scully could tell it was bothering him because he felt helpless and not because of being robbed of sleep as she gave him a quick pat on the shoulder.

                “The last good night of sleep we had was after going out for drinks, getting talked into dancing, and coming home a little inebriated and exhausted,” Max didn’t realize that he had unintentionally given Mulder a vivid mental picture while recollecting a perfectly innocent, run of the mill night out. “I have two left feet so it was more like watching her look good on the dance floor.”

                “You voyeuristic, naughty little science nerd,” Mulder watched the pink form in an instant all over Max’s face as he realized how easily that could have been taken the wrong way.

                “That’s not what I meant, Mulder!” Max instantly scrambled as Scully maneuvered toward the door, leaving both men face to face with undeniably hilarious looks on their faces. “We haven’t even really crossed that bridge…shit, I shouldn’t have let that out of the bag in front of you, of all people.”

                “I don’t think my brain caught up with that entirely yet…did you just intimate that you and Drea haven’t…really?” Mulder had both eyebrows raised as his voice was slowly going a little higher with every word, not believing it.

                “What is so hard to believe about that? It took you two a lot longer than six months to break the seal,” Max was skirting around the word ‘sex’ like it was a naughty word and Scully could see the visible discomfort written across his face as though he had been thinking about it without wanting to.

                Scully sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose, grabbing Mulder by the wrist. “As much as you seem to be thoroughly entertained by teasing Max about the details of his sex life, or apparent lack thereof, we do have to get our butts to Skinner’s office before we get a phone call.”

                “Oh come on, it isn’t a lack thereof, it has just hit a…snag, Scully,” Max was already following after Mulder pulled the door shut, the paperwork shifting from Mulder’s hands to Scully’s as she took another sip of her coffee while they walked toward the elevator. “Wait, why am I even rationalizing the speed at which my relationship is moving to you two anyway?”

                “You don’t need to keep doing it, Max, I swear, we’ll stop,” Scully smirked as they waited for the elevator to open.

                “Oh, sorry, my presence was apparently requested so, ta-da, here I am,” Max made eye contact with Scully as they went into the elevator. “He called me this morning asking about the chemical analysis and said he wanted me in the meeting.”

                “Are you a party trick, buddy?” Mulder elbowed him and winked over at Scully. “These meetings are pretty dry and not the humorous kind.”

                Scully half rolled her eyes at Mulder as she pressed the floor they needed and waited for the doors to shut. “Well, it could be that there was so much more forensics and analytical data that he wants to go over this time that it’s better if you’re just there to explain it for everyone?”

                “Or you’re in trouble…” Mulder smirked, leaning against the back of the elevator between them, his tongue clicking against the roof of his mouth as he took the folder and vouchers back from Scully.

                Max wrinkled his nose at the idea and glanced at both of them, huffing a little, breathy sigh. “Stop trying to stress me out—It’s bad enough that this Grand Jury thing has my desk looking like one of you have been setting up camp in there for days.”

                Scully felt a knot in her stomach over the mere recollection of the Miles Miller case as the doors opened and glanced at Mulder for a moment before walking into the hallway. “Well, that might have to be a discussion we have away from this building—you’re not in trouble, Max, that’s Mulder’s job.”

                “You are headed down a dangerous path, Agent Scully,” Mulder shook his head at her and looked down the hallway at the amount of people watching his every move. “Max, don’t let me forget that she’s in for it.”

                “Whatever ‘it’ is and don’t elaborate, I’d like to keep the morning coffee down,” Max cringed as they went around the corner toward Skinner’s office, the hint of red hair from Arlene visible from behind her desk.

                “Are you sure you don’t want the details?” Mulder pushing his luck and met an elbow in the ribs from Scully as they walked into the doorway.

                “Good morning, Arlene,” Scully caught a semi-brutal, annoyed stare from Skinner’s secretary as she elevated a single eyebrow at them, uncrossing her legs while she leaned back in her chair.

