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We're Married Now

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AD Skinner’s Office
Tuesday 4pm

Skinner sat back in his chair and looked across the table and the two agents that were sitting on the other side. Neither of them seemed particularly happy with the assignment he had just finished explaining to them but he sure as hell wasn't about to back down and let them refuse.

It's almost as if they thought they got to pick and choose the cases they worked on. Hell, it usually was that way with these two, but this time he was going to stand firm. This case was a joint national effort between the FBI and the ATF and there was no way Skinner wasn't going to have his best agents leading the charge on behalf of the FBI.

“Sir, I can’t go undercover.” Her voice was usually so sure, so the undercurrent of hesitation troubled him.

“Do you care to let me know why?” Skinned picked up the pen he had just dropped and started to write notes, like her reason wasn't going to affect his assignment.

The two agents looked at each other and suddenly it was as if he was no longer in the room. Their silent communication always annoyed him. He knew partners who worked in the field like these two did, usually developed some subconscious way of communicating. Frowns, eyebrows, body language. A quick, simple, and discrete way of sharing information, thoughts, preferences when interrogating witnesses, or in meetings with larger task forces. He remembered that connection. He missed it.

“I wasn't planning on telling anyone yet...of course, he knows,” she said and nodded her head towards her partner who was looking everywhere but at Skinner. “I’m six weeks pregnant.”

Skinner's pen stopped moving and he looked up at them both. She sat ramrod straight in her chair and Skinner had to put effort into not letting his eyes wander down to her belly as if suddenly it would be round and she would be ready to pop. Her partner shifted in his chair, pinched his bottom lip and his eyes stared at something on the floor.

“Pregnant?”

“I’m still cleared for active field duty. But this assignment sounds like it's going to last weeks, possibly months?” She glanced at her partner and their eyes connected. Skinner watched his encouragement get absorbed by her and she turned back to face forward again. “I can't put this baby at risk.”

“Right.” Skinner sat back in his chair and held his pen in front of himself, fingers pinching either end. “I see.”

His eyes moved between them, the unspoken question hovering between them. He’d never ask it though. Not only was it none of his business, but it was a HR investigation waiting to happen. She noticed his unease though. Of course she did, she was the better investigator of the two. She smiled and shook her head. She looked at her partner who had a slight blush on his cheeks and looked out the window just beyond Skinner’s head.

“I’m sorry for springing this on you sir, like I said I wasn't planning to tell anyone until at least after the first trimester.”

“I only found out last week,” her, until now, silent partner said as if it absolved him from all blame.

“Ok, well this is about the only reason that works for refusal of this assignment.” Skinner gathered up the pages from his desk and shuffled them together. “That will be all.”

They both looked chastised as they stood in unison. As they were leaving the room, Skinner reached over for his phone and pressed the intercom button to reach Kim in the other room.

“Yes, sir?”

“Get Agents Mulder and Scully up here please.”

“Yes, sir.”

Skinner saw the door close across the room and sighed. Damn.

That was an unexpected spanner in his plan. Mulder and Scully had been on the list of possible agents that would suit this assignment but Jones and Murphy had done the undercover married thing before and it went really well. Mulder and Scully had been working together for over 3 years, and their partnership was never stronger, but it took a certain type of partnership to survive an assignment like this. He wasn't sure if they would survive it or it would destroy them.

His phone buzzed so he reached over to press the intercom button, knowing it would be Kim with an update on Mulder and Scully's arrival.

“Yes.”

“Sir, Mulder and Scully are in the field. They will report in when they return to the office.”

“When did they say that would be?”

“Mulder estimated their return would be within the hour.”

“Thank you, Kim.”

Skinner turned off the intercom, sat back in his chair and pinched the bridge of his nose. He could already feel a headache forming. He would have to go through the whole case again, convince them it was the best course of action.

He imagined Mulder would put up a fight because he hated general assignment when there was no x-file element. Scully would put up a fight because an undercover assignment where they had to pose as a married couple would only fuel the gossip fire that was burning about the two of them already.

Skinner was definitely sympathetic to that issue but not so much that he would reassign cases or prevent them from working particular angles. So both of their arguments would fall on deaf ears. Now all he needed was a strong cup of coffee to bolster himself up to bother listening to them, else he would just send them the case file, email them instructions and be done with it.

He smiled at that thought. He’d turn off his phone. Go home for the evening. Open that bottle of whiskey that he brought back from Scotland last month. Yeah, that was a damn site more appealing evening than sitting here, waiting for the duo to come into his office and argue.

But the whiskey would have to wait. The coffee would have to do. Skinner stood and stretched his back, then walked across to the door that opened up where Kim was sitting.

“Sir?” She said as she looked up from her typing. “Can I get you anything?”

“I’m just grabbing a coffee.”

“I can get that for you, sir.”

“No, that's fine, I need to dust off the cobwebs.” Kim nodded and got back to her typing. “Can I get you anything kim?”

She smiled and shook her head. “No, thanks.”

Skinner went to the break room on the 5th floor. They always had the Kenyan roast he preferred and usually some of the nicer cookies too. He took the stairs, preferring to prolong the excursion and was delighted to find the breakroom deserted. He cleaned out the coffee machine and brewed a fresh pot then hunted through the press for the cookies he knew would be there before he took the elevator back to his floor. Back in his office he dropped a couple of chocolate chip cookies wrapped in a napkin on Kim's desk

“You can wrap up there Kim, and go home.”

“Oh? You don't need me to wait for Agents Scully and Mulder?”

“No, that's fine.” Skinner held back the roll of his eyes, though it took a gargantuan effort. “They can find their own way to the door. You can go on home.”

“Thanks sir.”

A little over an hour had passed since Kim reported Mulder and Scully would return and with every additional passing moment he got more annoyed. Mulder making him wait, even just a little longer than expected, was his exertion of power. Skinner decided, a long time ago, it was in his best interest to never react to these power plays when it came to Mulder. And besides, when Scully was part of the summons, they would never be too late. She hated being late. As if on cue there was a knock on the door and Skinner knew it was Scully who had knocked rather than Mulder.

“Come in.”

The door opened and Scully walked in with Mulder hot on her heels. They took their customary seats and Skinner wondered if they planned it. To always sit in the same seats.

“You rang?” Mulder said in his best Lurch impression.

“How is the case you’re working on going?”

They both looked at each other and Skinner tamped down a spike of annoyance at the silent communication. God he really needed that whiskey.

“It's progressing,” Mulder said, while at the same time Scully spoke.

“It's a dead end.”

Skinner held back his smile. Maybe the silent communication wasn't all it was cracked up to be. “Care to explain?”

“The witnesses have recanted, the evidence is not stacking up under scrutiny, the circumstances of the reported event cannot be corroborated,” Scully said.

Then Mulder added “We’re looking into witness tampering.”

Skinner frowned. “I need you to close that case and file your report by the end of day today.”

“Today sir?” Scully said and her eyes subtly went to the clock over the door. It was well past quitting time.

“Yes, today.”

“Why the rush?” Mulder asked.

“I have an assignment.”

“We’re not on general assignment.”

“You are when I need you to be.” Skinner opened the folder on his desk and handed them each a page. He gave them a moment to read it and as soon as Mulder's eyes lifted from the page, he knew he would finish first so he was waiting for him, Skinner started his practiced speech. “The Altar of Ephesians has been operating out of Arizona for nearly ten years. The last three of those years they have been under surveillance by the ATF and for the last year, the FBI.”

“This case…” Mulder said as he shifted on his chair, clearly uneasy. He glanced at Scully who was still reading the page. “I understood it was being assigned to Agents Jones and Murphy?”

Skinner frowned and tried not to think about how he knew that when the discussion was held only this morning and only three other people were in the room at the time.

“No, it's not,” he said without offering up any further explanation. “It's being assigned to both of you.”

“Sir,” Scully spoke and both men turned to her. “This is an undercover case, with the likelihood of it lasting weeks, maybe months.”

“Correct.”

“We can't abandon the x-files for that long.”

Mulder's eyes shot up. That was his line. He looked at Skinner who looked equally as surprised that it came from her.

“This case is a priority.”

“Yes, sir, but-”

“Priority.” Skinner spoke as if that ended the argument. “We have three missing women, two men, and four kids under seven. Each of them was last seen visiting the camp.” Skinner picked up a page from his desk and passed it to Mulder. “ATF has recorded they have amassed an arsenal to rival a small country, with purchasing increasing in the last year or so.”

“When does this assignment take effect?” Scully asked and Skinner realised she was resigned to accepting this case. That would help him immensely. Mulder would go where she went.

“Your flights are booked to Arizona in the morning. Where you will work with an ATF team for a week on your undercover profiles. Two ATF agents will also be undercover with you.”

“Sir-” Mulder started. He clearly wasn't done arguing.

“Share your updated undercover protocol files, I’ll be sure your next of kin are informed.” Skinner shuffled all the pages together and slipped them into the folder then held it out. This time Scully took it as she stood. Mulder watched for a moment then stood too. They both walked out of the room and Skinner sat back in his chair.

That went way better than he expected. Maybe they hadn't read the whole page. The part about them being a married couple. Skinner decided that was their own fault and his mind wandered back to that bottle of whiskey at home. He rolled down his sleeves as he stood, took his jacket off the back of his chair and slipped it on then snatched his keys from the centre drawer of his desk and hurried home to salve that craving.

***

Southwest Airlines 455...somewhere over New Mexico
Wednesday 11am

Scully stretched her legs out in front of her and rolled her ankles to encourage the blood flow. Mulder looked down at her moving legs and curled his lips in a wave of jealousy. His knees were pressed into the back of the seat in front of him. Not only was the legroom reduced from the seat being reclined, but he had the middle seat and the middle aged lady sitting in the aisle didn't look like she would appreciate his manspreading so he had turned his legs towards Scully and had his knees protruding into her space instead. Not that she minded. She seemed to be happy with the space she had. Comfortable even.

“Cramped Mulder?” she said with a smile when she noticed he was shifting on his seat again, pressing his ass back further in an effort to give his legs more room.

“I feel like one of those snakes crammed into a can.”

“You have about 2 hours left before you can pop.”

“I dunno if I can take it, Scully,” he uttered through gritted teeth, earning him a suspicious glare from the aisle lady.

Usually on these flights, even if he was super cramped, they could pass the time discussing the case, preparing lines of inquiry, or swapping theories. Well he would share theories and she would shoot them down.

But this flight was full. Jam packed. Even the overhead storage was full, resulting in them having to store their carry-on under the seats in front of them, which added to the cramped conditions he was suffering from right now. He rolled his body towards her and pressed his head into the cushion.

“What do you think about Skinner?” he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

“What do you mean?” Scully smiled. “Like as a boyfriend?” The way he spoke and how he phrased it reminded her of the midnight chats she shared with Melissa in high school. “Hey Dana, what do you think of Robbie Henshaw?”

“What?” Mulder lifted his head and frowned, making her laugh. “No!”

“I was kidding Mulder.” She waved her hand at him and looked out the window at the Rockies whizzing by below. “What about Skinner?”

“Assigning us this case, just after the mess with the Senators. You think he’s trying to get us to keep a low profile as it were?”

“You don't trust Skinner?”

“No, I do!” Mulder closed his eyes and she could see him picking his next words very carefully. “I just get the feeling that he’s hiding something.”

“You’re paranoid.”

“Yeah, that's not new,” Mulder said with an exaggerated roll of his eyes. “Doesn't mean he’s not hiding something.”

“If Skinner has an ulterior motive for assigning us this case, it will come to light.” She sounded so confident Mulder basked in the wave of it for a moment.

“Have you read the case file?” he asked though his eyes moved away from her and out the window instead. He knew she read the casefile. She probably read it more than he. That wasn't really what he was asking. He was asking her what she thought about being married to him for the duration of this case.

“Yeah.”

“Thoughts?”

Scully looked around. The plane was full. The passengers in front of them had earphones in, but there was no guarantee they were listening to anything. The lady beside Mulder was reading though Scully hadn't noticed her turn a page in a while. The mother and child behind them probably couldn't care less about them as they shared an excited delight of the flight experience.

She tipped her head towards him and lowered her voice as much as she could and still be heard. “I think it will be interesting to see what the ATF are thinking about in terms of the undercover profiles.”

Mulder smiled. That was a strange way to put it, he thought. Classic Scully. “I wonder who the other married couple will be.”

“I wonder how long we’ll be in Arizona.”

“Did you read up on the church?”

“Church?” Scully looked at him sideways as she scoffed the word out. “I wouldn't use that word.”

“Cult?”

“Yes I did read up on them.”

“Intelligence reports that Polygamy is rampant.”

“You think the ATF will assign you multiple wives?”

“God, I hope not.” Mulder winced as if that was the worst thing that could happen. “I’ll have enough trouble getting you to love, honour, and obey me.”

“Obey?” Scully lifted one eyebrow.

“Hey now, you read the fact sheet.” Mulder leaned in a little closer, placed his head on her headrest before he whispered. “One of the main principles of teaching in the church is that wives submit to their husbands as to the lord.”

“Mulder that bible verse is always touted when men try to hold court over women. But there are numerous other verses in the old and new text stating that men should submit to their wives.”

“I’m an advocate for equal opportunity submissiveness, Scully,” he said with a smile and he waggled his eyebrows.

“Shut up, Mulder.” She pushed him away with her shoulder and tried not to react to his chuckling as he resettled in his own seat.

She hoped he would not be as playful as this throughout the case. He should take it more seriously. Working with the ATF, representing Skinner, the bureau, was an important task but clearly he didn't think it was something they should be wasting their time on. She knew he resented being taken away from the X-files but he had to understand, working cases like this every now and then curried favour for them, for the X-files and would inevitably give them more freedom in the long run. She didn't want him to throw that away by making snarky comments in front of the ATF teams who had been working on this for years.

She also didn't want to spend a second more than was necessary married to Mulder.

If he took it seriously. If he put his mind to solving the case, studying the evidence and profiling what was necessary, she was sure they could wrap this up relatively quickly. If he just continued to make jokes about her having to obey him...

Well.

Scully looked over at him as he winced and moved his legs again. Obey him? She could barely put up with him most of the time. She let her eyes roam back out to the window. The window she had offered him when they boarded the plane. But no, his ubiquitous chivalrous nature insisted she take it and he sat next to the stranger. So now his passive complaining was his way of showing her exactly how chivalrous he had been.

Look Scully, look how uncomfortable I am for you. Look!

Scully looked down at her legs and stretched them out again as she rolled her ankles in the ample space of her footwell. Sometimes being small had its advantages.

Chapter Text

ATF Training Camp
Tuesday 1pm

It had been almost a week of training and Scully was climbing the walls.

When they arrived at the Training camp they were shown to the house they would live in for the week. She remarked how similar it was to the base housing the Scully's had lived in in San Diego if a little smaller. This one suited a small family with one child, while in San Diego the house obviously accommodated the full complement of Scully’s.

He gave her the master bedroom which had an en suite shower room, while he took the box room. Another display of his selflessness she rolled her eyes at but decided to take the win, and the en suite. The kitchen was fully stocked and they were informed that they had to get used to cooking meals, using meal times to establish their married relationship as once they were in the church, they would be sharing meals with the wider group and this would be when they would have to be totally natural.

They established a routine. He cooked breakfast. They made lunch together. She cooked dinner. They ate meals in a sun drenched breakfast nook, sometimes with an observer, sometimes alone. After the first day, when it was clear Mulder was not making the effort, she cornered him as they climbed the stairs to bed.

“Mulder, if you don't start pulling your weight,” she said over her shoulder. “I’m going to file for divorce.”

“What ever happened to ‘til death do us part’?”

“Yeah that's better.” She said as she reached the top step and abruptly turned to face him. He was only a couple of steps behind her, so now they stood eye to eye. “I’ll smother you in your sleep.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re not taking this case seriously.”

“What? I am!” He moved to push by her but she put a hand on his shoulder and stilled him.

“You’re not.” She frowned. “Do you want this case to drag on?” He shook his head. “Do you want to get back to the x-Files?” He nodded his head. “Then focus. Quit the jokes. Especially in front of the ATF agents.”

“Alright Scully,” he said though she could tell he was placating her.

“I’m serious Mulder. Let's get this case solved, so we can get back to our work.”

Our work. That phrase was his undoing and he vowed to focus his efforts on being the best undercover special agent fake husband he could be.

Which was followed by a week of Mulder being super attentive to her and to the case. He was turning out to be much better at being married than she was. And that annoyed her. He fell into the ease of physical displays of affection with little or no effort, though that didn't surprise her, he was already pretty tactile. However she felt herself stiffen whenever he touched her more than what she was used to. If his hand went to her leg, her hand, her neck, she struggled to accept it as normal.

And worst of all, he trainers called her out on it every single time, which made her even more paranoid and likely to jerk away. At one stage they were given homework to hold hands all day.

All day.

She hated it. Her palm was sweaty, clammy, and her fingers felt rigid encased in his. Mulder didn't seem to notice and took to it like a fish to water. He took every opportunity to hold her hand, drape an arm around her, rest a hand on her knee, her thigh. The only time she saw him jerk was when his hand had been resting on her thigh and she moved her leg, resulting in his fingers slipping from the top to her inner thigh near the apex of her legs.

He jerked it away then and she took some perverse satisfaction at the sight of it. Glad it wasn't just her that was feeling off kilter with all this.

They had one more day of training. Then they would be shipped off to join the The Altar of Ephesians as a newly married couple, trying to forgo the rat race, live off the land and find the lord. There they would try to identify the missing people, whose profiles they had been studying since they got the case. Meanwhile the ATF agents posing as the other married couple, were there to make notes on the arms purchases and suspected storage facilities.

When they arrived at the training camp, they had met the other agents who would also be posing as a married couple so they would recognise them at the church, but the trainers had kept them apart so as to not compromise their covers by revealing that they knew anything about each other.

Scully walked into the kitchen in time to see Mulder had just finished drying the dishes. He shook out the damp hand towel and hung it over the oven door handle to dry then turned to see her leaning against the door watching him. He smiled and tilted his head.

“What ho, wife?”

“Mulder-”

“Peter.” He corrected and lifted up his left hand to wiggle his fingers at her where his plain gold band glinted in the overhead light.

“Are you ready for tomorrow?” She asked.

“Are you?” he countered.

“I’m ready to get this over with.” She crossed the room and perched on the high stool at the end of the island in the centre of the room.

“It's not so bad is it Scully?” He came over to the island and leaned forward on his forearms, his hands clasped loosely together. “It's kind of nice not to have someone shooting at us, or trying to digest us, or kill us with lightning.”

Scully tried to smile but it didn't quite manifest. Was he really not affected by any of this?

“What's wrong?” he asked. He’d have to be blind not to notice how uncomfortable she was with all of it. He thought it was just jitters at first. That she would come round after a day or so. But here they were a week later and she could barely look him in the eye. Oh and how she jumped a mile whenever he touched her in a mildly affectionate manner.

Was he that repulsive? She didn't seem to mind him touching her before all this. Albeit not quite like this. But if she didn't get used to it before tomorrow they would be called out immediately at the camp and there was no way anyone would believe they were married. Hell, they wouldn't believe they were even friends.

Sitting in the kitchen now, her fingers wringing on her lap. Her eyes shifty, without focus, and her leg bouncing on the step of the tall stool she was sitting on. He thought she was fit to explode. He moved his hand and covered hers. Her leg immediately stilled and her eyes fell onto their hands.

“Talk to me.”

“I’m afraid I’m going to give it all away,” she whispered as if she was afraid of speaking that thought.

“You won't.”

“Mulder-”

“Peter.” His hands tightened on hers and he straightened up to move around the island and stand in front of her.

“See? I can't even get your name right.”

Mulder smiled and tugged her into a tight embrace. He stepped forward to move between her legs and cupped the back of her head to hold her against his chest. Her hands gripped his sides then circled behind him to rest flat against the centre of his back.

“There,” he whispered into the crown of her head. “That's all there is to it.”

He felt her chuckle against him and he pressed a kiss against her. He leaned back, cupped her face and kissed her forehead.

“You’re overthinking it is all.” He spoke softly and she wanted to believe him. “I trust you wholly and completely.”

“I hope you are right.”

“When have you ever known me to be wrong?”

“Well-”

“Don’t answer that.”

***

Prescott, Arizona
Wednesday 3pm

Scully stepped off the bus in time to see Mulder reach into the cargo hold and pull out their bags. He hefted one over his shoulder and the other he just held in his hand as he approached her. He looked excited and she tried to mirror it for him. She smiled and gestured for the bag he held in his hand but he made a face at her and kept hold of it. He nodded at the diner across the road and she led the way, held the door open for him and sat across from him in the small booth he chose near the back.

“This place looks like it does great milkshakes,” he wondered aloud as he reached for the menu behind the napkin dispenser.

“You’re not wrong about that honey.” The waitress who spoke came over and set down a carafe of coffee as she pulled a notepad and pen out of the back pocket of her jeans. She looked to be well over 50. Her greying hair was tied back in a messy bun and her face was littered with laughter lines that told a story of a happy life.

“Strawberry?” Mulder asked with a hopeful lilt.

“Yep.”

“Vanilla?” Scully asked.

“You got it.” She picked up the coffee. “I’ll let you have a chance to check out the menu. Today’s special is a monte cristo sandwich with pepper jack cheese.”

When she moved away Scully realised her heart was thumping a mile a minute against her ribs. Why was she so nervous? She had eaten in a million diners with Mulder before. What was so different about this one? She looked down at her left hand, the simple gold band felt like an albatross weighing her hand down. She had to get over that. She had been wearing the ring for a week now and never took it off, not even to shower.

She took a deep breath and studied the diner menu Mulder had slid in front of her. She had a mission. She knew the next steps she needed to take. She just needed to relax into this role. When the waitress returned with their milkshakes, Scully had timed her conversation with Mulder perfectly.

“I’d like to check out the local church and see if there is any work I can get there.”

“Good Idea,” Mulder said, immediately picking up her cue as he sat back and made room for the waitress to place their drinks onto the table.

“There you go, now, what can I get you to eat?”

“I’ll have the supreme dog,” Muller said with a wide smile.

“And you honey?”

“Tomato soup with grilled cheese.”

“I’ll get your stuff right out.”

She turned and went back to the kitchen and Scully looked across the table at Mulder with a slight shrug. He smiled and reached for his milkshake. They were put on the bus in Phoenix and were supposed to contact the cult to get an invitation to stay there. Known avenues included working through the church, so Scully was planning to explore that, while Mulder would take up odd jobs around the town.

“I saw a sign for rentals on the edge of town, we can go check them out after lunch.”

“Sounds good.” She picked up her milkshake and sipped it as Mulder watched her for her reaction.

Thankfully it wasn't one of those cults where they were expected to wear clothing from the turn of the century. Everything they had packed was casual, and similar to the jeans and jumpers they both wore now. The only thing that gave him pause for thought was the fact that they were completely unarmed. And had no real way to contact the ATF base once they were in the cult grounds, which seemed to be a working ranch. There was little known about the intake process at the camp but Mulder had studied enough of these cults to have some idea what to expect.

Shortly after placing their orders, the waitress came back to deliver their food to the table, and she almost tripped over the large duffle bag Mulder had placed on the floor, purposefully putting it in her way to start a conversation when she came back.

“Oh, I’m sorry, let me move that.” Mulder reached down and moved the bag under the table.

“Did you folks just move into town?”

“Yes,” Mulder said with a wide smile and he looked at Scully and winked. “We moved in from New York.”

“Wow, are you passing through?” The waitress put her hands on her hips and looked between the two of them.

“No, we’re looking to settle in actually,” Scully said and she combed her fingers back through her hair, making sure the cross that hung around her neck was visible.

“Trying to escape the rat race,” Mulder said with a chuckle and he moved his hand across the table, palm up and fingers extended towards Scully. She looked down at his hand then slowly put her hand in his and clasped her fingers around his wrist. “New York is not where we want to raise a child.”

“Oh, you’re pregnant?” The waitress said with a delighted smile.

“Not yet,” Scully said and blushed, especially when Mulder's fingers brushed the underside of her wrist.

“Well a lovely young couple like yourselves will have no trouble I’m sure.”

Mulder chuckled. “We keep trying anyway, that's for sure,” he said and Scully turned beet red.

“Oh honey,” the waitress said with a laugh. “If I was a few years younger I’d be trying too.”

Mulder laughed then released Scully's hand as he sat back to check out his food choice. The waitress shook her head with a wistful smile as she turned and went back into the kitchen.

“Really?” She whispered as she leaned over the table but continued to smile as if she wasn't speaking.

“I’m just setting the scene of the blissful newlyweds.” He picked up the hotdog and tried to figure out how to eat it without dislodging all the toppings.

Scully focused on her own food and they chatted seemingly idly about the town, what they saw on the bus ride in, what they hoped to find and how long they could afford to live without finding work. It seemed that all their chatter worked too. As Mulder stood at the till to pay the cheque she held his change in her hand and asked him what work he was looking for.

“Any kind of labour really,” he said with a shrug as if the hairs on the back of his neck didn't stand on end. “I was a financial broker in New York but I have experience with plumbing or any general household or garden repairs.”

“There is a ranch out Williamson Valley Rd on the west side of town, you can miss it.”

“Are they looking for day workers?” he said then added. “I don't have much experience with horses.”

The waitress laughed and looked down at his office worker's smooth hands. “I gathered that.” She handed him his change and he dumped most of it into the tip jar. “They take on day workers, and some live-in workers too. They might even have something for your wife.”

“Wow, that sounds amazing. Do you have a name of anyone I can ask for at the ranch?”

“Jacob.”

“Just Jacob?”

The waitress nodded and smiled. “Tell them Dory sent you.”

“Great, we’ll head out there right away!” He turned to where Scully was just sliding out of the booth and hurried over to pick up both bags so she wouldn't have to. Then realising the waitress was watching them, he leaned over and kissed her cheek before he slung one bag over his shoulder and carried the other one through the diner.

Only slightly perturbed, Scully hurried after him and held the door open then followed him up the street before she asked him what the waitress had said.

“Jacob?” Scully said, unable to hide the incredulity from her voice. “As in Jacob Ledbetter? The guy who runs the church we’re investigating?”

Mulder nodded and his excitement was clearly visible.

“Mulder, that can't be...that's too easy.”

“I was thinking that too.”

“So what...we just mosey up to the ranch and ask for work?”

He smiled at her use of the word ‘mosey’. “I guess, I mean we have a rousing endorsement from the waitress.”

“Did you even catch her name?”

“Dory. She said to tell them she sent us.”

“You think she is part of it?”

Mulder shrugged. He resettled the bag on his shoulder and nodded his head in the direction of the ranch.

“Here Mulder, let me take one of the bags.”

“I got it, Jessica,” he said with a sideways glance, subtly reminding her to use their new names. “The ranch is about 3 miles outside of town this way.”

“3 miles? You can't carry those bags 3 miles.”

He paused on the sidewalk and realised she was right. “What's the alternative? Hitch?” He dropped both bags by his feet as they ruminated on their options.

“I could stay here with the bags, you could go?”

“No Scully, we can't split up yet.”

“Peter,” she put a hand on his chest and leaned in to let someone by on the sidewalk. “I could go over to the church and make some enquiries for a job there.”

“No, we should go to the ranch together.” He picked one of the bags up and this time slung the strap over his head and across his chest, then picked the other one up and did the same across the other direction.

“You’re like a pack mule,” she said.

“Yeah but now my hands are free.” He held out one hand and she took it with only a slight hesitation then they started walking.

Chapter Text

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Wednesday 5pm

By the time they reached the ranch Mulder was drenched in sweat, down his back, under his arms, his whole t-shirt was sopping wet. Despite her efforts to take one of the bags, Mulder steadfastly refused. After a while she stopped offering and put it down to another one of his misguided chivalrous missions.

Look Scully, look how uncomfortable I am for you. Look!

The ranch was surrounded by a tall wooden fence with razor wire looped around the top of it. The gateway was open but they hesitated in walking right in, what clearly appeared to be a guarded location. In the distance they could see one main house and a clutter of smaller cabins, much like the ones they had trained in at the ATF training camp. Surrounding the houses were various patches of fields growing produce or containing fenced off grazing animals.

Mulder squeezed her hand and took a few tentative steps past the gateway, keeping an eye out for anyone that might greet them with a wave or a shotgun. He wasn't sure which to expect.

“There’s a group of kids,” Scully said and pointed off in the direction where a about ten kids were sitting cross legged under a tree listening to an adult read from a story book.

“Bit late for school to be in session,” he commented as he looked at his watch.

“We don't know a lot about their schedule,” she said. “Maybe they start late?”

Mulder shrugged and continued to slowly walk into the ranch. They both saw the three men on horseback coming towards them at the same time, and Mulder wasn't sure if he squeezed her hand or if she squeezed his. Either way they stopped moving and waited for them to arrive.

“Hello,” the first one said as his horse slowed and stopped right in front of them. The other two flanked his sides a little to the rear. “Can I help you?”

“Hi,” Mulder said and smiled as best he could with the weight of the bags cutting into his shoulders. “We just got into town, and we heard you might have work?”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Dory, at the diner  mentioned it.” Mulder tugged Scully's hand to pull her in a bit closer. “Myself and my wife are looking for any work we can get.”

The man looked them both up and down with hooded eyes. Mulder guessed he was about 50. His head was mostly covered with a wide brimmed cowboy hat that had seen many summers. He wore a plain blue denim shirt tucked into jeans.

“She told us to ask Jacob to see if there was any work.”

“Dory said that?” The man said and he looked over his shoulders at his companions as if this was incredulous and to see if they believed it.

“Yeah,” Mulder confirmed. The bags were really starting to weigh him down and he wondered if he was going to be able to walk back into town with them if this didn't pan out.

“Dory is wild.” He started laughing and jumped down off his horse. He moved over to Mulder and gestured for him to drop the bags. “Take that weight off your shoulders, son.”

Mulder lifted one bag and dropped it to the ground then the other and he suddenly felt like he was filled with helium. Scully stepped closer to him and pressed a hand to the centre of his back.

“Why do I feel like I’ve been pranked?” he said as he draped his arm over Scully’s shoulders.

“Jacob hasn't worked in this ranch for months.”

“Oh?”

“He runs the church now.”

“Oh there is a church here?” Scully said, speaking for the first time and her hand purposefully moved to the gold cross around her neck.

“Yes ma’am.”

“So is there anyone else we can talk to about getting some work?”

“You have any ranch experience?” he asked Mulder and his eyes moved to his hands, clearly making the same observations Dory had.

“Any?...no.” Mulder looked down at Scully and smiled. “But I’m a quick study. I’m good with tools and my hands.”

“What brought you out this way?”

“Escape.”

The ranch lead tipped his hat back a little as if needing to get a better look at Mulder. “Escape from what?”

“The world?” Mulder shrugged. “We worked in New York. We don't want to bring our family up in New York.”

“Your family?” His eyes moved to Scully and roamed down to her flat stomach.

“Our future family,” Mulder clarified and his arm tightened around Scully before he leaned down to kiss the top of her head.

There was a moment of silence as the ranch lead seemed to think about his options. Then to Mulder's relief he smiled and held out his hand.

“Jackson Wilks,” he said and pushed his hat back further to give them a clear view of his face. “Those are my boys, Trip and Jake.” He gestured at the two men who Mulder now realised were teenagers sitting on the horses behind him.

“Peter Cullen.” He shook Jackson's hand vigorously, determined to show some form of strength to this man who was likely to be his boss for the foreseeable future. “And this is my wife...new wife, it still sounds strange.”

“Jessica. You can call me Jess.”

“Pleasure to meet you ma’am.” Jackson shook her hand too, though Mulder saw it was a decidedly more gentle shake than the one he endured. “We have a couple of weeks of work for you, if you’re willing to put the effort in.”

“Absolutely.” Mulder confirmed with a proud smile. “I'm willing to learn, just put me where you need me.”

“Is there anywhere I can be of use?” Scully asked. “I was planning to ask at the church in town, but if you need any help…”

Jackson smiled. “I’ll take you to the school. My wife is the teacher there, she will surely find work for you.”

Scully tried not to bristle at the clear demarcation between gender based roles on the ranch. She knew it was going to be like this so she swallowed her pride and nodded at him with an expectant smile.

“Have you found a place to stay in town?” Jackson asked though he looked at the bags Mulder had dropped and knew they didn't.

“Not yet. We wanted to check if we could get work first, before we put any deposit down on a rental.”

“Well we can provide room and board here, though it will be subsidised from your pay cheque.”

“Sounds fair.”

“C’mon then, let me show you where you will be staying.”

Mulder dropped his arm from around Scully and reached down to pick up his bags but Jackson whistled and made an hand gesture at his two sons. Both of them dismounted their horses and went to pick up the bags instead.

“Oh that's ok, I can-”

“Let them.” Jackson said with a wave of his hand as he took the reins of his horse and moved them over the horse's head to lead him away. “They need exercise. Sitting on their behinds all day, thinking they are getting work done.”

As the teens picked up the bags Mulder noticed they were about 16 or 18 years old and looked like they were chiselled from marble. Their arms barely covered by the tight plaid shirts they wore. Their legs encased in snug denim. He nudged Scully and subtly nodded his head at them as they walked away and she frowned then looked away.

