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Mulder and the Indigo Girl

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Prologue – Mosquitoes & Black Flies*


*They all laugh at me. I’m going to show them. None of them will be laughing after today*

Crystal ran into Marnie Finn’s office in a panic. “We have to stop Mark, Dr. Finn. He’s going to do it this time. I’m sure of it!”

“Call Chief Goslin! Tell him to bring a team.” Dr. Finn closed the door to the advisor’s office as she ran out.

Crystal called the St. Ignace Police Department and nearly screamed into the phone. “There is going to be a shooting at the high school. It’s Mark Klein. Dr. Finn is trying to find him now, she asked me to have Chief Goslin bring a team. Please hurry!” Crystal hung up the phone and raced down the school’s hallways in search of a very unhappy teenage boy.


*Mosquitos and Black Flies are some of the most hated insects in Michigan. They both swarm in massive numbers, leave painful bites and unless you *bathe* in insect repellent they will find the one spot on your body that you missed.



Act I – Winter and Road Construction*


Cherry City Airport Car Rental

Traverse City, MI

October 10, 1998


“I can’t seem to find your reservation, sir.” The woman at the counter looked flustered. “Let me talk to my manager.” She went to the side and pulled a man with graying hair over to her. Mulder was studying a nearby map of the Mitten State, when he overheard the manager talking.

“The only vehicle we have left is a Hummer and that’s reserved for a group of hunters. Those guys will have my head if I gave that away as they are going Up North for a week.” The manager glanced at the tall man and redheaded woman as they milled around. “They are probably Fudgies and going to leave it behind at the Bridge anyway. I’ll borrow one from another rental place. That’s a legitimate reservation number so we messed up.”

The manager approached Mulder. “I’m sorry sir, it appears we have made a mistake and we don’t have an appropriate rental car for you, but I’m going ask another rental place to see if they can accommodate your party. Please wait here, I’ll be as quick as I can.”

Mulder stopped him. “What’s a Fudgie?”

Obviously embarrassed at being overheard, the manager explained. “We Michiganders call tourists to Mackinac Island, ‘Fudgies’ because they go there looking for the fudge shops. It wasn’t very nice. I apologize. Let me get you a car.”

Scully walked over to Mulder. “Is there a problem?”

“They ran out of cars. The manager is finding us another one.” Mulder found the map of Michigan fascinating. “Look here, Scully.” He pointed to city close to the middle of the ring finger on a person’s right hand (palm up). “Petoskey. We could take a detour and you can get an authentic Petoskey stone.”

“It’s going to take us over 2 hours to get to this town as it is, Mulder.”

“At least we get to see the Big Mac.”

“The sandwich?”

“No, the Mackinac Bridge. It’s one of the largest suspension bridges in the world and joins the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.”

Scully located it on the map. “That’s ‘Mack-in-ack’, Mulder. There is a ‘c’ at the end. What a strange name.”

“It’s pronounced ‘Mack-in-AW’, Scully, and it is named after Mackinac Island which got its name from the Native American tribes in the area. It's been said that they thought the shape of the island resembled a turtle, so they named it "Mitchimakinak" meaning "big turtle."

She stared at him. “I didn’t know you knew so much about Michigan.”

“I had a friend my senior year in high school that was originally from Detroit and he would talk a lot about the place. The state is very interesting. I could tell he was homesick when his folks moved to Massachusetts.”

Scully shivered. “We’ve been on a case here before. Remember Bobby Rich and Karin Matthews? The supposed killer trees in Coats Grove?”

Mulder nodded slowly. “Yeah, I almost got sucked into the mud on that one.” The duo were silent for a while and the manager returned.

The grey haired man smiled. “I think we have solved the problem.”




Scully read over the case file one more time. She was desperately trying to keep her mind off of the humming of the tires on the metal grid as Mulder drove across the Bridge. The Straits of Mackinac was where two Great Lakes (Huron and Michigan) joined and many freighters passed through here so the bridge was *high*. In fact, she could feel it swaying in the winds.

She would never tell Mulder, but she had a slight fear of crossing bridges. This one was taking all her self-control to not panic. The news account that her oblivious partner relayed about the sub compact car that blew over the side in 1987, wasn’t helping.

“You are silent, Scully. Are you taking in the breathtaking sights?”

“Something like that.” She swallowed hard. “Mulder, I know that it’s our job to investigate strange phenomena, but it’s not rocket science to figure out that the reason they were able to avoid the school shooting is because the boy told that girl about his plans. She is *not* telepathic.”

“This isn’t the only incident where Crystal Bearheart has demonstrated knowledge that she couldn’t have gotten any other way. The shooter confessed that he didn’t tell anyone and the school psychologist, Marnie Finn, stated that Crystal had been warning her about the planned attack for weeks.” He glanced at her. “Anyway, Skinner approved it.”

“I know.” Scully didn’t really want to come back to Michigan after that gruesome case 3 years ago and Michigan also has a lot of something else—forests. She hated the forest. However, even she had to admit that the state did autumn up right. The arrays of brightly colored trees were impressive.

She sighed in relief as they finally touched down to solid earth and blew into the tourist hub of St. Ignace. Since the weather was getting cold and the kids were back in school, it wasn’t extremely busy and Scully was grateful. As soon as she proved to Mulder that Crystal Bearheart may be very intuitive and lucky in her predictions rather than possess a paranormal ability, the faster she can go back to D.C. Some of her college girlfriends were coming into town and she didn’t want to miss catching up with them. She had missed so many other reunions over the years; she was getting weary of it.

Mulder look over at her and crinkled his brow. Their unspoken communication was telling him that something was wrong with her. Sometimes, she wished that he wasn’t that intuitive. Mulder was her best friend, but it was obvious that he had no intention on acting on their mutual attraction or she would have to face the fact that he really wasn’t attracted to her at all. The second possibility was starting to look more likely as the years dragged on and she had to work hard at not letting it piss her off. Being with him on this Quest was taking the best years of her life and although she couldn’t imagine being without him, she wanted more—she deserved more.

“Are you ok, Scully? I know you aren’t convinced on the validity of the case, but…” He paused. “You aren’t mad at me, again—are you?”

“No, Mulder. I’m not angry with you.” *actually, I am*

“Ok…” Mulder didn’t look convinced, but let it drop.

They did the routine hotel duties, exchanged extra key cards and immediately headed for the high school. As they passed fudge shops and quaint little stores, Scully’s sour attitude lightened. She could do a little shopping and pick up some gifts for her mother and friends. Her couch could use a new homemade quilt.

After they left the main tourist area, they ran into a large construction site that had closed off the road to only one lane. They waited in line as the oncoming traffic went through and then it was their turn to pass. Scully noticed that there were 6 men digging one hole. One man directed traffic, one sat in the truck and the other 3 watched the last man in the ditch. Looked like a waste of labor, but maybe all but those two men were on break. Of course, if she paid taxes here, she would be ticked. Michigan had the shittiest roads she had ever had the misfortune to experience, and the pot holes were numerous and enormous. She found it ironic that they were purposefully digging a new one.

The high school was on their right and classes were just getting out.




Mulder directed Scully by putting his hand at the small of her back through an open side door. He thought these things were supposed to be kept locked, but all it took was an exiting student to gain access anyway. He kept giving his partner small glances and tried to read her body language. She seemed angry whether she will admit it to him or not. He was hoping that this case will turn out to have a genuine telepath at the other end. Then, maybe Crystal Bearheart can read Scully’s mind and find out what she really thinks about him.

Scully is the most beautiful woman he has even known. If he was to tell her that, she would just roll her eyes and start listing women that he found physically attractive in the past of which none of them looked like her. While he had a healthy libido and other women did cause his body to react, only Scully interested his mind and he definitely wanted her body. Her compassion, bravery and loyalty were unparalleled with anyone in his life. He knew he had her undying friendship, but if he could earn her love someday, then he would finally move into the category of a worthwhile person. At this point, he was just a fuck up that had a nose too big for his face that seemed to irritate everyone around him.

They received directions to the school’s advisor’s office after asking some students where it was. They got a big reaction from one tall boy. “Dude! You are carrying a gun! You aren’t going to kill us are you? We just barely avoided someone else shooting us down!’ The kid seemed genuinely afraid.

Scully spoke to him. “No, we are with the FBI. We are investigating the attempted shooting. What do you know about it?”

“They have lady FBIs? You’re hot.” The kid looked goofy staring at Scully in a new light.

She sighed and Mulder could almost *feel* her annoyance. “I’ll take that as a compliment. Last I checked, women can do almost every job that men can.”

The kid’s friends were staring at him and Mulder saw the boy enjoying the attention and decided to speak. “Well –eh ,just this kid, Mark Klein, came in with his hunting rifle during lunch and aimed it at several of us.”

“Were you targeted?”

“As a matter of fact, I was.” The kid turned nervous. “He aimed at me and my friends, right off.”

“What’s your name?” Scully was just as interested as he was. Mulder was curious why Klein chose them, but he had a guess.

“Bill Satterly. This is Jason and John.” Bill pointed to the other two boys with him.

Mulder injected himself in the conversation. “I understand that the police stopped him?”

Bill was silent for a few beats. He didn’t look sure he should answer. “Not exactly.”

Jason spoke up. “It was that weird girl, Crystal. She’s *strange*. She stood right in front of him and told Mark that he didn’t have to go through with it because he scared us and we weren’t going to laugh at him no more. She was right. I don’t want that crazy coming after me again.”

“Why were you laughing at him in the first place?”

