The idea for this story was born December 2002 when I was doing some reading about rape. The reading had to do more with the biological aspects of the crime, specifically that it was a successful reproduction strategy and as such was likely to remain part of our collective culture. I also read some opinions about how rape affects men and women differently – not all of which I believed – but it got me thinking.
One of the things I considered was how most fanfic in which Scully is raped focuses almost entirely on her recovery. Mulder hurts for her -- as I believe he would -- but his role is often limited to trying to comfort her. I started wondering what feelings of his own Mulder might have about such an incident, and scenes started taking shape in my mind. So, although Scully bears the brunt of the trauma in StL, I wrote it almost more for Mulder. Her arc – sadness, fear, anger, acceptance, recovery – is almost predetermined. Mulder’s path is a bit more wobbly.
So I did a little more reading and a little more thinking. I knew this story would be a departure for me. It’s a drama, not a case file. Eek, uncharted territory! I also knew the subject matter is controversial, so I decided NOT to post it as a WIP. This allowed me to be confident that I had accomplished what I set out to do before it went public, and also limited the time for angry hate mail. Win-win!
I started it February 23, 2003. I know this because I turned on my computer to work that morning and everyone was wishing Scully a happy birthday. I figure beginning this fic on Scully's birthday means I am going to fanfic hell for sure. *g*
The title comes from an Emily Dickinson poem:
Split the Lark--and you'll find the Music--
Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled--
Scantily dealt to the Summer Morning
Saved for your Ear when Lutes be old.
Loose the Flood--you shall find it patent--
Gush after Gush, reserved for you--
Now do you doubt your Bird was true?
This time, she left her gun at home. Mulder had called after
three days away testifying at a retrial in Oregon -- an old
monster threatening to escape the box again -- and said he
was back and she should come over. Phone curled to her ear,
she'd heard the sound of his bag hitting the floor, barely
home. She imagined him like the last reel of a John Wayne
movie, where the dusty but victorious hero bursts through the
saloon doors, lit like the blazes from behind, and sweeps his
beloved into his arms. Or, in Mulder's case, his cell phone.
"Come over," he'd said, his voice rich with invitation.
"You're not tired?"
"Not yet," he'd said, and she'd shivered.
He didn't mention files or folders or bogeymen, so Scully
left them at home too. She left the gun in its holster on
her dresser, next to her badge. She bypassed the line of
black suits in her closet in favor of a long wrap-around
skirt that she hadn't worn since college. It still fit, she
realized with a pleased smile as she ran her hands over the
soft cotton that hugged her hips, like it had been waiting
for her all these years.
The question of where to start this story was one I struggled with for a while. One possibility was to back it up even farther before the rape. Alternatively, I could have not shown the rape at all and begun the fic with Scully calling Mulder from the ER.
Ultimately, it starts here for a number of reasons: 1) They say "start where you want to end up." Part of my goal was to show how M & S got back to reasonable harmony after the rape, so I included a bit of preamble to show what I was stripping away from them. 2) Not showing the rape at all seemed to diminish the power of the story, and also I thought it was important to show how fast and unbelievable it was to Scully. 3) The opening phone call establishes the M & S relationship.
She pinned her hair off her neck and slipped on some sandals
and left with nothing more than her wallet, her keys, and a
tingle of anticipation. The night heat wilted her shower-
fresh skin, leaving Scully to perform emergency resuscitation
with a blast of AC in the car. She checked her progress in
the rearview mirror at a red light. Eyes bright and cheeks
pink, she blew out a long breath and gave up. Mulder would
take one look at her and know she was hot.
A car honked behind her.
It was silly to be nervous, she thought. She'd come over
before. She had brought her trench coat and her files, and
he had ordered the pizza. But somehow "Let me help you off
with that coat, Scully" had melted into "Let me help you off
with that bra, Scully," while the files and pizza grew cold
together on the table. Then, just the week before, he'd
asked her to come over and help him with his crashed
computer, so she'd brought her manuals to tackle the problem.
Together they'd managed some manual relief, but as far as she
knew, Mulder's computer still remained broken.
His low voice from the phone echoed in her head and warmed
her ears anew. Come over, he'd said, without pretext this
time. No books. No files. Just come.
She got as far as Duke Street before she lost her nerve and
stopped for Chinese. Mulder would be hungry, she told
herself. And if she showed up with an armful of takeout
boxes, she might not look so... expectant. Decision made,
Scully drove to Ming's Delight, their favorite hole-in-the-
wall Chinese joint from Mulder's end of town.
Ming's shared a block of brick buildings with other small
shops, so street parking was often a problem. Scully eyed
the line of cars out front and turned down the narrow alley
to the tiny parking lot in back. No neat white lines and
smooth tar for Ming's -- their lot featured crumbling
pavement, a large dumpster and a chain-link fence. The only
light came from the open back door at Ming's, which poured
out steamy air and a long string of loud Chinese. At the
back, an urban jungle had sprung up from neglect, as saplings
took root and brambly bushes spilled out onto the gravel.
Scully stuck the nose of her car in the leafy thicket and
went in search of food.
Jun, the young man at the counter, recognized her and his
eyes crinkled up in welcome. Scully ordered their usual
black pepper beef and Kung Pao chicken. "And some of the
ginger pork noodles," she added. "Oh, and an order of spring
Jun's eyebrows lifted. "You are hungry tonight!"
Scully felt her cheeks flush. "I guess so."
He boxed the food and tossed in double their allotted fortune
cookies. "For luck," he told her with a wink. Scully
thanked him and returned to her car. Awkwardly, she tried to
balance the food between her hip and the car door as she
fumbled with her keys. Then her phone rang. She set the
keys on the roof to answer it.
"You're not here."
His impatience made her smile. The good thing about Chinese
food was that it reheated well. "I'm five blocks away."
"The very same."
"Fantastic. I could use something to supplement my plane
"I figured as much." The heat from the food burned through
her skirt. "I'll be right there."
"You aren't going to make me dress up for dinner, are you?"
"Why, Mulder? What are you wearing?" As soon as the words
left her mouth, she realized she'd been set up.
"Right now? Nothing."
Scully shook her head a bit, letting him enjoy his moment.
"Well, then," she answered, voice pitched low as she hefted
the food, "I guess my fortune cookie came true."
She hung up at his delightedly shocked silence. Groping for
the keys with her two free fingers, she missed and the keys
slid from the roof. "Dammit." She cradled the bag to her
side and crouched down in the dark. A breeze ruffled the
leaves. She managed to hook the key ring with her pinky and
stood up again, face to face with a man in a stocking mask.
He knocked the keys and the phone from her hand with a sharp
blow. Scully sucked in a breath as he advanced. "My wallet
is on the roof," she said.
"Shut up." His mouth curled beneath the pantyhose. She saw
now that he clutched a knife. "Lose the food."
Scully set the bag on the ground. "Take whatever you want,"
she told him. He grabbed her bare upper arm and yanked her
further into the darkness. The knife grazed her neck.
Behind her, she felt him fumbling, and he thrust a small roll
of black tape into her hand. "Tear it off," he breathed near
her ear, "and cover your mouth. Do it now."
Cold fear dripped down her spine. "Please, no--"
The knifepoint bit into her neck. "Now."
Scully complied with shaking fingers. When she was done, he
turned her roughly around. She stared at his mashed features
-- the blunt nose, the slitted eyes, and his wet, open mouth.
Her knees threatened to give way.
"Down on the ground," he ordered. He followed her down,
knife coming to rest at her jugular. Her skirt gaped open
and he pried her legs apart. "That's it," he said. "You're
a hot little bitch."
The rape is deliberately short, both to illustrate how quickly it can happen and to minimize the sensationalism. Some readers were upset with me that Scully didn’t make more of an effort to fight. I think that would have been a valid way to write this scene, too. It’s not that I think she would not fight, ever. But it’s hard to know in advance how you will react in this situation, and she was not armed. So I think this is a viable story-telling alternative and not necessarily "out of character."
Scully closed her eyes and turned her head away. He smelled
like beer and sweat. Silent tears streamed down her face
into the dirt as he yanked off her underwear and unzipped his
pants. She tensed but he pushed himself inside her anyway.
"You like this, huh?"
Scully struggled for breath, panting through her nose. She
heard the cheerful shouts from Ming's kitchen, smelled the
feast she'd bought for Mulder. Her attacker grunted.
Abruptly, she felt the heat of his body leave her. Sweat
glued her T-shirt to her chest. She burned between her legs.
He rustled around not far away and she made herself look. He
was cleaning up, tucking in his shirt.
"You tell anyone, you're dead." He pointed the knife at her.
She watched as he thrashed his way back into the bushes. Her
heart thudded in her throat but she lay perfectly still,
listening. His noises faded away.
With a small, choked sound, Scully rose to her hands and
knees. Her muscles were stiff and uncooperative. She
crawled out from behind her car and located her phone. Her
hair had come undone, falling in her eyes, sticking to her
teary face. She pushed it aside and ripped off the tape.
After several shuddering breaths, she leaned back against the
rear tire of her car and opened her phone. Her hand shook so
hard she could barely hit the buttons.
"Nine-one-one. What is your emergency?"
"I--I've been assaulted in a parking lot. I need help." She
gave the requisite information and curled up to listen for
the sirens. With every twitch of a leaf, she was sure he was
coming through the bushes again.
Dirt clung to her hair. Her underwear was gone. Scully
shivered in the muggy night air. She wanted to go home and
stand in the hot shower until she felt clean again, but she
did not move.
She was an investigator, and this was her crime scene.
This line, the idea of Scully immediately taking charge of her own crime scene, was something I had in mind before I started writing. She wants to run it from inside the lines; Mulder, who shows up shortly, has other ideas.
Scully sat alone, her back to the car, with her cell phone
cradled to her breast. She swiped at her cheeks with one
hand as the first black-and-white appeared on the scene. The
ambulance followed, squeezing through the narrow alley, red
lights spinning circles in the trees. She heard radios
squawk when the heavy car doors opened and the officers
approached. The clump of their boots on the pavement made
her nervous. She should stand up, organize the facts, but
she couldn't seem to move.
"Ma'am?" The larger man peered down at her. "We're from the
Alexandria Police Department. Are you the one who called?"
"Yes." She looked behind him at the darkened bushes. "Yes,
They asked her name and she told them. The smaller man
crouched down next to her, eyes dark behind his round
glasses. "Can you tell us what happened?"
She could remember every second but not in any order. The
bits zoomed in and out of focus in her mind: his breath on
her cheek, the blade at her neck, the food getting cold as he
ground her into the dirt. Her hand went to her throat. "He
came from there," she said, indicating the bushes. "A man,
about six feet tall, twenty-five to thirty-five years old.
He wore jeans and he had a -- a stocking over his face. No
She pictured him and her throat seized up. She shook her
head. "Too dark."
Scully gave the details as though she were recording autopsy
data; how he had knocked her keys and phone away, had cut her
throat, had forced her down and raped her. Two of the
officers, armed with guns and flashlights, set out into the
trees after him. A third, the gentle giant who'd first found
her huddled against the car, stayed with her while the EMTs
began treating her wounds.
"Officer Lou Paulson, Ma'am," he said, his knees cracking as
he bent. "You say he knocked your phone out of your hands?"
Scully still had it clutched close. "Yes."
"We should have it checked for prints." He turned without
getting up. "Carlos?" he yelled at the other man back near
the car. "Can you bring me a bag?"
Scully's heart bumped against her ribs. "I don't think he
touched it," she said tightly. "He hit my wrist, not the
"Can't be too sure." He held out a gloved hand, his
expression softening at her hesitation. "We'll have it back
to you real soon, I promise."
Wordlessly, Scully stretched out the phone for him. If he
noticed her tremor, he didn't comment. The phone rang inside
the paper bag, and Paulson peered in like schoolboy at
lunchtime. Scully already knew what name glowed inside.
"Fox Mulder," Paulson read off.
Scully nodded, hugging herself. "He's expecting me for
Paulson's thick brows knit together, and he reached for his
back pocket. "Here," he said, handing her his cell. "You
can call him if you like."
The foreign phone felt like lead in her hands. She licked
dried lips and stared at the buttons. "Thanks," she replied,
but made no move to dial. Mulder. Tears threatened to
overwhelm her again. She didn't want to have to call. She
wanted him to appear magically without having to say the
The loss of the phone strips Scully of another layer of control and comfort. It also symbolizes Mulder. (Duh *g*)
One of the EMTs appeared with a stretcher. "We should get
her to the hospital now," he told Paulson. Paulson stood as
the two other officers returned from their mission in the
"No sign of the guy," said one. Brubrek, she thought his
name was. "We found your keys but not your wallet," he told
Scully. She rose on shaky legs. Her driver's license, her
business cards -- he had everything.
"He'll know where I live," she said, "where I work."
"Give us your address," the Brubrek said. "We'll make sure
he's not headed over there. Where do you work?"
Scully faltered. She knew what was coming. "The FBI."
This is the first of many times Scully’s job comes into play, along with the notion that somehow her training should have prevented this from happening to her.
"You're a Fed?" He looked up from his notes for her nod.
She could feel the other men resisting the urge to look too.
He raked her once from head to toe and returned his eyes to
his pad. "Don't think you'll have to worry about this guy
bothering you on the job then."
"Dana?" said the closet EMT. "We should go get you checked
Scully nodded, numb. She moved stiffly to climb onto the
stretcher, but Brubrek had one last question. "Did he take
anything else?" he asked. "Any jewelry?"
Scully swallowed. "My underwear."
The EMT covered her with a blanket and avoided her eyes.
Officer Paulson occupied himself with the trees, and Brubrek
cleared his throat. "Okay, that's it for now. We'll talk to
you again at the hospital, okay?"
Scully realized she still had Paulson's phone.
"You keep it," he told her. "Call your friend. I'll get it
back at the hospital."
As they wheeled her to the back of the ambulance, Scully saw
that the Ming family had filed out from the kitchen to watch
the commotion. They stood in silent, sad formation -- Jun
the tallest, with his tiny father and two teenage sisters at
his side -- all still wearing their neat white aprons.
Scully looked away. She knew she would never come back there
Mulder used two fingers to scissor an opening in his blinds
and peered down at the street for the fourth time. Still, no
Scully. He chewed his lip and hit her number on his speed
dial, but again, her voice mail answered. It should not take
her over half an hour to travel five blocks. He fished his
keys from the desk and started for the front door, when the
phone rang in his hand.
"Scully," he said with relief. "Where are you?"
There was silence on the other end, and he noticed for the
first time that the caller ID read "Paulson" not "Scully."
"Hello?" he tried again.
"Mulder?" She sounded small and far away.
"Scully," he said, exhaling once more as he sank onto his
sofa. "What's going on? Where are you?" He heard muffled
voices in the background.
"I'm okay," she said, and his blood went cold. He lurched
forward on the couch.
"There was a man in the parking lot," she said, "at Ming's.
He--he... He held me up and took my wallet. He got away,
but the police came and now I'm on my way to the hospital.
Can you meet me there?"
"Of course," he said, already moving. His heart stuck like
peanut butter to the back of his throat. "Are you okay,
Scully?" He stopped at the door, silent for her answer.
"I'm fine, Mulder."
Her flat affect did not make him feel better. "'kay," he
said. "I'm on my way out the door now."
"Okay." He listened to her breathe for a moment. "Mulder?"
Mulder got the name of the hospital and tripped over his feet
getting to the car. He slammed through the city at high
speed, and it hit back with a fiery summer temper, red sirens
and crowds of restless people slowing him down at every
corner. He cursed and banged the steering wheel. "Come
*on*," he hollered at the lumbering cars in front of him.
His tires squealed as Mulder passed a Buick on the right -- a
make-believe lane between the side mirror and the sidewalk.
She's okay, he told himself. You know she is. She's all
He parked and yanked the key out of the ignition, jogging
towards the emergency room. The glass doors slid open to
chaos -- bandaged people lined three deep, children crying,
and two admitting nurses trying to keep a lid on it all.
Mulder sifted through the wounded, moving them bodily if he
had to, but found no sign of Scully. He cut to the front of
"Dana Scully?" he asked.
For once, they were too distracted to give him any flack.
"Room three. Through those doors and on the left."
A round-bodied sentry caught him on the other side. "May I
help you?" she asked, planting herself between him and Room
"I'm looking for Room 3. Dana Scully."
At Scully's name, the set of her jaw relaxed. "Ah," she
replied softly. "Let me show you the way then. It's right
Mulder's heart hammered as he followed her down the hall.
The instant access made him more nervous than the refusals he
"Is she okay?"
"This way," she said over her shoulder. "Just let me knock
once, all right? The doctor is with her now."
Mulder hovered behind her as she stuck her head in the door.
He tried but he couldn't see Scully. The woman emerged again
and the door widened to disgorge a second woman, this one
with longer hair and thinner hips. "Anne Lehne," she said to
Mulder as she shook his hand. "I'm taking care of Dana."
"She's doing just fine, considering what she's been through."
A thousand terrible images filled his head. "Can I see her?"
"Of course. She's been waiting to talk to you, so you can go
right in. I'll just be back in a few minutes."
Mulder nodded, barely listening. His heart sped up as he
pushed the door open with the flat of his hand. "Scully?"
She came into view and Mulder's pulse relaxed. Fine. She
looked just fine. No mugger had beaten her to a pulp. There
were no tubes coming out of her or machines to help her
breathe. She sat on the exam table in a pink cotton gown,
looking perfectly whole. He could see a small bandage on the
side of her neck and that was about it.
This is the first of another recurring idea, that rape is something wounds mostly on the inside. Mulder’s momentary relief here also touches on the idea that just because you look fine doesn’t mean you are fine.
"Hey," he said. "How are you doing?"
"You're here," she said, and her chin trembled. She reached
"I'm here." He stroked her hair as she pressed herself into
his squishy middle parts. She held him with a fierce grip.
He rubbed her shoulders gently but she did not let go.
"There was a man in the parking lot," she said into his
shirt, not looking at him. The hairs on the back of his neck
rose. He knew. All of a sudden he knew.
"Don't," he blurted, but she kept talking.
"He had a knife, Mulder. I was on the phone with you and he
came out from the trees before I knew what was happening. He
forced me down on the ground..." She touched the bandage at
her neck. "He said he would kill me. I--I had no choice."
"God, Scully." His hands roamed over her back. "I'm so
"I had no choice," she repeated, angry.
"Of course not. Of course you didn't."
"He was going to kill me."
Mulder reeled. He had never imagined this. "You're safe
now," he said, his voice hollow in the empty room. "You're
She snuffled and he felt her hot breath through his tee
shirt. "I don't know how this happened. I had the food, I
was leaving, and then suddenly he was there. He held the
knife to my throat and forced me down. Everything was so
fast. I can't think--I can't think how it happened."
He rocked her, helpless. He couldn't think either. "I'm so
sorry, Scully." He kissed the warm crown of her head over
and over and tried to fold her into him. "Are you hurt
anywhere? Did he hurt you?"
"No." She quivered, sounding uncertain.
There was a knock at the door and Scully jerked in his arms.
She pulled away a bit, sniffing hard in quick succession as
Dr. Lehne reentered the room. Mulder left one hand resting
awkwardly on Scully's knee, gnawed his lip and watched her
out of the corner of his eye as she answered the doctor's
questions. She sat stone still. Her blue eyes were wet,
lashes glued with tears, and her new smattering of summer
freckles stood out against her stark white skin. The gown
was too big, yawning open at the neck and sleeves and
revealing the fine slope and bones of her. So much violence,
and yet there was barely a mark to show it. Scully had
absorbed it all inside.
"We need to complete the exam now," Dr. Lehne was saying.
"Kristi here is going to help me check you out and collect
any evidence that might be useful for later prosecution.
Agent Mulder can stay here if you like, or we can have him
come back in when we're done."
Mulder took his hand from her knee, preparing to go. Scully
conducted all her medical treatments behind closed doors,
like a feral cat licking her wounds in private. "I'll just
She grabbed his arm. "Mulder?"
"What?" He stopped and looked at her. "You want me to
"Is that all right?"
So he sat in a squeaky, rolling chair by Scully's head while
Dr. Lehne did the exam. Scully mashed his fingers in her
hand but did not move, barely breathing, and so he made
himself hold still too, until his muscles ached from the
effort. The peach walls blurred around him as he tried not
to watch what they were doing to her. He noticed a tray with
shiny silver tools on it that reminded him of the dentist,
and he held Scully's hand a little tighter.
This is the first of another running theme, which is Mulder feeling like an alien in this strange new world. As an investigator and psychologist, he would know a lot about the subject of rape, but watching someone dear to you submit to the rape exam is something different. Scully’s got knowledge now that he can’t have.
Scully stared straight up at the ceiling. She answered all
their questions in a calm, unwavering voice, but every so
often, he saw a tear slide from the corner of her eye into
He knew the doctor wasn't hurting her, but he wanted to knock
the woman out of the way and run out the door with Scully and
never look back.
"Okay?" he asked Scully unsteadily.
She didn't look at him. "Yes."
Dr. Lehne glanced up. "You're doing great, Dana. We're
"Almost done," Mulder repeated to Scully, and she nodded at
the ceiling. He lapsed into silence, a little desperate and
totally tongue-tied, the only man in a room full of women.
I'm five blocks away, she'd said. They had been around the
world together but five blocks turned out to be the only
distance that mattered. He couldn't think what he'd been
doing when the man came out of the bushes. Did that even
happen anymore? The man with the knife in the bushes -- that
man was a punch line, a spook story, like the guy with the
hook for an arm and the albino alligators in the sewer.
Wheel of Fortune. That's what he'd been doing. I'd like to
solve the puzzle, Pat.
HANS CHRISTEN ANDERSEN
Ming's restaurant, he'd been there dozens of times, had asked
Scully to stop there for food on her way over more than he
could remember. God, if he'd known...
His empty stomach flipped and growled. Mulder clenched his
gut to try to shut it up.
Scully turned her head and looked at him. She'd heard. She
knew. They were supposed to be eating dinner. "Sorry," he
tried to say, but she turned her head back before he got the
Dr. Lehne sat back in her chair. "We're all done," she said,
and Scully let out a long, controlled breath. "You can sit
up now, Dana. You did fine. Kristi will get you some
clothes, okay? And then we can talk for a bit. I'll answer
any questions that you have, and I want to write you a couple
of prescriptions before you leave."
Mulder got to stay while Scully changed, but she kicked him
out for the final talk. Escaping into the hallway, he leaned
his back against the cool white wall and covered his face
with his hands to stop them from shaking. His heart felt
like a baker had pounded it, swollen and bruised inside his
He jerked his hands down and looked in the direction of the
voice. Detective Ruben Savioshy was walking towards him down
the hall with another suited man following behind. Mulder
straightened and prepared for the onslaught he knew was
Amanda, who watched this fic come down line by line on IM, always insisted on calling Savioshy "Smith" because it was easier to spell. I am lucky I didn't slip up and call him Smith in the fic somewhere. *g*
"Agent Mulder, tell me I got this information wrong."
"Detective." He couldn't say it was nice to see him again,
so he left it at that. The last time they'd met, Philip
Padget had been dead in Mulder's basement and Scully'd been
drenched in her own blood. Mulder took a deep breath. "I
wish I could tell you it was wrong."
Detective Savioshy nodded heavily. "Okay, then. Tell me
"I don't really know any of the details. I--I wasn't there.
She was at Ming's restaurant, in the parking lot, and a man
attacked her. That's all I know."
Savioshy gestured at the door with his pen. "She's in
Mulder looked at the smooth gray door, at the light shining
from under it. "Yeah. She's talking to the doctor."
Savioshy turned and said something in a low voice to his
companion, who nodded. "This is Chris Clark with the DA's
office," Savioshy said. Mulder's handshake was harder than
"You have someone in custody?"
"No," Clark said, easing his hand away. He looked at
Savioshy, who looked at the floor. It was clear they'd been
through this routine before. "No, I'm sorry. We're trying,
believe me. We're doing everything we can. That's really
why I'm here, to make sure we don't miss anything that could
be useful down the road at prosecution."
A layperson might have been confused, or grateful, that a
clean-cut, broad-shouldered man from the DA's office was
looking after the case personally, but Mulder had spent too
many years in law enforcement not to know what Clark's
presence really signaled. "There are others," he said.
"He's done this before."
"Yes." Savioshy cleared his throat. "We don't know for sure
yet until we talk to Agent Scully, but the case as the
"Nine, that we know of." He paused. "Now maybe ten."
"The attacks cover a broad area through three counties. It
took us a while to realize we were all looking for one man."
The door opened and Dr. Lehne appeared. She and Detective
Savioshy spoke in low voices about sample collection, and
Mulder felt his legs stabilize beneath him. This part he
knew. The law -- the investigation -- he could handle that.
This starts the crux of the tension between Mulder and Scully. He wants to help in the best way he knows how, by using all his skills as an investigator. This part he knows. He feels certain about. He doesn’t feel certain about much else.
For Scully, it’s a role she is not willing to cede to him. She’s just had part of herself wrested away by force, and she’s not going to let Mulder take anything else. She doesn’t see it as helping. She reacts as though he’s trying to control her.
Then Scully came out, wearing foreign sweats and an oversized
white T-shirt that made her seem even paler. Her hair was
down flat and tucked behind her ears, and she'd scrubbed her
face clean of makeup. Her toes curled in her sandals as she
hung back against the doorjamb. It wasn't a version of
herself she let many people see, usually not even him, and
Mulder felt a sharp stab of protectiveness.
"Scully?" he asked, and she jerked her attention from
Savioshy to him. "You okay?"
Savioshy joined them before she could answer him, approaching
Scully the same careful way that he had when she'd been
soaked in blood. "Agent Scully, hello. Sorry to hear about
what you've been through tonight. Are you up to answering a
"Of course," she answered, drawing herself up. She handed
Mulder several slips of white paper. "Mulder, could you take
these to the pharmacy and wait there for me? I'll be along
in a few minutes."
He looked down at the prescriptions and then at her. "Um,
sure, Scully. Whatever you want."
He waited a beat but she didn't say anything further, both
she and Savioshy clearly waiting for him to leave before they
got on with their business, so he started a slow amble down
the hall. He peeked back once and saw Clark nodding at
something Scully was saying. Savioshy had his notepad out.