                “You know I can hear everything you say in that hallway before you walk in here, right?” Arlene  put her elbows on the desk and perched her chin against her palms, popping a smirk on her lips as she glanced at the phone for a second. “Luckily, for you, I’m not an office gossip like Kersh’s assistant.”

                Scully wasn’t necessarily the best with awkward conversation but it was as though she had been prepping the comeback line for months as she held back a laugh, lowering her voice. “I’ll tell these two to keep their incessant flirting to a minimum, Arlene.”

                “Oh, that’s cute, Scully, that’s just so cute,” Mulder shook his head as they were all standing at the front edge of her desk. “Pile it on…you’ll regret it.”

                “I promise I’ll keep my hands to myself, Mulder,” Max felt like being a little bit of a bastard back as he nudged him between the shoulders and watched Mulder’s eyes nearly roll all the way back. “There are ladies present.”

                Arlene held the receiver to her ear and was holding in her own laughter now as she made an affirmative noise before putting the phone back down. “You can go in now, he’s ready for you…wipe your smirks off your faces, jeez.”

                Mulder and Max walked into the room first but Arlene cleared her throat just loud enough to capture Scully’s attention. Scully looked at Mulder with an apprehensive face but kept her position next to the desk, slowly turning toward Arlene, who had stood up and adjusted her stance closer to where Scully was standing. It was awkward and that entire like about not being a gossip was falling on deaf ears for Scully as she made eye contact with a woman who seemed to be burning a hole through her with her very inquisitive stare. It was unnerving to say the least and Scully was bad with situations such as these.

                “Something wrong, Arlene?” Scully could hear the masculine chatter going on in Skinner’s office as she put her hand on the edge of Arlene’s desk, hoping desperately that she wasn’t the chatty kind of woman.

                Arlene was, indeed, one of the less irritating of the secretary class since they seemed to operate on a whole different level when it came to information, opting to spread information via what was most scandalous not by the level of importance. “I just wanted to see how you were feeling—I know that it’s been several months since the attack but with the trial, I’m sure that the wounds have been opening up a little bit more. You don’t always have to keep things bottled up like all of these men seem to think is appropriate simply because you’re surrounded by them all of the time.”

                Scully was choosing her words fairly carefully, pressing her lips together for just a moment while keeping her voice fairly low. “It’s really kind of you to ask. I’m doing fine, Arlene, shockingly. I have a good support network around me that keeps everything balanced where I am not always able, I suppose.”

                “Agent Scully, I know you don’t know me all that well and my opinion probably doesn’t mean a whole lot but I hear a lot through the walls and I see a lot from how everyone here interacts with each other—you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” Arlene kind of hung on the words like she was afraid to ask and be told that she was crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed. “Agent Mulder is the reason why things are better now, isn’t he? I mean, if I may intrude to even ask…”

                Scully didn’t have to answer her; she simply allowed a glimpse of a smile to pass over her as she started into the office, pleasantly regarding Arlene with an assuring nod but not necessarily an obligatory nod. Arlene was a very smart woman and knew that there was more to that expression than Scully would typically lead in with but something definitely had changed about her since taking that momentous leap with Mulder. She closed the door to Skinner’s office behind her as she entered the space, joining Mulder, Max, and Skinner in the room. Part of her was expecting Kersh to be present but Skinner was the only advisory member present.

                “Everything ok with Arlene?” Mulder leaned over, his voice low.

                “Yeah, we’re good,” Scully didn’t think about the gesture as she squeezed his hand instinctively, ignoring potential consequences as she made eye contact with Skinner.

                Skinner cleared his throat and opened the file in front of him, setting aside the documents that were in front of him into two spots to start reading through chemical analysis. “Kersh would normally be here to oversee the execution of a review of a case but he is currently assisting in a few other cases and told me to just forward my notes at the end of this meeting today. Max is here for three reasons—he needs to be briefed on the ongoing Miller proceedings, the chemical analysis was part of the profile that lead to an arrest of a suspect, and a development that involves a change in personnel.”

                Max felt his tie squeezing his neck as he swallowed hard, causing him to fidget in his chair as he glanced at Mulder and Scully before making eye contact with Skinner again. “Change in personnel, Sir? Should I be concerned?”

