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Quantico Academy
Thursday 8pm

Mulder pushed the heavy doors open and stepped into the sterile room and paused just inside the doorway. It seemed like every surface was made of metal. The cabinets, the counter tops, the autopsy bays, even down to the frames around the small windows placed high on the walls in this basement morgue. Despite the utter lack of colour the first thing he noticed was the coldness in the room. He had been in more morges than he cared for throughout his career, hell even before he joined the FBI every time there was a young girl's body to identify. They were all cold and it always shocked him, just a little bit.

The only flash of colour was from the person standing across the room in a white lab coat with a baby blue scrub cap on. He crossed the room and coughed softly to garner the attention of the pathologist and when it didn't work he spoke.

“Excuse me?” he said as approached.

She half turned towards him but didn't look up from the clipboard in her hand. Another metal item Mulder clocked. She was wearing a face mask and eye protection but he could spot her frown of annoyance at being interrupted behind them.

“I think we spoke on the phone earlier? I’m Agent Mulder, from VCS.”

“Right, yeah…” she muttered as she wrote something down then clicked the pen closed and slipped it into the breast pocket of her lab coat before she looked up. “Dana Scully.”

Mulder held out his hand towards her but she showed him both of hers encased in white latex gloves.

He took his hand back and rested it on his hip as he cleared his throat. “You performed the autopsies on the last two victims of the VCS Lamana case?”

“Yes, I submitted those reports weeks ago.” She crossed the room to a metal filing cabinet and pulled the top drawer open. She rifled through the files then took the pages from her clipboard and added them to the right folder.

“Yeah, I read them.” he said and he followed her over to the cabinet. “You didn't do the autopsies on the other victims?”

“No, I wasn't in town for them. I just got back from Atlanta,” she said and glanced up at him as she fixed her eyewear and frowned.

“Atlanta?” Mulder thought for a moment. “The recovery project in Westside Reservoir?”

She nodded and walked away from the cabinet over to a metal table in the corner of the room that was obviously her main workstation. Mulder followed. “Fourteen bodies recovered so far.”

Mulder let out a low whistle and his other hand found his other hip. “All identified?”

“All but three.”

“So that answers one of my questions on why there was a different pathologist on the first three victims.”

“Not entirely,” Dana Scully said and she sat back in her chair. “The first three were not deemed to be the same case. So different pathologists may have been assigned depending on when the deceased were brought in.”

“The reports you submitted had added information that weren't in the first three reports.”

“Oh?” She sat forward and rested her elbows on the table. “What info is that?”

“You noted injection marks at the base of the skull,” he said as he tapped the back of his neck with two fingers.

“Yeah.”

“The previous pathologist didn't note the same in the other victims.”

“Ok.”

Mulder paused and waited for her to offer more information but she didn't seem inclined to do so. “You didn't retrieve any substance in the tox screen?”

“No.”

“Do you think the injection site was related to the murder?”

“It's impossible to tell.”

Mulder shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Do you think it's possible the injection sites were missed on the other victims?”

“You’re asking me to speak to the competency of the other pathologist.”

“I’m asking if you think it's possible that the injection sites were missed.”

“It's possible.” She stood from the table and leaned forward with tented fingers on the cold metal surface. “But unlikely.”

“If I exhume the other victims, would you perform a secondary examination?”

“You’d need a court order to exhume those bodies.”

“I’d need your signature on this to get that court order.” Mulder pulled a folded piece of paper from the inside pocket of his jacket and held it out to her.

“Is that why you came here Agent Mulder?”

“I’m exploring all avenues of this investigation.”

She seemed to study him for a moment though he found it hard to read her when she was so covered up. The scrubs she wore under her lab coat were pale green and shapeless. The facemask covered most of her face and the eye goggles he thought were tinted and made her blue eyes shine brighter than any blue he had seen before. The scrub cap she wore seemed to be too big for her and came down past her ears.

“Can I read it?” she asked and she lifted one gloved hand out to take the page from him.

He nodded and handed it to her and waited while she read it. It was a basic request for an exhumation based on additional information found in later autopsies. He was pretty sure the judge would grant it, even without her signature but he wanted to size her up. He always preferred to meet everyone who worked on a key part of his investigations to be sure he could trust their inputs. Her reaction to his requesting an exhumation was the perfect test.

When she finished reading the page she took the pen from her breast pocket and clicked it open then deftly signed the bottom of it before refolding it and handing it back to him. Mulder offered her a tight lipped smile as he took it and put it back in his inside pocket.

“I’ll be in touch when I have the order released and the bodies shipped.”

She folded her arms over her chest and nodded as he turned to walk away but before he could open the door she called out to him. “Agent Mulder,” she said. He turned to face her, one hand still on the door. “DId I pass your test?” she said and though he couldn't really tell, he thought she was smirking at him.

“With flying colours,” he said with a wink then turned and left.

***

Dana Scully’s Apartment
Thursday 9.30pm

Once through the door she locked it behind her and took a moment to peel off a couple of layers. The woolen hat, the gloves, and thick scarf were first to go, then the bulky winter coat and her thick boots quickly followed. In the kitchen she switched on the kettle and pulled her sweater off as she crossed to the thermostat and made sure it was ready to give off the heat she needed.

While she waited for the kettle to boil she hurried into the bathroom and fiddled with the taps until the gushing water was the right temperature then put the plug in place, and added a generous dollop of bath creme. Back in the kitchen she made an indulgent mug of hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows and sighed as she took the first sip then carried it with her into her bedroom.

Long days in the autopsy lab never seemed so long when she sipped hot chocolate and listened to her tub fill. She stripped and pulled on her thick terry cloth robe then took her drink and the phone handset with her into the bathroom in time to stop the water from over spilling onto her tiled floor.

Scully hung her robe on the hook at the back of the door and stepped into the hot water then sighed the sigh of a twelve hour shift oozing from her pores. She sipped her drink again, reached for the handset and hit the first speed dial.

“Hey, hey,” Melissa Scully said into the phone. “I was hoping you’d call.”

“How did you know it was me?”

“You always call at this time on a thursday.”

“No I don't.” She didn't like being called out on her routine, like she was incapable of being spontaneous and making a decision other than what people expected from her. Which might have been perfectly true, until she signed up for the FBI.

“Let me guess…” Melissa hummed on the other side of the phone. “You’re in the bath, you have a hot chocolate, you’re just in from work and you had a chicken salad for dinner, at your desk in the morgue. Your fridge is bare. Much like your dating life.”

“Oh my god Missy,” she said with a laugh. “No need to sugar coat it.”

“I’m just telling it like it is.”

“Maybe try telling it a little softer.” she tried not to bristle but she heard her tone was a little harsh.

“Well regardless, I’m glad you called.”

“Wait...why?” She sat forward in the bath a little and the water sploshed around her, some of it over the edge and onto the rug.

“Sister, sister, I’m always glad when you call.”

“Missy...”

“I have a date for you.”

“No.”

“Dana! Danes! D!” Melissa begged with a giggle. “Trust me.”

“Never.”

“It's a drink. One drink.”

“When?”

“Tomorrow night.”

“I'm in court all day tomorrow.” She sat back in the tub as if that ended the matter.

“Yeah I know, you’re in court all day… not all night.”

“No, but when I come out of court I’m always really tense.”

“No better way to get rid of the tension then.”

“Mel-”

“Dana, it's one drink. Right after court. Then you can go home and have another bath.”

Dana pursed her lips. She reached for her chocolate drink and sipped it, if only to pause her thoughts and make her sister wait for her response. “Okay, one drink.”

“Great. I told him to meet you at the Founding Fathers bar at 6.”

“Oh god,” she said as she covered her face with her hands. “Who is this guy anyway?”

“Ethan Minette. He’s a journalist for some news channel in town.”

“How did you meet this eligible bachelor?”

“He came into the store asking questions.”

“In your store?” Dana thought of the small new age bookstore her sister operated in Alexandria and wondered what an investigative journalist would have to investigate there.

“Yeah, something about some story they are working on around the occult. The usual,” Melissa added with a scoff. “Anyway he was really cute, and he’s single, and he’s free tomorrow evening.”

“Any reason why you were picking up this random stranger for me and not yourself?” Dana asked.

“Definitely not my type. Clean cut, pressed shirt, wore a tie.” She laughed. “You think I can go out with that after JJ?”

Dana remembered JJ, the last guy her sister dated. He was tall, though everyone was tall to her, but his long flowing blonde hair, soft leather trousers, and biker boots he always wore, the myriad of ripped and faded band tee shirts and the ever present joint between his lips and realised pressed shirt and tie was definitely not her sister's type. But was it hers?

“Mel-”

“So you’ll meet him tomorrow. Call me when you get home at the reasonable time of 9.30 and tell me about your second date plan so we can figure out what you can wear.”

“Second date?” Dana laughed. “I haven't even met the guy and you already have us on a string of dates.

“Trust me Dana, something wonderful is about to happen. You are on the cusp of a life changing relationship. I read your cards last weekend, remember?”

“Right yeah, the tarot cards and not the two bottles of wine told you this.”

Melissa laughed. “Both actually.”

“How’s mom?” Dana asked, changing the subject and Melissa allowed it.

They chatted idly for a while and when she noticed her fingers were pruning and her chocolate was gone she bid her sister goodbye and hung up. She emptied the tub and dried off then applied liberal amounts of cream all over her body before she went to her room to plan her outfit for tomorrow.

Something serious for court but suitable for drinks. She rifled her hand along the skirts that hung in her wardrobe before she settled on a plain burgundy pencil skirt and a fitted black blouse. She knew she looked good in this blouse. She could wear a blazer while in court but removing it would work for her date. Decision made, she put her robe on the hook again then climbed into bed, mentally reviewing her notes for the case tomorrow as sleep slowly wrapped warm tendrils around her.

***

Hoover Building
Friday 2pm

Fox Mulder crossed the bull pen with determined strides and knocked on the ADs door. He pushed it open without waiting for a greeting and dropped the file onto the large mahogany desk.

“Profile?” AD Douglas said as he picked up the file that Mulder just dropped.

“Just finished.” Mulder said as he wandered across the room and leaned onto the windowsill to look out at the city below. “He’s going to strike again, and soon.”

“Where?”

“Annapolis. Naval Academy.”

“Very specific Mulder,” Douglas said and Mulder didn't miss the tone. Partial scepticism, partial bewilderment.

He sighed and turned his back on the city. DC in November was dull and depressing. A constant spate of rain hung in the air and made everything damp. Throw in a vicious serial killer and depressing became frightening pretty quickly. Dark corners, alleyways, fog, rain and people in too much of a hurry to take notice of shadows. The murders started 6 months ago. Almost a body a month had turned up and it took 3 victims before the pattern had been discerned. Another 2 before Mulder was able to formulate a profile..

“We already have the pattern of the next victim having the same occupation as the previous victims spouse.” Mulder reached for the profile Douglas was holding and flipped the pages to get to the part he wanted. “Last week Mark Carey was found strangled and stabbed, his spouse is a navy cadet. The profile confirms the unsub is an organised killer, works alone, and will not stray beyond a 50km radius, likely lives in Maryland with victims turning up in Baltimore and DC, and as he becomes more confident of his ability to get away with it, the murders will happen closer to home.”

He pointed at the map on the wall behind the ADs door then as if dragged by his finger towards it, he pointed at all the locations where the bodies had been found so far. “They are all getting closer to Annapolis.” Mulder stabbed the map with his finger.

“There are about 5000 cadets at the academy.” Douglas pinched the bridge of his nose and leaned back in his chair.

“Well there is about to be one less.”

“What about the pathologist report?”

“The injections?” Mulder dropped the profile back on the ADs desk and his hands found his hips again. “I spoke with her yesterday but she wasn't very forthcoming with the possibility of the other bodies having the same marks.”

“You’re going for the exhumation?”

“Yeah,” he patted his back pocket. “I’m going to the courthouse now to get Judge Grace to sign the order.”

“What about the Naval Academy?”

“I think we should call security, lock it down, send over agents to patrol it, at least for the weekend.”

AD Douglas seemed to ponder this for a moment then with a sharp nod he approved the request. Mulder didn't wait for further instructions, he hurried back out to the bullpen to his desk and grabbed his jacket.

“Jerry,” Mulder said as he put his jacket on.

His partner who was working on a computer on another desk looked up with a frown. “Where are you off to?”

“I’m bringing the exhumation request to Judge Grace to get it approved.”

“Need me to tag along?”

“No, I won't be long.” He went over to his partner's desk and perched on the corner. “Douglas approved the lockdown at the naval academy, and we should get a squad of agents onto the campus too at least until monday and we can reassess.”

“Douglas approved all this?” Jerry sat back in his chair and interlocked his fingers behind his head, not even trying to hide his smirk.

“Yeah, he did. Get on that, I’ll get the order signed and arrange the crews to get the bodies exhumed and shipped to quantico.” Mulder tapped the table with his knuckle as he stood then waved at Jerry and walked out.

***

District of Columbia Court House
Friday 3pm

Mulder paced the wide hallway outside court 5 and waited for the bailiff to grant him access. When court was in session no admittance was permitted, like a stage play was on and the actors needed to be protected from distractions.

He expected they would take a recess soon, or break for the day, but every minute here pacing, was a minute not working with the agents at the naval academy, not working on the profile, not arranging to have the exhumed bodies reexamined. This was the worst part for Mulder. The waiting. Dead time when he could do nothing else except work on building up his frustration.

Behind him the doors to the court room opened and people started to file out. Mulder stepped forward to slink in, but the bailiff held him aside until the room emptied and only then let him in. He hurried over to the judges chambers and knocked.

“Come.”

Mulder pushed the wide oak door open and crossed the room to where Judge Grace was taking his court gown off.

“Your honour, I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder, we spoke about my request for approval on exhumation of 3 bodies for an ongoing invest-”

“Yes, yes, I remember.” The judge moved his considerable girth behind his impressive desk and sat into a heavily padded, high backed leather chair. “You have the paperwork?”

“Yes sir,” Mulder said and he handed him the request which included the signature from the pathologist he met yesterday. “The pathologist who found the injection sites on the last two victims has agreed to conduct the examination for the other three post exhumation.”

The judge signed the approval and passed it back to Mulder. “Agent Mulder, this is not something I want to see on the news,” he said as he held the page back before Mulder could take it.

“No, sir.”

The judge held his gaze for a moment then released the page. Mulder turned on his heel and exited as quickly as he could. Once back in the hallway he fished his cell phone out of his jacket pocket and dialled Jerry's number.

“Jerry, it's me.” He leaned against the wall across from the courtroom door.

“Did you get the request approved?”

“Yeah, all sorted. I’m going to call the contracting company to get the exhumation done ASAP. How’s it going in Annapolis?”

“Security is being a pain, but we’re getting there. Are you coming out here?”

“In a while. I’ll talk to you later.”

Mulder ended the call but dialed another one before putting his phone away. He rested one foot against the wall and checked his watch as he waited for the other side to pick up and when they did he pushed himself off the wall and started to pace again.

“This is Agent Mulder from VCS, I need an exhumation crew out at St Francis cemetery, and another one at Rock Creek for immediate exhumation...yeah, St Francis lot number 4567 and 1299, and Rock Creek lot number 344,” he said reeling off the burial plot numbers he had memorised from the moment they were buried. “I’ll likely be in Annapolis, but call me as soon as it starts...great, thanks.”

He ended the call and let himself lean against the wall once again. It had been a long day. Week. Months since he began working on this case. And it didn't show any sign of slowing but he was feeling more hopeful with the exhumation signed in his pocket. Finally progress.

He was so lost in thought that he didn't hear his name being called out. It wasn't until he felt a tap on his shoulder that he realized someone was trying to get his attention. He brought his eyes back to focus and turned around to see a woman he didn't recognize waiting for him to react.

“Hello, can I help you?” He straightened off the wall and rested his hands on his hips.

“You’re Agent Mulder?”

“Yes.”

“Dana Scully, we met yesterday.” This time she held out her hand and he looked down at it in confusion. He took it and shook it gingerly as he tried to put the woman before him into the figure he spoke to yesterday. The scrubs, hat, facemask and latex gloves were gone. The protective eye wear was replaced with a pair of glasses but the truly stunning difference was her red hair, her fitted clothing, her shapely figure, her heels. Mulder blinked rapidly as a host of thoughts flew through his mind, the majority of which were not work appropriate.

“At quantico…” he said as if it just occurred to him.

“Yes,” she smiled and realised he hadn't recognised her. “The scrubs are generally not acceptable in court when I give testimony.”

“Right yeah, you look...different,” he said though that wasn't the word that had sprung to the front of his mind and nearly tumbled past his lips.

She smiled. “I presume you got your exhumation request approved?”

“Yes, I just made the call to get the crews started. But it will be a couple of hours before they break ground.” He glanced down at her outfit again. “You were giving testimony?”

“Yeah, the McArther case.”

“Wow,” Mulder said, nodding his head, clearly impressed. “McArther, Westside Reservoir, and now my case too?”

Dana Scully slowly nodded her head “I’m sad to say my particular talents are very much in demand.”

“Yeah,” Mulder sighed. “Mine too.”

“You’re a profiler?” she asked though he knew she knew the answer and wondered if she had looked him up after their encounter yesterday.

“Yeah, I’ve been with Violent Crimes for a couple of years.”

“What profile do you have for this case?”

Mulder glanced up and down the corridor, not willing to let his desire to keep talking to her override his necessity to keep his profile confidential.

“Oh I’m sorry, I shouldn't have asked.” She held one hand up in a surrender posture and physically took a step back.

“No, no it's fine, I can talk about it to you, you’re the pathologist on my case after all, but perhaps we can go somewhere…”

Scully checked her watch. “I’m finished for the day, would you like to get a drink?”

Mulder spotted her eyes widen when she spoke the words aloud as if she didn't realise what she was about to say until she said it. There was a slight blush to her cheeks but she held his gaze, thinned her lips and waited for his response.

“Yeah, I have to wait for the call from the exhumation company anyway. Somewhere close by?”

“We can grab a booth at the Founding Fathers,” she said and she stepped into the corridor and started to move towards the exit. “It’ll be quiet enough there for a few more hours and we should be able to talk without interruption.”

Mulder followed. He knew the bar. It was usually packed with cops, lawyers, judges and other court officials seeking out after work solace but most courts were still in session so she was right about it, likely still being half empty. They didn't speak as they made the quick journey one block up from the courthouse to the bar as both of them bundled up in their coats and hunched shoulders.

At the bar Mulder pushed open the door and ushered her inside first with one hand on her back. They both emerged from their coats into the close heat in the bar with sighs and she led them towards the back to a collection of booths. As they took their seats a waitress came over and wiped the table needlessly.

“You folks eating?”

“Nothing for me,” Scully said and Mulder shook his head.

“Drinks?”

“Soda and lime,” Scully ordered.

“Whiskey, neat.” Mulder said and ignored her pointed look at his ordering of alcohol in the middle of the day, when he still had hours more work ahead of him.

The waitress nodded and left and Mulder pushed his bundled up coat into the corner of the booth as he resettled himself. She leaned back against the dark wood and eyed him up carefully.

“So, your profile?” she urged him to continue.

“What do you know about the case so far?” he asked, unwilling to open himself and his profile up to her scrutiny without fully understanding where she was coming from.

“Five victims, all stabbed, and strangled. The last two with injection sites noted at the back of the neck.”

Mulder nodded his head at her for that last piece as a form of congratulations and she smiled tightly in response.

She continued, “First victims were found in Baltimore, then in DC and with the latest spouse being a Navy cadet, likely the next one will be in Annapolis.”

Mulder didn't even try to hide how impressed he was. “You’ve only been assigned to this case since the last two victims?”

“Yes, before me it was Doctor Rodriguez, and before that it was Doctor Pinkerton. But it wasn't until my initial report from the autopsy on Elizabeth Thompson that your team determined all these cases were linked.”

“So you got stuck with it,” he finished for her with a half smile and she shrugged.

The waitress came over and placed their drinks down then hurried off to tend to other customers.

“Something like that.” Scully smiled and lifted her drink and sipped it as she looked around the room. Most of the booths were empty and only a few stools at the bar were occupied. “So what else do you have?”

“Not much more than you have already garnered. The pattern with the spouses has helped us narrow it down a bit but even that is needle in a haystack level stuff.” Mulder sipped his drink. “The nitty gritty of it… he’s male, 25 to 40 years old. Married. Has an office job, middle to low management level, but no real power there.” Mulder waited for her reaction. Usually when he spouted those kinds of details the people listening to him rolled their eyes or scoffed, like there was no way he could possibly know that. But she was listening to him, rapt and eager for more, so he continued. “He strangles them after they have been stabbed. After they are dead.“ Scully nodded as she had already noted this in her reports. “It's not enough to stab them, that is a passionate murder, borne of anger, usually spur of the moment, not something that's planned. But the strangulation is what gives him pleasure and makes him do it again and again.”

“So he doesn't mean to stab them?” Scully leaned forward and crossed her arms on the table.

“He doesn't plan to, but something happens and he does it then...strangles them.”

“What happens?”

“The victim fights back, they get interrupted, they say something, or it could be a trigger like a certain amount of time passing.”

“There was no evidence of sexual trauma on the bodies I examined.”

“On any of the bodies. No semen on the clothing or other body fluids. It's not sexual gratification. It's power.”

“But he loses power when he stabs them,” she said, caught up in his exposition.

“And gains it back when he strangles them.” He sat back into the booth and sipped his drink again, this time watching her over the rim of his glass.

“You expect the next attack to happen in Annapolis? This weekend?”

“I don't know about this weekend. The timelines have not been consistent.” Mulder picked up his glass and swirled the golden liquid around. “But the pattern of spousal careers never wavered. Mark Carey’s wife was a cadet.”

“So you plan to keep the whole academy on lockdown until you catch this guy?” she spoke with a tone of incredulity in her voice and one arched eyebrow.

“You sound like my AD.” Mulder scoffed and took another drink. “I’d rather put the academy on lockdown indefinitely and piss everyone off, than risk another murder.”

“For some reason I believe that you are used to pissing people off,” she said with a smile to take the sting out of her words.

“You’re not wrong.” Mulder lifted his glass in a cheers motion then sipped his drink. “And I’m not finished pissing them off yet either.”

“Oh? How so?”

It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her more but he literally just met this woman and couldn't spill out everything he had been working on for the last few years. Something in her made him want to tell her everything and convince her, make her agree that he was right, that he was making the right decisions, but this project he wanted to tell her about he had been working on in secret, in his own time, for nearly two years and he wasn't ready yet to show anyone.

“It's a personality trait I can't seem to suppress. Give me a couple of hours and I’m sure I’ll piss you off too.”

“Hours?” she said with one lifted eyebrow.

Mulder chuckled. “I just met you, I haven't figured out what makes you tick yet.”

“Yet?”

“Like I said… a couple of hours.” He lifted his drink and finished it then lifted his hand to the waitress to order another. “Same again?” he asked her as the waitress approached.

“I’ll have what you’re having,” she said as she finished her soda water. Mulder nodded his head and ordered two whiskeys from the waitress who hurried off to collect their drinks.

Slowly the bar started to fill as the courts finished their sessions but they simply leaned forward over the table to continue talking. She spoke in detail about the recovery project in Atlanta and he asked all the right questions to keep her talking. He spoke about another case he had worked on and she asked about the pathology reports that helped break the case. They ordered another round, heedless of the time passing and only engrossed in each other's company, so much so that when his phone rang he didn't hear it.

“I’m telling you, I turned up in my scrubs, covered in blood and bile,” Scully said with a chuckle. “My hair was matted to my head from the rain, and when I opened the door, everyone turned to look at me.”

“Oh no! What happened?”

“Well,” she sipped her drink to gather some composure, unsure why she was telling this relative stranger this particularly embarrassing story. But before she could continue, someone approached their table.

“Excuse me… Dana Scully?” They both tore their eyes off each other and looked at the stranger who dared interrupt them.

“Yes?”

“Hi, sorry if I’m interrupting, my name is Ethan.” She looked at him blankly and he continued, a little flustered as Mulder looked him up and down. “Ethan Minette, I think your sister Melissa told you to expect me.”

For a moment more she looked at him blankly then as if all the pieces slotted together she felt a blush curl up her cheeks and she tried to smile. She glanced at Mulder and slid out of the booth to hold her hand out to Ethan.

“Right, of course, I’m sorry.” Ethan shook her hand but glanced at Mulder as if he was supposed to shake his hand too.

“If now isn't a good time,” Ethan said as he looked at the numerous empty glasses on the table.

Just then Mulder's phone rang and he pulled it out of his pocket to check the ID on the screen. “I should take this,” he said and he slid out of the booth, dragging his bundled up coat with him. “It looks like the crews at the cemeteries have started.”

“Oh, right.” Scully took a step towards him. “Will the bodies be ready for examination tonight?”

Mulder slipped on his coat and looked between her and Ethan. “It will be quite late before we get them shipped to Quantico. Tomorrow will be fine.”

“Okay, well call me if anything changes,” she said and she fished a business card out of her pocket and passed it to him. “I can make it to Quantico this evening if needed.”

Mulder took the card and took a moment to look down at it then at her with a smile. He held out his hand and she put her small one into it, curled her fingers around his warm skin and smiled back. “Thanks Doctor Scully, I will call you.” He looked at Ethan as he spoke those last words then nodded at Scully before he turned and left.

Ethan slid into the side of the booth that Mulder just left and watched as Scully slid in across from him, though her eyes were still on Mulder’s retreating forms.

“Sorry, you were not expecting me?” he asked and bent his head to try to get into her line of sight.

“No, no, I mean, yes I was. I just didn't realise the time.” She ran her fingers through her hair and tried to focus on the guy sitting across from her.

Melissa was right. He was her type. Or rather the type she usually brought out for dinner to meet her sister. Clean cut, handsome, confident, ambitious. He wore a suit and tie though his tie was loose. His blazer didn't match his trousers but the combination worked. His trench coat looked well loved and she spotted an ink blot stain on the upper breast pocket.

“That was work?” he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder in the direction Mulder had just left and Scully caught the hopeful tone.

“Yeah, we’re working on a case.”

“Right…” Ethan paused for a moment and Scully waited for his reaction. “We can reschedule, if you prefer.”

Just then she suddenly felt contrite. “No, that's fine, perhaps we can get some food here?”

“Here?” Ethan looked around the bar. “Yeah sure.”

Scully lifted her hand and got the attention of the waitress and asked for some menus and tried to put the thoughts of exhumations, autopsies and Agent Mulder to the back of her brain. Not out of it completely, just to the back, for now.

Outside the bar Mulder answered his phone and listened to Jerry shouting at him for leaving him in Annapolis without backup. He apologised but updated him on the exhumation crews and Doctor Scully’s agreement to review the bodies again. As he spoke he fingered the card in his hand and held it up to see the curvy scrawl of her handwritten cell phone number alongside the printed number of her office line.

“I’m about to go back to the Hoover building. I want to check something out before we re-examine those bodies...yeah, thanks Jerry, I owe you one.”

Mulder ended the call and put the phone in his pocket then turned back to the bar he had just exited as if he expected her to follow him out. Did he want that? Dammit. He did, he realised and he turned on his heel and stormed off to the hoover building as quickly as he could before the bar door could open.

Chapter Text

Quantico Autopsy Lab
Saturday 6am

Scully signed the evidence tracking sheet and reached up to press record on the dictation device above the autopsy table. It was a cold morning and she hadn't quite managed to get the chill out of her bones. The autopsy lab was always kept cooler than average and by the time she got from the car to the lab she was cold all over again. She reached for the zip and opened the body bag all the way down, and pulled the flaps aside to expose the body completely.

“Doctor Dana Scully conducting an external examination of victim VCS11892233. Continued examination from the previous report.” She reached over to the other side of the body and started to roll it over so she could look at the back of the neck with ease.

Ethan was nice.

Scully paused and wondered where that thought came from. The blind date with him last night lasted until their meal had finished. They chatted about their jobs, he more than she. They spoke about various news items, and she made no remark when he brought up the murders that had been headline news for a while. He was polite, he asked the right questions, he actively listened when she spoke and insisted on picking up the tab for their meal when they were done. He asked if she wanted to meet again and while she hesitated he handed her a business card and asked her to think about it and call him if she decided it was worth another chance. Feeling obliged to give him her card too, especially when he had seen her hand one to Mulder she reluctantly handed one over.

He was nice though.

She purposefully didn't call Melissa when she got home because she wasn't ready to dissect it yet. She knew Melissa would hear in her voice what she wasn't quite ready to admit herself. It wasn't Ethan she wanted to talk about. It was Mulder.

Now that was a thought she didn't expect to admit so soon, though he had never really strayed far from her thoughts. Mulder wasn't nice. He was intriguing. His eyes were like a trap and she felt like she was incapable of looking away when she looked into them. His voice was like an old record that you wanted to play over and over, the sultry sounds rising when he got excited, lowering when he leaned in, almost to a whisper, and oh, when he said her name it made her toes curl.

“Scully?”

Yeah, just like that. She felt herself shudder and smiled. He called her Scully. Not Dana. Scully. And when he said it she felt her whole body quiver. But she just met him, didn't know him, why was he having this effect on her? Why was it he and not the actual date she had been on that excited her when she was lying in bed last night? Why was she excited for when he would call so she could hear him say her name again? When would he call? She wondered? God dammit what the hell? In the same thought where she admonished her reaction to this relative stranger saying her name, she wondered if he would call.

“Doctor Scully?”

Scully looked up to see Mulder crossing the room towards her. She flushed and was thankful to be wearing her full autopsy garb. Had he been calling her name this whole time? She thought she had imagined it. She reached up and stopped the recording device above her head.

“Agent Mulder.” She focused back on the body that she had half tipped over and worked on positioning it full on it's front, then draped the blanket over the lower half. “You’re here early,” she said when he got to the table.

“Sorry, if I’m disturbing you, I called out at the door but you didn't seem to hear me.”

“I was focusing on the examination,” she said and gestured to the body as she walked to the head of the table.

“I was hoping you’d be here.” he said and she tried her best not to smile. “I thought it was too early to ring you.”

“I was up.”

“I can see. You're here and ready to slice and dice.”

“No slicing and dicing, the court order was purely for external examination.”

“Sorry to ruin the fun,” Mulder said with a half shrug.

Scully looked over and smiled then reached for the razer from the table beside her. “How goes the lockdown at the academy?”

“Painfully.” Mulder moved away from the autopsy table, leaned back against the counter next to it and crossed his arms over his chest. “Campus security is bitching, agents on duty are bitching, my partner is bitching, my AD is bitching.”

Scully shook her head and smiled as she reached over with the razer and shaved the back of the neck of the body on the table. “There’s that famous personality trait you spoke of last night.”

Mulder chuckled and watched as she leaned in over the body. Behind her she reached for a UV lamp then reached up and turned the recording device back on.

“Continued review of VCS11892233...I note some discolouration on the back of the neck between C3 and C4, measuring approximately…” She reached behind her again for a ruler, and Mulder noted how she picked everything up precisely without having to look for it. She held the ruler up to the mark on the neck. “8.3mm depth unknown.”

“Needle site?” Mulder asked as he stepped forward to get a closer look.

Scully held the UV light at another angle so he could see the slight discolouration and pointed at it with one latex covered pinkie finger. “See right here?”

“Barely…” Mulder said and he lowered his head fully aware of how close he would then be to her but not caring. Or to be more accurately he realised, caring very much.

“There is a bruise here. When death occurs hypostasis sets in and the discolouration becomes more pronounced shortly after death.” She looked to the side but didn't move her head too much or she was sure her nose would brush his cheek. “It's a wide bruise, bigger than a hypodermic needle.” she spoke softly then straightened up and stepped back from the table over to a counter near where Mulder had been leaning. “My guess is it's an EpiPen, you know the kind people use for allergy reactions.”

“They don't have deep puncture ability right?” Mulder stepped back from the body and turned to watch her rifle through a drawer.

“No, usually less than 25g, about 5/8s of an inch or less.” She pulled out a small zip up case and opened it to show an array of EpiPen's. “Like this.”