Mulder hit the button for the elevator and looked away. Here
-- discussion of how to get the sick bastard -- here was
where he could be of some use. Fuck all Savioshy seemed to
be doing about the problem anyway. Mulder had worked rape
cases before, some with Scully. She knew what he could do.
You profile one sick sonofabitch, you'd profiled them all.
The elevator dinged and Mulder took a last glance down the
hall before he stepped inside. In line at the pharmacy, he
flipped through the prescriptions, which told Scully's horror
in an entirely different language: amoxicillin, alprazolam,
D-norgestrel, and Tylenol 3. The sharp slips of paper sliced
up his heart and he found himself trying not to cry in a room
full of people. He handed the rape victims' cocktail to the
man behind the counter, who took one look at the list and
nodded. He could read between the lines. "It'll be about
twenty minutes," he said gently. "If you'll just have a seat
Mulder sat in the hard, narrow chair and rested a magazine in
his lap without looking at it. Scully appeared about fifteen
minutes later. He stood at the sight of her, only to sit
back down as she took the chair next to him. She sat like an
old woman, slow and careful, and he pretended not to know
why. "Everything go okay with Savioshy?" he asked.
"Yes. I guess I'm glad it was him, all things considered."
"He's very professional," Mulder offered lamely, and Scully
nodded. She didn't comment further so he didn't press.
"Dana Scully?" the man at the pharmacy window called.
Scully stiffened. "I don't have any money. He took my
Again, the small indignities seem much larger now.
"It's okay. I've got it," Mulder said, reaching for his
wallet, but Scully looked near tears again. "Scully?" He
cupped the back of her head and slid his thumb behind her ear
in a tender caress. "It's no big deal, okay?"
She squared her shoulders, nodding again. "I'll pay you
back," she said and moved from under his touch. He got up
and fished for his car keys while she picked up the
prescriptions. For the second time that night, Scully left
with a large bag of take-out food, this kind in capsule form.
She cradled her parcels to her side and regarded him with
"Home?" he asked.
She hunched down in the shadows of his car. He drove with
extra care, as one might with a new baby on board. The car
glided to a halt outside her apartment, but Scully made no
move to get out. He took the key from the ignition and
She looked at him, small face bathed in the half-light from
outside. "I'm sorry about dinner."
"Oh, Scully." He reached over and pulled her to him until
their heads rested together. "Me too. Me too." He kissed
her cheek, her eye. She was so tense he thought she might
snap in two. "It's okay now. It's going to be okay."
"Yes," she said, sounding like she was trying to believe it.
He rewarded her with more kisses. She squeezed his leg and
"Do you want me to come in?" he asked as she opened her door.
She halted and peered back over her shoulder.
"Do you want to?" Before he could say anything, she
continued in a rush, "I have things for sandwiches, if you
want. Maybe a bag of chips. It's not much."
He smiled. "Sandwiches it is."
Inside, she stopped and stared at her living room like she's
walked into the wrong apartment. Mulder stood behind her,
looking down at the top of her head. "Scully?"
She turned, nearly bumping into him. "Can you find you way
around the kitchen?" she asked "I--I'd like to take a
shower." This last confession she made quietly to his shoes,
as if he might think her too cliche.
He pressed a kiss to the part in her hair. "Go," he said.
"I'll make food."
"Make what you want. I'm not hungry."
He let her go without argument, and base though he felt, he
went and inhaled two roast beef sandwiches. The last thing
he needed was his belly grumbling in bed with Scully tonight.
Bed, he thought, and stopped chewing with a lump of bread
stuck in his throat. Did she want him there? Maybe he
should offer to stay on the couch. He had never slept in
Scully's bed with her in it, and he wasn't sure she'd welcome
him tonight. It was still her space.
He finished his food and cleaned up the plates, but Scully
had still not come out of the bathroom. Pacing the soft
carpet in front of the door, he listened but heard only the
sound of rushing water. Steam curled out from the cracks.
Mulder stroked the smooth wood instead of the woman inside.
The pipes groaned as the water stopped. Mulder backed a few
steps away so she wouldn't think he was hovering. She
emerged a few minutes later, wrapped in a fluffy white robe,
her skin pinked up from all the hot water. He noticed her
eyes were red too. "Hi," he said softly. She shuddered.
"Did you get something to eat?"
"I'm fine. Don't worry about me. How are you? Any better?"
She opened her mouth but couldn't seem to get any words out.
He held out his arm to her. "Come here." She went willingly
and he tucked her wet head under his chin, crooning her name
near her ear. Her fingernails pricked his back as her
shoulders hitched under his hands. "Anything you need,
Scully, okay? Anything."
She nodded, mute, and clutched him tighter. "Thank you for
coming to get me."
"Always." He kissed the line of her hair, shower water sweet
on his lips. "Are you hungry? Do you want anything?"
"No." She pulled back a bit. "I think I'm just going to go
"Okay." He let his arms fall away, but Scully didn't move.
She stood with her head tipped forward, eyes focused on the
floor, until a heavy lock of hair slipped down over her face.
He felt like he should say something further, but he hadn't
the slightest idea what. Even his breathing sounded huge,
magnified off her silence. "Scully?"
Her head snapped up.
"Do you want me to go?"
"Not if you don't want."
"What I want," she repeated to herself strangely. "Yes."
He tucked the hair back behind her ear, and she closed her
eyes, leaning into his hand. "How about I stay?" he
whispered. "All right?"
She nodded and led the way to her bedroom. Scully's sleeping
quarters were so different from his, full of mirrors and
giant wooden furniture. He spotted the loaned hospital
clothes folded neatly on a delicate chair. She left him to
go blow dry her hair, and he sat on the high, firm mattress.
The light bedspread was white with tiny indigo flowers
embroidered on it. Mulder stroked one with his thumb as he
listened to the roar from the bathroom. He had no things
here, no toothbrush or sleeping clothes.
Scully returned, all business as she prepared for bed, and
Mulder turned away. He bit his lip and looked down at his
jeans. After a moment's indecision, he decided to strip to
his boxers and leave the T-shirt on. It seemed more
respectful. When he turned again he saw the expanse of
Scully's naked back flash before she huddled beneath the
covers. Naked. Okay. Mild shock dulled his brain, and he
stood rooted to the carpet with the top sheet bunched in his
This was another choice that some readers questioned. Some folks were not convinced that Scully would be as physical with Mulder after the rape, that she wouldn’t want him hugging or touching her, and that she surely wouldn’t be going to bed naked. All totally possible. I don’t think there is any one way to play a rape aftermath. I picked this route because I don’t think Scully would be at all afraid of Mulder. They’ve known each other for many years at this point, and she trusts him totally. If anything, she fears his reaction to what has happened to her. Instead of hiding under a bunch of bulky layers, she strips down to nothing, in part to illustrate how she feels (totally exposed) and in part to test his reaction.
But I understand readers who were wigged. So was Mulder. <G>
"Are you coming?" she asked, and he reached over his head and
yanked off his shirt in one smooth motion. He kept the
The bedside lamp on her side blazed away, and Scully made no
move to turn it off. Mulder refrained from comment. She lay
on her stomach but facing him, so he rolled until he matched
her position. One wide blue eye stared at him from the
pillow. "Think you can sleep?" he asked.
"I'm so tired."
"Yeah." He reached over and stroked her from the top of her
head down to the small of her back. Her eye slipped closed
so he repeated the slow caress. She didn't move and he
thought she had fallen asleep. His hand rested near her hip.
She grabbed it suddenly and tucked it under her, between her
breasts, and he startled at the feel of her heart beating
like a trapped bird. He looked closer and saw that her eyes
were screwed shut.
She cut him off with a choked sob, curling into herself under
the covers. Horror flooded through him and he shifted
closer. He drew her against him, her elbows to his ribs, and
pressed his face down into her neck. Hot tears leaked onto
his chest as she shook in his arms. His throat ached. He
rubbed her, rocked her, but there was nothing he could do to
get at the pain inside her.
"It's okay, it's okay," he repeated as she cried.
He wanted to say she was beautiful. He wanted to say he
loved her. But they didn't say these things, and he feared
if he said them now she would hate him forever. He gave her
his hands, his lips, his tears. He laid her on his chest and
let her listen to his broken heart as it said her name over
and over until they slept.
Fear made her open her eyes like a jungle cat sensing a
predator. She clawed the edge of the mattress and did not
breathe. Her heart thundered wildly as the room came into
focus, full of gray light and the sound of rain slapping
against the windows. Her room. It was okay. She relaxed
one centimeter at a time, squeezing her eyes closed again.
Her body hurt in places she didn't want to name, and her head
was heavy with an odd combination of terror and drug-induced
fuzz, an iron spike wrapped in cotton. She didn't remember
She turned with a jerk and found Mulder dead to the world on
the other side of the bed, his jaw slack and his porcupine
hair spread out on her pillow. The noise inside her hadn't
woken him. She gave him a sad half-smile and reached out to
touch the hard slope of his cheekbone and the scratchy
Braille covering his chin. He rubbed his face against her
fingers but did not awake. Scully withdrew and slipped out
of bed into her robe.
The bright bathroom light flickered on and Scully stared at
her wan reflection in the mirror. Her hair had flattened
overnight, making her face seem pale and puffy. She drew her
hair back into a tight ponytail at the base of her neck.
Turning, she fingered the bandage on her throat. One quick
yank revealed pink skin and an angry scab shaped like a
knifepoint. Scully made herself look. Next she tugged open
her robe and regarded the wide bruise darkening on her
ribcage where his left elbow had pinned her down.
Inch by inch, she catalogued her new body. Prognosis: she
would live. She sighed and swallowed her pills one by one
before hiding the bottles in the medicine cabinet again.
The metal shower rings clattered along the rod as she drew
back the curtain. She turned the water on to heat and let
her robe fall to the ground. Her sore muscles protested as
she climbed into the high tub. A bath would have been better
to ease them, but she wanted the feel of rushing water on her
skin. She stood under the bracing hot spray, steam rising,
and scrubbed the exfoliating cloth over her arms, her
breasts, her belly. She turned slowly, rinsing the soap
clean, and watched the layers of herself swirl away down the
When she emerged many minutes later, Mulder wasn't in bed.
She heard the TV going in the living room. Hand on the door,
she hesitated about whether to go greet him, but decided she
wasn't ready to face him just yet. She sealed herself inside
her room and began a careful dressing procedure that featured
soft knit pants and long sleeves that hid the finger marks on
her arm. Her hand shook when she tried to put on mascara so
she left that step out. She rubbed her palms over her hips
and contemplated the door again.
It's just Mulder, she told herself.
With a deep breath, she turned the knob and went down the
hall to find him. The earthy smell of strong coffee tickled
her nose before she reached the kitchen, where Mulder stood -
-completely dressed save for his shoes -- leaning against her
counter. She stopped in the doorway.
Mulder had a sheaf of papers in his hand that he shoved aside
at her entrance, as though she'd caught him sneaking treats
from the cookie jar. She recognized the pamphlet on top as
the one that Dr. Lehne had given her. "It's okay," she told
him, moving into the room. "You can look. It's not anything
you haven't seen before, I'm sure."
"Actually," he said, and cleared his throat, "actually, I've
never read one all the way through before."
She nodded. "I guess you wouldn't have had reason to."
"I didn't mean to pry."
They held themselves away from each other, stiff like
strangers. "I made some coffee," he said, "if you want."
She let him pour her a mug, which she wrapped in her cold
fingers instead of drinking. He sipped his coffee and
studied a crayon drawing from Matthew that she had taped to
her fridge. "A cow?" he asked eventually.
"A Dalmatian. Matthew saw the movie last month, and he says
if he doesn't get a dog right away, he will die."
He nodded sagely. "Death by lack of canine ú it's a silent
but vicious killer. That's how I lost my best friend Kenny
in third grade."
"Mulder," she said. But she shook her head, amused, and he
smiled, really looking at her for the first time since she'd
entered the room. He held out an arm in invitation, and she
pressed against his side, cheek resting on his soft T-shirt.
Mulder squeezed her lightly around the shoulders.
"Feeling any better?" he asked.
She closed her eyes and took inventory. The truth was she
didn't feel much of anything. Maybe it was the drugs. "I'm
They lapsed into silence, Mulder drinking his coffee over her
head and Scully listening to it slide down inside him. A TV
commercial sang in the other room.
"I was thinking," he said, just as the TV switched back to
news. "Maybe I could--"
She didn't hear what he could do because the morning anchor
started recapping last night's big stories in a loud, clear
"Police are continuing their search for a serial rapist after
another woman was attacked last night in Alexandria. This is
the fourth attack in the city inside of three months, and
police are saying they believe they are looking for one man.
WRC reporter Sabrina Kimbrough is live in Alexandria with the
Scully pulled away, drawn to the sound. Mulder caught her
She kept walking until footage of Ming's parking lot stopped
her dead in her tracks. A woman in a dark raincoat and red
umbrella stood not three feet from where Scully had been
forced down into the dirt.
This part kicks off another aspect of the story, which is how the media affects both the case and the victims’ recovery. Given Scully’s FBI background, this scrutiny would be extra hard on her. She feels rebuked because she didn’t stop the guy. Mulder, on the other hand, sees it as a call to action. Nothing is being done to get the rapist.
"...believed to be at least the fourth in a series of related
attacks that have occurred in the area over the last few
months. All of the attacks have followed the same basic
pattern, a pattern that repeated itself here last night. The
woman had just been to order takeout from Ming's Chinese
Restaurant and was returning to her car when a man came out
from these bushes." The camera zoomed in on the thick, wet
"He held a knife to her throat and forcibly raped her while
dozens of people were just a few yards away. So far, no
witnesses have come forward."
The story cut to a tape of Jun's mournful face. "I talk to
her, yes. She come in before many times, very nice. I
didn't see or hear anything after she leave."
Sabrina, still in the parking lot, continued the tale. "As
in the other attacks, the man wore a stocking mask that has
made it difficult to get a physical description. This
morning I spoke to Detective Savioshy about what is being
done to stop these brutal crimes."
On tape, Savioshy looked gray and wan. "We're still
exploring a number of angles right now. Each new attack,
terrible as it is, brings new evidence and new possible
witnesses. We've got men and women working round the clock,
and we will find this guy. In the meantime, the Chief has
stepped up patrol to try to minimize the chances of this
"Four women in two months," Sabrina's voice said from off
camera, "and you still have no suspects."
"No lead suspects," Savioshy said. "As I mentioned, we're
interviewing a number of people who might have information
pertinent to this case."
"WRC news has learned that you have linked attacks from last
year to this same man. Can you comment on that, Detective?"
"We have looked at older open cases, yes. That's all that I
am prepared to say at this time."
"What would you say to the women out there? How can they
"Avoid walking alone in isolated areas when you can,
especially at night. Be vigilant. If you see or hear anyone
behaving in a suspicious manner, call the police right away."
It wasn't meant as a slap, but Scully flinched. She had
failed to protect herself. She stood frozen two feet from
the TV, devastated. And Sabrina wasn't done.
"I carry mace and pepper spray," said one woman she
A second woman looked defiantly at the camera. "I've got a
gun and I know how to use it. He tries anything with me, and
I'll shoot his <bleeping bleep> off."
Sabrina closed from Ming's parking lot: "Indeed, the rapist
may have caught a fortunate break last night. A source close
to the investigation informs me that the latest victim is a
trained FBI agent, a fact the rapist probably wasn't aware of
when he attacked her. The source says, and I quote, 'Too bad
she wasn't carrying last night, or it could have all been
over right here.'"
The news switched over to a possible bacteria outbreak in a
YMCA swimming pool, but Scully remained transfixed, awash in
flickering light. Tears smeared the images in front of her.
When she still hadn't moved as the breakfast commercial
blared into song, Mulder touched her shoulder. She shook him
"Don't." She swiped at her eyes and hurried out of the room.
Behind her, his footsteps fell hard on her bare floor. She
kept going until she could put a door between them. Mulder
knocked as she made up the bed with quick, furious movements.
"I don't want to talk about it," she yelled through the door.
His voice came back hollow and muffled. "I won't make you.
I just... I just want to make sure you're okay."
Her face crumpled again, pillow hanging from one limp arm as
she tried to hold in the sobs so he wouldn't hear. "I'm
okay," she called when she could get her breath again. The
watery words sounded completely unconvincing.
She dragged the pillow with her to the door. Sniffing hard,
she opened it and looked him the eyes. He looked scared and
sad, the way he always did when she cried, no matter how many
doors she tried to put between them. "I'm okay," she
She went back to work on the bed, and Mulder followed her
into the room, hands shoved deep in his pockets. He watched
her go back and forth from her side to his side until the
bedspread was smooth again. He was waiting, she knew, for
her to give him some further cues, but perversely she
withheld any. A basket of laundry sat by the chair, from
before, so she set about putting it away while Mulder started
a slow patrol of her bedroom.
"I can stay as long as you like," he said at last, "but I
need to get some things."
She poked her head out from the closet. "That won't be
He stumbled over his words, surprised; she'd made a hit.
"Not to move in, not permanently. I was just thinking a
couple of days, the weekend at least, Scully--"
She returned to her closet, snatching hangers along the rail.
Mulder kept talking. "All right. All right, if that's what
you want I won't argue with you. I just thought after last
Scully froze. Her face flushed hot remembering how she'd
washed him in tears. How long before she could look at him
again not remember? Outside, she heard him heave a sigh.
"Okay. Should I just go now, then? Would that be better?"
He didn't sound angry, just resigned, as if he'd been waiting
for this eventuality. The weight of his disappointment bowed
her head, but she didn't come out of the closet.
"I have to leave soon anyway," she said. "I have to go down
to the station and make a formal statement. They also want
me to look at some pictures."
He appeared behind her, blocking out the light. "They have a
"No." She glanced over her shoulder. "I got the feeling
this is just procedure, covering the bases. It will be the
usual lineup of local sex-offenders, and I won't recognize
any of them because it was dark and the guy had a stocking
over his head, but I have to go look anyway so that Savioshy
can tell the reporters that he is doing everything he can."
She emphasized her last words with a jerk of the hanger.
Mulder went still. "You have other channels available to
you," he said, low and serious. "If you want."
She turned so fast the hangers clattered. "What's that
supposed to mean?"
"The FBI has resources Savioshy only dreams about, Scully.
Maybe the others have to rely on him for information, but you
Her skin tingled with possibility. In the slanted light, the
narrow alley of her closet, he was one of their shadow men
offering a way around the law. "Mulder... no." She sounded
horrified and breathless and tempted.
"Scully," he protested, and she shook her head.
"No." She pushed past him into the open air, glad it was
over, relieved he'd been the one to say the words. What
Mulder argued, she argued the opposite. She could say "no"
now with a clear conscience.
"No one would have to know," Mulder said as she sat on the
bed to put on her shoes.
"I'd know." She looked up at him. "And you'd know, and if we
did what you're suggesting, maybe we'd catch the guy, Mulder.
Maybe we would. But maybe we wouldn't. And either way, it
would always be between us."
Mulder turned his head away. "Savioshy is out of his
"Maybe," she conceded. "But it's not our call." When he
didn't say anything, she reached out and grabbed his hand.
"Mulder... promise me you'll leave this alone."
"Of course I promise." She looked at him, skeptical, and he
sighed again as he squeezed her hand. "I think you're wrong,
Scully -- it is your call. But you've made it, and I respect
Will you, she wondered? She imagined him in front of the
camera with Sabrina: "It's too bad Scully wouldn't
investigate this guy, or it could have all been over right
There was safety in numbers. She was one of many, the burden
somehow lessened. You're not like the others, Mulder had
said, but it wasn't true. He was ready to crusade with the
weight of her and nine other women on his back; she could
barely stand on her own two feet.
This bit gets at the idea that Scully both is and isn’t your typical rape victim. She is a rape victim in that she was raped. She would feel many of the same emotions as other women. But her job and her strange history with the abduction give her an edge that most women would not have. Scully is perhaps better equipped intellectually and less equipped emotionally than most to deal with a rape.
"I have to go," she said, pulling her hand from his.
He went for his shoes. "I'll give you a lift."
"Scully, you're going two blocks from my apartment, which
coincidentally happens to be my destination. Besides," he
said, and broke off.
"Your car. It's, um, still there."
Scully closed her eyes. She'd forgotten that her car was
still parked in Ming's lot.
"I'll pick it up if you want," he offered, "while you're
talking to Savioshy."
"No." She set her jaw and stood up. "Just drop me off there
and I'll drive it over."
They set out in the rain, fat tears streaking down the
windows of Mulder's car as he drove the same streets that she
had the night before. She watched the passing familiar
landmarks -- old buildings and tall trees, the river bouncing
raindrops, the long stretch of bridge that took her to the
The memory began in her stomach, and viciously she shoved it
back down. Mulder fiddled with the radio -- no news this
time -- while she forced herself to look at the shops
outside. He drove slowly, to ease the way, but the steady,
inexorable progress was somehow worse. She knew what was
waiting at the end.
Mulder kept glancing at her. She couldn't look back.
"Okay?" he asked.
"Yes." They had reached the street where it happened.
The vibrations from the car engine threatened to make her
sick. Her fingers bit into the edge of the plush seat as
Mulder made the hard right into the claustrophobic parking
lot. Her car, beaded in rain, was the only one in sight.
Mulder pulled up close next to the driver's side. She would
only have to hop out one door and into another. "So," he
said as they idled with the windshield wipers still running.
They were parked right on top of where it happened.
She looked at her lap. Even so, she could see the dark maw
of the bushes waiting outside. "So," she said. "Thanks for
the ride, Mulder. And everything else. You've been a big
He said nothing for a moment, and then reached over and
rested one hand on the top of her head. "You did everything
right, Scully. You lived. Anyone can come back here with a
camera crew and make up a story about what should have
She nodded and his thumb slid behind her ear. "Yeah."
"I'll be home watching the Yankees make the Twins squeal like
schoolgirls," he said, "if you need anything. Call, okay?"
She looked up and out at the bushes. "I should go. I'll
call you later." His hand fell away as she opened the car
door into the windy rain. Two steps later she was safe in
her own car. She gripped the wheel, breathing hard. The
heavy, waving branches reached out and slapped her hood.
Scully swallowed and started her engine. Mulder watched,
blurry through two panes of rain-mottled glass, waiting to
see that she was all right.
Even after all her years on the job, some part of Scully
always registered the fact that walking into a law-
enforcement building meant walking into a room full of men.
She was used to the approach. She slipped around them in
hallways -- small spaces they couldn't occupy -- and
surprised them with her serious presence over and over until
they stopped being surprised and grudgingly accepted that she
was there to stay. So she took her badge and gun and entered
the Alexandria Police Department to see what she could do to
help Savioshy with his case.
They had the AC off and the old windows open, muggy summer
air mixing with the close scent of human bodies that had just
come in from the rain. Scully shook the water from her
umbrella and eyed the desk sergeant, whom she thankfully did
not recognize. He pointed her to the back, where Savioshy
was working rape cases from a battered desk piled high with
his children's photographs. His glasses had worn deep red
marks on the sides of his nose, and he had paper cups stained
with coffee lined up in front of him. At Scully's
appearance, he smoothed his tie over his paunch and pulled a
stack of files off the nearest chair.
"Agent Scully, thanks for coming in," he said as she sat.
"Sorry about this god-awful mess."
She took in the faxes, the folders, and the mess of memos he
had taped to every viable surface. The one stuck on his desk
lamp was from the Mayor and marked "urgent."
"I saw you on the news this morning," she said. Savioshy
stopped shuffling papers. They stared at one another for a
moment, and then he shook his head.
"You want my advice? Don't watch that crap. I wouldn't
watch it myself except that the brass hauls me in for regular
quizzes so I have to know every word they're saying."
"They said this man has been attacking women for over a year
now. Is that true?"
Savioshy's chair creaked as he leaned back. "Yeah. I hate
to say it, but yeah. It took us a while to pick up on the
pattern because we're talking at least three different
counties involved now. There's a detective in Metro and
another one in Fairfax with a desk that looks just like
"But no leads," Scully said. The top folder on his pile had
a fresh tab with her name on it. She assumed the stack under
her represented all the others. Nine, she counted. Hers was
Savioshy caught her looking and cleared his throat. "Tell
you what," he said. "Come with me. You want anything? A
coffee or a soda?"
Caffeine sounded perfect, but with the humid air, coffee was
out. "A soda would be great, thanks." He stopped and pulled
a Coke out of the fridge. Scully popped the top and followed
him down a hall into a windowless room, which featured a
large map of the city and surrounding area tacked on the
wall. Nearby, a dry-erase board listed the dates and
locations of the attack, which were marked on the map with
orange pushpins. To Scully, the pattern formed a snake
through the cities. She was the belly.
"I have a theory," Savioshy said as they stood next to the
map. The soda can sweat in Scully's palms. "See the dates
of the attacks?"
Scully looked. The first one was just over a year ago, near
the end of May, and the second took place five weeks after
that. They occurred more frequently as the summer progressed
-- two more in July, three in August -- but in September,
they stopped cold for eight months, only to start again in
"I think he's in college," Savioshy said, "and not in the
area or he would have kept at it during the school year."
The way the series and fanfic is constructed, with Mulder and Scully as the principal players, local law enforcement is often made out to be a bunch of idiots. They are ineffective at best and criminally negligent at worst. Your average city detective is not a moron, so I like to make them right about stuff when I can. Here, Savioshy get to make an astute call.
DC had a lot of college-age kids walking the streets.
Occasionally she would pass an intern in the Hoover building
and wonder if she had ever looked that young. "No prints?"
"Actually, yes. In the third case, he got sloppy and put his
hand down on the woman's car. But when we ran the prints, we
came up with nothing. That's another reason I think this
guy's got to be young: no adult record."
The stocking face flashed in her memory, features half-human
under the nylon, and her heartbeat doubled. Her attacker was
just a kid. Scully sipped her soda to give her time to
think. She knew very well that none of the others had been
allowed to see the facts spelled out like this. Savioshy
wanted her informed, professional opinion. Any hint of panic
and he would have her back out front, looking through mug
shots while a uniformed cop patted her hand. "You could
contact schools," she said at last. "Find out which ones
have a schedule that matches the timeline of the attacks.
See if they have had any trouble with sexual assaults on
Savioshy nodded. "We're doing that, but it's a slow process.
There are thousands of colleges to cover, and we don't have
any way of narrowing the search at this point."