The three boys looked at the ground, the walls and the air. Finally, Bill spoke up. “It was funny though. Ya see, he was trying to talk to this girl, Joy, in the hallway…”

“He had been staring at her for years—isn’t that right, eh?” Jason was looking for confirmation.

Bill nodded and continued. “And while he was doing that, John came up and just stuck out his foot. Y’know, Mark goes down, his books went flying but as he tried to get up, he trips Joy too. She fell pretty hard though.”

“She got a black eye and a split lip. She never talked to Mark again.” Jason had enough grace to look embarrassed.

Mulder was disgusted. It reminded him of some pranks pulled on him in school. “So, you laughed?”

“It *was* funny.” John finally joined in. “The look on his face…” The boy almost started laughing right there until he saw Mulder’s expression and his smile faded.

“When did this happen?” Scully was eyeing them.

“After we came back from summer break.” Bill shrugged. “He tried all summer to get her attention. Well—he got it.”

“And you never let him forget it—did you?” Mulder was fuming.

John shrugged too. “I told you it was funny.”

Scully took down their full names and addresses. “We may have more questions for you. Thank you for talking with us.” The duo started to walk away, when Bill came running up to them.

“Hey! Lady FBI!” Scully stopped and faced him. “Do you carry a gun too?” The boy looked about 17 and was leering at her. “I know how to shoot.” Mulder wanted to punch the kid for a lot of reasons.

Scully’s face was an impassive mask. “So do I. Be glad I don’t feel like killing anyone today;” when Bill warily stepped back she added, “too much paperwork.”




By the time they finally reached the right office, Mulder was also in a bad mood. Those kids bullied Mark Klein and humiliated him until the kid snapped. It wasn’t that shooting people was an appropriate response to excessive, non-violent teasing, but he could empathize with the urge to make it permanently stop.

He thought back to when Krychek killed his father and Scully had to shoot him to stop him from committing premeditated murder. There were more than a few times that he wished he had pulled that trigger. Of course, he would be sitting in prison, probably in solitary confinement, instead of standing next to a beautiful Scully, but he could sympathize with Mark Klein and hoped he was getting help.

When they entered, there was a high school girl sitting behind a desk, stuffing envelopes. Her shining blonde hair and smile lit up the room. “Hi! What can I do for ya?”

Mulder’s mood lightened a little. He had forgotten what it was like to be young and have few cares in the world. “We are here to see Dr. Finn.”

“Whom should I say is calling - eh?”

“Special Agents Mulder and Scully.”

The girl bounced off to a room in the back. She looked about 16 years old. Mulder guessed she was probably a sophomore or junior. When she returned, an older woman came with her. This lady appeared to be in her mid-50’s, her blonde hair was starting to turn white, but her faded blue eyes were penetrating. See was trim so Mulder guessed she did some sort of exercise to keep her figure. The woman smiled thinly, and waived them to her office.

“It’s nice to meet you. My name is Dr. Marnie Finn.” Mulder and Scully shook her hand as they introduced themselves and they were invited to sit. “I’m pleased that the FBI took my recommendation seriously.” She crossed her legs. “I didn’t expect them to.” Mulder was a trained psychologist and found her body language interesting. Dr. Finn didn’t trust them and was on her guard.

“My division took great interest, Dr. Finn.” Mulder tried to appear non-threatening. We have read your statement, but would like to hear it again along with anything else you deem relevant.”

The woman sighed *more like huffed* and explained. “There is a freshman girl here at this school that, I believe, is telepathic.” She waited for the expected laughter and seemed genuinely puzzled when she didn’t get it.

Mulder prompted her. “Go on, Dr. Finn.”

After she covered her discomfiture, the psychologist continued. “There have been several incidents in which she claims to have heard thoughts and prevented tragedy. This is a small town, Agent Mulder. There are less than 2,500 of us—minus the tourists. We know each other and our histories. Crystal has been a unique girl since she was born. In fact, her abilities are the reason that her father left and why she is treated as a pariah in this community.”

Scully raised an eyebrow. “What incident caused her father to leave?”

“This was witnessed by several people but Crystal will never talk about it openly. On her 10th birthday her mother was ill, but her father and brother threw her party. It was well known that her father was having an affair with a recent transplant, however what caused the problem was that the woman was there at the party. It was quite an insult.”

“I wasn’t there, but the story goes that she confronted her father, after blowing out her candles, claiming that he was planning on killing his family and marrying this other woman. When Ben Bearheart heard his own daughter accuse him of plotting murder in front of witnesses, he left the family that same night. The woman went with him. Of course, the town pulled together and helped the family until Joan was back on her feet and for some time after that, but I don’t think her mother ever forgave Crystal for running him off like that. Ben Bearheart never came back.”

Scully pressed the doctor. “Why do you suspect telepathy rather than a girl overhearing a conversation between two lovers?”

“Because she said that’s how she learned about it and…from what Ben Bearheart said to her before he left that night. He wasn’t kind.”

“What did he say?”

“That she was a freak. He was tired of her guessing what he wanted for dinner, or what he wanted to watch on TV or even where he planned to go out that night—at the last minute. Ben returned the accusation and called her evil. Said that she got into his head, was spying on him and he wanted nothing to do with her. That’s when he stormed out. Crystal’s problems have increased ever since.”

Mulder watched the school advisor. He could see her agitation and questioned her motives behind addressing this as a law enforcement issue. “Dr. Finn. If she is a telepath, why did you call in the FBI? No crime has been committed as far as I can see.”

Dr. Finn was bitter. “She’s a crime *waiting* to happen. Hostile governments or people can use a genuine telepath to steal information, codes, secrets—anything! She needs to be contained.”

The agent leaned into the advisor. He was starting to get the picture. Fear. He wondered where she kept her pitchfork and torches. He had just one more question for the therapist.

“Does Crystal Bearheart know that you called the government?”


* In Michigan, there are only two seasons: Winter and Road Construction. The state symbol should be an orange barrel.



Act II – Michigan Left*


Mulder listened to Dr. Finn’s examples of Crystal Bearheart’s ‘ability’. If, the girl was a telepath, she was aware that they had been called and would be ready for them. Mulder was worried about that. If the girl didn’t have additional supernatural abilities as well as telepathy, their lives probably aren’t threatened, but she could play head games with them. He should be ready.

They went back to the hotel and ordered pizza—delivered. Mulder was watching his delectable partner wear her glasses and read the detailed accounts of those ‘other’ instances while munching a slice and his heart skipped a beat. *What he wouldn’t give…*

“Scully, you heard the explanations and the doctor’s reasoning on why the girl should be detained. What do you think?”

“I think Dr. Finn has a personal reason.” Scully looked up at him and the blue eyes stunned him for a few seconds. He never ceased to tire of them.

“What do you think it is?”

“We need to talk to Crystal, but…I’m worried that she already knows about Dr. Finn’s betrayal.”

Mulder stood up and got another slice. “Betrayal? That is a strong word.”

“If a troubled girl goes to a school psychologist, she expects her conversations to be kept private. Dr. Finn violated that. She should be brought up on charges—at the very least have her license pulled.”

“Finn said that she got the girl’s approval to go to the authorities.”

Scully put down the file. “About Mark Klein—nothing else.” She took off her glasses. “Mulder, we are stepping into a legal and ethical hornet’s nest. “Let’s go see Crystal’s mother tomorrow.”

Mulder was skeptical. “I think we should see Crystal, herself, first.”

“She is 14, Mulder. If we go around her legal guardian...we will be in deep trouble.”

“Maybe there is a tactful way to approach her, AND confirm her abilities.”




Mulder was having a good dream. He could tell it was a dream because he could differentiate from reality, easily. The nightmares were harder to identify, that’s what made them more insidious, but during the last year, they had dwindled. In the dream, Scully was with him. That’s what made it good. However, there was another strange presence and it was off to the side, almost like a cloud. The shape was nebulous and it was a dark midnight blue. It was watching him and when he went to Scully, it came in between and he couldn’t see her anymore. The scene turned dark as the blue seemed to encompass him. He could hear Scully’s voice and then a bloodcurdling scream. Shrieking and terrified, he woke up.

“Are you alright, Mulder? It’s me. You’re safe.”

He woke to Scully in her pajamas shaking him awake. The dream that turned dark was fading. The feeling that Scully was in danger was not. He managed to murmur a small phrase. “You’re okay.”

She touched his hair and face. “Yes, I’m fine. It was just a dream.”

Mulder’s filter wasn’t switched on yet. “Dreams are when I have you. Nightmares are when I don’t.” He realized he said something wrong when his partner stiffened. Mulder quickly came awake and sat up. “It was just a dream, Scully. I’m sorry I woke you.”

She looked at him strangely. “I’m glad you are okay.” She got up to leave.

“Please stay.”

Mulder knew he sounded pathetic, but he needed her with him. Whatever that cloud that tried to take her from him was new. He was sure it had to do with this case. Surprisingly, Scully nodded and laid next to him on the bed. He was under the covers and she was up top, but he couldn’t push for what he wanted. It had to be her choice.

In the morning, he was holding her as she laid across his chest. Scully had snuck under the covers and was asleep. God, he wanted her so badly. Pushing that thought down, he got a grip on things and decided to enjoy his good fortune. Sadly, it didn’t last long. The nymph in his arms stirred and then opened her eyes. *She was so beautiful*

“G’ Morning, Mulder.” Scully managed to slur out the greeting. She was not a morning person.

“Mornin’, Scully.”

“Are you feeling better?”