“But the tox screen came back clear?”

“I conducted a biopsy on the last two victims and they came back empty but I’ll try again with this one.”

“Any speculation?” he asked.

“Succinylcholine is a fast acting paralytic drug.”

“That needs to be administered intravenously to work though, right?” he said and she looked at him with a surprised expression on her face.

“Yes, traditionally. Though there are many Neuromuscular blocking agents, some of them can be mixed from over the counter purchases.”

“So you think this isn't a lead worth following?” He felt his shoulders slump and he leaned against the autopsy table with his hip.

“No, I think it's definitely worth following.” She took the biopsy kit from the cabinet under the counter and brought it over to the table. “While anyone can get the ingredients to mix the pharmacy drugs into an NMBA, the action of mixing them effectively is not widely known.”

“So it narrows the field of suspects.”

“It's got to be someone with medical training. Even veterinary or pharmaceutical.”

“That's good,” he said, nodding a finger at her as she started to biopsy the injection site. “That's not an aspect we’ve looked at yet.”

“If I can isolate the specific agent used, the ingredients, then it can help narrow it further.”

“How?”

“If even one of the components of the agent is a controlled substance. Or if the architecture of the compound is a particular make up then I can determine more information about the suspect.” She looked up from her work to see him still looking confused. “One second…” She focused on her task then carefully placed the sample into a petri dish and added a lid. She wrote something on the label then turned to face him.

“Medication mixing is kind of like a signature.” Mulder looked sceptical and she smiled as she stepped back from the body. “A surgeon's composition will be different to a medic, or vets.” She stepped closer to him and pulled her face mask down to rest it below her chin. “Each group has a different need, or understanding of the patient. Surgeons are focused on revival, medics on stabilisation, vets on longer lasting paralysis.”

“Right, you don't want a horse waking up mid procedure.”

“Exactly.” She rested her hands on her hips and watched him as if she could see the cogs turning. His eyes were wide and bright and he listened to her eagerly. “So based on the composition of the ingredients, we can narrow the experience field of the suspect even more.”

“That's amazing.” He smiled and stepped forward.

“Well don't get too excited.” She moved back to the body and picked up her camera to take some pictures of the puncture wound. “We need to check and see if I can get any of the components identified first.”

“When will you know?”

“I’ll check the other two bodies first then rush the sampling through the lab.”

“Great, that would be fantastic.”

She glanced at the clock over the door. “The earliest will be close to 1pm, before we get results. That's if I can get them fast tracked.”

“Perfect.” Mulder shucked his coat on his shoulders and started to button it up as he walked towards the exit. “I’ll bring lunch,” he said over his shoulder then disappeared out the door.

***

US Naval Academy
Saturday 11AM

Jerry sipped his coffee and leaned against the window in the security office as Mulder paced the small room. It had been nearly a full hour of shouting between Mulder and the Chief Security officer Nolan arguing about the campus lockdown. AD Douglas was on the phone for the last thirty minutes and from Jerry’s vantage point it looked like Mulder was losing.

“We’re close to breaking this case wide open. Doctor-”

“Mr Mulder!” Nolan roared and he slammed his fist on the table, not for the first time. “We’re in the middle of training these cadets, and we cannot conduct it effectively with restricted movements around campus.”

“We have reason to believe-”

“That the murder will occur on this campus… this weekend?”

There was a pause. Mulder hung his head low, his chin almost on his chest, and his fingers dug into his hips.

“Agent Mulder,” AD Douglas’s voice came over the phone speaker. “We can maintain a presence on campus, but remove the restriction of movement.”

“That's what I’m asking,” Chief Nolan said and he held his arms out wide as if the choice was obvious.

“We cannot guarantee the safety-” Mulder began but Nolan cut him off, again.

“We have armed guards on patrol, we have security at every entrance to the campus, and thanks to you, we have undercover agents all around. I think we’re fine.”

Mulder puffed a breath out of his nose and dropped his arms by his side. “Fine.”

“Chief Nolan, thank you for your cooperation. Agents, call me later with a report.”

“Yes sir,” Jerry said from the window without coming closer to the phone then Nolan hung up the call. “We’ll be stationed on Buchanan and Porter. The coordination with your team still stands but the order for restricted movement has been lifted.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank us later when we bring in the forensics team,” Mulder said as he turned and stormed out of the office, smacking the door against the wall behind it in his wake.

Jerry nodded at Nolan in a weak apology and hurried to catch up with Mulder. He caught him just outside the main building and pulled on his arm to turn him back when he refused to hear him calling out.

“Jesus Mulder, you want to go back in there and shove him around a little?” Mulder shook Jerry's grip off his arm. “You know he’s right.”

“No Jerry, I don't.”

“We might be right that the cadets are the next target, but there is no reason to believe it will happen this weekend.”

“No but-”

“And keeping the whole campus on lockdown only draws attention to the fact that we’re here which may encourage the unsub to go to another location.”

“Right and-”

“But if we’re calm about this, keep low key, keep coverage around campus, if he does come we will be ready.”

Mulder huffed a breath again and Jerry smiled. He gripped his hips and frowned. “Fine, look I said we’d reduce the restrictions. What more do you need?”

“I need you to get your head out of your ass and act like you need Douglas to help you advance your career.”

“My career?”

“You’re the golden boy profiler Mulder, everyone knows it. But even you can get fucked out if your AD decides they don't like you.”

Mulder shook his head. “Whatever man, I’m going back to Quantico.”

“You’re going all the way back there?”

“The results of the biopsy samples should be in by the time I get there.”

“Can't they be faxed over?”

“I’ll be back to relieve you for the overnight shift at 7.” Mulder started walking away and buttoning up his coat as he hurried across campus to where he parked his car.

“Mulder!” Jerry called out after him, but Mulder simply waved over his head and continued on his way.

***

Quantico Autopsy Lab
Saturday 2pm

Scully sat back from her PC and stretched her arms over her head. It had been a long day. Especially for what was supposed to be a day off. She glanced at her half typed notes then rubbed her eyes deep with her knuckles, sat forward, fixed her headphones more comfortably on her ears and continued typing.

The results of the biopsy should be in any minute, she thought when she spied the digital clock on the bottom of her screen as she typed. She pulled in all her favours to get the results fast tracked and she wondered if she could weasel dinner out of Agent Mulder in return. She smiled at the thought and rolled her eyes at herself as she refocused her thoughts on what she was typing.

She was so intent on finishing this report before Mulder arrived back she didn't hear the door behind her opening. Or when he called out to her. And when she felt a hand on her shoulder she leapt, put a hand to her chest and turned to see Mulder standing behind her, his hands up at his chest, palms out in defence.

“Sorry!” He said his voice sounded as shocked as she felt.

“No, sorry, I didn't hear you.”

“Clearly.” He moved to the side and rested against the corner of her desk, and she was surprised at how familiar he had become in her space so quickly. “Find anything interesting?”

“All three victims had the same or similar injection sites. I sent the samples for testing and pulled some strings to get the results fast tracked.”

“Any news?”

“Any minute now.”

“Hungry?” he said. She smiled and nodded. I brought some food but I didn't think it was a good idea to eat in here…” he looked around at the pristinely clean metal surfaces.

“Is that a comment on the state of my autopsy lab?”

“No, just the fact that a few hours ago there were multiple dead bodies in here.”

Scully scoffed. “I didn't take you for the squeamish type.”

“Not squeamish per say...I just prefer not to mix my food with the dead.” He stood away from the desk and backed away a couple of steps as he nodded his head towards the door. “C’mon.”

“Where?” She stood up anyway knowing she would follow. “I can't go far, also…” she looked down at the scrubs and lab coat she was wearing. “I’m not dressed for lunch.”

“You look great,” he said as his eyes swept her whole body from top to bottom and back up again. “C’mon, it's not far.”

She had already taken off her mask, goggles and cap, but was still wearing her pale green scrubs and white lab coat with her sneakers. It made her feel tiny standing next to him, especially when he held the door open for her and she had to brush past him, under his arm to get into the hallway. He towered over her and every time he came back she wondered if he had gotten taller.

In the hallway she spotted the door to a small break room was open and the light was on and she smiled. She was one of the few people in the building working today, and definitely the only one in the autopsy lab so she knew he had dropped whatever food he had brought into the breakroom.

“I called ahead,” he said as he held this door open as well, forcing her to repeat the motion to brush past him. “I booked us a table and they were able to squeeze us in.”

“Lucky for you it's a slow day.”

“Well, I’m special Agent Mulder with the VCS in the FBI.” He tugged his tie tighter then reached for her seat and pulled it out. Scully found herself blushing and looked down as she sat and pulled the chair closer to the table hoping he wouldn't see. “Those kinds of credentials open doors.”

“Really?”

“Well...no,” he admitted with a chuckle. “Mostly they slam doors. In my face.” He pulled a large white deli bag into the centre of the table and ripped it open. “You’re not a vegetarian are you?” he asked and looked at her with a worried expression.

“God no. I’d miss ribs way too much.”

Mulder smiled a wide toothy grin, clearly relieved and continued his rummaging in the bag. “Well I obviously didn't know what you liked, but when I was training in Quantico I used to sneak of campus to go to this deli-”

“Martin’s?” she asked as she leaned forward in anticipation of what he was going to pull out of the nondescript bag

“Yeah, you know it?” she nodded and he smiled again. “Anyway, they had a reuben that was worth the risk of censure.” He pulled out a large wrapped sandwich. “And I figured if you went through your Academy training and were now stationed in Quantico and never got to have it, then it would be a crime.”

Scully chuckled.

“But then I wasn't sure if you would like that, so I got a turkey and avocado club as a back up.” He pulled out another wrapped sandwich and placed them both side by side. “You can choose.”

“So you’d give up your reuben?” she asked and her hand snaked out to rest on the first wrapped sandwich he had placed on the table. “For me?” Mulder swallowed and she saw his adam's apple bob then he nodded. “How about we share? Split them.”

Mulder seemed more relieved than she expected and she smiled. They each took a sandwich and unwrapped them, then carefully picked up one half of each and handed it to the other. He immediately picked up his half of the reuben and held it in front of his face. He took a long moment to reacquaint himself with the contents then smiled wide before taking a huge bite. Scully picked up her half of the reuben and took a small bite from the corner of the sandwich.

Martin’s Deli was an institution in Quantico and everyone knew about it. And the reuben was the most beloved sandwich on the menu. But she didn't want to tell him it was one of her weekly indulgences. He seemed so intent on sharing this part of his past with her and she wanted to let him.

They talked idly while they ate. Mulder took out a couple of drinks, a ginger ale and an ice tea and offered her choice and they continued to chat until finally all the food was gone. As if planned and timed perfectly as Mulder rumpled up all the packaging and discarded them in the trash, Scully’s cell phone rang. She reached into her lab coat pocket and answered it.

“Scully...yeah, great! Can you email it through?” she looked at Mulder who was waiting for her reaction. She nodded and stood to make her way back to the lab. He followed close on her heels. “Yeah I’ll check right away and get back to you. Thanks, yeah,” she giggled and Mulder nearly tripped over his own feet at the sound as he looked at her and wondered what favours she had called in or promises she had made to fast track the results. “Totally clean. Thanks again.” She hung up her phone and put it in her pocket as she got to the PC. She fiddled the mouse to make the flying starfield screensaver disappear then quickly typed in her password to gain access to the computer.

“Did they find anything interesting?” Mulder asked as he leaned over her, one hand on the desk by her keyboard, the other on the back of her chair.

“Looks like they got a full work up of the substance.” She accessed her email and found the one she was looking for. She opened it and immediately printed out the attachment ignoring the body of the email.

Mulder tried not to scan her unread mails but couldn't help it. Two emails from various FBI agents with requests for research assistance. One email looking for donations to a staff thanksgiving party. One email that just said “hello!” in the subject line but he saw the “e_minette” in the name and realised who that was from immediately. Then the body of the email she had opened just had one line. “Just because I don't owe you, doesn't mean you can't join me for a drink.”

It shouldn't surprise him that she was in demand, both with work and socially. But it made him feel something. Something he couldn't identify or didn't want to. He wasn't sure. When she half stood to reach for the pages printing out he released her chair and stepped back.

“Oh wow,” she said as she looked down at the page. Mulder couldn't help it again. He stepped closer, their shoulders touching and he lowered his head to view the page though it made little to no sense to him. As if she knew he wouldn't understand, she moved the page closer to him and pointed at the histogram. “See this?”

“I see it, but I’ve no idea what it means.”

Scully smiled and was pleased he wasn't one of those Agents that were afraid to admit when they didn't know anything. Too often she ran into that brick wall where they refused to accept her help or let her explain something for fear of being shown up. By a woman. Mulder didn't seem to have that issue.

“Here is the list of substances found in the puncture wound…” she pointed at the x-axis of the graph and Mulder could see a list of words for various substances. “And this is highlighting the...intensity of each one.” She dragged her finger along the line connecting each one at various points.

“Right… So why the wow?” he asked.

“Local anaesthetics vary in their tendency to bind with plasma proteins. The aromatic ring of any anaesthesia controls the lipid solubility, thus how potent it will be.”

“Fast acting?”

“Exactly,” she said, pleased he was following her. “And this substance here, bupivacaine,” She pointed at the component with the highest intensity on the graph. “Is incredibly potent. Usually prepared as a 0.5% concentration but here it's closer to 2 or 2.5%.”

“So what does that mean?”

“Two things.” She dropped the page and turned to face him but found she had to lean back to look at his face as he was so close. “One, Bupivacaine is a controlled substance.”

Mulder’s eyebrows rose and he half smiled. “That's brilliant!”

“Don't get too excited. Every hospital and clinic in the country will have it in stock, so there is still quite a lot of digging to do there.”

“And the other thing?”

“Huh?” Her eyes seemed to be snared by his lower lip, curved into a half smile and she looked up at his eyes in confusion.

“You said it meant two things.”

“Right, yeah,” she stepped back and held up the page again. “I’d move anaesthesiologists to the top of the list of suspects.”

“Why?” Mulder took the page from her and looked at it again as if the answer would suddenly reveal itself to him.

“The combination of components found are an exact match for an anaesthetic cocktail for late term c-sections. Other than the fact that the concentration of bupivacaine is too high.”

“Wait...so you mean…” He looked at the page then back up to her, and all traces of his smile were gone. “They were alive when they were stabbed?”

“Yes,” she said quizzically and leaned towards him. “But we knew that.”

“I mean, paralysed.” He leaned his hip against her desk and she saw his shoulders slump a little.

“Yeah, it seems that way.”

He didn't say anything to that but his hand balled into a fist, crumpled the page in his hand as his eyes lost focus and he stared at something she couldn't see. She wanted to reach out and touch his arm, offer him some sort of comfort, or acknowledgement of his distress but instead she crossed her arms over her chest and awaited him to resurface.

It seemed to only take a moment then he snapped out of it. He stood up straight and fished his phone out of his pocket. “I better go make a few calls. This could be the break we need.”

Scully nodded and watched as he crossed the room towards the exit. She wondered if this would be the last time she would see him. Her part was done. If they caught the unsub before he killed again there would be no need for her pathological skills. The door closed behind him and she turned back to her PC, puffed a breath up over her face as she fixed her headphones over her ears, she closed her email and got back to transcribing her notes to submit her full report.

Close to thirty minutes later she felt another tap on her shoulder though this one wasn't as startling as the last one. She turned to see Mulder standing behind her again.

“I thought you’d left,” she said as she turned her chair to face him and pulled her earphones down around her neck.

“Almost,” he said with a shrug. “We’re going through possible suspects now at the bureau and I have another team checking for stocks of bupivacaine in all hospitals and clinics between here and Baltimore.”

“Great, well...good luck,” she added, unsure what else he might need from her.

“I just wanted to say thanks for your help.” He leaned back against the desk and his hands gripped the edges. “You found the injection site, you recognised the compound and really helped us narrow our field of search.”

“That's why they pay me the big bucks,” she said and gestured around the spartan room with one arm.

Mulder chuckled and nudged her leg with his knee. “I have a couple of questions about the original victims' examinations.”

“Oh?” Scully turned her chair to face him more fully.

“The injection sites were missed on three bodies by the other two pathologists, but you found them.”

“I knew what I was looking for. Lividity had set in, there was less fatty tissue possibly making it easier to see. Using UV lights-”

“Okay, okay,” Mulder said and held both hands up in a defensive gesture.

Scully frowned and sat forward to lean in towards him. “Are you implying a level of incompetence? Or perhaps misconduct?”

“Merely examining all avenues of investigation,” he said, repeating a phrase she had heard him say when they first met and recognised it as a catch all saying to get him out of a corner when someone pushed back.

“I’ve worked with Rodriguez a few times before, and studied under Pinkerton. I fully trust their conduct.”

“I guess I just got lucky with you then.”

“You got lucky?” She raised an eyebrow at him.

“With your assignment to my case.” He cleared his throat and fixed his tie. “Anyway I better get back to Annapolis. I’m on stakeout duty from seven this evening.”

“All nighter?”

“That's why they pay me the mediocre bucks.” He offered her a half salute then pushed off her desk and left.

Scully watched him leave until the soft close door finally shut behind him. She leaned back in her chair and wondered when their paths would next cross. When, not if, she thought with a smile.

***

US Navy Academy
Saturday 6.45pm

Mulder spotted Jerry's car without much effort. Parked under a tree, with little visibility of the corner or the main street from the entrance to the academy. Mulder parked his car so he could see both the entrance, as well as a good view of the junction and was outside the security office so if anyone checked it out, he could claim to be waiting for someone in the security room.

He climbed out of his car and hurried over to Jerry’s all the while looking around to be sure no one was nearby. He jerked the passenger door open and sat in and Jerry tossed over a half eaten bag of sunflower seeds.

“Anything to report?”

“Happy to say, no. All quiet.”

“From all stations?”

“Nothing happening on campus at all.” Jerry shrugged. “And considering it's a saturday evening we expected some noise from the cadets alone.”

Mulder chuckled. “It's not quite a party college.” He tossed a few seeds into his mouth.

“Anything turn up from the substance check?”

“Nothing yet, but we’re only about half way through the list.”

“And the unsub list?”

“I spent the afternoon working on shortening it with the criteria Doctor Scully shared and have a team in DC checking it out.”

“What's the mood from Douglas like?”

“He’s still pissed,” Mulder said as he rolled the window down and spat the shells out onto the road. “But less pissed with the breakthrough we got from Scully.”

“Who is this Scully you’ve been hanging out with?”

“Doctor Scully is the assigned pathologist from Quantico,” Mulder said and wondered if that would be enough. Jerry had a habit of digging in when he thought there was a point to be made.

“A doctor? An agent?”

“Yeah, assigned to the pathology lab in Quantico.” Mulder could feel Jerry’s gaze on him and tried to look nonchalant as he tossed a few more seeds into his mouth. “Is Jenny keeping a plate warm for you tonight?” Mulder asked, hoping bringing up Jerry’s wife would distract him enough from any other line of questioning.

“Yeah,” Jerry shuffled on his seat and sat up a bit more. “Rigatoni, with broccoli and cheese.”

“Sounds good.”

“I’ll bring you in a tub tomorrow.”

Mulder smiled. Not only did he succeed in distracting Jerry but he managed to weasel a dinner out of it too. “Go, get home to your wife.” He put his hand on the door handle and opened it. “I’ll call you if anything happens.”

“G’night Mulder.”

Jerry started the engine and Mulder made his way back to his own car. He settled into the driver's seat and placed the bag of seeds into the cup holder in the centre console. He fished his phone out of his pocket and checked in with all the other stations, then jotted it down in the log book so Jerry would have a seamless handover in the morning.

Then he settled in for a long night, of what he hoped would be complete boredom.

***

Dana Scully’s Apartment
Saturday 8pm

Scully dropped her case by the door and unfurled herself from the layers of protective clothing she was wearing. She took a long languid shower under the hottest water she could stand, then dressed in jeans and a sweater before climbing onto the couch to call her sister.

Melissa answered almost immediately and with a laugh. “Dana, you have been busy.”

“What?” She pulled the blanket off the back of the couch and covered her legs.

“How did your date with Ethan go?”

“It was fine. He seems nice.”

“Just nice?”

“It was dinner, a couple of hours. It's hard to tell.”

“Dinner? I thought you both were just going to have drinks?”

“Yeah it was just that time of the evening, and I had a long day at work. We ate something at the Founding fathers.”

“So?” Melissa urged. “Are you going to meet him again?”

“I dunno, Missy,” Scully said and she stretched her legs out under the blanket. “He was nice but I don't think there was a spark there.”

“No? Well you shouldn't waste your time if there was no spark.”

Scully wondered if there was a jibe in that comment but she decided to take her sister at her word. “I think it's just that work is a bit crazy right now. There is a pretty intense case happening, I’ve been consulting with the lead Agent-”

“Oh? Do tell!”

“Missy, I’m a federal agent. I consult with other agents all the time.”

“Right, but you don't usually say it like that!” Melissa laughed on the other end of the phone. “What's his name?”

“I never said it was a he.”

“Danes. What is his name?”

“Agent…” Scully paused and she realised she didn't know his first name. She frowned and tried to think of all the conversations they had. He introduced himself as Agent Mulder, and he never elaborated. “Agent Mulder.”

“Mulder? Good strong name. When is his birthday?”

“What?” Scully laughed. “I don't know.”

“Find out his birthday, I can prepare his chart!”

“Missy you are cracked.” Scully laughed.

“Maybe Ethan wasn't the life changing relationship you were about to encounter,” Melissa teased.

“I doubt Agent Mulder is either.”

“Give it time.”

“If it was a life changing encounter, it would have already happened. We’re finished working together.”

“So you won't see him again?”

“Unlikely.”

“But if you did, you’d agree there is something in it?”

Scully laughed. “No. If I did, I would agree that the case is not yet closed, nothing more.”

“Well with that attitude Danes, it's no wonder you’re single.”

“Missy!” Scully laughed. “How's your love life going these days?”

“The usual. Bringing home boys mom hates to meet.”

“You just bring home the ones you know she will hate.”

“At least I’m bringing someone home!” Melissa scoffed. “Pops is beginning to think you decided to join a nunnery after all.”

Scully chuckled. “He’d prefer that to the FBI, that's for sure.”

“He’ll come around Danes. You know he's proud of you.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“No ‘maybe’ about it.” Melissa spoke with conviction. “At least he can tell the neighbours what you do. He’s never bragged about me!”

“Sure he did.” Scully chuckled in an effort to diffuse the sombre mood about to envelop their phone call. “When you won that relay race in 11th grade.”

Melissa laughed out loud. “That was over ten years ago!”

“It was a good race!”

“Shut up.” Melissa’s laugh died down. “Are you coming for mass tomorrow?”

“I’ll try but I can't make any promises. I might get called into this case if there are any developments.”

“You mean Mulder might call?”

“Or the man on the moon.”

“Well hopefully I’ll see you tomorrow. You can tell me in great detail all about your date...or your Mulder.”

“Goodnight Missy.”

“Love you Danes.”

“Love you.”

Scully hung up the phone and put it back on the latch then wondered what Mulder was doing. She frowned as that thought popped into her head and shook her head to rid herself of that thought before it could fully form. But it was too late.

She knew he was on the overnight stakeout at Annapolis. She knew he had worked at the Hoover building all day after leaving her office. She had multiple email threads from agents asking her to confirm various components of the biopsy results and his replies on those threads were active all day indicating he hadn't stopped working, to rest up in preparation for his overnight stakeout.

She wondered if he had eaten since they shared lunch earlier today. She looked at the clock and realised that was six hours ago. And the last time she had eaten too.

She moved over to the fridge and saw she had the makings of some roast beef sandwiches. She wondered if Mulder would like that. She wondered why she was wondering so much about Mulder and his eating habits as she cut bread and grabbed all the necessary condiments. She diced some cherry tomatoes, tore some rocket leaves and added a splash of honey mustard then carefully wrapped each sandwich in wax paper and put them in a paper bag. She grabbed two cokes and added them to the bag then with only a slight hesitation added a bag of chips.

She put on a pair of boots and her coat and before she could talk herself out of it, she jumped into the car and made her way over to Annapolis. It was less than an hour away. It wasn't that far. She could easily make that journey this time of night at the weekend. And turning up at another agent's stakeout wasn't unheard of. He shouldn't be on a stakeout alone anyway. Protocol was for 2 agents to be present for overnight stints.

That thought almost made her turn the car around and drive home. What if he wasn't alone? Didn't he say he had a partner? Well she had two sandwiches. If he had a partner she could drop off the food for both of them. She was in the neighbourhood. Kind of.

She had all but convinced herself it was ok to keep driving and it was ok to turn up unannounced when she arrived at Annapolis. She knew the campus really well with her father, a Navy captain and one of her brothers recently graduated. She knew the best places for stakeout placement, and she knew exactly where Mulder would place his car.

She drove across campus from the western entrance and parked a block away from the security cabin near the main entrance on the south side. She took a moment to relax her breathing and tell herself this was all perfectly normal, then grabbed the paper bag from the passenger seat. His car was parked where she expected it and she approached it in the most casual manner she could muster. She figured he would see her before she got to the car and when she bent down to peer into the passenger window she didn't need to knock.

Mulder saw the figure approaching in his rear view mirror and watched it get closer. It was small, female, so definitely not the unsub, but she seemed to be moving with purpose towards him which made him uneasy. It wasn't until he saw Dana Scully peering into the window that he realised who it was. He pressed a button on his door to unlock the door for her and she smiled as she opened it and climbed in beside him.

“Scully...what are you doing here?”

“A pleasure to see you too.”

“I mean…” he stammered. “But what are you doing here?”

“I was in the neighbourhood.” Mulder lifted one eyebrow, clearly not believing her. “I thought you might be hungry.”

“You came all this way to bring me food?” His lips turned up in a half smile.

“Have you eaten? Since lunch I mean?”

“No.”

Scully smiled. Pleased with that response. She uncurled the top of the bag at her feet and pulled out a sandwich for him then passed a can of coke and a bag of chips over to him too

“What's this?”

“Roast beef. I hope you like it.”

As he unwrapped the sandwich he realised there was no markings from a deli counter, no tape, stickers or labels. “Did you make this?”

“Yeah, it's just leftovers, nothing special.” She said as she unwrapped her own sandwich. “Nothing around here is open after nine.”

“You know the area?”

“Too well.” She bit into her sandwich and chewed for a moment. “My dad is a navy captain. And one of my brothers graduated a few years ago.”

“Ah, you’re a navy brat,” he said as if this was a piece of the puzzle he was looking for. Scully just smiled and bit into her sandwich again. “This is really good, Scully!” He said as he took another big bite. “You made this?” he said around the food in his mouth. She nodded.

“Agent Mulder, I realised something today,” she said and she put her sandwich down on the wax paper that was still open on her lap. “I don't know your name.”

“My name? Mulder. You literally just said it.” He reached over and pressed the back of his fingers against her forehead as if checking for a temperature. "Are you feeling ok? Are you having a stroke?"

“Your first name,” she said as she swatted his hand away with a chuckle. “ Unless you go just by Mulder, like Cher, or Madonna.”

“I’d prefer a comparison to Prince actually.”

“Like Prince then.” Mulder nodded and bit his sandwich again. “Well?”

He looked at her sideways as if wondering how to play this out then he just smiled and sighed. “It's Fox. Fox Mulder.”

“Fox?”

“Yeah but you can just call me Mulder.”

“Not Fox?”

Mulder scoffed. “I even made my parents call me Mulder.”

Scully chuckled. “Mulder.”

He smiled and put the last of his sandwich into his mouth and chewed. When he was done he crumpled up the wax paper and put it into the paper bag she had placed in her footwell. “Scully, that was amazing.”

“I’m glad you liked it.”

“Loved it.” He pointed at the sunflower seeds. “That was my dinner and it was definitely lacking.”

She finished her sandwich and neatly folded the wax paper before adding it to the paper bag too. They sat quietly for a moment then she turned to look at him. Mulder checked his watch then pulled his phone out of his pocket. She listened as he made numerous calls to the various stations around campus then jotted all clear signals in the log book.

“Do you think he will attack this weekend?” She asked.

Mulder sighed and let his head hit the rest behind him. “I don't know.” He looked around. “It's unlikely. The place is crawling with feds, and campus security is trigger happy.”

“Oh?”

“They made three arrests this evening already. Cadets racing for class, or trying to catch the library before it closes.”

“Grand theft bibliography?”

Mulder smiled. “I think our best bet is based on the controlled substance you identified. If we can find from where it was obtained…” he didn't finish that sentence, he didn't need to.

“So if you think there won't be an attack on campus-”

“A futile attempt to feel like I’m doing something.”

Scully nodded her head understanding that urge and looked out the window, if only to avoid staring at him.

“How did your blind date go last night?” he asked.

“Sorry?” The change in topic was so sudden and unexpected Scully felt whiplash from it.

“At the bar, the guy...that wasn't a blind date?”

She blushed and looked away but he caught it. He had meant to ask her about it over lunch but couldn't seem to work up the nerve. Then when he walked out of her lab earlier, he wondered if he would see her again and yet here she was. Sitting in his car. Nearly forty miles from where she probably lived. Bringing him home made sandwiches. And her company.

“It was,” she said. “My sister set it up.” She glanced over at him but looked out the front of the car as if there was something really interesting happening there.

“How’d it go?” he asked again.

“It was fine.”

“Ouch.” he placed a hand on his heart and chuckled.

“What?”

“Fine? That's not the adjective you want to hear after a date.” She didn't respond but kept her eyes forward. “So there won't be a second date?”

“I didn't say that,” she admitted with a shrug and cast him a sideways glance with a smirk. “Fine might get elevated on date number two.”

“That's a dangerous game, Scully.” He said and he looked out the window with her. “Fine, to good, to great, to outstanding. A hopeful trajectory.”

“My sister says it's written in the stars.”

“Your blind date?”

Scully laughed. “My destiny.”

This time Mulder chuckled and he looked over at her. “You believe in all that?”

“Nah.” She looked at him with a wide smile. “But that doesn't stop her from trying to set me up with whatever random eligible bachelor she comes across.”

“She keeps you busy then?”

“Quantico keeps me busy.” Scully said and she started to roll up the paper bag she brought with her. “My sister's dates keep me entertained.” She put her hand on the door and pushed it open a bit then turned to him and showed him her brightest most mischievous smile. “Good night...Fox.” she added with a wink then climbed out and hurried off, leaving Mulder open mouthed and speechless in her wake.

Chapter Text

Hoover building
Sunday 1pm

Mulder leaned against the window in AD Douglas’s office and wondered how he always ended up in this spot when he was being chewed out. There was a perfectly nice chair just there in front of the desk that he could sit in. Next to Jerry. Share the load as it were. But he always ended up on this spot, the cold pane of glass he was leaning on seeping a chill into his body as Douglas continued to talk. And talk. And sometimes yell.

“I’m pulling the agents off campus.” Douglas said after a beat of silence and he sat forward on his desk, shuffled the pages in front of him together as if that was the end of the conversation.

“Sir-” Mulder started to protest but Douglas held up his hand to halt the argument.

“That's the end of it, Mulder. I want to see a report on my desk in a couple of hours on the leads with the controlled substance.”

Jerry stood up and nodded and walked out leaving Mulder no choice but to follow. Back at their desks, Mulder collapsed into his own worn and wonky chair and spun round to face Jerry whose desk was across the walkway.

“It was always on the cards, Mulder.”

“Yeah, I know.” He locked his fingers behind his head and stretched his legs out in front of him. He closed his eyes and continued to let his chair spin side to side.

“It was a long shot. All cadets have been accounted for, little to no activity on campus.”

“Yeah, yeah, it was a long shot.”

“Any update on the substance?” Jerry turned to his computer to check his emails.

“No,” Mulder said without moving or opening his eyes. “We have Baltimore cleared and maybe half of the DC locations, but we still have 34 hospitals in Maryland to review, 14 walk-in clinics, and 5 veterinary clinics.”

Jerry shook his head. Mulder's power of recall always surprised him, even though he saw evidence of it every day. “And the anaesthesiologists?”

