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The Professional

Chapter Text

let it go--the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise--let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go--the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers--you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go--the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things--let all go
dear
so comes love

-- e. e. cummings


September, 1994

Amy buttoned up her navy suit jacket and appraised her reflection in the mirror over the bureau. Perfect, as always. She was the picture of a young, professional woman, just like he wanted her to be. This was their second time together and now she had the image down.

The knock at the door came precisely at 8:00 p.m. She smiled, liking his punctuality.

She opened the door. "Hello," she said.

He walked in without a word and laid his coat down on one of the chairs near the windows. It was a chilly night for early fall and the panes of the fourteenth floor hotel room rattled with the wind.

God, he was so unlike most of her clients. No wedding ring, no gray hair, no paunch. A good-looking man, who had an aura of sexuality and sorrow at the same time. He was a pleasant enigma for her to ponder as she did her business with him.

He turned toward her and held a small gift bag he'd pulled from his briefcase. "I got this for you," he said.

Amy smiled. This was nothing new. Sometimes her dates came with lingerie or toys for them to use during their sessions. She opened the bag. Inside was a small bottle of perfume, YSL's Paris. She lifted it out and removed the cap, sniffing the violet aroma. "I've always liked Paris," she said.

"There's something else," he said quietly.

There was a small black jewelry box inside. She fought back a crack about marriage proposals and opened it. It was a tiny gold cross on a chain, nearly like the one she'd gotten when she was confirmed.

Her client looked at the floor, his eyelashes fluttering a bit, a gesture that would seem almost effeminate on a man less masculine and handsome than he. "I was wondering," he said in almost a monotone. "I was wondering if you could wear them when we're...together..."

Laying her hand on his arm to reassure him, she nodded. "Of course," she said. "I'm here to do whatever you want and be whomever you want me to be."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Present Day

"Let's try something different this time," Mulder said, grinning at Scully as they lay in bed together, naked as the day they were born. "Let's pretend I'm the teenager who mows your lawn, and you've invited me inside for some lemonade."

"The regular way is boring you already, then?" she asked, lifting one red eyebrow.

"The regular way? Boring? How could that be –I'm only seventeen, Dr. Scully. I just want some lemonade. My, that's an awfully short skirt you're wearing."

She laughed. "Mulder, you're nuts."

"I believe you owe me twenty-five dollars for the lawn work," he said. "You do have twenty-five dollars on you, don't you, Dr. Scully?"

She folded the sheet aside and looked down at her nude body. "No, actually I'm afraid I don't...not at the moment."

He grinned at her wolfishly. "Hmmm, then I guess we'll have to think of some other arrangement."

"I made lots of lemonade," she suggested.

"Twenty-five dollars worth?"

She frowned. "I see what you mean."

"Maybe there's something you could do for me, something worth twenty-five dollars," he said, glancing down meaningfully at his own naked form. "Something I would appreciate very much, and that would guarantee you an extra-good job on your lawn from now on."

"That's only worth twenty-five dollars?" she asked, sounding slightly offended.

"Well, maybe you owe me from last week, too."

She laughed. "Why are you still mowing my lawn if I didn't pay you last week?"

He leaned over her, and kissed her. "Why do you think?"

She blinked up at him, and watched as the playful expression on his face changed gradually to something more serious and ardent. "You like my lemonade?" she whispered.

He chuckled softly. "Something like that." He kissed her again, lingeringly.

He ran his hand up her side until it came to rest on her breast. He circled her nipple with his thumb. "Mmm," he said against her mouth. He felt her own hand stealing lower, moving past his waist. "Mmm," he said again, when her fingers closed around him.

He closed his eyes. This was the best part of being with Scully, he thought –having her all to himself, knowing it was okay to concentrate on nothing but her, making her happy and letting her do the same for him.

She turned her head to catch her breath and he nuzzled her ear, chuckling at the way she shivered when he kissed the spot where her jaw met her neck. He worked his way down her neck, over her shoulder to her breast. With his tongue, he teased one hardened nipple.

The phone rang.

"Damn," Mulder swore softly.

"Let the machine get it—"

"I can't. I unplugged it to recharge my laptop." With a sigh, he rolled over and reached for the phone, mumbling, "Just when things were getting interesting..."