She looked at the board again, the names written in messy
block letters next to the dates: CHAMIAN, DESANTO, WEBER, and
so on, until the very bottom, where it said "SCULLY." With
no one else to pin it on, the victims got to own the cases.
"Does he--does he follow a particular strike pattern?" Scully
"He's hit every day but Sunday. Who knows? Maybe he's too
busy confessing his sins that day to go out and commit any
Tomorrow was Sunday. She had not planned to go to church.
Scully drew a long breath and swirled the last of the soda in
"There's your search factor then." Off his look, she
explained, "Start with the religious universities."
Mulder sat with his recycling in front of the TV. Sure
enough, when he looked for it, it was there in black and
white: two articles within the last week about the search
for the rapist. He could have known, if he'd bothered to
look past the front page and the sports section. In Mulder's
world, the important news always came to him. There were
coded emails and files under the door, meetings in darkened
cars and anonymous faxes in the night. When aliens were
hatching in the Antarctic, the local police blotter seemed
like a bunch of kindergarten cops.
He fanned the large sheets like cloth and gathered what few
facts he could. Head in hands, he bent over the news. No
one told me, he thought, that it could happen like this.
It was nearing two hours since he'd dropped Scully off at the
station. He paced often to his thin, rattling windows, to
see if her car might be pulling up. The streets and the gray
sky looked suddenly threatening, danger lurking on the naked
sidewalks. He checked his phone to make sure it was working
and kept his cell in one hand.
But Scully didn't call.
The flat, unsmiling faces in the mug books stared up at her -
- class pictures from the school of hard knocks -- and Scully
made herself look at each one for any glimmer of recognition.
She braced anew at every page but no one seemed familiar.
Her neck ached, her eyes dried around the rims, and her
nerves grew increasingly jittery. Each menacing eye seemed
equally familiar, equally possible. None of the men was her
rapist, but they all could have been.
Just as Scully declared defeat and closed the last book,
there was a knock at the door and Christopher Clark poked his
head in the room. "Hey," he greeted her with a smile. He
was dressed in jeans and a faded T-shirt that read, "1998
Boston Marathon." His dark hair was curled over his
forehead, either from a shower or the rain, and Scully
blinked at the casual attire for a moment before she
remembered it was Saturday. Her rape was less than twenty-
four hours old. "Savioshy told me you were back here," Clark
said. "How goes the search?"
She shook her head and pushed the books away. "I didn't see
his face well enough to make an ID."
"Yeah." Clark took the seat next to her, flipping it around
so he could rest his arms across the back like a little kid.
"That's par for the course at this point, but thanks for
trying. Every little bit of information we can get on this
"I wish I could be of more help."
"You can be. That's part of why I'm here." He rapped his
knuckles lightly on the table in front of her. "Listen, have
you eaten? Because there is a great little bakery about two
blocks from here that makes the best chicken salad sandwich
you will ever eat."
He was good, Scully realized as her frustration ebbed under
his relaxed posture and conversational tone. He had
guileless gray eyes she was sure played well with a jury. She
had seen that look somewhere before...
"I know you," she said suddenly. "That airline pilot who
murdered his wife -- Aaron Henderson -- that was your case."
"Guilty." He flashed her a grin. "And so was he. So what
do you say? Can I buy you lunch?"
He patted his middle. "Because it's half past two and my
stomach is threatening to secede from the union?"
"You don't need me to eat." She was tired. She was hungry
too, but this man was a stranger and she wasn't sure she
could keep her game face on for another hour while he talked
about chicken salad sandwiches.
"No." He sobered. "But I will need you in court." She
hesitated, and he nodded at the door. "Just hear me out,
Agent Scully. Any time you want to leave, it's okay by me."
Her stomach, empty since before the attack, gave a feeble
growl as though it didn't expect her to listen. "One
sandwich," she said finally. "I guess that would be all
She spoke to Savioshy before leaving and set out with
Christopher Clark towards the bakery. The rain had shifted
to mist, which floated under her umbrella and curled her
hair. Clark walked beside her, heedless of the elements.
"So, Mr. Clark," she asked, "do you always invest this much
time in cases you're not even trying?"
He laughed. "Not trying *yet*. And call me Chris."
"Chris," she said, "I think I picked the wrong career if you
guys in the DA's office really have this much free time."
He chuckled again and pulled a large wet leaf from a nearby
tree. "My daddy was a southern trial lawyer, the kind that
comes straight out of the pages of a Harper Lee novel. It
didn't make any difference to him that we lived in New York.
He learned his law in old time Alabama, and he preached it
with a passion I didn't see anywhere else but church on
Sunday. Mama let him thunder on at her while she did her
cooking, but what he really wanted was someone to argue back.
She gave him me, and her kitchen finally saw some peace.
Daddy was the defense, and I--" He stopped and spread his
arms. "I became the prosecution."
"I see," she said. Scully understood about fathers who were
larger than life.
"So I don't really know any other way." He shrugged and
tossed his leaf into the rain-soaked gutter. "Work is what I
sleep, what I breathe, what I eat."
"Except," Scully said as they reached the bakery door, "for
the chicken salad sandwiches."
"These sandwiches are always an exception."
They ate at a small table near the window, plates piled high
with thick sandwiches and crispy chips. Once Scully started
eating she realized how starved she'd been, and she did her
best not to wolf down the meal in front of ADA Clark. As her
blood sugar rose, she felt almost human again. For five
straight minutes she was just another patron in a sandwich
shop and not the woman who had been shoved down in the dirt
and raped. That changed as soon as Clark opened his mouth.
"How are you holding up so far?"
Scully put her sandwich down and looked at her plate. "Fine"
would sound absurd. Anything else was too personal to share.
"I'm sorry," he said, reading her silence. "I don't mean to
make you uncomfortable. Forget I said anything."
She took a deep breath. "No, it's okay. I'm managing."
"I'm really glad to hear that." After an awkward pause, he
continued, "Agent Scully, I know you must have seen these
kinds of cases before, so I figure I can just be straight
with you: the trial, if there is one, will be hard."
"I realize that."
"I'd love to tell you that we're all enlightened here in the
twenty-first century, but the dirty truth is, when it comes
to rape trials, we're not much better than my father's day.
Blaming it on the victim might be not be PC, but it works
often enough that some defense attorneys will still try it."
Scully swallowed and looked out at the wet streets. Having
her life ripped open for everyone to see was a kind of hell
she didn't want to contemplate. She believes in aliens,
they'd say. Perhaps little green men came down and probed
her. She likes trouble; just look at her record. She's had
sex with a married man. Maybe they could even get Ed
released long enough to testify: "She certainly liked it
rough with me!" If she'd fuck a psychotic killer, what else
might she do?
I wasn’t sure how much of the trial I would put in at this point. I remembered being surprised not too long ago that defense attorneys still put the victim on trial as much as they could when it came to rape cases. It makes sense, when you think about it, but it still shocked me. I got to thinking how Scully’s past would play with a jury. I think people would have a hard time empathizing with her. We love Scully for her pricklyness and her sometimes-exaggerated formality, but a jury would probably see her as a standoffish snob. She’s not going to weep on the witness stand and let everyone see her pain. And then there’s all that weird alien crap...
She turned her head back and looked him in the eyes. "He
held a knife to my throat, forced me down in the parking lot,
and he raped me. Nothing I've done, ever, gives him the
right to do that."
"No, and given the chance, I will say that loud and often. I
just want you to know what we're up against."
"But there are others," Scully protested. "Surely that would
work in our favor. One woman can be dismissed, but ten are
harder to overlook."
"That's assuming he stands trial for ten counts at once, and
that all ten agree to testify. I can tell you right now that
isn't looking too likely."
"They won't testify?"
"Well, things could change. We haven't even nailed the
bastard yet, so any trial would be months off."
Her hands clenched. "How many would testify?"
"Right now?" He sighed. "You and one other. But I'm
working on a third woman, and I think she'll come around.
Others could change their minds when we have the guy in
custody, and with forensics, I may be able to proceed in some
cases without the victim's testimony."
Scully stared at her half-eaten lunch. Suddenly it was clear
why her participation was so necessary.
"Hey," Clark said softly, and she jerked her attention back
to him. "Savioshy finds this asshole, and I will nail him to
the wall. You have my word. I just need to know that you're
Her phone chirped, and it took her a moment to recognize the
foreign ring. She fished out her old cellular, now bulky and
heavy in her hand. Mulder's number glowed at her from the
tiny screen. Irritation flashed through her; she'd told him
she would call later.
"Hey, Scully," he said when she answered. "Are you still at
"No, I'm having lunch. What do you need?"
"Lunch? It's like three o'clock, Scully."
"I just wondered how you were doing."
"I'm fine." Scully looked across the table at Clark.
"Mulder, now's not really a good time. Can I call you back
later?" Just then, the girl behind the counter dropped a
china plate, startling everyone. Clark's knees bumped their
small table and Scully reached out a hand to steady it.
"You're not at home?" Mulder asked at all the noise.
"No, I'm with ADA Clark."
"Oh, okay." Mulder sounded the way he did whenever she got
called into Kersh's office without him. "I'll let you go. I
just wanted to say..."
She half-turned, distracted by the scrape of broken china on
the ceramic floor. A trio of laughing women walked past on
their way out the door. "What?" she demanded, when Mulder
didn't get to the point.
"I thought, if you want, since you're still in the area, if
you're not too tired or anything, that maybe you would want
to get pizza and a video tonight. Something with no
redeeming social value."
Scully froze, suddenly choked, and the bakery noises faded to
a dull buzz. She blinked furiously to keep the tears away.
She wanted to find Mulder and wrap herself around him. Every
so often, he said the exact right thing.
"Yeah," she said, ducking her head so her face hid behind a
curtain of hair. "That sounds good."
"Yeah?" he repeated, brightening. "Just come over when
you're done there. I've got to run out for a bit, so just
let yourself in, okay? I'll be back in an hour."
Scully hung up with Mulder and tucked her hair back behind
her ear as she faced Clark again. "I'm sorry for the
interruption," she said. "The answer is yes. Whatever I
need to do, I'll do it."
He nodded, and his gaze slid to her phone, which she had
placed next to her plate. "I met Agent Mulder last night,
and Savioshy says good things about him. How long have you
two been together?"
"We've been partners for over six years." She tucked the
"And the other?"
Scully narrowed her eyes at him and reached for her water.
"Does it matter?"
"Not to me." He leaned across the table. "But what I am
saying, Dana, is the questions only get tougher from here on
Mulder's shadowed apartment was draped in thistledown quiet,
the windows shut tight from the swishing cars outside. It
smelled like dust and clean laundry. Scully slipped her off
her shoes by the door and crossed the room without turning on
the light. On the coffee table, she could just make out a
note in Mulder's scrawl: Back soon -- M.
Sore and tired, she took her gun out of its holster and sank
into the sofa. The well-worn leather cradled her bones and
she felt some of the day's tension ebb away. As an
afterthought, she pulled the old Indian blanket around her,
closing her eyes and inhaling deeply. His fish tank burbled
a gentle song near her head. Scully slept.
He crept in the door before knowing she was asleep, walking
soft the way one did in the wake of tragedy, and squinted in
the direction of his couch. Scully lay half-hidden by a
cliff of blankets. The plastic bags rustled as he stepped
closer, so he hushed them up in the kitchen before returning
to where she slept. Her mouth slightly parted, one arm flung
free of the blanket, Scully looked like she'd passed out
hard. He stroked her hip and she snuggled deeper into his
Mulder sat down in the nearest chair, feet on the table, and
that's when he noticed the gun. He turned on a lamp. The
revolver lay with its butt facing Scully, mere inches from
her hand, close enough to dream it. He stretched for it
slowly, stomach muscles clenching as he reached over his
toes. The barrel glinted at his fingertips.
Scully sat bolt upright, eyes wide with horror. Mulder
"They're coming again," she told him.
"Who's coming?" In answer, she clawed the whole blanket into
lap. He moved to the couch. "Scully? Who's coming?"
She looked confused. He could see the pulse thrumming at her
"It's me." He stroked the back of her head. "What happened?
"I don't remember," she said. "It was a dream."
She was shaking so he drew her against him, smoothing his
hand over the sharp planes of her back. "It's all right now,
Her voice quivered into his neck. "It must have been a
The dream is meant to link her abduction to what’s just happened to her, and also to foreshadow the bit of mytharc stuff that’s on the horizon.
There’s a TV cooking guru who has a rule: never buy a tool for the kitchen that has only one use. I have a similar philosophy when it comes to writing. If I can, I try to make it so each scene advances the story or characterization in more than one way. In the following scene, we see that Mulder is not keeping his promise to Scully to leave things alone. That adds tension, but it’s not really what the scene is about. It’s main point is to show how easily Mulder can identify with the rapist and how uncomfortable that makes him. It’s also to highlight the fact that Scully has essentially claimed the experience for herself and has not allowed Mulder to air feelings on the subject. In a sense, she is forcing him to deal with the rape behind her back.
The scene also lays the groundwork for later insights Mulder will have into the case.
Just after sunset on the third day, right about the time it
happened, Mulder went back to the parking lot. He already
felt a little guilty, slinking down the narrow alley to the
back, but no one was there to witness his transgression.
Even the back door to Ming©ˆs kitchen was shut up tight.
Mulder stood at the mouth of the alley and surveyed the
lonely yellow street lamp, the rusted dumpster, and the
cracked, weed-infested pavement. The smell of wet dirt
wafted from the dense thicket of trees and bushes. He
imagined her car back where it had been, glinting in the
shadows, and prickles broke out across his skin.
The dark trees waved from across the lot, beckoning him, and
Mulder pushed into their leafy fold. Branches snapped and
rebounded, slapping his arms and face. Mulder switched on
his flashlight and the beam quivered across the roof of
leaves. He turned, breathing hard, and peered out through a
break in the vegetation. It was a perfect view of Scully©ˆs
Mulder shone the light at the soft ground; had he stood here?
She would have been only five feet away, lit well, talking on
the phone while she juggled the food. Mulder could call up
the picture easily. He had seen her this way a million times
-- knew how her voice would sound bouncing off the far brick
walls, heard the low jangle of her keys, felt the hot surge
of lust when she bent over in front of him.
Bile roiled up from his stomach, and Mulder staggered back,
swallowing convulsively. He had not been sick at a crime
scene since he was twenty-five years old; she would never
forgive him if he did it here. Gulping in air, he steadied
himself against a tree. He cast the light around as he
calmed. Crumpled Dunkin©ˆ Donuts cups mixed with dead leaves
and other random garbage. He found a rusted bike wheel and a
wet sock. Cigarette butts littered the makeshift path
between the weeds. Mulder followed the trail out, his heart
still pounding. This was the way he had gone after it
Mulder stumbled along over roots and saplings until he
reached the back of the thicket, where a sagging chain-link
fence separated it from yet another parking lot. A jagged
hole provided a way through to the other side. Mulder
emerged as if from the jungle, wild and sweaty, his
flashlight clutched like a weapon. He looked left and right,
chasing a phantom, and slowly made his way between the parked
cars. Loose bits of gravel crunched under his sneakers. He
could hear the street traffic on the other side of the
buildings, but there was not a soul in sight.
Mulder tapped the hood of the nearest car. He would have
parked here, he thought, and began looking around. The lot
was similar to the one behind Ming©ˆs, with only one narrow
entrance/exit. Mulder followed it out to the bright street
and whizzing cars. He saw no sign to indicate the
availability of parking in the rear, suggesting that the
rapist must either be familiar with the area or have scoped
it out ahead of time. How easy it would have been to just
disappear into the crowd.
A group of college-aged kids jostled past him, pushing each
other around and laughing. One bumped Mulder, and Mulder
reflexively grabbed the kid©ˆs arm. They stared at each
other, while the friends©ˆ laughter died away.
Were you here? Mulder wanted to ask. Did you see him?
The boy grinned at Mulder and shrugged free. "Sorry, man.
Didn©ˆt see you standing there. Sorry."
Mulder stood, shell-shocked, as they drifted down the street.
Cars rushed past and vibrated the sidewalk beneath him.
Nearby, a shaggy black dog that had been tied to a lamppost
lifted his huge head from the ground and looked up at Mulder
with wet eyes. Mulder sighed, glanced around one last time,
and walked back down the alley to the crumbling lot.
Back in the trees, it was quiet enough that he heard his own
breathing. He shrugged one shoulder to wipe the trickle of
sweat that slid down his neck. The jittery beam from his
flashlight gave an otherworldly, underwater feeling to the
He stopped again where the man had stood and peered through
the leaves. His phone rang. Startled, Mulder thrashed in
the bushes and dropped his flashlight. "Shit!" He left it
lying there as he fumbled for his phone. Scully's name
appeared on the screen.
"It's me," she said.
"Hey, Scully," he answered, sounding too cheery by half. He
winced at himself and dialed it back down. "I was, um, just
thinking about you." He began carefully working his way
through the bramble to retrieve his flashlight.
"Where are you, Mulder? I tried your apartment and you
Mulder halted in an awkward half-bent position. "Uh, no. I
went out for..." A branch caught him across the cheek. "I
went out for a run. Just cooling down now. Is everything
"Fine. I just wanted to let you know that I won't be at work
tomorrow morning until after eleven. I have a doctor's
He stood up. "You're working tomorrow?"
"Is there some reason I shouldn't?"
"I, uh, I just wasn't sure if you were, that's all."
"I'll be in before lunch." Her tone had the ring of finality
to it. "See you then, okay?"
He sighed. "Take as much time as you need."
"Before lunch," she repeated. "I'll bring sandwiches." She
paused. "Good night, Mulder."
"Night." He punched the "end" button and fetched his
flashlight, switching it off as he climbed out of the bushes.
Just as he emerged from the trees, the back door to Ming's
opened and Jun ran out with a bag of garbage. He gasped when
he saw Mulder move in the shadows.
"It's okay," Mulder called across the lot. "It's just me."
But Jun said nothing. He threw the sack into the dumpster
and hurried back inside, shutting the door tight behind him.
Jun’s fear also has two meanings: to reinforce the Mulder/rapist connection, and to show the rippling aftermath of such a violent crime. Scully’s not the only one who’s had her safety shattered.
The story did not get easier with repeated telling, so Scully
kept the details of her attack to a minimum when she went to
her regular doctor for the follow-up exam. "Healing nicely,"
was the pronouncement, but Dr. Putney also urged her to talk
to a woman named Evelyn Wheeler in mental health services who
specialized in rape trauma. "I called over there," Dr.
Putney said, "and she's free right now if you'd like to meet
her. No commitment necessary."
Scully took an internal inventory. The tears had left her
withered. She felt coiled and tense, her body ready for an
attack that had already happened, and a heavy sadness had
lodged in her ribs like oatmeal.
Can't hurt to go one time, Scully reasoned, since she had
gotten all of her other parts examined by experts. Now she
could check the box marked "not crazy" and get on with her
"Okay," she said. "I'll meet her."
Dr. Wheeler's office was in the building across the street,
in a suite she apparently shared with other mental health
professionals. Scully could hear but not see the
receptionist, who was hidden behind closed mottled glass.
She looked around at the other people in the room -- two
women and one elderly man -- but no one would make eye
contact. Scully finally noticed a row of names with buzzers
next to them, and she hit the one marked "Evelyn Wheeler."
Scully waited there in the too-cold lavender room with its
silk plants and unpadded chairs, listening to the sound of
the others flipping through their magazines. Strains of
piped-in classical music wafted from the ceiling. Scully
checked her watch three times in two minutes. In between,
she wondered about the other patients. They didn't look
They're probably worried that I'm the crazy one, she thought.
She stood up, prepared to leave, and they all looked at her.
Scully grabbed her purse.
Just then, the door to the inner offices opened and a woman
with smooth white hair and a long purple skirt came out.
The other patients were still watching. "Yes," Scully
"I'm Evelyn Wheeler. Won't you come in?" She had smooth
skin for someone with such white hair, and thin black
eyebrows. Scully gripped her purse with both hands and
walked across the room.
Dr. Wheeler led her down the hall to an office lined with
mahogany bookshelves. Green Venetian blinds barely held back
the strong summer sun, and a large Oriental rug covered the
floor. There were two loveseats, an armchair and a beanbag.
Scully noted that, like herself, Dr. Wheeler did not seem to
own a proper desk.
"Sit where you like," Dr. Wheeler said as she selected the
armchair. Scully picked the loveseat that allowed her to
face the door. Dr. Wheeler reached for a mug and sipped from
it. "So," she said. "Welcome. Linda Putney mentioned that
she'd told you a little about me, but I'm happy to answer any
questions you might have."
Dr. Wheeler is less of a character and more of a plot device, which I sort of regret. At the same time, I didn’t want the story to be Scully Goes to Therapy. It’s not that I don’t believe therapy is helpful, but it was never meant to be the focus of the story. StL was intended as a tale about the M/S partnership (on both levels) and what happened to it after the rape. Still, Dr. Wheeler puts out some information I very much wanted to have in the story, namely that every person reacts differently to trauma.
When the woman paused and waited, Scully cleared her throat
and tried to think of something. "I don't know. I don't
know that I even need to be here."
"What made you decide to come?"
"Dr. Putney recommended you. She said you'd helped a lot of
women, and I thought maybe I should just come and see..."
Scully hesitated. "Well, I thought it was usual to speak to
a counselor afterward."
"Many women do, but not all."
Scully's head snapped up. "And they're all right?"
Dr. Wheeler smiled gently. "Contrary to what the Lifetime
network would like you to believe, yes. There is no
predetermined recipe for healing. How are you holding up,
"Okay, I think." Scully took a deep breath. "I mean, I'll
live. I'm going back to work today."
"Dr. Putney said you're an FBI agent?"
Scully nodded even as the sting of the news broadcast came
back to her. She looked at her lap. "The cops think I
should have been able to stop him."
"What do you think?"
Scully thought a long time, trying to imagine anything she
could have done differently. "He had a knife to my throat.
I wasn't armed. I think--I think if I had resisted he truly
would have killed me."
"But still you feel guilty?"
"I feel..." Scully searched for the words. "I feel like I
let everyone down. Even myself."
"I see." Dr. Wheeler ducked her head, trying to meet
Scully's eyes. "Would it surprise you to learn that's
"No. I've worked rape cases. Everyone always thinks they
should have been able to stop it from happening. It doesn't
make the reality any easier to accept."
"I think it may go deeper than that." Dr. Wheeler set her
mug aside. "Let me ask you something: did you know about
rape in high school?"
"Junior high? Elementary school?"
"Yes. I had an older cousin who was raped when I was eight.
I can still remember my mother and my aunt talking about it
on the phone."
"Do you remember what your mother said?"
Scully thought. "That Allison would never be the same
again." The power of the words hit her as she said them
"And how is Allison doing today?"
"She's married with three kids. Happy, as far as I know."
Dr. Wheeler nodded and sat forward in her chair. "Rape is
such a horrible thing, and such a horribly common thing, that
we start warning our girls early: 'Watch out at night!
Check the back seat of your car! Don't go anywhere alone!'
It's not bad advice as it goes. Certainly one should always
take precautions. But I've found that it also has the
peculiar effect of creating a generation of women who feel
like part of their mission in life is not to get raped. If
it does happen, they feel like they've failed. All that
training was for nothing! And then, like your mom said,
there is the sense that life will never be the same."
"Won't it?" Scully's voice was rough with tears.
"Maybe not. But maybe it will be. And it will certainly be
They talked for a while longer, and Scully decided that, at
the moment, she did not need regular meetings, but she took
Dr. Wheeler's card in case she wanted an appointment in the
future. As Dr. Wheeler walked her back down the hall she
said, "I also facilitate a group discussion on Wednesday
nights at eight. You're welcome to join us any time."
Scully had a flash of the MUFON women and their haunted eyes.
"No," she said quickly. "Thank you all the same."
Monday morning the basement was so quiet that the dust
particles sat suspended motionless in the air, visible to
Mulder only because of the piercing sunbeam that split the
office in two. He looked beyond the light to Scully©ˆs
shadowed corner, to her silent table and the fat textbooks
with brains on the cover that lined the shelf above. The
wall clock read after eleven; she was fifteen minutes late.
Mulder shifted, chair squeaking, and forced his attention
back to the folders on his desk. The clock ticked as the
words blurred in front of him.
When the phone rang, he jumped on it. "Mulder," he said, and
held his breath for her voice on the other end. Instead,
there was a strange pause, followed by Skinner:
"Agent Mulder, I©ˆd like to see you in my office."
"At your convenience."
Mulder sent the chair rolling backward as he lurched to his
feet. Skinner never wanted to see him at his convenience.
In the elevator, he tried to imagine the possible reasons for
his summons, but kept coming up blank. The last time Skinner
had sounded that strangled on the phone, Mulder had
accidentally exploded a water main in downtown Philadelphia.
But that conversation had not been at his convenience and had
definitely involved a lot more expletives.
"Come," Skinner called when he knocked. Mulder entered and
found Skinner not at his desk, but squinting out the window.
He glanced once at Mulder and then returned his attention to
the outside. Mulder caressed the brass tacks at the edge of
his usual chair but did not sit down. Skinner sighed. "I've
been debating for an hour whether to even have this
conversation with you."
"Oh, a debate. I'm afraid I left my rebuttal notes at home."
Skinner did not turn around from the window. "Agent Scully
didn't come in this morning."
"That's right. I believe she had an appointment. If you
want to talk to her, I can--"
"You read the newspaper, Agent Mulder? Watch the news?"
Mulder stopped fidgeting with the chair, suddenly afraid
where this was leading. "Sure," he said at length, "I follow
Skinner nodded as if to himself. "There's a serial rapist
loose in the area. He hit again this weekend."
"I, uh, I'd heard that, yes."
"Sources say it was an FBI agent who was attacked. I was
down in the bullpen earlier, and they were speculating who it
might have been."
Mulder's heart broke a little more. He could keep her in the
basement with him today, he thought, and maybe by tomorrow
everyone would have forgotten. "I wouldn't think that it's
anyone's business who it was," he said stiffly.
"And I agree." Skinner turned around at last, his forehead
creased. "I didn't think too much of it myself until I saw
this." He reached over and pulled the newspaper from his
desk. "Ming's restaurant. It's where the woman... where she
Mulder felt Skinner watching him as he took the newspaper.