Jackson led them through the ranch and pointed out various buildings. “That's the school where my Laurie works. She teaches all age groups.” He pointed out a barn that had been kitted out with various teaching equipment and had been painted colourfully, some of it by the children. “Over there is the infirmary, but we don't have much call for it. Doc is bored most of the time.”

“You have a doctor?” Mulder said clearly impressed. The intelligence they had on the ranch was definitely lacking. They had understood there was a main house, living cabins, and a church. Now they come to find a school and an infirmary should be added to that list.

“Yeah, he’s retired mainly, moved over from Florida a few years ago.” Jackson chuckled. “Those hands of his shake like a rattler but he’s steady as a rock when giving a shot.”

They walked a little further into the ranch and Mulder realised the patchwork of fields were full of fruit and veg, all clearly labelled and well looked after. He wondered if he would be doing any of that for work but realised it was likely he would be figuring out how to ride a horse. The housing all seemed to be on one side. The small cabins were cluttered in no particular pattern and they all looked to be the exact same.

“Nothing fancy, but all you’ll need,” Jackson said as he walked up the steps to the porch of one cabin to the rear of the lot. “Trip, Jake, put their bags in there.”

“This is amazing!” Mulder said, truly amazed. He squeezed Scully's hand and took her fingers up to his mouth to kiss her knuckles. “I feel like I should carry you over the threshold.”

That comment earned him a hearty laugh from Jackson and Mulder grinned at her. “Chow time is in about an hour. Settle in, then come join us for dinner, and I’ll introduce you to everyone.” Trip and Jake came out of the house and each resumed their seats on the horses.

“Great.”

“Thank you so much for your hospitality,” Scully said and she smiled at Jackson, unable to not warm up to this friendly welcoming man.

“We eat dinner as a group over by the main house. You’ll hear the bell.” Jackson waved over his head as he walked away.

Mulder tugged Scully's hand and pulled her into the cabin so they could check it out themselves. It was a spartan home but clean. The main room was a kitchen / living room / dining room all in one with a stairway against the wall that led to an open loft bedroom. The entire plan was open with no doors except for the bathroom which was behind the kitchen. There was a toilet sink and shower and Scully sent a silent prayer to the lord that indoor plumbing was a thing at this ranch.

The living room had a 2 seater couch and a rocking chair. There was a fireplace, and a bookshelf which was filled with westerns, mystery novels and a couple of packs of cards and dominoes. The kitchen was basic but perfunctory and was kitted out with all the conveniences they would need including a washing machine.

“This is better than I expected,” Mulder said as he collapsed back on the couch and let his legs dangle over the armrest.

“Plumbing.”

Mulder chuckled. “Yeah, I can't say I wasn't worried about that myself.”

“Thoughts?” Scully said as she sat onto the rocking chair and slowly let it tip back and forth.

“Hard to believe this is the place we’ve been studying for the last week.”

“That they have amassed an arsenal of weapons enough to make the ATF nervous?”

“That they have kidnapped, or brainwashed adults and children.”

“He seemed so nice.”

“That's how they get you Scully.”

“Jess.” she corrected and she leaned forward to swat his head but he ducked away from her and she missed.

“Oh Mulder, your t-shirt!”

“Peter, and what's wrong with it?” He sat up and looked down at his tee, then over his shoulders where there were some streaks of blood staining it. “Crap.”

“Here, let me see,” She moved over to the couch and sat on the cushion he just moved off. She tugged the back of his tee down to see a couple of cuts along his shoulder where the bags had cut him. “It's not so bad.”

“I’ll live?”

“Go shower. You stink.” She pinched her nose and wafted her hand in front of her face.

“Stink?” He turned to face her. “This is hard earned sweat carrying our bags!”

“Self-flagellation is more like.”

Mulder rolled his eyes exaggeratedly and leaned towards her. “Your desire shall be for your husband,” he said with a leering smile, as he put one arm around the back of the couch, crowding her. “And he shall rule over you,” he said, quoting one of the verses they had to learn while studying this cult.

“The only thing that you will be ruling over is that shower. Go!” she said and pushed him away from her.

Mulder laughed and went into the bathroom to check out the shower and found a few towels folded on shelves above the toilet. He went back out to the living room where their bags had been left by Jackson’s sons, and dug through it to get his toiletries then with a whistle returned to the bathroom to shower.

Scully took this opportunity to bring their bags up to the loft bedroom and start unpacking. The bed was under a large skylight window that was on one side of the A-Frame roof. A tall wardrobe was built into the back wall, disguising the apex of the walls and roof and a chest of drawers near the foot of the bed.

A railing ran along the other side of the room that looked down into the living room. There wasn't going to be much space for them to live separately but she tried not to think about that yet. She tried to broach the subject at the ATF training camp. They knew it was likely they would have to share a bed. Mulder had brushed off her concerns saying he’d sleep on the floor or the couch, if the bed wasn't an option and they didn't speak of it again.

She filled the drawers with most of their clothing, then hung up the rest. She took out a few note books and placed them in her underwear drawer. She was determined to take fastidious notes during this assignment and would simply make like she was writing a diary if anyone asked.

The sundries Mulder had brought with him, the small camera, and binoculars, she left in his bag and left it on the bed for him to decide where he kept them. She was just about to come down stairs, her toiletries bag and a small first aid kit in her hand, when she looked up and saw Mulder walking up the stairs with a small towel wrapped around his waist.

“Wait Jess!” he said as he saw her taking the first couple of steps down. He gripped the towel on his waist and hurried up, taking the stairs two steps at a time until she was forced up the steps again into the bedroom. “Didn't anyone ever tell you it's bad luck to pass on the stairs?” He said with a wide grin.

She rolled her eyes at him and moved to go down, suddenly feeling like the walls were closing in on her in this small room with Mulder wearing nothing but a towel.

“Wait, where did you put my stuff?”

“T-shirts, socks and boxers in the bottom drawers. Jeans and sweaters I hung up.”

Mulder smiled and bent down to reach out and open the bottom drawers leaving Scully with a delicious view of his round ass encased in nothing but what looked like the softest cotton she had ever seen. She wanted to reach out and touch the towel, just to be sure. Instead she closed her eyes and looked away then carefully descended the stairs, holding onto the rail all the way down.

She took a few moments to steady her breath and banish all thoughts of her half naked undercover husband partner from her mind as she walked to the bathroom and freshened up. She was sitting on the couch with her feet stretched out, crossed at the ankle, a book in her hand when Mulder came bounding down the stairs and flopped onto the couch beside her. He was wearing fresh jeans and a plain navy t-shirt with sneakers on.

“How is your shoulder?”

“Sore.”

“Lemme see.” She sat up and pushed his shoulder to get a better view as she tugged his t-shirt collar aside. “You’ll live. I can put some cream on it if you like?”

“No, but maybe later.” He settled back onto the couch and rested his ankle on his knee. “So Jacob is running the church and not the ranch.”

“The church is running the ranch I think.”

“Yeah.” Mulder looked at the book she was reading and moved it a little to see the title. “Lonesome Dove?” he said with a chuckle.

“I read this years ago when I was a kid.”

“Everyone did. It's a classic.”

“I didn't realise it would be research.”

They shared a secret smile and Mulder opened his mouth to say something but before he could get anything out there was a loud clanging sound from outside.

“Dinner bell?” Scully guessed

“I hope so, I’m starving,” he said and he patted his flat stomach.

“How could you be hungry after that dog in the diner?”

“I carried those bags all the way here?” He argued. “By the way, did you find a place to store all the bricks you packed?” he griped as he rubbed his sore shoulders.

“I tried to take one of the bags. You’re such a martyr.” She rolled her eyes and closed the book.

Mulder stood up and held a hand out to her. “C’mon Jess, let's go meet everyone.”

Scully hesitated a moment then took his hand and let him pull her to his feet. She expected him to drop her hand but he held on, moved his to interlock their fingers and walked with her to the door. He put his other hand on the door handle then looked down and winked at her. “Ready?”

Scully nodded. She could feel her heart hammering in her chest and she wasn't sure if it was because they were about to go meet all these people they were investigating, or if it was the way his thumb stroked the back of her hand.

After only a second more Mulder opened the door and they both walked out into the unknown.

The dinner area was easy to find. Apart from the noise level of people talking and laughing, kids playing and even some music, there was a steady stream of people moving in that direction from the cabins, the school and the church.

Mulder and Scully skirted the group for a moment, looking for the only familiar faces they knew in this group until they found Jackson who was manning a large BBQ.

“You made it.”

“I smelled what's cooking, and wild horses couldn't keep me away,” Mulder said as he admired the volume of food on the BBQ.

Jackson laughed and handed the basting brush to Trip who came up alongside him. “C’mon, let me find you a place to sit.” He slapped Mulder on the shoulder and led him over to a long table. “Push up Murphy,” Jackson said and tapped a portly fellow on the shoulder who looked up and scooted down the bench. “Here, sit in here.”

Mulder tugged Scully's hand and urged her in before him then stepped over the bench to sit next to her. His hand immediately went to her thigh and she covered it with both of her hands.

“Everyone, This is Peter and Jess, they just got here this afternoon and will be staying with us for a little while.”

The group sitting immediately around them gave a quick short round of soft applause and Mulder and Scully looked at each other and blushed. He lifted his hand and waved it round and Scully smiled.

“Murphy.” The portly man sitting next to Scully leaned towards her and reached out a hand. “Accountant.”

“Jess.” Scully said then added “and I haven't figured out what I’ll be doing here yet.”

Murphy chuckled. “It’ll only take a few days and they’ll find space for you.”

“I hope so, I love to feel useful.”

“Oh sweetie, I’m sure you will.” Scully looked up to see a woman across the table smiling at her. “I’m Sophie. Jackson’s wife.” Scully took and shook her outstretched hand and smiled.

“Oh you work in the school. He said I should call into you tomorrow and see what help you need.”

“You have experience teaching?” Sophie said excitedly.

“Some,” Scully thought of the time she spent teaching in forensic pathology in Quantico and hoped it counted.

“That's great!” Sophie clapped her hands together against her chest. “Loads of people come to the school to try it out, but not many people last.”

“Oh?” Scully asked, her interest piqued. “Why is that?”

“Kids are hard work. They underestimate them. They end up going back out to work the fields.” Sophie chuckled and rolled her eyes.

“Well I’m hoping I can really help you out.” Scully said with a determined smile, knowing it would also give her a chance to check out the children on the ranch and see if any of the missing kids were among them.

“And you Peter,” Sophie said, turning her attention to Mulder who was picking at a bread roll on his plate. “where will you be working?”

“I’m not sure yet. I need to check with Jackson.”

Sophie looked down at his hands and smiled wistfully. Mulder was starting to get paranoid about his hands and wondered if he should get some gloves.

“I’m sure he’ll find something to suit you.”

Just then Jackson, Trip and Jake came over to the tables with several large platters of BBQ'd food and placed them on the tables. Trip and Jake made multiple trips to deliver food to all the tables and suddenly a hush fell over the camp. Even the children who were playing in the garden next to them hushed and became still. Mulder's fingers tightened around Scully’s hand as they waited to see what was going to happen.

Jackson took his seat next to his wife and they held hands immediately. Everyone at the table, and all surrounding tables closed their eyes and bowed their heads as if in silent prayer. Mulder and Scully mimicked the same motion but kept their eyes open to review their surroundings until Jackson moved his head and looked up.

He smiled at Mulder and nodded. “Grubs up.”

With that everyone resumed chatter and tucked in to the food. Was that it? A simple prayer before meals? Scully watched for anyone who might be uneasy, and scanned the crowd to try and spot the ATF agents who were supposed to be here a week ago already but couldn't see them.

“Is this everyone that lives here?” she asked casually as she ate some brisket.

“Most.” Sophie said. “There is a small group up the pasture bringing in cattle. They will be back tomorrow.”

“It's amazing here.” She looked around. “The school, the church, the infirmary. I never imagined we would be so lucky as to find some place like this.” She glanced at Mulder and leaned against his shoulder to show Sophie exactly what she meant. Mulder lifted his arm and placed it around her shoulder. She hadn't expected that reaction and tried not to stiffen.

“How did you end up in Prescott?” Sophie asked.

“A comedy of errors,” Mulder said with a laugh and he launched into a well rehearsed story of how they took the first flight out of La Guardia, and the first bus out of phoenix terminal, and ended up in Prescott. Scully blushed at all the right points, and rolled her eyes at others in a practiced motion she hoped didn't seem too forced.

“When he gets an idea into his head, it's so hard to convince him otherwise,” Scully said and she poked him in the ribs, earning herself a sloppy kiss against her

temple.

“That's why she loves me,” he said as he bit into a burger.

Sophie smiled and shook her head. “You two are made for each other.”

Scully blushed and looked down at her plate but when Mulder nudged her with an elbow she looked up and he grinned. “Told you,” he said and she couldn't help but smile back.

The rest of dinner was filled with casual conversation. A few people came over and introduced themselves, welcomed them to the camp and expressed excitement on working with them and getting to know them better. Scully met the doctor and was instantly worried about his shaking hands but noticed the shaking stop as he lifted food to his mouth. Mulder spent time talking with various ranch hands, finding out about the available work and what he might be doing while on the ranch.

Soon the crowd thinned out, kids were taken home and the more elderly group also left. Mulder went up to Jackson who was busy cleaning the grill and offered to help, while Scully helped clear the table.

“No, no, no, you take that pretty wife of yours home and get a good night's sleep. You have a long day of work ahead of you tomorrow.” Jackson looked down at Mulder's hands. “And by the look of those hands, you are going to be sore!” He bellowed with laughter, slapped Mulder on the shoulder and pushed him away.

Mulder moved over to Scully and tugged her elbow to get her go with him then locked his fingers with hers as they walked back to their cabin. They kept their chatter casual until they got into their cabin and Scully immediately went upstairs to get her notebook, then sat in the middle of the couch to jot down all she remembered, names, locations, dates of arrival. Mulder walked around the small room calling out more facts he had picked up so she could take note of them too.

“Did you see the ATF agents there?” she asked when she looked up from her notes.

“No, I didn't.” Mulder crouched behind the couch and leaned on his arms.

“They said not everyone was at dinner, a few people were up with the herd.”

“Yeah I heard you asking that, good catch.”

“I also didn't see any of the profiles we’re looking for.”

“No, me neither. And Jacob didn't make an appearance.”

Scully chewed the back of her pen then took a few more notes as Mulder stood and stretched. He went into the bathroom and when he returned he smelled minty fresh.

“I’m going to crash. Sounds like I’ve got a hell of a day ahead of me tomorrow.”

“What time do you start?”

“Jackson said to meet him at the schoolhouse at 8.”

“Oh I’m meeting Sophie there at 8 too.”

Mulder smiled. “I wonder if they’ll let me read story books to the kids.”

“Hardly.”

“Well everyone keeps looking at my hands and laughing when I say I’ll be working on the ranch.”

Scully looked at his hands and smiled. His long slender fingers looked unblemished from any hard labour. Smooth skin, soft fingers she had felt on her skin and knew how tender they could be.

“You’re laughing at my hands aren't you.”

“No!” Mulder took the opportunity to grip her neck and shoulder in a tickle and she scrunched her neck down to her shoulder to block his access as she laughed. “No, stop, please,” she said between breathless laughs.

“I didn't realise you were so ticklish,” he said, his fingers digging in more to tickle her further.

“Stop, please,” she dropped her notebook and pen and squirmed away from him off the couch and ended up on her knees on the other side.

Mulder held his hands up and backed away from her. “Okay okay, truce.” She started to relax. “For now.”

Scully rolled her eyes and picked up her notebook and pen and settled back onto the couch.

“So um…” he scratched the back of his neck and looked at the stairs that led to the bedroom. “I’m going to crash.”

“Okay.”

“Should I...do you want to…”

Scully looked over and he gestured at the stairs with his thumb, all of a sudden looking lost. She put her pen between the pages she was writing on and closed the notebook so she could give him her full attention.

“I guess we should figure that out.”

“Yeah.”

“There isn't really any other option, we can share, the bed looks plenty big.”

Mulder smiled and nodded. “Ok, we can share,” he said as if it was a decision he was making. “But you try any of that Tailhook crap on me Scully and I’ll kick your ass.”

She rolled her eyes and got back to her notebook.

“Are you coming, um… up?” he said as he took the first few steps up but realised she wasn't joining.

“Yeah, I’ll be there in a while, I just want to finish up here.”

Mulder nodded then went up to the room. He took a few moments to wonder what side of the room she would prefer. He knew she slept on the left side in her own bed. He only knew that from when he had brought her things while she was sick and noticed her book, water, glasses etc were all piled up on the left side locker. That was the side furthest from the stairs so it would also mean he was a blocker to anything that came in during the night.

With that logic decided he pulled his tee off over his head and unbuttoned his jeans then paused for a moment. He usually just wore boxers to bed but knowing they were likely to share a bed he had brought some flannel pj bottoms so he dropped his jeans and pulled them on instead.

He sat on the bed, tested the springs with a few careful bounces and winced at every jostle and creak it made, then winced again as he lifted his legs up and the headboard cracked against the wall with every movement he made. Scully was only down stairs, just over the railing and clearly able to hear everything. This bed had seen some action, and it was yelling it to the rooftops.

But all that was forgotten as his head hit the pillow and he looked up out of the skylight at the clear vista of stars above.

“Wow…” he let his mouth drop open as he watched the sky. He wanted to call out to her, get her to come look but he realised she was waiting downstairs to give him space, maybe even let him fall asleep so when she came up she could slip into bed without an audience.

Scully finished writing her notes and reached over for the lonesome dove book and started reading it. She hoped if she left Mulder upstairs for a while he would be asleep before she climbed the stairs. After an hour had passed and the bed springs had stopped groaning she took it that he was asleep. She brushed her teeth, washed her face and cursed herself for not bringing her bed clothes down before he went to bed.

Well if he was asleep it would be fine but she resolved to keep her bed clothes in the bathroom from now on. Scully walked around the small cabin turning off the lights and making sure doors and windows were locked then slowly climbed the stairs trying desperately to avoid any creaky steps.

The bedroom was relatively well lit with moonlight streaming in through the skylight. She could make out Mulder’s sleeping form. The blanket was pulled down to his waist and for one horrifying second she thought he was naked then she caught sight of the flannel pj bottoms near his exposed ankle.

She went to the drawer and pulled out her pj bottoms. After only a moment's hesitation she unhooked her bra and pulled it off through the sleeves of her tee then with a quick glance over her shoulder at him she opened her jeans and pulled them off.

Mulder kept his eyes closed and willed his body to be as still as was humanly possible. He heard the rustle of her clothing and when her jeans hit the floor it took everything in him to keep his eyes closed. When the drawer closed again he let go of his breath and rolled his head away from her side of the bed as if that was all she needed to feel more comfortable.

Scully padded around the bed and carefully pulled back her end of the blanket, trying desperately not to dislodge it from his waist lest his bottoms were twisted and revealed too much. She lowered herself onto the bed and winced at the loud groan from the bed springs.

Mulder tried not to smile as she battled with the mattress groaning and headboard slapping against the wall until she finally stilled and the room became silent again.

“Comfy?” he whispered into the stillness.

“No.”

Mulder chuckled. “I was only dozing. You didn't wake me.”

“This bed is…”

“I bet it could tell some stories.”

“Eww Mulder!”

He laughed, then rolled over onto his side facing away from her to give her all the space she needed. Scully took her queue and silence be damned she wriggled around in the bed until she found a comfy spot. She faced away from him, with both hands under her pillow, one leg stretched down the bed and the other curled up towards her chest. She let out a deep sigh and felt her muscles relax.

“G’night Scully,” he said.

“Night.”

Chapter Text

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Sunday 7am

Scully rolled over in bed to stretch and smiled at the groans of the bed springs. She was starting to become accustomed to them. She realised as her stretch was uninterrupted by the bristle of his hairy leg, the intrusion of his knee on her half of the bed, or the block of his arm across the top of her pillow, that Mulder was not in bed.

It had been four nights so far where they had shared this bed, and other than a bump or knock of elbows and knees in their sleep it had gone relatively smoothly. The noise of the bed which the first night had been so stifling now became a bit of a challenge as they each tried to get out of bed in the mornings without waking the other. This morning was the first time either one of them had succeeded. And based on the smell of bacon wafting up from the kitchen below, he had managed it a while ago.

Scully kicked the blanket off, chuckled at the sound of the bed and made her way downstairs to see what Mulder was cooking for breakfast. The routine they had set in the ATF training camp had been very similar to what they needed at the ranch.

He made breakfast before they left for work. They sometimes went back to the cabin to meet for lunch, and in the evenings they either made dinner too, or ate with the group if family style was being served. Scully had been working in the school with Sophie while Mulder worked odd jobs around the ranch, so far nothing too taxing but he was managing to get good coverage of the area and meet loads of the folks living here.

Their nights were filled with note taking and determining next steps. The only real concern was the lack of contact they’d made with any of the profiles they were here to look for, and the absence of the ATF agents.

“What's for breakfast?” she asked as she came into the kitchen and opened the fridge.

“Eggs Benedict.”

“What? really?” Scully came up to the cooker to see what he was making.

“No,” Mulder said laughing. “Bacon and eggs.”

“Oh you cheat.” She slapped his shoulder. “You got me excited there for a minute.”

“You want me to get you really excited, Scully?” he said with a waggle of his eyebrows but she just ignored him, she was getting better at that. At least better at pretending she was getting better at it. 

“Sophie said there was no school on Sundays but we should all gather in the church for service at 8.”

“Yeah Jackson said ranch work on Sundays doesn't start until after lunch.”

“You think we’ll finally get to meet Jacob?”

“Maybe.” Mulder carried the pan over to the table and put a couple of slices of bacon on each of their plates. Then came back again and dished out some scrambled eggs while Scully fetched the toast and butter.

“We should explore the grounds too.”

“I haven't gotten a good look at the wester pasture yet.” Mulder started to eat then got up and grabbed juice from the fridge to pour them each out a glass.

As he leaned and stretched around her to put the juice back in the fridge without walking fully into the kitchen she couldn't help but notice how his body looked leaner. It had only been 4 days, not enough for there to be any real impact, and his work wasn't even particularly taxing. Maybe it was just all the slim fitted tees he was wearing. Jackson has provided him with work wear. Jeans, tees, shirts and boots and they all fit him so snugly she couldn't help but admire.

“I want to get a look inside the church. It's always locked.” Scully focused on finishing her eggs and not staring at Mulder's biceps. “Sophie says it's only open for service on Sundays.”

“Strange. This place is so open. I mean even the main gate is open.”

“Yeah,” Scully said with a shrug. “But service is on soon. So we’ll get a look then.”

They finished up their food and Mulder cleaned up while Scully showered. She had asked Sophie if there was any dress code for Sunday service and Sophie had waved her off but she felt strange not wearing her church clothes. She had packed a few summer dresses and spotted several women wearing something similar so decided to wear that. She combed out her hair and clipped it up on one side and slipped on a pair of laceless converse sneakers.

When she came downstairs Mulder had been lounging across the couch reading the lonesome dove novel. It seemed to be the only book either of them had any interest in reading. His eyes followed her over the rim of his book from the top of the stairs all the way to the side of the couch where she tapped his feet and urged him up.

“Ready?”

“Uh, yeah.” He tore his eyes off her. The dress she wore was a white and green floral type pattern, had spaghetti straps, but the bust and the back were high enough to be modest for church. She had on a white cardigan over it and the skirt part was flowy around her legs. When he closed the door of their cabin behind them he immediately reached for her hand to walk her to church.

She looked down at their hands with a frown, still not used to the ease at which he claimed it, but couldn't deny the slight thrill it gave her when his long fingers laced with hers and his thumb caressed her skin. Mulder caught her watching their hands and squeezed then led her towards the church where the congregation was slowly gathering.

They stood outside the church for a while chatting with different people until the bells rang for service to begin. Mulder and Scully followed everyone in and took their cues from the group. They slipped into a pew near the back where they could see most people and using his fingers on her hand he could signal to her something he wanted her to look at.

The inside of the church was as spartan as the cabin they lived in. Several pews lined the room and a regular table, obviously the altar, was situated at the top of the room with a white tablecloth across it. Scully was familiar with the accoutrement on the altar but it all looked very basic and not at all like the ostentatious chalice and items she was used to seeing at her church at home.

When the soft tinkling of bells announced the arrival of the officiant everyone stood. Mulder worked a second or so behind everyone but followed Scully’s lead. Jacob, or someone they assumed to be Jacob came into view from a room off to the side of the church. He wore a pair of tan trousers and a plain white shirt that looked like it had seen a few washes. His hair was neatly combed in a side parting and he had a white and purple sash around his neck and draped down his chest.

He lifted his hands and gestured for everyone to sit down. What followed was, to Scully's confused understanding, a pretty classic mass, following the catholic religion with various prayers, moments of silence, standing, sitting, kneeling. Even the eucharist service was familiar to her and she felt that comforting sense of calm she always got at mass.

As they knelt at their pew Mulder leaned over to her and whispered softly. “This is all pretty normal huh?”

“Just like service at home.”

Towards the end of the service people took their seats again and this time the officiant stood at the top of the room and held his hands out for silence which was quickly achieved.

“I’m told we have some new members of the congregation in service today.”

A few people turned to face Mulder and Scully and smiled at them.

“Peter, Jess, can you come up here?”

Mulder squeezed her hand before she slid out of the pew and led the way up to the altar. Jacob watched them approach with a warm smile on his face.

“How have you found our little community?” he asked her when she got to the altar.

“It's amazing,” Scully said and she looked up at him, suddenly struck by how blue his eyes were.

“And you Peter?”

“So welcoming. It really is wonderful here.”

Jacob chuckled. “I’d like to bless you both into our community. If that's ok with you both?”

Mulder and Scully exchanged glances. She nodded and stepped forward. Jacob turned back to the altar and picked up a chalice of what looked like a viscous transparent oil. He stepped in front of Scully and muttered a prayer she could barely hear and didn't recognise, then dipped his thumb into the chalice and brushed it across her forehead, her lips and the underside of her chin.

Droplets of oil trickled down her face as she opened her eyes and looked up at Jacob who was smiling at her and nodding his head.

“Welcome.”

Mulder put his hand on her back and stepped up beside her. Jacob performed the same gesture but Mulder kept his eyes open, unsure where to look. When Jacob was done he put the chalice back on the altar and turned back to face the congregation. He put a shoulder on each of them and turned them to face forward too.

“Please help me welcome Peter and Jess to the community.”

The room erupted in applause that startled Mulder but when he looked over at Scully she looked serene and calm. Too serene. Too calm. He reached over to take her hand and when he did she looked over at him with a wide smile that he hadn't seen before.

Mulder looked over his shoulder to see Jacob leave the altar and disappear into the room behind them but he was then engulfed by different folks coming up and clapping him on the back or hugging Scully. Their hands were disconnected in the thrum and it wasn't until the church emptied, that he found himself looking at Scully who was watching him with that smile again. What was it?

The only word that came to mind was predatory. She looked like a lioness circling her prey and he had never felt more like prey in his life.

“Scully?” he whispered.

She frowned at the use of the name and slowly approached him. “Peter, let's go home.” She spoke softly, and Mulder wondered for a moment if she meant back to DC. Then both of her hands reached out to grip his biceps, she squeezed him softly then slowly slid her hands down his arms to intertwine with his fingers and drag him back towards their cabin.

“Are you feeling ok?” he asked as he felt a trickle of that oil Jacob had spread on him trickle down his neck. He rubbed it with his shoulder and looked at Scully who was still leading him home. Maybe it was better to get her into the cabin where they could talk freely. She wasn't feeling well. She was looking… well she was looking fantastic. Somehow that dress seemed to shrink from when she put it on that morning.

What looked like a church appropriate dress before church now seemed to be fuller in the bust and curvier in the waist. What the hell did that guy put on them? He looked around and noticed a few people hanging around outside the main house, sipping ice tea and chatting and more than once he caught them looking over at him and Scully, knowing looks on their faces and they were all laughing. As they moved towards the cabins, he noticed a couple more people were sitting on their porches watching them, as if waiting for them to go by.

Whatever the hell was happening, everyone knew about it. And knew how it was supposed to make them feel. Knew how all his blood was suddenly moving south as Scully turned and he caught a view of her ass in that dress and wondered if he would bother taking it off her while he fucked her or if he would let her keep it on while he bent her over the back of the couch and pounded into her.

Jesus Christ, what was that?

Mulder screwed his eyes shut and shook his head. He tripped over himself and Scully stopped walking to turn and face him. She planted her hands flat on his chest and stepped up to him as close as she could get. Her chin rested on his sternum and she looked up at him with that same smile. Mulder felt his pulse quicken. He wasn't sure what he was more afraid of. That she would keep going in the direction he felt like she was going. Or that she would stop.

Her hands moved up his chest, over his shoulder and clasped the back of his neck to pull him down to her and pressed her lips against his. Mulder hands shot up to grip her waist and help her lean into him then slowly moved them around her to cup her ass and leaned into her.

She broke the kiss with a chuckle and pulled her body away from him, connected their hands again and dragged him the final distance to pull him into the cabin. Mulder heard whistles and cheers behind them as the door closed and he suddenly felt like a lamb to the slaughter.

“Scully...wait…” He gripped her shoulders and held her at arms length, as she had taken one foot inside the door then pounced on him when he closed the door. “Something is happening…”

“Yeah, it is," she murmured and looked up at his from hooded eyes. 

“No, I mean, Jacob put something on us...something to make us act this way.”

“Act what way?” She wriggled out of his grasp and moved her body against him.

“Scully god.” Her hips moved sensually against him as she swayed to and fro then turned her back to him and pressed her ass to his crotch. “Stop.”

He gripped her hips, meaning to push her away but instead pulled her against him and grinded into her ass. He wasn't quite fully erect yet but he was pretty damn close. Close enough to bury himself balls deep-

Fuck. Mulder pushed her away and moved around to the other side of the couch in an effort to keep his hands off her, or keep her hands off him, he wasn't sure. “Scully…”

“Jess.” She corrected him with a half frown.

“Scully.” He spoke firmly this time and as she rounded the couch he moved around the opposite side. “Listen to me.”

“I’m listening.” Her hands moved up to her shoulders and she started to toy with the straps on her dress.

Mulder's eyes widened as he watched her fingers slip under the straps and slowly pull them down her shoulders impeded only by the cardigan she was still wearing.

“No!” He lunged across the couch and gripped her hands against her shoulders. “Wait, just hang on a second…” Mulder mind whirled around all his options but none of them seemed feasible. “Hang on…” he stalled her, watching her fingers move against her collarbone and her smile widened.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“Scully, please,” he half laughed but it was a pained sound and he closed his eyes against the vision she presented. “Please don't ask me that.”

“C’mon Pete...we’re married now.”

Mulder laughed without mirth and dropped his hands from her shoulders. He stepped back from the couch and watched as she rounded it towards him. She peeled her cardigan off and dropped it behind her.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” she whispered as she approached. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit everything to their husbands.“

“Shit, Scully, I don't want you to submit to me…” he said as she arrived in front of him. “I want you to challenge me.”

“Peter…” she said and moved her hands to grip his biceps again. Mulder looked at her hands and wondered what her sudden obsession was with his arms. “Make love to me.”

Mulder closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. “No, we can't.”

“We can.” Her hands moved over his chest and down his stomach to circle under his t-shirt where she dragged her nails lightly against his abs.

“No, we can’t.” He gripped her wrists and pulled her hands off him.

She frowned and looked up at him then cast her eyes to the floor. “I don't please you.”

“No, no,” He said as he gripped her arms and stopped her from slinking away. “It's not that at all.” She looked up at him and he wanted to die at the glassy eyes full of unshed tears.

“Do I shame you?”

“What? Shame me?” He cupped her face and tenderly pressed his lips against hers. “No, god no, never.” He muttered the words without breaking contact with her lips.

“But you don't wish to lie with me.”

“Wish to lie with you?” When did she start talking like that? “Scully I want nothing more than to lie with you, I promise you.”

“Then we shall-”

“No, we shan't.” She started to look sad again. “Not yet.”

“Yet?”

“We need to wash up, and I have to go to work, and then we will need dinner and then we can lie together.”

She looked at him with a frown. Mulder hoped this ploy would work. This delay tactic, in the hopes that later, whatever it was Jacob rubbed on them would have worn off by then. And if not… then he would figure out some way to hold her off.

In bed.

Fuck.

***

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Sunday 9pm

Mulder watched the clock from the corner of his eye and became incredibly engrossed with the book he was reading whenever she looked at him. He had managed to hold her at bay so far by distracting her with wifely duties like cooking, cleaning and washing clothes. Part of him was worried she would come back to her normal self in the middle of it and give out to him for making her do all the chores.

After they showered, separately, then ate lunch, he hurried out to the ranch to complete his daily tasks. He was gone for most of the day, working alone repairing a fence on the north end of the ranch. He had hoped to run into someone and ask them about what happened at the church service but no one came near him and he wasn't sure if that was on purpose or not.

When he got back to the house she all but mounted him as soon as he walked in the door. He was hot and sweaty. His shirt was stuck to him, even the waistband of his jeans was sodden from the work he had just finished. He toed off his boots outside the door and pushed it open just in time to catch her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist and planted a series of kisses across his face.