Beside him, Scully sighed too.

"Mulder," he said into the telephone.

"Is this Fox Mulder? The Fox Mulder who works for the FBI?" asked the voice on the other end. It was a woman's voice, a Midwestern voice with a slightly nervous edge.

"Yes."

"This is Amy Callahan. You probably don't recognize that name, but you might remember me as Christy."

"I don't know any Chri–" he began, and then caught himself. His whole body tensed, and his mouth went dry.

"You remember me, don't you?" she asked, and waited for him to answer.

"Yes," he said after a pause. "Yes, I remember."

He looked across at Scully. She had sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. "I'll be right back," she mouthed and walked out the door.

"Agent Mulder, I need your help," said the woman on the phone. "I'm in trouble and for reasons which I'm sure must be obvious to you, I don't feel comfortable going to the police."

Amy Callahan. It was a voice he'd never thought he'd hear again.

"I can't help you," he said.

"You have to."

"Have to—why?" he asked. "Are you threatening me?"

On the other end of the line, Amy Callahan gave a strained laugh. "Please, nothing that Gothic. I just need help, Agent Mulder. I meant you have to help me because I have a serious problem, an FBI kind of problem."

"Then call the Bureau," he said. "What makes you think—"

"Agent Mulder, I'm not trying to get you into any kind of trouble. I'm not that kind of person. I'm not playing games or hinting at some dire consequences for you if you don't cooperate. But, really, I'd think you'd want to be the one to help me. Not to sound sinister, but I'd think it would be in both our best interests."

He shot a glance at the side of the bed where Scully had lain. "Because of . . .our past association?"

"I don't want to go to the police with this, and if I have to, they're going to want a list of my clients. I don't think either of us wants that."

"Lucky me," he muttered under his breath.

"Agent Mulder," Amy said, "someone wants to kill me. I know that sounds hysterical and melodramatic, but in this case it's the truth. He's made threats, and I believe them."

"I can't talk about this now," Mulder said. "Can we meet somewhere?"

"The bar at the Marriott?"

His stomach twisted, and he wished she'd picked anywhere but the Marriott. "That's fine," he said. "When?"

"Can you come on a weekday? That's best for me. Tomorrow afternoon, maybe? Two o'clock?"

He sighed. "I'll be there."

"I'm sorry to drag you into this," she said, sounding genuinely regretful.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he said, and hung up the phone.

Could it be a set-up? Something told him it wasn't. She could have threatened him with exposure, or picked some more secluded spot to meet him. Instead she'd sounded frightened and desperate.

Scully walked back into the room with a glass of water. Her hair was disheveled in the late-night way he loved and her lips were still slightly swollen from his kisses.

"Everything okay?" she asked him gently, sitting back down on the bed. "Who was that?"

"Everything's fine." He was a little surprised that he was able to make the words come out so casually. "It was someone I used to know."

"An old friend?"

"No," he said, and reached over to draw her against him. He didn't want to look her in the eye. "Just someone I used to have a business relationship with."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For the tenth time in seven minutes she checked the watch at her wrist. She was early. She always was; she was just wired that way.

The waiter drifted over. "Do you need another?" he asked, gesturing towards her empty glass.

Amy nodded. "Yes, I think so."

He smiled. "Watch out, it's still early in the day." He whisked away the glass and walked to the bar.

She smiled at the waiter's comment. She was only drinking San Pellegrino, not being much of a drinker during the daytime. There was nothing wrong with a glass of wine at the end of the day, or a margarita in the heat of the summer, but there was something seedy about drinking in the middle of the afternoon.

Idly, she brushed some dust off the black wool of her suit jacket. It was crazy to be so nervous to see him again. After all, it had been merely a business transaction between them. He showed up, she did her stuff, he paid and left. Cut and dried.

It was different this time, though. She needed him. Sheer desperation had made her dredge up his full name and call him last night. She would never contact a client like that, unless the situation was dire, indeed.

Now that she thought about it, perhaps it wasn't the best idea in the world to have Agent Mulder meet her in the bar of the hotel where they'd met so many times before.

Amy looked towards the bar entrance again and he was striding though, impressive in his beige trench coat. He spotted her at the table in the far corner of the small lobby bar and an awkward smile formed on his handsome, if asymmetrical, face. Even from where she was sitting she was able to notice he had a midwinter tan.