He had memorized the story that morning, of course, but he
made a show of looking it over again. "So?" He tossed the
paper back on Skinner's desk.
"Isn't that down in your neighborhood, Agent Mulder?"
"What, you think I'm a suspect?"
Skinner scowled. "For Chrissake, Mulder."
Mulder tapped his fingers lightly on the smooth wood of
Skinner's desk and looked at the floor. "I wasn't there," he
said quietly. He risked looking up at Skinner again, and the
AD narrowed his eyes behind his glasses, searching Mulder for
the truth. When he got it, Skinner blew out a long breath
and scratched the back of his head.
"Well, then," he said gruffly, "if you weren't there, you
couldn't know anything, could you?" He tossed the newspaper
in the garbage can by Mulder's leg.
Skinner took his seat and began shuffling papers. "That will
be all, Agent." Mulder started toward the door, when Skinner
stopped him. "Mulder?"
"Is she in yet?"
The clock said Scully was now half an hour past due. Mulder
bit his lip. "No, Sir. Not yet."
"When she gets here, tell her--"
"Tell her what?"
Skinner dropped his chin. "Her report on the Speigelmen
case: it was a good job. The Director was extremely
Mulder's hand tightened on the door handle. "I'll tell her."
He left then, past the secretary and down the hall, and in
the elevator, he remembered, finally, to breathe.
This scene I also put in for a bunch of reasons, though I am not sure how successful they all were. The scene is from Mulder’s POV, and he’s getting a chance to feel some of *his* privacy ripped away, if only by proxy. It’s also another chance to show a couple of good, honest men who are still completely tongue-tied on the subject. And, even though Scully is not there, you can almost imagine her humiliation if she knew such a conversation were taking place. It also advances the plot: Scully’s secret is not going to be safe for long.
When he got back to the basement, Mulder found Scully seated
at her table, chewing thoughtfully on a tuna sandwich as she
read some journal article spread out in front of her.
"You're back," he blurted, and she looked up.
"Hi," she said, in that easy open way she did when it was
just the two of them in the basement. "I got you roast beef.
I hope that's okay."
He didn't make a move toward the sandwich on his desk. "I
thought you were supposed to be here ages ago."
"It took longer than I thought."
This bit of information derailed him a moment.
"Everything..." The shiny dentist tools came back to him and
he stopped. He didn't have the vocabulary for this
conversation. "Everything okay?"
"Fine." Scully resumed reading and chewing. He looked at
her, with her pressed suit and her perfect, smooth hair, and
felt stupid for having worried. His cheeks flushed hot.
"You could have called," he told her as he went to his desk.
She blinked at him, not answering. "When you were late," he
"I wasn't that late."
He shrugged and didn't look at her. Self-righteous anger was
the first familiar emotion he'd had in three days, and he
wasn't about to let it go that easily.
"Mulder," she said, sounding annoyed, "I was a half-hour
"Forty-five minutes." Which, as he recalled, was more than
late enough. He tore open the paper around his sandwich.
Scully let him rustle for a minute before saying anything.
"You were just upstairs?" she asked.
"With Skinner." Go ahead, he thought, ask me why.
"What did he want?"
Her tight little words punctured the balloon in his chest.
Mulder leaned back in his seat, swiveling until he faced her.
"He said..." Mulder stopped, searched for words, and then
shook his head. "It was nothing. Just paperwork."
She held his gaze for a minute longer. "Glad I missed it
then," she said at last. She went back to reading, her head
bowed, while Mulder chewed the lie in his mouth and swallowed
it down with a side of roast beef.
One of the curious things about the Hoover building was its
placement of women's restrooms. It had been constructed
during a time when no one could fathom females running around
with guns, and the amount of space allocated for women's
bathrooms reflected this fact. They had been added later, an
afterthought, and thus tended to appear not with their male
counterparts but around odd corners or down long halls. The
basement did not have a women's restroom at all. Once, out
of desperation, she had ducked into the tiny room Mulder used
and found a lone urinal and a stall with no paper in it.
The idea for this scene was again to highlight the male/female disparity on intimate things such as bathrooms. Also to poke at Scully some more about not catching the guy, as well as foreshadow the eventual release of her name as victim number 10.
The main floor's facilities were large and bright, with a
high ceiling. Someone had ordered them new porcelain sinks
just a few months before. Women's voices bounced hard and
echoed hollow off the walls. Scully couldn't help but hear.
"Do you think it was really an *agent*, though? Probably it
was just someone from accounting and they blew it up on the
"Guess we'll find out if they catch the guy. They try to
keep the names secret at a rape trial, but you know it will
come out eventually ú especially in this joint."
Scully leaned her forehead on the cold door. Her neighbor
flushed the toilet and shouted over the noise. "The woman
who got attacked week before last was shopping at the grocery
near me. My sister won't go there anymore."
"I don't blame her. Ten women and they don't even have a
"I'm not worried. I've got this baby right here. Any guy
tries to get the drop on me, and he'll be eating the end of
"God, Lena. You're so butch."
"Laugh if you want. Women know he's coming now. One of
these days he's going to pick the wrong one."
They left, door sliding shut into blessed silence. Scully
shuddered and pressed clammy palms to her face. Her stomach
quivered. You're okay, she told herself over and over.
Then she turned around and threw up.
That first night back, he asked her if he could walk her to
her car, and she said no. He did not ask again. Mulder
found himself locking doors he hadn't before, eyeing every
moving shadow. Once, when he had come home late at night,
something had rattled the bushes near his door, and Mrs.
Korloff's tabby "Mittens" had ended up staring down the
business end of Mulder's SIG. Mittens had calmly licked her
paw while he lowered his shaking arms.
This bit, Mulder’s fantasy, was one of the reasons I wrote the novel. Non-consensual sex or angry sex is a common fantasy, and everyone knows fantasies are harmless. But what must it feel like to have those thoughts about someone who was just brutalized? I tried to use this bit to illustrate Mulder’s confusion. It comes out of nowhere on purpose, to try to make the reader as discombobulated as he is. Some readers thought it went too far.
In his fantasy, Scully always wore the navy skirt with the
side slit and her blouse unbuttoned halfway down to her
waist. She was round and young, the way she'd looked when
the fantasy was first born, with pinky white skin and full
lips that loved to tell him he was wrong. That was how it
started, too -- in the basement, arguing. "God, Mulder,"
she'd say, and it would sound so sexual despite the haughty
look on her face. "God, Mulder, that's ridiculous!"
Anger made him hot. Hot to grab her, shake her. "You know
I'm right." The details were never important. It could have
been a hundred different cases or none of them at all. All
that mattered was that he was right and she was wrong and for
once he wanted to hear her say it. He pushed closer,
crowding her up against the wall. "Say it, Scully. Admit
"No." Her nostrils flared, breasts swelling with each shaky
breath; her arms came up between them in self-defense.
"I want to hear it. 'You were right, Mulder.'"
"Stop it!" She struggled and his chair crashed to the
ground. No one was around to hear. Sometimes, she tried to
slap him, and he'd grab her wrist, feel her pulse pounding.
She was angry too. He felt her anger like a current, a force
warring with his own, and he battled her back against the
wall. His erection poked at the front of his pants as he
pinned her arms above her head.
"I'll make you," he breathed in her face.
The word fired him, sizzling nerve endings, and he put his
hot mouth on her neck. She hissed in his ear as her body
went rigid. Twisting, panting, she tried to break free but
he held her tight to the wall. His knee wriggled between her
legs. He kissed her mouth and felt her sharp little teeth.
Her tongue tried to push his away, sliding wetly, and her
deep moan vibrated his ears. He opened her blouse and
fondled her breasts while they kissed. Scully pulled away,
gasping, her neck arched and her eyes narrowed to dangerous
"Had enough?" he said as his hand found her naked knee. Her
leg jerked into his touch but she did not reply. He kept her
pinned as he raised her skirt, letting the fabric scrape
against the tender skin on her thighs as he pulled it to her
waist. Mulder lowered his face down to hers, smelled her
breath and her powdered skin. "I think," he said against her
swollen mouth, "you want it."
"No," she whispered, but her eyes glittered. She gripped his
thigh with her leg. He felt the heat of her through their
clothes. Rocking her against him, he took her mouth again
and set up a matching rhythm with his tongue until she was
shaking with raw need. His leg came away wet, her eyes
clenched shut as his hands tugged her underwear off. He
stroked the dark, humid place between her thighs. She bit
her lip and held her breath when he carefully pushed one
finger inside. He thrust it slowly in and out as Scully
turned her head away, lashes swept down across her cheeks as
she fought what he was doing to her.
Proper, buttoned-up Scully, with her skirt up around her
waist and her legs spread for him right in the office, but
still he wanted to push her further. He wanted to push her
all the way. With fumbling fingers, he yanked down his
zipper and took out his cock. It trailed along her thigh,
and Scully dragged open her eyes to look at him, challenge
still glinting in her gaze. He let down her arms and lifted
her from under her ass instead. His penis slipped between
her thighs, teasing them both as Scully nails pricked him
through his dress shirt.
They stared at one other, breathing hard. Do it, he willed
her silently. She glared at him.
At last, her hand slipped down between them and put him
inside. Mulder bared his teeth as his cock pushed in slow
and deep. "Now," he told her. "You'll come."
She snorted as if he was telling her about lights in the sky,
and he answered with a forceful thrust that made her gasp.
Her eyes slid closed as he began moving inside her. She
panted but would not look at him. C'mon, he thought. Come.
If nothing else, he could convince her of this. Mulder
fucked her slow and steady until she leaned her head back on
the wall. Her mouth parted and he could feel the tension
coiling in her. "Yeah," he told her, speeding up, and she
shook her head.
Sweat trickled between his shoulder blades. His muscles
bulged and burned. All the while, she milked his cock with
steady clenches. He was going to make her come.
"C'mon, Scully," he yelled at her, thrusting roughly. She
answered with a protesting wail and he redoubled his efforts.
Her legs locked. Her hands clawed in his hair.
"No no no..."
She cried out again, going rigid in his arms. The back of
her head clonked against the wall and he felt the ripples on
his cock. Victorious, he put his teeth to her collarbone and
screwed his eyes shut against the impending wave. He jerked
inside her again and again and again, spent.
It was just a fantasy. He had others.
But even now, after everything, it still made him hard.
By Thursday, Scully had caught up on her backlog of email,
read and photocopied six journal articles, and reviewed her
notes on the Spiegelman case in the event that she had to
testify in court. Mulder was writing an article on Donnie
Pfaster for Criminal Psychology, though he was careful to
keep the photographs hidden on his desk.
"Hey, Scully," he said, turning his chair to look at her. He
had his glasses on and his shirtsleeves rolled up. "How do
you spell 'conscience' again?"
She smiled fondly. The man with the most overdeveloped
superego in the world still couldn't spell its name.
Somehow, she restrained herself from going over and ruffling
his hair. "C-O-N-S-C-I-E-N-C-E," she told him.
We all have those words we can never remember how to spell. For me, it’s permanent, assistance, etc. But Mulder’s word here also echoes the last scene.
"Thanks." He turned around again, and she sat back and
contemplated his hunched shoulders.
"Mulder," she asked eventually, "are we ever going to leave
the office again?"
"Hmm? Oh, sure. It's just been a busy week for paperwork."
He couldn't quite look her in the eye as he spoke. Scully
sighed, got up from her chair, and went to lean against his
"It's okay, you know." She tried to catch his eyes. "I'm
ready to work. I want to work."
"Of course, Scully." He smiled at her. "I never thought
otherwise. I just haven't found the right case is all."
Oh, god. It was the Mulder-Scully version of the "It's not
you, it's me" speech. She picked up a stack of folders
marked "X." "What about this one?" she said, pulling off the
top folder. He grabbed it from her.
"Witness recanted," he said. "The sea nymph turned out to be
a frolicking golden retriever named Sven."
"I see." Scully pulled out the next file and flipped it
open. "A troop of boy scouts disappears into a giant
sinkhole in Acadia national park?"
"In 1943," Mulder said, taking the file away. "It hardly
"Okay, then," Scully said as she tried the next folder in the
pile. "A pet psychic in Baltimore? Mulder--"
"She interviews animals that witnessed crimes, Scully. I
talked to a guy at the Baltimore PD who said they busted a
guy for murder after this woman got a parakeet to give them
the killer's description."
"Fine." She held her tongue and handed him back the folder.
"It's an X-file, it's local, and it's not sixty years old. I
say we check it out."
Mulder sat up straight. "Scully, I have this manuscript to
write and--" He was cut off by his phone ringing. "Mulder,"
he said. Scully watched him openly for signs of a juicy
case. "Yeah, this is he. Uh-huh. Yeah. When did this
happen?" He sat up and began jotting down some notes. "You
say you talked to the police already? Uh-huh. Okay. Yes, I
have an idea of where to start."
Scully folded her arms and waited for him to hang up the
phone. "Well?" she asked as he rocked back in his chair.
"That was Chet Appleby from Beabout, Texas. He says his
sister was abducted by a UFO cult and the local cops won't do
anything about it."
Scully's internal organs did "The Wave" but she managed not
to show it. "MUFON?"
"Maybe. Seems a little radical for them."
"We should check it out."
He tilted his head, studying her. She held his gaze. At
last, he snapped forward and put his feet on the floor.
"I'll book the tickets," he said, excitement creeping into
Scully went back to her desk and picked up a journal, already
mentally packing as she listened to him plan their future.
End chapter three.
Asleep against the side of the plane, Scully had been
shifting like sand since take-off, so it took him longer than
usual to notice her distress. She yelped, twitching under
the blanket, and Mulder lowered the journal he'd been
reading. It did not occur to him right away to wake her. He
stared at the fine tremor of her hand, the wrinkle of her
brow. The painful, private vision held him captive. She'd
been pulled away again, back to that awful place, and this
was as close as he was ever going to get. The magazine pages
crinkled in his grip.
Scully let out a small, choked sob, and the sound jolted him
from his stasis. He reached out and stroked her cheek with
his fingers, surprised to find her skin damp. "Scully," he
murmured, leaning towards her. "Wake up."
She shot bolt upright, gulping in air, one hand stretched
outward as if to steady herself. The blanket slipped to the
"Easy," he told her as she twisted in her seat, looking
wildly around the plane. "You're okay."
She let out a long breath. "What time is it?"
"Uh, almost five. We'll be landing soon."
She groped for her blanket, ducking away from him, and he
leaned back to watch her struggle in the narrow space between
the seats. When she surfaced with pinkened cheeks and hair
askew, he detected a faint quiver as she placed the cover
primly across her knees and settled back in her chair.
"Stop looking at me like that." She smoothed her hair behind
her ears with both hands.
He didn't turn his head away. "Like what?"
"I'm fine, Mulder." When he didn't say anything, she looked
at him, defiant. "I am. It's just a dream."
The strong sun coming in the windows showed the tear stains
on her cheeks. He reached out and traced one trail. "I just
want to know that you're okay."
"I said I was."
"Okay," he said gently, agreeing with her. This only seemed
to make her more upset.
"I don't know what you want me to say, Mulder. You've
already decided that I'm not okay, and I don't know how to
prove otherwise. I know you think it's horrible. I know
that. But women--" She stopped and started over. "It
happens every day all over the world, and women just go on.
I think it's all you can do."
He looked at her for a long moment. "You don't have to prove
anything to me, Scully."
"Quit waiting for me to fall apart."
She glared at him, and then jerked a magazine free from the
pouch in front of her and flipped it open. Dismissed, Mulder
turned away and sighed. He wondered if he had any Tylenol in
his carryon. Scully angrily turned pages to his right.
Mulder closed his eyes.
"It happened," she said after some time. "But it doesn't
have to mean everything."
He still didn't look at her. "No. But it doesn't mean
Scully did not reply. She went back to reading, turning her
pages quietly now giving him his answer louder than words
A storm brewing over Houston rocked their plane as it made
its descent into the clouds. Harried flight attendants took
their seats early, and the passengers gripped their armrests
as the plane bumped and pitched. At last, the pilot brought
them down safely, to scattered applause, and Mulder watched
Scully release her breath. They fetched their bags with
everyone else, picked up their rental car, and drove off
under the dark, rolling sky.
Beabout, Texas, was a three-hour drive from the city, but
Mulder and Scully stopped for dinner after two. Their
choices right off the exit consisted of fast food, the dining
room of the Palmer Inn, and a Bar & Grill with three
motorcycles parked out front.
"Inn?" Mulder asked, and jerked his thumb at the drive-thru
burger joint. "Or out?"
Scully squinted out the windshield at the Bar & Grill. "I
could really use a beer," she said, and so she and Mulder
joined the motorcycle brigade.
Inside, the place was dark but not as smoky as he had
expected. The low-ceilinged room was divided between a
dining room filled with black-lacquered furniture and a bar
with a dozen or so stools, most of which were occupied.
Baseball played on the TV, and Mulder answered its siren call
while Scully saw about a table.
"Mulder, come on," she called.
"Yeah, just a sec." He watched as The Big Unit struck out
the batter swinging. Ambling back across, he paused at the
refrigerator-sized jukebox. There was some room for dancing,
but no one was on the floor. Mulder rattled the change in
his pocket but did not make a selection. Scully already had
her menu and water glass in front of her. He took his seat
and scanned the beer list.
Their waiter let them sit there for a good five minutes
before he showed up, scratchpad in hand. "You know what you
Mulder did a double take. Bald head. Wire-rimmed glasses.
The man was in his mid-forties and could have been Skinner's
"Mulder?" Scully prompted him.
He ordered a burger and a pint of Guinness. "Scully...
Scully..." He leaned across the table as the Skinner wannabe
walked away. Scully was busy rummaging though her purse and
did not look up. "Scully!"
"Does our waiter remind you of anyone?"
She stopped rummaging and looked in the direction the waiter
had gone. "No. Why?"
"C'mon. When he asked what I was having, I wanted to say 'a
stack of 302s, medium rare.'"
She pulled out a tissue and used it to wipe her fork. "What
are you talking about, Mulder?"
He leaned back in his seat, exasperated. "Just look closer
when he comes back. You'll see."
The man returned with the beer. "Here you go," he said, low
and gruff. Mulder looked meaningfully at Scully, who looked
confused. Then her eyes widened.
"Mulder!" she said as the waiter walked away.
"See? Skinner in an apron!"
She laughed and sneaked another look across the room. "God,
Mulder. I feel... I feel..."
"Yes?" he asked, deepening his voice.
"Like I've been caught out past curfew by my father."
Mulder did his best Skinner impression. "Agent Scully, could
I please see you in my kitchen? I have some questions about
the Speigelman barbecue report."
"Stop," she said, but she was still smiling. "Behave." He
grinned and nudged her under the table.
"The victim was a small ground fowl weighing about six
pounds. Head and feet were removed, possibly to avoid
When the man returned with their food, Scully wouldn't look
at him or Mulder. She kept her eyes focused in front of her
as the waiter put her burger down. "Medium?" he asked, and
Scully answered with a tiny nod. Her mouth twitched but she
did not break.
"Yes, thank you," she managed. Mulder could practically hear
her swallow "Sir." He grinned and she kicked him under the
table. The waiter did not crack a smile.
"Well done," he said as he set Mulder's food down. He pulled
a ketchup bottle out of his apron pocket, put it on the table
between them, and went on his way. Scully began silent,
mirthful convulsions as soon as the waiter's back was turned.
Mulder leaned across the table and egged her on in a barely-
"Well done," he said. "Words I never thought I would hear
from that mouth."
Scully leaned forward. "Mulder, you're terrible."
"Ah," he said, "now *that* would be more typical."
She shook her head as she tapped the end of the ketchup
bottle. "Skinner must like you more than you think if he
authorized this trip."
Mulder sobered, remembering his conversation with Skinner
about their latest 302. Skinner had spent much longer
looking at the file than the scant information required while
Mulder stood in front of him awaiting judgment. "Texas,"
he'd said at last. "That's pretty far away."
"Maybe that's a good thing," Mulder had answered, and Skinner
had signed off without another word.
"We've pursued cases on less," he told Scully now.
"Yes, and that is why -- to borrow your analogy -- in
Skinner's eyes, we will always be 'medium rare.'"
"I prefer just 'rare,'" he said, and that earned him another
As they ate, the volume went up on the jukebox. The Stones
wailed about the Devil, and a few people gathered around to
study other selections. Dire Straits did the "Walk of Life';
Fleetwood Mac would never break the chain. The lights dimmed
and some more people got up to dance, including one youngster
in a cowboy hat who just made circles around the floor.
Couples paired off, heat rising in the room from the sudden
increase in bodies. Mulder felt the tingle of beer in his
veins. He eyed Scully across the table, but she was watching
the shadowed twist of dancers.
"It's a marvelous night for a moon dance," Van Morrison sang,
vibrating the air with invitation. Mulder looked at Scully
"Hmm?" She turned her attention to him. He wiped his palms
on his pants.
"You, um, want to?" he asked as he jerked his head towards
the makeshift dance floor.
"Oh!" She blinked and then looked back at the dancers.
"Mulder, we can't."
He wiggled in his seat. "Speak for yourself, G-woman."
Scully gave him a wistful look and shook her head. "Mulder,
no. Who knows if we might end up having to question one of
those people tomorrow?"
His pulse slackened, losing the beat, and he leaned back in
his chair. "Yeah," he said eventually, "Yeah, I guess you're
"It's a marvelous night to make romance," Van Morrison
Scully set her napkin on her plate, the sign that she was
ready to go. "It's your turn to pay," she said. "Make sure
to get the receipt this time."
Mulder dug out his credit card. Just remember, he thought,
that I asked.
The road to rural Beabout was a straight shot through the
middle of absolutely nothing. Electricity gathered in the
air, quivering the trees as they flashed by in the glare of
the Taurus's headlights. If either had believed in the power
of omens, they might have turned back: thunder cracked open
the sky, releasing a torrential downpour, just as Mulder
drove over a nail in the road and shot out their rear right
tire. He cursed as the car wobbled to the side of the road.
Scully already had the dome light on and was digging in the
"There might be a number in here to call for assistance."
"Yeah, I'm sure they're going to hurry out to help us in this
mess." Rain beat down against the roof. "We'll be out here
all night. I'll just change the damn thing and be done with
"Mulder, it's pitch black and pouring."
"So come hold the umbrella and the flashlight."
This was how they ended up stopped along a muddy shoulder,
crouched by their grimy car as rain blew sideways under
Scully's umbrella. Mulder changed the tire in less than
fifteen minutes, but it was long enough for their clothes to
stick like second skin. Despite his experiences wrestling in
bile and being digested by a giant fungus, walking around in
wet underwear still ranked in Mulder's top five most
uncomfortable sensations. Bow-legged, he trooped back to the
car and ignored the water that oozed from his shoe as he
stepped on the accelerator again. Scully blotted
ineffectually at her neck with a Dairy Queen napkin.
At the motel, they both stumbled into the room on the first
floor. Ownership could be decided later. First, there were
towels. Scully tossed him two large ones and disappeared
with her bag into the bathroom. Mulder stripped off his wet
clothes, rubbed the terry cloth over his clammy skin, and put
on some dry sweats. Behind the closed door, Scully's hair
dryer whirred to life. Mulder sat on the hard mattress and
began toweling off his naked feet.
Scully emerged a few minutes later dressed in white pajamas,
the damp ends of her red hair tickling her shoulders. Behind
her, he could see pantyhose dangling from the shower bar and
figured this meant Scully had staked out her territory. She
fixed him with her serious Dr. Scully look. "Mulder, you're
It was true. Water trickled down behind his ear. "I'm dry
where it counts," he replied, and picked up the towel to rub
"Here," she said, and fetched her blow dryer from the
bathroom. She plugged it in the wall and stretched the
curly-Q cord across the room. Standing between his legs, she
switched the dryer on and went to work on his hair.
The shock of hot air tightened his scalp and warmed the tips
of his ears. Scully's lips parted as she concentrated. When
she assessed her progress by running small, strong fingers
through his hair, it was all he could do not to squirm with
pleasure. She leaned forward, and he could see down her
pajama top to the feathered shadow between her breasts. She
smelled like satin and powder and rain.
At last, she switched off the dryer. "Better," she
pronounced as the roar still rang in his ears. She rested
her hand on his head and smiled a little.
"Better," he agreed. "Thank you." She didn't move away, so
he tentatively stroked her hip through her pajamas. Her
fingers toyed in his hair as they stared at one another.
Scully's eyes darkened, the color of his fantasy, but his
arousal mixed with fear. It can't be, he thought. Not this
"Shhh." Her hand slid down so that her fingers stilled his
lips. She caressed his cheek with her thumb, and his protest
died away. Scully leaned down so their mouths brushed, their
first real kiss since it happened, and Mulder had to grab her
waist to keep from trembling. He was a Japanese lantern, lit
up and warm inside but fragile at the skin. She kissed him
lingeringly, her full mouth persuading his into a gentle
dance. The wet ends of her hair tickled his face and he was
Mulder held her with both hands, stroking her back as she
pressed even closer. Her tongue was in his mouth and her
hand did a slow rub across his shoulder.
Just a little more, he thought through the haze. I can still
He touched his tongue to hers and was rewarded with a muffled
snort against his cheek. She tasted the same, like warm
mint. He felt a corresponding flare of heat in his pants.
Scully wiggled closer, bumping the bed as she tried to feel
him, but Mulder kept her away from his erection. He didn't
want her to feel obligated in any way.
Scully broke the kiss, breathless. "Mulder," she said
against his hairline. "I have to tell you something."
His hands roamed her back. "It's okay, Scully." He could
stop with kissing. He could.
"We... we have to use a condom."
Mulder tensed. "What?"
She had stiffened too, but she gripped him tight. "Just to
be safe. The first tests came back clean, but I have to
repeat the one for HIV at least one more time to be sure. I
know it's not ideal, but until I know that everything's okay,
I don't want to put you at any risk."
His mind was still absorbing this new information, but his
first instinct was to soothe her. "Shh, Scully," he said,
hugging her. "It's all right. It's not a big deal. We can
pick some up later."
She kissed his head. "I have. I mean I did."
She pulled back and searched his face. "Is that okay?"
Truthfully, he was a little unnerved. In between the bouts
of tears and the nightmares, she had been shopping for
condoms? "Um, of course. Of course it's okay." He kissed
her collarbone and felt her heart pounding.
