The Best Part
By Suzanne L. Feld
“I simply cannot wait to hear how you’re going to explain this to Skinner, Mulder.”
He glared over at me. “You’re not exactly innocent in this situation, Scully.”
“Right. I dragged you in here and handcuffed you naked to my bed and then sat up with you all night. Uh-huh, Mulder, he’ll believe that more than you came tearing in here screaming about having been bitten by a werewolf and begging me to tie you up.”
He drew himself up as much as he could while spread-eagled, clearly affronted. “I did not!”
I’d seen that expression before and not that long ago, matter of fact. “You did too.”
“At least it wasn’t a girly scream.”
“I’ll grant you that, but you were pretty hysterical.”
“And I did not have my panic face on.”
“Wouldn’t you be a bit… upset… if you were bitten by a werewolf?”
“Alleged werewolf, Mulder. Nothing’s happened yet.”
“Maybe it takes a day or two. I now suspect that if you’re bitten the first night of the full moon, you’re not going to turn the very next night. In fact it might even take a full month.”
“Or maybe nothing’s going to happen except there will be some juicy new stories about the Spookys going around the Hoover Building if this gets out.”
He sighed. “You sure I can’t have a drink of water?”
“Not until Skinner gets here. Considering you’re well past the age of potty-training I’m sure I don’t have to explain the logistics of why to you.” Another glare was tossed my way from the bed but I wasn’t budging. I’d taken the I.V. out half an hour ago and I knew he wasn’t anywhere near dehydrated yet.
“I don’t know why I picked you, of all people, to come to.”
My turn to sigh. “I have a very bad habit of letting you talk me into crazy things like this. That would be one reason why. And possibly because my bed’s more comfortable than your couch.”
“Aren’t you on a tear tonight? I guess the stand-up circuit is next,” he said snidely, but the effect was muted by his position and predicament. It’s difficult to be really snide when you’re spread-eagled, naked, and handcuffed.
“I’m often like this around you, Mulder, but you usually disappear before I really get going,” I told him. “Now that I have a—and I can’t resist—captive audience, I’m taking full advantage.”
He groaned and rolled his head towards the windows where we could both see that dawn was well underway outside. The moon had gone down some time ago, just about the time I’d called and awakened Skinner and asked him to bring the extra keys for our cuffs and a pair of bolt cutters. Speaking of, how I wished I’d had a camera when Mulder had realized that he’d lost his key ring in the fight with the alleged werewolf! Or, even better, when I realized that I had no clue where my handcuff key had gotten to; it wasn’t on my key ring and I was so tired that I couldn’t remember the last time I’d used it. For all I knew it had been in Michigan when I’d caught Gerry Schnauz, the psychic photographer, and that had been over a year ago—I didn’t seem to use my cuffs very much. Or had it been during the case with the killer computer program on the loose, when I’d cuffed Esther Nairn and she’d turned the tables on me? That had been just a few months ago but for the life of me I was too exhausted to remember.
It had been a long night and I was tired, so tired that I was tempted to go lay down on the couch but didn’t, knowing that Skinner could be here any time. The only good thing was that it was Sunday morning so we didn’t have to go to work; I wasn’t going to sleep too long this morning after he left otherwise I wouldn’t be able to go to bed tonight. And I was certainly going to miss Mass; if God and Father McCue didn’t understand, then to hell with them. Well, not literally…
“Scully? You still with me?” he said, and I realized that I had laid my head back against the chair and closed my eyes.
“Yeah, Mulder,” I said, raising my head and looking tiredly at him. By now I was so used to the sight of his long bare limbs, torso, and chest after this long night that it didn’t do much for me, although it was still a pleasant enough sight. Or would have been if I wasn’t so tired and annoyed with him. Still, I could only imagine what Skinner was going to think when he walked into my bedroom and saw this.
“Scully, I am sorry about this,” Mulder said in a serious voice, eyes steady on mine as I raised my eyes to his face. “I guess I should have thought about the keys before I had you handcuff me. But I didn’t think that rope would be strong enough to hold a raging werewolf.”
“I agreed with you at the time, and this wouldn’t have turned into such a mess if we hadn’t managed to lose or misplace all the keys.”
“Well, we didn’t lose one, and you’re nice not to remind me of that.”
“I know you were in a panic when you bought it but seriously, Mulder, did you really think that a set of handcuffs bought at Bill’s Pleasure Palace would work?”
“I assumed! It was the only place open at two a.m. that I knew would have handcuffs. I can only imagine how someone would feel in this position if they’d bought them for a sexual purpose and the key snapped off in the lock. I may go arrest that guy when I get out of here.”
“Too bad they don’t carry bolt cutters,” I murmured, laying my head against the back of the chair. “But even so, we put them on too tight for that. We’d risk hurting you, and adding cut wrists to this story would not improve matters.”