                “We’ll get to that,” Skinner had a blank expression and gave nothing away as he thumbed through a set of papers, the studying glances sending a painfully awkward air of silence through the room. “The chemical analysis that you’ve brought supports an accelerant used for the four arson fires matches the chemical composition that was under the nails of each of the victims that managed to not be completely incinerated in each crime scene. The profile that Agents Mulder and Scully put together lead us to the arrest of former firefighter Harris Jensen and his DNA does match the skin cells that were mixed in with the accelerant mixture.”

                “Jensen was still under volunteer status and he was essentially starting the fires so he could be the first responder to the scene, look good despite having his paid ladder company essentially force him to retire early,” Mulder glanced at Scully before looking across to Skinner.

                Scully nodded, recalling the rather quick investigation that had Mulder confronting a part of himself that he didn’t particularly enjoy. “There were 11 victims separated between the four homes and each household was staged to look like appliances had simultaneously failed. The common error that Jensen made between each crime scene is that the restraints he used on the victims was made of steel and the melting point wasn’t even touched.”

                “The accelerant was poured into the mouths, ears, and poured from the scalp down, they are the origination point in each and every crime scene. It corresponded directly with Mulder and Scully’s profile of a narcissist who wants to inflict the greatest amount of pain and look as though he’s the closest to being the hero as one could be—without leaving survivors,” Max spoke up, his matter-of-fact energy capturing the attention of Skinner, who seemed to be very impressed with his ability to give the information without hesitating.

                “That same profile has given the edge to us and to the rest of the investigatory team in handing information over to the District Attorney’s office to fully evaluate the case further. We are directly working with the DA to keep Jensen behind bars rather than in a mental institution where he can access an abundance of information to continue the sick obsession with significantly less restrictions,” Skinner slid the file off to the side and laced his fingers together, taking a moment to stare at his hands as he looked for the words. “The discussion about the District Attorney brought up the Grand Jury case.”

                “You don’t seem the least bit comfortable or pleased to be discussing this with us, Sir,” Mulder knew that they could potentially be receiving news that they didn’t want to hear and the trial had hit a snag, that it wasn’t going nearly as smoothly as things would indicate from the outside.

                “Depositions are showing that the jury selection has been poor, at best, in gathering a case against Miles. His attorneys are attempting to build a serious push for the insanity plea due to the testimony by Drea and by you, Agent Scully,” Skinner swallowed the rising vomit as he felt the uncomfortable stare from the woman across the desk from him. “The DA and their team is doing everything to prevent that.”

                “Pre-meditation is not insanity…it’s pre-meditation. He watched Scully for months, waiting for the moment to strike,” Mulder was incensed in an instant and the amorous man was no longer present in the room as he clenched his fists, bit down on his cheek.

                Scully had done it again as she reached across and squeezed Mulder’s arm, mainly to calm him down as her shockingly untroubled tone caught Skinner completely off guard. “What do they need from me to make this stick? I can go back on the stand if necessary—I will not allow that man to walk the streets again and I will do whatever it takes to guarantee that he will never be able to put his hands on another woman for the rest of his miserable, little life.”

                Mulder glanced down at her hand and covered her fingers with his own as his posture softened and he followed the line of her arm until he met her adjusted gaze as she started to exhale. “You don’t have to do this again—you don’t know what it might do to you.”

                “Even contemplating that there’s a chance of his attorneys succeeding and he’ll be in a minimal security mental institution over a maximum security prison for the rest of his life has me more worried than the temporary battle wound that I will need to open,” Scully wasn’t wavering as she inhaled a deep breath, holding in the emotion.

                “It’s going to take more than a simple testimony from you and that is where this is going to be difficult,” Skinner skipped right to the point as he adjusted his tie and scooted backwards. “The proposed insanity plea has a lot more than details about your testimony. It’s widespread and I am doing my best to keep it from blowing completely out of proportion. Everything is hinging on proposed mental games inflicted by Agent Scully and Drea—they’re attempting to out your personal lives as collateral damage within the arguments.”