"Good." She relaxed some in his arms. Her hands stroked his
ribs and her lips found his again. Mulder held her close and
kissed her with all the reassurance he could muster. I love
you, Scully. I'm so sorry this happened to you, Scully.
But Scully didn't want comfort. She wanted him on his back
on the bed. Mulder ignored his anxiety and went along,
allowing her to push him down and crawl up next to him. She
sighed into his mouth, pointed little tongue making it hard
for him to think. One silky leg slipped between his.
"Scully," he said when he could talk, "are you sure?" He
stroked the hair off her face. "It's not too soon?"
She frowned. "I'm fine, Mulder."
His skin rippled from head to toe as she rubbed her thigh on
his leg. Okay, he thought, if she is fine then it must be
all right. He kissed her forehead, her eye, her nose, but
Scully took his head between her hands and guided him back to
her mouth. While they kissed, she stroked his ears until he
was humming into her mouth.
His heart thudded erratically, excited the way it sometimes
was just before he threw up, but his erection strained
against his cotton sweatpants. He felt dizzy, out of
control. Scully was grinding her lower body against him.
"Mulder, please," she whispered.
He bore down on her, tried to give her what she wanted.
Scully tugged his shirt over his head, and he cooperated.
The sudden cool air made goose bumps break out across his
back. Touch her, his brain commanded, and somehow he worked
his hand beneath her top to her breasts. Soft, familiar and
new at the same time, Mulder's tension eased a bit as he
caressed one swollen peak. She was hot, hard; she wanted
this. He could give it to her.
He focused on the tender nipple between his fingers. Scully
panted, squirming beneath him. She reached into his pants
and he jerked his hips back as if burned.
He kissed her again, slow and deep. Her legs wrapped around
him. When she pulled her mouth from his and looked up at
him, her face was flushed, lips parted and red. Her eyes had
gone from blue to black. He had her pinned with his full
*I can make you.*
"Mulder," she said again, pleading this time. He couldn't
breathe. He saw her trapped with her legs spread, eyes dark
with fear. Gasping, he rolled off her and scrambled from the
bed. Scully sat up.
"Mulder, what's wrong?"
"I can't," he said shaking his head. Her expression went
from puzzled to bruised.
"Oh." She hugged herself.
"No, it's not like that. It's not."
"You don't have to explain, Mulder." She got up from the bed
and headed for the bathroom. Horror and panic chased each
other around in his head.
"It's not you, Scully. Wait, listen."
"Mulder, I said it was fine," she said over her shoulder. He
watched her gather up her wet clothes.
"I just think about what happened to you, and even though I
know this is different, I just--"
He broke off as she pushed by him with her clothes still
dripping on the carpet.
"Where are you going?"
"To my room." Her voice was tight and controlled.
"This is your room." He walked to her, touched her arms from
behind, but she shrugged him off and continued packing
"No, this is your room," she told him.
"Please don't go. Not like this. I--I... We can try again."
She shot him a look that chilled his spine. Her suitcase
refastened, she grabbed the other room key and walked to the
door. Mulder felt like a toad. He'd hurt her, and now she
was going out in the dark, rainy night wearing just her
"Scully," he said, his voice thick as he blocked her exit.
"Please let me explain."
She looked at the floor. "You have. You're not ready. It's
fine, Mulder. Really. Just let me go."
He slumped. "At least let me be the one to go. You can stay
"I don't want to stay another minute in this room," she
whispered. Mulder stepped aside. What could he say to that?
Rain swept in when she opened the door. He stood at the
threshold, getting wet all over again as he watched her march
down the path to the stairs. He stood there even after he
heard the upstairs door slam. When at last he shut himself
again inside the dull, quiet room, there was no one there to
dry his tears.
As horrible as this must have been for Scully, my sympathies are with Mulder in this scene. She's totally not reading him but he gamely presses on, doing his best to suppress his own feelings in deference to hers. Then he gets slapped for it, and feels terrible to boot. Poor Mulder!
She was too mortified even to cry. Scully spent the night
curled in a ball under the starched motel sheet, blinking in
the darkness. She hugged the pillow and tried to squeeze
away the sound of Mulder's rejection. Of course he would be
disgusted. Another man had forced her down on the ground and
shoved his way inside her. She was disgusted when she
thought about it.
So she didn't. Think about it.
But Mulder would never be able to follow suit; he thought
about everything, all the time, perseverated on injustices
great and small. And now, when he looked at her, he only
thought about one thing. As long as he remembered, so would
Scully hid in her bed while the dawn crept up to her window,
brightening the cracks. By six she could no longer deny the
sun. She dragged her stiff body from beneath the sheets and
dressed tiredly with just the light from the bathroom. A
quick look at her cell phone told her she'd received three
new messages during the night. She left the room without
listening to a single one.
Outside, muggy morning air promised a scorcher of a day.
Already the rain puddles were evaporating back into the sky.
It was still quiet, road traffic infrequent and birds
flitting in the trees. Scully squinted as she walked down the
stairs to the lower level. At the bottom, the sight of
Mulder's door stopped her in her tracks. She would have to
pass in front of it to get to the lobby, where coffee
awaited. Her anxious heart buried itself between her ribs,
but her head throbbed for caffeine. Caffeine won out.
Scully held her breath, kept her head down, and marched past
room 134 without a backward glance.
Their motel fee included a continental breakfast, which was
self-served in the alcove next to the check-in desk, right
between the pay phone and a rack of tourist pamphlets.
Scully skipped the lackluster pastries and poured herself a
Styrofoam cup's worth of black coffee. She got approximately
five minutes of silence before a round, bland-faced couple
and their three young children entered to raid the donuts.
Scully shifted to stand near the front desk, where the young
woman with a ponytail gave her a wide, friendly smile.
"Hello," she said. "Is the coffee all right for you this
Scully raised her eyebrows as she sipped. "Yes, it's fine.
"Y'all down for the Garden Grove square dance competition?"
Scully managed to swallow the coffee without choking. "Uh,
"Oh." The smile didn't fade. "Folks come from all over this
time of year, and I just assumed when the two of you checked
in last night together that's what you were here for.
Leastways, that's true for most of our couples."
"No, we're here to see--" Scully searched her memory for the
man supposedly in charge of the UFO cult. "Jared Rentham. Do
you know him?"
The smile faltered and then reappeared. "Jared? Sure,
everyone around here knows him. He runs that group out at
the old army compound. I see him every now and then at the
farmer's market buying corn. My mom said that he moved here
from New Orleans, that he used to be a fortune teller there."
She lowered her voice and leaned toward Scully. "His wife
was murdered. That's why he came out here."
"Do you know how she died?"
The girl looked to make sure the vacationing family wasn't
listening. "I heard she burned to death."
"What about Tina Appleby? Do you know her?"
"Never met her. Saw her in the papers, though, when she
joined up with Jared's group. Her family wasn't too happy
about it, on account of Tina had two little kids."
"Why did Tina join?"
The girl again cast a look over at the family before
answering. "Jared, he believes in UFOs. He says that the
aliens come and take people for experiments, and that the
government knows about it but doesn't protect people.
Supposedly..." She stopped and fiddled with the cord coming
out of the computer keyboard.
The girl sighed. "I don't know if I believe it, but some
folks say he can tell by looking at you whether you've been
tested by the aliens."
She pointed at the sky. "You know, probed...or whatever."
The hairs stood up on the back of Scully's neck, right about
where she'd been probed, and the coffee sloshed in her cup.
"And Tina, uh, she'd been tested?"
"That's what the paper said." The girl shrugged. "But it
also said she's failed out of AA three times, so who can know
for sure if it's true? Jared looks harmless enough to me,
but I don't go out of my way to talk to him, if you know what
I mean. My boyfriend Jimmy's a cop, and he told me Jared
checked out okay, but then he said to stay away from him just
the same. So I do. Maybe Jared's not dangerous or anything,
but he sure is crazy."
"What makes you say that?"
The girl rolled her eyes. "He believes in aliens, doesn't
As if on cue, the front bell tinkled and Mulder came through
the door. He stopped, feet still on the mat, and all heads
except Scully's turned to stare. She looked at her cup.
"Good morning," the girl behind the counter said. "Help
yourself to coffee and pastries right over there."
"Yeah, thanks," Mulder said. Scully could feel him looking
at her, felt herself shrinking inside. She watched his
shadow move towards her across the floor until it disappeared
into her own. Mulder breathed down on her. "Morning," he
murmured, and she nodded to her coffee. She wasn't sure how
this was going to work if she could never look him in the
eyes again. "I called you last night," he told her, his
voice still low.
"I left you messages."
"I haven't checked." She took a deep breath and met his
gaze. There were dark smudges under his eyes, and she could
see a nick on his jaw where he had cut himself shaving.
Mulder studied her a minute before nodding sadly.
"Okay. Scully, I just wanted to say--" The vacationing
family trooped out behind him, forcing Mulder to crowd closer
to Scully. He bumped her and she jerked back against the
counter. "Sorry," he said, reaching out a hand to steady
"Mulder, please." She squeezed from between him and the
counter. "I can't do this now."
"Of course not," he said quickly, and she felt her cheeks
warm. The girl behind the counter listened in with the
deliberate casualness of a seasoned gossip.
Scully cleared her throat. "Mulder, this is..." She stopped
when she realized she didn't know the girl's name.
"Sharon Loeing," the girl filled in for her.
"Ms. Loeing was telling me what she knew about Jared
Rentham," Scully explained.
It took Mulder a minute to focus enough to respond.
"Rentham," he said, turning to the girl at last. "Right.
You know him?"
"Oh, not really. Just passing on what all I've heard."
"It seems that Mr. Rentham is running a retreat of sorts for
alien abductees," Scully said. "This was the reason for Tina
"She was abducted? Her brother didn't mention that part."
"Maybe because it didn't really happen," Scully countered.
"From what I've heard, it's Jared Rentham who determines
whether someone had been abducted or not. Tina Appleby was a
single mother with two kids and a history of alcohol abuse.
It wouldn't surprise me to find that Jared Rentham takes
advantage of people who are down on their luck and sways them
into joining his... organization."
"Wait, you're saying he picks the women and not the other way
"Supposedly," Scully said, "he can tell by looking at you if
you were abducted."
"Oh." Mulder stared hard at Scully. She refused to blink.
So far, she hadn't heard any evidence that Jared Rentham was
anything other than a charlatan who preyed on vulnerable
"I suppose the only way to know is to find Tina and ask her,"
Sharon Loeing's eyes widened. "Y'all are going out to the
"You know of a reason why we shouldn't?" Scully asked.
"Well, it's just they don't welcome many visitors. There's
barbed wire around the whole property."
Mulder looked speculatively at Scully. "Somehow, I think
he'll let us in."
I wasn't sure what to do as far as a case in this story. I toyed with the idea of setting it firmly within a season and pretending this happened behind the scenes on various episodes, but decided that wouldn't work. I didn't want a huge investigation, but I wanted to give them something to do. Fourteen chapters of weeping and arguing just isn't very interesting. *g* So I opted for mytharc, which I thought would complement the Scully violation storyline. As it turned out, I got to use it more for Mulder.
They stopped at Chet Appleby's first.
In the car on the way, Scully looked out the window the whole
time so Mulder would not be tempted to start up a
conversation. The landscape mirrored her feelings -- flat
and empty -- and Mulder wisely kept his mouth shut. She
heard him working over a seed between his teeth, a sure sign
that his brain was marking double time. Scully clutched the
file folders on her lap and studied the passing bramble.
"Worried he'll recognize you?" Mulder asked at length.
She turned in her seat. "Mulder, don't tell me you believe
"I don't know. I'm wondering if you believe it."
"I can't believe you even have to ask."
"Right. It would be a neat trick, though, don't you think?
If it's true." He paused. "Of course, you might not be the
best person to test his apparent ability."
"What does that mean?"
He shrugged. "I've known you for seven years, Scully, and I
still can't tell one thing just by looking at you."
"I see. So if you don't find what you're hoping for in Jared
Rentham, it's my fault."
"I didn't say that."
He glanced at her. "Scully, you're not always the easiest
person to read," he answered mildly. "This can't come as a
It did. Hurt burst inside her like a balloon. She blinked
back hot tears and returned to staring out the window. I
don't get you, he might have said, the one person she'd
thought had understood.
"I don't know what to tell you," she managed at last.
"I know," said Mulder sadly. "I think that's the problem."
He turned the car off the main road into Chet Appleby's
neighborhood, where the grass went from dry and unkempt to
green and manicured. Evenly spaced white houses lined the
wide street, while the sun beat down on the treeless ground.
Appleby's house turned out to be the one with the bluebird
mailbox and a tricycle parked in the drive.
Mulder and Scully did not speak to each other upon approach.
Scully lifted the brass knocker as Mulder peeked in the
column of windows that framed the front door. Appleby
answered promptly and ushered them into a spotless living
room that still bore vacuum tracks on the beige carpet. He
was a nebbish of a man, with too-short hair and a white,
short-sleeved button down shirt. He moved a floppy stuffed
dog off the armchair before he sat down.
"I never wanted kids," he said. "Myra didn't either. But it
was either take in Tina's daughters or have them put into
foster care, and we couldn't abide that. We kept thinking
that Tina would come to her senses and want them back. As
you might have guessed from our phone call earlier, it hasn't
turned out that way."
Please welcome Chet "Mr. Exposition" Appleby to today's game!
Not the prettiest way to get information out, alas. But sometimes you have to grin and bear it.
"How long has Tina been gone?" Mulder asked from his seat on
the floral sofa.
"Eight months now. Tina met Rentham at the grocery and she
moved out to the compound that night. She dropped her kids
off here and that was that. I've talked to the Sheriff's
office almost every week since Tina took up with that
horrible man, but they keep telling me there is nothing they
can do. She's not being held against her will. Brainwashed,
maybe, but they don't use force to get her to stay."
"Have you talked to Tina at all since she joined the group?"
"She sends letters, sometimes with a few dollars to help out
with the children. I can barely bring myself to read them
because they are all full of UFO crap."
"I'd like to see them, if you have them," Mulder said.
"Of course." He rose and went to the desk in the corner,
where he retrieved a small bundle of envelopes. Mulder
started reading while Scully asked more questions.
"Did Tina tell you why she decided to join Jared Rentham's
He pursed thin lips and brushed invisible lint from his
pants. "Tina's had a problem with alcohol off and on for ten
years now, but about six years ago was the lowest point.
This was before she had the kids and before Dan died. I give
that man credit for turning her around when none of us could.
If he was alive today, Tina would never have fallen into
Rentham's hands. Anyway, around that time, it wasn't unusual
for us to go weeks without hearing from Tina. When she did
show up, usually it was asking for money."
"Says here that Tina remembers being abducted from a local
farm," Mulder said, looking at the letters.
Appleby nodded wearily. "That's what Rentham told her. More
likely she just blacked out for a day."
Scully looked at Mulder, but his attention had returned to
Tina's letters. "Mr. Appleby," she said, "I'm not sure what
you hope to get out of our involvement. The Sheriff is
absolutely correct that we can't forcibly remove Tina from
Rentham's compound. If he hasn't broken any laws, if she is
there peaceably, then our hands are tied."
"Talk to him," pleaded Appleby. "See for yourself what kind
of monster he is. If Tina were thinking clearly, she would
want to be home, with her daughters. She was just getting
her life back and that man came and took it from her again."
"If you can prove he's a fraud, she might listen to you.
Mulder stood up. "We'll talk to him. Agent Scully's right,
though: we can't make you any promises about your sister."
Appleby bit his lip. "If she just knew how much the girls
"We'll see what we can do," Mulder assured him. Scully had a
hard time looking the desperate man in the eye, knowing that
they were probably not going to be able to give him what he
"You're going now?" Appleby asked. "Let me go with you."
"I don't think that's such a good idea," Mulder said.
"Please. The compound is difficult to find, but I know how
to get there. I'll wait in the car if you like."
Mulder sighed and relented. "You do exactly what we say."
"Oh, thank you. Let me just get my things and telephone Myra
to tell her where I'll be."
He left the room and Scully nodded at the letters still in
Mulder's hand. "Well?" she asked.
"She says Rentham has seen the aliens, that they killed his
wife. He says they're coming back."
"Terrific. Does he give a date and location?"
"No, but Tina does. The date she was abducted: August 9,
Two days after Duane Barry and Skyland mountain. Scully felt
like she was back playing tug-of-war with Bill and his big
friends, heels sliding into the mud pit even as she held on
for dear life. She swallowed with effort. "And you think
this means we were riding around in a spaceship together?"
she asked Mulder, more sharply than she intended.
He looked down at her with compassionate eyes. "I don't know
what it means, Scully, but here may be one chance to find
Nononono. She screwed her eyes shut and gripped the back of
"Scully? Are you okay?"
"I'm ready," Appleby announced as he returned to the room.
Scully sucked in a breath and released the chair. "Then
Appleby sat in the back, twisting his wedding band around his
finger and giving directions to Mulder. As promised, finding
the compound involved a number of tricky turns down unmarked
roads. Thirty minutes later, Mulder rolled the car to a stop
in front of a high fence topped with barbed wire. "That sure
as hell isn't to keep any aliens out," Mulder muttered.
"Rentham says it's to keep out the nonbelievers," Appleby
replied. "So we can't distract the others from their
All three got out of the car, and when Mulder saw Appleby was
following them, he stopped. "I thought you were going to
wait in the car."
Appleby's small face took on a look of determination. "If
Rentham doesn't want me there, I will. Otherwise, I feel I
have the right to be present."
Mulder looked at Scully, who shrugged. "We do the talking,"
he warned Appleby.
They walked up the dirt road to the gate, where a camera
tracked their arrival. Mulder hit the buzzer on the
intercom. "FBI," he said when asked. "We're here to talk to
"Mr. Rentham is not available," came the crackling reply.
"He's there," hissed Appleby over Mulder's shoulder. "I know
"We've come a long way," Mulder said into the speaker. "If
we could just talk to Mr. Rentham for a few minutes."
"I'm sorry, but Mr. Rentham--" The voice broke off, and they
heard nothing for several long seconds. When the speaker
came back on, the voice had changed to a deep, mellow tone.
"Welcome to Sanctuary House, agents. Do come in." The door
gave a long buzz, and Mulder pushed it open. Inside was a
small courtyard with the same dusty dirt floor, but it
contained several small trees whose delicate branches
suggested they might have originated in Asia. There was a
stone birdbath, and two long benches that faced one another.
Everything was quiet. They walked up the flagstone path to
the main building -- a short, wide structure built with aging
Scully almost expected to be met by a bald man in a flowing
robe. She was half right. Jared Rentham emerged from a door
at the end of the entry hall wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt
with a Celtic clan symbol on the front. He had a long face
with a long, thin nose to match, and when he got closer,
Scully saw he wasn't quite bald -- there was a ring of pale,
fine hair circling his head just above his ears. Scully hung
back a bit as he approached. "Agents," he said. "Welcome
again. I am Jared Rentham, and I'll be happy to answer any
questions you might have."
"What have you done with my sister?" Appleby demanded.
Mulder elbowed him.
"I'm Fox Mulder, and this is my partner, Dana Scully. You
may already know Chet Appleby."
"By reputation only," Rentham demurred. He offered his hand
to Appleby, who refused it, and then shook Mulder and
Scully's hands in turn. When Scully tried to pull away,
Rentham held on. "I noticed you outside," he said, fingers
tracing lightly over the skin of her wrist. "Have we met
"No, I don't think so."
"I could swear it." His eyes crinkled at the corners as he
tried to place her. "Oh!" he said suddenly, and Scully felt
a spark against her hand. She jerked free. Rentham smiled
at her. "You've been among them," he said. "You will
understand how important our work is."
"What the hell is he talking about?" Appleby asked
suspiciously. Mulder moved himself between Rentham and
"Just what sort of 'work' do you do here, Mr. Rentham?"
"Information gathering, mainly," he said, his eyes still on
Scully. Her breathing grew shallow, sweat breaking out
across the back of her neck. She let Mulder take the lead.
"Information about what?"
"Them." He nodded at Scully. "If you need explanation, your
partner can fill you in."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Scully whispered.
Rentham made a tsk-tsk sound at the back of his throat.
"Denying it won't stop them. You have to understand what
happened to you in order to fight."
"What is this?" Appleby began backing away. "What the hell
is he talking about, she's one of them?"
"Calm down, Mr. Appleby," Mulder said. "We're asking the
"No, it's not okay! I want to see my sister, and I want to
see her now." He was shaking from head to toe. Mulder gave
the high sign to Scully, and she agreed: time to get Appleby
off the premises.
"Why don't we go outside for a minute," she suggested,
touching his arm. Appleby shook her off.
"Get away from me! I don't know what your connection is to
this place, but just stay the hell away. Bring me my
sister," he hollered at Rentham. "I want to see her NOW!"
"I'm afraid that's not possible," Rentham said.
"I say it is." Appleby pulled out a gun and aimed it at
Rentham. "Take me to Tina."
Scully's pulse tripped over itself. Mulder's jaw tensed, his
eyes gone black. "Hold on a second, Chet," he said. "Let's
work this out."
"I want to see Tina. I want her to come home with me." The
gun wavered in the air, three feet from Scully. Rentham was
the only one who did not look worried.
"I can take you to her," he said, "but she won't leave. I
have explained before that everyone who is here stays here
willingly. I exert no force. We have no weapons." He eyed
Appleby's trembling gun. "Your sister is happy here. I
believe she's told you before that she does not wish to
"You did this to her!" Appleby sobbed. "It was you!"
"I did nothing to Tina," Rentham answered calmly. "It was
The shot split Scully's head open; at least that's how it
felt. Her ears hurt and the terrible noise reverberated in
her skull. When she opened her eyes, she saw Rentham lying
dead on the ground. She didn't even need to take his pulse.
Appleby's shot had gone through Rentham's left eye and blown
apart his brain. Her mouth hung open in horror so long the
back of her throat dried out. When at last the noise
cleared, she became aware of wracking sobs from behind her.
She turned and saw Mulder restraining Appleby.
"She's free now," he said over and over. "She can go home."
At the Sheriff's station, they were alone in a room with the
woman who had caused more heartache than Helen of Troy. Tina
Appleby was small like her brother but rounder and less edgy.
Where Chet had vibrated with anger, Tina wept quietly at the
interrogation table, dabbing her eyes with a wrinkled
Kleenex. "What will we do now?" she asked of Mulder and
Scully. "Jared was the one who brought us together. He was
the one who knew what was happening. He said if we didn't
prepare for Them to return, we would end up a slave race.
Chet didn't understand. He didn't see that I was doing this
for my children and for their children's children."
"When did you first meet Jared Rentham?" Mulder asked.
Scully, still rattled, leaned against the wall near the
corner. She looked at this woman with her bad dye job and
chewed-off fingernails. This is not me, she thought.
"He was really friendly-like," Tina was saying. "Asked me
about my baby, Charlene, and told me I seemed real familiar.
I had seen him before. Everyone said he was kind of a freak,
but when you talked to him, it was like... like talking to
God. He could see right inside me. He knew right away that
I'd been through a tough time, what with Dan getting sick and
passing on, but when he mentioned the lights from the Hartman
farm, I just felt a chill go through me. I'd never told
anyone about that night before."
"Which night?" Mulder asked. Scully folded her arms.
"About six years ago, before I knew Dan or anything like
that. I--I was drinking a lot back then. Me and Rudy
Hartman were down at Jimmy Z's bar until around closing,
hitting the Jack and Cokes pretty good. When Jimmy kicked us
out, Rudy said he had a six-pack back at his place, if I
wanted to go back with him. I said sure. We drank and
fooled around a bit, you know. I don't remember much after
that, except I think I went outside to get some air. I
remember looking up at the stars and thinking they were
brighter than I'd ever seen before, like when the sun glints
off the water. Then the lights started moving. I felt
myself being lifted in the air. The next thing I know--"
she broke off and looked at her lap.
"The next thing you know, what?" Mulder prodded.
"I know this sounds stupid. But I was on a train." Scully
felt a chill go through her. She backed further into the
wall. "I don't know how I knew this. Maybe someone told me.
Maybe I heard the whistle, I don't know. But I was on this
table, under a sheet, and I didn't have any clothes on. The
whole room kind of glowed with this eerie blue light. I
wasn't tied down but I couldn't move my arms or legs. Men in
masks, like surgeons, came in and out. Sometimes they would
talk to me but usually not. I was so cold that I couldn't
feel my toes."
"What did these men want with you?" Mulder asked.
"I don't know. They hooked me up to machines and poked me
with cold metal instruments. I couldn't speak to ask what
was going on, but I don't remember being very afraid at the
"How long were you on this train?"
She sniffled. "I couldn't say. It felt like forever but
also not long at all. I can't describe it. But I remember
this one man, an Asian man, who came in near the end. He was
gentler than the others. He stroked my cheek and he talked
"What did he say?" Mulder asked, leaning forward.
"It makes no sense," Tina replied. "It was like a saying or
She took a deep breath. "He said, 'Even the smallest ant--"
"--can destroy the dam," Scully finished with her in a
murmur. Only when Mulder turned did she realize she'd spoken
"Yeah, that's right," Tina agreed.
"Scully?" Mulder asked, looking at her with concern.
She felt the floor shift under her, the room suddenly
airless. "I'll be back," she said, heading for the door.
She barreled through it to the cool, dark corridor on the
other side. Gulping air, she went to the rest room and
washed cold water over her enflamed skin. Her hands still
trembled when she held them out in front of her, so she paced
the length of the room slowly, talking herself down.
You're okay. It's all right. Just get control and go back
Her phone made her jump when it rang. "Scully," she said
crisply, hiding her weak limbs with a sharp voice.
"Dana, this is Chris Clark with the DA's office."
She let out a long breath. "Mr. Clark, of course. What can
I do for you?"
"I have some potentially good news. Detective Savioshy
arrested a suspect this evening. He's in custody as we
When Scully fled the interrogation room, Mulder did not
follow. Tina Appleby was there, still talking, and on the
other side of the one-way mirror Sheriff Seaver watched her
and Mulder equally, waiting for a satisfactory explanation as
to why Jared Rentham had ended up decorating Sanctuary House
with his brains on Mulder's watch. "This is not how we do
things around here, son," had been Seaver's words on the
topic. "What the hell did you bring Chet on up there for,
Mulder forced his attention back to Tina's narrative. "Damned
if I know," she was saying. "I could have been gone two
weeks or two hours. Rudy said he woke up and I was just
Mulder glanced at the door and made a humming noise in his
throat. Scully didn't reappear.