“You tired, Scully?”
I raised my head to glare at him. “It’s six-fifteen in the morning, I’ve had three hours’ sleep, and have been sitting up all night waiting for you to turn into a werewolf. What do you think?”
“I think you could come lay down next to me if you’re that tired. It’s not like I can do anything.” He had the audacity to wiggle his brows at me.
It was at times like this I wondered if he really was insane or just had a death wish.
“Other than possibly turn into a vicious beast, remember?” I needled him. And, yeah, I could just see Skinner walking in on that little scene. “Mulder, do I have to remind you that you’re handcuffed naked to my bed and completely at my mercy?”
There was no answer to that—wisely—and I laid my head back against the chair again. My mind began to drift, mulling over the last five or six hours.
When he had arrived I’d been peacefully sleeping after spending most of the previous evening at the movies with my friend Jeanne; we’d gone to a showing of the first two “Thin Man” movies at our local retro theater. We’d even managed an uninterrupted, pleasantly quiet dinner at my favorite restaurant afterward. It had been such a relaxed, enjoyable evening that I should have known something bad involving Mulder was going to happen.
The pounding on my door had startled me awake as well as, likely, half of my neighbors. When I’d opened it I’d found Mulder wide-eyed, scratched and bruised, his clothes torn. My first mistake was letting him in; my second was listening to him.
My excuse is that I’d been groggy from being awakened after only three hours’ sleep and hadn’t had time for coffee before he began ranting and raving about werewolves and WWF wrestlers. But the main thing I remembered was that, after Mulder had talked me into agreeing to handcuff him to my bed—which is solid oak and very strong—I’d turned around to see him coming into my bedroom from the bathroom with just a towel held around his hips. That had woken me up completely, that much was for certain!
“What the—why are you naked?” I’d asked him, aghast, standing in my bedroom holding my cuffs in my hands.
“Clothing is constricting. I don’t think mine will just neatly rip off like the Hulk or Lon Chaney, or even Michael Landon,” he’d said, lying down on my unmade bed while holding the towel in place. I had meant to pull the comforter over the sheets but he’d given me no time. “And if I can’t get it off, it could seriously hurt me; I could be strangled by my own t-shirt. C’mon, Scully, get me cuffed,” he had added as he had spread his arms and legs after carefully tucking the towel in place. “We don’t know how fast it happens or when.”
“My God, you are actually making sense!”
Against my better judgment I’d done as he’d asked, affixing each of his ankles and wrists to the headboard and footboard spindles. Although the bed was sturdy I hadn’t been sure it would hold and had asked him if the cuffs for his legs were really necessary; he’d had me use his regular set and a backup pair he kept in case he lost the first set of cuffs. “Yeah,” he’d insisted, “it may give you a few extra seconds to either get out or tranq me.”
Sitting on my bedside table had been a pistol with tranquilizer darts which he’d brought with him; I still didn’t want to know where he’d gotten it from.
After he had been affixed to my bed I’d gone and made a half-pot of coffee, carrying a cup back to the room where I had sat in the chair nearby and gazed at him, yawning, hoping this was just a really vivid dream. Which I often did when involved in one of Mulder’s crazy schemes.
“That smells really good—can I have a sip?” Mulder had asked, turning his head to gaze at me.
“Right, and then you’ll want me to uncuff you so you can use the bathroom—and if I take those cuffs off it’s for good,” I’d told him, resisting those puppy-dog eyes. “I’m still not quite sure how you talked me into this insanity in the first place.”
“You agreed that my scratches could have been made by a canid and even if it wasn’t really a werewolf that attacked me, thinking it was might cause some kind of reaction,” he’d said reasonably. “And I used the toilet after I got undressed, so I won’t have to go for a while. C’mon, Scully, just a sip.”
But I was now wide awake and not as susceptible to his pestering. “Not happening, Mulder,” I’d told him. “No liquids for you or you’ll have to go to the bathroom and if you say one word about a bedpan I’m going to pack a bag and leave you here.”
“Well, damn, I am going to have to use the bathroom again before dawn,” he’d grumbled. “You know, I’m only doing this for the public’s safety.”
“You keep it up and I’ll pull out my catheter,” I’d warned him.
“Ooooh, Scully, would you?” he’d batted his eyes at me.
“It’s not pleasant if you’re conscious when it’s inserted, you know this, right?” I’d told him. “And who’s to say I’d be gentle? So unless you’re into S&M I’d can it, Mulder.”
He’d looked at me horrified, then said, “Jesus, Scully, you can be a real sadist sometimes, you know that?”
I’d given him a close-lipped smile. “With you, yes. Just returning the favor.”