“Out of the 1212 registered anaesthesiologists, 765 of them have been cleared, either through airtight alibis, or ineligibility based on the profile.”

“Is that wise?”

“What?” Mulder opened his eyes and lifted his head to look at Jerry.

“The profile is…”

“What Jerry, the profile is what?”

“It's new.” Jerry turned to face Mulder too and shrugged. “Should we clear a possible suspect because they don't fit?”

“That’s the whole point of the profile Jerry.”

“Yeah, I know-”

“Look Jerry if you want to look over all the possible suspects that don't fit the profile, go ahead. But I’ve directed the taskforce to use the markers I laid out in *my* profile to reduce the volume of possible suspects.”

“Alright Mulder, alright.” Jerry swung back round to face his PC and opened his email again. “Did you get any sleep?”

Mulder didn't respond for a moment. He turned his chair to face his own desk and shrugged. “A couple of hours after Agent Jones took over.”

“Here,” Jerry wheeled his chair over and left a Tupperware box next to Mulder's keyboard. “Jenny says next time you have to come to dinner.”

Mulder chuckled. He took the box, opened it immediately and started eating, suddenly ravenous. “Tell Jenny if she keeps cooking like this I might have to.”

***

Dana Scully’s Apartment
Sunday 5pm

Scully stretched out on her couch and wiggled her toes. Was there any better feeling than lounging in front of a fire on a sunday afternoon? No, she was pretty sure there wasn't. A memory of Mulder leaning against her desk and nudging her leg with his flashed to the front of her mind. Or how he rolled his eyes back when he tasted her roast beef sandwich. Or the feeling of his hand as it engulfed hers when he shook it. Or his laugh. His eyes. His voice, when he said her name.

She audibly moaned. Half from a wave of desire that washed over her, and half from a burst of frustration at the sudden influx of Mulder centric thoughts she was experiencing. He was hot. She could admit that. She wasn't an idiot. But he wasn't the first hot, capable, FBI agent she had worked with. He was the first one to make her feel things and think things she hadn't felt or thought in a while. Despite the numerous dates Melissa had set her up on.

When her cell phone rang across the room in her coat pocket she sat up and looked at it, immediately wondering if it was Mulder calling her. She scrambled off the couch and hurried over to answer it.

“Scully,” she said, trying not to sound breathless.

“Dana?”

“Yes.” It didn't sound like him.

“Hi, it's Ethan.”

It took her a moment longer than it should to place the name and when she did her shoulders slumped. “Oh Ethan, of course. Hello.”

“Sorry if this is a bad time.”

“No, no I’m just in from dinner with the family.” She made her way back to the couch and curled into the corner.

“Oh, sounds lovely.”

There was a pause and Scully wondered if she should be filling it. Though she wasn't sure how.

“I know the rule is to wait 3 or more days before calling after a date…” he said and there was another pause. “But I figured I would take my chances.”

Scully chuckled. “Well you almost made it to the 3 day mark.”

“I had a really nice time on Friday, but I couldn't help but wonder if you were coming down from a work high.”

“A work high?” She smiled and remembered the high she was feeling on Friday when Ethan turned up. It wasn't a work high. It was a Mulder high.

“You know the thrill of the hunt,” Ethan was chuckling now and she smiled. “I get it too when I’m chasing a story.”

“Right, well I was in court all day giving testimony.”

“The thrill of the court mandated subpoena then.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Perhaps you didn't see my email…” Another pause. Scully realised she had to get better at filling in these gaps in conversations. “But I wondered if you wanted to go see a show tonight?”

“Tonight?” She looked at her stockinged feet, pyjama pants, and long sleeve t-shirt she was wearing then at the roaring fire across the room.

“I know, short notice. But Joshua Bell is playing one night only at Union Stage and I managed to snag some tickets from the press pool.”

“Oh wow.” That did sound amazing. She was a huge fan of Joshua Bell but had never managed to see him play live.

“Is that an ‘oh wow I’d love to join’?” he said with a hopeful tone.

“What time does it start?”

“Nine.”

Scully checked her watch. She would love to see this violinist play, and in such an intimate venue. But she didn't feel right leading Ethan on when she really didn't have an interest in seeing him again.

“Look, I’ll leave your ticket at the box office for collection. Have a think about it, and come if you’d like.” He spoke with a slight laugh in his voice. “If I see you tonight, great, if not, then I’ll know.”

“Ethan, no you should-”

“At the box office, from about 8pm, Dana Scully.” He spoke with finality then hung up and Scully looked at the phone in her hand to see if he really had ended the call.

Damn. She was comfy on the couch. She was warm and toasty. The weather out there was cold and wet. She hated being wet. But Joshua Bell was quite the draw. Ethan not so much, she admitted. She put her head on the back of the couch and puffed her cheeks out with a hard breath.

She could go to the show and tell Ethan face to face that she didn't think they would make a good couple. That would be the polite thing to do. Scully scoffed. Even she thought that was a low down way of seeing the show. No, she couldn't go. She would stay home, but she should call him and tell him to use the ticket, take someone else.

She moved off the couch over to the desk where she stored all the business cards she had collected and fished round for Ethan’s. She punched his number into the phone and waited for him to pick up. It rang and rang and eventually went to his voicemail.

Dammit. He might be purposefully screening his calls so she couldn't refuse to join. Well that was one manipulation that wouldn't work with her. She called his number again and this time when his voicemail kicked in, she left a message.

“Hi Ethan, it's Dana. I won't be able to join you for the show this evening. Thank you for the invite but I don't think it's a good idea. Please use the ticket for another fan. Bye.”

She ended the call and put the phone on the table by her PC then went back to the couch to bask in her fire again. It wasn't the call she was hoping for. It wasn't fair on him. She reached behind her for the landline pressed speed dial one.

“Hey Melissa,” she said when her sister picked up. “So Ethan just called and invited me to a show at Union Stage.”

“Oh, second date!” Melissa giggled with glee.

“No, I decided not to go.”

“Oh Dana! That couch has way too much power over you.”

“No,” Scully chuckled. “It's not that...well it's not only that.”

“Is it the FBI guy?”

“What? No!”

“I know there is something going on there with all you were saying about him at dinner.”

“What are you talking about? I didn't even mention him.”

“Exactly!” Melissa exclaimed triumphantly.

“Shut up,” Scully said with a laugh. “So Ethan said he would leave a ticket for me at the box office, and I should collect it there.”

“Wait, so you’re going?”

“No, I tried to tell him that but he said the ticket would be there waiting and if I didn't take it then he would know.”

“Oh wow, that guy has it bad for you.” Melissa was laughing, clearly enjoying her sister's torment.

“I called him back and told him to use the ticket for someone else.” There was another one of those pauses in the conversation and Scully frowned. Melissa wasn't usually one to leave a gap in the conversation unless she was waiting for more information. “Should I go down there and tell him to his face?”

“Do you want to?”

“Not really,” Scully admitted and wiggled her toes at the fire. “My couch and fire are really quite comfy.”

Melissa chuckled. “Well if a guy's offer of a date is not as alluring as your lounging time on your couch, then the guy in question is not going to ignite any sparks for you.”

“I feel terrible.”

“Don't. It's dating.”

“Yeah I guess.”

“So tell me about the FBI guy.”

This time Scully chuckled. “There’s nothing to tell. He’s a profiler with VCS.”

“Is he cute?”

“I guess, I hadn't really noticed.”

“J’accuse!” Melissa shouted into the phone and Scully had to hold her piece away from her ear for a moment. “You are such a liar. Hadn't really noticed. As if.”

“Yeah, fine, he's cute.”

“So that means he’s hot.”

“I said cute.”

“Exactly. If he was just cute you would have said so at the start.” Melissa was teasing and Scully cursed her pale complexion for highlighting her blushing cheeks even if she was alone in her living room. “When was the last time you saw him? Yesterday morning?”

“Well…” Scully hesitated when she thought of the impromptu stakeout sandwich she had brought him.

“Oh my god Danes, tell me!”

“We met last night for a little while.”

“Last night? After we spoke on the phone?” The pause in the conversation answered that question and Melissa squealed with laughter. “Where did you meet him?”

“Annapolis.”

“You drove all the way out to Annapolis?”

“I brought him a sandwich.”

“You drove all the way out to Annapolis for a guy AND you brought him food?”

“I was just returning a favour, he brought me lunch earlier.”

“Oh don't even try. No wonder you’re not interested in Ethan.” Scully sighed and Melissa sobered up on the other side of the call. “What is it?”

“He’s an FBI agent.”

“So?”

“Well I just don't think that dating anyone where I work is a good idea. After everything that happened with Jack-”

“Don't go there, Danes.” Melissa warned with a firm voice.

“If not Jack, then Daniel.”

“That's totally different and you know it.” Melissa sighed. “Anyway, with the hours you work, where else are you supposed to meet someone?”

“I’m not even trying to meet anyone!” Scully said, getting annoyed with this conversation. “The only dates I go on are the ones you set up and I can't get out of.”

“Exactly! Anyway you don't have to seek this guy out. You already made a connection. If it's meant to be-”

A double beep on her phone told her there was another call coming in. “Hang on Missy, I have another call coming in.” She pressed the right button on her phone to answer the incoming call. “Scully.”

“Hey Scully, it's me.”

Such a simple greeting and she knew exactly who it was.

“Hello, Agent Mulder.”

“I hate to call you in so late on a Sunday evening, but I have another body.”

“Oh?” She sat up. “Where? Annapolis?”

“No.” She thought she heard a defeated tone in his voice. “Arlington. The Cemetery.”

“Ok.”

“I can pick you up and take you to the scene if that works? I can be there in ten minutes.”

“Oh, right, ok, sure.” She was a bit flustered by his knowing where she lived, but also, his being so close.

She didn't have time to say anything else though, he had hung up when she agreed to be picked up. She pressed the button on her phone to get back to her sister.

“Sorry Missy I need to go, I have work.”

“Was that him?”

“Mel-” She hurried into her room and wondered what was the best thing to wear to a crime scene on a Sunday evening.

“It was!” Melissa was laughing with delight. “Go, go, and call me tomorrow.”

“It's not a date. It's a crime scene.”

“Sure, sure. Call me!”

Scully looked down at the phone and saw her sister had hung up. That was 3 hang ups in less than an hour. She frowned then tossed the phone onto her bed and pulled out a pair of dark jeans, boots and a sweater. She pulled off her sweats and slipped on her jeans, tucking her long sleeve into it to trap as much warmth as she could around her body. She pulled on the sweater and carried her boots into the bathroom. Her face had been cleaned of all her makeup already so she just added some fresh moisturiser and brushed her hair back into a ponytail to keep it off her face.

She was sitting on the couch tying her boots when she heard the three rapid knocks on the door. When she opened it, Mulder was standing on the other side looking tired and annoyed.

“Hey,” he said and offered her a flash of half a smile. “Sorry about this.”

“It's ok. She grabbed her coat from the rack then paused for a moment by the door. “One second.” She hurried back into her room and fished her badge and gun out of the safe drawer she stored them in. She fastened her holster on her hip and shoved her badge in her back pocket then whipped her coat around her shoulders and pushed her arms through the sleeves as she joined Mulder by the door. She snagged her keys from the small dish on the tall coffee table then followed him into the hall, locking up behind them.

“Tell me about the body,” she said as he led her out to his car, his hand on her back as he bent down and opened the door for her.

“Cadet Fiona Michelson.” He then closed her door and hurried around the front of the car to climb into the driver's side. “She was deferring a year from the academy due to a family bereavement. Her parents were killed in a car crash last year, and she was guardian to her siblings.” Mulder's hands gripped the steering wheel in a white knuckle grip and Scully watched his long fingers curl around the leather. “She was found a little less than an hour ago.”

“And it's definitely our case?”

He glanced over at her and couldn't help smiling at her use of the word ‘our’. “Same M.O..” he said. “She was stabbed multiple times. Strangulation marks on her neck.”

“Rope or hands?”

“I dunno, looks like hands, but that's why you’re here.” This time he looked at her fully and actually smiled.

She looked away and tried not to blush then hoped the dim light in the car was enough to hide it when she felt the heat rising.

“I was going to get the body shipped right to Quantico but I thought maybe you’d like to check out the scene first.”

“Thanks. It does help to see the scene before the autopsy. For the most part we have to deal with just scene photos.”

After a few moments of silence where Mulder seemed to be focused on driving though his fingers twitching on the steering wheel indicated his focus was split, Scully looked over and saw the tension in his face.

“You were right about the victim then.”

“Yeah,” he admitted with a sigh. “Not the location though.”

“The location was a long shot.”

“My AD is pretty pissed off at my long shots,” he said with a mirthless chuckle. He rubbed his face with one hand, pressed his fingers into one eye. “But I’d rather piss him off and be wrong than not piss him off and miss the opportunity to save someone.”

Scully let his comment hang in the air for a moment then reached over and patted his shoulder. They made the rest of the journey in near silence. When they got to the cemetery Mulder flashed his badge to gain entry then parked between a couple of squad cars.

“Ready?” he asked, one hand on the steering wheel the other on the door handle. She nodded and they both climbed out. It had started to rain but the drizzle was the least of their worries. Mulder lifted the cordon tape for her to walk under then led her with a hand on her back towards the canopy where the body was located.

“The scene has been processed but watch where you step,” he said and she nodded. It wasn't her first time to a crime scene but she understood he didn't know that.

The body had been propped up against a headstone, legs crossed at the ankles, hands folded on her lap. The head was bowed, and her long blond hair fell limply around her face. Scully wondered if it was vibrant when she was alive but quickly pushed those thoughts away. She grabbed a pair of latex gloves from her pocket and put them on as she crouched next to the body.

“Definitely strangulation by hand,” she muttered, then moved the victim's hair aside to get a better look at her chest where all the previous victims had been stabbed. “1...2...3, 4...5...maybe 6 stab wounds.” Scully turned to look up at Mulder. “It looks like less stab wounds than the other victims.”

“Yeah, but maybe there are other wounds we cannot see without a full examination.”

“Of course,” She looked back to the body and gripped the shoulder. “It's been fully processed?”

“All that was done without moving the body.”

Scully pushed the shoulder to roll the body onto its side then pushed again to roll it onto its front.

“Can I get a camera over here?” Mulder yelled out to the CSI Agents processing evidence out of the back of a van behind them.

“I see more stab wounds here, I don't think they are exit wounds.” Scully probed the back where she saw four more wounds. “Previous victims were not stabbed in the back.”

“No,” Mulder said and she looked up to see a worried expression on his face.

Scully stepped back from the body when the CSI crew came over to take pictures of the underside of the victims location, the headstone, and the back of the body.

“Hey Mulder!”

They both turned to see another agent hurrying across the crime scene towards them. Scully guessed this was the partner Mulder spoke of before. He was as tall as Mulder but seemed older, or it could be that his hair was thinning and likely his middle was wider than when he graduated from the FBI academy.

“Douglas is pissed!” the guy said as he got right up to Mulder and slapped him on the back.

“Yeah, I heard.”

“He’s waiting for you in his office.”

“I’ll go there after the autopsy, when I have more to report.”

Jerry only seemed to notice Scully now and looked between her and Mulder before he put his hand out.

“You must be the Doctor Scully I’ve heard absolutely nothing about.”

Scully frowned as she took off her latex gloves and shook the hand he offered. “Agent Scully actually.”

“Right, yeah, sorry. Jerry Lamana. This one's partner.” he jerked his thumb over his shoulder at Mulder who was watching the CSI team take photos of the newly revealed parts of the scene. “For what it's worth. He never tells me anything.”

“Jerry, did you see the name on this headstone?” Mulder said and he pointed at the stone that until now had been covered by the victim.

“Fiona Michelson.” Jerry read the stone aloud. “Isn't that the victim's name?”

“Yeah, at least the one we got from the ID in her wallet.” Mulder fished his phone out of his pocket and quickly dialled a number. “Danny, yeah Mulder…” he said as he wandered away from Sully and Jerry to make the phone call.

“What do you think it means?”

“It means Mulder has new information to add to his profile.”

Scully looked over to where Mulder was pacing at the edge of the crime scene. His hand was on his hip, his jacket and coat swept back. He held the phone up to his ear and his head was bent low as he talked and paced. As if he could sense her watching him he stopped pacing and looked over then without breaking eye contact he ended the call and came back to where she stood with Jerry.

“Danny is looking into the ID now, but this will be a departure from all the other murders before.”

“What do you mean?” Scully asked.

“The staging. None of the other bodies were staged like this.” He gestured at the headstone. “The location but also the placement of the body. Belies the sudden and violent nature of the murder.”

“Are we sure this is our guy?” Jerry said as he walked around the headstone, kicking tufts of grass aside as he examined the ground.

“Other than the placement, and the name of this headstone which could be a coincidence.”

“Hell of a coincidence,” Scully said with a frown.

“Yeah, so apart from the placement and the headstone, the murder is the same. Scully, you will be able to confirm that the strangulation was after the stabbing right?”

“Yeah.”

“And the techs will process the clothing. Danny is running down the ID and the headstone.”

The CSI team completed the processing then one of them walked over to Mulder with a form for him to sign. “Sir, we can move the body now, are you finished here?”

Mulder looked over at Scully and silently passed the question over to her. She nodded, so Mulder signed the form and instructed them to ship the body to quantico.

Scully, Jerry, and Mulder stepped back as they packed up the body for transport. Mulder handed back the chain of evidence form then turned to face Scully. “I’ll take you over to Quantico.” Scully nodded.

“Hey Mulder,” Jerry called out before he could leave. “What about Douglas?”

“I’ll call him.” Mulder waved one hand at Jerry and moved the other to Scully’s back, this time located lower, at the small of her back as he directed her back to the car.

“Sounds like your partner is worried.” Scully spoke as she fastened her seatbelt and he closed the driver's door.

“Pissed.”

“You think everyone is pissed at you.”

“Most of the time they are,” he said with a smile. He started the engine but before Mulder could pull out of the parking space, she put a hand on his arm.

“Wait, I can go with the CSI crew back to Quantico. You don't need to give me a lift.”

“No, it's fine.”

“But your AD, maybe you should go meet him.”

“Nah,” Mulder started to reverse the car then shifted gears and started driving back into traffic, and Scully took back her hand. “He’ll tire himself out and be less likely to chew me out later.”

Scully chuckled and shook her head. They drove in silence for a little while then Scully, trying to sound nonchalant, commented “So how long have you been working with Jerry Lamana?”

Mulder glanced at her. “Just about a year.”

“He seems…” Mulder waited for her to continue. “Different.”

“Different to what?”

“Well, you.”

Mulder chuckled. “Everyone is different to me.”

“What makes you so special?”

“You tell me.”

Scully smiled. “I just met you.”

“But you can already tell Jerry and I are so different?”

“He seems more content with his lot.”

“You don't think I’m happy in VCS?”

Scully seemed to hesitate with her response. “Sorry, I...I just met you. I shouldn't have said anything.”

“No, go on.” Mulder urged her to continue and when he pulled into a red light he turned to look at her and she was relieved to see he wasn't offended or upset with what she had said so far. Instead he seemed more interested in her insights and was eager to hear them.

“Jerry seems to be a cookie cutter FBI agent, likely to quickly rise to middle management but no further.”

“And me?”

“You want to buck the status quo, do the unexpected. You don't have the need to jump for authority and are more inclined to take intuitive leaps in investigation. If I was going to make a guess, I’d say you have something up your sleeve, something you're working on outside of VCS.”

Mulder stared at her with his mouth open and it wasn't until a car behind him beeped it's horn that he looked away and started driving again. They both sat in silence for a while. She wondered if she had overstepped and worried that he would withdraw. He was in utter shock. Everything she said was correct. Eerily accurate and Mulder wondered if he was so easy to read. Though admitted most people didn't pay him enough attention to read him.

“Well, Scully,” he said eventually when he turned onto the I95 and could relax his driving focus. “That was embarrassingly accurate.”

“Yeah?” she smiled.

“I didn't realise I was so easy to read.”

“You’re not,” She said with a shrug. “But from the conversations we have had. The profile you shared. The details of this case, I made a guess.”

“Hell of a guess.”

“An educated guess,” she conceded as she brushed an errant piece of lint off her knee.

They were quiet again for a moment then Mulder’s phone rang in his pocket. He pulled it out and answered it. “Mulder...yeah, wow, yeah ok… can you send me an email with the details?...great, thanks Danny.” He put his phone back in his pocket. “So Danny confirmed the ID on the victim was accurate, and the resident in that plot, Captain Fiona Michelson was a recipient of the Distinguished service cross for her work as a surgeon in a MASH unit stationed in Xuan Loc in Vietnam”

“So Cadet Michelson was placed on the grave of Captain Michelson?”

“Yeah.”

“Why do you think he would change his behaviour all of a sudden?”

“He wouldn't.” His fingers danced on the wheel and Scully could almost see his cogs turning. “Which makes me think we missed something in all the other scenes.”

That was a heavy statement. To think five bodies, and five scenes had all been processed and something was missed. Something that might have helped catch the killer sooner, prevent other murders from being committed. Scully rested her elbow on the window and put her fist against her temple as the sun set around them.

***

Quantico Autopsy Lab
Sunday 11pm

When they got to Quantico Scully went into the changing room to put on scrubs. Mulder asked if he could use her computer and quickly logged onto the FBI network to retrieve his email, as well as the crime scene notes from the other scenes. He printed out a bunch of pages and worked silently on her desk as she performed the autopsy in the bay next to him.

He looked up every now and then as her voice registered a different tone, surprise, or confusion as she dictated notes into the tape recorder over her head. When he had to take or make a phone call he went out of the room and either leaned against the wall outside her lab or went into the breakroom where they had shared lunch the other day. But kept coming back to work at her desk.

At first she was a little put off by his presence, like he was watching her, eavesdropping or spying, but he seemed so intent on his own work that she soon forgot he was there and focused on the autopsy. When she was done she covered the body with a tarp and finished filling out the storage information, then bagged all the clothing and carried it to the drop off bin for CSI pick up.

She approached Mulder who had his chin in his hand and his elbow on the table. His eyes were closed and his breathing was slow and steady. She marvelled at how quickly he became comfortable in her domain, in her presence. And even at her comfort in his presence too.

“Mulder?” she said but he didn't react. “Mulder…” she placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it and he jerked awake, pushed back from her and looked around the room with wide eyes. “I think you fell asleep.”

“Wow, sorry.” He dry washed his face with both hands, then ran his fingers through his hair, leaving trails through his thick brown locks. “You’re done?” he said as he looked over to the now empty autopsy table.

“Yeah,” she said as she leaned against the desk, the position he usually took. “Seventeen stab wounds.”

“Seventeen? Wow.”

“And the strangulation was after the fact though it looks like, from the bruising she was still alive at the time, or it was very shortly after her death.”

“Injection site?”

“Yeah, same place. I've collected a sample and it's ready for pickup in the morning.” Mulder lounged back in her chair, as if it was a location he was very comfortable in and Scully wasn't sure how that made her feel. So she did the only thing she could. She ignored it and kept busy. “What about you, did you find anything?”

“None of the victims were connected in any way.” He pulled the chair into the table and fished through the pages there to pull out a report. “We already looked for this thoroughly so I didn't expect to find anything different there.” He pulled out another page. “But what we didn't examine too closely, as it looked like a body dump, was the location connection to the victim.” He held up a legal pad to show her what he had written and she took it as he kept speaking. “The previous victims were found at a municipal park in Baltimore, Round Bay beach, an alleyway off P St in DC, another municipal park this time in Bowie and the last one was fished out of the Anacostia River.”

“Did you find a connection?” she asked as she looked at the scrawl on the legal page and tried to make sense of his notes.

“Not for all of them but Ivan Draper, the second victim, was found on a beach outside Baltimore.” Mulder shuffled through other pages he had on the table until he found what he was looking for and shoved it at Scully. “47 years ago, there was a mass drowning at the beach, sudden riptide, seven people drowned. One of them was named Ivan Draper.”

“What does all that mean?”

Mulder slumped back in the chair and tapped his lips with two fingers. “I dunno. There is a connection, and I’m sure I’ll find more with the other victims, but I don't see how it helps identify or catch the killer.”

“Yet.” She handed him back the pages and the legal pad. “When more discoveries are found the wider picture might be more clear.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Scully lifted a hand to her mouth to cover a yawn and Mulder started to shuffle all the pages back together. “I should get you home, it's late.”

“I can grab a cab from here. Don't you have a meeting with your AD?”

“In the morning. I talked to him on the phone already.”

“Seriously though, I can just grab a cab. It's not the first time I’ve cabbed home from here, the local cabbies all know me,” she admitted with a chuckle.

“I’m taking you home, Scully,” he said as if there was no more to it. He finished gathering all his pages and notes then lined them up by loosely tapping them on the table before he snagged his coat from the back of the chair. “Are you ready?” He said as he looked her up and down and realised just then that she was still in her scrubs.

“I just need to change,” she said as she gestured to the changing room and pushed herself off the table.

“Right, yeah. Take your time.” Mulder said as she hurried away.

He sat back into the seat and let his head fall back a bit. Get it together man, why are you so frantic around her? he wondered. They had been in this autopsy lab for a little over two hours and he managed to get about 45 minutes of work done. He spent a chunk of time on the phone being yelled at, but the rest of the time he just watched and listened to her. Her voice was so sure, confident when she dictated notes on the autopsy. Her hands didn't seem to hesitate at all as she conducted the examination, though he tried not to look too closely at that part. He couldn't stop himself looking at her body though, as she moved around the table, bent over it, stretched and crouched, though the scrubs and lab coat she was wearing hid her shape, he caught glimpses of it and it was tantalizing enough to make him want to see more.

He was already enchanted with her. But after what she had said about him in the car. Her profile of him. Her eerily accurate profile of him. He was more than enchanted. He was enthralled. How has she gotten a read on him so quickly? They had spoken for a couple of hours on Friday. They shared lunch, and a late night snack on Sunday. He met her 3 days ago. 3 days. No one knew him like she seemed to, and somehow she picked it all up in 3 days. Maybe she should be the golden profiler in VCS. He wasn't sure he had a read on her like that yet.

She was one to follow authority. She liked rules. She was a quick study, noticed details and made assumptions, usually right. She made a mean roast beef sandwich. Mulder chuckled. He didn't have much. She wasn't quite the easy read he seemed to be. He dry washed his face again and scratched the crown of his head with both hands then stood and put on his coat. He was going to understand her better. Somehow.

Just then Scully arrived in her civvies and was already buttoning up her coat. “Let’s go,” she said and she led him out to the car. At this time of night there was no traffic on the road so Mulder could ease onto the highway and wonder a little more about his companion in the car.

“Thanks for your help tonight Scully,” he said when he couldn't think of anything else to say but wanted to get her talking.

She smiled and nodded and Mulder realised he was going to have to try harder.

“I hope I didn't kill your Sunday plans.”

She shook her head with a half shrug.

Dammit. “When will we see some of the results?”

“Tissue sampling will be returned tomorrow afternoon, though I anticipate it to be the same as what we already extracted from the previous victims.”

“We’re still tracking down any missing stocks of that substance you identified. And our list of medical professionals is narrowing.”

“Hmm,” she said, obviously frustrated. “Your partner Jerry said you would likely change your profile.”

“Maybe.” Mulder pondered. This wasn't what he wanted her to talk about. “Have you lived in DC long?”

Scully turned to look at him with a frown and suffered another case of whiplash from the sudden change of subjects. “No, not long. When I finished medical school I moved out here to join the FBI.”

“What made you join the FBI?”

“My degree in forensic pathology, it made sense to make it work where it would be most impactful.” She said the words with a soft tone and a light shrug but Mulder felt like there was more to that story.

“A doctor and an FBI agent...your parents must be proud.” Scully scoffed. Ah there it was. The rest of the story. “And your siblings must hate your overachiever status.”

She scoffed again. “Let's just say I’m the black sheep.”

“You’re the black sheep?” Mulder glanced at her, clearly surprised then turned his focus back to the road. “What do your siblings do? Astronauts?” he said with a chuckle.

Scully laughed too. “My two brothers are in the Navy. My sister runs a book shop in Alexandria.”

“And you’re the black sheep.” Mulder frowned. That didn't play. Not with the little info he knew about her. The little info he was sure of. She liked to follow the rules. She liked authority. “You never thought of joining the Navy?”

“Yeah, but I didn't think I’d look good in the uniform.”

Mulder coughed on his laugh and gripped the wheel tighter.

“So any info on Cadet Michelson’s spouse?” she asked, getting the conversation back on track, or to safer ground.

“She isn't married,” he said and before she could say anything else he added. “No boyfriend, girlfriend or any romantic partner.”

“How will that track with the next victim?”

“It doesn't.”

“So the profile will change?”

“Maybe.”

She sensed that wasn't an avenue of conversation she wanted to traverse so Scully looked out the window instead at the city speeding by. “How did you know where I live?” she asked suddenly, seeing how he handled the whiplash.

“Huh?”

Not so well, she realised with an ounce of smugness. “You picked me up earlier, how did you know where I lived?”

“Bureau personnel files. When I got notice that the body was found, and I knew you would like to go to the crime scene, I looked up your address to see if you were close by.”

She didn't say anything to that response. It all seemed reasonable, if a little unorthodox. It didn't quite explain why he was only 10 minutes from her house when he called. Though she guessed that was to offer her the convenience of his lift, and make it harder for her to refuse.

They made the rest of the journey in relative silence, each seemed to be submerged in their own thoughts. When he pulled up outside her apartment she took off her seatbelt but didn't open the door.

“Thanks again,” he said before she could leave.

“Every time I think we’re saying goodbye for the last time, you end up pulling me back into the case.”

Mulder smiled. “Last time you came of your own accord,” he said. “And you brought snacks.”

“Next time you bring snacks.” She smiled then opened the door and climbed out. He waited until she was fully inside the building before he took off and when she let herself into her apartment she looked out the window to see him pulling away. Scully smiled again as she crossed the room towards her bedroom. She spotted there was a message on her machine and she pressed play as she walked by.

“Dana, hi, it's Ethan. I got your message. Thanks for the heads up. If you’d like to meet for dinner, or a drink some time, call me.”

She hesitated a moment over the delete button then pressed it and continued to her room. She wouldn't call him again. She made her stance pretty clear. It wasn’t Ethan that was filling her thoughts. Scully peeled off her clothes and wondered if she had the energy to shower, but the thought of climbing into her sheets after an autopsy without showering was not pleasant. Usually she would shower in the lab but didn't want to keep Mulder waiting any longer.

She tied her hair up to keep it out of the way and decided a hot shower would feel wonderful on her weary limbs. Decision made, it was no time before she stepped under the spray and let it do it's thing. Immediately she felt one kind of tension roll off her body in a sluice of water and lavender scented soap. But it was quickly replaced by another kind of tension. One that she felt between her legs, one that had been threatening all evening since she heard his voice on the phone. The dull ache was amped up enough to make her take in a shaky breath and at first she resisted the call to respond. But as the ache turned into a throb she couldn't resist letting her fingers slide over her slickened skin.

As soon as she touched the throbbing bundle of nerves she immediately thought of his fingers on the small of her back. His voice when he said her name. His smile and laugh. His hazel eyes that she could feel on her anytime he was in the room. His moan of satisfaction when he bit into the sandwich she prepared.

“Oh…” that particular memory brought her closer to completion. Her fingers moved faster. She wanted a quick powerful release. One that would reach all corners of her self and leave her sated and spent with just enough energy to crawl into bed. Her other hand, which had been placed flat against the tiles, moved to her breast to palm and squeeze her already extended nipples, eager to find her salvation. She moaned and tipped her head back as she felt her orgasm building to the point where she knew she could tip herself over the edge and the flash of his smile after she had shared all her insights on him brought her there.

“Ahhh,” she moaned as she slowed her fingers and cupped herself tenderly. The hand on her breast stilled and her breathing was ragged as she felt the convulsions right to her core. “Damn,” she uttered, her voice getting lost in a series of pants as she struggled to lift her arms and finish her shower. She tipped her face into the water and laughed. She knew she was in trouble now and somehow she didn't care.