“Scully, wow…” He gripped her hips and tried to dislodge her but she locked her ankles together behind his back. “Please, I need to…”

“I need you.”

“No,” he half laughed, half cried as he carried her over to the couch and deposited her then used every ounce of will power in him to not follow her down and instead he hurried up stairs, grabbed fresh clothes, slipped into the bathroom and as quick as he could he showered and changed.

She had dinner ready and they ate in near silence. Though the whole time her foot played with his shin, moved up and down under his jeans as she coyly watched him try not to react.

They washed dishes and he made a great show of needing to read his book and that's how he found himself sitting on the couch with a massive hard on, under Scully’s feet as she pretended to read another book all the while slowly moving her feet against his cock.

But it was getting to that time when he knew they would need to go to bed. The effect of that oil hadn't worn off, in fact if anything it seemed to have gotten stronger. He wondered why he didn't feel it too. He was covered with the same substance. What was the difference between them? He had always felt an attraction to her, so maybe it couldn't amplify what he already felt. Did that mean she wasn't attracted to him at all? A hot flush of annoyance or shame washed over him, and only got worse when she moved her foot against him and he felt his cock harden further.

“Bed time?” she said and she rested her book open on her chest. She was still wearing that dress and it was killing him.

“Um, yeah, you go on up, I’ll be there shortly.”

Scully smiled. She sat up and pulled his shoulder to lean him towards her and kissed him. “Don't be long.”

“Nope.”

She scurried off the couch and hurried up the stairs. Mulder pushed out a hot heavy breath and dropped his head to the back of the couch with his eyes screwed tightly shut. What the fuck was going on?
There was something in that oil Jacob had brushed over their faces. He had to find out what it was. Scully was gone upstairs and there was no way he wasn't going to follow her. Not for a few hours when he knew she would be asleep.

Mulder slowly walked over to the door and stepped outside, careful to close it without making noise. He slipped on his shoes and hurried across the pasture towards the church. As he expected it was locked up but it was a simple lock he could easily pick. He checked around but saw no one then picked the lock and slinked inside without being seen. In the church he hurried to the hidden room at the back and pressed his ear against it.

The other side was totally silent so he reached for the handle but before he could turn it he heard a couple of voices outside.

“Did you see the way she dragged him into the cabin?” That was Jackson's voice. He’d recognise that laugh anywhere.

“He’s going to be walking funny for a week when she gets through with him.” Mulder didn't recognise that voice but figured it was one of the other ranch hands.

“I remember my first time with Sophie. Wow.” Jackson laughed again.

They were walking by the church and by the sounds of it making their way back towards the cabins. Mulder listened for more but they had moved too far away now. He got back to the task he originally came for and tested the door handle. The room was unlocked and empty and also the size of a phone booth. He tapped the walls trying to see if there was another door but it was all solid. There was one shelf at eye level on the opposite wall from the door.

On the shelf was a single item. A bottle that held the same liquid Jacob had put on them before and suddenly Mulder wished he’d brought some vial with him to take a sample. He couldn't risk taking the whole bottle. He lifted the bottle as if to test its weight. Uncapped it and inhaled but smelt nothing. He tipped it up and put a splash on the top of his finger to rub it there and see if he could garner anything else. But he got nothing. He pulled his shirt out of his jeans and spilled some more of it on the material there, hoping Scully would be able to extract it from there later then carefully capped it and put it back on the shelf then left the church and hurried back to the cabin.

He toed off his shoes at the door and when he stepped inside he pulled off his shirt and carefully folded it. In the kitchen he found a large lunch bag to seal the garment. He needed to figure out a way to send it to forensics but for now this would have to do. Mulder went to the bathroom then washed his hands and brushed his teeth as he steeled himself to go up stairs.

He took the steps up one at a time, all the while listening for any noise coming from her, from the bed springs, from the headboard. He stood at the top of the stairs where he could see the moonlight streaming in through the skylight. He could see her curled up under the blanket and her back to him and he breathed out a sigh of relief.

He carefully crossed to the drawers where his pjs were and slowly pulled off his jeans and socks then pulled on his bottoms. Now he was just faced with the dreaded moment of climbing into bed, the noisiest bed known to man. The kind of bed that would wake the dead. The kind of bed he would normally love climbing into, and around, and over and pushing it against the wall with his hips, inch by glorious inch.

Shut the fuck up Mulder, he said as he made his way over to the bed. Maybe he should just grab a pillow and go sleep on the couch. Or the porch. Or better yet the barn. But that would result in him having to explain it to the rest of the community. Blow their cover.

He lifted the blanket and mirrored the action he made that morning when he managed to climb out without waking her. This time he just had to do it in reverse. He slid one leg in then the other and slowly shifted his ass along the mattress until he was able to put his weight on the bed and sink into it. He winced and cringed at every squeak but finally the bed settled and silence prevailed.

Mulder took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes but just as he thought he was in the clear a loud groan from the bed springs alerted him to her movement and then he realised...

Sweet Jesus, she was naked. Completely naked.

He closed his eyes and clenched his jaw in an effort to remain still as she curled up against him and moved her head to his shoulder with a soft moan.

“Mmmm, you are so warm.”

Mulder hoped she would just go back to sleep but her hands started wandering. They moved from his stomach up his chest, where her nails dragged across his nipples.

“Scully, stop.” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand off him.

“You said we would lie together tonight.”

“Okay, okay.” He half sat up and pushed her off him, Rolled her over onto her side and curled up behind her. This way he could hold her hands and keep them from wandering around his body, stop her from doing something that she most definitely would regret, but hopefully this would be enough to salve whatever weird craving she was feeling. “Like this, we can lie like this.”

She wriggled her ass against him as she snuggled in deeper and pulled his arms around her body. When she started to move his hand up to her breast he resisted and instead planted it flat against her stomach.

“Go to sleep, Scully,” he whispered into her hair.

“I don't want to sleep.” She turned her head to look at him over her shoulder. “I want to-”

“Shhh.” He pressed his forehead into the back of her head and willed her to stop talking. “Please...go to sleep.”

Mulder held her tight in an effort to keep her from squirming against her. He knew he would hear the groaning of these bed springs for a long time to come and every time he did it would shoot right to his cock. After an hour or so he felt her breathing slow down and her body became heavy and languid against him.

He risked moving, to put some space between their bodies and slowly rolled onto his back, leaving only one arm trapped beneath her. He took a few deep breaths and tried to figure out what their next steps should be.

There was no sign of the profiles there were here to find. No sign of the ATF agents they were supposed to be working with. No sign of any kinds of arms the group was supposed to be amassing. The intelligence on the ranch had been sorely lacking. Even the practices of the church. There was no polygamy here, everyone seemed to be in committed relationships. The only thing they had found so far was some random oil that spiked Scully’s libido.

He screwed his eyes shut against the torrent of images he was suffering from but it was no use. It seemed the oil was messing with his libido too. Except he wasn't suffering from any spike. Most of these urges he was feeling were pretty baseline for him when it came to Scully. The last week in the training camp he was living his best life with free reign to touch her, kiss her, hold her. He was enjoying it way more than he should. But she was part of it. This was different.

This wasn't Scully. He knew that if they slept together while she was under the influence of whatever it was that was affecting her right now, he would never forgive himself for taking advantage of her. She would never forgive him. And hell, it wouldn't even be his name she would cry out when she came.

Peter. Fucking Peter? No. When he makes her come it will be Mulder she will scream. If she was a screamer. Mulder chuckled and immediately stopped it when the bed springs groaned under the soft motion. Right. Sleep. Wake. Breakfast. Plan.

Easy.

Chapter Text

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Monday 6am

Mulder had lain awake all night and finally got some shut eye through sheer exhaustion shortly before sunrise. He had managed to hold her at bay. Every time she tried to roll into him or wriggle her way back to him she held her still until she fell back asleep. But when he fell asleep she was left to her own devices and in no time she had rolled over and draped herself across him.

Scully woke up lying on Mulder's chest. Her whole body flush against him, their legs intertwined. His arms were splayed out either side and his head was off the pillow, nearly off the bed. He was sleeping soundly despite her weight sprawled across him. It wasn't until she went to move off him that she realised she was completely naked.

Shit.

She shifted to look down at herself as if to double check, and sure enough she wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing. She took some solace in the flannel PJs she saw him wearing, but not much.

Okay. This was ok. She just needed to figure out how she got here. She thought back to what she remembered and then frowned. She remembered having breakfast yesterday morning, then going to church. The service was simple and familiar then… nothing. She remembered nothing. She closed her eyes and really focused on what happened yesterday but it was just a blank. A hot flash of panic washed over her and she planted her hands on the mattress either side of his torso, pushed away from him and sat with her back to him.

Mulder woke the second she moved and held still waiting to see how she might assault him this time but instead she sat on the end of the bed, her legs over the edge, her hand gripping the mattress, the blanket pulled over her shoulders.

“Scully?” he asked tentatively

“What happened?”

“Nothing!” He sat up behind her but didn't touch her. “Nothing happened, I swear, I would never, I promise.”

“I can't remember anything.”

“What do you remember?”

There was a pause and Mulder wondered if she was remembering anything.

“I remember having breakfast yesterday morning.”

“Anything else?”

“I remember the service in the church. But then…”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing. It's like I fell asleep and woke up now.” She looked at herself under the blanket. “Naked. In bed. With you.”

“Nothing happened, Scully.”

“I know.” She looked over her shoulder at him. “I believe you.”

He visibly relaxed. Then looking at her curled up under the blanket he jumped off the bed and grabbed one of his tees. “Here,” he said and he handed it out to her then turned his back so she could put it on privately.

“So what happened?” she asked. 

He turned to see her wearing his tee and sitting cross legged on the bed facing him, the blanket wrapped around her bare legs. Mulder moved to sit at the head of the bed, to give her as much space as he could, and mulled over how much to tell her.

“We were at the mass," he began carefully. "At the end Jacob invited us up to be blessed into the congregation. There was something in a chalice, it was an oily, transparent, viscous liquid. He dipped his thumb into the chalice then rubbed it across your forehead, your lips, and your chin, then did the same to me.”

“I don't remember that.” She frowned and looked at her fingers that rested in her lap.

“Jacob disappeared then and we were led out of the church. Then we came back here.”

She could tell he was holding something back from her. “What then?”

“You might have been a little amorous…”

“Amorous?” she looked up at him. 

“Whatever that oil was, it did something, it made you lose your inhibitions.”

Scully felt her cheeks redden but forced herself to keep looking at him. “What else?”

“It was like you weren't you. You were Jess.”

“Jess?”

“I was calling you Scully but you were correcting me, telling me to call you Jess. You kept calling me Peter.”

Scully frowned. “This substance-”

“I collected some!” he said excitedly as if he had just remembered. “When you went to bed last night I went back to the church, I broke in and took a sample...kind of.”

“Kind of?”

“Well I didn't have a vial, so I poured some on my tee, then bagged my tee when I got back to the cabin.”

“We need to get that tested.”

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that. We can ship it to the PO Box in Phoenix that the local field office is monitoring. I just haven't figured out how to ship it.”

“I spoke to Sophie last week about my parents in Florida. Maybe I can say I'll send them a package and send it that way?”

“Yeah, that could work.” Mulder wondered if it would be suspicious if they left the ranch today. Then he remembered what he overheard Jackson saying yesterday. “One more thing…”

“What?” Scully asked with trepidation.

“Last night when I was in the church I overheard Jackson talking to someone, about the oil… or the blessing, or whatever”

“What did he say?”

“Well he made some remark about how it was when Sophie and he were...blessed for the first time.”

“You think this is a thing they do? To what end?”

“I don't know.” He watched her battle with her thoughts for a moment then continued talking. “But if we need to keep our cover, they need to believe…”

“Right.” She nodded and looked away, unable to stop the blush from creeping up her cheeks.

After a few moments of stifled silence Mulder decided he should give her some space. He got up and walked over to the dresser and pulled out the clean clothing he would need for the day. “I’m gonna go shower. I’ll get started on breakfast too.”

She nodded but avoided his eyes. She listened to him hurry off and it wasn't until she heard the bathroom door closed that she fell back against the pillows. She felt shame and sorrow in equal measurements. Another block of missing time, missing memories. But this time it was worse. He remembered. He remembered everything. He remembered how she acted. Amorous. That was the word he used. What did that mean? Flirty? Was she flirting with him? She didn't think that was all. If she had just been flirty, then he would have said that.

And if she had just been flirty, how did she end up stark naked in bed with him. On top of him. Her nipples were still hard from how they were crushed against him. And one thing she could remember with startling clarity was how it felt when she dragged them across his chest as she moved off him.

Oh god, what had she done? What did he know? She had to find out.

She climbed off the bed and looked down at what she was wearing. His tee came almost to her knees and it made her smile. She shook out the blanket and made the bed then collected the clothing she would need for the day and folded them on the end of the bed then grabbed a pair of her shorts to pull on and went downstairs to start the breakfast.

When Mulder came out of the bathroom fully dressed and clean shaven he was more than a little shocked to see her still in his tee. He thought with a pair of shorts underneath but he couldn't be sure. She was barefoot and making omelettes.

“Hey I’m the breakfast guy.”

Scully smiled and glanced over at him as she plated their food and handed him one dish. “Grab the juice.”

He poured them each a glass of juice and they sat at the table and Mulder tried not to think about the last time they sat at the table. When they finished Scully sat back in her chair and looked at him with a shrewd glare.

“What?” he asked a little uneasily as if he knew what she was about to ask him.

“I want you to tell me exactly what happened yesterday.”

“I did.”

“No, I mean I want to know exactly.” She leaned forward with her forearms on the table and kept their eyes connected. “Mulder, it's bad enough to have lost my memories. But to know you have them and I don't, is somehow worse.”

“Scully-”

“It makes me feel uncomfortable...violated.”

Mulder sighed. “Okay.” He slowly blinked. “But not now. We need to contact the field office. Find out what's happened to the other agents, send my top off for forensics.”

“Mulder-”

“I promise, I will tell you everything. In great detail if you wish. But let’s get through this case first.” He reached across the table and took her hand in his and slowly brushed his thumb across her knuckles.

“Okay,” she said after a moment and nodded her head slowly.

Mulder started to clean up after their breakfast as Scully got ready for her day. When they walked out of the cabin Mulder took her hand, like he had done every morning. He intertwined their fingers and looked down at her. She tried to smile back but he could tell she wasn't feeling it. He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles as they made their way to the school.

Sophie and Jackson were leaning against the entrance, each talking softly, smiling and laughing. Jackson looked up when they approached and grinned at Mulder.

“Hey you two.” He said with a tone, and Sophie slapped his arm.

“Hush you.”

“Sleep well?” he asked laughing, his eyes dancing with mirth as he looked between Mulder and Scully.

“A gentleman never tells,” Mulder said as Scully looked at her feet and her cheeks turned pink which only made Jackson laugh even more.

“Jackson!” his wife said as she pushed off the wall and gently shoved her husband in the direction he should be leaving. “C’mon Jess, let's get set up for the day.”

Scully nodded her head and moved to follow Sophie but Mulder pulled her back to him. He cupped her face and kissed her tenderly then pulled her into a tight hug and rested his head in the crook of her neck. “I’m going to try to go into town later,” he whispered. “I won't be around for lunch.” He felt her nod against him then he turned his head to kiss her neck just under her ear. “Stay safe.”

“Break it up you two!” Jackson hollered and Mulder released her to follow him, looking back at Scully to wave.

She watched him leave until she could no longer see him then went into the school to help Sophie set up for the day's classes. Sophie watched her move through the room as if in a trance and chuckled.

“How are you feeling this morning?” she asked and she held out a small plate of cookies.

Scully looked up and smiled. She took a cookie and leaned against the desk next to Sophie. “I’m a little… dazed.”

“Yeah, I remember that feeling.”

“You do?”

“Oh yeah, the first time is always a little wild.”

“First time?” This shook Scully. Was this going to happen again? Was she going to lose her memory again?

Sophie laughed and reached out to pat her shoulder. “Was he happy?”

“I uh…” She felt her cheeks redden. She didn't know. She didn't know if Mulder was happy with the way she was acting. She guessed he wasn't. Having to deal with her unwanted amorous, as he put it, actions.

“Oh sweetie.” Sophie put her arm around Scully’s shoulder.

“To be really honest Sophie…” she said and she looked up at her with a wince. “I don't really remember.”

“You don't remember?” Sophie frowned. "Was he...did he hurt you?" Sophie asked with concern and leaned forward to hear her answer. 

“No, no, nothing like that." Scully took a breath. "I remember the service in church…the blessing, then the rest of the day...and night...is a bit of a blur.”

“Ohhhh,” Sophie sounded relieved. “Yeah that happens to some people.”

“What was that blessing?” Scully asked and her fingers brushed her lips where Jacob had smeared the oil.

“It's your first entry into the community. It means you are welcome to stay.” Sophie picked up another cookie and bit into it. “It means Jacob welcomes you.”

“Why don't I see Jacob around the community? I only saw him in church.”

“He lives in the main house. He only ever joins for service.”

“He doesn't join for meals or anything else?”

Sophie shook her head and finished her cookie. “His wife collects food for him and takes it back.”

“Oh his wife?” Scully tried to scroll through everyone she had met so far to see if she could remember who it might be.

“Have you met her yet? Deborah. She usually arrives at the meal early, and leaves early too, perhaps you missed her.”

“I don't think I have met her.” Scully made a mental note to seek her out this evening. She wanted to ask her more about Jacob but the kids started to arrive and they both got busy.

***

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Monday 8pm

Scully sat in the cabin and tried not to worry. Mulder had left the ranch with a few other ranch hands on a run into town for errands. He had his stained tee with him which he planned to send to the forensics team in Phoenix and he was hoping to make some phone calls and get more info on where the ATF agents had gone to or when they had last reported in.

They had left at lunch time and were supposed to be back by now but neither Mulder nor the rest of the crew that had gone into town had come back yet. She had paced the length of the room but it offered no solace. The walls were confining, the spartan furniture felt in her way. She had started to make some dinner but was afraid it would be ruined if he wasn't back in time. Instead she chopped the veg she needed and packed it into Tupperware to leave in the fridge until he got home.

She was back on the couch half reading the book listening to any sounds to indicate he was home.

Home.

There was that word again. When did she start thinking of this place as home? They had barely been here a week and yet she thought of it as home. This tiny, spartan cabin. No, it wasn't the cabin. It was Mulder. The first thing she felt when that thought popped into her head was calm. But it was quickly followed by dread that amplified every minute that passed while he wasn't home. Home.

It was just then that she heard footsteps and voices near her door. She dropped the book on the cushion beside her and sat up to listen. There was a scuffle, some laughing, a thud like something or someone had fallen, then more laughing.

Someone knocked on the door, rapid sharp knocks, then more laughing and footsteps running away. Scully hurried over to the door and pulled it open and was surprised to see Mulder sitting on the floor. He had clearly been leaning against the door as he fell back onto the ground when she opened it.

“What...Peter?” She looked around but couldn't see anyone around. “What are you doing?”

He looked up at her and smiled and when she bent down to help him up she was hit with the smell of alcohol. It was so strong it was as if he had been soaking in a vat of it.

“Oh my god… are you drunk?”

“I’m...verrjy jrunk.”

She hooked her hands under his armpits and helped him into the cabin then crouched low to get more leverage and help him up fully.

“What happened?”

“Jrinkin...all day.” He staggered over to the couch with her help and fell onto it with a moan. “They kept givin me jrunks.”

“Who were you with?”

“Trip, Jake, TJ, Mark…” he said, naming other ranch hands he had gone into town with.

It wasn't like Mulder to drink like this. To drink ever. She worried if maybe he had let anything slip while under the influence.

“Did you get to the post office?” She went into the kitchen and poured him a large glass of water.

“Yes!” He said and he held his arm up in the air, his hand balled into a fist of victory. “I spoke to Skinman.”

“Skinner?” Scully was back by his side, she perched on the arm of the couch and handed him the glass. “Drink this.”

Mulder took the glass and guzzled the water then handed it back to her nearly empty.

“What did Skinner say?”

“Shendsh hish love.”

“Mulder,” She put the glass down on the table and turned back to him. “What did Skinner say?”

He looked at her and smiled then slowly moved against the back of the couch until his head was on her knee. “You’re so pretty.”

“Mulder!” She said and she pushed his shoulder to sit him back up straight. “C’mon, tell me about Skinner.”

Mulder leaned forward and rubbed one hand over his face. Scully worried if he was going to be sick and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Skinner said…” He fell back against the couch again and closed his eyes and she knew he was trying to concentrate. “ATF Agents are radio silent.”

“Radio silent? They haven't checked in?”

Mulder shook his head but immediately regretted it. He put his hand up on his forehead to try and still the spinning room but it wasn't working. “Oh no…” He muttered and he sat up, covered his mouth with his hand and tried to stand.

“Shit!” Scully helped him up and guided him into the bathroom but he didn't have the coordination to make it to the toilet and instead fell on all floors onto the floor and got sick into the base of the shower. Scully moved to the sink and soaked a face cloth in cold water and draped it over the back of his neck as the torrent of liquid came gushing out of his mouth. Whatever it was he had been drinking was clear, she noted with a grimace as she rubbed his back.

“Fuck..” he said as the torrent stopped and he coughed to remove the sticky remnants from his throat then spat it into the shower. Scully drenched the cloth again as he fell over onto his ass, draped his arms over his knees and hung his head low.

“Feel better?” She said and she held the cloth against the back of his neck again.

“Not yet.”

“Feel more sober?”

He glanced up at her with a half smile. “Not yet.” He dropped his head again and closed his eyes. “I’m going to feel all this in the morning.”

“Yep.”

He groaned and moved his arms to cover his face with his hands. “The room is spinning.”

Scully chuckled. “It's gonna be spinning for a while.”

He groaned again.

“Why were you drinking?”

“Celebratin’,” he muttered through his hands.

“Celebrating what?” Mulder separated his fingers and looked at her through the gaps. “Oh.” She felt her cheeks redden. They had been celebrating whatever it was she was supposed to have done with him last night.

“I didn't say anything,” he said and he rolled back onto his hands and knees. For a moment she thought he was going to get sick again, but he was using the wall to stand up, then moved to the sink and leaned over it.

“I know.”

He turned on the tap and cupped his hands to catch the water. He splashed a couple of handfuls over his face then slurped up more water and spat it out.

“I dunno what the hell that blessing was, Scully,” he said as he grabbed his toothbrush and put some paste over the bristles. “But it seems to be some rite of passage.” He leaned on the sink with his hips and gripped the edge of it with one hand as he started brushing. “And everyone seems to have gone through it. Everyone got the blessing and then…” he took the brush out of his mouth and made a turning gesture with that hand then shoved it back into his mouth and kept brushing.

“Sophie mentioned today, that it's not just one time either.”

“What do you think was in that oil he rubbed on our faces?” Mulder spat out the excess paste but kept brushing.

“My best guess is gammabutyrolactone, it induces a sense of euphoria, but also can act as a sedative and can affect memory.”

“Why was I not affected like you?”

“I don't know.” She looked down at the bottom of the shower then reached in to turn the water on and start rinsing it out. She had thought about it all day. Why hadn't he been affected like her? Was it because the drug enhanced what you were already feeling? And if he wasn't feeling that way towards her… then he wouldn't have been affected that way. “We’ll know more when we get the results back.”

“Leave that Scully,” he said when he saw her reaching for the shower head to direct the water and clean out the shower.

“No, it's fine.”

“I’m going to shower anyway.” He tugged his shirt off over the top of his head without opening it and when she turned round he was opening his jeans and pulling them down his legs.

“Oh, right,” She looked away quickly. She heard him shuck his jeans completely and kick them across the room.

“So are you staying?” he said with a little laugh.

She looked over her shoulder at him to be sure he could see her roll her eyes then quickly left the room. She didn't think his stomach would be fit for a full dinner so instead she made something bland but hefty to soak up whatever alcohol was left in his system. She cut up some bread, poached some eggs, smashed some avocado with salt and garlic and drizzled some honey over it. It was all ready in time for him to step out of the bathroom.

“Hey Mulder, good timing…” She said but her words died on her lips as she spotted him walking through the kitchen with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. He still had water droplets on his chest. His golden toned chest with it's splattering of hair that she now knew the feeling of underneath her, against her bare breasts. She looked away and focused on getting juice out of the fridge.

“I’ll just go get some fresh clothes.”

He moved around the table and hurried upstairs. She heard the groan of the bed springs as he clearly sat down then the sound of the drawers being opened and closed. She went into the bathroom and checked the first aid kit to get him some aspirin and poured him a large glass of water. When he returned he was wearing grey sweats and a black tank top and he smiled when he saw what was waiting for him on the table.

“Thanks,” he muttered as he took the pills and swallowed them with a gulp of water.

“So tell me, what happened?”

For a flash Mulder thought she was talking about the night before but then realised he meant his day in town.

“We went into town and I told them I was sending a package of cookies to your parents, like we agreed,” he focused on cutting up his food for a minute. “When I came back from the post office they were all standing outside the lumber yard arranging delivery of what we needed to fix the fences on the north side of the ranch.”

“So the package was sent and they didn't suspect anything?”

Mulder shook his head around a mouthful of egg and avocado. “They teased me, said I should be sending them more than cookies for letting you marry me.”

Scully rolled her eyes and tried, unsuccessfully, not to blush.

“Then we went to a bar for lunch.” He put his form down and took a moment to be sure his stomach could handle this new content. “I went to the bathroom and called Skinner from a pay phone.”

“So they haven't heard from the ATF agents? At all?”

Mulder shook his head. “They were definitely freaking out about us.” He sipped his water and took another moment, rested his hand on his stomach as if waiting for it to reject what he was putting in.

“Any change in what we should be looking for?”

He shook his head again but slower. “I told them that we haven't seen anyone from the profiles we were sent here to find. They said intelligence placed them at this camp 2 days before we arrived.”

“2 days?” Scully put her fork down too. “Sophie said no one had left the camp in years.”

Mulder picked up his fork and decided to risk more food. “I’ve combed nearly every inch of this ranch and I haven't seen any sort of grave sites, no blinds, storm cellars or any underground type places where they could be hiding the weaponry. I doubt it's in the cabins. It's not in the church, or infirmary.”

“It's not in the school.”

“It could be in the main house, I haven't gone in there yet.” He finished his egg and washed it down with more water, pleased that his stomach seemed to have settled.

“So business as usual? We’re staying?”

He looked up with a frown and nodded. “For now, yeah. I told Skinner I’d try to call again in a week.” He lifted his plate and hers and brought them over to the sink. “He said they were amping up intelligence surveillance and are trying to get a warrant for a forensic accountant, to check into the finances more closely." 

“Leave that Mulder, I got it,” she said when she saw he was trying to wash the dishes.

“No, it's fine, you cooked.”

“Mulder, go sit before you faint,” she said and hip checked him away from the sink.

He let her push him aside and stood there for a moment before he pushed away from the counter and went to the couch where he fell onto it with a sigh.

“Don’t fall asleep on that couch.” She called out. “I’m not lugging you upstairs.”

“Yes mom!” he called back and though he couldn't see her, he knew she rolled her eyes.

Scully cleaned the kitchen, washed and dried the dishes then went out to the living room where Mulder was predictably sleeping on the couch.

“Hey,” she said and slapped his shoulder. He jerked awake and sat up. “So…” She pushed his leg to make room for herself. “What is the plan?”

“I want to see the main house," he muttered.

“I want to see those test results.”

“I want to fix that fence up on the north end,” he said with a chuckle. “It's bugging me that it's incomplete.”

Scully chuckled. “I want to have a bath!”

Mulder rolled his head to look at her with a smile. “We could go swimming in the lake at the bottom of the eastern pasture.”

“That's not quite the same.”

“No, but it's a close second.”

“Yeah, maybe.” she said non committedly. They didn't have trunks so she wasn't sure how he thought swimming would work.

“I want to never drink again.” He looked back up at the ceiling and closed his eyes with deep breath.

“How did you let yourself get so drunk?” She chuckled.

“I dunno, we were in the bar and there were pitchers, and I just didn't notice.”

“Rookie Mistake Mulder.”

He chuckled. “This is such a strange place.”

“How so?”

“This place, built on a religious fundamental belief of man and woman, husband and wife.” He rolled his head and looked at her. “No one here is single. They are all couples.”

“Yeah, we knew that coming in,” she said and lifted her left hand to wiggle her fingers and remind him of the ring she was wearing.

“Right yeah, but we expected it to be more...rigid.” He turned back to face the ceiling. “A cult based around the teachings of the church, but with free rein to roam around the ranch, go into town, make phone calls, drink beers, and then a mass service where they pour some oil on you that makes you ridiculously turned on and destroys your inhibitions.”

He was mid ramble now and didn't notice Scully shifting on her seat, avoiding his eyes and her cheeks burning with hot shame.

“They took us in without much ado," he continued. "They didn't search our stuff. They gave us a roof, fed us, gave us jobs and immediately trusted us.” He took in a deep breath and released it slowly. “Out of all the cults I’ve studied, none of them had this level of open trust with strangers. If I didn't know better…” He closed his eyes and took in another breath.

“What?” she urged him to continue.

“If I didn't know better I’d say this is just a community of like minded folks, living off the land, hurting no one.”

“It does feel like that.”

“Except for that oil.”

“We’ll know more when we get the results.”

“Hmm.”

She looked over at him and saw he was starting to nod off. She nudged him with her elbow and he rolled his head towards her but didn't open his eyes.

“Bed time.”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

“Funny.”

She bumped her knee against his then pushed herself off the couch. He groaned and let his hands fall off his lap like he was too tired to move.

“You wanna sleep on that tiny couch?”

“No.”

“C’mon,” she said and when he opened his eyes he saw she was holding a hand out to him.

That was an offer he couldn't refuse, or an opportunity he wasn't about to pass up. He lifted his hand and placed it in hers and loved how her fingers curled around his and she tugged on his arm. There was no way she would lift him without his help and when he didn't help at first she tugged a little harder until he smiled. He pushed off the couch and tightened his grip on her hand as she led the way across the room and up the stairs.

He willed and prayed for her not to let go yet though as they walked up the last steps he felt her fingers loosen in his but he tightened his grip until they stood between the bed and the chest of drawers.

“Get some sleep,” she whispered and looked at the drawers where her night clothes were.

He stood behind her, so close he could feel her body heat radiating off her, hear her soft breaths, see her pulse quickening in her neck. His fingers moved against her, his thumb stroked her knuckles and he leaned in a little closer, his head coming in over her shoulder so she could feel his breath against her neck.

“Mulder…” she whispered.

“Hmm?” He nuzzled her head, the lightest of touches, his nose brushing against the loose tendrils of her hair.

“You’ve had a long day.”

“Hmm.”

“You should rest.”

He pulled his head back but rested his forehead against the crown of her head. His fingers tightened on her hand and she wondered if he would release her. She felt him press a feather light kiss to the top of her head then he was gone. Before she could move she heard the bedsprings groan underneath his weight.

She grabbed her night clothes and went down to the bathroom to change and brush her teeth. She took a moment to settle her nerves then went back upstairs to the bed. He was lying flat on his back beneath the blanket, with his hands locked behind his head, and she saw the rumpled pile of his sweats and tank top on the floor. She walked around to her side of the bed and sat on the edge for a second then lay back and lifted her legs onto the bed and under the blanket. She lay on her side, her back to him, her hands joined under her pillow, her breath shallow.

“Scully…” he whispered.

“Shhh.” She said, responding quickly, hoping to shut down whatever thoughts he was having because she knew they were drunken, but most importantly dangerous. And she knew that because she was having them too. “Go to sleep.”

“Scully.”

This time she didn't respond, hoping beyond hope that he might think she had fallen asleep even if it had only been seconds since she last spoke.

“Scully.”

“What Mulder!” she said, her voice sounding harsh after his soft whispers.

“Can I hold you?”

“You’re drunk Mulder, go to sleep.”

“Can I hold you?” he whispered again.

She looked over her shoulder at him. He hadn't moved since she climbed into bed. He was still staring out at the stars visible from the skylight above them.

“Are you ok?”

He rolled his head to look at her and even this minor movement elicited a noisy protest from the bed. He nodded. She studied his face for a moment. He didn't look sad, or hurt. Like he had the other times when she held him or let him hold her. He looked...hopeful. She glanced down his chest to where the blanket was bunched at his waist.

“You’re not naked are you?” He smiled and shook his head. “Okay.” She rolled back to face away from him and after a heartbeat the bed signalled his movement. He snuggled up behind her, but not too close. She could feel the top of his chest against her back but he was leaving room for the holy ghost she thought with a smirk. One of his arms tucked under her pillow and the other rested on her hip. Then slowly moved over the dip in her waist to plant on her stomach, his fingers splayed in such a way that his pinky brushed the waistband of her pj bottoms.

Scully tried not to react. She closed her eyes and focused on keeping her breathing steady. She felt him sigh and his fingers on her stomach slowly moved against her top, in the most languorous motion she ever felt and it seeped her into very being and crumbled her defences.

“Good night Scully,” he whispered, his breath rustling her hair.

“Night.” she said though it came out like a sigh and she didn't care.