She rose as he approached her and extended her hand for him to shake it. It was best for them to establish the boundaries, she thought. Agent Mulder's grip was strong and confident, but the expression on his face told her something else. "Thank you for meeting me on such short notice," she said, taking her seat again.

He shrugged off his coat to reveal a well-cut gray suit that said Calvin Klein to her experienced eyes. Interesting. How did a federal employee afford a designer suit?

The bar was mostly empty at that late-afternoon hour and the waiter came over with her water. The agent ordered the same for himself.

"I have a question for you, Amy, before we get started," he said.

"What's that?"

"How did you know I was with the FBI?"

She smiled. "I saw your ID one time. I'm good at spotting things like that."

"Okay, fair enough." He sat back in his chair and appraised her with watchful gray-green eyes. "What's going on?"

"I suppose we can dispose with the pleasantries, Agent Mulder."

His mouth twitched. "It's just Mulder. It seems too formal for you to call me Agent Mulder when..." His hands made an odd gesture.

Briefly, she remembered easing navy dress pants and boxers off his hips to settle between his knees and take him in her mouth. Business, she reminded herself, and shut the memory away.

She cleared her throat. "For the last few weeks, I've been getting some disturbing phone calls on my private line, which is unlisted."

"What kind of calls?"

"The voice has been filtered through a voice synthesizer, but I'm assuming it's a man." A wave of nausea rolled through her stomach and she swallowed some water. "Filthy, disgusting calls, about what a whore I am, how I need to be punished. He says he's going to slit my throat and fuck me while I bleed to death."

Mulder nodded, a sympathetic look in his sleepy eyes. "How many calls have you gotten? Do you have Caller ID?"

"I'd say there's been a call every two or three days. And yes, I have Caller ID, but the number is blocked, of course. If it was just phone calls, I'd ignore it..."

The waiter handed Mulder his water and set down the bottle and a bowl of peanuts and pretzels. "There's something else?" Mulder asked."Yes." She reached under the table and pulled out her black leather Coach briefcase. Opening it, she brought out a large white envelope and handed it to him.

Inside were six black and white photographs, each individually sealed in a Ziploc bag.

Mulder looked up at her in surprise. "Nice touch, those bags. Was that so you don't get fingerprints on them?"

"I like to read detective novels."

He put on a pair of reading glasses that made him look like a young history professor, and examined the pictures. They had obviously been taken with a telephoto lens. Amy, leaving her apartment building. Having coffee at a table on the sidewalk outside of a cafe. Standing in the lobby of the Four Seasons, in conversation with a gray-haired man in a business suit. Driving her car. On the Stairmaster in a sports bra and a pair of bike shorts.

Mulder set the photos down. "I can see why you're frightened."

She gulped. "He's been following me; he knows my routine."

Always, she'd been the model of caution. Her clients never knew her real name, her personal phone number, her address. She never revealed the slightest scrap of her personal life when she was working. There was Christy's life and then there was Amy's.

He crunched some ice between his teeth. "Could he be one of your clients? Is there anyone who has acted particularly bizarre or has seemed obsessed?"

Amy shook her head. "I've tried to think of someone, but they're all so normal. You know, just suits, married businessmen from Chevy Chase. I've only had a few bad experiences and they were...taken care of."

"Have you recorded any of the calls?" Mulder drained his glass of fizzy water.

"Yes, I have. Like I said, I like detective novels. They're relaxing." She pulled two mini-cassettes from her briefcase and set them on the table.

"Any spurned lovers?"

"No." She felt a smile spreading on her face. "There's only been Michael for the past five years."

"And you don't think—"

She cut him off. "Not at all. He's the most wonderful man in the world. He's an artist, very open-minded and it doesn't bother him that I'm a working woman."

The agent made an unreadable noise in the back of his throat. "If I need to, could I talk to Michael?"

"Oh, sure. He's terribly upset about this, too."

Mulder nodded. "Okay, Amy, I'll see what I can do, but there's just one thing that makes me reluctant to help you."

She raised an eyebrow.

"I have a partner," he continued. "A woman. But she's more than my partner now. She's my—"

"Your lover?" she asked, interrupting as always. It was a bad habit left over from growing up in a family of five children.