                “How is any of that relevant?” Mulder was taken aback at the idea of his relationship with Scully being used as a playing piece for Miles’s case as he chewed the edge of his tongue to hold back the flood of anger that was trying to come out. “I thought that utilization of facts was the only way that someone could prove insanity not implication of supposition.”

                “He continues to inflict as much damage as he can from behind bars, Mulder, and I am so tired of letting him check us and scrambling to make the next move,” Scully stood, the air in the room significantly warmer than it needed to be as she paced behind their chairs. “The checkmate is in that there won’t be any ‘no comment’ or ‘next question, please’…he can’t prove any of the accusations beyond what everyone else knows.”

                “They can’t publicize this line of interrogation, Agents, that’s the one saving grace,” Skinner knew where she was going with it. “They have to do this in front of a panel—and that panel has to be made up of your peers, the District Attorney, and his team of lawyers aside from the judge. That’s the stipulation that the judge has agreed to given the sensitive nature of the questions.”

                “Backing him into a corner of his own poorly thought lies,” Max turned and looked at Scully as she stood with her hands on the back of the chair she had been sitting in.

                “He’ll hang himself looking for ways to inflict pain while his team of idiots looks for the nearest door to run straight for the hills when they realize exactly what he is doing,” Scully looked at Mulder, her knuckles white. “Because a psychopath isn’t trying to be free—he’s trying to destroy anything within his ability to do so.”

                “I will take care of it but you had to be aware of the situation that was brewing because, I’m sure, that the news will get wind of it since they seem to know every little detail of this case literally as quickly as we can relay it within our own walls,” Skinner was gesturing for Scully to sit back down as he could tell that she was completely pensive in her stance. “That’s not the entirety of this meeting and everyone needs to be sitting down for this.”

                “Here comes the ‘you’re in trouble’ part,” Mulder was bracing himself as Scully sat back down, trying to lighten the mood in the room.

                Skinner pulled another file from his stack of paperwork and shot Mulder a dirty look. “Violent Crimes sent over a case this morning that has been giving them some issues—it went across Kersh’s desk first, who forwarded it to Special Agent King, who then forwarded it to me. The recommend has been made that you take a look at it, see if you can decipher a solid enough profile from the clues and put a stop to this killer before it becomes classified as a serial killing.”

                “What made them decide to include our office? The violent crimes unit doesn’t exactly have an abundance of cases that fit the bill of an X File,” Mulder wrinkled his nose at the idea, focusing his thoughts on the new development in front of them.

                “They were particularly impressed with the profile on Miles and your ability to neutralize him with a certain level of skill and speed with consideration to all things. Most of these killers leave no survivors and there were multiple survivors in large part to the great care and investigative skill involved in this,” Skinner set the file onto the desk and opened it. “Max has been formally requested to be in the field if we carry out an investigation.”

                “Wait, what?” Max’s back went rigid as he created space between the back of the chair and his body, scooting forward just enough as his voice elevated. “Why was I requested for the case?”

                “Max, this is a good thing—your expertise in the scientific aspect will give the investigation a new view and Agent Mulder and Agent Scully attributed some of the patterns on the Miller case to suggestions that you made,” Skinner knew that Max was more uncertain of the enormity of a change like this but the reaction was almost humorous.

                “You haven’t given them the yes or no yet on whether we would be able to help?” Scully was curious as the cautionary Skinner was typical but not to this degree as she brought them back to the subject at hand.

                Skinner was silent for a moment as he gathered the words, doing his best not to look at the photos that were sticking out from underneath of the informational leaflet in the file folder. “The victims thus far are three couples—2 married couples, 1 engaged. The cause of death for the three females have been the same, an arterial air embolism.”

                “Air embolism?” Scully was completely intrigued as she crossed her legs, wrapping her mind around the idea of a quick, albeit painful way to die. “Okay, call me curious.”