Chapter Text

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Tuesday 6am

Scully was a mover when she slept. She rolled over onto her back, her other side, her front, she twisted and turned around the sheets, kicking them off and pulling them up to cover her again. She knew this. This was why she was surprised to find herself waking in nearly the exact same position she fell asleep in.

Except now Mulder had forgotten the space for the holy ghost, was flush against her and she felt every inch of his hard toned warm body that was pressed against her.

Her top had ridden up and his hand was now on her torso against her skin, higher up, just under her breast. If he moved his thumb a hair's breadth she was sure he would be able to stroke the underside without much effort. His other arm had come out from under the pillow and was banded across her collarbone, securing her against him. One of his legs was partially between hers, the hair on his legs causing prickles of sensation on her skin and she wanted to rub herself against him like a cat.

But the one thing she could feel that made the breath in her throat catch and her heart hammer erratically against her ribs was nestled against her ass, protruding from his boxers, hard and hot. It took everything in her being not to arch her back and press against him, clench her cheeks around him and urge him into her.

She could tell the second he woke up. His breathing stopped, his hand on her torso which had been soft and languid stiffened against her, his fingers tips pressing into her. The arm across her collarbone tightened ever so slightly and his chest moved against her back.

She opened her mouth to say something, crack a joke, kill the momentum of whatever it was that she felt was about to happen but nothing came out. She didn't want to kill this. She wanted to feel it. Feel him. She needed it. The hand he had on her torso pressed slightly, his hips inched forward and she couldn't help the release of breath past her pursed lips.

He nuzzled against the back of her neck, brushed his nose against her nape as his hand moved a little lower, over her stomach, gentle caresses until he met the waistband of her pj bottoms. She waited...tensed...wondered what he would do, what she wanted him to do. His hips pressed forward again and suddenly she knew exactly what she wanted him to do. As if of their own volition her hips pushed back, barely moved, but applied enough pressure to encourage his hand to move again.

At first it was just his pinkie that slipped under the waistband and when he met no resistance from her, the rest of his fingers joined it and painfully slowly moved through her curls to cup her. He sighed. She sighed. She didn't think about how wet she was, or worry if he would know what it meant. All she cared about right now was making sure he didn't stop.

She lifted her leg to give him more access and the leg he had partially between hers immediately took up more space. When his fingers moved past her seam she heard him moan and her hips jerked at the sound and at the motion of his hands, chasing more friction, chasing his touch.

How was this happening?  she wondered. They hadn't even kissed yet. Well Peter and Jess had kissed, but not them. Not Mulder and Scully. How was she letting him touch her this way?  Because it felt amazing. His body against hers, his breath on her neck, his arms around her, hands against her and oh… in her.

She gasped when he slid one then two fingers in and her hips jerked again. She was so close. But she didn't want to come like this. She wanted him inside her when she came. She moved her hips back away from his hand and clenched his ass against his cock and he moaned. His fingers stilled. He seemed to get the hint and pulled his fingers out of her which elicited a sigh. He pushed her bottoms down enough until his leg could drag them off her completely then repeated the motion with his own boxers.

The bed was screaming to the high heavens, protesting every miniscule motion but she didn't care. There was only one thing she cared about right now and it was about to happen. Nothing else mattered. Mulder's hand moved back to her thigh and he pulled her leg up over his then reached for his cock to find her entrance and paused. His tip was pressing against her and she wanted to cry out in frustration or anticipation she didn't know, but definitely whatever the cry was, it would be drenched in need.

Just when she thought he wasn't going to press into her further, when she thought he was going to pull away, his hand moved to her hip and his fingers gripped her tightly then with glacial speed he moved into her fully. She moaned with every inch that sank into her and the arm he held across her collarbone moved so he could cup her breast over her t-shirt. His teeth sunk into her shoulder and they both held still.

After a moment when she was used to the feel of him buried inside her, she clenched her inner muscles around him and he immediately reacted by pulling out and thrusting back into her. He set a slow rhythm with his hips and his hand on her breast matched it as he palmed her nipple. His other hand gripped her hip and pulled her back when his hips pushed in and soon she realised she couldn't control her breathing anymore.

Her panting became grunts and soon escalated to moans and he sped up his thrusting. His breath was hot against her neck, she felt his teeth clamping onto her shoulder again and his fingers pinched her nipple, as his other hand moved from her hip to find her clit. She cried out when he brushed his thumb across it and again when he moved his thumb with more purpose.

The only sound in the room was his thighs slapping against her, their coordinated moans and the grating protests of the bedsprings which nearly drowned them all out. She felt her orgasm starting to peak. Hot pressure tingled at her lower back, the very spot he usually pressed his fingers as they walked, swirled around her body, reached every dark corner then swooped and focused on her core where she started to lose control of it.

She started to lose her rhythm as the quivering built up. She clamped down on him, her hand gripped his wrist to be sure he didn't stop his ministrations against her clit. Her mouth opened in a silent scream and this thrusting became rampant, his breath was hot and heavy against her neck and when his tongue came out and licked her she broke.

She tried not to cry out, she tried to hold it all in but there was no way to contain what he was making her feel. Her voice reverberated off the cabin walls. She convulsed and shook against him but he held on kept pushing into her and when she felt him come deep inside her, his cock spasmed against her inner walls it prolonged her orgasm until she couldn't take it any more and yanked his hand off her clit to find relief from his overwhelming touch.

Eventually they both stilled.

Their panting was the only noise in the room. She closed her eyes and willed her body to calm down but with him lying flush against her, still buried deep inside her and how he was breathing fast on her neck there was no way she would form any semblance of normalcy when all she wanted to do was push him onto his back and mount him. She was so ready for him again.

Fuck.

What. The. Fuck.

Time stopped. Along with her heart. And her ability to breathe. They just had sex. Good sex. Great sex. Fucking amazing sex. But now what.

She could still feel him inside her though he was softening and slipping out and she clamped her teeth onto her bottom lip to stop herself from sighing at the sensation. Why did even this feel so damn good? Oh god she was in trouble now. He still had one hand cupping her breast, and the other was on her thigh. He lifted his head off her shoulder and she heard him take in a deep breath and knew he was about to say something or do something and she was never more terrified of anything else, than what was about to happen.

He moved away a little and lifted his head off the pillow to look at her over her shoulder but when he opened his mouth she didn't hear his voice, all she heard was someone banging on the door to their cabin.

“Peter!” It was Jackson. “Peter, get your ass outta bed!”

Mulder sat up and looked towards the stairs as if Jackson was going to appear there. Scully pulled the sheet up to her chest as Mulder moved away from her entirely, and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

“Peter, we need you in the main yard, lumber came early.”

He grabbed his sweats and pulled them on then hurried downstairs to answer the door. Scully grabbed her PJ bottoms and pulled them on then fixed her top and stood off the bed. She grabbed the blanket and straightened it as if trying to hide all evidence of what just happened, then went downstairs.

“We need you in the main yard. Lumber is here, we’re shifting it up to the north end.”

“Right, yeah,” Mulder said and he looked over his shoulder as Scully appeared at the bottom of the stairs. “Right now?” he asked and Jackson started laughing.

“Yeah, you can ravish your wife more after lunch. C’mon truck is waiting.”

“Okay, let me grab my clothes.”

Scully was in the kitchen and Jackson walked in while Mulder hurried upstairs to get dressed. “Morning ma’am.”

He took his hat off as he approached and leaned against the wall that divided the living room and the kitchen.

Scully smiled. “Coffee?”

“No thanks, I’ve already had two cups. Sophie has me limiting my caffeine, she’ll go mad if I have a third.”

Scully chuckled.

“She says you are really good in the school, with the kids I mean. Working out way better than some of the others that tried it out.”

“I enjoy it.” Scully poured out two mugs of coffee. “And Sophie is great to work with. I’ve learned so much.”

“She is so happy there.”

“She’s great with the children.”

“Yeah, she wanted a flurry of them herself.” He wrung his hat in his hands and Scully wondered what the rest of that story was.

“Trip and Jake seem like a handful.”

“Yeah, but it's not the same when you didn't get to change their nappies.” Scully frowned, she wasn't sure if she should ask more but before she could Mulder came bounding down the stairs in his jeans and a work shirt with his boots in his hands. He sat on the couch and slipped them on his feet and Scully turned to the press to grab a thermos for his coffee.

He walked over and shucked his jeans, not quite able to meet her eyes as she transferred his coffee into the flask and handed it to him.

“Thanks.”

“Right son, let's get the show on the road.” Jackson slapped his shoulder as he walked towards the door. “Kiss your wife so we can go.”

Mulder froze and looked over his shoulder at Jackson who was standing by the open door watching, then jerked his head towards the truck outside in a gesture to urge him to hurry. Scully watched him turn back to her. It was as if they were stuck in slow motion. He took the half step he needed to reach her, placed a hand on her shoulder, the shoulder he had bitten only moments ago when he came inside her, then leaned in and kissed her temple.

“See ya later,” he muttered as he turned and hurried after Jackson.

***

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Tuesday 1pm

Mulder lay back on the ground and spread his arms out away from his overheated body. He was thankful for the work to keep his hands and mind occupied but it wasn't enough. He helped lug all the lumber that was delivered onto the trucks and carts, then when they got it to the north yard, they lugged it onto the yard in various places to make it accessible for the fence repairs. His arms were heavy with exhaustion. He had taken off his shirt a couple of hours ago and now lay topless, spread-eagled on the grass after guzzling a bottle of water.

“Hey Peter, you want a sub?”

He rolled his head to see Trip holding up a sub wrapped in wax paper. He did want a sub but that would involve moving. And that wasn't something he was able to do right now. Trip laughed and brought it over to him, left it on his chest and gently kicked his ass as he walked away.

Mulder didn't have the energy to reach for the sandwich. His head was pounding. The effects of the drinking binge was catching up with him but he didn't think that was what was causing his headache. Instead he was pretty sure it was stress. Stress of trying not to remember what they had done in bed this morning. Moving the lumber had worked for a while, but now they were stopping for lunch and he had no choice but to sit and ponder.

He remembered asking if he could hold her. He remembered not being able to stop himself from asking. He ignored her attempts to shush or distract him. He wanted to hold her so much and with the liquid courage coursing through his veins he went for it. He even tried to make it comforting, not sexual, just hold her. He kept his waist away from hers though that was more for self preservation than anything else knowing full well if he nestled her ass against him he would have a massive hard on in seconds.

But once she was in his arms, he fell asleep almost immediately. Then when he woke, she was flush against him, her ass nestled against him, and as he predicted, his cock was rock hard and pressed deliciously against the crease on her ass. He knew his hand was just under her breasts and thought about moving it up to palm it softly. He tried his hardest to resist and his hand stiffened against her. He heard her gasp softly and knew she was awake.

That moment, lying next to her, silent, still, knowing they were both awake. Neither of them moving or rolling away. He couldn't help it. Then it became a slow dance of fingers and gasps, softness and hard, slow and fast. He thought he was going to come the second he entered her and it took reeling off the 1978 Yankees world series roster to keep himself in the game.

And fuck, what a game. Mulder smiled and closed his eyes. This part he wanted to remember. She was hot, wet, tight, and responsive. And this wasn't even the full show, this was merely a sample of what they were capable of together. He knew that in his very core. Every sound she made was burned into his brain and he could recall them with ease. He chased her sighs and nearly died when they became moans. When her hand grabbed his wrist and his hand grabbed her breast he almost lost his mind but held on. He needed her to come. He needed to feel her come. Around his cock, through his whole body before he would let himself break. And when she did it was like he had gone to heaven. She cried out. Some nonsensical sound of bliss as he pounded into her.

Mulder groaned at the memory and felt himself getting hard again. He reached down and fixed his jeans to get some relief. Fuck. This wasn't good. Well it was fucking great, he remembered the sensation of her walls quivering around him that broke him in the end. That was fantastic.

He threw his arms over his face as a reprieve from the beating sun. This wasn't good. What was he thinking? Well that was the only thing that was clear. He was thinking about how amazing it was to wake up with her in his arms. His hands on her skin, her body flush against him. He didn't mean to start anything. It felt so natural. It was like his body was simply connecting to hers in the only way it knew how. He was shocked she didn't push him back. He could almost hear what he thought she would say.

“What the fuck Mulder?” Her tone would have been similar to when she lectured him in that motel room in Puerto Rico while tending to his wounds. Her usual soft touch instead was sharp and unforgiving. He was pretty sure there would be no soft touch later when he got back to the cabin.

Fuck.

Why did Jackson have to interrupt them? Now instead of living with the fuck up and her tone. He was suffering through wondering what was waiting for him. What was waiting for him? Her wide open loving arms? ...or legs?

Mulder snorted. Hardly.

A glare. A raised eyebrow. A tapping foot and a look of pure disdain. Dammit. It's not like she stopped him. She was an active participant. As active as he. Neither of them were particularly active. Only where it was needed. And damn was it needed. He felt another surge of desire wash over him and his cock twitched.

He had thought about it. A lot. And he had imagined it every which way possible. But when he pushed into her he realised everything he imagined was wrong. So fucking wrong. And the feeling of being balls deep in her was right. So. Fucking. Right.

If she didn't feel that too. If she didn't feel even an inkling of what he felt then he didn't know what to fucking think.

“Hey Peter,” Jackson called out and Mulder rolled his head to look over. “Get your head out of your dick and come help.”

Mulder rolled onto his front, and the sub fell off his chest. He got up on all fours, then pushed onto his haunches. He picked up the sub and unwrapped it. Took a big bite then stood up and walked over to the rest of the group who were leaning against the truck. They had all finished their lunch and were preparing to get back to moving the lumber.

“You feeling ok?”

Mulder nodded and took another bite.

“Jess kept you up all night?” Jackson nudged one of the men next to him and they both snickered.

“The pitchers of beer you shoved down my throat did me in.” He took another bite and chewed it slowly. “I told you I wasn't much of a drinker.”

“Looked like you managed to get over it this morning.” Jackson pushed himself off the truck and moved around the back of it to start pulling lumber off it. “The look on his face when he opened the door.” He laughed.

“Didn't get to cross the finish line this morning Petey?”

“Oh he crossed it,” Jackson responded and he walked by Mulder with a couple of planks over his shoulder. “Looked like Jess did too when she came down stairs.”

“Alright, alright.” Mulder wrapped up his sub and put it into the driver's window. “Leave it out.”

“A gentleman never tells!” Trip mimicked in a fancy voice and made some gestures with his hands.

“I’d prefer to keep my sex life away from prying eyes.” Mulder moved to the back of the truck and picked up a couple of planks. He had his shirt folded and draped over his shoulder to protect himself from splinters and slid the planks over it then carried them up to the growing pile where they were going to build the fence.

“Yeah yeah, we all started off like that once.” Jackson passed Mulder and slapped him on the shoulder as he walked by. “Wait till you get your second dose on Sunday.”

“What do you mean?” Mulder dropped the planks and hurried to catch up with Jackson.

“You thought Jess was wild after mass the other day?” The other men all laughed and a few of them hooted and whistled. “The first dose is great, I loved it, but the second dose…”

“My Lindy couldn't walk right for a week after,” one of the men said.

“The wife? I was fucking crippled,” another chimed in much to the delight of the others.

They all laughed but Mulder only felt a kernel of dread settle in his stomach. He barely made it through the other night with Scully all over him. But that wasn't Scully. And what happened this morning had no impact on what might happen should she fall under the influence of that oil again. There was no way he would fuck her if she wasn't fully aware of what was happening. And he definitely wasn't going to fuck her and have her cry out another mans name. Even if he was that other man.

Fuck.

His headache was back. Had it ever left? He picked up another couple of planks and focused on this task. This was something to tackle. Problem. Solution. This task didn't cause him stress. Or make him horny. Or drive him wild with need. He ignored the chatter and storytelling from the group. They would be done soon and he could go back to the cabin, then he would let Scully know the update about the service on Sunday and they could decide the next steps. Together.

If she was speaking to him.

***

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Tuesday 4pm

When the classroom was fully tidied Scully moved over to the main desk where Sophie was sitting and sat in the chair next to her. She had been idly chatting with her all day between classes and wanted to get more information on what Jackson had mentioned about Trip and Jake.

“You’re so good with the kids,” Scully said and she pushed a breath out of puffed cheeks.

Sophie smiled. “It's easy when they are as good as these kids.”

Scully had counted seventeen kids. All under ten years old. The next group of children seemed to be in their late teens and she had only spotted them at the main group dinners. Likely once kids were able to work on the ranch they were taken out of school, Scully figured.

“They are wonderful, but I’d never say this is easy.”

“Don't you want any kids of your own?”

“Maybe, I think.” Scully closed her eyes for a bit. She hadn't really thought about it much. Her career had always come first. “I know Peter does.”

Sophie smiled even wider. “He’d make a wonderful father. And so handsome. You’re very lucky. He clearly adores you.”

Scully looked away and blushed. “So you just had Trip and Jake? You didn't try for more?”

“Oh, sweetie,” Sophie chuckled. “They aren't my kids.”

“Oh sorry, I thought… Jackson introduced them as his boys.”

“They live with us, we brought them up from the age of ten.” Sophie looked off into the near distance. “We tried to conceive, but we couldn't.”

“I’m so sorry.” Scully reached across the table and put her hand over Sophie’s. “I didn't mean to...I’m sorry. It's none of my business.”

“That's ok, you didn't know.” Sophie patted her hand. “It's one of the reasons we ended up here.”

“What do you mean?”

“We were lost. We tried and tried and tried to make a family. We couldn't afford adoption.” She stopped talking and Scully wasn't sure if she was done or not but she waited. “We travelled around, looking for work. Stumbled onto the ranch, the church, and found that they needed people to join the community. The kids.”

“I don't understand.”

“The kids here, most of them are orphans.”

“Orphans?” Scully looked around the room as if an answer would be revealed. “How?”

“The church sponsors them from orphanages around the country. We take them in, give them homes, love, life, God.”

“So none of the kids here were born from the women on the ranch?”

“Most of the women here had trouble conceiving.” Scully frowned. “Don't worry sweetie, I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”

Scully thought of her morning escapade with Mulder and realised neither of them paused for protection. They didn't even pause to speak, or kiss, she barely breathed throughout the whole event.

Event? Was that the right word? Mind blowing sexual experience was more like it. But that didn't quite roll off her tongue. God when his tongue ran up the back of her neck it was enough to-

“Where did you go?” Sophie asked with a wicked smile.

“Huh?”

“Just there, your mind wandered off.”

Scully blushed and looked away. “I was just thinking about…” Mulder. Don't say it. Don't say Mulder. “Peter.”

“I remember that feeling.” Sophie chuckled and squeezed her hand. “When your every waking thought was consumed with them. Even when they drove you up the walls.”

“Especially when they drive you up the walls.”

“God they can be so infuriating.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Jackson used to do this thing,” she began but the door behind them opened and both of them turned to see Jackson, Mulder and Trip walking in.

“My ears are burnin’,” he said with a wide smile as he crossed the room and came up behind Sophie and placed both hands on her shoulders.

Mulder approached Scully and stood next to her but didn't touch her and Trip hung out by the door looking bored and disaffected. Scully glanced up when they walked in but seeing Mulder topless, his chest tanned from working in the sun all day with various cuts and scrapes from whatever it was he was doing across his shoulders and upper back, made her quickly look away.

“We were just swapping stories,” Sophie said with a lilt in her voice.

“Well, it sounds like you got more than we did.” Jackson nodded his head at Mulder. “He wouldn't tell us a damn thing.”

“A gentleman never tells,” Sophie said and she patted the hands that rested on her shoulders.

“And a lady does?”

“Hush you.” Sophie looked across at Scully who was looking at her hands on her lap and blushing furiously. “Let's get the BBQ going.”

Jackson chuckled and pulled her chair out then crooked his elbow for her to take.

“We’ll see you too later at the group dinner?”

Mulder nodded and watched as Jackson led Sophie out of the room with a slap on the back of Trips head to get him moving too.

After a moment of silence Scully stood up and brushed down the front of her clothing as she turned to him but didn't look at his face.

“We should go back home. I found out some stuff today I want to go over,” he said when it was clear she wasn't going to speak.

“Me too.”

“C’mon.” Without thinking about it he reached out and took her hand but felt her jerk at his touch. “Sorry.” he muttered and he shoved his hands into his pockets to avoid making that mistake again.

They walked quickly to the cabin and Mulder walked in first in an effort to keep his hands off her, as he knew if she went in first he definitely would have put his hand on her back. As he took the first steps into the cabin she got a better look at his back and realised how badly he was scratched up.

When the cabin door was closed and they could be themselves again she noticed his shoulders stiffen as he walked right to the kitchen and poured himself a large glass of water. He guzzled it over the sink then poured another and turned to face her. She was leaning against the wall, just inside the kitchen.

“What did you learn?” he asked.

“None of the children on the ranch were born here. They are all orphans. Supposedly brought in from orphanages around the country.”

“What? We didn't see anything like that in the records.”

“Sophie said most of the women on the ranch are infertile.” Scully sat at the table and rested on her forearms. “She said she and Jackson were trying to conceive but it wasn't happening. They came here and ended up looking after kids on this ranch.”

“That sounds...like it's not illegal.”

“We need to check on the adoption papers.” Scully rubbed her face with one hand and sighed. “We need to confirm if those kids were legally adopted.”

“I wonder if the papers are kept in the main house?” He crossed the kitchen to sit at the table across from her.

“We haven't made it into the main house yet.”

“I was thinking I would try tonight.”

For the first time since in what felt like forever. Their eyes connected. Mulder felt it tug at his groin and Scully seemed to lose the ability to breathe.

“You’re going to break into the house?”

“Take a look anyway.”

“And if you get caught?”

“Charm my way out of it.”

Scully lifted one eyebrow and he smiled. “You said you found out something today too?”

“Yeah,” he said and sat back in his chair. His fingers on one hand turned the glass on the table and his other hand scratched through his hair, nails against his scalp. “Jackson spoke about the blessing ceremony.”

“The one from the mass on Sunday?”

Mulder nodded. “He said the first time was wild but the second time was stronger.”

Scully frowned. “What does that mean?”

“I dunno,” he said with a shrug. “But I wonder if it has something to do with what you were saying with the kids.”

“What do you mean?”

“This ranch is full of couples all trying to conceive. Without success.” Mulder sat forward on the table and pushed his glass aside. “And Jacob is drugging them with this aphrodisiac. Maybe it's got something to do with the inability to conceive. Or it's an attempt to aid conception.”

“When will we get the test results back?”

“Maybe tomorrow.”

Scully took a moment to contemplate what he said then got up and poured herself a glass of juice from the fridge. She leaned against the counter and sipped it and couldn't help letting her eyes roam over his back.

“What were you working on today? Your back is cut up.”

“Huh?” He looked over his shoulder and tried to reach over to see. “Hauling lumber from one place to another then cutting it up for the fence.”

“And your shirt?”

“Drenched in sweat. I used it as padding for my shoulder but it didn't really work.”

She stepped closer to get a better look and saw several splinters. “Mulder you are really cut up. Doesn't it hurt?”

“Yeah I guess.” He barely felt it. He had been so preoccupied with other sensations he had been feeling, or remembering all day.

“Hang on,” she said and she put her juice on the table then went into the bathroom for the first aid kit. Back in the kitchen she opened it on the table then found the tweezers, antiseptic and plasters. “Turn around, so I can see.”

She pushed his shoulder and made him sit sideways on the chair so the back of his shoulders were in the light. She leaned down and pulled at his skin to get a better view then carefully pulled any of the splinters out she could see. She ran her hand over his skin tenderly, searching for other protrusions and when she was satisfied they were all gone she stepped back.

Mulder had his head bent low, his chin on his chest, his jaw clenched and his eyes screwed shut. Every touch of her hands, her fingertips, her breath was pure torture. She put the tweezers down and reached for the antiseptic cream. She placed daubs of it across his back then smeared it round with a flat cotton pad. He sucked in a quick breath from the sting of pain it caused.

“Sorry,” she whispered.

“S’ok.”

“Almost finished.”

She quickly smeared it wherever it was needed then bent down and blew cold air across his back, as if it was the next natural step in tending to his wounds. She had done this before, on various parts of his body. There were no healing properties to her breath, it was more for comfort. It was something her mother always did. She had done it without thought. Or rather, the only thought in her head was to comfort him.

What she didn't expect was his reaction. Usually when she did it he smiled or chuckled. This time he sat up ramrod straight and arched his back as he gasped.

“Sorry...I…” She stepped back and dropped the cotton pad onto the table. She focused on picking up the plasters and looked at his back to see how many she would need. “Just a few plasters should do it,” she narrated as if keeping her mind in the present would stop her from veering off a safe path. She tore open the plasters one by one and gently applied them to the worst cuts then ran her hand over his back once more as a final check. “All done.”

She stood back and started to gather up the mess on the table and tossed the items into the bin before she came back to fix the first aid kit back together.

“Thanks.” Mulder stood up, turned to face her and watched as she put away the kit. She carried it into the bathroom then returned to the kitchen, all the while he stood motionless by the table.

Her steps seemed to falter when she came back into the room and saw him standing there, watching her.

“Scully.” his voice had the same timbre from the night before when he called her name out into the stillness while they were in bed. She went over to the table and picked up her juice, carried it over to the sink and dumped it then rinsed the glass and left it in the bottom of the sink. She needed to keep her hands busy. She wasn't sure what they might do if they weren't busy. She turned to face him then but her eyes looked at something over his shoulder.

He took a few steps closer to her and her eyes shot up to his, making him stop his progress. They stared at each other, neither of them breathing, thoughts and communication flying between them.

“You’re going to break into the main house later?” she asked, needing to speak as if it would stop what she knew was going to happen. As if that was possible.

He nodded.

“After dark?”

He nodded again.

“Maybe you shouldn't.”

“Why?”

“We could get the test results tomorrow. Call Skinner and ask him about the adoption papers. Take stock then decide if there is something in the house worth breaking in for.”

He watched her for a moment, wondering if she was going to continue speaking. Try to convince him that he shouldn't break into the house. When he knew what she should be trying to convince him of was not to kiss her.

He connected with her eyes and held them for as long as she would let him then as if a switch was pulled and they both became magnetized the distance between them became nothing. His lips found hers and she welcomed them. He slipped his tongue into her mouth, lapped it hungrily as her hands drove into his hair, her nails scraped along his scalp until she gripped the back of his neck and pulled him even closer.

He wrapped his hands around her body and pulled her against him, lifted her off the ground and placed her on the counter. Her knees gripped his hips and her feet the back of his thighs to be sure he didn't move away. His hands came up to cup her face, his thumbs stroked her cheeks in the same motion as his tongue moving inside her mouth until she dragged her hands down his chest, and her nails raked over his nipples. He broke the kiss and took in a sharp inhale as he stared at the ceiling.

This reaction didn't stop the motion of her hands as she moved down over his abs to his belt where she tugged the thick leather out of the buckle. Mulder's head flew round to watch her fingers pull his belt open and instead got distracted by her mouth moving to cover his nipple. The hot wet sensation made him gasp and one of his hands dropped to her thigh, the other moved to cup the back of her head and encourage her to keep kissing him that way.

“Fuck,” he cried out when her teeth clamped down on him. The hand on her thigh tightened its grip and yanked her body closer to the edge of the counter.

She used one hand to keep working on his belt, then the buttons on his jeans and the other hand was splayed across the centre of his back as her mouth worked his chest. Part of him wanted to hold back and see where she would take this but he couldn't stop his hands from moving and he needed to feel her skin under his lips. He lowered his head into the crook of her neck and kissed, licked and suckled on her skin until her hands sank into his boxers and gripped his cock firmly.

“Jesus Christ, Scully.”

His hands moved to her face again and he tipped her head up to kiss her gruffly as she started to stroke him from base to tip. He hadn't felt anything like this in a long time. Ever? And the way she was stroking him now he wasn't sure how long he would feel it as he felt like he was about to come already.

He wanted to pull her hands out of his pants but he just couldn't bring himself to do it. Anything that would mean removing her hands from his body was simply beyond his capability. Instead he wanted to lean into that feeling. Reciprocate. Respond in kind. So instead of grabbing her hands, he grabbed her jeans.

Just as he got the button open, there was a series of rapid knocks on the front door.

They both froze.

Mulder thought if they ignored it, whoever was there would go away. But after a moment whoever was there knocked again. Scully pulled her hands away and Mulder dropped his head onto her shoulder and groaned.

“God dammit,” he whispered. Then lifted his head and stepped back to fix his jeans as he moved towards the door. She slipped off the counter and fixed herself then got busy cleaning the two glasses they had just been using. He looked over his shoulder at her to be sure she was ready then opened the door to see Sophie just about to step off the porch. “Sophie, hi.”

“Oh Hi Peter, I hope I’m not disturbing anything.”

“No, no, not at all, come on in.”

Scully moved out of the kitchen towards them as Sophie stepped into the house. She had a small wooden box in her hands. “Jackson said you got cut up working with the lumber today.”

“Oh, just a little. Scu-...luckily Jess was able to clean it out.” Mulder coughed to hide his near slip up and Scully took the box Sophie offered them.

“Oh, well I thought I’d drop up a little first aid kit, just in case.”

“Thank you, you’re very good.” Scully opened the box and saw it had much of the same items she had in her own kit in the bathroom.

“Not at all. You’re part of the community now.”

Mulder and Scully glanced at each other and he reached over, put an arm over her shoulders to pull her against him.

“You’ve all made us feel so welcome,” Scully said with a smile as she leaned into Mulder and rested a hand in the centre of his chest.

“Growing our community is the only way to sustain it.” Sophie spoke with a smile but her eyes had a far away look in them. “Some people can help grow our family, and I believe wholeheartedly, you two will help.”

Mulder offered her a tight smile, unsure how to respond to that comment.

“Will you be joining us for the group dinner later?”

“Yes, definitely.” Scully said with a wide smile. “Can't wait.”

“Great, well see you then.”

Sophie waved and walked out of the house. Mulder and Scully stood on the porch watching her walk across the lot to the cabin she shared with Jackson.

“What did that mean?” he asked as they stepped back into their own cabin. Mulder closed the door and leaned back against it.

“The comment about growing the community?” Scully moved into the kitchen and put the first aid kit Sophie gave them under the sink. “You think she meant…”

“Babies?” he said and he walked over to lean back against the counter beside her. “We’re two virile, healthy, seemingly married adults, who can provide children.”

“But she said all the children in this camp have been orphaned. So if they were born to parents in the camp…”

“Where are the parents now?” Mulder scratched his head and thought about what he just said. He had already been all around the camp and saw no place where bodies might have been buried. They would need ground penetrating radar to be sure but nothing fresh was visible. “If the substance they used on us at the service the other day was to make us...procreate,” he said with a glance over at her. “What if there was another substance to make us...walk away?”

“And forget we’ve had a child?” she said with a disbelieving tone.

“Yeah.”

“There is no substance to make you forget you’ve given birth.”

“There are multiple mind altering toxins that can affect recall.”

“For nine months?”

Mulder shrugged. “Why not?” He leaned his hip against the counter to face her. “If the woman is pregnant, she could be sedated, for the period of the pregnancy. There are multiple cases where coma patients gave birth.”

Scully pursed her lips as she listened to him. That wasn't something she could argue. “I've been in the infirmary, I’ve met the doctor on the camp, you think he is keeping pregnant women in an induced coma?”

“In the main house maybe?” He reached up to pinch his lower lips as he thought about his theory. The more he fleshed it out, the more it made sense. “I need to go check it out later.”

“We need to get DNA sampling from all the children.”

“Do you think that is something you can collect in the school?”

“Yeah, it shouldn't be a problem to collect saliva samples.” She rolled her eyes. “Those kids put everything in their mouths,” she added with a chuckle.

There was a pause as they both thought about what they needed to do and how to do it, but then those thoughts dissipated as they remembered what they had been doing before Sophie arrived.

Mulder wondered what she would do if he grabbed her to kiss her right now. Hoisted her onto the counter and got right back to what they were doing before the interruption. Shoved his hands into the back of her jeans and cupped her ass. Ram his tongue past her lips and kissed her deeply. He felt his cock stir and his fingers twitch but before he could move she pushed herself off the counter.

It was as if she could sense his intention and cut him off before he could make his move. “I’m going to go take notes on everything we found today before I forget any of it.”

“Right, ok.” Mulder sank back against the counter and watched her hurry out of the room, then listened to her make her way upstairs to the bedroom. The squeaking sounds as she sat on the bed made him even harder and he groaned.

What the hell were they going to do? What was happening? How was he going to cope lying next to her later? Would they fuck again?

Shit. He needed a shower. A cold one. He followed her upstairs and nearly died at the sight of her sitting cross legged in the centre of the bed. She had tied her hair back in a ponytail and had kicked off her shoes. She was wearing her glasses and was writing in her notebook. She glanced up when he got to the top of the stairs then quickly looked away. But Mulder didn't miss the soft pink flush that rose up from her neck to colour her cheeks as he crossed the room to the drawer where his clothing was stored.

“I’m gonna take a shower. We can mosey over to the BBQ if you like.”

“Sure.” She looked up and smiled and he knew it was because he used the word ‘mosey’.

Mulder grabbed all the clean clothing he’d need then went down to the shower. He flipped it all the way to cold and stepped in, forced his body to take on the torrent of water and waited the few minutes he needed for his cock to soften completely before he fiddled with the taps to allow tepid water to flow out instead.

