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Damsels

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The music is loud, deafeningly so. The thrum of the bass is enough to disrupt the rhythm of your heart, creating a hazy, otherworldly feeling to the room. Dim lights, dark corners and sticky surfaces lie in contrast to the bright, friendly smiles of the women who mill about adorned in little else than strappy undergarments that barely cover the flesh between their legs. Men of all stripes fill the chairs, the bachelor parties taking up real estate along the tip rail while the rocks sit in the back sipping lukewarm soda and snaking off lap dances they didn’t pay for. The whales fill the middle of the room directly center stage; the best seats for the big spenders, waiting for the best girls to find them, and they always do.

 

The smell of booze and sweat permeate the air, punctuated by the perfume and spray-on glitter that adorns the women’s bare chests as they flit from chair to chair. They offer a dance or some time in a private room, feigning interest and attraction, locking eyes and creating the illusion of intimacy. In their head, they run through their grocery list, mentally tallying how many more dances they need to do in order to make rent. Burly men they call bird dogs stand watch with crossed arms and sharp eyes, ready to eject anyone who breaks the rules. 

 

Words can only be heard by placing mouth to ear, creating the feeling of a whisper with the volume of a shout. Things can be hidden here where shame pricks at people’s conscience and no one asks questions. They pretend to want and be wanted; to care and be cared about. In this place, it’s easy to blend in. Gaps in one’s history, dodged questions and vague answers are par for the course. There is a certain level of privacy here, not for your body but for your past and the life that waits for you on the other side of the door at 3 am. There is safety here for those who want to disappear, or reinvent, or escape from something more unbearable than the hands of a stranger on your naked hips. It’s a kind of safety you pay for with your dignity, but that’s a price many are more than willing to pay. 

 

The music fades at the end of a song and the voice of the DJ rumbles from the speakers.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Ben Jammin, live on the turntable, here to welcome the beautiful Desiree to the stage. Please, show her some love.”

 

The opening bars of “Red Light Special” replace the DJ’s voice. The wailing, sultry notes draw the attention of the recently-distracted to the stage as a petite form slinks out from behind a curtain clad in clear plastic heels and a form-fitting strapless red mini-dress. She makes her way to the pole and begins a slow twitch and roll of her hips in time with the electric guitar. stabilizing herself with one hand on the metal, she bends her knees and drops down to tease at opening her legs, only to stand back up without revealing anything. She repeats the movement a few more times, running her hands over her breasts and down her hips, curating curiosity about what lies beneath and drawing more on-lookers to the tip rail. At the right moment in the song, and with hundreds of eyes trained on her, she flicks at a clasp under her arm and the dress drops away, revealing a black thong with four straps stretched across the flesh of her pale hips on each side and a black mesh bra. 

 

The hoots and wails drown out the music as more bills litter the floor. She rolls around on them, crossing and uncrossing her legs. Crawling close to the edge of the stage, she allows a man to tuck a twenty into the strap of her thong before turning her back to him so that he may have the honors of unclasping her bra. She holds the bra to her chest as she steps back, gripping the pole with one hand and pushing off with her foot against the floor before she wraps a knee around it and lets her bra fall away as she spins, smiling to herself at the response she gets. She returns to the tip rail, undulating and grazing her hands over her breasts, making her nipples hard for their enjoyment. She pushes her ass out for them to tuck more bills into the thin straps as the bird dog watches on, ensuring that no one touches her any further than a finger grazing her hip as they insert their money. She finishes the song on the pole by folding her knees up above her head, hanging upside down and spinning as a flutter of green paper litters her periphery. Collecting her dress, she exits to the roar of applause and whooping. 

 

“Great job, Desi, you killed it out there!” A petite Asian woman says to her as she passes by.

 

“Thanks, Angel, Good luck on your set,” Desi replies as she makes her way to the dressing room. 

 

At her station, she looks at herself in the mirror. Her face is flushed from exertion and her auburn hair mussed from hanging upside down. She cleans up the charcoal eyeliner rimming her icy blue eyes and combs her hair down to pass the time before she’ll hit the floor in a few minutes. Pulling the damp bills from her underwear, she tucks them into a locking box and adds the rest of her earnings when a wiry young man brings them to her after sweeping the stage. She thinks about how quickly she got used to being called Desi, or Desiree, or even Diane; how easy it was for her to take up residence in this life. Peeking at the calendar on the wall, she calculates that it’s been five weeks since anyone called her “Scully,” or “Dana,” or “Agent.” She rises from her seat and pinches her nipples so that they stand at attention. Pulling her lips into a Cheshire Cat smile, she exits to the floor. 




Chapter Text

Tense. Awkward. Ambiguous. There are many words she might use to describe her relationship with Mulder at the moment, none of them particularly pleasant. As things between them become more intense, it’s getting harder to ignore the fact that their feelings for one another are beyond those of friendship, partnership, or even family. The problem is, neither of them seems willing to risk an overture bigger than a New Years kiss, an offer of wine and cheese, a night of baseball, or even a request for a sperm donor. The little gestures that say they want more pepper their interactions, but the grand gesture is yet to be seen. They’re in a standoff; guns drawn, but no one is willing to fire the first shot. Stalemate. Conundrum. Catch 22. Stuck. 

 

An idle Tuesday afternoon spent completing case reports is both a treasure and a torture. The smell of his cologne when he leans over her desk to point out a typo makes her dizzy with desire. His boyish smile at his own cheesy jokes begs her to kiss his pouty lips. Just the shadow of his presence, his tall frame looming over her like a safe harbor, makes her ache. She wants to be near him, but being near him is a test of every shred of self control she possesses. How she has not yet climbed into his lap on his flimsy office chair is a minor miracle. 

 

For this reason, being called into A.D. Skinner’s office for an impromptu meeting is a welcome reprieve. Mulder is perplexed as to why they only requested her but she shrugs him off, promising to fill him in on the details when she gets back if he finishes the case report he’s been toiling away at for the better part of the day. He gives her a coy smile that makes her belly do flips as she pulls the door closed behind her. Each step she takes away from the basement releases her from the pull of his nearness and she’s able to breathe easier, but knows she’ll start to miss him within the hour. 

 

When she arrives in Skinner’s office, she’s surprised to find that A.D. Kersh is also present. A most unpleasant surprise, given their history. 

 

“Agent Scully, please take a seat,” Skinner directs her, and she sits in the empty chair beside Kersh. This is normally a situation in which Mulder would be by her side, which adds to her discomfort. 

 

“Agent Scully,” Skinner begins, “you’ve been requested to assist in a special investigation being handled by Kersh’s team. It’s an undercover operation.”

 

Scully’s eyebrows lift in surprise and confusion. “Is Agent Mulder also being requested, sir?” she asks, wondering if this would be a repeat of Arcadia. Though if they went undercover as a married couple now, things may play out a bit differently than last time.

 

“No,” Skinner continues, “you, and you alone, have been specifically requested. Agent Mulder will not be needed for this investigation.”

 

“Can I ask why?” she queries, characteristically being respectful of the authority of the men in the room, while also skeptical of Kersh’s motives. 

 

Skinner looks to Kersh, silently signaling him to take up the explanation.

 

“Agent Scully, this case requires an undercover operation in search of a missing young woman,” Kersh explains in his deadpan, unfriendly demeanor. “Mila Chamberlain went missing from her New York apartment four months ago. Her parents have connections with the bureau by way of a scholarship they fund. They believe that Mila is being held against her will in Philadelphia by a man named Ricky Dean. Our investigation so far has been stalled by the fact that Mr. Dean has a very tight circle and no one is willing to talk. At this point we believe an undercover agent is our best opportunity to locate Mila and extricate her from the situation she’s in.”

 

Scully listens quietly with her hands folded in her lap. When Kersh finishes, she looks to Skinner to gauge his response, then back to Kersh. She has a feeling there’s something they aren’t telling her. 

 

“What’s the assignment, sir? What is it that I can provide or do that the agents in your division can’t?”

 

Kersh looks at Skinner and waits. 

 

“Agent Scully, Ricky Dean is the owner and operator of a large and very successful gentlemen’s club in Philly,” Skinner explains, forcing eye contact that clearly makes him uncomfortable. 

 

Scully juts out her chin and looks at him expectantly. It would appear that she has to pull teeth to get the details of this case. “What is the assignment, sir?” she asks again, clear irritation in her voice. 

 

Kersh pipes in. “We need an agent to go undercover as a dancer, Agent Scully, to get close to Ricky and the other girls who work there. To locate Mila and extract her from the club.”

 

Scully’s mouth falls open slightly. She has to be missing something. “A dancer? Forgive my candor, sir, but am I to understand that you’re asking me to go undercover as a stripper?” She works very hard to keep the edge out of her voice. 

 

“That’s correct, Agent Scully,” Skinner replies. “If you recall, when you signed on as a Special Agent with the FBI you agreed to investigate and solve cases by whatever means necessary.” It seems that Skinner has rehearsed this well. He’s ready for her objections and has prepared rebuttals, though the flush on his neck gives away just how uncomfortable this conversation is for him. 

 

“I do understand that, sir, however I can’t help but wonder why I specifically am being selected for this assignment. I’m assigned to the X Files. This is not an X File. Surely an agent in A.D. Kersh’s division can assist with this.”

 

Skinner shifts uncomfortably in his seat and avoids her eyes. She looks at Kersh, openly frustrated. “Sir?” she asks. 

 

Skinner speaks, looking at his desk. “We require an agent with a certain…look. Age demographic, physical…features. They have to be able to get a job at the club without the opportunity for a plant. They have to walk in off the street with the certainty that they’ll be hired,” he raises his gaze to look at her. “There is no one on Kersh’s team who fits that description.” 

 

Now it’s Scully who blushes. They’re assigning her to this case because they think that she, of all people, can get a job at a strip club. She swallows hard. 

 

“Sir, with all due respect, I’m very uncomfortable with this assignment.” She looks back and forth between the two A.D.s, directing her plea to whichever she might be able to sway. 

 

“And with all due respect, Agent Scully,” Skinner replies, pulling rank, “we are asking you as a courtesy. Need I remind you that you are not at liberty to pick and choose which assignments you take?”

 

That’s it. There’s no option to back out or say no. All she has hope for is to try to negotiate some of the parameters. She looks at her hands, which she hadn’t realized she was wringing in her lap. Her skin is now mottled and red. 

 

“I understand, sir. If I may, this sounds like a very…sensitive situation. One in which other agents being aware of the assignment could compromise the case.” This is her very professional way of saying that if the guys in the bullpen get wind that Agent Scully is on assignment as a stripper, they will surely pay a recreational visit to the club. She’s been through a lot and there are many challenges she knows she can overcome, however her coworkers seeing her in such a degrading situation is not something she is capable of surviving. 

 

“Of course, we’ve considered that as well. No one other than myself, A.D. Kersh and the lead investigator on the case, Special Agent Wiley, will be aware of your assignment. We have and will continue to go to great lengths to protect your privacy on this, Agent Scully.” Skinner has softened just a bit now that he got past showing Kersh that he can compel his agents to toe the line as well as any A.D., even unruly ones like Mulder and Scully.

 

“What about Agent Mulder?” she asks, lifting her gaze. “I don’t mean to be dramatic, sir, but if he finds out about this, he’ll…I’m honestly not sure what he’ll do but I don’t imagine it will be pleasant.” She pictures Mulder storming the strip club, throwing her over his shoulder and hauling her out of there like she’s a wayward teenager. That’s the only scenario even worse than the assignment itself. 

 

Skinner nods solemnly. “Yes, I’ve considered that as well. You’ll tell Agent Mulder that I assigned you to assist with a case at Quantico and that you’ll be away for a few weeks. Tomorrow morning you’ll be transported to your temporary residence in Philly and you will cut all contact with him, and I do mean ALL contact, Agent Scully. I’ll deal with him after you’re gone.”

 

“Thank you, sir. Is there anything else I need to know right now?” She feels nausea creeping up her spine. 

 

“That’s it for now, Agent Scully. Report to my office at 0400 hours tomorrow. You’re to bring nothing. Not your wallet or your service weapon, and definitely not your cell phone. Everything you need will be supplied to you.”

 

“Yes, sir. Thank you.” 

 

She stands and leaves his office, a lump forming in her throat as she blinks furiously against the tears that threaten to break loose. Once in the hall, she makes a beeline for the ladies room and spends the better part of 20 minutes calming herself down. This is a living nightmare. She can’t even begin to think about what she’ll be asked to do. What absolute depravity she’ll need to bear witness to, much less participate in. Only two people other than her doctors have seen her in anything less than a bathing suit in the last 7 years; Ed and Mulder. The idea of taking her clothes off in front of anyone, much less men there for the express purpose of ogling her, makes her physically ill. There’s a strong possibility that she’ll deliver a right hook to the first guy who lays a hand on her and get herself fired, which might actually be the best case scenario. 

 

And Mulder. She has to lie to Mulder. Even if she gets through the initial lie, she’ll have to come clean eventually. What will he think of her? This might seal her fate with whatever is going on between them. Knowing that she has done this, that she has degraded herself so completely and defied her own morals in such a profound way, could change how he sees her irreparably. After talking herself down from quitting on the spot several times, she leaves the bathroom and heads to the basement. 

 

Mulder has his feet propped up on his desk, the completed case file stacked neatly in the corner as he flips through a stack of photographs. When she pushes the door open, he smiles broadly and she feels a clench in her chest. 

 

“Hey, you’re back. That was a seriously long meeting. The case file is all done, so what’s up?” he asks, bringing his feet to the floor and propping his elbows on the desk. 

 

“Oh, nothing exciting.” She’s already unsure if she can fool him. “They need some help at Quantico, a big case with a heavy autopsy load, and Skinner is going to reassign me for a few weeks.”

 

He looks at her quizzically and she feels her pulse quicken. “Really? What case is that? I don’t think I’ve heard anything about it.”

 

“Uh, I’m honestly not sure, he didn’t give me much information, just said that I needed to report there tomorrow.” She busies herself with organizing the papers on her desk, taking mental note of the fact that she won’t be returning for quite some time. 

 

“Scully, you were gone for like an hour, he didn’t give you any details?”

 

Her brain scrambles for an excuse. “Oh, yeah, I was only in Skinner’s office for about ten minutes. I ran into Agent Vincent in the hallway and chatted with him for a bit.”

 

Mulder narrows his eyes while she does absolutely everything other than look at him. “Agent Vincent? I thought you hated that guy. You called him, and I quote, ‘dumber than a bag of hair.’”

 

Her fight or flight response kicks in and she whirls to face him, irritation bubbling to the surface. “I said I talked to the guy, Mulder, not went on a date with him. He asked for some help with a case he’s working on. Am I not supposed to speak to anyone but you?”

 

He puts up his hands in defense. “No, I didn’t say that. Sorry. Forget about it.”

 

“I’m gonna head out early, I don’t feel all that well. Can you make sure these reports get submitted with yours?” she asks, setting her four completed reports on top of the one he’d finished in the same timeframe. 

 

“Uh, yeah, of course. Are you getting sick?” Concern clouds his features; he’s always so worried for her health. 

 

“I’m fine, Mulder, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She collects her briefcase and coat and makes for the door. 

 

“No you won’t,” he says as her fingers grasp the handle. 

 

She freezes, thinking she’s been caught. She turns to look at him, but his expression is neutral. 

 

“You’ll be at Quantico, right?” he offers. 

 

She exhales deeply. “Right. Yes, I’ll be at Quantico.”

 

“Maybe we can get lunch. Email me when you know what time you can sneak away,” he says, leaning back in his chair and picking up a baseball from the surface of his desk. 

 

“Okay, I will. Goodbye, Mulder.” She takes a long look at him, not sure when she’ll see him again. 

 

“Later, Gator,” he replies nonchalantly, tossing the ball in the air and catching it as she pulls the door closed behind her. 






Chapter Text

The Hoover building is deserted at 4am, which is exactly why she has to be there so early. She arrives at Skinner’s office with nothing but her car keys and the casual clothing on her back. Agent Wiley, a young woman in her twenties, greets Scully warmly. She’s tall and brunette with an hourglass figure, and Scully has the passing thought that she is exactly Mulder’s type. She wonders if they’ve ever met. 

 

“I’ll drive you to your apartment in Philly where you’ll stay for the duration of the undercover assignment, Agent Scully,” Wiley says in an authoritative though very high pitched voice. “We’ll leave your car in the bureau garage for the duration, but you can give A.D. Skinner your keys for safekeeping.” 

 

Scully hands Skinner her keys and he sets them on top of his desk, rubbing his hands over a weary and sleep-rumpled face. 

 

“I’ll fill you in on the case details on the way. Let’s hit the road, we’ve got a two and a half hour drive ahead of us,” she finishes, slinging her purse over her shoulder and making for the door. 

 

Scully follows her mutely. Just as she reaches the door herself, Skinner speaks. 

 

“Agent Scully?” he asks in a hoarse voice. She turns to face him. “I…I…” He keeps restarting his sentence, but never gets further than that. 

 

Scully finally interjects. “It’s okay, sir. I understand. We all have a job to do.” 

 

He nods at her with a grateful expression, and she follows Agent Wiley out to the parking garage. 

 

The sun is just beginning to brighten the inky sky as they drive out of D.C. Agent Wiley is chatty behind the wheel as Scully leafs through the case file; once they get to Philly, she won’t have the opportunity to see it again. The only trace of Dana Scully in her apartment will be a burner cell phone, which she is to keep off and hidden in an air duct in the wall. She will call Agent Wiley at least every other day, or as needed, to share any updates. She is to turn the phone on only when she’s sure no one else is in the apartment with her. She is expected to get as close as possible to the other dancers at the club, one of whom they believe to be Mila Chamberlain. In the file, there’s a photo of Mila, a young Asian woman with a short blonde pixie cut and penetrating dark brown eyes. There is also her parents’ account of her disappearance shortly after meeting Ricky at a party, and their fears that’s she’s a victim of sex trafficking. 

 

“Your cover is Diane Sellers, recently divorced and needing work,” Agent Wiley explains. “To our understanding, they won’t ask you much about your history, but it’s still good to have a backstory ready. It can be helpful to use real details from your life in regards to things like siblings, parents, and past romantic partners, just because it’s easier to keep straight. We don’t recommend addiction being a part of your backstory, in case that affects Ricky’s willingness to trust you. You should immerse yourself as much as possible with the staff, including spending time with them outside work if you can. You can have them over to your apartment, which is why it’s important that there’s nothing there that isn’t part of Diane’s story. It’s fully furnished with everything from tampons to Rice a Roni, but we’ve also set up a bank account and a debit card in case you need to buy anything. Once you identify Mila, call me. You should try to get as close to her as possible, and ultimately the goal is to confirm that she’s being held against her will. Then we’ll raid the club and get you both out of there. What questions do you have?”

 

Scully stares out the window at the cars rushing by. The pink sunrise illuminating the clouds on the horizon makes the sky look pinstriped. 

 

“Why weren’t you asked to go undercover, if this is your case? You’re young, you’re very pretty. So I guess my question is why not you?” She recognizes the irritation in her voice, but she can’t help herself. 

 

Agent Wiley glances over at her and back to the road a few times. “I can understand why you’d ask that. And I also realize that I haven’t thanked you for taking this assignment. It was a hard one to staff.”

 

Scully scoffs and turns to face the other woman. “I wasn’t given a choice, Agent Wiley.”

 

“Right. Sorry. Um, the reason I couldn’t take this assignment is that I have an ostomy bag, as a result of a pretty severe case of Crohn’s. I doubt anyone wants to see a stripper with a bag of poop strapped to her belly dancing around on stage.”

 

Scully closes her eyes against the shame that wells in her gut. “I’m sorry, Agent Wiley. That was rude of me to ask.” 

 

“Don’t worry about it, Agent Scully. Honestly, I’d take my ostomy bag over this assignment any day. I don’t envy you.”

 

Scully turns back to the window, spinning up the life story of Diane Sellers as they drive on through the early morning light and towards her uncertain future. 



Agent Wiley drops her off around the corner from her apartment with nothing but a set of keys and verbal instructions for where she can locate the burner phone. Her interview is today at 2, and the address of the club and interview information are on a slip of paper on the kitchen counter. They bid one another an awkward goodbye, and Scully goes in search of her home for the next several weeks.

 

The apartment is small, a studio, and fully furnished. She can tell that Agent Wiley herself took care of decorating it; youthful touches like a sequined throw pillow and a magnet on the fridge with “Diane” printed on a tiny license plate give it a dorm-like feel. Many of the items appeared to have been thrifted, which will be important to keeping up her ruse of being a woman in a tight spot financially. She locates the air duct and the burner phone, turning it on to be sure it works before securing it back in its hiding place. She pokes around the various cabinets and cupboards to find all kinds of dried goods and snacks, and is surprised by the 6 pack of beer in the fridge and the bottle of vodka in the freezer. The closet is full of clothing in her size, some of it basic jeans and tees, some of it tube tops and daisy duke shorts that she would never wear. Well, Scully would never wear them, but she suspects Diane would. The slip of paper on the counter reads:

 

Damsels in Dominance

1634 W York St, Philly

Ricky Dean, 2pm

 

She makes a face at the name and her stomach turns at the thought that this might be some kind of S&M club. It's just after 9am, so she has quite a bit of time to kill before her interview. She doesn’t think she’ll be able to sleep, so instead she takes a thorough inventory of all the cabinets and closets to see if anything important is missing. In the bathroom, she opens the medicine cabinet to find a full Oil of Olay skin care line right next to a box of condoms. What the hell does Agent Wiley think she has planned for this assignment? Her confusion deepens when she pulls open the drawer of the bedside table and is greeted by a book light as well as a small bullet vibrator. Either Agent Wiley went to very great lengths to make sure this apartment would pass the sniff test for anyone who decided to snoop, or….she doesn’t even know what the other possibility is. Adding some paperback novels to her mental shopping list, she slams the drawer shut and flops down on the bed. Mulder is at work by now, and she wonders how long Skinner will be able to keep up the ruse. Knowing Mulder, not all that long. 

 


 

Mulder arrives at work just past 8, noting that Scully’s car is parked in her typical spot in the garage; she must have needed to stop by before heading to Quantico. He’s a little bit disappointed that she’ll be away for the next few weeks; the basement office is exceedingly boring without her. At the same time, he’s grateful for a bit of space to think. 

 

The tension between them had reached a tipping point but now sits suspended, teetering between coworkers and friends or whatever lay on the other side. He’s made some attempts at pushing things towards the “more than friends” end of the spectrum, but nothing seems to come of it. He kissed her, and while she kissed him back and seemed receptive to it, she hasn’t initiated anything further. The night they played baseball together was fun and flirtatious, but again nothing happened. He’s getting the sense that any move will need to be made by him. Maybe Scully just isn’t the forward type in these situations, or maybe she isn’t confident enough that he’ll reciprocate. This time that she’s working away from the office might be the perfect opportunity to take her out on a real date, knowing that if things get weird they won’t have to face each other in the morning. 

 

Entering the office, he doesn’t find her there; they must have just missed each other. He logs into his email and opens a new message. 

 

Hey G-woman, 

 

What time can you get away for lunch today? I was thinking about checking out that new sushi place on 8th. Or we can meet halfway, whatever works. 

 

Would you like to get dinner sometime this week? My treat. Let me know. 

 

Mulder



He hits send, then digs in to some more case reports that he needs to complete. He has a vision of Scully returning to find them completely caught up on paperwork and how pleased she’d be with him, and decides then and there to make it a reality. While he’s not generally an approval-seeking kind of guy, the surprised smile on Scully’s face when he does something uncharacteristically responsible is one of his favorites. The number one spot will always, of course, be held by the smile she gives him when he says or does something that truly strikes her as funny. He finds it hard to keep from smiling just thinking about it. 

 

Two hours later, there’s no response from Scully. That’s a little bit weird, but not exceedingly so; if she’s working on a particularly gnarly autopsy it can take quite a while. When he still hasn’t gotten a response by noon, he first checks his sent email to be sure it went out, then picks up his office phone. 

 

“Autopsy bay, this is Richard.”

 

“Hey, Rich, this is Agent Mulder up at the Hoover Building.”

 

“Hi, Agent Mulder, how can I help you?”

 

“Is Agent Scully around? I was hoping to talk to her.”

 

“No, I haven’t seen her.”

 

“Not at all today?”

 

“No, I haven’t seen her in a few weeks, actually.”

 

A flush of worry spreads across his chest. 

 

“Hey, Rich, are you guys pretty busy down there? I hear you have a big case you’re working on.”

 

“Busy? Uh, no, not really. Just business as usual.”

 

“Okay, thanks. If you see Agent Scully, will you ask her to call me?”

 

“Sure, will do, Agent Mulder.”

 

“I appreciate it, bye.”

 

He sets the phone down and sits back in his chair. Did Scully lie to him? And if so, why? Her car is here, so he knows she came in today. Picking up the phone again he tries her cell, which goes straight to voicemail. The darkest part of his brain worries that she came to the office but never made it to Quantico. He makes one final phone call. 

 

“Skinner.”

 

“Hi, sir, this is Agent Mulder.”

 

“How can I help you, Agent Mulder?”

 

“Have you heard from Agent Scully today? I’m having a hard time getting in touch with her.”

 

“She’s assigned to work at Quantico for the next few weeks, Agent Mulder, she wasn’t expected to report to the Hoover Building today.” 

 

“I know, sir, but her car was in the garage when I got here and I just called over to Quantico and they haven’t seen her today. I’m a little worried.”

 

He hears Skinner mutter what sounds like “Jesus H Christ” under his breath before he speaks again. “Agent Scully is fine, Agent Mulder. She’s on assignment. I encourage you to focus on your own assignment.”

 

Mulder hesitates. “Should I take that to mean that she’s NOT assigned to Quantico?”

 

Skinner sighs. “All you need to know is that she is fine, but unreachable. You worry about yourself and let me worry about Agent Scully, got it?”

 

“Um, okay. Thank you, sir.”

 

He hangs up the phone even more confused than before. Scully’s behavior yesterday after she returned from Skinner’s office makes a little more sense; she was uncomfortable about lying to him. When he leaves the office that night, her car is in the same spot it had been that morning. He doesn’t like this, but he knows Scully was in the same situation when he was on an undercover assignment and he should just trust her, and Skinner, and wait it out. That’s easier said than done, and he spends his entire evening imagining all the dangerous situations she might be immersed in. Drug cartels, amateur mafias, cults, hackers, the list goes on and on. He can only hope that she’s safe. 

 


 

Damsels in Dominance is an unassuming building nestled between strip malls and fast food restaurants. The parking lot and entrance are at the back of the building, a fabric-draped chain link fence surrounding it for privacy. Scully pays the cab driver, though now that she realizes how close her apartment is to the place she’ll probably just walk back. After much deliberation, she wound up wearing jeans and a blue T shirt, guessing that it would be out of place to dress up for an interview at a strip club. She pulls the front door open and finds herself in a small foyer with a counter along one wall, a hulking man perched behind it on a stool. Even seated she can tell that he’s very tall, with a broad chest and square shoulders. His neck is nearly nonexistent, thick and disappearing into the rolls under his chin like a tree trunk. His head is shaved bald and his deeply tan skin shows evidence of long ago healed acne scars on his ruddy cheeks. A small gold name tag pinned to his T-shirt reads “Denny.”