                “The first couple was the most difficult to figure out because they went missing just over three months ago and their bodies were not discovered until forty-five days ago so there was a considerable amount of time that passed—most of which was during decomp. The second and third couple had considerably less time between the date they went missing and the date they were dumped,” Skinner thumbed through the autopsy summaries of the female victims. “Their only other wounds were from defensive marks—the usual scrapes, bruises, and minor cuts.”

                “The male victims?” Mulder’s wheels were already turning, the foregone conclusion that they would be investigating the case was already flowing through his brain. “I feel like we’re about to get hit with some information that might make Max and me uncomfortable.”

                “It made all of the men in the room a little uncomfortable, Mulder, when the briefing came to the office,” Skinner pulled the second file open and folded the summary apart. “All three men died from excessive blood loss and multiple lacerations to the muscular tissues—no specific pattern between them aside from the final cut to the femoral artery. The level of trauma that the male victims experienced was that of extended torture prior to death.”

                “One would almost assume they weren’t related if they hadn’t been discovered together?” Mulder could already half picture at least one of the deaths despite not visually looking at a photograph yet, the little pieces of missing information blurring as he glanced at his own lap, contemplating  the possibilities.

                “You’re dangling portions of this case knowing we’re already piecing little bits of it together, aren’t you?” Max didn’t really like playing games but the strategy that Skinner was employing was gauging whether or not they all could handle another trauma based case again.

                “I’m just going to put it out there, and it’s strictly off the record, because everyone in this room and the next one knows what I know about the people in this room—the trauma of the Miller case may not have been a driving force in the bonds that formed outside of these offices but it certainly assisted in cementing how close you’ve stayed,” Skinner leaned back in his chair. “You know as well as I do that you have relied on one another significantly more than you did prior to the Miller case. Even my secretary can tell that things are different.”

                “Point taken,” Scully was the voice of reason as she looked directly at Skinner, the steel color of her eyes shining as the light hit her at just the right angle. “What I do know, though, Sir, with all do respect, is you can’t keep shielding any of us from exposure to trauma. That’s part of this job.”

                “We’ve gotten a little better at putting each other in check due to the trauma we’ve already experienced,” Mulder knew that the potential for the darkness swallowing them up again was always lingering as he could see her looking at him in his peripheral. “Having Max on our team means that we’ll have someone that knows when we’re going too far, right, Scully?”

                “Exactly,” Scully nodded, looking over at Mulder then Max. “We are still heavily influenced by the Miller case simply from the ongoing court battle but some of those pieces may never leave. That’s a fact that has to be faced. I’m not giving up on my life because of it.”

                “The detail that I have kept close to the vest is the fact that, while the three male victims exhibited different causes of death from their three female victims—both were stripped, posed, and post mortem carved into,” Skinner pulled the photos from the files and turned them toward Mulder, Scully, and Max. “Carved into the rib and stomach region of the female victims was the word ‘his’ and on the same region of the male victims the words ‘not hers’ were similarly etched into the flesh.”

                Scully gathered the photos, fixated on the post mortem mutilation with the words across their skin, a calling card that had been utilized in some of their own casework as well as more famous elements like the Manson killings. There was something definitive about the twist on the classic “his” and “hers” in a way that had her already formulating a rather lengthy set of motives, along with a myriad of reasons why these men would’ve been a target, why they were chosen. The lack of clothing was obvious to all of them as they looked at the most exposed, vulnerable, and weakened state that they could possibly have been in. The killer had taken away their ability in both life, and death, to hide away their most private of secrets.

                “Did they find any DNA that didn’t belong to the victims on any of the body? Semen? Other bodily fluids? Saliva?” Mulder thumbed through a small stack of the photos, noticing how pristine the appearance the bodies of the female victims actually were.

                Skinner glanced through the reports and shook his head. “Traces of latex on the male victims but nothing significant – they were all sterilized pretty heavily prior to being disposed of so organic material was destroyed.”

                Max had been quiet for a while as he looked through the photographs, his wheels turning as he switched the pure science to the back burner and looked through his investigational eyes. “Did they obtain a true time estimate on dump to discovery? This level of decomposition is pretty far gone and you can’t even tell that they have been carved into aside from the marks in the bone layer.”