"Yes. If I help you, I have to bring her in, because we always work together. But I don't know how she'll take the news that I was one of your...clients."

Amy sighed. "There's a big difference between paid sex and making love."

"Not everyone sees it like that, and I don't think she will. And there's the matter of—," he grimaced, "how you look."

What about how I look, she thought defensively, and then it all clicked into place. A year ago she and Michael had been out for Sunday breakfast when she'd seen Mulder at the restaurant with a woman. A small, slender woman with bobbed red hair and blue eyes. A woman who easily could have passed for one of Amy's own sisters.

"My looks?" she asked, deciding not to tell Mulder about seeing his partner.

His face turned a faint pink and he looked down at the table. "You look like her, Amy."

"I see," she said, clasping her hands in her lap. "That is complicated. Perhaps you could tell her you met me some other way?"

"I wish I could, but I don't think so." His voice was hoarse. "I don't lie to Scully."

The last time he'd rented her, he'd cried out that name, Scully, as he'd bucked against her with his orgasm.

Amy tilted her head. "I'd say you've already done a fair amount of lying, if only by omission."

"I know and I regret that. I've wondered, from time to time, if my experiences with you might come back to haunt me."

His face was so full of regret that she felt a stab of empathy. Usually, she figured her clients got what they deserved if caught by their wives or girlfriends, but Mulder reminded her of her own difficulty living a double life.

"I don't want to ruin your life, Mulder," she said. "I can try to find help elsewhere."

"No." He shook his head. "You need my help." He gathered up the envelopes and the photos. "I'll see what I can do, Amy."

She scribbled her number on a bar napkin and handed it to him. "Give me a call if you find anything out."

"I will." He stood and put on his coat. "In the meantime, be careful. Maybe you should stop working for a while."

"I'll give it some thought. And I have a gun and I know how to use it."

"I'll call you in a day or so." He turned to leave and she noticed how his shoulders were slumped, as if in defeat.

"Mulder?" she called out, her voice sounding tremulous to her own ears.

He turned around. "Yeah?"

She smiled. "Thank you."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder paid the garage attendant and pulled out into the afternoon traffic. It felt strange, driving in the middle of the workday without Scully beside him. He'd told her as he left the office that he had an appointment and was taking the rest of the afternoon off, allowing her to assume he was seeing his dentist or his doctor. Just another lie of omission, he thought unhappily.

What was he going to tell Scully? His hands tightened on the steering wheel. Amy had offered him an out, suggesting that he could say he'd met her in some other way. He had to admit, despite his protestations of honesty, that the offer was tempting. He could say she was a former neighbor, maybe, or someone he'd met while working a case for the VCS.

He wished he could say that. Driving home through the harsh afternoon sun, he wished it with all his might.

He could still remember the call that had begun it all. Scully had been missing. He'd dragged himself through the days, trying not to think about her. He'd cried, too, more times than he was willing to admit, cried brokenly in the small hours of the morning. Finally, one night as he'd been lying dry-eyed and hollow on his couch, the emptiness and the unhappiness had all seemed too much. He couldn't be alone any more. In a moment of weakness, he'd reached for the telephone book.

He knew what he was looking for. When he couldn't sleep, when he was feeling restless and edgy and unhappy, he often turned to sex as a way of coping. Masturbating relaxed him, even if it didn't make his problems go away. He'd put in one of his videos, watching with glazed eyes while he jerked off. Sometimes he'd even call a 900 number, and talk to someone real while he did it. The release always helped to make him feel relieved and sleepy. Or, at least, it used to do that. For some reason the videos and the 900 numbers just weren't doing it for him anymore.

He'd found the Tiger Lilies agency in the yellow pages, under "Escorts." Their ad, discreet and tasteful, had promised "attractive, understanding companionship." Yes, he'd thought—maybe that's what I need. Maybe that's what would make me forget all this for a little while.

So he had dialed the number, his heart beginning to pound nervously as he'd counted the rings. Hang up, he'd told himself. No, don't hang up. Oh, God...

He'd heard a click on the other end, and a refined female voice had cut short his internal struggles. "Tiger Lilies, may I help you?"

"I'd like a—a date," he'd stammered, desperation thrusting him into the void.