 

“Hi, I’m Diane, I’m here for an interview with Ricky,” she says with a smile. She’s decided that Diane will be the kind of person with an easy smile. The kind of person who makes friends quickly. She channels her sister Melissa, who would talk to anyone and somehow have them sharing details of their childhood trauma within fifteen minutes. If she’s going to get these people talking, she needs to be more like Missy and less like herself. 

 

Denny nods with a grunt and stands, proving himself to be at least six inches taller than Mulder; her head barely reaches his waist. He comes around the counter to push open a second door and holds it for her, motioning her to follow. They enter one end of a long hallway, a door directly in front of them labeled “Enter Here to be Dominated.” They walk down the hall, past some restrooms and several other unmarked doors, until they come to one that says “office.” Denny knocks and a small woman answers. 

 

“Diane, 2 o’clock interview,” Denny says in a flat baritone, then turns and walks away.

 

“Come on in!” the woman says with a bright smile. She’s tiny, even compared to Scully, perhaps not even five feet tall. She has long dark hair parted to the side that falls past her waist, and eyes that are caramel brown and lined with smokey black. She looks vaguely Asian, perhaps half if Scully had to guess, and is wearing a denim miniskirt and a halter top, flip flops on her feet. “I’m Angel, welcome to Damsels,” she continues, walking Scully over to the far end of the room where there’s a desk with a man seated behind it. “This is Ricky, he owns the place.”

 

Ricky stands and extends his hand to shake hers with a firm grip. He looks to be in his forties, slim with a close cropped haircut that hides the fact that he’s mostly bald up top. His outfit is decidedly grungy, consisting of a faded flannel shirt and ripped jeans. 

 

“Welcome welcome,” he greets her, and she detects a slight southern drawl. “Diane, is it?” 

 

As Scully nods in confirmation, he motions for her to sit in one of the chairs across the desk as he sits back down himself. Angel takes the other chair beside her. 

 

“Well, Diane, have you ever danced before?”

 

Scully channels her sister; how would Missy respond? “Not professionally, no,” she quips. 

 

Ricky laughs, flashing a gap toothed, impish smile. “Well then, what makes you think you’re qualified?”

 

She doesn’t appreciate his tone, but her role here is to get a job, so she plays along. 

 

“Well, I’ve dealt with a lot of creepy guys tending bar, so I guess this would be similar, only with less clothing,” she retorts. It isn’t entirely false; she had tended bar very briefly in undergrad and quickly learned that she had absolutely no patience for the ass grabbing and leering. 

 

“You’re not wrong there,” he says with a nod and that same ‘I know something you don’t’ smile. “Why don’t I tell you a bit about my club and you let me know if it sounds like a good fit for you?” He leans back in his chair and props one cowboy-boot clad foot up on the desktop. 

 

She gives him a tight smile and nods. 

 

“Damsels in Dominance is different from other gentlemen’s clubs in an important way; the ladies run the show here. To answer a question I’m sure has entered your mind, no we don’t do kinky S&M shit or anything. The dominance is in the fact that our dancers control the interaction and do only what they’re comfortable with, though there are some limits we’ll go over later. Customers are not allowed to touch you, no exceptions. I’m not running a damn petting zoo here. If a guy is being a fucking creep and you don’t want to dance for him anymore, get up and walk away. No money back, no nothin’. If anyone lays a hand on you, Denny out there, or one of our other bird dogs, will see their ass out the door pronto. You pick your own songs, dance however makes you feel the most sexy. Now you’d think men wouldn’t want to go somewhere with these kinds of rules, but precisely BECAUSE our dancers know they call the shots, they’re some of the best in the business. We also don’t ascribe to conventional beauty standards here. Lots of clubs tout themselves as 7-ups, say all their girls are the most beautiful, no fatties, blah blah blah. Well, that’s a crock of shit. There ain’t only one way to be beautiful, right Angel?” He looks at Angel and winks with a coy smile. 

 

“Damn straight, baby,” Angel replies with a grin, and Scully wonders if they’re a couple. 

 

“We try to have a well-rounded staff of dancers here, good diversity in race, body shape and size, even personality; there’s something for everyone here. And-” he drops his foot to the ground and leans forward on his elbows “-we recently lost our ginger dancer, so we do happen to be in the market.” 

 

That smile gives her the creeps, but she forces herself to smile back. She’s just now realizing how much she’ll have to hear about her hair color and field “do the carpets match the drapes” type questions, which she has thankfully avoided since college. 

 

“So,” Ricky continues, “based on what you hear so far, would you like to move forward with the interview?”

 

“Uh, yes, of course, that all sounds great.”

 

“Okay then, let’s get a look at you,” he sits back and motions up and down with one hand.

 

Scully is confused. “I’m sorry?” she asks, looking to Angel for help, but Angel just smiles knowingly. 

 

“Let’s see your tits, Diane! Like I said, we take all types, but it’s helpful for me to know what you have to offer. Plus I gotta check for fresh track marks and all that shit. I don’t care if you smoke pot or do a little blow to get you through your shift, but I don’t tolerate heroin or meth.”

 

Scully’s mouth hangs open. She knew she’d need to bare skin eventually, but for some reason she hadn’t thought to anticipate being asked to strip in her interview. Angel giggles. 

 

“I know it’s weird, but you’ll get used to it fast,” Angel reassures her. “You don’t have to take your panties off, we do topless here but bottoms stay on.”

 

Scully feigns being relieved by that information, but she feels like she might vomit. She stands slowly and looks around the room as though to verify that they’re alone. Ricky and Angel’s expressions are neutral; this is clearly a business transaction for them. Slowly, she peels her shirt off over her head and drapes it on the back of the chair she just vacated. Heart pounding, she glances around the room again and then unhooks her bra, letting it slip down her arms and then holding it in her hands as she resists the urge to cover herself. Her nipples pucker in the cool air of the room, and she feels a wave of sadness at the fact that this is the first time in years anyone had seen her bare chested (medical emergencies aside), and it’s a suspected human trafficker and a stripper. She wishes Mulder were here. She wishes it could have been him to see her. 

 

“Oh my god, you’ve got beautiful tits, Diane!” Angel gushes as though she were complimenting Scully’s shoes. “Seriously, so perky.” 

 

“Um, thanks?” Scully replies, wishing she could crawl out of her skin.

 

“Very nice indeed,” Ricky says. “Extend your arms out for me, so I can see your ditches.” He models what he’s asking for and she holds her arms out palm up as he walks over to her, sliding his fingers over the insides of her elbows. “Looks good, looks good,” he continues, “now if you could take your pants off please.”

 

After setting her bra on top of her shirt, she unbuttons her jeans and wiggles out of them, standing now in only a pair of black cotton briefs. Ricky walks a circle around her, appraising her body. 

 

“Great ass, do you work out?” he asks, and she nods tersely. “Yep, I can tell. Cool tattoo, I think the guys will like that. Make up some bullshit story about what it means, cause they’ll ask. No tan lines, they’ll like that too.” He looks over to Angel, “Mr. Keane is gonna like her, you think, Angel?”

 

Angel opens her mouth in an expression of excitement and claps her hands together once. “Oh my gosh, yes! Mr. Keane will love you, Diane. He’s a total whale, you’ll make so much money.”

 

Ricky points at the raised pink scar where they dug a bullet out of her gut. “They’ll ask about that too, but it’s your choice how or whether to answer,” he says, giving her a pointed look before returning to his seat. “You can get dressed darlin, and you’ve got yourself a job.” 

 

Scully puts her bra back on first, and then her jeans and shirt. “What’s a whale?” she asks as she pulls her shirt over her head. 

 

“Whales are what we call our big spenders, the guys with bottomless pockets,” Ricky answers. “There’s lots of lingo flying around here, Angel will tell you all about it. Why don’t the two of you go grab lunch and get to know each other? Angel can fill you in on the rules and some tips and tricks, and then you’ll start tonight. Be here at 9pm. We always start girls on cocktail serving while they work on learning how to work the stage. That can be for anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months, depending on the girl. If you show the right skills, we’ll put you up on the stage. If you turn out to be a beater, you can stick to cocktailing. Money ain’t as good, but it ain’t half bad either.”

 

“A beater?” Scully asks. She feels like she’s going to need a glossary to translate. 

 

“Girls without any rhythm,” Angel replies. If you can’t stay on beat you’re not going to look good on stage, or on the floor for that matter.”

 

Scully nods in understanding. Maybe if she just pretends to be a bad dancer, she can keep her clothes on for this assignment after all. 




Chapter Text

Angel leads Scully out of Ricky’s office and back down the hall, pointing to various doors.

 

“Here are the customer bathrooms, we don’t use these. That’s the exit to the lobby, but we have our own door in the back. Through here is the floor.” 

 

Angel makes no mention of the other, unmarked doors in the hall. She pushes the “Enter Here to be Dominated” door open and they walk into a large room with the floors and ceiling painted black. To the left, there's a long bar that covers nearly the entire wall with at least twenty stools butting up to it. Directly across from the bar on the right wall, there’s a small round stage with a gold pole erected in the center. A shallow counter, just wide enough to set a cup, runs along the entire perimeter of the stage with chairs neatly pushed in against it. A mental image of herself on the stage while men look on flashes in her mind and she shakes her head gently, forcing it away. Along the back wall are several small partitions; little rooms constructed out of dark red curtains that are currently pinned open to reveal a loveseat and table in each one. The rest of the room is filled with small black tables and chairs, and can probably seat upwards of 100 people. Angel leads Scully to the left, approaching the bar.

 

“Back here is the bar, obviously, and this is Queenie, our lead bartender. Queenie, this is Diane, Ricky just hired her,” Angel continues. 

 

A tall Asian woman stands from behind the counter holding a case of Jack Daniels. She has wide, round eyes and a diamond-cut chin, her full lips painted dark red and her black hair tied into a high bun.

 

“Hey,” she replies, “is Diane your stage name? You’re getting soft, Angel,” she teases, casting Angel a flirtatious smile. 

 

“Oh, no, we actually haven’t gotten that far yet,” Angel replies before turning to Scully, resting one elbow on the bar top. “So while you’re waitressing, you’ll talk to Queenie a lot. She can make any drink under the sun. Tip her out twenty percent of whatever you make.” 

 

Scully nods and wishes she had something to write all this down. Between the new terminology and rules, she's already getting confused and is bound to make a mistake. Angel leads her to the other side of the room and climbs gingerly up onto the stage.

 

“This is the stage, duh, and this is the pole. We call him Paul, the pin to make it spin or stationary is down here,” she leans and points to a small pin at the base of the pole. 

 

“Oh!” Scully exclaims, “I guess never realized the pole spins.”

 

“Common misconception,” Angel goes on, wrapping her knee and elbow around the pole and spinning a couple slow rotations as she speaks. “But that’s why you don’t want to put oil or anything slippery on your legs or arms. You need to be able to get a good grip, especially while the pole is spinning. We’ll talk more about that later, come up here.”

 

Scully baulks and looks around, but climbs onto a chair, then the drink rail before finally getting to the stage itself. The room looks even bigger from up here. 

 

“So, just from a Bird's Eye view up here,” Angel continues, “those seats against the wall back there at the end of the bar we call the rock section. Dudes just grab a seat and order a soda and then nurse it all night. Never pay for dances, never come to the tip rail, nothin’. Just sit there like a damn rock. It can be a fun challenge when you’re waitressing to try to get them to buy more drinks, if you’re into that kind of thing.”

 

“Tip rail?” Scully asks, sensing that this will be something she has to do a lot. 

 

“Right, these seats right here,” Angel points to the seats that are lined up along the perimeter of the stage, “are the tip rail. You have to sit here or be close to it in order to tip stage dances, hence the name. Something else you’ll hear is doing a mini-lap, which is just when you let a guy at the tip rail motorboat you or put his face in your ass or whatever. Usually you’d do that when they give you a really fat tip.”

 

“I thought Ricky said the men aren’t allowed to touch you?” Scully clarifies, subconsciously rounding her shoulders and crossing her arms protectively. 

 

“Ah, important distinction. WE can touch THEM, but they can’t touch us. So like, I can rub my tits on a guy's face, but if he grabs them, he’s toast. There are some limits to that I’ll tell you about later, but you can’t give a good lap dance without touching so we definitely touch, it’s just always us who does it, not them.”

 

Scully is impressed by the degree to which Ricky seems to embrace the “women in control” model, but she’s curious to see whether it’s all talk. 

 

“So that middle part with lots of small tables,” Angel is now pointing to the middle of the room, in front of the rock section, “that’s usually where the whales sit, like Mr. Keane. They’re too classy to sit at the rail but you can still see pretty good from there. And lastly, over there,” she now points to her right to the small curtained rooms, “those are the VIP rooms. We’ll talk more about those later too when we talk about the rules, but they’re basically where customers can take a girl for a private dance.”

 

Scully feels a pit in her stomach. No matter what rules they have in place, there is no way she can be safe behind a curtain with a man who is paying to access her body. Her distress is interrupted by music suddenly pouring from the speakers at an obscene volume, making them both jump. It cuts off as quickly as it started, and Angel turns to look at a small raised booth behind and to the right of the stage. 

 

“What the fuck, Ben?!” she shouts, raising her arms in an angry gesture. 

 

“Sorry, Angel, my bad!” A thin Asian man with a narrow face and a goatee waves down to them apologetically. 

 

“That’s Ben, the DJ. He’s not usually so obnoxious,” Angel says to Scully, then turns and shouts up to Ben. “This is the new girl, Diane!”

 

“What the fuck kind of stage name is Diane?” He calls back down. “Also, hi, I’m Ben,” he adds, waving again. Scully smiles warmly and waves back. 

 

“We haven’t picked her name yet!” Angel shouts back. “We really need to pick your name, girl, this is getting old fast,” she says to Scully. 

 

“Um, this may be a strange question,” Scully starts, “but, is everyone who works here Asian?”

 

Angel looks off into space for a moment, lost in thought. “No, but everyone here right now is, huh?! That’s a weird coincidence. Anyway, Asian is a big group. Denny out front is Samoan, which is actually Pacific Islander. Queenie is Vietnamese, and Ben is Japanese. And Ricky is white as fuck,” she bursts into a fit of giggles at her own joke. 

 

“And what about you?” Scully asks her. 

 

Angel turns and starts to walk away from her, casting a coy glance over her shoulder. “I’m whoever you want me to be, Baby,” she says with a flirty lilt in her voice, before adding “come on, I’ll show you the back.”

 

“The back,” accessible by a door just behind the stage, is a long hallway with restrooms, a staff locker room, a break room with a kitchen, and a dressing room for the dancers. 

 

“So, I’m gonna show you the dancer’s room now, just so you have an idea what you’re working towards, but just FYI that they really don’t let the waitresses come back here. After this I’d keep your ass out if you don’t want to get torn a new one,” Angel advises her.

 

The dancer’s room is modest in size with mirrored stations set up along two walls and a small bank of four more in the middle of the room. Each station is slightly different, but most have a makeup kit, hair products, and a box that locks with a code to store cash tips. Three of the stations sit empty. Along the back wall are four doors, and along the left wall is a double-height clothes rack full of straps, sequins, lace, and mesh of all colors. While the floor had smelled like cleaner on top of stale beer and sweat, the dancer’s room is sweet and perfumed with hints of vanilla and cinnamon.

 

“What’s through those doors?” Scully asks casually. 

 

“The second one on the left will take you outside, that’s the one we can use to come and go without having to go by the customers,” Angel answers. “There’s another one of those at the end of the hall out there you can use while you’re waitressing. The door on the far right is a single stall bathroom. The other ones are storage or something, I don’t know. They’re locked.”

 

Scully gives no reaction to this information but makes a mental note of it for later. After they look at the general staff locker room and the kitchen, Angel plops down at a table near the fridge and Scully follows suit, taking the seat across from her. 

 

“So, before we go grab lunch, let’s figure out your stage name so we can introduce you to people properly,” Angel begins. “There’s kind of a tradition here that your stage name starts with the same first letter as your real name. I don’t know why, and people will say it’s not a ‘rule’ per se, but if you don’t do it it will probably seem weird.”

 

“What’s your real name, if that’s okay to ask?” Scully inquires nervously. Not having real names will make this whole investigation a lot harder. 

 

“Oh no, it’s fine. They aren’t a secret or anything, we just don’t like the customers to know our real names. My name is Ann. So Ann/Angel, both A’s. Queenie’s real name is Quyen. You can ask any of the girls and they’ll tell you their real name if you want. Except maybe Lexie, she’s a stuck up bitch. So I’ll just tell you now, her real name is Leanne.”

 

Scully laughs good-naturedly, though she has the passing thought that a lot of people may describe her as a stuck up bitch too. 

 

“So, something that starts with a D, what suits your fancy?” Angel asks. Seeing the worried look on Scully’s face, she makes some suggestions. “You could go with a classic, like Diamond. Something a little more stereotypical like Destiny. Oh, what about Desiree, that’s really pretty, and it suits you.”

 

Scully considers it for a moment. Who she’d really like to be is Dana, on her way home from this insanity. Given that isn’t an available option, Desiree isn’t so bad. 

 

“Yeah, I think I like that,” she says with a shy smile.

 

“Great, can I call you Desi?” Angel asks excitedly. 

 

“Sure,” Scully responds, and then follows a very spirited Angel out into the afternoon sunlight in search of something to eat. 

 

They end up at a little Mexican restaurant a short walk from the club. It’s the kind of hole in the wall place that only locals know exists, with tacky pink paint on the booths and dusty Cinco De Mayo flags criss-crossing the ceiling. 

 

“So, Angel, how’d you end up working at Damsels?” Scully asks as she drags a tortilla chip through the watery salsa. She’s highly motivated to solve this case and get the hell out of here, so there’s no sense in wasting time. 

 

“Oh, I just met Ricky through mutual friends and he told me about his club. I was a dancer at a total shithole before, so coming here was such a huge relief.” She stabs at the ice in her drink with a straw, breaking it up into smaller pieces. 

 

“Are you working towards something else, or is there something else you’re hoping to do?” Scully asks next.

 

“I might ask you the same, Desi,” Angel returns with a slight cock of her head, and Scully realizes that was a rude question. 

 

“Sorry, I guess I still have a lot to learn about the social nuances of this job.”

 

Angel shakes her head dismissively. “Don’t worry about it. It’s just a question you get asked a lot as a dancer, as you’ll find out. Everyone thinks you’re just stopping here on the way to something better, something more legit. God forbid your life plan is to show your ass for cash, right? I mean, that is true for some of the girls; Tibet is getting her masters and Magenta has a day job as a therapist, but I honestly just like it.”

 

Scully is more careful with the wording on her next question. “What do you like about it?”

 

“Well,” Angel takes a bite of a chip and chews thoughtfully, “I grew up with really judgmental, uptight parents who basically made me feel like I was dirty and disgusting for existing, and for being female. I was always really ashamed of my body and when men looked at me, I thought I was doing something wrong to bring it on myself. After I moved out, my friend took me to a strip club and I was totally blown away by the confidence the women had with their bodies. Men were looking at them, but not like they were gross and sinful, just like they were…beautiful. And they looked so powerful up there commanding all that attention. And I just wanted to be up there like that, celebrating my body and deciding what happened with and to it. And here I am.”

 

Scully sits quietly, absorbing an answer that she wasn’t expecting to hear. She thinks about her own upbringing and the “good girls don’t” mentality that tainted her early sexual exploration. Even as a fully grown adult in consensual, committed relationships, she couldn’t shake the underlying guilt that she was worldly and sinful for desiring and having sex outside of marriage. It bleeds over into her relationship with Mulder, she knows. She can accept any physical attention he bestows upon her, and in fact wants it desperately, but for her to initiate it would mean…something. Something she isn’t ready to admit, even to herself. 

 

Angel speaks again, interrupting her thought. “What about you, Desi, what brings you here? I showed you mine, you show me yours…or whatever.”

 

“Oh,” Scully says, scrambling to bring her cover story forward. “Um, I, uh, I got divorced recently, or I’m legally separated, anyway. I just got my own place after living with my husband for seven years and I haven’t really worked that whole time, I just supported his work. So, I don’t really have any marketable skills.”

 

Angel smiles. “Shoot, that ass is a marketable skill, girl! Those titties are hella marketable.”

 

Scully blushes, unused to anyone talking about her that way, and is surprised by how flattered she feels by such a crass compliment. Their server arrives and sets their plates down, and Angel’s demeanor shifts a bit as they dig into their meal. 

 

“Okay, so down to the nitty gritty. Like I said, there are rules for us as dancers, and for waitresses too. Ricky mentioned his feelings about heroin and meth, right?”

 

“Yep, that will not be an issue,” Scully says confidently, spearing a bell pepper with her fork. 

 

“Good, so also don’t get, like, super drunk or super high while on shift. A little to take the edge off is okay, but a drunk stripper is just pathetic. Like I said, the men can’t touch us, but it’s okay for us to touch them, EXCEPT we do NOT do extras at Damsels. No hand jobs, no blow jobs, and definitely no fucking, not even in VIP. Not in their car outside, not behind the dumpster, it’s a very hard and fast rule, no pun intended. Ricky will fire even his best girl in a heartbeat if he finds out she’s doing extras. Oh, and no kissing.”

 

“How do they enforce the no touching rule in VIP?” Scully asks, fearful of the answer.

 

“You ALWAYS have a bird dog on you all the time while you work the floor, so even in VIP you aren’t really alone,” Angel reassures her.

 

“Bird dog, that’s like Denny?” Scully asks. 

 

“Yeah, the bird dogs are just like bouncers, or more like bodyguards for us. Tonight while you’re working, watch the bird dogs. They stand right outside the VIP and they take a peek inside the curtain pretty frequently to check on you.” Angel looks around and leans in before she continues at a lower volume. “Some girls stretch the rules a little in VIP, if they get a bird dog they’re really tight with, they might throw them a little cash to look the other way for something like letting a customer touch their tits or whatever. They do it if they have a whale in there they want to get a big tip from, or just a guy they really like. I don’t do that because I’m too afraid of getting caught, but I’ve heard stories.” She sits back again and returns to normal volume. “So the best rule to go by is that the customer's palms should never be on your body. You can stick your tits or ass in their face, let them tuck a bill into your G string, or unhook your bra or something where they only barely brush your skin, but never their hands fully on you.”

 

“Okay, that makes sense,” Scully replies, but truthfully she can not foresee a future in which she sticks her tits in anyone’s face. 

 

“Really the only other thing is clothes. There are some things at the club you can wear, especially for waitressing, but when you hit the stage you’ll probably want to get your own stuff. We do topless but you do have to keep your pussy covered, though even just a tiny scrap of fabric will meet the state requirement. Just watch the other girls for a bit to see what they wear on stage and on the floor and take note of what you like, then we can go shopping when you want. You should also get your nails done, a sexy color, and make sure you keep your bikini line nice and clean. Those aren’t things you HAVE to do, if you’re more of an au natural kind of girl that’s fine, but in terms of getting return customers and good tips, that’s what will help you make the most money.”

 

“Thank you, Angel, I really appreciate your help,” Scully smiles at her, and it’s genuine. This whole thing is a nightmare, but Angel is friendly and sweet, and it's nice to know there’s someone she can talk to and ask questions. 

 

Angel grins at her. “Of course, I remember what it’s like to be new and I’m happy to help you get acclimated. Come by the club tonight at 9, and I’ll help you get all gussied up. You’ll work a full shift tonight, until probably about 2:30 or 3:00, and then tomorrow meet me and Tibet at the club at 2 pm and we’ll get started on your training for the stage.”

 

Training for the stage. It makes sense, though she hadn’t really anticipated it. 

 

“Angel, is it ever the case that anyone just sticks to waitressing, without going on stage?”

 

“Well, yeah, there are a few beaters who just serve drinks, but everyone wants to be on the stage, Desi. I know it seems really scary now, but wait until you see them up there.” She smiles contentedly and leans back against the booth as though she were musing about the love of her life. “It’s like magic.”

 

After they finish their meal, Angel shows her which door she should use to enter the club that night and they part ways. Scully walks to a nearby nail salon and has her fingers and toes painted deep red, paying with a Bank of America debit card that has “Diane Sellers” printed on it. Across the street from the salon is a grocery store where she picks up some paperbacks, her favorite brand of razor and shaving cream, as well as some healthier food than what Agent Wiley had stocked her with. By 6pm, her stomach is in knots and she knows that dinner is out of the question. She tries to read but finds herself too distracted, instead turning on the small TV in the apartment and half-watching reruns of FRIENDS. Time both crawls and goes by too fast, and at 8:40 she’s out the door, taking measured breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth as she walks the four blocks back to the club. 

 

The door she was directed to use has “STAFF ONLY” painted on it in yellow block letters, and she yanks it open to enter the end of the hallway in the back of the club. The energy is completely different than it had been earlier in the day, bass vibrating through the walls from the front of the house and the unintelligible din of hundreds of voices polluting the air. As she passes by the staff bathrooms, a wave of nausea hits her and she clambers in, only to dry heave fruitlessly over the surprisingly clean toilet. Exiting the stall, she’s startled to find that she isn’t alone; a slim Black woman is leaning over the sink, dabbing at the corners of her eye makeup with a long, pink nailed finger. She has straight black hair that falls nearly to her backside, which is clad in a metal-studded pair of boy shorts covering only half of each well-appointed cheek. Wrinkled bills sprout out around the waistband, brushing against her sweat-damp skin. Her top is bare, and Scully can see her small, pert breasts in the mirror, hershey kiss nipples slightly turned out. They catch eye contact in their reflections and the woman smiles a broad, dazzling smile that Scully can’t help but return. The woman pivots her body to face her and Scully quickly takes in her narrow hips and athletic build, and the impossibly tall shoes on her feet. 

 

“First day?” the woman asks, still adorned with that megawatt, white toothed smile. She’s very beautiful and has a warm, welcoming presence. 

 

Scully cringes in embarrassment. “That obvious, huh?” she laments, and wonders if the woman heard her vomiting. 

 

The woman turns back to the mirror briefly, taking one final swipe at her smudged eyeliner, then steps forward and touches a hand to Scully’s forearm. 

 

“You’ll get the hang of it quickly, don’t worry too much. Ricky takes good care of us here.”

 

Scully nods in thanks, and the woman moves to leave the room. Holding the door open, she turns back and speaks again. “I’m Tibet; if you need anything just let me know.” Scully nods and Tibet glances up and down her body, surveying her form. “The boys are gonna like you,” she says, and then with a wink adds “the girls too,” and exits. 

 

Scully leans heavily against the sink with a forceful sigh. She hadn’t considered that the club would also have female customers. There’s a lot she hasn’t considered, and the knowledge that there would be much more for her to learn and discover, most of it unpleasant, settles over her in a blanket of unease. She washes her hands and goes in search of Angel. 

 

Thankfully, Angel is already waiting for her in the staff locker room, a vintage caboodle makeup box in hand and a small rack full of sparkly clothing nearby. In contrast to the casual, if not skimpy, outfit she’d had on earlier in the day, she is now adorned in a black mesh teddy. The strap of a thong worn underneath is visible below the fabric that’s cut high on her legs, and her pale brown nipples show through the top. Feathery fake eyelashes sprout from her face like spiders and her lips are painted an opaque Barbie pink, her hair curled into soft waves that hang down her back. On her feet are thigh high leather boots with a stiletto heel and laces down the back. She looks like she’s ready for her shift as a dominatrix, which isn’t too far from the truth. 