Afterwards he wrapped a towel around his waist and brushed his teeth. He checked his chin and jaw and decided he didn't need a shave yet. Most of the men on the ranch either had full beards or at least a couple of days' growth at a time and he thought he should try to assimilate more. He wondered briefly if Scully liked facial hair on men and caught himself from allowing that thought to fester.

God dammit. He shouldn't be down here wondering if she liked the feel of a stubbled cheek brushing across the inside of her thigh. He should be upstairs finding out. Twenty minutes ago she had her hands wrapped around his cock for god's sake and now he was afraid to kiss her. It was ridiculous. He should go up the stairs right now and...and what? Jump her on the bed?

Mulder tugged the towel off his waist and ran it over his body once more before he got dressed. When he came out of the bathroom she was sitting at the kitchen table with her notebook.

“Mulder, I’ve counted seventeen children in the school.”

“Some of the older kids are working on the ranch.” He walked over to the table and leaned on the back of one of the chairs with his forearms.

“Yeah it looks like the teenagers are taken out of school.”

“You think they are orphans too?”

“I know they are. Trip and Jake. Sophie confirmed that.”

“You think this has been going on for that long?”

“I don't know, but we should try to collect DNA samples of some of the teenagers too.”

Mulder grimaced. “That might prove to be a touch difficult.”

Scully agreed with a slow nod of her head. “I’ll collect the kids' samples first, and get them tested, then we’ll know if it's worth trying to collect samples from the teenagers.”

“Good idea.”

There was a beat of silence. One he wanted to fill with the sound of their bodies rubbing against each other or the sound of her mouth, sucking on his heated skin. Or her gasp as he pressed against her. Or into her. 

“Shall we head over to the BBQ?” She closed her notebook and started walking towards the stairs. Mulder nodded as he straightened, his eyes followed her, but his hands gripped the back of the seat he was leaning against. “I'll just run this upstairs and grab a sweater.”

Mulder felt a pang of disappointment. The plain v-neck white tee she was wearing was perfectly revealing and he hoped she would wear it for the evening. It was tucked into a snug pair of fitted levis. He rarely got to see her so casually dressed and had to admit he was loving it. No matter how much it pained him to keep his hands off her. God he was turning into a mindless pig.

He dry washed his face and sat on the couch to put on his sneakers. She came down the stairs with a black cardigan and Mulder felt a slight smug smile pull his lips askew. They left the cabin and again he found himself shoving his hands in his pockets to avoid manhandling her, but as they approached the small group by the BBQ she looped her hand into the crook of his arm and hugged it to her chest. He didn't look down at her, though he really wanted to see her curled around his arm, instead he focused on not tripping up.

“Hey Pete, come help!” Jackson called out and waved Mulder over to the BBQ grill.

Scully squeezed his arm then released him and went over to the table where Sophie and another woman were mixing up salads. “Anything I can help with?”

“Jess, sweetie, of course.” Sophie slid over a bowl of tomatoes. “Dice these.”

“Sure thing!” She took the knife and proceeded to start dicing the fruit, and took a couple of glances at the other woman sitting with them. “I’m sorry, I don't think we’ve met. I’m Jess.”

The other woman looked up and smiled but didn't offer her own introduction. Scully noticed she was about the same age as Sophie, she had shoulder length brown hair that was greying and though there were plenty of laugh lines around her eyes and mouth, she wore them with grace. She donned similar plain clothes to everyone else in the camp too. Sophie seemed to shift uncomfortably in her chair and the silence became stifling.

“Did you get Peter’s cuts sorted?” she asked eventually.

“Oh yeah, they were minor, though I’m sure he’ll milk them for all the sympathy he can.”

“Typical,” Sophie said with a laugh.

“I was hoping to go into Prescott tomorrow. Is there a way for me to borrow a car, or get a lift?”

Scully didn't miss Sophie glancing at the woman sitting with them then turned forward and smiled tightly. “Trip could take you into town. Is there somewhere specifically you wanted to go?”

“The post office. I want to write to my folks this evening and send it. We got a po box in town when we thought we’d be staying there. Do people get post at the ranch?”

“No, the postmaster stores everything for us there, and once a week someone collects it.” Sophie said as she focused on dicing onions. “We can add your names to that if you like.”

“Yeah, that’d be great!” Scully said though she was sure they would keep the PO box for comms with the team, it would be better if they thought they were getting mail from family too. “My mom is such a worrier,” she added with a sad smile. “I just want her to know how happy we are here.”

“She was shocked when you left New York?”

“I don't think so.” Scully mulled this over a moment. She knew the training was to keep to the truth as much as possible, but not to reveal anything too personal. “She didn't want me raising a family in the city. I grew up in a small town myself, and I guess that's what she wants for me too.”

“I bet she knew when she met Peter,” Sophie said with a knowing smile. “It's so plainly obvious how much he loves you.”

“Oh, well, you know how disgusting newly weds are,” she said with a wave of her hand and a shy smile.

“My ears are burning,” Mulder said mimicking what Jackson had said earlier, as he came up behind her and placed both hands on her shoulders and bent down to kiss the crown of her head.

“As they should be,” Sophie said with a wink.

“Excuse me.” The woman who hadn't introduced herself smiled at each of them then stood and walked across the lawn into the main house.

Mulder sat down next to Scully and helped her dice the tomatoes. “Did I interrupt something?” He asked when the woman who walked away was out of sight.

“No, no, that was Deborah.”

“Jacob’s wife?” Scully said for Mulder's benefit and pressed her knee against his under the table.

“Yeah, she is really shy.”

“I hope I didn't make her uncomfortable,” Mulder said.

“Not at all,” Sophie said and she reached across the table to pat his hand. “She rarely joins for dinner. She will come out in a bit to collect food.”

“Did she meet Jacob before they came to ranch?” Scully asked but was aware she needed to thread carefully.

“Yes, they moved here as ranch hands, like yourselves.” Sophie smiled warmly and seemed to lose herself in a memory. “But Jacob clearly proved he had more to offer than post hole-ing and wrangling horses.” She shook her head a little and refocused her thoughts on the task at hand. “And we’re all the better for his contribution.”

Mulder nudged Scully's leg under the table. “I’d love to talk to Jacob,” he said tentatively. “Is there a way to meet him properly?”

“He opens his door once a month.” Sophie said without looking up. “It's kind of like a confession but you don't need to have anything to confess. You can simply meet with him, chat, pray, whatever.”

“Oh that sounds delightful,” Scully said with a warm smile, hoping Sophie would continue but she didn't.

“When is the next one?” Mulder prompted.

“After service next Sunday.”

“That's great!” He then remembered what Jackson said about the second blessing and wondered if he and Scully would be up for a polite conversation at that time.

“So it's just him and Deborah in that big house?” Scully asked as she looked at the building. It was the biggest on the ranch by far. It clearly had multiple bedrooms though all the windows had netting across them making it impossible to see inside.

Sophie's head shot up when she spoke and she frowned. “Yes.”

She didn't offer any other clarification and Scully nodded as she passed her the bowl of diced tomatoes. “Should I chop the onions too?” she asked, and tried to make her voice sound as neutral as possible.

Sophie took the tomatoes and added them to another salad bowl and nodded at Scully to work on the tomatoes.

“Oh look, those kids are playing basketball!” Mulder exclaimed and he pointed at a group of young teens who were bouncing a ball on the lawn by the main house. “I’m going to join.” He kissed her cheek then jumped up and bounded over to them.

Scully watched as he organised the kids into two teams and started horseplaying with them and she couldn't help the smile on her face.

“You’ll get your wish,” Sophie said with a half smile though she didn't look up and Scully tore her eyes away from Mulder to focus on the onions before her. She was being incredibly transparent about her feelings for Mulder. Even though in this instance it was working in her favour, she still didn't like it.

Mulder continued to play with the kids, making sure to toss the ball too far every so often so he would have an opportunity to chase it and get a closer look at the house. He managed to scope out two different sides to it by the time people were called in for food. He carried the ball with him and walked over to the table where Scully was sitting. He dropped the ball under his chair then took his seat.

“You’re all sweaty,” she said as he leaned towards her to pull his seat into the table more snugly.

“That's what happens when you play sports.”

“Gross,” she said and wafted her hand in front of her face to mock him.

Mulder put his arm around her and nuzzled the crook of her neck with a growl making her squeal and pull away. She pushed his shoulder to put some space between them and Mulder laughed. Scully noticed Sophie nudge one of the women sitting next to her with a smile and a nod towards them. It seemed all the PDA that Mulder was so easily dishing out was garnering the attention they hoped it would. She still wasn't very comfortable in that space, though she managed to cope when he initiated it. Well, she blushed and shied away coyly, but she had never made the move to touch and kiss him in public.

Or in private. She felt her cheeks blushing again as she remembered the sensation of her hands down his pants, his cock hard, and hot in her hands. She looked up when Mulder nudged her and saw he was passing her a plate with different BBQ meats on it.

“Thanks,” she muttered then took some slices of brisket then passed the plate to the next person.

She half listened to the conversation between Mulder and Jackson as they talked about the fence on the north end. She heard Jackson explain to Mulder that he would be stationed up there all day tomorrow with Trip and Jake working on it. Mulder explained that he had no idea how to build a fence but he was excited to learn. Scully wasn't sure that wasn't true. He seemed to enjoy the hands-on work here at the ranch. It had been a week of fairly intensive labour for him so far and it was starting to show. The visceral memory of his chest under her lips. His taut nipples, his abs, pecks, stomach, all firm, warm, quivering under her touch, shot through her mind and dragged a shudder down her spine.

“Cold?” Mulder asked. Without waiting for her to respond, he slipped off his sweater and passed it to her all the while keeping his focus on the food on his plate.

Scully took the sweater and put it on, though she wasn't cold at all, she didn't want to draw attention to them by arguing that she didn't need it. The moment she pushed her arms through the sleeves she immediately regretted her decision. Before, she was getting whispers of memories of being in his arms. Now she was surrounded by the cyclone of visceral want, or need she wasn't sure which.

She ate quietly, hoping no one would need her to speak, as she was sure it would just come out as a sigh. Only Mulder seemed to notice and he responded by leaning towards her and offering her a shoulder to lean on. At first she let him rest against her, then she coughed slightly, moved forward to reach for the pitcher of lemonade and stayed sitting forward.

When dinner was finished and the crowd was thinning out, they both helped out with the clean up. Scully was scraping dishes near the sink with Sophie when Mulder came up behind her and placed his hands on her hips and his chin on her shoulder.

“Wanna take a walk?” he said.

“Oh you two!” Sophie exclaimed. “You remind me of me and Jackson when we were young and carefree.”

“I’m helping clean up,” Scully said, though she didn't move an inch as she knew what she would see if she did.

“Hush, go, go walk in the sunset.” Sophie swatted her with a towel then tossed it over her shoulder.

Mulder let go of Scully and stepped back but held his hand out for her to take. His smile was warm and expectant, like he knew she couldn't refuse. Scully wiped her hands clean then brushed them across her ass before she smiled at Sophie and took his hand. Mulder laughed and pulled her in close as she started walking with her towards the north end of the ranch.

They walked in silence until they were well past the last building and Mulder draped his arm over her shoulders to cast a surreptitious glance around them to be sure they were alone.

“I scoped out the house while I was playing ball with the kids.”

“I wondered why the sudden interest in bonding.”

“The south and west end of the house have no real entry points. The windows are barred all around the outside of the house.” He spoke softly and leaned in close to her to speak softly as if anyone could hear them out here. “The front door on the east wall seems like the only option, I didn't get a look at the north end yet but I figured we can swing by there after our walk.”

“Is that what this walk is about?” she asked and cast him a sideways glance.

“Partially.”

She waited for him to continue and kept her eyes front patiently.

“I thought maybe we should talk. Outside of the confines of the cabin.” His arm came off her shoulders but trailed down her arm to grip her hand. “Everything feels a little...close in the cabin.”

Her lips tightened and she nodded her head.

“That and it's an amazing sunset. And where better to enjoy it than under an oak tree on a ranch.” He tugged her hand and pulled her over to the base of a large oak tree where he sat on the grass and pulled her down next to him.

They stared off into the distance where the sun was creeping below the horizon in a swirl of reds, pinks and oranges that painted the sky and took her breath away.

“It's beautiful,” she whispered and leaned forward as if it could get her closer to the vista in the sky.

Mulder looked away from the setting sun and watched the wonder in her face for a moment. She was continually stunned by her and now, watching her admire a simple sunset as if it was the best thing she had ever seen, he was stunned by her again.

“Scully…” he muttered.

“Hmm?” She flicked her hair behind her ear but didn't dare turn her eyes from the sunset.

“I...I want to…”

“Huh?” She turned to him, afraid that she missed what he said. “Sorry, I missed that, what did you say?”

Mulder shook his head but before she could turn away he leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers. He caught her gasp of surprise and was about to pull away when she leaned into his kiss and planted him back against the tree. He tentatively opened his mouth and sighed in relief when she slipped her tongue past his lips and lapped against his.

He moved his hands to her waist and hoisted her onto his lap and somehow managed to do it without breaking their kiss. Her hands went to his neck, her fingers gripping the nape then moved up his hair into his scalp and he gasped at the sensation. She had been sitting on him sideways but when he gasped she moved to straddle him, her knees either side of his hips and she sat on his thighs.

His hands moved to cup her ass and pulled her more forward so she was sitting where he wanted her to sit, her weight on his crotch where he knew she could feel how she was making him hard. She moaned into his mouth when he pulled her down onto him and immediately her hands went to the bottom of his t-shirt to pull it off him completely.

His hands moved off her ass, slipped under her tops to pull her against him, then he dragged them, palms flat against her warm skin, over her ribs then up her chest until he could cup her breasts. This time it was she who gasped but he took confidence in the fact that she arched her back to press her breasts into his hands and he gently squeezed them before he ran his thumb over her already taut nipples.

“Ahhh,” she sighed and she tossed her head into the darkening sky.

Mulder took the opportunity to kiss her exposed neck and while she was distracted by his tongue he glided his fingers under the strap of her bra to displace the cups and touch her skin. His tongue ran from the base of her neck to her chin and she gasped as he gripped her breasts more firmly. Her hips jerked at the sensation and Mulder moaned when she made more contact with his cock which was already straining in the confines of his jeans.

He kept one hand on her breast, palming her firmly, brushing his thumb across her nipple but the other moved to her back and went into the back of her jeans to cup her ass and hold her against him lest she try to move away. But she had no such intention.

Her hands moved to his waist and before he realized it she had his jeans undone. Then she pressed her knees into the ground and lifted off him. He gasped at the loss of contact but the sensation of her pulling his jeans down made him look down and feel a whole new host of sensations.

This wasn't what he meant when he said they should talk but there was no way he was going to stop this right now. In fact he decided he was only going to help speed it along. But not too speedy. Definitely not too speedy he hoped as she slipped her hands into his boxers and gripped him firmly.

“Shit, wait.” He tugged his hand out of her jeans and her bra and yanked her jeans open. He pulled them down her legs but was met with resistance from her legs which were still straddling him. “Scully,” he whined and though he hated that tone in his voice it matched what he was feeling at that very second.

He looked up at her imploring for her help and she smiled. She moved to one side of him and shimmied out of her jeans and underwear then quickly moved back to straddle him. Mulder was suddenly overcome with how fast all of this was happening.

She hovered above him but reached out to slowly stroke him and Mulder lost the ability to think. His head thunked against the trunk of the tree, his mouth agape, his eyes screwed shut as he tried desperately to maintain his dignity and not make a mess of her hands.

“Mulder,” she said and he knew she was waiting for him to open his eyes, waiting for him to acknowledge her, and her readiness. But he wasn't ready to do that yet. He wanted to prolong this very moment. The feel of her hands on his cock, her weight on his legs, her voice, soft and wanton in his ear. Fuck, it couldn't get better than this, could it?

Then he felt her lips on the skin beneath his ear and her tongue came out to lick the shell then she pulled back and rested her forehead against his. He opened his eyes and the moment they connected with hers she moved her hips, pressed him into her entrance then sucked in her breath and plunged onto him.

“Oh Jesus,” Mulder cried out and his hands flew from her thighs to wrap around her back. “Wait,” he said when he felt her trying to lift off him.

“Mulder,” she whined but he held fast.

“God wait, please,” he pleaded, as he waited for his body to settle down and accept what she was offering. “Please, just a second.”

She bent her head to the crook of his neck and licked his warm skin then clamped her teeth down and moaned against him.

“Scully,” he warned, then the second he loosened his arms from around her back, she started to move. She lifted off him, paused then plunged down again. “Ohhhh.”

“Yes,” she said against his ear. Her nails scraped into his scalp causing a whole other shiver to cascade down his spine.

She moved again, and again, each time pausing before she plunged onto him and each time her moan became a little more vocal.

“Scully, god, Scully,” he cried out. He felt like he had lost control of this situation he had manufactured. Somehow she had turned the tables on him and taken control. And it was amazing.

He was sure every time she sank onto him it would be the last, he was on the edge of coming for too long and knew there was no way he could hold on for much longer. But he had to make her come first. He needed to see it this time. Last time he felt it, but he was behind her and missed her face. This time he wanted to see her face as well as feel her convulsing around his cock. Shit. That last thought caused him to jerk his hips up into her and he nearly lost his edge.

He moved his hand around to her front, and pressed his thumb to her clit as his other one cupped her ass and continued to help her keep motion around him. His thumb kept up a steady motion against her and soon her gasping was in time with his strokes. She was losing her rhythm as he continued to stroke her and he suddenly wished he had the foresight to take off her tops so he could reach her breasts with his mouth.

“Scully,” he warned, as he felt his balls tighten and a familiar, though only recently, sensation of his orgasm started to coil up his body, making his toes curl.

“I’m so close,” she gasped and he sat up to clash his mouth over her lips and assault her with his tongue.

“Come for me Scully,” he whispered against her lips. “Please, come.”

The desire in his voice seemed to be enough and Scully finally came. Mulder felt it in his hand, his cock, his hips, his mouth. He kept his eyes open and watched her eyes glaze over and her throat move as she tried to breath through the overwhelming sensation as she gasped and writhed around him. Mulder's cock responded in kind and he felt limp as he jerked and spasmed against her inner walls. Her hips continued to move against him and his against her, as they both chased each other's best moments until finally they stilled and she fell atop of him panting, still, spent.

After a moment he moved his hands up from her thighs to circle her back and one hand rested across the bottom the other stroked the indent of her spine. His lips found her neck and he pressed soft kisses there until she stirred with a moan and her hips rocked against him, making him chuckle. She smiled against his neck, kissed him then pulled back a little, just enough to look into his face.

“Hi,” she said with a crooked smile.

Mulder could only grin. Until she clenched her inner muscles around his cock and he jerked into her at the sensation.

“Fuck, I wish I was able for that again.” He gripped her hips to hold her in place and stop her from moving though he realised that was futile when it was her inner muscles she was moving. “You know, this wasn't quite what I meant when I said we should talk.”

Scully smiled and he watched as she blushed.

“Not that this isn't what I wanted, believe me it is all I’ve been thinking about.”

“Since this morning?”

“Well no, but this morning certainly amplified those thoughts.”

She frowned and sat back a little more. “What does that mean?”

Mulder scoffed. “You think I’ve just been thinking about doing that since this morning?” His hand moved up her body and lazily stroked her. “Scully…” he chuckled. “I’ve been thinking about that for a long… LONG time.”

Scully smiled and nodded. “Me too,” she whispered in response.

“I wish…” he started to say but stopped talking and let his head fall back against the tree.

“What?” She urged him to continue and when he didn't she clenched her muscles around him again.

“Oof,” He pushed up into her again but his cock was totally soft now and had little effect, but to make her chuckle. He looked up at her in wonder.

“What do you wish?”

“I wish we weren't here.”

“Here?” She looked around at the final tendrils of sunlight as it disappeared behind the horizon and slowly the colours faded into a darkened sky.

“Not here,” he said as his fingers dug into her and pulled her infinitesimally closer. “But here, at this ranch, with these people.”

She sank a little closer and pressed her chest into his as her head sank onto his shoulder. “Me too.”

“Scully,” he said and moved his shoulder to get her to look up, and when she did he cupped her face and pressed his forehead to hers. “I want to be clear that this, this us, what's happening here, between us, has nothing to do with whatever is happening here in this ranch. It's not a new thing for me.”

“I know Mulder.”

“Do you?”

“I do now.”

“Okay, good.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into the tightest hug that made her move against his lap and his cock fell out of her making them both gasp.

“I should eh…” she pulled back and looked at the pile of clothes beside him. He reluctantly let his hands drop from around her and she climbed off him to hurriedly get dressed. He took his tee and pulled it on as she reached up into her own top to fix her bra. She looked back at him and rolled her eyes when she saw him grin. “Happy with yourself?”

“Extremely.”

Scully shook her head then sat onto the grass next to him. He put his hand on her thigh, tentatively, as if afraid she would bat him away. But she opened her legs and he slipped his hand in further, she covered it with both of hers then closed her legs over them again. She dropped her head onto his shoulder and sighed.

“How do we have the worst timing known to man?” she whispered.

“It wouldn't be us, Scully, if it was easy.” He turned and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

“Are you really going to break into the house later?” He nodded his head and she felt it. “Trip is giving me a lift into Prescott tomorrow. I’ll mail off the samples I collect and see if there is any post from Skinner.”

“Will you have time to collect enough samples by then?”

“Yeah, we’re leaving at 3, and I’ll have more than enough drool from the kids.”

“You really think they are all orphans?” he asked.

She shrugged. “Only a few women on this ranch are of child bearing age.” She sounded a little sad. “If they need younger women to come in and give them children, but none of the women here are of that age then it…”

Her sentence faded away and Mulder waited for her to continue but when she slowly sat up he turned to look at her and saw she had lost all the colour in her face.

“What's wrong Scully?”

“Mulder, shit!”

“What?” he was starting to panic now and sat up too.

“We didn't use any protection!”

“Oh.” He slumped back against the tree. “You don't need to worry about me Scully, I’m clean as a whistle. Worst thing to find down there is probably some cobwebs,” he added with a self derisive chuckle.

“Mulder, that's not what I meant.”

“What do you-”

“Protection Mulder… against pregnancy.”

Mulder's eyes opened wider. “Shit. Scully shit, I didn't even think.”

“Neither of us did.”

He looked down at her belly as if he could see whether or not she was pregnant.

“And you’re not…” His eyebrows slowly started to rise.

“No!” She swatted his arm. “I wouldn't be freaking out right now if I was.” She lifted her legs and crossed her arms on her knees then dropped her forehead onto her arms. “How could I have been so stupid! Fuck!”

“Scully, hang on, relax.” he put a hand on her shoulder. “We’ll figure this out.”

“I’m going to Prescott tomorrow. I’ll get some plan B.”

Mulder winced. “I’m sorry.”

“It's not your fault Mulder,” she said and she rolled her head to look at him. “We’re both here, we both did this.”

“I’m sorry I can't go fix this for you right now.” His hand moved from her shoulder and rubbed her back.

She smiled and moved her head towards him indicating she wanted to kiss him and he happily obliged. When he pulled back she was still smiling at him.

“Cobwebs?” she asked with a smirk.

Mulder smiled back. “Shut up.”

She laughed now and nudged him. “Me too.”

“Yeah?”

“Well between the case of the liver eating creature, and the small town of cannibals, the killer cockroaches killed a whole weekend, oh and obviously the hunt for the jersey devil, I’ve had an incredibly active social life.” Mulder squinted his eyes at her, though he could tell she was joking. “I know it's hard to believe, because you call me at all hours of the day and night, and I always answer, as well as dragging me on UFO hunts and crop circle investigations at the weekend.” She sat back and stretched her legs out before her. “But the FBI badge is like a magnet. I barely even need to try anymore.” When she looked back at him he was watching her with raised eyebrows and an open mouth.

But the moment her lips twitched into a smile he launched at her. She squealed as his fingers tickled her sides but gasped when his tongue licked her neck. “Mulder!” she cried out and scrambled to push him away as she kept laughing.

“Tease,” he said as he suckled on her ear lobe.

“I was joking,” she said between breaths as she tried to regain some control. "Okay, okay, I’m sorry...I’m sorry.”

Mulder leaned up off her and looked at her shrewdly, then pulled away totally

"Trust me," she said with a chuckle. "There's been nothing between my legs that wasn't battery operated in a long time." 

Mulder let his head fall back in a deep belly laugh as he tugged her with him back onto the truck of the tree. He held her against him as his laughter died and squeezed her. After a moment more he spoke “What now?” he said in a whisper.

“I don't know.”

“I mean us.”

“I don't know.” She leaned away from him and turned on her ass to face him fully. She crossed her legs under herself and put her hands on her lap, holding one of his hands between hers. “I really don't know. Can we get involved?”

“Can't we?”

“And still work together?”

“I don't see why not.”

“Mulder-”

“No, listen to me Scully.” He sat up and turned a little to face her. “All the fears we have about getting together, and I know you fear the same things I do, are moot.”

“Moot?” She frowned.

“You think I wouldn't die if anything happened to you before we had sex?” His hands tightened on hers. “You think I wouldn't do everything I could to stop you from getting hurt? You think they don't know that already?”

“But-”

“But nothing.” He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “It doesn't change how we will work together. I still respect you more than anyone else in that building. And trust you more than anyone else...in the world.”

Scully didn't realise how much she needed to hear those words until they fell past his lips.

“If you’re unsure, Scully, we can take this slow. Real slow. I mean… cobweb slow,” he said with a crooked smile. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Scully smiled and leaned in to hug him. “Thank you.” He held her for as long as she let him and when she pulled away she brushed her lips over his. “We should be getting back.”

Mulder nodded. She stood up and he watched her resettle her clothes. She looked down at him and frowned at the goofy smile he wore.

“What?”

“You’re beautiful.”

Scully blushed. “Shut up, come on,” she said and held her hand out to him to help him to his feet. He stood and wrapped his arms around her but it didn't make for easy walking. With a laugh he released her but not fully. This time when his arm was over her shoulder, she wrapped one around his waist and he all but melted against her. He leaned in to kiss the top of her head as they made their way back to their cabin. When they passed the front of the lot and spotted Sophie and Jackson sitting on their porch sipping lemonade, Mulder lifted a hand in a wave but didn't stop to chat.

“You think they know?” she asked when they stepped inside their own cabin and Mulder closed the door.

“Know what?”

“Mulder…”

“Well I mean, they “know”,” he said, making air quotes with his hands as he went to the couch to sit next to her. “That we’re married and have been sleeping together for ages.”

“Right.” Scully felt some tension leave her shoulders. “Of course.”

“It's ok Scully.” He put a hand on her knee. “We’re married now.” He smiled at her but she rolled her eyes and brushed her hand off his knee making him laugh.

“I’m going to go shower. What time are you leaving for the main house?”

Mulder looked at his watch. It was a little past nine. “I think it's best to wait until after midnight. To be sure everyone is asleep. Intelligence never reported any night watch, and I never spotted anything moving while we’ve been here.”

“Okay. Maybe change out of those clothes, wear something dark. You’re running gear maybe?”

“Yeah I will.”

Scully nodded then went upstairs to grab her nightclothes to change into after her shower. She felt light, Lighter than she had been in a long time. But there was a Mulder shaped kernel of worry in the pit of her stomach. And it wasn't about him going into the main house, it was just about him. Would he change? Would she? Would they? What about the lack of contraception? Twice. God she felt like an idiot. She never left it up to the guy to bring protection. She always had some. She didn't think to pack any for an undercover operation. She didn’t think she’d need it. She just plain didn't think.

She took a long shower, taking care to comb out her hair twice with conditioner if only to prolong her solitude with her thoughts. She was remembering everything. From this morning in bed. From earlier under the tree. Neither of those times matched how she thought it would be. She wasn't sure what she had gotten so wrong, physically he was as she imagined, as she had seen, though not in that capacity. He was as tactile as she knew he would be. His hands were everywhere, his mouth too wherever it could reach. He was vocal though she expected him to be more vocal. Something was different though.

Obviously she needed to try it again to examine it more closely, to understand fully what it was she had missed. Scully laughed and tossed her head back into the warm spray. For science of course. The integrity of the experiment was genuine only if it stood up under repeated and detailed scrutiny. But not tonight. No way was she risking a third attempt without protection. She wondered if she would be able to pick any up in the pharmacy tomorrow without Trip noticing. She could make the excuse of needing menstrual products. Younger men always got flustered when that topic came up, she decided with a scoff.

When she came out of the shower Mulder was nowhere to be seen. She wondered if he had left already when she heard the bed upstairs groaning under his weight and she smiled. She slowly climbed the creaking stairs and found him lying in the centre of the bed with only the small lamp lit, and he was reading the same book from before.

“Comfy?” she asked as she approached.

He dropped the book onto his lap and lifted one arm to beckon her over. “C’mere.”

“Mulder,” she warned as she approached. “We can't.”

“Cuddle? We can't cuddle?”

She looked at him shrewdly as if she could read his mind and knew that was the last thing on his mind. “Wasn't that what got us into this whole mess in the first place?” she said thinking about how this morning started with a cuddle.

“C’mon Scully, I’ll be good, I promise.”

It wasn't as if she had the power to refuse him anyway. She climbed up onto the bed, giggling at the loud groan from the mattress and lay next to him, her head on his chest, one hand on his stomach, and one leg draped across his thigh. He cupped the back of her head with one hand, gently stroking her scalp with his fingertips, and the other covered the hand she had on his stomach.

“There, that's perfect,” he said with a sigh before he pressed a kiss onto the crown of her head.

“Apart from the noise of this bed, it's actually really comfy.”

“Maybe it just needs to be broken in.”

She chuckled and he felt it all the way down his body.

“So tomorrow...when you’re in town.”

She smiled. She knew what he was about to ask. The same thought she had just mulled over in the shower but she made him suffer a little longer. “Yeah?”

“You think you can go to the pharmacy and pick up some protection?” The words tumbled past his lips like he had been thinking about saying them for a while and just needed to get them out.

Scully moved her head and rested her chin on his chest. She smiled and Mulder smiled back. “I’ll see what I can do.”

His smile turned into a grin and she rested her head back onto his chest where she could hear his heart pounding a rapid beat. She pressed a kiss into his t-shirt and closed her eyes. He wasn't wrong. This was pretty close to perfect.

Chapter Text

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Wednesday 2am

Mulder woke with a start and realised immediately they had fallen asleep mid cuddle. He was loath to release her but knew he had to go explore around the house. He pressed a soft kiss to the top of her head. Neither of them had moved an inch, though her body felt heavier, more relaxed as if she had put some defences down and was letting go a little bit more.

“Hey Scully,” he whispered. The hand he had over hers squeezed her fingers and he moved his other hand down to her shoulder to shake her gently. “I need to get up.”

He started to slide away but she groaned and clamped her leg over him as her head nuzzled into his chest. Mulder chuckled and shook her again.

“Unhand me woman.”

“Mulder,” she moaned and rolled her body into his, making him moan.

“Oh my god Scully, you gotta stop…” He basked in the sensation of her body moving against him for a moment longer then lifted her arm off him and slid off the bed.

Scully woke fully and watched him walk over to the drawers where he pulled out a dark pair of sweats and a black tee. She propped herself up on her elbow and rested her head in her hand to watch as he stripped and dressed.

“What are you looking at?” He said over his shoulder when he felt her watching him.

“You.”

“Scully, you are…” he pulled his t-shirt on and stepped over to the bed to sit on the edge and tie his runners. “A bad influence.”

He turned round and pressed a quick kiss to her lips then stood up and stretched his arms from side to side across his chest.

“You’re going for a run?”

He nodded. “I shouldn't be too long. I have my lock pick, but I’m hoping the door is open. The only place that's been locked so far was the church and it was an easy lock.”

“Be careful.”

“I always am.”

Scully moved her eyebrows to show him what she thought of that assessment. “I’ll keep watch from the porch,” she said and started to climb off the bed.

“No, best if you wait here.” He pushed her back onto the mattress, pressing her into it with his hands on her biceps. “I’ll be back soon.”

He pressed another quick kiss against her lips then hurried away. Scully sat up and listened to him bounding down the stairs then heard the click of the door closing before she lay back down. She stared out the skylight and started counting the stars until he returned.

Mulder stood at the front of the cabin and made a show of stretching his legs and lower back before he started running. He took the time to look around at all the other cabins and noticed they were all dark and quiet. He started running in the direction of the school and the church, he rounded the infirmary and went past the milking parlour. Other than the odd noise from the animals the ranch was still. He came over the north end of the main house and paused by a tree as if he was catching his breath. He leaned against it and stretched his calves out and studied the house. There were no lights on, no windows open, the lower floor windows had bars on them anyway and there was only one possible entry point, the main door.

He looked around him and took a moment to listen and when he neither saw nor heard anything he moved swiftly to the door. He reached out for the brass handle to turn it but it was locked. He took out his kit and crouched by the door and as he expected, he opened it without much effort. It was as if they couldn't fathom someone trying to break in.