                “You three already made up your mind?” Skinner almost had hoped that they had allowed some of their intensity to take a backseat as he made eye contact with each of them, the sigh imminent as he reached for the phone. “I’ll make the call.”

 

 

 

11:45 PM

The Black Cat Nightclub

Washington DC

 

                The interior of the room lured you in from the second that you walked in—from the eccentric black and white checkerboard flooring to the lowish ceiling, the hum of the music, the “Red Room” sign above the bar beckoning you to find the nearest bar stool to plant your backside. The underlying odor of sweat was always prevalent along with the intoxicating level of various body sprays and deodorants that had started to blend from one body to the next. It isn’t the kind of sweatiness that makes one think of unwashed gym clothing but of bodies in perpetual motion, swaying back and forth to a unified beat. It was halfway savage, animalistic even, as the music that played often directed the motion of the crowd and was the beating heart of the building that served as the driving force for motion and thirst alike. This was less of a place to listen to the random band and more of a place to scope out the non-existent nightlife that lived for the average Rock or Grunge music fan. It kept you interested, kept one looking at each of the face of the next wildly dressed individual that dragged themselves through the blacked out doors ready to find a good time with someone that had arrived with you, or someone that hadn’t.

                It lead her there, after all.

                “Hop in here and get a drink before I can’t hear you anymore, Red,” the Bartender’s voice brought her out of her hypnotic trance as she followed the multi-colored, bouncing lights on the floor.

                She turned her head, the long, flowing red hair cascading down her shoulder, covering the ample cleavage in the polka dotted, halter dress, her makeup perfectly done as she winked at him. “Jack and coke…light ice? Float a little cherry juice for me, love?”

                “You’re almost Bettie Paige in that get-up and requesting a cherry coke and Jack Daniels only makes the image a little more vivid,” She was impressed with his ability to catch the reference for a pin-up legend with her clothes as she crossed her legs while he mixed her drink.

                “I don’t think the divine pin-up Goddess ever wore bright, red hair like mine but thanks for noticing,” Her long legs were all the more flattered by the knee length cut of the dress and the pretty, matching red peek-a-boo heels that rested against the edge of the stool next to her.

                The bartender slid the drink in front of her and found himself significantly entranced in the long, dark lashes of the tall, perfectly manicured woman thumbing her through a shiny, little purse for her cash. She hadn’t fully made eye contact with him but her smokey eyelids and long, voluminous eyelashes had him enchanted as he stared a little longer than intended until her chin lifted, renewing their visual contact. The long, straight, red locks were simply the capper on a look that had him mystified—she looked nothing like the majority of women that walked into this venue and it was pretty refreshing in so many ways. If she hadn’t been wearing so much makeup, the blush on her cheeks would’ve been visible but she pressed her perfectly red, glossy lips together and brushed her hair away from her shoulders, sitting taller while she reveled in the attention.

                His eyes weren’t the only ones lingering over her as an equally attractive individual had been sitting at the opposite end of the bar, completely alone like herself, was drinking in the sight of her like he had been weeks without hydration. He was regarding her with a little too much obviousness as he slid his own money clip back into his pocket, his eyebrow raised as he watched each little curve of her, desiring to see some little hint of a twitch of a muscle group as his eyes lingered over her from the ankles up. He even licked his lips as he watched her check the thigh high nylons beneath the dress without a second thought for anyone witnessing just how high she had just slid her dress. It was titillating, to say the least, and he didn’t even know that it was all incredibly methodical and deliberately done. She knew that he was looking as she glanced at him through her peripheral while she captured the tip of the straw with the curve of her tongue, sucking the sweet liquid with a certain exaggeration.

                She smiled as she purposely diverted her attention to the bartender, who had wandered back in her direction as she let the straw loose from her lips. “Hey, handsome…what’s your name?”

                He gave her a little glimmer of a smile, the pearly white teeth peeking from behind his narrow lips and well groomed goatee that hid remnants of acne scars. “It’s Christopher...What’s yours, Red?”