Mulder wanted to laugh. He spent the night with the woman of his dreams—literally. He felt like he could fly, but decided to be more circumspect. “Yes. Thanks for helping me last night.”

She smiled slightly. “S’okay. We had better get up.”




Scully wasn’t pleased with Mulder’s idea to approach Crystal Bearheart. They had her picture from the file as well as her current address and tracked the girl going to school. This could be considered stalking. When the girl went into a coffee house, Mulder told her to wait and followed the teen. He came back out 10 minutes later—shaken.

“She’s the real thing, Scully. I think you are right, we need to talk to her mother.”

As Mulder drove to the girl’s house, Scully wondered when her partner would tell her what brought him to that conclusion.




Mulder had approached the 14 year old girl while she waited for her coffee at the counter. She seemed like an ordinary teen, pretty, as tall as his partner and obviously of Native American heritage. She had a milk chocolate skin tone and long straight dark hair, but when she turned to look at him, her eyes were light green. Even though he had her picture, it was disconcerting to see it in reality.

Crystal walked away from the counter and met the agent in the store. “I know who you are. You are with the FBI. Dr. Finn called you to investigate me and your partner’s name is Scully. Is that the red-headed woman in the car?”

Mulder was taken aback, but decided to play it cool. “Yes, that’s her.”

“She’s pretty, but you know that. You like her, but never told her. It makes you sad.”

“You could be guessing all of this—or talked to Dr. Finn.”

Crystal stared at him with those light eyes. “You want to believe. You want me to tell you what you are thinking right now to prove that I can read minds.”

“Can you do that?”

“A golden retriever puppy. You have always wanted one.”

Mulder stopped being smug. She was right. He tried to think of the most obscure thing and she got it right. “Where do we go from here?”

Crystal turned as her name was called and picked up her coffee. “That is up to you and…Scully. Dr. Finn thinks I’m dangerous. She didn’t like what I told her about herself. Other people are afraid of me too. You will have to decide what to think for yourself, but I have to go to school. I’m sure I’ll see you later.” The teen left and Mulder fled to the car.




Mrs. Joan Bearheart welcomed the agents into her home. “I’m sorry that I have only about a half hour to give you. Then, I have to go to work. You are investigating the attempted shooting, eh?”

It was apparent where Crystal got her green eyes. Her mother looked as German as they come. Red hair, green eyes and fair skin. Mulder remembered that his high school buddy said that 30% of the people from the Upper Peninsula had Native American blood, but the next highest group was German. There were lots of Dutch influences too, but that was interesting considering the French colonized the place.

Mulder was blunt. “That is part of the reason we are here. Dr. Marnie Finn called us to look into the abilities of your daughter, Crystal.”

The mother sighed and waved them to a seat. “I wondered when the government would start coming around. Crystal isn’t very careful about what she can do. Half the town feels threatened by her and the other half just prefers to stay away. Sometimes, I think she shows off just to get attention.”

“So you believe that she is telepathic?” Scully was still skeptical, but Mulder wouldn’t want it any other way.

Joan nodded. “Ya. I’ve seen too much to believe otherwise.”

“I understand that this has affected your family significantly.” Mulder was trying to bring up her missing husband tactfully.

The woman shrugged. “If you have talked to anyone in St. Ignace, I’m sure they told you my husband ran off with another woman. You would think after 4 years he would have the decency to give me a divorce, but…--eh.” She wiped a fluff off her blouse. “Anyway, her brother and I have endured some hardship because of this...ability.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“Steve, Crystal’s brother, can’t bring his friends home because none of them want to be around a mind reader. I have the same problem with my friends. Neither my husband nor I have any family left so, this town is all we have. However, I will say that Crystal has had a hard time too, even if recently she brings it on herself.”

Joan continued. “Crystal is what some people call an Indigo Child—at least that what I was told some years ago by a well-meaning therapist. These kind of children possess special abilities, are moody and feel things deeply. They are also known to be extremely intelligent and I can attest that Crystal is incredibly smart, but I wish she would use that to more useful ends than irritating people. She seems to know exactly what to say to rattle someone.”

Mulder thought back to the coffee shop and silently agreed. He was surprised that Scully was so quiet during the interview, but she was probably rattled herself. Joan Bearheart seemed to be genuinely concerned for her daughter, but came off as slightly detached from the situation. He was beginning to see why Crystal liked ‘rattling’ people. It may be the only way to get them to interact with her.

“Mrs. Bearheart,” Scully began, “I have read a little about the ‘Indigo Children’ school of thought and some doctors think that it is a way to explain or mask the real behavioral symptoms of ADD or Autism. Could that be the case with Crystal?”

“No, Agent Scully. We had her tested when she was young.”

Joan stood. “I’m sorry to rush off like this, but I have to get to work. If ya want to meet Crystal, why don’t you come by tonight around 6pm? I’ll be home by then and we can have dinner—eh? If we are going to be interrogated by the Federal government, we might as well be pleasant about it.”

Scully’s mouth upticked a quarter inch. “Thank you, Mrs. Bearheart. That is quite generous. We’ll come back then.”




The agents sat in a little café and had lunch. Scully picked at her salad. “I don’t know what we are doing here, Mulder. Crystal Bearheart hasn’t committed a crime. Even if she is a telepath (and I’m not convinced of that) what are we going to do about it?”

Mulder finished chewing a bite from his Coney Island. He barely caught the fine chili, mustard and onions from the hot dog as it started to drip. “Dr. Finn is right. If she is genuine, she could be a security risk. We will have to report her and let the FBI figure that out.”

“I feel sorry for her already. The poor girl lost her father, she has no friends and even her family doesn’t want to get to close to her.”

“You gleaned that from Joan Bearheart?”

“Yeah, it was obvious that she was afraid of her own daughter too.”

“Wouldn’t you be concerned about someone that could get into your head like that?”

Scully stared at him. Mulder wished at that moment he could read her thoughts. “What did she say to you that convinced you she could read minds?”


She rolled her eyes. “The Queen of England, Mulder,” she said with sarcasm. “Crystal, of course.”

Mulder took another bite to buy time. He didn’t want to tell her that the teen saw his feelings for her, but the puppy seemed safe. “I asked her what I was thinking at that moment. She guessed it.”

“What was it?”

“A puppy. She even got the right breed.”

“That’s not as weighty as the predictions of Nostradamus. She could have just guessed.”

“She didn’t. I’m sure of it.”




Dinner at the Bearhearts was tense to say the least. When the agents walked in, the brother, Steven, was openly aggressive—at least until he spoke to Scully. Just like Billy at the school, he took a liking to his partner. Mulder left them talking and approached Crystal. The girl’s stare was boring a hole into him so he might as well pour oil on the troubled waters.

“Hello, Crystal. Nice to see you again. How was school?”

“Same as usual.” She focused on him. “Your first name is Fox?”

Mulder hadn’t told her that, but he was starting to get used to her methods. He was guarding his thoughts much more carefully. “Yes, but I prefer to be called Mulder.”

“Is it because you don’t want her calling you that?”

“Can’t you get that information for yourself?”

She smiled a little. At least that was some progress. “I can’t read everything in a person’s head. Only the strong thoughts. Like the ones you have of her.”

Mulder noticed that Crystal has yet to refer to Scully by name in the conversation. “What thoughts do I have of you?”

“You aren’t afraid of me.”

“Should I be?”

Crystal finally looked away. “No. I’m just an ordinary girl.”

“Many people think you are quite special. Like Dr. Finn.”

She snorted. “That bitch. She led me to think she was on my side. Now she wants me locked up and sic’ed you two on my family. What are you going to do with me? I know *you* believe that I’m telepathic, but your partner doesn’t. She thinks this whole trip is a waste of time. How can you work with someone who is always doubting you?”

Mulder studied the girl. Her body language was open with him, but closed to the rest of the room. She seemed especially hostile toward Scully, but she hasn’t even spoken to her yet. Just then, Scully finished talking to Steve and came over.

“I know we introduced ourselves already, but I wanted to say I’m pleased to meet you Crystal.” Scully smiled a little at the teenager.

“No you aren’t. You think I’m faking it.” Crystal stopped and a slow smile crept across her face. Mulder was worried. It didn’t look friendly. “How would you like me to expose your thoughts? Would you believe me then?”

Scully was unperturbed. “You can if you want to, Crystal. What am I thinking?”

Joan Bearheart interrupted. “It’s time for dinner. Come on dear.” She practically pulled the girl away.

“She doesn’t appear to like me, Mulder.”

“Steve does.” Mulder was annoyed that he was jealous of the young boy. However, the ‘boy’ was 18 and of legal age. The looks he was giving his partner irritated him.




Dinner was an Upper Peninsula favorite—pasties. Joan was good cook and made several different kinds of the meat, potato and rutabaga filled dough pies. There was even a couple venison ones. The poor woman tried to maintain a light conversation and Scully helped, but the two teens and Mulder were a little silent. Crystal was staring hotly at Scully and Steve was also staring at Scully, but his hot look had a different meaning. That kept the girl kept glancing annoyingly at her brother from time to time. Mulder was sure that contributed to her hostility.

“So, Agent Scully, are you married or have any children?”

Mulder cringed. Joan’s question was innocent under normal circumstances, but the two agents weren’t normal. He cringed further when Crystal saw her opening to hurt his partner.

“No.” Scully was short. “I keep too busy to have either.”

Crystal nearly crowed. “What about Emily? Don’t you count your dead daughter? She was your last chance—wasn’t she?”