He slipped into the foyer and closed the door behind him. He walked on the balls of his feet from room to room but it looked exactly how you’d expect a ranch house to look though the furniture was more spartan than others he’d seen. There was a main living room, a dining room and kitchen and a bathroom. Then a winding stairs that went up to what he presumed were several bedrooms. Mulder slowly took the steps in twos and threes and walked across the landing, listening at every door to see if he could tell which were occupied. He stood looking at four closed doors and one ajar which he found out was a bathroom.

“Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…” he said in a whisper as he reached for one door handle. He pushed it open and saw an empty room, not even furniture. There was a thin film of dust on the floors and the walls and none of it had been disturbed in a long time. Mulder closed the door and moved to the next one. He pressed his ear to it but heard nothing so he pushed it open. This one was just as empty and had a layer of dust too.

“Two down, two to go…” he muttered as he repeated the same search in the last two rooms. Nothing. The entire place was empty. He looked around for an attic entrance but didn't find anything then went down to the ground floor to see if he could find a basement but again came up empty handed.

Thoroughly confused he stood with his hands on his hips in the foyer at the front door and wondered where Deborah and Jacob were sleeping. He understood they were living in this house. There was certainly nowhere for them to live in the church. Deciding these were thoughts best pondered in the safety of his own cabin, he checked if the coast was clear then slipped out. He ran the long way through the ranch to the cabins then stood outside by the porch stretching as if he had just finished a long run before he went into the cabin.

The second he closed the door behind him she called from upstairs. He heard the bed groan as she moved and she appeared at the balcony above him.

“You’re back,” she said and he smiled at the relief in her voice. “What did you find?” she asked as he toed off his sneakers and hurried up stairs. He pulled off his top, despite the fact that he was only going for a fake run he was still sweating through his top.

“Nothing.”

“You couldn't get in?”

“No, I got in, very easily.” He pulled down his sweats and sat on the end of the bed to pull them off totally along with his socks. She leaned against the dresser half watching and half unsure where to look. “The whole place was empty.”

“Empty?”

“Downstairs looks like a normal house with only a few pieces of furniture, basic stuff, but upstairs was completely empty. 4 bedrooms, nothing in them.” He moved over to the dresser and hip checked her to get access to his drawer. “It was really dusty too, so no one had been up there in a long time.”

“What about an attic or a cellar?”

“Checked, didn't find any access points.” He rummaged through the drawer and pulled out a clean pair of boxers. “It could be hidden, like in the back of a cupboard or a secret wall but I didn't notice any anomalies with the walls compared to the rest of the layout.”

“What about Deborah or Jacob?”

Mulder shrugged. “I’ve no idea. Maybe they are staying someplace else.”

“Not in any of the cabins, I’ve met everyone and taken the kids home to most of them.”

“Not in the church either.”

“Or the school or infirmary.”

“And hardly in the milking parlour or stables.”

They looked at each other for a moment then Mulder waved his clean underpants in front of her face. “I’m going to grab a quick shower.”

“Hmm, yeah,” she said in a far away voice.

Mulder smiled and hurried down to shower as Scully climbed back onto the bed and slipped under the top sheet. She had changed into her pj shorts and a tank top but hadn't gotten any sleep as she waited for him to get back. And now that he was back and said the house was empty she was sure she wouldn't get any sleep as her mind fiddled with all the information they had collected so far and tried to make sense of it.

He dried off at speed, in a hurry to get back up to bed with Scully. That thought lingered in his mind and made his lips curve into a smile. He tossed one pair of boxers into the laundry and the other he pulled on, even though the material stuck to his still damp skin. He hung the towel over the shower rail and raced back up to the bedroom. She was on her side facing the wall and he halted beside the bed wondering if she was asleep.

“Are you coming to bed?” she said without looking over at him and Mulder grinned.

“I’ve been waiting so long to hear you ask me that, Scully,” he said with a sigh as he climbed in and curled up behind her. She could feel the beginning of his erection pressing and growing against her ass and she looked over her shoulder. His hand gripped her hip and he pressed a kiss to the crook of her neck.

“Mulder…”

“I know, I know.” He squeezed her hip and gently pressed into her as his teeth clamped onto her shoulder then he released her totally and lay on his back with a sigh and a chuckle. He moved his other hand to rest on the dip of her waist and moved his thumb back and forth against the patch of skin between her top and bottoms.

“Sorry,” she whispered into the stillness of the room.

“Don't be. You have nothing to apologise for.” His hand squeezed her side. “It's like being back in high school.”

This time Scully chuckled and she rolled over onto her back. His hand moved to her stomach and his thumb continued it's gentle caress of her skin. “Cock blocked a lot in high school?”

“More than I cared for.”

“Try being in a catholic school.”

Mulder closed his eyes with a groan. “Don't talk about your catholic school uniform, Scully.”

“They couldn't teach us about contraceptives, because ya know…”

Mulder frowned and shook his head as he turned to face him.

“The pope...humanae vitae.” she said as if this would be enough but Mulder was still frowning.

“Of Human Life?”

“Interruption of the generative process was prohibited by the catholic church.”

“Ahhh,” Mulder said with a smile. “No glove, all love.”

“Basically.” Scully covered his hand on her stomach with one of her own and rubbed her fingers across his knuckles. “So in school they taught us everything but.” Mulder's hand stilled and slowly his head turned to face her a look of mock shock on his face.

“What did Captain Scully think of that?”

“Oh my parents gave us the full low down of all the contraceptive options, and dangers of pre martial sex.”

Mulder laughed. “I bet that was a fun conversation.”

“Well my dad gave it to Bill and Charlie, and my mom gave it to me and Melissa.” Scully smiled wistfully at the memory and came back to the present when Mulder's thumb started caressing her again. “Needless to say none of us waited for marriage.”

“Thank god.” Mulder leaned over and nuzzled her cheek. “So did these everything but classes have live demos?”

Scully laughed. “It was an underpaid teacher, talking to fifty or sixty curious and horny teenage girls, trying to convince them that oral wasn't a sin, but masturbation was. And sins made baby Jesus cry”

“Oh my god, Sculy,” he said with a choked laugh. He didn't think he’d ever hear those words past her lips, and certainly not while they lay in bed together, trying not to have sex. His cock was impossibly hard now and it was going to take more than a couple of Yankees world series stats for it to calm down this time.

She rolled over towards him and put a hand on his chest. He looked at her, almost afraid to see her expression. Was she offering what he thought she was offering? He was equally afraid of being right or wrong.

“I wish we were at home,” she whispered.

“Me too.”

He rolled onto his side to face her and she pulled her knees up so her shins rested along his thighs, her knees nestled by his hips. Their hands were clasped in the middle and their heads lay close on the same pillow.

“I wish-”

“Me too.” he cut her off, knowing exactly what she was going to say and she smiled. “We don't need to do anything, Scully. I could wait forever if I have to.”

“Could you?” she whispered and her eyes fluttered down to his lips. “I don't think I can.”

Mulder smiled. “Liked the taste you had so far?”

“Hmm,” she said then slowly her hand moved off his and went to his shoulder to push him onto his back. She followed the momentum and straddled him. “I didn't really get a taste though,” she muttered as her hips came down to rest onto his arousal and rocked against him.

“Scully,” he warned as she moved against him and his hands came to her hips to try and stop her.

“Shhhh,” she said with a wicked smile. “Don't make baby Jesus cry.”

“Baby jesus? You’re going to make baby Mulder cry.”

She laughed as she lowered her head and nuzzled his jaw to make him move his head to the side so she could access his neck. Her tongue came out to lap him, suckle on his skin all the while her hips moved against him making him gasp.

She shuffled lower and he moaned at the reprieve though he knew it was going to be short lived as her lips found their way to his nipples and she laved her tongue against him.

“God Scully,” he gasped as her hand moved to the other nipple and rolled it between her thumb and forefinger. She quickly switched sides and he arched his back and groaned.

She moved lower, following the trail of hair down the centre of his torso, spending some time appreciating his abs, his ribs and muscles that moved under his warm skin as her fingers brushed feather light touches down his sides. Her fingers gripped the edges of his boxers and like a flash he gripped her wrists and stopped her from pulling them down. He half sat up and looked at her.

“Wait, you don't have to-”

“I know.” she frowned at him with a crooked smile. “I want to.” She pulled back a little from him. “But if you’re not comfortable…”

“No!” he said, almost too quickly. He let go of her wrists. “I just wanted to let you know, I don't expect-”

“No one expects the Spanish inquisition Mulder,” she muttered as she lowered her lips to kiss across from one hip to the other.

“Oh Christ.” He gritted his teeth and dropped his head back onto the pillow with a groan.

She got back to slowly pulling his boxers off, one inch at a time, lavishing attention on each newly exposed piece of skin until he was writhing and panting beneath her. When she had his boxers down to his knees she yanked them off and went back to settle in between his legs. She put a hand on either of his thighs and gently pushed his legs apart to get more comfortable, then sent a hot breath over his straining cock.

“Fuck!” He gripped bunches of the sheet in each hand, releasing and tightening his fists as she moved to nuzzle the base of his cock through the thatch of hair. When he thought she was going to tease him forever, she dragged her tongue up the underside of his cock and he let out a vocal sigh that made his toe curl.

She moved down to the base of his cock again and repeated the motion, lifting her head to be sure she covered every inch of him before gripping him at the base and laving the head in a slow, languid lick.

“Scully! Shit!” he had propped himself up on his elbows but his head was tossed back as he lost all control of his neck.

“Should I stop?” she whispered without breaking contact, her lips moving against his shaft.

“Don't you fucking dare,” he said and he was finally able to lift his head to look at her. She was waiting for him, her eyes smiling, her lips kissing him, gentle pecks around his tip until their eyes locked, then she slowly opened her mouth and suckled on the head of his cock and he couldn't stop his hips from jerking, and pushing into her mouth further. He groaned at the sight of it disappearing behind her lips and it was on the top of his tongue to apologise but she took him in even further, maintaining eye contact the whole time. He had to screw his eyes shut against the vision lest this whole experience end right here and now.

Scully sat up a little more, to prepare to take him in further then steadied him with one hand on his hip, the other circling the base of his cock as her lips circled his tip, then opened wider and took him in completely. It took a few strokes and she used her tongue against him for each one until he was fully submerged in her warm wet mouth.

“Yes, god, yes,” he muttered through gritted teeth.

Scully made a swallow motion that brushed his cock against her throat and he cried out.

“Scully, I’m going to…”

She moved her hand off the base of his cock and caressed his balls, one finger pressed into his perineum as her mouth moved against him, sucked on the upstroke and used her tongue on the down stroke.

His hand moved to her shoulder. “I’m going to come, Scully, shit…” He squeezed her shoulder as if trying to push her away but the hand she had on his hip squeezed him back to signal that she was ready for him. He let her go, tried to keep his eyes on her as the white hot sensation of need and want coursed from the hairs on his scalp to his toes and reverberated to his cock where it exploded in a strong powerful orgasm that made him cry out, howl at the moon and jerk his hips against her.

She kept her lips wrapped around him as his cock spasmed against the inside of her cheek, taking in everything he had to give her, squeezed his hips, encouraged his movement and bobbed her head to keep him in her mouth but loved the way his desire rippled out of him with every jolt of his hips until he finally stilled beneath her.

Scully kept hold of him for a moment more then slowly released his softening cock. She kissed his hips, his stomach, all the way up to his nipples where she spent some time languishing with her tongue then lay atop of him with her head in the centre of his chest.

He was breathing heavily, his chest lifting her up and down. His eyes were closed and his mouth was open as everything that just happened swirled around his brain and made his whole body tingle. Part of him couldn't believe it. But the part of him that was nestled between her legs, damp from her mouth, soft from her efforts and totally spent, knew better.

“You alive?” she whispered into the silent room.

He grunted. Scully chuckled. She moved her head to kiss his chest then rolled off him to sit on the edge of the bed. “Where go?” he said, seemingly unable to form complete sentences.

Scully smiled. “I'll be back in a sec.”

Mulder grunted this time to show his displeasure at her departure but he had no power to move. He heard her go down stairs. He heard the kitchen tap running then the bathroom door closing. Mulder smiled. He hadn't felt this relaxed, or care free, or light in a long time. There was a certain sense of completeness that coursed through him and something he didn't recognise, but examining it closer might make it fade so he just let it settle around him.

When Scully came back she was holding out a glass of water for him. He took it and just about managed to lift his head to take a couple of gulps then put it on the locker by the bed as she climbed in. He lifted his arm to make room for her to cuddle up next to him and sighed as he body pressed into his in almost the exact same position they had been in earlier.

“Scully…” He whispered when the bed stopped groaning from her movements. “Let me know who I need to thank for that and I’ll send them a gift card.”

She laughed and slapped his chest. “Shut up Mulder.”

“I’m serious, I’ve never felt so wiped.” He rolled his head towards her and pressed a lazy kiss to her forehead. “If I had it in me to reciprocate I would but fuck...I need a recovery period.”

Scully smiled against his chest and buried her face against him. “Go to sleep Mulder,” she muttered and pressed into him snugly.

“Mmmm,” was all he managed to say and shortly after stopped fighting the urge to stay awake.

***

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Wednesday 7.50am

After their nocturnal activities neither Mulder nor Scully woke up at their usual early time and instead were roused by repeated rapid banging on the door. As soon as the sound registered through his sleep deprived brain Mulder shot up and blindly reached for his gun which wasn't on his nightstand, but was halfway across the country in DC, instead all he managed to do was knock over a half full glass of water.

“Shit!”

“What? What's goin on?” Scully said with a sleepy yawn as she rolled over onto her back and stretched under the sheet.

“We’re late,” he said when he saw the time and jumped out of bed to pull on his sweats.

“Late?”

“For work, get up Scully, I’ll get the door.”

“The door?” She propped herself up on her elbow as Mulder hurried downstairs as the banging started again on the door.

She heard Mulder open it and laugh with Jackson though she couldn't quite make out what they were saying, then he closed the door again and came running back up the stairs.

“Jackson?”

“Yeah, apparently Trip knocked an hour ago but we didn't hear.”

“Is Jackson downstairs?”

“No, I told him we’d meet him at the school in ten minutes.” He was rummaging through his drawer to pull out clean work clothes and when he didn't hear the bed behind him as she got up he looked over his shoulder at her. “Get up!” he urged.

“But I’m comfy.” She stretched again, this time half pulling the blanket down over her breasts which were covered only by the light tank top she was wearing, her peaked nipples plain as day under the soft material.

“Scully,” he warned with a chuckle and tore his eyes away to keep looking for clothes. “Get up.”

“Or what?” she teased.

“Scully, you don't want to know what.”

“I feel like I do.”

“Stop!” He found fresh boxers, jeans and a shirt and tossed them onto the bed beside him then grabbed fresh socks too. When he turned back to the bed she had discarded the sheet and had kicked his clothes off the bed. “Really?”

He bent down to pick up his clothing but instead just grabbed his boxers. He dropped his sweats and she smiled wolfishly but pouted when he pulled on his boxers then as quickly as he could pulled on his jeans too, zipped them up but his fingers faltered on the button when she spoke.

“Boooo!” she said and stuck her tongue out and waved a thumbs down at him.

“Boo?” He laughed then looked at her lying across their bed one leg bent, both arms raised above her head, her hair strewn across his pillow and he realised he must be going mad if he was thinking about pulling her out of that position. His tongue came out to lick his lips and when she spotted it her eyes flared. He moved round to the end of the bed and slowly bent to wrap his fingers around her ankles. Her smile widened as he yanked her down the bed. When he could reach he curled his fingers into her pj bottoms, realised immediately that she wasn't wearing any panties and tugged them down her legs before he tossed them over his shoulder.

“Scully, we’re on the clock.”

“I’ll be fast,” She promised and he wanted to laugh.

This was something he had thought about, a lot. More than he would ever admit. And when he thought about it, he usually spent hours down there worshiping her, discovering every new nook and cranny, crease, fold, layer, pulse, throb and thrust. But here he was kneeling down about to shove his tongue into her and make her come harder and faster than she ever came before. As he leaned in closer he saw she was already glistening, wet with want for him and it stole his breath away.

“Scully…” he panted, his breath hot against her core.

“Mulder, please,” she pleaded with him and her hips rolled towards him.

He lowered his face, intending to tease her, but as if he had no choice, he buried his face into her, his tongue immediately went to her entrance and he lapped the edge of it before he plunged right into her.

“Oh god,” she gasped and lifted her hips to push herself into his face. “Mulder, oh my god!”

He moved one hand under her ass to lift her into him, the other circled over the top of her, his thumb moved against her to press into her clit.

“Yes!” she moaned and thrashed her head against the pillow. “More, yes,” she cried out.

Mulder moved his mouth to suckle on her clit then dragged his hand under her thigh to slip one then two fingers into her the moved them in time with his tongue.

“Oh, yes, right there,” she moaned and started to lose her voice. Her hips moved against him as she thrusted into his face. The bed added a new layer of groans as she moved and rolled chasing the cliff edge she was dying to fall over and when Mulder drew his tongue all around her and sucked her clit into his mouth and moaned, she grabbed a fistful of his hair and clamped her thighs against his head as she came. “Oh god, oh god, yes.”

Her moan was breathy and stole lungfuls of air. He continued to suck on her and moved his fingers around her convulsing muscles until she gasped and moved away from him, the stimulation finally becoming too much. She released his hair, and his head and fell wanton, spent onto the bed which fell silent beneath her.

Mulder kissed her inner thighs and lowered her legs then stood up and leaned over her body to kiss her thoroughly. His tongue lapped her mouth. He made sure she could taste herself off him and when her fingers came up to grip his sides he pulled back a little.

“Get up.”

Her eyes looked down his body to his visible erection below his half open jeans. “You’re up already.”

Mulder followed her eyes and saw what she saw then laughed and dropped his forehead onto her shoulder.

“Jesus Scully,” he pushed off the bed and continued to dress. “Get up, before we find out if the third time really is a charm.”

Scully laughed and watched as he pulled on his work shirt. She jumped off the bed, and hurried down stairs to shower. When he came down after her to wash his face and brush his teeth she was just stepping out of the shower and again his breath vacated his body at the sight of her.

“Quit staring,” she said as she wrapped a towel around her body then joined him by the sink to brush her own teeth.

“Quit walking around like that.”

“Like what?”

“All naked and wet.”

She smiled and moved her eyebrows up a couple of times. “Wet?”

“Scully, don't! stop, for the love of god.” He spat out his toothpaste and rinsed.

“You are way too easy Mulder,” she said with a chuckle as she rinsed too. Then walked out of the bathroom, smacked his ass on the way and went up to her room to dress. By the time Mulder had his boots on and tied she was coming down stairs fully dressed and ready for work.

She was wearing less and less make up these days, her skin simply moisturised, lips only covered in a soft sheen of gloss. She had her hair tied back in a ponytail and wore a snug pair of levis, with a plain green cotton tee. Casual weekend Scully he was seeing in abundance on this assignment. And he was loving it.

“Ready?” she asked as she got to the couch. He nodded and took the hand she proffered and let her pull him up. They left the cabin and hurried to the school where Sophie and Jackson were leaning against the wall by the main door, chatting as they greeted the children to arrive for the day's classes.

“Well would you look at what the cat dragged in,” Jackson teased as they approached. Sophie was beaming at both of them and Scully couldn't help but blush. Mulder squeezed her hand and pulled it up to his lips to kiss her knuckles.

“Sorry Jackson, couldn't get to sleep last night.” He spoke without inflection but his meaning was clear and it made Scully blush even more.

“C’mon, I’ll take you out to the north field.” Jackson waved Mulder toward the truck but before they left he turned to Scully. “You still need to go into town later?”

“Yeah, about 3 when classes are over?”

“Ok, I’ll send Trip over to pick you up.”

“Thanks!”

Mulder turned to Scully, cupped her face and kissed her tenderly then whispered against her ears. “Be careful.” She nodded. He kissed her again then jogged over to the truck to climb in next to Jackson. Without trying to be obvious, Mulder checked the side view mirror to watch Scully as she disappeared into the school with Sophie linking her arm and smiling.

Chapter Text

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Wednesday 3.30pm

As promised, Trip turned up to collect Scully at 3 so she just had enough time to race home and pack up the samples she collected and get back to the school. She took a small knapsack with her, knowing she would have things to bring back and hoped Trip wouldn't ask too many questions.

Well she got her wish. Trip didn't say 2 words to her the whole way into town. He parked across from the diner and pointed at the sign for the post office down the road. Scully smiled thanks and hurried down to the post office where she hastily posted the package off to her “mother” using a pre arranged pseudonym in phoenix. She also collected documents from their PO Box service and left before the post master could ask any questions as small town ones are known for. When she got back to the truck she came up to the driver's window and Trip started the engine.

“I need to go to the pharmacy, I’ll be two minutes.”

Trip nodded and killed the engine. Scully took this as agreement to wait for her and she hurried to the pharmacy on the corner of the block.

Thankfully the place was empty as she walked up to the counter. Asking for Plan B wasn't something she had to do often, the last time was in college after an ill advised sorority party and since then she had been diligent. She collected some new shower gel, and moisturizer, then at the counter she smiled at the pharmacist and asked for everything else she needed.

“Excuse me?” he asked. He was an elderly gentleman, pushing 70 but she didn't think he was hard of hearing. He leaned closer to her and looked up and down the shop as if checking that they wouldn't be overheard.

“I asked for Plan B and a pack of Durex invisible.”

“I’m sorry ma’am, I can't sell them to you,” he spoke softly as if he was explaining something painfully obvious.

For a horrifying second, Scully thought this was a patriarchal issue, where a woman couldn't buy her own contraception and she was ready to fight the power to get that box of condoms.

“Why the hell not?”

He frowned, confused and became a bit flustered. “You’re living out on the ranch? On Williamson Valley Rd?”

“Yes.”

“We’re not permitted to sell contraception to anyone from the ranch.”

“Says who?”

“Jacob.”

“Well that's...ridiculous.”

“I’m sorry ma’am, the rules are clear.” He looked truly sorry and as much as Scully wanted these things, she couldn't break her cover for the case on the ranch.

“So I can't buy either of the items?”

“No ma’am.”

“Can I buy a pregnancy test?”

“Yes ma’am,” he said, delighted that he was finally able to sell her something. He went to the shelf behind him where all the condoms and other contraception was shelved to get one and handed it to her. He rang it up along with her other items then placed them into a discrete paper bag and handed them to her. Scully paid for them with a half smile then put the bag into her knapsack and hurried out to the truck where Trip was still waiting patiently.

He made no remarks when she climbed in and only started the engine when she buckled up. It was another silent journey back to the ranch and she smiled and said goodbye before she climbed out. He nodded, waited for her to go into her cabin then took off.

Scully closed the door and immediately went up to their bedroom to take out the documents from Skinner on the test results they had asked for.

When Mulder came home she was still on the bed, with the pages strewn around her. She was wearing her glasses, and her hair was tousled from her hands worrying it as she read and he thought she never looked better. He crossed the room to bend over her and kiss her neck just below her ear then pulled away and tugged his shirt off over his head.

“Mulder, you’re back early,” she looked up and pulled off her glasses. He tossed his shirt into the corner and pulled off his jeans then rummaged through the drawer for fresh clothing.

“We finished the fence,” he said over his shoulder.

“You’re enjoying the ranch work?”

“Yeah, check out my guns!” he flexed his biceps and she chuckled with a roll of her eyes then rummaged through the papers on the bed and held one out to him.

“Check out these results.”

Mulder came over and perched on the edge of the bed in his boxers. “What's this?”

“The substance that Jacob used on us last Sunday.”

He looked at the graph and various chemical formulas. “Yeah I’m gonna need some help here Scully.”

“It's what we thought it was gammabutyrolactone base but there is something in there that wasn't identified.” She pointed at a gap in the spectrum. “This could be because of how the sample was collected.”

“My t-shirt.”

“So we should get a pure sample at the next service.”

“I can go tonight to the church and pick up a fresh sample, I just need a vial.”

“Good idea.”

“So this substance is the reason for odd behaviour?”

She put her glasses back on and combed her fingers through her hair before she tidied up her ponytail. “You said you’d tell me about what happened last Sunday.”

“I thought you meant… after all this… when we got home.”

“Can you tell me now?”

He looked at her expectant face and his lips thinned. After everything they had experienced over the last couple of days he didn't have anything to hide from her and he didn't think it was anything she should be embarrassed over. He nodded his head.

“Okay, it's nothing, I don't want to blow this out of proportion.” He resettled on the edge of the bed to face her a little more, and rested one hand on the mattress behind her and the other on her thigh. “We got the, eh, the blessing, and for some reason it was more effective on you than me.”

“How?”

“You became really handsy,” he said and he watched her face for any sign of distress. “It wasn't bad, you were just a little amorous.”

“Oh god,” she blushed a little and moved her eyes to her lap.

“It wasn't totally one sided Scully, I was affected too. Suddenly I was seeing you differently.” This time her blush faded and she paled. He frowned and realised what he said. “No, wait Scully, that's not what I mean, what happened between us yesterday was all us. It had nothing to do with that substance. I didn't mean that it made me want you.” He took her hand and lifted it to his lips. “Christ no, I wanted you long before we got to this ranch. It just enhanced everything like I was thinking things I usually only thought of late at night, when I was home alone...in bed. But it wasn't right, it was off… You kept calling me peter.”

“Peter?”

“And I kept trying to call you Scully but you wanted me to call you Jess. You said you wanted to submit to me” He tried to connect with her eyes but she kept avoiding him. He bent one finger under her chin and turned her to face him. “I promise you nothing happened. I would never…”

“I know, I know.”

“All you did was get handsy, make a few moves, make it very...very hard to turn you down and the only reason I was able to do it was because you kept calling me Peter.” He kissed her knuckles again then leaned in and kissed her lips. “And I promised myself when I was going to make you come, you would be screaming my real name.”

“Fox?” she said with a smile.

Mulder's smile turned into a grin and he nuzzled her neck with a growl. That was a conversation that went way better than he expected. He knew if they hadn't progressed their relationship in the last 24 hours then she would have been mortified but the fact that she could reconcile her actions then with what they had already done warmed him up from his very centre to every corner of his body.

“Mulder!” she said and he groaned.

“Yeah Scully, like that,” he said against her neck and she chuckled.

“Mulder, no,” she said laughing and she pushed his shoulder aside. “You stink.”

“Manly stink,” he leaned in to kiss her again. “From my manly work.”

She chuckled. “Ewww,” she squealed as he tried to kiss her neck again. “Get off,” she said and pushed him back.

“I’m trying to!” She laughed but pushed him further away “Ugh, no fun.” he leaned away from her with a grimace then grabbed his clothes to go and shower.

“Are you hungry?”

“Starving,” he said with a leer.

“Go shower, I’ll make something.”

He smiled and nodded then grabbed his clothes and went down to the bathroom. Scully was close behind him and worked in the kitchen while he got clean. When he emerged she had a simple stir fry ready and they sat at the table to eat.

He told her about the fencing work and she smiled at how excited he got as he explained the process. She told him about how she collected the samples from the kids and made him laugh with the various antics she had to undertake to collect enough drool from a bunch of kids.

“And you got the stuff posted to Phoenix?”

“Yeah, Trip took me into town, but he is a quiet guy. He didn't say a single word.”

“Yeah, working on the fence with him all day and he rarely talks then either. Jake is the same.”

“Weird.”

They ate in silence for a little while longer then Mulder shifted on his chair and placed his elbow on the table.

“Were you able to pick up the, um, other things?”

“Oh shit!” Scully sat up and dropped her fork.

“What? What's wrong?”

“I forgot… oh I… shit.” she left the table and hurried up the stairs and Mulder raced after her.

“Scully, talk to me.”

“Mulder, I..shit.” She sat on the bed with the brown paper bag in her lap. “I went to the pharmacy to get Plan B and some condoms.” She unrolled the paper bag and Mulder was so confused. “They wouldn't sell them to me.”

“What?” He sat next to her. “Why? Because...because you’re a woman?” What kind of backwards town was this place? He wondered.

“No, that's what I thought at first too. They wouldn't sell them to me because I lived on this ranch.”

“What?” His voice raised an octave.

“The pharmacist said that Jacob had set rules in town that no one was permitted to buy contraceptives, or the morning after pill or anything that might interrupt a pregnancy.”

“That's not legal, he can’t...wait…” he turned to look at her and reached out to take her hand. “You mean you couldn't get the pill?”

“No.” Her shoulders slumped and he saw the sliver of worry on her face. She opened the bag and pulled out a pregnancy test. “I thought this was the next best thing.”

He nodded and wondered what the hell they would do if it came out positive. “Should we take it now?”

Her heart twanged at his phrasing. We. She took a deep breath. “No, it's not something that works the next day. It should be at least 10 days after unprotected sex.”

“I’m sorry Scully.”

“You don't have anything to be sorry for Mulder, we were both there.”

“I wish I could fix this for you. Maybe I could take a truck into another town, into Phoenix and get you the pill you need.”

“I know, I wish you could too,” she said with a sigh. “But this information about Jacob is important I think. It shows the hold he has over these people.”

“I was thinking about that.” He leaned back and placed both hands on the mattress behind him. “No one seems to be here against their will.”

“That's often the case in a cult.”

“But this place is open for people to come and go. There are no guards. The fence has barbed wire around it, but the gate is wide open. There are no daily prayers or sermons, there is no constant reminder of the church around. Other than the service on Sunday which you yourself said was a pretty vanilla affair.”

“Apart from the possible intoxication.”

“But even after our dose, when I was working with the guys the next day, they were all raving about it. They couldn't wait for the next dose.”

“Sophie pretty much said the same.”

“We haven't seen any sign of the missing children, or adults.”

“Or the ATF agents.”

“No.”

They both sat in silence for a few moments.

“The only real mystery is the orphans. If they were legitimately adopted from around the country then I’m not sure what there is to investigate here.”

Scully thought about it and slowly nodded her head. “It will probably be Monday before we get those results.”

“I should call Skinner.” He said and he leaned forward with his forearms on his knees. “I’ll get the second sample from the church this evening then post it tomorrow and call him then.”

“Won't it look suspicious with all the post we’re sending and receiving?”

“I’ll take a run into town myself. It's only a few miles.” He rubbed his face with his hand. “If I go first thing and get there in time for the post office to open I’ll be back before they need me for work.”

“Okay.” She nodded her head then turned to pick up the pages from the report Skinner had sent.

“I’ll go down and clear up from dinner.”

“I want to read through these reports again, and make some notes.” She reached for the small journal she had been keeping all her notes in, flipped it open to the next page and started writing as Mulder ambled down stairs.

He tossed out the remnants of the food they had left and started to fill the sink with water to wash the dishes. Neither of them had said it aloud but her unsuccessful trip to the pharmacy had some immediate impact, as well as some possible long term. While the scare that she might be pregnant was real, for some reason it didn't fill him with dread. Not like it had done in the past when his girlfriend approached him in tears telling him she was late. That statement hit him like a freight train and they tried multiple tests, all returning negative, before either of them felt relieved. Even after the news they had lost the appetite for sex for a while, not willing to risk that shock again.

This time though he was filled with wonder. What would it mean? A Mulder / Scully baby. A physical manifestation of what they had been feeling. Hell they hadn't even really discussed how they felt. But he knew. He knew how he felt. He’d known for a long time. He didn't think he’d be facing this fork in the road so soon though. Soon? He scoffed at that thought. It had been nearly two years since he felt the first stirring of anything but platonic emotion for her. Soon was probably not the right word. He continued to wash all the dishes then started drying as his mind continued to wander.

How did she feel though...that was a mystery. She was enjoying the sex. Of that much he was sure. He felt a surge of want curl up from his toes and settle in his balls and he grunted at the sensation. But that was going to come to an abrupt halt now that they were stuck without protection. It didn't have to come to a full stop, he decided. There were other things they could explore. He chuckled at the thought. He felt like a teenager again. Wondering how far he could get. No further than third base, that was for sure. Unless she preferred to wait. Maybe the thought that she was pregnant, with his kid, was hitting her differently.

Mulder put the last dish away and dried off his hand before he hung the towel up to dry. He thought about crashing on the couch with that book. It was too early to try to break into the church again. He wondered if she would welcome a distraction.

“Only one way to find out,” he muttered as he walked upstairs.

She was just where he had left her though he noticed she hadn't taken too many notes. He stood at the end of the bed and said her name but she didn't react. She had a far away look in her eyes, her pen hovered over the nearly blank page.

“Hey, Scully.” He reached over and touched her knee.

“Huh?” She jerked out of her reverie and looked a little flustered. “Sorry, what?”

“You ok?”

“Yeah, yeah I was just…” She looked down at her notes and realised he had seen her lack of progress too. “Thinking.”

Mulder gathered up all the notes on the bed, took her journal and pen out of her hand and piled them all up on the dresser. He sat on the bed in front of her and placed a hand on her knee.

“Thinking about what?”

“Nothing, I’m fine, really I was just…”

“Tell me.”

She smiled a sad smile that nearly shattered his heart but he managed to hold it together. “I was thinking that this is a mess we find ourselves in. Our timing, as usual, is impeccable.”

Mulder smiled and nodded his head. “Yeah, we’ve never taken the easy road on anything.”

Scully fell back against the pillows and crossed her arms over her head, her legs still folded beside him. Mulder crawled up the bed and hovered over her.

“Scully…”

“Mmm?”