                “What ever you want it to be,” She gestured Christopher to her, a sly grin on the corner of her lips as she leaned onto the bar top, subtly pushing her drink to one side just a little bit.

                Christopher wasn’t wise to the tricks of a woman but he was lured in by her eyes and lips in equal measure as she barely reached out, gathering his collar within her fingers. She didn’t hesitate and he didn’t resist as she pulled him to her, giving him one of those kisses that strangers aren’t supposed to have the ability to give. He was enjoying the searing heat from the lips of a redheaded stranger while she was keeping her eyes open, peering at the stranger at the other end of the bar for only a moment while her tongue dotted past Christopher’s teeth. She made his head swim in an instant and it was over before he could even think as she slid backwards, placing a decent sized tip against the top of the bar. The look Christopher gave her was that of a puppy craving seconds but she simply wiped the corners of her mouth, gathered her drink and slid off of her barstool, leaving both men caught somewhere between breathlessness and confusion.

                With her glass between her fingers, she moved toward a darker, more concealed part of the nightclub with a more lounge feel, settling against the wall near a section of booths. It was poorly lit but her hair would’ve given her away in nearly any light, even in the dark, as the dark haired stranger that had been staring at the bar was still fully invested in watching her from across the room. Her eyes scanned the room again, noting that she truly was a unique looking female in the grand scheme of things with most of the women being fairly low maintenance in comparison to her. She smiled, realizing that half of them had been staring at her with little devil glares until she looked in their directions…and then, it was as though you were their favorite person in the room. She glanced back in the stranger’s direction, keeping her expression muted aside from the hauntingly green eyes that seem to glow with every look, every little stare. She tapped her heel to the rhythm of the music and pressed her shoulders against the wall as she watched him do his best to stalk his way toward her. She raised an eyebrow and glanced toward the stage, half ignoring him as he walked up to her and gave a little nod to capture her attention.

                “So what’s a gorgeous creature like you doing all by yourself in a dive like this?” He had an incredibly deep voice to match his dark, brown eyes and hair, the clothing not matching the vibe of the environment as he had on a pair of expensive jeans and an equally high priced button down.

                She shrugged her shoulders and spotted the tan line on his left ring finger, increasing the smile perched on her lips, letting her glass barely touch her mouth. “Well, I suppose I’m a sucker for really good music and I prefer things to be a little gritty and dirty…don’t you?”

                “Depends on what we’re talking about?” He was already reeled in and he didn’t even know it as he leaned against the edge of the booth beside them, purposely standing in front of her, taking a swig of his Disaronno on the rocks.

                Her eyes kept full contact with his, slowly blinking as she spun her straw in her drink, the red swirl of her lip color around the top of the straw capturing his attention for a moment as she took another sip before speaking. “Well, sex, for one is more fun when it’s dirty…wouldn’t you agree, Mister…?”

                He practically choked on his drink as he wasn’t expecting her to be so forward, the burn of the alcohol making his voice come out in a deep rasp for a moment. “Henderson, Justin Henderson…and your name is?”

                “That’s a great name…Mr. Henderson,” She glanced at her glass for a second, looking him nearly eye to eye as she stood with her back against the wall. “You can just call me Baby.”

                “Your name is Baby or you preferred to be called Baby?” Justin couldn’t have denied that his head was already swimming as he contemplated her curves again, concentrating heavily on the paleness of her skin tone and the ample slope of her cleavage.

                “Sure,” She knew the answer wasn’t assisting him in reaching a conclusion as she pulled the front of his shirt toward her, rubbing her knee against the inside of his thigh as she eclipsed the space between them. “So, Mr. Henderson, you want to get out of here with me?”

                “Absolutely—where did you have in mind, Baby?” Justin took both of their nearly empty glasses and set them on a nearby table as she stood a little straighter, giving him a hint of her full height.

                She didn’t speak, she simply beckoned him to her, ushering him to the back exit, giving him the smallest of teases of a kiss before they pushed the door open, disappearing into the night.