They'd traded information: the agency's prices, his references, their rules. Finally the woman had asked, "And just what kind of companion were you looking for?"

He'd stopped short. What exactly was he looking for? "A redhead," he'd blurted out, the words coming forth unbidden. "Petite, one with a bob haircut, if that's possible."

"I think we can accommodate you there," the woman had said with seeming approval. "In fact, I feel certain you'll be pleased."

Those words had kept him going for the seemingly endless hours until his first assignation at the Marriott: "I feel certain you'll be pleased." Every time he'd felt a flutter of panic and thought about backing out, he'd repeated them like a mantra to himself. He'd wanted so badly to be pleased about something again.

He had to admit, too, that it wasn't only panic he had felt. He'd had his second thoughts, his doubts and his compunctions, but he'd felt strangely excited, too. Sex. No strings, no complications, no insecure second-guessing. He'd get exactly what he paid for. The thought had brought an unfamiliar exhilaration.

Maybe that's why he felt so guilty now.

Scully would never understand. He didn't understand it himself. He'd realized from the very first time how empty and meaningless the sex really was, and yet he had not been able to stop himself from going back. Amy had looked so much like Scully, and for hose few moments in that hotel room he'd been able to imagine that she really was Scully, that he'd been making love to the only woman he really wanted. He could still feel the softness of her hair under his fingertips, still sense the heat of her body as he slid gratefully inside her.

It was empty and meaningless, but the truth was, he'd never really felt the letdown until afterward, when he was leaving the hotel. When he was with her he could lose himself in her, drown in her, focus on what her mouth and her hands and her body were doing to him. He could look down at her face, pretty and acquiescent under him, and imagine for a moment that he was loved and desired. When he came, he could even pretend that he was coming inside Scully. That was the feeling that drove him to go back again and again, even when he swore to himself he wouldn't.

God, he was sick. He was sick to need someone that badly, to trade his honesty and his self-respect for delusive, impersonal sex. He hated himself sometimes. What was wrong with him, that he had such little self-control?

He didn't know how he was going to tell Scully—forthright, principled, trusting Scully. It was so far beneath her, he was so far beneath her, that it physically hurt him to imagine the expression on her face when he broke the news. She would be shocked, he thought. Disgusted. She would know what a terrible person he was, how weak and fucked up he'd always been at heart.

But he had to tell her. He owed her that. Scully was the reason he looked forward to going in to work each day—more importantly, the reason he'd actually begun to look forward to those times when he wasn't working. She meant everything to him.

How maudlin he was becoming, he thought, and laughed shortly. He'd paid a hooker for sex and suddenly that made him Doctor Fucking Zhivago. Boo-hoo, his past had caught up with him. He'd suspected all along that someday this was going to happen. It had always been just a matter of time.

Still, he really wished he knew what he was supposed to say to her.

An SUV cut suddenly in front of him, and he had to hit the brakes. "You're not the only fucking car on the road," he said aloud to the other driver.

He was almost home, he realized, looking at the street around him. He'd been so caught up in his thoughts that he couldn't even remember covering the distance from the hotel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He heard the key in the lock as he was filing his bank statements. He'd been too nervous to sit still, and so had occupied himself by organizing the stack of mail that had been gathering dust on his desk for a couple of months now.

"Mulder?" Scully's voice called. "Mulder, it's me."

"Over here. Just a second." He swept the little pile of credit card statements into the desk drawer.

Before he could get up, though, he felt Scully's hands on his shoulders.

Behind him, she leaned down and whispered in his ear, "Clean bill of health?"

"Huh?"

"Your appointment. Everything check out okay?"

He swallowed. "I'm fine," he said stiffly. "Scully, we need to talk about something."

"I missed you this afternoon," she said. She ran her hand over his chest in a caress. After a pause, her fingers began moving down his abdomen.

He grabbed her hand to stop its progress south. "Scully—"

She came around to slip between him and the desk. "Let's skip dinner," she said, straddling his lap. Her tone was suggestive, almost kittenish. "It was so quiet in the office without you, I kept having the most distracting thoughts..."

"Scully," he said again, and set her at arm's length. He looked gravely into her eyes. "Scully, we really need to talk. I think you should sit down."