Chapter Text

Hoover building
Monday 9am

Mulder had already shed his jacket, loosened his tie, and had his sleeves rolled up to his elbows when Jerry walked in with donuts and coffee. He placed them on Mulder's desk as he shed his own overcoat.

“Been here long?”

“All night.” Mulder said and when he turned to face Jerry his exhaustion was obvious. His stubbled face was darker than normal, the beard growth he usually kept close to clean shaven was showing a couple of days of neglect. He grabbed a donut from the box and bit into it.

“You’re not serious?”

“I’ve been working on this profile.” He turned to face the computer screen and tapped it with his free hand as he took another bite of the powdered donut. “It still holds. But I think the pattern we’re missing is in the victim placement.”

“Did you figure it out?” Jerry came over to Mulder's desk and perched himself on the corner and took a jam donut from the box.

“I found a connection between each victim and the location they were found.” Mulder changed the screen to highlight a document where he had listed each of the victims, the location where they were found, and a person with the same name who was either killed, buried, or lived at that location. “What I can't figure out is how this helps us narrow our focus.”

“We have been accurately predicting the career of the next victim,” Jerry said as he licked a dollop of jam off his finger.

“We were until now. Cadet Michelson is, um, was unattached. Never married. No spouse, no career.”

“What about Captain Michelson?”

“That skewes from the pattern.”

Jerry slumped a little and Mulder looked at the screen. “Did you talk to Douglas yet?”

“We spoke last night. I’m meeting him in thirty minutes.”

“Do you want me to go in with you?”

Mulder smiled. “Nah, I got it. I deserve the chewing out.”

“Well maybe go clean up a bit, or at least shave before you go in there.”

“You don't think this scruff look will help me get the sympathy vote?” Mulder said as he ran a hand over his stubble.

“More like an incompetent vote.” Jerry fished in the box for another donut, this time pulling out a chocolate glazed one. “So tell me about Agent Scully…”

“Who?” Mulder sat forward suddenly, incredibly focused on the computer screen.

“Doctor Agent Scully, you’re new favourite pathologist.”

“She’s a pathologist, and an FBI Agent, and was assigned to our case. What else is there?”

“I’m just saying, if you’re going to ditch your partner for another agent, the least you can do is give me the details.”

“There are no details Jerry.” Mulder frowned and shuffled some pages on his desk.

“Yeah, right.” Jerry bit into his donut and licked the gaze off his lips. “Go shave, Mulder,” he said with a chuckle as he got up from Mulder's desk and crossed to his own.

Mulder focused on preparing his notes for the meeting with Douglas. He printed out the relevant documents, arranged them into the folder with his profile notes, then took a moment to go to the bathroom and splash cold water on his face. It was going to be a long day.

***

Quantico Lab
Monday 3pm

Scully sat at her desk typing her notes from her autopsy the night before. Every so often on the recording she would hear Mulder in the background. Either typing, huffing, walking past her to answer his phone or uttering words as he focused on his own work. And each time she heard him it made her smile. Which was the reason why it was taking her so long to type up her notes.

When the report was finally finished she emailed it to the case file alias, along with the confirmation of the sample results from the biopsy. She didn't think there would be any response, the information was not new, it was replicated info they already had on the case. The break in this case wasn't going to come from the autopsy, though perhaps the CSI crew would pick something up from the scene or the clothing removed from the victim.

She shut down her PC and stretched her hands over her head then went into the breakroom for a coffee. The other pathologists using the lab had a fresh pot percolating and she sighed with relief when she poured a cup and sipped it. She was making her way back into the lab when her cell phone rang. A little shiver of anticipation rippled down her spine as she fished her phone out of her pocket and answered it.

“Scully.”

“Scully, it's me.”

She smiled and paused outside the door of the lab where she leaned against the wall. “Hi, Mulder.”

“I saw your report.”

“Already? I just sent it a few minutes ago.”

“I was waiting for it.”

“Sorry it took so long.”

Mulder chuckled and Scully felt herself blush. “You noted there were more stab wounds this time than previous victims?”

“Yeah seventeen wounds on the back and front.” She pushed herself off the wall and went into the lab to pull up her notes, not wanting to miss any details he might ask her. “That's more than any other victim by 5 or 7.”

“You also noted the depth of the wounds were not as deep as the previous victims' wounds.”

“Yeah, the blade was thinner too, more like a utility knife, where the other victims seemed to be stabbed with a chef’s knife, deeper.”

“Would that account for why they were stabbed more?”

“You mean the small knife results in less damage, so more stabs to kill?”

“Yeah.”

“Sure, but the victim was dead before the seventeen stab wounds were complete.”

“Oh?” She heard a chair creak and she imagined he was sitting forward.

“Several of the stabs punctured the left lung, two went right into the heart.”

“How do you know in which order the stabs were made?”

“Blood loss, bruising. The last seven or eight stabs show little blood loss. The heart had already stopped beating.”

“That's something.” He seemed to ponder that for a while.

“I noted something similar in the other reports I sent to the case file.” She pulled up the documents on her computer. “In the two victims I examined before last night, the last four stab wounds were postmortem.”

“I hadn't noticed that in your reports,” he admitted and she heard the defeated tone in his voice.

“You think it's significant?”

“I think it shows insight into the mind of the killer.”

“How so?”

“He’s stabbing these people to kill them, but after they are dead he is still stabbing them. Then he strangles them.” She heard him breathing a little heavier now.

“You said he wasn't stabbing them to kill them, but that something triggered the reaction to stab, but he reclaimed the power by strangling them.”

“I need to find the trigger.” He had lowered his voice and she wasn't sure he was speaking to her anymore.

“Did you find the connection with all the victims and the locations where their bodies were found?”

“Yeah, yeah, they all have a namesake connection.”

“Namesake?”

“Someone with the same name was connected to the location where they were found.”

“And the namesakes don't have a connection?”

“Wait...what?”

“The namesakes, the people who were connected to the locations, do they all have a connection?”

“I uh...I don't know.”

Scully smiled. She could hear him typing on his keyboard. “Ok, I’ll let you get back to it.”

“Yeah,” he said distractedly and hung up.

She replaced her phone back into her pocket and got back to her work though her mind kept wandering to the conversation with Mulder. He sounded tired. Distracted. She wondered how his conversation with his AD went and how much trouble he got in for driving her to Quantico and home, instead of obeying his summons to go to the Hoover building.

Scully stood up and stretched her muscles in a weak attempt to rid her mind of these Mulder centric thoughts. Behind her the door opened and her colleague wheeled in a body for autopsy.

“Doctor Phillips, you need a hand?”

“Nah, I'm good. You were here last night. You should head home.”

It had been pretty late when she got home last night, or early this morning depending on how you looked at it. And that sojourn in the shower was a distraction she could have done without. Scully chuckled. Yeah right. She had been feeling that urge for a while now and she was never one to resist it when it emerged. All of a sudden a luxurious bath and a lazy evening sounded great!

“Yeah I might just do that,” she said aloud realising she hadn't responded to Phillips yet and instead was languishing in memory lane.

“Did you get that report typed up? It seemed like a long one.”

“Yeah, I sent it in a little while ago.”

“Well then go, go home, beat the traffic.”

Scully smiled and watched for a moment as Phillips unzipped the body bag. The lure of a bubble bath was enough to get her legs moving and she quickly changed out of her scrubs and drove home.

***

Hoover Building
Monday 7pm

“God dammit Mulder, why are you still here?”

Mulder jerked up from his chair and stood on wobbly legs by his desk, one hand reaching out tented fingers to keep himself standing. He shook his head and blinked rapidly to open his eyes wide. “Sir?”

Douglas crossed the room in a couple of strides and stood close to Mulder. “You’ve been here for nearly twenty hours.” He looked at the mess of Mulder's desk, the notes, printed, scribbled and torn. “Go home.” I don't want to see you in his office until tomorrow.”

“Yes sir.” Mulder turned to gather up his notes but Douglas put his hand on the piles of paper.

“No, leave it.” He pushed Mulder's shoulder back from the table. “If you take them home you won't rest. Come back tomorrow and pick it up then.”

“Sir-”

“Leave it.”

Mulder looked like he was about to argue but instead he held his hands up in defense and grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair. He draped his overcoat over his arm and patted his pockets to be sure he had his keys then waved over his head at Douglas and left.

He started driving, pinched the bridge of his nose to get some focus back then rapidly blinked to keep them open. He was half way to Scully’s place before he realised where he was driving and pulled up at a curbside a couple of blocks short of her home.

What the hell was he doing? Just calling round? Randomly? On a Monday evening? Well she did invite him. Kind of. She told him it was his turn to bring food. But he didn't have any food. He wanted to call her, not just turn up. But if he called her she might say no. Say no to what? His company? Maybe it was better not to give her a choice. God damn he was tired. He should just go home. He started the car and drove the few blocks to her home then parked again, despite his better judgement.

He left his jacket and coat in the car and hurried through the falling rain to her door. He ran his hands over his face and hair and realised only then how he must look. His lack of sleep and neglectful grooming habits of late meant he probably looked like a hobo. But he still couldn't help it when his hand reached up and knocked on her door, three quick knocks. Decisive. She would have to answer. If she was home. Shit. What if she wasn't home? Well if she wasn't home, she wouldn't know he knocked and he could scurry away with his tail between his legs.

But unfortunately there was no time to scurry. He heard footsteps. A pause, when he realized she was probably looking out the peephole, then the door opened and there she was.

“Mulder…” On her face was an expression he couldn't read. She wasn't pissed off so that was a good start. Though she certainly did look confused. “Was there another murder?”

“No!” he said quickly. “Not since yesterday.”

“Oh.” she paused. Then stepped back from the door and opened it further in a silent gesture to let him in.

She was wearing jeans and a light sweater, her hair was pulled back from her face and she was wearing glasses. Mulder stepped in and moved aside so she could close the door. She turned and walked towards the kitchen so he followed, suddenly unsure what to do with his hands.

“Are you hungry?” she asked over her shoulder as they passed her dining table into her small kitchen.

He nodded his head and she grabbed a bowl from the press then dished out a bowl of stew. She handed him the bowl and a fork and gestured for him to sit down.

“Sorry for barging in here, disturbing your dinner.” He noted the upturned book on the table that she had been reading while eating.

Scully smiled and shook her head. She moved the small plate of crusty bread closer to him. “It's fine, I had loads.” He smiled and pulled the bowl closer to him and ate a forkful. He realised immediately it was beef and stout stew with potatoes and veg and a hint of chili. And he loved it.

“Wow, really good, Scully.”

They ate in silence for a few minutes. “Long day?” she asked eventually.

“One of those never ending ones.”

She nodded knowingly and took a slice of bread off the plate in the middle and tore it in two deciding to allow him to speak when he wanted. Mulder focused on the food before him. This was simple. He was hungry. Food was in front of him. Food could solve his hunger problem. And it tasted great. Problem and solution. Exactly what he needed. When his plate was empty she offered him more and accepted it with relish. He eventually slowed down when this bowl was half finished and reached for a slice of bread to mop up the gravy.

“I got kicked out of the office,” he said as he moved the bread around his plate then bit into it.

“Sorry?”

“My AD just kicked me out of the office.”

“Ah. Long hours.”

“I went there after I dropped you off last night,” he said with a shrug as he mopped up the last of his gravy and pushed his bowl aside.

“You were there all night? And all day today?” He nodded. “No wonder you look like that.”

Mulder looked down at his rumpled clothes and reached a hand up to feel his stubble again. “I guess I do look a mess.”

Scully smiled. She picked up his bowl and hers and rinsed them in the sink before placing them into the dishwasher.

“Hey that was really good,” he said and patted his tummy. “You make a good stew.”

“Old family recipe.” She turned back to the counter and boiled the kettle. “Coffee?”

He nodded and watched as she made a couple of cups then reached into the fridge to grab milk. She placed his cup in front of him and the milk into the centre of the table.

“So was the all-nighter worth it?”

“No, but talking to you earlier was.”

“Oh? How so?”

“That thing you said about finding the connection to the namesake locations, rather than the connection to the victims.”

“Have you found a connection?”

“We’ve started to pull some strings and there is definitely something coming through there.”

“Nothing concrete yet though.”

“Not yet but we’re close.” Mulder sighed and leaned back in his chair, his hands stretched high up over his head.

She watched the play of his muscles under his shirt and moved her eyes away when he straightened to look at her. She wondered what drove him to arrive at her door, and part of her wanted to ask but feared putting him on the spot would spook him and make him flee.

“Sorry for tuning up at your door unannounced.” he said suddenly. “I left the office-”

“After you got kicked out.”

“Yeah,” he said with a smile. “And I was driving home, but somehow ended up here.”

“Ended up here?” She lifted one eyebrow questioning him but with one corner of her mouth curved in a smile.

“Subconscious direction.”

“And what was your subconscious directing you to?”

“Your stew?” he chuckled and shrugged his shoulders. The truth was he couldn't really answer that question. He didn't know why he was here. He just knew he wanted to see her. He wasn't sure how much of that he should reveal though. “So Scully…” He paused to sip his coffee. “What's the weirdest thing you’ve seen during an autopsy?”

Scully smiled. This was a common question from friends when they asked about her job. It was a way of dealing with the gruesome nature of her career choice. “Snakes.”

“Snakes? You autopsied snakes?”

“An autopsy on an animal is generally called a necropsy.” She said and lifted both eyebrows once. “No, I didn't autopsy snakes, I pulled snakes out of the stomach of a man I was autopsying.”

“What?” Mulder grimaced and pulled his head back. “Jesus.”

“I’m still not sure how they got in there. He died of a heart attack, unrelated to the snakes.”

“Oh my god, I wish I’d never asked.” He sipped his coffee but seemed to have lost his taste for it and instead pushed the cup aside.

“People are always sorry they ask.” She sipped her coffee, unperturbed by the snake story. “It's the first thing they teach you in FBI school Mulder…” He quirked his head at her in confusion. “Never ask a question to which you don't already know the answer.”

Mulder laughed at that, his hands on his chest, his head tossed back and he felt some of the stored up tension leak out of his body. He didn't know how she did it. But she made him feel better. Made him think better. He wondered how she would react if he kissed her. That thought sobered him up and he sat up a little straighter.

“I guess I should go.”

“Are you ok to drive?”

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I look worse than I feel.”

Scully smiled. “Well I was just about to put on a movie, you’re welcome to stay a while.”

“Movie?” Mulder looked over to the living room area to see her TV and VCR and wondered what movie she was planning on watching and if they would snuggle on the couch.

“Monday Movies. It's a ritual.”

“Oh, I wouldn't want to intrude.”

“Any more that you have already done?” She said and he looked up to see she was smiling. “C’mon.” She stood up from the table and brought her coffee with her to the other room. She placed her drink of the coffee table before the couch and urged him to sit down. She moved over to the VCR and put in a video then came back to join him on the couch.

They both sat side by side. She used the remote to start the movie and Mulder watched the FBI piracy warning come on. He was eager to see what movie she was going to watch, somehow knowing this would be a great insight into her, something he was sorely lacking up to this point. But as he snuggled deeper onto the couch, stretched his legs out before him and rested his head on the back cushion, he felt his eyes close, suddenly heavy as his exhaustion took hold.

Scully glanced over as he shuffled to get comfy then watched his eyelids blink slower and slower until finally they closed and didn't open. She smiled as the movie started and settled in herself to watch. She lowered the volume so as to not disturb him and tried to concentrate on the story on screen instead of the tall hulk of FBI agent that was sitting next to her, inching closer to her, leaning against her, heavier and heavier until finally his head lolled to the side and rested on her shoulder.

Mulder’s breathing slowed so much she wasn't sure if he was still breathing at all at one stage. His body became heavy and liquid against hers and she could feel him from her shoulder to her knee, heat radiating off him like a broken radiator unable to regulate temperature. The whole half of her body that was against his was humming and she wondered how hard it would be to maneuver him onto her other side to even out the sensation a bit.

When the credits for the movie started she turned off it off and the room plunged into darkness, the only light left was in the kitchen which was soft and not strong enough to illuminate this room too. She waited a few moments longer to see if the change in light and sound would rouse him but he didn't stir. She wondered if she should tip him back onto the couch, cover him with a blanket and leave him to sleep, or if she should wake him. Then she remembered she met this guy four days ago. Waking him was the best and only option.

“Mulder,” she said softly, as if she was still trying to convince herself that she should wake him. “Hey, Mulder.” She moved beside him and lifted a hand to touch his cheek, tapped it with the back of two fingers and watched as his eyes began to move and blink. He started to come to, and took a long deep breath. His eyes seemed to struggle to focus and his head pressed into her shoulder, almost painfully but she waited.

“What…” he moved his head to look at her but kept it resting on her shoulder. “Oh.”

“You fell asleep.”

“On you.”

“Well technically you fell asleep next to me, then rolled onto me.”

“Sorry…” he moved his head off her shoulder and rubbed his face to check if he had been drooling. “I missed the movie?”

“Yeah,” She chuckled. “But it seemed like you needed a nap.”

“Nap?” This time he chuckled. “I was dead to the world. That's the best sleep I’ve had in a long time.”

“You’ve not been sleeping?” she asked, her voice almost a whisper.

“I’m not a great sleeper under the best of circumstances. But when I’m profiling a case like this, then it feels like sleep is a luxury I can't afford.”

Scully pursed her lips. It was on the tip of her tongue to say something about how important sleep was and how he wouldn't be able to function well without it, especially when profiling but she guessed he knew all that. So instead she said nothing.

“Right, this time I really should go.” He slapped his knees then stood. She watched as he arched his back and stretched his arms then bent over almost in half to touch his toes and sighed as he righted himself. “Thanks for dinner Scully.”

“Any time.”

“Don't say that, I'll come knocking every time I’m hungry.” He moved towards the door and Scully stood to see him out.

“Like a stray fox?”

He looked over his shoulder and smiled at her as he opened the door then turned to her before he stepped out. “Seriously though, thanks.”

She smiled and nodded, accepting his gratitude then froze as he put a hand on her upper arm and leaned in to kiss her. For a minute she thought he was going to kiss her lips but he seemed to veer off at the last second and moved to kiss her cheeks, almost capturing the corner of her mouth in the process.

She was too stunned to react and when he pulled back and smiled she just kind of stared at him. The next thing she knew he was gone and the door closed behind him. Scully checked the locks then floated to her bedroom and moved through her night time routine with little thought. She changed into her bed clothes and climbed into bed all without much thought, as every cell, every neuron, every piece of brain power she had was focused on reliving that almost kiss, over and over and over again.

Mulder sat in his car, his hand gripped the steering wheel and his head was resting back on the headrest with his eyes closed. His mind replayed the kiss, or almost kiss, and there was only one thing to say about it he realised.

“Fuck.” He looked down at his lap where his semi hard cock was visible underneath the soft material of his trousers. “Dammit.”

Chapter Text

Hoover building
Tuesday 1pm

“Mulder! Mulder! Mulder!” Jerry said as he hurried through the bull pen garnering the attention from everyone in the room except Mulder who was sitting at his desk, headphones on playing music and his fingers worked deftly over the keyboard as he fleshed out his profile. “Mulder!” Jerry slapped his partner’s shoulder and shook Mulder out of his cocoon. “We got it!”

“What?” Mulder put the headphones around the back of his neck and turned in his chair to face Jerry.

“Operation Lusty,” he said as he waved the pages in his hand around.

“Huh?”

“Lusty… Luftwaffe Science and Technology… I dunno, it's weird," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "But it was an effort by the US military during and after world war two to capture and evaluate German aeronautical technology and personnel.”

“Ok…”

“All our victims so far are listed as key protagonists of this movement. Nazi scientists and engineers that were identified as key players and evaluated for asylum to the US”

“What?” Mulder stood and snatched the pages away from Jerry and read the list of names. “There are 25 names on this list.”

“Yeah, and each of our victims are listed.”

“What does this mean?” Mulder said, no longer talking to Jerry instead focusing on the list of names.

“It means we know who is next.”

“You mean everyone on this list who has a namesake in Maryland?”

“Yeah.” Mulder looked down at the pages again and Jerry saw him visibly pale before his eyes. “What is it?”

“Who curated this list?”

“The lab tech had some computer program to do it. They fed it all the names of the victims and it spat out this list where they were all located together. Why?”

“Because one of the names here is ‘Dana Scully’.” Mulder snatched his coat from the back of his chair and was ready to storm out. “Find out how many people in Maryland, and DC have these names and see what kind of operation we need to set up. Every one of them likely needs secondment in a safe house, or surveillance at the very least.”

“Where are you going?”

“Quantico. Fill in Douglas, I’ll call in a while.”

Mulder hurried out to his car and dialed her phone on the way. When she picked up he felt a shot of relief course through him.

“Scully, it's me.”

“Hi Mulder.”

“Are you at Quantico?”

“Yeah, I’m here all day,” she said with a chuckle. “Some of us agents work for our pay cheques. We can't swan off on rogue investigations.”

“I’m on my way to pick you up.”

“Another body?” Gone was the light friendly tone, now she was all business.

“No, I’ll fill you in when I get there. Stay in the building, don't leave. I’ll be there in about an hour.”

“What's going on Mulder?” Now her serious tone was diluted with something else. Fear? Whatever it was Mulder didn't like hearing it and he pressed his foot on the gas pedal a little harder.

“I’ll explain everything when I get there. Just stay in the building.”

“Okay, okay.”

“I’ll be there soon.”

He hung up the phone then called the security desk at Quantico and relayed the importance of checking everyone's badges today then focused on driving as quickly as he could to get to her. To Quantico, he corrected himself, even as his foot pressed harder and cursed, not for the first time in his life, why FBI cars weren’t fitted with lights and sirens. When he got there he felt like hours had passed, when in fact less than 60 minutes had. He hurried to security and flashed his badge then made his way to the autopsy lab.

He pushed the door open and was momentarily surprised to see the amount of people in there. Three of the autopsy tables had bodies on them with pathologists working on them, two of them with other personnel, Mulder presumed to be students. In a flash of panic he realized he couldn't see Scully then spotted her crouched over her computer, showing someone something on the screen. He pushed out a breath of relief and hurried across the room, drawing the attention of the other pathologists.

“Scully,” he said when he was almost beside her, then realised they were in company. “Doctor...um, Agent Scully,” he corrected, unsure which title she preferred but remembered her correcting Jerry so ended up adding Agent too.

She was fully kitted out in her pathology uniform complete with scrub cap, goggles and face mask, just like the first time he met her. This time however he recognised her and she was unmistakable. He wasn't sure how but he spotted her from across the room.

“Mulder, what's going on?” she said as she straightened from the pc and he took her arm to lead her away from it.

“I need you to come with me.”

“What's going on?” she asked and tried to shake his arm off but he gripped it tighter.

“Scully-”

“No, stop.” She jerked her arm free but looked over her shoulder at another pathologist on the next table, and the student she was working with on the PC, then stepped out of the main room and into the small hallway that led to the changing rooms. “Tell me what is going on.”

“We uncovered a connection with all the victims of the murders so far.” he fumbled in his pocket then pulled out the list that Jerry had given him. “Their names match a collection of engineers and pilots that worked with the US military during the war, collecting nazi aeronautical technology.”

“Ok,” she took the page that he handed out to her and started to read it.

“Keep reading the list.” Mulder urged as she skimmed it but then noticed when she got to her own name.

She frowned. “That's my name.”

“Yeah.”

“Dana Scully… mathematician.” She looked up at him and her frown deepened. “He has a statue at the University of Maryland.” Her voice was low and she was staring at the page, her hand started to shake. “I used to go by it whenever I had a test and rub his head for luck.” She sagged against the wall. “So what now?”

“Now we get you out of here and keep you safe until we figure this out.”

“Okay...” she handed him back the page and looked up at him expectantly but when his eyes roamed over her body she looked down and realised what she was wearing. “Right, I should change.” She turned to go into the changing room and he followed. “I think I’ll be safe in here,” she said, a hand on his chest to stop him entering. He seemed to protest for a moment then relented and waited outside. He paced the narrow hallway counting the seconds, the minutes it took her to change and as soon as the door opened he put a hand on her arm and guided her out of the building.

In the car she was quiet. Too quiet. Mulder was occupied focusing on driving them back to the Hoover building then fielding calls from Jerry and Douglas. By the time they made it to the FBI building she had a far away look in her face that he didn't like. He had one hand on her back and the other loosely gripped her elbow as he led her through the building, up to the 3rd floor bullpen then deposited her at his desk, next to where Jerry was sitting and talking on the phone.

He tugged the back of her coat and she moved her arms to allow him to take it off her. He hung it up on the rack next to his, then came back to her side and asked if she wanted a coffee or anything to drink. She looked up at him with a frown and shook her head.

“Okay, sit tight, I’ll be right back.”

Mulder gestured at Jerry to wrap up his phone call then walked over to Douglas’ office and knocked on the door before entering. “Sir,” Mulder said as a greeting then stepped aside when Jerry came in behind him. He moved to take his customary place by the window, this time more to be able to see Scully out the office window that looked onto the bullpen.

Jerry closed the door behind him and handed the AD a sheaf of pages. “Out of the twenty five names on the list, or the nineteen names that are remaining, discounting the names already...um, collected, we have nine namesakes across Maryland and DC.”

“Nine?” Douglas looked up from the pages he was reading through. “Have they all been contacted?”

“We’re working on that now, so far we’ve only been able to pick up two of them, three if we count Agent Scully.”

“Agent Scully?” Douglas asked as he looked between both of them.

“She’s a forensic pathologist working in Quantico.” Jerry said when Mulder didn't offer up the information. “She’s actually assigned to the case.”

“That's where you were?” Douglas said looking over at Mulder who simply nodded. “What's the plan?”

“Either move all these people to a safe house,” Jerry leaned against the back of the chair in front of Douglas’ desk. “The unit in Alexandria can house up to fifteen. We used it when we broke up that cult in Frederick. Or we can send surveillance teams out to each target location.”

“That's a lot of manpower.”

“It has the added benefit of keeping the possible targets in the open and leading us to the unsub.”

“I'm not using nine Maryland citizens as bait.” Douglas saif and he put the pages down on the table. “Get them relocated to the safe house.”

“Yes sir.” Jerry turned on his heel to leave but when he opened the door he noticed Mulder hadn't moved.

“Mulder?” Douglas said as he leaned back in his chair.

“We’re still missing a key piece of information.” He muttered, his hands gripping the windowsill he was leaning against. “We cannot hold these people indefinitely.”

“You mean a connection other than the namesake?”

“Yeah.”

“We checked everything Mulder.”

“Yeah, well we missed something.”

He pushed himself off the sill and moved out of the room. He grabbed a chair from a nearby desk and wheeled it over to sit next to Scully then nudged her with his elbow to get her attention.

“Hey.”

It took her a moment and when she looked up she tried to smile but it looked more like a grimace.

“So you have options…” he said as he sat up straighter and locked his hands together on his lap.

“Oh?” She turned her chair a little more to face him and connected her hands on her lap. “Is one of those going home and waiting for a serial killer to come calling?”

Mulder stumbled over his thoughts when she said that. “No, no that is most definitely not an option.”

“So what do we have?”

“You can go with Agent Lamana, Jerry, now and he will take you to a designated safe house in Alexandria where you will be under constant FBI surveillance and soon joined by 8 other possible targets we have identified.”

“Grim.”

“Or you can hang out here for a while, we can work on the case and later I’ll take you to the safe house.”

“Less grim.”

“But still grim?”

“Anything that's not me just working in my lab, or being in my own home, is feeling pretty grim right now.”

Mulder nodded slowly. “I’m afraid, neither of those is an option right now.”

“Right.”

He let her sit with that for a moment and watched as she came through on the other side. Her hands that were on her lap, now gripped the arms of the chair. She combed her hair back with her fingers and tied it with a bobbin that was around her wrist then pulled a pair of glasses from her pocket and put them on.

“Okay then, where do we start?”

Mulder smiled and pushed her chair over so he could access the keyboard and pulled up all his relevant notes.

***

Hoover building
Tuesday 8pm

Mulder sat back from his desk, locked his fingers behind his head, closed his eyes and puffed out a deep breath from the bottom of his lungs. His tie had been discarded hours ago, A couple more buttons on his shirt were open, and his sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. Scully sat next to him. She had discarded her sweater and was left in just a pair of snug jeans and a plain green tee. She had toed off her sneakers and had her legs crossed under herself on his chair and he wondered, not for the first time that evening, how she folded herself up so comfortably in the chair.

They had spent hours pouring over every minor facet of the case so far trying to find another angle. But came up empty. Jerry had called in saying all of the other possible targets had been contacted and collected and were now situated at the safe house. Mulder wanted to suggest he take her there but she seemed reluctant to go.

“So I guess it's my turn to feed you,” he said instead.

Scully quirked an eyebrow. She had spotted several empty Tupperware containers on one side of his desk and a crumpled up Chinese food carton in the trash can.

“I’m not sure if I’m ready for that,” she said as she gestured at the leftover tubs.

“I eat dinner here a lot,” he admitted with a shrug. “Jenny gives me leftovers, and when she doesn't, I get takeout. Diet of champions.”

“Jenny?” she asked, trying to keep her voice neutral at this first mention of another female feeding him.

“Jerry’s wife.”

“Jerry’s wife is called Jenny?” she said, trying not to sound relieved. “Jerry and Jenny.”

“Yeah.” Mulder said with a chuckle. “A match made in heaven.”

“How long have they been married?”

“Ten years.”

“Ten? He doesn't look old enough to be ten years married.”

“High school sweethearts, married as soon as they were able.”

“Wow. Some people just know what they want and grab it.”

“Well Jenny hasn't dropped any food in tonight so we need to order in or go out. I vote to go out.”

“How often does your partner's wife feed you?”

“Not as much as I’d like. She’s a great cook.” Mulder grinned as he stood up from the chair and went to grab their coats.

“And when she’s not feeding you, you turn up at random people's houses for food?”

“I go where my stomach leads me.”

He put on his coat, then held hers out for her to step into. She smiled and stood then slipped her arms into the sleeves and shucked it onto her shoulders before she buttoned it up around her.

“What are you hungry for?” he asked as he led her, one hand resting on it's now customary place at the bottom of her back.

“I don't know.”

“I’m feeling burgers.”

“Burgers?”

“Meat, cheese, bread, what's not to like.”

“Ok, sounds good.”

“I know just the place.”

He led her through the building but to her surprise didn't take her to the car park, instead they took the surface streets up a couple of blocks and across a couple more. The late November weather brought a damp chill to the city and they huddled close as they walked. He was tempted to put his arm around her, hold her even closer but settled for one hand on her back. When they got to the hole in the wall diner he pushed the door open and urged her in ahead of him then walked ahead of her towards a booth by the back window. He waved at the line cook behind the counter as they took off their coats.

“Do you trust me, Scully?” He asked as she sat into one side of the booth.

“Trust you?”

“Yeah, do you trust me?”

She looked up at him quizzically, knowing this was some kind of test and wanting to pass really badly. “Sure.”

“Hey Frank, two of the usuals,” he said as he moved into the other side of the booth and grinned at her.

“Coming right up,” came the response from the kitchen.

“Oh no, what have I done?” she groaned and covered her face with both hands.

“I’m a regular customer here.”

“Obviously.”

“And I’m still alive and kicking.”

“Yeah but you likely have the constitution of an ox.”

“Oh, are the Scully’s made of weaker genetics?” he teased and she dropped her hands from her face and glared at him. “Well then, you’ll be fine.”

“I’ll be running laps around DC to work it off no doubt.”

“No point in running if you don't have something to work off.” he said with a shrug.

She tried not to let her eyes wander over his body when he spoke about that but it was nearly impossible, especially when he had his shirt open so far down his chest, the tank top barely covering the defined chest muscles dusted with hair. Thankfully a waitress arrived and killed the moment when she delivered their drinks and cutlery.

“What's this?” Scully asked when she looked at the tall metal cup with the wide straw.

“Strawberry malt.” He didn't hesitate in tasting it and she followed suit and was delighted at the flavour burst in her mouth. “Good right?” he said when he saw her eyes flutter closed.