Tina continued, "I came to in the park across the street from
my apartment. My legs were all wobbly, like when you've been
on a boat drinking, and I couldn't remember much at first."
Mulder turned his attention back to her, really seeing her
for the first time since they had brought her down to the
station. Her nails were down to the quick but still she
chewed at them. She wore baggy pants and an over-sized T-
shirt that hid most of her body. No makeup. Tears streaked
her round, smooth face, and she hunched in her chair as
though she were the guilty criminal. Wet, haunted eyes
looked around the room, everywhere at once.
Fuck, Mulder thought.
He raised his fist as though to slam it on the table, but
caught the fear in Tina's eyes and brought it down gently
instead. "Excuse me," he said.
He threaded his way through the narrow hall, dodging
officers, feeling sweaty and cold at the same time.
Adrenaline was wearing off. He could find her in the ladies'
bathroom, he knew, but he stopped outside without knocking.
Leaning his head on the door, he closed his eyes and let his
ragged breath steam the peeling paint.
Scully was more like him than most people knew. She, too,
carried her pain forward, refusing to diminish it by letting
go. But whereas he waved his around like a red flag in front
of the bull, Scully scrunched hers into a silent, heavy mass.
He ran head-forward while she ran straight away, but really,
they were chasing the same thing. Mulder found this thought
both unsettling and oddly comforting.
The door jerked open and he righted himself, blinking as
Scully appeared in front of him. Like Tina, her face had
been wiped clean, but her hair was combed and her eyes were
clear. "Mulder," she said with a frown. "What's going on?
Where's Tina Appleby?"
"Still in interrogation." He noticed she had her cellular
phone in her hand. "Everything okay?"
"I have to go back to D.C. Savioshy needs me for a lineup."
He leaned in, pulse spiking again. "They got the guy?"
"Apparently red-handed." She looked at his chest as she
spoke. "They arrested him in a parking lot with a knife."
"That's great, Scully," he said, and then realized how that
had sounded. "I mean, I'm glad they got him."
"Yeah." She hesitated, smoothing her jacket with her palms.
"Anyway, I have to get back as soon as possible. They want
to do the lineup before he's arraigned."
"You're leaving now?"
"My flight's in four hours."
"What about Tina Appleby?"
"What about her, Mulder? We came out here to investigate her
brother's claim that she had been abducted by Jared Rentham.
Clearly, there was no abduction; she was with him of her own
volition. As for any cult that Rentham may or may not have
been involved in, well, it seems rather moot now, doesn't
"Because he's dead." It came out as an accusation, against
whom he wasn't sure.
"And that's..." Scully stumbled. "Unfortunate. But it
doesn't change the fact that our involvement in this case is
finished. Rentham's dead. Chet Appleby is in jail, and Tina
Appleby is a free woman. What more do you hope to accomplish
"Her story, Scully, didn't it sound familiar?"
"Actually, it sounded fragmented and incoherent. I'll grant
you that there were elements in her narrative that we've
"And that doesn't mean anything to you?"
"What do you want it to mean, Mulder? Suppose you're right.
Let's just agree for the sake of argument that everything
Tina Appleby said was true: that she was abducted by
extraterrestrials, experimented on by men on a train, and
returned some uncertain amount of time later. How does this
help us? What have we learned?"
"You're saying you believe her."
"I'm saying it doesn't make a difference whether I believe
He shook his head. "How can you think that?" he asked
softly, searching her face.
Scully looked at the floor for a long minute before
answering. "She's a victim, Mulder. She's confused; she's
scared. Tina Appleby has no more insight into what happened
to her or who is behind it than the cows in the field from
which she vanished."
"But you agreed," he said, "that we've heard this story
"Yes. And where has it gotten us?" When he didn't answer,
she sighed. "Take her statement, Mulder. Tell her we'll try
our best. Then tell her--"
"Tell her to get on with her life." She walked away, heels
clicking briskly, not waiting for him to follow.
This bit is one of the Mulder/Scully exchanges I think came out exactly the way I intended. They are talking about Tina, of course, but also about Scully. Every step Mulder takes toward action, Scully shuts him down.
Even at two in the morning, Scully's plane faced delays.
They sat at the gate endlessly while the airport cleared an
obstruction from the runway. Scully pinched the bridge of
her nose between her fingers and was glad for the stillness.
She hunkered down in the shadows at the rear of the cabin,
away from the others. Her clothes smelled of cigarette
smoke, of desperation and dead things. The explosive gunshot
still echoed in her head, but when she closed her eyes it was
Tina Appleby's pale face she saw.
Too tired to read, too wired to sleep, Scully dug out her
cell phone, intending to switch it off for the duration of
the flight. Mulder's unread messages glowed back at her from
the tiny screen. Scully selected the button to play them and
hesitantly put the phone to her ear. The first message was
"Hey, Scully, it's me. I know it's late, but call me if you
get this, okay?"
He sounded more tired by the second one. "I guess your phone
must be off. I feel terrible about what happened, Scully.
Please call me."
Scully's eyes welled from the day's unrelenting tension. She
covered her mouth with her hand as Mulder's final message
played. "I know you're not answering. I just wanted to
say..." Silence stretched for several seconds. "I thought I
could handle it, but I guess it's obvious by now that I
couldn't. I kept thinking about what happened, what you must
have been through."
She flashed on parking lot, the hard ground, the man shoving
himself inside her. It took her breath away.
"I'm sorry about everything," Mulder finished hoarsely.
"It's my fault, and I'm so sorry."
Scully gulped in air as she snapped the phone shut. Fuck
you, she thought, tears escaping the corner of her eyes. What
the fuck have you got to be sorry about?
The captain told them to turn off all electronic devices as
the plane started rolling toward the runway. Soon the roar
of the engines obliterated everything, Scully thrown back
against the seat under their power as she was lifted away,
away, the world disappearing beneath the clouds.
Scully had consumed two cups of coffee, stared the print off
the newspaper, and dissected out the rims of the Styrofoam
cups using just her thumbnail when at last Detective Savioshy
came through the door again. "Sorry to keep you waiting so
long," he said as he wedged himself into the small,
windowless room. "The kid's family hired an expensive lawyer
who's been busting our chops all afternoon. We should be set
to go in just a few minutes."
"That's what ADA Clark said two hours ago."
The conference table wobbled as Savioshy lowered himself onto
one corner. "Bellamy -- that's the lawyer -- has been
questioning every step of the lineup, from the lighting to
the people who get to be in the observation room. But the
delay is really for your benefit."
"How do you mean?"
"They want you to get nervous while you wait, maybe even
change your mind. It's happened before. Witnesses get a
little too much time to think about things, and they get
"I don't spook that easily," Scully told him.
"No, ma'am, I don't imagine you do." He smiled and shoved
off from the table. Scully took a deep breath.
"But I didn't see much," she said. "It was dark and he had
the stocking over his face. I don't know how much help I can
"You're here," he said. "That counts for a lot. Just go in,
take a look, and tell us if anyone stands out."
"But you have enough to hold him without me, right?"
"Caught the sonofabitch red-handed," Savioshy said. "He
ain't going nowhere. Just sit tight for another few minutes,
He left, closing the door behind him, and a few minutes
later, Christopher Clark stuck his head in the room. "Dana,
thanks for waiting. We're ready for you now."
Scully stood and wiped her hands on her hips. She hadn't,
until that very moment, considered the fact that the man from
the parking lot was in the same building with her. Barely a
man. A kid. He had a family, Savioshy had said. Parents
who had probably kissed his little cheeks and bought him
footy pajamas, and who now disbelieved their son could hide
with a knife in the bushes or rape ten unsuspecting women.
Outside the door to the viewing room, Scully halted. Clark
touched his hand to the small of her back. "You okay?"
She nodded, determined. "Let's do it."
Clark opened the door for her, and Scully stepped inside a
small, tense room filled with grim people. Savioshy stood
near the one-way mirror. He had one of his younger officers
with him as well. Lining the back wall were two women and
one man, all dressed in suits.
"Agent Scully, this is Armand Davis from the King County DA's
office," Clark said of the first man. "He's just here to
observe in case they end up trying some of the cases up
Scully could have guessed his role from the grateful look in
his eyes. "Pleased to meet you, Agent Scully," he said.
"Thank you for coming." She wondered if any of the King's
County victims had decided to testify.
"And this," Clark continued, "is Nora Bellamy."
The rapist's lawyer stepped forward on high heels that
rivaled Scully's own. She was older, with papery skin and a
mess of hair that was somewhere between blonde and gray. It
had been pinned on top her head but was threatening to break
free. She had the look of someone who had been around the
block and then moved in: this was her turf and she knew it.
"Ms. Scully," she said, her voice pitched low and Southern,
"it's lovely to meet you. Thank you for your patience this
afternoon." She gave Scully's hand a quick, firm shake.
"This is my associate, Fiona Hamill."
Nora knows Scully's title but doesn't use it. The intimidation has begun!
"If you'll just come over here to the window," Clark said,
"we'll bring them in."
Scully allowed him to lead her over to where Savioshy stood
with his hand already poised at the intercom. The room on
the other side of the glass was well lit and empty. "Send
'em in," Savioshy said into the speaker.
Scully braced herself on the hard wooden ledge as the door
opened and a line of young men paraded in front of her. Her
heart beat high in her throat. The men stopped on their
marks, facing forward, and seemed to stare right through the
glass. All white and dark-haired, they wore jeans and T-
shirts and harmless, blank expressions.
"Take your time," Savioshy said gently.
Scully nodded without looking at him. Her eyes were glued to
the five men on the other side of the window, seeing all of
them and none of them at the same time. She couldn't focus.
A dark eye here; a big shoulder there. Her gaze raced up and
down the men like fingers over piano keys. Which one? Which
one? She felt the pressure of the room bearing down on her.
"Can they turn?" she whispered, buying time.
"Face right," Savioshy said through the speaker. The sound
of heavy feet on the floor echoed back as they complied.
Four's chin seemed too pointed. Five wasn't tall enough? Or
maybe her memory was wrong.
Put stockings on their heads, she wanted to say. Then I'd
know for sure.
The mashed angry features from her dreams were not visible in
the light of day. If her rapist was one of the men in the
other room, she could have passed him on the street and never
"I think we've got our answer," Nora Bellamy said shortly.
"Give her time," Savioshy shot back.
"No," Scully replied, shaking her head. She shuddered with
her drawn breath. "I can't tell. I'm sorry."
"Thank you for your time, Ms. Scully. Clark, I'll be in
touch." Bellamy flashed a smile and disappeared with her
associate out the door.
"That's it," Savioshy said wearily into the speaker. The men
filed through the exit and the lights went out on the other
"I'm sorry," Scully repeated, and Savioshy waved her off.
"You tried. That's all that counts. We knew going in it was
a long shot. If you'll excuse me, I have to make sure his
ass goes back to jail and not out the front door."
"He won't be freed?" Scully asked Clark.
"Not yet. But I am sure Bellamy will ask for bail on
"But he was arrested with the knife and mask," Scully said.
"Surely that counts for something."
"It does. But he wasn't arrested in the process of
committing a crime. We have no witnesses. Bellamy will
argue that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong
"And that will work?"
"I'll do everything I can to see that it doesn't." He
touched her arm. "You okay for a minute? I want to catch
her before she leaves."
She jerked at the hard slap of the door, left alone in the
shadowed room. Darkness yawned where the men had stood, and
she began to feel him watching her from the black void, felt
a creeping sense of danger she had missed at the time. She
stared at the window, saw her own pale features reflected
there, and backed up slowly until she hit the far wall. He'd
been inside her and she didn't even know his face. Shaking,
she held her hands out in front of her, palms up, and began
sinking down to the floor. It was real. It happened. It
could never be undone.
"Dana?" Clark reappeared, and instantly he was at her side.
"My God, are you okay?"
"Yes," she said, struggling to her feet. He took her arm and
helped her up. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay. Take it easy. I'm the one who's sorry. We
shouldn't have left you alone like that."
"No." She swiped at her watery eyes. "I've done lineups
before. It's all right."
He fumbled a wadded up tissue at her. "Do you want some
water? Maybe some place to sit?"
"No, no. I'm fine. It's just been a long day." She
sniffed, hiding herself behind the tissue.
"Yeah," he said softly. She saw him look at the door.
"You're sure there's nothing I can get for you? No one I can
"What about Mulder?"
She folded the tissue in half and in half again before
answering. "Mulder's still in Texas."
"Oh, right. Your case." She felt him studying her. "Would
I be correct in assuming it's a rough one?"
"You could say that." Less than twenty-four hours ago, she'd
been wearing Jared Rentham's blood spatter in her hair.
Mulder hadn't called all day. She had no idea when he
planned to return.
"We owe you a greater debt, then," Clark said, "for leaving
your work to come help us with this."
"I wasn't any help."
"You were. You showed up. That's more than some of the
other women have done."
Scully looked up. "Did any of them ID him?"
"Not yet. But we are just beginning to mount our case.
Savioshy pulled his computer, his date book - they even took
his car down to the CS labs."
Scully asked the one question she had wanted to ask since his
call yesterday evening: "How did you catch him?"
"Savioshy's taskforce has been running with the idea that
this guy was a college student at a university with religious
affiliation, most probably a Christian college. They've been
contacting these schools and asking them about their recently
reported sexual assaults. Saint Joseph's University in
Philadelphia kicked out the name Gregory Watts. Watts had a
complaint filed against him for rape by a fellow student, but
she later withdrew the allegation. Turned out this guy Watts
lives down here during the summer months. His parents have a
house in Fairfax. A little more digging, and we found out
that the Philly PD has a couple of unsolved rape cases from
this past fall that bear an uncanny resemblance to the
attacks in the DC area. Savioshy went to find Watts, saw him
leave the house, and followed him."
"To a parking lot," Scully said. That much she knew already.
"That's right. When he saw Watts put the stocking cap on, he
busted his ass right then."
Scully nodded, letting it sink in. "So he's definitely the
"Oh, he's the guy, all right. And we will put him away for a
long, long time. I promise you."
She chuffed and he looked at her curiously. "I've made that
promise myself over the years," Scully told him. "The victim
looks to you for assurance. They want to believe in
"Does that shock you?" she asked, meeting his eyes. He
stared at her unblinking.
"Nothing shocks me. But I don't believe you."
"You don't know me," she countered.
"I know that you're here," he said. "That has to mean
She smiled a bit. "Yes, well, I do believe in prisons," she
said, and he smiled with her.
They stood there awkwardly for a moment until Scully tried to
walk past him toward the door. "I should get going," she
"Oh, of course." He shifted at the same time she did and
ended up blocking her path again. "Sorry," he said, but he
didn't move further. She looked up at him, expectant. "Have
dinner with me."
Scully had not thought of food all day. Her fridge probably
held a carton of expired low-fat milk and a few limp
vegetables. And now he was asking her out? "Oh, no. I
"Not like that," he cut her off swiftly. "I mean, you've
been here all afternoon. You must be starving. You said
Mulder wasn't around, so I just figured..."
"You figured what?" Her guard was still up.
"Maybe you would like some company."
"Of course you are." She hugged her arms close to her chest,
and he said nothing for a moment. "Okay, it's me. I hate
eating in restaurants alone." She gave him a look of
disbelief. "It's true. The waitresses, they come over and
want to talk."
"Oh, I'm sure that must be so painful for you," she said, but
she was beginning to smile again.
"I end up with three bread baskets." He patted his middle.
"Please, you'd be doing my waistline a favor."
It was either this or go home to her silent apartment.
Still, she hesitated. "I don't know..."
"We don't have to talk about the case," he said gently.
"What will we talk about?"
He considered. "Our misspent youth tipping cows in Farmer
"I don't believe I've ever tipped a single cow."
"Oh." He heaved a dramatic sigh as he pulled the door open
for her. "Looks like I'll have to start the conversation
Chris Clark took a lot of grief for his attention to Scully, but at this point he's not trying to woo her. He's a man buried in his work and probably lonelier than he'd like to admit. Also, he's grateful to Scully for her help, and he feels sorry for what happened to her. But he figures she's taken.
Mulder came of age skulking in the basement with a
flashlight, so the bunker-style rooms beneath Sanctuary House
felt instantly familiar. He hadn't realized, however, how
accustomed he'd grown to the second lance of light that
usually played along side his. It seemed too dark without
Dust and lack of sleep had dried his eyes. He walked alone
down the hall until he reached the record room, where earlier
he had spread Jared Rentham's files across the floor.
Computer printouts from an old dot-matrix printer told each
person's story. Where possible, Rentham had photographed the
site of the abduction. Mulder had spent the afternoon
staring at cornfields, duck ponds, stretches of empty
highway, and, in the case of one Emmett Lincoln, a Wal-Mart
He remembered Skyland Mountain, with its clean pine air and
sharp white stars, the way the wind had stolen breath from
his body and whisked it into the night. This is the way the
world ends, they'd told him: one small redhead at a time.
Rentham had included photographs of the abductees as well -
black and white close-ups of unsmiling faces, young and old.
They reminded Mulder of growing up in Massachusetts
surrounded by images of Revolutionary War soldiers, who had
fought the enemy with nothing more than grim determination
and a musket from the basement. We've seen you now, their
eyes seemed to say. Just try to take us again.
This was his biggest worry for her, that all the denial
equaled unpreparedness, that she would never see them coming.
Mulder leaned back against the hard wall, his spine scraping
the concrete as he rubbed his tired eyes. Until then he
would keep looking for the both of them.
They ended up sharing a bottle of Chianti and a giant thin-
crust pizza topped with proscuitto, capers, olives and fresh
mozzarella. The candle was fake but the food was delicious.
"I begin to understand why the city is in a budget crisis,"
Scully said, "if you take all your witnesses out to dinner."
"Yes, thanks to the tax cuts, the Tiramisu is out. The best
I can offer is one of those mints at the door."
She smiled and shook her head. "I'll remember this at
"Actually," he said, "I confess my motives were not entirely
Scully felt her stomach lurch. "Oh?" she managed.
"Savioshy told me a little bit about the kind of work you do.
Now, the man can spin a fish story like you wouldn't believe,
but he swore up and down this was the God's honest truth:
you investigate aliens?"
Scully put down her wine glass. "Reports of extraterrestrial
activity, yes. Among other things. The X-Files division
handles a wide variety of cases."
"Division? How many agents are assigned to this kind of
"Oh," he said, and Scully squirmed inwardly at the
implication. She knew it was a cliche to most people, male
and female partners falling into bed together, but it was the
most unconventional relationship of her life. She wasn't
about to justify it to this man. "So these reports," he
asked, "is there anything to them? Are we truly not alone?"
You've been among them, Rentham had said. She could still
feel the slide of his cold fingers over her skin.
"I've seen things I can't explain any other way," she said,
watching for Chris's reaction. If there were a trial, he
would hear all the gory details. He stopped with his fork
halfway to his mouth.
"Really?" She nodded. "Huh," he said, and put the fork
"Well, you know how I was telling you about Farmer
Mcgillicuddy's field? One night I was out there with some
friends of mine, back in high school this was, and we were
just hanging and drinking beer when all of a sudden this
light flew over us. It was bright blue, not white like the
stars, and it disappeared down behind the mountains. As it
passed over us, all our hair stood up on end."
She raised her eyebrows. "And you think it was a UFO?"
"Like you said, I can't explain it any other way." He
smiled. "I don't usually tell that story to most of my
"What do you tell them?" she asked, grasping for a change of
"Oh, um." He looked chagrined. "The word 'usually' implies
a certain amount of frequency, doesn't it? Well, let's see.
The last time I was out with a woman I spent the entire
evening regaling her with my lawyerly prowess. She was
polite enough to listen the whole time, but when I called her
for a second date she declined, saying she thought perhaps I
had too much of myself invested in my work right now."
"Ouch," Scully said.
"Yeah, but she was right." He finished off his wine.
"I guess that's good for me, then."
"Yes." He smiled at her again. "Unlike that poor woman,
you're stuck with me for a while."
"How soon until trial, do you think?"
"Months." He leaned back in his seat with a sigh. "Bellamy
does not move quickly, but a lot will depend on whether she
fights us on our decision to try the cases jointly."
"Is that likely?"
He took his time in answering. "I would make a motion to
sever, if I were her. We don't have the same level of
evidence against Watts in every case."
"Hey, don't worry about it, okay?" He scooted in his chair
until his knees bumped her under the table. "That's my
problem, if and when it happens."
Instead of one rape, he'd gotten ten by proxy. She wondered
how many he had already lived through. "So you still
believe, then," she said, "in justice."
He drummed his fingers on the tablecloth and looked at her.
"Have you got a bit more time?"
"I want to show you something."
He took her out of the city, over dark hills and vales, where
a pregnant moon hung low in the sky. Thick summer trees
waved in the wind, and the air from the open windows grew
cool and sweet. He turned off the main road into blackness
and rolled the car to a stop on some grass. "Here we are,"
he announced. The slam of their car door broke the perfect
"And where is that, exactly?" Scully squinted at her murky
surroundings. They were in the middle of nowhere, as far as
she could tell. Her heart sped up, and she held her bag with
the gun in it a little bit closer.
You're fine, she told herself, but she jerked a bit when
"This way. Watch your step." He led her down a path through
the trees to a clearing with some sort of building on it.
His keys jangled in the darkness. "I only rent half of it,"
he said as she followed him closer. "The rest belongs to the
guy whose farm it's on."
He unlocked the door and hit the lights. Scully blinked as
her eyes adjusted. "It's a greenhouse."
"Yeah, come on inside." He rubbed his hands together and
moved aside so she could enter.
The concrete floor was wet beneath her feet. Cautiously, she
ducked a seven-foot plant with great hanging leaves. Exotic
tangles of greenery stretched from floor to ceiling; beds of
riotous color spread over the tables, flowers split open like
the sun. Beautiful, yes, but Scully felt a little like a bug
before the Venus Flytrap. She stood hunched in, careful not
to touch anything. Chris sucked in a deep breath and smiled
"All the oxygen concentrated in here," he said. "Gives me a
Scully breathed a bit deeper, taking in the primal scent of
dirt and water and life. She forced a smile even though she
hadn't the slightest clue what she was doing there. "It's--
"Let me give you the tour." He disappeared behind a sweep of
fern and she hurried to keep up. "This one here," he said,
"is an Apache Plume." The bush-like plant had long stems
with pink, feathered ends. "It's actually a member of the
rose family, if you can believe it, but the name comes from
the fact that the plumes look like old Apache war bonnets.
Go ahead -- touch."
"I have a black thumb," she warned him, and he smiled.
"Really, it's okay. You won't hurt it, see?" Tentatively,
Scully reached out and stroked the downy tufts. They tickled
like a laugh through her fingers.
"These are a kind of salvia," he told her as they moved down
the narrow aisle. Scully stooped to admire the delicate
"They look sort of like wind chimes."
"Oh, check this one out," he said, waving a new stem at her
from farther down the row. It was long and sleek, with a
giant teardrop-shaped bud at the end. She could see from the
buds that had bloomed already that it would become a medusa-
like flower -- a cloud of green snakes with tiny purple
heads. "This one always reminds me of 'Aliens'" Chris said
as he twisted the fat bud around so she could see the other
side. Sure enough, it had split at the stomach and the
snakes were starting to pop out. Scully smiled and shook
Bugs, on one visit, got dragged to the nursery so I could bone up on plants. *g* I think it was she who remarked about the resemblance to aliens.
"You are very strange, you know that?"
He shrugged and let the flower bounce back into position.
"You know how I told you about my dad, how we argued law all
the time?" She nodded. "Well, we made a lot of noise. Mom
let us raise the roof because she spent all her time out in
the yard taking care of her garden."
"Ahh," Scully said. She fingered the pouched blossom on a
pocket book plant. "So that's where you get it from."
"In a way." He leaned against the table, folding his arms so
his dress shirt stretched across his chest. "Mom got sick
when I was in high school. Cancer. She was too sick during
treatment to keep up with the garden. Dad was spending sixty
hours a week at work, and it fell on me to help her out."
"Yeah," he said softly. "I miss her, but she sure taught me
well." He smiled. "Some of these plants belonged to her."
"Really?" Scully looked at the surrounding jungle with new
"Yeah. The small Japanese Maple over there in the corner is
one. Oh, and this too." He showed her a bucket full of
branches with strange red flowers drooping from them.
"Feel," he suggested.
"Oh." Scully marveled as she rubbed the velvety flower
between her finger and thumb. "What is that?"
"Like it? It's called Kangaroo Paw."
"It's fabulous." She gave him her first genuine smile in
days. "Thank you for showing me all this."
"Happy to." He bopped her on the arm with a lily.
"But I don't understand what it has to do with justice," she
"Nothing. Sometimes it just helps to dig around in the
dirt." He waggled his eyebrows at her until she laughed.
"C'mere. I need some help transferring these seedlings."
Chris was already rolling up his sleeves, expecting her to
"I can't," she protested. "I'm, um, I'm not good with living
He grinned and handed her a clump of dirt with a tiny, tender
green sprout. "Here," he said. "Start small."
In his black motel room, the clock glowed nine fifty-two --
nearly eleven back in DC. Mulder lay on the bed with his arm
across his eyes and the phone to his ear. Two thousand miles
away in Scully's apartment, hers rang on and on, unanswered.
A pair of sedatives got her through the night, but Scully
awoke on Monday morning with her hair mashed to her cheek and
eyes that wouldn't quite open. She made coffee by motor
memory alone and stumbled to the front door to pick up her
paper. She brought it to the kitchen table, where she sat
with her cup and her uneaten bagel, hoping she could find the
energy to put on some clothes. Hot tails of steam rose from
her coffee as she focused bleary eyes on the headlines.
President in China. Bombing in Israel. Rapist Arraigned
The story was beneath the fold, a single column running
alongside the teasers for the stories in other sections.
Scully flattened it with her palm and squinted at the tiny
print. She was not wearing her glasses.
"St. Joseph's University student Gregory Alan Watts will be
arraigned in Arlington County Court today on charges of rape
and assault. Police are now saying they believe Watts is
responsible for a vicious series of rapes committed over the
past year throughout three counties in the greater D.C. area.