He lowered his head and kissed her lips but as she started to kiss back he pulled away then slowly lowered his whole body atop of hers so she could feel every part of him against every part of hers, and buried his head in the crook of her neck to inhale her scent. She uncurled her legs and her thighs encased him tightly.

“I know we can't have sex.” She moaned in frustration. “But how do you feel about some necking?”

She chuckled and the vibrations made him roll his hips into her. Scully gasped and her hands moved to circle his neck.

“Mulder…” she whispered against his ear and though the sensation was making him feel things he hadn't in a long time, her tone was dashing his hopes of a PG rated evening of entertainment. “I’m afraid that if we start something, we won't be able to stop.”

Mulder lifted his head to look in her face. He saw the same want there that he knew reflected in his own. The same desire. But diluting it was a tinge of panic, or was it fear? He couldn't tell but he knew for sure he didn't want her feeling that when he was with her, loving her. He pressed a tender kiss to her lips and smiled.

He rolled off her and she loosened her grip on him to let him. They lay side by side, each of them panting but trying not to show it.

“I have more than enough experience pretending I don't have a massive hard on around you Scully. I think I can manage it a bit longer till we get home.”

“Mulder!” she said, chuckling and covered her face with both hands. “Shut up!”

“What?” He laughed too and rolled onto his side to face her. “I’m just telling the truth.” He reached for one of her hands and took it off her face so he could kiss her finger tips, then held her hand there as he smiled against her palm. “I’m serious, Scully.”

She turned her head to look at him.

“I want you,” he said, his voice suddenly serious. “But I need you to want me too.”

“I do.”

“I know,” he smiled against her palm again and kissed it. “But I want all of you to want me. Not be afraid of what might happen, or might already have happened.” His eyes darted to her belly to emphasise what he meant. “We can put a pause on this. I’m not going anywhere.”

Slowly she nodded her head then rolled her whole body to face him. “I do want you, Mulder. Make no mistake about that.”

“Yeah?” he said, prompting her to smile knowingly. He was never too proud for an ego stroke. Or any kind of stroke he admitted. “Since when?”

“Since when was I attracted to you?” He nodded rapidly, his smile grew expectantly. “I mean the minute I walked into your office I was attracted to you,” she admitted with a slight blush and a chuckle.

“Really?” His eyes widened in shock and Scully was continually surprised by his lack of awareness of the lure he wielded.

“Yeah, of course. But it wasn't until the Tooms case in Baltimore when I realised how much I was attracted to you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You, just all of you. Your mind, your attitude, your passion, focus, capacity to care. Everything.”

Mulder looked at her with his mouth agape as she spoke and she smiled. “I was under the impression that most of those things annoyed you," he muttered.

“Oh they do.” she laughed and he poked her side. “When did you know about me?”

“About three days before you walked into my office.”

“Be serious Mulder,” she said and swatted his arm with the back of her hand.

“I’m deadly serious.” He captured her hand and kissed her fingers again. “When I heard you were being sent to spy on me I looked you up. I hunted down your thesis and read it.”

“You were attracted to my thesis?” she giggled.

“Yes!” He rolled onto his back. “Although multidimensionality suggests infinite outcomes in an infinite number of universes, each universe can produce only one outcome.” Mulder moaned and grabbed his cock through his jeans as he closed his eyes. “Better than porn.”

Scully laughed. “Oh my god Mulder, shut up.”

“I’m serious. Then you walked into the office, with the hair, and the eyebrow and you dared challenge me.”

“Dared?”

Mulder looked at her sideways. “I wasn't expecting it.” His head rolled to face her. “You really threw me for a loop during that case in Oregon.”

Scully smiled and tried not to show how much pride she was feeling from that simple statement.

“Yeah, I wanted to jump you right there in that motel.” He looked back up at the ceiling again and laughed. “But it was when we went to Alaska that I really started to...feel…” his eyes darted at her when he said that word, to see her reaction. “Feel something more than just caveman desire.”

“Alaska? The Ice Core Project?”

“Just how you took control, how you pushed back, challenged and tested me. It was hot.” He shrugged as if it didn't need any more explanation.

They both lay in silence for a few minutes, their confessions swirling round their heads, affecting them each more than they really wanted to admit.

“This is a dangerous conversation…” she whispered. “We should-”

Like a flash Mulder rolled over towards her and encircled her in his arms. He kissed her hungrily, slipped his tongue into her mouth, moved his hand down to her ass and cupped it gruffly before he pulled her leg to rest over his hip. He rolled against her to be sure she knew how aroused he was, almost needing her to be in the same state before they broke apart. She responded by raking her nails against his scalp to grip the back of his neck and her tongue met his lap for lap until finally they separated panting, heaving chests moving in tandem against each other.

“We should. And we will.” He tried not to roll his hips into hers, knowing full well she could feel how hard he was already. “I just wanted to get a last taste before the portcullis comes down.”

Scully smiled sadly. “I wish…”

“Me too.” He pressed his lips to her then rolled away and climbed off the bed. “Let's go for a walk.”

“A walk?”

“It's too early to go to the church, it's too early to go to bed, and if I hang around the cabin much longer tonight I’m going to climb the walls.”

“Last time we went for a walk-”

“We’ll stay close to camp. Check out the cows.”

Scully snorted but agreed. She rolled off the bed and took his extended hand and they walked out into the darkening evening.

***

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Thursday 7am

Mulder was sitting on the couch tying his sneakers when she came down stairs rubbing her knuckles in one of her eyes. He looked over his shoulder as she approached and perched on the arm of the couch.

“Sorry, did I wake you?”

“No, no,” she put her feet on the couch and tucked her toes under his thigh. “I didn't hear you come back from the church last night. Did you get the sample?”

“Yeah.” He patted the pocket of his shorts. “I’m just about to go for a run into town to post it. And call skinner.”

“Did you come up to bed last night?” she asked with a frown. “I remember you leaving for the church, but not coming back.”

“I um, I stayed down here.”

“Here, on the tiny couch?”

He nodded then finished tying his laces. “It's fine.”

“Mulder, you can't sleep on this couch. It's not even big enough for me to sleep on.”

“It was fine, I just didn't want to wake you. I know you didn't get much sleep the night before.” He stood up and fixed his running clothes but was avoiding her eyes.

“Mulder,” she said and stood in front of him. She grabbed one of his hands to get his attention focused on her. “I don't want you to be afraid of...of…”

“I just thought it would be easier.”

“It's not.” she squeezed his hand. “It doesn't matter if you are in bed with me, on the couch, across town in Alexandria, I still want to be with you. But at least if you’re in bed with me you can hold me.”

He nodded his head. “Ok. I’m sorry.”

“You owe me a cuddle.”

He smiled and put his arms around her, held her head against his chest and kissed the top of her head.

“I’ll see you this evening and let you know what Skinner says.”

She nodded and he let her go, pressed a quick kiss to her lips then turned and hurried out. She watched out the window and he performed a few muscle stretches then took off at a rapidly increasing pace towards town. Scully went to shower and change and prepare for another day at the school.

By the time Mulder got to town the post office wasn't open. He went to the main bus stop where he knew there was a pay phone and pushed the half door open to step in. He took a few moments to steady his breathing from the run then added the coins he needed to dial Skinner's number.

“Skinman!” he said to his boss's gruff greeting.

“Mulder, what is it?” Skinner's voice was instantly alert.

Mulder got straight to the point. Highlighted all the things they had discovered on the ranch including the empty house, the suspicion of the children being orphans and then the restrictions on buying contraceptives.

“Restrictions?” Skinner asked.

“Yeah, apparently Jacob has instructed the pharmacy not to sell them to anyone.”

“How in the world did you find that out?”

“Uh…” Mulder was stumped. He wasn't prepared for that follow up. “Scully was asking questions in town,” he said quickly, though the beat of silence he heard after telling Skinner made him think he didn't quite believe him. “Has there been any report on the ATF agents?”

“Nothing yet. No transactions on their bank cards, no calls placed or anything.” Skinner hmphed into the phone and Mulder heard the worry in his voice. “Frankly, it's like they disappeared. They left the diner at approximately noon five days before you arrived.”

“No one at the camp has mentioned them. Everyone that's there now has been there for five or more years.”

“I’ll look into the adoption papers for the children. And put a rush on that substance test.”

“Thanks.”

“How is Agent Scully doing?”

“Managing to put up with me,” Mulder said with a soft laugh and heard Skinner sigh and knew he rolled his eyes making him smile. “She’s good. We’re a little stumped on this end too.”

“We’re looking at new angles of investigation. If nothing comes up soon we’ll pull you out.”

“Okay.” Mulder saw the doors of the post office across the road open.

“Agent Mulder,” Skinner said, sensing the conversation was coming to an end.

“Yes, sir.”

“Be careful.”

“Yes, sir.”

Mulder hung up and hurried over to the post office to send off the package before he raced back to the ranch.

***

The Altar of Ephesians Ranch
Sunday 7.30am

Scully stood under the cool spray of the shower and willed her body to calm down. It had been four days and nights since they had sex. Three days and nights since she felt his tongue on her...in her. She groaned and turned her head up to the spray. Her traitorous fingers started to move down her body but she resisted. Instead she reached for the shampoo and focused on cleaning her hair.

It didn't feel right to cave into those temptations right now. When he was on the other side of the door. And would be more than willing to take care of those urges for her. But no. They had agreed to reverse their relationship progress for now. Revert to the platonic status, except for when they were in public and then his hands were on her. Always. Somehow when they were outside the cabin they were always touching.

But as soon as they got back home, and the door closed, they separated. No more touching. Apart from a leg or elbow bump in bed or a hip check while doing the dishes they kept a respectable distance apart. Skinner would be proud, she thought with a chuckle as she turned off the water and stepped out to dry off.

When she came out of the shower Mulder was leaning against the counter. He had been up and showered before she got out of bed. And now he stood in the kitchen, his back to the sink, his ankles crossed as he bit into a slice of toast. As she approached he picked up another slice and passed it to her and she took up the same pose and bit into it.

“Mmm,” she said with a nod and looked down at the buttered toast with a scant layer of raspberry jam on it.

“Mmm,” he agreed.

He handed her a cup of coffee then picked up his own. They sipped, and ate in silence, each of them lost in thought until they were done. They put their cups into the sink and Mulder went into the bathroom to brush his teeth as she cleaned up the mess.

“Ready?” he said as he came out, wiping his hands on his ass and she smiled and nodded. She wore her dress again and Mulder raked his eyes over her body without even trying to disguise his pleasure. She smiled and rolled her eyes then preceded him to the door. On the porch he grabbed her hand, almost as soon as they crossed the threshold of the cabin and kissed her knuckles then they walked slowly to the church with the smattering of people also on their way to service.

“Scully,” he whispered against her ear as they approached the small crowd milling outside the church.

“Hmm?”

“What if…” He tugged her hand to stop her walking and made her face him. He put his arms around her and held her close. “What if they give us another blessing?”

He felt her nod against his shoulder.

“What if we can't stop…”

She nodded again.

“I don't want to do anything you’d regret.”

“Or you…”

“I don't want to sleep with Jess.”

“Whatever happens,” she pulled back a little and rested her forehead against his. “We can handle it.”

He frowned. He wanted to believe her. He wanted to believe that if they slept together today after the blessing, that she wouldn't regret it. They didn't have any protection, she wasn't on the pill. It wouldn't even be both of them. If she cried out another name while he was buried inside her he might die.

She squeezed his hand and pulled him in for a hug then they both turned and walked towards the milling crowd outside the church. Sophie waved at Scully and smiled and waved back. There was a strange atmosphere in the group, everyone was really excited and chatter was a little more animated than it had been the week before.

Mulder scanned the crowd to see if he could see from which direction Jacob or Deborah approached but he wasn't able to see them. As the crowd moved towards the church they filed in with them and took the same seats they did last week. And as last time a hush fell over the crowd when Jacob emerged from the same room where Mulder collected the vial of oil. The same room that was the size of a phone booth. The same room with no other exits. Mulder frowned. Was he standing in there the whole time? He felt Scully tug on his arm and realised he needed to kneel and refocused his brain to get back into the rhythm with this service.

Standing, sitting, kneeling, and praying. Scully seemed very at ease and more than once he released she was praying under her breath. As the service ended the same excited chatter flitted around the room as people took their seats and Jacob came to the front of the altar with a wide smile on his face. Mulder rubbed his hands on his pant legs and Scully reached over to take his hand in hers and hold it on her lap.

“Today…” Jacob said, and the room quietened. “We have wonderful news.” A few people clapped softly but Jacob held his hand up for silence and it stopped. “One of us is with child.”

Mulder felt all his blood sink to his feet and almost wanted to look down and see if it was leaking out. Scully's grip on his hand tightened

“Brian and Amy,” he said and he held his arms out to beckon them up to the altar and join him.

The congregation cheered and clapped as a couple stood up near the front of the church. He looked to be in his 40’s and she was of similar age. Mulder recognised him from the ranch but he had mainly worked with the crops. He couldn't remember seeing the woman before. He nudged Scully and she looked at him with a frown and a small shake of her head indicating she didn't recognise her either.

“Brian and Amy have been with us for three years and today they announced they will grow our community.”

Amy stood beside Jacob and held her hands on her tummy though it was barely visible there was a definite roundness there.

“This is the best of blessings, and one we will always welcome.” Jacob put a hand on the top of each of their heads and closed his eyes. The congregation all closed their eyes and bowed their heads as Jacob muttered a prayer neither Mulder nor Scully could make out.

“May God carry you into the light.” He finished the prayer and looked up and everyone started clapping. Brian and Amy stepped off the altar and resumed their seats and Jacob watched with a smile until they were settled then lifted his hands up again for silence.

“Today is the day for private congregation. I’ll be available for anyone that needs me.”

The congregation stood up and started to file out of the church though Mulder wanted to stay behind and talk to Jacob. He followed the crowd and realised there was some sort of queue forming. He tugged Scully's hand and slipped into the queue behind Sophie and Jackson.

It seemed like everyone was looking to spend time with Jacob as the queue wrapped the church thought the mood was jovial and excited. Jackson and Sophie were hugging and kissing in front of them and when he looked around he noticed everyone was. He draped his arm over Scully to follow suit and she wrapped both arms around his waist.

“It's been a while since I was at confession,” Scully said to Mulder, in a half whisper but wanting Sophie to hear. “I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong.”

“Just be honest,” Mulder said and kissed her forehead as Sophie turned round with a smile.”

“It's not a confessional,” She said and she reached out to touch Scully's arm. “Jacob will listen to your worries. He hears them before you can say them.” Scully frowned. “He will bless you, your union, and give you hope for growing your family.”

“He hears my worries?”

Sophie touched her own chest, her hand over her heart. “The true worries of your heart and your mind,” she said and she tapped the side of her head. “Even the ones you are afraid to admit to yourself.”

She smiled at Scully as if this explained everything then turned back to Jackson and nuzzled his neck. Scully turned to look at Mulder and saw a worried look on his face she was sure was on her own. She mouthed “what?” at him and he shrugged.

As the queue moved they noticed some people went in on their own, and their partners after them, and some went in as a couple. Mulder's arm tightened on her shoulder and he leaned down to place his lips by her ear so only she could hear him.

“Should we go in together?”

She pulled back to look at him and mulled over their options. They worked well as a duo when interrogating but in this situation maybe going in separately would be better. He noticed her indecision and leaned into her again. “I’ll go in first. You follow. Meet back at the cabin right after.”

She nodded. He kissed her neck lightly and they stepped forward as Jackson and Sophie stepped into the church. All of a sudden she felt nervous. She felt her palms become clammy and her heart was racing. She didn't want him going in there on his own. Rationally she knew there was little danger. And Mulder could definitely take care of himself. But she also didn't want him going in there with her. What if Jacob heard the true worries of her heart? And spoke them aloud? In front of Mulder.

She looked up at him and blinked rapidly. He looked down and signalled his strength and trust in her. They stared at each other and when the door opened, both Jackson and Sophie came out. Sophie had tears in her eyes though they looked like happy tears.

Mulder bent and pressed a kiss to her temple then let go of her and walked into the church. There was the same musty smell as there usually was and he spotted Jacob sitting on the edge of a pew half way up the aisle. He expected him to be sitting on the altar or near the top of the church and was surprised to see him looking so calm as he leafed through a bible.

“Hello…” Mulder said as he approached.

“Peter, hello.” Jacob closed the bible and slid further into the pew to make room for him.

Mulder sat down and smiled but kept his eyes forward.

“You’re not comfortable in the church.”

“Huh?”

“It's not your usual sanctuary?”

“Not really.”

“But you try, for your wife.”

Mulder nodded. “I do.”

“That’s all you can do.”

“I’d do anything for her.”

“I see that in you.” Mulder turned to look at Jacob and found him watching him with a half smile. “You have questions. I can see uncertainty in you.”

Mulder scoffed. “I have many questions.”

“Ask.”

“I feel lucky...too lucky...to have found this place.”

“You don't trust it?”

“I don't trust good things.”

“You’ve been hurt.”

“Haven't we all?”

This time Jacob chuckled and nodded. “We have. We have.” He took a deep breath and released it slowly. “I have teachings. I have an understanding of the lord. Of the way of life. All I offer you is an opportunity to live and grow in our community. All I ask of you is to help us grow it in whatever way you can.”

“By having children?”

“Not everyone here can have children. But they help our community grow in other ways.”

“How?”

Jacob smiled and turned to him. “You don't need to worry about the other ways.”

Mulder felt his heart quicken. “Why?”

Jacob laughed. “Your gifts will be soon realised,” then he bowed his head and muttered a few words. He lifted his hand and Mulder looked down at it. It was wet, and shiny and for some reason he knew he was supposed to take it. And for another reason, he knew he was going to.

He put his hand against Jacobs and they interlocked their fingers in a tight grip as Jacob continued to pray then as his voice faded he released Mulder's hand and returned it to his lap.

“Thank you, Peter.”

Jacob closed his eyes and Mulder looked down at his hand. He didn't see any traces of whatever it was that covered Jacob's hand. He stood up from the pew and walked down the aisle to the main door. He was still looking at his hand when he walked out and Scully looked at him as he walked by.

“Peter?” He turned and waved at her but continued to walk away from the church.

Scully watched him for a moment then turned back to the church and walked in. She took slow careful steps and resisted her usual urge to genuflect and bless herself beside the pew. Jacob was sitting on the edge of the pew again and she stopped walking a little bit behind him.

“Hello, Jacob.*

“Jess, I was hoping you would come in to see me.” He looked over his shoulder at her and slowly slid into the pew. “Come sit with me.”

“Thank you.” Scully took the space he had just vacated and looked up at the altar.

“You have great power in you.”

She frowned and glanced at him.

“You have a connection to the lord.” He turned on his pew to face her more fully. “I feel him coursing through you. Your trust in God is refreshing.”

“I have always trusted and followed his path.”

“He has served you well.” Jacob reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. It felt warm and heavy but not unwelcome. “Will you pray with me?”

Scully nodded. She bowed her head and closed her eyes and wondered if he did the same. She reside the lord's prayer in her head and lifted her head when she was done only to see him watching her with a smile on his face.

“You will bring great joy to this community.”

“I will?”

Jacob nodded. “Some people join this community and only want to take. You will give us so much.”

“What can I give?”

“Life.” He said as if the answer was simple and obvious.

“And if I can't?”

He chuckled and the hand on her shoulder squeezed her. “You can. I believe in you. I trust in you.”

“I...I…” she stammered. This wasn't going how she expected it to go. All the thoughts she had all week about what she could ask him were vanishing before they could be realised. And she struggled to think of anything other than accepting his guidance and anything else he had to offer.

She looked down as his hand moved off his lap and he held it palm up towards her. She hesitated then slowly reached her hand over and rested it against his, their fingers interlocked and he bent his head and closed his eyes. Scully felt odd watching him while he prayed so she closed her eyes too and as she did she felt a warm sensation in her hand that slowly wound it's way up her arm to her chest where it settled around her heart, slowing everything down. Suddenly nothing mattered. She was surrounded by a calm silence that soothed her nerves.

When his hand loosened on hers she opened her eyes and looked at their hands. He opened his fingers and her hand rested on his. It took a moment more for her to retrieve it and when she did she felt something akin to loss.

“Thank you Jess.”

He clasped his hands on his lap and looked up at the altar. Scully slid out of the pew and slowly made her way out of the church. She held the door as another couple went in and looked around for Mulder but he was nowhere to be seen. She started to walk towards the cabin. She needed to see him. Now.

She started walking, but her pace quickened the closer she got to the cabin. She opened the door to see him standing in the kitchen, his back to the door, his hand close to his face while he examined it. She closed the door behind her and he turned at the sound.

They both stared at each other. Both of them were panting. Not from exertion. From something else. They were both feeling but unable to label.

Without a word, their eyes still connected, they both lunged across the room at each other. They clashed by the couch, his arms wrapped around her and she jumped up to wrap hers around his neck. His hands cupped her ass to hold her up and they couldn't get close enough. His lips found hers, his tongue duelled with hers. Her fingers scraped across his head, his neck, the top of his shoulders.

She gripped his shirt and tugged at it to pull it out of his jeans. He carried her over to the table to deposit her on it so he could take it off entirely. As she worked on his jeans, he moved his hands to the back of her dress and fumbled with the zipper until he could grip it and slide it down all the way. The soft material all but melted off her and he immediately paid attention to her breasts, which were encased in a plain white cotton bra.

He didn't hesitate in reaching for the fastening and only faltered when she plunged her hands into his jeans to grip his cock. He unhooked her bra and tugged it off her, pulling her hands out of his jeans to hold them over her head then lay her back on the table to palm her breasts and take one then the other in his mouth.

“Ahhh,” she sighed and arched her back to press her breasts into him. “Yes!”

He moved his hand from her breast down her side to where her dress was pooled at her waist then released her completely and stepped back. She whimpered at the loss of contact but didn't have time to complain when he pulled her off the table and made her stand. Her dress fell to the floor and he reached for her panties to pull them down too. Her hands pushed his jeans and boxers down and they both toed off their shoes, then kicked away their clothes until they stood bare before each other.

His eyes roamed over her body and were followed by his hands. Feather light touches from her shoulders, down her arms, up her sides, around her breasts, fingertips dragging across her peaked nipples, over her stomach to her hips then around the cheeks of her ass. Her hands started their own journey across the planes of his abs, up his chest over his nipples which caused him to suck in a quick breath but it didn't slow her down.

They paused, breathing ragged, eyes connected for a beat then his fingers pulled her closer, smashed her against his body and kissed her hungrily. Her hands circled him, palms flat against his back, fingers pressing into the indent of his spine as she opened her mouth wider and lapped his tongue with her own. She whimpered and clawed at his back as if she could get any closer.

“Up,” he urged as he gripped her ass and bent his knees. She hopped up and he caught her, pulled her tight against him, his cock nestled in the dampness between her legs and they both moaned. He moved her to the table again, it was the perfect height. When he dropped her onto it her hands went behind her to balance as he gripped her hips and rolled his hips into her.

“Ohhhh, yes,” she moaned but didn't have time to bask in that sensation before he lowered his head and captured one of her nipples between his teeth. “Oh fuck,” she cried out when he bit down harder then slowly dragged his tongue across it. He moved to pay the same attention to the other nipple and she fisted his hair to hold him against her as he feet pressed into the back of his thighs.

He bit down on her again and she cried out. He released her then lowered himself further. His hands planted on the inside of her thighs pushed her legs apart. Her hand in his hair tightened its grip and all put pulled him into her but she needn't have worried he wasn't planning on a slow game. His tongue licked the length of her in one swoop then without pause did it again.

Her hips jerked and the grip she had on his hair was more than painful but it didn't slow him down. He found her clit and flicked it with his tongue then again and again until she was crying out then he suckled it into his mouth and hummed around her.

“Oh god, oh god, oh fuck!”

Mulder moved one hand from her thigh to her breast, and the other found her entrance and he slipped two fingers in as his tongue moved against her clit. His cock was throbbing, bouncing against his stomach with every mewl or cry from her lips and he wasn't sure if he could hold on for much longer but he wanted to taste her, feel her convulse when she came and hear the joy of her release before he buried himself inside of her. With his fingers two knuckles deep inside of her he curled them against her front, stroked that spot that caused her to melt.

“Oh yes!” she cried out and he knew she was on the precipice as he sucked harder on her clit and moaned around her again to push her over the edge into oblivion. She felt a sharp explosion of relief expand from her lower back to her core that reached every cell and follicle of hair on her body. Her mouth was open in a silent scream, and her hips jerked and moved against him as she rode out wave after wave of her orgasm until it all became too much and she pushed him away to get some reprieve.

Mulder fell back onto his haunches but kept his hands on her ankles as he tried to gather his senses and push his orgasm back to make sure this wasn't over. When her breathing started to slow and her head rolled to the side he gripped her ankles tighter, pulled himself up and leaned over her again. He planted his hands on either side of her head and leaned down to nuzzle her neck, suckle on the skin at the top of her shoulder, then her ear lobe before finding her lips. She hummed in appreciation of his lips and moved her legs to place her feet on the table so she could push her body up into his.

“I want you…” she whispered against his lips as her hands moved off his shoulders to the back of his neck and then she dragged her fingernails up the back of his head to his crown and pulled him down for a punishing kiss. “I want you inside me.”

“Fuck,” he said at those words and his hips jerked into her as if obeying her command. “C’mon,” he leaned off her and they both groaned but he tugged her arms and made her sit up. “Now, hurry.”

He slipped one arm under her knees and the other behind her back and he lifted her with ease. She squealed and clutched his neck as he all but ran across the room and upstairs. He made it to the bed and when she expected him to dump her onto the mattress instead he moved his head to capture her lips and slowly lowered both of them. The bed cried out against the intrusion, the springs groaning as he moved his knee to plant it between her legs as he pushed her further up the bed.

“I can’t…” he said as he held his straining cock, a tight grip near the base as if he was trying to stop feeling what he was feeling. “I won't last…”

“Now,” she said and she widened her legs and tugged his shoulders.

He moved his cock against her clit and she groaned, then he dragged it between her lips to her entrance. He meant to just slip his tip in, wait for her to adjust, give her time to be ready to take him in completely but as soon as he was inside her, even a little bit, his hips jerked and he plunged right into her.

“Shit, I’m sorry,” he said even as his hips pulled out and he plunged right back into her.

“It’s good, yes, more.” She planted her legs on the mattress so she could counter his trusts, grind against him, change the angle and let him in deeper. They both felt it and they both groaned.

“I can't...oh god, I’m going to come.”

“Almost,” she cried out and her hand moved to his head to cup his face. She made him look at her and when their eyes connected this time, something flashed between them that he didn't recognise. “Peter…” she panted as he thrust into her. 

“I’m going to…”

“Peter,” she said softly.

“What?” He looked confused for a moment. Something wasn't right. “Jess...what is…”

He felt that familiar seizing in his balls, everything tightened and a spasm of nerves tingled up his spine. “Shit! Wait!” He moved his hands to her hips and pushed her into the bed as he pulled out just before his orgasm hit and his cock emptied onto the bed by her knees, his head dropped to her stomach and his moans reverberated off the walls.

“No!” she said and she scrambled to sit up but he rolled off her, off the bed and landed on the floor next to it. “Peter.”

“No…” He lifted his knees and crossed his arms over them before he dropped his head into the crook of his elbow. “This isn't…”

“What?” She came off the bed to sit next to him and tugged on his arm. “Peter, what's wrong?”

“Not...Peter,” he said, not lifting his head or letting her pull his arm off his knee.

“Pete, talk to me.”

“Stop!” He turned to her and grabbed her upper arms. “Look at me.” Her eyes showed a flash of fear and confusion and he wanted to wipe that look away with his kiss. He had a name for her but he couldn't remember it. Something on the tip of his tongue. It wasn't Jess though.

“What's wrong?” she whispered.

“I don't know.”

“Why did you…”

“I don't know,” he admitted softly. He didn't know why he pulled out but he felt like it was the right thing to do. He wanted nothing more than to be buried deep inside her when he came and the second he pulled out he regretted it but there was a niggling thought in the back of his brain that it was the right thing to do.

“Do I not please you?”

“Fuck, you do, so much, more than I ever thought anyone could.” He pulled her to sit on his lap and wrapped his arms around her. She dropped her head onto his shoulder and nuzzled his neck. “Something is wrong… this isn't us.”

“Do you not love me?”

“Oh man,” He cupped her head and kissed her forehead. “I do. I really, truly do love you.” He felt her smile against him and he kissed her again. “We’re going to figure this out.”

“I want you,” she whispered and her lips brushed his neck. “I need you.”

“Scully, wait.” That was it! Scully! This was Scully, not Jess. Fuck what had he done? No wait, everything was as it should be. Almost. “Scully, look at me…” He sat up and pushed her away from him, cupped her face and made her look. “You’re Dana Scully.” She frowned. “Say it…”

“Dana Scully.”

“Right, and I’m Fox Mulder...say that too.”

“Fox...Mulder.” There was something in her eyes that time. Something like recognition and he felt his heart loosen a little.

“Mulder,” he said with a crooked smile. “Scully.”

The more he said their names, the more she recited them back to him the more recognition he saw in her eyes. Until finally she was starting to remember on her own.

“What happened?” she asked and she sat on the floor between his knees, her feet either side of his hips, oblivious to her state of undress.

“Jacob...in the church. He had something on his hand.”

Scully looked down at the hand she had held Jacob’s with and frowned. She remembered the sensation of his fingers curling through her, the warmth that spread up her arm and encased her heart and she started to fall into that spell again.

“No, look at me.” Mulder cupped her head face again and made her look at him. “Stay with me.”

She nodded wordlessly but the pull into that oblivion was strong.

“Feel me, holding you,” he said his hands moved over her shoulders and down her back where he rubbed soft circles into her warm skin. “Can you feel this?”

She nodded again but her eyes were starting to glaze over with that same fog he had seen before. Shit, he was definitely losing her. And he could so easily get lost in her. He crushed his lips against hers in a searing kiss but before it could get too heated he pushed her back.

“We need to get out of here Scully,” He stood up and pulled her to her feet. Her hands were starting to wander and he wanted to let her but somehow managed to sit her onto the bed and step away. “We’ll go for a run.” He decided, thinking the exercise, the distraction, the exhaustion would help. He pulled on his running shorts and a tank top then opened her drawers and rummaged for her things. He found a sports bra, a fitted tee and pair or shorts and tossed them to her.

“Put these on,” he said, then rummaged for some socks. He dressed as quick as he could then turned and helped her get on the rest of what she needed. He took her hand and led her downstairs where they both put on their sneakers and he started to stretch. She copied him, stretching towards him to steal a kiss from his bicep when she could reach, or run her hand over his ass when he stretched away from her. “Ready?” he asked and she nodded her head. He urged her out of the door ahead of him then guided her in a slow paced run around the ranch until they were off the compound then increased the pace.

She kept up with him with little effort and when he felt her hand reaching out to him he increased the pace even further. He needed to keep her focused on running, her breathing, her aching muscles and feet pounding on the ground beneath them. Before he realised where they were they turned a corner and came onto the lake. They both slowed and Mulder leaned down, his hands above his knees as he caught his breath but Scully kept running right up to the show of the gently lapping water.

“Oh my, it's beautiful!” she said.

He straightened up and slowly walked over to her, his breath ragged in his chest, his hands on his hips as he tried to give as much room to his lungs as he could. She was barely out of breath as she looked out on the vista before them. The lake was vast and surrounded by trees and a pebble shore.

“Let’s swim,” she said and she turned to him and started to peel off her top.

“No! Wait,” he said and gripped her wrists to halt her progress. “We should get back.”

“Peter, don't you want to swim?” she said her hands flat on his chest but fingers inching towards his nipples.

Mulder closed his eyes. “I do, I really do, but not right now.”

She shrugged and dropped her hands off him and he took it as her agreement. He started to turn back the way they came, and checked his watch to see how long it had been since their interaction with Jacob and tried to remember how long it had lasted on her the first time. He closed his eyes as he felt his cock stirring in his shorts at the memory of her naked body lying on top of him and wondered if he would have to endure much of the same tonight. He scoffed. Endure. Like it was a hardship. The only hard thing about it was his cock and finding a place to put it that wasn't in her.

He wondered again why he wasn't affected like she was. What was in the substance that Jacob was using that affected her more than him. Was it a gender thing? Jackson and the others had mentioned it all about their wifes being affected. He certainly felt some of it but nothing like-

His thoughts were broken by the sound of splashing water and he turned in time to see her curvy pale ass disappear under the water.

“Scully!” he called out and he looked down at his feet to see her pile of clothes. “Scully, get out of there.”

She emerged like a siren, water cascading off her face and down her back and her breasts glistened in the sun. Shit. How was he going to get her out of there? He stepped closer to the water's edge, and called out to her again but she took no heed as she disappeared under the surface again. Fuck!

He toes off his shoes and socks and peeled off his tank top but kept his shorts on as he walked into the water past his shins, up to his thighs, past his hips, all the while calling out to her, trying to catch her but like a nymph she was slick, fast, and impossible to grab.

“Scully, dammit, get over here.” Her laugh was lascivious and it did things to him he didn't think a laugh could. “Fuck...Jess,” he said and her head popped up beside him with a wide smile. She swam over to him and came up right against him, her arms on his shoulders as she dragged her wet body against his until her legs could lock around his hips.