“Hmmm.” She took another taste before she opened her eyes. “Pretty good yeah.”

Mulder grinned again and she decided it was something she would not tire of in a hurry.

“So what's your story, Mulder?”

“Huh?” His face fell and she saw his cheeks flush.

“Your FBI origin story. Isn't that the first thing we’re supposed to ask other Agents?”

“Oh, right,” he chuckled and tasted his drink, stalling for a moment before responding. “Pretty vanilla actually. I went to school in England. Studied psychology and behavioral science in Oxford. When I came back I got recruited by the bureau. Seems I had a natural aptitude for applying behavioral models to criminal cases. I’ve been working in Violent crimes since I graduated from the academy.”

“I thought most agents rotated in and out of those departments.”

“Most do.”

“Not you?”

“I will. Soon.”

“What's next then?”

“Douglas is pushing me for the Counter Intelligence division.”

“You don't sound interested?”

“I have other things I’m checking out.” He said and leaned forward to sip his drink without touching it with his hands. She waited for him to continue but when he didn't she figured he wasn't ready to share so she didn't push.

“You seem to have an affinity for pathology labs.” She said with a smirk. “You should see about rotating out to Quantico.”

Mulder grinned again. He found himself doing that a lot recently. Or more specifically, around her. He opened his mouth to respond but his phone rang instead. He dug it out of his pocket and leaned back from the table to answer it. Scully mimicked his previous movement and leaned forward to sip her drink without using her hands as she listened to his side of the conversation.

“Mulder...yeah...no, no that's fine...yeah, we’re just getting something to eat...no, nothing yet...we’re still checking...ok, I’ll check in again in a couple of hours.”

He hung up and sat forward again. “That was Jerry.”

“I figured.”

“No one likes the babysitting routine at the safe house.”

“Babysitting?” she quirked an eyebrow. “Is that what you’re doing with me?”

“If anything you’re babysitting me.” He smiled. “If you weren't there, Douglas would have kicked me out of the office again.”

An uneasy silence fell over them as each of them sank into their own thoughts. Mulder wondered how he might suggest to her that she stay with him tonight instead of going to the safe house. He didn't want to put her into the group home, and preferred to keep her where he could make sure she was safe. But having just met her a week ago, he didn't know how to even broach the subject. “Hey, yeah I know you're a possible target for a serial killer we have no idea how to chase, but how about you come back to mine? My place is a tip, but I’ll take the couch, and you can have the bed. No, don't worry, no one has slept in it in years.” Yeah that would work. He'd have a better chance if he just clubbed her over the head and slung her over his shoulder. He moved his straw around his drink to loosen it up a bit more and glanced over to see her doing the same.

Scully was so lost in thought she didn't even notice the silence that fell around them. She hoped this meal would last for hours. She didn't want to go to a group safe home. Surrounded by strangers. And other notMulder FBI agents. She wondered if she could convince him to let her go home and have her own personal FBI bodyguard. Her couch was super comfy. Hell, he’d already slept on it. If she added pillows and a blanket then he would sleep like the dead. Though maybe that wasn't the best phrase to use in that situation when trying to convince him they would be safe at her place. She wasn't even sure she could convince herself it was safe there, even with her own personal FBI bodyguard. Maybe he’d let her get a hotel room, surely that was a good compromise. She glanced up and saw him looking at the counter where a waitress was assembling their food on a tray to carry over.

“You are not going to be sorry you trusted me Scully,” he said as the waitress carried the tray over.

Scully watched as she put the tray edge on the side of their table then unloaded it between them. She placed two burgers and two baskets of fries down then pulled a ketchup bottle and a mayo bottle onto the table, bid them a good meal and left.

“Wow…” she said as she looked down at the food.

The burger was a beef patty with onions and cheese on a brioche bun but no other trimmings. The fries were thick cut and coated in some pale orange spice she couldn't place. She picked one up and bit into it gingerly and frowned as she tried to figure out the spice.

“Chicken salt,” he said as he bit into one himself.

“Chicken salt? I never heard of it.”

“Well buckle in because it will change your life.” He bit into another fry and grinned. “It's great on fries, but I love it on popcorn, and eggs too.”

“It's so… strange.”

“You like it?” he asked, his face and tone hopeful for her approval.

“Yeah, it's really good.”

“The burgers here are basic, none of that fancy crap that makes them hard to eat.”

“Meat, cheese, bread.” she said repeating his mantra from earlier.

“Exactly. Now, the final add on…” he picked up the bottle of mayo and shook it vigorously before he squeezed some out onto the side of his basket of fries. “Dip your fries in this.”

“Into mayo?” she said and crinkled up her nose.

“Yeah, it's kind of divine.”

She hesitated, but she had come this far on the journey with him so she went on the last leg too. She picked up one of her fries and gingerly dipped it into the dollop of mayo he poured out then bit into it. Her eyebrows shot up as the flavour hit her. The warm salty crunchy tang from the fries, the soft coolness of the mayo, all mixed into a lovely taste and texture sensation. “Wow.”

“Good right?”

“Mmm yeah,” she dipped another fry in his mayo pile. “Who knew?”

“The Europeans.”

“You picked that up when living in England?”

“One of the better things I came home with.”

They ate their food and chatted amicably about different food combinations they had found worked really well. Bacon and chocolate, fries and ice cream. When Mulder suggested chocolate and potato chips she laughed and said he had the appetite of an eleven year old but that just made him grin.

She noticed he was grinning a lot and she liked it. She wanted to see more of it. More of him. More of him grinning, she corrected herself mentally and looked away, hoping he didn't notice any blush on her cheeks.

All too soon their food was consumed, they left the diner and found themselves back on the cold streets of DC. Their walk back to the office was slower than the one that took them to the diner, as if neither of them wanted to get back there, knowing the evening was coming to a close and she would have to go to the safe house.

At his desk he gathered all the notes and documents he planned to read through that night and collected the rest of his things then escorted her to his car.

“How far away is the safe house?” she asked when he climbed into the driver's seat and she focused on buckling her seat belt.

“About half an hour or so.”

“I wish I had some of my things.”

“We can swing by your place and pick stuff up if you like.”

“Yeah? That would be great.”

He tried to keep the conversation light. Told her about his discovery of new foods while living in England, trying to extend the mood they shared in the diner but she seemed less inclined to play. At her apartment they both got out of the car and he led the way in. She packed quickly, really unsure of what to bring, having never been to a safe house before. But brought what she needed to be comfy while surrounded by strangers.

Once back in the car Mulder started the engine and took a deep breath. While waiting for her to pack he looked around her living room. It wasn't a place he got to see last time. He spent most of that visit in the kitchen, and when he finally made it to the living room he passed out and slept the rest of the time. This time he had free roam to review the books on her shelf, the random photos of family and friends and small trinkets she had brought back from various travels. It told a story he hadn't figured out before and he started to get a more full picture of Dana Scully and so far, he really liked what he saw.

Now in the car, he realised he didn't want her to go to the safe house. He wanted her to stay with him. Hell he’d stay at the safe house with her if he thought that would be enough but then his attention would be split by the other targets and he wouldn't be able to relax.

“Scully,” he said, kept the car in park and turned a little in his seat to face her. She looked at him expectantly, her eyebrows lifted.

“Yeah?” she said when he didn't continue.

“This is going to sound weird, and I promise you it's above board... “ he hesitated.

“Spit it out, Mulder.”

“Instead of going to the safe house, how would you feel about staying with me?”

“With you?”

“Yeah, at my place.”

“At your place?”

“I know, it sounds bad, and I know we just met, and I know you don't know me from the man in the moon...but I figured you would be working on this case some more, and we could carpool back to the office in the morning.” Scully chuckled and Mulder was relieved she wasn't immediately repulsed by the idea so he pushed his luck. “I figured you wouldn't be too keen on going to the group safe house, surrounded by strangers, for an indefinite period of time. This way you can continue to work with us on the case, come to the hoover building and work there during the day.”

“You’re right, I wasn't looking forward to the group home.”

“So...what do you think?”

She looked at him and studied his face carefully. He was hopeful and worried. He was right about pretty much all the points he had made. She didn't want to go to a home to be surrounded by strangers. She did want to keep working on the case. She did trust him.

“Okay, sounds good to me.”

He sighed with relief and smiled then drove away quickly as if afraid she would change her mind. He babbled on the way there, explaining it had been a while since he had a guest and she shouldn't mind the mess, though he couldn't really remember what state his apartment was in. He was never there to mess it up, but never there to clean it either. He finally stopped babbling when he parked at his apartment, grabbed her bag from the trunk and guided her in.

“This is me,” he said as he stood outside the door with 42 on it and fumbled with the keys. Once in he scanned the room and saw it wasn't as bad as it could be. A few papers and folders scattered the coffee table in front of the couch but for the most part the rest of the place was cluttered but tidy. He put her bag down just inside the door and ushered her over to the couch. He turned on the TV and passed her the remote then said he’d be right back and hurried into his bedroom.

He quickly stripped the bed, opened a window, put fresh sheets on, then ran a hand towel over the surfaces in the bathroom to clean it up a bit. It looked pretty dire with all the male centric toiletries and basic showering accessories. But there was nothing he could do about that now. When he got back to the bedroom he decided the cold was worse than the stale air and closed the window. He left the bedside lamp on, made sure there were no inappropriate materials lying about the place, then pulled his phone out of his pocket to call Jerry.

“Lamana,” Jerry said.

“Jerry, it's me.”

“Hey Mulder, what's going on? When will you get here?”

“I won’t, not tonight.”

“What do you mean? What about Agent Scully.”

“We were working on the case for a while but I’ll keep an eye on her.”

“Wait, Mulder you mean-”

“We’re still working. We won't be able to do that in the safe house.”

“Right, sure.” Jerry’s tone was full of mirth and it irked Mulder though he expected it. “Does Douglas know you’re moonlighting as a bodyguard?”

“It's not like that Jerry, c’mon.”

“It's fine, Mulder.” Jerry chuckled then changed the subject. “Did you get anything yet?”

“No,” Mulder said frustrated. “Just dead ends and a brick wall.”

“You’ll be in the office in the morning?”

“Yeah. we both will.”

“I’m here for about another hour then I’m home. I’ll be in tomorrow at about 10.”

“Ok. See you then.”

Mulder hung up the phone then took a moment to calm his nerves and went into the living room. Scully was just where he left her, perched on the end of his couch, taking up only the edge of the seat, staring into nothing.

“Hey, tired?” he asked as he sat next to her.

“No actually. I’m wired.”

Mulder smiled and nodded. “Same.”

“Would it be ok if I took a shower?”

“Um, yeah of course.”

“It's just that I didn't get to take one at the lab and I did two autopsies this morning.”

“Sure Scully, this way.” He went to pick up her bag and carried it with him into the bathroom. He showed her how to use the taps and assured her there would be plenty of hot water so she should take her time. He apologised for the lack of gels or shampoos, blushing at his paltry 3 in 1 bottles and bar soap.

“It's fine, I have my stuff.”

He grabbed a couple of clean towels and left them on the closed lid of the toilet. “Okay so, you’re all set?”

She nodded and he started to back out of the room.

“I’m just going to pop down to the store up the block. I’ll be back in less than 15 minutes.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

Mulder stood in the doorway for a moment then left and closed the door behind him. He grabbed his coat, keys and wallet and practically sprinted to the shop. He bought milk, bread, butter, eggs, and as an impulse added a box of tea he saw on her counter the other night. Cursing himself for even having to leave his apartment to get these things where were the basics most humans had in their homes without needing to panic buy. He repeated his near sprint back home and was relieved to hear the shower was still running when he got back.

He put his goods away then went to the bathroom and knocked lighty.

“Hey Scully.”

“Yeah?”

“Just to let you know I’m back, and I’m making tea.”

“Okay, I’m almost done.”

“No rush.”

He went back to the kitchen and boiled the kettle then picked up the box of tea and tried to read the instructions.

“Steep? What the fuck is that?” He figured it was just a fancy way of saying dunk, so he put a tea bag in each mug then filled the cup with boiled water. “Shit, is that right?” He lifted one cup to his face and inhaled deeply but barely got a smell of anything.

The sound of her soft football coming in from the other room was preceded by her smell. Now that was something he definitely could smell, and not something he had ever smelt in this apartment before.

When she walked into the small kitchen, all of a sudden he was surrounded by a cloud of mint, vanilla, and Scully and he had to close his eyes against the torrent on his senses.

“What ya doin?” she asked.

He opened his eyes and turned to see she was wearing red and blue checked flannel pyjama pants, and a light grey long sleeved t-shirt. She had a towel draped around her shoulders and was rubbing the wet ends of her hair as she leaned back against the counter next to him to better see what he was making.

“I’m trying to make tea, but I’ve never made tea, and I don't know what the instructions mean.”

Scully chuckled. “You just need to dunk the tea bag a few times to let it steep.”

“Steep.”

She took one mug and lifted the bag in and out of the boiling water. “It just helps the flavour.”

Mulder watched what she was going and did the same then they both took the teabags out and put them into the sink.

“See? Simple.” she lifted the cup to her pursed lips. Blew over the surface water then gently sipped. “Good.”

Mulder smiled and did the same. They carried their drinks into the living room and settled onto the couch. Mulder picked up the remote and flicked through the channels until he found something bland but distracting.

“I checked in with the safe house and told Jerry we’d see him at the bureau tomorrow morning.”

“Oh right.” she blushed, as if the thought only now occurred to her that other people who were expecting her at the safe house would have to be told where she was.

He noticed her unease and decided to change the subject. “This tea is weird,” he said after another sip when he couldn't hold back his grimace.

Scully smiled. “It's an acquired taste.”

“I think I will acquire a beer instead.”

“A beer sounds wonderful actually.”

“Yeah?” he looked over at her and she nodded. “That is something I definitely have.” He took her cup of tea from her and brought them both into the kitchen where he left them in the sink. In the fridge he grabbed two bottles of beer and returned to the couch. He twisted the cap off one and handed it to her then opened the other and dropped both caps onto the coffee table.

He held the bottom of his bottle towards her and she clinked hers against it before they each took long satisfying drinks.

“Christ, that's much better,” he muttered.

Scully matched his pose on the couch. Their feet on the coffee table crossed at the ankles, their bodies sunken into the soft leather, their heads dropped to the back of the couch and their hands in their laps holding their beers.

“This has been a hell of a week.”

“Yeah.” He let a beat of silence roll around the room then he turned his head to look at her without lifting it. “We’re going to catch this guy you know.”

She rolled her head to look at him too and then nodded. “Meanwhile I’ll just live here, sleeping on your couch, drinking your beer.”

“No Scully, no...I’ll take the couch.”

She smiled at his response and turned back to face the ceiling then lifted her beer to take a drink. “Maybe we’re looking at it wrong.”

“How so?”

“We spent all evening looking for a connection between the victims, but what about what's not there.”

“I’m not following.”

“Sorry, I guess I was more tired than I realised, I’m not making much sense.”

“No, don't stop, go on,” he urged and he sat up a little to turn towards her.

“I was just thinking about negative space…” she said and kept her eyes on the ceiling. His focus on her right now was too distracting. “If the unsub is removing people from the equation, what's left must be important.”

“So the people he hasn't targeted instead of the people he has.”

“Right.”

“But we did look for a connection between the group.”

“As a whole, but not the reduced capacity.” Mulder lay back on the couch again and thought about what she was saying. “Never mind, I think my brain is fried.”

Mulder smiled but couldn't get his mind off what she had said. Negative space. Examining what was missing instead of what they had. Something in those words sparked in his mind but he needed a distraction. The more he focused on it the harder it was to think it through. He knew the kind of distraction he would seek out if he was home alone. It usually involved his hands being more occupied than his brain. But that activity definitely wasn't an option.

Instead he sat up and grabbed the remote off the coffee table then flicked through the stations until he found an old movie then sat back on the couch again.

“I like old movies. They help me switch off my brain and work through problems,” he said as a way of explanation then settled in to let the movie run it's magic.

But this time it wasn't working. He wasn't sure if it was the movie he’d put on, it seemed to be an old Audrey Hepburn movie, or the fact that Scully had shifted on her side of the couch and was now almost leaning against him. Her knees were pressing into his thighs as she bent her legs under herself. Her elbow was practically on his shoulder, though it started against the back of the couch, and her head was in her hand, bent towards him, loose locks of hair brushed the side of his neck.

He was pretty sure his favourite movie could be playing on screen and he wouldn't give it a second of attention. Though when he caught her stifling a yawn for the third time he grabbed the remote and muted the screen then turned to her and smiled.

“You’re exhausted.” It wasn't a question. He didn't want to give her an option to refuse. “Cmon, I’ll show you where you will be staying.” He stood off the couch, thought about reaching a hand out to help her up but decided against it. It would be way too intimate to walk into his bedroom holding her hand. He led the way, taking one more chance to scan the room and remove any incriminating evidence of his bachelor existence. “You can take the bedroom.”

“Oh Mulder, no I couldn't. I’ll be fine on the couch.”

“I sleep on the couch.”

“No-”

“No I mean, usually, even if you weren't here. I always sleep on the couch.”

She looked around the room. There was a huge bed, and it looked freshly made. A dresser in one corner that had some clothing sticking out of various drawers. The top of it was cluttered with books and magazines and under the window were stacks of boxes all taped up as if he had just moved in and had yet to unpack. But all in all, it looked like a comfortable room.

“Why?” she asked simply.

He shrugged. “Usually I’m working, and I fall asleep, then I wake and get back to work.” He shrugged again. “You can take this room. I’ll just grab my gear, and use the bathroom.”

The bedroom was en suite, and he went to the dresser to grab some clothing then disappeared into the bathroom. Scully moved to the bed, pressed on the mattress as if to test it then sat down with a sigh. Everything about this day, since he had picked her up in Quantico was weird, and it wasn't letting up.

In the bathroom Mulder was assaulted by her smell again and he had to put a hand on the sink to stop himself from wobbling over. Her shower things were still in his tub, her lilac loofa hanging over one of the taps. Multiple bottles for shampoo, conditioner and gel were on the edge next to his paltry 3 in 1. On the sink she saw her toiletries bag over spilling with makeup, creams and brushes. He looked away, feeling voyeuristic then focused on using the toilet, washing up then brushing his teeth and changing.

He bundled up his suit and tossed it all into the laundry basket before he went back out to his room carrying her overnight bag with him.

“Here,” he said and he dropped the bag by her feet. She looked up and was almost surprised to see him in grey sweats and a black tank top. She’d only ever seen him in suits. “You need anything?”

“Nope.”

“Okay, well my alarm usually goes off at 6.” He looked at his watch and realised that wasn't that long away. “But I can make it later…”

“No, six is fine.” she said with a wave of her hand then added “I doubt I’ll get much sleep and I’m usually up by then anyway.”

“Ok. G’night Scully.”

“Night.”

Mulder walked back out to the living room but left her bedroom door ajar, allowing her to close it fully if she needed to. Back on the couch he lay out flat on his back and unmuted the movie, but turned the volume way down so it was barely audible.

If he could just find that sweet spot of unfocused thought he might be able to work through this puzzle but every time his mind wandered away from the movie, it shot laser focused thoughts of the woman lying in his bed right now. When he felt his cock stirring in his sweats he tossed both arms over his head and buried his face in the crook of his elbows.

Not a chance, he warned and he rolled onto his side facing the back of the couch and started to reel off the Yankees all time greatest hitters.

Chapter Text

Mulder’s Apartment
Wednesday 6am

Mulder was sitting up on the couch watching the clock for when it would strike 6. He heard her moving around in his room shortly after five am but was determined not to go in until she had emerged. He wanted her to feel comfortable, have her own space here, and if he was to barge into the room, especially if she was still sleeping, or changing, he would certainly destroy any comfort she had felt throughout the night. When the shower started he felt himself relax a little and shortly after his alarm went off, it was silenced and she finally appeared in the living room.

Scully had barely slept. She tossed and turned in the strange bed, surrounded by strange, albeit not unpleasant, smells and listened to the muted sounds of the TV in the living room. Was he sleeping? Was he working? If he was working she wanted to go out and work with him, but figured he needed the sleep and stayed put. By five she couldn't take it any more and she tossed the blanket aside and climbed out of the bed. She rummaged through her bag to pull out the clothes she would need then showered quickly and dressed.

She waited until six, needing to give him all the space he needed then slowly crept out to the living room after she turned off the alarm. She was surprised to see him sitting up in the centre of the couch, his case notes spread out on the coffee table, though most of them looked untouched.

“Morning,” she said as she curled her hair around her ears. “You’re up.”

“Yeah, not long.” He stood up and brushed his hands down the front of his top. “You sleep ok?”

“Yeah, fine.”

“If you’re done in the bathroom…” he said and pointed at the door from which she just emerged.

“Yeah, go on ahead.” He stepped over towards her and they did an awkward shuffle to get around each other without touching in the narrow space outside his bedroom, then he disappeared into his room. She heard him moving around, collecting clothes then the bathroom door closed. Scully cautiously moved into the kitchen and checked the fridge. When she found eggs and milk, she took them out and whipped up a dish of scrambled eggs and put down a couple of slices of bread to toast. She was just pouring 2 cups of coffee when he walked in, his attention split between fixing his tie and staring at the eggs she had made.

“What's this?” He asked as he abandoned his effort with the tie and let it drape down his chest.

“Breakfast.”

“You didn't need to do that.”

“I take it this is a kitchen that doesn't see much love?” she quipped as she carried the bowl and the toast she made over to the small breakfast nook under a sun drenched window.

“The whole apartment really,” he muttered as he picked up the two cups of coffee and carried them over then quickly retrieved 2 plates and the cutlery they would need.

Scully sat down and dished out the egg on both plates as Mulder sipped his coffee. They ate in that all too familiar ease of morning silence, each consumed with their own thoughts until Mulder cleared the table.

“I suppose there is no point in asking to work from the lab in Quantico today?” Scully asked. She had been thinking about it most of the night. Quantico was a federally controlled building. It had security on every entrance, and she would never be alone. Surely it would be just as secure as the Hoover building?

“No.” He said, then turned round to face her, leaned back against the sink and clutched the counter with his hands at his sides. “No point in asking.” he spoke so resolutely that Scully wanted to argue, defy his insistence.

“Quantico is likely as secure as the Hoover building. More so. Less outsiders.”

“No Scully.” He stepped towards her and placed his hands on his hips. “It's not safe.”

“And the Hoover building is?”

“Yes.” He got even closer.

“Mulder-”

“Scully, it's not safe.” Finally they stood toe to toe and Mulder reached out with one hand and gripped her forearm. “I’d feel much better if you worked from the Hoover building today.”

“Just today?”

“We can reassess tomorrow.”

“What are the autopsy facilities like in the Hoover building?”

“Dire.”

“So I can just slice and dice on your desk?” she asked with a curved corner of her mouth.

“Sure, you can use Jenny’s Tupperware to hold the organs.”

Scully smiled then slowly nodded her head. “Okay, today. But let's reassess tomorrow.”

Mulder squeezed her arm then got back to fixing his tie. They grabbed their jackets, and Mulder picked up all the notes from the case he had been reading throughout the night then they left.

***

Hoover Building
Wednesday 1pm

“Right...lunchtime.” Jerry stood up from his desk and drew the attention of Mulder and Scully who were working side by side at his desk. She had earphones on and was typing on a laptop, while Mulder was focused on his computer with a rapidly growing pile of sunflower shells to his side. “Moose? Squirrel?” He came up behind them and patted them each on their outside shoulders. “Let's go.”

“Huh?” Mulder turned round to see Jerry putting his coat on. Scully was also turning and lowered the earphones off her head.

“Let's go.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder towards the elevators. “Lunch time.”

Mulder and Scully looked at each other waiting for the other to respond. Mulder lifted his shoulder and nodded his head towards Jerry who was taking their coats from the rack and coming over to them again. Scully smiled and nodded.

“Where to?” Jerry asked as they entered the elevator. “Monroe's?”

“Somewhere close. And quick,” Mulder suggested as he stepped back in the elevator to allow more room for other passengers. Scully moved back too and leaned against the back wall next to him but Jerry held fast by the button panel, refusing to give up his space.

“Wrights Deli?” he suggested and Mulder nodded.

Decision made, they walked with purpose. At the deli, Mulder handed Scully a menu just inside the door, though clearly himself and Jerry didn't need to read it.

Jerry ordered a chicken and bacon club sandwich on sourdough and Mulder ordered a roast beef sandwich on rye. After checking the menu, Scully ordered a turkey and avocado on rye and they all took a table near the window to await their orders.

“So Agent Scully,” Jerry began as he settled into his seat across from her. Mulder, who was seated between them, tensed. Jerry was not known for his tact. “Are you married?”

Scully’s eyes widened and she tried not to blush. “Married? No, no I’m not.”

“Seeing anyone?”

“Um, no. Why? Are you planning to ask me out? I thought you were married.” She asked as she picked up her glass of water and sipped it casually.

“Ten happy years.” Jerry picked up his own glass and took a long drink. “You’re single now, Mulder right?”

“Thanks Jerry, yeah.” He looked over his shoulder to see if their food was nearly ready but he had no such luck. “How was the coverage at the safe house last night?” he asked in a blatant attempt to change the subject while avoiding Scully’s eyes.

Jerry smiled. “It was fine. Most of them were happy to be there but I don't think that will last. We will likely get another night or two but after that they will get antsy.” He sat back in his chair. “How was your stuff today?”

Mulder and Scully exchanged furtive glances. “Nothing concrete,” he said eventually.

“CSI teams pulled some fibres from the last victim.” Scully spoke softly and both men turned to her. “I saw the report this morning. Common wire carpet fibres, the types you see on the floor in high traffic municipal buildings.”

“Like a school?”

“Yeah, or the DMV. You know the square tiles, cheap, wire carpet?”

“Yeah.”

“Cadet Michelson didn't work in a place that had this carpeting, and according to her movement in the last couple of days, she wasn't in any place that had it.”

“So it's from the killer?” Jerry asked.

“That's what it looks like.”

At that moment the waitress came over and dropped over their food. Jerry picked up his immediately and started eating. Mulder leaned towards Scully to continue the conversation.

“The fibres, could they be narrowed down further?”

“You mean a specific carpet batch?” Mulder nodded. “Yeah, the team is working on that based on the colour composition. Why?”

“The possible targets in the safe house, I wonder how many of them work in a location with that type of carpeting?”

“You think one of them is the killer?” Jerry said, talking around a mouth full of food.

“No, maybe, I don't know.” Mulder sat back in his chair. “Maybe a connection, maybe it's a hint?”

“From the killer?” Jerry said as he took another bite.

“Like the headstone.” Mulder shrugged. “That was pretty blatant.”

“CSI should have the granular results in a couple of hours,” Scully said as she picked up one half of her sandwich. Mulder nodded and picked up one half of his.
Jerry kept up a steady stream of innocuous chatter though neither Mulder nor Scully seemed to be too engaged. He didn't seem to notice and continued to talk. Once their lunch was consumed they wasted no time in paying and leaving though their walk back to the office was slow.

“Good lunch?” Mulder asked her as he nudged her elbow to get her attention.

“Yeah, usually in Quantico we have to make do with last night's leftovers or vending machine fare.”

“Hey don't knock leftovers,” Mulder said with a smile as he patted his stomach. “I practically live off them thanks to Jenny.”

“How was your lunch?”

“It was good, who doesn't love a roast beef sandwich, but ya know.” He shrugged.

“What?”

“I guess you after the one you made for me the other day, all others pale in comparison.”

Scully smiled and looked away, hoping he didn't see the pleased look in her eyes. But he definitely did, based on the smug grin plastered on his face when she glanced back at him.

How in the world had she managed to get herself into this mess? A week ago she was working in Quantico, focusing on teaching forensics, reporting on various case files, sometimes two or three in a week, and spending multiple days in court testifying to those reports. And now she was joined at the hip with this man she just met. Staying in his apartment. Working at his desk. Focused only on his case. And oh yeah, there was a serial killer gunning for her. She took a deep breath and held it for a moment then slowly pushed it out past pursed lips.

Mulder seemed to recognise her frustration and moved his hand to rest on her back, his fingers pressed into her a bit more forcefully than previously when he guided her like a six foot tall FBI Agent shaped rudder. This time his fingers drummed a slow steady rhythm into her back and she felt it thrum though her body and bring with it a wave of calm.

Jerry walked through the main door and held it open for both of them and it wasn't until they stepped into the elevator that his hand fell from her back and she immediately missed it. Back at his desk he passed her the headphones again and suddenly they were back, side by side working together, though this time she felt his shoulder leaning against hers, and she took all the solace she needed from it.

***

Mulder’s Apartment
Wednesday 8pm

Mulder felt like he was babbling. Hell, he knew he was babbling as he led the way from the elevator to his door. She was quiet. She had been quiet since lunch. She worked by his side like a ghost, making no impression on his workspace, using only the laptop and cocooned with the earphones. She left his side only to use the restroom or make a coffee in the break room and it took all of his restraint not to follow her there too.

In his apartment he dropped the case notes onto the coffee table again and kicked off his shoes as he slumped onto the couch with a heavy sigh. She hovered by the end of the couch with her hands joined loosely in front of her. He looked over at her with a frown. Was she waiting for an invitation? He was about to pat the seat cushion beside him when he realised how creepy that would seem.

“Hungry?” he asked. It had been a long time since their hurried lunch in the deli.

She shrugged and shook her head. “I don't think so.”

“Maybe just some soup then?” he said, realising she was receding from him and needed to eat something. They both did. She shrugged again. “Hey,” he stood up and moved to stand in front of her. “You ok?”

“No.”

“Yeah, sorry, silly question.” He tentatively moved a hand to rest it on her shoulder. “We made some good progress today.”

“Did we?” she said, clearly not believing him.

“The carpet fibres, the controlled substance, all of this narrows it down.”

“Right, yeah.” She moved her hands up to cover her face and took in a deep breath then pushed her hands back combed through her hair and let them fall loosely by her sides.

“In the movies this time would pass in a montage of investigation and lab tests.” His hand on her shoulder squeezed her, urging her to look up at him. “But we know better than most how long it takes to sift through all the information and follow all possible leads.”

“Yeah.”

“Meanwhile, you get to sit here,” he said as he steered her over to the couch and gently pushed her back into the worn leather. “And allow me to look after you.”

“Look after me?”

“Feed you, help you relax, distract you.”

Scully chuckled but there was no mirth in the sound. “Right.”

Mulder grabbed the phone from the large cluttered desk under the window and dialed a number he knew by heart. She listened to him order some soup and salad then he went to the TV and put a video in the vcr, quickly moving the video that was in the machine already under a pile of books in the corner. He went to the kitchen and grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge, handed her an open bottle then sat next to her and used the remote to start the movie.

Scully took a drink of her beer and waited for the credits to start and this time when she chuckled it was diluted in cheer. “Ghostbusters?”

“Best documentary release in 1984.”

“Documentary?”

Mulder wiggled his eyebrows and sipped his drink as he turned back to the movie. Despite her stiff neck, aching back, heavy limbs, she felt her tension dissipate as the movie progressed. Shortly after it started he answered the door and took the delivery of their soup then carried it back to the coffee table and passed her a carton and a spoon.

When the food was finished he cleared it away and returned with two more beers. She didn't usually drink during the week. Maybe a glass of wine if she was making a decadent dinner but it was a vice she usually kept to her weekends. Now sitting in this dimly lit room, with Mulder's attention on the movie playing on the TV, his hot and heavy presence leaning against her, his leg resting next to hers, their knees, hips, elbows, shoulders touching, she felt like beer was a dangerous addition to the equation. And danger was something she wanted to poke while she was ensconced in the protective bubble he wrapped her in. She looked over at him and studied his profile. His hazel eyes looked so dark in this light. His tanned skin covered toned muscles. Long arms led to strong fingers and she wondered what they would feel like on her.

She felt a hot flush course through her and looked away quickly. But before she could ruminate on those thoughts the shrill ring of her cell phone made her jump. She dug it out of her pocket and answered it immediately without looking at the caller ID, or thinking about how close she was sitting to Mulder.