He’d huffed but was silent for a time. As I’d sat there I’d gradually realized that he couldn’t go the rest of the night without liquids; I’d had no idea how much he’d drunk in the past few hours but, regardless, it wasn’t a good idea. But I’d had something for that, too.
When I’d come back into the room with the I.V. equipment his eyes had widened but he hadn’t argued, just asked what I was doing. I’d explained, “This will keep you hydrated enough to be safe but not so much that you’ll have to urinate. Anything else you’d damn well better be able to hold until you think it’s safe for me to release you.”
“You keep this stuff in your apartment, Scully?”
I’d snorted. “With you around, Mulder, I have everything except a hospital bed and that’s next on my list!” He’d turned his face away, not looking at me even when I’d inserted the I.V. needle, although I saw his grimace. “This will also make it easier for me to sedate you if you really do start to turn,” I’d added, setting a capped and filled needle on the nightstand next to the tranq gun. Of course there were no such things as werewolves and I knew it, but this had been one of those times where humoring him was a good idea. And on the very slim chance that I was wrong… I still wasn’t sure what I’d seen in his hospital room in Illinois a few weeks ago but, if it had been a giant zombie-creating humanoid insect, then I certainly had to admit to the possibility of werewolves. “Speaking of—“
“Am I suddenly growing more hair?” He’d lifted his head and looked towards the end of the bed and then tried to lift his legs as well, but there had only been enough slack for him to be able to move them a couple inches. This time, when he had done both at the same time, his legs had lifted enough to slide the towel up past his groin. Now, I’d thought with some embarrassment, Mulder really had no secrets from me.
He’d glanced over at me, his face reddening. “I’m sorry, Scully, I only wanted to see if my legs were getting hairier. Besides, come on, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before… although not mine that I know of.”
I had just huffed in reply as I’d moved the towel back to cover him, hoping my face wasn’t as red as it felt but keeping it turned away just in case it was. If not for his blush I really would have walked out and left him in there alone, but it had been clear that he hadn’t meant to do that. Luckily for him.
Things had been uneventful after that until I saw the sky lightening outside the windows. I couldn’t remember what we’d talked about during that long early morning, but once it was over I stood and stretched long and hard, bringing my arms back down to find Mulder watching me avidly. “Ready to get out of there?”
“You were right, your bed is more comfortable, but I’m starting to cramp up,” he said. “Yeah, set me free.”
“Where are your keys?” I asked as I went to get my keyring out of my jacket pocket where I usually left it.
I returned with my keys and after a moment, remembered that I’d used my set of cuffs on his left wrist and headed there. “What?”
“My handcuff key was on my key ring and I lost it in the scuffle. That’s one reason I came here, because I couldn’t get into my apartment.”
I paused in searching for the tiny handcuff key among the larger ones on my key ring and stared at him in disbelief. “You don’t have the keys to your cuffs?”
“Dammit! No! They were on the keychain!”
“Well, the news gets better. I don’t see my key on this ring and I have no clue where it might be.”
We just stared at each other for a beat.
“Well at least release my arm with the cuffs from the adult store.”
My mind was still reeling as I went and got the package, taking the key out of the hard plastic. But as soon as I put it in the lock and tried to turn it, the darn cheap thing bent and, a moment later, snapped off inside the cuff without releasing the lock.
Mulder let out a string of verbose expletives best not remembered. “Call a locksmith, Scully, I’ll pay for it.”
I sighed. “Skinner might still have extra keys for all our sets.”
“No! No way! I’m not letting him see me like this!”
“You know he’ll be discreet and it’ll never get out. On the other hand would you prefer a total stranger who might have seen you on the news, especially after the last few cases?”
More irate expletives. I waited patiently, yawning.
“Fine, dammit, fine, call Skinner.”
Waking up a previous boss at six-thirty on a Sunday morning is not recommended, but there was no way I was going to call Kersh with this unless given absolutely no other choice. Almost an hour later I was still trying to block out most of that conversation but the gist was that Skinner did, indeed, have the extra keys for our handcuffs as well as a bolt cutter to free Mulder from the broken adult-store cuff. He’d have to go to a locksmith to get the cuff cut off his wrist but at least we could get him off of my bed.
“You are really beautiful when you sleep, did you know that, Scully? No matter how many times I see you sleeping I never get tired of watching you.”
I raised my head and blinked at him blearily. “What?”
“Skinner’s at the door. He’s knocking but not very loud, I think he doesn’t want to wake up your neighbors again.”
I got up with a groan and went to answer the door.
Skinner stopped in his tracks in my bedroom doorway and the only words out of his mouth at first were, “You have got to be kidding me.”
I was behind him and couldn’t see Mulder but heard his voice which was annoyingly bright and cheerful, like we were all in the Hoover for a Monday morning meeting. “Good morning, sir, sorry to wake you up so early.”