 

“Desi! You made it!” Angel exclaims, and it’s obvious that they had prepared for the possibility that she wouldn’t show. “Take a seat right here ma’am,” she says, patting the top of a barstool, “let’s get you ready for your first day!”

 

Angel’s enthusiasm and her relentless friendliness, paired with the gentle encouragement from Tibet in the bathroom, does make Scully feel just a little bit better. Even if she does have to go traipse around and serve drinks to a room full of horny men, knowing that she has support and community from what are effectively her coworkers grounds her in some way. 

 

Coworkers. She thinks of Mulder, and wonders how his day had been. Has he realized yet that she’s gone? She imagines how he might behave were he here, coolly averting his eyes and pretending not to be affected by the ever present exposed nipples while he questions witnesses, and it makes her smile. Despite his extensive video collection, he's always very respectful and a perfect gentleman with her and other women they encounter. It’s one of the qualities that draws her to him. 

 

“Do you usually wear very much makeup?” Angel asks, arranging tubes, pallets and bottles on a table next to Scully. 

 

“Not really, save for special occasions. I do wear makeup every day, but it’s neutral, natural looking, for the most part. I do like to wear lipstick sometimes,” Scully replies truthfully. 

 

“Well then, this should be super fun,” Angel replies with a devious smile, bringing a makeup sponge to Scully’s cheek and bouncing it over her skin. 

 

Thirty minutes later, Angel declares “voila!” and gestures for Scully to look at herself in the mirror. She stands and turns to see a red-haired woman with port-wine lips and black-rimmed smokey eyes. At first she doesn’t recognize herself, stepping closer to examine the way her eyeliner wings out on the edges, the false lashes Angel has glued to her lids fluttering dreamily as she blinks. Her eyebrows are a bit darker and more defined, as is the small mole on her upper lip. She touches a finger to it self-consciously.

 

“I put some eyebrow pencil on that little beauty, to help it pop. Something like that is what might make you someone’s ATF. It helps you stand out,” Angel offers. 

 

Scully shoots her a questioning glance in the mirror and Angel adds “All Time Favorite. Do you not like it?”

 

“No, I do,” Scully responds emphatically. “It’s just different, but you did a really nice job Angel, thank you. I’m used to covering this up, so it’s just something to get used to.”

 

Angel looks at her quizzically. “Why would you cover that up?”

 

Continuing to look over her unfamiliar reflection, Scully explains, “as you said, it makes me stand out. I guess in the past, standing out has been something I’ve tried to avoid.”

 

Angel gives her a knowing nod. “I can definitely identify with that. Let’s get you dressed.”

 

The selection is shockingly sparse, not in volume but in coverage. In the end, Scully opts for a blood red corset with a black lace overlay and ties up the back, paired with black boy-short underwear. The top of the corset is cut into points at the center of each breast, giving her ample cleavage but keeping her nipples fully concealed. The heels she selects are a height she’s used to wearing for work, though much narrower than her sensible pumps. Her midsection, and therefore her tattoo and bullet scar, are fully covered, which is a relief; she isn’t quite ready for commentary or conversation regarding those periods of her life. Given the length of her hair, Angel teases it up a bit to give her volume but otherwise leaves it un-styled. Standing back to observe the full effect, Scully first gapes in shock, and then laughs out loud. 

 

“Is that a good laugh or a bad one?” Angel asks skeptically.

 

Scully stares at her reflection with an incredulous look on her face. “It’s…it’s not bad,” she stammers. “I just have no idea who that is,” she finishes, pointing to herself.  

 

Angel steps up behind her, her chin resting on Scully’s shoulder courtesy of the height of her shoes, and wraps her arms around Scully’s waist. The close contact makes her jump a little. 

 

“That,” Angel says, looking at the two of them in the mirror, “is Desiree. Desired by all but available to none.” She cracks a mischievous smile that Scully mirrors unconsciously. “Come on, let’s get to work.”

 

Angel walks Scully through the noisy floor of the club and to the bar where Queenie is mixing drinks, her jeans and T-shirt exchanged for a yellow bandeau top and matching high-cut thong. 

 

“Queenie will take care of you from here, I gotta get ready to go on stage soon,” Angel shouts directly in her ear to be heard over the music Ben is pumping into the speakers. Then she’s gone, and Scully feels awkward and unsure what to do with herself. A few men sit atop the bar stools along the counter and she can feel their eyes on her, but wills herself not to look. Queenie leans over the bar top and beckons Scully to come close so she can talk to her. She can see the men turn to stare at Queenie’s ass as her position pops it up into the air. 

 

“My barback will be here in five minutes, then I can tell you what to do. Just hang out here for a few,” Queenie shouts. 

 

Scully nods in response and leans on the edge of the bar, trying to act casual and not stand out. She surveys the room; about a quarter of the seats are occupied, and she takes note of the rowdy younger men huddled around the tip rail as well as the older, well-dressed men just behind them. Whales, she remembers Angel calling them. Against the back wall, nervous-looking men with baseball caps pulled low sit one to a table. They may be just about as uncomfortable as she is. There’s only one woman in the crowd who isn’t a waitress or a dancer; a young blonde with her arms crossed over her chest who is glowering at a man that is probably her boyfriend or husband getting a lap dance from Tibet. Tibet seems oblivious to her demeanor, making eye contact with the man whose lap she is perched on as she rolls her hips, her nipples centimeters from his nose. Denny hovers nearby, watching them intently. Scully shudders unconsciously. 

 

“Ladiesssss aaaaaaand Gentlemennnnnnnn,” Ben’s voice cuts through the final chords of the song. “Please, join me in welcoming the lovely Angel to the stage.”

 

The punky guitar riff of “Just a Girl” pours from the speakers as Angel bounces out from behind the curtain, a pink ribbon tied around her eyes. It’s sheer enough for her to still be able to see and she takes a running leap onto the pole, spinning fast as she quickly changes positions and ends up hanging from her ankles with her hair dragging across the stage. The moves of her dance are synchronized to the beat and lyrics of the song; pulling the ribbon from her eyes at just the right moment, peeling her teddy away from her breasts with the lyric “I’m exposed” and palming money from the whooping men at the tip rail with “the world is forcing me to hold your hand.” It’s energetic and clearly well-practiced, and Scully finds herself somewhat hypnotized; this must be the magic Angel was talking about. She jumps at the feeling of a hand on her shoulder and turns to see Queenie standing right beside her, having been replaced behind the bar by a busty Latina woman with thick hips and a soft belly. 

 

“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Queenie remarks, watching Angel. 

 

Scully nods mutely, looking around the room again to see every head turned towards the stage, captivated. 

 

“So, there’s not too much to it,” Queenie begins, her lips close enough to Scully’s ear that she can smell peppermint on her breath. “We’re old school so everything is on paper. We can make pretty much any drink under the sun; if someone orders a drink you’ve never heard of, just write it down and I can probably make it. Just come back here to the rail and call out whatever you need. There are three sections of tables for night shift. Tonight you’re on section B, which covers the rocks and half of the whales. You can expect the rocks to nurse one drink all night, so I’d focus your energy on the whales. When they want to cash out, just let me know and I tally it up for you and run the card. All the tables have a sticker with a number in the middle so you can keep the tickets straight. Any questions?”

 

Scully furrows her eyebrows. She has about a million questions; for starters how does she know where to go, where to start or what to do? Suspecting that she’s expected to figure it out herself, she shakes her head tersely. Queenie hands her an apron, or what is more accurately a pocket on a string, a pad of paper and a pen, and sends her on her way. 

 

Ignoring the pit in her stomach, she straightens her posture, channeling 22 year old Dana who mixed margaritas for surly college students. She approaches the first table in the rock section, pulling her mouth into a fake smile that no one but Mulder could have identified as such. 

 

“Hey there, what can I get you?” she lilts, and her career as a cocktail waitress at a strip club begins. 

 

Two hours later, she’s found a rhythm of checking on her tables, learning when to leave a rock to his leering, and made $40. The first several times a customer rakes their eyes over her appreciatively, wagging their eyebrow with a “hey pretty lady,” she bristles, but she becomes impervious to it fairly quickly.

 

As she returns to the bar with an empty tray, she sees Ricky enter the room with a well-dressed white man in his forties; brunette hair, bushy eyebrows, a pointed chin and pinched mouth above his pinstriped suit. They traverse the room and the man sits at one of her empty tables while Ricky hovers nearby, talking. Wanting to make a good impression on her boss, who may be a human trafficker, she saunters over, readying her pen and paper. Stopping near the well dressed man’s shoulder, she pops her hip out and leans forward to speak to him. 

 

“Hi, what can I get for you?”

 

The well-dressed man gives her a quick cursory glance, then does a double take and his mouth stretches into a smile. 

 

“Well hello, I don’t think I’ve seen you here before” he remarks, dragging his eyes over her body without any attempt at subtlety. 

 

“I’m new,” she says with a closed mouth smile. 

 

Ricky interjects himself into the conversation just then, his flannel and ripped jeans traded in for a white button up shirt with cuffed sleeves and khaki slacks. “This is our new girl, Desiree! Just started today. She’s hot, right?! I had you in mind when I hired her. I know how you love tight bodied little gingers.”

 

Scully lets out a stream of air through her nose, the one expression of dissatisfaction she’s discovered is undetectable in a noisy club. Her smile is cemented to her face by sheer will. 

 

“Desiree, wonderful to meet you, I’m Roger Keane.” He extends a hand, which she shakes gently. His palms are smooth and warm. The hands of someone who sits behind a desk and lets others do the dirty work. 

 

“Give it a couple weeks and you can see her in action, Mr. Keane. This one has potential,” Ricky says, his gapped toothed smirk inspiring in Scully the urge to introduce her high heels to his groin. 

 

“Do you, now?” Mr. Keane asks Scully, still holding her hand in his, never taking his eyes off her as Ricky speaks. 

 

She releases his grip and shrugs, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I guess we’ll see,” she says noncommittally, fully planning on dancing so poorly that no one would ever dream of putting her on a stage. 

 

“That we shall,” Mr. Keane replies, “in the meantime, I’d love a double scotch, neat. Top shelf.”

 

“I’ll get that for you right away,” she replies, feeling his eyes glued to her ass as she walks back to the bar. 

 

Leaning over the rail, she shouts to Queenie “double scotch, neat, top shelf,” and Queenie smirks, nodding. 

 

“I gather you’ve met Mr. Keane,” she says as she pours the drink. “Take care of that one, Desi, he’s a whale among whales.”

 

Scully carries the drink back to Mr. Keane, setting it down on a napkin in front of him. 

 

“Would you like to open a tab?” she asks, letting her hip graze the table near his hand, something one of the other waitresses told her would increase her tips. Not like she cares about tips, she isn’t even sure what will happen to any money she earns. But perhaps if she’s really good at waitressing, that will help her avoid dancing. 

 

“Not necessary, dear, you’ll find that I always pay in cash,” as he says this, he hands her a hundred dollar bill. 

 

“Okay, let me get you some change,” she replies, moving to walk away, and he places just one finger on her wrist to stop her. 

 

“That won’t be necessary either,” he says with another scrape of his eyes down the length of her body, and she feels dread pool in her belly. 

 

3 am arrives with surprising speed, her feet aching from her heels and her apron pocket packed tight with bills. The staff all sit in the locker room counting tips, sharing their spoils with Queenie, Ben and the bird dogs as they pass around a lit joint. Scully finds a clean-looking spot in the corner and sits down with an audible hmph , her aching feet practically sighing with relief. Following what she sees the others doing, she pulls all the bills from her apron and lays them out, arranged by value, then counts it up. She has a little over three hundred dollars, which surprises her. Of course a third of that is just from Mr. Keane. She tips Queenie out, as well as the bird dog that had been minding her section but whose name she didn’t catch, then declines a hit on the joint, excusing herself to the bathroom. 

 

Upon exiting the restroom, she takes a quick inventory and realizes that the dancer’s room may be empty, since everyone seems to be congregated in the locker room. Her shoes left behind, she quietly pads into the room and creeps to the back wall, trying each door. The first one she opens reveals a single-occupancy bathroom with a toilet and mirror, and a basket of tampons on a shelf. The next door is locked. The third opens to a short hallway and a second door that has “EXIT” printed on it. She tries the last door, which is also locked. The locks are simple, just a key on the doorknob, the kind Mulder could pick open in thirty seconds flat. Looking around for something pointed, she grabs a couple bobby pins from a nearby station and tries her hand, bending one into an L shape as she’s seen Mulder do. Jiggling the pins around, she listens for the sound of the internal mechanism engaging. 

 

“What the fuck are you doing?” a sharp voice sounds from behind her. 

 

She spins around to find one of the dancers she saw on stage earlier standing several feet away, her arms crossed and an irritated scowl on her face. She’s olive-skinned, tall and brunette with a small mouth and a square jaw, her hazel eyes hooded. Though she now wears a sweatshirt and yoga pants, Scully noticed her earlier for her small, pendulous breasts that were adorned with an intricate tattoo of a phoenix that extended down her sternum. 

 

“Are you deaf, new girl? What the fuck are you doing?” she repeats, and Scully realizes she’s just standing there like an idiot. 

 

“I-uh-I just got lost, is this the bathroom?” she asks, indicating the door behind her with a hitched thumb.

 

“Does it look like a fucking bathroom?” the woman deadpans, ire practically dripping from her elbows. 

 

Scully shrugs. 

 

“Get the fuck out of here. Only dancers are allowed in here, Angel should have told you that.”

 

“Sorry, honest mistake,” Scully offers lamely, and moves to leave the room. 

 

Just as she’s exiting, the woman speaks again. “Hey, new girl.”

 

Scully stops and turns to face her, lifting her chin defiantly. “My name is Desiree,” she says in a voice that is maybe a bit too much Scully and not enough Diane. 

 

“Okay, DESIREE,” the woman returns sarcastically, “if I catch you in here again, I’ll make sure Ricky sends your ass packing faster than you can pick those panties out of your ass.”

 

Scully nods tersely. “Got it,” she replies, then makes her way back to the locker room. 

 

She gathers her things, then finds Angel. “Is there anything else I’m supposed to do, or can I go?” she asks, more than ready for a shower and some sleep, having been awake for nearly twenty four hours at this point. 

 

“You can go! Do you have a ride?” Angel asks brightly, seemingly unaffected by the late hour. 

 

“Oh, my place is just a few blocks away, I was gonna walk,” Scully replies. 

 

Angel makes a face. “Are you fucking crazy? Looking like that with all that money in your pocket? We’ll be seeing you on the news in the morning. I’ll give you a ride, just give me 5 minutes.”

 

Scully flops onto a bench and works to keep her eyes open while she waits for Angel. The woman from the dancer’s room enters, slinging a messenger bag over her shoulder and then making for the back door wordlessly. 

 

“Bye to you too, Lexie, have a good night,” calls out another dancer who Scully has gathered is named Magenta. 

 

Lexie lifts her hand over her head and flips them all her middle finger, not looking back. 

 

“I told you she was a stuck up bitch,” Angel says to Scully, prodding her with an elbow. 

 


 

Scully wakes at 11am the following day, shocked by her capacity to sleep so late. Picking through the kitchen, she finds the makings for coffee and starts a pot as she retrieves the burner phone from the air vent and calls Agent Wiley. 

 

“Wiley.”

 

“Hi, Agent Wiley, this is Agent Scully.”

 

“Hello, Agent Scully, is everything okay?”

 

“Uh, yeah, more or less. I just wanted to update you on a couple things. So far, none of the employees I met appear to be Mila Chamberlain, but it was just one shift so it’s possible she was off last night. There is one girl who seems to be relatively close with Ricky Dean and I’ve somewhat hit it off with her, which should be helpful. I’m not sure, but I think they may be a couple.”

 

“And what is her name?” Agent Wiley asks, and Scully can hear the scrape of a pen as she takes notes. 

 

“She goes by Angel, but she said her real name was Ann.”

 

“Last name?”

 

“I’m not sure. I didn’t ask. You have to be careful asking too many questions around here, it would seem. Other names I got were Denny, a bouncer, and a bartender who’s legal first name is Quyen. And also a dancer named Leanne. But again, no last names. A customer named Roger Keane did come in; he seems to be an important figure there. I’d look into him.”

 

“Roger Keane, that’s helpful, thank you. Anything else?”

 

“There are several unmarked, locked doors in the club that I’m hoping to gain access to, but it’s difficult as a cocktail waitress. There are areas of the club I’m not permitted to go, and I was already caught once. I’m afraid if I get caught snooping again I’ll be out of a job.” The coffee pot beeps and she opens several cupboards to find a mug and spoon, plus sugar. 

 

“How can you gain access to those areas?” Agent Wiley asks. 

 

“I’d have to be a dancer, a stripper, for some of them. And I need to be able to get Ricky Dean’s keys as well, which means being in his office. As far as I can tell it would be very odd for a waitress to be in there.”

 

“Okay, so what do you need to do to be a dancer?” Agent Wiley asks plainly. 

 

Scully pauses. “I’d have to learn to dance, and be decent at it. But, Agent Wiley, I’m really hoping to avoid that. I’m sure you can understand why.”

 

“Of course, Agent Scully, I understand. I also want to make sure that you’re recalling the facts here. A young woman is being held against her will, possibly being sold for sex repeatedly. I realize this is easy for me to say because I’m not in your position, but I hope you’ll be able to prioritize the safety of Mila Chamberlain over your own personal comfort.”

 

Scully leans heavily against the counter, the steam from her coffee wafting over her face. 

 

“Right, of course I will, Agent Wiley. I’ll do whatever is necessary.”

 

“Thank you, Agent Scully. Call me when you have more to share. Please remember to shut the phone off, in case I need to call and leave a message.”

 

“I will. Oh, Agent Wiley, one other thing. What am I supposed to do with the money I earn?”

 

“You can deposit your paycheck into the account we opened for you, it would look odd if you didn’t cash it. You’re welcome to spend that for incidentals, and anything left will just go back to the bureau.”

 

“Okay, but what about all the cash tips? I have over two hundred dollars from just one shift.”

 

“Oh…I hadn’t thought about that. Let me look into it and get back to you. In the meantime, I did put a lock box in the closet for you to store anything valuable, in case you have unsavory people over. You should put it there for safekeeping.”

 

“Got it, thank you, Agent Wiley.”

 

Scully hangs up the phone and rests her head against the kitchen counter. She feels so alone already, and it’s only been a day. At that moment she changes her plan; she’ll learn to dance as quickly as possible, get on stage, find that girl, and get the hell out of here. 



Chapter Text

Mulder arrives at work early, looking longingly at Scully’s car in the parking lot. Approaching it, he peers in the windows looking for…he isn’t sure what. Her car is, as usual, neat as a pin with no indication of where she went or why. 

 

In his restlessness the night before, he’d thought a lot about why it bothers him so much not to know where she is or what she’s doing. If the roles were reversed, he would expect her to wait it out and trust him to take care of himself, but for some reason he’s struggling to do the same for her. He thought at first that it was her tendency to get hurt or need help, but by comparison he needs her help just as often as she needs his, so that doesn’t track. Then he thought maybe it’s that he doesn’t trust Skinner to do what’s in her best interest, but Skinner has shown a tendency to be protective of Scully on numerous occasions (and in fact Mulder strongly suspects his feelings for her go beyond the bounds of strict professionalism), so that isn’t entirely logical either. Skinner may have left him out to dry with the New Spartans, but he doesn’t believe the man would stoop low enough to treat Scully in the same manner. 

 

In the end, he realized that it’s pretty simple; he’s just crazy about her. His protectiveness doesn’t have anything to do with how capable she is, or the situations other people might put her in, or even situations she might put herself in. He misses her, and cares so much about her that not even knowing where she is feels wrong. It feels like a piece of him is missing, and he’s not allowed to know where it is or when he’ll get it back. 

 

After pretending to work for an hour, he sulks up to Skinner’s office and asks for a few minutes of his time. Skinner is immediately irritated, though Mulder doesn’t realize that it’s in response to him and not a preexisting condition. He stands in front of Skinner’s desk, looming over him. 

 

“What do you want, Agent Mulder?” Skinner grumbles, not looking up from the document he’s reading.

 

“I’d like to know where Agent Scully is, sir.”

 

Skinner sighs heavily, dropping his head to his chest. 

 

“Get out of my office, Agent Mulder,” he says in a low, menacing tone. 

 

“Sir, I’m not asking to contact her, I would never compromise her case, I just need to at least know where she is. What if something happens and I need to find her?”

 

Skinner stands, looking Mulder in the eye with an intensity he’s seen on very few occasions, none of them fond memories. “Agent Mulder, Agent Scully explicitly asked me not to tell you where she is, or what she’s doing. Even if she hadn’t, I STILL would not tell you, however I hope that if you don't respect the direct orders of your superior, you might, at the very least, respect Agent Scully’s wishes. Now get the hell out of my office and do not bring this up again, understood?”

 

Mulder glances down and notices Scully’s keys on the desk near Skinner’s nameplate, her Apollo 11 keychain easily identifiable. He leans forward, putting his hands on the desktop, one covering the keys. 

 

“Sir, if anything happens to her, I’ll-“

 

“You’ll what, Agent Mulder?” Skinner challenges him, stuffing his hands in his pockets in a show of bravado. 

 

Mulder straightens, palming the keys as he stands, and leaves without another word. 

 


 

Scully arrives at the club just before 2 pm, wearing shorts and a tank top as Angel had instructed. After stuffing her purse into a locker, she finds Angel and Tibet on the floor, which has returned to its daylight state of clean and quiet. Queenie restocks the bar while Ben fiddles with the sound system. 

 

Tibet is up on the stage while Angel sits at the tip rail, offering pointers on a new dance Tibet is working out. Scully immediately notices that Tibet’s hair is cropped short and worn in its natural curls, and realizes she’d been wearing a wig the night before. 

 

“So I was thinking that I could either take my top off just before or just after the first chorus, tell me which looks better, okay?” Tibet says to Angel as Scully enters and takes a seat beside her. 

 

“Benny! Hit me with the music!” Tibet shouts, and then repeats her performance twice, revealing her breasts at a different point in the song each time. When she’s finished, she sits down on the edge of the stage in front of them and asks for their thoughts, her breasts still uncovered. 

 

“I think the sooner the better,” Angel says. “They come here to see your body, so show it to em!”

 

Tibet nods. “What do you think, Desi?” She asks, stretching a smooth brown leg out to her side and leaning into it. 

 

Scully suddenly feels entirely out of her league in terms of providing an opinion. “Uh, well, generally speaking I guess I’d say wait. You want to build some suspense, right? Make them work for it?”

 

Angel looks at her suspiciously out of the corner of her eye. “You don’t fuck on the first date, do you?” She asks with a haughty grin, and Scully’s eyes go big at the question. “I’m just messing with you, let’s get to your training!”

 

“Alright,” Tibet begins as though she’s done this dozens of times, tugging the straps of her shirt back over her shoulders. “So, have you ever given a lap dance before?” she asks plainly, and Scully’s cheeks flush. 

 

“Well, kind of I guess. In college, though more as a joke than anything else. I would definitely consider myself a beginner.”

 

“Got it, got it,” Tibet responds. “Well, for the most part dancing is about creating a sense of intimacy. It’s fake, obviously, but the more your customer feels like you actually care about him, want him to look at you, like that he’s appreciating your body, the better you’ll do. Your stage set is just about showing yourself off and getting them curious about you. The real money comes from lap dances and VIP, and the more you can draw attention with a really great stage set, the more customers will want to spend time with you afterward. Angel is a beast on the pole and she can teach you all those tricks, but I consider myself the lap dance expert around here, so I’m gonna teach you that part.” She smiles and jumps down from the stage, pulling a chair away from one of the tables and gesturing for Scully to sit in it. 

 

“Oh,” Scully says, and sits as instructed. 

 

“Sometimes, when you’re on the floor, customers will flag you down or ask for you, and that’s great. But you also have to approach people, because they’ll be too shy to ask. So you might come up and do this.” 

 

Tibet saunters towards Scully with a secretive smile on her lips, stepping so close that her thighs thread between Scully’s knees. Next she leans down, placing her hands on Scully’s shoulders and bringing her mouth to Scully’s ear. 

 

“Would you like a dance, Baby?” she asks in a syrupy voice, and Scully feels a shiver run down her spine. Tibet backs up. “Okay, now you try.”

 

“You want ME to do that?” Scully clarifies, and while just asking someone if they want a lap dance should be the easiest hurdle to clear, she’s finding that it’s still an uncomfortably high one. 

 

Angel turns her head toward the bar and calls out, “Queenie! We need some liquid courage over here!”

 

Queenie walks over with a bottle of tequila and three shot glasses, pouring them wordlessly before returning to her task. 

 

Angel holds her glass up, Tibet and Scully following suit. “To new career paths,” Angel says, and Scully smiles thinly, clinking her glass with theirs and throwing back the shot with a grimace. 

 


 

Three weeks. She’s been gone three weeks, and not a word from Skinner. No update, no information, though he’s stopped by a couple times and asked, drawing increasing amounts of rage from his boss. He’s finished all the paperwork, re-organized the files, cleaned and rearranged the office (only to immediately change it back) and spent hours upon hours imagining where Scully might be right now. 

 

He kept her keys, just in case, but knows she’d be unhappy with him invading her privacy by snooping around her apartment. That’s why he waits three whole weeks before he finally does it. He has a key to her apartment and could have gone there at any point, but her personal keyring also holds the keys for her gun safe and her mailbox, which may prove helpful. After work on a Thursday, he drives by and lets himself in, the warm vanilla smell of her immediately invading his nostrils as he opens the door. He sighs deeply, pulling her into his lungs; it feels like coming home. 

 

First he waters her plants, which are looking half dead, and makes a mental note to use watering them as the reason he came here if asked. Next he opens her gun safe, and is struck to find her service weapon holstered and tucked neatly inside with the safety on. She doesn’t have her gun? What the hell kind of assignment is this? He brings in her mail, which is no help at all, and leaves it stacked on the counter. Next he lays down on her bed, shoving his face into her pillow and breathing the smell of her shampoo for a few minutes before he has the thought to look for her overnight bag. 

 

Scully has a go bag in the trunk of her car for emergencies, but given the opportunity she’ll use her overnight bag and pack for the weather, situation, etc. Opening her closet, he finds it on the floor near her laundry hamper, empty save for a travel size can of hairspray tucked into a side pocket. In her bathroom, he finds all her toiletries accounted for, including her toothbrush. The more he sees, the more confused he is. Even when he’d spent time undercover with dangerous individuals, he’d been allowed to bring his own toothbrush.

 

Moving to the hallway, he picks up her landline and dials. 

 

“Dana?” Maggie Scully’s voice answers on the second ring. 

 

“No, sorry, Mrs. Scully, it’s Fox Mulder.”

 

“I saw Dana’s name on the caller ID, is she with you?” Her voice carries worry. 

 

“No, I’m just here at her apartment watering her plants, sorry to confuse you. Have you been in touch with Dana, Mrs. Scully?”

 

“No, Fox, I haven’t heard from her in weeks. She told me she had an assignment that would take her away for a while and that she’d be unreachable, but I’m a little concerned that she hasn’t contacted me yet.”

 

Mulder closes his eyes. “I wish I had anything to share, Mrs. Scully, but I’m in somewhat of the same boat. A.D. Skinner isn’t concerned and it does sound like he’s in touch with her, but I was hoping she might have called you.”