“Hello?”

“Danes!” Melissa cried into the phone. “What gives? You haven't called me since Sunday. I left messages on your machine.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I was working.” Scully became very aware of Mulder's attention and she moved off the couch to go into his bedroom to continue talking with her sister.

“Yeah your FBI guy picked you up on Sunday evening and then that's all I heard!”

“There has been a development in the case,” she said though she didn't want to go into detail and worry her sister. “I’ve been working pretty much non-stop. I haven't checked my messages.”

“Dana.” Melissa’s voice was stern. “I went round to your apartment. Your overnight bag is gone. Are you still in DC?”

“Yeah, yeah I am. I’m working from a bureau office for a while.”

“Sweetie, are you ok?”

“Yes. I promise, I’m perfectly safe.” She thought about Mulder sitting out on the couch. Her own personal FBI bodyguard. “There really is no need to worry. It's purely that this case is a high priority and it's all hands on deck.”

“Ok…” Melissa seemed to take her word for it but her voice was still tinged with worry. “Have you talked to mom?”

“No, not yet, and please don't worry her.”

“But there is nothing to worry about.”

“Nothing.”

“So are you working with that FBI guy?”

“Yes,” Scully said after only a moment's hesitation and when she heard her sister's soft chuckle she knew she should have said it was a whole team not just Mulder. Had she even told her sister Mulder's name?

“He is with you right now?”

“Um, yeah.” Was now the right time to tell her sister she was staying in Mulder's apartment, sleeping in his bed, accepting him looking after her, waiting on her hand and foot? No, maybe she would keep that bit for a chat after all this was over, when they could share a bottle of wine.

“Okay, okay, I can hear it in your voice that you want to go back to him.” Melissa teased. “Look, call me tomorrow, ok. I want to know if you are ok.”

“I will, I promise.”

“Stay safe, I love you Danes.”

“I love you too Missy.”

She hung up and put the phone in her pocket then took a moment to use the bathroom before rejoining Mulder by the couch. He had paused the movie and was sitting with the bottle between his knees, the slender fingers she had noticed earlier worrying the edge of the label. She wondered how much of her conversation he had heard, and mentally replayed it to determine if there was anything embarrassing from her side of it.

“My sister,” she said as an explanation before he could ask, which she was sure he wouldn't do.

“Ah.”

“Yeah, she tried my apartment a few times and then found it empty and got worried.”

“Right.”

“As sisters do, then she gave me an earful for not calling.” They both fell into silence and Scully wondered if he would resume the movie but there seemed to be a darkness over him as his fingers became more intent on ripping his beer label. “You have any siblings?”

Like he knew this question was coming he held back his sigh but the frown he was unable to stop. “I did...do.”

This time it was Scully who frowned and she waited for him to continue. She turned a little on the couch to face him more, bent one leg under herself and rested her arm on the back of the couch, her fingers gently touching his shoulder.

“She was eight when they took her.”

“Took?”

“She disappeared out of her bed one night. Gone. Vanished. No note, phone calls, evidence. Nothing. I was twelve at the time.”

“They never found her?”

“Tore the family apart. No one would talk about it. There were no facts to confirm, nothing to offer any hope.”

“Oh my god.” The hand by his shoulder moved to rest there more fully. “What did you do?”

“There was nothing to do.”

“I’m so sorry Mulder.” Her thumb rubbed slow circles on his collar bone.

He looked at her behind hooded eyes and if he was sizing her up, making a decision on whether to tell her more. She waited patiently for him to make his decision and hoped that he would keep talking.

“For the last two years I’ve been working on her case.”

“Your sister’s?”

He nodded. “There’s classified government information I’ve been trying to access, but someone has been blocking my attempts to get to it.”

“What? Classified government information about your sister's disappearance?”

“I’ve worked very closely with a doctor who took me through deep regression hypnosis.”

“Mulder-”

He barreled on as if she hadn't spoken. Suddenly the words wouldn't stop, spilled out past his lips like a burst dam he had lost control over. “I’ve been able to go into my own repressed memories of the night my sister disappeared. I can recall a bright light outside and a presence in the room. I was paralysed, unable to respond to my sister's call for help.”

“How do you know…”

“The government knows about it and I got to know what they are protecting. Nothing else matters to me.” A heavy silence fell around them. Her hand on his shoulder suddenly felt like an anchor. “You asked before where my rotation out of VCS will be.”

She nodded, her frown deepening.

“My success in VCS has allowed me the freedom to make certain choices and pursue new avenues within the bureau. That's when I came across the X-Files.”

“I don't understand.”

“At first it looked like a dumping ground for UFO sightings and that kind of stuff, that most people immediately discount or ignore. But I was fascinated and read every case I could get my hands on. Hundreds of them. And it felt like…”

“What?” she urged him to continue when she thought he would never speak again.

“Like I was finally going to get some answers about my sister.”

“You think…” She wasn't able to finish that sentence. Saying it outloud would add credence to such a fantastical notion.

“I think she was abducted by aliens. And I think the government knows about it.”

“Oh Mulder…”

“I know how ridiculous it sounds.” He looked away from her, embarrassed by the pitiful look he thought he saw in her eyes. “I have the same doubts you do, but the more I uncover in the X-Files the more convinced I am.”

“I never heard of the X-Files.”

“No one has,” he said with a sardonic chuckle. He lifted his beer to his lips and her eyes were fixated on the torn edges of the label. “I’ve already submitted my request to open a department dedicated to these cases. Forgotten cases no one wants to investigate.”

“Was it approved?”

“It will be,” he said with conviction.

“How do you know?”

“In my pursuit of these cases, I’ve made connections in congress.”

A moment of silence turned into a minute and more. Her hand still on his shoulder became heavy until she squeezed him and he turned to look at her for the first time since he started weaving this tale of government and alien conspiracies.

“I’m truly sorry about your sister.”

His lips tightened and disappeared in a grim approximation of a smile and he nodded then looked away. The silence returned. After a moment more, Mulder reached for the remote and resumed the movie and the sudden sound of New York under attack from the Stay Puft marshmallow man jolted her. She removed her hand from his shoulder and shifted to face forward again, her mind a maelstrom of thoughts and confusion.

She was dumbstruck. How to respond. What to think. But she needed to know what he knew. Get a sense of his conviction. Then she realised those boxes in his bedroom weren’t belongings waiting to be unpacked. The comment he made about working at home all night, sleeping on the couch and waking to work some more, was more accurate than she first believed. This mission of his was all consuming and she was overwhelmed with empathy.

He worked alone, in shadows, out of hours, hiding his progress until the last possible moment when he would likely disappear from view, no longer part of the wider group in the bullpen and her heart jerked at the thought of him losing himself to that darkness. Alone.

Without hesitation she reached over to his lap where his hands still picked at the beer label. She took his hand and pulled it onto her lap, clasped it between both of hers, their palms pressed together, fingers interlocked. When he moved his head to look at her, she was watching the movie, her face blank. His hand squeezed hers as he turned his attention back to the movie too, though his thoughts were solely focused on her, her hands, her shoulder, her hip, her knee. Her.

He let out a shaky breath, closed his eyes and basked in her acceptance.

Chapter Text

Mulder’s Apartment
Thursday 3am

His phone ringing in the middle of the night wasn't as unusual as it should be. What was unusual was how long it took him to wake to answer it. Earlier, when the movie ended Scully had extracted her hands from his then slowly stood and went to bed without a word. He sat transfixed for a while, he wasn't sure how long, then grabbed his case notes and got to work. He must have fallen asleep with the notes on his chest as when he lurched for the phone the pages slipped to the floor in a pile.

“Mulder.”

“You’re slipping Mulder, that was at least 5 rings.”

“What's going on Jerry?”

“Two of the possible targets from the safehouse are gone,” Jerry said, suddenly all mirth gone from his voice.

“What?”

“I just got a call from the surveillance team. They are reviewing tapes now but they were all present and accounted for at lights out. When the shift change happened, we found two missing.”

“No signs of a struggle?” Mulder was standing off the couch and already searching for his keys.

“Nothing yet, no one heard anything though they all have their own rooms.”

“CSI?”

“On the way.”

“Okay, I’ll be right there.”

He was halfway to the door when his bedroom door opened and a very sleep rumpled Scully emerged.

“Mulder?” she asked before he got to the door, her voice raspy and low. “What's going on?”

“Scully, I thought you were sleeping.”

“I was, who was that on the phone.”

“Jerry. I need to go to the safe house.”

“What happened?” All traces of sleep were gone from her body, face and voice and she took a couple of steps closer to him.

“Two of the targets are missing.”

“Wait. I’ll come with you.”

“No Scully, you should stay here.” He put a hand on each of her shoulders to halt her from going back to the bedroom.

“Mulder, I’m coming with you.”

He was torn between keeping her with him where he could see her, and making her stay here where she was safe. But the tone in her voice wasn't one that brokered an argument so he released her shoulders and nodded.

It took her no time at all to dress. She tied her hair up, splashed water on her face, wore the same clothes from the day before and tied her laces in the car as he peeled off. They arrived at the safe house at the same time as the CSI team and Mulder watched as Jerry met them at the door and directed them to the right place.

“Jerry,” he called out as both he and Scully approached and he tried to ignore the half smile on Jerrys lips at the sight of his rumpled clothing.

“You made it.” Jerry led them into the house and ushered them into the main office where most of the surveillance team was reviewing tapes and swapping notes. “It looks like they climbed out the window.”

“Themselves?”

“Yeah, no sign of forced entry. Their phones were confiscated when they arrived on site. They have had little to no outside contact, all of it supervised. They showed no signs of unrest prior to their disappearance.”

“Can I see their rooms?” Mulder asked and Jerry nodded and brought them up to the second floor where there were 6 dorm type rooms kitted out with a bed, desk and dresser, each with a selection of books and games. They filed into the small room and Mulder examined the window while Scully dragged a finger over the spine of the few books. The CSI team were in another room performing the same tasks and when they came to this room the three of them stepped out to make space for them to conduct a full and thorough examination of the room.

“What the hell is going on here?” Mulder said to no one in particular.

“We need to move the rest of the targets.” Jerry spoke softly in case any of them were nearby. “If this place has been compromised it's no longer safe.”

Mulder's eyes glanced at Scully and he frowned. “Where to?”

“Douglas has authorised placement at the base in Bethesda.”

“Have the rest of the targets been questioned?”

“Not yet, we’re about to start.”

“Okay, I can-”

“Agents?” One of the FBI surveillance team approached with a pale look on his face as he scanned the room to be sure everyone in the group was FBI. His eyes lingered on Scully but Mulder waved his hand for him to continue. “We found a body.”

“What?” Jerry exclaimed. “Who? Where?”

“Elizabeth-”

“Gordon.” Jerry finished for him. “Was it in Fletcher's Grove?”

“Yes sir.”

Mulder looked between Jerry and the FBI agent and frowned.

“Since we know the targets were being deposited in locations connected to their namesakes, as soon as we realised who was missing I sent teams to the relevant sites.”

“That's about half an hour from here,” Mulder said and he started to walk away from the room and go back to the surveillance office where he could find a map.

“About that yeah,” Jerry said.

“And the last time they were accounted for was midnight?”

“Shortly after it.”

Mulder unrolled the map on the large table and circled Fletcher's grove with one finger. “The other target that is missing, where is their namesake location?”

“It's John Sharky...we anticipate his location to be Whitestone Point near Fort Belvoir.”

Mulder scanned the map for a moment then circled that too. “That's about thirty minutes in the opposite direction.”

“Yeah.”

“Has that team reported yet?”

Jerry looked over to the agent that reported the body and he shook his head. “Not yet.”

“Well either we have a double murder, or John Sharky has jumped up the person of interest list.” Mulder spoke as he straightened up and rested his hands on his hips.

“Has the scene at Fletcher’s grove been processed yet?” Scully asked, suddenly seeing somewhere she could be useful instead of feeling like a 5th wheel in this FBI machine. Usually she had more to contribute, but without her scalpel she felt at odds with everything happening around her.

“CSI team is out there right now just starting.”

“Get the remains shipped to Quantico as soon as possible.”

“Scully-” Mulder started to say but she shut him down with one look.

“I can help.” He nodded his head and knew arguing with her would be futile. “I can meet the body there.” She looked at Jerry. “Can I get a ride out to Quantico?”

“I can take you,” Mulder said and he stepped forward patting his pockets to be sure he had his keys.

“No." She whipped around to face him and her voice drew the attention of a few others in the room, but managed to still Mulder which was her main intention. "You wait here, you clearly have work to focus on. Jerry, can one of your team bring me?”

Jerry looked between them both and hesitated a moment then feared refusing Scully and her glare would be worse than anything Mulder might dish out. He slapped the FBI agent beside him on the back. “Jake here will take you when you’re ready.”

Scully glanced at Mulder who was staring at her, then turned to Jake and nodded. “Let's go. I can set up and be ready as soon as the remains arrive.”

She turned on her heel and didn't look back to see if Jake was following. Mulder's hands on his hips twitched to reach out for her but instead he just watched her leave.

“She’ll be fine, man,” Jerry said as he patted Mulder's shoulder. “Quantico is under 24 hr security monitoring.”

“Yeah, like the FBI safe house?”

Jerry didn't have a response to that so he said nothing. Instead he turned away to look at the review tapes playing out on the screens behind him.

***

Quantico Autopsy Lab
Thursday 7am

Scully walked into the changing room and pulled her scrub cap off. She sat on the bench beside her locker and bent forward, her head in her hands, her elbows on her knees, everything sagging from sheer exhaustion. She couldn't even begin to process the last few hours, or days. It was all a blur.

Eventually the need to be out of scrubs and back in her own clothing won and she stood to peel her lab coat off. She opened her locker and hung it up then discarded her facemask and goggles into the recycling tubs. She took her clothes out of the locker and left them folded on the bench then grabbed her towel and toed off her shoes. She slipped off her scrub top and bottoms and wrapped the towel around her tired body as she moved to the shower to step under the powerful heated spray. She felt the first layer of tension washing away but knew there were many more layers underneath it. She washed her body and her hair but didn't want to leave the soft comfort of the water just yet.

Just then the soft thud of a closing door drew her attention away from her shower. She listened for more noises but couldn't hear anything. It was too early for her colleagues to be in, unless one of them was called in for an emergency. A screech from a moving bench made her freeze and she knew she definitely didn't imagine that. She turned off the water and grabbed her towel. She wrapped it around her tightly and slowly moved towards the locker room.

As she turned the corner, poised to punch or kick her way out of any encounter, she saw Mulder leaning against her locker with one shoulder, his head against the cold metal, his eyes closed, his hands clutched her sweater against his chest.

“Jesus Mulder,” she sighed, the fear dissipating but quickly replaced by annoyance. “What are you doing here?”

“I saw your preliminary report and figured you were finished with the autopsy.”

“Yeah.” She frowned as she stepped towards her locker, suddenly feeling very vulnerable in just a towel. “So what are you doing here in the women's changing room?”

“Well, I came to see if you need a lift, and you weren't out in the lab, or the restroom, or the break room. I just needed to make sure you were...in here.” He spoke with a shrug.

“Okay, well I’m here, and I’m fine, I just need to dress.”

“Okay,” he said, though he didn't show any signs of moving.

“Mulder.”

“Hmm?”

“Get out.”

“Right, oh yeah, of course.” He seemed to only then realise where he was and a warm blush coloured his cheeks. He stepped away from the locker and stumbled over his feet, unsure which direction to move in, then held her sweater out to her and left as quick as he could. She took her time dressing, adding cream to her face, and spraying her deodorant knowing she was about to go back to the Hoover building for a mammoth day of investigation. It was unlikely he would allow her to go home, even back to his place alone when the killer was on the loose and seemed to evade FBI scrutiny.

When she finally emerged she wasn't surprised to see him leaning against the wall opposite the changing room. One foot flat against the wall, scuffing the cream paint, his arms tightly crossed, his head lowered his chin almost on his chest.

“Mulder,” she said when he showed no sign of moving when she emerged.

His head jerked up and she wasn't convinced he hadn't been grabbing 40 winks. He reached out and grasped her elbow as he steered her out of the lab and over to his car, much in the same way when he came to collect her in a panic the other day.

“How did the investigation go?” she asked as she buckled in and he started the engine.

He seemed to hesitate in responding but his hesitancy made her worry more and when he saw her frown deepen he knew he would have to tell her.

“We have made progress.” He said hoping vague responses would suffice but he knew better.

“John Sharky?”

“He hasn't been found yet.”

“What did you find?”

“A journal.”

She waited for him to continue but he seemed content to share only snippets. “Mulder, what aren't you telling me?”

“Details, plans, surveillance information.”

“Surveillance of who?” He looked at her sideways and she knew the response. “All of us?” she asked counting herself in the group of targets for the first time. He nodded. “Oh.”

“But now that we know the patterns he had figured out, we can be sure to keep everyone safe.”

Scully scoffed. She turned away from him, rested her elbow on the bottom of the window and covered her mouth with her hand.

“Scully.” She didn't move or respond. “Scully.” Still nothing. He moved his hand off the wheel to grab her other hand that was curled loosely in her lap but her fingers made no move to intertwine with his like they had done the night before. “I won't let anything happen to you.”

She still made no response and soon Mulder had to move his hand back to the wheel to drive. When he pulled into his space in the Hoover building car park she undid her seatbelt but he grabbed her arm to stop her opening the door.

“Scully.”

“What Mulder.” She whipped her head around and glared at him. She didn't sound angry. Frustrated sure, but it was fear he heard most.

“We’re going to get this guy.” He spoke with conviction and he knew his fingers were digging into her arm, likely leaving bruises but he needed her to understand.

“You said that already.”

God he wanted to grab her and shake her and make her believe him. He wanted to grab her and hug her. He wanted…

Mulder let go of her arm before that thought could form in case it moved into her through osmosis and she heard it. He opened his door and got out then watched from the back of the car as she did the same. He waited for her to get next to him then placed his hand on her back, his now customary position and guided her back to the bullpen. This time though he didn't deposit her by his desk, he steered her towards Douglas’ office and knocked once before walking in.

“Sir,” he said and he moved one of the chairs aside, gestured for her to sit down, then sat next to her. “Agent Scully completed the autopsy this morning.”

“Agent Scully, we haven't yet had the pleasure,” he said as he half stood out of his chair and leaned over to her with his hand outstretched.

“Sir.” She shook his hand and resumed her position sitting ramrod straight on the edge of the chair.

“CSI pulled the same fibres, we can connect them to Sharky's place of business.”

“He’s a computer tech?” Douglas asked.

“Yes, but he was an anaesthesiologist.” Mulder glanced at Scully when he said that and noticed her frown and looked up from her lap. “He trained in UMD and graduated in 79. But he didn't actually work in that field at all. He moved to the medical IT profession almost immediately.”

“Why?” Scully asked and looked at him.

“It's unclear. Perhaps it wasn't his preferred field of study-”

“No…” she shook her head. “...why?”

Suddenly he understood her question and he slumped back in his chair a little. “His father was Edgar Schulte. He was a nazi scientist that was denied entry to the US and prosecuted during the Nuremburg trials.”

Scully frowned. How did any of this make sense? How did the Nuremberg trials, which happened decades before she was born, result in her running from a serial killer? How did her life lead up to this moment?

“His father was recruited along with 30 other nazis under Operation Lusty, which was like paperclip, an effort to gain knowledge from engineers, mathematicians during the war. In exchange for amnesty from crimes.”

“So he was a nazi we gave shelter to?” Douglas asked and Mulder noticed the grimace of distaste on his boss's face.

“No. His application was denied. He stood trial in ‘46 and was convicted as a plenipotentiary of the Nazi slave labour program. He was sentenced to death and hanged in 1947.”

“So this is simply a revenge plot?” Scully said as if she was pissed off to be involved in such a pedestrian reason for murder.

“The connection we had already found, the scientists and engineers all connected to Operation Lusty.”

“Lusty?

“Luftwaffe Science and Technology,” Mulder said with a shake of his head. “All the victims so far had the same names as the scientists that were granted asylum.”

“Dana Scully?” Scully asked.

Mulder looked over at her. “Dana Schreiber was acquitted and relocated to the US where he became Dana Scully. And worked with JPL.”

“So I’ve been upgraded to the confirmed target list,” she said softly, looking away, back at her hands that rested on her lap. Mulder wanted to reach over and grab her hands but thought better of it. Before he could continue there was a sharp knock on the door and Jerry walked in with a page in his hand.

“He was spotted going through the Greenway Toll plaza an hour ago, heading west on 267.”

“That’s past Dulles,” Mulder said.

“Where is he going?”

“We’re looking into his finances, property he owns, other relations in the area but nothing yet.”

“He’s right on the edge of Shenandoah.” Mulder said but didn't say what that meant, and how it would drastically drop their chances of capturing this guy. Instead he stood up and took the page Jerry had in his hand to see the toll booth picture of what looked like a normal guy. It always struck him how average these people looked.

“I have a chopper going out that way now and we have an APB out on his car for all local, state and highway police.”

“I want to see his finances,” Mulder said as he handed the page back to Jerry. He stood next to Scully and put a hand on her shoulder, urging her to stand with him. She looked up and he ached at the desolate look in her eyes. He nodded his head towards the door and slowly she stood to leave the room with him. This time though, instead of going back to his desk, he guided her to a conference room which had been set up as the war room for this case since the break they achieved last night.

The room was abuzz with activity and the noise of chatter, keyboards, phone calls, paper rustling seemed to snap her into action mode. She stood a little straighter and stepped forward to lean on the table where Mulder and Jerry were sifting through pages of banking statements.

“How can I help?” she asked and Mulder looked over at her with a smile plastered on his face, relief clearly visible in his eyes.

He passed her a stack of pages. “We’re looking for any regular outgoing payment, rental property, storage units, mortgage etc.”

“The forensic accountant is on his way to review them,” Jerry said as he turned another page over.

“Another classic montage moment…” she said a little under her breath and Mulder nudged her with his elbow but kept his eyes on the page he was scanning.

Hours passed and they were still reviewing documents. Making calls, highlighting possible leads and compiling a list of next steps. By lunchtime Jerry stepped back from the desk and dry washed his face with both hands.

“I need food. And I need it now,” he said into the ether, as if the words themselves could conjure up sustenance.

“Huh?” Mulder looked up and noticed Jerry was standing and stretching his arms above his head.

“Lunch, I’m going to get a platter for the room.”

“Sounds good,” Mulder said distractedly.

“Unless you prefer to go out?” Jerry said and he nodded towards Scully with his chin.

Mulder looked over to his side where Scully was reading a page, a yellow highlighter pen gripped loosely in one hand though nothing on the page had been marked.

“No, get the platter, but we might go grab a walk, get some fresh air before it arrives.” Jerry nodded at his assessment and walked away to place the call.

Mulder leaned back in his chair and reached out to put a hand on Scully’s shoulder. She jerked under his touch but quickly realised where she was and relaxed a little.

“Sorry, I think I was out of it there for a moment.”

“Yeah, I think we all were.” He removed his hand and let it fall to the arm of his chair with a soft thud. “Jerry is getting a platter of food for the room.”

“Good. Good.” she rubbed her eyes roughly with the heel of her hands.

“I thought we might take a walk, get some fresh air and see if we can find a second wind.”

She thought about this for a moment, then silently nodded her head. He stood up and grabbed their coats, draped them over his arm and led her out of the room. In the lobby they bundled up against the harsh November cold and without asking where they were going she followed.

He took her a couple of blocks away from the Hoover building to the national mall where their pace slowed considerably down to a mere saunter. He asked her about what she had been reviewing and what she had shortlisted and they swapped notes from the cocoon of work they had been nestled in for the whole morning.

When he spotted a beverage stand selling hot chocolate he nudged her with his elbow and nodded his head towards it in an offer. She smiled and nodded back and he steered them into the queue.

“I think today is a hot chocolate day,” he said with a grave look on his face as he perused the menu.

“Definitely.”

“With cream.”

“And marshmallows.”

Mulder smiled as he got to the counter and ordered their drinks then they moved aside while they were being prepared.

“You are a fan?”

“Of chocolate? Yeah, isn't everyone?”

“I don't mind it now and then, but I wouldn't say I’m a fan. I prefer savoury treats.”

“That makes sense,” she said with a half smile.

“Why?”

“You’re a man of substance, you prefer to have discussions and not mindless chatter, you want to have gained something at the end of the conversation. You love a full flavoured dish that leaves you completely satisfied.”

Mulder stared at her, his mouth slightly open as the words tumbled past her lips. “...huh?”

Scully laughed and turned to the counter when his name was called by the server. She clutched both cups and handed one to him then walked away and he had no choice but to follow.

“Scully...what the hell?” he asked. She had picked a bench across the lawn and sat down, despite the chill in the air.

She chuckled. “My sister sends me these random quizzes every week. What flavour pizza are you? Which care bear or Beatle would you be?” she sipped her drink and took a moment to bask in the sweet tang of her drink. “There is always a random blurb at the end.” she eyed him cautiously with a side glance. “Why? Was it accurate?”

“No.” He looked away and settled back into the bench next to her.

“Liar.”

“So which pizza are you?” he asked without looking.

“Margherita. Classic and cool.” Mulder chuckled and shook his head at these eerily accurate quizzes. He wondered briefly which topping he would be. “You’re clearly Hawaiian.” He frowned and looked at her. “Controversial.”

This time Mulder tossed his head back and laughed loudly, drawing the attention of a few passers by. Each ring of his laughter dragged an ounce of tension out of her and she felt herself starting to relax.

“Dana?”

Immediately the tension was back. Mulder stood up, knocked his chocolate off the edge of the bench as he moved and tugged her to stand behind him. He pulled his gun and aimed it at the stranger who had approached them from behind.

“FBI!” He yelled out “Hands where I can see them.” He kept one hand on Scully’s arm holding her safely behind him.

“What?” Ethan lifted his hands and took a step back and it was only then that Mulder realised who this was. His grip on his gun loosened a little but not entirely. Scully shook his hand off her elbow and stepped aside.

“Jesus Mulder,” she said, “Calm down, I know him.”

She put a hand on his arm and made him lower his gun. Mulder put it back in his holster but kept his eyes on Ethan the whole time.

“Sorry Dana, I didn't mean to cause any trouble…” Ethan said as he stepped around the bench towards her.

“No it's fine Ethan, we were just taking a break from a case,” she said with a sigh and waved a hand at him. “Tensions are a little fraught.” She glanced at Mulder who was still glaring at Ethan.

“Right, yeah, well I just saw you here and thought I’d say hi.”

“Hi,” she said and Mulder caught her blush in his periphery, even though he was still staring at Ethan.

“I guess I should leave you to it.” He took a step back. “Call me, huh?” He said as he bent down with one hand on her elbow and kissed her cheek. “See ya.”

He looked at Mulder once more then stepped back and walked away. Mulder continued to stare until Scully put a hand on his arm and turned him away from Ethan’s retreating form.

“What the hell, Mulder?”

“I thought…” He had the good grace to look properly chastised but his shoulders were still square and he avoided her eyes.

“You thought what? That was John Sharky? He was about to stab me 17 times then strangle me? Here? In the national mall? In the middle of the day?”

“Sorry!” he said, clearly not sorry at all. “But he crept up behind us.”

“He didn't creep. He walked up to a friend.”

“Friend?”

“Jesus, Mulder, you just pulled your gun on a guy in the park.”

He didn't have a response for that but whatever relaxation he had achieved up to this point had completely evaporated. She tossed the rest of her drink into a trashcan and stormed off leaving Mulder to chase her.

“Scully!” he called out but she kept walking. “Scully, hang on,” he caught up to her and grabbed her arm but she shook him off. “Scully, c’mon.”

“Forget it, Mulder. Let's just get back to the office.” She shook his hand off her arm and kept walking and after only a moment's hesitation he hurried after her. They completed the journey in silence, all the way up in the elevator to the 3rd floor where Scully veered off to enter the restroom and Mulder went to the conference room.

Jerry immediately noticed his change in mood and lack of side kick when Mulder dropped his coat on the chair he had occupied earlier and sidled up to him with a half of a reuben on a paper plate.

“Here.”

Mulder took the plate and dropped it onto the table then slumped into the chair and got back to studying the pages before him.

“Hey, what's goin on?” Jerry asked and he perched on the table next to his partner.

“Nothing.”

“Mulder, c’mon, what happened?”

“Nothing, Jerry, leave it. It's fine.”

Jerry waited by his side for a few moments more then silently moved away, back to the end of the table where the platter was laid out and several agents were chatting and eating. When Scully walked in he noticed she had the same scowl Mulder was wearing. He waved her over and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“I have an array of options Agent Scully, what can I offer you?”

Scully looked at the various sandwiches, soups and salad boxes in place and picked up one box labelled grilled chicken and avocado salad, then reached for a bottle of water. He wasn't surprised at her choice, though he was surprised when she took a seat next to the window beside him instead of moving over to Mulder's side.

Jerry took the opportunity to connect with her and picked up the remains of his club sandwich and sat in the seat beside her.

“I guess you are missing your lab?”

“Not the lab as much as the freedom.”

“Right, yeah.” He was silent for a moment as they both ate. “So did you and Mulder have a fight?” he said bluntly.

“A fight?” Scully looked over at Mulder who was hunched over the pages before him, the sandwich beside him ignored. “No, a slight disagreement.”

“Yeah, please,” Jerry rolled his eyes. “I’ve worked with him for a while now, there is nothing slight about him.”

Scully tore her eyes away from Mulder's back and turned to face Jerry. “You guys work well together?”

“Now we do. But not so well at the start.”

“Oh?”

“Like I said, he goes all in, with everything, all the time. He only knows one gear and it's full throttle, no matter what he’s doing.” Jerry bit into his sandwich and chewed it ponderously for a moment. “That's hard to take unless you’re prepared to either push back, which he loves, or let him lead, which he also loves.”

“He loves the push back?”

“Well,” Jerry chuckled. “He loves a challenge. An argument or a debate, as long as it's well thought out.”

“He sounds like a lot of work.”

“Christ, so much work.” Jerry smiled as he finished his sandwich and dusted off his hands, brushed some crumbs off his tie. “But damn if he isn't the best investigator I’ve ever worked with.”

“Really?”

“He’s a god damned savant. His intuition is almost spooky at times. His profiles are usually ridiculously accurate.” Jerry sobered and his shoulders slumped a little. “Mind you they take a lot out of him.”

“What do you mean?”

“Some of the cases he gets pulled into,” Jerry shook his head. “People think it's easy for him. He just reads a couple of files and comes up with a profile.” He glanced over at Mulder and leaned closer to Scully as if afraid anyone would hear what he was about to say. “He studies the victims, the scene, the pathology report, the CSI report in great detail and he puts himself in the mind of someone who would generate that kind of situation.” Jerry paused as if wondering if he should continue or not. "Then he thinks about what he would do next if it was him, and creates the profile." 

Scully slowly nodded her head, her salad forgotten in her hand as she listened.

“And as hard as it is for him to climb into that mindset, it's just as hard for him to climb out.” Jerry leaned back in his chair out of her space and interlocked his hands behind his head. “He barely gets time to climb out, he just climbs in deeper when another case lands on his lap.”

“Right.” Scully looked away from Jerry and gazed at her own hands.

Jerry watched her for a moment then sat forward, dropped his hands and let them fall onto his knees with a slap. “If he did lash out, if he did something to annoy you,” he said softly and leaned towards her again. “Just know that he's coming from a dark place. Sometimes he forgets we’re not all in there with him.”

He let those words sink in then Jerry stood and went to chat with a couple of agents who were huddled around a makeshift coffee station. Scully watched after him for a moment then stood and went over to the seat next to Mulder she had occupied all morning.

Without saying anything she pulled her chair up close to his, dragged a couple of the pages she had been reading before to the space in front of her, then opened her salad box and speared a piece of chicken as she pushed his sandwich to the space in front of him. He looked at her sideways, said nothing, then picked up the sandwich and started to eat.

***

Hoover Building
Thursday 9pm

“Mulder, Scully, let's go.”