As soon as he had leverage he turned and started to walk to the shore. She protested and wriggled her body against his but he persisted until he was able to stand on dry land. He tried to put her down but she wouldn't release the lock of her legs around his waist or arms around his neck.

“You need to get dressed.”

“You need to get undressed.”

“If you get dressed, we can go back to the cabin.”

Her interest piqued at that and her arms loosened a little so she could lean back and see his face. “And then we can make love?”

Mulder swallowed and slowly nodded his head. She planted a heated kiss on his lips and moved her legs from around his waist, then slowly dragged her body all down his front eliciting a deep moan from him. “Jesus Christ, he muttered as he planted his hands on her hips and pushed her away. “Get dressed, quickly.”

She laughed again and hurried over to her pile of clothes to dress. Mulder pulled on his sneakers but just tucked his tank top into the back of his shorts. When she was ready he held out his hand and they started walking back to the camp.

He didn't want to run back. He wanted to take their time. Slow progress to delay their arrival to the cabin when he was sure she would jump him again and he wasn't sure how much more resistance he had in him. One more thrust, lick, stroke, or kiss from her and he was liable to cave and take her exactly how she wanted.

She interlocked their fingers and held his arm against her chest where it nestled snugly between her breasts. He didn't even have it in him to move his arm and instead just enjoyed the sensation and pushed away his guilt.

He was so caught up in the way her breasts moved against his bicep that he didn't notice the activity across the ranch until it was too late. Crowds were gathered in the garden outside the main house and all the children were bring filed away from the adults, towards the school house. Between the groups, keeping them separated was a line of ATF SWAT team members, all armed and monitoring the groups. Another group of ATF agents were huddled at the front door and a third over by the cabins.

Mulder's hand tightened on Scully’s and he pulled her off in a direction behind the house but they had been seen. An agent by the garden called out to them to join the other adults.

“Peter? What's happening?”

“Shhh, it's ok, I got you,” he let go of her hand and instead draped his arm over her shoulder as he slowly approached the agent that called out to them. He held up one of his hands and slowly pushed Scully behind him so he was between her and the gun. “Okay, we’re cooperating,” he said to the agent and walked in the direction he indicated. They were herded into the group of other adults and Mulder filed through them until he found Jackson and Sophie. “What's going on?” he asked.

Jackson looked over and was pleased to see him. “Peter, thanks god, I thought you had been caught.”

“Caught? By who? What's happening?”

“The raid started about ten minutes ago.”

“They came for the children,” Sophie said, her voice filled with anguish. She buried her face in Jacksons chest and sobbed.

Scully hadn't come out from behind Mulder and instead put her arms around him from the back to hold him close. He covered her hands with one of his but kept his eyes focused on all the ATF agents. Had they found the missing agents? Did the DNA results from the kids reveal they were not adopted from orphanages? Maybe the substance tests came back and indicated something? He needed answers to all these things and he needed them now. Skinner must be here somewhere, he decided as his eyes scanned the ATF crowds until finally they landed on his instantly recognisable head.

He felt the tension in his shoulders drop and let out a long breath. He looked at Jackson who was busy consoling his wife then patted him on the shoulder. “Let me go see what I can find out.”

He went to move away but Scully held onto him tightly. “Don’t!” she said, fear clearly evident in her voice.

“I’ll be just over here, wait here with Sophie,” he said gently.

“No!” Her arms around him tightened and he patted her hands.

“Okay, okay, come with me,” He twisted his body to pull her over to his side then walked through the crowds where a couple of agents were standing on the edge. “Hey,” he said and they both glanced at him but didn't pay him much attention so he tried again. “Hey, I need to talk to someone who is in charge.”

“You’ll get your chance when you are processed later.”

“Now. I need to talk to someone who is in charge, now.” Mulder was firm and kept eye contact with the agent who spoke. He didn't recognise him from the ATF training camp though he imagined there were hundreds of them there. He moved his eyes over to Skinner who had his back to them but Mulder pointedly looked at him then back tot eh agent. Back to skinner then back to the agent again before the Agent copped on to what was happening.

“Keep calm sir, everyone will be processed soon.”

If Mulder hadn't been looking directly at the agent he would have missed the infinitesimal not of his head. The agent walked away towards where Skinner was standing. Scully gripped her arms around his waist and buried her head in his shoulder.

“It's ok,” he soothed her and pressed a kiss to the crown of her head. He watched as Skinner and the agent talked then Skinner whirlled around and spotted them. He nodded at Mulder and Mulder knew immediately they would be taken out of this group in a subtle way to keep their cover in case it was needed during interrogation.

The agent came back and held up his arms to get the chatter to quieten down. “Okay everyone, we’re going to start processing you now.”

“Where are you taking our children?” someone shouted.

“You can't do this!”

“This is private property, you have no right!”

“Calm down!” The agent said, keeping his voice loud but steady. “The children are being looked after. They will be fed and checked out by medical personnel. You will see them shortly. In the meantime, you will be taken in pairs to be processed.” He looked around the group though Mulder knew he would pick them. “You two.”

He pointed at him and Scully and another agent ushered them out of the group towards a van. Mulder spotted Skinner walking across the compound to climb into the passenger side of the van as they were helped into the rear. The door closed and the van started moving. Mulder felt his shoulders relaxed though Scully still had a tight grip on him.

“Agent Mulder… Agent Scully,” Skinner turned around in his seat and climbed back to sit on the bench across from them. “Is she ok?” He looked at Scully who was holding Mulder's arm tightly.

“Sir, there was an incident in the church earlier. We were drugged, or dosed with, we think, the same substance we sent for testing.”

“Ah,” Skinner said as if that was all the understanding he needed. He reached behind him where there was a duffel bag and pulled out a couple of bottles of water and handed them over. Mulder took both but Scully didn't seem interested. She nuzzled into his arm, kissed his shoulder and moved her hand up his back to play with the hair at the nape of his neck. Skinner frowned and cocked an eyebrow at Mulder, who was sitting up straight and trying desperately not to react to Scully's touch.

“We need medical attention.” Mulder suddenly wished he was wearing his top. It was getting more and more difficult to hide his bodies reaction to what Scully was doing and sitting in front of their boss in nothing but a pair of shorts and sneakers with a semi erection was not the most pleasant experience. 

“We’re on the way now to the hospital.”

“What's happened? Why the raid?” Mulder tugged Scully's hand off his neck and held it on his lap.

“The DNA results came back, nine of those kids have been reported missing, three of them were declared dead.”

“Jesus,” Mulder said and he looked at Scully who was pressing soft kisses onto his shoulder, moving up to neck to kiss him there but he nudged her back to keep her at bay.

“And that substance, the one you sent for testing, the second dose you sent was much clearer,” Skinner reached into his briefcase which was placed between the driver and passenger seat to pull out a few pages. “The substance came back positive for gammabutyrolactone but also a synthetic stimulant called alpha PVP.”

Mulder looked at Scully who was resting her head on the front of his shoulder, her arms wound around his waist.

“A stimulant?”

“It's a schedule 1 drug.”

“Has it been altered to work more on…” he glanced at Scully. “On women?”

“It's different to the usual compound, so the report says, but we’d need to check specifics like that.”

“According to the others on the ranch, the women were more affected.” Mulder sat forward and Scully protested but took the opportunity to lean across his back. He reached back to move her hands off his neck again.

“In what way?”

Mulder nodded his head towards Scully. “There was an interest in the community...to um...grow the population”

“Grow…?”

“And every Sunday there was a blessing, where this substance,” Mulder tapped the pages in Skinner's hands. “Was spread on our faces, or today it was our hands.”

“To what end?”

Mulder lifted one eyebrow up and his lips tightened as Scully leaned forward to kiss his neck and Mulder held Skinner's eyes as if this action was explanation enough. Skinner coughed lightly and looked away and Mulder decided his point had been made so he sat up again to dislodge Scully from his neck. He took hold of her hands again and held them on his lap in a firm grip.

“The ATF agents never resurfaced?”

Skinner shook his head with a grim expression.

"I've been thinking about that sir," he said and glanced over at Scully. "The substance they used in the blessing, it made us, well Scully mostly, take on her undercover persona. What if the same happened to the ATF agents? If we took a close look at the profiles they are using, then perhaps we can figure out..." His voice faded away. He never liked sharing half baked plans, preferring instead to to fully flesh out his profiles first. 

“They were known to arrive at the ranch, two days before your arrival, but never checked in, and were not there when you arrived.”

“The people at the ranch said no one arrived in the last 2 years I think.” Mulder had a sudden thought and sat up. “Our stuff, at the ranch. Scully has journals, she took loads of notes.”

“We’re cleaning it out now.”

Mulder settled back in his seat and Skinner noticed how his hand moved to her thigh, his fingers stroked the inside of her leg as his thoughts swirled round and he tried to make sense of everything. Skinner felt like a third wheel all of a sudden and packed the pages back into his briefcase then climbed into his seat at the front of the van. A stifled silence filled the car and hung in the air until they got to the hospital.

***

Much to Scully’s distress they were separated for examination after they got to the emergency room. Mulder wanted to go to her but the name she called out wasn't his own. If he ever heard the name Peter again it would be too soon.

They took his blood, then hooked him up to an IV to counteract the stimulant in his system. It took close to an hour for the IV to empty all the while he wondered where Scully was. Skinner came in just as the nurse was taking out his IV.

“Where is she?”

“Resting.”

“Can I see her?” he said as he stood off the bed. Skinner nodded and gestured for Mulder to follow. Skinner led him down the corridor to another room where Scully was lying in a bed, hooked up to an IV though her one looked more full than his.

Mulder hurried to her side and took her hand, brushed her hair off her forehead and waited for her to open her eyes. Skinner hovered by the door for a moment then stepped back and closed the door behind him as he left.

Mulder leaned over Scully and pressed a kiss to the centre of her forehead. Who would wake up? Scully? Or Jess? And if it was Scully, would she want to...want to...want him? The thought almost cleaved him in two. He reached behind for a chair and pulled it up to her bed but kept a hold of her hand and rested his head on the bed beside it.

Hours later Skinner came back into the room. He woke Mulder and held out a bag for him containing a change of clothes.

“We got your stuff back from the ranch.”

“The journals?”

“Yeah, we’re going through the notes now.” He nodded at Scully. “Had she woken yet?”

“No sir.”

“The doc said the medication they are giving her will likely have her sleep through the night.”

“Yeah.”

“Why don't you go back to the hotel, clean up, get some rest.”

“No, no I’d rather stay. I’ll change here,” he said and nodded at the bathroom.

“Mulder-”

“I’m not leaving till she wakes up.” He spoke with conviction and Skinner knew there would be no arguing with him.

Mulder picked up the bag and went through it to find the clothes he’d need then carried it into the bathroom to change. Skinner had been thoughtful enough to also pack some basic toiletries like deodorant and toothbrush and paste. He changed and freshened up as quick as he could, eager to get back to her side. It wasn't until he was rinsing the paste out of his mouth and shoved the clothing he had been wearing into the bag that he realised they had left a trail of clothing in the cabin around the kitchen and dining room. That there was clear evidence of their lovemaking on the bed, and wondered how detailed the agents report would be on the state of the cabin. He came back out to Scully and found Skinner touching her hand.

“What's going to happen with all the other people from the community?” Mulder asked as he approached the bed from the other side and took her other hand.

“It's unclear how involved they were with the machinations of the child abductions.” Skinner sighed and let go of Scully's hand as he stepped back and leaned against the window behind him. “Jacob wasn't on the ranch.”

“No, I suspected as much.”

“The house was mostly empty. There was nothing in the church though we found more of the substance he was using.” Skinner sighed. “I have agents combing the grounds now, looking for hideouts.”

“We never saw any arms either. Other than a few rifles for working the ranch.”

Skinner's lips all but disappeared. “And the missing people we went in to find were never found.”

“So what about the case?”

“The case has changed. It's an ATF case now for the schedule 1 drug, and the FBI, the VCS, will take on the kidnapping charges.”

Mulder looked over at Scully and felt frustrated at the lack of closure. All that time for nothing. Was it possible Jacob had moved to another location? Perhaps one near by where he had been staying, where the missing people were staying? There was no evidence of another location in the area. It was just like an X-File. No closure, no evidence, nothing to point at and say Look! Look at what we found. He felt his shoulders slump and Skinner noticed it too.

“Get some rest, Mulder.” He stood off the wall and resettled his jacket. “We’ll do a full report tomorrow.”

“Yes sir.”

He watched as Skinner left the room then resettled himself back in the chair where he could hold her hand and rest her head on the mattress next to it. He kissed her fingertips and closed his eyes and allowed the effects of the drugs in his system and the stress leaking out of his body lull him into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

Mulder’s Apartment
Sunday 11.30am
One week later

Mulder lay in bed with his hands locked behind his head as he stared at the ceiling. His brain was swimming, drowning, in memories, thoughts, sensations. He was struggling to keep afloat but recalling the week made him feel lighter.


He was asleep in the chair, his head on the bed, her hand in his when the slight twitch of her fingers jerked him awake. He tightened his grip on her and sat up, brought his face closer to hers as her eyes started to flutter open. Her head rolled from side to side like she was trying to shake a fog from her brain.

“Hey, hey, you’re awake,” he whispered.

“What happened…”

“The ranch was raided.”

“Raided?” She moved to sit up but he gently urged her back into the bed.

“What do you remember?”

“Service in the church...then…” She frowned as she tried to collect the memories. “Nothing.”

“The second dose…” Mulder muttered as he leaned back to give her some space, her distress amplifying as she struggled to recall. “They said it was stronger, they said it affected everyone way worse.”

“Did you...were you…?”

“More than the first time,” he admitted. “But not as much as you.”

“Do you remember...um, everything?”

Mulder paused. He searched her eyes trying to decide what she wanted to hear, needed to hear, then slowly nodded his head. Her frown deepened and she looked away, a blush curled up her neck and coloured her cheeks, her lips quivered as she tried to hold back the maelstrom of emotion she was feeling.

“We can talk about it if you like, I’ll tell you everything.” He took her hand more firmly but before she could respond the door opened and Skinner walked in. Scully looked away from them both and back to her lap as Skinner approached and Mulder knew she was embarrassed to think about what he knew.

“Agent Scully, you’re up.”

It was only then that Mulder realised it was the next morning. Skinner had changed and looked more refreshed though still tired. He stood by the bed and shucked his trousers then left his hands on his hips.

“Yes, sir," she said without looking up. 

“The doctor said you’ll be out of here by noon today. I have your flights booked for 4pm back to DC.”

“Flights sir?” Mulder queried, his fingers tightening on her hand.

“The interrogation with the community is ongoing, VCS is taking over.”

“Ok,” Scully said, clearly happy to be getting away from this place.

Mulder wanted to argue. He needed more information, he needed the chance of closure and he knew he wasn't going to get it if he was halfway across the country and relying on another department to share their files. But the sheer misery in Scully’s voice was enough to halt his protestations.

So they flew back to DC. She was quiet. Too quiet. In the airport, on the plane, in the cab to her apartment, which he insisted on accompanying her to, and carrying her bag. He tried to make small talk, fished for an invite to stay but she stayed quiet, avoided his eyes, thanked him for seeing her home and politely opened the door.

Mulder wanted to hug her, kiss her, hold her, but she showed no signs of needing the same from him so he touched her arm in a gentle squeeze then left.

Once home he paced.

He paced the living room. The kitchen. The bedroom. Any combination of all three. When that was too much he went for a run but never too far from his home, always racing back to check if she had called. She didn't.

This lasted for a couple of days until finally he had enough. He went to her apartment and knocked but she didn't answer. He knocked again and still nothing. He hesitated a moment then fished his keys out of his pocket to find hers and opened her door.

“Scully?” he called out. “It's me, you home?”

Nothing seemed out of place. In fact it looked to be the very same as when he left her here a few days ago, even the single coffee mug upside down on the draining board by the sink. Had she just used the same mug the whole time? He walked through the living room, saw the bathroom was empty and her bedroom door was ajar.

“Scully?” He tapped lightly on the door and pushed it open but it was empty. Then he noticed the bag he carried in a few days ago was still on the floor. Mulder frowned. He crossed the room to her wardrobe and pulled it open and saw more of her clothes were missing as well as the other overnight bag she sometimes brought on short trips. He wasn't sure if he was relieved or not. She wasn't home. She was gone somewhere. But she didn't call him. He could only think of one place she would be. Her mothers.

He grabbed his cell phone and decided it was time to call her as he walked back out to his car. He pressed speed dial one and waited for her to pick up as he closed the door and buckled up. When it started ringing he felt his heart quicken, but the call ended after only three rings.

Three rings? That wasn't the usual cut off. That was her ending the call purposefully. He looked at the phone and wondered if it dropped on this side so he pressed speed dial one again but this time the call ended after one ring. There was no mistaking her purposeful cut off that time and he looked at the phone again.

He could try calling her mother but guessed that would be just as successful. He could try driving out to her moms but wasn't sure how welcome he would be. But the alternative was to go back home and pace again. Mulder reached for the keys and gunned the engine, more determined now to see her. The more she tried to push him away the stronger the urge was to see her. He drove with purpose, the same level she’d shown in screening his calls. Part of him knew she would expect him and the rest of him worried about her reaction. He’d sit out on Margret Scully’s porch for as long as it took for her to see him though.

After everything that happened in Arizona, he wasn't about to sit back and wait for her to come to him when he knew she never would. She was hiding. Licking her wounds. Readying herself to come into the office in a few days and pretend nothing had happened and everything was back to normal. But there was no way on this god given earth he was going to let that happen. So if he had to poke those wounds to make her face them, face him, then that was what he was going to do.

He pulled up outside Maggie's house and spotted Scully’s car in the drive. The sight of it was enough to make his heart race, but somehow also calm his nerves. Knowing where she was, knowing she was safe was comforting. He went to the door and knocked. His hands brushed down the front of his sweater, as if he was straightening his tie, then he slipped them into his pockets and waited. He heard footsteps, raised whispers then silence.

He lifted his hand to knock again but then heard the latch and the door opened. He expected to see Scully, but instead it was her mother.

“Mrs Scully...Can I see Dana?” he didn't bother even asking if she was there.

“Fox...you shouldn't have come.”

“Mrs Scully, I need to talk to her.”

“She’s...not…” Maggie looked behind her, obviously at Scully who was close by.

“I’ll wait.” He looked at the porch swing to his right and moved towards it. “However long it takes.”

“Fox-” Maggie started to argue as he moved to sit down and stretched his legs out in front of him.

“I’ll wait.” He spoke with finality and there was no way she would convince him to leave.

Maggie watched him for a moment then stepped back into the house and closed the door. An hour passed before the door opened again and he looked up expecting to see her but instead it was Maggie again, this time holding a plate of food. She passed it to him and he saw it was lasagne with a couple of slices of garlic bread. Then she surprised him by handing him an open bottle of beer.

Mulder smiled and took what she offered. She went back into the house and closed the door. Mulder ate the food quickly, suddenly realising how hungry he was, then settled back with the beer to watch the sun set. It wasn't cold, but compared to the heat in Arizona over the last couple of weeks there was a definite chill, so he was glad for the jumper he wore.

Maggie appeared again and cleared away his plate, left another bottle on the table beside him and went back into the house. He hadn't finished even half of the first beer, as he wasn't sure how much access he’d have to use the facilities but the fact that she brought him out another one indicated he wasn't as unwelcome as he first thought.

He finished the first bottle and started on the second when the door opened again. This time it was Maggie he expected but instead it was Scully who stepped out. She wore jeans and a jumper and had a throw blanket draped over her shoulders. She crossed the porch, stepped over his legs and sat on the swing, making it sway as she settled with her legs crossed under herself.

He kept his eyes forward, sipped his beer and waited.

“Tell me.”

He knew what she meant. This was the conversation he expected to have the second they stepped into her apartment after Arizona. But it seemed she wasn't ready for that then.

“We met at the cabin after talking with Jacob. I was there already when you arrived. We both had been dosed with the synthetic toxin. Both of us were affected.” He looked over at her but she still wouldn't meet his eyes.  “We kissed, we started to go further than kissing...we went upstairs to the bedroom, but something was...different.” He glanced over at her but she was looking at something just over his shoulder. “You called me Peter...I called you Jess.”

She looked at him then and something crossed over her face he didn't recognise.

“I stopped it, I stopped what we were doing.”

“How?”

“Your name, Scully. You, I remembered you, properly.” He looked at his hands and picked at the edge of the beer label. “I made you remember me too for a few minutes.”

“You did?”

He nodded. “Skinner says the toxin was designed to work more on women, he suspects there was a sedative component for post...pregnancy.” then as if it just occurred to him to ask his head shot up to her and his eyebrows almost met his hairline. “Did you… are you…?”

Scully shook her head. “No. No I’m not.”

Mulder wasn't sure if he was relieved or not. That was something he would definitely examine closely later.

“So what happened then, if you made me remember you, why don't I remember…”

“It didn't last with you, you had a flash of recognition.” He looked back at the beer on his lap. “But then it was like the drugs took effect again.” He glanced over at her, as saw her cheeks blush again. “So we went for a run.”

“A run?”

“Scully, I was dying,” he chuckled derisively. “I wanted you so bad, but not like that, never like that. I thought if we ran, you’d tire out, work it out of your system.”

“Did it work?”

He scoffed. “No. Thank god though when we got back to the ranch the ATF raid was happening, and Skinner extracted us.” He watched her face, her eyes moved from his mouth, to his shoulders, neck and chest. Basically everywhere but his eyes.

“What did he see?”

“Skinner?” Mulder looked away. “Nothing. You held my hand, hugged me, that was all.”

“Oh god.” She covered her face with her hands.

“Scully…” he could feel a bubble of anger threatening to pop in his chest. “I don't give a shit what Skinner saw. Or anyone else.”

Scully looked up at him and for the first time met his eyes.

“We lived together on that ranch for over a week, and we weren't drugged the whole time.” He turned on the chair to face her and the chair swayed. “What happened between us there was real, and you can't convince me otherwise. If you’re not ready for that now that we’re home, then ok, let’s talk, but this…” he moved his hand between them indicating the space, the gap, the chasm that had formed. “This bullshit is not happening.”

“Mulder-”

“I can be patient. I can wait for you to be ready, but I won't sit back and let you push me away, pretend this never happened.” He felt his breathing ragged in his chest but tried to keep it steady as he focused on her face. It was impossible to read and it made that bubble of anger evolve into frustration.

“I don't want to pretend that.” she said softly and he leaned towards her to be sure he caught every word. “I am ready, for this, for you, for us.”

“Then why-”

“I was scared.” She spoke simply and sat up. “Not of you Mulder,” She said and grabbed his hand. “Never of you. I thought...I was afraid I was pregnant. I was afraid of what had happened when I couldn't remember.”

“You could have asked me.”

“I know, and I knew you would tell me.” She looked down at their hands, interlocked their fingers and stroked his palm with her thumb. “I wasn't ready to hear it yet. I didn't know what it all meant.”

“What what all meant?”

“Us.”

“It means exactly that, Scully.” He gripped her hand tighter and moved it to hold against his chest. “Us. In whatever way we need that to be. And whatever additions that might mean.” He said with a glance down at her belly.

Scully blushed and smiled. “You mean if I told you I was pregnant…”

“Us. No matter what.”

A single tear rolled down her cheek though her eyes were smiling. Mulder brushed it away with his thumb then leaned in and kissed her gently.

“Mulder…” She hugged him tightly, crawled onto his lap and covered them both with the blanket she had around her shoulders.

“I love you, Scully,” he whispered against her ear. He leaned back, cupped her face and rested his forehead against hers. “In more ways that I can hope to ever show you.”

She smiled and another tear escaped. “I love you too.”


Now, lying on his bed, listening to the sounds of her moving around in the kitchen as she made them breakfast, he felt content, drowning only in his love for her and the love she had so openly shown him in the last couple of days. Maggie Scully had been so happy when they walked into the house holding hands. She had showered him with kisses and declared she always knew it, always believed it from the conversations she had shared with him when Scully was missing, and the obvious love he has always shown her. In a quiet moment later that evening, with Scully dozing against his arm, and an old Cary Grant movie playing on the tv with the volume low, Maggie Scully warned him that Dana was just like her father. A tough nut to crack, stubborn as all hell, but once you got in, there was nothing sweeter than the love inside. Mulder had blushed and smiled then quietly agreed.

He kicked the blanket off his legs and found a clean pair of boxers to pull on to investigate what she was making. He found her wearing his Knicks tee and dancing to the radio as she made scrambled eggs. He came up behind her and slipped his hands around her waist then matched her rhythm and danced with her.

“Morning sleepy.”

“Sleepy?”

“You were out like a light.”

“Did you try to wake me?”

“Yes, a few ways,” she said with a subtle press of her ass against him.

“Oh?”

“Only part of you woke then,” she said with a chuckle.

“Well you ruined me last night. I’m surprised I can walk even now,” he muttered against her neck as he remembered how she launched herself at him when he opened his apartment door to her. She announced that she had gotten some contraceptive shot, and was here to test it out, then attacked him on the couch, ravenous. She dragged him to the bed, and attacked him again. Then in the shower she took him in her mouth and he almost died. He barely remembered crawling into bed, his whole body was humming and even now, some hours later, he still felt a tingle at the bottom of his spine, though he imagined that was from whatever antics she had used to try and wake him.

“Awww, are you worn out?”

“Not fully,” he said as he gripped her hips and pulled her back to feel his growing erection.

“Breakfast is almost ready.”

“So am I.”

Scully laughed, and nudged him back with her elbow. “Eat. You’ll need your strength.”

He stumbled back and watched as she rounded him with the pan then dished out the eggs on two plates. He grabbed the juice from the fridge and poured out a couple of glasses then they sat down to eat.

“Just like when we were married," he said as he lifted the glass and sipped his juice.

Scully rolled her eyes. “Skinner has us booked in for a full day of debriefing tomorrow.”

“Yeah I saw his email.” He sat back into the chair and sighed. He wasn't looking forward to dredging through everything again. They spent most of the last couple of days in work typing up detailed reports of everything that had happened since they arrived in Prescott, and took pains to remove any personal development from the report. He was careful not to broadcast any change in their working relationship, knowing it was what she would prefer, though he wanted to shout it from the rooftops that he loved Dana Katherine Scully and better yet, she loved him back.

He was pretty sure Skinner could tell something had changed, though he would never say anything. He didn't imagine he would be able to hide that knowledge for a whole day while the three of them dissected their undercover work. The only worry he had was how much it would bother Scully. But that was a worry for another day. Today the only worry he had was how to cope with his pesky refractory period. He smiled at that thought and she looked up with a question in her eyes.

“What?” she asked, verbalising it when he didn't offer her a response.

“I was just thinking…” he pushed his empty plate aside.

“About?” she prompted as she finished her egg and sipped her juice.

“If there was anywhere else in this apartment we hadn't had sex yet.”

Scully coughed on her juice and chuckled. “Bored with the same old places already?”

“Bored?” he leaned forward and tugged her arm to get her to meet him halfway. “Never.”

Their lips clashed in a gentle caress then he tugged her closer to deepen the kiss but when it wasn't enough he pulled her onto his lap and slipped his tongue into her mouth. She looped her arms around his neck and ground her hips against his now nearly full erection making him moan.

“Scully,” he moaned against her neck.

“Hmm?”

“Here, now…” He moved his hands down her back and under the bottom of his tee where he was delighted to find she wasn't wearing any panties. “Oh fuck.”

She giggled and rolled her hips but gasped when he gripped her waist and lifted her off his lap. He moved his hands to his boxers and lifted his ass enough to pull them down then pulled them off completely and kicked them aside. His cock was straining with the need to be inside her and already he was jerking to get closer to her.

“C’mere,” he said between gritted teeth and pulled her over to him. She stood on either side of his legs but before she could straddle him fully he moved his hand to her core, cupped her gently then stroked her lips with his fingers before he slipped his finger between her folds.

Her hands moved to her shoulders to keep herself standing and when his finger found her entrance she gasped with anticipation then moaned when he slipped in right to his knuckle.

“Fuck!”

“Take your top off.” He commanded, unable to let go of her to do it himself. “Scully, please, take your top off.”

“Huh?” She looked down at him and saw the look in his eyes and realised what he was asking. “Oh, yeah,” she panted, then crossed her arms at her front to grip the bottom of the t-shirt and then tantalizingly slowly pulled it up.

“Oh god yeah,” he cursed as he leaned forward to take a nipple in his mouth and suckled on it gruffly as his fingers moved inside her and his thumb sought out her clit.

“Mulder, yes,” she cried out. “Yes, don't stop.”

“Never,” he said as he moved to her other breast and lavished the same attention there.

He sped his fingers up, stroked her clit with more purpose, squeezed her ass, and licked her nipples until she was writhing in his arms, hips jerking, head tossed back, her fingers digging into his shoulders.

“Mulder, I’m going to come,” she said, each word a moan then she grunted and cried out and he felt her clench around him.

“Fuck, Scully,” he said as her hips gyrated towards him, his fingers trapped inside her as she came around him, her slickness seeping into his palm.

“Christ…”

“Scully, more,” he said as he pulled his hand out. She gasped and her eyes flew open. He gripped her hips and pulled her down. He held his cock, stroked it a few times, coating it with her arousal, then dragged the tip of it from her clit to her entrance to coat himself completely before he found the position he needed. “Ready?”

She nodded her head vigorously, her hips were already moving against his tip. He gripped her hips tighter and pulled her down onto him and cried out himself when he was buried as deep as possible inside her.

“You feel amazing,” She whispered. She circled her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his ear.

“You...you…” He moved his hands, one to cup her ass, the other to palm her breast then pressed his hip up to encourage her to move.

“Oh god,” she panted into his ear and it amplified through his body making his skin tingle. “So good.”

“Fuck me, Scully,” he said and squeezed her ass.

He felt her smile against his ear then as she leaned back a little and found purchase with her feet he knew she was getting ready. He squeezed her breast, pinched her nipple and dug his fingers into the fleshy cheek of her ass indicating he was more than ready for her.

Scully slowly moved up off him then dropped fast onto him again making his grunt. She repeated the motion, slow off, fast on a few times then moved her feet so she could change the angle and this time sped up her movements. Her fingers gripped the back of his neck, and her other hand leaned back to grip his knee to get more balance, increasing the intensity of the angle as she lifted her hips off him and plunged right back down.

“Christ Scully, fuck fuck fuck,” he chanted with her movements. He moved his hand from her breast to her clit and dragged two fingers across it and when she moaned he did it again and again and again, until she was losing her rhythm. Then he planted his feet on the ground and took over the rhythm.

“Oh Mulder,” she moaned as he started to move faster.

He wrapped one arm around her waist and helped her move on him as his hips picked up the slack and he pounded into her.

“You better be close, Scully,” he warned between gritted teeth.

“I am, I am, don't stop, please.”

He felt that tingle in his balls evolve to shock as he was seized with the need to be buried so deep inside her he might never find his way out. Her breasts bounced against his chest, her peaked nipples dragged across the hair and he was sure if he looked he would see trails of fire across his chest.

“This is it,” he said, giving her a final warning and everything tightened, his arms around her, his fingers on her hip, against her clit, his mouth on her neck until the glorious pop smothered his senses. He felt his cock spam against her inner walls and cried out as his hips continued to pump into her. Her orgasm followed immediately after and the fluttering around his cock prolonged his. “Scully,” he moaned, the word lasting longer than normal as he started to slow down and finally stilled.

“You’re getting good at that,” she said against his ear as she nipped on the lobe.

“Getting?” he chuckled, knowing she was teasing him.

“I mean we still have some practice time.”

“Before what?”

“The real thing.”

“Scully.” He leaned back and put some space between them to make her look at him. She was smiling a wicked smile and before he could say anything else she clenched her inner walls around him and it made his eyes roll to the back of his head. “This, us...is more real than either of us have ever gotten.”

She obviously didn't expect him to get serious and her teasing smile faltered. Her fingers drew through his hair and connected at the nape of his neck. She nodded her head but her teasing smile came back.

“Sometimes I wonder…” she whispered.

“Wonder what?”

“If you sit at home and think up these lines.”

Mulder chuckled. He leaned forward and kissed her tenderly. “You bring it out in me, Scully.” He kissed her again. “One of these days you are going to believe me when I tell you things.”

“I believe you when you tell me those things,” she admitted and Mulder was astounded by the faint blush that coloured her cheeks, especially considering the position they were currently in.

“Just not the other things?”

“Don't think because we’re sleeping together that I’ll start to believe your tall tales-”

“Tall tales?”

“Tall tales,” she repeated, ignoring his protest. “About sasquatches, and lake monsters, aliens and psychics.”

“Tall tales she says,” he muttered and she chuckled.

“We can sit around and talk about big blue if you like,” She said and she clenched around him again. “Or we can hop in the shower and explore other big things.”

Mulder laughed. He wrapped his arms around her into a tight hug, held her against him, his face buried into the crook of her neck. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

He stood off the chair and she wrapped her legs around his waist so he could carry her to the bathroom. “Now I’ll show you the real thing.” Scully held on tighter, refusing to let him go as he reached into the shower and turned on the water.

“Show me your best then.”

***
The End.
Skinfull 2021