 

“I’m afraid not,” Maggie replies sadly. 

 

“What did she tell you when she left? Did she share any information at all?” he asks hopefully. 

 

“Um, let me think. She said she was going on an assignment and that she’d be out of touch for a few weeks. And she said she’d bring me some Tastykakes when she comes home,” she adds.

 

“Tastykakes, what are those?” Mulder asks, his investigative senses tingling. 

 

“They’re a treat we always get when we go to Philadelphia; little packaged snack cakes. The kids always loved them.”

 

“Are they only available in Philadelphia?” he asks, heart pumping. 

 

“I’m not sure, but that’s where we always get them,” Maggie says hopefully.

 

“Thank you, Mrs. Scully. That’s really helpful. I’ll let you know if I track her down, okay?”

 

“Thank you, Fox. Take care.”

 

Setting the phone back on its cradle, he does a little victory dance. It isn’t much, but it’s something. Scully is just a few hours away in the city of brotherly love. 

 



Three weeks. It’s been three weeks of practicing stage sets and lap dances in the afternoon, serving drinks in the evening and well into the middle of the night, and then sleeping until noon. Her arms and legs bear fading bruises from her acclimation to Paul the Pole, the crooks of her elbows and knees sporting slight calluses that help her get a good grip (with an assist from the grip powder Angel has instructed her to use). She’s given Tibet and Angel dozens of lap dances each, the other standing by to coach her on making sure one foot stays on the floor. After three weeks, she found that her barriers were mostly in her head. Once she was able to let go and just move, she’s actually pretty good at it. 

 

That day she arrives in pink cotton shorts and a white tank top, now so used to being scantily clad that it no longer makes her self-conscious, and prepares to do a full dress rehearsal of the routine she worked up with Angel’s help. Queenie and Ricky sit down to observe what is more or less a test of her readiness, and one she intends to pass. Where she would have expected to feel nervous, she’s excited, ever the eager student motivated to impress and exceed expectations. Ben kills the daytime lights to make it look and feel like it would if they were open, and her set begins. 

 

Moving onto the stage, she can barely see her audience with the bright lights trained on her. She quickly gets lost in the movements she rehearsed, feeling graceful as she circles the pole and hitches an arm around it, spinning in a feathery arc. When the point in the dance comes to remove her shirt, she does so as a well practiced step in a strategy, without any feelings of exposure. Soon enough her bra follows suit and she is left with only her tiny pink shorts, nipples hardening as they graze the pole. The undulation of her hips, the pop of her booty out towards the audience, the slip of a hand down the inside of her thigh; they’re each a part of the method. Precisely planned and executed in much the same way as she might dismantle and clean her gun, or prepare a slide for the microscope. It isn’t much different than performing an autopsy, she had reasoned. Except instead of: Y incision, open rib cage, remove organs, examine stomach contents, collect specimens, examine brain, it’s: arch back, grasp breasts, spread legs, thrust pelvis, rub thighs, grind on the pole. She’s always found her strength in taking a clinical, detached approach to difficult tasks, and that turns out to be just as effective on the stage as it is in the lab. 

 

As she finishes, her small audience erupts into applause, standing in ovation as Ben brings the house lights up halfway. Scully smiles shyly, stepping down to join them on the floor as Ricky approaches her and slings an arm around her bare shoulders. 

 

“That was fucking fantastic, Desi. Sexy as fuck. Let me see you do a lap dance now.”

 

As she’s spent more time around Ricky, she’s found that he seems to take a similarly detached approach to his dancers. She’s been topless around him dozens of times during her training and he’s hardly ever given her more than a cursory glance. While he’s crass and uncouth, he doesn’t make her uncomfortable. 

 

“For you?” she asks, assuming he’d want to see first hand what Tibet had taught her. 

 

Ricky makes a sort of shocked and amused face, laughing once. “No, girl, do it for Tibet.”

 

Tibet sits in a chair and Ben puts on some of the ambient music he typically plays when no one is on stage. Scully saunters over to Tibet and asks if she’d like a dance, just how she’s been taught, and Tibet nods with a proud smile on her mouth. Scully proceeds to roll and writhe over her, grazing Tibet’s lap with her thigh, or ass, or breasts, depending on what position she’s in. The onlookers stand back and give nods of approval, pointing and whispering to one another regarding her technique. As she’s nearing the end of the dance she pulls out her best trick; slipping the length of her back down between Tibets thighs and ending with the back of her head in Tibet’s lap, which draws more applause and whooping. 

 

“Yeah, girl, work that gameboy!” Queenie shouts, laughing. 

 

When she’s done, Ricky walks towards her with his hand extended and she takes it in the most situationally awkward congratulatory handshake of her life. 

 

“Congrats, Desi. You hereby graduate. Let’s see you up on that stage tonight.”

 

“Tonight?” She asks, remembering that the result of all this would be her doing what she had just done in front of a group of people she’d come to trust, but with strangers. 

 

“Hell yeah, girl. Not a minute to waste! Mr Keane always comes in on Thursdays, and he’s been waiting for you.” He wags his eyebrows at her suggestively. 

 


 

She slumps through the front door of her apartment at nearly 4am, exhausted and grimy with dried sweat and glitter. Though she wants nothing more than sleep, she knows that she’ll completely defile her bed without a shower, so she switches it on and then goes to lock up that night's earnings in the safe. She’d averaged $300 a night waitressing, once she got the hang of it and was able to milk even the rocks for all they were worth, but tonight she has closer to $1000 to contribute to the pot after her first night on stage. When Agent Wiley finally came back with an answer as to the fate of her tips, she learned that she was supposed to keep them; considering the nature of what she had to do to earn them, the bureau felt like it was only fair. She flings her clothes into the hamper and steps under the spray, layers of makeup rushing down the drain with errant sparkles that will probably never come totally clean. As she washes away the evidence of her first shift as a stripper, she thinks back through the events of the night.

 

It had been strange, and uncomfortable, and at times exciting. The stage part of dancing was actually fairly easy in terms of comfort level, since the closest she had to be to any customers was the brush of a hand. The lap dancing was more difficult, and she had to work much harder to relax and resist her self-protective reflexes. At one point in the night a twenty-something man had put his hand on her hip while she was gyrating above him and Denny’s hand appeared on his wrist out of nowhere; Scully hadn’t even realized he was close by. He squeezed so tightly the man cried out in pain, and as Scully moved off his lap Denny dragged him to the door and tossed him out unceremoniously as his friends looked on in shock. Scully herself stood there dumbly, not sure what to do, until Denny came back and leaned his massive frame down so she could hear him. 

 

“You okay, Desi?”

 

“Um, yeah. Yeah, I’m okay.”

 

“Okay, good. You can go in the back and take a break if you need to. That guy won’t ever come here again.”

 

She was touched by his concern, and did take some time to recover before she went back on to the floor. Aside from that, the notable event of the night was the dance she gave to Mr. Keane, who was polite and professional, kept his hands to himself, but leered at her with a mischievous smirk on his face the entire time. There was nothing he did that gave her pause, but she still found that she didn’t quite trust him. 

 

“Can I take you to a private room?” He’d asked her as her dance concluded, and she was visibly uncomfortable to the point that he laughed and told her not to worry about it, that there’d be time later. He was respectful, but something was still off. 

 

She now had unfettered access to the dancer’s room and her own station, but chose to just observe her first night. The dancers paid a small portion of what they made back to the club, and it was to be hand-delivered to Ricky in his office before you left for the night. She had high hopes that this was exactly the kind of access she needed in order to learn more about Mila, who she still had not seen nor heard mention of. Scully thought she must be held at another location, or else she wasn’t here at all. The idea that this was all for naught made her sick. 

 

She’d been formally introduced to more of the dancers, including the illustrious Lexie who glared at her and ignored her outstretched hand, but found that the woman who went by Magenta was very kind and welcoming. She was a big-bodied woman with shoulder-length black hair and piercing blue eyes, her soft belly slung low in her lingerie complimented by modest breasts and porcelain skin. Scully had actually found herself surprised by how few of the women who worked here had large breasts, and supposed that was a stereotype as well. 

 

“Do you have a boyfriend?” Magenta had asked as they sat at their side by side stations and got ready for their shift. 

 

“I’m separated from my husband,” she replied. 

 

“That doesn’t really answer my question,” Magenta said with a smirk. 

 

“Oh, um. No, not really,” she was surprised and irritated that she immediately thought of Mulder. He was in no way her boyfriend, but it was complicated in a way she wasn’t about to explain to Magenta. 

 

“Ah,” Magenta said knowingly as she opened her mouth wide to apply her lipstick, “I see.”

 

“What?” Scully asked, feeling like she’d missed something. 

 

Magenta turned to look at her reflection in the mirror. “You don’t have a boyfriend, technically speaking, but you do have someone who you would like to be your boyfriend.”

 

Scully opened her mouth to reply, but found that she didn’t have the desire to refute the statement. Magenta didn’t know her, not really. She only knew Desi/Diane. What was the harm in being honest for once? She closed her mouth and pushed it into a guilty smile. 

 

Magenta chuckled. “So what’s standing in your way? Why can’t you be with this guy?”

 

Scully shook her head. “It’s complicated, but I guess I’d say we’ve been friends, best friends, for years and we’re both too afraid that it would ruin our relationship if we took it further. Plus we work together, which adds another layer.”

 

Magenta looked at her quizzically, “he works here at the club?”

 

Scully’s eyes went big realizing that she’d forgotten who she was for a moment. “Oh, no, sorry, we used to work together, is what I meant to say. But I might go back to that job, if this doesn’t work out.”

 

Magenta nodded and turned away, and Scully let out a sigh in relief. 

 

“Can you see yourself romantically with someone else, while still being best friends with this man?” Magenta asked as she traced a pencil through her eyebrows, defining and darkening them. 

 

Scully considered the question, and again opted for honesty. When would she ever again have the chance to actually talk to someone about her relationship with Mulder?

 

“No. I can’t see myself with anyone else at all, regardless of whether I was as close as I am now to Mu-…to this man. I think…I think we’ve been through so much together at this point that no one else could ever begin to understand me in the way he does.” She stared at her own reflection somberly. 

 

“So it’s taking a chance with this guy, or being alone for the rest of your life?” Magenta asked, putting down the eyebrow pencil and picking up a can of spray-on glitter, which Scully had come to learn was referred to as “booty dust.”

 

She was struck by how simple Magenta made it sound. Were those really her only options? She got a lot from her relationship with Mulder, even if they never went beyond what they had now, but was it enough? She had let it be enough for seven years, but if she was honest with herself, it wasn’t something she was ready to sign on to for the rest of her life. 

 

Magenta noted her sullen demeanor and realized she’d struck a chord. 

 

“Shit, sorry, Desi. I’m not trying to bum you out before your first shift. Did Angel tell you I’m a therapist during daylight hours? It’s hard to turn it off sometimes.”

 

“No, it’s okay. I don’t really have anyone I can talk to about this, about him, so it’s kind of nice. Even if you’re not exactly telling me what I want to hear,” she smiled warmly at Magenta, who was arranging a network of straps around her torso as she dressed for her set, slipping them between and over her milky rolls until she was satisfied with the arrangement. 

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll never tell you what you want to hear. That’s the Magenta guarantee, right, Lexie?” She added the last part at a higher volume so that Lexie, who was just a few stations away and was no doubt listening to their conversation, could hear.

 

“Fuck off, Molly,” Lexie responded, though she couldn’t fully suppress the smile that tugged at her lips. 

 

Magenta laughed, then turned back to Scully. “Molly’s my real name, you can call me whatever you want. And don’t mind Lexie, the bitchy exterior is a defense mechanism. She’s a big ball of goo under there.”

 

Magenta patted her shoulder then left the room, and Scully could hear Ben announce her entrance to the stage a minute or two later. 

 

Scully thinks about what Magenta said as she washes her hair. The shampoo Agent Wiley stocked her with is far better quality than anything she would have purchased for herself and the smell of rosemary and mint fill her nose. If those are really her choices, to take a risk on something more with Mulder or resign to a life devoid of the kind of intimacy that she desperately wants, shouldn’t the choice be clear? Is she really protecting herself by holding him at arm's reach? If they take the leap and give it a try, what’s the worst case scenario? If it crashes and burns, at least she’ll know. And maybe she could actually find happiness with someone else once she knows it isn’t possible with Mulder. When she looks at it through Magenta’s lens, it’s beyond ridiculous that she’s so afraid to risk it when what she has now is so fraught and painful. She hopes she’ll be able to talk to Magenta more about this at some point. 

 

She falls into bed with soaking wet hair and an empty belly, and dreams that Mulder comes to the club and watches her dance, then confesses that he loves her. When she wakes, she feels more hopeful for her future than she has in a long time, which is odd considering her circumstance. 

 

Chapter Text

Though the revelation that Scully is in Philly felt like a big break, he soon enough realizes there is little to nothing he can do with this information. Philadelphia is a big city, and it’s not like he can just walk the streets asking everyone if they’ve seen a petite, strikingly beautiful redhead (though the thought does cross his mind). He spends the better part of a week digging through every Philadelphia-based case file in the bureau he can gain access to, reading about different investigations into drug rings, dog fighting clubs, snuff films and other unsavory things that make his stomach knot when he considers Scully being involved with them. 

 

Taking a break from his fruitless investigation, he goes to the cafeteria and gets coffee and a bagel, slumping down at a small table with a sigh of defeat. He’s leafing through the recent publications of National Enquirer and Weekly World News, flagging pages he might want to do further research on, when a conversation between three agents at the adjacent table catches his attention. 

 

“….yeah but I heard they sent an agent undercover.”

 

“To a strip club?!”

 

“Yeah, that’s what I heard. It’s all super hush-hush, but I know someone who’s really close with Kersh’s secretary and she said they sent a female agent undercover.”

 

Mulder freezes with a page half-turned between his fingers, listening raptly without giving any indication he’s doing so. 

 

“Sent her undercover to do what?”

 

“To WORK there, Diaz. Put it together.”

 

“To work as a stripper? No way. The bureau wouldn’t stoop that low, would they?”

 

“Maybe not normally, but this family bankrolls a scholarship fund so the higher-ups will do pretty much anything to find their daughter.”

 

“That’s fucked up. Do you know who they sent?”

 

“No way, that’s why they’re keeping it so quiet. Do you know how many guys would give their right arm to see what some of the agents around here look like under those sensible suits?”

 

All three agents, who are male, laugh and Mulder clenches the page in his fist in anger. 

 

“Yeah, I can think of a few. Agent Sullivan, Agent McCall, ooooo I bet Agent Wiley has a hot little body.”

 

“I might not mind seeing Agent Wiley in her birthday suit. You know who I’d pay good money to see in her underwear though? Agent Scully.”

 

“Seriously, Mrs. Spooky?”

 

“Fuck yeah. Spooky shit aside, she’s hot as fuck. I’d like to see what that pretty little mouth can do to-”

 

Mulder stands abruptly, his chair clattering to the ground and sending all eyes in the room in their direction. He turns slowly to look at the agent who’d been speaking, a man whose name he does not know and who he’s sure Scully couldn’t pick from a lineup. His fists are balled up at his sides and he breathes rapid, shallow breaths through his nose. He wants more than anything to kick this guy’s ass, but he knows that he needs to stay on Skinner’s good side and off everyone’s radar if he's going to figure out Scully’s exact location, so he restrains himself. The agent is looking at him in gape-mouthed terror, clearly expecting the ass-kicking he would normally be subjected to. Instead, Mulder places his palms on the table and leans down so that his face is inches from the other agent’s, and speaks in a tone so low that only the other two men at the table can make out his words. 

 

“If you ever so much as speak Agent Scully’s name again, I will personally rip your tiny balls from their sack and shove them so far up your ass you’ll choke. Understood?”

 

The man nods but says nothing, and Mulder turns and leaves the cafeteria with a hundred eyes following him. 

 

He takes a few minutes to shake off the anger that courses through his veins at the way those men were talking about their fellow agents, and in particular Scully. He needs to switch gears and turn on the charm before he enters Kersh’s office. Once he feels ready, he pushes the door open and smiles warmly at Kersh’s secretary. He’s always had a way with the secretaries, a fact that fuels most of the rumors about him. 

 

“Rebecca, hi, how are you?” he asks, crouching down beside her and resting an elbow on the surface of her desk. 

 

“Hello, Agent Mulder,” she returns, twisting in her chair to face him, “would you like to speak to A.D. Kersh? He’s in a meeting right now.”

 

“Oh, no, let’s not bother him. I think you can help me, actually. Is that a new blouse?” He reaches out to touch her sleeve with his index finger. 

 

She looks down at her simple button up blouse and then back to him, blushing. “This? Yes, actually.”

 

“It’s a beautiful color on you,” he says, then meets her eye until she looks away nervously. “Hey, Rebecca, I’m hoping to get a copy of the file agent Scully is working on, the undercover assignment at a gentlemen’s club? I’m doing some research for her.”

 

Rebecca’s expression changes to one of worry. “I-I can’t do that, Agent Mulder.”

 

Mulder feigns confusion. “What do you mean? I’m her partner, she asked for some help, I just misplaced the file.”

 

Rebecca shakes her head slowly. “I was told not to share the details of that case with anyone. Not even you, Agent Mulder. I’m sorry.”

 

Mulder swallows his frustration and decides to try for some degree of honesty. 

 

“Look, Rebecca, I understand the difficult position you’re in. The thing is,” he covers her hand with his on the top of her desk, “I’m concerned that the bureau is not acting in Agent Scully’s best interest on this case and I need to ensure her safety. You know what it’s like for women working here.”

 

Rebecca’s expression falls, irritation replacing the remorse that was there previously.

 

“Yes, Agent Mulder,” she replies in a terse tone, withdrawing her hand from under his. “I DO know what it’s like for women working here.” She sits back in her chair and crosses her arms. 

 

Mulder stands, recognizing that he isn’t going to get anywhere with this route. 

 

“Thanks, Rebecca. Sorry to bother you.”

 

He turns to leave, wondering how many strip clubs there are in Philly and how long it will take him to find the one that will lead him to Scully. 

 


 

Scully wakes to pounding on her front door, which is alarming considering that no one knows she’s here. Her first instinct is to go for her weapon, but her heart sinks when she realizes she doesn’t have it. Next she wonders if Mulder has somehow found her, and this simultaneously floods her with relief and terror. Creeping quietly towards the door, she’s startled by another series of loud bangs and then a muffled voice from the other side of the door calls out:

 

“Desi! Open up! I know you’re home!”

 

Scully sighs with relief; it’s Angel. She pulls the door open to find Angel dressed in a pink babydoll top and jeans that are cut so low she’d need a bikini wax to wear them, if she didn’t already have a full Brazilian. Her hair is significantly shorter, resting just above her shoulders in a bob. 

 

“Oh, you cut your hair,” Scully acknowledges, and Angel gives her a quizzical look. 

 

“Right…Girl, were you still sleeping?”

 

“Yeah, what time is it?” Scully asks, realizing that she didn’t set an alarm. She steps to the side and motions for Angel to come in. 

 

“It’s three in the afternoon, woman. You’re sleeping the day away.” Angel walks around the apartment, looking at photos and trinkets. In her ample free time, Scully has thought up back stories for every single one of them, just in case. 

 

“Wow, I didn’t even know I was capable of sleeping that long. I guess last night really took it out of me.”

 

“It happens,” Angel says, fingering a little Eiffel Tower model. “You been to Paris?” she asks hopefully. 

 

“No,” Scully answers, “my ex always promised to take me, but we never went.”

 

Angel makes a disapproving face, then goes back to snooping. “Get dressed, we gotta go shopping now that you’re on the stage.”

 

“Right, um, give me 20 minutes? And can we get food? I haven’t eaten anything since lunch yesterday.”

 

“Hells to the yes, girl, let’s get tacos!” Angel flops down onto the couch and picks up a copy of People magazine from the coffee table. 

 

Scully can’t help but smile. Goofy and unsophisticated as she is, Angel is a good friend. 

 

She dresses in jeans and a T-shirt, forgoing makeup since she’ll have to put on several pounds of it for work tonight, and they make their first stop at Frederick’s of Hollywood. Scully had begged Angel to get lunch first, but Angel insisted that they couldn’t be all full and bloated from lunch while trying on work clothes. After Scully’s arm is loaded with outfits of Angel’s choosing, they each find a dressing room and start trying things on. The first thing Scully puts on is a red teddy with the bodice entirely made up of a series of thin straps, covering barely anything but her nipples. She immediately feels compelled to take it off, but Angel calls to her over their shared wall to come out and show her. Scully peeks around the curtain until she sees Angel emerge from her room in a pink lace getup that has black trimming the edges. 

 

“Come out here, let me see,” Angel urges, just as un-self-conscious here as she is at the club. 

 

Scully looks around for anyone who might be watching, but they appear to be the only people in the store on a random weekday afternoon. She tentatively steps out from behind the curtain and Angel smiles broadly at her. 

 

“Oh my gosh, you look so good! That’s perfect for you!”

 

Scully makes a face. “I don’t know, isn’t it a bit much?” She wants to pull at something to create more coverage, like tugging the bottom of a skirt, but there’s no fabric to spare. 

 

“Come here, look in the mirror,” Angel insists. 

 

Scully steps forward and stands in front of a full length mirror with Angel beside her, looping their arms together. 

 

“What do you see?” Angel asks her.

 

Scully’s eyebrows knit in confusion. “What do you mean?”

 

“When you look at yourself, what do you see?”

 

Scully looks at her reflection. She sees very little fabric, flesh, arms and legs. A body, the same as dozens she’s autopsied. The human form, a series of atoms arranged into parts that make up a whole. 

 

“I don’t know. A woman. A ridiculously underdressed one,” she finally replies. 

 

Angel studies her. “You’re like me, huh?”

 

Scully narrows her eyes. She and Angel are certainly nothing alike. 

 

“You were raised like me, I mean,” Angel continues. “You were raised to think that your body is dirty and sinful. Were you raised religious?”

 

Scully nods, choosing to let the real answer be okay here. “Catholic.”

 

Angel makes a knowing face. “Yikes. I was like you too, before. I just saw my body as, like, a vessel for me to live in. It didn’t even feel like it belonged to me. But I can see my body now, and I know that it’s beautiful. And that it’s not dirty or sinful, and it’s not wrong for me to feel sexy, or want sex.”

 

She’s watching Scully’s face in their reflection, and Scully knows that what Angel sees in her expression is recognition and realization. 

 

“Let’s try different outfits. Put on the green one,” Angel directs her, perhaps seeing that she needs a minute. 

 

They each return to their dressing rooms and Scully removes the red teddy before locating the green number that Angel had referred to. It’s dark, olive almost, a halter neckline on top and a high cut thong on the bottom, the two halves connected by a thick strap that criss-crosses in an X on her abdomen. It’s made entirely of velour and she brushes her fingertips over it, feeling the dense fuzziness. 

 

“You ready, Desi?” Angel calls, and they both emerge wearing the same outfit, which makes Scully smile. She hadn’t realized that Angel had also picked one for herself. 

 

“Come here,” Angel holds out her hand to invite Scully back in front of the mirror. “Let me tell you what I see when I look at myself, Desi. I see…really nice cheekbones. And I like my shoulders, how slender they are. I see small but perky breasts, and they’re super sensitive. And I see how my waist and hips are almost the same width, and that makes my body look sporty and compact. And I have a great ass, round and firm. I’m beautiful, and sexy, and men pay money just to see this body. And there’s nothing wrong with it.”

 

Scully feels a tug of emotion at the way Angel has overcome her upbringing to feel so secure in her body. She understands how difficult that must have been for her. 

 

“Now you go,” Angel encourages her with a little nudge on her shoulder. 

 

Scully lifts her eyebrows in question. 

 

“Tell me what you see, Desi. Look at your body.”

 

Scully takes a deep breath and looks at herself. “Um, I guess….I guess I like my skin. Even though I’ve been poked fun at a lot for being so fair, I think it’s pretty.” She looks to Angel and sees her smile and nod, encouraging Scully to go on. “And…I’m really strong, I like that about myself. I have…my belly is really flat.” She casts Angel another look, but this one has a more pleading quality. 

 

“Okay, think about it this way,” Angel interjects, “so that guy you’re into, your old coworker or whatever that you were telling Magenta about, imagine that he’s looking at you. What do you think he sees? What do you want him to see?”

 

Scully considers her reflection again, and imagines Mulder seeing her in this outfit. The thought immediately quirks the corners of her mouth, because she knows exactly what his face would look like. She can see him reacting, and then trying to cover it up, clearing his throat and asking her some mundane question about work while he looks everywhere but at her. He respects her so much, but he sees her. 

 

“He would see my waist,” Scully starts, “he’s always touching me at my waist and my lower back, and he’d see what that skin looks like, bare. He’d see my breasts, just barely covered, and he’d want to see more. But he’d be so intrigued just seeing this much, because he likes mystery and for things to be revealed to him. I know he’d see how little of my vulva is covered and it would drive him crazy. And he’d see my tattoo, which I know he’s always been curious about but has never asked to see. I know he’d touch it. He’d see my scar, which he feels responsible for even though he’s not, and it would remind him how strong I am. But he’d also see my face, because he’s always looking at my mouth, and my eyes. And sometimes I see him staring at my neck. I think he likes my neck, and I think he wants to kiss me there. Sometimes I think he almost has, and the way he looks at me…”


She trails off, realizing she’s lost herself in the moment and is rambling. Suddenly she looks at Angel, expecting her to be shocked by what she’s said, but she’s smiling softly. 

 

“Try to see yourself how he does, Desi. You’re not just a body made of parts that can get you from here to there. You’re a beautiful, sexy woman. And you deserve to enjoy your body.”

 

Scully swallows hard, taking one last look at the mirror and realizing that she doesn’t recognize herself. But for once, she feels like that’s a good thing. 

 

After she’s spent at least half of her bank account balance on expensive lingerie, grip, and booty dust, they finally arrive at a little hole in the wall that serves nothing but tacos, chips and salsa. They order and sit down, Scully’s stomach growling loudly in protest. 

 

“Thanks for taking me shopping, Angel. It was fun,” Scully says, and she means it. 

 

“Anytime, girl. Hey, so what’s the deal with this old coworker of yours anyway? I just overheard you talking to Magenta about it, sorry to be nosy,” she punctuates her statement with the loud crunch of a salsa-laden chip. 

 

“No, it’s okay. He’s, um, just someone I’ve known for a long time. I guess I’d probably say he’s my best friend, in a way. I’ve had feelings for him for a long time, but I only really was able to admit that to myself very recently.” She takes several long pulls on her Coke, craving the calories. 

 

“Because you split from your husband?” Angel asks, and Scully nods. Sure, that makes sense. 

 

“So you’ve never fucked him?” Angel asks, and her vulgarity makes Scully laugh in surprise. 

 

“No, definitely not. We kissed once, on New Year's Eve, but that’s it.”

 

Angel nods. “I had a friend like that once. I was totally in love with them for a long time, but we were like, so close, you know? To where I thought that if I told them how I felt about them, they’d just run away and then I’d be alone. So I just never said anything.”

 

“And what happened?” Scully asks, leaning in. 

 

Angel shrugs. “They met some other girl. Now they’re married and have two kids and a house and all that shit. AND we’re not friends anymore anyway, so Iooking back on it, I should have just risked it. Even if it didn’t work out, I’d still be without them as a friend, but at least I’d know that it wasn’t meant to be.”