Jerry clapped his hands behind them both and Mulder jerked awake. He had fallen asleep in his chair, his jacket draped backwards over his chest, his legs stretched out under the table and his head bent at an angle that could only cause pain, especially now that he was awake to feel it. Scully was beside him leaning on the table, her head rested on her folded arms and she was still asleep.

“What’s going on?” he said, his voice croaky with exhaustion.

“We’re getting out of here.” Jerry said and he pointed at Scully. “Jenny has food ready for us.”

“Huh?” Mulder was still struggling to catch up with what was happening as his jacket fell onto his lap and his hand moved to his neck to massage the crick out of it.

“It's late. You crashed. We need to get some food.”

“What's going on?” Mulder asked as he stood and stretched his weary limbs then jerked his thumb at the whiteboard that was tracking all leads for their suspect.

“We have a few teams following leads but no movement in the last couple of hours.”

“How long were we out of it?”

“You about 3 hours.” Jerry said as he reached for his own coat and put it on.” Her for about an hour.” Jerry picked up both of their coats and held them out to Mulder. “Let's go, Jenny is waiting.”

“Right, yeah.” He took the coats and draped them over his arm then crouched down beside Scully. He put a hand on her shoulder and gently shook her. “Hey Scully,” he said softly then said it again a little louder.

Slowly her eyes started to blink as she came to and she frowned when she saw Mulder crouched beside her.

“Whats…”

“It's late, we’re leaving.”

She sat up and combed her fingers through her hair. “What time is it?”

“A little after nine.”

Her eyes immediately moved to the white board but she noticed little change from when she last saw it.

“C’mon, Jenny made food.”

Scully frowned and tried to pull that name from the recess of her brain. Jenny. Jenny and Jerry. Oh. He put a hand on her arm and helped her up then held out her coat for her to slip into it. A few agents at the end of the room were reviewing tapes and another one was reviewing financial information. These were different agents than had been here before and she realised the night shift had arrived.

Behind her Mulder put his own coat on and guided her out of the room where Jerry was holding the elevator for them. They rode down to the car park in silence then Jerry slapped Mulder on the back.

“Follow me,” he said with a laugh.

“I know the way.”

“Yeah, well follow me so I know you don't fall asleep at the wheel.”

Mulder rolled his eyes as he opened the door for Scully then walked around the back of the car to climb into the driver's side. They buckled their belts and he noticed she was combing her hair with her fingers again then tied it up into a ponytail as he reversed out of the parking space and drove up behind Jerry.

“We won't stay long,” Mulder said as if he could sense her trepidation. “But I figured out a while ago it's easier to go with Jerry and be fed by Jenny than to argue.”

She smiled a tight lipped smile and turned to look out the window. She didn't know where Jerry lived and could do without the need for forced polite socialisation. All she wanted to do was crawl into the tub, maybe with a glass of wine, sink into the bubbled warmth and let every ounce of tension seep out of her pores. But even if they weren’t going to Jerry’s she realised that wasn't an option. It felt so long since she had been home. Surrounded by her own things. Her own comforts. On her own. She craved solitude.

Mulder focused on keeping Jerry’s rear lights in view, but when he heard her take in a long shaky breath he wanted to pull over and comfort her. Though he knew that would salve his unrest more than hers. So he focused on getting to Jerry’s in one piece, and then getting her home where he could give her some space.

When the city started to change from urban to more residential, Scully watched the houses pass by until finally Jerry and then Mulder pulled into a large driveway. The house was a detached unit on a cul de sac with a small plain but well managed garden and Scully noticed there were no signs of children’s toys, bikes or a basketball hoop. As they made their way up the path towards the front door it swung open.

“Hey, you made it!” Jenny said with a wide smile as she ushered them in then engulfed Mulder into a long strong hug. Mulder seemed to stumble into the hug but didn't resist it. Then Jenny released him to press a kiss to her husband's cheek before she turned to Scully and held her hand out. “I won't hug and kiss you, not on our first meeting.” She was as tall as Mulder, but slimmer, and her long dirty blonde hair was fixed in a messy plait that reached halfway down her back. She wore a colourful striped knitted sweater and pale worn levi’s with nothing on her feet but fuzzy slipper socks.

“Dana Scully.”

“Jenny Lamana.”

Dana couldn't help but warm up to this woman. She was open, kind, warm and welcoming. She ushered them all into the kitchen where there was music playing on a radio, and a table laden with several platters of food. A large bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, another with strips of focaccia bread, another with a mixed salad and a final one with sliced fruit.

“Sit, sit, sit,” she said as she moved around the room and produced plates for them all. “Help yourselves.” She went to the fridge and took out a pitcher of iced tea and poured out a glass for Jerry and Mulder. She hovered by Scully and gestured for her glass then filled it.

Mulder took some spaghetti and bread while Scully helped herself to some salad and fruit. Jerry seemed to portion bits of everything onto the same plate and worked his way round it. Jerry and Jenny spoke about various household topics like when the gutter would be cleaned, who was going to make the call for the siding to be replaced and if it was time to change phone providers or not. Scully was glad that the conversation continued and needed no input from her. She was running on fumes. And what little was in there, she needed for herself to keep her panic and tears at bay.

Mulder seemed to notice her receding into her shell and he made every effort to keep the focus away from her. He chatted with Jenny, teased her about her love of the Wizards team, told her the food was wonderful and took seconds. He sided with her on the cleaning of the gutters issue and even helped her give out to Jerry for his reluctance to change phone providers. But when he noticed Scully move her plate away from her he knew it was time to leave.

“Dinner was wonderful as usual Jenny,” he said as he stood up and collected both his and Scully’s plates.

“You’re welcome anytime Mulder, you know that.”

“If I kept coming here for dinner I would be 300 pounds.” Jenny stood from the table and started to pack the leftovers away and Scully helped to clear the rest of the dishes.

Jerry leaned back in his chair and continued to sip his iced tea until his wife walked behind him and swatted the back of his head, at which point he chipped in on the clean up.

“Leave that now Mulder, you’ll only do it wrong,” she said as she moved him away from the dishwasher. “Now take these.'' She passed him a couple of tubs containing left overs and Mulder took it with only a slight sheepish look at Scully who just smiled. “It was lovely to meet you Dana.”

“Pleasure was all mine.”

This time when Scully held out her hand, Jenny bypassed it and engulfed her in a tight hug and Scully felt herself involuntarily sag against the woman. “Next time you come, we can let them do all the cleaning up while we finish off a bottle of wine,” Jenny said when she released her from the hug and held her at arm's length.

“Sounds wonderful,” Scully admitted with a smile she didn't have to force.

“And you…” She turned her attention to Mulder and pulled him into a hug too. “Don't wait so long to come or I might forget to send you my leftovers.”

“Oh Jenny,” Mulder crooned and he tightened his arms around her. “You’d never do that to me.”

Jenny chuckled and released him.. She stepped back into Jerry’s arms and shook her head at Mulder. “I would if I thought it would get you out here for dinner.”

“Stop, your Husband is literally right there,” Mulder teased. Jenny laughed and turned her head to kiss Jerry’s temple. “Thanks for the sustenance.” He said and he gathered his and Scully’s coats from the bannister by the door.

“Thank you Jenny, really.” Scully said and waved as she went out the door before Mulder who waved also and pulled the door closed behind him.

Once buckled in the car Scully felt herself relax a little more, though as they drove on the highway past the exit she would normally take home she felt the tension curl a little more around her whole body. Mulder seemed to recognise her need for solitude, as much as he could give her in the car anyway so he remained silent, fiddled with the radio to find some music and focused on giving her a smooth ride home. By the time he pulled up outside his apartment, he wondered if she was asleep but her hand moved immediately to the seatbelt when he killed the engine.

They walked up to his flat in utter silence and when he closed and locked the door behind them she had already moved into the living room where she was kicking off her shoes.

“If it's ok, I’ll just grab a quick shower before I crash for the night,” he said and she nodded her head wearily.

Mulder hurried past her through the bedroom, grabbed his nightclothes on the way and had the quickest shower he had ever taken. He scrubbed his teeth as he dressed in sweats and a tank top, determined to be out of here as fast as possible. He gave his hair a final rub with the towel then hung it over the shower rail and opened the door to hurry back out to the living room. Though when he saw Scully sitting on the edge of his bed, her hands loosely clasped on her lap he halted his progression and stood still. Her head hung low, her hair framed her face and she sat completely still.

“Hey, you ok?” he asked as he walked over and stood in front of her. She slowly nodded her head but didn't look up. “Hey,” he said and he crouched down and took her hands in his. “Hey.” She looked up without moving her head and he saw the glistening tears behind her eyes. Mulder moved one of his hands up her arm to clasp the back of her neck and gently tugged her against him into a solid warm embrace.

She didn't make any noise and he could barely feel her breathing against him, but he definitely felt her tears wetting his shoulder through his shirt. So he just held her. One hand on the back of her neck the other on her lower back. After a few minutes he loosened his grip on her and leaned back as the hand on her neck moved to her shoulder and the one on her back rested on her hip.

“It's been a long couple of days huh?” he whispered. “You should get some rest.” He stood up slowly, moved her back towards the head of the bed and gently pushed her into the pillows. He didn't want to undress her or help her undress and figured she could pull off her jeans and sweater when he was gone if she needed. Instead he tucked her feet under the duvet and wrapped it around her snugly.

“I’ll be just outside if you need anything.”

She put both of her hands under her cheek and closed her eyes as he cocooned her under the blanket. He reached out and turned off the bedside lamp then turned and left the room.

Chapter Text

Mulder’s Apartment
Friday 6am

Mulder was awake before the alarm though he heard no noise from where Scully was sleeping. When the shrill sound of his alarm started it was immediately cut off so he knew she was awake. But still no sounds came. By half six he was wondering if she had gone back to sleep and decided he needed to go in and check. If she wanted to stay cocooned in his bed all day then he wouldn't force her to leave instead he would ask Jerry to email him any notes he needed to review and he would work from the couch. Anything she needed he was willing to make happen. He stood up and moved to the bedroom door which was ajar, as he had left it the night before.

“Scully?” he said into the gap between the door and the jamb before his hand curled around the handle and slowly pushed it open. She was almost exactly as he had left her except her jeans and sweater were in a pile on the floor. “Hey Scully, you awake?” He slowly made his way into the room and took careful steps towards the bed.

The sun had yet to rise so there was still no light in the room other than what spilled in behind him from the open door. But it was muted and didn't reach the bed where her curled up form lay under the cover.

“Hey,” he said and he couched down at the head of the bed. He carefully moved his hand to rest on her shoulder, or where he thought her shoulder was. “Morning.”

“Mmm.” She mumbled what could have been a word but he wasn't sure.

“Did you get any sleep?” For some reason he couldn't stop whispering. The dark room, the quiet stillness of the morning.

“Some.”

He wasn't sure what to say next. He wanted to curl up behind her and hold her in his arms, keep the day at bay and just remain in this cocoon with her. Forever.

“There’s no need to get up yet. Stay here for a while. Rest up.”

“No, it's fine.”

She went to sit up but he held her down, the hand on her shoulder gripped her tighter and kept her pressed into the mattress.

“Seriously Scully, you’ve been all go for days. Take some down time.”

“I need to keep moving.” She whispered into the stillness of the room and this time when she moved he didn't put up any resistance. He stood up and stepped back from the bed as she whipped the duvet off and swung her legs over the edge of the mattress. Mulder glanced down at her legs then made an almost comical double take when he saw her small feet encased in a pair of fluffy sports socks, her legs totally bare, pale alabaster skin that looked as soft as the cotton sheets on which she was sitting, all the way up to her hips, where her plain white t-shirt was bunched and crinkled from her sleep.

Mulder took another step back and half turned away from her as she stood off the bed and moved to her bag to pull out fresh clothing. As she walked across the room towards the bathroom he caught a glimpse of her mint green panties with a black lace trim and he had to jerk his head away to tear his eyes off her retreating form.

The sound of the bathroom door closing was enough to move him into action. He grabbed the suit he would need for the day and hurried out to the living room where he dressed quickly. He was in the kitchen making toast when she walked in and stood next to him. He handed her a cup of coffee and when the toast popped he buttered a slice and handed her that too. He turned his back to the counter, leaned against it as he ate his own slice.

“I crashed pretty hard last night,” Mulder said as he chewed. “I think a freight train could have come through the living room and I wouldn't have noticed.”

“You needed the sleep.”

“I need this case to be over.”

Scully looked over at him and noticed the dark rings under his eyes and the pallor of his face and realised he probably hadn't slept like he described. More than likely he had caught a few hours but stayed awake the rest of the time.

“Jerry said you…” her words faltered when his head slowly turned to face her.

“What?”

“He said you dig in pretty deep when you’re profiling.” Mulder scoffed. He bit his toast and washed it down with a mouthful of black coffee. “He also said sometimes it's hard for you to find your way out.” Mulder nodded though she wasn't sure if he agreed with what she was saying or if he was just nodding. “How do you do it, Mulder?”

He looked at her and lifted one eyebrow.

“How do you live like this?”

“You don't like my place?” he said and he gestured around his kitchen with a half smile.

“I mean chasing these animals, clawing your way into their minds not knowing if you will be able to find your way back.” Mulder said nothing, but he looked away and finished the last bite of his toast. “I’ve been out in the field for less than a week and I’m shattered.”

“It's different for you.” He sipped his coffee but the bitter liquid offered him no comfort anymore so he turned to the sink and tossed the remnants then left the cup upside down in the bottom. “You’re chasing and being chased. You have twice the stress to deal with.”

“Mmm.” Scully made the same noise as earlier and Mulder started to recognize it as her way of responding without committing to a response.

“I’ll just go brush my teeth then we can get going.”

Avoiding her eyes and trying not to touch her as he brushed past, Mulder left and she cleaned up the small mess from their paltry breakfast. When he returned he carried both of their coats and brought with him a waft of minty freshness and a tired smile.

As they pulled into the FBI car park and Mulder killed the engine, Scully couldn't help the sigh that escaped her pursed lips. Mulder had his hand on the door about to open it when he turned back to her.

“What?” he asked.

“I want to go home.”

“Now?”

“No, I mean later.”

“Scully-”

“Yeah, I know, he’s still out there.”

“And you are a known target.”

“Then at least we’ll know where he is.”

“You’re suggesting we use you as bait?”

“If we have to.”

“Scully-”

“I want to go home. I’m tired of hiding. I’ve run out of underwear. I want to take a bath. I want to cook a meal myself. I want to be alone for more than the time it takes me to pee. I want to sleep in my own bed. I want-”

“Okay, okay.” He took his hand off the door and brought it to his lap.

“We were supposed to assess the situation on Wednesday, but it's Friday now and we still have not assessed anything.”

“Let's see how today goes.”

“I want to go home, Mulder.”

He nodded and though he understood why she wanted to go home, he knew there was no way he would let her go without figuring out how to keep her safe. Maybe he would sleep on her couch instead of his own, and if she wouldn't allow that, then he would become really acquainted with his car.

He pushed his door open and heard her do the same. They walked up to the war room and saw Jerry pacing the far side of the room like a caged animal, his phone glued to his ear.

“What's going on?” Mulder asked one of the agents who was standing by the coffee station.

“We spotted Sharky again.”

“Where?”

“Vehicle speed cameras captured him on the Roosevelt bridge, Mason bridge, and Ethel bridge, and a toll camera on Navy yard. All in the last 24 hours.”

“He knows we’re tracking him. He’s hiding in plain sight.”

“That's what Jerry said,” the agent muttered.

“Who is Jerry talking to?”

“AD Douglas. Trying to get a warrant.”

“A warrant for where?”

“Oh you didn't hear?” Mulder shook his head. “We found a property that belonged to his father. In Edgewater, out by Annapolis.”

“He’s not going out there.” Mulder moved to the map that was pinned to the wall behind the white board. “Who were the remaining confirmed targets?”

The agent grabbed a page from the desk and read out the name there. “Dana Scully…”

“That's the statue located in UMD.” Mulder circled it with a red sharpie then clicked his fingers at the agent to give him the next one.

“Samuel Graf.”

“That's Little Falls Park right?” He marked that with the sharpie too.

“Yeah, and Lukas Fisher.”

“The Aviation memorial in Bethesda.”

“Yeah. Both Fisher and Graf are being held in protective custody in Alexandria.” The agent looked over at Scully. “And well Agent Scully is here.”

Mulder handed the marker to the agent as he spotted Jerry getting off the phone. “Mark the places where all the images of Sharky were taken, and highlight their order.”

The agent nodded then both Mulder and Scully walked over to Jerry who was punching another number into the phone.

“Progress Jerry.”

“Yeah, we got the warrant and I have local agents running it out, though I don't think we’ll find anything there.”

“I agree.” Mulder pointed at the map where the other agent was diligently marking the photo locations. “I want to track the photos and the known target sites to see if we can find a trend.”

“Yeah good, I’m going to run out to Edgewater and see what's going on there...just in case”

Mulder nodded and he took his coat off then went back to the map to work with the other Agent. Scully held back for a moment. She dropped her coat over the back of the chair where Mulder's was and took a couple of tentative steps to stand next to him. She didn't want to see that map. The red circle around her namesake’s statue in UMD which she knew signified the place where they expected to find her dead body if she had been captured.

As if he sensed her unease Mulder leaned a little bit more to his right until his arm brushed against hers and kept it there until he felt her lean back. He continued to talk to the other agent, clarify the order of events and study the information for a pattern but all the while his arm rested against her and she silently thanked him for it.

***

Scully’s Apartment
Friday 7pm

“Scully, I agreed, I told you I'd take you home.” He killed the engine and released his seat belt.

“Yeah, but you failed to mention you would be staying with me.”

“You thought I’d just drop you off and go on about my day?”

“No, but you have FBI surveillance at the end of the block.” She jerked her thumb in the direction they had just come, where she had spotted the unmarked sedan with two agents sitting in it.

“You spotted them?” He looked at her sideways.

“They weren't exactly subtle.”

Mulder’s hands gripped the steering wheel and tightly circled the leather there. “This is a non-negotiable point, Scully.” He turned his head to look at her. “You have three options. one, come back to my place. Two go to the safe house in Alexandria with the others. Or three, invite me in.”

“Those are the only options?”

“Well you could not invite me in, but I’m still coming in.” He shrugged, almost daring her to try him.

She took a deep breath and sighed. “Sure. Fine. Whatever.”

It wasn't quite the response he wanted but he would take it. She climbed out of the car and walked across the lawn. Mulder had to get her bag out of the trunk and hurried to catch up with her. When she got to her door and pulled her keys out of her pocket he grabbed her wrist and dropped her bag in the hall.

“Wait.” He took her keys and unlocked the door then pushed it open a little and stepped in front of her. He took his gun out of it's holster and Scully felt her heart skip a beat. Mulder kneed the door open a little further then gestured at her to follow as he walked through her apartment and cleared every room. She watched as he checked behind every door, and even under her bed, in her closet and behind her shower curtain.

“All safe?” she asked as she watched him, from her position leaning against the dining table.

Mulder nodded and holstered his weapon then went to the hallway to grab her bag. He carried it into her room and dropped it by the foot of her bed. Back in her living room he stood by her couch and suddenly realised he was in the way and didn't know where to stand.

“Just pretend I’m not here.” He spoke calmly, tried to persuade her that he was not nervous, that he didn't think there would be a killer knocking on the door, that he wasn't worried about being here alone with her and making sure she felt comfortable with him in her space. As comfortable as he was surprised to find her in his space.

He moved around the couch and took off his coat. He draped it over the arm of the couch then sat in the corner and crossed his legs, his ankle on his knee, his fingers drumming a random rhythm on his shin.

“You’re just going to sit there?”

“Yeah, do what you gotta do Scully.” He looked over his shoulder and smiled. “I’ll be here. Don't worry about me.”

She walked around to the front of the couch and picked up the remote from the coffee table. She tossed it into his lap and he caught it with an oomph then she walked past him and out of the room. Mulder listened as the door behind her closed and realised she went into her room. He waited a moment longer and when he couldn't hear anything he flicked on the TV and through the stations until he found something to watch.

Scully sat on the end of her bed and took a few steadying breaths. She could see her gun holstered on her bed side table and took solace knowing there was another one strapped to Mulder's hip out in the living room. She slapped her knees and stood away from the bed then moved to the bathroom and started to run a bath. This was what she wanted. A bath. Bubbles. To sink into the barely manageable heat of the water until her head was fully submerged. She held her hand under the water and fiddled with the taps until it was the right temperature then put the plug in the bottom of the bath to watch it fill. She perused her selection of bath foams then selected the lavender one knowing she would need all the help she could get to sleep later. She turned to the small radio on the windowsill and flicked it on then turned the dial to find a station playing relaxing music and already she could feel the tension start to dissolve.

Back in her bedroom she undressed, tossed all her clothing into the laundry basket and slipped on her heavy terry cloth robe and went back to the bathroom. For a few moments she felt bad about leaving Mulder out on her couch unattended, unentertained, alone, but as she stepped into the water and felt it envelop her wholly all of that dissipated and the only thing she felt now was relief.

In the living room Mulder heard the bath running and thought back to what she had said in the car that morning. He settled in for a long stay. He half watched the game, half listened to any noises that might alert him to a break in. He checked in with Jerry and listened to the report on how they were narrowing down Sharky's location but had nothing concrete so far.

An hour had passed before she emerged from the bathroom and she spent a further half an hour in her room after that. Just when he thought she was going to stay there all night the door opened and she came into the living room.

“You want a coffee?” she asked as she walked towards the kitchen.

“Sure.”

She pottered around in the kitchen for a while, and he listened to the sounds of her grabbing mugs, the rapidly increasing bubbling of the water in the kettle, the tinny scrape of the spoon stirring the drink then the clatter of it dropping into the sink.

She carried two mugs in and handed him one then stepped around him to curl onto the other end of the couch with her own drink. He noticed she was wearing black leggings and had on a long grey sweater with Annapolis blazoned across the front.

As she placed her mug on the long table that ran against the back of the couch she noticed the indicator on the answering machine highlighted the tape was full so she pressed the button to play all the stored messages since she left on Tuesday.

“Hey Danes,” it was her sister Melissa. “I haven't heard from you since Sunday. Has your FBI guy hidden you away? Call me.” Scully tried not to blush and hid her face as she sipped her coffee but she noticed the slight curve of Mulder's lips as he took a drink.

“Dana, seriously, call me. Where are you?” This time Melissa was worried and Scully felt a stab of guilt.

“Dana, I’m this close to storming the FBI building in DC. If you don't call me tonight.”

“Right, I’m coming over. If you are all naked and sweaty and too busy to answer the phone, be prepared to cover up.”

“Danes…” this time Melissa's voice was full of relief and laughter. “You sly dog… Call me when you get home.”

“Hey Dana, it's Ethan.” Scully tried her hardest not to look at Mulder but she couldn't help it and she saw his eyes narrow and a slight frown crease his brow. “I hope I didn't cause you any distress in the park earlier. It seems I clearly spooked your friend. Call me.”

“Dana.” This one was her mother and Scully cringed at the thought of what she might say. She wanted to reach out and kill the messages from playing but didn't want to alert him to any of her discomfort. He was making a good show of focusing on the baseball game playing on TV though she knew better.

“I was just talking with Missy and she said you have gone away with some man. Some FBI man.” Her mothers tone was a mix of hope and admonishment and Scully just wanted the world to open up and swallow her whole. “I’m sure none of that is true, you would have called me.”

A loud and long beep signaled the end of the messages so Scully pressed a button to let the tape rewind so new messages could be played over them.

“Well, that was embarrassing,” she said with a slight chuckle as she sipped her coffee.

“Huh?” Mulder pretended not to notice but she caught his half smile.

“My sister. Has quite the imagination.”

“Your FBI guy?” Mulder looked at her sideways and Scully smiled but shook her head. “Have you been hanging around with another Agent?”

“Yeah the few minutes I’ve gotten alone since you picked me up on Tuesday. I’ve been seeing AD Williams,” Scully said with a chuckle, naming one of the eldest AD’s in the building who was fit to retire any day.

“Ethan doesn't seem to want to give up.” He added nonchalantly as he sipped his coffee and his eyes returned to the game.

“Do you blame him?” she muttered and sipped her coffee with one arched eyebrow.

Mulder spluttered on his drink and she took a perverse pleasure in that.

“Interesting that a crazy guy waving a gun in his face didn't scare him off,” Scully said and she sipped her drink again. “Maybe I misjudged him.”

Mulder didn't say anything to that and kept his eyes fixed on the TV but she saw how his hands gripped his mug of coffee tighter.

“You hungry?” she asked suddenly and he looked over with a frown then as if her words filtered through the fog in his brain he nodded. Scully got up off the couch and went into the kitchen. He thought she would bring back a menu or something but instead he heard her open the fridge and take things out of the presses. He turned to see her starting to prepare a meal and got up to join her.

“You’re cooking?”

“Yeah.” She glanced up at him and smiled. “This is what I said I wanted to do.”

“Can I help?”

“Can you chop?”

Mulder made a face and shrugged. “I can try.”

She passed him a knife and the chopping board where she had been chopping onions. “Keep chopping these, and try to get them the same size.”

With the same level of laser focus he put into everything Mulder started chopping, while she chopped some peppers and mushrooms. She was finished with all her things before he had finished the single onion.

“I guess your autopsy skills come in handy for other things too.”

Scully chuckled. “I like the mindless rhythm of prepping food.” She admitted as she put what she had prepared into a bowl then reached for a pan in the press and added it to the hob. “It helps me relax after work.”

“You do this every day?”

“Every day I can yeah. It's not always possible.” She added oil to the pan and waited for it to head as she rummaged in the press for some noodles. “I take it you don't cook often?”

“Often implies ever.”

“Never?”

“I dunno if what I make counts as cooking.” He moved back and she took the onions from his board and added them to her pan. “Omelets, pancakes, oatmeal… that's about it.”

“Three main food groups,” she said and he smiled. “Jenny adds the rest of the nutrients?”

“Yeah, she feeds me way more than I deserve,” he said and crossed his arms as he leaned against the counter with his hip and watched her move the onions around on the low heat.

“She’s really nice,” Scully said.

“Yeah, she's way too good for Jerry,” he said with a chuckle but Scully could tell he didn't mean that.

“Have you told Jerry about your...plan?”

“I haven't told anyone.” He paused for a moment and watched as she added peppers and mushrooms to the pan too. “Except you.”

Scully looked up at him for a moment then returned her focus to the stir fry. She pulled another pot out of the press and added water to get ready for the noodles.

“What do you think he’ll say?” she asked quietly without looking up, unsure if she wanted him to answer.

“He’ll give out. He’ll say I’m throwing my career away. He’ll say I’ll never get ahead in the bureau if I focus on those types of cases.”

“Will he be right?”

“Yeah.” Mulder scoffed. “But I also think he’ll be glad.”

“Glad?” Scully looked over at him. “Why do you say that?”

“Because he’s usually the one who has to dig me out after a particularly grueling case. He’s the one who calls me up and forces me out to the courts to play ball, or takes me for a drink, or brings me home to Jenny for dinner.” Mulder chuckled sardonically. “I don't think he’ll miss those times, and I think he’ll be happy I won't be dealing with these cases any more.”

Mulder watched as she took a series of ingredients out and whisked them together in a bowl then turned up the heat on the pan and added the sauce to the veg as the noodles went into the now boiling water.

“Grab a couple of bowls,” she said and pointed at the right press.

Mulder took two bowls out then found the right drawer for cutlery and grabbed that too. He looked in the fridge to see what she had to drink. He was officially working, and definitely needed to stay alert but that didn't mean she couldn't have a beer or a glass of wine.

“What do you want to drink, Scully?”

“I think I have some ginger ale left in there…”

“Yeah,” he said and he grabbed that bottle and poured her a glass then put that on the table too. Once the table was set he turned in time to see her take the noodles from the pan and drain them then add them to the stir fry and quickly move them around the pan. “You’re kind of an expert at all this.”

“Wow Mulder, if you think these are expert level moves, you are going to be very easy to please.”

It wasn't until the words were past her lips that she realised how they sounded. She concentrated on the food she was making but could see him in her peripheral vision with a wide smile on his face as he watched her.

After a moment more, while she waited for the colour on her cheeks to fade, she lifted the pan and moved over to the table where she dished it out between the two bowls.

“You like it hot?” oh Christ was everything she was going to say tonight going to sound like a come on? She reached into the spice rack behind her and grabbed the jar of chill flakes.

She handed it to him and he flipped the lid open and shook it over his dinner then passed it back to her and she did the same.

“This smells amazing Scully,” he said as he leaned over his bowl and inhaled deeply.

“It's veg and noodles, Mulder.” She twirled her fork in the food and mixed it all up then took a forkful and ate it.

Mulder did the same and when the food was in his mouth he was shocked that such a powerful flavourful dish could be made from scraps she had in the kitchen, without a plan, without specific shopping, without a recipe. She just grabbed things, put them together, and boom, deliciousness. He chuckled as he took another bite.

“Good?”

“Amazing!” he said around a mouthful.

They ate in relative silence and Scully enjoyed his soft moans of content with every mouthful. When his dish was empty he almost looked sad. She gathered everything off the table and started to wash up and without being asked, Mulder found a dish towel and dried.

Once everything was clean, they naturally migrated back to the couch and Mulder picked up the remote again and found something other than sports broadcasting. She sat cross legged in the centre of the couch and he reclaimed his corner. He found an old movie playing and left it on though turned the sound down when he noticed her head started to bob a little from tiredness.

Shortly after they sat down her head rested on the back of the couch. Shortly after that it moved towards his shoulder, and in no time it had fallen to the front of his chest. Her breathing had slowed and deepened so Mulder moved his arm, took a cushion from his side and placed it on his lap, then carefully urged her to lie down until with a soft moan she rolled her whole body until her head rested on the cushion and her legs stretched out on the couch.

Her sleep was deep but restless. She scrunched her face and clenched her jaw. Her hands moved between her thighs and she curled her legs up. Mulder moved his hand to rest on her head and gently stroked her hair, his fingers stroking her scalp gently until her face relaxed and when it did, she rolled onto her back, then curled towards him, her face all but pressed into his torso.

Mulder's hand hovered above her head for a moment until he was sure she was still sleeping then slowly lowered his hand again and continued to gently stroke it through her hair, putting slight pressure on her scalp in what he hoped was a soothing motion.

A couple of hours later, Scully woke. She had one hand under her cheek, the other against his chest. Mulder's head had fallen back against the couch and his mouth hung open as he snored lightly. He had one hand on her hip, heavy and still, the other was down by his thigh where it had fallen.

She carefully rolled onto her back but the hand he had rested on her hip moved to her front and she sucked in a quick breath. She reached down and carefully curled her fingers around his wrist to lift his hand then moved away from him until she was standing in front of the couch. She put his hand onto his lap and stepped back. In the cupboard she got a blanket and draped it over him then hurried into her bedroom.

She undressed and slipped between her sheets with a sigh. It felt good to be home. It felt good to be between her own cold sheets. It felt good to feel safe. Her eyes opened at that thought. She was a known target for a serial killer that hadn't been apprehended. How did she feel safe? Because Mulder was here. He was outside. He was armed. He would do anything to protect her and she knew that. Scully inhaled a deep breath and slowly released it as she closed her eyes and snuggled into her pillow with a soft smile.

Chapter Text

Scully’s Apartment
Saturday 5am

Mulder's phone ringing woke him up and he jerked awake on the couch. It took him a moment to recognise his surroundings then he pulled the phone out of his pocket and answered it.

“Mulder.” He barked into the phone, already annoyed. His voice was raspy, and his throat was sore. His neck ached from the weird angle he slept on it and no one ever rang at 5am with good news.

“Mulder, it's me.”

“Jerry, how do you always find a way to ring so early.”

“Because people know the powerhouse in our partnership is me.” Jerry said laughing. “And they call me first.”

“What do you want Jerry?” Mulder rubbed the back of his neck and then curled his hand round to rub his face.

“We got him.”

“What?” Immediately alert, Mulder sat up and pressed the phone tighter to his ear.