Her smile disappeared, the look of invitation on her face fading to apprehension. "What's wrong?"

"Go sit down," he said.

She rose and moved to the couch, to sit with her hands folded in her lap. He got to his feet and stood before her. She looked like a schoolgirl called into the principal's office, he thought.

He cleared his throat. "Scully, do you remember that phone call I had last night?" he began. "The one when we were in bed?" His voice was reasonably composed, he thought. He'd rehearsed this part of his confession in his head.

She nodded solemnly. "The business acquaintance."

"Yes." He bit his lip. "That appointment I had today wasn't with a doctor. I had a meeting with the person who called me. It was a woman, a woman named Amy Callahan."

She waited for him to continue.

"She asked to talk to me about threats she's been receiving. Someone has been stalking her," he said, beginning to pace. "The reason she asked for my help instead of going to the police is that we have some history together."

"You were lovers?" Her voice was calm.

He stopped and turned to her. "In a manner of speaking. There's also another reason she didn't go to the police. Amy Callahan is a prostitute."

He waited for Scully to make the inference. He could tell the exact moment when she did; the look of wariness on her face turned to a look of shock, and then outright horror.
Her naturally pale complexion turned paper-white.

"I haven't seen her for a long time," he pressed on. "The whole thing started years ago—when you were missing, in fact. I was so unhappy, Scully. I was lonely and restless, and one night I just couldn't take it anymore. I phoned an escort service called Tiger Lilies. I asked them to set me up with someone."

Scully sat absolutely still, but he could sense her tension in the tight grip of her clasped hands.

"There's more," he said, determined not to lose his resolve. "The agency asked what kind of—o f girl I wanted. I requested someone like you."

"Like me..." she repeated in a disbelieving whisper.

"Like you. A redhead, and small. Pretty. The girl they sent was Amy Callahan."

Scully sat on the worn leather couch with her knees tightly pressed together, her back ramrod straight. Her face was so white he swore he could see the veins under the skin.

"Scully, I'm sorry," he said. "I never meant for you to find out. Not because I wanted to hide anything from you, but because I didn't think it mattered. It was over with long before we got together. I never wanted to hurt you."

She stared down at her hands.

He stood before her silently, wondering if there was something he ought to add. No, he'd said enough, he suspected. He'd given her a lot to absorb for now. He waited for the feeling he'd been hoping for, the feeling of a weight having been lifted from his shoulders. It didn't come.

If only she'd say something, he thought, maybe then the relief would hit him. He'd admitted his weakness. He'd told her he was sorry. She knew everything, or almost everything.

Suddenly she found her voice. "Was it good?"

He stared at her. "What?"

"I said, was it good? Was it worth it?"

"It was—" He stopped, thought, tried again. "I felt— "

No, he thought; I've got to get this right. It's got to be absolutely honest, and I've got to get it right.

"It was a relief," he said finally. "Like taking a painkiller when you hurt all over. I won't deny I felt better physically, at least for a little while. But it didn't make me happy. She didn't make me happy. It was just a temporary measure, something to take the edge off, to make the worst part of wanting you bearable."

"But the sex was good."

"No, Scully, it wasn't good. It was just better than nothing. It was sex that I paid for. I'm not proud of it."

She took a deep breath. "But you did it more than once."

"Yes."

She frowned, blinked rapidly, looked like she might be fighting back tears. "It must have been good, if you kept doing it."

"No." He shook his head. "It wasn't. I was weak and I wanted somebody. That doesn't make it good. What makes sex good is the combination—the combination of the physical and of knowing that the woman wants it, that she wants me. And what makes it better than good, a hundred million times better than good, is if you're that woman."

"How long?" she rasped.

"How long?" he repeated, but he knew what she was asking.

"How long did this go on?" The little line between her brows was deeper than he'd ever seen it.

Mulder bowed his head. "Until you got sick."

He wanted to sit next to her on the couch and take her hand, to comfort her, but he knew that was the last thing he should do. Scully's body language shouted, "keep the hell away from me."