The brief look on pain on Scully’s face nearly broke Mulder’s heart, but she recovered quickly. Mulder sent a strong thought to Crystal. *Don’t you EVER do that again* The girl looked at him, but the flash of fear and regret that shone in her eyes was short-lived.

“Well, it appears that you wanted to read my thoughts and did, Crystal.” Scully remained dignified. “I imagine that if someone was able to take private, *painful* subjects and beat people over the head with them that it would be hard to win friends—wouldn’t it? Dr. Finn indicated you had trouble in this area. I’m beginning to see why.”

Crystal turned red, pushed back her chair abruptly from the table and stomped off in a huff. Joan tried to salvage the situation.

“I deeply apologize, Agent Scully. I’m afraid you see what I mean about not bringing people home.”

“I do and I stand corrected. There was no way your daughter would have known that information except from myself or Agent Mulder. It appears Crystal has a gift.”

“Or a curse.” Steve looked embarrassed too. “My sister has done that to others who make her angry. That’s why people are afraid of her.”

Mulder turned to Joan Bearheart. “Would you mind if I talked to her? I’m a trained psychologist and I promise I won’t get angry with her.”

Joan sighed and threw down her napkin. “Why not? Everyone else has tried. Her room is the last one down the hall.”


*A Michigan Left is when you turn right onto a one-way street, get into the far left lane and make a left turn onto the street going the opposite way. It’s basically a U turn on a street with a directional divider and involves a stop light or sign with its own lane. Ya, it’s different—eh? On Google Maps, it looks like a 45 degree angle turn. :)


Act III – Yoopers & Trolls*


Mulder knocked on Crystal’s door. “It’s Mulder, may I come in?”

She spoke through the door. “Why? So you can yell at me?”

“I promise I won’t yell at you. Read my mind if you aren’t sure.”

“I can’t do that through objects. Come in.”

Mulder walked into a nicely decorated, but very feminine room. The room was a lovely dark shade of blue, however the white lace curtains let some light inside. The requisite stuffed animals were there and a few posters of some heartthrob and a few bands. He didn’t see a chair and Crystal was sitting on her periwinkle quilted bed.

“Mind if I sit?” She shook her head and Mulder went for the floor, but she stopped him.

“You can sit on the bed.” She scooted over and gave him room. Just then Mulder remembered he was in a bedroom with a 14 year old girl with apparent emotional problems. He went and opened the door halfway.

Mulder used a quiet and soft tone. “I could try and guess why you did that to Agent Scully, but it’s easier to ask you.”

Crystal finally looked ashamed. “She didn’t believe me and Steve was mooning all over her and you…”

“What about me?”

“You like her too.”

“Of course, I do. She’s my partner and my friend.”

“You like her more than that.”

Mulder decided to change tact. “That really wasn’t about me, was it? You were angry and jealous.”

Crystal gazed at him. “No one likes me, but everyone likes Special Agent Scully. She’s pretty and smart. She’s a doctor too! I’m just some messed up kid whose father walked out on her and can read everyone thoughts.” She put a hand on Mulder’s arm. “Do you know what that is like? If someone doesn’t like you or thinks you’re ugly or weird, you hear those thoughts too. Some people think terrible things about each other.”

She paused. “It’s like the thoughts my father had on my birthday. I never told Mom about them because it would hurt her. It hurt me to know he was thinking them. My Dad didn’t like us, y’know—any of us. I thought for a time that it was because we did something wrong and I just happened to catch those ideas at the wrong time, but during my birthday party, I heard him plotting to fill the house with gas, put us to sleep and then blow it up. He said he would be finally free of us and without child support. He was a terrible man and I’m glad he’s gone.”

“Have you told anyone about that before?”

“No. I was going to tell Dr. Finn until I heard her thoughts about another girl in my class when she walked into the room. It ran through her mind quickly, but it was clear. Finn called her a slut and a whore. Then I started listening more often and she didn’t like hardly any of the kids in the school and most of the parents either—except the one dad she was sleeping with. That man was having an affair just like my father did. I hate her.”

“I see.” Mulder was beginning to under the poor girl was on emotional overload. Hearing all of these bad things made her upset and angry and she really had no one to share them with because they all were afraid of her. This teenager was very sad and lonely and he could relate to that.

“Mulder?” Crystal waited until she had his full attention. “I could hear what you thought about me and I can tell you have pain too. How do you deal with it?”

He chuckled mirthlessly. “I don’t—not all the time. I barely sleep and when I remember the things that have happened, it’s like they are happening all over again. The way I keep going is by throwing myself into my work and having a friend like Scully that I can turn to. Most of the things that haunt me—haunt her. She was by my side and lived through them with me. Crystal, you have a support system like that too. Your mother and brother lived through the times with your father. If he disliked you that much, it must have shown. Maybe it’s time to share what you know.”

“It will hurt them.”

“It’s killing you and they deserve to know the truth.” The teen nodded and unexpectedly hugged him. Mulder patted her awkwardly on the shoulder and then rose to go.

“What are you going to do with me? Your partner believes now.”

“I’m going to talk that over with Scully and my bosses. They may do nothing, but they may send some people to evaluate you. However, I will recommend that they don’t remove you from your family—if you don’t want to leave.”

“Do you really think I’m a danger to national security?”

“Not voluntarily, but you could be used by some bad people and we have to be ready for that.”

“I don’t want to be telepathic anymore, Mulder.”

“Maybe there is something out there that can change that for you. We’ll see.” He went toward the door, but Crystal stopped him.

“Will I see you again?”

“Yes. We still have a few things left to wrap up.”

“Tell Agent Scully that I’m sorry.”

“I will.”




Mulder briefly explained to Crystal’s mother about the emotional overload and asked her to have a serious talk with her daughter. He explained next steps, collected Scully and they went back to the hotel. In two days they had completed their mission and tomorrow was Saturday. He was hoping that he and Scully could do a color tour and enjoy some of the sights.

Talking with the teen brought back some of his own childhood angst and reminded him how he woke up this morning and with who. Scully does calm and center him. He was tempted to ask Crystal to read her mind for him, but that would be cheating. Still, how long would he have to wait until Scully fell madly in love with him and he could take her the way he wanted? Mulder answered his own question—forever.

“She really apologized?” Scully was looking in her pocket for her key card.

“Yup. She’s only 14, Scully. The things she has been subjected to have been too much for her. I think deep down she’s a good kid. Hopefully there is some drug out there that can dampen her ability. I think that will give her some much needed relief.”

When she didn’t find her card, Mulder pulled his spare out and opened it for her. Scully gave him a full smile and he grinned back. He might have looked silly, but getting anything more than a smirk out of his partner was an accomplishment.

She walked into the room and slunk down in chair. Mulder flopped on the bed. He was almost asleep when Scully gave her warning. “Mulder, I was thinking that I don’t think you should be alone with Crystal Bearheart anymore. She may be just 14, but I’ve seen some of the looks she gave you tonight. At best it’s hero worship and at worst it could be the beginnings of a crush.”

Mulder almost laughed. That girl just needed someone to talk to and he was there. If she wanted to talk about crushes, he had a big one on his partner. Mulder later wondered why he said it and concluded he must have been tired. “Hey Scully, will you sleep with me again tonight?”

“What?!?” Scully was openly staring at him.

Her tone woke him and he sat straight up. “Uh…What I meant was…Um…the nightmares?” He handled that badly and ended it pathetically. “I’m sorry. Forget I said anything.”

Scully was still looking at him, but her expression didn’t show that she was angry. She looked more puzzled and…something else. Curious? He hoped it was curiosity. At least it wasn’t revulsion.

“Only *If* you have a nightmare, Mulder. After all you just wrapped up this case. You should sleep well.”

*Woo hoo!* Mulder was going to be *sure* to have a nightmare tonight and every night thereafter if he can get away with it.




They walked down several of the streets and took in the local flavor. Neither was in a hurry to get back to the motel. Mulder was getting fond of the place and the people. The locals seemed like down-to-earth types that minded their own business and went to work each day without complaint. Small towns have good and bad points and the Bearheart family had seen both sides.

Finally, they were tired enough and since Scully had found her key card, they went to their respective rooms. Mulder got ready for bed then waited until an appropriate time had passed to begin moaning loudly. Soon that turned into screams of anguish since he had heard himself scream often enough to make a good show of it. Scully did rush in and shook him ‘awake’.

“Mulder!?! Wake up! It’s just a nightmare. I’m here. It’s okay.”

The sly agent blinked and opened his eyes, trying to appear shocked and upset. She wouldn’t stay if he wasn’t upset. “Oh Scully!” He grabbed her and pulled her into the bed with him. “That was bad.”

“Do you want me to stay?”

“I *need* you to stay. Please?” Mulder tried to sound pathetic, he should know how to do that—easily.


Scully was already in bed with him and Mulder pulled up the covers and snuggled her into his chest. She had her full pajamas on and he had his boxers, but this was a little slice of heaven. Scully didn’t say anything else, but put her hand over his heart and relaxed her head.

“Thanks, Scully.”

“Anything for you, Mulder.”

The faker immediately started to fall asleep, but he could have sworn he heard a small chuckle before everything got dark.




They awoke, said their good mornings and she went to her room to get ready. Mulder felt on top of the world. He got Scully to sleep with him—again! He figured that he may have to go without tonight, but he was going to play it by ear. Scully seemed to be in a better mood than the last few days and there was spring in the air. Technically, the season was autumn, but their relationship was *finally* moving. Mulder planned a few nights when he accidentally pulled her up against him and kissed her (in a dream—of course), then…

“Mulder?” Scully came padding into his room as he lay in his bed reminiscing and musing about the future. “Have you seen my slipper?”