 

Scully sits back and considers this. If Mulder did find someone else, a partner in life, would there still be room for her? The thought makes her stomach knot, and it's from more than just her hunger. Thankfully, their plates are delivered just then. 

 

“What about you, Angel? Do you have a boyfriend?” Scully asks around a mouthful of a chicken taco. 

 

“Nope, I’m free as a bird. That’s how I want it for now, though,” Angel answers, picking the radishes and cilantro off her dish.

 

“You and Ricky aren’t an item?” Scully asks, seeing an opportunity to answer this question that Agent Wiley has long since been asking. 

 

Angel pauses in her task and looks at Scully with a deadpan expression for a beat, then bursts into laughter. “Ricky?” She asks between titters, “Ricky Dean?”

 

Scully nods, her face a mask of confusion. 

 

“Oh my god, no. Ricky is gay as a rainbow, girl, did you not pick up on that?”

 

Scully smiles and shakes her head. It does make sense, now that she thinks about it. He seems totally disinterested in all the women but fawns over some of the high rollers, maybe for reasons beyond the size of their wallets. 

 

Angel wipes at the corners of her eyes. “Whew, your gay-dar needs some work, Desi. Thanks for the laugh, though.”

 

Scully sees an opening. 

 

“Is there anyone who works at the club that I haven’t met yet?”

 

Angel ponders the question while she chews. “I don’t think so. Since they rotate our days off, you end up working with everyone at least once a month. You’re at just about a month here, yeah?”

 

Scully nods, scanning her brain for anything else she might ask without raising suspicion. She’s already asked Angel about the locked doors in the dancer’s room. Probably best not to push it for now. 

 

The bill comes and Scully grabs it. “My treat,” she says, smiling at her unlikely friend. 

 


 

The second night goes a bit more smoothly than the first. Scully feels more prepared for what she experiences working the floor, and goes into her first VIP room with a young man who is very nervous, and very respectful. She feels a wave of relief having gotten that out of the way, knowing that she’ll be expected to entertain Mr. Keane soon. 

 

Near closing time, she’s finishing up a lap dance for a regular who everyone calls “Bayou Bob” for reasons that are unclear to her, when she catches a commotion near the door. Denny is dragging a man outside as he kicks, screams and curses up a storm, and Scully notices Magenta standing where the scuffle started, looking pissed. She makes her way over and touches Magenta’s arm.

 

“Are you okay?” she asks, and Magenta shakes her head . 

 

“I’m fine physically, he didn’t touch me, just said something super fucking rude so I told Denny to 86 him.”

 

They watch as Denny returns from the lobby, blood pouring from the corner of his eyebrow. Scully reflexively goes to him.

 

“Denny, you’re hurt. Come here, let’s go in the back.”

 

“It’s fine, Desi, no big deal,” he says in his flat baritone.

 

“Please, let me take a look. I know first aid.”

 

Denny reluctantly agrees and follows her into the staff kitchen, where she sits him down and opens the first aid kit on the wall. She cleans the small cut and then applies butterfly closures to it. 

 

“It doesn’t look like it needs stitches, but you’ll want to keep it clean and dry, and keep this type of bandage on it so it doesn’t scar,” she instructs him. 

 

“That’s okay, Desi, chicks dig scars,” he says, glancing down briefly to her stomach. And then for the first time that she’s seen, he smiles. 

 

She smiles back, then suddenly becomes aware that she’s still topless and self-consciously crosses her arms over her chest. 

 

“I guess it’s about closing time, huh? I’m gonna go get changed,” she says, then leaves Denny in the kitchen and goes to the dancer’s room. She pulls on a sweatshirt and leggings over what’s left of her lingerie before she finds everyone else in the locker room counting their cash. 

 

She counts quickly, wanting to be the first to go to Ricky’s office with her house fee, and she’s successful. Leaving her shoes behind, she pads across the floor and down the front hall to knock gently on the frame of Ricky’s open office door. He’s seated at his desk, shirt half unbuttoned as he looks over the books for the night. He lifts his head when he hears her knock. 

 

“Desiree, my lovely, please come on in,” he says in a sleepy monotone, and she approaches his desk and holds out some cash to him. “Thanks, dear. How are you liking the stage?” He leans back in his chair and gives her his full attention. 

 

“Um, it’s fine. Good I guess. The money is certainly better.”

 

He nods sleepily. He seems vulnerable. 

 

“Hey Ricky,” she continues, “where do the locked doors in the dancer’s room go?”

 

He tilts his head and looks at her with interest. “Why do you ask, darlin?”

 

Scully shrugs. “Just curious. I keep accidentally trying the wrong door when I go to use the bathroom.”

 

Ricky nods in acknowledgement. “Tell you what, I’ll have ‘em put a sign up on the bathroom that says….’bathroom.’ Then you won’t forget.” She can’t read his expression and it unnerves her. 

 

“Thanks, Ricky, have a good one.” She turns to leave. 

 

“Desi,” Ricky says just as she reaches the threshold. She turns back slowly, wondering if she’s just blown her cover or otherwise damaged his trust in her. 

 

“I know you’re supposed to be off tomorrow, but can you pick up? Tibet has a test or some shit for school she has to study for, asked for the night off.”

 

Scully nods. “Of course, I’m happy to,” she says. Though this is tiring work, it’s not like she has anything to do on a day off anyway. 

 

“Thanks, lovely. Now get home and get some rest.”

 

Scully enters the hallway and heads back towards the floor. Passing the unmarked doors, she stops and tries each of them, finding the first three locked. The fourth surprisingly gives way with a soft click, and she opens it slowly. 

 

The inside is dark and dank, and she strains to adjust her eyes to find a switch or cord for a light. She’s feeling around when someone reaches past her shoulder and pulls on a thin wire, casting the space in yellow light and revealing several slumping cardboard boxes overflowing with taffeta and tulle. Scully turns to look behind her and sees Lexie standing with her arms crossed and a very unamused expression. 

 

“Ricky puts on a drag show every year during pride month. These are the costumes,” she says in answer to a question Scully hasn’t asked. 

 

“I-I was just looking for-“ Scully scrambles for an excuse. 

 

“I honestly don’t give a flying fuck what you’re looking for DESIREE.” Her tone implies air quotes around the name. “Have you ever heard the expression ‘play stupid games, win stupid prizes’?” Lexie pauses expectantly. Apparently it is not a rhetorical question. 

 

“Yes,” Scully answers confidently, pushing the timid personality of Diane to the side. Lexie seems like a woman who doesn’t have respect for weak people. 

 

“Well, the stupid prize around here is losing your job and maybe getting your ass beat on top of it, so I strongly recommend you keep your pointy little nose in your own goddamn business.”

 

“What is your problem?” Scully asks, stepping forward. Though they are both barefoot, Lexie has about 6 inches on her and she has to look up to meet her eye. This doesn’t happen to affect her confidence level, what with regularly sparring with a man who is nearly a foot taller than she. 

 

“My problem,” Lexie responds, “is that some of us are just here trying to make a living and support our families and don’t need nosy little busy bodies trying to get this place shut down.” She leans forward to emphasize the degree to which she towers over Scully. 

 

“Why would I try to get the place shut down? I work here too.” Scully is genuinely confused. If Lexie suspects she’s a cop, wouldn’t she just tell Ricky as much?

 

“I couldn’t begin to imagine why you or anyone else does the stupid shit they do,” Lexie says, stepping towards Scully until she’s nearly forcing her into the still-open closet. “But if my daughter goes without food on the table or a roof over her head because of you, I will personally punch you in that pouty little mouth of yours.”

 

“Ladies, are we preparing for the drag show?” Tibet’s voice calls out from the end of the hall and as she nears them, Scully takes the opportunity to slip past Lexie and get the fuck out of there. 

 



After an in-depth perusal of the Philadelphia yellow pages and a series of phone calls, Mulder finds that there are twenty-three strip clubs in the greater Philly area. Over the course of the last week he’s driven the three hours north to visit two or three each night after work, asking the first girl he sees if there are any dancers with red hair working, or any who are off tonight. He sometimes has to wait around for them to come on shift, to confirm that they aren’t Scully. Then he heads to another club or drives back to Alexandria to get a little sleep before work the next day. A couple times the red-haired dancer is off for the night and has to come back the next day to check. He’s been to his fair share of strip clubs in his time, but seeing them in rapid succession like this is unnerving. The quality of the facilities as well as the women range widely from playboy-bunny worthy to depressing. Each time he walks into a particularly seedy one that smells like BO and dried jizz, he hopes and prays not to find Scully there. 

 

On the fifth day, he has three clubs that are relatively close together that he plans to visit. These three also all happen to have kitschy names that he finds amusing. Before starting his car and heading north yet again, he reviews the clubs, listed on a slip of paper in the order he will visit them:

 

The Slippery Nipple

Hips & Hops

Damsels in Dominance

 

He pours a handful of sunflower seeds into the cup holder, tunes the radio to the rush hour nonstop music station, and hits the road once again. 




Chapter Text

The Slippery Nipple turns out to be the kind of establishment where you’re hesitant to put your lips to the water glasses based on the overall cleanliness of the place. He asks a bored waitress whether they have any redhead dancers and she sends over a woman whose fire engine locks match her messily applied lipstick, and he leaves after giving her a twenty for the trouble. 

 

Hips and Hops hardly qualifies as a strip club at all; it’s more of a restaurant with scantily clad servers, some of whom are men. 

 

He arrives at his final stop, Damsels in Dominance, just past 11 pm and hopes it will be a quick visit so he can go home and sleep. He may need to pause his search for a couple days after tonight based on how exhausted he feels, or possibly take some time off work so he can get a hotel in Philly while he works through the rest of his list. Parking in the rear lot, he enters a small foyer with a bulky Black man seated behind a counter to his right, looking more like he belongs on a football field than in a club. The man wordlessly holds out his hand and points to a sign that indicates there is a twenty dollar cover, which Mulder pays before pushing open a second door. To his right, there is a long hallway and a set of bathrooms, and in front of him another door that reads “Enter Here to be Dominated.” He pulls the door open, wondering if he’ll  find whips and chains on the other side, but is instead greeted by loud, pulsing music and the hum of hundreds of voices. The place looks relatively clean and organized, a bar on the left and a stage on the right that is currently unoccupied. On the back wall are this club’s iteration of VIP rooms, a few of which have the curtains pulled closed. He finds a seat along the wall at the end of the bar and looks around, surprised by the variety in body types of the topless women circulating the floor. 

 

A woman carrying a tray approaches him to take his drink order and he requests a Coke. She returns with it a couple minutes later, setting it down on a napkin. 

 

“Thanks,” he says, handing her a ten. “Hey, do you have any dancers working here who have red hair?”

 

At the beginning of this journey it had felt like an awkward question to ask, but he soon enough realized how ordinary an occurrence it was at such establishments for men to ask after their specific type. 

 

“Just one,” the woman replies, counting change from her apron, “Desiree. She’s here tonight, probably on stage within the next hour.”

 

He nods and hands the change back to her, which she accepts with an appreciative smile. Mulder looks around the room, noticing that it seems to be grouped by type of customer. He is seated among other men who came here alone, the younger, rowdy men are near the stage and older men in the middle. One of the VIP rooms opens and a quarterback-type young man steps out smiling, high-fiving his buddies in celebration of whatever he just enjoyed in there. A woman follows him out, immediately turning to head towards a door near the stage, and he does a double take. He stands reflexively, but stops himself short, instead watching her auburn hair and bare back disappear through the door frame. He thinks he catches sight of her tattoo just before it closes behind her, and his stomach clenches. Was that Scully? His Scully? Topless and having just spent time with some jock in a private room? His heart is racing and he feels a little sick. 

 

“Are you okay?” The waitress is standing nearby again, looking at him with concern. 

 

Mulder sits down hard, nodding and running his hands over his face. After looking for her for weeks, he suddenly wonders if he’s going to have a hard time accepting what he’s found. He sits and waits, bouncing his leg nervously and chewing his straw into shreds; he wishes he’d thought to bring sunflower seeds. His eyes dart from the door Scully had disappeared through to various other possible points of entry, waiting for her to reemerge. After a while, the adrenaline wears off and he slumps back, exhausted. Maybe he’d imagined it, or maybe it was a woman who bore a striking resemblance to Scully, but wasn’t her. He surprises himself by desperately hoping that it wasn’t. 

 

The music fades out and a male voice booms from some amorphous location he can’t pinpoint.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Ben Jammin, live on the turntable, here to welcome the beautiful Desiree to the stage. Please, show her some love.”

 

His stomach drops into his knees. Wasn’t Desiree the name the waitress had used for the red haired dancer? He hears the opening riff of some pop song that’s familiar, but not enough that he can name it. It’s slow and sultry, a song about sex. A small form slinks on to the stage and his breath catches in his chest. It’s Scully, but...it’s not. She’s wearing an impossibly tiny red dress and laughably tall shoes that she somehow struts flawlessly in. Her face looks different, painted with dramatic makeup, and the way she moves her body is decidedly unlike the Scully he knows. But her hair, aside from being teased up a bit bigger than normal, that was her. And as she rolls her head around on her perfect little neck, he can recognize the way her lips part in concentration, like she’s reading over a case file. Only she’s not reading over a case file, she’s bending and writhing on a stage in front of hundreds of men who are whooping and begging her to undress. He’s entranced by the curve of her waist and the arc of her arms over her head, when suddenly her dress is gone. Had she taken it off? He looks around, embarrassed on her behalf, knowing how modest she is, but sees that it was no mistake. On her top is a mesh bra and he can see her nipples clearly through the fabric, making his cock stir in his jeans. On the bottom, she’s wearing a tiny black thong with numerous straps stretching across each of her alabaster hips, which are already becoming stuffed with bills as she crawls around the edge of the stage. She turns her back to the audience and he can see her tattoo just above the sweet mound of her ass. His breath is growing ragged. They shouldn’t be seeing her like this. He hasn’t even seen her like this. Suddenly, her bra is undone, and she’s holding it to her chest before she leaps onto the pole and begins spinning around. The bra flies away haphazardly to reveal her perfect breasts, pert and pink and not freezing in Antarctic snow. And she’s smiling, a real smile. What the fuck is happening? He feels sick and exposed, aroused and angry. How could they do this to her? How could Skinner of all people make someone like Scully degrade herself like this? Then she’s gone, leaving piles of cash on the floor that a young man comes to sweep up as the ambient music resumes. 

 

He’s got to get her out of here. Fuck this case; she’s not okay. This is beyond the pale of the call of duty, way outside her job description and wholly unacceptable. He’ll wait outside and grab her when she leaves, take her home, tell Skinner she couldn’t do it. Just as soon as his massive erection fades, he’ll march right out of here and…

 

There she is again, walking out of the door she’d entered earlier. She’s wearing only that little strappy thong, her chest bare. He feels an ache at the soft curve of her little breasts bouncing gently as she traverses the room. For a moment he thinks she’s headed his way, but instead she goes straight for a man sitting a few tables in front of him, sharply dressed, mid forties. Scully walks right up to him and threads her legs between his knees, putting her hands on his shoulders and smiling, her pink nipples inches from his face. This smile, unlike the one he saw on stage, is not genuine. This is the smile she gives local police chiefs and lead detectives to excuse his poor behavior and curry favor when they need to ask for something. She’s talking, turning sideways to sit in his lap with her back to Mulder while the man whispers in her ear. Mulder can see her tattoo clearly, and it’s as though this is the final detail that confirms that his partner, Dana Katherine Scully, who has never borne even a hint of cleavage at work, who goes to put a bra on when he stops by unannounced, is working undercover as an exotic dancer. Strutting around topless like it’s the most normal thing in the world. Despite how horrified he is, he also finds himself a little bit impressed. He didn’t think she had that in her. 

 

She stands and holds out her hand to the well-dressed man and he takes it before they walk to one of the curtained rooms and pull it closed. He realizes that this man must be the suspect, and she’s been working all these weeks to get close to him. If Mulder blows her cover, all that she’s put herself through will have been for nothing. She’ll never forgive him. Heaving a sigh, he stands and leaves, knowing he’ll be back, and knowing that he will never get the image of Scully on that stage out of his head. Not like he’d want to. 


 

Taking Mr. Keane to the VIP room isn’t as bad as she’d feared. He asks her about the scar on her belly with a level of concern that surprises her, then tells her she doesn’t have to answer when he sees that she’s uncomfortable. She does a short dance for him, but then he just wants to talk about mundane things like stress at his job at some kind of finance firm and the perils of paying alimony. This is what the other dancers call “the girlfriend experience” and it happens more often than she would have anticipated. After an otherwise uneventful shift, she brings her house fee to Ricky, ready to head back to her apartment and get some rest. 

 

“Thanks love,” he says, a bit higher energy tonight than he’s been as of late. “Oh, hey Desi, could you do me a favor, Darlin? I left the books locked up behind the bar, could you take my keys and go get ‘em for me please?”

 

Scully swallows hard. “Yeah, of course,” she replies, keeping her tone casual as she holds out her hand. He doesn’t indicate which key on the jingling ring is for the bar, and she doesn't ask, knowing it will buy her time. 

 

As she walks down the hall, she quickly scans the keys to identify which are for cars versus doors versus other miscellaneous locks. There are five door keys, and she immediately stops at the first unmarked door in the hall and tries each one in rapid succession. As she works, she concocts a cover story in case anyone comes by, and prays thanks to the lord that Lexie is off tonight. The third key turns in the lock, and she quietly turns the knob and pulls it open to reveal…nothing. It’s lined with empty shelves. Fuck. 

 

The second door opens on the first key, which is lucky. This one is full of extra chairs and tables matching the ones on the floor, stacked haphazardly. Closing it, she tries another door, the last in the hallway aside from the one she already knows holds drag show supplies. This one opens on the last key, and she scrambles, knowing that someone will come down the hall any minute to turn in their house fee. When she pulls it open, her heart leaps. File cabinets, three across with four drawers each. She doesn’t have time to look in them now, so she closes and locks the door, then sprints to the bar to get the books and runs back down the hallway. By the time she re-enters Ricky’s office, Angel is standing with him, looking upset. 

 

“Sorry that took so long, I had to pee,” she starts, but Ricky just holds out his hands, ignoring her. 

 

His eyebrows are knitted in concern as Angel snuffles and wipes her nose on her sleeve, casting an embarrassed glance at Scully. She feels like she’s intruding on a private moment, so she goes back to the dancer’s room and waits, partially because Angel typically gives her a ride home, and partially because she’s grown so fond of her she wants to make sure Angel is okay. About ten minutes later, Angel returns with red, puffy eyes and picks up her bag. 

 

“Angel, are you okay?” Scully asks, and Angel nods tersely in response. 

 

“You want a ride?” She asks, and Scully follows her out to her car. 

 

The drive to her apartment is short, and Angel is quiet. As effusive as she normally is, something has clearly gotten to her. They pull up in front of the complex and Angel leaves the engine running, waiting for Scully to get out. 

 

“Do you want to come up for a bit? Talk, maybe?” Scully asks. She’s reminded of Mulder, how he sometimes becomes sullen and closed-off, and she patiently draws him out. 

 

Angel looks at her skeptically, but then nods and kills the engine. Inside the apartment, Scully pulls out the cocktail makings Agent Wiley provided and mixes them each a vodka tonic before she joins Angel on the small couch. Angel takes the cup and smiles gratefully before downing it in three big gulps. 

 

“What happened?” Scully asks tentatively. 

 

Angel shakes her head. “Nothing. Everything. I just…I saw someone at the club tonight that I knew, from before. They didn’t see me, thankfully, but it brought up a lot of memories. I guess I’m just kind of feeling the way I used to a lot, like…” she pauses and sighs deeply, leaning her head against the back of the couch. “I just feel gross and dirty, and ugly. Just like a worthless piece of shit.”

 

Scully sets her drink on the coffee table and scoots closer to Angel, taking her hand. The way she knows to comfort Mulder is with closeness, with touch. These are the tools she’s familiar with. 

 

“Angel, you know that’s not true,” she says in a soft voice. “You’re not dirty, or worthless. You’re beautiful.”

 

Angel lifts her head and looks at Scully with glistening eyes. Her lip quivers. “I don’t know, Desi. I try so hard to believe that, but sometimes I’m not sure. Maybe all I am is a pair of tits and a pussy. Like you said, body parts.”

 

Scully shakes her head. “No, Angel, I was wrong. I’m more than that, YOU are more than that.” She reaches out and cups Angel’s cheek, swiping away a falling tear with her thumb. “You’re beautiful, but you’re also kind, and funny. You’ve been such a good friend to me during a scary time, and you helped me feel confident enough to get on stage. I couldn’t have done this without you, Angel.”

 

Angel smiles weakly, tilting her head to lean into Scully’s hand and closing her eyes. When she opens them, her expression has changed. The confidence she’s come to expect from Angel is returning, and they lock eyes as Angel parts her lips softly and leans forward. Scully’s heart starts to race, sensing that Angel is preparing to kiss her, but she’s surprised to find that she doesn’t want to move away. Her hand slips from Angel’s cheek to her neck as they lean towards each other, threading into her hair. How many times has she touched Mulder like this? Hundreds. But unlike those hundreds of times, this time she isn’t going to run away. 

 

Angel places her other hand on Scully’s thigh just before their lips meet, soft and pillowy and tinged with the bite of tonic and alcohol. When she kissed Mulder, his mouth was firm and his stubble tickled her chin. Angel is smooth and supple, and unlike the kiss with Mulder, Angel doesn’t pull away. Instead, she slides her tongue along Scully’s bottom lip and Scully reciprocates, leaning more heavily into her and tasting her, warm and sweet. She feels Angel move her hand from thigh to waist, gripping her rib cage, their other hands still clasped in Scully’s lap. They lap and lick, sigh and arch toward each other like magnets seeking poles. When Scully lets a soft moan escape her mouth, Angel releases their joined hands and pushes up onto her knees, the weight of her body causing Scully to tilt back until she’s leaning against the arm of the couch with Angel perched over her, sliding in between her thighs. They continue kissing, and Scully grips a handful of Angel’s hair in her fist, but finds that it’s shifting in a way that doesn’t feel natural. She pulls back and looks at Angel with confusion, seeing her scalp exposed in a strange way. 

 

“Oh, sorry,” Angel laughs, grabbing her hair and pulling, which causes it to fall away, revealing it to be a wig. She tugs off the nylon cap underneath and tosses it, too, onto the floor. Her natural hair is chin-length and black at the roots with yellowing tips. “I’m trying to grow it out,” she continues, and looks at Scully self consciously. 

 

Scully threads her hand back into Angel’s hair, which is damp and sweaty at the nape. “Still beautiful,” she assures her with a smile, and Angel smiles back, dipping her head to resume their kissing. Her hand slips from Scully’s waist to the hem of her shirt and snakes underneath. Her fingers are small and smooth, delicately exploring goose-fleshed skin as she travels up Scully’s belly and rib cage until she meets with the soft swell of a breast. It’s been so long since anyone has touched her like this. Her encounter with Ed Jerse had been passionate and rushed, nothing like the way Angel’s manicured fingernails trace over the hardened bud of her nipple. The weight of her tiny body presses firmly between Scully’s legs, rocking gently and sending waves of pleasure and desire through her pelvis. God, this feels so good. 

 

A buzzing sound interrupts her train of thought. Is that a cell phone?

 

She sits up abruptly, pushing Angel off in the process. Shit. SHIT, did she leave the burner phone on? That was the ONE thing she had been instructed not to do. 

 

Angel is sitting back on her haunches, looking at Scully with a mix of hurt and confusion. Wordlessly, she leans down and pulls her cell phone from her purse, flipping it open. 

 

“Hello?” She stands and collects her wig and cap, stuffing them in her purse. “Hi Ricky……No, I’m okay. I’m at Desi’s but I’m about to head home.Yeah?…You think so? …I would, but I can’t really afford to…Are you serious?...Thanks, Ricky, you’re the best…Okay I’ll see you in a few days.”

 

She’s by the door now, slipping on her shoes. Scully hasn’t moved from her spot on the couch. 

 

“I’m gonna head out. Ricky gave me the next few days off, so I can take some time to wrap my head around things,” Angel says.

 

Scully stands, but doesn’t approach her. “Angel, I’m sorry, that was-”

 

Angel holds up her hand. “Don’t worry about it. I know you’re not gay. Just forget it. Pretend it never happened, please. I’ll see you at work in a few days.”

 

Scully opens her mouth to speak but then closes it and nods. Angel gives her a sad smile and leaves. 

Chapter Text

Mulder calls in to work the next day, too sleep deprived and mentally exhausted to function. After sleeping until nearly noon, he gets back in his car and returns to Philly. He checks into a hotel that’s just a few blocks from the club and then spends the next several hours trying to watch TV, trying to read, and jacking off picturing Scully topless. A short time later, he jacks off again, this time imagining what he’ll see tonight. 

 

He isn’t really sure what he’s doing or why he’s here. The best excuse he can cook up is that she doesn’t have a weapon and he’s protecting her, but realistically he knows she can take care of herself. Is it really just perversion, that he wants to see her…exposed? What will he say if she spots him? He can imagine her level of mortification if she knew he was here, that he’d seen her, and he feels guilt churn in his gut. She might never forgive him for this. 

 

He knows it’s wrong, but he can’t seem to stop himself from going back. He has to see her again. 

 

 


 

 

Scully had lay awake for hours after Angel left, thinking about what had happened, wondering how it happened in the first place. She’s on a case, how stupid could she be? What if it comes to light that she’s become involved with a witness in the case? She might be suspended. At least then maybe they’d never ask her to do something like this again. What if Mulder finds out? Would he feel betrayed somehow? Would it turn him on?

 

Somewhere around 6 am, she had finally caved in and slid her hand down the front of her panties, groaning when she felt how wet she was. She swirled her finger around her clit, using her own arousal as lubricant, and imagined what might have happened if Angel’s phone hadn’t rung. Would Angel have touched her? With her hands, or her mouth? Maybe both. Would she have touched Angel? She was approaching the brink just thinking about it. She stopped suddenly, remembering something, and grabbed the bullet vibrator from her bedside table, switching it on and pressing it to her clit as she plunged the middle finger of her other hand as far inside herself as she could reach. Within 30 seconds she was unravelling, images of Angel and Mulder dancing in her head as her walls clamped tightly around her finger. Finally, she had slept. 

 

She manages to sleep until nearly three in the afternoon again, then spends the day getting her nails done, reading, and devising a plan for how she might look through the files in that closet. Without knowing what’s in them, she has no way of gaging whether Ricky is likely to notice if she takes a few at a time and returns them later. Worse still, Lexie is working tonight and that gives any risk she takes the potential to blow the whole investigation. She’s positive that given one more red flag, Lexie will sing like a canary. The silver lining is that Angel won’t be at work for the next three days, so they can get some space from what happened between them. 

 

The evening is mostly business as usual, and she’s a bit horrified to realize that this is becoming as dull and predictable as any other job. She lets her mind wander while she flexes and rolls over horny married men, wondering what Mulder is up to, whether he’s worried about her or even misses her. Part of her wonders if he might realize that his life is less complicated without her, and that he prefers it that way. She feels an ache in her chest, a bit further north than she has grown accustomed to, and realizes how much she misses him. 