Watts, 20, is thought to be responsible for at least ten
attacks, including one assault against an agent in the
Federal Bureau of Investigation."
It continued recapping the crimes. Savioshy was quoted as
saying, "Our investigation of Gregory Watts is ongoing." And
later: "We got the guy, all right."
On page sixteen there was a photo, maybe taken on his college
campus. Gregory Watts smiled big for the camera. Scully
stared at him until a lump rose in her throat. Number two,
she thought. He had been number two in the lineup.
Near the end of the article, there was a quote from Chris
Clark. "I think the detectives on this case have done a
marvelous job. Watts has been caught. He will be tried, and
he will be found guilty. The women of the city can finally
feel safe again."
In her bathrobe, with her cold hands around a coffee cup,
Scully considered his words. She supposed for other women it
might be true.
Mulder arrived at the office extra early, wearing his
favorite suit. A fine layer of dust had settled over
everything in just the few days they had been gone. Cracking
the door was like breaking into a mummy's tomb. Back with
his files, sitting in his chair, Mulder waited to feel
comfortable again. He ran his fingers over the printouts
from Texas like a blind man reading Braille. Every few
seconds he glanced up, hummed a little anxious sound, and
expected her to come through the door.
He would say nothing first, he decided. He would wait to see
how she played it, and he would just follow her lead. Maybe
the Scully power of denial could work to his advantage and it
would be like Nothing Ever Happened.
He jerked upright when her heels sounded in the hallway. It
wasn't until he felt the flood of relief that he realized he
had been worried that she might not show at all. She stopped
just inside the door, holding her briefcase in one hand and a
small, feathery potted plant in the other. He leaned way
back in his chair.
"Good morning," he blurted. "Nice plant."
"It's an asparagus fern," she replied, moving into the room.
"I'm hoping not to kill it."
"And you brought it here?" he asked with a smile. "Where
even the bugs crawl down to die?"
She stood on tiptoe to set the fern on top of a tall file
cabinet near the windows. "I thought it might add a little
color." Task finished, she dusted off her hands and cocked
her head at him. "When did you get back?"
The plants are a running thread through the story from here on out. You could take Chris's overture of a tiny new plant as a budding *cough* relationship (whatever kind it may be), but here you can see Chris is dead in the water: Scully brings the plant straight to Mulder. *g*
"Late last night."
"I see. You brought Rentham's files with you?" Her voice
was steady but she was still standing ten feet away.
"Yes." He shifted some around on his desk to illustrate.
"Most of the data are straightforward, but Rentham kept his
own handwritten notes in the personnel files. He used some
sort of initial code that I can't decipher yet. I think
maybe he was trying to find a pattern among the abductions.
This woman here has a M23SCC-NK next to her name, and the
numbers 32.3 and 90.2. This other woman has the same NK, but
the other letters are different."
Scully inched closer, eyeing the files. "Do either of them
"Um." He pawed through to find the appropriate notes. "No."
"Could stand for 'no kids.' Like DINKs -- double income, no
"Huh." Mulder shuffled some more papers until he found the
records Rentham kept on Tina Appleby. "You may be onto
something, Scully. Tina Appleby's code doesn't have the NK
"What does it say?"
She was close enough now that he could feel her breathing.
Shoulder-to-shoulder, they stood over the mess of papers
blanketing his desk. Mulder moved slowly, as if he might
frighten her away. "Uh, Rentham wrote F3C, and the numbers
29.9 and 95.6."
"We should enter all of them into a computer," she said, not
looking at him. "Easier to see a pattern that way."
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking."
She touched the photograph of Tina Appleby. "How is she
"She'll live." Mulder looked down at the top of her head,
where her slightly crooked part was the only sign that
anything was amiss. "How are you doing?"
Scully nodded to herself. "I'll live."
Neither of them spoke for a long minute. "I wasn't sure
you'd come back," he said at last.
"I wasn't sure either," she answered baldly, and his heart
stopped. She met his gaze and held it.
"But--but you did," he pointed out. She nodded. Don't ask,
he thought, but couldn't stop himself. Mulder always asked
questions he didn't really want the answers to. "Why?"
Her shoulders rose and fell with a long breath. "It turns
out," she said with some disgust, "that I still believe in
justice." She scooped up a sheaf of papers, handed them to
him, and switched on the computer. "You dictate," she said.
Now that she had his face, the memory changed. Under the
mask, she saw his dark, bushy eyebrows, prominent cheekbones,
and flared nostrils. She felt his hot breath on her face,
felt his fingers bite into her skin as he ripped off her
underwear. She could see him now, see him doing these
things, this boy with big hands and charming smile.
Scully peeled herself from the back of the elevator and began
walking briskly through the parking garage of the Hoover
building. Just as inside, they had stuck her and Mulder as
far away from everyone else as possible. The strange gray-
green light of the parking lot never changed; like a casino,
it was always removed from time, neither day nor night.
Mulder was gone. So were most people. Scully picked up her
Her car chirped, a sharp, electronic echo that rattled her
nerves even as she welcomed the familiar sound. She reached
the door and yanked it open with trembling fingers. Tossing
her briefcase in haphazardly, Scully scrambled in after it
and yanked the door behind her. She leaned back and closed
her eyes as her breathing returned to normal.
The phone rang. Scully started her car even as she dug out
the phone to answer it. She wasn't hanging around in the
empty lot any longer than necessary. "Scully," she said.
Her headlights lit up the grimy wall in front of her.
"Dana, it's Chris." He sounded more subdued than usual. "I
hope I haven't caught you at a bad time."
"I was just heading home."
He sighed. "I'm sure you know we were in court this
afternoon with Gregory Watts. I'm afraid it didn't go as
"What?" Scully halted the car on the exit ramp. Chris did
not say anything for a few seconds. "What happened?"
"Watts made bail, Dana. The judge let him go."
Mulder threw open all his windows, blinds rattling as the
restless air swirled inside. A front was coming through, not
rain but wind, whipping up the trees and charging the air
with electricity. Dressed in black, Mulder paced his living
room like the famed panther. He felt the wind moving in him,
urging him out onto the dark streets below. He wanted to get
out, away, to take his anger and run it into the sea.
Mulder grabbed his keys from the end table and yanked open
his door. Scully stood in the hall, hugging herself.
"Scully? What's going on?" He reached for her and she
backed away. "How long have you been standing here?"
"They let him go, Mulder."
"What?" All the energy rushed out of him.
"Watts. He made bail."
"Come in," he said, holding the door for her. "Tell me."
She brushed past him and went to stand in the middle of his
breezy living room. "He knows where I live. He took my
wallet with my license and my address, and now he's back on
"You can stay here," he said immediately. The door slammed
shut in the wind.
"I don't want to stay here! I am not the prisoner! I want
him gone, in jail, where I don't have to look at him or think
about him. God, I am so tired of thinking about him."
Mulder had seen the picture too. He tried not to think about
it because when he did, it made him want to hit his fist
against a wall until it was a bloody pulp.
Scully's voice became rough with emotion. "It's like he's in
me, like I can't get away even when I'm asleep. He has my
thoughts, my feelings, my whole body tied up inside and it's
like I can't even breathe."
"Scully..." He stretched out a hand to her, but she inhaled
sharply before he could touch her.
"You ever just fuck someone, Mulder?"
"What?" His heart hurt.
"You know, a one night stand. You meet someone at a party,
or a bar, and you just fuck them. Just sex, no
consequences." She stared at him hard, but he could see her
trying to contain her trembling.
"Um, I guess I found there are always consequences."
"But you've done it," she said steadily. He answered with a
short nod. "And it's just sex. A person doesn't own you just
because you have sex with them. It doesn't change your life
forever." Her words grew increasingly desperate.
"Scully, he didn't have sex with you. He raped you."
"I know that!" she cried, covering her face with her hands.
"Don't you think I know that? I just... I don't understand
why it has to be this hard."
He laid a hand on her shoulder, and this time she did not
pull away. Hunched and tense, she let him pull her against
him, her hands still over her face. He tucked her into his
empty places. "I'm sorry," he murmured, his chin atop her
"How could this happen?" she whispered brokenly, and he
tightened his arms around her.
"Why the hell did they let him go?"
"They never found the items he took: the jewelry, the
wallets, the clothes. Savioshy searched his parents' home
and they searched his dorm at the university as well.
"He's got them stashed somewhere. They just have to keep
She nodded, relaxing a little. She laid her cheek against
his heart. "Maybe--maybe now that he's been released, he'll
lead them to it."
"Sure." Mulder tried to sound encouraging as he rubbed her
back. The wind slapped his blinds against the windows and
Scully shuddered. "Cold?"
She shook her head. "I'm just so tired."
"You should lie down," he said. "Get some rest."
Her voice quavered moist and hot against his shirt. "I need
to go home."
"But not tonight." She leaned back to look at him and he
nodded to show he meant it. His apartment felt chilled
clean, renewed, ready to offer peace. The night air tickled
them both as Scully smoothed her fingers over his breastbone.
"One night," she whispered, and he tucked a lock of hair
behind her ear. "Since I'm already here."
He took her to his bedroom, where he did not even turn on the
lights. They undressed by the light of the street lamp
slanting through his blinds, turning Scully into a
beautifully curved zebra before his eyes. She plucked his T-
shirt from the floor where he discarded it and pulled it over
her head. He watched in admiration as she slid her bra out
through one armhole.
She visited the bathroom while he shook out the sheets,
lifting them high into the cool summer air. He climbed in
and listened to the sounds of Scully moving around in his
apartment. The floor creaked a different song for her; the
tap ran a steady stream rather than the full blast he always
used. He opened his eyes again when he felt the mattress
shift under her weight.
Mulder rolled to his side to look at her in black and white.
"Find everything you need?"
The pillow scratched with her nod. "Thank you," she said,
reaching over for his hand.
"For what it's worth," he told her softly, "I didn't think it
would be this hard either."
Her eyes slid shut as she held his hand between her breasts.
"One day," she murmured, "it'll be over."
"Yes." He felt the steady beat of her heart and the tide of
her breathing against his hand. Her jaw slackened, mouth
parting slightly as she found sleep. He gave her a few tiny
fingertip caresses before extricating his hand to adjust the
sheets up over her waist.
Mulder lay down again so his position mirrored hers. He
pretty much dwarfed her, legs stretching far beyond her toes,
large hairy arm heavy and awkward next to her fine, delicate
bones. She nearly disappeared in the hulking shadow of his
In his whole life, he had never felt so small.
He woke to shadow puppets around his room, as the wind had
picked up again, Mother Nature putting on a show across his
bare walls. Scully had hunkered down against him, submerged
completely under the blankets with his arm trapped over her
head. It was she who'd awoken him, he realized as she
twitched again. Her knee jerked against his crotch.
Mulder sucked in a painful breath and pulled away. She
clawed his chest. "Scully," he said, searching for her under
the covers. "Wake up." She fought him tooth and nail,
panting like a trapped animal and crying out as he pinned her
down. "Wake up!" he said, and her eyes shot open. He had
her legs immobilized with his knees and both arms trapped
above her head.
"Help," she said, her eyes wild.
"It's okay," he told her. "It's just a dream."
"Mulder?" She went limp in his grasp and he let her up
"It's okay now," he said. "It's all right." Her whole body
started to shake, from cold or fright he did not know.
Mulder gathered her against him again and tucked the covers
around them. Her teeth chattered but she was not crying.
"Sorry," she said as she slipped cold arms around his chest.
He kissed the sweat from her brow.
"Scully," he murmured near her ear. "What do you dream?"
She had never told him everything that had happened that
night. What few details he knew he'd gleaned from news
"He's on top of me," she said, voice small against his chest,
"and I can't get up." Mulder stiffened and clutched her
tighter. Details were bad. He didn't need details.
"Shhh," he said, stroking her back as much to soothe himself
as to calm her. "You're safe now. You okay? You want some
"I'm all right. I didn't mean to hurt you." She touched her
lips to the scratch across his chest.
"It's nothing," he told her as he lifted the damp hair from
her neck. "You forget I've been mauled by a beast woman."
She laughed gently into his neck and hugged him close.
Mulder nuzzled her, extending her smile. He felt connected
to her again, as though they had a shared experience among
all her private pain. He wanted to taste her, feel her,
bring her inside all his senses so they would never be
Scully seemed to want the same thing. She tucked her leg
between his, cuddling closer. "Scully," he murmured, filled
He kissed her forehead and then her check. She answered with
a soft sigh that tickled his face. Her hand crept up and
combed through his hair over the back of his neck until he
tingled from head to toe. He touched his lips to hers
tentatively, almost an apology for the last time they had
lain together like this. She froze for an instant, gripping
his hair, and he gentled her with kisses until she relaxed
into the pillow again. "It's okay," he breathed against her
"Mulder," she whispered back, stroking the side of his face.
"You don't have to--"
He kissed her again, mouth soft and persuasive as he reached
back to run his hand along her naked thigh. Her leg came up
and over his, holding him in place. He hummed to her,
letting her know it was all right, caressing her with splayed
fingers until her skin quivered under his hand.
He felt himself expanding, hardening in the cradle of her
thighs as they kissed. Scully drew her fingers over the
bumps of his spine and pulled her mouth from his. "We
can't," she said in a tight whisper, even as her hips pressed
for closer contact. He stroked her from breast to hip and
kissed her nose.
"Nothing you don't want."
"No, it's not that. I--I don't have protection."
"Oh." He settled more fully against her and her lips parted
at the pressure. "It's okay, I've got it covered."
Surprise colored her features, and she sounded uncertain.
"Yes, after you said we needed it. I thought just in case--"
He broke off as she hugged him fiercely. "What?"
"I'm so glad."
He held her tightly and pressed his face into her clean-
smelling hair. "I want you," he told her. "Always." She
nodded but continued to burrow into him, as if she couldn't
quite speak. He rubbed her head messily and placed
occasional kisses on her shoulder, her arm, her temple. At
last she squeezed him one final time and brought her face
back to his. They kissed lingeringly, limbs and tongues
sliding together in tandem. Mulder's toes curled as she
stroked his ears.
Gently, he worked his hand between their bodies, brushing the
tender skin of her inner thighs. She pushed her hips against
his fingers, sending his hand higher between her legs.
Mulder watched her face as he touched her, but her expression
gave nothing away; she had her head thrown back deep in the
pillow, eyes closed, her breath coming in shallow pants.
Mulder caressed her softly through her underwear for a minute
or two before she wriggled away. She yanked down the
offending garment and tossed it over the edge of the bed.
Scully lay back down, still dressed in his T-shirt, with her
legs spread slightly and her fingers digging into the
mattress, as though she were bracing herself for some
unpleasant task. Mulder hesitated, and when he didn't
immediately climb back on top of her, Scully tensed visibly.
"No," he told her. "No." He reached up and touched the
smooth curve of her cheek. "Not if you don't want."
She shook her head against his hand, and Mulder took a deep
breath. The mattress bounced a bit as he moved up the bed
and stretched his hand to the bedside drawer. Scully lay
still as stone beneath him. He fumbled to get the box open
one-handed, and the foil packet felt unfamiliar between his
*You can do this* he coached himself even as his erection
began to fade.
He peeked down at Scully, who was looking back at him with
wide, apprehensive eyes. She hadn't made a move to remove
his boxers, and he knew it was because she was afraid of what
she might find if she tried.
"Is it okay?" she asked in a small voice, her gaze skittering
away from his. Mulder sagged back down on the bed, palming
the condom as he rolled to face her. Scully stared at the
"Come here," he said, urging her back against him. She was
stiff but not resistant, like a life-sized action figure
fresh from the box. "Like this," he whispered against her
face as he ran his fingers through her hair. Facing her, on
their sides, he didn't feel so oppressive. He stroked her
and kissed her until her arms wound around him again. Her
knee rested on his leg, and he welcomed it with slow caresses
down the back of her thigh.
Scully stroked her fingers along the hollows of his ribs and
lifted her face for his kiss. The space between them grew
warm and close. His brain fuzzed out again as his dick came
back on line. He rubbed against her, felt her sharp intake
of breath against his face. "Mulder, now," she whispered to
his chin. He kissed her swiftly and pulled away.
His erection bobbed as his underwear joined hers on the
floor. Mulder's hands shook, Scully watching while he tried
to open the slim packet. He felt about sixteen years old.
"It's so dark. I can't see where I'm supposed to tear."
"Let me try."
He heard it rip neatly, her trim little nails getting the job
done in nothing flat. Mulder lay facing her again and bit
his lip. Scully fingered the opened packet as she stared as
his penis. For a moment he thought she might finish the task
herself. Wordlessly, she handed him the condom. She curled
into a ball and watched him sheathe his cock.
"Okay," he said, trying to sound confident. He scooted
closer to her and she put her arms around him, hugging him
convulsively. He kissed her neck. "All right?" She nodded
and raised her leg over his hips so he could slip his penis
between her thighs. They both jerked at the initial contact.
"Tell me if this is okay."
They held their breath as he eased his way inside her. Ah,
Mulder thought, relaxing. There. He smiled into her hair
and nuzzled her affectionately. Scully started to shake.
"Scully?" He tried to pull back but she clutched him tight.
"Scully, what is it?"
She answered with a high, keening sob, and horror flooded
This whole scene is from Mulder's POV pretty much because of this one moment when Scully starts to sob. If you're in her head, you have some idea that it's coming. This way the reader gets to experience some of Mulder's complete confusion and helplessness. It's not his fault; he's done everything right, but it's still not enough.
"Scully, talk to me. What is it?" He brushed sticky hair
off from her face but she would not let go. She held him
inside her with all her strength.
"Don't leave," she choked out between awful sobs. "Please
don't leave me."
"No, I'm right here." He rocked her back and forth, holding
her as tightly as he could while she seized and shuddered in
"Please," she said again. Mulder was helpless against the
tide, reassuring her with lips and hands that he was real and
solid and not going anywhere. His erection softened and
started to slip out of her, setting off a fresh round of
"I'm here, I'm here, Scully." He repeated the words until he
was hoarse, until he was crying himself from the sheer force
of her anguish. "I'm right here."
But Scully cried on, wrapped around every inch of him, and
yet somehow unable to hear.
Pain, Scully remembered the minute she opened her eyes, was
the one sensation you couldn't sleep through, the reason cuts
and bruises in dreams never hurt. The sharp twinges in her
lower belly woke her just as the sky was lightening outside
Mulder's window. Mulder lay on his back next to her, one arm
flung over his head, still deeply asleep. She eased from the
covers without waking him and shivered her way into the
living room, where she retrieved her purse.
Her pupils contracted in the bright bathroom light. She set
the purse on the sink and frowned into the mirror. Shadows
smudged the tired skin under her eyes; her hair was matted on
one side and stuck up on the other, and she had wrinkled
Mulder's T-shirt with her tossing and turning overnight.
Scully examined this other woman with a clinical, detached
eye: she looked small and terrorized, a victim. That woman
had been raped. It would never be untrue.
Scully tore her attention from the mirror and fumbled with
her purse. The tampon lay at the bottom. She took it out,
put it in, cleaned herself up and washed down a pair of
ibuprofen with Mulder's metallic-tasting water. She thought
about how easy it was now to swallow pills and make
everything go away.
The cold porcelain sink touched her belly. Scully looked
down at the hard edge, moved closer to it, watched it press
deeper and deeper into her flesh until the pain made her gasp
-- a shocked, breathy sound that flooded the tiny bathroom.
No VD. No pregnancy. That left AIDS still spinning on the
Russian roulette wheel. Even as the attack receded into the
distance, her life was still not her own.
She splashed water on her face, letting the cold drops
trickle into her dry eyes. She combed her hair with short,
angry strokes. Mulder's towels hung uneven behind her; his
razor, his crumpled toothpaste tube, and his toothbrush -- a
giant spray of bent bristles -- lay on the plastic shelf
above the sink. Scully put her own toiletries back in her
On her way out, she straightened the towels and turned off
the lights behind her.
Mulder awoke on a long inhale, eyes popping open, breath held
in, as he froze and listened to his shadowed apartment. He
didn't have to call her name to know she was gone. His time
with Scully was defined as much by her absence as her
presence, certain stillness that settled within him each time
He released, let go, fingers flexing on the cool sheets. The
pillow held the shape of her head. He remembered watching
her wake up the morning after they had first made love, tense
and waiting for her to bolt, only to have her smile and
stroke his cheek. Then she had hidden her face in the pillow
and giggled while he'd pinned her down and nibbled at her
This morning he was left with only gray walls and the echo of
Mulder put bare feet to the floor and leaned his head into
his hands. He felt cheated, robbed; he wanted to howl like
an animal. Scully cried and he wanted to scream, to tear
down buildings, to show the world what a terrible thing had
happened. Aren't you angry? He wanted to yell at her.
Don't you want him dead? Mulder's fingers curled with
Trial was too good for men like Watts, too civilized an
answer to such a savage crime. Jungle warfare. Mulder
wanted blood. He wanted to hide in the bushes and watch his
prey sweat in the summer heat. Watts would never see it
coming. He would turn around and Mulder would be on him with
a gun, with a knife, with his bare hands ready to rip him
limb from limb. This is how it felt, you son of a bitch,
Mulder would say. He heard the shot, felt the bones crack in
his hands, saw the blood running on the ground.
Justice, merciful and swift.
Mulder's rightfully angry here, and he's still looking for a way to fix things. He wants revenge, but he also wants Scully back to normal. He doesn't hurt in the same way she does. Intellectually he knows it will take time for her to recover, but emotionally he can't help feeling there's a way to hurry the process along.
Plus, he feels somewhat like a gauntlet has been thrown down. The rapist is out there, and Mulder has the skills to put him away for good. Instead he's left feeling useless.
He looked up the address not intending to do anything with
it. He just wanted to know. Watts had a name now, and a
face, but Mulder wasn't satisfied. He wanted to know where
he lived, how to get to him. Just as an insurance policy.
Eleven Plumtree Lane, the computer spit out; a sweet
fairytale place with big, white houses and monsters hiding
inside. Watts would be there, eating toast and eggs in his
mother's kitchen like nothing had ever happened.
SUSPECTED RAPIST FREED, Mulder's paper said, though it was
not front-page news. They had called his victims to tell
them. Who would tell all the other women in the city?
Mulder left the house late with his hair still wet and his
tie in his hand. When the car engine roared to life with an
angry snarl, Mulder jerked the shift into gear. He cruised
the streets and watched the cars and people and trees flow
by; they seemed curiously unreal, computer generated, like he
could hit a button and make them all snap to black. His car
became part of this videogame world, on a track he had to
follow, where the end was predetermined. All Mulder could do
was grip the wheel and hold on tight.
Arriving late herself, Scully paused and frowned at the
locked office door. In seven years of basement-level
investigation, she'd had to use her X-Files key perhaps four
times. Mulder was always there first.
She pushed open the door, flicked on the lights, and stood
alone at the center of the quiet room. She looked at the
disarray on his desk, as she had looked on the tangle of
bedcovers of his bed earlier that morning. Heat colored her
cheeks as she remembered her breakdown and the things she had
said to him. Not even when she had been dying had she ever
begged him like that. Scully hugged herself. Surely he must
fear she was losing her mind.
She sniffed twice and took a deep breath. Mulder wasn't
here, but the work always was. She could handle that. She
could hold Rentham's files in her hands and enter the cold,
hard facts of their lives without giving anything more away.
She could sit in Mulder's chair and wait for him to come wary
through the door, show him she could hold up her end.
Scully would zig. Mulder would zag. He said occult; she
said occlusion. This was how it ever was, how it ever shall
be, world without end.
Because, deep down, they always feared the same thing.
I think Mulder and Scully are fundamentally more alike than they are different. Neither one is especially good at saying what they feel. They both value truth and loyalty above all things, and they tend to shut the other one out when they are hurting.
Eleven Plumtree Lane was a corner lot, slate gray two-story
colonial with white shutters and two chimneys. Mulder parked
across the street, absently worrying a seed between his teeth
as he studied his subject. The house revealed no secrets:
windows shut, curtains drawn. Thick green grass coated the
front yard, probably reborn every spring by someone named
Pedro, and cheery pink and white petunias lined the front
path. The driveway had been redone recently in fresh black
asphalt. Either no one was home or the cars were all put
away in the garage.
The backyard showed a deck with a barbecue. No swing set, no
toys; little Greggy was a big boy now. But Mulder saw the
remnants of his childhood hidden among the branches of the
towering old oak: a tree house, barely visible behind a
waterfall of thick leaves, perfect for a young voyeur who
loved to hide and watch.
Mulder stared, almost trance-like, chewing and waiting. He
imagined driving his car right through the front door. He'd
come for noise, for release; the house just sat in stone
silence, mocking him.
A sharp rap on his passenger-side window jolted Mulder from
his stupor. He turned to see Detective Savioshy peering in
with an unfriendly frown. "Agent Mulder," he said as he
opened the door. "Mind if I join you?"
Mulder sighed and tossed away a seed. "I was just leaving."
"That's not what my boys tell me." The leather seats of the
Taurus creaked as Savioshy settled his considerable weight
into a chair used to holding Scully.
"They're on mower detail today." Savioshy pointed two houses
down where a lawn crew worked in the morning sun. Upon
closer inspection, Mulder could see that a couple of the men
were more interested in the Watts residence than in the house
in front of them. "Meyer gave me a call a little bit ago and
said you looked like you'd settled in for good."
"Meyer should worry about his own job."
"That's good advice," Savioshy agreed readily, and Mulder
glared at him.
"Meaning your office is quite a ways away from here."
Mulder shrugged. "So I took the scenic route in."
"There's nothing for you to see here." Mulder squinted out
at the house again, and Savioshy sighed. "Go home, Agent
Mulder. We're handling this, I promise you."
"Are you?" Mulder turned around in his seat again.
"I caught the guy."
"Yeah, and now look where he is."
"I'm not any happier about that than you are," Savioshy shot
back. "But it's out of our hands."
Mulder's hands, wrapped around the wheel, felt more than
capable. "They let him go," he said slowly, "because the
prima fascia evidence was not sufficient to support remand.
The DA makes his case with your evidence, Detective."
"And that's why I'm here," Savioshy replied steadily. "Why
are you here? This is still my case, Mulder. It's still an
open investigation, and we will nail this bastard's balls to
the wall. I hate like hell that he's out. As a man, as a
father, it makes me sick. But as a detective, I know it
gives me another shot at him. He led me to the goods once,
and just maybe he'll do it again."