“We got him.” He spoke slowly and clearly. “He was picked up about thirty minutes ago.”

“Where?”

“Out by Little Falls Park.”

Mulder immediately recognised it as one of the dump sites of the confirmed targets. “Samuel Graf?”

“He’s fine,” Jerry confirmed.

“Where is Sharky now?” Mulder was standing as he spoke.

“He was brought into DCPD on Idaho Avenue. I’m on my way there now.” Mulder could hear noises from the other end of the phone where Jerry was clearly putting on his coat and grabbing his car keys.

“I’ll be there in about half an hour.”

“Are you sure?” All the noise on the other end of the phone stopped. “Mulder, you don't need-”

“I’ll be there. I need to talk to him.”

“Okay,” Jerry said with a sigh. “Okay, I’ll see you there.”

Mulder hung up his phone and grabbed his coat then paused. He couldn't leave without saying something to her. He had to tell her what was happening. He dropped his coat on the couch and moved through the silent apartment to her bedroom. He knocked lightly on the door and called out her name.

“Scully,” he said again and when there was still no answer he turned the handle and opened the door.

It opened with a soft sigh as it moved across the carpet in her bedroom. He made his way across the room to her bed and with the aid of the light spilling in from the open door behind him, he was able to see her curled up under the duvet.

“Scully,” he said and he reached out to touch her arm, rested a hand on her shoulder and gently shook her awake. “Scully.”

Slowly she started to come to and when her eyes locked with his she started to smile but it turned into a frown and she leaned up on her elbow.

“Mulder, what's happening?”

“I need to leave.”

“What's going on?”

“Sharky was arrested.”

“What?” Scully sat up and the duvet fell around her waist revealing her baggy v neck tee she wore. “When? Where?”

“He was arrested near Little Falls Park.”

“That's the spot they expected Graf to be found...is he ok?”

Mulder smiled at her, amazed that her first thought was for the wellness of another person when she too was a target of this killer. “He’s fine. They are holding Sharky at DCPD on Idaho Avenue. I’m going there now, to meet Jerry.”

“I want to come too.” She pulled the duvet off her legs.

“No, Scully.” He took her hand and replaced the duvet over her bare legs. “No, you should stay here.”

“Mulder I-”

“Scully, no…” his hand tightened around hers and he looked into her eyes. “You shouldn't see him, or talk to him. It wouldn't do any good.” She slowly nodded her head and his hand on hers loosened its grip. “I’ll call you later?”

She nodded again and he held her gaze for a moment then stood up and walked out. At the curb he hurried over to the stakeout agents and told them to keep watch on the apartment and that he would call with an update soon.

***

DCPD Department
Saturday 1pm

Mulder poured out another two cups of coffee, added sugar and cream to one then carried them both over to the conference room where Jerry was leaning back on one chair with his feet propped up on another. Mulder dropped the sweetened coffee onto the table before him and collapsed into the chair next to him.

“Jesus Christ…” Jerry muttered as he picked up his coffee and took a long drink. “This guy is nuts.”

Mulder scoffed. “There is enough content coming out of that interrogation room to teach a whole class of profiling at the academy.”

Jerry chuckled. “It feels fucking great to have him off the street, that's for sure.”

“When will he be transferred to county jail?” Mulder asked and he checked his watch.

“In a couple of hours.” Jerry sipped his coffee again but kept an eye on Mulder. “How’s Scully?”

“Relieved.”

“I’ll bet.” Jerry watched Mulder's eyes lose focus and knew exactly where his mind was. “So are you going to see her again?”

“Huh?” Mulder sat up a little straighter in his seat and turned the cup round in his hands. “Yeah I guess, I mean, she’s an FBI pathologist. I’m sure our paths will cross again.”

“That's not what I mean Mulder and you damn well know it.”

“I was planning to call round to her later. Update her on everything here.”

“There you go.” Jerry finished his coffee and sat forward letting his feet hit the floor. “Perfect excuse.”

“Reason,” Mulder corrected. “Not an excuse.”

“Whatever,” Jerry stood and clapped Mulder on the back of the shoulder. “Just go see her.”

“You’ll call me later with an update?”

“You got it.”

Mulder tossed his coffee into the trash, patted his pockets and yanked his coat off the back of the chair and hurried out.

***

Scully’s Apartment
Saturday 4pm

Rather than going right back to Scully’s Mulder went home to shower and change first. He didn't want to bring one speck of anything from Sharky’s interrogation room back to her home. When he arrived at her building, he talked to the stakeout team and released them from duty then hurried up to her door and knocked. She opened soon after and beckoned him in.

“So what's going on?” She was wearing pretty much the same as last night, leggings and a sweater and she moved over to the couch and sat crossed legged on it again.

He joined her there and proceeded to tell her all about Sharky’s interrogation. She was rapt, fascinated by the story and how accurate his profile was. With every detail shared she felt more and more stress fade out of her body, her spine started to loosen, her shoulders lowered and all of a sudden she could breathe easy again.

“Oh my god...it's really over?” she sighed and fell back against the arm of the couch behind her.

“Yeah.”

“And there is no chance that he wasn't working alone?”

“No, the organised profile which he matched perfectly, always work alone. His detailing of the murders and how they were performed, confirm it.”

“That's a relief.”

Mulder smiled and she couldn't help but return it but after a moment his smile faded. “I’m sorry you had to go through all that.”

Scully nodded and pressed her lips together. “You mean having a serial killer hunt me down? Or having you stuck to my hip for almost a week?”

“Both I guess.”

Scully smiled and leaned forward to pat him on the shoulder. “Thanks Mulder.”

Mulder shrugged but then winced when his neck twinged. His hand moved up to grip it and he worked the muscle.

“All part of the service,” he said with a smile. “Besides, I owed you.”

“Owed me?”

“You fed me twice.”

“I fed you? So you become my personal bodyguard?”

“Yeah, so now we’re even.” His fingers dug into his neck.

“You’re neck sore?” She watched his fingers work the muscle. “Probably from how you fell asleep last night.”

“Yeah, it's just a crick.”

“Here, I have some cream.” she jumped off the couch and hurried into the bathroom then came back to his side and squeezed some of the cream onto her hand. “Pull your top down.”

Mulder's eyes darted from her hand to her face and then moved to pull the cuff of his sweater down. It pulled against his neck and still there wasn't enough room.

“Take your sweater off Mulder, It’ll be easier.”

“Um, right.” He paused a moment then tugged the sweater off and fixed his tee back in place then pulled the back of it down and leaned his head forward.

She pushed his shoulder to make him turn his back to her and smiled when she spotted the pulse in his neck speed up and knew the same was happening for her. She rubbed her hands together then leaned in to work the cream into his neck. Mulder focused on not moaning. He bit his lip and closed his eyes as her fingers and thumbs rubbed deep circles into the stiff muscles on his neck and shoulders.

“Feel better?”

“Mmm,” he said and he rolled his head to the side to give her more access to his left side which was really aching. She took the hint and dug her thumbs into that area and Mulder couldn't help the moan that escaped past his lips. Scully chuckled and rubbed harder.

They were both so caught up in the moment that neither of them heard the keys in the door or the sound of it opening until Melissa spoke.

“Well, well, well…”

Mulder opened his eyes and clutched his sweater to his chest as if protecting his modesty. Scully, who was leaning up off her haunches, kneeling behind Mulder with both of her hands on his shoulders, looked up as Melissa closed the door behind her, crossed her arms, a bottle of red wine dangling from one hand, and tapped her foot waiting for an explanation.

“Missy!” Scully exclaimed and she jumped away from Mulder to engulf her sister in a bear hug. Melissa wrapped her arms around her but kept her eyes on Mulder who was sitting on the edge of the couch cushion.

“Hey Danes,” Melissa said, still chuckling. “I was so worried about you. But I can see I needn’t have been.”

“Oh hush,” Scully said and she stepped away from her sister and curled her hair behind her ears. “This is Agent Mulder whom I’ve been working with all week.”

“Working with, or working on?” Melissa muttered as she stepped over to Mulder and held her hand out.

Mulder stood and took her hand, suddenly feeling like he was under a microscope. “Hello.”

“Agent Mulder?”

“Yeah.”

“You have a first name?” Melissa said as she stepped into the room and claimed the seat next to Mulder.

“Just Mulder is fine.”

“Is it classified?”

“No, it's embarrassing.” Mulder said with a self admonishing chuckle as he pulled on his sweater and took his seat, leaving Scully to claim the armchair across from them.

“Well, now I gotta know.”

“Fox. Fox Mulder.”

“What's embarrassing about that? It's beautiful.”

“Tell that to the kids in middle school.”

Melissa laughed. “I bet they tore you to shreds for that name.”

“Let’s just say I learned how to throw a punch long before I should have.”

“So is the case you two were working on all solved?”

Mulder and Scully exchanged glances.

“It's over,” Scully said though she knew Mulder had a long road ahead of him building the case for the prosecution. Mulder nodded, knowing she needed to ease her sister's fears.

“Good. So tell me Fox-”

“Mulder.” Scully corrected her sister with a warning tone but she was sure it would have no effect. Mulder smiled at her defense of his preferred name and looked back to Melissa who kept her eyes peeled on him.

“Tell me Fox, do you always work on these super intense cases?”

“Um, well, I guess I work on whatever case I’m assigned to.”

“And are they always intense like this last one?” Melissa leaned a little closer to await his answer.

“Mostly, yeah,” he admitted and he held Melissa’s gaze, determined not to look away.

“Well pardon me for saying it, but I hope you don't end up working with Dana again.”

This time he couldn't help it, he broke eye contact from her and glanced at Scully who was frowning at her sister.

“Missy, don’t start. I thought you were on my side.”

“I am, I am.” Melissa held her hands up in a defensive posture. “I just didn't think you joining the FBI meant all this cloak and dagger stuff.”

“It means what it means.” Mulder recognised the frustrated tone in Scully’s voice and knew this was a long fought battle that had been going on for a while, and thought it best to keep quiet. “And I don't need you whispering in Ahab’s ear about anything.”

“I won't, I promise.”

“Maybe I should, um, go,” Mulder said and he put both hands on his knees and went to stand up, but Melissa put a hand on his arm to stop him.

“No, no you have to stay.” Melissa smiled sweetly. “You need to tell me all about Special Agent Dana Scully. And I can tell you all about wild and unruly student Dana Scully.”

Mulder's smile widened and he looked over at Scully who rolled her eyes.

“Mulder doesn't want to hear about any of that.”

He settled back onto the couch and rested one ankle on the opposite knee. “I could do with hearing a bit of it.”

“You don't even have any Special Agent Scully stories!” She protested.

“Oh stop, sure I do. And when I run out I’ll just make some up.”

Melissa laughed. “Perfect. Well I’ll go first.” She handed the bottle over to Scully and urged her to open it as she started a thankfully tame story of the first night they snuck beers out of their fathers cabinet when they were in high school.

They finished the wine, and ordered a pizza. Scully opened another bottle she already had in the apartment and all too soon that was gone too. Mulder told the story of their first meeting and Scully followed that with their next meeting and how he didn't recognise her. Melissa told a story about how she once caught Dana in flagrante delicto with her then boyfriend in the back of his truck at the drive in.

Scully turned red and laughed at the memory and Mulder watched her react with a crooked smile on his face. He couldn't keep his eyes off her. And Melissa noticed.

When the last of the wine was gone, she carried her glass into the kitchen then slipped on her coat by the door.

“Time for me to slink off into the night.” She winked at her sister and Mulder guessed he had missed some sort of secret sister code. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Fox.”

“Pleasure was definitely all mine.” He stood and shook her hand but she pulled him into a hug.

“And you,” she said when she released him and turned to her sister. “Next time call before I lose my mind with worry.”

“I will.” The Scully sisters hugged.

“See you for mass tomorrow?”

“Maybe. I’ll be there for dinner though.”

“Great.” She glanced over at Mulder. “Call mom if she needs to set another place. You know how she likes to fuss.”

“Good night Missy.”

Melissa smiled, triumphant when she saw the blush in her sister's cheeks then waved at Mulder and left.

“Wow," Mulder said as he combed his fingers through his hair. "Your sister is something else.”

“Yeah, she is a whirlwind.”

“So you are the straight laced science geek?” He said and watched her as she claimed the seat her sister had just vacated. “And she is the new-agey crystal reading free spirit?”

“Something like that.” Scully smiled at the memories shared this evening. She couldn't believe Missy had told some of the stories she had done, but loved the sound of Mulder's gentle laughter, how he grinned at her repeatedly, and watched her reaction. Then when he told his own stories it was as if he was telling her, about her, through his own eyes. She could have listened to that all day.

But their time together was coming to an end. The case was over. He didn't need to watch over her. She didn't need to sleep in his bed anymore. Scully felt her cheeks warm as that thought flourished so she distracted herself by collecting the empty glasses and bottles of wine to take them into the kitchen.

Mulder picked up the pizza boxes and followed them, but took her cleaning frenzy as a sign that he should leave.

“I should go,” he said as he folded the box up and placed it into her recycle bin, then leaned against the counter with his hip, looking for all the world like a man who had no intention of leaving.

“Oh, ok.” She dried her hands off with a hand towel then rubbed them off her ass before she crossed her arms loosely over her chest. “Thanks for the update today.”

“Yeah, Jerry says we have a few weeks to put a case together for prosecution but the way this guy is singing, it's not going to be difficult.”

“You have all my autopsy notes, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, very thorough Doctor Scully,” he said with a smile.

“If there is anything else I can help with…”

She left the statement hanging in the air. There seemed to be nothing else to say. Nothing for the case. Nothing for work. Plenty of other things she wanted to say.

Mulder racked his brain trying to think of something else to say, something to keep him standing here in her kitchen close enough to feel her body heat and hear her soft breath as she exhaled. But the only things he could think to say were wildly inappropriate.

“It's going to be strange…” she whispered.

“What?”

“Not having you banging on my door, turning up at the lab, dragging me around the state from Annapolis to Bethesda.”

“Dragging you?” Mulder smiled. “I’m pretty sure it was you who followed me to Annapolis!”

Scully chuckled and shook her head. “Maybe I did, maybe I did.”

He caught her eyes with his own and he felt something jolt through him. “Scully, I…” He wasn't sure how to finish that sentence. “You ever want to say or do something that you were pretty sure would earn you a left hook across the jaw?”

Scully frowned and slowly shook her head.

“And you ever want to risk the left hook because the reward would be so so worth it?”

Mulder slid along the counter towards her and her eyes widened a little as what he was saying all started to make sense. One of his hands walked along the sink she was leaning against and gripped a fistful of her sweater. She was barefoot and he was standing so close he practically had to snap his neck to look down at her but he ignored the stiff pain there and across his shoulders to keep his eyes connected with hers.

“I figure the closer I stand the less velocity you can get on that left hook…” his voice was low but all she could hear was honey pouring over her, engulfing her in warmth.

Then his other hand gripped her other side and all of a sudden his lips were on hers. At first all she felt was gentle pressure, slight hesitancy as if he was waiting for her to push him away but when she moved her hands up his chest and gripped the back of his neck, he tilted his head and deepened the kiss. Suddenly she felt him part her lips with his tongue then slow languid strokes of his tongue sweeping across her sent shivers of pure unmetered desire rolling through her.

When Mulder felt her whimper against his mouth he got bolder. One of his hands moved from her side to slide up her back and grip her shoulder but the other moved to the small of her back and after only a slight hesitation his long slender fingers moved over the curve of her ass then squeezed her cheek and pulled her against him.

She moaned when she felt his obvious arousal against her stomach. Partially moaning because of the evidence of what she was doing to him, and partially because of how she wasn't feeling it where she really wanted to feel it. Lower. Just a little lower.

Then his lips were gone. She no longer felt their softness against hers, instead she felt his panting breath, warm against her wet swollen lips.

“Scully…” he whispered. “I should go.” Even as he spoke the hand he had on her ass slowly stroked the crease at the top of her leg

“Go?”

“Yeah, because if I don't go…” his hand pulled her against his arousal. “Then I’m liable to do something you might regret.” Scully chuckled and he moaned as her whole body vibrated against him. “Jesus, stop,” he uttered before his mouth clashed against her again, this time finding that spot where her neck met her shoulder and attacked her with a delicious combination of his lips, teeth and tongue.

She dragged one of her hands down his chest, fumbled to get in under his clothing and ran her fingers up the indent of his spine, making him pull away and gasp at the ceiling.

“You’re not making this easy.”

“Am I making it hard?”

This time he laughed, loudly, from the pit of his stomach and he pulled her whole body against him, lifted her up until her feet dangled off the floor and buried his face in her neck.

“You are making it impossibly hard.”

“Let me see what I can do about that.” She whispered the words against his ear and it caused a shiver to trickle down his spine.

“You are...intoxicating.” he said before he crushed her lips with a hard kiss. “I want…”

“Me too.”

“But I should…” he lowered her to the ground. He had intended to put her down and step back but instead he held her against him all the way down, even after her feet touched the ground. “Should go.”

“Go? Why?”

“Because...because I don't know if I can sleep with you and then walk away.”

“Walk away?”

“Scully,” he said and he pulled his hands away from her, combed his fingers through his hair and took a few steps back as if distance would make it easier. “My work in the bureau is about to get a whole lot tougher. I’m about to make a whole lot more enemies.” He leaned back against the counter and stretched his legs before him.

“The X-Files?”

“I couldn't drag you into all of that.” He looked down at his feet.

“Drag me?” Why did everything she have to say sound like a question? Why was she being so passive in this strangely one sided conversation? “Mulder,” she said and she grabbed his arm to turn him back to her. “Let me get this straight...”

Mulder looked at her and waited for her to continue.

“You want to sleep with me?” He nodded. “You want more than a once off?” He nodded again. “You think your work in the bureau will put you in danger and if we’re together, put me in danger too?”

He nodded again but this time he frowned too. “Scully-”

“There are a lot of ifs and buts in there.”

“Scully, I don't know if I can protect you-”

“I can protect myself.”

She spoke clearly and with conviction. He wanted to believe her. God he wanted to believe her. Because if he did then it meant…

“I can.” She smiled then and he was taken aback by the power behind it. “I’m a trained FBI agent after all.”

Mulder felt his reluctance melt and she saw it too. She stepped in front of him, stood between his legs and rested her hands flat on his chest. His hands naturally fell to the dip in her waist and he moved them around to the top curve of her ass.

“Scully-'' he started to say but she leaned up on her tiptoes, dragged her body against his and delighted in the moan he emitted.

“Shut up, Mulder,” she whispered before she kissed him. This time Mulder didn't hold back. He pulled her gruffly against him and plundered her mouth with his tongue. She responded with delight, matching the push and pull of his tongue with her own vigour.

He clutched her ass and lifted her in a way that made her knees grip his hips and finally she felt that delicious arousal he had been teasing her with, right where she wanted, albeit through several layers of annoying fabric. When she moaned into his mouth Mulder tightened his grip on her ass and turned them round so she was perched on the kitchen counter. Her legs wrapped around him tightly, as if afraid he was going to pull away but Mulder had no such notions.

His hands cupped her face and he moved his lips from hers, along her jaw, suckled on her ear lobe, kissed the sensitive skin beneath, then moved around her neck to the other side. Meanwhile her hands moved down his chest, grappled with his tops to reach his warm skin then dragged her nails softly against his torso making him gasp.

“Off,” she said as she tugged his tops up and he leaned back long enough to let her pull them off him but quickly claimed his place again, his lips moving fluidly against her satin skin. Scully's hands roamed all over him, everywhere she could reach. His back, his sides, his chest and abs right to the spot where a trail of hair disappeared beneath his belt buckle. When he felt her fingertips slip below the waistband of his jeans he inhaled sharply and pulled back to look. She had a hold of his jeans, a vice like grip as if she was ready to tear them off him. “Off,” She said repeating the same word she used to tug his tops off him.

“What's the hurry…” he teased and his hands moved from her thighs to her waist, under her tops to get that first tantalising touch of her warm skin. She smiled and stretched her torso up, lifted her arms above her head giving him all the permission he needed to peel her tops off her. Sweater and tank top both came off and it was only then he realised she wasn’t wearing a bra. “Scully.” Her name was more of a sigh when it passed his lips and he immediately bent to take one peaked nipple into his mouth and suckled on it with a growl.

She cupped the back of his head and held him against her, arched her back to deepen the connection and leaned one hand back on the counter to keep herself from falling back into a puddle of wanton desire. When he moved his mouth to her other breast she couldn't help the moan and she didn't want to. She wanted to show him how he made her feel. She wanted him to know, with no uncertainty how much she was burning up inside with the need to feel him.

“Mulder!” She cried out when he bit down then rasped his tongue against her nipple. “Yes.”

He released her breast from his mouth but covered it with one hand then crushed her lips in a searing kiss. “God Scully,” he said, his lips never fully disconnected from hers. “I’ve thought about this...but I didn't think it would be this good.”

Scully laughed a pleased throaty laugh. “We haven't even started yet, Mulder.”

“You already said I’d be easy to please.”

She laughed again and wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her heels into his ass to pull him closer. Mulder's arms banded around her middle as his tongue duelled with hers and he lifted her off the counter. The feeling of her warm satin skin against his chest was driving him to the brink. He moved in the direction of her couch but she tugged on his hair to steer him towards the bedroom. He kicked the door open and bee lined for the bed then fell with her onto the firm mattress with an oomph.

Scully giggled and wrapped her legs around him tighter. Mulder took the opportunity to clearly show her how aroused he was and rolled his hips against her. Her giggle turned into a moan and she lifted her hips to meet him. Then suddenly pulled her hips back and pushed his shoulders off her so she could get to his belt and start to undo it. Mulder chuckled at the speed of her fingers as she pulled his belt open, snapped the button out of the hole and yanked the zipper down.

“Hey, careful there,” he said while he could still form words which were totally beyond him once her hands moved into his boxers and gripped his cock. “Fuck!”

Her hands stroked him slowly, from base to tip, her thumb ran over the head, as her other hand pushed his jeans and boxers down low enough til they could fall to his ankles on their own. He toed off his shoes and kicked his pants aside all while her hand continued to stroke him.

“Shit, Scully, stop.” He grabbed her wrist but it just made her grip him tighter. “Ugh, you keep doing that and all this fun is going to come to an abrupt end.”

Her fingers loosened and finally she sat back, rested her hands behind her and looked up at him with a demure smile. “Well?” she said with a challenging glint in her eyes.

His hands moved to her leggings. He curled her fingers into the waistband either side of her hips and pulled them and her panties down without preamble. When she was completely bare and he dropped her clothes over where his jeans lay he put one knee on the bed and leaned over her. He kissed her mouth gently. Then moved his mouth to kiss her shoulder. She chuckled and his eyes shot up to hers and he smiled. His lips moved to kiss the top curve of her breast then he twisted his head to kiss the inside of her elbow and she laughed.

“Mulder!”

“Shh.”

He kissed her belly button, this time letting his tongue come out and lick the sensitive skin there and she gasped. His hands moved to her knees and ran up the inside of her thighs but veered off course near the top and came back down to her knees on the outside of her thighs.

“Mulder,” she said, this time a tinge of frustration in her voice but he ignored it, his fingers digging into her fleshy thighs and tugged her closer to the end of the bed as he lowered himself to his knees. His hands clutched her knees and pulled her legs apart as he kissed the crease at the top of both legs then sighed a long warm breath against her core making her squirm. “Please,” she whispered into the room, offering up prayer to St Jude of lost causes that she may actually come before the night was up.

Mulder long flat tongue pressed against her and he dragged it up the full length of her until he flicked against her clit. Scully cried out and her hands flew to his head and pushed him down to do that again. He obeyed and licked her again, and again until she was writhing against him so much he had to press her hips into the bed to keep her still.

“Mulder, more,” she pleaded and Mulder lifted his head to grin at her before he got back to work.

He found her entrance and slipped his tongue in as far as he could reach and she all but hit the ceiling then he moved his mouth to focus on her clit. He flicked it, licked it, sucked it in random combinations until her hips moved and pushed up in a rhythm-less fashion mirrored only by her panting and moaning. His hand moved from under her thigh to her entrance and he quickly slipped one finger in but it wasn't until he slipped another in that she moaned and lifted her hips again.

When her hands tightened on his hair to almost painful proportions and her moans became more pants, her breath caught in her throat and her hips pushed into his face and Mulder knew without a shadow of a doubt, she was about to come. His hands cupped her ass, pulled her up to him and he moaned into her as she broke.

Scully felt every minuscule movement of his tongue, every ounce of air pushed out of his nose or past his lips, every pascal of pressure of his fingers on her thighs, on her ass, and the fluid motion of his fingers as they pressed into her. And each sensation stacked up on top of everything else she had been feeling since he kissed her in the kitchen. Since he first touched her lower back. Since he first put her to bed. Since he first walked into her lab. Until finally here she was writing underneath him, willing him to go deeper, touch her more, let her feel everything he was doing until she could feel nothing at all.

The bubble of pleasure expanded almost to the point of popping until he moaned into her and it exploded. A satisfying furore of ecstasy washed all over her, leaving her weak and loose limbed. Mulder licked and sucked at her convulsions until her hands indicated it was too much then he slowly released her and kissed her inner thighs instead. Her legs fell to her sides, her hands too and she struggled to catch her breath. He kissed his way up her body the same way he kissed his way down and she was still lying languid and still by the time he got to her lips.

“Scully?” he whispered against her ear. “You alive in there?”

Scully chuckled and rolled her head towards him without opening her eyes. She found his lips and kissed him. “Mmmm.” The kiss changed from teasing to tongues and soon her limbs came back to life and she moved her hand to his shoulder, rolled her whole body towards him, then tossed her leg over his hip and pushed him onto his back so she could straddle him. His hands immediately grabbed her hips as the wet remnants of her orgasm coated him. Her hips moved to press down on his erection and Mulder broke the kiss to bite his lip and groan.

“Scully, god.” He pushed his hips up into her to make her groan. “I hope you are as easy to please as I am because I’m not sure if this will be my finest attempt.”

“Let's see shall we?” She pressed her knees onto the bed and lifted off him so her hands could reach his cock and stroke him as she put him in position.

“Scully!” he warned her. She moved his cock to rub it against her clit then slid it past her lips to her entrance and slowly lowered herself onto him to be sure he was in place before she let go. She sat up fully, then covered his hands on her waist with his own before she looked into his face and smiled.

“Ready?” she asked with a wicked smile. He nodded his head vigorously, unable to form words lest he speak with his cock and come before he was fully buried in her warmth.

She held on a moment more then without warning or preamble she widened her legs and took him in completely.

“Oh god!” he cried out and his fingers dug into her. Scully laughed another throaty guttural laugh that Mulder was sure he would never tire of hearing. “Wait, give me a second.”

Scully didn't lift off him but she slowly started to rock above him and when she got tired of waiting she clenched her inner muscles around him which made his hips jerk into her and she gasped. Scully slowly lifted off him and quickly sank back down and Mulder groaned.

“Scully, I can't-”

“Wait for me,” she urged and he pulled one hand out from under hers and moved it to her clit to massage her in time with the motion of her hips.

“Come with me,” he urged, knowing full well he wasn't going to be able to hold on.

“Mulder, wait...Mulder, wait…” she chanted as she moved one hand to reach behind her and balance on his thigh so he could have more access to her clit, and her other hand moved up to her breast where she could massage and pinch her nipple.

“Fuck,” he cursed under his breath, unable to keep his eyes off her but knowing full well that was going to be his undoing.

“Fox!” she cried out and his eyes shot up to hers to see her challenging him.

“Mulder,” he said but she shook her head.

“Fox.”

“Mulder.”

She shook her head again and it drove him wild. He gripped her hips and pushed her onto her back so he could drive into her. He pulled knee up to press into her torso, allowing him to sink into her even deeper and her moan changed to a gasp making him drive into her harder. He lowered his head and suckled on her breast, his teeth biting down hard before he released her completely.

“Fffff...uck,” she said and he smiled in triumph.

“Come for me Scully,” he urged. “Come.”

Despite the powerful orgasm she’d had not so long ago she wasn't surprised to feel another one expanding around the base of her spine making her fingertips tingle and her toes curl. She had teased and tugged him into a frenzy and seeing his face wild and almost feral was enough to push her over the edge but she was trying to hold on for as long as she could, making him work for it, making him bring out more and more tricks until she was starting to quiver and couldn't hold it back anymore.

When he felt her start to tremble around his cock as he drove into her with abandon, Mulder could have cried with glee. He definitely laughed and their eyes connected. Both pairs filled with joy and relief as they lost rhythm and just clung on, their hips and bodies dancing against one another until they finally crashed through to the other side.

“Oh Scully,” he cried out when he felt his balls tighten and knew he was at most three thrusts away from completion.

“Yes Mulder, I’m there,” she said and though this one wasn't as powerful it was no less satisfying.

He lowered his head, buried it in the crook of her neck as he came. His grunts against her ears, and his cock spasming against her inner walls dragged her over the edge and she convulsed around him, milking him, pulling out every ounce he had to offer until they both fell still, sated, sleepy.

After a few moments he moved his arms to push off her but she held him in place with a moan. “Noooo,” she uttered and she tightened her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist.

“I’m crushing you,” he said against her neck but even before she responded his tongue licked her salty skin and his teeth nipped at her.

“Comfy,” she whimpered and rolled her head back to allow him more access to her neck.

Mulder slid his arms around her torso and he rolled onto his back, pulled her along with him so she was flat on his chest. His softened cock slipped out of her and she whined in protest making him chuckle.

“I was right about one thing,” he whispered as his fingers moved along the indent of her spine.

“What?”

“There’s no way I would allow this to be a one time thing.”

Scully chuckled. She put her hands flat on the bed either side of his head and pushed herself up. “What if I’d be okay with it being a one time thing?”

For a second his face fell as if that thought hadn't occurred to him. But before his frown could fully form she smiled.

“Oh my god,” he said with a laugh.

“I had you.”

“No, you didn't.”

“I had you big time.”

“Shut it.” His hands moved to her waist and she started to squirm away from his tickling fingers.

“Fox! Stop!” she said laughing.

“I told you,” he said and he sat up abruptly, moved one hand to her hip to pull her against him and the other up her back between her shoulders to crush her breasts against his chest. “To call me Mulder.” He followed his words with a gruff kiss, capturing her breathy laugh. Scully pulled her lips away and looked down at him with a wide grin.

Mulder realised only then how much trouble he was in with her. He was in deep. Way over his head, and he wasn't sure he could swim at this depth. But he was going to have a fucking ball finding out.

Scully watched the cogs turning behind his eyes and wanted to know in minute detail everything he was thinking and feeling. His fingers pressed into her ass, and the top of her back and his eyes bored into her. The only thing that was shocking about it was how natural it all felt.

“I don't normally climb into bed within a week of meeting a guy,” she whispered.

“Me neither.” Then he added with a crooked smile. “Or with women.”

“What now?”

“Now?” His hands loosened on her and he circled her waist in a soft hug. “Now, we get under the covers.” His fingers gently stroked her warm skin. “We definitely have sex again. I’m not finished tasting you yet.” He leaned in and kissed her tenderly. “We’ll probably sleep some, but not much. Maybe a shower later. You can make breakfast in the morning.” Scully chuckled and let her fingers play with his hair at the nape of his neck. “I’ll definitely try to outstay my welcome til at least Sunday night when I’ll have to go home to get ready for work on Monday.”

“And then?”

“And then I’ll call you, or you’ll call me.” He leaned back a little and dropped all pretense or mirth from his voice. He captured her eyes and held them for a moment. “To be honest Scully, I really don't know what happens next.” He wanted to look away but forced his eyes to stay locked with hers. “But I’d like to find out. With you.”

“You’ll call me?”

Mulder smiled. “I told you, there is no way you’re getting rid of me after that display.”

Scully laughed and he was delighted to hear it was one of her throaty, sexy ones that seemed to roll up from her toes.

“This is going to be fun, isn't it?”

“Oh yeah,” his arms tightened around her and he hugged her against him. Her head in the crook of his neck, his head in hers. “Nothing can stop us now.”

The end.
Skinfull 2021