 

 

When he enters the club, she’s at the bar. Half her torso is resting on the bar top as she shouts to be heard by the bartender, who’s laughing at whatever she’s saying. The position she’s in pops her barely covered ass out prominently behind her and his eyes go big at how exposed she is, and how comfortable she seems with it. Her bare breasts are smushed against the lacquered countertop and he feels his cock twitch thinking about how hard her nipples will be when she stands up. Unfortunately, it would be too risky to stick around and find out, so he tugs his ball cap lower and finds a table in the back. The dancers never seem to come back here for some reason. 

 

He keeps his head trained towards one of the other dancers at all times, while his eyes follow Scully’s every move. If he knows one thing, it’s that Scully can feel his eyes on her, so he needs to be careful. His disguise is painfully basic and all it would take is one solid look for her to know it’s him. He watches her give a lap dance to a blushing young woman, a soft smile on her face the whole time, and he can’t decide if he’s more turned on or touched by how hard she’s working to make the woman feel comfortable. The aching hard-on in his jeans suggests the former.

 

This time he’s mentally prepared for her stage set, and also realizes she can barely see beyond the tip rail with all the stage lights on her, so he lets himself enjoy it. He’s known from the moment he met her that Scully is beautiful, sexy, incredible in every way imaginable, but he never could have imagined her moving like this. She’s so graceful and captivating. He lets himself block out all the other jerks who are leering at her, stuffing bills into her underwear, and just watches her. His Scully. She’s ethereal. 

 

“Seems like you’ve found your ATF,” a voice to his left startles him from his reverie. 

 

“Huh?” he turns to see the same waitress who’d served him last night, clad in a fishnet body suit. 

 

“You were here last night, right? You like Desi?”

 

He panics. “No! I mean, yes. But, don’t send her over here or anything.”

 

She nods in understanding. “You like to watch. That’s cool, whatever floats your boat, man. Can I get you something to drink?”

 

“Yeah, can I get a Captain and Coke?” He walked here, why not enjoy himself, right?

 

Four drinks for him and ten lap dances for her later, he stumbles into the balmy night and back to his hotel room where he jacks off again. Twice. 

 


 

Everyone is trickling out slowly at the end of what has been a busy shift. Scully takes her time counting her tips, sharing a cut with her bird dog and the bartender on shift tonight. While she would not say that she likes working here by any stretch of the imagination, her coworkers at the club are her only source of socialization and (with the exception of Lexie) she truly enjoys their company. She’s helping one of the custodial staff, a wiry young man they called Don Juan, put up the chairs on the club floor so he can mop when Ricky approaches her. 

 

“Desi, can I see you in my office, please?” He has a somber demeanor that concerns her. 

 

“Um, sure, of course.” She bids the young man farewell and follows Ricky down the hall. He closes the door behind them and she feels her heart start to race. 

 

Ricky sits down behind his desk and motions for her to take a seat across from him. She’s reminded of her first day here and the feelings of fear and anticipation. 

 

“I need to ask you something, Desi, and I want to make sure you don’t mention it to the other girls.”

 

“Okay,” she responds, taking shallow breaths to obscure the fact that she’s afraid. 

 

“Angel told me what happened.”

 

Her mouth falls open but no words come out. Is she in trouble for kissing Angel?

 

“That’s why she was so upset the other night, when you saw her in here. She told me that she’d talked to you about her past a bit,” he shakes his head ruefully. “Some gall those dirtbags have, shaming her for being sexual in any way, then coming to a titty club on the sly.”

 

She breathes a sigh of relief. “Right, yes, the people who came in. She was very upset. “

 

“It was really nice of you to spend some time with her after work. Anyway, I gave her a few nights off. She needs a break.”

 

Scully nods. “You wanted to ask me something?”

 

“Right! So, Angel is my right hand gal, she helps me with a lot of stuff around here. With her being out, I wanted to ask you to kind of be her backup, if you will.”

 

For a moment she’s afraid Ricky is asking her to perform some kind of sexual favor, but she recalls that Angel had said he’s gay. “What did you have in mind?” she asks hesitantly. 

 

“Well mostly, I wanted to give you a set of keys for the club. Angel has one, in case something happens to me and I’m not here to open and close the doors, stuff like that.”

 

A set of keys? Scully feels a flush of adrenaline. “Of course, I can do that.” 

 

“That’d be great, Desi. I know you haven’t been with us all that long, but you seem pretty trustworthy, at least compared to the other girls. Like I mentioned, I’m hoping we can keep this between us, just so there are no hurt feelings from anyone who’s been here longer than you.”

 

Her heart is pounding with excitement at the opportunity to gain access to those files. “Is there an alarm code or something I should know about?” She recalls a sign on the door for ADT.

 

Ricky dismisses her concern with a flick of his wrist. “No, nothing like that. I should get one, but I just pilfered those signs from my buddy to scare off vagrants.”

 

She nods in understanding. 

 

“Ninety-nine percent chance nothing will happen and there’ll be no need, but thanks for being on deck, just in case,” he says as he hands her a playboy bunny shaped keychain with a single key dangling from it.

 

Scully smiles at him. “I’m more than happy to help.”

 

After she leaves the club, she first goes home to stash her tips and change into comfortable, dark clothes, and then gets a big cup of coffee and a disposable camera from the 7-11 near her apartment. 

 

By the time she’s lurking in the corner of the club’s parking lot, watching the door, it’s nearly 4am and there’s still a light on inside the foyer. She sips her coffee and waits, shuffling her feet to keep warm. Finally at 4:50, Denny and Ricky emerge, locking the door behind them. After they leave the parking lot, Scully waits another 20 minutes before she creeps around the perimeter of the lot and approaches the door. Glancing around to be sure no one is watching her, she turns the key and steps inside, locking it behind her. 

 

The quiet stillness is eerie in contrast to the throbbing hive of activity it had been earlier in the night and she flicks on her flashlight, making her way to Ricky’s office. She fits the same front door key into the lock and sighs in relief when it turns. Ricky’s security standards aren’t incredibly high, apparently, but in this case it’s to her advantage. She tries the key on the hallway closets just in case, to no avail, and returns to the office. Navigating to his desk, she pulls open drawers quickly, scanning their contents. Nothing is of interest, and she’s disappointed though not surprised that his keys to other areas of the club aren’t in here. That makes things more challenging, but not impossible. She’s spent her days off at the library researching how to pick locks, including buying a lock picking kit and some padlocks at the local hardware store to practice with, and she feels relatively confident she can get this door open without a key. She might just have to be the one to pick the lock next time she and Mulder have the need. She smiles to herself knowing how impressed he’d be. 

 

Back in the hallway, she pulls the small lock picking kit out of her back pocket and kneels in front of the door, the pen light perched between her teeth. She studies the lock and then inserts a torque wrench at the bottom, turning it slightly to put resistance in the direction it will spin when unlocked. From the kit, she selects a straight, flat pick and runs it from back to front at the top of the keyhole a couple times. Next she exchanges it for a pick with a curved end, pushing it as far back and high as she can reach as she holds her ear close to the lock in the stony silence of the hallway. Bumping against the pins inside the lock, she listens and feels for a small click or give that indicates the pin has settled in its unlocked position. She continues this until she counts five pins clicking into place, then removes the pick and turns the torque wrench.

 

The lock releases with a soft click and she laughs out loud as the door swings open, beyond pleased with herself. Stepping into the closet, there’s enough room for her to close the door behind her and she does so, pulling a cord to turn on the overhead light. Taking stock of the beige bank of file cabinets, she works top to bottom, left to right, and immediately feels her heart sink when the first four drawers she tries are empty. Would this be yet another dead end? When the fifth drawer snicks open, she sees a small set of files hanging towards the back. She quickly checks all the other drawers so she’ll have a good idea of how much material she has to review, but they’re all empty. 

 

She pulls the files out and sits down with them on the floor, setting the disposable camera near her thigh. There are eight folders nestled inside the hanging file, each one with a set of initials on the tab. The first one is marked “G.A.” and inside she finds an intake form, a personal statement that’s filled out by hand, and a release of liability form. The intake form is sparse and includes nearly no identifying information. The name is listed as simply GA and the fields below it include “entry date,” “exit date,” “reason for sheltering,” and “responsible individual.” On the form for GA, the entry and exit date are both a year and a half prior, about six months apart. Reason for sheltering is listed as “threat of violence-domestic,” and the responsible individual reads “brother.” She turns to the second page, which contains GA’s personal statement. 

 

My brother Paul is mentally unwell, I think he has schizophrenia or something. He is convinced that I am not me, but an imposter who is pretending to be me. He’s already tried to kill me twice and found me even after I moved to a different city. I’m scared that he will find me and kill me and my daughter. The police said there’s nothing they can do.

 

Scully takes a picture of the intake form and the personal statement, then looks at the last sheet of paper, which is a release of liability. 

 

By signing below, I hold Richard Milton Dean and Damsels in Dominance without fault should any harm come to me while I am an employee of Damsel’s in Dominance. Further, I understand that my safety and anonymity cannot be guaranteed, though every attempt will be made to ensure them

 

The form is initialed by GA, and signed by Ricky. She takes a photo of it, then replaces the forms in the folder and moves to the next, which is labeled “H.L.”

 

HL’s file is older than GA’s, and also has both an entry and exit date, but these are nearly two years apart. Reason for sheltering is “abuse-sexual,” and responsible individual states “father.” Scully takes a photo and then turns to the personal statement. 

 

My dad has been raping me for as long as I can remember. I don’t have anywhere else to go. Now that I’m 18 I can get a job at least. I just need to get out of his house and make my own way. I just want to make it stop. I did try telling people a few times but no one believed me. 

 

Scully’s heart clutches in her chest and she takes a photo of the personal statement and release of liability before she moves on to the next file, labeled “M.C.” This intake has an entry date of about four months prior, but no exit date. MC’s reason for sheltering was “abuse-religious” and the responsible individuals said “parents.” MC’s personal statement was:

 

I came out to my parents and they said they were going to send me to conversion therapy. If I don’t go, they’ll cut me off financially and I don’t have any other way to support myself. I’m afraid they’ll have me committed, and they are powerful enough people that they could do it. I just need to get away from them. 

 

Scully feels a flush of adrenaline. Is this Mila? She takes a photo of all her forms and moves on to the others. All but one have an exit date and detail things like domestic abuse, threats of harm over gambling debt, and one who was avoiding prosecution for drug possession. The other without an exit date shows an entry of eight months prior, the initials listed as “J.H.” JH’s file gave a reason of “abuse, domestic” and a responsible individual of “husband.”

 

My husband has been abusive, physically, for years. Until recently, he’d never touched our daughter so I stayed and dealt with it. A week ago, he threw her against the wall when she tried to protect me. I need to keep my daughter safe. My husband is a police officer.

 

She thinks of Lexie, recalling that  she’d mentioned a daughter, and feels a pang of guilt for how much she dislikes her. Imagine having no way to escape an abusive spouse other than hide out at a strip club. No wonder Lexie is so tough; she has to be. 

 

After she’s taken pictures of every sheet of paper, she replaces them in the drawer just as she found them. She reaches for the doorknob and is about to turn it when she hears a voice. Freezing, she clicks the light off, plunging herself into darkness so complete she can’t see her hand in front of her face. She works to keep her breathing shallow as her heart pounds loudly in her ears.

 

Most of the words are unintelligible but she knows that they’re male. She can make out something about an order, and a transfer, and maybe a file? Oh shit, a file. Why has she waited until this moment to try and think of some reason for her to be here, in case someone came by? Her mind goes blank as she scrambles for an excuse, the voice getting closer to her hiding place. She pulls the lock pick kit from her pocket and readies some of the picks between her fingers, in case she needs to defend herself and blow her own cover to stay safe. The voice gets closer still until she knows they are right outside the door, but then recedes again, further down the hall to Ricky’s office. She tries to recall if she left the door open or closed it, and is fairly certain that it’s closed, but not locked. It’s quiet for a few minutes and then the voice returns, seemingly talking on their cell phone, getting louder as it nears her and then fading again towards the door. She strains her ears to hear the front door close and lock behind them, then lets out a massive breath and leans against the door of the closet while her heart rate returns to normal. She waits forty-five minutes before she slips out and goes in search of a one-hour photo; it’s just before 7 am. 

 

Back at her apartment, she pulls the burner phone from its hiding spot and powers it on, rummaging in her fridge and heating up some leftovers while she waits for it to find service. She shamelessly eats while she calls Agent Wiley, so hungry she thinks she might faint. 

 

“Agent Wiley.”

 

“Agent Wiley, this is Agent Scully, I have something.”

 

“That’s great news, Agent Scully, let me find something to write with.”

 

Scully waits while the other agent shuffles some papers around and then tells her to go ahead. 

 

“I was able to access some files. I took photos of the contents and dropped them at the hour photo inside Wal Mart on Glenhaven Road. You can pick them up under Diane Sellers.”

 

“Wonderful, I’ll send an agent to pick them up right away. What kind of files are we talking?”

 

Scully leans heavy on the countertop, wedging the phone between her shoulder and ear while she shoves bites of broccoli beef in her mouth. 

 

“They’re paperwork for some kind of program, intake forms. What it looks like to me, Agent Wiley, is that Ricky Dean is running some kind of ramshackle witness protection program. It appears as though he hides women here who are trying to escape dangerous situations but haven’t been able to get help from law enforcement. Most of them have come and gone, but two didn’t have exit dates.”

 

“That’s interesting, what were the names?”

 

“There aren’t names, just initials. The initials on one are M.C.”

 

“Mila Chamberlain.”

 

“Yes. But if she’s there, Agent Wiley, I haven’t seen her. The other one who is still here I believe is a dancer who goes by Lexie. According to the documents I found, she’s hiding from her abusive husband, who happens to work in law enforcement.”

 

“Interesting. So, Agent Scully, are you saying that you don’t think Mila is there against her will?”

 

“I don’t know enough to say that for sure, but I strongly suspect it. I’m hoping that there’s enough information in the photos that you can track down some of the women who were here before, and make some sense of it. But I don’t think these women want to be found, Agent Wiley.”

 

“We’ll do our best, Agent Scully. Do you work at the club tonight?”

 

“No, I’m off today. Would it be alright if I leave the phone on, in case you need to call me? I’m going to go to bed as soon as we’re done here, I haven’t been to sleep yet.”

 

“No, no need. Just check your messages when you wake up. Good work, Agent Scully. Get some rest.”

 

She doesn’t even bother to shower or brush her teeth, passing out as soon as her head hits the pillow. She sleeps for nearly twelve hours, wakes up to check her messages (there are none), showers, eats, and then crashes again until 9am the next day. 




 

 

Mulder feels a flush of excitement as he pulls into the club parking lot just after 10 pm. While the risk of being seen always makes these visits a little nerve racking, he looks forward to seeing her each day. He hands his cover to the burly man at the counter without exchanging a word and makes his way to what is becoming “his” table. 

 

Within a minute of sitting down, the waitress he’s learned goes by Gemini approaches him with a pouty expression on her face. 

 

“Sorry, Mr. Mysterious,” she says with an apologetic tone. 

 

“What for?” he asks with confusion. 

 

“Desi is off tonight. I don’t think I’ve seen you give any of the other girls more than a passing glance, so I figured I should let you know right away.”

 

His face falls and disappointment hangs in his chest. He’s never considered the possibility that she wouldn’t be here every night, but of course she would have nights off, just like any job. He’s overcome with disgust with himself; what kind of pathetic shit is this? Scully deserves better than him. 

 

He leaves Gemini ten dollars and gets in his car, first returning to his hotel to check out, and then heading home to DC where he belongs. 



Chapter Text

Some things cannot be fully explained nor rationalized. Human behavior is mysterious and unpredictable, even to a profiler like Mulder. He cannot, for example, fully explain to himself why he’s never told Scully how he feels about her. He cannot fully explain why he withdraws from her when he needs her most. He also cannot fully explain why he’s in his car right now, driving back to Philadelphia hours after being reprimanded by Skinner for no-call, no-showing to work the last two days. Why is he incapable of staying away? He tries not to think about it, knowing that the answer probably isn’t one he wants to admit anyway. Turning the radio up, he flips down his visor to block the blinding rays of the setting sun and propels himself towards certain doom.

 

When he arrives at the club and takes his seat, he’s embarrassed by the knowing smile on Gemini’s face as she approaches him. It says “I knew you’d be back,” and he hates that she’s right. He sticks with soda this time and she hovers close by after bringing it to him, clearly having something on her mind. Finally, he meets her eye and lifts his eyebrows expectantly. 

 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to have Desi come say hi, Mr. Mysterious? She’s really, really nice.” There’s so much pity in her voice it makes him cringe, but his sheer terror at the idea of her sending Scully over here overrides his shame. 

 

“Gemini, please do not do that,” he pleads with her. “I...I really don’t want to talk to her. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but please don’t.” 

 

She seems to respond to his serious tone and sighs with defeat before turning on her heel and leaving him to his solitude. 





 

 

Entering the club that night, Scully half expects Ricky to accost her with questions about why she was there at 5 am the day before. Instead, she gets his customary “Hi, Darlin’” and a gap-toothed smile. All is calm on the Western Front. 

 

In the dancer’s room, she sits down at her station and starts doing her makeup. Magenta is beside her doing the same, while Tibet is perched on the counter of her own station eating a burrito. Lexie is also present, though as usual she does her best to appear wholly disinterested in what they are discussing. 

 

“So, what’s the latest with that man friend of yours, Desi?” Magenta asks as she dusts powder over her face, setting her foundation. 

 

Scully shrugs. “Nothing. I haven’t spoken to him in a while.”

 

“Why the hell not?” Tibet asks, her words muffled by a mouth full of food. 

 

She can’t very well explain to them that she’s not allowed to speak to Mulder because she’s on an undercover assignment, so she just shrugs again. 

 

Magenta shakes her head. “What are you so afraid of, Desi? Does the phrase ‘no risk, no reward’ mean anything to you?”

 

Scully smiles sheepishly. “I know you’re right, Magenta, it’s just easier said than done. Even if I did decide to act on my feelings, once I’m in the moment I know I’ll lose my nerve.”

 

Tibet gives her an incredulous look, swallowing before she speaks. “I’ve seen you out there on the stage and on the floor, girl. I have a hard time believing that you’re a shrinking violet.”

 

Scully is gluing on her false lashes, something she’s only recently gotten the hang of. Tibet’s statement hangs in the air until she’s gotten them positioned just right and is fanning her face while they dry. 

 

“I would argue, Tibet,” Scully says, turning towards her, “that it’s not me on the stage or floor. It’s Desiree. When I’m with him, I’m just me. Diane, while not necessarily a shrinking violet, has a hard time being open about her feelings.” 

 

“Well, next time you see him,” Magenta replies, “which should be soon , ma’am, just be Desi. Ask yourself ‘what would Desi do?’ and then do that.” She says the last part with a flourish of her hands and a wry smile. 

 

Scully is pulling on the green velour outfit that Angel picked out for her, positioning it just so and rubbing grip powder on her hands, behind her knees and in the crooks of her elbows. Her stage set is in about five minutes. 

 

“I’ll be sure to do that next time I see him,” she replies with a sarcastic lilt, then stands tall with her hands on her hips. “How do I look?” she asks. Magenta, Tibet, and Lexie all turn to give her a once-over. 

 

“Needs more booty dust,” Lexie replies, and Scully is surprised to hear the woman speak in a tone that isn’t angry or mean. 

 

She holds out her hands as Lexie tosses an aerosol can at her, and sprays it on her chest and thighs before she heads to the kitchen for something to drink. 

 

As she leans against the kitchen counter sipping a bottle of water, one of the waitresses wanders in. Scully recalls that she’s one of those who’s a beater and will never make it to the stage. She feels a little sad for her, now knowing that the stage is everyone’s hopeful destination. 

 

“I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name,” Scully says, and the young woman jumps as though she had thought herself invisible. 

 

“It’s Gina. Or, sorry, Gemini,” she says nervously. 

 

“I’m Desiree,” Scully responds, offering her hand. Gemini takes it cautiously and Scully recognizes the behavior of someone who is intimidated by her.

 

“I know who you are. You’re a great dancer,” Gemini gushes. “One of my regulars is obsessed with you. He comes to see you every night.” Scully can tell that Gemini derives some kind of misplaced pride from this fact. 

 

“Really? Who’s that?” she queries. Aside from Mr. Keane, she doesn’t have many regulars, and certainly none who come every night. 

 

“I’m sure you’ve never even noticed him,” Gemini explains, “he never talks to you or pays for dances, he just kind of watches you from the back. He’s a really good tipper, though, and he’s really cute. His eyes remind me of Richard Gere, except he has dark hair.”

 

Scully feels a flush of adrenaline course from her head to her feet. Her hearing cuts out, replaced briefly by a ringing in her ears. Gemini is staring at her, clearly confused by her demeanor. She swallows thickly. 

 

“This man,” she asks, “do you know his name?”

 

Gemini shakes her head. “I call him Mr. Mysterious. I think he might be a cop, though. I saw a gun under his coat.”

 

“Desi! You’re on next!” another dancer calls as they exit the stage, giving Scully only about two minutes before she’ll have to go out.

 

“Thanks, Gemini,” she says curtly, and the younger woman leaves the kitchen. 

 

Scully takes a few deep breaths, deciding what to do next. If it’s Mulder out there, he’s already seen her on stage more than once. This is a fact that should horrify and disgust her, but she’s surprised to find that it’s a little bit thrilling. If he keeps coming back, does that mean he likes what he sees? She remembers what Magenta had said and asks herself ‘what would Desi do?” What Desi would do, she decides, is give the man a show. He drove all this way, after all.  

 


 

 

“Ladies and Germs,” the DJ announces, “you will now have the pleasure of seeing the one and only Desiree, live on stage. Please, help me welcome her.”

 

Mulder sits back in his seat and smiles to himself, happy to see Scully again. She struts onto the stage, her demeanor a bit more confident than he’s seen on previous visits, and begins her dance. The song is similar in cadence to the ones he’s seen her dance to before, the chorus boasting “we can do it anywhere,” and he wonders who chooses the music. While the previous dances he’s seen were sensual and flowing, her hips moving gently like a wave, this is much more forceful. Her hips pop and her muscles flex to the beat as she moves, giving the dance a much more vulgar, sexually explicit feeling. Her legs snap open as a mischievous grin graces her lips, and her top is quickly pulled away from her chest in a flourish. This does not go unnoticed by the crowd, who are abnormally noisy and encouraging. 

 

Something else is different about this dance. The other times, she looked either at the faces of the men at the tip rail, or she stared beyond the crowd, at the bar. Tonight, it feels like she’s looking right at him. He knows that she can’t see him from such a distance and with stage lights in her eyes, but somehow she’s boring her gaze into him. Dancing for him. He sits ramrod straight, both in his spine and in his pants, and watches as she rubs her hands over her bare breasts while they lock eyes. He looks around self-consciously, feeling exposed. She bites her lip in a familiar way, tilts her head to the side to put her neck on display as she thrusts at the floor. She is somehow more herself than she was on his previous visits, even as she moves in ways that his Scully would never dare. Or would she? He suddenly isn’t sure. When the dance ends, he lets out a staggered breath. That had perhaps been the most erotic experience of his life. 

 

Gemini brings him another Coke and as she leaves his table, he sees Scully enter the room and head toward the back. She’s still wearing the green getup she wore on stage, but she’s pulled the top back up to cover her breasts. As is now standard protocol, he drops his head so that his baseball cap obscures his face, waiting for her to pass on her way to what is most likely the bar. He’s about to lift his head and confirm that the coast is clear when a familiar voice speaks. 

 

“Come here often?” Scully asks, and he can feel that her lips are only inches from his ear. 

 

The tenor of her voice, something he has not heard in over a month, sends a jolt from his chest to his groin. At the same time, a wash of pure terror floods his bloodstream. His heart stutters and considers stopping altogether. He is paralyzed. Perhaps if he doesn’t move she’ll go away? Not likely. 

 

She steps closer, pushing one of her slender thighs between his knees and placing her hands on his shoulders. Keeping his head down, he looks at her belly, noticing that the scar from Fellig’s bullet is concealed, maybe by design. Her navel is visible between the straps of her green velour teddy, and he’s surprised to see that it’s adorned with a small gold ring. Has that always been there? The fabric that disappears between her legs is thin, both in density and coverage. He can see the outline of her lips and he thinks he might pass out. 

 

One of her hands leaves his shoulder, and he feels her lift the hat off his head. She then cards her fingers through his hair and tugs his head back, forcing him to look at her. She has a dreamy expression on her face, her lips slightly parted and her eyes soft. Up close he can see how much makeup she has on, her eyelashes obscenely long and that cute little mole she always covers up displayed prominently. He refuses to let his gaze wander down to her chest, which is perched just below his nose. 

 

“Would you like a dance?” she asks in a syrupy voice, and for a split second he wonders if this isn’t really her. The smell of her breath hot on his cheeks tells him that it is. He knows her more intimately than what can be hidden under makeup and costumes. 

 

“What? No,” he answers, panic and confusion pulling at his face. 

 

“If you’re not paying for a dance, I can’t stand here and talk to you. My time is not free,” she replies coolly, and he understands. It has to look like she’s working. 

 

“Here? In front of all these people?” he questions, looking over to see Gemini smiling at them. There’s a very good chance that he’s going to cum in his pants if she touches him, and he’d really prefer not to do that right here in the middle of the club. 

 

“You can take me to a private room, but that costs more,” she answers, tilting forward slightly so that her breasts brush against his chin. The gunmen sure would get a kick out of it if he dies from a heart attack at a strip club. 

 

He nods and holds up a fifty dollar bill. She takes it, stepping back and pulling on his hand until he stands. He doesn’t even try to hide the erection that tents his pants and Scully smirks and then turns around, leading him towards one of the curtained rooms. He doesn’t know whether she plans to dance for him, talk to him or murder him, but he knows that he desperately wants to find out. 

 


 

Scully motions to Denny that she’s headed into a private room and he follows them over, taking his post just outside. He’ll peek through the curtain roughly every minute or so, to make sure everything is on the up and up. She can hear Ben introducing Magenta to the stage and smiles when she recognizes a D’Angelo song aptly named “Untitled” begin. That set is what Magenta calls “Mama’s mega money-maker.”

 

She pulls the curtain closed and turns to face Mulder, who’s standing in the middle of the small room looking terrified. She lets her eyes flick down to the bulge in his jeans, then takes her time traveling back up his torso. His belly and chest are heaving with his ragged breaths and his eyes are wild in a way she’s more accustomed to seeing when they’re pursuing a suspect. He’s completely out of his element and doesn’t know what to do with himself, while she’s come to feel quite at home here. She smiles sweetly at him. 

 

“Hi,” she says in her very own voice, and he seems to relax at the familiar greeting. 

 

“Hey,” he replies, shuffling his feet nervously. 

 

“Take a seat,” she gestures to the small couch, and he gingerly sits down on one end.

 

“It’s easier if you sit in the middle,” she directs him, and feels a flush of arousal when his eyes go big. Truthfully, she could sit beside him and talk. That’s what a lot of men use the private rooms for, and it would draw no suspicion from Denny. But Mulder doesn’t know that. “Denny’s going to look in here frequently and make sure everyone’s following the rules. It’s more private, but not completely so.”

 

He nods and she watches his Adam's apple bob as he swallows before scooting to the middle of the couch. She approaches him, resuming their prior position with her thigh between his legs, running both hands through his hair as she pulls his head close to her chest, his face tilted up to look at her.