"You mean his--" Mulder choked on the word. "His trophies."
Savioshy gave a short, grim nod. "The nail in his coffin."
Mulder clenched his hands and looked down at the steering
wheel. "Could work," he admitted after a minute.
"Not with your ass parked out front watching the joint, it
"Okay, okay. You've made your point."
The leather groaned and released as Savioshy got out. He
leaned back inside the car, half draped over the door. "Give
my regards to Agent Scully."
"I don't think it's your regards she's after."
Savioshy's puffy cheeks tightened with a grimace. He nodded.
"Just the same, you stay out of this. The last thing this
case needs is the two of you deciding to administer a little
back alley justice."
"Scully doesn't even know I'm here!"
"Yeah. That's what I'm afraid of." Savioshy patted Mulder's
doorframe a few times. "Good-bye, Agent Mulder. You have a
good day at work, okay?" The car shook when he slammed the
door shut, shuddering around Mulder.
He started the engine and idled a moment longer, one last
look at the house. The curtain in the top window closed
quickly, winking at him, and Mulder revved the engine to a
You can't hide forever, you sonofabitch, he thought, and the
tires peeled away.
Scully was so certain it was Mulder on the other end that she
answered her cell phone without glancing at the caller ID.
"Mulder, where are you?"
"Oh, Chris." Scully deflated a bit in her chair. She
pinched the beginnings of a headache between her eyes. "What
can I do for you?"
"I'm sorry to bother you at work like this, but we just got a
court date for the preliminary hearing, and I need to go over
your statement with you ASAP."
"Now?" Scully glanced at the wall clock again and wondered
one more time where the hell Mulder had gone.
"Later today would be fine. You could drop by after work?"
Scully eyed the precarious stacks of folders on Mulder's
desk. She did not really have a time called "after work."
"Okay," she said. "I'll be there."
Just as she snapped off her phone, Mulder strolled through
the door, chewing gum, with his jacket slung over one
shoulder. "Hey," he offered.
"Mulder, it's almost noon."
"Where have you been?"
No one left the dentist's office chewing gum. Scully leaned
back in Mulder's chair and folded her arms. "Mulder?"
"Hmm?" He stopped chewing and looked right at her, eyes wide
and guileless. Clearly he did not expect her to call him on
it. She opened her mouth and shut it again. "What?" he
"I, uh..." Her pulse went liquid as she accepted the lie; it
was easier not to know. She sat forward. "I finished
entering the data from Rentham's files."
I think if she admitted it to herself, Scully would know exactly where Mulder had been. Part of her wants him to do it so she won't have to.
"Great." He came around the desk and leaned one arm on the
chair behind her. The hair stood up on the back of her neck.
"Anything jump out at you?"
Scully cleared her throat and tried to focus. "Not from the
numbers. But looking through all these files, Mulder, you've
got to think Rentham had help gathering the data. He's got
over a thousand folders here, and we found only twenty-seven
people living inside the compound. Where did he get all this
"We know there are underground networks and sources for
people who have experienced alien abduction."
"Exactly. And at this point, I'd say we know them all. How
come we'd never heard of this guy before?"
The phone rang and Mulder held up one finger at her.
"Mulder," he said after he'd palmed the receiver. "Hi,
Sheriff. Yeah, I was just talking about the case with Agent
Scully now. Uh-huh. What? When?" He stood up from the
corner of the desk, and Scully swiveled her chair around so
she could see his face. He shook his head at her questioning
look. "Yeah, I got that. What do you mean 'gone'? Uh-huh.
What about Tina Appleby -- did you talk to her? Okay, how
about the others?" He listened for a minute and then ran a
hand through his hair. "No, I don't know. Yes. Yes. Yeah,
you do that." He hung up the phone with a slam.
"What?" Scully asked.
"Jared Rentham's body disappeared from the morgue sometime
over the weekend. The ME was backed up, and when he went to
do the full autopsy this morning he found Rentham was gone."
"Gone," Scully repeated, and Mulder made a disappearing
"poof" gesture with his hands.
"Just like that. The Sheriff says Tina Appleby is missing,
too. All the members of Rentham's compound have apparently
vanished into thin air."
"Mulder, that's -- What is the Sheriff thinking, that the
members of Rentham's group somehow absconded with the body?"
"Don't know. Security cameras were no help, but the Sheriff
is going to send us a copy anyway. In the meantime, no one
saw anything; no one knows anything."
Scully flipped open the closest file and let it fall shut
again. "So it's back to Texas?"
"Maybe." He did not sound any more enthused about the
prospect. "I get the feeling the Sheriff won't be making
this case his top priority. As far as they're concerned, the
investigation is over. The cult has disbanded, Rentham is
dead, and his killer is locked away in jail."
"Without a body, Chet Appleby's trial might be more
"Sheriff isn't too worried," Mulder informed her darkly.
"Apparently they've got two federal agents as witnesses to
Scully lifted her eyebrows in answer and tossed her pen onto
the desk. "Mulder," she said, staring at the reams of files
in front of her. "*Have* we ever run across Rentham before?"
"In person? No way."
"Maybe just a photo?"
Mulder looked thoughtful. "I don't think so. Bony head,
large eyes -- I think would have remembered this guy,
"What, you know him?" She had his full attention now. He
locked eyes with her as she searched her memory one more
time. Rentham's thin nose. Rentham's cool hand on hers.
His calm, deadened voice.
"No," she said abruptly. "Of course not."
"You know," Mulder said as he moved some files aside so he
could sit near her on the desk. "I think you might be onto
something, Scully. Rentham is the place to start, not Texas.
Why take the body? It doesn't help Chet."
Scully sighed. "Maybe the members of Sanctuary House got
tired of waiting to bury him."
"Maybe. Or maybe someone didn't want that autopsy done."
"Why?" Scully spread her hands. "Like you said, Mulder,
there isn't any dispute about the cause of death in this
"It isn't Rentham's death I'm interested in," he said,
getting to his feet again. "It's his life."
Scully protested as he pushed between her and the computer.
"Jared Rentham was a failed fortune teller from New Orleans."
"And what else? That's the question." Mulder started
typing, hunting and pecking around his tie as he leaned down
over the keyboard. A minute later, he tilted the screen so
she could see it. "Check it out, Scully: Jared Rentham was
seventy-one years old."
"So he's Dick Clark." Scully rubbed her temples again. "So
Mulder hit some more keys. "Make that Dr. Rentham," he said.
"He graduated from Harvard medical school in 1956."
"License?" Scully asked, putting her hands down.
"None. Doesn't look like he practiced anywhere."
"So what did he do for almost fifty years? Shuffle Tarot
"I don't know," Mulder said as he straightened again. "But I
think we should head to New Orleans and check it out." He
reached for the phone. "Skinner will sign off, no question -
- we can be down there before sunset."
"Mulder, wait." He halted in mid-dial. "I can't."
"Scully, I know we haven't agreed on certain aspects of this
"Preliminary hearings start next week. Chris needs me to go
over my statement."
"Oh." The phone hung limp in his hand. "Of course you can't
go, then." Sitting behind stacks and stacks of possible
victims, Scully felt guilt hiss out of her like air from a
"Maybe I can reschedule."
"No, Scully. No." The tenderness in his voice clawed at
her. For seven years, Mulder had marched them all over the
globe with never a backward glance to make sure she was
following. Melissa had died. Her father. Scully had not
missed a moment of work. To put herself first now, after
everything, and for Mulder to let that happen... "We'll both
go tomorrow," he said, putting the phone aside. "That's soon
enough. Today we can just chase it down from here."
"Mulder, no." She stood up. "You go now and I'll just catch
a later flight. It's not a problem."
He shrugged and started sorting through the folders again.
"So we both go later. There's plenty of work to do here."
"And I'll do it. You go on ahead."
He looked up, meeting her gaze for a second. "Scully," he
said softly, shaking his head. "I can't."
It was the same aching tone he had used the night before,
when she had clung to him, choking on her own life, when she
had cried and crumbled and... begged him not to leave her.
The lump in her throat sprung up again as her fingers curled
around the back of the chair. "Mulder," she began.
"It's one night," he said to the floor.
"And then one night becomes two, becomes ten. Where does it
"He's out there, Scully. You said it yourself."
"Yes, and that's exactly where I want to leave him. Out
there, away from me. If I let him in here, let him affect my
work, let him affect *your* work -- then, Mulder -- he's
never going away."
Mulder's mouth twitched downward. "What if he walks, have
you thought about that?"
"What if he does?" she parroted back.
"You're saying you wouldn't care?"
"Of course I'd care! But that's not the issue."
"I think it is. I think until they get this animal off the
streets, in a cage where he belongs, you can't be too
"You know what he's thinking now, Scully? Because I do." He
slapped the folders down viciously. "I've lived inside a
dozen others like him, and let me tell you, the view from in
there is one you don't forget. Watts isn't sorry for you.
He *hates* you."
"I--I know that," she whispered.
"No." Mulder shook his head resolutely. "You don't know. He
hates you, Scully, hates you and all the others for bringing
the law down on him and tearing apart his perfect little
life. He's thinking maybe if he'd killed you, things would
be better for him right now. And he's restless. He hasn't
been able to prowl the way he likes, hasn't found release.
He's stuck in his momma's house with the white lace curtains
and no new victims and he's been reliving his old conquests."
"No!" He hit the desk with his fist, making her jump. "You
need to hear this, Scully. You need to know so you can
protect yourself." But he wouldn't look at her.
"I can protect myself!"
"No, apparently you can't!"
She stiffened as if struck, and so did he, horror spreading
over his features as they stared at one another. His mouth
opened and closed several times. "Scully, I didn't mean--"
he started, but she held up both hands.
"I didn't mean it."
He'd ripped the band-aid off her giant wound. "Yes, you did,"
she replied, smarting over every inch of her skin.
"No, not like that. I'm sorry. I--I just don't want
anything to happen to you."
"Well, it's too late for that, now, isn't it." He had no
good answer to that one, and so he remained silent. She
shuddered, defeated. "Go to New Orleans, Mulder. Please,
He nodded slowly, gathering his jacket and things like a
shell-shocked solider. Scully did not move a muscle as he
walked with heavy steps towards the door. He halted at the
frame, half-turning over his shoulder. "I'm sorry," he said.
"I can't stop hating him for this."
Scully said nothing, letting him go even as her eyes grew hot
and liquid. She looked up at the ceiling, vision blurred,
and listened to the sound of his footsteps fade down the
This scene was a lot harder to write. It still feels a bit uneven to me, but the gist of it is right.
At five, Scully arrived at Chris's office just as the
secretary was leaving for the day. "Have a seat," the woman
told her with a kind smile. "He's just finishing up another
meeting right now, but he should be right with you."
The waiting area boasted a coffee machine, a bright sunny
window, a green leather couch and two wingback chairs with a
table of magazines between them. Scully selected one of the
chairs and a three-week old issue of Time, which she set on
her lap but did not read. She left smudgy fingerprints all
along the shiny blue cover as the minutes ticked past in
total silence. At last, she heard a door open down the hall
and Chris Clark's baritone echoed off the walls.
"My nephew did the same thing when he was four," he was
saying. "My sister didn't find the frog until she went to do
A woman's laugh answered, and a moment later both she and
Chris entered the waiting area. "Dana, hi," Chris said.
"Thank you for coming down."
Scully nodded in reply. She hung back, waiting for the woman
to leave, but Chris jerked his head to indicate she should
join them. Scully smoothed her skirt and crossed the room.
"Dana Scully, this is Gloria Raymond."
Scully hesitated. There was only one reason to introduce
them. She forced herself to look at this other woman, who
smiled and extended her hand. She gave Scully's hand a hard
shake. "Hi," she said. "Call me Glory."
"Glory," Scully repeated. "It's nice to meet you." Maybe it
was Chris's gardening influence, but the name Glory made
Scully think of morning glories. The woman vaguely resembled
a flower, too, with wisps of teased blond hair flowing out
from around her face and bright cherry lips in the center.
"Chris said it's just us two so far," Glory remarked.
"Everyone else is still scared. Me, I did a dance in my
kitchen when I heard they caught him. I say bring it on, and
let's fry the bastard."
"Not likely," Chris cautioned. "Think prison -- for a good
Glory shrugged. "That works. I've heard what they do to
guys in prison, and it couldn't happen to a nicer fella." She
looked Scully from head to toe. "Killer shoes," she said.
"'Course they would do me in but good, seeing as how I stand
on my feet eight hours at a time. You work in the city?"
"Uh, yes. I do."
"Me too! Willoughby's restaurant on Sixth Street. If you're
ever in the neighborhood, stop by and say hi. Dinner's on
"Thank you," Scully managed. "I'll keep that in mind."
"I mean it." Glory grabbed her hand again and squeezed.
Scully tensed at the unexpected touch, pasting on a smile.
"We've got to stick together through this, right?"
"Right." Glory searched her face, as if trying to determine
whether Scully truly felt the solidarity, and her expression
"We'll be okay," Glory said firmly, backing it up with a
short nod. "You'll see."
Speechless, Scully nodded with her. Chris put an arm to
Glory's back. "Thanks for your help today. I really
"No problem. I'd best be picking up the kids now. Call me
if anything changes, okay?"
"You know I will."
"Good luck," Glory told Scully. "I'm sure I'll see you again
soon." She grinned and waved as she left. Scully lifted her
eyebrows and waved back.
"Wow," she said when the other woman had gone. "She's, um,
"I call her 'Hurricane Gloria'," Chris said. "She's been
just absolutely terrific about everything since day one."
"Have you known her long?" Scully asked as they walked the
hall to his office. Chris understood the real question
"Glory was attacked last summer," he said. "She's been
waiting a long time for this day to get here." He opened his
office door and let her enter first. "Welcome to the den of
His office held a large desk with a computer monitor on it,
which was decorated with a dozen post-it notes. Stacks of
papers spread across the rest of the surface. Behind, there
were floor-to-ceiling bookcases, with books flopping over
every which way. There were two low-back metal armchairs in
front of the desk, and a small couch in the corner. Chris
steered her towards the couch.
"I expected more greenery in here," Scully said as she sank
into the leather.
"I wish. This room gets so little light that only my rubber
plant has thrived." Chris nodded at the five-foot potted
plant with the large shiny leaves. "He's straight out of a
Steven Segal movie."
Scully gave him a questioning look.
"Hard to kill."
"Ah." Another time, she might have smiled at the joke.
Instead she just leaned back against the cushions and rubbed
"Hard day?" Chris asked as he sat next to her.
"You could say that."
"I have just the cure," he said, and she rolled her head to
look at him.
"I'm not really up for more gardening."
His knees cracked as he rose. "I'm thinking malt, not
mulch." He went to a cabinet near the desk and withdrew a
bottle of scotch. "Clock says it's officially after hours,"
he said. "What do you say?"
She nodded and he poured them each a glass. He returned with
the liquor in hand and a yellow legal pad tucked under his
arm. Scully sipped as he repositioned himself next to her on
the couch. "It's good," she said, letting the warm fire
trickle down her throat.
"Dad gave me the bottle when I graduated law school."
"Mmm." Scully leaned her head back again, cradling the drink
on her thigh. "That's nice. For graduation, my father gave
me the cold shoulder."
"You went to law school?" he asked, curious, and she snorted.
"You're kidding. And he wasn't over the moon?"
"Oh, no. The doctor part was just fine; it was the FBI he
couldn't stand." She stared at the particleboard ceiling.
"Some days I can't stand it either."
"What was his beef with the FBI?"
Scully gave a short, dark laugh. "Too dangerous. I might
get hurt!" She glanced at Chris to see if he was
appreciating the irony, but he just looked uncomfortable.
Scully took a liberal swallow of the expensive booze before
sitting up. "Listen," she said, "I've got an eleven p.m.
flight to New Orleans, so let's just do what we have to do
and get out of here, okay?"
Chris set the pad down and folded his hands. "I'm sorry
you've had such a tough day. We can do this tomorrow or
Thursday if that would be easier."
She shook her head and drank some more. "I'm here," she
said. "What do you need?"
He produced a folder very similar to the ones she had been
sifting through all day on Mulder's desk. This one had her
name typed neatly on the label. "I have a copy of your
statement to the police. I'd like to go over it with you now
and make sure there isn't anything you left out, or anything
you might have remembered in the meantime."
"Fine," she said wearily, and Chris picked up the pen. For
nearly an hour they went over the details of what she had
said, and he explained to her the next few steps.
"The earliest we'd be at trial would be August, but Bellamy
will probably delay as much as possible. September or
October is more likely."
Heavy with alcohol, Scully took a minute to process. Months
away, she concluded with a sigh. She stretched out and put
the glass on the coffee table. "Will I have to testify?"
"I'd say it's likely. We are proceeding on all counts right
now, even without the victims' testimony, but the case is
definitely stronger with your input."
"My input," Scully repeated dully. "Right."
Chris leaned back next to her, shifting the weight of the
sofa so that their shoulders touched. "I know it's hard," he
said gently. "You're doing great so far."
She nodded without looking at him. "Mulder thinks," she
said, taking a deep breath, "that it will all be over when
Watts goes to prison."
"What do you think?"
She shrugged. "For him, maybe it will be."
Chris's voice was soft near her ear. "What about for you?"
Her shoulder rose and fell again, and she focused on her
hands. "For me, it is over. It happened. It's done.
Everything else is just...details."
He appeared to think about this for a minute. "I can see
that, I guess, if I squint real hard. I spend my life on
"Well, that's the difference between you and me," she told
him as she sat up. "I refuse to spend my life there."
The scotch wore off before she even reached Reagan National,
so Scully had another drink in the dark airport bar. She
wore her work suit buttoned and her leave-me-the-fuck-alone
expression, and the rogue businessmen kept right on moving.
When her phone rang, she fished it out and stared at the
glowing little screen.
She snapped it on just before the voicemail would have kicked
in. "What?" she demanded.
"Forget New Orleans, Scully," he told her, sounding as hollow
as she felt. "The Sheriff just called from Texas. Tina
Appleby is dead."
They stationed a uniformed cop outside the autopsy bay while
Scully examined Tina Appleby's body. "Sorry, Ma'am," the
young man said when Scully told him that his presence was not
required. "But it's after hours and they had a body go
missing earlier this week. I've got to keep an eye on
Yes, Scully thought, because I am likely to smuggle out a
corpse for recreational use.
She slipped on some scrubs, tied her hair back, and went to
work. Face up and nude on the exam table, Tina Appleby
appeared denser, flatter, with tangled hair and colorless
lips. Scully noted stretch marks on Tina's belly as she
snapped the first pictures, and a jagged scar across her left
knee. Under "cause of death," the local corner had written:
drowning. Tina had been found in the creek behind Rudy
Hartman's farm, just a hundred yards away from the spot she
claimed the aliens had first found her.
Scully documented some bruising on Tina's shins and her right
cheek. Her fingernails had been eaten down to the quick, but
Tina May Appleby wore glittery red nail polish on each of her
ten toes. Scully remembered twelve year-old Melissa shutting
their bedroom door and triumphantly revealing a bottle of
nail color their father would have called, "Hooker Red."
"He'll kill us," she'd told Melissa breathlessly, even as her
sister twisted the cap off with glee.
"We'll do our feet, silly. Dad will never know."
They had huddled in the closet to do the application, Melissa
shaky but Dana's hand steady under pressure even then. All
week at school, Melissa had traded her shoes for sandals once
they'd cleared the house, but Scully had kept her illicit
feet hidden under thick socks and tennis shoes, wiggling her
toes in secret while Mrs. Teleman droned on about fractions.
Scully stared at Tina's naked feet, camera still in her limp
grasp, and felt a tinge of sympathy she had not managed for
the woman in life. She finished the photographs and began
careful external study of the body. "Probable proximal cause
of death," the corner had noted, "alcohol."
He had smelled it, and so did Scully. Blood tests would no
doubt confirm that Tina Appleby had consumed an unhealthy
amount of alcohol before she'd died. Thus far, Scully saw
nothing to indicate Tina's death was anything other than an
unfortunate accident. She rolled the woman over on her side
to get a good look at her back. No abrasions, no broken
Scully was about to roll her over again when something made
her stop. *Even the smallest ant can destroy the dam.*
Scully left Tina slumped on her side and moved so that she
could get at the woman's neck. Her own breathing echoed in
her ears as she lifted Tina's heavy mess of hair aside and
exposed the tiny scar at Tina's nape.
Biting her lip, Scully prodded at the wound with one gloved
finger. The chip was still there, just under the skin.
Maybe Tina hadn't known of its existence? But Jared Rentham,
psychic from the stars, he would have known. Wouldn't he?
This conversation wasn't planned initially, but Mulder's relationship to the case turned out to be more compelling than Scully's this time around.
Mulder had creek mud caking his shoes and mosquito bites the
size of walnuts on his arms. He was still wearing
yesterday's suit when he went to visit Chet Appleby in
prison. Appleby had shrunk a size in just one week, all the
fight drained out of him, and he picked up the phone slowly
to speak with Mulder on the other side of the glass.
"Why have you come here?"
"They told you about Tina?" Mulder asked. Chet closed his
"I gave up my life and it still wasn't enough. That...animal
had to come out from the grave and snatch Tina just one more
time." He shook his head sadly. "I should have done it
months ago. Maybe then she'd still be alive."
"What makes you think Jared Rentham had anything to do with
Tina's death?" Mulder asked, and Chet leveled him with a flat
"They told me where they found her, back of the old Hartman
place. Tina'd given up on that cock-and-bull story about the
abduction until Rentham got ahold of her. He dragged her
back to that farm sure enough as if he'd put a gun to her
"Rentham wasn't the one with the gun," Mulder couldn't resist
pointing out, still angry at being used. "You were."
Mulder's angry, yes, but he's also testing out the revenge logic. It makes a certain kind of sense to him now but he can't quite admit it.
"If it were your sister, you'd have done the same thing."
Appleby pushed his glasses up on his nose.
Mulder heard the shot again, saw Rentham crumpled on the
ground. He shook off the image and stared at the pale face
on the other side of the barrier. "Someone stole the body,"
Mulder said into his phone. "Did you hear?"
"Figures," Appleby replied with disgust. He squinted at
Mulder. "Any suspects?"
"I came to ask you about that."
"Hell if I know. Ask those cult members of his."
"No one can find them. It seems they all left town." Mulder
watched Appleby's reaction, but the other man didn't blink.
"Or maybe they're all dead, like Tina."
"Can you think of anyone who might have wanted to hurt Tina?"
"Besides the man who ruined her life? No."
"Well, I think you pretty much crossed Rentham off the
suspect list," Mulder said, and Appleby gave a tense shrug.
Something about the way his gaze dropped made Mulder ask,
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"They haven't got a body now, have they?"
Mulder sat forward. "You think he's alive?"
Appleby leaned forward too. "Mr. Mulder," he said very
seriously, "you can't shoot the devil and expect him just to
The muggy night air clung like thick perfume. Mulder wiped
the sweat from his collarbone with a handkerchief as he
checked in at the fleabag motel. "Room thirteen," the man
told him. "Right next to the lady agent."
Mulder accepted the big plastic key chain with a weary nod
and trudged out into the damp heat again. With the bugs and
the humidity and the dead bodies, Hell had come to Earth and
parked its trailer square on Texas. Mulder calculated the
sole advantage: they were over one thousand miles away from
Washington D.C. and Gregory Watts.
He halted, key dangling in his hand, and stared at the row of
doors. Was Scully in room twelve or fourteen? The light in
twelve was on so he decided to take a chance.
Scully answered without a word. He hadn't seen her since
their blowup in the office, and he wasn't quite sure what to
say to her now. Sorry would just be a lie.
She stared up at him, unsmiling, and then went back and laid
on the bed. Her air conditioner was going full-blast.
Mulder took the fact that she did not slam the door in his
face as a sign to come in, and shut the door behind him.
"Don't get too comfortable," Scully said, eyes closed, and
Mulder halted with his ass hovering just above the armchair.
"We're not staying."
"What do you mean?"
She sighed and opened her eyes to look at him. "Tina Appleby
drowned, Mulder. Natural causes. There is nothing more to
Mulder sat. "I talked to Chet Appleby tonight."
"He seems to think Jared Rentham might be alive."
Scully raised herself up to glare at him. "Don't tell me
you're actually entertaining this fantasy." Mulder said
nothing. "Mulder, Rentham is dead. You and I both saw him
take a bullet to the head, and I ended up wearing his brains
all over my shirt."
"That's right," Mulder said, becoming more animated. "You
Scully looked wary at his excitement. "What?"
"Done your dry cleaning yet, Scully?"
"The body disappeared before anyone ran tests."
"Body," Scully said, swinging her legs over the bed. "So we
both agree what we're dealing with here, right?"
Mulder rubbed his eyes. "I don't know what we're dealing
with. That's why I want to run the tests. Something has
been off about this case from the beginning. I think when we
figure out what Jared Rentham was really doing at Sanctuary
House, we might have a chance at understanding what the hell
is going on here."
"Did you find out anything in New Orleans?"
"Yeah," Mulder said into his hands. He slouched backwards
with a sigh. "Jared Rentham was a lousy fortune teller. He
could barely make his rent."
"Mulder." Scully's voice was soft, sad. He looked at her.
"Let's just go home."
The resignation in her tone scared him. "Scully, about
She stood up abruptly, cutting him off. "You know, you've
never asked me about that night," she said as she walked to
the dresser. "Not once."
"I didn't think you wanted me to ask."
She looked back at him in the mirror, removing one of her
earrings. "Here's your chance, Mulder."
He thought for a long, silent minute. "I don't know what to
"How about the question you've been wanting to ask all this
He shook his head faintly.
"Come on," she goaded. She put both hands on the dresser and
narrowed her eyes at him in the mirror. "Ask it. I know you
want to. I've seen it on your face."
"You tell me, then," he replied quietly.
"I want to hear you say it."
Mulder shifted. "You're going to have to tell me first
because I don't know what you want me to say."
"How did this happen?" she said, whirling. Mulder's throat
went dry. "That's it, isn't it? That's what you want to
"Things happen." His voice came out hoarse.
"Not like this," she said, advancing on him. "Not to me. I
carry a gun. I enforce the law. I've had the