He stepped further into the room and I moved around him, putting my hand out for the keys. “I’ll unlock if you’ll cut the one on his right wrist.”
“Okay, and from the top, Agent Mulder—don’t leave anything out,” he said, handing me the three small keys and carrying the bolt cutter to the head of the bed.
Mulder explained that he had been tracking this werewolf on and off for the past two months and, earlier tonight, had caught it as it was about to pounce on an unwary wrestler leaving work after a bout at the gym. They’d tussled, it had scratched and bitten him, and it had gotten away. He’d then come here, talked me into handcuffing him naked to my bed, and so on.
When he was free the first thing Mulder did was grab my cold cup of coffee and drain it then he ran to the bathroom holding the towel tightly around his waist, one handcuff still bouncing on his wrist. I turned to Skinner, who had his bolt cutters over his shoulder—he’d never taken his coat off—and thanked him for coming. “I, ah, won’t let anything like this happen again,” I told him as we walked to the front door.
“Somehow I’m not surprised that he talked you into this madness, but at least you did the right thing in calling me instead of a locksmith,” Skinner said. “Your faces are too well-known for something like that to get out.”
After he was gone I turned to see Mulder coming out of the bathroom fully dressed except for his jacket; I assumed that he couldn’t get it on over the handcuff. “All right, Scully, I’m out of here and off to humiliate myself in front of someone I don’t know. I guess it’s marginally better to be thought a stupid sexual deviant than a stupid werewolf hunter, eh?”
I couldn’t help but grin up at him despite my exhaustion as I walked him to the door. We stopped before it and he reached for me, making my smile fade as I looked up at him warily, but he just drew me to him in a warm hug. “Thanks, Scully, you are the best friend ever and though I don’t tell you as much as I should, I really appreciate everything you do for me,” he said, kissing my forehead before letting me go. “Get some rest and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
With dragging steps I returned to my bedroom, gazing tiredly at the rumpled covers. Mulder had lain there most of the night, probably sweating, and I knew I should change the sheets but was just too damn beat. I dozed off moments later with Mulder’s clean, warm, masculine smell in my head, comforting me in ways I really didn’t want to deal with just yet.
Weeks passed with no further mention of the alleged werewolf and I pretty much forgot about it in the rush of our other cases. It was just about a month after the incident that Mulder didn’t show up for work one Friday morning and wasn’t answering either phone when I called repeatedly. I was too busy to go over to his apartment until later in the evening and, when I did show up, his door was locked and he didn’t answer so I let myself in. The security chain wasn’t on, which it usually was when he was there.
The first thing I saw was him sprawled sleeping on the couch, wearing only a pair of blue gym shorts and with blankets and sheets rumpled beneath him. “Mulder?” I called as I closed the door behind me. “Are you all right?”
He blinked at me and sat up. The scratches from last month’s attack were still visible on his upper chest, faint but probably a permanent scar. “What… what time is it, Scully?”
“Almost seven in the evening. Where were you today, Mulder?”
“Holy—! I missed work?!”
I sat down next to him and checked his eyes, finding the pupils normal, running one hand through his soft hair feeling for a bump on his skull. “Yes. What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Getting home from work last night, I guess; I wasn’t feeling good, kinda itchy and restless. Watched ‘Ghostbusters’ until I dozed off, but then I don’t remember a thing until right now when you woke me up.”
“You seem all right,” I said, then ran a knuckle up his scratchy cheek. “But it’s clear you haven’t shaved—that’s a lot of beard for just a day.”
He did the same on the other side of his face with his hand, then looked down at his chest. I realized that I could no longer see the claw mark scars; instead of the light spattering of dark hair down the middle of his chest, Mulder’s bare skin was covered with a fine pelt of wiry brown hair that was growing more by the minute.
I leapt up and backed away, feeling my eyes grow wide. “Mulder—Mulder—you’re, uh—“
“Oh my God Scully,” he cried, standing up and weaving in place as more hair sprang out all over his body. He held up one hand which extended and grew claws from the fingertips with a horrible cracking noise and, as I backed away in horror, he screamed and then threw his head back for a loud, painful-sounding howl—his mouth now appearing more like a muzzle—and as I turned to run I saw him go down on all fours—
“Scully! Scully wake up, you’re having a nightmare!”
I jerked awake and almost fell out of the chair, staring wildly around my dimly-lit bedroom. There was Mulder spread-eagled naked on my bed with the blue towel around his waist, my covers rumpled beneath him just like I’d seen him on his couch. All four handcuffs were firmly in place. His wide hazel eyes were staring over at me concerned and then he added, “Skinner’s at the door, you’d better go get it.”
Oh, God. It had been a dream. But unfortunately not all of it… and the best part was yet to come.