He checked under his bed and it was there. “Here you are, Scully.” He looked at the pink, fuzzy flip flop in awe. She had such little feet. Scully delicately snatched it from him and went into her own room, shutting the connecting door—firmly.




They had breakfast at the same little diner. The tourists were off at the fancy restaurants down the street, but this one was stuck on the corner, deeper into town. Mulder liked it because it wasn’t pretentious and served huge portions for a few dollars.

“I’d like the Lumberjack’s Breakfast, coffee and a side of orange juice.”

Scully ordered her usual egg white omelet with spinach and cheese—coffee with cream. The waitress nearly sneered at Scully’s order, but she was polite. “Are you Tourists or Trolls?”

“Trolls?” Scully nearly laughed. Last night seemed to have lifted her mood too.

“Flatlanders…Lower Peninsula folk. Ya’know…you live *under* the Bridge?...the Mackinaw Bridge…?”

Mulder laughed openly. “Trolls…that’s good. I guess we are closer to tourists. We have business here.”

The woman grinned. “We get all kinds—eh? Be right back with your coffee.”

Scully watched as Mulder played with his straw and tried not to look at her. She may not have been fooled by his “nightmare” last night. He wanted her to stay with him and didn’t know how to open the door. The first nightmare was real—the second was not. He was shy now, having gotten what he wanted.

“So, Mulder, what was your dream about last night?” Scully decided to press him. She wanted to know what he was thinking—without the use of a telepath.

Mulder twisted the stirring straw more than usual. He was a tactile person and nervous. “Um…the same thing—I lose you and I can’t get you back.” He looked up and Scully saw he was being open about it. That was a big fear of his and that gave her pause to pursuing the questioning. He needed to say something, but nothing really came to mind other than, ‘Do you love me, Scully?’ But he couldn’t *ever* ask that.

“Oh, I thought…” Her reply was cut off by a girl sliding into the booth beside Mulder. It was Crystal Bearheart.

“I hope I’m not interrupting.” The child looked at Scully and the agent saw challenge there. “I was out and about this morning and saw you having breakfast. Mind if I join you?”

Mulder wanted to deny the teen based on the obvious pretense of ‘not interrupting’ and ‘accidental meeting’, but after the revelations of last night, he stopped underestimating the girl. This intrusion confirmed Scully’s suspicions that Crystal had a crush on Mulder and a bias against her. She read Scully’s thoughts and didn’t want her pressing Mulder about last night. He was beginning to sympathize with Marnie Finn and the rest of the town in having their private thoughts used against them by a neglected pre-teen.

Yes, he helped Crystal after dinner last night and maybe staved off a firestorm, however what Mulder gleamed is likely true about this child needing a support system, but the teen was also a jealous and vindictive person. Her vicious attack at dinner showed that and this morning confirmed it. Crystal Bearheart wanted Dana Scully out of the way.




Since neither one of the agents replied to Crystal, she took it as tacit approval. “I don’t have school today. What are you two going to do?”

Mulder looked helplessly at Scully. He admitted that his partner was right. The girl had a crush on him. Now what? “Uh, we were going to check out the area a little.” He and Scully hadn’t really talked about it yet.

The teen turned to Mulder. “You want to go on a color tour,” she gave Scully a cold stare. “And she wants to go shopping. Since I doubt you want to go shopping with her, why don’t I show you the best color tour spots?”

Scully apparently had enough. “Crystal, I appreciate your abilities, but it is rude to read private thoughts. Mulder and I planned to spend the day together, no matter what we decide to do. I’m sure there are other activities that are a little more *teenager* friendly than hanging out with people old enough to be your parents.” Even Mulder reeled at that one. Scully can be quite direct when pressed.

The narrowing eyes from the teen proved that the battle was joined. “I know you think I’m trying to steal him from you, but you don’t really have him in the first place.”

Mulder rolled his eyes, this was turning into a fiasco. He had to do something. “Look, Crystal, Scully and I just sat down to breakfast and have some things to discuss that are work related and not for public consumption. I’m sure I will see you later, so can you will give us a little privacy—please?”

The girl got the hint and slid out of the booth. “Until later, Mulder.” The parting glare was for Scully. When she had left the restaurant, Mulder sagged.

“Ok, I admit you were right about her. Now what do I do?”

Scully started to say something, but their food came. They waited until they were served and taken a few bites. “I’m not really sure. I’ve never dealt with this before and especially with a telepathic twist. You’re the psychologist. What would you do with a normal teenager crush?”

“I would explain how inappropriate it is and then tell her I don’t feel the same way and she will find someone her own age one day. These things never end well and feelings are always hurt. Somehow, hurting Crystal is like kicking a dog when it’s down. I don’t think she will take it well and it might push her too far. She is hanging by a thread as it is.”

“You could always marry her and be done with it.” Scully sipped her coffee. “I hear child brides are in these days.”

This time, Mulder glared at her. “I’m not finding this funny. What bothers me the most is she seems to view you as a threat. She might try to hurt you again.”

“If all she can do is tell me what is in my own head, then that isn’t much. She did take me by surprise last night, but I’m prepared now.”

Mulder didn’t reply, but his breakfast wasn’t as appetizing as before. He had a feeling that Crystal Bearheart could do some damage if she put her mind to it.

They did discuss work and in particular how to approach their conclusions with Skinner. After their meal, they went back to the hotel and Scully started typing the report while Mulder talked with the A.D.

“Yes, Skinner.” He paused. “You have that correct, she is genuine, but I think due to the emotional trauma she has been through that she be handled very carefully and not taken away from her family. Sending a team will be fine. I’ll let her mother know.” Mulder paused again. “Ok. I’ll put you on speaker.” He waved Scully over.

The Assistant Director of the FBI and their direct superior’s strong voice came through the phone. “Agent Scully are you there?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. I’m afraid you two will have to stay up there a few more days. There was a reported kidnapping of state’s attorney general’s daughter. She was about to join him at the Governor’s conference on MackinACK Island when several people witnessed the abduction.”

“That’s MacinAW, sir.” Mulder gently corrected him.

“Fine. Apparently, the town you are in, St. Ignace, is the main launching area for the island and she was taken from there. Normally, I would send in another team, more familiar with kidnappings, but the governor wanted fast action and I told him that I already have a team in place. I’ll email the details. I immediately alerted the MackinAW (Skinner emphasized the ending) Bridge and Canadian authorities to be on the lookout, so it is likely he is still in the area. I also spoke to Chief Raymond Goslin of the St. Ignace Police Department and he is expecting you. See what you can find out and keep me posted. If you need help—don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Right, sir.”

“Good Luck.” Skinner ended the call.

Mulder looked at his partner. “I guess that solves the problem of what we are going to do today.”




Chief Goslin waved the two agents over to his desk. “After hearing from your Assistant Director, I pulled all the security video footage in the area. We have some eye witnesses, but they were tourists and didn’t recognize the kidnapper. He took the girl right in broad daylight. That takes guts – eh?”

Mulder was getting a little tired of the strange accent around here. His friend from Detroit didn’t talk this way. It must be a U.P. thing. It sounded like a cross between a Minnesotan and Canadian accent with lots of things ending with “eh”.

“Can we see that footage?” Scully had brought her lap top and was still reading Skinner’s notes.

The Chief turned his monitor around and the agents watched the screen. A white man wearing a flannel shirt and jeans drove up in a dark blue pickup truck, leaped out, shoved two people out of his way and grabbed the A.G’s daughter. There was a brief struggle, but he managed to push her into the cab and drive away before anyone else really understood what was happening. The security angle didn’t get a license plate as only the front part of the truck could be seen.

“Well, that’s pretty much it.” Goslin leaned on his desk. “However, we did get a lucky break. I know ya Feds have your expertise, but it pays to bring the local force in on things. He rewound the tape and froze it at the part where the truck entered. “See right here,” he pointed at a white sticker on the mirror. “That is a faded sticker from Lucky’s Bait and Tackle Shop, right here in St. Ignace. Lucky gave them out as advertisements about 10 years back, but gave it up. This guy is from around here—or at least his truck is. We are scouring through the Secretary of State records for a truck in the area that matches this description.”

Mulder crinkled his brow. “Wouldn’t you need the Department of Motor Vehicles for that?”

“Nope. The Secretary of State registers vehicles and issues driver’s licenses here. We hope to have a few matches soon.”

Mulder and Scully huddled with her laptop at Skinner’s notes. There wasn’t much to go on, just the names of those involved and when and where it happened. No ransom has been requested—at least not yet. There was a picture of the girl, she was a pretty brunette about 25 years old. Scully had just closed the lid when a sergeant came running from the back of the station.

“We have five hits of dark blue trucks within a 25 mile radius. Jimmy knows his cars and he said that the truck looks like it has a Ford grill and that it is likely a late 1980’s model. There is only one truck on the list that fits that’s criteria and it is Russell Banks, the ex-felon. Remember he ran that prostitution ring that had a few underage girls in it? Well, he had it in for the attorney general because he was the prosecutor on that case. He just finished his sentence and was released last week. Ya. This is personal, Chief.”

“Damn.” Goslin was grim. “Russell grew up here and knows the area as well as any of us. He isn’t going keep her someplace obvious like his mother’s house, but we’ll send some men to check it out. Sergeant, take Jimmy and Fred and go to the Banks’ home. I can’t imagine Betty Banks refusing to let you in, but radio if she does. I’ll get ya a warrant in a jiffy.”