 

“What are you doing here?” she asks, her hips switching gently to the slow rhythm of the song. She can hear the shouts of encouragement as Magenta does something similar out on the stage. 

 

Mulder looks at her with wonder and adoration in his eyes and shakes his head. “I don’t know,” he says softly, and she believes that he really doesn’t. 

 

“How’d you find me?” she asks next, stepping away and turning her back to him, sitting in his lap with her back flush against his chest. She feels herself lose just a little bit of control as the bulge in his jeans pushes into her ass cheek. It’s an occupational hazard she’s become used to, but this is different. This is Mulder. She can feel him warm and alive beneath her, smell the metallic musk of his sweat, the sweetness of soda on his breath. She distributes her weight between her feet and the place where her back rests against him, flexing her hips so that they roll over him in soft waves, barely grazing his groin. She feels, but doesn’t hear, the moan that rumbles in his throat. 

 

“I have my ways,” he answers eventually, his voice strained. “Scully-” he starts, but she cuts him off. 

 

“Desiree. My name is Desiree,” she says as she leans forward, bracing her hands on his knees, which are sitting outside her hips. She dips down so that she’s crouched on the floor momentarily, then straightens her legs, bent at the waist so that her ass is prominently in his face. She slowly bends one knee and then the other, giving him a show. She can see his hands lift off the couch cushions and she stands abruptly, turning to face him. “You can’t touch me,” she warns, and he looks at his hands with surprise, as though they had been reaching for her of their own volition. 

 

She puts her knee down on the couch beside him, her other foot rooted firmly to the floor between his legs, and rolls her hips forward and back as his eyes dart around the small room, desperately seeking a safe place to look. 

 

“You can look at me,” she says, and feels a throb between her legs when his gaze locks on her face with intensity, his eyes dark with desire. 

 

“Do you want me to look at you?” he asks, and then openly gawks at her, his dinner-plate irises devouring her breasts and belly, her hips and the barely covered flesh between her thighs. 

 

She continues to move to the music, to dance, and is vaguely aware of Denny peeking in intermittently. They probably only have a few minutes left. She wonders if they’ll lose their jobs if she fucks him on this couch. Reaching to her shoulders, she slips off the straps of her teddy and lets them fall down her arms, watching his expression intently as her breasts come into view. 

 

His mouth drops open and she can see that he’s panting, his tongue lapping against his lower lip as though it’s seeking her out, pretending his flesh is her own. His hands are balled up in fists next to his legs, resisting the urge to touch. She steps back, pushing the network of straps down until everything above her hip bones is exposed, and his pelvis arches off the couch in response. Turning her back to him again, she drapes herself over his torso and undulates her entire body. Her back brushes his chest and belly, her ass teases his lap, her thighs rub against his legs. She can feel the desperate moans vibrating in his chest, his head flexing back and forth as he tries to see as much as he can. He is impossibly hard. 

 

She pushes the back of her head against him, sliding down towards the floor. Every bit of her from her ass to the crown of her head rubs in one long stroke over his lap, the prolonged pressure drawing a “Jesus fucking Christ” from his lips. She stands and sits on his lap sideways, one heel touching the concrete floor, and threads her arm behind his head. 

 

“You shouldn’t be here,” she tells him, but there is no anger in her voice. Only concern, and desire. 

 

“I needed to know that you’re okay,” he says, and the tension in his body is electric. If she had ever doubted that he wanted her physically, she never would again. “You don’t have your weapon,” he adds.

 

She cocks an eyebrow at him, questioning how he knows that, but it’s not a conversation they’ll have right now. 

 

“I’m fairly safe, Mulder,” she leans close to whisper in his ear. One of her breasts is pressed against his chest and she feels him arching towards her, seeking more contact as his hands flex in frustration. “If I so much as make a peep, Denny out there will gladly rip your face off.”

 

“Better not make a peep, then,” he says breathlessly, and his pelvis starts rocking gently, creating friction between his erection and the side of her ass cheek. Perhaps spontaneous human combustion is real after all; she wouldn’t be surprised if she burst into flame right now. On the other hand, she’s so wet she’d hardly make good tinder.

 

She stands abruptly, picking up the fifty he’d given her from off the coffee table, and turns to open the curtain. Denny is standing just outside, and looks at her expectantly. She holds up the bill and speaks. 

 

“We need a bit of privacy, Denny,” she says, looking at him bashfully from under her false eyelashes. 

 

His eyebrows lift in surprise. Perhaps he hadn’t expected this from her, of all people. Perhaps he’s going to tell her no, or report her to Ricky. Perhaps her own libido will be the thing that blows this case. 

 

“You have two minutes,” he says, taking the bill from between her fingers and pulling the curtain shut. 

 

She turns to face Mulder, catching him just as his eyes lift from staring at her ass while she spoke to Denny. He looks ragged and feral, about to snap. She lunges forward, sliding onto his lap facing him. Her knees dig into the back of the couch as her vulva presses into his erection. The heat and pressure of him send a shockwave of pleasure through her and she suppresses a moan so that it comes out as a forceful exhale. She takes his hands and puts them on her breasts as her lips meet his in a searing kiss. He squeezes tentatively and then pinches a nipple between his fingers. This time she can’t hold back the resulting moan, pouring it straight down his throat. Her hands are in his hair as she pulls his lip between her teeth, tugging gently. His hands leave her breasts, roaming her body desperately as though trying to commit each dip and curve to memory. He grips her ass cheeks roughly before sliding his palms over her thighs, moving his mouth to her neck. He nips and licks his way down to her clavicle, then dips his head and takes a taut nipple between his lips. She gasps, grinding hard against him as yet another low moan tumbles from her mouth. His palms are spread over the tops of her thighs, his fingertips teasing under the edge of what underwear she has remaining. He brushes his thumbs against the insides of her thighs, millimeters of fabric all that stands between him and her liquid heat. If he just slid his thumb a little further, he’d be there. She rocks her hips against his hand, inviting it. She can feel the urge to beg on the tip of her tongue. Please, touch me

 

“Desi, time’s up,” Denny calls from the other side of the curtain without opening it. 

 

She grabs his face between her palms and pulls him to her, kissing him one more time. His tongue bears hints of her perfume and spray-on glitter and she pulls away with a smack, heaving breathlessly as she stands. 

 

“Don’t come back here, Mulder,” she warns, and her voice conveys seriousness. It’s not a dare or a tease; she really does not want to see him here again. Looking him over once more, hard and wanting, she forces herself to push the curtain open and leave, going straight to the back so he cannot attempt to follow her. 

 

In the dancer’s room, she pulls a sweatshirt and jeans over her half-off lingerie and slings her bag over her shoulder. Lexie is sitting at her station and gives Scully a questioning look. 

 

“Will you please tell Ricky I had to go? I don’t feel well,” she relays to Lexie, who nods once and then looks away. 

 

Scully walks home, not wanting to give Mulder a chance to follow her and see where she lives. That should not have happened. He shouldn’t be here. She’s finally so close to cracking this case and Mulder shows up just in time to fuck it all up. Even in her anger, she cannot forget the feeling of his cock straining against her. One zipper undone and he would have been inside her. 

 

She showers and then takes back all the judgements she made about Agent Wiley for having supplied her with a vibrator as she reaches for it a second time. 

 

Chapter Text

He sits there stunned, his heart pounding in his cock, which is so hard it actually hurts. He looks to the open curtain Scully just disappeared through, considering the possibility that he just hallucinated all of that. Looking at his lap, he sees that the fly of his jeans is damp, lower than it would be were that his own precum seeping through. A new wave of desire overtakes him realizing that it’s her, her wetness on him. How wet would she have had to be for it to soak through her underwear and get on his pants? He runs his hands over his face, trying to locate reality. 

 

“You about done in there?” the hulking man who’d been keeping watch over them asks. He wonders what Scully had said to him to make that possible. “Excuse me, would you please look the other way so I might dry hump my coworker in private?”

 

He stands, wondering if it will be more obvious if he tries to hide his erection rather than just pretend it’s not there. He goes with option B and scans the room for her as he makes his way to the main entrance, not surprised that she isn’t working the floor; she may need a minute after that herself. He’s intending to go out to his car, but changes course at the last moment and pushes his way into the men’s room instead. It’s surprisingly clean and unoccupied, so he steps into a stall and latches the door closed. He unzips quickly, freeing his turgid hard-on and beginning to stroke, one hand braced against the wall. It doesn’t take much; ten or twelve pumps and he’s spurting into the toilet, stifling his cries into his upper arm. He flushes and washes his hands, avoiding eye contact with the man who enters the stall he just finished defiling, then exits the club. 

 

He sits in his car in the parking lot, inhaling sunflower seeds as his leg bounces nervously. He’s been watching the rear doors of the club for hours, waiting for her to get off work, but it’s after 3 am and he hasn’t seen her yet. As the last light in the club extinguishes, he slams his hands against the steering wheel in frustration. Against his better judgment, he checks into a motel. 

 


 

 

When she wakes it’s just after 9 am, which feels like a wonderfully normal time to be waking up. If not for her location, she might have been able to forget, for a moment, that she’s on a case. Might have been able to forget that she’s working as a stripper. Might have been able to forget that she kissed Mulder last night. And let him touch her breasts. And lick them. While she straddled him and practically fucked him through his pants. The resulting throb between her legs at the memory doesn’t allow her to forget. She lays there for a long while, wondering what will happen next. Will she return home after the case and act like nothing happened? Will Mulder insist that they talk about it? Maybe she can convince him that it wasn’t her. A Doppelganger. But if she does that, she’ll have to stop hoping that it will happen again. Who knows what they might do with unlimited time and privacy. 

 

Rolling out of bed, she powers up the burner phone while she makes coffee and toast. She even indulges and butters it. Fuck it. 

 

“Agent Wiley.”

 

“Hello, Agent Wiley, this is Agent Scully.”

 

“Good morning, Agent Scully, I’m glad you called.”

 

“Oh? Did you learn something from the files I found?” She sits at the small dining room table with her steaming mug.

 

“Maybe. Most of the information is so vague, we weren’t able to put names to any of the women who have already left the club, but we did get one possible hit on someone who’s still there. On the file listed as J.H.”

 

“The woman who’s hiding from her abusive husband? Who works in law enforcement?”

 

“Yes. There was a missing person’s report filed eight months ago by Officer Jacob Hall in Eerie, PA. His wife Jennifer and three year old daughter Aubrey weren’t home when he returned from his shift one random Wednesday. All of their personal effects were accounted for, including Jennifer’s purse and ID, but no sign of a struggle. It’s like they just vanished.”

 

“Lexie, the woman I thought may be J.H., said her real name was Leanne.”

 

“I’m sure it’s an alias. Can’t be too careful.”

 

“Do you have a description of her, identifying marks?”

 

“Yeah, one second,” Scully hears the flutter of shuffling papers, “uh, okay, five foot eight, medium build, dark brown hair, brown eyes. She has a tattoo of a phoenix on her chest.”

 

“That’s Lexie. I’m sure of it.”

 

“Okay. Well, we’ll have to discuss amongst the team here how to handle that considering the safety risk if we report it. What about Mila? Any sign of her?”

 

Scully shakes her head, though Agent Wiley can’t see her. “No, nothing. I don’t think she’s here anymore, if she ever was at all.”

 

“Shit. Well, go ahead and report for work tonight, see if you can dig up anything else. In the meantime, I’m going to report back to A.D. Kersh and see if we can get clearance to pull you out, maybe tomorrow.”

 

Scully sighs heavily with relief. “Thank you so much, Agent Wiley.” 

 

One more day. She can make it through one more day. And then what?

 

She spends the afternoon cleaning the apartment, laundering the sheets and re-folding all the clothes in the drawers. She likes to leave places in better shape than when she found them. People too, she realizes. She wants the legacy she leaves to be a good one, whatever the situation. She hopes she leaves a good legacy at Damsels, as absurd as that sounds. 

 

 


 

 

Over his cup of shitty motel room coffee, he has an epiphany. Well, maybe not an epiphany so much as a realization. 

 

He has to take a chance with Scully. He has to tell her how he feels. If he tells her and she doesn’t feel the same way, he might lose her. But if he doesn’t tell her, she’ll end up with someone else and he’ll lose her anyway. If he does nothing, he’s guaranteed to end up miserable and alone. He’s got nothing to lose. 

 

He’s going to tell her. Tonight. 

 

 


 

 

Reporting for work that evening, she feels oddly nostalgic. She’s more than ready to go home and resume a job wherein her nipples are typically covered, but she feels a little sad about never seeing these people again. As she gets ready in the dancer’s room, she laughs a little harder at Tibet’s jokes. She smiles a little more warmly at Magenta’s sage advice. She feels greater empathy for Lexie, and desperately hopes that Agent Wiley will keep her and her daughter safe. Angel should be back tonight, but Scully hasn’t seen her. The thought that she may leave this assignment without ever having the chance to speak to Angel again makes her chest feel heavy with regret. 

 

She goes out for her first stage set of the night and has a little more fun with it, knowing it may be one of the last. As she circulates the floor afterward, she’s a little more grateful for Denny’s careful watch and his protectiveness over her. She’s a little kinder to Mr. Keane in the VIP room as he laments never having had children. He seems a little more human to her, now. 

 

Heading back to the dancer’s room for her break between sets, she thinks about how much she’s changed, and wonders if some of Desiree might make the journey home with her. Scully might like to keep her sense of playfulness, and her confidence. She might like to learn from Desi how to let go and just be in the moment. How to be with Mulder. She changes into a lavender bandeau top and matching bikini cut panties for her next, and maybe last, set, and is freshening her makeup when a familiar voice calls out from behind her.

 

“Hey, bitches!”

 

She smiles at herself in the mirror, feeling relieved, and spins around in her chair. As she turns to face the voice, her smile quickly fades and her mouth hangs open in shock.

 

Mila Chamberlain is standing in front of her. 




Chapter Text

“Angel, I didn’t think we’d see you tonight,” Magenta greets her, stealing a quick hug. 

 

“I took one more day off, but I was getting bored so I thought I’d come say hi,” Mila replies.

 

Her hair is down, chin length with yellow bleached tips against the jet-black regrowth; a pixie cut several months grown-out. Her face is bare, her eyes appearing smaller without the heavy lashes and liner, her face rounder without all the contour and blush. 

 

Scully can’t stop staring. She can’t stop the hammering of her heart that seems to be saying Angel. Is. Mila. You. Fucking. Idiot. Mila meanders across the room, stopping to greet people before she finally makes her way to Scully, smiling sheepishly. 

 

“Hey, Desi. You don’t look super stoked to see me.”

 

Scully shakes her head, her lips rooting for words. “No, I am,” she finally stammers, “I am happy to see you. I just...you look so different.”

 

Mila chuffs a nervous laugh. “They don’t call it catfishing for nothin’,” she jokes, tucking her silky locks behind her ear. 

 

“Are your eyes a different color?” Scully asks dumbly. 

 

“Yeah, contacts. Maybe you’ve heard of them?” It’s clear that Mila is growing increasingly perturbed by Scully’s response to her appearance. 

 

“M- Angel,” Scully starts, looking at her intensely. “Can we talk, someplace private?”

 

Mila’s eyebrows furrow in concern and a little confusion, but she nods. Scully stands and takes her hand, guiding her down the hall and out onto the floor. The evening is in full swing now and it’s noisy and dark as she pulls Mila into a VIP room, snapping the curtain shut. She tries not to notice that this is the same one she spent time in with Mulder last night. 

 

Mila stands near the coffee table, eyeing Scully skeptically. “Look, Desi, if you regret what happened that’s fine, we don’t ever have to talk about it again. But you’re acting really fucking weird right now.”

 

“Are you Mila Chamberlain?” Scully asks, her body postured for a whisper though she’s shouting to be heard over the music. 

 

Mila’s face drains of color as she sucks in a startled breath. Her mouth opens and closes a few times before her lips begin to tremble and tears well in her eyes. 

 

“Who the fuck are you?” she spits back at Scully, her body tensing as though she’s preparing for a fight. 

 

Scully holds up her hands in defense. “I’m not here to hurt you, Mila. I’m here to help you. I’m with the FBI.”

 

Mila’s fear gives way to confusion. “Help me do what?” she asks, wiping the back of her hand across her nose. 

 

“Get out of here, out of Damsels,” Scully offers, but this only seems to confuse Mila more. “Okay, let me start at the beginning. Your parents requested help from the FBI because they believe you’re being held against your will. I was sent here undercover to locate you so we can get you out.”

 

Mila’s eyes narrow. “My parents?” she asks dubiously, and Scully nods. “My parents, who I told you are awful people, who raised me to hate myself?” Her tone is growing increasingly angry.

 

Scully’s face falls as she finally pieces it all together. M.C. The conversion therapy. Their kiss. Mila was never being held captive. She was trying to escape. 

 

“Do you know they tried to have me involuntarily committed?” Mila says angrily, nostrils flaring. “If they find me, they’re going to have me locked away. Better a crazy daughter than a gay one, as far as they’re concerned.” 

 

Scully can’t find the right words to say. She doesn’t know what the right thing to do is. She’s found Mila; that’s why she’s here. But Mila doesn’t want to be found. 

 

After watching Scully try and fail to speak for a full minute, Mila scoffs and moves past her towards the opening in the curtain. Before she leaves she turns back and speaks again, her tone dripping with sarcasm. “Thank you, so much, for your help, Desi. Or whoever the fuck you are.” And then she’s gone. 

 

Scully scrambles for the right next step. This isn’t in any of her FBI handbooks. What do you do when it turns out the victim wasn’t a victim at all? Or that they are, but not of whom you had thought? She needs to talk to Mila again, to understand the situation. She rushes out of the VIP room and looks around, unsure if Mila returned to the back or left out the front. She’s headed towards the bar to ask Queenie if she saw Angel leave when she runs smack into Mulder. 

 

“Sc-Desiree,” he says, putting his hands on her shoulders, “I need to talk to you.”

 

“Not now, Mulder,” she hisses, looking around for any sign of Mila. 

 

“Please, it’s important. Can we go to a private room?” 

 

She raises her arms and pulls his hands down, moving to pass him. “Get the hell out of here, Mulder, I’m working,” she growls. 

 

He catches her wrist, pulling her back to him. He opens his mouth to speak, but instead lets loose a yelp as Denny’s fist closes around his forearm with a vice grip. 

 

“Time to go,” Denny says in that funny flat affect she’s come to enjoy. As Mulder releases his grip on her, Denny guides him towards the door. 

 

“Desiree! He calls over his shoulder, “tell him it’s okay!”

 

“Go home,” Scully says with a glare, then heads to the bar as Denny pushes Mulder outside.

 

“Queenie, did you see Angel go by in street clothes?” she shouts across the rail, and Queenie shakes her head. 

 

Scully is about to go check in the back when a stricken look falls over Queenie’s face, her hand coming up to cover her mouth. Scully follows her gaze to the stage, where a moment ago Lexie was doing her set. Lexie is still up there, but so is a tall, muscled man. Lexie is cowering at the base of the pole, her hands covering the back of her head as the man kicks her repeatedly. 

 

Scully instinctively reaches for her weapon, which is decidedly not holstered to her panties, and then scans the room for her bird dogs. Denny hasn’t yet come back from eighty-sixing Mulder. The other bird dog working tonight is nowhere to be seen. She suddenly remembers something Tibet had told her. 

 

“Queenie!” she shouts, and it takes a couple attempts before the woman peels her eyes away from the stage and looks at her. “You have a baseball bat back there, right? Give it to me.”

 

Queenie lifts a wooden baseball bat from behind the bar and hands it to her with a horrified look on her face. “Don’t do something stupid, Desi. I’m calling the cops.” She turns and picks up the phone as Scully stalks away from the bar, muttering to herself “I think they’re already here.”

 

As she weaves through the crowd, she sees the other bird dog lying on the floor; his head is bleeding and he appears to be unconscious. She moves to the side of the stage, approaching from behind the man who is assaulting Lexie. Lexie isn’t moving anymore, but that doesn’t seem to deter him as he delivers swift, sharp kicks to her rib cage. In a room full of men, you’d think someone would have stepped up to protect this woman. Instead they all stand around gape-mouthed, looking at one another as though holding a silent vote for who should intervene. Rage swells in her chest as she steps forward and lifts the bat high over her head, bringing it down against the back of his skull with a crack

 

He stumbles forward, falling over the tip rail and onto the floor in front of the stage. Ben seems to have finally realized something is going on and the music cuts out abruptly, her ears ringing in the sudden silence. 

 

Scully wants to go to Lexie, but she knows her perpetrator has not been neutralized. She jumps down from the stage and the circle that has formed around the man expands to include her. With the bat in her hand and this outfit, she feels a bit like she’s been teleported into Street Fighter. He is attempting to push up onto his knees and she holds her weapon ready in a batter’s stance. If only Mulder were snuggled up behind her instead of outside in the parking lot, this may be a more fair fight. 

 

“Freeze!” she commands, “federal agent!”

 

He lifts his head to look at her and laughs derisively before lowering it again. 

 

She realizes how absurd she must look. All five foot three of her, four inch plastic heels and purple underwear, looking like she’s ready to make a run for first base, no badge to flash. Really intimidating, she’s sure. 

 

“I assure you, sir, I am a federal agent and you are under arrest,” she repeats in her most authoritative voice. 

 

He rises quickly, clearly having been exaggerating the degree of his injury, and as soon as she sees him reaching into his jacket she swings again, making contact with his jaw and sending a spray of blood and spit across the gawkers. Unfortunately, the blow doesn’t knock him off his feet, and only momentarily delays him drawing his gun and leveling it on Scully. She hears him disengage the safety and she closes her eyes. 




 

 

Mulder puts up a decent fight, though admittedly more of a verbal one. He’s obstinate, but not stupid, and Denny is probably twice his weight. 

 

“You know the rules, no touching,” Denny is explaining again, blocking Mulder from re-entering the club. 

 

“Look, I understand that, but I know her. She doesn’t care if I touch her. Ask her! Go ask her!” 

 

Denny is unmoved, emotionally and physically. Finally, Mulder accepts defeat and trudges towards his car at the back of the lot. Once he’s pulled the door open, he sees Denny go back inside. He sits heavily, one leg hanging out the open door, and drops his head against the headrest with an exasperated sigh. He’s about to give up and head back to Alexandria when he hears the distinctive crack of a gunshot. 

 

His feet kick up gravel like buckshot as he flies back to the doors of the club, drawing his weapon on the way. His pounding heart is a metronome, keeping time in slow motion as it carries him towards her. As he nears the club, people start pouring out. A steady stream of terrified men scramble haphazardly from the small doorway, and he elbows his way past them, the wrong way, the right way, towards her. He makes his way to the floor, a cacophony of screams and shouts. Gunpowder and whiskey permeate the air and he pushes through the mele, towards her. 

 

And she’s there, standing tall with a gun in her hand. Blood runs from her lip and he can tell by her posture that she’s in pain, but she is also in control. All five foot three of her, four inch plastic heels, clad in purple panties, her weapon trained on a bleeding man who lies near her feet. His Scully. She’s ethereal. 

 

“Hold him, Mulder. I need to check on Lexie,” she commands, and he aims his own weapon at the man, who is conscious but sporting a shot through the shoulder. She didn’t go as high as she had when she’d shot Mulder all those years ago. 

 

Scully moves to the stage and he can hear sirens wailing in the distance, growing louder with each passing moment. She checks Lexie’s pulse and breathing and lets out a sigh of relief. 

 

“She’s alive. Unconscious, but alive.” 

 


 

 

She rolls her neck side to side, stretching her tired muscles as the crime scene enters its fourth hour. She pulled clothes on over her lingerie as soon as she could safely sneak into the back, not wanting to have to give a statement with her tits hanging out, and now sits at one of the tables in the rock section sipping the coffee Queenie made for her. Mulder is beside her, having just finished retelling his account of what he heard outside. 

 

“Thank you, Agent Mulder,” Agent Wiley says, turning to Scully. “So, Mr. Hall pulled his gun on you just after you struck him with the bat the second time, correct? How did you come into possession of his firearm, and subsequently shoot him?”

 

“There was a struggle,” Scully replies, “but I was able to subdue him.”

 

Queenie has come by with coffee refills and gives her a doubtful look. “Girl, you are not doing yourself justice. Here’s what really happened,” she sets the coffee pot down on the table and steps back as though preparing for a scene. 

 

“So that fucker pulls out his gun like this.” 

 

She holds up her hand in the form of a gun, her stance wide to indicate a body larger than her own. 

 

“And he’s cocking it or whatever like he’s gonna shoot her. And Desi is looking up at Ben and her eyes are all big.” 

 

Here she mirrors wide eyes, her hands up in self defense. 

 

“And if you didn’t know Desi, you wouldn’t even really notice it, but Ben knows what she’s trying to say. So he blasts something really loud, I think it was the beginning of a DMX song, and it startles the guy.” 

 

She jerks her body as though something made her jump. 

 

“And when he’s distracted, Desi fucking nails him in the balls and he falls on the floor.” 

 

She brings her knee up swiftly, then drops to the floor clutching her groin.

 

“Then she knocks the gun out of his hand and it falls on the floor. Then she goes for the gun and he grabs her foot and knocks her over.” 

 

Queenie splays out in pantomime.

 

“And kicks her like he did to Lexie. But Desi grabs his ears and shoves her fingers in his eyes and then she gets the gun, and she shoots him!” 

 

Still lying on the floor, she aims her hand/gun at Mulder and he winces, glad it wasn’t him who was shot this time. 

 

Agent Wiley looks at Scully with raised eyebrows. “Is that accurate, Agent Scully?”

 

Scully shrugs. “More or less.”

 

“Okay, I think that’s all we need for now, if you’d like to head home and get some sleep. I’m sure I’ll have more questions for you tomorrow. Just to make sure my report is accurate, you never located Mila, correct?”

 

Scully hesitates, but then shakes her head. “No, if she was here at some point, she isn’t anymore.”

 

Agent Wiley starts gathering her things, preparing to leave. 

 

“Agent Wiley,” Scully starts, “is my investigation how Lexie’s, I mean Jennifer’s, husband found her? Did we tip him off?” She’s afraid of the answer, but she has to know. 

 

“No, it’s just odd timing. My team decided not to include that tidbit in our report because of the risk of exposing her, but it sounds like that distinctive tattoo of hers was enough for someone to recognize her. She’s in stable condition, last I heard. She’s got a long road ahead of her, but she’ll be okay.” Agent Wiley stands and puts her hand on Scully’s shoulder. “It’s a good thing you were here, Agent Scully. She may not have been so lucky otherwise.”

 

Finally she is permitted to leave, and Mulder offers to drive her home to her apartment, where she will sleep one last time. 

 

“I’ve got a motel just a few blocks away. Let me know when you’re up in the morning,” he says as they pull up outside. 

 

Scully looks at him across the console. Suddenly, she’s interested in finding out what he so urgently wanted to tell her. 

 

“Why don’t you come up?” she offers, “see how I’ve been living? You can tell me why you came back tonight even though I explicitly told you not to.” Her smile is a little bit chastising, a little bit flirtatious. 

 

Mulder swallows hard. “Okay,” he finally answers, “I’ll come up for a bit.”