"Mulder—"

"Scully, I fucked up. You don't have to tell me that. And you don't have to worry that I got away with something, or that I don't know how wrong it was, because that isn't the case. I feel like shit. I feel guilty and dishonest and like I'm the biggest loser in the world, paying a woman so I could fantasize she was you and she wanted me. I'll get down on my knees and ask you to forgive me if that's what it's going to take. But I want you to understand that she didn't mean anything to me. I just needed to be with someone, and at the time she seemed like the easiest solution. It was weakness and stupidity, that's all."

"You didn't 'just need to be with someone,' Mulder. You could have 'just been with' Frohike, or Langly, or Byers. You were having sex with this woman. Sex with a prostitute."

He looked down at his shoes. "Yes," he said in a whisper.

"You could have given me a disease, Mulder," she said. "Did you ever think of that? You could have caught something yourself, and you could have given it to me."

He shook his head. "It wasn't like that. The agency she worked for had rules, and she insisted on condoms."

Scully raised a hand to stop him. "Please, I don't want to know the details."

"But I want to tell you, Scully," he said, looking at her earnestly, almost beseechingly. "I want you to know everything. If I don't get it all out, it's going to eat me up inside."

"That's your problem, Mulder. If it's so hard to live with your conscience, then maybe you shouldn't do things you know are wrong." Her chin lifted in a proud gesture.

His heart was thumping painfully. "Scully—"

"Mulder, I can't deal with this right now." Her voice was clipped, icy. "You want me to tell you that it's okay and that everything will be fine. Well, I don't think I can tell you that right now. Frankly, I don't know if I'll ever be able to tell you that."

She stood stiffly and gathered her purse from the couch.

"Scully—"

Without looking back at him, she turned and walked out of the apartment, the door shutting behind her with a decisive thunk.

He stared after the closed door with a lump in his throat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scully found herself almost instinctively drawn, not to her own home, but to the office. And not her cubbyhole on the sixth floor, but the basement lair that ostensibly belonged to just Mulder.

It was their office, though, even if she didn't have a desk or a nameplate on the door. Her office was just where she received voice-mail messages and stored pathology textbooks. Even her computer had somehow migrated down to the basement after they'd been reassigned the X-files.

Home isn't safe right now, she thought as she unlocked the office door and tapped across the linoleum to sit in her customary chair, opposite where Mulder sat.

Her apartment held too many fresh and raw memories. For the past two months it had been a refuge for them, a place where they could escape from it all and love each other.
It smelled like them now, like their shared meals and their lovemaking. His soap and shampoo were in the shower and some of his dress shirts hung in the closet. In the living room, a stack of his CDs sat on top of the stereo and his copy of Undaunted Couragewas on the coffee table. No, it was not a time to be home. The memories the office held were less personal.

Scully leaned back in the chair and shut her eyes against the fluorescent glare, trying to block out the nagging image of the night before, when she'd lain in his bed and waited for him to finish his phone call so they could get back to the urgent business of making love.

A bitter taste filled her mouth as she now realized he'd been talking to her, that woman, the prostitute.

The woman he'd seen, time and time again, and pretended was her as he had fucked her.

She wasn't a naive woman. She knew that for many men, sex often didn't carry the weight of meaning it did for most women. Yes, she was aware that men could have sex without any emotional investment whatsoever. But it didn't mean she was any less shocked and repulsed by Mulder's actions. The adult videos were one thing, but to pay a woman for sex, it was beyond her realm of comprehension. He was an officer of the law, for God's sake—didn't that mean anything to him?

He'd been lonely. Yeah, so what, so had she. She'd been missing and he was lonely and fucked-up and confused and needed comfort. Scully could understand that feeling, but to go so far as to call an escort service and order a woman like she was a Chinese take-out meal, it just didn't compute with her.

It just wouldn't leave her brain, the image of Mulder fucking some woman in a hotel room, someone he didn't even know, didn't even care about, just some random woman he could lose himself in because he was too goddamn scared to actually talk to her. No, it was beautifully easy to have his devoted Agent Scully and have the hooker on the side when he wanted to play pretend. Yes, much easier than being with the real three-dimensional woman. To be in a real relationship would mean he'd have to give up his single-mindedness, have to put something before his mythical quest for the truth.

He should have just stayed with his whore and saved them all a whole lot of pain, she thought, her hands balling into fists. He could have had his partner, his quest, his whore and nobody would have been the wiser. No one would have gotten hurt.