Goslin looked at the agents. “I have a hunch about where ol’Russell might have taken her. Us Yoopers love our hunting camps and Russ has one out in the woods. You two come with me; we are checking out that shack.”


*A Yooper is a resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (U.P.)


Act IV—Reneging*


Chief Goslin and the two agents drove down a dirt road next to a thick forest. Scully knew when she saw the massive pine trees and swatches of forest on the way up here, she would end up in one—it was inevitable. Sometimes she thinks that God rolls a twenty sided die each time they do an investigation and if it comes up a 1, 2 or 3, she gets sent to the forest. After that other Michigan tree thing, Scully was apprehensive.

The police chief took them straight to Russell Banks’ hunting shack, and a shack it was. Some might call it a lean-to, if there was something for it to lean against. Scully was surprised it was still standing at all. Mulder peeked in the windows and shook his head. It was empty, but Goslin wasn’t giving up. He went up to the door and it was open. The trio cautiously walked in, but there was no place to hide a dog, much less a 25 year old girl. The rickety cot, scratched table and chair was almost all there was if not for the more modern gas stove in the middle of the room. It ran on Liquefied Natural Gas and seemed to be the only worthwhile thing in the place.

“Alright,” Goslin said unhappily. “Let’s call it. Maybe my sergeant had better luck.” The group left and started walking back to the police SUV, but Scully realized something was bothering her. After a minute of hiking, she figured out what it was. That stove—it was brand new. The man had been out of prison for only a week, but immediately purchased and installed it. Why? She wanted another look at it.

“Don’t leave without me, I’m going to get another look at that gas stove. I’ll catch up.” Scully went back to the shack and stepped inside. Instantly there was a flash, pain blossomed in her head and then…nothing.




Mulder waited for 10 minutes at the car, then got a sinking feeling. “Something has happened to her.” He looked at Goslin and then took off running. When he got to the shack, with the chief panting behind him, no one was there. “Scully! Scully!” He ran around the structure and looked at the ground for drag marks or any sign someone had been there, but nothing. Even inside, there was no change.

“Hey! I found something.” The chief shouted at Mulder to come. When he arrived, there underneath the cot, was a hotel keycard, for Scully’s room.

The men searched the place again and even overturned the meager furnishings. The stove didn’t move or seem to have any hidden switches, but it was slightly warm like it had been used several hours ago. It wasn’t as cold as the outside, like it should have been.

“Banks has her.” Mulder was livid. This was his fault, he should have gone with her. Maybe he shouldn’t even have brought her and she would be safe back in D.C. She didn’t want to come in the first place.

Goslin tried to calm him down. “Russ has been here, the stove was slightly warm. We should have caught that the first time, that’s probably why your partner went back. I’m sure he’ll return—eh? I’ll have the men put a watch on the place.

“I’m not leaving until you get a team out here.”




Mulder was back at the police station thinking of what to do. When the Chief radioed his men, they informed him that Banks’ mother did allow them entry and they searched the home. There was no girl and barely a sign of Russell Banks. His mother mentioned that he went off on a bow hunting trip just yesterday.

Goslin informed them of the hunting camp and the missing FBI agent. He left one officer to watch the home and had the other two come up to watch the shack. He then used a public radio channel to announce that the police were looking for Russell Banks as a person of interest in a kidnapping. The chief informed Mulder that many of the locals had generators and radio equipment for those snow storms when they lost electricity. The U.P. was a beautiful, but harsh place to live in winter.

It was barely an hour later when they got a call from Lucky’s Bait and Tackle and in hushed tones, Lucky told him that Russell was in his shop. The two men took off like a shot, and made it to the store just as Banks was leaving. The felon dropped his packages, leapt in his truck and skidded out into the road. Goslin was right on his tail, but it looked like Banks wasn’t going to slow down until he ran into the construction site and was forced to turn sharply, promptly hitting a tree. The criminal fell out and started to run.

Mulder flew out of the SUV and chased the man through the construction site, weaving in and out of cars full of astonished people. Russell Banks had been in prison for 10 years and wasn’t in very good shape. Mulder ran almost every day and overtook him easily. As Mulder tackled him, he used a little too much effort and threw the man into the side of the dump truck and Russell went down. The agent had his Sig leveled at the man’s head in less than 2 seconds. “Hands up! FBI!”




“Sit down, Agent Mulder!” Goslin was fuming. “You are *not* interrogating the suspect! You nearly killed that man when you threw him into a dump truck and your behavior is unpredictable. I understand he took your partner, but you are the *wrong* person to be in there right now. I’ll let you watch—but that is it!”

Mulder paced in front of the chief’s desk. He knew the man was right. He almost blew the chance to find Scully permanently, but he is tired of people taking her away from him and he lost his temper. They are booking Russell Banks for resisting arrest because until the forensic team from the State Police finds something tying him to one of the two women or the witnesses pick him out of a lineup, there is no evidence for a kidnapping charge.

At least they were doing it right. They did the usual fingerprinting and DNA swab, but they also combed his clothes, and there is a team going over the hunting shack and truck right now. Mulder was sure they would find something. He went behind the one-way glass and watched Banks sitting in an interrogation room in an orange jumpsuit. The guy had butterfly clips closing a large gash on his head from where he ‘ran into’ the dump truck. Skinner would no doubt hear about it and put him on leave—again.

Goslin and another officer were interrogating him, but the man just looked smug and claimed he didn’t know what they were talking about. The surveillance video didn’t show the man’s face and Banks said that anyone could have taken his truck because he always left the keys in it. The chief wasn’t getting anywhere, but to be fair to him, aside from a confession, Goslin didn’t have anything to work with. Suddenly, that changed.

A man stepped in the room and waved the chief out. Mulder wasn’t privy to what was said out in the hall, but when Goslin came back in, it was his turn to be smug. “Well, Banks, you have a small problem. The kidnappings you know nothing about? We found hairs matching both women on the clothes you came in with.”

“You planted them.”

“Did we also plant Dana Scully’s blood on your shirt? She’s an FBI agent, shitwit. Her DNA is on file and the blood is fresh. That, in combination with your fingerprint on her hotel key card and yours were the only prints were found in the truck means you’re in deep.” Goslin smiled. “Russell Banks, you are under arrest for the kidnappings of Sara Richardson and Dana Scully. You have the right to remain silent…”

Mulder tuned out as the chief droned on. He was glad they linked Banks to this, but Scully was still missing and her blood was on that fucker’s shirt. She was hurt. After they re-arrested him, Banks started to laugh—hysterically.

“I don’t care, pigs. You won’t find them and if ya do, it’ll be too late. They might be dead already, but I think they have another hour before the place fills with gas and they suffocate. Maybe, it will hit a pilot light somewhere and the building explodes—eh? If you idiots checked my truck, the bait store wasn’t the only place I stopped. I had some repair equipment for a faulty furnace. That will never happen now.” Banks laughed and laughed. “Tell Attorney General Richardson, that he killed his daughter—not me. If you let me go, give me free passage to Canada, I’ll tell ya where they are—once I’ve gotten far enough away. If not, they die.”




Mulder phoned Skinner about the new development. Skinner was going to inform the attorney general. When Mulder walked out from behind the interrogation room, he saw Goslin standing there.

“I’m sure you heard.”

“Yes. Banks already violated his parole and with 2 counts of kidnapping that carry both state and federal penalties, he’s not leaving prison alive so murder charges won’t add anything to his sentence. He has nothing to lose.”

“We checked every place we know he had contact in the last week. It has to be close by to get Agent Scully away so quickly

“We waited 10 minutes. That was enough time to get her to his truck and leave.” Mulder sighed. “Goslin, I have a suggestion, but it’s risky.”

“I’m listening.”

“Crystal Bearheart. I believe she is a genuine telepath and if she can read Banks mind enough to know where the women are being held, we can get them out in time.”

“I know that’s the rumor, but even if it is true, she’s a minor. We can’t have her come in contact with a serious offender like this. Her mother would never agree.”

“I say we try. Call Joan Bearheart.”

Goslin did and explained the situation. Crystal was in school right now, but miraculously Joan did agree and said she would pick her up and bring the teen to the station right away. When the two ladies came in, they had only 15 minutes to find the captives. Mulder immediately went to the girl.

“Did your mother tell you what we needed?”

Crystal nodded. “I’m to listen to the man’s thoughts and find out where this woman and Agent Scully are.”

“Right, do you have any questions?”

“What happens if I don’t find out? Will Agent Scully die?”

Mulder turned cold. The girl had figured out by not cooperating she could get rid of his partner. “Yes. There is another woman with her and she is only 25 years old. She will die too. Will you help?” When the girl didn’t answer right away, Mulder wanted to shake her, but she finally nodded and he let out the breath he had been holding.

He steered her to the area behind the interrogation room where the one-way glass was. Crystal shook her head. I can’t read through barriers. I have to be in the same room.”

Joan spoke up. “You can’t show her to that monster! What if he breaks out or doesn’t get convicted? No. I won’t allow it.”

Mulder tried to calm the mother down. “I have a solution.”




“Remember, when you get the location, just nod. Do not say anything else, don’t even stomp your feet because he will know someone else is in the room. The good news is you were 4 when Russell Banks went to prison and he may not know about you at all, but let’s be safe about that. Okay?” She nodded and Mulder rapped on the door. When he got an answering knock, they came in.

Russell Banks had a black bag over his head and was struggling to take it off, but his hands were securely handcuffed to the table. He was screaming and making a lot of noise, but he quieted and turned toward the door.