 

Chapter Text

He follows her up the stairwell that leads to her apartment. The complex has seen better days, but when she unlocks the front door he’s surprised to see that the inside is relatively nice. It’s small but tidy, which is no surprise for any place Scully inhabits, and the decor is decidedly young. 

 

“I’m going to take a quick shower, make yourself at home,” she says, then disappears into the bathroom. 

 

He looks around and has an odd feeling that he’s invading someone’s space. There are little trinkets on the shelves, magazines on the table, a stack of bills on the counter, but none of it is Scully. He sits down on the couch but it’s impossibly narrow and low to the ground, as though it were designed for a child. Or a child-sized woman, he supposes. The only other seating options are the table or the bed. The kind of conversation he wants to have with Scully shouldn’t take place at a dinner table, so he sits on the end of her bed, listening to the running shower. He wants to rummage through the drawers, to see the private details of her fabricated life, but he doesn’t. When the water stops running, his heart starts to race. 

 


 

 

She steps out of the shower, wiping steam off the mirror with her forearm. Desi has gone down the drain and Scully looks back at her. She frowns, feeling a sense of loss. She’s going to go back out there as Scully, and Scully is going to sidestep her way right out of having an actual conversation with Mulder, just like she always does. Tears prick at her eyes, and she remembers how it felt to be Desi, to be free. She wants to keep that part of her, but she doesn’t know how. 

 

Just ask yourself, ‘what would Desi do?’ and then do that.

 

Magenta’s words echo in her head. She’s not going to let Desi go just yet. 

 

She suddenly realizes that she hasn’t brought a change of clothes into the bathroom with her, and because it’s a studio apartment, Mulder will be just outside the door. She puts on the short black bathrobe that’s hanging on the back of the door and it hits her thighs just below her ass. She needs to at least have underwear on beneath this; it’s too revealing. Scully would go out, grab a change of clothes, and then come back in here to put them on. But what would Desi do?

 

She opens the door and is surprised to see Mulder sitting on the bed. His head snaps over to her and a grin blossoms on his face. 

 

“What?” she asks self-consciously. 

 

He shakes his head, but the smile stays. “It’s just good to see you.”

 

She gives him the eyebrow. “I’ve been gone for ten minutes, Mulder,” she replies dryly. 

 

“Right, um, it’s good to see Scully is what I meant to say. You. Really you.”

 

Is this really her? She doesn’t want it to be. She walks over to her dresser and opens the top drawer, plucking out a pair of red panties. Her back to him, she steps into them and pulls them up under the robe. He doesn’t make a sound, but she can feel his reaction.

 

Staying casual so as not to betray her pounding heart, she walks over and turns on the lamp beside the bed, then flicks off the overhead light and lays down. He turns to look at her from his spot at the foot, the amber light casting him in a warm glow. 

 

“Your couch is tiny; for a second there I thought I had fallen into Gulliver’s Travels,” he says by way of explanation. 

 

She has the thought that it had sat her and Angel just fine, but she doesn’t tell him that. She shifts to get more comfortable and winces at her sore ribs. 

 

“He get you pretty good?” Mulder asks, crawling up to lie on his side next to her. 

 

Scully would tell him, but Desi would show him. Pulling her robe open beneath her breasts, she exposes the developing bruise on her belly, just below and to the left of her sternum. Mulder sucks in a little breath that she assumes is in response to how bad it looks, but when she looks at his face his eyes are trained much lower, maybe on her scar. It seems as though he’ll never be able to stop blaming himself for that. 

 

“No broken ribs or any internal injury, thankfully,” she says, watching him look at her. “I rolled away right as he kicked me, so it wasn’t as much impact as he was shooting for.”

 

“How long have you had that?” he asks, and her eyebrows furrow in confusion. 

 

“Um...a few hours?” she offers.

 

“No, this,” he replies, reaching out and touching her belly ring with an index finger. She blushes. 

 

“Um, a couple years or so. I got it after my cancer went into remission.”

 

“Why?” he asks, all curiosity, no judgement. He’s still fingering the ring gently and she stifles a shiver. 

 

“I guess...I guess I wanted to decide what happened to my body for once,” she answers, and he looks at her face with some mix of pain and admiration. 

 

“This assignment,” he says with a regretful voice, “it took that away from you again.” His hand has come to rest on her belly, his palm covering the gold hoop. 

 

She shakes her head gently. “In some ways yes, but in other ways it was actually...kind of empowering.”

 

They look at each other for a beat. 

 

“How many times did you come to see me, Mulder?”

 

He averts his eyes sheepishly. “Too many,” he says. “I’m sorry.” It’s clear that he counts himself among those who violated her autonomy. 

 

“Why?” she inquires further. “Why did you come?” Her tone is all curiosity, no judgement.

 

He meets her eye again. “Do you want to hear the lie I told myself, or the truth?” he asks, and she knows he’ll be honest if she asks him to. 

 

“Tell me the lie first.”

 

“I knew you didn’t have your weapon, because I went to your apartment and checked your gun safe. So I needed to be there to protect you, in case something happened.” He says it flatly. He’s not even trying to convince himself of that anymore. 

 

“And what’s the truth?” She knows her voice is on the verge of trembling. 

 

His thumb is now gently stroking the flesh of her belly, his fingers mere inches from the hem of her panties. Now seems like a good time for honesty.

 

“At first, I just needed to know where you were. I couldn’t stand the idea of not knowing. And then once I found you, I just…” he stops and swallows, letting his eyes drift down, skirting over her chest to where his hand lies.

 

“What?” she encourages him, needing to know. Needing to hear it. 

 

He turns his head abruptly, facing her again. “You looked so fucking good up there, Scully.” His pupils are huge and his breathing is quickening. 

 

She smiles demurely. “Yeah?”

 

He huffs a big breath. “Yeah.”

 

She screws up her mouth, embarrassed by the compliment. “Thanks,” she finally says, and then they are quiet. 

 

His hand still rests on her stomach, and he looks around the room, rather than stare at her awkwardly. She can hear the clock ticking in the living room and a horn honking somewhere nearby. This is the point where she will say how late it is, how tired she is, how early they will have to be up in the morning to continue the investigation. This is the point where she pulls open the escape catch and slips through. 

 

What would Desi do?

 

She reaches up to his face, slipping her cool palms onto his stubbled cheeks. He turns to look at her, and she blinks slowly, letting her lips fall open slightly. She remembers the VIP room, and how desperate he’d been to touch her. 

 

You deserve to enjoy your body , Angel had told her. She wants it to be true.

 

She pulls gently, bringing him to her. He closes the distance between them slowly, pressing his lips to hers. This is not a searing kiss, not frantic or desperate or unbridled. This is her and this is Mulder, and this is real. His kiss is tender and sweet, and he sighs deeply against her mouth with a little hum. Relief, release, finally finally finally. 

 

She slides her tongue along his bottom lip and his body jerks a little in response, electrified and activated. A swell of confidence courses through her. Bringing one hand down from his face, she pushes the top of her robe open to reveal her bare chest, her nipples already tight with anticipation. His hand snakes up her ribcage, fluttering over the bruise and coming to rest at the spot where her underwire lies each day they work together in the office. Where sweat collects when the air conditioning in their rental car is out. Where her body becomes Her Body, and they are crossing this boundary together. Even though they already crossed it, obliterated it, when he took her into that VIP room. This feels more significant. This is real. This is them.

 

He trails kisses along her jaw and down the side of her neck, slow and delicious. His tongue dances across her clavicle and his lips brush the skin of her chest. When he takes her nipple in his mouth, she feels it so deeply, in a place she’d forgotten existed. A place that she’d so rarely let herself go. The rough of his tongue drags across the sensitive bud and she arches into him, letting her head fall back and her eyes close. 

 

You deserve to enjoy your body. 

 

His mouth is back on her neck and he kisses his way up to her ear. “You are so beautiful,” he whispers huskily, and she feels a surge of arousal dampening her panties. 

 

He gently covers her bruise with his hand, kissing her lips whisper soft, so soft it makes her ache. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he says, and at first she thinks he means emotionally. 

 

“You won’t, Mulder.” It would have been the same answer either way. 

 

She laps at his mouth and he reciprocates, deepening the kiss. As with all things, he’s exploratory; tasting each corner of her mouth, changing speed and pressure, discovering what she likes. Their slow, liquid kisses are the type she hasn’t experienced since she was a teenager and kissing was all that was permissible. She’d forgotten how erotic kissing could be. But she definitely wants to do more than just kiss. 

 

“You can touch me,” she says. Even though he already is, already has. It’s as close to a request as she can manage. 

 

“Do you want me to touch you?” he returns, and she remembers the way his hands had flexed and his body arched, seeking contact with her. 

 

“Yes,” she breathes, “please.”

 

A low moan rumbles in his chest and his hand leaves her bruise, brushing over the skin of her belly as he continues to kiss her, the featherlight touch tickling her and making her jump. 

 

“Sorry,” he says, and she can feel his smile against her mouth.

 

He plays at the hem of her panties, tracing the border across her stomach, the edge at her leg until it disappears under her ass. He follows it the other direction up and over the front of her leg until it takes him between her thighs. She moves one leg aside, resting it against him, and he continues to trace the trail along the seam of her thigh and vulva, so close she’s sure he can feel the heat coming off her. Maybe even feel how wet she is. He lifts his finger and places it low, on top of her panties near her opening, and drags it up over her cotton-covered slit. When he bumps up over her clit, she makes a little sound. He does it again. 

 

“Can I…” he grumbles into her ear, “...I want to taste you. Please.”

 

A throb. Whatever she had previously thought to be the sexiest sound in the world is obsolete. Fox Mulder begging to eat her pussy is it, hands down, no debate. She wants to hear him say it again. 

 

“You want to?” she asks rhetorically, baiting him. Her breath is ragged. If she somehow talks him out of this by accident she will die. 

 

“So bad,” he drags his teeth over her earlobe. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fantasized about it.”

 

A throb. She might come just from talking about it. “Okay,” she says, as though acquiescing. 

 

He moves to hover over her, kissing her several more times as though he can hardly tear himself away from one area to kiss another. If only he had a second set of lips to kiss her with. He makes brief stops at her breasts and belly along his journey, sucking the gold hoop between his lips, which produces an oddly pleasurable sensation. When he’s on his knees between her thighs, he hooks his fingers into the fabric at her hips and tugs, peeling them slowly down her legs. She lifts one leg and crosses it over his body so that he can pull her panties free and toss them on the floor. When that last scrap of fabric is gone, he gently pulls her leg back over and his eyes come to rest on the one part of her body he has not yet seen. She watches him intently, the mesmerized look in his eye as he commits her pink, swollen vulva to memory. He’s looking between her legs as though the answers he’s always been searching for are right here, and he can’t believe he’s only finding them now. He licks his lips. 

 

When he lowers his body, laying on his belly and placing his palms on the outsides of her thighs, she feels the anticipation throbbing so hard she wonders if he can actually see how much she wants him. He dips his head and she is trembling, desperate, now now now. 

 

The sweet slip of his tongue through her folds simultaneously ignites and extinguishes her. Release on top of heightened desire. Scratching the itch while tickling forth a new one. He is tentative, trying different levels of pressure and length of strokes, licking her long from bow to stern then short just across her clit. Every single point of contact is an entire fireworks show in a millisecond, one on top of the other, and she doesn’t even realize at first that she is crying out. Moaning and panting, making so much more noise than she ever would have permitted herself to make in the past. He slips a finger inside and she feels the beginnings of an orgasm begin to take shape. He laps her in short strokes, flicking up and over her clit over and over, and every synapse in her brain is firing. He slips a second finger in and she’s there, right on the edge, ready to fall over. 

 

“I’m gonna come,” she whines, and he groans, keeping pace and pressure, not changing a single thing. 

 

It’s slow, so slow the way it overtakes her. Her toes curl as it creeps up her legs, wrapping around her hips and pulling her under. She reaches the crest and hangs there, clamped tight around him at the peak of pleasure for so deliciously long. Then the waves hit her, pulsing and pushing and expanding and contracting, and he keeps going. It’s so good, so fucking good that she thinks she might cry, or maybe she already is, she doesn’t know. She’s still going, still pulsing around his fingers, but now that the most intense point has passed she wants him close, she wants more. 

 

“Mulder,” she says with a thick, dry-mouthed voice, “come here.”

 

He crawls up over her body, still fully clothed, and she pushes his shirt up quickly, tossing it aside before her hands go to the fly of his jeans. She can see a question pass over his eyes, a worry that it’s too much too fast. Not for him, but for her.

 

“I want you,” she assures him, and he helps her push his jeans and boxers off, discarding her robe when he briefly stands. Then they are both fully nude, his stiff cock nestled between her thighs. 

 

“Please,” she begs, because she means NOW she wants him now, right now, while she’s still riding the coattails of her orgasm. 

 

He grips his cock and slides it over her, collecting her wetness, and then slowly pushes inside. He’s perfect, big enough but not too big for her petite frame, and she hooks her legs around his buttocks, pulling him deeper. 

 

“Fuck,” he moans, but takes the cue and begins long, firm strokes. 

 

The new sensation of the head of his cock sliding against her insides sets off another series of little waves of pleasure and she’s not sure if she’s still coming or coming again, but it’s so damn good she doesn’t care. 

 

“You feel so good,” she moans against his neck, and he can feel him stiffen and grow even harder in response. 

 

“Oh my god, Scully, oh my god.” He can’t find more eloquent words than that, but she doesn’t need them. She knows. 

 

He kisses her while he slides in and out, groaning and growing more frantic. He’s close. 

 

“Fuck, should I...pull out or something?” he asks breathlessly, a bit late in the game but she can appreciate that he thought of it at all. She remembers the box of condoms in the bathroom, but this is Mulder. She knows he hasn’t been with anyone else, and she can’t get pregnant anyway. 

 

“Come inside me,” she commands, and that does it. His eyes clamp shut and his breath catches. He continues thrusting into her in stony silence, a living statue until he falls apart. 

 

Words tumble from his lips as he pours himself inside her, a stream of consciousness he isn’t even aware of while dopamine is flooding every cell of his body. “Oh my fucking god, Scully, oh my fucking god, I love you so much.” She watches his face raptly, marveling at the blissful way his eyebrows stitch and his mouth hangs as he lets go, lets himself feel good for once. He collapses, falling to the side and taking her with him so he can remain inside her, nuzzling her neck as he rides out the final dredges of pleasure. 

 

She traces her fingers over the sweat-dampened skin of his back, feeling whatever the opposite of regret would be. She’s never been so sure that a decision she’s made was the right one as she is now. He sighs deeply and then tips his head up to look at her, a sated smile on his lips that she returns.

 

“Hi,” she says in her very own voice, and he gives her a squeeze at the familiar greeting. 

 

“Hey,” he replies, and her heart swells with affection that she cannot rightfully ignore. 

 

“I love you too,” she says, and a flash of surprise disappears from his expression as quickly as it arrived. Maybe he doesn’t realize he said it, but he knows he feels it. 

 

“Does that mean you’re not gonna kick me out?” he asks, and she can’t be mad that he’s ruining the moment with humor. He wouldn’t be Mulder if he didn’t. 

 

“Stay,” she replies, and reaches up to switch off the lamp. They fall asleep just like that, his sticky cum on the insides of her thighs something she’s not ready to let go of just yet.

 

Chapter Text

The trill of a cell phone pulls her from her dreamless slumber, and Mulder rolls out of bed with a hmph to retrieve it from the kitchen counter. Feigning sleep, she watches him as he traverses the room naked. The soft curve of his ass and then the rigid mast of his morning erection flood her with memories of what it had felt like when buried inside her, and she bites back a smile.

 

“Mulder,” he says sleepily, searching for his underwear. “Good morning, Agent Wiley,” he continues as he slips on his shorts and then sits on the edge of the bed, leaning over to place a quiet kiss on her temple. 

 

She opens her eyes, as though for the first time. 

 

“Yes, she’s here, one second.”

 

He sets the phone on the bedside table and turns to kiss her again, on the mouth this time. Mulder kissing her awake is something she could definitely get used to. He stands and goes into the bathroom while she takes the call. 

 

“Good morning, Agent Wiley,” she greets, not even caring if the other agent had heard them kissing. 

 

“Morning, Agent Scully. Sorry to track you down on your partner’s phone, the one we assigned you was still off.”

 

“Sorry about that, it didn’t even cross my mind to turn it on last night.”

 

Mulder pops his head out of the bathroom with her toothbrush in his mouth and wags his eyebrows suggestively. She shoots him a look, but it’s discredited by the smile on her lips. 

 

“Not a problem. I just wanted to share some updates with you. We spent quite a bit of time questioning Ricky Dean last night and while we still have some loose ends to tie up, it’s looking like we’ll be able to close this case pretty quickly.”

 

“Really?” she asks with surprise. She had figured the search for Mila would continue, and that Ricky might even be arrested. She’s relieved to hear that’s not the case. 

 

“Mr. Dean had some additional documentation indicating that Mila was there of her own free will,” continues agent Wiley, “and it’s pretty compelling stuff. He also said that she left about a month before you got there, but he hadn’t yet updated the file. That, in conjunction with the documents you found, make us confident that things are as they seem, which is that Mila chose to cut ties with her parents. You were right, by the way, about Mr. Dean running a kind of witness protection program. The gentleman you had mentioned, Roger Keane, was acting as a benefactor of sorts, funding the women’s expenses until they had a steady income from the club.”

 

She’s quiet for a beat while this information sinks in. “What about Lexie, and her husband?”

 

“Mr. Hall is in custody and will likely be charged with attempted murder, on top of assaulting a federal officer. Jennifer is doing well. She’s awake, doped to the gills on painkillers, but expected to fully recover. She was able to get back in contact with her mother, who is caring for little Aubrey.”

 

“That’s a relief,” Scully says with a sigh. “Do you need me to come down to the station?”

 

“No rush, you can stop by this afternoon. I’ll be here.”

 

“Thank you, I’ll see you later,” she replies, ending the call as Mulder returns from the bathroom. 

 

“What’s the latest?” He asks, slipping back beneath the sheets and pulling her into his arms. She hides her morning breath against his neck. 

 

“They’re closing the case,” she says plainly.

 

“Must be pretty frustrating, knowing she was gone before you even got there,” he says, brushing his fingers over the small of her back.

 

“She was there, Mulder,” she lifts her head to look at him. “I lied.”

 

He gives her an incredulous expression and she rolls out of bed and steps into the bathroom. Switching the shower on, she brushes her own teeth with an already-wet toothbrush.

 

“I’m going to take a shower, I’ll tell you about it over breakfast,” she says before closing the door. 

 

Twenty minutes later she has washed away the evidence of their activities the night before and they sit at her small dining room table, drinking coffee and eating the scrambled eggs and toast Mulder prepared as she tells him about Mila. She decides to leave out the part about their conversation on the couch; that’s something she will keep just for herself. 

 

“I can see why you did what you did, Scully. It was a tough position to be in,” he says as he touches her arm reassuringly.

 

“I know it was the right thing to do, but it still feels bizarre to lie on an official case report,” she replies. “I hope she’s okay, wherever she is. She was a good friend to me when I really needed one.”

 

Three soft raps on the door interrupt them, and they look at each other in confusion. 

 

“Are you expecting someone?” he asks, and she shakes her head. 

 

“No one knows I live here,” she says as she creeps towards the door and looks through the peephole. 

 

When she sees who’s on the other side, she gasps and makes quick work of the lock, pulling it open and ushering Mila inside with a relieved hug. 

 

“Oh my god, I was so worried,” she muses, and Mila sinks into her, threading her arms around Scully’s waist. 

 

“Queenie told me what happened,” Mila replies, tucking her face into Scully’s neck, “she said you lied and told them I was never there. I’m so sorry for what I said to you yesterday, Desi.”

 

“It’s okay, I understand,” Scully reassures her, pulling back to look at her face.

 

Mulder clears his throat and Mila looks at him nervously, not having realized anyone else was here. 

 

“This is my partner, Fox Mulder,” Scully introduces, and Mila nods at him, then narrows her eyes and looks back to Scully with a smirk. 

 

“That’s the guy, huh?” she says playfully, and Scully blushes. “Look, Desi, I just came to say goodbye. I’m getting out of town. I just don’t feel safe here anymore. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do next, but I know my parents won’t stop looking for me.”

 

“We know some people,” Mulder interjects, “some friends, who can set you up with a new identity. For real this time, with a new social security number and everything.”

 

Mila’s expression brightens. “Really?”

 

Mulder nods. “Let me give them a call, you should be able to pick the documents up in DC this afternoon, if you can make it down there.” 

 

He steps out of the apartment, heading to his car so he can contact The Gunmen, leaving Scully and Mila alone. 

 

“So, I guess Desi isn’t really your name, huh? Or Diane?”

 

Scully smiles warmly. “My name is Dana. But you can still call me Desi if you want.”

 

Mila takes both Scully’s hands in hers, looking at them as she talks. “I don’t think I can ever thank you enough for what you did. I’m sure you could get in a lot of trouble if anyone found out.”

 

“It was the least I could do,” Scully replies. “I was there to help you, it just turns out the kind of help you needed was different than I thought. And you...Mila you changed my life.” 

 

Mila looks up at her with wet eyes. “I did?”

 

“Yes,” Scully says, her own eyes pooling with tears though her mouth is smiling. “You helped me see myself. It’s the greatest gift anyone has ever given me.”

 

They look at each other for a moment, and it feels charged, like it did on the couch the other night. This time Scully breaks away, walking to her closet. 

 

“I want you to have something,” she says, pulling down a lock box. “The code is two two three. There’s about fifteen thousand here.” She hands it to Mila, who looks at her with a stunned expression but takes it. 

 

“I can’t take this, Desi. That’s insane.”

 

Scully shakes her head. “It’s all my tips. I don’t need it, nor do I want it. Please, use it to start over somewhere else. It would make me really happy.”

 

Mila nods, a soft smile on her lips. “Okay, thank you.”

 

Mulder returns just then, holding a receipt with notes scribbled on the back. “Okay, Mila, you’ll need to meet someone at the Lincoln memorial at 4:30 this afternoon. They’ll have everything you need and I promise, no one will find you this time.”

 

“Thank you,” she replies, then turns back to Scully. “I better go.”

 

Scully walks her to the door and they stand in its open frame, looking at each other for the last time. Scully pulls her into a hug and they linger there, rocking gently. When she pulls back, she doesn’t think, just presses her lips to Mila’s and kisses her twice before hugging her again. “Good luck,” she whispers into her ear, and then Mila is gone. Angel is gone. 

 

Scully pushes the door closed, sniffing hard against her tearing eyes. Mulder is looking at her curiously, a thousand questions in his eyes that he has the good sense not to ask. 

 

“Let’s go back to bed,” she says finally, and he turns his cell phone off this time. 



Chapter Text

ONE MONTH LATER

 

The freshly sharpened knife cuts through a cucumber as though it were made of air, and she quarters the slices before piling them on top of a nearly-finished salad. Mulder’s kitchen has seen more action in the last month than it had in the previous ten years he’s lived here, now regularly graced by the two of them preparing meals together. It feels blissfully domestic and boring, living this way, though the mundane days are still punctuated by a flesh-eating fast food employee or a genie that lives in a rug now and then. The nights, though, are never boring anymore. Even if it’s just Mulder wrapped around her like a tortoise shell and all they do is sleep, it’s the most exciting time of her life. It’s rare that they only sleep. 

 

Mulder is in the living room messing with the stereo, and she hears a familiar tune drifting in; Red Light Special. Her body responds immediately, swaying in a way that was second-nature to her for a short time. Realizing how out of place it is, she stops, turning to see him standing in the doorframe, smiling at her. 

 

“What is this, Mulder? Doesn’t sound like your style of music.” She’s cautiously curious. 

 

He walks toward her, slipping his hands onto her hips as hers find his shoulders. They sway gently together. 

 

“I was just thinking, Scully, you haven’t really told me about how you learned all those moves.” 

 

He’s smiling a little bit sheepishly, asking her for something he’s not sure she’s willing to give. She starts to slowly walk him backwards, out of the kitchen and towards the dining room. 

 

Scully might tell him. She might relay a watered down version of how she went from straight-laced FBI agent to stripper in three weeks, skipping all the tawdry parts. 

 

But what would Desi do?

 

They reach the table and she pulls out a chair, directing him to sit. Stepping close, she presses her thigh between his legs and pulls his head close against her breasts, looking down at his upturned face as his eyes grow wide with excitement. 

 

“Why don’t I show you instead,” she says, and his grin sets off a flutter in her belly. “There’s just one thing, Mulder, before we start.”

 

A flash of concern rolls across his features. “What?” he asks.

 

“There are rules,” she replies, already twitching and rolling her pelvis against him. 

 

“Right, no touching,” he says, licking his lips. 

 

She shakes her head. “Different club, different rules.”

 

“Okay. What are the rules at your club?” She can see that he’s already growing hard beneath his slacks. 

 

“You have to touch me,” she says breathily. 

 

He smiles devilishly, bringing his hands up to cup her ass. 

 

“That is a rule I can certainly adhere to.”

 


 

Ventura County, CA

 

The salty spray of the surf tickles her nose from her perch on a small wooden bench, coffee in hand and a paperback open in her lap. She closes her eyes and turns her face up towards the sun, breathing the warm, orchard-scented air. It’s peaceful here, though the gulls are screaming and the shouts from a beach volleyball game echo in her ears. Peace doesn’t always come from quiet; sometimes it comes from knowing that you have a safe place to sleep and enough money to buy breakfast. Peace of heart and mind, if not of environment. 

 

“Is this seat taken?” coos a soft voice, and she opens her eyes to see a woman with long chocolate colored hair and thick hips, her bright green eyes standing out against her deeply bronzed skin. 

 

“Oh, um, yes, I mean no. You can sit,” she stammers, groaning internally at her own awkwardness. She’s usually very comfortable talking to pretty women; this one just caught her off guard. 

 

The woman sits, her ample backside brushing close so that their legs are touching, but just barely. 

 

“Do you live around here?” the woman asks, “I’ve seen you a couple times now, I think.”

 

She nods. “Yes, for just about a month,” she answers, “I moved from the East Coast.”

 

The woman smiles broadly, revealing long slashed dimples on her cheeks. She’s cute. Really cute. “Ah, a transplant. We love those here.” The woman tips her own round face up towards the sun. “Nothing like a little California sunshine to cure what ails you.”

 

There’s a silence, but it’s not awkward. The woman turns to look at her again. “Would you like to grab dinner sometime, or drinks, maybe?” the woman asks, and the smirk on her lips makes clear that this is not just a friendly invitation; it’s a date. 

 

She nods, smiling back. “I’d like that,” she says, her voice catching in her throat a little. 

 

“How about now?” the woman asks with a small shrug. Her forwardness is incredibly attractive. 

 

“Now is good,” she says, trying to mask her excitement. 

 

“Let’s go then,” the woman says as she stands. “Oh, I didn’t even ask your name,” she adds with a laugh. 

 

“It’s Amanda,” she replies, still getting used to the feel of that name on her tongue. 

 

The woman extends her hand. “Nice to meet you Amanda, my name’s Desiree.”

 

Amanda smiles broadly. “I knew someone named Desiree once.”

 

“Yeah?” Desiree asks, “hopefully someone you liked?”

 

Amanda nods. “She saved my life, actually.”

 

“Well,” Desiree replies, “those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but I’ll do my best.”

 

They walk down the beach towards the boardwalk, the setting sun painting the sky pink.

 

END