For two months they'd been lovers and he hadn't said anything about that period in his life until it came back to haunt him. What did that say about the level of honesty and trust between them?

God, what a fool she'd been. Truly, she'd thought that for once in her life, it was safe to trust another, to bare her soul, not just to show the man in her life the side of herself she'd wanted him to see but for him to get to know the side of her that she was so skillful at hiding—the woman who could be insecure, mean, petty, and afraid. She'd shown him those things and he'd only loved her more.

But it turned out it didn't go both ways for them, now did it?

She should have known it was too perfect to last. The way their coming together had slowly unfolded as she healed from her gunshot wound, it was too easy for the two of them. Of course something had to intervene in that. Of course.

Scully pinched the bridge of her nose, unwilling to let the tears come. No, she wasn't going to cry about it. Crying meant assuming a position of weakness and vulnerability and she wasn't going to let that happen again. Look where it had gotten her.

She didn't know what she was going to do.

She could leave or she could stay.

That was the worst part, she just didn't know what to do or how to feel. She felt paralyzed, trapped in a no-man's land of conflicting emotions.

She got up and switched off the overhead light and for the rest of the night she sat in the chair, trying her best not to feel anything at all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It shadowed her, knowing that her every move might be followed and photographed. As she did her mundane early-morning weekend chores-picking up the dry cleaning, returning library books, picking up yogurt and fruit at the supermarket—she was hyper-aware of her movements, her every action and interaction.

She didn't see anybody strange, though. No cars appeared to follow her as she went about her business. Every once in a while, Amy would pat her purse to reassure herself that her gun, a Walther PPK, was there.

Michael called her on her cell phone as she drove home from the supermarket. He couldn't be down there for the weekend, since his best friend was opening a show at a Tribeca gallery. "How are you holding up? Did you call the FBI agent?"

Amy tried to sound brave. "I'm doing okay. I met with him yesterday and he's going to look into it."

He made a relieved noise. "Amy, I'm really worried about this. Why don't you come up here this weekend? Get out of that damned city and away from whoever is trying to scare you."

She sighed softly as she stopped at a red light. "Maybe I will. I'll check the shuttle schedule when I get home. I already called Joanne and told her I wouldn't be working for a while."

"Good. It doesn't sound like a safe time for business. Was she okay with it?"

"Yeah, she was disappointed, since there's a lot of requests in for next week, but it's my choice to work or not." That was the difference between her and street girls. She was independent, free to work when it suited her. As long as Tiger Lilies got their cut, they stayed out of her business. There was no pimp in her life, forcing her to bring home the money. And she had plenty of money saved up, enough to ride this out.

"Well, I have to go, sweetie. I'm meeting Jim at the gallery to start hanging for tonight. Maybe you'll be up here tonight so you can come with me to the opening?"

She smiled, hitting the gas. "If I can get Lucy or Hillary to watch Jess, I'll hop on the shuttle and come on up to New York."

A chuckle emanated from the phone. "I can't wait. I love you, Amy."

"I love you, too." She turned the phone off and tossed it onto the passenger seat.

It was all going to work out, she thought, as she parked the car and unloaded the bags from the trunk. Mulder would do his investigating and she'd go up to New York, attend the opening, and bask in the security of being with her lover.

Outside her front door, Amy balanced the bags on her hips and fished for her keys. The door swung open after she unlocked it, and she set the bags down on the parquet floor of the foyer.

She pulled out a bag of Milk Bones and shook it. "Jess!" she called out, waiting for the excited skitters of dog paws across the floor.

There was no response. Strange, since Jess normally went nuts when she heard the magic sound of doggie treats.

Amy picked up the bags and headed for the kitchen.

The bags slid to the floor as she let out an agonized cry.

Jess, her three-year-old Golden Retriever, was lying on her side on the black and white tiles of the kitchen floor. Her copper fur was matted with blood around the neck, and the blood pooled on the floor, grotesquely staining the tile.

Her heart stopped beating as soon as she realized the dog was dead. She slid to the floor and touched Jess's fur with a shaking hand.

"Why?" she cried out. "Why do this to her?"

Amy snapped back into focus. She knew what she had to do. Standing on weak legs, she grabbed the phone and punched in Mulder's number.

End of Part 1 of 7.