“Who’s here?”

“It’s me, Mr. Banks. I’m the FBI agent that captured you. I know that you have taken my partner and Sara Richardson. I want to know where they are.”

Banks chuckled uproariously. “You? The man that nearly killed me? You want to know where your sweet redheaded partner is? HA! You are the *last* person I would tell. But, I do want to say something. I’m glad she is going to die—both of them! I have no love for cops or lawyers. I don’t know what game you are playing with this stupid black bag…”

Mulder looked down and Crystal was nodding. He promptly turned and walked her out while Banks was in mid rant. When they were away from the room and Goslin was there, Mulder asked her to tell them. They had only 5 minutes left, but Banks could have been wrong about the amount of time they had.

“He is lying about the gas leak. He said that to get you to let him go. The women are tied up, gagged, but alive and they are in a place he calls his ‘camp’. There is a small trapdoor hidden in a corner of the room—he was laughing at you for missing it…they are underground!”

Mulder looked at Goslin who yelled at his team and they rolled. “Thank you, Crystal. I know it was tempting to not help. You and Agent Scully didn’t get off on the right foot.”

She looked a little ashamed. “That was my fault. I was jealous and considered not helping, especially when I heard your thoughts about killing the man that hurt the woman you love. If you want some advice, you should probably tell her that.”

“Maybe I will.” Mulder pulled her aside from her mother. “What does Scully think about me?”

Crystal smiled. “I don’t know. Once she learned that I could read her, she mostly shut down. You already know she’s your friend and partner—those thoughts were strong. I could barely read any of her thoughts and no other ones about you. She is one of a few people that I’ve met that can do that, so I can’t help you. But I’ll tell you a secret. Some of my telepathic ability lies in intuition. That’s how I really tick people off.”

“People’s minds are a jumble of thoughts, some louder than others, all being spoken at once, but the ones I zero in on are the things they try to hide from themselves. Those thoughts feel like they have an indigo haze around them like they are shrouded in mystery. Just like you wanting to murder that man. You were ashamed of thinking it because you work for the FBI. Also, being in love with Agent Scully—you don’t think you deserve her. Even if I can’t read her, I think she loves you too. I hope it works out and you get what you want.”

“Thanks, Crystal. You are a very special girl.” Mulder gave her a hug as her mother looked on and he could feel her smile.


*Reneging is a technical term for a type of cheating in a card game. Euchre is played mostly in 5 states of the Eastern Midwest. It’s a game similar to Hearts but the trump suit changes with each hand through a bidding process. The Jacks of the same color as the trump suit are the big and little ‘bower’ and are the highest card followed by the Ace. As in most card games you have to follow the suit played even if it is the trump suit. Not playing the right suit to hold back a card is called reneging and if caught, the team gets docked 3 points. First team to make it to 8 points wins.


Conclusion - Hell and Paradise


When Scully came through that door along with Sara Richardson, Mulder’s heart nearly burst. She had a small cut on the back of her head, which is probably where the blood came from and he was grateful it wasn’t worse. When Scully learned that Crystal saved them, she gave the girl a big hug and the teenager accepted it.

Russell Banks was not as smug as he was at first. Sadly, because the women weren’t really in danger from a gas leak, he couldn’t even be charged with attempted murder, but the kidnapping, assault and unlawful imprisonment charges were enough. The attorney general was going to follow this trial very closely.

Skinner granted them free time to spend in the tourist town so they were going to take it easy for a night and a day. After Mulder and Scully went back to the hotel and got a good night’s sleep (in separate beds), they awoke to a beautiful Michigan morning. Mulder cheerfully knocked at the connecting door and it opened to a happier Scully.

“You look cheery.” Mulder was feeling pretty good himself. He had a real, wonderful dream about Scully and had given some thought to what Crystal said about telling her how he feels. He might, if he could find the courage. He was going to try the nightmare act again tonight—for sure.

“I had a nice long bath last night and I did sleep well. We have reports to finish, but Skinner gave us the day off. What would you like to do?”

Mulder sank into the chair, stared at his beautiful partner and was glad Crystal wasn’t here to read that thought. If he had his way, they wouldn’t leave the hotel all day. However, they weren’t at that stage yet. “You want to go shopping and I want to drive around with a beautiful woman next to me looking at stunning shades of gold, orange and red.”

“You would have to offer this beautiful woman something she wants.” Scully was being playful. *She was in a good mood.*

“How about a fancy dinner?”

“That’s a start.”


“Keep going.”

“Shopping.” It wasn’t a question.

“You hit on it G-man.” Scully smiled at him. All I want is a quilt and a few trinkets for my mom. It’ll take an hour—tops.

“Okay, but no purse holding.”




They went to the usual breakfast place and the agents received an ovation when they entered. There were enough people in that traffic line for some of the patrons to have witnessed Mulder’s take down of Russell Banks and as they say…it’s a small town.

Scully turned red and they sat in their usual booth as the applause died down. The waitress came and offered her opinion. “Smooth moves Mr. & Mrs. FBI. Foiled a kidnapping—not bad,” and she was smiling when she said it. “Let me guess, a Lumberjack special with coffee and orange juice and you will have an egg white omelet with spinach, cheese and coffee with cream. How close did I get—eh?”

Mulder hid his own smile. “Right on the money.”

“Perfect!” She re-collected the menus. “By the way, it’s on the house.”




Everywhere they went they were heartily greeted and given a few thumbs up and atta-boys. Scully was true to her word and did her trinket shopping quickly while Mulder purchased both chocolate nut, peanut butter and maple nut fudge. He had samples of five different kinds before choosing. Mulder went in with Scully to the quilt store. He had already decided to be brave tonight and kiss her—during a dream of course. If everything worked out, he might be shopping with her more often and should get used to it.

Scully wandered around the shop which was oddly named, ‘Hell and Paradise’. She found a nice rose/pink/peach pattern that would go well with her couch and went to pay. Mulder couldn’t resist and had to ask. “Miss, why is this store called ‘Hell and Paradise’?”

The clerk was young and giggled, pointing to a well-crafted wooden sign with the outline of Michigan behind her. It read: *‘All the quilts you see were made in either Hell or Paradise. Michigan is the only state that has both. Hell is located here: (there was a notation near the lower half of the state with a star slightly to the lower right of middle; near the life line on a palm) and Paradise is here: (there was a carve out of the Upper Peninsula with a star near its upper most tip in the center). Take note that only Paradise is found in the U.P. Welcome to Yooper Country.’*

Mulder chuckled. Yup, Michigan was an interesting state.




The drive through the back roads was pleasant and relaxing. Scully told some stories from her childhood as a Navy brat and Mulder imparted a few of his own. He wanted to kiss her then. He could just stop the car, push her up against a tree and enjoy those petal lips. However, Scully was an odd creature and he wanted to do this right. Attacking her in the forest didn’t spell ‘right’.

It was starting to get late so he headed back. They had missed lunch and had munched on some fudge, but a meal was in order. He had already had reservations for tonight. While his partner was doing the tourist thing, he walked back into that diner and asked the waitress what was a good place to have dinner. This diner closed at 2pm, off season, and he promised Scully something fancy.

The waitress was friendly. “We don’t have East Coast fancy here, but if you are looking for good food and a nice view, try ‘The Galley Restaurant’. Mention me and you’ll get seated in the back room with a view of Lake Huron. I’m Helen. My brother owns the place.” She started to walk away, but stopped and looked at Mulder. “Not that it’s any of my business, but I’d anchor that girl down, if I were you. You two have some *spooky* thing going on with each other and as you know, life is short. I probably shouldn’t talk. I can always spot ‘em, woo ‘em, but can’t keep ‘em. Divorced three times. Hope you have better luck.”

Both agents showered and got ready for dinner. Scully wore a dark cream flare skirt and a midnight blue cowl neck sweater. She looked delicious. Mulder chose his favorite turtleneck sweater and dark brown jeans. That sweater was his favorite because Scully gave it to him as a Christmas present a few years ago. It was soft alpaca and was a subtle blend of avocado greens, golden yellows and various browns. She said it matched his eyes. All Mulder knew is that when he wore it, she stared at him a lot. He wanted her to do that tonight.

The restaurant was a dressy casual depending on if you were a tourist or a local. Helen’s brother appeared and personally welcomed them to ‘The Galley’ and showed them to a table against a windowed wall that overlooked the lake approaching twilight. The blue, purple and pink clouds hanging over the endless water captivated both of them for a time. When the waitress came they weren’t ready, but each hastily ordered a glass of white wine.

“That is beautiful, Mulder! Look! Now that the clouds have cleared a little, there a hint of a moon.”

He did look and a fingernail moon appeared from behind a fading wisp. It was just a sliver and in the clear sky around it, you could see the glimmering shadow of the whole. Mulder turned to look at his date and found her staring out into the water with an expression of wonder. He was certain he wore the same expression, but not for nature. Tonight was the night. He had to tell her. He wanted her too badly.

Mulder had to work at *not* hurrying dinner. He wanted to finish and go to bed so he can have a ‘nightmare’ then be with her. However, when he looked up from his excellent prime rib, she was looking at him *that* way again. He almost missed it and decided to slow down.

“How did you find this place? It has great food and is comfortable. I don’t even feel overdressed. I wondered about that when I came in, but…this is nice.”

“Helen, the waitress at the diner recommended it. Her brother owns the place. We are probably getting the royal treatment.”

“Helen?” Scully stared at her plate and pushed her food around.

*Was his little minx, jealous?* “She offered her name so we would get these seats.” Mulder tried not to mention it, but couldn’t resist. “Are you jealous, Scully?”

“No.” She wouldn’t look at him. “I just wondered how you got her name—that’s all.”

He hid a smile. She *was* jealous. *Hot Dog. It was time to go* “How’s your food?”

“The whitefish is very good. Did you want a taste?”

*of you? –yes*

Mulder was casual. “No, I think I’m almost done. Did you want dessert?” He meant it, but when Scully looked at him through her lashes, he almost dropped his fork. *oh god*

“I’m good. I can’t eat much more.”

“Me either.”

She laughed. “When do you not finish a meal?”

*Since I got hungrier for something else* “Alright, let’s go.”

They boxed up what wasn’t finished and Mulder walked out with Scully on his arm. She went to watch the stars come out over the water. “Wow, Mulder.”

“Yeah, wow.” His control slipped and he touched her hair. It was silky. She turned and took his arm again. The drove in silence and went up to their separate rooms. Mulder had to say something. “Did you want to have a nightcap or watch some TV?”

“No, not tonight. Thank you for a fun day. Get some sleep, Mulder.” She went into her room. It was only a half-hour later when he started screaming. He heard Scully go to the connecting door, which was mysteriously unlocked and enter his room. She went to him and tried to shake him awake.

“Mulder, it’s just a dream.”

He dutifully opened his eyes and grabbed ahold of her. “I’m glad you are safe.” He wasn’t acting at that statement. He almost lost her again.

Scully smoothed his hair. It felt good. “It’s okay. I’m here.”

“Stay with me?…” *forever*

“Yes, Mulder.”

He pulled her under the covers and sighed contentedly. She was staying with him tonight. That was the end of Phase I. It could be said that Phase II was when she snuggled into his side, but that was her doing and something he didn’t expect. Phase III was when he leaned into her and pretended he was dreaming. His face was inches from her and he tried to mumble nonsense words as he aimed for her lips…BUT…she cut him off.

“If you want to kiss me, Mulder. Just kiss me.”

He murmured nonsense word hoping he could continue the charade.

“I know you are awake. S’okay. Kiss me, Mulder.”

He opened his eyes. “You’ve known all along.”

I know the first nightmare was real. After that…”

“Are you angry with me?” He closed his eyes as she stroked his hair and face again. That felt so good.

“No. But I do want you to kiss me—if you want to.”

“I’ve been waiting to do this for years.”

“Then do it.”

Mulder leaned in and touched her lips. They were soft. He nibbled on them for a while and then delved in—parting the petals as he invaded her. He swept her mouth with his tongue, memorized ever crevice and drank from her. Mulder was quickly losing control, but he couldn’t stop tasting her. Finally, he broke it off. She was breathing heavily too.

“Oh, Scully.” He was panting. “You need to decide how far this goes. I…I…I need to know. I know what I want, but you are the one that chooses…please.” It was dark in the room except for a faint light outside highlighting the shadows. Mulder waited for her reply.

“I want you inside me, Mulder.” Scully kissed his lips softly. “We’ve waited too long.”

“I want to make love to you.” Even in the dark, their eyes met. “I do love you, Scully.”

“Then take me.”

Mulder noticed that she didn’t return his declaration, but he didn’t expect her to. He was a hard man to love. At least she was allowing him to quench their physical desires, but he meant it. This wasn’t just sex. Mulder was going to make love to his partner and best friend.

He touched her soft hair and kissed her again while his hands started to unbutton her top and reveal her creamy skin. He stopped, because Mulder wanted to see her. It was too dark.

“Is something wrong?”

“I want to see you.”


He got up, went to the bathroom and turned on the light. Scully rose out of bed and started to take off her pajamas, but he quickly reached her and stilled her hand. “I want to do this. It’s like unwrapping a present.” Scully smiled at him and stood still.

Mulder usually slept only in his boxers, but since he was expecting her, he had on a tee-shirt also. He finished the last button on her top and peeled the satin material away from her shoulders. As expected, her breasts were perfect and rose tipped. He was incredibly aroused and his boxers didn’t do much to hide that, but he pulled her to him and bent down to taste them. As he nibbled, he pushed his hand into her silken pants and brought them down—she stepped away. He was pleased to know that Scully didn’t wear underwear to bed.

“You are so beautiful.” Mulder was kissing her belly and paid especial attention to her gunshot wound. Another time he could have lost her. He rose and scooped her up, placing her gently on the bed.

“Do I get to undress you?” Scully’s voice was husky and her pupils were dilated. She was aroused too.

“Sure.” Mulder crawled toward her on the bed. “It might be easier from here.” He knelt and Scully sat up then ran her hands under his tee shirt touching his chest as she removed it. When it was gone, she squeezed his shoulders and caressed him. This felt wonderful.

“You are a beautiful man, Mulder.” She looked into his eyes and gently touched his hair and face, following it down his neck, shoulders and across his muscled arms. She touched his shoulder wound and a look flitted across her face, but she kissed it—and the look was gone.

Mulder was glad she liked what she saw. He pulled her in and kissed her again. This time it was skin on skin. *Bliss* He pushed her down and rolled over so she was on top of him. He pressed kisses into her hair as she played with the small hairs on his chest. When her hand went lower, he stilled. She pulled his boxers over his manhood and then slid them down past his knees. Mulder kicked them off and he was naked to her.

Scully looked at his erection for a while. Thankfully, she had a small smile on her face, but when she licked her lips, he started to leak. She was testing his control, but he wanted her in charge of the evening. When her tiny hand touched him, he nearly leapt off the bed. Her fingers barely fit around his member and as she stroked him from base to tip, his precum flowed. Finally, she leaned over and sucked it up.

“God, Scully!” Mulder was in a panic. Seeing those delicate lips surrounding his spongy tip was almost enough to end it there. “Scully!” He gently pushed her away. “If you do that, it’ll be over before it starts. That was incredibly stimulating—too stimulating. C’mere.” Mulder pulled her up his chest and she swung her leg over his hips. “Is this how you want it?” She nodded. “I aim to please.”

Mulder rubbed those hardened nubs and massaged her breasts as she got situated. It was hard for her to straddle him. Finally, she was ready and leaned forward. Mulder steadied her by holding her waist. She slid down him and he was right at her entrance. He couldn’t take his eyes off her as she concentrated on her task. It was hard not to take control and plunge into her, but Scully chose this position for a reason.

When he began to enter her, the sensation was nearly blinding him. Scully was wet, very wet and hot. She was tight too and the look on her face as he stretched her was so sexy. Her mouth was open slightly, her eyes closed and her head, tilted back.

“Mulder! You are a big man. I have to take it slow—it’s been a while.”

“I’m trying, Scully, but this is killing me.” He meant that too, but held on as her body enveloped his cock, inch by inch. Soon, he was almost completely in and he couldn’t wait. He sat her back up and that sunk the last of him. The expression of surprise on her face was a little funny. She looked down at him and then stared at where their bodies were joined together. Black met red. It was a memorable sight. Mulder was glad she chose this position. More pictures for his eidetic memory to replay.

“Wow.” Scully’s vocabulary was downgraded a few levels. “This feels good.”

Mulder was desperately trying not to pump her up and down on himself. “It will feel better when you start moving. Get going G-woman.” She chuckled and did. Watching his previously out-of-reach partner sliding her hips back and forth on top of him was amazing. It did feel good. Mulder reached out and started massaging her clitoris. She was already grinding it against him, but a little extra assistance couldn’t hurt.

She started bucking her hips wildly as her passion grew. Mulder never took his eyes off her face. When she came, it was spectacular. Her head was tossed back and her hair was mussed. The long lashes on her cheeks held a glint of moisture and her lips—a lover’s dream. She almost collapsed, but he raised his legs in time and she sagged against him. Wow is right, Scully.

Her eyes finally opened to see Mulder watching her. He was enjoying this and while he hadn’t had his orgasm yet, this was worth the wait.

“Did you?...”

He shook his head. “My turn.” Mulder grabbed her hips and started thrusting. Scully was practically bouncing up and down on him. The moaning she had been doing earlier started again and she had her eyes closed before, but now she watched him.

Mulder knew his expression was predatory and possibly even frightening, but he wanted her and he was taking her. Scully shrieked when without warning, he pulled her close then flipped them so he was on top of her. Mulder was thrusting madly and she had wrapped her legs around him, holding on to his arms for purchase. He was pounding her into the mattress, but her cries of ‘Oh god, Mulder’ helped him not to worry if he was hurting her. She was scratching at his arms and back as he nearly exited each time and pushed back in. His grunting was primal, but Mulder didn’t care. *He was so close*.

“Scully! Scully! I can’t hold back anymore! Aarrgghh!” Mulder’s scream punctuated the explosion in his groin as his semen flowed into his friend, partner and *lover*. She was holding onto him tightly and she was breathing hard as well. Soon, he had enough ability to move and pulled out of her and rolled to the other side, still panting.

They lay there for a few seconds, but Scully flopped over him and put her head on his chest. “Wow, Mulder.”

“Yeah.” *Who needs language anyway?*

He stroked her hair and body as they started to cool. Gratefully, Mulder’s arms were long enough to reach down and find the fallen sheets, so he pulled them over the sated pair. Scully snuggled deeper into him.

“I love you too, Mulder. I always have.”

The agent was thankful that it was still dark enough in the room so she didn’t see the tears in his eyes. Scully loved him. That was all that mattered.